Monday, April 6, 2015

What ever happened to Kate and Peter's Treehouse...

If you're new to my blog or my story, let me tell you a little bit about the origin of Kate and Peter's Treehouse. The night Kate and Peter were killed, six years ago tonight, I remember talking to my Dad on the phone and telling him that I had no idea what to do next. My kids were my life. I was a stay at home mom. I didn't have a single thing on my calendar for the rest of eternity that didn't revolve around my kids. Not one.

He said something like, "You have to go on. You have to let people know who they were and how incredible they were. You have to memorialize them in some meaningful way."

I didn't know the first thing about memorializing anybody, but I did know that Kate and Peter really wanted me to build them a treehouse. They loved playing outside as most kids do, and they loved the Magic Tree House book series, thanks to Kate's kindergarten teacher. Ever since discovering those books they had wanted a treehouse so of course, I said someday. Tragically, someday never came.

When my dad mentioned memorializing them I thought about the fact that Kate was going to a brand new elementary school that had no playground, so I figured we could find a way to build one there. Kate and Peter wouldn't get to use it, but their friends and classmates could benefit from it for years to come.

After I proposed the idea, people began donating money. I was overwhelmed by the huge and gracious response. Over 600 people made donations and we compiled a good chunk of money with which to build what I thought could be a pretty nice treehouse.

The school was located in one of Pittsburgh's parks so in order to build anything there, I needed to work with the folks who manage those parks. We set up a meeting and began planning what would become known as "Kate and Peter's Treehouse".

A request for design proposals was made, design teams responded and we were off on our design journey. As things began to develop, however, I was contacted by a city councilman's office and told that some of the residents in that neighborhood didn't want a new playground or any sort of construction project in their park. I was quite confused (I mean, who doesn't want a fancy new playground) but I'm not very pushy and I'm not the type to ruffle any feathers. A public meeting was held and city residents spoke both for and against Kate and Peter's Treehouse, but those against more or less got their way. The parks people and I were asked to find a different location for the treehouse.

If I'm being honest, this whole opposition development was very disheartening to me. I am still not sure I understand the naysayers, but we agreed to find a new location. We picked a spot near what was going to become the new Frick Environmental Center. We chose a design team and began having public meetings to hear what city residents (especially kids) would like to see in Kate and Peter's Treehouse.

I have to tell you that when I first came up with this idea I never imagined how challenging this process would be. I figured that building a playground/treehouse was a fairly simple idea, especially when I was offering what I thought was a large sum of donated money. I was very seriously mistaken.

As the process continued I was told things like, "we can't call this a playground; if we do we'll have to submit to very specific design specifications like using plastic and rubber building materials". Next I heard things like, "we can't use the word play at all when referring to this project; this needs to be seen as more of a space for outdoor education" Who knew there were so many play haters in the world? I was assured that the finished project would contain some fun elements though.

After a year or so of meetings and designs I was presented with what was THE schematic design. To be honest, I think I've repressed the image of the actual design, but what I remember seeing was a deck-like structure with some very lovely landscaping around it. I couldn't see any fun elements. Not a slide. Not a swing. Nothing that looked fun at all.

During those aforementioned public meetings kids said they wanted climbing walls and zip lines and slides and swings (those kids also drew pictures and built models - they really got into it designing this thing!). I realize that some of those things are not possible, but something fun would have been nice. To be fair, I think the design team did as good a job as possible, but with these constraints of no playground, no play, etc. their hands were somewhat tied.

I was extremely disappointed, but there were two things that were even more upsetting than the design itself. One was that Kate and Peter's names were no longer allowed to be part of this project. The project was now called "The Treehouse in Frick Park". Instead I was told that a memorial plaque with their names would be visible somewhere at this structure. The other upsetting part was that the price tag of this project was somewhere in the neighborhood of $600,000. Yes, you read that correctly. $600,000. That was well over 5 times what had originally been donated. So as soon as I could come up with more than half a million, this non-Kate and Peter, not-fun, non-playground would be underway! (In all fairness, they offered some help in this giant fundraising endeavor.)

