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…

Root and Wings…

1002190735.jpgChange is hard. Change is very hard.

This year has been full of change, all kinds of change. Fast change, the peel the band aid off kind of change mixed with the slow kind, the change you stew with and sit with until inevitably it happens and you are still here, still breathing and living and doing. Change is rarely easy, necessary but not easy.

This year I changed careers. That change is a big one, a really big one! Several weeks ago, I said goodbye to an era and set out for something new. Bradt school is less of a job and more of a family, surrounded in walls that hold some precious memories and connections to Madeline.

It was time for new walls, new adventures and new goals… I don’t know if I can say it any better than this…

Dear Bradt Family,

I am writing to let you all know that I have accepted a position at The Red Cross. I am very excited (and to be honest a bit scared for the transition) but I know it is the next journey for this lady. I will be recruiting and supporting volunteers for blood drives, disaster relief and some military support. It will be a challenge, but boy do I love a good challenge.

Thank you. Thank you for being my family through so many difficult times. I feel a huge connection to Bradt’s hallways. Those grey and white tiles and rainbow painted rooms have housed all three of my girls, and there are no more hallways or doors or rooms that will ever do that again. I still can hear Madeline singing the songs she was learning for Morning Program, then to hear Amelia and Lucy sing those same songs has been painful and perfect. I am honored and grateful for the roles you all played in building my girls. I know they were safe and loved and learning and laughing… all important things.

When I joined Bradt, as an employee and not just a Mystery Reader Extraordinaire, I thought I would occasionally sub in the cafeteria. Alma had a different plan for me, and the Special Ed department holds a very big part of my heart. I will never forget the funny times and the most difficult times… you become very close working in BSD, must be the trust and sweat. I have worked at Bradt since Lucy entered Kindergarten and took her spot in the Lime Room- she is in 5th grade now! I have accrued over a million steps from A-wing to F-wing… I have met with and worked with some of the most amazing educators and staff. I am honored to work with the most amazing support staff, ladies and gentlemen that are in the background of education. I may not have known to recognize them if I didn’t travel this road. I will forever know that every kid is being cared for with an extra big hug from Mrs. Delgallo, extra food in the backpack from an Assistant or Mrs. Reilman’s shoulder and strategies.

I have never been a big fan of the saying “It takes a village”… I always think of it more as a family, a village has lots of people I don’t want to influence my girls. I don’t just let my girls out to wander a village, but I love that they are surrounded by a family, a big quirky family. I am thankful for being a part of a family that has built my girls and myself- through death and divorce and pain. You are all part of my light at the end of the tunnel…

I will not only miss you guys, I will miss the kids I love lots… and the walkie talkie, I will definitely miss that walkie talkie. I can’t imagine life without “DAVE/JOE” or answering Code Reds with ‘Received’… only to forget where you needed to be. I imagine life without a walkie will be a weird one.

Good luck guys, keep building great people and teaching them manners, social skills, a bit of reading, some Eureka math and the importance of love and respect. I am trusting you all with that… for me I will go try a new adventure and come back when you need a Professional Mystery Reader.




I have been with the American Red Cross Eastern New York Region for just over a month. I have learned so much, it is like everyday I learn more information about the work of the Red Cross in our communities and Internationally. I am a Volunteer Recruitment Specialist, which a very important task considering 90% of the Red Cross work is done by volunteers. I love the people I am meeting- employees and volunteers. I love the overlap with my hometown- shout out to Watertown. I love knowing that my role in recruiting and securing a solid volunteer base ensures that there are volunteers at every fire to support a family directly, volunteers supporting and connecting our military families to their deployed soldiers, volunteers advocating and helping veterans have basic needs, Volunteers teaching children about fire safety, volunteers transporting lifesaving blood to hospitals or supporting at blood drives and while people are evacuating disasters there are volunteers that will head there to feed and shelter and offer comfort to people who are suffering. What can I tell you, I have learned A LOT!

It has been a month of learning and juggling; in ways I have never needed to. Amelia and Lucy are super proud, and love to hear about the programs, they hope to participate one day. I am proud to say Lucy has my card displayed on her desk top near her dried dead beetles, a picture of her and her sisters dressed as super heroes and her military wallet from Aunt Molly… you gotta be cool to be on that shelf. Amelia is loving the fact that I borrow her makeup and ask her for advice on my new business casual outfits. I am grateful for the help of the girl’s grandparents and my friends. It has been new and crazy and full of change, but it is all working out … and at the end of the day we are each still there breathing and living and doing.

Onward to new challenges, but looking back on my family at Bradt, with the reminder that I will come read for any kiddo who has no mystery reader or needs a ‘stand in’ parent for a special lunch. I have some deep roots in Rotterdam, but my wings are bringing me all around the region. Thank you to all who have helped or supported this big change, thank you Dania for the snazzy new headshots that you squeezed in for me to look like a grown up, thank you to all who listen when I tell you the 100 new things I learned about the American Red Cross… I will have 100 more to tell you next time- or better yet sign up to volunteer and be a part of something profound- a mission to alleviate human suffering.

