Just Nick

Any parent who has more than one kid can tell you – children are completely different when they’re away from their siblings.

I don’t get many opportunities to spend one-on-one time with my kids, but last week one kid had a scout meeting while the other had baseball pictures in another city at the same time. OF COURSE. So Dad took Will to scouts and I took Nick to pictures.

Afterward, Nick wanted to ride bikes up to the local burger and custard place, but I found that my ancient bike now refuses to hold air in its tires, so instead we drove to Red Lobster.

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My boy Nick

Nick and I are huge seafood fans, but his brother notsomuch, which made it a great choice for the two of us. He didn’t even open the menu when we sat down in the booth, only asked, “Can I get the grown-up size, Mom?” Of course he meant of crab legs.

“Sure bud.”

And he talked. MY GOD. If there’s one thing I noticed when he was away from his brother it’s that this kid has a lot to say.

He loves math but HATES reading. One kid at school isn’t “exactly” his friend, but he’s nice to him because he doesn’t want this other boy to feel bad. He rattled off a list of five or six people that he’d say *were* his friends, and was surprised when I told him most people don’t have that many friends. Mrs. S is his favorite teacher because she’s nice, and Mrs. C is good, too, but she’s strict.

This year my boys went to a new school, and naturally, they were both nervous about it back in September. When I asked him what surprised him most about this past school year, without hesitation he said he was surprised that he didn’t break any bones. I guess this is a real concern at 11. He’s looking forward to being more organized and having a locker next year in middle school.

If he could have one wish, it’d be for an Xbox One.

Between harfing down an entire POUND of crab legs, he told me that he’s going to have three kids some day. He’s going to name them Hank and Mack and Angelique — all of his kids are going to have “CK” names. I pointed out that only one of those actually HAS a “CK” in it and he replied quickly, “Well, I can spell them however I want!”

In the car after dinner on the way to get custard he asked me a question that totally had me floored — “Mom – would you rather do something bad that makes you famous, or something good but no one will ever know it was you that did it?”

“Something good, bud. The world has too much bad in it already. How about you?”

“Yeah, I think I’d pick something good, too.”

If he doesn’t already know, he should know when he reads this that he’s definitely one of my “something goods”.

 

Buying a home: The emotional parts.

OK, so the other day I started to tell you all of the boring background stuff about buying a house, then I veered out into left field and got all caught up in explaining all of this OTHER stuff and I decided I should separate the veering into a separate post.

When I left you, I was crying. In my car. In the parking lot of a Sherwin-Williams store. Because where do you go immediately after your house closing? THE FREAKIN’ PAINT STORE, THAT’S WHERE.

I had a color in mind and 92 miles of some sort of Greco-Roman inspired curtains to get rid of. I WAS A WOMAN ON A MISSION.

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The living room “before”. I shit you not.

But anyway, first the tears.

For me, this was a huge personal journey. If you ever asked me – when I was 15, 20, 30, last week – what I wanted for my life I’d have said a family and a beautiful home. That’s it. I don’t have high aspirations of some lofty career. I don’t have grand travel plans like having to see every continent before I die. I’d love to write a book some day but my feelings about never accomplishing it are “meh”. Maybe I’ll get around to it once the kids are in college, maybe I’ll just drink cocktails on patios. Whichever.

But leaving my husband meant also leaving our house. And that was very very hard. I told myself that one day I’d buy my OWN damn house and that it would be all the things the homes I owned with my ex-husband never were. Comfy. Friendly. Complete. And by complete I mean that projects would be finished and not done half-assed. I’d choose the paint colors myself in advance so that they all went together and actually put time into decorating a room. I’d have friends over to play games and have cocktails while our collective children played in the yard.

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The living room “after”. It’s hard to see with all the glare, but that’s Sherwin-Williams’ Mindful Gray. Doesn’t it just SOUND peaceful?

For a time, this vision of this happy little home really drove me, but not always in the best way. I let myself feel like I wasn’t happy…wasn’t successful…because I didn’t have that house. I had set a deadline for myself. A year after my divorce I’d start looking – I’d get pre-approved.

