We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...
1997's Climb

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tucson Festival of Books

          Today, we went out to the Tucson Festival of Books...we've gone each year since Brenda and Bill Viner started this wonderful festival.  They are a nice couple, who own the Pepper-Viner construction company...and they care about Tucson, cultural diversity and creating fun things for families to do!
          As I said, we've gone to this festival each year that they've had it.  Kim liked to take the bambini to see the children's authors, gather the give aways and hit the food court!  It is a great event!
          We had to park just north of Speedway today, and walked down Cherry St. to approach the campus.  It was an incredibly nice day today, about 83 degrees, sunny and with some high cloud cover to screen the sun.  I felt like it was a 'beach day', as Kimmy used to call it.  I commented to the kids how it would be great to be able to take off my shirt and catch some rays...and I thought, I won't know anybody, so why not?  Autumnt though this was so funny!  'I am not a role model' said Charles Barkely...and I was living up to this...'  I did put my shirt back on, when we got to Flandrau Planetarium...(we passed some police officers, who Autumn thought for sure would arrest me in my nefarious state!)...
            We ran into Rosa and Vito's cousin, Franca and her girls right away and started to take in the sights - jugglers, clowns, give-aways (like turtle hats!) - the kids made t-shirts...
                              It was pretty crowded there...and my finger seems to find the lense, somehow, but Tonio is wearing his turtle hat!

                 We walked the children's section, where the bambinis got to make t-shirts, bookmarks, collect stickers and other assorted treasures!

                          Once again, my stupid finger gets in the way!  But, at least, I got to capture Antonio desparately trying to cool off in one of the fountains on campus - this is a beautiful campus, too!

          Well, you can't see it, but behind the bambini, are clowns, who juggled and amused the kids!  It topped out at around 85 today - great day!
            And, we went to see the 'Night Sky' at Flandrau Planetarium - the kids loved it!  It was a half hour show...the narrator had a soothing voice...the seats were comfy and reclined...so, as the sun set in the show, I fell asleep...waking just as the narrator announced the coming of dawn!
            Then, we went to Target, getting mango smoothies, Kimmy's favorite and a tradition she started with the kids.  Well, the bambini got smoothies, I got my tradional venti black iced tea, 2 pumps of sugar...
             Amy, Tom and Alex came over and we grilled hot dogs and burgers (meanwhile, Angie called for a morale check!  She is great that way!!!) -  we watched Penn State get it's first birth to the Big 10 finals  and then, watched the Arizona Wildcats, get tired in overtime, miss a few good looks and lose to Washington...as time expired.  Dammit.  At least they were on regular cable tv - we usually do not get to see them play.  Alex stayed tonight, to watch Saturday Night Live with Cody and sleep over...
            Betsey and Brian stopped over later for a night cap, as the kids had digressed into a full scale Nerf gun war (thanks Sandy and Jack for the big machine gun for Tonio - he was the big winner tonight!) - we all fel in danger and could not cross the living room without being straffed by darts!
     It HAS been an 'in and out' type of day...am I dreaming?....or not?  But, yesterday morning, I went to Mass at San Xavier, to light candles for Kimmy...and when I went to put a candle at Mary's altar (where Kimmy's smiling face looked back at me from the photo I placed there on her birthday), I saw the dove, sitting on the casket shaped container, with Father Kino in it...look closely, it is on top of his statue, just to the left of Jesus on the crucifix...gave me quiet the start...knowing it was Kimmy...
         Kimmy loved the book festival and what it stood for and enjoyed going there to see the authors and participate in the kid's events...
          This morning, when we woke, I planted some flowers for Kimmy in our St. Francis bird bath that we have on our front porch...she would do this each spring and rotate flowers through, as needed, throughout the summer time.  Alysum being her favorite...
                    I also re-introduced pots to our front yard, placing some purple flowers in this pot and putting the St. Francis from our old home (thanks Shannon and David Conrad for saving him!).  I found that I was just a week or two ahead of the newest shipment of flowers, so I'll update my progress on 'greening up' Kimmy's gardens...Almost weekly, Kimmy would ask me 'do we have enough left over after paying bills for some flowers?  I need some color...'.  How could I deny this sweet, unselfish, girl?  I couldn't.  If she wanted flowers or plants, I was getting them for her, one way or another!  She made our yard a paradise...and we'd sit out back and enjoy the flowers that she had planted, whenever our hectic schedules permitted...
                       Earlier this morning, Brian stopped by to work on the nitcho!  We are out of cement again!
                      When Aut and I stepped out back to say goodnight to Kimmy, we talked about what we learned at the planetarium earlier today and that, we could see the moon, and our beloved Big Dipper, but could not identify anything else...'that's ok, the Big Dipper was yours and Mama's' Autumn said.


