Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tuesday Talk: Domestic Abuse Is More Than Beatings


I haven't talked about this much here - not in the way I'm about to and not nearly as much as I might have wanted to, out of a desire to protect myself and my children from the repercussions of words spoken without a great deal of thought. I've talked about the abuse I witnessed and endured as a child - but with limitations:
  • I didn't name my abusers.
  • I didn't give towns and addresses.
  • I didn't give the name of the group home I spent a year in as a child after both my mother's and my father's houses were deemed unsafe for me due to my step-parents violent mental health issues.
  • I didn't share much about the way my mind and body began to break down under the stress.
  • I didn't talk about the ways I acted out or the ways the things I was dealing with impacted my health.
But even with those limitations, I have suffered consequences of my openness. I've lost relationships with family members. I've lost friends who couldn't handle knowing what I'd been through - friends who, after knowing what I've seen, could no longer see me in the same way. And there are other aspects of all of it that I have never - and will never - speak of again outside of therapy, not after being accused of "making it up" by someone too busy protecting themselves to protect me.

Still, I've been pretty open about the violent abuse I witnessed as a child, as well as the abuse I endured personally. What I haven't been as open about is the way that abuse led me into one abusive relationship after another over the years. I don't talk much about the first serious relationship I was in as a teenager; I don't talk about how the first boy to kiss me was also the first boy to pressure me into things I didn't want to do in bed ... I don't talk about how he was also the first boy to hit me. I don't talk about how I blamed myself and let it go - because I had already been taught that abuse is the victim's fault. I don't talk about how those moments were formative for both of us, or how our friendship now is always and will always be tainted by those memories.


BUT DOMESTIC ABUSE IS MORE THAN BEATINGS
IT'S CONSTANT CRISIS & REPEATED THREATS & APOLOGIES THAT AREN'T MEANT
I don't talk much about another relationship I was in, where I found myself attached to a drug addict who lied to me constantly about his addictions - about how serious they were, about how much they changed who he was, about his intention to get them under control. He would "go" to Narcotics Anonymous meetings; he would kiss me goodbye when I dropped him off (we had one car), walk in the front door alone, and walk directly out the back door with the drug-addicted woman he was having an affair with. I suppose they had more common ground, and now, these many years later, I don't resent him finding someone he thought might be a better match for him - by that time, we both knew we weren't meant to be. But I was lucky I left him when I did - he ended up catching an STD not long after we separated, and the knowledge of what he was doing was part of what gave me strength not to take him back, especially in the moments when I was lonely and afraid of life as a single mom. I don't talk a lot about when the rage kicked in and he started threatening to kill me. I don't talk a lot about what it felt like to file for a restraining order and have it denied because "he hasn't tried anything yet." I don't talk about the nightmares and panic and what it's like to constantly be looking over your shoulder, scanning streets and stores and driveways and parking lots and even my own front yard. I don't tell a lot of people that the shower scene in Fighting For Freedom - the one where Christine was too afraid to get out of the shower - was drawn directly from that time in my life, when I had to pep talk myself into every shower, and then once I was in, pep talk myself back out. I don't talk about how that still happens sometimes.

But perhaps most importantly, I haven't talked in obvious ways about yet another relationship - the one that taught me just how dangerous charm can be, the one that opened me up to someone I will always believe was narcissistic abuser. An abuser who quietly slipped into my life and took it over so smoothly that I hardly even noticed. I haven't talked about how, before him, even I still believed that "domestic abuse" wasn't real unless your mother got hit by a truck and your brother got shot in the eye and you got stripped naked to have your bruises photographed in the guidance counselor's office at school. I didn't believe it was abuse unless it was violent - until HIM, until I had endured so many years of covert psychological abuse that it triggered my PTSD and left me with an imploded life full of broken bits I still haven't been able to sort out yet.


DOMESTIC ABUSE IS MUCH MORE THAN BEATINGS
IT'S GASLIGHTING & MANIPULATING ISOLATION. IT'S REPEATED CYCLES OF LOVE-BOMBING & GHOSTING. IT'S USING CHILDREN AS TOOLS. IT'S ECONOMIC ABUSE AND CONTROL FOR POWER. IT'S PSYCHOLOGICAL TORTURE FOR FUN.
Domestic abuse isn't always brutal beatings and black eyes. It isn't always bruises covered in makeup and children with mysterious injuries. It isn't always obvious violence - or the obvious fear of it. Sometimes it's the false promise of a future that doesn't exist. It's a painted dream, an illusion, a fantasy.

Sometimes:
  • It's a person creating a fictional self and passing it off as real, and then attacking others when the truth behind their persona is revealed.
  • It's a person who engages in isolating his/her significant other by humiliating and embarrassing them in front of their friends until those friends stop coming around (for example, ruining and abruptly ending every social gathering by throwing themselves to the floor and pretending to suffer from temporary paralysis until conveniently right after everyone left - and then continuing to do this until they stopped coming at all).
  • It's a one-income household where the person with the paycheck controls everyone else by using money (or the lack of it) to maintain power. It's where the person in control makes a point of pushing others around by reminding them of their lack of power, or using economic well-being as a means of dominating through sabotage, threats, and other forms of intimidation. 
  • It's imprisonment - through economic or any other means.
  • It's the psychological warfare of silent and covert abuse - the various means of victimizing through making someone else doubt their sanity.
  • It's gaslighting; it's all the times a victim hears, "that didn't happen," or "you must have imagined it," or "I didn't do that ... YOU did." 

I can't tell you how many times I've heard people give me softly spoken and slightly condescending variations of, "Well, at least he doesn't hit you." With several of my relationships, that was the excuse that kept me coming back for more. In abuse situations, "at least he doesn't hit you" often works to negate the total erasure of personal boundaries, as well as the various covert punishments victims of abuse tend to encounter when stepping out of line - many of which are not violent but are still equally damaging.

  • It's when you get used to going to bed alone - when your sex drive goes dormant from neglect because your partner won't leave porn long enough to have actual sex.
  • It's repeated cheating, and then blaming the victim for being hurt and sad and insecure.
  • It's never taking responsibility for wrongs committed, for repeated insults. It's the abuser telling the victim to "get over it" and "let it go" - while still continuing with the hurtful actions.
  • It's disregard or even mockery of the needs, feelings, and values of others.
  • It's constantly calling and talking and gift-giving, followed by complete and total silence.
  • It's the infliction of constant financial crisis and the impact of a record of unpaid bills and unmet contracts.

