Blue, Mike and Hugs  

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The other day we lost our beloved Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Blue. He was hit by a truck.

And I have never hugged—or been hugged by a stranger so intensely.

But first, Blue.

Blue was a year-old blue merle male Cardigan Welsh Corgi. He was unusually colored—white with black flecks. But the reason he was named Blue was his eyes—he had crystal clear baby blue eyes that danced when they looked at you.

Blue was not a bad dog. He had one bad habit, and that was to bark when anybody came home. He had a deep, resonating bark, and when my husband walked through the door Blue was particularly “welcoming.” “Knock it off,” my husband would say, and invariably Blue would settle down and find a bone.

Bones were another of Blue’s habits that I will miss. We learned early on that he could not tolerate rawhide, so I started buying him beef tail bones at the local food store. They were filled with marrow and sometimes had meat still left on them. Blue quickly learned that when food store bags came into the house he was going to get a treat. I had just bought him the biggest bone to date.

Finally, the kids. After dealing with the accident I told my husband. He buried Blue under a tree in the back yard, and one by one we told the kids what happened. They’re stoic kids, but I knew Kelly, my middle child and animal lover, would take it hardest. She was the one that ushered Blue to her room to sleep when I wanted him to sleep in his crate. She was the one that came up with nicknames for him. She even bestowed a “best friend” dog tag on him.

But back to my neighbor. We have lived here sine 1989, and in 2002 a small house development was built 1/2 mile away. This is a quiet road, and most people keep to themselves. There are not a lot of houses on the road at all,

So as I’m calling for Blue I turn the other way to call for him through our pine trees. I then turn around to see this truck coming up my driveway. He rolls down his window and I ask, cheerfully, “I guess you know who I’m looking for?” This neighbor—who has lived here since 2006 I later learned—says in a quivering voice, “Yes. Your dog.” “Where is he?” I asked. The neighbor gets out of his truck, points to the edge of my property and says, ‘There. I just hit him with my truck.”

And then he starts to work very hard at holding back tears. ‘What’s your name?” I ask. “Mike,” he says. ‘Mike, it’s not your fault.” And with that I reached out to him to give him a hug—this man—this stranger who is now linked to me—this friend. He accepts the hug and hugs me back—not a polite hug, but an embrace filled with sorrow and need. At that moment I needed to hug Mike because he was hurting just as bad as I was. He was crying over taking away the dog that he knew gave us so much joy. “I’ve seen him playing on your grass,” he choked out. And at that moment I needed a hug from the person closest to me—at that moment—to the heartbreak at hand.

Mike asked if he could do anything for me. I asked him to help me carry Blue to the back yard. I realize now that this was a tall order. But Mike gingerly picked up Blue and carried him to the tree where I knew my husband would bury him.

And when Mike went to get back in his truck we hugged again. I asked him if he’d be all right to carry on with his day.

But I never did ask his last name.

I think for Blue I will find that out this week. Because Blue never met a person he didn’t like. And he would’ve liked Mike.

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Chaplain's the Music Cafe  

Thursday, August 12, 2010

This article published August 10 2010 in the Pottstown Mercury


Chaplain’s The Music Café

Cathy Coffman

527 words

It’s a musician’s mecca.

But before it became “Chaplain’s The Music Café,” this simple—yet elegant—music studio was, in 1908 a vaudeville stage and a performance stop to the likes of Abbott & Costello, Milton Berle and, of course, Charlie Chaplain.

Dennis Coleman, the managing partner of Chaplain’s The Music Café, says that the historic building went through a number of iterations before settling as its present use as a home for up and coming local live performing artists.

“We (the owners) had a vision to support local, regional—and even some national—artists,” says Coleman. “What sets us apart from any other venue in the area is that we have a cool listening room with a great balcony.”

The listening room, which, with the balcony, seats 125 patrons, is warm, cozy and intimate.

But what really sets Chaplain’s apart from any other venue in the area is what the location is doing with audio, video and internet services for its performers.

“We know that (performers at Chaplain’s) sound great,” says Coleman. “We’ve got a great stage.” And they do. A black and purple background highlighted by tiny lights and a red tapestry floor show well in person and on video. The stage is equipped with a professional sound system which resonates well throughout the room.

