January 28, 2010

Derry WWII hero finally feted by France

WWII hero Staff Sgt. Walter Borowski, at home in Derry

DERRY – When Walter Borowski receives the French Medal of Honor next week, he will dedicate it to the memory of all of those who did not survive the horrors of World War II. He will accept it humbly, on behalf of his older brother, Jerry, a paratrooper who flew in on D-Day ahead of Borowski and was killed in combat the next day.
     Borowski will receive the ribbon of honor as one of the last surviving Army Rangers who landed by sea on June 6, 1944, wading to shore and scaling the impossible cliffs at Pointe du Hoc in drenching rain under a relentless hail of German machine gun and canon fire.
     Their motto, “Rangers lead the way,” was more like a sworn duty. Only the strongest and bravest of soldiers made it through the rigorous training to become a Ranger; Borowski emerged from the elite pack as a true leader – mind, body and spirit.
      Today, his body is frail. But his mind is sharp and his spirit is stronger than ever.
     “Maybe I'm the last of the surviving Rangers -- I don't know,” said Borowski, who celebrated his 90th birthday on January 5. “All I know is I was one of the first ones over the cliffs that day. We spent the next six days in hell. After the war – after I lost my brother and saw all the bad things in this world, the camps where thousands upon thousands of human bodies were bulldozed – I had enough. I just wanted to come home.”
     For his service to his country, Borowski earned Bronze and Silver stars, a Good Conduct Medal, European/African/Middle Eastern Service Medal, a Presidential Citation and three Purple Hearts. Next Thursday, the French Consul General will belatedly award him the Medal of Honor, France's most coveted honor.
     He says the medals are nice to look at, but he didn't do what he did for the recognition. He did it because it was part of his journey, something he was meant to do, simply because he could.
     Borowski was born in Derry to Polish               immigrants,  one of a dozen kids and the first in his family to graduate high school. He was the son of a factory worker who farmed for survival; Borowski quickly learned the meaning of hard work and family pride. A kid who came straight from the heart of New Hampshire, stubborn as he was strong, who grew up playing hard, even in the coldest of winters, and never backed down from a challenge – or a fight.
     He enlisted in the service, expecting to join his brother as an Army paratrooper, but instead found his way to the Rangers, where he excelled.
     “I remember saying back then, that if I ever did make it back to Derry, I would get a few acres, build a house, find a wife, have some kids and live the rest of my life here. All my dreams came true,” said Borowski, looking out across his property on a recent sunny winter afternoon, outside to enjoy the warm sun as it filtering down through the trees on his Madden Road lot.
     His kidneys have recently failed him, but he's not one to give up so easily. He shares a home with his son, who takes him to his regular doctor appointments and dialysis three days a week. Although wheelchair bound, Borowski said he continues to farm every year.
     “I crawl out there on my belly, are you kidding? Nothing can stop me,” he said, flexing both his arms in a strong man pose.
     Like most veterans of WWII, Borowski lived out his post-war life without much recognition of his service to his country. Only through documented research by town historian Rick Holmes did Borowski's tour with the Army Rangers come to light.
     He dedicated a chapter to Borowski in his 2007 historic tome, “Nutfield Rambles,” detailing Borowski's life and, in particular, his heroics. And then he put the word out, contacting Adele Baker, Honorary Consul to France for New Hampshire.
     “Rick told me if anyone deserves the Legion of Honor, it's Walter. He asked me to talk to the consulate in Boston, and so we did. Normally, this is done in Paris, but due to Walter's medical condition, they are bringing the ceremony to him,” Baker said.
     Boston's French Consul General, Christophe Guilhou, will do the honors Feb. 4 at 3 p.m. at the Derry Municipal Complex.
     “Talk about being scared back in Normandy, I'm more nervous about this whole award ceremony, but I will be there, come hell or high water,” Borowski said. “It's been a bad year. I've been in excruciating pain with my kidney problem. You know, they gave me last rites. They thought I was all done in October, but I'm still here.”
     As much as he likes to recall his glory days, Borowski likes to share the greatest lesson life has taught him, with whoever will listen.
     “No matter where you go on this planet, people are people and they are just as human as we are. Don't try to change anyone's nationality just because of the way they pray or the way they walk. People are good, all in all, and I feel I could get along with anybody. I don't have an enemy in the world, and why should I? I don't hate anyone because of color or race,” Borowski said.
     “Most of all, just stand up and be proud of who you are in this life. Do the best you can. That's all you can do. God knows what's in your heart.”

