END – TIME = 37

There was a time when Birthdays were all about the building of years, adding on to our lives. As children every moment can be magical, as an adult magic is harder to attain. Birthdays are a day to feel special and magical, to acknowledge the piling up of moments. One day a person is 26 and the very next day they are magically 27 years old, it is a compilation of time. We count up, and acquire more and more years.

I have always loved my birthday, joking that I get a whole month since my birthday is March 30. I love celebrations and acknowledging the pile up of years. I really enjoy blowing out birthday candles in front of all of my people, looking at the number of years I have gotten to live on this planet. Reminding myself and others to enjoy aging… it is only a number and a successful life gets to stack on another year every.single.year.

I have been reflecting on many things this year, apparently this is a year of deep thinking for me. I started noticing a pattern since I turned 30, not the normal pattern of hating birthdays and not wanting to be 40. I started noticing that birthdays feel different altogether. It’s like all the years before Madeline died, I was counting up and acknowledging the pile up of years… the 25 to 26 to 27. After Madeline died, I feel like it is more of a countdown… a countdown of years until I am with her. I don’t think of my birthday as a stopwatch, but instead a timer…

I just acknowledge that there is a timer set for me, just as there was for Madeline. I have so far gotten many, many more moments that she did. Her timer was set for around 2000 days and I just celebrated around 13,500 days. I don’t get to know when my timer stops… but I do know that there was a shift in how I see time when she died. Time is different in so many ways for me here in the world After her Death. It sounds so morbid, to be counting down to an end, but it really isn’t like that.

Losing your child shifts so much of everything you believe and know to be true. Looking back on the ‘Before She Died’ time of my life I did everything differently… I took my health and my children’s health for granted, I took my life as a mom and wife for granted, I took time for granted. Her death has changed me to my core, even my celebrations. I am in this place of always being torn- torn between wanting to be with Madeline and wanting to be right here parenting my girls on Earth. I know for me I am always torn… and someday my time here will be done and I will go home, but before that time I want to see the work I have done building my girls, I want to be a kickass grandma and show them all the awesome bits of our family and Madeline, I want to travel all.over.the.place. It’s strange how you can want so badly to be in 2 places at once…

Today is my first day as 37, I have just let go of the time I spent in the 36 of the countdown… the countdown has shrunk. I like to think of the time left as a math equation like END minus TIME equals 37… (END – TIME = 37). I pray that 37 on this grand countdown is a good one, and I have several more adventures this year than last. I hope 37 is a year of change, a year of peace and a year of me building my life in a direction I love and am excited about. I think it will be, I am don’t with this timer being filled with time that feels like I am waiting for the next part.

Welcome to AGE – TIME= 37 Erin… it is going to be a fun, boring, hard, easy, slow, fast, joyful, painful, silly trip around the sun. Remember always:

Age is a privilege, not given to all.

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A Miracle Kind of Day…

Hot Pink Heels and Beautiful Balds…

Today is about miracles, many miracles.

This morning I got up and rushed out the door to attend a service at an unfamiliar church, to hear about a miracle. If you are on social media or live in the Capital Region you have most likely heard of Woodward Strong. Josh Woodward was diagnosed with Septic Shock, and after surviving several impossible obstacles, he is home and rebuilding life. His wife, Chelsea, has bravely, openly and faithfully documented this whole journey. It was an amazing journey to watch, as a total stranger to watch the world lift up this family, to watch those with little or no faith pray… to watch it work. Chelsea not only requested prayers, but she documented and allowed us to share in her family’s miracle. The ripples of this miracles will resonate for years to come, I fully believe God has an incredible plan for the Woodward family.

