Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Is it just me...

or do you so something unusual in this picture too?


At our wedding, Ken and I gave single-use cameras to all of the kids who were there. There were a lot of kids in attendance, mostly Kate and Peter's friends whose parents are our friends, and we were hoping to see what our wedding day was like from their points of view.

They took many, many pictures (over 500) and did a nice job of capturing things we never would have seen otherwise.

Like this.

Just sayin.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Catharsis anyone?

I wanted to quickly update you all and let you know I've been feeling a little better. I'm not sure exactly what changed, but wearing my Mr. Yuk stickers, carrying my princess wand and forcing myself to get up and moving has helped.

I've also started "managing" my overwhelmingly negative feelings in a way taught to me by my good friend, Kearsty, a few years ago. Back in the day (circa 2007) we were having a conversation in which we were sharing our woes and feeling sorry for ourselves and each other (I have no idea what exactly we were lamenting, though it was most likely related to men) when she shared with me something her mother had taught her.

Kearsty said that when she was having a rough time and began wallowing in self-pity her mom would tell her to take 5 minutes to feel sad, be angry, cry, scream, kick, punch, stomp her feet - to do whatever she needed to do to get it out. She encouraged me, "For 5 minutes, just feel everything you need to feel and feel sorry for yourself if you must. But when those 5 minutes are over, it's time to get on with it. Get up, get moving, get out of that space."

Honestly... it works. Please know that I'm not trying to minimize the intensity of grief, because it's huge and certainly not something you can get over in 5 minutes. But, for me at least, wallowing just isn't helpful. The feelings begin to snowball and eventually get so big that I can't find my way out of them. Feeling them in 5 minute increments is manageable.

If you've read this blog for a while you know that music is very powerful in eliciting my emotions. A couple weeks ago I discovered a song that captures much of what I've been feeling, and makes me cry - no, sob - every time I hear it. So what I've been doing lately is letting myself have that time: I listen to the song, cry and swear and kick and scream, and then I let it pass. I pull myself together and move forward. For a little while, until I need to do it again. Some days I only need to listen to it once, other days I listen to it 10 times.

It's helped. For now I can get through each day. I know many of you who read my blog are grieving too, and this time of year is especially hard. So here's the song. I can't promise you'll have the same experience with it, but give it a try. Listen to it, feel all of your feelings and then do your best to pull yourself together and move forward. Even if it's only for a little while.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mr. Yuk

I'm not very good at being a mess. There's this part of me that has decided to not hold it together anymore, the me who wants to shut down and no longer be a functional member of society, but to everyone else I still seem pretty normal. I just can't let myself be a mess. I don't have time, dammit! But I still want to...

This morning I woke up with my to do list in mind. I got as far as making breakfast when I decided that I don't want to do anything on my list - I just want to sit in my pajamas and play Bejeweled Blitz for the next six weeks. (I love that game because while I'm playing my mind is completely focused on the stupid little jewels. I can't think about or feel anything else. It's a HUGE waste of time, but the best escape I've found that doesn't involve any mind-altering substances.) At the moment, I would welcome another Snowpocalypse (did I say that out loud?!) so I'd have a good excuse for doing nothing for a very long time.

The way I feel this morning reminded me of an experience I had about a week before my kids died. I was in a bad mood, feeling sorry for myself (apparently this is a long-standing pattern in my life) because a guy I was dating was being a jerk (or maybe he just wasn't that into me - which, in my mind, makes him a jerk). I felt like I was gonna end up being single and unloved for the rest of my life so I decided to stay in bed and mope. This kills me now because my kids were alive then - they were there with me and I was being selfish. I was taking them for granted and now I would give ANYTHING to have that time with them back and to be focused on them and not on some dude.

Anyway, it was a Sunday...I got up and made breakfast for my kids and told them they could watch as much tv as they wanted because I was going back to bed. Every few minutes, one of them would come into my room and ask for something and I felt like saying, "can't you see I'm trying to be depressed in here?!" I don't think I did, but I really can't remember.

After about 45 minutes of my attempt to block out everything and disappear into my bed, Peter came in and said, "Look, Mama...I'm Mr. Yuk!" and he made this face:




He really did look like Mr. Yuk:




And that was it. The end of my moping and wanting to be a hot mess. I cracked up hysterically and got out of bed, thanks to my little man.

In the most difficult way possible - by losing my kids - I learned a lot from that experience. I know now that nothing is guaranteed. I would honestly do anything to go back and change so much about how I spent the time I had with my kids. I spent so much of that time focused on stupid, non-meaningful things because I took them for granted and just assumed they'd always be here. And they're not. And there's nothing I can do about it.

I can only change how I act from now on. I realize that sitting in my pajamas and playing Bejeweled Blitz for the rest of my life would be a dishonoring of my kids. In order to make their lives mean something I need to take what I've learned from them and use it to be a better person, no matter how much it hurts - because the pain is truly indescribable.

Even though I may not want to, I know I am capable of helping other people and so I must. I also need to be as present as possible and spend all the time I can with the people I love and who love me because, as I mentioned, there are no guarantees. And if possible, I don't want to have anymore regrets.

In a related story, at Kate and Peter's wake and funeral everyone - and I mean EVERYONE (even the priests, nuns and choir) - wore Mr. Yuk stickers in honor of Peter. We also handed out little princess magic wands for people to carry in honor of Kate. So I think for the foreseeable future, at least until I'm out of my current funk, I'm going to wear a Mr. Yuk sticker and carry around my magic wand to remind me that the present is all we have. We need to make the most of it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I think I'm stuck...

Yeah, I'm pretty sure of it. I haven't blogged in forever because...well...I'm not sure what to say.

The sadness I feel every day is overwhelming. Usually I'm able to find some sort of perspective or silver lining or SOMETHING positive to say, but not lately. I got nothing.

So I start feeling guilty because I have a lot of good in my life. When I feel this sad it seems like I'm being selfish or ungrateful and not recognizing all that I do have. But honestly, I'm so sad that I don't care.

Then I think about all the people who have gone through similar situations - or even worse - and I realize I'm not the only one. And I feel bad for all that others have or are going through. And then I think "I'm too sad to think about other people". Then I feel like a self-centered bitch.

So this is why I haven't written. I don't want to admit to people that I'm a sad, guilt-ridden, ungrateful, self-centered bitch - especially when I just got married, have wonderful friends and a lot of other good stuff to be grateful for. But there it is. I'm admitting it. I'm a hot mess and I don't care. I tried to hold it together for a really long time, but then decided a few weeks ago that I just didn't want to hold it together anymore.

The only reason I'm writing this is because I had a conversation with someone this morning who reminded me that some people read this blog to "connect" with someone who understands what they're going through, and to maybe feel that what they're experiencing is "normal". I've tried in the past to be as honest and uncensored as possible and to tell it like it is. Today this is how it is. I don't know if it's normal, I just know that it is.

Maybe my admission of stuckfullness (it's not a word, but go with it) will help unstick me. My guess is that now that I've broken the seal, a tidal wave of nasty emotions is going to come forth. Oh well. "Better out than in", right? (I swear I have never really understood that saying, but it seems fitting in this case.)

Monday, November 1, 2010

It's a sad, sad day in Pittsburgh...

Yesterday a Pittsburgher named Aimee, a wife and mother of two young boys, died after having a stroke. I'd guess she was my age, somewhere in her 30s. It's unfair and awful and I'm having a hard time making any sense of it whatsoever.

I met Aimee once, at a yoga class. She and I both volunteered to help out with yoga for first graders at Kate's school. Her son was in Kate's class.

After my kids died and I started my blog Aimee became a regular reader and commented often. Sometimes she would share stories her son would tell about Kate. Other times she'd offer words of support and encouragement, or tell me how much my journey had impacted her role as a mother. Her words, as do all of the comments on my blog, mean so much to me. I wish I could have done something to help her.

