We All Need The Magic Mirror

As many of you may know, my sister, Molly McCloskey Barber was “Miss Molly” on the syndicated children’s television show “Romper Room and Friends” back in the 80’s. Her tenure began with taping shows at WMAR in Baltimore and eventually working at Channel 9 WOR TV in Secaucus, New Jersey. Lots of work was done on that show to validate children, their feelings, their hopes and dreams and make them feel special as they watched in their homes every day. New puppet characters like Granny Cat and Kimble were introduced to the show and created a cast of characters that evolved over the years as trusted friends to all the children.

But the one thing that stuck with a lot of kids who became adults throughout the country was an accessory called ” The Magic Mirror”. At the end of every show, Miss Molly would pull out the mirror and say these immortal words, ” Romper bomper, stomper boo. Tell me, tell me tell me, do. Magic Mirror tell me today, did all my friends have fun at play?” And she would go on to mention many many different names each day and if you were sitting at home and she mentioned your name, you would feel so special and excited because she saw you in the Magic Mirror. There are people today that I relate this story to that watched the show as a kid and either Molly mentioned their name or in many cases, they told me that Molly never mentioned their name. I would immediately call my sister on the phone and have her recite the famous words to that person and see them absolutely melt with appreciation or weep like a baby. It had that kind of impact.

As I think back on those days, I think of the underlying message of the Magic Mirror. What made it so special and why do people today love to talk about having Miss Molly see them in the mirror as a kid? Personally, I think that it was a chance for kids viewing the show to be validated. When Molly would mention their name, they thought for sure that she was talking right to them. All their fears, hopes, expectations, unsure moments, would all be blended into a happy frenzy when Molly mentioned their name. Their faces would light up like a candle and their smiles were infectious as they screamed to their parents, ” Miss Molly mentioned my name in the mirror!!!”

Molly was good about inviting kids to the live taping of the shows at WMAR and WOR. She always made sure they felt special and that everything would be ok in the unfamiliar environment of a television studio. Their parents were so happy and oftentimes speechless as they saw their children interact with the characters on the show.

So I was thinking just this weekend about how we all need ” The Magic Mirror”. Maybe we all need someone to reach out to us and see that we are all ok in this time of isolation? Maybe we need to be the mirror for someone who is feeling lonely, isolated, afraid, and make them feel special because we thought of them? Maybe we all need to look in the mirror and see if all our friends are having a good day? Thanks Miss Molly and thanks for reading.

Seemed Like a Vacation

Ok, so we all are getting a little cabin fever, right? Vacation plans are on hold, getting together with friends is typically by phone call or text. The walls of the house are kind of closing in and it is important to get out and get some fresh air and exercise for more than the need to boost the immune system. We need it to also boost us mentally as we plow through this Covid-19 issue. We think back to how it was before when we could go somewhere and have a change of scenery. That option, for the moment, has been limited to local venues like parks, and local trails for the mountain bike set. But last Saturday, we called an audible and it seemed, well……..like a vacation of sorts. A few of us, trying to be socially distanced, met at Laurel Mountain State Park in the beautiful Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania and rode on the trails that are lined with mountain laurel, spring wildflower growth, and in general, bathed in brilliant sunshine.

The enthusiasm in the parking lot was felt among all of us as several of us had not seen each other in a while. We all have our little socially distanced riding groups of a few people but this time, a few more people showed up under the threshold of what is acceptable. The laughs, the mood, the stories about how we all are coping were well received and set the tone for a Saturday ride in the Laurels. My friend Jeff dubbed it a ” Paturday” ride because of my pleasant route through the rocks and roots at a relatively acceptable pace. A couple of the fast guys and gals(Everyday Dave and Eric and friends) took off and did their thing which was fine but my race pace days are over as well as many of us in our group. Jeff even brought his drone and took some really cool footage of all of us socially distanced on the Wolf Rocks. The important thing was the camaraderie that is always present on mountain bike rides. This day was exceptional because of the extenuating circumstances and I think we all recognized the value of the change of venue and the need to socially connect in person.

