Surviving Charlie
Team Charlie Lives

Surviving Charlie

To My 800 Plus Member Family- I LOVE YOU!

by Elise Normile on 10/19/16

Dear Runners, Trotters, Friends, especially the Honrath/Newman/Hendricks Families:

I’m writing to you all to ask that you join us this Thanksgiving for Charlie’s 6th Annual Turkey Trot.  Ironically, I write especially to the Honrath-Newman-Hendricks families although I already know they will NOT be able to join us.  You see they are any of us and all of us.  They had joined us for the 2014 race from out of town. Perhaps, you are also from out of town or have not joined us for every race either. They knew only their own family and relatives at the race, perhaps like you.  Certainly very few of us know a lot of the trotters.  But, they joined us, had fun, enjoyed themselves and a lively family Thanksgiving reunion, and then returned to their ordinary lives in different towns and states.  Perhaps, that sounds like your Thanksgiving plans as well.  I don’t know if I met these families the year they ran.  I imagine I didn’t.

I heard from Alyson Honrath recently and I was struck by her story.  Her family has lost two dear and vital members of their large and vibrant family since they joined us on Thanksgiving 2014.   Two mothers.  Two wives. They are still recovering and reeling from this grief.  Three children have lost their mother.  A young husband is now a widower as is his father as well.  These families gathered with us, ran with us, and pounded the pavement with us and OUR race was the central piece of the last weekend that they were all together.  Imagine that.  IMAGINE it. 

I ask all of you to join us because we are a family.  Tradition is comforting.  Children should be celebrated.  Pie should be walked off in advance.  And because we will have tremendous personal battles one distant day, we recognize and run on the days that we can. Even after losing two precious sons, I’m well aware that things could be worse for my own family.  I’m also well aware that one day they will be.  So, we, you, all of us have every right and every obligation to just stop and give thanks and lighten up, drink a beer, walk briskly with our ever-aging children, or hold our spouse’s hand. 

Please read the letter that Alyson Honrath sent me (at the end of this letter).  It was REALLY intended for all of us.  I scanned it once or twice when I first received it but, tonight I forced myself to read it slowly and even despite the chills and sadness, I’m really struck at the value of our town.  We are a family.  So, come join us.  Write to me.  Tell me your story.  And stop and tell me your name and welcome me.  I’m a stranger among us all, just like you.

So Alyson, Honraths, Newmans, and Hendricks families, we’ll miss you all.  Truly.  To the 10, 12, and 14 year old children who lost their mother, I want to tell you some things that I know are fact:

·         Your mother, would have given her life to save any of yours, if she were given the chance. So, maybe her heart was read and that’s what happened.  I would’ve died in a heartbeat so either of my sons could have lived.  Easily.  I would’ve rested in peace to pass before them so they could live.

·         It’s hard to know, see, or hear God in a modern world.  It’s easier to focus on mom.  The reunion with her one day will be a much easier North Star for you to follow throughout life as you determine your conscience and make your decisions.  Walk to her.

 

·         Do something different and new in your lives because of mom.  This is so that one day when someone asks, “When did you start playing the guitar or singing or painting?”  You’ll be able to say when I lost my mother and life changed without my choice, I decided to make my own choice about what else was new or different in my life.  ((I recommend that you take up surfing…  It’s physical.  It’s nature.  It’s a thinking time.  It’s a thrill.  It’s a reason to come back and visit us more often until you buy the beach house or move here. ))   Let me know and we’ll connect you with some top local surfers/instructors.

 

·         Final fact, I have no idea how you feel or what it’s like or what you’re going through.   You can tell me.  You can shoot me an email and tell me.  There’s a lot that’s been so terrible for me that I don’t share it with people because I’m afraid that just hearing about my worst experiences… just HEARING about what I’ve experienced might make them too sad.  SOOOO… if you want to tell someone about this whole experience or ask someone questions who’s a little farther down the road that you are walking, you are welcome to write to me.  I’m a mother if you need to talk to one.  You are kids, and I’d love more in my life.     

((SPOILER ALERT: You will have great lives and you’ll be very proud of each other, your father, and yourselves for your strong shoulders from what you will carry each day.  You’ll love each other and your dad so much more than many families can because you are veterans of the same hell.  Only you saw, understood, and walked through it with each other.  It’s a beautiful thing.))

To the rest of the Trotter Clan-  we look forward to catching up and seeing so many of you this year.  We hope you join us.  There is so much to be thankful for and so much to celebrate.  And for all of those who have lost loved ones recently, I’m so very sorry.  That is just so very sad.  Take some time for sweatpants and ice cream.  Some tears and bathrobe days. Then get back into life and the trot and come run with us.  The beers on us for registered runners.

 

Cheers to you all.  Let’s have some fun. 

