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!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

What I didn't see coming was...

The fact that I'd ever run out of things to talk about me. I love talking about me. I never ever run out of ways to talk about me. And yet, here I am. I'm done talking about me. I'm sick of hearing about me.

It's been just over five months since Jim passed away. Today I cleaned out his sock drawer. A nice woman at my church has agreed to make quilts for the kids out of Jim's clothes, and this week I chose a pattern. His clothes and personal possessions are still all where he left them. I'm still sleeping on my side of the bed. But I've started to think that even if I leave things the way they were, he's not going to come back. I've started to realize that it's time to make a change.

Things have sort of snowballed since the new year. No pun intended on the Wisconsin weather. I wanted to make a positive change for my kids, and I am doing that. I wanted to find ways to honor Jim's memory, and I am doing that. But I've also wanted things for me, and I'm working on those, too. I can't clearly remember the last time I wanted things just for me. (Well, yes I can - it was September 12, 2006 - the day before Jim was diagnosed and the last day that it got to be all about me. Since then I've been in withdrawal, but my frenetic pace has occasionally stilted my awareness level.)

Lately I've been feeling that I'm using the blog mostly to complain. And truthfully, that's just not where we are right now. I am actually doing pretty darn well. I am managing the day-to-day things that I didn't think I'd ever get control of. I am still w-a-y behind on so many things. And I've just let some things completely go - like my dining room table, which looks like a rat's nest. But I just keep the lights out in that room (good thing because there isn't a chandelier in there anymore - we moved it to the kitchen) and walk past it. Sometimes I add a few things to the pile, sometimes I take a few things away. I know I'll get to it eventually. When I put a priority on it.

Some days I feel like I'll never be able to let go of this last year. Some days I'm desperate to let it go. Most days I'm grateful for what I have, and grateful for what I had with Jim. Cancer never did beat us. It's true that Jim opted to stop his treatments, but that was his decision. Cancer didn't make that decision. Jim and I made it together. True, cancer got us down. It twisted and stomped on our families hearts. Cancer has stuck a piercing sword through multiple households in this scenario. But here's what cancer doesn't know: it still didn't win. We stuck to our guns. We had love, and a lot of it, right up until the moment Jim passed. We have love, and a lot of it, right now. Jim is still with us and always will be. Cancer is a puny disease that we will someday cure. Eventually we'll all be inoculated for cancer and it'll be a faded memory for future generations, as polio is for many of us. Jim is a giant. He will go on forever. There's no inoculation for love and caring like that. There's no cure for the good will and generosity that Jim gave to everyone around him - it's contagious, and it will go on - through all of us, through his family, through his kids. Cancer doesn't know that an entire community of people - of virtual strangers - bound together and lifted us up to support us over the course of more than a year, and continue to support us. Cancer doesn't know how many people learned from our experience and bettered their own lives - by getting their colonoscopy, by drawing up the will they've been meaning to do, by getting the life insurance they've been meaning to get, by kissing their spouse or kids with a grateful heart, by quitting smoking, by actually starting to live the lives they were blessed with rather than trudging through day-to-day.

All this being said, I thought I'd let you know that while I won't be taking the blog down immediately, I don't think I'm going to be writing much more. I will still write when the mood strikes me (which now that I said I won't be writing much will probably be every-other-day or something crazy like that), but February has been a good month. Some of the anger I've been feeling has dissolved. I rest in my heart knowing that we fought like crazy and although we didn't win the battle, we can still win the war. We did everything, went everywhere, and tried every avenue to keep Jim here. I can rest knowing that I remain active in the cancer community, and that if something I do helps even one family, I will have done the right thing. I know that Jim knows that I'm doing the best I can each day, and he can rest knowing that I've gained a lot of maturity and insight over the last year. And equating me with maturity or insight is something none of us saw coming, believe me!

