Lentiest Lent EVER

Well hasn’t this been the Lentiest Lent EVER????  I mean Lent is a time of reflecting on those 40 days Jesus spent in the desert fasting, all the while Satan tempted and tested Jesus.  Lent is a time to reflect on that sacrifice… often times by fasting, giving up something special to you and abstaining from meat on Fridays.  I think that about sums it up…

Looking back, I really wish I had partaken in a crazy and loud and crowded Mardi Gras celebration on Fat Tuesday… preferably somewhere warm.  Let’s be honest, I freakin’ wish I had spent that time up to Ash Wednesday with some of my favorite people, drinking and dancing, collecting beads and stories… watching a parade full of grown ups in masks (I hate grown ups in masks…).  I wish I was twirling on Bourbon Street… then entering Lent, what I now know is the Lentiest Lent EVER, exhausted from all that fun.  Even thinking about that wish makes me excited for the time coming after this isolating time…

On Ash Wednesday I worked late and the girls were with Matthew, since I work in Albany, I googled Masses in Albany and headed to the Cathedral downtown.  I got there just in time and ran in, laughing at a funny meme someone sent about how ‘if you are a Single Catholic girl today is the day God marks all the Catholic guys’ and I definitely looked around that Cathedral to see if God ‘marked’ anyone for me.  I walked up the aisle and took my seat, the church was lit in a golden light, a bit coming in through the beautiful stained glass.  The whole church was wrapped in incense, it smelled like masses at Sacred Heart when I was younger.  I love mass in a big, very old church… especially when there is a full choir singing.  It was a lovely mass, probably the most warm and homelike in a longtime (little did I know mass would become an at-home-activity…. In only moments…).  Anyway, Ash Wednesday was the perfect mass, and I am so glad that I have that for the now… though I still wish I ROCKED out on Fat Tuesday… I was still so busy driving my kids to dance and basketball back then on Tuesdays I am sure New Orleans would not have worked anyway, right????

Then life moved and shifted and was pretty full in the ways that it is and blink – it was March… the best month in the whole year… my Birthday Month.  I celebrate for the whole month because… it is also St. Patrick’s Day and Spring and my day tops it off on the 30th.  It is the best way to come out of the hardest month for me… and I knew this year March was going to be amazing.  I told myself that all winter… while I spent Thanksgiving with my sister and Benson, then we brought Christmas to Rochester for time with my family and our Benson… then New Year’s, a bit of lice, lots of cold and dark… but hey March is coming!!!  Then our world shattered when Benson left us for heaven and Madeline… more dark and hard February times… but good gosh March is coming.  We can get to the light… to the sunshine… to the celebration and spring and reminder that He suffered so Madeline and Benson could be enveloped by the Big Guy.  Alas… March has been the least Marchiest March EVER!

We had the smallest St. Patrick’s Day celebration, and the same tiny party for my Birthday… and now we are repeating a tiny party of the same 2 kiddos as I have eaten with a millionish times this spring.  The Marchiest March ever.

The funny, I guess we could call it funny, part of this Lent is that I chose NOT to give anything up this year.  I decided to take on something, something that is hard for me, not to give up something.  I chose to hold my rosary and say a decade of the rosary every morning, and beforehand talk to God and setting my intentions for that time.  All things that have been hard for me these past years… staying still, setting intentions, and keeping my mind focused in one place.  That was my Lenten sacrifice, a few minutes of time getting ready or working out to focus and pray.  Then the world went and took away like a million things I love!  I did not agree to give up hugs or friends or trips home or working at my cool standing desk with my awesome team… I did not give up going to Target and Hannaford and Michael’s and everywhere else I love to go… I did not give up my kids school day or Earth Day celebration.  I did not give up my big freaking Birthday Bash that I would have gotten to twirl and dance with my friends until the Uber takes us home… I did not give up Easter celebrations with my girls grandparents on BOTH sides.  The world changed this Lent, and it became the Lentiest Lent EVER!

The world changed… and it will, I hope, it will ultimately change for the better.  I hope that people take this time of sacrifice and different and hard and let it do the work… the big work.  I hope we become better humans through this, caring for others, maintaining our families and homes and dinner tables.  I hope we fill our lives with less… less distractions, less filler.  I hope we fill our lives with more… more connecting, more innovation, more creativity, more family.  I hope that we rejoice at the end of this Lentiest Lent and we have a resurrection of sorts, like a 2nd Easter.  I think I am game for a 2nd Easter in July… a time to gather and rejoice life and the amazing human spirit.

We have lost a lot in this… some more than others.  I try to do my part to make the smallest footprint for Covid to connect to, I try to support others in this.  It is a hard time, a time of sacrifice and pain, loneliness and loss for many, it is a time of reflection and missing… it has also been a time of Spring and weird little celebrations, togetherness and bits of poking and fighting, enjoying things we have and losing things we love… it is, as life always is, a mix of beautiful and painful- brutiful as Glennon says.  This Lentiest Lent has made me dive into a lot of emotions and missing… to hold them, look at them, smile or cry and figure out where to put them… a far cry from the avoidance and numb state I have lived for a time.

