Lentiest Lent EVER

Well hasn’t this been the Lentiest Lent EVER????  I mean Lent is a time of reflecting on those 40 days Jesus spent in the desert fasting, all the while Satan tempted and tested Jesus.  Lent is a time to reflect on that sacrifice… often times by fasting, giving up something special to you and abstaining from meat on Fridays.  I think that about sums it up…

Looking back, I really wish I had partaken in a crazy and loud and crowded Mardi Gras celebration on Fat Tuesday… preferably somewhere warm.  Let’s be honest, I freakin’ wish I had spent that time up to Ash Wednesday with some of my favorite people, drinking and dancing, collecting beads and stories… watching a parade full of grown ups in masks (I hate grown ups in masks…).  I wish I was twirling on Bourbon Street… then entering Lent, what I now know is the Lentiest Lent EVER, exhausted from all that fun.  Even thinking about that wish makes me excited for the time coming after this isolating time…

On Ash Wednesday I worked late and the girls were with Matthew, since I work in Albany, I googled Masses in Albany and headed to the Cathedral downtown.  I got there just in time and ran in, laughing at a funny meme someone sent about how ‘if you are a Single Catholic girl today is the day God marks all the Catholic guys’ and I definitely looked around that Cathedral to see if God ‘marked’ anyone for me.  I walked up the aisle and took my seat, the church was lit in a golden light, a bit coming in through the beautiful stained glass.  The whole church was wrapped in incense, it smelled like masses at Sacred Heart when I was younger.  I love mass in a big, very old church… especially when there is a full choir singing.  It was a lovely mass, probably the most warm and homelike in a longtime (little did I know mass would become an at-home-activity…. In only moments…).  Anyway, Ash Wednesday was the perfect mass, and I am so glad that I have that for the now… though I still wish I ROCKED out on Fat Tuesday… I was still so busy driving my kids to dance and basketball back then on Tuesdays I am sure New Orleans would not have worked anyway, right????

Then life moved and shifted and was pretty full in the ways that it is and blink – it was March… the best month in the whole year… my Birthday Month.  I celebrate for the whole month because… it is also St. Patrick’s Day and Spring and my day tops it off on the 30th.  It is the best way to come out of the hardest month for me… and I knew this year March was going to be amazing.  I told myself that all winter… while I spent Thanksgiving with my sister and Benson, then we brought Christmas to Rochester for time with my family and our Benson… then New Year’s, a bit of lice, lots of cold and dark… but hey March is coming!!!  Then our world shattered when Benson left us for heaven and Madeline… more dark and hard February times… but good gosh March is coming.  We can get to the light… to the sunshine… to the celebration and spring and reminder that He suffered so Madeline and Benson could be enveloped by the Big Guy.  Alas… March has been the least Marchiest March EVER!

We had the smallest St. Patrick’s Day celebration, and the same tiny party for my Birthday… and now we are repeating a tiny party of the same 2 kiddos as I have eaten with a millionish times this spring.  The Marchiest March ever.

The funny, I guess we could call it funny, part of this Lent is that I chose NOT to give anything up this year.  I decided to take on something, something that is hard for me, not to give up something.  I chose to hold my rosary and say a decade of the rosary every morning, and beforehand talk to God and setting my intentions for that time.  All things that have been hard for me these past years… staying still, setting intentions, and keeping my mind focused in one place.  That was my Lenten sacrifice, a few minutes of time getting ready or working out to focus and pray.  Then the world went and took away like a million things I love!  I did not agree to give up hugs or friends or trips home or working at my cool standing desk with my awesome team… I did not give up going to Target and Hannaford and Michael’s and everywhere else I love to go… I did not give up my kids school day or Earth Day celebration.  I did not give up my big freaking Birthday Bash that I would have gotten to twirl and dance with my friends until the Uber takes us home… I did not give up Easter celebrations with my girls grandparents on BOTH sides.  The world changed this Lent, and it became the Lentiest Lent EVER!

The world changed… and it will, I hope, it will ultimately change for the better.  I hope that people take this time of sacrifice and different and hard and let it do the work… the big work.  I hope we become better humans through this, caring for others, maintaining our families and homes and dinner tables.  I hope we fill our lives with less… less distractions, less filler.  I hope we fill our lives with more… more connecting, more innovation, more creativity, more family.  I hope that we rejoice at the end of this Lentiest Lent and we have a resurrection of sorts, like a 2nd Easter.  I think I am game for a 2nd Easter in July… a time to gather and rejoice life and the amazing human spirit.

