Sunday, October 30, 2011
A few weeks ago, I wrote about part of my trip to North Carolina to attend a fundraiser for
my friend, Rick Allen. He had lost his arm in an scuba tank explosion...
Well, I just read a wonderful tribute to him in one of the local newspapers.
If you have a moment, it is an inspiring read:
Thursday, October 27, 2011
So we get rid of the hearing aids (hopefully) and two days later
we replaced them with orthotics for his legs.
His ankles are really "floppy" (not sure that's the correct medical term)
and he is hyper-extending his knees.
Hence, the orthotics.
Byron has resorted to torturing Kean's therapist, Maureen by calling our boy "Keanut Gump".
I must say, they seem to be working.
Just look at him standing.
He would never do that before.
That's Maureen holding him and Sarah-- his Developmental Specialist on the left.
She's another part of his posse.
Our goal is to have him walking along the couch for Christmas!
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Nothing has changed.
Reesey still thinks she is Kean's mother, best friend, head therapist and teacher of all things great and small.
After Kean masters Chopin, Reese will be starting on Latin lessons next week.
Monday, October 24, 2011
For once I'm speechless.
There really is no explanation.
And yes, that is underwear.
At least it is clean.
They're not that crazy.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
The festivities have begun.
The girls went over to the Angus' house, where Mike-- bless his soul-- helped
the girls carve out their pumpkins.
Holland told him it was part of our family tradition to have a "pumpkin guts" fight.
So Mike, being the good sport (or the easy mark-- you choose) agreed!
By the time I got there to pick 'em up... all the pumpkin mayhem
was cleaned up.
I did, however get a picture of Reese in her scary teeth...
The girls had gotten the pumpkins from our neighbor and Holland and Greer's former 2nd grade teacher,
Mrs. Kwid's. Each fall, she invites all her students, their families... and a couple of hoodlum
girls from the neighborhood (that would be my girls) over for
hay rides and the picking of a pumpkin out of her patch.
This is our fourth year... with likely more to come.
Reese won't hit 2nd grade for another 2 years.
We love where we live!
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Greer came home from school today with a surprise
She had thrown on Capri's this morning,
only to get to school and realize they were Reese's
size 3 jeans.
We sure did laugh.
But does that give you an idea of how super skinny Greer is?
Poor kid-- she sure takes after her mom.
I remember my brothers calling me mosquito legs when I was a kid.
I think it is about time I post about the rest of my trip to Carolina.
On Sunday, we headed down to Fayetteville, the town I always so
lovingly referred to as Fay-raq. It is where Fort Bragg is based.
Anyway, we went down for a fundraiser for an old friend of mine.
Rick Allen was a photographer at WTVD-TV when I was there.
He left the biz years ago and has emerged as the top underwater
videographer-- he was always an avid diver.
If you watch the Discovery channel, any Cousteau specials or
those shows that search for Black Beard's and other pirate treasure...
you are likely watching Rick's handiwork.
Last January, he was in his garage when an oxygen tank for scuba diving
fell and exploded. He was severely burned and lost his left arm to the explosion.
His wife, Cindy was in the house brushing her teeth. The explosion caused
the mirror in front of her to shatter and glass shards to fly into her face and eyes.
It's quite a story, but she could hear him screaming that he was on fire.
Somehow, she had the presence of mind to feel her way to the
fire extinguisher and put him out.
I'm sure she saved his life.
Rick was life flighted to UNC. Just to give you an idea of what kind of
character he is... he asked the paramedic if he'd ever play the piano again.
The poor paramedic, I'm sure realizing that he was severely burned and would lose
an arm-- stuttered and stammered that he wasn't sure.
Rick responded with a "that's okay, I couldn't play the piano before the explosion"!
So we head down to this fundraiser to help pay for hospital bills and his new high-tech prosthetic arm
that will allow him to dive and shoot underwater.