Friday, March 11, 2011


              The carenvale in Venice ended on Tuesday and our carnival at Cottonwood Elementary started today!  Jenn Bell, Tammy LaPlant, Aimee Kemp and everyone else on the committee did an incredible job putting tonight's event together - it was one of the best that I can remember.
              The weather was perfect - we often battle high winds, rain and/or cold...no today.  The high was around 88, not a cloud in the sky.
              Kimmy always enjoyed helping with the carnival.  She helped at varying levels, over the years, and, as you might imagine, helped with a great deal of the art work -whether it was signs place strategically around Rita Ranch, or posters for each elementary school - or wonderful paintings to decorate the school grounds...Kimmy LOVED this aspect of the carnival.  Today, after helping with some of the set up, I picked up Tonio and Autumn and asked how they liked the decorations.  They both said everything looked great...and then, Tonio said, ' I miss Mama's elephant that she made for last year' - I had forgotten that Kim had made a host of circus animals to decorate the outside stage last year!  So I asked Tonio if people were talking about that today in school...no, he said - I just figured somebody reminded him about the clown, ring master, circus dog and playful elephant that Kimmy hand sketched and painted for the stage...
               The carnival always has a large cake walk.  The kids love to play until they win - I've tried to coach them to always choose the home made baked goods - they are just better!  And, as you can imagine, Kimmy always loved to contribute one, or several, of her incredible baked goods!  Cream cheese brownies were an awesome hit each year!
               And we always loved to work at the teacher's games that they have in front of their rooms.  Last year, we helped with the wet sponge toss - where students could lob a wet sponge at their teacher!  Kimmy put her face through the hole, at one point to allow the sugar crazed kids to hurl large, moist, sponges at her face!
             Pete Inks, of the Vail Education Foundation, was an instant Kimmy fan as soon as he met her.  He worked with her on fund raisers, like the Entertainment Book sale and on events like Vail Pride Day.  He loved her enthusiasm and work ethic.  Today, I got to thank Pete, as the VEF has made a $500 donation to Kimmy's Foundation!!  Thank you Pete and VEF!!
                     I have to admit, this photo is from last year - Kimmy took it - I found this file by accident and this one of Pete posing for the camera!              
            Tonight, we helped out Mrs. Schrantz, who made a large scale Yahtzee game for the kids to play!
                                         Lexy, Autumn and Cody play Mrs. Schrantz' Yahtzee.            Lupe took Tonio and her daughter, Monsi, around the carnival to play games, while her husband, Manny and I worked the game - I told Manny I think he has a future in Vegas - he had those kids excited about rolling the dice and shouting out when they were big winners!  He did most of the work.  I took pictures.
          Next, it was on to Mrs. Rudzena's Frisbee throw!
                 Lexy and Autumn were great helpers handing out the Frisbees and chasing them down when kids missed the targets, saving my knees and back!
                                           Tonio and Monsi had a blast riding the ponies!!
                            And, they tossed bugs into flower pots at Mrs. Miller's room...
                             Lexy and Autumn anxiously wait to get their hands painted with flowers...
                       And come down the giant slide at the end of the inflatable obstacle course!
           These girls can eat, too!  They each had a slice of pizza, giant pickle (Autumn had two), cupcakes, cotton candy and lollipops, and then had angel hair pasta when we got home!
                       When the kids were done playing, they had a chance to redeem their carnival punch tickets for wonderous prizes in the library - Annette and Kirk Perrini did a great job holding down that particular fort!  No easy feat, the swarms of prize thirsty kids, once sugar crazed, covered every square inch of that library, yet, they kept the chaos under control!
                     As we walked around, taking in the decorations and watching the kids having fun playing the games that the teachers made, I told the bambini's stories about their Mama and the contributions she made over the years to the carnival...and I could see her helping with the games, or hustling to finish baking something in time for the cake walk, or covering our living room floor with paper she was transforming into a fabulous piece of art work for the carnival...was she there tonight?  Did you feel her??

           ...before you answer, just look over Monsi and Antonio's shoulder, at the brilliant sunset...and then tell me...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lil' Kim

          "Don't ever let anyone tell you you ain't beautiful"

