Tuesday, March 30, 2010

There's No Such Thing As "Closure"

That word should be stricken from the Earth. I think people who throw around the term, "closure," should be forced to watch interpretive dance chronicling the Middle East peace process...in REAL TIME...while having to pee.

(Look at that, already digressing)

Warning, long rambling post ahead.

The Richmond Jazz Society answers the phone or greets audiences at official events buy saying, "Bright Moments" by request, and in memory of local jazz legend, Joe Kennedy, Jr. I've always liked that. It's a simple thing but it has helped center me every now and then.

I could certainly use some centering right now. The ups and downs and the swings from light to dark and back again are kind of getting old.

Rachel and I are still trying to juggle everything (CJSTUF, moving the business, wrestling with bills, the many other responsibilities and chores we have) while not killing each other, and the "CJ moments" keep happening. Pretty frequently these days. They aren't all bad, some are downright heartwarming. Like the child at Romp n' Roll yesterday who took a castanet, opened it up, and held it to her ear like a cell phone that flips out. Charlotte did that all the time very early on. It made me stop and do an inward, "Awwww." I even showed it to another child tonight.

But as I was driving home from a very long day of ups and downs, it really nailed me between the eyes that I will never hold her again. It was just a very sad thought as I headed north. It's nothing that debilitates me or makes me curl up into a fetal position (decidedly inconvenient when driving) but it still really, really sucks.

On top of that, we keep finding out about new members of "The MCV Vacation Club." They don't really have to be at MCV, just battling cancer.

Lots of musician friends are having biopsies or radiation or chemo or all of the above. One in particular is Judy Kushner, wife of Gantt Kushner, music engineer of the two Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet CDs and Ginny's solo CD. A beautifully spiritual family. Judy just had surgery for brain cancer. From Gantt's reports, she's doing very well and has started PT and OT. Please feel free to contact them as they can use the support (moral and otherwise). He also has a FB site: http://www.facebook.com/gantt.kushner and his studio is called "Gizmo Studios"

There's also a little boy named Ricky who just moved onto the 7th floor and is now under the care of Dr. Tye. He's got TWO tumors working and they aren't the same kind (can't even fathom the odds of that happening). They came down from a homeless shelter up north and have very little. I haven't had the time to give them the attention they deserve but they at least are hooked up with the names of people and organizations that could help them. They all need your positive energy.

Thanks to ASK, Starlight, Reesestrong, Child Life, LINC and the other organizations helping them, and other children, out in one way or another.

Out of the blue today, a child at Romp n' Roll To Go said, "Mr. Roger, I'm sorry your son died." (a little confused, maybe, but very touching nonetheless). I think it kind of freaked out the staff person assisting me which I actually found slightly amusing.

There are some good things happening; part of the "swings to the light." The money keeps coming in for TEAM CJ. The Monument Ave. 10k has now brought in somewhere between $5,000 and $6,000 and still counting!

We didn't win the Spirit Group contest but we had a great time and those who won were very deserving:

This is froom an email from the Sportsbackers -

"According to the judges from Hirschler Fleicher:

First Place Winner - All Saints Catholic School

Second Place Winner - Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School

Third Place Winner - Dance Masters Diva Dance Team"

NEXT TIME!!! Sat, April 2, 2011. SAVE THE DATE NOW!

Free Babies and Toddlers week at RnR is going gangbusters! It's been great seeing all the new (literally) faces. (still waiting till someone comes in looking for their free baby)

Chick-fil-a is holding their 3rd annual Cow Drop on May 8 at the Hanover County Airport. Tickets bought at the VA Center Marketplace CFA will benefit CJSTUF!

Guess this isn't as long as it could be. It's still rambling, though.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mainly for the Cheer Team

This message is mainly aimed at anyone participating or helping with the Cheer Team. Important announcements! Please email Meredith Hayes with specific questions. If you can send her a quick note to let her know you are coming, that would be appreciated.

The weather should be SUNNY but CHILLY! Please try to wear a long sleeved tee and/or layers UNDER your Team CJ shirt (rather than a sweatshirt or jacket over) so that our team shirts can be displayed proudly. If you have butterfly wings of any kind, please bring those to wear. I may have a few extras.

We are between Tilden and Roseneath on Monument so we'll meet at the Arthur Ashe Statue at 8 AM. Rachel will be at the statue to meet everyone and will handle clean up duty.

Meredith will be picking up signs tomorrow required by the race committee for us to decorate on Friday night. Please bring markers and other craft materials to the spaghetti dinner. There are balloons provided by the race committee and Meredith will pick them up Saturday AM.
Please bring a large mylar butterfly balloon if you can, found at any Ukrops or Kroger grocery store. Party City has some as well.

Meredith has large butterflies that need to be put on sticks and she will bring those Friday to the spaghetti dinner.

