What I have

I have been trying very hard these last days, as we draw ever closer to Christmas, to focus on what I have.  I can feel myself tempted to lean into what I do not have, what’s missing, what I think I need…It’s a feeling I fight every year. This tendency to feel like it’s not enough – that I haven’t done enough, that I haven’t done well enough, or cooked enough or bought enough… I always have to remember to not measure the holiday in random stuff.

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This year the feeling is one I can’t shake, probably because I haven’t done as much as I usually do, and definitely because I miss my mother – her absence is keen for me right now. Sometimes it’s a dull ache, like a broken bone slowly healing, and sometimes it’s like a sharp rending – like this afternoon, when I was wrapping a few gifts (finally)  and I pulled out a box from last year (as a knitter I tend to be a rather weird box hoarder) and a tag tumbled out “For Mum, much love, Steph.”  In that moment, my feeling was not just that I didn’t have enough, but that I had nothing. That nothing was right, that nothing ever would be.

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This is not even remotely accurate. Not even close. I have so much, and yesterday and today as we celebrated the solstice, I tried hard to remember the light is coming back, and every day there will be a little more, and things will be a little better, and other than the rather gutting and horrific death of my mother, things are actually pretty firmly good. (It does not help, by the way, that one of the things I have is a really bad cold, but I’m trying to look past it.)  I have a lot.  I have most of the gifts bought or made (one big knitting sprint underway but trying to believe it can work.)

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I have a loving family-in-law that has taken the time to think of my mother, and include her memory in their celebrations, though it makes us all cry, it’s a comfort to know they all miss her.

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I have so many friends, who all turned up to decorate gingerbread and fill my house to the brim in a way that left no room for anything but happiness and love and some gingerbread seahorses that are pretty fabulous.

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I have the cookies baked. Not as many as in past years, but that doesn’t matter. I have just enough of the few favourites that matter to us.

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I have a husband who was smart enough to know that I would struggle with all of this, and planned a little ski trip away with Katie, Carlos, Lou and Frankie, and we skied and ate and made tire sur la neige and (I totally got this cold from Frank) and Joe was right.  It got me though the worst of it. New traditions taking the place of old ones.

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I have beautiful children and a wonderful grandson and I know for a fact that none of them are going to be cold or hungry or lonely or cast out on this holiday, as the snow flies and it gets colder and colder.  It’s why this is always the time of year that I give what I can to charities – This year I gave a little extra to the Bike Rally, because many of their clients won’t have what I do this winter, and because I have to be my mum, and it’s what she would have done.

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I have a big hole where my mum should be, sure –  and I’m taking from the emails and notes I have from all of you, that I won’t even have that forever, and I can see how it’s true. This is a hard spot, but I have so very, very much to try and fill it with.

Happy Solstice.  I know I’m late, but it’s what I have.

145 thoughts on “What I have

  1. Wonderful reminders. I am sorely missing a very beloved grandmother this year and it does threaten to overshadow the good. But you are absolutely right – we still have so so much. Merry Christmas!

  2. It is so hard when we are missing loved ones. I want to tell you it gets easier, but it doesn’t, it just seems to shift a bit into something not quite so raw. You do have so much, but I want you to be easy on yourself. Your grief is ever present at the moment. It is the very first Christmas without your dear Mum, take a deep breath and know that whatever you are feeling, joy, sadness, sorrow, love, it is all okay. My best wished to you and your family.

    Blessing and peace.

  3. Peace be unto you and your loved ones. The first Christmas is the hardest, but the light always returns. There are very few things that house full of friends and family, chortling babies and gingerbread seahorses cannot lift with joy. And knitting, particularly if they are Twelfth Night gifts…….

  4. There are so many blessings in our lives that we miss because we are running so hard to find that ever elusive brass ring. But it is brass. What is golden is our family, our friends and our faith. A lifetime goes by so quickly and we just don’t realize it until it’s almost missed us.
    Keep your family close and your faith strong. Hugs to all of you this holiday (especially those cute babes!)

  5. Solstice, Christmas, and all of the winter points of dark & light: Yes, light will return; it will be a different colour of light, but it will become brighter, and it will be yours. Best wishes for peace and for family joys, with the warmest of hugs to you from a faithful longtime reader.

