We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

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

Saturday, October 1, 2011


           In the end...sometimes we start back at the beginning...

           Here it is.  October 1st.  Where everything we knew.  Everything we held sacred.  And everything we took for granted began to unravel.  Only, we didn't know it yet.  In that ignorance, we found bliss, and I am thankful for the two weeks or so that we shared up until October 19th.

          My Dad and Vi made it into town today from Baltimore.  Just as they have every October for many years.  We always looked forward to their visits, and, of course, we still do.  Last October was no different.  Kim detailed the house, although Dad and Vi are not the kind of people you need to do that for - you just want to do that for.  Then, she quizzed me, no, gave me the third degree on what to make them for dinner that first night.  I knew Kimmy knew the answer, she just liked to run it all by me, building up to it.  Pasta?  Grilled London broil (does 'London' get capitalized if it is the name of a meat?)...chicken piccata...yes, chicken piccata, my favorite, Kim knew and she was so confident in her ability to make this special every time without exception.
         These guys always like to spoil us.  They head to Costco before coming out to the house and fill our fridge.  Parmesan cheese.  Olives.  Pickles (the bambini's favorite!).  Limes. Apples.  And, Corona!!  Kim would use that Parm every day, not wasting one small, grated piece of that large wedge!
         She cooked incredibly last year.  And we did a ton of sight seeing!  Desert Museum.  Tohono Chul. La Encantada Mall.  Swimming at the Comfort Suites Inn.  Enjoying Viro's and Zona 78.  The only sign, the only hiccup, was the day we were headed down to their hotel to swim...Kim began massaging her lower rib cage and wincing.  "What's wrong Kimmy?"  "Ahhh.  Spasm.  Pull over and I'll walk it off."  Walk it off?  Kim was more Clint Eastwood during her final two months, battling pain and fear!!  So I pulled off of Golf Links, making a right onto Bonanza, facing the Catalina Mountains, where we had hiked so many times, picnicked, played in the snow, and I ran, literally ran, to her door to help her out onto the sidewalk, holding her, arm in arm and slowly walking her.  Kim, catching her breath "OK."..."I'm OK now."  And we spent the afternoon swimming and then ate dinner at Zona 78...

           HOW did she do it??

          The bambini drew pictures to take to the airport today.  We were silent as we drove, just choosing to listen to the music that Cody chose from his phone for us to hear.  These guys surprised me, getting up early.  Cleaning their rooms.  Cleaning the sports room.  Putting away the clean wash.  Emptying the dishwasher.  They are so special, and I know I'd be lost without them. 
          They've added another row of couches at the terminal, to better view the t.v. that shows you passengers arriving.  We love that t.v.  Autumn noticed that airport employees stay far to the side, so you never see their faces.  Many, unassuming passengers, do 'funny' things.  Today, a lady was yawning directly into the camera.  I fell asleep.  I can do that anywhere, anytime. Catch my 20 minute power nap.  A few years ago, when the bambini were much younger and more sheltered, I fell asleep and my phone rang - it was Kim, calling me from work, to see if they had arrived yet - she was a little horrified that I had nodded off "Who's watching the kids??", and probably a little embarrassed that I had fell asleep in such a public place!
          I chose to make the marinara today.  I love the piccata, but did not feel confident that I could pull it off.  So I made meatballs instead.

           To end our night, we watched 'Mr and Mrs Smith', one of Kim's favorites, starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  There is a scene, towards the end, where they are fighting for their lives, in a department store.  In the midst of battle, they hop on an elevator to get to the next floor and they calmly ride it, like nothing else is going on.  I told the bambini - 'you know what I would do when your Mama and I were alone like that in an elevator?'  "What? What?" they wanted to know.  "Kiss her!"  "Really?" Autumn demanded.  "Yes, I had to take advantage of being alone with her!"

           I guess that was my big message to the bambini - take advantage of what we have.  Today.  We spent some time by the nitcho tonight, watching the clouds overhead.  The warm glow of the candles illuminating St. Francis was very comforting...


