Friday, September 29, 2017

Friday Feels: September


It has been three months now, and starting this post series is still something I'm totally thrilled about. It's a ton of fun to see what random feelings come up for me to talk about, and I'm really enjoying the way keeping it random means sitting down to explore feelings I wouldn't ordinarily have thought to assign myself. Being able to explore my life and myself in this new sort of way has been really enjoyable, actually - and while I somewhat expected to have gotten bored with it by now, I'm actually not (although lack of participation means I won't be bothering with the link-up side of it anymore).

So let's see what we're feeling as summer 2017 winds to its close, shall we? (Want to follow along? Click here to get your own random list of feelings, or feel free to use the same ones I got. Either way, if you decide to post a Friday Feels post, make sure to drop your link here in the comments - I'd love to see what other people are feeling!)

1. Annoyed:
I'm a fiery sort of woman with a markedly short fuse. I'm not a crazy, flying off the handle woman (usually), but I am easily irritated, especially by things that rub wrong against the rough edges of who I am - and one of those things is people with double standards. I've encountered more than my fair share of those people recently, and it frustrates me to no end to know that this world is so full of people who think they're that much better than others. I can submit to authority when it's authority I respect. And I can be fine with people living by the rules that work best for them, so long as they respect my need to abide by the rules which work best for me. But people who think they can set rules for other people that they aren't even willing to follow themselves? No. Way. Don't tell me to be quiet when you're being loud. Don't tell me I'm too messy if you're messy too. Don't tell me I'm too opinionated if you couldn't keep your mouth shut even if it was sewed closed. Just don't.

2. Apprehensive:
Apprehension is the crux of so much of my life - it's the state of being that lives just under the surface for me. Not active worry (which I'm covering later because it's #10 on this list), but just the sense that something's off - and that if nothing's off, it's about to be. It's the sense of impending crisis, the constant waiting for the proverbial other foot to drop. And it's the history of the other foot always dropping that confirms that this feeling isn't irrational - not for me. In my world, apprehension stems from learning to trust my own intuition, from believing that when my gut tells me something's going on, then it is. And if it isn't, it will be.

3. Brave:
Bravery is everything about this blog and my life right now. Getting out of bed every day when I'd rather hide. Facing the world when I'd rather pretend it isn't there. Mothering my kids even when I can't. Telling my truth even when it isn't sunshine and rainbows. Pressing on when it feels impossible. Admitting defeat when I know I need to - finding the strength to ask for help with what I cannot do on my own. And getting to know other women who are doing that too.

4. Fuming:
This whole football protest thing with the NFL? Yeah, I'm fuming. I don't usually like to get too political here because this really isn't the place for it, and I'd like this to be a place where anyone can be comfortable regardless of their politics. It's a blog about mental health, after all - I want my blog to be a place where everyone is comfortable. But protesting the American flag or the American National Anthem? That shit pisses me right off, and I'm not even slightly afraid to say so. I have relatives who fought in wars to protect our freedoms; friends who are current members of the military. And they aren't serving overseas so that they can watch the NFL spit in the face of their sacrifice. But beyond the politics or the validity of the protest, or the protesters particular feelings about President Trump, the timing of this protest is both divisive and disrespectful. Before the anthem like the Cowboys did? Fine. I still think locking arms during the anthem was rude and uncalled for, but to take a knee before the anthem as a way of making a joint statement? I don't like it - but it's fine. It's their prerogative. Doing it during the anthem? That's taking it too far - and it pisses me off.

5. Scared:
Some things in my personal life haven't been going as much according to plan as I would have liked, and this is complicating my life in huge ways, triggering my PTSD much more often than is good for me, and increasing the severity of what I recently found out it the cause of some of my other issues. On Monday this week, I was also diagnosed with PMDD, which is a whole new level of scary for me - although it gives me answers to quite a lot of my questions.

