How old am I again???

I remember when I was growing up I would ask adults how old they were, they would sometimes have to stop and think… sometimes they were even wrong. I could not for the life of me understand how someone could forget their age, or not think their upcoming birthday was a BIG deal. I thought it was even weirder when upcoming birthdays came with anxiety and dread. Growing up birthdays were a big deal, one special day a year that was just for you.

I miss that part…

I have become one of those old people… for the first time I could not remember if I was 35 or 36. I honestly has to do the math… 1982 to 2018- but not yet my birthday. I was lucky if someone asked me in front of Amelia, she would tell me my correct age. I don’t know why my brain forgets it, I could make excuses about grief and forgetfulness. I should be honest though, I don’t really think about it anymore. I don’t get all excited about my birthday month and the day that is just for me. I don’t own that piece of me anymore… it evaporated or disappeared. I can look back now and see that the piece of me that evaporated correlates with the loss of my naive side. I guess in all of this becoming a grown up I lost my favorite part of me, the magical side.

Today is my birthday, my 36th birthday. I remember thinking that 36 must feel really old, but here I am not feeling much older than 32 or 27. I joke that I am 52 in life experiences, I mean look at my life. How many 36 years old’s have 3 girls, an angel, a divorce, non-profit… it feels like it should have taken longer to get to this place. I guess it should have…

Today started like many days off from school, snuggled on the couch watching TV with Lucy. She snuck upstairs and scared the heck out of me, I don’t think I have any more heck in me. Meme is sleeping, when she gets up they plan to make me breakfast. I got a silly wakeup call from my little nephews. I am trying to plan out our day and evening. I am going to go put some time in on my elliptical and then figure out our day.

I am thinking maybe a movie, maybe a new tattoo, definitely some Bomber’s tonight. Tomorrow I got tickets to Mid-Evil Times in New Jersey. I can’t wait to see their faces, and I can.not.wait to see the show. On Sunday we will celebrate Easter ❤… one of my favorite days of the year.

35, I mean 36, is going to be a good year. I am sure it will be 365 days of happy, sad, new, old, joy, pain, growth, change and all that comes with the trip around the sun. I am grateful, for all of it. This year I am going to make it a point every.single.morning to say the most important prayer of all- from the words of my favorite author Anne Lamott- “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

All we can ever be is grateful for the person we are and be true to who we are made to be. I am grateful for it all, for my last trip around the sun and for the next one to come… I wonder how many trips around the sun God has written into my story…

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Lovely Green…

Luck of the Irish to you all, today and all days. Saint Patrick’s Day has always held a special spot in my memories. To most the celebrations would be a little thing, but I looked forward to those celebrations like I did Christmas and General Brown Days. I loved the church pot luck on St. Patrick’s Day… it was the best. I don’t recall who made it, but there was an old woman who made the best macaroni and cheese. I can still taste it if I think hard. I loved it… surrounded by the families we went to church with. I loved writing on the chalk boards and sneaking into Sister Norah’s room and seeing what we could get into. Every year, as long as it wasn’t cancelled we went to the St. Patrick’s Parade. I remember watching my Uncle Sean march with the Troopers, sometimes seeing my Aunt’s and Uncle represent with the Watertown Police. We would watch the parade, always right by the Paddock Arcade, in the bitter cold. Whoever had a young baby we would pass around that bundled up lil’ leprechaun. We clapped for every.single.group that marched by… always wanting to support those parade marchers.

We would head to the State Office Building and get warmed up. I remember always going over to Uncle Sean and saying ‘hi’ to the Troopers. Then we would travel around and check out the goodies… Molly always loved the potatoes. I mean we all did, but she loved the salt potatoes and big freakin’ bowl of butter. I would check the schedule and head into the auditorium and watch the Irish Step Dancers, and then wander around to the Irish bands and Bagpipes. With a name like Erin, I felt pretty important there… I miss that.

I so miss that… but today is today and life is different. I can’t recreate for my daughters what I was lucky to have- only create something for them to love forward. I wish so much that they knew my grandma, they are lucky to know my nana. My grandma and grandpa were what I imagine the stereotypical Irish couple would grow to be, back in the day, when we didn’t all end up divorced. I try to bring them along in what I do- but I know Madeline is hanging with them. I remember growing up and watching my grandparents dance to Irish music, or pretty much any music. I still can hear them bicker… I am forever grateful for how they helped to build me. I am forever grateful for the moments, memories, smells, laughs, songs and beyond that they contributed to my story.

