Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

We've never been very big on Halloween celebrations and trick-or-treating in our family.  Since we moved up here on the hill, we've had a total of 9 trick-or-treaters in seven years.  Needless to say, after the first year or two of disappointment -not to mention tons of left over candy to eat, we stopped buying candy to pass out.

We should have known better.  The very next year, we had two kids show up and we were not prepared.  Mark, frantically searching for something to pass out, opened his wallet and handed the taller of the two a dollar bill and made him promise to share. 

Realizing that if the word got out, we'd have 458,588 kids beating on our door hoping for a dollar, we decided to go out to dinner instead. 

You would think we'd know what to do the following year, right?

Heck the appointed witching hour, 6PM, two little kids, dressed as super heros, knocked at the door...this time Mark frantically pulled the cork out of the bottom of the family piggy bank and dumped the change on the table and searched out two quarters for the kids.  That year he got smart and ran to the store for a package of Kit Kats, his favorite candy bar.  Since we had no more tricksters, he had to eat them himself!

Last year Mark was away on a business trip so my brother and I took my niece to my mother's house so she could trick-or-treat in our old neighborhood.  Even though my family moved into that house in 1960, that block feels like it is frozen in time.  Many of the neighbors then are still there, or the house has passed on to other family members. 

Daniel and I followed my mom and niece around and when people answered the door, we gave them candy!  No one seemed shocked.  One neighbor, a classmate from high school who now lives in his grandparents' house, thanked us as though we did it on a daily basis...go figure!

Anyway...I have a Growth Group meeting at the church tonight, Tony and Morgan are taking the daughter of a friend out and Andy said he's working on his lawn mower in my garage...if you are going out, stay safe.   If you are staying home, hope you have a bit of candy left over for a late night snack.

Happy Halloween,

Sunday, October 30, 2011

As good as it gets...

This morning, during church, I let the tears flow.  Yes, I am blessed, but yet I am broken hearted.  Missing Mark seems to be a full time job.  My son, Andy, put his arm around me and squeezed.  We are in this together!

Shortly after church, my sister-in-law, Marsha, showed up on my door step bearing not one, but TWO boxes from Panera!  One box contained Bear Claws, the other bagels.  Yum-Oh!

Shortly after Marsha left, My friend, Deb, showed up in the driveway to wisk me away to get some hot soup and a good ol' girl talk.  Yes, my heart and soul felt warm.  Can't beat friends, can you?

Well...this evening, the kids and friends made me dinner.  Delicious, stick-to-your ribs, warm and delicious food. 

What?  I am blessed, you say?  You bet I am.  Although I have lost lots, I have been blessed that much and more...

After dinner, the kids pulled out the pumpkins they bought to carve.  We have never been a Halloween family, but carving pumpkins has been a tradition.  Well, almost a tradition...

Worry about sharp knives?  Not when Super Andy is around.  According to him, real men use power tools...

But then, Tony is very safety conscious...

Soooo, when you put together real men with power tools, pumpkins and protective head gear, what do they make?  Bowling balls, of course!

Only in our house, only my kids, only my life.

Happy Sunday!

God bless you!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

True Confessions...

If you have been around for any length of time, you will remember three of my four kids entering the Triathlon  in July. 

Sunday, Mark's Aunt Ruth from Geneva, NY, came to the memorial service and told Andy about a triathlon in Geneva, NY, in July...The WoolSports Mussleman Triathlon

It didn't take but a minute and the boys decided they were going to do it.  Yes!  Another triathlon!  Seems to them, it was a no brainer.

Today Andy stopped by after work for hugs and hot chocolate.  We talked about staying with Aunt Ruth for the event.  Aunt Ruth offered to house them as long as they played at least one game of cards with her AND let her win!

Andy asked me why I didn't plan on entering it as well.  With my weight loss, my knee feels great, I might be able to fake running the distance,  I can ride a bike (pretty well), but....

True confession:  I cannot swim! I can dog paddle, tread water, float on my back, even swim under water but I cannot swim from point A to point B.  

I don't think I ever told anyone this.  I know that it was a shock to Vicky. Andy didn't believe it and Tony said it kind of made him feel guilty that everything we did involved rivers...

I'm not sure that Mark ever knew, but may have suspected.  I know my parents and siblings did not know (even though my parents sent me for swimming lessons)...

