Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Cheers from the Forteners...

I am writing this a week before Christmas.

Last night was a rough night.  When I finally went to bed, I snuggled up to Donny and laid my head on his chest.  I could hear his heart beating.  I could feel his heart beating.  It took me back six years.  The evening of January 2nd.  I sat next to Melissa as she lay sleeping in Hospice.  I could physically see her heart pounding in her chest.  I remember asking either John or the nurse why her heart was pounding so hard.  It was because her heart was working overtime to get the blood to her extremities.  It was only a few hours before she passed away.  I had a flashback of her last breath.  5:18 a.m.  I couldn't stop the tears or the sobs…how in the world could it be six years.  It still seems like yesterday.

Anyway, I finally went to sleep.  Around 4 a.m. I woke with a start.  I don't know if Melissa was in my dreams, but she was definitely communicating again.  It was about the blog.  And about a Christmas letter.

I remember years ago at Christmas Melissa would love reading the Christmas newsletters we received.  A lot of people used to write them.  Not so much anymore.  But she loved them. And she would laugh and say "we need to write one of these.  Only ours needs to be just the opposite.  Instead of how wonderful everything is, we need to write things like - we're unemployed, the kids quit school, are on drugs…etc etc."  She thought that would be hilarious.  I thought it would one more thing to add to my list of things to do.  So it never happened.

What I remember last night is her saying "Mom.  write the Christmas letter.  And make it funny."

If you knew Melissa, you KNOW she loved her reality shows.
So, in honor of Melissa, since this is still HER blog, I am writing a Christmas newsletter.  Reality style.


Dear Family and Friends,

This will not be your typical yearly Christmas newsletter.  Because we've never done a Christmas newsletter.  So I'm going to go back a few years (because I want Melissa to be a part of it too). A Christmas Past/Christmas Present letter.


I always LOVED Christmas.  Everything about it.  The lights. The music.  The food. Specifically the cookies.   Donny, Melissa and Nick loved Christmas too.  The lights. The music. The food. The decorations.  The presents.  They loved that mom loved it.  Because she made it happen.

In September, I made my TO DO list.  (Melissa got that honestly.  Her dad does it too).  My to do list included a list of people of buy for - of course Donny and the kids, co-workers, my family, his family and Bandit (our dog).  The shopping was divided by the paydays.  Decorating began the weekend after Thanksgiving.

We always had an artificial tree, but at some point the kids decided they wanted a live tree.  And I wanted a perfect Christmas.  So we would pile into the minivan and head out to Country Pines to cut down a tree.  The perfect tree.  Which meant different things to each one of us.  The amount of time we spent looking for the perfect tree was completely dependent on the weather.  The temperature specifically.  If it was 60 degrees, we took an hour.  If it was 0 degrees, the first tree we saw was the perfect tree.  Donny didn't really care what the tree looked like.  He wanted to get home to watch the Bengals.  Nick always carried the saw, so whatever tree he liked was the tree he was going to cut.  Melissa liked the Charlie Brown trees, because she felt sorry for them.  (I usually put a Charlie Brown tree out for her at the cemetery because I know she would love that).  We always ended up with a little bit of everything.  Nick got to cut the tree down (with Donny's help of course), the tree was never perfect - it always had a good side and a bad side, and I had my whole family together.  It's all I ever wanted.  

Donny will dispute this story.  But it's true.  And I'm writing this so I get to tell my version.   I can't tell you exactly when this was, but it was the last time we got a live tree.  We got a late start to Country Pines, and by the time we found the tree we wanted, it was getting close to kickoff time.  We rushed home, Donny got the tree off the car and into the house.  He really wanted to watch the game, and I really wanted the tree in the stand.  After some begging and pleading and "All you have to do is put it in the stand.  I'll put the lights on and decorate it" he got the tree ready.  He had to saw some off the bottom of the trunk to make it level.  Evidently, the trunk wasn't level, because the tree would not stand in the stand.  He tried multiple times.  Finally, he picked up the tree and THREW IT OUT THE FRONT door.  Now he denies this.  But it's true.  After the game, he finally got the tree in the stand. And that, folks, was the last time we got a live tree.

Like I said, my family loved Christmas.  I just don't think they had any idea how it all happened.  All they knew was on Christmas morning, there were lots of presents (all wrapped) under the tree, there was always a big Christmas breakfast.  There were lots of decorations, lots of Christmas cookies.  I think maybe they believed that we had elves that did all of this.