6. Secure:
This is God. It's always God - He's always there, always looking out for me, always working for the best for me. Recently I mentioned a book that I really really wanted to read - it seemed like such a perfect book for me and the things I've been going through, and the stories it uses are stories that have deeply impacted me in the past. Well, a few days after writing about that book, I happened to come across it on my libraries digital website, and lo and behold, the e-book was available to check out. I'm not finished reading it yet, but this book has given me unspeakable comfort in the last few days, and has reminded me to stay hopeful regardless of how things might look sometimes.

7. Shocked:
What I've found most shocking recently was the way I ended up being able to totally revamp all of my novels to celebrate my five-year anniversary as an author. I won't tell all the details here, but I'll say that I have cried gallons in gratitude over this, and I am so ready to reveal the new covers! The Selkie covers will go up first, with the new covers hopefully going live on or before October 1, and I'll be doing a bit of a cover reveal across my main social media channels - so if you aren't following me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter (and I'm on Google+, for anyone using that), then you should be, because these new covers from Sly Fox Cover Designs are TOO gorgeous to miss out on!

8. Uninformed:
I consistently feel uninformed in my efforts to turn this blog and my writing into a way to support my family. I don't know enough about design, don't know enough about marketing, can't for the life of me figure out how to master SEO. I don't know how to market books - I just know how to write them, and the same goes for Patreon. And the worst part is that as soon as I learn something new, something else comes out that works better, faster, more effectively. In this, I tend to feel very much like no matter what I learn or how much effort I put in ... it might never be enough ...

9. Upset:
... which is upsetting. Making a real living with my writing is my dream, and every day that I sit down with this laptop and create content for my readers to relate to is another day that I got to live a little part of that dream. I'm writing, and that means so much to me - especially when so many other parts of my life feel totally out of control. But the fact is, I'm still not making a solid enough independent living doing this. I still have hope that I could and I'm still seeing small forward progress ... but I'm not there yet.

10. Worried:
It made me laugh to see this come up on my list. What makes me worried? Everything. With PTSD, anxiety is my life - I'm worried about the health problems that plague both of my daughters. I'm worried about Josephine developing complications from the heart surgery she had when she was four. I'm worried about those complications requiring more surgery in the future. I'm worried about the possibility that Eden's most recent ear surgery (this is number 5 for her) may have been less successful than we had hoped. I'm worried that this could mean less chances of success for her next surgery ... and any surgeries still to come. I'm worried about the financing of those surgeries. But I worry about little things too - holidays and clothing and birthdays and school supplies and the transmission in my van and the little lump developing just to the right of my dog's belly button and ... Well, you get the point.

So as usual, I'm feeling all the things - and as usual, I'm feeling all the things strongly. What are you feeling lately?


Today's "Featured Favorite Product" is this five-year journal, which asks you a different question every day of the year. At the end of the first year, you'll go back to the beginning and continue to answer the questions a second time, and third time, and so on - I love the way journals like this simplify journaling and bring life down to the little elements:
  • Are you happy today?
  • What was for lunch?
  • Who is your favorite person?
I love the way filling out such a journal will allow you over time to go back and reflect on how your life has changed over the course of a year - and how it hasn't.


But maybe that's because I'm a straight-up, card-carrying journaling fan. I love taking the time to write down what I'm feeling, to share my stories and my memories, to leave something behind that might one day be of value somewhere, to someone. I've always loved the idea of a time capsule - and this book perfectly combines my love of books, my love of journaling, and my intrigue with the whole time capsule idea. Plus, it doesn't hurt that it's just under $15, either.

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links in this post, remember that if you choose to click product links on my site and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a (very) small commission for referring you. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you, but my family and I appreciate your support. (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with on a more regular basis, click here.)
Thanks for checking in with me this month and following along as I check in with myself. If you're a blogger, I'd love if you share a link to your own Friday Feels in the comments, but if not, that's okay too - feel free to write your own Feels right in the comments section. You can use the same ones as me, or make up your own if you'd like; either way, I'd love to hear from you!