Charlie’s mom,

Elise Normile

PLEASE READ ALYSON HONRATH’S LETTER BELOW…

 

Thank you for you wonderful letter ( email).  I am an out of town one time "Trotter".  My sister and family live in Va Beach and every other year we (all five sibling's families, mom and dad), meet at her home for Turkey Day, staying in our home states on 'off' years.  2014 was our Va. year.  It was also the year that every single family member, 30 in total, made it in for the gathering.  Your race was a central part of our celebration.  My daughter was an Ensign ( now a LTJG ) on USS Porter '78, Spain, my sister's son is an ROTC officer at Embry Riddle, Fla, and my brother is Coast Guard Captain (26 yrs), and I was a Lt in the NJSP (28 yrs), I retired this past May to help my brother and my Dad out. We understand what it means to stand together in support of each other.  We all participated in the candle Guinness Record challenge of "Most People Blowing Candles Out Simultaneously and a good number of us ran.  What a great way for our entire family age 6-80 to participate in this day.   Anyway, we had quite a clan in from NJ, California, Massachusetts,Maryland, Fla, North Carolina, and of course Va. Beach. We also had some good quality runners in the family.  So, where did this mob of Newmans, Hendricks' and Honraths disappear to?  Well, 2015 was our off year.   Sadly we did not  realize that your wonderful event would also be the last time we were all together. My sister- in -law died suddenly and without warning, at age 47, in August of 2015, leaving my brother and their 10, 12 and 14 year old children.  My mom followed her in November on Thanksgiving Day, three days after a serious stroke, 79yrs.  We are still regrouping and adjusting.  I just wanted to let you know that your wonderful event and tribute to Charlie will always and forever be remembered by our family as the the Best Thanksgiving we have ever had.  Our last complete family memories are of the great time we all had, running, walking, laughing, having an after race beer,cheering each other on, and meeting new friends at the race.  What a great community you belong to!!! Everyone is not ready for another T day gathering yet, so even though this would be our year back in Va Beach, we are giving each family time to heal.  I hope to be back in the next couple of years, and if possible to be at your race. I wanted to share my story with you to let you know that your family and my family will always be tied together, through Charlie's Turkey Trot, as one of the best family times we ever had while we were all together.

 

Wishing you, your family, and all the coastal communities a safe Labor Day weekend from this upcoming storm.

 

 Alyson Honrath

I'm Here For You

by Elise Normile on 10/16/16

To Angelina Mills-Mendez

 

Angela, this is your 2nd Grade teacher Mrs. Normile.  Today I heard that your mom passed away a few weeks ago. I am so shocked.  I am so angry.  I am so sad.  Is this how you felt when you heard about Charlie?  I remember that you were making your First Communion on the day Charlie was rushed to the hospital.  Were you looking for me as you lined up in your white dress and veil?  In all of my shock and fear and numbness in those first few scary hours with Charlie, I still thought of you and the boys and girls in our classroom and I called Mrs. Grasman to tell her to pass along to you all that I could not be with you.

 

And now, you’re in 8th Grade, and your mom’s gone.  And now, for the 2nd time, I wish I could’ve been with you.  In recognition that you are now a very grown up worldly 8th grader, I will use grown up words to tell you that this sucks so much. I was in shock when I heard the news.  Nothing shocks me anymore.  Not since Charlie. But, today, I felt the same.  I couldn’t even call someone to hear more details about your loss or your mom’s passing because I didn’t want to hear bad news over the telephone again… Not since Charlie.

 

Ok, Angelina.  This is important.  Your mom’s story in many ways has ended.  She has lived her last hour, written her last page BUT… you don’t even know all of the pages.  You don’t know all of the story.  Now, that it has ended, you will really want to hear it all or gather it all to read somewhere down the line.  I grabbed every story, every photo, every angle of my son James’ stories from him friends, classmates, teachers so that we could have as much as possible to remember him and know him by.

Angelina, you are an only child and all of your mother’s family lived in Puerto Rico so, they will have so much to share with you about your mother.  I have so much to share with you and mom’s family as well.  We spent a year together during 2nd grade.  Your mom was the most present, most involved, most concerned, most doting, most connected mother of any student in my entire career.  We spoke nearly every day in 2nd grade as she and I partnered in our care for you.  Me in the classroom, she in the home.  We spoke nearly every day. 

She was determined and unwavering in her devotion to you and what she  thought was in your best interests.  She mothered you intensely and closely.  I would encourage her to do less, stand back, allow you more independence and the chance to do things on your own.  She would leave me notes on my desk in response.  “I hear you but, I’m not changing my ways.  Do you want to go to Starbucks after school?    Yvonne”    

She was your mother.  This was her life.  You were her life and she was going to walk the distance with you.  That much was clear.

That’s cool.  Your mom handed you an entire lifetime of conversations, advice, lessons, praise, hugs, and hair brushings in your 14 years.  Easily.

 There’s a lot to tell you.  Since you were only 7 years old in 2nd grade and mom’s family was out of the country, I have stories of her that you may want to have.  I have moments and memories of the two of you together that you will want to remember.  I really do.  Do you remember when she’d take you to the church in the evenings to blowdry your hair because the fuses blew, or the GFI was tripped at home and she didn’t know how to fix it or find the fuse box?   Dad was on one of his tours or cruises and mom would wrap you in the car after your bath and take you up the church restroom to blowdry your hair…. Until she told MRS. NORMILE who promptly brought your mom into the wonderful world of google.  Answers, answers everywhere.

So, I missed your first communion and I didn’t return to school that year as I battled with and for little Charlie’s life and I didn’t return to school in the fall and I think you moved on to a new school that year… But, I saw you and mom once more.  It was on Lola’s very first birthday on her own.  Her 3rd birthday and I saw you and Mom in Chick fil A when I was getting party trays.  I was pale and sad and hollow and then I saw your mother and she grabbed me and hugged me and held me as I cried.  I needed a mother and so I got to share yours.

Angelina, it’s important to cry and express and get out the pain and anger before you heal and walk forward in life or it will damage you later, from the inside.  I have a lot to tell you about this journey you are beginning and the mother you had.

