Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Soiree: International Women's Entrepreneurship Day

Sunday Soirees are so much fun to post, especially when they just happen to perfectly align with all my favorite themes. Today is Women's Entrepreneurship Day, and while I didn't know until a few days ago that this was a specific thing (because apparently I live in a cave), I love it that we have a day dedicated to celebrating the strength and determination of women like me who want almost nothing more than to be able to start and run their own businesses.

Entrepreneurship is always a huge deal for the women in charge - we're often risking everything we have to make a dream into a tangible reality, and for women entrepreneurs who are also mothers, there's always more at stake than simple failure. For me, my writing dream is to be able to support myself and my family on the money I make from writing, but more importantly, I'm hoping that by achieving my dream through book sales, blog revenue, and the support of my sponsors on Patreon, I'll be showing my kids they can achieve their dreams, too. Granted, I have a long way to go before that dream even begins to look truly possible ... but the dream is still alive and well.

We tell our kids all the time that with the right amount of work and determination, they can grow up to be whatever they want to be - but our actions tell them otherwise. If we're healthy enough to work, we spend our days clocked in at jobs we barely like, working for money that barely covers what we need to survive. We aren't thrilled with our work, with our homes, with our incomes, with our possessions. And when we're done with work that doesn't fulfill our spiritual and creative needs, we're too tired to do the things that will. Even among those of us who are ill, whether it be due to physical or psychological limitations (or both) we still aren't doing the things that heal and sustain us.

We excuse ourselves from chasing our passions and our dreams because we're afraid of failure, but also because even as our parents promised us we could be whatever we wanted to be, the world told us that we can't. And in many ways, both sides of the argument are right - there's still only ONE country music star of the year. There's still only ONE number one richest woman in the world.

But EVERY person, with enough effort and enough passion, can become a country music star. EVERY person, with enough effort and enough financial stewardship, has the potential to become the richest woman in the world. Or the most famous. Or the most intelligent. Or the most whatever-they-want-to-be.

If only they have the courage, the grit, and the network support to try.


I know a woman who has talked to me several times about her various business ideas, all of which are exciting and fun and perfectly aligned to who she is and the kinds of things she holds dear.
  • IDEA #1: A secondhand furniture shop, crowded with beautiful pieces she restored and revamped. I can picture her in that shop, surrounded by the scents of wood and paint and furniture polish, with multi-colored specs of paint in varying shades of dryness spattered over a white t-shirt and a pair of navy blue fitted capri jeggings. She would have her hair swept up out of the way, and would wear cute white sandals as she greeted customers, sold them her beautiful creations, and then went back to sanding and painting. Each new sale would fund the next project, and while she would go to bed sore and tired each night, she would still wake up ready and energized each morning.
  • IDEA #2: A treat shop, serving various forms of frozen bananas dipped in chocolate, caramel, candy, etc. I can picture those too, and the joy on her face as she served customer after customer from a counter freezer filled with frozen bits of banana on popsicle sticks, each decorated colorfully with swirls of chocolate and sparkling sprinkles. She would wear sweaters to work every day because she'd get cold standing near the freezers, but her heart would be warm because serving others makes her happy, and her eyes would spark with delighted satisfaction as she closed and locked the shop doors at the end of every long day.

It saddens me to know that she will never open either of those shops. She'll think about them sometimes, and maybe she'll wish now and then that she could do it - but she won't.

The really sad part about it is that she could. She has the finesse, the servant spirit, the creative streak, the hardworking attitude. She has the strength of will and the gentleness of spirit. With some finagling, she would even have the money to set it all up. What she doesn't have, and will probably never develop, is the confidence to move on her ideas even in the smallest of ways, because the fear of failure is so much greater than her most fervent wish to try. And it hurts my heart to know that she has everything she would need to succeed - except for the ability to see herself succeeding in business.

But the thing is, all over the world, there are millions of women living with that same lack of confidence in their own abilities, with an incredible dream that might even be incredibly feasible given enough support, and those dreams will never see the light of day. Because too many of us have had our dreams stamped out. Too many of us have internalized "can't."

This is why women with an entrepreneurial spirit are such a major asset in our society. Women are not destined to be only beautiful, emotion-rich creatures of service and nurturing - yes, those are God-given gifts many of us possess, but women entrepreneurs are also intelligent, innovative examples of the amazing things that can happen when brains and brawn come together inside the same soul.

From the humble beginnings of writers like JK Rowling (and me) to the more lofty ambitions of media giant Oprah Winfrey (man, I wish), the world is a better, more imaginative place because of the courage and determination of women in business. The world of technology made gains through the grit and persistence of HTC creator Cher Wang, and women worldwide are able to glean both courage and knowledge from sharers like Chalene Johnson. Because of women, our world has become - and is still becoming - something that it could never have been without the power of a woman. (Click the name links in this paragraph for recommended inspirational reading from/about these amazing women! Each link goes to a book currently on my wishlist of books by and about the most absolute boss babes on this planet.)


If you liked this post, please share the link with your friends, and I also invite you to browse around while you're here. Feel free to subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar, too - it's a great way to make sure you'll never miss a post! I love it when my readers leave comments here, too, so it would be great if you left a comment about your favorite woman entrepreneur; tell me how you discovered her, what she means to you, and how she inspires you to  grow and learn. Maybe your comment will be the one that helps me find a new SHEro I otherwise wouldn't have discovered.

And if you didn't know, if you like this site and the content I produce (or just want to support the dream!), you can totally take an active role in helping to keep it all running! There are several different ways to get involved; the easiest is just to make a donation here - you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like.

But, if you're a book lover like me or you'd like to help take charge of my writing on a more committed basis, skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens. Not only is Patreon a great way to help me manage the costs of running this blog (and life in general because hey, a girl's gotta keep the coffee pot percolating!), but this is also where my readers find a whole new way to read my novels - while I write them. My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors by choosing their favorite reward tier (starting at as little as $1 a month), and that sponsorship gives them access to all sorts of content: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls! But the best part of Patreon 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'll start dedicating each of my blog posts to one special patron - which means YOU could be getting public shoutouts right here on the blog, just for being one of my Patreon subscribers!! Even better ... when we get to 50 patrons, I'll double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you. (PhLogs are public though, so go check those out for free!)

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, my social media profiles, or even Patreon, you can always 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" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal. Click here to find out more about what it means to be an undaunted woman - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for our next Undaunted Interview!

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.