Needless to say, I was a little overwhelmed.  Shopping, cooking, baking, wrapping. Smiling.  Working. Cleaning to get ready for the Fortener family Christmas-which they all loved.  Lots of people, lots of craziness.  And to them, lots of fun.  

After several years of this-and I KNOW they knew I was stressed.  My yelling probably was a clue. One year I finally talked to my doctor and got on antidepressants.  I remember that Christmas Melissa said "Mom.  Why aren't you yelling this year?????"  then "OHHHHH…you're on drugs, aren't you?" Always the comedian, that Melissa.  
I love that I can laugh about that know.  Some of my favorite memories.

And some of my other favorite Christmas memories…getting ready to go to church on Christmas Eve, getting the kids in the car and they were ALWAYS fighting.  Bickering.  Arguing about something. Anything.  And I would say "PLEASE.  Just today.  Can we all be nice????"  And on the way home from Grandma and Grandpa Rado's house on Christmas Eve, we would look out the window as we were driving on 75 past downtown Dayton and say "Look!  Rudolph is on top of that building" (the red tower lights…although, maybe it WAS Rudolph)…"You need to get to bed as soon as we get home or Santa won't stop at our house.  You have to be asleep" It worked every time.  

I would give anything for those Christmases again.

Christmases PAST were hurried and busy and overwhelming.  But I loved Christmas anyway.

And then Christmas of 2008.  Our last Christmas with Melissa.  (I'm going to sound like Grinch here) I realized that Christmas wasn't all about the presents and the food and the decorations.  

We were able to put up the Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving that year when Melissa was in the hospital because John was with her all weekend.  But I didn't have time to shop, bake, or do all the things that I was always rushing to do at Christmas.  I was with Melissa at the hospital 24/7, unless John could be there when he could get off work and on the weekends.  

When she finally got to come home from Hospice, she came to our house because we were closer to Hospice than her and John's home in Cincinnati.  We had a decorated tree up.  That was it.  No presents yet, no cookies.  But we were all home together.  

We had lots of Angels that Christmas.  Lots of her friends came over to visit.  Our Fairmont friends all took turns bringing us dinner.  It was love like you've never seen.

And knowing that it was more than likely going to be Melissa's last Christmas, I wanted it to be as normal as possible.  She did too.  A few days before Christmas, she told us she wanted to go shopping. She had some presents to buy.  So on the coldest day of the year, we got her-and her oxygen-into the van to go to her favorite store - "TarZay" as she called it.  She was in a wheelchair with a big oxygen tank on the back of the chair and we had her wrapped in a blanket.  When we got into the store, I was pushing her in the wheelchair.  She told me to get away.  (she didn't want me to see what she was getting us).  She wheeled herself around that store, with John following with a cart.  This was about 10 days before she passed away.  It was inspiring.  And kind of frustrating for me.

As usual, she couldn't wait until Christmas morning for us to open our gift.  Late on Christmas Eve, she wanted me to open our gift.  It was a new monitor for our computer.  She didn't like the one we had, and this would benefit HER too…she used our computer a lot to write on the blog.  She laughed about that too - buying us gifts that would benefit her.  I loved it.  We still have it.
She bought Andrew the Fisher Price stacking rings.  We still have that here too.

And my shopping trip?  For the first time ever we didn't have a mound of gifts under the tree.  But I needed to have something for everyone.  So a couple of nights before Christmas I went to Kohls.  No carts were available, so I took one of those shopping bags that they have.  I was able to find a few things for everybody.  I hated spending time away from Melissa,  especially knowing that our time together was limited, so when I got to the checkout and there was a line of about 50 people, I knew I couldn't wait in that line.  I just stood there and cried.  That's when the next Angel appeared.  His name is Mike Schmidt (he's the brother of a good friend of mine, and Nick played on his softball team).  He was with his (then) wife, and he asked me what was wrong.  He knew about Melissa. I asked him if he was going to wait in that line.  I told him that I needed to get home to Melissa and the bag that I was holding had all of our Christmas gifts in it.  I asked if he would buy the gifts and bring them to our house (and I would pay him when he got there).  His (then) wife said "how are we going to do this, we can't do this…"  and Mike said "I'll take care of it Pam".  And an hour later he was knocking at our door with the gifts.  I was able to wrap them that night and we had presents under the tree on Christmas morning.  

