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…

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.

The Year of the Broken Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feet to the ground.

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

grounded

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Welcome Messy Little Rainbow Boy

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

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

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

rainbow

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

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

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

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

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

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.

I hope you dance…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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.

Ode to Irish Ones…

Top o’ the afternoon to ya. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to all…

I love March, it is a month of more light, memories, Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations and my birthday… which I historically celebrated for the month, March 30 deserves some extra celebrating. I love that we start to enjoy sprinkles of spring, bits of sunshine and a warmth you can only feel if you spent the last few months in the cold of a New York winter. The feeling of standing in sunshine on a 45* day with your boots on and your children basking in that warmth… is so different than standing in the sunshine at the beach on July 4th, so different than visiting the sunshine in Florida in February… it is different. We have waited for this… we have worked for this. We are going to embrace every.single.ounce.of.sun and light that the world gifts us. We just survived a Northern New York winter… we earned that warmth. Friday was like that for us.

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day, and thankfully we got to celebrate for a whole weekend. I left work Friday with so much excitement and anticipation… planning out the moments for the weekend and prepping clothes for the festivities. I felt like a little kid… excited for all that we do on these days. That’s the thing, we don’t really have a thing anymore. My roots and memories are based in Watertown, in the times I had growing up. I had some college Saint Patrick’s Day memories but honestly, I would have taken the simplicity of those days when I was young over the crazy drunken days. I loved those days… days with a church potluck and running around with cousins. Leaving just enough mess at the Parish Center for Sister Norah to notice, but not punish. We would religiously stand at the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, bundled as much as necessary… cold did not prevent the celebrations. After the parade we would walk over to the State Office Building, get our stamps and head in for salt potatoes floating in a pool of melted butter, just like Molly loved. I loved watching the Irish Dancers in the Auditorium. I loved going to the corner where Uncle Sean would always be waiting, watching the State Troopers who had just marched with their families. The bands and the old ladies who would dance… it is an atmosphere that I believe only the Irish can create.

Today looks different than so many of my remembered moments. This weekend as a whole looked so different. I guess I imagined bringing my girls up with all I was blessed to experience, but we all know that didn’t work out as planned. I mean there were some red flags of my fantasy all along, the girl’s father was not a fan of Irish people, of the culture and traditions, he much preferred to lean on his Italian roots. I, myself, loved the idea of Irish Italian girls… products of potatoes and pasta… big crazy families and strong grounded faith in the Catholic Church. He liked to dress them in green shirts that proclaimed that we were just Americans “Kiss me, I’m American”. It poked me a little every.single.time they wore those, but I smiled and allowed it… I rolled over and felt like it wasn’t a good thing to be an ‘Erin’ on a day that honors those roots. I am not that ‘Erin’ anymore…

This weekend I worked hard to create some bits for my girls of the magic of my traditions. I talk about my family all of the time with the girls, I have to remind them of which uncle is the funny one with red hair (that one needs clarification), what Hayle used to call Aunt Bridget, which Aunt takes all of the pictures. They are used to visiting my grandma and grandpa… and our Aunt Jane. I searched for something with some good Irish music and food… I wanted to enjoy this weekend. We went to a Concert at Proctors with The Screamin’ Orphans. It was awesome. There was a bagpiper, Irish Dancers and a Girl Rock Band with the.best.accent.you.can.imagine. We had so much fun… my feet hurt and my brain remembered songs I heard growing up. We came home and watched Boondock Saints… because we all need to watch a couple hot Irish men get rid of the bad guys every once and a while.

This morning we woke up and got ready for Lucy’s Basketball Banquet. We had plans to go to this Ancient Order of Hibernian’s for the Irish Festival, I woke with an idea though. I offered the choice to Lucy- to go celebrate our Irish roots or make the sauce that her Grammie makes. I had this thought that maybe, because we get to choose what our tradition looks like, we could mesh our traditions, mine alongside their dad’s family traditions. They have been asking to make sauce for a long time. Lucy said “Mom, that is a hard decision”… “Sauce and Mumford & Sons”. Of course I decided in that moment that I love her more than anything in the world… or maybe equally to her siblings (we can’t have a favorite right???).

So today, in total difference than any other Saint Patrick’s Day is a Saucey Sunday… with green shirts and hands that have never squeezed wet bread or made meatballs. It is a mix of their roots, I guess my old roots. It looks different but it still felt good… funny how that can happen. We filled that big pot and made those meatballs, seared those sausages… and we laughed with our aprons on. I put on one of my favorite movies after, P.S. I love you. I felt like throwing in some Irish to the day… and weirdly I think it is the most romantic movie ever. Imagine being so planned that you planned to deliver some love after you die. I cry in so many spots of that movie, which confuses my girls, because those moments seem happy. I just wish more than anything in the world that I got that, that I got 10 letters from Madeline, reminding me how much she loves me and that she misses me. What would that be like???

I look at these years and I know that she delivered her ’10 letters’… she warned me way back when of the hurt I was allowing in my marriage, she knew… and she wanted me to move on. She built this foundation, she put the words ‘Best Day Ever’ in my vernacular. She travels on my shoulder and gets pissed when I swear too much or speed… sometimes I do it just to piss her off, it reminds me she is right here with me, mad but here.