I started crying. I was in public, in a coffee shop. I didn't care. There was nothing else I could do. I knew I couldn't raise that much money and there was no way I was going to try for something that had nothing to do with my kids and didn't involve anything fun. My only option was to take what money was left and use it for something else. Sadly, half of the original money had been eaten up by this design process and there was no way to get it back. That part still makes me want to vomit.

At this point I felt extremely defeated. I didn't want to waste one more penny of what had been so generously donated so I figured I'd just donate what was left to a worthy cause. Someone had to benefit from this money! On the off-chance that Kate's school could help me find such a cause, I gave them a call. At this point it was sometime in late 2012.

In the years since 2009, when Kate attended the school, a new building had been obtained and the school now occupied two buildings. As it turned out, the lower school (grades K-3) did have the space to build a playground and they were willing to try. The money was transferred to them and they agreed to take on the project. I was, and still am, extremely grateful.

As I've come to learn, these things take time (clearly). As of today, the project is still in the planning stages. Kate and Peter's Treehouse is part of a larger playground project. The school has assured me they will only use the money donated for Kate and Peter to build the treehouse itself, but they need to raise additional funds for the rest of the project. They recently held what was a very successful fundraiser, but they still have a way to go. I have faith that this project will be underway soon.

I apologize for the lack of information about this project over the last few years. I honestly didn't know what to say. I've been a combination of frustrated, angry, sad and ashamed about the whole thing. Every time I think we're making progress, something bad seems to happen. But at this moment I'm encouraged. I believe in the Environmental Charter School and all of the people who are working hard to get this project moving. It's going to happen. I can't tell you exactly when, only that it is.

As always, thank you all for your continued love and kindness. I'm amazed by how many of you still read and comment after all these years. Each and every comment is a comfort and reassurance that Kate and Peter haven't been forgotten. Thank you!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Deja vu all over again

6 years out, and it's like everything is happening all over again.  As I write it's Saturday, March 28th at 8:44pm. Some random Facebook post just reminded me that it's Earth Hour, that one hour a year when everyone is supposed to turn off their lights in order to raise awareness about climate change and the fact that we can actually do something about it.

The thing about Earth Hour is that Kate really really really wanted to observe it in 2009. She went to an environmental school and sincerely wanted to do everything she could to help the environment. I was somewhat crunchy myself and admired her enthusiasm, but on March 28th, 2009 I simply wasn't in the mood.

I was tired. I was stressed. I loved my kids but I was a single parent and didn't get a ton of time to myself. I was looking forward to Easter week when they would spend their spring break with their dad and I would have my own spring break. I had no idea it would be a permanent break. No fucking clue.

I more or less told Kate that Earth Hour was a nice idea, but we didn't really have time for all that (how much time does it take to turn off some lights and light a few candles?!?!). I remember saying something about how it would be bed time and she and Peter would need to brush their teeth and how would they see in the bathroom? In retrospect I wonder what in the holy hell was wrong with me?

So here I am, it's March 28th, 2015. In 2015 dates fall on the same days of the week that they did in 2009. March 28th fell on a Saturday then, and here it is again. The ever looming April 6th occurred on a Monday and it's about to happen again in just over a week. It's hard to explain exactly why this occurrence is such a big deal, but I'm finding that it is. It brings back the memories so much more sharply and vividly. I'm guessing others who've experienced major trauma will understand.

For the past couple of weeks I've been thinking about how those weeks of March and April were the precious last few I would ever have with Kate and Peter. Of course I had no idea, no one ever does. I was wrapped up in my own head thinking about how I needed to lose 10 lbs., how the guy I really liked wasn't calling me and how I really hated being single. I was quite self-absorbed and not very present. I was looking forward to spring break when I could do some serious cleaning - both physically - by getting rid of clutter and stuff in my house, and emotionally - by getting rid of clutter and stuff in my mind. I was trying to "eat clean" (whatever the fuck that means) and "training" for my first 5k. I think I had even purchased some crazy diet plan with flash cards to help me make a new start. Good grief.