  6. I am late this year too. But the lace shawl was delivered last night and that was a big hit. Cookies were finished today and thank goodness for emailing Christmas cards. I live in Sonoma County California. Our county alone lost more than 5,200 homes in the wildfires that burned into our biggest city. We have a home, and our friends and family who lost theirs have warm places to stay. So this year has been focusing on the things that really matter and how lucky we are to have what we have. I am so thankful to have your warmth and pithy view of life to nudge me along.

    Your cookies look prettier than mine.

    Now to figure out where I am in the still knitting sock for my husband

    • A dear friend of mine lives in Sonoma County, and so does my granddaughter. Neither lost their home – both came close – but they know too many who did. I wish you peace and plenty.

  7. This feels like the exercise where you fall backwards and trust that the person standing behind you will catch you. In this instance, what’s ready to catch you is the love you are surrounded with. Your family, friends, and the Blog have a strong net of love you can rely on.
    You are blessed this holiday season.

  8. My mother died two months before Christmas, eleven years ago. We made a deliberate decision to begin the creation of something different, not entirely new, but uniquely of the next generation. Time passes, and it’s all good. This is the Christmas my grandkids will remember.

  9. Ah Steph, I remember the first Christmas without my mother. This is my 19th Christmas without her and I miss her but it is more of an ache that is overshadowed by the joy I am filled with when I think of her. Yes, her light still shines in my heart and I try to pass it to my family and others. Blessings be upon you as you walk through the darker times with the knowledge that the light is coming back.

  10. Thank you for the gift of wisdom during this the shortest and darkest day that holds the promise of light. Let us all be grateful for the things that matter most, one of these being friendship. As a dear virtual friend and life guide, I send you much love. xoxo

  11. My mom died when I was nine. I’ve been missing her terribly tonight. Reading this made me feel less alone in my grief. Thank you. Peace to you and yours.

  12. Your writing, the way you can draw that fine edge, so that I can see exactly how it is, is remarkable. And I can see the similarities to what we’re going through. We lost my mother-in-law in October & I can see my own mother in a steep decline at 93. The years fly by. I grow more nostalgic by the day it seems. Thank you for sharing this really hard bit. It helps others and I hope it helps you, too. Happy Solstice.

  13. Look at the trust Eliot puts in you — he knows as he bangs away on the keys, making glorious music, at least to him, that you won’t let him fall. That’s what families are all about.

  14. My husband passed on the10th after a long fight with Parkinson’s and dementia, so basically I lost him twice. This is hard but I am so blessed to be a half hour from my son. Rest in the love of family and friends. We’ll both get through it. Prayers. And be kind to yourself.

  15. Our youngest son was adopted when he was 4. This year he is 26 and sitting in prison in Minnesota for the 2nd Christmas. I miss him terribly and know he is safe, but he is not with us. My dad has been gone 25 years. I still miss him as much as the day after he passed The holes in our hearts heal and scar over. The pain diminishes, but never truly leaves. . All of this sadness in our lives, makes us truly appreciate all that we DO have. Simple things like the scarf I just finished tonight, and knowing I can sleep in tomorrow as we have no morning service. Enjoy each and every minute you have, Stephanie, and hug that baby. Joy will return and along with it, your sense of enough. Merry Christmas!

  16. Happy Solstice and Merry Christmas Stephanie. I know it will be, with your family and friends who love you. The Blog loves you too, you know. Sending caring your way, dear Yarn Harlot.

    • Amen to all of that! We care deeply about you and yours, Steph. We were praying in church this morning for a friend in our congregation who recently lost her Mum, and I was thinking of you the whole time and hoping that you would take great solace from the many who love and appreciate you. Blessed Christmas, even if it’s not always a ‘merry’ one.

  17. So many ups and downs in life. The past week has been really rough for us. We had a few deaths in our family the past few months but we were able to come together. Now we have some new illnesses in the family. But, I remain grateful for what I have. I really try to focus on that. Things could always be worse.

  18. …pa-rum-pum-pum-pum…

    If only everyone gave what they could, this world would be so much better…

    Thank-you for sharing your family with us, Stephanie.

    Love and hugs to you and yours.

  19. I came without expectation you would have posted anything because I needed to tell you that you and your family are in my thoughts. I’m so awed by your ability to express your feelings. I’m touched by you and your posts and I thank you for that.

