Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pressure to be Perfect? Absolutely!!

I rarely link to other posts from my blog, but after reading the current post on Family Pride's Blog I felt I had to share it with folks who may not otherwise see it. As you may remember, I did a guest post on this blog in July. Since then, I've been reading the other guest posts religiously. While I can relate to many, none have quite touched a nerve(in a good way) like this posting by Cindy Rizzo about the pressure to be perfect parents.

From my perspective, we are under pressure to be better at parenting that your run of the mill heterosexual led families. So much is written, researched and most of the time falsely reported about our "lifestyle" that it may appear that we are under a microscope.

I have often felt I/we have to "explain" why Sofie does/acts/reacts to the things she does. She does have some awfully good reasons for being how she is in the world, but that is neither here nor there. Some have blamed it on our poor parenting, lack of structure or our indulgences on her. Some of that may be true, some of that is grossly misstated or misunderstood. We parent her the best WE are capable of at that given moment. Sure we slip and slide and make mistakes. Who doesn't?

If we raise a child who became something less than a stellar member of society, I'm sure the "religious wrong" would blame the unfit morals our children were raised within. Meanwhile, so many of these zealots are getting "trapped" by undercover policemen for soliciting sex in public bathrooms. Uh, is it me or does that just one of the most hypocritical things a human can do?

I think I have to jump on that bandwagon that Cindy Rizzo referred to in her piece, "to assert that GLBT parents are merely equal—no better and no worse than heterosexual parents." We are equal. We take our kids to swimming lessons when they don't want to go. They complain loudly about going to church. They don't want to do their homework. In contrast, some love swim lessons, church and schoolwork. Kids are kids are kids. Life is challenging with them, but it would be boring as hell without them. Be out and proud that your kids are just a normal as other kids in the world!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Common Women...I don't think so

I wanted to write about a special group of women. Back in the day, before I moved to California, I sang with a wonderful group of women, the Common Woman Chorus. They always held a special place in my heart, even when I lived in California. It wasn't a surprise when I re-joined the chorus upon my return to NC in 2002. I haven't sung with them in awhile, but I still remain close to many of the members. Several members kept me company, brought me food and just spent time with me while I was undergoing treatment this past year.

Yesterday, I was going through the email in a rarely used account. I was reading through an email from Equality NC entitled "See All the Beautiful Families." Apparently, a well known local attorney is having a reception to celebrate "...our families in all shapes and sizes..." To my surprise, our family is listed under the donations:

Common Woman Chorus in honor of Jamie Lamkin, Debra Kent, and their daughter Sofie as our featured chorus family

I was speechless and really touched that our family, however stranger as it is, was celebrated by my chorus members. I have no idea who's put this into play...well, I have a slight idea, but I won't embarrass her here...but it doesn't really matter. The kindness and generosity that went towards this great cause was enough for me.

As I said in an email to the chorus, they have touched a place in my heart that will forever be emblazoned with a touch of music. One day I'll return to chorus. Hopefully this will encourage Sofie to find her own voice in singing and enjoy it as much as I do.

To all my chorus are loved.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mama Jamie and Sofie time

Ever since returning from Camp Kesem, Sofie has been her own way...time with me. She always has really good arguments for it, but we always have better ones! This past week she didn't have camp or school, so Debra and I took turns taking days off of work so we could be with Sofie. Originally I was going to have her Monday and Friday, but Debra needed to work on Thursday, so I took her Thursday instead of Friday. This kind of messed with my plan of having her with me from Thursday after work until Sunday afternoon. Another contributing factor to the weekend time was a visit from a California friend of Debra and Sofie. So the visit from them bled into Friday night, causing Sofie to arrive at my house Friday night. We went from 3 nights/3 days to 1 1/2 nights/2 days. So far, we've made the best of it.