We have lost a lot in this… some more than others.  I try to do my part to make the smallest footprint for Covid to connect to, I try to support others in this.  It is a hard time, a time of sacrifice and pain, loneliness and loss for many, it is a time of reflection and missing… it has also been a time of Spring and weird little celebrations, togetherness and bits of poking and fighting, enjoying things we have and losing things we love… it is, as life always is, a mix of beautiful and painful- brutiful as Glennon says.  This Lentiest Lent has made me dive into a lot of emotions and missing… to hold them, look at them, smile or cry and figure out where to put them… a far cry from the avoidance and numb state I have lived for a time.

Tomorrow we rejoice… tomorrow ends, well technically, the Lentiest Lent Ever.  Tomorrow we rejoice the sacrifice and suffering that Jesus endured for us.  We will get dressed up, ‘watch’ mass, take a walk at June Farms, visit Madeline and enjoy a dinner that I ordered (and do not need to cook, yay me!!!).  The Easter Bunny will bring treats and hide eggs and inevitably spill his milk and leave a carrot mess on the table (he is kind of a jerk)… and we will celebrate.  It will be different but parts will be the same…

Officially Lent is over and we move on to Ordinary Time, but I think we could look at the rest of these Covid Times like it’s own ‘Lent’ and endure sacrifice and suffering… and rejoice at the ‘Easter’ beyond.  Enduring these Lentiest Lent times… to remember what is important in our lives, what we need in our lives and reflecting on the hard parts of this.  I imagine… the feeling of hugs and laughs and bonfires… I look to those times… joy, togetherness, connection, all of it.

Happy Easter tomorrow, may you feel the joy in this day even at an unfilled table with a makeshift meal… may you feel ‘home’ and connection in these hard times, may you feel a bit of rejoice!


Ice Storms and COVID Times…

Remember the Ice Storms of the 1990’s… for me the Ice Storm of 1991 is more engrained in my brain.  I was 9 years old, actually I was days away from my 9th birthday.   I was about the age of my girls now, and I am sure I was rocking big ugly moon boots and mittens my grandma had knitted for me.  Those were the days…

It was my Grandma Connor’s birthday and we were at her house, enjoyed cake and celebrated, when we left it was dark and cold.  We lived 3 blocks from my grandparent’s house growing up, and for some reason when we left Grandma’s celebration my dad decided to walk us home and mom drove the giant station wagon home.  I remember the walk, walking across the crick bridge and through the Brown Mansion yard, down Brown Blvd and over Warren Street, a left onto Franklin and home.  I remember this eerie silence/sound, and I clearly remember my dad saying this wasn’t good.  My brain could not understand how ice sticking to the limbs was a big deal, so I just went home and to bed hoping for a snow day.

I woke up that next day to the most beautiful scene outside my window.  I stood in my night gown and looked out on the trees leaning toward the ground encased in ice, it was so pretty.  Everything was leaning and combining, and it was shiny and grey.  There was no school, best day ever!

I remember there was no power, and as I started to understand there was to be no travel.  The roads were full of power lines and limbs and danger, but I didn’t know that part.  I didn’t think of the essential employees out there navigating those dangerous roads to keep people safe.  I never really thought about the people who would have to fix those power lines and restore safety and electricity.  I never thought about those who had no back up heat or food for an event like this.  I didn’t consider the amount of money families lost when they could not earn an income, or the loss of business and restaurants.  I didn’t think of those lonely and chilly seniors at the home… I didn’t know to be worried, the grownups around me didn’t make me feel worry, and thankfully I was in a safe and loving environment with enough.

I do remember… being at my grandmothers gathered around a kerosene heater, playing card games with my cousins, listening to the scanner in the kitchen.  I remember that our family grocery store had to clear out the freezers and the food was split between the shelter at the Firehouse and other places.  I remember popsicles and food stored outside on my grandmas back porch stairs… and in that pile of food from the freezers at Brenon’s Grocery was a plethora of foods that my mom NEVER bought for us, super treat foods.  I remember enjoying my very first corn dog that day, and I remember Aunt Janes being in the kitchen at the same moment.  I remember my dad being out a bunch, helping people who had pumps in their basements.

I don’t remember one bad thing from that time, and I am sure there was plenty of scary and hard.   I remember togetherness and creativity and familiar.  I remember gathering and laughing, missing school after the initial time and looking forward to normal returning by the end.  I remember the day we went back to school… I remember the return to normalcy.

These COVID times aren’t the same in any way, these are more isolating and strange in many ways.  There is nothing outside my house, that I can see, that is keeping me home.  There are no downed power lines and heavy tree branches… but instead a virus that is the danger.  It is harder to stay isolated in a world where the danger is invisible… invisible until you see it and the terror it brings.  Those essential workers are on the front lines… fighting this invisible danger.  Thank God we have those front line responders… though they aren’t all the same ones from 1991.

