Words to live by…

What are the odds that in one day 3 people will reach out to you with important and powerful words for your heart, mind and soul?  I have learned to not take those types of messages for granted.  Those are the ways God makes sure we know He is there.  I guess you could totally chalk it up to chance, but seriously I.am.not.buying.that.

“And you can not be my disciple if you do not carry your cross and follow me.  But don’t begin until you count the cost”  (Luke 14:27)

My little sister Molly sent this to me on Sunday morning.  I read it and reread it.  She noted that I often say that we all have a ‘cross’ to carry, we don’t get to choose the ‘cross’ but it is ours to carry and survive.  Often times people look at me and say “You are so strong” or “I couldn’t handle all of this”… things of that nature.  I believe inside of me that we are all faced with big blessings and really hard stuff… we all have our ‘cross’ to carry.  I think a gift in this is following God… He  keeps the light on, so I always know I can hold on and get through it.  I have a big freakin’ cross to carry, each of us does.  Mixed into those ‘crosses’ and bard things and heavy life experiences is strength, support, miracles, life, joy and sometimes someone else carrying that heavy cross for you.  Those are all part of the knowing God in this… calling on Him to help you get up the hill with your heavy cross.  Another part of this is no one’s cross looks the same … we cant really compare them.  The loss of Madeline is mixed with the life of Madeline and my divorce is darn heavy… but I pray and work out and stay healthy in many ways to carry this big hunka life that I was gifted.

I remember receiving the “whatever is lovely” bracelet and thinking how awesome it was that this phrase I use is backed up in the bible… and Molly thought it was cool that words I talk about and use are backed up in the bible.  I honestly feel like it was a little way to remind me that this fact is true.  That we all have a cross, they are all different.  I actually take this message as another push to start a bible study and know the words that are inside of me already.

quoteI received that text from Molly and my brain thought of a few people who NEEDED to see it.  I called Kathi and was on my way to see her and old her she had to see this quote… then she told me that she had a word for me.  It is a super strange word since it is Hebrew… but it is a definition of the feeling that I talk about so often.  That feeling inside that makes you know you must… pray, move, live, carry, support, share… whatever it is.  This is a LONG word for the feeling inside of us that pulls us to action- be it a special prayer or thought laid on your heart, an action or knowledge, a goal that is placed into your thoughts.  I know that God speaks in these feelings and pulls… I guess I didn’t know there was a fancy and official and VERY long way to define that feeling.  I know I have felt it many times, especially since Madeline died.  I know others have as well, or had tendencies to pray for something at just.the.right.moment.  Sometimes it is little, like dropping milk or groceries off because they had a feeling… not knowing that a heavy and sad Erin just couldn’t pull together dinner- or even cereal for dinner because we lacked milk.  I also see this in people veering toward a new goal or changing their perspective since Madeline died… like Nathan being pulled to nursing after Madeline died.  That pull and that feeling inside that makes you take action.  I loved knowing that there is a word for that, I don’t think I can pronounce it to really be able to share it- writing it is the best you are all going to get.  Just knowing it is there is reassurance for me though.

I got home Sunday and had a text from a friend, followed up by Namaste, in true Wendi form…

“The pain was necessary to know the truth but you don’t have to keep the pain alive to keep the truth alive”

This really touched all the points of the last couple years… more specifically the breakdown of my marriage.  I am letting go of the pain and standing in the truth.  I can’t change it.  I can’t move it.  I can’t get rid of it… it is just what it is- the truth.  I am very glad it doesn’t hurt so much.  I am lighter.  Most days I am really loving this ‘me’ that is less angry and more content with now.  It is good to put that anger and pain and put it somewhere… other than inside of me.  I do also know that the pain of losing Madeline has a purpose… it helps me know the Truth.  I also know that if there wasn’t so much pain and hurt involved in the ending of my marriage- I wouldn’t know the Truth.  I might still be holding on to a hope or a fantasy… while people weren’t true and weren’t good.  The pain of those events helped me create real and solid boundaries that keep me safe and keep me more content, more able to be a better me.  Those boundaries are easier to maintain because of the pain… and the truth.

