public_service_announcement

21st Century PSA

brain on drugs posterOne of the most influencial public service announcements (that I can remember) was aired in 1987, the year I graduated from college. It seems like eons ago — because it was. But I still remember it . . . so it was a good one, right?

There was a man holding an egg.
“This is your brain.”

And there was a frying pan.
“This is drugs.”

He cracks the egg into the frying pan. And you hear the sizzle.
“This is your brain on drugs.”

Then there’s a pause.
“Any questions?”

So, I was thinking. It’s now 2016; almost 30 years later. If I was to make a public service announcement today, what would it look like?

I think I know.

 

This is my daughter.

13697286_1003482413103460_778802708172847008_n


This is Snapchat.

Snapchat.jpg

 


This is my daughter on Snapchat.

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ANY QUESTIONS?

 

 

 

 

angels

Help the Next One in Line

I assume by now you’ve heard Tim McGraw’s new song “Humble and Kind.” When you think about it, the message is pretty simple isn’t it? Basically, it tells you to be a good person.

Have manners.
Care about others.
Don’t use people.
Things we should already know – but maybe we need to be reminded from time to time.

When I first heard this song I just loved it – still do. But now it seems as if the words “don’t forget, turn back around and help the next one in line” jump right out at me. And I think of my best friend. A friend that amazed me with her strength, and her compassion for others, as she fought the toughest battle of her life.

During Sandy’s two-year battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, all she ever wanted to do was help the next one in line.

After Sandy was diagnosed, in the spring of 2014, she was anxious to start treatment. When she returned home from her first visit to the cancer center in Chicago, she was fixated on a conversation that transpired between her and one of the nurses.

The nurse asked her if she wanted treatment since there would be an out-of-pocket expense… a couple hundred dollars. Sandy looked at the nurse and said “Why would I decline treatment for that small amount?” And the nurse said “You’d be surprised at the number of people who do.”

Sandy talked about launching a not-for-profit organization for people who needed financial help with medical bills. It was something that I truly believe she would’ve accomplished, if she had the chance.

I’ve always known there was something special about Sandy. But I want to share a few things about this young lady. A few things that I think may inspire you.

If you’ve ever been close to someone battling cancer, you see what they go through – and quite frankly it makes you sick. You ask yourself “How can they endure the chemo treatments, the pain, the sleepless nights, and especially the fear of the unknown?”

You try to put yourself in their shoes. But you can’t. You just want to take it all away from them… so much so, you wish you could take it on yourself. But you can’t.

And as awful as this must’ve been for her, she continued to pray for others. Every day.

Yes, she had her moments. But, I’ve never seen anybody more grateful for what was good in her life. I know she’d want me to tell everyone who helped her along the way, how deeply touched she was. So here goes…

If you sent her an inspirational text, a card, or called her…
she’d talk about it through tear-filled eyes, because you
took the time to reach out to her.

If you gave her a token with a message or symbol to give her hope…
she’d look at it every day and it’d gave her the strength to keep fighting.

If you dropped off a meal, or a gift card….
she was thankful for the relief it gave her and her family.

If you stopped in for a visit…
she felt blessed for the time she spent with you.

Some friends even donated airline miles and hotel points to help with travel, and this is where I too say thank you. Because of your kindness and generosity, I was able to tag along on a couple of trips to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America with Sandy, and for that I am forever grateful.

She was thankful for her girlfriends, who found they each brought a different strength to the table — they each played a role. And Sandy knew she could count on her lifelong posse.

Her college friends were front and center whenever she needed support — of any kind, and her neighbors were just an arm’s length away, offering help every day.

But most of all, she was thankful for her family. Her husband, her three beautiful children, and her mom – all by her side, every single day. They took every step with her, and gave her constant support and inspiration.

She had the unconditional love of her sister and brother, who called often and came in from out-of-state when they could, to visit or accompany her to a treatment in Chicago. We should all be so lucky.

Bottom line — she felt blessed.