          You know, I find myself quoting this song to the bambini's often - to remind them "to be yourself, be proud of who you are", as they struggle to find themselves along their new journey...Autumn, ever conscious of who she is and how people see her, has embraced these words, and made them her own.  She is remarkable...
          Everyday, Autumn sets her alarm for 6:10 a.m.  She takes charge to get us boys rolling each morning.  First, she lets Bella out.  Then, she comes and wakes me up, giving me a big hug and kiss and asking me how I slept and did I have any sweet dreams?  She is so Kimmy like, that, when I hold her, I have to hold her tight and long, as I fight back the tears...
         Autumn will then make sure Cody and Tonio are up by 6:30 and on their way towards getting ready!  She helps me get their breakfast dishes out and, when they are finished eating, helps me clean up.  I am constantly amazed...I know I shouldn't be, but, come on!  She's 10 and has a firmer grasp on reality than I do!  Kim had worked her magic on Aut in 10 short years (but would not teach Aut to cook!!  I'm working on that!).
         Autumn has become the glue for our family, just as Kim was the glue in my life for the 27 years we were together.  She is our morning girl, turning on all of the lights, sometimes putting on some happy music (she likes the new Apocalyptica song, "Not Strong Enough" that I downloaded!) - sometimes, when she knows I'm having a rough morning, she'll put on a little Megadeth for me 'This is My Life', she claims is one of her favorites (to make me happy...it IS a great tune!).  She stays positive, upbeat, just like Kimmy - always taking a tough situation and putting a positive spin on it...
        So, it was nice, when I picked her up after school today, to tell her we were heading over to Desert Willow to pick up her BFF Lexy.  She loves her time with Lexy - they text and email daily, as between Aut's swim lessons, school and the hectic pace I keep, and Lexy's volleyball, choir, dance and her family's even heavier schedule, it can be a challenge to get the girls together.
        The girls were hungry, so, for some real nutritional value, we swung through McD's drive through (no monopoly game going on right now...) and they both had the 6 piece McNugget meal!  Then home for fun and games...they ran Bella hard...then gave her a bath - Bella HATES that!
                             Ahhhhhhh Blue Sky all natural soda...cream flavor...Kimmy's absolute favorite - and the girls love them too!   Made them some chicken burritos and corn for dinner (yes, they both ate well, considering our McD's run!).  They played until 8 when Andrea came to pick her up - well, it is a school night...and it was 88 degrees today!!  Hooray!  Winter is OVER!!!  I was able to start sprucing up the yard, adding pots and statues to the front and developing a plan for some plants that the bambini's and I will pick up this week...
            By the way, Lexy and Autumn took these photos themselves...!
                Autumn then goes into her getting us ready for bed mode.  She gets her shower started, then prompts Antonio to do the same in the other bathroom.  If Tonio does not 'feel like it', Autumn will challenge him to a race, to see who can shower the fastest!  She gets her clothes ready for the next day, always showing me and asking me if everything matches (yeh, like I know - one thing Kim could not 'train' me on was fashion sense and knowing what matches! She even bought all of my clothes - I shudder to think that, one day, I may have to pick out something for myself).
             When her and Antonio are showered and in pj's, she will round us all up to go outside to say goodnight to Mama...then, she hugs, kisses and tells Antonio that she loves him, walks him to bed and goes to find Cody to do the same - all the while I am fighting back the tears, so when she comes to hug and kiss me, ask me how my day went and tells me to have only sweet dreams, she cannot detect the effect she has on me - so Kimmy like, did I mention that before?  I cannot get over it - she is so precious, just like Kim was.  So unselfish, making sure we are all doing OK, and us boys seem to need a lot more help to get through our day...
            "God gave you shoes to fit, so put them on and wear them"
            How weird is it that Eminem teamed up with Paul Rodgers, of Bad Company, to make the song 'Beautiful'?  
             Autumn lives this - she does not ask why.  She does not let it get her down.  She remembers...and keeps herself up on the good memories...
         "Nobody asked for life to deal us, with these hands we're dealt"  we gotta take these hands and make something of them...again, Kim, er, I mean, Autumn, just does that!  Unbelievable.
         Anyway, Autumn, our glue, has done a fabulous job - and appreciates her friends and the time they are able to share - it keeps her up.  She had taken on the role in our family of motivator, keeping us focused and helping us to get ready for our day, and ready for bed at night, without being asked - willingly and without question.  Amazing Autumn...Kimpossible...two of a kind...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Did I tell you about the time...?