Today is a day that I miss home, and past times. I can’t fix that, but I can build different. I want to create something for my girls… I set out to. The leprechaun came, and pissed me off. He makes such a mess… and got real food coloring on the toilets seat… for the next few months we will have green on the toilet. I know the girls love those things, and to make it more believable I beg them to ask him not to come. I tell them what an asshole he is… leaving a mess for me to clean. I think they will believe in him more than Santa… because I hate him ❤. Then we woke up and went on ‘Adventure Day’… we weren’t allowed to say ‘no’ to trying something. I definitely got roped into buying a Lego set and LOL doll, since I could not say no. We went to breakfast at a new place, then headed on an adventure. I wasn’t sure if it would be good…

We found a new tradition…

There was a festival at the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, shepard’s pie… dancers… bagpipers, raffles and a bake sale. <Heaven>. Listening and tapping along to the Irish music, tasting the shepard’s pie and enjoying my girls was perfect. It was just right…

We hung out, then came home to watch P.S. I love you. It’s a little different but I think the girls will get it. It might be a terrible idea, but I think not. I guess we will see. In a little while the girls go to Matthew’s and our adventure day is done. I hope they have good memories. I hope that someday they look back and they love our own little story. I hope they are proud of the stories we live, the heritage that is in them. I hope that they know the importance of simple things, things like family, pot lucks, love, life and smiling.

 

 

PS… One of the best songs today was Paddy Murphy  and it really touched me… in the way that we grieve and honor death. We Irish celebrate life…

 

Bald and beautiful…

Imagine… on a cold, sunny Sunday afternoon watching like a bazillion (ok, fine like 29) firetrucks bring the heroes from Albany Med. Imagine little kids jumping or being helped out of the Firetruck onto a red carpet to the song Brave. Imagine those same kiddos smiling and feeling the love there for them. It was pretty spectacular, pretty special.

Today I was watching many kids jump off or being helped from the firetrucks. I watched their smiling faces and the cheers for them. I watched their Moms and Dads and siblings with them, all of them feeling the pride and love from that crowd. I stood in that sunny and cold parking lot and watched the miracles wander into that firehouse. What a feeling…

As I stood there and watch children leave the trucks, I listened to the sirens… I felt all that those miracles felt. Right there alongside those kids and the beautiful they brought to my sight was pain. Seeing those kids who have experienced IT all, is the pain and hurt that comes with cancer. Today was rejoicing, yesterday and last week and a year ago and 5 years ago was pain. I rarely cry… but I stood there in the cold and my eyes leaked. I saw Ayven, Avery, Abby, Reagan, Cooper, Emily, Gracie, Dylan and more… I saw today and I saw the before. I felt both. I felt the joy of seeing those kids be well, and the pain of seeing them in the pain that cancer brought to their lives. I know their pain, not because Madeline felt it. She left with very little cancer pain, she is fine now. I know their pain because I have watched it, I have tried to support their families and I have tried to help. I stood there and felt a wave of crying… crying for the happy and joyful. I was crying for the life those kids have today… I was crying for the time they spent stuck in a hospital, for the surgeries they had, the treatments that took them to the edge of death and back again. I saw those kids with hair, after seeing them years before with hair, with pale skin.

After an amazing parade and some bagpipes, it was time to shave. I stood and talked to families and watched as some braver souls chose to shave. Dylan braved the shave, as a survivor. Then the next round was a Melodies Doctor… and a mom I follow on Facebook. Her daughter passed this year. I can only imagine what it is like to shave all of our hair off… I wish I were brave enough. I stood on right there with my girls, and watched that mom. I cried. I stood behind two Albany Med Child Life Specialist’s, who had cared for Ava. I stood behind them, as I watched Ava’s mom being shaved to share her daughter’s story. I cried. I know her loss. I know what cancer can do. I know what this ‘loss of child life looks like’ it sucks. It is light and bright and okay… then it is a big pile of crap and hard. I have longed to meet her… today I did.

I felt a lot today. I don’t normally. I think my life and job make me numb to a lot. I need to find a place of not-so-numb. I rarely feel the BIG emotions anymore. I felt it all today. I could not make conversation well. I could not think fast. I could not stop looking at Cooper and Dylan and thinking God is Good.

I can’t wait for a Vanity Plate for my car… with the Childhood Cancer Logo. I keep thinking ‘FU DIPG’ but odds are I will get a softer plate. Cancer fucking sucks. It really does. All the way around.

Feeling is hard.

Feeling hurts.

What would it be like if Madeline lived to be a child at St. Baldrick’s? What if she were here longer? What if she got to get off those trucks? What if I wasn’t a cancer mom who had an angel to bring along? What if I got to see her ride that truck, and smile while she ran in to the song ‘brave’? I fucking miss her. I felt it today. I cheeks missed those tears.

I could barely compose a clear thought after seeing those kids march into the Fire Station. I could barely find the words to converse with other parents. I entered the world of feeling… one that I avoid far too often. It was a light dark, a lovely hurt, a beautiful broken… just like life. I felt more than I had in a long time.

Today was lovely. Today was light. Today was filled with heroes and herd. The best kind of day. The brutifullest kind of day…

 

Lent and Burdens…

Any lesson that starts with “Crap I forgot the cans… Lucy go find some can’s”… has to be a good lesson, right?

This week we talked about the Stations of the Cross, The Passion of Christ- to 3rd graders. I try really hard to make the lessons not only memorable- but tangible. I know when I learn things the best way to learn them is when I can almost feel the lesson- touch it. I try to bring that into teaching the littles about God and how I know Him. I joke about why I took on teaching Faith to Lucy’s age, that I would be taking a nap anyway, but honestly, I felt a challenge to make knowing God easy for those kids.

