Thoughts for a Friend

Helping someone can be awkward. You don’t know what to say or do. You question your motives or whether you should get involved at all. Being a friend is about being there. Almost like a marriage: in sickness and in health; in good times and bad. That is how one should be with a true friend. It’s a difficult task.

My friend is in a dark place. Her life is shattered in many ways. The reasons are many and it happened over a very long time. I learned tonight that she is in need of professional help. She’s barely getting through a day. I can feel her pain. There is not much I can do – except just be there. I;ve been doing a lot of listening, but I realize her problems are so complex that I can;t begin to really be of any productive help. She feels alone and lost.

I know deep inside, she’ll find that place where she was long ago when she was a strong, vibrant person with love and laughter in her heart. She has lost that person. Perhaps with the right help, she’ll rediscover who she is and start anew.

I wish I could have helped her more a long time ago; but I did not know the trauma she was experiencing. I wonder if I was truly her friend because I did not know her pain. Some things are so deep, we do not share them even with the closest of friends. In sickness and health; in good times and bad. I will be there for her on the other side of her pain.

No Complaints

I went through the painless process today of having blood work done. It’s the first step in what will be an involved process as I tackle this hip device dilemma. As depressed as I felt the end of last week and into this week, I couldn’t help but realize that I’ll be just fine.

There I was at the lab, rolling up my sleeve for the two minutes it took to have blood drawn. I’m not one to watch the needle go in and the blood flow, so I looked out the window. Snow squalls were whirling around pretty hard at that hour. Outside, a man was wheeling a young woman to a van after she had been at the lab. She appeared to have on her lap what I’ll guess was her entire medial history in a huge binder. The man lifted the woman out of the wheel chair and she maneuvered awkwardly into the front seat of the van.

In that moment, I knew that no matter what happens along the way during my saga, I will probably never be in the position of that young woman: wheel-chair bound; dependent on others to help her do so many things. I think of my friend Dan who has been a quadriplegic for decades and my friends, whose son will need their care for a very long time. What everything really comes down to is – love, family and friends. The rest is just speed bumps; minor glitches; stuff we just have to handle. We fix things – then move on. What counts is how we live and love with other people every day. I have nothing to complain about.

The Year of Living Gingerly

I have this thing – I like even numbers; 2011 is not an even number. Despite the pains of 2011, the year is turning out OK after all.

Let’s get the pain out-of-the-way: about four years of pain led to a right hip replacement in May 2011. Just a few weeks of therapy led to a nearly perfect summer. Then, I tumbled down the steps of our vacation house in New Hampshire and punctured my face on some boating gear at the bottom of the steps. Four doctors and many antibiotics later and the clutz who is me – healed. Finally, in my left shoulder diagnosed as frozen shoulder – has led to

Adam & his electric razor - wasn't he just needing a pacifier?

weeks and weeks of therapy that will lead into 2012 – but I’ll be fine. What is frozen shoulder? Women of a certain age can develop this real pain-in-the-joint affliction; some men and diabetics can develop frozen shoulder as well. The ligaments and tendons literally freeze which leads to restricted mobility. Try reaching up for a plate in the kitchen cabinet or scratching your back with the affected arm. You quickly learn the stages of frozen shoulder: freezing, frozen and thawing. I got to the doctor and physical therapist during the freezing stage. Now, I’m thawing. Thank you Meryl Goldstein, physical therapist at Excel in Cherry Hill. While the therapy is extremely painful – for her as well as me – I’m about 80% cured. Woo-hoo!

Enough of the pain already! Emotional pain has been the hallmark of our son’s senior year in high school. Adam is a bright, happy, overall well-adjusted young man. He’s just not as enthusiastic about life as perhaps he should be at this critical stage of his life. Senior year in high school means applying to colleges, financial aid applications, boy scout eagle project responsibilities and many other details. Detail-oriented – he is not. I constantly struggle over pushing him to get things done to completely backing off and letting him fail. Either one of these options is not the way to go. Striking the balance is extremely emotional. Somehow, I know Adam will succeed and do very well wherever his college career and career path leads.