I am working VERY hard to create that experience for my girls… that one day they will look back at these COVID times and recall togetherness and laughter, Facetime with family members, school work remotely, daily walks and adventures, art projects and cooking dinners.  I imagine they will reflect on the fact that they barely showered… and drove me crazy burping everywhere.  I imagine when they grow up they will tell their kiddos about the quietest St. Patrick’s Day and the year mom’s birthday was just 3 people and hopefully a zoom meeting with family.  They will recall the mission of delivering rainbows and supplies to our friend’s porches, the shear joy of Lucy when her friends left a care package for us- with hand sanitizer, toilet paper and wipes (a gift of sacrifice).  They will recall days of their dog being SOOOO thankful for COVID times… #perspective.

This is hard.  This is all so hard.  I remember in these COVID times that we can do hard things… we can.  We can get through this, and get stronger and more grounded in that.  We can try to enjoy things, slow down and embrace the togetherness in the distance.  In life I have found that sometimes being positive is a choice, a hard choice, but a choice.  I am looking forward to the end of this, to the embraces and the laughing.  I am looking forward to get-togethers and connection… but for now we do our jobs and get through this.  Someday… I look forward to knowing what all of this looked like for my girls and other kids.  Will this be their 1991 Ice Storm…

Different kind of Normal, Different kind of Togetherness.

Today is Sunday… a day that has a distinct feeling for me normally.  It’s a day of Mass and dinner with the girls, maybe meal prep and getting my mind ready for the week.  Shop and make hard boiled eggs, roast some veggies and remind Amelia to see if her homework is done… bathes and wrapping Lucy’s wet hair in her turbine thing and snuggling on the couch until bedtime, normally.

Today is Sunday… only it could be a Monday or Friday or Saturday, there are no real scheduled separators to make this feel like a Sunday.  The sun is out, it is chilly.  It could be any day really, but it is Sunday.

I got excited last night when I saw that St. Madeleine Sophie would be livestreaming mass at 9 am, a bit of normalish.  While I was laying in bed, waiting to get up, I was chatting with my aunt and told her about mass, so her clan decided they were joining mass too.  I got up, shared quickly on FB and grabbed a nice hot cup of coffee, gathered the girls and dog and set up shop in the living room.  I was feeling excited- I even told God make sure this is a good homily, not the kind that I leave mass feeling that I didn’t gain much from that, sometimes thinking I could have done it better, but that is cocky!  I sat down and started watching…

I have never watched mass.  I have never sipped coffee while watching mass.  I have never looked out into my living room while sipping coffee and watching mass.  I have never sat on a couch while my kids sprawled out in the sunshine and looked around my living room while sipping coffee and watching mass.  I have never included my dog on the couch while my kiddos sprawled in the sunshine in my lovely little living room while sipping coffee and watching mass.  A lot of ‘never have I ever’s’ today, and everyday lately.  What will it be like when everyday isn’t full of piles of strange reminders of this different becoming normal.

It felt good to be watching mass and participating with 200 other households, I may have celebrated mass with 500 people who knows!  A reminder to my brain and heart, that we are in this together.  We are finding ways to not let this hardship win but instead let it change us, build us better and appreciate togetherness more than we ever have.

The Gospel was a powerful one, it made sense right now, today.  Father’s Homily was perfect for last week, now and these coming weeks.  Father spoke of truth… truth that we want to own and know and truth that we don’t want to.  Acknowledging and forgiving, healing… trusting that He is with us in all of that.  Inconvenient truth- He asked God to give us more of this, more inconvenient truth.  That hit me… especially in this world we find ourselves in, with time to handle inconvenient truths inside of ourselves and prepare for the future of inconvenient truth that will come and plop itself in life when it is not easy or good timing.  This world slow down time feels like it is the best time to acknowledge and forgive and heal and hope… and get to know our truth better.  It resonated in me…

Father asked us to all cooperate with grace.  I find myself often putting grace on a backburner for life, or appointments or work or busy- ness.  Avoiding the graces gifted… trying to point my life in my own direction.  Cooperate with grace.  Father said“When we cooperate with the grace that is given it enables us to find joy where there is pain, to find hope when it feels hopeless- to find regeneration of life where there was none.”  Regeneration of life… along with the pain and hard we are regenerating life.  We get to rebuild, to cooperate with grace.

