The Simple Silence of Snow

Snow is so quiet. I stood outside today and the gray sky enveloped me, and for a moment the whole world fell silent. It is odd to feel silent in the bustle, but snow has a way to slowing and quieting even the loudest bustle. While I stayed in that quiet, outside of Bradt Elementary, the trees just stood, the sky was one tone of gray, and the air was so still. It has been a long time since I felt that degree of silent. That’s the thing about snow… it is so quiet.

I think one of the most silent places I have ever been was Lake Ontario in February, the gray sky as far as you can see, waves now covered in flat ice… just one tone of gray, no sounds to steal the show. Most hate the lake in the winter, I love it. It is a clear gift to slow the bustle, to quieting the loud. A few cold minutes on shores of Lake Ontario immersed in the gray and quiet is enough to take the sting off the crazy, busy of life. Today I felt a bit of that…

Life is NOT quiet. It is loud and full of chatter and noise, full of direction and movement. I am so guilty of not taking time to bask in quiet, to stay still in some silence. I just move, live, chatter, breathe, run, plan… with little more time to take. I allow the chatter to fill my brain, and as much as I would love more silence raising two daughters in a small Cape Cod is not the best place to find silence. The chatter is overpowering. I have struggled lately to even find a space to breathe in this parenting a Middle Schooler time in my life. Today I found a bit of silence in the coming snow. I felt a moment of breath… then I got in my Jeep and ran to the Post Office and taught Church School and came home to make dinner- gone is that silence. I didn’t even bottle it when I felt it, if only I could capture that in a mason jar and set it on a shelf for another time, I need it more, when the chatter is too much. If only…

This time of the year is tough. This silence evokes feelings that don’t surface in the chatter. There are holidays to be celebrated without one of my best people, the cold short days can be so lonely, my brain remembering all the 7 years ago ‘we were doing this…’… I didn’t even know it would be the last. Now that I know, it makes this time of year a deep time, there is no sunshine to wander in, no beaches to play in, no long days to spend busy… there are no bonfires and smores. It’s different on these days, there is quiet and slow down, cancelled plans and snow days. It’s a blessing and a curse…

The simple silence of snow has come to the north. It will wrap us up in it’s quiet and dull the chatter for a few months. The silence and gray will give us the quiet to dive into the pain, the loss and all the missing. I don’t think I was prepared for today’s gray silence, but like always- we don’t get to pick. We don’t get to pick…

The simple silence of snow has come to the north, I embrace it for the blessing and the curse that it brings. I honor the emotions that it brings to the surface, all the missing. I imagine someday snow and this season will feel magical again…

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Today is Election Day…

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So today we will wake up, if we are lucky enough, to get just one more day to live, breathe and change. The sun will rise and the busses will come pick up our people, we will drive to work or meet friends for coffee- maybe go to the gym and sweat through a bootcamp class. It will be a day, just like the ones before it… but there is something different about today. It is the first Tuesday of November, and Emily Eiss’s birthday, for any who know her be sure to drop her a HBD. It is Election Day…

Let’s do this right. Let’s go do our jobs and vote to change the world in the way that we see fit. Let’s go to the polls and get the sticker and know that our choice, our vote was cast, to alter the government and communities we all live in. Let’s do it nicely… this might be the most challenging part for some.

My sister reminded me of somethings my Grandma used to say, things that are so relevant today and yesterday and 100 years ago. My Grandma was full of knowledge and faith and silly songs. Her advice is simple- but so many seem to have forgotten them in these times. I think it is a reminder to go back to simple.

Grandma Connor’s Advice

  1. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
  2. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Simple right?

Why on Earth are politicians out there with such awful and demeaning campaigns? Why are people so mean? Every year it gets worse. The soapbox that Facebook gifts for people to spew hate and anger. Feeling as though they are due that, since someone else was mean. The threads from these posts are stressful, each person feeling that they somehow won some battle. Like we are all on different teams…

This world needs to stop and think, just like I tell the kids I work with, think about your words, think about your actions. If you want to change the world belittling and berating others will change nothing other than make then hate you more. Show others how to live the way you know is right… show them by your actions…

Personally, I can tell you that no person who has every yelled at me, told me I NEED to feel how they feel, told me that if we don’t see things the same way we can’t be friends or removed me from their social media because we are different EVER changed my beliefs. Not one of those people made a point to me, except that they are capable of being a yelling mean person with views I may or may not share. Imagine, instead, if they had gone out and lived and shared in a way that was respectful and purposeful… I might look at them and think what are they doing differently, what are they using to build that life? Then I might actually stick around to hear, and it might ACTUALLY change my direction. All of that by not reacting with a second wrong, and by not saying things that aren’t nice.

