Sunday, April 30, 2017

Self-Care Sunday: Repetitive Action

This has been a pretty chill week here on the blog, hasn't it? Wish lists and Mother's Day shopping ideas aren't the most serious of my content, I know - so I thought today I'd get back to my mental wellness roots and share one of the things I've recently realized is most helpful to me when I'm stressed, anxious, or just needing something to do to keep myself from ruminating - or panicking, depending on the situation.

Actually, I realized it accidentally - I was just hanging out in the quiet, and I realized how totally relaxed I was, doing what I was doing (knitting). Then I looked around and started to really notice how many of my favorite coping methods utilize this one thing: Repetitive action.

When I went into therapy, the first thing my therapist recommended to me was bilateral tapping - a method for dealing with anxiety that involves literally tapping in a left-right-left pattern. So it can be as simple as tapping your left toe on the floor, then your right, and so on - or your fists on your thighs, etc. This is probably part of why taking a walk works so well for anxiety/depression issues - why we "walk it off." It works in more subtle ways too; if anxiety hits me while I'm driving and I don't have my fidget cube on me, then I can just squeeze my left hand on the steering wheel, followed by the right, back and forth. I don't know why it works but it does. This works in stores too, when I'm feeling overcrowded - only using the cart handle instead of the steering wheel.

There's definitely something to the bilateral nature of it, too; just tapping my left (or right) hand over and over doesn't work nearly as well, which is probably why my favorite side of my fidget cube is the light-switch side; I hold the cube between both hands, turning it "on" with my left finger and "off" with the right. (NOTE: For the sake of not passing my anxiety on to others, I don't click the light-switch unless I'm alone because it does make an audible clicking sound - when I'm with other people, I tend to use more subtle coping mechanisms, which is where tapping comes in. It works when other methods don't or can't be accessed.)

HONESTY ALERT: While I'm trying to write this post about dealing with anxiety, my youngest ADHDer is currently bouncing all over the room, chattering nonstop - which is one of the things that seriously triggers me. Sometimes I end up so jazzed from trying to keep myself together that I literally end up shaking - or crying. Sometimes she can manage to settle herself with some guidance - other times, her motor runs until she exhausts herself and everyone else around her. So if this post makes pretty much no sense and isn't nearly as well-written as the ones I write while she's at school, forgive me. In the meantime, please don't waste your time telling me about my options - she's very closely monitored and is on multiple medications to manage her issues, and they work as well as they can. If you'd like to tell me how all she needs is a good spanking, let me go ahead and be clear - I am a strong mother who totally believes in the power of corporal punishment. My daughter does not lack either gentle guidance or stern discipline. She is familiar with the word "no," and is fully cognizant of what a spanking is. If you'd like to argue the validity of ADHD as a diagnosis, feel free to meet me in a back alley somewhere, because this Mama Bear don't play.

Anyway, repetitive action.

I like to knit and I enjoy hand sewing - even though I'm AWFUL at it and everything I ever sew always comes apart for some reason - and I even like to cross stitch. I love beading when my eyes cooperate with me, handwriting, coloring, woodworking. Sanding. I like painting.

While most of these things are not really bilateral, ALL of these things are meditative in their repetitive action. Knitting is simple - there are literally only two basic stitches and you just work them one after the other until you're done. Sewing is the same - the needle just goes into the fabric over and over again until you've got something you can hold up and shake out and be proud of.

Even the video games I tend to play are repetitive like this: Fashion Story, Farm Story. MahJong, Cross Stitch World. JetPack JoyRide.

Lately, Cross Stitch World is my favorite - it's meant to be digitized cross-stitching, but for me it feels more like a digital color-by-number sort of thing, not terribly engaging but relaxing all the same. I like it quite a lot; you're just filling in blocks of color, bit by bit, over and over, and it's very relaxing. Eden has fallen in love with it also.

And once I got to thinking about all that, it wasn't much of a stretch for me to realize that even the more mentally engaging activities I like are also heavily repetitive:
  • crochet - like knitting but with more stitch variety
  • word search
  • sudoku
  • twirling my rings
  • surfing the web (click, scroll, read, repeat)

The really interesting bit is that when I'm not anxious/stressed, these things tend to bore me.

Do you find repetitive action to be soothing or relaxing? If so, what works best for you?

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Friday Finds: Mother's Day Deals

I've been a mother now for 13 years, and nothing gives me understanding and compassion for my own mother like looking into the eyes of my children. Growing up, I often felt motherless - my mother suffered from PTSD long before the world knew that PTSD wasn't just reserved for soldiers.

My mother was a soldier in her own right, a warrior. When her first marriage collapsed and she found herself largely alone with two children to raise, she picked herself up and moved on. She coped in the best ways that she could, and she tried to pull herself together for my brother and I. She worked her ass off, but she made a life. She met a man when I was little, a man who was beautiful and charming, who was kind and sweet. He was the caretaker for his handicapped younger brother, and he loved my mother, my brother, and me.

His name was Greg, and he wanted us. He wanted to marry my mother.

She turned him down - she didn't want him tied to a ready-made family; he had just entered her 30s and he was in his early 20s. Now, as a single mother for the second time, raising children suffering under the pain of the loss of their dad's presence in their lives, I understand her.

Perhaps she was afraid he would leave too. Perhaps she saw that my brother and I loved him already, perhaps she was trying to protect us. She broke his heart, preventing him from breaking ours. And I understand that in a way I couldn't before, when I resented her for sending him away.

She believed again though eventually, and met a man who made her think he was perfect. He was charming and wild and fun. I imagine by that time in her life, exhausted and lonesome and tired of carrying everything herself, she saw what she wanted to see in him, because she needed a break and wanted a partner to share her life with. For so many years, I resented her for bringing him in to ruin our lives - I resented her for believing in the man he wasn't, for allowing him access to wreak havoc in our family. I despised her weakness and hated the lasting effects of her mistake in trusting him.

But I'm a mother now, single and carrying so many burdens on my own. I'm tired and I'm worn down and honestly, some days I don't think I can handle it all on my own. I want someone to stand next to me reassuringly. I want someone watching my back, a shoulder side-by-side with me in the battle of life. I want pillow talk and a man to fix the sink and a ring on my finger. I understand my mother, and the depth of emotional longing that once made her weak.

