Sunday, April 2, 2017


The definition of family according to

A basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not:...any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents, children, uncles, aunts, and cousins:...

It's been an emotional roller coaster for the last couple of months.  Waiting for the Memorial for our son-in-law, John.  Johnny Mac.  Schmoopy.  Schmoops.  He went by a lot of names.  He was a son, brother, father, husband.  Son-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle.  Nephew. Cousin.  Friend to many.

What I saw yesterday (and have known for a long time), was that John touched a lot of lives. His untimely, tragic death was a shock to everyone who knew and loved (loves) him.

The mass at St. Xavier Catholic Church in Cincinnati was a beautiful tribute to his life.  I think the message that we all walked away with was "we never get used to death."  Truer words were never spoken.

My brother died April 26, 1975.  I still talk about him and miss him.  Over 40 years.

My daughter died 8 years ago and I still grieve.  The tears are still there.  I never (will never) stop missing her.

And I feel the same about John.  Our son-in-law.  Really, another son to us. He was part of OUR family.   I hope he knew we felt that way about him.  We never said it out loud.  We never told him that.  He was really Nick's brother, his only sibling after Melissa died.  I hope he knew how much we loved him.

I hope he knew how much he was loved by everyone who knew him.  We heard a lot of J Mac stories yesterday at Rhinegeist and then at Haps.

Probably my favorite John story was when they had their annual Chili Cook-Off.  Donny and I were invited and I made White Chicken Chili.  Now, I never professed to be a good cook (not like my mom, or his mom, or HIM), but I didn't think my chili was THAT bad.    But I guess it was.  They had several different awards - Best Chili, Hottest Chili, and Worst Chili. And trophies to go with them.  I just remember how excited he was to give that last trophy...for the WORST CHILI.  And how SURPRISED I was that is was MY chili!  He thought it was SO funny - and so did Melissa.  Me,  not so much.  But I can laugh about it now, because I can admit that I am probably the worst cook around.  I just don't LIKE to cook.  But Johnny Mac did.  (Seagal even made one of J Mac's favorite recipes for the reception yesterday!)

John was a GREAT cook.  He LOVED to cook.  Melissa was just like her mother...didn't like to cook and didn't WANT to cook.  But she tried.  She made a frozen pizza once and unknowingly put the rack in upside down (so the edge of the back of the rack was pointing down instead of up).  When she went to pull the rack out, the pizza slid off the back onto the coils on the bottom of the oven...burning the pizza.  John came in the kitchen, shook his head and told her she wouldn't have to cook any more.

But she tried again.  This time, she turned on a burner to boil water in a tea kettle.  She turned on the wrong burner.    A "made from scratch" pie that John made was in the oven.  When the buzzer went off, she thought she would do him a favor and take it out.  She put it on the stove to cool (not knowing that she had inadvertently turned on the wrong burner).  A few minutes later, they smelled something was John's freshly baked pie!  Needless to say, he wasn't too happy.  I'm sure he encouraged her to STAY OUT of the kitchen!

I choose to believe that she was pretty smart - she didn't like to cook and this was her way of convincing her husband that she shouldn't be in the kitchen! (as opposed to she wasn't very smart...)

He loved cooking, making his own beer, smoking his pipes, laughing and making other people laugh. He loved the Bengals, the Reds (and most likely would be at Opening Day tomorrow!)  He loved the Kelts.  Rugby.  But most of all he loved my daughter.  He was a good husband to Melissa.  He took his vows seriously...'til death do us part.

Standing at Haps on the deck in the back, it wasn't the same without his laughter.  He had a one of a kind was a belly laugh.  Loud.  Oh how I miss that.  That was something he and Melissa had in common.  Their laughs...and they were LOUD.  And funny.  They were so much fun to be around. They were the definition of "soul mates".   They were better when they were together.

And that brings me to the definition of "Family".   The part that says ".any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents, children, uncles, aunts, and cousins:..."  I think that family doesn't necessarily have to be related by blood.

