Did I Ever Tell You About…The Time I Should Have Died?


This week is is the 125 anniversary of the Great Johnstown Flood of 1889. For most people that doesn’t mean much. For the people of Johnstown it means a lot. It was the first of three floods that threatened to destroy the town. Generations of my family have lived in the Johnstown area for all of them. I was around for the last flood in 1977. Did I ever tell you about…the time I should have died?

I was only four, so I don’t really remember things well. It’s more like pictures or snippets of memories. But I remember the storm. It rained so hard and the thunder and lightning were so bad I thought I was never going to see my mom again (she’d gone shopping with my grandmother and had trouble getting home because of the storm). By the time it was over nearly 11 inches had fallen in less than a day —  a once in a 1000 year storm the weather people called it.

Officially, the rain overwhelmed everything. Johnstown made a number of flood safety improvements over the years. But that much water in such a small amount of time and all bets are off. Several dams eventually broke or spilled over. 85 lives were lost. Thousands of properties were destroyed or damaged. Ten of thousands of lives were turned upside down. I fall into the last two categories.

We lived outside Johnstown and were out of the path of the flooding that hit town. We should have been safe. We weren’t. We should have died that night. Miraculously we didn’t.

Bricks bracing up a house where the foundation used to be.

Our house a few days later being braced up where the foundation used had been.

Our house was part way down a hill. The water running down the hill and against the foundation wall that, which unbeknownst to us had a structural problem. During the night the wall failed. I remember being woken up by a crashing sound and my dad running past my bedroom door and down the basement steps. I remember racing after him to see what the excitement was. I think he screamed for me to stop. My mom was right behind me and grabbed me. I remember him saying, “Get the kids out! The wall fell in!”

The next few minutes are a series of pictures in my mind. I remember being in the bedroom with the lights on changing out of pajamas. I remember seeing someone coming out of the bathroom (the water was on and working). It was sort of frantic calm. I don’t remember feeling the house shake or that we were in danger. I imagine my mom and dad grabbed some clothes and things, but mostly it was about getting out.

I remember all of us sitting in the car and it raining so hard we could barely see the house. I remember the sound of lightning cutting through the atmosphere and deafening thunder. I remember the car radio wasn’t playing music, just a voice repeating over and over that there was flooding everywhere and people needed to get to higher ground immediately. I remember one of us asking my parents why we were just sitting there and my mom saying, “We’re waiting for the house to fall in.” That must have been when we realized it was bad because that’s when we started to cry.

Mud filled basement

This is where the water heater and all the electric for the house had been.

You see, the wall that collapsed was one of the walls that ran the length of the house. It was the wall where all the water and electricity came in to the house. When my dad ran down the stairs and into the basement the water and muck was already around his ankles, the circuit box and wires were in it too. He probably should have been electrocuted, or gotten a serious shock, but he was fine. Sparks should have been flying as live wires were torn and a fire should have started when paper and insulation fell on the mess. But none of those things happened.

The house was stable the whole time we were in it that night. I don’t remember it shaking or creaking. By morning light only one person could be inside before it would shudder and shake. We had lights and water. By morning there was no power and no water. It was just as dangerous under the house, so bracing it up to stabilize it was a slow process.

Back yard filled with debris

My parents spent weeks cleaning out the mud and salvaging what she could.

The weeks that followed are a blur. We stayed with different relatives. We didn’t see much of our parents while they dug the mud out of the basement and tried to save what they could. I remember drinking water in Pepsi cans because the water wasn’t always safe to drink and the local Pepsi bottling plant jumped in to clean, filtered water. I remember government cheese (it was kind of like Velveeta). I remember a strange fear in the pit of my stomach every time stormed that lasted for years.

House braced up with bricks.

The foundation washed away, but somehow we made it through.

My mom said that someone was watching out for us and that she knew that night that her kids were meant for great things because we made it out alive. The house should have collapsed, with us in it, when the wall caved in. It should have caught on fire. We could have been hit by lightning while we sat in the car. We could have been caught in flood water trying to get to my grandparents if a police officer ahead of us on the road hadn’t turned on his lights warning us to turn around. It was one of those nights where if any one thing had been different, a minute one way or the other, could have made all the difference in the five us surviving the night.

I probably should have died that night. Yet, here I am. Sure, like a lot of people I’ve wondered why from time-to-time. Every time I have, I tried to remind myself of that night. I survived on a night when a lot of people didn’t and I really need to make the most of it.

What about you? Do you have a story where a few minutes made all the difference? I’d love to hear it! Share in the comments below or post a link to where we can find the story.

Next week’s story is a lot shorter, a lot more fun, and involves a giant pickle! Don’t miss it!

Summer Memories of Andy Griffith


Publicity photo of Andy Griffith.

My earliest memories of Andy Griffith aren’t of the great sheriff and single dad in Mayberry. They aren’t of my grandparent’s favorite attorney. My earliest memories of Andy Griffith are warm summer days and my dad’s 78’s.