Did you know your mother cooked my first taste of Puerto Rican food?  Helped me cook my first Puerto Rican recipe and was the reason I chose Puerto Rico for our family’s first vacation to that island during your 2nd grade year.

Now, today, I rush and hurry and stay busy to avoid the noise, the memories, the grief, the loss, the boys, the sadness.  But, when I am in Puerto Rico, I am slow.  I can be alone.  I don’t need noise or television or tasks.  I avoid it all.  I love the surf, sand, music, people, food.  I have no sadness whatsoever on the island.  None.  I can plant my feet and think of both my boys straight through my heart and I feel joy.  True joy does not yet exist for me anywhere else. True, pure youthful joy is still possible when I’m there.

Your mother is the reason I went to Puerto Rico for the very first time for Spring Break of your 2nd Grade year.  She is the reason, I went to the island and was with all 5 of my babies for the very last time in paradise.  Did you remember that your Papi and Abuela had come to visit with you and mom for a month that Spring during 2nd Grade? They would come to school often and although they spoke very little English, we would hug and spend time whenever I saw them.  Gaela would stop by school sometimes and I would encourage her to practice her Spanish with them.

Well, when my family arrived in Puerto Rico, your Papi and Abuela were there on the airport sidewalk, pacing, looking, and waiting to surprise me!  Your mother had sent them to welcome me and my family and I was so surprised and spoiled.  They drove my daughter and the twins to our rental home in Old San Juan while the boys waited to get our rental car.  Your papi y abuela bought Charlie and Lola their first frozen limber (frozen juice in a cup) from an old woman’s window next door.  Lola and I buy one from her every time we go now.  We just saw the woman again in June, 5 years later.  When Papi finally left us, he handed me a bottle of rum and solemnly assured me it would come in handy since all of the island liquor stores were closed for the remainder of the day, Good Friday.

When I returned home, I told your mom how wonderful the vacation was despite the rough, rough waters of Rincon.  She waved her hand and said, “No good,  Its too far. Its too rough.  Next time you go, you will go to the west coast.  My brother has a place in Low-KEE-yo.”  I loved how she said it and I asked her several times that week how to say the name and where it was and what it was like.  I loved imagining another vacation I suppose.

Within three weeks of returning from our first trip from Puerto Rico, I lost Charlie, and my life as I knew it. I never saw you and your mother again for any real moments.  Within 11 months of Charlie, I spent the best week of my mothering years with James and the rest of my family in your uncle’s town of Low-KEE-yo, before we lost James as well.. It is the town of Luquillo that is now my 2nd home, my heart, and my happiness.  My friends.  James’ last friends.  They are beautiful people.  All from your mother.  How could you gift someone the peace I feel?  How could I have put into words my thanks?

Angelina, I have a lot to teach you and I lot I think your mother would like me to remind you about her and what she wanted for you.  If you are wondering how you will live now without her, well, I have some ideas about that also.  ((You living your life will actually be how you remain WITH her, by the way, because you were her life.  Angelina, you were her life.  You were her reason.  Her happiness. Her everything.  By you living beautifully, she will live.  I have every confidence and many great ideas for how you will live a wonderful life…  and, don’t worry, you’ll see her again.  In the eyes of your son or the hairflip of your daughter or their voices.  She won’t miss a moment of your life…

Please text me.  I’d like to take a walk and talk with you.  This will NOT be the third time that I wish I could be with you.  I can.  I will.  Let me simply sit with you.


I have a lot I can help you with.  I would like to see you.  Today has been very painful as I tried to imagine your pain.  You are the first person I have considered to have been dealt a blow has heavy as mine.  Mom was your only, and your every.  You were hers.

Your loss is the first one in my opinion that seems as large as mine. A loss just as shocking, just as big, just as difficult. 


You'll need a few days of sweatpants, tears, and ice cream before we put your shoulders back, put on some bright lipstick for your mother for a minute, and walk the walk.  We gotta walk the walk, Ang.  I’ll meet you anytime, anywhere, including anywhere on the island of Puerto Rico.   Please read and translate this for Papi and Abuela.  My heart bursts for them.  It is so very painful to lose a child. 

 

 

 

An Old Friend...

by Elise Normile on 04/05/16

So, I heard from an old 20 year old friend today.

I taught Kelly McMullan as a young 7-8 year old in 2nd grade.  

She and her family moved to Colorado a few years later and we haven't spoken since she was 9 or 10 years old...  But, I was THRILLED to hear from her.

I shared with a friend my delight at hearing from one of my former students with a friend and she commented, "She must have been very special to you."

I had no words.  She was my STUDENT. 

It's hard to understand for anyone who isn't a teacher but, if  you were to spend a day with your child as a parent, I am sure there are many moments where you separate or do your own things... Check emails, call a friend, read the newspaper...  As a teacher, especially of 2nd graders,as I was for many years, you spend 8 hours a day speaking with these little friends.  8 hours a day in one room.  Imagine if you had a whole class over for a birthday party  for even two hours in  one room.  The schoolteacher spends8 hours talking to the child and listening  in return. Telling stories, walking to the playground, sitting, reading, sharing ideas.  8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for10 straight months.

Yes, she is special to me...  She was my student.

So, for any of my former middle school or 2nd grade students, or 8th graders who had me 3 different years or 7th graders who spent  two  years with me...  Yes, you are special to me.  But, you already know that just as surely as I know how I will always hold a special place in your heart.  There really isn't an explanation possible for those who weren't with us, is there?!  But, wasn't it wonderful?  Share your hellos, your memories, and your shoutouts to me or one another in the comments at the end or tell me what teachers meant the world to you.