The Kelts are a perfect example of this.  Family is about being there when you are needed the most.  Coming through when the chips are down.  Listening.  Helping.  Talking. Sharing. Loving.

There is no better example of all those traits than the Kelts.  They are a true example of family.  "Once a Kelt, Always a Kelt" is there motto.  We were never members of the Kelts- team members.  But because we (me, Donny, Nick, John, Diana, Erin, Aileen) are family (by blood) to Kelts members, we ARE considered family.

Brendan O'Connor, a Kelt and a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which John was also a member of, organized a lot of the memorial and the reception at Rhinegeist following.  Stacy Schnieber, a teammate, best college friend of Melissa's organized the food for the luncheon.  And the rest of the Kelts family took it from there.  There was enough food to serve the 200 people that attended.  There was laughter, tears, stories and lots of love.  THAT is the definition of family.

(And I want to say that WE felt that love too when Melissa died.  Between the Kelts and our friends who took over the planning for the celebration of Melissa's life after her mass, we were touched by their love and generosity.)

The Kelts continue to show their love, including us in pretty much everything.  We are a part of their family.

And now, John and Diana (and Aileen, Erin and Tonia) will feel that love too.  They saw it yesterday. All (Big) John could say was "they are amazing".  We know that.

Your son was a part of the Kelts family, and YOU are too.  They will never forget.

THAT is family.

Celebrating J Mac at Rhinegeist...a place I know he loved

Harry and Jeannie.  Harry was John's Best Man when John and Melissa got married.

Grandma Fortener saying goodbye to Big John
The newest member of the Kelts...Hula and Molly's little girl!

We usually go in the back door at Haps.  This time, Uber dropped us off at the front door.  What a nice surprise we got...the FORT sticker is on the window as you walk in the front door!

J Mac's Kelts family surrounds him...he is in the photo on top of the cooler - along with his rugby cleats!

Three cheers for Johnny Mac...
Hip Hip Hooray!
Hip Hip Hooray!
Hip Hip Hooray!

Donny, Pauly and me.

Me, Ang, Allen, Donny and Big John

I told JMacs dad that the last time I saw JMac at Haps, we did a shot together. So his dad recreated that moment...
with me and his Kelts family!

Big John and Pauly.  I'm pretty sure I know who they are talking about...

more J Mac stories...

JMacs sister, Erin and Nick.  She lost her only brother, Nick lost his only sibling and sister.
I think they  found a sibling in each other...

John and Diana commissioned an artist in NC to paint this...our favorite of both of them!

Our last stop on the way home was David's Cemetery.  Diana wanted us to share the flowers with Melissa and JP.  

Some of you know this already, but Johnny Mac will be interred with Melissa and JP soon.  We decided to completely re-do the headstone.  We have already talked to Dodds Monuments and redesigned everything.  Changing the photo from Melissa to Melissa and John.  All three of their names will be on the headstone.  

I knew they were going to take the headstone away (to grind it down, repolish and engrave the new design)...I just didn't know when.  I really wasn't prepared to see it GONE when we got there today.  I guess I wanted one last look...thank goodness we've taken multiple pictures of it...


This seems to be a good time to plug the FORT 5K since I have you here...
Put Sunday, April 30 on your calendars!  You can register @
Early registration has been extended until April 15.

Hope we see you there.

(Just a note...the puzzle has been going off the whole time I've been typing here.  I hope she's ok with everything I've said.  And I hope J Mac knows how much we love him...)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Not sure where to even start today.

Positive stuff?  That would seem appropriate because Melissa's blog is B POSITIVE.

But for my own sanity, I think I'll start with the not so positive.  When I finish this, I'll need something to remind me that I DO have something to live for...


Not something to live for, for sure.  I wish I could just ignore everything that is going on.
If you happened to vote for the person who was elected, you might want to stop here, or just scroll down to the B POSITIVE stuff.  But I hope you are will to listen to the other side.

I do not consider myself "whiny".  It is NOT sour grapes.

