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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Burning Bridges

“Are we soulmates?” He asked late one night during one of our many deep conversations where we connected heart to heart. I felt my body flush with emotion. I was so happy to have met someone that seemed so much like me. I was filled with so much hope. He was sweet and kind, he read every blog I wrote and told me when he read Dear Future Lover that it was going to make him fall for me. I felt safe to be me. I felt we were kindred spirits.

Over the months of our connection, we progressed in our intimacy. We agreed at the beginning that we were just feeling things out. I was fresh out of a breakup, but that was nothing compared to him being fresh out of a marriage with a woman he’d been with for 17 years. We connected so easily and so quickly though, that even while guarded, I allowed it and had hope. I thought we were moving slowly. We went from having a drink together to sleepovers and coffee in the mornings on the weekends. We talked every day all day. We saw each other every single weekend for months. We spent the holidays together; he came to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner, I cooked Christmas dinner at his house, and we went out together on New Year’s Eve. We took dozens of photos together, went grocery shopping together, and appeared in public as if we were a couple. While I knew that we were not a couple, I believed heart and soul that we were on our way there.

Before I knew it, I was in love with him. I woke up the day after Thanksgiving knowing it and cried out of fear and just from overwhelming emotion. I’ve written over and over here about my tender heart, how I am lover, a nurturer by nature, and ruled by my emotions. My heart is never that much of a secret. I tried to hold it all in anyway though because I didn’t want to scare him away. I knew that he wasn’t where I was at, and I wanted to give him time. So much pointed to that happening, so I swallowed my love, over and over…until it began to choke the life out of me.

You see, we had a few times where he told me that we were just friends. I am guilty of ignoring that, but he made it so easy to ignore. His words on the subject were so few and far between, and no matter the few times that he told me that, all of his actions pointed to the opposite. There were times I asked for clarity, asked for him to tell me if there was no hope…he would say that we would talk, he would come over, I would cook dinner for him, we would have drinks, and then no talk would happen. We were caught up in feeling happy, in enjoying each other’s company, and the night would end with us in a loving embrace. I knew he was scared, I knew he was confused, and I assumed by reading his actions that it would all be okay. And it was…until it wasn’t.

I felt him pulling away and getting more distant. I ignored it. He was still seeing me every weekend and talking to me every day, so that meant we were okay, right? Wrong. I’ve said many times that I’m the kind of person that you have to just be bluntly honest and tell me what you are thinking because I won’t pick up on hints. This is not entirely true though. One huge problem I’ve realized while contemplating all of this over the last couple of days is that I don’t trust my intuition. I second guess and doubt myself. I lie to myself and tell my own heart that things are fine and I’m overthinking and overreacting. So, when I finally pressed for a real answer while face to face several weeks ago about what we were doing, a big part of me was not shocked to see his face fall when I asked. I knew the answer was not going to be what I wanted. I had spent months in love with a man that a part of me KNEW was using me as a stepping stone woman. His words confirmed my fears.

I couldn’t hold my love inside anymore though. It was eating my heart more and more by the day. I couldn’t handle seeing flirting on Facebook anymore. I couldn’t handle drama that was popping up in his life and where I was beginning to look foolish to others because while I was focused on him, he was very much still acting single in private and people began to assume that we were in a relationship and he was cheating. I had to set my fears aside and face reality. I needed to know where I stood. I couldn’t choke on my love for another day more.

He told me he wasn’t in a place to commit. He was vague. I asked him to just hurt me and tell me there was no hope if there wasn’t any, because we both knew I would just keep hoping without those words. He refused to say that too. I was left without much clarity. I was just as confused as ever, only this time with pain in my heart. We were back to just friends. Only…that didn’t last long either.

*The bigger heartbreak…*

The friendship I so desperately wanted to keep, the friendship I so much cherished appeared to be a farce. So quickly, the contact began to dissipate. The very first weekend after our talk, he was with another woman. It hurt like hell, but I had to be accepting. It was clear we weren’t meant to be lovers. What I was completely unprepared for though was the fallout that was yet to come.

Ignored messages… Read messages going without response… Being unfollowed on Facebook… I suddenly felt like I’d lost my best friend. I was stubborn though and refused to just accept it. As a boundary pusher, I continued to push. My heart was hurting, and there seemed to be more layers of hurt being added by the day. I was accepting of the fact there was no longer a romantic component to our relationship, but I truly thought the connection we had was genuine and worth keeping as just friends. I didn’t just love him in a romantic sense. I truly loved him as my friend. I continued to let the hurt feelings and emotion rule me though, and in true Moonshine Niki stubborn fashion, I continued to push.

