Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Works For Me Wednesday: Teeth Whitening For The First Time!!

Some of you might remember earlier this summer, when I posted about how excited I was to FINALLY get to have family portraits taken with my girls. We hadn't been able to have photos done in years, so it was a really exciting thing for us to do together as a family, and I was thrilled to have been able to do it. In light of the recent death in our family, having something like that to look back on has definitely been cheering - this has been a hard year, so that photo session is a warm little memory for me to keep with me.

But when those photos first came in, I couldn't help noticing my smile - and not in a good way. Not that there was anything wrong with the photos specifically, and my smile tends to be pretty alright in general - but it just wasn't the best it could be, and I knew it. Coffee and wine had definitely taken their toll, which was why I got so excited when Smile Brilliant reached out to me and offered me a whitening kit in exchange for an honest review.

So when I was done happy dancing through the afternoon, I woke up the next morning and composed what I hoped would be a calm and professional acceptance. (Because duh, like I wasn't gonna jump on that.)


I'll admit though, I was a little nervous about the process because they kept saying things like "DON'T DO THIS IF YOU HAVE CAVITIES/DECAY/SENSITIVITY/BLAHBLAHBLAH!" And the thing was, I didn't have any of those things, that I knew of ... until they were mentioned as a reason to definitely not ever use whitening products on your teeth ever ever ever.

My anxiety kicked in and suddenly I had some sensitivity that hadn't been there before, and I was convinced that all my teeth were quietly rotting out of my head somehow without my noticing, and it was gonna be bad, just all bad. Like really bad. Which of, course, it wasn't - not only because my teeth are perfectly fine, but because the kit hadn't even come in yet.

Yay, anxiety, right?

But I really had nothing at all to be so anxious over - my influencer kit came beautifully packaged and in good time, complete with two plastic impression molds, about a billion syringes of whitening gel (the bleaching agent, of course), an equally billion syringes of anti-sensitivity gel (flouride treatments, woo!), and three sets of mold-making paste. Oh, and directions - which was good because I was totally paranoid, sure I'd do it wrong and mess it all up, and terrified I'd end up with HORRIFYING sensitivity forever. I've never done a whitening treatment, can you tell?

Obviously, it worked out just fine - my teeth are just fine, sparkly white and just as hardy as ever while I'm writing this post, so stick around for my review. And more importantly, my results.

Smile Brilliant Influencer Kit

The first step, of course, is to clean your mouth as much as possible, because you don't want your impressions messed up by having gunk in your teeth! That day I made sure to oil pull as well as my usual brushing routine, and my mouth was pretty squeaky clean when I got started. I was relieved by the fact that the molds were actually really simple to make too; you take your pot of base paste and your pot of catalyst paste and mix them quickly together (no longer than 60 seconds!) until they're well blended. You'll be able to tell when they're done because one is blue and one is white - when you've got it all mixed into a smooth one-color clay, you're ready to roll. Other than making sure you don't take too long (because this stuff starts setting pretty quickly), the process is really pretty foolproof.

Once the paste was totally mixed, I pressed it into the impression tray (top tray first!), making sure it was pressed in well and filling the tray. Then it was time for the other stuff I was nervous about - what if I can't get the clay stuff off my teeth!?!

I gave my anxiety a vehement "shut up!" and went on with the process - I slipped the impression tray in my mouth and pressed it up onto my teeth, keeping fairly even pressure with my fingers (but not biting down) for about 2.5 minutes. And as expected, the impression came off with just the smallest little panic-inducing tug. Seriously, you guys would have been laughing so hard if I had live-tweeted this ... and now I wish I had thought to live-tweet it! I was pretty convinced it was going to pop out of my mouth with my teeth somehow still in it - I even had nightmares about that happening the night before!

Thankfully, everything actually went off without a hitch, and now I've got a great story to tell. Anxiety is hilarious sometimes. Afterwards.

Dental Impressions for Smile Brilliant

As you can see, I used all three sets of my impression pastes - because my first top impression was just a little  ... questionable. It didn't seem to go all the way back, and it wasn't pressed evenly enough for me to feel that it was a good mold. I knew without speaking to a lab tech that I had done it wrong, so I tried again - thankfully, Smile Brilliant sees that coming, and even though they only ask for one top impression and one bottom impression, they send enough paste for you to be able to mess up and try again without it being a big deal. (And yes, that stuff feels weird in your mouth. But it's not gross, and it's only in there for a few minutes, so ...)

Once all the impressions were made, I set them out for a half hour to cure, rinsed them with cold water as instructed, and then left them to sit overnight just to be sure they had cured properly. The next day, I packaged them up (in the included packaging from Smile Brilliant) and shipped them off to be inspected by Smile Brilliant's lab.

It didn't take long for my trays to come back - comfortable-to-wear, easy to put on and take off, and custom fitted for my soon-to-be-gorgeous (or horrifyingly sensitive??) teeth. They even came in a cute little storage tray!

Smile Brilliant Dental Tray CaseSmile Brilliant Custom Dental Trays

So here's what the process looked like for me:
  1. Brush your teeth with just water. The prevents anything in your toothpaste from reacting, interacting, or otherwise impacting the effectiveness of the whitening gel. I made sure to brush really well - gently but thoroughly.
  2. Whiten for 45 minutes to 3 hours. You just take one of the whitening gel syringes and apply a fine line all the way across the smile surface of your trays - it's thick gel, but it's a simple and easy process. Be careful not to use too much though; you don't need as much as you'll think you do. I left this gel on for 30 minutes the first day,  45 minutes the second day, one hour the third day, and then 90 minutes each time after. It took me a few tries to get the right amount of whitening gel in my trays too, so that there wasn't too much squishing up out of the trays.
  3. Remove the trays when you're done whitening, rinse them well with water to remove the gel, and brush your teeth with non-whitening toothpaste. Surprisingly, I didn't have any tooth sensitivity throughout my treatments - but by the fourth day of whitening, my gums were pretty sensitive to brushing. They didn't look or feel burned or sore at any other time, but brushing was almost painful, so after consulting with my Smile Brilliant contact, I took a few days off to give my mouth a rest. When I came back to it, I didn't have any trouble at all - although on the first day of my second week (I did 14 treatments) my Grandmother went into the hospital so I had to shorten my time just a little. For the second week of treatments, I whitened for 60 minutes every morning, followed by 30 minutes with the desensitizing gel. This helped me squeeze whitening in between mom life, writing life, grocery shopping, laundry day, and daily trips to visit my Grandmother's deathbed in the next town.
  4. Use desensitizing gel for 15-30 minutes. This part was easy throughout the entire process - it didn't hurt or taste gross or anything like that. I did it for the full 30 minutes each time I whitened.
  5. Remove trays and spit. You need to rinse and dry your trays, but there's no more brushing or rinsing your mouth at this point - you want to leave a thin layer of the desensitizing gel on your teeth to help it be as effective as possible. Also, don't eat or drink for 30-60 minutes after each treatment - also to keep the gel on your teeth for as long as possible.
I was also warned to be careful about staying away from things that could restain my teeth, like coffee, red wine, chocolate, and a couple of other things I love way too much to stay too far away from, like red sauces and tea.

