Feeling the snow…

Today is one for the memory jogging. This time of year is full of traditions and memories, I see it around me, I feel it and my feed on Facebook shows me exactly where I was on this day… 5 years ago, 6 years ago and maybe even 7. It is a gift to get to see those moments in time, it makes me smile to read some of those old posts. I worked out all.the.time, utilized the YMCA daycare every like clockwork and had a pretty normal schedule. I laugh because back then I looked forward to the times that my kids didn’t need preschool pickup, but instead I got to watch them in dance class or playing baseball. I used to look ahead and look forward to the next part of this parenting gig. Time changes and life is forever different in just 5 years…

Today it snowed. Today was a little like those old days, I got to the YMCA and did a nice workout. I ran some errands and got home for lunch. I wanted to stop and grab lunch but I went home and warmed up soup instead. I sat down, all alone, at the dining room table and I watched it snow outside. It felt like a day 5 or 6 years ago… quiet at my lunch time while the girls napped the afternoons away. I just sat there for a while, knowing that I had Halloween costumes to finish and bills to pay. I smiled and then moved on. I love those bits of nostalgia.

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I saw the picture from 5 years ago on my Timehop feed, it was of Amelia and Lucy sitting watching out the window at the first bit of snow that year. We were waiting for Madeline’s bus and snuggled. I am sure the house smelled like it does today, cinnamon and apple. I had probably already gotten dinner in the over and I believe our costumes were done. I had completed the cowgirl, cupcake and horse, and we were going to hanker down and watch TV together. I remember the excitement when we got snow… from my girls and when I was little. It was a big deal, like the first sunny warm day in spring. It was the opener of snow mountains and sledding and making snow houses. Today I saw that excitement again, in my Lucy. She just could not wait to pick up the snow and make snow balls. She and Amelia are outside playing now, the difference between now and 5 years ago is that I can sit all warm and snuggled on my fluffy couch while they play. It just makes me smile to see that excitement…

Life is so different now. Sitting at the table in the quiet… it was real alone quiet, not the kind I used to have where at any moment the mailman could ring the doorbell and a Musto Chick would awaken. I sat by myself, thinking about how it felt like back then but it so wasn’t… There are only 2 jackets to replace this year. It’s been almost 5 years since I have had to tuck 3 girls into bed and watch my shows. It has been 5 years since I got to make the coolest costumes for 3 people. The girls I care for now are independent and can do so much without me, gone are the years of having to get bundled up and go outside with them. I don’t have to parent them like I used to… I get real just me alone time. Man I wanted that back then… and I love that time right now. I wonder if I knew I would love it as much as I do?…

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Life isn’t what it was, but it is what it is… it is missing and it is full, all those mixes of feelings and change. I love my todays, I love my yesterdays and I honestly look forward to the tomorrows. God has been kind to me, gifting memories and support and love and my girls… my sir and my quiet days. The girls came in from the snow to hot cocoa some pumpkin muffins from the oven (I felt nostalgic enough to bake today…). Lucy asked if Madeline liked snow, if I remember going outside with them to play in the snow. She asked me if I remember sitting together and watching Ellen… and I know that Madeline bugged her baby sister to let me know today was from her. Thank you darling. Thank you for being the most amazing person to miss, I am grateful for all the time we had to adventure together…

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The Ways We Miss…

Missing is complex. I know in my family the ways we miss are different, they have been since we started missing Madeline. Some need quiet, some need hugs, others need people and noise… some need to go back to places while others need to put it behind them. I have noticed so much in these years… the biggest thing being- the missing never ends.

Missing is forever. We don’t miss things as much when we know we can see them again. Last year our friends moved home to Germany, a big family move. We said goodbye, we helped clear out the boxes and we moved on. I smile at the messages and pictures we get and I wonder how they are doing. I kind of miss them. Let me explain, so I don’t sound like an ice-cold-lady. I know they are okay, going to school and growing… I know they are exploring and enjoying life in Germany. The only thing between us is an ocean. It is very doable to see them, if I had extra money. So I miss seeing them often, but I don’t miss them like I would if they were gone.

