Sunday, October 29, 2017

Interviewing the #UndauntedWoman: Maria Hernandez

Welcome back to my "Interviewing the Undaunted Woman" post 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. It's amazing how much life can change us, and it doesn't take some big huge story to become Undaunted. Sometimes it's in the little things too - the drive to keep going, to keep trying, to keep surviving. Every woman has a story, and I'm thrilled to get to share those stories here - so let's jump right in and welcome our Undaunted Woman for October 2017, Maria Hernandez.

This lovely lady and I have been chatting back and forth for most of this month, sharing stories and little bits about ourselves, and while I'm thankful for her patience as I've had lots of other life stuff of my own going on, I'm also so excited that she agreed to be interviewed despite her nervousness.


Welcome to the blog, Maria! Tell me about yourself - what's your story, and how did you become an undaunted woman?
I am a mother of three. An 8 yr old boy, a 2.5 yr old girl, and a 1.5 yr old girl. I was a registered early childhood educator, before having my second child, and became a stay-at-home-mom after. I am married to a project engineer who works in the automation industry, and spends a lot of time travelling. While these are the most prominent picture I share of who I am, there’s plenty more that makes me who I am. Being a mother, makes me feel an undaunted woman, but perhaps, it’s more than that. I’ve never really heard of this word, outside of its prefix. But I feel, I am an undaunted woman, for my strength to overcome and undergo hard situations in life.

This year, I found out I have postpartum depression mixed with postpartum anxiety & ocd. I may have had anxiety, depression and later on ocd growing up, just never really been able to name it or get diagnosed until this year. I had my last child a year and a half ago, and only found out after my third child turned 1. It has been a struggle and continuous battle trying to cope and deal with PPD. For someone who knew nothing about Postpartum Depression, or what that means, it was a hard realization. But I’m dealing with it, the best I can.

My past contributes to this illness. I grew up in the Philippines until I was about nine. I grew up with my aunt (father’s sister-in-law), because he had left to come to Canada when I was just three. I am also adopted. I was adopted at the age of ‘eight months’. I grew up with my cousins, always being the black sheep, not being able to categorize with everyone else. I struggled with the social aspect of growing up, not being to relate to most children and the usual lifestyles of a well-loved, and taken care child.

After coming to Canada, to live with my father, I struggled to have the relationship one should or usually has with their parent/s. As I got older, and began to exercise my own understanding of the world and the experiences that come with that, it separated my father and I even more. In high school, I ended up in the foster care system for a year, and that set the foundation to my ideal future.

I ended up partying a lot in high school, even getting into marijuana, smoking and binge drinking all underage (19 or less) of the legal age in Canada. It became the ‘thing’ that helped me forget my feelings and emotions about the things happening in my life - inconsistencies and unhappiness.

Just after I turned 18, I began dating my now, husband. At 21, we would have a child, unplanned, but would take the responsibility and do our best. It was the most challenging thing in the world at the time. We didn’t know how to move forward from being teens to now being responsible adults raising a child. Our relationship suffered a lot of challenges but we made it to the other side, still together. I didn’t have have the best beginning with his parents, and even to this day, there’s still a bit of that, that lingers.

But here I am now, 11 years later with my husband, a house, two cars and a lifestyle one can only dream to have. I am blessed, but I have a life that's not perfect. I have scars, some still fresh wounds, like the topic of my birth parents, or the guilt and continuous nag that crawls my skin of not being a good enough person, to be a mother of three. But I live day-in and day-out, giving my best.


That's quite a story! 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?
I did for a bit as a child. But as I got older, I learnt to build ‘thick skin' for life’s challenges. I still struggle with self-worth, but it may just be my postpartum depression kicking in. I try to live an honest life, whether that means always sharing unfiltered thoughts about life, or maintaining honest relationships in my life. Many see me as a rude b*tch, but most appreciate my ability to speak my mind truthfully.


I can definitely relate to that! What is the one thing you've survived that makes you feel most like an "undaunted woman?"
My childhood. It was a lot of struggle, and it still haunts me. But I feel for the most part, it really strengthened me and how I see the world, and how I present myself to everyone.


What aspect of your current life do you find most rewarding?
I feel accomplished. Being one that rarely conforms to society's expectations and doing things how I feel is right for me, allows me to live my life according to who I am and what I want out of it.

