We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

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

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Lime Tree...

            When we moved into our new home, 7 years ago, finding that Antonio, our third blessing, had squeezed our 1300' home beyond our means, our friends Andrea and Mario bought us a lemon tree as a home warming gift.  Kim used lemons in so many recipes.  And drinks.  We love lemons.  Over the years, this tree has brought us much happiness...and it is a beautiful tree to look at , too.
             At one point, each season, our lemon tree becomes infested with cocoons, that are harmless to the tree.  Each of these cocoons, blossoms into a stunning black monarch butterfly, with vivid blue markings.  This past season, was the most fruitful season ever...we enjoyed every lemon that our tree produced.
              Another of Kim's favorite citrus fruits, has always been the lime.  I always meant to plant a lime tree, to compliment our lemon tree...but, time eluded me and I never got around to it...until today.
            Until today, after a scintillating 6 hours of sleep, I was primed to garden!  Autumn and I headed down to Civano nursery, just north of our home.  Mrs. Kosick, who's daughter Joy, has gone through school with Cody since, well, kindergarten, works there and helped Autumn and I pick the perfect 'dwarf' lime.  Now, why is it that a 'dwarf' lime tree is perfect?  Well, for those of you who knew Kimmy, she was moderately obsessed with height.  'Hey Kimmy, my Nana was 4'10"'...'A legal midget!' Kimmy would shout, with a gleam of triumph in her eye.  She knew, that a legal midget was quantified at 4'11" and felt blessed to be a full 3" taller than a 'legal midget', measuring in at 5'2".  Nicely done, Kimmy!
             But I digress.  Mrs. Kosick, helped us find a healty tree.  I explained that we were planting it in Kimmy's honor.  That she loved limes, to cook with, to put in her iced tea, to squeeze over fish and tacos, to put in mixed drinks, to make limeade for the bambini, etc. etc. etc.
             While she helped us choose a tree, she told us how much Kimmy would be missed.  And how much people thought of Kimmy.  And how much she personally loved Kimmy.  We appreciated her help and could feel her passion and sympathy.  We thanked her for everything and went home to plant Kimmy's tree.
             I know I've told you that I am in hell.  Paying for my past.  And today proved it.  This soil is so arid.  So full of rocks.  And caliche, that layer of solid, white clay that is nearly impermeable.  I blistered.  I sweated (mostly beer). And I cursed, profusely.  It's all good.  The hole got dug and the earth was ready to accept our gift.  Bella made sure that she closely supervised this project!
            Cody worked hard in the fields with me today, clipping back dead branches, putting in new lights to highlight Kim's garden and cleaning off our porch.  We planted some new Hearts and Flowers in the garden - it's a great ground cover that Andrea recommended, and has little red flowers.  We also put in more Mexican Sunflowers to fill in some of the space.  Cody worked hard in the hot sun and we cranked up some tunes to pass the time...
             And then what?  What to fill in our evening??  We invited the Musynzki's over for dinner - I made Janene's chicken and Rotel recipe, putting 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a crock pot with two cans of Rotel for about 4 hours.  It literally falls apart and is perfect for burros or tacos...Amy and Tom brought chips and salsa.
            I tried to make a Kim-like presentation...anytime we had people over for dinner, Kim always knew how to arrange the food to look even better than it was...although, when Kim cooked, the food was always better than it looked.  Yet, she had such a flare for display...
            I did my best.  But when I was putting out the sour cream, in it's original container, I knew Kimmy would have had a cow.  I did use her chili pepper serving bowl to serve the shredded cheese, cilantro and slice limes! 
            It was a fun night, accentuated by us watching 'Jackass 2.5' (Amy's choice).  You know, I'm in the wrong business!  Bam Magera drives a Maserti!  He's a West Chester Pa native.  My friends and I were making better video than this back in high school, but failed to get it out there...Jim Friedman, where are you now??
           Meanwhile, in the background, 'Heckle and Jeckle' are killing each other.  And they are killing me.  So I go to investigate.  Poor Tonio, he's the victim of an apparent Autumn drive by.  These two can get along so well one moment and the next, Aut is hating on Tonio, who is so sensitive, especially lately...I got it ironed out and went back to watch the fine piece of cinematography we were watching...'Did I miss anyting?'...
           Amy and I talked about the Mommywantsvodka.com website (not for children), she checks it out too...that lady makes me laugh daily.  I replied to one of her writings that she could write anything she wanted and still make me laugh.  Funny stuff.

            AND the Stanely Cup Playoffs have started...16 teams...One Cup!  Kim and I followed NHL playoff hockey closely.  And she has bought me so many nice jerseys over the years - I'll have to do a piece on just jerseys...and adult Garanimals.   But this jersey I bought for myself, in memory of Kim...13, the day she left us...on the Flyers, that is Dan Carcillo.  Tough, gritty and talented.  Carcillo can kick your butt and then score a goal - a rare combo in the NHL these days.  Last year, Carcillo led the league in penalty minutes.  Tonight, he helped tie the Flyers first round series against the Buffalo Sabres with a critcial goal!

                                                             Let's Go Flyers!!!