If you enjoyed this post, please take the time to look around - and if you find that something that really resonates with you, I'd love if you shared it with your friends! And speaking of friends, why don't you click here to find out more about what it means to be undaunted - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for October's Undaunted Woman! I've been interviewing Undaunted Women for the last two months, and I've been having an absolute blast getting to know such strong and determined women. I'm really looking forward to seeing the Undaunted Interview series grow into something truly inspiring.

While you're here, I'd love for you to hang out and follow along with my journey; if you subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar, you can rest assured you'll never miss a post! And while the darker content of this blog may not always be easy to read, I truly hope that through the light days breaking up the darkness, we'll learn from and inspire each other.

Come on over to Patreon too - you can sign up to sponsor my writing journey for as little as $1 a month, your dollar gets you access to all sorts of content - including photos and mini-blogs from my personal life and advance peeks at my fiction writing, which is a pretty slick deal for just over $.03 a day. Want a little more,? For $2 a month you'll also get to vote for upcoming content, read my upcoming poetry release as it's written, and have access to weekly L.A.F.F.S. - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, my PhLogs will start going up daily!! (Click that link. Most are subscriber-only, but one each month is marked public - there's even a little tribute to my favorite "person!")

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, my social media profiles, or even Patreon, you can always rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman." So whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Interviewing the #UndauntedWoman: Elizabeth Brico

Welcome to this second post in my Interviewing the Undaunted Woman series! In these monthly interviews, I'll be talking with women YOU nominate, asking hard questions about how your favorite undaunted women became the strong and admirable humans they are today.

click here

I've been so looking forward to posting this second interview! Elizabeth and I connected through a bloggers group we were both part of on Facebook, and I'm so glad I found her blog at just the right time in my life. When I found Betty's Battleground, I was still pretty fresh in my transition to mental health blogging and talking so openly about the things I've been through. Her blog gave me comfort and company, and since we first connected, I'm glad to say that through the craziness of life we've been able to keep in touch - she's nominated me for a blog award, and I've guest posted (and been interviewed) on her blog. So let's go ahead and say hello to September 2017's Undaunted Woman, Elizabeth Brico!


1. Tell me about yourself - what's your story, and how did you become an undaunted woman?
When I look back on my life, which I try not to do as much these days, I feel like the cards were stacked against me from the start. My life wasn't as bad as some--I didn't have some of the childhood traumas that other people experience, but I also grew up without a sense of family, and a deeply imbalanced sense of self-worth that still affects how I view myself today.

I was the product of an affair. My father was married, and my mom was his busty Latina sidepiece I guess, though I don't think she thought of herself that way, of course. He had four kids with this wife, and the ones who still lived in his home treated me really badly. I was an only child at my mom's house. So in one house I was mostly ignored or told I was a mistake who shouldn't have been born, and in the other house I was pampered (as much as someone under the poverty line can be), told I was a gift from God, and eventually basically treated like a child prodigy. It was very confusing.

I might have worked through all that, but nobody was equipped to deal with how much it affected me as a teenager. I started using drugs, got into an abusive relationship...and that was it. He was...is...the manifestation of evil on this planet. I really believe that. I seriously can't believe in the inherent goodness of all living things because of this man. How many teenage girls has he held hostage? Raped? Strangled nearly to death? His cruelty is boundless. Now I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and some days it makes me want to die, but other days it makes me marvel at what I've overcome. I'm stronger than him now, that much I know.

2. Have you ever struggled with confidence and/or self-worth? If yes, how did you overcome that struggle - and if no, how did you avoid it?
The weird opposing dichotomy of my two households has really set me up for a weird view of myself. There's a part of me that thinks I'm the greatest writer ever, and a part of me that thinks I'm the living incarnation of shit. Of course, neither are true, but I have to actively remind myself of both things all the time. And I don't really know a healthy way of doing that. Any time I get a compliment on my writing, I temper it by thinking "but also you're garbage," and anytime someone treats me badly, I remind myself "but at least you're a really good writer."