  20. What a beautiful reminder to focus on what we have and not what is missing. Both of my parents died 24 years ago and the holidays are always tinged with a bit of sadness, but as time goes on you do remember the good times more than the ache of longing. Merry Christmas and Happy Solstice to you. I’m so grateful for all that you share with us.

  21. A beautiful piece of writing. You have expressed exactly how a lot of us feel who have lost loved ones. Rest assured it will get better with time. Make new traditions and treasured memories with your family. Blessings to you and your family during this festive season and the New Year ahead. Christmas greetings from a very hot and humid east coast of South Africa.

  22. I remember feeling that nothing would ever be the same again. And it isn’t, it is different, but that wasn’t any consolation then. It was just achy and tiring, and lonely. Sending you love and understanding.

  23. I can’t remember if I’ve commented yet or not, so I’ll say it again anyway.
    This is our first Christmas without our grandma (technically my in-law, but she welcomed me into the fold a decade ago and made me feel like I had always been a part of the family) and while I am sad, reading this really helps me feel not alone this Christmas, and gives me the strength to help my mother-in-law to get through her first Christmas without her mother. I know she’s struggling, just like you, and anything I can do to help her out will help me feel better too.
    When my other grandma died, it was right after Christmas, but two days before my mom’s birthday. That was a tough year, but we made it and we can all get through the year. Smiling helps, even if you don’t feel happy (I know that’s cliche, but sometimes it’s the only thing that gets me through the day.

  24. I love you. We all die and it never seems to get easier but people like you make the world a better place. Merry Christmas and may the memories of your mum be a comfort to you. You have made some dark times in my life easier to bear so I hope your readers can give that back to you. much love, meg.

  25. I look forward every year to seeing the pictures of your cookies and gingerbread. Yesterday I searched the archives because I wasn’t sure you would have them this year. So thanks for completing my Christmas season. I tried the spritz cookie thing this year. So fun!

  26. I’ve been thinking of you every day as Christmas edges closer, Steph. I hope the big day goes as well as is possible. Big love to you.

  27. Loved friends and family will all help you to cope with this first Christmas without your beloved Mum. Merry Christmas and please do enjoy this very different Christmas, making new Christmas memories and traditions.

  28. I love that you and your family are creating new traditions. It doesn’t trivialize the loss of your Mum, but it takes the love she gave and poured into the family and creates even more. It pushes that love deeper inside of your soul. It makes it a treasure, the proper kind.

    I adore the picture of, what I’m assuming is, your Mum leaning on the post. Where is this taken? I can see in my mind a whole slew of people imitating this and hashtagging it in memory of her.

  29. I have no words Stephanie except that your Mum is in your heart and in each one of your daughters. Please take time for yourself. You and yours are in my thoughts.

  30. Thinking of you at this time, and thank you for your wonderful writing, you have given much enjoyment over the years I have been following you. Take care of yourself, for your family and for us. Hugs.

  31. Those hands holding that baby boy to the piano are gentle hands, strong, uprighting him. Holding him so that he won’t topple. Holding him so that he can reach and sound out the chords. The song he plays is because of you. One note at a time a tempo begins. Some days it will sound like the sun, some days it will be the night sky. Right now let it be grace. It is already love.

    Merry Christmas. I think I may have a mouse in my tree and I don’t know how to feel about that.

    • Jenelle that is so beautiful what you wrote about the music! I agree Steph’s family reminds me of a symphony too. I think you should look up live mouse traps on YouTube and put the little bugger outside! I have a cockroach in my bathroom. It is hiding under Laundry Mountain. I know how I feel about that!
      Steph I’m so proud of you, we’re all so proud of you. I’m so happy you got to enjoy something on such a sad day. It takes courage to meet life and stand up for what we believe in. You did it, great job. Happy new year to everyone! And congratulations to the blog readers who also made it through another holiday season, lots of love and thanks for helping me through it too! I made it too!

  32. Stephanie, thank you for sharing your family with us over the years. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas of remembering your Mum with love and laughter, and creating new memories with and for future generations. Merry Christmas to you and to the Blog.

  33. Ah Stephanie, what a beautiful post, so heartfelt. Merry Christmas to you and yours, absent lived ones will forever be in our hearts

  34. It is hard and it does ease…but you and your children and now your grandchild are the gifts your Mum left this world. Allow yourself to go though all of your emotions…this is what makes us human.

