March 30, 2014


I remember walking into a grocery store for the first time by myself after Emmett's death.  I felt like I was in a dark cloud; I was filled with anxiety. I couldn't understand why my body seemed to lock up when it came to the day-to-day tasks. Things that seemed so simple, just months before, now were almost impossible for me to do. I started out on the cereal aisle, hoping that my love for that food group would help ease my apprehensions about grocery shopping.
 The moment I went to reach for my favorite box of cereal, my heart stopped. The box fell out of my hands and onto the floor.  I looked around, luckily I was alone on the aisle. I fell down to the ground and began to sob. What the heck was wrong with me? I felt weak, like thinking about preparing food was a sedative for my soul.  It didn't make sense. I had always loved planning meals and cooking for my family.
Once I finally picked myself off the floor, and caught my breath, I stumbled my way out of the front doors of the store and got back into my car. It was too much. I had no idea why, but something about shopping for food and preparing for my families' meals was too much for my heart to take.
Another day as I anticipated making a meal, I felt the same uneasy feeling. I walked into my pantry and glared at the boxes of food. They looked like mountains, and I had no idea where to begin to climb.  I became very overwhelmed and tears started to swell in my eyes.  I walked into the pantry and slammed the door behind me.  The light automatically turned off when the door was shut, so now it was just me alone in the dark.
Again, I fell to the ground, but this time in the darkness. I said a silent prayer, "Heavenly Father . . . why can't I do this? Why am I so scared of cooking, and cleaning? The thought of preparing a meal sends me into a full-on anxiety attack. I want to be a good mom; I want to be able to do the things I have always done.  I am SCARED!  I am broken.  Why is this such a struggle for me? Will it ever go away? When am I going to be normal again?"
I closed my eyes, even though it was dark, and the tears continued to fall. I had no idea where I was going to go to get help with an illness that seemed to be plaguing my mind.

In a brainspotting therapy session, a few weeks later, everything began to make more sense.  During my session LJ asked me to close my eyes and through a series of techniques he employed, the path to my fear became very clear.
My mind took me back to the night Emmett died. I had spent hours that day trying to make everything just perfect; I had put all the energy I had left into making his favorite food. In my mind’s eye, I saw him walking in the door. He didn’t even look at his dinner. He never took one bite; he never said how grateful he was for my sacrifices in the kitchen that day. I pictured every pot I stirred, and every crumb I put into serving bowls. I could see his face as he sat there with his arms folded and his cell phone in his hand. I could almost hear the phone ring and I watched him go answer it in our bedroom. I saw the look in his eye as he told me he was going to Walgreens. I could hear the words that the detectives spoke.  Dead. Affair. Alone. Kandi. Rob. Gun. It was like I was living the whole night again.
As my tears burned my cheeks, I began to understand why I had developed a fear of cooking for my family: cooking had become a trigger of the emotions that had consumed me that day . . . and a purposed catalyst, in my head, for the chaos that followed.  It began to make sense. The thought of preparing food was overwhelming because somewhere inside me it was directly linked to the tragedy that followed.

Cooking was a battle that I felt I would never win; it was a reminder of every pain that had become a part of me. I hadn't lost my desire to feed my family because I didn't love them anymore, but I couldn't bare the pain, or face the heartbreak my mind told me might follow.

I longed to step back in time to the days when our favorite meals had brought us so much joy. All food, in some way, reminded me of a memory. I can remember we spent an entire day during the law school years—before Kaleeya was bornmaking Kalua Pork for our entire ward party.  Emmett had the whole thing down to a science. We had many ovens going all day long. I did exactly what he told me to, and by the end of the party the whole barn-full of people were fed and happy.
Every night of our marriage Emmett would laugh at me as I crunched down a bowl of cereal before bed. It was an on-going ritual that was a constant in my routine. I couldn't go to sleep without a full belly. He always joked that I was like a newborn baby with my need for constant snacks and midnight meals.
Every New Years we always made prime rib; it was delicious, juicy, and perfect every time. Anyone who ever took a bite, could taste the passion for its flavor that Emmett craved. He sold his favorite foods to any ear that would listen; everyone within the sound of his voice would be talked into eating it. He could have sold a red popsicle to a lady in a wedding dress. If he liked it, he wanted to share its perfection with everyone he knew. He would talk about my cooking to strangers . . . like it was a masterpiece. There was a time in our marriage when he bragged to co-workers about his lunches, and took them my goodies to enjoy. He wrote down my recipes for people at the grocery store; and begged me to make his favorites for Christmas presents.  His excitement for the creations that came out of my kitchen gave me a silent drive to keep inventing.
We had so many memories that were centered around our favorite foods, and all of the sudden these positive meals and yummy snacks were blaring in my face the fact that Emmett would never enjoy them with me again, but also that these foods—which had once meant so much to our marriage—had failed me. 