Choosing Little Deal

I am a firm believer in recognizing things in life as big deal or little deal. In my most professional place, the place that pays my bills, I have a conversation most mornings with the people I work with. I say to them as we walk down the hall and get to the places we need to be “Don’t forget, Big Deal/Little Deal. What is a Big Deal?” They tell me “Blood, boo-boos and broken bones”… and I ask “What is a little deal?” They tell me “Everything else.” Once we have established that we know what a big deal or little deal is we then talk about our day and making a choice to remember big deal/little deal. “If your writing isn’t perfect big deal/little deal?… if your friend pushes you big deal/little deal?” and so on and so forth. I also remind myself that it takes time for anyone to soak in that something that FEELS like a big deal in a moment, to them, might really be a little deal in the grand scheme of life. This is the story of a day as a Social Emotional support staff at an elementary school.

It is also that same way I parent my children, support my friendships and communicate in my family. Big deal/little deal… the easiest and hardest lesson to learn. I fail, we all do… but I try again and retell myself in my best big girl voice- Erin Big Deal/Little Deal???? What is a big deal??? Blood, boo boos and broken bones (which covers many areas under those simple words) and what is a little deal? Everything else… and generally speaking my life is chock full of little deal, take a deep breath and move on. I try not to store it up, but sometimes it happens. I have had a few times this spring that I have just had an uber tantrum, in my words, but in the wise words of my friend- I did some emotional draining. I love when those wise people give you the right words to understand your moment. In that moment she reminded me of a few things- that the thing that put me into this tantrum was NOT A BIG DEAL, that I need to let my emotions drain and I am stronger than letting that thing be a big deal. After a couple good tantrums in May, I felt like my emotions were drained off and my brain was back to place of recognizing big deal/little deal…

This past weekend tested my skills to the edge, but I am proud to say I did it. I made it to Wednesday still feeling ok and calm with my little deal reactions. Saturday morning was a really good morning, easy and slow… like summer Saturdays should be. Lucy and I went to drop our laundry at the Laundromat (another little deal issue of the year), then go take care of my friend Dana’s chickens. I parked and put in the codes, we loaded up the waters, spread out the dried mealworms and collected the eggs. It was time to start my Jeep… and she would not turn over. It was 90* plus and I had to get to a memorial in a couple hours… I sat and took a few deep breathes and tried not to cry. I called AAA and they sent out a big truck. Lucy and I went back inside the house, I took a shower and she played for a bit. We had to run to the end of my friend’s road/driveway to help the tow truck guy find her house. He was so nice, helped Lucy and I into his high truck and had cold water for us. We got back to the Jeep, as he checked out the Jeep I said something about how he shows up when no one is in a good place, that must stink. He replied, sometimes I get to make it a better day for them, give them good news- and for you it is just your battery. I reminded myself that he is the saver on those hard days. I was sloping downhill and he brought my perspective back up. While my battery charged and Lucy ate Dana’s kids popsicles (because the best friends don’t mind if you raid their home, shower and eat their food when you are in need)… he asked how my AC works, I told him it doesn’t. It has been charged a few times, but we are wide open window people, except Lucy’s window she killed the motor years ago. He began looking at the fuses and reading my manual and pointed me in a direction to a quick fix for my AC- none of which was his job, just his kindness. When she was all charged Lucy and I thanked him, and drove (Halleluiah) to the laundromat, grabbed our gear and got home. Amelia had prepped all we needed for the memorial and we were only a few moments late. The girls and I were welcomed right in and met with a mom who lost her daughter suddenly too. We did what we do, we set up a rock painting station and painted away. I looked like a paint covered crazy lady by the end of the night, but it was just right. We went home and felt good… it was a good day even with the crappy middle.

Kind AAA Guy

Lucy was complaining about the middle of our Saturday, and the time she had to waste. I understood; I didn’t mean to have a whole afternoon with those circumstances… but life never goes as planned. I reminded her that the afternoon could have gone worse, my Jeep could have done that at the Laundromat, or somewhere else. We could have been stuck in a hot, hot place and not had an airconditioned house with a shower and snacks. He could have needed to tow her somewhere; it might have been a big deal. She nodded and I thanked her for being my partner… I promised her a big ice-cream cone soon. She smiled…

I woke up on Sunday, headed to the gym, and my Jeep had let me down again. I wanted to cry, but I texted my friend, she picked me up in her reliable Jeep and we worked out. We got some of our brain cleaning and laughing out, thankfully those around us had headphones in. She dropped me home and I called AAA again, and a nice man came over and replaced my battery. It hurt to give him my debit card and pay for the battery, but it felt good knowing that my Jeep is safe and running. Actually, she is running really well… big deal averted.

While I was at the gym with my friend, she noted that I stayed calm even though it is a tremendous amount of pressure to add to my life right now. I nodded… and told her right now I am choosing to see this as a little deal. If I were to act out on this right now, it would be a pile of emotion not equal to this problem and not necessary… instead we are going to work out my body, brain and emotions. When we left I felt lighter, starting to know it is a little deal, not having to choose to see it that way anymore. I am sitting here on a Wednesday morning and every part of me knows that it is a little deal in the grand scheme of life… it was a not fun moment but not blood, boo boo or broken bone.