3. It's weird how much I relate to that, actually. So, what is the one thing you've survived that makes you feel most like an "undaunted woman?"
I think the only thing that could make me feel that I'm an "undaunted woman" is that I've survived at all. I've been strangled to the point of seizure numerous times by my ex-boyfriend, I have survived numerous overdoses, some of which were intentional and some of which I still don't know how I survived. There are days that I want to just run away, or die, or stop time, but somehow I keep waking up each and every day. It's maddening and thrilling and thought-provoking. I've recently been thinking a lot about the infinite worlds theory and the inherent aspect of eternal life.

4. And what aspect of your current life do you find most rewarding?
I have been writing articles about opiate addiction and recovery lately...I've been sharing my own experience but also that of others. This past week I wrote about methadone patients who struggled to get their medicine during Harvey. They had to experience the devastating flooding while also being in severe withdrawal, and it was basically due to stigma. Even some of the most liberal people draw the line at heroin or pill addiction. It's so weird, because addiction is a disorder with both a genetic and social basis. Yet somehow the people afflicted with it are punished? I've been talking to the mother of a woman who relapsed because she was forced off of methadone, then arrested due to the relapse. She's pregnant, and they are threatening to force her off of methadone again once she has the baby. So she was arrested due to her disorder, and being further punished because of her disorder. So giving voices to these stories in particular has been rewarding, if scary, because it's meant "coming out" about my own heroin addiction, which I'd been quiet about for a while.

5. It's always a huge deal when you bring something that's been such a protected secret into the forefront - but it is definitely rewarding. Being so open not only gives comfort to others who felt alone, but also assuages our own sense of aloneness, I think. What's your favorite successful strategy or coping mechanism for dealing with challenging people or situations, and how is that strategy impacted by what you've survived?
Dissociation rules my life. It has its benefits and detractions. I'm able to deal with abusive or challenging interactions by dissociating from them, but I'm also unable to enjoy my accomplishments because I'm so heavily dissociated. Derealization is my strongest form of dissociation. Mindfulness is a great way to combat both dissociation and other challenges, but it can bring me too strongly into the present, and force me to inhabit a body that's been through far too many trials.

6. I agree with that completely. Dissociation can be very effective at just getting us through - it's why we can use it without even meaning to. But I find it to be a sad thing in myself too, because it numbs me from things I wish I could feel. What other woman do you most admire, and why?
The writer Lydia Yuknavitch is someone I greatly admire. She was a childhood incest victim, who grew up and became addicted to heroin for a while. Then she suffered a stillbirth--the way she describes that experience in her book, "A Chronology of Water" haunts me. It's very moving. But anyway, she wrote that memoir, and she recently released a successful science fiction book. That's basically my dream--to be a successful literary sci-fi writer. She's overcome a lot of similar (or worse) things than I have and still accomplished the things I want to accomplish. Besides the writing success, she's a powerful, open woman, in a healthy loving marriage, with a really cool feminist son. So...yeah. Lydia Yuknavitch.

7. What one quality serves you best as an undaunted woman?
I've recently developed the ability to--for the most part--not internalize the BS people try to pile on me. It took me a good long while to develop. People like to pile crap on each other a lot, and when they know you've suffered abuse in the past, certain kinds of people target you. It's a sad fact of this world. But I've recently stopped giving these people credence.

8. I've been learning that in recent years myself - it's not always easy! What one quality are you most looking to improve in yourself?
The courage to be independent. Chronic poverty really robs someone of that ability. Knowing I can't care for my kids on my own makes me feel like I have no options. My marriage is not healthy right now. We're at each other's throats all the time, and he has a problem with blaming me for every little thing. I feel like I can't make mistakes in my own home, and it makes it difficult for me to be accountable, because who's going to admit to something when they know they will be yelled at? We're both under the stress of poverty. I don't know if we'd separate or try to work things out if we knew we had enough support and resources to be on our own, but knowing I don't makes me feel trapped. And feeling trapped is not a good starting point for trying to fix things. I think if I had the courage to leave no matter what the circumstances, even if I didn't actually do it, that would help me do what I needed to do in order to either have a better relationship, or to actually leave.

