We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

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

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Story

       Today, has been an invariable roller coaster...I kept the bambini as busy as possible - they have been bringing up the anniversary of Kimmy's passing more frequently - they have lots of questions and concerns...
       Julie Shivonanda, 6th grade teacher at Cottonwood, who worked last year at Rincon Vista with Kim, posted this YouTube video to FB.  I can tell you, that 2010 was without question the worst year of my life, but, viewing this young man's story, puts things into perspective. How courageous he is!


We made more biscotti...the bambini are getting good at it...

Then, we ran steps...yes, we were back at St. Joseph's to visit Aimee Snyder.  Aimee was a teacher at Rincon - Kim loved her.  She has been very inspirational to our family and has been very involved in helping to plan and promote Kim's Foundation fund raising events.  Aimee found that her leg was getting larger...and larger...and thought of Kim's blood clots.  She also remembered how much we have raved about the team at St Joseph's, so that is where she went when she decided it was time to get checked out.  Turns out she had blood clots up and down her leg and in her lungs!!  We went to visit her today and she proudly told us she had a vent put in, just like Kimmy's, to prevent any remaining clots from reaching her heart.  She has had a great experience at St Joe's and, like Kim, has left a legacy as a positive, upbeat patient.  She's on the 4th floor - Kim had spent a little time there - now, but had been in ICU.  Autumn wanted to run down to ICU to say hi to the doctors and nurses who helped Kim, specifically Vivian and Deborah.  We got to see Vivian, but, unfortunately, Deborah was off today.  When I told Vivian that we had come to visit Aimee, she lit up "Oh, she is wonderful...and funny!".  Inspirational!  We ran up the remaining stairs to the 5th floor, where Angie's daughter Kim is an RN, and got to say hi to several of Kim's nurses.  Autumn won all stair races today. 

Vito had live entertainment tonight, invited us down and the house was cold, shadows growing longer, so we thought it would be good to get out...taking Janene's son, Brendon with us, the bambini had fun and almost had Tonio talked into asking the singer to do some Dr. Dre.  He had a lady singer with him and they wanted her to sing some Rihanna.  The duo did sing some Louis Armstrong and Nora Jones, however.  And the Croce family helped us chase some of those shadows away.

          And I am grateful for the blessings that I have.  I think often on those five wonderful final days I got to spend with Kimmy.  And I am thankful for the family and friends who have continued to stand by us, even as we struggle and adapt, and who keep us smiling....

Friday, December 9, 2011

Guitar Hero

                   Last year, this day, Kim was having her third 'good' day in a row!  We were ecstatic, with renewed hope.  The one thing that really bothered us, was, that Kim still could not walk on her own...a foreshadowing, of sorts.
                  We did some more shopping together.  Ross was one of our stops.  Kim was so cute.  She picked out an outfit or coat for everyone and had seen a black Puma shirt that she liked for me.  I told her that we were not shopping for gift for me and that I really did not need a shirt.  She nodded, agreeably, and, I swear, she hung that shirt back up on the rack.
                   I hadn't given it another thought, until, the cashier had scanned each item that I placed upon the counter.  Suddenly, Kim reached into the fold of her wheelchair and produced the black Puma shirt!  "And this."  she implored the cashier.  She had clandestinely hidden the shirt until that last possible moment..all the while looking at me with those big, blue, laughing eyes...
                      Her and Cody ended this nice day by playing Guitar Hero together...

                                                       Degrazia Gallery in the Sun Chapel

Our neighbor, Amy, had cleared the way for Kim to collect supplemental sick time off pay!

"Here we go! I bet you get a huge response."

        Jenna Edwards, wife of Brent, assistant principal of Rincon Vista, is an RN and volunteered to come over and help me with Kimmy:

> "Hey Conca Family : )
> I would love to come over and visit with you! My schedule is pretty
> flexible... Let me know if it would be better to come over during the
> day, while kids are in school, or in the evening.
> It would be great to see you, talk and be of any service I can-
> Just let me know what works for you guys.
> Jenna"

        We made plans for Jenna to come over and help...but Kimmy did not quite make it that long...

         And my Dad sent me news that the Baltimore Orioles had acquired J.J. Hardy, shortstop, from Minnesota. 

          It was a good day...


                                                                    Holiday biscotti...part 1         

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Angel Tree

          Man, the days are just steamrolling along...It's amazing to me how in tune the bambini are and want to do more during these next few days to honor their Mama and to remember her...