 Most of the time as I drove to the grocery store, or sat in my pantry, I longed to get the memories back. The fear of the pain that would follow stopped me in my tracks every time I went to turn on a stove burner or open the fridge. I didn't want the reminder that he was gone, and I certainly didn't want to open the floodgates for my fears to come true again. Somewhere inside my head, cooking food and creating my concoctions, would ultimately lead me back to the hurt that still baked inside of me.

One day, after I had just about lost my mind with my anxieties about cooking, I went to see my bishop, the ecclesiastical leader of my church. I told him about my troubles and the strain they were having on me as a mother. He sat quietly and listened to me sob; I could tell he was baffled as to how to help my broken despair. Finally he looked at me and said, "I want you to read a scripture tonight. It is Ether 12:27. Read it as often as you need to.  I think it will be a great reminder for you on the days when you feel so weak."
He wrote down the reference and then offered to give me a blessing. When the blessing was over I headed home. That night, after my kids were in bed, I read its words over and over:

     27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them theiraweakness. I bgive unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my cgrace is sufficient for all men that dhumble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make eweak things become strong unto them.

 I hadn't spent any time on the thought that this weakness could one day be made strong.  I thought maybe I had given it all I had, and my chance to overcome it had passed. I had not realized that this weakness, which seemed to consume me daily, could one day become my strength.

 On our first date, Emmett and I spent a lot of our evening talking about our pasts. He told me about his mission, and all that he had learned while he was in Brazil. I could tell he had been an amazing missionary; he had worked his butt off for the people with whom he came in contact with. I loved hearing stories about the people; I enjoyed hearing about the special spirits he had baptized.  One thing I will never forget from that night was when he told me about the day his mission was over. He had a long release meeting with his mission president talking about all the accomplishments of his two years. He said the final counsel his president gave him was that he should spend his life living the standards he had learned. He reminded him that Satan would work hard on him and try to minimize the importance of fighting for the light every day. Emmett's mission president asked him to work hard to continue on the mission he had begun there in Brazil, and to never remove the spiritual armor he had worn those last two years.
That counsel, in my young twenty year old mind, was exactly what I wanted my future husband to be doing: fighting every day, alongside me, to win the battles that seemed to make us weak.
Emmett's mission president is right. We cannot think that because we sacrificed, for a time, that all the hard parts have come to an end. Just because you work hard for years to become an amazing missionary, doesn't mean that the rest of your life will come easily, or even naturally.  The mission might have taught you much and helped you learn about sacrifice . . . but it was just the first step to the faith that you will have to fight for every day.

Life is full of moments we think we have reached the height of our mountains, and the glide downhill is all we have left to steer.