And what is your favorite successful strategy or coping mechanism for dealing with challenging people or situations? How is that strategy impacted by what you've survived?
Though I vouch myself to be strong-willed, and honest, there is still a big part of me, who has a weak heart for a lot of people who I value. Sometimes that means, being less vocal and more understanding. I have a good heart. I try to really lead with my heart, because I’m used to leading with my head. Being more emotionally understanding, helps my relationships or thread of communication with others who share challenging behaviours find a median.


What other woman do you most admire, and why?
I’m not really sure, if there’s a specific woman I admire. But most of the time, I find myself leaning towards strong characters in films. But if there’s anything I mostly admire are moms, in general. The amount of love that pours out of a mother, and the strength that comes with that territory. I admire how strong women are, in general and how we are slowly changing the world.


Me too - we moms don't tend give ourselves nearly enough credit, do we? Alright then, what one quality serves you best as an undaunted woman?
Having been through a lot of hardships and understanding where the line is with my limitations, and expectations, really brings about contentment and satisfaction on my end. Always leading with the ability to understand and intellectually share my thoughts with honesty, brings about a character most people that know me seem to admire of me.


And what one quality are you most looking to improve in yourself?
Patience. I have very low patience, easy to anger, and it can get in the way of progress in my day-to-day life. I hope to really find coping ways, to deal with situations that trigger negative outbursts from me. Though, this may also be a contribution from postpartum depression.


If you could do any one thing right now to help other women become undaunted, what would you be doing?
Motivational speaking. I feel most women I speak to, whether they are my friends or acquaintances, and even strangers, always leave my conversation with them, with a spark of courage and motivation in their heart. I am actually writing an autobiography book on my life, in hopes to inspire others and find hope in life no matter the circumstance.


That's an amazing way to share your story with women who could be touched by it! And speaking of motivational speaking, 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?
We all have struggles. Life will always challenge us to live a life to its fullest, overcoming its obstacles, making it worth every bit and never having regrets that we didn’t live. So when you look at yourself and you think you are not good enough, worth it, or capable, YOU ARE! The power we have within us is activated, by kindness, love and versatility. Being able to take on challenges, and working through them allows one to express their strengths, and to gain experience for themselves.

Do not let others mold you, because you being you is the best anyone can have of you. If you’re a mom, remember the seasons in your life that seem so chaotic and excessively hard, is exactly just that, A SEASON. It won’t be long, and all the hard work and stress, and sleep deprivation, and crying, and worry you have will soon ease because they will grow. What you give and teach them, it will stick, over time, when time requires them to remember all the values you’ve taught them. Remember, while women may be viewed as graceful, poised, and taken for a weak human, we are everything more. Empower other women, lift-up other women with kind words, and an open heart. We can change the future of our kids, by setting examples, which will contribute to change the world one love, at a time.



Thanks for being here, Maria! I'm amazed by your story and especially by your beautiful perspective. I've been having a rough go of things lately myself, and reading through your answers to my interview questions has inspired me as well. Thank you for having the courage to participate even when you weren't sure your story was big enough to share!


And to my readers: Thank you for being here! I love being able to share these interviews - it's such a blessing to be able to help share my little spotlight with other women who have stories of their own to tell! Let us hear from you in the comments; tell us your favorite part of the interview, or how you feel that Maria's story relates to your own.

Make sure you take some time to look around while you're here, too; if you find something that resonates with you, make sure you share the link with your friends! I'd also love it if you subscribed to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - that's a great way to make sure you'll never miss a post! You can also help the support the upkeep of this site by donating any amount here.

If you're a book lover like me, come on over to Patreon for a whole new way to read my novels - WHILE I WRITE THEM! You can sign up to sponsor my fiction writing for as little as $1 a month, and your dollar gets you access to all sorts of content, one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems, and access to weekly L.A.F.F.S. - but the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons; when we hit that goal, I'll start dedicating each of my blog posts to one special patron, which means YOU could be getting public shoutouts right here on the blog!! In the meantime, I just edited all my previous PhLogs and made them public - so go check 'em out!

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." Click here to find out more about what it means to be an undaunted woman - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for our next Undaunted Interview!