Grace is here… right next to pain and lonely and hard and sad.  Grace is sunshine to walk at Madeline’s Spot.  Grace is watching mass in my lovely little living room while sipping coffee and looking at pictures of my favorite people God gifted me.  Grace is finding my laugh, my deep gut laugh, while rocking out to Cher ‘Turn back Time’ while delivering bendaroo rainbows to some of our herd.  Grace is ordering Chicken Parm and having a fancy Italian dinner with my girls, surrounded with rainbows, Madeline’s real favorite color.  Grace is watching my girls Facetime with their grandparents and cousins… because TECHNOLOGY rocks!!!  Grace is sharing stories about the Ice Storms I lived through, and how happy I was to squish my family into my grandma’s house and stay warm while eating corn dogs with cousins.  Grace is doing paint and sip’s with my daughters, me sipping wine and them sipping Gatorade.  Grace is having groceries, wine and Gatorade… and TP.  Grace is having a job that allows me to work from home, while still doing really important work.  Grace is a smile, a little chat and a well wish from a stranger 6 feet away who just happened to be running at Madeline’s Spot.  Grace is having gas and wheels to get to go find rainbows, deliver food to friends and to go on adventures.  Grace is having a really hard moment, crying it out, feeling it… and knowing that we will get through this, we will rejoice soon.  There is a celebration, an Easter to come.  Grace is all those amazing little things, and big things that we have and don’t at all deserve.  Cooperate with grace…

After mass I picked up my mug and looked on FB and saw that I had watched mass with other friends and family.  We did a together thing, from apart.  A different kind of together, a different kind of normal.  Today is Sunday, and it feels like a Sunday.  A little Amazing Grace… and togetherness from apart… a bit of Jesus and grace in this crazy different kind of normal time.

Familiar Uncertainty

These last days have felt surreal and uncertain… for me and for all.  This new normal has been very challenging for all and I imagine in ways it will continue to be hard but also soft- though that is complicated.  I have struggled, as we all are, with working from home I miss my beautiful teal rolly chair and charismatic team… I am now my children’s teacher (along with work)-  a dream role for me, but it’s hard working and managing AND momming.  I wish I could do all of the above better, but maybe just maybe this time is to do what we can with what we have and let go of beyond.


I know that these days have been almost indescribable for me, I just feel so weird but along with unfamiliar it also feels like Deja vu.  I have struggled to figure out the words to describe all of this…

We walk at Maddie’s Spot, a beautiful old cemetery in Guilderland, everyday.  We need fresh air and a safe place, and her spot is all of that.  We wandered those hilly, windy and antique roads… and I thought about these feelings and the fear and comfort and ok and stressed and what it all meant.  The world pretty much stopped as we know it this week, for so many of us.  It stopped moving for so many, even though it spins and the sun comes up and we get to bedtime.  I have felt this before.  On February 8th, 2012 Madeline died, and my world stopped; while it felt like it stopped for me…  it still was spinning with am’s and pm’s.  I watched, confused, as others lived on- eating out, laughing, getting their kids on and off the bus, going to work, living… I could not understand how that was working.  It was a heavy and surreal time.  Grief is heavy and surreal.  Time kept moving on and somehow it is 2020… 8 years from those days of utter confusion and chaos of time in my soul, still I have many issues and triggers, but mostly time can make sense now.  These days… I am back in that space of the world stopping but the sun still rises and sets.  It’s like that time prepared me, and others for this slow down.

Living life day by day and minute by minute… squishing siblings together to get along and get through… being real and resilient… checking in on family more… baking and cooking with stories, like biscuits my grandma made… improvising an entire cultural holiday… preparing for a quiet birthday… and exploring again… adventures galore to places with only fresh air and no sharing of germs.  I am enjoying this, so far.  I am missing so much, but I am also looking forward to the Rejoice and the joy of reconnecting.  I will wear a big floral dress and my jean jacket, and hot red lipstick and stand close and hug a friend and SMILE.  I will never take togetherness for granted, yet I will be thankful for the tight togetherness I have with my girls now.  I will drink it in, the hard and soft.  These days are historic… they are profound, so I will get through and build the best I can, documenting some of the journey, living and breathing and doing the best with what I have.

This time is hard.  Let’s virtually get through this hard… I feel almost like this is similar to losing Madeline.  Who knows… maybe God will use us greivers as guides through this Covid time.  I imagine I have lived through a preseason and now it is the season (if that is how sports work 😊).

Be kind.  Love well.  Smile and seek sunlight.  Walk.  Laugh lots.  Pray.  Let yourself feel it all.  This is hard.  We can do hard things.  Work on the back-burner stuff.  Reconnect, albeit virtually, to family and friends, journal, find a walking stick, make forts, paint things… lets look forward and do our jobs of social distancing.  OWN YOUR PART IN THAT, YOUR OWN SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY TO MAKE THIS BETTER AND DIFFERENT THAN OTHER PLACES… let’s get to Rejoice sooner.

