Wednesday, April 26, 2017

All Prayer Warriors on Deck . . .

There is a special place in my heart for all of you who have loved my family over the years.  You lifted my mom’s spirits when she was battling cancer, shared the joy of my son’s wedding – and yes, even enjoyed the humor of my dog’s run for president.  Many of you have become so much more than customers – you have become friends.


Patty Hays is one of you.  She and I first became acquainted years ago when she e-mailed to see if I would bring a care package to a show in Indianapolis.  Then I noticed that she lives in Nashville, Indiana – the home of Brown County State Park, a lovely area where we camped when I was a kid.  That began conversations that have continued to this day.  Patty almost always sends me a cheerful note when I post something about my family on the blog.

I received an e-mail from her last Saturday – as usual, it started with a comment about a blog post with my old medical records from 1959.  But then the tone changed – last week, Patty was diagnosed with terminal inoperable cancer which has spread through most of the organs from the base of her skull to her pelvis.  She started chemo last week, but the doctors tell her that even with that, she probably has less than a year.

And if that’s not enough, her husband Jim has been in and out of the hospital since shortly after Thanksgiving, and spent some time on life support and dialysis.  He is home now, but not completely out of the woods – and yet he wants to take care of his wife.

Patty and Jim have a strong support system from their church and friends, and they believe in the power of prayer and a healing touch that goes far beyond modern medicine.  So do I.  If you feel the same, please include them in your prayers, and by all means send a note of encouragement to them at


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Celebrating a Life Well-Lived . . .

For the locals . . . we have a heavy heart today.


Our friend and matriarch Judy Davidson finished a nearly 20-year battle with cancer yesterday evening. If you have ever been in our store, you surely have met Judy -- she truly was the spice that added flavor to Marco's Paper.

Visitation will be Sunday, April 30 from 2:00-5:00 at Westbrock Funeral Home, 5980 Bigger Road, Kettering.  Funeral will be Monday, May 1 at 10:30 at St. Charles Borromeo, 4500 Ackerman Blvd., Kettering.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Catching Up . . .

I have been essentially off the grid for the past 2 1/2 weeks.  Would love to be able to show you some fascinating thing that I have accomplished during that “down time” – unfortunately, I have merely been sick.  An icky chest and throat doesn’t sound like much – but for me, “sick” usually lasts for a couple of days and barely slows me down.  This time, I missed 2 1/2 days of work (which hasn’t happened in at least 30 years) and had next to no energy for the next ten.  Finally, I am approaching human again – with a very random array of tidbits to share with you . . .


Spring has arrived in Ohio – this from the dogwood in my backyard last weekend.  My white dogwood is really pretty, too – but the pink one is amazing.


The pipeline for Tim Holtz Distress Oxide Ink Pads has finally reopened – the handful of orders including them that have not shipped are because we are waiting for something else to arrive.  Should have plenty of them in our booth at Adventures in Stamping in Akron next weekend!

And here’s an update on the Tim Holtz Stamp Platform, which was originally supposed to arrive this month – Tonic Studios (the manufacturer) announced last Tuesday that the launch has been delayed until early June.  We will ship advance orders in the order they were received as soon as the platform arrives here.

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These pics are actually related.  While I was sick, I went to the doctor – and was informed that the practice is closing next month.  For the first time in my life, I am going to have to look for a new one, so I asked for my records.  The last nine years or so are computerized, but I picked up the rest – starting with my first visit (aged six months) on April 4, 1959.

This "calendar block" is my souvenir from the practice – it has been at the receptionist's desk for the past 25 years. The date was a day off when I went in last week, and as I corrected it, I was reminded of my son. When Ryan was little, he always checked it when we went to the doctor, and if the date was wrong he would update it. It got to the point where the receptionist and nurses would mess it up on purpose so that Ryan could correct it as we checked out.  It's a silly little thing that has no value -- but to us, it is priceless.


Made sour cream drops one evening when I had a bit of energy – actually mixed the batter and baked a couple of sheets one evening, then baked the rest four days later.  Discovered for the first time that these things are amazing straight out of the freezer.

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Emily stopped by the mail center yesterday so I could help her install a new tube on her bike tire.  Zoe was much happier then than she was this morning after I helped with her spring shedding . . .

