Musings for the New Year, 2014

by Gena on December 31, 2013

2014

Here we are, on the cusp of another year. While New Year’s Eve always makes me a little nostalgic, I’m also excited to usher in new beginnings. This is the first year I’ve had where I can’t predict where I’ll be living in six months’ time, what I’ll be doing, or what my plans will be. It’s unnerving, but it’s also exciting. No matter what happens, I’ll be doing something new, and somehow, in spite of my considerable resistance, my post-bacc experience has turned me into a person who embraces new things. Go figure.

In past years, I’ve been a bit critical of new year’s resolutions. This morning, as I sip my coffee and contemplate the start of 2014, I think maybe I was mistaken. There’s something special about all of the excitement that surrounds new beginnings and fresh starts at this time of year, a hopefulness and optimism. In some ways, it reminds me of the back-to-school excitement that swings around once every August/September, which I’ve always loved, whether I was a student or not. It’s not so often that we’re given a direct invitation to turn over a new leaf. I don’t believe that making positive changes or resolving to improve patterns that aren’t working for us should be reserved for January 1st. But if the transition from one year to another reminds us to do those things, so much the better.

Of course, I don’t love the fact that so much of the collective energy that emerges at this time of year gets focused on the body. Everywhere we turn, we’re invited to “shape up” or “slim down.” We’re told that this is our change to “firm” this body part, “trim” that one, or “shrink” another. If it’s not our bodies we’re trying to mold and shape and make behave, it’s our food habits. We’re invited to “clean” our diets, “detox” our bodies, or “reboot” our systems. It’s perfectly reasonable to crave fresh, simple food after all of the indulgence of the holidays. But indulgence is a natural–and often very lovely–part of shared celebration. The fact that we’ve had a few more treats or cocktails or late nights than usual isn’t a mark of shame. The suggestion that we need to “cleanse” implies that our bodies are dirty, and the invitation to “detox” implies that they’re toxic. Neither is true. It’s possible to crave a return to routine without resorting to this kind of guilty, loaded talk. (As I write this, I’m reminded of Vanessa Grigoriadis’ article about juice fasting, and her assertion that “food is the focus of an enormous amount of modern moralism”).

This isn’t to say that it’s wrong to make a New Year’s resolution that involves healthful eating. Depending on your circumstances, dietary change may indeed be a wise way to welcome a new year. Perhaps you’d like to seek out foods that are more nutrient rich, and rely less on ones that aren’t. Perhaps you’d like to find a little more balance and consistency. Perhaps you’d like to explore a more conscious or compassionate way of eating. Perhaps you’d like to adjust habits that tend to work against you. That’s great–and hey, if you need a hand, I’m practicing nutrition counseling again. But it’s important to remember that small, meaningful, consistent changes are usually more effective and healthy than drastic, unsustainable ones. And it’s also important to be able to separate the impulse to be healthful from the impulse to be overly critical, or self-loathing.

It’s also important to remember that “healthful” behaviors don’t always involve restraint, or abstinence, or discipline. Many folks might actually move closer to a healthy lifestyle by relaxing their approach to food, rather than tightening it. I can speak for myself, and say that a huge part of my current commitment to “healthy” living is the recognition that my inclination to seek out order, discipline, and routine in the realm of food doesn’t always serve me; it has in fact been the source of a lot of unhappiness and wasted energy in my life. In the last few years, I’ve learned to stop attaching so much self-worth to my ability to say “no.” I’ve stopped taking so much pride in what I don’t eat, in the ability to be abstemious when others around me are partaking and participating. For so long, I felt that sitting on the periphery of celebratory events or settings made me superior. Today, I see that I was only missing out. What good are healthy habits and the strong bodies they support if we don’t use them to participate more fully in the world around us?

There’s a spectrum that covers the distance between indulgence that is overly robust, or reckless, and a restraint so extreme that one becomes removed from the pleasure of living in the moment. I’d never suggest an approach to food that isn’t health-conscious and mindful, and January is a good time to contemplate a way of eating that will help you to thrive. But thriving bears little resemblance to dieting, and since New Year’s Day presents us primarily with directives to restrain ourselves, I think it’s important to remember the flip side of the coin. Be healthful, yes, and renew your commitment to experiencing a plethora of nutrient-dense foods. But don’t shape 2014 around all of the things you aren’t going to eat.

These themes–abstinence and appetites, self-restraint and self-worth, pleasure and participation in life–are all germane to the topic of eating disorder recovery. In 2013, a number of brave young women shared their Green Recovery stories with this community. I’m linking to all of them, in case you missed some:

Unapologetically Angela: Angela’s Green Recovery

Rose Carves Out Space in Her Life for Healing

Rachel Finds Balance and Compassion

“What Healthy Truly Means”: Quincy’s Green Recovery Story

“It’s Not Just OK, but Human to be Imperfect”: Sharon’s Story

“All Is Not Perfect, But All Is Well”: Ali’s Green Recovery Story

“A New Chapter of My Life Is On the Horizon”: Suzanne’s Green Recovery Story

I have two more wonderful Green Recovery stories to share in January. If you have a story to share, please feel free to email me at gena@choosingraw.com. I welcome your contribution.