    Wishing you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas, I can already see it is filled with love!

  35. May you have a very Merry Christmas and enjoy what beautiful people and things you have. As for your grief, I hope it eases with the warm and happy memories you have. I lost my father a couple years ago and used my knitting to honor him and help the grief. Because he loved the holidays, I made an ornament with his name and a fishing pole (or my knitted interpretation) on it to make sure I include him in the season. Have blessed and happy holidays.

  36. Thank you for sharing with us ‘what you have’ it’s more than enough.
    Yes I think this year is just for you to ‘ be,’
    You are doing so well, allow everyone to support You and take things a gently as possible, no rush to make decisions now.

    Much love to you all, so many thanks to you and ‘The Blog’ for being part of my life.

  37. I feel your pain…lost my mom-in-law in August. She was more of a mother to me than my own, in many ways. We’re spending Christmas away from home this year in an attempt to avoid trying to navigate it in the familiar environment. Sending you love and best wishes from the Drakensberg in sunny South Africa. May you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year ❤️

  38. In your honouring of the solstice, you honour your mother… by seeking and recognizing the return of light amidst the long, dark night. Counting blessings at a time of loss is certainly not easy. Your strength is admirable. Sending love to all for the holidays.

  39. You and your family were in my thoughts on Solstice. This time of year loss is so hard…loss of any type. Feelings are so amplified. My loss was 13 years ago and still, it was the first thing I thought of this morning, Christmas Eve. Time heals.

    I wish you and yours a Happy Christmas and congratulations on the new traditions.

  40. Love and blessings to you Stephanie. I so appreciate your blog and the wisdom and kindness that flow from it. Warm wishes to you and yours for the season and the New Year.

  41. Thank you in this season of gifting, for the gift of connection between each of us around the world. The common voice of joy, of grief, of family, of new life. With each post you renew that gift of connection.
    May you and your family rejoice throughout the coming year, in love, in health, and in laughter.

    • I’m pretty sure she has silicone moulds for the ice candle. She fills it water and lets the outdoors freeze it. Then unmoulds it and puts a candle inside.

  42. Steph,
    As hard as it is at times, imagine if you had no difficult moments during times of thinking of your dear Mum. That would mean that all those memories and experiences meant nothing- and we know that they did!
    So, let the healing happen and know that those moments are reminders of how much you meant to one another.
    You are doing so well!
    Happy Holidays!

  43. This is a good reminder for all of us — both at this time of year and every day. We should always stop to cherish what we have rather than bemoaning what we lack, especially as there are so many people out there who have so much less. Lots of love and light to you and yours.

  44. This is a difficult time of year for me, because it’s my first Christmas without my husband. Thank you SO MUCH for writing what I really needed to read today!

    Much love to you and your family … ♥

  45. Last weekend was my Christmas with my chosen family (most of my family are dead, and my husband’s family is scattered across the country). Many of my friends have struggled this year with endings of marriages, loss of family, destruction of dreams. It was my thought to try to bring them something this year in the way of distraction, and in doing so, found myself more present than I’ve managed in years. It turned out to be a gift for me as well. I hope your Christmas can be present for yourself as well as others, and that you have the opportunity to smile and feel peace. Many thanks again for all you do and who you are.

  46. I have been an orphan for three times as long as I was a daughter and this I believe: Your mother will be with you always. I only had mine for 21 years, but her comments, advice, wisdom, weaknesses, mistakes, memory are with me EVERY DAY. Be at peace knowing that your mother is a big part of you, but you are not her. You are you — mum to three wonderful women, grandmother to an impossibly adorable little boy. Things will change. What was will meld with what is and what will be. That is the way of things. Recognize your pain and loss (like you have a choice! it sneaks up at the most inappropriate, unexpected moments) but don’t live there. Remember and honor those that have gone before, but focus on the now. You are surrounded by love. You will be fine.

