Saturday, December 27, 2008

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

Flight Day (aka...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 Priceline.com, 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.

UPDATE:

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 it...as soon as I have my coffee!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pictures

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...so 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.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Summer beginnings

Well the South has had one scorcher of week or two. It's not officially Summer and we're already feeling like the humid days of August. Bleech. On days like those I miss Northern California foggy days.

Summer is off to a rip roaring start for our family...so rip roaring that I sense it's going to fly by at a breakneck pace. This was week one of Summer Vacation for Sofie. She spent the mornings at Duke Soccer School for Girls (isn't that a funny name?) The first few days were a pleasant 100plus degrees, but by Friday it was a chilly 90 degrees. She seemed to enjoy it, so that made me happy. She had a variety of child care providers this week, but seemed to have fun since it always seemed to involve swimming.

The next five weeks are spent at Camp Riverlea...her third summer. We went to the open house today. What an awesome place! No wonder it's the most popular summer camp in Durham...or the hardest to get in due to repeat customers. The place is expansive and I totally understand why she's tuckered out by days end.

A quick rundown of the remainder of summer reads like this. Fly to Chicago with Sofie to pass over to David and Dawn (Debra's bro and sis-in-law) so they can fly the remainder of the way to CA for the beginning of Camp California/Camp Sofie. (A perk for me is spending the weekend in Chicago and having adult fun time!!) Upon return from CA, it's her 8th birthday. Followed by a week of random activities, then her beloved Camp Kesem!! Back for a week long camp at ERUUF, then she starts her new school year at her new school! See, summer will be overwith in a flash!!

In my other world...work...news abound. My company was sold...again. We've come full circle, going from small family run company through iterations of mega information conglomerates back to family run company who want and need us and are willing to invest in us. I will no longer working for "the man" so much. My coworkers all seem to be feeling good about this. I just hope that when the lease runs out, we move closer to Durham! Fingers crossed. My boss left the company so now I'm reporting to my old boss. All seems well, otherwise.

I've finally been utilizing babysitters and going out with friends and having child free fun. I'm enjoying it...Sofie? Not so much. I've noticed a change in her mood since I've started having adult only time. I'm sure it'll be fine...we have great babysitters...she just really ends up missing me at bedtime. Bedtime...that's another issue I'm too tired to write about. Just know it's a struggle and we're working on it.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

What Makes a Family? - Blogging for LGBT Families Day

Monday is the 3rd (hopefully)Annual Blogging for LGBT Families Day, sponsored by Mombian. In honor of this festive day I thought I'd write about family and what it means to me and what I think it means to Sofie.

Family is love.

Sofie and I tell each other multiple times a day that we love each other. Sometimes it's in response to doing something good for the other, but more times than not it's just out of the blue and very heartfelt. The look she gets on her face as she is oozing love is absolutely priceless and that image is forever etched in my memory. Family is love.

Family can come in all shapes, sizes, colors and even dimensions(not a measurement, but a plane of existence!)

Sofie continues to say we're a family of six. Two moms, a kid, two cats and a hamster. It matters not one bit to her that one of her mothers is no longer here in the physical sense. The sixth, in spirit, member is always with us, so says Sofie!

For many LGBT families, the majority of "family" has no blood relations. Family is community. Family are those who come into your lives to teach you and learn from you. Family are people you don't have to see every day, but know they are in your heart and you are in theirs. Family is there for the good, but more importantly for the bad, too. Family rarely agrees with you. Family challenges you. Family respects you. Family may not understand you, but hopefully they accept you.

Family...many faces, many lives, mostly love.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A most beautiful Spring Day


(photo courtesy of Dasja Dolan**)


In what can only be described as one of the most perfect weather days I can remember at Golden Gate Park, over 200 friends and family gathered to celebrate Debra in the way she deserved to be honored. Debra had told a few people what she wanted and even left some instructions in her Will. Her dear friend, soul brother and fellow Aquarian Kile Ozier was to "produce" it. With the help of others, Kile gave Debra a send off, replete with all things Debra...including her beloved giftbags. What well planned, San Francisco event would be complete without giftbags? And event it was.

Upon arrival that morning several of us gathered at the Entrance to the National AIDS Memorial Grove
waiting for other friends and family to arrive for the planting of the Japanese Maple. As we were waiting a very large pack of bicyclist rode by, all telling us they were training for the AIDS ride. A wonderful introduction to the day ahead.

After everyone arrived we headed into the Grove. As we rounded the corner and topped the hill we were welcomed by a sea of purple and with all that purple you couldn't help but feel Debra's presence. Filled with blooming Echium as well as purple cloaked tables for the reception, the Meadow seemed to be an open invitation to celebrate Debra's life.

Prior to the actual service many of us gathered to see a Japanese Maple be planted in her memory. Those who were brave and goat-like traversed the hill to place mementos or ashes near the root ball before it was completely covered. Much to many peoples amazement, Debra's nearly 80 year old mother made that trek up the hill. I wasn't surprised since Mimi has been a very self sufficient woman as long as I've known her! After placing some ashes in the root ball Brenda grabbed a handful for us to take somewhere else in the Grove.

As others finished planting the tree Brenda, Sofie and I trekked off to find a place for some of the ashes. Much to our surprise we ended up at the boulder that had been placed in honor of Macy's Passport 25th anniversary(a project Debra worked on for several years.) Brenda and I knew that's where we needed to sprinkle those ashes...so we each sprinkled a bit over and around that boulder then rejoined the tree planting celebration.

With over an hour to go before the memorial started Sofie was already getting restless...and hungry...she demanded bacon! To our rescue was Susan and Jean who graciously offered to drive us over to an area in search of bacon. As we were walking out of the Grove, we ran into Rosie and her mom Nancy heading in. Rosie joined our trip to find food and Nancy joined the others gathering before the celebration.

After a successful breakfast run on Irving(I think), we made our way back to meet and greet for the memorial. Upon our arrival, Nancy made it clear that Rosie was there to be Sofie's person and to watch her so I could mingle and concentrate on chatting with all the folks I needed to connect with. That was probably the best arrangement made and little did I know just how handy Rosalie would be throughout the day. As I was walking in the first person I spotted was Virgo pal whose full name is three streets in San Francisco. It had been so long since I saw him but we gave each other the biggest hug ever. He was chatting with 3 other people who I hugged in rapid succession. It was then I realized I would be a day filled with hugging. It was so nice to see so many familiar faces.