But if I could put my finger on the one thing that made “Paturday” special besides all the good folks who showed up to ride was the fact that we all can appreciate something right in our own backyard. Sure, we can’t wait to get back to Bend or other far away riding places. But for the moment, we all appreciated the chance to get away about an hour and a half from our closed in walls and enjoy something local. Appreciate something local. Maybe like we have never done before? I kind of take riding at Laurel for granted but not anymore. Even the obligatory stop at the Pie Shoppe in Laughlintown for the home made pizza and delicious baked goods was appreciated more than most stops. This Covid thing will teach a lot of us a lot of lessons. One of them is to appreciate all that you have. Thanks for reading- and riding.

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“Welcome to the Mountains”

One of the nice things that I will always remember about Herman Dupre, was his genuine happiness to see you on his mountain. I would often be riding my mountain bike and see Herman driving in his Subaru and he would stop and always say, ” Welcome to the Mountains, Pat” ” How are you?” He was genuinely interested in seeing how you were. He always had a smile and twinkling in his eyes. We would chat and he would continue on his way surveying the property and seeing what improvements could be made. Here was a guy that was an icon in my mind and a guy that we always looked up to as kids growing up skiing at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Herman did so much to develop the resort that his mother and father started way back in the 30s. Much has been written about him being the pioneer in snowmaking around the world. I posted about all of this before. https://chroniclesofmccloskey.com/2014/12/17/hkd-the-man-the-myth-the-snowmaker/

But the thing that I always remember was that for a guy of his stature, ability, and downright fame, he was always approachable and willing to talk to you about your interests and his projects on the mountain. I can remember seeing him in the coffee shop at Seven Springs one day when I was younger and asking him why he doesn’t get Laurel Mountain running again. Interestingly, Laurel is managed today by Seven Springs, but at the time, there were various encumbrances. Herman said to me, ” Pat- lets sit down and have a cup of coffee and I will give you 38 reasons why.” And he did, and I was amazed at his knowledge of water, the environment, and the various other factors that played into his decision not to get involved. Another time, I saw Herman and told him enthusiastically about these 55 gallon drums with large funnels attached that were placed under the chairlifts at an eastern resort that I had skied. They resolved the litter problem that is caused by people throwing beer cans and other trash off the chairlift and on to the slopes. He listened, as he always did, and said” Pat- I know all about them. In fact I have costed them out and figured that I pay my guys to be on the mountain anyhow and they can remove that trash quickly without having to deal with the cost of all those barrels. Why did I think for one moment that I had an idea that Herman had not already thought about?


Courtesy of Greg Bowlby and Bart Raitano Jr.

Herman was famous for his quotes of which one is displayed above in an old card from the Greg Bowlby collection that pretty much sums up Herman’s description of how he operated at Seven Springs. Pretty humorous but again showing the humility of a very capable guy. I have a deck of cards that Herman’s daughter Anni gave to me that has “Hermanisms” printed on the 52 card deck. Sayings like” always put a 20 dollar bill in your shoe.” Or, when he would see his guys in the parking lot after a big snow storm he would say, ” brush those cars off- I need the water.” So many great sayings that they are forever preserved in a deck of cards distributed by HKD Snowmakers- the wildly successful company that Herman started along with his daughter Anni and son-in -law Charlie.

Mike Smith, my pal from the Adirondacks, and the former mountain manager at Seven Springs, always said he learned more from Herman than from any other human being. He would call Herman every Christmas from his marina up on Lake George and wish him well. He would tell Herman that story and Herman would humbly say,” We had a lot of fun didn’t we Mikey?”

With all of his success, Herman was extremely benevolent. He did a lot with his alma mater- St. Vincent’s College and the new engineering building is named after Herman and his wife Sis. He always supported our blind ski program as well as a host of other volunteer programs at the resort and took a keen interest in how we were teaching blind people to ski. One day in the Foggy Goggle, I had our skier, Fred Siget ,put on his headset and I guided him around the bar. When I saw Herman, I guided Fred over to him and told him to tell Herman what a nice red flannel shirt he had. Herman was astonished and after we let him in on the gag, he said, ” I have been giving that guy free passes to ski for years and he says to me what a nice red flannel shirt I have.” We all had a good laugh about that and Herman gave Fred a big hug.