       Pay no attentionn to the boy behind the jersey....

      Whew, another long day...thanks to Cody, the yard work and planting went smoother...and my back is not as broken...we got some sun, too.  Tomorrow's another day...


  ...At 1 a.m., not a bambini stirring, I slipped out into the cool night...the moon shone brightly, the Big Dipper had turned nearly 45 degreess from the upside down position we normally enjoy...I said goodnight alone - we always blow kissed towards the Dipper, too...
     And sleep came - I woke once at 4, then was up by 7:15 - a full 6 hours, and no bad dreams!! 
    Time to make the bacon, the bambini love a big breakfast on Saturday morning!!

Report Card

Yesterday, while digging out the bambini's social security #'s for Emilio 'Proud Papa' Montes, who has just opened a insurance office - I'm switching over my cars, home and life insurance policies to his new business, I came across a report card of Kimmy's from 11th grade!  Honor roll student!! Meanwhile, I was treading water with mostly C's...
               Looking it over, I remembered that Kim and I had Mr. Matus together for American Cultures.  It was a bone dry course.  Mr. Matus did his best to entertain us, but, he was at least 100 years old and his humor was a bit outdated.  He always thought Kim and I were a couple, because, we sat next to each other and always got caught passing notes.  The funniest was actually just a drawing.  Kim had drawn a picture of a duck, with a Groucho Marx face!  Mr. Matus intercepted it and showed it off to the class, saying how cute it was that us 'love birds' had time during his class to 'doodle'.  First of all, let me say that Mr. Matus using the term 'doodle' to describe Kim's artwork was an inaccuracy - even when she drew cartoon Groucho ducks, they were better than anything I've ever attempted to draw!  As for the 'love birds' crack...guilty!  11th grade was a tough year for us.  This was the year she was dating a football player named Dave Edwards. 
         Several zillion blogs ago, I wrote about the time my friends and I happened to be at a swim party Kim was at, and how around midnight, I happened to conveniently walk her home, slowly.  Giving her a loooonnnnnggggg goodnight kiss.  Or two.  The next day, when I returned home from school (after walking home with Kimmy!), my Dad says 'Dave, your friend Dave Edwards called.'  I remember my heart leaping into my throat, as images of big Dave Edwards throttling me raced through my head...my days were numbered...
         After ducking (no Groucho duck pun intended) Dave for a few weeks, he finally snagged me trying to get off campus one day...and somehow, I not only convinced him not to pummel me, but we became uneasy friends...I say uneasy, because I could not not stop hanging out with Kim.  I could not stop walking her home, or passing notes to her in Mr. Matus' class - or, and this was one of the toughest classes I've ever had, stop swimming with her in Mr. Ruth's class.  Yes, we were in the same swimming class that quarter - and, my heart would literally stop each time Kimmy came out of the locker room in her swim suit for class.  I found it extremely difficult to concentrate that quarter...
         Meanwhile, I was dating a girl named Patty Ryan.  It was going no better for me on that end, since my feelings for Kimmy were obvious and Patty continuously voiced her absolutely, dark hatred for Kim.  OK, one person who did not like Kimmy!  My Dad, ever the diplomat, would ask 'Hey Dave, why don't you get back with Kim?'.  He was right, as always.  Although it would be fun to go into detail, all I'll say is that it did not end well for Patty and I.  Think tornado meets volcano....and tsunami.  And hurricane. 
        One of our more 'electric' moments came at the prom that year, as 11th graders were allowed to go.  She went with Dave, I went with Patty, yet, we somehow convinced them both to let Kim and I have a slow dance together...It was at the Hotel Bethlehem, and I don't think we could have gotten any closer as we slowly moved in a circle, holding each other...
        The second half of that year, we had World Cultures with Mr. Peters.  Mr. Peters was a gloom and doom type of teacher who always predicted that we would all grow up to be 'fat, dumb and happy', as we led our country to nuclear destruction.  He was serious.  He viewed our generation as a  plague to humanity.  We learned cynicism from Mr. Peters.  Mr. Peters was not as tolerant for the fondness of each other Kim and I shared.  Although, he did not go as far as to separate us.  Mr. Matus genuinely wished us well and thought we were the nicest couple he'd seen.
          Another thing I remember about Mr. Matus - he always wore a suit.  He looked like something out of American literature, Ickabod Crane skinny, white hair, black glasses with thick frame and skinny tie.  He was a class act.
          Yes, 11th grade was a good year...

            Autumn, taking after Kimmy, brings home a lot of bling from the AIMS awards ceremony!!  She is rocking out mentally this year!!

           And today was a day of Kimmy sending people to talk to me...I went to Mass at San Xavier this morning, and lit some candles for Kimmy - it always just grips my heart, when I enter the small chapel of Mary, and see Kimmy's smiling face on the altar there...I bring a cloth each week, to dust her picture...

                 Today, in the church, I placed a candle for Kim beneath the San Antonio statue...
     After Mass, the lady sitting right behind me, commented that she like my jersey...