After chatting and making my way towards the circle where the memorial took place, the time had come for the true celebration part of the day. Sofie and I (intentionally) played a very small role in the service. We lit the candle that was sitting next to the beautiful flowers at the "altar" where folks would soon be giving their own impressions of what Debra meant to them. As we lit the candle, many members of the SF Gay Men's Chorus walked in singing a wonderful rendition of "Seasons of Love" from the Broadway Musical Rent. From that point on the service was a blur...a beautiful, funny, tear-filled, belly laughing, heart wrenching blur. About 10 minutes into the service, after a few people told stories about Debra, Sofie declared she had to leave. Bravo to my girl for taking care of her needs! Quietly she, Rosalie and Naomi(another 7 year old attending) fled the scene and went to the coolest.playground. EVER.

Many people who spoke thanked Debra for providing the lovely weather that day. As many of us felt, she certainly had something to do with the beauty of the day!! Most told funny stories that were weaved with tales of admiration, love, respect and most recently loss. The last person to speak left us with a few lines of a Sarah Maclachlan's "I Will Remember You." She sang in a beautiful voice, "I will remember you. Will you remember me? Don't let you life pass you by. Weep not for the memories. Weep not for the memories." I don't know about all of you, but there are definitely days where I still weep.


**Dasja Dolan, someone who had never met Debra, happened to be at Golden Gate park the morning of the memorial. Originally she wanted to take photos of plants in the park, fortunately for us she ended up taking many photos and has now offered to give the sale proceeds to the fund to buy the boulder to be placed in the Grove. What a truly kind and generous offer...and effect Debra had on everyone(even in the afterlife!!)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Bittersweet Mother's Day

Mother's Day came early for me. Sofie couldn't wait until Sunday to give me the gift and card she made in school. First the gift...a lovely bracelet made with colored beads. Before she even told me the significance of the beads I knew...orange for me, purple for Debra and since she couldn't do too many red beads(her favorite color) she chose another color...blue. The beads alternated all the way around until there were 3 red beads in a row. The red beads were to represent the child and the mom and since she is a two mom kid, she got to have an extra red bead...something she was proud to tell me! Then she gave me the card...a card that brought tears to my eyes when I saw the picture she drew on the front. She and I were standing there(me in my orange Crocs and she was in one orange and one red Croc...her signature.) All the animals: Boone, Gracie, Humphrey and the caterpillar that's in her butterfly habitat were surrounding us. Just above our heads were 3 hearts, one red, one purple and one orange. Flying just above those hearts was a beautiful white winged angel Debra. The note inside, "I love you because you are very sweet and nice to. You let have a hamster and trapline to. Love Sofie LLL Kent" She was so proud that she sounded trampoline out and spelled it correctly...although she didn't, but it was close! Ever since Debra died she's taken to writing her name with three L's in the middle. She says she has 5 names now. Sofie Luda Ludmilla Lamkin Kent. She insists that Luda and Ludmilla are different! She's at the very least consistent with her new signature.

Our weekend has been good so far. Mom came up Friday morning and picked Sofie from school and hanging out with her in the afternoon. When I called to let them know I was heading home from work, I asked mom what she was doing. "Coloring." was her answer. Cute, I thought, she and Sofie are coloring...actually that's not true. Sofie was playing downstairs and Mom was coloring!!

After arriving home we dashed out for dinner at Elmo's so Sofie would be energized for her soccer game. We had fun hanging out at the game with other families and watching the girls have fun on the field. After the game several of us headed to Locopops where I experienced my first ever bad Locopop experience! It was my bad...should have gone with my gut and known that the Rosemary in a Rosemary Pear locopop would overwhelm the pear. Bleech. I took one bite and in the trash it went. Well, one time in a multitude of visits is fine with me.

Saturday we did our Biscuitville thing...shocked I'm sure! Then headed to the park in Cary that Sofie loves. After meeting up with a friend and her daughters, she offered to keep and eye out on Sofie while Mom and I ran to Trader Joe's. Mom had never been and has been wanting to go. A quick trip to TJ's and we're back at the park where we stayed for 2 more hours!! The kids had fun, so it was worth it. Exhausted, tired and cranky we headed back home. I made dinner for the three of us and we watched Alvin and the Chipmunks...laughing out loud much of the movie.

Now I'm blogging and Sofie is playing in Webkinz World on her laptop. I'm tired so I'll wrap up this Mother's Day post...sad that Debra's not around but happy that Sofie honored her in my gift and card. A sweet child indeed. I'm a very lucky Mom.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Where to begin?

It's been awhile since I've had the time, interest or wherewithal to blog. I fully intended to write about our experiences in CA before, during and after Debra's memorial. I will someday, just not today.

Life has been full of learning, living and loving among many things. Sofie and I are fairly busy these days. Soccer practice on Wednesday nights with games either Friday night or Saturday morning. Last weekend we had two games...a rain make-up from a few weeks ago. I wasn't sure how Sofie would do with a team sport. Up until now she really hadn't been interested in playing anything. I have to say, she's kind of taken to it like a duck to water! She's playing in the Durham Girls Soccer League which, much to my surprise, is a non-competitive learning environment for girls ages 7-13. She was very fortunate to be assigned(with a little begging) to the team Wales that is full of girls she already knew.

Her team, comprised of 7-8 year old girls, has truly been a joy for both of us. I've met some great parents that I wouldn't otherwise have known and Sofie is learning about cooperation, sportsmanship and fundamentals of soccer. The goal is to have FUN while learning the basics of the sport. I have to admit I've learned too. I knew nothing about the sport before...other than it's called "football" in most other countries and many players would love to bend it like beckham!! Sofie is a joy to watch on the field. From the moments she's hanging on the goal when there's no action at her end while playing goalie to the moments she's hopping around like a frog on the field(during play!). Watching her self confidence grow each time she's on the field. Amazingly she's a great goalie stopping ball after ball when it's her turn to pay attention. After pep talks from Matt, her closest daddy figure, she really understood that it was okay to go for the ball. I'm really enjoying watching her blossom on and off the field. I hope she maintains an interest in the sport as I am loving being a mini-van driving soccer mom!!

