Feet to the ground.

A few months ago I got the.very.best.compliment.ever… “Erin you are so much less frenetic than you have been.” I was almost giddy to hear those words…

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Rewind to last fall, to Boston and a DIPG Momma retreat… a weekend of reiki and art and connecting. Somehow, I was lucky enough to have 3 different Reiki sessions, all by different and amazing women, each leaving me feeling relaxed and ready for the next chapter of me. Each session may have been VERY different, the core message was the same getting grounded. It is pretty hard to hear someone acknowledge the way you feel and describe it so well “Erin, I see you floating away, like you are holding 100’s of balloons and flying away, up and away.” … or just that my feet are not touching the ground and I need to think and be cognizant of this, and keep them firm to the ground. I came back to Albany with a sense of need to get grounded and back to me, solid me.

Fast forward to working and taking steps to stand firmly, with my set of feet wholly on the ground. I could see the lack of order in my brain, the piles of disorder and how my mind just jumped from one pile to the next. I used to be much better at processing piles and navigating very stressful times, but last fall I felt pretty lost in the messiness. It’s been a hard go at life these past few years…

Acknowledging and taking actions to support myself better, to feel what I need to feel, to say ‘no’ to things that aren’t necessary, and breathing, just breathing have all helped me get some of my ducks in a row, to get my feet standing on the ground more often than floating away. I started to feel this spring that I had a couple ducks that were waddling in the same general direction, while the others were busy eating, chatting or heading the other direction… at least I think I have all my ducks in my vision. I started to feel a little more like me, although it took a few meltdowns (The Mother’s Day Meltdown of 2019) and a lot of emotional cleansing (which looks a lot like a crazy lady crying so hard that not one word makes sense and when she tries to stop it sounds like she has lost her air for hours)… the spring was a hard time, but it started to feel a bit like healing. I started feeling things I had to move forward from, things that I couldn’t take on back then because I had to raise my girls and function. It wasn’t missing Madeline this time, but feeling the pain of my divorce and how much I was hurt. I was far to quick to move and forgive, that when I stopped moving on and felt the pain it was heavy. I would again find myself crying as I drove through the Pine Bush, just as I did for years after the first betrayal. I tried to move on quickly and get to the next me, but this spring reminded me how healing works. Healing hurts, until it finally starts to not.

So when I sat with my Laurel, My Compass, this summer and she said “Erin you are so much less frenetic than you have been.” I knew that I was doing the work. I started to feel a little proud, maybe a tiny bit cocky about the state of ME. I was reminded when the world again didn’t go as planned… when I was left working hard to find my new path and it wouldn’t just show up, when my nephew broke all the rules entering the world… when I struggled to support my girls… all lessons and reminders of real important. A lot of stresses and struggles, riding right along so many amazing and simple moments. I started to feel frenetic again, not grounded. ‘My Compass’ agreed that I was hanging out in that crazy space of not completing a thought, or following through with anything on a list. I am back to that place of floating away, of not being grounded. I see it, I know it and I am going to change it. I started Yoga, Beachbody Yoga, to get my body stretched and aligned… but what I love is seeing my feet on the floor when I do downward dog, seeing them touch the ground as I push them down and my hips up. I am actively engaging in being grounded when I do downward dog…

I guess today I needed to sit and write these pieces, I have avoided it all. I have missed writing but at the same time knew that writing some things make them more real than my brain feels like considering them. I am looking at my feet when I do yoga, watching my toes grab onto the mat, acknowledging my attachment to the ground. I am working hard to feel and get through what I can, and I am trying to feel present and helpful in my nephew’s journey. I am trying to redirect my thoughts that are not important or have been acknowledged, there is no need for that pain if I felt it all. I am working to stand strong as ME… to feel grounded. I am listening to ‘my compass’ because thankfully I trust her. I started there, in that solid trust, that knowledge of her place in my life. I have built back up from that point…

This life is hard. These days are long, or short, but they are unreliable, so we must work on who we are through it all. Often times it is just a choice to see, to give perspective a chance… we can see a life of crap and loss, a buncha’ pain… or we can see the lights, the tiniest little nightlights and the beautiful sunshine lights as gifts through a moment that sucked. I am writing… that is a big step for me. I am working all the time on that connection of my foot to the ground, that choice to get through the pain and hard… and live life well. I am working on grounding me, so I can keep on building me.

