Best News!

It was a long day yesterday, but I am not really sure that I ever mentioned that the job I am working at is Temp to Perm.  Meaning, if I work out, the firm will eventually hire me, otherwise if they don’t, my contract expires in 90 days and everyone goes their separate ways and that’s that.

First of all, I am so happy at my job.  Obviously I would love to spend my time in the kitchen, but we all know that isn’t fiscally responsible at this part of my life.  But what I love about my job now is that I am actually busy.  I feel useful.  I wasn’t busy at all at my old job and truth be told, I was worried that my skills had atrophied so much that I might not be able to handle the job.  Um, but who am I kidding – it’s me we are talking about!

But seriously, it’s nice not having to look at the clock to see how many hours it is until I have to leave, rather it’s looking at the clock thinking “I hope I can get it all done before I leave.”  So in the middle of the afternoon, when I was crazy busy and the office manager asked me into her office, my first response was “no.”  I had too much going on, but she said it would only take a minute, so I pulled myself away from my desk and when I got there, she said “come on in and shut the door.”  Fudge Crackers.  Usually that’s not a good sign.  But I am happy to say that they offered me a permanent position starting in January – whoop whoop!

Great salary, great benefits, and I know that I will be happy here. 

So I was happy that I had a big breakfast to hold me through the day because I was so busy that I never even had time to heat up my food.  Okay, that’s not totally true, but you know how you go from feeling hungry, to starving, and then not being hungry anymore?  Yep, that was me.

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No one at work knows of my love of food, or taking pictures of food, or my blog – but after a month at my new office I finally found an empty office to get a decent picture of my breakfast.  Seven ounce potato (which was half!) that I scooped out and scrambled with egg whites, and then when I got to work I nuked it for a couple minutes with 1/4 cup 2% cheddar cheese, topped with chopped spinach and hot sauce – a delicious and filling 7 smart point breakfast.  I ate my cup of grapes on the side throughout the day, but seriously this kept me full for a very long time.

I worked late, Hannah worked late and as I was on the train ride home, she texted me and asked if I wanted to meet her, Jacob and a friend of theirs at a restaurant right near where I get off the train station.  Um, pretty sure I never turn down an invitation like that.

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Yep – crappiest picture ever, but I assure you that that was a delicious cheeseburger on a pretzel bun with blue cheese.  I only ate a few fries, because I opted to have beer on the side of my burger.  I had 23 points left going into dinner, so I am calling it a wash for the day.  I got the smaller 5 ounce burger (vs. the 10 ounce burger!) and I was so hungry, my NSV was not eating every.single.fry on my plate.

Short post today, but I feel good about my new permanent job.  It’s been such an interesting year for me!  And Timehop reminded me that two years ago yesterday was my most favorited post on Instagram:

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The day after Tony’s Memorial, my parents-in-law were already headed back to Florida, but my step-son Joe, his wife Lizz and their friend Natalie invited me to go to Chicago with them.  It seems surreal to me now that I was even up for a trip like that, but it was the best medicine.  You can read all about that day here.   But what I also remember about that day was that my blog friend Courtney and her friend Tia, who I am now friends with in real life, dropped by that morning and brought me homemade soup, and all sorts of goodies.  You can read about that here.   While I knew Courtney, I didn’t know who Tia was, and truth be told, I remember being a mess that morning.  After everyone went home after the memorial, I was by myself.  With a box of wine.  With Youtube where you can go down the worm hole of all things emotional and I am confident I didn’t .take off my makeup that night so my eyes probably looked like raccoon eyes.  I didn’t have any plans (unbeknownst to me!) that Saturday morning.  My brother and his family were headed back to their lives, Hannah and Jacob who had been SO helpful with everything and didn’t blink an eye at any request I had, I told them to go home and just relax.

So when there was a knock on my door, I was like “who the hell is that?”  I had my glasses on.  PJ’s that were probably stained, wearing a shirt that was low cut while not wearing a bra.  I opened my back door to see Courtney and Tia and was so shocked to see them, I blurted out “I am not even wearing a bra” to which Tia responded immediately – “no worries, neither am I!”   I knew we’d get along fine after that response.