While sitting in a church, a very different church for this Catholic girl, I felt welcome and surrounded. I listened for the message God wanted me to take away. The pastor defined a miracle in a way that clearly and easily describes what a miracle is- when God makes the impossible, possible. He then touched on whether it a miracle is a miracle if no one sees it… I guess I never thought about that part. God gifts millions of miracles, many are probably quiet little miracles… but miracles are meant to be shared. It is the job of the miracle to point us in a direction, to remind us that He is there and working in our lives. The Woodward Miracle did that, it reminded many that God is working and standing with them- even in the hot mess of this world, especially in the hot mess. Chelsea and her Pastor spoke about how many people saw and some learned the power of prayer, many marriages and relationships were mended and faith was renewed for so many people across the country, who knows even around the world. That is the job of this miracle…

I especially loved when Josh spoke about the peace he had when his life was on the edge of ending, he was at peace with God and knew that the choice wasn’t his… he would wake to his wife or his Lord. He has bee gifted time here to work and change and build, to use his story to connect the word, to carry those in pain… a new journey God has planned for him.

Much of the chat with Chelsea was important to hear for me… I just sat and watched her stay strong and candid and graceful as she spoke of this raw and painful journey. She had the loveliest outfit on, grounded in hot pink pumps with her legs crossed as she recounted the hard days and the ways God worked around her and through others. She talked about answered prayers, and how the answer doesn’t look the way we might imagine it, when she prayed for healing, she knew that the healing could be Josh or her very own broken heart, both were an answer to her prayer. I feel that… so much of that. My miracle looked so different, at the same time it looks so similar. Madeline was Madeline up until her last moments, and God has helped me heal and build and tell this story. Madeline, just like Josh, got the world to rally and work together, for a moment in history 1,000’s of people were praying for healing and comfort… her miracle renewed the faith of so many, including me. Madeline’s story and death reconnected so many that were broken. A publicly shared miracle… both reminding the world that the greatest prayer we will ever pray is thank you…

It was the best way to start a day of miracles… and I think I need a pair of hot pink heels STAT!

On to the next round of miracles… I hopped into my dirty Jeep and grabbed a big tall iced coffee before getting to the St. Baldrick’s event at the Westmere Fire Department, which I was actually early for (another miracle).

Let me tell you about this event… imagine 30 or more firetrucks in a parade dropping children in our area who are fighting right now or have fought any type of Childhood Cancer. They get dropped off with their families and head up a red carpet, it is the grandest honor to watch this whole experience. There are bagpipes and sirens and of course capes… I feel every emotion when I watch that parade. The nurses who work with the kids are high fiving them as they run up to meet their friends from clinic, you see this is a celebration but also a little reunion. The kids run with the friends they spent so much time with in clinic, moms catch up on life… you see these are the people they were with while the world kept turning for everyone else. I stand on the edges and watch those miracles laugh and run with their capes- posing for pictures and owning the show because they know that every.single.person in that huge space is there for them. Cooper’s dad said it just right… that room was full of people with ‘No skin in the game’… people who are there to support even though their children are healthy, they are not nurses or doctors… they just joined the game with no terrible awful diagnosis busting into their lives. That is the amazing part of this. This year was missing some important miracles, but just like Madeline their time here was short. I stood on the sidelines and thought about the ones who aren’t here anymore. I thought about standing on the sidelines last year and watching our Markel and that smile, that vibrant smile. I missed that smile today… but I trust that her miracle pointed so many in a direction, to a renewed faith and a memory that will forever make me cry and smile at the same moment.

These events fill me up to the brim with energy to go out and do my work, share my girl. It is hard to know that she doesn’t get to ride in a firetruck, she doesn’t get to over indulge with her clinic pals or sing along to the song Brave. It is hard… but my miracle pointed me in a direction, and this is the direction.

I miss her terribly today, but I say “thank you” for her, for the moments that she was here, for the gift of being her mom. I remind myself that I got her, I got to be her biggest builder, her biggest fan. She was spectacular… soft and kind, compassionate and trusting. Madeline was a friend to all, she was a connector. Her miracle is still doing her work, connecting and building. I say ‘Thank you’… Thank you Big Guy for her gift, take care of her up there, I trust in You.