Let me just say right now that I didn't stay away from any of those things any more than I would have even if I hadn't been whitening. I didn't have any wine and I didn't have any chocolate, but coffee was a lifesaver especially in that second week when PTSD and losing my Grandmother teamed up to completely wreck my sleep patterns. But even with taking a break and everything else that went on, after 14 treatments my results are amazing. You guys, seriously. I hadn't realized how much my smile wasn't white until suddenly it was. Seriously, look:

Please excuse the horrible phone-camera photography.
I wish these photos could really do justice to what a difference Smile Brilliant made in my smile, but I didn't have the best lighting at the time of the first photo, and I wanted to take both photos in the same place at about the same time. By the end of 14 treatments though, I was starting to get comments about my teeth - even from people who didn't know what I was doing!

Like I said before, I've never done any sort of whitening treatment on my teeth (other than my use of (coconut) oil pulling combined with regular brushing), so I had literally no idea what to expect from my round of Smile Brilliant treatments. Honestly though, I was pretty pleasantly surprised by how simple the process was and how relatively painless it ended up being as compared to what I was expecting. Literally the only complaint I had about the process - from the initial contact from the company to my final treatment with the gels - was the sensitivity in my gums. And that pretty much fixed itself with the help of a little time off and making sure to use a bit less gel. Shortening my sessions probably helped a bit too.


Obviously, today's "Featured Favorite Product" is Smile Brilliant's stellar whitening system, which I was so glad to have been able to test out! With as nervous as I was about trying a professional-grade whitening treatment for the first time, I found the ease of use to be a pleasant surprise, and I'm majorly impressed with my results. I also love that I received LOTS of extra syringes of both gels, which means I should probably be able to keep doing weekly maintenance on my smile all the way 'til Jesus comes back.

The holidays are coming up, so if you want to rock a brilliant smile too, then you're in luck because Smile Brilliant has offered a giveaway - for a $139 credit to Smile Brilliant, which is enough to buy a whole whitening kit for FREE! Seriously, I can't even tell you what a steal that is, and how happy I am to have the chance to offer this up to you! This giveaway is hosted by Smile Brilliant on their website, specifically through their own secure platform - this way, you'll know that when you enter your email (so that they can contact you if you win), it's safe and won't be given to anyone else.

But if giveaways aren't your thing, that's totally cool - you can still smile brilliant by heading over to SmileBrilliant.com and using authorbrandikennedy10 at the checkout for a 10% discount!

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links, remember that if you choose to click any product links on my site and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a small commission for referring you. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you, but my family and I appreciate your support. You should also know that while I did receive my Smile Brilliant kit free for reviewing purposes, my opinions are just as honest as always, and I believe my results speak for themselves. (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with on a more regular basis, click here.)
Have you ever tried any whitening treatments or methods on your teeth? If so, what have you tried and how did it work? Have you ever tried Smile Brilliant? Leave your experiences in the comments - I'd love to learn more about what works for you!

While you're here, if you'd still like to hang with me and follow more of my journey as a writer, a mom, and an abuse survivor with PTSD, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar. This blog may not always be easy to read, but I truly hope we'll learn from and inspire each other along the way.

Make sure you come over to Patreon too - sign up to sponsor and support my writing journey for as little as $1 a month! Your dollar gets you access to all sorts of content - including photos and mini-blogs from my personal life and advance peeks at my fiction writing, which is a pretty slick deal for just over $.03 a day. For a little more, you'll get to vote for upcoming content, read my poetry and weekly L.A.F.F.S., listen to podcasts, and even get your name on my personal mailing lists - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'm going to start posting daily PhLogs!! (Click that link. Most are subscriber-only, but some are public - I think there's one about my dog being scared of a piglet, too.)

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, or on Patreon, you can rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman." And what's an undaunted woman? Click here to find out more about what it means to be undaunted - and how you can nominate your favorite undaunted woman to be interviewed right here on the blog! The first interview was a total success, and I already can't wait to introduce you to September 2017's Undaunted Woman!

For those who just want the inspirational parts of my content without all the personal aspects, connect with me on social media - that's where I like to share all sorts of things, from self-care tips to mental health quotes to song lyrics and more. Either way, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.



Tooth Whitening Gel

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Spark: The Magic Of Yarncraft

I talk a lot here about my issues with PTSD and the resulting anxiety. Even before I really realized that that was what's "wrong" with me, I talked about depression and the impact it's had on my life and my relationships over the years.

When I look back, I can see all the ways I found coping mechanisms to help me survive what I was going through. I was writing seriously by the time I was in fifth grade, making up poems and stories, not only to help me cope with my life, but to help me live with my own sense of helplessness. When I was younger, I was very close friends with a person who had also undergone long-term abuse, and I hated how powerless I was to help my friend or change things for them. Maybe I was projecting - it was easier to hate not being able to help her than it was to face my own rage over being unable to help myself. But I hated the people who hurt my friend just as much as (or more than) I hated the people who hurt me, and I lost faith in the court system that couldn't - or wouldn't - step in in big enough ways for us. I hated the way we felt like no one listened to us, and I hated the way we remained unheard for so long. Even now, as adults, we often still feel that way.

I turned to writing to restore my faith in the world around me. To write people who DID see each other and who DID care enough to step up when someone was in need. To write parents who protected their young. To write girls and women who were strong and powerful and able to stand up for themselves. To write girls who were loved and protected ... and heard. To reclaim my belief that what I was writing could be real somewhere, for someone - even if it wasn't and might not ever be for me. I'm still doing it too - every one of my books features a woman struggling to overcome something. A woman who, in the process of overcoming, stumbles upon the love she was so hungrily in search of. Sometimes she's seeking family, other times she's seeking romance. Often, she finds a bit of both.