So, now that I’ve warmed up to the idea of New Year’s resolutions, what are my personal goals for 2014? There are some practical ones, such as reorganizing my budget, controlling my inbox more successfully, and keeping in better touch with certain friends. I want to improve Choosing Raw in a number of ways–better food photos, more thoughtful posts, consistently easy and accessible recipes, fun lunchboxes. Giveaways. And I’ve promised myself that this is a year in which I’ll try to travel a bit, because who knows what next year brings.

But one resolution is standing out to me. In a recent yoga class, my instructor mentioned a quote that I think is attributed to Shirdi Sai Baba: “Before you speak ask yourself: Is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve upon the silence?” It struck me as such a beautiful way to approach relationships. While I always do my best to be truthful, I’m not so sure that I pause often enough to reflect upon how necessary my words will be, or how kind. I’m not perfect, and I don’t imagine that a day will ever come when absolutely every word I utter is simultaneous true, necessary, and kind. But hey, it’s the start of a new year, and I can certainly try.

kindnecessarytrue copy

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone. As always, thank you so much for reading this blog. May all beings living be happy and free.

xo

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{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda December 31, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Aw. I love the last bit in particular. Care and precision are powerful, thrilling, even, and part of them is learning to let go and release yourself from pressure to add what doesn’t need adding. That’s an elegant reminder.

Happy New Year, Gena. I look forward to CR in 2014.

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Nikki @ Eat To The Beet December 31, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Happy New Year, Gena! I love the kind, necessary, and true approach. One of my intentions for the new year involves practicing more compassion. I’m excited to see what 2014 brings for you.

All the best,
Nikki

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Karen December 31, 2013 at 3:39 pm

I love your oh-so-articulate musings on health resolutions – you’ve summed up my sentiments so perfectly. And this line: “What good are healthy habits and the strong bodies they support if we don’t use them to participate more fully in the world around us?” So true, and such an useful reminder for me at this tricky time of the year; despite my best intentions and determination to tune out the “noise,” I still find myself so vulnerable to all sorts of weight/food/exercise improvement efforts. Finally, thanks for reminding me of that long forgotten quote by Shirdi Sai Baba – I, too, could benefit from aiming to adopt such a mantra: kind, necessary and true. Fantastic!

I miss these sorts of contemplative, insightful posts from you – this one resonated for me in a big way. Wishing you a wonderful new year filled with sweet surprises, Gena. I look forward to journeying alongside each other in 2014. xo.

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Mare January 1, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Thank you for such a thoughtful post, it is exactly what I needed to hear right now. I only stumbled upon this blog this morning and am so excited to follow future posts!

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Mare January 1, 2014 at 1:25 pm

I’m sorry I’m new to this did not mean to post under you comment! (:

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:22 am

I miss these kinds of posts, too, Karen. I hope to carve out more space for musings in the new year. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself with this community, and a happy, healthy 2014 to you! xo

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Hoshigaki December 31, 2013 at 4:05 pm

I would add this perspective to your resolution:

I think often times for people who are hard on themselves, brutally honest with themselves, and hyper self-aware, the ability to anticipate hurt or confused or defensive reactions from others in response to their honest interpretations, observations, and disappointment can be somehow dampened. On many occasions this year, I was blind-sided by reactions to my perspectives in my relationships. Perspectives I shared with good intentions.

Personally, through struggles and a certain type of maturity in personality, I have grown to be very comfortable with the discomfort of contradictions and complicated feelings. So much that I can be impatient with those around me who can’t juggle all that I want us to juggle. I get excited in my rambunctious thoughts and I’m not very good at creating spaciousness within my consciousness to store feelings and ideas within just for me.

I will continue to work on learning that another’s awareness, despite his or her uneasiness with the mirage of variables life provides, is as valuable as mine (as a self-resilient communicator of the complicated and not-always-so-ok).

I love it all. I adore you. I will send you more in the new one. xoxo

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Hoshigaki December 31, 2013 at 4:19 pm

should is say, “Is it true?”
“Before you speak ask yourself: Is it kind, is it necessary, it is true, does it improve upon the silence?”

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:23 am

Such an interesting perspective. I do think that, if one is accustomed to having uncomfortable conversations, it can be hard to remember that they’re often painful for others who are less accustomed to verbalizing pain, contradictory feelings, etc. Curious to hear more about your evolving thoughts on this score.