The final piece of the puzzle for performers is a crackerjack audio-visual engineer. James Stapleford provides that service for Chaplain’s. “He’s number one,” boasts Coleman, “without him the services we provide (the bands) wouldn’t be as good as they are.”

So Chaplain’s is really a dual business, with most of its core business focused on providing services to bands. “All bands need promotional materials,” says Coleman, “and those services can be expensive.” At Chaplain’s the band books the evening and invites their followers, who pay a cover charge to Chaplain’s. Chaplain’s serves soft drinks and light fare: “We’re a BYOB establishment,” says Coleman.” The band plays a typical show, which Stapleford records both aurally and visually.

“The band pays for the service—they’ve bought the demo video and audio, but they’ve also done this in a live performance environment, which boosts their credibility,” says Coleman.

So after the show is over, the performance doesn’t stop. Chaplain’s uploads the performance to its proprietary website to a vehicle called Chaplains.tv (see box). They’ll also advertise up and coming shows so that customers that like a band can return to see them again.

Chaplain’s has an Open Mike Night on Sundays were there is a house drum kit available—a rarity in the music business. “I’m a drummer,” chuckles Coleman, “so I don’t mind leaving my kit here for others to use.”

Finally, the venue has what it calls “The Young Stars of Chaplain’s: lots of music studios have recitals there, and Chaplain’s will find talented musicians from those. “We’ll get four of those acts and give them a place to play,” says Coleman. “I get a buzz out of that personally and they can get their own show.”

Chaplain’s The Music Café

66 N. Main St.

Spring City, PA

610-792-4110

http://www.chaplinsthemusiccafe.com

Memberships available; contact the venue

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The Inn is Back In Town  

This article published in the Pottstown Mercury in July 2010

The Inn is Back In Town

Cathy Coffman

986 words

Pennsylvanians—and especially Chester Countians—love their history.

Maybe that’s why St. Peter’s Village, located just off of Route 23 in Warwick Township, Chester County, keeps emerging as a destination worth visiting.

And the anchor “store” of The Village is the Inn at St. Peter’s.

The Inn at St. Peter’s has been through its share of culinary permutations; the last one being a French-American bistro. Now, however, the owners, including general manager Adam Meadows, have once again revitalized the Inn, it’s menu and it’s seven guest rooms with an eye toward pleasing a wider variety of clientele—and in helping this quaint, 19th Century village continue its upward mobility.

“We’re not just a restaurant, or a bed and breakfast, or a meeting place,” says Meadows, who has been working in the restaurant business for 30 years. “We’re a place where you can come and have a drink and a sandwich to one that you can come to for special occasions.”

At the heart of the refreshing of the Inn is its new menu and chefs. Executive Chef Sam Naana and Chef consultant Salvatore DeCristofaro both hail from Italy and they both bring considerable experience to the table. Naana, who has 25 years of experience, studied in France and spent most of his career as an executive chef in Philadelphia area restaurants. DeCristofaro has worked with such notables as Food Network Chef Robert Irvine, and is currently developing a TV show of his own.

On our afternoon visit Chefs Naana and DeCristofaro, along with accomplished sous chef Justin Feinauer, were busy preparing the specials of the day. The kitchen and activity did remind one of a TV set—three different dishes were simultaneously being plated, and presentation was meticulous. Why were they hard at work, creating signature dishes, when the first customer wouldn’t be arriving for another three hours? “We want to get our dishes ready for the (wait) staff,” says Naana, “because we want them to be able to smell and taste what it is they will be serving.” Adds Meadows, “That way (the staff) will be able to more accurately represent the dish to the customer.”

Meadows, who also holds a BS in Management from Penn State University, prides himself in knowing the details, and it’s evident that he wants his staff to have the same knowledge.

The Inn serves a full Italian menu, from starters and light fare to pizza to main dishes. “Everything is made from fresh ingredients—we even make our own fresh mozzarella,” says chef consultant DeCristofaro, who has partnered with Executive Chef Naana to help create the Italian menu.

The daily menu is gourmet without fanfare. On our visit we did not try any of the dishes, but the menu descriptions and prices ranged from $6.00 to $12.50 for starters and light fare; $15 to $19 for pasta; $20 to $26 for chicken, meat and fish, and finally $9 to $15 for a pizza.

