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CAROL'S CORNER

A variety of stories, including opinion pieces, will be featured.

December 24, 2016

The best Christmas gift ever given

     Today is Saturday, December 24. Christmas Eve. What does that mean to you?
     For some it might mean spending time with family and friends. For others, it could mean the tradition of going to church and singing carols and lighting candles.
     Many may find the day filled with sadness because this will be the first Christmas without a loved one. Others may not celebrate because they are alone and Christmas Eve is just another day of loneliness and hopelessness. Some may want to celebrate but can't because their future is uncertain.
     As hard as it may be, we need to see Christmas as a time of hope and joy because of the gift we were given more than 2,000 years ago. A gift that is as priceless and precious today as it was that night in Bethlehem. The gift of God's son, Jesus.
     A gift given to provide hope for the hopeless, love to the unlovable, forgiveness to the unforgivable, peace in the midst of turmoil. An undeserved gift given to anyone -- from the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich -- willing to receive it.
     A star led the shepherds and magi to Jesus. It may not be a star that leads people today, but they are still drawn to him. Their star may be someone in they meet who is a reflection of Christ's love. It may be an emptiness that needs filled and you respond to that "feeling" in your heart. Maybe it's a simple invitation to go to church, maybe even on Christmas Eve, and you hear him calling to you through a song or a message or a prayer.
      The gift of God's son may not be wrapped in a pretty package under the tree, but if you follow the star that is leading you to him, you will find him. And when you do, it's a gift that will change your life for all eternity.

By Carol Waterloo Frazier

October 14, 2016

Seek out the positive
     Have you ever noticed how it’s easier to complain about something instead of finding just one positive thing about the situation?
     We all do it. Or at least, 99 percent of us do it.
     But that doesn’t mean we can’t change how we look at things around us and maybe even start seeing things that maybe we’ve never seen before — or at least not in a very long time.
     Here are some ways to see the positive instead of the negative in our everyday life.

  • Instead of complaining about the dirty dishes, be glad you have food to eat to make them dirty; too many people don’t know if they will even eat today.
  •  Don’t complain about housework; be thankful you have a place to live.
  •  Tired of doing laundry? Think about those whose wardrobe consists only of the clothes on their back.
  • Wish it didn’t get dark so early? Take advantage of being able to take in the breath-taking colors   of the sunset.
  • Don’t like your job? Be thankful you have the ability to work.
  • Wish you were asked to be involved in an event or project? Find out who’s in charge and tell them you want to help.
  • Feel like you were mistreated by someone? You don’t know what they might be going through; give them the benefit of the doubt that there was a reason for their actions.
  • Did you make a bad decision? Learn from it and don’t make the same decision again.
  • Wonder why too many people adults lack manners and are not courteous and polite to others? Teach children from a young age how to treat others and chances are they do so as adults.
  • Wish people treated you better? Treat them better.
  • Don’t like it when people complain? Set the example by finding something positive to offset their complaint.
  • Don’t like the cold and snow? Summer will be here before you know it.
  • Don’t like the heat and humidity? Summer only lasts a few months.
  • Weary of the bombardment of negativity on TV and social media? Surround yourself with positivity.
  • Tired of hearing about all the bad things going on? Seek out the good things — they are all around us but sadly don’t get the attention.