 

Welcome Messy Little Rainbow Boy

Welcome to the world little one. In this big crazy world full of chaos and loud noise, welcome. I know where you have been is full of noise, but it is the noise of beeps and nurses bustling around, the sound mom’s crying as they watch their tiny baby’s breathe, the sound of dad’s telling their bitty baby’s to ‘get growing, there are big brothers waiting for you’. The sounds of a NICU…

Welcome to the world Little Benson Wilson Kirkby, the tiniest of the Wilson babies. Your cousin Lucy was reluctant to hand over the title of tiniest, but when she saw that first picture she softened and gave in. You joined our family August 10, 2019 and you have been breaking all the rules since… you will fit in just right with your brothers when you join the clan- in a bit of time.

We waited for you… in all the storms we knew a rainbow was coming. You are our little rainbow, though I quite think you are a little bit of a messy rainbow or maybe you are a Madeline Rainbow, the flip-flopped kind she used to draw. That’s it Benson! You are Madeline’s Rainbow, you have all your colors you just don’t follow the plan. We were down here hoping for our rainbow, expecting and anticipating, sometimes fearing the plan would change… that there would be a storm to get through. Here you are though… our Madeline Rainbow.

rainbow

Well buddy, while you have been over in Syracuse getting bigger and stronger, hearing those sounds of the NICU… we have been showing you off, checking in on your momma and daddy, laughing at your brothers’ crazy antics, praying and trying to stay patient. Self-talk buddy, lots of self-talk, over here… busy patiently-ish waiting to hold you. You don’t know this yet, maybe you do, maybe Mads gave you the run down already… so you would be ready for the chaos and noise to come. We are NOT a quiet bunch… so start preparing your reflexes for the ones who have waited for you. I’ll give you a rundown…

So… while you are busy getting bigger and getting some extra attention here’s what you need to know… the brothers are awesome little dinosaurs – watch your toes, they might bite. The grandparents are pretty cool- they are way too soft for my taste. Uncle Travis is big and quiet, but he is a baby hog… and he has a cool van load of people who come along too. Jo-Jo is the best with kids, pancakes and cookies, gifts and super hugs are staples for her – if she bugs you just give a quick bite, she’ll leave you alone. She has the coolest mini adults that can’t wait to meet you. Aunt Molly is quiet, she likes order and hates when you cry in a restaurant, if you want to impress her behave really well in public, she is special and thoughtful and loves to help. Then there is me, Aunt Erin, I don’t know how to prep you for me, but Madeline was mine and I am sure you were already hers- down here though- in the chaos and noise is a set of chicks who love babies and can’t wait to see if you have ANY eye lashes and touch those toes. They are used to hospitals and visiting friends there, so they know the sounds too. Their favorite rainbows are the messy Madeline kind…

The rest of your family I will leave for your momma to share, it gets louder and crazier the further out we go. When you grow up and you are taller than me- don’t say I didn’t warn you, also don’t tell me you are taller than me. Odds are years of not enough calcium and too much wine will warrant me shorter and stocker than you, neither of which matter, I am still the boss-ish.

Soooo… while you have been hangin’ in the NICU and growing and listening to the beeps and nurses and crying- lots of doctors have looked at you and your insides. They have decided that in order to grow big and tall and of course smart and strong and maybe rich you need to have a little bit’a work done on your heart to make it work smarter. You see buddy, sometimes, our heart is doing too much work and not making the rest of the body do the work too… and your little heart is taking on more than its fair share of work. These Doctors are gonna work it out so that your heart is doing work more efficiently, so that the rest of your body gets to working its fair share. This next adventure is important buddy, remember your rainbow angel. Rest and heal and grow, that’s your only job buddy. We will keep being out here in the loud chaos of the world waiting patiently-ish for you to join us. You will join the ranks of your clan, as littlest dinosaur, and all will be back to normal chaos. For now… we all send prayers up to The Big Guy and our Messy Rainbow Maker…

Welcome to the world Benson, you little rule breaker. You already fit right in to this big crazy messy world… welcome to The Boy who does not follow the rules, our messy little rainbow boy.