9. Actually, it's extremely courageous to put that out there, I think. The struggle for independence kept me in a toxic relationship for along time - I can relate to feeling trapped, and I would like to encourage you to seek small ways that you can change things for yourself. I'm still working on that myself, so I know it's easier said than done, but ... well, I just have to believe it's possible. I'm betting you can relate to that. But in the moment, if you could do any one thing right now to help other women become undaunted, what would you be doing?
The only thing I know how to do is what I am doing; offering other women platforms to be heard. It doesn't cure everything, but knowing someone hears you can be very powerful. I have Parenting with Mental Illness feature interviews on my blog every month, and publish guest posts frequently. Beyond that, I'm often reporting in my freelance articles on under-served communities, and sharing stories and quotes from other women that way. When you know you're heard, you know you're not alone.

10. Exactly, and it really does make all the difference. Just not being alone can sometimes be enough to start changing everything. If you could stand in front of every woman on the planet right now and speak into their hearts, what would you most want to say to them?
You have inherent value, and you're a person. That may sound weird, but as women we are so often taught that our bodies are objects or property, or that our value comes from what we do, or how we identify. Well, that's not true. We have our own value. We're people. We belong to ourselves - not our husbands, fathers, mothers, boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, employers ... We are our own.


I love that this interview ends with those words: "We are our own." They're words that have meant so much to me personally for so long - so much so that they found their way into one of my books. Years ago (before I finished my first novel) a friend of mine and I were talking; we were exchanging stories, and I marveled at how many of her stories were love stories. I marveled too, at how many of her love stories ended so peacefully and with so much goodwill. Men seemed to come into her life just when she needed them, when they needed her, and she seemed to attract the sort of men who knew what they were in her life for, and how to leave it well when their time together was up.

Somehow romance novels and heroes came up (duh) and she said it was interesting that I didn't have any hero stories (I had been saying how much I admired hers). I was hurt for a moment, and said I didn't think it interesting at all, but sad. And then she said something to me that changed my life. From that moment, a little something bled into my life that has never backed down since that moment. She said, "No, it's good - because you have learned to be your own hero."

Later, when I wrote a rape survivor with PTSD, I wrote her with a tattoo - given to her against her will. It said, "MY OWN" and was meant to be a permanent reminder, like a brand from her attacker. But she took it back - both her life and her body. She took that tattoo and had it remade, turned into a mark of reclamation.

All because of one conversation, one little simple concept. We are our own.

Thank you for taking the time to be here, Elizabeth, and for the reminder of such an important moment of change. I wish you the very best in your endeavors - and that you're blessed with opportunities that will give you the freedom you need to thrive.


Thanks for hanging out with Elizabeth and I today - I hope that if her story was one you can relate to, you'll also be able to take some encouragement from it. Strength prevails. Sometimes it's slow, but it happens. Strength prevails.

If you enjoyed this post, I'd love for you to drop a little encouragement in the comments for Elizabeth, and maybe even share some of your own stories with us! Click here to find out more about what it means to be undaunted - and how you can nominate your favorite undaunted woman to be interviewed right here on the blog! The first interview was a total success, I loved sharing this second one with you, and I'm already excited to introduce you to October 2017's Undaunted Woman!

While you're here, I'd love for you to hang out and follow along with my journey; if you subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar, you can rest assured you'll never miss a post! And while the darker content of this blog may not always be easy to read, I truly hope that through the light days breaking up the darkness, we'll learn from and inspire each other.