Ode to Irish Ones…

Top o’ the afternoon to ya. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to all…

I love March, it is a month of more light, memories, Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations and my birthday… which I historically celebrated for the month, March 30 deserves some extra celebrating. I love that we start to enjoy sprinkles of spring, bits of sunshine and a warmth you can only feel if you spent the last few months in the cold of a New York winter. The feeling of standing in sunshine on a 45* day with your boots on and your children basking in that warmth… is so different than standing in the sunshine at the beach on July 4th, so different than visiting the sunshine in Florida in February… it is different. We have waited for this… we have worked for this. We are going to embrace every.single.ounce.of.sun and light that the world gifts us. We just survived a Northern New York winter… we earned that warmth. Friday was like that for us.

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day, and thankfully we got to celebrate for a whole weekend. I left work Friday with so much excitement and anticipation… planning out the moments for the weekend and prepping clothes for the festivities. I felt like a little kid… excited for all that we do on these days. That’s the thing, we don’t really have a thing anymore. My roots and memories are based in Watertown, in the times I had growing up. I had some college Saint Patrick’s Day memories but honestly, I would have taken the simplicity of those days when I was young over the crazy drunken days. I loved those days… days with a church potluck and running around with cousins. Leaving just enough mess at the Parish Center for Sister Norah to notice, but not punish. We would religiously stand at the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, bundled as much as necessary… cold did not prevent the celebrations. After the parade we would walk over to the State Office Building, get our stamps and head in for salt potatoes floating in a pool of melted butter, just like Molly loved. I loved watching the Irish Dancers in the Auditorium. I loved going to the corner where Uncle Sean would always be waiting, watching the State Troopers who had just marched with their families. The bands and the old ladies who would dance… it is an atmosphere that I believe only the Irish can create.

Today looks different than so many of my remembered moments. This weekend as a whole looked so different. I guess I imagined bringing my girls up with all I was blessed to experience, but we all know that didn’t work out as planned. I mean there were some red flags of my fantasy all along, the girl’s father was not a fan of Irish people, of the culture and traditions, he much preferred to lean on his Italian roots. I, myself, loved the idea of Irish Italian girls… products of potatoes and pasta… big crazy families and strong grounded faith in the Catholic Church. He liked to dress them in green shirts that proclaimed that we were just Americans “Kiss me, I’m American”. It poked me a little every.single.time they wore those, but I smiled and allowed it… I rolled over and felt like it wasn’t a good thing to be an ‘Erin’ on a day that honors those roots. I am not that ‘Erin’ anymore…

This weekend I worked hard to create some bits for my girls of the magic of my traditions. I talk about my family all of the time with the girls, I have to remind them of which uncle is the funny one with red hair (that one needs clarification), what Hayle used to call Aunt Bridget, which Aunt takes all of the pictures. They are used to visiting my grandma and grandpa… and our Aunt Jane. I searched for something with some good Irish music and food… I wanted to enjoy this weekend. We went to a Concert at Proctors with The Screamin’ Orphans. It was awesome. There was a bagpiper, Irish Dancers and a Girl Rock Band with the.best.accent.you.can.imagine. We had so much fun… my feet hurt and my brain remembered songs I heard growing up. We came home and watched Boondock Saints… because we all need to watch a couple hot Irish men get rid of the bad guys every once and a while.

This morning we woke up and got ready for Lucy’s Basketball Banquet. We had plans to go to this Ancient Order of Hibernian’s for the Irish Festival, I woke with an idea though. I offered the choice to Lucy- to go celebrate our Irish roots or make the sauce that her Grammie makes. I had this thought that maybe, because we get to choose what our tradition looks like, we could mesh our traditions, mine alongside their dad’s family traditions. They have been asking to make sauce for a long time. Lucy said “Mom, that is a hard decision”… “Sauce and Mumford & Sons”. Of course I decided in that moment that I love her more than anything in the world… or maybe equally to her siblings (we can’t have a favorite right???).

So today, in total difference than any other Saint Patrick’s Day is a Saucey Sunday… with green shirts and hands that have never squeezed wet bread or made meatballs. It is a mix of their roots, I guess my old roots. It looks different but it still felt good… funny how that can happen. We filled that big pot and made those meatballs, seared those sausages… and we laughed with our aprons on. I put on one of my favorite movies after, P.S. I love you. I felt like throwing in some Irish to the day… and weirdly I think it is the most romantic movie ever. Imagine being so planned that you planned to deliver some love after you die. I cry in so many spots of that movie, which confuses my girls, because those moments seem happy. I just wish more than anything in the world that I got that, that I got 10 letters from Madeline, reminding me how much she loves me and that she misses me. What would that be like???

