Remembering Mia

When my daughter was in middle school, her dance teachers carried far more weight with her than I — a mere mom — did. Jelina Gonzalez was one of those teachers for my daughter. Now that my own daughter teaches dance and fulfills that role for a new generation of middle schoolers, I see the legacy that evolved from how Jelina and others taught her, not just to dance, but to become a young woman.

Jelina and I have stayed in touch, even though she moved hundreds of miles away. She began teaching (her experience of teaching was an integral part of a Toastmasters speech I gave about the power of a pencil). She got married. She shared her excitement as she became pregnant and planned to be Mia Sofia’s mom, with Erik to be Mia Sofia’s dad.

Mia Sofia died in utero at eight months’ gestation on March 21.

Jelina and Erik are working to raise money for Cuddle Cots so other families in similar situations can spend more time with their babies.  

As you can see in this video, Mia Sofia is loved beyond measure. (Note: The video’s privacy settings may or may not allow you to see it.)

Why a Cuddle Cot

To honor Mia Sofia, Jelina and Erik are raising money for Cuddle Cots. A Cuddle Cot is a specially-designed cooling system that prolongs the time a family can spend with their infant. Learn more about how Cuddle Cots work by visiting this link.

Comments in italics from Erik and Jelina:

Losing a little one is tough. Bereaved families are given the opportunity to spend some time with their baby after they’re born before being transported to the morgue. Unfortunately, this time is fleeting and doesn’t allow the parents to properly bond with their little angel. That time meant everything to our family.

A CuddleCot gives the family time to bond and grieve by keeping the baby cool. We wish we had one during our time of need, but we feel that we can honor our baby girl by donating one to Wellington Regional and help other families.

If you’d like to make a donation, please send your gift via Venmo to
@MiaSofia2019. (Here’s a link, but I think you have to be on the app for it to work.) Erik and Jelina ask that you include your name and email so they can keep you updated.

One image in my head throughout this period has been the sign Erik and Jelina had prepared for Mia’s room.

In that spirit, suggestions for three ways to help this family that is so dear to us.

M … for memories. Erik and Jelina will always have memories, and they created as many as they could in the time they had with Mia. They are trying to get Cuddle Cots for the hospital where Mia was born so other families faced with the death of their infant will have time for more memories.

I … for inform. Inform people about Cuddle Cots and — beyond telling them about a particular product — help them understand why families need this time with their babies.

A … for act. When there is a loss like this, everyone wants to do something to make a difference. In this situation you can act by donating or by simply providing support if a family you know finds themselves in this situation.

Five Minute Friday: LACK


L. wants to time travel.

She talked about it in her speech at the Wakulla County Tropicana Speaking Contest I judged recently.

She lacked comfort with speaking (don’t we all?). She lacked comfort in a noticeable way. Her body language spoke of her unease. Her well-crafted words got a bit lost in the trepidation of it all … the nerves. The judges (sorry…). The audience. The other contestants.

I loved her NASA shirt (of course I did).

I loved her courage, her gumption to get herself to the contest, stand up behind the podium, speak into the microphone about her desire to time travel and meet the scientists she admires so much.

L. got honorable mention out of four contestants, with the others scoring higher and getting 3rd place, 2nd place, 1st place.

I watched her after the contest, as the contestants were assembled for post-contest pictures.

She tried to shrink into the background. She looked so uncomfortable and miserable.

But she stayed.

She stayed … and this happened (please take the time to read this brief Twitter thread from my friend Rachel, who directed the contest).

She also stayed in my head.

***end of five minutes***

As the Twitter thread attests, L. is a beautiful young woman, in the way many sixth-grade girls are. She had no way of seeing that in herself, but she was gorgeous in a way that was all promise and no awkwardness. Beautiful face, pretty hair, total lack of awareness of how pretty she is.

Even though that point is important, the part that struck me was how her demeanor changed when she wasn’t *giving a speech*.

After the speeches, the emcee would chat with each contestant as the judges tallied our scores.