When we got married at 22 and 25 years old, we certainly never dreamed what our marriage vows would actually mean. Some people thought we wouldn't make it because we married so young. In the beginning, even we wondered if we would make it. Thank heavens we took those vows to heart and did it right. We made it through richer or poorer, and we stuck together through sickness and health. But more than that: we loved each other. It wasn't a marriage where we lived side-by-side. We weren't roommates. We were best friends and husband and wife, and we were strong like that until he died. We're strong like that now. I'm still talking to him, giggling over things he said, crying when I miss him. I wouldn't have traded a moment of what we had for a more mediocre life. Even if that means going through cancer. He was worth it. We were worth it together.

This journey is a life-altering event that we never saw coming. You know, something like this always happens to someone else. I believe I stated that in one of my first blogs. Of course it doesn't happen in our blessed lives. But of course, it does. It did. It continues to. Even when Jim was diagnosed, they kept leading us closer and closer toward the cancer door, and we still didn't get it until they finally said "You have cancer." No one thinks it's going to happen to them. Our sense of immortality is grounded in a denial that is deep-seated from our childhoods. Shattering that immortality with the death of someone so magnificent changes everything for everyone around them.

I honestly thought that I'd keep writing for a year, possibly more. But I've been doing some serious grief work, and I recognize that I don't have the same intense need to express everything on the blog as I once did. It's that kind of change that lets me know that I'm tiring of talking about me. I have a very clear sense of mortality. I have vastly different goals for my family than I did on September 12, 2006. As someone who carries no secrets, the blog has been a tremendous outlet for me. (For the record, I can carry other people's secrets, I just don't have any myself.) My gratitude for our families that banded together and put in such love and overtime is overwhelming. Same goes to the many, many readers, people who wrote cards, made meals, watched our kids, fixed our house, took our dogs, lent us their apartments, paid for flights, supported us through treatments, attended Jim's memorial service and gave to his memorial fund. In the end, we had more than $10,000 in medical bills - even with great insurance, even with help from our families. The memorial fund has helped relieve some of that burden. It will also go to setting up a scholarship program through Jim's high school.

Thank you for walking this journey with Jim, me, and the kids. Thank you for being there for Jim when he needed it most, and for me when I did. Thank you for reading faithfully and commenting or sending me an email when a post spoke to you. Thank you for sharing every nuance of the last 17 months of our lives. Thank you for doing the best you can in your own families every day, and still having more to give to others. Your generosity is infinite and precious.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Oh yeah...

Jim hated water chestnuts. He thought the texture was gross.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Taking time to recover

After getting hit with the flu bug two weeks ago, we are still recovering. We're pretty much back to health, but goodness it takes a long time to fully recover.

I've read that people get all sorts of physical ailments when they aren't properly dealing with their grief, so of course I have to overthink it and wonder whether I'm in denial or something like that. Or it could be that I let Jake ride in the car cart at the grocery store and he got yucky germs all over me. Those car carts are gross.

I'm surprised at my lack of motivation. I'm having difficulty pulling it all back together and getting out of the house. I've been dropping Rachel off at school in the morning in sweatpants, with absolutely no intention of exercising afterward. And we all know that's against my rules. But I just can't seem to get up in the morning - I'm desperate for the extra sleep. (Of course it's 10:23 pm and I'm writing the blog, and then I wonder why I'm tired. I should have gone to bed 23 minutes ago.)

It's been five months now since Jim passed away. This has been the longest five months of my life. Literally, it seems like five years. The 12 years I've been married to Jim seem shorter than the 5 months that have just passed.

I'm not complaining. Okay, well, yes I am. But I don't mean to sound so negative. I have learned a lot in five months. I've learned a lot over the last year. I've come a long way since September. I am managing my household. We laugh and have silly moments. We deal with every day problems as they come, and handle the bigger questions or problems that way too. I don't overthink everything like I used to. (Just imagine what I was like before!) And I'm connecting with people that make me happy. I think staying connected to people keeps me from getting bitter. And being bitter is no way to live, is it?

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Thanks to all my Valentines that thought of me and the kids on Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sad today

Sometimes I just can't believe this is my life. I am feeling terrified because my Mom had to go home after being here for a week. I can't very well expect her to move in here, but at the same time, I'm still scared that I can't hack it on my own.