And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Thursday Thoughts: Strength and Power


People tell me all the time that I'm "strong," and that I'm "tough." People tell me how they think I can handle anything that comes my way. Not because I'm powerful, but because "God won't give you more than you can bear."

People used to tell me that they saw me as "fearless" - that it was a quality they envied in me. But I am not fearless. PTSD is a crippling psychological disease, and one of the very worst of my symptoms is the anxiety I live with daily.

The anxiety that makes me have to go to Food City every day for a week because a quick fifteen minute trip for that night's dinner is all I can do and a thirty minute trip for a week of dinners looks like too much to bear. The anxiety that makes me sit in the parking lot for ten or fifteen minutes before I go in, talking myself into actually doing it.

The kind that makes me write a scene where an abuse victim is afraid to take a shower because she feels vulnerable when she's naked and unarmed (that came from my real life). The kind that, once she's in the shower, she's also afraid to get out of the shower because she's afraid of what might be waiting on the other side of the curtain when she opens it (that was me too, and sometimes still is).

I'm not strong, and I'm not powerful, and I'm not fearless.

Except ...

"She was powerful not because she wasn't scared but because she went on so strongly despite the fear." -- Atticus

Sometimes, strength is about admitting your weaknesses. Sometimes, power is about owning your comfort zone no matter how small it is. And sometimes, fearlessness is about going on and giving your best - even when you're so terrified you can't stop shaking and your tears are an endless flow of white hot shame on a face you wish you could hide for the rest of forever.

Sometimes, it's about having the will to keep going anyway. Other times, it's about having the courage to ask for help when you need it - no matter how embarrassed or ashamed or afraid it makes you to do it.

Even if it's out there where everyone can see. Even if it's ugly. Even if it might be misunderstood by strangers who don't and can't truly know the whole story. Even if it opens the door to being attacked by those who will judge and disapprove and lash out in rage or hurt or fear of their own.

Because sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures, and that's just the cold hard truth of life as a human. It's why sticking together means so much to us as humans in the first place - because there's truth in the concept of "strength in numbers." One person alone may not be strong at all ... but a hundred can be, and a thousand can be even more.


The last post I wrote here was written at the end of my monthly cycle of PMDD induced depression, and I'm sorry that this post isn't coming from much of a better place. I'm trying, but this blog is my reality - not only as an author trying to build a platform, but as a woman and a mother living with devastating mental illnesses, trying to survive in a world where stigma is very much alive and sometimes there really is nowhere to turn. I'm stepping up my therapy, and seriously debating adding medication despite my fear of doing so. I invite you to stick around; today I may be struggling but I won't always be, and when I'm doing well again, I'll show you more of why people seem to think I'm so strong, and why I've so firmly embraced the word "undaunted."

In the meantime, make sure you take some time to look around while you're here; if you find something that resonates with you, share a link with your friends! I'd also love it if you subscribed to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - that's a great way to make sure you'll never miss a post!

If you're a book lover like me, come on over to Patreon for a whole new way to read my novels - WHILE I WRITE THEM! You can sign up to sponsor my writing journey for as little as $1 a month, and your dollar gets you access to all sorts of content, including photos and mini-blogs from my personal life. And if you want a little more, for just $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'll be posting daily PhLogs!! (Click that link to check them out - most are subscriber-only, but one each month is marked public, and the one from October 2017 is REALLY good.)

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." 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 our next Undaunted Woman Interview!

And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Motivation Monday: Staying Motivated When Quitting Gets Tempting

You know what? The last few weeks have been tough. I've been battling serious depression - the kind that makes me not reach out to my friends as often, the kind that isolates me, makes me grouchy, sends me to sleep crying every night, and wakes me up with nightmares until morning. Some of it's mental health stuff that would already just be there; PTSD and PMDD cycle back and forth to keep my emotions always on the verge of a downward spiral, and despite my near-desperate effort to always "win" the battle ... sometimes I lose.

This last week, I lost.

I went through the motions, and I made the meals and I dressed the kids and I got them to and from school. I wrote when a deadline loomed over my head, and I kept up with things. Mostly.

But Friday was a three-deadline day. Nothing too threatening, though, and one of the deadlines turned out to be one I had met early, which was nice. I met the second one fairly simply, and I was on a roll.

