Going to lunch

I worked for more than 30 years in the radio news business. ‘Tis true I never had a lunch break working radio news. In fact, at my last job, with deadlines every ten minutes or so, I found a few minutes about four hours into my shift to down a little breakfast. When a boss gave me more tasks to do during that period, I mentioned that was when I ate some breakfast. Her reply was, “Are you asking for a break?” I suppose a potty break and five minutes to down some instant oatmeal WAS too much to ask.

Now, I set my own schedule. I can cram four hours work into two or work late at night. Today, I decided to go to lunch. I took a walk down my block dressed in my bathing suit, cover-up, visor and SPF30 liberally sprayed on my skin and took a chair at the neighborhood pool. Some ice water and a cereal bar was all I needed. The scenery consisted of kids from baby-carriage size to teens along with moms and dads. The swim team was wrapping up practice. Little paddlers were getting swim lessons in the shallow end. A refreshing summer breeze cooled us off. I took a mini-vacation with a magazine. The sounds of the pool scene were intoxicating. Care-free with only fun on their minds, in between pages of my magazine, I watched a group of kids in the deep end playing tag; a boy about 8 years old, was watching in delight as his swim teacher showed him how to make a racing dive off the race platform. What a belly-flop! I mentally gave him a “7” for his enthusiasm and the attempt. I admired the patience of the swim teachers as little ones tried, tried, and tried again to carry out the kicking and arm strokes and blowing bubbles. So many tasks to coordinate with one little body!

An hour passed effortlessly and I knew it was time to walk home. My head was clear; my mood upbeat and no one asked whether I was getting all my work done. Granted, tripping and falling over an offset slab of concrete on the sidewalk did annoy me. (Seriously??) I don’t think anyone saw me take my spill and I just have a slightly skinned knee as proof of the klutzy moment. I’d rather take that fall than hear someone ask my if I was requesting a break. Guess what: I’m getting a work break for the first time in more than 30 years. Happy day!

Another fallen Pol

SoutSC Governor Whereh Carolina’s governor disappeared for six days-and allegedly no one on his staff knew where he was. But they told the media Gov. Mark Sanford was hiking on the Appalachian trail. Come on, people! Sanford’s “dear, dear friend” he met in Argentina last year at a conference, was surely known to someone on his staff. The affair was revealed five months ago, said Sanford. So, his circle of people, not to mention his wife, was certainly in the loop June 18 and days later. Once you’re a public figure, you can’t disappear for six days, let alone six hours, without someone knowing where you are. Watching ABC World News tonight, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos jumped right into the “will his political career survive” conversation. My mind jumped to Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomoyer. She took major heat from Sanford’s Republican Party for her membership in an elite women’s group in NY. She was hiding nothing; did nothing wrong; didn’t cheat on a spouse (if she were married) or mislead her staff. Sotomoyer quit the group so it wouldn’t be a distraction. The only thing Sanford has announced he’ll quit is the Republican Governors Association chairmanship. Sure, his rising star in the GOP is dimmed significantly, but he didn’t indicate he would step down as governor. Wife, Jenny asked him to move out two weeks ago. You have to feel bad for their four boys.  Presumably Sanford spent part of that time in a Buenos Aires apartment with his “dear friend.”
So, here we go again with another politician who compartmentalizes life: putting the public persona in one block; spouse-relationship in another block; personal morals and ethics in another. Republican or democrat; man or woman, it has to be amazing to the American public how their elected officials believe, at some level, they don’t have to answer for their bad behavior. Rules for us; rules for everyone else. Don’t you think that if YOU did something remotely immoral, you would get caught..immediately if not sooner? We have to face ourselves in the mirror everyday; other people give no thought that what they are doing is wrong. I’ll bet you any amount of money it’ll come out that Sanford has probably seen his friend more than three times in the past year. If the affair was uncovered five months ago, as Sanford said, why were his six days out of sight not explained by someone? Yes, we’ll hear more from Sanford. The friend’s name will surface along with photos and more explanations. Now, will Sanford go the way of NJ’s Jim McGreevey resigning in disgrace much like NY’s Elliot Spitzer or will Sanford survive as Bill Clinton did? So many politicians, so much forgiveness.

