We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

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

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Loft

                                 The Loft is a classic, single screen, movie theater.  A throw back to the large, one house, with balcony, theaters of the 70's.  They specialize in Sundance films and other independent films that may not make it to the 20-plex mega theaters. 
                                The lobby has a lot of charm, with old movie posters, an old fashioned pop corn popper and ticket taker booth.

                       Here's why we were there this beautiful Saturday morning, the sky a crisp blue, filled with what I've come to believe are 'Kimmy clouds'...whispy, delicate and you can always almost see the shape of something wonderful in each and everyone...
                     This fine dressed young man - Tonio.  When he came out of his bedroom, dressed to kill, I did a double take.
                    "Who the hell are you?" I roared.  "And what have you done with my son?"
                     Tonio belly laughed.  "Daaaahhhhaaadd!"

                   Tonio, a part of the Junior Optimist Club "Through Our Eyes" project, worked hard all year for this moment.  The leader of this group, Ashley Curtis, is incredible with the children in this group (Autumn was in the club with her last year).  She inspires them and brings out their creativity.  She always has a vision and works to bring the children an understanding of what she is trying to bring to life.  She teaches them about community.  Caring, being involved and being sensitive to other people's needs and beliefs...hmmmm, right up Kim's alley!  So it is no surprise that Antonio and Autumn have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of Ashley's projects.
                   This year, was no different than any other.  Ashley approached the group, with a vision in mind...but something happened.  Here is a copy of an email forward I got from Cottonwood's principal, Bobbi Mayeux:


I just had to take one more moment of your time to share with you some background information of the "Through Our Eyes" Project....

I was going to share this at the staff meeting (but forgot there wouldn't be one today)

At the beginning of the year, I had a brilliant idea of what these 10 kids could do to save the world. i was going to convince them that my ideas would be the project that we'd embark on.

THEN, a very soft spoken Antonio Conca said this, "My mom loved dogs so I want to help dogs."

And it didn't stop there. He got the entire group pumped up about helping dogs, everyone insisted that this year we will save the dogs.

So I am sitting there trying to think of some Earth shattering project we can do to SAVE the dogs.

And again, Antonio says "Well, what would the dogs say..."

And those few words became our project, reminding the community that everything and everyone has a voice.

They took the pictures, they interviewed the owners, they decided the message, they uploaded, downloaded, chose their best pictures, edited, cropped, decided on the music, wrote, rewrote, recorded, framed, researched, stayed late, came on Saturdays...

This event is completely their work. I just get to show up, watch amazing kiddos work, drive the van on Saturdays and put a camera in their hands.

I say this because every year I start this group with, what I think is the best way these kids can make a difference and every year they have another plan (and I LOVE it) It amazes me what happens when I just step back and let these young people lead the way.

This event isn't Ashley's after school club. This is Antonio's doing, this is their doing... and I just had to take a moment to share that with you all!

We really hope to see you there on Saturday (stay for 5 minutes or 1 hour)

***Thanks for letting me share***

Ashley Curtis
        I'm not going to lie to you, tears were streaming down my face as I read this...ala Kim...Once again, Tonio taking me by surprise.  First, with his performance at the carnival, now this.  To say he understates his role, would be an understatement. 
        After reading this, I was even more excited to see what Ashley had in store for us...And to see what Tonio had created!
Monsi and Tonio waiting for the event to begin!
Tonio's best friend, Monsi, is in the club too.  She is incredibly creative and brings out the best in Tonio.  These two together are so enjoyable.  They looked so sharp all dressed up today and were both super excited, and a little nervous...
Monsi and Tonio show Lupe their photography work before the show.
Ashley had all her kids dialed in - they knew what to do to make it a smooth showing.  Monsi and Tonio greeting guests and handed out programs. 
Ashley handed out flowers for the each presenter to give to the owner's of the dogs they reported on.