Until I wasn't. I hit a wall. I had home stuff going on. I had mood stuff going on. I had ... life ... going on all around me, a life full of people who not only don't understand the depth or reality of this struggle, but don't care enough or are too intimidated to want to. And I just couldn't. I went to bed physically ill over it, and that sense of wrongness has plagued me all weekend.

But I know me, and I know the struggles I live with. I know the challenges set before me. And I simply refuse to just lay down and give up. I can't; I couldn't even if I wanted to, because I am the only person my children know who has never given up and walked away from them. I'm the only person they have in their life who is always there, even when I don't necessarily want to be. I'm the only person always choosing to love them with actions and not just words, even when they are at their most unlovely.

And I refuse to take that away from them.


My daughter Josephine is thirteen years old right now. She's wild and crazy and loud and outspoken and has a heart of gold.

I was only two years older than she is right now, the day my mother attempted suicide in front of me. We had had a fight over something I can't remember, and I said things to her that I can't remember, and she said things to me that I can't remember.

But I remember the layout of the apartment we lived in at the time, and how the floor plan played into the rest of the day. I remember her filling my bedroom doorway, angry blue eyes shooting daggers, jaw set in determination. A bottle in her hand. In my memory, I can't hear what she said to me, but I remember looking up from my bed, probably petulant, probably with my then-still-blue eyes shooting daggers right back.

And I remember everything slowing down as I filled with horror, watching her bring the pill bottle up to her mouth, pouring them in. She turned away from the door, across the hall, and stumbled through the kitchen door to the sink. I chased her, tried to stop her, screaming. Enraged. Scared. Horrified.

She bit my hand when I shoved it in her mouth, but some of the pills fell out into the sink. My hand was slimed with drool and half-dissolved capsule goo.

She collapsed on the kitchen floor, and I ran for the phone. My mother was locked in a psych ward for the weekend - and I was on my own for the weekend, at fifteen years old, with no money and no emergency plan. No backup. Just me, and the 18-year-old boyfriend who stayed with me to keep me company.

I will never. ever. ever. do that to my children.

But sometimes quitting looks easy, and all I want to do is just give up and stay in bed, wrapped in my blankets with my dog, and let the world go on doing what it does. And I am so thankful that my children take that option off the table for me.

So then, how do I keep moving? Well, I do it like this:

One day at a time, one post at a time. One tip, one strategy, one coping mechanism.

Because I'm a warrior, and I stand Undaunted.



Undaunted or otherwise, I'd still really love some encouragement lately. Being Undaunted doesn't mean you can't feel defeated, or that you can't struggle, or that you have to be untouchable somehow. It's just about embracing your strength and your inner ability to persevere. And it's okay to admit when that gets hard. If you're living with something lately, and you're surviving it despite what sometimes feels impossible, but you need a little encouragement too, tell me in the comments and then at least we'll know we're in this together. Or if your life is going well at the moment, take the time to leave some encouragement in the comments for others. It can be a quote, a song lyric, a bit of poem, a bible verse, or just something that has helped you get through something in your life. I'd love to see people sharing and connecting in the comments!

Make sure you take some time to look around while you're here; if you find something that really resonates with you, I'd love for you to share a link with your friends! I'd also like to invite 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'll be sure to never miss a post!

And if you're a book lover like me, come on over to Patreon for a whole new way to read my novels - WHILE I WRITE THEM! You can sign up to sponsor my writing journey for as little as $1 a month, and your dollar gets you access to all sorts of content, including photos and mini-blogs from my personal life. And if you want a little more, for just $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'll be posting daily PhLogs!! (Click that link to check them out - most are subscriber-only, but one each month is marked public, and the one from October 2017 is REALLY good.)

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." 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 our next Undaunted Woman Interview!

And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Feels: October

*affiliate disclaimer at the bottom of post*

I don't know about you guys, but this post series has become one of my favorite things about sitting down to write a blog post. It's funny how a little random list of feelings can help me connect more deeply to myself and what's going on in my life, and I really love when something pops up that I'm like, "Yes! That's what's been messing with me!" It's something that gives me a greater understanding of myself and who I am - and I believe that's always a good thing, because it's in truly knowing yourself and who you are that helps you learn where to start and how to keep getting better.