And she’d say….
“Everyone has been so good to me. I should be helping others.”
Helping others was always on her mind. Always.

Even when Sandy could no longer work, and her sister Kris set up a Go Fund Me page to help with medical expenses. She kept saying, “Everyone has been so generous, but I see others that need help, this money should go to them.”

I remember one night, just a couple weeks before she passed, having to be a little stern with her. I told her… “You’re out of work. You have medical bills on top of regular bills. People love you and want to help. Accept their help. You’ll have time to help the next one in line.”

And yes, I admit it…I was wrong. Time wasn’t on her side. But the fact that in the last weeks of her life she was focusing on others makes me realize her story should be told.

I know if she beat this horrible disease, she wouldn’t be boasting about her accomplishments. She’d be working. Working on fundraisers to help a family with medical bills, making meals to bring to people who need rest from their chemo treatments, or taking the time to make a personal phone call to give someone the strength and encouragement to keep fighting.

Earlier I mentioned that “the girls” (Sandy’s posse of childhood friends) all had roles to play. I guess my role was to be the optimist… the perpetual cheerleader if you will. And I know people thought I was naive. I wasn’t. And I will never regret hoping for a miracle. Not for a minute. Because they do happen.

And I have to admit, it’s hard to believe that someone you spent 40 years of your life with will no longer be with you. So maybe being “the cheerleader” was just as much for me, as it was for her. And since our group of girls lost another sister, Sara, less than 3 years ago to breast cancer — I have to say, we really fought like a team. I’ve said to God…. “Now, you’ve got two of us on the other side. And yes, I’m sure Sara is winning every ‘Angel Ab Contest’ there is, and you’re in awe of Sandy’s rendition of GREASE, but please don’t take any more of us for a while… ok?”

Now it’s time to move forward, but how do we do that?

Well, after you lose someone close, you find it hits you in waves – one minute you’re strong and the next your crying like a little baby. It’s those little things. Like picking up the phone to call her and realizing you can’t. And quite frankly, it sucks out loud.

So I asked my friend Michele (who was Sara’s best friend), “When will I go a day without crying?” And she said “The day I stopped crying was when I asked if you’d help me with a fundraiser in Sara’s name. The day I decided to do something positive, to help others, in her memory.”

I know Sandy would agree. If she was here, she might say… “Don’t focus on the negative. You know I’m still here with all of you. Be grateful for the people in your life. And do everything you can… to help the next one in line.

sandy final

Well, my dear… I promise you I will. The girls will. Always.

https://powerthroughit50.wordpress.com/2016/05/09/eulogy-for-sandy-keller-napolitano/

 

Like mother like daughter

The Funniest Story I’ve Ever Heard

The other day I had lunch with a friend of mine at one of our favorite restaurants. I always look forward to our lunches; there’s never a dull moment with our animated story telling. Well, on this day — not only did I laugh until I cried – but I may have peed a little.

You see, my friend and I decided to reminisce about our most embarrassing moments. And she told a story that tops all stories in the ‘world of hilarity.’

Like the T.V. show Dragnet… “The story you are about to hear is true; only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.”

I will call my friend Grace (for reasons that will soon become obvious) and her daughter, Jessie.

A few years back Grace and Jessie were headed to a local department store. It was winter time and the roads were getting pretty sloppy; a big storm was brewing. But Grace lived in Syracuse her whole life, so was used to driving in the snow.

As Grace concentrated on the roads, Jessie was fiddling with the car radio. Jessie suddenly felt a cramp in her side. Luckily it was nothing serious, just a little gas. Fortunately she found some relief — but at the expense of her mother.

Grace said the car smelled like potato chips and she was literally gagging. [Which confused me because potato chips are delicious.] She  wished she could roll down her window and let it escape into the wild, but with the freezing cold temperatures that wasn’t an option.

Jessie was about 14 years old at the time. She’s a sweet girl, very pretty and kind of shy… but has a keen sense of humor like her mother. Jessie noted her mother’s discomfort, so let wind again. And again. And, once more for good measure.

