Familiar Uncertainty

These last days have felt surreal and uncertain… for me and for all.  This new normal has been very challenging for all and I imagine in ways it will continue to be hard but also soft- though that is complicated.  I have struggled, as we all are, with working from home I miss my beautiful teal rolly chair and charismatic team… I am now my children’s teacher (along with work)-  a dream role for me, but it’s hard working and managing AND momming.  I wish I could do all of the above better, but maybe just maybe this time is to do what we can with what we have and let go of beyond.

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I know that these days have been almost indescribable for me, I just feel so weird but along with unfamiliar it also feels like Deja vu.  I have struggled to figure out the words to describe all of this…

We walk at Maddie’s Spot, a beautiful old cemetery in Guilderland, everyday.  We need fresh air and a safe place, and her spot is all of that.  We wandered those hilly, windy and antique roads… and I thought about these feelings and the fear and comfort and ok and stressed and what it all meant.  The world pretty much stopped as we know it this week, for so many of us.  It stopped moving for so many, even though it spins and the sun comes up and we get to bedtime.  I have felt this before.  On February 8th, 2012 Madeline died, and my world stopped; while it felt like it stopped for me…  it still was spinning with am’s and pm’s.  I watched, confused, as others lived on- eating out, laughing, getting their kids on and off the bus, going to work, living… I could not understand how that was working.  It was a heavy and surreal time.  Grief is heavy and surreal.  Time kept moving on and somehow it is 2020… 8 years from those days of utter confusion and chaos of time in my soul, still I have many issues and triggers, but mostly time can make sense now.  These days… I am back in that space of the world stopping but the sun still rises and sets.  It’s like that time prepared me, and others for this slow down.

Living life day by day and minute by minute… squishing siblings together to get along and get through… being real and resilient… checking in on family more… baking and cooking with stories, like biscuits my grandma made… improvising an entire cultural holiday… preparing for a quiet birthday… and exploring again… adventures galore to places with only fresh air and no sharing of germs.  I am enjoying this, so far.  I am missing so much, but I am also looking forward to the Rejoice and the joy of reconnecting.  I will wear a big floral dress and my jean jacket, and hot red lipstick and stand close and hug a friend and SMILE.  I will never take togetherness for granted, yet I will be thankful for the tight togetherness I have with my girls now.  I will drink it in, the hard and soft.  These days are historic… they are profound, so I will get through and build the best I can, documenting some of the journey, living and breathing and doing the best with what I have.

This time is hard.  Let’s virtually get through this hard… I feel almost like this is similar to losing Madeline.  Who knows… maybe God will use us greivers as guides through this Covid time.  I imagine I have lived through a preseason and now it is the season (if that is how sports work 😊).

Be kind.  Love well.  Smile and seek sunlight.  Walk.  Laugh lots.  Pray.  Let yourself feel it all.  This is hard.  We can do hard things.  Work on the back-burner stuff.  Reconnect, albeit virtually, to family and friends, journal, find a walking stick, make forts, paint things… lets look forward and do our jobs of social distancing.  OWN YOUR PART IN THAT, YOUR OWN SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY TO MAKE THIS BETTER AND DIFFERENT THAN OTHER PLACES… let’s get to Rejoice sooner.

Sonshine and Starlight

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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…

Choose a ‘perfect just as it is’ Christmas

It’s Christmas time…but it really feels like short days, cold nights and bustling around. It’s Christmas time… there are piles and piles of memories and photos and traditions that remind me of the past, of a much lighter past. It’s Christmas time… the world looks so different than it did last Christmas, and the Christmas before… and the one before.

Growing up Holidays were not only fun and full, but they were reliable and safe. I loved that best. I always knew that the same Advent song would be sung at mass, that Nana would always deliver the soft and personalized towels, that for days before the holidays there would always be potatoes to mash and stale bread to break up at Grandma Connor’s and there would always be a kids table and a grown ups table… there were always multiple relish trays full of pickles. There were so many other ‘always’ in those days. I wished to create a sturdy and safe set of ‘always’ for my girls… but as I have learned nothing has quite gone as planned in this life.

