Santa Fe

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I know. I know what’s coming to your world. I wish I didn’t, but I do. First is the shock. This isn’t supposed to happen here. It shouldn’t be here. It must be a mistake. Learning of the people who died. You will know their names, their faces, their hobbies, their goals, their families. You will feel the grief of their passing, no matter how much or how little you knew of them before 5/18/18.

There will be support. It comes in many forms. There’s a man from the Midwest who will come with crosses he made himself. He will write the names of the dead on them. This will be placed outside of your school and it’s where you will gather with other community members. Here there will be flowers, candles, signs, stuffed animals, prayers, people, news cameras, tears. You will drive by it and feel sad. Eventually they will take all that away, but the memory will never go away.

There will be therapy dogs. They will be there for months. They are adorable, comforting and they help. They give while asking for nothing. Their handlers do that same. I don’t know how they are able to be around all the grief all the time and not have a piece of their soul shrivel up. I give them so much credit.

There will be the Red Cross. They will come and have a food station by where the memorial is set up. Counselors will be set up and trauma trained therapists in your community and in nearby communities will come to help.

There will be candlelight vigils for the dead. Speeches will be made. Activists may be born from them. You will comfort each other and know that you are not alone in your grief. No one is a stranger there. Your grief bonds you in a way that you can’t know or understand until you live it.

There will be a blanket over the community. It’s heavy, weighted. Everywhere you go, it’s there. At the grocery store, the clerk will ask, “Is your family OK?” rather than “How are you today?” They know how you are. That blanket eventually lightens, but it’s always there.

There will be fundraisers for the families of the dead and the families of those who survived. T-shirts and bracelets to purchase and wear around your community. Restaurants to eat at where they donate some of their profits.  Stickers and magnets to display on your cars.

There will be funerals and wakes and shivas to attend. You will wait in line to get in while listening to teenagers discuss which of these they will attend next and it will break you just a little bit more.

There will be kids who step up in ways that you cannot imagine. There will be heroes born. They now have role models who have been in their shoes for months to teach them the ropes. They can have their own secret office in their town to organize and keep the #NeverAgain movement moving along so that it will really be #NeverAgain.

There will be activists born. Parents who go home to bedrooms that will never hear the sound of their teens laughing again. They will raise their voices to lead the charge for change. They will have the likes of Fred and Max and Andrew and Lori to guide them and help them and grieve with them.

There will be people caling those same kids and activists crisis actors. They will say they don’t go to your school, don’t live in your community, aren’t who they say they are. They will say that this never happened in the first place.

There will be politicians who will say the right things, the things you want to hear, but who will do nothing to make change. There will be some who will fight for you and will try to change the status quo.

There will be scars. You will heal. You will move forward. But like a piece of broken fine china you lovingly glue together, you will always see the seam. The scars will always be there. You will never be the same.

And sadly, there will most likely be a time when you are able to write this to another community. Because as a nation, we seem to love our guns so much. We love them more than our children. And we refuse to create a health care system with adequate access to mental health care.

Please know, the Parkland community stands with you. We intimately know your pain, your grief, your hopelessness. We are here for you, we will fight for you and beside you to make this stop.

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When even TV isn’t safe…

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Toby took Bailey to a baseball game last night, so Riley and I ran errands and went for sushi. We came home and cleaned the house for the cleaning lady (you know you all do it). Finally, after a super long day, I wanted to escape for a bit with mindless TV. So I went into the TiVo and found one of my favorites, Chicago Med. Big. Mistake.

The show started out with police officers screeching up to the ambulance bay with wounded people in their cars. The police said they just threw them in their cruisers and  took off, no time for an ambulance. Apparently, this is what happens during a mass shooting with an automatic weapon at a park. More police cars rolled up, along with ambulances, lots of them.

The first person into the ER needed CPR, but there’s no time for that when the ER is flooding with victims. So many victims they eventually ran out of ventilators. So they stopped, declared her dead and moved on to the next guy. That guy had half his face blown off and it he was the only person into the ER, maybe they would have worked on him. But no time, declared him dead, kept on moving. They also showed patients in severe shock, hardly able to speak. Patients panicking because they were reliving it again from their hospital beds. Patients who felt guilty for not stopping the shooter. So much of what we are seeing in our community.

