We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

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

Saturday, May 28, 2011

End of School Year Party...

          Another school year ended...this one seemed to have gone by much faster than usual...and we will miss all of the wonderful teachers that Cody and Antonio had (we were blessed to have Mrs. Rudzena conveniently move up to teach Autumn in 6th grade again next year...believe me, that cost me a small fortune to arrange!)...
          The bambini grew so much this year - some out of necessity, and some just naturally growing with time...educationally, they all excelled - having a small drop off while Kimmy was in the hospital, but rebounding nicely with the help of their teachers and our friends - Tonio and Autumn both got straight A's!!!  Cody's report card hasn't arrived yet, but, at the awards ceremony he took home 4 awards related to grades and citizenship.  Autumn is insistent that I mention we saw John Belushi at Cody's graduation ceremony - the young man two seats down did bear a striking resemblance and never removed his Blue's Brothers style shades - I thought I got a photo of him, but alas, it appears that I did not. 
Wait!  Looks like I got him captured on video!!!  check out Cody in his pin striped suit!!

          This is the time of year, that Kim liked to reflect back on all the bambini accomplished over the school year...Cody's won a championship with Desert Sky Flag Football...Mrs. Schrantz taught Tonio to tie his shoes!  Autumn overcame her fear of water and has learned to swim...Tonio, not afraid of water, but also learned to swim...Tonio growing spiritually, receiving his First Holy Communion...and all three have grown more independent, considerate and helpful...they've woven us into a tight knit team...
          And Kimmy always loved to celebrate the end of the kid's school year with a party!  She was always so proud of all they had done over the year and wanted to reward their hard work and begin their summer right...well, in honor of Kimmy, we put together a "Pickle Party"!
                            Front Row: Breanna, Lexy, Autumn, Emma and Hadley
                            Back Row: Jasmine, Cieleigh and Maryssa
                             Autumn handled games and crafts, in Kimmy-like fashion...here, the girls made pickle party shirts with fabric paint (I had to go to Target three times the same day because the first time, I couldn't remember why I was there, the second time, I couldn't decide which shirts and paints to buy and the third time, I brought little Kim with me, who made excellent choices and did it pretty quickly, too!).
They played 'freeze dance' and other games before deciding to take Bella for a walk.  Bella was thrilled to be included - but, it was 100 degrees yesterday (the ice officially broke on the Santa Cruz!), so they came back inside to cool off.  The girls built their own sandwiches for lunch and had a sundae bar for dessert.  And ate 3 1/2 jars of various pickles, too!  They made videos and watched videos on You Tube.  And they danced and hung out.  Tonio, Monsi and Mitchell also participated in the festivities!

Thanks to Cieliegh's mom, Jenni, for bailing me out on cute party favors, too!  She made bottle cap necklaces for each child that said "pickle party" with a little painting of a pickle!!

After that, it was nice to go next door to Amy and Tom's, for some adult beverages while the kids swam in their pool!
But, perhaps the best end of school year tribute, came from Rincon Vista Middle School...They dedicated their year book to Kim.  Amy brought me one over, signed by most of the teachers and staff - it is beautiful!
There is a row of Kim's photo and it reads "This book is dedicated in loving memory of our friend and colleague, Kim Conca.  Her unwavering kindness and positive nature serve as a role model for our community.  Her gentle determination helped lead our school to success."

The well wishes the teachers and staff wrote were amazing...these continued acts of kindness and thoughtfulness leave me feeling like a marshmallow...I've cried more in the last 7 months than in my entire 46 years...had to duck outside during the pickle party to finish reading the overwhelimingly deep and wonderful comments that they all inscribed...thank you!
Another school year down - and the bambini did great!  Also managed to celebrate for them...Kim had me ready for this...built me for this...just working on the fine attention to detail she lovingly threw in...
Thanks to all of you who helped us through this year!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

High School????