Tomorrow we rejoice… tomorrow ends, well technically, the Lentiest Lent Ever.  Tomorrow we rejoice the sacrifice and suffering that Jesus endured for us.  We will get dressed up, ‘watch’ mass, take a walk at June Farms, visit Madeline and enjoy a dinner that I ordered (and do not need to cook, yay me!!!).  The Easter Bunny will bring treats and hide eggs and inevitably spill his milk and leave a carrot mess on the table (he is kind of a jerk)… and we will celebrate.  It will be different but parts will be the same…

Officially Lent is over and we move on to Ordinary Time, but I think we could look at the rest of these Covid Times like it’s own ‘Lent’ and endure sacrifice and suffering… and rejoice at the ‘Easter’ beyond.  Enduring these Lentiest Lent times… to remember what is important in our lives, what we need in our lives and reflecting on the hard parts of this.  I imagine… the feeling of hugs and laughs and bonfires… I look to those times… joy, togetherness, connection, all of it.

Happy Easter tomorrow, may you feel the joy in this day even at an unfilled table with a makeshift meal… may you feel ‘home’ and connection in these hard times, may you feel a bit of rejoice!

Covid

Ice Storms and COVID Times…

Remember the Ice Storms of the 1990’s… for me the Ice Storm of 1991 is more engrained in my brain.  I was 9 years old, actually I was days away from my 9th birthday.   I was about the age of my girls now, and I am sure I was rocking big ugly moon boots and mittens my grandma had knitted for me.  Those were the days…

It was my Grandma Connor’s birthday and we were at her house, enjoyed cake and celebrated, when we left it was dark and cold.  We lived 3 blocks from my grandparent’s house growing up, and for some reason when we left Grandma’s celebration my dad decided to walk us home and mom drove the giant station wagon home.  I remember the walk, walking across the crick bridge and through the Brown Mansion yard, down Brown Blvd and over Warren Street, a left onto Franklin and home.  I remember this eerie silence/sound, and I clearly remember my dad saying this wasn’t good.  My brain could not understand how ice sticking to the limbs was a big deal, so I just went home and to bed hoping for a snow day.

I woke up that next day to the most beautiful scene outside my window.  I stood in my night gown and looked out on the trees leaning toward the ground encased in ice, it was so pretty.  Everything was leaning and combining, and it was shiny and grey.  There was no school, best day ever!

I remember there was no power, and as I started to understand there was to be no travel.  The roads were full of power lines and limbs and danger, but I didn’t know that part.  I didn’t think of the essential employees out there navigating those dangerous roads to keep people safe.  I never really thought about the people who would have to fix those power lines and restore safety and electricity.  I never thought about those who had no back up heat or food for an event like this.  I didn’t consider the amount of money families lost when they could not earn an income, or the loss of business and restaurants.  I didn’t think of those lonely and chilly seniors at the home… I didn’t know to be worried, the grownups around me didn’t make me feel worry, and thankfully I was in a safe and loving environment with enough.

I do remember… being at my grandmothers gathered around a kerosene heater, playing card games with my cousins, listening to the scanner in the kitchen.  I remember that our family grocery store had to clear out the freezers and the food was split between the shelter at the Firehouse and other places.  I remember popsicles and food stored outside on my grandmas back porch stairs… and in that pile of food from the freezers at Brenon’s Grocery was a plethora of foods that my mom NEVER bought for us, super treat foods.  I remember enjoying my very first corn dog that day, and I remember Aunt Janes being in the kitchen at the same moment.  I remember my dad being out a bunch, helping people who had pumps in their basements.

I don’t remember one bad thing from that time, and I am sure there was plenty of scary and hard.   I remember togetherness and creativity and familiar.  I remember gathering and laughing, missing school after the initial time and looking forward to normal returning by the end.  I remember the day we went back to school… I remember the return to normalcy.

These COVID times aren’t the same in any way, these are more isolating and strange in many ways.  There is nothing outside my house, that I can see, that is keeping me home.  There are no downed power lines and heavy tree branches… but instead a virus that is the danger.  It is harder to stay isolated in a world where the danger is invisible… invisible until you see it and the terror it brings.  Those essential workers are on the front lines… fighting this invisible danger.  Thank God we have those front line responders… though they aren’t all the same ones from 1991.

I am working VERY hard to create that experience for my girls… that one day they will look back at these COVID times and recall togetherness and laughter, Facetime with family members, school work remotely, daily walks and adventures, art projects and cooking dinners.  I imagine they will reflect on the fact that they barely showered… and drove me crazy burping everywhere.  I imagine when they grow up they will tell their kiddos about the quietest St. Patrick’s Day and the year mom’s birthday was just 3 people and hopefully a zoom meeting with family.  They will recall the mission of delivering rainbows and supplies to our friend’s porches, the shear joy of Lucy when her friends left a care package for us- with hand sanitizer, toilet paper and wipes (a gift of sacrifice).  They will recall days of their dog being SOOOO thankful for COVID times… #perspective.