I am truly terrified.  TRULY.  The things that I am most concerned about are (in no particular order):

Health Care (including Planned Parenthood/Abortion issue)
Social Security/Medicare

I get the feeling that those aren't the same concerns of those who voted for the person who was elected.

His concerns are for white Christians.  Period.

Not once have I heard him say "I will work for everyone in this country."  He even had "Thank You rallies for the people who voted for him.  I am 60 years old and I don't remember an elected official EVER having "Thank You" rallies.

Now, to clarify.  I am white.  That's a plus for me this year (or the next four years, maybe).  I used to think I was a Christian, but lately I don't identify with the majority of people who call themselves Christians.  I believe in God and Jesus Christ, but I am having a problem with organized religion.
So I don't know WHAT that makes me.

Let's start with Health Care.
I have noticed that health care cost have risen...and have been for a long time (not just in the last 8 years).     When I was still working for the school system, they changed to a Health Savings Plan.
The good thing was, in the beginning, the school system put money in the savings plan the first couple of years - that helped cover co-payments and the deductible.  Here's what I find interesting.
You pay a premium to the Insurance Company,  and you pay the first (oh, that depends on your coverage) in our case, the first $2000 per individual, or $4000 per family.  The insurance company covers nothing until you reach your deductible.  With the Affordable Care Act (also known as ObamaCare - YES it is the same thing!) the insurance companies were responsible for  preventative health care - screenings, baseline physicals .
Even after two visits to the emergency room in one year (one for me, one for Donny) we never reached our deductible.    Each visit cost us $1000.    My personal opinion is health care should not be FOR PROFIT.  Any time you make something FOR PROFIT, the most important thing becomes making money.  I don't believe insurance companies have the patients best interest at heart.  If they are not making money on something, or if something is too expensive, they will question a doctor's request/orders.  It happened to Melissa.  Her doctor recommended a treatment that she needed, but told her that "her insurance company was going to fight her on this".  Her response was "Give it to me.  I'll deal with it later."  She was fighting for her life, but money was more important to the insurance company.

I am ready to just drop my health insurance and if I get sick, just hope that it's not anything serious.

Donny is ready to retire (he NEEDS to retire)...and we are waiting to see what's going to happen with insurance.  F*ck it.

We were both hoping that Medicare would be our insurance when we reach 65, now that is in question.  This new administration wants to privatize that too.  Another FOR PROFIT business opportunity for some billionaire.

And now I'm reading my pension (that I paid into for 25 years) is in jeopardy.

Oh, and the abortion issue.  For anyone out there who believes that YOU have the right to make that decision for anyone, I am offended.  Melissa was pregnant when she was diagnosed and her doctors told her she needed to decide whether or not she was going to terminate the pregnancy.  Her cancer was very aggressive and putting off treatment could affect the outcome.  She was 25 years old, and she WANTED the baby.  She CHOSE NOT to terminate.  It was HER choice.  (and I know now that she chose her babies life over HER life).  So I lost not only my grandson, I lost my daughter too.
Which would YOU choose??????
Melissa & I are (were) both anti-abortion, but PRO-choice.  And when recently I posted this on FB, a family friend immediately posted (not to me personally, but just on his wall) "You cannot be Catholic and Pro-choice".  Really?  Melissa went to a priest right after she had the ultra-sound to see how far along she was.  The priest said "Melissa, whatever you decide, God will understand".  A non-judgemental priest.  I didn't think there was one.  So, am I Catholic?  I guess not.
For those of you judging, all I can say is, the only one that can judge me is GOD.

I read recently that the rate of cancer deaths have fallen.  I believe that it's because of regulations that prevent pollution.  Regulations that keep us (and our children/grandchildren) safe.
But this administration isn't concerned about keeping us safe.  It's all about money. You don't make money paying for regulations.  So get rid of them.

I am really concerned for my grandsons.

I went to Parochial school from second grade through ninth grade.  I got a great education there.
My parents taught us right from wrong, good morals and values.  My parents paid for that education when we went to parochial school.

