Sunday, August 24, 2008

Be Still and Know that I am God!

"Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth." ~Psalm 46:10

As I watched the last tiny fishing boat come into port last evening, I glanced up at the sky and saw it light up. The sun had already dipped below the horizon, but that’s when the real “fireworks” began. Sunsets are gorgeous, but the true beauty occurs right after the sun has disappeared. It doesn’t turn dark, but rather it becomes more brilliant —turning shades of red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo and violet—the colors of the rainbow. How reassuring to know that when it seems like the sun is setting in our life (whatever that may be…sickness, tragedy, loneliness, despair...), it’s really just the beginning of God’s light to shine in our lives.

As we drove out of Sandy Cove last evening, we saw this sign as a reminder of what we had witnessed—not only in our lives this past summer—but as God’s promise to all of us.

Blessings to all of you who have faithfully prayed for Mark's recovery!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Summer's End

The end of summer is bittersweet. It means the end of one routine and the beginning of another. For me, my writing life gives way to speaking and that means ”trains, planes and automobiles.” But it also means a more hectic schedule, which I am desperately trying to change. Mark’s recuperation from his hip injury has taught me--once again--to take ONE DAY at a time! His progress has been steady and it looks like he will return to work sometime in September. So we are enjoying these last days of summer as a special gift.

Last Monday, we met fellow friend and author Susan Kelly Skitt along with her precious family (Jim, Jared and Joel) at one of our favorite summer spots: Mt. Gretna! It’s the place that time has forgotten with an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, quaint cottages, and a water swing over the lake.

We enjoyed endless root beer in iced glasses and pulled pork sandwiches, while the canopy of pine trees brought a welcome relief to an otherwise humid day. Susan and I first met at an author signing for God Allows U-Turns, and immediately we knew we were sisters of the heart. And now she speaks to MOPS groups and is part of Women’s Mentoring Ministries. It’s a great reunion every time we get together.

Yesterday, Jon came home from his vacation with Kim’s family at Ocean City, Maryland. In a matter of two hours after arriving home, we helped him pack up the Subaru to head out for Grove City College. You would think that having gone through this for the last three years, I would be used to it. I am not!

As soon as the good-bye picture was snapped, I slipped inside the front door so I could cry alligator tears!

Mark knew that I would spend the rest of the evening crying on and off, so we got in the Buick and drove 58 miles down the road to “paradise”—North East, Maryland. We shopped the quaint shops, took pictures of the gorgeous homes, enjoyed crab dip (Maryland style--yummy!), and watched the sunset on the Chesapeake while the fishing boats drifted in.

On the drive home, we opened up the moon roof (yes--our Buick has a moon roof!), played R&B music, and let the wind whip through my hair. The tears had dried and the sadness was gone (almost!).

We have done our job well…our boys are all grown up and leading lives of their own. It’s just the two of us now at summer’s end!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Rare Event!

We all converged on J.B. Dawson’s for dinner (Jon’s birthday, my birthday, Jer’s graduation from his Master’s program, and Jon going back for his senior year at Grove City College).

It’s a rare event in our family when everyone is together: Jon had a full-time job this summer; Mark was recuperating from his broken hip; Connie played nurse; Jeremy took three classes to finish up his Masters, and we FINALLY took time to celebrate the culmination of a LONG, but short summer.

Notice, there is no cake sitting on the table…it was GONE before I was able to get out my camera (they told me it was yummy!). I’ll just take their word for it.

Jon’s gift to me was in the form of a thank you for all the lunches I packed during the week (I won’t be doing that for a while).


Jer gave me a funny card (umm…no more sentimental ones; I’m 53!).
And Mark paid for the meal which I must say was excellent (I had a” gift certificate” to eat at Dawson’s).

We don’t eat together as a family that often, but when we do it is a rare event—reserved for birthdays, anniversaries, and going back to school. Jon is all packed up ready to go back to Grove City and for his birthday, we bought him a suit for all his interviews starting in the fall (can’t hurt, might help!). At first when he came out of the men’s dressing room, he looked a bit like Tom Hank’s in the movie, “Big.” The sleeves were EXTRA LONG and made him look like a gorilla. Three hours later we found one that was PERFECT (and they say women have a hard time making up their minds!).

Today the house is quiet.

Jon is vacationing with Kim’s family at Ocean City, Maryland. He has all his college stuff packed and ready to go when he arrives home next week.

Mark will probably go back to work at the end of September, and life will return to “normal”…a rare event!

Friday, August 15, 2008

"I Can See Clearly Now"

Yesterday, around 4:30 p.m. I realized that tomorrow (that’s today) is my birthday and I hadn’t renewed my driver’s license.