This is hard.  This is all so hard.  I remember in these COVID times that we can do hard things… we can.  We can get through this, and get stronger and more grounded in that.  We can try to enjoy things, slow down and embrace the togetherness in the distance.  In life I have found that sometimes being positive is a choice, a hard choice, but a choice.  I am looking forward to the end of this, to the embraces and the laughing.  I am looking forward to get-togethers and connection… but for now we do our jobs and get through this.  Someday… I look forward to knowing what all of this looked like for my girls and other kids.  Will this be their 1991 Ice Storm…

Sonshine and Starlight

Benson

The day is gray, chilly and grey.  There is no ‘Sonshine’ today… just grey.  I imagine, though, that the night got a bit brighter.  Yesterday was Benson’s day with a broken heart, a mended broken heart.  He peacefully left this place to go on to the next, I know he was greeted by the most welcoming light.  I imagine Benson is loving the lack of tubes and people telling him which way to lay… I am sure he missed the constant touch and love from his parents and care from his hospital family- but in a blink they will join him.

I was told once by a medium that Madeline’s job in heaven is welcoming the littles, being there right then.  The perfect job for her.  I have felt comfort and grace knowing that every little soul I have said goodbye to she has welcomed.  Yesterday was no different, she is no longer in heaven watching down on her cousins growing- she is doing what she loved best and playing with her cousin.  So while we are stuck here missing them, they are playing and staying young… no worrying about safety or predators or evil- no more worry.  They will giggle and chat, or maybe just sign… who knows.

I have struggled with the why.  I have struggled with the lack of fairness.  I have hated the heavy burdens placed on my family and myself.  I have begged for easy… but reminded constantly that in the messy and terrible and awful there has always been an abundance of love.  Love comes from suffering.

Watching Benson and his parents, seeing the enormous love they have for him, the hope they had.  I have no doubt Cortney and Damon were chosen to be Benson’s parents… to provide him all of the love he needed and more.  I want to share this story, the story of love and suffering… and a child who chose it.  I believe that Madeline got in line for the life she had, a short life and she knew it.  I believe Benson’s journey is similar and the love his life brought is abundant.  I know I will carry it forever…

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“The Brave Little Soul”

by John Alessi

Not too long ago in Heaven there was a little soul who took wonder in observing the world. He especially enjoyed the love he saw there and often expressed this joy with God. One day however, the little soul was sad, for on this day he saw suffering in the world. He approached God and sadly asked, “Why do bad things happen, why is there suffering in the world?”

God paused for a moment and replied, “Little soul, do not be sad, for the suffering you see, unlocks the love in people’s hearts”. The little soul was confused. “What do you mean?”, he asked. God replied, “Have you not noticed the goodness and love that is the offspring of that suffering? Look at how people come together, drop their differences, and show their love and compassion for those who suffer. All their other motivations disappear, and they become motivated by love alone.

The little soul began to understand and listened attentively as God continued “The suffering soul unlocks the love in people’s hearts- much like the sun and rain unlock the flower within the seed. I created everyone with endless love in their heart, but unfortunately most people keep it locked up and hardly share it with anyone. They are afraid to let their love shine freely, because they are afraid of being hurt- but a suffering soul unlocks that love. I tell you this- it is the greatest miracle of all. Many souls have bravely chosen to go into the world and suffer, to unlock this love and to create this miracle-for the good of all humanity.

Just then the little soul got a wonderful idea and could hardly contain himself. His wings were fluttering, bouncing up and down- the little soul excitedly replied, “I am brave; let me go! I would like to go into this world and suffer so that I can unlock the goodness and love in people’s hearts! I want to create that miracle!”

God smiled and said, “You are a brave soul I know, and thus I will grant your request. But even though you are very brave you will not be able to do this alone. I have known since the beginning of time that you would ask for this and so I have carefully selected many souls to care for you on your journey. Those souls will help you create your miracle; however, they will also share in your suffering. Two of these souls are most special and will care for you, help you and suffer along with you, far beyond the others. They have already chosen a name for you.”

God and the brave little soul shared a smile, and then embraced. In parting, God said, “Do not forget little soul that I will be with you always. Although you have agreed to bear the pain, you will do so through my strength.  If the time should come when you feel that you have suffered enough, just say the word, think the thought, and you will be healed.

At that moment the brave little soul was born into the world, and through his suffering and God’s strength he unlocked the goodness and love in people’s hearts. Many people dropped their differences and came together to show their love. Priorities became properly aligned. People gave from their hearts. Those that were always too busy found time. Many began new spiritual journeys-some regained lost faith-many came back to God. Parents hugged their children tighter. Friends and family grew closer. Old friends got together and new friendships were made. Distant family reunited, and every family spent more time together. Everyone prayed. Peace and love reigned. Lives were changed forever. It was good. The world was a better place. The miracle had happened. God was pleased.”