          Today, that meant re-hanging all of the beautiful angels that everyone came an hung in our olive tree in the front yard!  Before I talk about that actual hanging of the angels, let me revisit the tree itself.
          Turns out, that the olive tree is one of Kim's favorites.  She loved their color and the fact that they do not typically drop their leaves, so there is no mess.  They are excellent shade trees and require very little water or care.  She would just have me trim them up a little to give them some shape.  The first thing she had me do, when we moved in here 7 years ago, was to tear out the mesquite and acacia trees planted by the builders. She hated the mess that they made, the thorns that they had and the fact that their root systems do not go down very deep, so the monsoon would knock the trees down.  The olive trees that we planted together 7 years ago have grown into the beautiful trees that she imagined they would become.
           So it was very fitting that well wishers chose to hang angels in her favorite tree!

                      We had picked up Lexy and Breanna at school today, and they were excited to help.  Cody was very into putting the angels back up - he, more than the little ones, wants to make sure we do something special each day.  Here, the bambini are choosing which angels to hang first, pulling them out of boxes, wrapping, etc and attaching new hangers where necessary.

Lexy and Autumn climbed as high as they could to hang angels and then found it was kind of nice to just stay up in the trees, like monkeys, for awhile. 

                                                  This simple act, of putting the beautiful angels back in the tree, was comforting, soothing...feel free to add more, if you wish...these guys had a fun time and the angels look pretty and have such meaning.  Many still have messages attached to them.  And Patti's and Jennifer Lofgren's angels, made it through the whole year hanging from the very branches from which they were hung!
                                                  Here they are, proud of their work and ready to go eat Italian Wedding Soup at Viro's...it is Thursday, after all.  I've come to realize, that, if someone were to put a hit out on me, I'd be a pretty easy mark.

                  I try to fill their days with meaning and memories...and to push away the dark.  We are all staying up until at least 10, Cody and I until midnight...and then, I do my best to get to sleep...I had asked Kim to haunt me, she promised she would and of course, she does.  But, upon reflection, I asked the question wrong.  I should have thought to set up signs, ways that I could be sure that Kim was visiting/communicating to me - like a hummingbird on campus at Cottonwood Elementary (I saw one this morning, despite the frigid temps, and thought 'dammit, why didn't we come up with some sort of code??')  There just wasn't time, but I am thankful for the goodbyes that we did share...

               "   On the first page of our story
The future seemed so bright
Then this thing turned out so evil
I don't know why I'm still surprised
Even angels have their wicked schemes
And you take that to new extremes
But you'll always be my hero
Even though you've lost your mind"
                    Kim told me that I was her hero...more than once.  She was so sweet...but I was out of my mind.

                             Here's some precious shots of Kimmy and Autumn on our last visit to Pennsylvania.  One of her with Cajun, who traveled well.                    

And the thank you's continued:

December 8th, 2010

To Micah Mortensen, principal at Desert Sky Middle School;
Thank you for the show of support last night at Chuy's! Kim was overwhelmed with emotion when I told her how many good people were there to cheer her on. We really appreciate all that you do for our family and for Desert Sky. Please thank Cindy and all of the front office girls who came out too! Cody was especially excited to see Coach Lee and Coach V - and Rayna, what a hard worker she is! Words can never express how grateful we are. Dave"
              Cody played on two championship flag football teams at Desert Sky.  Last year, being special, as he had incredible games during the playoffs and championship, at running back.  It meant a lot to him that the coaches came out to Chuy's.  And, I can still clearly remember, Kimmy insisting that I park her in the Expedition on Rankin Loop, so that she could watch his game...
             And to Rayna Krewszewski, who was Volunteer Coordinator at Desert Sky...
"Hi Rayna,
Just wanted to thank you again for last night at Chuy's! Thank you for all of your hard work in making that a success, we really appreciate it! Please thank Deanna for coming out too, it was good to see her and the boys. Kim was overcome with emotion when I told her about all of the good people that were there cheering her on. You guys are making a difference. Thanks again! Dave
PS Tell Rick that Kim is getting me a Juventus, Del Piero #10 jersey for Christmas! There's just not enough soccer fans in Tucson..."
     To Lydia Crain, principal at Rincon Vista, where Kimmy worked;
"Hi Lydia,
Chuy's! It was great to see you, Cindy, Brent and so many teachers and staff. I let Kim know how many good people were there to cheer her on and she was overwhelmed with emotion. We couldn't do this without people like you. Also, we appreciate all that you and the staff are doing to help Kim get sick pay and all of your team who have made us food. Amy has been so helpful in setting up the food schedule and working on the sick time.  Monica Christensen has been especially supportive, making us several meals. You guys are amazing! Thanks again, Dave"
       To Brent Edwards, Assistant Principal at Rincon Vista:
Thanks again to you, Jenna and your family for taking time out of your busy schedules to go to Chuy's to support our family! Kim was overcome with emotion as I let her know how many people from Rincon Vista were there - what a caring, generous community we are blessed to be a part of. I'm sorry I did not get more chance to visit with your family - I wanted to thank Jenna for her generous offer to stop in to check on Kim - that would actually be comforting, as she seems to run into complications, like blood clots, caused by the cancer. You guys have been so helpful, especially seeing that Kim gets sick benefits and all of the staff that have cooked us meals. Thank you again, Dave"
            And Kim had another good day on 12/8/2010...Janene came over and styled her hair in our kitchen.  It did Kim so much good to have her hair cut and cleaned - again, something we had taken for granted, meant so much to her.  Janene took alot of time to make Kim feel good that day...
            It was today, last year, that Kim taught Autumn and I how to make the marinara sauce.  Andrea, Lexy and Breanna were coming over and Kim wanted to make them pasta and make your own sundaes - she insisted on running to Fry's with me to get ice cream and all of the fixings.  Cody enjoyed going to see our neighbor, Alex, play basketball for Rincon Vista against Desert Sky...And Kim and I ran to Target to pick up some gifts for Christmas.  Even though she was wheel chair bound and on oxygen, she was up, alive, and glowing...As only Kimmy could...

