Monday, February 27, 2017

Let's Go To The Hop ...

I know - I'm late. This is the first time I've missed a deadline all year, and much as it pains me to think of anyone who may have woken up looking for a post that wasn't yet posted, it was worth it.

Yesterday I took my daughters to visit my mother for the day; we took a few little things over to her house, threw it all together in a pot, and by the start of the afternoon, she had a delicious pot of meaty vegetable soup bubbling on her stove.

Vegetable soup. Inexpensive, simple, Delicious.
When the soup had finished cooking to my satisfaction and was well seasoned to my mother's tastes and health limitations, I turned the burner off, let it rest a while too cool, and spent some time just hanging out. Later, I separated the entire pot into eight two-cup freezer bowls, seven of which went into the freezer - I put one in the fridge so that she could have it for dinner. Mom and I munched on fresh strawberries together with the kids, she laughed when she saw how much Chance loves berries too, and we packed up in the van to head over (the river and through the woods) to my grandmother's house.

It was good to see her too, despite how heartwrenching it is to see how very little of my Grandmother is left living in the person we visited yesterday. She doesn't recognize people as much anymore, and although she usually remembers me once she's been told who I am (or pretends to?), she rarely recognizes my children, and despite their obvious femininity, she often refers to them as "he" or "the little boy there." My children have been instructed not to react, but only to say perhaps something like, "But I'm a girl, Nana. Remember?"

It makes my heart ache.

My grandmother is the strongest person I've ever known - she has lived through both poverty and abundance, through the deaths of her mother, her husband, all but one of her siblings, her first grandchild. She was born during the Great Depression, lived through World War II. She saw the surge of homes updating to indoor plumbing in the 40's, saw the inventions of the Slinky, the Frisbee, Velcro.

My grandmother at 13, the same age as my oldest daughter now.
The Kingsley Series' matriarch is named after her, Eva.
She saw the beginning of Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream, read the stories when Rosa Parks caught headlines for standing her ground. My grandmother saw the end of segregation, and the beginning of what Americans began to hope would be a new unity. When she is gone, Americans will STILL be hoping for unity.

She raised children, she fought battles, she survived. My family through the generations has known literally every possible kind of dysfunction, but through it all she always strove to keep on keeping on, to put one foot in front of the other, to hold her head high and give it her all. She taught me determination and a sense of justice, she taught me fire and passion. Through her example, I learned steadfastness, and realism. I learned exasperation from her, but also humor. I learned to love sarcasm and pranking from her - but also quiet mornings and the joy of music.

Now that her life is winding down and she's becoming what will likely be the last iteration of herself as she journeys through this life, I hope that my life and my career will become a legacy in gratitude of the strength and perseverance I learned largely from her.

Yesterday was a good day - it was good to see her, bittersweet as it always is. When I got home last night with the girls and got them put into bed, I simply didn't have the energy in that moment to prep today's post - all I wanted in the world just then was to close my eyes and rest. Thus, the lateness of this post:

"Let's Go To The Hop"

Many of you will remember the post I wrote earlier this month, thanking one of my street team members for setting up a blog hop for me as a birthday gift: a blog hop is like a promotional tour, where a series of blogs takes turns featuring a singular artist, single, book, record, ect. Each post is usually similar to the next with roughly the same content, allowing for minimal adjustments in wording, fonts, graphics, etc., for the sake of the blogger's own character and style.

But life happens and things come up, so I've adjusted the following link list to reflect the actual posts that were published for this month's blog hop; I've also taken the liberty of removing from the list bloggers who for various reasons were unable to get their posts put up. I would appreciate if you would take just a moment to choose one of these links and head over to leave a comment, thanking the blogger for hosting me on their site. It would be a great additional way to help me appreciate the bloggers who signed up to promote me:
I still say this is one of the sweetest birthday gifts I've ever received - thank you again, Jodie, from the very bottom of my heart.

Questions For the Comments Section:
  • Does your family have a strong matriarch like my grandmother? If so, tell me about her in the comments!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

February Lately: My First Collab!

So, I'm super excited to write this post today, because it's my FIRST blog collab! Today I'm working with Divya, the blogger behind - and together, we're bringing you the roundup of what we've been loving most lately.

I first connected with Divya through a Facebook group we're both in, and through that group, I found her blog. She's a special education teacher and she works closely with autistic kids (and other challenged kids, too?) on a daily basis, helping them to up their skills in the social arena so that they can do better in other ways along the line. I love her blog especially because Eden actually has A LOT in common with officially-diagnosed autistic children - I've actually thought for several years now that she is probably on the high-functioning end of the spectrum, not only because of her behaviors and quirks but also because tactics that work for autistic kids also often work for her. I haven't sought the official label for her, but as her mother, I'm fairly certain it's there.

Anyway, Divya's blog has been a great resource for me on several occasions, and while every single trick she mentions isn't always a perfect fit for my particular family, many of her ideas are sound and well-researched, not to mention being greatly backed up by her work history with kids like mine:

In the end though, she's much more than a teacher, and I love her blog for the other things it has to offer as well ... just like with my blog, Divya's place is a walk through a life, from food to travel to marriage and family, working out, body-and-self acceptance, etc.

And in keeping with Divya's "Lately" posts, here's a walk through MY life:

Cooking Lately:
Recently, my family has been loving this Bourbon Chicken, which is so easy to throw together in the crockpot. It's delicious and affordable, which is great; I serve it over rice, usually with steamed broccoli on the side Yum!

Craving Lately:
Popeye's Chicken. I seriously am all about some chicken these days, and there's nothing quite as good as some spicy Popeyes tenders with cole slaw. And fries. And maybe some of their tea - half sweet and half unsweet. Okay, enough about food - moving on.

Discovering Lately:
I have further to go in my self-love journey than I thought. The other day when I was crying my way through a therapy session, I asked my therapist how I can cry while feeling pretty much nothing. No pain, no sadness (in that moment) ... just ... nothing. And yet, so many tears, especially when covering the particular topic we were discussing. She said something to the effect of, "Because it's not you really, it's more like the little girl you used to be, the inner child. The part of you that's still hurting." I'm not even kidding when I say that my literal first thought/response to that - to the idea that there's a sad, scared, hurt little girl still hiding somewhere inside me - was, "Man, she's a sissy."

No wonder she's still crying, huh? It took me a while to adjust to that concept, to accept it, and to move forward with a new understanding of how that broken little girl still impacts the woman I am now. I'm so thankful I finally found the courage to seek therapy.

If you're in a similar place but you haven't yet found the right therapist, I'd like to invite you to check out BetterHelp, which is a great resource for improving mental wellness. They have tons of great articles you can read and learn from for free, but they also have an amazing service that offers online counseling; it's accessible, affordable, personalized treatment, and it's definitely worth looking to.