So, to my Jacobs and Abbeys and Kelseys and Naheda and Morgans and Laurens and Noahs and  Tinos and Matthews and Mollys and Sams and Ainsleys and Treys and Brendans and Rileys and Sheltons and Erins and Kellys and Natalies and Justins and Leahs and Amandas and Lukes and Maddies and Mathisens and  Emmas and Promises and Toris and Graces and Martinas and  Josephs and Rhys and Austins and Katies and Aidens all of my other lovin children... stay young, love quickly, and always be good to one another.  Here is the note I got from Kelly...  my response... and then her attachment.

Again, give me or  each other a shoutout in the comments... and, seriously, tell me if you're one of  the dozens I forgot.  Cuz  you know I didn't really forget you or any of  our mad fun.  I'm just typing quickly on a sticky keyboard....  What was the most fun thing YOU think we did that year? What do YOU remember?

March 29, 2016

 Hi Mrs. Normile,


Remember me? I just applied for the school of education at CU and wrote about you in my essay so I wanted to share it with you. It feels like yesterday I was still in my maroon polo in your second grade class. Hope all is well with you and your family!
Kelly McMullan
April 5, 2016
Dear Kelly,
Ok, gather your parents around and read my reply to them as well (yes, you can forward this email on instead of reading it out loud to them.) But share it all with them because...

OF COURSE I REMEMBER YOU. So, read this outloud to mom and dad and Erin and Megan (who is probably saying... "Wait- Who is Mrs. Normile??!!)...

and I promise I won't tell them about your email to me about your desperate plan to marry that Buddhist hippy before joining ISIS... Wait- are you already reading out loud?  long pause...  Giggle.  Sorry.

silence.



             crickets...


         <<"I SAID, "WHO is Mrs. Normile???!!!", pipes in Megan breaking the awkward silence.>>


                        ((Attagirl, Megan.))

<<pause for first period, 7th grade grammar: prepositional phrases....>


So, when I saw your name and the first few words of your email, I postponed reading it until I had time to really savor it and enjoy it.  It's rare to have a good convo with someone and I didn't want to read it off of my phone or be distracted, etc....

Also, emotions scare the hell out of me.  I think (I know) there is a dark corner somewhere off to the side of my mind that is filled with really large emotions but, I stay busy and keep my head down and don't think about what is over there.  The emotions in the dark corner are large and a bit of a danger because they will take energy-- I don't know how much.... and I don't know for how long.  Does that make sense?  So, it's like if laundry was piling up but, instead of being able to do a bit of it and put it away, you're afraid that if you begin you will have to keep working at it until its all done but, you aren't really sure how much there is or how long it will take and so you ignore the pile and try not to look....

The emotions won't demand that I deal with them nor will the laundry UNLESS, I happen to pick up just one little piece that I need cleaned and then I have opened up the entire job....  So, I haven't opened your attachment because it has emotion written all over it (believe me, when you are trying to avoid it you get good at spotting its tracks)...  and I want to be in a good place and with a block of time to accept and deal with whatever other emotion comes stumbling out of me, when your letter shines a light on that dark corner.  And, by the way, the release of emotions, is WONDERFUL... so don't worry.  I just want the time to enjoy them and let them wash over me.  I'm a thinker.


pause for 2nd period... earth science, 8th grade boys...


ok, back for a second....  Also, I wanted to tell you that, Not only do I remember you but, I was SO excited to get your email that the first person I thought of texting was James.  REALLY.  After all this time.  He was the first thought.  i really wanted to tell him I heard from you. ((pause for sympathy))...  Sympathy not needed.  Grief and loss are just things.  Nouns.  They are and they are unchangeable.  I think the more we talk about these things that are spooky or uncomfortable or blushy for both parties the more accepted this phenomenon- which we all will face - will become. Acceptance is important because on top of all of the other mess of emotions a griever must face, embarrassment or awkwardness isn't needed.  Make sense?  

I've always been a "plant my feet and speak my truth" kinda gal and so it is with grief....  Who we are is how we do.

BTW- THAT is so important to know.  So many people think that when life hands them a challenge it will toughen them up or change them or they will have to step up or they will have to mature.....  NOPE.  Not possible.  When we go through times of difficulty- heartache (you'll have it, if you haven't already)... divorce, job loss, health scares, etc....  We have a lot to process and recover from...  The last thing we are going to want to do or be able to do is start a new set of habits and behaviors.... PUH-LEASE...  In our grief-  it is SO bad- and shock- even worse maybe?!- we fell into automaticity with our decisions and actions...  Who we were is how we did.

So, why is THAT important?!  Because, if you are self indulgent, a quitter, an excuse maker, a spoiled child, a victim than you will slide very quickly and by your own hands into some very dark and dangerous places at the worst moments of your life.

I want to run through the hospital nurseries and shake each parent to tell them this...  I want to burst into Lamaze classes and say.... "DO YOU KNOW??!!!  Far more important than your breathing during labor is your parenting!! IF you love your child you will have high expectations and demand excellence with  loving confidence for them to succeed.  Parents must not baby or excuse or carry too long or scaffold or protect or allow a child to do less than they can.... 
 Because, WHEN the worst case happens in life to that child it will be too late for them to grow up and handle life maturely.  THIS is why teens have babies and fail at raising them.  This is why people become addicts....  or gamblers... or losers. and victims...