           How did this happen?  14 years ago, Ami Bunch was welcoming us into her kindergarten classroom - Cody was such a snappy dresser...and how Kim cried that first day, her baby, went away to 1/2 day kindergarten (afternoon session, as we were not morning people, although Kim had begun her transformation by then...)...
          And Cody, insisted on wearing a full suit and tie today - his choice!  I warned him that it was going to be damn near 100 degrees today.  "That's OK Dad, I want to"...and he looked so sharp and was a cool and collected as Clint Eastwood in the Good, the Bad and the Ugly!
             Sure enough, by 1:00, when I went by Cottonwood to pick up Autumn, who wanted to come with me, it was 92...and climbing...I had a chance to talk with Jenny Rienstra, who Tonio will have for 3rd grade next year (I apologize in advance for Tonio's wiggles and will provide a year's supply of valium...oh, you may have to wait until after you have your baby to take them, but, consult your doctor!) and who Autumn had for 3rd grade, too.   I told her I was tired and would have to try to stay awake during the graduation ceremony...she advised that I'd have to try not to cry, too. 
             She was right, too - and when did I become the emotional equivalent of a roller coaster??  That was always Kim's department!!  I guess we merged, at some point...
              Aut and I had front row seats, thanks to Mr. Mortensen, the principal at Desert Sky - he delivered a great opening speech and kept the ceremony flowing nicely.

           His inspirational speech and the rows of Cody's teachers behind him started to break me down, as I thought how important this day was to Kim...she had been talking about it, prior to being diagnosed already!!  We had picked out a suit and she thought we could have him wear his newest pair of Van's, today's fashion statement...and was trying to think of something nice to do for him as a congratulations - this was 7 months ago...she was on it!
           And, as I looked at Cody's teachers - Mrs. Paton, Mrs. Jackson, Mrs. Lopez, Mrs. Sarnowski and Mrs. Archuletta...I thought back to the times we had first met them and how much Kimmy liked them all...and then, when she got sick and after we lost her, how they all stepped up, with leadership and nurturing, helping Cody maintain - not just grades, but emotionally, too...They sacrificed for Cody, and for us.
          And Jim Coulter, of the Vail School District governing board and a past neighbor of ours, coming over to warmly greet us and offer words of encouragement - made me think back to the days, when Kim and I would walk our neighborhood, hand in hand, and say hi to Jim if he was out front...and John Carruth, Assistant Superintendent of VSD offering support and congrats...
         I did hold it together pretty well. I held Autumn tight, thanked the Lord for this day and for Cody and for all the work Kim did to get us all to this day...Yeh, I know she was there, but I missed having her at my side so badly...
                     Cody, having received his promotion paperwork from Mr. Mortensen, shakes hands with Jim Coulter, with Shannon Woolridge, Assistant Principal and big Conca supporter, to his right.
                           Cody poses with his buddies following graduation.  He's a little buried in the back row!
                   About a month ago, realizing Cody really was nearing graduation (remember when we 'graduated' from Junior High?  Wait, we never graduated!  We had a half day and went home for the summer with no fanfare!).  They make a big deal about it these days.  I know Kim would have thought of something fun and special for Cody...I had nothing...I put it out there to my peeps and Dawn Ball came through huge!!!!
                   Dawn recruited, communicated, organized a great afternoon for the boys!!!  First, she came up with a limo.  Not any limo, but a Hummer, stretch limo!!

                    The boys were ecstatic!!  Dawn also put together balloons and a great banner for the event!           

               The limo took the boys down to Mama's Pizza...arguably the best pizza in town.  I love their sauce.  As we entered the parking lot, I told Autumn how, before we had kids, Mama and I used to like to come to this restaurant and share a pizza or some pasta.  And, when Antonio went to kindergarten, we went to Mama's and had our first alone lunch in 12 years!!  It was nice...Kimmy cried.  So Mama's Pizza holds some meaning and fond memories for me....
           In Antonio's class, Mrs. Schrantz served breakfast!!! Tonio, in his dragon pj's, enjoys a yogurt.  Lupe made waffles, there was cereal, muffins, cake, donuts and I made bacon...
            These year end events were where Kimmy really shined and was able to convey our absolute appreciation to the teachers and school.  She did so many nice things...I tried.  These teachers really did go so far above and beyond this year for the bambini and our family!!!