Too many losses

Gary Pappa, 1954-2009
Gary Pappa, 1954-2009

 Another well-known media personality is gone in Philadelphia. Gary Papa fought the good fight against prostate cancer for more than five years and died today, June 19. I knew Gary as a collaegue in the newsroom. As he started at Action News, 6ABC in 1981, I was spending a short time there as a newswriter. Through the years, I met him at various events. There was always a smile on his face; pep in his step and always a kind word. Watching Channel 6’s newscast tonight was a treat, getting to see old packages Gary filed years ago; clips from back-and-forth between him, anchor Jim Gardner and weather guy Dave Roberts and others was certainly a trip down memory lane. Few remember that Gary was launched into prominence when Channel 6 and Don Tollefson parted ways. That’s the way TV and radio go. One way or another, you move on. Gary stepped in along with Scott Palmer (a true gentleman as well). One thing Channel 6 has always done well is portray the brand as a team. Everyone plays on that team, and does it well. The people who work behind the scenes at 6ABC never get any credit, but without the writers, producers, field producers, camera people, editors and so many others, there would be no Action News. Gary did a great job of working with the teams and players and making the viewer feel as though they were really getting to know what was going on inside the story. Sports is an area in broadcast news where you can let your colors show a little. Gary surely did that. Though sports coverage can range from overkill to maudlin to underdone, despite that, Garry Papa always had a good way of telling people a story. That’s what very good broadcasters do..tell a story. Tonight, Dave Roberts talked a bit about how Gary talked with his hands. That was how he got his message across. He wasn’t just reading the words as so many anchors do. He was telling you what was going on.
Remember the passion and love Gary had for the game, his Channel 6 family and certainly his wife and two sons. We remember fondly and thank him for being a communicator to us for so many years. Peace.

Another Chapter

The perfect age is 38. I made this declaration on the eve of my 51st birthday as my husband and I talked about the significance of this birthday. My 50th birthday came and went last year; I got a few more birthday cards than normal. This year, the usual smattering of cards along with some Facebook greetings, emails and text messages. But, as they say, it’s all good. This surely has been a transition year. My career change; deciding to begin a PR consulting business (What’s Next Productions) and actually signing my first client (Plato’s Closet franchise owners in the region).
We spent the weekend in Ocean City just as we have one weekend in June every year for years. My parents, brother and his wife and the three of us enjoyed family time with an ocean view. Doug and I spent a few hours on the beach Saturday. There were high school seniors soaking up the sun. Their toasted bodies showed no wrinkles or lines. Their smiles were carefree and (for the most part) their hair color was untouched by chemicals. Now looking at the groups of happy-go-lucky groups lying on colorful towels on this perfect beach day in June, I felt all of my 51 years. Your mind jumps into “oh-my-god” mode. How did the time go so quickly? Why didn’t I study in Europe? Why didn’t I take that OTHER job? What would have happened if… And then I stopped. I know the phrase, “count your blessings” is so cliche. But there’s a reason: it’s TRUE! I have a wonderful husband, son, family, a new career path, friends all the things you have no idea about when you’re 18. Now, when your 38, that’s PERFECT! You’ve been through all of the growing pains, trials and tribulations, breakups, career hiccups and missteps of your 20’s and 30’s. Finally at 38, you’re perfect. You’re in reasonbly good shape and have the stamina to stay that way, your career could be fairly stable (though probably not in this economy) and your hair is likely looking good just the color it has been for years without modifications. I must say, I am now in better shape than I was at 38. I was looking at a photo album the other day from a vacation in 1992. That was NOT a pretty picture of me. A few weeks ago at a party, a 16-year old girl was in disbelief that I was turning 51. She’d never seen me before and really thought I was younger. God bless her, her tight skin and naturally-colored hair.
The one thing I have now that I didn’t have at 38 was the patience to carry on. During my long career in radio news, deadlines were constant. I didn’t know any other way. Every minute was critical in getting stories and newscasts on the air. Even today, there’s no other way to approach radio. It’s hard to automate local news (though I’m sure they’re trying to figure out how to do that). Today, without that radio deadline clock in my face, I still have deadlines, but they are self-imposed AND forgiving. That’s the key: I forgive myself for being a little behind schedule. I’m thrilled when I come out ahead of the game. Come in on schedule: perfect.
So, friends, at 51, I’m the boss of me. I listen better now; I understand more with an open mind now; I’m able to turn the gray skies blue when the days are not so bright.
Give more, hope more, love more. Happy Birthday to me!