See you this year, I hope. XOXO

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Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health December 31, 2013 at 4:16 pm

very well written and love your thoughts on eating nutrient rich food. I hope you have a wonderful new years :)

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Christine (The Raw Project) December 31, 2013 at 5:12 pm

A well written view of New Year’s, especially the last section. Thanks!

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Cassandra December 31, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Loved this, Gena! You summed up where I’ve recently realized I’m at in my beliefs on health and wellness beautifully! Thank you for being a constant source of inspiration and wisdom this year! Can’t wait to see what else I learn from you in 2014! :)

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:21 am

Aw, thank you Cassandra! Thanks so much for reading.

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Elisabeth December 31, 2013 at 7:24 pm

What a wonderful quote! Indeed, it is especially applicable to relationships. I pride myself on my honesty, but, I’ll admit, sometimes what I have to say is neither necessary nor kind, leaving me full of regret later. Thanks for the gentle reminder to think before I speak!

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Lulu December 31, 2013 at 8:49 pm

I am the same way in that I always want everything to be planned, organized, structured and, most importantly, predictable. I don’t think I can change that because it’s part of who I am and I’m happy about them. But I should try to, like you said, calm down on thinking that I superior I don’t join certain group festivities. I do believe I am a hell lot better now as doing so thanks to the positives changes of 2013. I’m feeling super nostalgic right now xD

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:20 am

Lulu,

I’ve found that I, too, seek out order and structure. But in so doing, I often forget that part of living means embracing messiness and spontaneity and disorder now and then. There’s a true joy to be had in saying “yes” to things, in venturing into the unknown, and in surrendering your ideas about control. Happy New Year to you.

G

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Suzanne @ hello, veggy! December 31, 2013 at 11:19 pm

Thanks so much for helping me share my story this year Gena, and for sharing it again today. All the best to you in 2014! xo

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:20 am

It was a joy to share your story, Suzanne. Happy 2014.

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Emma (This Kind Choice) December 31, 2013 at 11:34 pm

I absolutely love your point about health including relaxing your attitudes towards food.

I truly believe that a less healthy food eaten with joy and appreciation is better for you than the stress and anxiety associated holding onto rigid rules, even if all you eat is “perfect” (whatever the hell that is). It’s something I remind myself of often, especially in the holiday season when my usual eating habits seem to get out of whack easily.

Thank you, as always, for your kindness, balance and authenticity, Gena.

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Liz S. January 1, 2014 at 12:32 am

Perfect reminders, especially as this new year begins.

Happy New Year, Gena!!!

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Heather @ The Soulful Spoon January 1, 2014 at 1:07 am

This is hands down the best post I’ve read for the New Year! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. This is so much better than blog recaps, goals and resolutions. Thank you Gena! You continue to serve as proof behind my first inspiration for blogging. Have a GREAT New Year!!!:) THANK YOU for blessing each of our lives and I hope you receive joy, peace and love this year and more!

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:19 am

Thank you for sharing so much of yourself on this blog, Heather! And happy, happy New Year to you.

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Wendy January 1, 2014 at 1:43 am

Namaste. Beautiful post Gena. I wish you all good things in 2014!

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:19 am

Namaste, friend.

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Ali @ Farmers Market Vegan January 1, 2014 at 7:19 am

Couldn’t agree more, my dear. I’ve discovered what I believe to be true health through embracing my love of food, letting go of restrictive habits, and steering clear of shaming language surrounding eating. I couldn’t have said it better my self. Happy 2014!

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:18 am

Much love to you, Ali.

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janet @ the taste space January 1, 2014 at 7:49 am

Bravo, Gena. It was a pleasure to read your musings. Here’s to all the best for you in the new year… wherever that may be in 6 months (you and me, both).

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:18 am

Ha! Yes, we’ll be facing uncertainty together, Janet. Happy 2014, and I’m happy the post resonated.

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Rachel January 1, 2014 at 7:54 am

Thanks Gena for such thoughtful words. As one who has also traditionally refrained from setting new year’s resolutions, your musings resonated. Wishing you the best of luck as you finish up the post-bac and exciting and fulfilling next steps! Looking forward to hearing all about them :)

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:18 am

Aw, thanks Rachel. I’m happy it resonated. Happy 2014 to you.

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Danny Lake January 1, 2014 at 8:34 am

I always feel a bit weird on new years eve, always looking back and wondering if I actually done anything useful during the year…

I love this quote though…

“Before you speak ask yourself: Is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve upon the silence?”

I’ve decided to use that approach more often when it comes to friendships!

Happy new year! Hope 2014 is an amazing year for you! =)

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Lauren (@PoweredbyPB) January 1, 2014 at 9:26 am

Lovely post. Wishing you a happy and healthy new year!

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Anna January 1, 2014 at 12:38 pm

I love this. A great reminder for me that healthy eating is not about perfection. Looking towards a more balanced approach in 2014. Thanks, Gena and Happy New Year!