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What I do with your change at shows – my nephew Conner collects coins, so any of the older ones that I discover eventually find their way to him.


For the locals – a week of Faber-Castell fun next week in our store, leading up an appearance by Jennifer Spoden from Faber-Castell Design Memory Craft and the beginning of the Spring Spectacular (Friday, April 28 through Saturday, May 6).  Here’s a link to a page on our site with all kinds of fun that’s in store for you at Marco’s over the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Never Assume That You Know What Is Coming Next . . .

Last weekend was our annual visit to Allentown, Pennsylvania – I love the fairgrounds and the farmer’s market, and our booth rocked all day on Saturday (which almost offset the frustration of not getting a signal for our credit card machines – from a processing company based in, of all places, Allentown, Pennsylvania).

But my story of the weekend came from Sunday, when the pace was a little slower and I could pay more attention to what was going on at the demo table . . .


About an hour after the show opened, I noticed that four children had taken up residence at our “self-serve” demo table – they started out using the Wink of Stella Markers and Gelatos, and moved on to making backgrounds with Gel Press.  They were perfectly behaved and did a pretty good job of cleaning up after themselves (I helped a little after they left) – the only time I heard them was when their mom was announced as the winner of a door prize, and they cheered for her when they spotted her a couple of booths down the aisle.  As they left, one of the kids came up to me and asked for a bag for his creation – it was still wet and he didn’t want to smudge it.  I was happy to oblige.

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About an hour later, I looked up and they were back – joined another customer trying out the demos and went back to work.


As they finished, this young man came to the register to show me what he had made – and to ask for a bag to carry his creations.


A little later, I spotted this adorable young lady and her dad working on a project while Mom was busy shopping in the booth.  I snapped this picture, knowing it would be a highlight of my day.

Just before the giveaway, a little over an hour before the show ended, those kids came back.  Same story – sat down at the demo table and went to work.  I was beginning to feel a bit like a babysitter.  As I was trying to get through the last few customers so they had tickets for the drawing, I noticed that all four kids were standing in line.  I knew what was coming next – all four of them want bags.  And I pretty much made up my mind that they could use the bags I had already given them.


Then they got to the front of the line and did this . . . and my heart melted (and I felt like a heel for the thoughts that had been running through my head)

I am very thankful for five kids who crossed my path at a show – and parents who are obviously raising them well.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Haute Cuisine in Indianapolis . . .

I spent last weekend in lovely Indianapolis, Indiana – actually, I spent the last two weekends in Indianapolis.  Last weekend, I was working . . .


But the weekend before, my brother and I spent Friday and Sunday surrounded by most of Big Blue Nation at first and second round NCAA basketball tournament games.  We bought our tickets in October with no idea what teams would be present.  Most of the “bracketologists” predicted a month ago that both Kentucky and Louisville would be there – our bonus came on Selection Sunday when we found out that Dayton would play there, too.

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We also got to see the first NCAA appearance by the Northern Kentucky Norse, who actually held a lead for a brief moment and put up a pretty good fight against Kentucky.  Blake was wearing a Dayton shirt that I got him for his birthday, but between games in the evening session represented for his daughter-in-law Gina by donning her Northern Kentucky t-shirt (Gina went there for a year).


In between the tournament days, I spent an evening with some of my elementary and high school classmates – we sent this picture to another classmate who has just started chemo.  Even this evening had an Indy flavor (pun intended) – I made the Caramel Chip Bars that our friend Kaaren Sadtler introduced to us at the Indianapolis show five years ago.

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Back to the work weekend – after setup last Friday, I dug into my little finger and extracted the last souvenir I brought back from Arizona – that is a yucca needle.  I had tried twice before without success to get it out – after perseverance finally paid off, I rewarded myself with a big cupcake topped with a mountain of icing.

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Once the show started on Saturday, there was barely time to think.  I didn’t leave my post at the register until late afternoon – shot these pictures to show a friend what the line looked like at 11:00 . . . and again at 2:00.


And it was warm enough that we finally propped open the doors to get a breeze through the building . . .