Along with soccer, parenting and work I've been overtaken by the responsibilities of making sure Sofie is in the best environment for learning. As we all know, she's a funny, intelligent, loving kid. The days since returning from our trip to CA have been spent pondering, investigating, processing and talking many many hours to friends and professionals about the "right thing to do." When Sofie first started kindergarten, both Debra and I wanted her to be able to start pre-k as a 5 year old. She's on the younger end of students in her grade, she was born prematurely AND lived her first 20 months in a hospital/orphanage, she has a vision issue and we suspected ADHD. The ADHD has been diagnosed and she's doing much better in that realm. However we were unable to start her in pre-K, so there have been struggles...emotionally and academically.

My struggles have finally been resolved after much pondering, soul searching and sheer intuition/gut feelings. Sofie will be moving to another school and repeating 2nd grade next year. In my heart and soul I know it's the best thing for her. 2nd grade was pretty much a wash this year with Debra's illness and death. Sofie is just now back to the light, fun loving child she was before all the illness. The grieving she has done continues but in a much more subtle way. There are still repercussions of having lost a mother but all in all, she's doing great. She's even on board with switching schools. We've told her about doing 2nd grade again but haven't really harped on that too much. I'll have all summer to let that sink in. First I have to make a decision about which school I'm sending her to!

So as you can see, life is going on. We both miss Debra but we both honor her every day in some small way. We know she's present in our daily lives making sure that we tow the line, love each other and miss her less and less each day.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Playing catch-up...again

Well I thought it would be a good time to post a bit of what's going on in our lives as I currently wait for Sofie to get through a couple hours of testing this morning.

Life continues to be a growth experience for both of us. We're getting used to our "new normal" and continuing to remember Debra in our thoughts and prayers. I've been channeling the creative part of Debra in some funny ways. Recently it was Book Character Day at Sofie's school. Since she has an obsession with animals, hamsters in particular this year, I set out to make her a hamster costume so she could be the main character from The World According to Humphrey, a charming book that her teacher read to the class earlier this school year. And when I say obsessed, I'm not far off the mark!! Ever since reading that first book(of the series of four) she's wanted a hamster. Life kept getting in the way though. Debra didn't want one while she was sick, then I didn't want one while we were making that transition and moving things in and out of the house. I promised Sofie that when life settled down, we'd get a hamster. She kept saying that won't be until summer!! Boy, she had no idea! Even though things aren't fully in there places, I decided to surprise her on Valentine's day and get her very own Humphrey. She was very clear that she wanted a girl hamster but wanted to name it Humphrey...the guy at the pet store got a kick out of that! So we're now the proud owners of the world's cutest hamster. I'll post pictures(of the hamster costume and the real thing) once I download them from my camera.

Other news in our life...Sofie is starting her first attempt at team sports this week. After watching a friend who plays every team sport at one of her basketball games this winter, I asked Sofie if there was any sport she'd like to try. She thought for a moment then replied, "Well soccer seems pretty easy. There's only two things you have to do...keep the ball from the other team and score." Well, there you have it, soccer in a nutshell! So we've signed up for Durham Girls Soccer League and start practice tonight...fingers crossed it doesn't rain. Most of the girls were on the team in the Fall, but I'm sure she'll catch up quickly. She knows a few of the team members from school, so she's not going into a totally unknown situation. I'm looking forward to being a soccer mom...and yes, I bought a minivan. Both mine and Debra's cars were getting high in miles, so I wanted a more reliable, comfortable car. I bought a Honda Odyssey which is both...I swear, sometimes I feel like I'm driving around in my living room! With all the kids in the neighborhood that we hang out with, it's come in handy to be able to schlep more than two kids around. We both love the car and I'm sure Debra is looking down on us and having a laugh about the minivan mom!

End of next week we head to San Francisco for Spring Break and to attend Debra's memorial service out there. I'll give a full report, if I'm able, for those of you unable to attend.

I'm certain there's been more that's happened in our lives but I can't think of it at this time. I'll try to periodically check in, but just know there will be no more daily postings for awhile!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Debra's San Francisco Memorial Information

Dear Friends,

Please gather with us to celebrate the incredible Debra Kent (and please feel free to forward this information with others):

Sunday, March 30th
The Meadow
National AIDS Memorial Grove (“the Grove”)
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA
Contemplation and Meditation from 10:00 am
Program promptly at 11:00 am


Reception in the Grove to follow



HOW YOU CAN HELP:

The inimitable Kile Ozier is responsible for the format of this event and has asked that if any of you might be able to help with the following resources and talented individuals he seeks for this special moment at the Grove, please let him know directly at kile@kileozier.com:

(a) donated/discounted florist/flower source

(b) pro bono musicians: strings, winds, percussion and soloists, duos, trios

(c) donated/discounted rentals such as chairs, tables, linens, a tent


A LASTING MEMORIAL FOR DEBRA:

The National AIDS Memorial Grove was close to Debra’s heart; it’s a beautiful space for solace and remembrance of many friends and family who we’ve lost over the years. Debra specifically requested that her memorial be held here, if possible. Many thanks to all the people who are helping to make it possible!

In honor of the many contributions made by Debra in her short life time, we are working with the Grove to install/inscribe something meaningful and lovely for all of us – and especially for her daughter Sofie - to visit and remember her for years to come. We are still working out the details with our friends at the Grove as to what exactly this will look like, but, in the meantime, we ask you to join us in contributing towards this installation/inscription with a donation to the National AIDS Memorial Grove in memory of Debra. We hope to announce more details about this at the celebration on March 30th.

Donations can be made payable to the National AIDS Memorial Grove and sent directly to them at:

P.O. Box 2270

San Francisco, CA 94126-2270

PLEASE include a note with your donation that your gift is in memory of Debra Kent, so it gets credited to this campaign.