But I needed more than imaginings. I needed more than fiction and fairy tales - I needed something beautiful in my reality, too. So I fell in love with crafting. I fell in love with the way I can sit in the middle of a cold and sometimes ugly world, and I can choose to create something warm and comforting and beautiful. Slowly, bit by bit, I could create beauty in a place where there wasn't any. I could draw (though not well), and by middle school, I learned to sculpt. I remember staying after school for hours whenever I could, sitting in the art room with a lump of wet muddy solidity in my hands while my eclectic art teacher worked on ending her long workday, her wildly patterned maxi skirt just grazing the ground, equally wild curly hair spilling down her back.

I still love clay. But clay wasn't something readily available to me at home, and so I went in search of something else to meet the need.



My paternal grandmother's name was Jeanne. At face value, she was stern and strong, a tall woman with large bones and a very sturdy disposition. She wore cat-eye glasses regardless of whether they were fashionable, and she always wore her fine, brown hair in a very short, very tightly curled perm. But beneath the surface, she was a troubled person, an injured woman with soul-deep wounds that bled into every aspect of her life and secrets that poisoned her right up until her last day.

I wish I had known her better. I wish I was better able to understand her stories - stories I learned largely through the generosity of others, because she was so private she wouldn't even confess her birthday - she even directly denied having siblings, aunts, uncles, etc. Now that she's gone, the knowledge that all of her stories and secrets are gone with her is ... troubling. Like I said, I wish I had known her better.

I was in middle school when I found out she knew how to crochet, and I begged her to teach me. She tried to get out of it, said I would "get bored" - and I insisted that I wouldn't. The next time I was at her house, she set me down on the couch with a ball of soft white yarn and a crochet hook, and she taught me how to make "granny squares." She said when I made enough, she would teach me how to sew them into strips, and how to sew those strips into a blanket. A blanket of plain, snow-white granny squares.

I think I made four or five that day, and then I got bored and moved on to learning the next thing. I never did make a white granny square blanket.

But within another few months, maybe a year, I missed the feel of the hook working through the yarn. I missed the fibers sliding through my hands. I missed the coolness of the way just one little bit of string wraps around itself in such a way as to create a fabric one could use to ward away the chill of night or the emptiness of feeling alone.

I started crocheting again, and eventually, I even taught myself to knit. I've made blankets in the years since, and scarves and wraps and washcloths. I've made headbands and shrugs and boleros, and even a sock once - but just one because knitting socks is a b!tch. When I'm knitting, I like hats best; they're quick and simple, relatively mindless, and with the advent of circular needles I don't have to wrestle double-points. Or scarves - more versatile but still relatively quick and simple, and you can work flat.

But in crochet? In crochet my world opens up, because I don't have to juggle two needles. It's just me, the yarn, and a hook - darting in and out of the fabric that wasn't fabric until I created it. Every stitch is a reminder of my ability to change and create the world around me, every movement purposeful, every row an accomplishment.

At one time in my life, I just kept my crochet basket at the foot of the couch, right beside where I would usually sit. I loved that basket - I loved that it started with just a few balls of yarn inside, and over time it slowly filled to overflowing with the results of my determination. One stitch at a time, that basket filled with stripes of blue that bled into white and back to blue again - stripes of warmth that grew visibly more real with each session I put in. A place where I could make things happen, where I could get results. Maybe not instant gratification, but tangible progress at the very least.

I don't have that basket anymore. Years of change and challenges wrought by time have removed that basket and its sense of peacefulness about as far from my life as they can get - but I envision them still, and even their memory brings me comfort. One day I will have that again, a basket of fiber sitting patiently at my side, waiting for magic to happen - unhindered by other things, and fully comfortable in the place where it belongs. This chapter of my life doesn't allow it ... but the next one will.

In the meantime, I still keep a yarn project going almost all the time, taking it out and putting it away as  time allows. Here are some others I'd like to get to one day, in a mix of both my favorite yarncrafting varieties:


Maybe I'll start one of those great projects this winter, when the cold sets in and time seems to slow down a little. If I featured a project here, what would you guys like to see me make?


Today's "Featured Favorite Product" is a great way for you to get yourself into crocheting as a hobby if you've never done it - and it's a great way to remind yourself how to do it if you've crocheted before but haven't picked up a hook in so long you've forgotten how to do it (like I did once). This Learn Crochet! Kit is a great one because it comes with literally everything you could possibly need to get started except for the yarn, and that's just because each yarncrafter tends to like choosing their own style and color.


It even has some great starter projects in it that'll help you practice what you're learning in a way that's productive and useful - and what better time to learn than now, when winter is on the way and so is Christmas? Plus it's only a little over $10 - well worth the cost for the skill and the peace it brings once you've mastered it. But if you already know how to crochet and you're just looking for some new ideas to bring back the enthusiasm (or use up your stash), check out Crochet One-Skein Wonders®: 101 Projects from Crocheters around the World, which at just under $15 is a great little book of projects you can make quickly with only one roll of yarn! This particular book has a great mix of projects for all levels of crochet experience too, so I like that it'll meet you wherever you are.

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links, remember that if you choose to click any product links on my site and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a (very) small commission for referring you. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you, but my family and I appreciate your support. (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with on a more regular basis, click here.)
It's amazing how much I don't realize I miss yarn until I've gone a little while without it and then sit down to write a post about how magical it is to me and how relaxing it is to craft something with the softness of simple fiber. Thanks for hanging with me, but now I'd love for you to drop me a comment about yarn! Are you a crafter, and if so, which do you prefer - knit, or crochet? How did you learn, and what projects have you made?

And while you're here, if you'd still like to hang with me and follow more of my journey as a writer, a mom, and an abuse survivor with PTSD, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar. This blog may not always be easy to read, but I truly hope we'll learn from and inspire each other along the way.

Make sure you come over to Patreon too - sign up to sponsor and support my writing journey for as little as $1 a month! Your dollar gets you access to all sorts of content - including photos and mini-blogs from my personal life and advance peeks at my fiction writing, which is a pretty slick deal for just over $.03 a day. For a little more, you'll get to vote for upcoming content, read my poetry and weekly L.A.F.F.S., listen to podcasts, and even get your name on my personal mailing lists - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'm going to start posting daily PhLogs!! (Click that link. Most are subscriber-only, but some are public - I think there's one about my dog being scared of a piglet, too.)