It seems though that this life isn’t so full of ‘always’… not for the lack of trying. Who knows… maybe my girls ‘always’, their reliable and safe, is a series of different and changing holidays and traditions?

These years of missing Madeline, divorce, transitions… mixed with the normal growing up and taking on more responsibility have been really hard. 2019 has been a heavy year, for me, for my girls and for my family. Madeline died in 2012 and I reminded myself and others to enjoy days and celebrate time, because one tragedy, one crisis doesn’t promise that there will be no more in our lifetime. 2019 has been a year of little joy, reminders of what is missing and hurdle after hurdle after hurdle to jump… hurdling with a bum hip and broken spirit are particularly hard. We are here though… right in a cold, dark New York winter. It has only been winter for winter for mere moments, yet feels like ages.

This year is the first year ever that I will experience what so many I have known and supported have felt- Christmas with one of your special family members in the hospital. I am sure at some point in my life an Aunt or Uncle, or grandparent has been in the hospital… but that doesn’t feel the same. First Christmas’ are so special… squeezing your kiddos together for that picture (that no one is smiling in and one child is not looking at the camera while dressed in plaid or polka dots) is a right of passage. All through pregnancy moms look forward to those parts… and it almost makes up for the varicose veins and stretch marks. My sister and brother-in-law found out they were expecting last Christmas week, a blessing after pain. They continued life along with pregnancy, a challenge with two little dinosaurs, I mean kiddos, to chase, feed and raise… and then Benson came early. Soon after his birth he was diagnosed with HLHS, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome… and has undergone surgeries and procedures to create a heart that will work better until the next two surgeries and beyond. He is a fighter. He is here. Benson’s First Christmas will be spent with some amazing nurses and doctors on the PCCC at Upstate Strong Hospital. He will get little visits from his grownups, he will watch his little mobile, he will get mad when the nurses change his leads and bathe him along with mom or dad. My sisters, our kids and my parents will be minutes away chiseling away at Christmas 2019… swimming in a hotel pool, playing dinosaurs with Benson’s brothers and eating some sort of Chinese Food. Benson should be there too… but he is connected to the hospital, he is safest there. I will miss him while chasing his brothers… I will miss putting the fancy Christmas bib on him, watching my dad sneak him whipped cream and watching all his cousins get excited when he opens a baby toy. I wish he got to enter into a steady state of traditions… but alas that isn’t the plan.

I am working hard to create a script for my brain… about building up where ever I am, where ever we are, not focusing on where we should be. I remember Christmas being easy… but I imagine when I truly think about it, that the very first Christmas was full of pain, dirt and hay, creative things to swaddle a fresh baby Jesus in and great fear of the unknown and known. I imagine the first Christmas was chock full of hard stuff mixed with good stuff. I think the act of doing chaos and hard together and creating something a little dirty but ultimately ‘perfect just as it is’ is a good way to direct my brain and this Christmas. I am not one for plans… they never work out anyway, but I am one to make the best out of what is there. I will refocus my brain on the baby in the manger along with the baby in the hospital bed… because I know that the baby in the manger is caring for Sonnie, and us. I will refocus my brain on the positives, even if I have to really dig… I imagine Mary looking around the stable and thinking this is not the way it should be… but He is here, we are here- it is ‘perfect just as it is’ in all the messiness and chao and fear and knowledge. He is here…

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In my time…


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Sometimes… the missing is so big. Other times I wander through life far too busy to let the missing feel big… I guess we could label that as most of the time. I am so very guilty of not sitting in my pain, and I feel it right now. I am fighting the urge to call a friend and go out to laugh, to turn this part off. I know that a Friday night out listening to a band and eating onion rings would fix this part, it would band aid up the hurting. I could do just that, I know how, I do it far too often. That exact behavior has gotten me to this very spot. I would love to leave this spot, but not just for tonight, for a time. I have a pile to sit in, a shovel full of emotions to feel and a lake full of tears to cry.

