Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I have been working on a Christmas "project" for my dad and a couple of other people and in the process have been going through tons of photos. When Donny saw what I was doing, I told him I would do the same for him, but he had to find the pictures and scan them (I LOVE my new printer/scanner/copier...makes this "project" a lot easier!)...so he's now going through photos and files. In the process, he found these...Melissa was SO talented. I think every Christmas she made something for her friends (I KNOW she and Angie always made gifts for each other) because they never had any money...little did they know that those gifts are the most TREASURED gifts.
I'm pretty sure the doors on her hall in her dorm had her works of art...she was so easy to buy for at Christmas - coloring books and crayons...even in her 20s! She loved stickers and stamps and anything sparkly - probably why she loved scrapbooking so much.
Anyway - here are a few of the treasures we found...I'm sure there are more hidden treasures around the house waiting to be found...and you can bet I will share them on the blog when I find them!

Wasn't she the sweetest little thing...at least when she was with Santa!

Friends....my pretty girl and HER treasures!

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Two years ago tomorrow (the Monday before Thanksgiving), Melissa went BACK to the hospital. This time for good.

Here we go again. The holidays are here already, and I'm NOT ready. (Ready or not, here they come...) Too many memories. It's a VERY difficult time of year for me (us).
For the first time, Donny went to a Compassionate Friends Meeting with me last Thursday. The speaker, Rev. Bobbie Predmore, spoke about "Getting Through the Holidays". A good topic for all of us. Although SHE has not personally been where we are (she's not a member of "THE CLUB NO ONE WANTS TO BELONG TO"...) she had some very good insight and very good suggestions to help all of us.
Most specifically - the best gift you can give a grieving parent? Talk about their child. It's interesting - for some people, it's easier to avoid "us" than to talk about our child. We LOVE to hear their name. We LOVE to hear stories about them.
And, for me anyway, I GUARANTEE I will cry. But that's OK. Please don't NOT talk about our child because we (I) "might" cry. It's part of the healing. We NEED to cry as much as we NEED to hear their name and hear their stories. It will be the best thing you can do for "us".

After the meeting, we also received our monthly Compassionate Friends Newsletter. When I got home, I read a great article in the newsletter. I'd like to share some of it here. It will hopefully help you understand where "we" are coming from. Even two years later...

CONFESSIONS OF A PASTOR...by Rev. Greg Hubbard, Goodland, KS

When I left seminary, there were many things I was prepared for; my mistake was believing I was prepared for everythying. In fact, I was not prepared for everything, but I did not realize how totally unprepared I was until I spent some time as a pastor of a community church.

Even though I had been through four years of college and four years of seminary, there was much I was not ready for. Funerals I knew how to do--at least we had discussed them in school. When it came time to help families through the grief experience, however, I soon realized how woefully inadequate my training had been. I believe many pastors leave seminary feeling as I did--ready to take on the world. I believe many soon discover what I did--that the more I experienced as a pastor, the more I realized how little I really did know.

For instance, I used to believe that the grief experienced by a woman whose husband died, or the man whose brother died, or the parents whose child died was the same. I was wrong. As a caretaker of those God has entrusted to me, I set out to do my best at the funeral, to visit afterward, and I then expected the family to get on with their lives. For themost part, people did, that is, except for one group. This particular group puzzled me. I could not figure out why their tears lasted not just months but years longer. I believe you know which group this is. I wanted to understand why this group-- bereaved parents--got hit so much harder, and what I, as one who cared for them, could do.

I set out to learn all that I could about the death of a child. The more I learned, the worse I felt. The group that I had been treating like any other turned out not to be like any other. I no longer believed that all grief was the same--that is to say, that all deaths yielded the same reaction in the grieving process. Some may disagree, but as far as I am concerned, the greatest loss any human can sustain is the death of a child.

I thought over what I had said to bereaved parents to ease their pain. It hurt me to learn I had been just as much a part of the problem as I had thought I was a part of the solution. I also realized that solutions, though possible, are very hard to come by. I learned how inadequate my answers were in the face of a child's death. I came to understand that although it goes against a preacher's constitution, it was often better to keep my mouth closed and listen as one who cared than it was to offer verbal dribble. It was embarrassing to find that I too, was guilty of the disappearing pastor syndrome following the death of a child.