Choosing Little Deal

I am a firm believer in recognizing things in life as big deal or little deal. In my most professional place, the place that pays my bills, I have a conversation most mornings with the people I work with. I say to them as we walk down the hall and get to the places we need to be “Don’t forget, Big Deal/Little Deal. What is a Big Deal?” They tell me “Blood, boo-boos and broken bones”… and I ask “What is a little deal?” They tell me “Everything else.” Once we have established that we know what a big deal or little deal is we then talk about our day and making a choice to remember big deal/little deal. “If your writing isn’t perfect big deal/little deal?… if your friend pushes you big deal/little deal?” and so on and so forth. I also remind myself that it takes time for anyone to soak in that something that FEELS like a big deal in a moment, to them, might really be a little deal in the grand scheme of life. This is the story of a day as a Social Emotional support staff at an elementary school.

It is also that same way I parent my children, support my friendships and communicate in my family. Big deal/little deal… the easiest and hardest lesson to learn. I fail, we all do… but I try again and retell myself in my best big girl voice- Erin Big Deal/Little Deal???? What is a big deal??? Blood, boo boos and broken bones (which covers many areas under those simple words) and what is a little deal? Everything else… and generally speaking my life is chock full of little deal, take a deep breath and move on. I try not to store it up, but sometimes it happens. I have had a few times this spring that I have just had an uber tantrum, in my words, but in the wise words of my friend- I did some emotional draining. I love when those wise people give you the right words to understand your moment. In that moment she reminded me of a few things- that the thing that put me into this tantrum was NOT A BIG DEAL, that I need to let my emotions drain and I am stronger than letting that thing be a big deal. After a couple good tantrums in May, I felt like my emotions were drained off and my brain was back to place of recognizing big deal/little deal…

This past weekend tested my skills to the edge, but I am proud to say I did it. I made it to Wednesday still feeling ok and calm with my little deal reactions. Saturday morning was a really good morning, easy and slow… like summer Saturdays should be. Lucy and I went to drop our laundry at the Laundromat (another little deal issue of the year), then go take care of my friend Dana’s chickens. I parked and put in the codes, we loaded up the waters, spread out the dried mealworms and collected the eggs. It was time to start my Jeep… and she would not turn over. It was 90* plus and I had to get to a memorial in a couple hours… I sat and took a few deep breathes and tried not to cry. I called AAA and they sent out a big truck. Lucy and I went back inside the house, I took a shower and she played for a bit. We had to run to the end of my friend’s road/driveway to help the tow truck guy find her house. He was so nice, helped Lucy and I into his high truck and had cold water for us. We got back to the Jeep, as he checked out the Jeep I said something about how he shows up when no one is in a good place, that must stink. He replied, sometimes I get to make it a better day for them, give them good news- and for you it is just your battery. I reminded myself that he is the saver on those hard days. I was sloping downhill and he brought my perspective back up. While my battery charged and Lucy ate Dana’s kids popsicles (because the best friends don’t mind if you raid their home, shower and eat their food when you are in need)… he asked how my AC works, I told him it doesn’t. It has been charged a few times, but we are wide open window people, except Lucy’s window she killed the motor years ago. He began looking at the fuses and reading my manual and pointed me in a direction to a quick fix for my AC- none of which was his job, just his kindness. When she was all charged Lucy and I thanked him, and drove (Halleluiah) to the laundromat, grabbed our gear and got home. Amelia had prepped all we needed for the memorial and we were only a few moments late. The girls and I were welcomed right in and met with a mom who lost her daughter suddenly too. We did what we do, we set up a rock painting station and painted away. I looked like a paint covered crazy lady by the end of the night, but it was just right. We went home and felt good… it was a good day even with the crappy middle.

Kind AAA Guy

Lucy was complaining about the middle of our Saturday, and the time she had to waste. I understood; I didn’t mean to have a whole afternoon with those circumstances… but life never goes as planned. I reminded her that the afternoon could have gone worse, my Jeep could have done that at the Laundromat, or somewhere else. We could have been stuck in a hot, hot place and not had an airconditioned house with a shower and snacks. He could have needed to tow her somewhere; it might have been a big deal. She nodded and I thanked her for being my partner… I promised her a big ice-cream cone soon. She smiled…

I woke up on Sunday, headed to the gym, and my Jeep had let me down again. I wanted to cry, but I texted my friend, she picked me up in her reliable Jeep and we worked out. We got some of our brain cleaning and laughing out, thankfully those around us had headphones in. She dropped me home and I called AAA again, and a nice man came over and replaced my battery. It hurt to give him my debit card and pay for the battery, but it felt good knowing that my Jeep is safe and running. Actually, she is running really well… big deal averted.