It's the relentless and nearly impossible burden of recovery.


  • It's using children as pawns, attempting to purchase their loyalty after abandoning them, or using physical or financial threats to guilt or force them into choosing sides.
  • It's the mind games you're forced to fight through and live with when there are children involved and everything is more complicated.

It's a book called Fighting For Freedom, a collection of memories mixed into fiction by a woman writing every word as a prayer for a freedom she can barely even imagine achieving. Yes, in it's clearest forms, it's violence and bruises and broken bones and blood. But sometimes it's quiet - sometimes it's so subtle even the victims can't see it until it's too late, so sneaky even the people who witness it can deny it's happening. Sometimes it's this:


But here's the thing - that video gives hope and hints at possibility. For some. You see, in order for the woman in the video to have filled all those tampons with cash, she would have had to have access to cash. Maybe she was allowed to have a job - or if not, maybe she was allowed an allowance.

For many victims of this kind of abuse, this is not the case. For many victims of this kind of abuse, access to money is so limited that you begin to forget little things about it.
  • You have to mentally talk yourself through the process of pumping gas because you've forgotten how to do it.
  • You always run your atm card through the reader backwards because for so long, you never got to go to the store and use one.
It's forgotten independence and learned helplessness - it's a loss of self, mourned by the victim and celebrated by the abuser. It's a breaking of the sense of autonomy that makes us feel like humans - it's a recognition, a becoming, a reverting back to the animal that lies within. It's Pavlovian training. It's Stockholm Syndrome. It's forced and/or learned co-dependence.

It's punishment, however subtle that punishment may be, for the existence of self and the establishing of boundaries. It's neglect and starvation and homelessness - or the constant threat of it. It's the idea of violence, if not the act of it - hidden in the way an abuser stands over a victim or blocks doorways on purpose or exerts physical strength and personal dominance just to show that they can.

And while the video I shared above is wildly powerful - there are victims out there for whom even that much hope seems impossible, for whom recovery looks unachievable, for whom the hits just keep on coming.

There's no featured favorite product today - just a reminder to look upon others with kindness, without judgement, without preconceived imaginings of who they are and how they got that way. We don't always know other peoples' stories. We don't see what goes on in the recesses of their lives, in the quiet behind the closed doors - and even when they choose to open those doors, we still don't see everything.

Fortunately for the girls and I, I have help - I have people who step in every day and encourage me to keep going and to keep growing, who hear me out when I need to talk or sit with me in the silence when I need to NOT talk. I have my therapist and my friends, I have this platform and the emotional freedom it gives me, and I have the complicated blessing of my friendship with my daughters' grandmother - who has gone out of her way to make space for the girls and I to rebuild, despite many reasons she might have chosen otherwise.

Many do not have even these things - and while I sometimes find myself suffering, I am grateful too, for those who stand beside me in my darkness, for those who reach out in that darkness to guide or walk beside me, those who call my name from their place in the light, reminding me that my darkness is not infinite.

NOTE: This is usually where I have my affiliate disclaimer, since I'm usually using affiliate links through which I receive a (very) small commission. Today I'm not using them because I feel that it would cheapen the depth and personal importance of this post - but if you'd like to see a list of companies I'm currently working with, you'll find them here.
Writing something as honest as this post is exhausting. It took five hours to write - with much of that time spent carefully poring over every word, desperately trying to straddle the line between my desire to be honest and open, and my desire to protect people who are not at fault and shouldn't be made to feel as if they are. I stopped to cry more often than I would have liked. I drank wine during the day. And I prayed this post would be seen by people who need it. If this post touches you in any way, please feel free to tell me in the comments - or if you need someone to talk to privately who can understand and commiserate, send me a message at authorbrandikennedy@gmail.com, or hit me up on any of my social media pages. If you know someone who would benefit or learn from what I've said here, I invite you to share it with them.

As always, 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 is coming up at the end of this month, and I can't wait to introduce you to August 2017's Undaunted Woman!

In the meantime, if you'd like to 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. I'll share my pain with you, yes - and it won't always be easy to read. But I'll share my growth with you as well, and hopefully we'll inspire each other along the way. To get even more personal, come over to Patreon, where you can sign up to sponsor and support my writing. 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 access to my fiction writings! For a little more, you'll get to read my poetry, listen to podcasts, and even get your name on my personal mailing lists.

For those who want the inspirational parts of my content without as much of the personal aspects, connect with me on social media, 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, I truly thank you for being here.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Saturday Sentiment: A Letter To My Daughters' Future Husbands


Lately, I've been loving Meghan Trainor music. Not that this is particularly new, but my musical tastes tend to cycle quite a lot; one day I'll be keeping time with Marshall Mathers, and the next I might be crooning along with Carrie Underwood. You just never know.

These days, it's a lot of Meghan Trainor - she has the right amount of sass to appeal to the side of me that's empowered and undaunted, the right amount of vulnerability to appeal to the girl in me who just wants to be chosen and treasured and loved, the right amount of jazz to get me booty-shaking around the house, dancing to the music of my own spirit. When I'm feeling challenged and/or indignant, I love "Lips Are Movin'" and "No Good For You." When I'm strong and confident, I love "NO" and "All About That Bass." But when I'm most me ... when I'm feeling good about me in a way that's so rare and yet so incredible, I love "I Love Me" and "Me Too."

I love LOVE LOVE the reminder of worth that lies behind "Better," and I love both the message and the boundaries behind the upbeat "Title." When I'm in my feelings, "Like I'm Gonna Lose You" never ever fails to get me feeling all kinds of romantic. But recently, I've been hearing a lot of "Dear Future Husband."

Which got me thinking.

Certain recent ... complications ... in my personal life have gotten my mind turning things over, examining the little pebbles that make up the baggage of my soul. And as I've picked up each little pebble and turned it carefully over in my mind, remembering where it came from and how I ended up carrying it, I've been facing the differences between the things I most sorely miss about being in a relationship ... and the things that make me happy about my current single status.

As I examine and explore the possibility of that single status perhaps not being quite so permanent as I've come to imagine, I've also been thinking about how my experiences - and my relational views based on those experiences - will impact the choices my daughters will someday make as women.

When they begin to choose the boys and men who help to form them as women in ways that even I can't.


I pray for my sons-in-law (son-in-laws?) often already, just like I pray for my daughters - but while I'm praying that my daughters will be good people and good girls, strong influences on their friends and accomplished young women in their studies, I'm also already praying for the men my daughters will grow up to marry.

