Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Geedas Chronicles: For boy little things mean a lot

Geedas Chronicles: For boy little things mean a lot

For boy little things mean a lot

Joey Motze has spent a lot of time in hospitals.

That's why he cherishes the little things in life.

He embraces the simple pleasures, like going to church and school and not feeling sick all the time and having the energy to do the things kids his age do.

The Mount Penn boy was born with a disease that destroyed his kidneys when he was just a baby.

The 12-year-old sixth-grader at Antietam Middle School had a kidney transplanted from his mother, Jeanie, when he was 3 years old.

"That kidney lasted nine years," Jeanie said.

When it failed, Joey's dad, Michael, donated one of his kidneys in September.

Late last month, Joey's doctors at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia cleared him to go to church.

It might not sound like much, but the immune systems of transplant recipients are deliberately weakened to lessen the likelihood that they will reject their new organ.

Last week, Joey was cleared to go back to school.

"They hung a banner up in school that said 'Welcome Back Joey,' " he said.

Jeanie said the school district has been fantastic. When he was home recovering, Joey's teachers came out to the house a few times a week to make sure he stayed on task and kept up with his classmates. On Halloween, some district officials put on costumes and visited Joey at home.

Joey's sister, Danielle, 22, has been a huge help too.

Joey said he likes learning at home because it is quieter and he has more time to watch his favorite television shows. He misses going to school because it's easier to keep up and he likes being with classmates and friends.

Spending a lot of time in the hospital has been kind of tough, but he said he also enjoys going down to CHOP, which is what the Motzes call the children's hospital, because the staff there takes such good care of him.

Joey said he doesn't make New Year's resolutions and has learned to take life one day at a time.

"I'm in pretty good health now," he said.

He hasn't been outside much lately.

"It's too cold," he said. But when he does go outside, he likes to ride his mountain bike and shoot hoops.

Joey still has to go to CHOP once a week for blood work and other tests to see if his body is accepting his new kidney.

That's why he cherishes the little things in life.

Friday, November 19, 2010

When texting gets out of hand

In the hours before the Penn Street stabbing, Oct. 2 had been a slow day on the police desk at the Reading Eagle.
I was going through my e-mail when I came across a press release announcing the Pennsylvania Turnpike is now the first text-free tollway in the nation.
Statistics show that since Jan. 1, 2009, there have been 213 distracted-driver accidents on the turnpike.
I remember thinking how much texting has become a part of the social fabric. I often text my kids before I call them to make sure they’re not in class or working. Calling without warning is considered rude by some.
Around 11 a.m., the scanners crackled out a report of a stabbing in the 400 block of Penn Street.
When I got there I saw Christina Espinoza, blood streaming down her face, telling police that her boyfriend, Hector Leonel Pinto Catalan, 34, had just stabbed her in the forehead with a kitchen knife. Hector fled but was arrested later and charged with aggravated assault.
I had a camera with me and took a few pictures.
In one photo, as police, firefighters and paramedics tended to Christina, she appears to be texting someone on her cell phone.
“Now, that’s efficient,” I thought.
Anyway, ever since that day I had been wondering what important message required her immediate attention. After all, she just got stabbed in the head, right?

I ran into Christina on Oct. 15 in Reading Central Court, where she was waiting to testify at Hector’s hearing. I asked her who she was texting.
Christina said she actually had just received a text from Hector.
“He was asking me why I called the police on him,” she said.
Christina told me Hector didn’t stab her. She said they were wrestling over a kitchen knife when he let go suddenly, causing her to stab herself in the head. She said she wasn’t going to testify against Hector.
Assistant District Attorney David Golberg said that without Christina’s testimony, the charges were dismissed.
“This stuff happens all the time in domestic violence cases,” Golberg said.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Jello Pudding Packs and other senior moments

One reason my parents have lived as long as they have in relatively good health is my mother's wonderful sense of humor.

Take for example, the case of the missing pudding pack.

One day, Mom was doing a load of wash, when something went awry.

Ever since they moved into a rancher in a 55-and-older community in Montgomeryville, Mom and Dad have been cramped for space. They used to have a three-story twin home in Norristown where I grew up, and they had a house in the Poconos until a few years ago.

Anyway, there are always things other than clothes and laundry detergent on top of the dryer. Diet sodas, canned goods, and various and sundry other items she can't find a place for in the kitchen cabinets reside there temporarily.

On this occasion, as Mom stuffed a load of colors into the washer, a Jell-O pudding pack got swept in with the clothes.

The pudding packs survived the wash cycle, but when Mom put the clothes in the dryer, she and Dad got their first clue something was amiss.

"It smelled like I was baking a cake," Mom said, unable to stifle her laughter.

All that tumbling around in the hot dryer proved too much for the pudding packs and they began releasing their chocolatey goodness, coating the damp clothes like some ill-conceived fabric softener.

It took a few minutes for Mom to figure out what had happened.

Dad stood behind her, wondering aloud if she wasn't having an episode of some sort.

"Why did you put pudding in the dryer?" Dad asked incredulously.

"I didn't do it on purpose, you dope," Mom responded, equally nonplussed.