*NOTE: I often use affiliate links in my product mentions on this site, so remember that if you choose to click my product links and end up purchasing through them, I will probably receive a (very) small commission for referring you to the merchants and products I love best. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you - but also know that 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.)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thankful Thursday: Dollar Days At Zoo Knoxville

The last time I went to the zoo was back when the kids's dad and I were still together; I went as a discounted field trip chaperone with Eden's class early that year, and then later that same year I went again with Joey's class. Both times, I entered the zoo with an eager anticipation that rivaled that of the kids around me - I have always believed that going to the zoo is one of the best possible ways to get a close-up look at some of the world's most majestic and beautiful creatures, and since it's not something I can afford to do often, it's always a much-appreciated treat. (I even included a zoo trip as a date in Prescription For Love, one of the Kingsley Series novels.)

I suspect I will always love going to the zoo - and I maintain that that's only partly due to the fact that I happen to be a painfully introverted person who loves animals almost more than people.

So you can imagine how surprised I was to realize that for the last several years, I had completely forgotten about Zoo Knoxville's annual Dollar Days - despite the fact that since the last time I was there, our zoo has welcomed not one, not two, but THREE new Western Lowland Gorillas to our troop. And I really, REALLY, REALLY wanted to see them.

Gorillas in general have been on my list of top favorite animals for many years, but I truly love the way my local zoo has worked to facilitate the repopulation of the critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla. (Millennials might remember Harambe, a male Western Lowland Gorilla who was shot and killed after attacking a toddler who had gotten into an enclosure - older generations will likely also remember Koko, a female Western Lowland Gorilla who learned sign language and even adopted and cared for her own pets.) I love their expressive faces, their fearsome power, and their undeniable intelligence - what I don't love is that the "critically endangered" label means they're next to extinct in the wild. According to the WWF, there isn't a good estimate on the population levels of these animals, but according to Dictionary Central, the "critically endangered" label is often given when a species drops below 50 "mature individuals" - so having a fresh new generation of this beautiful species right in my town is definitely a source of excitement for me - even if the girls don't share my level of THRILLED.

*affiliate disclaimer at the bottom of post*

This past weekend, through Zoo Knoxville's annual Dollar Days promotional, I was blessed with the opportunity to take the girls to our local zoo, and we had a great time despite both the November cold and the Dollar Day crowds. As previously mentioned, a zoo trip is a rare treat for Team Kennedy, as attractions like this one are usually pretty far beyond the justifiable limitations of my particular budget, but I couldn't pass up the chance to take my kids to the zoo for just $1 a ticket - so I checked the weather, chose a Dollar Day that looked good (we went on Sunday, November 12), ordered our tickets online to reserve our places, and waited anxiously for the day to come.

Saturday afternoon we headed out to pick up some groceries, and the girls both perked up when we went down the drink aisle at Walmart because aside from my coffee addiction (and the herbal green teas we love) my girls and I are almost exclusively water drinkers, and it's rare that I buy sodas or juices at all. However, they both like flavored carbonated waters (Check out our favorite brand on Amazon!) quite a lot, and we almost always pick some up when we're headed on an outing. So when I turned down the drink aisle and told them each to "pick two bottles," they exchanged excited looks and started chattering about which flavors they would choose.

"One's for tonight with dinner," I said, grinning. By this time I had been keeping my little zoo secret for over a week, and I was about ready to burst. The girls looked slightly downcast to learn that we weren't going anywhere special, but they perked right back up again when I followed with an excited, "The other one's for tomorrow."

Once we left Wal-Mart, we had one other stop to make - the Office Depot on the other side of the strip mall. I knew the tickets for the zoo had to be purchased in advance, but I wasn't sure if I needed them in hand or if showing the barcode from my confirmation email would work, so I wanted the tickets printed just in case. Inside the store, I forwarded the confirmation info to the required email address, and said, "If you could print this discreetly, please."

The guy at the computer looked a little confused until I gave the girls a side-eye to let him know I didn't want them to see anything, and I grinned a little harder as I watched his brows come together in confusion. His face lit up when he opened the email and saw what I was asking him to print; he smiled widely, clicked his mouse a few times, hit a couple of keys, and handed me a few sheets of paper fresh from the printer. Still smiling like a kid at Christmas.

I smiled back, excited about the surprise and happy that he hadn't blown it, and said, "Thanks. What do I owe you?"

His smile grew wider still, and he had an adorable twinkle in his eyes as he said, "I got it. You girls have a great time tomorrow." It was a great start to our trip, for sure.

Sunday morning we woke up a little later than I had planned, and we laid around for a while playing a game of 20 questions; the girls tried hard to figure out where we were going, and I tried hard not to give hints that would blow my surprise. We left the house a little later than I had planned too, but we were all in good spirits even as I realized we needed to make an unplanned stop at the grocery store. I had forgotten to pick up extra canned goods to donate at the Zoo's food drive, so the kids and I walked the aisles for a few minutes, choosing suitable items for donation.

By the time we got to the zoo, it was already SUPER crowded and we had missed the chance to get good parking, so we took the best parking we could find, gathered our bags of donation items, and headed out on foot. Fifteen minutes later, we made our way through the entrance to the Zoo.

Our zoo has a long and varied history, but its most prominent achievement will probably always be the successful efforts this organization makes every day to restore animals of varying endangerment to better standing in the world.

Just inside the entrance to the zoo is Black Bear Falls, so the kids and I headed there first, hoping to get a look. The North American Black Bear isn't endangered at all, but our zoo provides a home for bears no longer fearful of humans - it gives them a safe home while protecting us from invading bears. We didn't get to see the bears that day though, as they all seemed to be hiding - except for one, who was just far enough behind a rock to block our view.

Leaving Black Bear Falls, there was an Asian pagoda-style building advertising the new "Asian Trek" Tiger enclosure, so we headed up that way to check out the tiger - who put on a great show of stalking slowly back and forth through a beautifully arranged exhibit. I could have done without the part where we stood in a crowd of about 50 people watching a Tiger potty show, though. Kinda kills the majesty of the tiger, just a little.

From there, we walked up to check out the River Otters, which were Eden's favorite animal the last time she went to the zoo (they very narrowly beat out the Red Pandas for the honored top spot), and we also stopped in for a quick spin on the carousel, which is still one of Joey's favorite parts of anything. The girls loved the carousel and the one otter who came out to show off for us, but neither were terribly impressed with the reptile exhibits, as neither of them are very fond of such things. I, however, fell instantly in love with the beautiful coloring of an Emerald Tree Boa.