Friday, September 30, 2011

Cycling through...

  From Kimmy's Journal:

      "Here it is, December 12th (2004) already!  So much has happened.  Where to begin...
       The house is great.  We still have so many boxes yet to unpack, but the house has a good start.  Painting has been fun.  We have the living room done, laundry room, front room (which we're calling the 'art room') has been striped.  Next, we'll work on our bedroom for a little taste of Italy.
        The backyard has been landscaped with brick patio, large planter box, gym set for the kids and a fountain as a memorial to Dad.  It's very relaxing to sit and enjoy.
        On a very sad note, however, we lost Cajun on November 30th, 2004.  We believe it was a heart attack or stroke which took our girl.  Dave and I were both with her when she passed at 3:42 in the morning.  She was such a dear friend to so many.  We had her cremated and will scatter her ashes at Mt. Lemmon in the spring.  She loved the mountains so much, so it is there we will always think of her.  We still can't believe she's gone.  She will always have a very special place in our hearts.
       Zona is trying to find her way along without Caj.  We've included her in all we can to help her through.  So far, I think she's doing ok.  She's a sweet girl, but so different from Cajun.
       As for the kids, Cody has made us so very proud.  He was in the 2nd grade spelling bee.  He made it to the 3rd round when he misspelled 'apple' by saying a-p-p-e-l.  He did so great!  Then...just a week ago, he was the lead in a musical called "Achoo - the Mouse That Saved Christmas".  He played "Achoo" and sang two solos along with some other accompaniments.  He did a little blues number which had me in tears as I tried to film.  We couldn't be more proud of him.  Autumn is becoming quite the wonderful young lady.  She's learning her alphabet wonderfully, takes gymnastics on Wednesdays at "Springs" and just finished a soccer season where she collected rocks like a champ!  She did great for her first sport.  The tiniest one on the team but full of spunk!  Cody played too (the Dolphins) and really played awesome!  Dave go to coach and could see the development after every game.  Autie's 'Javelinas' won 2 games all season, but the friends she made (especially Riley) were priceless.
         Antonio is 17 months old now (where did THAT go?!).  He is such a cuddly honey - always kissing and hugging all of us.  He runs around like he's been doing it for years!  He tries to keep up with Cody and Autumn and actually does a great job!  He does this cute thing where he tries not to smile and makes his mouth into a tiny circle, but his big, cute, dimple pops up and makes us all smile.  He's into head-butting right now, which we're trying to break him of.  His favorite movie is 'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh", which he begins each day with watching during his breakfast.  The 3 of them are just amazing and couldn't be loved more by me and Dave.  Although we're exhausted most of the time and the house is always turned upside down and there's always laundry to do, we wouldn't trade a single moment.  We're looking forward to Christmas in two weeks when we can see their little faces filled with joy.  It will be our first in our new home.  After the kids open presents, etc, we will enjoy our Christmas afternoon with Angie and her whole family.  It will be fun!"

         Ahhhh Kimmy...she was always so kind to say 'we' when she mentioned things like painting our living room, etc.  I really did not help her - she was so good, she did not need my help (not to mention by then I was in retail hell at Kohl's pulling 70-80 weeks! I literally missed 2004). 
        Our friends Kurtis and Cherie Thelan hooked us up with a landscaper, who did a beautiful job on our back yard.  I often thought we should have waited on things like the garden wall, brick patio and fountain until the bambini were older, so that they would have more room to play with more grass and less dangerous obstacles.  In retrospect, I am so glad that I never argued that point.  Kim got to enjoy the yard so much and now the bambini enjoy helping me keep it to Kimmy standards!
        Kim made our house a home.  All of her special touches, little shopping sprees, painting, etc, etc, filled our home with warmth.  And you can imagine how special she made the holidays.  Decorating, cooking, baking.  Christmas day, she would make us a full breakfast to tide us over until we went to Angie's home to celebrate and to feast.  She'd like to bring pizzelles along with us.

       Yes, we are cycling through...