When I was a girl my little sister and I would convince our parents to let us drag our little record player outside so we could listen to music during a family get-together. We’d play whatever music we were listening to (Shaun Cassidy was a favorite). Eventually my dad would pull out some of his records. We’d play through a bunch of 45’s and then he’d pull out his Andy Griffith 78’s (yes, real 78’s they were rare and strange even in the 70’s and 80’s).

We’d listen to “What It Was, Was Football” and “Romeo and Juliet” and occasionally the one about a stay in the hospital, but there was something about that one my mom didn’t like so we didn’t hear that one often. Three generations would sit on  the back porch and listen to this man weave stories that would have all of us laughing. We were all football fans (Steelers fans by birth) and would laugh every time we listened to this young man without much world experience talk about watching football. We’d be rolling by the time he started talking about those two kids Romeo and Juliet.

Andy Griffith had a way of telling stories. He saw the humor and a fresh perspective in things we took for granted. He never made you feel that someone was stupid, just inexperienced. The story lines on all of his shows were simple, pure, positive and very entertaining. Best of all, the stories stand the test of time.

This week we say goodbye to another amazing storyteller. Andy may be gone, but his stories live on. Take a little time and listen to one of his recordings. You’ll be glad you did.

Thanks Davy Jones, Now I’m a Believer


I just heard the news that Davy Jones from the Monkees passed away earlier today from an apparent heart attack. I actually had “I’m a Believer” stuck in my head yesterday. The Monkees had one of their many big come backs when I was in high school when my friends and I discovered them. We watched the reruns. We listened to their music. I think one of my friends even got a lunchbox with them on it. Let me tell you a little story about why they hold a special place in my heart.

British singer Davy Jones (member of The Monke...

Image via Wikipedia

Like so many other 13 year olds it was time to get braces. And just like those other 13 year olds I was worried about how I would look and what the kids at school would say about it. It seemed to take hours to get fitted with them, and I was feeling pretty low when I got home. What I didn’t know was that my older brother had a surprise waiting for me. That may not seem all that unusual to most people, but my brother is…quiet…reserved…keeps to himself most of the time…and I was one of the few people allowed, not only into his room, but into his the things he spent hours working on his room. Some times he’d invite me in to talk about something he wrote, sometimes to show me the things he built, sometimes just to watch Star Treck: Next Generation so that he wasn’t the only sci-fi fan in the house.

When I got home that afternoon with a mouth full of metal he called me into his room and proudly played a cassette (really dating myself now). He had somehow recorded “I’m a Believer” from somewhere and played it for me. I remember just looking at him in confusion. He told me to listen to the words…”Then I saw her face/Now I’m a believer…” Then he said something about the braces didn’t change me that much. I was still pretty and he still believed in me. For whatever reason, that memory floated through my head on the way home from work yesterday. For me, “I’m a Believer” is one of those songs that floods me with feeling and memories. I guess they were still fresh in my mind when I heard about Mr. Jones’ passing because I felt myself tear up.

Thank you Davy Jones, and your fellow Monkees, for making possible a memory I will cherish all my life.

Do you have a favorite Monkee memory? Please share!

Holiday Memories – Tell Your Story Tuesday


It’s the most wonderful time of year. Chestnuts are roasting, sleighs are dashing, candles are flickering and dreidels are spinning. People everywhere are filled with memories of holidays past…

And I want to hear about them!

As my regular followers know, I’ve been challenging people to tell me a story on Tuesdays. I haven’t found anyone brave enough to do it…yet…but maybe this is the inspiration they need. Tell me a story about your favorite holiday memories. They can be good, they can be bad. They don’t actually need to be yours! Just tell me a story.

I’ve told a few stories of my own (and a tall tale of sorts), and I’m willing to do it again to get the ball rolling.

Christmas was always a really big deal when I was growing up. A tree with lights and tinsel, and a train running through a snowy village underneath. As a kid I thought it was pretty magical. I guess I still do.

Christmas Eve, chromolithography

Image via Wikipedia

One of the best parts of Christmas was coming back from Christmas Eve services and getting to open one present. My mother would carefully look through what seemed like mountains of presents and to pick out one each for my brother, sister and I. We would carry them out to the living room and sit in front of the tree. While my dad filmed (8 mm back then) or snapped pictures and my mom looked on we would rip into this first taste of the presents to come.

It took years for us to realize that those Christmas Eve presents were always pajamas. Every year. Eventually my mom told us it was because she wanted us to look nice for the pictures Christmas morning. Every year she picked out three sets of holiday themed jammies and wrapped them up for us to open, and wear, on Christmas Eve.

I have to admit. At first, I thought it killed some of the magic. Those first gits we looked so forward to were all for show – and pictures.

Today, I’m the mother of two. At my house we have two post church service traditions. The first is the girls getting to each open one present containing, you guessed it, new PJ’s to wear to bed. (My husband even surprised me with my own new PJs the last couple of years). The girls know all about the pajama conspiracy and look forward to seeing what kind they’re going to get.

The second tradition is sitting down in front of the fireplace, eating a cookie or two, and reading “T’was the Night Before Christmas” while their daddy records video and snaps some pictures before joining us.

And, for a moment, we make our own Christmas Eve magic.

It’s your turn. There are some rules. You can find them, and other vital information here in my original post.

