If Walls Could Talk…

…what would they say? Or better yet, if *my* walls could talk…what would *they* say?

This was a concept that was brought up between my longest known best friend and myself when we had a rare visit today. While the conversation about it was very short and actually not a reference for what I’m about to write about here, my immediate reaction to thinking about the question made me a little queasy as my mind went to negative thoughts first.

You see, while I’ve been incredibly quiet over the last several months, it’s not been because life has been unbelievably busy with happiness. I’ve been going through several big life changes going on at once. One of those changes is that my oldest child not only turned 18, but he decided he wanted to be independent and move out. Talk about a momentous occasion…

I have a very clear memory of when my boy was a brand new, tiny infant and I was upset because someone had hurt my feelings. As I clutched my happily sleeping, milk-drunk newborn to my chest and tears fell into his feathery blond hair, I remember wanting so fiercely to protect him from all hurts in life. I had felt maternal and protective over him since early in my pregnancy, but this was the first moment I clearly remember so desperately wanting to guard and protect his heart more than I’d ever wanted something before in my life. The love of a parent is strong.

In the blink of an eye, my doe-eyed, sweet baby boy turned into a tall, handsome grown man–a strong-willed, stubborn one at that. While he knew that I wanted him to wait for a while to move out (and for all good reasons), he was itching to be out on his own and made the choice to pack up anyway.

He’s my oldest so this is the first time I’m experiencing this momentous mommy occasion. Not only that, but it’s a big realization that my other kids that stair-step down immediately in age are right behind him. With my youngest being almost 16, I’m not all that far from having an empty nest. This is a big deal for any parent, but it’s even more so for me. You see, I’ve been a mama with kids in the home since I was still just a kid myself. I went from being a kid in my mom’s home to being a mom and wife before I was even 18. All I’ve known of adult life is parenting. It’s a whole new me and life in the process of transition right now and so many emotions that go with it.

Going through this, I’ve struggled lately with feeling weight of guilt and grief over ways that I have made mistakes over the years. I carry hurts collected over the years in ways that I’ve failed. As parents, we all know that we aren’t perfect and that we are bound to make mistakes. But being faced with the reality of how my time is up with my boy being a kid in my home and there are no more chances of parenting him in that aspect has been a hard pill for me to swallow.

All of this thinking lately has had my heart so very tender. So today, thinking about if my walls could talk, I immediately thought of my mistakes and dark and hard moments. I started turning it all around in my head though as soon as my friend left. Have there been mistakes? Have there been regrets? Have there been moments I wish I could take back? Absolutely. Is all that stuff what my walls would talk about though…?

We are often our own worst critics. I’m no exception there. Thinking about my children’s lives up to this point though, I’ve had some amazing moments too. I have overcome battles that many succumb to. I have lived life as a single mom for many years, often with very little financial support from anyone else, without my children’s father’s presence, without family checking on me and lending a hand, and often even while working two jobs. I have cared deeply about my babies and what they’ve had in life. I’ve struggled and fought hard, but…I’ve been fighting a winning fight. My children have been provided for and have turned into these teenagers that regularly blow me away with their kindness, helpful attitudes, and gentle spirits. They have been the kind of kids that regularly get compliments for being good kids. I can be hard on myself, but I then have to remember that it’s not just chance. My babies are good people because of the work I’ve put in and done right.

I love my kids more than I love having air to breathe, and I’ve never been shy about expressing that. Their whole lives, I’ve made sure to assure them of my love, both with my words and my actions. I have freely handed out “I love you’s,” hugs, and kisses. My kids have never had to question whether or not they are important to me. I fail daily because I’m human, but I also do right every single day.

If these walls could talk, they *could* talk about “unspeakable mommy moments” as another girlfriend of mine calls them. They could talk about mistakes, tempers lost, dirty dishes that have stayed stacked in the sink for too long, carpets that went too long without seeing a shampooer, and laundry that did three go-’rounds in the washer due to failure to get them into the dryer before they smelled sour. They could talk about endless times where pizza was bought for dinner because I’d rather pay for food to be delivered than to cook after working 12 hours in steel toed boots and coveralls in 20 degree weather, the times I’d skipped a shower in favor of just falling into bed in exhaustion, or times I’d rather toss leftover food-filled Tupperware dishes than to wash moldy spaghetti sauce out. I could easily write a thousand words here on my mistakes or poor moments. Is that truly what my walls would talk about though…?