Drinking Lately:
Water, mostly. One of my goals for this quarter was to do better with that, and while I am in general failing miserably at this goal, I am still actively trying. About three or four times a week, I skip coffee to go easy on my reflux, and instead I drink water with a packet of Strike Force mixed in. Works like a charm, no side effects, and it tastes good too. Perfect. (You can get some for less than $1 per packet - just click here and make sure to use AFLBRANDI8634 in the discount code to get 20% off.)

Listening Lately:
Demi Lovato's "Warrior" is still my favorite song at the moment - I can put this song on repeat and never get sick of listening to it. I've also been listening to the Build Your Tribe Podcast with Chalene Johnson, the Your Kick-Ass Life Podcast with Andrea Owen, and the Good Trash Podcast, which I turn on on YouTube but don't actually (always) sit down to watch. Instead, I just listen to Sarah Rae Vargas joke around with her brother Jason Vargas, who sounds like the smoothest, most yoga-certified radio-host ever. His voice is somehow deliriously sleepy and deliciously smooth, and when paired with his upbeat and raucous sister ... well, it's entertaining, for sure.

Playing Lately:
Fashion Story. It's kindof a pointless game, but I like it nonetheless. My daughter Josephine started it first, and she was sad that she didn't have a neighbor to send and receive gifts with, so I set it up on my tablet, and then ended up liking it. Eventually, Eden got jealous that Joey and I were playing together, so now she's playing it on her Nabi and we're all neighbors. See? Technology doesn't HAVE to be a deterrent to bonding. Sometimes it's better to admit when you can't BEAT 'em, and just JOIN 'em instead.

Reading Lately:
Mostly, I've been enjoying the shorter, non-fiction form to be found in blogs and memoirs. But when I settle down with some comfort fiction, it's always the Ourlander Series by Diana Gabaldon (Yes, I do read other books, just not usually on repeat like with these.) - right now, I'm working my way through Written In My Own Heart's Blood, which is the 8th book in the series. When I finish, I'll spend a few days pouting about book 9 not being finished yet, I'll read a few other books, then I'll go back to the first Outlander book and start over. They're that good. Seriously - go check them out here.

Smelling Lately:
I know you guys are probably sick to death of hearing about this stuff, but I'm still digging the bottle of Febreze ONE that came in my Resolution VoxBox from Influenster in January. The box was packed with several items, all of which I got for free just to try the products, and this was my favorite by far (except for maybe the PopChips ... yum.) because it's such a fresh, light smell, but it's floral enough to make my space feel girly again. I've got the Orchid scent, but it also comes in Bamboo scent. You can find it at, or just head out to pick it up at your local store.

Thanking Lately:
My cousin, who went out of her way to help make sure my birthday was awesome. She brought me teacup roses, cupcakes, and Japanese food for lunch, and it really made my birthday a special one. The flowers are still holding out beautifully, too!

Trying Lately:
Last weekend, I tried this Freeman Cucumber Facial Peel-Off Mask with Joey, and it was FABULOUS. We loved how happy our faces felt when we peeled it off, how it smelled on our skin, everything about it. And then just now when I was looking for the link to the mask, I found a variety 4-pack, and I. AM. SO. EXCITED. Look:

I also tried a vegetable sushi roll this weekend. There's no way in hell I'm ever gonna sit down and willingly eat raw meat or fish, but I like veggies just fine, and I thought it might be fun to give it a try. The roll I got had cucumber, carrots, and avocado, wrapped in nori seaweed, which was then wrapped in sticky rice. Which was then wrapped in black and tan sesame seeds. I think maybe I'm not crazy about avocados, and I definitely could have done without the sesame seeds, but all in all, it was a decent experience. And it's nice to know that if I ever found myself in a world where only sushi was edible, I wouldn't have to starve to death.

Watching Lately:
Did you know the White House has a YouTube channel now? No? Well, they do, and I'm loving it. Watching this channel has been a great way to keep up with what's going on in my country, and I've been loving watching so much personality ooze out of my President and his people. But Sean Spicer needs to slow down when he's reading those press briefings, because ... well. He's good at lots of things, I'm sure, but reading aloud REALLYFAST is not exactly one of those things.

Which is okay, I guess. Because I just read this post out loud to Dana to proofread it, and I'm not any better than Sean. So there's that.

So there you have it. Thanks for spending part of your morning walking through my life! Make sure you head over to check out Divya's post at, and if you're a blogger too, feel free to link your February Latelys at the end of this post so we can come check them out!

Questions for the Comments Section:
  • Not a blogger? That's alright, that's what the comments section is for! Tell me, what have you been up to lately?

NOTE: This post is a partnership with, in conjunction with my love of their site and content combined with their love of giving people a better, more personalized way of accessing quality mental healthcare. All thoughts, opinions, and ideas expressed in this post are my own - and as you know, I would never recommend any site, service or product I didn't authentically love.

SECOND NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click the links and choose to purchase the products promoted here, I will earn a small commission at no cost to you. However, all opinions expressed herein are 100% honest and 100% my own. Thanks for your support!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Thursday Theatrics: Google Fails - Episode 1

I found a two-headed baby, you guys. Like, a baby. With two heads.

Recently, I Googled a certain kind of shampoo. I didn't do it for any weird reason - I had read a blog post about a particular type of shampoo, which just happens to be the same type Josephine uses. Her hair is super thick and super curly even though it's also super long, which often means ...


So this blog post I read was about carrying Head & Shoulders Shampoo while traveling, especially if you're traveling to climates other than your own. And I commented, saying that my daughter uses that shampoo brand as well - but that she uses the 2-in-1, and that she particularly liked ...


So I googled, "Head & Shoulders two in one," switched over to images so I could just pick out the one that looks like my daughter's shampoo, and look at the label.

And just a few rows down, I got this little guy:

Yeah. That wasn't what I was looking for, but thanks, Google.

But he's cute, right? Other than the second head part, he's super cute. Look at his little hands, and his little face - he's so cute! Seriously, he's even sleeping with one eye peeked open - just like Eden sometimes does when she's really times - so he gets extra cuteness points for that, right? Right??

But he is little neck like a train wreck. That whole second head thing ... I felt like a jerk but I still couldn't look away. I'm a mother, and I so precisely laid my babies down when they slept, ever so carefully ... and he looks uncomfortable. And I know that's gonna wreak havoc on his neck muscles. His posture. His childhood.

His childhood.


So of course, I did some more googling, and it turns out, he can, and he grew up to be super super cute. He didn't have a second head after all, and what I fell for what a shock factor photograph coupled with a clickbait headline - the baby was simply born with a very large lymphatic cyst, and when he was a few months old his parents had it removed. Click here and go check out how cute he is at his first birthday party! What a little charmer, huh?

Questions for the Comments Section:

  • Did you fall for the photo like I did?
  • What was your worst Google fail?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Surefire Ways To Conquer Stress

Right now, I'm vibrating. My hands are shaking, my breaths are shaking. My legs are shaking. My feet are sweaty, my hands are clammy. My skin is itchy. My upper back is a knot of fire - burning, burning. I need to scream, I need a quiet place to cry. I need to get away, to take a break.

