Friday, December 27, 2013

Kitchen updates...

Almost complete.  Just a few more pieces of trim, backsplash and curtains and it's done.  But we can live with it like this!

There is always a story behind whatever we do...the story behind the the story.  This one began ten years ago.  2003.  To be exact, May, 2003.  We had decided to update the kitchen AND build a garage in the back yard.  So we went to the bank, got a BIG line of credit, and signed the paperwork.  Two weeks later, Melissa was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Everything was put on hold.  Priorities changed.

In the last five years, I haven't WANTED to change anything.  Everything had to be how it was when Melissa was here.

In the last several months, I had the itch to clean things up.  Get rid of A LOT of clutter.  And change a few things.  The kitchen was a biggie.  We got new carpet in our bedroom and talked to our friend at the carpet store about getting laminate in the kitchen and dining room and about updating the kitchen.  He recommended a place on Wilmington Pike.  A few weeks later, I ran into a friend from high school who also recommended the SAME place.  Classic Cabinets.  She said they did their homework, got several estimates and this place had the best prices and did great work.  And they are a local small business, in business for 37 years.  So we got an estimate - funny thing - when the salesman came in and looked at our kitchen, his first comment was "This will make great before and after pictures!".  We knew it was time, just didn't realize how bad it really was...




There were many good things about doing this now, instead of ten years ago.  The most important being that we were able to pay cash ten years later.  Another good thing was it was a good diversion during a month that is normally (?) very difficult.  It gave me time to get out (forced me to get out) to do some things for Christmas.  We met some really nice people who worked on our kitchen who we would HIGHLY recommend.  We plan on being here for awhile, so we can enjoy it.  I might even start cooking again (I cooked for the first 25 years, Donny got the second 25).  Got rid of a lot of clutter and just STUFF that we didn't need or use any more.  

The bad thing?  Melissa isn't here to see it and enjoy it with us.  She would love it.  (Especially the black granite countertops).  I can just see us having a cup of coffee together (with Donny's new Keurig from Nick & Mere), sitting at the new bar.

Another good thing?  the new countertop (island/peninsula) is a great space for Andrew and Max to build their LEGOS, puzzles, color and make cookies!  

Donny doesn't know it yet, the next BIG project will be a garage.  Might be in a couple of years when we can pay cash for it, but it's coming too.  I'm getting too old to scrape snow and ice off my car, and we need a place to store things.  But it will be for our CARS, not junk.  

First snow of the season - before winter even got here.  Eleven inches of snow in Dayton before Christmas.  It's been awhile since we've had this much this early.

 Hot chocolate and Christmas cookies after playing in the snow...


                                          Christmas Eve

While the holidays will never be the same without Melissa...we have a new normal.  It's quieter, simpler, smaller.  I miss the old "normal", but feel truly blessed to have two adorable grandsons and the best son and daughter in law ever.  And our family has grown - Matthew (my sister Sue's son) and Jen will always be a part of our Christmas.  

A Christmas Story - by Andrew

The kids were checking out the "crib" (as my dad called it) - the Nativity Scene, a couple weeks before Christmas.  Andrew asked me "Is God in there?"  I told him, no, but God is Jesus' father.  He then asked "What is Jesus' mom's name?"  I told him Mary.  Then he asked me if they were married.  I told him Joseph was her husband.  (pretty good thinking for a five year old, I'd say!) I also told them that we don't put the Baby Jesus out until Christmas morning, because that is when he was born.

So on Christmas Eve, before we left for Nick & Mere's, I told the boys we had to put the baby Jesus out and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.  Then Andrew said "and to his mom and his step-dad"...

Now, I don't know about you, but I had never before heard anyone refer to Joseph as Jesus' step-dad(although is makes sense!), until Andrew said it and then on Christmas night on a special on the History Channel about the history of Christmas.  Joseph was referred to as Jesus' step-father...Donny and I looked at each other and both said "Andrew is pretty smart!"  
Just sayin'.....


 My two Best Friends, EVER.
I will be taking this picture to a specialty camera store to see if I can get it fixed.
But I LOVE this picture of Sue and Melissa.  Sue was Melissa's she is her "mother in heaven" until I get there.   They look so much alike in this picture, and they both 
look SO happy.  