Music and "noise":
If you have any creative ideas for a special cheer, bring it to share on Saturday with copies to distribute. We will have music to play from a portable boom box.

Giveaways: A last minute but fun idea....let's try to get as many pink and purple mums and/or daisies to give out to runners. We know we can't get enough for all runners (30K+!) and, quite honestly, most of the hard core runners won't take one BUT I think the walkers and slower runners would love one. If anyone knows of a good source for inexpensive bulk flowers, email Rachel ASAP. I will try to get as many as I can before Saturday.

We don't have a confirmed number of who is coming so please just come and bring all of your buddies! Kids welcome! I have heard judges are dispersed throughout the race so we don't have a specific time to be the best, we just have to be the best the whole time!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring can really hang you up the most...

This blog post will be a mixture of emotion and business.

So let's get the "business" part out of the way...

First of all, I am VERY excited to announce that we are opening our application process for CJSTUF Financial Assistance Grants. We will be giving out 20 $500 grants to families of children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses this year. Our efforts are focused this year on patients served by VCU Children's Medical Center (known to most of us as MCV). As cash flow allows, we hope to extend our geographic reach as well as the number of families we can assist.

Applications will be sent very soon to all pediatric healthcare providers and social workers at VCU Children's Medical Center. In addtion, the applications will be available on our website shortly. The first application deadline is May 1st with the first disbursement to be given on June 1st.

Second, a huge thanks to everyone who came out to Alice in Wonderland at R-MC this weekend. The event raised almost $1200! Emily Arnold and The Wonderland Players were fabulous so a HUGE Tummy-Drum Roll to them (you had to be there to understand).

Now, regarding the Carbo Cram Spaghetti Dinner on Friday evening:
I think our major needs right now are for
  1. Spaghetti sauce (non-meat)
  2. Desserts
  3. Salad dressing and parmesan cheese (a few bottles of each should do it)
  4. Garlic bread
  5. Drinks (I'm thinking iced tea and fruit punch drink mixes with pitchers will do nicely).
We have been receiving donations of pasta and a few people have promised me meatballs, sauce, and bags of salad. In addition, we have all the paper goods/flatware/tablecloths, etc. needed for the event.

Please bring any donations of food, etc. to Romp n' Roll by NOON on Friday OR contact me or Roger so we know that you are bringing stuff with you. That way we will know if we need to do any shopping right before the event to fill any gaps. If you are helping with cooking or setup, please be there by 5:30 pm if possible.

Ok, business done.

To echo Roger's post, it has definitely been a roller coaster of emotions lately. Letting go of (most of) her clothes was really strange. I thought I would be ok with it. I had given away lots of her clothes before when she outgrew them and had even given away many of her toys before she died. Somehow looking at ALL those clothes and realizing she would never wear them again...realizing that some of the clothes had never even been worn...and realizing that there was no need to replace the outgrown clothes. Altogether, it just broke my heart.

That is my biggest and most constant struggle is seeing loss in seemingly mundane daily activities. Things that I had taken for granted are now exceedingly painful. Walking into Target and seeing the beautiful Easter dresses only to realize that I don't have someone to buy them for....that hurts.

I still have HUGE piles of stuff in her room that need to be distributed but I think it will have to go in phases. I just don't have the time (or the energy) for a big cleanout. At least it's contained (thanks, Phyllis!).

I've had some interesting songs floating through my head that seem to capture the mood. One is I'll be Seeing You. A nice version. Not the creepy Tom Waits stalker-esque version...

The other is Spring Can Really Hang You up the Most:

Once I was a sentimental thing

Threw my heart away each spring
Now a spring romance hasn’t got a chance
Promised my first dance to winter
All I’ve got to show’s a splinter for my little fling!
Spring this year has got me feeling like a horse that never left the post
I lie in my room staring up at the ceiling
Spring can really hang you up the most!

Morning’s kiss wakes trees and flowers
And to them I’d like to drink a toast
I walk in the park just to kill lonely hours
Spring can really hang you up the most.

All afternoon those birds twitter twit
I know the tune, this is love, this is it!
Heard it before and I know the score
And I’ve decided that spring is a bore!

Love seemed sure around the new year
Now it’s april, love is just a ghost
Spring arrived on time, only what became of you, dear?
Spring can really hang you up the most!

Spring is here, there’s no mistaking
Robins building nests from coast to coast
My heart tries to sing so they won’t hear it breaking
Spring can really hang you up the most!

College boys are writing sonnets
In the tender passion they’re engrossed
But I’m on the shelf with last years easter bonnets
Spring can really hang you up the most!

Love came my way, I hope it would last
We had our day, now that’s all in the past!
Spring came along a season of sun
Full of sweet promise but womething went wrong!
Doctors once prescribed a tonic
Sulphur and moloasses was the dose
Didn’t help a bit, my condition must be chronic
Spring can really hang you up the most!

