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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You Are Worthy

I am often trying to lift others up, both as Moonshine Niki, and in my personal and very real life. Using my gift of words for this is extremely important to me and is something of a life goal.

I told a friend today that I wanted to write, but that I needed a writing prompt. Shortly after this conversation, I got my inspiration. I was watching a show about heroin use in America. It showed a few people trying to make an impact in several ways, from court programs, to ministry, to emergency responders that administer Naloxone (commonly referred to as Narcan) to treat overdoses. These people go out trying to make a difference knowing that most of the time, addicts are going to turn right back to drugs.

As I was watching this, I started thinking about the drug users. They are miserable, they are afraid, they feel stuck, and they are a slave to the drug. They don’t want to be where they’re at, but changing it feels like an impossible task. There’s the physical component (addiction), there’s few places to turn to for help, and one aspect I feel that gets in the way the most–judgment.

We have all heard people say something like, “We shouldn’t waste resources on Narcan. Just let all the addicts die,” or, “They chose that life for themselves, why even try to help.” Society tells those struggling with a drug problem that they are worthless, they are scum, they aren’t worthy of life. To make it worse, those that are involved with drugs are often involved with other things that bring shame. Child Protective Services, theft, even from those that love and help them, prostitution, and other things that bring public shame and ridicule. So, for these people, the entire world is looking down on them, treating them like they’re not real people–just a problem draining society, and there are many roadblocks in the way. This does not make it easy to change.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely not making excuses for people continuing their lives like this. What I am saying is that it is not as simple as just deciding to stop. I’m also saying that the people that are trying to make a difference, the ones that still treat addicts like real people, that provide words of encouragement, and that offer support DO sometimes make a difference. While most turn right back to drugs, there are those that don’t. There are those that are at the end of their ropes and ready and the only push they need is a loving hand extended in kindness. They get clean, become productive members of society, and sometimes even go on to help those still struggling. These are the people that make it worth it to keep trying.

While I’m not working out in the streets, I’m obviously not a medical responder, and I don’t have some kind of ministry, the one thing I do have is my words. If there were more people showing kindness and humility, there might be more addicts wanting to change things for themselves instead of hiding away in shame with the one thing they feel loves them back, drugs.

So, I want to reach out to those that feel broken in life. I don’t care if you have made your own bed, so to speak. I don’t care if you chose to pick up a needle that first time. I don’t care if you have sold your body, lost your kids, have stolen, or have tried and failed repeatedly. I’m here to tell you that you still matter. You are still a human being worthy of love, protection, safety, and a good life. It is never too late to decide to turn it all around. You are never too far gone or a lost cause. I’m here to encourage you, and tell you that you are worth reaching out for help.

This is how I intend to spend my life. I hope to someday make a career out of it and do more, but for now, my words here are what I’ve got. For now, I intend to spread love from behind this computer screen until a new plan comes along.

And just in case you need to hear it again, you, my friends, are worthy.

Much love,
Moonshine Niki

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Do I Deserve Love?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about love. I’ve been thinking not just about romantic love, but many kinds. . . the love between family, the love a mother is supposed to have for her children, and even self-love. You see, my life has definitely lacked love in places where there should have been much, much more.

I was a child bride and had a husband that loved drugs and alcohol, he loved humiliating me and hurting me, but he didn’t love me. I have a family that isn’t close and doesn’t show love at all towards one another. Way more “f**k you’s” are thrown out between each other than “I love you’s.” Hugs don’t happen with my family, and support is virtually non-existent. The biggest pain with that is that there is more love and support shown for some of us from my mother than others. Growing up feeling like I was somehow flawed (because I must be if my own mother can’t like me but clearly loves my siblings, right?!) has made me not love myself. If the easiest love to come in the world (the love of a mother for her child) isn’t there, and then my own husband couldn’t love me, then I must be truly broken and unlovable. That was my thinking for a long time anyway.

I’ve written several times about how women are harsh to judge and judge ourselves more than anyone else. We have constant media in our faces telling us we aren’t good enough, pretty enough, slim enough. It makes self-love incredibly difficult. Then, when you add in abusive people, absent or hurtful parents, or other issues and incidences that cause pain, self-love becomes even harder.

For me, I had the lack of bonding with my mother as my foundation in life. Then, I got married as a teen and had 4 children back to back with an abusive man. I didn’t take good care of myself through those hard times in my life (thank you, depression), and so of course, I gained a ton of baby weight and didn’t lose it. I didn’t have any friends, I didn’t have any family there for me, and I was living through an abusive marriage with no idea that I deserved any better. I did not love me. In fact, I didn’t just not love myself, I downright hated myself.