I often go back to a piece of scripture from this summer at Mass. Jesus was standing with his Hot Mess Apostles, yes they were not a perfect crew of perfect people, but a set of Hot Mess Humans who loved Jesus… anyway… He was standing and telling them to go out and do their jobs. He said ‘Go out there, no luggage, no food and knock on people’s doors. If they welcome you in, stay and let them know Me. If they do not, keep on walking and dust off yourself. Go knock on the next door.’ What did this mean? Jesus is saying- go share Me, like I would share Me. If they don’t want to hear it, move on. You are not being like Me if you stay and yell and push Me on them… move along. They will be further from knowing Jesus if you stay and yell… but if you leave there will be another ‘knock’ another time with a little disciple to work on that person’s heart. Life is like that…

We all have things that are important to us, morals and values, ideas and hopes… We all want to share them. Sometimes sharing is just living in the way that those values and morals show.

Remember that is OKAY to disagree. I recently sat with an amazing momma who will die soon, she doesn’t look like it, so that probably makes it harder. She if advocating for Death with Dignity Acts, I am not for them. We talked about the whys and the points of belief we each have, I am also not faced with making choices for my children and my illness, so I very much respected her for her choices. She even heard my point. I think about that conversation often, about her. I think about how I can’t imagine being in her shoes, and how I don’t know if I could do it. I know we don’t get to pick and we definitely should not compare our stories and trials. I just think of her often. At the end of our conversation, really more of a connection, I promised her that I would never forget her and I would bring her along for all of my adventures… and she promised me she would hug my daughter when she got there. We disagreed over a very hot topic, but our conversation/connection ended in love…

What if we all stopped and thought, like really stopped and put our finger on our brain, and said “Brain what do we really want the outcome to be?” That little bit of self talk could go a long way to a better world… imagine if instead of reacting to EVERY nudge and poke with a wrong, we stopped and thought. What if we really kept our mouths shut when we didn’t have anything nice to say… imagine all the people who would look at us and wonder what are they doing right???? What do they know that I don’t…

I’ll end here… listen to my Grandma’s Advice. I do. I see her and my Grandfather in so much of my life today. I choose often to keep walking to the next door, brush the dirt off of me and keep doing my job. I will keep doing what I do, hoping that others look at my life and think what is she doing differently…

Welcome November.

november.jpgThankful today. I am thankful that today is November, and October is behind me. I don’t know what it was about last month, but it was a rough one. Historically I am an October lover, I love the leaves and cooler temperatures, the soul warming foods… all of it. This year I just kept my eye on the prize and got through that month. I hated doing it that way, but it seemed like the only way.

Octobers of past are filled with planning and excitement, light in the dark and sewing costumes until midnight. I always make the girls costumes, we do pumpkin carving BIG, and my memories are brought back to the times I was pregnant with Amelia and just had Madeline. We did most of those things, they just didn’t feel the same this year. The costumes needed much less help from me, Amelia basically had a couple items I ordered from Amazon. She really didn’t let me help her. Lucy’s whole costume was based on a jacket I bought her from Zulily, that looked like a General in the Army (way back when). Her costume was simple for me. I realized that the times of making my girls costumes are numbered, a fact I knew but would have drawn out for 20 more years. I may have made my last fancy and creative costume for my girls. I am kind of used to time stopping, Madeline’s last fancy costume was a cowgirl with her own badge and stars on her western hat. She was so freaking proud… but it was her last. I had no idea that was her last… I wasn’t prepared for last year to be Amelia and Lucy’s last.

I was in a different place this October, a place I don’t recognize, a place I don’t love. When I tell people I didn’t even decorate for fall, they shrug and say “It’s okay I never decorate for fall” … but for me undecorating a season and decorating for the next is like medicine for me. I undecorated the summer and sunny stuff… I cleaned the house… but I never put up the fall and Halloween stuff. I don’t know why, I just kept putting it off. It felt like I was living in a different house… not a leafy and cinnamon scented house with the cutest ghost wreath. I decided to just decorate for Christmas and start prepping for Jesus’s birthday.