I spent most of that first year in debt and struggling. I wasn’t completely under water, but I had credit card debt and a car payment and a student loan. I was making large credit card payments every month while also being charged exorbitant interest rates, all while fully supporting myself on only my income for the first time in my adult life. It was a scary time. The light at the end of the tunnel was that I had money in a Roth IRA that was to be my house down payment money.

One day I saw the situation for the craziness that it was. Yes, I wanted that house, but was it going to be worth it if I got that house and still was paying off this debt? Uh, NO.

With a heavy heart I finally admitted that I was grateful to have this down payment money (mind you, I had started saving in this account when I was 22 so it’s not like it was exactly LUCK), and that if it meant that it would take me a few more years to get my house, it would be better to have the house and also be debt free.

Still, I remember how hard that was…making that phone call and requesting the transfer to my checking account. I felt unstable to not have that safety net there. There was money left over afterward, but my “home fund” was much much smaller than it was. But honestly? Starting that account in my twenties and deciding that being debt free was necessary were the best decisions I ever made.

The credit card was paid off in one fell swoop. I began making larger than required car payments and two years later that was gone, too. After the car I focused on the student loan. And in November of 2015, more than 13 years after my college graduation, I paid off my student loans and was debt free.

My God I almost cried while writing that. YEESH. What the hell is happening to me in my old age???

Basically, I had to come to grips with the idea that I didn’t need anyTHING in order to feel like my life mattered, like I had accomplished something. There was plenty of time for THINGS.

And when I finally had that house I really wanted? The frickin’ water works just started and it felt so good to laugh at myself, sitting in my car with tears streaming down my face in the parking lot of that store, as I told myself over and over, “I just bought a house. I bought a GODDAMN HOUSE. FRICKIN’ A I OWN A HOUSE.

Because it was just so damned sweet.

Buying a home: The boring parts.

I really don’t want to bore you with all of the financial wrangling that happens once you’ve made an accepted offer on a house, but I’ll sum it up by saying it’s WAY different than it was the last time I bought a house seven years ago. And it’s freaking exhausting.

Since 2009, the housing market in the States imploded and thousands of people foreclosed on their homes and now there are umpty-two ridiculous rules that you HAVE to follow if you would like to borrow money in a large quantity for the purchase of a home.

The most jarring to me was that lenders no longer look at just your credit score when determining what interest rate to offer you. It’s now a combination of that and the amount of money you have to put down on the house, and it only matters in 5% increments. Meaning that while I had a good chunk of money to use as a down-payment, it only was equal to about 8% of the home’s value. My lender actually suggested I NOT put down 8% but instead just five and use the rest for improvements or other house necessities. In the end, my rate wasn’t going to go down with that additional 3% and my monthly payments were only $11/month more without it.

And there was that ugly kitchen to contend with, remember?

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Ugh. That’s right.o_O

So, OK. I thought that wasn’t the worst thing. A pretty kitchen would be worth it.

But the other weird thing? Almost every state requires money to be paid up front that is put in an escrow account used to pay for the FOLLOWING year’s home owner’s insurance and, as calculated by some crazy formula I don’t fully understand, several months of your property taxes. The reason I don’t understand it (and I took Calculus in the 12th grade) is because the amount they require up front plus the amount of your monthly payment that also goes into this account for taxes ACTUALLY ENDS UP TOTALING MORE THAN A YEAR’S WORTH OF PROPERTY TAXES. (Example: I bought my house in February. They required four months worth of property taxes up front. But I’d be paying 10 more months-worth of property taxes throughout the course of the rest of this year, meaning when taxes are paid, two months would still be left over. They claim this is to cover any possible overages later on, but I’d rather let that money sit in an account making me money than in whatever weird bank-controlled account that’s been set up that does nothing for me.) And I’m really bothered by the fact that while I already paid for home owner’s insurance for a year, it was required that the equivalent of a second year’s home owner’s insurance be put into this account as well. Their theory is that they need to guarantee it’ll be paid, but in all my years of rental or home ownership, never was I without renter’s or home owner’s insurance. Again, I’d love for that money to MAKE more money for me in an investment, but I guess that’s out of my control. And I have absolutely no access to this account. I just get to guess as to it’s balance. Thanks shit heads.