Now, we can fast forward several years where I have been away from that man for a long time, have lost some of that weight, have made many achievements and advancements in life, and had much personal growth. I’ve struggled still with self-love though. I’ve struggled feeling worthy, and as I’ve recently had a falling out with my family and have endured some other tough events, I’ve been thinking even more about love.

I realized recently that I’ve spent a long time hating myself. I’ve hated my tender heart, I’ve hated my body and the weight I’ve struggled with since I started having children almost 18 years ago, I’ve hated how easily I cry, I’ve hated my lack of self-control in so many areas, and the list goes on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked my face in the mirror and told myself ugly, hateful things because I felt I deserved it. If I exercised, I would think those horrible things to myself out of frustration that I ever let my body get this out of control. I just have been truly disgusted with myself, and so I punished myself with hate.

Well, several days ago, I suddenly had an epiphany. I’ve battled my weight for a long time. I’ve also battled many emotional issues for a long time. While I have continued to try to fight against these issues, I’ve tried using the same methods and with the same self-loathing I have always had. What’s that saying about insanity…trying the same way over and over again while expecting different results? That’s what I have been doing. I have decided that no matter what is going on with my family, no matter what man I do or don’t have in my life, and no matter how my body looks, I need to love myself anyway. No matter what, I am deserving of self-love. So now, as I do my daily squats, I’m telling myself in my head, “Look at you go! One. Good job getting active! Two. You are beautiful! Three. You deserve love! Four. Look at you empowering yourself! Five. . .” You get the idea.

If hating myself has gotten me nowhere, then there’s an entire world of possibilities if I love myself instead. It’s been easy to be negative for a long time, so I’m not going to assume that it’s suddenly going to be much easier to be kind to myself, but I can promise that I’m going to keep trying. I am worthy of that much.

This new journey of self-love is important because it’s not only for me, it’s for my children, for my friends, for my coworkers, and for everyone else around me. The better I feel inside, the better mom, friend, and employee I can be. It’s a win for everyone. So, here’s to my new journey. . .

Signing off with a smile and love,
Moonshine Niki

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Is She Crying Again?

“Is she crying again?”

“She is just being emotional.”

“Man up.”

“Boys don’t cry.”

When I think of being emotional and crying, these are some of the responses that pop into my head. I think of my family ridiculing me for being emotional. I think of all hurts being swept under the rug or boxed tightly inside for fear of someone seeing tears fall. I think of little boys being told they need to be manly and that men don’t cry. In fact, everything I think of when I think of crying is negative. It is ingrained in us not to be “sissies” or worse. In our culture, crying is seen as weak. It is a deep-rooted belief that starts get drilled into us when we are young.

I was having lunch with a friend recently when she told me her mother suggested she go see a doctor.

“Why?” I asked as I looked at her across the table.

“Because I’m so emotional,” she said with tears welling up in her eyes.

What? Seriously?! Aside from more stress recently and the struggles of enduring a long, cold winter without enough sun, what problem did her mother think was causing tears that a doctor was going to fix? This astounded me as my friend is a well-adjusted, loving, strong woman. Why is her feeling emotional lately a problem worthy of going to the doctor? Why does crying need to be cured?

I had another (male) friend tell me that he feels men aren’t allowed to feel emotions, and they are definitely not allowed to cry. So my friend walks through life enduring hardship, hurts, and stress and stuffing all these feelings down, fearing crying even in private. He and other men feel that it is never okay to just breakdown and let it out.

I’ve written over and over about being an emotional person and so you could accurately assume that this means I am also a crier. It’s true, I am. I cry when I feel sorrow, I cry when I become overstimulated, I cry when I’m happy. It’s just how I am. This was something I was ashamed of when I was younger and I used to get so angry with myself when I cried and couldn’t control it. I’ve been thinking lately though, why does our culture so staunchly dislike crying?

Crying is cleansing. It’s a great release and relief of emotions. It’s almost like pushing a reset button. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to embrace the need to cry and the emotional relief it brings me once I’ve done so. Because of this, I often encourage others to let it out. As we fear crying, I almost don’t understand why. Think about this; once it starts, no matter how hard you cry, it always comes to an end within moments. You feel better. You feel some relief. Then you can dry your eyes, wash your face, and you’re set to take on the world again.

As a lover of human beings, as a mother, as a nurturer by nature, I encourage you all to be supportive of those around you that need to let it out. I encourage you to allow your boys to cry when they need to. I encourage you to allow your girls to cry. I encourage you to be supportive of humans and the need to cry in general. We naturally feel like we can’t change the world, but we actually can. By changing ourselves, we change the world for those around us. This is how we change the stigma that goes along with crying in our culture.