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Benson’s spirit and strength far exceed that of most adults I have met.  He trudged through so much and created love in the darkest spots.  He leaves a wound, a deep wound in some very broken hearts- it will heal from the outside in.  Carry him with you…

His short life and his parents constant care and love are testaments to the power of that love.  If you have been changed and reflect on life differently, if you have built your faith stronger, if you have reconnected to your family, if you have let go on bullcrap, if you have forgiven those that hurt you- keep it up.  In 2022 and 2028 and 2045 and beyond- carry that love forward to bring the ‘Sonshine’ along in your light days and the starlight he brings into your dark nights…

The Year of the Broken Heart

2019 is on its way out, a new year and decade are upon us. Like so many others I welcome tonight’s changeover from 2019 to 2020… I welcome it with an open heart, wide arms and a brain that is ready for a refresh. 2019 has been a very hard year, but with it came lessons and gifts and experiences and a ton of changes and transitions. I had a lot of work and healing to do this year, and that will likely spill into 2020.

This year, like every year, I hosted an ornament exchange. It was very unplanned, almost on purpose, being that anything that could possibly have gone wrong this year that was planned did. Enter defense mechanism ‘don’t plan anything!’… very healthy way to handle these types of things. I had this plan of creating an ornament that signified my new role and all I have learned about the Red Cross. I sat for a couple of hours and manipulated the clay and nothing really worked, telling me that this idea for an ornament was not the best symbol for 2019.

broken heart.jpgI thought about this year and all of the trials and struggles, the creativity and stress, the love and loss, the transitions… the healing. My brain visualized a slightly imperfect clay broken heart, a broken heart that was mended and healing. The break is visible, but it is stitched and healing. That was 2019… the year of the broken heart.

I have shared about my littlest nephew and his broken heart… a tiny heart that has been stitched and recreated by the hands of a surgeon. His tiny broken heart has been through so much, and still has much healing to do. He is one determined little man, in all of his pain and struggles he perseveres and pushes the limits- teaching us to push on, reminding us to let go of expectations and circumstances we cannot change and honestly to continue to be here, right here in the present. His broken heart has mended relationships and strengthened faith for many. He is the beloved little man on the PCCC floor at Strong Hospital, the nurses love him and my sister and brother-in-law. He is here showing us all how to push through the hard stuff even with a broken mended heart.

Several weeks ago, I was driving to Utica with a new friend, we are just getting into our backstories and personal stuff (she had no idea what to do with ‘coffeed’ up Erin on a long car ride). I talked about the end of my marriage and Madeline, the last few years of life and relationships… I ended the conversation with my normal- “I am a hot mess and have some serious commitment issues.” She touched on some of her issues and told me she has trust issues, and it is hard for her to trust. I thought about it and acknowledged that I am still pretty quick to trust, maybe to a flaw. She looked at me and said “It should be backwards with our stories; you should have trust issues and I should have commitment issues.” We finished the day and conversations, and I am sure that statement never replayed in her brain. That statement, however, sat in my brain for weeks, warranting much thought as to why do I trust so easily and fear commitment…

I had always attributed my commitment issues to the dissolving of my marriage and the events around it… that doesn’t really make sense though. My commitment issues really lie in fear of planning into the future, fear of committing to connections for the future… more specific fear of the future, even looking days ahead. My commitment issues stem from my broken heart, my very broken heart. My heart broke on February 8, 2012, and it has healed and broken and healed and broken and healed and broken over and over since. In only 5 days I lost every single plan and hope and dream that I possessed, and I still haven’t processed all of the layers of missing her. My commitment issues stem from the trauma and grief of losing Madeline. I can trust people, probably far too quickly… but I can not commit to stay connected or build dreams and hopes and a future. You know what they say the first step is to healing- acknowledge the need to heal and change. Acknowledging my own broken heart, with all of its emptiness and the need to heal that and not fill it with fear of the future and planning. Slowly mending that heart with little stitches and lots of hard work. The year of looking at my own broken heart…

It was a doozy of a year… a year of broken hearts. Leaving behind familiar and safe, creatively problem solving far too many problems, trying to just laugh when nothing goes as planned and praying directly for health and comfort and support. Our broken hearts are healing, slowly mending… I know that they will break again, they will heal and need extra TLC- time and stitches, always a bit broken and scarred. Grateful for those broken hearts…

In the words of my steadfast and strong sister, Benson’s mama- May the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows… may 2020 bring health and protection and simplicity.

Welcoming 2020 with some laughing at an Improv show with some awesome gifts… I love laughing. 2020 will have more laughter and more planning, hold me to it. Toasting the past year and letting it go, and celebrating a new year, growth, healing, mending… honoring ‘The Year of the Broken Heart’.

Feet to the ground.