Sonshine and Starlight


The day is gray, chilly and grey.  There is no ‘Sonshine’ today… just grey.  I imagine, though, that the night got a bit brighter.  Yesterday was Benson’s day with a broken heart, a mended broken heart.  He peacefully left this place to go on to the next, I know he was greeted by the most welcoming light.  I imagine Benson is loving the lack of tubes and people telling him which way to lay… I am sure he missed the constant touch and love from his parents and care from his hospital family- but in a blink they will join him.

I was told once by a medium that Madeline’s job in heaven is welcoming the littles, being there right then.  The perfect job for her.  I have felt comfort and grace knowing that every little soul I have said goodbye to she has welcomed.  Yesterday was no different, she is no longer in heaven watching down on her cousins growing- she is doing what she loved best and playing with her cousin.  So while we are stuck here missing them, they are playing and staying young… no worrying about safety or predators or evil- no more worry.  They will giggle and chat, or maybe just sign… who knows.

I have struggled with the why.  I have struggled with the lack of fairness.  I have hated the heavy burdens placed on my family and myself.  I have begged for easy… but reminded constantly that in the messy and terrible and awful there has always been an abundance of love.  Love comes from suffering.

Watching Benson and his parents, seeing the enormous love they have for him, the hope they had.  I have no doubt Cortney and Damon were chosen to be Benson’s parents… to provide him all of the love he needed and more.  I want to share this story, the story of love and suffering… and a child who chose it.  I believe that Madeline got in line for the life she had, a short life and she knew it.  I believe Benson’s journey is similar and the love his life brought is abundant.  I know I will carry it forever…


“The Brave Little Soul”

by John Alessi

Not too long ago in Heaven there was a little soul who took wonder in observing the world. He especially enjoyed the love he saw there and often expressed this joy with God. One day however, the little soul was sad, for on this day he saw suffering in the world. He approached God and sadly asked, “Why do bad things happen, why is there suffering in the world?”

God paused for a moment and replied, “Little soul, do not be sad, for the suffering you see, unlocks the love in people’s hearts”. The little soul was confused. “What do you mean?”, he asked. God replied, “Have you not noticed the goodness and love that is the offspring of that suffering? Look at how people come together, drop their differences, and show their love and compassion for those who suffer. All their other motivations disappear, and they become motivated by love alone.

The little soul began to understand and listened attentively as God continued “The suffering soul unlocks the love in people’s hearts- much like the sun and rain unlock the flower within the seed. I created everyone with endless love in their heart, but unfortunately most people keep it locked up and hardly share it with anyone. They are afraid to let their love shine freely, because they are afraid of being hurt- but a suffering soul unlocks that love. I tell you this- it is the greatest miracle of all. Many souls have bravely chosen to go into the world and suffer, to unlock this love and to create this miracle-for the good of all humanity.

Just then the little soul got a wonderful idea and could hardly contain himself. His wings were fluttering, bouncing up and down- the little soul excitedly replied, “I am brave; let me go! I would like to go into this world and suffer so that I can unlock the goodness and love in people’s hearts! I want to create that miracle!”

God smiled and said, “You are a brave soul I know, and thus I will grant your request. But even though you are very brave you will not be able to do this alone. I have known since the beginning of time that you would ask for this and so I have carefully selected many souls to care for you on your journey. Those souls will help you create your miracle; however, they will also share in your suffering. Two of these souls are most special and will care for you, help you and suffer along with you, far beyond the others. They have already chosen a name for you.”

God and the brave little soul shared a smile, and then embraced. In parting, God said, “Do not forget little soul that I will be with you always. Although you have agreed to bear the pain, you will do so through my strength.  If the time should come when you feel that you have suffered enough, just say the word, think the thought, and you will be healed.

At that moment the brave little soul was born into the world, and through his suffering and God’s strength he unlocked the goodness and love in people’s hearts. Many people dropped their differences and came together to show their love. Priorities became properly aligned. People gave from their hearts. Those that were always too busy found time. Many began new spiritual journeys-some regained lost faith-many came back to God. Parents hugged their children tighter. Friends and family grew closer. Old friends got together and new friendships were made. Distant family reunited, and every family spent more time together. Everyone prayed. Peace and love reigned. Lives were changed forever. It was good. The world was a better place. The miracle had happened. God was pleased.”