So two years from that meeting?  Courtney remodeled her kitchen into her dream kitchen, only to then sell her house and move into another gorgeous home – which I am lucky enough to have Cooking Club at.  And Tia – after YEARS of infertility is pregnant and expecting her first child in early summer.   Again, another reminder that life does go on around you even if I wasn’t ready to move on with my life just yet at the time.  But thankfully, I can look back at friends happy life changes these past couple years and know that I’ll be okay with this new life of mine.  I am starting to feel “settled” if that makes any sense.  Not so much anxiety about how I can go on without Tony, but just trying to be proud of myself for getting this far without him.   

Faith, Joy and Hope

It was another busy day at work – that makes me very happy!  Nothing worse than keep looking at the clock to see how long you have until it’s quitting time.  Usually I’ll just glance up and realize – wow, it’s already 11:45!  My breakfast turned out kinda gross – whatever flour tortillas I had literally fell to pieces right when I cut it, and got worse after I tried to take a bite.  I ended up throwing it all away, which saved me 4 smart points and I just ate the filling of leftover stea, egg whites and cheese with sliced grapefruit on the side.

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I didn’t even ask my peeps if they minded I went to lunch, just sent an email that said “back in an hour” and left it at that.  The benefits of being at a big firm is that there is always someone to fill in if there is an emergency.

Check out my new gym!

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It’s really nice.  Lots of equipment, free weights, weight machines, spin bikes, full showers, locker room, towel service, and it costs me zero dollars.  Yesterday was the second day that I went but each time there have only been a couple people there the same time as me.  It’s open from 6:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. so even worse case scenario I have to work through lunch, I can always hit it up after work and just catch a later train home.

I did a treadmill climb for 2 miles in 30 minutes while I watched Damaris on Food Network.  I actually liked her show a lot – she’s now so thick with the southern charm schtick like when she was on Food Network Star.

Lunch was back at my desk, leftover vegetarian chili (which I promise to post the recipe soon!) with chips and water – I am so much better about drinking my water when I am at a desk. 1.5 cups of my chili is only 6 smart points and a serving of those chips is 4.  I got busy and only ate about 2/3 of the chili ( but all the chips!) so I am calling lunch 8 points.

We forgot to run the dishwasher the night before last, and we had a sink full of dishes.  Hannah told me not to worry about it because she’d clean the kitchen yesterday before I got home from work AND she said she’d make dinner – sweet!

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Huh.  Oh, that must mean that the kadults are napping – at 6:45 p.m.  The only light on in the whole house.  So I changed my clothes, turned on some lights and figured out what to make for dinner.  Jacob ended up having leftover sausage with rice.  Hannah made vegetarian nachos with cilantro rice and well, as soon as I found some leftover pizza dough that had to be used up, pretty much decision made that I would be having Party Pizza Monday.

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I have no portion control if I make a big pizza, so I made this 9 inch individual pizza.  Three ounces dough (8) 1/4 cup 2% Kraft shredded cheese (2), no sugar added tomato sauce with herbs (0) 1/2 ounce Cabot’s cranberry goat cheese (2), then once it came out of the oven, I topped with chopped romaine and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.  12 smart points for the whole thing and so filling.

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Loved all the contrasting flavors – salty from the cheese, sour from the goat cheese, sweet from the cranberry and balsamic glaze – pizza perfection.

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I’ve been slowly brining out my snowmen to decorate the house.  It’s weird because Tony never let me decorate before December 15 and wanted everything put away on January 1.  Bah humbug!

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Extreme close up!  Ha – I’ve been wearing these snowman earrings pretty much every day since Thanksgiving.  Not exactly sure what I am looking at?!

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While this is my favorite snowman of all time, these are a close second.   These were sent to me by my blog friend Janine of Skippy Mom.   She was such a dear blog friend to me.  When she sent me these snowman the first Christmas after Tony died when I talked to her to tell her thank you, she asked if they all made it there in one piece.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that one of them broke, but it didn’t matter to me – it was the thoughtfulness that counted.  She loved snowmen just as much as me, and she was such a nice life support after Tony died.  She was sick too, and sleep was evasive, and I could call her up at 2 a.m. if I was having a bad night or couldn’t fall asleep and she always answered.  Who knew that the first Christmas without Tony would also be her last.  I tried to see her the summer before she died, but her husband said she didn’t want to see me, because she was so frail.  I was in Virginia and it was only an hours drive to where she lived, but she promised me we’d meet someday.

