Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

My mother loved to knit.  She was the only woman I knew who could knit while reading a book.  She was famous for knitting, reading and watching TV all at the same time. Yep. She was the queen of multitasking, doing 3 and 4 activities at a time and knitting or crocheting was always the central activity.  My  Mom loved sharing her passion for knitting and delighted in giving free lessons.  In the mid 1970’s with all of the other women in our neighborhood my mother started a group called, “Knitting”.  Once a month all of the ladies in the neighborhood would go to one home, each month a different home, the ladies would drink coffee, chat and knit.  Before the end of the night a dessert would be served, something homemade by the hostess.

I find myself thinking about those “Knitting” nights more and more.  As a kid I both hated and loved those nights.  When it was our month toPatty Jo Pittman Penrod host “Knitting” my mother would insist that the entire house be cleaned top to bottom.  We couldn’t think of allowing the neighborhood ladies to enter our home if there was even a speck of dust.  The cleaning was a drag, but honestly I was kind of thrilled when the ladies would come over.  There was so much to learn if you stayed quiet, and I’m not talking about knitting.  The ladies talked and it was like a live 70’s version of Pinterest.  A quiet kid could get tips on everything from how to make 7 Minute Frosting, to how to clean grout between bathroom tiles.

I’m sure I expected to hear gossip and juicy tidbits about everything going on in the neighborhood.  The truth was much more innocent and infinitely more trans-formative.  These were ladies.  They talked about their lives without drama and they supported each other.  I learned so much from those ladies while their knitting needles clanked and hot black coffee was sipped from my mother’s best china.

In truth, I learned the most from watching my mother.  There was nothing better than watching my mother in her element.  She loved to show others how to make something they could be proud of and she had an amazing way of doing it while bolstering a person’s self-esteem.  She knew just what to say to make everyone feel like they were doing a good job, as women, as mothers and as knitters.

I don’t remember what happened to “Knitting”.  Eventually I got too old to be interested in what the neighborhood ladies had to say.  I was busy looking for my answers elsewhere, which is sad, but true.  I went away to college and it never occurred to me to ask my mother if “Knitting” had become a thing of the past.

As a working 21st century mom I find that most of the connection I have with my women friends is on the cell phone.  From time to time I threaten to host a modern-day version of “Knitting”, sans the knitting, but it occurs to me that you can’t have one without the other.  “Knitting” worked because there was the excuse that the ladies were doing more than just visiting.  It was the 70’s version of a quilt circle.  I don’t know what the modern-day version is…yet.  Let me know if you have any ideas.

Today, on Mother’s Day, I think of my mother and of the ladies of “Knitting”.  They were amazing women, caring mothers, devoted wives and loyal friends.  They were the pillars of our community and although many of them are no longer with us, their legacy remains, in their children and grandchildren and in all the projects they completed in “Knitting”.


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By Shannon Penrod

Penrod Family

I think it’s important to celebrate the life of a person when they are gone.  People are remembered for their work, for the joy the brought their friend

s and love ones and for the memories they left behind.  My mom, Patty Penrod, left this planet a year ago today, but she left a legacy of love and laughter that will live on and on.  Today to celebrate her life, I offer one of her prize recipes.  This is one of those no fail dishes that is inexpensive, delicious and will please kids, teenagers and adults alike.  It’s great to make for potluck because it travels well, its a great staple for a Holiday

dinner and it perfection on a cold night when you want comfort food.  YUMMY!  *** The big disclaimer here is this is not a gluten free or even vegetarian dish (check the ingredients on the Jiffy mix box) so for those of you who look to me for GFCF recipes – THIS ISN’T!  For the rest of you, ENJOY! and keep my mom in your heart!


Patty Penrod’s Scalloped Corn


1 large onion – diced finely

2 boxes of JIFFY brand cornbread muffin mix

3 eggs

1 stick of butter, melted

2 cans of whole kernel corn – do not drain

2 cans of creamed corn

16 oz. of sour cream

Mix all the ingredients well.