When I was finally coming close to delivering Tytus I knew exactly how my birthing experience would go.  I would fight nurses all day to let me do everything naturally.  They would beg me to get an epidural, after hours of no progression, and I would finally give in.  My body always seemed to be the same; the desires inside my head to have a natural birth would always make way for the fact that I wouldn't dilate past a "3" and would need an epidural to continue on.
Walking into my birthing room that day I decided I would put aside my bull-headedness and just let them know up front that I would have to get an epidural.  I asked them to let me buy a little time by administering some pain meds in my IV.  They did so, and the next thing I remember was waking up with an urge to push.  The IV meds had knocked me out; I had been sleeping for a long time.  I looked over to Emmett, who was sitting next to me, and said, "Babe, I think it is time. Did they give me an epirdural yet?"
They had not; but within minutes I found myself surrounded by medical staff and I was pushing our baby into the world.  My intense desire to have a natural childbirth had finally come, but not as a fight . . .  as a surprise! After three other labors ending in a forced epidural, I was excited to have the chance to get my wish.  I looked over at Emmett.  He looked a little nervous, which scared me. For all the other births he had been the cool cucumber who calmed my doubts. The look in his eyes made me begin to doubt my ability to handle the pain. I kept looking to him for reassurance that I could do this.   He tried hard to engage, but I could see in his eyes that his mind was somewhere else. I tried hard to ignore his glances to his phone; I purposefully looked away when I felt like I should ask him where his heart was. The man who usually seemed so proud and present, looked like he was a hundred miles away.
When the pushing got intense, I began to question why anyone in their right mind would do this without the drugs that had been forced on me all those times before.  I was in so much pain, it was like a hot piece of metal was trying to make its way out of me. I tried hard to focus on my breathing and ignore the pain. I am not sure which was worse: the pain of giving birth, or the pain that the man standing by my side was nowhere to be found.
As the baby's head and shoulders came all the way out, the doctor handed ME his arms and let me pull him the rest of the way toward me. Emmett had always been the one to do that in the past; he never missed an opportunity to be the one to deliver the baby, so I had never been the first to hold one of our babies. It was amazing to grab onto my little infant and pull him onto my lap.

I didn't realize then how symbolic this experience would become for me. Emmett didn't hold Tytus as he took his first breath, and he wouldn't get to see many more of the breaths our baby boy would take. Tytus was a light for me. He was my breath of life in many ways. That moment I held him on my chest and watched him take his first breathe will forever be imprinted in my mind. He needed me in every way; without me he wouldn't have a life, and yet . . . he was the one that, just six weeks later, would become the reminder for me to breath and keep living.

That night, that moment of pure pain, felt like an unimaginable hurdle that seemed too high to jump. I had never experienced the excruciating pain of childbirth as I did that day. It felt like one of the weakest and yet strongest moments of my life. I doubted my ability to persevere and continue on. Then when I held that little boy in my arms, I knew without a doubt that all the pain I had endured was worth the fight.

My mission to bring Tytus into the world was just the first step of many hard things I would be asked to do as his mother.  It would have been easy to think that all the pain and hardships of being a parent had passed. I had, after all, endured excruciating pain for him. It was hard, and it took great sacrifice to go through for him, but my selflessness was not over. It was not the pinnacle of the pain I would overcome as a parent, but just an initiation for becoming his mom.

We will have rights of passages: becoming a spouse, becoming a parent, becoming a professional, serving a two-year mission. But those things are just that . . . the first steps to a long journey of hard work. Tytus’ birth was not the end of the pain it would take to be his mom, but it was the obstacle I overcame to prove to God I would do whatever it takes to be the best mom I could be for him, no matter how hard it hurt.
 Our relationships, our lives, our moments . . . they have been hard. They have brought us to our knees. In one way or another, we are all weak, we are alone, and we are afraid. We try to overcome the death of our loved ones; we struggle to deal with rejection from someone who no longer loves us. We fight to see where our paths of pain will lead us. We try to understand why our weaknesses seem to hold us down.
 For those of you who have served a mission for your church, or had a calling or an assignment at work that put you through years of strain . . . your mission, your assignment, was not the end of the work you must do. The hard times when you struggled to do your best—no matter who you were doing them for—are not over. Your mission to fight for the next journey has not come to an end . . . and neither was my mission of doing hard things as the mother of this household. I had to work every single day to put my life in His hands and become the tool I was capable of being. Tytus’ birth, when I didn't get the epidural, was damn hard . . . but the work and pain I was asked to bear wasn't over when he was out and my body’s pains were done. That was just the first step of my journey as his parent.