And you can't really tell... but Rick shows up in a T-shirt that says:
I really suck at playing patty cake!
Talk about an amazing attitude.
He is a true inspiration and quite the stand up comedian.
So therefore, it was of no surprise that the fundraiser was amazing in its own right.
Everything... from the estate, to the killer live band, to the countless silent
auction items, to a number of restaurants with their yummy food-- was donated!
Just look at this place.
It was sprawling and immaculate, impressive and well, you get the idea.
That's part of the mansion on the left. What you can't see is
there is a second "mansion" on the right... that houses their
art gallery. This place was right out of the picture books.
This last picture is of Cindy, Rick's wife.
Not only is she a wiz with a fire extinguisher, she is a very accomplished
photographer. As a thank you, they gave out this poster of
one of her shots-- wild horses on a small deserted island off the coast.
Holland (even though she is horrifically allergic to horses) has a great
love for all things horses... so Cindy signed this to her.
Oh, how I love Carolina.
It's such a beautiful place filled with people I love.
Monday, October 10, 2011
It's hard for me to fathom that we are coming up on the 20 year anniversary of when our news
helicopter crashed, killing three of my co-workers (and dear friends).
I went back to North Carolina last week to commemorate the anniversary.
I'll warn you, this will be a looong post.
But before I tell you what happened, I need to as they say, "set the stage".
I had been working in Las Vegas when I got the offer to go report for the ABC- owned station
in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina.
One of my close friends-- Diane had just been laid off from her job in middle management at Caesar's Palace.
And since she was having a difficult time finding a job in her field in Vegas, I invited her to drive
across country with me, live with me and try to find a job in N.C. If it didn't work out, she could always go back.
And it was a bonus for me, in that I had zero friends in Carolina.
My first two days on the job at WTVD-TV, were spent in the office learning their computer system.
My third day on the job, I was sent via helicopter across the state to Winston Salem to interview Darryl Gates
(the LA Police Chief-- his first appearance since the Rodney King beating).
On the ride over and back, Chopper Jim and I talked and talked.
When I told him, my friend had moved with me and that she was tall and blond, he seemed intrigued.
I didn't think much of it until the next day.
I was once again, sent to the heli-port to meet Chopper Jim.
This time, we were going in the opposite direction-- to the beach to do a story on a bank president
whose wife and son had been kidnapped, held for ransom and released.
As Jim and I waited at the airport for my photographer to show up, Jim told me to call up Diane and
invite her to come with us to the beach-- the only caveat-- I couldn't tell anyone that we were taking
a "civilian" with us on the news chopper.
Well, of course, Diane was game.
She met us and off we all went.
Now for those of you who have never worked in the business--- let me explain that a trip to the beach
has nothing to do with fun-- it is all work.
While the photographer and I worked our tails off-- shooting video, interviews, writing, editing and doing
live shots for several shows--- Jim and Diane were strolling the beach, watching the waves crash, the sun set and
sharing fresh caught seafood at some fabulous restaurant.
I think you get the picture.
If not, let me put two and two together-- they were falling in L.O.V.E.
Fast forward several months.... and they were not only in love, but engaged and a week away from their wedding--
on, you guessed it, the beach..
That all changed on a Friday night.
Jim had flown down to the coast to cover the N.C. high school championship football game.
Diane and I were at home.
She was sewing some beads on a black gown.
Our company black-tie party was the next night.
She kept waiting for Jim to call her and finally fell asleep.
At 3:15 on Saturday morning, the phone rang.
Thankfully, I answered it.
It was one of my bosses telling me the chopper had crashed and that Chopper Jim, Bart-- one of my favorite photographers and Rick, one of our Satellite engineers had all been killed.
I remember Bonnie asking me over and over again if I could handle breaking the news to Diane.
The initial shock quickly wore off and I remember losing it downstairs on the kitchen floor-- while stuffing my fist
into my mouth to keep my sobs from waking her up.