Do you spend time looking at yourself from a distance? I wonder how I’m going to turn out; how my relationship with my husband will evolve and adjust; which hair color to choose. The thoughts go much deeper than a hair color, but I do spend time late at night or early in the morning thinking about my mortality. That’s pretty painful.

So how are things, really? I must be thankful and grateful for so many blessings: my family – both sides – and all their accomplishments and growth. I became a great-aunt late last year so I have a new family member to get to know. My physical fitness is definitely on the rise; my trips to the gym (and physical therapy) keep my head clear most days. When you see people at the gym who are a decade or two older than you and still getting there every day, you have to at least keep up.

Seeing the stories of our returning troops makes me wonder how they will spend the next year or two or longer adjusting to their stateside lives. The turbulent economy and changes in their families has to be stressful. In the end, I hope they find peace and happiness in their lives and know that so many of us are ever grateful for their service. I want to do something in 2012 to help as our service people return home.

As we opened our Christmas gifts this morning, I couldn’t help but remember that it seemed like a minute ago when my son was spitting up on my shoulder. Today, his favorite gift was the electric shaver we got him. Hearing the whir of the shaver made me nostalgic for the Christmas morning we spent wrestling with the hermetically packaged toys that needed assembly and running around looking for the right sized batteries to make the toys work.

The roast will go in the oven soon and the family will gather again for another Christmas. After the leftovers are put away and the last holiday light goes out, I wish for all the family and friends near and far a much less painful and much more happy New Year.

The Lost Day

Rainy days and Mondays  – ah, you know the rest of the Carpenter’s ditty. Monday evening was outstanding with family getting together for a delicious meal at Canoe. I was remiss in mentioning my outstanding sister-in-law – Erica and her talented beau Don. Erica is always great with the kids and keeps the adults conversing as well. She enjoyed ordering tasty treats for the folks sitting around her last night – not to mention a great bottle of wine – (Thanks!!). Later in the evening, Don gave us a wonderful demonstration on his accordion. Now it’s not a mainstream instrument that you see every day – especially on vacation.We learned that Don has been playing since his was a child. He played a few lovely tunes that made me want to sit back and have a cigarette – except I don’;t smoke. He spent a good while showing Andrew the basics of the accordion which he really enjoyed.

A good night’s sleep led to a rainy start to Tuesday. Unfortunately, my wound from the other night showed some complications. We headed to Lakes Region General Hospital where we feared we would be tied up for hours. IN ONE HOUR – I was registered, triaged, treated and released. Now, I’m on some mega antibiotics. I’m resting this afternoon and hope to be much better tomorrow.

As we move toward another dinner hour, the skies are at last, clearing. Friend, Donna arrived yesterday and we’ll enjoy our first meal with Doug, the boys and me and whoever else pops in for the evening! Donna was gracious to drive Adam & Andrew to Fun Spot near Weirs Beach. Doug went to hang out with Greg, Theresa and the kids. Now, it’s time for the healing to begin – again.

Let’s take a ride on the boat – the sky is clearing and the sun is setting on another day in paradise.

The Loon are Calling

View from the Moultonborough vacation house


It has been a long while since I’ve posted a blog. And that’s really a good thing. My business is going well; my family life has been full and busy and I’ve been around friends more often in work and play. I suppose the major delay in writing again has been hip surgery. That has been a big change in my life over the past nearly seven months or so.

Our wonderful weekend trip to San Francisco in January put me over the top when it came to the pain I was experiencing in my right hip. Doctors advise that when your pain becomes so intense that you can’t get through your everyday activities, then it’s time to do something about that pain. In February, I went literally crying to Doug telling him I was going to do something about my hip pain. He barely knew I had any problem. No one knew. I really lived with the pain day-to-day for several years until it got so bad, I could not sleep at night or walk stairs without intense pain.

Fast forward to May 9th for hip surgery at Rothman Institute. While I experienced major surgery and had a difficult time wrapping my head around that, the pain I had for so long was gone immediately. Since I had continued going to the gym leading to surgery – no matter how painful – this helped my physical therapy in many ways. I cannot imagine what it would be like to not be on board with exercise and strengthening and then have a body part replaced. I was never on a walker as most hip replacement patients are for as long as a week; I was on crutches for two days and a cane for a week. I was done with physical therapy after about eight visits and continued all of the prescribed exercises for weeks on my own. I continue to go to the gym three times a week and am about 95% of where I want to be. The remaining 5% is the healing of the nerves in my upper right leg which remain numb. It’s still a little sore around the incision which I discovered last weekend when I batted a fly off my by slapping my leg. OUCH!  So, I’m still careful not to bump into things. The incision itself  is healing nicely.

