Thursday, October 25, 2012

A perfect place for the kid

Many of you know the trials and tribulations of being and parenting a middle school kid. The hormones, self doubts and stress(in BOTH of us!!) create an environment unhealthy and nonsustaining.

Last Spring Sofie didn't get into the school of her choice. In hindsight, I'm grateful. Not that the school wasn't a good match. I think she would have done well there. Now I see there are better choices. When she was accepted into a public magnet school full of kids from a previous school she attended, I thought our issue of MS had been solved. I was optimistic and hopeful. She was not. She liked the school, the teachers and kids in particular. What she didn't like was the mixed messages she seemed to be getting. Her words were, "They're treating us like kindergartners in some was but expecting us to be adults in others!" She had a point. And while I think some kids are okay in an environment where they are responsible for everything they do, I know she's not there yet developmentally. For the first month or so of school the positive aspects of her day became increasingly tenuous for her and straining on me.

As luck would have it, I received an invitation to attended a tour at another school that I had been interested in last Spring. Unfortunately with my dad's health issues and driving back and forth to Greensboro, all while solo parenting, I had to put aside anymore investigation of that school. I was okay with that because I thought we'd found a good option in public school. The invitation couldn't have come at at better time in my mind. So a month ago, I took the morning off work and attended the open house at Emerson Waldorf School in Chapel Hill. Honestly I wasn't sure it was going to be a good fit based on what I knew. I knew she was 5 plus years behind in Spanish, Music, Handwriting and a few other things. Thankfully I made time to go on the tour...and thank the Universe for putting EWS back onto my radar!

During the tour we visited each class, Grades 1-8, and observed the kids in their environment. A very fortunate turn of events occurred when a teacher who was on Sabbatical from another Waldorf school was on our tour. She had just finished a 1-8 loop(the teachers start with their kids in first grade and move up with them until they graduate 8th grade!!) She addressed many questions/concerns I had about moving to this school so late in the game. She had no qualms at all. Of course she'd never met Sofie but it was nice to get an outsiders perspective who knew about Waldorf education. During the tour, classroom after classroom, I kept thinking, "This would be a wonderful fit for my quirky, artistic girl!" After observing the 6th grade classroom and seeing her potentially new teacher interact with his class, I was convinced...from a parents point of view. After the meeting, I was fortunate enough to chat with that teacher and he was open to and encouraged the next step...completing the application. I rushed home and compiled all the relevant information and submitted the application right away. A few days later Sofie, due to the wonderful Director of Admissions and the 6th grade teacher,  was scheduled for her 3 day visit. the true test was about to begin.

Two weeks ago, Sofie visited EWS on Tuesday-Thursday. Prior to that visit we had long discussions about the differences...good and "perceived" bad. To note, the "bad" to her is the dress code requirements...nothing else. She wasn't too excited about the idea of tutors for things she might be behind in but was still willing to visit. I didn't offer my opinion on whether I thought the school was a good match or not. It was important that she test the waters without too many outside influences. I dropped her off with the 6th grade class and off to work I went. She was beaming with happiness and excitement every afternoon. She even showed the teacher her snarky 6th grade side when he and I were discussing a meeting time for the last day. (Afterwards he said he was glad to have seen that and it was perfectly normal for her age!!) So at the end of the 3 days, he and I talked for nearly 2 hours! He raised his concerns, I mine. We talked the good, bad and ugly of switching schools. By the end, we were 99.9% sure she was in but he needed to talk to the class to get their input and talk about adding a new member to the family. He also needed to chat with the Spanish, Handwork and Music teachers, too. In the end, no one had an issue and were happy to welcome her into the community. We found out on the Friday, just before their Fall Break that she was in! I registered her and that was her last day at her old school. She chilled for a week and prepared for her new adventure.

In her first week she's already started making a wooden egg in woodworking, learned and drawn more about Roman leaders, started writing on what makes a good leader(and she's using Wolves as an example...shock!!), started making a stuffed mountain lion, sang, talked about which second instrument she's going to play, had PE twice, Math, Language arts and worked on her Spanish. When I picked her up from after school the first day, she had constructed this house out of twigs, leaves, rocks and pine cones:

Week one is almost in the books and I have to say, she's never seemed more at ease, more enthusiastic or more confident about school. Yes, this is the honeymoon period. Yes, there will be times when she's just as miserable as she was at the other school(but for different reasons I assure you!) Yes, there will be trials and tribulations...she's 12!! As I see it, there's no place more loving and accepting for those trials and tribulations to occur.

A big heartfelt Thank You to Debra for having the fore thought to make this opportunity happen. As her guardian angel, I know you're watching over her and you're very proud of our girl.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Día de los Muertos inspiration

I find it odd that I've been inspired to write a blog entry on the Day of the Dead. Especially since this entry is going to be primarily about how death and illness have changed me. A dear friend from college lost her teenage son, quite unexpectedly, earlier this year. To honor him and to help process her grief she started writing a blog of letters *to* her son. Honestly, those (nearly daily)letters have been a gift to me and I'm sure other friends/family who are reading them. They are funny, sad, grief filled tributes that have made me laugh out loud then cry within the same sentence. Today's entry inspired me to start writing my own thoughts again. (Not sure how long this will last but, hey, it's a start!)

This blog has morphed from a blog about Cancer treatment, parenting, recovery, death and grieving to one about single parenting and getting back out in the world without those labels of "cancer patient/survivor" or "ex-partner to sick/dying/dead mother of Sofie" as primary identifiers. Okay, the last one was a bit harsh but it's how I felt for a long time prior to and post Debra's death. I kind of got lost in all that happened. It's what I do. I push on through, not worrying about myself as much as I worry about others. It's easier that way.

I do have to say, I have changed for the better, in some aspects, as a result of all that happened during those few years. Ultimately I had to change, but I also need to change more. Life is a process, a constant growing, changing, learning, get the picture. I'm also the first to admit I've changed some things NOT for the better. As I said, I'm learning.

Let's get the bad out of the way because it's the hardest to write. Once this is out on the page, I can end with writing about the good. In many ways I feel I'm becoming the parent I said I'd never be. I'm not juggling very well and that creates unnecessary chaos in our lives. Instead of being organized about chores and consequences, I'm always on someone's case about all the things she needs to do in the morning, then lather rinse repeat in the evening. My overwhelm and default state of being is cranky, naggy mom. What happened to the fun mom of years gone by? I want her back, more consistently, in our lives. How do single parents really juggle work, parenting, and life without sacrificing their own personal space and life? Other parents do it with far less and I'm feeling like a spoiled middle class brat right now even writing this...but this is the bad, I do get to write some good.

This may seem ironic but one of the ways I've changed the most is that I've become a "glass half full" person as my default character. Sure, I'm whining in the previous paragraph but ultimately I know life is good great and I honestly believe it's only going to get better. Having survived Cancer opens your eyes to all that is good in life. Having survived Cancer, plus parenting a child through the death of another parent, really puts perspective on life. There may have been some "faking it until I made it" in the earlier years of this chapter in my life but I can honestly say I've become a much more positive person on the other side of things. As I'm getting closer to 50(okay, I still have a few years but I am on the down side of my 40s now!) I see more and more all the good things in life and know the bad are just lessons taught and challenges placed in order to show us we can persevere through ANYthing.

Sofie is morphing from a child to a teen right before my eyes. It's a struggle for her. She's had so much loss and she really doesn't want to lose her innocence/fun and grow up. (She's said that, I'm not making it up.) She views growing up as losing all the fun things in life. I've not been the best model showing that to be untrue.

Today I honor the old, stick in the mud Jamie. Let that part of me die, be gone. Honor that she was a necessary part of me to help transcend from single, part-time parent to single, "everything is my responsibility, especially a little girl with so much loss" parent. Focus on fun, focus on me, focus on teaching/showing Sofie that mistakes happen and it's not the end of the world. Today I begin a new chapter...unsure of the title but definitely a new chapter in the life of the complex one.

For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks… the work for which all other work is but preparation. – Rainer Maria Rilke

Monday, July 25, 2011

Flashback: July 25, 2006

Five years ago today, my life was about to of several life changes occurring that year and years to follow. Five years ago today, I was undergoing a hysterectomy because there were "suspicious" cells that returned from a biopsy. Those "suspicious" cells were, in fact, undeniably cancerous. I was, unbeknownst to me, about to embark on weeks of radiation plus several months of chemotherapy. My, what a year that was!

There will be no waxing nostalgic in this post...for that you can read the blog entries for that year. This is about looking forward and living life with no regrets. From those years of life changes I became fulltime parent to a wonderfully spunky girl. With that I have years of  looking forward to watching her become the tween/teen/young adult/etc. etc. etc. that she will evolve into. Fortunately for us, we get to share that journey with a wonderful woman who dropped into our lives about a year ago. Sofie and I both are looking forward to growing our family with one mom/partner and two more cats. (yes, we are crazy cat people!) Life can be full of challenges and growing pains, fortunately those also come with love and celebrations. To coin a phrase(or 80's one hit wonder), the futures so bright, I gotta wear shades.