"Far, far away; find comfort in pain,
All pleasure's the same: it just keeps me from trouble.
It's more than just words: it's just tears and rain."
                                                           - James Blunt


Wednesday, December 7, 2011


                   Last year, this night, Melissa, Volunteer Coordinator at Cottonwood Elementary, put together the most amazing fun raiser for our family at Chuy's.  Kimmy had a good day, but, of course, was not able to actually go to Chuy's.  Our neighbor, Amy, sat with her while I was there and cooked some of her famous chicken adobo - I'll have to get that recipe from her to post - it is so good! 
                  Chuy's was completely packed.  If it wasn't for Kim being where she was, it would have been one of the best bashes I've ever attended!  But what made it so incredible, was the energy and the optimism that emanated from everyone there.  That event helped us more than I can tell you.  Afterwards, Angie and Andrea came back to the house to visit with Kim for awhile and help me get her ready to sleep.
                Kim was really trying to feel 'normal', too.  She told me several times that she did not just want to exist.  When I went to pick up the bambini that day, she managed to get into the kitchen to make the kids soft pretzels and nearly knocked herself out trying to get the kosher salt down from the cabinet using a spatula!  She cracked me up!  And, of course, there was the shower.  Today, last year, was one of the first times in a month that she showered by herself, as I had placed a chair in the shower for her.

 "Melissa, Kim and I could never begin to find the words to adequately thank you for putting together such a wonderful fund raiser tonight! I wish Kim could have been there to see it - I did get some photos, but if you know anyone else who got some, please have them email them to us. I also wish I could have had time to sit with, speak to and thank everyone who was there - after I ate a little, I did my best to get to every table. It was overwhelming - there are so many good people in our community. Thanks for helping our family and all of the hard work you put into tonight. It was incredible. Love, Dave"
               You know, I don't think I ever did get anybody's photos they might have taken that night...if you saved them, please send me some!  Thanks.

                Chuy's is closed now, but this is a memory that I will forever keep...

                Culver's is open now, though, and we met Mary, Emilio and Brinley Montes there for burgers and custard (Autumn and Cody stuck with the lemon Italian ice that they sell).  We had an intriguing discussion over what 'cheese curds' might be (anyone from the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, help us out because we were not brave enough to try anything with the word 'curd' in it!).  The burgers were great!

Little Brinley was such a good little girl and entertained us the whole time we were there.  I bet she will be walking by the end of next week - she is so strong!

She even let me hold her!  Babies smell so good!  Brinley was thoroughly entertained by a little music box with flashing lights, gripping it and talking to it.  Mary will have her reciting the alphabet before long!  This little girl is blessed to have wonderful parents!  Autumn can't stop talking about how cute she is.
And then we watched the Arizona Wildcats push #12 Florida into OT and nearly come away with a victory!!  The 'Cats are exciting to watch.

Here we were, back when Cody was our baby.  Cody was fascinated with Kim's long hair...to the point where she started to wear it short!  I love her eyes in this photo - they are so bright and full of life!

Once again...Kimmy always made me feel like I was the funniest man on earth, and did I mention the luckiest?


Gospel, Mt 11:28-30
28 'Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.
29 Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls

...Lord knows I could use some rest...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Great Escape

              Before I go anywhere, let me say, that when we heard today about the birth of Jackson Rudzena, son of Autumn's teacher, Casey and Jack - it made our day!!