Lexy, Breanna, Tonio, Cody and Autumn all had a blast today hanging out!  We did some fun things and ended up at the Park Mall.  I wanted to take the kids to Sabino Canyon or some other outdoor rec point, but it was so windy!  And with the heat, it definitely felt like being inside a hair dryer, so we opted for some indoor excitement.  They have a little toy store at the mall...and a NASCAR race broke out!!  The dude running the store was so busy chatting on his cell phone, that I couldn't even ask him if it was ok they were 'testing' the vehicles...I couldn't feel bad for him!  Not sure who won, but it was fun to watch!!


These two are so cute together!

                                            Breanna took the above photo!  Nice shot!!

The girls had a super time together!!

One of the things we did today, was drop the check off at Carondelet, who administer Kimmy's foundation.  They were pretty happy!!  When we got home later, corporate sponsor number two had arrived!!!  Mike Smith, of New York Life (520-620-5373) mailed in a generous check!!! Thanks Mike!!  Mike was the store manager of Toys R Us when I transferred here from Pennsylvania.  He's got a huge heart!  He was fantastic at running a multi-million dollar business, and now does a great job managing investments, etc.  If you are looking for advice in this area, tell Mike that I sent you! Thanks for your help Mike!!

We started our day lighting candles for Kim at San Xavier...the bambini loved watching the San Xavier Mission school children during Mass...and saying hi to the custodians, who help keep Kimmy's photo clean for us on Mary's altar..
....and we ended it in the back yard, lighting candles for Kim in the nitcho...



Thursday, September 29, 2011

More songs

Does anyone listen to the songs?  I can't help but hear them on the radio and reminisce about Kim or what could have been, and afterward.  Opportunities missed, or mishandled...
'So Far Away', by Avenged Sevenfold, just the latest to capture my attention...

How do I live without the ones I love?
Time still turns the pages of the book it's burned
Place and time always on my mind
I have so much to say but you’re so far away

Plans of what our futures hold
Foolish lies of growing old
It seems we’re so invincible
But the truth is so cold

  And so it goes...It amazes me, how even more than nine months later, I am still handling/receiving paperwork to prove we lost Kim.  Filling it out in triplicate and providing copies of the all mighty 'Death Certificate'.  I still shudder at the very mention of that horrible piece of paper.

    The bambini and I took steps towards further completing the look and feel of the nitcho today...wandering for hours in the hot, but comforting sun, until we found exactly what we were looking for...

     ...returning home, I found a pleasant surprise in our mailbox.  It turned out to be my very first response from the letters I sent out and emailed out a few weeks ago.  Asking for help with Kimmy's Foundation, explaining her work in our community and what she meant to our schools.  It floored me.  It was so unexpected, I uttered 'holy sh*t' and stopped dead in my tracks.  The bambini have become highly sensitized to mood swings and rushed to my side.  "What??  What is it Dad??  Are you OK?". 
I must have.  Somehow.  Kim.  She, her emotion - I've never had that sensitivity - no, that's not the right description - the overwhelming gratitude - and, once again, I have no words to describe how Kim's tears of joy would pour over in certain situations.  It's as if, when she passed, she somehow merged (?) into me - and I've always been grateful for what we have and what we are given, yet, even more so since she's gone...
          The letter, from Len Riggio.  Who's that?  The owner of Barnes & Noble.  The Riggio family knows loss.  Len's brother, Steve, co-owner, lost his daughter a few years ago.  When I sent them the letter about Kim, and her foundation, asking for help, I hoped that they would understand...
           Last week, while I was in Phoenix for our conference, one of the topics that came up was our company's anti-solicitation policy.  You know, no selling girl scout cookies or Avon in the breakroom type of thing.  The reason is, so that, the booksellers are constantly being bombarded by sales pitches while they are trying to relax on much earned breaks.  As we listened, I thought 'Damn.  Here I went and pitched Kim's Foundation to the owner.  I could be toast!".  That was in the back of my mind as I walked up the driveway with the B&N envelop in my hand...
          Mr. Riggio warmly wished our family well and offered condolences.  I loved his closing line; "Our civilization advances one good person at a time!".  He is the good person, enclosing a check for Kim's Foundation in the amount of $5K!!!!  Definitely a wonderful start from an incredible company!!
          Only $485K to go for Kimmy's chapel!!