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:17 am

And to you, Anna!

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Mare January 1, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Thank you for such a thoughtful post, it is exactly what I needed to hear right now. I only stumbled upon this blog this morning and am so excited to follow future posts!

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:17 am

Thanks Mare!

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kimmythevegan January 1, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Happy New Year Gena!
Thank you for the wonderful reminder that we do not have to feel guilty for a little overindulging over the holidays and to not correct ourselves by being super strict. This is something I have struggled with in the past a lot, this is the first year that I feel comfortable with things I ate over the holidays and enjoyed myself and have no guilt =) I attribute this partly to reading blogs like yours. It really helps me shape my positive views on food.

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:17 am

Glad the post helped, Kimmy. It’s natural to feel a bit off balance after the holidays, but I truly believe that special indulgences are a part of what it means to celebrate and give thanks. Happy New Year.

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BYOL January 1, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Hey G!

Great post. I loved the quote and think that it serves as an excellent compass to help guide us along our path.

I hope you had a great holiday season and a happy and festive New Year’s.
See you in 2014!

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:16 am

Thanks Ant! Happy 2014 to you!

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Amy January 1, 2014 at 3:48 pm

I just wanted to let you know that I absolutely love reading your blog and these musing-type posts are my favorite. Happy New Year!

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:16 am

And I always love your thoughtful comments, Amy. Thank you and happy 2014!

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Alexa January 1, 2014 at 9:09 pm

I agree with you on New Years Resolutions. Many people often restrict things and don’t take the time to truly enjoy food for what it is. That is something I plan to work on this year. While I have been pescetarian for 6 months, I realized I didn’t want to be limited or defined by that. So I am making changes to eat meat when I feel like I want to, whether my body needs it or the chef-driven menu is too good to resist. Thank you for your empowering posts!

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Robyn January 2, 2014 at 12:39 am

Gena, thank you for such a wonderful, thoughtful, thought provoking blog. It is rare to see a blog of this caliber, and I enjoy reading each post.

Happy New Year!

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Kathleen January 2, 2014 at 9:42 am

Kind, necessary, true. What a beautiful sentiment. I’ve heard it before but appreciate the reminder. I think the biggest challenge for me is the “necessary” part.
Happy New Year, Gena. I really look forward to hearing about your next steps. xo

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:14 am

And to you, my friend. Miss you.

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Amber Lee January 2, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Well said, Gena. Happy New Year to you as well!

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:14 am

And to you, Amber.

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Michael January 2, 2014 at 10:15 pm

Thank you for this beautiful post, Gena,
It inspired me a great deal .
Happy new Year!

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:13 am

So happy it struck a chord, Michael. Happy 2014.

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Rose! January 3, 2014 at 6:58 am

I love this so much, Gena. I, too, feel much more happily involved in the world around me when I take a more well rounded approach to health… because food is just one aspect of nourishment, after all. Balance is key, and I, too, have become so much more mindful of my social/emotional/restful/romantic needs in addition to my nutritional ones.

Here’s to a happy 2014! Thank you for everything you do!

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:12 am

I agree, Rose. For me, it has been important to start considering the spiritual and social benefits of what I eat along with the nutrient properties. Those matter too, but they aren’t the whole story.

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Em January 4, 2014 at 8:48 pm

I love that you can take what I feel and believe to be true and put it into words. It’s wonderful that you put these ideas out there so that hopefully, other people can believe as well. I’ve said this before but so many people, including vegan bloggers, tend to equate health with skinny or health with deprivation of some sort, usually limiting salt, sugar, oils, etc. I REALLY appreciate your approach towards health and food and that you use your platform in this positive way.

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Gena January 5, 2014 at 8:10 am

Thanks so much, Em. I find that a fixation with “cleanliness” has really permeated nutrition culture these days, and sadly the vegan world is not immune. When I first became vegan, I think there was a sense of celebration that vegan foods could be as rich and tasty and delightful as conventional foods. Nowadays it seems that some health leaders equate being vegan with avoiding any number of supposedly “unhealthy” foods. I’m all for a general focus on health, but I personally believe–and I think evidence supports this–that moderate amounts of sugar, salt, oil, and the like have a place in healthy diets (depending on the individual, of course). Veganism isn’t a personal purity contest, and regarding it this way can take a lot of the joy out of it!

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raechel @the rebel grrrl kitchen January 9, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Gena, I can always count on you to help me feel grounded amidst the body-disciplining hegemony of our society. Thank you for being such an inspiration. Happy new year!

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Ela January 13, 2014 at 1:13 am

Thank you so much for these thoughts. I agree completely with the two-step agreement about resolutions in January–shouldn’t be only then; good opportunity via collective energy.
I miss you!
Thank you for the quotation also–I’m saving it, a treasure.
love
Ela

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