January 27, 2010

Dining in the Dark@Pinkerton Tavern

Union Leader Correspondent

DERRY – Dining in the dark is more than a culinary experience; it's a sociological experiment that reveals just how much we think – and react – based on what we can see.
That much was obvious to Dave Spirdione, who was trying to decipher his entree while blindfolded during a recent Dining in the Dark experience at the Pinkerton Tavern.
Halfway through the seared diver scallop with egg nog sauce, Spirdione had a revelation.
“Are my eyes getting in the way of enjoying a lot of things in life?” he asked, his rhetorical question resonating with the other diners seated nearby.
In some ways, I would say yes,” replied Elizabeth Hayward of Derry, seated across from Spirdione.
Spirdione had just gotten a whiff of the wine placed by his waiter at 12 o'clock on a clock-themed place mat. “Oh, it's red. I don't like red wine.”
He changed his mind after a second sip.
There are a lot of flavors here. Let me try to explain the taste. There is a berry taste in there. Strawberry? You know, I have been judging wine by its color. I need to try a little harder, because you know, I'm totally overwhelmed by this. I am liking red wine.”
Meanwhile, Spirdione's fiancee, Kim Hodnett, was trying to describe the flavors going on inside her own mouth.
“It's like butterscotch with whipped cream,” she said. “You know, I have already realized that I would never want to lose my sense of sight. Ever. This is a little frustrating, not to be able to see what you're eating.”
Tavern proprietor Guy Streitburger and his wife, Jen Lutzen, didn't mean to frustrate anyone. But given his penchant for experimental cooking, Streitburger was instantly drawn to the idea of dark dining. He said he'd read something about the European dining phenomenon, gaining international momentum and even inspiring restaurants here in the U.S. specializing solely in blindfolded dining experiences.
After doing some research, Streitburger and Lutzen thought it would be fun to put their own spin on the fad, which originated more than a decade ago in Zurich.
The concept of blindekuh – or “blind cow,” the German name for the game “Blind Man's Bluff,” was developed by a blind clergyman and a partially sighted psychologist who thought up the concept as a way to raise awareness – and understanding – among the sighted community for the challenges faced by the blind.
At the same time, they developed a business plan for a restaurant where diners eat in darkness to heighten their other senses. Servers are all blind or partially blind. From that concept, Blind-Liecht Foundation was launched to channel profits made from the restaurant toward projects that benefit the blind community.
That particular angle is what attracted Maribeth and Scott Geraghty of Londonderry to the Pinkerton's Dark Dining experience. Their 8-year-old daughter, Gabey, is blind.
After dinner was over, they talked about their take on eating in the dark.
“It reinforces to me not to be judgmental,” said Maribeth. Beyond her taste in foods based on the familiar, she learned that conversing at the dinner table with strangers seemed much easier, socially, without being able to see. Her husband agreed.
“Yes, I think if I were blind, I'd be able to communicate without judging anyone. Sometimes we're put off because of the way someone looks, or our perception of how they see us,” said her husband.
They had invited their daughter's teacher, Sandi Brown, who was seated next to Susan Sherry, a mobility instructor with the New Hampshire Association for the Blind, who works with Brown.
“I learned a lot,” said Brown. “Now I can appreciate more of what Gabey is doing and how she's doing it in school. I am exhausted just from eating a meal. I actually gave up on some of the dishes. Without being able to see what it was or how to approach it, it felt too much like work, and I quit.”
Sherry said the experience confirmed what she already knew.
“It's hard to be blind living in a sighted world. You need to be able to be independent, and it takes a degree of feistiness to be independent,” Sherry said.
Hayward and Hodnett said they felt being blind held them back from their normal social behaviors. Without visual cues – knowing whether you have someone's attention during a conversation, or whether you are eating too fast or too slow compared to others – it was harder to settle in.
Spirdione had an opposite experience.
“I felt more relaxed while blindfolded, more secure,” he said.
Cassie Brothers was seated in the next dining room with her husband, Rick, and six others they hadn't met prior to the meal. After dinner, they also considered how eating blindly affected their overall experience.
“I think when you know what you're eating, you like it better,” said Brothers. “Even if you are blind, normally you will know what you're eating. You aren't just served mystery food and expected to eat it without knowing.”
Karen Pouliot, of Derry, had the opposite experience.
“For me, that's why this is so much fun. I think you have to be a little adventurous to enjoy dining in the dark. But when the food comes out, you smell it and touch it, you aren't quite sure what you're tasting, but especially at a place like this, you know whatever it is, it's going to be good,” Pouliot said.
As the dessert plates were cleared, the waitstaff distributed menus to everyone, so they could see what it was they had actually eaten. The thick sweet-and-sour soup was carrot puree with a seaweed salad and monk fish meatballs. What many diners guessed to be pigs in a blanket was actually duck sausage in puff pastry with apple smoked bacon and mango raspberry glaze.
Also on the menu: scallops with steamed purple cauliflower, veal cutlet bundled with asparagus, smoked ham and manchego cheese, pan fried potato crisps, and a white chocolate mousse served in a chocolate dome with raspberry jam.
“We were going to have photos of all the dishes on display afterward, but then we thought it would be better to leave the presentation to the diners' imaginations,” said Lutzen.
Spirdione was already asking about the next Dark Dining event at the tavern, scheduled for February 24. Seats are still available, Lutzen told him.
“I came here thinking it would be fun, maybe a little exciting. But I never thought I'd get a lot smarter in the process,” Spirdione said. “I think sitting with a couple who have a blind daughter helped me to think differently about my own experience. It was so much more than I expected.”
The next Dining in the Dark experience is Feb. 24. Tickets are $50 per person, and include a five-course meal, wine and a blindfold. To reserve a spot call 435-6665 or go to www.thepinkertontavern.com for more information.