I look at these years and I know that she delivered her ’10 letters’… she warned me way back when of the hurt I was allowing in my marriage, she knew… and she wanted me to move on. She built this foundation, she put the words ‘Best Day Ever’ in my vernacular. She travels on my shoulder and gets pissed when I swear too much or speed… sometimes I do it just to piss her off, it reminds me she is right here with me, mad but here.

It was a good weekend. It looked different, but is different bad? Different is hard, but it is necessary. I wish, I wish… for her. I get to go green with my girls and show them the world as I love it, as I know it. That is my forever. I love my lucky lil lady… I wish she were here to enjoy some sauce and meatballs, after a jolly good day of Gaelic and Irish rock…

Enjoy your lucky charms… whatever they may be. Share your roots… even if you just found out you are Irish from Ancestry.com. If you are Irish go out and be Irish… build community, feed your family and friends… boil what you have and pass that stone soup around… dance even when the world is heavy and awful… if the music moves you dance. When your people die… honor them, smile when you talk about them, stick together and bring them along in your life… that is being Irish, we are way more than a leprechaun, we are a way to be.

THAT was a February February…

I feel like every Monday afternoon, right about 2:35 almost to the minute, I am walking down the sage green halls at Bradt School repeating to my brain, as I huff down the hall- “Now THAT was a Monday Monday.” If a coworker walks by we often nod our heads and I might even say to them “What a Monday Monday…” and they get it. Mondays are often full of Monday moments…

What does that mean though- a Monday Monday? I think Monday’s take a lot of extra energy, a lot of mental preparation. I anticipate as I work out and get the girls ready for their days at school- that mine will be challenging. As a Teacher’s Aide we prepare for the day after a weekend or vacation, it is necessary. Mondays are often HARD days.

Today is February 28, 2019, it is the last day of February… Halleluiah. I find myself referring to February that way… it was a February February. I sometimes even say this when people ask how this month was, thankfully they know my answer won’t at all cover it all, I answer them “It was a February February”. I think I start February with the same anticipation and preparation that I do a Monday, only bigger. I have to put my brain and heart and mind in a place that they can navigate all of the emotions and grief work that needs to be done. This February was no different in that way… it was a February February.

I keep reflecting on the past 28 days, that felt like 48 long days…

Madeline has now been gone for 7 years. It has been an eternity and a moment… or 7 years. On her anniversary weekend Lucy’s Basketball League honored Madeline and supported Maddie’s Mark. I watched Madeline’s classmates and girls that would have been her peers play basketball. They were so tall, so grown. Those girls are in 7th grade… it was so hard to watch, but it is so beautiful to see them remember Madeline. Those moments don’t look hard on the surface, I don’t think they look hard to the people around me… but they are hard moments to live through.

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We welcomed a new family member to our home, Nikita Elizabeth Musto. She is lovely and well trained and gentle. I didn’t mean to add on to the family… but we welcomed her on Madeline’s Anniversary Weekend, kind of ironic to add a member when we are feeling the missing. I was loosely watching adoption sites, just like I was real estate sites… like someday I won’t live in this house. Anyway, a 2-year-old Nikita popped up, and I just kept going back to her adoption picture. My sister Molly happened to Facebook message me and I mentioned her, she told me to fill out the paperwork and see. So, I decided to be a little brave and a little stupid, and I sent the form with information for the owner to analyze. She got back to me a week later, and we set up a meeting time. We picked her up the next weekend. I think I had PTSD from the last years of Sparky Elizabeth Musto’s life, with all the blind, deaf, pees and poops and escaping. I was cautious to fall in love, to give freedom… but Nikita Elizabeth Musto was the perfect addition on that February weekend laced with missing.