I think sometimes the reality of life just hits hard. October was so dark. It felt like a lonely month, a month of missing. A month of watching kids in 7th grade grow and become, a month of holding up my parenting card when Amelia FOUGHT hard for a cell phone… a month of work and life’s busy work. I hate sitting at my dining room table and eating dinner with just 2 people. I never imagined my life having such a tiny number of people sitting at my table…

I think October was just a month I was tired of doing all those things- decorating, making and sharing dinner, even mass. I know the right things for us, but I didn’t choose them often. It was a heavy month.

Today is November. The day was long, the sun was out. I decided that today was the day to decorate for Christmas. Today cinnamon candles, snowmen and Nativity Scenes were put out. It is time. It is time to start celebrating Jesus’s Birthday, for the light that it brings. We need some light over here in Schenectady. I am missing too many things; the light keeps me sane. Today, as I look around my house and listen to Pandora Trans-Siberian Orchestra… I feel lighter. I feel more like me.

I know October’s are lovely, but today I am crazy grateful for November’s. I am grateful for a fresh start. I am grateful for Jesus’s Birthday… and the lift He gifted me. I am grateful for my girls and my home, my life. I am directing my brain’s pathways to good places. I am grateful for a month linked to gratitude. I am praying that November wields more connection and more gratitude. I am hopeful for this time, I am tucking the hard times away. I acknowledge them, I think about them but it is time to put them away for what they are/were…. A hard time. Today is November 4th… a good day to start fresh and bask in the light (well the light that has now disappeared). Today is a good day to try again, to see the light and enjoy the love. Today is November…

Living Different…

I am not like most people. This thought has passed through my mind so many times over these last few weeks. I have always known this, I don’t know why I was comparing myself to others, anyway. I just feel like I am really popping out of the mold these past weeks.

I have never really fit into a mold. I didn’t fit into many groups that well in high school, until later. I usually could hide myself in a club or extra credit projects. I tried sports, but I lacked talent and the ability to stay confident when I failed in front of a crowd. I was able to become a different ‘me’ in college, with new peers and relationships. Moving to Albany and working opened a place to get to become another ‘me’. Parenting and grief and living have proven to be kind of the same, I definitely don’t do it like most.

When my girls were young, in those hard years of 3 littles, we treated the days like adventures- trekking to new places, bringing Lucy along even when she was only moments old. We found creative ways to stay busy on the cheap, and we were notorious for picnics in the snow. I never called my girls ‘normal’ names… Lucy was my little ‘Lucy Bean Butter Buttface’, Lucy Bean for short. I would dress them up and pose them in funny pictures, including Sparky. I would bundle them up and walk in the winter, and remind all the old people who stopped us that cold doesn’t make us sick, germs do. Funny thing is… my girls were so exposed to germs from all the crap they licked, ate or swallowed I knew they had kick ass immune systems. It is how we survived that time back then…

I laugh thinking about how I would watch my friend’s kids play… they were quiet and kind, never putting toys in their mouths and playing so nice. Then came my kids… who licked and ate everything. I used to tell myself- ‘No big deal, at least she didn’t lick Walmart’s floor’… then one day we walked in and SHE DID JUST THAT. I was humbled… and again chalked it up to an immunity builder.

I have never really fit into a mold… no part of my life does. Lately I have been beating myself up about it, comparing my ‘self’ to others. The thing is I am different, I have a different life with different blessings and broken, I have a different perspective, different views and different building blocks. I have a pretty extraordinary story, one that most have nightmares about. I love my story…

Today the girls and I delivered a package to a little girl who has DIPG and her family. If you ever need to remind yourself how fragile life is, this moment should be your reminder. As you read these words your brain should be thinking of the important, the stuff your life should be full of. This is a hard thing, because I can’t tell you what your time should be filled with, but I do know what my life needs to have. This is where I am different…

I love to watch my daughter’s do what they love, I love to watch Lucy square up in the box and hit a power ball. I love watching Amelia’s grace as she dances across the room. I love when they work hard for the Science Fair or create masterpieces. I loved watching Madeline work so hard to read. I also love burrowing under blankets and watching movies, baking, teaching church school and down time.