            Ahhh, yes...my Andrea Pirlo jersey - my favorite player on the National team...'the Playmaker' is his nickname.  He plays midfield and controls the game, setting up plays, much like a quarterback on a NFL team...but smarter and always moving...no breaks in between plays...effortlessly.  Kimmy got me this jersey for my last birthday.
           The lady indentified herself as Linda, and then started speaking to me in Spanish.  I told her I did not speak Spanish.  She said I thought you were from Italy.  Why would you speak to me in Spanish, if you thought I was from Italy?  I asked her.  She said she was half Mexican and half Italian, but only spoke Spanish.  Anyway, after that, the conversation led to Kim and our beautiful wedding at San Xavier.  It was comforting.
           Then, I went to walk up the hill, next to the church, as I like to do after Mass and pray at the grotto with the altar and statue of Mary...I had company...
                One of the many desert dogs...perhaps a relative of the dog that walked up the aisle to the altar the day of our wedding, Father Michael reassuring us that the dog was Catholic!  This pup followed me on my walk up and around the top of the little mountain and back down again!        
           Then, I got to have lunch at Viro's with Vito's Aunt Franca and his mom, Enza.  Franca lost her husband, Angelo, to cancer several years ago - our family loved him.  In fact, it was Angelo who gave the kids their taste for sliced tomatoes, olive oil and spices that I posted the other day.  I let Franca know, that I thought of Angelo every time they request that dish (for Autumn, it is almost every day!).  She told me, that even after several years,  things have really not gotten easier...I told her, that I cling to the good memories, and the bambini and the friends, like herself, make it easier - we have to make our way.  I think it helped.  I sure had a great time, drinking cappuccino and sharing lunch with these wonderful ladies.
          I had to stop by Ross, to find Aut a new pair of sneakers...'Dave Conca's' she wanted...DC's.  As I was walking in, Jackie, from Pier One Imports, was walking out.  As a long, long, long time customer, Kim had develped a friendship with Jackie - and they worked together those two overnights that Kim did at Pier 1 for their Christmas set.  Jackie related to me, how her sister, in El Salvador, was killed one night by a bullet to the head and one to the chest.  She never got to say good bye, but, prayed and prayed to God to let her know if her sister was safe and happy.  One day, as she prayed, she felt a presence - her sister, and her heart instantly felt at peace...she assured me this would one day happen to me - and I believe her.  Another comforting moment - and I did find Aut a sweet pair of DC's!
         Picked up the little bambini and Mrs. Schrantz reported that Tonio had a pretty 'happy' week!  Progress!  Then, got Cod, who had a sleepy day, after his late night at the fair last night!!
          Oh, and congratulations to our friends Kim and Rashon - they found out that they will have a little girl, just a few days after Mary Montes is due!!!  Another little one that will have Kimmy as an angel to watch over her, as Kim, an RN at St. Joseph's did for Kimmy, while she was there...
         Later, we went out to watch Brendon play some baseball with Janene.  Bryson, Tonio and Autumn played hard in the park during the game.  Brendon's team, the Rangers, played the Diamondbacks, the toughest team in the league.  They played well, and kept the game close, but lost in the late innings.  We left around 10 a.m., Autumn proclaiming that she wanted to go home and watch a movie, that she was not tired...and she actually made it until 11 before falling asleep.  Janene and I talked about Kimmy's Kut-a-Thon that she will hold at her salon, Unique Identity, on Sunday May 15th.  My neighbor, Brian, just sent us a copy of the flier that he is making for the event - it is beautiful!  It should help Kimmy's Foundation quite a bit.
        "Are you sleeping any better?"  Janene asked as we left the park..."Not so much this week..."  "Probably too much caffeine!" Janene said..."I think it's the whole 4 month thing, but I'll sleep tonight - it's time to catch up"...but not yet, not yet...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Neon Trees...

