What a morning…

Dogs What a Morning

This morning we had a jailbreak. As I was helping my old dog Koda down the steps to go outside the other two saw an opportunity to run past me out the front door. 

Luckily, Dean (the one who earned a halo) came right back at the mere shake of a cereal box. FOOD?!  But Forrest was on the lam. 

As I started to chase Forrest, Koda began to bark. It was 6 am and he could wake the neighbors. So, I decided to help him into the house. All of the sudden my 13yr old golden has a sudden burst of energy and circled back around with a hop in his step…making sure to step in his dog doo not once, but three times. So, now to clean his feet…then to chase Forrest. 

At this point, I wake up my son for help and we are both attempting to lure him back home.

He’s running yard to yard. I’m chasing him barefoot through muddy ditches. And… why I think I can out run a dog is beyond me.

Finally, he slows down by my neighbor’s house. I’m creeping up on him when I see their cat walk directly behind him.  I’m thinking “YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.”

And I’m praying “Please God, do not let him turn around and see that cat.”

He turned around and saw the cat.

So, I’m chasing Forrest, who is chasing the cat, and we end up down the street into the back yards of neigbors I’ve never met before.

And I wonder…  is the husband pouring himself a cup of coffee saying “Hon, ya gotta see this. Some barefoot lady with Phyllis Diller hair is chasing her dog through our back yard.”

It also occurred to me — three years ago the doctor told me I couldn’t run anymore with my bad knee, but I can dammit.

And then I thought “It’s nice back here. They have a tire swing.”

Now the stinking dog is a about to jump over a very large ditch filled with water. And I just look at him. Even he realized, that’s just ridiculous.

Eventually I chase him back into the front lawn and my son suggests I stop chasing him. “Maybe he’ll stop running if you stop chasing him.” Hmmm, he may have a point.

Then, just like in the movie, Forrest stopped running. 🙂

forrest in a gang

You’re Invited….

Mark your calendars!! The Luau of the century will take place Sunday, June 4th in Cicero, NY (just outside of Syracuse). We’re coming together to raise money for a dear friend battling stage 4 colon cancer… and to prove… cancer doesn’t always win.

Beach scene in Antigua & Barbuda
Beautiful beach scene in Antigua & Barbuda

A $20 presale ticket ($25 at the door) gets you… a fantastic meal, unlimited soft beverages, three bands (TJ SACCO, PRIME TIME UNPLUGGED and FRANK & BURNS), an outdoor DJ, and children’s games to keep your little ones occupied — 13 and under only $10 admission.

Warm up your arm for the dunk tank (equipped with heckler)! There will be over $25,000 in crazy amazing raffle items, a mouth-watering bake sale with AWARD WINNING desserts donated from local bakers. And, did I mention the ice-cold beer and free-flowing wine at the cash bar? But that’s not all, you can get Lei’d for a very low price…and it’s all legit. 😉  And before you leave, you can purchase a commemorative tee shirt to prove to the world…you were THERE!

To purchase tickets, just click this link: Luau Beach Party TICKETS – JUNE 4th, 2017

To see event on Facebook, follow this link and SHARE, SHARE, SHARE… please?
And, thank you.  Luau Beach Party to Benefit Jackie Hansen Russo

Tears to Treasures

The other day I was reflecting on 2016… and was feeling a bit weepy. Just having a moment, I guess, thinking of the loved ones we lost this year.  Let’s face it, when it hits you – it hits you.

And with Christmas upon us, I wondered… Is there anything we can do for ourselves to get through the holidays?

Then I saw a post on Facebook from my best friend’s sister. She shared a picture of a Christmas morning from the late ’60’s. I stared at it for quite a while.  Even though I miss my “bestie” I could hear her laughing, thinking it was a classic. And I could also hear her saying “Who cut my bangs so short!?” And it made me smile.

sandy-xmas

Then I saw some old home movies that my high school friend shared with the rest of us. They were his late father’s. I could imagine how his dad must’ve taken so much pride in the film he captured of his children through the years. And THAT made me smile.

Then I read a post about my friend’s late husband, and how he always dressed up like Santa every Christmas. I remember him doing that – like it was yesterday. That was his thing. And THAT TOO, made me smile.

santa-tears-to-treasure-2
And it hit me. Maybe that’s what we should do. Maybe that’s what they’d want us to do. Share their stories, their photos, their movies… those are our treasures, the treasures they left behind.

And you know they’ll be sitting right there, right next to us on Christmas Day. Wouldn’t that be such a wonderful gift to give them?

So, if you have the strength, don’t be afraid to share your memories. It may be one of the best gifts you can give someone (or yourself) this Christmas. Happy Holidays and Love to All!!

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?

 

 

 

 

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 you spent with her.

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 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/

 

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. 🙂

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!”