Tag Archives: pittsburgh

My 2021 in 21 Instagram posts

While I spent much of the year navigating the pandemic, I still got to experience so many things. Every year is filled with love and loss and great memories. Here’s a slice of what my 2021 looked like.

Kicked off 2021 with … cold brew coffee

This was the first cold brew coffee of 2021. The first of many!

Presque Isle Lighthouse in snow

I don’t know if I had ever walked to the lakeshore side when there was snow on the ground.

I walked on (frozen) water

This was my first time walking on Presque Isle Bay from the Presque Isle side! I watched people ice fishing, playing hockey and doing other ice-related activities.

I got vaxxed

Doing the neighborly thing.

Visited the Erie Zoo!

This little baby orangutan is adorable!

I visited Wawa. (Twice)

We all make mistakes.

Saw the White House

Pennsylvania Avenue was closed, so this was the closest I could get.

Swam in this natural spring pool

My first visit to Bedford Springs! I had this pool to myself for at least 90 minutes.

Got to see this Gulf station!

Finally! I’d wanted to see this building ever since WQED’s Rick Sebak shared it on a history program.

Visited the United 93 crash site

I was here a week shy of the 20th anniversary.

Our beloved rescue Kaci died

❤️

Visited Ellicottville

Took a stroll to see old buildings, sites in Ellicottville

Selfied with world’s largest pickle

It’s a big dill.

Watched fireworks be lit off of Pittsburgh’s City-County Building

That had never been done before!

I got to see NYC decorated for Christmas

This was such a highlight of my life!

Saw Macy’s Christmas windows!

Hello, Tiptoe!

Saw the Rockettes!

What a great show!

Made new friends

Best NYC tour guide!

Saw old friends!

I love these guys.

Saw Erie history light up!

The Warner Theatre marquee had not been lit in more than 40 years.

Rode the Jack Rabbit on Christmas Eve

In the 101-year history of Kennywood Park’s Jack Rabbit, it had never operated in December. I got to ride it on Dec. 24! I also ate Potato Patch fries on Christmas Eve. Yinzplosion!

My 2021 Sheetz cold brew coffee count is ‘for the Kidz’

Back by nobody’s demand!

As the year winds down, I’m counting up the number of Sheetz cold brew coffees I’ve had in 2021! And, this year, I’m supporting Sheetz For the Kidz with this crazy cold brew coffee addiction.

As you might know, I’m slightly addicted to cold brew coffee from Sheetz. (If you don’t know, now you do.)

What began as a joke in 2020 from some people wondering how many Sheetz cold brew coffees I had during the year turned into a fun guessing game! Sheetz makes it easy to keep track in the MySheetz app.

The winner for my 2020 count was Sheetz worker Ashley who likely made a majority of those cold brew coffees.

So, let’s do it again for 2021.

Drop a guess under my tweet or Instagram post before the Times Square ball drops on Dec. 31.

That’s it! I’ll pull the guesses together and see who’s the closest.

I’ll share the actual total — and winner! — on Jan. 1!

As a bonus this year: For every cold brew coffee I had in 2021, I am going to donate $1 to the Sheetz For the Kidz nonprofit group that helps support children and their families in need in Sheetz communities.

The Sheetz employee-driven charity focuses on three areas: Gifts, wishes and food. Sheetz For the Kidz supports an annual holiday gift-giving program for children, Make-A-Wish Foundation and Feeding America.

Sheetz For the Kidz dates to 1992 when two Sheetz district managers raised $12,000 and took 126 children shopping for the holidays, according to its website. Today, the nonprofit organization supports 9,700 kids every year.

You can support Sheetz For the Kidz by making a donation here, using MySheetz rewards points to make a donation, buying Sheetz For the Kidz charity water and checking Sheetz stores for in-store efforts in July and December.

Need a hint for making a guess?

  • I offered a tip last year sharing how many cold brew coffees I had through the end of September. Not doing that this year! I have to make it a little more difficult. But here’s a tip to maybe help you get in the ballpark: In September, I had 35. In July, I had 40. Were other months higher, lower or about the same? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Quick rules and other things:

  • We’ll follow “The Price Is Right” method: The winner whose guess is closest without going over wins. (So, if you live under a rock: If the correct answer is 5 and you guess 6, you lost.)
  • There’s no prize for winning other than the satisfaction of making a lucky guess.
  • In the event of a tie, those with the correct answer will all be considered winners!
  • Post your guess to the above mentioned social media posts by 11:59:59 Dec. 31.
  • Disclaimer: Adding this disclaimer so you know that Sheetz is in no way connected to this, they didn’t ask me to do this, they’re not overseeing it, they’re going to find out at the same time you do when reading this. I’m just a crazy Sheetz Freak who loves Sheetz.