I love to watch them do what they love, but I don’t want to do that all.the.time. I don’t want to play 3 baseball games in a weekend, or go from one practice to the next. I don’t love to end a weekend as stressed and tired as I started the weekend. We need downtime in our family.

I have wondered lately, why I am not like so many other parents. I wonder why I don’t push Amelia to dance more, or participate in competitive cheer. I have wondered why I don’t care to go to 3 games in a weekend, some an hour away. I have wondered what is wrong with me when I can not keep times straight. I have wondered when I will fit in…

My brain kept reminding me that this is not the job for me, for us. We don’t fit in, we do our life and time. I was reminded of who we are, what our story is and who I am building. I don’t need the priorities of others, I need the building blocks of Musto Chicks. What works for others is not made to work for me… what works for me doesn’t work for others.

I think some of the pressure comes from the article I read that many shared about why they don’t pay for their kids to play sports- but instead for them to learn lessons they will need in life. It made me feel some guilt that I don’t push enough. I see those families all filled with sports and practices and games and camps and lessons and workshops. I see kids in music lessons, tutoring, extra clinics and nights of tumbling or stretches. I get it. I just know that it isn’t for us…

I am building those skills in a different way. My girls meet families going through the hardest things, they have learned to serve and care for others in a huge way. Service is built into so much of their time. Faith is a priority in our family, we live and learn faith. Thursday nights are a night I hold high in our house- church school. I know that the lessons learned in church school (or faith formation) will be there when the life doesn’t go as planned- when you break your arm and can’t play baseball, or fall at your recital or you lose a sister. Faith will keep us afloat when hope seems far away. That same backbone of faith grants mercy and grace to our hot mess selves.

My girls are still little, I want them to be little for longer. I want them to just be home and ride their bikes or shoot hoops. I want them to go to the school dance. I want them to learn to fill their time with things that help build them to be who they are meant to be. Soon they will be bigger and sports and commitments will change- there will be pledges to sign and double sessions to prep for the season. There will be clinics necessary to wear Point shoes, or pitch better. For now… we choose simple. For now… we choose different.

Today the girls and I delivered and hung out with a lovely lady who has DIPG. She will soon join Madeline. In moments her life and her family’s life changed, like ours. They are living life full of moments that matter, moments that build and moments that will have to last a lifetime. Are you living that way? Are you stopping to enjoy your family, celebrating your blessings, applauding your differences, building great people? Are you running from one place to the next, birthday parties and dance lessons and 3 sports teams, leaving your family last?

If tomorrow your world changed, are you happy and in love with what you are building?happiness-quotes-160-508x408

DO SOMETHING…

 

“So, I shook my fist at Heaven

Said, “God, why don’t you do something?”

He said, “I did, I created YOU.”

If not now, then when

Will we see an end, to all this pain.

Oh, it’s not enough to do nothing- It’s time for us to DO SOMETHING.”

 

October 20, 2017- The day DIPG stole Devin Suau’s life here on Earth.

I got to sit and talk with Devin’s mom talk about his life, about the perfect timing of his birth and his ability to sense her pain and soothe her. He was the youngest of 4 boys, a definite accidental 4th– but then again life is never an accident. He loved super heroes and was a naturally gifted snow boarder- at the age of 6. Christine, his momma, described him so beautifully, his kindness and simplicity. He reminds me a lot of my Madeline- minus the snowboarding, she would have definitely stunk at snowboarding. Christine is doing something, something big.

Fast Forward to October 20, 2018… one year of missing, one year of the pain and broken and wondering… Devin died one year ago.

Christine described the last hug she and Devin would have, what it felt like and how he woke up and initiated that beautiful hug. It was like a comforting hug to remind his momma he was still carrying her in the pain. It was her last hug with the Devin that she carried and built and loved and laughed with, the last. The pain of those moments is enough to knock anyone down… rightfully so. The brokenness that is left behind is big enough to fall into and never return. The missing she now owns is enough to feel like your entire self is missing… like you are no longer here.

