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Last night, I was able to spend an evening out with Patrick for the first time in quite some time. We have not had an evening out together, apart from Patience and Prudence, since Providence was born. I was feeling long overdue. Finally having a “night out” gave me a short reprieve from the stress of everyday life and afforded me the opportunity to take a clear step back and see just how far things are coming along. And how much better my life truly is.

Almost five months ago to the day, we were at our lowest. We just had left our home and a significant portion of our belongings behind. Friends we had supported during their struggles, during their trials, left our pleas for help unanswered. Our remaining family proved themselves again to be nothing more than a cruel jester slamming yet another door in our face, even laughing at their good fortune while the ground was slipping out from under us.

We had lost so much. Home. Friends. Family. Money. Food. All of it was gone or in short supply. I remember times where I was just too sad to get out of bed. The thought of even talking was too hard. I wanted to close my eyes and take myself somewhere else. Anywhere that wasn’t my reality because it was all wrong. How did it get so twisted? I had Patrick who is quite literally my other half. He is my counterbalance; where I am crazy he is sane. Where I am sane, he carries the crazy. Together, we make one complete unit. Our love had even blessed us three times over – beautiful little girls who are as gorgeous on the inside as they are on the outside. Considerate and thoughtful of others, well-mannered and polite (most of the time), and oh so loving. Each one developing such interesting little personalities, growing more beautiful every day. I was furious that I had found my happily ever after and the cost was everything else that I held dear. But life wasn’t as bad as I believed, I just wasn’t seeing things clearly. I see better now, hindsight being 20/20 and all. I hadn’t lost everything I held dear, I was just losing things I had overvalued.

I was devastated that we were leaving behind our home. This was to be our future, the place where we would grow with our girls, watching them slowly taking their place in the world. We were surrounded by neighbors who loved the girls like family. I had dreams. I had plans. Losing those hopes and dreams is what was the hardest for me. It was devastating. With perspective, I see now that my hopes and dreams weren’t lost. I dream of watching my girls growing up, swaddled in love and laughter, in a house overflowing with both. Whether I live in Cuyahoga Falls, California, or Finland makes no difference. My home is where my heart is, and my heart will always lie with my family. A house is just that – a house. It becomes a home when you fill it with love. Since we have that in spades, I know that no matter where I might lay my head at night, I will always find myself home.

I grieved for the friendships I had lost. So many wonderful memories of people who couldn’t be there for me when I was desperate. It is hard to reconcile such fond memories with the fierce burn of betrayal. Because whether justified or not, I felt betrayed. I gave my friends everything I had, when I had it, when they were in need. Always there to help, never asking for it in return. Then I felt when I hit my roughest patch, so rough I had no other choice but to ask for help, I was left without friends. But with time, came perspective. I wasn’t alone at all. Friends who I have always known I could count on where there, whether I had spoken to them one day prior or one decade. And I consider myself blessed to say people I could count on magically appeared in my life, offering friendships that were good for my family, for my heart, and for my soul. I see that I hadn’t lost friends. I lost the misconception of friendship I had been operating under. Life had given me a harsh lesson and truly showed me who counted themselves as a friend. While the sting of failed relationships still burns, it is tempered by the cool and refreshing compress that my friends provide.

My financial situation lies little different from when we lost the house, but everything else has become so much better. I now look forward to each day because my life is overflowing with positivity. There is still the prerequisite crazy that will always exist because I am crazy and chaotic, I bring a part of me into everything I do. But there’s a sense of peace, a calm that comes with knowing that things are how they are supposed to be. My definition of home has changed, but it is filled with more love than I could ever have hoped for. I look forward to the next time I interact with each friend, knowing every encounter leaves me feeling more complete, whole. Before I dreaded each day, but now I find excitement. Every day leaves me filling fuller and happier than the last.

I still struggle and I despair, but after the sting of hard times fades, I’m always left feeling grounded, stable, and whole. I think that comes from building the foundation of my life in love. It’s my backbone and has kept me standing when the unrelenting storms of life threatened to tear me down. I recognize that I am not strong enough to do this big chore of life alone, and for the first time I am headed down the right path, with love as my traveling companion. I know that I will have to weather some storm or another, maybe even a hurricane or two, but I am now protected. When I have nothing else, I will always have love. I believe with every fiber of my being that as long as I have that, I will never truly be broke. That thought warms me and brightens every day.