Herman always had a flannel shirt, jeans, and work boots and always referred to himself as a farmer. Again, as a young guy, I was always impressed with his humility in the light of his amazing achievements. Recently at a birthday party for Bif Swager, I asked Herman how his projects were going. My pal Jaime Thompson, a retired structural engineer, and Herman always had something going, and Herman responded to me, ” Pat- I have to live to 124 because I just have too much to do.” Pretty amazing for a guy in his 80’s who should be slowing down a bit. His wife Sis, laughed and said with her dry Irish wit, ” I will give him till 100 and that’s all. I am done then.”

We lost Herman this weekend and his passing sent a shock wave through the ski industry as well as the mountain community in and around Seven Springs. He lived a full life and we will all miss him terribly. Herman was such an influence in my life. His hard work, humble spirit, and generosity told me that just because you are successful does not mean that you are not interested in anyone but yourself. He influenced me more that he would ever know.

I am sure that as he made his way to his heavenly home this weekend, he gathered a crowd around the Pearly Gates. I am sure he had one of his Impulse or Impulse R5 high efficiency snow guns in tow as he explained to the Lord and the angels all about snowmaking. I can hear him say,” There is no such thing as artificial snow…..just snow that is made artificially.” It probably gathered some smiles all around as he was welcomed home. The next time you ski on a perfectly groomed trail and see those large towers with the orange guns attached, think of Herman. They are everywhere- world wide. Condolences to Sis and all of her fabulous 9 daughters. Thanks for reading.

A Great Story About A Great Guy.

Let me tell you all a great story about a really great guy. We all need stories like that don’t we? Especially in this time and place in our world. My friend Bob Reading is from the Villages in Florida by way of “Bahhhhhstan, Mass”. He and his wife Valerie, who is my wife’s good friend from Penn State, are some of the most active people I know. We get together with the PSU group several times a year and Bobby is always along when he can to join in the festivities. Mike Smith, Bobby and I are the only non-Penn State people and we kind of became friends because of that distinction over the years. Mike shown in the middle here with his wife Judy and my wife Janet. We laugh about it because the PSU fraternity is very strong. So Mike, Bobby and I started riding mountain bikes together up at Rothrock State Forest as a way to bond as the non-PSU guys and also to take advantage of the great terrain up in the mountains around State College, Pa.

Bob is an amazing athlete. A former college quarterback, he can do most things very well. We were all in the batting cages up at PSU one time for a contest that Kathy Ritchey put together for the crowd one homecoming. Bobby stepped in and had a stance just like a major league guy and started to make solid contact with the fast balls coming into him from the batting machine. He is great on the basketball court. Mike and I knew that he was a really strong road cyclist and when he first came to State College, we invited him to mountain bike with us. We took him into the famous/ heinous rock section on the John Wert Path up near Tussey Mountain and amazingly he kept up even though he had never ridden much on the mountain bike and never on the rocks that make up the advanced trails at the Rothrock State Forest. When we got to a fire road climb, Bobby was gone as he was like a rocket up the hill leaving Mike and I in the dust. The only way we could keep him in check was with the rocky sections but even at that, he was right with us and whenever a smooth section or a fire road came up, he was gone. I mean gone!!! Always has a smile on his face and in the middle of this PSU crowd, with former gridiron stars from the Nittany Lions, he was and is still the athlete of the group – bar none. But that is not the story really. Just a little background on a guy who started his own software company and then decided to do something totally different. He went to work for Samaritan’s Purse. http://www.samaritanspurse.org

We all started to get these messages from Valerie that Bobby was leaving for Africa, or the Carribean, or some other remote place where the Samaritan’s Purse reach extended. Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian relief organization that provides healthcare, food, shelter, and other amenities to those living in desperate situations around the globe. The conditions in many of these places are deplorable but Samaritan’s Purse continues to provide much needed care with their teams of doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers. Bobby provides assistance with logistics and also financial and accounting advice and the places he has seen in the last number of years is impressive to say the least. So, what makes a guy who is successful in business, lives in a beautiful home on a lake in Florida, has a wonderful life with a great wife, and all the summer weather activities he can enjoy, pick up and go to Somalia? A good heart- that is what. There are not many people in this world who walk the walk like Bobby. He even has Valerie involved now, but Bobby is gone for long stretches at a time. I am sure he misses home but to hear Valerie, Bobby has finally found his passion in life.
I often think what I would be doing if I really wanted to make a difference in life. Don’t you also think that? Especially now when we are all sequestered. I think often, what can I do to better the world? How can I contribute? It takes a special person to do what Bobby does.