I take that job pretty serious.

This season is very important not only in the Catholic Calendar, Easter is a time to reflect on the most painfully beautiful time in the calendar. I guess I love when pain rides right next to beauty, I love how joy lives right next to broken.

The lesson…

I wanted those kids to get it, to feel a little of what Jesus had to feel. Lent is a compilation of sacrifice and celebration, every time you say ‘no’ to a piece of chocolate or wine, you think about Jesus and all of the hardship He carried. The lesson was the most important part of Easter- the Passion. The sacrifice was beyond all of those we give up in Lent. The pain is heavier, the burden bigger and the intensity higher on those hours. I get that… but how do you share this with 3rd graders?

“Crap where are the cans…” I realized I forgot my 14 or 16 cans, I left them at home. I did bring the packets for each child on the Stations. I did make it on time… but I forgot the cans. I sent Lucy on a hunt for some books and she succeeded. We set 2 books on each desk, then we started. I told each kiddo to pick up the books and hold them. I demonstrated. I told them to hold the books while I read and spoke. I started with Passover, ‘The Last Supper’… then brought them through the journey of Jesus.

Judas- betrayed Jesus. Do you know what that means? He handed Jesus over to the ‘police’ and he knew he did wrong. He did that for money and glory, but it ruined his life. Jesus was arrested and taken in front of a crowd who was determined to hate him. He was judged by unfair judges, because they were scared of him and jealous of him. He was condemned to die. “Do you know what condemned means?”… Told to.

They were following along, and complaining. I had to remind those kids to hold those books up (I promise they weren’t heavy)… and listen. We were almost done. Fast forward to the Station that Jesus takes up His cross. I said ‘set down those books’, now imagine your book was a cross. Jesus’ cross was large enough to hold him, and he carried it for a long way. You guys held those books for 6 and ½ minutes, with complaining words and rests. Jesus carried his cross for hours. He begged God to let this not be His job, but He accepted this. Why would Jesus be scared of this journey?

I reminded them that he was beat, he was spit on… he was belittled, and put down. I told them I would NEVER want that for them, but this was Jesus’ journey. He had to carry his cross, his burden to open the gates of heaven. Jesus carried his cross, through heavy streets while people mocked him and tortured him. I wanted them to feel a little of that sacrifice. Their faces were so interested and they followed along. They listened to the end, well beyond the end of Jesus. We talked about how He was nailed to the cross, how that must have hurt. I really loved the point when we talked about the cross next to Jesus, of the criminal. Jesus said there would be a place in heaven for that criminal, just like that He loved him anyway. They died together that day, and they rose right there too. Jesus died, and his mom was right there. I asked them what they thought Mary felt, and it sparked some conversation. They really put themselves in her shoes.

The best questions was ‘Miss Erin what is a burden?’… ‘A burden is something else tacked onto you moment, it could be losing your job, losing a parent, divorce, failing… many things. Has anyone in here felt a burden on their lives, maybe a cross you have to carry?’ Lucy popped her hand up- ‘I have a burden. I lost my sister, and I miss her all the time’.

That is a burden. Softened by the fact that Jesus took his cross up to that hill and carried that for Madeline, for me, for Lucy and for you.

We covered the whole Stations of the Cross, it was a good lesson. I felt like they got it, they listened as their arms got tired. I can imagine Jesus’ arms were so tired, I hope so much that these kids would have been the ones that offered water or love when Jesus walked by with his cross.

I think of the burdens we all have and how we handle our crosses. This morning I read Lola’s Caring bridge… Lola is prepping to head to Heaven. She recently moved from Northern New York to her hometown- Chicago. She is busy enjoying all the food and treats out there… but she is also changing. Lola’s mom wrote about the changes in her day to day to… her progression, her tumor.

Lola’s sense of humor is pretty amazing, her ability to feel her burden and give it up to God is amazing too. Faith can be a hard thing. Lola shows how faith is so amazing… how knowing God can make you present in the last weeks. Lola has burdens bigger than almost all people, her body is breaking down… her brain is not taking care of her body. DIPG is taking her away…

Her cross is big, Madeline’s was too. Lucy’s is now a heavy cross…

Lola offers her burdens and suffering to the souls in Purgatory. 13 years old… and offering her suffering to others waiting to enter heaven. That is pretty amazing. Lola knows where she will go when DIPG steals her last breaths…

If you ever wonder about faith and God, if you question if He is real… if you wonder if there is a heaven- know that Lola and Madeline and so many others are here to show us. They are gifts to show us He is not only real but there after the cross is carried.

I guess Lent is the best time to reflect on burdens, crosses and pain- then on the last day we celebrate. We find eggs, we spend time as a family, we eat and laugh and celebrate. It’s like life… we live, we feel love and pain, we mourn, we celebrate, we eat, we fast, we pray, we beg, we suffer, we die… we carry our cross.

So… what cross do you carry? What burdens are you carrying on your back? What does your Lent look like?…

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