They're thirteen and eight right now, so when they think about marriage in their futures, they think about it in the way that mostly-sheltered little girls think of marriage - but me? I've been married, and I've been divorced. I've been chosen, and I've been left behind. I've been loved - and I've seen the man who once loved me look at me with the most impossible disdain ... when he bothered to look at me at all.

As their mother, a letter to their future husbands would be easy to write:
"Hey, dude. You see that girl right there? She's my whole world, the very reason the sun rises and falls. She's bone of my bone, and blood of my blood. So let's just clear up some ground rules, alright? One, you keep your hands gentle and your dick to yourself. Two, you keep your words kind, and refrain from playing with her heart and emotions. Three, she is to be taken care of, and you are to serve as a leader she can trust and believe in. Because if you hurt her or let her down, I will make you wish you had never been born. "
Easy enough, right? Except ... it doesn't work that way. So instead, I'll pray for them:
"God, I don't know the future. I don't know Your plans. And while this terrifies my humanity, the divine inside my heart believes in Your purpose for my life - and the lives of the children You entrust to me. Help me to guide them, to teach them, and not to leave them quite as scarred as I have been left - help me to be the upgraded version of my own parents, giving my children my best in a way that lifts them above the place I came from and sets them on a path to places I was never meant to reach. And as I am working each day to walk with my children, let their husbands spend each day walking in the hands of parents who love You. You know them already - from their eyes to their hair to their hearts - because You created them with as much purpose as that with which You molded my girls."
And with that prayer in mind, the letter to my daughters' future husbands changes just a little:
"Listen, son. Let's get just one thing straight here. That girl you're anxious to get your hands on was raised by a mama bear with a protective streak a mile wide and a temper fuse barely a centimeter long. She's got a mama who will look at you with suspicion, a mama who will inspect her for possible damage at every given opportunity, a mama who will inscribe your name on every weight found wrapped upon that girl's shoulders. 
But it won't be intentional, and I want you to know in advance that I'm sorry. I'll do my best to make sure I hold my perspective on life, on love, and on you - I'll do my best to remember that you're only human too, and that while I have loved her since before she was even born, our journey together has not always been easy. And her journey with you will not be easy either. I'll work to remember that that's not always your fault - and also to remember that even when it is your fault, it still mostly isn't my business.
That being said, I've been praying for you for almost as long as you've been alive, and I believe God has a reason for you. I promise to keep praying for you, not only for my daughter's sake and for the sake of her happiness and safety with you, but for your own sake as a man. Be encouraged, because while this girl is not always easy to love, she is always worth the effort. But as her mother, I would ask a favor of you - I hope it isn't too forward or too much to ask. 
One, don't stop dating her once your married. Remember those moments when everything was new? When you couldn't forget the smell of her perfume and nothing lit up your world like laughter in her eyes? Hold onto that, and don't lose sight of her beauty when she's being ugly. Two, stay impressed with her. You may not share all of her interests and passions - and you aren't meant to. But love her for the things she loves, for her enthusiasm, for the excitement that turns on more than just her body. Love the things she loves through her eyes, for the sake of the joy on her face; I promise she will have been taught to do the same for you. Three, be a leader worthy of her respect - not because I've raised her to be submissive, but because if you can earn and hold her respect while gifting her with your respectful consideration, she will be thankful for your presence as a strong hand in her life. 
Do your best to leave a mark on her heart as a lover, but never forget how important it is to keep one foot in her 'friend zone' - because this is truly where the richness of her spirit lies. Don't just hear her speak; take the time to listen to what she's saying. And as often as possible, make sure you have something to say back. Spoil her, please - but not only with physical treasures and mementos of your time in her life. These things are passing and won't be enough for either of you, so instead ... as my girl becomes your woman, see that you spoil her with beautiful and happy memories of your past together, and give her the kind of security that makes her believe in a future my past made her doubt was possible. 
Because boy? If you mess up my daughter ... well, let's just say she's her mama's girl, and we'll hope for your sake that you never need to see what that means."
Lucky for all of us, my girls are a long way from marriage huh? I guess I still have mellowing to do after all ...

Today's "Featured Favorite Product" is the dress the girls are both wearing in the photo in the post above - the same Wennikids Mommy and Me Chevron Maxi dress the three of us wore together when we had portraits taken together this summer for the first time in ... well, pretty much ever. We loved that this dress came in a size range that was perfect for all three of us, from Eden skinny little kid dress to Joey's growing teen dress to my own curvy plus size - and we've all loved how comfy these dresses are, too!
We've worn our dresses several times since, in every combination of separate and together, both on purpose and by total accident, and despite their super-inexpensive price tag (under $15 USD!) they've handled the wear beautifully - so if you've got a young daughter, I'd encourage you to pick up a pair of these to surprise your little one with. It's sure to be a thrill for her, and these moments you'll spend together are fleeting. Enjoy them while they last.

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links in this post, remember that if you choose to click 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.)
Do you have kids - and if you do, do you think about the relationships that will form their futures? If you think about this too, feel free to leave a comment here and tell me your thoughts on the subject. Or come over and connect with me on social media, where I like to share all sorts of things - from self-care tips to mental health quotes to song lyrics and more.

If you think someone you know would like hanging out here, make sure to pin and/or share any post that strikes your fancy - I always welcome new readers! Make sure you click around too, and explore the rest of my content! You'll find links to my novels and lots of other stuff in the navigation bar at the top of this post, and even more little gems in the sidebar - and if that's still not enough for you, awesome! Come check me out on Patreon, where I post bits of fiction and poetry, as well as peeks into my more personal day-to-day life.

As always, 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 is coming up at the end of this month, and I can't wait to introduce you to August 2017's Undaunted Woman!

However you decide to keep in touch, definitely take the time to make sure you never miss a post here. All you have to do is subscribe (the subscription form is in the right sidebar)! And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Works For Me Wednesday: Skin Care With Avon's Anew Micellar Water

So I turned thirty-three this year, and while I'm still generally fresh-faced and decent-looking, I am quite well aware that my face is not a fresh fifteen anymore. Still, even though I'm not wrinkly just yet, and I'm still a long way from my mother's own Grandmother-Willow-esque appearance ...

I have noticed that in recent years, there's been a certain sneaking-in of little subtle things. The appearance of very fine, almost-not-even-there lines around my eyes when I smile, a slight deepening of the smile lines to either side of my mouth. There's a general darkening and thinning of the skin below my eyes, and I often look ... well, tired.