What you do with the pain, the broken, the missing is part of the process… and I believe part of the purpose. DO SOMETHING. Those are powerful and bossy words, words that require owning something and working to change it. When you experience things in life they point you in a direction, when you live through the DIPG journey you know the direction you must go. Devin wanted his momma to DO SOMETHING…

October 20, 2018 is not only Devin’s Angelversary, but is also a day to spread kindness. Often you see pages and fundraisers and stories, you see people in the community broken or ill, and you want to DO SOMETHING but you may not know what to do. You feel compelled to DO SOMETHING but the world gets in the way, your bills steal all your extra money or you have 100 things on the day of the gathering… or maybe you aren’t sure what to do. I am giving you clear directions as to how you can help DO SOMETHING… and 100’s of people out there DOING SOMETHING is world changing. You will know that you are a part of something bigger, a story with a purpose- a little boy that was created to change something and inspire people to DO SOMETHING kind and good and beautiful.

DO SOMETHING.

October 20, 2018 is a day for you, all of you, to DO SOMETHING. You can keep it a secret and just put the kindness and light you just brought into the world in your soul pocket- or you can share it here for Christine to see Devin’s impact. Either way- DO SOMETHING… something BIG or little, something easy or difficult, something outside your normal comfort zone. Who knows what God has planned for your act of kindness- maybe you’ll see the impact or maybe you will start the ripple. Go out there is DO SOMETHING… a coffee for a mailman, a snack for a homeless person, bring hot cocoa to the soccer parents, a chat with an older person, Dinner delivery to a sick family, donate to a charity… whatever- just DO IT. Share it or don’t… if you do #whynotdevin and smile knowing Christine can see it and know her son’s impact.

I am asking every.single.one.of.you to share this and DO SOMETHING… because, in the words of Matthew West, ‘It’s not enough to do nothing.”

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Light the way…

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The world feels so heavy and painful these past few days. I don’t know how to process it all. I am sure these feelings are what everyone is feeling. I just keep thinking about the passengers, the pumpkin pickers, the parents…

My brain won’t stop thinking about those kids who kissed their parents as they headed out on a little fun adventure, of those mom’s who are waking up without their daughters and sons. One mom lost four daughters… four daughters. I can’t fathom, I can’t understand, I can’t figure out what to do with this sadness. No one can.

…Just like that the 500 pound ‘person’ is sitting on me when I sit down in the chair in my living room. I close my eyes and I can just barely feel that mom’s pain. One day celebrating your daughter, the next four daughters gone. I can’t get it out of my mind, not that I should. This is a catastrophic loss in a community and beyond.

The world is short 20 people- most are described as kind, compassionate, positive, fun, real and special. Most were friends, all together to celebrate.

I wish I knew what to do, how to make the impact softer. There is nothing to soften this… nothing can carry this weight and pain. Nothing can lighten the load for those moms, dad, kids and the whole community.

My girl’s father immediately said “Erin driving is the most dangerous thing we do.” I reminded him that I know. The thing is driving is a necessary for us to live well, to adventure, to visit family, to see new things, to be a team and to earn a living. Living well is important, so IMPORTANT.

Life is meant to be lived. I wish we could erase Saturday’s tragedy from history, and those 20 people were back to their lives and jobs today. It can’t unhappen though… I can’t understand or make sense of it, but I remind myself that is not my job. My job is to live well- to live well and bring those passengers and pumpkin pickers along. My job is to be kind, be caring, stay positive, have fun, be real and bring along their special. My job is to try to be a light in the darkness for others, just like others lit the way for me.

In a world that is heavy and full of pain… a world that makes no sense, not even an ounce… in a world that just needs light- go be the light for those who need the dark path lit. Light the way for those mommas, dads, kids and community…

Our Sparky Elizabeth Musto

IMG_20181005_092710On Friday morning Sparky Elizabeth Musto joined her sister Madeline in heaven. Sparky was born in November 2004 to a pretty awesome set of parents. I remember meeting her, I remember watching her interact with her siblings… they would all come out of their little area and she would go back up to the top and defend that space- she was my Queen of the Mountain. When I see pictures of back then we were babies… Sparky grew up with me, though she grew older sooner.