May peace be with you all this week.

Love,
Moonshine Niki

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I Am

When your soul is intertwined with another, magic can happen. Here is a collaboration piece written together with my best friend. Him in blue, me in pink. We can be the devil or we can be the angel, but always, we are there for the other.

You are my rock, my sunshine, the one that keeps me laughing. I love you, my friend. This is for you. 

Am


I am the devil,
And I am the light.
I am the dawn,
And I am the night.

I am the shimmer on the water,
And I the disturbance of the calm.
I am the world’s destruction,
And I am the world in your palm.

I am the fall breeze coming down,
And I am the warm sun on your face.
I am the thunder that makes you shudder,
And I am your comforting, safe place.

I am the restless that keeps you awake,
And I am the lulling sweet, sleepy feeling.
I am the tide that washes you away,
The stunning moments in life that keep you reeling.

I am the current that drags you down,
But I am the miraculous energy to keep you afloat.
I am the storm that blows you from shore,
But I am the rescue boat.

I am the rain on your fire,
But I am the perfect breeze to stoke your flame.
I am the spirit running wild,
I am the calm and the tame.

I am the soothing salve to your soul,
I am the fire to burn the world down.
I am the highway that leads you to nowhere,
And I am the safety of a tiny nowhere town.

I am the beat in your heart,
And I am the life to course through your veins.
I am the eye of the storm,
And I am the wind of the hurricane.

The fresh morning dew on green leaves.
I am the clear sky after the storm.
I am the tree that gives you shade,
But I am the heat to keep you warm.

I am the rock that you cling to,
The safety to be free.
I am the mountain that watches you conquer,
The strength beneath my feet.

I am the words that you cannot say.
Just when life has gotten hard.
You’re the safety of a new way,
The magic that lightens where I’m scarred.

I am the evil under your sleep,
But I am the angel for which you pray.
I am the darkest of night.
And I am the brightest of day.

I am the kisses to soothe your hurts,
I am the scars that remind.
That I am the toughest of all,
And I can leave the past behind.

A Woman. A Mother. A True Warrior.

*This following is a submission for a local writing contest.*

Almost three months ago, I felt like my world was coming to an end. The man I loved so much, the first man I’d ever given my heart completely to, the man that I would have bet my life that he was my forever told me he was leaving and that he never loved me. On top of the heartache that threatened my ability to breathe, I knew I was in for a rough ride in many ways. On top of the pain that felt to be shredding my soul, I knew immediately that this meant I was going to have to get a second job.

You see, I am a single mother. I have three children that depend on me to provide for their every need and have no one but me to rely on. Losing my house or my vehicle was not an option. Not feeding the kids was not an option. Giving up clothing, household and hygiene supplies, and school supplies was not an option. I do not receive child support though and I have no one but myself, so I started job hunting on my lunch breaks from my day job. Within a few weeks, I was given a new uniform and learning the ropes of the food industry for the first time in my life.

Since then, I’ve been learning to balance those two jobs along with my “mom life.” Working 6 to 7 days a week has become the new norm and exhaustion has become a growing presence in my life. Sadly, I quickly started to become bogged down with life stress as my heart had no time to ache over the loss of my love.

As he has been posting pictures with his brand new pretty girlfriend on Facebook, I have been trading in my quality time with my children for evening shifts serving pizzas. As he has been out spending his weekends spending money, I have been praying to be blessed with good tips so that I could put gas in my vehicle. As he has been doing God knows what at night, I have been falling into an empty bed and quickly letting exhaustion pull me into the sweet relief of sleep before I have a chance to lie there and think about everything.

For several weeks, life has felt increasingly hard and dark. I’ve been overwhelmed with the worries and felt there was no light at the end of the tunnel. I had allowed loneliness to start to crowd my good judgment. I began to drown emotionally. I love my children more than I love having air to breathe, but any adult knows that there is an intense innate desire in us all to have the companionship of another adult. Between being lonely, the severe stress, and the lack of time, I started to feel like I was not a woman. I didn’t feel like a human being. I felt more like I was expected to be a robot.

The tears came daily for many weeks. I fought back when I felt it was me against the world, but then started to feel like my fight was fading. Then, just as I was reaching my breaking point, just as I was starting to open up to friends and tell them I’m in a dangerous place, there was a sudden breakthrough.

As I watched a gorgeous sunset with one of my best friends after work one day, I brought up to her how I need a better vehicle. It was in this conversation that a new plan was born. While it will take effort on my part to be controlled with my finances, my friend and I discussed how I am going to rearrange my bills, how I’m going to reduce certain financial obligations, and how exactly I’m going to be able to eventually quit my second job.