In theory, the cancer was removed when my cervix, uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes were removed. So do I celebrate 5 years Cancer free today...or do I wait until next March, the 5th anniversary of the end of my treatment? Maybe this can be the YEAR of 5 years Cancer free? Let's get this party started!!

Okay a little waxing nostalgic. A heartfelt thank you goes to everyone in my life, new and old, who have been here for me during the last five years of "growing pains"...couldn't be the mom, partner or friend I am without a supporting cast like you all.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Home phone dilemma

Up until very recently I've been quite content have no home phone. I'm not ready for my rising 5th grader to have her own cell phone...she doesn't even want one. I have, however, started thinking about adding a second line to my cell plan for home use only. Of course,  I research and realize there are so many other options out there.Tracfone, VirginMobile, Credo, etc, etc. What's a mom to do? What's a good, reliable, cheapish alternative to a land line?!?!

Any sage advice for me, do share your wisdom!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My nightly view point


This is what I get to see any time I'm horizontal and my stalker cat is around

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fence sitter or what I believe about the mom who is losing custody of her children "because" she has Cancer

All my life I've considered myself someone who always sees both sides to a story, a fence sitter, as it where. That trait has benefits although it doesn't make for a passionate defender. Honestly, I wish more people could see both sides, maybe our world would be a more peaceful place to live. That's why I was surprised to my initial reaction to the story of a woman who was losing custody of her kids, allegedly for having Cancer. Of course it pushed every liberal button in my body. I was outraged that such a thing was happening and it was happening in my own backyard! This was personal, too. The five people that read my blog know what the last five years of my life have been like. For those new to reading me, here it is in a nutshell:
  • Former partner(and primary care provider to our daughter) diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer(2006) after our wonderful Primary Care doctor thought something was off with the symptoms Debra had.
  • Surgery and chemo begin immediately
  • Three months later, I was diagnosed with Endometrial Cancer after a hysterectomy was performed due to "suspicious cells" found during a biopsy.
  • As her chemo is winding down, my treatment of surgery, radiation then chemo begins.
  • Less than 6 months after completing chemo, cancer returns for Debra.
  • We are simultaneously going through chemo since I had 3 treatments to go.
  • Debra doesn't respond well to the chemo after the recurrence and dies December 2007.

The mom in question has some major PR backing. There's a Facebook page dedicated to the "wrongness" of the actions and much of mainstream media has jumped on the "mom was wronged because she has cancer" bandwagon. Since this is a family law type issue I don't think there's a ton of  facts from either side out there. Why are we not hearing the Dad's side? Maybe he thinks the protection and privacy of his children are more important than the media show. Maybe he is a loser, although I highly doubt it since he seems to genuinely care for the well being of his children. The mom is holding onto every ounce of hope that she'll beat the cancer and I wouldn't expect anything less. Debra held on until the very end when she realized her body was riddled with cancer throughout her entire abdominal area, including her liver. It's the patients job to fight for their life! When there are children involved, it's the other parent and family to guide and prepare them through what may be the ultimate outcome...losing a parent.

When Debra and I were faced with her terminal cancer we quickly decided there was one main priority...Sofie. Not that we weren't thinking of ourselves in this situation, we were just thinking more of a little 7 year old who was about to lose a parent. We weren't living together so it took patience, understanding, collaboration and love to work through what was best for the kid...not what made either one of us feel better. We moved past our issues with the other adult and concentrated on spending quality time together and a family unit, all the while making the shift from Debra being primary parent to me being primary parent. Essentially we had 10 months from the time the recurrence occurred until Debra was arranging hospice to come assist her through the last week or so of her life.

What upsets me most about this case is the way the mother is being played the victim when actually it's the kids who are the true losers in this situation. (I am in no way insinuating she's playing the victim. Please note I said "played"...the media is really working the "because she has cancer" angle!) None of us know the full story but many folks are jumping to a conclusion (like I initially did) that may not be in the best interest of the children. As I've been pondering this case I can't help but think of how it would have affected Sofie if I weren't in the picture. Debra was really sick, especially near the end, so my condo became a place of respite for both of us. It's a time where we could spend quality time strengthening an already strong bond while others took care of Debra. There were definitely times that being around a very ill parent wore on Sofie. I couldn't imagine her having to endure that environment 24/7. I also couldn't imagine her not seeing Debra at all...thus my place firmly perched on the fence. My hope is there's a good team of people fighting for the kids in this case. A lawyer, social worker, psychologist...whoever can work together to make sure the kids get time with both parents in a way that supports their grief and growth.

What's right in this situation? Bottom line...whatever is best for the children.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Room Without a View

RoomRoom by Emma Donoghue

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Upon reading many reviews *after* I read Room, I came away feeling justified with and having a better understanding of my love/hate relationship with this book.

The plot of Room isn't really a secret anymore. Girl gets abducted, girl is held prisoner by creepy man, girl has baby by said creepy man, girl survives by making her son her #1 priority, boy turns five and after living in an 11x11 room, with no view or comprehension of the outside world, they accomplish the great escape. (That's only the first 1/3 of the book!)

Honestly, when I first started reading this book (well before my book club chose it), I was a little creeped out by the writing style and my own preconceived ideas about Room. I was worried there would be gratuitous violence or scenes of rape or torture graphically depicted.

After my book club chose it I decided to hunker down and push on through. From the point at which I really started reading the book, it took me nearly a week to read the first 1/3 of Room. That was the hump I needed to get over in order to get to the true essence of the story. (As an aside, I started writing this review at 4:30AM, less than six hours after finishing the book.) Once I got over the hump it took 2 days to finish.

Other reviews of this book left me intrigued by what inspires people to write book reviews. This is my first attempt at writing a review and I can say what drove me to write it was solely the understanding I came away with and feelings I experienced as I was reading.

A perspective I haven't seen in any other reviews is that of a mother of a child who started life in an Eastern European orphanage. You might think, "WTH does that have to do with Room?!?" I'm here to tell you, as that mother, it has everything to do with it. The emotions and "ah ha" moments I experienced while reading Jacks perspective of experiencing sensations, after five years of captivity, were quite profound. I recognized many of his reactions as the same ones my daughter had in her earlier years, post orphanage. So much light was shed on the sensory issues I've witnessed my child experience. Although her "captivity" was less than two years and she was taken outside daily, the parallels I found in the reactions Jack had versus my on daughters were at the very least, fascinating. I found Donoghue's descriptions to be on target, especially in relationship to wind, smells and noises.

With all that said, I still admit I struggled with the stories incredibly short timeline, gaping holes in the story and the inconsistency of Jack's spoken language. All in all I do give Room two thumbs up. Any book that causes me to wake up in the middle of the night to write a review deserves at least that.

View all my reviews

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Rockstar Kid

I know, I know, I'm not posting enough on the blog. I do miss using this page as an interpersonal journal about a day in the life of (fill in the blank with whatever persona you have for me!) Yesterday was such a banner day in our house that I really want to share it with my world of blog readers.

I want to say that Friday, November 5, 2010 was a big "Day of Awesome" in our house. As many of you know, the school year had gotten off to a bit of a rocky start. Fourth grade was presenting new challenges for my strong willed daughter. First of all the amount of homework increased 10-fold(okay not really THAT much, but you get the picture!) Secondly, after years of being delayed in her learning she has caught up and excelled so much that she's now in the the gifted classes for Math and Reading. Let me just insert here, Debra would be SO proud! The gifted math will present a problem for me as math is probably my weakest friends who are math geeks, be prepared to assist with homework once she gets past Algebra 1!!

With all that said, the Day of Awesome, henceforth known as DOA(wait, that's not a good acronym...oh well, it'll have to do for now) has multiple components to it.

Awesome feat #1 - Straight A's on her report card(I'm actually amazed about that one since she had such homework struggles this 9 weeks!)

Awesome feat #2 - During her 4th grade class meeting she said that she told the kids it's not cool to say, "that's so gay" and laugh, because her family is gay.

Awesome feat #3 - Her teacher, who was leaving the school parking lot and saw me drive up, stopped and parked her car to come back in to tell me what Sofie had done in class that day...and it wasn't about the gay thing! Apparently there are 3 different kids going through divorces in their families and my empathetic, kind-hearted daughter consoled, talked with and helped these kids through various situations during the day. Her teacher said it was amazing to see her maneuver through those discussions with grace and ease. She is some kind of awesome that girl!

Some will congratulate me on great parenting, which to that I say simply, "Thank You." I do have moments of good parenting. However, the grace, intelligence and pride she exhibits in everyday life are all her!

May she continue to blossom into the incredible young woman she's well on her way to becoming!!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

All in a year

A year ago today I wrote my last (for a whole year) entry to this blog. Very unintentionally, though. There were thoughts of taking the summer off from writing, then that turned into a few more weeks. Well, those weeks became months and here we are...a whole year later. Amazing a year has flown by so quickly.