My next post will be this weekend.  January 3.  Five years since Melissa left us.
January 5...should be Melissa's 36th birthday...and one year since Sue left us.

Love you and miss you both more than you will ever know...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

It's a Wonderful Life.... FAVORITE Christmas movie.  (Ok - Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase is a very close second - but It's a Wonderful Life is perfect for this post.

If you are not familiar with the movie, I believe it is set during the Depression - late 20's early 30s.  George Bailey lives a happy life - his dad owns a Savings and Loan, he saves his little brother from drowning, he meets are marries Mary and they have three beautiful children.  They buy and old house that needs a lot of work, but they are happy.  George takes over the Savings and Loan when his dad suddenly dies.  Skips college so his little brother can go.  All around good guy.
It's Christmas time and George's uncle is working for him.  He accidently "loses" a bundle of money he is taking to the bank to deposit - and for the first time, George feels like his life is not worth living (sound like anyone you know???? -  He is on the verge of losing the family business and on Christmas Eve, he goes crazy.  He leaves the house, runs through town, ends up at the river - on a bridge...and he is going to jump.

In the meantime, God and two of his Angels (represented by three blinking stars in a night sky) are talking.  God says "there is a man down on earth that needs help.  he is about to do something and we need to help him" (or something like that).  Clarence, one of the Angels, has not earned his wings yet.
So God sends Clarence.  To save George, Clarences falls into the river, and George, good guy that he is, jumps in to save him.  After he pulls him out, they huddle in the gatehouse at the bridge and start talking.  Clarence tells him he's an angel, and he wants to help him.  George grumbles that "I wish I'd never been born".  So Clarence oblidges.

George goes back into to town and nothing is the same.  No Savings and Loan,  his brother died (because he wasn't there to save him) and his wife (Mary) is an "old maid" working as a librarian (Donny says this is why it's my favorite movie...ok, maybe PARTLY).  No one knows him, not even his mom.  Clarence explains that nothing is the same because George was never born...he said "no one was there to save your brother, no one was there to take over the Savings and Loan)...and lots of other things...

George comes to the realization that his life was not so bad after all.  And Clarence gets his wings.

If you've never seen it, I hope I didn't ruin it for you.  It is one of those feel good movies that I watch EVERY Christmas, I don't think Melissa loved it like I did, but she would watch it with me.  I would watch and wrap presents, make cookies, decorate.  All the things I used to love to do.

Ok.  I have the new version.  In fact, I LIVED the new version...

I know that in the last post, I mentioned some tests that I had.  Started about the end of September with horrible stomach pains, a friend who was just diagnosed with colon cancer, and the realization that I needed to get to the doctor and get things checked out...had I waited too long?

The appointment turned into a "mini" physical.  I love my doctor, and she has not been pushy about me getting some of the tests that I needed.  Not because she didn't care, but because she knew that I was dealing with the death of my daughter, and I needed to deal with that first.  So when I finally went in, and told her I was ready - she did blood work, ordered a colonoscopy,  and got some important vaccinations.  All good.  Also, diagnosed me with diverticulitis - the stomach pain.  Put me on two heavy duty antibiotics for ten days.  Didn't eat much, lost some weight (not a bad thing), felt a little better after the antibiotics.  And scheduled my colonoscopy for the following week.  I felt good about that.

A week after I was finished with the antibiotics, the pains were back. Was going to take a laxative, but after reading the box, decided to call my doctor - who sent me to ER for a CT scan, which I mentioned in the last post...I was supposed to get a call from Miami Valley South for an ultrasound, but they never called.  So I went to my new Gynecologist the following Tuesday.  After reading my medical history, she said "Your daughter carries the BRCA gene?"  I told her my daughter died of breast cancer.  Then I proceeded to give her a little more information - that Melissa was pregnant when she was diagnosed, and she even played six games of rugby and she didn't know she was pregnant!"  She looked at me and said "I played rugby."  When I asked her when and where - she said "Miami.  From 1996-2000."  SAME time Melissa was at Ohio University and played!  And I WENT to the OU/Miami game @ Miami her junior year.  I saw them play against each other!  I told her "I love you already".  My doctor is a RUGBY PLAYER.  I love that. (I called Melissa's friend/coach Smitty - asked her if she knew my doctor- she said "I coached her!")  Oh - and before I went to this doctor's appointment - I stopped by the cemetery to visit Melissa.  I told her that I needed her to be with me that day.  I was a little scared.  And SHE WAS.  She made sure I got a doctor that I would like and would take good care of me.  And she did.  I told her I was supposed to get a call from MVS for an ultrasound - she said "we can do that here.  Let me see if the tech can do it today..."  Five minutes later, she was back.  "Come on- she can do it right now!"  And got the results 10 minutes later.
So, we were looking for calcification on my right ovary.  The ultrasound gives a better picture than the CT Scan would - didn't show anything but SHRINKING ovaries, which is exactly what they should be doing.  But it also showed a thickening in the lining of my uterus.  More than it should be.  So she said I would need a biopsy - and she could do it.  There was an opening the next morning - so I grabbed it.
Had the procedure the next morning - a little uncomfortable, but nothing bad.  Then I had to wait for the results - a week.