I miss Madeline all.the.time. I mean how can you not? 1/3 of the ones I gave birth to is not here, and is farther than 15 oceans away… she is my lifetime away. I miss Madeline. I can never feel her skin, touch her hair, look at her smile, see her eyes, pinch her butt or give her a butterfly kiss. Madeline is missed differently. While others grow and change and become, she has done all the becoming she can, she has grown the tallest she will and she will forever be unaltered (for good and bad). I see missing just this way, missing a big hunk of me- of myself. Madeline carried that piece with her, maybe she is floating up in heaven taking care of her peeps with a little piece of my heart and her sisters.

Some people miss in a secluded way, I don’t think I have fallen into this category often. I tend to find people that build me better and boost my energy. I tend to try to dive right into pain, I know pain is never wasted. I also know that pain and missing are both important and connected roads on this journey. I have said this before, how could I not hurt or miss? I have the most amazing person to miss…

I tend to like to jump into situations and see them now. I like to sit in places that I have memories of LB (Life Before). I like to sit in the seats Madeline did, or that I can see the girls as they grew. I love to go to Western Diner and let myself remember the last time we were there. I let myself go to the parks and see my mind show me Madeline in the swings. I love hearing her voice when I remember her riding around in circles singing. I love to be in places I know she touched, though they have surely cleaned all of her cells and DNA from their spaces- there is some of her there.

Last week when I went home to the Lake, a place that always brings my big missing back to Madeline. On this trip I missed Madeline tons and I felt empty travelling without Amelia and Lucy. Some parts of divorce really suck and always will. I decided to stop at the place where I first hear Madeline utter the words ‘Best Day Ever’. I had been working lately on a project that really dives into that night in December 2011 that our family enjoyed a great dinner pre-Christmas celebration, just the 5 of us. I remember it so clearly, the wood, the atmosphere and the feelings. It was a great night of dinner with 3 little ones that ended really well. It felt right to be in that very spot that night…

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On my trip back home to Lake Ontario, all.by.myself, I decided to stop there and see that restaurant, to see that booth we sat in. I wanted to see if it was as I remembered, if I could be closer to Madeline there. I parked and wandered in, in my yoga pants and messy piggy. I decided not to care about that part… and I sat at the bar. I wanted to order the dessert the girls loved there, but I order soup instead. I looked around and felt that feeling. I stared at the corner booth we sat at and took it in. It’s so strange to think that the last time I was in that room Madeline was alive, excited for Christmas and herself. We all were. I felt my missing right there, in a beautiful warm room surrounded by complete strangers. I let myself go right back to that night and I listened as people spoke of Hurricane Matthew. I just took it in. I kept some of that energy from that room and that warmth. I wanted it to keep, even though it hurt. I finished the drive home and cried deep and hard. I played the music that helps me get deep in the grief and missing… I went back to those moments, all the while driving on Lewis County back roads…

Lucy misses Madeline often, openly. She has been bringing me home some of the most beautiful drawings, with Madeline as a 10 year old and rainbows. She talks to me about things she can remember and begs for more for her brain to remember. She hurts and she loves. It isn’t weird for Lucy to tell a complete stranger that I had 3 babies, she has 2 sister- but one is dead. She is honest and blunt and it is her way. I encourage it, I love it and I blush when she corners a stranger with her story…

Amelia misses differently altogether. She struggles when she feels that missing, she worries about not keeping it together in front of others. I love to hear her talk about Madeline, it is beautiful. She does it more quietly, a little behind the scenes. Sometimes Amelia’s missing comes out as stress, maybe that is in me too. Sometimes it takes her a bit to know that it is missing that is altering her mood and days… it is her way.

We all do it differently, that is a good thing. Imagine if we did it the same… if we missed the same. What a world that would be, lacking all the beauty of grief and the differences. I know that how we feel our missing and grief is a big part of us, it is in us. Some need to dive in and some need to skate across the vast ocean of grief, some see the missing as the same as all missing and others understand my missing. It is kind of like Eskimos, I hear they have several words for snow, all of the different kinds of snow. I see that there are different missing’s but our vocabulary has yet to give them all names.