              Thanks for listening...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pinnacle Peaks

       Pinnacle Peak, Trail Dust Town - can't remember if I wrote about our times there or not - I've written well over 250 posts, so, please bear with me...or, stop me if you've heard this one!

       We lived about a mile or so east of Pinnacle Peak steak house, located in Trail Dust Town.  A replica old west town, complete with General Store, panning for gold, gun fights and an old fashion train that circles the town's perimeter.
       Kim and I found it almost immediately and liked to go there after a long day at work.  We'd stroll the grounds, visit the shops, ride the train and then stop at the Dakota Cafe to have a drink.  They have a nice little out door seating area and we'd look at the stars, talk and unwind.  It was so relaxing!

                  We loved it so much, we had our wedding rehearsal dinner there!  We also attended a number of parties and wedding receptions here over the years - great place to have an event.

                  Tonight, we went there to celebrate Janene's birthday (21st?  or 41st, I can't remember...).  It was a lot of fun.  The kids all had a blast, the food was great, as was the company, of course.

One candle?  Wait a minute!  Brad looks amused at this oversight!  At least making a wish was easy!  Janene had a red velvet cake (Kim and Autumn's favorite!!) - it was incredible.

Kason is quite the ladies man!

Finishing up dinner, as Janene prepares to cut her birthday cake.  She is the consummate cake cutter!

"It's all about the cake"  Kason says.

After we ate, sang and had cake, we got to see the gun fights.  Kim and I used to love to go watch them.  Once we had kids, they enjoyed it to.  It is pretty loud though!

                         These guys sat on the top row of the bleachers for the show.  We could hear them belly laughing at the jokes.  The shows have come a long way since Kim and I first watched them, much funnier and better executed.

                         Finally, the train!  Kim and I would ride this each time we visited Trail Dust Town.  When we had Cody, he really looked forward to it.  I think one of his first phrases he could speak was "All aboard!".  There was an older gentleman, who engineered the train most days for many years and he would narrate the whole trip making up tall tales about each section you past as the train circled Trail Dust Town.  Autumn and Tonio loved taking rides on it too.  It had been a long time since we last rode the train, and they were all very excited.  Even Brandon and Cody!


The girls wanted to browse the gift shops when the train ride ended.  They are pretty good shoppers!  There used to be a lot more shops when Kim and I first moved here.  We both really enjoyed the General Store, that has an assortment of old toys, gag toys, magic tricks and nostalgic candy.  I had the kids choose some candy - they got Candy Buttons, with a modern twist - sour flavors!  And Chuckles, those fruit flavored jelly candies.

It was a great visit back to Trail Dust Town and good to eat at Pinnacle Peaks.  Especially being there to celebrate Janene's special day...Happy Birthday Janene!!


PS Today, St. Vincent De Paul is the featured 'Saint of the Day'.  He was an amazing man, who's life was best known for his charity.  Today, there is a society, in his name, across the country. This organization does so much for the needy in many communities.  It caught Kim and my attention many years ago and was another cause that Kim cared for and worked to help.

Monday, September 26, 2011


              Today, we finished Kim's nitcho.  It took us nine months, but it was worth it! 

My neighbor, Brian, engineered this effort.  We had the idea, and the desire, he had the know how...and the tools to make this happen!

                      Our idea was, to have a place to be able to connect with Kim, in one of her favorite environments, whenever we wanted to.  We needed to decide on a saint and candles.  Angie and Andrea helped, finding the statue and Andrea and Janene provided candles (Our Mother of Guadalupe and St. Jude).  We just needed to finish the altar itself.
                      Cody and I played around with the remaining block, trying to finish off the shape of the nitcho.  Once we got that the way we wanted it, we cemented the block together.  Next step: Stucco.
                      Now, this is where, for me, I was stepping out of my comfort zone.  Kim was the handyman.  She had the artistic abilities and the confidence to take on any project. I turned to Cody for help.  He stepped up.  Next, we went to You Tube to research stuccoing.  It looked surprisingly easy.  And it was.  Like icing a cake!