L. lit up, talking about her favorite scientist in a relaxed, articulate, engaging way. She lacked nothing. Whatever the opposite of lack … is what she demonstrated. ABUNDANCE … of intellect. Of promise. Of worth.

That’s why her comment after being told by two adult women that she is pretty and very smart: “People usually tell me I’m trash” is so devastating.

I have a daughter. I’ve been a daughter. I’ve tried to instill confidence in my own daughter and I’ve fought my own battles with trusting my intellect and knowing what I have to contribute to the world is enough.

I believe Rachel when she says, “I’m going to follow up & figure her story out & see if I can help nurture her love of all things science,” because a) I know Rachel has never said “I’m going to follow up” and failed to do so and b) she won’t lack for help.

I’ll be first in line.

*NOTE: L. obviously has a full name and it was a public contest, but it doesn’t seem fair to her to use it. Let her represent a legion of bright sixth-grade girls just like her.

Five Minute Friday OFFER

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

Five Minute Friday: OFFER

Have you ever had one of those weeks (or hours … or days … or months)? This week, I thought I kept all the balls in the air well enough … until it became apparent I had not.

I finished a project I owed someone — earlier than it was due — wrote it off in my head, patted myself on the back and apparently forgot to send it to the individual. THAT led to a round of “who’s on first” type communications and much self-recrimination on my part.

Fortunately, I have a few friends to whom I can privately say, “I feel like I’m losing it” and they know exactly the right words and reactions to offer.

Earlier tonight I read an incredible Twitter thread about a woman who helped a fellow passenger on the subway. The fellow passenger was experiencing seizures, and the author of the tweets said she followed the instructions on the fellow passenger’s instruction card, waiting with her through several subway stops and several more seizures until the woman (a young woman – I think she was 18) was safely home.

The author of the tweets said (paraphrasing), “We live in a society where it’s easy to call 9-1-1 when someone has a situation like this, but in this specific case, that would have led to worse things — more fluorescent lights and noises to trigger more seizures. More expense (I guess…). More invasiveness. Less comfort of being home in her own environment, with her own bed, her cat (if she has a cat but you get the point…), her dignity.

I am grateful for a friend who gave me the equivalent tonight — an ear, some reassurance, the chance to vent. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Five Minute Friday OFFER

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

Five Minute Friday: CONVENIENT

Five Minute Friday Convenient

Five Minute Friday: CONVENIENT

“It’s not what I asked for.”

How often is that true for all of us? We end up in a situation that we didn’t plan or want. It’s the opposite of what we dreamed of.

This lyric is part of “She Used to Be Mine,” one of the songs in the musical “Waitress.” I saw it last Thursday night, starring Sara Bareilles, who wrote the music. The song starts off relatively calmly and quietly, but by the time it reaches the end, the singer is leaving it all on the stage.

As an audience, we had a moment as Sara reached the end of this song. The events that had occurred and inconvenienced her character were things we all had invested in by that point.

As I was standing outside the theater after the show, at the stage door waiting and hoping to see some of the stars, someone else who had been there said, “this show makes me want to be a better person.”

I knew exactly what she meant. Theater does that for me, too. This show is “about pie,” but it’s about so much more. It’s about overcoming insecurity, about claiming your body back from someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart. It’s about doing what you have to do when you inconveniently end up being responsible for another innocent human being

***end of five minutes***.

Two families that are friends of mine are dealing with very ill babies right now. One baby has gone home, and the other goes home within the next day or two. They have different prognoses, but for now each one is going to require extremely intensive medical care, both from the parents and from medical assistants. In each case, a family and their older child/children have found their lives completely turned inside out — emotionally, financially, logistically.

It’s tempting to say, “I couldn’t do that. It wouldn’t be what I asked for.” I don’t know these two families intimately, but I know them well enough that I’ve seen how their situations have evolved. Despite all the complications and inconvenience, I have watched two families fall in love with their babies. They want support, and I have watched them learn to ask for what they need. But I have also seen them do what caregivers the world over have done for as long as issues have arisen with loved ones: figure it out. Love. Be Mom. Be Dad.

Convenience can wait.