I don’t think so.

My walls would speak of love and determination. They would speak of a strong family bond. They would speak of kids that grew up knowing their mother loves them unconditionally and would lay her life down to protect them if need be. My walls would speak of dance parties in the kitchen while cooking, silly sing-song voices being goofy when we’re alone together, loving life lessons being taught about growing up, and laughter–SO. MUCH. LAUGHTER.

I have never claimed to be perfect, and this post isn’t about boasting. I’ve decided though, while I fall short, my walls would glow talking about a family that is fierce, strong, and united. My walls would talk about what life and parenting all boils down to… Love. My walls would *proudly* speak of love.

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The Best Damn Dad – Me

          You don’t have to have followed me for long to realize that I’m passionate about empowering people–especially women. If you’ve followed a little bit longer, you might have even picked up on the fact that I’m a single mom. While I often direct my support and attention towards women, there’s something I want to say that involves men. There’s been a lot on social media these days about men and masculinity, and it seems even that there’s been a blanket attack on them/it. It’s a hard day and age to be raising boys in. As a single mom of two teenage boys (and one teenage daughter), I have had to play the role of both mother and father. My football playing daughter will proudly tell anyone that it was not her absent father that taught her how to throw a football or has driven her home from countless practices and games and cheered her on at every game I could attend between my two jobs. That’s been one of the cool things about being “dad.” The less glamorous side is needing to be dad to boys in all the ways that young men need too.
          Men. Your precious little boys are going to be men, and we need to train them to be good men. It is important that they get good life lessons and examples, even if their fathers are absent. My oldest child is almost an adult. I have had to be the one to talk to my boys about sex (safe sex, not pressuring women, consent), shaving, hygiene, etc. Today, as I stood in the kitchen complaining of cramps while my almost 18 year old son cooked breakfast, I realized it was a good teaching moment.
          I talked to him about when he has a wife, he needs to be understanding about her period and period pain. I told him to offer to go buy her preferred products. Take a picture of the packaging to ensure getting the right ones. Pick her up some chocolate, or ice cream, or something else she likes. I told him not to make a big deal about blood. It happens. Sometimes it gets on surfaces in the bathroom. Sometimes leaks happen on the sheets. I told him to be loving about it. Let her know that it’s no big deal. I took the opportunity to add in some other life lessons as well. Buy her flowers once in a while, for no reason. Women are emotional creatures and we need loving reminders that we are cared about outside of the bedroom.
          As I talked, my son continued to cook, but I knew he was hearing me. Not just hearing, but listening with his heart. I told him that life isn’t guaranteed and I can’t promise I’ll be here forever to teach him about life, so I need to have those moments with him when the opportunity arises.
          “Yes, Mama,” he said. He understood.
          Life has not been easy on us, and it has not been easy for me to parent by myself. I know that I am giving my boys the best start that I’m capable of giving though. They know that it’s okay to cry, but they also know that it’s okay to be strong and all the things that make them set apart and special as men. My ex-husband has provided the example of what NOT to be as a husband and father, but I have tried my damnedest to be the mama that puts on my boots and teaches them what a man IS. I’ve worked hard, I’ve given them life lessons, I’ve taught them how to throw a football and how to shoot a gun, I’ve taught them about shaving their faces, taking care of themselves, driving–both an automatic AND a stick shift, and have been the one to teach them how to put on cologne. I want them to be well-adjusted, loving, strong, sensitive, God fearing, caring, independent, compassionate men. I may be their mama, but I’m the best damn dad they’ve ever had.
th*I don’t completely agree with this photo, because my boys are going to be more than husbands, but you can see my point here.*

We Are The Village

I didn’t start to truly understand the importance of friendship between women until I was in my 30’s. When I was younger, I always said it was easier being friends with guys, citing reasons like drama and backstabbing. As I have gotten older though, I have realized the incredible power in women supporting women. There are going to be people who aren’t genuine and don’t have your back in life, male or female, and the relationships between women are powerful. This is especially true for mom friends.