If you prefer to make a gift online, please go to www.aidsmemorial.org and click on the “DONATE NOW” button on the right hand side of your screen. You’ll be taken to a secure donation portal via groundspring.org, and there is a space to note that your gift is in memory of Debra.

DIRECTIONS AND PARKING INFO:

PLEASE NOTE: JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park is closed to automobile traffic on Sundays. However, there are several other ways to get to the Grove; please visit their website here http://www.aidsmemorial.org/getting.html for more information (click on the “Getting to the Grove” option on the left for more info depending on your mode of transportation). There’s a pretty good map of Golden Gate Park here: http://www.sfgate.com/traveler/acrobat/maps/1999/ggparkmap.pdf - the AIDS Memorial Grove is #27 on this map, and the street names where the Grove intersects are Bowling Green and Middle Drive East (right across from the tennis courts).

There is free street parking in Golden Gate Park ; however, with JFK Drive closed, these spots may fill up early. Another suggestion is the parking lot at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, which is open to the public and not too far away from the Grove – please see #21 on the Golden Gate Park map referred to above. Here’s more details on that lot (from the de Young’s website):

Concourse Parking Facility: Parking for cars and bicycles is available in the Concourse parking facility. Access to the north entrance is from Fulton Street at 10th Avenue . Access to the south entrance is at Concourse Drive and Martin Luther King Drive inside the park. The Concourse parking facility is open seven days a week year-round and parking in the garage is encouraged.

Hours and rates: Weekends 7:30 a.m.–10 p.m. ($3.00/hour)

For more info please visit: http://www.famsf.org/deyoung/visiting/subpage.asp?subpagekey=575


Thanks to everyone for your caring and support of Debra over these heartbreaking few years. We hope to see many of you in person on March 30th.

Brenda (and Kile and Kerry E.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Taking a break

To all my faithful readers, a note to say I haven't had the time nor energy to post lately. I've returned to work and need to focus on getting in the groove of full time parenting and working. Just know this break is temporary and I'll post soon.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A birthday celebration

Yesterday would have been Debra's birthday. Sofie decided we'd do all the things Debra liked with purple being a theme! Sofie got dressed in the morning wearing her purple Camp Kesem t-shirt, I wore my Malaprop's t-shirt that had purple in it. We had a cuddly, low key morning with the emphasis on cuddles(something Mama Debra and Sofie loved to do!)

After lunch our friends from school and church, Mom Kimberly and son Avery, arrived after dropping sister Olivia at an all afternoon birthday party. It was such a beautiful Spring-like February day that Kimberly and I sat out at the table and chairs in the front yard while Avery and Sofie jumped and jumped and jumped on the trampoline. At some point the kids went in a played with Sofie's zoo while Kimberly and I continued to chat and bask in the warm sun. She kept admiring the neighbors’ backyard...they have a preschool, so it's an awesome backyard! Kimberly used to run a daycare in California, so their backyard had all that fun stuff, too. She's wanting to convert their backyard into a nice play area for the kids. So we walked over and she checked out all the things they'd created for their school. (Donna, I hope you don't mind!!) They had also created this wonderful play area around the now dried up creek bed...normally there's some water. I'm sure the kids love that area.

After perusing the school play area, we went back over and suggested it was time to go to Locopops...another thing Debra enjoyed. We piled into Kimberly's van and headed to Locopops. Sofie got coffee flavored, Avery cookies and cream, Kimberly got something with Raspberry and Rosemary and I got Raspberry Mojito...all were delicious!! After enjoying the pops outside in the warmth we piled back into the van and headed back home. The kids jumped and jumped again and Kimberly and I sat in the living room and chatted about all kinds of things. At some point the kids wanted to play the Wii, so I sat that up for them and they played until they got to a level that was too hard...then they jumped some more!!

They left around 6p and Sofie and I headed to the grocery store to pick up cupcakes and stuff for the feast we had planned in honor of Debra. While at the store, Betty and Delma called. They wanted to know what we were doing for dinner, so I invited them over for the birthday celebration and feast! I added a few desserts to the cart, picked up a few groceries and headed back home to cook a feast. Since I'd only thawed enough chicken for Sofie and I, they picked up a box of Churches fried chicken...yummy. As we were setting out snacks to feed on before dinner, Sofie said Debra would have liked this...she liked parties! So Betty entertained Sofie...or was it the other way around...while I cooked and chatted with Delma. The feast was prepared and we all gathered around the table. Sofie asked us to hold hands and she said her version of a prayer. I was a beautiful sentiment and tribute to Debra...this kid amazes me sometimes! We all feasted and chatted and had a merry time.

After dinner, Betty and Delma were entertained by Sofie as she "showed" them her movies she'd made...not quite sure what that meant but they were in her room for quite some time!! I printed out a few pictures that Betty and Delma requested and cleaned the kitchen while they were having fun. I brewed a pot of decaf, got the random desserts out and sat down and actually rested for a few moments! After making coffee for everyone, we sat down and sang Happy Birthday then gorged on desserts. We did a few other things in honor of Debra then the girls headed home and Sofie and cuddled in bed. It was a wonderful day and we know Debra was right there with us, enjoying every moment.

Today Sofie is going to a "remembering service" that Duke Bereavement center had planned for today. It's only for children. She's taking a picture of Debra and will join 10 or so other kids who've lost significant people in their lives for a celebration. Parents or the other adults will meet and chat about grieving and helping the kids through it. If it's 1/2 as good as it sounds, I'll be quite pleased!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

rock -->ME<-- hard place

That's exactly where I feel I am, between a rock and a hard place. Let me just say I do not like having to medicate my kid to get her to sleep. It goes against many things I believe. With that said, I also don't like a kid who is so fragile she can't get to sleep or make it through one day at school.

Friday, she met with the Dr. who prescribes her ADHD medicine. He's a wonderful doctor with years of experience and a kindness you might not expect from a psychiatrist. He spent time asking Sofie about school, her sadness, her sleeping. He had her read to him, he showed her a painting he did...it was a great appointment. I knew he's prescribe something different to help her sleep and I was convinced he'd also prescribe her something for anxiety. I was glad to see that he didn't change her ADHD meds and he prescribed only something to help her sleep. Of course as many doctors do, it was a drug intended for something else, but the side effect as a low dose was sleepiness. This a very short term solution to help her get adequate sleep while she grieves. I gave her the medicine that night and then I slept very little worried that this stronger drug might do something to her little body! Oy!! She did sleep well that night and I'm happy to say we had a great day...Debra's birthday. (I'll write a separate posting on that day.)