And parents of success stories say, "I love them so much and childhood is so brief that I want them to walk, run, fall, fail, and cry while they are still in the shelter of my home.  Because they are safe to see these things with me.  I don't want them to experience these things for the first time without me.  They will be adults for 3/4 of their lives and I want them to have great lives"

In other words, a successful parent is harder on their children than the real world is because the child KNOWS that they love them... and so if a parent expects and asks more of their child (say please, strong handshake, make eye contact, be clean, do it again, do it neater, watch your tone of voice....) then the real world asks of them then they will find life very easy.  Kind of like swinging with two bats before stepping up to the plate.  they'll be more than prepared for life.

pause for another class....


Here is the good news- YOUR parents are on the winning side.  They did it right.  I've known that since you walked into my classroom... It was confirmed when Erin did. 

The good news is that you will be strong enough to carry what you must....  So, while I can't prevent the worst from ever happening to you or anyone, mom and dad can be satisfied in knowing that you will walk through any fires and emerge stronger.  I know that in many ways about you.  Who we are and how we are is for the most part set by the age of 8 years old...   So, without knowing what you've been doing or where you have been since I saw you as a small child...  I know who you are. 

You are probably still reserved.  Not shy.  that has a negative suggestion.  Reserved.  James was reserved.  Cautious and observing.  A little bit of a higher requirement to be your friend and to be close with you.  Some people give their souls away easily- wear their hearts on their sleeves- I'm not sure you do.  I bet you remain sweet and kind to any and all but, really pause before bearing your soul to people.  That makes your relationship/friendship MORE valuable i  think when people DO earn it.

Erin on the other hand, I suspect is still fast, bubbly, and a social butterfly. This is Gaela. Conscientious and a disciplined worker but, an extrovert, where you are more of an expressionist. She speaks. You think.

But, she is also sensitive...know that.  if Erin slammed her little 7 year fingers in a door, in her pain, she would be smiling as she came gripping her finger tips to me... and their would be pained tears in the corners of her eyes as she smiled.  As if it was difficult to let others know that she hurt.  She is eager to be happy and often she is, but, always remember the tears in the corner of her eyes as she smiles...  In other words, when things don't seem to bother or affect her as they do to you, remember, she won't always show it in your way.  It's important to know that about your sister and for her to understand your ways because you will probably marry a man like her.. and she will be most happy with a man like you.  THAT is how you will know when you have found THE ONE... Hopefully, 20 years from now.  But, when you find someone who feels like family.  When they are similar but different from you.  When they have the heart of Erin and her bravado you admire, you will know...  Because she was the first little relationship that you have ever had, that you grew to love and you know you will love her until death do you part.  You know when to give her space and you know when to express your anger to her and how to express it.  You know when to encourage her to do something or when she is worried... or when she hurts because she won't always show it...  and that will be tremendously helpful when you find a husband....

I know, I know...  We aren't supposed to talk about things at such a young age. But, we talked about college in 2nd grade!  Even in vague ways or plans... And so it is with marriage.  You see, you will want someone to fill the role of your parents as you grow into their adult peer group and friendship.  You will want someone to hear about your work day and coworkers as mom heard about your teachers/bosses/classmates...  You will want someone to take you to dinner for your birthday or help plan your party or put a card on the breakfast table or rush you to the hospital when you are ill.. You will want someone that you can wear your terry clothed robe in front of and not think twice....  And the young wife will huff and puff because her husband didn't notice that SHE LOST 10 pounds while the wise wife will find it comforting that he never noticed you gained the weight in the first place.  Pick the man that will always let you be the "petite with the receipt" if you know what I mean.

Ok, so, enough for now.  I wonder if I'll open your attachment this evening.  I think I will.  I knew last night and again this morning that I would read your email when I got to school.  And I'm glad I did.  It was lovely to hear from you.

And, I'll let you know when I read the attachment but, in the meantime, tell me how you are doing. How you all are!

Tell Mom I've thought about you, about all of you, over the years.  I saw your pic at SJA last year. Some display about SJA graduates.  Holy smokes- you look good. Well played, Kelly.  Well played.  You really paced it and stayed young and cute while you could and then pulled off this, "Wait, THAT'S Kelly??!" gasp from admirers moment... That moment that seems to be in every formal dance scene of Disney movies...  

Soooo... before I go, tell me how everyone's doing and also ask me ANYTHING...  about their deaths, about the last moments, about the ugliest moments, about what it was like, about what shock feels like, about what I remember, or forgot, or anything related to their deaths and/or my experience with it... or with kids experience with it.  Really.  I told you before, I can speak my truth.

And you may never know somebody again who is this open with something most of us fear the most.  Ask away- cool opportunities to get some answers.  By the way, I am NOT afraid to die.  Not a bit.  So THERE'S an upside to the whole experience.  Can't wait to die actually.  Actually, all i can do is wait.  

And the experience of death wasn't THEN... it remains.  It's now.  Lola- year younger than you were in 2nd grade Kelly- will draw a cute family picture which has two tombstones in it.  So, that sucks.... Cuz you can't tell her not to and you can't be upset by it.  Not if she's not upset by it  Not if that's how SHE wants to speak.  She has to speak her truth as well.  A lot of parents ignore their children's truths and wrap themselves in their vision of who their child is... and THAT makes it very difficult for a child to be close to their parents.

