The Time We Went to Pittsburgh (Part 1)

The latest adventure our family had was a trip to visit my brother in Pittsburgh. Patrick loves his time with his niece and nephew, and he usually spends a lot of time planning their time together so that plenty of chaos can ensue. This trip did not disappoint. There was chaos everywhere, and as a matter of fact, it all started before we even got out of bed the morning we left.

“Oh shit,” I heard Justin say as he read his emails beside me. I hadn’t even opened my eyes yet, and I already had reason to worry. When he does this my anxiety level instantly rises because a million bad things race through my mind. Does he all of a sudden have to work this weekend? Were our bank accounts hacked? Is someone sick or dead? It turns out that the airline changed our connecting flight so that we now had a four hour layover at the Laguardia Airport. This, to me, is not a crisis. This is a simple little blip on the radar screen of crisis. I actually do not mind a bit of time in the airport because I like to get myself settled: No need to rush through security, some time to go to the bathroom, scope out the shopping, and sit and relax before the plane boards. Needless to say, Justin does NOT like downtime. He somehow managed to change our flight again so that we now had a 45 minute layover. Visions of running through the terminal danced through my head. But it got BETTER.

Since Justin loves to maximize his time, he had planned to take Harrison and himself to get haircuts on the way to the airport. This was a planned event. We talked about it. We decided when we would leave the house. I was cool with this. But as I started loading the bags into the car, I noticed that Justin was in the garage. With power tools. Then the power tools made their way to my van. “What could we possibly be doing with power tools on our way to the airport?” I thought. Mind you, I knew better than to ask. My Xanax was already packed away. I knew I couldn’t handle the truth, so I just let it go.

Once we got into the car, the real fun started. Our first stop was to Dunkin’ Donuts. We don’t have one in town, and every time Justin leaves the peninsula, he HAS to get a coffee. The kids also see this as a time to fill up on donuts. By the way, we found out that Harrison can’t have sugar, but that’s a story for another day.

Come to find out, the power tools were so Justin could break into a shed that we actually own at our old house. Nothing like a little criminal action before you go on vacation. Justin is reminding me that it wasn’t actually criminal because it was OUR shed, and he simply lost the key. He also is reminding me that our lawn wouldn’t get mowed while we were gone if the lawnmower remained locked in that shed. I was afraid I’d let it slip to airport security that we broke into a shed on our way to the airport and then we’d be arrested. But that’s only because my meds were stashed in my suitcase, and sometimes when I get nervous I overshare. It turns out that TSA does not care what you did before you got to the airport.

After this, it was time for the haircuts. The plan was for Ella and I to go to the coffee shop (Yes, I had gotten coffee at Dunkin’ too; don’t judge a girl and her caffeine.) and Harrison and Justin to go to the barber shop. Since Ella just had a donut, she was completely unimpressed that she wasn’t allowed to have any treats at the coffee shop. We got out of there with little incident, despite her disappointment.

So then Ella and I walked back to the car, which was parked outside the barber shop. For some reason, Justin and Harrison had decided to go to a DIFFERENT barber shop, and were now three blocks away. This is only a long distance when you have a two year old in tow who insists that she “walk by myfelf”. Justin sends me a text telling me where he is and notifying me that Harrison’s pants keep falling down. He wants to buy him a belt. Today. Right now. On the way to the airport. No big deal right? So we walk BACK up to the other barber shop and then meet up with the boys to buy a belt, because we have “plenty of time”. Meanwhile, the barber gave Harrison a lollipop for his good behavior. Justin learned from the last time that he had to ask for a lollipop for Ella as well (because, fairness); however, the barber WOULDN’T LET HIM HAVE ANOTHER ONE. This, my friends, is what we call an injustice. On we go to the store to get a belt, except that the store has no belt for four year old boys. It does however, have LOTS of toys. Ella happened to find a baby doll that she NEEDED to own. If I was given a reprieve in the coffee shop for her disappointment, I was punished twofold for making her leave that store without the baby doll. Justin promised Ella that if she was a good girl on the airplane that Uncle Patrick would buy her a baby doll in Pittsburgh. (It turned out that there was no need for Patrick to buy any dolls that weekend.) So now, still 40 minutes from the airport, we have a little girl who is distraught at the unfairness of life and lack of baby dolls in her world, along with a little boy whose pants won’t stay up. Instead of just heading to the airport at this point, Justin decided to pay some bills. So, we went to TWO different banks, and then just for fun, Justin told me he needed to stop at the grocery store. I was just about to lose my mind at this point. He returns from the grocery store with flowers and a balloon for his sister because it happened to be her birthday. Try telling a two and four year old that the balloon in the car is NOT for them. Try it. I dare you.