Back to the rock and hard place spot I'm in...Sofie is grieving very appropriately. Unfortunately it's interfering with her daily life at school. Do I keep her home? Do I send her and let her sort out her emotions? Right now, I'm sending her but picking her up right as school lets out and this week I kept her out on Friday. I'm going to try that again this coming week, but if she's still upset at school I'll keep her home more. Unfortunately, I only have 2 more weeks on my leave and don't want to go back...but I have to. I want to stay and make sure she's okay and certainly do not want to be 30 miles away at work! Creative thinking has been what I'm all about these days, coming up with alternate plans for re-entry. I'll have to contact HR to see if any of these options are viable.

This will all work out in the end...it's just a long road getting there.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A version of hell this long night

There aren't enough words to impress upon you just how difficult tonight has been. Show of hands...how many of you have had a colonoscopy? For those who have, you know what hell the night before can be. So, for those who have suffered that version of hell, just how many of you have had a child upstairs sobbing for over 2 hours...nonstop? I'm guessing that just cut the numbers down considerably and maybe I'm the only one who falls into that category.

My daughter has become a bundle of anxiety-ridden nerves. She cries all day at school, she takes forever to go to sleep at night (and that's WITH pharmaceutical assistance!!), she, according to her own words, "thinks about Debra every hour of every day." Wow, that's a lot for a little kid to think about.

Tonight was her session with her psychotherapist. The session started off with a bang as Sofie accused me of lying to her. I won't bore you with the details, but let’s just say, it was determined by the therapist and Sofie in her session that I did NOT lie to her. At some point during her session she came out and gave me a hug and said she was wiggly so she had to come out to the waiting room for a bit. Her therapist took that opportunity to give her opinion that Sofie's not dealing with depression; she's dealing with an extreme level of anxiety...that's all being compounded by little sleep. So that made me feel better and gave me something to tell her psychiatrist on Friday...he prescribes her ADHD medicine so he's being brought in the loop regarding all the other things going on with her. Hopefully something will work and next week will be a better week.

Tonight has been hell. I took all 20 horse-sized pills within the allotted hours time along with 8oz of liquid per 15 minutes. Here it is 11p and it's only produced a slight result. Thank goodness I had the wherewithal to have my mom come up the night BEFORE the day of the procedure. She did her best to console Sofie. I sent her to bed a half hour ago and luckily the meds held out and I was able to get Sofie to sleep. I hope she stays in her bed for awhile because I have a feeling it's going to be a long night!!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Playing catch-up

Okay, I admit it...I've been quite remiss in posting to the blog. I'm constantly amazed at just how many people actually read this thing! Little did I know that going over a week without posting would elicit concern from my faithful readers. On some levels, there's not much new to report but on others life is changing right before our eyes.

Sofie continues to grieve on such a profound level. Her days are filled with tears and her nights are filled with sobbing. It's heart-wrenching to hear the sobs pour out of her. Her world has been turned upside down. Not only did she lose a mother, she also lost the version of me she was most comfortable with. No longer the "fun mom" due to all the responsibilities of being solo mom, Sofie is painfully aware of the changes in roles. Boundaries are being set and in response being tested, behaviors are being challenged and encouraged to change. Life is changing and we're both trying to adjust.

Last night while I was cooking dinner, Sofie was running around hyped up on life and having a great time helping me in the kitchen. As I was preparing the plates, she headed in the living area. Next thing I heard was a loud thud, then an outburst of tears. A caveat about the type of mom I am...I'm very caring, sensitive and loving but I'm not the type of mom that gets stressed out when a kid hurts themselves. My M.O. is typically level headed and just trying to get the child out of a place of distress. Last night I felt like evil insensitive mom, ten fold!! I did the appropriate amount of cuddling and telling her it was going to be okay. We placed ice on the large bump on her forearm and I cuddled for awhile. The sobs continued. I was losing patience. After dealing with sobbing for weeks in relation to Debra's death, I found it quite difficult to be empathetic to her physical pain. Finally she agreed to sit down and eat dinner. That was challenging but we made it through. Then we cuddled and iced her elbow.

After finishing a movie, we went downstairs to play with our new Wii. I won't even go into the lack of patience I had with that experience! Just know I'm aware of emotions running amok in our house. Trying to deal with my own feelings and be supportive of Sofie's has been somewhat challenging these past few weeks. I'm worried this will go on longer than I expect or longer than I can process. Patience is what I'm practicing and love is what I'm giving.

Sofie is an awesome, loving kid. She's wide open when it comes to love. I hope losing a mother doesn't change that compassion and openness. We have lots of special moments and no where near all of them are surrounded by tears. Just the other day she told me, after being asked what one thing she'd take to a deserted island, that the one thing she'd take would be ME!! Awwwww.

A heartfelt thanks to everyone that's emailed and called. Please don't be offended if I don't respond. Life is a bit crazy and requiring much of my energy, so emails and phone calls are on the bottom of the To Do list. Thanks for understanding.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Profound sadness

I've been feeling a bit blue ever since Barbara and Jacque hauled the last box of Debra's things out the door and off to Goodwill. Her stuff, or lack of it, seemed to trigger a profound sadness in both me and Sofie.

Tonight was one of those nights that even before it got started I sensed things would digress quickly. Things started out simply enough. Upon arriving home, Sofie went to play in her room while I started a load of laundry and did a quick check of email. This was a bath night for Sofie, so that meant either speeding up all activities or just facing the fact that the night will end a little later than expected. After getting the laundry started, Sofie informed me she needed to cuddle...this is happening so much more these days. I certainly don't mind...she's a great cuddler! We assumed our positions in the cuddling chair upstairs and just chilled out for a little while. After a bit of time, we popped up and quickly put dinner on the table. Sushi and edamame for Sofie, a burrito from Whole Foods for me.