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, or on Patreon, you can rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman." And what's an undaunted woman? Click here to find out more about what it means to be undaunted - and how you can nominate your favorite undaunted woman to be interviewed right here on the blog! The first interview was a total success, and I already can't wait to introduce you to September 2017's Undaunted Woman!

For those who just want the inspirational parts of my content without all the personal aspects, connect with me on social media - that's where I like to share all sorts of things, from self-care tips to mental health quotes to song lyrics and more. Either way, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thursday Therapy: PTSD & Living With Grief ...

... because crisis is part of life - and so is death.

I am in my early thirties, and in my 30+ years in this life, I have known a lot of crisis. I have known a lot of loss - sometimes through the usual death of a friend or loved one, and sometimes through other loss, such as the loss of pride, the loss of a close relationship through means other than death, and the loss of my freedom and autonomy while in abusive relationships.

I've said before that my first memory is a traumatic one, but I don't share all of them - why would I? If everyone is a book, it's only fair that most of us would prefer at least a few of our pages to be glued together and never read again, right? I have those pages too - and yet, if you hold those pages up to a bright enough light, and if you scrutinize them just closely enough, then you will undoubtedly be able to see the ghost of the printed words through the paper.

Such is my life, and no matter how thickly some pages of my personal life story may be glued together ... the ghost of the printed word remains.


Did you know there are different kinds of grief, and that they all act in different ways? That they all bleed into your life, quietly changing and impacting everything around you? Well, there are. And they do.

My personal experience with grief is a varied one - over the years I've seen and survived a lot. And truth be told, I'm still doing it.

If you've been here long, you know about me and what I've survived - my childhood, my step-parents ... my parents.

But it keeps on. I'm still watching my mother decline - but now, with the issues with my van, I'm doing it from a distance because I can no longer trust my vehicle enough to drive that far. I haven't seen my mother in person in months. I'm still getting news about my grandmother with Alzheimer's from her caretakers - and she, as is expected with Alzheimer's patients, continues to decline as well.

Just because it's expected ... that doesn't make it easy. My family is facing a cloud of death that seems to be growing bigger and darker every day, and I'm struggling. I'm living by the strength of my to-do lists, my calendars, the constant lists of reminders I keep so that I won't forget to get gas in the van or toilet paper for the house or any of the countless things the girls are always asking for.

Last week, my aunt (who has already been battling a cancer diagnosis) had a massive heart attack and nearly died. She was sent home from the hospital afterward, alive but certainly not well. She was sent home days earlier than she should have been, probably because the hospitals were desperately trying to clear out as many bodies as possible before hurricane Irma came charging through central Florida. But my family in Florida survived the storm with strength and dignity, as did my friends in the area - they're slowing regaining electricity and beginning to repair and replace things that were damaged or lost.

Monday night I received a call, alerting me to my other grandmother's imminent passing. We've been estranged for nearly 8 years, but in the interest of leaving the past in the past, I drove over to sit beside her. I spent the ride battling uncertainty and grief. Would she want me there? The last time I saw her, she looked through me like I didn't even exist. I know she saw me - but she refused to even utter a quiet hello, and the moment passed. I almost didn't go to see her, truthfully. Not because I held a grudge, but because she's where I learned to hold a grudge, and she will always be the expert master of grudge-holding. Would she want me there? Or would it be offensive to her, such a proud and strong woman, to be laid bare in such a way, so vulnerable in death? I wrestled all the way to the hospital, sobbing.

She taught me to crochet when I was little. And it was in her home, at the feet of my grandfather, that I learned to love the sport side of wrestling as much as the entertainment.

When I walked in, I did it the same way I do everything. Head high, face dry, jaw set, shoulders straight.

She knew who I was; she reached out for me as I stood uncertainly at her bedside. And for most of the next 3-4 hours, she held onto my hand. She calmed when I reminded her that she couldn't get out of bed just then. She looked at me.

I went again on Tuesday morning while my children were in school - they've barely met her, and a hospital deathbed is no place for children. I spoke with her church pastor, I visited at her bedside with my brother and his wife, and together we searched Facebook for the goddaughter my Grandmother would most have wanted at her side.

Tuesday night I swallowed the grief and ignored the cold I've been battling all week; I made dinner for my family, I kissed my children goodnight, and I watched over them, grateful for the sounds of their breath in the quiet - before I succumbed to exhaustion and the effects of the night-time sniffly-head, can't-breath, everything-hurts, dear-God-I-just-need-some-rest medicine.

Wednesday I got up and faced the morning as best I could - unshowered, still tired, sore throat, sneezing like mad, and with no coffee. The children cooperated for the most part, I got them off to school, and made my way home to work on some blog stuff with a company I'm totally and utterly IN SUCH A HURRY to tell you guys about. Still with no time for coffee. Or a shower yet.

When I first opened my phone for the day and started checking messages, I had one from a close friend who recommended that I read this ... because it made her think of me. Of my life. Of my experiences in various periods of my life. It made me sad ... but it also made me feel less alone. Which was pretty timely, considering the confrontation I had to stand up and shove myself through. Still sick, still grieving, still exhausted. Still with no coffee.

When it was over, I broke down and called my therapist. I had had a long week already, with very little sleep - and what sleep I had gotten was filled with dreams, night sweats, and panicked awakenings. The days were filled with tension, poisoned by exhaustion and lack of caffeine, and lack of appetite. Just on Wednesday alone, I still had blog things to do, laundry to wash, a shower to take, groceries to shop for, and a dying grandmother to visit before time ran out. I needed to pick up medicine for the kids that I wasn't sure I'd have enough money for, and get gas in the van too. In the end it worked out alright - it usually does - but in the moment it was just ... it was too much.

Except that it isn't "too much." I'm still standing, although for a while I was shaky. I'm still moving, although I'm doing it slowly. I'm still breathing, although I rattle and wheeze between crying jags. I'm still living, even if my grandmother is not.

And in case you were wondering, once the majority of the day was over and I was cuddled up on the couch with my babes, I did finally get to have that coffee - while I talked to them about death and my memories of a grandmother they never knew.


Today's "Featured Favorite Product" is a book I wish I could curl up with and weep my way through right now. I've read several of Max Lucado's books in the past and I've loved them all, but somehow I haven't yet read this one - and it's definitely going on my "to-be-read" list! You'll Get Through This uses the biblical story of Joseph to remind us (Christian and non-Christian alike) that even the very worst happenings in our lives can be turned around and worked into something beautiful. I know it won't appeal to everyone ... but today, it's sure appealing to me.