Grace didn’t think it was funny anymore. She pleaded “Jessie, please stop it!” But Jess was a teenager, and found humor in the situation. Her smirk said it all.

When they arrived in the parking lot, Grace couldn’t get the car door open fast enough. The fresh air was a virtual gift from God. She looked forward to getting out of the car and doing a little shopping.

They found the inside of the store to be a ghost town. The pending storm must’ve kept the locals in that night, so they had the place to themselves. Grace and Jessie decided to go their separate ways and meet up later.

As Grace was shopping she felt that all too familiar pang. She was having the same reaction to dinner as Jessie. [Grace had one cookin’.]

Grace thought about the potato chip car ride, her discomfort, and the smug look on her daughter’s face. Then she had an idea. “Why waste it?” she thought, “Why not get me some ‘sweet revenge?’

Jess had mentioned she’d be in the shoe department, so Grace wandered over. She spotted her daughter almost immediately. Jess was so focused on the shoes she didn’t see her mom coming.

In true “007” style, Grace looked to the left, then to the right, checking to make sure the coast was clear. She then crept up beside Jessie. Grace posed herself, raising her derrière just a little, and lifting her leg high in the air. Then she did it. She did the unthinkable…Grace “cut-the-cheese” on her daughter.

TAKE THAT!! Grace shouted loudly.

She was so proud of herself — in her forties and still up for a shenanigan! Grace found herself bent over belly laughing. When she finally looked up, she saw Jessie coming around the corner.

WAIT A MINUTE!!! If THAT’S Jess, who’s this?!

Grace had farted on a stranger.  [And, if you recall, she said “Take that!”]

And when she tried to explain, it didn’t help.
[When you tell a stranger that it’s O.K. because you were ‘trying to fart on your daughter,’ it really doesn’t sound any better. Now, does it?]

The young woman glared at Grace. Let’s just say if her eyes were daggers Grace would not be here today to tell the story.

Grace grabbed Jessie and they ran. Boy did they run! They ran into the men’s department where they hid behind a rack of clothes…laughing until they cried. I’m not sure… but they may have even peed a little.🙂

Snowman

Build It Anyway

As Christmas draws closer, I’m reminded of a night a few years ago that was very endearing to me – it was Christmas Eve to be exact. I know I’ve told part of this story before, but I’d like to share it again if that’s ok.

I must admit I’m not a regular church goer, but I just LOVE Christmas Eve service. The music gives me goose bumps, and the church seems more colorful than usual… maybe with the brilliant poinsettias adorning the altar. And my favorite part is when they light a single candle at the end of each pew, and one by one the candles are lit throughout the congregation, and the church begins to glow. It actually gets me choked up for some reason.

But there’s something else about Christmas Eve.

December 24th was my grandmother’s birthday. And anybody who knew her would say she was an angel on earth — always thinking of others. And when you spent time with her, everything was right in the world. She had the sweetest smile, and when she laughed it made you laugh… and I miss her dearly.

Snowman Gram

She was kind of silly too. When we were kids she’d fry up pieces of baloney, and cut them into triangular slices and tell us it was our “Baloney Pizza.” She’d serve it with toothpicks and we just loved that. And she’d always come up from the basement carrying a big pink plastic bin, and dump it upside down in the living room…and we’d watch, as a load of toys would spill out all over the floor. She even let us unlock her glass cabinet in the dining room, against our mother’s wishes, and was perfectly calm as we handled her fine glass collectibles. It was a treat, like exploring a treasure chest.

And knowing grandma…if she was sitting next to me in church on December 24th, she’d be sure to say it was the most beautiful birthday gift she could ever ask for.

Well, a few years ago I wandered into church on Christmas Eve just a few minutes before the service began. I was lucky there was room…at the inn. (See how I made a funny there?) I sat down in the last pew towards the back, and made sure to move in as far as I could just in case there were other latecomers like me.