A few months ago I got the.very.best.compliment.ever… “Erin you are so much less frenetic than you have been.” I was almost giddy to hear those words…

grounded

Rewind to last fall, to Boston and a DIPG Momma retreat… a weekend of reiki and art and connecting. Somehow, I was lucky enough to have 3 different Reiki sessions, all by different and amazing women, each leaving me feeling relaxed and ready for the next chapter of me. Each session may have been VERY different, the core message was the same getting grounded. It is pretty hard to hear someone acknowledge the way you feel and describe it so well “Erin, I see you floating away, like you are holding 100’s of balloons and flying away, up and away.” … or just that my feet are not touching the ground and I need to think and be cognizant of this, and keep them firm to the ground. I came back to Albany with a sense of need to get grounded and back to me, solid me.

Fast forward to working and taking steps to stand firmly, with my set of feet wholly on the ground. I could see the lack of order in my brain, the piles of disorder and how my mind just jumped from one pile to the next. I used to be much better at processing piles and navigating very stressful times, but last fall I felt pretty lost in the messiness. It’s been a hard go at life these past few years…

Acknowledging and taking actions to support myself better, to feel what I need to feel, to say ‘no’ to things that aren’t necessary, and breathing, just breathing have all helped me get some of my ducks in a row, to get my feet standing on the ground more often than floating away. I started to feel this spring that I had a couple ducks that were waddling in the same general direction, while the others were busy eating, chatting or heading the other direction… at least I think I have all my ducks in my vision. I started to feel a little more like me, although it took a few meltdowns (The Mother’s Day Meltdown of 2019) and a lot of emotional cleansing (which looks a lot like a crazy lady crying so hard that not one word makes sense and when she tries to stop it sounds like she has lost her air for hours)… the spring was a hard time, but it started to feel a bit like healing. I started feeling things I had to move forward from, things that I couldn’t take on back then because I had to raise my girls and function. It wasn’t missing Madeline this time, but feeling the pain of my divorce and how much I was hurt. I was far to quick to move and forgive, that when I stopped moving on and felt the pain it was heavy. I would again find myself crying as I drove through the Pine Bush, just as I did for years after the first betrayal. I tried to move on quickly and get to the next me, but this spring reminded me how healing works. Healing hurts, until it finally starts to not.

So when I sat with my Laurel, My Compass, this summer and she said “Erin you are so much less frenetic than you have been.” I knew that I was doing the work. I started to feel a little proud, maybe a tiny bit cocky about the state of ME. I was reminded when the world again didn’t go as planned… when I was left working hard to find my new path and it wouldn’t just show up, when my nephew broke all the rules entering the world… when I struggled to support my girls… all lessons and reminders of real important. A lot of stresses and struggles, riding right along so many amazing and simple moments. I started to feel frenetic again, not grounded. ‘My Compass’ agreed that I was hanging out in that crazy space of not completing a thought, or following through with anything on a list. I am back to that place of floating away, of not being grounded. I see it, I know it and I am going to change it. I started Yoga, Beachbody Yoga, to get my body stretched and aligned… but what I love is seeing my feet on the floor when I do downward dog, seeing them touch the ground as I push them down and my hips up. I am actively engaging in being grounded when I do downward dog…

I guess today I needed to sit and write these pieces, I have avoided it all. I have missed writing but at the same time knew that writing some things make them more real than my brain feels like considering them. I am looking at my feet when I do yoga, watching my toes grab onto the mat, acknowledging my attachment to the ground. I am working hard to feel and get through what I can, and I am trying to feel present and helpful in my nephew’s journey. I am trying to redirect my thoughts that are not important or have been acknowledged, there is no need for that pain if I felt it all. I am working to stand strong as ME… to feel grounded. I am listening to ‘my compass’ because thankfully I trust her. I started there, in that solid trust, that knowledge of her place in my life. I have built back up from that point…

This life is hard. These days are long, or short, but they are unreliable, so we must work on who we are through it all. Often times it is just a choice to see, to give perspective a chance… we can see a life of crap and loss, a buncha’ pain… or we can see the lights, the tiniest little nightlights and the beautiful sunshine lights as gifts through a moment that sucked. I am writing… that is a big step for me. I am working all the time on that connection of my foot to the ground, that choice to get through the pain and hard… and live life well. I am working on grounding me, so I can keep on building me.

 

Welcome Messy Little Rainbow Boy

Welcome to the world little one. In this big crazy world full of chaos and loud noise, welcome. I know where you have been is full of noise, but it is the noise of beeps and nurses bustling around, the sound mom’s crying as they watch their tiny baby’s breathe, the sound of dad’s telling their bitty baby’s to ‘get growing, there are big brothers waiting for you’. The sounds of a NICU…

Welcome to the world Little Benson Wilson Kirkby, the tiniest of the Wilson babies. Your cousin Lucy was reluctant to hand over the title of tiniest, but when she saw that first picture she softened and gave in. You joined our family August 10, 2019 and you have been breaking all the rules since… you will fit in just right with your brothers when you join the clan- in a bit of time.