And if you like that one, there's another one called God Will Use This for Good - and then there's another one called He Fights for You. This whole trio has been added to my personal book wishlist, and I've set a reminder to keep an eye out for them at the local used bookstore as well.

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links, remember that if you choose to click any product links on my site and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a (very) small commission for referring you. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you, but my family and I appreciate your support. (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with on a more regular basis, click here.)
Thanks for hanging out with me today - I know this isn't my most cheery post, but here I am, and if I'm going to be an open book, I might as well share my story, right? I could really use some encouragement though, so would you help me out and leave an encouraging quote of some kind in the comments? I'd love to be able to bookmark this page to come back and look on again in the days to come.

And while you're here, if you'd still like to hang with me and follow more of my journey as a writer, a mom, and an abuse survivor with PTSD, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar. This blog may not always be easy to read, but I truly hope we'll learn from and inspire each other along the way.

Make sure you come over to Patreon too - sign up to sponsor and support my writing journey for as little as $1 a month! Your dollar gets you access to all sorts of content - including photos and mini-blogs from my personal life and advance peeks at my fiction writing, which is a pretty slick deal for just over $.03 a day. For a little more, you'll get to vote for upcoming content, read my poetry and weekly L.A.F.F.S., listen to podcasts, and even get your name on my personal mailing lists - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'm going to start posting daily PhLogs!! (Click that link. Most are subscriber-only, but some are public - I think there's one about my dog being scared of a piglet, too.)

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, or on Patreon, you can rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman." And what's an undaunted woman? Click here to find out more about what it means to be undaunted - and how you can nominate your favorite undaunted woman to be interviewed right here on the blog! The first interview was a total success, and I already can't wait to introduce you to September 2017's Undaunted Woman!

For those who just want the inspirational parts of my content without all the personal aspects, connect with me on social media - that's where I like to share all sorts of things, from self-care tips to mental health quotes to song lyrics and more. Either way, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Monday Mail Call: #1

Ever since I opened my blog to sponsorships, paid posts, and product placements (all carefully chosen, of course, because I wouldn't want to share stuff that sucks!), I've been receiving small surprises in my Post Office Box. I don't always blog about those packages or what's in them, and I've even gotten a few sweet letters and cards. But now and then I talk about the things that come to the me (or the girls) just because we so love getting mail from you guys! Some of my favorite non-sponsored mail posts are linked below, if you're curious:

We've also gotten adult coloring books, pens and markers, and a few other bits of love from our readers. So with that in mind, I thought it would be fun to introduce a new post series:



Ever since I was a kid, getting mail has been one of the things I take the most joy in. I love getting cards for my birthday and for holidays, and I even have several that I've kept over the years for carious reasons. I love the ones from close family and friends, and I've cried over notes I've gotten from readers who found something of value here and felt that they should share it with me. Sometimes comments are just too public, so people prefer to email or write something out in private.


Want to? Do it here:
  • Email questions, comments, and business inquiries to: authorbrandikennedy @ gmail dot com
  • Send cards, packages, and whatever else (that's safe and appropriate, of course) to: Brandi Kennedy, P.O. Box 12035, Knoxville TN, 37912

It has been fun for the kids too, as they've gotten quite a few little gifts and things in the mail (and now they've taken to asking me every so often if there has been "anything fun" in the post office box) - and lately, we've been making a point to pay that back in our own little way. Two of my Patreon tiers now include mailings from us in addition to all the other cool stuff that's on there.

Recently, we got to open a really cool package from one of our coolest readers! She sent us a little Christmas-themed box filled with cute little goodies she's come across, and my girls FREAKED out going through all the great little treasures inside.


Most of what was in the box was Christmas-themed too, so this little surprise was a great start to the upcoming Christmas holiday for us - we loved looking at the eclectic mix of pins and other bits!


Seriously, how adorable is that snowman! And his little wire arms? They move just a bit! My favorite from the Christmas stuff was the nativity pin though - it's classic and totally beautiful. Eden's favorite was the teddy bear pin; she loves that he actually has his own little mini-teddy-bear swinging from his hand! The little dangly-charm thing must run in the family too; Joey's favorite piece from the photo above was what she calls "The I-Heart-Christmas" pin - that center bottom one with the dangly Christmas tree. The whole treasure trove wasn't Christmas themed though - there were some random bits we really loved, too.


This little bunch of goodies had Eden in a frenzy of excitement for days, and she has loved picking a new pin to wear each day. The first day she chose the black cat because he reminded her of her cat-obsessed bestie from school, and the second day she wore several pieces, finally ending up with the little necklace pictured on the bottom left. Joey's favorite piece from these is the butterfly pin - and mine were the troll earrings! Aren't they cute?



Today's "Featured Favorite Product" is another something I love getting in the mail - my favorite energy supplement from Strike Force Energy. This stuff seriously changes my life when I have some around, because Strike Force is one of very few energy drinks I can have without side effects. I love that I never end up with the jitters, and I love even more that there's no crash-and-burn when it wears off. I like that it isn't super-sweet - and that it comes in different flavors too!

Strike Force Energy Flavor Cartiridges

And if the best part for my single-mom cost-effective self wasn't that I can get 10 flavor cartridges for just $10 (which is cheaper than pretty much any other energy drink out there), maybe it's that you can join the Strike Force club and schedule regular shipments of energy right to your door. Or maybe it's that they actually have 750ml pump bottles, just in case you don't like the convenience of being able to slip a cartridge in your pocket or purse on the way out the door.

Or ... maybe it's that you can try Strike Force for 20% off by using AFLBRANDI8634 in the discount code box when you check out!

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links, remember that if you choose to click any product links on my site and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a (very) small commission for referring you. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you, but my family and I appreciate your support. (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with on a more regular basis, click here.)
Thanks for hanging out with me today - but now I want to hear from you! What's your favorite thing to get in the mail? Do you like subscription boxes? And if so, what's your favorite one? Leave me a comment to tell me what kind of mail makes your day!

While you're here, if you'd like to hang with me and follow my journey as a writer, a mom, and an abuse survivor with PTSD, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar. This blog may not always be easy to read, but I truly hope we'll learn from and inspire each other along the way.