I’ve been meaning to write this blog for months. A few months back, in a moment of anger and frustration, I made a personal post on social media expressing frustration over women that have much support and even a partner that is currently out of town/state complaining about being single mothers. I said their feelings weren’t valid. I said they weren’t single moms and didn’t deserve to put themselves in the same category as moms like me who are without any support from a partner or my children’s father, financially or otherwise. In that moment of frustration over my personal life, and even jealousy, I did exactly the opposite of what I preach about women supporting women. I was tearing women down. As you can imagine, the post blew up with comments from all sides. I eventually had to delete it, but even once deleted, I couldn’t take back the negativity I had put out into the world. I couldn’t take back where I had taken frustration from my own struggles and used it as a way to put down other women. This behavior is normally out of character for me, but that night, I put ugliness out into the world. I was incredibly embarrassed, and I deeply regretted putting anyone down.

I talk often about women lifting up other women because it is incredibly important to me. As I’ve gone through hard moments in life, I’ve had the most uplifting words, advice, and acts of service from other women. This is often true of women that are older, more wise, and more experienced. They have been there. They have struggled. They have felt alone. So they know the best ways to help and reach out to younger women.

I recently sat at the dining room table with my very best friend, and as we were surrounded by rowdy kids, a naked toddler, and a fussy nursing baby, we discussed being moms and the support we really need. We are in very different seasons of motherhood and have very different lives. I am a single working mother, and my kids are now teenagers. She has 5 little ones ages 10 and under, is a (wonderful) stay at home mother that homeschools, and does whatever she can to help support her hardworking husband. I had children much younger than she did, and we discussed the ways that mothers need help regardless of age, number of children, and marital/relationship status. We talked about the saying, it takes a village to raise a child, and how much truth that holds.

While some mamas have mothers and sisters that provide loving support, there are many mamas out there without that support. There is a lot of pressure on us in today’s society to be super women…to be able to handle parenting, have well-behaved, clean, happy children, work, survive on sleep deprivation, keep clean houses, take care of ourselves, keep in shape, please our men, be desirable, and still be social–all without support from anyone else. Well, you know what? I’m telling you that’s a load of crap. For one, it’s impossible to do and be all of those things all the time. For two, we weren’t meant to have so much on our plates without help from others. In American culture, there’s become an intense pressure surrounding being mothers and stretching ourselves thin and the more on our plates the better, like it’s the fashionable thing to do. Women post on social media about all that they are accomplishing or all that they have to do and take care of, and then other women compare themselves and see all of their flaws and ways that they are falling short. Stop this! When you are comparing yourself to the mom that seems to have it so much more together than you, you forget that you are comparing that mom’s highlight reel to your lowest moments. The mom speaking on social media about where she is doing great in one area isn’t talking about where she is falling short in another area. We are ALL struggling in one way or another, but most of us aren’t willing to post about it. We talk about long hours at work or the amazing dinner we are cooking, but we don’t talk about how there’s been dishes sitting dirty on the counter for 3 days, or the same load of laundry in the washer that’s been washed who knows how many times because we keep forgetting to throw it in the dryer, or how we can’t remember the last time we’ve had sex with our life partner because exhaustion makes sleep more important than intimacy for weeks and even months at a time.

Now, I am not saying we should all post all of our ugly mommy moments on social media, or that we should not talk about our good and strong moments either. What I am saying is that moms need to stick together. Be real with your good girlfriends. Talk openly and honestly about your struggles because chances are, they can relate and have their own struggles they want to talk to you about. We all need loving support. We all need good friends we can tell about how we had a moment where we were so angry with our children, we wanted to physically hurt them, or how we lost it and screamed so loud that we fear the neighbor might question our parenting skills, or how we have worn the same pajamas and unbrushed messy bun for 2 days in a row and skipped a shower in favor of 15 more minutes of sleep and bathed with a baby wipe. Have you let your preschooler watch some obnoxious kids’ TV show for far too long just to have some peace for a while? Have you fed your kids McDonald’s for dinner 3 nights this week because you’re worn out? Have you let your 5 year old go to bed in his favorite new rubber boots because you just didn’t have the fight in you to battle making him take them off? Have you thrown out Tupperware that sat too long in the fridge because it’s just easier to buy more than to wash out last week’s molded spaghetti? This and so much more… guess what? We have all been there. There’s so much mommy shaming though that we don’t feel safe to acknowledge these hard moments.