Monsi and Toni, sat next to each other in the front row...
Ashley asked the kids to choose their favorite part of their body and create a short about it...Here's Tonio's
And here, Tonio presents to Halo's story.
Sorry, a bit of technical difficulties...we are on the road, and, apparently, the hotel wifi is not powerful enough to upload Tonio's video...I will insert it by this time tomorrow - so please tune in next time, for Tonio's dog story!!
Proud of Tonio?  Understatement.  I was so entertained...his creativity (from Kim!) and empathy amaze me.
Ami, Mary and Brinley came along today to support the kids!  Tonio was so honored, taking time out of their Saturday morning, to be there.  On the way home, we talked about the project, the presentation, etc...but, what touched him was Ami, Mary and Brinley being there. "That was so nice of them Dad!"  He exclaimed.
And Cottonwood's principal, Bobbi Mayeux, was there, too!
A full range of emotions ran through me - mostly just elation for Tonio, on his big day.  As I said, I am just so proud of him.  And so blessed.  This boy teaches me so much, something new each day, about how to be a better person....hmmmm, once again, Kim.  And yes, I know Kim was there, but I wanted, so badly, to be sitting next to her, holding her hand, and enjoying the moment together...handing her tissues to wipe away her tears of joy...
My flash musn't have gone off!  Here, the kids take a bow!  The message behind them on the big screen very prophetic....they all displayed such talent today.  And their energy and creativity were infectious.

Afterward, Brinley walked up to Autumn and took her hand...she's such a sweety.  Autumn led Brinley out of the theater and into the sunshine...

Monday, May 6, 2013


             National Junior Honor Society....how many ways could I butcher this night?

             Three years ago, Cody was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society at Desert High Middle School.  Kim could not have been prouder.  She made sure he had a new outfit for the ceremony.  Shined shoes, fresh haircut, etc.  And, of course, she wept tears of joy during the candle lighting and certificate presentation, cheering robustly as Cody approached the podium to accept his certificate...

            ...I should have taken notes.  Paid a little closer attention.

             When Autumn got her invite for the NJHS, I was so very proud of her.  She was so excited....but expressed reservations.  Cody had reservations too.  Like, will my friends think that I am a nerd for being in this club?  Autumn, well, she was worried that it might inconvenience me to have to arrange for rides for her on meeting days and for community service projects.
              She let me know the date of her induction.  The time.  And has reminded me over the last couple of weeks.  I made sure to change my work schedule so that I would have enough time to get her from school and home to change.
              I like to use the excuse that the stress of getting out of work on time, traversing the construction riddled I-10 and making sure Cody and Tonio were taken care of, and fed, etc. as to why it never crossed my mind to pick up Autumn a new outfit.
             Cody ended up taking the bus.  Autumn got a ride back to Cottonwood, as I happened to get stuck behind 4 lanes of people doing exactly the speed limit.  4 lanes.  Aren't the left ones supposed to be 'passing' lanes?  Can you pass anyone if everyone is doing exactly the speed limit?  Tonio stayed at his Junior Optimist Club meeting working on a film project with Ms. Curtis that they will unveil at the movie theater 'The Loft' this Saturday morning.
            We hurried home and as I am making everyone dinner, I suddenly remembered.
              "Hey Aut?  What are you planning to wear tonight?"

              There was not  moments hesitation.  "My 6th grade graduation outfit that you bought me."

              Well, at least I had remembered then to buy her something nice to wear!

              "Nice.  Uh, does it still fit you?"

               "Yes!  I tried it on."  My efficient 'Lil Kim'!

               Ok, Autumn had me covered an I served them pasta with marinara sauce that I had whipped up over the weekend.  For something completely different.

              Now to be there on time!  Andrea picked up Tonio, who, even though he loves his sister very much, would rather head down to Peter Piper Pizza for Kim and Roshan's son, Micah's, 4th birthday party...Autumn was worried...
                "Dad?  What time will we leave?"


                 "Ok.  I have to be there at 5:45..."

                Believe it or not, Autumn did not get that from Kim (although she did get her smarts fromKim!).  Kim was the queen of being about 15 minutes late - fashionably late - everywhere she went.  I know at some point, I told you, about how she nearly got fired from her job at Alphagraphics back in Pa. because she could not be on time.  Even when she illegally parked on a bridge across the street from where she worked and just 8 blocks from where we lived!  "I know I got a ticket, but at least I didn't lose my job." she told me later.  Her boss actually change her scheduled start time from 8:00 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. to avoid having to fire her.
              I told him later, that his downfall was telling Kim that he did this, for she could not make it in at this time either!

              So we left at 5:35...just in case!  And I did get a great seat, directly in front of Aut...but, to my growing horror, proud parents were filing in carrying bouquets of flowers for their daughters to present to them afterwards.  Flowers?  Dammit.  I didn't think of that!!  And, the majority of the young ladies were wearing dresses - I never thought to ask Autumn if she had a dress or would like to get one for this event. 

              But, she did look beautiful...just like her Mama....

                                        Throughout, Autumn searched me out, to make eye contact...that need to know that I was still there, a part of her special moment.  The need to smile and make me smile back at her.  I held it together and smiled back each time, being sure to pay attention.