She's been single ever since that second marriage. She hasn't been on one date that I know of, hasn't been courted one time, hasn't given out her number, hasn't dressed up to go to a bar. She hasn't opened herself up.

And I understand what makes her strong now, what makes her ready and able and willing to stand alone - because I am all those things too now. I have felt trapped, and battered, and betrayed. I have felt cornered, and beaten, and broken. But like my mother, I have survived.

Scarred, yes. Changed? Yes.

But for the better, I think. Less naive, less dependent, less ... porous. And where once there were horribly shattered places, missing pieces, and ugly brokenness, there is now something new, something artfully beautiful, something stronger in the gold that binds it all together.

With more understanding, there is less resentment, less anger. I'm sorry for the time I've wasted with my mother, and with the tension that still lies between us due to our history and the jagged edges left behind by the past.

One of my biggest goals in writing is to reach financial success before she dies - to give her the satisfaction of knowing her daughter "became" something, and to give myself the certainty of two things:
  1. that she will go in peace, knowing that her children are alright; and
  2. that I will be able to care for and honor her in death the way I could never afford to in her life.

But there's still time yet, and she's still here - she'll be 59 years old next month. just under a week after Mother's Day. So, as I look forward to celebrating my mother, I thought this would be a great time to help you find a way to honor yours.

My mom's a total sucker for fancy-looking flower arrangements, and over the years she's filled her house with dozen of arrangements she's created with dried and realistic artificial flowers. In one corner of her living room, there's a giant vase so full it can no longer be lifted, with over a hundred bits and pieces of flowers and greenery arranged in it. So I know the last thing she needs is MORE flowers, but she so loves them that I thought a fruit bouquet would be a great substitute gift for her on Mother's Day! (promo code FBFREE expires May 31, 2017)

I really love these three shown in the banner below - aren't they cute? The photos are from the site's product pages on - I can't decide if I like the one in the middle or the one on the right more. (promo code FRUITNOW expires May 30, 2017)

Enjoy 20% Off sitewide on fresh fruits arrangements from Fruit Bouquets by! Use code FRUITNOW

And if your mom is a little crazy and doesn't love beautifully arranged chocolate covered fruit, why not send her a care package of beautiful things from DressLily? DressLily is great for the fashion-conscious gift-giver who likes their mom to look nice without going broke - their clearance section is always full of gorgeous things to wear, beautiful accessories, and fun little novelties that impress without breaking the bank, and actually, I've shopped from them before with great results.

Bonus: You can have a package delivered right to your mom's door, you can get 12% off sitewide, AND you can do it with free shipping - just use coupon code:2017DL  (promo code 2017DL expires July 31, 2017)

But what do you do for a mom who has everything? The mom who has her life together and literally needs nothing? When you know you're too old to get away with a handmade card and a rock you found beside the driveway? When you've become a parent yourself and now you understand all those times she used to say how tired she was? Or when you've REALLY messed up and you need to make things better with the woman who birthed you and raised you and loved you enough to not drown you in the bathtub?

Well, then I recommend picking up one or more of these fun but thoughtful gifts for moms.

Here's to a Happy Mother's Day for your mom in the next few weeks - and for you if, like me, you have a MUCH better understanding of your mom these days.

For more exclusive content and rewards, support me on Patreon!

*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!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wednesday Wish #1

I go through these weird phases in my life where I just want stuff, and even if I can buy it (which I often can't, #singlemomlife), I don't. I'll make a wish list and I'll wish and wish for that list of things until I'm not wishing for fervently anymore - and then I'll let it go.

But sometimes I wish for something in a way that's lasting, something that's such a deep desire in my heart that I just know it's there to stay. So today, I thought I'd start off a new segment and share with you a list of some things I've been wishing for.

The thing I've been wanting the most fervently lately ... is an RV. I've always had a desire to travel, and what better place to begin than in my own country? There's so much to see in America, so many places to fall in love with - and the idea of being able to see it all without having to constantly pack and unpack just seems utterly perfect to me. I also love the idea of taking Chance and the girls on the road with me, boondocking our way from city to city as we travel, finding campgrounds on lakesides, in mountains, national parks. I could even imagine myself homeschooling them on the road - although the idea of homeschooling two super-hyped ADHD'ers in an RV is more than a little horrifying for introverted me.

I've been looking at RV types and styles, floor plans, decor ideas organizational ideas and suggestions - you name it, I've been looking at it. And the RV dream has actually become so solid recently that I've even mentioned it several times in my Patreon goals. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure there would be outright mutiny with the girls if I attempted the RV life with them in tow - they're pretty social and seriously attached to the idea of staying in their schools where they've got friendships and routines they can count on.

I don't have the heart to take that from them, so even if I had the money to purchase and move into an RV right this second (I wish!), I wouldn't do it just yet. But in the future? Well, let's just say the RV is a solid top item on my bucket list now. Lately, I've been seriously drooling over the Jayco Jay Feather 23RBM, but if I were able to talk the girls into the life (and also win the lottery), then I think I'd switch and go for the 23BHM.

But hey, the RV is pretty far in the future, so let's go with something a bit more possible, shall we? What do you think of these things I've been wishing for?

I don't know why, but I feel like this is one of the coolest candles ever created. You for real wind it up because it's this long string of beeswax, and it burns for SO LONG. There are even refill spools of it. So cool!

And then there are these puzzles, which are so gorgeous and I love that they're shaped like butterflies! I can totally imagine putting them together and mounting them to something so they can be hung together on the wall. But where to start?

Then there are these charms. I love my charm bracelet - when I was a kid, I wanted a charm bracelet with all my heart, and it took me forever to finally get myself one! But now that I have one (I got it a couple years ago), I've had lots of fun choosing charms for it. I've even gotten some great ones as gifts! These two charms would be so perfect to add to my bracelet, too - the penguin because penguins mate for life and I'm still looking for mine, and the genie lamp because Robin Williams' death broke my heart - I can't even listen to the Genie now without hating the idea that he's not out there in the world anymore. I know there were LOTS of unclear circumstances around his death, but just the suggestion that he fell victim to suicide pains me. To know the way his death hurts my heart even though I never met him ... that has held me back so many times, kept me alive for my daughters, for my family and the people who love me. It never matters how much I might be hurting - so long as I keep having the courage not to pass it on in that way. So the Genie's lamp has become sort of my semi-colon.