             Cody's looking forward to going to high school at Cienega...I know he'll do great there!  Autumn will stay at Cottonwood for 6th grade and be blessed to have Mrs. Rudzena again and Tonio, on to third grade with Mrs. Rienstra. 

Romans 12:7 “If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well.” (NLT)

           In the Vail School District, we are blessed to have teachers who teach well!

            Thank you,

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Inconsistent Posts...

    Recently, it was brought to my attention, that I am not posting to Kimmy's blog daily...I hadn't realized.  You see, I am writing, more than I ever have before.  I have to.  But, I am being published in other areas...in fact, to my surprise, someone mentioned that they had read a piece that I had published out there...
    Lately, I find that I am beginning to forget...my memories grow thin...I told someone the other day, that I cannot remember December, January and most of February, so locked in horror that I was...but, as the curtain lifts, I feel the urge, the need, to get some memories out there - and I've tried to say it out loud, but am not able/allowed to...?  And so I write...a lot...about a lot.  Some things that you know about...some that would surprise most...
     As for memory getting thin, today, at school, the 5th grade had a baby shower for Mrs. Rudzena (Casey), Aut's teacher. I was asked to bring strawberries.  Kim would have baked a ton of stuff for this.  At first, I was going to wash the couple of containers of strawberries that I bought, and bring them to school in the plastic shell that they were sold in...then, Kim haunted me, telling me to at least cut the stems off and put them in a bowl...so, of course, I did.  One of the events that they put together (thanks Jenni for handling this!), was to fill in a journal page that would be compiled into a book for Casey.  It had categories on it, like 'advice for mom'.  One of the categories was 'favorite childhood memory'...I stared and I stared at the page and got...nothing...did I have a childhood?  I couldn't remember.  Anything.  And then, Kimmy haunted me again....I heard a soft whisper..."meeting Mama"...And it was like a jolt of lightning!  The memory of that day rushing back into my mind like a tsunami...my little Kim had saved me...again.

         Here's another entry from Kimmy's journal:
    December 21, 2003
       Our first Christmas party!! (after 9 years of living there - Kim's shyness was lifting!)  Santa made an appearance to surprise all the children.  We had all of our friends (Shannon & David, Andrea & Mario, Kristie and Ross, Courtney and Shawn, and others) and their kids enjoy an Italian Christmas with us!  We made the food ourselves.  Vodka sauce w/ pasta, bolognese sauce w/ penne, chicken picatta, salad and fruit.  The desserts were from Viro's - yum!  Even our favorite teachers came - Miss Ami Daniels and her sister Mary, and Miss Annabelle Rios.  Ami and Cody sat on the floor playing with his racetrack from Santa and Tonio enjoyed Mary's company until he fell asleep in her arms!  What a blast it was!  The kids decorated gingerbread men with sprinkles and frosting and the 'men' played foosball!

          It was a nice Christmas.  Ross, who works for Costco, and his wife Kristie (the third of Angie's daughters), had helped Kim get me a new foosball table for Christmas.  We put it on the back porch, built a roaring fire in our fire pit and played late into the night....I remember playing with Mario and his son David...I had wanted a table for many years, and Kim had come through, as usual!

         Tomorrow ends the school year for the bambini...how fast it went...how weird time flowed this year...they are sad, but excited for the next school year, but mostly looking forward to the summer...I will take 55 days off...55.  A number that makes me appreciate each and every moment.  A number that makes me pledge to care for the bambini, paying special attention to their needs, without tiring, or becoming frustrated, loving them for each and every minute of those 55 days....55.  So short, and yet, so long...