I ended Sunday pretty darn tired, as I do everyday pretty much.  I had a kid sleeping on my laundry pile and one in the chair… and we all crashed.  My brain thought in those quiet moments about these words and the significance of them being shared in one day.  Each of them would have been welcome and profound separately, but because they were shared in one afternoon I felt it was a way to feel and see and ponder a lot of things that are in me already.  Who knows… maybe I am crazy???  I think I am pretty stable though :)… I am still thinking of those moments and words and carrying them.

Do they help you or will you carry them???

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… being nicer to this me.

Lately I think I am a bit of a fraud.  I have a lot of confidence but I can be so mean to myself.  I am super good at helping people understand their strengths and help them build confidence, but then I am unkind to myself.  I wish I weren’t… and plan to work on it, but it is so easy to be mean to ourselves.

I walked into boot camp class and was talking to one of my friends about how hot I looked this time the year I was marathon training.  I felt so hot then, tired and exhausted often but hot.  I had a good summer tan, nice fit arms, 20 pounds less and a confidence that I was running a marathon.  I was really proud of myself back then.  It was an empowering experience.  I am in no way trained physically or mentally for those long runs right now.  In fact I don’t feel like I have the energy or time to give to that training or the mental ability to handle hours of running with my brain and thoughts.  I will run like that again,  but it isn’t safe right now.  So here I was in this boot camp class putting my current self down.  I was quickly… I don’t think scolded, but reminded firmly, that I am beautiful.  My friends compliment was something to the point of “Erin lots of beautiful girls want to make out with you”… which to some isn’t a compliment.  I took it and walked away kind of proud that I am me and I am beautiful.  It isn’t really about the girls kissing thing, but more of knowing that while I am being mean to me, there are many other beautiful and strong people that I admire that admire me.  So as strange as that compliment could be to some, I took it with me the rest of the day and let myself feel pretty and strong and admired.

Last night I was at a party for a friend who finished her PhD work (and I will finally get to see more often again).  It was a really fun and easy party… lots of wine, munchies and great conversations.  From motel to bacon dip to kids that are good at soccer to fun nights out… just a great night all around.  Sitting in the kitchen with some friends, some wine and some crazy good desserts and chatting about working out, weight and confidence.  I put myself down again.  I joked about my slow running and chasing of the hot blonds in front of me.  I also talked about those hot blonds and how they didn’t appreciate their hot-blond-fast-running-selves.  They each only see the parts to change… and here I was saying this about me.  I was reminded that we all have our problems, but there will always be something.  Even when I was marathon training there was weight and lumps I complained about.  I was reminded to be kind to this very me.  Enjoy this me… have dessert, have wine, enjoy friends, run, workout… and like this me, not the one I won’t ever attain.  I felt a little mad at myself for putting myself down.  I need to be better at that.  It is so.freakin.easy.to.do…

I am a confident person.  I have lots of things I struggle with being confident about.  I think we all do.  I am sure of almost all of my decisions.  I know I am a kind person.  I love my girls and think I am a good mom.  I love my family and being a part of all of it… and think I am good at those roles (by the way today is my parents 40th wedding anniversary… freakin’ amazing you could like someone so long :)).   I love my friends and think I am a good friend.  I love my community and what I get to do in it.  I need to remind myself to love all of me… change the parts that are changeable or don’t fit anymore.  I need to remind myself to help myself build me.

So here I am choosing to work on this.  I am going to work on accepting this version of ‘Erin’ right now… and love her for her.  I hope maybe you needed this reminder as well.  I know that in so many if we could see ourselves as others do we would love ourselves more… in loving ourselves and our gifts we would be better people.  So keep me in line… scold me or correct me when I put myself down.  I want to be held accountable for this one… I want my girls to grow up and still say “Mom, I look really pretty in pink” and know that truth.

