Sunday, May 30, 2010

Home Again...almost...

Our whirlwind tour of Colorado was fantastic. We loved celebrating Cerisa and Patrick's nuptials. The wedding ceremony itself was Thursday but the celebration lasted all week long. There was an out-of-town family dinner at the Metropolitan (formerly JeffCo) airport on Wednesday night. Then the actual ceremony and reception on Thursday. THEN a hog roast picnic for friends and family on Friday and FINALLY a wind-down at Cerisa's parent's house (Roger's brother) with opening of wedding gifts and good ol' hanging out.

Here are some links to pics of the WEDDING the HOG ROAST and other miscellaneous pictures from the weekend. Roger took most of them but he even let me play with the camera a few times. The weather for all the events was perfect and any rain, storms, or other glitches were few and far between (see the pics of the HAIL STORM that we experienced yesterday).

In between the wedding events, we did some driving up in the mountains to Estes Park and Georgetown. In Georgetown, we met our friends the Goerolds. We had first met them in Houston and little Allie passed away earlier this year. We had a very nice visit with Lynne, Tom, and their other adorable (and VERY smart) daughter Sarah. It was good to not only visit but commiserate a little and do some emotional "checking-in" with one another. Turns out we're all kind of dealing with the grief in our own way but the similarities sure seem to outweigh the differences.

The emotions were up and down the entire trip (at least for me) but overall it was a very relaxing time and it was very good to see friends and family...especially for such a wonderful celebration. Roger and I had some good bonding time where we could focus on one another and our relationship (rather than work) for a change. That's always good because as much time as we spend with one another on a daily basis, we often need that opportunity to reconnect.
So this morning we said our final goodbyes to family and headed to the airport. The flight into Atlanta was kind bumpy due to the weather. We had a good 3 hour layover until our Richmond flight. Then as they were preparing to pre-board, they asked for volunteers to bump to the next morning's flight in exchange for compensation. Roger and I have done this before so given that we didn't NEED to be back for anything on Monday, we kind of jumped at the chance. They put us on the list and told us they would let us know. The boarding process began and the time ticked away. They didn't call our names to board. Then, just as we were sure we would be staying over in Atlanta, they called us to board the flight. We ran down the jetway, settled into our seats, put on our seatbelts and...wait....what was that? The gate agent came back and said they needed us to voluntarily bump after all. Sooooo we disembarked and headed BACK up the jetway. PSYCH! There were four of us in total that were bumped from the flight. We all made small talk as we received our hotel and meal vouchers plus (wait for it) TWO round trip tickets EACH to anywhere Air Tran flies good for the next year. So who wants to be my best friend and take a trip to the Bahamas with me?
We are currently in an Executive Suite at the Westin hotel for a few hours, hopefully getting some rest before we head back to the airport for the early morning Richmond flight. The room is very nice, at least, so that's a plus!
Now some business to attend to:
Our next official CJSTUF fundraiser is in progress. Dot Heffron and Jody Harmon, local Tupperware representatives, are our Home Based Business for June. Supporting CJSTUF is easy. Go to our website for a link to the online fundraising page. You can order from anywhere in the country. Sales must be in by June 23rd. Please share the link with friends and family. I think Dot and Jody may be organizing some local parties as well. If you are interested in hosting a local party to benefit CJSTUF during the month of June, email me and I will forward your information to them.
With that, I will sign off from Atlanta. Our next post should be from Richmond....

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On the road again

This afternoon, Roger and I are headed to Denver for a much needed (and to toot our horn I'll say much deserved) few days away. His niece Cerissa is getting married on Thursday and we are very excited. I am sure it will be quite the celebration.

The move is completed. Romp n' Roll-Mechanicsville is OPEN for business and let's all exhale... There are still a few polishing touches to do but now the main thing is to just fill the place with kids. We have had overwhelming positive reactions from the Mechanicsville community as well as from our current customers so we are excited by that. Summer session starts in three weeks so tell all your friends and neighbors in Mechanicsville to hop on over and sign up for a class, camp, or birthday party. That's my shameless RNR plug of the week...

In CJSTUF news, our board met last week. While we don't have any major activities planned right now, there are some potentially large projects in the works for fall. Look for some CJSTUF merchandise to launch this summer (T-shirts, mugs, diaper pads...). Ok, maybe not diaper pads. These will be available on the website. In addition, Sarah Blankenship of Crystal Paintbrush is making some original jewelry designed exclusively for CJSTUF. It will feature lots of pink, purple, and butterflies! She is making a limited number of pieces and they will all be unique. We are hoping to launch this in September...just in time for the holiday shopping season. I saw a preview yesterday and was thrilled with the results!