When I was having all the construction done on the living room that summer and into fall, my answering machine was unplugged.  I didn’t really care because no one ever calls my land line anyway, and if they did it was usually a telemarketer.  I’d been trying to convince Janine to let me do a Go Fund Me for her and her family to take a vacation that summer, but she was too proud to take the help.  I remember her telling me that summer that all she wanted to do was put her feet in the sand and feel the sun on her face. 

I finally plugged in the answering machine in on November 3, 2015.  It made all sorts of beeping noises and while it didn’t save any messages, I saw that I had missed seven messages from Janine from August through September.  I am not sure if she was so weak that she couldn’t figure out which was my land line or my cell phone.  I had called her the day Tony died from my house phone so maybe that’s why she had it.  I jumped on Facebook to see if I could reach her only to find out that she had passed that very day.  Her husband had called me about a month before she died because she had all the same symptoms that Tony had – they both had congestive heart failure but for different reasons. 

I am kind of rambling here, but when I pulled these snowmen out of the box, I just instantly thought of her and again, am realizing at how short life is.  So that’s my mantra for this holiday season:  FAITH, JOY AND HOPE!  I couldn’t think of another way to honor her memory, and of course, our love of snowmen.  Open-mouthed smile

Thank you!!

Thank you to everyone who sent me a comment on my last post, or sent me a text or instant message on Facebook.  I felt all the virtual hugs on the second Anniversary of Tony’s passing, and it’s because of all of you that I was able to get through the day.  That, and I was actually super busy at work on Friday.  My boss was out of town so I thought I wouldn’t have much to do, but I got assigned an associate, and she was busy and I did some overflow work.  I did finally get into the office gym, and I’ll show some pics on another post, but for a free gym, it’s really nice!  I even left work late and texted Hannah and Jacob that I’d be home later than usual, when Hannah asked me if I wanted to meet her for pizza out.  Um, you don’t have to ask me twice!

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They had Fat Tire on tap for $4 – um, yes please.  This was the local restaurant that Tony and I use to frequent often, and every time I’ve gone in since Tony died the owners seeks me out, gives me a big hug and asks how I am doing.  It was nice.  Jacob stayed home with the dogs because they had been alone most of the day and we brought him back a burger.  We ended up sharing a table with a nice couple because the place was so busy – I sat at a six top and since it was just Hannah and me, we said they could sit on the other end of the table.  Turns out their daughter was one of the servers there and it was just a nice relaxing evening.  I went to sleep content.  Not going to lie though, some of your comments that I read during work when my phone alerted there was a comment, almost brought me to tears, but in a good way if that makes any sense. 

When I got home Hannah had flowers, a card, a bottle of wine and a necklace as a gift.  So sweet – thanks Hannah!

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I went to bed pretty early on Friday night, because I was working the One of A Kind Show at the Merchandise Mart.  Holy balls, I had no idea how big this event was, and kept thinking how much my Mom and Aunt Martha would love going to this event – no wonder it’s 4 days long because it would literally take you 4 days to see the 600 different vendors there, from all over the world!

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We were in the 1000 row, but the rows went all the way to 8000.  This was how it looked when the vendors were setting up.  Not fifteen minutes after the doors opened, this was what I saw:

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I got a lunch break at 1:30 and went to the food court on the second floor of the Mart.  Not going to lie, my legs were going to the Billy Goat burger line – the burgers smelled really good and I haven’t had a Billy Goat burger in the longest time.  But I stuck with my guns and got a spicy chicken salad at a Mediterranean place – I don’t even remember the name of it, but it wasn’t very good.  It was a “build your own” bowl kind of place.  I got brown rice on the bottom, “spicy” chicken, topped with choice of veggies and greens and dressing, which I got the tahini dressing.