And that's it - just a few things I've been wishing for lately. What are you wishing for?

For more great content and other exclusive rewards, visit me on Patreon!

*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, April 24, 2017

Monday Minute: Time To Evolve

Summer's coming. Spring is in full bloom here and the birds are plentiful. Everywhere, there are robins, their proud little chests blazing from the barren brown of their feathers as they search for worms.

On the front porch of our house, there's a birdhouse hanging, too small for any bird to actually live in. The hole on the front is barely bigger than an average watch face - and yet, there is life in that little house. A woodpecker that would likely fit neatly into the palm of Eden's hand lives there, ever so cautiously. He flees the little house whenever we're on the porch, and comes back only if we're very still, very quiet - or gone inside.

Summer's coming. The rainstorms are coming in, washing away the pollen clouds, nurturing the soil, encouraging thirsty flowers to reach for the sun. Temperatures are going up already, and in the afternoons, the sun blazes down while Eden and I wait at the middle school for Joey to get out. I already have a good start on my left-forearm tan, and the skin there is constantly itchy because I'm just the slightest bit allergic to the sun. I put loads of lotion there daily, battling the summer dryness.

The kids will be out of school soon, bored at home and always underfoot. They'll be here, where I'll watch them grow, where I'll prepare their meals and watch them go brown under the summer sun. There will be bickering, messiness, and laughter. There will be frustration and tears as we tire of each other's company - but there will be joy in the time we spend together. But they'll be here.

And, judging by the way they've been so needy with their dad not being around, by the way they've been so much more ... everything ... I'm going to have to change things up a bit in order to meet their needs while still taking care of my own.


While it will be nice to have the kids around so we can hang out and strengthen our bonds as a family, it will also be overwhelming. I'm a mother who fights depression every single day, a mother who battles anxiety constantly. I'm a mother who gets easily overwhelmed with too much noise, a mother who tires easily.

A mother of two kids with anxiety, two kids with ADHD, two kids with abandonment issues.

It's going to be a busy summer.

So here's what I'm doing to prepare, and to make sure that the girls and I all make it to the fall intact.

Beginning in May, I'll be dropping my blog writing from every second day to every third day - at least for the summer. This will mean two things: 
  1. I'll have more time for fiction writing, which I miss dearly.
  2. I'll be able to focus more on building and utilizing my Patreon account.

What's Patreon?

Patreon, in short, is awesome. It's a social media site, basically -  but with A LOT less drama. You set up a profile (if you want to), and use that profile to follow and support (if you want to) your favorite content creators. It's a pretty varied makeup on there too - you can find YouTubers, writers, musicians, photographers, comedians, comic artists ... you name it, and it's probably there if you know where to look. The great thing about it is that creators like me can interact with our most loyal supporters in a whole new way.

Like Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media, content creators can share messages, audio files, videos, photos, etc. We can talk with our supporters, exchange comments, and build community in the way that we all love. The best thing about this is that if you follow or sign up to support me on Patreon, Patreon will actually email you whenever I post something - so you won't be missing things like you probably are with Facebook and other social media networks.

This is totally free to do, and you can even go check my Patreon out right here for nothing more than the time it takes you to click and explore. You can see my goals for the page, a little bit more about me and why I have it, and even check out the - admittedly quite few - public posts I've got up.

Should you be interested in going beyond that (for me, or for any other creator you love) just check out the reward tiers your creator has set up, click Become A Patron, and follow the prompts to get yourself connected. I like to think my reward tiers are pretty fun - they allow you to support me in a very real way while helping to allow me to stay focused on writing. Check it out:
  • For $1 a month, you'll get access to a whole series of short stories - I've been publishing one every month since October, and these are totally exclusive. They won't be sold or posted elsewhere anytime soon. Each one is around 2000 words, so it's a quick but pleasurable read, usually with a romantic spin and sometimes with a suspenseful twist. At some point, there will also likely be erotica, horror, fantasy ... I'll write whatever I'm inspired to write, and I'm loving the idea that my Patrons will be along for the ride.
  • For $2 a month, you have access to something a bit more personal - my poetry. I'll be posting a poem once a month, and patrons on the $2 tier will get to read it AND the short stories! The cool thing about each new tier upgrade with Patreon is that you get everything on the lower tiers, too.
Access this story - and more - for just $1 a month by signing up here.

I have a bunch of other tiers too, which go all the way up to $20 a month, and include things like monthly podcasts, early access to my novel writing, and even chances to read along and guide the direction of my novels! One of my favorite tiers is the $3 tier, where you get to participate in a monthly vote to decide what short story will be posted in the coming month - that one has been the best and most fun challenge of all of them.

I'm sort of slowly moving toward using Patreon more and other social media less, because I feel more confident that when I post there, the people who follow me will actually SEE my content; in the future, I'd like to add even more content to this page, such as daily statuses, behind-the-scenes writing info and photos, and maybe even those vlogs I keep talking about wanting to try. Last week I got a GREAT new idea that I'm SO EXCITED about - but I'm holding off until the page reaches a few more of its goals.

But I'll still be here too, creating the same content as always - sharing my life, myself, and my journey with all of you. And whether it's here on the blog or over on Patreon - thank you for your support. It means everything.

For more content like this, and other exclusive rewards, check me out on Patreon!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Storytime Saturday: A Tale Of Two Books

My life is a busy one and I play a lot of roles on a daily basis. As a writer, I'm a blogger (lifestyle), an author (romance, fantasy, and suspense), a business owner, an entrepreneur. I'm an amateur marketer (with LOTS to learn), a networker (but not an extrovert), a (mostly boring) social media personality. As a mother, I'm a (strong) counselor, a (calm) taxi driver. I'm a (decent) cook, a (reluctant) maid, a (steady) shoulder to lean on, an (earnest) ear that will listen. As a woman? As a woman, I'm a (passionate) writer and a (steadfast) mother. I'm a (sometimes) knitter and a (sometimes) crocheter, I'm a (voracious) reader. I'm a (bad) singer who loves music, a (spastic) journaler who loves the freedom of writing things out, a (devoted) dog handler.

I love photography, art, fashion, makeup. I love movies and TV when I make time, and I really really miss watching WWE.