Yesterday, after I'd learned she was in the hospital on life-support, but before I knew she had died, I started reading through her comments. I clicked on her blogger profile link, to learn a little more about her, and saw that she started her own blog. The last post is titled, "I hope I don't die waiting for health-care reform to happen". Please take a moment to read it. She did die. And she didn't have health insurance. And now her two boys are gonna grow up without their Mama.

Please, please pray for her sons and their dad. Please send them all the love you can. If there is anything else that can be done to help, I will let you know. I know her family has to raise money to pay her hospital bills. That's a real kick in the face.

There is one other thing you can do. You can vote tomorrow. Health care reform is one of the hot issues in this election and the only way to make a difference is to vote. Please vote and please remember Aimee.

Monday, October 25, 2010

craziest. dreams. ever.

I mentioned in my last post that I have been having nightmares about my kids almost every night since I got married. I have seriously had the craziest, most relentless dreams EVER in the past two weeks.

I had one dream in which my kids weren't actually dead, but living secretly with Steve (wtf?!). They had been in the accident and survived, but they sustained major head injuries and were more like walking zombies than kids. I found out that they were living with him and went to see them and they had no idea who I was. That was pretty awful.

In another dream, they hadn't been in the accident at all. I found out it had all been some big mistake and I was indescribably happy and relieved! Then they went to Cleveland (I have no idea why) with some cousins (not real cousins that I have ever met) and died in a car accident on the way. I was like "Are you effing kidding me?!! I just got them back and now they died?!!"

I'm happy to report that FINALLY, last night, I had a dream about them that ended well. It may sound really weird, but there was another "set" of Kate and Peter living with my mom. I don't understand it myself, but I did get to spend time with them and they were exactly like the real Kate and Peter. I played football in the park with Peter and some of his friends, and Peter and Kate were both hanging out with me and Ken.

I don't know why they were living with my mom, but right before I woke up I remember saying to Ken that I thought they should come and live with us next year - like we wanted them to stay where they were for the rest of the school year and start an new school year here. He agreed and I was extremely happy, to say the least. At the very end of my dream I texted my mom (it was obviously a dream because my mom doesn't text) to tell her to tell Kate that I loved her and that she could live with us soon.

Then I woke up.

I have no clue what any of these dreams mean or why exactly I'm having them, but I'm glad last night's dream had a happy ending. It was much easier to start the day feeling like I had just spent time with them :) Maybe something is shifting.

Friday, October 15, 2010

10.10.10



For the past week I've wanted to write about my wedding, but I've had such an assortment of intense emotions I haven't been able to figure out where to begin. So I'll start at the beginning and if my thoughts are scattered and incoherent, I apologize. It's just not fair to keep you waiting any longer.

When Ken and I decided to get married, we chose the date October 10th - 10/10/10 - for a number of reasons. We thought a fall wedding would be nice, we were able to find available venues for both our wedding and reception even though we planned everything very last-minute, and it's just a cool date - and certainly an easy one to remember. I have to tell you, it really was the perfect day!

The weather was incredible; sunny and warm with a light breeze. The park where we had our ceremony was full of beautiful flowers as well as brightly colored trees and all of our plans came together without a hitch.

We chose to have our ceremony in the Walled Garden in Mellon Park. The Garden has recently been restored as part of a memorial project. The family and friends of Annie Katharine Seamans, a young woman who died in a car accident in 1999, worked with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to complete this project. Annie used to love to spend time in Mellon park, especially to look at the stars at night.


In addition to restoring the Garden's natural charm, the project included an art installation which is indescribably beautiful. Lights have been embedded in the lawn of the garden in the exact pattern of the stars over Pittsburgh on the date Annie was born. You can click on this link to read more about the Garden's restoration. If you live in Pittsburgh I strongly encourage you to check it out.

Ken and I were lucky enough to attend the Walled Garden's reopening and dedication back in June. It was then that we decided we'd like to get married there.



We did a number of things to honor Kate and Peter throughout the day, some of them thanks to suggestions from all of you.

First we included a reading from a book I used to read with the two of them. My good friend, Cindy, who is also Kate's godmother, read "I Love You Because You're You" by Liza Baker. It's basically a cute picture book about the unconditional love between a parent and child, but I think it was quite appropriate for our wedding.

About two weeks before the wedding my friend Jen surprised me with some flowers she had made out of a shirt of Peter's. (Her son is a little bit younger than Peter so she had a few hand-me-downs.) She used the shirt that Peter is wearing in this picture:



I love those flowers (!!!) and our florist, who did an amazing job with only a week's notice, was able to beautifully work the flowers into my bouquet:


Jen was also going to make flowers out of something of Kate's, but instead I asked the florist to wrap the bouquet in some material from a dress Kate wore when she was a flower girl in a wedding 4 years ago. Here's a picture of Kate in that dress:



I loved being able to work something that belonged to each of my kids into my bouquet, which I literally carried around all day. I didn't want to put it down at all... seriously.

I wanted to use butterflies in the wedding somehow, but I wasn't sure about releasing live ones. Instead, my friend Chad, who made our wedding cake, created and placed two butterflies on the cake. He did an amazing job (and I have to add that not only was the cake beautiful, but it was seriously yummy!). It was red velvet with cream cheese frosting - Peter would have been all over that!!



At the last minute I decided I needed to have a picture of my kids somewhere at the wedding, but I wasn't exactly sure where. That morning as I was leaving my house I took one of their pictures off the wall and brought it with me. The catering staff placed it on the table next to the cake. Another friend of mine ran out to a store that morning and found two candles to put next to their picture:




So now that I've given you the overall run-down of the day and how we made my kids a part of it, how do I begin to describe how it felt? That's the hard part.

Honestly, I couldn't let myself feel everything that day. If I was gonna make it through the day with some semblance of composure, I had to disconnect a little. I did my best to be in the moment and take it all in - especially when it came to feeling the love between Ken and me and the love and support of our families and friends - but I couldn't think about how much I wished my kids were there or how sad I was that they weren't.

I wish I had some incredible story about how I felt them with me all day or that there had been a rainbow or something, but I don't. I did my best to be present and I'm sure they were with me in spirit, but unfortunately I didn't really "feel"them.

I did have one moment where I stepped into a room by myself and asked them to give me something - anything - some kind of sign or wisdom or assurance that they were there. At that point the words "this is a new beginning, Mama" popped into my head.

It's so hard to explain the feelings I had that day without writing an entire book (this is the longest blog post ever!). On the one hand I felt so incredibly happy and in love and excited to be marrying Ken, who I love with all my heart. For days afterward I walked around with my head in the clouds, feeling like I was on a honeymoon even though we didn't go anywhere.

On the other hand, however, I felt a sadness that I now realize will never lessen or go away. I have had nightmares about my kids almost every night since, including my wedding night. I dream they're missing or severely injured or that they don't know who I am. It's awful. It's almost like my happiness during the day has to be balanced out by sadness and horror at night. I guess that's just how it is and how it will be.

This picture, taken by our photographer, sums it up - the bittersweetness of it all:



What I just realized is that even though the picture is both happy and sad, it's truly all about love. And as far as I'm concerned love is far stronger than death.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Octagon crackers...




I'm sitting here eating some soup, because it's a soup-eating kind of day, and wishing I had some crackers to throw in my bowl. Any crackers would be good, though I would prefer some oyster crackers - or octagon crackers, as Peter called them.

As you may know from previous posts, Peter ate predominantly beige food, and crackers were one of his favorites. Most of the time he asked for crackers with cream cheese (they're pretty good if you've never tried them, though they're far from a healthy snack) or crackers with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff (in which case he ate only the marshmallow and nothing else) but he also loved munching on octagon crackers. I think he started eating them when he was one or two because they're little and easy to pick up and as far back as I can remember he referred to them only as octagon crackers. I think oyster crackers more closely resemble hexagons, but how a two-year-old knows what an octagon is I will never know.