When I’m caught up in emotion, when I feel like I have to feel out boundaries instead of being told truths in black and white, I get dramatic. I get intense. I get into a spot where it all feels world-ending. Then, sometimes, I burn bridges just to prevent myself from having to try to feel anything out anymore, to prevent myself from being able to go back to something that is not good. So you can imagine where I’m going here… I pushed about my hurt feelings. I pushed about how I felt we weren’t actually friends. I pushed about how much it hurt my heart to be unfollowed on social media, how I felt he’d completely removed me from his life. I pushed until he snapped at me and blocked me.

I stood staring at my phone in shock. I was hurt, but more than hurt, I was suddenly angry, filled with rage. I thought about all I had invested into our friendship. I thought about all of the ways my feelings were hurt. I thought about how I felt wronged. I cried yet again, and then I took my emotionally drained and exhausted self to bed.

But then, I had an incredible realization the next morning. While I felt wronged in many ways (a list I will not go into here for many reasons, including that I still hold some respect for him), I realized that I played a role in my hurt as well. I chose to ignore the warning signs. I chose to ignore his words telling me that we weren’t more serious than friends. I chose to give my body, and consequently, my heart because the two are very much connected for me to a man that was never committed to me. I chose to believe in the good things, while completely and selfishly disregarding the negative. In my pain and anger, I allowed myself to play the role of the victim and completely take away from my own personal accountability. I realized this is a pattern for myself, and one that has to stop. I can’t always be the victim.

Burning bridges is sometimes empowering. Holding myself accountable though, that’s even more empowering. I am in charge of my choices. I am in charge of what I let in my heart, and I am in charge of what I allow to hurt my heart.

There are positives to all of this too. When this began, I was catapulted into sudden personal growth and life change. When I was busy crying over my broken heart, the heart I had completely given to him, I realized I was pursuing the wrong man and men in general. I need to be pursuing the Lord. All of this made me remember and realize that I need to be more focused on taking loving care of myself so that I can take better care of my family.

Life is tough right now, and I won’t lie, losing my person, losing the friend that was my rock in the middle of an ocean trying to drown me, losing the person I shared my heart and soul with every single day for almost 5 months will hurt for a long time. It’s going to take major time and self-reflection to heal. One thing I know already though is that I’m determined to take on more accountability and stop finger pointing from here on out. It’s time to be more of a grownup.

So while I’ve burned yet another bridge in my life, like the cleansing effect of a wildfire, on this fresh ground, I will now build a new stronger foundation for my future. I have only up to go from here.

27459997_1539849156123249_8636745616146410953_n*image from R.H. Sin*

PS If you read this, I will miss your friendship, my dear. Thank you for your part in this eye-opening wake-up call that is going to forever change my life. It hurts, but I know there will come a day where I’m so grateful for it all. Good luck in life, my old friend.

 

 

An Open Book

I saw a meme on Facebook that said something like, “I’m an open book in a world full of people that don’t read.” This speaks loudly to me as I can relate so well. I’m so much different from most of those around me. I’m a deep feeler surrounded by those that are numb. I’m a master communicator surrounded by those that just remain silent when I so badly just need to hear their words. So what do I do? I hold so much inside. I hold it inside until it feels like it’s all going to make me crazy. I hold it in while it eats my soul. I quietly cry tears of loneliness and frustration in the dark. I privately meltdown feeling I’m just too much for others. Then, I do the only thing I know how to do to cope, and I write.

The biggest problem in all of this is that there is just no changing it. I can’t water myself down. I have no idea how to be any different than the intensely feeling, fiercely loving, caring with my entire heart woman I am. Sometimes I feel like that is empowering, and other times, I feel like it is a lifelong punishment. I can’t help but wonder if this is every really going to pay off, or if I’m just going to spend my life with this complex heart that no one truly understands…

I don’t have much choice in anything though, other than choosing to try to be positive, choosing to keep my hope and faith intact, choosing not to allow the world to make me bitter, and choosing to continue writing. The rest of life is left up to powers bigger than mine. One thing is certain, I’m just always going to be that open book, and maybe someday, that open book can become a real written book and will make an impact on others for the better. This is my biggest life goal.