All alone, the party’s over
Old man winter was a gracious host;
But when you keep praying for snow to hide the clover
Spring can really hang you up the most!

Strange how timely those lyrics seem right now. Personally, I tend to think the lyrics should be a little cruder. Pardon my French but Spring can Really %*$& You Up the Most...

Yeah, that's more like it.

I don't know what it is about Spring. Maybe it's just the concept of change. Changing seasons, changing health (damn allergies), things just moving along. Somehow it all gets my emotions running at full keel and the smaller things can set me off. We move on and life keeps going but the pain doesn't really go away. And it seems to flare up every now and again (like right now). I actually really like Spring (normally). I think it's my favorite season and it's one of the reasons why I DON'T live in Florida anymore. I love the concept of changing seasons and while Floridians will tell you that the seasons change there, it's just not the same. Seeing those bare trees and the brown ground explode into a colorful wonderland is nature's version of that magical moment in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy leaves her tornado-spun house and the world explodes into color. It's magical. Sometimes I think THIS is when we should celebrate the New Year. Not in the cold, dreary days of January. It also means, though, that life is moving on and if you don't get on the train, you'll be left behind. Once again, we are passing through the year thinking of what was and reminded that it will never quite be the same. Maybe that's it. We keep wondering when it will stop sucking quite so much. I'm not quite sure it ever will.

I am very grateful that we still feel surrounded by love. People are constantly checking in with us to see how we are and I do appreciate it. There's not much that will change our situation right now so I keep doing what I've been doing for the last year: one foot in front of the other, keeping myself busy. Really, what else can you do?

Speaking of busy, I have a to-do list about 6.2 miles long (that's a 10K joke for all you runners out there...) so I will sign off for now.

Don't forget to pick up your Team CJ shirts (at Romp n' Roll till 2 PM Friday...OR at the Carbo Cram Friday night!) and we'll see you on Monument Ave!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Roller Coasters Aren't My Favorite Anymore

Wish I had more time to write but I need to get to Romp n' Roll for the afternoon classes.

This weekend has been a massive up and down and back again ride. Not all that fun I might add. And it has continued today. Can't blame it on the weather as it has been beautiful before today.

My entire existence is just plain tired. "Face it boys, I'm pooped!" Going from great classes and super positive child successes where the parents are sending emails and letters thanking us to the bottom of the pit because I hear a song or see a video that reminds me of how much I miss Charlotte. From seeing/hearing about how excited people are about TEAM CJ and the 10K this weekend to weird scheduling snafus that make everyone look bad. From a child who very clearly tells me he doesn't like me or why I'm in his classroom (a first as far as I can tell) to finding a bag of money on my desk from a child who wanted donations given to CJSTUF instead of birthday presents. The list goes on and most of it shouldn't sway me that much either direction but I think my defenses are wearing a bit thin.

One of the hardest parts of the weekend was that a bunch of clothes got cleared out from Charlotte's closet. It's not like we haven't given stuff away before; her toys have gone in a couple of waves and though it was sad, it wasn't as gut wrenching for us as giving away the clothes. Rachel put them into nice neat bags and they were ready days ago but when it came time to take them downstairs the world fell apart for a while. Can't say I've recovered.

I'm leaning on the foundation and Romp n' Roll pretty heavily right now. It helps tremendously that both seem to be developing nicely. Thanks to everyone helping to keep us afloat financially, emotionally, etc...

Gotta go. Wish I could write more...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Your To-Do List for the Week!

This is a busy week for CJSTUF and I am sure many of you will be involved.
Here's a handy to-do list to help make sure you don't miss a thing!