We had intentions of having friends over for a swim date yesterday, unfortunately it was too hot. Yes, that's right, it was too hot to swim...or be outside at all. I spent early Saturday morning searching for alternatives. Luck was on our side because I quickly discovered the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences has a daily program called "Meet the Animals." Yesterdays animals to meet, you guessed it, SNAKES!!! I called Sofie into the living room and mentioned it to her and asked if she'd be interested. As she was grinning from ear to ear with a very animated face she said, "Mom, if it has anything to do with snakes, you don't have to ask me! You know I'll want to do it!!" And off she ran into her room to play some more, but excited beyond belief. Gotta love a kid who knows what she loves.

Before we headed out for breakfast, I took her the newly prescribe medicine to take for her "focus and concentration" issues. "Oh MOM. Why do I have to take it on the weekends?!?"...without missing a beat I responded, "So you can focus on the snakes at the museum and not miss anything!" She swallowed the pill without a hitch. We then headed out for our Saturday morning traditional Biscuitville. She had her usual...sausage biscuit with grape jelly. I have never had her finish her breakfast before me but that morning she must have been starving. She downed that biscuit without me having to tell her once to eat her breakfast. Interestingly, one of the side effects from her new medicine is lack of appetite...apparently that hasn't kicked in yet.

After breakfast we headed back to the condo for chilling out time before we headed to the museum. She was going to play, so I turned on my computer to try to blog. She had different ideas about that. She was a little clingy yesterday. Guess she hadn't had enough time with me. She wanted me to take my computer into the living so she could play while I was working on the computer. I tried to explain that the wireless was a bit dodgy, so I needed to say wired to the modem. (Of course that didn't make sense to her!) So, she sat on my lap while I worked...which meant I didn't work. We started watching funny commercials online for laughs. After awhile, it was time to head to the museum, so off we went.

We ended up getting to the museum a little too early, but it all worked out in the end. We looked all over the museum, first heading up to the 3rd floor to view all the snakes on display, then we read all the corresponding information about the snakes. After seeing ALL of the museum, we headed down to the gift shop...of course. Well, we had to do SOMEthing to kill time!! Sofie made a loop three times, trying to pick the perfect souvenir. There were interesting things, that's for sure. I found a new snake shirt for her, so I got that but she picked out a necklace with a snake on it. She was very happy about her choice. After purchasing our haul, we headed back up to the snakes. We still had over an hour before the "Meet the Animals" presentation started!! I tried to get her to eat or see more of the museum, but she wanted to wait by the room to make sure we got a great seat! So we waited...and waited...and waited.

There were several situations that led me to believe her medication is doing what it's supposed to do. First of all, the waiting didn't bother all! She had a goal of getting a great seat and that was enough to keep her focused on the outcome. Interestingly, there was a girl about Sofie's age in the classroom. She kept following the educator around to make sure she got to pet the snake a million times. She reminded me of how Sofie could be. Ironically, Sofie was on my lap the entire time...not wiggly at all. At some point she looked at me and said, "That girl needs to sit down! She's petted the snakes too many times!" I laughed internally because two weeks ago, that girl could have easily been Sofie.

After petting the snakes, she and I headed to her favorite restaurant, which is unfortunately in Raleigh. It's actually a bar that doubles as a chili restaurant. Fortunately when we got there, there were no other clients...smoking or non. Sofie ordered her usual and I had 5 way chili. She ate about 1/2 of hers...appetite suppressant working now...and I finished mine off. We headed back out into the heat to head home to Durham.

On the way to Durham, we called her friends Emma and Kate...well, there see if we could come over and play awhile. As we were heading over there, Sofie announced, "I haven't seen Kate since the end of school!!" She was right, which is pretty unusual, but it's been a crazy summer for all of our families, so we just didn't do the play dates we normally do. They were happy to see one another and played pretty well for a couple hours. We headed out to go grocery shopping while they were winding down for the evening.

We ended our day with a viewing of, "Night at the Museum" since we'd spent the day there. After the movie, she crashed and I, too went to bed. Today, we're trying plan out what we're doing. Low key morning, swimming in the afternoon. We'll see how the day pans out. I just know that this weekend gave all three of us what we needed. Sofie and I had alone time together and Debra had alone time to recoup some energy. All is well today.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Soul sucking lifeforce called Cancer

I won't go into the details, as you can find them out for yourself in Debra's latest blog entry. Currently, life is sucking...soul sucking. I'm getting angrier that Debra can't seem to fight this damn disease. I'm not angry at her, I'm just pissed at the universe. It's so unfair for her and Sofie. Sure, I can get all "groovy and spiritual" about it all and rationalize it to pun intended, but I'm not feeling that loving spirit right now. Right now, I'm pissed.

