Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #2

1. The first thing I am thankful for this week is that I got to celebrate my friends birthday party.  I don’t usually use names in this blog so I will refer to her as the Slap Bet Commissioner.  She had a lovely birthday party at a bar called Wellington’s in Downtown Albany.  I got a baby-sitter, got a chance to catch up with friends and I even enjoyed a vodka club with a splash of cranberry because I am watching my macros.  I am thankful that the Slap Bet Commissioner included me in her special day.

 

2. The second thing I am thankful for was being invited to my friend’s Oktoberfest party. It was a fun afternoon with good food and good company.  And I even learned that there is a book genre called the Existential Detective novel or something like that.  I also learned about LARPing which is Live Action Role Playing.  Do any of you LARP?

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3. I already blogged about it but the third thing I am thankful for was our trip to the Springfield Museums because I got to see my cousin, her kids and my uncle.  My cousin’s son is 5 months older than my daughter so they get along really well.  It makes me happy that our kids are going to grow up together.  It gives me the warm and fuzzies.

4.  The fourth thing I am thankful for is my gym. I joined an awesome gym recently.  I don’t know the actually technical fitness terms to describe the workouts but there are a lot of weights.  And the workouts change every day so you never get bored.  I can feel my arms and legs getting stronger.  Everyday is a challenge but it is worth it.

5.  The fifth thing I am thankful for this week is that I am able to watch my daughter at dance class each week.  I am in awe of my daughter because she learns things so quickly and I love watching her grow and learn.

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And who can resist this girl?

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What are you thankful for this week?

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Warm October rain: Sunday Funday at the Dr. Seuss Museum

Last Sunday my daughter and I drove to Springfield, Massachusetts for a very special outing.  My cousin drove out from the Boston area to spend the day with us, along with her two kids (including her 3 month old daughter) and my Uncle.  It was our first time meeting her daughter, who my daughter calls “Baby Cousin”.

First we hit the Dr. Seuss Museum.  At first I thought that admission was a bit expsensive but the admission is good for all five museums and they are located all together.  You can easily hit several museums in one day.  After the Dr. Seuss Museum, we had lunch at the cafe on the premises and then we explored the Science Museum, which was kid friendly.

After the Science Museum, we tried to go to the Fine Art Museum but the kids had too much energy and after they kept trying to touch peices of art that had signs asking “do not touch”, we abandoned the mission.  I love art museums so maybe when they are older.

I am thankful to be building a closer relationship with my cousin.  Even though my family is spread out between Maine, Massachusetts and Florida, I appreciate that members on both sides of my family make an effort to be a part of my daughters life.  It is good to know that my cousin and I can meet in the middle and get the kids together.  I love knowing that my daughter will have cousins to play with.  I appreciate all the time my family makes for her.

A third birthday fiesta

We celebrated my daughters third birthday this past weekend.  It was a small celebration with the Albany family, but we are still a pretty crazy bunch.  Celebrations like this are very bittersweet without Bryon, but we still had a good time.  I was tired, but very thankful for those in my daughters life.

 

Felix natalis amici mei

Felix natalis amici mei.  

That is Happy Birthday my friend in Latin.  At least that is what Google Translate tells me.  My friend is a Latin teacher and I am sure she can tell if it is the correct Latin grammar or not.

Today is her birthday.  But we celebrated her birthday the other night.

My friend is very special to me.  She was in my wedding.  This is her favorite picture from our wedding day.  (She is the one pinching Bryon’s cheek.)  

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My friend was the one that got me to run a half marathon.  And even though she was dealing with some pretty rough stuff in her own life during those months while Bryon was in the hospital, she still came by almost every day.  She brought me fluffy literature to pass the time and she brought pizza to sustain me.  She was with me during Bryon’s two worst days and she made it down to NYC before he died.  I don’t know what I would have done without her friendship.

We met at an Italian Restaurant called Il Faro. I am conflicted writing about it because it was so good and we didn’t want the whole world to know our secret.  But the food was so good that it was only fair to mention it.  It is only a matter of time before it gets discovered and will be crowded.  I am not Italian, but several of the people at our table have Italian heritage and they were impressed.