For some reason he was pretty knowledgeable about shapes. I know he had a Diego game for his Leapster that taught him about shapes, but still - we would be out somewhere and he'd say, "look Mama, a semi-circle" or he'd rearrange his half-eaten toast (another beige favorite) to show me what a parallelogram looked like. I honestly can't tell you what's normal for a two, three or four-year old, but he always amazed me...



Monday, September 27, 2010

Treehouse update:

Since the public meeting about Kate and Peter's Treehouse back in June, planning has slowed down quite a bit. The Parks Conservancy is in the process of updating it's Regional Parks Master Plan and part of that process includes looking at many possible sites for the Treehouse. Once the Master Plan is complete we will attempt to resume planning.

This Saturday, October 2nd, there will be another public meeting at 9:00 am at Colfax Elementary School. At 10:45, following an overview and dialogue about Frick Park's current and future needs, the meeting will move into the park itself. Four possible sites for the Treehouse will be examined during this outdoor workshop.

If you feel strongly about Frick Park and Kate and Peter's Treehouse and you are available this Saturday morning, please come to this meeting. The Parks Conservancy needs as much feedback as possible before we continue to move forward. Click here to RSVP and reserve a spot. Hope to see you there!

What can I write that I haven't already written?

Everyday is basically the same. I experience same crazy kaleidoscope of emotions with slight variations in order and intensity, but really - they're the same.

I still wake up every morning and think, "Wait...what? My kids are dead?" as I wrote many months ago. That's usually followed by my best attempt at denial and disbelief after which I inevitably move into a state of confusion and anger.

Lately I've found myself asking my friends, "Were they real? Were they really here? Are you sure?!" It's been so long since I've seen or held or talked to my kids that it doesn't seem as if they could have been real.

And I fear that I'm forgetting. That's awful.

So I sit down to blog and think, "I've already said all of this." It really is the same same shit, different day scenario. And it's getting old. Real old.

This is the point at which I wish and hope and pray that maybe this is a game and someone is gonna come down form the heavens and say, "Ok, you've done enough. You've lasted a year and a half without them, you've proved your strength and now you can have your kids back." It's completely delusional, but I don't care. I want them back.

I know you've read all of this before which is why I haven't written lately. I don't want to subject you to the same posts over and over and over again. But I guess this blog is supposed to be my journey and, unfortunately, this is it.

I'm guessing that other parents who have lost children feel the same way. I'm also guessing that this is pretty much how we're gonna feel forever.

I try really hard to experience joy and happiness in my life. And I do sometimes, really. I mean, in less than two weeks I get to marry a wonderful and amazing man, who I love very much. That's exciting! It gives me hope for the future and brings me joy! Unfortunately, that hope and joy is matched by an equal amount of sadness and guilt.

I know that it's ok to be happy. I know my kids would want me to be happy. I also know that it will never feel right to be happy when my kids are dead. It just won't. And that's the way it is.

As I'm typing I'm thinking that maybe I need to stop judging my emotions as good or bad. I'll try to take a more Buddhist approach and experience them as they come without attaching a value to them. If I'm sad I'm sad. If I'm happy, so be it. It just is. I'll see how that goes.

I have about 300,000 things to do in the next two weeks, for which I'm actually thankful. I'm looking forward to this new stage of my life. So I'm gonna go get started. I'll do my best to keep writing - happy or sad - and let you know what's going on. As always, thank you for reading and commenting and praying and sending love. It helps more than you could ever know.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I can't find the words...

Last time I wrote I was getting ready to embark on a nearly week-long camping trip with Ken and some friends. Well, that trip came and went and was both fun and challenging. On our way home I was looking through the pictures I took and thinking about what I wanted to write about my experience.

We went camping somewhere north of Toronto and the only way to get there from Pittsburgh is by driving through Buffalo. We had to drive by the site of the accident (mile 476.9 on I-90 Eastbound) on the way up and the way home. On the way to Canada I was, as always, very emotional as we drove by and had nightmares and panic attacks while trying to sleep that night. But I got through it.

On the way home, I tweeted as we drove by that particular spot, "Just passed mile 476.9 on the NY State Thruway. Again. Ugh."

Within a minute or two traffic stopped completely. We were stopped for over an hour. People got out of their cars and walked around, talking about what the hold up might be. Kids were playing in the grass. Helicopters were flying overhead. I knew it wasn't good. We heard there was an accident about a mile and a half ahead.

Traffic started to move again eventually. We passed a badly damaged van that had gone off the road and hit a tree. I immediately starting searching the internet to find out what had happened.

This is what I found:
Another car went off the road and two people died. Same town. Same road. Opposite direction.

The investigator named in the article is the same man I spoke with after my kids died. It's too weird.

Since I saw this, I am plagued with so many questions. Why? How? Why was I so close when this happened? (we weren't supposed to come home until the following day, but cut our trip short because of bad weather) What does it all mean? How are people completely fine one minute and dead the next? I just don't get it.

I have no words anymore. I feel like whatever I have to say - about my camping trip or school or my wedding - doesn't matter. I mean, people died. Again. I am stunned.

I didn't see the car my kids died in. I was somewhat removed from the situation by space and time. By the time I could get there it was all cleaned up.

Seeing the scene of an accident where people just died, in such a similar circumstance, has completely freaked me out. I don't know what to say.

Monday, August 30, 2010

So sorry...

I apologize that I haven't written in such a long time!! Life has been unbelievably busy lately - I'm trying to keep up with school, working on starting my own personal chef business and planning my wedding - plus I've been really, really sad.

I do want to thank everyone who commented on my last post with suggestions for my wedding!! There were so many great ideas and I'm still figuring out which ones I want to use and which ones will fit into our small little ceremony.

Butterflies were a huge theme in the comments and continue to be a huge theme in my life (I'm working on a post about that) so I'd like to work them in somewhere. I'm not too keen on releasing real butterflies because I feel bad about keeping them all cooped up before releasing them (I'm a bit of a freak when I comes to animals). Also, October is a little late in the year for butterflies. However, I may ask the pastry chef who's making my cake if he can decorate the cake with butterflies.

I also loved the idea of including a passage from one of my kids' favorite books as a reading in the ceremony, so I'm working on finding an appropriate book. Peter's most recent favorite book was "Wacky Wednesday" and Kate was into "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish" so that makes it challenging. I still have a bunch of Todd Parr and Mo Willems books to look through so I'm thinking there's a good chance I'll find something. It is incredibly hard to read all of those books without them, but I know I can do it.

Thank you again for all of the suggestions! I'm still considering pansies and pictures and many of the other ideas you all came up with. I'll let you know what I finally decide on. And I'll try my best to write more often when things calm down a bit. This school quarter ends September 15th (can't wait!!!) so that should free up some time.

This week Ken and I are going to Algonquin Provincal Park in Canada for a few days of canoeing and backcountry camping. I don't think I've ever really camped - like in a tent where there are no real bathrooms or showers or cell phone towers. I'm super excited to be that close to nature and see wildlife up close, but I'm also scared out of my mind that I won't be able to pee, or let's face it - poo, for five days. I mean, I'm not real good at squatting behind a bush. Ewww.

It should be interesting and I'm sure I'll have much to tell you about that experience.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I need your help...

Ken and I have been working hard on planning our wedding. I have my dress, the invitations have been sent out and the big day is less than two months away. Obviously, we've opted for a short engagement. The way I see it, we know we want to get married to let's just get on with it already :)

Here's where I need your help...
We're planning the ceremony ourselves. It's going to be fairly short and simple - outdoors, in a park on what will hopefully be a beautiful fall day. We've got most of it figured out. We've selected some readings and chosen our vows. One of Ken's best friends is going to be our officiant, which I think is great. What we're having a difficult time conceptualizing is how to somehow include Kate and Peter in the ceremony.

I always imagined my kids would be at my wedding. Even 4 years ago, soon after Steve and I separated, I had an intuitive feeling I'd be 35 when I got married again, which I am, and that they would be 8 and 6, which they would have been. I could see Kate in a beautiful white dress with long, flowing curls and Peter in a little tux - even though no one else will be wearing a tux. Sadly, that's not how it will be and I have a hard time envisioning that day without them. The thought of it always reduces me to tears.