I felt like I needed to get some reinforcements on the way before I went to Diane.
I called the Bishop from my church--- and somehow communicated what had happened to get him heading towards our home.
And then I went and woke up Diane to tell her the news that would change her life forever.
Looking back, it was surreal.
I clearly remember her going through all the stages of grief right before my eyes.
I don't remember the order but she moved from denial to hysteria, anger to utter despair.
It was awful, no strike that-- horrific to watch her fall apart and have no way of providing any comfort.
Almost immediately, we were surrounded by friends and neighbors-- offering hugs, shoulders and food that
no one felt like eating.
I remember Diane and I spending much of the day over at Bart's house.
It became the gathering place-- where we all shared pictures and stories and buckets of tears.
In short, the helicopter had been serviced the day before this last, fateful flight.
About 30 miles outside of Raleigh, the ball bearings in the rotors seized-- causing the rotors to stop and the chopper
to fall from the sky.
Knowing Jim, he did everything possible to save the guys.
He tried an auto rotation and landed hard-- too hard on his side.
The force of the crash killed all three of the guys instantly.
But here's the miracle part-- Bart, who was 6 foot 6 was sitting in the back seat on the opposite side from Jim.
The crash tore his seat off of its bolts and pushed him into the front passenger seat-- tearing that seat off of its mooring and pushing Tony, our sports guy, through the windshield of the helicopter.
Somehow, Tony survived a fall- the equivalent of falling from a 150 story building-- and being propelled through the
window about 30 to 50 feet.
He walked about a mile -- toward a light in the woods-- a home, where the poor, frightened woman made a very bloody stranger sit out on the cold porch until the Sheriff arrived. (She felt so awful later)!
Oh, there are so many details I could tell you-- but let me just tell you this-- all four of the guys on
board that night were engaged to be married.
Chopper Jim had-- just that day, picked up the engagement pictures from the photographer.
Diane had not even seen them yet.
And even though the helicopter was broken into a million pieces and there was jet fuel everywhere, those
photographs were recovered in perfect condition-- not a spot or a scratch.
The next week consisted of cancelling a wedding while planning a funeral.
Losing the love of her life, left Diane pretty much comatose.
I think we both felt like those nearly spent wind up toys that move only because there is some simple mechanism doing all of the compelling.
I remember we had 3 funerals and a memorial service for all three of the guys in three days.
You can't go through something like this without forever being connected to your friends and co-workers.
I like to say, we had our souls seared together.
So now you might understand why last week, Diane and I left our families and met up to fly to North Carolina.
We spent one morning visiting the crash site.
Neither of us had ever been.
And 20 years later, it looks very different from the scenes we watched on the news coverage.
It used to be out in the middle of nowhere--- now there is a subdivision right next to it.
This is Ed Crump (his desk was next to mine and he was Bart's best friend) telling us where he thinks
the helicopter crashed.
Diane is in the background. That's Karen (shielding her eyes). She was Bart's fiancee.
And Janet in the front was our Operations Manager. She was the first one called at the station and was
at the crash scene that night/morning.
Saturday night, we all met in an upstairs room of a Raleigh restaurant.
We set up a memory table...
In all, I'd say probably 40 people came that night... a few, like Diane shared some thoughts and memories.
This is Bart's mom, Mary Lou. The picture she is holding is of Bart's dog, Zack sprawled out at the base of Bart's grave.
She said after they had buried Bart and gotten a marker, Karen (Bart's fiancee) brought Zack up with her.
Even though he'd never been to the cemetery before, the dog hopped out of the car and made a bee-line straight to
Bart's grave. Pretty amazing story.
I tell ya, I love all of these people dearly.
This is Lisa-- she was engaged to Rick, the Satellite Operator.
We were all at a Halloween party at Bart's house when Rick proposed to Lisa-- in front of us and with a news
camera rolling. We treasure that video!
