Thursday, January 12

let your heart be light

Can I still say Happy New Year to you all? I wrote 2017 on a bunch of bills today and it felt really strange, but I'm sure it will become automatic soon enough. I had my 26th birthday last week, so as usual, I have the fresh start of a new year mixed with the adjustment of being one year older, and all the hopes and dreams and nostalgia that goes with those days is combined. 

I have several other posts in my drafts that separate different aspects of things I want to start and goals I have for this year, etc, but ever since Christmas I've been I've been keeping a list on my phone of things to give up in 2017. I was chopping carrots in my dirty apron, the snow was falling softly outside the window, and a sweet rendition of 'Have yourself a merry little Christmas' started to play. Tears started coming as I heard the words '...let your heart be light, from now on our troubles will be out of sight.' I thought about how heavy my own heart has felt so often for so long, and how that feeling always accompanies grief and pain and heartache. I thought about the girl I was two years ago, and how light-hearted and happy she was. I know of course that I can never be that girl again, without all these cracks and broken pieces, but I also know that happiness is achieved when we stop waiting for the storm to pass and instead learn to dance in the rain.

So, here is a little list of things to try and give up this year so that we can be happier, to help shed the weight on our hearts, and to have more peace going forward.
  1. Give up our need to impress others.
  2. Give up complaining.
  3. Give up our need for control.
  4. Give up our limiting beliefs. 
  5. Give up our need to always be right.
  6. Give up our self-defeating talk.
  7. Give up blaming others.
  8. Give up our excuses.
  9. Give up the luxury of criticism.
  10. Give up our past.
  11. Give up negative attachments. 
  12. Give up our resistance to change.
  13. Give up labels.
  14. Give up on our fears.
  15. Give up living our lives to other's expectations.
I hope this can be a year for light hearts. I hope you take the time to watch the sun set and the sun rise, and that you let the wind dance in your hair. I hope you see that every minute with those you love is a precious, precious thing. I hope you hold on during those times when life hurts so badly, and you don't know if you'll make it another day. I hope you smile more often, and laugh.. hard enough that you snort or spit out your drink or lose your breath. Laugh until your pain fades-if even for a moment, and your heart feels light and free. 

Here's to the good times ahead :)  *clink*

Oh, and Happy New Year,

Wednesday, December 28

page 1 of 365

     Alright so I literally have 9 different drafts open with posts/thoughts that I've been trying to put together, but this one won for right now:) I want to write a bit about our Christmas in the next blog, but for this one I really really have to start with another bit of gratitude for you guys. Over the last couple of years I've tried to say thank you in so many different ways, and each expression of thanks doesn't do justice to my feelings. No words can manage that. It's indescribable. But I'll keep trying. So Thank You!!!!
     Thank you, thank you so so much for all the love since my last post. Holy moly. I just shook my head in disbelief in the days after, and every day since as more and more of you shared tender thoughts and bits of motivation and encouragement in the comments as well on my Instagram and facebook pages. And the emails and private messages too that have been coming in more and more, just full of incredibly inspiring stories and messages of hope and healing, understanding and faith. I just love you guys so much, and feel such a kinship! We're all on the same journey, we all want the same things, we all have our own demons. We're not alone. Not ever. I want you to know that even though I have more people than myself on my team lately, I still read every single sweet comment here on the blog and on my social media platforms, even though I may not be able to respond individually to each one. They each mean so much to me, and often touch my heart and soul in surprising ways.

     The day that I need to shut off the comments (as some have suggested) is the day I end this blog, because the connection with you guys through our interactions is the driving force behind The Freckled Fox, and always has been. Being able to see a face and to read even a few words from you guys really helps in bringing you to life. And that especially goes for those of you who have seen me in person! Those great hugs and few moments(or sometimes half hours:)) of visiting are so so special to me.