To process what I learned about myself in therapy this week.

But I'm a single mom, raising two kids with very little help. There's no escaping for a moment to rest, to cry, to unload. My kids have inherited my anxiety disorder, and they are high maintenance kids with issues of their own. There's no quiet hotel room, no mommy getaway, no helpmate to take the kids off my hands so that I can refuel and re-energize. In the meantime, I'm writing a book. I'm building a brand - I blog every other day no matter what, and I promote my blog daily. I work hard, every single day. My life is stressful.

Today (Monday, the 20th) I went to therapy. It's President's Day so I had both kids in tow, and I always take Chance with me because my therapist is a Godsend and my dog is a miracle. But it was one of those days where we got up, and I just knew from the beginning that it was gonna be a MONDAY of most Monday caliber. Eden was hyper, Joey was grouchy. Therapy always makes me anxious, and I felt guilty because this week has been busy and I didn't get done with the homework I needed to bring back in - not because it has a due date, but because I feel compelled to keep moving, always - to keep striving, to keep working, to keep pushing. I feel shame over what I haven't accomplished, and pressure to keep going, always. Nothing relieves it - but days like this, it just feels like the WHOLE WORLD is strapped to my back, and I'm crumbling.

This is the dark corner of the world I live in, the world of overstress, the world of constant anxiousness, the perfectionism, the lingering impact of what I've lived through in my lifetime - more than most can fathom.

We loaded up in the van ten minutes late, two hyper and anxious kids in tow, and me feeling the pressure already. Gotta get there in time, gotta be working hard, gotta be able to show I'm trying, gotta be ON as the mom, I sure hope the kids behave while they're waiting and don't trouble the receptionist. The gas light came on, so we stopped for gas and the small gas station coffee that I almost always bring in to drink while I'm crying my way through my sessions. I don't know why - it comforts me.

After therapy, we drove home, where I dropped Joey and Chance off to hang out while Eden and I ran to the grocery store. Joey's got a huge project due tomorrow, and since it had to be completely edible, we waited until the last minute to do it, knowing that it was going to be eaten by her class. We made a rice crispy animal cell, upon which we had to represent all the parts of the cell - in 3D, all edible and clearly marked. I spent $40 dollars on cereal, marshmallows, and candy, none of which I can get back. It's half a week's grocery budget - but I couldn't NOT do it, because it's for a major grade.

Back home by around three, the pressure to get to my own work was piling on, but I can't just drop $40 worth of high blood sugar on the counter and tell my kid to figure it out herself - so we spent the afternoon making rice crispy treats and putting the project together. We had fun, but the time was ticking away in my head, and as their excitement grew, so did my sense of overwhelm.

When my kids get excited about something, they suddenly speak faster than Eminem's best rap song, and with more energy than a tweeked-out Meth-head. It's extremely overwhelming.

By dinnertime, I was a mess.

It's eight o'clock at night now, Eden's in bed, Joey's reading quietly, and I'm just now writing this post. Still shaking, still unable to breathe, still feeling the pressure of everything I didn't do today. Still aching.

And I know that some of you go through this kind of thing too ... so here are my Top Ten Surefire Ways To Conquer Stress. Without pretty graphics, because I didn't have time to make any.

01. Recognize Success - However Small.
Today, I made it to therapy, and made it through therapy. I was able to enjoy the time I spent with my children today - most of it. We got the project done, and it turned out GREAT! I'm writing this post. It's going to go up.

"Take time to recognize the things you accomplish each day - even on the days that didn't go according to plan." Tweet this.

02. Listen To Music.
There's something about music that soothes me, that eases my burdens. Maybe it's because I can choose the flow of words and rhythm that best fits me - maybe it's because I can plug it into both ears and block out the overwhelming aspects of my world for a while.

03. Engage Your Sense of Humor.
There are very few things that ease stress and relieve tension like laughing. So read a joke. Look at funny memes. Google autocorrect fails. Listen to a comedy show, watch a movie. Or laugh at nothing. Just laugh, and let it work it's magic.

04. Pray Or Meditate.
I'm not Catholic, but I LOVE my custom-written rosary prayer pattern. The rosary combines prayer and meditation in a beautiful way, keeping your focus on God and the relationship you want to have with him - while allowing you to keep praying. The repetitive nature of the rosary is akin to meditation's "focus on the breath," while the words themselves have deeper meaning. My personal pattern allows for free prayer as well, to keep my prayer time from becoming rote and monotonous. I think of God as a friend - and I wouldn't want my relationship with him to stagnate, so including space for plain old regular prayer was important to me when I wrote my rosary, and remains just as valuable as the focus I receive from the repetition. (If you'd like me to write in more detail about my rosary pattern specifically, including the prayers I use and the rosary products I like to keep handy, let me know by commenting or hitting the little Google +1 button at the bottom of this post.)

The rosary combines prayer & meditation beautifully, keeping your focus on God & the relationship you want with him. Tweet this.

05. Batch Work.
If you stress over work or business things the same way I do, the look at your work load in another way. Don't try to call Susan back and then check an email and then browse Facebook and then ...

You'll drive yourself crazy.

Instead, make a list of all the people you need to call. It can be returning calls, confirming appointments or plans, asking a question or favor. Write it down, do it ALL, then move to the next thing. This makes a huge difference for me, and I find myself feeling much less overwhelmed. I also like to snowball my work. If I've got one call to make, one post to write, three blogs to catch up on, 50 Facebook notification, and 84 emails to deal with, then I'll do them in that order. I can make that one call, and be DONE with calling. Write that post, and be proud to know that the day's writing is DONE. Catch up on blogs because they aren't rotating/renewing tasks in quite the same way as Facebook and email. Then I'll catch up Facebook to zero, catch up emails to zero. Then I'll reassess. See what needs done, and move through it.

Sitting down to really figure out and prioritize what must be done helps me destress because it makes what must be done feel much more doable. Beyond that, batching my work helps me spend my time more efficiently.

06. Have. Sex.
Because ... well, there's nothing like getting off to let off some steam, amirite?? Sometimes you just gotta do what you just gotta do. 

07. Unplug.
Take a short break from things if you're able to, and escape for a while. For some people, this means avoiding social media for a few hours or even days (or longer). For others (like me) this means disengaging from daily life in general. For me, unplugging usually means taking a shower because that's one of the few times when I am truly alone with just myself and my thoughts - and chaotic as they may be, it's just nice to be able to hear them without interruption. In the shower, I do all the usual things - might as well be productive while I'm in there, right? - but I also use that time to just breathe. I feel the water, the heat, the weight of the steam, the expansion of my lungs as I'm breathing. I smell whatever soap I'm using, the shampoo, etc. I enjoy the smooth slipperiness of freshly shaven legs. I wrap up in a warm towel, and sit on the edge of the bathtub to read for a bit sometimes, prolonging the peace of my aloneness. It never lasts long - but it is treasured.