Back in Norristown, the laundry room was in the basement. God only knows how many similar incidents occurred when the laundry was something Mom did away from prying male eyes in between her full-time job as a key punch operator at Bell Telephone and making dinner.

Mom preferred it that way and, truth be told, Dad and I also liked it when the laundry was squarely Mom's province. Now, with everything on one floor, foreign objects in the laundry are more easily detected by otherwise oblivious males.

To her credit, Mom rarely treated us like laundry morons except the time she accidentally splashed bleach on my favorite golf shirt.

When I complained about the white blotches on the shirt, Mom showed her true colors.

"Here," she said. "Let me rinse that out."

Profiles in Courage: Battle of the Paymaster's Shed

He doesn’t talk about it much, but my father, Dan Kelly Sr., was one of the heroes of the Battle of the Paymaster’s Shed.
The little known skirmish took place at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1952.
Until then, Dad spent most of his time on the streets of West Philadelphia, hanging out on 53rd Street, combing his hair and smoking Lucky Strikes.
This did not please my grandparents, Eugene and Rosalie Kelly.
One night grandpop and Uncle Jack, a sergeant and Marine recruiter, invited my dad out for a few beers.
Early the next morning dad woke up on a bus to Parris Island, S.C.
Dad was only 17, so even though most of his Marine Corps training class went to Korea, he was detailed to the navy yard.
Marines were working security details. They got to go into the city and carouse on leave.
Their biggest concern was making it back to their rack before the shore patrol got them.
Then one morning a bugler sounded general quarters.
Turns out someone misplaced the key to the paymaster’s shed, rumors abounded, and the longshoremen and pipefitters started rioting.
The paymasters shed was located on a macadem strip about 50 yards wide between huge warehouse-like buildings where all the work was done.
I can see this nervous bean-counter pulling on the door knob of the shed as the angry workers approached.
Dad said he’d never seen so many angry men (not his words), all armed with lug wrenches and pry bars.
The Marines, all new recruits, and their green lieutenant marched past the paymaster’s shed toward the angry men. The men kept coming.
The lieutenant ordered the Marines to form a V. Still the men kept coming.
“I was pretty scared,” dad said. “There were only about 30 of us and there were hundreds of them.”
When the longshoremen were about 20 yards away the young lieutenant raised his saber and shouted one final order: “Fix bayonets!”
“They parted like the Red Sea,” dad said.
There were no injuries. The lieutenant kicked in the paymaster’s door and the workers were paid. But the event lives on in Marine Corps. and Kelly family history.
He doesn’t talk about it much, but there’s a flag hanging on our front porch 365 days a year and on Veteran’s Day he’s one of the first to arrive for the flag raising by the Neshaminy Falls Veterans Association.

Bulletin: Kate Gosselin is actually a nice person

Carol Wells and her Wyomissing neighbor Lillian Landau got together every Monday night to watch “Dancing with the Stars.”
So they were thrilled when Lillian’s son, Duane Landau of Wernersville, won four VIP tickets for the show in a raffle for the Lancaster Country Day School.
Duane offered the tickets to Lillian and Lillian invited Carol to go with her to Los Angeles and be backstage for two days of filming for the season finale.
“It was very cool,” said Wells, owner of Sweet Surprises, 544 Penn Ave., West Reading.
Carol, Lillian and two of Lillian’s granddaughters, Christine Landau of Sinking Spring, and Elise Landau of Wernersville, flew to Los Angeles on May 23.
They were given a front-row look at the show and went backstage to watch the dancers prepare.
“We had VIP passes, so we got to see the stars coming out of their trailers,” Carol said.
Carol said Kate Gosselin had donated the four tickets to the school, where Lillian’s granddaughters attended.
“Kate Gosselin was so warm,” Carol said. “She was very nice and went out of her way to introduce us to everyone.”
Carol said she was also surprised by how friendly all the stars and dancers were.
But the show was only half the fun, she said.
“We stayed at the Beverly Hills Hilton and Queen Latifah was there filming a commercial,” Carol said. “It was great.”
Three days later the girls took a bus trip to Santa Monica.
On the bus, Carol met Christopher Hansen of Germany, who was on vacation in California and was leaving in a week to visit family in Pennsylvania.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “He said he had family in Allentown, Lancaster and Stevens.”
Hansen, through an e-mail, said he was sitting in the back of the bus on his way to Venice Beach when Carol, Lillian, Elise and Christine boarded.
“I asked them if they knew where I should get off for Venice Beach and they said they weren’t locals,” Hansen said. “It was pretty cool to be in L.A. and meet people who are living about 4,000 kilometers away and then they are ‘neighbors’ of my family.”
Minutes later, a second bus passenger, a college-aged man named Chris Reuling, said he overheard them all talking about Lancaster, and Reuling asked Carol if they were talking about Lancaster, Calif., or Lancaster, Pa.
“When I said ‘Pennsylvania,’ he said his name was Chris, and he was from Strausstown and went to college in California,” Carol said. “It was like this small circle of people from Pennsylvania meeting on a bus in California.”
Carol said Christine and the two Chrises were all Facebook friends before they got off the bus.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gosselin: CIA stole my babies

Being in the communications business, I find it troubling that we can't work together to come up with a cohesive, cogent strategy for gathering intelligence and delivering our message to the rest of the world.

