Thankful. Blessed. Surrounded.

Today is the day to reflect and file the details of yesterday- yesterday being a day of supreme blessings, a warmth of being surrounded and a comfort of new normal. Thanksgiving… one of the best days of the year- whether celebrated that day or another. A day to really love the blessings and specials in our life. Whatever life we are in we are blessed, whatever kind of day today or tomorrow is we are blessed. Thanksgiving is a day to see and think about the bits of amazing in each of our lives.

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My daughter Madeline is no longer here, but honestly she kind of is. She is in the surrounded and safe that my families and friends provided all.the.time. She is in the experiences that my girls and I have had in these past years. She is in the new normal, that is starting to feel regular and normal… and real. She is here. She is one of my favorite gifts and biggest blessings, even with the hard stuff.

Thanksgivings in my family were welcoming, loud and full. There were cousins galore, food cooked in vats (my grandma’s pots were more like vats…) and a table chock full of people. There were stories and laughs… there were drop in’s and people who stayed for hours. Everyone was always welcome, this was our normal growing up. We sat elbow to elbow and my grandpa said Grace, then we ate. The mashed potatoes were amazing, Aunt Bridget made casserole with no mushrooms, the turkey was special order sized… and the Greek bread was a staple (Irish didn’t master the bread). The days before Thanksgiving were spent in my grandmother’s kitchen peeling bags of potatoes, hoping that Aunt Mary K made cheese cake and Uncle Joe would come home. We would wear her aprons and help her… then hang out with Aunt Jane or whoever stopped for coffee. It was, for me, the most best way to spend a holiday.

Fast forward to life in the past few years… it hit me that Thanksgiving for my girls will never look like that. It used to make me sad… but what if their amazing memory isn’t supposed to be mine. So… I stopped being sad about it. I offered Matthew and his family to always have the girls for Thanksgiving, so the girls and I can travel on Friday and enjoy a weekend back home. I want my girls to have a regular tradition so they are not shipped back and forth… so they have a chance at their normal. What am I to do on Thanksgiving? Last year, with Maddie’s Mark herd, I tried to think about where we could be needed to help. I know on holidays so many volunteer, I wanted to find a niche that wasn’t full. I contacted Albany Med and got chuggin’ on Thanksgiving dinner at the Ronald McDonald room right inside the hospital. I reached out to my friends that were also experiencing a ‘new normal’ (i.e. newly divorced). Many local companies along with some amazing herd worked to create an amazing, warm and kind of normal holiday. We used our leftover take away’s from events and toiletries as care packages for families. This year the dinner was mostly donated by The Mallozzi Family, desserts were provided by a freakin’ cake artist- the Cake Architect. The room, the families, the ease… it was so warm and welcoming. It felt so normal.

These families, all faced with a different normal this holiday season, enjoyed a bit of normal. They sat around a table in a room that felt like home… they ate amazing food and laughed and shared. It felt so easy and so right… It was a great gift for my heart. I felt like got the privilege of using our messy, new normal’s as a way to connect and create a little bit of normal for many who were stuck in different. We cleaned the tables, cleared the dishes, helped when mother’s needed a hand… we added more drinks, swapped out the food when it was empty and took all the work out of the day for families. I felt how grateful they all were, but mostly I felt grateful to be there. I felt thankful for those families being there and being brave enough to join us. I felt happy for the bit of normal we were able to create for them.

It was amazing and special and beautiful. There is a part of me that hurts knowing the pain and stress those families are feeling and faced with. I wanted to hug away much of it… but this is their journey, their family. We are here to support, but I can not fix theirs any more than I can fix my life. Maybe… the gift is in remembering we can’t fix it, only build better, love what we have and change what we can.

It was a day of new normal. I felt content and surrounded. I didn’t spend all day missing my girls, but instead filled the day with amazing people and loved seeing my girls in the end. I spent the day delivering dinner, grabbing a Thanksgiving glass of wine and making my mom try tzecki and hummus… then visiting Madeline. Only Madeline would love us always and anyway for our crazy. She unites and builds… she is amazing and special.

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Thanksgiving ended with my girls loved and surrounded at the movie theater… followed by the playing of some fun games at home and crashing. It is all about balance in this life. Balancing the positive next to the hard. Living with the hard and loving it anyway… recognizing and loving the new normal. I loved Thanksgiving, it isn’t even done yet. Tomorrow my family, which is far too big for most dining tables, will squash together and eat dinner… just like when I grew up. New normal isn’t so bad… it is pretty amazing actually. I am grateful for new normal, every.single.bit of it.

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