Pinkerton Tavern on Collision Course with Route 28 Widening Plan

 Pinkerton Tavern owners Guy Streitburger and Jen Lutzen

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Guy Streitburger feels like the town has led him down a path to nowhere. A plan to widen Route 28 to five lanes will slice through the Pinkerton Tavern, which he and his wife, Jen Lutzen, have been operating for eight years.
     Three years ago, that same development plan was presented quite differently, he says.
     “There were options on the table. They were talking about moving the building. Maybe pushing it back 10 feet into the wetlands. It would have meant shutting down business for a couple of months, but nobody was talking about bulldozing the place,” Streitburger said.
     Times have changed.
     Now, his livlihood is being threatened by progress and the historic Pinkerton Tavern, which he and his wife have built into a successful eatery, may be bought by the town and bulldozed, said Streitburger.
     Word of the impending doom reached the town's Historic Commission, prompting Karen Anderson to appeal to the council at last week's regular meeting. She spoke not only as a member of the board, but as a private citizen.
     “I've come to let you know that this is an important historical structure that needs to be preserved. The Heritage Commissoin would like to explore alternatives to destroying the building,” said Anderson.
     One, she said, would be to move the building out of harm's way. Another would be to find a donor to take on the cost and responsibilty of moving the building, maybe to another town-owned lot, or maybe closer to the historic Frost Farm.
     So far, said town historian Rick Holmes, no formal efforts have been made to continue the conversation that he's aware of .
     “You know, the town hires people to go out and look for more businesses to bring in, and yet, here we are, taking one off the market without looking at all the alternatives. Has the town priced how mucch it would actually cost to move it? Is there money in the revolving fund they've recently created for economic development to keep this business going? What has been explored, other than razing it.?” Holmes said.
     The original widening plan was connected to the construction of a Super Wal-Mart, plans that never materialized. The widening project was shelved. However, with recent approval by the council of the Route 28 TIF District, Public Works Director Mike Fowler has been moving, full steam ahead, to notify land owners along that particular stretch of highway that the plan has been revived and the town needs to buy their real estate. Most of the properties will lose some frontage.
     Pinkerton Tavern poses a unique problem. In order to widen the road in a uniform fashion, the building would have to be moved. As of a few weeks ago, Fowler said the town's legal counsel was offering guidance as to the best way to proceed.
     Fowler said ideally every land owner will enter into a “friendly agreement” with the town. However, the town would consider taking properties by eminent domain, if needed, to keep the project on track for a July construction start.
     Yesterday, Streitburger and Lutzen talked for the first time publicly about their frustration.
     “All we're asking is that they try to work this out with us,” said Streitburger. Although the historic tavern and the property it sits on is owned by Arnold Goldstein, Streitburger and Lutzen run the restaurant.
     They say Goldstein has told them he does not want to sell. He is out of the country for the next few weeks, but told the couple that he left several messages for Fowler before he left town.
     “You know, three years ago this was all a go. So we prepared. We passed up about $30,000 in wedding and catering events because we thought we were going to be relocating the building. Then, the plans changed. We never got a call. We had to read it in the newspaper,” said Streitburger. “We lost all that business.”
     While he is not bitter, the experience left a bad taste in his mouth.
     “Now, they aren't talking about saving the building or the business. I find it difficult to imagine the town council, or the town – or whoever is making the decisions – can treat a good business with loyal customers, one that is generating tax revenue, this way,”Streitburger said.
     He said everything he's heard about turning the current economic tide has to do with promoting and supporting small businesses.
     “Sam's Club just laid off more than 11,000 people. We heard Taco Bell isn't renewing its lease down the road. Quiznos across the street, is gone. Go down to Salem – they have all kinds of vacant box stores. Don't you think any box store thinking of building in Derry might just go down there first? Streitburger said.
     “Don't you think any business thinking of coming to Derry may look at us as an example of how businesses are treated here? I mean, if they are willing to bulldoze a 250 year old building, and put someone with an eight-year track record of success out of business, and leave 25 people unemployed, what does that say about doing business in Derry? At what cost for the future do you do business here?” Streitburger said.
     He also believes moving the building would also save taxpayers money, but so far, the council hasn't taken a look at all the options, Streitburger said.
     “We love the town of Derry. We just aren't willing to throw eight years of hard work away, not without a fight,” he said.
     Holmes sympathizes with Streitburger and Lutzen for what they stand to lose, should the town decide to take the property and raze the building.
     But he is also quite aware of what the town stands to lose, should the tavern be torn down.
     “That building was out town's first general store. It's probably the finest Georgian-style building in town. Plans for Route 28, and the Pinkerton Academy were born there. It can be saved. It should be saved,” said Holmes.