A slow down saturday…

I think I needed one of these.  I needed to sleep a lot, get up a little late and sit with left over pizza and coffee and watch ‘This Old House’.  I feel like I miss my girls this morning, but this nice and slow morning is just what the doctor would have ordered if I had gone to see him.

It is going to be a darn good day, I can feel it.  Yesterday was too.  Actually this week was exhausting but it was good too.  Jeez… maybe there is a pattern in this.  Yesterday I had a kickass workout, great lunch (well muffin and coffee) and a productive afternoon before a BIG Childhood Cancer Awareness night.  Then this morning started in a good spot and so far so good…

Sometimes this life gets too fast, too busy and too full.  I love it all of those ways, but freakin’ love the slowdown.  I love the way fall and winter MAKE me slow down.  I love the holidays that are coming, cooking for lots of people, making costumes and winding down some of the work in the yard that summer has.  I love the cooler days and the movie nights with my girls.  I am dreading, in a way, the cold and hard parts of winter, but like everything else we live today and only today.  I like when I can look back and see progress… I love when I can be content in the present and look forward to bits of the future.  I think that is how we all should be.  There are times in this that the future scares me too much to look at it.  In those times I try very hard to live today only… maybe even right now only.  I am glad to be in this place.  I feel good, I feel content, I feel happy often.  I am not angry like I was, I look forward to creating new moments and memories with my girls and I… and letting go of the memories that are tarnished with negative people.  It is hard to do, since many of my young Musto Chick moments and Madeline’s last days were filled with some of these bad and negative people.  I wish I had seen it then, but here we are in this very spot.  Moving forward, living, breathing, crying, laughing, sharing, running and getting on by.  So today is a nice warm fall day… a nice lazy morning with my weiner next to me (Sparky Elizabeth Musto)… and ‘This Old House’ on the TV.  I have a good cup of coffee and some fun plans for later.  It is a good day.  Tomorrow my chicklets come home and I am going to make a big dinner… I am glad to be in this spot.  It feels good.

 

Fun and fall and full…

Today started as a good day, I woke up in a good place and the day continued on like that… even with the headache from too much to drink last night and the fact that I had to find and give Sparky worm medicine.  So if it can top those two things… it was a spectacular day.  The girls had the day off and were dropped off by their dad with their favorite cereal.  They ate and I packed lunch, actually the girls made their own sandwiches… We headed out for a day of adventures with some of our awesome people.fall3

First stop was apple picking with new and old friends.  We met up and headed out.  There were a lot of little ones taking one bite and throwing them or starting a new one, there was some throwing of apples and there was A LOT of eating apples and being funny.  Of course, even though I wasn’t hungry.at.all I ate a an apple cider donut.  I need to kick this habit of just eating things because they are ‘in season’ or a ‘treat’… I have too many extra treats I am carrying.  We found a picnic table and parked our crew there.  They made cards for a friend who was having emergency surgery today and ate lunch.  It was sunny and warm and perfect out.  We had our picnic and started to head out our separate ways to tend to napping children or errands… or in our case a playdate at our favorite park with some cool boys.

We met the boys and their momma at the park for a nice easy playdate.  I really enjoy meeting up with this family, the boys are so different and fun.  It is different for me to see the dynamics of a set of three young boys but also to see the difference in parenting in the stage of having three very young children… almost babies.  I remember those days… I miss them in a way, but I recognize how hard they were.  Functioning on no sleep, missing relationships with adults, feeling like I had to do it all to be good at this job, making crazy and forgetful mistakes and being nutty crazy all.the.damn.time.  I was jealous of people who were ‘grown up’ and wore pencil skirts and had jobs… I look back now and know it was freakin’ hard to stay home.  It was hard to find educational and positive activities, groups, constantly making a meal/snack/meal/juice… wiping butts over and over, watching the same show all day.   It was really hard.  I am so glad I had the opportunity to not wear a pencil skirt (though I would have rocked it) and not go to work… but I do wish I had a commute longer than my stairs to the start of my day.  Anyway, I met this momma and her boys, along with another old friends wife who was expecting.  It was great to catch up and to meet a new soon-to-be-momma.  There was very little talk of all the junk that has gone down in recent months.  It is hard in these situations, this momma and her boys were kind of claimed by Matthew and his now girlfriend.  They were the friends in this.  So crossing into these more complex relationships is hard.  I never want to do the wrong thing.  I loved getting to catch up with her.  She is really funny and great to talk to.  I am glad we had a playdate and look forward to another soon…