Come on over to Patreon too - you can sign up to sponsor my writing journey for as little as $1 a month, your dollar gets you access to all sorts of content - including photos and mini-blogs from my personal life and advance peeks at my fiction writing, which is a pretty slick deal for just over $.03 a day. Want a little more,? For $2 a month you'll also get to vote for upcoming content, read my upcoming poetry release as it's written, and have access to weekly L.A.F.F.S. - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'm going to start posting daily PhLogs!! (Click that link. Most are subscriber-only, but one each month is marked public - there's even a little tribute to my favorite "person!")

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, social media, or even Patreon, you can always rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman." So whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday Sentiment: A Letter To Those Living With PTSD

I've been having a lot of fun with this particular post series this year, writing letters to both the younger me and the older me, as well as to the husbands my daughters will someday marry. It has been a lesson in growth for me, not only as I revisited my past self to share my wisdom of today, but also as I contemplated what wisdom I might possibly have to share with the me of the future. It took strength and kindness to write to my future sons-in-law, because what I most want to say is, "If you hurt my daughters, I will gut you," but I must also remember that those future men are right now some other mother's precious young sons. They are people too, and they will come to my daughters with their own mix of needs - their own mix of quirks and injuries. Their own mix of monsters and shadows from their pasts.

The truth is, those things WILL touch my daughters, just as the things my daughters have survived WILL touch those boys. And as humans, my daughters and their husbands will mess up together. I only hope that I have taught my daughters how important it is to love the people in their lives actively - not only with the power of emotional feeling, but also with the strength of behavioral choice. I pray daily that my sons-in-law are being taught those same lessons somewhere.

But while I've been having fun writing to myself, and writing to the men of the future (and maybe having some sway over the men of the present?), I've also thought it would be a special honor to write to the you of today.

This blog (and in many ways, my novels as well) runs on the belief that people are survivors. That we are born and bred with a certain dignity and strength. That despite what we survive, we can continue to choose to move forward. It might be slow, and it might be terribly, incredibly painful - but it can be done in bits and pieces, one small step at a time.

In surviving trauma, we don't always move forward at the same pace other people wish we could - but if you're one of the people spending every day trying to get from one moment to the next ... if you're one of those people who walks through life while the shadows of the past continue to haunt the present ... if you're one of those people who trudges through every day regardless of the lack of sleep, regardless of the stress-induced body aches, regardless of the change of appetite or lack of motivation ... then I'd like to tell you something.


Dear Trauma Survivor,

I don't know how you ended up with PTSD. I don't know if you're a combat veteran, a rape survivor, an abuse survivor, an accident survivor, a cancer survivor, or a survivor of some other trauma that I haven't had close enough experience with yet to think about. I don't know if you're living with PTSD alone, or if it's the kind of complex PTSD that comes with survivor's guilt or crippling despression.

What I do know is that you are a badass. You are a warrior. Life threw you into a pit - and you, with the strength of a grizzly bear and the ferocity of a honey badger, clawed your way back to the surface and kept on moving.

Even if you cowered in the beginning (like I did), you eventually stood up and squared your shoulders. You raised your chin and found your voice again. And you made a change.

Even if you couldn't help what was being done to you or what was happening around you - you made it through. Even if you felt utterly useless and completely powerless - you pushed on, from one moment to the next, taking breaths even when you couldn't take steps. Even if you were drowning in hopelessness and self-doubt so thick and heavy that you couldn't even breathe through it anymore, you still kept on, one heartbeat at a time, making it through by the sheer animal force of your own will to live.

You made it.

If you're a survivor now, and no longer a victim, you made it.

You might be scarred and battered, but you're here. You might be aching and injured, but you're alive. You might be bent and cracked and damned near demolished completely ... but you're stronger than you think you are, and I have proof.

Look in the mirror.

Look at the face of a survivor. Look into the eyes of a warrior. Examine the heart of a hero.

That's you.