08. Clean The House.
Sometimes what's needed to release the tension you're holding onto is to just get up and do something. Maybe your tension is on a subconscious level, built up in response to the breakfast dishes still lying in the sink or the laundry that's been waiting much too long to be washed. So get yourself up and get proactive - clean the house and don't forget to spray EVERYWHERE with Febreze One in the Orchid scent too, because ahhh, it smells SO GOOD (seriously, you can get it for just $5.99 at!). I promise, you'll feel better when you've finished and you can look around at a job well done. Which brings me to ...

09. Exercise.
If cleaning the house isn't really your bag, try another way to get moving. Take a walk, do some pushups. Situps. Burpees. Go for a swim. Go window shopping at the local mall. Hula hoop, dance, jump rope. Hell, if you still have a Skip-It, put it out and give it a whirl. (If you don't have one, get yourself an Empower SkipFit in Purple, because these things are SO MUCH FUN.)

10. WRITE!
For me, writing is the be-all and end-all for destressing. It's funny to say that, since I started this post in the midst of an all out, tear-filled anxiety attack ... but it remains my biggest and best tool against the stress and anxiety that are so much a part of my daily life. Writing is a versatile tool too, that can be applied in any number of ways. Here are some of my favorites:

  • blog - this allows me to reach out into the world, seeking the kind of support that I need but don't always have in my real life.
  • journal - this give me a safe place to say whatever I want, in whatever way I need. I can speak in anger here without hurting anyone, or out of the depths of my depression without bringing anyone else down. I can voice my problems without feeling like a burden, I can celebrate my successes, too.
  • unsent letters - these are exactly what I call them, letters that I write but never send. Some of them I burn, but most I just shred and throw away. They are like my journaling - a safe place to say whatever I want. The chief difference is that these are targeted, written to one specific person or group of people. In them, over the years I've expressed pain and hurt, anger and rage, unrequited love, frustration, need. Sadness. I can say, "You hurt me when you ____" without giving someone who has hurt me another way to do it again (look up toxic narcissistic abuse - it's real, and it's extremely damaging. It's your own vulnerability used purposely to hurt you.) I can say, "I miss you" to people who have left my life for one reason or another. I can say "I love you" without expecting anything to change or happen. And in anger, I can say things I would never allow myself to voice aloud, to release the poison that would eat me alive if I kept it bottled up. To release in a safe way things that might be detrimental to my life and the people I care about if I spoke them out loud.

And just for fun, a bonus - but this one should be obvious: Attend Therapy. When I first started going to therapy for my issues with PTSD and the resulting depression and anxiety, it changed my life in so many ways, not only giving me a place to unload but also giving me empowering strategies for coping with my symptoms. PTSD doesn't have a cure and it doesn't go away - but it can be lived with. The symptoms can, in time, be mitigated. And it helps so much to have someone to talk to. I know a lot of people can't really afford therapy though - or perhaps wouldn't know where to look even if they could afford it. That's why it's so cool that there are sites like, where therapy is not only totally affordable but it's also professionally qualified, individually matched, and unlimited.

But for now, it's ten o'clock and I'm off to bed - to rest up and prepare myself for another day ahead. In the meantime, I hope you'll bookmark this page, that you'll keep it for a later date, that you'll share it with a friend in need. I hope these stress-busting strategies help you ... because they've sure helped me.

Questions for the Comments Section:
  • What's your favorite way to beat stress?

NOTE: This post is a partnership with, in conjunction with my love of their site and content combined with their love of giving people a better, more personalized way of accessing quality mental healthcare. All thoughts, opinions, and ideas expressed in this post are my own - and as you know, I would never recommend any site, service or product I didn't authentically love.

SECOND 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! (To see a list of other companies I'm currently working with, click here.)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday Score: Misfit Flash Review

So ever since Christmas, I've had this huge drama going on in my life that I haven't been telling people about. It was sort of embarrassing, and honestly, I wasn't sure it was ever going to end. It was starting to look a little hopeless, really.

Last spring, Josephine started asking for a pedometer. She wanted to get more active, wanted to be able to see real numbers that told her whether or not she was making progress. Those of you who have seen my daughter (or photos of her) will know that the very last thing my beautiful daughter needs to be worrying herself about is her weight or her body - but there are a number of health issues that run in our family, and most of our family is some version of overweight/obese. So if she wants to build good fitness habits, I'm right there to applaud her efforts - eventually.

When she asked for a pedometer, I answered with a casual, "We'll see," and marked it down immediately as something she would appreciate if she happened to get one for Christmas. If she still wanted one by then, I thought, this would be a good indication that she would actually use it long enough for me to get my money's worth out of it.

Not that I was about to splurge on a FitBit though, right? Those things are so expensive, and while they do offer great features in theory, everyone I know who has one hates it for various reasons. So I got started researching my options.

I ended up with the Cubot Wireless Activity Wristband, which was cute and pretty close to what a FitBit offers as far as features go. I bought this for my daughter's "something to wear" Christmas gift. It came with the band, device, and charger, and I liked knowing that she was going to LOVE her gift.

But she didn't. Because it didn't work. We downloaded the app to her phone, my phone, my tablet, and even her tablet, and this device would not sync to any of our devices, which was extremely frustrating. I ended up sending it back for a refund, but it sucked for Joey because she had been really excited about it.

Next, I bought her a B Fit Watch, which I thought would be awesome because it didn't need a charger or an app. Sure, it didn't store data for long-time tracking, but surely this would work right? If she wanted to really track longterm, she could just record her daily step counts into the planner she uses for school, right?

Wrong. Because I bought literally the last one they had in the store I went to, and it was broken. To top it all off, when I called around the other stores in the area to see if it could be exchanged, no one had any. Literally no one. So again, I got a refund, and as Joey's birthday was approaching, she was starting to worry that she'd never get the pedometer she'd asked for. I was starting to worry that she was right, because I was still 100% sure I wasn't about to drop $100 on a device everyone I know hates.

Cue the Misfit Flash.

I saw these over and over online, all over Facebook, all over Amazon. But I skipped on them because they look great and I figured with all that advertising there was no way they'd be cheap enough that I'd be willing to pay for them and still good enough that my kid could use it without it falling apart.

I was wrong. Blessedly, happily, ever so gratefully wrong. Seriously, you guys. They're expensive if you buy them from Amazon sellers because you're getting scalped, but if you get them by clicking on the photo above, you can get them directly from Misfit - marked down from $29.99 to $11.99. I don't know how long they'll be marked down for though, so if you want one, go for it.

I can tell you, it's worth the risk.