We waited for you… in all the storms we knew a rainbow was coming. You are our little rainbow, though I quite think you are a little bit of a messy rainbow or maybe you are a Madeline Rainbow, the flip-flopped kind she used to draw. That’s it Benson! You are Madeline’s Rainbow, you have all your colors you just don’t follow the plan. We were down here hoping for our rainbow, expecting and anticipating, sometimes fearing the plan would change… that there would be a storm to get through. Here you are though… our Madeline Rainbow.

rainbow

Well buddy, while you have been over in Syracuse getting bigger and stronger, hearing those sounds of the NICU… we have been showing you off, checking in on your momma and daddy, laughing at your brothers’ crazy antics, praying and trying to stay patient. Self-talk buddy, lots of self-talk, over here… busy patiently-ish waiting to hold you. You don’t know this yet, maybe you do, maybe Mads gave you the run down already… so you would be ready for the chaos and noise to come. We are NOT a quiet bunch… so start preparing your reflexes for the ones who have waited for you. I’ll give you a rundown…

So… while you are busy getting bigger and getting some extra attention here’s what you need to know… the brothers are awesome little dinosaurs – watch your toes, they might bite. The grandparents are pretty cool- they are way too soft for my taste. Uncle Travis is big and quiet, but he is a baby hog… and he has a cool van load of people who come along too. Jo-Jo is the best with kids, pancakes and cookies, gifts and super hugs are staples for her – if she bugs you just give a quick bite, she’ll leave you alone. She has the coolest mini adults that can’t wait to meet you. Aunt Molly is quiet, she likes order and hates when you cry in a restaurant, if you want to impress her behave really well in public, she is special and thoughtful and loves to help. Then there is me, Aunt Erin, I don’t know how to prep you for me, but Madeline was mine and I am sure you were already hers- down here though- in the chaos and noise is a set of chicks who love babies and can’t wait to see if you have ANY eye lashes and touch those toes. They are used to hospitals and visiting friends there, so they know the sounds too. Their favorite rainbows are the messy Madeline kind…

The rest of your family I will leave for your momma to share, it gets louder and crazier the further out we go. When you grow up and you are taller than me- don’t say I didn’t warn you, also don’t tell me you are taller than me. Odds are years of not enough calcium and too much wine will warrant me shorter and stocker than you, neither of which matter, I am still the boss-ish.

Soooo… while you have been hangin’ in the NICU and growing and listening to the beeps and nurses and crying- lots of doctors have looked at you and your insides. They have decided that in order to grow big and tall and of course smart and strong and maybe rich you need to have a little bit’a work done on your heart to make it work smarter. You see buddy, sometimes, our heart is doing too much work and not making the rest of the body do the work too… and your little heart is taking on more than its fair share of work. These Doctors are gonna work it out so that your heart is doing work more efficiently, so that the rest of your body gets to working its fair share. This next adventure is important buddy, remember your rainbow angel. Rest and heal and grow, that’s your only job buddy. We will keep being out here in the loud chaos of the world waiting patiently-ish for you to join us. You will join the ranks of your clan, as littlest dinosaur, and all will be back to normal chaos. For now… we all send prayers up to The Big Guy and our Messy Rainbow Maker…

Welcome to the world Benson, you little rule breaker. You already fit right in to this big crazy messy world… welcome to The Boy who does not follow the rules, our messy little rainbow boy.

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.

mark.jpg

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

Kind Kids

I love kind kids, like A LOT. I love seeing kids just go be good, to do good things. It reminds me of my lovely, Madeline was a kind kiddo. Her teachers, in preschool and kindergarten, described her as kind, compassionate and a connector. I imagine Madeline as a builder, a connector- a simply content human. I remember her loving Christmas lights and lemonade stands.

I love sharing Madeline, Maddie’s Mark and all I have learned about service. I especially love sharing it with kiddos, sharing life lessons in a way that kids can understand and I hope helps to build service into their future selves.

This Christmas has been hard, hard to find the light. I am trying, and working hard to make it magical and full of our traditions. Sometimes it is easy… but mostly it is hard, so hard. We got our tree, and we found a new place to cut, in true Musto Tree form these past few years- it keeps tipping to the side, fell over once already. We have put a lot of work into gift making and thoughtful ideas. We love to drive around and eat French fries and see lights (several times). We have watched enough Christmas movies for Lucy to sum up the Hallmark Channel. Sam ‘The Weatherman’ Musto, our elf has done a few naughty things, including drinking wine and making a mess… that DARN ELF. It is Christmas… it is magical, right?

Have I told you that I love kind kids?