Grief is like that… fine for a time, amazing for some moments and then boom… broken again. I believe it will always look like this; my forever looks different that the forever of a mom who gets to wake up here on Earth with all of her kids on Mother’s Day. The missing never leave, you just realize that the world keeps on spinning, others move forward and consequently I must move forward too… tiptoeing sometimes, hiding others… working, watching baseball games, parenting, driving kiddos and all those other things that never feel just right anymore. I remember way back when; when those tasks and many others felt natural to me. I love my life, but so often I feel like a shell of a mom missing a big chunk of me as I watch those games and see those plies and all the dog chasing, they do now-a-days. I miss feeling whole, but I imagine if I felt whole right now I would not be honoring Madeline’s space in me.

Why now?

I don’t know really why these days hit so hard. I feel lost in my faith, though I know that right now He still is my rock in these stormy seas. I feel lost in my life, like I don’t know what direction to head in next. I need to find a way back to being still and checking in with myself, all of which looks different than it used to. I am so tired, tired of getting through Mother’s Day and not feeling like it is a special day. I smile and nod and laugh, but really I am missing the breakfast in bed Madeline never got to bring me… and the cards and experiences I never got to have with her. The other, more full part of me, loves all the bits with my girls that are here as they write me the most special and honest reasons that they love me. Lucy loves so simply and candidly; Amelia always has a sas or a sparkle… a little bit of fairytale. I freakin’ love them…

I imagine who my Madeline would be… and I wish she got to be a difficult and stubborn teenager. I wish I got to see her faith grow, her smile at National Junior Honor Society Induction… she would be totaled annoyed and impressed when I told her I used to be the NHS Treasurer- she might even wonder who the hell would have voted me for that role. I wonder what parts of me she would pick on, what she would be proud of… would I still be a runner, would her favorite place still be the lake… would her cousins still be her best friends??? One can only wonder…

What is it about this time of year, or is it all parts of the year but this is the time I can just break down? I am sure it is a compilation of all of the piles together. Grief and missing are complicated. For tonight, I will fight the urge to head out and seek a distraction, I will sit in it. Right now I sit in the surprise sunlight that joined us this evening… eating Italian bread and letting my face get warm on one side. Stillness is a big part of the healing, over and over. I imagine that when I am 45 and 58 and 60 whatever I will still feel this intense heaviness and need to sit alone and feel all of this emotion, to process all that is missing… to recognize the lack of Madeline in my moments. I’ll never know why this is the life I have, why I have to miss and feel all of this… somedays I wish for different, but tonight I sit in this.

THAT was a February February…

I feel like every Monday afternoon, right about 2:35 almost to the minute, I am walking down the sage green halls at Bradt School repeating to my brain, as I huff down the hall- “Now THAT was a Monday Monday.” If a coworker walks by we often nod our heads and I might even say to them “What a Monday Monday…” and they get it. Mondays are often full of Monday moments…

What does that mean though- a Monday Monday? I think Monday’s take a lot of extra energy, a lot of mental preparation. I anticipate as I work out and get the girls ready for their days at school- that mine will be challenging. As a Teacher’s Aide we prepare for the day after a weekend or vacation, it is necessary. Mondays are often HARD days.

Today is February 28, 2019, it is the last day of February… Halleluiah. I find myself referring to February that way… it was a February February. I sometimes even say this when people ask how this month was, thankfully they know my answer won’t at all cover it all, I answer them “It was a February February”. I think I start February with the same anticipation and preparation that I do a Monday, only bigger. I have to put my brain and heart and mind in a place that they can navigate all of the emotions and grief work that needs to be done. This February was no different in that way… it was a February February.

I keep reflecting on the past 28 days, that felt like 48 long days…

Madeline has now been gone for 7 years. It has been an eternity and a moment… or 7 years. On her anniversary weekend Lucy’s Basketball League honored Madeline and supported Maddie’s Mark. I watched Madeline’s classmates and girls that would have been her peers play basketball. They were so tall, so grown. Those girls are in 7th grade… it was so hard to watch, but it is so beautiful to see them remember Madeline. Those moments don’t look hard on the surface, I don’t think they look hard to the people around me… but they are hard moments to live through.