Anyway, this has been written over the course of many hours and stops and starts and so it will probably feel a bit disconnected but, it was great to hear from you.  Again, ask me anything that you are curious about.  I'm a teacher.  I teach.  Ask me what hell is, how I know theres a heaven now, what purgatory is, what God is like... I talked to Him once and I got a lot of answers.  So, maybe, this is why you wrote... Without knowing it.  Maybe i needed to tell you something.  Or you needed to hear something and I'm supposed to be the messenger.  That's how God works.  Not so much is as random as we think...  it's very cool that way.  Very comforting.  But, ya, God isn't going to burn a bush outside of your dorm or speak to you from a mountain....  For any time you've ever wanted to hear from Him or thought he was some bearded guy in the clouds and prayer/conversations with Him were just formal prayers with "thee" and "thou" where you sound like a pilgrim or a leprechaun, maybe you should know that He actually speaks the language to the people.  He adjusts His words to who He is speaking. So it makes sense and connects with you.  He also will use the voice of someone you will hear the message from.  So maybe today he sounded like your 2nd grade teacher.  Ha.  That would be cool.  He's a good guy and adores you very much.  Life is beautiful, isn't it?!


Take care and give me a shout.  Tell me if any of this didn't make sense.

Or if any of it DID for that matter.

Rushing out of cafeteria, lunch over,

Mrs. Normile

 

THIS IS KELLY'S ESSAY!!! Oh My gosh... I am only JUST beginning to read it and already, I am so tickled and delighted.  I would totally give this thing an A+ and a Smiley Face sticker before putting it front and center in our hallway bulletin board.  Words are totally my favorite gift of all.  They are the medium I love to work  with... I am a word shaker so to receive such beautifully chosen words so carefully placed and  strung with care...  my, my.  What can I say?  There are no words. (Awesome- I'm a big fan of irony.)

A famous Chinese proverb states :

A child's life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.

 

In my life, one of the people who left an extremely positive mark on my life was Mrs. Normile.  Mrs. Normile was my second grade elementary school teacher at a small Catholic school in Virginia Beach. To this day, she was one of the most influential teachers I have ever had.  She had that unique capability to make each and every student in her classroom feel important, intelligent, and talented. What a rare gift and it is for this reason that I  want to be a Mrs. Normile. I want to leave such a positive mark on a child’s life that I may have a student of mine, 20 years from now, writing about Ms. McMullan. I want to be the kind of teacher that makes such a lasting impression on an 8 year old, that they feel  important, intelligent and talented and ready for the world.

 

            For as long as I can remember, I was the little girl who loved going school.  I loved going shopping for school supplies with my Mom and I loved playing teacher with my dolls.  I even remember, lining up my dolls and stuffed animals,  giving them each names to write on my “school roster”  and then I would make up homework assignments and lesson plans for Winnie the Pooh or Barbie.  I even practiced writing the ever-so important smiley face at the top of the assignment.  Why did I do this ?  I just always wanted to imitate everything my teachers did. Aside from my parents, my idols were my teachers.  I think even then in my heart I knew that I wanted to follow in their footsteps.  However, we all know that in elementary school, most kids see pop stars, athletes and astronauts as their idols and then when they grow up they pursue a completely different path.. For me, I think I always wanted to be a Mrs. Normile.

 

            That said, it really wasn’t until high school that my passion for becoming a teacher became very real. I started understanding the importance that teachers have on my generation’s future, and began to appreciate the time and effort they selflessly put in to making that future possible for us. Teaching requires so much more than showing up in the morning and reading from a textbook. It requires a self-motivated professionalism, a perception of student needs, a sense of understanding individual talents and an innate  ability to  engage and inspire the student. It also requires perhaps the most important qualities; the ability to be compassionate, patient and understanding. It also requires the ability to inspire mutual respect. I could go on and on, but my high school experience was important to establishing, in my mind, that this was the career path I must take.  Developing a real passion for teaching in these formative years allowed me to balance my experiences with not only some of the best teachers, but also by comparing these individual’s positive characteristics  with those of the worst of their peers.

 

            We have all had a bad teacher at some point in our lives. These people, given the privilege of teaching the young, don’t embrace the opportunity ….they abuse it. Generally speaking from my limited experience, they appear unmotivated, are easily agitated, and feel entitled. When I say entitled, I do not mean it in a sense of wealth or status, but more in a sense that they give the impression that they are “better” than their students and thus they feel omnipotent. They do not respect the ideas of their students, rather they discard them. So, one may ask, why would this encourage me still be a teacher?   Well, they motivate me almost as much as the good ones inspire me.  I want to help cancel them out, I want to make more Mrs. Normiles and help the system weed out those teachers who are simply just going through the motions. It is teachers like that that make you appreciate the teachers who dedicate all their time to help leave a positive mark on their students.

 

            Although some teachers are content with sliding by and doing the bare minimum, I would do the exact opposite. I promise to challenge myself daily to create the ideal environment for my students, understanding  their needs while inspiring them to great deeds. I want my students to feel safe and comfortable enough to share their ideas and opinions, without the fear of being belittled. As a teacher, my goal is to be friendly, warm, and approachable, but still maintain the respect of the teacher –student relationship.  I also intend to hold my students to a higher standard by setting high expectations for them.  I understand that it will be tough and there is no magic involved in how to convince a student to learn . However, if they see how much I love teaching, feel that they will want to learn from me so I can make that positive mark on their lives.  I not only want to be a teacher but a mentor; someone that my students can talk to, someone that not only educates students but also helps build their character towards being model citizens.

