A Letter from an Absentee Blogger

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I haven’t posted in a Long. Time. Really long. I know how long but won’t say. Why not? Many reasons. And it’s not like I haven’t thought about it. I can’t tell you how often I throw together a recipe and think, I should write this down for the blog! Or do a craft or make a homemade perfume or cream I love and think the same thing. Or just have something I think might speak to someone or something I simply want to put out into the world, but I just don’t. Even this photo. I took it and added the scripture later that evening, having almost written the post in my mind. Maybe a year ago? Longer? And I never did. And I have no idea why.

The easiest reason. Life. I don’t make a living blogging. I do make a living running a transportation business with my husband. We have a five-year old. That we homeschool. Life is busy. So why write now? To break the silence maybe? (Cue awkward laugh.)

I came across the aforementioned picture and it seemed pretty appropriate. I remember taking it. I was on an airport run for our car service, and went to a park across the street from the airport in San Diego to wait on a flight. Having had a bad day, the water seemed soothing. It was so calm yet there was quite a breeze blowing, and this scripture from the Bible came to mind. And I thought about how life can blow at us it seems but it doesn’t always have to stir us up.

Another saying came to mind this evening as I was mulling over the idea for this post that I heard once…Sometimes you’re the Beemer, and sometimes you’re the [gosh-darn] deer. In other words, you either hit something and get a little banged up but then fix the dent, reapply the paint, and move on. And sometimes you’re impaled through the windshield. Or worse. Ever feel like the deer? I do a lot. And who wants to hear about that? But we’re all human, aren’t we?

I started this blog because I thought I was ready to write about the two boys we lost and I wasn’t. Then I began to learn more about my health and some health issues and began to write about that, but my heart wasn’t totally in it. So I began to focus on another idea and passion. I love jewelry. I started making it for myself years ago and for gifts every once in a while and then decided to sell it. I was planning my online shop before I even started the blog but didn’t actually open it until almost two years ago. I was beyond excited and I had worked so hard.

I closed the shop about eight months ago. I’m still heartbroken over it. All that time and all that effort and two sales. Both to people I know. I cried for days but those weren’t the first tears I had shed over it. I felt like I had wasted all that time. And I felt like a huge, unbelievable failure. It’s not my first business attempt that has failed. Or the second. Or third. It’s the fourth. It wears on you after a while. My creative juices just stopped. My little corner of our office became a war zone. I’m not kidding. Like an episode of hoarders. And it was how I felt on the inside. Just a huge mess. A pile of a whole lot of nothing that had started as several somethings I thought were pretty spectacular.

I’ve tackled it and it’s still a bit of a mess but I finally cleared a space, got out my bead board, and made a piece of jewelry. A necklace for my mom for Mother’s Day. It felt so good to create something again. And so I made another; something different for my mother-in-law. Then I sat down and repaired several pieces of my own that needed help. Even those felt good. I have so many ideas and no idea what to do with them. Or with the inventory I have. I keep telling myself I need to sign up for a craft fair or something but never do.

Another huge passion of mine is painting and art is part of my brand name tag line that laughs at me every time I see it. I haven’t painted in a very long time. I want to but haven’t. Maybe it’s rejections. My last attempt into the art world made me feel very much like the splattered deer. But it’s in my heart so on the tag line it stays until I have the gumption to pick up my brush again.

Rejection is awful. I haven’t submitted any of my writing anywhere in longer than I care to admit. Somehow people think it’s encouraging to send me stories of authors that finally get a book published after eight or nine publishers and a year or two. Yeah…I passed that like a hundred publishers and fifteen years ago. And I wonder, what am I doing? Am I wasting my life? Maybe, but then what else am I supposed to do with it? Writing is one of the few things that has been a solid part of my identity and one of the only things I have ever been sure I want to do with my life.

I’ve stuck with it this long because I feel in my heart it is my calling and I wouldn’t feel such a desire to do it if I wasn’t supposed to, but it’s still hard. I need to start submitting again, but again, rejection is hard. And sometimes you need a break. Which brings me back to the jewelry. I closed the shop because it had become a source of stress for me. I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. So I took a step back. As I said, I’m still heartbroken, so part of that is not talking about it. Believe me, bring it up to me in person and in seconds, I’ll likely be in tears. That’s how raw it still is. I can’t even describe it.

The last couple of years have taken a toll. I’ve had a lot of physical and emotional issues that have come up and they have been hard to deal with. And I am actually a very private and introverted person. The worse I feel, typically the more into myself I go. I’ll admit. A lot of my blog posts like this are simply a pretty pathetic attempt at putting myself out there. Feeling lonely and dejected and hoping maybe someone will read it and get something from it.

How are your waters? Still? Turbulent? Are you wading up to your ankles or drowning? As pathetic as an attempt as this may be, these words have been stirring in me a long time and some of my most emotional posts just suddenly feel like they have to be written. I believe that means they need to be written. That there is someone that will come across because they need to read it. Or so I hope.

So anyway, there you go. Hello again. In closing, I suddenly thought of a quote from a favorite movie I’ve been known to quote often… Sometimes I wonder about my life. I live a small life. Well, valuable, but small. And sometimes I wonder. Do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So, goodnight, dear void.

Until next time,
Emily

Moving & AIP ~ What I Wish I Had Known

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This is actually a post I considered writing about six months ago and never did. Most of the reason will be evident by the end of this. The other was because I thought of it and dismissed it after a while, and then suddenly felt the urge to write it so hopefully it will speak to someone out there.

If you follow me then you have probably previously read about my healing journey, so I will be brief, but if you haven’t, I was diagnosed with Celiacs disease in 2008 and then last year moved from a gluten-free diet to a grain-free, paleo, and autoimmune protocol diet to deal with some ongoing issues that I learned were all autoimmune-related and inter-connected.

What is the autoimmune protocol? Simply put, it’s a stricter version of the paleo diet which removes any potential gut irritants, such as dairy, nuts, seeds, eggs, nightshades, alcohol, and other things. These things in someone like me can actually cause an immune reaction in my body; in my case, the eczema and asthma flare and I have digestive issues and it can even effect me emotionally. I consider myself on a “modified” AIP diet in that I have successfully reintroduced certain foods. For instance, I can have a small amount of good-quality dairy and I can have a little coffee, an occasional glass of wine, or nuts as long as I don’t over-do it and they are all “treats” for me.

