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Happy New Year.  I’m hoping that 2012 is going to kick 2011 in its skinny ass.  It seems that we are far from the only people we know who were glad to see the year come to an end; it’s been hard for a lot of our friends, family, and people in our community.  The job search has been on hold though the holidays.  No one seems to check their email and that’s just fine.  We needed a little break to just not think about things for a week.  Starting tomorrow, everything is back to business as usual, so J will be cracking down, following up with a bunch of contacts he made before Christmas.  I’m working on a few new products for Great Marsh Artisan Skincare, and filling orders left and right.  I’m really looking forward to my daughter being back in school so we can get back to our routine around here.

This is a strange time of year for me.  I have always felt New Years Eve is a very bittersweet holiday, moving ever further into history, propelling towards the end of things, leaving behind family and friends who have died, entombed in the past.  I think about them.  This year, one of my best friends is staying back in 2011 without me.  As the first anniversary of his death approaches, on his birthday in early February, I’m finding the inevitable turning inwards.  I think about him, his family, clutch on to those memories I have of us together that fade more and more each day.  I know that soon they will all be vapor, and I’ll only have his name etched into my brain.

I’m not a religious person.  I’m a mediocre atheist who came by it honestly via a childhood of questioning in the Unitarian Universalist church and a degree in religious studies.  I have flirted with other faith traditions outside of Judeo-Christianity, and found something of value in them all but could not ever make that final leap of faith in believing in a theistic god.  I sometimes wish that I could, but despite 36 years of trying, I’ve settled into  the place where I am, still attending a UU church near my home, and trying to answer my daughters increasingly metaphysical questions in a comforting, affirming, but nonspecific way so that she can find her own path of faith.  My heart is full of love, and I know yours is, too.  That’s really all I need at this point in my life.

Nevertheless, after the holidays are over, in the time of the longest nights, the deadest of nature laying in wait, having faith if not in a divine presence then at least a faith that there is a light in the darkness, I use the time to look deep within.  I use the time to cleanse and detox and renew.  I read, I try to eat very clean, simple foods, I move slower and feel myself firmly rooted to home, family, place.  I roast things.  I braise.  I sleep.

Don’t think that the tone of this post means that I’ve gone all woo on you.  I still swear like a truck driver and scream at the kids that I’ll sell them to the Gypsies if I have to break up one more damn fist fight.  Today I started a Whole30 to get back into the swing of things.  I’ve eaten a lot of sugar and even some grains over the holiday season and am up 11 pounds from my lowest weight.  (I felt badly until J told me that he is up 18.)  One of the things I love most about ancestral eating is how simple and streamlined it is.  I never, ever feel that I’m deprived, but rather feel like I’m giving my body exactly what it needs.  I have fallen out of that a bit, so I’m starting the year with a month of clean eating.  After my first Whole30 breakfast of two sunny side up eggs, three strips of (sugar-free, nitrite/nitrate-free, antibiotic-free, uncured blah blah blah) bacon and two sweet potato pecan puffs, I felt amazing.  I never know why I get tempted by non-paleo food; it makes me feel like shit.  It tastes like medium density fiberboard.  It is never, ever worth it.  So, I’m detoxing, resetting, tightening up, cleaning out, thinking about health, nourishment, relationships, life, and nutrition.

Oddly enough, I’m also doing the same with my “beauty” (used loosely) routine.  I was wearing more makeup than usual over the holidays, out of my normal habits, even using shampoo with dimethecone, SLH, fragrance, PARFUM!!  Shame spiral.  I’m now back to using only Dr. Bronners when I have to, Aubrey Organics on the head and cleansing my face with straight olive oil, lavender and tea tree essential oils.  I’m using coconut oil in my hair and to moisturize my skin, as well as my Lavender Honey Hard Lotion and Rosehip Hydrating Serum.  That is it.  I feel softer and cleaner already.

So, meditating on life, health, cleanliness, simplicity, and quiet.  That is 2012 so far.  I hope that I can manifest some goodness our way on the job front.  God (or, as my UU minister calls it, “a universal force of love that always bends towards Justice,”) knows that we need some good news so I’m working on willing it for us all.

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Post #1 (What a Dumb Title).