We had drinks at the bar and chatted.  A lot of baseball talk. The group consisted of four couples and me.  I was the ninth wheel.  It’s times like these that I miss Bryon. Granted, he wouldn’t have been by my side all night as he would have taken this as an opportunity to catch up with his friends.  He would have been making fun of his best friends beer selection. But these are my closest friends- my Albany family- and we still talk about Bryon as if he is still alive, which makes me feel better about being the third, or fifth or seventh or ninth wheel.  

I believe everyone was impressed with their meals.  I had the eggplant parmesan with a side of meatballs and linguine and it was amazing. I had enough eggplant leftover that it was dinner the next night for me and my daughter and the meatballs and linguine were lunch the next day.  And even in leftover form, it did not disappoint.  

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We got a group picture

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And then we got a picture of the girls.

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Then the guys got jealous and had to have their picture taken.

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In the bathroom.  Something to think about.

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My friend and I got into my car and right when I turned the key in the ignition, Hall & Oates started to play.  It was my friend’s favorite Hall & Oates song.  

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We took it as a sign that Bryon wouldn’t let us celebrate her birthday without him.  We cried.

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Half of us went back to my friend’s house where her boyfriend had a cake.  It was an orange creamsicle cake.  I don’t particularly care for orange creamsicle ,but I thought it was good.

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Then we did presents!  Which I didn’t get any pictures of my friend opening up.

I never thought birthdays were a big deal.  They are mostly for kids.  As adults, once you celebrate your 21st, you only celebrate those birthdays that end in zero.  But after losing Bryon at such a young age, I know realize that birthdays are meant to be celebrated.  We are lucky to have them.  And I am lucky to have friends to celebrate these special days with and I look forward to celebrating more.

Amicus meus est natalis beati. te amo.  (Don’t fail me Google translate!)

Warm and fuzzy

Three of us girls and my daughter went out for breakfast the morning after the Kentucky Derby.  One of us had said that in the past, she felt like she was viewed as “Bryon’s friend” but after this weekend, she felt like she became part of our friends group in her own right. We all felt warm and fuzzy when we realized that.   

My friends observation hit me close to home because for years I felt the same way.  I moved to Albany in 2009 after Bryon and I had been dating for a year and he already has his social network.  Everyone was Bryon’s friend and I felt like I was his shadow.  Over the years, my friendships did start to evolve but I didn’t realize how strong those friendships were until my friends were there for me when I needed them the most.  They continue to be there for me, helping me heal.

Yesterday I wrote about all the love and friendship shared on Derby Day.  Today I feel like celebrating that love and friendship.  

In the past, I have written a lot about my girls.  But most of these girls are attached to guys. Really great guys.  These guys would drop whatever they were doing to help me with anything and I don’t give them enough credit in this blog.  Most of these guys were Bryon’s friends and many of us girls became friends through our significant others.  Now I think it’s safe to say that it is us girls who are the driving force behind the groups social calendar.   

I have realized that I have been looking at these friendships only through my own eyes and not the eyes of my friends.  My grieving process has made me self-absorbed at times.  I know my friends have been there for me and my daughter but I haven’t been able to fully appreciate that my friends have been there for each other too.  I am not the only one who has needed support during this time.  Each one of my friends has been grieving too and they have been there for each other as well as be there for my daughter and me.

So many other friendships have formed before my very eyes.  Older friendships have been strengthened. We have all been friends to varying degrees but Bryon’s death has brought many of us closer.  But we aren’t just friends, we are a family.  And we have been all along.  We just never realized it until after Bryon died. Bryon may not be able to be here for us but he gave us each other.  

We are one big, crazy extended family complete with adults, kids and pets as well as the biological families of our family and friends of friends.  I have noticed that since Bryon has passed, we make more time for each other.  Birthdays get celebrated as well as personal milestones.  We check in with each other more, even if it is just because it’s been a couple of days and we wanted to make sure everything was okay.  The ladies have a monthly brunch.  Everyone seems fully committed to be positive role models and trusted adults for the younger generation to look up to.