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We welcomed a new family member to our home, Nikita Elizabeth Musto. She is lovely and well trained and gentle. I didn’t mean to add on to the family… but we welcomed her on Madeline’s Anniversary Weekend, kind of ironic to add a member when we are feeling the missing. I was loosely watching adoption sites, just like I was real estate sites… like someday I won’t live in this house. Anyway, a 2-year-old Nikita popped up, and I just kept going back to her adoption picture. My sister Molly happened to Facebook message me and I mentioned her, she told me to fill out the paperwork and see. So, I decided to be a little brave and a little stupid, and I sent the form with information for the owner to analyze. She got back to me a week later, and we set up a meeting time. We picked her up the next weekend. I think I had PTSD from the last years of Sparky Elizabeth Musto’s life, with all the blind, deaf, pees and poops and escaping. I was cautious to fall in love, to give freedom… but Nikita Elizabeth Musto was the perfect addition on that February weekend laced with missing.

The February break was hard, it was focused on Matthew travelling to Texas with the girls to be with his girlfriend’s family. I think I mentally prepared to nest the whole time they were gone, like I differed the nesting I normally do pre-February. I had to stay busy and be productive, so I wasn’t focused on all of the time I was missing. Thankfully Rick was on board to work with me on a big kitchen project. We redid my countertops and tiles the backsplash… and now every.single.time I was dishes I feel like I am washing dishes in a nicer house and it feels good.

The month was filled with bits of normal, crying and missing, some laughs and some big disappointments. I am not so great at regulating disappointment and anxiety, so waiting on an experience that didn’t get put into motion was a really challenging task for me. It is hard stuff trying to sort through life and emotions, trying to figure which are grief, which are short term and which might be a part of a grudge. It Is hard work trying to stay afloat in all of these emotions and experiences…

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In the midst of it all I was watching a local firefighter fight for his life, while his wife shared his story. This healthy, strong father of two developed a Sepsis infection and was given a 5% chance of survival. I saw her words, begging for prayers and hope, sometimes very specific prayers for kidney function or to heal his hand. He underwent many surgeries, without being aware, including one that his wife Chelsea shared the surgeons prayed over him, and the flesh-eating disease they were sure it was, was no longer when the surgeons opened his skin. He is a miracle, Josh Woodward is a miracle. I have thought over and over this month- God is letting us, literally, watch a miracle as it happens. He is letting us see prayer heal, letting us see prayer save. Through the window of social media we can watch daily as one of God’s miracles heals and prepares for the life God has planned for him. #WoodwardStrong has become an anthem here near Albany, NY reminding us to have hope, pray big and see a miracle for what it is- a miracle.

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This month I also got to attend and help support The Dance to be Healed, which is an amazing night of children who have travelled on the Childhood Cancer Journey. A few years ago, a Nurse married his cancer patient, to lift her spirits. The world fell in love with that video, and the event now raises funds and awareness, but honestly, it is a night for all of those kids to dance and enjoy life in a space surrounded by others who get it. The best part, they aren’t being ‘treated’ for cancer, at least not with chemo and poison… but instead they are being ‘treated’ with dancing and flowy dresses and fun foods and a night off from the cancer world- they just Dance to be Healed.

This miracle and that dance are such positive and beautiful events in these days… we need those bursts of light to hold faithfully on to this journey. The thing is… they are hard moments for me too. It is hard to be the mom of a child who died of cancer… it is hard to know that the miracle God planned for Madeline didn’t look like the miracle God has gifted Josh Woodward. It is all just hard… it is all just so hard.

In true February form this was a February February… right to the core. The mix of emotions, the new members of our family right next to the missing… disappointment laced with hope. I always know this our pain rides right next to our joy, there is no other way. These are the very last moments of February 2019… and I am welcoming March with open arms and an open heart. I am praying that March is softer, lighter and of course full of Birthday magic with it is time to turn 37, I think 37, whatever I am turning. So welcome March, let’s dump this February in history and Spring along… to lighter and brighter days.

 

Super Bowl and Gathering.

I can honestly say that I never really cared about the Super Bowl, maybe there was a time I was slightly into it, but never was it a big deal. On the other hand- I love gathering. I love anything that involves squishing people into a space to laugh and share and eat and drink and enjoying their time. The Super Bowl is a good excuse to gather together… eat, laugh, watch, enjoy time.