Leaving the reptiles, we made our way back down, had another glimpse at the Tiger enclosure (no Tiger in sight this time) and stopped in to visit the Red Pandas, which were exactly as impossibly cute as we remembered them being. Only one was out to be looked at, but he did a great deal of pacing for us to watch and spent several minutes munching contentedly on ... something. Our zoo has had a huge impact on the population of Red Pandas over the years, and I'm amazed at how large our Red Panda family has grown. Apparently, the Knoxville Zoo is the number one zoo in the world for breeding these beautiful animals in an effort to raise their populations - and now, our Red Panda family is slowly spreading all over the world.

By this time, the kids and I were ready for some excitement - and some lunch! We dropped in at Wee Play Adventure for a few minutes, where the girls ran off some energy in the little playground while I wandered around examining the Komodo Dragon exhibits, then we made our way further up into the West Side of the Zoo. We saw Penguins, Peccaries, and Elephants, and then we stopped in to watch the Southern White Rhinos.

Both Rhinos were very active (including another pee show - and I'm pretty sure Rhinos have Brandi-sized bladders, just saying) and interesting to watch, and I was able to pull a great lesson about trying to do good in the world for my kids. We chatted with a Zoo volunteer for a while, and were all quite saddened to learn that in the wild, a Rhino's life expectancy is only 8-9 years due to the significant threat of poaching. I asked, "If there was no poaching threat, what would the life expectancy be then?"

And I was even more saddened when the answer was, "We don't really know. There isn't a lot of data on that." The conversation went on, and I learned that despite the life expectancy, the expected life span of a protected Southern White Rhino is about 40-50 years - pretty impressive! The Rhinos at our zoo are 49 years old, so while I discussed that with my girls, I made sure to tell them that while there are lots of people who think zoos are a form of cruel animal entrapment (and I'm not denying that some certainly can be), the Zoo can also be a place of safety and restoration for animals that are threatened or endangered in the wild. I love that our local zoo is filled with people who genuinely care about the animals who live there.

Continuing up the path, we walked up to admire the Giraffes before heading back down to Aldo's Grill for lunch - which worked out well, because when we left the restaurant and moved on to the Baboon enclosure ... well, let's just say I'm glad Eden wasn't paying enough attention to have seen what Joey and I saw. That baboon was ... excited. About things.

I saw a baboon boner, okay? Honestly, I'm still traumatized. I was almost as embarrassed by that as when a grasshopper almost killed me. Josephine nearly laughed herself to death.

From there, we watched a couple of African Lions (one male and one female, though I think we have more at our zoo) lolling in the grass in their enclosures. It was getting a bit cold by that time though, and Joey and I were sharing her gloves, passing them back and forth every few minutes to keep our hands warm - and while I was proud that both girls somehow managed to think of putting their gloves in their coat pockets before we left the house, I was definitely wishing I had thought to bring mine along!

After the lions, I discovered the one thing I actually don't like about the Zoo - the fact that the trail through our 53-acre attraction isn't circular. So you go up one way through the Asian Trek and end with the reptiles, but then have to come back down, go up another way toward the lions, come back down again, and then go up a third way to see the animals at Gorilla Valley and Chimp Ridge. Neither of these trails is impossibly long, so it's not that big of a deal, except that it would make the trip around the zoo a little more efficient time-wise, which would allow more time to view each exhibit before needing to move on. As it was, the girls and I were at the zoo for about five hours, and we still hadn't seen everything by the time we left. We did see the most important thing though ...

Which brings me to my #1, all-day-every-day, can't-be-beat, favorite part of the Knoxville Zoo. I mean seriously, I didn't think to even take pictures. I just stood there like a fool with my hands clasped beneath my chin, thoroughly embarrassing my kids with my uncontained joy as I watched the Western Lowland Gorillas interact behind the wall of glass that opened their indoor viewing area to the transfixed humans on the other side. The gorillas were my absolute biggest thrill of the day (aside from being able to surprise the kids with the trip), and I'm not sure I'll ever get over the cuteness of watching one of the older babies crawl up on its mother to take her by the face and kiss her over and over again.

Thankfulness is a common theme that spans the length and breadth of the world wide web throughout the month of November - and this blog, while quite different from others in many ways, is not different in this. Like most other people, as Thanksgiving approaches, I tend to naturally think more about what I'm thankful for. And this year, one of the things I'm most thankful for is programs like Zoo Knoxville's Dollar Days, not only because it allowed me to plan and execute a great surprise outing for my family, but because it allows other families who maybe couldn't afford zoo trips to be able to go.

Imagine trying to go to the zoo if you were a two parent family with four kids - you'd be looking at over $100 just to get in the door, and that wouldn't count food, drinks, souvenirs, etc! For many families and especially for larger families, the price of entry sets the Zoo firmly out of reach - but Dollar Days opens the door for families of all sizes and styles to enjoy the wonder of creatures many of us would never see otherwise.


If you liked this post, please share the link with your friends, and I also invite you to browse around while you're here. Feel free to subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar, too - it's a great way to make sure you'll never miss a post! I love it when my readers leave comments here, too, so if you've got a suggestion or an affordable day-out idea, make sure to drop it below, and then stick around to see if the outing you suggest is the one the girls and I go on next!

Did you know that if you like this blog, you can take an active role in helping to keep it running? There are several different ways to get involved! The easiest way if just to make a donation here - you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever you like. But, if you're a book lover like me or you'd like to help take charge of my fiction writing, skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens. This is where my readers find a whole new way to read my novels - while I write them. My patrons directly sponsor my fiction writing by choosing their favorite reward tier (starting at as little as $1 a month), and that sponsorship gives them access to all sorts of content: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, and the weekly L.A.F.F.S.! But the best part of Patreon 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'll start dedicating each of my blog posts to one special patron - which means YOU could be getting public shoutouts right here on the blog, just for being one of my Patreon subscribers!! Even better ... when we get to 50 patrons, I'll double my monthly fiction chapters! (PhLogs are public though, so go check those out for free!)

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, my social media profiles, or even Patreon, you can always 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" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal. Click here to find out more about what it means to be an undaunted woman - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for our next Undaunted Interview!

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.



*NOTE: I often use affiliate links in my product mentions on this site, so remember that if you choose to click my product links and end up purchasing through them, I will probably receive a (very) small commission for referring you to the merchants and products I love best. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you - but also know that 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.)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Motivation Monday: The Power Of A Good Word

We all have days when we didn't sleep well, we don't focus as well, we don't feel quite like ourselves. On those days, we often spend way too much time looking for a boost - looking for encouragement or empowerment, looking for a reason to believe that if we can make it through the moment we're in, then maybe the moment to come will be better than the one just passed.

