Transformation and Tattoos.

While on vacation visiting lots of New York Lakes… I really loved watching the dragonflies on the water. I loved all of the different colors and sizes. They were so fast and had such an amazing way of travelling. They would rush past or just stop and sit on a little leaf. I don’t know what it is about them, but I could sit and watch them all day… also they don’t bite or bug me so I am sure that helps.

I can see a picture of Madeline, more of a moment in history… her with her little piggies when she was 2 and we were camping-ish with my family. She had on her little Gap floral spring jacket and her face was still little toddler face. A dragonfly landed on Matthew and he passed it over to Madeline. I can still see her little smile and uncertainty of the bug on her hand. She was excited and nervous.

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Fast forward to today, well Wednesday actually, after thinking and thinking about a tattoo and dragonflies I decided to be spontaneous (terrible idea if you really want a tattoo most places were full of people who actually plan and make appointments). I pre-thought it out and drew a sharpie version to see if I loved it. I guess that is preparation in my way… after a day of looking at it and liking it- it was time to get it. Comically, even in my unplannedness when I get an idea in my head it must be done ASAP… before my brain finds a new path and I don’t have time for it. Have I mentioned lately that my eyebrows are like big hair caterpillars, my hair is SOOOOO long I don’t know what to do with it and it has not been colored in FOREVER. My feet need a good scraping and sanding… and I could probably use a massage and a maid. However, this busy like doesn’t warrant much time for all of the above… some people have time and 5000$ for hair extensions… but not this chick. I need to carve some time out, but for this week that bit of crazy and free and spontaneous Erin got her little symbol, her mark.

Dragonflies are not only an amazing, beautiful and talented bug but they also have a very tangible meaning to me (and many others). Dragonflies represent change and transformation. They represent getting past self-created illusions and living right in the moment. They are beautiful and iridescent as they fly across the water… they maneuver and shift and adjust. I have felt very connected to the symbolism in this amazing little bug.

I felt lately that a visual reminder of the transformation these past 2 years would be a good way to remind myself who I am now and how I am so different than then. I need a trigger to not jump back into Old Erin and get smaller and less me. I need a tangible image to touch and see when I am handling something that is big and difficult and I don’t feel strong enough to do. I need this to remind me that I am strong and solid and present. I am confident and honest and kind. I am more aware of me… of my gifts and my hard stuff. I am more aware of what in me let people treat me like they did and I am coming closer to the me that is crazy strong and brilliant with responses and boundaries.

So I have my visual and I love it. I loved the night I got it… full of adventure with my very amazing friend. I love that many can love me for me, the unplanned and slightly unorganized and spontaneous me. I am thankful for the ones who enjoy the adventures with me… I also love that my girls love this tattoo. I told them it was a special reminder for me to see and that they are in it. My 3 little polka dots… that always grace my heart and skin. I told them this is a way for me to see the mommy and sister and daughter and friend that I want to be, the me that I am building. This is a way for me to remind myself of the lessons and adventures of recent years. I love that they love it. Someday I hope they find something that guides them and they love… that they follow their own heart and desires and make choices the love. I don’t know if they will want tattoos, but I hope they always love the story behind others tattoos…

Transformation.

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Where did all the spunky go?

Where did all the spunky go? In one day I feel like my world lost a lot of spunk… in a week when my heart feels broken and messy it got heavier, messier and more broken. This world is lacking a lot… a lot of independence, spunk and all of the rule abiding in an amazing mom’s life. Natalie had to say goodbye to the most important job she ever had, the most important part of herself. Naomi left for heaven…

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Naomi was our very first ‘best day ever’… before Maddie’s Mark was even fully formed we were working on her trip to CHOP in Philly. We helped her family enjoy their time while she was being treated. After Madeline passed away, my whole family was broken. My nephew, Nick, was the same age as Mads and in Kindergarten. He was here for many of Madeline’s last moments and after. Madeline passed in February of 2012- so Nick went back to his school for Kindergarten and normal. When he got back the class had been flipped into hard- a classmate, Naomi, had 3 tumors in her brain. She would have surgery on one and receive treatment for the other 2. Nick went back to a classmate with a brain tumor, after his Madeline had passed from what he understood as a brain tumor. I can only imagine what that felt like for him. I can only imagine what Natalie and Naomi’s dad felt… or what Naomi felt.