She also went over the results of the CT scan which she had finally received - and we still can't figure out where the calcification is, or was.  Maybe a misread?  The ultrasound didn't show that. Good thing.
But the scan also said to follow up with the colon - to make sure the inflammation wasn't hiding anything.  More to worry about.

Had my colonoscopy yesterday afternoon.  Results were what I expected and NO MORE.  Diverticulosis - some infection, but clearing up.  Change your eating habits.  If you have a flare up, don't wait, CALL.  Get on antibiotics, because it CAN be serious if you let it go.  And see me in TEN YEARS.  (no polyps!)  All good.

When we got home (after stopping at the Trent Arena to see Mikala Waterman after signing with The Ohio State for basketball!) checked our phone messages and I had a call from Dr. McAfee (gyno).  Called back - everything was NEGATIVE.  NORMAL.

Didn't expect the 13th to be a lucky day for me.  But I do now!

Actually - my version of "It's a Wonderful Life"?  I thought I was ready to be with Melissa.  I actually wished and PRAYED for that.  Many times in the last five years.  But when the possibility of some serious health issues presented themselves to me?  I realized I am NOT ready yet...I WANT TO LIVE. Like George Bailey.    Melissa will be waiting for me.  WHENEVER I get there.  Our lives are short anyway....

I KNOW this was a wake up call from her.  Reminding me that I need to start taking care of myself...and be happy.

Oh, and one other interesting thing.  Before they put me out, the anesthesiologist said "Think of your favorite vacation spot"...  I said "St. John's in the Carribbean"  then I said "No.  Heaven.  With my daughter."  And I was out.

Donny said the first thing I said when I woke up was "Melissa was with me!"  And she was - I could see her, I could feel her, but we didn't talk.  She was there to support me - just like I was there for her at her doctor appointments.  She came through.  In many ways.

I wish I could say that getting through the holidays will be easier, and getting through the anniversary, her birthday, and Sue's anniversary (Melissa's birthday)...but I will be looking at things differently.
I already am.

I love her and miss her more every day.  But I love Donny and Nick, Mere, Andrew and Max.  And my friends.  And I have to take care of my dad.

I still have some things to do.

Thank you, my beautiful daughter, for being there for me.  And for the wake up call that I desperately needed.  I love you so much!


And she would not be happy if I didn't share Andrew & Max.  My joy.

Fun at the park - by the creek!

Hiding from PopPop

More fun at the park (Max)

silly Max

Max - the Artist!

Andrew - working on his painting.

Next post - a new kitchen is coming!


I am thankful for all of you.  
Have a Happy, Family filled Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Remembering Sue...

I was just telling Donny the other day that my earliest childhood memory was when I was just 4 years old...the day Sue was born.

Up until that day, October 30, 1960, there were three kids.  Donna, me,  and Steve.  Aunt Mae (my dad's sister) and Uncle Carl kept us while mom was in the hospital.  It must have been for 3 or 4 days, because back then, you didn't come home the day you delivered.  They actually let you stay in the hospital and get some rest before going home.  Maybe it was because people had more kids, and they NEEDED the rest before going home.

In any event, this must have been traumatic for it to be ingrained in my memory.  Two specific things I remember ~ going trick or treating and breakfast.  I remember my cousin Nancy took us trick or treating, and I remember having cereal for breakfast.  That's not anything unusual, but what makes me remember was putting sugar on my cereal, and when the cereal was gone, I was done.  I never ate that goopy mess at the bottom of the bowl.  Sugar and milk.  Goopy.  UGH.  (Although Donny says that was the best part!) Not for me.  Aunt Mae made me sit there until I ate it.  All of it.  In those days, you didn't waste ANYTHING.  I was SO ready to go home.