Now, I know it’s a TV show. I also know this is likely how things looked in Vegas after the concert, in Orlando after Pulse and at our hospitals here, to a smaller degree. Our wounded were spread out to 3-4 different hospitals, so they were likely able to do a more efficient job of treating everyone.

I didn’t want to watch this show, once I realized what I was watching, but I couldn’t turn it off. So I watched it, mostly with tears streaming down my face. You see, this is part of our “new normal.” 99% of the viewers out there saw a TV show full of drama and some sadness. I mean, who wouldn’t be sad at the five year old that came in looking fine, but had some bullet hole somewhere and was dead. Or the Mom who thought her son was fine, only to be told he died on the way to get a CT. But it’s a momentary, passing thing while you’re watching. Most people don’t breakdown sobbing watching this show. But when you can feel what the families would be going through, when you know the anguish of those sitting in the waiting rooms, hoping and praying their loved ones are alive, it’s different.

This is one more case of “nothing will ever be the same”. For us in Coral Springs and Parkland, it will forever be different. We look at things through a different lens and it’s a lens that only a few communities share – Newtown, Columbine, Las Vegas, Orlando. It is my hope and prayer that no other community is ever added to that list.

The Aftermath…

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It’s been 2 months and 12 days since our community was shattered. I continue to marvel that in just 7 minutes, the lives of so many were irrevocably changed.

For me, I have stopped crying every single day. It happens, but it’s infrequent. The memorials are gone, sandy dirt on the hill left in their place. The banner flutter on the fences, some needing to be rehung. The building still stands, a constant reminder of the lives lost there.

As the weeks pass, the numbness sets in and we are getting more information about what happened in the 1200 building. We now know the exact path the murderer took. We know how ruthless he was in his killing, shooting some point blank while they hid, other’s while they ran for their lives. We know that one child was lucky enough to be spared and ran to get help. We are learning more and more every day of the complete incompetence of those who were supposed to protect the children and their teachers. Who knows how many lives would have been saved if they had actually done their jobs and gone in to the building instead of hiding in the shadows.

While most outside of our community have moved on to the next news cycle, our “new normal” is still settling in. The pall over the community is like a blanket. And while it started as a heavy quilt and has moved on to a lightweight blanket, it’s still there. It’s in the #MSDStrong stickers on cars. It’s on the #MSDStrong shirts we wear. It’s on the #MSDStrong signs in the windows. It’s in the faces of the parents dropping their kids off for school, sure to tell them they love them. It surrounds us. It’s like a being, ever present, not moving, growing and shrinking, but still here always.

The children are all affected, whether they are showing it or not. Some are in therapy almost daily. Some won’t go to therapy at all. Some sleep with every light in their room on. Some sleep with their parents. Some sleep ON their parents. Some just don’t sleep until they are too exhausted to stay awake. Some hide in their rooms and won’t talk. Some don’t smile as they used to. Some are saying their “fine” as their parents worry that they are just shoving it down, not dealing with it. Some lost best friends. Some walked by and over bodies of their friends and teachers. Some slipped in the blood of their friends and teachers.

This is our new reality. There’s no playbook for this. We are making it up as we go, even with the guidance of those in Columbine and Newtown who have come before us. And for those that don’t live this, it’s hard for you to grasp it. I know, because I have watched the news cycles in the past. I felt bad, I shed a tear or two and I moved on. Now, the tears I shed are for the parents I hug who lost their children. For the fear I have felt dropping my 14 year old off at middle school, praying that it’s not the last time I will see him. For the kids who are suffering and scared in a place that was once so safe.

As a community, I know we will get through this. We will continue to move forward. The scars will fade, but they will always exist, no matter how light they may be.

A New Beginning…

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Bailey

Last night, we registered Frick for high school. I’m not sure how that happened! I mean, I’m pretty sure I gave birth to him yesterday. How is it that we are parents to a 14 year old?!?!?

While we are zoned for Marjory Stoneman Douglas, we made the decision last year to pursue other options. While MSD is an amazing school, we weren’t thrilled with set up for AP classes. For college acceptance, students are rated based on the high school they attend and what the kids there do, as far as grades and classes. The average AP load at MSD is very high and the workload for those classes is intense. Conversely, at private schools like Pine Crest and North Broward, students are only allowed to take one AP class a year. Our decision had nothing to do with the shooting. If anything, the sense of community that has been fostered since then would make us want to send him there.