To be frank, it's probably because I am tired - and while some of it is a general proper tiredness that comes from being a thirty-three year old single mother to two very busy girls, there is a good portion left over that comes from being a single mom living with PTSD, the remnants of dissolving an incredibly toxic relationship, backing away from toxic "friendships," and having pretty much my entire life totally remake itself over the last couple of years.

There have been a lot of good changes, and there are things that are getting better. But the stress and the effort it takes to make the necessary changes ... well, it's taking its toll. And all that to say this: I think it's time I get myself on a skin-care regimen - because while my mother definitely has her moments of being pretty cool, I am in no hurry to take on the appearance of a sprightly but incredibly aged willow tree. So ...


Skin care regimens can get pretty complicated though, right? Cleanse, exfoliate, tone, moisturize ... scrub your skin halfway off with that creepy Clairsonic thing ... lifts and peels and serums ...

Honestly, there's like ninety steps in the process to having a flawless face - and unfortunately that's about ninety more steps than this busy mom has time for, especially with PTSD clogging up my life and making even the barest leg-shaving shower sometimes look like an insurmountable feat.

Ain't nobody got time for that, right?

Photo from Avon.com - click here to purchase!
Fortunately, I'm just in time to jump on the micellar water bandwagon, which is handy because my cousin happens to be an Avon rep, and when we talked about this a few weeks ago, she had just tried Avon's Anew Micellar Cleansing Water for the first time. Now here's the thing though - my cousin Dana has the kind of gorgeous porcelain skin that's super sensitive to chemicals and reactive to just about anything. She's pretty careful these days about what she puts on her face, and she definitely had the jump on me as far as getting into creating a skin-care routine - so between that boosting my trust in her judgement and the fact that I've used and loved other Avon products in the past, I was pretty confident that I had found my skin-care miracle.

Also, I think it's really cool that she's gotten into Avon and is using it to create a small business for herself, and I love having the chance to help support her business-building by using products I genuinely love (like this waterproof eyeliner that actually stays where I put it) - even if some of them have been a little hit-and-miss for me (like this conditioner that just wasn't moisturizing enough for my thirsty hair).

Anyway, I know my cousin will tell me the truth about products that can make or break my face, so I waited to see what she honestly thought of this cleansing water before picking some up for myself, and it didn't take all that long to get the go-ahead - her sensitive skin loved Anew's Micellar Cleansing Water, which was all I needed to know to give me confidence that my more hardy combination skin might love it too.

While waiting for my order to come in (Did y'all know you can order Avon products online now, and have them sent right to your door? Because you can!), I headed over to Amazon and picked up a bulk order of about 400 round cotton pads, because with confidence in Dana's recommendation, I had gone ahead and picked up about three bottles of cleansing water (Can you blame me? It was on sale for almost half off!). The order didn't take all that long to come in, despite there being a slight snafu with shipping, and that first night I got right to it with a cotton pad dampened with Anew's Micellar Cleansing Water.

You guys. Seriously. That was the night the girls and I had our portraits taken for the first time in years, and I had a full face of makeup when I started. Avon's Anew Micellar Cleansing Water took off eye shadow, mascara, BB cream, the works. It was almost cold because I'd had it stored in my bedroom until opening, so that was a really soothing sensation against my skin, and I loved that it didn't burn when I accidentally swiped the pad too close and got it in my eye. It didn't leave my face feeling heavy, didn't leave any sort of annoying residue on my skin, and I didn't wreck the bathroom counter with water - because Micellar Cleansing Water doesn't need to be rinsed off. You literally just pour a little on a cotton pad, rub that sucker all over your face (even around the eyes), and throw the grime in the garbage.

Now that's my kind of skin-care.

I'm pleased to say that I've been using Avon's Anew Micellar Cleansing Water for a couple of weeks now, and even though it's recommended for twice-daily use, I'm just doing it each night before bed. It hasn't caused me to break out at all, my skin has woken up and brightened quite a bit, and I love that the weird dry spot just below my right eye has now healed and disappeared entirely (this spot used to require twice-daily use of a night cream that broke my skin out, forcing me to trade one problem for another). It's working well for Josephine's hormonal teen skin too, and I love that letting her use this means I'm not constantly reminding her to coat her face in acne-fighting chemicals that may or may not be doing more harm than good. Her face is so much happier now - and she's happy to have happier skin!

Now and then I'll even do my face early enough to give Eden her own little micellar-soaked cotton round - she loves how grown-up it makes her feel, and I love that she's not using anything harsh on her skin.

Another thing I love so much about it is since you just need a little to get the job done, it'll last a long time, which means the slightly intimidating full-price cost (it's $12 plus shipping for a 5-ounce bottle) doesn't hit me quite as hard. I'm so glad I stocked up while this product was on sale - and now, you can too! It's currently just $6.99 a bottle, which is a 40% price cut! I'm nowhere near running out yet, but I'm definitely planning to grab a few more bottles to take advantage of the steal!

Have you tried micellar water yet in your own skin-care routine? If so, what did you like or not like, and what's your favorite brand?

Today's "Featured Favorite Product" is another product I've mentioned here before, but I'm sharing it again because I still totally love it and it fits perfectly with the topic at hand. I love peel-off masks for my face, and doing masks together has been one of the cool things I've enjoyed using to bond with my girls. Our favorite is still this cucumber peel-off mask from Freeman Feeling Beautiful that we found at our local Food City but now order direct from Amazon - we love how cooling it is, how well it works, and how totally happy our skin feels after using it! I've also tried several other masks from this brand as well, and I've loved every one I've tried, which is why I so highly recommend this:


Clicking the photo above will take you to a full-size variety pack (also on Amazon) that comes with our favorite mask and three others for just over $15, which is a great deal when you're looking for an affordable way to show yourself a little love - especially if you're a single mom like me and you're celebrating the fact that your kids going back to school means you can actually take a shower in peace for the first time in ages.

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links in this post, remember that if you choose to click 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 taking the time to hang out with me today! I love having the chance to interact with you too, so if you like this post, have any suggestions, or just wanted to chat with me, feel free to leave a comment here or connect with me on social media. If you think someone you know would like hanging out here too, feel free to pin and/or share any post that strikes your fancy - I always welcome new readers!

Make sure you click around and explore the rest of my content too - you'll find links to my novels and lots of other stuff in the navigation bar at the top of this post, and even more little gems in the sidebar. If that's still not enough for you, awesome - come on over and check me out on Patreon!