While I was at the gym with my friend, she noted that I stayed calm even though it is a tremendous amount of pressure to add to my life right now. I nodded… and told her right now I am choosing to see this as a little deal. If I were to act out on this right now, it would be a pile of emotion not equal to this problem and not necessary… instead we are going to work out my body, brain and emotions. When we left I felt lighter, starting to know it is a little deal, not having to choose to see it that way anymore. I am sitting here on a Wednesday morning and every part of me knows that it is a little deal in the grand scheme of life… it was a not fun moment but not blood, boo boo or broken bone.

I think a lot of people could start their day as they get out of bed and get ready for life by saying “Big Deal/Little Deal… what is a BIG Deal???? And what is a little deal???” The answers to ‘what is a Big deal?’ for you may be different, but remember everything else is a little deal. It really is, even if you have to choose that, choose to let it go, choose to not engage, choose to not react, choose. It is hard, but important. Practice this… it is a practice to succeed. Every morning as we walked down the hall to our classrooms, I remind my friends, we talk about strategies when it is hard to see it as a little deal, we prepare for the moments that will be hard. In those days and months of walking down the hallways and talking about this there is change, those special kiddos start to practice this and know it… and they don’t need me so much to remind them.

Big Deal/Little Deal?… that is the question.

Mark’s Mark…

This week the world lost a very special 2nd grader at Bradt School. His smile was the gateway to his kind and compassionate soul, a really thoughtful little boy. His teachers loved him and he was a role model for character and workmanship in class. Reading about his love of baseball and his sportsmanship, testimonials of his smile and way of always being positive feel, to me, so much like Madeline.

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Mark’s 2nd grade Teacher, Mrs. Maguire, is a wonderful teacher who values experiences and adventures that go along with learning- more specifically service in the community. She and her students chose a charity each month to work to support either raising money, awareness, participating in walks, making lunches for Habitat for Humanity and helping Maddie’s Mark with Thanksgiving bags for families at Albany Med. It is amazing the amount of time and energy they put in, all the while learning important lessons about life and the need for service. Just a couple weeks ago Mark’s whole class worked in the hot sun to paint and freshen up a garden at our school to honor Deb Roman, an amazing ENL teacher who died in a tragic situation. I watched as his class spent the day outside painting and working to restore beauty to that memorial. Every Thursday you could find Mrs. Maguire’s kids in the hall outside the nurse’s office, waiting to be handed the heavy bags for our backpack food program. They would then head out to deliver the food between all of the regular work they had that day. You could count on seeing Mark happily delivering, painting, writing, creating, making lunches… whatever was asked, he was a happy one.

I have many memories of Mark, with that smile, most of them just seeing him walk down the hall or doing writing work in his class. In November when I was asked to talk about Maddie’s Mark and the service we do, I got to see Mark’s penmanship skills. Mark labeled and prepped all of the cards and gift cards to be delivered to families, and his penmanship skills topped many of the adults I know. I will forever see Mark smiling down the halls of Bradt, just as see Deb Roman with her soft smile and Madeline walking in front of me to the Lime room. His spirit will never leave Bradt school…

On June 25, 2019 I prepared my walls, I checked myself, I wrote my piece and I got myself an iced coffee and prepped to do what I had to do to get to bed time and honor Madeline. The morning was a different one than normal, moving furniture and noticing extra guidance and administration coming… but my brain didn’t put all of those things together. Just before send off the rain started… and it was RAINING. Teachers were noticing the presence of extra people and a few people had tears… I could tell something was coming. I stood in the hall and tried to figure out what the best thing for me to do, jet out and find out later or stay and hear. I decided to stay, but first send off the kids. We all went outside, but it was pouring… I decided to just get wet and laugh and squirt the buses as they go and wave out of excitement and missing. When all of the teachers got back into the halls we were called to the library, when we were all there our Principal shared the news that a little while ago Mark Lombardi’s dad called and let her know that our little 2nd grader, Mark, had died. What a surreal feeling to be in a moment that others had to stand and hear that your daughter died. I decided quickly to go home and celebrate Madeline, she had Mark now.