The February break was hard, it was focused on Matthew travelling to Texas with the girls to be with his girlfriend’s family. I think I mentally prepared to nest the whole time they were gone, like I differed the nesting I normally do pre-February. I had to stay busy and be productive, so I wasn’t focused on all of the time I was missing. Thankfully Rick was on board to work with me on a big kitchen project. We redid my countertops and tiles the backsplash… and now every.single.time I was dishes I feel like I am washing dishes in a nicer house and it feels good.

The month was filled with bits of normal, crying and missing, some laughs and some big disappointments. I am not so great at regulating disappointment and anxiety, so waiting on an experience that didn’t get put into motion was a really challenging task for me. It is hard stuff trying to sort through life and emotions, trying to figure which are grief, which are short term and which might be a part of a grudge. It Is hard work trying to stay afloat in all of these emotions and experiences…

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In the midst of it all I was watching a local firefighter fight for his life, while his wife shared his story. This healthy, strong father of two developed a Sepsis infection and was given a 5% chance of survival. I saw her words, begging for prayers and hope, sometimes very specific prayers for kidney function or to heal his hand. He underwent many surgeries, without being aware, including one that his wife Chelsea shared the surgeons prayed over him, and the flesh-eating disease they were sure it was, was no longer when the surgeons opened his skin. He is a miracle, Josh Woodward is a miracle. I have thought over and over this month- God is letting us, literally, watch a miracle as it happens. He is letting us see prayer heal, letting us see prayer save. Through the window of social media we can watch daily as one of God’s miracles heals and prepares for the life God has planned for him. #WoodwardStrong has become an anthem here near Albany, NY reminding us to have hope, pray big and see a miracle for what it is- a miracle.

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This month I also got to attend and help support The Dance to be Healed, which is an amazing night of children who have travelled on the Childhood Cancer Journey. A few years ago, a Nurse married his cancer patient, to lift her spirits. The world fell in love with that video, and the event now raises funds and awareness, but honestly, it is a night for all of those kids to dance and enjoy life in a space surrounded by others who get it. The best part, they aren’t being ‘treated’ for cancer, at least not with chemo and poison… but instead they are being ‘treated’ with dancing and flowy dresses and fun foods and a night off from the cancer world- they just Dance to be Healed.

This miracle and that dance are such positive and beautiful events in these days… we need those bursts of light to hold faithfully on to this journey. The thing is… they are hard moments for me too. It is hard to be the mom of a child who died of cancer… it is hard to know that the miracle God planned for Madeline didn’t look like the miracle God has gifted Josh Woodward. It is all just hard… it is all just so hard.

In true February form this was a February February… right to the core. The mix of emotions, the new members of our family right next to the missing… disappointment laced with hope. I always know this our pain rides right next to our joy, there is no other way. These are the very last moments of February 2019… and I am welcoming March with open arms and an open heart. I am praying that March is softer, lighter and of course full of Birthday magic with it is time to turn 37, I think 37, whatever I am turning. So welcome March, let’s dump this February in history and Spring along… to lighter and brighter days.

 

Super Bowl and Gathering.

I can honestly say that I never really cared about the Super Bowl, maybe there was a time I was slightly into it, but never was it a big deal. On the other hand- I love gathering. I love anything that involves squishing people into a space to laugh and share and eat and drink and enjoying their time. The Super Bowl is a good excuse to gather together… eat, laugh, watch, enjoy time.

In old times, before and after my girls were born, we would either host or pack up and go to friends for nachos and chili. I remember one Super Bowl, I think I was pregnant with Lucy, we went to an unmarried friends’ apartment for the gameday festivities. He had a big fancy TV with this speaker bar thing in front of the TV- you know the electronics you get before you have kids. Imagine two toddlers, lots of electronics, a small bag of toys from home, snacks and a million “No, don’t touch that!”’s were spouted. It was a rough one… but we had fun and I am sure I crashed hard that night.