ANYWAY…I had intended not to get boring. Whatever. Short story even longer I had no problems with my house closing. Everything went off without a hitch.

And then I left the title company’s offices and I cried. Like, for REAL. Big tears. Sobbing in a way I don’t EVER do.

And this is where this post started spiraling out of control, so I’ll cut it off here with one of those really annoying “TO BE CONTINUED” type cliffhangers.

TO BE CONTINUED…
bwahahahaha

*I don’t know why I put a maniacal laugh in there. It just seemed right.

 

Exhausted, Ex-schmausted.

So I went and wrote that last post about how tired I was, and then, just to prove I’m crazy, I bought a friggin’ house.

In all honesty, I had been looking for a while. I got pre-approved about a year ago, but I didn’t want the house hunting process to turn into a big ball of stress and insanity. The last time I bought a house (while I was still married), we had a short window of time in which we had to find a home, made shorter by an accepted offer on the home we were selling. Added to that, the market we were looking to buy in was many miles away, we both had full-time jobs and two small children. And he had no time to actually home search with me. It all led to one of the most stressful, lonely and unhappy times of my life, and no part of my being wanted to relive anything remotely close to that.

I wanted the search for my home to be joyful. Free of stress and limitations, and full of possibilities. I had really good credit, a good down payment, and time. I knew roughly where I wanted to live, and so I downloaded an app to my iPad and set up a saved search.

I spent hours leisurely looking through home listings, happily getting side tracked when I just had to know how much similar homes were going for in other cities, and any time I decided to see just how much money the home of my absolute dreams would cost. (Answer to both: A LOT.)

I remember finding a house one day that wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. It was in budget, in the right neighborhood and so close to where I had been living that I could swing by and see it and not really be all that late in picking my boys up from after school care. After a few minutes of playing the “am I really doing this?!?” game where my palms went sweaty and I got nervous for absolutely no real reason and then chastising myself for being one of THOSE GIRLS, I clicked the “email realtor” button on my app and sent a note saying I’d like to see it.

That house ended up being a complete dump, but that afternoon I met a lovely woman realtor who didn’t flinch when I told her I was a single woman who intended to buy a home on her own, and didn’t pressure me into looking at dozens of listings when I explained the type of buying process I wanted to experience. When her eyes didn’t go wide when I brought my two boys with me to a showing a few weeks later, I was sold. Girl, you got my business for LIFE.

Every few weeks I’d go see a house or two but nothing was quite right. I put my home search on hold over the holidays, but I so loved looking at home listings (and watching DIY home improvement shows and pinning projects to my Pinterest Home board) that it was just after New Year’s when I opened up that app and looked again.

And there it was. This seemingly perfect little house – a ranch, three plus bedrooms, one and a half baths. Super cute. In my budget and in my neighborhood. I excitedly set up a listing.

It was an utter craphole.

TJ was with me that day and the smell of cat urine in the basement was enough to send us running for the hills. But I had decided that since we’d already be out on that cold January morning and we were kid free, that I’d have the realtor show me another one just after.

That second house was similar – a ranch with three bedrooms, one and a half baths, partially finished basement, two car garage – but the photos for that second home weren’t as optimistic. We walked in to this:

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“DREAM KITCHEN!” said no one ever.

So of course I loved it.

After claiming I would never again buy a house that needed massive amounts of work, that’s exactly what I did.

Who wants to sleep anyway?

Happy New Year. I’m exhausted.

I’ve been struggling all day as to how I should sum up 2015. It certainly wasn’t the worst year ever. I feel like I’m poised to make some big decisions about my life, but want to pay homage to those parts of my life that matter. I guess you could say I want to make those decisions cautiously, and with careful consideration.

This holiday season seems to have been more exhausting than mostI’ve had a bit of insomnia lately, likely caused by all of the busy-ness that is life with a full time job and two school-aged kids. Or do I feel things have been so much busier because of the insomnia? I’m not sure.

2015 didn’t suck, though, that’s for sure. I had a lot of great experiences, went on a few pretty epic trips…I guess I’m here to put together a “year in review” post to prove to myself that despite how tired I currently feel, that tiredness is well-earned. Here are the highlights of 2015.