Tonio prepares the block wall for stuccoing by giving it a healthy dose of water.  In his pajamas.

Cody became the master of mixing the stucco.  He had a knack of knowing when we had the right amount of water in the mix.  He quickly caught on the best way to apply it, too.

Autumn helps put a coat of stucco on the nitcho.  Tonio helped too.

We applied two coats of stucco over the coarse of a couple of days.  The bambini did a great job!  It was fun teaching them how to prepare for this work, how to layer the stucco and how to clean up working together as a team.

Here's Cody, following coat number two! Proud of his work!! If you have a computer that shows pictures, you can see the progress as if you were there!

Time for a coat of paint.  Cody decided that it would be nice to choose a color that was close to the slump block retaining wall we have for the garden.  The bambini did a fantastic job working together.  Cody rolled out the large sections, while Tonio and Autumn cut in the corners.

Coat one is done and drying!!

                   Cody meditates as we prepare for the second coat of paint on the nitcho.

Autumn and Antonio really did a fantastic job helping to stucco and paint!  Their first home improvement project.  And one with deep meaning.  Tonio was such a great help in cleaning the brushes when we were done, too.

Second coat of paint really came out nice!  Yesterday, the bambini and I went down to Civano nursery and I let them pick some flowers that they thought would look nice in front of the nitcho.  They enjoyed walking the grounds of the nursery, petting the goats and picking out flowers that they thought would attract hummingbirds and butterflies. 

Tonio made this stepping stone for me last Father's Day.  He helped me make its home here in front of the nitcho in Kim's garden.

These guys were hot, sweaty and tired when they were done.  But, they felt good about what they had accomplished!!

Here, we have placed the St. Francis statue and candles in place.

Tonight, when we went out back to say goodnight to Mama, Autumn carried the Mother of Guadalupe candle.  Cody carried the St. Jude candle.  We lit them together, joined hands and said a Lord's Prayer together. 
I told the bambini this was their place to connect with Mama.  Any time they wanted to, they could come out here and talk to her. Or pray.  It is a comforting feeling.  The kids were excited.
We said our goodnights and blew out the candles...

I am so proud of these guys.  Their resolve, strength and love, day in and day out are amazing!!


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Moving Day

         May 14th, 2004

                   "Moving day!  We are so excited, yet sad to leave our little home.  But, with Tonio, we needed something larger!!  We moved two miles northeast of our old home, so, not too far.  Rose and Vito let us use one of their big, bread delivery trucks!  Lots of friends helped us move all of our stuff to our new home.  David Conrad, Jack Croce, Ross Verduzco (Ross and Kristie are the reason we are moving to this neighborhood!  We fell in love with their home when we helped them move into theirs about a year ago!), Mark Williams, Mario Castillo, Rashon Wirasinha, John Ramirez, Robert Favela and Ben Hocking.  They worked so hard - we got them all pizzas and beers!  The most amazing thing to see, was how Dave, Mario, Rashon and Ross lifted the shed from our old house, over the block wall, in one piece - walked it into Vito's truck, drove it to our new home and carried it right into the back yard!! We are so blessed to have such good friends!!
                  Tonight, the kids slept on the floor!  We will begin reassembling their furniture tomorrow...and making this house, our home!"

                   Boy, did Kim ever do that, eh?  Everyone who comes over marvels at the decor that she put together. Warm colors, interesting paintings, etc.  As things start to wear out, I'm terrified of unbalancing all that she's done!!  We still love it, even though it seems darker, colder and more of a house without Kim to light it up!