I think a lot of people could start their day as they get out of bed and get ready for life by saying “Big Deal/Little Deal… what is a BIG Deal???? And what is a little deal???” The answers to ‘what is a Big deal?’ for you may be different, but remember everything else is a little deal. It really is, even if you have to choose that, choose to let it go, choose to not engage, choose to not react, choose. It is hard, but important. Practice this… it is a practice to succeed. Every morning as we walked down the hall to our classrooms, I remind my friends, we talk about strategies when it is hard to see it as a little deal, we prepare for the moments that will be hard. In those days and months of walking down the hallways and talking about this there is change, those special kiddos start to practice this and know it… and they don’t need me so much to remind them.

Big Deal/Little Deal?… that is the question.


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

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

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

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

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

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

In my time…

grief brene.png

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.

END – TIME = 37

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Age is a privilege, not given to all.


A Miracle Kind of Day…

Hot Pink Heels and Beautiful Balds…

Today is about miracles, many miracles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Just Write…


It’s been a while, since I have cracked open this laptop of mine. It’s been a while since my fingers typed bits of the stories and lessons of my life and time. It’s been a while since I connected my brain and heart with words for my eyes to see and read. I feel like I didn’t want to listen to myself, like maybe reading what my brain and heart were thinking would be too much or too real. I have avoided my keyboard and kitchen table like they were peach flavored candies or mushrooms… both of which I avoid all.the.time.

What is the purpose of this avoidance? I know for me my fastest and strongest defense mechanism is avoidance. I remember the day I realized it, sitting in my councilor’s office talking out all the things I could not get myself to tackle, even down to my voicemail. She said “Erin, that is avoidance.” I thought, back then, about avoiding knowing that she was right, about putting it away to handle later- but I started tackling things and telling the part of my brain that pushes avoidance to leave me alone. It worked. The thing is, just like Weight Watchers, we can know how to do something and get healthier- but when we get away from practicing it mindfully, we resort back to the easy… and for me my favorite tactic for handling too much is avoidance.

Why? I honestly don’t know, maybe it is just me subconsciously choosing the easy path in my brain. I might just need a way to see only things that are easy to handle… but then I also push those off. I might just shut down when there is too much, and in that case I need to recognize the scale of the pile just before it is too much and my brain starts avoiding… what is my tipping point? So maybe I need work on identifying my tipping point…

So… now you know- I am a hot-mess-human. I am a work in progress. I am working on the progress. I miss this keyboard, and the slow computer that is connected to it… I even miss that the stupid Norton Antivirus reminder pops up 50 times in an hour (or maybe only 1, just as annoying). I miss the way it feels to take my thoughts and brain conversations and watch the screen as my fingers hit the keys and my eyes can read them all. It is much messier in my brain, so the neatness factor of the typed words really helps my everything see order, well order alongside the hot-mess-human that I am.

These past weeks have been challenging, really dark and cold… and lonely. I still sit in the smallness of my family here, and wish the plan had a bigger, louder and less picky dinnertime set up… but alas I give up control and trust that in His time there is a plan for a louder and fuller dinner table to come. To make the month a little harder, because it’s a great idea to challenge yourself at your lowest, I jumped on the Dry January bandwagon. It is a challenge, to sit in myself and just be, with no added crutches or aid, just me. I don’t always like the version of me that I see… so I guess it is an opportunity to work on being the best version of me. Everyone says Dry time improves everything, but I have been sick and tired and dealing with normal mom stuff, divorce stuff, loss of Madeline stuff… all of it… and wine makes it all easier, so I am embracing harder.

All and all, I struggle this time of year every year. I miss the sun. I miss big crazy family time. I miss being social, January is lonely. I miss Madeline… I see kids play basketball and I remember them from her class, I think about these times 7 and 8 and 9 years ago… I just wish it could be different, but it can’t. I found myself sad when a child’s tumor disappeared… excited and sad. I know I was truly excited for her miracle, and sad for mine. It was a hard December and January isn’t rolling out easily… so it has been extraordinarily hard. In these times, times of hard and avoidance, I remind myself that I can do hard things, hard hard things… and it won’t always feel like this. The sun will come out, my heart will get a little less inflamed, my brain will do it’s jobs, my fingers will type and the days will feel lighter. The days will feel lighter. I won’t be in this place forever… and ‘now’ won’t last that long. Tomorrow is Friday… and we are one day closer to spring. I actually scheduled some fun things for the next few weeks… it is always good to have things to look forward to. I will work hard on the right now, the work I need to do to quit defaulting to avoidance. I told myself to just write, just open up that laptop and write… and after the 20 minutes of loading and 500 reminders for Norton Antivirus (well… maybe 2) my fingers have stayed nice and busy and typed as my brain sent out some thoughts… and just like that I am writing again. It feels like it has been 100 years… but it has only been a few broken hard holidays, a trip home and a few work days since my fingers last organized my brain. Thank you fingers for the chatter on the keyboard that pops up on the screen and sends order back into my brain as my eyes read it, thank you… I am glad I have you digits…

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…