        I don't think I told you about the time Kimmy and I drove back to Pennsylvania with Cody...when he was 6 weeks old...yes, 6 weeks!  What would possess us to drive across country (2,500 miles, about 40 hours of driving) instead of fly?  Just after we moved here, Kim decided that she no longer wanted to fly...how convenient.  You know, as with anything, whatever Kimmy wanted, was more than great with me - she never asked for much and never complained, so when she did ask for something, I wanted to do whatever it was she wanted for her.
        We had just finished paying off all of our credit cards, which always feels great, but we were never smart enough to close them, so we'd end up piling up the debt again anyway.  All we had left was our Chase debit cards.  We had made car rental reservations through Hertz, and the day we were to leave, went to pick up the car, only to be told that we needed a Visa, Mastercard or AmEx - they did not accept debit cards.  We were frantic.  We rushed home and ransacked our drawers and cabinets to see if we had any credit cards that we had not closed...no luck. 
       And I turned to my Toys R Us family for help.  I worked for Toys R Us for just over 15 years.  And made life long friends, who I still speak with frequently and who continue to help out our family.  That day, the call was answered by Denise Shipley, one of the assistant managers I worked with.  Denise has been with Toys R Us for over 25 years!  She is one of the hardest working people I've ever had the pleasure of being teamed with...and she has a lot of compassion.  Oh, and Denise is a cancer survivor herself!   A miracle, who was there to lend support and inspiration to Kimmy during her short fight. 
       When we told Denise about our situation, she drove out to the airport immediately to help us, transferring our rental car, a van actually, to her name and her credit card!  Who would do that?  I insisted on taking the full insurance, something the 'experts' tell you never to do, and happily, we were off!
       That trip was wrought with peril.  Just east of New Mexico, a storm began brewing.  It was tornado season and I knew the signs.  My sister, Sherri, lived in Muskogee OK at the time, and had described the surreal, greenish hue the sky took on and the 'football' shaped clouds...that's what I was staring at.  Suddenly, it began to hail.  Stones the size of golf balls pelted the van.  Soon, the road was covered with them and the van began to slip.  I was praying hard - bargaining actually - something I knew I wasn't supposed to do and knew that God did not work that way.  None the less, I promised to memorize certain prayers and live a better life if God could just help me safely navigate what had become a full blown ice storm...in June!  He did and I did memorize those prayers, although I continue to struggle on being a better person...
        We stopped at Sherri's place, saw her kids, Anthony, Natalie and Jackie - ate a great meal (my sister can cook!), caught a nap, a shower and continued on our way. 
         Here's the funny thing about this cross country extravagana I remember:  It was during the McDonald's monopoly game.  Kim and I always seemed to get hooked on that particular game and we thought we had an incredible chance to win, reasoning we'd be crossing 11 states and stopping at as many McD's as we could to improve our chances of getting big winning game pieces!  Well, we did not win a big prize, but sure won a lot of free food and saw some interesting McDonalds!  Oklahoma had two of the more interesting ones we visited.  The first, was in Hennrieta (spelling?).  My nephew, Anthony, was a big Cowboys fan and told us we had to stop at the McD's there...turns out, it doubles as a Troy Aikman museum!  The town is so small, they do not even have a stop light.  They wanted to build a museum, but decided to put it in the highest traffic building in town...McDonalds!  It was quite the sight.  They had everyone of Troy's jerseys framed from Pop Warner through the pros.  And all of his football cards on the wall, trophies, paintings, etc...actually, it was a little scary - especially having grown up as a Redskins fan (and getting killed in the 4th quarter by Roger Staubach!) and then as an Eagles fan (after they drafted McNabb 12 years ago).
          The second most interesting McDonalds was in Tulsa - so it seems Oklahoma has a stronghold on cool McDonalds (but not much else!).  This one was the deemed the largest in the country and stretched over top of route 40!!
       We overdid the McDonald's that trip...feeling greasy, fat and sweaty - you know, I always am congested after eating McD's, too - I call it my McDonald's cold!  And, we never played the monopoly game with the same zeal or earnest that we did that summer...
       Another fun thing we did, as we drove across country, was sneak Cajun into the hotels we stayed at.  She came everywhere with us and was so quiet and well behaved...but I liked to give her a bath in the hotel, cuz she shed like a maniac and it was kind of my calling card to leave a super hairy bathroom - I always wondered what they maid thought the next day 'jeez, a hairy man was staying here last night...'.  I'm easily amused.  But Cajun was a great traveler, having been from the Jersey Shore (way before 'Snooki' of Jersey Shore, ever desecrated the beaches!) to the beaches of San Diego...
      This trip was made special, because, we had recently gotten a video camera.  When ever I was sitting shotgun, I would film Kimmy driving - her trying hard not to giggle at my lame jokes - and trying to make something out of nothing from road signs, buildings, etc....
      When we crossed the western border of Pennsylvania, we rejoiced - we were within 6 hours of the Philadelphia area!  Then, typical Pennsylvania weather kicked in - slate gray skies, followed by rain...it got heavier and heavier, leaving visibility a few feet in front of the van, windshield wipers working overtime to try to keep up.
       Sidebar:  Kim's stepdad, Jim, had an amusing story about an Indian legend named "Falling Rock"...he mesmerized the bambini with the tale of this wandering icon and even drew them a picture, so they would know him when they saw him (last weekend, in Sabino Canyon, I showed them a rock outcropping that resembled the face of an Indian and they all squealed simultaneously 'It's Falling Rock!').  He told them that every state posts signs to warn travelers to watch for him - and they might even see a sign that is yellow that just says 'Falling Rock' and they should keep their eyes open...they LOVED this story!!!
        As we approached exit #6, on I-70, the Claysville, Pa exit, just west of Pittsburgh...we saw just such a sign and, we were not aware of the legend at this time.  And how many times have you passed a similiar sign?  I used to even comment to Kim 'what the hell?  have you EVER seen a falling rock?'...'No' she'd giggle.  And yet, here one came - as I sat shotgun, I was nearly frozen, unable to move or say anything...and then, in panic, I just yelled 'ROCK!'...the rock had tumbled down the hillside, in the driving rain, before my stunned and weary eyes...it bounced onto the road, into our lane, in the absolute middle of the lane we were traversing...and stopped...Kim, in Clint Eastwood-esque fashion, gripped the wheel, knowing, that in these torrential conditions, any sudden turn would result in an out of control spin...so, she centered the vehicle to go over the rock and held on tight!!!  A wrenching, grinding sound came from beneath the van and Kim held the vehicle true!  We veered for the exit to check the damage and to take our hearts out of our mouths and put them back in our chests (underwear change!).  We pulled into a little Exxon station just off the ramp, in the pouring rain.
          I jumped out, disregarding the deluge and laid on the ground, instantly soaked to the bone and peered beneath the van...to see carnage!  We had ripped off the oil pan and punctured the gas tank!   Cody screamed bloody murder in the back seat.  Kim shook with fear, still gripping the wheel...and here came the owner of the gas station...'Get that thing the hell outta here!  You're leaking fluids all over my station!'....'But sir, we need help!  We drove all the way from Tucson, AZ with a 6 week old - my wife is in tears...please...'.  'I'm calling the cops if you don't get that outta here!'...so I pulled across the street to a pay phone and called Hertz to tell them what had happened (thank God, back then, there were still phone BOOTHS!).
         A lady named Hazel, in Oklahoma City, answered.  I told her Oklahoma has the most fabulous McDonald's and filled her in on what happened.  "Ordinarily, since you got full insurance coverage (Yes!), we would just meet you out there with a new van....BUT, since the vehicle is registered in Denise Shipley's name, she needs to be present for this to happen."  Ohhhhhhh....
       Meanwhile, a couple who had seen what had happened, pulled off to see if we were allright...they gave us an umbrella - a blue one with prints of dogs on it - we still have it to this day!  Kim protected that thing over the years like it was the Holy Grail itself!  Now, the treasure falls to me to preserve.
       Kim was still in tears...I'm on the phone with Hertz..Cody's wailing...the gas station owner is banging on the phone booth door, yelling at me...I'm dangerously close to snapping...
       We managed to get to a hotel, where I called several people to make the 6 hour journey to come fetch us...my mom ended up making that drive.  While we were stuck in the hotel, I wandered down to the vending machines for a soda.  A limping, hobbled man, holding his rib cage, walked down the sidewalk towards me...reminded me of Dennis Hopper.  'How you doin?' he asked.  'Don't ask' I told him, my inner-Philly coming out.  'Well, last night around 3 a.m., blind on barbituates and whiskey, I didn't notice that I had entered a construction zone.  I crashed my car into a ditch, abandoned it and crawled here to this hotel', he confided in me.  'I think my ribs are broken' he added.  I just kind of looked at him and said 'Good luck' and started away...he called after me 'Please don't turn me in...'  'To who?'  I asked...
       My mom got us back to Philly and Hazel worked hard over the next few days to get us a new van!  Denise was gracious and patient in helping through the process...What a long, strange trip that was!
       We actually did that drive two or three more times, before Kimmy found her flying legs, or wings, again...