Misfit is owned by Fossil Group, arguably one of the best watchmakers in the current industry, and the Misfit brand is no disappointment. The Flash is the most affordable of the various options available, and I love that since it uses a replaceable cell battery, there's no need to fuss with a charger. The Misfit app was easy to find and download (it's available for iPhone and Android), and syncing was quick and simple, with easy-to-follow instructions that worked on the first try. The device itself is comfortable to wear and feels well-made, and neither Josephine nor I have had any problems at all in the month we've been wearing them. They seem pretty accurate, considering they don't connect to GPS or maps, and we love that they have such a clean look. They track sleep and activity, which is all we needed anyway, and sync effortlessly with just the touch of a button (or the swipe of a finger).

One of the things Jo and I think is extra cool about the Misfit Flash is that you don't have to do anything to tell it you're going to bed. You don't have to switch it into "sleep mode," you just lay down and go to sleep. I don't know how it knows, but it does! We also love that it helps us get an idea of our sleep quality too - not just our sleep hours. When you open the app and click over to the sleep tracker, it shows the pattern of your sleep, with varying colors for light sleep and deep sleep, and it even shows if you were awake in the middle of the night - even if you didn't get up out of bed.

Another cool feature with these is that the little tracking disc easily pops out of the wristband, and can be tucked into a pocket. Or, if you'd like something more secure, the Misfit Flash comes with a handy clip that can be used to attach the tracker to your shoe, waistband, jacket lapel or chest pocket - or even your bra/boxers, if you'd like the device to be hidden entirely.

They look great - Josephine is a highly fashion-conscious girl and she wears hers daily regardless of her outfit. As for mine ... toward the end of January I was sick enough one night to head for the closest emergency room, where I was asked multiple times about my "watch."

Which leads me to that - the Misfit Flash does also function as a watch, in the very coolest way. Usually, the face itself is totally blank, with no screen or indicators of any kind. But upon pressing the button (the device itself functions as one large button) or flipping your arm in just the right way (as if you were bringing your wrist up to check your watch), you activate some sensor in the device that turns on the indicator lights.

These tiny lights are arranged in a little circle of 12, matching the typical placement of numbers on a clock face. First, they light up as a progress marker, with more and more lights flashing the closer you get to completing your fitness goal. After that, you get a dim version of the lights in a clock-like configuration that orients you to where the numbers should be. Dim lights are at 3, 6, 9, and 12 on the face. Your hour is marked by a solid bright light, and your minute is rounded off to the nearest five-minute increment, marked with a blinking light. This takes a little getting used to, but within days, Josephine was using hers for time-checking just as well as fitness-tracking.

But that's just the uber-affordable Flash. Misfit also offers several other models, including the sporty and swimproof Misfit Shine 2, the beautifully faceted Misfit Swarovski Activity Crystal, the sleek Misfit Ray, and even smart watches like the Misfit Phase and the Misfit Vapor (coming soon)! My favorite thing about the Misfit Shine 2 is that the indicator lights are multicolored - they follow a rainbow gradient, and they're so cute!

I like that these come in a wide range of prices too, so that you can pick and choose what features are important to you. You pay as much or as little as you want (they range from right about $8 for the Link to just under $200 for the Phase), and with their most affordable product (the Flash) being such an amazing product, I have nothing but great expectations for the rest of the Misfit line.

Seriously guys, go check them out, and score one for yourselves. In fact, at $11.99 for the Flash, you can score one for yourself, your kid, your spouse, your friends. Go on, go for it.

Questions for the Comments Section:
  • Do you track your fitness or sleep?
  • If you haven't tried it, why not?
  • If you have, what devices are your favorites, and why?

*Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click the links and choose to purchase the products promoted here, I will earn a small commission at no cost to you. However, all opinions expressed herein are 100% honest and 100% my own. Thanks for your support!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Happy Birthday, Me!

It's my birthday today!
I couldn't find a picture of a cake with thirty-three candles on it. But if I was eating cake right now, it would need to have thirty-three candles on it. Because that's how old I am today.


I've been alive for thirty-three years, despite abuse and heartbreak, despite pain and suffering, despite my struggles with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I've been alive for thirty-three years despite chronic health issues. Despite chronic crises, despite bad decisions. Despite kids who bullied me through school, despite inconsiderate or outright hateful people that have come in out of my life.

I've been alive for thirty-three years because I'm strong. Because I'm resilient, because I'm persistent. Because when I turned my back on God, He followed me around and kept protecting me anyway, sometimes even from myself. I have survived thirty-three turmoil-filled years because:

  • when I was young, my father did what he could to protect me. It made me feel special to him - while it lasted.
  • I never had sisters - except for the year I lived in a group home as a kid. There wasn't room for me in the house with girls my own age though, and I was too mature (and too damaged, perhaps) to fit in with them, so I was placed in a house full of troubled teenaged girls. A kleptomaniac taught me to shave my legs in that house, in midnight moments stolen during the night, when we'd sneak into our shared bathroom and block the light with towels stuffed under the doors so we could talk without getting in trouble. I wish I could remember her name.
I survived because:
  • I met a girl in fourth grade. We became instant friends, the two of us. It worked so well, because she was as broken as I was, as damaged. She felt just as tossed about, just as powerless, just as violated. Perhaps more so. She gave me camaraderie, a safe place in the storm that was my life, Sometimes, she still does.
  • In fifth grade, a woman named Mrs Tosh lit a fire in me - the love of books. She gave me Maniac MGhee, Island of the Blue Dolphins. Hatchet. She gave me an escape my real life could never offer, a sense of secret safety that couldn't be taken away, an adventure trailer-park me could never dream of experiencing. She taught me to dream, gave me imagination. I had already been writing by that time, journals and poems and short bits of nonsense stories. But Mrs. Tosh nurtured that little matchflame into a flickering blaze ...
  • Which became a raging inferno when a boy named Cornell Tulloch told me I couldn't write a book. I never would, I never could. It was silly and stupid. And although it took me much longer than I expected, his not-so-playful taunting is probably part of why I finally found what I needed within myself to actually write - and publish - my books.
I survived because:
  • Although most of my family was broken and dysfunctional in pretty much every possible way, I had some family that I could turn to, that I could lean on. That I could share my secrets with, that I could run to for friendship, for protection, for conversation, for understanding. My cousin is my best friend, and some of the better days of my life are directly attributed to her place in it. I also had my grandmother, although I didn't feel close to her at all in those days. I still think she saw me as an added burden in her life due to the circumstances that were thrust upon us - but looking back now as an adult, I am gifted with understanding for what she must have been dealing with, too. Alzheimer's is taking her now, and although her body still lives, her mind is ... not hers anymore. I feel the pain of her loss deeply already - even as I celebrate the aspects of her personality that live on in me.
I survived because I met a series of boys that taught me things about myself I never even knew I needed to know:
  • Scott taught me a sense of justice - to stand up for myself even when it scares me.
  • Brian taught me that time passes, but love doesn't - and your first love lives with you always.
  • Craig taught me the thrill of excitement.
  • Jason taught me that when you won't kiss a boy (He dipped in seventh grade! Gross!) and he goes off kissing someone else, you don't have to put up with that.
  • Kevin taught me how to have fun in a relationship, how to laugh together and play together. He taught me that friendship is the basis for relationship. He taught me to flirt - but also to respect myself through his respect for me.
  • Jon taught me to be sure I'm ready before I make life-changing decisions - and he taught me the line upon which I will defend my boundaries ferociously. He taught me heartbreak, and the power of my own forgiveness.
  • Larry taught me to let myself feel - even if it hurts. He taught me thrill, and joy, and passion ... He taught me to love basketball. He taught me heartache.
  • Richard taught me ... to stand up for what I believe in. To go my own way when I have to, even if other people don't always understand. He taught me how fierce I can be as a woman, how strong I truly am, and the level of sacrifice I'm willing to make for those I love. He taught me compassion - but he taught me the fire of hatred and scorn, and the lasting power of words spoken in anger. He taught me fear of my own toxicity - he taught me caution.
  • Ryan ... he taught me ... more than I want to go into here. Among other things, he taught me about my breaking point, he taught me about life at rock bottom. He taught me about digging deep and finding what it takes to keep on keeping on. He taught me strength and perseverance. He taught me about being pushed down and held back, being broken. He taught me about powerlessness.
And then there was the other one. The one that taught me I'm special, the one that made me feel beautiful, that made me feel talented, that made me want to be a better mother, a better woman, a better Christian. The one who was so unafraid to be vulnerable with me that he showed up at my door once in the middle of the night when he needed a safe place to fall. The one who allowed ME to be HIS safety. The one who was always there when I was on the ledge, when I needed to talk. The one who, ironically, gave me the strength it took in the end to break things off.