I'm angsty and angry and bored. I'm calm and confident - I'm courageous. I'm depressed and disgusted; I'm elated, excited, embarrassed. I'm frustrated. I'm grateful. I'm grief-stricken. I'm happy - and hopeful. I'm intense. I'm jealous, kind, lonely. I'm modest. I'm nervous, I'm obnoxious, I'm patient, I'm proud. I'm quick. I am repentant. I am sad, I am shamed, and I am sorry. I'm terrified. I'm unhappy - I'm vulnerable. I'm filled with wonder. I am xenial. I am youthful. I am zany. I am. I'm made up of so many things, so many little parts that all come together to make me this specific woman.

But if I had to pick one thing that really makes me what I am as a human, as a woman, as a mother, as a writer - it would be books.

So let me tell you a tale. A Tale of Two Books.


Long ago, in a time that should have been simpler but wasn't, there walked a damaged girl. Small of stature and weak of build, still she stood tall and struggled through the challenges she faced. Alas, she was a strange girl, full of inconsistency. The girl was sometimes too quiet, sometimes too loud, with a face that often looked on the verge of tears, with blue eyes already haunted at far too young an age. She was conflicted.

The child in her loved Barbies, but the woman in her loved to make the Barbies kiss the Kens.

The child in her loved stories, but the woman in her longed for romance.


In a store she walked with her father, proud to be with him. It was in the time before their bond truly began to splinter, in the time when she would hold his hand and he would lead her, proud of her.

An endcap hung beside the cash register, filled with paperbacks - lady porn. The covers were tasteful, - mostly understated, without much texture. A pale yellow one stood out, with it's title standing out from the paper. The girl lifted the book, silent - and ran her fingers over the embossed print, the hint of smile on her lips. The book wasn't heavy or particularly thick, but it was magical and she knew it.

She asked to keep it - the request was granted.

The afternoon flew by for the girl in a blaze of pages; the beautiful flowing prose and magically musical dialogue of historical romance entranced her. The characters were a family - they loved each other, tenderly adored and fiercely protected each other. To the family in the story, the virtue and honor of their women - of their daughters - was of utmost value and importance.

For the girl, curled in desperate hunger around the book, this was a world unknown, an alternate universe - one very like her own in appearance, but with entirely new undertones.

There was a man in the story, a playboy ashamed of his parentage and acting like a petulant child long after the days when he should have stopped. Through a series of thrilling accidental events, the man ended up husband to the most beloved of the Mallory daughters ... and the girl, still curled around the book but now in abject fascination, entered a world where sex was different, too.

A world where sex was gentle and willing and tender. A world where physical affection was a good, safe thing, a world where people were allowed - and even expected - to be honest about their feelings, their needs, their desires. Their hurts.


The book haunted the girl, touching and influencing every part of who she became as a woman, from her need for earnest and open communication, to her lingering fascination with the muscular workings of the male body, to the type and style of sex that she preferred. Through it all, an expectation rested in the depths of her soul, a hope as fragile as a fog of smoke, a wish so fervent it could never even be whispered aloud.

Through the powerful influence of the first story, the girl birthed tens of her own stories. Dozens, hundreds. She wove her problems into worlds where problems could be solved, wrote her feelings into tangible things that could be dealt with, played with. Healed. Countless stories died at her hands, in her hands - more often than not, against her will, characters dissipating into frustrating nothingness, plotlines lost in the vomitus of too much narrative detail.

She fell in love with the power of words, with the artful arrangement, with the sense of mastery that filled her only when she sculpted simple words into colorful visions. The girl fell in love with the malleability of her characters, with the way she could dissect them to figure out how they worked, and learn to put them back together again, better than before - something she didn't have the skill to do for herself.

She became a woman - a woman touched by grief and greed, by tragedy and heartache. And in the midst of crisis, she brought to life another story ... one that survived. One that followed itself all the way through until the end, one that didn't wisp away on the wind like a dandelion seed in flight.

She took a myth, a legend, a Celtic fantasy, and brought it into the modern day, transformed it, gave it a flavor only she could sprinkle into the recipe that is a story. She created characters that feel, that smell, that taste, characters that joke and play - and hurt and cry.

That book - that second influential and incredibly meaningful story - sparked a flame that changed a series of lives, that moved a world of mountains, that provided a way for a lost girl to find hope. To create wholeness. To build "home."


These two books - Johanna Lindsey's LOVE ONLY ONCE and my own SELKIE - still mean the world to that girl. To that woman.

To me.

For more content like this, as well as other exclusive rewards, check me out on Patreon!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Thankful Thursday: The Importance of Support

This post was supposed to be about gratitude, and I guess it still will be, in some ways. It's about support, and how important it is for us as humans to feel valued and cared for. To feel supported and backed up, to feel held by the arms of humanity, especially when we're in our most vulnerable state.

When we're tired. When we're beaten, broken. When we're sick.

When I was a child, lacking the support of parents who made me a priority, I was targeted by people who abused me. I received support instead from the court system. I was moved into a group home. There wasn't enough room for me there, either. But they chose me, took me in, and made it work. I was placed in a house full of troubled teenaged girls - I was in third, maybe fourth grade. A kleptomaniac taught me how to shave my legs in that house - she and I shared a bathroom (we had Jack-and-Jill bathrooms on that side of the house), and when it was "lights-out" and our bedroom door locks were activated by the security system, we would sneak into that little bathroom together, block the crack at the bottoms of the doors with towels, and sit on the floor, chatting into the night. I wish I could remember her name. I wish I could know where she is, how she ended up. She was like a sister to me in that house - she was the one who made sure that when it was movie night, we watched Mary Poppins because she couldn't believe I hadn't seen it.

When I was a tween, newly removed from the group home (against my will, because I had felt safer in that group home than I could remember ever feeling elsewhere) and lacking the support of parents who could understand my grief and my struggles (to be fair, this is because they were by this time dealing with plenty of their own), I found support in my friendships. There was a girl named Jewel who lived near my mom and I, just a few trailers over, and we would play this game together: we'd go to Jewel's mom and tell her that my mom needed to borrow a cigarette, and then we'd go to my mom and tell her Jewel's mom needed to borrow a cigarette. This way we had two cigarettes between us, and we'd hop on our bikes and ride over to the bank across the street, which always seemed to be closed. We'd ride into the drive-through lane closest to the building and sit there and smoke together. When one cigarette each wasn't enough anymore, sometimes we'd hit the neighbors up too.