It was a good weekend. It looked different, but is different bad? Different is hard, but it is necessary. I wish, I wish… for her. I get to go green with my girls and show them the world as I love it, as I know it. That is my forever. I love my lucky lil lady… I wish she were here to enjoy some sauce and meatballs, after a jolly good day of Gaelic and Irish rock…

Enjoy your lucky charms… whatever they may be. Share your roots… even if you just found out you are Irish from Ancestry.com. If you are Irish go out and be Irish… build community, feed your family and friends… boil what you have and pass that stone soup around… dance even when the world is heavy and awful… if the music moves you dance. When your people die… honor them, smile when you talk about them, stick together and bring them along in your life… that is being Irish, we are way more than a leprechaun, we are a way to be.

Gratitude and Service

Giving thanks, it is the ‘thing to do’ this time of year. November pops up on the calendar just as we put Halloween away- and it is time for gratitude. Some publicly acknowledge daily the things they are grateful for, other begin a gratitude journal, all have thankfulness and gratitude on the brain. Almost everyone is more cognizant of the blessings in their lives…

I think about gratitude a lot, like A LOT. I may not always feel that my life and pile of hard stuff is something to be thankful for; usually with some time and maybe humor I remind myself of all that I am grateful for. Sometimes I hyper focus on missing Madeline, how amazing she was and I get wrapped up in the missing… but then I remind myself that at least I didn’t get a crappy kid, I got a really good one. I would take 5 years with Madeline over 75 years with a crappy one (crappy = mean and evil). Don’t get me wrong, I still focus on her missing, but I try to redirect my brain to the light. Sometimes I think we don’t need to feel grateful for a big pile of hard at that moment- but in time perspective can show us the light or meaning of that pile, and for that I am often grateful for perspective and time. I did not feel grateful for my divorce when I was finding out friends and my ex-husband had betrayed me- but in time I see the light in it all. I got rid of some nonfriends, and let me tell you God cleaned house… and I love the life I am building away from my marriage. I am grateful for the time and perspective to look back on that pile of crap and see the light that has poked through. Today I am grateful for so much…

Last week in Church School we talked about Gratitude and more. We talked about how God wants us to be grateful and to make it a habit… knowing that we get to chose gratitude. Sometimes it is a hard choice to make- to see light in darkness. Sometimes we have to be very creative to be grateful but the more often we choose thankfulness the more we would become grateful people. Do you like to be around ungrateful people? Are you drawn to grateful and kind people? We all are… so what if we work to become just that. What if we follow The Big Guys directions and become kinder, gentler, more gracious and by doing so better people, the kind we want to be around??? Believe me sometimes it will be hard to pick grateful, you might need a sense of humor- but no one laughing is angry… like when you stub your toe on the fridge- you could get all angry at yourself, or the fridge… or you could remind yourself to be glad you have a fridge full of food… eventually it becomes your normal to choose gratitude.

A life of gratitude opens you up for a life of service- acknowledging what you have to offer helps you offer it up. They go together… gratitude and service. Gratitude is acknowledging what you have- service is offering what you have to others. When we are thinking about and acknowledging what we are thankful for- blessings, losses, skills, needs met… we can give more to those who need it. I feel like as adults we overthink EVERYTHING- including the gifts we have to give. I spoke to children about gratitude and service… the simplicity of it all and they heard me. The next day one of the students brought a box of toys she had picked out to gift to others. She heard me. She told me she talked to her mom about gratitude and serving- she and her mom are coming up with older, injured or lonely people who she could use her skills to help- she is in 2nd grade. Profound. If only we as grownups could HEAR this and get it… they would acknowledge what they have- food, skills, work, services, love, time… all of it.

I know in my life I try to be grateful for all I have, even if it’s a pile of crap for a while… I try to use my skills to help others. I think I have a good habit of being grateful, of seeing the light in my life- and I think I make a habit out of serving others. I don’t do it to feel better about myself, to be honest, sometimes giving to others is the LAST thing I want to do. I am tired, I am late or I am busy are common but often I am called to do it. If I listen to The Big Guy and shift my thoughts to gratitude- acknowledging how grateful I am to be driving to Scotia for my daughter’s dance class that happens to ONLY be on Thursday nights- after I teach Church School and drop Lucy off to OM… there are 2 ways to see it… one is overwhelming and stressed, annoyed… the other is grateful that I get to use my voice to share God’s love and plan, grateful that my Jeep is working and at least 1/2 full of gas, grateful my daughter Lucy’s coach let’s me drop and run… and grateful that Amelia is dancing at the most welcoming and wholesome dance studio ever… make it a habit. On those days, many times, I can hear when God tells me to take care of someone- drop off food, pick up groceries, visit even for a moment. I can’t hear Him so well when I am annoyed and overwhelmed…

Somedays I fail, we all do. On those days I hurry to bed and crawl under the covers and get myself to sleep… so I can start over the next day. If it is still hard- pull out the humor, sometimes the humor helps us see the light.

Gratitude and service, they are teammates to better living. Imagine if everyday you acknowledged what you have, who you are- then you went out in the world and gave it away? Give it a try, go ahead get addicted to gratitude. I imagine no live has ever fallen apart by an addiction to gratitude, a habit of waking up and building thankfulness into our day…

Enjoy the November Gratitude… but I challenge you to get addicted to gratitude, to get in the habit of redirecting your brain to thankfulness- then go out into the world and use it.

Happiest Thanksgiving to all… everyday.

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