In Pennsylvania, you get a piece a paper in the mail that you fill out and about a month later you get another piece of paper that allows you to go to the DMV and say, “I need my license renewed.”

If you don’t, you pay a BIGGER price, which I did because I forgot to send in the first piece of paper! Not a problem really, except we were in the middle of a severe thunderstorm with huge chunks of hail. I swerved off the side of the road and realized I was being pelted vigorously (it sounded like I was inside a steel drum). I inched along the side of the road until I saw a “Sheetz” sign (local convenience store), and found cover under the overhang along with 20 other cars.

I didn’t want to look like a drowned rat on my driver’s license for the next four years, so I didn’t dare get out of my car. I stayed put.

The storm passed 30 minutes later and then the rush to beat the clock to make it to Brenner’s. I arrived safely and rushed to the counter where a pair of twinkling eyes met me. The receptionist glanced at my card, filled out the paperwork, stamped two pieces of paper, took my money, and pointed the way to the “picture zone.”

What is it about license photos that make us look like hardened criminals? I was determined to change that. The woman I met was wearing a pink ribbon and I asked if she was a breast cancer survivor. She said, “Yes, I am, two years now. And this is my real hair—curly and gray—I just love it!" She twisted a curl around her finger and whsipered, “I always wanted curly hair, but I didn’t want it this way!” I smiled and said, “I’m a survivor too—twelve years now.” Tears made a path down her cheeks as she walked behind the counter and hugged me. “I’ve never met someone who has lived that long!” she said.


That took me back. I’ve lived that long (a good thing!), but then I remembered the first time I met someone who had lived 15 years and I did the exact same thing; I cried and then I hugged her.

Yesterday I had the rare privilege of being the “huggee” and not the “hugger.”

I think I flustered her a bit: my picture looks like something from Wally’s World, my street address is wrong, and my signature is hardly visible (so I guess I’ll be back to see her sooner rather than later).

One thing is different on my driver’s license this year: I am an organ donor! For some of you it’s no big deal, but for me it’s a very big deal. As a cancer survivor, it's the only thing I can donate! Sorry, that's all folks!

As I drove out of the parking lot with my new card I realized that when I stop celebrating birthdays, I will be able to give someone the gift of sight! I wish it could be more, but it’s all I have to give (two healthy corneas).

All the way home, I kept humming the song, “I can see clearly now..."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Summer Colds

Today Mark and I woke up with horrible summer colds (sniffling, sneezing, scratchy throat, and chills). The worst part…everything tastes like sawdust!

We had a friend coming to visit, so we grabbed some Subway sandwiches and took Terry on a picnic to Conestoga Gardens (our Wednesday tradition!). He couldn’t believe the beauty and that it was open to the public and FREE.

We sat by the pool, Mark sat in the shade and watched as Terry and I took pictures…he’s a shutterbug too. We first met Terry and Carole at the Weekend of Hope in Stowe Vermont two years ago. She passed away on August 9, 2007 from breast cancer, but she did more living in the past three years than she did in her 59 short years. They both attended my “Writing to Heal” class and Terry has kept in touch ever since. I know that Carole was there with us in the garden…we felt her presence, especially when a butterfly landed right in front of me just as I was thinking of her kind smile and twinkling eyes…what a gift.

Summer colds are no fun, but at least I’m able to sit in bed and watch DVD movies. Tonight I’m watching one of my favorites: “The Devil Wears Prada.” I think we have all had bosses like Meryl Streep’s character and we can relate.

One great perk of being a freelance writer is you get to have Wednesdays off to take pictures, write about them, and then take yourself out to the movies afterwards (even if it’s on your laptop in bed!).

Stay healthy everyone and enjoy whatever writing projects you’re working on. C'mon just sit a spell and enjoy some ice cold EMERGEN-C for cold relief! It will make me feel better!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Coopers Rock State Park

After my speaking engagement on Saturday in West Virginia, we got back in the car and headed for home. Immediately, Mark’s cell phone rang; it was Debbie Spiker (my hubby’s former boss!). “Don’t forget to see Coopers Rock State Park,” she said. A few minutes later, we saw the sign for “yes”—you guessed it, “Coopers Rock.” The weather on Saturday was absolutely gorgeous—76 degrees and no humidity!

The ride up the road to the summit was breathtaking. But I worried about Mark walking up the trail to the top, so I hung on to his belt loops while Mark clutched his cane. The view at the summit was worth the five-minute walk. The Cheat River could be seen in the gorge below, which snaked through the mountainous terrain. Mark made the comment, “This is great rock climbing territory!”“Oh no, don’t you even think about it!” I shouted.