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Facing Fear

        We all face fear daily.  We do.  Through this all, I've just about eliminated the majority of the fears that I had prior to Kim getting sick.  And certainly, have freed myself of the paralyzing fear that I had while she was in the hospital and since she passed.
        And then there is grieving...I know I've said this, but if I had a nickel for everyone who has told me I have to make time to grieve...well, we'd be in pretty good shape right now!  But, the drive time...that's one that catches me grieving...without thought - I don't think you can 'make time' to grieve.  It's something that just happens.  Unexpectedly.  For me, it works.
        You know, Kimmy promised to haunt me.  She did.  And she does.  On my way home, I will see her riding shotgun...as I'm hurtling down I-10, 70 to 80 miles per hours, she whispers..."Cracker Barrel.  Remember that time we drove back to Pa. and stopped at as many Cracker Barrels as we could?".  "Sure honey, and we slept in the parking lot of one, in the pouring rain, until it opened so that we could have breakfast?".  "That was fun."...."Oh, Howard Johnsons!  Remember that time we stayed there and could see that beautiful white horse on the ranch next to the hotel from our balcony?"..."Yes Kimmy, that was another greatest time!"...There I am, driving with ghosts, on a beautiful, sunny day, blinded by the sudden rain storm in my own vehicle...and my cell rings, but I can't find it, bringing me back, and I'm alone...

         Cody often asks me to ride throught the north side of Fantasy Island.  We've been through the south side a gajillion times and have ridden the east corridor quite a bit.  I've heard a lot of stories about the north side.  Rugged.  Technical.  It's where Angie's husband, Mark, took a horrible spill - his helmet looked like a chain saw had kissed it.  So, I've found 'reasons' not to.
          I'd ask Autumn and Tonio if they felt like riding.  So we'd have to stick to the 'Bunny Trail', which has always been fun and a good work out.  Out of fear.
          But, I've faced so many different kinds of fear in the last 6 or 7 months - why not Fantasy Island north?  When I picked Cody up at school today, I asked him if he wanted to run down to Target to catch up on household needs, or go through Fantasy Island.  "Oh man!  Fantasy Island!  Can we enter through the north side?"...
          It's 6.6 miles of rugged trail.  And it's challenging from the start, compared to the south side.  But exhilarating.  And incredibly beautiful.  As you snake your way into the desert, you lose all sense of the city.  Soon, you can no longer see the houses.  You cannot hear the cars.  There is nothing but pristene desert, with a small, 1 foot wide, swatch of a trail cutting through it.  It's comforting, embracing...you get so deep into it, but not in a bad way, more like when, during the colder parts of the year, you add layer, after layer of blankets, snuggling in the warmth beneath - comforting...
          Whizzing back and forth on switch back trails, down into rocky gullies and flying back up the other side, you get into a zone...dialed in, is how you feel...looking, searching for the best place to put your bike to avoid large rocks, ruts, craters and bumps...and total concentration to keep your bike on the path.
           I literally ran right through a creosote bush, thanking God it was not a cholla, as I missed the smooth part of the path we were traversing by scant inches, my tires cutting through deep river rock and unable to make the turn...I love the smell of creosote, so didn't mind the branches whipping against my forearms.  If someone bottled creosote scent, I'd wear it.  And today, I guess I was!
          Cody, slightly ahead of me, shouting out instruction: 'Stay left here, or you'll get caught up in that rut!'  and "When we come around the corner, there is a huge drop off!  Lift up your front tire, or your go over the handle bars!".  Great tour guide....Just as my lungs are burning, screaming...my cell phone rings!  Salvation!!!  Cody knows to pull over and I gratefully pick up: "Oh, I didn't know you were out in Fantasy Island, I'll call you back" Andrea said..."NO!  My lungs...need a break....thank you!!!"  Calling to tell me she'd just saved me another couple thousand in Kimmy's medical bills through some research and phone calls!!!  We ARE blessed.
              Our new phones (Cody's 8th grade graduation is Thursday so I upgraded his phone for him!), don't do this justice...there are some great drop offs and steep downslopes that get the heart racing - I'm glad I faced the fear of going through this side!! I was able to keep up with Cody, for the most part and handle the rougher terrain.

            Uh, yeh....back to the fear...headstones are always a little unsettling...this one reads "Here rests K.C. Stern. Pulled 3 G's on a 1 G turn...we were about to do the same!  But, I found, no fear was left - we've been through worse...and the encompassing beauty trumped any other feelings - we let go...
                    Cody was so attentive to me, making sure that I drank plenty of water and he would look over his shoulder to make sure his old man was keeping up.  But, I thought, I sure know what those sports guys mean when they say 'He's lost a step'...like Derek Jeter - still one of the greatest short stops ever and one of the best still playing the game, but he's not as quick as he once was - he's lost a step....I resemble that.