  1. Attend Alice in Wonderland at Randolph-Macon College. Remaining available showtimes are Friday (tonight) at 8 PM and Saturday 2 PM and 8 PM. The Saturday performances benefit CJSTUF and donations will also be taken at the door. Tickets are $5 for adults and $2.50 for kids. It's a very family friendly show! Call the box office at 752-7316 to reserve your spot.
  2. Finish collecting your pledges for the Monument Ave. 10K. Pledges can be mailed to PO Box 854, Ashland, VA 23005. Please have all checks made out to CJSTUF. If you do not bundle your pledges together or if someone is sending pledges separately, please have them indicate your name in the memo line so we know that you get the credit!
  3. Pick up your TEAM CJ T-shirt. T-shirts are available for FREE to those collecting pledges and running/cheering for TEAM CJ. If you are not collecting pledges but you are running or cheering, T-shirts are $8 ($10 for XXL). If you are not participating in the 10K but you would like a T-shirt we are requesting a minimum donation of $10 per shirt. T-shirts can be picked up at Romp n' Roll (Virginia Center) beginning at 9 AM on Monday 3/22. They will also be available for pick up when you...
  4. Bring your family to the Carbo Cram Event on March 26th from 6:00-8:00 PM. You can RSVP HERE to give us an idea of how many people to expect. Location information, etc. is included on the invitation. If you cannot attend the event but want to donate needed materials (food, paper products, etc.), please deliver those to Romp n' Roll by Friday March 26th at NOON. There is a list of needed materials on the invitation as well. If you would like to help with setup or cooking, please be at Shady Grove Methodist Church (Mechanicsville) by 5:30 PM. Based on current RSVPs, I think we are most in need of spaghetti sauce (jars-non-meat), paper products, beverages (tea and punch), and condiments like salad dressing and parmesan cheese. This is a very informal community event so it should be a lot of fun (and maybe even a little bit crazy!!). Finally, don't forget to pick up your 10K race packet at the Arthur Ashe center so that you can be ready bright and early for the...
  5. Monument Ave 10K race. March 27th. Be THERE or Be SQUARE! Runners should plan to meet at the starting line around 8 AM. Roger will be trying to orchestrate a group picture. Please wear your TEAM CJ shirts and/or pink and purple. If you are CHEERING, please email our cheering CAPTAIN Meredith Hayes so she knows to expect you. She can let you know if you need to bring anything. The more the merrier! Cheer team members will be meeting near the Arthur Ashe monument (corner of Monument Ave. and Roseneath Rd.). Look for parking off of Monument Ave in that area. Cheer team should be in place by 8:30 AM. Please wear PINK, PURPLE, Butterfly wings, bring Butterfly Mylar balloons, etc. Please do NOT bring pledges with you to the race as we may not have secure storage space.
  6. Recover from the race on March 28th and 29th! Please submit any final pledges during the last week of March. Again, pledges can be mailed to PO Box 854, Ashland, VA 23005 or can be dropped off at Romp n' Roll.

I think that oughtta do it. As usual, if you have any questions you can contact Roger or Rachel directly. Thanks for your continued support!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Our Board of Directors & a NEW video!

I don't have a lot to report BUT I did have a few items of note:

Our board meeting was this evening. As usual, it was productive. We have a lot going on and I think the next 3-6 months are going to be very exciting for the foundation. We are very close to launching our application process for families needing financial assistance. We will also be moving forward with some exciting fundraising options in the next few months. Have to put some ducks in a row but the wheels are in motion. [Can I use any more cliches?]

As this was our first official Board meeting since the passage of our Bylaws, we needed to hold elections for officers. Our Executive Committee will be spearheaded this year by John Toscano (Chair/Treasurer), Emily Starrett (Vice Chair), and Meredith Hayes (Secretary). I don't know if we have had an opportunity to recognize the members of our Board here, but I suppose now is a good a time as any. The Board is rounded out by the following members: Kim Thies, Pam Myers, Lauren Coe, Jay Campbell, and Dr. Anna Madland.

Our other major announcement is to present a marketing video that we have created. Once we redesign the website, this will be the introduction to the site. There's a copy of it currently on YouTube but it needs a little refining (for some reason the music cut off at the end). You can view the video in its entirety here in the blog and I will post it on Facebook as well. I would recommend having tissues handy though. I created it and have viewed it SEVERAL times and it still makes me a little weepy every time I see it. I guess that's the point, right? Our emotions inspire us to do great things for the greater good.

CJs Thumbs Up Foundation (CJSTUF)

The music is a song called Two Thumbs Up by musician Johnny Bregar. We found him and this song quite by accident (Thanks Cara!) and he has graciously given us permission to use the song within the video. Go buy one of his CDs in honor of CJ. Pretty good kid's music if you ask me!

Poor Roger is feeling the harsh effects of seasonal allergies. Here's hoping he feels better soon!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A very busy week

This is turning out to be a VERY busy week for CJSTUF.

Tonight is the Pampered Chef party for CJSTUF. 15% of all sales will go to the foundation. I understand we already have some online orders (yay! thanks!). If you would like to attend the party tonight it will be at the home of Susan Ferguson (713 Center St. in Ashland). We will be making some yummy desserts that you don't want to miss! (Chocolate??? Of course!) I want everyone to know that I am sacrificing watching LOST live tonight so that I can go to this party. That will give you a sense of my priorities (hee hee!!)

If you want to get an online order in because you are out of town or can't make the party, go to www.pamperedchef.biz/jessicasapron Be sure to enter CJSTUF as the host.

The rest of the week will be filled with the CJSTUF Board meeting (tomorrow) and Emily Arnold's presentation of Alice in Wonderland at Randolph-Macon College. Sales of tickets from the Saturday shows (2 PM and 8 PM) will go to CJSTUF and I understand they will be collecting donations at the door as well. You can call 752-7316 (the RMC box office) to reserve tickets.