There’s nothing like a festival

StrawFest_20090603_01A room filled with people of all ages, talking, eating a simple meal and enjoying each other’s company is one of the finer things in life. Trinity Presbyterian Church’s annual Strawberry Festival in Cherry Hill, NJ has been taking place for years. Many of the same people have organized the event through the Presbyterian Women’s group and others just chime in to help. When the dinner bell rings at 6 p.m., the lineup for grilled hot dogs, a heaping salad bowl, baked beans and oh, that yummy dessert of homemade cakes, juicy, Jersey strawberries and ice cream, brings out the best in everyone. For 90 minutes, the room is buzzing with talk of the summer ahead, children graduating, other children healing from illnesses, a recent death in the church and so much more. For me, this is the true meaning of fellowship. For 90 minutes, it seems there are no problems, StrawFest_20090603_09only the smiles of children getting their faces painted by the senior high group members and the strains of the gorgeous voices of the choir practicing in Fellowship Hall. The PW women and other helpers are like a finely oiled machine, tending to their tasks, smiling and serving the dinner and the lucious dessert. Parents with their little babies, teenagers just hanging out, and long-time church members looked forward to this day. There should be more days like this. I’ll look forward to my hot dog dinner and plate of strawberries this time next year and the year after that.

Why this summer is different from all other summers.

 We’re seeing and hearing words including “staycation” and “vacation stimulus” when it comes to the summer of 2009.  For the lucky people NOT affected by the economy, there may be that trip to Italy or a cruise to Alaska. They should find terrific bargains, a real bonus given their prosperous circumstances. The FEAR that has enveloped many others who are still hanging on to their jobs or are fairly certain they’ll survive any cutbacks, has led to a more austere rest period this summer. The vacations are shorter, not as far, not as grand and this can be a very good thing.
Adam & camp friends 2008

Adam & camp friends 2008

Several weeks ago, we had to deliver the unpopular decision to our son, that summer camp in New Hampshire would have to be cut in half. The cost has risen steadily every year since he started going to the overnight camp six years ago. This year was no different, but the change in my job status gave us pause on spending such a huge sum of money. Of course, Adam was devastated. He’s made incredible bonds with these kids for six years and didn’t want his time cut back. We also cut our planned two-week stay at a small, rented house in New Hampshire in August, in half. It’s all good. Here’s why:

I’m realizing there were so many things I took for granted.  Believe me, it was nice to not think too much about the bottom line when it came to everyday purchases, but living just a little bit smaller has led to more family meals at home (not that we ate out that much anyway), as well as a true appreciation for the days and evenings we go out with friends, family and to the Phillies games. I had paid for our Phillies tickets weeks before I lost my job, so I just looked at that money as “outta here,” (as the late Harry Kalas would say). The games are my night or day out. Maybe we eat in before going to the game instead of spending $30 or $40 on dinner. There are treats at the game. Perhaps ice cream or cotton candy for my son, but no extras. I bring soft pretzels and peanuts. And that’s OK. Nothing can spoil the joy I get from watching my boys of summer scratch and claw for every win.

My Neighbor Joanne on her birthday at the ballpark

My Neighbor Joanne on her birthday at the ballpark

Having this time to revamp, redefine and revisit WHO I am is probably a good thing. I see the faces of people and read the stories of desperate people taking desperate measures and it melts my heart. Losing your home, your job, your car, your friends and more is a burden no one should have to bear. But we survivors are resilient. I’m learning every day that sun comes up, that I have a calling to find another path and another way to serve. Don’t get me wrong: I adored working in radio news. I’m a news junkie and always will be. But I always thought about what else I could do. Now, I’m just beginning to find out as What’s Next Productions gets underway. There is so much to do. I’ll trip a bunch of times, I’m sure, but in the end, it’s all about how my years in journalism can help small and mid-sized businesses, non-profit groups and others find ways to raise their profile in the public eye.

Finally, spending time at home has made me realize how lucky I am to HAVE this home. We worked hard to get here. Fortunately, we bought our place some time ago and have about 11 years left on the mortgage. My vegetable garden is sprouting; I’m getting more time to week the flower beds and I love watching the many varieties of birds at our feeders in the yard. (Now if the piles to file in my office would just disappear, things would be even more fabulous.) We joined the neighborhood swim club again, so it’ll be nice to have a place to chill out that is just a short walk away.

For people who need to find some peace this summer, rediscover what is right in your own back yard: the historic sites that are just a short drive away; a nearby lake, the beach; neighborhood garage sales on the weekend; an evening with the nieghbors playing board games or just talking over adult beverages. The list is endless.  Find happiness amid these tough times, because it is a prescription for success in getting through this. You will find your new normal.