                                     Weighing in at 7lbs 4oz and 19 inches long!!  Nicely done Casey and Jack!!  These guys are going to be great parents!!

                             So many wonderful people in our lives were blessed with babies this year...all of them, Kim loved and admired so much and would have been so very happy for them, to welcome their little ones into the world...I know she is smiling down on all of you...I can see the small tears of joy that would be trailing down her lovely cheeks and that smile, the words of congratulations, in her heartfelt sweet voice...Enjoy your babies!!  They grow up TOO fast!!

                             We had news that brought us great joy on this date last year.  Kim was being released from St. Joseph's!!  We had a literal parade of Dr's visit to sign off on her and many techs and nurses came by with well wishes for the 'Angel of St. Joseph's'.  Kim was beaming and her appetite was so good.  Her appetite.  It may seem to be a weird memory, but, she so totally enjoyed each and every meal that she had over the 55 days of her fight.  It was so fun to cook for her when she did come home, because she appreciated every bite.
                            Andrea and the bambini worked so hard to make huge banners to welcome Kim home and they cleaned and decorated our home for her arrival.  We had bought Kimmy extra pillows and she couldn't wait to get into her own bed and prop herself up comfortably with them!  The bambini were so excited and optimistic.  Tonio told us that he knew Mama was home to stay for good.  He recited the Lord's Prayer for Kimmy, showing her how he had memorized it and was praying for her.  Andrea made her tortellini soup and her and the girls stayed late helping us celebrate Kimmy's home coming.  Kim slept pretty darn good that night!!

                      Tonight, we added a fun little twist to our regular Tuesday night dinner at Lupe and Manny's home.  Lupe had just made us fish soup last night, after the Expedition left Cody and I stranded outside of Catholic Social Services on Speedway and Main, and Angie had called this morning to ask us to join her, Janene, Bryson and Kason at Peter Piper Pizza.  I told Lupe, that this would be a great way to get all of the kids together and she wouldn't have to cook again tonight and there'd be no cleanup! 
                     It is still strange, being in the new Peter Piper, that used to be Linens 'N Things, the store that I managed for two years.  I still remind the kids, that the area where they have put a mini roller coaster used to be the sheet room in Linens 'N Things.  And, prior to LNT, it was the El Dorado movie theater.  Kim and I saw many movies there.  I have fond memories of working at that building.  It was close enough that Kim would stop down for lunch and we'd take the kids to Arizona Pizza and have one of their huge slices.  We'd poke our heads into Unique Identity Salon and say hi to Janene at her shop.  Kim loved to make a stop in Pier One, as well.
                   The kids tore through a ton of tokens tonight, ate nearly 4 pizzas!!  The kids love all of the 'prizes' they earn playing the games  and had us hanging out there for a couple of hours...they had a fun night.

                                                             Angel in Sedona

This picture was taken back in the summer of '95.  We took Cajun to Sedona and taught her how to swim here. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thank you's

            Last year, this time, I was doling out thank you's.  Left and right.  I'm sure that I missed people out there, in my fog - I truly meant to thank all of you!

To our neighbors:


Hi Amy, Tom and Alex,

Thanks for your help with Bella today! And thank you for the wonderful chicken!! And thank you for catching me up on wash and dishes, that was such a nice surprise when I got home (it gave me time to clip Autumn's toe nails!). And thank you for the bottle of beer - that was very tasty and the label sure was fun!! Kimmy may get to come home again tomorrow!! She'd love to see you guys. Thanks again for everything, you guys are awesome! Dave
And Kim's cousin in Texas:
Hi Jodi, Please thank Sara for the check - that was so beautiful and sweet of her to work hard for our family!! Tell her that will buy us a lot of groceries and we so appreciate her thinking of us and helping us out during this challenging time for our family. Kim may get to come home tomorrow. We are praying she'll be home longer with us this time and that she can get back on track with her chemo. Thanks again for all of your prayers and positive thoughts. Love, Dave
  To our friends, Rachel and Mike:
Hi Rachael,
Thank you guys so much for the incredible soup! All of the kids thoroughly enjoyed it - it was delicious!! The cookies were wonderful too. Hopefully, we'll get Kimmy home again tomorrow...you guys will have to come over this week - she'd love to see you. Thanks for everything, Dave
        I've been going backwards in time, re-reading all of your emails, comments on the blogs, etc...coming up tears, a lot, especially these last few days...
        ...and, just when I think I've gotten a handle on our routine, or things, the bambini throw me the curve ball.  Today, they wanted to know what we were going to do for the one year anniversary of their Mama passing.  Through the year, we never really talked about anniversaries too much, so it surprised me.  We decided we will piece it together and each come up with a favorite thing, a favorite meal and a favorite memory...
          ...no surprise that they brought me to tears with this plan...they are so sweet and loving...and they have grown up so much through this year...I'm so proud of them, but so sad for them, feeling as if several years of childhood have been stolen from them in some way...and yet, happy for their happiness, their memories and the way that they celebrate their Mama each and every day...
            Yet, it was this memory, from last year, that brought back everything in a single flood:
 " So, Kim should be able to go home tomorrow!! That was the good news Dr. Namanny gave us to a large audience as Andrea, Brianna, Lexi, Cody,Autumn, Tonio, Jon and I cheered him...I think he was a little embarrassed by our overwhelming emotion - perhaps he felt we had placed him on a pedestal, our hero of the moment (Jon pegged Dr. Namanny as a Cary Elwes look a like). Kim says, 'despite his youth, I think he is a genius!'. Thanks for all of the prayers you prayed to make this possible!! Next, we pray that Kim can get her next round of chemo...soon!
Through Him, all things are possible!"