By the time I was in my teen years, I like to think that I was a bit more well-adjusted - well, as adjusted as a kid who had been through what I had been through could be. My mom had already almost died, had lost most of the fingers on her left hand, had had bedrest because of a skin-eating infection that left a gaping wound in her body that my grandmother had to pack with gauze. The stepfather who had nearly killed her was gone to prison, and we lived with my grandmother. But my mother was in no position to be a mother, and as the years wore on, her health remained terribly fragile. Eventually, her health (and the litany of endless medications, tests, and surgeries) all took a toll on her psychological strength. My grandmother was overburdened with five grandchildren and a suddenly disabled daughter to take care of - she was irritable and she felt very strict to me. I was there with her, and she saw me fed, clothed, and cared for - I had toys and things - but I never felt welcome or wanted.

I was fifteen when my mother attempted suicide in front of me, pouring a bottle of pills into her mouth, drinking water from the kitchen faucet to wash them down. She bit me when I crammed my hand into her mouth to dig them back out, and we fought until we hit the floor. I don't know what the pills were, but they were fast. She lost consciousness. I called 911. She was taken out in an ambulance to have her stomach pumped, and I was on my own for the weekend - the only "adult" available to look after me was my 18 year old boyfriend, who stayed with me.

I sought solace in him, and in my friendships. In my closeness with my cousin, in the collection of people I built around myself - kids who "got" me, because they were in many ways as broken as I was. I sought support, and in the girl who had been molested, the girl who had been beaten, the boy who had been violated, I found understanding. I found myself, and through that companionship, I found a sense of safety I hadn't known it was possible to find. I found the truest sense of the word "family."

That family, the family I built for myself over the years, is largely still in place. My cousin, those friends - all of us still living with our own personal battles, all of us still living life working around the tender scars left by the wounded children inside us.

Those people though - those people who have been so many times lost and hurt and broken by this journey we call life ... without them, I would never have found the part of me that tries to turn words into art, into magic. Without them, I would never have been so comfortable being ME that I could accept the little quirk of personality that is my spirit-driven need to write. Without them, you wouldn't be reading this.

So, to my friends, my family, my loved ones, my readers ... to everyone behind the scenes, holding my hand and patting my shoulder, talking me through crisis after crisis ... those who encourage me to take terrifying steps into the unknown even now, for the sake of a tomorrow I'm still hoping to make it to ...

Thank you for your support. With all of my love, and from the deepest, darkest, most inaccessible reaches of my shriveled, damaged little heart ... thank you. (Even and especially you, Dana. Because this time, you count.)

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tuesday Talk: Easter Recap

I have to say, leading up to Easter Sunday was super stressful for me. I spent the weekend obsessing over everything - things I got for the girls, things I didn't get for the girls. Upcoming deadlines, school stuff, the impending summer break and it's possible impact on my ability to keep up with my workload. Page views, finances, my goals. My future. My dreams. By Saturday afternoon I felt totally frenzied, struggling to keep up with my own thoughts and the things that were weighing me down. I was frustrated and frazzled, and I was hating it.

Somehow, I still managed to push through all the things that were going on, finish my work stuff for the weekend, and even find some downtime. I still don't even know how I did it.

But Sunday picked up bright and sunshiny - I woke up before the kids, which gave me a few minutes to just get my mind in order before the girls got moving. They went to church with their Grandma for the morning, and I had time to sit back and enjoy the quiet. I spent some time in my Bible, spent some time working, and managed to talk myself into wearing something a little less "everyday," even though I had no plans to go anywhere for the day.

It worked out well; the kids came home happy and ready to spend the day hanging out together, and even though we didn't get around to the Mad Libs game I had meant to implement into our day,  I took the time (while Eden worked on a craft and Josephine texted back and forth with her friends) to make these:

We ended up taking the orange berry stems off the wreath on the left (do you think they looked a little out of place?), but overall, I'm proud of these and they look great hanging up!

From there, we moved on to the classic Easter Egg Hunt - the girls had stuffed a bunch of plastic eggs with candies, and I took the bag out to stash the eggs around our front yard and the sides of our house. There were around sixty eggs, and we had four kids at the house hunting - my two girls, their slightly older uncle, and his girlfriend. While I was hiding the eggs, though, I found these:

Robin eggs!
They were in a bush around the side of our house, just barely above waist level. We have some (I think they are) boxwood bushes around the side, and there's a bit of a gap behind them, just before you get to the fence that closes in the backyard; I had intended to drop a small treasure trove of eggs in that back corner, for any kid thorough enough to venture that far and brave enough to reach down into that gap. But as I got closer, the last bush came alive in a flurry of beating wings.

I had frightened the mother with my closeness, and she in turn had frightened me with the suddenness of her panic. It drew my attention - had she sat there waiting still, I would likely never have noticed her, as I was focused on my task and enjoying the pleasant surprise of what was shaping up to be a truly beautiful holiday. But she wasn't still, and I peered into the gap between the branches of the bush.

This of course frightened the mother bird further - she flew the bush entirely and perched herself in the tree above, watching me carefully as I leaned in. I touched nothing, and stayed only long enough to take this picture (I wanted to show the kids, but wasn't sure it would be wise to actually show them, lest they come back unattended and disturb the nest.). I had seen bird's nests many times before, up in the trees above me, usually abandoned, their roundness standing stark against the winter-bare branches. I had never seen one with real eggs in it before though, and even I was tempted to reach out, to see if they would feel as solid as they looked, nestled there together.

I didn't. But it changed the tone of the entire day, brought a new sense of magic into the impending egg hunt. This Easter, we found much more than Skittles and Spree, something much more colorful than a Ring Pop and far more lovely than even the most beautiful Easter baking. We found new life in the most literal sense - and in the more figurative, we found signs of the end of what has for us been a long winter. I found a promise of hope and encouragement, the magic of new beginnings.

And, something else to worry about when Patrick doesn't come home at night.

That wretched and blessed cat brought me a hatchling last week, a baby bird still bald and featherless. Needless to say, what he must have thought would be an extremely welcome gift was NOT well received.