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… And the relay continues.  Home to order pizza and clean up, then off to dinner with some awesome women and their super kids.  It is always a reminder to me when I sit in a room with some of the moms (or dads) that have been through this… that we are taken care of and we are in this together.  We can sit and talk and laugh and cry, but tonight was full of trip planning, life convos and watching the kids run like crazy people.  Tonight I needed a little reminder for my brain that I am right here.  I am taking care of my girls and having great days off from school with them.  I am showing them the world and keeping them around positive people and experiences.  I am pretty proud and content in this.  Enjoying tonight and the strong, real and brave women I am surrounded by reassured me.  So pizza and running around the house like a stomping herd of elephants, being chased by a zombie and watching Hocus Pocus… for my chicks that is a ‘best day ever’.

We are pooped… I am falling asleep typing this.  I think today I just needed a full and positive surrounding day.  I am thankful for the day it was.  It was a fun, full and fall day.

Bucket filling for life…

Last Friday night I had the opportunity to bring my girls to a play being performed locally at the Clifton Park Library.  This play was all about Bucket Filling.  I bet you wonder what bucket filling is, dontcha?

My girls have always gone to schools that teach bucket filling as a character building and anti-bullying curriculum.  Bucket filling principles are based on a simple invisible bucket that we all have inside us.  It is our job to keep our bucket filled with good, positive, happy and productive thoughts and feelings.  It is also our job to fill buckets of others with kind words, support, forgiveness and gratitude.  We work hard to fill our bucket and fill others… but also to avoid people and situations that ‘dip’ in our bucket.  A bucket ‘dip’ is removing some of those good and positive thoughts and feelings.  When someone puts us down or we put others down it dips in both buckets.  Bucket filling is a great life skill in adulthood as well… surrounding ourselves with those who fill our bucket and getting rid of negative and harmful energies and people.  Surrounding yourself with people that build and fill… not break and empty.

This play was so well written and kept my attention and more important my daughter’s attention, as well.  The characters and fast paced skits really showed the important and realistic situations and reactions.  I felt engaged and entertained.  My girls really enjoyed the Bucket Filling Fairy- everyone in the audience did.  I don’t often push bucket filling as anti bullying, mostly before this play, I focused on just building yourself and others.  I guess in doing that bullying wouldn’t be so prevalent.  If we wander and fill and take care of each other… if we recognized that most of the bullying behavior is a child walking around with an empty bucket trying to fill it up with something… then I think we would carry a great life skill.  I would love if this play could come to local schools and the YMCA.  I believe it would really help the children relate and understand the principle in action and life.  I think it would make bucket filling relatable and tangible for children.bucket fillin

We first learned about bucket filling when Madeline was in three year old preschool.  Her teachers read the book (Have you filled a bucket today?) and talked about the imaginary bucket.  They brought the understanding down to a three year old and I started talking about buckets (imaginary and real) from that point on.  Amelia and Lucy followed Madeline in school and learned those same principles.  We brought the buckets home and started to literally fill buckets.  We went to target and each girl chose a little bucket.  I used pasta and we started filling and emptying buckets.  When the girls did something kind or thoughtful they got to add pasta.  When they did something unkind to their sister or me they had to empty their bucket some and refill their sisters bucket.  I loved how we used the word ‘forgive’ right next to  ‘I’m sorry’.  What an awesome way to start young with the word ‘forgive’.  I think it is important to use that word and learn about forgiveness of big and little things.  The girls loved filling their buckets and they would get a reward when it was full.  They could choose a family activity or individual activity.  Madeline found this teal horse shirt at Target one day, she badly wanted.  She wanted her bucket fill to go for that shirt (I sent Matt immediately for it and we put it away secretly) and then when it was full she got her horse shirt.  That is the shirt Madeline is in right now… it was her most favorite shirt.