The day we picked Sparky up from Gilpin’s and she left her mom, I felt sad for her and excited and nervous. At that time, imagine that feeling of bringing a baby home. She was the most fragile and tiny animal I had ever held, minus Cortney’s hamsters. We brought her to my parent’s house and Matthew’s home… introduced her to her family. Then we headed back to Albany… through snow and all of it. It was dark and snowing, and Matthew hit a deer on that trip. I just sat in the passenger seat with my tiny little bundle, crying because the deer had to be put down. After that we shakily drove home to out new little house…

Sparky lived through it all. She was my buddy when Madeline was born, then Amelia and Lucy. As Madeline grew the bond between them grew… Sparky become Madeline’s trusty sidekick. She endured so much poking, dressing up, getting carried, licking cuts and even snuck in eating some diapers. We spent our days together walking, snuggled and playing in the backyard- the girls swinging and Sparky digging holes.

Just like Madeline, I can tell you Sparky’s best days were spent swimming in Lake Ontario. She would be in the water all day, only stop to bring you her large branch and mini bark until you threw it back into the water. So many times, the waves got big and she would keep that branch in her mouth and you would only see her tail… she would have rather died than lose her branch. We visited the Lake last November, Sparky enjoyed her last trip to the shores of Lake Ontario at Wilson’s Point. It was cold, but I knew it would be her last time… I carry that.

I remember the night Madeline died, I ran upstairs to grab a hoodie, then ran back down. I was behind Matthew as he carried Madeline to the car to go to the hospital. I knew Madeline would never cross that threshold again… I left here with a huge sadness that Sparky would never even get to say goodbye to her. How it must have been sad and confusing for her, one day her Best Friend was here and another that scent and that voice was forever gone… it has always bothered me. I saw a medium one time, she was amazing. She was super not what I expected, I mean her cat did reiki. She told me that Madeline had come to Lucy and told her that Sparky was to be hers to love and take that place. I didn’t even ask this… so I know it was Madeline letting me know. I could see it before that day, I could see Lucy taking on this important job. From the day Madeline died until the day Sparky died she was Lucy’s Trusty Sidekick.

These years without Madeline have been full of new and different for me, the girls and for Sparky. Matt and I got divorced. Sparky lost her guy, and on the occasions she got to see him and the rare occasions she got to travel to hunting camp she was in her glory. As per normal life is hard…

These last few years have been really hard, hard for all of us. They have been hard on Sparky’s body, and our time. It has been hard to travel with her, or find people to help us with her, she hated the time I was at work, she was used to me being home.

In true Musto Chick from we worked for a time to make sure that Sparky’s time here was filled with Best Day Evers, small ones for her to enjoy the time she was still here. Lots of walks, a Kong filled with peanut butter every morning, ALL leftover meats put in the dog dish, Wendy’s bacon cheeseburger, snuggles and lots of digging time in the back yard. At 14 years old Sparky could still throw a ball and find it, she could jump on furniture like a spritely, young dachshund. She was, for the most part, still Sparky up until she was not here.

On Friday morning a very kind and compassionate Vet came to my house. He calmly talked to the girls, Matthew and myself about what would happen and how Sparky would be comfortable. I once again sat and watched my girls send off a family member to heaven. A part of me wasn’t just sitting in this living room, she was in the hospital room, singing Madeline into heaven… a part of me was utterly broken. I know the drill… it is forever broken; my life will just build around it. Friday morning felt a lot like that cold February morning, only we were on my couch and we had an ounce of control. It felt like Madeline in that sad and beautiful way that death can touch.

I have struggled this weekend. I stayed super busy, I didn’t choose to go find people. I put it in my brain to fin order in chaos… to neaten up the messy that the last few years of Sparky’s life left. She didn’t have control, but now I do. I painted the laundry, filled in the door that she dug, replaced the cushion on the chest she loved to lay on. I worked to find order in chaos… which is my pattern in grief. It is almost like nesting… even Friday morning I was nesting. I knew I needed to prepare for the time to come. So, the house got clean, so that my brain could focus on the hard thing in front of it and just stay in the moment.

Life is hard. It is beautiful, right next to the beautiful is pain and hardship. They all ride next to one another. Today I sit, after all that crazy work, and I reflect and I cry and think… and wonder will I ever open my home to another dog…

… But I know the answer- love is worth it. Love is worth all the grief and pain and broken and hurting. I work with families who are going to say goodbye to their kids, I sat and played board games with a little girl who will meet Madeline soon. It hurts, but I could never trade that hurt in for easy- love is not easy, but it is worth it. Someday our family will meet our next Trusty Sidekick and we will love again…’