January 25, 2010

Patrick Moulton Takes Boston Prep

From bostonprep3
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – It was the best of times for Patrick Moulton, who ran away with yesterday's Boston Prep 16-Miler, clocking in at 1:25:56.

     Despite his best efforts, he wasn't able to beat the course record of 1:25:07, set in 2005 by his twin brother Casey.

     “He's not here today,” said Sandy Moulton of “the other twin,” Casey. She was waiting near the finish with her husband, Brian, and Patrick's girlfriend, Katie Twarog, to cheer Patrick on to victory.

     “We have no idea how they got to be so fast,” she said. “They started running seriously in seventh or eighth grade. They finished together in their first race, and pretty much it's been like that for them ever since.”

     Still, it was one for the books, yesterday, as Moulton, 28, crossed the finish line two minutes ahead of his closest competitor.

From bostonprep3

     “My strategy? To go hard and run all the way,” said Moulton, a Pelham native, just before the start of the race. A graduate of Providence College, Moulton now resides in Rhode Island. He said he was feeling good yesterday, coming off his recent first place finish in October's ING Hartford Marathon, his second consecutive win in that race. He's training now for the SunTrust National Marathon in Washington, D.C., which he won last year.

     Greater Derry Track Club race director David Breeden said he registered a record number of runners for this year's Boston Prep – 849, including second-place finisher Justin Fyffe, who decided to run only about four hours before the race. He made it to Derry Village Elementary School from Keene for registration with an hour to spare.

     “Yeah, it was kind of spur of the moment. I was planning to take the weekend off, but then my wife said maybe I should go. So I woke up and saw I had a text from David, asking if I was still thinking of running, and here I am,” said Fyffe, who was happy with his time of 1:27:57.

     “It's pretty early in my training cycle, so yeah, I'm feeling good,” said Fyffe, 29, of East Dummerston, Vt., who trains with the Central Mass Striders running club.

     Finishing behind Fyffe in the No. 3 spot was one of his training partners, Andy McCarron, 27, of Keene, who finished in 1:31:04.

     Derry's Boston Prep is known for its challenging terrain, which loomed large in McCarron's mind.

     “I think it was actually worse for me this year, because I knew what was coming,” McCarron said. “I definitely felt tired on the hill.”

     Claire Gadrow, 40, of South Kingstown, R.I. represented for the ladies, with a time of 1:48:47. It was her first time running the Boston Prep – but it won't be her last, she said.

     “It's a hard course, but I will definitely come back. It's a great test for Boston, and you can really get a good sense of your fitness,” Gadrow said.