January
January 2015 seems to have been filled with lots of family things. I had this great idea last Christmas (which I’ll share in a post sometime soon) that instead of gifts I’d buy my boys (and The Man’s boy) gift cards for twelve activities that we’d do together throughout the year. In January, the five of us hit the Milwaukee Public Museum.

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January also hosted my work holiday party (always very fancy yet also fun), my boys were in ski club and I had some nights out with two of my bestest friends.

February
I turned 37 in February, and celebrated alongside other winter baby friends with a joint party the most Milwaukee way we know how – at a dive corner bar on the south side mini-bowling. And in case you can’t see it, yes, those are real people back there resetting the pins.

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There also seems to have been some margaritas that month, some sushi and a mini-golf pub crawl.

March
Yikes. March included multiple brewery tours/visits (Minhas, New Glarus and Karbon4 all in one trip) as well as a tour and tasting at Great Lakes Distillery. There’s no real wonder as to why people think Midwesterners drink so much. It’s cuz we do.

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Michelle and I with some random cop-dude statue at the Great Lakes Distillery.

I also chaperoned a fourth grade field trip, went to an Admirals hockey game with the kids and our friends and a rollerskating birthday party, too.

April
This past April was AMAZING. We went to Mexico for a week with some good friends to celebrate their tenth anniversary. We snorkeled with sea turtles, we drank at the swim-up bar and just generally enjoyed not being in the Wisconsin cold. Now let’s go back. Please.

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The group the day we attempted deep sea fishing

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Me, repelling

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Me & The Man, just before snorkeling in a cenote

April was also Easter, river clean-up for Earth Day with the Cub Scouts, an early season Brewer game for The Man’s birthday and Will finally got to participate in Take Your Kids to Work Day. FUN.

May
The season’s first Little League games were in May – I remember joking (only half so) that we might need snow pants for those first few games. The snow might’ve been gone but it was still cold FOR SURE.

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Also? THEY WERE BOTH ON THE SAME TEAM THIS YEAR! Half as many games = amazaballs.

There were also more margaritas, we celebrated my Grandpa’s 80-something’th birthday and I got my hair done and it looked amazing. (As evidenced by the selfie I took and posted to Facebook. What? Did you think I was just reaching back into my memory banks and pulling out all of this old stuff? HECK NO. Facebook for reminding for the win.)

June
Nick pitched an AMAZING game in June. He faced seven batters in two innings (at the 10-year-old level each kid can only pitch for two), and allowed zero runners on base. At a level where most runs are scored because the pitcher is walking kids around the bases and the score-per-inning limit is reached, this was pretty noteworthy. I was ridiculously proud!

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Also? More margaritas (probably), a Summerfest concert, dinners on patios and another Brewer game, this time with free Zubas. I’m including another photo for the month because they are *that* amazing.

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The girls in our matching Brewers zubas and tall socks. Sexy, we know.

Oh and one of our trips to the Lake with our friends and their kids was in June, too. I guess June was busy!

July
If I just said June was busy, let me rephrase that. July was redonkulous. The boys and I did the Color Run with friends and their kids (you would’ve thought this was like Christmas they were so excited to get to do it) and we established what we came to call “Pickleball Sundays”. The Man and I and two other couples are Pickleball players, and this summer we established the tradition of packing up the kids and a cooler and heading to a local park on a Sunday afternoon to play. We grown ups P-Balled it and the kids played at the playground. Fun for all (despite the heat).

July was also my Dad’s extended family’s reunion and Dad’s birthday, too. We celebrated the latter the best Milwaukee way possible – at an outdoor beer garden. Yes, kids too.

July_beergarden

August
Oh God, August. August was great. My work picnic was at the Milwaukee County Zoo. There was more Pickleball. There were visits to State Fair (both with kids and without).

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The three hooligans at my work picnic at the Zoo.

I did the Dirty Girl run with one of my closest friends again, and the event photogs got this awesome shot of me looking like a super hero. Sweet.