Make sure you come over to Patreon too - sign up to sponsor and support my writing journey for as little as $1 a month! Your dollar gets you access to all sorts of content - including photos and mini-blogs from my personal life and advance peeks at my fiction writing, which is a pretty slick deal for just over $.03 a day. For a little more, you'll get to vote for upcoming content, read my poetry and weekly L.A.F.F.S., listen to podcasts, and even get your name on my personal mailing lists - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'm going to start posting daily PhLogs!! (Click that link. Most are subscriber-only, but some are public - I think there's one about my dog being scared of a piglet, too.)

But however we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, or on Patreon, you can rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman." And what's an undaunted woman? Click here to find out more about what it means to be undaunted - and how you can nominate your favorite undaunted woman to be interviewed right here on the blog! The first interview was a total success, and I already can't wait to introduce you to September 2017's Undaunted Woman!

For those who just want the inspirational parts of my content without all the personal aspects, connect with me on social media - that's where I like to share all sorts of things, from self-care tips to mental health quotes to song lyrics and more. Either way, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Fun Friday: L.A.F.F.S.

You guys have read a few times about how tough mornings are for the girls and I - my PTSD symptoms, anxiety, and generally horrifying morning personality tend to not combine all that smoothly with my daughters' high-energy, high-chatter, super-busy ADHD morning personalities.

They have a hard time getting up, getting dressed, getting moving, staying focused. I have a hard time dealing with all of those things, because being late a major trigger for my anxiety. I tend to have a running mental schedule of the order of events in my head, and deviating from that stresses me out because then we'll be late. Not that the world will end or anything, but because being late defies the logic behind keeping a schedule - and my anxiety doesn't care that Eden is 8 years old and hopelessly unfocused until 30 minutes after her morning meds kick in.

But when we're late getting up despite my best efforts (I even get myself up early so I can mentally prepare for the whirlwind of mornings with the girls), it makes us late getting dressed. And then we're late starting breakfast, which is one of Eden's biggest struggles. She's never been a "good" eater, and has always been more than a little picky, so mealtime is a hassle for us. With Josephine, I could just let her skip meals, knowing she would eat when she got hungry enough. Not so with Eden - as proven by her comorbid "short stature" and "failure to thrive" diagnoses. Mealtime is a battle I can't lose with her - so we fight this battle daily.

Which of course means that despite my setting plenty of time for her to tiptoe and pick through her breakfast, we're always late finishing. Which makes us late to do her hair, and get her meds (can't do them before breakfast or they'll kick in and then she really won't eat), and put on coats, and get out the door.

Which, most mornings, puts us heading out for the elementary school a scant few moments before school actually starts - thank goodness we live pretty close. The problem is, we also live close to a middle school and a high school, all of which tend have quite a lot of traffic all at the same time. Inconveniently, this is the time when we're in the van most mornings, sitting at the stop sign at the exit to our little neighborhood, with the minutes ticking by on the clock and only sporadic gaps in the traffic.

Other factors make each little bit of this worse in ways that I can't change just yet, so the girls and I muddle through as best we can, with moments of calm motherly coaching mixed liberally with moments of the kind of shouting mom I swore I'd never become.

It's actually not uncommon for me to be a totally frazzled mess by the time I make that first stop and send Eden off to class, always with an "I love you, have a good day, be good." This is sometimes offered with a smile - and it is sometimes uttered through teeth clenched so hard it's a miracle they don't snap off.

Occasionally, I drop Eden off to school with my face steadfastly held forward - with frustrated and anxious tears dripping down my face even as my heart celebrates the blissful inattention that keeps my frustration from injuring her super-sensitive "marshmallow" heart. She never seems to notice on the days when I cry silently all the way to her school; she just chatters happily away in the backseat, oblivious.

Josephine has ADHD too, but is much better able to cope with it (and significantly less oblivious these days) - and while I despise the fact that I can no longer hide my struggles from her increasingly observant watchfulness, I'm proud of the compassionate person she's growing up to be. One day last week, after a particularly rough morning with Eden, Joey waited quietly in the backseat until Eden was out of the van - and as we drove off on the way to the middle school, she said softly, "She'll grow into it, Mom. I did."

I love that she gets it - that our particular relationship lets her see her mother as a human with human struggles. I love that our relationship lets her look back and see her own growth too, because around this same age level, she and I had similar difficulties. And I love that seeing my relationship with her grow and change and become what it has gives me hope for my bond with Eden - hope that we'll come through the testing phase and find our way to friends.

In the meantime, while Eden walks off blissfully into school each morning with hardly a clue or a care as to the stress left in her wake, Josephine and I are left sitting in the stress, both of us struggling with it and looking for a way to get the day back on track.

And that's where L.A.F.F.S. comes in.


One of my favorite ways to lighten a tense morning and get Joey sent off to school in good spirits is to try and surprise her with the most ridiculous advice I can think of. I've kept a running list of suggestions, and have even asked for people to send them to me on Facebook. So far, the ones to get the best reactions out of her have been:
  • "Don't talk to strangers." (This was the first one, to which she responded with a surprised eye roll, an embarrassed, "Duh, Mom," and a more enthusiastic than usual slam of the van door.)
  • "Don't eat yellow snow." (To which she answered, with an extremely disgusted face, "Uugh!!")
  • "Don't get pregnant!" (This got an amused eye roll, as it came the first Monday after the weekend when she told me one of her 14 year old friends is actually the mother of a 2 year old boy.)
  • "Don't spit into the wind." (This one stuck with her for a while apparently - it was several days later when she randomly asked me what it meant. Explaining got me my usual, "Uugh!")
  • "Be a smart feller - not a fart smeller!" (My grandfather used to actually say variations of this, so I loved that Joey thought it was so funny. She walked away from the van shaking her head and laughing at me that day.)


When I was younger, my older brother and I used to play a game we just called "laughs." I don't remember playing it during the time of our mother's second marriage, when things were so bad that I barely remember much of anything at all - but I do remember playing it in the few years afterward, when things had settled down (in some ways) for our family and we were no longer being brutalized physically. I don't know how the game started, or what made him decide to play it with me so often, but looking back, playing "laughs" with my brother is one of the best memories of my childhood.

It's easy to play - you just laugh.
There wasn't usually a joke or funny stunt or anything, either. My brother would literally just sit there and think of something funny, until he started laughing. He had a really wild, contagious laugh, and he was, in a lot of ways, my childhood hero - I couldn't listen to him laughing like that without laughing too. So I would laugh at him laughing, without even knowing what he was laughing at. I suspect then he would laugh at me, crazily laughing at nothing, and the cycle would continue for a while until we both subsided with streaming eyes and aching bellies.