I'm pissed that Debra's having to experience first hand our loving daughter detach from her. Why can't it work out that Sofie gets angry AFTER Debra is gone? No, they have to go through a natural separating stage...and I have to witness it! Debra's feelings are getting hurt every day and it's so unintentional on Sofie's part. She's blaming her for everything and I'm defending Debra, tooth and nail. It's a hard place to be. Really understanding what's going on, trying to explain it as best I can to Sofie without really giving too much detail. It's too early for detail. I just want her to understand that Mama Debra is getting her feelings hurt a little and that it's not her "fault" that she's not spending time at my place. We're spending time together as a "family." However, she's happy to know she's at the condo with me all weekend...just the two of us. It'll be good for Sofie and it'll be good for Debra.

Struggle is what we do these days. Not with each other, but with the idea of what's to come. I struggle with just wanting to take care of both of them. Debra struggles with making sure all is taken care of...after, after. Sofie is struggling with feelings she just can't describe or put words too. It truly sucks. I'll end here. Maybe I'll have a brighter outlook tomorrow. Just know this is one phase of many that I'll go through.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Camp "Magic"

Today, Debra, Fairygod Barbara(Sofie's godmother) and I drove to pick up Sofie from her week at Camp Kesem. We speculated on the drive there that she probably had a wonderful time and may not want to leave! I certainly missed her this week, but I know this had such potential to be a wonderful experience for her.

We got to camp a few minutes before noon as other families were in various states of arrival. I headed over to the area to collect Sofie's things and one of the counselor's said, "Sofie's mom, right?" Wow, how did she know. Was it the two mom thing? Didn't really matter to me, she knew who we were and that's really all that mattered. After putting her belongings in the car, the three of us started the hike back to the Dining Hall where all the kids were gathered, waiting on their family members. We passed Bean, Sofie's counselor, walking the other direction. She pointed to us and said, "Sofie's parents!!" It's so incredible to feel so welcomed. It's a nice camp, too. The rest of the year it's a Girl Scout camp so that had everything Camp Kesem could ever need for their camp.

Upon arrival at the dining hall, a few kids were sneaking out to meet their parents as they patiently waited in the heat to sign their kids out. The counselors got wise to that and stopped letting the kids escape. I stepped out of line, letting Debra stand there amongst the crowd to sign Sofie out. I kept peeking though the door, trying to get my own sneak peek at our snake girl. No longer capable of containing my excitement of seeing her, I went inside ahead of Barbara and Debra. I immediately spotted Sofie laughing and giggling with other campers. When she spotted me, she shouted, "Mommy!" ran over me, jumped into my arms and asked if I was the one picking her up? I gave her a big hug and assured her that Debra was coming inside soon. She proudly showed me a plate that Bean, her counselor, decorated awarding Sofie the "Most Expressive Expressions" award! Very cute.

The Dining Hall was mayhem, but nothing but love and happiness filled the air. All the kids were so happy to see their family members and I'm sure the feeling was very mutual. Another counselor, Glitter, came over and introduced herself to me and Debra. She said she spent a ton of time with Sofie since she was the counselors for 8-9 year old girls and apparently the 6-9 year range did a lot of things together. Her comments seemed to be part of a common thread from other counselors. Sofie was funny, fun, loved snakes, was a great swimmer and had a great time this week. That was so reassuring for both of us.

When asking Sofie what the green wristbands meant, she beamed telling us the answer. It meant she was a good enough swimmer to go into the 12 foot water...TWELVE foot, she said. All the counselors commented on her swimming abilities...especially for her age group. Our girl loves the water...part dolphin I believe. Sofie shared other fun stories about her experience. She literally couldn't be still as she was so excited to see us and thrilled to share in her good time.