In addition to the daily menu there is a Sunday brunch with prices from $6 to $14.

The Inn doesn’t stop at being a full-service restaurant. Upstairs are seven guest bedrooms, each re-decorated with reproduction period furniture with adjoining modern—but well decorated—bathrooms. All seven serve as bed and breakfast rooms, and according to Meadows, they are quite popular.

“The three things we need for success are environment, service and food,” says Meadows. The environment is taken care of naturally with the falls and rocks of St. Peter’s. Inside ambiance is enhanced by a rigorous attention to detail (the Inn is spotless) and live music on weekends. Meadows notes that the restaurant’s historically popular outdoor decks attract folks that come to “St. Pete’s” to hike the rock trails. “All our decks are under cover,” points out Meadows. Plans include enclosing one outdoor deck as a “summer porch” so that outdoor dining can be enjoyed even with rainshowers. Additionally, there is a full service bar with all the wood and leather expected in a Chester County bar. The bar also boasts and outdoor seating area as well.

Meadows admits that the wait staff is new to the Inn but bring experience from elsewhere. The food, as previously mentioned, is taken care of by the exceptional team of chefs.

Meadows says that the restaurant is building business steadily as word spreads that it is open for business. He wants to build the Inn’s conference as event businesses. There is a 12-seat board/conference room that has video, audio and Wi-Fi capabilities. He’s already booked several weddings and parties, but says the Inn could handle more. He says the Inn can easily handle parties of 200 people.

“I hope to build the banquet, wedding and bed and breakfast businesses to be year round,” says Meadows, who wears all the “in charge” hats for those revenue streams. “I enjoy this challenge,” he notes, “I want to re-establish the Inn as a world-class destination in Chester County.”

TIDBITS:

The Inn at St. Peter’s has seven bed and breakfast rooms of varying sizes on the second floor of the establishment. Prices range from $100 to $250 a night. Each room is individually climate controlled and has Internet access.

In addition to the bedrooms upstairs, the Inn has a 12 –person conference room with video and Internet access.

Meadows says that he wants to build the Inn’s conference and party hosting businesses. The Inn can host upwards of 200 people for corporate or personal events. There are several different rooms available to suit the size of the party.

The Inn at St. Peter’s is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Like” the Inn at St. Peter’s on Facebook! Once you do, you’ll receive daily updates on promotions and specials. It might be old, but the Inn is definitely in the 21st Century.

Reservations are taken online or by phone. Call 610-469-2600 or visit http://theinnatsaintpeters.com/.

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Pottstown Community Library  

This story recently published in the Pottstown Mercury

Pottstown Community Library

Cathy Coffman

566 words

Mike Packard, executive director of the Pottstown Community Library, took over his position a little more than a year ago.

And it was about that time he knew the library needed to metamorphosis into something more than just books on a shelf.

Packard, who has been with the library since 2004, had plenty of time to observe how things were run and how things might just run better for the community members that were gracing the doors and book stacks of the former Pottstown Post Office—which is the current home of the Library.

So one of Packard’s first tasks as executive director was to commission a community assessment. He ran the assessment much like a business would delve into a strategic plan.

“We used a consulting agency, and they talked to hundreds of people in the community.” Since they were impartial, says Packard, people were not shy about telling the surveyors what they wanted in their public library.

“What we learned,’ says Packard, “Is that our community wanted and needed something more than books on shelves.”

And so the work began.

Packard said that he and his staff enhanced traditional services and started focusing on non-traditional services.

“One thing we did was to enhance our youth literacy program,” says Packard, “and developed some better teen services.”

“Once we did that, we focused on non-traditional services.” Packard did not want to reveal too much about what these new services are, but he stressed that they are non-traditional and very community oriented. ”We are having a grand re-opening on September 11, 2010, and I want to save the big announcement of our new services for that time,” he said with a chuckle. “We put a lot of time and effort into researching what our community wants and needs from our library, and I think they will be pleased.”