I’m involved in another blogging project.  We are a small, super secret, super awesome group of other paleo-ish nerds who are far smarter and more clever than I.  This is a collective blog that will cover a wide variety of topics from nutrition and biochemistry, to recipes, philosophy, frugality, gardening, exercise physiology, book reviews, food politics, homesteading, disease, medicine, hunting, sustainability, and hilarity.  For my readers who came to A Slim Winter through Paul Jaminet’s blog, Perfect Health Diet, this will be right up your alley.  I hope that you will follow along with us.

This is going to be a blog about how I get my family through it.  There is a lot of back story here, so bear with me.  J and I have been together for ten years, married for eight.  In 2006, everything looked great; we bought our dream house in our dream town.  He had a great job as an economic consultant with a great paycheck and I had a great job as a social worker with a crappy paycheck, but I loved it and we were happy.  We decided to proliferate.  It wasn’t as easy as we had hoped, and I had to go through fertility treatments which were emotionally and physically taxing, but they worked and we had our awesome baby girl Hazel in February 2008.

Six months later, my hands went numb.  Then my chest.  Then my back.  I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in September 2008 and it was a very difficult time for us, as one can imagine.  The fear of the unknown is overwhelming, but through it all J and I tried to focus on all our blessings;  Hazel, MS is not fatal, my prognosis was good, we were fortunate enough to have good insurance to cover all the imaging, medications and steroid infusions, and above all we were thankful that I was the one who was sick instead of our daughter.

Be careful when you put things like this out into the universe.

Two months after my diagnosis, MS was the least of my concerns.  We lived (existed?) in Children’s Hospital for a month with our baby girl as she fought to live.  There is no way that we could ever express how grateful we were that we could take her home, that she survived.  We continue to endure Hazels periodic choking episodes because of her narrowed esophagus, but we get to keep her.  She has had surgeries to repair her esophagus, and might have more but we can’t complain.

How much can one family take?  I thought we had paid our dues.  Again, be careful.

I had our son Elias in the winter of 2010.  It was a difficult pregnancy, but everyone came through it unscathed.  We were happy, and looked forward to new beginnings.

J took three weeks off to be at home with us after Elias was born.  He had been very slow at work, but everyone had been.  I remember him being concerned that no one from his office contacted him to say congratulations after the birth.  I brushed him off, but intuition is rarely wrong and three days after he returned to work, they walked into his office and told him that he was being laid off.  They read from a script.  He was downsized. I would try to describe the crushing fear, the panic, the insincere optimism that one feels.  The anger, betrayal, feelings of worthlessness.  I would try to describe it but for the fact that so many already know.

And here we are, a year and a half later.  J still has not been able to find any work.  We have no more savings.  What we do have is a mortgage, two cars that aren’t road-worthy, kids growing out of their clothing, student loans, and a looming heating bill that is quite high in an almost 300 year old house on the rugged New England coast.  We have 6 weeks left of unemployment benefits, and after that is where this blog starts.

For the millionth time in the past three and a half years, I’m a Mama Tiger.  I’m furious.  I am in a state of crazed desperation, and I’m trying to hold us all together.

There are thousands of us in this place now.  Some call us 99ers, some the “Long Term Unemployed”, some people might call us deadbeats (those are people I have no time for).  I have to find a way to make life carry on for my family.

I’m going to blog my way through all of it, and hopefully connect with others in our community.  I’ll talk about frustrations with the system, with Human Resources, with perceptions of the Long Term Unemployed.  I’ll blog about parenting, entertaining kids for little to no money, clothing them and making them feel as though nothing has changed.  I’ll talk about how hard it is to be present in parenting when you’re under so much stress that you feel like your head will burst at any moment.

I’ll blog a lot about food; I love food, and I love to cook and am the recipient of many generations of resourceful, frugal, and hungry women.  I think of food as medicine, and I have lost 40 pounds with 35 more to go on a fairly strict low-carb, lacto-Paleo diet.  We eat real food that our ancestors (theoretically) ate, and I do not eat any grains, legumes, industrial vegetable oils or sugar (OK, maybe some sugar).  This sort of diet is expensive, but it has reduced my systemic inflammation to what I think of as a sub-threshold and therefore kept my MS in an asymptomatic remission without medications so I’m not giving it up.  I have to figure out how to feed my family healthy food on a budget of zero.

I’ll blog about frustration and anger and  depression and fear.  I’ll talk about my favorite deals online, favorite products, and I want to hear yours.  I’ll blog about my failures and small successes.  We don’t have to be so alone.  We can be in this together.  I’m figuring this all out as I head into the wild.

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