I'll be checking on the robin eggs daily.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sunday Soiree: Last Minute Easter Fun

Most of the time, most of us like to think we've got things together. We've set traditions in place, so we know from year to year what we'll be doing on New Year's Eve, on Memorial Day, on Independence Day, on Labor Day. On Thanksgiving and Christmas.

On Easter.

But if you're like me, sometimes you drop the ball, and you don't plan ahead as well as you wish you had. If you're like me, for various reasons you haven't been as able to set traditions in place as you wanted to be. If you're like me ... you're looking for some last minute Easter fun, and you're hoping that it'll work out well enough to be recycled next year - thus a tradition is born.

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Now, don't get me wrong here, I haven't totally failed to set certain traditions in place. For instance, at least once on Easter Day, my kids get so overexcited that they get in trouble and I have to hit 'em with a fierce "mom look" to get them back in order. At least once, the dog gets ahold of something he shouldn't have eaten (he's allergic to gluten) and I have to give him a stern word (and a benadryl) to keep him from chewing his itchy paws off when the gluten sets in.

Mostly, though, we try to keep it low-stress and have a good day together. Here are some of the ways we accomplish that (or will be, going forward):

Invite The Easter Bunny:

Every year, my girls and I make sure to take care of Santa. We put out milk and cookies, and we even sprinkle reindeer food in the front yard. So I'm thinking it'll be lots of fun to start making sure we invite the Easter Bunny. I know Joey's getting just about too old to really believe in the various magical holiday creatures - but keeping that magic alive for Eden is still important, and activities like this are a great way to eventually pull Josephine into the fold of magicians who create holiday magic for children each year.

But we'll change it up a bit, according to a great idea I found on Pinterest - instead of leaving food, we'll create a path of bunny footprints with our favorite sidewalk chalk:

Craft Something Special:

Confession: I hate dyeing Easter eggs. I hate the whole idea of it. It's messy, it's smelly, and even though it's fun for the kids, it honestly just feels like work to me. I'd rather skip Easter entirely, to tell you the truth. So we actually don't really dye Easter eggs - but I found another pin (thank you Pinterest for always filling in the gaps) that means we can still get our craft on, making something fun to celebrate the holiday together. And we can even spend the next three weeks eating deviled eggs , cobb salads, and egg salad sandwiches like everyone else, too! Here's how it works:

  • Hardboil your eggs according to your chosen method. I'm not going to suggest one here because sometimes people get really passionate about this, and it's Easter. Not the right day for bickering over egg boiling techniques.
  • Let the eggs cool to room temperature and be sure they're dry.
  • Apply floral, spring-themed, or actual Easter-themed temporary tattoos to the eggs. You can use whatever you want, really, but if you're planning on calling them Easter eggs, shouldn't they be Easter-y? Be sure to use small ones that'll fit on or around your eggs without too much wrinkling!
  • Enjoy beautiful eggs that didn't possibly-permanently change the color of your clothing, your skin, your carpet, your cat, and the toe of your left shoe.

Speaking Of Eggs:

Again, Josephine is a little old for this, but she's still into it in some small ways, and Eden still thinks it's a ton of fun (actually, we also like doing scavenger-hunt type activities for other holidays, too). Still, the one thing about Easter that I'm really less-than-thrilled with (other than messy egg-dyeing), is the obsessive focus on candy treats.

And before y'all get all up in arms like I'm trying to deprive my children of sugary goodness, let me point out that they have a plus-sized mom. This means treats are obviously not a rarity in our household. Moving on:

Just because I don't want my ADHD kids hopped up on sugar overload all day long (every day for the next week or more) doesn't mean I don't want Easter egg hunts to be fun, rewarding, AND delicious. So I try to add other elements to the fun. Here are my favorite "rules" for the best Easter Egg hunt for all ages:

  1. Color-code your eggs. This helps to ensure that slower or less-observant egg-hunter don't end up frustrated and embarrassed by their lack of eggs. It also helps with this:
  2. Make the content of your hidden eggs age-appropriate. For girls as old as my teen, it would be fun to include small make-up samples, jewelry items or new beads for her European charm bracelet. For children in younger age groups, you could try small My Little Pony figures, hair bows, plastic jewelry, Barbie clothing or shoes, Shopkins,, etc. For kids of all ages, Lego figures would be perfect. You could also use money, Chuck E Cheese tokens (which in themselves, carry the promise of a fun outing to come), stickers, beads, small pots of acrylic paint or other craft supplies ... if it'll fit, the possibilities are endless. Another great idea is to stuff each egg with one piece of a puzzle, making the egg-hunt a two-part activity that teaches teamwork.
  3. DON'T be a spaz. DO include candy and other edible items! But be smart about it - no one wants to find an egg in which the delicious chocolate has turned to mush. So stick with other things that won't melt quickly, like jelly beans, Skittles, Starbursts, chewy Sprees, Whoppers Robin's Eggs, etc. Maybe those little mini boxes of Nerds would fit, especially if you're using big eggs. And if you're more health-conscious but still want to have food-filled eggs as part of your hunt, you can use dried fruits, nuts, pieces of cereal - even bits of jerky!
  4. Don't be afraid to bring the fun inside. If you aren't outdoorsy, or if it's already super hot where you live (or if it's raining), then don't be shy about closing your kids into one room of the house and using all the other rooms as your hiding grounds. Stash eggs in the cupboards, under the furniture, behind the pillows. Hide them in the microwave, behind your plant decor, in the toy box. Cover them with blankets, tuck them behind backpacks, drop them into shoes. Again, endless possibilities here.
  5. COUNT YOUR EGGS. Especially if you've got eggs stuffed with food items - make sure that if you hid fifty eggs, your little team of egg-hunters found fifty eggs. (If you're forgetful like me, make a little map of where you hid the eggs - then if the kids can't find them all, give them the map and have them check all your stash places for eggs that haven't been discovered. And it doesn't have to be an art project, it can be as simple as a list: "Mom's left shoe, under the center couch pillow, microwave, silverware drawer ...")

Print Your Way To An Awesome Easter:

Just because it's last minute doesn't mean you can't still create a great holiday for your family. And that doesn't mean the whole holiday has to be kid-centered, either. A quick Google search will point you in the direction of any number of Easter activities for all ages, such as printable coloring pages, word searches, mazes, and even Bingo! I'd be willing to bet it wouldn't be too hard to find some Easter-themed Mad Libs, either, which is one of the new things I'll be implementing this year with my little ones.

