Mark’s Mark…

This week the world lost a very special 2nd grader at Bradt School. His smile was the gateway to his kind and compassionate soul, a really thoughtful little boy. His teachers loved him and he was a role model for character and workmanship in class. Reading about his love of baseball and his sportsmanship, testimonials of his smile and way of always being positive feel, to me, so much like Madeline.

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Mark’s 2nd grade Teacher, Mrs. Maguire, is a wonderful teacher who values experiences and adventures that go along with learning- more specifically service in the community. She and her students chose a charity each month to work to support either raising money, awareness, participating in walks, making lunches for Habitat for Humanity and helping Maddie’s Mark with Thanksgiving bags for families at Albany Med. It is amazing the amount of time and energy they put in, all the while learning important lessons about life and the need for service. Just a couple weeks ago Mark’s whole class worked in the hot sun to paint and freshen up a garden at our school to honor Deb Roman, an amazing ENL teacher who died in a tragic situation. I watched as his class spent the day outside painting and working to restore beauty to that memorial. Every Thursday you could find Mrs. Maguire’s kids in the hall outside the nurse’s office, waiting to be handed the heavy bags for our backpack food program. They would then head out to deliver the food between all of the regular work they had that day. You could count on seeing Mark happily delivering, painting, writing, creating, making lunches… whatever was asked, he was a happy one.

I have many memories of Mark, with that smile, most of them just seeing him walk down the hall or doing writing work in his class. In November when I was asked to talk about Maddie’s Mark and the service we do, I got to see Mark’s penmanship skills. Mark labeled and prepped all of the cards and gift cards to be delivered to families, and his penmanship skills topped many of the adults I know. I will forever see Mark smiling down the halls of Bradt, just as see Deb Roman with her soft smile and Madeline walking in front of me to the Lime room. His spirit will never leave Bradt school…

On June 25, 2019 I prepared my walls, I checked myself, I wrote my piece and I got myself an iced coffee and prepped to do what I had to do to get to bed time and honor Madeline. The morning was a different one than normal, moving furniture and noticing extra guidance and administration coming… but my brain didn’t put all of those things together. Just before send off the rain started… and it was RAINING. Teachers were noticing the presence of extra people and a few people had tears… I could tell something was coming. I stood in the hall and tried to figure out what the best thing for me to do, jet out and find out later or stay and hear. I decided to stay, but first send off the kids. We all went outside, but it was pouring… I decided to just get wet and laugh and squirt the buses as they go and wave out of excitement and missing. When all of the teachers got back into the halls we were called to the library, when we were all there our Principal shared the news that a little while ago Mark Lombardi’s dad called and let her know that our little 2nd grader, Mark, had died. What a surreal feeling to be in a moment that others had to stand and hear that your daughter died. I decided quickly to go home and celebrate Madeline, she had Mark now.

The morning of June 25th I wrote about Madeline’s birthday and a bit of a soft rant about spending your time wisely. Around lunchtime on June 25th was reminded of the importance of this. On June 26th an amazing recently retired Speech Teacher spoke at the send off breakfast, she had many funny points and profound points, but through her tears she talked about getting older and how our parents and families get older, and how you need to choose the important stuff… time and health are not ours forever…

Three messages in 24 hours, take that for what it is. Time and health are gifts, not promised to us. Don’t put off life, don’t waste your time being busy. I see it, all the time. I have lived in a world that surrounded us when it was hard, allowed their faith to be strengthened, took time for their family… and I see those same people fill their time far away from that now. I feel it all the time. Work harder… on Monday afternoon Mark was swimming and smiling. On Monday morning Mark was enjoying a half day with his 2nd grade friends. Today is Thursday…

Talk about Mark. Share stories, share laughs. Make his favorite foods and think of him. Remind your son or daughter to play baseball like Mark- happy to be in the game. Take time to write neatly, think of Mark and all of the Albany Med families who received those cards. Smile all.the.freakin.time. Be a role model in a room full of jerks, be the one that others can look at and want to be more like. Love your family all the parts of it. Love your sister, or brother… I promise when they are gone you don’t want to wish you did it better. Enjoy simple Best Day Evers, simple. Spend your time wisely… it is a gift not a promise.