To break it down, we've been busy learning, growing, parenting(me), traveling, experimenting, dating...a tad(me, again), playing, loving and making it all work!

Let's see if I can do quarterly synopses.

Summer 2009-

Sofie-Nana's, Camp Red Clover, Y Camp, Kayak Camp, Camp Barbara and Jacque, Camp California and more Y Camp. Gets a kayak for her birthday!

Jamie- Work, Work, more work, attempt to date but fails, work, organized a Durham Bulls game with friends, little trip to Austin TX in 103 degree heat!!, kayak with Sofie.

Fall 2009

Sofie - Enters 3rd grade at her wonderful elementary school, still hates reading, still loves sciences, purports to hate/not understand math, played soccer, spent time with Grammy and PePaw while mommy had adult time! Learned to ride her bike!!!

Jamie - Work, attempted to date but failed again, friend I hadn't seen since high school visited from Idaho, weekend getaway with friends to mountain(sans kidlet)

Winter 2009/10

Sofie - continued making great progress in 3rd grade, had first Christmas at home with tree and everything, got strep throat(gave it to me), had adenoids removed, hamster died(the day before her surgery!!)

Jamie - Gallbladder removal, hernia repair on a two for Tuesday surgery special, had first full sized Christmas tree in YEARS and truly got into the Christmas spirit(kids will do that to even the biggest scrooge!), had strep throat and survived the first surgery of my child.

Spring 2010

Sofie - still hates reading, still loves science, lukewarm on math, loves to draw and continues to be reptile/amphibian obsessed(hasn't lessened since she was 4!!), Spring Break travel to CA where we did touristy things, skipped soccer for Spring season(or as she called it, she "took a break"), went on her very first camping trip!

Jamie - Work, work, work, travel to CA with Sofie and a friend from TX joined us for the week, traded in the Mom van for a cooler Honda Element, bought a kayak, took the kidlet on her first camping trip!

Summer 2010 is just starting and Sofie has a busy summer! She'll be away from home more this summer than ever before. A total of 6 1/2 weeks spread over the summer. I'll miss her like crazy while enjoying some ME time!!

It is my intention to write more frequently. I hope the inspiration and discipline are back!!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Grief of My Own

There's been much written and discussed lately about Sofie's grief and how I've been finding ways to help her explore that grief. There's also been slight mention of my grief over Debra's death, too. What I haven't been talking about with anyone other than my therapist and a few friends, is the harder grieving I've been faced with. Even now, it's hard for me to write about it without a pang of guilt, so please bear with me as I move forward.

For those of you who aren't on Facebook or one of my friends on Facebook, you may not be aware of the tough times I'm having with single parenting. Recently I jokingly posted a status update eluding to a tantrum I had that morning. It wasn't a joke. I had a major tantrum. If I'd been a toddler, my mommy would have had to drag me out of the room kicking and screaming! The catalyst for the explosion had to do with all the junk spread around the guestroom by another child and Sofie but it had nothing to do with the core of the fit I had.

Standing in the middle of our family room throwing air punches at nothing was my release that morning. (Sofie was NOwhere near me...she was in the shower, playing happily with her loofah and wasting water.) The tantrum I had was a result of me coming to the realization that I didn't ask to be a single parent and the loss of the life that went away with that change.

Please understand, this is only me expressing loss for the life I had. I love Sofie and love being her mom. I truly believe we were meant to be each others person. We're both learning and teaching so much to the other. I'd rather be co-parenting than single parenting, that's all. It's just not what I expected my life would be. I was in denial about this for first year but have slowly(and not always graciously) been dealing with this since.

There's still a bit of guilt around this for me. More so about how I am when I'm tired and cranky. The fuse gets shorter and the tongue lashings get longer. As I'm getting cranky with her she mostly throws it right back at me...which makes me crankier. Then, as I become reflective and self aware, I become sad. I don't want her to have the short fuse that seem to have when I'm overwhelmed.

This summer there will be at least 2 weeks when she's away. There will be much respite for me. For sure there will be a week in the mountains with her godmother and a week in Charlotte with both MY mother and my best friends family. Potentially, she'll be in California for a couple of weeks but I'm not 100% sure that's going to happen at this point. Whatever time she's away, I'll miss her while enjoying a touch of the freedom I once had. Hoping that time will allow me to clear my head and figure out ways to not let this get out of control like it has over the past few months.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Karma Chameleon Kid

So much is being written about grief in our lives I often forget to share the funny or good moments. Even through the grief there is much laughter and joy.

Last night we were hanging out with a friend and her daughter. Her daughter is quite the little performer! She did a few "costume" changes, practiced on the front porch then had Sofie introduce her before she belted out "If I Could Fly." Sofie, not one to perform in front of anyone, quietly stepped aside to hear her friend sing. After a rousing round of applause, both girls escaped back to the other girls bedroom for more playing. Fast forward a few friend and I were engrossed in a deep conversation when I heard a familiar voice singing. Through the closed doors I hear Sofie let loose that fabulous 80's hit, Karma Chameleon in near perfect pitch! She was even singing the harmony parts and ALL the words...correctly. Why, you might ask, would my child be singing that fabulous 80's hit Karma Chameleon? Simply, she's currently obsessed with chameleons, she heard the song on the radio one day and asked me to download it onto my iPod. After several weeks of nagging me, I finally remembered to do it. She listened to the song about 5 times and had it memorized, recently proclaiming, "Mommy, did you hear me sing the ENTIRE song...all the way through?!?" She was beaming with pride. It is the simple things that make her smile (and my heart melt.) Oh, and "You're Welcome." I know you wanted that song stuck in your head the rest of the day, right?

Monday, June 1, 2009

More tears

Is Spring really a time for renewing or is it a time for reliving? For a girl who who's opening up more about the loss of one of her mother's, it seems to be reliving the same stories over and over again. Sofie's grief continues to reach heights I didn't realize possible. I'm not sure who offered this tidbit of advice to her, but I'm about ready to kick that person in the shin. Recently someone(and I honestly cannot remember who) told Sofie to think about all the good times with Debra. That would help her feel less sad. Well, that couldn't be farther from the truth. She's now circling the drain on a few certain memories...what she calls, "the good memories" and it's doing nothing but making her more sad. Interestingly when I ask her what about those memories make her happy, she can't tell me. She just says, "Mama Debra was alive." So I don't think it's specific memories, I just think it's anytime she can remember when Debra was alive. I have an idea that she's forgetting Debra and this might be the spark igniting her sad flame. Recently, anytime she thinks of or misses Debra she wants to see pictures...more specifically a couple of random accidental videos that Debra recorded on her digital camera...those accidental videos have her voice present. I admit, sometimes when I miss Debra, I listen to them, too. I know all of this will pass, it's just hard to see your baby girl suffer so much.

Yesterday was a particularly sad day for Sofie. When I couldn't think of anything else to do for her, I remembered a letter that Debra had written to Sofie the night before she was scheduled for her hysterectomy. Debra thought she was going to die during the procedure so she wrote a note and labeled it to be read to/by Sofie in the event of her death. Fortunately she stuck it away in a book and forgot about it because she never got around to writing anything else for Sofie. That saddens me so much. This winter I rediscovered the letter and last night I read it to Sofie. The first time through, I sobbed as much as Sofie. After the initial run through, Sofie's sobs permeated the air. Her body heaved and thrashed with so much pain. I pulled it together and read it again, this time with the flair that Debra would have used. It was a perfect letter for Sofie. Even though it alluded to a 5 1/2 year old Sofie, the nearly 9 year old Sofie soaked up the words. For that, I am grateful.

We still have bumpy days ahead but I know it's a mere blip in our long journey ahead.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Emotional highs and lows of parenting a grieving child

To my dismay, Facebook has taken me away from blogging as often I used to blog. It's so much easier to write a few sentences several times a day to update your friends on what's happening in your life. Recently, many of my friends probably got more information than they wanted to know. Some of my "friends" are virtual in nature...I never see them, they don't know what's truly going on in my life nor do I necessarily want to know them in those ways. However, the past month or so has been pretty emotional. Initially I had no idea what was going on with my baby girl. Yeah, I know she's almost nine and no longer a baby. But as my parents say about me, she'll always be my baby.

Much of what has taken place did so quickly. Although as life was occurring I felt a slow, stabbing pain in my heart every time Sofie was sad, crying or just plain checked out. Initially, I had no idea what was happening. It could have been a number of things. She didn't quite know what was going on for her, either. Her sadness was projected onto many "objects" including her new bed(that isn't even here yet!), her teacher, the cats, name it, something else often had misplaced sadness enveloping it. During this time, I felt so lost and alone. This aloneness created a Facebook monster who shared too much. Much of what I said was thinking outloud. Regretably, my loving friends who, try as they might, couldn't advise me and I couldn't take one sad little girls pain away.