I still do this, although not often on purpose and not nearly as often with my brother - but it happens anytime my cousin Dana and I are together and one of us gets amused about something. All it takes is a second of eye contact, the hint of a smirk, and we're off. When we were little, we actually used to get sent away from the dinner table for laughing like maniacs, so common were our private jokes. These days, it doesn't even have to be in person - it works on the phone, too.

So ... What's the one got to do with the other?
Well, I've been nursing an idea for a while now, and I think I'm ready to move on it. Those of you who follow me on Patreon (and if you don't ... are you nuts? You're totally missing out!) will know that I post all kinds of stuff there, from story chapters to poetry to podcasts - and even PhLogs, which are sort of like my Patron-exclusive version of a lovechild between snapchat and journaling. The rewards I offer on there are all set at different subscription levels (think Netflix - but me instead, which is better) so you can choose what you put in as well as what you take out. The PhLogs are mostly just for fun, but the story chapters are being compiled into novels as they are completed, the poetry will be compiled also, and the podcasts will eventually become my first non-fiction book.

But I'm getting ready to add L.A.F.F.S. to the $2 tier - and I'll be sharing one L.A.F.F.S. tidbit every Friday starting today! These L.A.F.F.S. will be compiled into a book too, and my Patrons will be the first people I go to when I need new ideas or feedback on the ideas I've already come up with. Patrons will also, of course, be the first to receive updates about the progress of all these projects too, so if that's something you think you'd be into, come on over and check it out!

click here to subscribe

I'd love to have your L.A.F.F.S. suggestions, too - leave them in the comments below and I'll try them out on Joey in the next few days! Who knows, they might even make it into the book!

While you're here, if you'd like to hang with me and follow my journey as a writer, a mom, and an abuse survivor with PTSD, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar. This blog may not always be easy to read, but I truly hope we'll learn from and inspire each other along the way.

Make sure you come over to Patreon too - sign up to sponsor and support my writing journey for as little as $1 a month! Your dollar gets you access to all sorts of content - including photos and mini-blogs from my personal life and advance peeks at my fiction writing, which is a pretty slick deal for just over $.03 a day. For a little more, you'll get to vote for upcoming content, read my poetry and weekly L.A.F.F.S., listen to podcasts, and even get your name on my personal mailing lists - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'm going to start posting daily PhLogs!! (Click that link. Most are subscriber-only, but some are public - I think there's one about my dog being scared of a piglet, too.)

But however we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, or on Patreon, you can rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman." And what's an undaunted woman? Click here to find out more about what it means to be undaunted - and how you can nominate your favorite undaunted woman to be interviewed right here on the blog! The first interview was a total success, and I already can't wait to introduce you to September 2017's Undaunted Woman!

For those who just want the inspirational parts of my content without all the personal aspects, connect with me on social media - that's where I like to share all sorts of things, from self-care tips to mental health quotes to song lyrics and more. Either way, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Truthful Tuesday: Confession Collection #2

We haven't had a confession collection here since the first one (in April), so I think we're more than overdue for some straight up, undeniable truths. Since the last confession collection, I've had a lot of things change in my life - and yet so much has stayed the same.


The truth is ...

... I'm still momming my kids every day, and as Josephine gets older, she's beginning to thank me more and more often for being a steady presence in her life, for choosing to stay with her and be here for her. Eden's doing it too, now and then, in the sweet, small voice she hasn't yet outgrown. And even as motherhood stays the same, it's always changing, shifting, growing to adjust to what my children are becoming as people apart from their mother.

... We're getting out more. Recently, I took the girls to the local Asian Festival, and we had a ton of fun! We saw Chinese Dragons, Bollywood dancing, Taoist Tai Chi, and more! The girls both got glitter tattoos done, we sampled some delicious-smelling sugar scrubs, and we got to learn a bit about Kendo fighting. But in true picky-kid fashion, we skipped the feast of available Asian food booths and headed indoors for subs. Forgive the terrible photos though - I took them with a half-dead phone in sun so bright I could barely see the screen.

Knoxville Asian Festival 2017
Knoxville Asian Festival 2017

... Music is life for us. Another thing we've ventured downtown for is free live music - this past Saturday, we spent some time jamming with No Deceit, an amazing Americana band that we got to see in person at the Knoxville Visitor's Center. The show was short but spectacular, and the girls both loved going to their first concert! I would have loved to post another photo collage here, but apparently my phone thought that would be a great day to focus on pretty much nothing. I did get this photo though:
... My goals have changed a bit. Not a lot, but there are some I won't be meeting this quarter because they're no longer goals for me - or because I'd like to set a different goal instead. I'm not breaking that down here, but the next quarterly goals post is sure going to be interesting!

... My favorite character on Once Upon A Time is ... Rumpelstiltskin. I can't help it. The girls and I have been watching together, and we're only just into season two - but he is the character with the most character growth (aside from Emma, duh); I've been loving watching him come to terms with who he's been and try to deal with becoming a better man.

... I'm still loving Core Power Protein drinks. Seriously, these things are my jam. I drink one daily, usually for breakfast (along with coffee AND water - sitting at the computer surrounded by liquid like I've never had a drink before), and then sometimes if I'm feeling extra fatigued or just want something sweet that's at least a little healthy for me, I'll have a second one in the evening. I like that they're made with real milk, they taste delicious, and they're lactose-free. I usually just pick mine up at Walmart when I'm there for groceries (I buy the four-pack of 8-ounce ones, I think), but if you'd prefer to have them shipped right to your door so you can try them, that's totally a thing! (note: this is an affiliate link - please see below for my affiliate disclaimer)


... I finished my LoveBug Probiotics supply (sent to me on a complimentary basis as an influencer for reviewing purposes), and ... well ... they didn't change my life. But to be fair, I didn't really expect them to - so here's what I did notice:

  • Immune Health: Not a lot changed here, despite the daily regimen of Colds Suck from LoveBug Probiotics - I still had to take my Prilosec every day, still noticed it majorly when I forgot, and still had the same symptoms. Not that I thought I'd be cured ... but it would have been nice. On the plus side, and more to the point, the girls started school; Eden's already come home with a snot surplus and a sore throat ... and guess who didn't catch it? That's right. This girl.
  • Urinary Tract Health: On this, I did notice improvements. I had less episodes of kidney/flank pain and less episodes of UTI flare-up symptoms. Since the Urinary benefits I expected came mostly from the anti-yeast line (Yeast Is A Best, from LoveBug Probiotics), I'll also note that I noticed a significant reduction in other yeast-connected symptoms, such as overall itchy skin, joint pain, and headaches.
  • Low Metabolism: I didn't lose any weight with Lovebug's Here's The Skinny supplement, mostly because I wasn't really trying to, and these are supplments, not magic. But I did notice a little increase in my energy levels, which was much appreciated!
Despite the lack of magical healing properties, I did like the overall effect of taking the probiotics daily - and there was enough of a noticeable difference in certain aspects of my general health to make me wonder what a more long-term regimen might accomplish over time. But no matter how much I adored the high-quality, incredibly beautiful packaging, there's no way this single mom's bank account can swallow the cost, even if I went with just the Yeast Is A Beast line, which is on Amazon for just under $30 a month. That being said, if you can swing it, I think these are definitely worth a try!

... I miss meeting my readers in person. I've had probably half a dozen different blogs over the last ten or eleven years, each with a different purpose and meaning during its time in my life. But when I started this blog almost five years ago, it was mainly to build and grow my platform as an author. During the time since, I've written eight books, I've met some truly incredible people, and I've connected with readers who loved my writing - many of whom have become friends. But since splitting from my kids's dad, I haven't been to any events. I haven't met new people. It was because I needed that time of drawing into myself and taking quiet time to process - but it was also because my kids are young and I don't have a lot of on-demand childcare options. And it was because appearances are usually expensive -for the person appearing. But I miss it, so ... I've got something in the works - if the money works out. And I'm not sure it'll work out just yet, but if I does, I'll announce it here as soon as I'm sure.

... Life is hard. I'm still dealing and coping with PTSD issues every day, and my schedule often revolves around the ways I've learned to live with it. When I can write, I write like there's no tomorrow - because I don't know what tomorrow will look like for me. I love that I have most of my writing life somewhat automated these days too, so that I can take down time when I need to without letting down my readers. None of this has changed at all - my likes and comments across social media are as genuine as they've always been and always will be. But I do like that if I have a good Wednesday, I can write two blog posts and schedule a bunch of social media statuses just in case I have a horrible Thursday. Actually, I had that happen one day last week, because I was up all night thinking about Josephine. She was born with a heart defect, and although it's been repaired, she's starting to have some complications pop up that might also eventually need to be repaired. And in the way of anxiety disorders, I spent about five hours freaking out because what if it doesn't need to be fixed until after she's old enough to possibly no longer have good insurance that would cover it? And what if it can't be fixed, or what if it's really bad, or what if she ends up having to have open heart surgery, and what if ... ??? This constant running diatribe is why I don't sleep, why I obsess over everything, why I'm a meticulous planner. It's "why" so many things.

... I love my neighbor. Where we live is one of the strangest places I've ever lived. We happen to live in the idyllic "days-past" sort of neighborhood, the kind where you can go across the street to borrow a leafblower, an egg, a bottle of honey for a recipe. You can go next door for a good long chat, or meet in the yard to make birdfeeders. It has actually been ages since I had a good local gal pal - most of my friends are spread out all over the world, from California to Virginia, from Texas to Florida. From Canada to Australia. Even with Dana, she's "local" in the sense that we can get to each other if we need to - but she's about an hour away, and with both of us driving older cars that often have issues, neither of us trusts our cars that far, so we see each other in person quite infrequently. Which I suppose is part of why I ended up so open to friendship with my neighbor girl in the first place - despite my tendency to be very private and keep to myself. But over the last few months, we've both been reaching tentatively, and right now I'm writing this blog post because she's taken my girls on a walk to the corner store for icees. We watched the eclipse together, my daughters and I with her and her toddler, and I continuously feel blessed by our friendship. She's awesome.


Today's "Featured Favorite Product" is Strike Force Energy, which is part of how I manage to find the ability to take my kids to stuff like the Asian Festival and WDVX's Blue Plate Special. Strike Force is one of my favorite sources of energy because it's one of the few energy drinks I can have without dealing with the side effects of energy drinks. There's no crazy jitter-inducing boost at the beginning, and no crash-and-burn at the end. It isn't too super-sweet for me, it isn't gross (it even comes in flavors), and it's calorie-free, sugar-free, carb-free ... basically it's free of all the things you're trying to avoid. They even list nutrition labels and ingredients on their site so that you can research what you're putting into your body before you put it there.

Strike Force Energy Flavor Cartiridges

At 10 flavor cartridges for just $10, you're already getting a great deal - but make sure you use AFLBRANDI8634 in the discount code box at checkout to get an extra 20% off! (and just in case you're as shit at math as I am, that's 2/10 free!)

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links throughout this post, remember that if you choose to click any product links on my site and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a (very) small commission for referring you. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you, but my family and I appreciate your support. (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with on a more regular basis, click here.)
Have you got any confessions you'd like to leave in the comments? If so, I'd love to see them! It's always fun getting to chat with my readers in the comments (if not in person), so don't be shy about saying hello.

While you're here, if you'd like to follow my everyday journey as a writer, a mom, and an abuse survivor with PTSD, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar. It may not always be easy to read, but hopefully we'll inspire each other along the way.

If you'd like to get even more personal, come over to Patreon, where you can sign up to sponsor and support my writing journey. You can subscribe for as little as $1 a month, and that dollar gets you access to all sorts of content - including photos and mini-blogs from my personal life and advance peeks at my fiction writing! For a little more, you'll get to read my poetry, listen to podcasts, and even get your name on my personal mailing lists - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons; when we hit that goal, I'm going to start posting daily PhLogs!! (Click that link. Most are subscriber-only, but some are public - I think there's one about my dog being scared of a piglet, too.)

In the meantime, rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman." But what's an undaunted woman? Click here to find out more about what it means to be undaunted - and how you can nominate your favorite undaunted woman to be interviewed right here on the blog! The first interview was a total success, and I already can't wait to introduce you to September 2017's Undaunted Woman!

For those who just want the inspirational parts of my content without all the personal aspects, connect with me on social media - that's where I like to share all sorts of things, from self-care tips to mental health quotes to song lyrics and more. But however you decide to keep in touch, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.