Our next stop was to my sister in law’s place of employment where we delivered flowers and the balloon very quickly because even Justin recognized the value of time at this point in our trip.

We had just enough time at that point for me to spill my coffee on my shirt (it was the Dunkin’ Donuts one-that’s what I get for going commercial brand-the coffee shop one stayed nicely in its cup and in my mouth) before we arrived at the airport. The good news is that we made it just in time to board the plane. Justin perceived this as enough time to get another coffee and go shopping in the airport bookstore. I actually boarded the plane with a double stroller, a car seat, two toddlers, four carry on bags, and no husband. He eventually made it and could not understand for the life of him why I was exhausted and frustrated.

I am exhausted and frustrated all over again, so you’ll have to check back to read about all the damage we did when we actually landed in Pittsburgh. That city will never be the same.

Angry Mommy Fail

So the other day we were in the minivan headed to someplace undoubtedly fun and exciting when, before even getting out of the driveway, Harrison started in on one of his screaming fits. These fits usually come unannounced and it will go from silent to “my entire body is on fire” hysteria in no time.
“WHAT is the matter?” I asked, annoyed, without bothering to look back. Usually these meltdowns are rooted in dismay that an action figure dropped on the floor of the car or the sudden realization that he forgot his” most favorite toy ever” that he just found that day, although it’s been in our home for months. Sometimes it’s because his sock is twisted, and I think the best one was the time we forgot to put a bandaid on his imaginary cut.

Anyway, despite the high pitched screaming I was completely unalarmed-and unsurprised-that today’s crisis stemmed from Harrison’s water bottle “not working right”.

The rule is that if Mommy’s driving, all problems and needs must wait until the car is fully stopped in a safe location. I can say right now that if my children are going to adhere to all rules as well as they do this one, we’d better book some slots in the county jail right now. After a couple calm reminders, the screaming did not cease. I knew it was time to do something drastic. I decided it was time for Angry Mommy.

I stopped the car in the road, got out, put my mean teacher look on, opened Harrison’s door, snatched his water bottle, and threw it in the front seat. I slammed my door shut and buckled my seatbelt. For three seconds, nothing but stunned silence was heard from the back seat. “I showed him who’s boss,” I thought smugly, as I continued to drive up our dirt road. All of a sudden shrieks of laughter came gurgling up from the very depths of my children’s bellies. I was a little shocked that they were laughing at Angry Mommy, because I clearly meant business. I mean, I had even used my mean teacher look and everything. That’s when I heard it, clear as day, the whooshing of open air, my tires spinning over the gravelly road. Angry Mommy drove away without shutting Harrison’s car door.

“I love riding with my door open, Mommy! This is so fun!” I’m thinking my point was completely lost on him. I had just inadvertently given him the best car ride experience of his life.

“My door too, Mommy!” chirped Ella. Well, clearly, everyone is going to be hating their water bottles again real soon because THIS was very exciting.

So the moral of the story is, if you want to be taken seriously by your children, do NOT leave the car door open when your vehicle is moving. I’m pretty sure that might be a good rule to go by in all situations, but, hey, we’re all works in progress here.

I Want Them To Love

As a mom and a teacher I am scared to death regarding the recent hate shootings. I’m scared for my kids and for my students. I am terrified that it’s all too out of hand now and that my children will not live in a world where they can love everyone and anyone. I’m afraid they’ll see the news and get some idea that this is all ok and acceptable.

I’m worried that they might not respect others. I think I’m most worried that I won’t know how to teach them the right way to live, and that is with love and respect.

Growing up in Elmira, New York, I had a unique experience when it comes to being exposed to diversity. In my elementary school, there might have been one kid who wasn’t white. But when I got to middle and high school, I was surrounded by a very colorful group of people. The four other elementary schools in that district were much more diverse than my own. You’d think my first 11 years of life in Elmira were quite different from those next 7 that followed. But they weren’t. I found good friends everywhere I went, always.