Pittsburgh Light Up Night returns in 2021

What’s become the traditional kickoff of the holiday season in Pittsburgh is set to return.

Pittsburgh Light Up Night is back in 2021 — just in time for the 60th anniversary of the city’s first Light Up Night.

After pausing the event in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership promises a “refresh” on the holiday celebration.

Though details were slim in the Sept. 16 announcement, organizers did announce one big change: Light Up Night is moving to Saturday — Nov. 20. Traditionally, the event has been held on the Friday before Thanksgiving.

The Holiday Market at Market Square will celebrate its 10th year in the city and will kick off Nov. 19.

Also new to Light Up Night this year is a new title sponsor: Highmark.

If you know anything about Downtown Pittsburgh and the holidays, you know that the iconic Horne’s tree that dazzles all season long at the corner of Penn and Stanwix streets is now home to Highmark.

“Pittsburgh’s annual Light Up Night is a tradition for our community. Our sponsorship of the event complements the lighting of the region’s most iconic and historic Christmas tree affixed to our building at the corner of Penn and Stanwix Streets,” Highmark Health Executive Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Dan Onorato said in a statement released by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. “We‘re excited that the move to Saturday will now make this signature event even more family-focused and welcoming to all.”

Did you know? Pittsburgh’s first Light Up Night was not tied to the holiday season. The city’s first “light up” event was held April 9, 1959, in honor of the Pirates.

It eventually moved to the holiday season. But Light Up Night took a nine-year hiatus beginning in 1973 in an effort to conserve energy.

Light Up Night returned in 1982 to help lift morale as the steel industry collapsed. Just a few years later, though, Gimbels — one of the last remaining Downtown department stores — would close.

Before COVID-19, Light Up Night, in recent years, recorded crowds of at least half a million people. In the ’90s, as the Downtown retail district began to implode, the event would see 25,000 to 50,000 people.

But something happened since then: The Downtown Pittsburgh Partnership has grown the event — along with the help of many other groups — which has attracted plenty more people to the city.

Gone are the days when Kaufmann’s would celebrate its grand window displays. (I wonder if any consideration has been given to pay homage to this tradition?)

Even once Kaufmann’s became Macy’s, the building would have festive events on nearly every floor.

And who can forget the Arcade Bakery thumbprint cookies with the iconic Kaufmann’s mile-high icing?

Gone are the days when people used Light Up Night and the holiday season to shop Downtown. Now, people shop online or at Target (guilty as charged).

Light Up Night has changed with the times to let Pittsburghers continue to usher in the holidays.

Flight 93 National Memorial: ‘A common field one day. A field of honor forever’

One week shy of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, I visited the Flight 93 National Memorial for the first time.

Located along Route 30 (the Lincoln Highway), this “common field” became a “field of honor” on Sept. 11.

United Airlines Flight 93 left the Newark International Airport in New Jersey at 8:42 a.m. en route to the San Francisco International Airport. The flight was originally scheduled to depart at 8 a.m. It pushed back away from the gate at 8:01 a.m., but, due to the amount of flight traffic, had been delayed in departure.

Forty-six minutes after takeoff — just over the Ohio line from Pennsylvania — hijackers stormed the cockpit, eventually taking control.

Passengers and crew had learned, through phone calls, what had already transpired in New York City and Washington, D.C.

After flying over the Pittsburgh region, passengers and crew attempt to take over the flight at 9:57 a.m.

Just moments later — at 10:03 a.m. — Flight 93 crashed into a Stoneycreek Township, Somerset County, field.

Though the exact destination is unknown, experts and published reports suggest the hijackers were ultimately aiming for the Capitol. The crash site is just 18 minutes in air from Washington, D.C.

The actions of the Flight 93 passengers and crew are at the heart of everything within the Flight 93 National Memorial.

Upon entering the site, visitors come upon the Tower of Voices, soaring 93 feet into the air. This unique monument holds 40 wind chimes, representing each of the passengers and crew onboard Flight 93.

“The Tower of Voices provides a living memorial in sound to remember the forty through their ongoing voices,” the National Park Service says of the tower on its website.

After viewing the tower, visitors can get back into their vehicle and take a roughly 3.5-mile drive to the visitor’s center.

Inside, visitors can gain a better understanding of the day’s events, timeline of the flight and other related pieces of history through a permanent exhibition featuring audio and visual artifacts.

I offer a warning that the exhibit can trigger memories of that morning and might be difficult for some visitors.

The National Park Service recommends budgeting at least 45 minutes to view the exhibit. It’s important to note that no photography is permitted inside the exhibit, according to signs posted in early September 2021.

And, as of September 2021, for health and safety measures, face masks are required inside the visitor’s center.

In addition, a bookstore offers books and other items relating to the site.