Super Bowl Sunday holds powerful, beautiful and painful memories for me. On Super Bowl Sunday in 2012 Madeline made her First Communion and Confirmation. In a church filled with many Catholics anticipating the big game- looking forward to the inevitable silly joke the Priest would tell about the teams playing… instead those parishioners were part of a beautiful and lovely 5-year-old with terminal cancer entering adulthood in the church. I wonder what those people thought, if they still think of that Super Bowl Sunday. We left the church and went to an awesome gathering, a party full of people and Italian food and cake. I remember so many people, and the worry we had for Madeline… did she drink enough water, did she need anything. I remember feeling so grateful that on this scary yet beautiful day we were surrounded- the world gathered. Madeline was quiet, I know it was overwhelming for her, I know she felt sad to not be herself. I wish she got to fully enjoy her First Communion…

We left the party to head to Lake Placid for our ‘Whole Family Adventure’, a train of cars headed up into the mountains. I remember hugging my friends as we left for the mountains- begging them to enjoy the Super Bowl, just as they would have if this weren’t happening. I told them, thank you now go have fun, I think I wanted to know that they weren’t breaking too. We were all breaking though…

I don’t remember talking about the Super Bowl that night, I don’t think anyone put it on the TV, or maybe they did and I didn’t realize. I have no idea who won, who played… if the halftime show was scandalous or amazing. I have no recollection of the game. I feel like we were all trying to just be present and together and figure out what to do with the fear and pain and brokenness. It’s like the Super Bowl didn’t happen in that cabin in the Adirondacks…

The thing about the Super Bowl is that thinking about the game and that day makes me sad… but the part about gathering and spending time together is the part that is important to me. I do not care about teams or goals, I never remember to do the pools, I don’t know the rules of the game really… but I love how it brings us together- I love to gather. I love any excuse to eat nachos, drink wine, play games, tell stories and build community.

This year I have a goal to gather more… to do what builds me better. I know this time of year impacts me… I don’t even need a calendar, PTSD doesn’t need a calendar. My brain and heart would break when February comes around even if we stopped writing down the dates- PTSD just knows. This weekend I made a point to gather and adventure… not to settle in and clean and Netflix binge watch. I was really tired today, but I felt full and not empty, I felt a bit of mending- though not fixed. I know what community does to my heart and soul… what gathering means to me. I guess to some they loved that it was Super Bowl Sunday, some could not wait for the Maroon 5 concert… but for me I loved eating and laughing and squishing into my tiny house. I love the importance of Gathering, of building and connecting… and on an anniversary that breaks me, I chose to insert some building blocks.

Gather… laugh, cry, tell stories, eat, drink, move and enjoy this… even if it is Super Bowl Sunday, even if you are missing 1/3 of the most amazing Musto Chicks…

How has age hit me?

 

The social media world is covered with the ‘How hard did age hit you challenge?’ and I have to be honest it is neat to see people way back when Facebook really became big next to a snapshot of the present. Some people have looked younger today than 10 years ago and others look far older than 10 years ago. It makes me think, what did they do differently? I also think the filters were nonexistent only 10 years ago- so you were forced to look your age… in fact filters are a product of all of this sharing on social media and the desire to have things look perfect. I remember back when my first pictures were loaded from our digital camera, taking many moments to upload multiple pictures for family and friends to see. I don’t think my brain could have imagined how far technology has come today- it took me years to come to terms with digital pictures, they were so intangible- fast forward 10 years and it is all different.

I was curious to see my profile picture from 10 years back so I dove right in. Man 10 years is a long time, and a moment all together. Isn’t it funny how time works, speedy slow? I guess it isn’t a surprise, I remind myself the while you are living in something or through something it is sslllooowww feeling, but in retrospect it was only a moment in your history. I am not discrediting those moments; however, those moments can alter the rest of your life here on Earth, but when you can stand back and look at the time it ticked by at the same speed time always ticks by at.

Looking at all of these pictures and reflecting really got my brain a thinking… I guess it jostled some of my cobwebs and made me dig a little. I saw a lot of people loving their today snapshots more than their past, others wishing they could relive that youth and wrinkles time and some others who didn’t want to acknowledge the older version because she hadn’t been through what the ‘now snapshot’ had. Each different post made me think broader… and try to gather my own self in this. Where did I lie? Was I the kind of person who wished for the softer, wrink-less version of me??? Did I prefer this 2019 version of me? Do I hate the parts between, do I wish I could change any of it???