But this is about Sue.  The other thing I remember is going home when mom and dad brought Sue home from the hospital.  We lived in a small, four bedroom ranch.  The smallest bedroom would now be considered a walk in closet.  That was were baby Sue was in a bassinnette.  If we wanted to go in to see her, we had to wear a mask.  You know, the kind of masks people wear now if they have allergies?
Yep.  She was the Golden Child.  Right from the beginning.

But I didn't care.  She was SO cute.  When she smiled, she brightened a room.

Having four bedrooms, mom and dad had one, Steve had the "closet", Donna had a bedroom and I had a bedroom.  Sue got to decide where she was going to sleep.  Donna and I used to fight over her.  She would climb into bed with me and I would tell her monsters (or something equally scary) was under the bed.  She would yell to Donna "I'm sleeping with Pam tonight".

As we got older, of course Sue was excused from the "menial" tasks Donna, Steve and I were assigned when mom went back to work.  She was "too young".  And when mom found an empty ice cream carton at the bottom of the hamper, she lined us all up, immediately pulling Sue from the line.  "She didn't do it".  And in Sue's defense, I got pulled from the line too, because mom was really good at
reading faces.  In the end, of course it was Steve who did it.  It was ice cream.

After we were all grown, and living away from home, we occasionally would have conversations about  how tough our life was growing up...I mean, all the chores we had to do, and how we couldn't do anything on Saturdays until all the housework was done (and I continued that myself as an adult, although since I retired, I don't assign Saturday as a cleaning day - it can be ANY day now!), Sue would say "After you guys left, I had to do EVERYTHING."  What?  If there was anything to do, it was YOUR mess.  And then we would laugh.  About all of it.

And then, when I had MY daughter, I wanted Sue to be her Godmother.  They were a lot alike in many ways.  I wish I had the picture of the two of them together - I think it was when Melissa was in college-
they both had long blonde hair and Melissa looked more like SUE than me!  They were both very creative, artsy.  And they could have the most interesting conversations.

How I miss that.  How I miss my beautiful sister Susan Lynn.  She was my best friend after Melissa died.  She called me every single day.  Never missed a day.  Just to check on me.  Never questioning how I was feeling or why I was feeling sad.  She loved me unconditionally.  She loved me even though I was not the same as I used to be.

I miss talking to her.  I miss her laugh.  I miss our political discussions.  And I miss taking care of her too.  Oh, I definitely got frustrated  at times with choices she made, but underneath that hard exterior, was a softness only known to those who looked for it.  It was there, I saw it, experienced it.  She was very intelligent, she was a sharp dresser like my mom (although her verbage didn't always match her attire), and very creative.  Never a holiday or birthday went by that I didn't receive something she had made...a wreath, a piece of jewelry, a handmade card (still have the Christmas card she made for all of us last Christmas).  She was really talented.

And I hate saying was.
How I miss you Sue.  I love you so much.

Happy Birthday!


Just a side note here...I think I have recently recieved a wake up call.  Maybe from Melissa, maybe from Sue, my mom...God.  I don't know.

If you read between the lines in this blog, you probably know that there have been times when I have missed Melissa SO much, the thought of being with her seemed like a solution to all the pain....
well, the message came in the form of pain.

About a month ago, I was experiencing a lot of abdominal pain.  Haven't been to the doctor, in, oh, about five years (connection?), but this was bad enough to make me call.  Turns out, I have diverticulitis.  So did my mom, so did Sue.  Very common, I'm told.  Didn't help the pain any.  Ended up in ER last Friday, on the advice of my doctor who had already treated me two weeks before for the diverticulitis (antibiotics).  She wanted a CT scan to see what was going on before treating me with something else.    As expected, it was a flare up (although I was sure there was some kind of blockage - it was so bad) and once again, on antibiotics.  But there was also some calcification on the right side around (?) the ovaries.  The look on the doctors face didn't help matters, but there wasn't anything I could do until Monday morning.  Had the boys on Monday, so made an appointment for 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.  She is ordering an ultrasound (sometime next week) and a colonoscopy.