The one who I will always feel "got away."

The one who called me his Guardian Angel.

The one who told me this:

and made me feel like this:

and even this:

I survived because I am a survivor, a warrior, a fighter. And as I enter this next year of life, I intend to live it fully, in honor of - or in some cases in spite of - the influences that touched my life until this point.

And it's going to be the best year yet. I hope you'll follow along with me to watch it unfold.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Works For Me Wednesday: How I'll Never Sort (Or Match) Socks Again

Sorting socks sucks, doesn't it? It takes time, there's always a sock or three missing, and there's really no good way to pair them together for storing without stretching them out. You fold them over and flip the ankle part of the outside one back so it hold them? The outside one gets stretched. You stuff one inside the other? The outside one gets stretched! So then you end up with half your socks missing and the other half stretched all out and gross.

But not my socks. I've eliminated the hassle of sorting and matching socks from my life completely, and it's made so much more room in my laundry day for other things (like folding and hanging and de-fuzzing and searching for that damned bounce sheet that always gets lost and ends up hanging out of the back of my shirt ...)

Anyway, back to the point. No more sock-matching, right?

The method I like to use is a simple one: don't buy a dozen different kinds of socks. Right now, especially for my family, socks are easy. For myself, I  always buy these: Hanes Women's ComfortBlend No Show, White. It means no sorting, no matching, no pairing. I just have a sock drawer that I put all my socks into, and when I need socks, I pull out the first two I touch. When I notice that one is getting stretched out from overwear or worn through, I throw it out. When I noticed that I don't seem to have a lot of socks anymore, I buy another pack. Easy.

For Josephine, I buy socks in all sorts of fun colors and patterns - except white. I do this for two reasons:
  1. She's a wild kid who likes fun patterns and colors - sometimes she even likes to mismatch her socks on purpose (usually only when she's wearing pants that will hide them).
  2. Her feet are the same size as mine now, so it's easy to go through the socks and put all the big white ones in my drawer, and the big crazy-patterned/colored ones in hers.
For Eden, I buy the same socks as mine for the most part, except that hers are obviously smaller than mine, so it's easy to separate hers from mine when I do the laundry. Eden's feet are growing though, so I make sure her socks also have colored stripes at the bottoms - unlike mine, which have no color except for the Hanes branding across the ball of the foot. She does have a few pairs of fun socks too though, such as Frozen, Sophia the First, and a couple of other fun patterns. (But for these, since Eden is seven, sorting all of the socks and pairing her own has become a great age-appropriate "chore" for her.)

But as simple as it all sounds, in the end it means no more sorting, no more matching, no more pairing. Ever again.

And that?

Well, it works for me.

Questions for the Comments Section:
  • How do you manage all the socks in your house?

*Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click the links and choose to purchase the products promoted here, I will earn a small commission at no cost to you. However, all opinions expressed herein are 100% honest and 100% my own. Thanks for your support!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday Minute: Starting The Week Off Right

A few weeks ago, I received my first VoxBox in the mail; it's a box of complimentary sample products sent to me from, and so far, I have seriously LOVED everything about the experience. My first box had a great variety of products in it, and now that I've tried them all, I thought I'd round out my review for you.

In addition to the products reviewed in the post linked above (Febreze ONE, Orchid scent = YES; PopChips Potato Ridges, Cheddar & Sour Cream = YES; Crispy Green Crispy Fruits, Cantaloupe = NO), my VoxBox also included a tongue brush from Oral B, an Orgain Organic Protein Bar in Peanut Butter Flavor, and a one-serving packet of Burts Bee's Protein+ Healthy Radiance Powder in Vanilla.

Just quickly, I'll tell you that I've tried and loved the tongue brush! I usually use a tongue scraper after oil pulling and then brushing thoroughly, but this brush instead of my usual scraper made my tongue feel cleaner without all the harsh scraping. I love that when my tongue is this clean, flavors are stronger - which means I can enjoy my coffee that much more!

And what's even better - you can try the OraBrush tongue cleaner, too - for free! Just click here, choose your color, and pay the $3.99 shipping, which is still a steal because these are recommended retail for $4.99! How cool is that?

Onto the other products in my VoxBox ...

I was actually really excited to receive protein supplements in this box, because I have ... something ... wrong with me. I don't know what it is because I've never gone to the trouble of really chasing a diagnosis, but it's something to do with something that causes me to have chronically low blood albumin levels. What it boils down to is this: I have low protein in my blood. I don't know what's causing it, but I do know that when I go too long without really ingesting decent amounts of protein, I get so tired I might as well drop dead, because I'm about that useless anyway. I can't focus, I can't think, I'm irritable, and I'm. So. Sleepy. It gets so bad that sometimes I actually feel sick, and I walk around nauseated for a day or two, eating every protein source I can get my hands on and sleeping as much as possible until it passes.

Obviously this is something of a hassle, because there's really only so many ways a single mom can dress up an egg before it stops being exciting, chicken/beef/fish really rack up the grocery bill after a while, and I'm moderately lactose intolerant.

I've tried several different protein supplements over the years with varying success, and am always on the lookout for sources of protein that are cheap, convenient, and tasty.