       Bambini report:  What a delightful day...I was invited by Mrs. Schantz to chaperone a field trip to the International Wildlife Museum with Antonio's class!  Furthermore, she asked if I would ride in a special van, so Tonio could be paired with his best friend, Sean, who is in a wheel chair, and Mariano, a special needs boy, that Tonio adores. 
                Tonio, Sean and Mariano, get wait patiently for their lunch bags to arrive...
                They loved all of the stuffed animals at this museum.

            The museum was full of interactive displays, so the kids had a lot of fun.  Whoever it was that narrated their tour did a pretty good job keeping the children dialed in...

                   Mrs. Schrantz and Tonio appear unaware of the imminent danger presented by the tiger directly behind them...haven't they ever seen Night at the Museum???
                   Our van driver, inclusion specialist, Alison Zagona, shared some 'small world' stories...'Have you ever heard of Caruso's?' she asked...Probably the first Italian restaurant Kim and I ever went to after moving here!  'My uncle owns it...and my dad owned one called Vince's on Speedway'...I remember the neon light of the chef flipping a pizza...'Have you ever been to Viro's?' I asked.  'My dad bought the bread from his restaurant there! I go there for cannoli shells, sometimes, when I don't feel like making the shells and for pastries, etc'.  Good stuff.  I took the bambini's there tonight for Ash Wednesday, after we got our ashes.  Autumn ate pasta (what a surprise)...the boys had a huge plate of calamari - both squid fans!  And I had the fish fry - incredible.  Robert, Erica, Nicoli and Breanna took great care of us, aside from Nic rubbing it in that his AC Milan is in first place in the Serie A, while my Juventus languishes in 7th - but a surprising Napoli, my second team, is in 3rd... Breanna made an astonishing cappuccino that will assure me very little sleep tonight!  And, as it is 11 p.m. and I'm not a bit tired, I guess that cappuccino has worked its magic!  The boys had swim lessons tonight, too.
       When I picked up Cody, I stopped in to wish Mrs. Lopez, his algebra teacher, good luck tomorrow - she will have her baby at St. Joseph's, where Cody, Autumn and Antonio were all born.  We gave her some classic board books, like Eric Carle's Hungry Catepillar and wished her well.  It was good to see her replacement, Linda Sarnoski, who allowed me to assist her at St. Pius in Antonio's religious education classes and is long time friend, Cheryl Devitt's sister, today too.  I am constantly amazed, and humbled, at what a small world it is!  Cody's Language Arts teacher, Mrs. Archuletta, told me a great story about Cody that occured the other day...she handed out popsicles to her class, as a reward.  Cody was first in line.  His pop was so cold that his tongue got stuck to it!  She said it was just like on 'A Christmas Story'!  I told her that I promised the kids a trip to Colorado next year - her home state - she said she would give us some off the beaten track, must see places...Lived there for awhile opening Toys R Us's and want to show the kids that Rockies beauty...

                  Anyway, next time McD's monopoly game comes around, think of the valiant effort, the conspiracy to dominate, that Kim and I attempted in the summer of 1997 and aspire to find ways to win!  Kim and I were unable to win the 'big prize', but, had the memory of an incredible road trip...


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

18 years ago today...