     Gadrow, who finished 34th, also represented the race's largest demographic – runners over 40, said Breeden. Thirteen of the top 35 finishers were 40 or older.
     “The 40 age group is one of the toughest age groups in the area. They are our strongest competitors, in terms of strength. In fact, I'm happy to be going into the 60-plus age group, because all the 40-year-olds are moving up into the 50-plus group,” Breeden said.

     “They aren't going to beat the Patrick Moultons and Justin Fyffes, but they are the core of this race and were well represented among the top finishers,” Breeden said.

     Breeden has been coordinating the race for 10 years.

     “At the point I took it over, it was losing money. But I instituted some changes every year to make it a little bit better, and now we clear about $10,000 for the club. We've sold out the last four years, and this is the earliest we've ever sold out – a good three weeks before the race,” Breeden said.

     It's hard to know which came first – the chicken or the egg, Breeden said. Are more people running these days because there are more races to be run, or are there more races because so many people are getting into running?

     “I don't know the answer to that, but I do know races in New England are increasing in size. Every year there are new races all over the country – tons of new races. But there's no place like New England,” Breeden said.

      Proceeds from the race support the GDTC's Summer Fun Runs for Kids, which last year saw more than 600 participants and collected more than 1,600 pounds of non-perishable food donations for the local food pantry.

     Breeden said yesterday's clear skies and relatively warm weather contributed to the race's record number of participants.

     “We have fewer than 100 packets that haven't been picked up, so that means we will have well over 700 finishers,” Breeden said. “The weather couldn't have been better, and everything has gone as planned. I've done this so many times now, and I've delegated so much of the responsibility to so many club members, that it really does run itself. And I like it that way.”


January 21, 2010

Hall of High Hopes

Ken Gould reflects on the effort to restore Derry's old town hall.

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Margi Ives can see the future from where she's standing, her arms loaded with construction debris as she stands in the shadow of the old town hall.
     "Now that the East Derry Village Improvement Society owns this, and it abuts all this, people will be able to use not only the hall, but the land as well," she says, arms too full to point toward the 36 acres of conservation land known as Shepard Park, spreading out in all directions behind the Upper Village Hall. 
      Ives was one of about a dozen volunteer laborers who spent Saturday ripping out old wall boards and hauling useless piles of wood to a Dumpster, the first major cleanup effort since the town sold the former town hall to EDVIS for $1. Since then, the top priority has been to get electric and plumbing repaired and up to code, said Paul Dionne.
     "We have a fire inspection Tuesday. We're hoping all goes well because we've applied for an assembly permit. That means once it passes inspection we can start renting out the upstairs," says Dionne, taking a break from the tedious task of prying well-nailed ceiling tiles from a matrix of wooden beams. Dionne says the group is on target so far, making progress with the various cleanup and fix-up projects.  
     "We'd like this to be our money-maker," says Dionne of the basement. "We have an architect, and we're working on what we want it to look like."
     Upstairs plans include a catering kitchen, Dionne says. 
     "We already have people lined up to rent the upstairs space, a dance company and a workout club, some church groups. So we're moving in the right direction," Dionne says.  
     Ginny True and Elizabeth Ives were upstairs undecorating the hall, which had been decked for Christmas.
     "Once spring comes we can start getting more done outside. Right now we're just doing what we can with what we have," True says. She walks into the spacious main room, its dusty wood floor in need of a good waxing, but otherwise in good shape. In the rear you can still see scars on the wall outlining where a stage had once been, something the group would like to replace. True points out the huge propane heater suspended from the ceiling in the front corner, ready to warm things up. It will be nice to revive the town spirit that, for years, circulated throughout the building, she says.
     "It's too nice a building to destroy. Just based on its history alone. It's always been the center of East Derry. We have people stopping by all the time to help, and to give us some great ideas about what to use the building for," says True, looking around the empty space as if visualizing its potential. "We hope to hold some fundraisers soon, and we're looking into some grants. So we're moving up a couple steps of the ladder, but we still have a long climb ahead," True says.  
     On the second floor Ken Gould sips coffee from a Styrofoam cup. The morning sun streams in the window and pours across the room, illuminating the wood grain in the floor boards. He has been marveling at the sturdy molding around the doors.
     "You can just imagine, when they were building this back in the late 1800s, that they wanted to make it a nice building. They used the best wood. The mill work is really beautiful," Gould said. "They weren't building a building. They were building a community." 
      Gould was the one who kept vigil during several town council meetings in the months before the sale, waiting for word on whether the town was going to go forward. After several sessions with the town attorney to work through some of the legalities and fine-tune the language, the hall was sold to the group for a dollar in October.  
     "It was a good feeling to know we got over that hurdle. I'll admit, I am a little nervous about paying the bills. It's one thing to buy a place like this for a dollar; it's another to pay the bills going forward," Gould says. He sips his coffee a few more times and looks comfortable, despite the cold, leaning against the door jamb. His breath hangs visibly in the air as a cloud of vapor each time he exhales.
      "Sure is quite a view, though," he says, peering down from the second-story window before heading back downstairs. Every room is in decent shape, if you overlook the occasional holes or water stained ceiling tiles. Certainly it is rough around the edges -- Saturday's work session left the basement an empty shell, which actually was an improvement.  
     "It's a beautiful day out here, and we are getting a lot accomplished," says Dave McPherson, who was toting a toilet to the Dumpster in a wheelbarrow. "We are always looking for volunteers -- and money. Money is good." 
 Anyone interested in volunteering should contact the group via e-mail at uppervillagehall@comcast.net or by phone at 434-6723.