When I reflect back now I think about how I would give anything to have spent those weeks focused on and engaged with my kids. I took it for granted that they would always be there. I do have some great memories - I know we spent the afternoon of St. Patrick's Day in Frick Park because it was unseasonably warm and I remember Peter learning all about Mr. Yuck and doing an incredibly good impression of the Mr. Yuck face. But most of all I remember fretting and focusing on stupid, inconsequential things like dating douchebags and trying to lose weight. What an unfortunate waste of that precious time!

I'm not going to continually beat myself up over it because I realize that self-beratement doesn't do anyone any good, but Earth Hour threw me for a pretty intense loop. I know I can never go back and change things and I'm over wishing I could. I think that now I live very differently. I try to maintain the perspective that we never know what will happen tomorrow. I would say that every day is a gift, but I don't actually agree with that. I will say that every day is a chance to love, and my best guess is that love is what it's all about.

P.S. I did, in fact, observe Earth Hour this year.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

An update on the FUBAR situation...

Lately I've been thinking a lot about my last post.  And before I get into that, I need to thank you all so much for continuing to comment and send your love, thoughts and prayers.  I'm amazed by your constant support, even when I write so infrequently.

My last post was honest and sincere and truly reflected where I was at that time, but it's so damn negative!  I hate being negative - even in this crazy life I live.  I know that in many ways I've been dealt a shitty hand, but I also know that I have so much to be grateful for and I've got no business moping around feeling sorry for myself.

Losing my kids was and is a horrible, terrible, unimaginable (even to me - still!) experience that I will never "get over".  It will forever be part of who I am.  But I don't want it to define me.  I want to make the most of the life I have left,  even though I can't be with them.

What I didn't realize before is how difficult it would be.  And not in the ways I imagined.  I miss them every minute of every day.  If I let myself think about them too long, I can become a sappy mess of blubbering sadness at any given moment.  But I don't.  It's not helpful.  When I'm home alone, I do allow myself to be sad, but when I'm at work or with my friends I hold it together pretty well.  My coworker jokingly calls me a "cold-hearted bitch" because he cries more often than I do when we talk about my kids.

Missing them is awful, and at certain moments and in specific situations it can be overwhelming.  But at this stage the hardest part for me to deal with is my utter loss of identity.  When my kids died, I was a stay-at-home mom.  Being Kate and Peter's mom was my full-time job and, really, my life.  Sure I did other things, spent time with friends, worked a part-time job, etc, etc. but if you asked me who I was I would have told you I was a mom.  Being instantly stripped of that identity and function as a human is what still has me dazed and confused.

At this moment, I'm not exactly sure where I fit in to this life.  I'm not like anyone else I know.  And I guess what's becoming most challenging is that I don't know who I want to be.  When I married Ken I thought we'd sort of start over and that I could re-create myself as I'd always wanted to be - a wife and mother.  Unfortunately, that didn't turn out the way I had hoped but I'm gradually learning to accept that.

So here I am.  My life is basically a blank slate.  I can do whatever I want (within reason) and be whoever I want to be.  But I haven't a clue of what or who that is.  And that is the hardest part.  It's scary and lonely, yet hopeful all at the same time.  And also scary.  Did I mention it's scary??  I'm scared.  Fo realz!

The good news is this:  I'm in a much better place today than I was a year ago or even six months ago.  Things have improved.  I have amazing friends who are always supportive, I have a great family and I have a job that I truly enjoy.  I have no idea where my life is going, but I'm hopeful that good things will happen or, instead,  that I will be able to create a life of purpose, fulfillment and joy.  I don't know what any of this will look like, but everyday I get out of bed and give it my best shot.  It's s sort of shot in the dark, but at least I'm trying.