So when you hear someone talk about missing know that there are lots of kinds, lots of ways… missing is a personal thing. Know that to me and mine, missing is different than ‘wishing someone close well’. In my heart I know how I miss, how I like to dive in and see those places and spaces… how I live to be in those places she touched. I wish always that there was just one more fingerprint or Madeline bit of dust… but I know that is the missing. There is no more of that, no more new hence the real missing. The bit of me that Madeline made me, is really missing. Amelia and Lucy are missing a part of their selves… it isn’t an ocean away but our lifetime away.

Madeline, I felt you. I know you were in that warm restaurant that night… I know you were in that corner giggling and eating your fancy dinner. You were in my moment, as you are in so many… I look forward to the day that I miss you no more… but I look forward to the adventures your sisters and I get to bring you along on. You are our passion, our missing. I know how it hurts to dive into those places, but my darling you are worth the pain. You are my joy, even if it takes pain to feel those moments of joy.

Amazing Abby and beyond…

Sometimes we get the chance to be a part of something important and powerful, something that comes together and is meant to be. I love it when it happens… it helps remind me of the importance of this work. I get to stand in the presence of families who are and have lived through some extremely difficult times. It is a gift to get to be there in those moments…

Yesterday, after months of planning and looking forward to, Abby Sayles took her last Chemotherapy pill. Abby, a 5 year old kindergartener, was diagnosed with Leukemia approximately 2 ½ years ago and has undergone countless procedures, spinal taps, poison drugs and extremely hard times. It has impacted every part of her daily routine and family. Imagine appointments, hospital stays, fear, managing a family and enough pills for a lifetime… and that is just the beginning. Abby’s normal has been anything BUT ‘normal’. Though, even without the difficult, Abby is beyond ‘normal’ and ordinary… that girl is extraordinary.

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So many see that lovely girl for the journey she has travelled these past few years, but I see her differently. I don’t see her as a Cancer kid, even though she rocked her bald head and tiara when I first met her. I see that girl for her spirit and her energy. Her ability to say no and stand up for what she wants… though that will not always be a fun trait imagine what a skill that will be in her grown years. I see a future that will change the world, as a chef or a doctor or a nurse or a janitor. God made her for something big. I was asked yesterday if Abby reminded me of my daughter Madeline… I answered honestly- Not at all. Madeline has a totally different and powerful energy. Madeline had a peace, an old soul kind of energy. Madeline had the most compassionate heart, and I am sure it would have taken Madeline as long as it has taken me to build the ability to ‘no’. Abby will move mountains and reach goals, that are just for her to do. Seeing her dance boldly in front of EVERYONE and bring others into her dance… seeing her watch a dancer as she performed her dance ‘just for Abby’… and after all that watching her as she took her last Chemo pill, a sip of water and then jumped up and down with 100 people right there- remind me of how we are all made the way we should be. Madeline for her job, Abby for hers…

Last night was one of those nights that remind me of my job in all of this… connecting. A Best Day Ever that just comes together and is smooth and beautiful, is the product of some good connecting. People are awesome… they really are. I love when I can connect great people to roles that they can help me create Best Day Evers. I know it feels great to use my skills and others to help a family really enjoy their time when life is really difficult. I am in awe of the generosity of many people and businesses, it reassures me of our jobs here. Last night, Abby’s Best Day Ever was a product of amazing people- businesses. So many go to stand around Abby and witness her milestone in her cancer journey- the celebration of entering her new normal… and that wasn’t possible without people that gifted time, space and skills. I stressed for weeks about a place to have this party, Abby’s mom wanted it outside and it was October… something that felt like home. I searched for places big enough… it is a hard find. One day I had this thought… I knew it was a long shot… but I called Liberty Ridge. The owner was awesome and very excited to work on this with us… I knew my brain’s idea had come from The Big Guy. So we had a start… then I secured catering from Century House (they are always kind to our families)… and I had a few details to finish up. Elizabeth Fox Photography and a cake from Corleen Wilson Cakes… all amazing people with great skills that stepped up and offered their gift- their service. I got my dancer to prep for Abby’s dance, and she rocked it. I spent a lot of time worrying about the.perfect.favor. I wanted something the guests would keep and remember, but I felt like I didn’t want a photo. I kept coming back to a drawing of Abby. I woke up one morning with the image in my brain- so I bugged my graphic artist friend, Greg. I sent him a picture of Abby on her first day of Kindergarten, I told him I could see her holding pink balloons and letting go of the gold ones. I thought that the symbolism would be a great reminder and the image would be a great memory.