The morning of June 25th I wrote about Madeline’s birthday and a bit of a soft rant about spending your time wisely. Around lunchtime on June 25th was reminded of the importance of this. On June 26th an amazing recently retired Speech Teacher spoke at the send off breakfast, she had many funny points and profound points, but through her tears she talked about getting older and how our parents and families get older, and how you need to choose the important stuff… time and health are not ours forever…

Three messages in 24 hours, take that for what it is. Time and health are gifts, not promised to us. Don’t put off life, don’t waste your time being busy. I see it, all the time. I have lived in a world that surrounded us when it was hard, allowed their faith to be strengthened, took time for their family… and I see those same people fill their time far away from that now. I feel it all the time. Work harder… on Monday afternoon Mark was swimming and smiling. On Monday morning Mark was enjoying a half day with his 2nd grade friends. Today is Thursday…

Talk about Mark. Share stories, share laughs. Make his favorite foods and think of him. Remind your son or daughter to play baseball like Mark- happy to be in the game. Take time to write neatly, think of Mark and all of the Albany Med families who received those cards. Smile all.the.freakin.time. Be a role model in a room full of jerks, be the one that others can look at and want to be more like. Love your family all the parts of it. Love your sister, or brother… I promise when they are gone you don’t want to wish you did it better. Enjoy simple Best Day Evers, simple. Spend your time wisely… it is a gift not a promise.

Mark. You have made a Mark in my soul, and I will do anything I can to help leave your Mark. I will stick around and tell your story. I will see you in the hallways and I will smile while I remember your smile. I will forever honor your spirit and soft gentle soul…

 

 

I am including Mark’s GoFundMe page and obituary. His family could use fund and prayers, and knowledge that Mark’s short life will serve as a model for you to live yours…

Mark Lombardi Obituary

Mark Lombardi GoFundMe

Thirteen.

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Thirteen. A magical age when one enters the first level of adulthood, in the minds of anyone under the age of thirteen. I remember looking forward to turning 13, like things would really change. In my mind, like the snap of fingers it would all make sense and these next few years would be simple. I was on the brink of something big, something really profound. I was 13 and in love with Garth Brooks, oversized tee shirts and FHA… and let me tell you nothing got easier, especially fitting in. Life is like that… imagine one thing and learn that nothing we imagine happens how we imagine it.

Fast forward through many awkward years, college, Matthew, marriage and Albany… to June 25, 2006. We welcomed the most perfect 9-pound 6-ounce baby girl- Madeline Elizabeth Musto to this crazy brutiful world. We welcomed her with a blissful ignorance of time, the notion that she would be here until long after we left. That is the way we welcome fresh humans, with the blind love and knowledge that we will spend the rest of our lives loving and living in a world with them. What is the alternative, though? The alternative is so very sad, so not blissful and unaware. I quite miss that blissful ignorance, that gift that comes with fresh humans, that and the smell of a fresh baby’s head as you rest them on your chest and sway and bop…

I should be kissing my 13-year old’s forehead as I head out to work, maybe she would come with me and help in her old teacher’s classroom. I should be arranging a party or experience for teens, something that involved a bit of independence and a pile of trust… maybe even a treat of Starbucks and pedicures. I imagine she would be tall and have the best smile, accented with her big dimple. I imagine her teeth would fill her grin and that would be backed up with that infectious giggle- a little deep and rumbly, with a squeak here and there. I should be guiding her to new adventures, through friendship issues and difficult choices. I should be planning a trip to the lake, and setting up to remake the sunset picture with the 3 girls…

The alternative is so very sad. I should be… but the alternative is so very sad. The alternative is messaging many friends and family a birthday plan for June 25, 2019. The alternative is deciding to do it a little different this year, this year of disorder, to go to the beach and then gather a pile of important people in my back yard and celebrate the sacred space around my table- with pizza and cake. I thought about a party at her spot, but decided to do what Madeline loved… sunshine, sand, friends, pizza, backyard fun and best nights ever- the simple kind. What I wouldn’t give to throw a 13-year old’s birthday… to buy silly expensive Starbucks, fancy pedicures and maybe Hibachi with friends… what I wouldn’t give to have the alternative.

I miss her.