Finally, we are still planning the Carbo-Cram Pre-10K Spaghetti Dinner. We have created an EVITE for the event here. Please click on the link if you plan to ATTEND, HELP in any way (cook, setup, cleanup, child care, etc.), or SUPPLY donations of food. Enter your name and email address (and number of people attending) to RSVP. We are using these RSVPs to help us know what we need and how many to expect. When you RSVP, there is a drop-down box that says please select something to bring. You can indicate there what you will be doing to help OR you can type it in the comments section.

Donations of food (nonperishable) can be brought to Romp n' Roll (Virginia Center) by Thursday 3/25 (we're open till 7:30 that evening) OR you can bring it to the event if you are planning to help with setup (about 5:30 PM). This will be a very simple meal (spaghetti, sauce, salad, bread) with drinks, dressings, and parmesan cheese also needed. We are hoping to have about 60-100 people. Families of runners are welcome! Team CJ T-shirts will be distributed at this meal so you will want to be there.

Ok, I think that about sums it up for now. More events on the way in April and May so stay tuned. I am sure that we will have many updates after the board meeting!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Two Upcoming Events for CJSTUF

March is turning out to be a busy month, indeed!

If we needed any more proof that spring is on its way, check out this picture from my front yard this morning!

Roger's last blog highlighted the Monument Ave 10K details, so if you need more info on that, please go back one post...

The Pampered Chef Fundraiser for CJSTUF ends on March 20th.
15% of all sales will go to CJSTUF.
If you are interested in attending the actual party on March 16th (7 PM), email me ASAP.
Just to show you how important this event is, I am willing to miss LOST to go to a Pampered Chef party. Those of you who know me understand that is sacrifice.
If you can't make the party but want to order some fabulous Pampered Chef goodies, go to www.pamperedchef.biz/jessicasapron and enter CJSTUF as the host.

The other event next week is at Randolph-Macon College. Romp n' Roll's own Emily Arnold will be presenting her senior project: the drama production Alice in Wonderland. The performances are Thursday March 17-Sunday March 21; however, proceeds from the 2 PM and 8 PM shows on Saturday March 20th will benefit CJSTUF! We are grateful to Emily and the drama department at RMC for making this possible. I understand that the play is very family friendly. I also understand that the 2 PM show on Saturday is filling quickly! Tickets are $5 for adults and $2.50 for kids. Call 804-752-7316 for reservations.
As if that weren't enough action for the foundation, our regular board meeting is next Wednesday. Our board members have been very busy in their respective committees planning the next stage of CJSTUF so keep on the lookout for news and new things including rollout of:
  • a redesign of our website
  • the application process for our financial assistance program for families in need
  • upcoming fundraising opportunities for the year, including CJSTUF merchandise!!

That's all folks....

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

10K, Carbo-Cramming Party, and Unused Registrations

Run, walk, or mosey on down!

The Ukrop's Monument Ave 10K is coming up on March 27th and somehow, we have ended up with unused registrations. I gave out codes for every spot and then some but as of this writing there are still slots available.

Registration officially closes at midnight tonight so I'm putting out the codes and the number of unused spots here in the hope that someone will use them. There is a pledge form on the home page if you desire to gather contributions for CJSTUF.org and a t-shirt is available if you wouldn't mind sending me you size.

There is no cost to participants but enough donations to cover the $35 or so for the registration and t-shirt wouldn't be a bad thing. Go to the Sportsbacker's registration site and enter everything like normal and then when it comes time to pay, put in one of the codes from below. Hit "Verify." If someone didn't beat you to it, you'll be registered.

Remember, registration closes at MIDNIGHT TONIGHT! Wednesday, March, 10, 2010.

Here are the codes and the # of slots available for each:

cjsthumbsupfoundation5ktb 2 slots

cjsthumbsupfoundation7jd7 3 slots

CJsThumbsUpFoundation7DLG 1 slot

If you don't want to do the 10k but want to participate, our TEAM CJ Spirit Group will be a wonderous thing and we can always use more butterflies. Spirit Groupers who collect pledges will also get a t-shirt. Meredith Hayes is the chair of that committee if you'd like to cheer us on.

If you're one of those given a code and slot earlier and have not registered, I apologize if there was any miscommunication or confusion. We're already working on a system for future events to streamline the process.

Now on to the "Carbo-Cram" (I've decided this is what we're calling it this time. The title might change after the Marketing Committee meeting tonight! Klauers, Feel free to offer your opinion.)

This will be a pasta party for TEAM CJ and TEAM Reese participants and their families; co-hosted by Reestrong.org and CJSTUF. It will be held on Friday, March 26th starting at 6:30pm at Shady Grove United Methodist Church in Mechanicsville (Same location as the FABULOUSLY successful Thumb's Up Ball). There's no cost but if anyone wants to drop a donation in the jar, we won't throw it back at you.