Kindergarten is a big deal, Naomi completing the year was a big accomplishment. Her school did not celebrate Kindergarten with a graduation, no party, no celebration… just moving up to first. Natalie, Naomi’s mom, felt in her heart that she needed to see Naomi graduate, that it could be the only graduation her lovely got to have. A friend Michele used her big and bold to make that happen. It was awesome… to know that Naomi got to graduate and that Natalie got the moment to see her lovely graduate and move up. I knew in me that Natalie had a piece of her that knew Naomi would never walk across the stage at age 18 and go on to other things…

I loved hearing about Naomi’s graduation. She was deemed most Spunky. I will attest to that. Naomi was bold… honest and took care of herself. She was assertive and sure… she followed the rules and kept her family on track. You could see the connection and the love Naomi had for her mom. Naomi and Natalie were linked and connected. It is and was beautiful.

I, honestly, had no idea to expect this for Naomi. My heart hurt to know she was in pain. My wonders travelled to her treatment and life… her pain. She had some great years, I got to see her style, via Facebook, for first day of school and adventures. I also loved when I got to see her. She was a girl who not only knew what she liked, she made sure to tell everyone. She had a bit of mature only child in her. Just like with Madeline, she was the one that made sure her mom was following the rules. It was h4rard to see that lovely and spunky face have to go through steroids and treatments… to know her mom could not touch her because it hurt her skin. It really hurt my heart to know this…

A couple of years ago, the summer after Madeline passed, Naomi and her mom came to visit Albany. A few friends packed in the car and came for a picnic. We went up to Maddie’s Spot to visit her. As the kids ran around… I could see and know that Natalie saw it differently. I felt like she was processing this spot, this ending. I know she prepared and lived well, for as we all know we don’t get to know the big stuff and the ends of journeys. In a way I know Natalie knew Naomi would not get to graduate high school, go to prom with her little boyfriend… there was always this hope of future laced with the tumors that would not disappear. I hate cancer. I hate tumors.

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Naomi was a spunky and independent girl with an amazing mom. I will not remember her for her tumor or her sick… but her bold and honest. I will remember her smile in the pictures I got to see. I will remember the times that I got to see her and watch her enjoy time… I will be thankful that in her time here we got to know and help her enjoy her time. Seeing her smiling with her mama at the Giants game last fall… knowing that her time in Philly was more fun and easy… that Naomi got to have some amazing experiences and Maddie’s Mark got to help her. We were supposed to connect… I will remember her for her. The world doesn’t get to know what grown up Naomi would be like, that royally sucks. The world gets to bring her along on their adventures, carry her family and help change this for others.

A while ago I saw an amazing medium, she was very clear and open. There was no crazy details, but instead a clear connection to Madeline. I know she used her gift to connect people to their lovelies… but she told me something’s that day that I really already felt. She told me that Madeline’s job in heaven is helping other children come to heaven. Something in me felt this for a long time and without saying it to her she told me. I know it is true, I know it is why she connects us. I know that Madeline gained and brought a few amazing children who’s journeys were done here. Many can disagree, but know that in me I know… just like I know she is okay and she is here. So it comforts me to know Madeline is there with these amazing friends. It doesn’t make it different here… we all have to keep on missing those amazing kids. Someday the missing will stop and we will be reunited with our lovelies… for now we miss, we cry, we hurt, we break, we move, we stop, we breathe and we grieve…

Goodbye, for now my darling.

It is never easier or better or softer. Loss is loss. Every single loss takes something in you, a bit of you… when you are sitting right in it you won’t get to see all that gets put back into that spot, for now all that is tangible and real and right on top is this loss. I can look back at the time after losing Madeline and see the huge gouge out of me… the missing part of me. I can feel how much that part hurt… then I can see it gradually filling up. I see and have felt it be filled up with support, kind actions, solid hugs, best.people.ever, adventures, accomplishments and many other things. Though it is filling it is different than before and still lacking, but it is becoming more of the missing part of me.

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This weekend the world lost an amazing teenager, an avid music lover and one bold chick. After a long cancer journey she has left us here to carry her legacy and help create a world where teenagers and amazing kids don’t leave us too soon because of cancer. She left us to carry on her bold strength and confidence… to appreciate the things that we are able to do.