So this is what I would like for you to do:

  1. Be real and honest with your friends. Be the example they need. You just might inspire that for them, which then inspires it for others, and so on. Let’s put an end to the judgmental mommy shaming. Also, ask for help when you need it. There is no shame in that.
  2. Stop comparing yourself to others on social media. Remember that you are only seeing a tiny snippet of what others are saying and then comparing your worst moments to these great moments that make it online. Allow yourself to be real on social media as well. Don’t pretend life is perfect when it is not. It is okay to say you’re stretched thin, tired, and overwhelmed.
  3. Be there in practical ways for other moms that need it. Do you have a mom friend that just had a new baby or is just struggling in general? Show up with dinner for the whole family, and maybe even a bottle of wine. Go over and do the dishes or fold the mountain of clean laundry that’s become a living room couch decoration. Pick up the kids and take them to the park to give mama some time to just breathe. Offer to babysit for a date night, or better yet, if you can afford the splurge, offer to babysit AND buy a gift card for your favorite restaurant for the couple. Just be there in the ways you would like someone to be there for yourself.
  4. When you find yourself getting ready to mommy shame others, stop yourself and try to put yourself in the other mom’s shoes. We all fail at times, and we all make mistakes. Spread love and kindness instead.
  5. Share this blog with your mom friends. We all need a reminder that our real, messy, true lives are normal and understood.

I know this one was on the long side, but I’ve been holding it all in for so long that I had to share it all. To the moms that I offended and hurt that night with my angry rant, I am sorry. I pride myself on being the kind of person that will freely admit when I’m wrong, and I was really wrong that night. I hope you can forgive me.

Stick together, mamas. We are each other’s village.

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I Am A Prize

I was having a discussion today with a friend about dating. While I was getting ready to talk about something I’m excited about in life right now, I said, “Guess what?!” He responded with, “You met someone?!” I laughed at this because it seemed like such an absurd concept to me right now. Then I realized what an accomplishment that feeling is!

I’ve talked about being a serial dater in blogs in my past, but it’s something I’ve strayed away from in the last several years. I’ve done better with taking longer breaks between relationships, and this is a good thing. What is new though is that I’m suddenly truly not focused on that desire to be with someone at all. There are things in my life that I want to accomplish first. So when my friend guessed that I had met someone, I realized that I’m not hoping for that to happen. I told him that I actually WANT some time this time. I’m truly focused on God, on myself, on my writing, and on my kids. I want to get more of my life in order, everything from growing in God, to finances being more straightened out, to increasingly better self-care (I’ve lost 35 pounds since August). I’m busy falling in love with myself all over again. I told my friend that I want to have things so together that when I do meet someone new, I want him to say to himself, “Gosh, this chick has her life so together and is on fire for God. I NEED to make her mine.” I need to be a catch. I don’t want there to be a single ounce of desperation about me. I want to be good all on my own, because eventually when I am dating again, it’s not just for fun. I am looking for and deserving of a husband. That desperation in my past has allowed me to be prey for men that are not good and don’t have the same values, and I’m finally done repeating my past. During conversations with two others recently, I had to admit that I’ve been so heartbroken and hurt for so long, that I have no choice but to to recognize that my own choices are allowing this. It’s time for a completely new game plan.

My self-esteem these days has already soared higher than it’s ever been. I’ve been doing things the “right” way; I’ve been going to church, diving into the Word, taking care of my body, being more present with my children, and more. I refuse to be an easy target again for the weak that hunt the wounded. Realizing today that I don’t just not have my hopes up, but that I actually desire time to heal and work on me is an incredible, monumental, and pivotal moment in my life. I recently said on Facebook that right now appears to be the first time I have ever been succeeding in my struggles instead of succumbing to them. Today was yet another reminder of this.

I feel true happiness right now. I have set new goals and a plan to obtain them. I am feeding my soul and not just my body. I am a prize, and someday in the future, there’s going to be a man so happy to “win” me.