In old times, before and after my girls were born, we would either host or pack up and go to friends for nachos and chili. I remember one Super Bowl, I think I was pregnant with Lucy, we went to an unmarried friends’ apartment for the gameday festivities. He had a big fancy TV with this speaker bar thing in front of the TV- you know the electronics you get before you have kids. Imagine two toddlers, lots of electronics, a small bag of toys from home, snacks and a million “No, don’t touch that!”’s were spouted. It was a rough one… but we had fun and I am sure I crashed hard that night.

Super Bowl Sunday holds powerful, beautiful and painful memories for me. On Super Bowl Sunday in 2012 Madeline made her First Communion and Confirmation. In a church filled with many Catholics anticipating the big game- looking forward to the inevitable silly joke the Priest would tell about the teams playing… instead those parishioners were part of a beautiful and lovely 5-year-old with terminal cancer entering adulthood in the church. I wonder what those people thought, if they still think of that Super Bowl Sunday. We left the church and went to an awesome gathering, a party full of people and Italian food and cake. I remember so many people, and the worry we had for Madeline… did she drink enough water, did she need anything. I remember feeling so grateful that on this scary yet beautiful day we were surrounded- the world gathered. Madeline was quiet, I know it was overwhelming for her, I know she felt sad to not be herself. I wish she got to fully enjoy her First Communion…

We left the party to head to Lake Placid for our ‘Whole Family Adventure’, a train of cars headed up into the mountains. I remember hugging my friends as we left for the mountains- begging them to enjoy the Super Bowl, just as they would have if this weren’t happening. I told them, thank you now go have fun, I think I wanted to know that they weren’t breaking too. We were all breaking though…

I don’t remember talking about the Super Bowl that night, I don’t think anyone put it on the TV, or maybe they did and I didn’t realize. I have no idea who won, who played… if the halftime show was scandalous or amazing. I have no recollection of the game. I feel like we were all trying to just be present and together and figure out what to do with the fear and pain and brokenness. It’s like the Super Bowl didn’t happen in that cabin in the Adirondacks…

The thing about the Super Bowl is that thinking about the game and that day makes me sad… but the part about gathering and spending time together is the part that is important to me. I do not care about teams or goals, I never remember to do the pools, I don’t know the rules of the game really… but I love how it brings us together- I love to gather. I love any excuse to eat nachos, drink wine, play games, tell stories and build community.

This year I have a goal to gather more… to do what builds me better. I know this time of year impacts me… I don’t even need a calendar, PTSD doesn’t need a calendar. My brain and heart would break when February comes around even if we stopped writing down the dates- PTSD just knows. This weekend I made a point to gather and adventure… not to settle in and clean and Netflix binge watch. I was really tired today, but I felt full and not empty, I felt a bit of mending- though not fixed. I know what community does to my heart and soul… what gathering means to me. I guess to some they loved that it was Super Bowl Sunday, some could not wait for the Maroon 5 concert… but for me I loved eating and laughing and squishing into my tiny house. I love the importance of Gathering, of building and connecting… and on an anniversary that breaks me, I chose to insert some building blocks.

Gather… laugh, cry, tell stories, eat, drink, move and enjoy this… even if it is Super Bowl Sunday, even if you are missing 1/3 of the most amazing Musto Chicks…

How has age hit me?

 

The social media world is covered with the ‘How hard did age hit you challenge?’ and I have to be honest it is neat to see people way back when Facebook really became big next to a snapshot of the present. Some people have looked younger today than 10 years ago and others look far older than 10 years ago. It makes me think, what did they do differently? I also think the filters were nonexistent only 10 years ago- so you were forced to look your age… in fact filters are a product of all of this sharing on social media and the desire to have things look perfect. I remember back when my first pictures were loaded from our digital camera, taking many moments to upload multiple pictures for family and friends to see. I don’t think my brain could have imagined how far technology has come today- it took me years to come to terms with digital pictures, they were so intangible- fast forward 10 years and it is all different.