While sitting for lunch, Bean shared her stories about Sofie. I had asked if there were any tears or a hard transition in the evening. She reported Sofie did fabulously. In fact, one of the camper's in her cabin had a parent that was *really* sick...near death. So the little girl was crying and worried. Our little empathetic, compassionate girl was so kind and caring towards her. Telling her that her mom was fighting cancer and maybe he'd be okay. (Unfortunately, the little girls parent died while she was at camp.) Bean said that after Sofie gave her pep talk to the little girl, there was nothing more for her as a counselor to say. That's our girl. You just can't teach that level of compassion. We model and hope she's kind to the world, but this goes above and beyond what a seven year old would be expected to do. We're so very proud of her.

Bean told funny stories about Sofie and commented on what a smart girl she is. How quickly she picked up on things. We've always known she was smart, it's just really great to hear it for others. She also said she was well behaved with only a few encounters that all surrounded having to wear sneakers and socks! As we left, Bean gave us all four a big hug. That told me right there that she had connected with Sofie and in turn Sofie was in great hands and probably had the time of her life. I can't wait til she gets to go back next year...and the year after that!

I would encourage all of you to learn more about Camp Kesem. BTW, Kesem means "magic" in Hebrew, so if definitely was "Camp Magic" for all that attended...and volunteered. Camp Kesem is becoming a national organization and needs your $$ and support. If your interested in donating to the organization or a specific camp, click here to donate. This camp is specifically for children of cancer patients and best of's FREE. The organization is growing by leaps and bounds and have approximately 21 campuses involved in camps all over the US. So many kids benefit from their generosity and so many counselors spend the time of their lives working in this magical environment. Help them spread the magic if you can.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Praying, of a different kind

Last night my employer sponsored an outing for employees at the Durham Bulls game. For those not from here, yes, there really is a team and yes, the movie was filmed in here. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see Susan Sarandon walking around Durham(I actually didn't live her way back then), but a former friend apparently delivered flowers to her. But I digress. Back to the original story of the day.

Yesterday was a scorcher...literally. By the time I got to the game at 7pm it was still over 90 degrees. Since we didn't have a picnic, we were given "Wool E Bucks" to spend on food, beer, ice cream or whatever.(Wool E Bull is the mascot!) So, people noshed, drank and socialized. The game was pretty boring as the other team tromped our a$$, so I was chatting more than paying attention to the field.

At some point during the evening, I looked out towards the field and noticed something large flying around. At first I thought it was bat, but quickly realized it looked green. Then I noticed it seemed to be TWO of whatever it was stuck a mating kind of way. By this time, the crowd in our section all noticed it. I was sitting with a coworker and we were pointing and laughing, trying to figure out what it was. Bat? Bird? LARGE insect? Well, as we pointed and laughed, it flew straight to us!! I swayed to the side as it perched in my friend Deb's hair. The girls behind us screamed and mayhem began...okay not really, but it was funny to see their reactions nonetheless. I think I got the best look at it since I had to swipe it out of her hair. It was nothing more than a very large praying mantis.

As a friend recently said, praying mantises(manti/mantid/???) are mystical creatures. I tend to agree. They look like wise old men ready to teach any spiritual lesson one might need. I can kind of see it saying, "Snatch the pebble young grasshopper." It brought laughter to us, so it was teaching us a spiritual lesson of "live, love, laugh" or "laughter is the best medicine" or any other laughter related cliche. Nothings better than being able to laugh at your friends or yourself!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sofie at Camp

We dropped Sofie off at Camp Kesem yesterday. Debra wrote about it, so I'll just post a picture of her and her counselor, Bean.

"Bean" and "Snake"

You really can't go home again

After dropping Sofie off at Camp Kesem yesterday, I went on an adventure with someone else that had grown up in my hometown, Eden, N.C. We didn't know each other then because when I was a freshman, she was a senior and we lived on different sides of town. Now, she happens to be one of Sofie's teachers. Small world it is.

