This blog is for Jim Marventano's family and friends to review his status and updates while he goes through treatment for Stage IV Colon Cancer. We can beat it together!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Barbie World

Jim was notorious for choosing music that was...lame. Although he was a fan of country, Jim was also a fan of one-hit wonders including:

Mmm Bop (Hanson)
Barbie Girl (Aqua)
Mambo #5 (Lou Bega)
Who Let The Dogs Out (Baha Men)

So tonight when Rachel started softly singing "Barbie Girl" (just a few of the lyrics) I laughed and said "Where did you hear that?" She looked a little nervous and said " Kirsten's room." (Kirsten is her 15 year old cousin). I pulled out one of Jim's compilation CDs and played it for her. I told her it was a song her Daddy really liked. Jake, Rachel and I just spend the last 1/2 hour dancing around to some of Jim's favorites.

Jim liked a lot of really great music, too. But one of the things I liked about Jim is that he just didn't care about what anyone else thought. He listened to what he liked. And now Rachel and Jake are enjoying what he liked, too. I have an affinity for lame music myself - I just love disco. So we also listened to "Shake Your Booty" and "Funkytown".

Goodness do I ever miss a man who was confident enough to walk around in a flannel shirt listening to the lyrics:
I'm a Barbie girl
in the Barbie world
Life in plastic, it's fantastic
You can brush my hair,
undress me everywhere
Imagination, life is your creation
That's what made Jim a man's man. And a ladies man. He could get away with anything.

Jim was a great dancer. He had beautiful sparkly brown eyes and strong arms. Who wouldn't love a man that had all that and liked cheesy music?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Well we had a nice visit to Rochester for Thanksgiving. I was nervous as hell getting on the plane alone with two kids, but it worked out well and the kids were pretty good. Actually, Rachel was an ANGEL, Jake made it through without embarrassing me too badly. Although on the way home today he did manage to pelt a woman in the back of her head with his pacifier. Oh geez.

I was nervous about going to Rochester. After all, it's my first time staying at my in-laws house since Jim passed away. I was terrified that we'd all be sitting around staring at each other. Me there, without their son. I know it has to be painful for them. It was painful for me. Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, and I am thankful for the blessings I have, but one of my biggest blessings is gone. And it's painfully obvious. But it wasn't awkward at the Marventanos. We had lots of activities planned. Rachel saw The Nutcracker for the first time, and she loved it. She tried to pirouette a couple of times and then realized what she was doing, so she turned it into a stretch and a yawn. Funny. And we met Jim's friend/cousin Jeri and her two girls at the children's museum, which is wonderful. We had a great time. Judi and I had a couple of really good talks. And best of all, I got to go out with our friends Mark and Terri one night. We were out until after midnight, which I have to say is pretty darn good because Terri is 8 months pregnant.

Traveling to Rochester has never been my favorite thing. I hate Rochester. I've hated it since we moved there my junior year in high school. I have so many hang-ups and animosity about Rochester that it's almost silly. But this trip was better. I was able to let some things go. I was able to appreciate it for my kids. Rachel and Jake were delighted to see their Mimi and Papa. And Aunt Judi, Uncle Mark, Kirsten and Sean have been raised to demi-God status. I saw Jeri, Mark, and Terri - all people I really wanted to see. We had a wonderful dinner at Thanksgiving, complete with a fun sangria and my favorite Senator Potatoes.

Throughout this whole experience I've been wondering: is this some kind of plan? And who was the shitty designer that came up with this plan? (Jim would be appalled at such lazy design work!) But I sat down one night and cheated - I read the last chapter of Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. (Spoiler alert!) I finally realized there isn't a plan. God didn't make this happen. He didn't even let this happen. It just happened. It's my job to take the experience and either make Jim's passing something special by having his memory live on in a positive way, or make myself and everyone around me miserable by continually asking questions for which I'll never find answers.