I went to public school (inner city at that!) and got a great education.  While I chose not to go on to college, I did get a (full-time) job right out of high school.  From my inner city public school, many of my classmates went on to college - teachers, businessmen, nurses,  DOCTORS.  Successful professionals.
And believe it or not, successful professionals STILL graduate from public schools (inner city too).
My own children went to public schools, went on to college, graduated and are (were) productive citizens.

A lot of my friends went through public school and are successful, productive citizens (as did my friends from private schools).

Now we have a person nominated for Education Secretary who can't agree that ALL SCHOOLS that receive federal money should be held EQUALLY ACCOUNTABLE.  All she would say was "they should be accountable."  So public schools are held to higher standards.  The standards change (almost yearly lately) - They are working with a moving target.  No wonder they can't hit the target.
But schools that receive vouchers or Charter Schools (FOR PROFIT) aren't held to the same standards.  And while I can't argue with the success of Private Schools, I can argue that they too are held to different standards.  A student can be kicked out of a private school for a multitude of reasons.  That same student's option then is Public Schools.  Public Schools don't have that option. They serve ALL children.

I do believe that all children CAN succeed.  There are three parts to the equation.
TEACHER/STUDENT/PARENT.    Chances of succeeding are not great if one of the pieces is missing.    I was an educator for 26 years (as a paraprofessional).  Students who have all parts of the puzzle have a better chance of succeeding.  Kids that live in poorer districts can succeed,  but sometimes have roadblocks that deter them.   I think we could start by educating parents about how to help their children succeed.  Of course you will always find an educator that isn't doing their job, like in ANY other profession.
Do yourself a favor.  Visit a public school sometime and see exactly what teachers do.  You might be surprised.
On a daily basis, teachers serve anywhere from 15-30 students (or more in middle and high school) All different personalities, different levels academically, different backgrounds, different races, different experiences.   And their job is to make sure that they are all on the same page and can pass the same test and, oh yes, deal with behavior problems as well.

In Ohio, the majority of Charter Schools have not worked.  Once again, they are more concerned about making money than educating students.  Educating children SHOULD NOT be a FOR PROFIT venture.

If you have children in public schools, more importantly, if you have children with special needs, education is about to change if Betsy DeVos is approved.

I need to stop there.  My blood pressure is going up...

I am sitting here with the news on while I type.
EVERY story so far has been about gun violence.
This has got to stop.

We have several friends who are police officers.  I would trust any one of them with my life.  I trust them to protect our city.  I trust them to make good decisions (just as I trust teachers to make good decisions with my children).

So I'm struggling this month after my family has been personally affected by gun violence.  And the police are involved.  The prosecutor has determined that the police were justified in their decision.
I am disheartened that this country has gotten to the place where everyone feels like they need a gun to protect themselves.  Do you know that if a police officer comes to your house and you present a gun, they are justified to shoot to kill?   Should they take into consideration the situation?  I believe so.  Centerville Police officers did just that.  Yesterday.   A 15 year old POINTED a gun at officers, they shot him 3 times, injuring him.  He will survive.     Would a situation where someone is despondent not call for the same action?  I have lost an entire family.  I feel justified asking that question.

Why do we even need a Police Department?  If everyone has their own gun and everyone wants to protect themselves, why?  Why do we need laws?  Why aren't we just all on our own?
Why do we need to pay taxes?  Why don't we just buy our own books, pay for our own school, pave our own roads?  Why do we need Social Security.  Make those people WORK.

BECAUSE.  I believe in the greater good.  What is best for all of us.  Its not all about ME.

I am about at the end of my rope.
My life in the last 8 years has been impacted by multiple deaths (of family and close friends)...
My family has been impacted by drug abuse,  gun violence, cancer.  Death.

I am tired.  I am tired of everything.  I am ready to quit.  The death of my son in law (and the death of my good friends daughter) has almost put me over the edge.