Benson’s spirit and strength far exceed that of most adults I have met.  He trudged through so much and created love in the darkest spots.  He leaves a wound, a deep wound in some very broken hearts- it will heal from the outside in.  Carry him with you…

His short life and his parents constant care and love are testaments to the power of that love.  If you have been changed and reflect on life differently, if you have built your faith stronger, if you have reconnected to your family, if you have let go on bullcrap, if you have forgiven those that hurt you- keep it up.  In 2022 and 2028 and 2045 and beyond- carry that love forward to bring the ‘Sonshine’ along in your light days and the starlight he brings into your dark nights…

The Year of the Broken Heart

2019 is on its way out, a new year and decade are upon us. Like so many others I welcome tonight’s changeover from 2019 to 2020… I welcome it with an open heart, wide arms and a brain that is ready for a refresh. 2019 has been a very hard year, but with it came lessons and gifts and experiences and a ton of changes and transitions. I had a lot of work and healing to do this year, and that will likely spill into 2020.

This year, like every year, I hosted an ornament exchange. It was very unplanned, almost on purpose, being that anything that could possibly have gone wrong this year that was planned did. Enter defense mechanism ‘don’t plan anything!’… very healthy way to handle these types of things. I had this plan of creating an ornament that signified my new role and all I have learned about the Red Cross. I sat for a couple of hours and manipulated the clay and nothing really worked, telling me that this idea for an ornament was not the best symbol for 2019.

broken heart.jpgI thought about this year and all of the trials and struggles, the creativity and stress, the love and loss, the transitions… the healing. My brain visualized a slightly imperfect clay broken heart, a broken heart that was mended and healing. The break is visible, but it is stitched and healing. That was 2019… the year of the broken heart.

I have shared about my littlest nephew and his broken heart… a tiny heart that has been stitched and recreated by the hands of a surgeon. His tiny broken heart has been through so much, and still has much healing to do. He is one determined little man, in all of his pain and struggles he perseveres and pushes the limits- teaching us to push on, reminding us to let go of expectations and circumstances we cannot change and honestly to continue to be here, right here in the present. His broken heart has mended relationships and strengthened faith for many. He is the beloved little man on the PCCC floor at Strong Hospital, the nurses love him and my sister and brother-in-law. He is here showing us all how to push through the hard stuff even with a broken mended heart.

Several weeks ago, I was driving to Utica with a new friend, we are just getting into our backstories and personal stuff (she had no idea what to do with ‘coffeed’ up Erin on a long car ride). I talked about the end of my marriage and Madeline, the last few years of life and relationships… I ended the conversation with my normal- “I am a hot mess and have some serious commitment issues.” She touched on some of her issues and told me she has trust issues, and it is hard for her to trust. I thought about it and acknowledged that I am still pretty quick to trust, maybe to a flaw. She looked at me and said “It should be backwards with our stories; you should have trust issues and I should have commitment issues.” We finished the day and conversations, and I am sure that statement never replayed in her brain. That statement, however, sat in my brain for weeks, warranting much thought as to why do I trust so easily and fear commitment…

I had always attributed my commitment issues to the dissolving of my marriage and the events around it… that doesn’t really make sense though. My commitment issues really lie in fear of planning into the future, fear of committing to connections for the future… more specific fear of the future, even looking days ahead. My commitment issues stem from my broken heart, my very broken heart. My heart broke on February 8, 2012, and it has healed and broken and healed and broken and healed and broken over and over since. In only 5 days I lost every single plan and hope and dream that I possessed, and I still haven’t processed all of the layers of missing her. My commitment issues stem from the trauma and grief of losing Madeline. I can trust people, probably far too quickly… but I can not commit to stay connected or build dreams and hopes and a future. You know what they say the first step is to healing- acknowledge the need to heal and change. Acknowledging my own broken heart, with all of its emptiness and the need to heal that and not fill it with fear of the future and planning. Slowly mending that heart with little stitches and lots of hard work. The year of looking at my own broken heart…

It was a doozy of a year… a year of broken hearts. Leaving behind familiar and safe, creatively problem solving far too many problems, trying to just laugh when nothing goes as planned and praying directly for health and comfort and support. Our broken hearts are healing, slowly mending… I know that they will break again, they will heal and need extra TLC- time and stitches, always a bit broken and scarred. Grateful for those broken hearts…

In the words of my steadfast and strong sister, Benson’s mama- May the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows… may 2020 bring health and protection and simplicity.

Welcoming 2020 with some laughing at an Improv show with some awesome gifts… I love laughing. 2020 will have more laughter and more planning, hold me to it. Toasting the past year and letting it go, and celebrating a new year, growth, healing, mending… honoring ‘The Year of the Broken Heart’.