Years ago, when Kate was two and Peter was 10 months old, I realized that my marriage to Steve was headed toward an inevitable end.  I was completely terrified.  I never thought I would be divorced, and the idea of being a single mother in a city where I knew almost no one was beyond frightening.  Someone gave me a little metal figure with an inscription on the back.   It reads, "When nothing is certain, everything is possible."  I'm holding onto that one.  I'm not certain about a damn thing, which means there must be a whole lot of possibilities!

Monday, August 19, 2013


In my last post I believe I mentioned that I wasn't planning to blog regularly until I had something good to write about.  I haven't written in over a year.  So... as you might imagine, I don't have anything good to report.

Believe it or not, things are worse.  I'm not sure how to begin, or what to say so I'll just put it out there. I'm single again.  I have not had any more kids.  I'm starting to lose hope of ever having a family.

I've been wanting to write for a long time, but for some reason I've been afraid to.  I somehow feel that by typing these words and letting all of you know what's really going on, I'm admitting defeat.  I also feel like writing about my life makes it more real.  I wake up and live this life every day, but I still try to pretend that somehow, someday it's gonna get better.  Maybe it's time to face the truth.  I don't know.

I don't want to give up, I really don't.  But I'm tired.  Not "I need a vacation and a script for Ambien" tired.  More like "I'm tired to the depths of my soul, I don't think I can continue swimming upstream anymore" tired.  

I'm almost 40, my kids are dead, I'm single and I need to find a real job.  I need to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  Except I'm already grown up, and all I've ever wanted to be is a mom. That hasn't worked out so well.  My life is truly fucked up beyond all recognition (FUBAR).  What do I do now?  Any suggestions would be appreciated.  For real.

When I started this blog and wrote regularly, writing helped me get through the dark and scary times. After a couple of years, I thought things should have started getting better so it became harder and harder to admit that they weren't.  That's why I stopped writing.  Well, that and the fact that every time I updated my blog, my parents called me because they were afraid I was planning to off myself. (Listen, Mom and Dad -  I'm not gonna off myself.  Settle down now.  I love you.) 

I don't know why I thought things should get better.  Maybe because that's how it works in the movies.  Things get rough, the main character hits rock bottom, there's a music montage and everything starts to get better.  I can't tell you how many times I've wished for a real-life music montage.  As soon as I find the right song, a film crew and a good make-up artist who can make me look 10 years younger and 20 lbs. thinner I'm gonna get on that.  Maybe that's the key to turning everything around.  

I suppose there is some kind of lesson here.  Unfortunately, life isn't a movie.  There's no script (I wish there was so I'd always have something witty to say) and, sadly, there's no guarantee of a happy ending.  I love a movie with a happy ending.

I also love books with happy endings.  And I love memoirs.  I love reading about people's lives and their struggles and how they overcome them.  I especially love when I know things will work out in the end, so I can read the bad parts knowing that everything is going to be ok.  This will sound strange, but I've often wished I could read my own memoir and find out how it ends. Maybe then I could relax for a change.  Maybe I wouldn't lose hope.  

The truth is, I can't give up.  I still hope and pray and sorta believe that someday things will get better. Maybe someday I'll find some kind of happiness?  Am I being stupid and naive?  Sometimes I think so, but if I lose hope, then what do I have?  Why the fuck would I get out of bed every day?  There has to be some reason.

Maybe I can write my way through this and who knows... maybe someday I'll have something good to report.  There's no telling.  But don't feel like you have to keep reading.  If and when things get good, I'll make a big announcement  and you can go back and read the dark and scary parts knowing it's gonna get better.  ;-)  I really hope it gets better.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Are you sure the world isn't over?

This past Friday was the 3rd anniversary of the day my kids were killed in a car accident. Three years. THREE YEARS!!! I still don't get it.

In some ways it feels like yesterday. In some ways it feels like it was 300 years ago. It doesn't really matter. I still don't get it.

I started this blog so I could let people know how I was doing. There were and are so many people who care and who worry and I wanted to let them know where I was in my grief so maybe they wouldn't have to worry so much. I also wanted to have a place where I could share my feelings and thoughts so I could get them out of my head and not feel so alone. For a while blogging really helped. I just had no way of knowing that life after the death of my kids would be this difficult.