By Carol Waterloo Frazier

September 26, 2016


Ahh, the memories
     What a great feeling when you see something that instantly takes you back in time to your childhood and memories of family members past and present.
     A good place to embark on that nostalgic journey is at a flea market. Chances are you’ll see things that will conjure up memories you haven’t thought about in decades.
     During a recent visit to a flea market, I had a wonderful time reminiscing about care-free childhood days.
     There were a lot of board games I played while growing up — games I hadn’t thought about in years. Looking back, I guess these games are pretty antiquated — you had to move the pieces by hand! There were no electronics involved so I guess they fall into the category of “old.” Some of the games I saw that day were Go To the Head of the Class, Game of the States, and Mystery Date. Seeing those rectangular boxes quickly took me back to summer and spending hours with friends on our screened-in front porch. I could see their faces and hear our laughter like it was yesterday. I couldn’t tell you how the games were played but I will never forget those childhood friends.
     A little further along Memory Lane were some wooden bowls with silvery metal bases. Right away I thought of my grandparents, who had bowls just like those. I remember my grandmother would fill the bowls with nuts, especially on holidays. Memories of holidays at their house came flooding back in vivid detail. Those were great times.
     The next stop on this journey was triggered by drinking glasses. These weren’t ordinary glasses. They were covered in a plastic, rubbery material that created a weave-like pattern. I was fascinated by those glasses as a child — and, I discovered, the fascination still existed as an adult. When I was a little girl, my grandmother and I would eat lunch on a picnic table under a tree in the back yard. We would have peanut butter sandwiches or hot dogs and drink lemonade out of those wonderful glasses. I hadn’t thought about those picnics in many, many years.
     Popcorn and movies with my parents were the next memories along this nostalgic stroll. Those memories were sparked by a matching set of bowls and small glasses out of some sort of metallic material in colors like purple, gold and burgundy. We spent many evenings watching movies and eating popcorn out of those bowls. My mom would make the popcorn, I’d put it in the bowls, and my dad would fill the cups before sitting down to watch the movie together.
     Memories of family vacations were triggered by touristy memorabilia from many of the places we visited. I even had (and in many cases still have) some of those same items, like a miniature tea set from Niagara Falls. Those family trips were wonderful.
     Others items like roller skates that went over shoes, lunch boxes of favorite TV shows, and oval change purses that you had to squeeze to open kept the memories flowing. What an amazing trip.
     Anytime you want to visit the past, spend a few hours at a flea market. You’re sure to see things that bring back memories that haven’t come to mind in years. Believe me, it’s a very rewarding journey.

By Carol Waterloo Frazier

March 25, 2016

What is Easter?

      Easter.
     For many it means chocolate rabbits and dyed eggs. Maybe they go to church because, well, that’s what you’re supposed to do on Easter. Some of what is said during the service might sound familiar but beyond that, it’s nothing more than another Sunday.
     For others, chocolate rabbits and dyed eggs may be part of their celebration but not the focus. For them, Easter is about what happened in a manger more than 2,000 years ago. It’s about a carpenter who told 12 men from different backgrounds to leave behind everything and follow him — and they did. It’s about an itinerant preacher who went from town to town, healing people and teaching.
     It’s about a man who intimidated the religious leaders by what he said and did. They made up charges against him and he was betrayed by one of the men who was with him for three years. He was condemned, mocked and beaten. He was sentenced to die the most horrific of deaths — crucifixion. His hands and feet were nailed to a cross, where he hung for three hours until he took his final breath.
      Easter is about God’s perfect, sinless son coming to earth to do what only he could do — take on our sin and die. But he didn’t stay de ad. After three days, the tomb was empty. Jesus rose from the dead. He is alive!
     Why celebrate Easter? Because it gives people hope and peace and life.  It gives hope because we know that our sins are forgiven — if we acknowledge our sin and repent. It gives peace because only God can fill us with an unexplainable inner peace when we’re going through a storm in our life. It gives life because our sin kept us separated from God but when Jesus took on our sin, he made it possible for those who believe to have everlasting life in heaven.
     Easter is more than chocolate rabbits and dyed eggs. It’s about God loving us so much that his son died so we can live.

By Carol Waterloo Frazier

December 31, 2016

Ring in the new year with hope, inspiration

       Ah, the last day of the year. Where did the time go?
      As we get ready to close the door on 2016 and prepare to cross the threshold into 2017, it's a good time to reflect about the year that is about the end. The journey down Reminiscent Lane is different for everyone. Maybe it was a year of new beginnings or a time to say goodbye to loved ones and friends. Perhaps it was a year filled with unexpected ups and downs. It may have been a year of leaving your comfort zone and doing something you always wanted to but never thought you could. The year may have been filled with blessings beyond anything you could have imagined or maybe sorrow so deep that it takes all you have to get through each day.
     For me, Dec. 31, 2015 marked the end of an era -- the end of doing what I had done for 32 years. I had no idea what was in store this year, but I knew that God had a plan. Looking back, I can see his hand in everything that happened. He was there at the start of new adventures and he was there when anxiousness crept in when, in my eyes, the future looked bleak. But he could see the big picture and knew what I would eventually be doing.
     In the interim, he used my free time to serve others through Meals on Wheels and to embark on a project of telling a veteran's story. It was also a time to go way out of my comfort zone and create this web site, something I had no idea how to do but I gave it a shot.
     Most importantly, I have been involved in my new career for eight months and know it is exactly where I'm supposed to be. From day one I felt welcomed and with each passing day I know that what I'm doing is appreciated. After one door was slammed shut, I was blessed that another door was graciously swung wide open.
     As 2016 comes to a close, take an introspective look at yourself. If you went through a time of struggle or uncertainty, did it make you stronger? When you experienced a blessing, did you do something that was a blessing to someone? Did you learn from mistakes and grow from them? In the midst of sorrow or tragedy were you able to find even one thing that gave you hope so you could make it through? If someone was there when you needed them, where you there for someone in their time of need? Did you spend time with people who are important to you or did "stuff" take priority? Did you put off doing something, thinking you'd do it later and now the year is coming to a close and it's still not done?
     With a new year ready to begin, don't look back with regret for things you didn't do. Instead, look ahead with hope and inspiration for all the things you will do in 2017.