I came to this conclusion.

It all comes back to my belief that “Age is a privilege not gifted to all”.  I love 2008 ‘me’, 2019 ‘me’ and every bit of ‘me’ between and before. I have yet to meet future ‘me’, but I imagine I will love her as well. I cannot be ‘me’ without every.single.little.and.big.thing in all of my history. I think back to 2008 me…

She was naïve and soft. She had yet to be broken, to be so hurt that she couldn’t stand up. 2008 me had no idea, and I mean no idea, that a marriage contract meant nothing to some… that a person you love so much could get into a car and drive to another woman. She didn’t know any of that. She didn’t know how to love herself, how to walk into a room and own it. 2008 Erin thought she was stupid and worthless… that her value was small because her work felt small and focused on feeding, napping, teaching, cleaning and building little people. She didn’t know she was strong and determined, she had been told that she was fat and her vocabulary was that of a 3-year-old. She was scared of money and being alone. 2008 me lived like trust and respect were things we just gave. She was scared of different and lived in her little bubble of safety. In 2008 she was blissfully unaware that her firstborn daughter would be diagnosed with cancer, and would die. She had no idea the extent of pain and loss that the world had in store for her. She had less wrinkles and better hair… she even wore sunscreen. She attended weddings like it was her social scene, right along with her then husband. 2008 Erin talked about her future, her girls proms, weddings… middle school, grandbabies and sunsets on Lake Ontario with her forever faithful husband…

Part of me thought… Erin, what if I could tell her, what if I could warn her? What if it doesn’t have to hurt so much… what if I could prevent those days of not being able to stand up? What if I could prepare for the missing of Madeline? What if, what if… but what if doesn’t work. She/I needed to be that naïve girl with low self-esteem. She/I needed to think my value was based on my vocabulary and weight… I needed to think I was just doing dumb work feeding and wiping and teaching my kids… I needed to struggle and hurt. I had to be all of those versions of myself, to get to this version. I often wonder what the 46-year-old version of me will be like… she better be amazing and strong and solid… and I freakin’ hope she has written a book and traveled the world.

Who am I today?

Where did these 10 years get me? The thing is that is all how you look at it… one could look at my life, and maybe many do, like I have a pretty sucky set of cards… my daughter was diagnosed with cancer, she died, my husband had many affairs and complicated situations arose from those, and we are divorced… sounds pretty crappy right?

I choose to see it the way that it really has rolled out… my daughter was diagnosed with cancer and died- my marriage dissolved and divorce has left me free… free from so many things. I hate that Madeline died, that has altered every second of my forever from that moment around 3am on February 8, 2012. I can’t ever be the mom of 3 Earthlings again… my story changed. I wish it didn’t but I do the best with what I have. Most days I get up and workout and drink coffee and do my job and raise my girls… alongside missing her. My marriage dissolved into a co-parenting situation that mostly is just fine. It was harder in the beginning, but we got better at it. It helps that I have worked so hard at maintaining healthy boundaries for me and my girls- firmly reminding myself of those boundaries. I became better at communicating with my words and emotions, defining my needs and keeping myself around positive people. I no longer just let people into my world… trust and respect are earned not given. It has been a rollercoaster, but it is my rollercoaster. I own it. I own the twists and turns, the broken and the healed… I own the confidence and weakness… I own it all. I own every second of these years- 2019, 2008 and long before…

A lot has changed… a lot has stayed the same… there are more wrinkles, more tears, more pain, more loss, more joy, more building, more accomplishments, more boundaries and lessons. I still have my Jeep Commander, my red kitchen, my lack of love for the Musto Mountain of Laundry and my love for coffee in the am and good red wine in the pm. I wouldn’t change a thing… not even the ugly parts. I love and own my 10 years that passed in a moment. I am grateful the privilege of aging has been gifted to me, I plan to use it well.