I was curious to see my profile picture from 10 years back so I dove right in. Man 10 years is a long time, and a moment all together. Isn’t it funny how time works, speedy slow? I guess it isn’t a surprise, I remind myself the while you are living in something or through something it is sslllooowww feeling, but in retrospect it was only a moment in your history. I am not discrediting those moments; however, those moments can alter the rest of your life here on Earth, but when you can stand back and look at the time it ticked by at the same speed time always ticks by at.

Looking at all of these pictures and reflecting really got my brain a thinking… I guess it jostled some of my cobwebs and made me dig a little. I saw a lot of people loving their today snapshots more than their past, others wishing they could relive that youth and wrinkles time and some others who didn’t want to acknowledge the older version because she hadn’t been through what the ‘now snapshot’ had. Each different post made me think broader… and try to gather my own self in this. Where did I lie? Was I the kind of person who wished for the softer, wrink-less version of me??? Did I prefer this 2019 version of me? Do I hate the parts between, do I wish I could change any of it???

I came to this conclusion.

It all comes back to my belief that “Age is a privilege not gifted to all”.  I love 2008 ‘me’, 2019 ‘me’ and every bit of ‘me’ between and before. I have yet to meet future ‘me’, but I imagine I will love her as well. I cannot be ‘me’ without every.single.little.and.big.thing in all of my history. I think back to 2008 me…

She was naïve and soft. She had yet to be broken, to be so hurt that she couldn’t stand up. 2008 me had no idea, and I mean no idea, that a marriage contract meant nothing to some… that a person you love so much could get into a car and drive to another woman. She didn’t know any of that. She didn’t know how to love herself, how to walk into a room and own it. 2008 Erin thought she was stupid and worthless… that her value was small because her work felt small and focused on feeding, napping, teaching, cleaning and building little people. She didn’t know she was strong and determined, she had been told that she was fat and her vocabulary was that of a 3-year-old. She was scared of money and being alone. 2008 me lived like trust and respect were things we just gave. She was scared of different and lived in her little bubble of safety. In 2008 she was blissfully unaware that her firstborn daughter would be diagnosed with cancer, and would die. She had no idea the extent of pain and loss that the world had in store for her. She had less wrinkles and better hair… she even wore sunscreen. She attended weddings like it was her social scene, right along with her then husband. 2008 Erin talked about her future, her girls proms, weddings… middle school, grandbabies and sunsets on Lake Ontario with her forever faithful husband…

Part of me thought… Erin, what if I could tell her, what if I could warn her? What if it doesn’t have to hurt so much… what if I could prevent those days of not being able to stand up? What if I could prepare for the missing of Madeline? What if, what if… but what if doesn’t work. She/I needed to be that naïve girl with low self-esteem. She/I needed to think my value was based on my vocabulary and weight… I needed to think I was just doing dumb work feeding and wiping and teaching my kids… I needed to struggle and hurt. I had to be all of those versions of myself, to get to this version. I often wonder what the 46-year-old version of me will be like… she better be amazing and strong and solid… and I freakin’ hope she has written a book and traveled the world.

Who am I today?

Where did these 10 years get me? The thing is that is all how you look at it… one could look at my life, and maybe many do, like I have a pretty sucky set of cards… my daughter was diagnosed with cancer, she died, my husband had many affairs and complicated situations arose from those, and we are divorced… sounds pretty crappy right?

I choose to see it the way that it really has rolled out… my daughter was diagnosed with cancer and died- my marriage dissolved and divorce has left me free… free from so many things. I hate that Madeline died, that has altered every second of my forever from that moment around 3am on February 8, 2012. I can’t ever be the mom of 3 Earthlings again… my story changed. I wish it didn’t but I do the best with what I have. Most days I get up and workout and drink coffee and do my job and raise my girls… alongside missing her. My marriage dissolved into a co-parenting situation that mostly is just fine. It was harder in the beginning, but we got better at it. It helps that I have worked so hard at maintaining healthy boundaries for me and my girls- firmly reminding myself of those boundaries. I became better at communicating with my words and emotions, defining my needs and keeping myself around positive people. I no longer just let people into my world… trust and respect are earned not given. It has been a rollercoaster, but it is my rollercoaster. I own it. I own the twists and turns, the broken and the healed… I own the confidence and weakness… I own it all. I own every second of these years- 2019, 2008 and long before…