In the year that Packard has been executive director he says the biggest challenge has been staying in front of technology. “We’re working on that,” he admits. “We’re designing our wireless networks so that they’re more efficient with smart phones and electronic readers. Packard said that just last week the library had 300 e-books available to borrow for popular e-readers such as the Kindle, iPad, Nook and others. In addition, the library has thousands of titles available to download to mp3 players. “Technology is being integrated into the library now,” says Packard, “and with that comes a return on investment.”

Finally, Packard says there are six computers available for general use and two dedicated for those specifically looking for jobs. The six general use computers are available for 90 minutes at a time, while the job search computers don’t have a time limit. “We also have staff available to help someone navigate through the computers, especially if it’s their first time having to look for a job on the computer.

Although the grand re-opening isn’t until September 11, Packard is expecting a big summer. “We get several hundred kids a day in the summer,” he says, “and last year we had around 1000 for the reader club.”

And don’t forget the Seniors. They’ve got Tai Chi, computer club, knitting, summer adult reading, and Friends of the Library.

Is Packard seeing this as the calm before the storm? “No. I can’t wait to roll out what we have planned for September. This community deserves it.”

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Elverson Farmer's Market  

This Story published in the Pottstown Mercury on August 5, 2010.

“Buy Fresh, Buy Local”

How one community created its own farmers’ market

Cathy Coffman

869 words

Elverson has always been known as a “farmer’s town.”

But up until this year, the town, which is nestled between Morgantown and Pottstown, has never had a Farmer’s Market.

However, with the work of a dedicated local citizens’ group and assistance from the Pennsylvania Buy Fresh, Buy Local ® organization, Elverson’s growing power is on the map with its very own Farmers’ Market.

Evan Miller, the Elverson Farmers’ Market Manager, was doing some part-time work with the Pennsylvania Buy Fresh, Buy Local ® program.

The Pennsylvania Buy Fresh Buy Local® program celebrates regional foods--heirloom tomatoes, farmstead cheeses, varietal wines, pasture-raised lamb, crisp apples—and helps consumers find places to buy them locally. Evan, whose family has been farming locally for generations, got involved because she truly believed in the cause. She worked part-time with Buy Fresh Buy Local while working full-time at her day job.

At the same time, Elverson resident Bob Patry took a Buy Fresh Buy Local newsletter to Esther Prosser, who is on the Elverson Council. She contacted both Evan Miller and Ellen Wallace, whose husband owns a local dentist office and is part owner of the local car wash business. The four of them split the workload—secured local growers that would honor a weekly commitment, secured donated land from the local park—Livingood Park—and secured donations so that aprons and advertising could be bought to promote the venture.

Four weeks ago the Elverson Farmers’ Market opened to what could only be described as “standing room only.” Elverson Borough residents received notice in the Borough newsletter, but surrounding county dwellers found out through traditional advertising—newspaper and signage—and non-traditional advertising—Facebook and Twitter.

Vendors (see box) were lined up neatly along a path toward the north side of Livingood Park, which is located on Rt. 23 just behind the two-story National Penn Bank. The Market operates from 9 AM to 1 PM and is only closed due to inclement weather—a fact that is broadcast timely by the Market’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Miller, who loves marketing, got to know the folks that operate the Chester County “Buy Fresh Buy Local organization through an internship. They liked her so much that they made her their website coordinator. It’s through that part-time job that she was able to seamlessly help Elverson get the ball rolling for its Market. Miller is at the market every Saturday, manning the information table and selling t-shirts bearing the organization’s logo.

“This came together pretty quickly,” noted Miller, who said that from inception to opening day was only four months. “I had to learn to do anything and everything associated with running a local farmer’s market, from getting permits for selling, permits for perishable foods, retail licenses, etc.” she says. “It came together because everyone worked hard.”

The Market is an unincorporated non-for-profit venture, but each individual booth is for profit, says Miller. The Borough of Elverson provided the seed money to get started, and 12 area businesses donated $100 each toward the Market’s startup costs.

We visited back a few weeks later, and while not the block party the grand opening was, business was brisk. Miller noted, “We’ve had one rainy weekend, but business has been steady. It’s not a sprint, but an endurance race.”

