Monthly Archives: February 2010

Mans best friend…

Mans best friend…

They say dogs do not go to heaven when they pass away.  They say they have no soul. But, I hope there is a dog heaven. We have a dog that truly deserves to go there.

Bunker, our beautiful, sweet Yellow Lab turned 14 (98 in dog years) on January 9th, 2010. His once baby soft and nearly white hair has turned wiry. He moves slowly now from the arthritis that has attacked  his hips. And he often needs help making it up or down the three steps from the porch to the back yard. But, clearly he has ruled our house since the day he arrived at 10 weeks old.

It is difficult to imagine life in our home without Bunker. When I rise at 5AM he is standing near me as I pour my first cup of coffee. He sleeps next to my bed. He is the first to eagerly greet us when we walk in the door. Always letting out  a bark to remind us he had stood guard over the place while we were away. If we were gone for a vacation and had left a friend to watch him, he would show his chagrin with us by poo-pooingly slipping into the bedroom , even though we were wanting to hug and catch up.  But, most of the time he wags his huge tail and his ears go back in happiness for our return.

He was the lowest maintenance dog I ever owned, never destructive or unfriendly. He was very private about his potty habits. He would patiently wait to be walked around the natural area down the street we called “the circle”.  Then after sniffing out several spots, he would back into the bushes and look at you with eyes that said, “please look away” and then do his duty. He is just easy .

True to his breed, he enjoyed activity of all kinds especially balls and water. He loved to play with Tom and the children in the pool. Tom would throw balls to the kids as they jumped into the pool. Bunker would sit eagerly on the swim-out for his turn. He was always gentle and tolerant of the kids. They could trample on him, sit on him even dress him up and he would look up with his sad eyes as if to say , “I really don’t like to be dressed up.” But, he allowed it, happy to be included.

When my friends would arrive for bible study Bunker was at the door to greet them. He always seems to need to scrutinize who is gaining entrance in case he needs to protect. He has never become genuinely aggressive. His presence is usually all that is required. Like everyone else, the bible study ladies like him. Well most of them. He would lay under the dining room table, licking their sandaled feet until they would squirm and laugh. Then I would command him to go to the bedroom.  All I have to do is tell him once and slowly he retreats to his quiet spot.

When Bunker was almost 12 Tom surprised me with a puppy. This was no strange puppy.  In fact, he had been hand  picked by Bunker’s breeder Reggie Johnson, to become a member of the Goold family. Tom’s sister  “Aunt Cathy” and her three children who live in Ohio, thought it was time for a dog. The children had begged for a pup and always enjoyed Bunker when they visited.  It seemed good sense to get a “Bunker” puppy. However, “Duffy”, named after Uncle Patrick Duffy, turned out to not be a good fit.  Well, that might not be fair to “Duffy”.  The blush was off the rose shortly after he arrived from the airport. The kids had places to go, friends to see.  And Aunt Cathy was left with the puppy watch and all of the duties that came with that.  This was unfair.  After all, the puppy was for them?  So, in a few days, Duffy was cleared for travel once again, and headed back south flying Delta where Uncle Tommy had arranged a surprise birthday gift for Aunt Judi.

Duffy and Mom on Christmas Morning

They say getting a puppy adds years on to an older dogs life. We were willing to do anything to prolong the life of our Bunker. So, home came the already named little ball of blonde colored fluff with a big black nose and two bright black eyes and paws two sizes too big. But, he had some things to learn and they didn’t come from his master. Duffy was reminiscent of Bunker at that age. He was very playful and a bit wild.  He may have thought Bunker was his Mother. He wrestled with him and tore at his ears. But, Bunker was the master of THIS domain and Duffy began to understand Bunker ruled. Several trips to the vet and a few stitches made it perfectly clear. Bunker was indeed getting more exercise than he had been. And his naps were fewer, or lets say not as restful. But he definitely appeared to have a little more spring in his step.

Since that day Duffy has not spent a day out of sight of Bunker. They sleep together, they play together, they walk together. When the door is opened for Duffy to go out, he turns and waits for his old buddy to join him. He watches like an obedient student never straying far from his mentor.  The bond that has developed is strong and delightful to observe. It will be difficult and very confusing for him when Bunker is gone. He will have pretty big paw prints to fill. He will take over as master. And we know he will do just that.

The reality is Bunker’s days with us are fleeting. Our family is trying to prepare for the inevitable. Fact is, I am writing this now, because I don’t know if I will be able to do it when the day finally comes. But, when he leaves us we know he lived a great doggy life. He had a big yard to run with birds and squirrels. He was surrounded by children and those who played with him and loved him. He had a little pup who worshipped him as his hero. He truly is and will always be our very best friend.

Thank you buddy.  You were a true and loyal companion.  Hope to see you in heaven.  We love you Bunker!

P.S.  On March 31st, 2010 Bunker went to sleep in my arms.  In keeping with his life, he died with great dignity.