In just a week we will launch our Home Based Biz of the Month. The business for June will be Tupperware! Dot Heffron and Jody Harmon will be the local reps handling this sale. I will post an update in the next week with all the details and we will update the website accordingly so stay tuned. This program is currently booked through August. July will feature Stella & Dot as well as design services by Reflections Interior Design. August will feature Mary Kay cosmetics. If you have any interest in any of these products, stay tuned for more information because a good portion of proceeds from the sale of these items will be donated to CJSTUF. We appreciate these entrepreneurs for their generosity.

If you have a Home-Based or Small Business and would like to be a featured fundraiser for CJSTUF, contact us and we will get you on the docket for the fall.

Once we return from Colorado, Roger will also be launching his official training schedule for his Double Marathon Madness this fall. He will run both the Chicago Marathon (in October) and the Richmond Marathon (in November). He has an ad hoc committee working with him on fundraising plans and events with a goal to raise $10,000.

Finally, soon after we return we will be distributing our first set of Financial Assistance Grants to 10 families served by MCV. I am excited that everyone that submitted an application qualified for funds, including two families that have two children (each) with a significant health need. We are very excited that we are able to do some GOOD WORK for the community this early in our development! The second set of applications are due October 1st so if you know anyone who would qualify, please encourage them to submit an application now.

On the personal front, I appreciate the many people who have inquired about our mental and physical health and well-being over the past few weeks. Roger and I continue to have our ups and downs on the emotional front. I was able to get away to NYC for a few days for Devon's graduation and that was a big help in the stress relief department. I'm really glad the opportunity presented itself. (Congrats, Devon!)

Preparing for this trip has been particularly emotional for me. Getting ready to fly on a plane just hearkens back all those memories of last year: commuting back and forth to Houston, the Disney trip, all of that travel with a very sick child. And now we fly alone. I don't need to tell anyone with kids that flying (or traveling) anywhere with a kid is an adventure in patience. Your packing style is different (why bother bringing a book to read? you won't need it!), there's so much more to think about. And getting on this plane without her is just another reminder that she is gone. Last year at this time, we were in Houston for the first time. We were meeting a new set of doctors, exploring options, wondering about the future.

Now here we are. This is our first truly "pleasure" trip in almost two years (I don't count the Make-A-Wish trip. As wonderful as that was, it was truly bittersweet and I'm not sure traveling with your terminally ill daughter qualifies as a vacation). We're traveling with one large suitcase for two people, a laptop, and a camera bag. Sometimes I think we're forgetting something. I hope that in these next few days we can just relax and recharge. I'm very happy that we can leave the store in such good hands. Our staff is amazing!

I'm sorry to leave you with sad news but we found out early this morning that Casey DeSombre passed away from Leukemia overnight. We never met Casey or his family but they were Caring Bridge folks who we have journeyed with for over a year. Casey was not quite three years old. Despite many innovative treatments and all the best care, he lost the battle. We pray for peace for his family at this difficult time. Cancer sucks. No other way to say it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The most stress-full-est week ever

Wow! I can't believe it's been so long since our last blog post. At the same time, we've been a little busy. I will try to update everyone.

First of all, a big thanks to the Mechanicsville Moms for the Used Book Sale last week. We raised almost $300 for CJSTUF which is not bad for a bunch of books priced at $.50 and $1 apiece. The remaining books were donated to the Ashland Library for their annual book sale at the Hanover Arts and Activities Center (July 4th....mark your calendars!).

Secondly, the Cow Drop raised a little over $1000 for CJSTUF. That will help two families! How great! I didn't win the Disney vacation or the Romp n' Roll birthday party (oh, wait...) but Roger had a great time at the event. Huge kudos to Pam and Sharon, the Virginia Center Chick-Fil-A marketing gurus who help to make this event a success year after year. Much thanks to them for including CJSTUF in their in-store sales.

In the middle of all these foundation events, we have been armpit deep in moving the business. Anyone who has ever built a house knows the stress that comes with construction. Take that and magnify it a few 1000 times when you move a business. Not only are you trying to get everything up and running in a timely manner, but you still have a business to run, vendors to pay, and a staff to manage. We're getting there but this is not my favorite thing in the world. I have HUGE thanks to offer to:

My parents:
Not only did they help with painting and moving but they always had dinner (or lunch) ready for me and for Roger when we came home each night. Plus they're always good for a laugh or two!

Our Romp n' Roll staff: They roll with the punches and have displayed their many talents in this process including painting, shop-vacing, and packing.

Our many helpers and volunteers: Along with our paid staff, we have recruited a few volunteers to help with loaning us LARGE vehicles and painting and hauling and unbolting shelves and hanging bulletin boards and....