I chose the name "Callapitter" because I loved the idea of the callapitter turning into the butterfly just when she thought the world was over (and of course I also loved the way Peter said "callapitter"). I knew things were bad and that losing my kids was some sort of horrible awfulness that cannot even be imagined, but somewhere in my soul I thought that things would get better. I thought that, initially, this blog would be a place to release the dark and disturbing experiences of grief, but eventually I would have more positive things to share.

Here I am, THREE YEARS LATER, and I'm still convinced the world is over.

It is so hard for me to share this with you. I'm not the type of person to complain endlessly or be negative all the time. I try, I REALLY TRY, to find the bright side in even the worst situation. But at this point I can't. There is no bright side. My kids are dead. The end.

Here's the real reason I haven't blogged in forever: I can't stand to be this negative. I feel like a big fat jerk for complaining when I have so much. Some people have nothing. I am not one of those people. Therefore I am a jerk.

But here's the thing: I am trying so hard to move forward and turn my life around after this truly devastating loss, but it's not fucking working!!!!

Let me cut through the crap and be specific. Many of you have inquired, hinted or suggested that maybe I should have more kids. Maybe that would help. I agree with you 100%.

I am a mom. I have always wanted to be a mom. When I was 13 and all my friends were saying they wanted to be teachers and doctors and marine biologists (because for some reason everyone wanted to be a marine biologist in the 80s), I said I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. My high school teachers teased me because I was going to spend a shit-ton of money going to college when I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I can't help it. It's who I am.

Problem is, at this point, I'm a "childless mom". That term is all wrong. That's all I have to say about that.

So 18 months ago, as you know, I got married to a wonderful, amazing man who I love very much. I thought, "This is a new beginning. We're gonna have kids. I can be a mom again."

Now don't get me wrong. I know in my heart of hearts that having more kids is not going to take away the pain of losing Kate and Peter. I can't replace them and I will miss them with every ounce of my being until I someday see them again.

I do believe, however, that having more kids could add joy to my life which might help balance out the pain and sadness. I also think Ken and I could be pretty good parents and maybe have some kind of nice, happy family. Trouble is, it's just not happening.

I realize that 18 months isn't really that long when you're talking about trying to get pregnant. I also realize that I'm getting old. I'm not older-than-dirt old, but I'm old enough. I'm old enough that doctors say wonderfully sensitive things to me like, "at your age, you can't afford to wait a year before considering your options. You just don't have that much time left." Or, "we have to look at your ovaries to see how many eggs are left in your egg reserve. At your age, you may not have enough eggs left to actually get pregnant". Gee thanks, I appreciate that. Assholes.

So 18 months in I have spent many hours in doctors' offices having every test imaginable. The tests show nothing. I have something called "unexplained infertility". Like I couldn't have figured that out myself.

I mean, I guess it's good they haven't found anything wrong, but the recommendations are the same as they would be if they had found something wrong: extremely expensive, hormonally charged, crazy-inducing fertility treatments that are rarely successful. Sign me up!!!

I apologize for the extremely sarcastic tone of this post. I'm angry. Very, very angry. For once, I want something to be easy. Really, I just want my kids back, but that's not going to happen. Did I mention I was angry?

Ken and I are at the point now where we are considering our options. All of them. We are fortunate, we have options. I know that.

I also know it's not a hopeless situation, but I feel hopeless a lot of the time because I'm so damn sad. I miss them so much. SO MUCH!!!

I do hope to someday blog again more regularly, but I won't do it if I don't have anything good to say. For now just know that I am still swimming and I'm still trying to find my kids, wherever they may be. I occasionally still have moments where I feel them around me or I get what I consider to be a sign or an "after death communication". To end this horribly negative post on a more positive note, I will share my most recent experience.