Another angel appeared that week…Josh stopped by with some cash for Melissa and John (his, Brent and Doug's Christmas gift from their staff).  They were so touched by this gift…I'm sure it helped with their medical bills.  

Now I will tell you too that it was very difficult shopping for Melissa.  What do you get for someone who is dying?  Nick and Mere bought her a movie that she loved.  I bought her a sweater.  The sweater she wore when we buried her.  When she opened it, she said "I HEART this!"  

That Christmas Eve it was just Donny, me, Melissa, John, Nick, Mere and Andrew.  Nick and Mere also wrote out on a piece of paper "Mere is pregnant", then cut it up like a puzzle for Melissa to put together.  She got M-E-R together and she said "is Meredith pregnant?"  So she knew about Max too. 
Christmas Day, Donny's brother Mike had Christmas for the first time since we couldn't.  She wanted to go there too.  So we did. Her Christmas was complete. 

And she said "This is my best Christmas EVER".

Mine too.


Do I still love Christmas?  Not so much.  As each day passes, I tend to remember what we did each day that last year.  Our best Christmas ever.

But what I DO love about Christmas is the joy that it brings my grandsons.  All kids for that matter.  I still love the magic that is Christmas too.  When my kids were little, it was just "Santa is always watching. " We actually had Santa call a few times.

Now, it's the Elf on the Shelf.  It amazes me that my grandkids are in awe of this elf.  "Pamma, come in here and see where our elf is today!"  And I see people posting things like the elf getting into flour, or pooping hershey kisses onto cookies…and they BELIEVE that.  

Each year (in the last six years) I do a little more.  The first year, I couldn't get the tree out, the stockings, and the just opening the box of ornaments…I just couldn't do it. I bought a new small pre-lit tree. New stockings.  

Two years ago, I sent Christmas cards for the first time (in four years).  I put up a few more lights and bought some Christmas cookies.   My sister Sue went with me to the Webster Street Market. We bought cookies there.  She loved cookies too.  I gave her some for Christmas.  She spent Christmas with us at Nick & Mere's because Matthew (her son) wasn't home yet.  He was moving back from Pittsburg to live in Dayton.  She was so happy.  A week later she died.

Two steps forward. Three steps back.

So here we are.  We are still here.  I guess that's a good sign.

The Family

Nick and Mere are happy in their new house.  They are both working (because these days you have to have two incomes) and her mom helps out with the kids two days a week and I get them two days a week (after school).  

GOD BLESS them…they are having the Fortener family Christmas.  We took it over several years ago.  Nick and Mere have a little more room, so they volunteered to have it!   This family isn't getting any smaller!  Just in the last month there were three additions to the Fortener family (Donny's brother's and sisters) - a great nephew Noah, and twins Smyth (boy) and Parker (girl)…and one more on the way-another girl.

Andrew is in first grade.  I get him off the bus two days a week.  Every single time he has gotten off the bus he says "I had a great day today Pamma."   When my kids (and grandkids) are happy, I'M HAPPY.  Funny story about Andrew.  When I was there yesterday, he said was going out to the backyard.  It was cold.  He had his coat on.  And he says "Pamma, can I pee out here?"  UMM.  NO.  The bathroom is closer than the back yard.  Go there.  (it's my fault…I let the pee in my backyard in the summer.  Now they think it's ok anywhere!)  Andrew LOVES Legos and Minecraft.  He's going to be our builder/Engineer/designer.  When he is explaining Minecraft to me it's just like Melissa explaining Rugby to me.  I don't get it.  (Ok - rugby friends, this is what I understand- a score is a try.  the field is called a pitch.  the game is a match.  I think there are 11 players?  Unless you are playing 7s. Then there are 7.   A scrum is in rugby. Not football.  There is no equipment in rugby.  Except tape for your ears. Or a kind of leather helmet. ) I don't understand ANYTHING about Minecraft.  I just know that it's like building on a tablet.  

Max is in an early 5s program.  He loves puzzles.  It's actually the one thing that he sits still for.  He always has a ball in his hands.  Always throwing things in the air and catching them.  He loves sports.  He loves to pass a ball. All the time.  We took him to the Fairmont/Springboro basketball games the other night. (they go to Springboro schools-the Panthers).  The girls played first.  He agreed to cheer for Fairmont because it's Lindsay's team.  But he was cheering for the Panthers in the boys game.  Then he asked "Pamma, why don't you like the Panthers?"  Someday he'll understand rivalry's and competitiveness.  It stays with you forever.