A lot has changed… a lot has stayed the same… there are more wrinkles, more tears, more pain, more loss, more joy, more building, more accomplishments, more boundaries and lessons. I still have my Jeep Commander, my red kitchen, my lack of love for the Musto Mountain of Laundry and my love for coffee in the am and good red wine in the pm. I wouldn’t change a thing… not even the ugly parts. I love and own my 10 years that passed in a moment. I am grateful the privilege of aging has been gifted to me, I plan to use it well.

The Simple Silence of Snow

Snow is so quiet. I stood outside today and the gray sky enveloped me, and for a moment the whole world fell silent. It is odd to feel silent in the bustle, but snow has a way to slowing and quieting even the loudest bustle. While I stayed in that quiet, outside of Bradt Elementary, the trees just stood, the sky was one tone of gray, and the air was so still. It has been a long time since I felt that degree of silent. That’s the thing about snow… it is so quiet.

I think one of the most silent places I have ever been was Lake Ontario in February, the gray sky as far as you can see, waves now covered in flat ice… just one tone of gray, no sounds to steal the show. Most hate the lake in the winter, I love it. It is a clear gift to slow the bustle, to quieting the loud. A few cold minutes on shores of Lake Ontario immersed in the gray and quiet is enough to take the sting off the crazy, busy of life. Today I felt a bit of that…

Life is NOT quiet. It is loud and full of chatter and noise, full of direction and movement. I am so guilty of not taking time to bask in quiet, to stay still in some silence. I just move, live, chatter, breathe, run, plan… with little more time to take. I allow the chatter to fill my brain, and as much as I would love more silence raising two daughters in a small Cape Cod is not the best place to find silence. The chatter is overpowering. I have struggled lately to even find a space to breathe in this parenting a Middle Schooler time in my life. Today I found a bit of silence in the coming snow. I felt a moment of breath… then I got in my Jeep and ran to the Post Office and taught Church School and came home to make dinner- gone is that silence. I didn’t even bottle it when I felt it, if only I could capture that in a mason jar and set it on a shelf for another time, I need it more, when the chatter is too much. If only…

This time of the year is tough. This silence evokes feelings that don’t surface in the chatter. There are holidays to be celebrated without one of my best people, the cold short days can be so lonely, my brain remembering all the 7 years ago ‘we were doing this…’… I didn’t even know it would be the last. Now that I know, it makes this time of year a deep time, there is no sunshine to wander in, no beaches to play in, no long days to spend busy… there are no bonfires and smores. It’s different on these days, there is quiet and slow down, cancelled plans and snow days. It’s a blessing and a curse…

The simple silence of snow has come to the north. It will wrap us up in it’s quiet and dull the chatter for a few months. The silence and gray will give us the quiet to dive into the pain, the loss and all the missing. I don’t think I was prepared for today’s gray silence, but like always- we don’t get to pick. We don’t get to pick…

The simple silence of snow has come to the north, I embrace it for the blessing and the curse that it brings. I honor the emotions that it brings to the surface, all the missing. I imagine someday snow and this season will feel magical again…

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Light the way…

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The world feels so heavy and painful these past few days. I don’t know how to process it all. I am sure these feelings are what everyone is feeling. I just keep thinking about the passengers, the pumpkin pickers, the parents…

My brain won’t stop thinking about those kids who kissed their parents as they headed out on a little fun adventure, of those mom’s who are waking up without their daughters and sons. One mom lost four daughters… four daughters. I can’t fathom, I can’t understand, I can’t figure out what to do with this sadness. No one can.

…Just like that the 500 pound ‘person’ is sitting on me when I sit down in the chair in my living room. I close my eyes and I can just barely feel that mom’s pain. One day celebrating your daughter, the next four daughters gone. I can’t get it out of my mind, not that I should. This is a catastrophic loss in a community and beyond.

The world is short 20 people- most are described as kind, compassionate, positive, fun, real and special. Most were friends, all together to celebrate.