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Early in the afternoon, a very nice lady handed me a bag – she said that inside were two apple fritters from her favorite donut shop in Greenfield, Indiana.  And they were great – I ate one later in the day and shared the other with Tanya from Riley and Company (she was across the aisle from us).  I found out later that the promoters had also received a bag.


On Sunday, this nice lady brought me a fruit basket and thanked us for supporting the Indianapolis show all these years (and oh, the contents were thoroughly enjoyed in my house this week).  I had time to thank her appropriately and started to tell her about the nice donut lady from the day before – and she informed me that she was also the donut lady.  With the pace on Saturday, her face hadn’t registered.


Also from Saturday, but so busy that I didn’t take this pic until after I got home Sunday evening – Zoe’s good friend Suetta Bartley always brings treats for her in Indy . . .

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Arizona 2017 . . .

I have been home from my annual Arizona adventure for four days – the little cuts and scrapes on my legs from the trails are starting to heal – and there is SNOW in the forecast early next week.  They just couldn’t get winter out of their system while I was gone.  So it seems like as good a time as any to go through the pics and share the best with you . . .

Just me visiting the parents this time – Blake just couldn’t bear to miss the daily changes in Amelia during his first few weeks of grandparenthood.  And I can’t blame him a bit.


If there was a theme for this visit, it would likely be “Hiking and Food” – like last year, a food truck came calling the first evening I was there.  This one was Italian – Mom and I got a pizza and some chicken parm.


Friday, 5:30 a.m. – Mom and Dad didn’t see me take this as they got ready for a morning walk around their complex.  I enjoy being a fly on the wall and watching their daily lives – and participating when I can.

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Found a change in the complex as Dad and I went to play pickleball – someone has constructed a mini-observatory.  Didn’t get to see it in operation while I was there.  The picture at right was important to my family – Dad has finally retired a hat that he wore out over the years.  It was time that he invested in a new one.

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Back to the food theme.  Mom always loved to make chocolate chip cookies for me when I was a kid – when I was an adult – when I came to visit . . . now I send the ingredients out ahead of me and return the favor.

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No trip out west is complete without a stop or two at In-N-Out – this time before our annual evening at the Gaslight Theatre for an evening of slapstick silliness.


Shot with a cell phone, and I would have paid hundreds of dollars for a shot this good.  I titled it “An Evening at the Theatre with My First Girl” . . .

Saturday morning, it was time to hit the trails for the first time.  I like to experience life as Mom and Dad see it – and the one thing I have not experienced in 20 years of visits to Arizona is hiking by myself.  Dad is not hiking as much anymore – I think after his little mishap at Seven Falls last February, he decided that as he approaches his 81st birthday it might make sense to slow down a bit and cut back on the risks that stumbling on the trail might involve.

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This gave me the opportunity to revisit a hike that we took seven years ago – 20 miles starting at a trailhead in Saguaro National Park and ending at one a few miles north.  So I bid my parents farewell in the darkness about 6:00 in the morning and started off.  I have hiked the first part of the Tanque Verde Ridge Trail many times, but not in the dark – I have heard that my cell phone takes great pictures in low light, and it proved to be true because I could barely see what I was shooting in these two.

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For the first time, the view directly in front of me was not the back of Dad’s legs.  For years, I have enjoyed rock cairns as an art form.  This time, they became a lifeline in areas where the trail was hard to find.  Someone had obviously found a hat along the trail and left it for the owner to find on the way back – a couple of other hikers mentioned it during the day.  But perhaps he was like me and was going one way . . .

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First view of the sun peeking over the mountain.  Early morning shadows are great for the ego of short people . . .

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Found an old fenceline when I strayed a little off the trail – so I backtracked until I found one of those lifeline rock cairns.  Later in the morning, I found one that had fallen over – so I rebuilt it to benefit the next hiker.

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Signs like these are a rare but welcome sight along the way – Cow Head Saddle was just past the halfway point on the day’s hike.  One of the rewards of several hours of hiking is a view like this at lunchtime – that’s Tucson way off in the distance.

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Dad says this is one of the old signs that used to be on the trail – most have been replaced by the metal variety.  The pic at right is the main reason why I wanted to take this hike – I referred to it as the Joe Smallwood Manzanita Bush – Dad stumbled coming off Tanque Verde Peak seven years ago and scraped his leg falling into this bush.  It has grown a lot since then.