My previous post answers the "why" to all the sadness. Simply missing Debra was the culprit. This week post Mother's Day has been very emotional. Sofie is now responding to what seems like "permission" she was given to grieve out loud. I want her pain to subside. Apparently, Mother's Day may be a trigger for her. It certainly was this year. I'll be more prepared next year...yeah, right! At least I'll be aware that there may be more heightened grieving in early May!

What's this last month been like for me? A mixture of heaven and hell. Disrupted sleep night after night does not make for a kind Mama. Constant requests for cuddles makes a swollen heart, bursting with love, Mama. Emotions all over the map. Often feeling so out of control and lost I wanted to (and sometimes did) scream! We've made it to the other side for now. The cries are farther apart. The mentions of missing Debra are less frequent. I know we'll come out of this okay. Unfortunately, the ride to the good side can be bumpy, lumpy and make Mama grumpy!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day - 2009

Last year on Mother's Day, Sofie and I were coasting through life, exisiting on pure love, bliss and ignorance. I'm grateful for this blog because, to be honest, I don't even remember last Mother's Day. We were definitely on autopilot.

This year has been quite different. Don't get me wrong, it's been a great weekend. The weekend just hasn't gone without some notable sadness on Sofie's part. Many emotions are leaking out of her soul that's punctured with so much loss. I had a friend recently tell me that for kids, the first year of grief/loss can be the easiest because many just sail through not quite realizing what's really taken place. Only after they feel safe and secure do they really let it all hang out and the emotions become real. That's our life right now. Much sadness, clingy-ness and filled with grief.

The couple of weeks leading up to this weekend have been somewhat torturous while all the while overflowing with love. Sofie is a very "feeling" child. That's much of what I truly love about her. I envy her ability to show her emotions at such a young age. I never could and sometimes still struggle with showing appropriate emotions.

There have been many theories about what's going on with her. From separation anxiety about the impending "loss" of her 2nd grade teacher to the fact she's finally settling into our lives and feels comfortable expressing her sadness, loneliness and fears, she's settling into her own existence and life without Debra...and this morning she actually brought up for the first time, her birth mother. The bandage on her psyche was ripped off and I think Mother's Day may have been the underlying culprit.

The discussion about her birthmother, although unexpected, went basically the way I expected it might. During breakfast she asked if Mother's Day was meant for *all* mothers. By the way she asked that, I clarified with, "Do you mean Mama Debra, too?" She said yes but her body language told me there was a "but" or something to add to that. So I asked what she meant. "You know" was her answer. I thought a minute and said, "Do you mean your birth mother?" She nodded and said, "Why did she give me up for adoption?" And there it was...the question all adoptive parents anticipate, practice answering over and over in their minds and dread for life...was I going to answer it right?

Without missing a beat I mentioned the economic environment in Ukraine and the fact that her birth mother did exactly what was right in her situation. And of course I added that I'd be really lonely and sad if she weren't in my life. She had questions about Ukraine and why it was a poor country. Try explaining that to 2nd grader!! She had great questions that I sometime felt I was pulling the answers from the air, but I think the conversation went well. I can say one thing changed...she slept like a log last night. No sadness or clingy-ness. She actually had a reason not to sleep well last night. She had a pretty bad scooter accident last night, complete with several patches of road rash and a nice flesh wound on the palm of her hand.

Suffice to say, the girls alright. Here's a picture from Saturday just after her new haircut...which is perfect for her!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Healing Continues

Yesterday, after arriving home from work to see Sofie playing happily with the babysitter, I thought just maybe she was starting to forgive and forget. I couldn't be further from the truth. After the sitter left, literally after she walked out the door, Sofie says, "I'm still mad at you for getting rid of Scout!" The she started crying. I just listened for awhile and assured her that I was sad, too. To which she counters, "How can you be sad! You're the one who gave him back!!" Wow, she asks some very pointed questions.

After explaining to her just how that was possible, we talked about future dogs. I told her when we're ready...not anytime soon...we'll look for a good match that's an adult dog with the help of a trainer who specializes in that type of work. She said,
"They don't get to live with you as long!" I clarified, not an old dog, just a dog, not a puppy. Maybe a year or two old and house trained. Then comes the stab to the heart, "Can't we get Scout back after someone trains him?" My heart shattered right there.

After that comment, I explained that probably couldn't happen because if someone takes the time to train him, they're probably not going to give him up. She cried some more, but after cuddles, laughing and reading she fell asleep normally. Actually I fell asleep mid sentence while reading to her! "Mom, why aren't you reading?" she says as I snore lightly in her ear! We laughed, then both fell asleep. It wasn't until I woke up wide-eyed at 1a did I even realize I'd fallen asleep at 830p and completely missed Obama! Guess I'll have to read the text.

On the way to school this morning she said the van smelled like puppy. She wasn't sad, just a matter-of-fact observation. Maybe she's starting to forgive...and forget.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Morning After...

Thinking I would get a good nights sleep last night was a ridiculous notion. After the departure of Scout(to be known as Donner from now on) last night, I had to write about it...process the previous 72 hours(plus the weeks leading up to all this.) How did I let this happen? What was my motivation behind choosing a puppy? Why did I give up so easily? How am I going to tell Sofie? What am I going to tell Sofie? And so many other thoughts occurred. My brain churned and churned all night. If it were made of cream, it would be a big blob of butter about now!

After blogging last night, I got into bed and thought about reading. Apparently, that's all I did because the next thing I know, Sofie is in my room asking me why I was still up. (I wasn't, but lights on meant I was awake!) She curled up next to me and we fell asleep...with the light on. At some point she woke up and asked me to turn my light off after she got some water. I did and for whatever reason, I blurted out, "Scout's gone back to Jackie's. He's going to live there now." Breaking the news like that was not quite what I would have chosen. As the news streamed out of my mouth I realized I had some 'splaining to do, Lucy. Let me just say, the realization that you've just ripped the heart out of your child will wake you out of the deadest of sleeps! She burst into tears. I explained, in the most coherent way I could in the middle of the night, I had had made a big mistake. It wasn't about her, it wasn't about the puppy, it was about me just plain and simple. She sobbed like I'd never seen her sob before. Oddly, it was more intense than she cried after Debra died. (I think she was overwhelmed with the whole death thing...and the tears lasted for a long time.) She finally feel asleep, weeping in my arms.

Gracie, the cat, was back in bed with us this morning...finally emerging from the guest room. I wondered if that would make Sofie feel better. She was glad to see Gracie, but still remained teary during much of the morning routine. Feeling a tad guilty, I offered her breakfast at Elmo's before school. She seemed skeptical, like it couldn't happen since they "take a long time to cook." (Her words, not mine.) Often on Tuesday's I go in late, so I knew the timing wouldn't be difficult for me. We had a lovely breakfast out, then off to school she went.

I'm not sure how the day went for her. I know I'll hear all about it. She's really upset, but I think she knows I was stressed and not being a nice Mom to her. I just worry that this is another loss in her life. She's been through so much. As resilient as she is, she's still heartbroken.

One thing I offered as a future possibility was getting an adult dog. Not now, later, after we've healed from this. She's open to that. I just better be damned sure this time that I can take care of the dog and maintain sanity!!!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lessons learned - my initial thoughts

Tonight, after much deliberation and loving discussions with Jackie, the foster mom to all the pups, Donner/Scout/Donner again is now back in their loving home. She and her husband came in the dark of the night to retrieve the world's sweetest pup and all the accoutrement. I'll now get a good night's sleep and won't be the evil mom I had become tonight. Sofie doesn't know, but we talked about it tonight and I was bitch mom from hell, so after initial sadness she'll be okay. We do have visitation rights if we choose to exercise them. I hope Sofie chooses to visit him on occasion.

There are a few key lessons I've learned. The biggest is TRUST YOUR matter how deeply buried that feeling is, it's there for a reason. Listen to the whispers. Sanity could be preserved and all would be well in the world. I had puppy dreams that should have clued me in. I thought I was doing the right thing. Simply put, I was wrong. Jackie and I had an honest, loving discussion tonight. What a kind, kind woman she is. No judgment was passed and only loving thoughts were expressed.

Lesson number two...DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP!! This was a life lesson. A hard one, but definitely not as difficult as others I've learned. This is a lesson that I won't soon forget, but I won't let it weigh me down. I have to figure out how I'm going to let my darling daughter know that the puppy is back at his other home. It will help that we can visit Donner.

HEAL THYSELF BEFORE SPREADING THE LOVE TOO THIN. Jackie helped me realize that both Sofie and I are still healing and although the love of a dog wasn't wrong, the timing can. We aren't emotionally equipped to handle puppy duties. At some point down the road I do believe we will have a great dog in our life...just not now and just not a puppy.