While Sofie polished off her sushi, I started her bath. By this time it was still early enough to have a fairly regular bedtime. This is where it all started falling apart. Sofie is a kid who loves creative play. She works out a lot of "stuff" via play. Until tonight, she hadn't wanted to wash off the cathartic art she created in the tub the night I told her Debra was going to die soon. It's been there for all the visitors to see for over a month. Tonight she was adamant about having it removed. She wanted me to help her, but when I started to help she really wanted to wipe it off on her own. I asked why now...it's making me sad was her simple answer.

After cleaning off the walls of the shower, I gave her the 5 minute play warning...meaning she had five more minutes to play before she had to stop, wash her hair and body and get out of the tub. While emptying the dishwasher I gave her the 3 minute, then 1 minute warnings. At the 5 minutes, I asked that she stop playing and start washing. When I checked in 5 minutes later, she was washing, but in between playing. I turned into nagging mom, who escalated into yelling mom the more I had to ask her to finish what I asked her to do. Finally, 15 minutes later I told her to drain the tub, get out, dry off and get in her PJs. She was shivering(since she has 0% body fat!) so I went in to help speed things up. Pokey is a great middle name for her. I left her to dress and went back into the living room.

A few minutes later out she walks...crying. "Mommy, two things made me sad. One is that I miss Mama Debra SO much. The other is that you yelled at me!" Oy. I decided to address the yelling first. We've had this discussion a few times before and I'm hoping that one day it sticks. My yelling isn't an immediate reaction...it builds up after having to ask/demand that she complete a task. I told her we need to communicate better, she needs to listen and I need to try to refrain from yelling...viscous cycle that it is. After this discussion, we went on to the much harder discussion.

It's really apparent that all of this getting rid of Debra's things are affecting her more than anyone probably anticipated. I told her that we have saved some things for her and they're in a special place. That discussion digressed into remembering the last few weeks of Debra's life. "I never got to have one last cuddle or say goodbye to Mommy Debra." My heart ripped a little. As much as we laid the groundwork for Debra's death, nothing would really help her with these type wounds. Interestingly, she was parroting back some of the things that other adults have said in her presence...such as "Mama Debra saved me. She adopted me and gave me a home."

We talked about the day Debra died. Sofie remembered incorrectly that she was asleep when she died. I reminded her of the events of the day. She got angry at the Cancer and said, "I wish no one died...ever. People wouldn't be sad if that happened." Magical thinking.

She wanted to see pictures of Debra, so we took a bit of time and perused the pictures on the computer. That seemed to appease her. It was late, so I suggested snuggling in bed and starting the second Humphrey the hamster book that we've been waiting a few weeks to read. After bedtime rituals, we snuggled in her bed and before I finished the last chapter, she was fast asleep. I'm sure I'll get a early morning visit with a quick sneak into my bed that will include a big snuggle up to me on my side of the bed. The nights will continue to be restless and hard for awhile, but I know that we'll both eventually feel less grief and more happiness. Not before she tells me a few more times that this is the worst life ever...even though she feels safe and loved with me, this is a bad/sad life right now!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Durham memorial followed by sadness

Posting to the blog has been hard for me lately and it doesn't have anything to do with time. I can usually find time to write if I'm in the mindset. The anticipation of Debra's memorial was weighing on my mind more than I even realized. Planning a memorial is something I never expected I'd have to do, especially for Debra. She was the event planner, not me. So I became a little paralyzed by the idea of pulling off the memorial. All in all, I think it went over pretty well.

We held the local memorial for Debra yesterday amidst the biting cold weather which wasn't accompanied by enough snow. All day I kept saying I just want the day to be over with. From my perspective, the celebration was beautiful. The service was scheduled for 4p on Sunday at our church, ERUUF. All things considered, the service was well attended. Many people from the UNC Health Science's Library where Debra was employeed attended the service, as well as a good representation from our friends, Sofie's preschool and elementary school population, my family and even a few co-workers of mine! I was especially pleased to see several counselors from our beloved Camp Kesem! We were worried the bitter cold and holiday weekend would keep people away, fortunately that wasn't the case at all.

The service began with a welcome from our minister and followed by Sofie lighting the chalice. A wonderful eulogy that was a tribute to the Debra that many people in NC didn't know that well. I was pleased he focused on her parenting and love of Sofie. After the eulogy there was silent meditation followed by Barbara reading a May Sarton poem. The Comman Woman chorus did a nice rendition of "Season's of Love" which was followed by an open sharing. Alan shared a heartfelt Thank You from all the folks back in the Bay area,a childhood friend of Debra's talked about a younger Debra that none of us knew, Debra's boss Carol spoke about the impact Debra had in her short time at UNC and Sofie ended the sharing with a story about how Debra told her donuts were called bagels. The chorus then ended the service with the beautiful song, "Everything's Possible" which is one of my favorite lullabyes. The amount of love in the sanctuary was overwhelming at times. So many people just wanted to support me and Sofie and our loss...and that support was felt ten-fold.

Following the service I shook many hands, met many people associated with Debra's work at UNC, chatted and reconnected with people I hadn't seen in awhile and whirled about the Fellowship Hall making sure I thanked everyone for attending. I'm sure I missed many people, but I hope they know how much it meant to me and Sofie for them to be there. For the rest of the evening I was in a haze, exhausted from all the activities. I want to thank everyone who pitched in and helped with the festivities. You gave unconditionally and I appreciate it more than you can imagine.

Today I've been under a cloud of sadness. We're nearing the end of getting Debra's things out of the house and that makes me sad...she really is gone. Often, as I read an email or hear a story on NPR or somewhere else I think to myself, "I need to tell Debra that" quickly realizing I can't tell her. It'll take time for me to stop saying "we" and not wanting to tell her the latest gossip or news. The sadness will fade and life will go on. Sofie and I continue to grieve and though it seems like we're fine, there are days we're both sad and weepy. It'll get better over time...this I know.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Crazy busy times

The past few days have been somewhat of a whirlwind. Sofie's godmother and Debra's best friend Barbara came into town to start taking care of the business of being executrix of Debra's will...a job I would not wish on anyone! She's such a trooper though. Where I would have run screaming from the house, she patiently purged and organized so many things! I was so glad she was here. It gets kind of lonely, even for an introvert like me! I can't begin to say enough "Thank You's" to her, so I'll just leave it at that...she's making/made my life as easy as it's going to be for the next many years.