Feeling a little better, just sick to my stomach (probably from hunger - on a liquid diet) from the meds.

The wake up call?  As much as I want to be with Melissa, and actually look forward to wrapping my arms around her...I'm not ready to leave the rest of my family.   This is pretty scary, and I should have been taking care of myself for the last five years.  But I really wasn't.

When I woke up this morning, I felt a lot better than I did when I went to bed.  I had this "flash" of a scene from my favorite Christmas movie, It's a Wonderful Life.  It was when Jimmy Stewart was standing on the bridge at the end of the movie crying saying "I want to live.  I want to live".....

Wow.  That's me.

I want to live.

(Thanks Melissa, mom, Sue, God.  I needed this wake up call - I love all of you.)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

John Patrick

Ten years ago yesterday, it was a Saturday.  Melissa was in one of her best friends wedding in Cincinnati.  She was about 6 1/2 months pregnant.  They were so happy.  She looked great, BEAUTIFUL actually.  After the reception we all headed home.  It was about 11.

Around 12:30 a.m., Sunday morning, October 19, 2003, we got the dreaded phone call...all I could hear was the sirens in the background.  John was telling us the baby was coming, they were headed to the hospital.

By the time we got there, he was gone.

Our first grandchild.  John Patrick McLaughlin.  He was BEAUTIFUL.  Dark hair, almost 4 pounds. All his fingers. All his toes.  Perfect.

Hardest day of my life at that point.

I look at how Melissa and John handled was devastating.  They lost THEIR child.  He was the light at the end of a long dark tunnel.  And now he was gone....
Donny and I often talk about that day, and the months and five years after.  How in the world did she go on?  Donny says "she had another battle to fight...for HER life".

I know now about the "mask" that you wear when you lose a child.  Everyone wants you to be "better".   That don't WANT to see you suffering.  In pain.  I didn't want to see her suffering, and Melissa was good at hiding painful things from me.  Most of the time.  We did talk about how hard it was to see all of her friends having babies.  She never let on to anyone that she was anything but HAPPY for them.  But it was hard for her.

I really don't have many regrets when it comes to our relationship.  But I do have Christmas that year - only two months after they lost JP, I begged them to go to church with us on Christmas Eve.  "Please go.  It's all I want for Christmas.  For all of us to be together".  Of course Melissa (and Nick too) would do whatever I wanted if it would make me happy at Christmastime.

So we went to church.  Got there early enough to find a pew close to the front where we could all sit together.  Right about the time mass started, a young family with a brand new baby sat RIGHT in front of us.  It was too hard for Melissa...they left early on in the mass.

What I need to say is I DIDN'T KNOW.  I should have respected her wishes and let her decide whether she wanted to go or not.  I was selfish.  It was more about ME that it was about her.  I HATE that I did that to her.

Five years later, I was in the same boat.  A lot of people invited us out, and I couldn't do ANYTHING.
Didn't want to leave my bed.  For more than a year.  (although we did get out occasionally, I hated it)
But I had no idea what she was going through.  How could I?  I hadn't walked in her shoes.

...anyway, when John Patrick's first birthday was approaching, I told Melissa and John that we would always remember JP.  She didn't want to get together and "celebrate" that year.  And I didn't push it. But we remember JP, just like we remember Melissa on her birthday.  Usually, Nick and the boys come over and we have cake and ice cream and we sing happy birthday to JP.   We'll always remember him...and wonder what he would be like.

He would be ten years old today.  TEN.  Double figures.  I remember when Melissa turned 10 she was SO excited about being "double figures".  I know that he would be really smart (because his dad and mom were both really smart) and funny.  And he would probably be a pretty good athlete too.  And we would be celebrating his birthday this weekend...

Happy Birthday John Patrick.  JP.  We love you more than you will ever know, and we miss having you here.  Andrew and Max KNOW that you are their cousin, and you are with Aunt Fort.  <3 p="">

KELTS "TRYING FOR A CURE" Fundraiser - biggest one yet!

Last weekend was the 10th Annual Trying for a Cure Fundraiser.  The first one was held in 2003, the year Melissa was diagnosed.  It keeps growing ever year - she would LOVE it.

Again this year, Netti was the major organizer - with help from Pauly.  They should go into the fundraiser business...