5:55.  A.M.  Do I have to get up?  I think I finally was able to close my eyes at like 5:53 or close to it....and now, Autumn is gently shaking me, telling me it's time.  'Time to rise and shine'.  Who says things like that these days?  Autumn.  Marie.  Reviving me.
  I manage to get the bambini together, fed, to school and it's time to sell books...at Cottonwood.  Yes, the book fair - I know, I know, I sell books for a living and on my day off I sell books.  I had pre-arranged cappuccino with Patti the night before, and by 8:00, was screaming for it.  Java Edge delivers!  But not today...why?  We don't ask that...luckily, Melissa slips me a couple granola bars and a water to get me through the book fair, and at 10:00 a.m., I bolt, bringing back rejuvenating, energizing and 'put things into perspective' coffee!!  Patti and I opt for large (latte for her, cappuccino for me).  I bring Tonio's teacher, Mrs. Schrantz the large Coke and Autumn's teacher, Mrs. Rudzena, some sort of apple/carmel cider - she's sworn off the caffeine.  I spent the rest of the school day helping in the kids' classrooms - it was nice.
      The heart tugging moment, came, while in Mrs. Schrantz' class, while putting homework in the kid's binders...I'm in the little office between the classrooms, where they have a computer for the kids to be able to take A.R. tests on books they've read.  In walks little Gypsy, who was in Tonio's class in kindergarten and 1st grade.  Gypsy loved Kimmy (who didn't?), who worked as a parapro in Gypsy's class in kindergarten and helped her learn to read through the Head Sprout program.  She sat down to take a test and asked me where Mrs. Conca has been?  I gently explained that Mrs. Conca was in Heaven, with God, an angel...she was pretty sad - we talked some more and she began telling me how her Aunt recently died and her Grandfather, a year or so ago...and what wonderful memories she had of them...and Mrs. Conca...Whew, these kids are resilient!
       After a full day at school, my cappuccino had worn off...no time for my patented 20 minute power nap...so, I turned to Rock Star!  I like the lemonade flavor.  And my sister, Lauren, texted me 'Had a large Dunkin Donut iced coffee, a Carribou coffee I made at home and then topped it off w/ a grande iced latte at Barnes & Noble!  Am I ok?'...first of all, I thank her for shopping at Barnes & Noble, then, I advised her that she would be fine, to just ride the wave and enjoy it!  Coffee...the lifeblood of America!
       I ran over to pick up Cody and his friends Jesus and Arthur...to take them out to the Pima County Fair.  Over the last two weeks, Cody and I have done a dance about him going out to the fair with his buddies.  And, my communication skills, still need work, as I told him I wanted to talk to parents, who was driving which way and when, to watch out for 'bad guys'...finally, Cody melted down and said 'Dad, you are making this hard on me and just trying to scare me!'...woops.  Where was my inner-Kim?  He was right, I explained that I needed to be sure he was safe.  Which meant knowing who he was going with, how he was getting there and back and volunteered to drive either way and to be sure he'd keep his eyes open to trouble.  We agreed...me, still wondering if I was insane or simply giving Cody some much deserved rope.
        And as I dropped him off, and he was walking away with his friends, I realized he was growing up, so fast - but he's doing a good job (much better than I did!), gets good grades and makes good decisions.  But, as I drove away, I said a Lord's Prayer and a Hail Mary for the boys...just in case...
        Cody was interested in seeing the Neon Trees perform tonight.  This was one of Kimmy's favorite groups.  It will be his first concert.  Kim listened to a soft rock station called The Mountain, 92.9.  Cody and I would lightly rib her about it, but we both liked a couple of songs by Neon Trees - and find ourselves listening to bands Kimmy liked, just to remember her...My ring tone on my cell phone for when Kimmy called me was a song by Finger Eleven, called Paralyzer...because, when she came into my view, that is the effect she had on me...she was my paralyzer...even after all of these years..and that song came on as I drove home from the fairgrounds...Kimmy letting me know that I had done allright?  Again, I don't make a big deal about 'signs', but it sure felt right today.
             Meanwhile, hopped up on Rock Star, the little bambini and I headed back to Cottonwood for a Volunteer Appreciation dinner.  It is a nice time, and the staff at Cottonwood work hard to decorate the MPR room and serve us.  I hadn't had a chance to eat, since the granola bars that Melissa had given me for breakfast, but, I knew we were going to Fuddrucker's later and didn't want to spoil my appetite, so I just ate a little.  It was fun, as the kids ran around the gym with their friends, and I sat with Annette and Kirk Perrini and Lupe and Manny Barrios.
              Then, it was off to Fuddrucker's, around 6:30, for Andrea and Mario's son, David's, 13th birthday party.  They have some great burgers there!  And I was glad that I was hungry, as I finished Autumn's for her, too.  There was a big crowd of us, Andrea, Lexy, Breanna, David, Janene, Brad, Bryson, Kason, Kim, Rashon, Myriah, Micah, Angie, Mark, Mario's mom, Cruz and his brother, Adrienne, his wife and their little girl.  The kids kept busy on the video games and motorcycle game they had.  We stayed until 9 and headed home. 
             Cody did a great job texting me updates, even though I did not ask him to.  While eating at Fuddrucker's, he sent me this photo of a wicked ride he was waiting to go on:

             In which the rider is locked in a cage and the arm of the ride takes you up, while the cage spins 360 degrees, and the arm brings you back down and around...I'd hurl!  He sent me multiple texts, after particular good rides, saying what a fantastic time he was having.  It's 10:45...and Cody's texted that he's on his way home...good kid.

            And a congrats to Mary and Emilio Montes, who found out today that they were going to have a little girl!!  Emilio prayed and prayed for a boy...I gave him sage council - telling him that the moment he laid eyes on his little girl and the moment he held her in his arms, he was done...fuggedaboutit, his little princess would have him wrapped around her pinky...I know from firsthand experience.  And I was able to have Autumn play some soccer - she still asks me to kick around with her at the park.  There is something so special about having a daughter.  Plus, I told him, Kimmy was 38 when she had Tonio, so they still had a couple of years to try again!  We are very happy for the Montes'!!

            Tonio fell asleep. Cody's not home yet, so Aut and I went outside to say goodnight to Mama...the moon's getting fuller (bear down Barnes & Noble booksellers!  The full moon always brings out the weirdest customers!), the Big Dipper's still upside down...and, far off, from the direction of Fantasy Island, we could hear the howls of a pack of coyotes...eerie, rising and falling - their victory cry after capturing their prey...Bella was clearly disturbed, but Autumn and I could find the beauty in the coyote's song, as we said our goodnights...