Much purging, donating, selling and giving away has happened. A few shout outs to some of my peeps for the help this weekend. In no particular order, to Betty for taking a station wagon FULL of things to PTA Thrift shop; to Wendy and strong-bodied teenage son Matt for hauling heavy boxes of books upstairs and taking them to the library for donations; to Rebecca and Mary for helping my dad haul my bed and some boxes from the condo over to the house, then loading a couch to take to Betty and Delma's; to Daddy for his undying support and love and doing all he can to help out(even turning around a coming back to the house when I called him to tell him my hot water heater was completely out!); to Tracey for helping get rid of stuff on Craigslist; to Janet for helping with hauling and being flexible to my comings and going from the condo; to Hannah and family for taking Sofie for a big chunk of time on Saturday to allow for much purging to happen; to Louise(Gemma's mom) for taking Sofie for a couple hours; and to anyone else that's done anything for me over the past few days that I've forgotten somehow!! Much love and many thanks to you all!!

Speaking of water heaters...the heating element needs to be replaced and a regular handy person can't do it because the element is rated too high for anybody other than a plumber to order it so a plumber has to do the work...oh, joy!! Another shout out to Wendy for making things happen.

I'm so overjoyed that my bed is here! It was so nice sleeping upstairs last night...but I have to say, the air coming in that bedroom window was frigid!! No wonder Debra was always complaining about being cold. I also have more clothes here, which is nice...I got really tired of wearing the same thing over and over again.

So that's my past few days in a nutshell. Things are moving along at a manageable pace, so I haven't gone crazy...yet.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cancerblog article

Several months ago, Debra was contacted via her blog by a writer at CR Magazine, which is published by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). The author writes a column in the journal entitled Cancerblogs and she wanted to do an article on Debra. Debra, being the networker that she was, suggested that there was a much bigger story here and that she should check out my blog, too. So, she did. Alanna, the author, interviewed both of us and pulled together a sweet article about how we were dealing with and teaching Sofie about death. That was a great angle to go from our blogs and really relevant based on our more recent experiences. You can view the article in it's entirety here. I'm just sorry Debra didn't get to see the finished product. I showed Sofie the article and the picture that's on the home page of the journal. Her response, "I'm in a MAGAZINE?!?! Wow!!"

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Hard Days Night

Yesterday when I picked up Sofie from school, she was her typical charming, loving self. The evening started off with what was going to be a quick trip to Whole Foods for a few things...it ended up being dinner for us. This kid is going to break my bank with the sushi she can put away!! After eating, we meandered through the store picking up a few necessities, such as Ben&Jerry's for Sofie and fruit cobbler for me.

Upon arriving home, I ran a shallow bath...a technique Delma suggested to wash her hair while her big bump on her head is healing. After washing her hair, we added water and she played a bit in the tub. This kid has got some kind of imagination! I love listening to her chatter to the the animals she's playing with and the hearing the creative play she comes up with. After bath was dessert, then reading and snuggling. This is when the night turned on me without nary a warning!!

After finishing our reading, lights went out. Sofie was pretty fidgety, so I tried to relax her by rubbing her back, head and legs. Then it happened...she burst into to tears and said she couldn't sleep because she missed Mommy Debra. I consoled her and validated her feelings. We talked about how much better Debra was now that she was out of pain. Intellectually, she got that...emotionally she was still a wreck. She just couldn't stop thinking about Debra and this was keeping her awake. This went on for nearly 3 hours! At some point I got up and told her to just play in her room and try to get her mind off Debra. I went into the other room and waited. About 10 minutes later, she walked in and said, "Mommy, I love you" and gave me the biggest hug. We sat and talked a bit more. She said, "Mommy, people are being so nice." Indeed they are. I'm glad she's getting a good sense that the world is full of good people. That will serve her well as she's older and more jaded!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Life going on

It's been a fairly busy few days here in Durham. I'm in that awkward place of getting rid of Debra's personal belongings, rearranging things in the house and bringing my personal belongings in to integrate into our home. I've been keeping a close eye on Sofie to see if this purging/rearranging/adding is affecting her in any way. I talk about how hard this must be giving away Mama Debra's things, but I always add the caveat that this was what Debra wanted and that it's making her happy seeing friends, family and charities benefitting from her stuff. She seems to understand but I do sense a bit of sadness around it.

The clearing began on Thursday morning. Other Jamie(Emma and Jacob's mommy) came over to "shop" in Debra's closet. Thanks to the earlier organization by Nancy(Debra's sister) and Laurie(a friend from California pictured below with the finished organizational project) the clothes closet was miraculously organized! Jamie was thrilled to see that she and Debra had many similar tastes in clothing and that, according to Jamie, Debra was as big a shopaholic as she was!! A caveat here, Debra did love to shop, the unfortunate thing was she never purged her closet so there were years worth of clothing. Jamie left with bags of clothing and that still left a pretty sizable collection for others to peruse. Later that evening, a coworker of Debra's came over to shop, too. She had been over earlier while Debra was still alive, but Debra insisted that she come over again. I know she's thrilled that her clothing is making an impact in other's lives.

Thursday and Friday were emotional days for me on many levels. The loss and aloneness hit hard. Even though Debra and I hadn't been partners for nearly three years, we were still significant to one another and our own created family. So not having her around is affecting me more than I realized it might. I did a lot of introspection during this time. Unfortunately that caused sleepless nights. I did make good use of the sleeplessness by running ideas of rearranging certain areas/rooms in my mind. It's helping plot out where furniture and stuff of mine will be living.

Thursday afternoon, I picked Sofie up from school, but not after having a chat with her teachers. They informed me that she did really well and was her happy go lucky self all day. She did, however, try to pull the sad card before school that day. I quickly recognized she was trying to get out of going to school! I agreed with her that we were both very sad, but we also needed to continue on with life by going to school, work and other activities. I assured her we'd have good moments and sad moments, but we had each other now and that was what mattered most.