And lastly ...

Remember What It Means:

We're a Christian family, so just like we talk about the birth of Christ at Christmas time, we talk about His willing sacrifice at Easter. My children know about the cross, they know about crucifixion, and they know about a temple that was torn asunder. They know about a man who willingly took on the weight of the world - out of love for the world. They know about a God who shed his majesty and put on a meat suit so that He could come here and literally take a walk in our shoes. 

Remember, they're 13 and 7. So I'm not saying they totally get it just yet, or understand the implication of what it all means spiritually. But they know. For Joey, this has begun to take on a bit more meaning as conversations with her grow more deep, but for Eden, it really boils down to this: 

"We all mess up sometimes, and we break the rules. And when we break the rules, we should accept discipline appropriate to the level of our disobedience. Sometimes this means corner minutes. Other times, especially if you keep messing up over and over, it's a spanking. Sometimes, if you've done something pretty bad, it's both. And in the grown-up world, where breaking the rules sometimes means violation of someone else's safety and wellbeing, sometimes the punishment for breaking the rules is death.

Lucky for us, God loves us. He loves us enough to offer us grace and mercy. And if you can believe that I, as your mother, would step in front of a bear to protect you, or a tiger, or a lion, or a robber, even knowing that I'm going to die because I stepped in to give you time to run - then it's not that far of a stretch to believe that the God who made you exactly like this, with great thought and on purpose, would also do the same. He could have run away. He could have hidden in a cave. But he didn't. He took our punishment so we don't have to sacrifice goats and oxen anymore in order to make an appropriate apology. He took our punishment so that we could shed the Levitical law and taste the freedom of His mercy."

It boils down to this. He took our punishment. Out of love.

Regardless of your beliefs or traditions, I hope that if you're celebrating Easter, it's a spectacular one for your family!

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Friday Food: Simple Single Mom Recipes (Nachos)

Sometimes life gets hectic - and it's even more so for a single mom. That's why, when the Midlife Guru left this comment on my "I Can't Vlog" blog post, it got me thinking:
"I haven't watched a vlog before but it seems like a good way to spend some extra time because it is a twofer: blog information and a video. You can write a great script and act it out. A topic that would be interesting with your challenges would be meal time. I bet you have a lot of quick meals and that your dinner conversation is a lot of fun!! Good luck."
Some of you will remember that comment because it's the same one I referenced in my "Flatline/Rollercoaster" post from earlier this week. (Thanks, Midlife Guru!) Now, I know this still isn't a vlog, but that's because I still can't vlog (even though Dana's still urging me to try) - but I'm fully confident that a blog post can still get the point across just fine without y'all having to watch me act like a spaz. It's a win-win, trust me.

Still, I thought it might be fun to actually share some of our favorite meals here with you guys - I know that my readers are from a somewhat varied demographic too, so I'm starting this series with something totally simple. It's not the healthiest meal option, but it's quick, it's fun, the kids love it, and I often have leftovers - which makes it perfect for feeding a bigger family than ours or even serving in a party setting (are MLB parties a thing? I mean, I know NFL parties are a thing, but ...). I also love that this recipe is super affordable, so it works in a pinch. It's also mostly made of non-perishable items, so it's easy enough to keep the ingredients on hand.

As you can see, there are lots of ingredients here. I know - overwhelming, right? You'll need:
  • 1 28 ounce can of petite diced tomatoes, mostly drained (The brand doesn't matter all that much.)
  • 1 10 ounce can of diced tomatoes and chilies, about half drained (I use Rotel, but you can use any kind.)
  • 16 ounces (about half of the large 32 ounce block) of Velveeta Cheese (You can use more or less according to your preferences - this isn't really exact.)

For the sake of this post, I kept it simple, but you can also add any of the following:
  • spinach and artichokes
  • browned, diced bacon
  • browned, ground sausage or beef (or both, but of course you'll need more cheese) - or chicken, pepperoni, or any other meat diced or shredded
  • salsa verde
  • beans (maybe with some chili seasoning?)
  • caramelized onions (maybe best with the queso blanco from Velveeta instead of the classic)

As you can see, the options with this recipe are pretty limitless, as are the dipping options. You can make just about any variety of this dip and serve if as a dip with chips or ever tater tots, but you can also serve it poured over chips (like nachos), tater tots or fries, etc. And it's really this easy to make:

Turn your burner to somewhere between low and medium (not high enough to curdle everything, but not low enough to take all night). If you planned on adding any ground beef or sausage, you can go ahead and brown that in this pan first, then drain the fat off before adding the tomatoes, Rotel, and cheese. This will cook up faster if you take the time to dice the cheese first, but if you just plop it in there like I did, it'll still turn out just fine.

Another thing to love about this recipe - it's pretty forgiving, so you can adjust ingredients and ingredient amounts all you want (within reason) without messing up the dinner.

See? There's still a chunk in there next to the spoon that hadn't melted just yet. Ten minutes later, everything was melted and dinner was served. We poured the cheese over Tostitos tortilla chips - we like the bite-sized rounds best! And for less than ten dollars, we all went to bed smiling with full bellies.

Now, granted, we don't have indulgent dinners like this all the time - but sometimes you just gotta let loose, and this is a great dinner for movie nights, casual Fridays, or any night when you've gotta get fed quick before heading out to ball practice, ballet recitals, or Karate.

You can also adapt this to use low-fat/low-sodium ingredients too, and it makes great leftovers - it'll solidify in the refrigerator, so you just scoop some off into a bowl and heat in the microwave, stirring every 45 seconds or so until it's all melted.

See? It's the perfect quick, simple recipe.

Have you made this (or something like it for your family before? If you have, tell me your favorite add-ins in the comments! 

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wednesday Would You Rather: Flatline VS Rollercoaster?

Recently, I got a comment that got me thinking. It was from the Midlife Guru, and the comment was left on this post about why I don't vlog even though I'd like to try - the commenter said (in part): "I bet [...] that your dinner conversation is a lot of fun!!"

That ended up sparking a whole post segment series for me, because dinner conversation between my girls and I usually IS a lot of fun (especially when it's just us and we're free to speak openly - and sometimes even loudly). We're the kind of weird people who actually like dinnertime conversation, getting-to-know-you questions, date-night interviews, would-you-rather questions, and all that kind of stuff. So naturally, I thought that would be a great aspect of my life to share here.