January 19, 2010

Positively Successful

Cheryl Nordyke and Kim Weirman in their home-based office.

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – If you believe in the power of positive thinking, as Cheryl Nordyke and Kim Weirman do, then you will understand why they are poised for the big splash they are about to make.
     How do they know they are about to make a big splash, you ask?
     At the risk of mixing motivational maven metaphors, when your “A-ha moment” brings you within two degrees of separation from Oprah, it's a good thing.
     Mind you, they haven't met Winfrey – yet. And they aren't specifically featured in February's O Magazine. 
     But as readers page through the current issue, they will see a feature about Connecticut entrepreneur and cancer survivor, Mary Ann Wasil Nilan, whose own inspirational story led to a breast cancer awareness campaign targeting younger girls, which earned her an Oprah Magazine CoverGirl Giving Beautiful Back Award.
     And anyone who visits Nilan's site, www.getintouchfoundation.org, will see the link to Waves of Gratitude, the company founded by Nordyke and Weirman. It's a fledgling business featuring inspirational jewelry and apparel. They have partnered with Nilan, donating a percentage of their sales to her cause.
      Getting to this moment – operating a web-based business focused on giving thanks and giving back – has been a journey they believe has everything to do with following Oprah's lead. It started when Nordyke read  
“The Secret,” a book heavily promoted by Winfrey, that reduces the secrets of the universe down to simplest form, “Ask. Believe. Receive.”
     She continued to learn about manifesting one's desire and choosing positive energy over negative in all situations.
     Three years ago they were co-workers at a software company. As fate would have it, within a short span they became a couple of out-of-work moms who quickly thanked the universe for the chance at reinvention instead of cursing the unemployment gods.
     Three weeks after Weirman lost her job, her husband died.
     “I look at it now as a blessing – we had a great three weeks together, with both of us home,” said Weirman. Her husband had been ill, but it was a managed illness. His sudden death was a shock, leaving her with a broken heart, limited income and insurance benefits and three sons to raise on her own.
     After Nordyke lost her job, it took her a while to realize she hadn't personally failed; rather she had been betrayed by the corporate model of success she had spent her whole career following blindly. To reinforce her epiphany, she had the urge to create a piece of jewelry that would keep her motivated, keeping her focused on the good things in her life, rather than the negative.
     That one idea led the two women to hatch a business plan, selling elegant sterling silver jewelry that could inspire others to maintain that “attitude of gratitude,” even in tough times.
     They connected with established jewelry designer Jessica Fields, whose work is featured in upscale department stores and fashion shoots, resulting in two inspirational designs – Branches of Hope, which represents the strength and resilience of the cypress tree, and Waves of Gratitude, a series of ocean wave designs symbolizing the infinite power of counting one's blessings.
     “Women fail to recognize that beauty and strength that comes from within. Our line is meant to be symbolic of that,” Nordyke said.
     Today, they are banking on the belief that promoting gratitude – and an Oprah connection – will bring them the kind of success they have been visualizing. On paper. Every day.
     “We have a success board,” said Weirman, referring to one of the many tools of the universe they have utilized, advice gained through the network of power of positivity self-help books, like “The Secret,” that amount to a philosophical trend bordering on religion, with Winfrey at the spiritual helm.
     After a promising launch, the women realized there was more to running a Internet-based jewelry business than having a good idea and beautiful product. They spent a year looking far and wide for an investor. Three months ago, an angel investor from right within their inner circle emerged, who was able to boost their bottom line and re-energize their efforts.
     Now they are fearlessly moving forward, their own branches of hope hanging heavy with optimism,
and the rushing waves of gratitude they feel, for all their many blessings, overwhelms them.
     They have also committed to putting their gratitude into words, each of them contributing a blog post a day this year on their Web site. Some begin with inspirational quotes. Others feature photos and personal reflections. All of it is meant to reinforce that they are committed to meeting the everyday challenges of life with positivity, come what may.
     “When I lost my job I was debt free. I had $150,000 in savings and took a vacation every year with my daughter. Now, I have an investor, I haven't earned a paycheck, my 401K is gone, and I don't care,” said Nordyke.
     “What I've gained is beyond measure. I have more time now with my daughter. I am supporting women with cancer. I'm taking something I believe in, and sharing that idea, of strength and hope, of gratitude and giving. It becomes a ripple effect. And to think that we can be a part of that, helping others to have hope, and an attitude of gratitude, is the best feeling in the world,” said Nordyke.