Even In Hard Times, Life Is Good

As I’m sitting here on Christmas Eve watching the snow dumping from the sky through the window, while some things in life are really coming together, I feel some pangs of sadness. This last week has been a doozy…

I decided that it would be better to have less money than to continue working 7 days a week, so I quit my second job. It means that money will be tight, but I will have more of a life again. I couldn’t continue on without being completely burnt out. The problem though…within two days of my last shift there, I got a call from the agency that runs the rental I live in. The man told me that the owner is “getting up there in age” and wants to sell some of his rentals, including my home. Not only that, but they wanted to do a walk through with a potential buyer in a couple days. The manager explained that the house was not going on the general market and that they were seeking a private buyer to continue the house being a rental, but when I saw a young family get out of the car for the walk through, I knew it wasn’t good. It was awkward to allow them in to walk through what I feel is MY home, and while I just stayed in the kitchen preparing dinner, I could hear them making comments about different features of the home. I’m fairly certain I need to start looking for a new house now. This crushes me. To explain, I’ve lived in my house almost 8 years. Most of my children’s childhoods have been in this house. Most of our stability as a family has been in this home. And even more importantly, because I’ve been here so long with only one small rent increase, losing this house would mean a HUGE increase in what I will have to pay in rent somewhere else. This is all devastating.

To make this last week even harder, there was another fight with my sister. Just when I was hoping our relationship was on the mend again, it all crumbled in ugliness. This, among many other things, made me decide that I want to do my own Christmas dinner with just my children and I and not go to my family’s dinner. I talked with my kids and asked their opinions, and they were all on board with doing our own thing. Without going all into my family history, it’s impossible to explain how the dynamic is or why this is the best choice for us. Not only do I not feel like writing a book about all of it, but I want to keep some semblance of privacy with it all, so I’m not going to lay it all out here. What I will say is that the decision caused another fallout. During this second fight, my sister pushed the exact buttons she knew would hurt me the most, and so I lost sleep crying over the hurtful words. Every day since this argument, I have had to work hard and not allowing her words to eat at my heart. I have had to remind myself that while I have not made the best choices in life, I’ve come such a long way in the last 10 years and I have every right to be proud of who I am today.

With all of this chaos, with it being Christmas and feeling so alone, I am naturally feeling a little blue. But while there is some sadness, I also have things going on to be happy about. I am reminded again that I have a 100% track record of getting through hard times in life. Things might be a little crazy, there might be some hurts going on, and there might be some tears, but I’m strong. I’m proud. I have so much to be grateful for. The current speed bumps are just that–only speed bumps, and I am still filled with so much fight to keep growing and going up in life. So even though I started typing this blog out with tears in my eyes, I’m ending it feeling empowered, strengthened, and filled with hope and optimism for our new life journeys. I’m going to be all right. In this faith, there is peace. Even in the hard times, life is so good.

 

And, I mean, snow on Christmas Eve, does life get any more perfect than that?

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The Things I Fear Sharing…

I have to admit that I watch the people’s lives around me and I often feel jealous. I watch people so in love and I’m happy for them, but I want that for myself. I see women that are supported in life by loved ones, and I’m happy for them, but I want that for myself. I have friends that are so secure in themselves and completely happy and content alone, and I want that too. My own life is a mix of chaos and work and often times, pain. Lately, I’ve been working 7 days a week between both jobs, and I’m simply burnt out on top of everything else.

Every day, my alarm goes off at 3:30am, and I know that no amount of snooze button hitting is going to make me feel like getting up while still getting out the door on time. I make coffee and use it and music to pull me out of my sleepy stupor. I get ready, defrost my car, and drive to the plant where hundreds of us file in like cattle herded in for slaughter. My day job is physically demanding and even with coveralls, multiple layers of coats, and hats and gloves, it’s not enough to keep out the cold of the day I spend most of my hours in. If I have nothing going on after work, I come straight home, cold, dirty, and exhausted. I don’t have much energy to accomplish much in the evening. On a good day, I’ll cook, maybe do some laundry, shower, and get everything ready for the next day. But some days, it’s a minor miracle if I can even get myself into the shower. Because my kids are in after school activities at a school in another town, I’m lucky if I can even see them for a few minutes before I have to go to bed. It’s all so very lonely.

On the weekends, I work a second job. Even though the hours are far fewer than a full day at my day job, that job is also physically demanding. I come home from that one in more pain than any person should have to endure just to make a living. Chronic pain, plus working physically hard jobs 7 days a week, plus extreme loneliness is a perfect recipe for heartache.