     January 1 is a clean slate. Don't dwell on the past -- it will only weigh you down. Instead, focus on the future and how it will lift you up.

     Make 2017 the year to focus on all the positive things that happen in your life. When something positive happens, write it down. Then on Dec. 31, 2017, read what you wrote. Chances are you'll be surprised by how blessed you were during the year.

By Carol Waterloo Frazier

November 23, 2016

Be thankful in the good and bad times
     Thanksgiving. That one day set aside each year to watch a parade and football games, eat way too much food, and get together with family and friends.
     What? That's not what Thanksgiving is all about? You mean we're actually supposed to stop and think about all we have to be thankful for? What an amazing idea!
     The past year -- quite literally starting from just about this time in 2015 -- was filled with uncertainty, fear, anxiety, hope, joy, and a new beginning. We're told to rejoice and be glad in all things -- obviously the good, but also the not-so-good. This past year allowed me to experience how that is possible.
     After 32 years, the only thing I had ever done was going to be be no more. When people were ringing in a new year, I was facing something I had never experienced before. After working in the newspaper business for well over half my life, I had to make a choice -- wallow in the past and what was or look ahead to the future and what could be.
     I knew I couldn't sit around waiting for something to happen so I embarked on the arduous task of seeking a job. I was hoping that would only take maybe a month but knew that wasn't realistic and would set myself for disappointment.
     So until that offer came, I had to keep myself busy. Within the first week, I visited the local Meals on Wheels site and offered my services. I was blessed to not only help prepare the meals but also to help deliver them. Providing food for people is supposed to make a difference in their lives -- and I know it does. But it also had an impact on my life in the brief four months I volunteered with that wonderful organization. My first opportunity to rejoice.
     At the urging of several people, I took a huge leap of faith and started a web site to try to fill just a small portion of the void created when The Daily News locked it doors and boarded up its windows. After 131 years, thousands of people no longer had a way to know what was going on in their community. Although I knew many people who were missing their paper may not have access to a computer, I decided to reach out to those who did have online access and provide, to the best of my ability, the meeting and event announcements as well as weekly church listings they were missing. The site was launched Jan. 12 and was well received by groups, organizations and churches in the Mon Valley. I had no idea what I was doing when I created the web site but I went way out of my comfort zone and gave it a shot. My second chance to rejoice.
     In April I received a phone call out of the blue asking if I would be interested in working for their business. An interview was arranged -- my first in 32 years -- and within a couple weeks I was officially beginning the next chapter in life. I knew I wanted to do something totally different from the only job I had ever known and this opportunity was perfect. From day one I felt welcomed and very much at home. I had a lot of learning to do but I did so with enthusiasm because I knew in my heart this is where I was supposed to be. Working is reason enough to rejoice, but working with a group of people that make you feel wanted and appreciated and important every single day is a blessing that can't be put into words.
     When I think of the uncertainty I faced a year ago I admit was not rejoicing. There was some anger and bitterness and resent with what was happening to "a community instituation." Last year on New Year's Eve, the memories of the people I had the pleasure to not only work with but meet and the countless once-in-a-lifetime opportunities I had on that long and wonderful journey flooded over me and the tears flowed when I walked out the doors of the black-and-white building on the corner of Walnut Street and Lysle Boulevard for the very last time. Looking back, I realize those were joyful tears because without those 32 years I would not have been prepared for the opportunity that was waiting four months down the road. 
     This year, Thanksgiving has special meaning to me. Of course I'm thankful for my family, my wonderful husband and my friends, my health, the fact I have food to eat, a roof over my head and clothing to keep me warm this winter, and my job.
     But I'm thankful for so much more. I'm thankful for being able to help others, for being able to go to church and worship freely, and of having faith to know that in the bleak and dark times God is in control, has a plan and knows the ending.
     When Thursday rolls around this year, it will indeed be a day of thanksgiving.