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Four Months...

   Where exactly, did four months go?   It is so hard to believe, that, four months ago, Kimmy left us, chosen to become an angel - and we never asked why...how could we?  I mean, can you think of a more perfect candidate to become one of the Lord's angels??? 
    And when I am driving, I try not to make too much of the perfect sunset...and I try not to read too much into clouds that look like hearts, or angels...and I don't try to find meaning in every twinkling star...but, seriously, I see Kim in all of the surrounding beauty - and there are times, where things look just a little too focused and incredible - do you know what I mean?
     When the mountains look so crisp, the shadows resting just right, and the sun hitting them at a particular angle - I think of Kimmy.  Today, when we left for school, I showed Cody what I meant.  The Catalina's were shrouded in shadow.  Light clouds hovered above them.  The only light, in our immediate view, lit up Sabino Canyon.  Framed it!  Perfectly.  One of Kimmy's perfect spots, as if to say..."Look here boys!"...and we did.
      And sometimes, when I am driving, I fall back into that whole slo-mo feel...the landscape slowing down, appearing to move backward - the beauty breathtaking - and I remember, our last trip, heading north on Camino Seco, just north of Broadway - Kim began exclaiming 'everything looks so different!'  tears streaming down her face...'so...beautiful!'...as if she were glimpsing Tucson bathed in Heaven's glow...sometimes, I feel that she is showing that to me...
     So, again, I don't think every little piece of beauty is some sort of sign, but, Kim focused my perceptions, without a doubt.  It's a new appreciation of our desert beauty - the mountains, the sunsets, the rare clouds (although, again, I can't remember there ever being this many days, with such beautiful, wispy clouds!!)...I see it all with new eyes...Kimmy's eyes...
     Yet, I still don't feel her presence, as much as I see her in the beauty around me.  And I pray for that feeling that she is here.  Our house does not seem as cold as it did, but, as you can imagine, without Kimmy, it is no doubt darker - the shadows, well, just deeper.
      But, every now and again, I have a pretty lucid dream of Kimmy - I know I've told some of you of my early ones - but I had one last night, where, we were driving north through Arizona, passing through Phoenix - the landscape a gorgeous, surreal and colorful landscape...prompting me to think 'where have I seen this?'...and there it was...
            It was as if the world had become one, gigantic, Neil Myers painting!  You might recall, Neil worked with me at Barnes & Noble, to earn money to pay for art supplies.  And then, he hit it big - with galleries in prestigious places like Scottsdale, N. Tucson, etc.  He was the one who presented Kimmy with the ultimate boquet of flowers - one that would never wilt, or die...
          It put a smile on Kimmy's face, a mile wide!  Kimmy always loved Neil's work.  She made sure we could go see his exhibits at the gallery up near La Encantata whenever he had an opening.  Kim felt Neil had a fantastic use of color - especially his blues.  She always wanted me to have him paint us a picture of San Xavier for one of our wedding anniversaries...
          And there we were, driving through Neil's landscapes, in my dream, just talking and laughing and enjoying each other's company.

          It was so much fun...then, our car slowed to a stop - at an unknown destination.  I felt a sadness, but Kimmy's eyes radiated and her smile was so contagious...she leaned forward and kissed me...and I woke up...in my room, bleary eyed, exhausted, my hair a full out bed hair.  I shambled to get out some socks...and as I struggled to make a match, I found Kim's halo...it was warm, pulsing and it glowed a soft light.  I knew immediately what it was - my angel had come to visit me...
          And then I woke up for real, having dreamed a dream within a dream...the sun was just coming up and through the blinds, I could see peach colored clouds hovering in the sky...
          I can't believe four months have passed, four months of doing all we can to keep it together - tonight, the bambini were so tired after their day (school, homework, Cody's track meet - he came in 3rd in the 100 M despite a sore ankle, swim lessons, grocery shopping at Albertson's (our cashier, Michael, worked with me at Toys R Us 15 years ago - soliciting comments from Autumn 'Dad, we can't go anywhere without you knowing someone!') and then, around 8, dinner)  When I went to see who wanted to go outside to say goodnight to Mama, I found them all to be alseep...looking like angels themselves...so I went outside, by myself, with a Modelo ($9.99 at Alberstons!  Friends don't let freinds overspend for beer!) and looked at the night sky - my upsidedown Big Dipper...and toasted to Kimmy - for all that she did for us and continues to do.
            There aren't too many days where someone comes up to me and lets me know that Kimmy changed their lives.  Or that they are doing things differently because of Kim.  Or that she inspired them to try harder, do better, look at things in a new light...etc.  That always makes my day.  Because that was who Kim was.  Taking me from one place and bringing me all the way to this one...making me want to do better - because of her and for her.
         That's why I started the Kimmy Foundation through Carondelet.  Because she loved to help people.  The Foundation is modestly increasing, to where they feel, after Janene's event; 'Kimberly's Kut-a-thon', they will be able to purchase some much needed equipment for the 5th floor, where Kim was their angel...inspiring them...and others - Neil Myers, recently told me that, he was going to paint a replica of one of my ancestor's, Sebastiano Conca, paintings and auction it off to the highest bidder, with the proceeds going to Kimmy's foundation.  I continue to work on ideas to supply this fund to help families like mine, going through the horrors of what we experienced...