As fall rolls into East Tennessee, what I think I've been feeling the most of lately is cold (anyone got a spare tiny space heater for feet??), but as the holidays grow closer and certain pressures in my personal life are coming to a head, I've been feeling lots of other things too - so when's better than now to sit down and straighten myself out, amIright? (You can follow along - just click here to get your own random list of feelings! Or, you can feel free to use mine, too. Either way, if you decide to write your own Friday Feels, make sure to drop your link in the comments - I'd love to see what other people are feeling!)

1. Calm:
Honestly, the most calming thing in my life lately has been making sure I keep attending weekly therapy sessions. My therapist is a sweet woman who really hears me out, and because she's a human who has experienced a very human life, she has enough personal life experience to be able to relate to me and my experiences. It makes a huge difference for me and really gives me the strength and security to be able to explore my memories and feelings in a setting that's totally non-judgmental - and since I haven't had a lot of that in my life, it really means a lot to me to have it now. Whether it's the *CBT strategies for anxiety or depression, or it's just having someone to talk to that hears me out, I know it makes a difference. Even the kids have noticed.

2. Contented:
Contentment is a funny thing - it's the word we use to describe the state of being "alright" even if you aren't entirely "happy" - and while PTSD and PMDD team up to make sure I struggle with my search for happiness all the time, I do sometimes find a sense of contentment in the moment I'm in. Watching my kids play at the park with their cousins or friends, catching them when they do something kind for each other without knowing anyone is watching, a well-written blog post that I'm especially proud of. Happiness may not always be easy to reach, but I have learned to find contentment in the warmth of a cup of coffee, the scratchy, bristly whiskers of my cuddly dog, or the emotional solidarity of a song that understands me. Sometimes I have people (who know what the deepest, darkest corners of my personal life really look like) ask me how I can be okay with the harder parts of life, or how I can walk around with my head high even when everything around me is a mess - and I believe that it's the ability to find contentment that gives me my strength. I firmly believe that if I weren't able to enjoy the good moments as they come, the plethora of unenjoyable moments I face everyday would simply be too much to bear.

3. Heartbroken:
This year I lost a friend who was very important to me. This was a person who was always there to talk to, a person who always seemed to understand what I had going on, and who always seemed to be able to understand - even when they couldn't truly relate. This person enriched the way I thought of myself, reinforced beliefs I desperately needed to be able to embrace, and stepped in for me several times when life got the best of me and I needed help. It was one of those kinds of friendships you really look forward to - with rich conversation and common interests and what I thought was a healthy and mutual respect. However, this particular friend (and others I've had in the past) eventually became a stark reminder to me of why I generally stay away from politics and religion in conversations with people (and in my writing life as well, for the most part), and why I struggle to trust people who tell me I can count on them. I did count on this person - which made it all the more painful when they completely dropped out of my life with very little warning simply because we voted differently in the last American election. A very close and very meaningful friendship completely imploded because this person was unable to accept or respect that I held differing views (although I was accepting and unbothered by theirs). The loss of that friendship still leaves a very lonely place of quiet in my daily life, and despite what was a very painful reminder of why political voting in America is intended to be completed in such a private way  ... I miss the depth of that friendship so much sometimes that it makes my heart ache and my eyes water.

4. Hostile:
Sometimes in life, you end up sharing your circle of influence with people who you wish would - for lack of a better term - drop dead. When I was a young girl, one of the things I was most proud of about myself was my anger, and the way it combined with my eloquence to help me protect myself. Even if I wasn't big enough or strong enough to be physically intimidating, I was proud to have developed the ability to open my mouth and unleash a weapon very few people could match. The old saying says, "The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword," but I like to think it's not the pen which holds the power, it's the words themselves - and writing them down isn't necessary in order to make them hurtful. A few well-chosen words can trigger, de-escalate, or even outdo a strong punch in the right situation, and I was very proud of the way I could set someone in their place with a sharp tone and an acid tongue. Eventually though, as I started to realize how truly long-lasting words can be, I started reigning it in, taking time to think before I spoke, to make sure that I at least meant what I said before I said it. After that, I learned to better filter what I said - not in an effort to be less honest or less blunt (because I'm still proud of having so much of both of those qualities), but in an effort to tender my words more carefully so as not to cut others down with them. Mind you, I haven't lost the ability - I just choose not to use it so much anymore.