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September
September finally calmed down a bit, mostly because the boys went back to school. (That’s totally false – we were as busy as ever but most events were boring and school-related, or were run-of-the-mill Scout meetings or grocery shopping. Not much that was picture-worthy.)

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First day of school, 2015

And for proof that they aren’t always so goofy, we also hired a photographer to get more formal shots of the boys (both mine and my nephews). I look at this picture and swear I see what they’re both going to look like at 20. I really am blessed.

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Lookin’ so fly like a G6

 

October
Have I overused the word ‘epic’ too much for this year yet? Because a cousin and I went on a trip in October that pretty much qualifies. We flew to Salt Lake City to visit a cousin and her family, and after a few days the three of us girls road-tripped down to Moab with the baby for a few more days of hiking. It was an amazingly good time – lots of hiking and talking and eating and arguing over who was picking up the tab. (As in we each wanted to cover it for the others.) It certainly was a once in a lifetime trip!

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The hike into Donut Falls

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Me, climbing Donut Falls (yes, I know I have skinny arms)

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Kari & I, after rafting the Colorado River

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Oh and looky there. Margaritas!

And I guess we found time to squeeze in one more mini-trip, just me and my boys. We took the train to Chicago on a random off school day and checked out the Field Museum and The Bean.

November
My oldest boy turned eleven in November. How is that even POSSIBLE?

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There was, of course, a birthday party, followed by Thanksgiving. Which was, in turn, followed up with a trip to Ikea, followed by many hours of putting together pre-fab furniture. Followed up still by finally feeling like a real adult who has nice things.

December
I guess I’m starting to see where the tired’s come from. December had many holiday celebrations – from playing the Panty Ho Head Game (another post for another day) at a family Christmas at one end of the month to presents galore (twas the year of the PS4 in our house) to a grown-ups only party that included a whole lot of shenanigans. And this doesn’t even include New Years’.

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The Xmas party with all the shenanigans

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A little down time with Will and The Man’s dog

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XMAS MORNING!!!

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The Man. Love you, babe.

I’m not even sure how to sum this all up. I mean, what do you say? If anything, I hope I never stop doing these year in review posts. Because while I was feeling more than just a little beat down when I started compiling all of this, I now feel nothing but blessed and honored to be given these crazy ass people in my life.

My love to you all, crazy ass friends and family. And if you’re reading this and I don’t know you? May you have a wonderful start to your 2016.

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Fear is conquerable

I was inspired to write this post after reading Kelly’s. In fact, I started writing all of this in the comments and felt I wanted to write further, so here you go.

I seem to know a LOT of women who want to sit around and discuss the ever-loving CRAP out of every relationship they’ve ever had and why HE did this or why HE did that. Every single thing they seem to talk about involves a man, or men, or some stupid BOY and what he said or didn’t say and what he should have wanted to say instead. They want to dissect it all until it makes sense, and ultimately they cry and stress over what is wrong with them because somehow they are convinced that they are BROKEN. I just had a conversation with a friend about friends like these over dinner last night. Those friends? (God love ’em, there’s nothing wrong with them, I love many of them, but all the same…) THEY ARE EXHAUSTING.

I HATE HIM. Nevermind. He just texted me back. False alarm.

STOP DOING THIS.

GIRLS? THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU. He cheated because he’s a cheater*. The end, amen. It has absolutely nothing to do with who you are or what you look like or how much is in your bank account. Have you seen some of the gorgeous (and rich) celebrities who’ve been cheated on? No one is immune.

Pick your shit up and move on. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. You have to decide that FUCK IT. HE (or SHE, whichevs) IS NOT WORTH IT because guess what? He’s not. If he’s going to treat you like shit and not love you the way you need to be loved then move on. You can’t make him be anything other than what he is. (Read that last sentence as many times as you need.)

And then you have to decide FUCK IT. I’M NOT GOING TO LET SOME PIECE OF SHIT WHO WASN’T GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME KEEP ME FROM BEING HAPPY AGAIN. And then let that shit go and just be happy.

Because guess what? You survived. You came out of that relationship and are still breathing. You still have friends who will sit with you in coffee houses or in a bar who will buy you a drink and hug you while you ugly cry. They love you and will continue to love you even when you’re exhausting the next time. Let’s get real here – YOU COULD SURVIVE IT AGAIN.