Note: Here is information about my friends’ babies. Thoughts, prayers if you are the praying type, and support are all appreciated.

Jesse: Facebook page (Pray for Jesse). GoFundMe.

Lydia: Facebook page (Beautiful Warrior). GoFundMe.

And here’s Sara Bareilles singing “She Used to be Mine”:

Five Minute Friday Deep

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

FMF31 2018 Day 4: WHY

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2018 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: WHY

Of COURSE the below is what came to mind when I learned today’s prompt is “WHY.”

The image (and sound) of Nancy Kerrigan repeating WHY WHY WHY? after being attacked is permanently seared in my head. As many people who know me are aware, I was in Detroit attending this very competition when the incident occurred.

Nancy Kerrigan deserved every single “why” she uttered.

Speaking only for myself, though, I treat issues that are much more minor in nature with the same angst, yelling WHY WHY WHY? into the universe, mostly in my head rather than out loud, but it’s still my inclination to question and rail instead of accept and problem solve.

Therefore, I am going to let this prompt be a reminder that things that feel like dramatic attacks … aren’t always. I don’t want to be pollyanna about this, but sometimes the events that seem to have no productive resolution and threaten to cause endless grief actually do lead to growth.

It’s my tendency to ask “why.” I wish I could funnel that a bit better professionally, because I do strongly believe in getting at root causes before jumping to solutions. It’s what underpins most of the way I work with people who ask me to hear them out as they need to vent or work through a problem.

Over decades, though, I have loosened my self-imposed (and intensely trained) prohibition against asking the occasional closed-ended question or (gasp!) giving a piece of advice.

Sometimes it takes more than asking “why?” … it takes moving forward and embracing a solution.

Five Minute Friday Story

Goodbye, 2017. You weren’t ALL bad.

Happy New Year’s Eve! It has been an eventful last week of 2017, with my sweet mom being very ill at UF Health with pneumonia, so I’m taking a small shortcut for today’s blog and featuring my Instagram “Best Nine” for 2017.

Working clockwise from the top left corner:

  1. It’s funny that this picture is a “best.” Obviously, it’s no great shakes from a photographic standpoint, but the original, and the delicious garlicky baked shrimp Wayne made, qualified as “bests”!
  2. Wayne Kevin’s graduation from Lincoln High School in May. HOORAY!
  3. Bella, Instagram star.
  4. The day Wayne Kevin won a senior achievement award at Lincoln for his role in designing and making tshirts for fellow students through the digital design program. Proud mom here!
  5. Bonnie (pictured here) has cut my hair since Tenley was an infant (i.e., more than 20 years). She has moved on to bigger, better, and more Nashvegas-y things. I miss her. My hair misses her.
  6. ADPi parents’ weekend (which was more like ‘parents’ two hours’) with Tenley. Langdale Plantation is beautiful!
  7. Celebrating our 25th anniversary at Kool Beanz.
  8. At Olivia’s gorgeous Pebble Hill wedding.
  9. (Center) At the beginning of graduation prep, when I shared Wayne’s invitation and name cards.

And that’s a wrap on 2017! Like many others, I leave this year with a bit of a “don’t let the door hit ya on your way out, 2017” feeling, BUT I don’t tend to look at things in that way in general.

If this particular president hadn’t been elected (sigh), I wouldn’t have discovered how strongly I feel about particular issues, especially equity, and may not have spoken up. If my father-in-law hadn’t lived with us, and I hadn’t had to be a part of his final months with cancer, I wouldn’t have understood that it’s as sacred a responsibility to see someone through their death as it is to bring a human being into the world.

My youngest graduated high school (yay!), I celebrated 25 years of marriage, and I spent enjoyable time with my daughter and saw her mature (and turn 21). My mom survived a terrifying medical episode where an ICU nurse told me “if it were my mom, I would come now” (yes, I went — fortunately the nurse’s prediction was not accurate).

Here’s hoping everyone’s 2018 “Best Nine” is full of love, smiles, happiness, health and peace.