In the meantime, 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 is coming up at the end of this month, and I can't wait to introduce you to August 2017's Undaunted Woman!

However you decide to keep in touch, definitely take the time to make sure you never miss a post here. All you have to do is subscribe (the subscription form is in the right sidebar)! And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sunday Soiree: National Fresh Breath Day

With summer wrapping up, the new school year looming ever closer, and personal things that have been totally out of my control ... lately, PTSD has been my constant companion. Depression and anxiety are the poltergeists haunting my every day, and I'm struggling to keep up - even WITH to-do lists, reminders, trackers, journals, and alarms to keep me moving through each day.

But despite the struggle that is daily life with PTSD, I do have some really exciting things in the works, including a revamp of my Patreon page and another super exciting sponsorship I can't wait to tell you guys more about. (Want a hint? See if you can find one here.)

But first, today is August sixth, National Fresh Breath Day, and I thought - what better day than today to share my favorite way to keep my mouth healthy and my breath as fresh as possible?


If you've been reading here for any length of time, you'll know that I'm kind of a caffeine addict - I love the way a packet of Strike Force Energy wakes me up and amps my energy levels for hours without giving me the shakes or any other crazy side effects, and I love that there's no crash when it wears off. (Try some for yourself: click this link for 20% off this already inexpensive energy boost, and make sure you've got AFLBRANDI8634 in your discount code box!)

Still, sometimes I actually want that little jolt - or maybe I'm just craving a hot drink - and when I do, that's when I turn to coffee, which I also love way more than I probably should. (See a bit about what coffee I'm currently drinking and why in this post about my summer morning routine!)

The problem with coffee is that while coffee itself can actually be good for you, too much of it (or super-strong varieties) can wreak havoc on the health of your mouth and digestion - and it can leave you with some really horrifying leftover-coffee breath, which is never good. Thankfully, there is a way to help battle the notoriously awful oral effects of coffee addiction, and here's mine: make the extra effort to keep a healthy mouth.

My favorite healthy-mouth technique is oil pulling, which I've been using off and on for the last several years with amazing benefits. When I'm oil pulling regularly, I tend to notice these things most:
  • better breath
  • increased sense of taste
  • cleaner teeth that stay clean longer
  • diminished gum redness, puffiness, and sensitivity

But It's Oil. Isn't It Gross?
In a word? Yes. Oil pulling definitely takes some getting used to, and I'm no different from anyone else in my disgust at the idea of putting plain oil in my mouth - especially if you follow the popular advice to use coconut oil, which is "solid" at best and "utterly revolting" at worst. I'll tell the truth - oil pulling is really gross until you get used to it. That being said, here's the number one way I combat the grossness:
  • As previously mentioned, I prefer using liquid coconut oil - which is still thick and oily, but considerably less gross. I also find that coconut oil has a better, more mild flavor than other oils I've tried.

How Do You Do It?
My process is pretty relaxed, actually. Many people advocate oil pulling as being most effective when performed on a daily basis - first thing in the morning, with a night-gross mouth and an empty stomach. But for me, the most convenient time to do it happens to be bedtime, and I don't always have enough mental energy left to spend on it at the end of the day - so with that being said, I generally do my oil pulling in the evenings about two to three times a week, and my process usually looks like this:
  • Take somewhere between 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon of oil into your mouth. Again, liquid oil is much easier to tolerate!
  • Tip your head back and press the oil toward the front of your mouth as you bring your lips together, making sure you end up swishing just oil and not a huge air bubble. I'm not sure if this is required or not, but it makes the process much quieter, and thus, much less annoying.
  • Swish the oil gently back and forth from cheek to cheek, making sure to "pull" (and "push") the oil between and around your teeth. If you know you have areas of concern with plaque and/or tartar/calculus buildup, make sure you focus on keeping the oil in those areas while swishing. Keep the oil moving gently through and around your mouth for about 15-20 minutes. If your jaws and cheeks get sore or tired, you're swishing too fast and/or too hard.
  • Once your time is up, spit the oil out. DO NOT swallow it - not only because that's gross, but also because if the claims are true and oil pulling really does stick to all the bacteria, tartar, plaque, and other nastiness in your mouth, then do you really want to move it down to your stomach? Yeah, I didn't think so, so spit it out. Also, don't spit it in your drain or your toilet. Most people say to spit it in the garbage can, but that's actually pretty gross too - which is why I tend to spit mine into a ziploc snack bag. I like that this particular method helps me dispose of the nasty in a way that doesn't come back to bite me in the ass when it's time to take the trash out - spit, zip, toss.
  • Immediately brush your teeth as you normally would, using whatever toothpaste you generally use.
  • Follow up with floss, and if you like to use it, mouthwash.

Wait - Claims? What Claims?
While oil pulling only reached fad status in recent years, it's actually a very old process common to Ayurvedic medicine, and is given credit (as are most cure-all fads) for improvements and benefits in all sorts of categories, such as these:
  • clears sinuses
  • cures tooth decay
  • detoxifies the mouth and body
  • improves immunity
  • increases energy levels
  • kills bad breath
  • relieves hangovers
  • soothes dry throat
  • strengthens teeth, gums, and jaw
Oil pulling is also credited with improvements in lots of more specific ailments, including (but of course not limited to):
  • acne
  • asthma
  • bloating
  • dermatitis
  • diabetes
  • insomnia
  • headaches and migraines
  • hypertension
  • PMS
Oil pulling is also thought to be a great aid in seeking whole-body health through the mouth - after all, the mouth is the entrance to the human body, through which we ingest almost everything we use to aid and heal our bodies. It stands to reason that a healthy and well-functioning mouth would lead to a healthier, more well-functioning body in general. And on the flip side of this, an unhealthy mouth ridden with bacteria is likely to be depositing those bacteria, along with various bacterial waste products, directly into the bloodstream flowing through all of our organs and functioning systems.

Twenty minutes doesn't seem like such a hassling time investment when you put it that way, does it?

Right. A "Cure-All." Because We All Know How Realistic THAT Usually Is.
Well see, here's the thing - I don't know if it's a real cure-all or not. I don't know if it's worth doing or if it's a total waste of time. I'm not a scientist or any sort of dental professional, I don't play one on TV, and I haven't even researched dentists well enough to write one in a story.

Frankly, I don't want to. I mean, I know dental professionals are important and all, but ... well, it's just not exciting.