No one wants to, of course. DUH. But you can’t control what happens to you. The only thing you can control is how you react to what happens to you. In my opinion, the only things you can do to try to avoid being “that girl” again is by being the truest YOU that YOU can be so that you end up with the right person. Love yourself and everything you are. ROCK THE FUCK out of your own style, your own interests, your own YOUNESS. You are goddamn amazing and you need to do nothing else in life but BE. Let go of all the shit that is cluttering your mind. Be healthy. Be honest. Be good at something you don’t get paid to do. Be the very best version of YOU.

And while you’re doing all of that YOUness? You will likely find someone who admires you for your ferocity in the face of regular everyday-ness. Who loves the same things you love. Who thinks your grace and intelligence are beautiful. Who appreciates the sense of stillness that comes from your mind because you know who you are and don’t need anyone to strengthen your resolve.

And if this better version of HIM (or HER, whichevs) breaks your heart at some future date? Your friends will still be there to buy you a coffee or a beer and hug you while you ugly cry.

*Or was a dick because he’s a dick. Or was a jealous sunovabitch because he’s a jealous sunovabitch. You get the idea.

To my friends currently going through the end of a LONG ASS relationship…

Yes, you…

That relationship may have been long…may have lasted all of your adult life, and maybe you let that relationship define who you are without even realize you were doing just that.

You may have given up a lot of things to make that relationship work. Like me, you may have never realized all of the things you were letting slip by, giving the time that could have been spent with friends or reading a book or having a drink with your sister to that relationship or your family instead, desperately trying to force things to work again. You may have not even realized that’s what you were doing or that something was broken.

You’ve probably lost yourself in that relationship. I’m saying it out loud because I’ve been there and it’s worthy of mention. You may be sitting in your kitchen right now, the lights off, the kids finally in bed. There may be dishes in the sink that need to be done but you just can’t bring yourself to care enough that they aren’t done. You may be wondering — “Am I the kind of woman who cares if the dishes aren’t done?” and “What does that say about me that I just don’t care?” or “…that I do?”

And what really sucks is that all of that…all of yourself…that you gave to this relationship? In the end it just didn’t matter. It didn’t work. And here you sit, none the better for any of it.

I’m going to tell you something, though. The fact that you feel your life isn’t the greatest right now? That is enough justification to allow yourself to feel bad about it. You don’t need to be concerned as to whether or not someone else has it worse than you. Yes, someone else probably does. But that doesn’t mean you’re not also suffering — your feelings are legit — so tell your mind to shut the hell up about it already.

And sadly, no matter who you are or what type of life you lead, there will almost always be people who do not agree with your life or your decisions, regardless of the fact that they know nothing about what you’ve been through, or whether or not you actively made those decisions. These judgers could be your brother or your uncle or your mom. They may presume that because things “looked OK” that they were OK. But anyone with half a brain knows that the relationship was between the TWO of you and no one else and there were many things they didn’t see. Many of those people will come back to your life at one point or another, knowing better, but it doesn’t stop it from hurting when they look at you disdainfully, or like you somehow failed. Some of them won’t be back, and that? Is shit but you can’t change their minds.

What I want to tell you — desperately NEED to have you hear is this: beside all of that? Life is going to suck for a while. Sometimes that’s what happens when things change. Whether or not you initiated that change is not the point. I’m not even going to get into the reasons that your relationship may have ended, but trust that the reasons will come with time and you’ll be better off.

Right now, there’s this new “normal” you’re trying to find. And you may still be in that phase where you just can’t stop crying. That’s OK. Let yourself feel shitty. If there’s one thing I did wrong going through my divorce is that I let a friend tell me that I shouldn’t complain about my ex-husband because he was a “good guy”.

Bullshit. He wasn’t good to me and that’s what mattered. Bitch all you want. Write it down if you have to — get it all out. Say the same thing 1,000 times if that’s what it takes. Be angry. Thank GOD for the girlfriends you have that will listen. They love you.