My body is still healing and I am still learning about myself, different ways to heal, and come to term with what I am dealing with. There is much more to the story, but I’ll focus on the task at hand. Moving is hard. It can be stressful and exhausting and even emotional. If you are dealing with any kind of health issue it can all be even more so, but especially one that can be exasperated by things like stress, fatigue, and emotions!

We moved into our current home last December, after only living in our previous home for ten months. It was not planned. Something happened at the end of October. We began searching for another place shortly thereafter then placed notice on November fifteenth and began moving on December first. It was crazy. It was stressful. It was emotional. Then in the middle we almost had to move again. When we were finally moved in after two weeks it was the middle of December and the holiday rush was on.

I don’t recommend that, but as I stated it couldn’t be avoided. Now, I don’t really want to go into the whole story. I thought about talking about here at the time and dismissed it for various reasons, but thought I would start at the beginning just so you can understand what happened and the effect it had on me.

A little over a week before Halloween my three-year-old son and I were at the park on our apartment complex property. It was a daily occurrence for us and I had always felt safe there, but odd things had been happening of late. Security sort of things and none of it to us but we had heard about it. So my son is playing in the park and I notice a car pull up and stop out of the corner of my eye. I thought it was strange and looked at them once or twice and felt very uncomfortable. There is watching, staring, and just plain leering at someone. I finally took a step in their direction to politely ask if they were lost (although I really didn’t want to be that nice) and in the moment I moved toward them they literally screeched away they left so fast.

The hair stood up on the back of my neck and I felt sick. Something about that was just not right. I grabbed my cell-phone from my pocket and snapped as many pictures as I could, but only got two before they sped out of sight. I was so freaked out I grabbed my son and we headed home. I saw this car twice more on the walk back to our apartment. They followed us home and parked and watched my garage door go down.

I have never been so frightened in my life. I called our office and the security company on site and when I called my husband he told me to call the police. Even thinking back on it to write about it I am almost shaking. It was beyond horrible and the six more weeks we lived there I could never go back to the park or on the walks we used to take every day. I was too freaked out and had never felt so unsafe in my life.

I’ll skip ahead a little bit because it is all a very long story but what happened next surprises me almost as much as what initially happened. I had to leave a message at the office and the security company representative I spoke to was sitting in an office in Texas! The next day I received a phone call from our apartment office from someone absolutely livid I had called the police and they actually berated me for reacting as I had. I was flabbergasted I was being punished for being the victim. Our community had an online forum and I had posted something the night before, explaining what had happened and the blurry photo of the car as it retreated. They demanded I take the post down and apologize to the couple in the car. I was at a loss and got off the phone in tears, refusing to take the post down. I felt my neighbors had a right to know what had happened. Regardless of who these people were or their intentions, their behavior was completely inappropriate and I felt (and still do) I was well within my rights to react as I did, as a mother protecting her child.

They took the post down for me and the next one after that when I posted something again. They dragged things out, even threatening to evict us. After about two weeks and a particularly rude e-mail from the community manager I filed a complaint with the corporate office and then replied to her, stating I didn’t understand what the problem was, I felt unsafe and unwelcome in my own home, and I did not appreciate her behavior and let her know I had filed a complaint and forwarded all her e-mails with it. Shortly thereafter we received a letter of apology (and frankly quite an insincere one) and permission to break our lease without penalties. We jumped on it and began the move. I was packing before we had even found another place.

I told you this was a long story, and believe me, this is the short version! One thing I will add, DO YOUR RESEARCH! We didn’t look into our community much and just for the heck of it when we were still deciding what to do my husband looked up the crime rate, etc, for our area and we learned one, the crime rate was pretty crummy, and two, there were SIX registered sex offenders in our community. SIX! In the midst of this, we kept hearing more bad stories about our area so that was the final nail in the coffin, so to speak, and we practically ran out of there. Just a few miles up the road, the crime rate drops drastically, and truth be told we are paying slightly more for less space, but there are no registered sex offenders and we live in a gated community with ONSITE security and a lot goes for feeling comfortable in your own home.

So on to the move! Before it even started I was beyond stressed. I had a hard time eating or sleeping. I have never been the paranoid type that will check every door and window and peek in on their sleeping child twelve times in the night and suddenly I was that person. I fought my husband for fifteen years on buying a gun (I have no issue with it, I just didn’t think we needed one) and gave in earlier that year but had hardly even seen it. The night this happened my husband got home, took me to our bedroom, showed me how to open the gun safe and load it, and then he took me to a firing range that next weekend and showed me how to shoot it. My husband got home early one night and I didn’t know it and walked into the garage from the house as he was entering it from outside; I hadn’t heard the garage door and he scared me out of my mind. I was mortified after issuing a blood-curdling scream and knocking over boxes as I tried to get away from him. My own husband. We run a car service with drivers that come and go and I nearly attacked one of them one night when he came to our front door instead of the garage and I could hear something downstairs. That is what this did to me. That takes a toll on your mind, your body, and your emotions. Believe me.

Then I made another mistake. I let people get to me. Anyone else guilty of that? I like to think I am not bothered by the opinions of others but I am only human – and a sensitive one at that – and sometimes the little things get to me. A lot of people we knew seemed to think we were being evicted from our current home and that was mortifying to me. We were leaving of our own accord simply because we did not feel safe. I didn’t feel like I needed to tell them everything why so after we announced we were moving on Facebook and told a few people I received several odd and some downright rude comments or texts, eluding to them wondering why we were moving. It was none of their business and we finally told a few people what had actually happened just to get them to drop it, but it broke my heart. Especially when someone particularly close to us all out asked me if we were and didn’t believe me when I told him/her that we weren’t. It was embarrassing that people could think something like that of us, a little maddening too, and it only added to my stress.

We moved over a period of two weeks because as part of a move-in deal we received two weeks free. It was great for us, in our situation, but as I already stated we placed our notice on November 15, began the move on December 1, and finished on December 15. It sounds like a lot of time but we packed up our entire life in two weeks with a major holiday in the middle and another looming a month away. We run our own business and have a three-year-old son. There was a lot to do in those few very short weeks. Our first angel baby’s birthday was also right in the middle of it and I was riddled with guilt and anxiety we missed our usual family fun time because we were so busy and focused on the move; not to mention the fact at the best of times it is a difficult, trying, and emotional day.