And the folks at Barnes & Noble continue to inspire me.  Jaimelyn running the store, flawlessly.  Mary, bringing in a flow of business and building future relationships.  Jaime, stepping up when I needed her most.  Devon, coming back to our B&N family and anchoring the back.  Richard, stoically holding down the upstairs and beyond.  Jon, champion a Cafe that is in the top 10 in the nation.  I could go on and on.  Today, I was shelving books with Bianca, who told me it is so nice to have me back.  She was so complimentary of the team we have and the work they've done while I was gone. I told her it was good to be back and told her some good Kim stories...she continues to keep us all going...and we just continue to out run the darkness, heading toward the light.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Going Green

           When Kimmy got sick, and I began running marathons; Rita Ranch to hospital...back to Rita Ranch to pick up kids from school, back to hospital, footraces up the staircases (I still need a rematch with Heidi, the RN who thoroughly smoked me up to Kimmy's floor!)...Kimmy worried about me and my health.  Leave it to Kimmy, in her condition, to worry about my health!  If there were ever a more selfless, giving person...well, I haven't had the pleasure of meeting them yet. 
           But, I was always the one getting sick...mainly sinus infections, as I have a deviated septum (that sounds so cool!) and various assorted allergies.  And Kimmy never got sick, always joking "I'm waiting for the 'big one'".  Damn.  I told her not to joke like that - and I still am in disbelief, that with all of the advances in medicine, how young and healthy she was, that Kimmy couldn't be saved.  Have you seen that movie, "The Green Mile"?  One of my favorite Stephen King stories.  Kim and I watched that movie several times...at one point, when she was hospitalized,  I told her "if I could just do that thing that John Coffey does to sick folks in the movie and save you...".  Kim would giggle "I know Dave, you are saving me, but you need to stay healthy for the bambini."  Kim always took good care of me...
               Enter Lupe and Manny with the Green Drink!  They make this concoction in a blender, chock full of fruits and veggies, that looks like puffy, toxic waste from an old sci-fi movie, but actually tastes very good!  Lupe would be dropping her daughter, Monsi off at Mrs. Schrantz' class, as I was dropping Tonio off, and hand me a glass of the stuff - every morning.  I haven't gotten sick since.  Not a sinus infection - nothing.  I'm waiting for the 'big one'.  Just kiddin!
                Here's what you do:
 2 cups spinach
 1 cucumber
 4 celery stalks
 1/2 tsp of ginger
  Handful of parsley
  2 apples
  Juice from 1 lime
  Juice from 1/2 lemon
  Small can of crushed pineapple

Just combine all of this into a blender (add water, or I like to add pineapple juice, as needed).  Makes 4-5 servings.  I just leave it in the bender pitcher, put it in the fridge, and each morning, blend it back up and drink it M-F.  And there are my veggies!!  It's pretty tasty, too!
  Lupe even got me one to the hospital Kimmy's last morning there.  We were still in the ER and Amy snuck in, saying she was my sister, and brought me a coffee and the green drink!  Amy had taken the kids to school for us that morning, and Lupe handed off my drink to her. Kimmy was pleased.

   And today, Lupe picked up the bambini's after school, helped them get their homework done, and her and Manny had us all over for a chicken tostado dinner (tostados are Autumn's favorite) complete with some smokin hot tomatillo salsa ( I forgot to get that recipe, but it's green!).  Everything was delicious!  And, it was a long day...so it was nice to unwind.

    That's a lot of green.  Green Mile.  Green drink.  Green tomatillo salsa.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Heckle and Jeckle