Sometimes for me, those day happen more often than they don't. Living with the chronic anxiety and depression that are the gifts of my PTSD means that I'm often struggling with one symptom or the other - and on the bad days I'm battling both. It doesn't help that human life is such a fluid thing, so greatly influenced by the varying factors of things like:
  • what's on tv today
  • what's playing on the radio
  • who have I been hanging out with
  • what influences dominate my daily life
  • how well am I taking care of myself
  • are my kids behaving themselves
  • am I sick or in pain
And there are lots of other factors too, many of which include intrusive thoughts and memories from the past, because it turns out leaving things in the past isn't always as easy as we want to believe it is. But for those of us willing to take the time to search, a spark of inspiration can light a flame of hope that turns into the passionate fire of joy. It isn't always easy to hold onto - especially for me - but it can be done with just a little nurturing.



I was sick recently and the frustration of being sick, the misery of not being able to sleep well, and the distance between where I live and where my doctor's office is, eventually led me to an emergency room visit. The triage worker went through the usual spiel:
  • where do you live?
  • where do you work?
  • is this the right phone number?
  • who do we contact in case of emergency?
  • do you have a living will or power of attorney?
and then they got into the deeper questions they're required to ask everyone - questions that most people answer with lies, partly because that's easier and partly because they believe the risk of honesty isn't worth taking:
  • does anyone hurt you or threaten to hurt you at home?
  • do you have suicidal thoughts or feelings?

Honesty is funny for me - partly because it's just a part of who I am, and partly because especially in situations like that, people don't really expect honesty. It's like when people ask you how you're doing lately, but they're already moving on before the question is even finished and it's clear that all they want in answer is the customary, "fine."

When my answer to "do you have suicidal thoughts or feelings?" was a bold and half-self-deprecating, "all the time, but I'm not going to do anything about them," his fingers totally froze over the keys of the computer he was using. I saw his pinky finger dart out and tap the backspace a few times, and smiled just a little despite how miserable I was feeling. He caught me smiling and arched his eyebrows, waiting.

"I just wanted to give an honest answer," I said. "I have PTSD and PMDD, so suicidal thoughts are sort of a way of life for me. But so is motherhood, and I'm a single mom - I'm all my kids have. Suicide is a thought all the time, a nagging idea in the back of my mind." I saw his eyebrows go a little higher, and he started to look just a little unsure of what he should do with me, so I said calmly, "But it's not a risk in any way because I'm never going to do anything about it. Still, you might need to know, depending on whether or not I leave here with prescriptions that might be contra-indicated for patients with depression."

He frowned a little as he thought over what I said, nodded, and said, "Well, that's thorough. We don't get that a lot."

I couldn't help wondering - if more people were more honest with themselves about their feelings, and more conscious about how they deal with those feelings, then maybe questions like "do you have suicidal thoughts or feelings" wouldn't have to be a regular part of the triage process. At least, maybe not for a patient with an upper respiratory infection coupled with a wicked pulled neck muscle from sleeping on their face in a desperate effort not to choke to death on snot during the night.

Anyway, we chatted a bit as he did the rest of the intake stuff, and he asked, "if you're depressed enough for suicide to be on your mind as often as you say it is, how do you know you're not at risk of doing anything?"

So I shared with him what works for me: The power of a good word.

When I'm depressed or just feeling down, I usually need to walk myself through several steps in order to get myself together. Sometimes I take those steps in the morning and then I'm fine for the rest of the day. Other times, I have to repeat these steps over and over from hour to hour, or even from minute to minute.
  1. Recognize and admit what I'm feeling. This sometimes takes a while, since most of my negative feelings (sadness, illness, fatigue, fear, etc) tend to manifest as irritability and annoyance. So I have to take time to look behind the annoyance to really see what's there.
  2. Examine my feelings to see if I can figure out where they came from. If behind the irritable frustration/anger, I'm actually dealing with hurt or sadness (or whatever else), I'll examine it as closely as possible in the moment - almost like taking a Rubik's cube in my hands and turning it over, trying to figure out how to match squares.
  3. Choose and employ a coping mechanism. Sometimes this means finding a way to avoid someone I'm hurt by or uncomfortable with, especially if it's a person I don't feel safe enough to express myself with. Often, I'll sit down and literally write a letter to the person I'm feeling things over, whether it's anger or hurt or sadness or whatever - I like that this gives me the freedom to say whatever I want to say, and I also like that since I always burn or otherwise destroy the letters, I can speak freely in them without fear of consequence. Sometimes I need to practice my favorite grounding technique; other times I need to employ some self care to lift my own spirits.
  4. Reevaluate, and move forward. If I'm better, then I move on. If not, I try a different coping skill. If I'm worse ... I'll reach out to a friend who has understood and supported me in the past.

There are days when I literally go through the entire day cycling through these steps. There are days when these steps don't work, and I end up calling my therapist for an extra appointment. But those are the bad days, the days when all the CBT in the world doesn't feel like it can help me.

On the average everyday though, when I'm just trying to get through a stressful afternoon of momming or when I've got writing to do and no inspiration to do it with, I use music to lift my mood, or I'll spend some time looking for motivational or inspiring quotes and affirmations that encourage and empower me. I like that I can open Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and almost always find someone or something to relate to. I like that even on my dark days, there's always someone else in the world who gets it, someone who has just the perfect quote or song, someone who already expressed the thing I'm feeling in a way that I couldn't.

Often, I share the quotes and lyrics that inspire me on my own social media accounts too, so if you haven't followed me on social media and you sometimes find yourself searching for inspiration there, check me out at any of the links included in this post. You can also find a more extensive list of links here

I'd love to know what techniques work for you, too. Do you have a favorite quote, song, or bible verse (etc.) that helps you when you're in an emotional slump? If you do, leave it in the comments below - maybe it'll be something I'll find inspiring too, or maybe it'll be something someone else will find helpful.


If you liked this post, please share the link with your friends, and I'd also like to invite you to browse around while you're here. Feel free to subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar, too - it's a great way to make sure you'll never miss a post!

Did you know that if you like this blog, you can take an active role in helping to keep it running? There are several different ways to get involved! The easiest way if just to make a donation here - you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever you like. But, if you're a book lover like me or you'd like to help take charge of my fiction writing, skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens. This is where my readers find a whole new way to read my novels - while I write them. My patrons directly sponsor my fiction writing by choosing their favorite reward tier (starting at as little as $1 a month), and that sponsorship gives them access to all sorts of content: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, and the weekly L.A.F.F.S.! But the best part of Patreon 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'll start dedicating each of my blog posts to one special patron - which means YOU could be getting public shoutouts right here on the blog, just for being one of my Patreon subscribers!! Even better ... when we get to 50 patrons, I'll double my monthly fiction chapters! (PhLogs are public though, so go check those out for free!)