Then one day I was at our new apartment, having some me-time while I worked on my new kitchen, lining cupboards and such. My mom had had a great idea that one of the first things I should do was unpack Christmas decorations so I had them all out on our patio and I was playing Christmas music and sipping a dairy-free latte with plans to move on to decorations when I finished in the kitchen; I was about half done. I walked into the master bedroom for something and was completely assailed by the scent of cigarette smoke. And on came a whole new bout of stress.

I am extremely sensitive to cigarette smoke. I suffer from at times debilitating asthma and cannot stand to be around it. And it was so strong I could have sworn there was someone actually in the room smoking. I felt sick. In more ways than one! What happened next is another long story, but to make it short the people below us smoke AND the previous tenant smoked exclusively in that room. They had done a treatment but it was also damp which can make the smell worse and I had had our windows open, airing out what was already stuffy and chemical-filled air from a not recently occupied apartment that was filled with new carpet, paint, etc.

The management at our new place was fantastic and very sympathetic. They immediately did another treatment and gave us an open-ended offer to move to another unit at no additional cost. This is where the almost moving again in the middle of it comes in. We had no idea what to do and were at almost a complete standstill for a couple of days and then finally just started dumping things in our garage while we tried to make a decision. I actually made myself sick about it. What if we moved and not one person near us smoked but several? And we felt so good in our apartment; it already felt like home. And I had been working so hard and so much was already done. My list of worries went on and on.

In the meantime they did the mentioned treatment and we bought an expensive air purifier (Merry Christmas to me!). To make an even longer story short we stayed where we were and have put up with it. The air purifier does it job and was something I had always thought of getting anyway. The biggest bummer is I can rarely open the windows on that side of the apartment but we make due. And the people below us that are doing the smoking are lovely, very kind people. I diffuse essential oils and have filled any extra space I can find with air purifying house plants, to name a few things; we make the best of it. It’s part of apartment living, unfortunately.

Which brings me to another piece of advice. There is legislation in California that you can no longer smoke in apartments and so it never occurred to me to ask. When I brought this up to our management they stated it was true but they really had no way to enforce it. We were looking at another apartment that actually advertised as no smoking that we may have moved to instead had we known they allowed it on this property. Another place to do your homework and an experience I will chock up as lesson learned.

I didn’t plan on going this much into it so I’ll move on to what I really wanted to talk about, but hopefully now you’ll see what an ordeal this was and why I felt compelled to share. I know there are others that may be moving for reasons much, MUCH more stressful; maybe they have been evicted or their home was destroyed in a natural disaster, or they were transferred out of the blue in their job, or there was a death in the family, or one of a million other reasons. I share what I do to hopefully encourage others and let them know if they are dealing with something similar to me that they are not alone.

So, how does one move in two weeks time? Start with anything you do not absolutely need and keep going! In all honesty, I had slightly more than two weeks because I technically started packing before we placed our notice. What did I pack? I started with books and all my craft stuff, which is quite a bit actually! From there I moved on to extra linens, pictures, knick knacks, and movies. Once I really went all out my husband joked that anything not nailed down was about to disappear and he was right. I turned into a packing machine!

It can be a little overwhelming but just stop and take stock – even make lists if you need to – of what you think you absolutely do and do not need. This is useful even if you have a lot of notice and can take your time packing. By the time the first of December arrived and we were ready to begin we were almost ready to go. I saved the china hutch filled with my husband’s grandmother’s china both our grandmother’s teacups because my plan was to pack it up and take it over and immediately unpack it. For a while we really didn’t know what the Thanksgiving holiday would hold so my kitchen was the last to be packed. I left several pictures on the wall but they were large paintings or professional photos that were taken off the wall, put in my car, and taken right to the new place. I took a good-sized basket and had my son pick out a few favorite toys for the interim during the move and the rest were packed; one was a Rubbermaid container that was taken right to his new room so he had a selection of toys at both places. And there was my husband’s office. That was the very last to go. Much of our business is handled online and so he unhooked everything and packed it up and hauled it to the new place, immediately setting it up again because we couldn’t afford to be down and out of business for any length of time. It’s all about priorities. And sort as you go. Trash or give away anything you don’t need. Clean as you go if you can too. I would clean off a pantry shelf and scrub it, fill nail holes as I pulled off the pictures, etc. It’s a lot less overwhelming that way.

We didn’t spend the night in the new place until almost toward the end of our two week move so that entire time we were in limbo between the two and my time was pretty split between them. I took a couple of laundry baskets and left a few clothes; a couple of pairs of jeans or sweats for both of us, socks and unmentionables, and both short and long-sleeved shirts. The rest got packed into luggage or boxes; which brings me to another point – use your luggage to pack! It works great to put all your clothes in there and then while I was trying to decide how to organize the new bedroom they all slid under the bed and out of the way. I am very environmentally conscious and don’t like using plastic tableware and paper plates but sometimes you have to. The dishes got packed and we made do. I kept a couple of insulated coffee cups plus a mug or two for the microwave and a couple of knives. Everything else was packed. I didn’t go room by room and simply pack it up because we were still living there, but if it wasn’t absolutely needed, it was packed.

This brings me to food. Whether you are on a restricted diet or not, it is really hard to eat well during a move! Our prior move the year before I had planned ahead and had a freezer full of soups and leftovers, but even though I usually have a few in my freezer, that wasn’t the case this time. So what did I do?

During the course of our move, at the new place, I kept a big basket on the counter in the kitchen that was filled with fresh and dried fruit, baby food pouches (both me and my son eat them – they’re great on-the-go), and gluten-free goodies, tea, and instant coffee (we love the Starbucks VIA). In the fridge I had lunchmeat and a big fresh veggie tray for quick meals or snacks and lots of bottled water. I kept a frying pan out at the old place and we were still cooking and the coffee pot waited to make the move until we did. We went out more in those few weeks than we had in a few months at least. We made concessions.