So I have to find a way to recognize them and honor their spirits. I know they will be on every one's minds, so I want to do something that's as positive as possible, not something to just make everybody sad. But what?! I have no idea.

I spoke with one wedding officiant who told me that most people pause for a moment of silence at the beginning of the ceremony to remember those who are not there. Unfortunately, that just won't cut it. I need something more - more personal, more special, more them! I've thought about having Kate and Peter's friends do something (many of them will be there), but again, I don't know what. Any ideas or suggestions you might have would be greatly appreciated!!!

While I'm beyond excited for our wedding I know that it will simultaneously be one of the happiest and saddest days ever. Obviously, I'm overjoyed at the idea of marrying Ken and I can't wait to begin our lives together. At the same time, I think it really will be hard to get through the day knowing my kids aren't physically there. I know they will be there in spirit and I hope and pray they will feel how much they are loved and missed by everyone who will be in attendance.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Persistence and pansies...

The cloud of sadness seems to have dissipated slightly, though it's still here. Thank you all, once again, for your kind comments and words of encouragement. It is so helpful to know that even when I'm home alone, feeling intensely despondent, I'm really not alone...that caring friends and strangers are, for some reason, willing to go through this hell with me. I don't know why you're all still reading, but I'm sure glad you are.

Since Tuesday night, when the cloud arrived, I've managed to make it through each day, trying to be as productive as possible, but it hasn't been easy. I just can't shake it this time. In the past I've been able to distract myself by staying busy, but for the past few days I feel like I've had to reach into the depths of my being to find strength I don't even think is there. It's like everything I do takes so much energy and everything I see or hear makes me even more sad. But I have no choice - so I just keep going, hoping that this too will pass...or at least get easier.

While I actually have a moment to sit down and write I would like to share one little story that brings a smile to my face when I think about it. It has to do with perennial pansies growing in front of my house.

Let me begin by saying that I am the farthest thing from a gardener. I generally feel that I don't have time to deal with my yard so I cut my grass and call it a day. When I do try to plant things they usually die so I don't plant things.

Two years ago, in April of 2008, I was getting my house ready for Peter's birthday. I knew a lot of people from out of town would be stopping by, so I wanted my yard to at least be presentable. We're not talking about any kind of real landscaping, but I did trim my hedges, put some mulch down and attempt to plant a few flowers.

I have two planters in front of my house so one day while Kate was in Kindergarten, Peter and I went to Home Depot to pick out some flowers. As I said, I know nothing about flowers so I thought I'd let Peter pick some out. It wasn't a big deal to him, but he happily chose some yellow pansies. So together Kate, Peter and I put them in the planters where they survived until the fall when it got cold. I was amazed that they actually survived through the summer.

Then last spring came (2009) and I definitely didn't feel like planting anything (though, thankfully, sometime in mid-June a bunch of friends came over and helped me with me yard). However, one day in early June I noticed two little yellow pansies growing in between the bricks of my front walk. As I mentioned, I know very little about flowers, but I do know that pansies are annuals, not perennials. They were so sweet. They grew there all summer and were still blooming when I came home from Italy in November. I know they're not much, but to me they felt like a little gift from my kids.



This spring rolled around and I wondered if the pansies would come back, though I doubted it. Nope, nothing but dandelions this year...until two weeks ago, when two yellow pansies popped up on the other side of my walk. One day they weren't there, the next day they were. Thank you, Peter and Kate! I needed that.

(and, as you can see - I haven't done anything about the weeds this year)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Some days I just can't deal...

and today is one of those days :(

I mean, I'm having a hard enough time keeping up with everything going on in my life, as I mentioned in my last post. I actually got so overwhelmed with my to-do list that I completely wigged out yesterday and went to a yoga class instead of going to school. Honestly, it was the best decision I've made in a while. After I did the whole downward dog - legs up the wall - ohm - namaste extended dance remix (I'm talking about yoga people, not sex - I swear) and I felt all chilled out and grounded, I got a lot of stuff done for a change!

But because I still have 999,984 things to do I was trying my best to have another productive day today. I was just doing my thing, getting ready to dive into some homework when sometime around 4:30 this giant cloud of sadness enveloped me and sucked out all of my drive and motivation and even my desire to keep breathing. I don't know where it came from, but all of a sudden it was there. And it won't go away. I hate it! Fuck you, stupid sadness!!!

Now I'm useless. I feel so empty that I can't even feel the emptiness anymore, not that that makes any sense. It's a scary empty feeling. Maybe I can't feel it because I'm afraid of it. I know I'm afraid to start crying because I may never stop.

Let me just say this please...I want my kids back!!! I know I feel them with me a lot of the time, but I want them back the regular way. I want to take them swimming and to Kennywood and I want to hear them fight with each other and say, "Mama, he/she won't leave me alone!" I want to complain that summer is too long and I can't wait for school to start because we're all stir crazy! But I can't!!

Then I think, 'well, I'm getting married again. I could have more kids.' BUT I DON'T WANT MORE KIDS, I WANT MY KIDS, DAMMIT!!!!!! I don't want to move on or move forward I just want my old life back the way it was, with all it's imperfections and my amazing, beautiful, wonderful kids. I would do anything. I mean it.

I could sit here and kick and scream and cry and swear and bargain with the universe all day, but it gets me nowhere. It won't bring them back. Nothing will. Fuck.

So what to do now? That is the question.

I guess I'll try to use my superhuman coping skills to stuff my feelings somewhere and tell the cloud of sadness where to stick it. I mean, I gotta do my homework eventually. I'm guessing that skipping two classes in a row would be frowned upon.

But really, who gives a shit about homework? In the big scheme of things it doesn't really matter. Maybe I'll just go to bed early and explain to my instructor why I didn't get my homework done. I'm sure he'll understand. I think. Oh, who cares.

Goodnight.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

so many thoughts, so little time...

So much going on. So busy. So tired. So much to write about.

So, I write nothing at all.

This is me. This is how I've always been. When I get overwhelmed and have too much to do, I do nothing. Well, I shouldn't say nothing. But instead of attacking my 16 page to-do list I bake cookies or do some online shopping or spend three hours playing Unblock Me on my phone.

I realize my behavior isn't rational, but it's what I do. At least until I'm forced, by some sort of deadline, to actually get things done.

In the past couple of weeks I've had so much I've wanted to write about: how the lobster massacre at school nearly turned me into a vegetarian, how perennial pansies are growing in front of my house and how planning my wedding is simultaneously the most fun and exciting yet saddest thing I've ever done.

I promise, as soon as I can slow myself down enough to stick with one storyline at a time I will write and share. Until then...I'm gonna go play Family Feud on Facebook. Trouble.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Letting go, a little bit...

Today I decided I needed to do some cleaning. Not only is my house not yet on the market, it's no more ready than it was 6 months ago. I need to get moving if I ever want to move. Hah.

I have no place to put things anymore, especially in my kitchen where I spend most of my time. I recognize I need to get rid of the things I don't use anymore, before someone puts me on that show about hoarders.

A few months ago
I told you about all the snacks I bought my kids right before they died and how they were still in my pantry and how I was never gonna get rid of them. Well, I decided to it's time.

I guess I've realized that material things, for the most part, do not make me feel any closer to my kids. There are certainly some things - special clothes and toys of theirs - which evoke specific memories that I will hold onto as long as possible. And I will never get rid of any of their artwork. But snacks, well...

....they had to go.

I did take a picture first:





My mom gave me one of those Keurig coffee makers in early 2009 and sent some Hot Cocoa K-cups for Kate and Peter. The marshmallows in the picture were one of Peter's favorite things. He would ask for marshmallows in his cocoa, eat them all, then ask for more. He never drank his cocoa. It was merely a vehicle to bring the marshmallows closer to his mouth.