The latest is that Bobby is now in New York City with Samaritan’s Purse Franklin Graham held Easter services there today and Bobby was working behind the scenes as he always does, making sure the finances work and the costs and payments are accounted for. He is the unsung hero for the organization and that is exactly how this humble guy wants it. Don’t you just wish you could have the courage to drop everything and follow your heart? I know that Janet and I think about it often. But some people actually make the move and do it. Bobby is that guy. Humble, giving, and when he returns, I am hoping to get thrashed on the bike by him again. He does it with a smile and we all say,” How does he do it?” Thanks for reading and pray for Bobby, Valerie and Samaritan’s Purse. They do such great work at great risk.

That’s Why I Married Her

You learn a lot about patience when you are confined to your home in times like this. You become aware of things that maybe you were too busy to see before, or maybe just never took the time to notice. For instance, the patience shown by my wife Janet, for her ailing 89 year old mother, Joan, who lives with us. Janet is the only caregiver for her mom and outside of the weekly nursing visits, she is all alone in the care of her mother. Sure, I can assist by going to the store, getting supplies, cleaning up after dinner, and other mundane things, but for the most part-Janet is the one. Every day, every week.

We have someone who will come in and be with her mom when Janet and I wanted to get out,or go away, but now that there is nothing open, that option is tabled. I am sure she is like a lot of women who care for their elderly parents, but to see it up close and personal, is impressive.

I can remember my mom cooking and caring for our elderly relatives and she was good about that. But the difference is that when someone actually lives with you, the neediness as they age, becomes acute and you have to have a lot of patience and kindness in order to take each day at a time.

Janet and her mom are best friends. Sure they have their battles as they vied for supremacy in the kitchen. Two women in one house have different ways of doing things and after many years of living with me, Janet all of a sudden had her mom back in the house living with her. Joan can’t dictate in the kitchen any more. Her years of doing that are over. Strange times and a real need to adapt. We were able to get away before all of this Covid stuff, but as it turns out, Janet’s mom is becoming more needy as the days go on. We are not sure what lies ahead. Outside of the walks outside in the neighborhood, and using the elliptical machine in the basement, Janet has been pretty much confined to the house as is a lot of the population. I have been around a lot more than I usually am but am able to get out and ride some remote trails on my mountain bike and see some of my riding friends in a socially acceptable way. And it is helpful. But my wife, God love her, gets up every day and the first thing on her mind is her mom. How is she? Wonder what she wants to eat today? Does she need her shower? The aides that have been coming have been great, but with the need to isolate due to this disease, their appearance has been suspended to keep Joan safe. So shower time duties belong to Janet. Her mother’s laundry, her pills( how she keeps track of that I will never know), other things that I will not go into here are daily, taxing things that only Janet can do for her mom. Every day, every week, with no relief as long as this Covid- 19 crisis is with us, and beyond.

I try to support Jan by being here but I have to tell you, if I didn’t get out a little bit I would lose my mind. I don’t have the patience that my wife shows and although she gets frustrated from time to time, she is the archetype of what a caring, Christian person should be. Sure it is her mom, but I am sure Janet never thought this would happen. She and her mom cared for her dad while he was infirm in the last years of his life, and now she has the care of her mom every day.

I always tell Janet that someday, she will look back and know that she did the right thing. She extends grace, as grace was extended to her from our Savior. Her mom has macular degeneration, and hearing loss, as well as other life threatening issues. Her life here in our home, is really the best that she could have and it would not be possible without the daily, weekly, attention and care that she gets from her daughter.

Someday I hope she can get back to her happy place. Someday I will look at her and be happy that she found some relaxation. Today I look at her with love and admiration. She is a caring, loving, grace giving, person and that is why I married her and how blessed I am . Thanks for reading.

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These are the Times

” These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country. But he, that stands by it now, deserves the love and the thanks of man and woman.”

Prophetic words from Thomas Paine, one of the Founders, which rings true today. We are all in a position to come together – although not physically with the “stay at home” rules, but mentally, in communication with each other, and prayers to the Almighty in these trying times. With social media, I-Phones and technology, we can stay in touch, communicate, send pictures, work from home and call and talk to each other. We can have some semblance of normalcy if we band together to beat this virus or at least stem the tide of its advancement.