The last visit my girls and I had with Kalina was hard. She was tired and I could feel her sad for what she was missing. She wanted to go outside and swim, but she was stuck in her bed. She wanted to see friends and watch movies… but so many had withdrawn. Kalina had a sense of sureness that I see in her Nanna, a way to say out loud what she wants or needs. We had brought Soul Surfer the last movie night we had. Kalina told the girls that they need to appreciate what they have when they have it. She identified with the story about Bethany Hamilton, her loss of functioning appendages. Kalina, in recent weeks, lost the ability to get around and was bedridden. In the past year her functions really deteriorated… which is so hard for a teen. Imagine a time in your life when you are building and broken and confused and sure and happy and sad all in five minutes- for me that was teenagerhood. It was hard. I remember the waves of sure and broken, the fears of failing and the fear of so many others caring or laughing. Imagine losing part of you that was so important, walking and moving right alongside the side effects of the lifesaving steroids. Kalina is a beautiful angel, she was a beautiful person. In her last months she had pain from headaches and skin that was stretching from steroids… changes she didn’t pick. So watching Soul Surfer she told my girls that it is hard to be without something we have had use of, that she used to be able to walk and get around. She told them it is hard to be used to something and have it be gone. She was a teenager, struggling with what she was missing and feeling sad about her markings and side effects. She was self-conscious that I would think she was boring because she fell asleep at the end of the movie. I will say- there is not one moment I thought she was boring never.ever.crossed.my.mind.

Kalina is no longer stuck in her body, her body that was laced with tumors and didn’t work the way she wanted and needed. She doesn’t get tired from just eating dinner, she doesn’t have super sensitive skin that has been stretched and marked from steroids. She doesn’t have to stay in bed only 40 feet from her sunny pool and not be able to swim. This fact can help a lot of hearts… but that big hunk of me has been cut out of me. There has been a big hunk of her Nanna and Poppa that is missing and many others. A part of me knows she is all good now, she is in a safe place. A part of me knows she is finally not broken and hurting. Yet, a huge part of me and others is broken and missing. Even if we know she is good and awesome and safe and comfortable- how does the world go on? How does the Earth still spin? How do people still grow and change and move and live? How do kids get to grow, adults get to laugh? Honestly I still don’t try to answer this… I just remind myself that we don’t get to pick the hard stuff, we get to love the good stuff… we get to love enough to miss. We get to lose a part of us when a person we love is gone… this is a gift. It sounds like a curse, but grief is a gift. To miss and grieve is to have loved and known and appreciated. What would it be like if we didn’t feel this grief…

Kalina, from the moment I met her, was unlike most teenagers. She has a mature demeanor, a boldness teens lack. She is not a person who would give into peer pressure, she would have grown into a 19 year old that only did things if they wanted to. She would not have said yes to drugs if someone told her they were cool, she would have thought about her own desire to try or whether it was worth it or not. Kalina loved her bands, she made me feel old and far from young culture. She talked about Paramore and her love for the band all.the.time. She loved band clothes, posters and articles. She loved the deep meaning of the music, the words that were written about life and hard and love and stories… not just the pop stuff that makes us move and smile. Kalina was funny and had a great sense of good entertainment. She built an extensive movie collection with her Nanna. I can only imagine, after the childhood Kalina had, having a set of grandparents who honored and loved you just.for.you. A set of grandparents who encouraged you to be you… who kept you safe and loved and surrounded in all the hard stuff. Kalina had that amazing ability to say ‘No’… something most women learn in their 30’s…

Kalina changed me. She made me fear teens and the future much less. She made me glad for the bold and honest that I work hard for my girls to carry (bold and honest shows in many ways… and usually means adults get a good workout in putting their foot down). I love that Kalina told me to bring her cheese ravioli, please. I didn’t have to waste my time grabbing pizza or subs… instead she told me what she likes. Kalina talked to me openly about her faith. She told me how people who put others down or argue about God are not paying attention… She was confused by people who don’t ‘know’ what we ‘know’. I get that… she talked about the things that she knows and how sure she is. It was a moment around her dining room table I will not forget. I don’t get to know Kalina’s big purpose, I don’t get to know why her, just as with Madeline… I only get to keep chugging and moving and living. I get to carry what she showed me, reassured me and built in me.

Life is not about how many moments in the end stand out as perfect and easy… but instead how many gouges we have had that get refilled. The good stuff is in the filling… the mercies and support- the herds are sent in to fill the gouges. When life takes a scoop out of us… the amazing part is what fills that scoop. That scoop feels physical, the wound that is left is open and hurts so much… it misses and it knocks us on our butts often… then it starts healing and filling.
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Our gouge, our scoop, leaves a scar. That scar is reminder of the awesome healing… the work and the support that filled that scoop. That scar is a reminder of our lovely… our amazing. That scar represents a story… my dad used to say that scars are patina… they are part of the story. Patina is the wear of life… patina on a dining room table is the markings from life- the pencils marks and spills of nail polish removed- the paint on the edges… just as our scars are patina on our lives. Life warrants patina, the best lives are full of wear… and I am proud of the scars and patina in my journey. I am proud of my scars, the ones that are inside me and the ones on the outside.