Choose a ‘perfect just as it is’ Christmas

It’s Christmas time…but it really feels like short days, cold nights and bustling around. It’s Christmas time… there are piles and piles of memories and photos and traditions that remind me of the past, of a much lighter past. It’s Christmas time… the world looks so different than it did last Christmas, and the Christmas before… and the one before.

Growing up Holidays were not only fun and full, but they were reliable and safe. I loved that best. I always knew that the same Advent song would be sung at mass, that Nana would always deliver the soft and personalized towels, that for days before the holidays there would always be potatoes to mash and stale bread to break up at Grandma Connor’s and there would always be a kids table and a grown ups table… there were always multiple relish trays full of pickles. There were so many other ‘always’ in those days. I wished to create a sturdy and safe set of ‘always’ for my girls… but as I have learned nothing has quite gone as planned in this life.

It seems though that this life isn’t so full of ‘always’… not for the lack of trying. Who knows… maybe my girls ‘always’, their reliable and safe, is a series of different and changing holidays and traditions?

These years of missing Madeline, divorce, transitions… mixed with the normal growing up and taking on more responsibility have been really hard. 2019 has been a heavy year, for me, for my girls and for my family. Madeline died in 2012 and I reminded myself and others to enjoy days and celebrate time, because one tragedy, one crisis doesn’t promise that there will be no more in our lifetime. 2019 has been a year of little joy, reminders of what is missing and hurdle after hurdle after hurdle to jump… hurdling with a bum hip and broken spirit are particularly hard. We are here though… right in a cold, dark New York winter. It has only been winter for winter for mere moments, yet feels like ages.

This year is the first year ever that I will experience what so many I have known and supported have felt- Christmas with one of your special family members in the hospital. I am sure at some point in my life an Aunt or Uncle, or grandparent has been in the hospital… but that doesn’t feel the same. First Christmas’ are so special… squeezing your kiddos together for that picture (that no one is smiling in and one child is not looking at the camera while dressed in plaid or polka dots) is a right of passage. All through pregnancy moms look forward to those parts… and it almost makes up for the varicose veins and stretch marks. My sister and brother-in-law found out they were expecting last Christmas week, a blessing after pain. They continued life along with pregnancy, a challenge with two little dinosaurs, I mean kiddos, to chase, feed and raise… and then Benson came early. Soon after his birth he was diagnosed with HLHS, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome… and has undergone surgeries and procedures to create a heart that will work better until the next two surgeries and beyond. He is a fighter. He is here. Benson’s First Christmas will be spent with some amazing nurses and doctors on the PCCC at Upstate Strong Hospital. He will get little visits from his grownups, he will watch his little mobile, he will get mad when the nurses change his leads and bathe him along with mom or dad. My sisters, our kids and my parents will be minutes away chiseling away at Christmas 2019… swimming in a hotel pool, playing dinosaurs with Benson’s brothers and eating some sort of Chinese Food. Benson should be there too… but he is connected to the hospital, he is safest there. I will miss him while chasing his brothers… I will miss putting the fancy Christmas bib on him, watching my dad sneak him whipped cream and watching all his cousins get excited when he opens a baby toy. I wish he got to enter into a steady state of traditions… but alas that isn’t the plan.

I am working hard to create a script for my brain… about building up where ever I am, where ever we are, not focusing on where we should be. I remember Christmas being easy… but I imagine when I truly think about it, that the very first Christmas was full of pain, dirt and hay, creative things to swaddle a fresh baby Jesus in and great fear of the unknown and known. I imagine the first Christmas was chock full of hard stuff mixed with good stuff. I think the act of doing chaos and hard together and creating something a little dirty but ultimately ‘perfect just as it is’ is a good way to direct my brain and this Christmas. I am not one for plans… they never work out anyway, but I am one to make the best out of what is there. I will refocus my brain on the baby in the manger along with the baby in the hospital bed… because I know that the baby in the manger is caring for Sonnie, and us. I will refocus my brain on the positives, even if I have to really dig… I imagine Mary looking around the stable and thinking this is not the way it should be… but He is here, we are here- it is ‘perfect just as it is’ in all the messiness and chao and fear and knowledge. He is here…


Root and Wings…

1002190735.jpgChange is hard. Change is very hard.

This year has been full of change, all kinds of change. Fast change, the peel the band aid off kind of change mixed with the slow kind, the change you stew with and sit with until inevitably it happens and you are still here, still breathing and living and doing. Change is rarely easy, necessary but not easy.

This year I changed careers. That change is a big one, a really big one! Several weeks ago, I said goodbye to an era and set out for something new. Bradt school is less of a job and more of a family, surrounded in walls that hold some precious memories and connections to Madeline.