Pour into a large buttered baking dish (a lasagna pan is perfect).

Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Eat it hot, eat it cold, reheat it…it’s all good!

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By Shannon Penrod

I got concerned this year that I had missed Thanksgiving.  I walked into stores expecting to see pumpkins and pilgrims that would signal to my Pavlovian brain that it was time to buy turkey…and oh yes, to remember to be thankful.  Instead I walked into stores and was bombarded by full on Christmas.  I almost had a panic attack when I ran into Wal-Mart for panty hose the other day and was assaulted by a sign that said, “Only 44 more day ’til Christmas!”  Only 44 more days!  Holy…oh, wait a minute…44 days is  long time.  What happened to Thanksgiving? Judging by Wal-Mart’s shelves it’s non-existent and Wal-Mart is not the only one to jump the gun a bit.  Did all of the world’s retailers sit down and have a secret meeting where they decided to just skim over Thanksgiving this year and just plow right through to Christmas?  Is the economy so bad they just assumed that none of us had anything to be grateful for?  I was mulling this over, and was actually afraid that I wouldn’t remember to be grateful without all the commercial prompting, when I had Grinchesque moment.     Stores don’t remind us to be grateful, life does.

I remember years ago hearing Reverend Beckwith speak.  He was talking about all the little things that manage to bring us down on any given day.  He asked us to stop and consider that whatever was gripping us might be the very thing we should be grateful for.  We might be frustrated that we have a sink full of dirty dishes to clean, but somewhere in the world there is a homeless person who is dreaming of being able to have dishes in a sink that need to be cleaned.  Talk about a reality check!  I remember going home and saying really nice things to my noisy and on the verge of breaking dishwasher, not to mention looking at all of the little blessings that I had taken for granted.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the minutia of our lives and to view it as unsubstantial.  Yet, when the mundane acts of life are threatened or taken away they are exactly the things we wish for.  We move through our days unaware of how lovely it is to be able to grocery shop until something prevents us from doing it.  It could be as simple and as temporary as a cold or something as serious as long-term illness or the death of a loved one.  Suddenly those simple tasks, the things done mindlessly on a Tuesday afternoon, take on new meaning.  We long for them.  What we wouldn’t give for just one day of blissful normalcy.

As I was worrying about the commercial wipe-out of Thanksgiving and what it would mean to my spiritual developement this week, I noticed that the posts of a high school friend had changed on Facebook.  Her husband and family were posting for her.  Stage four cancer had made it impossible for her to chat with us anymore.  Yes, life reminds us to be grateful.  When I might have complained about the long lines at the grocery store I remember what a privilege it was to be standing in line.  When the thought crossed my mind that gas prices are high I remembered how lovely it is to be able to pick my child up from school and talk to him about falling leaves.  I was reminded that everyday is a gift.

My high school friend departed this earthly world yesterday.  I know that she is at peace now and in a better place, but I can’t help wondering what she would have traded to have one more Tuesday filled with laundry and dishes and shopping as well as the laughter and love that tag along with them.  Yeah, I was definitely reminded to get my grateful on.

As a kid we would always decorate our Christmas tree and then stand back and admire it before we piled tinsel on it.  Occasionally someone would suggest that maybe we shouldn’t put tinsel on it at all.  That kind of thinking never won out because invariably someone would pipe up and say, “Every thing looks better with tinsel on it!”   As a child I agreed.  I’m not so sure anymore.  I suspect there are some things in life that no matter how much tinsel you put on it, there’s no improving it.  What I do know is that no matter how much commercial tinsel gets heaped on Thanksgiving I can and should remember to count my blessings.

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by Shannon Penrod

Sometimes bad things happen.  It’s a fact of life.  For a while the world tilts and we all scramble to get a footing, attempting to understand why…why do bad things happen?  I am fond of saying, “You are either the lesson or the student.”  because I firmly believe that, if nothing else, it is important to learn something when bad things happen.  This week I was the student.