There's an event description on the CJ's Thumbs Up Foundation Facebook page but if you don't "do" FB, please just drop us a line and tell us you're coming and how many there will be in your party. I will be your maitre'd (no idea how to spell that and, apparently, neither does my computer) I'm planning on about 100 but if everyone registered for both teams actually comes with family, there could be significantly more so we need a good count.

What we need are a few good cooks. We already have a few but can always use more.

We would also like to provide some childcare and need volunteers for that. Hold off contacting us until we confirm we have the space available. I'm not worried about finding the warm bodies.

Last but not least, we need the food, drinks, plates, utensils, etc... Pasta, sauce garlic bread, salad, dessert (preferably something chocolate! Other things to for those not able to eat chocolate.), tea, sodas, water, anything else we can think of off the top of our heads. You can start dropping off items at Romp n' Roll whenever you like. I said the Wednesday before on the event description but that seems too close to to the event. Bring it on now!

The very cool and totally stylish TEAM CJ t-shirts will be officially handed out then unless you just can't wait and want them sooner. Let me know so I can try to have them with me.

This is all about eating, drinking (non-alcoholic, of course), and sharing in the glow of "The Network" that you all have so generously built up around Reese's family and ours. Oh, yeah, and carbo-cramming!

For those running/walking/mosey-ing the 10K, 17 more days to go! Don't think we're going to get an official group run in but I will scope a good meeting point for all of us the morning of the race. It will have to be a good bit before the race as the TEAM CJ Spirit Group will have to head on down to the Arthur Ashe statue near Roseneath and Monument since that's where they will be stationed, cheering us along on butterfly's wings.

I'm not exactly sure where the Reesestrong spirit group is stationed but make sure you scream and yell with them as you zoom(?) past.

On to other things:

This weekend was pretty exhausting but as you may have heard, Rachel finished the first draft of the book! Totally worth the extra work. I'm reading it now, offering my .02¢ worth. I told her not to tell me how it ends but she said something about not watching My Girl.

Starting next week, I will be taking some of those non-profit learning classes the Rachel has been taking through VCU. The first is a sorely needed time management class (everyone stop laughing!). It's a weird thought that I haven't taken official college classes in many years but I figure preparing for the classes I taught at Randolph-Macon College and elsewhere will at least help a little.

These are also very long, all-day courses so it will probably seem more like a conference, only more interactive, and I'm all about conferences.

Both Rachel and I are fighting off colds, nothing too bad at all but we will be bathing in hand sanitizer at the store and not touching the kiddies too much if at all possible. The Zinc and vitamins are rolling.

Well, want to get this out so people can dive at the 10K registrations. Don't bonk your heads, now! :-)

Our best to the Berry, Braun, and Waters families who all both back home from their "vacations" at MCV.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Reading and Writing

I returned from my retreat with a draft of the memoir...and the beginnings of a cold. I'm fighting the cold with zinc, vitamin c, and chicken soup. I don't have time to get sick.

So, yes. Many of you have commented for months that we should turn this story into a book. Thanks to our endless blog postings and some other things that I had already begun to write during the last half of 2009, I worked further over the weekend and emerged with a 37,000 word (or so) manuscript.

draft of the book is kind of crazy. I actually have it printed. With a cover and binding. (Thanks Office Max). I keep telling myself, "It's just a draft." It needs editing and it may even need some more content. I have a few people, most assuredly members of Garrison Keillor's Professional Organization of English Majors, [You public radio nerds know what I'm talking about] who have already volunteered to take a glance at it and offer suggestions.

I'm also not-so-actively searching for a literary agent. I know that's the next logical step but I don't want to rush things. Like I don't have enough on my plate?

It was very nice to get away for a few days. I was by myself and literally in a cabin in the woods. Of course, it still had all the comforts of home (electricity, running water, WiFi) but I wasn't pulled every other minute to something in the house or to the phone.

In between typing I took breaks reading some literature that has crossed my path in the last few months. One book is called A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss by Gary Sittser. Great book. The chapters are very short and it's a pretty quick read but the content is powerful. His life had been touched by some pretty significant tragedy and through his grief and healing, he found some very powerful insights about what it means to deal with it from day to day. I could relate to his prose.

The other book is A Broken Heart Still Beats: When Your Child Dies. It contains short stories and excerpts from larger works by both famous people (Paul Newman, Mark Twain) as well as lesser known authors regarding their experiences dealing with their child's death. I haven't read much of the book yet BUT I was thrilled and surprised to see that one of the endorsing quotes on the first page was by Ashland's own Phyllis Theroux. Small world.

Reading and re-reading the manuscript brought back so many memories. I was very glad that we had taken the time to record so much in our blog posts. The bulk of my writing this weekend revolved around those final two months that we had with Charlotte so a lot of emotions came flooding back as I wrote.

In order for me to get away, Roger worked his tail off. We had a very busy weekend at Romp n' Roll with classes, a Kids Night Out, and a full slate of birthday parties so he is very tired. I'm grateful to him for all of his hard work.