I'm speaking of The New York Times story about the CIA tattling on a Defense Department official for using private contractors in an intelligence gathering operation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. CIA's reason: "That's our job."

Then The Washington Post reported that computer experts at the Defense Department had shut down a CIA Web site that was spying on insurgents.

In response, Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week ordered Pentagon officials to find out if there were problems in our so-called information operations. Months earlier Gates announced he was trying to get a handle on who was spying on whom and how much it was costing.

Some say our information operations - getting good data to allies and spreading disinformation to enemies - have been a shambles since 1999 when the U.S. Information Agency was disbanded in a cost-cutting move, a "peace dividend."

Big mistake.

One could argue the insurgents and terrorists do a better job of public relations and disinformation than we do, despite the millions and possibly billions being spent across several agencies.

Like Dr. Doolittle's pushmi-pullyu - the llama with a head on each end of its body - anytime you have two or more bureaucracies doing the same job you're begging for inefficiency, confusion and failure.

In 2005, President George W. Bush and Congress created the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to fade the heat focused on the intelligence community after Sept. 11, 2001, and the weapons of mass destruction fiasco.

Patrick C. Neary, deputy director of the relatively new agency, in an analysis of the current state of our global information operations, wrote: "The American people should know that the quiet they sense is not the peace of security assured by the best intelligence, but the deadly silence of the graveyard we are collectively whistling by."

That's pretty effective communication.

I just don't like the message.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Living in the land of the lost

Always eager to perform an act of public service, when I read in Monday's Reading Eagle that Berks County Controller Sandy Graffius was having trouble locating people the county owed money to, I sprang into action.

It didn't take long to locate a missing person.

Marie Ketty Antoine, 326 N. Fifth St., is the first name on the controller's list.

I checked court records and found that Antoine has more than 70 different citations for code violations and parking tickets dating back to 2002.

I asked District Judge Wally Scott if he recalled Antoine, and he said he had.

"Sure, I know her," Scott said. "She was in here last week. She's a very nice lady."

Scott said Antoine was in his court for a city codes hearing and that she has another hearing in his court on March 3.

"If the controller wants to come here on March 3, she can give money to Mrs. Antoine then," Scott said.

Other individuals and entities on the controller's list of the elusive include the Ott Funeral Home of Boyertown, the Neversink Fire Company and City Councilwoman Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz.

The biggest puzzler on the controller's list of the lost was the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The only address the controller has for the Commonwealth is Harrisburg, PA 17120. I did a Google map search, but it dead-ended at the state Capitol.

Next, I located the Rev. John C. Studenroth, former pastor of the Kutztown Bible Fellowship Church, on his cell phone.

I asked Studenroth what country he was in.

"I'm retired, but I'm still right here on Main Street in Kutztown," Studenroth said. "I'm in the phone book."

Not everyone was as easy to find. Sue Ann Sterner's is the last name on the controller's memo on the missing. Actually it's retired Reading Constable Sue Ann Sterner. Up until Dec. 31, she was getting paid by the controller's office.

"My gosh, I can't imagine them not being able to find me," she said.

If the controller still can't find Sterner, here's a hint. She's the wife of City Councilman Dennis Sterner.

He can be found at City Hall on Monday nights around 5 p.m.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My father looked out the front window of our house in Delanco, N.J., and sighed.

There I was pushing my sister's baby carriage through the puddle at the end of our driveway. Over and over again, laughing hysterically.

"At least he has his boots on," my mother consoled. "He'll grow out of it."

Over the years I grew out of nearly everything, except the thing my father feared most.

In sixth grade Sister Helen Ann, tired of tardiness, ordered the class to write a theme entitled: "Punctuality: the Etiquette of Kings."

My friend Jimmy Cooley and I each penned papers feigning ignorance and wondering how having good punctuation had anything to do with being a king.

After that incident I got an F in Helen Ann's art class for continuously making a mockery of her assignments.

Dad had no choice but to shave my head.

When it came time to go to college, even though I had aced accounting classes in high school, I insisted on becoming an English major.

Dad knew he was losing control of his only boy.

"Where did I go wrong?" he thought. "I knew I shouldn't have worked night shift all those years."

Actually, even though dad and I didn't see much of each other during the week, he had an indelible impact on my life by way of the Bernie Herman Movie on Channel 48.

Every day I'd race home from school, drop my book bag on the floor, and Dad would be sitting down with a giant bowl of oyster stew. He'd toss me a couple of those dense oyster crackers and start explaining the day's movie to me.

"This may be one of the greatest movies ever made," he would invariably begin.

His all-time favorite was "Gunga Din" featuring Victor McLaglen, Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

"Though I've belted you and flayed you, by the livin' Gawd that made you, you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!" Rudyard Kipling wrote in his famous poem by the same name.

Despite all his efforts, when I moved to Berks County in February 1995, and joined the Reading Eagle staff, I also made a trip to the courthouse.

It was there that I was true to myself and registered independent.