            I am so excited to dive into this experience with the help of the School of Education at the University of Colorado. I cannot wait to broaden my knowledge and take all the steps necessary to become a great teacher. As a teacher, I have the responsibility of teaching the future inventors, doctors, mothers, and fathers of this world. I want to be a little piece to the puzzle in helping to them create the best version of themselves possible. In my eyes , there is nothing in the world more noble than that.

            Aristotle, perhaps one of the world’s greatest teachers, once said, “Those who know do, those that understand teach. “  Well, I might not be an Aristotle, but I know in my heart I could be a Mrs Normile.

- Kelly McMullan

 

Jaysus, Kelly.  Shut. The. Front.  Door.  You want to be a Mrs. Normile.  Imagine that.  You ARE talking about teaching and not actual identity fraud.  Right?   Love you to the moon, Kelly.  Let's do a project together when you get into the school of education.  I'm so very, very honored.  I feel so so so satisfied.  Thank GOD, the years of crayons up noses and middle school nonsense and cooties and head lice and girl drama and parent conferences and long days have all been made worth it with your letter.  Attagirl, Kelly.  Go get your goals, girl

 


Run

by Elise Normile on 01/11/16

So I've been running lately.  A lot.  I don't get it.


I didn't run track or run for fitness growing up.
I never did 5ks.  I don't even like running I don't think.

But, tonight, for the 8th evening in 11 nights I ran.  In 37 degree weather that pierced my lungs like glass on the inhales.  Last week, I ran in the dark as it snowed lightly.

Tonight as I walked off the 30 minute run I wondered.  Why am I doing this?

Really.  Why the hell am i running?

Not for the company because I run alone.  Not for the accolades because I don't even care.  Not for cute gear- I run rugged.  Thick socks, two running shirts with thumb holes.  A hood, a hat. 

I dress to be comfortable and warm because I'm running my fastest and my farthest tonight.  Every time.

I don't run for attention because I run in the dark.  Nor, for weight loss because my scale needs a new battery.  I bought one for it a few days ago.  I never opened the battery package because while the scale does need a battery, I'm not sure that I need the scale.

So, tonight, I wondered as I walked the run off... Why am I running?  

It's so strange.  I hate to run still... I think... but, I can't wait to do it.  I hate when I don't run and I am excited when I can run.  And it's hard every time.

And its just so hard and so demanding.  

I think I know why I'm running.

I lost my two sons and that is a lot.  A lot of everything.  Emotions, decisions, considerations, feelings, grief, worry, exhaustion.  It's a lot.  And I am not a very emotional, fluffy person.  I have always gained and grown and felt my deepest satisfaction in the logic, in the sensibilities, and in the facts at hand.

Somehow, in the loss of my boys and the aftermath, I lost myself.

I became too lost in emotion, too easy on myself, too eager, too desperate, to anxious to delight others, or to be happy, or to be perfect, or to be everything, or to be loved....

I changed and became too soft.  

I felt sorry for myself and that's an unnecessary waste of time and emotion.  Truly.  People will assure me that I have every right to feel sorry for myself. Whatever. I want a little better. I'd like to forget the assurance that I have "every right to feel sorry for myself"... I want every right to be happy.  Self pity isn't the road map to happy.  It never is. 

I have worked for myself and on myself and by myself my entire life.  I like hard work and I like the satisfaction hard work brings me.

Tonight, I said to myself as I often do,  "Why am I running?"  and the answer finally came to me and it came quickly.

It dawned on me that I'm replicating some of the demands that were placed on me when I lost my boys.  I'm creating moments in my days that are painful, and that require endurance and discipline. I'm re-creating activities that I dread and can't face and... are tough.  And I'm doing it intentionally.  

Because I don't want to lose the purity.  

It was in these dark and painful moments that I saw most easily what really mattered, who mattered, and how much I valued these faces and moments.

When I run I picture the face of someone I loved and lost.  I imagine talking to them.  I picture sending them a text in the mornings just to say hello...  and I run and I run....  and I remember and I run.

I run to feel the pain. And I run to overcome it.    

In doing so, I get closer to the honesty and clarity that came to me in some of those darkest moments.  At these times you easily discover how strong you are and how much you can endure.  

Every run is a cleanse.  It is a resolution to honor and value those that I love.  Not to change them.  Not to overwhelm them. Overbuy them.  Over talk them.  Over praise them.  Not to demand of them... their time, their words, their attention.  Just to love them as they are.  To listen...  

Every run is a promise.  To love myself perfectly... 

And to hold high expectations for the relationship that I have with myself but, only myself.

And so I run... and I demand of myself.

I run and expect of myself and i am proud...  

 and in running I release my expectations of everyone else.

In releasing my expectations I am free to enjoy things and relationships for what they are instead of what I think they should be.


I suspect there is a quiet need that exists in us all to look quietly and silently.
 There is a reason why regardless of wealth or position, mankind is often drawn to self imposed cleanses, beginnings, sacrifices, and renewals.  Ramadan, New Year's Resolutions, Lent, Yom Kippur... 

Sometimes the only way we can experience abundance is to push ourselves to receive what we already have. 

I love to hate running.... It's true.  I beginning to realize that I secretly hate that I love it.  

Find your running.

Set a goal to achieve something that is so big, so exhilirating, that it excites and scares you at the same time.  

I don't pity myself for losing.  I am excited that I loved.  

One of the bravest things I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die.

One of the toughest things I ever did was choosing to love and accepting the risk.