How do you do that on AIP? Well, I am the only one on AIP, although our son is strictly gluten- and dairy-free. One of the concessions I mentioned was I bought more packaged “convenience” foods than I usually do, but I tried to keep them as clean as possible. I very rarely buy cereal but did, although I chose one that was organic and gluten-free with no refined sugar; it’s what I call a “clean cheat.” The veggie trays and bottled water I don’t make a habit of buying but we had our water cooler at one place and needed pure water at the other. And a bottle is more convenient when you are running to and fro all day. I had my favorite stainless steel water bottle with me I would fill from the water cooler when I could and use the bottles when I couldn’t. As far as the going out we have a natural market nearby that has an awesome salad and soup bar where many things are marked gluten- or dairy-free, but we weren’t moving far and I had been shopping there for a while and had also done my homework and knew the staff and what I could and could not eat. There was another local restaurant we had frequented before and I knew the menu and they were very accommodating. I found a paleo-friendly bakery with a staff that was very knowledgeable. (I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry when someone told me they knew what a nightshade was – and I am not exaggerating! That had never happened before.) I treated myself a few times with their coconut milk lattes, chocolate brownies, and amazing sandwiches.

Did I do perfectly on my diet? No, not entirely, but the things I cheated on were things like dairy cheese and yogurt and nut-based grain-free granola when I needed some quick protein or calories. And coffee. I drank way too much coffee over those weeks! Bone broth is a great AIP-friendly option. I had many times I would simply warm a cup of bone broth and put in an insulated cup and head off for the day. Having that on hand also works great for a quick and easy soup. Boil a quart of it and add a package of frozen mixed vegetables and some leftover chicken and voila. It tastes like you slaved for hours. Another tip? Don’t pack your slow cooker. Buy a chicken or roast and some pre-cut veggies, throw them all together in the slow cooker and work all day and have a home cooked meal at the end that will give lots of leftovers. Here’s a sample of what I was posting to Instagram. There are blog posts, meals, World Prematurity Day, trips to the paleo bakery, shopping trips, moving boxes, my first selfie at my front door, salad takeout from the natural market I mentioned, and lots of my cute son, Henry. (You can find me on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/preciousbelovedblessing, by the way.)

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Need some more inspiration? I posted a nightshade-free guacamole recipe in the midst of all this chaos that sprang about from a craving. I used horseradish instead of jalapenos and it was so good I had to jot it down and share before I completely forgot to. You can find it here: https://preciousbelovedblessing.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/aip-guacamole/. The post has some more tidbits about the move and food we were eating. Like the idea of the bone broth but have never made your own? I have a post for that too, at: https://preciousbelovedblessing.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/homemade-bone-broth-from-a-whole-chicken-plus-a-yummy-soup-recipe-2/. There’s a yummy soup recipe to make in this post but another good one here – also wrote in the midst of the move – so you know it’s quick and easy. Find it at: https://preciousbelovedblessing.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/bone-broth-butternut-soup-paleo-aip-dairy-free/.

If you’re looking for an easy on-the-go breakfast or healthy snack and you can handle nuts or seeds try my Paleo Granola; it’s one of my faves and I can eat it right out of the jar but it’s also super yummy with cold coconut milk and fresh fruit on top. It can be found at: https://preciousbelovedblessing.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/ems-paleo-granola-plus-how-and-why-to-soak-or-sprout-your-nuts-and-seeds/. There’s also a note at the bottom of this post on soaking and dehydrating nuts. If you can handle them, nuts are a great way to add some protein, vitamins, and calories to your diet and make such an easy, healthy snack, but you need to make sure they are prepared properly. I can only handle small amounts of them but I handle them even better if they are soaked and dried to remove the enzymes that make them hard to digest.

So what else can I add? Thanksgiving passed with a day with my husband’s family. His aunt was gracious enough to invite us and then send us home with a ton of leftovers! I still had a lot of things yet to pack in my kitchen so I made a dairy-free cashew cheese for a gluten- and dairy-free appetizer for my son and I plus to share, and it was amazing; I went to the paleo bakery I mentioned earlier and bought some grain-free crackers to serve with it. Want that recipe too? (Think hummus but with cashews.) You can find it on my Fall/Thanksgiving board on Pinterest along with the Paleo Pumpkin Pie Cheesecakes I made for dessert at https://www.pinterest.com/epselos/fallthanksgiving/. Neither are my recipes, but I wish I could take credit for them; they are amazing! It was great to get away for the day and relax with family. Check out what my caring auntie did on the buffet table!

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Can you see? All the gluten-free dishes were labeled! And that was after calling me and reading labels and checking ingredients. I was so touched. I almost forgot – at the lower left is a grain-free stuffing I also made. I don’t think I’ve posted the recipe before, but may have to. It’s a stuffing recipe I have made over and over and used to use gluten-free cornbread. This year I made it with some grain-free muffins and it was so good! I think I meant to and forgot in the all the crazy. Look for it in a few months then (fall is coming and I am so excited!) It’s my favorite time of year and Thanksgiving my favorite holiday so I look forward to being able to enjoy it this year.

On to my last point: take time to enjoy the little things. Moving is hard. Having to drop everything to celebrate a holiday was hard. Grieving for a beautiful boy I will never see grow up is even harder. Having finally finished the move only to dive head-first into Christmas was exhausting. At one point I just wanted it all to be over. And I had to stop and take stock of what I was thankful for. We live in such a beautiful apartment in a lovely area (you’ve seen how much we enjoy it if you follow me on social media). We took a break over Christmas and I didn’t get much more than Christmas stuff unpacked and that was ok. Here are a couple of happy snaps of taking time to enjoy the little things.

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I love this picture. I was using any box or basket we could spare and the ones I could unload I did as soon as possible then reuse them over and over. We were at the new place one night and were tired and ready to go but not done yet. And I was all proud of myself for having this pile to take back to the old place and I asked my husband to get a picture. Neither of us can remember what he said, but he made some joke, and he caught a picture of me laughing. This is a lot of joy at the end of long day in the middle of a string of long, not very joyful days. The pictures at the heading were the first pictures I took at our new place; our front door and the first time I put my key in the lock, as well as our first family selfie. Joy in the little things.

We would finish working at one place, stop and get some dinner, and then take the scenic route home and look at Christmas lights. Here is my house with little else but Christmas decorations unpacked. I love it. The Christmas tree is a whole other dramatic story that took about three weeks to get up, not getting lit or decorated until two days before Christmas but it was worth the wait. It had been in storage for over ten years and all we had during that time was a tiny little table top tree. With nothing else on the walls it looked like an elf had thrown up in there and it was awesome.