Oops!  At this moment, I am whooping wildy for Autumn, trying to be loud, to be sure that she could hear me yelling/cheering for her!  So, when I attempted to take a photo...it came out blurry...
"Did you hear me Aut?" I asked her as we made a speedy exit to get to Micah's party.  "Yes Dad." she giggled. And that giggle...radiated the Kim inside her...

Ms Vera, who oversees the NJHS reads off the children's names.

Mr. Mortensen, the principal at Desert Sky Middle School, waits his turn to speak.  He came over and sat with me prior to the start of the program to talk.  "How long do you think this will take?"  I asked him, not remembering how long Cody's induction had lasted.  I fall asleep pretty easily these days once I find myself sitting still.  "I plan to talk for about 3 hours." he told me, straight faced.  He graciously kept it to about 10 minutes and the whole thing lasted about a half hour.
Autumn bolted from her chair an hugged me.
"So proud of you Autumn!"  I let her know as I returned her hug, at the same time moving toward the exit....
Another source of joy these guys give me - watching them take swim lessons!  Now with Monsi, too!!  Lupe helps get them there every Tuesday for me - I think they like lessons even more now that Monsi is taking them too.  They are getting stronger with each set of lessons they complete...They haven't worked on diving much....love the belly flops!
Here's some from Cottonwood's Carnival a week ago or so....
Breanna and Autumn prepare to brave the jumping castle

Breanna, Bella, Autumn and Brinley in the castle!

                                       Autumn and Breanna ride the train.  Wish I had gotten a pic of the driver, who sported long, Rastafarian colored socks, a longish goatee, and was singing something unintelligible as we entrusted our children in his care....

Best buds.  Monsi and Antonio proudly display their winnings from the cake walk!
Tonio has a nice part in the 4th grade musical that went on during the carnival.

                               It was about some kids who find their grandparents old trunk full of costumes.  Curious, they ask and find out that their grandparents had starred on Broadway.

He never really let on that he had so many lines and a big part of this play.  Humble.  He told me he thought he might get to talk a little, but didn't really bring it up much.  So I was blown away - and realized that I had not picked out his outfit for this play....! 

He had a great time and was animated and entertaining!!  I was pretty proud of this bambino, pulling off such a performance!!


Sunday, May 5, 2013

St. Joseph's Chapel Dedication

                       One minute there was nothing.  A dirt lot, concealed behind the Outpatient entrance and with the second floor looming overhead.  A sidewalk through the dirt led to an entrance that put you right next to the main bank of elevators.  Nothing more.  Except the small footprints of three children, hurrying to see their mama...

                          Ahhhhh, and I cannot locate the photos I know I took of this area...so barren and out of place amidst St. Joseph's Hospital.  But, sometimes weird niches occur during additions and expansions.  So, imagine a desolate dirt lot.  No grasses, bushes, flowers.  The hulking second floor of the Neurological Center directly over head and the east facing wall of the wing where, on the third floor, Kim brought all three of the bambini into the world.  It had an almost industrial feel and certainly an element of abandonment.  A forgotten space.


This was the ground breaking ceremony March 2012.

Bishop Kicanas, sans cool hat, came to bless this ground and participate.

We all got a miniature shovel to remember this day...
On February 1st, I posted 'The Chapel' showing some construction progress...
...but I was not prepared for what evolved into a stunning chapel!

                                        You really need to go see it.  My pictures cannot do it justice (Ami, I could have used your photographic talents!)...Now, when you loop around to the right of the Outpatient entrance, instead of a barren, dark dirt lot, you encounter this wall...


                              Beyond the wall, a beautiful stained glass window, created by Mary Myers.  Mary made stained glass for the original chapel (torn down in 2006 to make way for a new Neo Natal unit - lets face it folks, chapels in hospitals do not contribute to the bottom line!).  Her original stained glass was saved and when the new chapel was beginning to take shape, she was contacted to make panels for the new chapel!  You cannot see the detail in this photo, but, there are interestingly shaped air bubbles throughout the clear areas.  Mary created these by tossing  potato into the hot glass!

                               The building directly in front of you is the Outpatient building.  To the right, the building where Kim brought the bambini to us on the third floor.  The wall and stained glass I just showed you will be at the end of this walkway on your left.  Directly ahead, is a seating area.  A quiet area to find peace.  The immediate walkway is composed of pavers...

                         It's difficult to read, but, this is from the bambini:

                        "Cody, Autumn and Antonio Conca..In loving memory of Our Mom Kim"

                        I focused my camera phone steadily, taking just a little longer to focus, after reading the inscription...the bambini's faces swimming up into my mind's eye...