As a result of my post-seminary crash course in parental grief, I've learned a lot of good things. I do not ever tell a parent they can always have another child. I don't attempt to answer "why?" I love them even when they get mad at God. I reassure them that they aren't crazy. I help them through anxiety attacks. I listen more than I talk. I never tell them I know how they feel--they know and I know that I don't. I always tell them and show them that I care. I never ask them to tell me what I can do for them; they won't. I just show up regularly to say I remember and I care. I never let them blame themselves for things God alone has control of. I talk about their child frequently and openly.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
(these are excerpts - it was Reprinted from The National Compassionate Friends Newsletter, Sprint 1991) and I felt it was important enough to share.

He also mentions sitting down with your pastor and telling them what bereaved parents go through. "It might surprise them to learn how long grief lasts or that many parents leave their child's room untouched for years".

I'm not sharing with my pastor. I'm sharing with my friends. YOU. Because, hopefully, it will help you understand where we are coming from - and, quite possibly you know someone else who has lost a child. (His last paragraph especially has some good advice!)

Needless to say, I will continue to talk about Melissa. I will ALWAYS LOVE to hear her name and stories about her. And I will cry. I promise. I love her and miss her EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

and in TRUE Fort fashion, we end with Drew pics. A happy ending. Always.
(Max gets his turn on another Friday night!)

WE had Drew Friday night - decided to take him to the Mall just in case Santa arrived early ... and guess what? HE DID! Drew got to see Santa (no pictures unfortunately unless we paid 39.99 for the cheapest package...I'm cheap AND I have a good camera), and he got to ride the train around the Mall with Pamma and go to the Toy Store AND see puppies in the puppy mill...er.. Pet Shop....

Hmmmm...maybe SANTA might bring Drew a new helmet for Christmas....(since that little green basket he uses for a helmet is pathetic...)

OK - I KNOW I JUST posted this picture, but hey - it's one of my FAVORITES.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING from our house to yours....

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Edmund Fitzgerald

Very interesting story.
November 10 was the 35th Anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgeral in Lake Superior. (Remember the Gordon Lightfoot song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"?)
Paul Riippa, a teammate of Donny's on the Wilmington College Football team was on the Edmund Fitzgerald when it went down.
Paul Riippa was a halfback with Donny. He got to play quite a bit as a freshman.
Before the season started the team had a Talent Show. Two of Paul's friends convinced him he that he was a great singer and he should sing a Neil Diamond song in the show. So he sang "Sweet Caroline". Little did he know that his teammates were putting him on - and they all got a good laugh out of it.
Paul left Wilmington after his freshman year and joined the Merchant Marines.

After his sophomore year, they were selling old jerseys, and Donny bought his jersey and Paul's jersey, and have had them both packed in the attic for 35 years.

On Tuesday Donny was reading an article about the anniversary on the internet. There is a Maritime Museum in Michigan that was having a ceremony in honor of the anniversary. Thinking about the jersey, Donny thought it would be nice to give the jersey to the Riippa family. He sent an email to the museum requesting information on the Riippa family so he could contact them. It was the end of the day, so he didn't wait for a response. On his way home, shortly after pulling out of the parking lot - he turned on the radio...to SWEET CAROLINE. (you know our experience with Melissa sending us songs!)...he really felt like Paul was sending him a message to get in touch with his family. We believe those signs. We get them all the time from Melissa...
Tonight Donny was on the internet looking for the Riippa family again. He found an email for Paul's brother, and sent him a note about the jersey.
Within a half an hour, our phone was ringing. It was Paul's brother. Donny talked to him for about 15-20 minutes, and promised to send him the jersey. He was very grateful.

Donny and I were talking about their conversation after he hung up. It has been 35 years since Paul passed away, and his friends STILL remember him.

How we would LOVE 35 years from now to hear from a friend (or friends) of Melissa's and know that she is still remembered. It's all we can hope for....

Donny with Paul Riippa's Wilmington College Football jersey. Sending it to his brother tomorrow...

What in the world is going on with the Bengals???? Quarterback maybe? I don't know, but we had a good time with Shelly & Bruce anyway. We have been Bengals fans for a LONG time and will continue to be - I just wish they would start winning again...

Bruce, Shelly, Pam, Donny at the Bengals/Colts game in Indy...

believe it or not - we found a worker in the stadium who was a Bengals fan!

windows in the stadium looking out into downtown Indianapolis...

Halftime was in honor of our nations Veterans. Awesome.

view from our seats...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

THIS IS YOUR LIFE (fort & nick) and more...