You can take the triathlon out of the triathlete, but you can’t take the triathlete out of the man!

I played photographer—taking pictures of families on vacation, honeymooners, and folks on family reunions. I know what it’s like to want someone to take a picture and no one to take it! Finally, my hubby grabbed my hand and said, “Okay, Connie, that’s enough!”

Just then a young couple was kind enough to return the favor! Mark and I posed at the summit.I’m amazed at God’s beauty that is everywhere…we just need to take the time to enjoy it. It wasn’t on our agenda, yet it was the best part of our trip—Coopers Rock State Park! It’s a must-see place if you’re ever in West Virginia.

Tell ‘em Connie sent you!

Monday, August 11, 2008

"Touched by a Coffee-Loving Angel”

On Saturday I shared my story, “Touched by a Coffee Loving Angel” at the Horizon of Hope Luncheon in Morgantown, West Virginia at Oliverio’s Ristorante to help support the Betty Puskar Breast Cancer Center and hosted by Debbie Spiker. It was a gorgeous day and filled with courageous stories of inspiration.

I shared a portion of my breast cancer story that made it into Chicken Soup for the Coffee-Lover’s Soul, and I’m grateful for every opportunity I have to share about the angels that save our life!

Touched by a Coffee-Loving Angel
by Connie Pombo

There were no customers in line at the Java Hut when I
dashed up to the counter with my arms waving and
shouting, “I need a cup of hazelnut coffee to go, please!” The
woman behind the register was a stranger to me, someone
new, who obviously wasn’t accustomed to my frantic
outbursts. With hands on her hips she countered, “Do you
always demand your coffee that way?”

Embarrassed, I offered, “No, not always, but I’m late for
work and I can’t live without my hazelnut coffee!” Quickly
eyeing her name badge I added, “Thank you, Linda.”
While she poured my coffee, I couldn’t help but notice the
gorgeous long-stemmed pink roses in a crystal vase sitting
on the counter.

“Is it your birthday?” I asked.

She turned around and whispered, “No, it’s mammogram
day!” She saw the puzzled look on my face and leaned in
closer, “I’m always nervous on the day of my mammogram,
so my husband sends me flowers. I’ve had a few close calls,
so it gets harder every year.”

“How thoughtful of your husband. What a gem.”

Linda reached out her hand with my cup of coffee, while I
blurted out, “I’ve never had a mammogram and my mom
was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago.”

Suddenly, Linda glared at me and snapped, “You’re not
getting this until you get a mammogram and that’s final!”
I was shocked. I thought she was joking until I saw the
steam rising and it wasn’t from the coffee. Linda refused to
serve me and I left vowing never to return. I drove to work
coffee-less and miserable with a pounding headache. The
entire day, I couldn’t shake the java outburst. While driving
home, and later that evening on the treadmill at the gym,
Linda’s words haunted me. I was forty years old and in the
best shape of my life, but I knew it was foolish to take a
family history of breast cancer lightly.

That night after I showered, no doubt because my
encounter with Linda was still fresh on my mind, I
performed a rare breast self-examination. My hand froze.
No, it can’t be, I thought, as my fingers paused over the coffee
bean-sized lump. Panicked, I pounced on the bed where my
husband of twenty years was snoring peacefully, “Wake up,
honey, please. I found a lump. I think I have breast cancer.”
Mark, nearly immune to my hypochondriac tendencies
and only semi-conscious was not amused. “Sure you do
sweetheart, now go back to sleep.” I was horrified. I tried to
explain the day’s events: Linda at the Java Hut, the coffee
that I didn’t receive, the mammogram I should have
scheduled, and now the lump. Out of pure exhaustion, I
drifted off to sleep only to wake up with a note pasted to
my left cheek. I had rolled over on it sometime in the early
morning. It read, “I went running. Coffee is brewing. Call
the doctor. Love, Mark!”

I padded downstairs in my pink bunny slippers and
called our family physician, who reassured me that I was
overreacting but just in case he ordered a mammogram for
that Monday.

The day of my mammogram Mark met me at the clinic.
When my name was called, I almost ran the other way, back
into the parking lot. But instead I dutifully followed the
young technician. The smell of coffee in the nurse’s lounge
wafted through the air and put me at ease. This wasn’t
going to be so bad. But the look on the technician’s face told
a different story. She tried to hide her concern, but I could
feel her become more tense each time she came in with the
radiologist’s order for another view. Finally, she
pronounced, “The radiologist wants you to have a
sonogram.” As I lay there in the dark, I realized this was
serious. The technician said, “You can get dressed; the
radiologist would like to speak with you.”