Sidebar 1:

The Farmers’ Market at Elverson: Vendors

Sunnyside Farm, Elverson- Adam & Evan Miller- Fresh Produce, Specialty offerings including Goat Cheese, Eggs, Honey depending on the week

Gladiolus Farm, Elverson- Tom Pyle- Fresh Veggies

Conebella Farm, Elverson- Don & Pam Gable- Farmstead Cheeses

B&H Organics, Morgantown- Erica Bowers Lavdanski- Fresh Organic Vegetables, Herbs, Chicken

Weavers Orchard, Morgantown- Ed Weaver- Fruit, Veggies, Local Beef, Baked Items, Plants

Nancy's Heavenly Treats, Pottstown- Nancy Christman- Fresh Baked Goods

Twin Valley Coffee, Morgantown- Lynn Burkholder- Fresh Brewed Coffees

Sidebar 2: Why sell Coffee at a Farmer’s Market?

It’s 85 degrees out and someone is offering to sell you a cup of coffee at a Farmer’s Market. You are likely to turn down the offer until….you smell the roast.

Then you cave in—reach into your pocket for a dollar and purchase the brew. It is that good.

Lynn and Lynne Burkholder sell Twin Valley Coffee at the Farmers’ Market at Elverson. They roast the coffee a few miles down the road; adopting the idea after some friends in Canada introduced them to “on the spot” fresh roasted coffee while they were visiting. They’ve turned that passion into a cottage industry. But why truck their wares to a Farmer’s Market where customers are ogling fresh tomatoes and farmstead cheeses?

“This is a great way to support local businesses while getting our brand out there,” says Lynne. Customers that stop by can try a sample for free, or even purchase a cup of iced coffee. The benefits of a Farmer’s Market are twofold. ‘We get to interact more with the local community,” she says, “and we get to expose those same people to our coffee—which some have never had.”

It’s that kind of grass roots marketing that makes local Farmers’ Markets beneficial for all those trying to reach customers with one-to-one marketing.

Sidebar 3: An old market concept with new marketing values:

The Farmers’ Market at Elverson

Facebook: The Farmers’ Market at Elverson

Twitter: TFMatElverson

Hours: Saturdays, 9 AM to 1 PM until Oct. 12

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Small Town Girls, Big City Makeover  

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Small Town Girls, Big City “Makeover:

It all started with a Facebook posting—a well intentioned friend that’s trying to get into the media “biz” keeps the rest of us apprised of what’s going on out there in Hollywood.

Only this posting was for a gig in New York City.

And it was for a mother/daughter team.

And it would only take a day.

And it was for—a makeover!

Haven’t we all watched those shows and wondered just what we would look like after a professional told us what to wear, how to do our makeup, and what jeans would go best with our not-so-in-shape-derriere? I know I have. And to do it with my daughter? It would be a much needed mother/daughter bonding time.

So I dashed off a coffee-fueled paragraph telling the producers from WE TV (Women’s Entertainment Television) why my 19-year-old daughter Kelly and I would be the perfect subjects.

And then I forgot about it.

A week later I received an email. Why yes, said the email, you and Kelly sound delightful. WE TV sent a detailed questionnaire, and asked for some candid shots of us wearing what we would wear every day. I filled it out, rummaged through my iPhoto collection, and sent everything off.

And then I forgot about it again.

Two days later the phone call came in. It was a producer from WE TV. Would Kelly and I be available on July 16th for a “shoot” in NY? I went back through my emails to refresh my memory. The original “casting call said, “WE TV is casting for a new WE TV web series titled ‘You're Wearing That?’ featuring mothers and daughters in need of a makeover who want to rid themselves of bad fashion. This web series will precede a television series scheduled to begin in the fall on WE TV. The web show is looking for mothers and daughters who would like a makeover with the help of expert Luciene Salomone. “

Yes. We were available.

From that paragraph, I understood that:

1: It was a Web series;

2: It was for mothers and daughters who would like a makeover.

3: We would get advice from fashion expert Luciene Salomone (whoever that is, but then again neither Kelly nor I are fashion experts, so just her name alone sounded fashion-y).

As the day got closer WE TV firmed up our commitment to them via a series of evening phone calls--all from different people. Wow, I thought, this is sort of a big deal. I thought that this newspaper might like a little story on the trip—you know, what’s it like to have a makeover by the big city folk, so I tried to call the WE TV people back, but nobody would answer the phone.;

And now I know why.