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, my social media profiles, or even Patreon, you can always 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" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal. Click here to find out more about what it means to be an undaunted woman - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for our next Undaunted Interview!

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.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday Feels: November

*affiliate disclaimer at the bottom of post*
If it seems like I just wrote a Friday Feels post, that's because I kinda did just write one. But what better time to write a list of feelings than when I'm struggling with unexpected things in my personal life? The last couple of weeks have been pretty challenging for me, and the stress combined with the weather change here ended up making me sick. Now that I'm better, Eden's sick, so life is still just as much a roller coaster for me as always.

But I'm riding the ride, and for the most part, I'm still finding my way. I'm writing here, I'm writing for my amazing Patrons, and I'm still totally stoked about the gorgeous new cover on my novel, Fighting For Freedom.

And if you've been reading along here for any length of time, you know I'm still feeling all the feels; I'm a pretty emotional person, and I pride myself on being open enough to be willing to share my journey with others who might be able to relate but haven't yet found their own voice. That's part of why I started this post series in the first place - as a way to explore my own feelings (even when I didn't quite realize I was having them), and maybe even inspire readers like you to do some exploring of your own.

I like to use this page as a fun way to set these posts up - clicking the link will give you a randomly generated emotion, and each time you refresh the page you'll get a new emotion to explore. I just refresh the page until I have my first ten, and then I use the feelings that came up to build my list. And there's no cheating either; I really do use the first things that come up. I'd love if you played along too - just drop your responses to any (or all) of the emotions/feelings on my list in the comments!

So without further ado, here are our emotional prompts for November:

1. Carefree:
There aren't many things in my life that make me feel carefree, honestly. I haven't had an easy life, and a rough start sets you up for making decisions that keep things going rough. And once your life is on a certain path, it's really difficult to turn things around - "an object in motion," and all that, you know? I'm a single mom, but as a single mom without a co-parent partner, I'm rarely without the weight of responsibility, and my PTSD never leaves me without anxiety of some kind. But if I had to think of one thing that does give me a taste of what it must be like to be truly carefree ... it's Pinterest. My Pinterest account is a place of dreams, and it's one of the few places that I can allow myself to let go of worries and just imagine what life could be for my girls and I. It's the one place where I can truly visualize the life I want without being smothered by self-doubt and the mental/emotional echoes of things I desperately wish I could leave in the past. When I'm surfing there, I'm thinking about finding the kind of romance that made me fall in love with novels, I'm envisioning traditions for my family and for the future generations to come, I'm planning my dream RV adventure, I'm designing a space that's mine ... Pinterest is one of the only places in my life where I'm really me, without the strings of reality that keep me grounded.

2. Cautious:
In the last 12-15 months, my life has undergone an amazing amount of change - some of which was incredibly difficult. I came to terms with some of the people in my life, my motivations for holding onto people who toxic to me, and what letting those people go would mean to me. With some of those people, it was easy - people who were abusive or outright disrespectful to me suddenly mattered much less, and I didn't feel the same need to keep pleasing people who didn't care about pleasing me. With other people though? Well, with some of them, it wasn't as easy. Some people I had truly believed would always be parts of my life just ... aren't, anymore ... and while I know that distancing myself from those people the way I have has been healthy for me, the void those people have left in my life is still incredibly painful at times. There are also other people in my life who are still toxic to me but cannot be so easily carved out of my world. And so, in the absence of the ability to move beyond those people, I'm just learning to be more cautious in how open I am with those people.

Life is like a garden, right? But I've always been the kind of person with open gates, trying desperately to grow a beautiful space in the world, despite the people who would come in unhindered and inconsiderate to scatter garbage and stomp all over my proverbial flowers. The idea of becoming a closed person with a secret garden life is painful to me, and I don't want to be closed off as a person. But I am learning to divide the space of my life into ever-shrinking concentric circles, choosing more and more carefully who is and who is not allowed close to the vulnerable beauty that lies in the innermost corners of my particular garden. And beyond that, I'm learning that setting and defending the boundaries separating the areas of my life-garden is totally, perfectly okay.

3. Cheerful:
I think maybe the most consistently cheerful thing in my life these days is my hands. I still deal with tendonitis from typing like a madwoman most days (some things never change), but there's nothing quite as cheering as catching a glimpse of pretty fingernails between blog and Patreon posts, or during the daily drives back and forth to the girls's schools. Even when I've been too sick to bother much with my hands, I've still kept a plain clear coat of polish on my nails, and some days even that's just enough to provide a needed mood boost. That being said, I can't even tell you how hard I'm jonesing for these. Or these. Or these.

4. Humiliated:
I'm really getting sick of being so able to relate to this particular word. It seems like everytime it comes up, I've got a ready example of how well it fits whatever is going on in my life. I can say though, that I don't feel the true depth of humiliation as often anymore, now that I'm allowing my life to clean itself out a little bit. There are still people in my life who always seem to be looking to kick me when I'm down ... but even with those people, the strength of all the other changes in my life has really helped me find my way with that too. Still, this was a pretty low spot for me lately, and as it's not over yet, I'll go ahead and list it.

5. Indignant:
Another easy one. Much as I'm learning that I've been far too much of an eager people-pleaser with people who simply cannot be pleased, I'm also learning that I've always had a strong sense of justice. Why I never applied it to myself and my own personal right to healthy boundaries is another post, but in the day-to-day, I do feel indignant when I believe I've been slighted or wronged, and I am able to sit back and recognize the difference between what is and is not okay with me.

Enforcing that sense of justice may still be a bit beyond me more often than I'd like to admit, but I'm a work in progress, and that's alright with me. Feeling the sensitive places where my boundaries have been overstepped is helping me to become more clear about where those boundaries lie, and learning where my own boundaries are is definitely a good first step in learning to defend them.

6. Irritated:
This one actually had me stumped for a minute, thinking through things that annoy me - looking for the thing most worth mentioning. Anxiety is a constant presence in my life, and the more I pay attention, the more clearly I can see the places where my anxiety has colored my world. It makes me much more irritable than I would be otherwise, and then everything makes me irritated - from too much noise to too much light to too many people, and all other things in between. But the thing most bothersome to me on a daily basis is usually punctuality. Being on time is important to me, but I happen to have been blessed with an incredibly alive, incredibly free-spirited, incredibly strong-willed young daughter who seems to love dawdling more than she loves anything else. From getting ready for school in the morning to getting ready for bed at night, this kid somehow always manages to create the most unspeakable combination between motor-driven whirlwind and impossible slow-motion. During the 20 minutes it usually takes her to brush her teeth at night, she often manages to drop 14 things, spill 35 ounces of water, use half a roll of toilet paper, sing 7 songs, and make us what usually feels like 3 days late for bedtime.