   On March 8th, 1994, Kim, my Dad, and I landed in sunny Tucson, Arizona!  My Dad was navigating, from our Toyota 4X4, and made the call to take the Kolb exit...it was late afternoon and in the mid 80's!!!  As we past 22nd and Kolb, I called my Dad and told him to look at the restaurant on the northeast corner...low key, large patio with thatch style coverings over the tables - it looked laid back and relaxing, a great place to burn off the road grime..."That's where we need to eat tonight, Dad"...he immediately agreed...and so, our love affair with Chuy's had begun!
    It was a challenge to get a hotel that evening...there was a women's tennis championship going on, a golf tournament and Spring Training...remember Spring Training?  Ahhhhh....  We ended up at the Hotel Park Tucson, now a Sheraton, over on Grant and Rosemont...for the first night (they could only give us one night).  We enjoyed a meal at Chuy's, and the next day, were able to get a room at the La Quinta on Broadway.  We spent the day showing my Dad around and looking at apartments.  My Dad was a huge help.  We were looking at the apartments on Kolb, just south of Broadway, behind Micheal's.  While Kim and I were being sold in the manager's office, my Dad did a little investigating...beat up cars, some on blocks...he spoke to some residents, who told them they were getting ready to move out, their apartments had been broken into several times...and Kim and I were being shown one of the apartments and thinking we liked the place...as we came out of one of the apartments, my Dad made the 'let's leave' sign...we were confused, but as he explained, we were relieved to have him with us!
       We ended up at Tanque Verde apartments on Tanque Verde and Dos Hombres...on the second floor.  We thought we were in paradise.  Two pools, with orioles living in the palm trees, a clubhouse that showed movies and had Sunday breakfast, raquetball (Kim had a mean serve! She could deliver it inches off the ground) and a nice weight room.  It was like a resort compared to the apartment we had left in Pa.
       And this is where Kim blossomed.  She worked on cooking (you know how that turned out!), she planned our wedding, she fell in love with our community...and her shyness, began to melt away, a beautiful, articulate, genuine woman emerged.  Those of you who did not know Kim before we moved here, would not believe how few words she spoke and she did not feel comfortable going to certain events or having company over to our place.  I can probably count on one hand how many words she would say if we did go out.  She always tells the story, about how, at one of my cousins weddings, she ended up drinking a whole decanter of wine by herself, because she was so nervous!  Her high heel got caught in the mud next to our apartment's walk way and broke off.  I ended up carrying her in, up two flights of stairs, and putting her to bed!  Then, I went over to my Dad's, who found it hard to believe, but amusing!  Kim always talked to my Dad.  There were some family members who thought I might be making a mistake, since Kim was so quiet and I was so...outgoing - well, loud.  But they did not know the Kim that I knew - and, like I said, she came here, knowing absolutely no one, and found her way - Tucson found it's way into Kim's heart.  She loved the people, their friendliness and genuineness (and I was not surprised, when we had all of those visitors here this past fall, that everyone from back east commented on how friendly people are here).
      After we were married, and Kim's cooking expertise was cemented, she got a job, saving animals, as a vet tech.  And then, came the community involvement....I think the cancer walk up A Mountain was the first big event Kim felt passionate about being a part of - but, as a vet tech, of course, she worked with various shelters and organizations to help animals...surprising me with a little black lab/border collie mix for my birthday that year, Cajun.
       Her passion to help, to put others before herself continued - we often were able to use Toys R Us, where I was store manager, as a vehicle - helping with C.A.R.E. fair at Pueblo High School - a health and safety fair for the community.  Working with organizations like the Ronald McDonald House, Casas De Ninos, Las Familias, UMC Children's Center, TMC Children's Center,etc.  It is funny, looking back on it from my new perspective - Kim tried to maintain that 'shyness' - she'd always say "I'm a behind the scenes person, Dave is the front man" - but, in the end - it was Kim who was the front woman, wasn't she?  As she exceled with PTSA, classroom volunteering, the Head Sprout reading program, Volunteer Coordinator at Rincon Vista, chairing Vail Pride Day volunteer and staff appreciation, working Red Cross blood drives, campaigning for propositions on the ballot to help our schools - you know, while doing this, she had never, ever registered to vote here, or back when we lived in Pa, until this past Novemeber election.  She wanted to be sure to cast her vote for Prop 404 and did a mail in ballot - her first ever vote cast in any election.
      Yes, Kim was extremely passionate about her family, her friends, her schools, her community - and what a hard working, well spoken, enthusiastic woman she had become in the years since we moved here.  I know, those of you who were with us in October, November and December, continued to feel what a courageous, inspirational, angel she was, despite her 'journey' - she, right up until her final breath, wanted to make sure we felt good about ourselves, her warmth filling us up, her words, brightening our way, giving us hope and comfort.
      Today, when I realized that we had arrived here 18 years ago, through ice and snow (Tennesse was an icy horror show!) across the country, I called my Dad to remind him..."18 years?  Already?  That sure was a fun trip".  We had fun on Beal Street in Memphis, listening to some great blues bands and eating some good food.  And then there was 'Slick Willie's' in Arkansas, where the motto was, 'we can tax your food, but we won't tax your tastebuds!'.  Kim got a water glass with some dark, red lipstick on the rim.  I asked the waitress to bring her a clean one (she was still 'shy Kim') and the waitress returned with a new glass, that had bright red lipstick on it!  At least it was a different shade.
      Kim was able to grow into the beautiful lady we knew, through positive thinking and strong faith.  She knew where she was going - her life reflected this.  I'm thankful for the time we shared, as Kim helped me dive head first into this wonderful community and helped me give back to the city we love.

       "Faith in action is service.  Faith in action becomes a delight because it gives you the opportunity of putting your love for Christ into action - it is meeting Christ, serving Christ."
                                                                      -Mother Tersesa

        When I read this line by Mother Teresa, I could hear Kimmy in the words...and see her in my memories, living it, every day.


PS And tonight, when we went outside to say goodnight to Mama...the bambini's called out "the moon, it looks like the Chesire Cat again!  Yay Mama" - so sure that she was grinning down on us, as we looked for the Big Dipper and wished her a good night...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Back to the Desert Museum!