I have been taking a class to learn more about ABA therapy and I found myself learning about something called “Errorless Learning” this week.  This is a method of teaching a beginning skill that attempts to ensure success by giving the student the answers.  The idea is that if you are told the answer repeatedly at some point you will learn the lesson.  This teaching method worked wonders for my son when he was just starting to get ABA therapy.  He is a quick learner, unlike his mother.

Yesterday our family attended a memorial service for a dear friend of the family who was killed in a hit and run accident just a few days after Christmas.  This was and is a terrible tragedy.  Imagine a young woman who was lit from within by a thousand watt lamp, someone who danced in bare feet and celebrated every person, every life within the circle of her influence.  Imagine that a life so precious could be extinguished in a moment, one horrible moment of total devastating tragedy.  My husband and I sat in a room full of people yesterday, grieving the loss of this life and trying to find that toe hold on a tilting planet.  How could this have happened?

I found myself thinking of the power of a moment.  Everyday we all makes millions of miniscule choices that change our path, our schedule, our lives.  Most of the time we are oblivious to the myriad of changes we set in motion when we make those tiny choices.  It isn’t until something horrible happens that we see them like a shimmering web just out of reach, unchangeable, daunting.  And there it is… the terrible lesson that there are no do-overs.  It is horrible and humbling. 

As the memorial went on I reached out and took my husband’s hand needing to touch him, to hold on to him. I felt the full weight of all I am blessed with.  I swam in the gratitude of being alive and safe and loved.  In light of this terrible sadness I could clearly see how unimportant so much of my day to day routine is. Perspective about what is important is so poignantly effortless in the face of tragedy.

I thought about errorless learning and could not escape the simple fact that time and time again life has shown me the answer – Be grateful, embrace life, tell the people you love how you feel because there are no guarantees.  But have I really learned it? I don’t think so. Somehow it does not seem to stick.   Sure, it does for a while and then life intrudes.  There is always homework to be done, bills to be paid, laundry to be folded and time hurries on. 

It does not escape my notice that it is called errorless learning, not effortless learning.  Today I watched my son playing a computer game.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.  I wanted to drink him in.  He will never, ever, be this age again.  I stared at him until he looked at me and said, “What?  Is there something wrong with me?”  I hugged him and said, “No, you’re beautiful, just so beautiful.”  He thought I was weird.  Then when my husband came home. I told him I loved him, that I was grateful for having him in my life, for loving him and being loved by him.  He wanted to know what he’d done wrong.  I told him I was just trying to learn and we had a nice warm fuzzy moment.  I cannot change the bad stuff, I wish I could.  For now I need to attempt to get on life’s learning curve and attempt to make the lesson stick.  In this moment I can and when all is said and done, it’s all about the moments.

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By Shannon Penrod

There are some people in your life that are so special, so monumentally important, that to think of a time when they are not there anymore is simply unthinkable.  Ron Medici is one of those people in my life.  If you don’t know Ron, ugh, I feel so sorry for you!  But the truth is if you know me, you probably know Ron or at least of him.  You’ve heard me quote him, or I’ve passed on something he taught me.  He’s taught me a lot over the years.

I first met Ron when I was 17 years old.  It was the spring of 1980 and my father brought me to the SUNY Oswego campus to see if I might like to go to college there.  I saw the lake and met Ron Medici and that was enough for me, I’d chosen where I was going to go to college.  Ron was new at Oswego, he had just directed Godspell.  He intimidated the crap out of me, but I wanted to work with him.  He knew Bob Fosse, to me that was like knowing God.