Donny's mom- Rozella - is like a spring chicken.  She never stops.  Had a hip replacement this year -with a little setback and cataract surgery in both eyes.  She still managed to get to some of her grandsons football games (he played for Southeast Louisiana State).  She never misses a family function and is always the first person there.

And speaking of Ryan, I KNOW Melissa would give him a shout out - and this is on FB so I know it's public.  He signed with an agent yesterday.  He's a field goal kicker and several teams are looking at him.  He has plans in place if this doesn't pan out, but it's an opportunity he doesn't' want to overlook! We're so excited for him!

Donny and I have had a few health issues, but hanging on.  We did a lot of traveling this year - seems like a lot more when we write it down -Chicago for the Compassionate Friends Conference,  Ft. Lauderdale, then a cruise to Grand Turk Island, Dominican Republic, Curacao, Aruba.  Donny had a conference in California for a week in Anaheim. Visited his friend and my cousin and his wife, Doug and Peggy. Went to San Diego then to Burbank to the Ellen Show.
Back home for a weekend at Hocking Hills with our Portsmouth (cruising) friends Mange and Mary.
Then to Memphis and New Orleans to see Ryan's last home game.

No wonder I'm sick.  I need to stop traveling.  For now.

We don't have a lot of plans for the winter other than basketball.  Still follow the Firebirds (sadly, cousin Lindsay tore her ACL-it's her senior year.  She's still hoping to get a few games in if they can fit her with a brace).  Also following Notre Dame Women (Kathryn Westbeld-former Firebird) is playing and Ohio State (Makayla Waterman - 3 time B Positive Spirit award winner at Fairmont)plays for the Buckeyes.  Sitting out this year due to an injury and PITT (Chelsea Welch, former Firebird, plays).  

That's what gets us through the rough spots in the winter.  It was the first thing we did after Melissa passed away…went to a Fairmont girls basketball game.  Cassie Sant played - she wore #44.  Melissa's number.  Then went on to play for UD.  Followed her there too. Now she's playing in Italy.

I also traveled to Florida multiple times this summer - to be with my dad.  He's doing better now.  With a little help from Home Instead every morning.  I begged and pleaded with him to come home for Christmas, but the winters are too hard on him.  So he's staying there for the holidays.  I wish he could be here with us.  My family just keeps getting smaller.  

So that's it…we're keeping busy and we're still here.  

Melissa made this as a thank you for someone…can't remember who.  But I think it is so appropriate for Christmastime.  So many people brought sunshine…and hope... to our lives.  May it return to you one hundred fold.

Merry Christmas 

(or Happy Holidays, whatever you are celebrating)

From our house - to  yours.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

When You See Me

It is 5 a.m.

I just woke up and for the first time in a long time, I felt "normal".  No stomach pain, no nausea.
It's been a rough couple of months (yep-even with all the wonderful adventures in the last few months).

This time of year is the hardest for me for obvious reasons.  I am reclusive and avoid anything that resembles a celebration.

Once again, all I could think of the last couple days is "I just want to be better.  I want to put up the Christmas tree.  Some lights.  I want to cook.  I want to EAT."  I know that it is Melissa saying "Wake up mom.  Enjoy your life while you have it!"

So anyway, I woke up this morning and this was in my head:

When You See Me

If what you see
When you see me
Is a shell of what I used to be

Remember this…

I lost my daughter
Then two friends
Will it EVER end?

If you haven’t called or
Seen me in awhile
You might be surprised
I DO smile

You might have noticed
I was getting “better”
(Although I was not sick)
At Christmas time
I trimmed the tree
I sent Christmas cards
I baked cookies

A light was finally shining through
Life was feeling good, not filled with dread

Then on a tragic day in January
We found my sister dead.

So if what you see
When you look at me
Is a shell of what
I used to be

Remember this

YOU could be ME

Makes me think of Melissa's favorite saying
"No matter how bad you have it, there is always someone who would love to be in your shoes"

That goes for me too.  I think about that all the time.  WHO would want to be in my shoes?  Then I think of my high school friend who lost her son.  Her ONLY child.  SHE would love to be in my shoes.


First of all, I am so blessed for the friends that have stuck around.  There are a few that I stay in touch with on a regular basis.  I am so thankful for them, especially on days like the ones I have been having lately.