         After such a wonderful Saturday, walking to honor Kimmy up A Mountain, seeing more great soccer, I wondered if Sunday might be a let down...but Kim texted Saturday night, saying her, Rashon, her cousins, Sandy and Jack wanted to go to Viro's for breakfast and then out to the Desert Museum - that sounded good.   I called Viro's, and spoke to Erica (recently moved here from Florence, Italy and makes one mean cappuccino!!) and asked for a table for 15 or so around 10:15ish...
          It was hard to wake the bambini, as we were all up to midnight last night...well, Cody and I were up until after 1...but we managed to make it to 9 a.m. Mass and then get over to Viro's, where Angie, her daughters and their kids, plus Sandy, Jack and all of us filled up the outside patio that they had set up for us.  Yes, outside and it was an incredible, 70 degree morning.  Christina and Vito Jr. made us all awesome omelets and we all went up to fill our plates multiple times, ending with the mini eclairs they put out!!  Rosa and Vito called while we were there from Sicily, saying they were having a great time - Vito Jr. is doing a great job with the bakery while they are away (and enjoying driving their Mercedes, too!  'I'm cleaning it for them' he told me).
         When we were too full to eat another bite, we lazily pulled out and headed for the Desert Museum.  We had taken Kim there in October, before she had gotten ill.  I know I've gone over this, but this was Kim's favorite place in Tucson.  We've been members since 1994 and I can't even guess how many times we've roamed the grounds - kids too - and never got tired of it.
         Today, our old friend Yolanda, took care of renewing our membership and getting the entire Williams crew in...free!  'You must be related to Andrea', Angie quipped.   Now, we've known Yolanda for nearly 18 years.  She has worked at the Desert Museum for 9 and worked at Old Tucson for 11.  Today, was the first we've seen her since Kimmy passed - we've spoken on the phone, but had not made it out there.  Yolanda remembered so many positive things about Kimmy (what a surprise) - how she brightened her day, all of the kind questions she would ask Yolanda about her kids and her grandkids, how brilliant Kimmy's smile was, and she'd always take time to remark what a great job Yolanda was doing, or how pretty her blouse was, etc, etc.  Yolanda told Autumn just how much she looked like Kim and I told Yolanda how Autumn had become our glue, holding us all together, just like Kimmy used to...This conversation took some time and the kids were ready to run!!  Hitting the reptile house first and then, to the vaunted cave!
         Tonio, Cody, Bryson, Kason, Autumn, Micah and Mariah anxiously await at the mouth of the cave!
          After the cave, the kids dig for fossils....This is where Kim and I would be able to sit on the wall and relax for a moment, taking in our blessings as they worked to extract fossils that the Desert Museum plants for them to find...enjoying the beauty of the desert...and having a quiet moment to talk to each other.

                  Kim and Angie enjoy watching the kids digging for fossils...the temperature was perfect for today - with a slight breeze and just a little, thin cloud cover to keep the sun from getting too hot.

                  Cody, Autumn, Tonio and Bryson wish they were prairie dogs!              We saw the mountain lions, the bear, the deer, turkeys (Kimmy had a great turkey call and I would always ask her to imitate one as we got close to their habitat!), wolves and then headed to get ice cream, a staple with the kids.  Kim and I would get iced teas...
         Today, the adults all got iced teas and we stopped to enjoy them...

                      Even Cody got an iced tea!
                              Tonio finishes off his ice cream as he and Bryson play.
           It was a great day at the Desert Museum - through out, I told the bambini's about memories I had of Mama and I visiting there and of taking them there over the years...we love the late Saturday nights they have during the summer, with lots of activities for the kids.  Kimmy's favorite were the animal shows they would do in their new indoor ampitheater.  We made it out there at least three times this past summer.
          On the way home, we stopped for some awesome raspados (shaved ice) at a little mom and pop joint on Grande and Congress (Kimmy would have LOVED this place).  They put real fruit on top - it was so good. 
          Janene took Tonio home with her and took the kids to the park to burn off their infinite supply of energy. 
          The Smock's, Belin and Sean, had invited me to a dinner with MLS team Sporting KC at the Viscount Suites.  It was fun and I met some players, the coaches, a lady who wants to teach me yoga ('not gonna do it' goes through my head in my best Dana Carvey imitation), ate some great Mexican food (veggies: green chilies in the tamale pie, lettuce and tomatoes I put on top of the chimichangas - I reported back to Angie when I got home) and a live jazz band played.  It was a good time and gave me a great deal of confidence, in terms of being in crowds again.  Kim never did well in crowds - I loved large concerts (Pink Floyd attendance: 104,000 at the Vet), sporting events, parties, etc...but have had Kim like trouble recently...Belin and Sean helped me through that tonight, introducing me to Michelle, the pirate - who worked the soccer games with an eye patch, due to injury, talked with Jay and Melinda Zucker, who own the Tucson Toros, councilman Paul Cunningham, who believes he can bring an MLS team to Tucson -that's be nice, but I can make a long, short list of other sports and teams that have come and gone through here, spoke with the coach of FC Tucson, Rick Schantz - what a cohesive unit he put on the field!  Rick told me that Friday night was the first time the team ever played together - I told him that was hard to believe...also found out the crowd totaled 10,700 at Hi Corbett Field on Saturday night for the games - this is a field record!!! The next largest crowd was for one of the July 4th fireworks display that brought in 9,200...maybe Paul Cunningham CAN bring MLS to Tucson...oh, but I hate to get too excited...
       And so it goes...tonight, as we wished Mama a good night, the bambini remarked about what a fun weekend they had, as they pointed out the Big Dipper, wishing Mama a good night and thanking her for the delightful weather...