Just as the service began, an elderly woman came in from the cold and sat down next to me. She turned and smiled. I was taken aback because she reminded me so much of my grandmother. I actually had to force myself not to stare at her.

When the minister asked the congregation to greet your neighbor, I attempted to shake her hand. But instead, she placed her palm under mine and patted the top of my hand. My grandmother always did that when we’d sit and chat. It was her thing.

Throughout the service I couldn’t help but notice her mannerisms, and I felt like my grandmother was sitting right there with me.

When it was time to leave, we were the first ones out the door since we were in the back. She turned to the right and I veered to the left as we headed to our cars. I was a little nervous because it had started snowing and I was praying she’d make it home okay. I couldn’t help but keep an eye on her as she walked away – making sure she had her footing.

When we were about 20 feet from the door of the church she stopped suddenly. She turned around and looked at me. “Look!” she yelled over, “Have you ever seen snowflakes like this before?!”

I walked over to her and we looked up into the sky and watched the snow fall. I said “They’re really beautiful aren’t they? The snowflakes are so big!”

Then she said “Do you know what I want to do right now? I want to go home and build a snowman.”

I said “Then, why don’t you?”

She replied “Well, what would people think? I live on a corner lot. Everyone would see me and they’d say ‘Who’s that crazy old lady building a snowman?’”

It was at that moment I remembered the last bit of advice my grandmother had given me before she passed away. She said “Remember, you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself.  Always be true to yourself.” …something I’d lost sight of lately.

So I turned to the woman and said “So what. Who cares what they’d say? BUILD IT ANYWAY!”

She smiled a familiar smile, and said “Ya know what? I think I will! Merry Christmas!”

And that was, to this day, one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received.🙂

“… and may I wish, a very Merry Christmas to you too!”

toilet poopy humor

Poopy Humor

That’s right, I said it. Poopy Humor. And for those of you who know me, you knew this post was coming sooner or later.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Fifty years old and I still laugh until I cry when somebody tells me a poopy story, or “let’s wind.” That’s what my mom used to say… “Did somebody let wind?”

You giggled. Didn’t you?

I’m not sure at what age one should stop laughing at poopy humor. But this is the way I look at it…my grandkids and I will be on the same wavelength. We’ll be the best of friends.

Speaking of friends… mine always come to me when they have an off-color story to tell. They feel safe. They know it’s a no judgement zone. One subject that comes up a lot are the problems with using the restroom at work. So, let’s talk about that.

Personally, I avoid the “poop at work.” Unless it’s inevitable. In those cases I walk clear across the building to another department’s restroom so somebody else gets blamed. Some of my co-workers read my blog… so I guess the secret’s out.

But, for my co-workers who brave the world of the public restroom — the peek-a-boo doors, and the deafening silence — I applaud you. We’ve spoken. I’ve heard your pleas. And I’ve openly wept for you.

One of the worst experiences is the STANDOFF?

This is when the person in the other stall has to do the same under the stALL
thing as you. You know this by the amount of time you both spend sitting there….you could hear a pin drop. Who will go first? Who will take the plunge? The chance of the peek-a-boo fart. You know they can see your shoes and pant legs under the stall. They know who you are. If you go first, they’ll tell others. It’s maddening.

What about the LINGERER?

This is the person who talks to you while they’re washing their hands. You want them to leave. You pray that they’ll leave. And nobody likes “tinkle talk.” It’s one or the other, people.

When they realize you’re not leaving, they finally go. And you know… that they know.😦

And we all attempt the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE.

Getting out before anyone sees you. The worst is when you’re washing your hands and a co-worker walks in. You are defeated. You lose. You see the expression on their face. STINKY BATHROOM
It’s like “WHOA!” …and, you’re caught.