January 12, 2010

Pat Ford's 15 Idol Minutes

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Yesterday was William Hung's 27th birthday. You know. William Hung? The entertaining kid who sang “She Bangs” for his 2004 “American Idol” audition?

     It's past contestants like Hung who continue to bring hope to the uniquely talented, like Pat Ford. You know. Pat Ford? The confident kid from Pinkerton Academy who made his national television debut on Tuesday night's “American Idol” season premiere? The one who called Simon “sassy,” hugged Kara, scored a tentative hangout date with Randy, turned “holla” into an artform and then made “Womanizer” his own?

     Ford is basking in his instant fame. In the past 48 hours, a YouTube clip of his audition has been viewed more than 31,000 times – that's about 10 people per minute. Newly minted Idol judge Ellen Degeneres gave him props the next day at the top of her show. He's gained a pile of new Facebook Friends and his personal site, www.patford.net, is gaining virtual street cred.

     No. He did not get picked to go on to Hollywood. But his star continues to shine. On Wednesday he reprised his audition performance in the school cafeteria.

     “Only this time I didn't dance on the lunch table. Because the last time I did that, I got a Saturday detention,” said Ford.

     “Oh, and I was called to the Head Master's office Wednesday. I wasn't sure why, but I walked into this room and there were all these people sitting around a big table – I guess it was the board of trustees or something. They were curious, so I sang for them,” Ford said. “I think they were entertained.”

     He briefly considered going mainstream earlier this year when he tried out for the school's production of “The Crucible.” He didn't get a call back, which he took as a sign.

     “I'm a solo act. I've been singing and dancing my whole life. Nothing professional. It's just something I enjoy. I just started singing and dancing in my classes at school last year and realized how much I liked performing and being the center of attention. Now, that's pretty much what I do,” Ford said.

     It beats academics, which has never been his passion.
     As for his “American Idol” experience, it was everything he thought it would be.
     “Seeing myself on television was exciting. I mean, I knew for months I was going to be featured, but I had no idea how they'd make me look. Overall, I'm happy with how they portrayed me. They made me seem fun and exciting and easygoing, which is who I am,” Ford said.
     His post-graduation plans are not firmed up yet, but his dream is to make it big in entertainment. That's what motivated him to gather up his posse of family and friends and head to Boston for last summer's Idol auditions. “I had to take a shot,” he said.
     Looking back now, he said he figured there was only a slim chance he'd make it to Hollywood.
     “I know I don't have the best voice in the world, but between my singing and dancing and my overall persona, I figured maybe I'd add some entertainment value to the show,” Ford said. “You know, like William Hung.”

January 10, 2010

Pinkerton Hoops Clinic to benefits Candace Moore

From twins
Union Leader Correspondent

DERRY -- Friday was a good day for Candace Moore. After watching her Hood Huskies trample the West Running Brook Bears on the basketball court, Candace feasted on victory Sour Patch Kids and Swedish Fish with her teammates in the bleachers, cheering on the boys' team -- and holding up handmade signs for their favorites -- which, in middle school lingo, means "hottest." 

     Once home, she was hungry for PB&Js. She grabbed a stack of bread and made four sandwiches -- two for her, and two for her twin sister, Corina. Then she pulled off her hat and tossed it aside, exposing the wisps of hair that haven't given up their will to grow on her mostly barren scalp. She scooped up her new Christmas kitten, Layla, and climbed on top of her bunk bed, next to her sister, and her matching kitten, Marshmallow, for movie night.