                 Photos from our day:

Do we ever get tired of Viro's after church on Sunday?  NOOOOOO!!!!  Wedding soup for Tonio, Breanna, Autumn and Lexy.  A customer lifted the lid for the soup and complained "They're all out!", I pointed to our table and said "There it is!" - of course, I went to get more.

                                 Tonio, checking out the plans for the chapel at St. Joseph's.

                               We still haven't received any support for the chapel via Kim's foundation, but, we haven't heard anything from the letters we sent out - so we are hoping people are finding ways and will get back to us soon!

                                       Well, two out of three of us were not prepared to run steps today at St. Joseph's to visit with Meleah, Kim's newborn.  We ran all seven flights to the roof - 140 stairs!
                        Kim's little baby is so cute, making sweet little noises - full head of hair.  It is so good to hold a baby - they smell so fresh!  After we visited Kim, we went over to ICU to visit with one of the techs, Deborah, who took such great care of Kimmy - she took photos of the kids and was very happy to see us.

              Later, we decided to hit Fantasy Island.  It has either been too hot or too rainy to get out there over the last few months.  Cody couldn't wait to see the affects of the terrific rains we've had on the track.  He was not disappointed!  We found a lot more sand and canyons had come about due to the rain.
                             The sand makes it much trickier to traverse the narrow pathways, heavily bordered with cholla and prickly pear cacti.  Tonio would go hurtling down these paths at blazing speed - at one point, he was headed straight for a huge cholla, I closed my eyes and prayed.  When I opened him, he did an absolute 90 degree turn and just missed it, getting back on the path and laughing loudly.  In fact, this characterized the ride.  It was such a great example of how we had bonded.  We had the place to ourselves (no cars were parked at the entrance) and were loudly having fun - Autumn yelling at giant jack rabbits.  Cody barreling on and off the track through the desert.  Tonio began singing one of the songs from Nacho Libre (Jack Black) 'I am, I am! I am, I am!'.  It was full out hilarity.  We were just enjoying the cool air, beautiful desert and our time together, unhindered by school, work, appointments, who has who when and who cannot have who when, when do I have to pick up, have someone dropped off and be where by when for what?  It was relief, for all of us.

                           We stopped for a drink break by Kimmy's bike, still looking good 9 months after we hung it in this palo verde tree.
The sunset looking incredible.  Once again, I showed the kids the myriad of flowers growing - our fall.  Our autumn.  The loved it.  If I was a botanist, I'd be collecting flowers.  If I was a photographer, I'd be out there snapping away.  Instead, I am a dad, sharing this beauty with my children.  So they know and appreciate.

Uh, yeh, beautiful sunset...but, at this point, we were only half way through.  Overcommitted is how I felt.  I told the bambini, now is not the time to panic, we would get through Fantasy Island just fine.  Cody and Autumn went on ahead so I could help Tonio through.
Tonio, cool as a cucumber.  Neither hurrying, urgent or distressed.  "Tonio, do you see the sun?"  I finally asked him. "Yes, Dad" he replied.  "No you don't, because it's not there!"  "I know Dad, I meant yes, as in I see that it is not there".  He is pretty deep, if you can see beyond his antics. "Well, what do you have left?  Can you dig deep?".  "Sure Dad."  And he would increase the pace.  A little.
Tonio?  There is a coyote coming our way, let me get out in front."  "Don't worry Dad", Tonio told me as he flicked on a light mounted to his handle bars.  A light?  Wait, I am not that prepared!  "Tonio, where'd you get that light?"  "Oh, Janene gave it to me." Tonio said, as the coyote ran off into the desert, spooked by the bright, led light.  "Do you like it like this...or blinking?" He asked as he switched to blinking to demonstrate.  He never even got nervous.
We approached the parking lot, just as we lost final light.  Autumn and Cody ran to greet us.  Autumn babbling "Dad, I threw up all over myself!  I guess I was so nervous about what happened to you guys!".  Poor Autumn.  Next time, we'll leave earlier.  "Well Dad, you know it is getting darker earlier..." Tonio flatly reminded me.

So it is.  Damn dark...