I’m not going to throw out this colorblind thing to you, because that’s not how it works. I’m going to tell you that color and race did NOT matter, but it definitely made things more interesting. For example, one of my best friends growing up was Laotian. Jimmy and I met in seventh grade French class. Obviously our families had vast differences. I went to Sunday School, and he took a summer off to travel to Laos and become a Buddhist monk. (He was always trying to one-up me…) Our parents adored each other. My dad thought Jimmy might be able to keep me out of trouble because he was strong and fierce. His parents thought the same of me. Not that I was strong and fierce, but that maybe my good sense would help steer Jimmy away from chaos. (They were both wrong.) Jimmy was there when I broke up with my first boyfriend. He showed up at my front door with a milkshake and a hug. He and his cousins watched hours of Dawson’s Creek with me until I felt better. Did I know my friend looked different? Did I know he had a completely different religion and background? Of course I did. But I also knew that his mom made the BEST sticky rice in town. There was a time when Jimmy was attacked and his strong sense of religion was also attacked. It was my dad who Jimmy approached in a time of need. My family would have done quite literally anything for Jimmy, back then, and I’m sure we all still would now.

Every Christmas Eve or Christmas night, after the family stuff was over, we would call the Nelsons. The Nelson family had a bunch of kids the same ages as my brother and me. We went to school together, and most of our extra-curricular activities involved one of the Nelson kids as well. They might be the most fun people in the entire world. Guess what? They’re black. Did we notice? Yeah. Because out of some genetic anomaly, those Nelson kids had the MOST GORGEOUS hazel eyes you have ever seen. My home was filled with Mrs. Nelson’s beautiful smile and Mr. Nelson’s hearty laugh on those holiday nights. Us kids caused enough mischief to have fun, but not enough to lose our Christmas presents. We loved each other, plain and simple.

Not everyone I knew celebrated Christmas. Our next door neighbors, the Rachlins, were Jewish. Well, they still are, but they’re not our neighbors anymore. I remember asking tons of questions about Hanukkah, and one year I got to see the menorah being lit. Norah, who was my brother’s age, happens to LOVE Christmas. We always giggled at her excitement about it because it was kind of like a cat who wanted to be a mouse. We were lucky enough, though, because back then in school you were allowed to talk about religion and we learned about each other’s backgrounds. It was fun and exciting. And it was completely necessary.

As you can probably deduce, my parents taught by example. If we had a friend we thought was worthy of our time, they were welcome in our home. It didn’t matter what they looked like, or what religion they practiced. There was only one time I remember having to talk about racial and ethnic differences. Back when we thought dating in middle school was a real thing, I had my eyes set on a nice boy named TJ. TJ had sparkly brown eyes, dark skin, and a huge smile. He had a hop in his step and he was always happy. In terms of life experience, TJ was worlds ahead of me, but he liked hanging out with my family and me. My parents would drive to the other side of town to TJ’s grandmother’s apartment and pick him up to spend the day with us.

One day, my dad sat me down alone. This happened rarely, but when it did, I knew he had something important to talk about. Dad told me how much he and Mom loved having TJ around. He said TJ was a really nice young man and he was happy that we spent time together. But then he told me that sometimes, people might not understand why I liked TJ. He said some people might not like me BECAUSE I liked TJ. I was FLOORED. Dad didn’t tell me this to deter me; he was preparing me. He was preparing me for what I might see on the news 22 years later, with people shooting other people because of their race and their sexuality. And the ironic part of it all is that it is based on TJ’s respect for me and for my family that I have continued to this day to scale the level of other’s treatment toward me and those I love. His kindness was unprecedented and I have yet to meet more than a few people who are as inherently good as him.

How do these shooters know? How would they know which people are good and which people are bad, unless they sat down with them, talked to them, LISTENED to them? How would they know who it’s ok to shoot if they hadn’t invited those people into their homes and gotten to know them? What if one of those dead officers would have been the first person to involve your little brother in a conversation? What if the black man in the car with his girlfriend and her child read amazing bedtime stories? What if one of those people was the only person who genuinely wanted to hear your dad’s law school stories on repeat?

If we’re not opening our eyes and our hearts, if we’re not letting these people into our lives, how do we know what we’re missing?

You know what? I just want my kids to love people. All kinds of people. Everyone. And when this kind of crap happens, the shootings and attacks, I want my kids’ hearts to burn and I want them to stand up for all the people they love and make this world a better place. I don’t care if they can’t recite the alphabet yet or if they can’t for the life of them put their shoes on the right feet. That’s not important. I want them to BE KIND and to LOVE.

 

How do you look when you are parenting?

I lugged her through the parking lot; she was an overtired heap of a thing by four p.m. With no nap and a day full of adventure on the ocean, my baby girl was spent. When she wants to be close to me, she has a way of tucking her arms into herself and bunching her legs up as I hold her. It’s endearing really, because I think she’s trying to recreate the feeling she had when she was swaddled as an infant. Today, however, I was carrying her like a sack of potatoes. She was writhing in my arms, tears streaming down her face, hair in knots from the ocean wind.