But what I do know (and why I'm still trusting oil pulling to help me maintain the health and wellness of my mouth - and through my mouth, the rest of my body) is that it works in clear and obvious ways for me. What I do know is that I like the way my mouth feels when it's still literally squeaky clean no matter what I've eaten or when I ate it.

And as I mentioned before, I do notice all-over, whole-body benefits of regular oil pulling, even when I don't change anything else.

Still skeptical? Give it a fair try (I recommend daily for one week, to be fair) and see how you like it. After all, what have you got to lose?

Today's "Featured Favorite Product" is another great way to keep fresh breath - this Spearmint gum from Pur, which is aspartame-free (I"m mildly allergic), sugar-free, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, GMO-free, vegan, and delicious. I also love that this gum also comes in bubblegum, chocolate mint, cinnamon, cool mint, peppermint, and pomegranate mint - so there's pretty much a flavor for every taste! The link above goes directly to my favorite flavor (on Amazon), but clicking the photo below will get you a six-flavor combo pack for just over $10 (also on Amazon) - that way you can try them all and choose your own favorite!


I still remember how happy (and relieved) I was to first find this brand, after wandering through several different health food stores in search of a gum that didn't have aspartame, wasn't loaded with sugar, and came in flavors other than cinnamon. Finding out how sensitive I am to aspartame and how many things I ate, drank, or chewed that had it listed in the ingredients was a little crushing, and for a long time, gum was one of the things I really missed being able to have. These days, I can usually chew regular gum (in extreme moderation) without having a reaction, but I'm still totally thankful to have found Pur, and I almost always have a little case of it stashed somewhere close.

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links in this post, remember that if you choose to click 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.)
I know I say this all the time, but I do truly love having the chance to interact with you, so if you like this post, have any suggestions, or just wanted to chat, always feel free to leave a comment. If you know someone you think would like hanging out with us here, feel free to pin and/or share any post that strikes your fancy - I always welcome new readers!

Be sure to click around and explore the rest of my content too - you'll find links to my novels and lots of other stuff in the navigation bar at the top of this post, and even more little gems in the sidebar. If that's still not enough for you, awesome! Come on over and check me out on Patreon too - I'm always looking to welcome new members to my community there!

In the meantime, 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 is coming up at the end of this month, and I can't wait to introduce you to August 2017's Undaunted Woman!

However you decide to keep in touch, definitely take the time to make sure you never miss a post here. All you have to do is subscribe (the subscription form is in the right sidebar)! And as always, 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, August 3, 2017

Thursday Thoughts: New School Year, New Schedule?

Back to school. Three words that drive anxiety deep into the hearts of mothers (and some fathers too, I imagine) all over the country. Three words that send teens everywhere into fits of grunting and pouting.

Three words that quite literally FILL me with bliss.

Summers are hard on me, they always have been. I'm too hot, everything is sticky, I have even more trouble sleeping than usual, and my kids are BORED. They ordinarily like each other pretty well and are generally great kids, but by the end of summertime, they can't stand each other and all they do is bicker with each other over everything.

Yeah. It's a hectic time.

But my girlies go back to school next week, and I am so looking forward to being able to finally carve out some time for myself that ISN'T reserved for showering and sleeping.

With the end of summer gearing up and the kids getting excited about going back to school, in addition to some challenging changes in our personal lives, I've been struggling quite a bit lately - and the fact that I'm currently battling a major increase in my PTSD symptoms is not helping.

PTSD sucks. But whether I like it or not, in a lot of ways, PTSD determines my reality. Which means ...

I'm Going Through Changes - and so is my writing schedule.
I haven't worked out all the details just yet - I'm still picking and choosing what works for me and what doesn't, and I suspect those details will continue to be adjusted in the coming weeks. But for right now, I can tell you these things:
  1. My blogging schedule will not be affected. I'm still planning to keep writing here every third day all the way up until the new year, so no worries there. This blog is such a release for me, and I love the messages I get from people who are reading here! I'm also excited to be able to mention that while I'm still taking and loving LoveBug Probiotics, I'm also currently working on a REALLY cool collaboration with another company I'm looking forward to telling you about soon.
  2. My Patreon page is changing up again, but I think I've finally got the kinks worked out. I love how it's set up now, as I feel like it's much more true to who I am and what I want it to accomplish. It's more laid back, both for my subscribers and for myself, and it allows me to use the things I post there in a more free way. Which means ...
  3. Expect new fiction from me soon, available on all the major e-book markets. Expect non-fiction too. And while I'll still be writing the romance I love and the undaunted honesty of this blog ("love stories and lifestyle," right?), I'm also going to be trying something a little new that I'm pretty excited about, so stay tuned for more on that.
Today's "Featured Favorite Product" is this back to school supply kit I found on Amazon. I haven't gotten all of our school supplies yet even with knowing the girls will be going back soon - because in our school district, it's not uncommon for the school to release a $40-60 item list full of things the kids say they never use, and then have the teachers themselves send home $25-40 more in item requests. This year I'm waiting until I get specific lists from my kids's teachers - but I'm willing to bet these items will be on those lists:


Pencils, pens, erasers, whiteboard markers, highlighters, glue, and portable glue sticks all in one box? Now that's what I call one-stop shopping - and right now this little box is just $15.99! Looks like a great way to stock up on the supplies I know we'll be needing, and if I get two of these bad boys, I'll also have Amazon's free shipping (on orders over $25)! Sweet!

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links here, remember that if you choose to click 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, click here.)
I know I say this stuff here all the time, but every bit of it's true every time I say it. I love having the chance to interact with you, so if you like this post, have any suggestions, or just wanted to chat, always feel free to leave a comment. If you know someone you think would like hanging out with us here, feel free to pin and/or share any post that strikes your fancy - I always welcome new readers!

Be sure to click around and explore the rest of my content too - you'll find links to my novels and lots of other stuff in the navigation bar at the top of this post, and even more little gems in the sidebar. That's still not enough for you? Awesome! Come on over and check me out on Patreon too - I'm always looking to welcome new members to my community there!

In the meantime, 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 is coming up at the end of this month, and I can't wait to introduce you to August 2017's Undaunted Woman!