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We took time out for friends and family and didn’t get hardly any unpacking done over Christmas but so what? It was our first holiday in our new home and that is special. Looking back, even as hard as it was, we made some wonderful memories in those weeks. Focusing on that got me through it, as did the real reason for the season we were celebrating. And then over New Year’s we had a huge surprise, it snowed in Southern California! We got several inches that lasted almost a week and every day was spent outside as much as we could stand enjoying it. We have only gotten snow once before in the almost seventeen years I have lived here and it barely lasted a day, so we lived it up this time! (Here is Henry, hugging a snowman a neighbor had made.)

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In all honesty, I stressed at first about the holiday. Christmas is expensive and moving is expensive. The move took priority. Grandparents got homemade ornaments and our gifts to each other were small but meaningful. I like to bake and give homemade treats and that didn’t happen. Nor did the fun party for all our awesome employees I had been thinking about for months. Not to mention all the great holiday blog stuff I was planning for all of you. Again, I had to make myself focus on what was really important.

But that only took me so far. I haven’t talked about this really, but the truth is I had a really hard time of it early this year. My body retaliated for all the missed sleep and meals and cheating I did (albeit how “clean” said cheats may have been) and all the stress and physical labor, and it was just too much. I was exhausted, burned out, and actually got very sick several times (which rarely happens to me) because my immune system was simply on overload.

When you are down and out already everything seems worse and even though we are very thankful for the miracle boy we have big holidays make us miss our two boys we have lost even more. It all snowballed over the last several months for different reasons and you can read more about that in my most previous post.

I went very strict AIP for a while and have only just recently begun reintroducing things like nuts and dairy. And those I can still only handle in very limited amounts. Nine months later. I’ve been looking at other natural and alternative remedies and have gotten back into exercising, yoga, and mediation as a way to heal my body and spirit. It’s slow going and takes patience.

I have a confession to make. We have been here almost nine months and are still unpacking. I just fell into a bad funk and didn’t really have the heart for any decorating and am only just now unpacking some of the boxes I love the most, my books and craft supplies. I’m waking up so to speak, and my husband is very busy and we don’t always have time for projects around the house. The garage where things were dumped in the chaos I mentioned earlier? It is finally being cleared out. Boxes are being unpacked, things organized or gotten rid of, and life is coming together. I am hanging more pictures and planning projects. Life is moving on. It’s not easy, but like me, is a work in progress.

I hope I helped someone with my moving two cents. Leave a comment with your moving tips or on-the-go favorite healthy goodies. I’d love to hear about it!

Love and Hugs,

Emily

Easter 2015 ~ Food, Family, & Finding Joy in the Little Things

The Pselos Family's Easter 2015

Easter has come and gone and I’ve been meaning to write this for the last two weeks because there were some things I wanted to share. I hope you had a wonderful holiday. Ours was lovely. We had been very hot in Southern California the entire week before and it cooled off to where I was chilly outside in my little spring sundress! It was awesome; I am nowhere near ready for summer yet. There is plenty of year left for it to get blazing hot so I will take the cool when and where I can get it!

It ended up being just the three of us. Over a month before we had started asking family what everyone wanted to do and no one ever gave us an answer. Then hubby got a couple of runs that day (our transportation business, Integrity Transportation Service, is always open, which sometimes includes working holidays) so we decided to have our own get-together so that we could plan the day around his schedule. Plus, I actually prefer to cook these days. Yes, it is a lot of work, but at least I know I can eat everything! I often leave dinner parties hungry and/or sick even after trying to communicate with the host and I don’t expect everyone to become an expert, but am sometimes left feeling like an inconvenience – on top of hungry and/or sick – so I just prefer to do the hosting myself.

Everyone else apparently had their own plans, and it turned out to be a nice day, but I was kind of hoping for a busy day. As nice as it is to have just us, sometimes – particularly on holidays – just the three of us makes the house seem kind of empty and overly quiet.

Our son, Christopher, would be eleven this year and his brother, Joshua, five. Both died as a result of extreme prematurity and I miss them more now than I ever have. They are never far from my thoughts and I had been preparing and planning for Easter for weeks. I had been working on my menu and shopping and meal and goodie prepping, and doing fine. Until late Saturday night when I made up the Easter basket for our three-year old and it hit me hard. I was only making one basket when I should have been making three.

Henry's Easter Basket

Henry’s Easter Basket

So I admit a few tears were shed while I put together this fun Easter basket full of things my little boy loves. Everything he received was completely junk-free and fun. There were a couple of books, bubbles, a new baby (as he calls stuffed animals), a Thomas the train engine that chugs and whistles, and a card handmade by his mama. The only sweets he received was a box of Chirps, the clean version of Peeps made by a favorite local grain-free bakery. Here’s a close-up; aren’t they the cutest? They are made with honey and natural colors and real flavors and he was thrilled. He’d actually never had a marshmallow before; it was hilarious but now he may be hooked! I will be sweet-talking Laura at Snackin’ Free to make me a batch before our next camping trip for sure!

Henry’s Chirps, like a paleo Peep!  The blue are blackberry flavored, the yellow are lemon, and the white plain marshmallow.  We got them from a local grain-free and paleo-friendly bakery called, Snackin’ Free.

Henry’s Chirps, like a paleo Peep! The blue are blackberry flavored, the yellow are lemon, and the white plain marshmallow. We got them from a local grain-free and paleo-friendly bakery called, Snackin’ Free.

My husband was out early working, so it was just me and the little guy for breakfast. I have to eat grain-free for health reasons and he has to eat gluten-free, so fun meals can take a little planning. I had had several ideas, about making things or ordering things. I love cinnamon rolls and had found a recipe for them to try and then the bakery we got the Chirps from also had them to order, but in the end I bought a loaf of bread. Yes, plain bread. And it was a huge treat! I rarely have bread around I can eat because it’s quite expensive to buy and though I love to bake it can be a lot of work when you already are preparing a large meal from scratch, plus the ingredients (though it is cheaper than buying in the store) aren’t cheap either.

Then I was doing my meal shopping and my little guy asked for bread. So sweetly and he can be so hard to say no to! So we wandered over to the gluten-free baked goods section in the bakery and there was this loaf of grain-free bread, made locally, that is pretty expensive for bread, but really good. (It’s by Jackalope Good Food Company and worth the occasional splurge.) So while I saw many others on Facebook and Instagram and such serve a fancy brunch or make pancakes, or crepes, or eggs benedict, or such, Henry and I had toast and were absolutely thrilled. Oh, the simple things!