We had spent the day fulfilling Justin’s dream-well one of them. Along with wanting to own a ski chalet, travel the world, and ride across the country on motorcycles, he has also always wanted a boat. This was the one fantasy we could fulfill at present; with the kids so little, the other ideas are out of the question for the time being. Now that we have the boat, I’m predicting that all of our free moments will be spent on it, or cleaning it, or fixing it. So far, my prediction has held true. If you haven’t taken small children on a boat, I will paint a picture for you:

A two and a four year old child, both eager to explore land and sea, are running up and down the bow of the boat. Your heart jumps into your throat when you realize there is a tiny railing keeping them on board. They are ceaselessly climbing the ladder, and wrapping their tiny hands around the steering wheel. “No! Don’t touch that lever!” and “You need your life jacket on!” are called out from concerned parents. Wails of discontent come from the children when they are required to sit still, and cries of excitement are heard when an ocean resident pops its head up from the water. It is an exhausting experience for everyone involved, but especially for the mom, whose one responsibility is to keep the children aboard while her husband is captaining the ship. You’d think the confined space would make it easier to keep track of the kids, but their boredom sets in quickly at having to sit still while the boat was moving and it was nothing short of exhausting to wrangle them the entire time.

It is no wonder then, that by the time we reached land, Ella had had just about enough, and so had I. I was so relieved to be off the boat that the anxiety quite literally floated away the moment I reached the dock. Despite my child’s temper tantrum through the parking lot as we neared the car, I was calm for the first time since we departed onto the waters. I was holding her, smiling, because I was finally feeling confident again. You see, I am not a boater. I am not a sea farer. I grew up in Upstate New York, and although we did visit the ocean regularly, it was to dip our toes in the waves, not to drive out into the wild blue yonder. I can care for my children on land, but in the water, I am a basket case, constantly worrying. “Just get her back to the car,” I thought, “and she can rest there. We’ll be home soon.”

I was approaching a group of tourists as we walked through the parking lot of the marina. They all smiled at me sympathetically as they saw my baby girl in her fit. Even though I was feeling like a frazzled mess due to that kind of behavior from her, I smiled back. One of the women made a comment that will stick with me forever. She said, “I know this part is hard right now, but you look beautiful doing it.”

I walked away thinking that it is incredibly odd that anyone could find beauty in a wailing child with a snotty nose being hauled back to the car by her disheveled mother. I know neither Ella nor I was looking quite exemplary, with her in a hot mess and me just barely hanging on. And then I realized what it was: I was comfortable here. I was secure. I knew I could handle this disaster, even though it wasn’t easy. That woman wasn’t looking at my frizzy hair and my sunburned skin. She was a fellow mother looking at one of her own kind, recognizing that I KNEW I was going to get through. She saw the beauty that is giving your whole self to another tiny human being.  And because she said something to me, I saw it too.

Say it, fellow moms. Compliment those ladies you see who are getting through. Build them up. Look into their eyes and see your own reflected back. It’ll make us all better people and better parents.

I will get on that boat again with my children. I will brave it. I may not love it. But I’ve been reminded-and I will remember-that I can do it.

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A few words for Brock Allen Turner

Brock. Brock Allen Turner. Brock, if I had you sitting here in my kitchen right now, I’d be looking straight into your immature, selfish eyes. I wouldn’t have to look far, though, Brock, because there is no depth to you. Your entire existence could be summed up in less time than your measly jail sentence. There would be no affect in my voice when the words started flowing. I wouldn’t be able to give you the strength that anger takes because that strength was taken a long time ago. The thing is, Brock, I don’t write about every single current event, or every injustice that makes its way to the newsreel. Just the ones that really hit home.

I hadn’t heard of you until a few days ago, but I knew your story before it was published all over the news. It doesn’t really surprise me that you got your rocks off behind a dumpster after trying; after FAILING, to find a girl at the party who would go home with you. How many times were you pushed away and turned down that night? Did you think it was OWED to you? Here’s the thing, Brock. Until now, you haven’t been owed anything. But now I’m going to tell you what you deserve, and what I hope you get.

Unlike most people, I am not enraged by your six month jail sentence. You’re going to spend six months behind bars. You’ll be a happy little snowflake back in the arms of your parents come Christmas. But after that jail time, what you don’t know now, is that your real sentence is going to begin.