     All that being said, you beauties and your big hearts have given me the confidence/kick in the butt I needed to push the go button on some really exciting things for 2017, and I can't wait to progress forward next year. Opportunities that I never imagined I or my family would have to learn and help and grow and meet and create and explore are opening up, and I just close my eyes and smile with the deep warmth I feel in my heart. I love the idea of January 1st being the blank first page in our new story, all of us, and here we sit, pen in hand (or paint brush or whatever you want *wink*) with 365 more pages to fill.

     Some of those pages might be incredibly beautiful, maybe with the cries of a newborn baby or simply the breathtaking view from somewhere high in the clouds. Some of those pages might be terribly dark and lonely, full of heartbreak and fear, hunger and suffering. Some of those pages will be written for us, but most of them will be filled by us personally. No matter what I do most of my pages will inevitably be filled with stories of dirty diapers, teetering stacks of dishes, missing shoes, tickle piles, and saying "Eat your dinner." over and over. haha But the rest of the space is for me to fill, and I'm going to try and make the story as beautiful and simple and messy as I can.

What do you hope your 2017 will look like?

Thursday, December 15

finding the right thread

Evening my dears. I feel like it's been a while since I've just sat and started writing without a direction in mind or a topic to go on, but this morning Richard encouraged/pushed me down to the office before he headed out, where I sat down and turned on my computer. Looking up from the screen out the window I could see white everywhere from the first big snowfall, which often helps me feel comforted and at peace. I feel a ramble of sorts coming on, and might do a lot of these types of posts for a while if you can handle them alright:)

There's just so much that I want to share in this space. Ever since I can remember I've loved to write. My earliest journals would turn into fantasy tales with Animorphs and elves, or how my sister and I climbed to the top of mount Everest and jumped off onto the clouds. That turned into begging to set up one of my dad's old windows '95 dell desktops in my bedroom when I was in middle school. I'd stay up late writing pages and pages, and I'd save my poems and stories on floppy discs! Remember those? haha I just loved the feeling of the keys under my fingertips, and the soft rhythmic clicking as I opened up the floodgates in my head and let everything rush out onto the paper or the screen. I would often picture it as pulling a loose thread in a sweater and watching it unravel.

There was so much pleasure and relief when I was able to type for hours. I could feel the pressure in my head lessening. I could feel peace settling over my mind like a soft blanket. The challenge was turning every thought into something understandable, doing the feelings justice with my limited vocabulary. English is really restricting sometimes, isn't it?

I had many pen-pals all growing up from all over that I kept in regular touch with, and then, of course I wrote to Richard for several years which help nurture that love of expression through writing. After he and I stopped keeping in touch and I got married, I didn't write much until I was nearly ready to deliver Ellie. I discovered my first blog ever randomly, and after following and exploring, I decided to start sharing my own day-to-day life in journal format online privately. It was a journey into an unknown world, an experiment, but overall an outlet. I was still typing as I had for so many years, but this time it felt like I was doing something special with it, even though nobody could read it at that point. :) Hitting publish just felt so much more official, and extremely scary too. I finally started sharing publicly here nearly five years ago now(some of you remember those days!). It was a great way to share the goings on with my family with any friends and relatives interested, while at the same time giving me a place to share my interests and struggles, adventures in photography and cooking, and things I loved or was learning.

Over the years as more people have come here to visit and stay a while, they(you) joined in my mental picture of friends and family that I was writing to. Tens of thousands of you were coming every day. You would comment on things that affected you or excited you, or even just to give encouragement and support. Always support:) You knew/know more about me than most in some ways, simply because you cared to visit and read, over and over for so long. I started asking for feedback and sharing specific things that you guys were interested in learning more about me and my family, recommendations I could give, and answering your questions about things like my favorite curling irons and shoe brands, etc.

My aim has always been and will always be to uplift and inspire with this blog, while simply trying to be a better me than I was yesterday. I just thought that if I could make even one person's day a little bit better by visiting here, that all the effort would be worth it. All the late late nights of code and emails and cropping, etc. To hear that someone had made my soup for their family, or used one of my hair tutorials on their wedding day was and is, so so incredibly rewarding. Starting to earn money from my blog for my own growing family while typing late at night in my basement (making quilts for my Etsy shop during nap time, remember that?!) and taking pictures of our activities together became such an additional blessing from this blog, one I wouldn't fully appreciate until much later. These days the impact is much greater, as is the pressure.