It was time for new walls, new adventures and new goals… I don’t know if I can say it any better than this…

Dear Bradt Family,

I am writing to let you all know that I have accepted a position at The Red Cross. I am very excited (and to be honest a bit scared for the transition) but I know it is the next journey for this lady. I will be recruiting and supporting volunteers for blood drives, disaster relief and some military support. It will be a challenge, but boy do I love a good challenge.

Thank you. Thank you for being my family through so many difficult times. I feel a huge connection to Bradt’s hallways. Those grey and white tiles and rainbow painted rooms have housed all three of my girls, and there are no more hallways or doors or rooms that will ever do that again. I still can hear Madeline singing the songs she was learning for Morning Program, then to hear Amelia and Lucy sing those same songs has been painful and perfect. I am honored and grateful for the roles you all played in building my girls. I know they were safe and loved and learning and laughing… all important things.

When I joined Bradt, as an employee and not just a Mystery Reader Extraordinaire, I thought I would occasionally sub in the cafeteria. Alma had a different plan for me, and the Special Ed department holds a very big part of my heart. I will never forget the funny times and the most difficult times… you become very close working in BSD, must be the trust and sweat. I have worked at Bradt since Lucy entered Kindergarten and took her spot in the Lime Room- she is in 5th grade now! I have accrued over a million steps from A-wing to F-wing… I have met with and worked with some of the most amazing educators and staff. I am honored to work with the most amazing support staff, ladies and gentlemen that are in the background of education. I may not have known to recognize them if I didn’t travel this road. I will forever know that every kid is being cared for with an extra big hug from Mrs. Delgallo, extra food in the backpack from an Assistant or Mrs. Reilman’s shoulder and strategies.

I have never been a big fan of the saying “It takes a village”… I always think of it more as a family, a village has lots of people I don’t want to influence my girls. I don’t just let my girls out to wander a village, but I love that they are surrounded by a family, a big quirky family. I am thankful for being a part of a family that has built my girls and myself- through death and divorce and pain. You are all part of my light at the end of the tunnel…

I will not only miss you guys, I will miss the kids I love lots… and the walkie talkie, I will definitely miss that walkie talkie. I can’t imagine life without “DAVE/JOE” or answering Code Reds with ‘Received’… only to forget where you needed to be. I imagine life without a walkie will be a weird one.

Good luck guys, keep building great people and teaching them manners, social skills, a bit of reading, some Eureka math and the importance of love and respect. I am trusting you all with that… for me I will go try a new adventure and come back when you need a Professional Mystery Reader.




I have been with the American Red Cross Eastern New York Region for just over a month. I have learned so much, it is like everyday I learn more information about the work of the Red Cross in our communities and Internationally. I am a Volunteer Recruitment Specialist, which a very important task considering 90% of the Red Cross work is done by volunteers. I love the people I am meeting- employees and volunteers. I love the overlap with my hometown- shout out to Watertown. I love knowing that my role in recruiting and securing a solid volunteer base ensures that there are volunteers at every fire to support a family directly, volunteers supporting and connecting our military families to their deployed soldiers, volunteers advocating and helping veterans have basic needs, Volunteers teaching children about fire safety, volunteers transporting lifesaving blood to hospitals or supporting at blood drives and while people are evacuating disasters there are volunteers that will head there to feed and shelter and offer comfort to people who are suffering. What can I tell you, I have learned A LOT!

It has been a month of learning and juggling; in ways I have never needed to. Amelia and Lucy are super proud, and love to hear about the programs, they hope to participate one day. I am proud to say Lucy has my card displayed on her desk top near her dried dead beetles, a picture of her and her sisters dressed as super heroes and her military wallet from Aunt Molly… you gotta be cool to be on that shelf. Amelia is loving the fact that I borrow her makeup and ask her for advice on my new business casual outfits. I am grateful for the help of the girl’s grandparents and my friends. It has been new and crazy and full of change, but it is all working out … and at the end of the day we are each still there breathing and living and doing.

Onward to new challenges, but looking back on my family at Bradt, with the reminder that I will come read for any kiddo who has no mystery reader or needs a ‘stand in’ parent for a special lunch. I have some deep roots in Rotterdam, but my wings are bringing me all around the region. Thank you to all who have helped or supported this big change, thank you Dania for the snazzy new headshots that you squeezed in for me to look like a grown up, thank you to all who listen when I tell you the 100 new things I learned about the American Red Cross… I will have 100 more to tell you next time- or better yet sign up to volunteer and be a part of something profound- a mission to alleviate human suffering.

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…


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.


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.