I guess this poem is just a reminder that when you post things like "only surround yourself with happy people" people like me get a little paranoid.  Because, as hard as I try, my life is not always happy.  Oh, I have had some great days (and I want you to know THAT was a hard thing for me to say for a long time) but I have a lot of baggage.  Thankfully I have a wonderful husband who understands and accepts the ups and downs.

Just remember, during the holidays, there are a lot of people who are missing loved ones in their lives. They need you more than ever during the holidays.  Hard as it may be to be around people that are depressed, they need you.  Reach out.  They'll be happy you did.  YOU'LL be happy you did.

(Thanks Marianne, Jennifer, Roxy, Leanne)


And just to prove that I am trying…I will post pictures of our little tree and lights when I'm up to putting them up.  


Monday, November 24, 2014

Six years...

Six years ago today, Melissa went into the hospital.  Wow.  It still seems like yesterday.

She was having lots of pain a couple weeks before.  I remember getting up one morning to get ready for work an I was packing a bag.  Donny asked me what I was doing.  I told him that Melissa wasn't feeling great and if she called, I was going to go down to Cincinnati to help take care of her.  Not five minutes later the phone rang…she was calling to say she was in extreme pain.  I told her I was on my way.  John had already left for work, and she didn't want him to have to come home.  So I drove to Finneytown.  When I got there I told her I was taking her to Kettering Hospital in Dayton because that's where all her doctors were.  In the ER, I remember her telling the nurses that her chest was hurting.  She ended up being admitted and they put her on the Cardiac Floor.  That's where she met Mary, the nurse that made her the CD mix of songs.  (Viva La Vida being one of them!)  They ended up doing a thorosentesis to remove fluid from around her lungs.  She had been scheduled for a PET Scan that week, but they wouldn't do it because it was scheduled as an outpatient and she was and Inpatient.  Stupid.  She even volunteered to be released and she would just go right to have the PET Scan.  No go.  After about three days, she begged to be released because she and John were having their annual Chili Cook-Off that weekend.

The cook-off went as planned, and she promised me that John would do everything.  She was really too sick to host this event, but of course nothing stopped her from doing whatever she wanted to do (she got that from my dad).

A week later she was in the hospital again.  This time, for the final time.

To be honest I can't remember if we went to Dr. Romer's office first, or if we went right to the ER.  But she was admitted again.  I also recall that since she hadn't been feeling well, I had ordered our Thanksgiving Dinner at Kroger.  I knew I wouldn't have the energy to cook.  That never happened.  Ate Thanksgiving Dinner in the hospital with Melissa & John.

The fluid was back in her lungs, and they needed to do the thorosentesis again.  If you go back to November 2008 in the archives (down the right side of this page) she explains in detail the events of each day.

Too hard for me to read right now.  What I remember is about all I can handle.


This is a tough time of year.  I guess it's a good thing all of traveling is done for awhile.   We've done a lot in just a few months - starting with three visits to my dad in Florida, then the cruise (Turks & Caicos, Dominican Republic, Curacao, Aruba) then California (Disney, San Diego, Ellen Show), then a weekend with our Portsmouth friends at Hocking Hills, then Memphis, New Orleans and Ryan's last game.

All good things.

Here's a few of the pics from the last couple of weeks..

I've had a few issues with this lately…anytime we're out of town.  Donny wanted to buy this t-shirt for me. I told him I'd NEVER wear it. But I would take a picture of it. I must not be the only one with this problem!

Where we stayed in the French Quarter

Donny's cousin Jim happened to be in New Orleans the same weekend we were…so were the Bengals!

Stopped in the bar Tropical Isle - owned by a Pam Fortner.  Got the most popular drink in the south, the Hand Grenade. Invented by Pam Fortner.  Pretty good.

And getting me through these rough months - Andrew & Max.  Thank God for them.

Windmill Farms


Nick & Max @ Max's Thanksgiving Feast

Pamma & Max

Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Thank you Coach Jim Jabir and the Dayton Flyer's women's basketball team for welcoming us to your practice tonight.  It really means a lot to us to share Melissa's story.

The photo was taken after the pink game a couple of years ago.  We followed Cassie Sant when she was at Fairmont (Melissa followed her too) and then at UD.  (Fairmont Girls Basketball now gives an award in Melissa's name - The Melissa Fortener McLaughlin B POSITIVE Spirit Award.  Cassie was the first recipient, just a couple months after Melissa passed away.

Like I said when I started, I could talk about Melissa all day.  But I only had a few minutes (the aroma of your dinner was making ME hungry!) so I want to tell you a little more about her.

