END – TIME = 37

There was a time when Birthdays were all about the building of years, adding on to our lives. As children every moment can be magical, as an adult magic is harder to attain. Birthdays are a day to feel special and magical, to acknowledge the piling up of moments. One day a person is 26 and the very next day they are magically 27 years old, it is a compilation of time. We count up, and acquire more and more years.

I have always loved my birthday, joking that I get a whole month since my birthday is March 30. I love celebrations and acknowledging the pile up of years. I really enjoy blowing out birthday candles in front of all of my people, looking at the number of years I have gotten to live on this planet. Reminding myself and others to enjoy aging… it is only a number and a successful life gets to stack on another year every.single.year.

I have been reflecting on many things this year, apparently this is a year of deep thinking for me. I started noticing a pattern since I turned 30, not the normal pattern of hating birthdays and not wanting to be 40. I started noticing that birthdays feel different altogether. It’s like all the years before Madeline died, I was counting up and acknowledging the pile up of years… the 25 to 26 to 27. After Madeline died, I feel like it is more of a countdown… a countdown of years until I am with her. I don’t think of my birthday as a stopwatch, but instead a timer…

I just acknowledge that there is a timer set for me, just as there was for Madeline. I have so far gotten many, many more moments that she did. Her timer was set for around 2000 days and I just celebrated around 13,500 days. I don’t get to know when my timer stops… but I do know that there was a shift in how I see time when she died. Time is different in so many ways for me here in the world After her Death. It sounds so morbid, to be counting down to an end, but it really isn’t like that.

Losing your child shifts so much of everything you believe and know to be true. Looking back on the ‘Before She Died’ time of my life I did everything differently… I took my health and my children’s health for granted, I took my life as a mom and wife for granted, I took time for granted. Her death has changed me to my core, even my celebrations. I am in this place of always being torn- torn between wanting to be with Madeline and wanting to be right here parenting my girls on Earth. I know for me I am always torn… and someday my time here will be done and I will go home, but before that time I want to see the work I have done building my girls, I want to be a kickass grandma and show them all the awesome bits of our family and Madeline, I want to travel all.over.the.place. It’s strange how you can want so badly to be in 2 places at once…

Today is my first day as 37, I have just let go of the time I spent in the 36 of the countdown… the countdown has shrunk. I like to think of the time left as a math equation like END minus TIME equals 37… (END – TIME = 37). I pray that 37 on this grand countdown is a good one, and I have several more adventures this year than last. I hope 37 is a year of change, a year of peace and a year of me building my life in a direction I love and am excited about. I think it will be, I am don’t with this timer being filled with time that feels like I am waiting for the next part.

Welcome to AGE – TIME= 37 Erin… it is going to be a fun, boring, hard, easy, slow, fast, joyful, painful, silly trip around the sun. Remember always:

Age is a privilege, not given to all.

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A Miracle Kind of Day…

Hot Pink Heels and Beautiful Balds…

Today is about miracles, many miracles.

This morning I got up and rushed out the door to attend a service at an unfamiliar church, to hear about a miracle. If you are on social media or live in the Capital Region you have most likely heard of Woodward Strong. Josh Woodward was diagnosed with Septic Shock, and after surviving several impossible obstacles, he is home and rebuilding life. His wife, Chelsea, has bravely, openly and faithfully documented this whole journey. It was an amazing journey to watch, as a total stranger to watch the world lift up this family, to watch those with little or no faith pray… to watch it work. Chelsea not only requested prayers, but she documented and allowed us to share in her family’s miracle. The ripples of this miracles will resonate for years to come, I fully believe God has an incredible plan for the Woodward family.

While sitting in a church, a very different church for this Catholic girl, I felt welcome and surrounded. I listened for the message God wanted me to take away. The pastor defined a miracle in a way that clearly and easily describes what a miracle is- when God makes the impossible, possible. He then touched on whether it a miracle is a miracle if no one sees it… I guess I never thought about that part. God gifts millions of miracles, many are probably quiet little miracles… but miracles are meant to be shared. It is the job of the miracle to point us in a direction, to remind us that He is there and working in our lives. The Woodward Miracle did that, it reminded many that God is working and standing with them- even in the hot mess of this world, especially in the hot mess. Chelsea and her Pastor spoke about how many people saw and some learned the power of prayer, many marriages and relationships were mended and faith was renewed for so many people across the country, who knows even around the world. That is the job of this miracle…

I especially loved when Josh spoke about the peace he had when his life was on the edge of ending, he was at peace with God and knew that the choice wasn’t his… he would wake to his wife or his Lord. He has bee gifted time here to work and change and build, to use his story to connect the word, to carry those in pain… a new journey God has planned for him.

