It was a Thursday night. I remember because the kids had school the next day. I had one of the most stressful weeks that week and everything I touched seemed to turn to shit. My kids are all at, what seems to be, the hardest age to reason with. They test me daily. My very first time raising a thirteen year old, and I’m totally “wingin it”. That day was one of those days where you question why the hell you even get out of bed in the morning, right before you realize you have no choice. I had my first little girl at the ripe age of seventeen, and I feel like I’ve been pregnant over half of my life. Kids tired y’all. Don’t get me wrong, I am completely in love with my girls, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Getting questions and comments like “Aren’t you young for four..?” and “I bet you have your hands full.” have never really phased me. I still love being their mom more than anything else in this world…but I’m human to a fault. After a horrible day, in attempt to save the evening, I decided to load up the fam and head out to get Halloween costumes, late..of course. We made it all the way to Candler before I threw my hands up and said “fuck it” and turned around, only to get a speeding ticket on the way home. Needless to say, I deserved it, But that was the final straw. I pulled into the driveway and called the girls dad to come get them. I was done. I have done this “Mom” thing for the last thirteen years and I was at the end of my rope. “Let someone else freakin handle it all for a while.” I didn’t care that the girls had school the next day. I didn’t care that it was almost nine o’clock. I didn’t care about anything or anyone. I literally just wanted to crumble…and so I did. The girls went with their dad. Montgomery with Emily. I curled up in a ball on my bed and cried myself to sleep. The next day was my shoot with Stephanie. I knew this was going to be a hard shoot for me because the last time I had a session with Stephanie, there were three girls. As I’m sure many know, Stephanie lost her daughter Jasmine, this past year. Jasmine and my oldest were friends, so it hit pretty close to home. I was busy wallowing in self-pity to the point that I considered canceling multiple times and then convinced myself it was a shitty thing to do and pulled it together. When I got to the location, both of her girls were overjoyed to see me. Hugged me like I’d known them my whole life. Talked my ears off about school and friends and Halloween. Played and laughed and did cart wheels. Stephanie was her normal sweet self, wrangling the girls in when it was time for a picture. We finished up the shoot and I got in my car to leave. It hit me like a ton of bricks on the way home. How? How in the hell does she do it? Here I am whining over a stressful week and how much it blows to always have to be the “mom” and hold everything together. Worrying about school functions and sports and dinner and on and on to the point that I break and send my girls to their dad just so I can crash and burn for a night. Then you have this lady who has had the worst heartache anyone could ever imagine dropped in her lap..and you’d never know. I’m sure the pain is overbearing. I’m sure it hasn’t faded in the least, I’m not sure a pain like that ever will. Still, she gets up every day and pushes through ALL of that on top of the normal “mom” shit, to be one of the best parents I’ve ever met. She has found a way to put a smile on her face and keep going for those girls. I felt weak in her presence. She had no idea of my struggle the night before, but I felt weak. I was ashamed and embarrassed at what seemed like a colossal upset in my world, was minuscule compared to what she faced daily. I can’t imagine that kind of strength. I wanted to tell her she had made me realize what was important. I wanted to tell her she’d made me grateful. I wanted to tell her that I had seen Jasmine in every picture I’d taken, because it felt so normal being with them again. It was the same happiness, the same laughter, but at the same time…laced with a little more emotion. I wanted to thank her for showing me that sometimes you don’t have a choice, you just do it. But I didn’t. Who the hell am I to take anything away from the battle she fights? Somehow, the human heart finds ways around the infinite pain and continues to beat. Things happen that you think you could never live through, yet you survive. The heart adapts to the pain allowing you to smile again. It amazes me. More than that, it reminds me that every single person you know it fighting their very own battle. The ones that can do so with kindness in their heart and a smile on their face are nothing short of magical in my eyes. These people are the ones that keep the rest of us weak asses going. I’m forever thankful that many years after high school and life, through something I love, I was able to meet all of Stephanie’s beautiful girls. She never knew it and I never said, but she saved me that day.