By Carol Waterloo Frazier

July 26, 2016


Customer service —— people vs money
   
Is customer service a thing of the past? Thinking that might be the case, I looked online to see if there was a definition for customer service and sure enough there was.
     Customer service, as defined at Desk.com, is “the support you offer your customers — both before and after they buy your product — that helps them have an easy and enjoyable experience with you.”
     The definition goes on to say, “It’s more than just providing answers; it’s an important part of the promise your brand makes to its customers.”
     Sadly, too many businesses no longer seem to care about their customers. When these business owners opened their doors, they probably did all they could to get — and keep — customers. They were grateful for any sale, regardless of how big or small, because they knew it would help pay the bills. Customer satisfaction was a life-line to becoming a successful business.
     But then something happened. A transformation began. It started out small and eventually morphed into something huge. No longer was the customer important — it’s what they were spending. The business owner shifted the focus from people to money.
     I want to make it very clear that many businesses, after decades of serving their clients, still put the customer first. It’s the business owners who no longer care about the people who supported them and helped get them where they are today that I’m calling out.
     A situation a couple weeks ago made me take a step back and look at how people are treated — or more specifically, how long-time loyal customers can be looked upon as nothing more than a pawn in the game of greed.
     For more than 25 years, I’ve dealt with a marina at Yough Lake. Through the years, I developed what I thought was a trusting relationship with them. I realized how wrong I was.
     Several weeks ago, the motor wouldn’t start so my husband and I took the boat to get the engine repaired. The following week we were told it was ready. But when we tried to launch, the engine still wouldn’t start. Back to the marina.
     The following morning we got a call that it was fixed so we picked it up. Unfortunately it was raining so we couldn’t try it out but the following weekend it was like reliving a bad dream — it still wouldn’t start.
     We called the marina and asked the mechanic to come to where we were — after all, we had trailored the boat to him three times already with no results. He told us he would come for a mere $500. My husband told him we would go to their competitor and he said, “Do what you have to do.” No remorse, no regret, no apology, no attempt to make things right. If he thought we would back down, he thought wrong.
     We went to the other mechanic and within an hour the problem was diagnosed and a new part installed. We were back on the water for the first time in three weeks.
     This family owned business, Caney Valley SS Marine, has been serving customers for more than three decades. They understand customer service and value their customers — even new ones. We definitely had — and look forward to continuing — many more enjoyable experiences with them.
     When my husband called the owner we've dealt with for years and explained how his competitor found and repaired the problem, his response was the same as his employee’s. The only difference was he wished us good luck.
     Business owners have a choice to make about what they value — money or people. Lakeside Marine chose money and lost two long-time customers. Unfortunately, they don’t care. They know someone will step in and continue the cash flow. The claim on the service section of their web site states: “We take pride in ourselves to be knowledgeable of our industry, provide exceptional and prompt service and to offer our customers the finest line of marine service available.” That may have been true years ago but, sadly, not any more.

By Carol Waterloo Frazier

May 15, 2016

   Unexpected  empathy

    After 131 years, The Daily News published its final edition on Dec. 31, 2015. Many tears were shed as we said our goodbyes — not just to each other but to the memories that were made that will forever be etched in our hearts.
     We grieved, each of us in our own way, as a huge part of our lives was gone. There was no breathing life into what was once a mainstay of the community. It was gone, never to be seen — or read — again. Like so many other things in a once-thriving city, The Daily News is now nothing more than another lifeless, boarded up building.
     On May 12, the news staff was recognized by the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania at the annual Golden Quill Awards, receiving the Service to Journalism Award. During the brief introduction, there were audible gasps when the paper’s starting date of 1884 was announced. As our names were announced and we went forward to receive a certificate, that flood of emotion returned — all the memories, the people, the stories, and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities we had because we had the privilege of working at The Daily News. And yes, once again the tears flowed.
    The emotions were expected, but what happened next wasn’t. As we stood by the podium looking out at more than 200 colleagues, they stood and applauded. Whether it was for us as individuals or because of the closing of yet another newspaper, it was humbling to see colleagues in print, television and radio showing their support. That is a moment that will not soon be forgotten.
     It is said that when one door closes, another opens. Many of us have been blessed to walk through a new door, beginning a new chapter in our lives. While our time at The Daily News will never be forgotten, we must turn our focus from the past and focus on the future and the memories that are waiting to be made.

By Carol Waterloo Frazier   

The news staff of The Daily News received the Service to Journalism Award at the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania's annual Golden Quill Award ceremony.