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I’m baaaack! Took last week off to celebrate Mardi Gras here on the Gulf Coast, but this week’s challenge is to express gratitude for a friend. Instead of focusing on one in particular, I’m going to sing the praises of them all.

As a writer and someone who is active in the community, I have a lot of acquaintances, and they’re awesome. I have a smaller circle of casual friends who know what I’m up to and what’s going on in my life, and they’re fantastic, too.

However, this past year has been the most tumultuous of my entire life, and many acquaintances and casual friends fell away. Hell, a number of people I thought were close, like-family friends disappeared. Those ones hurt, not gonna lie.

But I’m so very blessed and grateful for the friends who have stuck by me through thick and thin … very, very thin. (Sadly, we’re not talking about my figure!) These are the friends who’ve listened to my rants and meltdowns, who carried my china cabinet up a flight of stairs when I moved, gave me advice when I didn’t know what on earth to do, who stayed until late in the night to put my daughter’s bed together, and who continue to talk me down from the metaphorical ledge when drama strikes. And strikes again. And again.

They encourage me to keep writing, to keep being a great mom, to take some time for myself, and they go shopping with me when retail therapy is in order. They share a bottle of wine with me when it gets to be too much, they stay up past midnight texting to be supportive, and one friend kisses my forehead when I need that connection.

Despite all the loss this past year, my friends make sure my cup runneth over. “Grateful” doesn’t begin to cover it.

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