        What madness.  This morning, I needed to get to a staff meeting at Barnes & Noble.  Early.  I needed to leave the house around 6:15.  Ish. So, I asked Charlotte, who lives in our neighborhood and is a parapro at Cottonwood, who Kimmy worked with in Mary Montes' class, if she could pick the little bambini's up around 7:20 and get them to school. She said no problem.  Cody stayed the night at his friend, Jesus' house, whose dad, Joe got them to Desert Sky (after they stayed up until 1ish playing video games!).
         I'm not big on math, but, I realized I'd have to leave Tonio and Aut on their own for an hour or so.  AND they'd have to be getting themselves ready for school...I did not have a good feeling about it.  I began prepping them a few days ago.  Trying to let them get themselves ready - but, it was no use.  They are like any comedy team you've ever encountered.  I know that I am seriously dating myself, but, they remind me most of those two loveable magpies, Heckle and Jeckle.
              They always started out buddies, cracking jokes - but, it would typically turn sour, at some point.  Autumn and Tonio do that, in a viscious cycle, daily.  It's slapstick at it's finest.  Tonio is putting toothpaste on his toothbrush...in walks Autumn and nonchalantly gives him the elbow to the ribs, just as the toothbrush enters his mouth.  Tonio immediately retaliates, tossing the tube of toothpaste at Autumn's head, landing a sticky gob of Crest in her freshly combed hair...and then it just digresses.  So I was worried.
             Last night, I typed up a schedule for them.  6:15-6:35 - get dressed.  I laid out their clothes the night before for them.  6:35 - 6:55 - eat breakfast.  Before I left, I sliced fresh fruit and poured cereal for them - even juice and milk in a cup for the cereal - ready to go!  6:55-7:15 - brush hair, brush teeth, put on shoes. I put out brush, toothbrushes and shoes for them.  7:15-7:20  - put your lunch boxes in your backpacks, put on your coats.  Lock up Bella and listen for Miss Charlotte.   It all looked so good and easy on paper.  Autumn came to me, with the paper, her big, beautiful blue, Kimmy-like eyes, wider than ever and begged 'Dad, please!  Can you skip your meeting?  I'm scared.  I donwanna be left home along!!' 
             I called them when I arrived at Barnes & Noble at 7.  Autumn answered and immediately went into her Heckle routine; "Dad.  You should see!  Tonio still has not brushed his hair or his teeth!"  Tonio, wailing in the background "Yes I did!  Yes I did, Autumn!  Lemmee talk to 'im!".  Tonio (Jeckle) gets on "Dad!  Autumn didn't even clean up her breakfast dishes or feed Bluebell yet!!"  Autumn: "Did too!  Did too!"...Did I mention I was worried?
            7:35.  I receive a text from Charlotte:  "2 Conca's safely at Cottonwood! Have a great day!".  OMG.  What a relief.  When I got a chance, I texted back, asking if they were ready.  Charlotte told me (or lied to me) that they were ready and were no problem.  Hmmm....I'm skeptical...
            But, I'm thinking, more and more, that Kimmy had worked with these guys over the years...they do know what to do.  And although they sometimes resemble bumper cars, they could be counted on today to make things happen.  I was proud of them...Incidentally, I texted Cody a good night at 11 p.m. last night and again at 7 this morning to wish him well in school today and to tell him I loved him...and got texts back both times telling me he loved me too...I'll save those texts!

             Later, I got a call from Hilary, who I met the other day at Old Adobe Realty.  Her husband assists Dr. Atkinson, Kim's surgeon, in surgery.  She said she was getting pretty busy and could I help her with some customers who wanted to look at houses later this evening in Vail?  I told her sure - scrambled to get bambini coverage (thanks Patti and Dawn!), de-crapified my truck (three bambini = all sorts of flotsam and jetsam) and drive out to Vail...
            Here's where I desperately needed Kimmy - for that shot of confidence...and her once over - Was I dressed appropriately?  I think so.  Did I have my name badge?  Nope.  Remembered it half way there.  Did I have business cards?  Yep!  Did I pack cold beverages for everyone?  Yes!!  And no adult beverages, either!  Did I have my electronic key to unlock the key safes?  Yes, and it was fully charged for once.  I guess I did ok...and to keep cool, I put on a CD by James Blunt - soothing.  The last thing you want is to 'pit out' before you even meet your customers. 
            The customers, Sue and Scott - Scott works as a tech with Southern Az Anethesiologists at St. Joseph's...the group that handled all of Kim's surgeries...and, we were able to find them a house they liked enough to want to put an offer in on!!! 
            While I waited to hear from the listing agent and Hilary, I raced the bambini to swim lessons.  They are looking a little better...and had fun!  Cody lost a sneaker at track, so we stopped an bought him a new pair on the way home...we were going to meet up with Janene and see Brendon play some baseball and let the kids run around Purple Heart Park, when the calls started coming in...and I just finished the offer contract...felt good.  Although I missed some of Kimmy's special touches, I hit enought to get by...and the James Blunt  iced the deal.
           And I still managed to pack lunches, get clothes ready, wash, dishes, homework...not necessarily in that order, and get the bambini in bed by 9:30.  I'll take that.  No rest for the nefarious...
          The kids did a super job today...I am proud of them...and their Mama sure shaped them and smiles down on them...I'm sure she is proud too...