I wish I knew what to do, how to make the impact softer. There is nothing to soften this… nothing can carry this weight and pain. Nothing can lighten the load for those moms, dad, kids and the whole community.

My girl’s father immediately said “Erin driving is the most dangerous thing we do.” I reminded him that I know. The thing is driving is a necessary for us to live well, to adventure, to visit family, to see new things, to be a team and to earn a living. Living well is important, so IMPORTANT.

Life is meant to be lived. I wish we could erase Saturday’s tragedy from history, and those 20 people were back to their lives and jobs today. It can’t unhappen though… I can’t understand or make sense of it, but I remind myself that is not my job. My job is to live well- to live well and bring those passengers and pumpkin pickers along. My job is to be kind, be caring, stay positive, have fun, be real and bring along their special. My job is to try to be a light in the darkness for others, just like others lit the way for me.

In a world that is heavy and full of pain… a world that makes no sense, not even an ounce… in a world that just needs light- go be the light for those who need the dark path lit. Light the way for those mommas, dads, kids and community…

Just for a moment…

Time moves and the world spins, it spins and spins. That is how the world works, how time works… the world spins and time moves on. I know this, I see this- but it still hits me.

It was a sunny, chilly and perfect Best Run Ever. I love this day- I get to chat and catch up with people I never get to see and I get to see MANY people run like cheetahs. Madeline loved to run. She would run in circles around the front yard, exclaiming “Mommy, I am as fast as a cheetah!!!”. I would always smile as I sat on a blanket and watched- and think ‘She is fast, but I hope she doesn’t get cocky about it.’ I remember her teacher telling me that Madeline would just run circles around the playground, not even play on the equipment, she would run with her friend. She would run ‘as fast as a cheetah’ on her playground, way back when.

I ran a marathon in October 2011. I worked that whole year to train and prepare to run 26.2 miles. Madeline would bring me my Gatorade after my long run and the rest of my girls would then run outside and climb all over my sore body as I tried to stretch. She was so proud of me. Honestly, I have no real regrets of the life that Madeline and my girls had, but I really wish I took her out of school and brought her to my marathon. All sorts of people told me not to let her miss school days- and now I know that educational and important experiences trump a day of learning to read or practice sight words. I wish she had been my real and true cheer leader, it would have made it perfect. Life is like that though…

Madeline loved to run. She was smooth and fast. Her runs would be accompanied by this infectious giggle, a little raspy and so very perfect. I miss her like crazy…

I love when people get together and celebrate and honor my daughter, it keeps me going. I had a hard time talking today, partly because I rushed up to the mic when my jeans were slipping down and partly because it takes a lot of emotion to live this… to miss her.

I didn’t mean to share about Madeline running on the playground in circles, in a way the 5k is a big circle to me. Every runner heads out there and finishes the circle- just like Madeline did around my tree and her playground. Part of this 5k is seeing MANY people, people who knew Madeline mixed with people who didn’t run together and build together…

Today was amazing. In that amazing is hard…

It is hard to see peers of Madeline’s… hard to see them grow, hard to see them run. There were only 2 of Madeline’s peers running today, and they ran like cheetahs. They followed that direction and brought her along on the run. It was invigorating and exciting to watch them cross the finish line- I felt so proud of them. That pride was laced with hard…

It is a special thing to see that while the world keeps spinning, and spinning and spinning… for a moment the world stopped again- for a moment it wasn’t spinning away from Madeline, but along with her. I always love my yearly hug from my girl’s preschool teacher- who knows my girls better than most, to get to see old coworkers who were knew Madeline, before we knew if she was a he or a she. I love getting to hug Mad’s Godmother, her old playdate friends, my old friends- one from high school even snuck down with her set of boys. It is special…

Today my world almost slows down… who am I kidding- it just moves on in it’s traditional Musto Chick fashion… working on Best Day Ever’s and a speech presentation for this week, getting my girls to the eye doctor and dance and Church School. This is the normal… the days when the world keeps spinning, but for one morning the world, most of it, slowed down to a pace I can tolerate and enjoy… for one morning it felt like the world was spinning along with Madeline.