We still talk and use the bucket filling conversations and principles, but we haven’t filled our real buckets since February 2012.  They are still sitting there on my stove, filled with the pasta from back then.  I love seeing them.  It makes me laugh a little to see how full Madeline’s was and Amelia’s was always lower.  Amelia had a habit of doing really well then melting down and biting someone or having a tantrum and running like a crazy woman in front of… Target, the YMCA, anywhere.  I have three different buckets with dusty noodles in them sitting on my stove.  Those buckets are a constant reminder to me to fill buckets, I need a reminder sometimes.  I need to see them to remember my girls and the way it was.  I need to see them to fill my bucket.  I need to see them to fill others buckets.  I need to see them to build and create and live and be better…

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So check out the Bucket Filling Play (http://bucketfillingplay.com/ ) and Have you filled a bucket today?  Children, Adults… everyone could use these reminders.

 

 

 

 

As Strong as the Weakest Link.

Childhood Cancer is different for every family who has a child diagnosed- different in the journey and often the results.  I am blessed and honored to share this guest post.  This post was written to share some of the other struggles faced in this- not only by the child but their mom, dad and siblings.  Childhood Cancer impacts the whole family.  Standing up and fighting is what we all do, but it is hard and takes a toll.  These raw and real words show the background… a bit of what is lost in this journey.  This writer is a very strong person, she is an amazing mom.  She is honest and raw and real…  she is strong and works hard.  Though she might not think she is strong- strong people rest, cry and give up… then they stand up and keep chugging.  She and her family have worked hard to fight not only the leukemia, but the hard stuff that came too.  Please read and share and comment- she deserves to be shared for her boldness and honesty.  This is an important part of the journey for all to understand…

As Strong as the Weakest Link

I feel like I have everyone fooled.  They all look at me and say “You are so strong”, “I don’t know how you do it – I couldn’t be as strong as you are;” “You are such a great Mom and so strong”.  I appreciate the compliments, I really do.  All I can think is, I am at my breaking point, I could cry on a moment’s notice and “boy, I must be a pretty good actor because none of them see how I really feel.”

In January of 2011, my two year old son, was diagnosed with leukemia (a blood cancer). He underwent three years of chemo and various other drugs, including steroid treatments, and has successfully completed his treatment.  When my son was first diagnosed, I had an old blackberry, emails got me through long sleepless nights.  I started one of those blogs where you can keep people updated on his treatment and how he was doing.  At some point I joined Facebook, upgraded my old blackberry and became connected to the world of social media. I shared pictures of hospital visits, shared fundraising events for cancer charities and posted pictures of all the good days.

I suppose I created a false reality for the rest of the world.  I didn’t write or post about the ‘roid rage tantrums from the steroid treatments – I didn’t tell anyone that my smart, kind caring little boy would say “Mommy, I went crazy in my head”.  I didn’t post about the days when I sat in my car and cried before I could go into work.  I didn’t post about the days that my heart broke over the time I had lost with my older son- because my sick child simply needed me more. I didn’t post about the long, lonely and sleepless nights filled with worry that seemed like they would never end.  I didn’t post about my desperate longing to stay home with my son, to take care of him and how much I hated the fact that I had to go to work to support our family. I didn’t talk or write about the resentment my husband felt because he was the one who “had” to stay home. I didn’t post about the wedge that was driven between my husband and I by this “reverse” parenting dynamic.  I didn’t post about the friends who drifted away, who moved on with their lives- while I felt like mine was standing still.  While all the other parents were attending sports and birthday parties- I was studying blood counts, converting teaspoons to milligrams, charting out the complicated medications, making pharmacy calls and trips to Albany Med that had to be precisely detailed and executed.  Instead, I created a false happiness.   I suppose I wanted to believe this and  others were happy to accept it.