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chicken Parm and Running

      This was a good day.  For all of us.  One of the best in my recent memories...we started off waking up at 8:15 and got a running start, as we need to walk out the door by 8:45 to make CCD and 9:00 a.m. Mass...It was like a 3 Stooges comedy show, as we literally ran by each other, shouting encouragement ('Yeh, nice hair Tonio!''  "You just need shoes now Aut!"  "Dad, don't forget your belt!") and we did it! Driving north towards the Catalina's, their highest peaks kissed with yesterday's snowfall, the sun bringing out all of their glory.  Got to CCD just as the prayer circle started...and, wait a minute!  Andrea, Lexy and Breanna beat us there!  But we still beat Lupe, Manny and Monsi!!
     Lupe, Manny, Angie, Andrea and I took up a pew at Mass - Monsignor Tom was giving Mass today - this always starts my day out well, as he is so inspirational and I remember his visits with Kim and how much they meant to her.  Today was not different - during the homily, he talked about how Jesus was about to raise Lazurus from the grave - after being dead for 4 days, the people did not want to roll the rock from his tomb back, for fear of the smell.  Jesus was at first exasperated, then angry, saying, here, let me help - I'll make you believe!  And, of course they did!  Msgr told us to look for pieces of our life, that were, perhaps dead in us and roll back the rock! 
      I've been reading a book by Charles Stanley, called "When Your Children Hurt" - Charles Stanley is a pretty gifted Christian Inspirational writer - I've read several of his books.  In this books, he tells stories of losing loved ones and how to help our children through it, so it is pretty relevant right now.  One of the families he's speaks about, finds solace in keeping moving, never stopping and I could immediately relate to that - if we don't slow down, we won't dwell on things - and it's working!  I spent so many months in  the absolute and icy grip of terror while Kimmy was in the hospital - but I never stopped moving.  Stanley has a whole chapter on how to lose the fear - I wish I had found this book back in October - so if you know anyone going through something like this - suggest this book!
         After church, to keep moving, we all headed over to Viro's for breakfast.  It was packed, and half of the people there were Vito's relatives!  About 15 of them had just returned from a breast cancer walk over at Tucson Medical Center, where Andrea works - she had done a lot to coordinate and prepare this event - Vito's son, Joe and his wife Deanna and much of her family did the walk this morning and said they were thinking about Kimmy during the event.  Vito's mom, Enza and dad, Vincenzo, spent some time with us, delighted that Angie could communicate to them, as her Spanish is close to the Italian dialect they speak!  Vito's cousins, who lost their dad, Angelo, to cancer several years ago, were there, Maurizio and Franca and their families - it was a wonderful day to visit.  As always, the food was great (everyone loved Vito Jr's and Nikki's omelets and Erica made me a perfect cappuccino, as always - I joked with Nick that Napoli was going to overtake A.C. Milan for the Serie A lead!  They haven't been this good since Maradona played for them back in 1986!!).  I promised Manny he could try a cappuccino next week...
           Then, we split up.  Tonio and I took Monsi, went to Target and then back home so they could be entertained by Bella. These two play so well together, sharing a love for Lego's!

 Angie took Lexy and Autumn to meet Andrea, who took them to see 'Soul Surfer' and shopping at 'Justice', the girls absolute favorite store.  I picked Cody up at his friend Wyatt's house and dropped him off at his friend Jesus' house, where he will spend the night so Jesus' mom, Monique can take him to school for me tomorrow.  All the kids had a blast today, playing with friends, Autumn having a 'girls day out' and it was so nice to visit with everyone today and see the bambini beaming! 

Andrea dropped Autumn off in time for dinner, after a fun day, she gave the movie two thumbs up!  Here, she is sporting a new shirt that her cousin Jackie sent her!

          Over dinner, we shared more 'favorite Mama' stories...I made chicken parm for them tonight, yet another of Kimmy's specialties!
          Here's what to do:

          Mix 3 tblsp of olive oil with 1 tsp of fresh rosemary, 1 tsp of fresh thyme leaves, 1 tsp of fresh Italian parsley leaves, 1 tsp of fresh basil leaves, all finely chopped and 3 cloves of minced garlic.  Take 8, thin bonless, skinless chicken breasts, pound them and brush them with the olive oil mixture.  Salt and fresh ground pepper them to taste.

They should be snuggly nestled safely in the big skillet (do not, under any circumstances, use your 'nice pot' for this endeavor!).
         Heat up a large, oven safe, skillet over high heat and add the cutlets.  Cook just until bornw about 2-3 minutes per side.  Remove the skillet from the heat.
         Heat the oven to 500 degrees.  Spoon marinara sauce (you've got Kimmy's recipe already, right?) over and around the cutlets.  Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese over all cutlets and then sprinkle 2 tsps of parmesan cheese over each cutlet.  Take 2 tblsp of butter, cut it 8 ways, and place a piece on each cutlet.  Bake until the cheese melts and the chicken is cooked through - about 4-5 minutes.

           I serve this with angel hair and, Autumn's favorite, sliced tomatoes - just drizzle the slices liberally with olive oil, sprinkle oregano, sea salt and lots of freshly ground pepper on them!
Of course, a nice loaf of crusty, Italian bread is a nice compliment to these dishes.  We talked about how Kim always went above and beyond to feed us fresh cooked, no boxes, pre-mixed, meals, that were healthy and tasty!  It meant a lot to her...and we are using her recipes daily!

I think I've beat the fear thing.  Days like today, really help us make progress. I have found that you can't necessarily outrun being scared and these people we shared Mass and breakfast with and who took care of our children, Msgr Tom's homilies, books like Charles Stanley's, have helped me face the horror - and let me tell you, Sunday/Monday's had been the hardest - like having my own, private spook house, where I'd dream and relive my last night with Kimmy in our home, over and over and over - now, I'm through it and able to focus better on helping the bambini heal - mostly Tonio, who just about daily brings up how badly he misses Mama.  Autumn has done such a nice job journaling, channeling Kimmy and Cody, too, has grown so much and continues to inspire me, daily.  I'll keep them moving, healing and helping others.
 It's all about the bambini...


"Do no fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your god.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand" Isaiah 41:10