The aforementioned Pirate's Booty is not in the picture because earlier in the day today I thought maybe I'd eat some of it. It was in a sealed foil-ish bag so I thought it could still taste ok, right? Yeah, no. It tasted a little like styrofoam peanuts, or at least what I think styrofoam peanuts would taste like. So I threw it out.

I did hang onto one box of cereal:


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Walk in The Woods...

This is super-late notice, but if you're not busy tonight and you want to learn more about Frick Park and the update to the parks Master Plan, come to the Parks Conservancy's Walk in the Woods. We will meet at 6:30 at the Frick Environmental Center.

The walk will be led by members of the team working on the Regional Parks Master Plan. They'll discuss the issues facing the park and gather feedback from those who attend. Hope to see some people there! Sorry again for the late, late notice!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Closer than ever...

Lately, I swear, my kids have felt closer than ever. Since I got back from Vermont I feel like they're with me, right next to me, so often - it's been great!

Have you ever been really close to someone physically - like hugging someone, for example - and even though you're touching them, you feel like you can't get close to them? It's like there's an invisible wall separating you from the other person. Maybe I'm just weird, but I have experienced that many times.

Anyway, this is the complete opposite! Physically, my kids aren't here, but they feel extremely close. As close as I've ever been to anyone. Almost like they're a part of me.

This isn't a constant phenomenon, but lately it's happening more often. And I think I may have figured out why.

When I was in Italy, one of my roommates, who's a good friend of mine, explained to me that sometimes she can see or hear spirits. It's not something she can do all the time, but it has happened. A few days into our trip she told me she needed to talk to me, but she was a little nervous I might think what she had to say was crazy. I told her not to worry about that, I've said my fair share of crazy things. This is what she told me, through tears as it was such an intense emotional experience:

She said, "Your kids are here - I know it. I can feel them, but they're afraid to get close to you because they don't want to set you back in your grieving process. They want to be close to you, but they don't want to hurt you."

At the time I did my best to try to understand what she was saying, but I didn't totally get it. Last week I think I finally figured it out: when my kids are close, I feel more sad and emotional than I do when they're further away. It's not that I miss them any less any other time, but when they're close I can feel them and the love between us and I get sad and emotional because I want them back, the way they used to be. So then they back off. Finally, what my friend said to me 9 months ago makes sense!

After figuring this out I "told" them that I want them to stay close to me and I can deal with the sadness. It went something like this, "I know I look really upset when you're near me and I'm crying, but I'm tough and I can handle the sadness. I'd love for you guys to be close to me and I don't want you to think you're making me cry. Really, I don't mind crying if it means I get to be near you guys!"

That "conversation" must have done something because now I feel them a lot more often, no lie.

Yesterday, I was trying to get a bunch of stuff done around my house and I felt Kate with me for most of the day. It's weird how sometimes I feel one or the other of them and sometimes they're both here. I think that's how I know I'm not making this up, because if I was I'd want them both here 24/7.

I was getting ready to go out last night while listening to Kate's Pandora station. I asked Kate if she could maybe "choose" an appropriate song (like she has magical Pandora powers - who knows?) and this is what I got:



I posted the version with the lyrics because, when you really pay attention to what the song is saying, it's is so obvious that this was something from my kids. Immediately when the song started I could feel both of them. I was completely blown away! And it didn't stop there - the music montage continued: the next song was "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" followed by "Best of Both Worlds" then "Hey, Soul Sister" and "Live Like We're Dying". I'm not making this up. Seriously.

They're here. I know it!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The vacation is over...

...so it's back to the kitchen!

My break from school has ended so I started my new culinary class yesterday, American Regional Cooking. So far it seems pretty cool. We get to learn about the different regions of the United States and their native cuisines - like Cajun and Creole, Tex Mex and something called Floribbean Cuisine, which I just think is fun to say. We're starting with New England and the Mid-Atlantic states so for the next two weeks I get to make and eat seafood. Yum!

I really did enjoy my break and had some time to unplug, relax and sleep. I wasn't real productive on my home projects, but I guess productivity isn't one of my strong suits. Oh well.

Ken and I had a great road trip to Vermont. We stayed with my aunt and cousin who I haven't seen in ten years so it was awesome to reconnect with them. We hiked up giant mountains, we swam in waterfalls and ate and drank tons of great food and wine. It was truly wonderful!

And now for the new and exciting, secret information I promised...

Ken and I are engaged!

The day after we got to Vermont we hiked to the top of the Camel's Hump, which is the third highest mountain in the state. It was not an easy hike. It took about 3 hours to hike 3.4 miles up some pretty challenging terrain, and let me tell you, I'm not in good shape.

When we embarked on our hike the skies were overcast and there was some occasional drizzle. The temperature was somewhere in the low to mid-50s. As we hiked, it started to rain harder and harder and got colder and windier. By the time we reached the summit it had to have been in the low 4os and it was extremely windy. The view is supposed to be amazing, but unfortunately all we could see were clouds :(

Nevertheless, we sat down to eat some lunch and Ken handed me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and said, "hey, what's that under your sandwich?" It was a ring :) He then asked me if I would marry him, to which I replied, "Yes...if you get me off this mountain!" Honestly, I was overjoyed by his proposal. I was just cold and wet and tired.

Here's a picture he took of us on the summit after he proposed:


After we got down from the mountain, which was actually much harder than going up, we cleaned up and went out for a nice dinner. On the way to the restaurant we saw a rainbow, which I have no doubt was a sign of Kate and Peter's approval and happiness.



And here's a Kate story that now I feel I can share:

The weekend before the accident, we were reading a bedtime story when, out of the blue, Kate said, "Mama, I know who you're gonna marry."

I said, "Who?" and she replied, "Ken".

At the time, Ken and I weren't dating. We had dated before but decided we would just be friends, and I was dating someone else. I knew Kate (and Peter) loved Ken so I thought she was just being sweet and putting in her vote for who she thought I should marry. I told her as much, really thinking that Ken and I probably wouldn't get back together. But, as usual, my kids are far wiser than I am and she was right! I know, for sure, she is smiling about the fact that we really are getting married. And so am I.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Profundity of Mario Kart...



I know I said I was taking a break, but I felt this was important enough to document - not just so I could share it, but also so I'll remember it. Let me also preface this post by saying that if you don't already think I'm crazy, you may soon. Oh well...there are worse things in life than being crazy.

So Friday night I was driving down my street when a bunny ran out in front of me. I had no time at all to slow down or swerve so I ran over the bunny. This was extremely upsetting. So upsetting, in fact, that even though this occurred on my street two full days ago I have now found two other ways to get out of my neighborhood without driving past the scene of this tragedy. I just don't do well with dead animals. In my almost 20 years of driving I have only hit one other rabbit and one raccoon, and cried profusely after both incidents.

Hitting this rabbit Friday night really set me off. First I was just sad about the rabbit, but then I started thinking about how lucky the rabbit was because it didn't have to be here anymore and would maybe get to go be where my kids are. (I told you that you were gonna think I was crazy...and I haven't even gotten to the crazy part yet.) That started me on this whole life and death thing, then one thing led to another and, before long, I was wishing I could go the way of the rabbit so I could be with my kids again. (I swear I am not suicidal, I'm just sayin.)

This is where the crazy comes in: as soon as I thought that - you know, the whole wishing I was dead so I could be with my kids thing - I felt Peter say to me, "You don't understand, Mama. It's not like we're in a different place than you. It's just a different sort of reality. We're right here, you just don't see us."

My reply to him was, "No kidding, I don't understand! I need you to help me understand!! I WANT to be able to see you and know you're right here, but I can't!"

Peter then said, "Well... it's sorta like Mario Kart. Ya' know how when we used to play Mario Kart all the time we were characters in the game, driving inside the TV, but we were actually still in the living room? Life on Earth is kinda like that. Even though you're 'in the game' you're still with us, here."

This completely confused me because I don't understand where "here" is or what he could have meant by that. I then felt like Peter could sense my confusion so he said, "You have to unlearn everything you know about reality". And that was that.