One of the smartest things I ever did was choosing to be happy.  

Happiness is a choice and never a result.

What my eyes show me of the outer world, my running does for the inner.

I run because tonight's struggle will be the strength I depend on tomorrow.

I run because I want to learn to love myself so that I can love others better.

It's not easy to love openly and easily when you have lost.  

But, health begins with heal for a reason.  It's time to work.  It's time to run.

One foot in front of the other and in the word of the very badass singer Pink,

"Its in the stars
Its been written in the scars on our hearts
We're not broken just bent
and we can learn to love again"

and we will....  














Run

by Elise Normile on 01/11/16

So I've been running lately.  A lot.  I don't get it.


I didn't run track or run for fitness growing up.
I never did 5ks.  I don't even like running I don't think.

But, tonight, for the 8th evening in 11 nights I ran.  In 37 degree weather that pierced my lungs like glass on the inhales.  Last week, I ran in the dark as it snowed lightly.

Tonight as I walked off the 30 minute run I wondered.  Why am I doing this?

Really.  Why the hell am i running?

Not for the company because I run alone.  Not for the accolades because I don't even care.  Not for cute gear- I run rugged.  Thick socks, two running shirts with thumb holes.  A hood, a hat. 

I dress to be comfortable and warm because I'm running my fastest and my farthest tonight.  Every time.

I don't run for attention because I run in the dark.  Nor, for weight loss because my scale needs a new battery.  I bought one for it a few days ago.  I never opened the battery package because while the scale does need a battery, I'm not sure that I need the scale.

So, tonight, I wondered as I walked the run off... Why am I running?  

It's so strange.  I hate to run still... I think... but, I can't wait to do it.  I hate when I don't run and I am excited when I can run.  And it's hard every time.

And its just so hard and so demanding.  

I think I know why I'm running.

I lost my two sons and that is a lot.  A lot of everything.  Emotions, decisions, considerations, feelings, grief, worry, exhaustion.  It's a lot.  And I am not a very emotional, fluffy person.  I have always gained and grown and felt my deepest satisfaction in the logic, in the sensibilities, and in the facts at hand.

Somehow, in the loss of my boys and the aftermath, I lost myself.

I became too lost in emotion, too easy on myself, too eager, too desperate, to anxious to delight others, or to be happy, or to be perfect, or to be everything, or to be loved....

I changed and became too soft.  

I felt sorry for myself and that's an unnecessary waste of time and emotion.  Truly.  People will assure me that I have every right to feel sorry for myself. Whatever. I want a little better. I'd like to forget the assurance that I have "every right to feel sorry for myself"... I want every right to be happy.  Self pity isn't the road map to happy.  It never is. 

I have worked for myself and on myself and by myself my entire life.  I like hard work and I like the satisfaction hard work brings me.

Tonight, I said to myself as I often do,  "Why am I running?"  and the answer finally came to me and it came quickly.

It dawned on me that I'm replicating some of the demands that were placed on me when I lost my boys.  I'm creating moments in my days that are painful, and that require endurance and discipline. I'm re-creating activities that I dread and can't face and... are tough.  And I'm doing it intentionally.  

Because I don't want to lose the purity.  

It was in these dark and painful moments that I saw most easily what really mattered, who mattered, and how much I valued these faces and moments.

When I run I picture the face of someone I loved and lost.  I imagine talking to them.  I picture sending them a text in the mornings just to say hello...  and I run and I run....  and I remember and I run.

I run to feel the pain. And I run to overcome it.    

In doing so, I get closer to the honesty and clarity that came to me in some of those darkest moments.  At these times you easily discover how strong you are and how much you can endure.  

Every run is a cleanse.  It is a resolution to honor and value those that I love.  Not to change them.  Not to overwhelm them. Overbuy them.  Over talk them.  Over praise them.  Not to demand of them... their time, their words, their attention.  Just to love them as they are.  To listen...  

Every run is a promise.  To love myself perfectly... 

And to hold high expectations for the relationship that I have with myself but, only myself.

And so I run... and I demand of myself.

I run and expect of myself and i am proud...  

 and in running I release my expectations of everyone else.

In releasing my expectations I am free to enjoy things and relationships for what they are instead of what I think they should be.


I suspect there is a quiet need that exists in us all to look quietly and silently.
 There is a reason why regardless of wealth or position, mankind is often drawn to self imposed cleanses, beginnings, sacrifices, and renewals.  Ramadan, New Year's Resolutions, Lent, Yom Kippur... 

Sometimes the only way we can experience abundance is to push ourselves to receive what we already have. 

I love to hate running.... It's true.  I beginning to realize that I secretly hate that I love it.  

Find your running.

Set a goal to achieve something that is so big, so exhilirating, that it excites and scares you at the same time.  

I don't pity myself for losing.  I am excited that I loved.  

One of the bravest things I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die.

One of the toughest things I ever did was choosing to love and accepting the risk.

One of the smartest things I ever did was choosing to be happy.  

Happiness is a choice and never a result.

What my eyes show me of the outer world, my running does for the inner.

I run because tonight's struggle will be the strength I depend on tomorrow.

I run because I want to learn to love myself so that I can love others better.

It's not easy to love openly and easily when you have lost.  

But, health begins with heal for a reason.  It's time to work.  It's time to run.

One foot in front of the other and in the word of the very badass singer Pink,

"Its in the stars
Its been written in the scars on our hearty
We're not broken just bent
and we can learn to love again"

and we will....