And that is why I saved this for last.  For the moment, I have to have something that makes me smile.  That gives me hope.  That makes me want to fight for my grandsons future.  I have to do SOMETHING (other than end it all).

the B POSITIVE part....

In December, (before everything happened) my good friend offered her condo in Florida for a week.  She knew that the first week of January was difficult for us.  She had no idea (at the time) how much we would need that.

We were the only ones on the beach.  For miles.

Because we were in the Panhandle, we could see sunrise AND sunset every day.  This is sunset.

Prettiest shells Ive ever found on a Florida beach.  And LOTS of hearts.  Melissa sends me hearts.

Donny is really into the Civil War and cannons.  This was at Fort Pickens.

This is me and Melissa.  A Fort within a Fort. :)

This is a real, live, armadillo. The only one I'd seen before this was a dead one on the side of the road!

Sunrise.  3 birds...Melissa, John, JP

We love you FORT, J MAC, JP

my three broken hearts... 

our place for a week.

Donny was the Incredible Shrinking Man. Relaxing.

Me relaxing.

Going back in time...if only.

The best Key Lime Pie in the country.

Fort kind of jumps out at us...this was a "Fort Tour"

This boat washed up on shore a week before we got there.  They have no idea where it came from.  No markings on the boat that will help them, either.

A storm at sea.

We brought a rose from Jody's funeral.  When we were in the Caribbean, a woman from the island we were on gave us (me and Mary, my friend who also lost a daughter) flowers to throw into the water for our daughters.  I did the same for Jody...


A little work had to be done while we were there (some jackhammering.) Fun.


I sent this photo to a friend. She said "Is that a sunset or nuclear explosion?"  Hmmm...

Took this picture at our favorite restaurant.  I went to school with a Marlin Barr.

Took Andrew & his friend Trey to the Wright State women's game.  We had seats on the floor, they got to meet the mascot (Rowdy Raider) AND Chelsea.  She had her career high that night - 33 pts!

And as most of you know (if you've been here before) basketball is what gets us through the winters.
We follow the Firebirds faithfully.  (although we did miss two games the week we were in Florida). We also follow Chelsea (at Wright State) Makayla (at Ohio State) and Kathryn Westbeld (at Notre Dame)  We had made arrangements about a month ago to go to her game at ND on Jan 29.  Found out it was her 21st birthday.  We went up on Saturday and asked if she wanted to go to dinner - she was free so she did!  Had a great visit with her.  Her mom & dad should be proud.  She is an amazing young woman.    And we didn't buy her a drink, that was a posed picture.  She turned 21 the next day and we thought her mom and dad would want to buy her her "first" drink.  

me, Kathryn, Donny

Kathryn's youngest fan.  Adorable.

Just a note - she's been dealing with a foot injury and was in a boot when we took her out to dinner.  Said she wasn't even sure if she would be playing on Sunday.  Only if they needed her.  And they needed her.  She didn't get a lot of minutes, but when she was in, she made an impact.

They played last night at Virginia Tech (who won their first 15 games this season).  Another game she didn't start because of her foot, but ended up getting lots of playing time...and 17 points.  And a win.
I always message her after the game, asked how her foot was...her response "It's pretty sore at the moment."  She reminds me a lot of Melissa.  Never complains.  Just has that "I need to suck it up attitude."  Maybe that's what we like about her.  She's a lot like Melissa.


I had the opportunity again this year to talk to the UD Women's basketball team about Melissa and breast cancer.  I really like the new coach (Shauna Green) - she's down to earth, friendly, caring.  And a good coach.  UD has won the last 9 games and are first in the A10.  
Got to pass out Fort bracelets/key chains and talk to a couple of the girls.  Went to the PINK Game and saw a great OT win.  
Following the Flyers again too.  

So where do I go from here?  I am depressed.  I am sad.  I am angry.  I am afraid.

But I'm still taking care of my dad, I love my husband & my son more than life itself, I want to see my grandsons grow up.  

A little sunshine would help and less time to the next election.  

Hope I can hold out until then.

Thank God for basketball....