Speaking of Romp n' Roll, for those of you who haven't heard the news, we are officially moving the Virginia Center location to Mechanicsville.

View Larger Map

Our lease at Virginia Center is up at the end of May and we needed to find a location with more affordable rent. The long term goal had also always been to distinguish ourselves geographically from the other two locations so that our "territory" had better definition. While some of this has been in the works on our end for a little while, it's brand new information to many of our customers and fans and the reactions have certainly been mixed. I certainly hate that we will lose some of our regular customers because of the move. We expected this would happen. At the same time, I am touched by the level at which some of our customers have been upset by this situation. I suppose that if we were just any old kid's place, our relocation would be a small blip on our customer's personal radar. The fact that people can get so out of sorts by the news tells me that we have a somewhat loyal following. That I like.

The next two months will be BUSY. We have already begun meetings with the architect and contractor. The space is built but the interior must be completed so that it looks like a real
Romp n' Roll so that will take some kind-of major construction. Fortunately, it looks like we can take many of the current elements of the store (our front desk, barn doors, etc.) with us so that should help with some of the expense. Be on the alert for a moving party! We will accept any willing hands (or trucks) when the time comes. I pay willing workers in pizza and beer.

So I think that will get you caught up for the weekend. Spring is definitely in the air. I walked around in short sleeves today! It was fabulous. Interestingly, at my retreat, there was STILL snow on the ground. Be gone Ol' Man Winter!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Time Marches On....

It's March! Spring is slowly creeping into the air. I heard a rumor that while we are supposed to get almost an inch of snow tonight (nothing compared to what we've had this year), it is supposed to hit the 60's later this week!!! I am tired of looking at gray skies and bare trees. Even with my pollen allergies, I am longing for spring.

We have a lot going on with CJSTUF this month. First of all, I announced in the last blog post that we are holding an online Pampered Chef sale for CJSTUF until March 20th. Susan Ferguson is hosting the show and Jessica Pittman is the Pampered Chef consultant. 15% of sales will go to CJSTUF. You can order online by going to the link above (www.pamperedchef.biz/jessicasapron). Enter CJSTUF as the host.

Of course, at the end of the month (March 27th) we will have the Monument Ave. 10K. We are already getting some donations trickling in from runners. Keep up the great work. I understand there may be some special prizes for those that bring in $$$!! Even if you can't run (or walk), come on out to cheer on Team CJ.

Speaking of Team CJ...I am excited to announce that we received the TEAM CJ race shirts yesterday. Drum roll please...

Front of the shirt

Back of the shirt

If you can't tell from the pictures (sorry, not the highest quality pic), the shirts are light purple. Everyone running and raising money for TEAM CJ will get a shirt. If you are cheering for TEAM CJ at the race, you can have a shirt for $8. Any extra shirts will be available for a minimum donation of $10. We will let you know when we have shirts available.

We have more merchandise in the works and on the way. The board has been very busy working on designs, pricing, etc. and we hope to have the CJSTUFF (online store) up and running by April. (Fingers crossed). Special thanks to Madison Fairburn for the t-shirt designs.

Roger has been busy shuttling back and forth from MCV helping to care for our friends, the Berry Family. Wesley had a brain surgery last week. He is still in the hospital and on the mend. We have had some generous people donate meals and Roger has been helping with the coordination of that effort.

I think that the pervasive sadness has reared its ugly head this week for both me and for Roger. We are settling into our new life and new routine and it is both heartbreaking and surreal (there's that word again). We were having dinner last night and talking about Charlotte and the entire experience. Again. There are times when it seems like a dream. A nightmare. Something that happened a long time ago, in another lifetime. Sometimes I think that if I didn't have the pictures, videos, and other memorabilia to remind me, I would wonder if I didn't just dream her existence. Her life on this earth was so short and yet strangely full and complete. It amazes me when I think of all the lives that she touched with her grace, beauty, and charm.

There I go waxing poetic again. I feel like I'm repeating myself and if I do, I apologize.

Anyway, this weekend I have the opportunity for a much-needed retreat. Thanks to some friends, I am headed off to a cabin in the woods for some rest BUT I actually have a very focused task. Many of you have mentioned putting our experience into book form. Not far into this process Roger and I agreed that we wanted to do this and the constant support and encouragement from our rabid fans have convinced us to move forward with the effort. Thanks to our blogs and some more work I have done over the past year, the bulk of the memoir is actually complete. I need to find some time to sit, without distraction of email and work, and actually flesh out the rest of the book.

I am not sure what we will do in terms of publishing. I know that we could always self-publish (go-getters that we are, what's one more thing on the to-do list?). We have also been talking very informally with a local publisher in Richmond but that's about the extent of our progress in this effort. If anyone in our network has resources or connections in the publishing world and you think they might be interested in our story, please have them contact Roger or me directly.