My prayers for Jim's healing weren't answered in the way that I hoped. But my prayers were answered for my own healing, and eventually, for that of my kids. God put the wonderful village of Kohler in our paths. I have so many friends and relatives that love me and the kids. People have reached out to me from all over the earth. People have stopped to listen and ask how I'm doing. They reach out to me by cutting my lawn, making us dinner, and calling me to talk about the Bachelor. (Another blog post: the season finale was terrible!)

I choose to take this experience and make something positive. It's the best way to honor Jim. It's the best way to honor our relationship. It's the best way to show what kind of a person he was. I am truly thankful for every day I had with Jim. Our first holiday without Jim stunk because Jim wasn't there. But he will always be with us because of the kind of man he was. He left such an impression on so many people. I am working on "zipping it" which is the new series at our church - the last one was about complaining, which is one of my specialties. Yes, I put a link to our church. Don't get all wierd about it - don't listen to it if you don't want to. But you can listen to the sermons online and I've got to say - these are pretty cool. I am working on shutting up and being thankful for what I do have. I'm working on noticing the blessings I do have, not the ones I don't. Jim was the greatest blessing of my life. With Jim, I was blessed with two adorable, healthy children. With Jim, I was blessed with a beautiful marriage that we worked hard for - and succeeded. I can't think of any greater blessing than love.

Monday, November 19, 2007

It's Official

I've turned into my mother.

It's 6:21 pm CST. Both of my kids are in bed.

Don't like the dinner I serve? Then drink your milk because that's all you're getting.

Hurry up! Get in the car!

Don't hit your brother. DON'T HIT YOUR BROTHER.

Do you know what? Santa just started watching. (To which Rachel loudly announced "Jake did it. He's my little brother. Jake.")

Jake - no-no.

Jake, no hitting. No throwing.

Don't pull out that laundry - I just folded it!

Pick up the Legos!

Don't lie in front of the vacuum. Don't tug on the cord, either. Don't wrap that cord around your neck!


I still have *one* holdout. I still refuse to wear sweatpants unless I'm going to work out. (No wonder you haven't seen me in sweatpants!)

And for the record: my mom was an impeccable dresser. She never once wore sweatpants. For that matter, she never wore jeans until I was in high school. She wore dress pants or skirts every day. And she cleaned the house in those clothes. She has a beautiful home and is an excellent baker. During my childhood the only time she didn't look lovely was when she was mowing the lawn. And that's because she's just gotten done running. She mowed the lawn immediately after her workout. I aspire to be such a woman.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Sorry it's been so long between posts, folks. I have to write when the mood strikes me or the writing is more choppy (than usual, anyway...) - and then I reread and don't like it. So instead I just write when I feel like it and post before I can take it back.

Chicago was an all out blow-out weekend.

Aunt Tina and Uncle Tom - Thanks for lending us your place. Thanks for thinking of it, since I wouldn't have. But boy did we need it. All of us - not just me. Without your suggestion, we would have missed out on the opportunity to have some great girl-time together.

Let me say first that I never thought we'd make it to Chicago given the unusual amount of luggage we managed to bring. Aside from Lisa and me. We, the master packers of the group, had a solitary bag each, save for a floating pillow. The rest of the group: not so much. And I nearly died laughing when Lisa was waiting outside on her front porch, jumping around from sheer excitement with her bag all ready when we picked her up.

If you hadn't lent us your place, we wouldn't have been able to shop 'till we dropped on the Miracle Mile. We would have spent our money on a hotel room, or worse yet, decided not to go at all. I could be wrong, but I believe in the end there were no less than 3 coat purchases. And one almost purchase. Barb and I got talked into Lucky Jeans. The Nordstom Sale was going on and I went crazy. I got a ton of stuff including one red vest with a fur collar that makes me look posh. Well at least I imagine I look posh. Maybe posh with a little stay-at-home-mom thrown in. But I bought big hoop earrings to offset the mom-factor. Of course once Jake gets ahold of those you shan't be seeing them any longer. So maybe I just look like a stay-at-home-mom with a red vest on.