Twenty-four hours before our trip we received talent releases. During one of the phone calls I was told that we would not be keeping any products but would be receiving gift certificates instead. That's OK. The talent release stated the value: $50. Our bus tickets cost $54 each. OK, still all right because Kelly and I will be getting a fashion consult with Luciene Salamone, the NYC fashion expert. And we could use that. I had my notebook, and Kell and I both can remember things pretty well, so the advice--and the hair and makeup that one of the evening phone calls described, would be beneficial.

So we're told our timeslot is 3:30 to 5:00 PM. Perfect! We'll catch the 11:00 AM bus from Reading, PA. It's a three-mile cab ride to our destination, which gives us an hour to nose around NYC before we have to be ready. I did the Google Street Maps view and there were a few stores that interested Kelly right by our destination.

Our destination was a loft apartment on 4th Ave; one block off of the storied and tony 5th Ave. shopping district. At first I thought we were in somebody's office--I said, "How strange that there is an oven in somebody's office," and a nice man said, "This is Tom's apartment." I later learned that this cramped space goes for around $3,000/month. Seriously.

It was then that I learned the true format of the day. Kelly and I were going to be INTERVIEWED by esteemed fashionista Luciene Salamone and we were to critique each other's fashion. What? I had to pick on my daughter? On camera? The hair and makeup was not...a very nice young woman basically put some makeup on Kelly and me to get us camera ready. Not a single hair was moved on our heads.

After waiting in this apartment for about 1/2 hour (and chatting about social media with the video editor) Luciene arrived. She definitely knew her fashion. She changed her dress (I'm estimating she's about a size 4), debated her shoes with the fashion stylist--who I imagined would be the real advisor to me and Kell) and we then walked a few blocks to an outdoor filming venue where a crew was waiting.

We were fitted with wireless mikes. "Is this what reality TV people go through?" I asked. 'Yep," said the sound guy. I looked at the cameramen and asked, 'Then how can it possibly be reality TV?" to which the sound guy quipped, empathically, "It isn't."

Now the good stuff. Filming. The producer prompted us with a series of questions that Luciene might ask us. In my mind they could become hostile. They held up a marker board and said "Action!" (Yes, they said that...) and Luciene introduced the show, "Hi, I'm Luciene Salamone and I'm here with mother/daughter Cathy and Kelly for "You're Wearing That?" Kelly lost it. "I didn't know it was called that!" she laughed. They yelled cut--for obvious reasons. We started again, and Luciene basically peppered us with questions about WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT EACH OTHER'S STYLE!! That was all!

I learned that my daughter didn't like my shoes. I wore my comfortable shoes because we would be walking around NYC. Luciene was relentless about my shoes. I learned that Kelly doesn't like me being in my jammies at 8 PM. Seriously...who else is going to see me at that point? I had to think fast about what I didn't like about Kell...so I said her tank tops and blamed it on my Catholic School upbringing and then realized I didn't go to Catholic School, just Catholic Church and CCD! Oh No! My mother, the Catholic School teacher will see this and I will be eternally damned for lying on camera.

We had to come up with--on our own and on camera--how to make the other person more fashionable. Kelly wants me to dress more sophisticated. Hello? I live where manure trucks spray next to my yard. I said Kelly should be more classic and preppy. To her credit she didn't argue--on or off camera.

After the interviews we had to describe each other’s style of dress to the camera. I thought OK, after this we'll get the real advice from the fashion consultant. We did our work--answering off camera questions, walking (they focused on my shoes), etc., and when it was a wrap there was no Luciene or fashion guru to be found.

All the advice we got was from each other--which we could've done right in Elverson.

The producer gave us $50 gift certificates to H&M, and Kelly's was burning a hole in her pocket so we walked to Houston St. and she spent hers. We then took a cab back to the Port Authority and lucked into a very classy Japanese Sushi restaurant where we had the most amazing sushi dinner together. Even the bathroom was classy--Kelly said she used "everything in there--even the mouthwash."

As we're walking through throngs of people to get to the bus terminal we both came to the same conclusion. NYC is OK, but we like Philadelphia better. And by the time we got to Reading, PA at 11:45 PM I felt like I was back in a small town.

So there you have it. Never trust those NYC casting calls. They'll bait you with the big city makeover and you'll wind up selling out your own daughter for a gift certificate.