So, here’s to the open books…

*Photo from J. Warren Welch*

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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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

Watch Me Shine

I’m sitting here tonight with swollen eyelids from the massive amount of crying I’ve done today and feeling like a scolded child because, to add insult to injury on top of my already really bad day, I got in trouble at work. After an almost 2 hour meeting going over issues from several days ago, I was sent home on suspension for the day. Let me tell you, nothing sucks worse about being in a really bad spot financially like losing out on 5 hours of tip making. It’s just been a genuinely terrible, stressful, hard to handle day.

After this day of tears and frustrations, I’m left thinking about a conversation a dear friend of mine and I had on Sunday. I had opened up and was telling him some intensely private information about my past. The stuff that I was telling him about is some of the hardest times I’ve ever endured in my life. As I told him my story, I told him about how this is why I write to reach out to others. I want to lift others up that feel broken by life because I’ve been there. I also talked about how when I go through hard times now, I reflect back on how hard my life was then and remember that I got through it even though I felt I wouldn’t. It lets me know I can make it through anything now. Then…it was like life had to challenge this statement with today’s issues.

In Where Are My Happy Memories?, I talked about how negativity has had a major impact on my life, and why my brain automatically moves to negative thinking. I’m in a position lately though, that I need to make this change. It is having a negative impact on my personal life and my professional life. And frankly, I’m tired of it. Others notice negativity, from potential romantic partners, to friends, to employers and coworkers. Yesterday was quite eye opening for me in this realization.

We can be our own harshest critics. I know this is true for many, and it’s definitely true for me. Lately though, I’ve realized I’m not only hard on myself, but others too. I want to nip this in the bud now. I want for being harsh and being negative to no longer have a solid place in my life. As I was encouraged by my friend yesterday in my steps to being more positive, I realized and told him, “This is my chance to shine.” It’s true. This is my chance to make serious and noticeable changes. This is my chance to prove to others and myself that I can be successful and get through this on the up side. This is my chance to make change and be different.

So, with this new knowledge and motivation, I’ll begin working on me again. I know that I will get through this current hard stuff. I also know that I can be positive. I know that this can be life changing. So, my friends, watch me shine.

In My Bed

I do a lot more thinking in bed than I would like to, especially lately. Last night, I was lying there wishing for sleep but experiencing some pretty intense back pain from work that left sleep elusive for a long time. This time though, while I was lying there, this blog idea came to me.

I laid there last night thinking about beds. As an adult and a parent, so much happens in bed. It’s the place that lovers make love. It’s the place that moms comfort sick children. It’s often where laundry gets folded, where we take reprieve from stress in the middle of the day, even if only for a moment, and where exhausted people fall in at night in hopes of good sleep.

A lot happens in bed as grownups, and I know that for many of us, it’s our favorite place. When I have a lover, my favorite time of day is when I get to set aside life’s stress and cuddle up to the man I love. I love those few moments of talking, winding down, and snuggling up. I love to lie my head on his chest and just listen to the heart I love beat. If I’m lucky, in those moments before sleep, I get to use my body to show him just how I feel, but even if I don’t, I’m still so happy to breathe in his scent and feel his breathing with mine as we drift off to sleep.

As a single person, I know bed is still my favorite place, just obviously for different reasons. Lately, it’s because my bed is my sanctuary. I get up every day with a determination that I’m going to give my all into making a good life for myself and my kids with just us. I’m making specific effort into not using any of my old Band-Aids to temporarily ease pain. I have a history of turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms to mask hurts, and I’m hell bent on not turning to those this time. There’s no men that aren’t special to me. No slamming whiskey doubles home alone while I feel sorry for myself. No pot smoking while indulging in high calorie, high fat, high sugar foods to stuff my feelings down.  So instead, I take care of my adult responsibilities each day. I get up, I clean, I do laundry, I take care of the animals, I do all the mommy things (oh my gosh, single parenting is tough work), I keep up with my self-care (which is going to be revealed in depth in a later blog), and I go to work.

Coming home from work, I know I get to still set aside life’s stress and fall into my favorite place, bed. I may be alone in it now, but I get to relax, I get to rest my weary and aching body, I get to just be still. No more stress for the day, no more “adulting,” and no more effort into tackling the world. I get to just breathe.

I feel more peace now than I have in a quite a while. The stress can be high, but there is so much relief in doing things the right way. I’m loving this new me. I’m still the same strong, feisty, sassy woman, but I’m also the woman that for the first time in her entire life, is proudly standing tall in her choices, knowing that she couldn’t be doing any better. So, here’s to my new life, here’s to late night thinking and creativity, and here’s to my bed!

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