Life is not over when we stand at our crossroads. It has only begun. Before the Emmett died, I truly thought the hardest days in my life had come. They had not. Make every day a little more meaningful than the last. Read a little more faithfully, be a little more patient. Laugh. Smile. Hug. And live the life you always wanted by fighting the things that will tear you down. The hard parts aren't over, but each battle you win, is a hurdle you jump as you show God the gracefulness at which you fall down at His feet. Keep up the good fight. It isn't over until it's over, and until then . . . may God be with you, and always inspire you to keep your armor on. We win battles against evil by fighting them every day. Keep on the armor of God. Never let go of the shield that blocks out the world. Even when your arm gets tired . . . keep holding it up. Even if you feel your days to hold your armor up seem like they have passed. Don't take it off, for anyone or for anything. Today might have been hard, but today still needs you to fight, love and learn for tomorrow.
We are weak. As humans, we have learned that there have been many before us who have been willing to fall for anything. Complete nations have fallen for power; kingdoms have been overturned because of selfishness. Many have fallen fighting, and others have fallen because of their weaknesses. When one falls, another is born and takes his place. Some see it as the circle of life, that we all have to be born, and we all have to die. It is true that we will all pass on, and someday death will end at our last breath . . . but we don't have to fall. You have had times of strength, and you have been burdened with times of weakness. Let those weaknesses be a reminder of the strength for which you are still fighting. They will try to hold you down, but use them to lift you higher.
You may feel overwhelmed, that this weakness will never end; that it will always rob you of the carefree days that you crave. There is a way out of the tired soul that is pulling at your ankles and wrapping its dreary burdens on your shoulders. Christ died to help you make the weak things that torment you, one day become the strengths that carry you.
He gave me this weakness of fearing my kitchen as an opportunity for me to turn to Him and make it one of my strengths again. 
The events that shaped the days of my past had created memories that held me hostage from living my future. Just like the pain of childbirth tried to get me to doubt my abilities as a mother for my son, my past tried to sprout doubts for my future.
We are not just as good as our pasts; we have the strength to overcome them. The years may have left a hole in your heart . . . but the future can bring the strength that will repair it.

"I give unto men weakness that they may see my good works and glorify their Father who is in Heaven."

Glorify Him. Humbly ask of Him to see His good works; they are all around you. Look for the light that is there, even in your darkest days. As you see Him, and ask with a sincere heart, and with real intent, He will show you where your weaknesses can become your strengths. I testify that this promise made to us by our loving Father in Heaven is real. I have seen it in my own life. I have fasted and I have prayed that my weaknesses and my fears would be calmed. I have been given strength inside of myself to overcome the trials I have been presented, and when my own was not enough . . . I have felt his strength pulling me over the hurdle that tried to knock me on my back.
 Sometimes my strength has come in the form of humility, in getting professional help for my struggles. Other times, it has merely been an “aha moment” on my knees in my closet.

 Humility and aha moments come in many forms. Even in parenting, what is inspiration for one mom is different from the next. Some moms get to show their love for their babies raising them all their lives. Other moms have died trying to prove their love through childbirth. Then there is a group of woman who get to show the love for their babies by letting them go. Not one of these ways of love is weak; raising a baby takes strength . . . but so does letting one go. Coming to terms with the fact that you cannot be the parent that baby deserves, can be a life-changing selfless act that a mother does out of love. Selflessness is not weak; selflessness is a strength.

Weakness is selfishness; weakness is breaking others to make yourself feel better. But sometimes our weaknesses are out of our control. Some might read of my fight in the grocery store and in my pantry as a weak, selfish act that I could have snapped out of easily. I can, with every cell of my body, tell you . . . my weakness had all the power in those moments. I had no idea of how to snap out of the state of panic I was in.
Next time you stand in line at the pool for the high diving board, and the little teenage girl in front of you has almost dropped to her knees in panic . . . try to remember that there may be more to her fear than just a selfish desire to piss you off. Maybe her anxiety to take that leap runs deeper than any pain you have ever encountered in your life. Somewhere inside her little mind, that leap may mean a remembrance of a hurt that buried itself inside of her long ago . . . which hasn't been set free.

We all walk around with smiles, but a lot of the time, inside we are weak. We want to know that we are safe, and sometimes we don't even know what that looks like. When you feel like your weakness is eating you alive, turn to the one source who knows exactly how you feel. Maybe the people in line behind you—as you cry for help on that high dive—have no idea what pain your screams hold . . . but Christ does. He hears the hidden messages in every fear you face and in every moment that has found you paralyzed in your pain.

 Remember the counsel of Emmett's mission president. It is not over. Your time to fight Satan will never end. Keep on the armor that protects you and never let him find your achilles heel. He waits patiently for those weaknesses to win, so he can step in and rip you to shreds.