Had I known as a 19-year-old wife and mother what my life would look like today, I might not have decided to share so much, to open up so much. To be in a position so quickly of affecting so many people positively and sometimes negatively has been such a mix of blessing and burden (much more blessing though I promise:)), but I never planned for my blog to end up here, and I certainly never planned for my life to go this way.

I never planned for my sweetheart to be diagnosed with terminal cancer, or to become the bread winner while taking care of him and our five little ones, day in and day out while he slowly faded for nearly year and a half. I never planned to hand off my babies to friends over and over, and to push Marty in a wheelchair at 9 months pregnant through airport terminals and tarmacs, or to try and explain to our kids why he yelled in pain so much, or why he couldn't walk or play with them. I never planned on him forgetting my name, or to have to put on the best smile I could and tell him with every ounce of hope I could muster that it was absolutely all going to be alright, when I was completely broken inside. I never planned to cling to him while he struggled to breathe, or to beg him to please eat just one more bite.

I never planned to hold tightly to his beautiful soft hand as it turned cold, or to pick out his casket.

I never planned to become a widow at 25, or to try and take care of all the needs of those five kids while being absolutely shattered myself. Trying to play the role of two full parents at once while not even being one whole person. Trying not to collapse with gratitude onto every visitor who came to offer help. I never planned for the isolation of grief, or the waves of depression and anxiety that overtake and bury me so often. I never planned for my 5-year-old to rub my hair and comfort me as I cried against a shelf at the grocery store, surrounded by exhausted and hungry little ones.

I never planned that someone I had cared so deeply for from my past would come along as an answer to so many thousands of prayers on our behalf. That he would ask the kids for their favorite stories of our dear father and husband and happily look through pictures with them. That he would make them grilled cheese, jump on the trampoline with them, zip up their coats, and hold them on his shoulders. I never planned that that man would literally pick me up and carry me when I couldn't stand or function with grief. That he would crouch with us all at Martin's grave every week to lay flowers. That he would love all 6 of us so selflessly and unconditionally. That he would give up so much to help heal my heart, to be a wonderful father figure to the children, and to help us all have some hope and happiness again.

I am so beyond grateful for this place where all our people (that includes you:)) can come to get updates. I'm grateful for all those that could take part in the special and messy and beautiful and hard parts of our lives that couldn't be here in person. Distant family and friends who couldn't meet our new babies in person or manage to come to Martin's funeral, that could still feel included because of the photos and stories I've shared here.

This is my safe place. My family's place. It's not an open platform for negativity or judgment, selfish opinions, and blind assumptions. It's not a place to vent aggression or jealousy after a bad day of work, and that behavior has not and will never be allowed here. So many of you that may have clicked over out of curiosity or word of mouth, but have stayed with tenderness or love in your heart and supported silently or through comments, etc, you're part of that family. It's about trust and love and mutual understanding. Growing and learning and loving and sharing together the real, raw, beautiful, inspiring parts of everyday life.

This is still the same blog that I started years ago. I'm still the same Emily that just wanted to help someone/anyone smile a little more or hope a little more, it's just that now there are more of us in here, and there's more potential. It's not just about new recipes or date ideas or weekend wrap-ups. Martin's warrior story, our family's journey, it's helping to save lives. The fight that we were in and continue in every day, Martin's pain and courage... his faith. People he'll never meet or know about in this life are seeking treatment now and/or are cancer free completely because of the pieces of our story shared here. So many people have come forward to tell me about their journey that started here. That they've saved their marriage, or decided to go forward with starting their family, or that they simply have hope and strength in life and love again. Not because of my typing, but because of our story together. Because of Martin's love and strength, because of my babies' smiles, because of our pain and heartache, because of second chances at love, because of my weakness and frailty. Our humanity, this community:)