My husband: Roger is a pretty handy guy and he is doing a lot of the "grunt work" these days. I, in fact, have felt pretty useless lately and he is just a bundle of positive energy. I really appreciate all his hard work.

So, yes, this past weekend was Mother's Day. I pretty much tried to ignore it. At the same time, I felt extremely loved and supported by many friends and family. I think between keeping myself busy and the many positive notes, small gifts, and other gestures of kindness that were nudged my way, I made it through. The extra stress in my life certainly doesn't seem to help with my wanting to cry (or scream) at the drop of a hat. Today we had to take the cat to the vet (more on that in a moment) and as I was waiting to pick up Mr. Tigger, this other woman comes out to the lobby to pay her bill and makes an off-hand comment about "having to sacrifice her first born child" to pay the vet bills. I almost let loose with a snarky comment like, "You think vet bills are bad...try REALLY sacrificing your first born child to brain cancer." but I held my tongue. I know the woman meant nothing by the comment. In another age, I probably have made comments in the same vein and never thought about the actual words.

So why, you might ask, did I have to get Tigger from the vet? Well, Roger came home earlier today to get a needed tool and grab some lunch and found Tigger very injured. Apparently, he had tried to climb a fence (or something like that) and seriously hurt his foot. The tendon was actually exposed! Roger dropped everything and rushed him over to the vet (did I mention how wonderful he is?) and they took him in for surgery. Now he's wearing a funny cat collar and has to stay isolated in a room for 10-14 days. Oh, and we get to give him kitty meds. Goodie. The ladies at the vet's office said he was a really good boy and when I picked him up, he was meowing at about 100 decibels. He's resting in the spare bedroom right now, looking awfully pitiful.

In Foundation news, we have received our applications for Financial Assistance Grants. We do have at least 10. We will review them at the board meeting next week and we will be very excited to award the $500 grants to our recipients in early June. More on that to come. Roger is talking with a local business and we may have some great PR events lined up soon.

Also, we are slightly further along in the process of getting our nonprofit status. Still nothing official but we're one step closer. AND I think that within the next month (or two) we should have some SWEET CJSTUF t-shirts and other merchandise available for purchase. Stay tuned.

So, in closing, please keep the positive vibes flowing for our move. We are aiming to be open by Monday with a ribbon cutting at NOON on 5/17. Come on out if you're around. You can always become a fan of our new location on Facebook for the latest updates and moving pics. If you haven't heard, we are dedicating our moving week (this week) to ReeseStrong. 10% of any birthday bookings or summer class/camp bookings through Saturday will go back to this Mechanicsville based organization that is very dear to our hearts. SOOOO...if you live in Mechanicsville or know anyone that does, check out our Romp n' Roll website and call us to register today (shameless plug, I know, but it's for a good cause!).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A busy week & a beautiful picture.

There are two big events of note this week so I wanted to pass along a few reminders:

  1. The Used Book Sale hosted by Mechanicsville Moms is TOMORROW (Thursday, 5/6) from 3 PM-7 PM at the Romp n' Roll at Virginia Center. There will be used books for all ages AND baked goods. Come on out during one of the LAST Open Gym sessions at the Virginia Center location to get some great books.

  2. The Chick-Fil-A Cow Drop is Saturday, May 8th from 11 AM-3 PM. Roger will be there with a romp n' roll obstacle course. You can buy $10 tickets at the Virginia Center Chick-Fil-A until Friday May 7th. $6 from every ticket benefits CJSTUF! You do NOT have to be present the day of the cow drop to win any of the fabulous prizes....but if you are able to be there it's always a fun event with kid's activities, family entertainment, chick-fil-a FOOD, and more!

Other than that, there is not much to report. Romp n' Roll's move to Mechanicsville is coming along. It's very stressful right now for all of us but it will all be over in a few weeks. I am grateful to my family and others who have been helping with painting. We also have our great employees and some other volunteers who are donating vehicles and/or their able bodies to help with the move. There is a lot to get done before May 16th but I think we will get there.

Emotionally, I've been a wreck this week. I don't think I've felt this bad since January. Everything just kind of slammed me in the face and between the stress of the move and other issues, missing Charlotte has just been an added stressor that's made me "on edge". I apologize to anyone who I might have snapped at or been less than courteous to this week. I am grateful for the many friends and family (and most especially my husband) who have been leaving lovely notes, special gifts (often anonymously) and just giving me extra encouragement this week.

To close, I will leave you with my new favorite picture of our girl. I just finished uploading a bunch of pics to Costco so I could actually get prints made. Going through the photos of our trip to Florida, etc. and this one is certainly one of the best, in my opinion. I nabbed this one during our Penguin Encounter at Sea World. Those eyes just speak volumes....