Me and Henry’s Easter breakfast: our grain-free toast with ghee and strawberry jam for me – an almond butter and jam sandwich for him – plus bacon, fresh and local strawberries and orange, dried dates, and Kombucha for him and bulletproof coffee for me.  Simple but divine!

Me and Henry’s Easter breakfast: our grain-free toast with ghee and strawberry jam for me – an almond butter and jam sandwich for him – plus bacon, fresh and local strawberries and orange, dried dates, and Kombucha for him and bulletproof coffee for me. Simple but divine!

My husband got home around mid-morning or so, and I was fighting to get motivated. Our original plan had been to eat at two and I had my plan all laid out and had gotten a meager start, but that was it. And I was emotional. I could hardly stop crying, though I was trying to hide it. Sometimes it just hits you. Many don’t understand, but the fact is you don’t have to be consciously thinking about someone you’ve loved and lost for it to hurt. It can just hit you out of nowhere like a freight train and take you by surprise. It wasn’t like I was thinking, Oh woe is me…my boys aren’t here…I’m sad…etc, etc, etc. It’s just there. And usually has hit you and run you over before you even realize that it’s there.

So my husband, bless his heart, came home to a weepy wife and didn’t even have to ask. He just knew and asked me, “Thinking about the boys?” He understood because he was too. He hugged me and encouraged me a little and then went to take care of some things and play with our son. I could hear him on the phone and the next thing I knew his schedule was cleared for the rest of the day; he had had one more run for later that night he wound up giving to one of our drivers. He had a run early the next morning and would have been out late, so that was part of the reason, but when I asked him later he admitted part of it was he also didn’t want to leave me on a difficult day. I was so touched.

I was initially really disappointed no one joined us, and the house still felt kind of lonely and empty through the day, but on one hand it was nice. It was so relaxed, it took the pressure off the schedule with no one showing up and no work for my husband to get to. On the other hand, there’s nothing like someone showing up your door soon to get you moving and motivated! I set aside my disappointment, worked through my down emotions, and we ended up having a really nice day.

Grief doesn’t go away. And you learn lessons from it. I am still learning but I think most days I do pretty well at just working through it and finding what works for me. (If I didn’t I would never get out of bed in the morning!) One of my struggles is my faith. I am working through it and have come spades and bounds, but there are still days I purposely avoid church. They are Easter, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. Even now that we have our little miracle (that I know we have God to thank for!) it still is hard to show up and put on a happy face and pretend I’m not hurting on days that are so focused on the little ones. I’m not saying I am dealing with it exactly as I should, but maybe I am. I have found what works for me. I turned on Pandora radio and turned to our favorite Praise and Worship station, which is so nice in the background, and after fifteen minutes the same song had come on three different times in different versions, but the same song. The last time was the version I was familiar with and why that made me change the channel in tears takes a story.

When I was in labor with my firstborn at twenty-two weeks and trying to stop it a pastor/friend from our church came to visit and brought me a beautiful worship CD by the group, Passion, with the song, Here I Am to Worship. It’s a beautiful song with an amazing message, but it was playing in the background when my son was born, and then again an hour later when he died. It will always be a song I associate with him, and that’s not always a bad thing, but that morning it was. So I changed the channel and after a few minutes came a song that made me take a deep breath and stop what I was doing to see what it was.

One Step at a Time, by Bernward Koch on Pandora, my Relaxation radio station

One Step at a Time, by Bernward Koch on Pandora, my Relaxation radio station

It was so beautiful and just spoke to me somehow and the breath caught in my throat again when I saw the name of the song and the album. Several more popped up through the day and now I want to download the whole album so I can listen to it whenever. It’s instrumental and very soothing, and I am a person really motivated by music. It speaks to me and inspires me – and is one of the places I find joy – but more on that later.

So I turned on my music, started on my dinner, eventually made myself get dressed and put makeup on, and spent time with my family. Our little boy, Henry, is such a joy and made me laugh many times that day. That brings me to the food.

My husband loves ham, and that was my first idea, but then we got to talking about his paternal grandmother who passed away two years ago last month. She was Italian and her husband Greek, and she melded the two together seamlessly and every big feast at Grandma’s house was big on traditional fare, but she loved Easter. Our family is a big melting pot, including along with the Greek and Italian, there is Polish on that side, and mostly German on my side with a little French and Irish mixed in. Quite a combo and we are tried and true American made with Greek, Italian, Polish, and German etc. parts, but I love teaching our son about his heritage and I LOVE family traditions. So we started a new one this year and wanted to honor Grandma Jean on one of her favorite holidays and share it with the little boy she loved so much. Here is Grandma, meeting Henry the first time – one of my favorite pictures of the two of them.

Henry, barely three months old, with his Great-Grandma Jean Pselos on October 30, 2011

Henry, barely three months old, with his Great-Grandma Jean Pselos on October 30, 2011

Grandma Jean was a sweet, fun lady who had quite a personality and we didn’t always get along, but we loved each other fiercely. She was never Mrs. Pselos, or Jean; from the moment I met her, even though me and her grandson were only dating, she was Grandma. And even later, I was never her grandson’s wife, but her granddaughter. She could be a little secretive when it came to her cooking, but I learned a lot from her. She would give advice – just not share recipes! – but she loved company in the kitchen so I learned to watch and help where she let me.

It was really hard on me when she died, and that was part of my tears on Sunday, just thinking about her and the memories. I must admit, I’m tearing up even now as I write! I know she was looking down at us and smiling as we tried to honor her that day and recreate recipes she had perfected over her lifetime and guarded so closely! We worked from memory plus a recipe book she gave us years ago, did some tweaking to make it compliant with me and Henry’s diets, and here was our menu. Completely gluten-free, paleo, and (almost) autoimmune protocol-friendly.

Antipasto
Italian Wedding Soup
Roasted Lamb
Pasta and Homemade Sauce
Salad

For dessert, Grandma made these Italian shortbread cookies covered in powdered sugar, but she made those more for Christmas. Other big family dinners she made cake or would buy these amazing pies from a local market. I ended up making a carrot cake and some almond butter chocolate-covered eggs.