I left her house that night with a big smile on my face. Suddenly all the bricks of stress that were adding up and taking away my ability to breathe were lifted. I could see a new light at the end of the tunnel for the first time in a few months. I went to bed that night with a renewed sense of peace in my heart.

Not only was I relieved that night, but I’ve woken up happy again every day since then. I feel like me again. . .and that right there is the biggest gift I could give myself. I’m in a good place again.

While there are things that have happened during this time period that I wish I could take back and that I wish that my children could un-see and un-hear, I am thankful for a few things.

My children have been able to see me get my heart broken and experience a deep pain that was life altering. They have seen me fall apart under stress and heard my sorrowful sobbing through the walls. They have seen me truly exhausted and stop caring about so much that I normally would. But my children have also seen me continue on when I felt I couldn’t. They have seen me sacrifice. They have seen me do what needs to be done so that they can remain stable. They have seen me fight back when life was doing its best to kick my ass. They have also now seen me turn around and become me again during this battle. They have seen the gray skies clear and happiness shine on my face again without any man. I have always said that if it’s me against the world, that’s okay because I’m a fighter. Now, my children have seen that their mother is nothing short of a true warrior. And for this, I am happy.

That night’s stunning sunset
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A Different Kind of Love Story

I have recently mentioned a few times about the importance of friendship between women, and I can’t express enough how true that need is. As a woman, women are the ones that know you’re heart deeply. Your female friends are the ones that will understand what you’re not actually saying, will truly get what you are saying, and will be the most knowledgeable about how to best be there for you.

I personally have not had many long-term friendships. In fact, I’ve had only one. My friend and I met through church the summer before we started high school. We were both rowdy, feisty, and rebellious in our own ways. It was not a love at first sight friendship, but by the time we talked, we were hooked and instant “besties” from that first night.

We were young and wild and thick as thieves. We had fun together and rode the waves of high school and teenagerhood together. We had each other’s backs as we navigated that awkward stage of life where you’re no longer a child, but you’re not yet an adult. We got into trouble and ditched class together for no good reason during the week, and then we were angels in church as we soaked up the Word on Sundays. We were busy figuring out life and who we were, but we did it all together. We were an intense duo.

We were close, but these were the days before cell phones and social media, so when I “ditched” her to go to an alternative high school after acting up at our school, she felt abandoned (and rightfully so), and we drifted apart. We ended up stopping talking and put our friendship on pause. Neither of us knew just how close we would be again and just how much we would have an impact on each other’s lives in the future, but it would be revealed years later.

A few years went by after high school and we both led very different lives. I was going through the end of a failed marriage with elementary-aged children, and she was newly married with a baby when we were reconnecting. I was going through a disaster in my life and she was a sudden ray of sunshine to burst through the clouds in the middle of my storm. My entire life had fallen apart and I’d lost everything—my marriage, my house, my vehicle, 95% of belongings, and more. I was dealing with being a first time single mom in my early 20’s, divorce, overcoming drugs and their multiple impacts on my life, grief from the loss of my child, and then some.

MySpace was where she tracked me down, and I immediately clung to her like my life depended on it. I can’t remember how soon it was after she messaged me, but I dreamed about her. To this day I remember how in the dream she was standing in front of me with her child on her hip (I can still even remember her posture in the dream) and the message was that I needed her and she was going to help me. Almost 10 years later now and I can’t even begin to explain how true that has been.

She has been my support as I pulled my life out of the gutter. She has been my backbone as I have gone through being homeless, going through breakups, going through the loss of jobs, going through ongoing grief, going through heartache, and all of life’s toughest moments. She has watched me doing the ugliest of ugly cries. She has watched me rejoice in positive life changes. She has shared in my grief and hurts and my joys and happiness. She’s been there for everything. I’ve told her the things I can’t bring myself to tell anyone else. We’ve cried together over the worries of the world that hurt us both. She knows me better than anyone else on earth, including my family. Her and I, we are soul sisters.

When I talk to any woman about women needing a close girlfriend, this beautiful gift from God is who I picture in my mind. Everyone needs one of her. She is the peanut butter to my jelly, the colors to my book, and the soul to my mate. It’s totally a love story, just a different kind than the movies are made about.

For women, we have to lift each other up. We have to carry each other’s burdens. We have to look each other’s hard moments, greatest fears, and heartaches in the face and say, “We are getting through this TOGETHER.” We ALL need and deserve this kind of love in our lives. So ladies, be there for each other during the good and bad life moments. If you don’t have a friend like this, then be it for someone else. You’ll find it in return. And always love each other and yourselves. It’s important.

Be blessed, my friends.
Moonshine Niki

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