Like all of you, she was an athlete.  When she was about 6 or 7, she had a couple friends who took ballet.  She begged me to go.  So we enrolled her.  After about the second week, I was dragging her to practice.  She hated it.  About the same time a friend of ours caught her after church one Sunday and said she needed some soccer players.  Although she only played soccer a couple of years, she was hooked.  She loved sports.  She played basketball and volleyball in high school.  When she went to OU, she discovered rugby.  Her new love.  After she graduated from OU, she lived in Dayton for awhile and played for the Cincy-Dayton Rugby Club.  Eventually she moved to Cincinnati and played for the Cincinnati Kelts.

It was the spring of 2003 when she felt the lump.   I'll NEVER forget that day.  She went by herself for the mammogram.  I went with her for the biopsy.  When the doctor came out and said "It's cancer" I was devastated.  I cried all the way home…and she said "Mom.  I'll be fine.  I need to get back to work…"  That was how she handled it for five years.

The original plan was to start with chemo, shrink the tumor, remove it and go from there.  The week after she was diagnosed, she went in to have a port put in (if you read the blog, she posts LOTS of pictures of procedures she had-the port is one of them).
It was outpatient surgery.  After routine urinalysis and blood tests, before the procedure, they told her she was pregnant.  So the original plan was scrapped.   The next morning she was supposed to start her chemo treatments and we went with her.  After about 10 minutes she came out.  The treatment was supposed to last for 3 hours.  She said "somethings wrong with the port.  I need to go back to the hospital".  She wouldn't let me go with her because "she had to get back to work."  But there was nothing wrong with the port - she was going to have an ultrasound to see how far along she was.  She said later the baby was waving at her.  So now she had a decision to make - terminate or go through with the pregnancy.  After stopping to talk to our parish priest (who thank God told her "Whatever decision you make God will understand") She decided not to terminate.  THEN she met me for lunch.  She got there first, and as soon as I sat down, she said "I'm pregnant".  I was devastated all over again. But she said "It's fine mom.  I'll just have a mastectomy first, then start chemo."  She was almost in the second trimester.  She played SIX games of rugby pregnant.  And the baby was fine.  Chemo would start as soon as the drains came out. Then she would be in her second trimester and the treatments wouldn't hurt the baby.  All was well.

So life went on.  She was living with her boyfriend in Cincinnati (they married the following spring), working in Dayton.  Treatments finally started in August.  She went every three weeks.  Never missed a day of work (worked late to make up the time she was out having chemo!)  And played rugby.
On October 19, 2003 she went into early labor at home after being in a friend's wedding.  Just after midnight, she gave birth to John Patrick (JP)…born sleeping.  He was the light at the end of the tunnel…and she lost him.  I didn't understand then…I have no idea how she kept going after losing her son. But she did.  She had another battle to fight and this was just another competition.  And she was going to win.

She married John March 12, 2004.  They bought a house in Finneytown.  She was in remission at the time.

In the spring of 2005, the cancer was back.  The chemo she was on gave her mouth sores, and her friends were calling checking up on her but she didn't want to talk - so she started the blog.  This is the second blog.  She took the  first blog - - down in the spring of 2008 when she was applying for jobs.  She quit the job she was working when she was diagnosed - too stressful.  Then she found a job through a Temp Service.  But she wanted a REAL job.  One that would use her degree…and she didn't want anyone to know she had cancer.  She was hired by the University of Cincinnati as the Marketing and Promotions Coordinator for the Co-op Program.  
All of that is in the blog.

Her last post was Christmas Eve 2008.  BLOGGING LIVE FROM HOSPICE.  She was pretty amazing.

I continued writing the blog - although I am not the writer she was.  She was funny and serious and her posts made you want more.  I just want her to be remembered.  I want to remember that she LIVED. Not that she died.

So I gave you the part between the diagnosis and the beginning of the blog.  She tells her story so much better than I do.  I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you remember to B POSITIVE.  She always said "no matter how bad you have it, there is always someone who would love to be in your shoes".  No matter what's going on in your life, or how the season is going…things could be worse.

Although we expect an amazing season from the you this year.  Good luck.  We'll see you at the games!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Not sure where to start here…so I'll jump to the middle of the week because I want to remember our first grandson.  John Patrick McLaughlin.