Now YOU know...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Sunday was the memorial service for Mark.   I was sitting in the front of the church and dare not look behind me, so I did not see how many people were there but on  Sunday night our pastor told me it was a packed house.  I get goosebumps just thinking about it.  I knew he was a special guy, but did not realize how many people knew it too.

Pastor Dave did a wonderful job.  He set the theme for the service (and THIS BLOG was mentioned) by telling some of our favorite stories.  My wonderful brother-in-law,  Mark (Debra's husband),  spoke about knowing Mark for thirty years and their son, Stephen, offered a prayer.

Afterwards, I greeted people for what seemed like hours.  Old friends who traveled for hours, customers who drove over 100 miles to meet us...

People gave us cards and flowers, sent food and even a box filled with comments from friends but the gift that sticks out in my mind today is this...
When Tony played high school inline hockey, we had a few (ahem) aggressive players who racked up many MANY penalties.  The parents bought this hat.  If your child was in the penalty box, you had to wear the hat.  It was supposed to encourage you to talk to your kids about sportsman like conduct. Josh, one of our friends who lost his own father way too soon a few years ago, brought this hat as well as a smile to our faces...

Don't wanna talk about how many times Mark wore this hat.

Note:  For a few days, I thought about this blog, about how it represented our family, our life with Mark at the head of our table and I thought of closing it.  After the pastor mentioned it on Sunday and many people commented on it at the memorial service, I reconsidered it.  We are still very much a family and Mark is still very much a part of us, if only in our hearts.  I am an older, wiser and sadder Jan, but I still have the joy of knowing the Lord and claiming his promise that we will meet again one day.  

If you will come to read, I will come to write.  If it is in your heart to pray for us, we'd appreciate it.  We will pray for you.
Love to all,

Sunday, October 16, 2011



In the past week, I have gotten many phone calls, email, face book messages and even visits from people who cared for our family while we grieve for my husband, their father.

People asked and I shared Mark's  story so many times, I can almost tell it without tears, but there is even more to the story.  A wonderful love story.

First of all, I was Mark's great love, but Arnie, his dog, loved him unconditionally. Arnie came into our lives when he was 2, in 2000.  It was not love at first sight, but it quickly became a love story.

Every weekend, Mark and Arnie would make countless trips to Lowes.  Actually, anywhere you went in the car was Lowes and Arnie was happy just to be going with Mark.  Week after week, Wendy's frosty after Frosty, they loved to hang out together. Some weekends, Arnie would just sit in the van in case Mark wanted to take him somewhere!

Mark had a home office.  The most important piece of office furniture was a dog bed,  They spent hours in there, Mark working, Arnie napping.  They loved to spend weekends at the river where the neighbors commented that Arnie followed Mark everywhere!

About 2 months ago, Arnie seemed to be losing his appetite and dropping weight.  I took him to see our vet and she discovered that he had a 'significant' heart murmur and advanced kidney failure.  She was surprised he was alive and told me that we needed to have a talk, a check list of signs that he no longer had quality of life and when to declare that no heroic measures were to be performed.

I really knew that it was very close to that, but because Mark loved that darn dog so much,  I felt I could not spring it on him in that way.  I asked her about the possibility of keeping him comfortable through the weekend so Mark could say good bye.

It was not easy, not for me, not for Mark.  I had to medicate Arnie several times a day, give him a liter of sub cutaneous fluid 3 times daily and prepare special foods.  It was more difficult for Mark.  He had to leave on Monday on a business trip.  He was sure that Arnie would be gone when he got home.

That darn dog rallied!  By Monday he was walking around, by the end of the week, his tail was wagging.  By time Mark came home, he met him at the door.  Our vet warned us that kidney damage was not reversible, so we made up our minds to treat him to favorite foods, let him sleep on the sofa, rub his ears and make the most of the time we had left.

The day after we came home from Washington, the day before he died, Mark commented that Arnie hadn't eaten.  Mark and I went out to dinner and then took Arnie on a long, slow walk down to the river.  On Saturday morning, Mark said he still was not eating.  We didn't say it, but we knew it was probably time.

Time...a funny thing.  By noon, Mark was gone.  Andy and I left the hospital and went to get Arnie.  We knew was time.