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I am not sure how a fast casual restaurant was able to make every ingredient of a salad taste exactly the same.  The rice had no flavor, no seasoning, the chicken, which you can barely see, was so finely chopped that it utterly dry, not spicy at all (Christine, you’ll be happy to know that I on my last 10 packs of the sriracha packets you sent me 2 years ago when Tony was in the hospital – sriracha to the rescue!) and the tahini sauce didn’t taste like anything.  Such a drastic difference from the Roti salad I got last week near my office – that salad was so flavorful!

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There wasn’t enough time to even get my money back, but note to self – never go back there.

It was a long day.  I left at 8:00 on Saturday morning and didn’t get home until 7:00 p.m. The city looks so pretty at night.

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It was another early night on Saturday because I was doing a pasta shop class in the morning.  My shift started at 9:00 and it was a three hour class.  It was full (20 people!) so there was a lot of mis en place I had to do, but we knocked it out.  I actually stopped at 7-11 on my way to work to pick up a string cheese, yogurt and fruit.  I ate the cheese and fruit for breakfast while I was getting everything together – the fruit was actually really good and not bad at $4.29 for a 16 ounce container.

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Chef Lisa was in charge of the pasta shop.  She has such a passion for food, and teaching – especially food from her Italian heritage. 

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Since it was such a big class and all the stoves were used, it did take three of us a full 90 minutes to clean the kitchen up.  It been snowing a bit during the class but didn’t seem too bad.  That’s because the temperature was around 37 degrees in the city and it was mostly slush and rain when I left work.

Well, the further I started driving west to where I live, the thicker the snow was coming down and the slower the traffic got.  It took me nearly 2 1/2 hours to get home from work. 

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I didn’t mind though.  I had the holiday Christmas station on and sang really loud in the car on the drive home.  It’s our first snow of the season, which is very unusual for Chicago – looks like we probably got 6 inches?

I still haven’t done a full grocery shop since I worked all weekend, and made a quick pit stop at Jewel to hit up their 50% off meat bin.  As luck would have it, they had t-bone steaks on sale for $5.99 a pound – usually they are $11.99 a pound!   So I bought one for me and one for Jacob – we both ended up with leftovers because these were nearly a pound each.  I think I may be having a steak and egg white omelet for breakfast today.

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I actually didn’t eat anything but my string cheese and fruit until dinner, so I was really hungry – I am sure I didn’t even hit 20 points yesterday, which left me for points for the wine Hannah bought me Open-mouthed smile

I hope everyone had a great weekend – have you started Christmas shopping yet?  I’ve only bought two gifts so far, so I need to get a plan together.  Working 7 days a week doesn’t leave much time.  But the kadults and I are going to focus on the meaning of Christmas and not all the stuff.  My Mom is going to my brothers for Christmas, so it might just be the three of us Christmas day which would be amazing.  We could just lounge around, drink lots of coffee, stay in our jammies and watch movies all day. 

Alright, time to get this show on the road – happy Monday – make it a great day!

Two Years. . .Seasons of Love

I’ve obviously thought about this post for a while, but decided to write it off the cuff. 

I vividly remember the night before Tony died.  For some reason I didn’t want anyone with me.  I told my Mom, my brother and his family, my parents in law, Hannah and Jacob to all go home – get some rest.  The hospice nurse had told me that he could last anywhere from 3-6 weeks without a functioning kidney because he wasn’t eating or drinking anything.  It was December 1st and I remember thinking how I was going to juggle work, his parents in town, etc. for what could be well into 2015.  But I knew I’d figure it out. 

What I really regret was that when Tony was still speaking to me and coherent, just a mere week before he died – I still didn’t believe he was going to die.  We’d get through it.  I wanted him to just rest and sleep and we’d talk when he got better.   There would be plenty of time!

But on December 1, 2014, with the house all quiet, and me sleeping on pillows below his hospital bed because I wanted to be so close in case he needed me, when he actually hadn’t moved for a couple days, I spent a good two hours talking to him. I told him that I loved him to the moon and back. I told him that I was so happy to have been married to my best friend.  That he was sometimes an asshole because he wasn’t always right even when he thought he was…. ALL.THE.TIME.  I talked about how me met, and how lucky we were that we had two healthy kids.  How the reason I even responded to the comment he left on my online ad was that he was proud to be Italian but had two separate eye brows and no back hair – it made me laugh out loud.  Don’t worry Bonnie (my MIL) I always reminded him that he was half French Canadian.