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Another reason I wanted to take this hike was to see if the warmer winter at home had spread to Arizona.  Same spot on the trail – seven years apart.


About 30 minutes after I left Tanque Verde Peak and started heading downhill, I took this picture – the highest point you can see is that peak.

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Another “same spot – seven years apart” pic.  Not nearly as much water in the stream this year.


This picture is nice and big for a reason.  In nearly 20 years of hiking in Arizona, I had seen exactly three rattlesnakes – until today, when I saw three more.  Two of them were in this picture (look underneath the bush).  The one in the middle of the trail was not a bit happy to see me and was rattling his tail violently.  No, I’m not stupid – I kept my distance and cropped the pic later.


End of the trail – 19.8 miles and 10:45 from the starting point.  Mom and Dad are in the car obscured by the bush directly in front of me, with two Cokes and a full cup of ice in a cooler waiting for me.

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Sunday was a recovery and work day.  And back to that food theme -- Mom and Dad love my chocolate pie (it is SO incredibly not hard to make), so I made one for them while I was here. Within a minute or two after I finished it, a quarter of it was gone . . .


A peek at Dad working on some research for me while I was busy answering your e-mails and placing a big order for Spellbinders dies (which I suppose I could have driven the 120 miles to Phoenix and picked up – but I let them ship it instead).


Monday, I left the Sabino Canyon Visitors Center at 5:45 a.m. to repeat another hike from four years ago.  My intent was to loop around and come back past Seven Falls, where Dad stumbled and cracked his head open last year.  Didn’t quite work out that way . . .

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Not much has changed along the Sabino Canyon Tram Road except for a new sign here and there.  And I am still attracted to the sound of running water . . .

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First view of the sun on the mountains – it is fascinating to watch it creep down into the canyon as time passes.  Yes, the views really are magnificent.

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Just because I thought that lone cactus illuminated by the morning sunlight with the mountain in the background was distinctive (and for those of you who know that I am not an artsy person, this is about as artsy as I get).  First view of the direct sunlight as I went around a corner.


At the end of the tram road, 3.7 miles from the visitors center, the trail starts climbing into the mountains.

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Here’s something that you rarely see in Arizona – green grass.  That’s the same patch of grass in the other pic – but perspective makes it look much taller.

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I could have listened to this little waterfall and babbling brook for a long time.  I heard it from at least 100 yards away and it just drew me to it – so much so that I missed this sign just before I turned left to walk the last few feet to it.  Found the sign much later in the day – instead of turning right to stay on the East Fork Trail, I turned left to the waterfall and continued on Palisades Trail once I decided to move on.  Whoops . . .

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If you look carefully, you can see a trail that looks a bit like the Mark of Zorro on the right side of the hill (and again on the same hill in the right picture – with another hill in-between).  That is the trail I was supposed to be on – I just knew it – but by this point I had hiked so far, and the views were so spectacular, that I decided to just keep going and find out where I was headed.


The trail was little used, but well marked.  And I could always look behind me and see where I had been – and the City of Tucson – in the distance.


Another priceless lunchtime view, with Tucson way off in the distance – and that Mark of Zorro still in view at about 11:00 (at least for me – doesn’t show up well in the pic).

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Found out later that the old telephone line once stretched from Tucson all the way up to the top of Mount Lemmon.

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About four miles from where I missed my turn, I came upon a beautiful ribbon falls going into Pine Canyon.  The trail goes on for nearly four more miles to the Palisades Trailhead, but at this point I decided it was time to retrace my steps back where I came.  The trip downhill was much easier after climbing for 2½ hours to get to this point . . .

Got off the trail after 22.4 miles and more than ten hours, and headed straight to In-N-Out for a Double-Double and a big Coke.

Tuesday was a morning full of pickleball with Dad and his friends (I always start to get the hang of this game just before I leave for home – and a year later I have to figure it out again).  After lunch, it was off to the airport.


The trip home was uneventful (which is always a good thing).  But I got the added bonus of a new plane from Tucson to DFW, with TVs in the seatbacks and more than 100 movies to choose from – some of which were still in the theaters.  Once I discovered that the trip was just a minute or two longer than Jackie, the choice was easy . . .