Kalina had her own journey, her own scars. She is forever a part of me, forever a part of many. Many lost a scoop of themselves when she left… we will keep her woven in our fabric and our hearts.

Finally feeling…

A long time ago I used to feel a lot for my friends and family. I felt happy for my friends happy and I felt sad or heavy for their heavy. I would try to support them and feed them and take care of kids when hard things happened… I would find little trinkets and quotes to help them in their hard or share in their joy. I remember the year I was pregnant with Lucy, 3rd in under 3 years. My friend, B, was also pregnant with her 3rd in under 3 years. She had a pile of boys and I had a pile of girls. We were ecstatic to be pregnant together and I remember taking turns watching one another’s kids while the other was at the doctor. After one of those appointments that I was watching the boys, I got the news that B had miscarried. It was one of the hardest moments, up to that point, that I have ever felt. I felt so guilty to still be pregnant, so sad for her and I felt her pain and loss. I felt her heavy. I did everything I could to help lift some of that heavy. I gave her quiet and made her get out. I tried to lift her, as did other friends, and get her family to a good place. Through those months we became closer and more vulnerable together. She miscarried 2 more times, both of which were heartbreaking for her and our group of friends. I saw her break over and over- it broke a lot of me. Seeing someone you love in raw pain is so hard. I felt her pain. In time I felt her joy when she became pregnant with the lovely little girl God gifted her. I felt her fear and her joy. When V was born I saw the happy and the relief, like B could finally breathe and know she was here, she was healthy and she was going to grow to be a lovely V.

Feeling the pain and joy and excitement and fear of our friends is important in real friendships and all relationships. We need to feel vulnerable, love, trust, safe and a knowledge that we can be forgiven. It is important with my daughters, my sisters and my friends. I used to be so in tune to feeling those things and good at responding. I felt for those friends, all the way inside my heart. I have missed that part of me.

When Madeline passed my body, heart and brain would not let me feel for others really. I wanted to, but it didn’t work. I went through the motions and tried to support the best I could. I did better working with families that I knew exactly what to do, arrange dinners, drop into the hospital, send cleaning businesses, mail a gift… set up best day ever’s. Inside myself though the main feeling, the ability to feel was not there. I had this patch of numb that I was mad at, but knew someday the numb would lift.

Lately I have felt some of that hurt, joy, excited, pain, loss and broken. I have felt bits of this and realized how much I missed it. My heart hurt for a friend who is going through similarish to me. She found out many untruths about her spouse and then many unfortunate and difficult circumstances happened after the truths surfaced. I felt a lot of pain and anger for her. I felt annoyed that so many people chose hurtful and mean paths that impact so many. I know in me I would never chose those things. I felt like I wanted to save her, to shield her from the days of breaking down while crying. I wanted to take away the driving and tears and need for sunglasses all.the.time. I wanted to pick her up and run her into next year… so she could be through all of this. I knew that this is part of her journey… she has to get to next year with support and finding things inside herself. That many people she meets this year will have no idea of what she was like before this… they will see a harder and maybe less friendly person. They might see her as someone who doesn’t believe in love or marriage. They will see her building the new her, that is so changed from the old her. All the parts of this are important for her, and the new her will be strong and kind and open and loving and believe in herself and love and her future. I know this because this is new me, old me didn’t know I could get here. I will feel her joy when I see her moving forward and building a new her, whatever that means for her and her family.

I felt much concern and hurt seeing one of my best.people.ever, one who supports me and carries me all.the.time, break as her son is struggling to grow up and be responsible for his life, body, mind and heart. I remind her over and over that she has raised an amazing boy, so kind and thoughtful inside. His façade right now is anything but that, but I know he is in there. Seeing her break over and over, seeing her family struggle has hurt. Sometimes we have to let people live and move and breathe and grow alone… to get to the next part by choosing to. My job is to support my lovely friend and help her maintain sanity and boundaries… and pray for her son. It was different to have that feeling that compassion for a friend, that ability to be intense and vulnerable with her. I have missed that.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not numb, have not been in a LONG time. I have felt sad, happy, missing, anger, broken, confused, joyful, excited, loved, hurting, nostalgic and new. I am moving past feeling so angry all the time. I like this part of me that is letting go of those hurts and means. I like the part of me that feels real happy for my girls- I wasted a lot of time feeling confused, broken and hurting… I missed some good memories wasting it on recent years junk. I think a better way to describe is that I was numb to others feelings while trying to figure out my own self and grief.