If you hadn't lent us your place, we would have missed out on eating at fun places like Pops for Champagne, which was our stellar Friday night choice. Or our outstanding dinner at Room 21, where the chef took us on a personal tour of the secret stairway and "Room 21" that Al Capone used. We thought about pizza, and then thought about pizza, and then decided to go eat Thai food because it's a rarity in Sheboygan. Sushi and Thai food are two things the people of this town just don't get. It drives me a little nuts, and I end up looking like some kind of zealot whenever I land in a town that has either one of those.

At your place, we watched Amy stumble out of bed in the mornings, gripping onto her coffee while she endured merciless teasing for not being a morning person. And we formulated myriad inside jokes, which now the people of Kohler will have to hear us say things like "Moguls. Judy Stock! Big hoops, small brain." and go into peals of laughter whilst annoying all around us because they weren't there. You know when you get back from a trip like that and you're all giddy and you try explaining how funny it was when Amy put on a monogrammed turtleneck and plaid skirt at Lands' End (which is against her and Biz's rules) and you're laughing but the person you tell it to only sort of laughs? Like when everyone else is tipsy and you're stone sober: the jokes are only funny to those who roam to the tipsy side.

Speaking of roaming to the tipsy side. We went over to Grace O'Malley's (after Room 21, because of course, I never know when to say when), which is a super cute Irish bar right across the street from Aunt Tina and Uncle Tom's place. Despite the fact that they were out of hard cider for my snakebites, we had tons of fun. Everyone tried on my glasses. I have no idea why, but I was tipsy so it seemed funny at the time. And we made faces like my brother Tom. Every third picture (for pretty much my whole life) of Tom is of him doing this:

Mostly, we laughed, and talked, and laughed, and talked. There is no kind of healing like that of laughter and friendship. Heaven knows I miss Jim with every fiber of my being. I even got teary in Crate and Barrel when I saw the glasses that we've been arguing about pretty much since we got married. (The glasses with the bubble in the bottom) I said yes, Jim said no. We don't have the glasses. Small things like that make me sad. But at the same time, I can't think of a better respite from my every day life. Right now, things are hectic at home. Things are hectic in my brain. The paperwork in my home is hectic. But I had this past weekend to drop it all and just have fun. These are good girls. They are fun girls. And they are all my angels.

Thanks, Aunt Tina and Uncle Tom. Maybe you did know, or maybe you didn't know what loaning us your place would do for me. But it did it. I'm in a better place. Thank you so much.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Placing the dogs

Friends, it's time to ask for your help.

Today Palmer and Major got out of our backyard fence and I've realized I cannot keep them. I love the dogs, but I cannot handle everything going on in my home at the moment. This is not a rash decision - I've been thinking about it for a while. I am placing a burden on my neighbors and friends, not to mention the dogs and us, by keeping them.

If you know of anyone that would be interested in taking one or both of them, please let me know. I am looking for good homes - not the humane society or a rescue center. I would rather hang onto them than have them go some place they won't be happy.

They are out of the same litter-
AKC registered English yellow Labrador Retrievers
Born March 17, 1999 (8 years old)
Current on all vet shots, etc.
Palmer - the smart one - he's wonderful with kids, a great runner, and knows all of his commands
Major - the not-so-smart one - loves to be loved, a little more laid back but still loves to fetch a ball, and a great swimmer

They can be placed together or apart, but I will not consider a home I don't think is fit or that doesn't come recommended by someone I know. These are good, good dogs. They are gentle and loving. They are indoor dogs - not dog house dogs. They love walks, playing fetch with a ball of frisbee, and they love to lay in front of a fire and let gas on you and your family. :) And I'm not joking about that.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Tough Day

It was a tough day for our little family today. The whole day kicked off wrong and then we never really recovered. Rachel dawdled around this morning and wouldn't get dressed until I absolutely freaked. Then she couldn't get dressed because she was crying because I yelled at her. It seems like almost every day starts out the same way. We're perpetually running late.