Every year, right before the raffle tickets are drawn, Pauly gets up on the bar to explain why they do this fundraiser...and he usually has a funny Fort story to share.  This year, it wasn't a Fort story (well, kind of, indirectly) was a story about their son, Luke.  I think Luke is 2 now.  Pauly said whenever he sees a butterfly, he tells Luke to say "HI FORT!"  And then he said "I can't wait til he gets older so I can tell him about Fort!"

There were lots of her "old" rugby friends there - but a lot more ruggers that we had never met.  I love that her legacy is continuing and more people are getting to know her.  How sad for them that they never got to know her personally...

Donny and Crazy Legs (Kelly)...I think the story goes that she played on Fort's team, and she has really long legs and is pretty fast...and Fort said "Man Kelly, you had CRAZY LEGS"...and it stuck.

Donny & Royal.  He was a recipient of the Melissa "Fort" Mclaughin Kelts Spirit Award.

Hula and Molly - winners of one of the "mystery boxes"

Donny with Karen, Netti's mom.  (There were a few parents that went to a lot of the Kelts matches - Karen, Kyra's mom and dad - Dave and Edie and us.  No wonder their kids are amazing.
They are just like their parents....

Sam Bates - another raffle winner - and a former teammate of Fort's.

That's Kat in the background - and I had to get this guy's picture because he was wearing a FORT shirt.
I forget his "real" name. But his nickname is UGLY.  I have no idea why he would have that name...

Me and Kat...another good friend of Forts.  Her dad makes all the ribbons for the fundraiser.  She asked him before this fundraiser if he wanted to make the ribbons again.  He said "I don't WANT to make them.  But I will until they find a cure for Breast Cancer!"  THANKS Dad!!!!!

We won one of the "mystery boxes" too!

Netti posted yesterday on the Kelts website the final tally of last weeks fundraiser....
over $6200 was raised - half will go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and half will go to Melissa's Scholarship fund.  

To date, through all ten fundraisers, the Kelts have raised a whopping $48,000.00!!!!!!!!!!!!
Over $10,000 has gone to Melissa's Scholarship.

We are so happy and honored to be part of such an amazing family.


And speaking of Fort's scholarship - I got a message from KJ, another of Melissa's former rugby teammates. She is now coaching rugby at Wright State University.  The other day, she wore a FORT shirt to practice.  One of her new players asked if she knew Fort.  I'm guessing that KJ told her about her friendship with Melissa.  Her new player just happens to be one of the recipients of Melissa's Scholarship!!!  

Melanie West received the scholarship in 2012.  She is attending WSU studying Mechanical Engineering.  I have to admit, and I told KJ this....I wouldn't have thought that Melanie would be a rugby player...but KJ said "she's learning the game and she's FAST".  

This made US happy, and I know Fort would be thrilled.  

Her legacy continues.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Songs & Butterflies....

Ran over to the Rec Center today to drop something off.  Ran into a former colleague who had retired several years ago.  Haven't seen her in awhile.  She is also a bereaved parent.  We got to talking about different things and she said, "How are you doing?"  And I responded "Ok."

Then she said "No, how are you REALLY doing?"
(That doesn't happen often. )

The next thing she said was "Today it is 23 years since my son died."  (he was killed in a car accident).

A serendipitous meeting, I think.  23 years later, and I'm sure that it has been on her mind today, but how (and WHO) do you talk to about this?  I'm guessing she wouldn't bring this up to just anybody.
We had a nice talk and agreed to be "friends" on facebook to keep in touch.

Driving home, thinking about her son, and thinking about and missing Melissa, I started crying. (I do that A LOT in the car).  The next song on the radio was "Reach out, I'll be there" by the Four Tops.
Interestingly enough, this is the third time in the last few weeks this has happened.  This is the "new" song she is sending me.  (I tend to listen to lyrics a lot more closely in the last 4 years...) I just know it's her telling me she's always here for me...