Partying for a cause.

Partying for a cause.

Let’s party

PGA Tour Pro - Fred Funk and our friend JT Townsend

In twenty-seven years of marriage Tom and I have thrown a lot of parties. All types of parties.  From intimate parties, and  open houses to 250 person events with bands and bartenders.  In fact, we recently renovated our home to accommodate larger parties. We personally own party necessities:  tables, chairs, chafing dishes, two-150 cup coffee urns.  I have a bin that contains a roll of raffle tickets, wrist bands, orange colored plastic by the roll, industrial stapler, clip boards, money boxes, yellow CAUTION tape and a flash light. We come from a family of partiers. My Sister-in-Law Cathy has a “Box-o-Fun” that contains a cow bell, castanets, tambourine, maracas and finger cymbals. We have the party thing down.

We usually do not have any trouble finding people to attend our parties.  Some of the parties are annual events that our friends and family look forward to.  They have even become tradition.  If you attend our annual Christmas Eve Open House you will undoubtedly find yourself in a photo taken from the balcony of all who are still standing at around 11PM. That is about an hour after the karaoke machine has cranked out “She’s a Brick House”.  We have a contact list on our computer named  “Party Regulars.  I can quickly compose an e-vite and one simple touch of the enter key equals instant party.

Some of our other annual parties like TPC were so well attended, we had to stop throwing them for a year or two.  In 1993 as we were building our house Pro Golfer Fred Funk was also building his house two lots down.  We became fast friends.  When the TPC Players Championship rolled around in March of the next year we thought it would be fun to form a fan club of neighbors to follow Freddie.  Fred and Sharon, Tom and I sat around our pool one day and came up with the name “Funk’s Punks”.  We thought it would be cool to wear brightly colored shirts supporting Fred on the Stadium course.   The next year the first tent went up.  The third year  local TV sports show was broadcast from our back yard.  We changed our golf shirts to neon tangelo and had a logo designed.  In print we were compared to “Arnie’s Army”. Digitally printed larger than life-sized banners of Fred Funk and his Punk’s were strung from the trees and tents. Attendees pitched in a nominal amount to cover the cost of food, drink and entertainment. We had crashers every year.  It became so large, we lost control. After Fred won The Players in 2005 we decided to move our party to a larger venue and use his celebrity to raise money for JT and other causes.

The entertainment has also evolved over the years. It started out as a dance party with outdoor speakers blaring, featuring neighborhood children.  Most were around ten or eleven.  They would shake, boogie and macarena from the back of the pool deck as the parents prayed they would not slip into the pool. Not so much for getting wet or drowning, more about having their tiny egos bruised. Next we hired a DJ, then a pop/country singer Rick Steele, then a five person stage group “Diggin in Dreamland”..and most recently  “Pro Bono”.  We cannot leave out our friend Mike Parrotta when speaking of entertainment. Mike could best be described as a wedding-singer. He gets the party going.  He has taken the arm dance to new levels.  I believe you can find his pod-cast on ITunes AND U-Tube.  Just search “Sweet Caroline  ba ba ba…..”.

For the past four years we have turned our party FUN into FUND raising.  When Fred Funk introduced us to JT Townsend, Tommy and I were moved. JT’s needs were significant due to a near fatal spinal cord injury he suffered on the football field his senior year (2004) at Episcopal High School. We know our friends have hearts as big as OHIO and would certainly help us.  So, we reinvented our party. This time we opened it to the public, sold tickets and added an auction.  The annual Funk’s Punks for JT party has helped us to provide a new wheel chair and bed for JT and cash donations to Wound Warrior Project.  We have raised over $200,000 in just five years. JT and his family are now part of OUR family.  All of us and the sponsors who donate food, time and much more, receive just as much as they give in blessings just by being involved.

Tonight we are throwing a party for 250 at the local sports bar for Wounded Warrior Project. Several warriors will be on hand to place wrist bands on the party-goers as they enter the door for a private event.  We have an auction company that will provide amazing sports memorabilia. This could raise some serious cash for the cause.  These young men and women have given more than anyone can imagine for OUR freedom. Now they need our help.

Pro Bono will provide entertainment.  This band of businessmen play for only four or five events a year for local charities. They charge nothing for their gig…thus the name. This eclectic band has developed  a huge following.  They are amazingly talented and hard working, playing non-stop for up to five hours per evening.  Oh and they will probably be joined by our friend Mike Parraotta who will get us on our feet.  Talk about having huge hearts!

Most people holding an event of this size would be a bit rattled the morning of.  But, here I sit, blogging while I have my coffee.  As I said, we have this party thing down.

Bucket List-OPRAH-check

Bucket List-OPRAH-check

Last week I was able to check a generally unachievable item off my personal bucket list.  Five of my friends and myself were VIP guests of the Oprah Winfrey Show two days in a row!  Yes, I said two days consecutively. This gift came from two of the most important people in my life, my husband and my best friend.

