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…

Different kind of Normal, Different kind of Togetherness.

Today is Sunday… a day that has a distinct feeling for me normally.  It’s a day of Mass and dinner with the girls, maybe meal prep and getting my mind ready for the week.  Shop and make hard boiled eggs, roast some veggies and remind Amelia to see if her homework is done… bathes and wrapping Lucy’s wet hair in her turbine thing and snuggling on the couch until bedtime, normally.

Today is Sunday… only it could be a Monday or Friday or Saturday, there are no real scheduled separators to make this feel like a Sunday.  The sun is out, it is chilly.  It could be any day really, but it is Sunday.

I got excited last night when I saw that St. Madeleine Sophie would be livestreaming mass at 9 am, a bit of normalish.  While I was laying in bed, waiting to get up, I was chatting with my aunt and told her about mass, so her clan decided they were joining mass too.  I got up, shared quickly on FB and grabbed a nice hot cup of coffee, gathered the girls and dog and set up shop in the living room.  I was feeling excited- I even told God make sure this is a good homily, not the kind that I leave mass feeling that I didn’t gain much from that, sometimes thinking I could have done it better, but that is cocky!  I sat down and started watching…

I have never watched mass.  I have never sipped coffee while watching mass.  I have never looked out into my living room while sipping coffee and watching mass.  I have never sat on a couch while my kids sprawled out in the sunshine and looked around my living room while sipping coffee and watching mass.  I have never included my dog on the couch while my kiddos sprawled in the sunshine in my lovely little living room while sipping coffee and watching mass.  A lot of ‘never have I ever’s’ today, and everyday lately.  What will it be like when everyday isn’t full of piles of strange reminders of this different becoming normal.

It felt good to be watching mass and participating with 200 other households, I may have celebrated mass with 500 people who knows!  A reminder to my brain and heart, that we are in this together.  We are finding ways to not let this hardship win but instead let it change us, build us better and appreciate togetherness more than we ever have.

The Gospel was a powerful one, it made sense right now, today.  Father’s Homily was perfect for last week, now and these coming weeks.  Father spoke of truth… truth that we want to own and know and truth that we don’t want to.  Acknowledging and forgiving, healing… trusting that He is with us in all of that.  Inconvenient truth- He asked God to give us more of this, more inconvenient truth.  That hit me… especially in this world we find ourselves in, with time to handle inconvenient truths inside of ourselves and prepare for the future of inconvenient truth that will come and plop itself in life when it is not easy or good timing.  This world slow down time feels like it is the best time to acknowledge and forgive and heal and hope… and get to know our truth better.  It resonated in me…

Father asked us to all cooperate with grace.  I find myself often putting grace on a backburner for life, or appointments or work or busy- ness.  Avoiding the graces gifted… trying to point my life in my own direction.  Cooperate with grace.  Father said“When we cooperate with the grace that is given it enables us to find joy where there is pain, to find hope when it feels hopeless- to find regeneration of life where there was none.”  Regeneration of life… along with the pain and hard we are regenerating life.  We get to rebuild, to cooperate with grace.

Grace is here… right next to pain and lonely and hard and sad.  Grace is sunshine to walk at Madeline’s Spot.  Grace is watching mass in my lovely little living room while sipping coffee and looking at pictures of my favorite people God gifted me.  Grace is finding my laugh, my deep gut laugh, while rocking out to Cher ‘Turn back Time’ while delivering bendaroo rainbows to some of our herd.  Grace is ordering Chicken Parm and having a fancy Italian dinner with my girls, surrounded with rainbows, Madeline’s real favorite color.  Grace is watching my girls Facetime with their grandparents and cousins… because TECHNOLOGY rocks!!!  Grace is sharing stories about the Ice Storms I lived through, and how happy I was to squish my family into my grandma’s house and stay warm while eating corn dogs with cousins.  Grace is doing paint and sip’s with my daughters, me sipping wine and them sipping Gatorade.  Grace is having groceries, wine and Gatorade… and TP.  Grace is having a job that allows me to work from home, while still doing really important work.  Grace is a smile, a little chat and a well wish from a stranger 6 feet away who just happened to be running at Madeline’s Spot.  Grace is having gas and wheels to get to go find rainbows, deliver food to friends and to go on adventures.  Grace is having a really hard moment, crying it out, feeling it… and knowing that we will get through this, we will rejoice soon.  There is a celebration, an Easter to come.  Grace is all those amazing little things, and big things that we have and don’t at all deserve.  Cooperate with grace…

After mass I picked up my mug and looked on FB and saw that I had watched mass with other friends and family.  We did a together thing, from apart.  A different kind of together, a different kind of normal.  Today is Sunday, and it feels like a Sunday.  A little Amazing Grace… and togetherness from apart… a bit of Jesus and grace in this crazy different kind of normal time.

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.

grief

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

Benson

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

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

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

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

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“The Brave Little Soul”

by John Alessi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Year of the Broken Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…

nativity-scene-mary-joseph-baby-jesus-1326846-gallery.jpg

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.

Love,

Erin

 

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.