  47. Stephanie, you are an amazing woman. Your Mum’s so proud and I’m quite sure she’s very thankful that in her physical absence you are slowly but surely taking the very best of her with you as you go forward and that, dearest girl, is the best gift both to her memory and to your children and grandchild(ren).
    Much love and comfort,
    Linda B in NJ

  48. Happy Holidays, Steph. Holding you in the light and sending many wishes for much more “goodwill towards men” to be shown in this world, for all of us, but especially the newest citizens of our world. Hugs

  49. Your heart, Steph. I send you SO much love. you’ve helped me and so many others over the years by simply sharing part of your heart, with happy and with ache. In this hard time I hope you feel wrapped in as much love and warmth from what ‘the blog’ says, all of us to you.

  50. You have my wishes for a Happy Christmas, time with your loved ones, time with your self, and time for memories.

    Love and hugs as the light comes back.

  51. I am so very very sorry for your loss.

    My own mother died many years ago and the most honest thing I can say to you is that it gets different.

  52. My husband died in a fluke accident in July and like you my grief is sometimes little bone aches and at others like a great sheet of cloth tearing down the middle. The finality of it is almost impossible to comprehend. My busy, rewarding, comfortable, creative life filled with loving family and friends helps. A little.

  53. I have been thinking of you during this time and how you must be feeling. I am so happy you have family and friends to help you through this. The pain of loss does ease over time.

    May you and yours have a wonderful time together and the coming year be bountiful and joyful.

  54. Oh, dear Steph. (May I call you Steph? I feel as if I know you after reading the blog for years.)
    I also lost my momma this year, 53 years young and a long time battler of chronic illness. I know Christmas might suck. I know people tell me to focus on what I do have. I know they mean well.
    You’re the first person who’s taken what’s true and said it like it is and you were able to focus on what’s good and that truly made me feel so much better today than I have in many a day. Thank you.
    Peace and blessings and love, and I hope your Christmas is wonderful and sweet and does not suck.

  55. Lovely and poignant as always. I have thought of you, and others, who have lost someone, and admire your observations and reflections as you celebrate the seasons.
    I wish you and your family all the best. This season, and every season.

  56. My mothers name was Mary. The Christmas after she died I went to church and every time they said Mary I started to cry. It’s been 20 years the hole fills in but never entirely. I miss my Mother and I always will. It’s life and sometimes it breaks your heart. You’ll be OK and nobody cares you’re late. Merry Christmas Steph.

  57. Sending extra extra warm, woolly wishes for peace and love. I obviously don’t actually know you of course, or your precious mum, but it seems you are very much her daughter.

    Peace to you.

  58. It is comforting to hear another woman talk about the “not enough” thing. We spend our whole lives trying to drown on the negative self talk.
    Your husband is a kind and wonderful man.
    Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice and Peace to you and your family!

  59. The year my father in law died, in November, we took my mother in law, along with our kids, down to southern California to have Christmas with my mom and then we all went to Disneyland. Her first Christmas without him was less difficult because we were all doing something different. It did help.

  60. I take time at Christmas to remember the people I love who are no longer here. Family, especially my father, whom we lost when I was 19, friends who added so much to my life while they were here, especially someone I lost last April, whom I’m missing pretty keenly right now. It’s important to remember, share stories, cry and laugh. Love doesn’t die, and it helps us work through these losses. We’ll always miss the people we’ve lost, but they live on through us. The only way to get past grief is to go through it, and it does get better, it really does. Cling to your loved ones, Giggle with Elliot, who is just the cutest baby ever, and listen to your lovely mum telling you to get on with things. We’re all here for you, sending our love. Julie

  61. It’s been four years … ten really, since she had a stroke, and I am still coming across little notes, recipes, things that my mother did. And my boys have kept all the cards that she sent them, with messages of love.

    The pain gets easier, for the most part. At times, there will always be tears. Especially at holidays. My mother felt it, I feel it. There will always be a tiny rend in your heart … but also room for new moments of happiness.

    Happy Solstice. To you and yours.

  62. Yes. Unfortunately, you are in good company. It’s the circle of life. So much pain, but so much to be grateful for. Peace and Merry Christmas.

  63. Happy Solstice and Merry Christmas! I’d forgotten about your lovely ice lights for solstice. This year will be the hardest, but it does get a little easier. Creating new activities to become on-going traditions is a wise idea. As always, you make lovely cookies!

  64. The lovely lights of your family will continue to shine on for you, giving you warmth and comfort.

    You are in our thoughts. Sending wishes that your moments of peace will grow as they are needed.