Much of the chat with Chelsea was important to hear for me… I just sat and watched her stay strong and candid and graceful as she spoke of this raw and painful journey. She had the loveliest outfit on, grounded in hot pink pumps with her legs crossed as she recounted the hard days and the ways God worked around her and through others. She talked about answered prayers, and how the answer doesn’t look the way we might imagine it, when she prayed for healing, she knew that the healing could be Josh or her very own broken heart, both were an answer to her prayer. I feel that… so much of that. My miracle looked so different, at the same time it looks so similar. Madeline was Madeline up until her last moments, and God has helped me heal and build and tell this story. Madeline, just like Josh, got the world to rally and work together, for a moment in history 1,000’s of people were praying for healing and comfort… her miracle renewed the faith of so many, including me. Madeline’s story and death reconnected so many that were broken. A publicly shared miracle… both reminding the world that the greatest prayer we will ever pray is thank you…

It was the best way to start a day of miracles… and I think I need a pair of hot pink heels STAT!

On to the next round of miracles… I hopped into my dirty Jeep and grabbed a big tall iced coffee before getting to the St. Baldrick’s event at the Westmere Fire Department, which I was actually early for (another miracle).

Let me tell you about this event… imagine 30 or more firetrucks in a parade dropping children in our area who are fighting right now or have fought any type of Childhood Cancer. They get dropped off with their families and head up a red carpet, it is the grandest honor to watch this whole experience. There are bagpipes and sirens and of course capes… I feel every emotion when I watch that parade. The nurses who work with the kids are high fiving them as they run up to meet their friends from clinic, you see this is a celebration but also a little reunion. The kids run with the friends they spent so much time with in clinic, moms catch up on life… you see these are the people they were with while the world kept turning for everyone else. I stand on the edges and watch those miracles laugh and run with their capes- posing for pictures and owning the show because they know that every.single.person in that huge space is there for them. Cooper’s dad said it just right… that room was full of people with ‘No skin in the game’… people who are there to support even though their children are healthy, they are not nurses or doctors… they just joined the game with no terrible awful diagnosis busting into their lives. That is the amazing part of this. This year was missing some important miracles, but just like Madeline their time here was short. I stood on the sidelines and thought about the ones who aren’t here anymore. I thought about standing on the sidelines last year and watching our Markel and that smile, that vibrant smile. I missed that smile today… but I trust that her miracle pointed so many in a direction, to a renewed faith and a memory that will forever make me cry and smile at the same moment.

These events fill me up to the brim with energy to go out and do my work, share my girl. It is hard to know that she doesn’t get to ride in a firetruck, she doesn’t get to over indulge with her clinic pals or sing along to the song Brave. It is hard… but my miracle pointed me in a direction, and this is the direction.

I miss her terribly today, but I say “thank you” for her, for the moments that she was here, for the gift of being her mom. I remind myself that I got her, I got to be her biggest builder, her biggest fan. She was spectacular… soft and kind, compassionate and trusting. Madeline was a friend to all, she was a connector. Her miracle is still doing her work, connecting and building. I say ‘Thank you’… Thank you Big Guy for her gift, take care of her up there, I trust in You.

Ode to Irish Ones…

Top o’ the afternoon to ya. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to all…

I love March, it is a month of more light, memories, Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations and my birthday… which I historically celebrated for the month, March 30 deserves some extra celebrating. I love that we start to enjoy sprinkles of spring, bits of sunshine and a warmth you can only feel if you spent the last few months in the cold of a New York winter. The feeling of standing in sunshine on a 45* day with your boots on and your children basking in that warmth… is so different than standing in the sunshine at the beach on July 4th, so different than visiting the sunshine in Florida in February… it is different. We have waited for this… we have worked for this. We are going to embrace every.single.ounce.of.sun and light that the world gifts us. We just survived a Northern New York winter… we earned that warmth. Friday was like that for us.