When I work late at night on the weekends and the people I want to see are unavailable and I come home to a quiet, messy house, my feelings are… I’m not sure I can even easily describe them actually. In my moments alone, where my mind and heart can ramp up with sadness and anxiety… it’s not pretty. It’s downright ugly actually. As human beings, we are meant to have more than this in life. We need genuine connections. We need things to look forward to. We need love (in many ways, not just romantic love).

Sometimes, I crawl into bed and I can’t hold it together anymore. I take off the mask I wear for the world, and I cry. I do the ugly cry with body shaking, soul quaking sobs. I think about how fast my children’s childhoods have gone by. I think about how little time left I have with them in my home, and I’m working and otherwise wasting the remaining time away. I think about how badly I wish my family was closer and how my brother is going to have baby that will likely be no closer to me than my sister’s child is. I think about the things and people I desire. I think about every failure and hurt and pain in my life, and I cry until my pillow is soaked and I no longer have the energy to do anything but give in to sleep.

I post a lot on Facebook about being empowered and strong and taking care of myself, which is all true, but this stuff is the ugly truths that I don’t speak of. Even when I’m having a Facebook meltdown and dropping F-bombs like candy on Halloween, I still keep my most inner pain to myself. Even in this post, I hold it all close. I can weep as I write and think of all of the things that pierce my heart to the very core, but I don’t dare speak of them. This is why I have written less lately. I’ve been afraid. I’ve been afraid that if I write, I’ll tell you……my whole heart.

Hard Times, Harder Fight

This last week has been one of the hardest I have endured in a long time. As I have been fighting hard to make my life better, it seems that for every step forward I take, I am knocked back two. While I’m working hard to keep making forward progress, this last week made me feel like what little light I had going on at the end of the tunnel had been snuffed out.

I have written over and over again about hope, positivity, and choosing to focus on the good in life. I struggled this week though for a variety of reasons. It was like life needed to knock me on my butt, and once I was there, the blows just kept coming.

I got a new full time job. Yay, right?! Wrong. For one, I’m not thrilled to be back to living the two job life. Working 6 to 7 days a week is exhausting. It pretty much takes away any kind of personal life I can have and makes it seem like I just live to work. Two jobs is temporary though, so I can get over that. For the first time in my life though, I’m now in a factory job. The work is hard, the days are long, the rules are extremely strict, and my position is outside in the elements all day. Coming into winter now makes me cringe at the thought of having to spend 40+ hours outside in it each week. I was devastated when I realized my position assignment for this. It was definitely not what I had wanted.

On top of the work stuff, it seems that my entire personal life decided to fall apart at the same time too. While I don’t want to go into much detail because it’s not just my privacy at stake, but many others too, I can say that this week was nothing short of a shitshow. Every single day, life was throwing punches that were pummeling my heart. I cried, I screamed, I yelled, and then I cried some more. I even had a full on meltdown. Let’s just say that life was not kind to me over the last several days. I had several moments where I felt like this is all just too hard, and I wanted to throw in the towel. Exhaustion, adjusting to major new life changes, getting my feelings hurt deeply, dealing with parenting rebellious teenagers, and more all at once was enough to leave me crying like a little baby every single day. It was just an incredibly hard week.

As I’ve been thinking about all of this the last couple of days though, I am reminded of one thing. I can’t change a lot about my life circumstances right now. The one thing I can control though is my attitude. I have a choice in whether or not I crumple to the ground and let my entire world fall apart. I have a choice in whether or not I want to start this new job with a positive outlook. I have a choice in whether or not I want to wallow in miserable self-pity or if I pull myself up by the bootstraps and push forward with a smile on my face.

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It is okay to have those occasional meltdowns, especially when life is throwing the amount of crazy curveballs it has been throwing me lately. It is okay to cry and scream and lose it. Go ahead and meltdown. But then, when you’ve cried it all out, dry your eyes, wash your face, and then get back up! If life is going to throw punches, then throw some punches of your own back! You own your life, you own your reactions and choices, and you own your behavior. Focus on what you can change, and let go of what you cannot. These were the big lessons I was reminded of this week.

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And lastly, if you are struggling to the point that you are considering suicide, please reach out. There are many resources available and you are not alone. Your life is worth living.

Hang in there, my friends. Life is all about seasons and if you are going through an incredibly hard season right now, take comfort in knowing that a good one is coming soon.

Much love,
Moonshine Niki