We looked at the Florida Atlantic University program, which would have him attend school at FAU and graduate with an AA, possibly a BA if he was willing to give up his summers. We looked at a similar program at Broward College as well. We investigated the Pompano High magnet program, but that magnet didn’t interest him.

We went to a high school night at Westglades Middle School. I bumped into my friend who runs the magnet program at Northeast High School. The programs sounded really interesting, they offer dual enrollment instead of AP classes and have a Cambridge program. If Frick completes and passes their 7 classes and tests, he will graduate with a full Bright Futures scholarship. That makes no tuition or book payments for this Mama! So, under duress, we went to the open house at the school. Because, you know, Frick is 14 and what do his parents know about anything. He walked in a sullen teenager and walked out wanting to apply that night! (Perhaps Mom and Dad DO know what they’re talking about sometimes).

We applied, he got in to the Applied Science magnet and will also be doing the Latin magnet courses. And while he’s not interested in ever playing in band again, he is interested in playing baseball for the school.

We are fortunate to live in a school district that offers choices. There are so many magnet programs to help kids prepare for their futures and explore things they are interested in. In Broward, there are magnets for things such as medical (which my sister did and loved), aviation, international affairs and performing arts.

March 15, 2018

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One day I will not cry…today is not that day…

I had to take Frack to school today, as Frick and Toby are headed to some Spring Training games as part of Frick’s annual birthday present. I have been listening to The Fall of the Governor, a Walking Dead book on my morning commute (Side note to Walking Dead fans – read the books, they are fabulous!). But the books are not remotely appropriate for the 10 year old in the car, so I opted for the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack. I’ve never seen the play, but I want to and with musicals, the score often explains the play fairly well. “If I Could Tell Her’ came on. It’s a song about a letter Evan writes to a girl. But these lines struck me…

And what do you do when the distance is too wide?
It’s like I don’t know anything
And how do you say
I love you
I love you
I love you
I love you
But we’re a million worlds apart
And I don’t know how I would even start
If I could tell her
If I could

I started thinking about the Mom of he monster that has caused all this pain. I thought about the fact that she tried to help her son. She died before she could succeed but she had him in therapy, in a special school, on meds, she tried. I thought about the nights I’m sure she cried for her child, for her family, for herself as she saw a suffering kid that she couldn’t do enough to help. And I cried for her. I cried for the kids like this monster. They are still out there, needing help that may or may not come. It’s just sad that we have so many kids that need help and so much misunderstanding about mental illness. I’m NOT excusing that happened. I’m not saying he isn’t 99% responsible. But I will assign 1% to the society that failed him. More should have been done and wasn’t. More will hopefully be done for kids in the future. More accessible mental health, less access to gun. It’s not an either or solution, it’s BOTH.

The soundtrack continues and ‘Disappear” comes on.

No one deserves to be forgotten
No one deserves to fade away
No one should come and go
And have no one know he was ever even here
No one deserves to disappear
To disappear
Disappear
More tears as I think about all the kids everywhere and everyone in our community is doing so the victims don’t disappear. The 17 angels who’s lives were cut short will never disappear because of our community. Yesterday, people all over the WORLD walked out of schools, of work, of government offices in memory of our fallen and in the hope of change. That is incredible.
This is about where I decided that maybe I needed a different musical selection this morning.

 

Maddie

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I started writing this post a year and a half ago and never finished. This is Maddie’s story…

I was one of the first people to know my sister was pregnant. I was overjoyed, even more so when I found out she was having a baby girl. Madison Victoria Pritikin. MVP. We shopped, had a baby shower, planned a trip to Disney for Thanksgiving and basked in the joy of a perfect pregnancy. Then everything went wrong.

This post is Maddie’s story, but my journey with her.

The plan was Maddie was to be a scheduled c-section on Labor Day. My family had a great plan for the day. Breakfast with friends, go to the hospital and meet our niece, then a day at the beach. That never happened. On the Friday before, Dori, my sister, wasn’t feeling Maddie moving around. Dori worked at a doctor’s office and had an ultrasound at work. They found a heartbeat, but no movement. They sent her to her midwife. The sonogram there showed the same thing, but also showed a spot on her brain. I got the call around 11:00 AM or so. I flew out of work and to the hospital. They were going to do the c-section at 5:00 PM, at 3:00 PM and ended up taking her around 1:30 PM. It took awhile, longer than it should. I went to the nurses station, where they wouldn’t meet my eyes. They told me Dori was still back there, they were stitching her up. I asked, “Is my sister OK?” The reply, ‘Yes, your SISTER is fine.” I knew not to ask about Maddie. The news wouldn’t be good and they wouldn’t tell me anyway.