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day, and thankfully we got to celebrate for a whole weekend. I left work Friday with so much excitement and anticipation… planning out the moments for the weekend and prepping clothes for the festivities. I felt like a little kid… excited for all that we do on these days. That’s the thing, we don’t really have a thing anymore. My roots and memories are based in Watertown, in the times I had growing up. I had some college Saint Patrick’s Day memories but honestly, I would have taken the simplicity of those days when I was young over the crazy drunken days. I loved those days… days with a church potluck and running around with cousins. Leaving just enough mess at the Parish Center for Sister Norah to notice, but not punish. We would religiously stand at the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, bundled as much as necessary… cold did not prevent the celebrations. After the parade we would walk over to the State Office Building, get our stamps and head in for salt potatoes floating in a pool of melted butter, just like Molly loved. I loved watching the Irish Dancers in the Auditorium. I loved going to the corner where Uncle Sean would always be waiting, watching the State Troopers who had just marched with their families. The bands and the old ladies who would dance… it is an atmosphere that I believe only the Irish can create.

Today looks different than so many of my remembered moments. This weekend as a whole looked so different. I guess I imagined bringing my girls up with all I was blessed to experience, but we all know that didn’t work out as planned. I mean there were some red flags of my fantasy all along, the girl’s father was not a fan of Irish people, of the culture and traditions, he much preferred to lean on his Italian roots. I, myself, loved the idea of Irish Italian girls… products of potatoes and pasta… big crazy families and strong grounded faith in the Catholic Church. He liked to dress them in green shirts that proclaimed that we were just Americans “Kiss me, I’m American”. It poked me a little every.single.time they wore those, but I smiled and allowed it… I rolled over and felt like it wasn’t a good thing to be an ‘Erin’ on a day that honors those roots. I am not that ‘Erin’ anymore…

This weekend I worked hard to create some bits for my girls of the magic of my traditions. I talk about my family all of the time with the girls, I have to remind them of which uncle is the funny one with red hair (that one needs clarification), what Hayle used to call Aunt Bridget, which Aunt takes all of the pictures. They are used to visiting my grandma and grandpa… and our Aunt Jane. I searched for something with some good Irish music and food… I wanted to enjoy this weekend. We went to a Concert at Proctors with The Screamin’ Orphans. It was awesome. There was a bagpiper, Irish Dancers and a Girl Rock Band with the.best.accent.you.can.imagine. We had so much fun… my feet hurt and my brain remembered songs I heard growing up. We came home and watched Boondock Saints… because we all need to watch a couple hot Irish men get rid of the bad guys every once and a while.

This morning we woke up and got ready for Lucy’s Basketball Banquet. We had plans to go to this Ancient Order of Hibernian’s for the Irish Festival, I woke with an idea though. I offered the choice to Lucy- to go celebrate our Irish roots or make the sauce that her Grammie makes. I had this thought that maybe, because we get to choose what our tradition looks like, we could mesh our traditions, mine alongside their dad’s family traditions. They have been asking to make sauce for a long time. Lucy said “Mom, that is a hard decision”… “Sauce and Mumford & Sons”. Of course I decided in that moment that I love her more than anything in the world… or maybe equally to her siblings (we can’t have a favorite right???).

So today, in total difference than any other Saint Patrick’s Day is a Saucey Sunday… with green shirts and hands that have never squeezed wet bread or made meatballs. It is a mix of their roots, I guess my old roots. It looks different but it still felt good… funny how that can happen. We filled that big pot and made those meatballs, seared those sausages… and we laughed with our aprons on. I put on one of my favorite movies after, P.S. I love you. I felt like throwing in some Irish to the day… and weirdly I think it is the most romantic movie ever. Imagine being so planned that you planned to deliver some love after you die. I cry in so many spots of that movie, which confuses my girls, because those moments seem happy. I just wish more than anything in the world that I got that, that I got 10 letters from Madeline, reminding me how much she loves me and that she misses me. What would that be like???

I look at these years and I know that she delivered her ’10 letters’… she warned me way back when of the hurt I was allowing in my marriage, she knew… and she wanted me to move on. She built this foundation, she put the words ‘Best Day Ever’ in my vernacular. She travels on my shoulder and gets pissed when I swear too much or speed… sometimes I do it just to piss her off, it reminds me she is right here with me, mad but here.

It was a good weekend. It looked different, but is different bad? Different is hard, but it is necessary. I wish, I wish… for her. I get to go green with my girls and show them the world as I love it, as I know it. That is my forever. I love my lucky lil lady… I wish she were here to enjoy some sauce and meatballs, after a jolly good day of Gaelic and Irish rock…

Enjoy your lucky charms… whatever they may be. Share your roots… even if you just found out you are Irish from Ancestry.com. If you are Irish go out and be Irish… build community, feed your family and friends… boil what you have and pass that stone soup around… dance even when the world is heavy and awful… if the music moves you dance. When your people die… honor them, smile when you talk about them, stick together and bring them along in your life… that is being Irish, we are way more than a leprechaun, we are a way to be.