 I know that if Emmett had a voice today he would testify to anyone within the sound of his words—just like he did all those times about his favorite foods—"Fight the darkness. Live the life and be the person you want to die as. Your chance to search for light is right now, your time to see the goodness you have . . . is lying in front of you. Please take it. Don't wait for tomorrow to let go of the weakness that will make you fall for anything. Turn to Christ for strength when Satan finds your vice. He will use it to destroy you. You do not have to be weak. You do not have to fall. Fall to your knees and let a power greater than darkness make you strong."
Turn to him when you are the weak thing that needs strength; He will make YOU strong.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for being vulnerable and willing to share you journey. So many lives have been changed because you chose to be open.

Anonymous said...

EXACTLY what I needed to hear tonight. I'm going to read and reread that scripture myself. I have been struggling with the sometimes overwhelming task of being a mom to 4 young kids. I'm hard on myself and have felt like I'm failing a lot lately. This is just what I needed to hear. Thank you!

.candace. said...

Beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. This is just so incredibly inspirational. I love that you've chosen to share so others may be helped.

.candace. said...

Beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. This is just so incredibly inspirational. I love that you've chosen to share so others may be helped.

Anonymous said...

Your words and thoughts have helped me face my own challenges and trials, thank you. Sending prayers to you and your family.

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Terrie B said...

Such a sweet photo of Em and Tytus. Priceless now.

Would you have loved him anyway if you knew it would end this way, Ashlee? That's a great topic for a blog I'm waiting for.

I'm loving your story. Again, thank you for sharing.

Kari said...

I needed to hear this today. I needed to be reminded that my weaknesses that has overcome me can be made into strengths through Christ. Thank you for sharing your story and messages of faith. They have inspired me to pull myself up out of my misery and see the good around me.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. So much.

Katie A. said...

Thank you for this blog post. It has been an answer to my prayers and has gotten me thinking more about things that I need to chang in which I didn't know how. You are a beacon of light!

Anonymous said...

I look forward to your posts. I have a confession...I kinda skip thru some of it because I want to be so angry and really hate Emmett for what he has done to your and your little ones. This one today was the one I needed. You never know what Satan has and knows about you to find that weakness in everyone of us. I feel sorry for Emmett today, he really messed up and I wonder if He had kept the armor on, where would he be? Such a good lesson in remembering to always be true and faithful. I love your blog. I pray for you and your little ones!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for these words. I am struggling with getting past an affair that is so similar to what happened to you, except the ending was different. I still don't know if our marriage can survive or sometimes if I can survive this. I want to try to not be bitter and let the hurt change me. It's so hard, something most people have no idea how hard it is. I have lost family members and it is easier than this. I can't even imagine your pain, but you are my inspiration. I relate to so much of what you say and I just wanted to tell you this. I don't think Emmett chose her, he wasn't making a decision that night. He was just doing what he had been doing trying to keep both of you. When my husband planned with his mistress to leave me and our young kids he though he knew what he would do, but when the moment came and his mistress and left her husband and he had to tell me. He just sat there for hours while I asked him what he was going to do. In the end he came clean and stayed. It hasn't been easy, I still don't know if it will work, but I know that Emmett wasn't making a decision that night he was just taking the easy route which ended up making the choice for him. I just wanted to tell you that. Also I came across something in the March ensign that spoke to me when I think about how he "loved" the other woman. Elder Callister says, "Satan is the great counterfeiter. He tries to palm off lust as love. There is a simple test to detect the difference. Love is motivated by self-control, obedience to God's moral laws, respect for others, and unselfishness. On the other hand, lust is motivated by disobedience, self-gratification, and lack of discipline."

Jen said...

I have been captivated by your story ever since I came across that and I have to let you know how wonderful of a person I think you are! You are amazing and so strong and positive in ways that I don't think I could be if I was in your shoes! I have to admit I read your post late last night and I was so excited to read it that I couldn't stop! You certainly have a way with words and sharing your story and I enjoy hearing how strong and wonderful of a person you are! You may never know the people that you touch through having such a difficult trial in your life! You've helped me to strengthen my testimony more in Christ and to know that he is there and carries us through our hard most difficult times thank you so much! On a side note I want to know if you'll ever be publishing a book on this or at least a cookbook because your recipes sound awesome!