I love my family and I am so thankful I have them in my life.

First Annual Bryon C. McKim Memorial Derby Party

I have two words to describe Derby Day 2017.  

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The first word is Epic.

We all came ready to celebrate the two most exciting minutes in sports.

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There were old friends enjoying each others company.  There were new friendships formed.  Lots of laughter, celebration and happiness were in the air.

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There were lovely ladies in dresses, hats and fascinators.  

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There were dapper men in seersucker suits.  

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Delicious food was served- bourbon meatballs, pulled pork sliders, mini Kentucky hot browns, mint julep chicken skewers and chicken and waffle skewers.  Because we all know that food tastes better when it is served on a stick.

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Makers Mark Mint Juleps were consumed in special Bryon McKim souvenir cups.  So many Mint Juleps were consumed that the bar ran out of Makers Mark two hours into the party.  Bryon would be particularly proud of that.  

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There was a silent auction full of amazing items that were generously donated from members of our community.  The silent auction was accompanied by friendly competition to outbid each other.

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The second word is Bittersweet.  

We were having a great time but we all knew that this party would not be happening if Bryon was still alive.  If Bryon were still alive, we would have been having our annual Kentucky Derby party in our backyard.  The backyard party would have been at a smaller scale but just as fun.

Ultimately Bryon had to die to bring us all together to have a good time.

As much fun as I had on Derby Day, I would have given it all back if it meant Bryon would still be here.  But I think I am reaching the point in my grieving process where I am beginning to accept Bryon’s death as it is.  I have days where I still ask “why” but I know that even if I can figure out the “why,” it doesn’t change anything.  Bryon will still be dead.  And there is nothing that can change that.

We can’t change the fact that Bryon is gone but instead we chose to take a horrible situation and make the best of it.  Many people die without leaving their mark (pun not intended) on this world but Bryon made his mark (okay, pun was intended this time) and we made the choice to keep his memory alive.  Derby Day had the potential to be a very sad day but instead, we chose to celebrate Bryon’s favorite day of the year.  And we celebrated in true Bryon McKim fashion.  I am grateful that I had so many amazing people to celebrate Bryon’s life with.  We all remember what a difference he made in this world. He helped so many people when he was alive and we chose to continue his legacy and help others in his memory.

I want to thank the Bryon C. McKim Derby Party Planning Committee: Vince Casale, Lynn Krogh, Danielle Grasso, Joseph Hanson, Jennifer Muthig, Mike Utzig, Nick Wilock, Jennifer Armstrong, Mike and Natalie Kosar, Sara Stein and everyone else who assisted in the planning process.  I am awe of your talent and you ran this event like a well oiled machine.  You could run a small nation.  Bryon would be proud.

I want to thank our sponsors for supporting the event and all the business who generously donated items for our silent auction.  My daughter and I are very lucky to be part of such a supportive community who looks after their own.

I want to thank Wolff’s Biergarten for all your hospitality and help putting on this event.  You were great to work with and made our experience enjoyable.

And I want to thank everyone who came out to support our event to celebrate Bryon’s life and keep his memory alive.  One of the biggest fears that a grieving person has is that their loved one will be forgotten.  Thank you for reminding me that while Bryon may be dead, he did live.

I look forward to celebrating with you again in 2018.

Happy Birthday Grandma

I remember one summer day in the mid 1980s when I was in my grandmother’s backyard.  I was about 7 (and therefore my grandmother was about 73) and I was excited because my birthday was coming up.  I asked my grandmother what was her most favorite thing about birthdays and she responds “when it’s over.”  I couldn’t understand why someone would want their birthday to be over.

Catherine Ann Donahue Sullivan was born May 3, 1914 in Woburn, MA. She was the 6th child and 2nd daughter of two Irish Immigrants, Peter Donahue and Mary Duran. She attended Woburn Public Schools (she told me that Catholic School cost 50 cents per child, per week and my great-grandparents were too poor to send 9 children to parochial school). She went to nursing school during the Depression (total cost of nursing education in 1930’s including cap=$75. Total cost of Kerry’s Psychology book, spring semester 2001=$130. The look on my grandmother’s face when I told her that=priceless).  She married my grandfather in 1946 and went on to have 5 sons.