The plan after delivery was that Matt, my BIL, would stay with Maddie and be with her in what I termed the “Baby Zoo”. It’s a room with a glass window so you can see the baby getting weighed, cleaned up, etc. Instead, Matt and Kathy, the midwife, came out to us without Maddie. She wasn’t breathing on her own and they weren’t sure exactly what was going on, only that she was very sick. Time stopped. This wasn’t the plan. This wasn’t supposed to be happening.

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They finally brought Dori out into recovery. Matt stayed with Maddie. A sonogram of Maddie’s head showed a small bleed on her brain, about 4 mm. Around 6:00 PM, Joe DiMaggio sent an ambulance to pick Maddie up. Now, not being airlifted at this point meant one of two things – either she wasn’t that sick, or she was so sick that time really didn’t matter. The latter turned out to be true.

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I stayed in Boca with Dori, after a brief trip home for supplies and Matt went with Maddie. Around midnight I was falling asleep when I heard Dori sobbing into the phone. Maddie’s pupils were fixed and dialated and they didn’t know how much time she had. They weren’t sure she was going to make it through the night. We needed to get to Hollywood. I went to the nurses station and they got us ready to go. (The nurses at Boca Regional Hospital were AMAZING!!!)  So I drove to Joe DiMaggio like Mario Andretti. When we got there, the doctor said things were not as dire as we were told, but they weren’t good either. So back to Boca we went.

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The next morning, I went to Joe D and Matt went back to Boca. That night marked my first night in the hospital for the week. There was nothing they could do for Maddie, and our family needed to make decisions on how to proceed. Luckily, everyone was on the same page. Living with no brain function wasn’t living. But there are things that needed to happen before we could let her go.

And here is where I picked up. Interesting how time changes perspectives and views. Here’s a Reader’s Digest version of the rest of the story.

The plan was to donate Maddie’s organs. They had to determine that there was NO brain activity. They did numerous brain scans, which showed blood flow. It was flowing the wrong way, but that still created a problem. The head of the ethics committee happened to be one of Maddie’s doctors, so after a meeting, we were able to let Maddie go. Her heart was donated to a baby in Arkansas who sadly didn’t survive. Some organs were donated for research.

Here is what I have learned…

  1. Donating the organs of an infant is heartbreaking and difficult, especially when you can’t find a match for them. It makes sense though, since most children aren’t born so sick and need older organs.
  2. The entire staff at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital is made up of amazing and special people. They treat the whole family, not just the patient.
  3. Even in the face of tragedy, you can laugh. Maddie had her first and only girl’s night when my friends Sara and Jen came over to play Rummikub. Laughter is healing and necessary.
  4. Not everyone “gets it”. I had a co-worker tell me that this didn’t happen to me. Losing a baby in your family happens to everyone. Trust me.
  5. Everyone has a story better than yours and worse than yours. I had 4 miscarriages and they were early on. I have had friends and family lose babies at 5 months of gestation, have to make life or death decisions regarding their babies, have healthy babies, adopt babies they later realize are very sick, the list goes on and on. Appreciate your life and what’s in it.
  6. My kids are amazing. When all of this happened, we didn’t want them to see Maddie all hooked up to tubes. We brought them to the hospital to see Dori and they asked to see Maddie. A counselor at Joe D talked to them (see comment #2) and they spent time with their cousin. Children are amazingly resilient and loving.
  7. Death can bring healing. Family members who haven’t talked in years bridged the divide and became close once again. Things like this make you realize what’s important.
  8. My sister and BIL are two of the strongest people I know. Period.
  9. Our family as a whole is strong as a rock.
  10. Without Maddie, there would be no Gabby. Our niece, Gabrielle Hope Pritikin was born 11 months after Maddie died. She is such a happy, joyous little girl with a very special guardian angel looking out for her.

We often think of Maddie and miss her. But I think the mourning for her is the loss of what could have been, the possibilities, the hope. She never suffered and was surrounded by love during her short time here. You could feel her spirit in the room, and while the situation was tragic, there was rarely a pall of sadness in the room. It was almost as if she wouldn’t allow it. Nurses fought over being with her. I think they could feel her joy, too.