I've always run late. I believe it's my subconscious telling me (and others around me) that I can do whatever I want and I don't have to adhere to the timelines other people set for me. But if I really don't want to adhere to the school timeline, why don't I homeschool her? Because I'd go nuts.

So we weren't even in the car until the time that school started. I had to check her in late. And checking in late at Kohler ain't easy. They don't like tardy. I was embarrassed. Given our circumstances I think we're doing pretty well. I've got a few things working against me...grief, two young kids, and my innate need to be late. So seeing as how this was the first time, I think we've done okay thus far. We made it through two months without being late. But I hate being the last ones in the door, and having to run for it at that. I just hate it. But I can't seem to get it together any earlier. Right now I need the sleep. I am exhausted even with 8 hours of sleep. I'm not getting up unusually late, but none of us are morning people and getting things moving is tough.

In any case, that was the beginning. Then I dropped Jake off at my friend Liz's, and I was scheduled to go to a grief group. Today was the first meeting. I thought I'd have a pretty easy time with it but when we had to go around and introduce ourselves I got choked up when I told them about Rachel and Jake. And some of the people had really, really sad stories.

I don't believe that any kind of grief is easier than another, but I did get a chance to say goodbye to Jim. We said everything we wanted to say. We knew what was coming. I did a lot of anticipatory grieving in August. And we did have a good time. One woman mentioned that the biggest lesson she learned was not putting off having fun. Enjoy it now. I agree. We did put off some fun, but for the most part, we did a lot of really fun stuff together. We were never sparing with hugs and kisses. Or kind words for one another. Or laughter.

So the grief group was tough. And I actually left feeling worse than I went into it. I couldn't tell if that was my own grief or grieving for the others and what they had lost. Some of their circumstances made ours look different. I realized today that it could have been a lot worse. I've had something of an appreciation for other grievers, but today something really hit home and I knew that Jim and I did it right. And we were very fortunate to have the time to do it right. We were together the whole time. He made all his own decisions until the very last day. His parents lived with us for more than a month at the end, so they were there supporting him (and me) every step of the way. My parents got to be here. His sister and my brothers got to say goodbye. Today I really felt that other people didn't get the same kind of time we did. Or maybe they didn't use it wisely. Whatever their circumstance it made me think about how we did things, and it made me sad for them.

So the grief group was tough. I picked Jake up, put him down for a nap and took the opportunity of being alone to wash the dishes and berate myself for screaming at Rachel. I'm scarring her for life. I just know it.

When Jake got up from his nap he pretty much cried for the rest of the afternoon. We hit two stores and the kids gave me a hard time the entire sojourn.

When we got home I decided that we needed a little Jim. So we put on Brooks&Dunn and danced to "Boot Scoot Boogie". That pepped the kids up. And me.

People, don't put off hugs and kisses for tomorrow. Go have some fun. Get out there and do something with your spouse. Be kind to your loved ones. We don't know how much time we have. No one knows. Buy life insurance. And for heaven's sake, get your colonoscopy.

The number one thing I feel angry about right now is that fact that mine was a waste of a great marriage. The divorce rate is at 50%. I truly accept that everyone makes mistakes, and this isn't a judgement on anyone else - it's a comment that my own marriage was solid gold, and it was wasted by cancer. I still don't think cancer beat us. But I do still wonder why such a good man, such a loving man, my husband. Why my husband? He was mine and I want him. I learned for better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health. We lived those vows.

People rarely see me cry. I'm not sure why. It's hard to let go of tears in front of other people. Sometimes (like now) it's hard to write the blog through tears. I miss him so much. I want him back. He was my everything. My husband, my lover, my best friend, and the father (and more importantly DAD) to our kids. I never intended to live this life without him. Sadness consumes me today.

Jake's in bed. Rachel won't be far behind. And I won't be far behind her. Tomorrow is a new day. Things will get better. I have to believe that.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Okay, clearly a lot of our attention has been centered on food. Jim and I both love to eat. There's almost nothing I won't eat. Jim was the same way. Date nights always meant dinner out. Movie night at home meant popcorn or chips. Sundays meant brunch, or football, a fire, and snack foods.