This is Ed-- Bart's best friend and one heckova story teller.
He had us all laughing and crying and laughing again.
Here is Janet-- who was a rock throughout all of this. She was the one
who got the first awful phone call and then somehow pulled it together
to get everyone notified and start the painful task of having our station
cover "its own" for the news. (Which by the way, out of all the years I was
in TV-- that day's newscasts were probably the best I've ever seen).
On the right, is Bonnie, our assignment editor-- and newsroom mom.
She is the one who called me at 3:15 a.m.
This is Dave.
We worked together an awful lot after the crash and are very close.
He was roommates with Bart, best friends with Rick and the photographer
who shot the crash scene that night/morning.
I can't imagine....
And here's Tony Debo-- our sports anchor who survived the crash.
It was a big deal for him to come that night-- he still struggles with being the only one to live.
That's Lisa-- his fiancee at the time and now his wife.
She is as beautiful inside as outside. And I swear she looks the same as she did on her wedding day-- except her
hair is shorter!
And finally, this is my old boss, Lee Meredith. He's the guy who had enough faith in some crime
reporter from Vegas to bring her to Carolina. He's one of the good guys in TV and was a calming
influence during such a tragic time.
He read a letter from our old station's president (his boss)-- who couldn't be there for medical reasons.
Tim Bennett left WTVD about the same time I did (in fact, I give him and Oprah full credit or blame for my marriage to Byron-- another long story for another day)! Anyway, Lee read a letter from Tim that perfectly captured how we were all
feeling and why we were there.
The crash taught us about tragedy.
But it also taught us more than nearly anything else could-- about how to live life and how to pull together and be a family.
I can tell you I grew old that day.
I lost some dear friends-- some of the most amazing men to grace this earth.
But looking back, I gained a life-long relationship with a group of friends that even with the passage of 20 years, I feel more love for and from-- than ever.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Last weekend, I went back to North Carolina.
I met my long-time friend, Diane in Vegas and we flew back together.
Somehow, we walked out of the car rental office with keys not to
the Ford Focus we'd reserved
but this little Mustang.
We packed in more than should be possible in a few days....
starting with lunch with this guy.
Murphy is the asst. U.S. Attorney in Carolina and
one of my favorite friends from the ol' days.
Without getting him into trouble all these years later,
let's just say, he was very knowledgeable, helpful and re-source-ful
on some of my biggest investigations.
He and Diane also dated a bit.
So we had quite the fun lunch.
That night we had dinner with my old roommate, Joanne and
our good friend, Larry.
Joanne's parents (I adore these two) joined us for dinner
and boy, did we have fun looking at old pictures, reminiscing
and telling heelarious stories.
This may sound silly, but one of the highlights of the night
was when Drewry (Joanne's dad) hugged me
goodbye and called me "puddin".
Don't know about you, but I just love, love, love the South.
This is my darling cousin, Liz and her sweet Esther.
She let Diane and I use her house as a crash pad.
Before you ask, if all we did is meet friends for lunch and dinner
(don't forget breakfast)... yes, that's pretty much what we did.
We actually went back to N.C. for the 20 year anniversary of when
our news helicopter crashed, killing three of my co-workers
(one of them, our pilot, who happened to be engaged to Diane).
I'll write about that next time.
It deserves its own post.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
There is nothing sweeter in the morning than
There is nothing sweeter in the morning than
being awoken by the neighbor at 5:30 a.m
to tell us one of our cows is out and
standing in the middle of the road.
And did I mention it was pouring rain?
Good times, I tell ya.
There is something unnatural about that cow.
He's too smart, calculating and shifty.
He watches me when I go outside.
The other guy.. .just eats and once in a while looks up.
But no, not "Jailbreak"... he's just waitin' and waitin'--
a bovine opportunist.
Well, he doesn't have much longer to wait (and jump over fences, and push up against the electric wire)...
He'll be in the freezer in about a month.