I'm telling you, I am not making this up. I know these thoughts did not originate in my brain. Even though I didn't audibly hear Peter, I felt him and I know he said these things to me.

So now I'm trying to figure out how to unlearn things. None of this makes much sense to me now but maybe someday it will. If anyone has any thoughts, aside from an evaluation of my mental state, I'd love to hear them.

On a side note, Peter and I loved to play Mario Kart together. He got a Wii for his 4th birthday and we spent many late nights playing that game during the summer of 2008. He was really good at it and together we finished the game pretty quickly. I can't believe I'm going to admit this, but one night after he and Kate went to bed I played for a couple of hours by myself. After unlocking some cool new boards I actually went into his room at 11:30pm and woke him up because I wanted to show him. He happily got up and played for another hour before going back to bed. Can't believe I did that, but, hey, it was summer. We could sleep in.

It's been a very long time since I've "heard" from either Peter or Kate, so that in and of itself was a good thing. I have a few preliminary theories on what he could have meant, but nothing I can put into words just yet. If I figure anything out I'll be sure to let you know...if you're still reading.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

takin' a break...

I've got three weeks off from school before I start my next class which is awesome. It's been so nice to not have to get up at 5am and to be able to catch up on some of the things I let slide while I was focusing on finals. Next week Ken and I are going to Vermont to visit family and enjoy some much needed down-time communing with nature. Can't wait!

You probably won't hear much from me in the next couple of weeks so I wanted to let everyone know ahead of time that I'm ok, just taking a break. I promise to be back soon...and hopefully with some new and exciting, though currently secret information. ;)

Friday, June 18, 2010

And...it's over!

I'm done! Hallelujah!!! Despite all my stress, or maybe because of it, my final went very well. I finished 15 minutes early, didn't burn my croutons and got an A. Most importantly, I had fun. Thank you all for your words of encouragement and well-wishes.

As hokey as this may sound, I did feel like I had a little help. On my way across the Smithfield Street Bridge this morning, at a seriously ungodly hour, I asked my kids to go into this final with me and help me out. I told Peter I needed help making things taste good (almost everything I cooked was beige and that's the only color Peter ate :) and I asked Kate for help with the presentation. Plating food is very difficult for me because I do not have an artistic bone in my body, nor am I a visual person - however Kate is an artist so I asked her to hook me up. And while I was asking for favors I also made a small request that maybe they could slow down time so I wouldn't have to rush. I mean...who knows, maybe where they are they have superpowers?

The food was pretty tasty, though I tend to be a chronic under-salter because I'm afraid of adding too much salt. Thankfully, that's an easy fix. I didn't take a picture of my final plate (kinda wish I had) but I have to tell you that it looked really good. Thank you, Kate. I'm pretty sure the credit for that one goes to you.

I'm off to relax, enjoy my weekend and get moving on my house-packing/fixing-up projects. Tonight I'll be heading to the Friends of the Riverfront's 2010 Trail Mix(er), where I will be sure to get my drink on. It sounds like a good time, it benefits a good cause and it's a truly gorgeous day in Pittsburgh so I'm psyched! If anyone else is going, come find me - I'd love to chat. I hope you all have a great weekend, I know I will!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

finals schminals...

I'm in the midst of finals week which is why you haven't heard from me in a while. My written final is over (I think it went well) and my practical final is tomorrow. And I am stressin'!

We have 2 1/2 hours to make a three-course meal, which doesn't sound like that much but, trust me, it is. We have to make Beef Vegetable Soup, Caesar Salad with Garlic Croutons, Boneless Chicken Legs stuffed with a Mushroom Stuffing, Sauteed French Chicken Breasts, Mushroom Sauce, Duchess Potatoes (which are like mashed potatoes piped into little towers and baked) and - wait for it - TOURNEED carrots, zucchini and squash. Ugh. You knew the tournee had to be in there somewhere.

I practiced at home yesterday (for the bazillionth time) and finished in 2 hours and 26 minutes - but that was in my tiny little kitchen. And I burned the croutons :( Poor Ken has had enough stuffed chicken and Duchess potatoes to last him a lifetime, and I'm pretty sure that after this final, I'll never make these things again.

Here's a picture (it doesn't look all that exciting on my not-so-fancy Fiestaware):



So I keep asking myself, "why am I so stressed?" I mean, who cares how I do on this final? It's not like people won't eat my food if I didn't get an A on one exam. I think I've done pretty well in the class so far. I bet that even if I didn't show up tomorrow, I'd probably pass. Why the big deal? And really, who even cares if I pass? I'm just doing this for the learning experience - not for a degree.

I'm gonna do my best in the next few hours to shift my focus from the stress of earning a grade to the importance of enjoying the experience. I love to cook so this should be fun. And it can be if I let it.

But there's this perfectionistic side of me that wants to do everything right, even when I know it doesn't matter in the big scheme of things. I guess this experience is not just about learning how to cook, but instead about learning how to live life.

So here it is, my mantra for the next 18 hours: have fun, it's not about the grade....have fun, it's not about the grade. At exactly noon tomorrow my mantra will shift to: I need a drink, where can I get a drink ;)

It will be great to have some time off to relax, cook the things I want to and NOT TOURNEE anything for a very long time.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Happy Birthday, Little Worm...



Today is Kate's 8th birthday. "Little Worm" is what I always called her. That nickname began when she was a baby all swaddled in a blanket. She used to squirm a lot so I started calling her Squirmy Wormie which then turned into Wormie and finally Little Worm. She didn't mind, in fact she actually liked it. That's what I called her every day, and I still do.

Kate is an amazing and wonderful soul. She was born that way, I didn't have much to do with it. She was easy-going, fun-loving and she really cared about other people. Like really cared. If someone was being treated unfairly at school, it bothered her a lot. She wanted to stick up for people and for herself, when the need arose, but, like me, she wasn't the most assertive - possibly because she always wanted to make people happy and avoid conflict.

She spent so much time drawing pictures for people, making cards for people and just doing little things to make other people smile. She was constantly writing notes to her friends and me, Steve and Peter, telling everyone how much she loved them. For the most part, she took care of me every bit as much as I took care of her. I distinctly remember one day when she was two and I was having a really hard time. I had just figured out the truth about Steve and was trying to figure out how I was going to handle being a single mother with a 2 year-old a 10 month-old and no job. I was sitting on Kate's little Dora the Explorer couch crying when she took my hand and said "Mama, it's gonna be ok". I remember thinking, "I'm the parent and you're the child - you're not supposed to be taking care of me". But she was. And she continued to love me, Peter and Steve unconditionally.

I miss her so much it's, at this point, nearly unbearable. I wanted to use this post to tell everyone about all of her wonderful qualities and what made Kate Kate, but I'm just sitting here crying. I can't find the words to even begin to illustrate her amazing personality.

So, because I can't seem to write real coherently right now, here are some pictures from each of the 6 birthdays I got to spend with you and also the day she was born:


Katherine Noelle Ambrusko
June 10, 2002



On her first birthday at our home in Buffalo, sitting on the previously mentioned Dora couch.


Her 2nd birthday party was at Chuck E. Cheese days before we moved to Pittsuburgh.


For her 3rd birthday we met some friends at the Children's Musem.


Love the sunglasses...


Her 4th birthday party involved strawberry picking and a hay ride and a farm north of Pittsburgh. It was a great time. Unfortunately, I decided to buy those candles that don't blow out and she was pretty disappointed when she couldn't blow them out. I still feel bad about that one.



For Kate's 5th birthday Steve and I planned a surprise trip to Disney World. Kate and Peter both had a blast and I'm so glad we had the opportunity to take them.



As an extra birthday treat I took Kate to the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique where she was made up like a princess, complete with hair extensions and glitta. She loved it.






And here she is on her 6th birthday. We had a magician come to our house and she, Peter and her friends had a wonderful time.



