For a little while, I was the youngest cousin on my Daddy’s side of the family. I already had a big sister, but you two, you were like extra big sisters.

You were too old to “play” with me, so our relationship was different than that with my other cousins. I felt so grown up when we hung out together. I remember watching you both as you became young women. You went to college – you were the first girls I knew to do that! I watched you bring home boyfriends and drive cars that weren’t minivans or station wagons and just exude this……coolness that I so wanted to emulate.

I watched you both get married. Those were the first weddings I attended, also. And it seemed like both of you would get your happily ever after. I was so happy for you both and had never seen either of you look more beautiful……until now.

Now, we’re ALL grown up now. All of us. You two sisters – me and my sister. And we’ve all been through some crap. Realized that just because we put on a pretty dress and had a pretty wedding, doesn’t mean that life has always been so pretty.

You’ve both endured a heartbreaking loss. And I don’t know that I’ve ever hurt more with and for somebody else as when we lost him. I wanted to just soak up all of your pain and bear it for you. Still do. Because I know you still hurt and always will.

In addition to that, I’ve seen you both go through a divorce. That is a loss that people who haven’t experienced it can never understand and my heart hurt right along with yours in those moments also – because I have been there.

I’ve watched your beautiful children grow and grow and seen each of you grow right along with them. I think we’re all just trying to raise kids that are better than we are. Kids that will be thinkers, doers, make a difference. You’re both great moms. Don’t ever forget that. I’ve seen you rise above difficult circumstances to do what was best for your kids, at all costs, and you both have toughness and grit that you didn’t have before.

But it hasn’t lessened your beauty.

Not a bit. Quite the opposite, in fact.

There’s a kind of beauty that some women acquire as they get older – not every woman – just the ones that have allowed the fires of life to refine them. You both have it. You’ve been refined and purified and broken and remade. And the results are beyond stunning.

We’re scattered across three states, and it sucks because if we all lived closer, I know we’d have a lot of girls’ nights. Or a book club. We’d get to see each other more than a couple of times a year, at best.

So that’s why you’re both on my heart today. Because that’s where you stay. That little girl that used to think you were both SO cool, and wanted to be like you? She still does. I look up to you as moms, as ex-wives, as strong women that forge their own path, aren’t afraid to think for themselves and aren’t afraid to change their minds.

Your influence on my life has been more than significant. You’ve influenced my thinking, my spirituality, my parenting – along with my wardrobe and my book choices. But mostly, you’ve influenced my confidence. I’ve had my own shares of ups and downs in life, but when I reflect on some of the situations you’ve each come through, I immediately stop the pity party and remember the strength that runs in our veins.

Thank you both for inspiring me to never stop growing as a person. For reminding me that most of us moms are just trying to do the best we can. For giving me a feeling of relief knowing I’m not alone in the ex-wives club. For the conversations, the hugs, the laughs, the tears – our sisterhood has made me a better woman. And I love you both more than you’ll ever know.