Burt's Bee's Protein+ Healthy Radiance Powder is NOT my next great find. The package says it's a plant-based protein, which I was really excited about because I know too much animal protein can be bad for the kidneys - so I was pretty hopeful as I opened this product. It didn't smell awful ... it smelled a bit like peas, but maybe that's the power of suggestion. The package actually states clearly that it's made with "Organic Pea Protein," which my girls thought was HILARIOUS.

It mixed up easily, which I loved because I don't actually have any sort of protein-shake mixer these days, and I was worried that I'd end up with a nasty, lumpy mess. But I poured a little cold water into a glass, whipped the powder around with a fork for a while, and watched hopefully as the mixture took on a fairly smooth, pudding-like consistency. I whipped in more water until I got to the required 12-ounce mark, took a deep breath and went for it.

It was like drinking pudding-flavored chalk soup, with a green-pea sort of scent marker that hit hard if you made the mistake of breathing in while drinking. It was significantly less awful if I held my breath while drinking, and perhaps that was what gave Joey the courage to ask if she could try it.

She took a nervous sip, frowned, swallowed, said, "I like it; it kinda tastes like play-doh," and then started cackling when my mouth fell open in surprise. Eden asked to try it next, took a good sniff of it, and changed her mind.

Clearly this product as we used it was not for us - but then, maybe we didn't give it a fair enough chance. If mixed into a smoothie with fruit to hide the texture and maybe some peanut butter to thicken it up, it could be just fine. The information that came with my VoxBox regarding this product says, "Simply mix with your favorite non-dairy beverage or add to your favorite smoothie recipe and enjoy," and I have to admit that if I had added this to a smoothie it might have been just fine. However, I'm left wondering what beverage Burts Bee's would have recommended adding this too. Coffee? Tea? Juice? I don't know, but adding it to water DEFINITELY was not the way to go about it. In the end, this product was a pass for me. If you'd like to try it anyway and take your chances, you can get some here. Apparently you can bake the chocolate flavor into brownies, and maybe that would have been a better way to go so ... Burts Bee's, if you catch sight of this review and want another chance from our family, let us know.

I did like seeing that this was an organic product that's non-GMO, and that it's also gluten-free and dairy-free. I particularly liked that it's soy-free, as I tend to stay away from soy in response to soy being a somewhat risky food for women who have reproductive-type cancers in their families. I don't personally know how established the soy-cancer link is, but I'm generally not taking any chances. And in all fairness, while this was pretty awful when mixed with just cold water, most shakes are. I would be curious to see how this turns out when used in more of a recipe-type setting.

Now, to discuss a more successful product - the Orgain Organic Protein Bar in Peanut Butter. The info packet says: "Clean, delicious ingredients designed to help you gain everyday nourishment - whenever and wherever you need it. With only 150 calories or less, and 10g of protein, our bars are a perfect way to Replenish, Refuel, and GO. USDA Organic, certified, 100% Vegan, Non-GMO, and Gluten-Free."

These were a much stronger win for my family - I liked the two small bites I had, Joey liked the bite she had, and Eden liked it so much she ate the rest! The flavor here was strong but not in a bad way - the texture was as you would expect from a protein bar, but somewhat less grainy/cardboardy, and I loved the convenience. These would be easy for me to grab on the way out the door to take the kids to school (or pick them up, if I've forgotten to eat lunch), and I don't need to do anything extra to them to make them palatable. It would be easy enough to keep one in my purse or emergency kit, and they're pretty affordable too, at just $16.54 for a 12-count box, putting them at just under $1.40 apiece. They also come in four different flavors and every bar has 10 grams of protein, so the recommendation from our family is that these are definitely worth picking up and keeping around!

And that rounds out my reviews of the Resolution VoxBox I received totally for free from! I hope you guys liked reading about my family's experiences with this box and the products included in it, because I'm already anxiously hoping to get another one! This has been so much fun, and we genuinely loved reviewing these products - even the ones that weren't good matches for us.

And now - now that my kids are FINALLY going back to school after a local flu epidemic shut us down last week - I'm planning to start my day with a hard-boiled egg, some peanut butter toast, and a cup of coffee.

Questions for the Comments Section:
  • What's your favorite source of protein?
  • Have you tried the products I wrote about here? If so, what did you think of them? If not, are you planning to?
*Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click the links and choose to purchase the products promoted here, I will earn a small commission at no cost to you. However, all opinions expressed herein are 100% honest and 100% my own. Thanks for your support!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Saturday Sweets: For Your Valentine

If you're like most of the men I know, you're fully aware that Valentine's Day is coming and you're feeling the pressure to make this day special for your significant other - but you've bought exactly zero gifts. 
  • Maybe it's because nothing looks quite special enough for your loved one and you don't want to revert to the usual chocolates/flowers/card/apologetic-puppy-dog-eyes combo - but you know you're probably going to anyway, because you're running out of time.
  • Maybe it's because your significant other is one of those tricksy ones. You know the one - she's all cool about it like she doesn't give a chocolate truffle for the holiday and couldn't care less about being included in the romantic fervor. But you've seen her gazing at flowers as she walks past them in the store, or looking wistful as she watches any of the thousand 1-800-flowers commercials we've all seen on TV. But you also know that she's totally right when she says things like, "Meh. Why would I want a gift that dies in three days, anyway? And all I can do is look at them, really. No, honey, really - I don't need flowers this year, or anything at all." Still, she's lying, and she needs something, and you know this is a test you're about to fail. And you hate it.

Probably, you're somewhere in between the two extremes, but you're lucky enough to have a partner who loves you and will forgive you for going with the last-minute usual - because if you've been doing a good job as a spouse, they know how much you love them based on the way you treat them all year long.

But just in case you're worried that you haven't been doing a good enough job - or if you've got one of those tricksy wives I mentioned above, I'm teaming up with Mrs. Fields to make sure you can still impress your special someone before the opportunity passes you by. For as little as $19.99 (plus taxes and shipping, of course - where for an extra $10-$20, you can get as close as overnight shipping) you can send your loved one something extra special this year.

A fun little note for you - when you add anything from the Mrs. Field's website to your cart, you will be presented with the option to add-on sweet little extras - such as stuffed animals, Valentine Candy Corn, Conversation Hearts, or even frosted cookies! This is a perfect option if you'd like to include spoiling your little loved ones (got kids?) while treating your partner - and if you click here, you can take advantage of Mrs. Fields's sitewide Valentine's Day discount: use the code HEART15 at checkout to save 15% on your order! Don't waste time on it though - the discount offer expires on February 14, 2017.

This applies to families of all shapes and sizes, so take advantage of this offer while it lasts! You can use it to pick up brownie bites for your munchkins, sweet treats for your wife or girlfriend - or the girl you wish was your wife or girlfriend - and even for your sport-loving husband or boyfriend (they have MLB or NBA themed cookie tins, too!).