Today I was driving on the highway, listening to Go, Diego, Go! for the 100th time as the kids were watching it in the backseat. My mind seemed detatched from my body. I could see my arms reaching to the steering wheel, but they didn't feel like my own.

How did this happen? I wasn't meant to be a 35 year-old widow. I wasn't meant to be widowed with two kids so young. I refer to Jake's age in months, not years. This cannot be right. Somewhere a mistake has been made.

He's got to come home soon. The house isn't the same without him here. I wonder if he knows I need him back. I want to call him on his cell phone and tell him he's been at Home Depot too long. I wonder if he knows that I don't feel any better than I did in September. I wonder if he knows I still love him.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Random Post

1. Rachel is kicking rear-end in junior kindergarten. (That's my G-rated version.) She's listening during carpet time. We've had three good days this week. Keep your fingers crossed.

2. Heaven help us, I'm doing the Valentine's Day craft at school in the morning for 19 little ones. We're decorating flower pots and in lieu of a flower we're sticking a giant lollipop in the middle with a picture of the kids. I'm not very crafty. But they're only 4 and 5 years old so maybe they won't catch on that they're actually craftier than me. One more level than one.

3. The flu bug has hit our house. Oh, I kid you not. So far it's me and Jake. And my poor mom, who came back when she thought the coast was clear and wasn't prepared for another barrage of sickness. Rachel seems unscathed thus far.

4. We celebrated Rachel's 4 1/2 birthday today. We even made her a cake with 4 1/2 candles. She asked for a pink cake, and she got it. With sprinkles to boot. I did refuse to make her my last package of Sprinkles cupcakes, though. I'm saving those for Monday when I have some of the girls over.

5. A couple of other women from the Patient Advisory Committee at the Vince and I had a meeting at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center today. We proposed a host of activities and they were very open to our ideas. I am absolutely soaring from it. We could have a bona fide cancer survivors program complete with healing art classes and performance art. I love it. Plus I got to hand out five of my new calling cards. Yes, I got calling cards. Of course I needed them. For just such an occasion.

6. It's still snowing in Wisconsin. I know it's always sunny. I said it myself. And heaven knows I can last a long, long time being chipper in the winter. But this is bordering on insanity. See my sick note above. I'm sick of being sick.

7. As one of my "fix up the house" goals, I ordered a picture for over our mantle. I haven't done anything with the mantle since we put the addition on. Nothing seems quite right up there. So I'm trying something new.

8. I thought of a few more things that Jim used to do that I thought we should preserve:
- When he was sick, he used to wrap a blanket over his head like a cloak and shuffle around moaning. He swore by Comtrex and Alka Seltzer Cold.
- His all time favorite ice cream was chocolate chip. NOT mint chocolate chip. Just regular chocolate chip. It was near impossible to find. Bryers makes a good one (and the only one I could ever find), but he had to resort to Heathbar Crunch for a specialty ice cream like Ben&Jerry's.
- Jim would absolutely bury himself under the bed covers. Sometimes he'd be so far under there it would be near impossible to find him or figure out which end was up.
- Jim had a goldfish as a kid that apparently somehow jumped out of it's fishbowl. Jim found the offending fish under his bed, covered in dust but still alive. Apparently he just dumped it back in the bowl and the fish made it. At least, I think that's right. Judi - can you expound on that story? I told Rachel you might know more...

Happy Valentine's Day. Jim and I really didn't celebrate Valentine's Day. (Or our anniversary for that matter.) I always felt that we sort of lived it. Not that every day was rose petals and diamond necklaces, but that we always took care in telling the other one that we loved them or did small things for each other. I bought him chocolate chip ice cream. He put up with crazy. Okay, one of us did more for the other. Boy that ice cream was hard to find. Hee hee.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Oh great, *now* we meet Rob

As I may have mentioned one or 600 times before - moving to Sheboygan was quite an adjustment for me. I was overwhelmed with the whole Kohler-Stepford-Stay-At-Home-Mom thing. I was fresh off Atlanta, and I'd just given up an terrifical job that I'd only had for six weeks. Before that I'd spent 5 years at a great company where I learned a lot. I was tenative about staying home, and although I was glad to make the move, I was also nervous about moving out of a big city and into...Sheboygan. Sheboygan just doesn't have the same ring to it as Atlanta, or Boston, or Chicago, or even...Cincinnati.