     It was a good day, considering how many days Candace has lost since September to the ravages of chemotherapy. Normally, Candace would have been in the middle of the action Friday, playing point guard and complementing her twin sister's moves on the court as one half of the notorious "Twins," who are just about impossible to beat, when they work together. 

     But cancer is interfering. It's caused a personal foul. It's having its way with Candace. Some days her 13-year-old athletic body hardly has the will to sit upright, or keep food down. "Nothing has been normal for a while," said Susan Mandrey, who is doing her best to keep life for her daughters as normal as possible.

      In September, Candace was diagnosed with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of childhood cancer that attacks healthy muscle with fast-growing tumors. Following a 12-hour surgery in October to remove a five-inch tumor from her abdominal area, Candace has since undergone weekly chemotherapy treatments at Children's Hospital at Dartmouth Medical Center. Last week, after nearly two months of clean test results, doctors discovered a new growth. On Tuesday, Candace will return to Dartmouth for more surgery, including the removal of a lymph node that has also succumbed to the fast-growing cancer cells. 

     "I tell her this is just a small bump in the road," said Mandrey. "Until last week, everything was looking good. This is a set back, but I know it's just temporary. She's young, and she's strong." 

     Cancer was the last thing Mandrey expected after taking her daughter for a check up in August. Since their birth, the twins have been a force to be reckoned with -- their uncanny "twin thing" quickly became an asset to them as they teamed up for recreational basketball and joined Little League. 
     "These are my trophies and medals, and these are Candace's," said Corina, waving her hand across an indiscernable divide of awards and ribbons, mostly trophies topped with golden baseball players in the shape of boys. As girls excelling in boy territory on the baseball diamond, their mother strongly encouraged them to give up Little League last spring to focus their energy on girls' sports.

      "There were no opportunities for them in baseball, after a certain point. They are playing softball now, and as always, basketball," Mandrey said. 

     Candace admits that her heart still belongs to baseball, but it hasn't stopped her and her sister from dominating on the basketball court. They will be heading to Pinkerton Academy in the fall, to the delight of Astros coach John Barry. Candace's situation came to his attention while scouting a game at Hood.


      "I was telling him about Candace, and he was the one who had the idea to make Pinkerton's annual basketball clinic a benefit for her this year," said Hood coach Danielle Paradis. She has coached Candace and Corina in both basketball and softball since they landed at Hood, and said it has been an incredible experience for her to watch how they work so seamlessly together.

      "Whether on the field or on the court, it's like they know exactly what the other is doing and thinking. All one has to do is get the ball to the other, and things happen," said Paradis. In her 10 years of coaching at Hood, this is the first time one of her players has been sidelined by cancer.

     "Hoops for Candace" is Jan. 17 at the Pinkerton Academy Field House from 1 to 5 p.m. for girls in grades one through eight. Proceeds will go to a fund set up in Candace's name. It is one of four upcoming fund-raisers sponsored jointly by the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth, Make-A-Wish Foundation and Boys & Girls Club of Greater Derry. 

     "Most of all I miss my friends -- and my eyebrows," said Candace. "But I love my kitten. And Make-A-Wish asked me what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to go to Aruba and ride horses on the beach. That sounds good right about now," she said. 

     She is still wrapping her head around the fact that another tumor has grown. "It's like going back to square one," said her mother, who does her best not to cry in front of the girls. "As a single mom, I've always worked a lot of hours, and most weekends the girls would go with their grandmother, because of my schedule. This has forced me to prioritize my life, and to focus on my girls. Nothing is more important to me," Mandrey said. 

     Register for the Jan. 17 Hoops for Candace Pinkerton Academy Basketball Clinic by contacting John Barry, Pinkerton Academy, 5 Pinkerton St. Derry, 03038. or call 603-437-5200, ext. 4213. 

Other fund-raisers to benefit Candace Moore:
  • Jan. 31: Applebee's Pancake Breakfast, 8 to 10 a.m., Applebee's Restaurant, 14 Manchester Road. $5 includes pancakes and a beverage. 
  • Feb. 6: Family Fun Day, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Derry, 40 East Derry Road, includes basketball shootout, dodge ball, team handball, Foosball, make your own Cure for Candace T-shirt and more. Food and beverages for sale, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. $5 donation. 
  • Feb. 13: Weekend of Love, Derry Coffee Factory, 55 Crystal Ave., live music. 3 to 7 p.m. Cost: Donation.