I hope wherever she is right now she's being celebrated and surrounded by love.

Happy birthday, Kate. I love you.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Treehouse Meeting - a quick update

Though I haven't had time to fully process all that was said at last night's Regent Square Civic Association meeting, I want to share my initial thoughts because I know everyone is curious.

Overall, I think the meeting went very well. I was very nervous going into it, having no idea what people might say. The Parks Conservancy did a great job of explaining it's role in the parks and presenting information about Kate and Peter's project. The meeting was well attended and it seemed as if everyone who wanted to was able to ask questions or share their comments.

I felt that, generally, everyone who spoke was honest and respectful. People spoke from their hearts and I did my absolute best to listen and hear everything that was said. There was a lot of support as well as opposition for placing the treehouse in Turtle Park, though I use the term opposition lightly because it did seem that most residents were not necessarily opposed to the treehouse, but rather concerned with what impact this location might have on their neighborhood.

In my opinion, the overwhelming concerns revolved around traffic and parking. I think before we can decide the most appropriate location for the treehouse, we need to examine the impact this project will have on traffic and parking and if anything can be done to rectify the situation. Who knows, maybe by addressing these issues as part of the development of the treehouse we could actually make changes that improve traffic and parking for this community? I think it's possible it could be a win-win situation, and everyone could benefit. But that remains to be seen and certainly, at this point no decisions have been made.

It also seemed clear that many of the traffic issues are in no way related to the treehouse and are city issues that need to be dealt with regardless of the location of this project. As one man said toward the close of the meeting, "not building this treehouse will not fix these problems". It's true, these issues are far bigger than the treehouse.

I promise that as I have time to digest the information shared at the meeting and talk with the other parties involved I will update you on the specifics and what the next steps will be. For now, I just want to thank everyone who was there last night. Thank you for being there to support me, to support this project and to speak out for a neighborhood that you love. I think only good things will come from this and I'm so glad everyone had an opportunity to say what they needed to say.

Friday, June 4, 2010

still swimming, thanks to all of you...

I'm still sort of in a fog of shock, confusion and sadness, but thanks to all of you I'm feeling a little less crazy and a lot less alone. I thank you all for you comments, emails and Facebook messages letting me know that you're all right here with me in the middle of this icky horribleness. The strength you all have given me through your kindness, compassion and love has helped me make it through a few more days. Sincerely, thank you.

I just want to quickly remind everyone about Monday's community meeting regarding Kate and Peter's Treehouse. It's at 6pm at the Wilkins School Community Center located at 7604 Charleston Ave in Regent Square (15218). I know many of you will be there and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your support. I'm truly looking forward to this meeting and think it will be a great opportunity to hear what everyone in the community has to say so that we can move ahead with this project in the most positive way possible.

Please be ready to not only share your point of view if you feel so inclined, but to also listen to the suggestions of others. I believe the only way this meeting will be productive is if we all listen to each other - and allow ourselves to hear each other, if you know what I mean. I think if we can understand why people are concerned about this treehouse as well as why people support it we will be able to do what is best for the whole community. I know that's what Kate and Peter would want so that's what I want too.

I look forward to seeing you all there and meeting some of you I have not met before. I'll be the one in the green shirt :) I hope you all have a safe, wonderful weekend with some time to do the things you love with the people you love. Thank you again for everything.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I may quite possibly be losing my mind...

My life over the past fourteen months or so has been quite a roller coaster, as anyone who's dealt with grief understands. Some days I'm ok. Some days I even border on being happy or having fun. Some days I'm sad and want to cry and hide in my bed all day. Some days I want to punch things or people or both. And honestly, I think all these ups and downs are fairly normal.

Overall, I think I've done ok at getting out of bed in the morning, living my life, attempting to move forward and trying to come to grips with reality. I know I've had moments of disbelief and denial, but for the most part I've accepted that my kids were killed.

However, over the past two days something has changed and I have no idea why - except that maybe I'm really losing it.

Yesterday I recalled so many memories about my kids that seemed like they just happened - Kate's kindergarten end-of-the-year picnic, a trip to Kennywood with Kate and Peter's grandparents, dinners I made them, movies we watched, books we read - last night I swear to you I thought Peter might walk into my bedroom at about 2am and ask me for a snack as he did from time to time (I can't blame him, I can't sleep when I'm hungry either). It seemed to me that they had just been here, like yesterday, and now I can't figure out where they are.

I try to use my rational mind to remind myself that they died, but I mean to tell you, for some reason my brain will not accept that information right now. It's inconceivable, intolerable and I don't care what you say - it couldn't have happened!!! No effin' way!!! Or at least that's how I feel.

I cannot think about my kids right now without going into this weird state of shock. Like I'm so sad that if I start crying I may cry so much that I dehydrate and die, but I'm so far in denial and confusion that I can't cry one tear. I feel suspended or stuck - where I don't know, but somewhere, or maybe nowhere.

So do you see what I'm saying? I may really be losing it. And this is not good timing. I have homework to do, papers to write, chickens to de-bone, vegetables to tournee, a house to pack up and move...etc. How is it that I held it together for so long and now I'm wigging?! OMG, WTF?!

My rational brain tells me that it's fairly sure I'll get through this and find my mind again and if not, that someone who loves me will come over and gently guide me to the nearest insane asylum. And I guarantee that if you saw me on the street or met me in a coffee shop you would have no idea that my mind has left my head, been run over by a Mack truck and then been eaten by vultures. (I've got skills when it comes to coping in public) But it has.

And as I sit here trying to describe this I'd be lying if I said that I didn't hope the tornadoes currently forecasted would come to my house, suck me up and carry me to Oz - or even better - to wherever it is my kids are hangin these days. (I told you I wouldn't kill myself - I never said I wouldn't pray for an act of God to take me out) (and yes, I can practically hear my parents gasp after reading that)

I'm not trying to cause undue concern, or even complain about what I'm going through. I'm just sayin it like it is, because right now this is how it is. And it sucks. And I miss them. And I'd give ANYTHING to have them back or just to talk to them and find out how they are and know they're ok. But I can't so I'll just sit here at my computer, in my non-crying suspended shock state, and try to finish my homework. And go to bed. And hope and pray that tomorrow feels different.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Day to Remember...

It's been a long week and, thankfully, the holiday weekend is here. I'm so looking forward to having a day off, sleeping in and spending time with my family and friends. I hope all of you have have a great weekend too and have some time to spend with the ones you love, enjoying the summer-like weather. (And don't forget - PLEASE be safe and responsible)

At some point during what will hopefully be a fun and relaxing weekend, I encourage all of you to take a little time to remember the reason why we celebrate Memorial Day. I can only speak for myself, but I too often think of Memorial Day as a day off from work or the unofficial start of summer or a great time to barbecue with friends, and the real meaning of the holiday gets lost.

Memorial Day is truly a time to remember and honor all of the men and women who've died defending the freedoms we so often take for granted. Maybe we could all light a candle, visit a war memorial, or take a moment to just say thank you. (you all know that, as far as I'm concerned, those who've passed on are still with us in some form - so they will hear you) And please say a prayer for all of those who've lost family members or friends serving in our military, so they can feel comforted and know their loved ones will never be forgotten.

Thank you.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thank you for your support...

I'm sure that those of you who came here from That's Church know what an overwhelming response of support the Treehouse has received in the past few hours. I thank you all for speaking out and allowing yourselves to be heard.

I have personally spoken with Doug Shields and we have opened up the lines of communication to try to move forward in a positive way, meaning everyone will get to say what they need to say and all sides of the story will be heard. That's all I've ever wanted - to be positive, allow everyone to voice their opinions and to do what's best for EVERYONE - and I mean that. So I'm happy to say that it looks like that will happen. It may not have happened without all of you so again, THANK YOU!!!

Additionally, the Parks Conservancy has issued a statement I'd like to make you aware of. Please take a moment to check it out.

I promise to keep you updated on any new developments but now have to go write a paper on The Blue Foot Chicken - did you know a salmonella-free chicken exists that can be used for sushi? Ewwww is all I have to say about that.