Mark. You have made a Mark in my soul, and I will do anything I can to help leave your Mark. I will stick around and tell your story. I will see you in the hallways and I will smile while I remember your smile. I will forever honor your spirit and soft gentle soul…

 

 

I am including Mark’s GoFundMe page and obituary. His family could use fund and prayers, and knowledge that Mark’s short life will serve as a model for you to live yours…

Mark Lombardi Obituary

Mark Lombardi GoFundMe

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Thirteen.

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Thirteen. A magical age when one enters the first level of adulthood, in the minds of anyone under the age of thirteen. I remember looking forward to turning 13, like things would really change. In my mind, like the snap of fingers it would all make sense and these next few years would be simple. I was on the brink of something big, something really profound. I was 13 and in love with Garth Brooks, oversized tee shirts and FHA… and let me tell you nothing got easier, especially fitting in. Life is like that… imagine one thing and learn that nothing we imagine happens how we imagine it.

Fast forward through many awkward years, college, Matthew, marriage and Albany… to June 25, 2006. We welcomed the most perfect 9-pound 6-ounce baby girl- Madeline Elizabeth Musto to this crazy brutiful world. We welcomed her with a blissful ignorance of time, the notion that she would be here until long after we left. That is the way we welcome fresh humans, with the blind love and knowledge that we will spend the rest of our lives loving and living in a world with them. What is the alternative, though? The alternative is so very sad, so not blissful and unaware. I quite miss that blissful ignorance, that gift that comes with fresh humans, that and the smell of a fresh baby’s head as you rest them on your chest and sway and bop…

I should be kissing my 13-year old’s forehead as I head out to work, maybe she would come with me and help in her old teacher’s classroom. I should be arranging a party or experience for teens, something that involved a bit of independence and a pile of trust… maybe even a treat of Starbucks and pedicures. I imagine she would be tall and have the best smile, accented with her big dimple. I imagine her teeth would fill her grin and that would be backed up with that infectious giggle- a little deep and rumbly, with a squeak here and there. I should be guiding her to new adventures, through friendship issues and difficult choices. I should be planning a trip to the lake, and setting up to remake the sunset picture with the 3 girls…

The alternative is so very sad. I should be… but the alternative is so very sad. The alternative is messaging many friends and family a birthday plan for June 25, 2019. The alternative is deciding to do it a little different this year, this year of disorder, to go to the beach and then gather a pile of important people in my back yard and celebrate the sacred space around my table- with pizza and cake. I thought about a party at her spot, but decided to do what Madeline loved… sunshine, sand, friends, pizza, backyard fun and best nights ever- the simple kind. What I wouldn’t give to throw a 13-year old’s birthday… to buy silly expensive Starbucks, fancy pedicures and maybe Hibachi with friends… what I wouldn’t give to have the alternative.

I miss her.

I wish I got to hug her today, to brush her hair off her face and tell her not to be a butthead. I wish I got to turn on Pandora and get her to dance with me in our little kitchen. I wish I got enjoy my 13-year-old on her birthday, celebrating the blissful and unaware state I got to live in way back when…

Today- go out there and do something kind. Every little kind thing counts. Assess your time, your family. Life is crazy, don’t waste it being busy. Say no to something today, with no guilt or fear, just say no and enjoy your time. This is a tough one… imagine what you want your child to be when they grow up… and know that some don’t get to grow up. Everyone loves sports and commitments, but are those sports and commitments building your family or stealing joy from your family. Do not put off time with your family, and be more aware of how you spend it. That is what I ask of you all today. Do a kind thing and remind yourself to raise your perfectly exceptionally mediocre kids and teens to be really good human beings that is all that matters… Madeline was the most special, simple and compassionate human being, bring her along today.