I knew I wasn’t going to get a verbal response, but I just kept talking.  I didn’t know if he was actually here or not, so I just.kept.talking.  Finally at about two in the morning, I realized that I was going to have a house full of people the next day, and willed myself to pull myself away from him and get some rest.  It wasn’t until I got on my tippy toes to lean over to kiss him that I saw tears streaming down his face.  I’ve not told that to anyone, because I wanted that memory for me.  I wonder if he wished he could have said something to me – but in the end it didn’t matter.  I knew he heard me.  I know he loved me.  He always told me that he could never live without me, and that if he died first I would end up okay.

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And surprisingly, as I finish the second year without him, I think I will by okay.  It’s been a weird two years without him, but also the most adventurous I’ve had in my life.  From quitting my job, doing the farmers markets over the summer, to finding my dream job at The Chopping Block, only to realize that I can’t live off of that income, to coming full circle working back at a law firm.

But it’s different this time.  I love working in Chicago.  Love being close to my sister so that we can meet for lunch or walks.  Also surprisingly loving the “routine” of having a 9-5, but still keeping my foot in the door at The Chopping Block.  In some weird way, it was all meant to be.

Do you guys remember the musical Rent?  OMG, Tony hated musicals with a passion.  He always reminded me that when I wanted to see a musical he said “that’s why you have a mother, sister and a daughter.”   I saw that years ago, but yesterday I was reminded of one of the songs from that musical “Seasons of Love.”  There are 525,600 minutes in a year.  And if you were to count all the seasons of love Tony and I had together that would be 4 seasons a year x 14 years so 56 seasons of love!

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles
In laughter, in strife

In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life

How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love
Seasons of love
Seasons of love

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Journeys to plan
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure the life
Of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned
Or in times that he cried
In bridges she burned
Or the way that he died

It’s time now to sing out
Tho’ the story never ends
Let’s celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends

Remember the love
Remember the love
Remember the love
Measure in love
Measure, measure your life in love

So I choose to remember the love today.   Hug your spouse, hug your kids.  I hope you choose to measure your life in love Open-mouthed smile

Smoque BBQ

I am somehow managing to put stuff together to eat with what we have on hand.  Once I get past Wednesday without having to make a trip to the grocery store for a full grocery shop, it becomes a game to see how long I can actually go.  I just worry about myself, not the kadults.  They can fend for themselves if they don’t want to eat what I put together.  😀

I bought a dozen apples on the $1 rack (which by the way, I am going to have to call the $1.50 rack because they upped the prices!) so I have no idea what kind of apple this is.  I love the sweet/tart flavor, but it’s a bit pithy.  Not sure because it’s on the verge of being rotten, or if that’s just what type of apple it is.  BUT, I would take a bit of apple, a bit of cheese and wrap it in the ham and spinach for the ultimate sweet/tart bite.  Love picky plates.

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My boss wasn’t going to be in the office until mid-afternoon and my blood sugar was only 82 when it was lunch time.  I made a quick call to my sister to see if she wanted to meet for lunch and we were good to go.  We walked until we met each other half way, then decided to go to Revival Food Hall.  So many choices!   We decided on Smoque BBQ.  While my sister doesn’t cook a lot of beef or pork because of her family (well, and her!) being picky, we decided to split the chopped brisket on top of a slice of white bread, the jalapeno smoked sausage, pickles, pickled jalapenos, a side of their BBQ beans and two diet cokes.

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The person behind the counter asked if we wanted to pick out our four complimentary BBQ sauces, or let him pick them.  We let him pick them, and I have to say, I loved each one for different reasons.  That Luling Sauce on the bottom right was a mustard based BBQ sauce – swoon.  But I have to say my favorite was the Carolina sauce – thin and vinegary – you know, just like me!  (ha!)