So I am going to a non-profit leadership class at VCU on Friday and then I will be retreating to the woods until Sunday evening (no Henry David Thoreau references, please). Much thanks to Roger for covering my shifts at the store on Friday and Saturday. We have a full weekend of parties and classes at RNR and he has agreed to take that on so I can be distraction free.

Ok, so I will close this now. I just got a call from Roger that he just finished a post himself so you will get 2 for the price of 1 today. Hopefully we weren't too repetitively redundant.

Has it been a week almost?

Since our last post, yes, indeed.

We've been really busy lately and most of our free time has been primarily used for "We" time or "Wii" time! (Hula hoops...UGH!)

Some updates around the sucky cancer world...the Berrys have had to go back into the PICU. His Caringbridge site is: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/wesleyberry1

The Waters had a G-tube placed (no fun) and at last word were waiting on surgery.

Think good thoughts about them and the many, many others out there.

We've been delivering weekday lunches to the Berrys and would like to do still more. Please contact us if you're willing to do something. Tomorrow, Thurs, and Fri. They're good during the weekend. Next week is "wait and see." Healthy if possible and no coffee or soda, please. Thanks.

TEAM CJ and the Monument Ave. 10K is rolling along. We've passed the $1000 mark for pledges and I've only heard from a tiny percentage of folks! YAY!!! If you're FUN-raising and have a moment, please send me a rough estimate of your pledges. If you have money in hand that you want out of your sphere of responsibility, please either bring it to us at Romp n' Roll at VA Center, send to PO Box 854 , Ashland, VA 23005, or deposit it into your own account and have fun in Cancun. (OK, I'm kidding about that last one) Please have checks made out to "CJSTUF."

If you have received a registration code and haven't registered yet, please do so ASAP. I'll start reassigning codes next Tuesday. If you try to register and have trouble, I might have to get you a new code anyway or you might just want to register on your own. There has been a small amount of confusion about codes.

Also, if you haven't done so and want to FUN-raise for CJSTUF, please print out a pledge from here and go harass your friends and family.

Just a reminder, the registration codes were given out as part of bulk registrations under the CJSTUF umbrella with the idea that participants would gather pledges and in return, CJSTUF would pay the registration fee and give everyone a cool t-shirt. (They're in, by the way). The codes have already been paid for. The absolute least I want is to cover the expense of the codes, t-shirts, and anything relating to the pasta consuming party but if the early reports are a sign of what's to come, it should be a great event for CJSTUF!

If you don't want to run/walk/mosey, the TEAM CJ Spirit Group is always looking for more people the cheer on the runners/walkers/mosey-ers. Meredith Hayes is the "chair" of the Spirit Group effort so please contact her.

There will be a joint pasta party hosted by CJSTUF and Reesestrong.org on Friday, March 26th at Shady Grove Methodist church in Mechanicsville. It's free for TEAM CJ and Team Reese partcipants and the more supplies get donated (spaghetti, sauce, garlic bread, etc...) the less we'll have to charge "civilians." It's not a FUN-raiser in the fund-sense but more of a community event. Donations will always be taken and split evenly between CJSTUF and Reestrong.org but that's not the purpose of the evening.

I think that's all for now. I still want to have one group run/walk before the actual event but haven't gotten around to organizing that. (Anyone???)

I hesitate to write this next part. As some of you have known, I had been having more trouble dealing with, first, anger issues and then some very deep sadness. I even scheduled a one-on-one with Dr. Matt and I've NEVER done that before. I felt the need to try to get things straight in my head or at least out in the open so I could deal with it all. Funny thing is, by the time I sat down with Matt, I seemed to be over the worst of the anger.

As far as the sadness, I have never stopped being very sad and Allie dying didn't help things but I've been missing Charlotte much more than usual lately. I've found myself almost losing it on multiple occasions threatening to affect work. This is all relatively normal under the circumstances and not unexpected.

The part I hesitate to write is that last night I had a dream that Charlotte gave me a piece of pre-school type art that she had made (still not too weird, I dream about her all the time). It was a small piece of paper torn from a brown shopping bag with a smaller rubber ring glued to it. Inside the ring was a light blue flower shaped plastic "jewel" like the kind we use for craft projects at Romp n' Roll. It looked like any number of things she made at Tuckaway or "Montessori House." I remember it pretty vividly.

Here's the thing for all you PSY101 students: On the back was written in very legible handwriting, "Take care of the living." I kid you not. In my dream, I assumed she had written it. When I woke up, I felt refreshed and a little less sad. So here's the challenge for all you armchair analysts: Was that me wishful thinking that Charlotte was sending me a message or was that my rational brain telling me to buck up and deal? Or was Charlotte actually sending me a message? Whatever the real answer, I feel a little better. I'm going for a mix.