Ken and I recently spent some time in Australia and New Zealand with my brother (who lives in Australia). We did a lot of hiking in New Zealand, which may quite possibly be one of the most beautiful places on Earth. One day we were hiking in the Southern Alps near Mt. Cook when I looked to the side of the trail and saw this:

Yes, it is a heart made of rocks with the letters K and P in it. No, I did not put the rocks there and no, it is not photoshopped. I swear. I can't explain it. I can only say that on my worst days, it's things like this that give me a little bit of hope. So thank you, Kate and Peter.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

still swimming...

I've had this song stuck in my head since yesterday. I think it's because that's exactly what I'm doing to try to make it through the holidays.

It's been a difficult year for a number of reasons, and December is never easy. I haven't written in so long (I didn't even realize how long until I logged in today) but so many of you are still posting thoughtful and encouraging comments. THANK YOU.

I wanted to let you know that I am still here and I'm swimming the best I can. I haven't had the energy to put my thoughts into coherent sentences in a long time which is why I haven't been writing. I'm always hoping that will change and I will be able to get back to doing this regularly.

Again, I thank you all for staying with me even when it doesn't seem like I'm still here. I wish you much peace, joy and love throughout the holidays and may we all have a Happy New Year!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

An update on surrendering...

In the weeks that have passed since my last post (it's hard to believe it's been weeks already) I've been struggling with the whole idea of surrendering, or accepting what happened to my kids. For the first two days, every time I'd try to get myself to make peace with my kids' death the resulting experience was anything but peaceful. It literally felt like someone very strong had kicked me in the chest, sucked all the air out of the room and then tied a noose around my neck. I'm not lying. I could not breathe. I could not think. I could not surrender.

After those first couple of days I sort of gave up on the plan and instead decided to accept the fact that I couldn't accept the facts. I decided that my version of surrendering would be to acknowledge what has happened and admit that I will never be able to handle it. I have come to the realization that I will never be ok with it. I even came up with an acronym for my condition. FFU. Forever Fucked Up. That's just the way I am and the way I'm gonna be.

I have to tell you something really weird. Even though this is a completely bass ackward way of surrendering, it sort of worked. I started to notice a change. Even though I can't accept something that happened almost two and a half years ago, I can accept the person I am right now.

I can't explain it completely, but in the past few weeks I've started being kinder to myself. Instead of constantly fighting my situation or trying to change what has happened I allow myself to "indulge" in my sadness - if I don't feel motivated to do anything, then I don't do anything. If I feel like feeling sorry for myself then I throw myself a pity party. If I want to be angry and jealous because my friends' kids are growing up and mine aren't, then so be it. After all, I'm FFU so I might as well learn to live with it.

This may sound like a great increase in negativity, but strangely it doesn't feel that way at all. Instead of putting all of my energy into trying to change things that cannot be changed, I have started taking care of myself. I find myself thinking, "well, this is your life now - what can you do to make the most of it (or at least make it bearable)". That thought has proven to be far more constructive that something like "this cannot have happened!"

I think I finally began to understand the changes that have been happening when I took some time to do yoga tonight. Yoga is something that was very important to me a few years ago. When I started freaking about the possibility of getting divorced, a therapist recommended I try yoga to help me stay grounded and keep breathing. Yoga truly changed my life. I became healthier, more confident, more calm and I experienced a peace I hadn't really ever felt before. Since my kids died I unfortunately haven't put forth the effort to do much yoga at all.

Tonight I decided that in order to take care of myself in my FFU condition and make the evening more bearable I would find some Netflix yoga and commit to completing one session. After I stopped beating myself up about how much strength and flexibility I have lost in the past few years, I allowed myself to breathe and actually feel my body. My energy and the energy in my house changed dramatically. I felt a peace I haven't felt in years. I am crying tears of relief as I type because finally, FINALLY I have found a little bit of peace! (non-substance-related peace, that is) It may be fleeting, but for now I'll take it.

I feel that I owe Shirley MacLaine a great deal of gratitude for sharing her idea of surrendering on the Oprah show. Her words really stuck with me and even though I wasn't able to surrender in the way I thought I should surrender, I was able to surrender to something. Just as she suggested, surrendering is very powerful.