At least we still love each other. And we've made a plan to go shopping together for dresses to go to our dear friend's wedding. Thanks Luciene.

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Passages  

We went to the wedding of a dear friend yesterday.


And I cried.

Now I am not the crying type. I'm not really the emotional type. I did not cry when my children boarded the bus for kindergarten; nor did I break down when my older two graduated from high school and moved on from college.

The young lady that got married is a girl that we have known since she was six years old. This is a small town, and her family moved into a very old--and uncared for--1700s farmhouse around the corner from us. Around the corner is a relative term; they live a mile away but are technically our next door neighbors. (That house is now restored).

But I digress.

Kelsey, the bride, became our daughter Kelly's best friend. They shared a birthday, a love of soccer and a love of dogs. As little girls they spent hours together playing "animals" and designing the place where they would live together to raise their animals. There were shared sleepovers, and shared vacations. Our daughter Kelly played boys' ice hockey, and one memorable trip had Kelsey and Sarah, Kelsey's mother and one of my best friends, traveling with us for a weekend of hockey and hotel fun.

It just doesn't get any better than that.

But as the girls grew up, they grew apart. Sarah and I--adult friends--remained close, but our daughters went separate ways. They still communicate, but they just created different circles of friends. And that's OK.

Which brings us to the wedding. Kelsey (and Kelly) turned 20 at the end of July, and as Kelly works toward finding her goals in life Kelsey has found hers. As her wedding day approached she updated her Facebook page as only Kelsey could: "Tomorrow I will marry my best friend," she said, and then on her wedding day she posted, "This is the day the Lord has made." Little Kelsey.

Her wedding was at 3:00 PM. All day I looked forward to the event with a happy heart and not one feeling of overwhelming emotion. Kelsey is getting married! Sarah will be the mother of the bride! My friend's family will be happy and everything will be wonderful.

And then the wedding started.

Music is always an emotional trigger for me, and the music Kelsey and her beau, Ryan picked for the wedding was classical, but not traditional wedding music. It was beautiful. The pianist was a local woman known to all. The guitarist was a boy who I ushered into a local ice hockey club. The wedding guests were friends and neighbors; some we see regularly; some we haven't seen in a while. The music, combined with seeing so many people there for Kelsey brought a groundswell of emotion. But no tears.

Then the wedding party began to process down the aisle.

I did not know all of the attendants, but they all looked radient. So young, so polished, so confident. Again, I was reminded of words that the bride's sister wrote on her Facebook about her little sister. More emotion surfaced that I stuffed down. I thought about the close friendship that my daughter once had with Kelsey--again, a good memory; one that I wish had never ended, but I reminded myself that it is their life, not mine.

And now, the bride and her father--our friend Bob--appear in the vestibule. I had to catch my breath. Kelsey was luminous, and Bob beamed as a father that had done his job well. He was sure in his step as he walked his baby down the aisle to give his daughter away to her "best friend."

And throughout this time my emotions--of which I am usually in control--were ebbing and flowing minute by minute.

And then--then--came the moment when Kelsey spoke.

I can't remember the exact phrase the pastor used when he asked Kelsey if she would promise to enter into matrimony with her beloved Ryan. But I do remember how she responded.

In a voice that I have known for 14 years--a small, tiny, childlike voice, Kelsey answered the pastor with, "I will." That voice: it was firm, but inimitably Kelsey, took me back to a soccer field where this little girl would call me "Coach Cathy" and ask me a question so that she knew she was doing everything right.

And it was then that my emotions got the best of me. I could not hold back my tears.

I cried silently throughout the vows. Not tears of sadness--but tears of passage--the first of "our" children--the children of my children's friends, has gotten married. She has taken that next grand step in life.

And I just couldn't be happier for her.

Kelsey was an exuberant fiance, a resplendent bride, and will make a creative and dedicated wife. She will be her own person. She's resourceful, hardworking and has a wonderful support system in her family and friends.

But to me she will always be little Kelsey. The girl we took to the shore with us who loved coloring stained glass pictures and playing hearts with her adopted "Uncle Pat."

And who always had that beautiful little voice.

She is now married. And I will not cry again about that. Until she has a baby....

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