Anyway, I was terrified that I'd immediately turn into one of those suburban mothers that scrapbooks, watches The Wiggles and enjoys it, drives a minivan stocked with 10 kids (while singing to The Wiggles on the way to soccer), watches Guiding Light and Oprah faithfully, and has nothing to do but talk about her neighbors. Well in actuality I've only taken on scrapbooking, watching the Wiggles and enjoying it, singing to the Wiggles in the car on the way to soccer, and watching Oprah. And all that didn't happen immediately. I can't watch Oprah faithfully. It's on during the witching hour.

So during my adjustment to the whole Sheboygan thing, I attended a mom's group here called MOPS. I met a lot of nice girls at MOPS. When Jim fell sick, the MOPS moms (among others) did a lot of nice things for me, including making us meals, writing us cards, calling, taking the kids, etc. When Jodi started writing me cards, I thought "wow, that's really nice". Jodi was one of the women at MOPS that I suspected was right up my alley. Her hair is super cute and it was her hairdresser that first cut my hair here in Sheboygan. The first time I met her she had on a denim skirt and knee high boots - hardly the suburban sweatpants I feared I'd find. But MOPS only meets once a month so it's not like I knew Jodi well at all. Her cards really meant a lot to me, though - she consistently sent cards to ME, not to Jim, which was nice because (as it should have been) 99% of the attention was focused on Jim. And she sent them once a week or once every couple of weeks.

Jodi has mentioned a couple of times that her husband is very handy, and she's offered his services for things like finishing the basement or helping out with the kitchen. Now, I know that there are a lot of handy guys out there, but I suspect that there are a number of guys that think they're handy, and believe that they're handy, but they certainly aren't Jim. Jim really was handy. A couple of weeks ago Jodi made the offer again, but this time, her offer came after an offhanded remark that Rob was building her an extra kitchen in her basement for her cake business. Building her an extra kitchen? Okay, this guy knows what he's doing.

So I took Jodi and Rob up on their offer for help. And right when Rob walked up to the door, I knew it was a good decision. I'd met Rob at Jim's memorial service, but I didn't remember because I was an emotional wreckage zone at the time. When Rob walked up to the house on Saturday morning, I felt a sear of happiness and sadness. He was carrying a bucket full of tools, with a much-used bucket buddy. Jim carried everything in a bucket with a bucket buddy, same as his father does. To me it's the mark of a guy that knows what he's doing. (At least a worn looking bucket buddy - don't try and pass your services off with a brand-new bucket buddy...) Rob had a Jim-type flannel shirt on, and he started to work almost immediately with my Dad as his helper. (Jim always said my Dad was a great helper - just don't ask him to do the job on his own...)

Jodi and Rob brought their two sweet girls, and Rachel was thrilled - they played together really nicely. In fact, they played so nicely that we all got to sit and talk for a moment after Rob and my Dad finished. And I found it humorous - Rob was there to unhook the sink and stove top, but he just couldn't resist picking away a little at the countertops to see how hard it would be to get those off - same as Jim would have done - they are always curious about the kind of quality that someone else puts into a project....and it's normally never up to their standards.

As we talked I was so conflicted. I see in Jodi the potential for a great friend. But I also saw that Rob would have been a wonderful friend for Jim. Quality matters. Trips to Home Depot are fun. A single project might involve a dozen trips to Home Depot. (I'm not sure why, since we know that these guys are really good at what they do - you'd think they'd know everything they need before they start the project.) They both have that distinctly engineering quality to them. And goodness gracious, they live next door to Jodi's parents. In my entire life I've only known two guys who could live next to their in-laws - Jim, and Rob. (Although Jim never lived next door to my parents, we did live in their basement for 6 months while we had our first house built.)