Friday I had therapy and ran a few errands. I was mostly quiet and remained introspective. I felt myself getting into a funk later in the afternoon so I did a preemptive strike on that and call Kimberly(Olivia and Avery's mom) to see if they were going out for pizza. (They have a Friday night family dinner tradition.) She said they were making either pizza or nachos and that Sofie and I were welcome to come over. I decided that would be fun because we always laugh a lot at their house. So I picked up Sofie from school and we headed down the block to have Family Dinner with a whole slew of people...ten in all(five adults, five kids)...Sofie and I were the only solo's, but that seems to be the way we live our lives. We had a blast and stayed a little too late, but we laughed, talked politics and the kids had fun. (This was after Sofie had a pretty bad accident at afterschool. Apparently she was crawling around on the gym floor, playing with her animals when WHAM!! she smacked head first into the concrete wall!! They cleaned her up, bandaged it and gave me a courtesy call. She's currently sporting a nice purple Scooby Band-Aid on her forehead!!)

After getting home, I was feeling super cuddly with her, so we snuggled in the bed that was in the family room downstairs, put Ratatouille in the DVD player, snuggled and fell asleep. Unfortunately, I didn't sleep well. Mostly related to monkey mind, but also Sofie's tossing/turning/kicking/poking/grunting kept waking me up. I finally fell asleep about the time my alarm went off. Betty and Delma were coming over that morning to hang with Ms. Sofie while I had an appointment. Sofie was in protest mode about taking a bath because it would hurt her cut on her forehead, so I suggested that Delma(the nurse) wash her hair because she'd know how to avoid hurting her. That was a huge success AND Delma gave her a pedicure so she wouldn't have pokey toenails! While Delma was playing with Sofie during her bathtime, Betty was "shopping" in Debra's boutique. She agreed to take what she wanted and then take the rest to donate to charity. So, as of now, the only clothing of Debra's remaining are, oh, about 40 pairs of shoes!!

After returning from my appointment we all headed to....drum roll, please...you got it, Biscuitville!! It was more brunch than breakfast, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. Betty and Delma are officially godesses in my book. They stayed with us until nearly 9p last night. (There was rest and dinner involved, but much help was provided, too.) We rearranged the kitchen to suit me...with the advice of Delma. We boxed up extra food for the homeless shelter, party food for the memorial, extra food for Betty and Delma's son and his wife and daughter, extra utensils and such that I didn't need, the millions of storage containers Debra required to live with and last but not least, the liquor cabinet. I don't drink and rarely entertain, so by unanimous vote Betty, Delma and I decided that Tracey and Sharon would get the contents of the liqour cabinet since they entertain more than the rest of us. They came over later in the day and procurred their cache. (They joined us for dinner, too.)

During the time Delma and I were working in the kitchen, Sofie kept coming in wanting to help. We'd give her odd, random jobs but mostly she played in her room until some point she walked in and said, "Mommy, I need to cuddle." So I sat in the cuddling chair with her, talked to her and asked if what we were doing was upsetting her. She said no, but I think it may have on some level because she went in to Debra's old room, laid on the bedding I created for her to watch Scooby-Doo and she promptly fell asleep. I'm guessing something was going on for her that she didn't quite know how to articulate.

Last night was another late night, but Sofie and I got plenty of cuddling time. We kept reading The World According to Humphrey for the FIFTH time!!! She loves that book, and of course it's the inspiration for her getting a hamster. After she fell asleep, I came downstairs hoping to do the same. No such luck. I got in bed but promptly got out when it became apparent I wasn't going to sleep. I came in and found an email from a friend who sent a website where I can turn a blog into a book!!! So, I'm in the process of turning Debra's blog into a hardbound book for Sofie. It's fun, but it'll take a lot of time as the program is in Beta and still has a few kinks and some missing features. I don't mind, it's nice to be able to do that for Sofie.

This morning, Sofie slept in while I started to write this entry. Of course she woke up before I finished. So we made pancakes for her breakfast, I scrambled eggs for me. We ate breakfast and had a conversation about yelling. (To her, yelling is any raising of volume or attitude in the voice.) I explained why my voice changed and used the example that was happening just then. I literally had to ask her to finish her pancakes, bacon and milk a million times. (Okay, not literally, but you get the picture.) The more I asked, the louder I got. I used it as a teaching moment. She seemed to listen to the rationale...we'll see if it works. I just finished sewing my first hole in yang-yang(Sofie's blankie) and I have to say, I did quite well. I often feel myself channeling my Dad who was the "jim of all trades" when I was growing up. He could do anything...and if he didn't know how, he'd try until he figured it out! I have bit of daddy in me, so I just felt I was doing that when I sewed my first hole today.

Later, Sofie goes for a play date with Lucie and I head out to a meeting about a newly forming co-housing community. Then it's life as usual. Dinner, bath, reading and bedtime...and LOTS of cuddling!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Durham Memorial and Celebration Information

I had a wonderful meeting with our minister, Don, today. We've scheduled Debra's Celebration of Life for Sunday, January 20th and 4p at ERUUF the Unitarian congregation we've been attending for a few years. Their website has great directions and a map at the bottom of this page. After the service, we'll have food and beverages in the Fellowship Hall.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

It's 9:15p and all is quiet!!

It's 915p and all is well in the world. A certain little girl who has been struggling for weeks to get to sleep before even 10p(more recently closer to 11p or even midnight on occasion) drifted to sleep with ease and no complications. I'm so thankful that she had an easy transition to sleep tonight as it will make waking her up much more pleasant tomorrow morning for her first day back to school post holidays.

She had a fun play filled afternoon with many of the Mastens. Eating out, bowling and creative play were involved. Everyone commented on Sofie's technique for bowling. If you haven't witnessed it, please refer back to this blog entry for a full demonstration!! They even stopped by school to pick up one of the Masten kids. Luckily for Sofie, her teachers came out to the van to give her a big hug and tell her they can't wait to see her tomorrow.

I brought some food items over from the condo and now I've decided I need to rearrange the kitchen! Oh joy. I'll tackle that project tomorrow. I meet with Don, our minister, to discuss memorial options for Debra in Durham. Egads, I've never done anything like this before, so I'll be needing serious guidance!! Wish me luck.