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I love how ALL.OF.IT.TURNED.OUT… it was a Best Day (night) Ever. Renee, Abby’s mom, told me she doesn’t know how to thank me. I told her it isn’t me, and I know in me that it isn’t. I am just the connector. I stood in that room with an amazing staff that spoiled our Best Day Ever family and we all stood together with our love and gifts and hope for Abby. I am just the loud lady who helps make the phone calls, emails and connections- the rest is the best people ever. I am glad we were entrusted with the honor of capturing and sharing Abby’s Last Chemo. I am honored to share that moment and this milestone… I pray that she uses her big gifts to change this, to share this and to enjoy her life BIG.

I also want to thank the ones that come along for the ride… I know I tend to be a rollercoaster of ‘adventures’… like help me pick up a cake (ps it has a tower…) and mixing up dates… I am grateful for the ones who join me in my pile of adventures and the lack of organization or shall we say trust in the outcome?

I.am.a.grown.ass.woman.

Be lovely, do amazing. That is what I say and think regularly. I fail often, but I try. I try to take care of me and do important and good things. I feel like my mantra is still true in the person I have become through all of these difficulties and challenges. I remember when those words came to me, I know I needed them big back then. I need them now, but I am built differently now. I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but I don’t need that reassurance as often. I might be stronger or more mature… maybe I love my own self more, I don’t know. I do know that in recent months I have added a little extra to that mantra, to that little builder. I.am.a.grown.ass.woman.

I try to start each day with my 4 word mantra, right after the ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’ prayer. I mean before I can be lovely or do amazing; I better thank The One that gifted me just one more day and moment to keep being lovely and doing amazing. In recent months I have tacked onto those important daily routines and acknowledgements “I.am.a.grown.ass.woman”. I think I forget that often in this life of growing up. I never consider myself a grown up.

I always looked at the future as the time I would ‘grow up’… but I know I had a different vision of a ‘grown up’ back then. I saw growing up as becoming successful, wearing business clothes or maybe wearing Danskos and scrubs while helping patients… I saw it as being able to buy fancy coats and shopping at Macy’s or Lord and Taylor. I have never considered myself a grown up. It could be a deep part of my insecurities in myself, I am sure it is. I was always waiting to be a ‘grown up’… like it is someone I can just wake up and be someday.

I.am.a.grown.ass.woman. I am… mostly. I know I am, but I also see my self shrink to a smaller and less important me more often than I wish. I remind myself of who I am, what I love, where I am in life… I tell myself I.am.a.grown.ass.woman. I am told by my favorite’s that I am just that. My counsellor might even use those exact.same.words. I know this about me, but I fail. I try, but I fail. I still wake up and remind myself. I encounter others who feel like me, who let people talk to them like they are small… I tell them YOU.ARE.A.GROWN.ASS.WOMAN. I tell them what I know, but I fail sometimes to believe it in me. I am trying…

A few months ago I sat in my car as I got yelled because I was late for something. I let myself sit and hear someone talk to me like I was little and small and unimportant. I never should have. It isn’t good for me, and it crosses boundaries that I have worked so hard to maintain. It isn’t weird for me to get reprimanded, but I am working on my reaction or allowance of it happening to me. I need to hang up, walk away and control what happens better. I know this. That night after getting yelled at I felt weak and heavy… I called my Laurel and she said “Erin you are a grown ass woman”… write it down, repeat it. I was reminded to hang up and not take that energy. I have been trying. I am in a better place, I feel, after reminding myself of this mantra.

I look at what I want my girls to do in this situation. I don’t want them to shrink and take those words to heart. I don’t want them to be damaged and broken… so I am trying EVEN harder. I want them to see me as a grown.ass.woman. I want them to grow up and be amazing, strong grown.ass.women.