 

Happy Birthday lovely… enjoy the cake up there in heaven.  Miss you like crazy, but I know you are right here riding along with us Musto Chicks reminding me of the speed limit, telling Meme to be quiet and snuggling Lucy…

Gather.

bread-and-wine-quoteI have talked about this before, the sacredness of gathering. I know it, I believe it, I see the amazing things that come from gathering. I feel connected and refreshed when I gather with others. I love the energy I feel for days after the gathering. I love when my cheeks hurt because we laugh so hard. I love when we cry together, it is therapy for my whole self. I love waking up in the morning and going back over all the many conversations…

I know this, yet I rarely gather up my people and enter that sacred space.

I have been reading more lately- a new book and parts of my personal bibles. Glennon’s Carry on Warrior, Anne Lamott Travelling Mercies, Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love… the oldies that got me to a healthier whole self. The messages in those women’s words reassure me that with faith, humor, honesty and good friends we can get through this life and even when it sucks life is good. In all of this reading I am doing I started reading Shauna Niequist Bread and Wine… which I thought was the perfect title to really bring in readers… well not all readers healthy eating readers most likely skip right past this one. When you want to appeal to a reader that loves food and faith and friendship and family and joining all of those things together- one must name a book Bread and Wine. As expected, I am hooked. I read it the same as I read the others- one chapter in a sitting, if I read more it is a chapter from another book. I like to let the letters simmer in my brain, let the words work their way through me. I love how she writes; it is like I am sitting with her and she is telling me the stories and making the recipes. The book is a compilation of stories around ‘the table’, stories of gathering in the heaviest seasons and the easiest. Stories of food and gathering, healing and connecting, each story around a recipe that is included at the end of the chapter. I am not only feeling brave and wanting to make a chicken curry and maybe even include the mangoes- I am reminded of the deep need for me to connect and gather. I am reminded that it is as important to my healthy self as working out and brushing my teeth. I need to set a goal, just as I do for working out and stretching, to honor the sacred, sometimes messy and prepared space that is my table.

I am in a lonely season in my life. I am working hard to stay in the quiet and let myself sort in those moments. I am working hard to set boundaries and take time for me, even remove some important things from my plate. I am trying to find a balance in the quiet and loud, and find fillers for my sacred space. This is a hard season… one I am not used to. I am ready for some interruptions in this quiet place.

Last night I made a really great dinner and my table was full. Amelia’s friend got off the bus and Lucy’s friend came to swim and play. The girls asked if their friends could stay for dinner, I told them yes as long as they eat fish. I had told myself earlier I wasn’t going to make mac and cheese tonight, it was going to be a full cooked meal. Both friends stayed and looked forward to the dinner of fish and whatever else I made. Lucy’s little friend told us he had never eaten fish but would try it, which is exactly the right thing to do. I got right to work lightly breading haddock in breadcrumbs with fresh basil leaves in the mixture, sautéing little shrimps in butter, boiling egg noodles and sautéing really great green beans in olive oil, garlic and fresh basil. Amelia’s door wasn’t closed and shut off as she hung out with her friend, Lucy kept running through the kitchen with her friend telling me how good it smelled. Finally, it was dinner… around my table. We pulled up another chair, moved the computer and said grace, a full table…. Just what I have been craving. It didn’t look like I imagined, with my friends and family, wine and funny stories… but it was a full table. It was an answer, one of those answers that looks different that we requested but just as fulfilling. I am grateful for that full table, and some very full bellies. I went to the stove and counter to pack up left overs for lunch… and every morsel was gone… all that was left was my veggies. I guess no fish for lunch, just beans and yogurt (my coworkers will be pleased with the missing meat in the microwave).

Gather. Around my table. Around your table. Gather with kids or fun adults. Gather and laugh so hard it hurts or cry out some of the pain. Gather and tell the stories that connect… that remind us that ‘the table’ is a sacred space for love and pain, faith and fear, laughs and cries, gratitude and brokenness, quiet and loud, wine and water, gourmet or Kraft dinner… a safe and sacred space.