For those who know nothing of "The Wonderful Land of Eden," you're not missing much. Even in it's heyday...if there ever was was a small town that's livelihood centered around textile mills. 40 years ago, before it was incorporated, Eden was known by the three separate towns of Leaksville, Spray and Draper. We're talking small town USA. The population back in 1967, after the consolidation was approximately 18,000 it's less than 14,000. Not typically the way you see growth occurring. Many small Southern towns have experienced extreme change with the closures of the textile, tobacco and other manufacturing plants, Eden is sadly no different.

As Susan and I drove around looking at the houses and neighborhoods I grew up in, I noticed how small and uninteresting most of the communities were. As we discussed all the places we built our class floats for homecoming , the store front logos of those buildings seemed to fade right before our eyes. Paint chipping away, foundations crumbling and building bulldozed. That was the sites we saw over and over. Houses were worse than that. Many yards overgrown, For Sale signs dotted the landscape or once thriving neighborhoods had really gone downhill. Different parts of town were worse than others. Spray and Draper, where the mostly blue collar mill workers lived, seemed hardest hit. Leaksville and the Central area, where more white collar or professionals raised their families seemed to be doing okay. I just felt an incredible sadness as we drove around.

We lived in Eden for 15 years. My dad was stationed there right after he finished the NC Highway Patrol Academy. I was 2...I left town the day I graduated from High School and I've never really looked back. I have no family there, so there was really no pressing reason to visit. I've visited a handful of times since leaving, mostly to visit my best friend in high school's parents. She was my 7th grade math teacher and a surrogate parent when I was having hard times with my own parents. Yesterday's visit was no different. After tooling about town for a few hours, Susan and I stopped for a visit with the Sharrows.

I asked them, "What do people *do* here now?" "Commute to Danville, VA or Greensboro, NC," they said. Apparently Eden is trying to become a tourist area. Eden is now known as, "The land of two rivers." Funny, when I was in High School we were known as the "River Rats" to our neighboring rivals from Reidsville, the "Tobacco Worms!" I guess now Eden is owning is river rat status and starting Outdoor Adventure type companies. More power to 'em I say. However, if they really want to open up and become a tourist town, they're really going to have to take down the anti-abortion signs and the "prepare to meet god" signs that grace way too many lawns in the area. Eden is full of churches...none of them liberal(well, maybe the Episcopal church, but they're all damn yankees anyway!)

I sit in amazement wondering how in the hell I got out, virtually unscathed. A free thinking, left leaning, open-minded lesbian. No visible scars to mention from years of living in an oppressive community like this. Probably because my parents were free thinkers and let me have my own opinions. Most of my friends escaped, too. Some are still there. I have no idea why or what they're doing with their lives. I just know that I'm grateful EVERY day for the fact that I got out when I did...and as healthy as I did. Other's weren't so lucky. Sad, indeed.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Girl interruptus

Today, we received the not very surprising news that Sofie has ADHD. In many ways it's a relief to finally know for sure that's what's going on with her. I admit though, I had a momentary lapse in sadness. Sad for the lifelong challenges that she may face. Sad for the stigma that can go along with being a girl with ADHD. Sad that this just confirms that she probably was exposed to alcohol and/or drugs prenatally(she is Eastern European for goodness sake!!) Once I got over my initial sadness, I opened up to the good outcomes from this diagnosis. I walk forward with slight trepidation in hopes that all will be good.

Being the good little librarian that I am, I've done my homework. Debra sent a website recommended by Sofie's doctor and I took it from there. The signs have been there all along. After reading that article I felt relieved and somewhat joyous that we're ahead of the curve for typical diagnosis in girls. ADHD has always been a boys disease since it's so much more apparent in how they behave. It's also been a stigma in girls because it's not "typical" behavior in girls, so they're often overlooked. Because of this lack of awareness, two women, Drs. Patricia Quinn and Kathleen Nadeau created the National Center for Girls and Women with AD/HD to "promote awareness, advocacy, and research on AD/HD in women and girls." I, for one, am grateful for their work and dedication to this cause.