With that major change behind me (literally), I was back to work for the summer months while Adam began his position as a first year aid teaching archery at Camp Robin Hood. As usual, the summer has been a growing experience for him. It’s great to see him happy and enjoying the transition from camper to staff member and doing well. As usual, the summer has flown by. Doug and I had our summer of dates that included trips to Toronto to see the Phillies; a weekend and a day trip in the Chesapeake, and day trips to Brigantine, Barnegat Bay and of course, the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

But what we all work for is vacation. We are fortunate to be able to adjust our business calendars to have a long vacation this year back in the land that we love so much: New Hampshire. We’ll be spending time with my family, then Doug’s, as well as Adam’s friend, Andrew joining us along with my friend, Donna.

What is it about vacation that makes the few days leading to vacation so incredibly stressful. Not that I have as much stress as I used to in broadcasting, but the “to do” list is crazy. All week there have been so many tasks and chores to do; clients all of a sudden need your help and advice on something or other (no worries..that’s a good problem to have) and I just KNOW I have forgotten to do something critical!

Now, I breathe deeply knowing the fresh, New Hampshire air and the beautiful lakefront house is just a couple of days away. The solitary call of the loon will no longer be a memory – I’ll hear that sound at mornings and at dusk; we’ll visit “S’More” Island once again; we’ll enjoy family and friends. I’ll be writing lakeside to chronicle yet another bucolic respite in the Granite State.





The Girls & Loss

She lived her life and loved it well. What are her “girls” thinking now? Jenny and Todd have had three “rescue” dogs for years. The dogs’ names don’t matter; all I can hear is Jenny saying, “Come on, girls – time for your walk.” Now, I wonder how “the girls” are feeling with Jenny gone…(I had trouble writing that word.)

Voices are very big with me. Jenny had one of those distinct voices – in a very good way. It was a clear voice; a high voice and always (when I heard it) a happy and joyful voice. During our visit exactly a year ago Doug, Adam and I along with Jenny, Todd (the girls), Ron, Iris, their sons, Jake and Ethan and other relatives and friends spent Passover together. There was more laughing and storytelling and the food was ample. Jenny was tired but optimistic as she faced more treatments in the following weeks. Her routine was clear and non-negotiable: she worked out, she had special therapy she felt was good for her mind and soul and she loved planning more trips.

I remember stopping in her open office in their home and noticing the books that all talked of hope and survival. The greeting cards of love and hope – dozens of cards- were taped all around her glorious kitchen where she loved to cook and entertain.

No, I didn’t know her well, but I know I will miss the chance now to know her better. I will think often of Todd and “the girls.” I’ll hope for his healing after this stunning and painful loss he and her family have suffered.  But all of us who knew her feel blessed to have spent a little time with her and felt the love that she felt toward life, her “Toddles” and “the girls.”

“Jenny sees where she’s going;

After a journey so long.

A fight she knew would have some meaning – with so much courage;

Despite the odds.

Her Toddles-her girls-her family-her friends –

Made her smile and laugh that laugh that only means

pure Jenny.”

Rest well.

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.