I wish I got to hug her today, to brush her hair off her face and tell her not to be a butthead. I wish I got to turn on Pandora and get her to dance with me in our little kitchen. I wish I got enjoy my 13-year-old on her birthday, celebrating the blissful and unaware state I got to live in way back when…

Today- go out there and do something kind. Every little kind thing counts. Assess your time, your family. Life is crazy, don’t waste it being busy. Say no to something today, with no guilt or fear, just say no and enjoy your time. This is a tough one… imagine what you want your child to be when they grow up… and know that some don’t get to grow up. Everyone loves sports and commitments, but are those sports and commitments building your family or stealing joy from your family. Do not put off time with your family, and be more aware of how you spend it. That is what I ask of you all today. Do a kind thing and remind yourself to raise your perfectly exceptionally mediocre kids and teens to be really good human beings that is all that matters… Madeline was the most special, simple and compassionate human being, bring her along today.

 

Happy Birthday lovely… enjoy the cake up there in heaven.  Miss you like crazy, but I know you are right here riding along with us Musto Chicks reminding me of the speed limit, telling Meme to be quiet and snuggling Lucy…

Gather.

bread-and-wine-quoteI have talked about this before, the sacredness of gathering. I know it, I believe it, I see the amazing things that come from gathering. I feel connected and refreshed when I gather with others. I love the energy I feel for days after the gathering. I love when my cheeks hurt because we laugh so hard. I love when we cry together, it is therapy for my whole self. I love waking up in the morning and going back over all the many conversations…

I know this, yet I rarely gather up my people and enter that sacred space.

I have been reading more lately- a new book and parts of my personal bibles. Glennon’s Carry on Warrior, Anne Lamott Travelling Mercies, Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love… the oldies that got me to a healthier whole self. The messages in those women’s words reassure me that with faith, humor, honesty and good friends we can get through this life and even when it sucks life is good. In all of this reading I am doing I started reading Shauna Niequist Bread and Wine… which I thought was the perfect title to really bring in readers… well not all readers healthy eating readers most likely skip right past this one. When you want to appeal to a reader that loves food and faith and friendship and family and joining all of those things together- one must name a book Bread and Wine. As expected, I am hooked. I read it the same as I read the others- one chapter in a sitting, if I read more it is a chapter from another book. I like to let the letters simmer in my brain, let the words work their way through me. I love how she writes; it is like I am sitting with her and she is telling me the stories and making the recipes. The book is a compilation of stories around ‘the table’, stories of gathering in the heaviest seasons and the easiest. Stories of food and gathering, healing and connecting, each story around a recipe that is included at the end of the chapter. I am not only feeling brave and wanting to make a chicken curry and maybe even include the mangoes- I am reminded of the deep need for me to connect and gather. I am reminded that it is as important to my healthy self as working out and brushing my teeth. I need to set a goal, just as I do for working out and stretching, to honor the sacred, sometimes messy and prepared space that is my table.

I am in a lonely season in my life. I am working hard to stay in the quiet and let myself sort in those moments. I am working hard to set boundaries and take time for me, even remove some important things from my plate. I am trying to find a balance in the quiet and loud, and find fillers for my sacred space. This is a hard season… one I am not used to. I am ready for some interruptions in this quiet place.

Last night I made a really great dinner and my table was full. Amelia’s friend got off the bus and Lucy’s friend came to swim and play. The girls asked if their friends could stay for dinner, I told them yes as long as they eat fish. I had told myself earlier I wasn’t going to make mac and cheese tonight, it was going to be a full cooked meal. Both friends stayed and looked forward to the dinner of fish and whatever else I made. Lucy’s little friend told us he had never eaten fish but would try it, which is exactly the right thing to do. I got right to work lightly breading haddock in breadcrumbs with fresh basil leaves in the mixture, sautéing little shrimps in butter, boiling egg noodles and sautéing really great green beans in olive oil, garlic and fresh basil. Amelia’s door wasn’t closed and shut off as she hung out with her friend, Lucy kept running through the kitchen with her friend telling me how good it smelled. Finally, it was dinner… around my table. We pulled up another chair, moved the computer and said grace, a full table…. Just what I have been craving. It didn’t look like I imagined, with my friends and family, wine and funny stories… but it was a full table. It was an answer, one of those answers that looks different that we requested but just as fulfilling. I am grateful for that full table, and some very full bellies. I went to the stove and counter to pack up left overs for lunch… and every morsel was gone… all that was left was my veggies. I guess no fish for lunch, just beans and yogurt (my coworkers will be pleased with the missing meat in the microwave).