      "We will not worry about tomorrow, but will live the present moment intensely, with complete trust in God."
        - Mother Teresa


Kimmy's Klimb

       It was a gorgeous day today...I think, of all of the times Kim and I walked the Climb A Mountain for Cancer, this was the finest weather we have ever had.  There were years where we'd be several layers of clothing deep, including winter coats.  One year, it was raining sideways - we did walk about two miles total that year - we really tried, along with several stoic co-workers from Linens 'N Things.  And the walk is shorter now than it was the first few years that we made this trek.  It used to begin, downtown, behind the courthouse, at Presido Park.  We really enjoyed beginning there - they had great entertainment, including jugglers, bands, great food, etc.  The roundtrip walk was about 8 miles.
      When they shifted the walk over to Pima County Community College, it shaved 2 miles off of the walk.  Now that we had kids, we were not complaining!  Kim would always pack good snacks and drinks and plenty of 'just in case' supplies and clothes.  I managed to pack snacks and drinks...but Cody got so far out in front of us, that we never got to use them!  And, of course, Kim would make the kids each a t-shirt.  The logo matched the official walk t-shirt so closely, that we'd get 'where'd you get kids t-shirts?  They told us they don't make them'...the entire walk - they were perfect!
    The hardest year for us, was the year Kim's dad, Ken, passed away from cancer.  We had a special flag made in his honor, with his picture on it.  They line the road up A Mountain with these flags, and you grab yours on the way up.  It was emotional for all of us to see that flag from a distance and then carry it up the mountain.
    At the top of the mountain, aside from entertainment and food, they set up a large, white wall, so you can write a message to your loved one that has cancer, beat cancer or succumbed to cancer...this, also, always broke Kimmy up - and I'd hold her when she was done writing her message...today, this too, was the hardest part for me.  I made sure to go on the side of the wall that was facing away from the bambini's and our fellow walkers, wrote to Kimmy and dropped to my knees, unable to stand...

     Here we all are, in the southeast corner of PCC parking lot, roughly near the yellow #5 sign, our predetermined point of meeting.  Yes, it does appear I put two of the same photo up, but, look closely and you will see that the top photo features Mary Montes, while her sister Ami Bunch takes the photo and the bottom has Ami in it, while Mary snaps the shot.
       So, we have Brian and Ami bunch (and triplets!!!), Patti, Casey (Autumn's teacher!), Kim and Micah (in stroller - lucky!), Betsey, Jack, Sandy (Andrea's and Kim's cousins, who drove in from Phoenix, arriving at 1:30 a.m.!), Andrea, Lexy, me, Mariah, Rashon, Autumn, Renee Woolridge, Brian, Hadley, Cody and his triplets, Mitch, Tonio and Breanna, Jaimelyn, Devon, Mary, Emilio, Amy and her Mom - also, all the way from Phoenix!
      The support was great - and we had fun walking in the beautiful weather.  We made pretty good time, too. And passed some....'interesting' sights - like, the 'antique store', that we thought was a yard sale - they had a full sized turnstile for sale - and purses.  We all got spread out quite a bit, as I mentioned, Cody blazed the trail for us and I pretty much brought up the rear.  Mary and Kim did a great job, both about 3 months pregant and would have made Kimmy proud.  Along the way, we talked about how she made the climb 7 months pregnant with Cody (and at the top, fire fighters begged Kim to take the bus back down, but she would not!), 6 months pregnant with Autumn and 5 months pregnant with Tonio.  Mary commented 'and I bet she complained the whole way' and we laughed!  We all know that Kim was so stoic and always made the absolute best of things, figuring out how to get over any obstacle along the way.
         Wow!  And a stray Christmas tree!  Who still has a tree on March 5th!!!!
         As we neared the top, a hang glider sailed over our heads...the giant 'A' on the mountain was painted red, white and blue...
           We all made it!  Having shed some clothes along the way, as the day heated up!  I wish I had gotten a close up of the light blue shirts that Renee made for us 'Klimb 4 Kimmy' they say.  She worked on these until 8:30 the night before we walked!  Thanks Renee!  Mary had the foresight to coerce a complete stranger into taking this shot for us, so we could all be in it!
                     They had El Molinto cater the event on top of A Mountain!!  Chimi changas, taquitos, rice, beans, chips and salsa!  We gorged in the wonderfuly warm sun.

                          Tonio, Cody and Mitch check out the fire truck, climbing on its ladder.

                             Colton, Hunter and Ethan enjoyed their ride!  Brian sure got a work out today!

                                      Here, Cody and Tonio add their messages to Mama...I put mine on the other side of this wall...
                    Some of the group took the buses down, and the rest of us enjoyed going down hill!  We made it back to the campus near noon...I am so thankful for all of those who came out to walk today and all of those with us in spirt...Kim would have loved the day.

                   On our way home, I took the bambini's to 7-11 on St. Mary's st. for some liquid refreshments.  Across the street, is a little floral shop, that over the years, Kim and I would stop in - they have a great selection of religious pictures, statues, crucifixes, etc.  The owner, Josefina, kept us there for nearly one hour - she fell in love with the kids, and told them a lot of stories about growing up in Mexico.  We picked out an angel statue, made in Mexico, vibrant and colorful - to commerate the walk today, for Kim, our angel...

                 Later, it was time for more soccer!  We picked up David, over at Andrea's and headed out.  Hi Corbett was packed - I have not seen it so crowded in the 18 years that I have been here.  And the soccer was great.  Our team, FC Tucson, down 3-1 at the half, battled back to earn a 3-3 tie. 

           As the teams played, Antonio pointed out the Kimmy like sunset...
                                             Cody, David and Autumn...eating pretzels...
                                      Tonio, enjoys the sunset...

             Next, the NY Red Bulls played Sporting KC and were leading 3-2 when we left around 9:50, Antonio had fallen asleep around 9!
             It was a long day, and all three bambini were fast asleep when we finally pulled in our driveway around 11...Autumn and I went out back to say goodnight to Kimmy, the Big Dipper fully upside down...and she told Mama how we walked for her today, before blowing her a kiss, wishing her good night and telling her how much she loves her...me too...
             Thanks again everybody,