The only thing missing is the potatoes. The Greek part of the meal came from the lamb and potatoes. I thought about it, but that was already going to be a lot of food for three people so we left them out this year. Then when it came time for dinner we had filled up on appetizers, so I nixed the salad too, but notice how it’s at the end of the meal? That’s an Italian thing and one of the lessons from Grandma – flashback to one of my first meals with her and I asked where the salad was at the beginning of the meal!

Our appetizers were super simple and not really planned to be honest. I had thought of a few things in case people came over and we were waiting for my husband to get home from work. Then my son finally fell asleep for his afternoon nap right about the time I was about to put finishing touches on dinner so we paused, pulled out some goodies and relaxed. There was a chicken liver pate I had made a few days before with some grain-free crackers (purchased from the bakery the Chirps came from), olives, fresh vegetables, and cheese.

A simple but delicious spread of homemade pate and crackers, cheese, olives, and veggies.  With red wine.  I couldn’t have the tomatoes and I admit I cheated on the cheese and wine, but it was a holiday!

A simple but delicious spread of homemade pate and crackers, cheese, olives, and veggies. With red wine. I couldn’t have the tomatoes and I admit I cheated on the cheese and wine, but it was a holiday!

One thing I have learned from eating real food is preparation is key. You can’t just open a bunch of cans, boxes, and packages the day of and throw together dinner. It takes planning and a lot of prep but is so worth it! For a big dinner like this I shop as soon as I can and start cooking absolutely everything I can ahead of time. And I make lists. Here I am trying to get organized about five days before Easter, which is actually a little last-minute for me, finalizing my shopping and to-do lists; this was posted to my Instagram.

We are also on a budget. Planning things out allows me to stretch out the expense. If I have a basic idea of what I want to do I can start planning weeks in advance, making sure I am stocked up on pantry staples, or picking something up ahead of time because it’s on sale and then freezing it, or such. It takes a little work, but it’s not hard and well worth it. I spent a lot on groceries for this meal, but we ate leftovers the entire next week. We happen to like leftovers and we like playing with them and making things different. (Like sandwiches, salads, fried rice – made with cauliflower – and the lamb and veggies on top of sweet potatoes for example.)

Dinner turned out amazing, though we still want to tweak the recipes of Grandma’s we tried to recreate. The others I got on-line. I used recipes I found for the pasta and sauce, cake, and candy. As I mentioned earlier everything was (almost) autoimmune protocol-friendly and I was referring to the pasta and almond butter eggs; the pasta was made with almond flour and the eggs with almond butter and chocolate. Those three things are cheats for me but I do ok with them in small amounts as long as I don’t overdue it and it was worth it. It had been so long since I had had pasta, I was beyond excited!

I found the recipe for it on Pinterest, and I was a little intimidated at first, but it was very easy. It is by Paleo Cupboard and you can find it here: http://www.paleocupboard.com/paleo-pasta.html. The sauce is a nightshade-free sauce I have made before and love; it works great in anything calling for tomato sauce, including pasta or pizza. My husband doesn’t like beets, but he likes this sauce, if that’s an indication how good it is, although he had his own sauce. We had one jar of homemade, canned tomato sauce given to us by one of our clients from her garden last year, so he used that (I love it when he gets homemade tips like that!). The No-Mato Sauce comes from The Curious Coconut and can be found at: http://thecuriouscoconut.com/blog/the-best-no-mato-sauce-autoimmune-paleo-marinara. A note about the No-Mato Sauce; I have made it many times and I often have a batch in my freezer, but didn’t this time so I made it fresh. It freezes beautifully and I usually portion it out into two-cup portions (perfect for a pizza), but for a big dish of pasta for the family I might thaw two.

Here is our finished dinner:

The soup and antipasto in Grandma’s soup tureen and china dishes.  Grandma always served soup in this tureen.  Always.  It means a lot to have it.

The soup and antipasto in Grandma’s soup tureen and china dishes. Grandma always served soup in this tureen. Always. It means a lot to have it.

The finished dinner:  roasted lamb, grain-free pasta with nightshade-free sauce, antipasto salad, and Italian Wedding Soup.  All paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free.  And oh, so good!

The finished dinner: roasted lamb, grain-free pasta with nightshade-free sauce, antipasto salad, and Italian Wedding Soup. All paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free. And oh, so good!

I’d been feeling very deprived of lately and still dealing with some eczema, but my body is still healing. I do cheat on things like almond flour and chocolate and red wine on occasion because I am so diligent all the time and I think occasional treats are ok as long as your body can handle them. As I stated already I can eat them; just not all the time or too much. And that bottle of wine is still sitting on my counter a couple of weeks later as I have yet to finish it, and I enjoy and savor each glass because it probably won’t be until the next holiday I open another one! Life is too short to constantly deprive yourself if you ask me. Like dessert!

I love cake and actually haven’t made one since going grain-free. I’ve made cupcakes but not a whole cake. And I had been craving cake. My birthday was last month and I had a couple of recipes I wanted to make and considered ordering one from the bakery I mentioned earlier but didn’t do either and regretted it, so when Easter came around it didn’t take long to decide what I wanted. Carrot cake! It is one of my favorites and so springy! I found this recipe from Health Nut Nation which happened to already be nightshade-free, although most recipes aren’t hard to make that way. She had several frosting options but I ended up using the Best Ever Paleo Frosting by Real Food RN because it has become the only frosting we use; it really is the best ever and is so good and very easy. I used it because I knew it was good and easy and turns out every time. You can find the cake recipe here: http://www.healthnutnation.com/2013/03/27/paleo-carrot-cake/ and the frosting here: http://realfoodrn.com/best-paleo-frosting-ever/.

I made the Copy Cat Reese’s “Peanut Butter” Eggs last year and they were a hit. Hubby isn’t crazy about carrot cake, but loves chocolate and peanut butter so I made these. Last year we had a big family gathering and no one could believe they were dairy- and refined sugar-free. They come from My Whole Food Life and you can find the recipe here: http://mywholefoodlife.com/2014/03/09/copycat-reeses-peanut-butter-eggs/. I tweaked it this year by using half almond butter and half homemade coconut butter. Oh my, so good; I may do them that way from now on. I was trying to lessen the almond impact and it made the inside a little fluffier too. They still really tasted like almond butter. I could slightly taste the coconut, but was never sure if it was simply because I was looking for it. They are very simple and quick and this year it was a joy to have Henry help. He made funny ropes and wanted me to make a bunny and a snowman. Such fun.