And then there's still the process of getting into bed, getting into pajamas, quieting down for the night, going to sleep. Waking up, getting dressed, choosing breakfast, eating breakfast, gathering school supplies and items for the day, God forbid if there's homework ... it's a neverending cycle of constantly pushing her to "do this a little more quickly, please," or "get that finished soon, please," because we're at an impasse between my desire to be on time for things like school and doctor's appointments and school due dates and bedtimes, and her complete and total lack of giving a shit.

It irritates the life out of me. She's lucky she's so cute.

7. Puzzled:
People. People have me puzzled. From political outrage to religious oppression to the constant need for everyone to always be so deeply offended by something ... yeah, I'm puzzled. What happened to our unity and our willingness to meet each other in the middle? When did this become a world where it's okay for people like Mila Kunis to completely and utterly mock the beliefs of people like Mike Pence by making donations in his name to an organization he would never support? Why is that okay? And even more importantly, how can that be okay, but the very premise behind the action is that Mila is offended by Vice President Pence having an opinion that differs from hers? It's so hypocritical ... she's effectively saying, "I believe all people should get to choose whatever they want to believe in (abortion, etc) and do whatever they want with their own personal lives without being scorned, rejected, mocked, or discriminated against because of their beliefs and choices. Except not Mike Pence, or anyone like him. And if they disagree, it's okay to shame them, mock them, ridicule them, and override their personal decisions through sneaky, passive-aggressive behaviors. Haha, isn't that so funny?"

And before you get upset about the connection to Planned Parenthood here, let's remember that Mike Pence is the Vice President. Not the supreme dictator of the planet. Yes, he has some sway over the way things are run in this country because he's in a place of power, but ... he doesn't actually have enough power to shut down Planned Parenthood forever and start issuing changes that are either immediate or drastic in any way. Our government runs with checks and balances specifically to prevent any one person from having too much power over everyone else. Personally, I side with Pence here, not only on the basis of my beliefs saying that abortion is wrong (although even I, despite my very conservative leanings, can admit this is quite a gray area), but also because Mila's move was a snarky, childish thing to do in the first place, and making it public in the way she chose to only made it more so. Hypocrisy infuriates me in the immediate moment, yes, but in the long run it confuses me: what's with the double standard? I mean really, if we're walking around preaching one thing, hadn't we better at least try to lead by example, instead of saying one thing and doing another? You simply cannot preach "tolerance" of diversity and "inclusion" of varying beliefs without actually taking steps to tolerate the inclusion of a diverse variety of beliefs. Yes, even the ones that you don't personally like.

Because duh. Sorry, Mila.

8. Stubborn:
Stubborn. I guess this depends on how you look at it and who you're asking, huh? I imagine there are certain people in my life who would say there isn't much I'm not stubborn about. And while those people are entitled to their own opinions, that specific opinion - like the definition of the word "stubborn" - is a two-sided coin. I don't personally think that I am stubborn about many things; I'm willing to give when I'm wrong (if you can convince me that I am), and I'm willing to compromise to keep peace or to make progress. I'm even willing to apologize when I've messed up, and as uncomfortable as it is, I'm willing to humble myself when the need arises.

But on the other side of that? I am determined (they mean pretty much the same thing, see? Look.) Determined to keep believing in the possibility of improvement and change for the better, no matter how impossible things can feel in the moment. Determined to keep thinking that success is just around the corner, like I'm told by those who believe in me, despite the overflowing negativity of those who don't. Determined to hope even when I can't even find the "bright side" in order to look at it. Determined to keep trying when all I want sometimes is to lay down and quit. Determined to keep giving, and keep living, and keep learning, and keep growing - no matter how slow or how grueling the process.

Hm. Maybe I am stubborn, after all.

9. Thrilled:
Remember the garden I mentioned above? It comes into play again here, because what thrills me most about my life right now is the way letting go of toxic people has opened space for people who seem to genuinely care about me and where I want my life to go. People who believe in me enough to show me that they mean what they say. People who speak life into me when I'm discouraged and empower me when I'm struggling. People who allow me to be me, even when I'm negative or cynical or overwhelmed. It's teaching me more of what I do want in my life, especially after having so much of what I don't want - and that in itself is a thrill. It means more change is on the way, and once I survive the hardship of this particular tunnel, I'm going to find that the light at the end is very very bright, indeed.

Or at least, that's what all these new people in my life keep telling me.

10. Wavering:
Finally an easy one! The thing I'm most "wavery" about lately is whether to finish knitting the simple but delicately beautiful scarf I've been working on for ages ... or set it aside in favor of crocheting myself a gorgeous winter sweater jacket with this Lion Brand Wool-Ease in Charcoal - because oh my gosh it's gorgeous, isn't it?


What did you think of this month's feelings? Have you been feeling any of November's Friday Feels? And if so, what's making you feel what you're feeling? I'd love for you share in the comments, and if you liked this post, make sure you share the link with your friends. I'd also like to invite you to browse around while you're here, and I'd love it if you subscribed to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's a great way to make sure you'll never miss a post!

If you like this site and you want to help keep it running, you can make donations here - but if you're a book lover like me, then skip that donation stuff and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens. This is where readers get into a whole new way to read my novels - WHILE I WRITE THEM! My patrons directly sponsor my fiction writing by choosing their favorite reward tier (starting at as little as $1 a month!), and that sponsorship gives patrons access to all sorts of content: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems, and the weekly L.A.F.F.S.! But 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'll start dedicating each of my blog posts to one special patron, which means YOU could be getting public shoutouts right here on the blog!! And when we get to 50 patrons, I'll be posting TWO fiction chapters every month instead of one. In the meantime, PhLogs are public - so you can go check those out for free.

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, my social media profiles, or even Patreon, you can always 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" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal. Click here to find out more about what it means to be an undaunted woman - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for our next Undaunted Interview!

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.