I hope you dance…

On Saturday we got to attend Amelia’s Dance Recital, a day she had been preparing for since September. I was excited all week, reading and rereading the list and times for the event, making sure my brain wouldn’t mix up times or forget to have her pack extra bobby pins. It was really exciting because my parents got to come watch her dance, a treat since they live hours away. It was a good day… we got some pictures in front of our tree, loaded into the Jeep and headed off to Voorheesville.

In January I remember sitting and watching Amelia dance through the window into her studio, and hearing the song over and over. She would start to get tighter while I watched so I tried not to make her nervous often. The song they chose for her lyrical class was a powerful song, one that has become a bit of an anthem for me these past years. The song not only evoked powerful emotion while I watched, it reminded me that He wants me to more than hear those words. He sent the most beautiful reminder… my dancer telling the story of these years, reminding me in the most beautiful way that He’s got this, He is right there and that maybe our hardest parts of life are mercies. Imagine your lovely, in a soft gold flowy gown, gracefully dancing across a stage to Laura Story “Blessings”…

“When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win, we know, the pain reminds this heart that this is not, this is not our home…” This is not our home. Reminding us that this place is temporary, this pain is temporary, the joy is temporary… to gracefully dance through it is a gift. I felt such joy watching her dance… what an honor to be her mom, to get to raise her and build her. She is one of my biggest blessings- and in all the rain and storms I am grateful, in all of the turmoil and hard moments parenting I am grateful… in moments watching her do what she loves and share her gift I am grateful, I am joyful. Joy is one I don’t feel so often, so when I do, I store it and love it and keep it and reflect on it and embrace it.

I really loved her dance program this year, The King’s Dancers, a Christian based dance program. I loved the music and costumes and the inclusive nature of the program. The recital opened up with “You Say” a beautiful and powerful song that has mainstreamed. They mixed 2 versions- the soft version with ballerinas, and the edgier version the hip hop dancers took the stage. It was an awesome way to start the show and set your brain to enjoy. There were dancers of many different abilities and needs who got to share their gifts with the audience. As I watched a lovely woman named Grace dance, I wondered if her parents knew God made her to dance when they named her. Grace has down syndrome and is a dancer, you could see it is in her soul to dance, and to share her gift. Watching her dance in a ballet piece and flow across the stage, hip hopping later to a fast song, and tapping with the biggest personality. I had the crying emotion that comes when you are smiling really big, I imagine it looks pretty funny to see that face… the one that is crying from the connection and emotion, and smiling because it is so beautiful and cute and happy. Emotions are funny like that…

I got to my seat and realized when I was watching the show, that in all of my planning all of my packing… I had water bottles, almonds and cheese sticks, extra lipstick… I forgot to bring tissues. I would sit through all of those practice classes and watch Amelia through the window and have a little tear, and Lucy would laugh at me and remind me that I cry soooo much. I should have been prepared for that, but instead I tried to discreetly wipe them and move along. I remember a time when I barely cried… I used to cry at weddings, at the moment when you just felt so happy and excited for the couple getting married… a little bit of tear would fall, but it was excited and happy tears, usually I was standing next to my now ex-husband. I don’t cry at weddings anymore… I am sure those emotions are all mixed up and messy- and I am usually thinking I hope they work really hard and know that that marriage gig is hard. Instead of crying I send little thoughts of hope that they just keep working.

I think crying is different for me now, it is a mix of emotions. I usually don’t just get super sad and cry, occasionally. I cry when I watch my girls do what they love and what God made them to do- and those tears are happy/sad tears. Those tears contain excitement and joy- laced with pain and missing. Every bit of growing they do is without her… my forever 5-year-old. God is good though… He sends little reminders and moments that remind me “What is your blessings come through raindrops, what is your healing comes through tears, what if a 1000 sleepless nights are what it takes to know your near… what is trials of this life are your mercies in disguise…”

 

Amelia- always dance. I am so proud of you and the person you are becoming. You are beautiful. You are kind. You are strong. Choose to dance gracefully on stage and in your life… it’s hard lovely but there is love in the hard. You are my love in the hard… you are my grace, my mercy… you are all I have never deserved. I hope you dance…