Even though I grew up two towns away from my grandmother, I didn’t start to become close to her until my grandfather died when I was in 6th grade. After that, every Saturday was spent at her house while my father and uncles took care of tasks around the house and I would play with my younger cousins. Though I was shy in general, I was very outspoken around my family and my grandmother used to like to egg me on. It was funny. I, um, developed a lot sooner than most girls and I hated it. I was kind of a tomboy and, let’s just say, “they” got in the way. I would complain about them to my grandmother and she would just tell me that, “Someday you’re doing to be thankful…” The jury is still out on that, Grandma.  Though Bryon definitely seemed to appreciate them.

My grandmother had 5 sons and one grandson before I was born. I ended up being the first of four granddaughters. My grandmother always told me she wished she had had a daughter but I made her thankful she didn’t.

My grandmother would always give me $20 whenever I visited. It was for ice cream. Of course ice cream at the local ice cream place, Breakers, only cost about $3. She would always make sure to tell me that “When I was a kid, we were too poor to buy ice cream. And there was no one around to give us ice cream money.”  When I was in college, Grandma was always giving me $20 for gas money (that was back when you could fill your gas tank for $20.)

My grandmother taught me that you can still be a lady and use profanity. My other grandmother taught me that a lady never uses profanity. Luckily, it all seems to balance out.

My grandmother taught me that it is okay to tell guys who give you unwanted attention to “piss off.” One time, when she was in her 80’s, she slipped on the ice and fell. Another old guy stopped and tried to help her and she told him to “piss off.” I asked her why. She told me it was because he had two girlfriends.

My grandmother also taught me that I can not go wrong dating Irish-Catholic guys. She did warn me to stay away from French men. In the 1930’s, when she was in her mid-20’s, she dated a French guy. He had the nerve to ask her to move to New Jersey but didn’t want to get married. She told him to piss off. Then, at the age of 29, she met my full-blooded Irish-American grandfather and married him when she was 31.

My grandmother spent her years as a nurse and her later years in politics.  My cousin takes after her as a nurse and is a hospice nurse which I think is one of the most noble jobs there is.  I seemed to inherit the political gene although I am on an indefinite sabbatical from politics. Like my grandmother, my mouth sometimes gets me into trouble.  She passed before she could see me run for Maine State House or see me run the Maine Federation of Young Republicans.  Though it drove her Boston Irish Democrat sensibilities nuts that I was a Republican.

It always made me sad that she didn’t live long enough to meet Bryon.  They would have understood each other and appreciate each other’s sense of humor.  I think Grandma would have approved even though Bryon was only one-eighth Irish.

I remember one time during Mass back home our priest was commenting that the generations of a family are like a chain and each one of us is a link in that chain linking the generations.  I remember when my grandmother died and my father mentioned that he was the only one that remembered his grandmother (my great-grandmother) as my living uncles were either too young to remember her or weren’t born yet.  My father is the only living member of our family that is linked to my great-grandmother and he provides that link to us and especially my daughter.  One person who links five generations.  As long as my father is here, that link exists but someday that link won’t exist.  Luckily, my father has stated that he plans on sticking around until he is 120 so that link should be around for awhile.

Bryon went into the ICU when my daughter was 18 months old and passed away a month before her second birthday.  My daughter won’t remember him and it is as if there are no links in that chain.  It’s like that direct chain has been cut clean but in a way, Bryon’s friends and I will serve the link between my daughter and Bryon.

So Bryon, Grandma, and also Grandpa, Papa, Uncle Peter and Uncle Brian, as long as I am alive, you will live on.  I will make sure my daughter knows you.  And if I am privileged enough to live long enough to meet my grandchildren and maybe even my great-grandchildren, they will know you too.  You will live on for generations.

And Grandma, I am still going to wish you a Happy Birthday in Heaven.  Even if you wish your birthday were over.

Grandma’s Obituary