I have welcome this part of me back, I have missed it. I have felt like a failure for a long time not being able to be the friend and sister or family member I have known is in me. I also know I am not back to where I was, but I am closer. I am so different than before, I hope my knowledge and perspective will be gifts in supporting others and feeling solid compassion for my others. I know this is all part of the journey and the process and the building of me. I know this is all parts of the loss of Madeline and the safety nets my brain and heart have built. I love that some of the nets are loosening, knowing that my heart and brain are safe enough to feel and experience some of this again.

So much of this makes sense in the pile of grief and life and hurt… but even so it’s refreshing to feel a little bit of old me and who I was… I anticipate seeing how all of these threads weave into the me that I am building and is being molded. I appreciate all of the compassion and feeling, it’s a bit of old me I loved… it is a bit of me that I soooo missed.

Adventuresome

I keep seeing these wonderful signs and hashtags for wanderlust. I see it and I wish I were more bold and fearless with travel- more full of wanderlust. When I think about wanderlust, this new word in my vocabulary, I think of the super free and soulful travel that young or untied down people do. The travel that gets you on an adventure that could never happen at another moment in your life, when you pack a backpack with very little and just enjoy what is there… lightly carrying only memories, experiences and pictures. I see wanderlust as young, though I am sure it works for many who are not young, it is just so not the right now in my life. I wish very much I could be a wanderluster and bring my girls along… but it is so unrealistic with life.

Adventuresome… this is achievable. I grew up in a house that my family didn’t go on many vacations, by many I mean we went on one… one vacation. Instead we went on adventures all.the.time. We would go to festivals, markets, pumpkin patches, train rides and really neat playgrounds. My dad would hear about a maple making day and we would head up. It was not all crazy planned and it was flexible. We would go out for ice cream far from the normal and take the long way home a lot. I learned a good sense of direction and how to find yourself (sans GPS) when you are lost. We also happened upon the coolest things- one room school houses, old cars, Amish people and neat diners. We lived on little adventures and little excursions. It was not only good, it was enough.

Adventuresome… maybe the way I was made to be in the first place. I love a good adventure with my girls or friends. I love taking the long cut home or finding a cool new dive to eat at. I love hopping in my car and hoping we have all we need to head out and going on a trip to a new place and never feeling ‘lost’ when we were a little lost. I love trying out a bus or train or boat with the girls and sitting with them while they smile big and look at me. I love to share the ‘new’ with them. I love that I get to see them see new so often, it rocks. I also love that they seem to love this adventuresome bit of life too. They seem to love to explore big and small, new and scary. It makes me feel very good to know they are (hopefully) going to have that in them too.

I am adventuresome. I am bold enough to hop in the car and head to Buffalo with no notice for a Garth Brooks. I am brave enough to drive to Baltimore with my girls and figure a vacation out when we get there. I am exciting enough to head to the beach or find a playground when we are having a sad day. It is fun to get lost and try to set your sights on new stuff. It’s my favorite to find a new icecream place (and hope they accept more than cash) or a little farmers market… It is my favorite to experience the new stuff and adventures with my chicklets and family. I think it is a big gift in this life, the adventures and the new experiences.

I was driving back from the Metro Station near DC, back to my sister’s house, and I had this thought about wanderlust. I thought of all the great experiences all the young and bold kids have done and experienced. I felt a little tinge of sadness for never having done those big things. I felt this new word pop into my head to define this life of our experiences- Adventuresome. Maybe this is what I am… not a wanderluster, but adventuresome. I’ll take that. It is good, just right for now. I hope my girls look back and see and know our adventuresome experiences.

Adventuresome is a good place to be right now. It is a life full of beach days, playgrounds, funky diners, new scenery… I quite like it. Someday the girls and I will go all wanderlust and get soaking wet in the black sea, sky dive, hike to a peak, eat dinner with locals in many different countries and take a nap on some amazing island. I guess my wanderlust is different than the young ones, mine includes a nap. In the meantime we will enjoy our adventuresome selves… full our days with sunsets and beaches, little hikes, pit stops at betty beaver gas station, dinner’s at random diners with purple butterfly covered bathroom… and leaf collecting hikes in the fall. We will celebrate our adventuresome selves until we meet our wanderlusting selves…

Enjoy the adventure folks… step outside your normal, look at a day differently and try something new. It is invigorating and sometimes the challenge makes me feel so proud that I did it. New things can be scary- get a little scared. Try a fish dish or a new spice… whatever is new do it. We only have so much time here… get a little uncomfortable and enjoy the journey… the new, the little scary. Be adventuresome… wanderlust is right around the corner.