It is a good thing that you’ve got a strong swimmer’s body, Brock, because for the rest of your life you’re going to be carrying around a lot of weight. You are going to carry the shame of being an insecure boy who felt the need to use a woman’s body against her will. You steal goods from a store, you can pay that back. You steal a woman’s security and sense of self, and you are forever indebted. FOREVER. Your family had the money to pay for a great lawyer (a miracle worker, it seems) but they, or you, will never have the currency to pay for this. You are going to hold on to the burden of being a criminal for the rest of your life.You’ll carry around the fact that you now know true evil, because what you did is TRUE EVIL.

You DESERVE to be looked at like you’re the scum in the depths of  a rotted, damp sewer. You deserve to be deprived of intimacy and true love. Oh, but I hope you get a taste of it and then it gets wretched out of your filthy hands. You deserve to be branded, Scarlet Letter style, with an R on your forehead. Thankfully, social media has given us the next best thing. You deserve to experience what your victim experienced, and yet, I hope you never have to. Someday, maybe I can write about how I know that the torture you instilled on that girl is far too much of a punishment for even you, but not today. I can’t do it today. You deserve to know that although you took her when she was down, you could never ever take her when she is strong. And she is going to be strong again, Brock. She is. She made us all a little stronger because she stood up to you. Your jail sentence may be small, but the strength of all of the people who stand behind your victim is nothing shy of monumental. FullSizeRender

If you buy a dragon shoes…

Any mother or father knows that getting out of the door in one piece can sometimes be a little tricky. I once remember a coworker telling me that, once I had made it to work after surviving the morning and dropping Harrison and Ella off at daycare, the hardest part of my day was over. And she was correct. When I became a stay at home mom, there were a few glorious weeks where I realized we didn’t HAVE to be anywhere on time, and I thought I was finally free from the madness that is leaving the house with toddlers in tow.

We couldn’t stay home forever, though. Eventually we made trips to the grocery store, and the gym, and to friends’ houses. Although we weren’t tied to a specific time line for these outings, I still had to manage to get both children dressed, groomed, packed (you know, because everyone needs a three course meal, a drink in their favorite cup, seventeen diapers and two changes of clothes even for a ride down the street) and strapped in the car before we could go anyplace. This can obviously wear on one’s nerves, but it is not an impossible feat.

The kids attend a preschool a half hour away from our house, so three days a week we pack up and go to school, with all of the aforementioned items tossed in the minivan. Some days it was a little hectic. Some days I almost just took of my shoes at sat on the couch, thinking it just wasn’t worth the struggle. There were a few days Harrison got in the car without shoes because he refused to put them on. There was one day Ella cried all the way to school because she forgot her blanket and wanted me to go get it for her. (After chasing her all over the yard to get her in the car, I didn’t have time to go get the blanket. And you know what? If she had spent half that energy she used running away from me to just bring her crap with her, she wouldn’t have been in that pickle.)

Since this isn’t my first rodeo, I try real hard to have everything packed and ready to go the night before. I TRY to foresee all complications and prepare for them. My kids, however, always come up with something they need to have or do before we leave the house, and there is usually some epic tantrum moments before we need to leave.

My favorite of all time meltdown happened on the second to last day of preschool this year. For some insane reason unbeknownst to me, my dear sweet son decided that his stuffed dragon needed shoes to wear to school. There are a few problems here. 1. Dragon is not enrolled in school. 2. Dragon doesn’t own shoes. 3. Dragon has very small feet, so none of the shoes in the house would fit Dragon. After explaining to Harrison that he could not put shoes that didn’t exist on Dragon’s feet, the screaming and crying and writhing on the floor ensued. Naturally we were beyond late at this point. I don’t remember exactly how I managed to get Harrison in the car but I am pretty sure I carried him there. And I am positive that after he yelled at me for being a horrible person and hit me that I did not allow Dragon to come, barefoot, with us. (Note: I was making a point to Harrison that he couldn’t get away with treating me so terribly. I actually have no problem whatsoever with barefoot dragons.)