By the time I was a sophomore I was no longer intimidated by Ron, but I was still in awe of him, that has never changed.  Ron was my teacher, my mentor and he still is my friend.  There was one semester that I took two classes back to back with Ron.  The first was an acting class the second was a directing class.  A group of us decided to take the two classes together.  The funny thing is I learned more about directing in the acting class than I ever have in any class and in the directing class I learned more about acting that I have anywhere at anytime.  But it was even more than that.  In that directing class I learned who I was as an artist and as a person.  I learned what true grief was, and for the first time in my life I learned that I would not die from having an emotion.  Yes, that all came from Ron.  And the group of people who were in that class with me, they are still some of the most important people in my life.  That class was a game changer.  Knowing Ron has been a huge game changer.

As a teacher Ron was honest with me.  It pissed me off at times but I knew he was telling me the truth.  What I didn’t know was how much it cost to tell a student the truth.  Later when I became a teacher I came to know that secret, I realized how much easier it is to give some one a thumbs up than to be honest.  I saved hard truths for the students that I really cared about.  And I appreciated Ron’s honesty all the more.

Eventually I had the opportunity to go back to my alma mater and teach along side Ron Medici.  Oh, the joy of that!  There are so many memories.  The Senior teas that were held at Ron’s house, where we graciously entertained our graduating classes and their families; the long weekends of final directing scenes and watching Ron rub his eyes, shake his forehead and then laugh at what the students had created, the stolen Wednesday afternoons in Room 102 when Ron would decide to teach everyone in the building how to waltz, or jitterbug, or some crazy country line dance, there are a life time of good memories.

But by far the most wonderful thing about Ron is that he is always unapologetically, completely and totally himself and in doing so he gives all of us around him permission to do the same for ourselves.  This is the greatest gift a teacher can give a student and a friend can give to a friend.  I can not count the number of people that Ron has given this gift to but I know that I am a recipient and I know that it has made my life richer, happier and more fulfilled.

Over the years I have told Ron how much I love him, in many ways and on many occasions.  I know he knows how much I adore him.  But there is still so much unsaid. How on earth do you thank someone for helping you to become who you are?  How do you tell someone that you carry the wisdom they have given you everyday.  I don’t know.

This summer I sat on a picnic table at the edge of Lake Ontario with my good friend Ron Medici and listened as he told me that he thought he had pancreatic cancer.  Time and tests have proven what we hoped was not true.  True to form Ron continues to teach me what it means to live with dignity.  He is hopeful, honest, optimistic and staring reality in the face.  Selfishly, I am not ready for this.  But I fear the unsaid.  So…


Thank you for being a light in my life that will never dim.  Thank you for loving me for who I am, for seeing the best of me, for pushing me to be my best and for forgiving me when I was less than my best.  Thank you for trying to introduce me to opera.  Thank you for giving me the gift of unending tears on stage, and for the knowledge that they will eventually stop off stage.  Thank you for being the only man I have ever been able to follow on the dance floor, and for making me feel like Ginger Rodgers. Thank you for being my friend. 

I want you to know that I will love you all the days of my life and that everything you’ve ever taught me, including how to do cartwheels when you are hung over, lives on in my memory and my teachings. 

You are a beautiful person and your life has touched so many people.  You have given all of us joy, hope and the permission to be who we are.  You are a hero in my eyes.  Knowing you has been one of the great joys of my life. I love you so.



To everyone else I say that now is not the time for grief, now is the time to say what you need to say.  No regrets, nothing left unsaid.  Tell the people in your life how you feel about them and please include my friend Ron in you prayers.

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By Shannon Penrod

A couple of years ago a small group of friends and I made a friendly little bet.  We all wanted to lose weight and or get in better shape but we couldn’t quite get it together on our own.  We knew the strength in being accountable and the power of the carrot and the stick so we devised – THE BET. 

THE BET was simply this: A five week committment to working out a minimum of five hours weekly.  The ante?  $100 in cold, hard cash.  Everyone who wanted to participate had to put up $100.  If you kept your work out commitment you got to keep your $100.  If you failed to keep your committment you had to pay your $100 to the remaining participants who were keeping their committment.