I'm emotionally drained and physically tired so off to bed I go. There will more to write about tomorrow.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Our journey into puppyhood...a first night perspective

Apparently my regular life is too boring to write about anymore, so now that we have a puppy the excitement is back?!?! Kick me, pinch me, send me a scathing email if I become a person who ONLY talks about their puppy(and the puppy's bowel habits.) I still have a very spunky girl to write that will include her adventures in puppyness, too. Currently he's curled up at my feet, sleeping while I cute is that?!?!

Scout had a very successful first day and night home. He was neutered yesterday afternoon, so we picked him up around 230p from the vet's office. His bother Winston was being picked up at the same time by our friends S and J, and their daughter's E and K. After signing tons of paperwork, getting instructions for post-op care and saying good by to their foster mom, we were off to the new home. Scout wasn't quite interested in leaving the vet, but since he's food oriented all it took was a treat or two! The 5 minute ride home was uneventful...a little whining, but encouraged Sofie to speak quietly and lovingly and reassure him.

We arrived home and our lives into puppyness started. He explored his new surroundings, well the limited version of his new surroundings. He was starving so I filled up a Kong with kibble and fed him. Feeding a puppy in his Kong is a way to encourage chewing on his chewy and discourage chewing on anything else! He's still learning that there is actual kibble IN the Kong, but he's smart and I'm sure he'll figure it out. Below, you can see that he is a bit perplexed!

I purchased a baby gate for the stairs to keep him in and give the cats a refuge from him. Our friend Matt came over to help install it. It looked pretty simple because the manufacturer included a template to use for wall placement...only after he installed both sides and tried to hang the gate did we realize they included the WRONG template!! Matt is a great guy so while his son was playing with Sofie, he undid what he had installed, then we just did our own measuring and replacing of mounts. It's installed beautifully! All thanks to Matt!

Sofie and I took Scout on little jaunts to encourage outdoor toileting. He didn't go and didn't go and didn't go, so we put him in his crate and headed to dinner at our favorite Chinese place. We were gone a couple of hours and upon our return took him on another jaunt. This time he was successful on both accounts! We threw a party each time, with treats. Want to give him all the positive reinforcement possible!

After coming back inside, we played a bit with his tug toy. I encouraged Sofie to play, but unfortunately he likes to chew and climb on her and it's a little hard to deal with. We're going to work with a trainer, so I hope she can work with Sofie and Scout to develop a good relationship. I'm a little worried that Sofie is going to have a hard time with Scout. He doesn't jump on me at all, so I'm not even sure what that's about with her! Maybe he thinks kids taste better!!

Sleeping was very much like a newborn last night...except newborns aren't in crates...well, now that I think about it, cribs are very crate-like! Each time he went into his crate there was initial whining, which evolved into the cutest howling. Eventually he'd just plop down, sigh and fall asleep. I was up at 1a, 4am-ish and 7a. When he whined at those times, it never subsided so I assumed there was a reason. I assumed correctly. Every time we went out, he used the potty. Smart dog!! At the 1a outing he got a little play reward for peeing and pooing within 3 minutes! Here's a picture of that play time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Our new addition to the family

Introducing Scout!

He’ll be joining our family this coming Saturday after he’s neutered. Scout (formerly known as Donner) found his way into our hearts a few weeks ago after friends who are adopting Comet told me their story. If you’re interested, please check out the blog that the foster family kept during their time with them.

There are lots of pictures from birth on, and each pup has a page describing their personalities. Check out Donner’s page. He’s a big softy. (And I thing big is an accurate description…take a look at his paws!!) Breed is, well, ½ German Shepherd(his mother)…his father is an unknown, but highly suspected to be Australian Shepherd due to the fact that 3 of the 8 puppies have stub tails(Scout included!!) His mother is a beauty and very smart…she literally broke away(collar and chain included) from her previous keeper(who wasn’t taking good care of her) and found her way to a Vet’s office the day before she dropped those 8 beauties!

We’re adopting through Independent Animal Rescue, a Durham based organization. Through this adoption he will come to us micro-chipped, neutered with first round of shots and Frontline treatment. The foster family has also done a great job with crate training so that will make the transition to a crate at our house easier. Also included with the adoption are 3 free one-on-one sessions with a local trainer. We’ve also signed up for a 6 week puppy course that is built on trust and respect between puppy and his people. Both Sofie and I will attend the class.

Before you all start offering advice or concerns, just know that we’re not entering this blindly. I know it’s like having a baby. I know it’s going to take time to build a good relationship between Scout and all the other inhabitants of the family home. Interestingly, for the past few weeks I’ve been waking up between 4a-5a every morning…getting in the habit before he arrives! I’ve also had numerous talks with Sofie regarding responsibilities (good and bad.) This is a great age for a kid to get a dog, too.

Of course my biggest concern is introducing to the cats, but everyone I’ve spoken with and every book I’ve read says it’s much easier to introduce a puppy to cats than dogs to cats! So here we go on our next adventure. Fingers crossed it’s a good one!!

I'm sure there will be more posts in the near future on our adventures in puppy training with lot's of pictures, too.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sofie and Jamie's Excellent California Adventure (Part 2)

Day two-Santa Cruz to Brisbane

After having a lovely first night of Hanukkah with Laurie and Maya, plus a nice visit with Alan, we went to bed fairly early to play "catch-up" on our sleep. From Laurie's house you can see the Santa Cruz Boardwalk which had absolutely no activity while we were there. However, right beside the boardwalk is the pier that houses many sea lions lazing on the pylons underneath the pier. I know this because at 3a, I woke up to barking...not dog barking, sea lion barking. Later in the day Laurie, Sofie and I headed down to explore the pier and allow Sofie to snap some photos.

It was a beautiful, sunny day with a brisk breeze blowing about. The sea lions were contently perched beneath the traffic of holiday shuffling. Is it me, or do you think this sea lion is posing?!?!(Notice the catty glance upwards towards Sofie.)

It was also quite breezy that day. To my surprise, Sofie actually admitted she was cold! We meandered on the not so crowded pier, shopped a bit, had hot chocolate, then off to Laurie's for packing up the car but not before we saw this as we were leaving:

Yep, that's a seagull with a starfish hanging out of it's mouth, seemingly stuck in the bird's gullet. There was discussion in the car wondering if we should pull the starfish out of the sea gull's mouth. (As if that bird would have stayed there waiting for one of us to grab it around the body and yank it's dinner out of its' mouth!) I was worried that it couldn't swallow the meal, since it was probably only slightly smaller than the bird. We witnessed it try, with no success, to swallow. In the end, we left poor Gully to fend for himself. Maybe the pelican could help him out!

After fun in Santa Cruz, Sofie and I packed up the car and headed Northwest to Brisbane to visit the Wexler's and share in second night of Hanukkah. It was rainy, foggy and nearly dark when we were finally on the freeway heading north. If I uttered these words once, I uttered them a dozen times..."Yay, thing I really don't miss about the Bay Area!" Sofie agreed, but alas we were on the road again!

It was dark by the time we arrived at the Wexler's home. Parking(another thing I don't miss) was a pain. There were teenage boys with fake guns(I hope) running around their street playing some sort of laser tag or non-paint paintball. At some point, Becky and Wex came out and instructed me to park in their driveway. Which I happily obliged with the rental car fully blocking the sidewalk. As we went inside, I was just hoping the teenagers were kind to the cars.

Walking into the Wexler house I always get a warm fuzzy feeling. With a chef in the house, there are usually wonderful smells wafting about. That night was no different. Naomi, the eldest Wexler child(who is actually a freshman in college) was making a heaping pile of latkes. Sofie and Tamar(the youngest Wexler) immediately went off to play, so I enjoyed chatting with Becky, Wex, Naomi and Nathan(the middle Wexler.) We caught, reminisced about prior visits that had included Debra. (One day I really have to write about the time Debra and I took Nathan and Naomi to Los Angeles to see Lion King on stage and a day at Universal studios. It was less than a month after 9/11 so we experienced airline travel in its utmost fearful state. With all that was going on in the world, we managed our own "Escape to L.A." for a wonderful trip with fun memories including losing Nathan at Universal Studios...but I digress!)

We lit the menorah, discussed the meaning of Hanukkah. Afterward, we sat for dinner. A lovely dinner with tasty food. A dinner where Ms. Picky eater ate a plate of turkey...that's it, turkey. Whatever. I enjoyed every morsel. We chatted more thru dinner. Nathan talked about getting the part of "Mark" for the local community theatre only to have the play yanked from any community theatre production. Bummer. He's such a talented guy. Luckily, they had a DVD of his recent performance as the Master of Ceremonies in his high school performance of "Cabaret." I'm amazed every time I see him on stage. Keep an eye out for him...or his sister, Naomi. The Wexler family is bursting with talent. Naomi is a gifted singer and studying music in college. Tamar seems to be the athlete of the family, something she and Sofie had in common.