                 REACH OUT, I'LL BE THERE by  The Four Tops

Now if you feel that you can't go on (can't go on)
Because all of your hope is gone (all your hope is gone)
And your life is filled with much confusion (much confusion)
Until happiness is just an illusion (happiness is just an illusion)
And your world around is crumbling down, darlin
Reach out come on girl reach on out for me
Reach out reach out for me
I'll be there with a love that will shelter you
I'll be there with a love that will see you through
When you feel lost and about to give up (to give up)
Cause your life just ain't good enough (just ain't good enough)
And your feel the world has grown cold (has grown cold)
And your drifting out all on your own (drifting out on your own)
And you need a hand to hold, darlin
Reach out come on girl reach out for me
Reach out reach out for me
I'll be there to love and comfort you
And I'll be there to cherish and care for you
I'll be there to always see you through
I'll be there to love and comfort you
I can tell the way you hang your head (hang your head)
Your not in love now, now your afraid (you're afraid)
And through the tears you look around (look around)
But there's no piece of mind to be found (no piece of mind to be found)
I know what your thinking,
You're alone now, no love of your own, but darling
Reach out come on girl reach out for me
Reach out reach out.......... just look over your shoulder
I'll be there to give you all the love you need
And I'll be there you can always depend on me
I'll be there to always see you through
I'll be there to love and comfort you

Then I was sitting at a red light, and a butterfly flew right in front of my windshield.  I had to smile.  She is always with me...and I LOVE the reminders.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A dedication to Coach Fort...

Volley for the Cure

Last week, I received a call from a parent of a volleyball player at Finneytown High School.  She said "our players decided they wanted to dedicate this year's Volley for the Cure to Coach Fort.  We were wondering if you might want to attend?"....

Wow.  OF COURSE we wouldn't miss was amazing.

I have the boys on Mondays, so they got to go with us - they had a blast.
Everyone was so friendly, just like when Melissa was there!

Megan, the head coach when Melissa was the JV coach was there.  She no longer coaches, but is the Dean of Students now.  

Seven of Melissa's players were there, and we received five letters from players  who couldn't make it.  The current varsity players read a beautiful tribute to Melissa:

"On September 25, 2006 the first ever Volley for the Cure match was played by Loveland and Sycamore High Schools to honor two women and their heroic battles against breast cancer.  Since then over 40,000 volleyball players have participated in Volley for the Cure.  During the 2013 season the funds raised are expected to exceed 2 million dollars in support of local Susan G. Komen for the Cure affiliates in the fight against breast cancer.

Tonight we dedicate our matches to former Finneytown JV and Varsity Assistant Coach Melissa Fortener McLaughlin, affectionately known to her players as Coach Fort.  She began her fight against breast cancer when she was just 25 years old.  She was diagnosed in 2003.  In 2007 when she coached at Finneytown, she was receiving chemotherapy for her 2nd reoccurrence.

The very first Volley for the Cure match played at Finneytown was that year.  The players dedicated the game to Coach Fort.  She set an amazing example for her players, for the Finneytown students and faculty and the entire community.  In 2009, Coach Fort lost her battle with breast cancer just 2 days before her 31st birthday.  But in her time at Finneytown, she left an incredible impression of a "Never give up" Spirit that lives in all of us today!  And for that we are here to honor her memory and celebrate her legacy.

Megan Garner will now share a letter from her sister, Samantha, who was one of Coach Fort's players in 2007.

We would like to thank the Fortener's and Mr. McLaughlin for coming tonight.  We are privileged to dedicate the 2013 Finneytown vs. New Richmond Volley for the Cure Match to Coach Fort."

(the letter from Samantha Garner):

"It's been six years since I've played Volleyball for Finneytown High School, and I was one of the privileged to play under Coach Fort on the 2007 JV team.  My first impression of Coach Fort was that she was a fighter and a fierce competitor.  I must admit I was a little intimidated.  She was open about her fight with cancer and encouraged us to ask any questions.  We could never tell if she was having a bad day because she made it a point to show up and kick our butts at each and every practice.

Regardless of what was going on in her private life, she was there in the gym with us: fighting for every dropped ball, every missed serve, and celebrating every ace and sprawl.  Her tough love picked us up when we were down and her competitive spirit taught us never to give up.  I remember when the first Volley for the Cure game Finneytown hosted rolled around and how both the Varsity and JV teams were extremely pumped.  Balloons were blown up, streamers strung, t-shirts were made, and the house was packed in pink.  I couldn't tell you the score of a single game, but I know both teams left it all out
on the court and then some for Coach Fort that evening.

Even though I am unable to make the event this year, my sister will be playing tonight.  It is my hope that she and the other players experience an even more packed house and raise even more money for the cause of breast cancer research.  I'm happy to hear that Coach Fort's family is in the crowd tonight and I hope that you feel an overwhelming sense of support and love.