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say thank you to the anon who posted about her experience with an affair and the quote from the March Ensign. I have often found myself thinking that what fueled Emmett wasn't love, love doesn't fuel ugliness like that. I just don't have any personal experience with such things. I am so torn between anger and sadness for what Emmett did and what he is now going through, and I didn't even know him. However, the thing that sticks out to me is that his chance to choose better, his chance to come clean and make it right was taken away. You put into words the things that I have felt inadequate to say.

Ashlee, I think you are incredible in so many ways. I look forward to your words every week. On the days you don't post, I go back and re read old ones. I always learn something new. Thank you for your strength.

Lisa said...

Thank you for this. I gained 40 lbs. after my husband and eternal companion left me and our 3 young children for other women (yes, multiple). I gained 20 lbs. the first few years following my divorce, then I got remarried and gained the next 20 lbs. I was shocked at myself for letting myself go-- then I realized I was trying to protect myself (subconsciously). The first 20 lbs. were to protect me from anyone being interested in me. Once someone was interested in me, subconsciously I must have thought, "If he can love me when I'm overweight then he loves me for the right reasons...but if he ends up leaving me it will be because I let myself go."
I ran into someone I knew about 8 years ago, this person didn't even recognize me! She said, "Wow. I didn't even recognize you. Life has a way of changing us doesn't it?" I felt horrible.
Just two weeks ago I thought about the war in heaven and how we are still battling the war against Satan here in mortality. I was reminded that I am a warrior. I have to be strong- not only spiritually strong, but also physically strong so I can serve others and care for my family members who need me. It has been my new motivation. Thank you for the important truths you share here to help those of us struggling on the path of infidelity and betrayal. It's sad that there are so many of us. But I'm happy you have provided such support here. -L.A.

Anonymous said...

Ashlee, your words are the most significant thing I read right now. It is unbelievable what infidelity does. The layers and layers of pain. The odd effects that I would have never imagined. I am recovering and healing from my husband's 1.5 year affair. We were married in the temple and raised our six children with the gospel in our home. My husband was a dedicated priesthood leader. Until he started traveling for business. My life and my eternity are forever changed. He chose to come back to me and the gospel but he nor anyone else will ever know the pain and the effects on me. I am also paralyzed daily with small tasks that I have always done without thought. You describe it perfectly. You speak for me. I am so lonely. You understand that. You give me hope that I will feel "normal" again. That it will get better. That I will have self worth again. That I will believe in love and security again. You turn me back to my Heavenly Father and my brother, Jesus Christ and the atonement and healing that comes only from them. Please keep writing for your healing and for mine. I am so grateful to know that there is someone who knows how I feel even though we have never met. You are a tool in God's hand. Prayers for us both! I would so love to be able to talk to you or others in these shoes as a support and strength. Maybe that is an idea for your website. Feel my hug!

Anonymous said...

I pray that I will find the strength that you have. Thanks for sharing!!

Anonymous said...

Hugs to you!! I have also felt the burning, painful sting of betrayal. There are days I feel the layers of hurt that come with it will never fade, will never go away. But sometimes, every so often, the sun will shine through the clouds and I will feel it's warmth again. It is sometimes just barely enough to recharge me for when it gets dark again. I know several people who are in similar circumstances--enough that it is sickening that something so ugly lives so prominently amongst "the faithful". One thing I have learned is while the stories are all different, the pain is the same. It's no wonder Satan loves to try to destroy the delicate, fragile relationship that is intimacy in marriage--it has a domino effect. Not only is it difficult to rebuild and repair, but it takes out every other martial relationship with it. One quote I once heard and like is buried emotions never die. Talk about what you are feeling, your triggers, your fears, your heartache, preferably to your spouse--who will hopefully see this as a part of healing and not a bashing session. If your spouse isn't able to be supportive, talk to a therapist. Those feelings must come out and at least try to be processed, or else they will eat you alive. Hang in there dear! Prayers to you and all of us that feel this blog hits so close to home!

katie said...

I needed to hear this today.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for always sharing your heart and being so honest!!! You are a a great person and your husband now is a lucky man!!! :)

Anonymous said...

When did you first notice Emmet's armor crack? So very sad, he lost so much. You have an amazing family.

Melissa Johnson said...

There were things in this post that I really needed. Thank you for sharing.

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