By 9p I felt as if I'd hit a brick wall. I needed to sleep, right then! Originally we were supposed to drive to Palo Alto and stay at Debra's mom and sister's house. Fortunately, the Wexler's rearranged and Sofie and I slept like logs in Nathan's bed.

We snuck out of the house around 730a to head to Palo Alto. Nancy, Sofie and I were heading into San Francisco to spend some time at the newly re-opened (after years of being closed for renovation) California Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park.

Since that was such a long day, I'll continue on with that day in Part III of our adventure...soon.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sofie and Jamie's Excellent California Adventure (Part 1)

Flight Day ( from hell!)

Saturday started off in a fairly normal fashion. The guy who's installing the wood stove stopped by to take measurements and transport the other one over to Mary and Rebecca's. Of course this wasn't before he told me the inside of the old one needs many parts replaced(I always wondered why that internal wall was bowing inward!!)

After wood stove guy left, I rushed to finish packing and making sure all was well with the animals. Fresh litter, water and food. After a few hours of that, Annette and Angela came by to transport us to the airport. Big shout out to them for airport transportation. It was much appreciated!!

Finally we're at RDU awaiting our JetBlue flight to JFK where we were to (at a leisurely pace) transfer to another JetBlue flight to Oakland. Well, this is where the story *really* begins! Upon checking our bags, we were advised our flight was delayed out of RDU to JFK. The timing put us precariously close to departure time out of JFK to OAK. Egads. That was the last flight out of JFK, so we really needed to make that flight!!

Sofie and I proceeded to the airport bar for a drink a late lunch since we had time to kill. After a million dollar burger we meandered towards our gate only stopping to caress and drool over the latest Webkinz display strategically placed right in the walking path of every child!! Sofie asked, I said No, too close to Christmas and that's all that was said. The drooling and pawing over the ones she doesn't have didn't stop but I didn't have to hear about it!

We arrived at our gate, found our "comfortable" chairs...NOT. And proceeded to wait. I had to laugh every time Sofie complained about an out of hand, loud, whiny child and remind her that she was once that young, too. After a wait that seemed an eternity, we boarded our flight to JFK. (In hindsight, we had NO idea what an eternity felt like until we boarded the flight from JFK to OAK.) The flight from RDU went smoothly. We almost had to wait on 14 unaccompanied minors to deplane first...FOURTEEN!!!! Luckily the ground grew made the call of returning to get them once we had deplaned. Whew! I was still concerned we were going to miss our flight to Oakland. Once we landed, we dashed off the plane and luckily found our departing gate just across the aisle! Unfortunately we didn't get to spend any time exploring the fabulous new T5 JetBlue terminal at JFK. Maybe we'll see a bit on our way home.

The departing flight was delayed a little but we were settled in on the flight by 8p. The flight attendants said that shouldn't change our arrival time of 1030p by much. They couldn't have been more wrong. After sitting on the tarmac for an hour waiting to be de-iced we finally started our journey towards the West Coast. Normally it's a five hour flight time but we weren't that lucky that night. After take-off, the captain came on reporting strong(160-200mph) headwinds so we were going to fly a little north to miss those winds. Visualize a straight line from JFK to OAK, then think a little north. Does that area include CANADA? MINNESOTA? a DAKOTA?!?! I didn't think so. But there we were a little airplane on the screen crawling towards the west coast. That "little bit north" flying required a stop in Salt Lake City to refuel. Oh, joy!

I have to say, Sofie was a dream during all of this. When she got bored with watching Animal Planet on the TV in front of her face, she colored. After that she slept some. Only a few times did she ask if we were there yet. When I showed her the map, she decided for the duration of the flight she'd keep that on her screen so she wouldn't have to ask me every five minutes. Smart girl.

We arrived in Oakland at the very prompt hour of 130A! Only 3 hours late. Off to pick up baggage we go. We had a rental car that I'd pre-paid on, so transportation wasn't going to be an issue...or was it? The airport was relatively busy due to all the delayed flights. However, walking out to the transport area to the car rental lots might as well been a ghost town. (I swear I saw a tumbleweed roll by!) I called Hertz twice(and of course got two different answers) and tried Priceline but they were ringing busy. Sofie and I sat a little while longer, all alone, waiting on the bus for rental cars. Finally he showed up about 215a. He told us he had just dropped another family off at Hertz and hopefully they were still open. The rental lots are FAR away from the terminal!! Fortunately we got there and found one very nice gentlemen with his finger on the off light switch. He stayed, got us our car and off to Brenda's we went.

By this time I had been up 24 hours and I was exhausted. We got in our jammies, snuggled in B's very cozy bed and off to dreamland we went.

Day one-Oakland to Santa Cruz

We woke up STARVING. Realizing we had lived on that million dollar burger, pistachio's, water and whatever snack JetBlue provided for all of Saturday, we were hungry. Of course it was pouring down rain and I was going to be driving to Santa Cruz after that breakfast we were going to have. Lucky for us, Brenda left a 25% off coupon to Fenton's Creamery. When I lived here, I'd only had their ice cream but we decided to give it a try. So after showering and loading the car we headed to Piedmont Avenue for some breakfast. Upon arrival I was very surprised what I found...they have a PARKING LOT!!! We pulled right in, ran inside and had a yummy breakfast.

After breakfast we got back into our rental car to start our trip towards Santa Cruz. Not one to have bought into the whole GPS Navigation system, I was hesitant to use the one provided in the car. I would never have on for day to day living, but it's been a great asset for this trip and all the traveling to different locations we did. I plugged in Laurie and Maya's address and off we go. I did find myself arguing with the GPS lady and bucking the system a few times. Sofie was amused and enjoyed watching the map on the screen.

After an hour and a half or so, we arrived at their front door. We chilled out and just caught up most of the day. Alan showed up since he was leaving for Seattle that night...or so he thought. At some point Laurie, Maya and I went out for groceries while Alan and Sofie played indoor mini-golf. Later we cooked and ate dinner, said our goodbyes to Alan, then we lit the menorah. After that it was bedtime for us so we crawled into the bed Laurie graciously gave up for us to sleep in. What a good nights sleep we got. Enough to prepare us for our next days adventures!

(to be continued)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Same time, last year

A year ago this week began the final days of Debra's life. There were many people milling about the house, mostly out of towner's. Family but somewhat strangers in Sofie's life. It's all sort of a blur for me. I just know I was doing all I could to make the culmination of this week be a little less hurtful for one brave little girl. It was also the last week of school for Sofie just before the Winter break. Tonight I was reminded of how profoundly those two events overlap in Sofie's life.

Increasingly, over the past few weeks, Sofie has a had a night where it's been difficult to fall asleep. When she's sad, she can't sleep...when I'm sad, I sleep too much. We've worked through the tough nights and much to her credit, she's very good at identifying and stating her needs. She figured out on her own that laying in the bed when she's having a hard time falling asleep is counterproductive for her. We've gotten into a little routine on those nights. The evenings all start out with the same pre-sleep rituals...tooth brushing, bathroom, reading, snuggles then sleep. On those nights she can't fall asleep or nights that I think she's asleep but later find out she's not, she comes out of her room and tells me she's sad and can't sleep. We talk about missing Debra, we cry, we cuddle and most recently we play a quick game of Mancala. ( A game she's recently discovered and one I haven't played since college...but I still have my board and it's getting great use now!) It gets her mind out of the sad loop and allows for sleep.

Tonight was no different...except we didn't play Mancala. It was just too late for that on this Winter's night. It was important for her to sleep early because we have an early birthday breakfast at Elmo's for our friend Tracey. She keeps asking when we're going and tonight I reminded her we have to be at Elmo's at 7a tomorrow morning. (Yes, I realize it's after midnight and I'm awake!) I was actually very close to sleep when she came into my room around 9p. "Mommy, I can't sleep." Earlier in the evening she asked if this coming week was the last week of school before Winter break. I gave a quick yes and thought nothing more of it. "Remember last year, the Friday of this week? That's when Debra died. I think that's why I'm having a hard time sleeping tonight" Well, I promptly burst into tears. I had no idea she remembered the date and had associated it with the last week of school before break. Here, I've been trying to re-define (or at least add to the definition) this time of year and holidays by creating new traditions and creating good memories and what's really a button for her is the week before break?!? Wow, I didn't really see that one coming.

After crying, talking and cuddling I let her sleep in my bed. She had to promise to go right to sleep even if I was reading in bed with the light on. Less than five minutes later, soft snores were creeping my way. Of course then I couldn't sleep. And now I'm up blogging after midnight!

Well off I go to snuggle with my little girl who is so clued in and in touch with her feelings that I realize she's not such a little girl anymore.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Mouse vs The White House?

Below is an entry I posted on my Facebook page. I realize not everyone is on Facebook, so I'm re-posting on my blog:

About a month ago, my friend Sandy and I decided it would be great for our families to take a trip to Disney. I certainly didn't want to go solo and her family added playmates for Sofie, quality time with friends and possible bit of downtime for me. Plus it's a week in the happiest place on earth, right? We picked a week based on when our girls had a little time off school , then the parents scheduled time off work. All felt right and we'd spend time having fun in Florida without mosquitoes or crowds!