Just Write…

avoidance

It’s been a while, since I have cracked open this laptop of mine. It’s been a while since my fingers typed bits of the stories and lessons of my life and time. It’s been a while since I connected my brain and heart with words for my eyes to see and read. I feel like I didn’t want to listen to myself, like maybe reading what my brain and heart were thinking would be too much or too real. I have avoided my keyboard and kitchen table like they were peach flavored candies or mushrooms… both of which I avoid all.the.time.

What is the purpose of this avoidance? I know for me my fastest and strongest defense mechanism is avoidance. I remember the day I realized it, sitting in my councilor’s office talking out all the things I could not get myself to tackle, even down to my voicemail. She said “Erin, that is avoidance.” I thought, back then, about avoiding knowing that she was right, about putting it away to handle later- but I started tackling things and telling the part of my brain that pushes avoidance to leave me alone. It worked. The thing is, just like Weight Watchers, we can know how to do something and get healthier- but when we get away from practicing it mindfully, we resort back to the easy… and for me my favorite tactic for handling too much is avoidance.

Why? I honestly don’t know, maybe it is just me subconsciously choosing the easy path in my brain. I might just need a way to see only things that are easy to handle… but then I also push those off. I might just shut down when there is too much, and in that case I need to recognize the scale of the pile just before it is too much and my brain starts avoiding… what is my tipping point? So maybe I need work on identifying my tipping point…

So… now you know- I am a hot-mess-human. I am a work in progress. I am working on the progress. I miss this keyboard, and the slow computer that is connected to it… I even miss that the stupid Norton Antivirus reminder pops up 50 times in an hour (or maybe only 1, just as annoying). I miss the way it feels to take my thoughts and brain conversations and watch the screen as my fingers hit the keys and my eyes can read them all. It is much messier in my brain, so the neatness factor of the typed words really helps my everything see order, well order alongside the hot-mess-human that I am.

These past weeks have been challenging, really dark and cold… and lonely. I still sit in the smallness of my family here, and wish the plan had a bigger, louder and less picky dinnertime set up… but alas I give up control and trust that in His time there is a plan for a louder and fuller dinner table to come. To make the month a little harder, because it’s a great idea to challenge yourself at your lowest, I jumped on the Dry January bandwagon. It is a challenge, to sit in myself and just be, with no added crutches or aid, just me. I don’t always like the version of me that I see… so I guess it is an opportunity to work on being the best version of me. Everyone says Dry time improves everything, but I have been sick and tired and dealing with normal mom stuff, divorce stuff, loss of Madeline stuff… all of it… and wine makes it all easier, so I am embracing harder.

All and all, I struggle this time of year every year. I miss the sun. I miss big crazy family time. I miss being social, January is lonely. I miss Madeline… I see kids play basketball and I remember them from her class, I think about these times 7 and 8 and 9 years ago… I just wish it could be different, but it can’t. I found myself sad when a child’s tumor disappeared… excited and sad. I know I was truly excited for her miracle, and sad for mine. It was a hard December and January isn’t rolling out easily… so it has been extraordinarily hard. In these times, times of hard and avoidance, I remind myself that I can do hard things, hard hard things… and it won’t always feel like this. The sun will come out, my heart will get a little less inflamed, my brain will do it’s jobs, my fingers will type and the days will feel lighter. The days will feel lighter. I won’t be in this place forever… and ‘now’ won’t last that long. Tomorrow is Friday… and we are one day closer to spring. I actually scheduled some fun things for the next few weeks… it is always good to have things to look forward to. I will work hard on the right now, the work I need to do to quit defaulting to avoidance. I told myself to just write, just open up that laptop and write… and after the 20 minutes of loading and 500 reminders for Norton Antivirus (well… maybe 2) my fingers have stayed nice and busy and typed as my brain sent out some thoughts… and just like that I am writing again. It feels like it has been 100 years… but it has only been a few broken hard holidays, a trip home and a few work days since my fingers last organized my brain. Thank you fingers for the chatter on the keyboard that pops up on the screen and sends order back into my brain as my eyes read it, thank you… I am glad I have you digits…