So no, I didn't plan any of this to happen when I started blogging, and these feelings of vulnerability, grief, heartache, and fear that have been so heightened since those doctors gave him a few weeks left are stronger than ever now, and honestly they've kept me from typing like this and sharing online over and over again. But it doesn't go away, the need to share. It only builds, and builds, like the growing pressure of a river against a dam. So I'm going to try harder to type more as I've promised so many times in the past. I'm going to try to take more pictures, to share more favorites, to cook more. I'm also going to hope more, and to simply be brave. Not because I expect to make any great difference moving forward or because you need me or my writings at all, but because I need you... now more than ever. I just need to find the right thread, and I think I see it now:)

Thank you so much for reading if you've made it this far, and again, please excuse the rambly posts from here on out:) I hope they make some sense to you kind hearted friends. ♥♥♥

So much love, 

Wednesday, November 30

find your gift

Morning friends:) Do I need to specify that 'it's Emily' now that Richard and I are going back and forth a bit on here? haha Right now I'm sitting in my 'dungeon office' (as I've dubbed it) wrapped in a blanket at my desk. My fingers feel pretty numb as I'm clicking away, but there's a little space heater on the floor pointed at my feet, and I have a little plate of warm apple pie here with me too, so I'm doin alright:)
Well since it's the first day of December (how?!), my mind is moving pretty fast over my mental list of the things I need/want to get done this month. I'm never too hard on myself anymore when I don't get more than one or two(if I'm lucky) things accomplished on that overwhelmingly long list, but instead I try to feel glad that I at least gave it a shot. That's the most important thing right? Because little by little, a little becomes a lot:) I'm just really excited about a fresh new calendar, a clean slate, new chances, new routines, etc. But back to December, and yes Christmas!

I mentioned on IG a few days ago that since the holidays started especially, we've been putting extra effort into daily acts of gratitude with the kids, and also paying it forward and giving back as much as possible. We've talked about different ways we can do service and charity work as a family for our friends and in our community, and to help the kids catch the spirit of giving for Christmas instead of receiving, especially after how much we've been carried by so many for so long. We've talked about possible ways that we can use our own unique talents and resources to give and share and bring help and happiness to others. 
As for actual gift giving, we've decided to simplify as much as possible this year. I've already sat down with the older kids and helped them plan out an idea of what things they could maybe make by hand to give to each other, and Richard and I have talked about what type of gifts might be more meaningful or special than others. Even with starting early on preparing, Thanksgiving day was much harder than I expected, so it feels good to be slowly moving towards Christmas, spreading things out and taking our time to work through every new layer of the holidays. 

I also decided for the blog, that once again I won't be sharing any item collages with affiliate links or 'his and her gift guides' throughout the month, but instead I would like to reach out to a few of my favorite shops and see if I can get you guys discount codes (or possibly even giveaways?) for some of my all-time favorite, tried and true, most loved and used things that I own and would absolutely recommend for yourselves or as gifts. The first on that list that I'm really excited about is Daniel Wellington. 
I bought my first watch from them a couple years ago, and have loved and supported them as a company ever since! In these photos I'm wearing the womens Classic Durham in gold, and Richard is wearing the mens Classic Black Reading in silver. All of their watches are simple, classic, and timeless (no pun intended), and would make such a wonderful gift for anyone at the top of your Christmas list this year. Right now for the holidays they're offering discounts on bundles such as a watch and a strap or a watch and a cuff, they're also offering free shipping, free gift wrapping, and free returns! On top of the bundle discount you can use the code: FRECKLEDFOX which will save you another 15% off your purchase:)

Thanks so much for reading, and I'd love to hear if you're getting a jump on your Christmas shopping too, or any favorite holiday traditions that you have in your family?

Happy Holidays my people,

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.  -David Viscott
A big thank you to Daniel Wellington for sponsoring this post, and to my readers for supporting the brand partnerships that make this blog possible.