           Again, I wish we had proper video to properly display the severity of this drop!!  It was fun, and yes, there is a 'bypass'...Cody kindly offered to take it with me, but, I declined, knowing he wanted to do it.  "Let me go first and I'll film you!"  He was so excited, it made it worth it!
            Fantasy Island has various shrines and sculptures...like the 'windmill' - it struck me as so lonely and forelorn, the top most tire was spinning slowly in the wind, at the top of a tall hill...All the time, I'm looking for vultures circling overhead, seeing chipmunks, ground squirrels, etc.  Getting tired, hearing coyotes yipping and howling in the near distance.  "Hear that Cody? - coyotes.  Coming for us!"  "Yeh, no,  it's some quail in the bushes over there!"  he said. 

              This was an intense, downhill chute that Cody told me was called the half pipe...I shot down it first, hootin and hollerin the whole way, to Cody's delight, so that I could film him coming down...he's so fast!

                                                                     What a rush!

One last big hill, Cody kept promising...on the other side of this one, he finally had to walk his bike up the last couple feet exclaiming 'What?'.  He is right on with his twists and turns... a few times, I deviated by and inch or two only to hit sand and have to really dig in to make it to the top of a steep slope (but not slippery), and on the way down, being sure that my feet did not lose the pedals...and, you have to take care to keep those pedals parallel to the ground, or risk clipping a protruding rock and being sent airbound. By the end of this journey, how I feel is wrung out...like a dishrag...
The desert, the sand, the trees, the mountains...spending time with Cody, who has done so well, adjusting and helping me and his brother an sister.  It was nice to be with him!  On the way out, I thanked him for taking me on the north side...and said that Mama would have been concerened...for our safety...but would have allowed us to go, knowing that I was more likely to crash and /or get hurt, then he was! We talked about Kimmy for a little while, how we miss her... I thanked him for being him and he gave me a big hug I would have loved to take Kimmy through the north side...

  And again, the sheer beauty of this piece of desert will wash away any of your care, concerns, worries...remember, life is short!  


Kimberly's Foundation

          Kimmy's dream was to get well enough to say thank you.  To all of those who helped her - at St. Joseph's - the nurses, the techs, the doctors...to the good people in the Vail School District...'I need Mr. Baker to have an assembly at Pantano Christian Church's ampitheater, so I can thank everyone', the teachers, the administrators, co-workers...friends, neighbors, family...it's all the same.

         Anyways, our plans were not His plan, and Kimmy went to join Him as an angel (not that she was not already one!!)....

         ....out of the need, to say our Thank You's!!!  Cody, Autumn, Tonio and I decided we needed to start a memorial foundation in Kim's name...to help family's that did not have all of this love and support...to help them pay rent...or buy groceries...or pay medical bills...or to purchase new equipment for the hospital...

           This month, was a great one for the foundation!!  Rincon Vista has already sent a check for nearly $700!!! Thank you!  Cottonwood has raised some money, too!  Thank you!!  Janene, who has already done so much for our family and who helped care for Kimmy, masterminded the Kimmy's Kut-a-Thon event and raised just over $2,000 in just 4 hours!!! THANK YOU!!  And, this past Saturday, on our wedding anniversary, the Knights of Columbus at St. Pius church, kicked in just over $3,100 from their annual raffle!!! THANK YOU!!!

              Recently, someone said how great it was that I was able to use this money to pay Kim's medical expenses...although that would be nice, that is not how it works, this money is not available to us...I am dealing with Kimmy's medical expenses separately and through the individual doctor's...no, all of this money goes to help those families that are not as blessed to have the support that you all gave us.  To say thank you, in a bigger way!  We'll find our own way to deal with the rest...

             But what a great month...now, trying to come up with some viable fall fundraisers to keep Kimmy's Foundation going!!!

1 Chronicles 29:9
Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the Lord with a whole heart.

Thank you!