My kids and I have had some really great chats over the years, and I like to think these conversations are part of why our bond is such a tight one - we've gotten to know each other so well, not just as mother and daughters, but as people.

We've talked about lots of things that wouldn't really come up in everyday conversation too, like:
  • "Would you rather be famous for your singing, or famous for your dancing?"
  • "If you could say anything you wanted to anyone you wanted, consequence-free, what would you say?"
  • "Sight, smell, touch, taste, or hear - which could you give up?" And conversely, "If you could only keep one, which would you choose?"
  • "You just got informed that you're incredibly wealthy and can now have/buy literally anything you could ever want. What's the first thing you buy?"
And of course, the obvious ones like:
  • "If you could have any superpower, what would it be?"
  • "If you were suddenly invisible, where would you go?"
  • "Iced tea or hot tea?"
  • "Snickers or Twix?"

And now for today's question: "Would you rather live a lifetime of ONLY flatline (boring, ordinary) days, or would you rather live a lifetime of ONLY rollercoaster (always ups and downs) days?"

So yeah. We're starting out easy, right? Not.

I mean, who wants to live a boring life, am I right? One flatline day after another, the kind of ordinary life made up of moments where the most excitement you'll EVER have is listening to the sugar falling into your coffee? Days upon days of nothing ever happening? I mean, sure, there's nothing bad - but there's nothing good either. No grief, but also no thrill.

But me, I've already had the rollercoaster life. I've already had thirty-three years of grief intermingled with elation. I've lost loved ones. I've loved people who didn't love me back. I've been rejected, lied to, denied. I've been cheated, I've been hurt. I've seen some of the very worst this world has to offer, from violence to mental illness to addiction, to sexual deviance and abuse, to the true toxicity of what a textbook narcissist really is. I've been ignored, neglected. I've thought more than once, "I've had close, personal contact with a real-life psychopath," and I've got the psychological scars to prove it.

But I've also created life, brought into the world two little girls who began as nothing more than specks within this body I spent so many years despising. I kissed their impossibly tiny toes. I brushed their hair, showed them how to set lost teeth out for the tooth fairy. I've helped them prepare for Santa's coming, celebrated their birthdays, recounted the stories of their beginnings. I've loved, fully and wholeheartedly, with sometimes reckless abandon. I've worshiped at the temple of a man's body, had a man worship at the temple of mine. I've had butterflies. I've known the joy of feeling truly accepted, the freedom of knowing someone's out there on my side. I've felt the pride of earning my own money, the joy of driving for the first time, the surge of emotion that always accompanies getting the puppy-eyes look from Chance. I've been loved, trusted, cared for. I've been held. I've been asked for guidance, for advice.

I've born the weight of what sometimes feels like impossible responsibility, with all its burdens and all its joys, all its ups and all its downs.

And the truth is, I wouldn't trade the rollercoaster for the flatline at all. After all, this is the ride I was born on - I might as well have the courage to ride it out.

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In The Comments:
  • What was your answer to today's question, and why did you choose what you chose?
  • What questions would you like to see on future Would You Rather posts?

*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, April 10, 2017

Monday Minute: Excuses, Excuses.

Last week I gave you my confessions, a simple list of true things I wanted to confess. Today I'm giving my excuses, which is basically the same thing, but sprinkled with shame. Lucky for me, this is a therapy day, so I'm gonna go get my head shrunk and hopefully I'll be my mostly-normal self again by Wednesday.

In the meantime, here's a list of all the things that are wrong with this post - along with my excuses for all those things.

Thing 1: There isn't a pretty graphic to go with this post.

  • I lack the emotional energy to create one. I literally can't even. So I'm not.

Thing 2: This isn't even pretending to be a real post. It's got a theme, sure, but it ISN'T even close to following along with the plan-with-me style that I wanted to adopt for this segment.
  • Again, I can't even. Thursday, I found out Eden's going to need surgery again. Next month. I'm so exhausted with surgeries. Mothers should NEVER get used to signing anesthesia waivers that basically say, "I know you might kill my kid, but please proceed." It's the most horrible feeling on the planet - and it's even worse because ... you know what? Sometimes a woman just needs to be wrapped up in someone who will pet her hair and tell her it's all going to be okay and make her believe it. I haven't had that in a LONG time.
  • I'm tired. Single momming is hard even without the constant issues. I don't sleep well even on my best days, and these recent ones have not been my best. I'm exhausted.
  • I'm discouraged. I hit a milestone this week that I've been super excited about, but I made the mistake of sharing my excitement over that with the wrong person and came out feeling about two inches tall and totally beaten down.
  • I'm in the thick of another bout of depression. I'm unmotivated, totally negative, really down on myself, and feeling like utter crap. Yes, I know I've done a good job here. Yes, I know I've accomplished a bunch of goals. Yes, I even have one of this quarter's goals checked off already. But right this minute when I feel like an unwantable, unlovable, worthless, total failure - none of that is really getting through.
  • I had a personal appointment Friday that STRESSED. ME. OUT.
  • Between the news on Thursday, my appointment on Friday, the depression and the not sleeping, I'm having panic attacks pretty regularly again. They're hitting me at all hours of the day and night. Bilateral tapping isn't really helping, music doesn't calm them ... I feel like I've got splinters in my brain and every fifth thought accidentally touches one.

Thing 3: I'm cheating. This third thing doesn't even count because it's just a placeholder because I suck so much I couldn't even come up with a third thing, and a list isn't a list when it only has two things on it.
  • Alright fine. Maybe this one is a little melodramatic. It's been a long week, okay?

And with all that being said, I also need to say this: I'm trying really hard not to be "negative," and the pressure to "look on the bright side" is painful. So I'm going to practice what I preach, when it comes to mental health and self-care. I'm going to take a day off and relax. I'm going to go to therapy. I'm going to come home and take an afternoon bath - with extra pampering, mirror work, the whole nine yards. I'm going to sit in the house alone, listen to the quiet, and sip a mug of coffee. I'm going to unplug as much as possible.

I might even let myself slow down long enough to take a nap.

But this too shall pass - so I'll see you Wednesday.