My awesome husband never fails to amaze me.  He takes note of the tiniest comment I drop in conversation.  I believe he files these comments in the back of his mind in a drawer called “Gifts for Judi”.  Then, when I least expect it the surprise is unveiled.  And, always presented in the most dramatic way, like four tickets to the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Lisa moved into her house just a few houses down the street Fourth of July weekend fifteen years ago.  The air conditioning unit was not working yet, so she and husband Barry and their two children slept at our house.  We have been friends ever since.  We have weathered illness, death of close family members and career changes. There were many tears of joy, and some from sorrow, shared over raising our children.  The gifts over the years have been many, but none so memorable as the gift of sharing the same air with the single most influential woman on earth, Oprah Winfrey.

Lisa is a Marketing Executive with a big corporation that does business with a PR firm out of Chicago.  The firm asked Lisa what she would like for a Christmas present.  She replied, “Well, besides tickets to Oprah….”. Sure enough, they were able to hook four tickets.  She called me screaming into the phone….”We are going to Oprah!!!”

With several big trips solid on the Zitiello 2010 calendar as well as a wedding of our daughter in the fall, I felt it necessary to run this by my sweet husband.  I felt confident he would say yes. (We always ask as a show of respect to each other and I can’t recall a time either of us has refused a girl or guy trip blessing.)  His response was the next bolt from the blue.  “Wow, in the background I have been trying to get you tickets and have an email on my computer asking when and how many!”

We both had scored four tickets: four for Thursday and four for Friday.  Next, we tracked down cheap airfare to Chicago plus a sweet deal on a suite at the Ritz Carlton.  Now we had to try to decide with whom we would share our good fortune.

Our first reaction was to include our daughters.  Both Lindsay and Kylie are college grads with about a year on the job with their first employers.  Since Lindsay is slated for two weeks off for her wedding and some family obligations, she could not take time off.  Kylie was in.  The next few days were difficult as we presented our plans and finally completed our guest list knowing we had left some close friends and relatives seriously disappointed. Michele, Rae, Marcie, Kylie made up the extras, and of course Lisa and I would go BOTH days.

Five ladies in a hotel room was a laugh in itself.  It actually worked out pretty well since Kylie was not opposed to sleeping on the floor.  We agreed on shower and bathroom time to get ready. The real problem was a green showerhead and a slow flushing toilet. The hotel plumber can be viewed on U-Tube/Facebook with a six-foot commercial auger, and a great big smile as he reamed out the bowl around the third day surrounded by women laughing hysterically.  Once we verified who shared the top two floors of our hotel as their personal condo, we were thrilled to know we slept under the same roof with Oprah and Stedman. The choice of hotel was perfect.

The dynamics for the two shows could not have been more opposite.  Thursday ‘s theme “Reunions” guest starred the guy from the show “The Locator” and reunited people who have become estranged.  It was very emotional and imtimate.

After the show, Oprah kicked off her five-inch Manolo Blahniks’, pulled her feet up under her and began to talk to the audience as if she were sitting in our front rooms. She was genuine, warm and cozy.  She took questions from the audience and even a picture with some of the guests.  After about 20 minutes or so she told us she had to go to her next job, recording Oprah Radio.  Just as she was rising to head offstage, our friend Michele yelled ”OPRAH.” She turned and started walking toward us.  “Yes?” she said.  “You have no idea what it has meant today for my two friends here to come to your show and see you.  Could you give them a hug or something?”  “Sure” she replied as she took Lisa’s hand helping her on the stage and hugging her closely. “Mmm you smell good, what is that?”  “Coco Channel” Lisa said coyly as Oprah extended her hand to me and also helped me up to the stage.  She hugged me for a full minute it seemed. We nervously discussed my recent birthday party and the Oprah inspired gratitude box the girls had given me. Then she asked if we would like a picture as she took me by the hand leading us to the center stage where her professional photographer was setting up the shot.  She leaned her head close to mine as the picture was snapped holding Michele, Lisa and Kylie close.  It was surreal. Then it was over and she left the stage.  We floated out of the studio wondering if what we had just experienced was a dream.

Friday the show was upbeat and positive.  As the MVP of the Saints entered thru the tunnel Lisa and I were the first of the audience to slap him a high five!!!  Drew Brees, his darling wife and baby shared his Superbowl win.  We previewed part of the Haitian Relief video Lionel Ritchie produced.  The piano appeared and Lionel sang a mix of favorites.  Oprah was wonderful and warm as she spoke to the audience during each commercial break.  But, there was no after show.  She exited the stage soon after the live show yet we were still blown away by the experience.

Being in the presence of one of the most influential women on the planet was surreal and will undoubtedly remain a highlight of my life. And, I do have something to gaze upon if I ever wonder if it really did happen…a framed 5×7 of the four of us with Oprah her arm around me and tilting her head close to mine.

Thank you Tommy and Lisa!