These problems can’t be avoided. So…I often fantasize of a bathroom with huge, loud, ceiling fans (like Willy Wonka had in the room with the Fizzy Lifting Drink), plentiful Poo-Pourri spray, private stalls with no side door slots, and super loud music. But, until then…until we spend some time designing the perfect public restroom, we shall continue to humiliate ourselves. And when you are humiliated, and you need to tell someone — you know where to find me.🙂

Just had to add this link to my friend’s blog from January. It’s hysterical!!!
http://thephilfactor.com/2015/01/17/the-poop-at-home-people/

No One Fights Alone Bracelets

Miracles Happen

It was April 1st, 2014. Yes, April Fool’s Day. A day when we rack our brains, trying to think of that perfect gag to play on co-workers and friends. But not last year. Last year April Fool’s Day was no laughing matter. And it’s a day I’ll never forget – as long as I live.

I was sitting in my office with my face in the computer when I received a call from my best friend. She had her biopsy results — Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. And it had metastasized to her liver. I think this is the first time I fully understood what the term “in shock” meant. Just six months earlier we lost a friend to breast cancer – and the probability of the “C” word hitting again was impossible – so we thought.

I remember trying to speak, but couldn’t. Hindered by that lump in my throat. When I finally opened my mouth, my voice was trembling. And tears were running down my face. However, the person on the other end of the line wasn’t trembling. She wasn’t even crying. She was pissed! “FUCK THIS!” As I recall… were her exact words. And it was at that very moment I knew, cancer had met its match.

I may not be right about a lot of things in my life, but I knew I was right about this. There was no way this badass friend of mine was going to be a statistic. And so, for the sake of this post, she agreed to let me refer to her simply as “Badass.” Because she is. Thank God. And we love her for it.

Badass immediately started researching the best treatment options, speaking to doctors, and reaching out to survivors. She changed her diet, started taking supplements… and she prayed. Every day. Religiously, so to speak. Still does. And not just for herself, but for others. And we pray for her right back.

And, although reluctant, she accepted help from others. Whether it be a shoulder to lean on, someone to stay with her during treatment, or homemade meals delivered to the house… she agreed to let others in. Like the purple bracelet says “No One Fights Alone.”

Someday I’ll tell her whole story. But for now, this is just part of her journey. The journey to “Survivorship.”

You know, they say that God works in mysterious ways, and boy do I believe it. Because it was that same day I received a call from a friend I hadn’t seen in months. And little did I know she’d be instrumental in helping Badass fight this fight.

Maryann, and her husband Brian, called to see if I’d like to meet them out for some Buffalo wings and a beer so we could catch up. As much as I wanted to, I just wasn’t in the mood – still reeling from the bad news. As we talked on the phone Maryann shared with me that she had a number of family members with Pancreatic Cancer. And from that very moment, she was on board – sharing information about the Macrobiotic diet, doing research, checking in on Badass, and praying every day. And it was Maryann that initiated our visit to Sloan Kettering – to an extraordinary person by the name of Nick Medley.

Fast forward to September 2015…

Badass is doing amazingly well almost 18 months after her diagnosis, and looks fantastic to boot. Yes, she still gets hit on by any man who glances her way. She’s a “hot” Badass, don’t cha know. However…looks aside, she’s still fightin’ the fight and we need to kick it outta the park!

On September 18th, 2015, we visited the Sloan Kettering Outpatient Cancer Center in NYC. You see, Maryann learned about a concierge at Sloan Kettering who gives “healing hugs,” and insisted we bring Badass to meet him. “My husband and I will pay for the hotel.” she said, “We need to do this; we need to go!” So…we did. Remember, when an earthly angel (AKA Maryann) is this insistent… you do as she says. And I’m so glad we did.

When you walk through the doors at Sloan Kettering there’s no need to ask for Nick…he’s waiting for you. He’s the first person you see. And you can feel his love and concern immediately.

sk1

His smile alone melts your heart. And when he hugs you – yes, he hugs everyone – you feel the warmth, the healing, the sense of peace.