I felt conflicted wondering why I'd never worked up the nerve to call Jodi before all this happened. And conflicted because if Jim hadn't gotten sick, she would never have started writing me cards and I wouldn't have had the opportunity for this friendship. If only I'd called her in the beginning, Jim and Rob could have met. And I know they would have liked each other. Jim was selective with his friendships. He was friendly to everyone, but he was true friends with a pretty small group. Rob would have been one of those guys. I just know it.

And truthfully, sometimes it can be hard to find couple friends. You know, you like one but not the other. (Although usually with us people put up with me so they could hang out with Jim! Just kidding. Sort of.) We have some very nice couple friends here - in fact, Ken and Biz came over to take out the countertops in the afternoon, and that's because their wives gave up an entire afternoon with their spouses so they could come over and rip out my annoying countertops. And by the way, Rob pointed out that the countertops weren't put in right, and even I knew where the mistake was - the previous owner laid down the luan, then screwed it down from the top, then put on the mastic and the tile. They should have screwed the luan down from underneath, then applied the mastic and the tile on top - that way the screws would have been accessible to take the countertops off if need be. And I know that because...that's how Jim did it in our first house in Atlanta. :) Sometimes it looks like I'm not paying attention but actually I am. Anyway, that made it a lot harder for Ken, Biz and my dad.

I wish Jim had met Rob. I wish I had called Jodi earlier. Do you ever see someone and know they have potential to be a friend? Instead of chickening out of calling them, go ahead and call them. You're supposed to. I believe we come across people at points in our lives for a reason. I believe I let Jodi and Rob go too long. Jim never got to meet Rob and I know there could have been a great friendship there. I am blessed that I still have a chance with Jodi.

So quit chickening out. You're meant to call new friends. We always have enough room in our lives for new friends.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Oh man, I yelled at someone tonight

Oh geez.

If you ever call my house repeatedly as a telemarketer, rest assured I'm going to get annoyed. If you call my house repeatedly asking for my husband who passed away in September, I'm going to try and politely blow you off at least three times. And then, when you call, just after I get my kids to bed and my hands are wet and soapy from frantically washing dishes before LOST starts, please know that I'm going to get pissed. Especially when you ask for JAMES once again. She didn't even ask for Jim. I yelled at her and told her that he died in September.

I know. I feel bad. That wasn't too cool.

But in my defense, how many times do I have to tell you to stop calling the house before you finally get the hint? And how many times do I have to be subjected to someone calling and asking for my husband that recently passed away? And is it really good business to call my house at 8:00 pm?

Actually, things are going pretty well. Aside from my phone tirade.

I've been thinking and meditating a lot about how things are going. Since the new year, I've really been working on my New Year's Resolutions, (except the getting more sleep part - that's totally gone by the wayside) and I'm feeling better for it. I've also been working on not swearing because Rachel took the liberty of using a couple of nasty words at school last week when she had a substitute teacher. My meltdowns from this point forward are going to have to be rated G.

I am tired of letting my ship go which ever way the wind blows. I've been doing that for months. Before it felt like Jim was steering and I was helping. Now he's no longer here and I'm trying to steer alone. For a while I got frustrated and just let go, but I'm looking forward to new challenges. I am ready to start some things. I've been writing my goals and preparing for the coming year. Well actually, I have one goal written and it's a whopper. (I'm working on 5 more...)

I've got plans to work on the house again. The majority of our house is painted this sickly mint-green that looks almost white, but isn't. We bought it that way, and we've been intending to change it ever since. I am ready to get to work on that. I'd love to get the house to the point where I can just...putter. I have no idea if I can make that happen, but I'm going to try. The countertops go in Monday, and I'm excited about it. That's going to help a lot. Jim did not approve of the granite tiles. I don't think he liked it when stuff got caught in the grout. Neither do I. I've missed having Silestone.

I am reading a slew of new books. I am really getting excited about the volunteer work I've been doing. I'm focused on making things better. For me, for my kids, and for the people around me. I am ready for change! I am woman, hear me roar! Or at least, I am mom, hear me yell at telemarketers!