Cancer Sucks! Now that I have your attention… Our friend Jenny has slapped me upside my head for a second time since I have known her. This time, in with her inspiring attitude of hope and healing with ovarian cancer. The “Cancer Sucks” button is pinned to the bag she takes to the doctor. The odds are not good and she and Todd have known that for going on three years. She openly talks about death and during our visit to Colorado, she joked about telling Todd her ashes will be in an urn and put in the closet with her old dogs who have gone to the rainbow in the sky. She also told Todd she wants some ashes sprinkled all the places they have traveled to (and they’ve been to a LOT of places). Beyond that reality, Jenny lives every day doing exactly what she wants to do. We had a wonderful visit with them over spring break, splitting the time staying in their home in Littleton and at Breckenridge. My husband, Doug, Todd and their other friend Ron grew up together in West Chester County, NY. Life changes took Todd and Jenny and Ron, Iris and their two boys to Colorado at separate times. The two families live about 30 minutes apart. After I lost my job in January, one of the first things I mentioned was we should cancel the Colorado trip. But Doug convinced me the tickets had been bought and paid for weeks earlier and the expense of a car rental wasn’t too terrible. (Funny note: I got to use my AARP discount getting the rental down to $182 for six days!) Seeing Todd and Jenny has been high on our list since her diagnosis before Christmas 2006. We had just seen them in July that year. Jenny was a huge inspiration for me in latching on to Weight Watchers and being successful. Jenny has always been the picture of health since I’ve known her: healthy choices in the kitchen and her zest for an active lifestyle from skiing and mountain biking to turbo kickboxing class she takes at her local gym. I have to be honest. Seeing Jenny for the first time since 2006 was a shock. Gone was her blond hair; left behind a light covering of gray hair Jenny says was thinning once again following the start of another concoction of chemotherapy drugs. Her skin looked tired and drawn. But once I got past those superficial things, in seconds I could see her bouncing, vivid, blue eyes, her fit body and that booming, higher-pitched voice welcoming us to their home. (I should also note, she didn’t hear the doorbell because she was relaxing in the hot tub on their deck that has a picturesque view of the Continental Divide and Pike’s Peak in the distance.) Her “girls” as Jenny calls the dogs, Sheila and Mildred were barking away as we arrived in their driveway. I couldn’t help but wonder during our visit whether I would see Jenny again. I wanted to soak up all I could of her without being too intrusive. I have only known her through Doug since we were married and have only seen Jenny and the others a handful of times. But these are friends who just drink everyone in. Jenny and Todd seem to love entertaining and having people around. That hasn’t changed even in this crisis. One thing is clear: Jenny is doing exactly what she wants to do at any given time. If she’s tired, she goes to bed; if she wants to ski, she skis. They even bought a new home in Breckenridge, mainly because Jenny had always loved this house. It is indeed, beautiful and comfortable. They went to Hawaii in March to relax and golf. While we were visiting, Todd was looking into a trip to Spain. There’s no time like the present and as Jenny says, “Life is short.”I get a terrible feeling in me as I write that. Part of it is how life is so fragile for all of us. We fret and worry over the simplest things, not the least of which is losing a job. Sure my professional life has changed, but we’re not starving, my husband works hard every day, I seem to be very busy, at least at the moment, on some freelance projects earning me some money along with unemployment. We’re really fine. I walked in to Jenny’s office the morning we left to get a pencil. I wanted also to drink up the “vibe” Jenny seems to send as she wages this fight against the cancer that sucks. From the lounge chair where her “cancer sucks” bag sits to the bookshelf lined with hope and healing books mixed in with Michael Crichton and Jane Austen books, there is a sense of peace. Jenny remains optimistic. I commented to her how it seemed Ron and Iris’s oldest son, Jake really seems to like her. She told a story of Jake asking whether she was going to die. Jenny explained, yes, she would be dying at some point, but she was going to try her darndest not to die anytime soon. Jenny also told us about all of the doctor visits, the poking, the prodding, the drugs, the tests, tumor marking, stomach-draining. She said she had no idea how people can hold down a full time job and fight cancer at the same time. This IS her full time job. Battling something deep within her, a demon that attacked without warning. We worry about Todd. Both of them are easygoing, but Todd has given up some of his life to focus completely on Jenny. “Whatever Jenny wants, Jenny gets,” is his mantra. They have their three dogs and two cats, his business, two homes and great family and friend support. As we left to travel home, I hugged both of them, whispering to Todd, “Take care of YOU.” This story deserves a happy ending. Jenny has never gotten to remission. There will be more hope and hopefully, much more healing to come. Their spacious kitchen is lined with most, if not all, of the cards of support Jenny has received over these past months. Jenny says it makes her feel good to see that support every single day and feel the love so many people have for Jenny and Todd. Any loss in life sucks..but not as much as cancer. Jenny’s battle has her at a place where she feels good and strong now. Beat that sucker, Jenny. We’re all on the sidelines cheering.