*NOTE: I often use affiliate links in my product mentions on this site, so remember that if you choose to click my product links and end up purchasing through them, I will probably receive a (very) small commission for referring you to the merchants and products I love best. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you - but also know that 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.)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: My Top Ten Favorite Blog Posts (November 2017)

I love writing here. I love the freedom it gives me to express myself and where I am in life, and how cool it is when I get messages or emails from people who can relate to my journey. I love each and every message or comment from readers who are touched somehow by what I'm sharing here, and without that kind of encouragement, I'm not sure I'd keep doing it.

But it's not just my blog that I'm so in love with - it's blogs in general, and the way they help us open up to the world we live in. I love that there are so many, on such a wide variety of topics, and that there's always something out there for anyone who's looking. I love that they're the magazine articles of tomorrow, and that you can read them for free, gleaning the bits that are useful to your place in the world and leaving the rest for others to soak up. I like to use BlogLovin' on my tablet to keep up with favorite blogs, but I also do a lot of blog reading based on what I discover on Pinterest or Facebook, etc. And since I've loved doing this kind of post so many times already, what better time than now to share a list of blog posts I was thankful to have the chance to read in recent weeks?

(in no particular order)

Okay. This post from Brianne at BriannePatrice.com speaks so hard into life as a single woman in today's society, and how empowering it can be to just embrace that. I have been caught up often in conversations about how happy I am to be single again, and how much I realize (now, looking back) how much I preferred my single life over my last relationship. This was a hint to me all along, and somehow I missed it - but now, as I embrace singleness and talk to my friends about how much I'm looking forward to having some time to myself ... I'm noticing that I tend to get a lot of funny looks from people. As if it's inconceivable that I could WANT to be on my own, that I could WANT to sleep alone, that I could WANT to have to fix my own toilet handle.

And maybe it's partly because I'm a strong woman who LIKES being able to do those things, or maybe it's partly because it was my last relationship that taught me I COULD do those things (sometimes you learn what you CAN do by doing what you MUST do), but either way, I feel like this post is the A1 perfect response to anyone who doesn't understand how a woman can (or why a woman would) truly embrace the empowerment of the single life.

At least for now. I mean after all, I still have shit like this for a reason

2.) "Mental Illness Doesn't Define Your Relationship"
This post from JimBurgoon.org really struck me with hope when I read it. As an abuse survivor and a sufferer of PTSD, it reminded me that my struggles are not uncommon, and that there is still hope for a strong and healthy relationship in my future - despite my issues with trust and anxiety. And while I don't expect or hope for a perfect relationship (because they don't exist), it did remind me to hold out for someone who will offer me the gentility and patience I deserve. Mental wellness is a major priority in my life because I have to work harder to maintain it than some people - but I am more than PTSD, and I'm glad there's hope for a relationship that will recognize that.

Yes. Yes. Yes. I wish more boys had moms who taught them these things - and that more boys understood how important it really is to LEARN these things. This list from Esse D. at FrenchingFrogs.com is what I pray over for my daughters (and myself) all the time - that in our lives, we attract men who have been taught the 8 things listed here.

I don't always share a lot of writing-related tips and tricks on my social media pages or here on the blog, because I'm mostly not talking to other writers here - at least, not in the capacity of being writers. No matter who comes here, writer or non-writer, I'm addressing them ... addressing YOU ... as my readers. I'm speaking to readers, because that's what people come here for - to read. To see what's being said, to relate to what I'm sharing, to learn or grow or feel along with me because there are parts of my journey that look like parts of theirs, and parts of yours. But I acknowledge too, that a good number of my readers are writers, and for those readers who love the writing life as much as I do, no matter in what capacity, whether as authors or bloggers or something else, I had to share this article from Lauren at LaurenDawes.blogspot.com. (Psst - check her out at #8, too.)

5.) "Thank You For Giving Me Nothing"
I found this post from Syrine Gladys Podadera on ThoughtCatalog.com at just the right time, and it spoke so deeply to me about the gratitude I feel for the challenges I've faced in my life. Yes, it was hurtful to have a mother who couldn't look out for me, who didn't do what it took to protect me. Yes, it was hurtful to feel like I had a father who didn't prioritize me, who wasn't proud of me. Yes, it has been hurtful to be rejected and abandoned by people I loved, both in romantic relationships and in non-romantic friendships. My heart still aches for the beautiful young man who called me his guardian angel, who always asked me about "mom life," who sent me real handwritten letters decorated with cartoon drawings, the boy who loved me so well that I began to love myself - and yet, when I grew strong enough from his love to tire of the limitations of standing at arm's length, he allowed me to walk away ... but ... I see more and more as time goes by, that all the nothing I've been given has grown into something truly beautiful. Me.

This post from Angelo Caerlang (also on ThoughtCatalog.com) was so beautiful and so totally honest that I cried reading it. It expressed with fearless vulnerability the truth of what it means to love someone who has been hurt, and the need that lies behind all the barriers and the brave faces and the "I'm okay"s - and it showed all the loneliness that lies behind the strength a broken heart pretends to have. All the same, it pleads: love me, see worth and value in me, take me by the hand and help me find the sunlight just on the edge of my darkness. I loved it not only for the beauty of the subject matter, but also for the undeniable emotion behind the writing.

7.) "Body, Mind & Soul | Carpe Diem"
I happened to catch this post from Amanda S. Creasey on my Facebook newsfeed - because I'm fortunate enough to be friends with Amanda on Facebook, and someone had shared the link from SweatpantsAndCoffee.com and tagged her in their post. (Note to readers of this blog: my finding of the article I'm sharing here is a testament to how powerful reader shares are when a blogger is trying to be seen. If you like something you see here, please help other people to see it by sharing it!)

Anyway, I happened to be having one of those mornings on the day that I saw this; you know those mornings, the ones where your head hurts and you're still sick and your kids are bickering because they're bored with being cooped up all the time but you're trying to avoid conflict with your roommates ... Oh wait, is that just me? Just checking.

So I was grouchy, the kids were grouchy, and the day was not off to a happy start - but as I read this article, my perspective shifted (just as I had hoped it would), and the message in the article reminded me to watch out for how I was approaching the day. Sure, I could be pissed that I was sick and hadn't slept well - or I could bunk up with the babes and enjoy a quiet day resting and recovering. I could let the girls tear each other down all day because they were bored and frustrated, or I could redirect them using my own perspective.

Since I'm sharing this here, I assume you'll have assumed which option I went with - and I'll go ahead and say that it worked. We did seize the day, my girls and I - we binged on Halloween candy, curled up in bed with a movie playing in the background and the bedroom scattered with toys Eden had pulled out to play with. We chatted and hung out, forgetting the rest of our worries for the moment in favor of just enjoying being together. Carpe Diem, indeed.