I know I keep repeating myself, and the words seem so inadequate, but thank you again! Pittsburghers are the best!!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kate and Peter's Treehouse - the good news and the maybe not-so-good news...

Because I tend to be an optimist I will give you the good news first. We have received some design proposals (by we I mean me, the Parks Conservancy and some other awesome people who have agreed to help with this project) and have selected some design teams to interview. This is pretty exciting - we've seen some examples of what these creative landscape architects and artists can do and soon they'll be able to tell us how they plan to make Kate and Peter's Treehouse the coolest treehouse ever!

And because I want you to feel really good before I tell you the not-so-good news, I'll tell you that the amount of money donated to this project continues to grow - a fact that constantly overwhelms me with people's kindness and generosity. Recently, while looking over my records of donations, I figured out that we've received donations from almost 700 individuals and businesses from 30 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and Australia. That's pretty darn amazing!

(By the way, some of you have emailed me and requested information on how to donate online. You can click on Kate and Peter's Picture where it says "Kate and Peter's Treehouse" on the left side of my blog or you can click HERE. Be sure to designate that you're donating to Kate and Peter's Treehouse. Thank you so much for your interest and for you donations!)

So here it is, the not-so-good news:

It seems as though there are some people who don't want this treehouse to be built in the part of Frick Park we have been considering. This certainly isn't the worst news in the world, nor is it any sort of deal-breaker or project-stopper, but it is concerning. To me, it's confusing and disheartening.

I will certainly admit to the fact that I am naive and tend to see the world through rose-colored glasses, despite all the stuff life has thrown at me, but it never occurred to me that people might not want Kate and Peter's Treehouse. Since hearing this news I've had to take a couple of steps back and consider why people might not want a play space for kids in their neighborhood and if I'm just being selfish by wanting to build it there. At this point I don't know the answers to these questions, but i do know that it's certainly not all about me.

The reason I first thought of this area of Frick Park, which is known as Turtle Park - located in Regent Square next to the site of the Environmental Charter School, is because my kids really enjoyed playing there so it has a special significance to me. It's a very accessible part of the park, located in a neighborhood with a lot of kids. Kate and Peter's Treehouse would provide a state-of-the-art, educational play space for neighborhood kids, school students and other community members.

Right now there is a picnic table, a couple of benches, a big grassy area and a large turtle (which is why it's called Turtle Park). I walk through Turtle Park all the time and I know lots of folks in the neighborhood use that grassy area for picnics or pick-up football games so I certainly wouldn't want to change that space. However, behind the turtle is a grove of trees which, in my opinion, would be a great place for kids to run and climb and play in the trees. But again, my opinion is not the only one that counts.

I haven't heard directly from any of the people who oppose Kate and Peter's Treehouse, but I'd definitely like to understand their concerns. The last thing I want to do is disrupt people's lives unnecessarily or do something detrimental to their neighborhood. What is confusing to me is that I thought playgrounds and play spaces raised property values and benefited nearby residents, but maybe I'm wrong.

The most important thing now is that peoples voices be heard. Obviously, hundreds of people support this project. And now it is apparent that some people oppose it. It is vital that both sides speak out so we can figure out if this location is the best place for the Treehouse or if it would be better to build it somewhere else.

There will be a presentation and question and answer session at the Regent Square Civic Association meeting on Monday, June 7 at 6pm at the Wilkins School Community Center. This will be a great opportunity for people to voice their support or opposition about Kate and Peter's Treehouse. If those of you who live in Pittsburgh and/or use Pittsburgh Parks feel strongly about this project and can get there, I would love to see you at this meeting!

If you can't make it to the meeting, but want your voice to be heard you can Contact Doug Shields, the City Councilman whose District includes this part of Regent Square, at 412 255-8965.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

And now I feel like this...




The research paper is done (hallelujah!), but after much procrastination I had to resort to one of my old college "study habits" to finish it. I wrote until midnight, at which time I could no longer see straight or think clearly so I went to bed. I got up at 3:30am to finish writing and finished at EXACTLY 6:30am when it was time to leave my house and drive to school.

I was hoping I wouldn't have to resort to such tactics because now I'm older and wiser(?), but I did. And now that I am most definitely older, I don't bounce back as easily. So I'm going to take a very long nap so I can be prepared for another day in the kitchen tomorrow. And I have been warned - we will be tournéeing vegetables! Ugh!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

This is how I feel...

...about writing research papers:




I do feel like I'm turning into quite the whiner, but I'm gonna whine anyway.

I have a six page (minimum) research paper due tomorrow. I have to write about the narrow topics of coffee, tea and water and their importance in the food industry. How do I even attempt to do that in six pages?!! I could write six hundred pages on coffee alone and how important it is in my life and in the lives of all of my loved ones and, hell, in the lives of all of the people of the world, but who has time for that? So six pages it is.

I didn't realize when I started culinary school that I'd have to write papers. I did enough of that in college and grad school, thank you very much. I'm sure somehow it's good for me and I should just shut up and write already, but I wanted to share my frustration and angst with all of you.

AND I am the queen of all procrastinators - if there is a way to procrastinate, I will find it. Now I have a new one: blogging!

On that note I'm going to attempt to write a few more paragraphs before my next scheduled procrastination interlude. Thanks for listening, I feel better now.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

breakfast is served...

For those of you who love breakfast like I do, here are some pictures from yesterday's breakfast buffet. No complaints this time, it was a lot of fun.



Garden frittata and home fries:



Pancakes, french toast, crepes and a tower of yogurt granola parfaits (which literally had a tablespoon of yogurt and close to a cup of whipped cream):


As fun as it was, I do have to tell you that not everything went smoothly.

I was in charge of making Quiche Lorraine and Huevos Rancheros. We were instructed to roll out the dough for the quiche then blind bake it (without any filling) for a few minutes to set the crust. I rolled it out once, put it in pie pans and watched as the dough shrank so much it fell back into the pans. I took it out, re-rolled it leaving a pretty significant amount of dough hanging over the edges of the pans and popped it in the oven. That didn't work either. It still shrank and slid back into the pans. I was left with oblong discs of pie dough, not suitable for quiche.

I tried again. This time I decided to forgo the blind baking and just fill the raw dough with the quiche custard - ensuring there would be no way for the crust to shrink back into the pan again. As you can see...the crust did not cooperate. Oh well, it tasted pretty good. And now I'm on a mission to try to create the perfect quiche.



After my crust catastrophe it was time for the Huevos Rancheros. I've never made this before, in fact I'm not even sure I've ever eaten it, so I had no idea what I was doing. We didn't have a recipe so my instructor said "go find some veggies in the fridge and make some chili" as he handed me two cans of beans.

Let me explain something to you. I don't make anything without a recipe. Ever. This is why I'm in culinary school. So the instruction "go make chili" doesn't help me much.

I started looking frantically through my textbook for a recipe. (if there's one thing I've learned so far, it's that you have to work quickly) A couple of minutes later my instructor came back and said, "What are you looking for?" I looked at him and said, "a recipe for chili - I have no idea how to just make chili". He chuckled and said "just sweat some onions and garlic, add a little stock, throw in a couple tomatoes concasse (tomatoes that have been blanched, shocked, peeled and seeded) and here's some turkey you can add. We'll season it later."

Alrighty then. That helps, but still - no recipe. How much of each thing? How long do I cook it? In what order do I add the ingredients? Oh, and I'll go get on that tomato concasse business, but this is gonna take awhile!

It actually wasn't so difficult once I just started chopping and cooking. And it turned out pretty well. And, most importantly, it helped me get over my fear of cooking without a recipe. When the chili was complete, we served it on top of chive scrambled eggs and voila - Huevos Rancheros. (sorry, I was so caught up in the non-recipe stress I forgot to take a picture)

Next week we're on to whole chickens. I have no idea what we'll be doing with them but I'll be sure to let you know.