Gather. Around my table. Around your table. Gather with kids or fun adults. Gather and laugh so hard it hurts or cry out some of the pain. Gather and tell the stories that connect… that remind us that ‘the table’ is a sacred space for love and pain, faith and fear, laughs and cries, gratitude and brokenness, quiet and loud, wine and water, gourmet or Kraft dinner… a safe and sacred space.

I hope you dance…

On Saturday we got to attend Amelia’s Dance Recital, a day she had been preparing for since September. I was excited all week, reading and rereading the list and times for the event, making sure my brain wouldn’t mix up times or forget to have her pack extra bobby pins. It was really exciting because my parents got to come watch her dance, a treat since they live hours away. It was a good day… we got some pictures in front of our tree, loaded into the Jeep and headed off to Voorheesville.

In January I remember sitting and watching Amelia dance through the window into her studio, and hearing the song over and over. She would start to get tighter while I watched so I tried not to make her nervous often. The song they chose for her lyrical class was a powerful song, one that has become a bit of an anthem for me these past years. The song not only evoked powerful emotion while I watched, it reminded me that He wants me to more than hear those words. He sent the most beautiful reminder… my dancer telling the story of these years, reminding me in the most beautiful way that He’s got this, He is right there and that maybe our hardest parts of life are mercies. Imagine your lovely, in a soft gold flowy gown, gracefully dancing across a stage to Laura Story “Blessings”…

“When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win, we know, the pain reminds this heart that this is not, this is not our home…” This is not our home. Reminding us that this place is temporary, this pain is temporary, the joy is temporary… to gracefully dance through it is a gift. I felt such joy watching her dance… what an honor to be her mom, to get to raise her and build her. She is one of my biggest blessings- and in all the rain and storms I am grateful, in all of the turmoil and hard moments parenting I am grateful… in moments watching her do what she loves and share her gift I am grateful, I am joyful. Joy is one I don’t feel so often, so when I do, I store it and love it and keep it and reflect on it and embrace it.

I really loved her dance program this year, The King’s Dancers, a Christian based dance program. I loved the music and costumes and the inclusive nature of the program. The recital opened up with “You Say” a beautiful and powerful song that has mainstreamed. They mixed 2 versions- the soft version with ballerinas, and the edgier version the hip hop dancers took the stage. It was an awesome way to start the show and set your brain to enjoy. There were dancers of many different abilities and needs who got to share their gifts with the audience. As I watched a lovely woman named Grace dance, I wondered if her parents knew God made her to dance when they named her. Grace has down syndrome and is a dancer, you could see it is in her soul to dance, and to share her gift. Watching her dance in a ballet piece and flow across the stage, hip hopping later to a fast song, and tapping with the biggest personality. I had the crying emotion that comes when you are smiling really big, I imagine it looks pretty funny to see that face… the one that is crying from the connection and emotion, and smiling because it is so beautiful and cute and happy. Emotions are funny like that…

I got to my seat and realized when I was watching the show, that in all of my planning all of my packing… I had water bottles, almonds and cheese sticks, extra lipstick… I forgot to bring tissues. I would sit through all of those practice classes and watch Amelia through the window and have a little tear, and Lucy would laugh at me and remind me that I cry soooo much. I should have been prepared for that, but instead I tried to discreetly wipe them and move along. I remember a time when I barely cried… I used to cry at weddings, at the moment when you just felt so happy and excited for the couple getting married… a little bit of tear would fall, but it was excited and happy tears, usually I was standing next to my now ex-husband. I don’t cry at weddings anymore… I am sure those emotions are all mixed up and messy- and I am usually thinking I hope they work really hard and know that that marriage gig is hard. Instead of crying I send little thoughts of hope that they just keep working.

I think crying is different for me now, it is a mix of emotions. I usually don’t just get super sad and cry, occasionally. I cry when I watch my girls do what they love and what God made them to do- and those tears are happy/sad tears. Those tears contain excitement and joy- laced with pain and missing. Every bit of growing they do is without her… my forever 5-year-old. God is good though… He sends little reminders and moments that remind me “What is your blessings come through raindrops, what is your healing comes through tears, what if a 1000 sleepless nights are what it takes to know your near… what is trials of this life are your mercies in disguise…”

 

Amelia- always dance. I am so proud of you and the person you are becoming. You are beautiful. You are kind. You are strong. Choose to dance gracefully on stage and in your life… it’s hard lovely but there is love in the hard. You are my love in the hard… you are my grace, my mercy… you are all I have never deserved. I hope you dance…