My Holiday Wish List

Since my writing this month has been decidedly on the dark and introspective side, I’m going to take a break today, based on a prompt by Kat Bouska, and share a December wish list.

If money were no object (sigh….)

I would be out of debt

I realize I made this bed myself, but it’s a bed I would happily burn to the ground in lieu of sleeping on an air mattress full of the light, buoyant air of financial freedom

I would be able to give my family a bigger Christmas, checking more items off their wish lists

Frankly, it has been so long since Wayne and I wished out loud for the “big” things that I don’t know what the biggest item is on his list. (Actually, I do know a trip around the world is on his list.) Guess if this wish comes true, Santa is going to need to throw in a cure to Wayne’s fear of flying.

I want to get my daughter this bag without batting an eyelash. Note depending on exactly *who* is reading this — if you’re Santa’s “elf,” I know this is not the right print. Don’t panic. 😉

Holiday Wish ListI don’t know the “big” items on my son’s wish list, but I imagine they are car-related. We’ll just go with a substantial gift card to the Infiniti Online Store. I’m pretty sure that would work!

Clothes!

Because I work from home, and virtually nothing I do right now is client-facing, my wardrobe is pretty depleted. I’ve also thrown out many items that I have given up on losing enough weight to fit back into.

I’ve always been pretty practical about clothes, but I love excellent quality and precise tailoring. This outfit is cute (but with flat or low-heeled shoes for me). With two conferences coming up in 2018 and who-knows-what professionally, I need Santa to help me up my wardrobe game.

Holiday Wish List

Generosity

I truly wish I could give so much more (time and money) to the causes I love. More help to the children our family loves in Central America and sponsors through Unbound, such as Stanley (here’s his most recent picture (he’s in the Santa hat!):Holiday Wish List

Better Spanish

I have totally bailed on my Spanish study after promising in this post that I would do better (I did enroll in the online Berlitz course, but have not been consistent at all). Dear Santa, send me to Antigua (Guatemala) or (better yet), Valencia (Spain) for a couple of weeks to improve my Spanish!

Broadway! NYC! Theatre!

Seventy-five percent of our family wants desperately to see something on Broadway.

I want to see Hamilton (duh) but I am going to be in Chicago in September so am hoping to see it there even though I would love to see it in NYC (I would also love to see Lin-Manuel Miranda perform in it in Puerto Rico in 2019).

Tenley wants to see Sarah Bareilles and Jason Mraz in Waitress (so do I but I was fortunate to see Waitress last December so at least that itch got scratched a bit) and  Anastasia.

Wayne (husband) wants to see Bruce Springsteen on Broadway.

BUT

You didn’t think I could *just* do a wish list without a message about what really matters, did you? Admittedly, I want every single thing I listed above, but echoing in my head as I write this is a passage from Well: Healing our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa that details a young boy’s battle with a bone infection that almost led him to have to have his leg amputated. Apparently people in Togo are at risk of these infections because they don’t have toothbrushes, so they can’t brush their teeth, so they get life- and limb-threatening infections.

Perspective in the form of a $1.00 (or less) oral hygiene implement.

Holiday Wish List

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Fourteen: Try

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. (Confession: I *may* not be able to resist spell-checking!)

Today’s prompt: Try

“You won’t know unless you try.”

How often have you said that to yourself …. or to a child …. or to a friend who is not sure they are capable of a goal they are considering setting for themselves?

Not being able to run for the past year has been a *big* lesson in the fact that sometimes success isn’t an effort of trying harder. My body is not willing to be a part of the running world right now, and I have (kind of) made peace with that.

But for the things we can do but that our confidence challenges are keeping us from, maybe it’s time to reframe (yes, I am talking to myself here — anyone else who benefits — that’s a plus!).

I have a part-time job in the mornings that I truly love. I lay in bed Thursday night, thinking how grateful I am to be excited about waking up and working the next morning. I don’t think I ever felt that kind of excitement in 20 years at the job I left in 2014 (not that I wasn’t excited about the cause of children’s health insurance — I just never find a sweet spot of confidence + competence + cultural fit).