  65. I love that picture of your Mom. Wonderful.

    Treasure the memories, your family and the love you all have. There are always enough cookies with love.

    Thinking of you. Joyous Solstice, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

  66. Beautifully said with a message we can all carry with us as we navigate this most emotional time of year. Thank you. And know that yours and your family’s hearts are being sent love from all corners of Earth.

  67. The love you share with every blog post you write and publish is a tribute to your mother and the kind humor that she must have gifted you! Thank you for continuing to share your life with us, your readers, even the hard parts. Hugs to you and blessings to all you hold dear.

  68. I lost my mom in 2006 but I always remember her with a smile, especially today, December 26, her birthday. From as early as I can remember until her death at age 94, she always said the same thing on this day: “Today’s my birthday and if you can’t remember how old I am, I’m just one day younger than Jesus.” Gone for more than a decade but I’m sure she’s still yukking it up in the afterlife.

  69. What a beautiful picture of your daughter and grandson! Your words are so raw that it’s heartbreaking. “You are enough” sprang to mind after I read this blog post, so I I thought I’d share a poem that helps me when I need to be reminded of this! I don’t think I can paste the whole thing here, so I’ll just pass along the link:


    You are such an inspiring person. Your blog and books are phenomenal. It’s just an idea, but I think a book about your mom’s life lessons would be amazing at some point in the future! Whenever I feel overwhelmed when I can’t keep up with my house, job, etc… I think of your story about the time you were cleaning your house before the other moms came over & she told you that it wasn’t a kind thing to do. It does the trick of getting me out of that perfectionist mode. I bet you have many more stories about her that could bring wisdom and laughter into the lives of others. I’ve bought and read all of your books, and I think this could be fabulous.

    If you ever need a laugh or some help with your journey of grief, check out Patti Digh’s books. She’s an artist whose dad died suddenly, and she’s written several awesome books that are very inspiring and funny. I’ve read them all, and they helped me through my own journey of grief.

    Best wishes for 2018, Stephanie!! Take good care of yourself! Thanks for sharing your knitting adventures, and most-of-all , thank you for sharing YOU.

    Happy New Year,


  70. yes to all of what you’ve said, and to the comments. And the only gift I can give you is that you’ve led me to make Doctors without Borders (in any language) one of my two primary charities. Every month.

  71. I know that right now it is hard to believe that it will get better. That the sweet memories will gently push the pain away. But please know that it does. From Thanksgiving forward to New Years is a tough time, but be kind to yourself, know that you are doing the best that you can and try to treat yourself. I do every year by spending Christmas day with my dogs and knitting something for me that day. Remember, it is always the darkest before the dawn.

  72. I started reading your blog for the beautiful and inspiring knitting, and have stayed over the years for the beautiful and inspiring writing about the truths of daily life. Thank you, Steph, and may what you have fill you with peace and love this holiday season. Best wishes to you and yours for a year full of blessings in 2018.

  73. And you have us.

    And we have you, and that is something that we are all so, so grateful for.

    Peace and joy to you, as the light returns. XX

  74. So beautifully said, Steph. I have to remember too, that I have enough. I have more than enough, though there are sometimes holes aching to be filled. Wishing you joy, peace and healing for 2018.

  75. ” I can feel myself tempted to lean into what I do not have, what’s missing, what I think I need…It’s a feeling I fight every year. ”

    I have never ever heard anyone else say/write this. I feel this way every year and I thought I was the only one.

    Thank you so much!

  76. I *in no way* discount or diminish your journey through grief. Been there. 30+ years ago. It still hurts sometimes.

    May I respectfully offer this for your consideration?

    You *are* your mum now.

    Hope you are enjoying your ski trips, and have not frozen any important extremities.

    Happy New Year. Blessings on your house.

  77. Dear Harlot, we have you. Thank you and may your new year be blessed with all good things. (although I did hear, once, or read…that pain makes us interesting).
    You are a blessing to all us knitters, spinners, moms and grandmoms.
    Happy New Year

  78. You are a loving and lasting tribute to your Mom.
    Wishing you peace, love and light in the new year.
    Thank you for the blog.

  79. When I first learned English, I also found it difficult to write a complete sentence. But then, I learned to write through the style of stories, write things daily and ask teachers to help me. I found it very effective basketball legends

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