8.) "#WritingWednesday - An Interview With Jeremy Cohen - Voice-Over Extraordinaire ~ Part Two"
I usually like to fill these lists with posts from around the web that changed or inspired me in some way, heavy on the mental health and wellness category, high on the list of "things-that-inspire/motivate-me." Because the thing is, I'm a really serious person (some have said too serious but alas, I am what I am) and so I tend to drift toward more serious topics. I don't enjoy typical small talk very often, and one of the things that annoys me most of all is people who can't (or can't be bothered to) carry on an authentic, more-than-just-the-weather conversation with me.

Fortunately, that's a problem I rarely experience with the lovely, and incredibly multi-talented Lauren Dawes (see her also mentioned at #4 on this list). She's an author, she's a graphic designer (she even made these, and these!), she's a wife, she's a mom, she's a cat-wrangler. Most importantly to me, she's a friend, and a damn fine one at that, which is why I've been seriously celebrating her recent venture into audiobooks. She's been working with a voice-over artist to create the audiobook version for Dark Deceit, the first book in her amazing and unique Dark Series, and I've been pretty curious about the process. When she said she was interviewing her voice actor on her author blog, I got excited to look at it, especially because of the hilarity ensuing in part two of the interview, which is linked above. I seriously laughed out loud reading that conversation with Jeremy's dad. For the sake of thoroughness, you can find part one of the interview here.)

Getting back to the serious side of things ... For the most part, I'm quiet about news things on my blog, and I don't address a lot of popular news references here. And I try to keep the blog mostly clean of divisive things like religion and politics - partly because I'm usually in extreme danger of oversharing here, but mostly because there are still some things that I like to keep to myself. Especially when being too open and trusting the wrong people with the wrong parts of who I am has been so heartbreaking in the past.

But some things refuse to be ignored, and the recent uncovering of an appalling amount of sexual deviation in Hollywood is one of those things. Not only because it's appalling that things like that happen, but also because for many many years, we've all sort of known about it and just not said anything.
  • "That's just the way it's done in Hollywood." 
  • "Well ... you do what you have to do."
  • "No pain, no gain."
Just like with domestic violence and abuse, we as a society have attempted for far too long to turn the other way and not see the ugliness that lies beneath the surface of humanity. We tell ourselves that if a young woman stays with a husband who beats or abuses her, she "asked for it."
  • Even if she has no other viable options.
  • Even if he threatens her when she talks about leaving.
  • Even if he uses money to control her.
  • Even if she's more afraid to leave than she is to stay.
We tell ourselves that if a young woman takes her clothes off for the producer of a movie she wants to be seen in, she somehow deserved to have her own body used against her, or she's a slut, or she should have known better.
  • Even if her "consent" was coerced and she lay there crying the whole time, disgusted with herself.
  • Even if her "consent" was purchased with the knowledge of how much she needed the pay from the movie.
  • Even if she didn't really "consent."
And it's almost worse when it's a male victim too, because now, not only is he a victim who has been abused and humiliated, we all quietly wink to each other because "he probably liked it," or "I always knew he was gay anyway," and it just gets more disgusting from there.

So when I found this article from David Elliott at the SingleDadsGuideToLife.com, I was really refreshed by not only his perspective, but the way in which he chose to address this culture - with a letter to his adorable young daughter who wants so much to be a part of it. She wants to act, and he wants to protect his kid, and those two desires come together beautifully in David's letter to her. I loved that he spoke strength and courage and dignity into his daughter through the words of his letter, and also that he empowered her to choose her own path, not only in acting, but in her life as a young woman independent of her parentage. I also loved the little hints of fear running through that letter, the glimpse of a father who knows that at some point, his daughter will inevitably trip up and lose her way just a little bit in this big, wide world. And more than that, I loved the strong running theme that effectively says (and I'm paraphrasing here) that, "I am still your father, and I will always be your father, and there will never be a time in your life when you can't count on the truth of that."

This world (and the millions of self-doubting little girls growing up in it) desperately needs more dads like David.

10.) "The Three Most Important Words I Can Say To My Child"
Known as the Truth Bomb Mom, Kristina Kuzmic (of KristinaKuzmic.com) is one of those people I found on accident but then continued to love entirely on purpose. She's an absolute beauty, she's funny and sweet, she's got a big heart, she obviously loves her kids ... and she's kinda ... well, #momgoals. Not that she's perfect or anything, and actually I really love that she's not, but she inspires me in one way or another almost every time I see anything from her. She has an amazing story of growth and triumph over struggle, she's experienced real heardship and isn't too ashamed to say so, and she's overcome unthinkable odds. Clearly, I admire her. But this article in particular speaks to the truth of motherhood, and that truth includes messing up.

I mess up all the time with my kids. In fact, I'm probably the most messing-up mom I know. I lose my temper and grouch at my kids at least 84 times a week, sometimes I make the same thing for dinner that they had at school for lunch, and I literally never sign on to the online program that lets moms everywhere obsess endlessly over their kids' grades. Sometimes I don't get the laundry done in time for picture day, and I don't always attend assemblies and field trips. You get the point, right? I'm a screw-up mom, just like all the other screw-up moms on this planet.

But the screwing-up parts don't matter that much to my daughters, and you want to know why? Because the most important thing is that I love them and they know it. And they know it because I'm right there with them every day, giving them everything I have to give.

Granted, some days I'm giving it my all because I truly want to rope the moon and pull it down and give its brilliance to my babies, and some days I'm doing it to make up for days when "my all" wasn't nearly enough. Either way, I've taught my kids that "I am sorry" is so much more than pretty words. Like Kristina illustrated in the blog post linked above, apologies alone don't fix problems - but what they do is begin to mend fences and bridge gaps between intention and behavior. "I am sorry" has no inherent magic in itself - but what it holds is the hope of forgiveness and the promise of a second chance. And sometimes you need one, even if you're a mom - and there's no shame in owning that.

BONUS: I've done this type of Top Ten before! You can check out some other great posts I've found by looking at Top Ten Tuesday: My Top Ten Favorite Blog Posts from January 2017, and March 2017!


I hope you'll take some time to click through and check out some of these links - there are so many amazing blogs out there, and while I hope you'll continue to come back and hang out with me here, I also love that there's so much opportunity to share the blogs that I love reading with the readers I love spending my time with. There truly is a time for everything, and a right place for each and every mood and topic - and it always delights me that blogs are as varied in size, color, and style, as we are.

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However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, my social media profiles, or even Patreon, you can always 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" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal. Click here to find out more about what it means to be an undaunted woman - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for our next Undaunted Interview!

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.