My Prerogative

Bobby Brown made “My Prerogative” a huge hit in the 80’s. Then there was the whole Whitney Houston marriage debacle and well, you know how it ended. Not pretty. The point is, we rise; we fall. For most of us who lead lives that do not warrant celebrity status, we survive the falls and learn from them.

pistoriusNow, Oscar Pistorious, who probably gets the 2013 award (so far) for how the mighty fall, is out of jail on bail. His next hearing is JUNE. Do you believe it will take five months for the next hearing to take place in this case? Guaranteed, come June, we’ll see more courtroom photos and video of the prized Olympic fallen star weeping into his hands. Guilty or not, somehow, he’ll come through this terrible tragedy.

For you and I, we trip over ourselves; screw up and with absolutely no fanfare, pick ourselves up and start all over again (strike up the band). Mundane dilemmas such as losing the cell phone and finding it again; then Verizon messing up and deactivating your found cell phone. Test results showing no, your hip replacement device is not lethal – just not yet – you’ll have to wait a while to see if it becomes lethal. These are the things that on some level – you and I deal with every day. No one notices; the cameras do not roll and our lives go on.

I talked to a neighbor today who has ripped the ACLs in both knees and one meniscus. She’s going through some painful physical therapy but knows she’ll have to have surgery on both knees at some point. We live in limbo week-to-week. We just don’t know what good and bad will come of just about anything we do.

The good news is – most of us are survivors. We pick ourselves up; dust ourselves off and simply move on. And that my friends is how our lives are meant to be. No cameras; no You Tube; no recording. We live and learn – and move on. My prerogative is to be sad and frustrated and then get over it on my own terms and hope that everyone around me understands. And if they don’t – well, life will indeed go on.

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.

The Wait – Finding Hope

Can you imagine being in the shoes of a person who has loved ones in Haiti and you can’t reach them? For as much communication and connectivity we have in our lives today to not be able to reach someone on a cell phone or by email must be incredibly horrifying. Even as the Red Cross and other agencies populate their special pages and web sites to help find victims and survivors of the earthquake, the agonizing hours and days of waiting are anguishing.

The searches are continuing; there are some miracles as an 11-year-old girl is pulled alive from the rubble with a badly mangled leg. Doctors Without Borders are setting up portable hospitals somewhere near Port-Au-Prince. Aid is beginning to flow into the devastated area, but roads remain blocked and survivors are living in the streets and the few open areas that remain. Families and children are helplesshttp://www.soschildrensvillages.org.uk/charity-news/devestated

These facts from a CNN report before the earthquake are stunning:

Athena Kolbe of the University of Michigan did a survey last summer of nearly 1,000 households in three highly populated neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.

Just over half the people in those neighborhoods had access to electricity — when it was available at all — the survey found.

Most used public or private water kiosks as their main source of drinking and cooking water, and most used shared pit latrines rather than bathrooms, Kolbe found in her study for the Small Arms Survey. Few families had water piped into their homes.

More than nine out of 10 used charcoal for cooking; the others used gas.

Adults had an average of just over two and a half years of formal schooling.

Eighty percent of Haiti’s 9 million residents live under the poverty line. More than half — 54 percent — live in abject poverty, according to the CIA Factbook.

Now, factor in a disaster of this proportion, and you’ve probably seen Haiti fall 50 years behind where the nation started. Whatever we can give, however we can help, we must try. I’m going to the Red Cross web site:  http://american.redcross.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ntld_main&s_src=RSG000000000&s_subsrc=RCO_Donate_OnlineGiving

Dig as deep as you can.

100,000 and counting in Haiti

The death toll in Haiti will likely top 100,000. That’s like wiping out all of Cherry Hill and Haddonfield in one fell swoop. The photos and video this morning of the president’s house were remarkable. It’s hard to imagine the White House being similarly devastated. It could have happened September 11, but that would have been man-made.

Just the other day I was thinking about how San Francisco recovered after the October 1989 6.8 earthquake. The Marina district was devastated. The 101 freeway collapsed on itself crushing motorists. Remember Al Michaels switching from World Series play-by-play to disaster coverage? That earthquake struck just before the digital age. Cell phones weren’t big and computers were just starting to become mainstream. Even in Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the world, cell phones, texts and emails to the outside world were possible so many families could find out how their loved ones fared in this disaster.

Being in the news business for so long, as I saw word of the 7.0 earthquake in Haiti Tuesday night, I knew the disaster would be widespread. A hospital collapsed, bodies are in the streets, the bone-crushing injuries others are suffering – it’s heartbreaking. Now, the tent cities will rise from the rubble. People are already camping out awaiting help from around the world.

The faces of the survivors will be filled with shock and grief for days to come. People who have tried and failed to get word from their loved ones in Haiti will get devastating news in the coming days. Some lucky people will find out their loved ones did survive, but have lost everything, or worse, are tragically injured.

For most of us, we do what we can: we donate blood, write a check to the Red Cross or other relief organization. Still others who are specially trained, will be heading to Haiti to help the stricken people in any way they can. So remember the victims, the survivors and those relief workers as well as the search and rescue workers who have so much to do for months to come.

One thing we know: people are resilient. We find a way to start again. No matter how horrible the crisis, we dig deep and look to find what it takes to move forward. Bless the children, their families and all those stricken tonight.

Why does time fly?

Adam at the Phillies Wall of Fame Oct. 09

Adam at the Phillies Wall of Fame Oct. 09

Remember when you were in school, it seemed as though a day was about a month long? Goodness, I’d like those days back. My son is taking driver’s ed in school. While they are not getting behind the wheel, they are studying the rules of the road, learning about car parts and DUI’s and preparing for the state written driving test in January. Wasn’t I just changing my shirt because my son spit up on me for the 500th time? I swear it was just yesterday. He was this little boy totally enamoured with life, his parents, his trucks, cars and toys. Now, the toy closet in the family room goes untouched; I’m pondering tossing many of those boy things, but I can’t get myself to even open the cabinet. Now, in the car, Adam asks me about which car he might get when he saves money; how he doesn’t agree with the NJ laws establishing the different levels of drivers licenses (I say, thank goodness for the different levels). Every once in ta while, Adam will talk about how he hopes my husband and I stay in our house so he’ll have holidays here when he comes home from college or beyond. (Wasn’t I just dating my husband?Now we’re talking about just a few years from now?)

We recently got a home energy audit which included a rundown on what the energy improvements would cost and how long it would take for the improvements to pay off. One improvement listed indicated it would pay off in eight years. My husband asked, “Do you think we’ll BE in this house in eight years?” (Didn’t we just buy this house?)

I’m starting to get emails from friends who mention so-and-so died and even a Facebook message about someone from our high school class dying. OK, now I’m just going down the wrong path. The reality of MY life is: I have NEVER felt better. I think I’m in better shape than I was 10 years ago. I certainly weigh less and despite the biological age I’m experiencing now and how rapidly my son is growing up and away from us, he is our one and only child. He’ll always be my boy and he’ll always know how we care about what’s happening to him every step of the way. I just hope for his safety, happiness and well-being, always. He took his PSAT’s last weekend; weren’t we just singing the “ABC” song with him yesterday?

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.