On Monday afternoon, Andy, Tony, Morgan and I took Arnie to the vet's office.  Dr. Leia, the techs and our family cried as we said good bye to Arnie.

In a way, they were lucky.  Neither had to mourn the other.  In another way, we are blessed.  We are the keepers of the memories.

Hard to believe they are gone.  We miss you, Mark and Arnie.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Just half

In Mark's family, frugality ruled.  My late father-in-law was famous for saying, "Just half,"  when you asked him if he wanted3ything...a cup of coffee, a piece of cake...whatever it was, Dad only wanted half.

Now his self discipline was not all that great and he might have three or four half-cookies or two half cups of coffee but the point was, he would not waste anything if he took it in small incrments.  Long after his passing, we were still telling each other that we only wanted half.

Today was another half in our lives:  Three of my children ran the Buffalo Creek Half Marathon.  Yes, Andy, Tony and Vicky ran.  Yes, this is the first for all three.  Yes, they will probably do more of these.

My day started about 7AM with these jokers in my kitchen:
After a repeat of last night's discussion on shoes, socks and underwear. they were finally ready and out the door.  I got a few phone instructions, a few text messages after they left, but I felt good...except...

Andy had been running for a few months, Vicky ran all summer and both were ready and registered for the race.  Tony hadn't run since July and didn't decide until last night to race.  Well, he's a big boy...

I picked up Morgan, her friend Gretchen and her 'bonus brother' Ty and we headed for Freeport to see the end of the race.  It was cold!  I was wishing I had though of mittens but the runners were coming in:

Lots of them.  According to the director, there were almost 900 runners registered.  The only problem Andy, no Tony and no Vicky!

Finally, off in the distance we saw...
Tony in the yellow, Andy in the blue shirt and Vicky in black...they got closer...
What are they looking at?  Here comes Tyler, in the gray hoodie, to run in to the finish line with them!

He kept up with them.  He loves Andy and Tony!

Tony was exhausted but so happy to see Morgan!
The boys' friend, Chris, who is also the race director, had a sign made just for the boys...
My athletes...

Two more things about today...

1.  I got to the finish line first (doesn't matter that I drove, I'm an old lady...humor me!

2.  The boys said they had a 'sign' from their dad...Tony was running out of energy when from out of nowhere, a pretty girl in yoga pants ran past them.  Both boys said it gave them the incentive to keep moving  just kidding about the sign, but it does give us a chance to talk about Mark)!

Ride to remember

Our small town has a bike commission!  One of their activities is a regular Friday night ride through town.  Starting in a local parking lot, the ride, with riders of every age, shape and ability, rides around town, through city parks and back again.  Afterwards, those who like, stop for a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants in town, trying to choose a different one each week.

Andy and Tony bought us bicycles last Christmas so we might join the ride.  I was never able to do it yet (I'm still in training), but Mark really enjoyed those Friday night rides (and pizza and beer afterwards).

This week, Andy declared they would ride, rain or shine and called it the Ride to Remember.  Tonight, lots of our family and friends joined the ride.  Those who were unable to ride, gathered in the parking lot to see the riders gather and some joined us for pizza afterwards...

Here comes Andy, driving Mark's pick up filled with bikes!
 Mark's nephew Tyler...
 My great brother-in-law, Mike being more than a little silly...
Andy testing Tyler's bike...
Everyone getting ready to ride...Andy in the red hoodie, Tony in the green sweater...

Before they left, most of the riders stopped for a group photo...
And...they are off!

I have to take a moment to thank all Mark's family, some who rode, some who came to cheer for those who did.  There were friends and family everywhere!  Michael and Catherine came too.

We lost a lot, but it is becoming more and more obvious...We are blessed beyond measure!

Thanks everyone for your comments, email, calls and comments.  We could not imagine surviving without your loving support.  We love you!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

In a heartbeat, or in this case, the lack of one...

Your life can change, your world can tilt in strange ways, your heart can break.

Trust me, I know.  This afternoon, unexpectedly and suddenly, my husband of 26 years died of a massive heart attack.  My life is forever changed, my world is spinning out of control, my heart is broken.

Still, his sense of family, his faith and his belief each one of us is capable, worthy and lovable as well as his faith in God will pull us through this, one second at a time.

I will miss him fiercely.  Prayers welcome.


Saturday, October 08, 2011

Road trip!  From one wheel to four and back to two?