Henry helping with the chocolate eggs; he ate many while we worked, but that’s part of the fun!  These only have a handful of ingredients and are completely junk-free.  The eggs are super easy.  Make a ball, flatten it with your hand, and then pinch one end to a point.

Henry helping with the chocolate eggs; he ate many while we worked, but that’s part of the fun! These only have a handful of ingredients and are completely junk-free. The eggs are super easy. Make a ball, flatten it with your hand, and then pinch one end to a point.

The finished dessert ~ Paleo Carrot Cake and the almond butter eggs.  So, so good!  I didn’t make the frosting until right before dessert, but typically I like to put the frosting in the refrigerator for about ten or fifteen minutes before I frost.  This frosting pipes great once it’s firmed up a bit.  I did just round dollops on the cake and I like how it turned out.  I may have to make another this week; just thinking about it my mouth is watering!

The finished dessert ~ Paleo Carrot Cake and the almond butter eggs. So, so good! I didn’t make the frosting until right before dessert, but typically I like to put the frosting in the refrigerator for about ten or fifteen minutes before I frost. This frosting pipes great once it’s firmed up a bit. I did just round dollops on the cake and I like how it turned out. I may have to make another this week; just thinking about it my mouth is watering!

That brings me to my next point ~ finding joy in the little things. That can be really hard when you are hurting, either physically or emotionally. I don’t always do well at this, but I have learned you have to search for it at times and it’s usually never hard to find. Take for instance the music I mentioned earlier or treating myself to pasta, which I love and haven’t eaten in over a year. There was something else I wanted to share as well. In the middle of feeling sorry for myself that morning I sat down for a break to get lost on my phone and opened Instagram, seeing this.

This Instagram account comes from a woman named Nathalie Hillelrich. I know I did not find her by accident. I don’t spend very much time on Twitter. I follow quite a few people, but it’s not often I actually browse my timeline. I did that day, several weeks ago, and an account about infant loss I follow shared a picture and for some reason I clicked on it. What popped up was the picture of a woman and this tiny baby in a NICU that just took my breath away. I ended up following the link to her website which led me to her Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Find her website at http://www.nathaliehimmelrich.com. You can also find her at http://www.grievingparents.net. She has written a book titled, Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple. I’ve ordered it but haven’t had a chance to read it yet. She is inspiring and shares beautiful things, a grieving mama like myself who is moving on after the death of one of her twin daughters. I sent her an e-mail the day I found her and received the loveliest note back. I stumbled across her on a day I was really struggling and felt such a connection to this woman who lives literally half a world away. I sent her another note, asking if I could share this post of hers, to which she graciously agreed; check her out. She’s amazing.

So I submitted the names of my two angel babies, to which she replied, bringing me to tears. It was such a beautiful gesture and to have someone else acknowledge them meant the world to my husband and I.

My comment and Nathalie’s reply on Instagram.  Was just what my hurting heart needed that day.

My comment and Nathalie’s reply on Instagram. Was just what my hurting heart needed that day.

As hard as it is, and as much I miss them, acknowledging them brings me such joy. We do little things, like hanging their pictures, talking about them to our son, hanging stockings at Christmas, lighting candles, buying little trinkets that make us think of them; we have planted trees in their memory, made donations in their names, I wear jewelry with their birthstones, and so on and so forth. After ordering Nathalie’s book this suggestion came up on Amazon and I immediately ordered it. Reading it the first time made me cry.

Someone Came Before You, by Pat Schwiebart, Illustrated by Taylor Bills and put out by a company called Grief Watch (http://www.griefwatch.com).  A lovely book for a child who has come after a loss.  My advice?  Read it with a box of tissues.

Someone Came Before You, by Pat Schwiebart, Illustrated by Taylor Bills and put out by a company called Grief Watch (http://www.griefwatch.com). A lovely book for a child who has come after a loss. My advice? Read it with a box of tissues.

My note to Henry, honoring his brothers, in the book.

My note to Henry, honoring his brothers, in the book.

My son received this in his Easter basket. Henry is three but knows who his brothers are. He recognized them in pictures the first time very young. It gave me goose bumps. I walked by a picture of the two of them and he wasn’t speaking yet but I knew the look of recognition on his face and he reached for them. Believe what you want, but I believe his little spirit recognized them; like he remembered them from Heaven. Even now he likes to kiss their pictures and the boxes of their ashes and he knows who they are. I always wanted it that way. When someone asks me how many children I have the answer is always three. If someone asks if we have any more children than Henry I politely answer we have two boys who are no longer with us. It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out thing. Some people ask more, some don’t, and both are ok. Just for me and my heart, I have to acknowledge them. This was another way for me to do that.

So this Easter I found joy in many things. I found joy in enjoying some wonderful, healthy, yet delicious food that is compliant with a sometimes difficult diet and I enjoyed treating myself to a couple of things. I found joy in honoring a woman whose legacy will always leave a mark on our family. I found joy in starting a new tradition. I found joy in getting all dressed up in a pretty little black and white sundress my mama bought me while here in February; it’s a lot of fun dressing up when you don’t do it that often! I found joy in some beautiful music and a lovely gesture from a new friend that served as a salve for my soul on a difficult day. I found joy in a beautiful little boy that I thank God every day for. Henry is a miracle, no doubt about it, and he himself has such joy and sweetness, and you can’t help but smile when you are with him. I found joy with my husband who my relationship with isn’t perfect but we understand each other, love one another unconditionally, and I know I am extremely lucky to have him in my life. And I found joy in my two angel babies whom I also thank God for. I wish they were with me. I wish I could wrap my arms around them right now and hold them close. I ache for them. Every. Day. But I know I will see them again one day and that brings me some small amount of bittersweet joy.

You have to look for it. You have to work for it. But it’s there. Trust me.

Thank you for listening. I know I really went on and on with this one, but I gave you a rare piece of my heart I don’t often share. I hope it touched one of you, whether it be about the food or the family. I have put myself out there to connect with you, be encouraged by you, and an encouragement for you. Leave me a comment or visit me on social media and let’s connect. Thank you again for sharing my journey.

Blessings to you today,
Emily xo

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