I see other woman and girls take that junk… from friends, coworkers, boyfriends, parents and spouses. Let’s try to train our brain to say “I am a Grown ASS Woman”… I can stand up and I can control this situation. Who knows, maybe we should fake it ‘til we make it. I do know that is never okay or good for us to let ourselves hear those words, feel those feelings or open ourselves to that energy.

So, stand up. Repeat after me “I am a Grown ASS Woman”… I got this. I can be firm and strong and me. I don’t need to open myself up to another’s words if they are just meant to hurt me or make me feel small. I don’t need to let myself break more… I need to build me better.

I am a Grown Ass Woman, I bet you are as well. You know who you are, you know the people and the words and the feelings… you know how that breaking down feels. You sit and let yourself hear that negative energy on the phone or read them in texts… Stand up lovely, you got this.

Welcome tiny rainbow…

In the middle of the storm it is so hard to see your way out, to see a good thing to come. While we work to just get by in those very trying times, we struggle to see that it can be light- then comes the rainbow.

After the hardest, darkest and most difficult storms… many times we get to stand in the light and see that beautiful gift, that rainbow. I am a firm believer in joy and pain- the way they ride right next to each other. Life is amazing laced with pain- then comes the rainbow.

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My daughter loved rainbows, they were her favorite color. She drew them over and over… and I know that they are little gifts for me when my world is dark. She was busy leaving her mark for me when I needed it, she is my rainbow. I wish that my rainbow had a little Madeline sitting there for me, but I know that the end of the rainbow looks different for me. My rainbow ends in heaven.

For many months so many have awaited and prayed for a tiny little rainbow. We watched almost patiently as he grew week by week… and month by month. We got to feel the joy and pain, the excitement laced with fear… as his brave mom shared her journey to meet her rainbow. My heart rejoiced and hurt when we found out Tiny was a boy, I felt that fear and excitement for her as she and her husband enjoyed their baby showers. It broke my heart to know how many times that didn’t happen for her… to see it happen was very special. We waited to know how tiny Tiny might be… or what name he would get to put on his kindergarten registration and resume. Joy and pain, it is the way of life. So many blessings come out of the ashes of loss and hurt.

Tiny Bish came to join us out here in this crazy world. He already started to fill his niche and purpose, he started that early in his journey. He is a little miracle that we all cheered and prayed right along with his parents to meet. What a mess he is entering into, politics and unrest… hate. Oh but- what a family he is entering into, he will grow with love and tolerance and compassion and his rainbow story… to be the best person he should be. His parents and family and community- the same ones that prayed so hard to meet him will help build him to not feed hate, to change our world and to enjoy life with all of its joy and pain.

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Welcome to this crazy world Dominic. We have been waiting for you. Your momma has bravely shared her journey to meet you with us, and I know that this part of your story will build you to be a very special human. Enjoy this ride… this crazy, beautiful, broken, painful, perfect and joyful ride… for it is your ride. You my dear were born for this very ride… watch for your rainbows, jump over those puddles, grab hold of The Big Guy during those storms…

This is your ride, enjoy it not-so-tiny-Tiny-Bish… aka Dominic Alexander Bish.

Gone…

Gone is September, a time spent with almost endless opportunities to talk about Madeline and Gold and cancer and change. Here we are in October, still here. I woke up this morning, made toast and fed our Zoo of pets and got the girls onto that big yellow bus that I love… then got a nice workout in and ran errands. It is just October. Today is just a normal day, you know a life goes on kind of day…

Life goes on. Life moves. The world spins all.the.time as we lap the sun and soon a year goes by. In a year there are all those jobs and tasks in the normal- make coffee, clean the kitchen, put the kids on the bus, feed the dog, run errands, make dinner… normal world stuff. To most this crazy effed up world is normal, the spinning and changing and growing and orbiting and moving. I still am shocked that it moves, that it spins, that one more year will just keep passing by. Earth has lapped the sun almost 5 times since I last felt her… 5 years have almost flown and slugged by. Crazy isn’t it?

How did this world continue without that lovely dimple, the smile and giggle of my chick… how does 5th grade still happen if she is not in it? How does it work still to eat a family dinner when our family is so small? How does the bus come and not sit and wait for her, wait for her like it waits for Amelia as she skips down the road? How do we keep acquiring adventures and changes- when she isn’t here to see and feel and try with us?