My boy spent the entire car ride yelling, “YOU GO BACK RIGHT NOW AND GET DRAGON!! HE NEEDS HIS SHOES!” amidst sobs of disappointment and anger. I felt badly that I had made a show of throwing dragon in the house, and wondered if I had gone too far. I also remembered all of the endearing things Harrison had done the day before and worried if I spent too much time disciplining him for his poor behavior, and not enough time praising him for the good. I considered how endearing it was that he wanted to properly clothe his stuffed animal. This got me in my soft spot, and the guilt of perhaps going too far with my frustration of him sent me on my way…

After dropping the kids off at school, I was overtaken by the need to buy that damn dragon some shoes. I have a thing for footwear, so I can relate. And here I am relating to a stuffed animal. I’m pretty sure it all goes downhill from here, folks. Anyway, I made the trip to Family Dollar in search of shoes suitable for a dragon. My choices were slim, but I made do with what they had. Justin thought I was off my rocker, but I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last ridiculous thing I do to please my child. As a matter of fact, he asked me, after the delight of his dragon’s shoes wore off, where we’d be buying Dragon’s NEXT pair of shoes. IMG_3470

When You Know You’re Home

It’s been less than a year since we moved from Bath to Boothbay. That’s about a 35 minute distance, so the change wasn’t exactly monumental, however, I was  deeply attached to my social circle in Bath and I knew that some things were going to have to change if ever I was going to acquaint myself properly with our new residence. Last night, I realized with certainty that I’ve made the transition and I couldn’t be happier about our new home.

In the summer, Boothbay’s population explodes with summer residents clamoring to see the ocean.  They take boat rides along the jutted coast. They poke into souvenir shops, sample fudge, and indulge in gourmet popcorn. The restaurant selection goes from about three in the winter months to around fifty in the summer. It is a fantastic vacation spot.

We were warned that Boothbay was extremely uneventful in the cold weather season; many of its residents leave for tropical spots, and the remaining population of about 3,000 includes a lot of senior citizens. Although my bedtime says other wise, I am not yet a senior citizen. We have our two small children to entertain even when the snow flies, so I was a little concerned about how we’d fare this first winter in Boothbay.

As it turns out, we are in love. The benefit of being in a small town is that you see the same people over and over again. The man at the coffee shop knows immediately that I’m coming in for a raspberry latte, and he lets Harrison and Ella pay for their cookies with change. The bartenders make room for us at the bar when we come in for a drink. The deli workers at the grocery store come from behind the counter to say hello to the kids when we pass by. We’ve found other families with small children, whom we meet on occasion for play dates at the local playground. I’m part of a book club, I joined a workout class, and I started a child care program at the YMCA. I’d say it’s been a pretty good year. This community is really tight-knit, and I found out last night that they support their own through thick and thin.

Last night, I attended a celebration of life benefit for the son of a friend of mine. In a tragic scenario, Christopher passed away this week. Jill, his mom, is obviously devastated. This benefit was put together by the community, especially her co-workers from The Boathouse Bistro, where she worked as a server. That is actually where we met Jill, and we saw her there on a regular basis because we tend to eat out all the time. It was a beautiful event, overlooking the water on the second floor of a local restaurant, with great food and drinks, and tons of donations for a fund raising auction.

But the beauty went beyond that. What I noticed is that pretty much every person in town was there. Every person knew this family in some form and they all knew each other. It was the love that these community members held for Jill and her family at this time of need that made the place truly shine. The auction donations were from local shops. The bids went soaring high, not just out of pocket, but out of love. There was this natural coming together of people to make their weak one strong again.

I would never ever in a million years wish this experience on a person. But I do know that for any of us wondering, “why”, we might have been answered with a whisper in response: “Look what you can do for each other. Look what you can do together.” I never had the pleasure of meeting Christopher, and I sincerely wish I had, but now I can honestly say that he has touched my life because I see through him and his family what true community and belonging means.

In the past year, I have known that I want to become an active part of this new community, to give what I can, however I can. I have had a few opportunities to do some volunteering, and I love that I can contribute. At one point last night, I found Jill amidst the crowds, and hugged her real tight. She smiled and said, “Your blog has been keeping me going. It makes me laugh.” Dumbfounded, I looked at this woman, who was going through the worst thing imaginable, and wondered how she found the time to pass a compliment to me. But then I realized it wasn’t as much of a compliment, but more of a calling. Even though I haven’t been setting enough time aside to write lately, here is someone saying that my writing helps her. Of all people in this universe right now, I want more than anything to help her. And so I will write. It doesn’t matter if I am gaining readers, or going viral. It matters that I could give back to this community, to make someone smile (when they REALLY needed a smile). I went home knowing I didn’t make the biggest monetary donation, that I don’t know Jill the best, that I can’t fix what is broken right now. But I can help. Thank you Boothbay, for showing me that we all fit in here. And most especially, God bless you, Christopher.

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