I made a mistake yesterday at that part-time job. This is a problem because the place prides itself on “pristine editing.” I *know* that at least two more editors after me see the work and have the opportunity to correct it, so the final is almost always perfect, but it’s easy to beat myself up for making the error in the first place.

[Note — my five minutes ended after the above paragraph and I had already written the ending (a lesson I’ve learned in five-minute writing world!). But I didn’t finish my thought so I’ll add that below under “the sixth minute and beyond.”]

Trying doesn’t always bring the reward we hope, but it builds something more intrinsically rewarding in the process.

***

The sixth minute and beyond:

I am reminded that even if my work wasn’t perfect, that’s one of the errors that will help me be better at this job in the future. I someone had just *said* “don’t ever make that error,” I may or may not have remembered as I went about my work.

But MAKING it, and owning up to it, means it will be a prominent consideration in my head every time I touch the work from Monday on. I learned by trying.

And by doing so, I became better at something I really enjoy doing (and am further motivated to find a way to keep doing it as part of my work/life jigsaw puzzle whose pieces seem to be shifting all the time.)

Writing Challenge

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Five: Trust

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. (Confession: I *may* not be able to resist spell-checking!)

Editor’s Note: I am doing something different today. I am going to remain true to the five minute free-write concept, but I am going to write my first draft by hand.

I am writing my first draft by hand because I have become increasingly disconnected from my handwriting and the process. I was especially motivated to do at least one day manually when I read an article this morning that extolled the benefits of handwriting for attorneys. 

The benefits were many: more productivity, better retention, a tiny microscopic moment of downtime for the brain to process more deeply. 

For me, it boils down to the fact that my handwriting has gotten horrible and my brain (my soul too, I guess) have become too reliant on my keyboard and my screen.

I’ll add a bit of the handwritten version here as an image, and I’ll transcribe whatever I ended up writing it in the usual “five minute” spot.

I just really feel the need to put pen (green of course!) to paper. ~ pk

Today’s prompt: TRUST

“Trust and obey.” I have had this hymn in my head since late last night, when I fell asleep thinking about this prompt.

I must have sung this song a thousand times during my Southern Baptist childhood and young adulthood. The song continues: “…there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”

My biggest challenge right now is trusting myself and my choices. I know some parts of my approach to life and my skill set that I am 100% confident in … but then there are the ones that are more “iffy” or that I downright don’t think stand a chance.

Time to trust in something larger than myself.

Writing Challenge

Fantasies Fulfilled: A $500 Disney Giveaway!

I have been to Disney more in the past two months than the last ten years.

Tenley invited me to attend the Candlelight Processional at EPCOT in November as part of my birthday gift, then she was there at Christmas (which I realize is not the same as ME being there, but when your child is at Disney at Christmas without you, isn’t that the same as a part of your heart being there?). Lastly, I was at Disney January 17-19 as Tenley moved in to start her Disney College Program. First time at Animal Kingdom? Check! First time at Pop Century? Check! Coming to the realization that staying on property (which I had never done until the November visit) is the bomb diggity? Check! Check! Check!

So many ways to fantasize about what I would do if the gift card fairy plopped a $500 gift card into my hand!

Well, it takes a little more than a fairy – you DO have to do some clicking and following, but this Rafflecopter giveaway could magically land a $500 gift card in your hands. I call that a fantasy come true!

Disney Giveaway

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Prize: $500 Disney Gift Card (can be used at any Disney park or store)

Co-hosts: Coupons and Freebies Mom // Sunny Sweet Days // Lipgloss & Crayons // Jenns Blah Blah Blog // Yes We Disney // Style On The Side // Peyton’s Momma // The Bewitchin’ Kitchen // Juggling Act Mama // Casey At // Peanut Butter and Whine // City Of Creative Dreams

Giveaway organized by: Oh My Gosh Beck!

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter daily. Giveaway ends 2/29 and is open worldwide. Winner will be notified via email.

Are you a blogger who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your blog? Click here to find out how you can join a totally awesome group of bloggers!

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Disney Giveaway

A memory from my last visit.