Sofie will begin medication soon. The doctor says we will probably see results quickly. I'm very curious if Sofie will notice the difference. If she'll even be able to articulate what she's experiencing with the changes in her body. My biggest concern is losing the personality that we've come to know and love as Sofie. I worry that she'll become flat and no longer be the spunky girl I love so much.

In my heart, I know this is the right thing. We all know that Sofie is an intelligent and bright kid. We also know she struggles with schoolwork. After reading this checklist I can see clearly why she has issues with school, self esteem, focus, interrupting, wiggliness and messiness. It's all right there, check box after check box. I just hope she knows and realizes this is not her fault and that Debra and I will do everything we can to make this work for her. She is a girl who is very loved and supported and I hope this makes it all easier somehow.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Birthday Festivities

I have been remiss in mentioning Sofie's birthday fun. Her 7th birthday was last Thursday and in typical fashion we celebrated from Thursday all the way through Sunday. No, she's not spoiled at all!!

Thursday began with breakfast at Biscuitville, Sofie's favorite breakfast place. She's becoming such the southern girl! Debra dropped her at the camp drop off spot so she could have a fun day at Camp Riverlea. The day ended with dinner out at Red Robin with the three of us and our dear friends Sharon and Tracey. Sofie scored with a two-headed snake, a tiger book, flashlight for camp and some Scooby items.

Saturday was her "kid" party at Hillsborough Sportsplex. She had a pool party with various friends from school, camps and other places. The party was fun. She had a cake with a Scooby car:

She ate chocolate cake and enjoyed it tremendously!

The kids swam for over an hour...some closer to two hours. The parents chatted and she came home a very tired, yet happy girl. Once we got back to Debra's, she whipped up a wonderful late lunch. We ate. Debra crashed for a couple of hours and Sofie and I played with her new toys/art supplies. After Debra woke up, I scooted out for home...exhausted myself. She reported that Sofie actually slept in her own bed the entire night. Swimming does a girl good.

Her final birthday festivity was PePaw and Grammy's visit(for those who don't know that's my dad and stepmom.) The came over for the day for Sofie's birthday. They took her out to lunch at Golden Corral, then to Target to pick out her gift. Debra and I shopped for school supplies while they were out having fun. After their return, Grammy was craving ice cream, so we all piled in Daddy's truck and headed to Cold Stone Creamery. Yummy. This apparently exhausted both Debra and Sofie, as they excused themselves from the livingroom and laid down for naps. Sofie's birthday whirlwind had come to an end. Good times were had by all...especially the birthday girl.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Great Expectations

Life is, at best, scattered. And when that happens, I often get writer's block. Ironically in a time where writing would be a good thing for me. With that said, I started writing this entry over a week ago and hopefully will be able to finish it today.

For those who know me well, you know I'm an introvert through and through. For those who've only briefly met me, you're often surprised at this admission. I'm only giving this information because it's a vital to who I am and what I need to rejuvenate, refresh and relax. It is vital that I get "down-time" everyday. I'm not talking hours and hours, I'm just saying a good 1/2-1 hour where no one makes me do anything is a great way to stay on my good side! With all of that said, let me make it perfectly clear...Jamie has not been getting enough down time lately!!

This isn't going to turn into a griping, bitchy blog entry about "oh whoa is me" because I'm damned lucky to be in the place I'm in right now. I'm starting to feel better physically, mentally and spiritually. I have the cutest, funniest kid in the world. I have a fairly stable job. I have great friends and family. You get the picture, Life is Good!...except for one small detail...I'm living in a surreal world of watching a dear friend and other mother to my child fight the fight of her life, literally.

With this fight, comes needs and great expectations. I feel I'm stepping in, appropriately, to help with those needs and expectations. Sometimes it's as simple as just hanging out and chatting. Other times it's coming over and taking care of Sofie for the remainder of the evening. Most of the time it's in between. What's hardest for me is saying "No" or "I can't really help out today." I don't get bitter, I just do it because it needs to be done and most of the time I'm happy to do it. Other times, I'm tired and I want to chill out on my couch and escape from the world. We're working on a happy medium...something that works for all of us. Keeping our family afloat, making sure something is getting taken care of for everyone...even me.