Coach Fort left her mark on Finneytown High School, especially the hearts of her players.  I entered the gym as a timid freshman and became a leader, a  teammate, and a competitor on and off the court. I am now a junior in college and still have my Coaches Award I received that year on my shelf.  It reminds me of her spirit:  never give up and give everyday your all no matter what life throws at you!

Happy Volley for the Cure!!! And Go WILDCATS!

Tons of Love,
Sam Garner


A couple of things...we DID feel an overwhelming sense of support and love.  From the minute we walked in the door.  

Second, Donny said something that I had forgotten...Melissa had mentioned that she LOVED Finneytown High School as soon as she walked in the door
1) the school colors are blue and red (same as her elementary school)
2) the school mascot is a Wildcat (same as her Junior High)
3) "F" (for Finneytown, Fairmont, Fortener)!

And most of all, she loved coaching.  

There were four more letters, similar to the one that Sam wrote.  It amazes me (in a way) that Melissa was only there for one season.  Probably 3 or 4 months.  And her girls never forgot her.  I think they will always remember her.  I LOVE that she was able to teach them a life lesson through example. One they will carry with them for a long time.  

         Finneytown Varsity-wearing their FORT bracelets!

JV- with FORT bracelets
(notice the red & blue AND "F")

the Finneytown WILDCAT...

former player, Kathryn, had a pink ribbon tattoo for Coach Fort!

 PopPop, Max and Andrew

three of Melissa's former players, and the former Varsity Coach, Megan (3rd from left)
browsing through one of Fort's scrapbooks - the one with her Finneytown pictures.
There were a few tears here...

An funny side note...when I picked up Andrew at the bus stop the other day, he said 
"Pamma, a girl in my class was wearing a Fort sticker today!"  

"She was?  Did it say Fort?"

After a little discussion, I came to realize that she was wear a pink ribbon tattoo.  
Mere said when they were at the store the other day, there was a breast cancer display.  Andrew said "LOOK at all the  Aunt Fort stuff Mommy! Aunt Fort balloons,  Aunt Fort pencils....."

So - anything that has a pink ribbon on it is AUNT FORT.  I love it.

Thank you Finneytown for remembering Coach Fort.  Melissa.  

You will never know how much it means to us!  I am so happy that she left a positive, meaningful impression on teenagers.  That is not an easy accomplishment.  But she did it. We are  so proud of her.  


Not sure if I posted this a few months ago, but I attended a fundraiser sponsored by a local TWIGS group with my good friend Mary Kayser.  Had NO idea what I was getting myself into, but she had two tickets and wanted me to go with her.  So I did.  The proceeds of this fundraiser went to Children's Medical Center, specifically for children with Childhood Cancers.  A cause close to my heart.
The guest speakers were a 12 year old girl who had leukemia, and her mother.  Her mother started her speech with "I got the call NO mother ever wants to get.  Your child has cancer".  It was all over for me then.  I spent a lot more than I had, and had no problem doing it because it was going for a good cause.  In the Live Auction, there was basket that had close to $600 in tickets for Kings Island, Boonshoft, Newport Aquarium, Youngs Dairy and lots more stuff.  I thought I got a pretty good deal (for $375.  I've NEVER been to an auction before.  My hand just kept going up.  And before you knew it, the basket was MINE.)  Donny wasn't as excited as I was about all the cool things in the basket (including a cooler and a blanket, didn't really need more of those...)but I was happy to make the donation.  Which leads us to the Kings Island tickets.  At the bottom of the tickets, it said "GOOD UNTIL THE END OF THE 2013 SEASON"  in smaller print, it said September 2. Duh.
We didn't see the September 2.  

So.  We were going to Kings Island on Sunday, September 22, got the kids all excited. Then Nick looked a little closer at our tickets.  SIX OF THEM.  (oh, about $150 worth) only to find out they were expired.  UGH.

So we had to think of something QUICK, something that was OPEN that would make the kids happy...the Columbus Zoo!  Perfect.  It was a beautiful day, not too crowded got to see lots of animals and the kids loved it.  They also had a Pumpkin Carving Competition - very talented carvers!

Riding a rhino...

Enjoy the great weather while we have it!