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'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.