He was born October 19, 2003, about  2 months early.  Too soon.   We should have been celebrating his 11th birthday Sunday.  But instead, we remembered him.  We told Melissa & John we would never forget him.  So we remember.  Happy Birthday JP.  We love you and miss you EVERY day.

It was a whirlwind week.  At least it seems that way now.  Donny had a conference at Disneyland in Anaheim.  We stayed at the Disneyland Resort Hotel-very nice.   He was busy all week, I had Downtown Disney to keep me busy.  And a pool.  And two books.  Very relaxing week.  Until Saturday.  Had tickets to Disneyland - we got there at 7 a.m. - back to the hotel around 9 p.m.  Wore my Fitbit Flex (tracks my steps) - we walked over 7 miles that day!  Disneyland is a lot smaller than Disney World - but POSITIVE there were a million people there that day.  The lines for food were as long as the lines for rides.  Fortunately we got there early enough to miss a lot of the lines.

LOVE Toon Town…it feels like you're walking around in a cartoon!

and of course nothing better than the Disney Parade!

LONG day.  Got back to the room around 9 p.m., just in time to see the end of the Notre Dame/Florida State Football game.  Should have stayed at the park a little longer.  We are Notre Dame fans and they lost in the final seconds…

Had to get packed and ready to get up early the next morning.  Picked up a rental car and headed for San Diego to the USS Midway Museum, then lunch with a good friend (rugby) of Melissa's, Kyra, Dane and Hunter.  

Bunks.  Talked to one of the docents - (she works in the library on the ship) - she said when Dad was on the Midway, they didn't have bunks, they had hammocks.  

on the flight deck...

San Diego skyline

Hunter…Kyra and Dane's son

Great visit, then on the road again.  Up I-5 (I think it's the Pacific Coast Highway) to Burbank.
We originally were going to drive up Route 1 along the coast - would have taken a couple more hours and we  were both exhausted-so stayed on I-5.  Checked in around 7.  The desk clerk pointed to my shirt and said "My wife played agains them"… I forgot that I had an Old Girls Rugby shirt on.   He said his wife played for UK and Lexington.  Told him about Melissa and gave him a FORT bracelet and card.

Up early again to get ready for the Ellen Show.

Nicest thing about the Ellen Show?  We met some really nice people before, during and after the show.
We we very early for the show, so we took a walk. Found a little Mexican Restaurant a few blocks from the studio.  Sat outside and two couples sat next to us.  They were military friends…Marines.  Met in Japan and remained friends.  One couple lives around LA, the other was visiting from Florida.  Talked about our kids, grandkids, gave them FORT bracelets and cards.  
Later, we met four women from NY.  Mom, two grown daughters and mom's sister.  FORT bracelets and cards to them too.  
Gave ellen one too.
On the shuttle on the way back to the hotel, two women, friends from Oregon (Barb & Georgia), were on a girls getaway.  We picked them up after a tour of the studios.  AND they got tickets to Conan OBrien show.  We talked on the way back to the hotel,  about where we were from, then what airports we flew in to…then somehow we talked about flying into Atlanta.  Barb said "I flew into Atlanta a few years ago to do a 3 day Breast Cancer Walk".  You know where THAT conversation went!

A woman in line in front of me as we were going into the studio had a teal rubber bracelet on.  I asked her if it was for Ovarian Cancer.  She said "No. my son died.  I wear it for him"  And you know where THAT conversation went.  Her son, Terry, was in the military.  Had PTSD.   Suicide.  She goes to Compassionate Friends too.  She got a FORT bracelet and card too.

When we got back to the hotel, Marcus (desk clerk when we checked in) was there.  He said "My wife remembers your daughter.


So we come almost 2000 miles to California, and in every city we were in, someone knew Melissa.  "FORT".  Irvine - Doug & Peggy.  San Diego, Kyra & Dane.  Burbank, Marcus' wife.  Somehow, it doesn't surprise me.

And it doesn't stop there.  All the cards & bracelets we gave away…MORE people will know her. And that makes me happy.

If you are just reading for the first time - I thought this would be a good picture to share of Melissa.  Shows her personality.  

This picture was taken at Octoberfest in Cincinnati with the Naked Cowboy.  It was just a few months before she passed away.  Only a few weeks before she went into the hospital. This was Melissa.
Happy. Full of life.  Just how I try to remember her.

No pics of Andrew and Max this time.  

That will be soon.

As much as I love vacations, I am always anxious to get home.

There's no place like home.

Love you pretty girl.  You are remembered.