However you decide to keep in touch, definitely take the time to make sure you never miss a post here. All you have to do is subscribe (the subscription form is in the right sidebar)! And as always, 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, July 31, 2017

Motivation Monday: My Summer Morning Routine


A few months ago, I posted a "day in my life" blog that followed me through an average school morning with the girls. I wrote about the challenges of me not being a morning person while raising two morning people, the extra challenge of those little people waking up every day not conveniently already boosted by their ADHD meds (and don't tell me it's not real either - I used to think that too until God started laughing and gave me these kids), and the way those things work against the rough edges of how PTSD impacts me personally on a daily basis. I wrote about what a relief it is to finally find my few minutes alone after dropping the kids off at school, especially as the transition to life as a single mom largely with an absentee co-parent became ... well. Exhausting.

So how do I change it up with summer upon us?
There's no dropping the kids off at school, and due to me not thinking ahead, there was no summer camp either. I'm a broke single mom struggling to make ends meet without much outside help, I'm building a brand largely by myself (or I was until just recently), and I'm still struggling to take care of my own mental health and wellbeing. To top it off, I don't have an awful lot of local sources of support in the way of friendships and family - my mom is too sick and lives almost an hour away, so does my cousin, and all my best friends are childhood friends that I'm still close to despite the fact that we now live all over the country.


Time to innovate.
Or more like, time to look at every moment of my day, assess them, and choose some that can belong only to me. Because otherwise, I'll go stark-raving mad and turn into a very bad sort of mommy. Overworked and underpaid, indeed.

During the school year, I'm considerably more strict about things like bedtime and wake-up time - because I must be. My kids are in bed most nights at seven, because they need some downtime or they can't fall asleep. They read and sometimes talk quietly until about eight, and that's "lights out" time for them - it gives them time to themselves to pray or think as they wind down for bed. In the end, the way it tends to work out is that Eden is asleep by around 8:15-8:30, and Joey is out by around 8:45-9:00. Another benefit of keeping them both on the same time is that no one is keeping anyone else awake by being loud elsewhere. This sets them up for a good night's sleep - and an early wake-up. During the school year, they're up at six and expected to be ready for school by 7:15, or 7:30 at the latest.

But in the summer, that sort of goes out the window. They wake up when they wake up, and we go to bed whenever the evening wraps up - or whenever I "can't take any more of this DAY!" Generally, this is anywhere between 7:30 and midnight. In general though, I try to get them to bed by around 9 or 10, because that leaves me an hour or two to myself. I spend this time listening to podcasts, watching youtube, reading - or writing, if there's a deadline I'm in danger of not meeting. Usually, this is when I'm able to give some focus to adult conversation too, so it's when I'm actively messaging friends and family, catching up with what we're up to.

And in the daytime? Well, in the daytime, I'm just making my way from one minute to the next - with varying degrees of coping skills and productivity. On the good days, when the kids behave and play well together, when I can focus and concentrate, when the words come to me almost as if by magic, then I spend my non-momming moments scheduling social media posts and writing blogs or Patreon writings, meeting one deadline at a time, aided by a calendar I would be helpless without. It sounds busy and maybe even tedious when put that way - but it is the one thing in my life that's truly fulfilling aside from my work as a mother. But even the good days are tinged with the screen of PTSD - I'm careful to avoid triggers, I'm watchful and exhausted, hypervigilant and overly cautious. I live by lists and schedules, and single motherhood only makes it all more overwhelming, even on the good days.

On the bad days, I'm thankful if on the good days I was able to get myself a little ahead of deadlines. It's an ebb and flow, with a guarantee of both good days and bad ones - and a certain pressure to make the good days count because they're outnumbered by the bad. On the bad days, when my kids are extra hyper and extra combative with each other, when Joey's full of teen sass and Eden's anxieties are on high alert, when they're suffering because their dad has come and gone from their lives again, picking them up and then discarding them at will, when motherhood stands in the way of writing because I love my children and they must come first ... when I can't focus and words won't come, when financial stress and loneliness hit me, when I'm so depressed I'm too bored to even eat ... then I wait when I can, and I force one shaking foot in front of the other when waiting isn't an option. If there's a deadline standing in the way of a mental health break, I force myself through, figure out how to plan better for next time, and schedule myself some downtime - even if the only way to get that downtime is to get up early.


Mornings, Ugh!
I am not a morning person. I'm just not. Or perhaps more accurately, I am not a morning people person. I don't want to be spoken to, touched, or expected from, and the only person I tolerate well on a face-to-face basis in the morning is my dog. I can do messaging, and I usually have my phone in my hand first thing in the morning, answering things that came to me while I slept (or attempted to sleep) the night before. This works because I can do it on my time, in accordance with my tolerance level. In general though, I need time to wake myself up mentally every day, to acclimate to the world I live in.

You can see where this might be a problem for a mother of two ADHD morning people people. So in the summertime, I get up early anyway, even as my children celebrate their break from getting up early. And aside from my usual wake-up time, it looks like this:

7:00 AM: The alarm goes off, vibrating softly against the table next to my head. If this doesn't work, it gets more persistent, ringing slowly louder and louder until I wake up panicked at the sound and slap it into silence.

7:05 AM: I'm out of bed, bleary-eyed and praying that Chance won't start doing his very vocal yawning thing that tells me he's ready to get up and go outside for a pee. I'm ready for one too, but I don't tell him that because I'm trying to be quiet and not set off the mom-dar that tells the girls I'm awake so they must get up and get hyper. I love them, but at 7:05 I'm praying they won't do either of those things. I put my pants on in silence, one eye on what I'm doing and one eye on the dog, eyebrow lifted in silent pleading instruction to keep quiet.

7:10 AM: By this time I'm on the back porch, greeting the birds and the sun and God himself while Chance greets the morning grass with an enthusiastic washing away of the morning dew. We're still in silence for the most part, and this is the only part of my day where I feel alone and actually enjoy it. On the porch, I activate my phone's screen to start answering messages and checking notifications while I wait for Chance. If I leave him out there alone too long, he barks.

7:30 AM: I'm back in the house. Chance has done his business and is on the couch, quietly waiting for the girls to wake up. I'm at the dining room table with my laptop, tablet, and phone, as well as my Jesus Calling (Morning and Evening) Devotional, my water, and my (recently added) bottles of LoveBug Probiotics. I start every morning with LoveBug now, and then get going on trying to reach my 100-ounce water goal.