I guess the answer is that the bus driver doesn’t even know to wait for her, 5th grade doesn’t even know who they are missing without her… our table feels empty but we still must eat dinner and check in on days… and what is life with no adventures. We still must explore and learn and live without her. I know it is that we are living FOR her, exploring FOR her, learning FOR her… we are moving FOR her. I know this. I tell myself this over and over… then I forget and wonder.

She is gone. She is not an earth dweller, a human. She is no longer here for adventures, skinned knees, lectures about strangers, pushing to do spelling homework and get to dance class on time. She doesn’t need to eat dinner with us, I don’t even have to force her to eat her broccoli or to eat her salad too. She doesn’t need to catch a bus or go to school or stay after for band. She is not here anymore, not for our normal.

I would give anything for her to be here, but that isn’t the plan. She is gone, gone but not forgotten. I can’t say it feels better to know that many here her story, many carry her with them… but it helps her missing not feel so empty. Standing in so many groups in September and talking about her… all of her, her life, her laugh, her spirit- not just her cancer. It helps me feel and know she is here, doing her job. She isn’t gone, gone… I just can’t hug her or make her breakfast and get her ready for school. My job is different. I am here to take care of my girls that are here and take care of Madeline in the only way I can anymore, with memories, words, work and sharing. So I work, live, move, grow, change… all because life keeps moving and the world keeps spinning and years keep going by…

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Anger is armor.

It’s been a long few years, with a lot of life squashed into a relatively small amount of time. Sometimes it can all be so heavy, but mostly I feel like I have let go of the heavy. I have done a lot of letting go, a lot of forgiving and seeing what I can change- which is me and my reactions. In fact I tell myself regularly that the only thing I can control is my own self and my own reaction to a situation. This summer I feel like I allowed myself to let go of many things, I didn’t overfill my time with crazy fun or take on too many projects… I just kind of sat in it all.   Some days I could almost feel the send off and the lightening in my spirit. I felt myself handing this angry off…

Anger is heavy. It is expensive in life, and it rarely gives way to positive. When we use anger as our compass our lives are laced with many more challenges and hurdles. Anger is a feeling that needs to be felt, but it should not overtake our life and energy. I let myself be mad for a long time. Honestly, I sit now and feel grateful for all those things that made me so mad, so angry. I am content and happy, I am lighter and more me. If it all didn’t happen the way that it did, I wouldn’t get to be in this very spot. Sometimes, I need to let myself feel some mad or sad or disappointed- but I am generally done with it. I am don’t with the mad, I released the anger.

I have been reflecting lately though about some differences in my ability to not feel some of those insecure bits. I let myself feel anxiety or pressure from others, in doing so I am listening to the condescending remarks and soul breakers. Sometimes I am believing them about me. I am hearing and internalizing things that make me feel little. I get so mad at myself for this, I think about how far I have come and how I have built myself. I began to feel that it would be easier to just be angry again. I thought about my firm boundaries when I have anger to help enforce them.

This morning my thoughts FINALLY came together and made sense. I love when that happens. Anger makes great armor. Anger makes fences stronger, makes our shell harder to poke and hurt. In letting go of anger I let go of my armor, my safe zone. I am left to build me differently, to firm up those boundaries with my own self worth, my own confidence and knowledge. I need to strengthen my fence and my shell with just me, no anger no mad. I have spent the last few months giving away my sword and my chain meal… I have handed my battle gear to The Big Guy. I am standing in this spot, pretty exposed and slightly naked. I need to reclothe myself…

In this I know that what I build must keep that anger out of my boundaries… but it must build me stronger so I can brush off the menial stuff. I want to build my fence in self worth and love and confidence… in truth and genuine. I want to stand clad in my new self armor stronger and empowered. I need to build up new armor, or maybe just a shield to deflect those hurts that are hard to hear.

I do know that today I had a mini epiphany, the eye opener kind. I can look and see growth and failure, but it is all a good thing. Seeing it helps me do it better… I like this slightly naked not-really-angry me. She has let go of those people and their choices knowing that she can do it better… she can live well.