Looking at pictures of our groups, we can remember good times and look forward to good times ahead. When you view a picture, sometimes you can see someone who you have not talked to in a little while. Text them. Email them. Call them. Ask them how they are doing in these unusual times. In many ways, that is the service to your country. It pales in comparison to military service or perhaps the service of our many first responders, nurses, hospital workers, but in many ways- bonding together even virtually for a time is service to us all.

Janet and I are trying to do our part by being responsible. Yes, I am getting outside but not in big groups. Most often by myself on the trails just to get some exercise and fresh air which is encouraged by the stay at home edict. Janet walks in the neighborhood and greets the neighbors from an acceptable social distance. We are trying to avoid large groups. Shopping when necessary but trying to keep Janet’s 89 year old mother safe. She lives with us and is most vulnerable.

So sure- we all are beginning to have some cabin fever. We need to return to some kind of routine with work, social life, restaurant outings, and in general an active lifestyle again. It will come. It may take a little bit but with some patience, understanding, generosity, and compassion and not being selfish, we can get through this. Stay in touch with your family and friends. Write an encouraging email, text or better yet- make a phone call. So important in these days of isolation.

We will get there again. Say your prayers, be kind and generous with others. Short and sweet but thanks for reading and ……….wash your hands.

The Brendan Boat

Just trying to take a break from all the Covid-19 stuff and give you all a little enjoyment for St. Patrick’s Day. Back a number of years when I was in Ireland riding my bike, I peddled my arse to the west coast and ended up on the Dingle Peninsula. That is where I purchased the item above that depicts St. Brendan and his monks rowing their dory boat. You see St. Brendan and the monks were from a place very close to Dingle and they are famous for their explorations of the Aran Islands and westward spreading the gospel. Read Tim Severin’s book ” The Brendan Voyage” for a fascinating account of their voyages. It is said that they made it all the way to Newfoundland 500 years before Leif Erikson and close to 1000 years before Columbus made his way to the Caribbean. National Geographic also did a piece in August of 1977 reporting on Severin’s re-creation of the voyage outlined in the book. My point today is that St. Brendan and the boys were not much into social distancing. In fact they went way out of their way to spread the gospel and also meet new people and visit new lands on the way. The Irish are like that.

St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration of what the saint did in Ireland as a Christian missionary and bishop. It also celebrates Irish culture with parades, Guiness, Irish Car Bombs, and similar merriment but also recognizes the social character of the Irish and their descendants like me. My mother was a huge fan of the day and also a huge fan of all things Irish. Her humor was represented in sayings like the above and also in her love for things like Belleek china, Waterford crystal and making Irish soda bread. But again- it involved people, and our house growing up had that classic Irish tradition of gathering friends and family and enjoying the humor and the company. I spent many times on the piano in my folk’s house playing Irish songs and to this day do the same at home. My mom’s favorite saying was that “happiness is like a perfume, you can’t spread it on others without getting a little on yourself.” And she did in many ways- cooking, singing, entertaining her friends and relatives, and well…….being Irish. I believe I received her sense of humor as a gift because I always try to look at life from the bright side. If I can offer some humor to my friends and family along the way, I feel good and I hope they do as well. I tell my inane stories of my experiences on the chairlift and on mountain bike rides, much to the amusement of my friends who have graciously heard the stories over and over again. But I believe that a little self deprecation, which is the root of many of my stories, leads to belly laughs and people shaking their heads and saying………..McCloskey???????”

 

So this Tuesday is St. Patrick’s Day. Yes- we are in the middle of a national crisis. The parades have all been cancelled, restaurants are closing, bars are closing, we are encouraged to be diligent and wash our hands and keep our distance. Not in the Irish tradition at all. But we need to do it. But when the day comes, and you have “The Quiet Man” on television or maybe “Waking Ned Devine” , think of the folks that you would like to be with and give them a call or a text. Have a laugh and try to keep some humor during some trying times. I will probably do that and bore people with more stories and corny Irish jokes, but they will laugh and say- ” thanks for the call man”.        Slainte’ .