Outside of the visitor’s center, visitors can see an overview of the crash site, Memorial Plaza, Wall of Names and the boulder denoting the impact site.

After stopping there, visitors have a choice between walking a path or driving to Memorial Plaza.

Two trails — the 1.2-mile Allée Trail and the 0.7-mile Western Overlook Trail — allow visitors to walk to Memorial Plaza. The Western Overlook Trail follows the path the plane took.

At Memorial Plaza, visitors can walk to Wall of Names, which lists the names of passengers and crew members.

On the walk to the plaza with the Wall of Names, visitors will see the large boulder.

While the impact and legacy of Flight 93 is the focal point of this national site, other work continues to reforest what once was a coal mine.

After visiting the national memorial, I recommend a short drive to an unsuspecting Sept. 11, 2001, memorial.

Just about 9 miles from the entrance to the national memorial site is the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel & United Airlines Crew Monument.

This little white church sits just outside of the small, rural town of Shanksville, which became the epicenter of emergency response crews, journalists and others in the days and weeks following Sept. 11.

The church is located at a quiet intersection, near a cemetery and surrounded by corn fields. If you’re driving too fast and not paying attention to your GPS device, you’ll miss it. Look for the large bell tower.

There is little information online about this memorial site but a friend who had been working on 20th anniversary special coverage for a Western Pennsylvania newspaper suggested I visit.

On my visit, a family of three was making their way through the tiny chapel-turned-museum.

Chapel volunteer Connie Hay so graciously took her time to explain items inside the chapel, providing details about how the items arrived and a brief story behind them. She showed me a small room off of the main space that provides a photo and short biography of each passenger and crew member, and allows people to light a candle in their memory.

One of the items on display includes what became the first memorial of Flight 93.

Outside of the chapel is a monument dedicated to the Flight 93 crew members. The plaza is flanked by flags from each state. Off to the side is a piece of steel from the World Trade Center — etched in the shape of “UA 93.”

Connie told me the site sees an increase in visitors as Sept. 11 nears each year, including visits from United crew members. On the Saturday before the 20th anniversary of the attacks, Connie told me they anticipated a bigger increase.

The site is a short drive that is certainly worth the trip. If you’ve got time, take a gander around the tiny town of Shanksville and head to the elementary school to see an outdoor statue given to the school after the attacks.

‘I don’t have to apologize for letting go or choosing things in the name of my peace and healing’

I did something this week that was long overdue: I stepped away from all of my volunteer and extracurricular activities.

I stepped back from volunteering* with an organization I’ve been heavily involved with for more than 25 years.

I officially resigned from a nonprofit board position, stepped back from a few other nonprofits where I’ve offered assistance or volunteered and said no to some recent asks for my help in other activities.

And it feels good.

(Continue reading below the Instagram post.)

Being forced last year to pause so much helped me take a hard look at what I was spending my life doing. Like a lot of you, I said “yes” far too much.

I’ve been going hard at volunteering for nonprofits for way too long. For many years, I tried to keep track of my hours spent volunteering and I easily racked up anywhere from 1,800 to 2,600 hours a year volunteering.

I’ve put so much time in, and I just needed to take a break — something I’ve been trying to do for a few years now. But every time I found myself with extra time, I found some nonprofit group or activity to fill its void. I’ve said “yes” too often just thinking it would be a simple ask, and it usually wasn’t.

The ongoing global pandemic has taught me that I need to slow down and live my life.

The nonprofit groups will continue. The other activities will go on.

When I’m ready, I’ll find my way back into volunteering — either for groups I’ve recently hit pause on or new endeavors.

There’s a song from one of the greatest musicals — “Avenue Q” — that I often am reminded of: “For Now.” The lyrics go: “Nothing lasts. Life goes on, full of surprises. … Except for death and paying taxes, everything in life is only for now.” This pause is only for now.

What led me to this decision that, from the outside, seems drastic? As I said earlier, it’s been a long time coming. When doing any kind of volunteering, I think of another “Avenue Q” song that goes: “When you help others, you’re really helping yourself.” Helping nonprofit groups began to feel like tasks mounting with no end in sight — and I started to feel as though I wasn’t helping myself.

A friend suggested that nonprofit work should still — at the core — be fun and fulfilling.

The other day, I ran across a post on Facebook with the quote posted above. I found Yasmine Cheyenne’s Instagram account to give her proper credit. But that quote (“I don’t have to apologize for letting go or choosing things in the name of my peace and healing”) really resonated with me. It’s OK to let go.

* Besides, did you really think I could completely step away? I’m still going to raise some money for the American Cancer Society because I signed up as a team captain and don’t want to have a zero-dollar team. But I’m going to do it with as little effort this year. And I still plan to help with a journalism group.

Of course, with an ongoing pandemic, there is little to fill this large chunk of time with. And maybe that’s for the best for now.