The result was amazing.  Most of us kept the committment.  Sure, stuff got in the way, life intervened and made it REALLY difficult, but we still managed.  I remember getting out of bed at 11:15 one Sunday night because I realized I was a half hour short on my weekly total. There I was in the livingroom working out to a Kathy Smith video, bitching the entire time, but I was moving.  At the end of the five weeks I was in the best shape of my life and wearing a pant size I hadn’t worn since I was in 6th grade.  I’d love to say that I had a huge epiphany about the value of excercise and kept it up but that would be a lie on an epic level.  No, I got pregnant and gained weight that I am still whittling away at.

And the sad truth is I am not motivated by the rewards of working out.  Knowing that I will feel better and look better just doesn’t get me off the office chair to shake the junk in my trunk.  But knowing that I was going to have to pay close friends $100 because I was a lazy failure had me high kicking with Jane Fonda.

One of the friends who participated in “The BET” called me today and told me that the post Thanksgiving haze was threatening to suck her under.  I realized that in five weeks we will be in the new year.  I don’t want to wait until then to start thinking about an exercise plan.  In five weeks I can either be in better shape, in the same shape, or in worse shape.  Those are the only three options. I’d like to start the new year with a bang and be in better shape.  So we are starting the bet again, this time the Holiday Version.  Yipes!  I have no idea how I am going to squeeze five hours of work out into a crazy holiday week, but I’m not parting with my $100!  I’ll keep you posted on the holiday insanity and the exercise sanity.  Wish me luck.

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By Shannon Penrod

I’m struck today by the idea of giving thanks.  I consider myself a very grateful person, I think thanks a great deal; I even say thanks and thank you with regularity – but do I really “give” thanks? What does “giving” thanks really mean?  I have a feeling it requires a great deal more than just muttering a thank you while passing a platter of roasted poultry.

I don’t know, but I feel compelled to make a list of what I’m truly thankful for.  So here goes:

I’m thankful for my husband who makes me laugh harder and longer than any person on earth.

I’m thankful for my amazing child who works harder than anyone I have ever known.

I’m grateful to CARD to Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, Sienna Greener-Wooten, Sabrina Tooma, Peter Farag, Amy Fuentes and all of the therapists who have come to our home for the last four years to help our son recover from Autism.

I’m grateful for my mother, for her still being alive and having a great, albeit long distance, relationship with my son.

I’m grateful for my nieces and nephews and the people they have become.  I’m grateful to my siblings for having them.

I’m every so grateful to all of our friends and family who have supported us and laughed with us as we have all faced so many hurdles in the last few years.

I’m thankful that my friend Natasha is cancer free.

I’m thankful that my friend Ron is getting ready to battle his cancer.

I’m thankful to have seen so many old friends this summer, and so sorry that Terri could not have been among them.

I’m thankful for my sister friend Therese for constantly teaching me about humility, grace and healing.

I’m thankful for the wonderful circle of woman who constantly surround me offering support, guidance, acknowledgement, understanding, acceptance and laughter.

I’m thankful for Crystal and Peter Sheppard for being phenomenal realtors and even better people, and for being a light on a very dark path.

I’m thankful for my interns who are teaching me more than I could have imagined, and thankfully they are patient with me.

I’m thankful for Tova and Gwen who stand on either side of me holding my hands, keeping me sane and present.

I’m thankful to Ally LoPrete and my new family at Toginet Radio, for helping me to have a voice that I didn’t know I had.

I’m thankful for all of my students and my life coaching clients for constantly revealing to me how beautiful life really is.

I’m thankful for the roof over my head, the food on my plate and every dirty dish that is in my sick because they are all signs of how truly blessed I am.

And of course I am thankful and grateful for the presence of God in my life.

The list goes on and on and includes Oprah, full fat yogurt, bubble baths, wireless internet, frozen blueberries and brown rice tortillas among others, but you get the idea.

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