His caring is not superficial.sk3
It’s genuine. And for a man who was featured on ABC news, and gives over a thousand hugs a day, we were shocked that he spent over two hours with us… telling Badass success story, after success story.

sk2He held her hands. He looked into her eyes. He said “Trust. Release. Live.” Trust in God — that all will be okay. Release your Worries — even if it means screaming, and punching a pillow. And Live your Life — to the fullest!
As I watched him speak to Badass, I was at the edge of my seat. There was something about Nick. I could see it in his eyes. A sense of calm came over me just being in his presence. I could tell that Badass and  Maryann felt it too. A sense that everything was going to be alright.

He gave each of us a guardian angel pin. And said “Whenever you’re having a bad day, look at this pin. And know you’re not alone.”

When it was time to say goodbye, it was kind of sad. Like leaving an old friend. We gave him a Syracuse University polo shirt and made him promise to root for our team. We said we’d keep in touch – and we will. Because he’s now part of this path to recovery. And Badass has already seen a small miracle since our visit. Yes, God does work in mysterious ways.

I asked Badass, “What should we name this post?” and she very simply stated… Miracles Happen.

Yes they do, Badass… yes they do.

Trust. Release. Live.🙂

And while you’re at it, say a prayer for Badass.
No One Fights Alone!

 

 

 

The sweetest of them all.

How My Dogs Humiliated Me at the Vet

It was time to take my three dogs for their annual checkup. I knew it’d be a chore, but had no idea what was in store. Hey, I accidentally rhymed there.

As I opened the door to the car, my one golden Cosmo jumped right in – good boy! However, his brother Koda panics and runs across the driveway — which is odd, because he has a phobia of walking on the blacktop.

So, now he’s in the grass on the other side of the driveway. He lays down and won’t budge — like a child throwing a temper tantrum — like Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Now mind you, we’re already late because I couldn’t find two of our three leashes and had to grab a dog lead just to have something (nothing says Redneck like bringing your dogs to the vet on a 30 ft. dog lead), and now this.

Anyway, knowing Koda’s anxiety, I maneuvered the car to the edge of the driveway so no blacktop was showing. It may have taken 10 minutes or so, but my daughter and I were eventually successful — with her picture-of-lucy-and-ethel-photo
coaxing him from the front and me lifting him from the back. And so what if the neighbors gathered to watch… by the time we were done with our Lucy and Ethel act, all we had to do was  grab dog #3, Forrest, and head to the vet.

And…. we’re off!!

When we get into the office I’m mortified that I have two dogs on each end of a lead. The vet helps me out with disposable leashes. So that humility was short-lived, except for the part where I look like I can’t afford leashes. But lucky for me, the adventure had just begun.

cosmo coustaeCosmo decides to perform a crying song. It was quite lovely. He obviously was having some anxiety, so I end up on the floor hugging him, petting him and rocking him until he calmed down.

Then Koda (the original trouble maker)  decides to lay down and never get up — ever again.

kodaWe’d lift him up, he’d lay down.
We’d lift him up, he’d lay down.
We’d lift him up, he’d lay down.

For the life of us, we couldn’t get him to walk over to the scale in the waiting room. At this time the other customers are loving the show. I was at my wit’s end. So…. WE SLID HIM. Yes, that’s right. We literally slid him across the slick floor to the scale.

I know they say dogs don’t smile. But he was frickin’ smiling.

And to add to the fun, in the midst of all this chaos, as I bent over to help my dog along… “the girls” fell out. Yes, out of the bra. It’s not like anybody could see anything, but having to wrangle them back into the corral wasn’t an easy task with an audience.

Now, on to the grand finale.

We finally get all three dogs into the small exam room, I’d say it was roughly an 8×10 area. It’s here where Cosmo’s anxiety gets the best of him. He lets loose one of his horrific doggy farts. Oh my God, I thought we were all going to die and the office staff would find us in the morning. The vet actually said “You’re killing me Cosmo!! I gotta turn on a fan!” And she did.

I cannot tell you how relieved I was when forrest with collar
the appointment was over. And how thankful
I was that all three dogs are healthy. And how
shocked I was that Forrest didn’t cause any trouble.

Until next year my dear vet….until next year.🙂