One of the best 'touristy' things (the best thing was the people we saw) we did on our trip was...
We saw Washington, DC by segway!  What a blast!  I had this bright idea that we should try it and booked a three hour tour, with instruction and tour guide, over the internet.  I wasn't sure how it would work out, but I figured if the kids could ride around on one wheel, pedaling all the time, surely I could ride on two if all I had to do was stand there...

The company limits groups to 8 people.  Our group of 6 was just the right size.  There was Mark and me and a family of four from Perth Australia.  

Before the tour started, they made us watch a video of what not to do...don't get too close to the edge of the pavement, don't lean forward too far, don't lean backwards too careful not to get too close to other segways, no cell phones, etc.  The consequences were illustrated with a cartoon character falling forwards/backwards on his head.  Scary!

Kaitlyn, our tour guide, took us outside for instruction/practice.  
I was nervous!  By time it was my turn, I was shaking but Kaitlyn assured me I would be fine, but just to be sure, she told me that we would travel in single file and that she would like me to stay right  behind her (like the bad kid on the school bus?).

Sadly, my camera spent most of the time in the bag on the handlebars.  We were warned not to try to take pictures while driving, and it would have been a little difficult to photograph the first mishap...I ran my segway into another segway while trying to navigate a curb cut.  No damage or injuries, but a renewed fear of being out of control!
Kaitlyn told us that all tour guides had to be licensed and that she had to take a test.  She certainly knew her stuff.  She was an excellent guide, taking us from monument to monument, navigating traffic and sharing history and current events.  

The White House!

At the Lincoln Memorial, we stopped for a break (it's not easy standing still that long).  We walked around the Korean Memorial

and a few other places.  We climbed the stairs to the Lincoln Monument.  Sadly, the reflecting pool was empty.  They are working on it.

On our way to the Capitol, I felt confident enough to move to the back of the line and travel with Mark.  We were heading across the Mall on a gravel path when Mark commented he thought he could 'peel out' on the gravel.  I should have run...

I did not, he did and he performed the first and only 'roll over' of the tour...NO, he was not hurt; NO, I did not get a photo, but I did get the giggles!

What a blast!  Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat!  In fact, we're planning to do a family segway tour of Pittsburgh in the next few weeks!  Why don't you join us?  

Time to go!  Mark is at the river waiting for me to join him...our time there for the year is coming to an end but this weekend the weather is supposed to be perfect...

See ya later!  Have a good weekend, drive carefully and look both ways before crossing!

Friday, October 07, 2011

But before we left...

We headed for North Park to watch a Month of Mud race.  Andy and Tony raced on unicycles in the first race and Tony raced his mountain bike later in the day.  It was cold and rainy, as Month of Mud races tend to be (maybe that's why they are named that?)
Everyone huddled in a pavillion, waiting for the race to start.  They go on, rain or shine and it's usually rain!

Andy in black and yellow jacket, Tony in white helmet...

The course was marked with what appeared to be crime scene tape to me, but I think mud should be considered a crime, so it seemed appropriate.  The number of laps is determined by the leader of the class.  As many laps as he or she completes in 30 minutes plus one lap.  Dave, pictured below, was the leader...which is always expected.  That man has legs made of steel, I swear and HE'S ALWAYS SMILING!  Seriously...the workout on these races is unbelievable and yet Dave and Andy always smile as they are racing...???
The course went through a tunnel under the road, a pavilion and round trees and swing sets...Here's Andy coming through the pavilion with Tony right behind him (of course, Thing one and Thing two.)

Issac, one of the other "local" unicyclers came by looking a little muddy...
Tony didn't look all that clean by this point...
How do you steer when you don't have a steering wheel?  Here's a clue...

Also, as part of the course, there are obstacles set up.  There are rules as to how high they must be, how far apart...but all I know is that you have to stop, get off and carry your bike while running through the mud. 

Here's the end of the race.  Dave (with legs of steel) came in first in the unicycle division, Andy second and Tony third...You can just see Tony's head, he's behind the guy with the blue jacket.
After the Thing one and Thing two!
I love that they do things together and seem to enjoy spending time with each other...
We wanted to get on the we didn't stay for the bicycle race but we heard it was a muddy mess...

The road trip was a blast!  Details later!

Glad you stopped by...come back soon!