Cry if you need to. Like seriously ugly cry, whenever you need to. It makes no difference if you do it once or if you do it a hundred times. If you’re at work, go to the bathroom. Hell, sit in your car in the parking lot if you need to. Sob until your heart is empty and you just can’t cry any more. That saying? That salt water cures everything? Is true. It heals. And if you don’t ever cry? That’s OK too.

You’re probably going to feel lost. You may find, for the first time in umpteen years, that you have days where you actually don’t need to take care of anyone else. The first times that you find yourself in the grocery store alone will feel completely foreign. You’ll find weekend moments that used to be filled with the mundanity of doing daily chores or running errands that are now empty. You’ll find many more moments when you sit in your kitchen and feel like you have no idea where to go, or that you don’t know where to start on the things you have to do. If you’re at all like me, this feeling will drive you half mad.

But I want you to get yourselves a notebook, ladies. A pretty one, with a colorful cover that makes you smile. And a purple sparkly pen that writes “just so”. And I want you to write today’s date on the top of that first page. And at the end of the day, I want you to take three minutes to think about your day and write down the good bits. Just make a list — nothing fancy. It doesn’t need to be grammatically correct or in some special order. Just write it down. Tomorrow, use the next page. The day after that, the next one.

And don’t worry if someone else might think your list of good things is lame. It’s not their list, it’s yours, and no one else ever has to see this list but you, unless you have a really kick ass day and you want to Instagram that shit. That’s cool, too.

Did you get a soda at the gas station that had just the right combination of syrup and crushed ice? Write it on the list. Was your favorite movie on TV? Write it down. Did your son, the dawdler, the kid who makes you feel like you’re ready to lose your goddamn mind every freaking morning put his shoes on without a fight? WRITE THAT SHIT DOWN THAT’S FRICKIN’ AMAZING.

Ultimately? Just. Keep. Going.

It gets easier, I swear.

And after a month, you’ll have 30 pages in that pretty notebook that you can flip back through that I promise will make you smile.

After two or three months, the little “good bits” you’ve been jotting down will get better and better. They’ll become bigger good bits, and the shitty parts…the parts I talked about at the top of this post…will seem further and farther behind.

Cherish those friends who let you cry or complain without complaining themselves. They love you. Cherish the feeling of a job well done. You matter. You’re making a difference. Cherish the sticky little hugs around your neck when you’re already dressed for work and now you have toothpaste on your black sweater. Those sticky little hugs will save your life a thousand times, without the attached sticky little faces even realizing what they’re doing.

Be happy about the Saturdays where you are alone but aren’t lonely. Be happy about the Sunday when you buy a new print for your living room wall and you hang it by yourself in *just* the perfect spot. Be happy about the Tuesday where you juggled kids and work and after school activities *and* still fed them a somewhat healthy meal that they didn’t whine about eating. Be happy about the Tuesday when all of that failed but you still had wine in the fridge.

Find joy in the fact that you may have left a house you called a home, but that you are now in a little apartment that’s all your own that you can clean top to bottom in less than an hour’s time. Find joy in the fact that you no longer have to have HIS (or HER) crappy recliner in the corner or lame ass framed movie poster hanging above the sofa and you can piece together a decor you really love.

Geek out when you find a kitchen table on Craig’s list for $100 to replace the card table you had there originally. Geek out further when you get a friend’s husband to pick it up for you. Pay him with beer or a ham sandwich or whatever you have on hand that’ll let him know he’s one of the good ones. Geek out when you can finally afford a new Blu-ray player that connects to the Internet and you discover you can binge watch every episode of Sons of Anarchy on Netflix. Geek out further when you discover you have a pint of ice cream in the freezer to eat while you watch and there’s no one around to judge you for farting while you eat your Häagen-Dazs and swoon over Charlie Hunnam.

This is not the end of your life, friend, merely a bump in the road. A shift in gears. Another page in your autobiography. YOU WILL SURVIVE THIS.

You are so much stronger than you know. Poor or rich or somewhere in between, it doesn’t matter: In a year you’ll look back and wonder how you could have possibly come so far. You’ll wonder why you were so worried about all of this in the first place.

I have faith in you. You got this.