But that's not to say I'm not constantly faced with people and situations that make my blood boil and my palms itch and my mouth wish I was still the old me. There is one particular person that is a major part of my daily life ... and I can't even express how much I wish I could take that person down to size.

I guess there are some people that just bring out the worst in us.

5. Humble:
In my current phase of life, most things humble me. Driving my nineteen-year-old, on-the-verge-of-breaking-down, almost at 150-thousand-miles van. Pulling into our wish-I-didn't-live-here-but-can't-do-much-about-it-yet driveway. Too much time spent with my blunt and abrasive teenager (gosh, wonder where she got that blunt abrasiveness from, huh?). Dropping the ball on all the doctor's appointments I juggle on the daily. Checking my bank account.

There are a lot of things in my life that keep my ego small and my sense of self very carefully caged - a lot of things (and even a few people) that remind me daily of where my failures and insufficiencies are. These things, though? They give me gratitude for the beauty in my life - especially because some days that beauty is harder to find. They give me compassion for others, and a slowly growing freedom from my own judgmentalism - they help me understand that no matter how the people around me carry themselves or what they have or how they treat others, they're dealing with issues too, just like me. And those issues don't have to be visible to be real.

6. Peaceful:
Honestly, I wish I had more peace in my life right now. And I know a lot of people tend to say things like that even when they have pretty peaceful lives ... but I don't. I truly do live with a lot of stress on the daily, whether it's from outside influence, the pressures of other peoples' expectations of me, my own expectations, my struggles with perfectionism and mental wellness, single mom life with two kids, etc. I feel a lot of pressure in my daily life, and not always a lot of peace. But when I'm driving, that's peaceful for me. Other than worrying about whether I'll break down or not, driving is one of the few times when Eden will stop chattering (usually), Joey will stop being a snippy teen (because she's listening to music on her phone), and in those moments, it's just me and the road. Sometimes I listen to an audiobook, sometimes I listen to my daily self-improvement podcast, sometimes I listen to music of my own. Either way, those moments are some of the few that truly belong to me, and I treasure them.

7. Puzzled:
Without getting too into subjects I'd rather not bring to my writing platform, the thing that has me most puzzled these days (and it's been this way for a while now) is the level of sheer unadulterated hypocrisy that lies buried in the human race. Not that I've never been guilty of it myself, or that I couldn't ever be caught up in it, but seriously - it's insane right now. I'm so confused by the way people justify wrong behavior - not because the behavior is wrong, but because they think it's only wrong when someone else does it. Like, "I can do whatever I want; I can break laws or stifle expression or be rude or exclusive or demanding or controlling or judgmental - but you can't, because then you're too-loud/too-demanding/too-selfish, too-messy/too-opinionated/too-"dramatic." The double standard some people live by is just ... astonishing.

8. Relaxed:
One thing that never fails to relax me is listening to music. Maybe it's because there's a song for just about every mood and situation you can possibly find yourself in. Maybe it's because of the way the beat works to calm the heart or inspire the mind. Maybe it's because of the words and the way they flow over a heated spirit like the cool wash of a lapping wave. Whatever it is, it always works.

Another thing that's been relaxing me lately has been reading. I've recently finished reading Max Lucado's *You'll Get Through This and let me tell you, I was incredibly inspired by this book. I felt soothed and spoken to on a personal level, and the words in that book are sticking with me still. I happened to find it at just the right time, and I am still totally thankful for the way it speaks directly against those who seek to be sources of discouragement in my life. Now I'm into something lighter - but only in the sense that it's fiction. I read through the first book in Shannon Messenger's *Keeper of the Lost Cities Series in about three days (which is why this blog post was almost late), and then immediately jumped into the second book. This series is perfect for anyone who loved Harry Potter, Septimus Heap, or any similar series, and while I haven't seen any language or sexual content that I feel is inappropriate for my kids yet, I did see things that some younger children might find frightening. But if you're picking it up as an adult looking for a light read ... it's so. worth. it.