I have a love affair with cupcakes. I view them as your own personal little party. And it's a single portion already set out for me. As long as I don't eat 12 in a sitting.

So my Aunt Kate sent the kids and I a container of Sprinkles vanilla cupcake mix. My Aunt works at Williams Sonoma, so she's got the inside track on all the latest-and-greatest in the cooking world. And we all know how much Jim and I love Williams Sonoma. Apparently these are cupcakes that Oprah really likes. I have to admit that when I got the mix, I thought "How good can this be? Cupcakes are cupcakes."


These are not cupcakes. These are little cups of heaven. I made them with Rachel and her friend John. Once I tasted them I almost regretted letting the kids be a part of it. These are the most luscious cupcakes you've ever tasted. And before I'd tasted the cupcakes, I briefly considered just making my own frosting rather than follow the package instructions. Thank goodness I followed the instructions because the frosting was also ridiculously good. I am NOT a frosting fan. I'm all about the cake. These little dense (but still with a fluffy factor) cakes showcased the frosting as a perfect topper to an already perfect cake.

When I wrote the blog the other night about how indulgences aren't as fun without Jim, I was referring to these cupcakes. I felt bad eating them without Jim. They were truly delicious. And I hoarded them a bit, although Rachel seemed to instinctively know how good they were, too. She kept asking and asking. It hurt me to give her these cupcakes. She just licks the frosting off the top and takes a bite or two - just enough to ruin the cupcake. And you can bet that if it weren't ruined, I'd eat the rest. That's how good these are.

Sprinkles cupcakes are not for kids. And I mean it. Get the kids out of the house for a weekend, make the cupcakes, and enjoy. They are amazing. It's one of those things I wish Jim were here to enjoy with me.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Beef jerky

My friend Christine reminded me of a funny story about Jim.

When we lived in Charlotte, I came home from work one day and couldn't find Jim anywhere. I knew he was home - his car was in the driveway and the lights were all on. I finally noticed that the light was on in our kitchen pantry. I opened the door, and there was Jim - deer in headlights - eating directly out of a bag of beef jerky. I laughed so hard. Jim had a bad habit of going crazy on treats, as if he couldn't bear sharing them. At the time we didn't have any kids, barely any friends, and I didn't eat beef jerky, so I have no idea why he felt the need to shovel it in. It was a bag from a warehouse store, too - supersized.

It's not like I don't do the same thing. I plowed through an entire bag of Halloween Snickers this year. By myself. I maybe - maybe shared 5 of them with Rachel. Jake can't have nuts yet. At least that's the rationalization I used.

Jim's favorite ice cream - Ben & Jerry's Heath Bar Crunch. Or if he was feeling really crazy it was Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. Cracklin' Oat Bran was his favorite cereal and I had trouble keeping a box in the house for more than 48 hours. He loved bratwurst, rootbeer, and his sister's tuna macaroni salad. All three together? Ooh la la that would make Jim's day.

Somehow indulging in my favorite things doesn't seem as rich without Jim. It just seems excessive. Like I'm doing something bad. I know in my heart that I'll get to a point where I don't think about Jim during everything I do, but I'm missing mostly the simple things. Like Ben & Jerrys. Like having Jim grill out our dinner. (Jim was amazing with the grill.) Like seeing Jim eat Judi's tuna mac salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Like pizza on Fridays. Jim's all-time favorite food was pizza. This past weekend, my parents made Jim's favorite soup, Borscht. I couldn't bring myself to eat any. I feel like a traitor for getting these small pleasures without Jim here.

Missing Jim isn't the catastrophic event of his death. It's all the little things and the small pains of every day life that get to me. Things that once seemed fun or indulgent just seem wrong now. I wonder if when we get to heaven we can eat unlimited Ben & Jerrys and beef jerky. If so, I'll bet you Jim's there right now, having a tough time choosing between Coffee Heath Bar Crunch and Teriyaki Beef Jerky.