Tuesday, July 15, 2014


BUSY summer.  This is going to be a long post.  I needed to do this more often this summer, but I haven't been home much. So here goes...

Got home from Florida in time to get ready for the FORT 5K.  We were really nervous about how it was going to turn out.  Needlessly.

With the help of most of the Franz family (especially Debbie, Bob, Sandi and Scott, and Chelsea for getting us started!), it went off without a hitch.  Melissa always said we were "Franz wannabes"…there's a reason for that.  They are an amazing family!  They have come through for us more than once in the last few years.  Thanks Franz family.  4582.

And thank you MARCY BRESCIA for being our photographer…AGAIN.  Anyone needing a photographer - Marcy does a great job!

Franz family & Fort

The 5K in pictures…

Andrew & Max-ready to run!

High school friends Nancy & Pat (and Nancy's friend Gary)

Ang & Bennett, and high school friend Allison

My friend Marla and her daughter Michelle

Our cruising friends from Portsmouth, Mange & Mary

Getting ready to run…

Donny's Aunt Rosie (who also has breast cancer) walked the 5K.
She is in her late 70s.  Got a medal! Way to go Aunt Rosie!

My new "old" friend, Marianne and Rosella-Grandma Fortener

Emily Hughes

Rugby friends of Fort - KJ & Heather and their babies!

Kat - another rugby friend of Fort

My friends Debbie & Roxy (Roxy also lost her daughter to cancer-six months before Melissa)

Nick & Grandma Fortener

Emily Hughes - winner of the $1000 Fort Scholarship!

St. Helen's friends - Marianne, Terre, Cheryl & Pam (and the boys)

Probably our Christmas card picture!

We thought it was a huge success - over 40 people registered the day of the race.  The Fairmont Athletic Boosters were the benefactors.  Raised over $1600 this year.  Hoping the Girls Basketball team takes it on next year.  

Had to let Melissa know it was successful too…I know it would make her happy!


The Monday after the 5K I left for Catawba Island with my Moraine Meadows friends - we do this every summer.  We have had some incredible getaways, and this was no exception!

Our house...

Went to a wild animal safari - and fed LOTS of animals - an Alpaca...

A llama...

a camel...

a buffalo…(when we went to Yellowstone, they said to keep your windows UP- Here, they encouraged you to keep your windows DOWN - that buffalo's head was all the way in the car..SCARY!)

A giraffe - I was in the back seat - didn't get a good picture of his head...

of course relaxed a little too!

Good friends Rodney & Josh 

Had a great week.  I needed it after the month with dad.  (I LOVED being with my dad, but it was a pretty stressful month.) The day we arrived, I called to check on dad.  He had a setback that day, and had to arrange daily in-home care.  Got that all taken care of and was able to relax the rest of the week. Went to Kelly's Island, Put in Bay and the Toledo Zoo on the way home.  Always a good time with this group.  Me, Josh, Rodney, Deb, Pam & Lisa.  


Got home in time to see The Menus with good friends John & Donna Runzo.

And REALLY missed the boys, so we had them overnite.  Had them Monday and Tuesday before our Chicago trip.


and of course watched the Kettering Fireworks from the front yard…
Andrew & Max and Emily & Matthew Maize.

Chicago, Il.
July 11,12, 13, 2014

After attending the Boston Conference last summer, we were hooked.  We talked it up at our monthly CF meetings, and two other couples came along.  I think they enjoyed it as much as we did.  We are definitely going next year too.

We left Wednesday.  Picked up our friends Bob & Penny-arrived in Chicago around 3:30 in the afternoon.  Too late to do anything that day, so just went out to dinner.  Thursday we headed into the city.  Went to the Museum of Science and Industry.  We went to the Omni Max to see D-Day, and to the Disney Archives event - where they had a special illustration class.  I LOVE drawing…my version of Minnie Mouse...

Also went to Navy Pier - hoping to ride segways, but we arrived too late - so we took a boat ride on Lake Michigan and walked Navy Pier - great shops and view…

and of course FORT was there…CRAZY Fort...

Went to dinner with our friends - Bob & Penny and Randi & Carolyn

Went to some great sessions and met some wonderful people.  Everyone here has a story to tell.  We LOVE to tell stories about our kids.  This is a great place to do it.

I met Juli sitting in the lobby waiting for another person I had met online before the conference (Rita). Rita's from Illinois. Her daughter Julie was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 26, and pregnant. She died when she was 30.  She had her baby, who is 16 now.

 Juli's from Seattle.  Their family was on a vacation on the 4th of July 8 years ago.  Stayed in a cabin next to a river. They bought a two man raft.  Her two sons wanted to take it out.  Where they got in the river, the water was only a few inches deep.  They didn't know there was a waterfall  not far away.  Both of her sons were in the raft when it went over the waterfall, one son survived.  They didn't find her other son for 11 days.  (No matter how bad you have it, there's always someone who would love to have your problems. ~ Fort)  Not that anyone's story is worse than anyone else's…the end result is the same.  But she went 11 days not knowing if he survived or not.    Juli is a Compassionate Friends Chapter Leader in Seattle now.

Met Jenice last year in Boston.  Donny recognized her when we went to breakfast Sunday morning.  She's from Miami, Fl.  She was there with her mom.  Her brother was killed by a gang in Miami.
Donny stopped and asked her if she was in Boston last year, and he told her we sat with her at one of the sessions.  When he came to sit down with me, she came over and had Melissa's card (the one with the blog address on it)  We had given her one last year.  She said "Is this your daughter? I keep this in my purse and I think of you often"….Wow.  Will see her in Dallas next year too!

This is Maggie.  She wrote the book I am holding - Heartifacts.  Her son sends her hearts (I get butterflies AND hearts too.)  Her story is pretty amazing too.


Randi & Donny - proud of their medals…and Sam & Melissa!

Another amazing weekend.  We were with over 1500 people who had all lost a child…or children. Heard many stories and told Melissa's story many times.  It's a safe place where you can say WHATEVER you need to say.  To anyone there.  And more hugging than you can imagine.  I'm talking BEAR hugs.  Because we all understand.  

And we brought lots home to share with our Compassionate Friends at home.  

Our last session Saturday night was a sharing session.  Probably 100 people all wanting to share stories of signs they had received from their kids.  Amazing signs.  It's hard for all of us to just share one, but we would have been there all night!  We know that our kids are with us, and sometimes they show us…and we look for signs that they are with us.  We are NOT crazy.  

Someone noticed the lights on the ceiling…butterflies.  And when Mitch Carmody was presenting the Whispers of Love (signs from our loved ones) in a HUGE conference room, a butterfly flew across the stage he was on - came out of nowhere!

It's hard to leave a place where you feel like you know everyone.  A place where we can talk about our kids as much as we want, and help each other get through another day.  We are each others HOPE…because when you are with someone who has been on their journey longer than you, you have hope that you can make it too.


We got home just in time for a storm…and a rainbow.  
Another sign from Melissa.
We had NO doubt she was with us.  She just had to let us know…

(Progress.  I feel it in the summer. No anniversary, birthday or holidays…summers are good.)


Love you Melissa Marie.  Fort.  We miss you EVERY SINGLE minute of EVERY SINGLE day.