Now…tell me a story…


Take the Challenge – Tell Your Story Tuesdays!


So I’ve had people looking and liking, but no one has taken the challenge yet. Come on, admit, I know you really want to share something, you just haven’t gotten up the gumption to do it yet. Well, I’m going to break the ice and tell a little story of my own…..

The first movie I can remember seeing was The Muppet Movie in 1979. My little sister, who was five at the time, won four tickets to see the movie in a ticket giveaway contest my mother registered my brother, sister and I for. We anxiously piled in the car the day of event and drove about two hours to the theater where they were having the specials showing of the movie. I remember we got there just before it started and had to sit in the very front. My dad, who drove us down, didn’t even get to see the movie because it was sold out (if memory serves someone took pity on him and let him stand in the back of the theater). The room was crowded with kids of all ages getting louder and louder. Then the lights went down and the movie started. 

And my life was changed forever. 

Kermit the Frog

I took this picture of my pal Kermit the Frog at the Smithsonian

It was in those moments sitting in the dark that I found magic. Larger than life, Technicolored magic. I don’t remember specifics, I was only 6 after all, but I remember the excitement I felt, the awe and the overwhelming need to know how they did it.

I had already been fascinated with the magic of television but once I was exposed to Kermit larger than life, I was sold. I decided then that I had to do something like what I saw up there on that screen. 

My life in storytelling and video was further solidified the following year when I saw The Empire Strikes Back in the theater. I knew all those years ago that I wanted to make people feel the magic that I felt walking out of the theater. I wanted to make people think and show them things that they never saw before.

I know that I’m not working in Hollywood. The stories I tell are much smaller and that’s ok. I still get that little thrill and feeling of magic when I work. I am a very lucky woman to have found what I love when I was such a little girl. 

Thanks Kermit and friends for getting me started on the right path!

Now it’s YOUR turn…tell me a story!

Here’s what you need to know about Tell Your Story Tuesdays…

Have a crazy story no one would believe? Did you bump into a celebrity and have an awkward encounter? Have a brief fictional story you want to share with the world? Here’s your chance! I decided it would be a lot of fun to start a weekly storytelling post. This is YOUR chance to tell us your story.

I want to us to share the little stories and antidotes you tell at party and networking events. Or better yet a story about what went wrong at party or networking event. It can funny, sad, inspiring or embarrassing. I’m not looking for perfection, I just want to give folks a chance to stretch that creative muscle they don’t get to use very often.

Every Tuesday I’m going to open a post like this one and invite all you folks itching to share your stories. There are no prizes or awards, just the undying admiration of ones of people. I’m hoping with a little luck and your help we can get that up to the undying admiration of tens of people soon!

As with any good endeavor, there are some ground rules.

The Ground Rules:

  1. Be nice! Constructive criticism is fine, but this is strictly a “No Troll Zone
  2. Keep it clean! This site is for folks of all ages, anything not suitable for a PG audience will be removed (sorry, but my kids can read this blog and my 6 year old is a great reader – there are just some things I don’t need her sounding out!).
  3. Keep it fairly short! This isn’t the place to write the next great novel. Let’s see how short stories go before we move into long form writing.
  4. Nothing Copyrighted Please! Please make sure that you’re telling your own story and not someone else’s.
  5. No bashing other people/companies/political parties/ethnic groups/sexual orientation/career choices/physical appearance or ability/musical tastes! Again, this is a “Troll Free Zone” – leave the mean and nasty at the door. It’s one thing to have a funny encounter in a strange situation or a strange encounter in a funny situation. Using your story to insult others is another thing all together.
  6. I reserve the right! This is my blog and my face to the Internets, I reserve the right to change the rules, or remove content that break the rules. Sorry folks, but I’m sure that if you can find someone willing to let you post a story about a liberal Republican that walks with a limp and listens to Yani while sheep herding and why you hate them. I am not that someone, and this is not the place.

Grab your quill and scroll. Or your mouse and keyboard. Spend 5 minutes telling us a story. Don’t be shy!

Magic Moments


I was inspired after reading  this post. In it Mike discusses the role happenstance plays in video production. Let’s face it sometimes we plan shots down to the frame and they turn out ok, making us wonder if we ever had any talent in the first place. Then we when we turn around we just happen to grab a shot where the light is amazing, just the right amount of wind and all the planets align to create the perfect shot. The shot usually ends with comments about our own brilliance, deserved or not, and we remember why we love what we do.

It can happen on the set or in post production. After hours of blood, sweat and tears (in my accident prone case blood is usually involved), after wondering why I  didn’t go into some “normal” profession, like teaching or animal wrangling…all of a sudden the “magic” happens and I get a glimpse at perfection. These are the moments of greatness we look for. These are the moments I love.

The natural high from grabbing the perfect shot or doing the perfect edit is amazing. All the pain and frustration are forgotten. I remember why I chose to work in video, why I keep coming back to it after getting out for a few years at a time. All of a sudden I’m a little kid back again, on one of my family’s rare trips to the movies, watching The Empire Strikes Back. I remember that magic.

I’m probably never going to make that kind of magic, but just getting a taste of it every now and then keeps me coming back for more.