You with the bad memories and the nightmares and the fear of being alone in the dark. You with the exaggerated startle reflex and the hypersensitivity and the vigilance to never sit anywhere with your back to the door.

You.

You, who survived the worst of what life has to offer, who missed out on privilege points but had the nerve to demand a second try. You, the human soul who was dealt a terrible hand and yet you found the strength to recreate your own deck of cards.

You, with the strength and will to win the game.

I see you. In part, I know your struggle. In part, I know your weakness and your strength. In part, I know your wounds, and what you crave in order to find healing. I don't have to know you to relate to you - because I am you.

In the mirror, I see my own wounds, my own bruised and battered spirit. I see it wrapped in the armor of "I don't care," protected by the shield of "it doesn't matter," covered by the inadequate bandage of "I'm fine." I see my suffering, hiding behind mismatched eyes and a face just beginning to show the wear and tear of my time in this life. I see the heart too, if I look hard enough - the beating, meaty, blood-filled bit of muscle that sustains life for me even when my mind is so busy aching that I can get up to walk to the bathroom and forget I had to pee before I even get there.

I see you. I see those things in you, just as I see them in myself. Because they're valid. And while some people are not required to dig so deep ... while some people are gifted with another, less challenging path, I am proud of you. I am proud of your grit and your determination. I am proud of your willingness to keep on, even when you can't see a good reason to do it. I am proud of you for having what it takes to walk through darkness when there is NO LIGHT to guide you - and only a dwindling hope that if you trudge on, the light will come again.

Because knowing you're out there, trudging through the darkness with me, mostly out of reach but still so very THERE? That is my light. You push me on.

Because you're amazing, and strong, and an incredible, almost unspeakably powerful inspiration.

Thank you.


I have to tell you, I went in search of a very specific concept for today's "Featured Favorite Product" - and as I searched for what I wanted to share with you, my book wish list grew like there was no tomorrow. It's probably a lucky thing I've got such control at times - otherwise I might have one-clicked myself right out of next week's gas budget! I did find what I was looking for though. This book, called I Am Here Now: A Creative Mindfulness Guide and Journal, is a powerful exploration of practicing mindfulness and the discipline of drawing yourself consciously back to the moment you're in.


Mindfulness practice has made a world of difference for me, and even when I'm at my worst, exercises similar to the ones shared in this book are my most effective and favorite tools. Making an effort to stay with the moment I'm in has helped me shorten panic attacks more times than I care to admit, and mindfulness games I can play by myself are part of how I manage to sleep at night. So this book looks like a $10 miracle to me - and I think if you're a PTSD sufferer (or just a person who wants to practice being more solidly in this moment), it will be pretty miraculous for you, too.

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links, remember that if you choose to click any product links on my site and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a small commission for referring you. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you, but my family and I appreciate your support. (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with on a more regular basis, click here.)
Do you or someone you know suffer with PTSD or something similar? Please remember that there's no reason at all to suffer alone or in silence. Even if traditional therapy isn't an option for you, there are self-help books like the one I shared above, support groups, and countless other ways to seek effective help. I know it doesn't erase the trauma or the symptoms ... but sometimes even just having someone to talk to can make all the difference in the world. If you'd like to, leave a comment below to share your experience or your thoughts - or just something encouraging for people who are living with PTSD. If the comment section is too public for you, I would like to encourage you to send me a personal email at the address found on my contact page (it's near the bottom). I know from personal experience how much a listening ear can mean in a moment of suffering - and if you need one, I would be happy to provide it.

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

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

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

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

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


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

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

Yay, anxiety, right?

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

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

Smile Brilliant Influencer Kit

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

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

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

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

Dental Impressions for Smile Brilliant

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

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

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

Smile Brilliant Dental Tray CaseSmile Brilliant Custom Dental Trays

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Tooth Whitening Gel

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Spark: The Magic Of Yarncraft

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thursday Therapy: PTSD & Living With Grief ...

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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