                     This is a view of the main entrance to the chapel.  They designed it to be able to allow for outdoor seating for larger ceremonies.

                            There were several large pots with bamboo lining the back of the main walkway.  Very tranquil.  "First rule of bamboo, is don't plant bamboo."  Guy to my Dad, asking advice on how to tame run away bamboo in his back yard!  Sounds like that guy was a Tyler Durden fan - Fight Club.

                      This is the north side of the chapel, closest to the main hospital.  A comforting statue of St. Joseph greets you and Mary's stained glass window's provide color.  If you follow the walkway back to your left, there is now a private seating area to pray or find quiet.  This used to be the entrance into the hospital that took you to the left of the main elevators.

Inside the church...the feeling of calm, peace and serenity is comforting.  The main altar is a unassuming piece made of wood, silhouetted by more of Mary's incredible stained glass.  There is a niche with Mary, Joseph and Jesus to the left ad a detailed crucifix just to the right of the window.

The piano guy comes around from the music pulpit - again, the stained glass windows create such beauty.  St. Joseph's statue is just on the other side of that wall.

Here's a view from the inside of the church looking out.  Angie and I got third row seats, just behind the nuns, who took up the first two rows!

                               Before the dedication Mass, Father Issac prepares.  Fr Issac is St. Joseph's resident priest.  He visited Kim every couple of days to pray with her, for her and to comfort her.

                        I was blessed and honored to have Angie accompany me to the chapel's dedication.  The Mass was so inspiring and beautiful.  Kim's spirit was unequivocally there - I felt so energized, peaceful and elated - I knew she was right there.  Angie told me she felt her too and said that the chapel was all because of Kim - she had her hand in it!


Bishop Kicanas prepares to place a relic into the altar.
A relic.
What the hell?  I had read about this practice in ancient times.  New churches being built depended on a 'good' relic to bring parishioners and pilgrims to their church.  It meant larger tithing.  The full body of an important saint was optimal, but, sometimes clothing (the Shroud of Turin) or body parts would do. 
Venice sent merchants to Alexandria in 828 to steal the body of Saint Mark for their new church.  The area was guarded by Muslims, so the Venetians wrapped the body in pork and cabbage leaves, since Muslims are not permitted to touch pork.   Piazza San Marco is still one of the most important places in Venice.
Apparently, all Catholic churches have their own relic. The Second Council of Nicaea in 787 decreed that every altar should contain a relic, making it clear that this was already the norm, as it remains to the present day in the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
St. Joseph's had managed to get a St. Mary relic, although we didn't get any details of the story behind the relic.  Or what, exactly, it might be.  It appeared to be a locket of some sort.
I guess I didn't realize that the practice continued...all these millennium later.  I leaned over to Angie and asked "Have you ever seen such a thing?"  "Never" she replied.  I got goosebumps.

Next, the Bishop slowly proceed to pour oil onto each corner of the altar to consecrate it.

Once again, I had no idea.
I leaned over to Angie and asked "have you ever seen such a thing?".  "No."
The Bishop slowly worked the oil into the altar with his hand, thoughtfully and lovingly caressing and massaging it into the wood altar.
Afterwards, we agreed that we had witnessed something extraordinary.  And special.
                             It was a moving Mass.  The Bishop reminded us not to allow fear into our hearts.  We always have worries.  Will I lose my job?  How will I pay the bills? How will I do on my test today?  How will I get all the things done that I need to do?  Who will be able to watch my children for me?  Ok, I'm definitely guilty of the last one from time to time.  And, are the kids happy?
                           The Bishop, who is one of the most inspirational speakers I have had the pleasure of listening too, read from John 14:1.
                           "Do not let your heart be troubled..."
                           And in that moment, mine wasn't.  That chapel was special.  Already.  I could feel and see all of the patients, visitors and St. Joseph employees finding a safe shelter from their own personal storm here.  And Angie's thoughts echoed in my head "this is because of Kim...".
                           I don't have words to say how appropriate that is.  She provided such comfort and calm to the lives she touched.  No matter who you were, or what your standing was in life, she found the good.  She brought out, extracted, the good.

                         I was blessed to be a part of this and to have Angie to share it with...looking forward to dropping by the chapel, when I can, to absorb the peace there. 
                         Oh, but what I was telling you, was, one minute there was nothing and the next, I blinked, and there it was - filling in so much emptiness - St. Joseph's Chapel.