But just in case you're seeing this post too late to do anything about it - or if you seriously messed up one too many times with your spouse, please know that you don't have to wait for Valentines Day in order to get your relationship back on track. With sites like Regain.Us, you can put the romance back into your love story with couples counseling that's easy to access and totally affordable - plus, you get the comfort of therapy right in your own home since it's all done online!

But still. Send cookies anyway, because yum.

Questions for the Comments Section:
  • What are your plans for this Valentine's Day?
  • What was your best/worst Valentine's Day gift?

NOTE: This post is a partnership with Regain.Us, in conjunction with my love of their site and content combined with their love of giving couples a better, more personalized way of learning how to communicate more effectively with their partners in order to nurture thriving relationships. All thoughts, opinions, and ideas expressed in this post are my own - and as you know, I would never recommend any site, service or product I didn't authentically love.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Liebster Award 2017

As a writer, I often spend my working hours interacting with other writers - and as I open my world to more blogging and spend more effort growing my blog as a side business, I've been interacting a lot more with bloggers.

Follow me on Pinterest!
I've been blogging off and on since around 2007, and I've had so many blogs over the years that I no longer even remember where they've all been - not that I'd say even if I could remember, as my early blogs are often quite embarrassing to look back on. So it's no surprise that I enjoy reading blogs as well - I like to think of them as today's magazine articles, perfect for when I'm waiting in line to pick up the kids from school, waiting for a doctor's appointment, etc. Not to mention, many of you know about my on-again-off-again love affair with Pinterest, which is in itself a blogging-type social network, with most pins actually leading to blog posts of one kind or another.

I like that blogs are a paper-free (and cost-free, cha-ching) style of magazine reading that allows me to follow exactly the right content for me, and I actually follow several different blogs for various reasons. I like affordable, low-cost, minimalist fashion, so I keep my eyes peeled for blogs and blog posts on that topic, as well as blogs about motherhood and parenting, entrepreneurship, small business operation and growth, food and cooking, books (of course) and lots of other topics. But my most favorite blogs are the well-rounded ones, the ones that aren't such a tightly fitted niche spot, the ones that fit a wide range of people and personalities. I like the ones that talk about a little bit of everything - the one-stop-shops of the blogging world. Those are the blogs most like me, the blogs with the readership I'd love to grow, the communities I'd love to be part of, the models I most want to emulate.

So all that to say this: I may not always be raising my hand and announcing my presence, but I get around in the blogging world (stop, not like that), and part of getting around successfully (stop it, I said) is making meaningful connections with other great bloggers like me.

Recently, one of those connections surprised me in The. Best. Way. and nominated me for the Liebster Award!

What is the Liebster Award?
"The Liebster Award 2017 is an award that exists only on the internet, and is given to bloggers by other bloggers. The earliest case of the award goes as far back as 2011. Liebster in German means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome." (Text taken from here.)

But the Liebster Award, like most other blogging awards, comes with a laundry list of fun "responsibilities" - which I actually think are a lot of fun! Among the responsibilities are:

1. Thank the person who nominated you (of course).
Crystal Gard from nominated me. Crystal's blog is classified as a personal lifestyle blog - but my favorite thing about her site is her deep and insightful poetry. She has a strong way with shortform writing that expresses beautifully in poetry, but she also covers a range of other topics, which makes a perfect "one-stop-shop" sort of blog for women like me. Thanks so much for this nomination, Crystal! It's my first blogging award, and I'm totally flattered that you thought of me when choosing your nominees.
2. Display the award on your blog (again, of course).
Done this, of course. I loved that there were several different images to choose from on the original award page!
3. Write a bit about your favorite blog (which is not your own).
My current favorite blog is and I found this blog through a totally roundabout process. One of my favorite vloggers is Sarah Rae Vargas; now and then she'll talk about her siblings and the rest of her family, many of whom are also bloggers/vloggers, though I don't think any are as well-known as Sarah is. Still, Sarah's sister Sandra (owner of is a refreshing contrast to Sarah's bold and brash style, and I love how easily I can relate to her blog. Where Sarah is perfect for the loud and outgoing side of me, Sandra has a more quiet kind of confidence that I relate closely to. I also love how down to earth she is, how strong her Christian faith is, and the fact that her family recently switched to full-time RV living, which I think is SO COOL.
4. Share 10 random facts about yourself.
  1. I can't pick a favorite ANYTHING. I can make a list of favorites, but I can't ever just pick one.
  2. I like to run or jog. As a plus-sized woman, I often find people very surprised by this - the assumption is that because I'm a larger woman, I can't run, or I hate running. And although I'll admit that I'm likely the slowest runner EVER, I actually like going for a good run.
  3. I love crafting. Knitting, crocheting, scrapbooking, etc. Which brings me to ...
  4. I can't sew. I want to learn hand sewing SO BAD so that I can make clothes for my girls and I, but everything I've ever sewed (sewn?) falls apart within days.
  5. I hate "airhead" talk. Anyone who talks like this around me for too long is doing it at risk of their own personal safety.
  6. I'm afraid of cats. Except for this one, who is obviously the best and sweetest cat ever to be born. Except when he's being sassy and he bites a little, or when he gifts you with a dead mouse, dropped proudly at your feet.
  7. I hate when people complain about things when they have no intention of fixing the problem leading to the complaint.
  8. I was born almost exactly 7 years in between my two brothers. This birth-order weirdness is a repeating trend in my family. For example, my cousin Dana and I? I'm a scant five months older than she is. Our children? Josephine is only three months older than Dana's son, Ezekial. Neat, huh?
  9. When I was younger, I played the clarinet in my middle school band. When I got older and stopped playing, I eventually got rid of my clarinet; I'm still horribly sorry for that, and I want to relearn the clarinet with a strength that sometimes aches a little.
  10. I suck at math. I"m not even kidding, I'm awful at it. I can do algebra, but the formulas and stuff that come with harder math? Nope. I quit.
5. Nominate 5-11 other small bloggers who you think deserve the award. (In my personal interest to maintain the spirit of the Liebster Award {which is to discover new blogs}, I'm choosing to nominate blogs I've newly discovered. So with that being said, my nominees are:
  1. Kirsty, from Me, Cupcakes, and Tea. (TOPIC: Lifestyle)
  2. Darci, from Life Unplanned. (TOPIC: Lifestyle)
  3. Jenna, creator of She Ate The Elephant. (TOPIC: Motivational/Self-Empowerment)
  4. Matisse, from I Love You Like A ... (TOPIC: Lifestyle)
  5. Taylor, from Blonde & Ambitious Blog (TOPIC: Lifestyle)
  6. Kat, from Katnapped (TOPIC: Lifestyle)
6. List these rules in your post so that the bloggers you nominate can follow them.
7. Inform your nominees that they have been nominated.
Again, thanks for nominating me, Crystal! This was a ton of fun!

Questions for the Comments Section:

  • What are your favorite blogs (that are not your own), and why?