So… this summer a few kiddos did lemonade stands to support Maddie’s Mark Foundation. I would try to get over there and not only sample the goods, if I could, I would bring a thank you and some MM gear. I love kids helping others, I mean I love adults doing service, but there is something great about kids choosing to use their time to help others. The MacTurk girls didn’t JUST have a lemonade stand, they got this idea to do a hot cocoa stand for all the people who check out the Christmas Lights across the street. They began on Thanksgiving night and have spent several weeknights and every weekend out in the cold, and it was VERY cold many of those nights, selling hot cocoa and sharing Maddie’s Mark. I love it, it is not only a generous gift of time and resources- it is the best to go watch the light show and see these girls there serving- BEST NIGHT’S EVER.

The MacTurk girls have been intertwined with Madeline’s story since Madeline finished her journey here and left us for heaven. Grace was in in Kindergarten at Bradt when Madeline was a kindergartener. Amelia and Grace were on an OM Team together, way back when- while Amelia and Grace worked on creative problem solving… Brenna (Middle MacTurk) and Lucy played and got into mischief… all the while Mrs. MacTurk would hold the youngest of the girls, Harper. As time has gone on school and OM and live have kept our clans intertwined. I really love how they have helped share the mission and the miracle of Madeline and Maddie’s Mark Foundation.

I am super grateful for these Kind Kids, and feel that their service and dedication are amazing models for other kids. I see their endeavor as a big commitment, and I hope The MacTurk’s know what role models they are building…

I am grateful for News10 for honoring these Kind Kids and so many others…

Go out into the world and be a kind one, help the other kind ones… buy some cocoa and enjoy a BEST NIGHT EVER…

Welcome November.

november.jpgThankful today. I am thankful that today is November, and October is behind me. I don’t know what it was about last month, but it was a rough one. Historically I am an October lover, I love the leaves and cooler temperatures, the soul warming foods… all of it. This year I just kept my eye on the prize and got through that month. I hated doing it that way, but it seemed like the only way.

Octobers of past are filled with planning and excitement, light in the dark and sewing costumes until midnight. I always make the girls costumes, we do pumpkin carving BIG, and my memories are brought back to the times I was pregnant with Amelia and just had Madeline. We did most of those things, they just didn’t feel the same this year. The costumes needed much less help from me, Amelia basically had a couple items I ordered from Amazon. She really didn’t let me help her. Lucy’s whole costume was based on a jacket I bought her from Zulily, that looked like a General in the Army (way back when). Her costume was simple for me. I realized that the times of making my girls costumes are numbered, a fact I knew but would have drawn out for 20 more years. I may have made my last fancy and creative costume for my girls. I am kind of used to time stopping, Madeline’s last fancy costume was a cowgirl with her own badge and stars on her western hat. She was so freaking proud… but it was her last. I had no idea that was her last… I wasn’t prepared for last year to be Amelia and Lucy’s last.

I was in a different place this October, a place I don’t recognize, a place I don’t love. When I tell people I didn’t even decorate for fall, they shrug and say “It’s okay I never decorate for fall” … but for me undecorating a season and decorating for the next is like medicine for me. I undecorated the summer and sunny stuff… I cleaned the house… but I never put up the fall and Halloween stuff. I don’t know why, I just kept putting it off. It felt like I was living in a different house… not a leafy and cinnamon scented house with the cutest ghost wreath. I decided to just decorate for Christmas and start prepping for Jesus’s birthday.

I think sometimes the reality of life just hits hard. October was so dark. It felt like a lonely month, a month of missing. A month of watching kids in 7th grade grow and become, a month of holding up my parenting card when Amelia FOUGHT hard for a cell phone… a month of work and life’s busy work. I hate sitting at my dining room table and eating dinner with just 2 people. I never imagined my life having such a tiny number of people sitting at my table…

I think October was just a month I was tired of doing all those things- decorating, making and sharing dinner, even mass. I know the right things for us, but I didn’t choose them often. It was a heavy month.

Today is November. The day was long, the sun was out. I decided that today was the day to decorate for Christmas. Today cinnamon candles, snowmen and Nativity Scenes were put out. It is time. It is time to start celebrating Jesus’s Birthday, for the light that it brings. We need some light over here in Schenectady. I am missing too many things; the light keeps me sane. Today, as I look around my house and listen to Pandora Trans-Siberian Orchestra… I feel lighter. I feel more like me.

I know October’s are lovely, but today I am crazy grateful for November’s. I am grateful for a fresh start. I am grateful for Jesus’s Birthday… and the lift He gifted me. I am grateful for my girls and my home, my life. I am directing my brain’s pathways to good places. I am grateful for a month linked to gratitude. I am praying that November wields more connection and more gratitude. I am hopeful for this time, I am tucking the hard times away. I acknowledge them, I think about them but it is time to put them away for what they are/were…. A hard time. Today is November 4th… a good day to start fresh and bask in the light (well the light that has now disappeared). Today is a good day to try again, to see the light and enjoy the love. Today is November…

Our Sparky Elizabeth Musto

IMG_20181005_092710On Friday morning Sparky Elizabeth Musto joined her sister Madeline in heaven. Sparky was born in November 2004 to a pretty awesome set of parents. I remember meeting her, I remember watching her interact with her siblings… they would all come out of their little area and she would go back up to the top and defend that space- she was my Queen of the Mountain. When I see pictures of back then we were babies… Sparky grew up with me, though she grew older sooner.