7:35 AM: Time to check my deadline schedule. On a good day, I check in with confidence and then get going on whatever is due next, whether that's a refill of my social media, a new blog post for you guys, or a new Patreon something for the Undaunted community who steps up every month to help support my writing. This is done with a sense of gratitude and pride - in general, I was a child who felt unheard, and I have been a woman who felt unwanted and discarded. Writing is such a beautiful way for me to express myself in a way that allows people who care to appreciate what I'm saying, while allowing people who don't to move on - I'm so grateful every day for this gift. But on the bad days, I look at that schedule with helpless confusion and hopeless defeat, uncertain of the future and haunted by the past. Either way, I have to try - so whatever's next, I come at it as best I can.


Sometime between 7:40 and 10:30 in the morning, one or the other (or both) of the girls will wake up and come downstairs, wanting drinks and hugs and breakfast and attention - and to be counted as first. When I'm ahead of deadlines, I give them that right that minute. I take my fingers from the keyboard and I turn to them. I greet them lovingly if not always with 100% welcome, and I smile to myself because now I understand why my Grandmother used to always sigh with frustration when I woke up early. If I can get back to writing after that and finish what I needed to write for the day, then I do. If not, then I come back throughout the day when I can.

The routine itself varies, with some things fitting perfectly one day and not so perfectly the next, with things rearranged and ordered in the way that best fits that individual day and how that day is influenced by the individuals that are part of it. Either way, the morning routine will almost always, almost without fail, be 97% guaranteed to include the following:

  • Coffee. I drink one cup every morning, strong. It used to always be Folgers Gourmet Selections in the Mocha Swirl, but since Folgers lied to me and I can't ever seem to find it anymore, I'm currently drinking Wal*Mart's Great Value brand in Mocha. It's not quite as good, but it isn't hiding from me, either - still, if Folgers wanted to remedy this situation by sending me the lifeblood which we commonly refer to as coffee ... well. I wouldn't send it back, now would I? (Please address coffee packages in care of the Smartass at PO Box 12035, Knoxville, TN 37912.) 
  • Water. Because if I'm gonna reach that 100-ounce goal on anything even resembling a regular basis, I have to start early.
  • Jesus Calling. I don't read this every day unfailingly, but I'm trying to build the habit. I like the way God uses it to poke fun at me now and then, or to tell me something I've been asking about. Which brings me to ...
  • My Rosary practice. I'm not always great at doing this daily yet either, but I'm getting better and better about it, slowly and surely. I'm not Catholic, so I don't necessarily use the specific prayers of the Catholic rosary - but I DO use a Catholic rosary necklace that I beaded myself. One day I'm going to buy myself this beautiful one that's made of sterling silver and amethyst beads (my birthstone) - but today is not that day, and that's why it's just waiting on my wishlist right now. Anyway, I have a set of prayers that I chose for myself, and in my practice, I'm working to memorize those - they're very helpful in a meditative sort of way, and they help to keep me focused so that I don't start out praying and end up at Wal*Mart buying hot dogs for dinner.
  • Yoga. I've been wanting to get back into a regular yoga practice for a while now, and I recently found just the thing to get me (and Eden) up and moving. When the routine we're currently loving gets old, I'll find us another and then we'll alternate those until we're ready to add a third. Eventually when I know and am comfortable with enough poses to feel like I can create my own routine, I will.
  • Protein. At least once a day, I'll open and enjoy a Core Power protein shake. If I'm having liquid breakfast with my water and coffee (because apparently I secretly actually WANT to drown myself?), then I drink either an 8-ounce chocolate (that's 18 grams of protein!) or strawberry-banana one. If I'm indulging in a sweet breakfast but want to at least pretend I'm being healthy, then I'll use a vanilla one as milk and pour it over cereal - which works well because they're actually made of milk anyway.
Sounds so organized, doesn't it? Like a great morning routine where everything's all put together and just right? All set for a productive day, right? 

Yeah. But then there's ...


The Part You Don't See From The Outside
As organized as I like my routines to be, and as hard as I try to keep them steady and dependable and trigger-free, the truth is, I don't live alone in a cave in the woods in the middle of nowhere. Other people are part of my day, and even though they're family-type people that I'm mostly used to and generally prepared to be around, they're still people with their own rough edges and their own triggers and their own quirks. Sometimes there's drama. Sometimes there's tension. Sometimes words are said or things are done, and sometimes feelings are hurt which must be soothed. Sometimes the "morning" routine must be worked around constant interruption and then it takes all day long. Sometimes I wake up in a PTSD fog, and it takes me an hour of that "morning" routine just to convince myself to make my first cup of coffee.

But whether the morning routine takes three hours or nine, you can bet I'm working on it. It's the beginning of a little productivity trick I like to use called "habit stacking" - partly because it gives me a solid routine to build each day on, and partly because doing things in that way helps me combat my tendency to forget just about everything all the time.

Wow, this is a LONG post! If you've read far enough to be reading this, thanks for sticking around!

Today's "Featured Favorite Product" is Skechers Shoes. I'm usually a barefoot kind of girl, and when I can find a reason to not wear shoes, you can bet I won't be wearing them. It means working extra hard to take care of my feet, but I'll take that trade in the value of comfort and freedom. Maybe it's the central Florida redneck I was raised as, or maybe it's the east Tennessee hillbilly I've embraced becoming. It's definitely not anything to do with being a hilljack of any kind - those hilljacks are a bunch of pretentious bastards.

Anyway, school's starting and winter's coming, which means my family has been in the market for shoes. And when I'm wearing shoes, I'm wearing Skechers. Currently, my Skechers are from the Flex Appeal line, and I love how lightweight they are while still being supportive enough for the foot I broke back in the spring of (I think) 2012. I love them for the girls, too!


Skechers: Get the perfect pair of shoes at SKECHERS! Shop the latest casual & performance styles for men, women, and kids now!

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links here, remember that if you choose to click 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, click here.)
Since this post was such a long one, I'm going to attempt to keep this outro short and sweet - wish me luck with that!

I would really love to interact with you, so if this post spoke to you in any way, please feel free to leave a comment. If you think it would speak to someone you know, feel free to pin it or otherwise send it along - I always welcome new readers! Be sure to click around and explore the rest of my content too - you'll find links to my novels and lots of other stuff in the navigation bar at the top of this post, and then even more little gems in the sidebar. I'd also love for you to check me out on Patreon - my subscribers there are my biggest and most favorite supporters of my writing, and I'm always looking to welcome new members to my community!

In the meantime, 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!

But however you decide to keep in touch, please take a second to make sure you never miss a post here. Patreon may be subscription-based but the content on this blog is ALWAYS free, so be sure to subscribe (the subscription form is in the right sidebar)! And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.