     It had been a very emotional day for all of us...And today, this year, was similar, in a lot of ways.  Kim had always been able to keep me so balanced -  over the last few days, I've tipped that balance.  Pushing. 

                              Here's some more random photos...I think this was at my sister, Sherri's wedding...

In which Kimberly makes me believe that I am the funniest man on earth...

 She fueled my inner funny....

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hockey the Hard Way

              Tonio has never been to an NHL game.  We've taken him to a bunch of University of Arizona Icecats games, which he has enjoyed, but he's never seen NHL caliber play.  Cody's been to the most - Kim and I would still get up to at least two games per season, sometimes as many as five.  Autumn's been to a handful, but did not remember.

              Last night, we changed all of that...

              Driving to Phoenix in a driving rain, with little visiblity, after working Kim's pancake breakfast, was a challenge, but we made it just in time.  Walking through the parking lot (free parking!!) to the entertainment plaza (The Cardinals stadium is on one end and the Coyotes arena on the other.  In between, is a huge shopping/entertainment lifestyle center), we could see the red glow of its name 'Westgate'...Cody asked me quietly "Dad, isn't that the name of the mall where you met Mama?"

The bambini particularly liked the fountains that danced to the music being pumped through dozens of speakers throughout the plaza.  We started high fiving fellow Flyers fans, until we realized that there were just too many of them to possibly acknowledge.  Our hands/arms would have fallen off if we tried.

We had great seats, thanks to Keith Ganske for hooking us up!

I chose my 'Kim' tribute jersey...

The bambini were dissappointed that their favorite Flyer and imminent Hall of Famer, Chris Pronger would not be playing that night, due to knee injury...but, I taught them about another imminent Hall of Famer, Jaromir Jagr, who the Flyers signed during the offseason.

Cody and Autumn were very into the game, shouting, getting up onto their feet, disagreeing with the ref's!  Tonio - off and on.  He'd break into the 'Let's Go Flyers' chant that our section started and enjoyed getting dipping dots during the game - I estimated that the Flyers faithful represented at least 40% of the crowd, with jersey's ranging from Lindros to Briere.  The people watching at these events never disappoints.  The fan in front of us wore a Flyers goalie mask the entire time.  That cannot be comfortable.

A giant taco delighted all of the bambini.  Autumn insisted that I capture a photo.

The Flyers really entertained us with a 4-2 victory! 

We drove back through more rain and made it home at just past midnight...

...that did not stop us from getting up for church with Angie and Andrea this morning!  Then, of course, the usual festa at Viro's!!  I took all of the kids to see Dolphin's Tale tonight.  It was a good show, but a little sad in spots.  At one point, the little girl character, tells her friend that her mom died when she was 7.  Tonio leans over and whispers "Hey, me too!" After the show, Lexy, Breanna and Autumn decided they wanted to have dinner at Mimi's Cafe.  The food there proved to be just a little rich for poor Tonio, who literally sprinted for their restroom.  As I was cleaning him up, Tonio says "Sorry Dad.  Well, at least I made it to the toilet this time.  Remember at Anthony's Grotto in San Diego how I just threw up the whole way to the bathroom?".  He's a pleasant puker.  Andrea helped me with some of Kimmy's stuff for a great charity event she worked today, helping at the annual Giving Tree.  It felt better knowing that some of Kim's things could go to helping much less fortunate women in our community...especially with the cold weather upon us!

But, they had a good day between church, breakfast,  movies, dinner and playtime!! 


Here's some randome Kimba shots:

                                   We liked squid - calamari - even the tenacles!!  Both boys can eat a whole plate!

Such a beautiful shot...