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Both meats were delicious.  The brisket was tender, juicy and had the burnt ends which I love.  The jalapeno sausage actually wasn’t too spicy, but mixed with that mustard BBQ sauce, winning!  We split the tray (she paid – thanks Jenn) and I figured out the points on my app on the walk back to my office.  15 points for half.  And while that may seem like a lot, back in the day we each would have gotten one of those trays, so that’s a step in the right direction.  And life is too short not to have BBQ brisket, am I right?!

I actually thought I might not even be hungry for dinner, but who am I kidding?!  We ate a bit later, and I fixed the grilled chicken salads I had planned the night before last before the train delay.  Jacob isn’t a fan of taco seasoning, so we all decided that lemon pepper on the chicken would be delicious, and that was a good choice.  I have had this recipe pinned for the spicy cilantro lime dressing alone.   The only thing I did was reduce the mayo to 2 tablespoons and it came out to 2 smart points per 2 tablespoons.

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Awful food photography, but this was straight up delish.  And I had 9 smart points left for dinner and this came in at exactly 9 points.  I think Hannah could eat beef if I drizzled this cilantro dressing over the top!

I cannot believe it’s December 1.  It’s the first time in the longest time that I can remember that we haven’t had a lick of snow before December.  Now I probably jinxed myself and we’ll have a blizzard next week.

I still don’t have access to the new gym yet, it’s in the hands of the office of the building, and I may have to be a squeaky wheel about that – while I don’t mind walking when it’s in the 40’s, walking around in the 30s with the wind chill off the lake isn’t that fun.

Alright, let’s do this – make it a great day!

99 Luftballons

Sorry for the late post.  For the second time in as many weeks, someone committed suicide on my train line.  Last night the train stopped indefinitely 20 miles from my stop.  Luckily Hannah was just finishing up work and drove the 40 mile round trip to picked me up.  It was right around the time Jacob got off of school so we did an impromptu dinner out.  By the time I got home it was 10:00, I stayed up late enough to watch The Voice on the DVR and hit the hay.

THANK YOU for all the wonderful comments, Facebook messages and texts and virtual hugs from yesterdays post.  It means more to me than you’ll ever know and I will be forever grateful and know I will look back on them in the days, weeks and months to come.  And I am sorry if I scared some of you with the blog post title that I may be giving up blogging – nope, you are stuck with me until who knows when?! 😀

My step-son just sent me this video, that I totally forgot I had on my YouTube channel.   This actually made me smile and laugh when I saw it – it was taken in March of 2011.

Hope you enjoy!  I know that Tony and our dog Ed are happy to be together again.  Make it a great day!

The Last Post

The last post that I wrote before Tony passed away was a mere seven days before he died.  I ended that post with this:

“I just wish Tony was home where he belongs, yelling at me from the living room “what smells like ass?!” when I cook Indian food in the kitchen while he’s watching Sunday football.  I want my life back.  I know it will get there, but I know we have a long road ahead of us.  I know Tony will appreciate all the comment on here and on Instagram when he can read them, so thank you to the moon and back for the support these last few weeks.”

When I read that paragraph, the one sentence that jumps out at me is “I want my life back.”  As much as used to internally complain about just sitting at home watching t.v. while Tony fell asleep at 7:30 p.m., I would literally go back to that life in a second.  I guess the saying is true, you don’t truly know what you miss until it’s gone.

I am really writing this post for me.  I’ve been reading my posts from November 2014, mainly because I don’t really remember all the details of that time.   In November 2018 I want to look back at November 2016 and remember what I was feeling two years after Tony died, and not that I just ate a flat bread breakfast sandwich.   I have to stop thinking about the what ifs, if I should have made different decisions about Tony’s care.

And while I know that life goes on, it feels as if I’ve had one foot permanently in the past like it’s in quicksand and one of these days I need to realize that it’s okay to leave the shoe in the quicksand and pull my foot out and keep walking.

“Until you heal the wounds of your past, you are going to bleed. You can bandage the bleeding with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with work, with cigarettes, with sex, but eventually, it will all ooze through and stain your life.  You must find the strength to open the wounds, stick your hands inside and pull out the core of the pain that is holding you in your past, the memories, and then make peace with them.”  Iyanla Vanzant