On March 21, 1996, I heard the words, “You have breast
cancer.” I was in shock as I struggled through surgery,
treatment and finally radiation. But through it all, I couldn’t
shake the feeling that Linda at the Java Hut had saved my
life. Had I not gone for coffee that day and Linda been there
to (not) serve me, who knows what would have happened.
Three months after my surgery, I returned to thank
Linda. I waited in line until the last customer was served
and then asked, “Do you remember me?” Linda hesitated
slightly and said, “Oh, yes! Did you get your

I fought back tears as I spoke, “Yes, I did. In fact, I think
you saved my life!” Linda looked puzzled. I explained the
events that had transpired since that fateful day in March.
Linda listened intently and then tears formed in her eyes. I
reached in my purse and handed her an angel pin that a
friend gave me right before my surgery. I had worn it every
day since and now it was my turn to pass it on. I reached
over the granite counter and pinned it on Linda’s pink and
white collar. She touched its wings and said, “I’m so
thankful you’re doing so well. Oh, and by the way, I owe
you a cup of coffee. You won’t believe what our special is
today— Frangelica Hazelnut Coffee.”

There we stood in the Java Hut with our paper cups filled
with coffee toasting to my new life. Linda smiled and asked,

“So how is it?”

I grinned, savoring the aroma and reveling in the flavor of
life, “Angelic, it’s absolutely angelic.”

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

My Writing Place

Someone asked me yesterday why I write and I responded, “Because I have to.”

I’ve written in diaries and journals since I was old enough to hold a pencil in my hand, but only recently did it become my passion.

“So where do you write?” they asked. That question is one that I receive almost daily, and it amazes me to realize that everything that I have had published thus far has been penned at one place—without exception!

Where you might ask?

The Hotel Hershey!

Everyone knows me by name there: the doorman, the concierge, the housekeepers, groundskeepers, the desk attendants, and yes—even the manager of the hotel. When they see me wander the grounds or inside the hotel lobby they ask, “So what are you writing today, Ms. Pombo?” I smile back and assure them that something will be written—even though I’m not at times!

I suppose every writer has their “writing place,” but I didn’t realize
"mine" until yesterday when I pored through papers to file away. Every one of my first drafts was penned at the same place—“The Hotel Hershey."

It’s not hard to imagine why: there are fountains, gardens, gazebos, acres of forests, and lobbies filled with plants and gorgeous tropical flowers.

Today I will drive up there to practice a speech while I walk in the woods and later this afternoon, I will pen the first draft of a magazine article. I’m sure psychologists will call “my writing place,” some type of trained response, but I call it inspiration!

I’m not sure what will happen when we move to California, but one thing is for sure…I’ll find my “writing place” because I have to.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Itsy Bitsy Spider

“I’m not passionate about spiders!”

In fact, arachnophobia (fear of spiders), just replaced “public speaking” as the number one fear of people. So you can imagine when we went camping with friends last weekend…spiders were the first thing on my mind.

When I found this itsy bitsy spider in our backyard last summer, I was determined to overcome my fear by getting as close to it as possible without screaming.

It didn’t work (at least that’s my hubby’s version of the story).

Last weekend when we went camping (a test of my courage!), our tent was by conveniently located by a babbling brook, along with plenty of trees, and other wild things. I knew for sure that by nightfall, the creepy crawly spiders would be lurking in my sleeping bag.

To my surprise, they weren’t.

They were on my pillow, in my makeup bag (an essential part of camping), and in my shoes!

Did I scream?

You bet I did (ask my hubby!).

Did I kill the leggy little creatures?

Yep…every last one of them. I used half a can of OFF spray repellent (two for one special at CVS Pharmacy), and wondered why I didn’t bring a caseload of the stuff.

Having a gourmet chef along (our neighbor), helped to ease my fear of spiders by distracting me with such delicacies as homemade soft pretzels, teriyaki chicken, and camp-style soup. But the thought remained…just how many MORE spiders were left in the forest?

I lost count after 22. But by that time, I actually found myself enjoying the size and variety of the leggy little creatures and found beauty in the spider webs that formed each morning—glistening in the morning sun.

The best part of our trip was the thunderstorm on Saturday afternoon that caused us to duck for cover in our tents where I listened to the rain pelt against our “window” while I read Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul and listened to “Amore” by Andrea Bocelli until I fell into a blissful sleep for two hours.

When I woke up, I found more SPIDERS crawling over me (two to be exact!).
Will I go camping again?

You bet.

Spiders or not…here I come!

I now have half as much fear and twice as much courage from itsy bitsy spiders than I did a year ago (that’s progress!).