Then I realized I was crazy for thinking I could afford this with 2 mortgages, taxes, etc. to pay. I was simply living an unreal pipe dream. Fortunately I knew better than to even remotely mention this to Sofie, so no disappointment there! Besides, she's seen the mouse more times in her 8 years than I have in my 43!! So, I let it go. Election Day happened and ALL was right with the world. I quickly realized I had the week of the inauguration off and no plans to head to Mouseland. Well, my head starting spinning with possibilities. Could we head to DC and witness history? I quickly put out feelers for places to stay. There was a firm bite on my first cast. My dear friend Rick quickly and graciously offered his guestroom in Baltimore. We'd landed the big fish so how could we not go?

Two days ago, Sandy called with an incredibly generous offer. She and her husband Rick(not the same Rick in Baltimore!) would pay upfront for our trip and we could pay them back. There began the whirling and spinning in my head.

History with huge crowds VS Fun with no crowds?
History witnessed with good friends VS Fun experienced with good friends?
Basically free week of fun, learning and history VS an greatly reduced, but still quite expensive week of fun?
Did I mention witnessing history?

I'll admit that even when I posted the poll to masses, my mind was leaning very far towards the witnessing history aspect. I'm a nerd at heart and I really want Sofie to experience DC in many positive ways. What better way to start than, let me hear it, WITNESSING HISTORY!!! I was just giving the mouse another chance. To see if anyone could sway me. Arguments were good and points were well taken. After sleeping and processing and processing and sleeping I've come to the conclusion that....drum roll, please.................................................

The White House wins!!!!!

Sorry Sandy(and family) but I gotta go with my gut on this one. Disney will always be there and someday we will all make a trip there. Just not the week of January 18th, 2009.

Angela said it best, I don't have a picture of the mouse as my profile picture, so Obama it is! (The image is just below.)

Even if I'm planted in front of a TV in the DC Metro area, watching the inauguration in the company of friends, we will still experience the positive energy rolling into DC and the heavy, weighted energy rolling out. We will go to the parade. We will see museums. We will spend time with friends I haven't seen in forever. We will feel the HOPE and experience the CHANGE!

Sorry Mouse, we'll catch ya later.


I told Sofie of January adventures to DC, the inauguration, the museums, just the overall experience in DC. DC is one of my favorite cities to visit and making it a fun place for Sofie is most important for future visits. She could hear the excitement in my voice and asked many questions. How many times have you visited? What's your favorite place? Is the museum like the one in Night at the Museum(I had just mentioned the Natural History museum and all it's glory)? The question that gave me a warm fuzzy feeling all over...Can I take my camera?!?! (Said with much enthusiasm) What a cool kid I have.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

No Apologies

Life has been going along as usual. Since I last posted an entry Sofie has started a new school doing, as she says, "2nd grade...again." If I had *any* doubts about transferring schools or having her repeat 2nd grade they are all but diminished. She is thriving beyond my wildest dreams. Her confidence is growing by leaps and bounds. She loves her new school, her new teacher and her new pals. Asking her what she likes about her school will elicit responses from, "the science lab!!" to "we get snacks during school!" The first day we were driving home, she says "Mommy I think you did a really good job of picking a new school for me." Score!

Soccer season is going full force. Sofie is playing with many of the girls she played with last season. We had big excitement at her soccer game this past Friday evening. She was sitting out her turn, resting while the others were playing. A few minutes pass and she runs around from her side of the field to where I was sitting with other parents. Her front tooth fell out! Actually it was so loose, her water bottle hit it and it fell out.

Sunday, she had a make-up game from a few weeks ago. Afterwards she said, "Mommy, do you think you should pull my other front tooth?" After much deliberation, we got number two out!

Now I just hope school pictures are taken soon!!

I know many people are wondering how we're doing. All I can say is the best we can. There are up days and down days. Mostly any sadness comes in small bits. We continue to talk about Debra when we can...I don't want Sofie to forget her. Whenever we're cuddling in my bed with both cats, Sofie says we're having family bed...and Debra's right there! (She points over to the empty side of the bed.) Recently I've felt a sadness just under below the surface of my skin. Today, I realized this time last year we found out her tumors were growing, the Cancer was spreading and the 5th chemo wasn't working either. Treatment was stopped which signaled the beginning of the end...officially. Anniversaries, no matter how insignificant, often produce strong emotions or memories.

We're dealing the best we can and I make no apologies for that.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Parenting Holiday - Day Nine

After making a visit to our local farmer's market yesterday morning, I sit here with a fresh tomato sandwich on Rosemary bread made with all farmer's market products(except the mayo, salt and pepper.) YUM!! Man, is this sandwich good!!

Well, it's been slightly over a week with out the presence of the kidlet and I have very mixed emotions about it all. I've really enjoyed the flexibility of my schedule, the downtime from being mom 24/7 and the enjoyment of no one creeping into my bed in the middle of the night. With that said, I miss her like crazy!! The fact that I've talked to her only twice since she left is a tribute to how much fun she's having and I'm thankful of that. She deserves a week or two of unasbashed fun and spoiling. Reports from the adults involved are positive, so that's reassuring. I'm just looking forward to Thursday night and picking her up from the airport and giving her a big squeeze.

What have I been doing with all my free time you may wonder? Not as much as I may have liked in some areas but exactly the right amount in others. I had grand plans to kickstart a huge organization project of the entire house. After merging two homes, there's a ton of duplicates and stuff we just don't need anymore. I want to simplify and get the clutter out of our lives and make cleaning and keeping the house straightened more manageable. I have high aspirations and with my friend Crystal and her help the house will be sparkelized by the beginning of Fall if not sooner!! I'm tackling Sofie's room first. She has way too many toys, her room doesn't flow well and we're both sick of the baby colors on the walls. She needs a room that fits her style and something she can grow into a little more. Today, toys/clothes will be purged and donated(or sent to Will, her cousin, if it's appropriate for him.) There are other tasks to do, but if I start thinking about it too much, I'll just freak out, so I'll stop talking about this aspect of my free time.

I've had lovely visits with friends. Dinner with Amy, Cindy and Melinda, and Sarah. Brunch with Betty and Delma and later today I'm going over to their place for a dinner of homemade pastas AND sauces!! Susi is coming over today to hang out while I clean. I have a few other plans this week to hang with friends. If I don't get everyone scheduled in, I'll also have the week Sofie's at Camp Kesem to hang, too.

I've had trouble adjusting to the free time. The first day at work when she was in CA, I stayed there for a ridiculously long time. Mostly just because I could! The cats aren't liking this new schedule. There's no one at home to feed them dinner when they demand it. (Speaking of food...I just took the last bite of my tomato sandwich...this must be what Heavan tastes like.) I've gotten a ton of rest and watched movies that I'd not get to watch at a normal hour with Ms. Sofie home. Not ONCE have I watched Pokemon, Tom and Jerry, Scooby-Doo or any movie rated less than PG-13!

Speaking of movies, last night my friend Sarah and I tempted fate and chose Hancock over the X-Files movie. Fate was surprisingly on our side. Here's a tip. Go see it but don't read ANYthing about it before you go. Don't let all the surprises and twists get ruined. Sarah and I knew a minimal amount and were both somewhat skeptical. Seriously, how much can they write about a superhero with an attitude and alcohol problem. It's seemed like the makings of a thin script to both of us. We were thankfully willing to overlook our skepticism and risk it. Layers, this movie has layers...not too mention it's funny and has some pretty cool special effects. {Off soapbox now}

Enough update for now. I must start sparkleizing the house!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Parenting Holiday - Day One

Today is officially the first day of a two week parenting holiday provided by a fine group of friends and family in Northern California! How am I spending that day? Right now, I'm sitting in an awesome hotel room in Chicago at Hotel Allegro waiting for my friend Kim to wake up so we can go downstairs for their complimentary coffee bar. However, I'm up at this ungodly hour because I woke up wonder if my dear daughter arrived safely in CA and how the rest of the trip went.

There's good reason to have that wonder, so let me fill you in. Sofie and I left NC yesterday around 2p EST on a Southwest flight with final destination(for me) as Chicago. Of course you know, with SW there's no such thing as a short flight anywhere! We had a quick flight to Nashville with an hour and a half to kill before the next flight. We left Nashville at around 4p CST arriving in Chicago around 530p or so. Our plans were to meet up with David, Dawn and family(Debra's brother and family) so Sofie could continue on with them to San Jose. While waiting at the baggage carousel, Dawn calls from the freeway with an update. Even after allowing PLENTY of time to get to the airport, the Friday afternoon traffic gods had other plans for them...first a huge accident, then weather and probably followed by other accidents!