The day we picked Sparky up from Gilpin’s and she left her mom, I felt sad for her and excited and nervous. At that time, imagine that feeling of bringing a baby home. She was the most fragile and tiny animal I had ever held, minus Cortney’s hamsters. We brought her to my parent’s house and Matthew’s home… introduced her to her family. Then we headed back to Albany… through snow and all of it. It was dark and snowing, and Matthew hit a deer on that trip. I just sat in the passenger seat with my tiny little bundle, crying because the deer had to be put down. After that we shakily drove home to out new little house…

Sparky lived through it all. She was my buddy when Madeline was born, then Amelia and Lucy. As Madeline grew the bond between them grew… Sparky become Madeline’s trusty sidekick. She endured so much poking, dressing up, getting carried, licking cuts and even snuck in eating some diapers. We spent our days together walking, snuggled and playing in the backyard- the girls swinging and Sparky digging holes.

Just like Madeline, I can tell you Sparky’s best days were spent swimming in Lake Ontario. She would be in the water all day, only stop to bring you her large branch and mini bark until you threw it back into the water. So many times, the waves got big and she would keep that branch in her mouth and you would only see her tail… she would have rather died than lose her branch. We visited the Lake last November, Sparky enjoyed her last trip to the shores of Lake Ontario at Wilson’s Point. It was cold, but I knew it would be her last time… I carry that.

I remember the night Madeline died, I ran upstairs to grab a hoodie, then ran back down. I was behind Matthew as he carried Madeline to the car to go to the hospital. I knew Madeline would never cross that threshold again… I left here with a huge sadness that Sparky would never even get to say goodbye to her. How it must have been sad and confusing for her, one day her Best Friend was here and another that scent and that voice was forever gone… it has always bothered me. I saw a medium one time, she was amazing. She was super not what I expected, I mean her cat did reiki. She told me that Madeline had come to Lucy and told her that Sparky was to be hers to love and take that place. I didn’t even ask this… so I know it was Madeline letting me know. I could see it before that day, I could see Lucy taking on this important job. From the day Madeline died until the day Sparky died she was Lucy’s Trusty Sidekick.

These years without Madeline have been full of new and different for me, the girls and for Sparky. Matt and I got divorced. Sparky lost her guy, and on the occasions she got to see him and the rare occasions she got to travel to hunting camp she was in her glory. As per normal life is hard…

These last few years have been really hard, hard for all of us. They have been hard on Sparky’s body, and our time. It has been hard to travel with her, or find people to help us with her, she hated the time I was at work, she was used to me being home.

In true Musto Chick from we worked for a time to make sure that Sparky’s time here was filled with Best Day Evers, small ones for her to enjoy the time she was still here. Lots of walks, a Kong filled with peanut butter every morning, ALL leftover meats put in the dog dish, Wendy’s bacon cheeseburger, snuggles and lots of digging time in the back yard. At 14 years old Sparky could still throw a ball and find it, she could jump on furniture like a spritely, young dachshund. She was, for the most part, still Sparky up until she was not here.

On Friday morning a very kind and compassionate Vet came to my house. He calmly talked to the girls, Matthew and myself about what would happen and how Sparky would be comfortable. I once again sat and watched my girls send off a family member to heaven. A part of me wasn’t just sitting in this living room, she was in the hospital room, singing Madeline into heaven… a part of me was utterly broken. I know the drill… it is forever broken; my life will just build around it. Friday morning felt a lot like that cold February morning, only we were on my couch and we had an ounce of control. It felt like Madeline in that sad and beautiful way that death can touch.

I have struggled this weekend. I stayed super busy, I didn’t choose to go find people. I put it in my brain to fin order in chaos… to neaten up the messy that the last few years of Sparky’s life left. She didn’t have control, but now I do. I painted the laundry, filled in the door that she dug, replaced the cushion on the chest she loved to lay on. I worked to find order in chaos… which is my pattern in grief. It is almost like nesting… even Friday morning I was nesting. I knew I needed to prepare for the time to come. So, the house got clean, so that my brain could focus on the hard thing in front of it and just stay in the moment.

Life is hard. It is beautiful, right next to the beautiful is pain and hardship. They all ride next to one another. Today I sit, after all that crazy work, and I reflect and I cry and think… and wonder will I ever open my home to another dog…

… But I know the answer- love is worth it. Love is worth all the grief and pain and broken and hurting. I work with families who are going to say goodbye to their kids, I sat and played board games with a little girl who will meet Madeline soon. It hurts, but I could never trade that hurt in for easy- love is not easy, but it is worth it. Someday our family will meet our next Trusty Sidekick and we will love again…’