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Today marks two years since Maddie came into our lives. It seems like yesterday and a million years ago, all at the same time. RIP our MVP. We love you, miss you and honor you.

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The Summer Of Sara…Part One

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Last year, after a VERY long school year, I declared my break The Summer of Sara. While this sounds egotistical on its face, it’s a take off on a Seinfeld episode, The Summer of George. However, as the saying goes, you plan, G-d laughs. The summer started out pretty good: I took a staycation with my best friend in July. Upon returning from this trip, Toby told me he had been laid off. The Summer Of Sara turned into the Summer of Shopping at Aldi and Clipping Extra Coupons. Toby and I got to spend time together, but it wasn’t exactly relaxing and rejuvenating. He ended up with the perfect job as Manager of PR, Social Media and Community Events at Truly Nolen. He TRULY couldn’t be happier. (See what I did there? 😉 )

Gabby, our niece, was born in July. I returned to work the following school year in a new position, as technology special teacher. Toby started his new job. Riley was a younger in a new multiage class. Bailey entered middle school as a 6th grader (why won’t they stop growing up?!?!?!) Life plodded along and was good.

The school year ended and summer began. This year, I wasn’t jinxing anything. I had some plans in the works, but was cautiously optimistic. What ensued was the most AMAZING summer ever, but what made it amazing were the connections that were created or strengthened.

Let’s start with June. Summer began with dental surgery. I’ll spare you the gory details but I HATE the dentist and this wasn’t exactly a promising start to my summer. Surprisingly, the surgery and recovery was much easier than I expected. I had a MUCH better dentist than I shared in the link, lol. Things were looking up.

 

Our first trip was to Orlando, where Toby had to work the Mascot Games. Perfect! Time together, time on my own, all in time for our anniversary.

Before we got to the games, we had to stop at Truly Nolen to pick up the tickets.

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On the way there, traffic was a bit backed up. Turns out, the Presidential Motorcade was on its way to meet with the families of the Pulse tragedy. We didn’t get stuck in traffic and got to see the motorcade! #ThanksObama

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This is most likely the closest I will ever to be to a sitting President #LameClaimToFame

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For dinner that evening, we dined with the people the Mascot Games benefits. They were inspiring! New Hope for Kids, the charity the Mascot Games benefits, is similar to the Make a Wish Foundation.

Friday, I had the day to myself. One perk of being a teacher is free admission into Sea World. I love roller coasters and Mako was open! Score! Off to Sea World I went. There was a line to get back to Mako, but no worries, I had all day. Two hours later, the ride was still broken…

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Being that it was starting to rain, I headed out of the park. Remember that dental surgery I mentioned? Well, that came with instructions for no exercise for a week. I found out why when I ran to the car to beat the rain. While my mouth was throbbing, I did mostly beat the rain and was still thrilled that I COULD run most of the way.

Making lemonade from lemons, I headed over to The Pointe Orlando for some shopping.

 

To celebrate our 15th anniversary, we went to dinner at Artist Point, reliving some of our Disney honeymoon.

From there we headed over to Winter Summerland Mini Golf. This is the BEST mini golf ANYWHERE. If you haven’t gone, GO!

Next stop, Disney Springs, formerly known as Downtown Disney. We had a beverage at The Boathouse. We have eaten there before and I HIGHLY recommend the filet sliders. And if you have a little extra cash you don’t know what to do with, you can drive a boat in the lake that’s also a car!!! #BucketList

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On Saturday, Toby had to work, so my sister Dori came in with Gabby to take advantage of the hotel pool. This girlie loves the water just like her cousins. From there, we hit the mall and shopped til we dropped!

Saturday night we went to see Central Intelligence at AMC Disney Springs Fork and Screen. I thought the movie was great, but the The Rock could pretty much read the phone book and I’d watch it, lol.

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After the movie, we went to Howl at the Moon to see our friend Ken play and met up with our friends Scott and Ellen. Us old folk actually went out for dessert after that too and we were out until after 1:00 AM!!!! That’s quite a feat these days, lol.

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Sunday was Father’s Day and we headed back home to Frick and Frack.

And so began the REAL Summer of Sara. Stay tuned, more to come…