The truth is no one want to see a sick and suffering child.  It is too hard, too heartbreaking and too emotionally draining.  I recently said to another cancer mom – “We are so lucky, we’ve had it so easy;” she very quickly reminded me that my warped sense of lucky was a little distorted.  That is not to say that there haven’t been good times; new friendships made and that I have developed a great appreciation for what’s truly important.  I’ve become more compassionate, more understanding of the struggles that families go through.  I’ve become very involved in children’s cancer charities and I’ve advocated for more funding for childhood cancers – much of this wouldn’t have happened without the challenges that we faced.

But, for some reason, we hide the bad.  We don’t talk about the real hard truths and we fool everyone into thinking we are “so strong” when in reality, we are just trying to get by.  We are trying to hold it all together.  We are trying not to break the weakest link.

Waiting for a boy…

In my family it has been a while since a boy came along… my brother has a pile of girls, Rikki has hayle- then there are my Musto Chicks- except for Nicholas (Bocker) and Ethan.  My mom and dad had nine grandkids- only two boys.  That is until tonight…

Since this morning I have known that my little sister was on her way to hospital, then progressing and now… acting all Rockstar at 9cms.  I have a new little nephew on the way.  I am guessing he will be here soon, maybe just after midnight.  I believe he is coming on September 16, 2014, but I guess he has 15 minutes to prove me wrong.  I am very excited for the text or phone call to let me know he is here, out of the womb ready for the life God made him for.

September 16, 2005 I married the person I believed God made for me, to grow up, old and through all this stuff- good and bad.  Fast forward to today- September 16 is an off and hard kind of day.  I fear it is a sad day for me.  I don’t know if it is a sad day or a day that my loss and defeat are so very evident, but it is not a normal day.  I am prepping to get to bed soon and thinking of where I was 9 years ago… how young I was, how naïve I was, what the day felt like and what I thought back then… I don’t regret the union, only (at this moment) wish it were different.  Alas, we can not control and fix everything.  I am here, in this very spot.  I am here in this spot, thinking of my little sister and her excitement and pain, her prepping and her progress.

Tomorrow I will get up, prep my chicken butts and (hopefully) head to Syracuse to meet my new little nephew.  I look forward to seeing him.  I miss new babies and can’t wait to see how God combined my sister Cortney and her husband Damon.  I wonder what adorable and quirky trait he will have, I wonder if he knows he met Madeline already.  I can’t wait to see his face and feel his skin.  I remember the feeling of meeting and feeling and knowing my new lovely.

I am often reminded of how life moves so fast… how things happen and change the course of life and living… how pain and joy and love and hurt are intermixed.  Labor and delivery are like that… pain and joy, patience and excitement, fear and certainty.  My sister is working, right now, in those mixes.  I know her, I know she is doing well and getting through.  I know she wants to meet her little guy, and introduce him to the world.  I know she wants to wear a pair of yoga pants and feels skinny- drink wine and eat a sandwich with deli meat.

I love my family.  I love my little family right here.  I love my Albany family that carries and takes care of me and my crew… I love home.  I love my home family.  I really love my sisters and brother… I love all of the kids that call me Aunt.  I freakin’ love my girls…

I can’t wait for Cortney to feel the closeness and comfort in these mothering relationships.  I can’t wait for her to show him many things… like I love to do with my girls.  I am glad we are all in this together to share it… the good, the bad, the hard, the sad, the funny, the real, the deep, the amazing… all of it.  Life and death.  All connected, all part of this.

See you in a bit RBK.  Get out of there buddy so we can meet you…