Ok. Here's the deal...our printer hasn't been working for about a year (it works, but you had to feed one page at a time) and I finally decided to upgrade. We're always about five years behind (technology wise) so this might not be very exciting to you - but this new printer PRINTS/COPIES/SCANS. That is VERY exciting to me. So I'm looking at some pictures of the kids hanging on the wall thinking - hey. I can put those on the blog now - I can SCAN them! So here you go - Melissa might not like this - but I'm picking only the cutest pictures. Of both of them...my favorites anyway. Might not end here...as most of you know, Fort inherited her love of taking pictures from me...and I have literally thousands of pictures. I'll post them when I find good ones. Enjoy.

Can you find Fort in this picture? She actually THOUGHT she wanted to be a dancer. It lasted, oh, maybe a month or so. Then I was DRAGGING her to practice each week - literally. I told her she had to finish what she started. At the end of that year, she was in ONE dance at the recital, and it was at the END of the recital. We were done with dance too. After that, Julie Franz stopped us at church and asked Melissa if she wanted to play soccer. That was the beginning of her sports career. She was SO much happier. (It was at Julie's wedding that Melissa & John had their first date!)

She wasn't the tallest one for too much longer after this picture...

She doesn't look too happy here does she? Nick was always the huggy one....

They actually LIKED each other when they were little (occasionally) ...for pictures anyway....

This is one of Donny's and my FAVORITE pictures of Nick & Melissa - Happy Thanksgiving from all of us (early)!

This is really hard for me to believe, but it was two years ago this weekend that Fort & Johnny Mac had their annual Chili Cook-off. She had been in the hospital for three days before (Wed-Friday) - and INSISTED on getting out Friday to get home so they could have the cook-off. I really thought they should cancel (I mean she only had THREE thorosentecis's in those three days ) but she would not have that. She had to get home to get ready for the weekend. They had the cook-off (and there were lots of pictures on the blog to prove it)...a week later she was back in the hospital for good.
Just doesn't seem possible that it's been two years.
It's days like today that help get us through another day...keeping busy.
One day at a time.....LOVE YOU FORT...and miss you EVERY SINGLE DAY.....
Started the morning with breakfast at McDonald's with Donny, Nick, Drew & Max. You can see the training building for the Kettering Fire Dept. out the windows @ McD's - and Drew LOVES firetrucks...so Nick & Donny took him over to see the truck after breakfast - I think he's going to be a fireman when he grows up - his great great Grandpa Andy (Rado) would LOVE that - (he was a Capt. in the Dayton Fire Dept. MANY years ago!)

Headed to Wilmington College today for the Wilmington/Otterbein Football game. Donny got into the attic and found his Wilmington Letter Jacket - still fits...kind of...he wore his green, but we sat on Otterbein's side - cheered for Kevin...Otterbein won. Wilmington struggled this year - new head coach - Ken Minor who was a graduate assistant when Donny played there - Ken played for Wilmington too. Hopefully they will have a better season next year.

Kevin (son of our good friend Sue Franz) & Donny

Kevin is #76...just resting - he plays offense on the line - played the whole game - couldn't get good action shots, so I got the best one I could get. They need to REST too...

the FRANZ clan (and friends - us) tailgating...before, during and AFTER the game...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

KELTS 49 Flint 28!

The Cincinnati Kelts men's team played Flint (MI) Saturday. The winner (KELTS!) continue to the semi-finals in the spring.


Cincinnati Kelts WOMEN'S team - the biggest supporters of the MEN'S team (men are the women's team's biggest supporters!)A lot of Melissa's teammates are STILL playing! (Netti, Eva, Bea, Ebeth...I know I'm forgetting some - sorry!)
Their shirts spell out KELT'S EAT FLINTSTONES!

Uncle Johnny Mac tries to keep Max in tow...might be easier on the field playing rugby!

the only way to keep Max within eyeshot is to hold him - he's a wanderer...isn't too happy to be on pop pop's shoulders...

this shirt says it all.....

Let the game begin! The women's team each represented a player on the men's team- BEA had J-MAC!

wanna be rugger....

Could Max possibly be a FUTURE KELT???? Fort would LOVE that...so would we!

Nick & Mere were out of town for a couple of days - so we had Drew & Max - Thursday & Friday night until Saturday afternoon. Watched Monsters Inc. (for the,oh, 100th time)and followed Max around constantly. He is always looking for something to get into - and thinks he can WALK down the steps. This is why you have kids when you are in your 20s! We're exhausted - but it was fun.

Takin' a walk with Pamma-just happy to be outside!

Max - ready to play football!

this is ME...according to one of my Kindergartener's! He checked out this book about monkeys and came up to me really excited. "Mrs. Fortener - look - it's YOU!"
I just started laughing and asked him why he would say that... "He's thinking!" I guess I do that a lot (hold my hand on my chin)...WHEW. I was a little worried there for a minute!