In the meantime, bags are riding the conveyor belt round and round with nothing looking remotely like our bags. By this time Kim has arrived at baggage to meet us so she did a great job of entertaining/being entertained by Sofie while I did a sweep of the area to discover neither of our bags. Oh joy!! Lost bags(or as the SW agent said, "delayed bags")...whatever! I still didn't have either of our bags! Time was slipping by, Sofie had another plane to catch and neither bag was there. I filled out a report, having my bag sent to the hotel and her bag on the next flight to San Jose after the "delay" was no longer an issue. After that paperwork was finished the three of us headed upstairs to the ticketing area to wait. By this point Sofie was a little cranky due to thirst and hunger. Big kudos to Kim for taking her away to find a beverage while I was dealing with baggage issues. I had already bought her a big bag of popcorn from the Nuts on Clark store she spotted in the airport. My girl LOVES popcorn, so her tummy was okay and the crankies went away...but I fear this was only temporary.

The Friedlands arrived after a horrific commute in just in time to miss the plane. I made the quick decision(later regretting but knowing it was probably the right decision) to leave Sofie with them and make a clean, quick break. Dawn called a little later to say the put them on a flight to Oakland that would arrive at 1130p PST...that's 230AM in Sofie's little body. The were then going to have to rent a car there and drive to Palo Alto. Sofie was supposed to be picked up at San Jose by Laurie and Maya for the first leg of Camp California. The Santa Cruz leg has been delayed a day, but hopefully they'll get good time with her. Huge shout outs to the Friedland family for taking care of my girl and making sure she arrived in CA, safe and sound.

Meanwhile, Kim and I arrive at our hotel, check in and immediately look for dinner. We ended up a block or two away having deep dish pizza. Unfortunately they "pushed the wrong button" when entering ingredients into the computer so we were delay an extra 30 plus minutes it took to remake our pizza. It was okay, we just chatted and caught up on life. Laughing, crying and all the emotions in between. We've been in each others lives for 17 years(I think) and always have lots to say when we're together. She's a friend I value tremendously and I'm glad we get to have a little fun in Chicago!

So what's the fun going to be? Well, you didn't hear it hear, but I'm finally getting my second tattoo! Kim's cousin is a very fine tattoo artist in Chicago, so I'm going to see what he can come up with given the ideas I have. Kim's getting her's beautified. How cliche, right? Tattoo's on vacation! Well, that's how I got my first one. Debra and I were in Hawaii. That tattoo was a Valentine's Day gift from Debra so very special to me even today. Along with getting "tatted up" we're going to try to get tickets to Wicked or Blue Man Group for this evening. Fingers crossed it's Wicked!

In hindsight, I didn't plan enough time in Chicago but I will make the most of soon as I have my coffee!

Saturday, June 28, 2008


During the whole move/combining of condo and house stuff I lost the cord that allowed me to connect my camera to the computer to upload photos. Today I bought Sofie her birthday present a month or so early. Debra and I both had wanted her to have her own camera...she has a good eye for taking photos, so after a friend advised me about the type of camera she bought her daughter I purchased a similar camera. Here are her first round of pictures.

While buying her camera I invested a small amount of $$ on a card reader...a brilliant invention I might add. So I've linked to other sets of pictures here, here and here. Enjoy.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Update: Tick 2008 - Newsflash!!

After speaking with the doctor on-call at our family practice, she immediately put my mind at ease. She informed me that our area isn't one to have a high incidence of Lyme Disease. She also suggested a Single-Dose of Doxycycline as a preventative type measure. Now I can breathe a sigh of relief. Since we don't know what type tick it really was, only that it was teeny tiny, we'll "monitor" Sofie for a month making sure there's no rash or fever. Now it seems I have my own fear of bugs and what they might do to my kid. This is going to be a fun four weeks remaining of Camp Riverlea and all the creepy crawlies that go along with it. This is certainly NOT helping me deal with Sofie's fear of bugs situation.

Late night Summertime conundrum

As she was getting ready for bedtime tonight I noticed Sofie scratching and picking at a mole between her neck and shoulder. Upon further investigation I realized it was the world's tiniest tick. After successful removal...with just a few tears...we settled in for bedtime story. As I was finishing up the next to last chapter of Oggie Cooder, Sofie says to me, "Mom, I don't want to go to Camp Riverlea on Monday." Why? I ask. "I don't want to see or be around all the bugs." We chatted more about it and she has really developed a fear(a bit irrational) of bugs. She cried many tears and said "I'm afraid of bugs." I tried to explain that bugs don't harm you and won't bite/sting you unless provoked.

Now I sit hear, wide awake, after innocently looking up what that tiny tick was. (Curse me for having a librarian mind that must know everything!!) These so called tiny ticks are probably deer tick which often carry LYME DISEASE!!!!!!! She'll be pretty sure that she did nothing to provoke that tick! Now what?

Racing through my head at the moment:

  • Did she have a red bulls-eye ring on her shoulder? (I don't remember!!)

  • How long has that tick been there? (It was so tiny, I have no idea!)

  • Did I get it all? (I think/hope/wishful thinking so)

  • WHY did I flush it down the toilet? (Because.)

  • Should I call Dr. Marum's on call phone? (it's nearly 130am!!) (No, I'll wait until morning...a decent hour of morning)

Needless to say, if she does have Lyme Disease this will not help the bug fear! What a way to start Summer!

Friday, June 20, 2008

One year ago today...

Debra posted this blog entry: Heart to heart and only 6 months later she was gone.

I re-read it with very mixed emotions. She had so much hope that also bordered on unrealistic expectations, but I guess that's kind of what hope is. She only got through one thing on her "bucket list" of travel before she died. sad. Tomorrow it will be the Summer Solstice and 6 months from the day her spirit left this earth for another plane. It was very thoughtful(and knowing Debra, intentional) of her to die at a time with an easy date to remember!!

It's also the season of Frameline. As I told a friend earlier today, this will always be a bittersweet time for me. No matter what was going on in our lives/relationship(good or bad), this time of year was when we slowed down... er, actually rushed around SF flitting from one film to another, but that's neither here nor there...and spent time together with lots of different friends enjoying the good and bad of the film festival. I will always think of this time of year with only the fondest of memories.

Life continues on for the two of us. Summer camps, summer travel, more summer camp then back to school! We enter this summer season knowing Debra is always with us and watching our backs helping us maneuver through this life as we know it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Shedding Negativity, Shedding Friends

Everyday for the past 2 1/2 years I've been getting an email from DailyOM. Many days I read the subject line, peruse the first paragraph or simply just delete them due to lack of time. Today's title struck a hard, loud chord with me. The Friend We Want To Be could not have been written at a more appropriate time than now. In fact I was just having a conversation on this very topic with a friend over the weekend. We both commented that we are at a place in our lives that requires we shed negative people/energy/relationships from our lives. It's tough but very necessary to lose that negative weight and lighten up your life.

There is one sentence in the article that really spoke to me:
Life, with its many twists, turns, and challenges, is difficult enough without us entertaining people in our inner circle who drain our energy.

There have been friends in my life that have drained my energy, not in a soul-sucking-life-force kind of way but more like how you feel after you've been hiking outside on a hot, humid August day in the South...without the sweat, of course! The realization didn't occur that my energy was being spent until after my pockets were nearly empty and no loose change could be found.

With all that has twisted and turned on this roller coaster called life, I've become more aware of those friends and trying to shed them more quickly. However there are a few that stay in that inner circle until one day a line is crossed by either party then there's no going back for either of you. Those are the ones that hurt the most. Could it have been avoided? Maybe, but not likely.

Everyone loses old friends and gains new ones. Sometimes it hurts when we lose old ones, sometimes it's a relief. Often it's exciting when we gain new friends, then later it becomes a challenge. Friends can come and go temporarily, but those friendships are easily identified. Those are the friends that no matter how much time passes between contact, you pick up with a conversation like you started it yesterday. Those are also the friends that you can offer suggestions without losing them.

Along with negativity, I'm trying to shed drama from my life. Okay, I realize that's a bit unrealistic because everyone has issues that arise. Life events like, say Cancer, don't fall into the category of drama. For me drama can be explained best by the definition Albert Einstein gave to insanity. Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Replace insanity with drama and that's my definition of what drives me insane when other people can't seem to get out of life cycles that have become comfortable to them. Part of that insanity was thinking I could help them when it's not my purpose to do so. Life lesson for me: You can't FIX everything, especially those things that don't want to be fixed. I realize that sounds kind of pompous to think that what I know or feel is the right path for someone else. That's not where I'm coming from at all. I do have a serious intuitive streak so my gut feelings are often spot on. Trusting my gut is something I've learned to do over the years, so this is just one more way that I'm doing it.

For those friends that I've lost over the years, I only wish them peace, happiness and a healthy mind. For friends that are in my life now, let's hope we can continue our friendships but if that's not the case it's not anyone person's fault. We all come into each others lives for some reason. Often it's not until after they've left your life that you understand fully what that reason was.