9. Threatened:
This feeling crosses my emotional path far more often than I think anyone would be comfortable with - I feel threatened by one thing or another almost all the time. That sense of impending threat, the lingering anxious watchfulness is, after all, the very root of what causes PTSD in survivors of domestic abuse. I don't back down from conflict in general, but I also don't seek it out ... and yet, it seems to find me. The way my personal life is set up right now, conflict lurks around every corner and there aren't many places in my life that are safe from it. And wishing I could change it isn't enough, and making constant daily effort isn't enough either. Slow and steady may win the race, but it's also exhausting and anxiety-inducing and depressing and sometimes outright suck-ish. But knowing you have what it takes to defeat the lion running at you across the plain doesn't mean watching a lion run at you across the plain doesn't scare the shit out of you.

10. Upset:
Some days, the most upsetting thing I deal with is the range of my own emotions. I have days where I feel everything - not in cycles, but all at once. Like an overload, a wash of emotions flooding over a struggling dam. And it's the whole range, the whole extended spectrum of emotional depth - anger and frustration sit right next to joy and amusement, and surrounding them are fear and worry and love and tenderness, and abundant energy wars with exhaustion. It's overwhelming. Other days, I feel things in a very muted way, like someone has taken the photograph of my emotional ability and turned it down until it's almost ... black and white. Like the feelings are there, but they're ghosts, just a little bit see-through. Then I'll have days where someone will crack a joke and I'll smile because I  know I should be amused right then - and yet, if I pause for just a second to examine myself ... I realize that I don't feel amusement at all. Or offense or frustration, or even boredom. On those days the only real emotion I feel is a horrified fear of my own numbness. Those days sort of come and go, pushed in circles by the way PTSD and PMDD work together. To call it upsetting is to put it mildly.


It's funny sometimes, isn't it? The range of emotions humans can be filled with? Sometimes they're the kind of screaming emotions that set up residence in our hearts and refuse to be ignored, and other times they're the tiny little voice behind the things we didn't even know we meant until we said them. Either way, owning up to them and facing them head-on is the only way to find and deal with the things in our lives that bring these emotions on. So tell me, what are you feeling lately - and why?

Make sure you take some time to look around while you're here; if you find something that really resonates with you, I'd love for you to share a link with your friends! I'd also like to invite 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'll be sure to never miss a post!

And if you're a book lover like me, come on over to Patreon for a whole new way to read my novels - WHILE I WRITE THEM! You can sign up to sponsor my writing journey for as little as $1 a month, and your dollar gets you access to all sorts of content, including photos and mini-blogs from my personal life. And if you want a little more, for just $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'll be posting daily PhLogs!! (Click that link to check them out - most are subscriber-only, but one each month is marked public, and the one from October 2017 is REALLY good.)

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." 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 our next Undaunted Woman Interview!

And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.


*NOTE: I often use affiliate links in my product mentions on this site, so remember that if you choose to click my product links and end up purchasing through them, I will probably receive a (very) small commission for referring you to the merchants and products I love best. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you - but also know that my family and I appreciate your support! (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with, click here.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Book Conventions I'd Love To Attend

A few weeks ago, I had an interesting chat with someone about book conventions and what sorts of items top the list for a writer heading out to such a huge event. In years past, I've attended several amazing and well-organized writing events, both on my own as part of a small local organization of writers, so I can definitely give some feedback into what to bring to an author convention ... except ... well, I've never actually been to an author convention, specifically. Signing events are a bit different - they lack the same level of learning experience offered by the chance to attend (or participate in) speaking panels, as well as the pomp and circumstance of awards ceremonies and things like that.

But a girl can dream, right? So without further ado (and in no particular order):



 01. Penned Con
This convention is hosted annually in St. Louis, MS, and from what I hear, it's utterly amazing. The convention offers a variety of learning experiences, tons of chances to get up close and personal with the authors you love, an awards show, a two day book signing event, panels, workshops, and even a huge party! And to top it all off, the convention is deeply focused on giving back to the community and helping those in need with their connection to Action for Autism. 2017's event just passed, but 2018 is underway for the minds behind Penned Con, and tickets to the 2018 event are already being advertised here!

When I first heard about this signing, I literally squealed with glee. There was a masquerade ball. I believe there was some mention of horse-drawn carriages. It was to be held at an unspeakably lovely Inn in Frankenmuth, MI. There would be books and authors and workshops and awards and ... sigh. Just the place for me - I could lose myself among the most bookish of people, spending time learning and having fun with those most like me! Due to certain circumstances, I didn't get to go that year, and I haven't had the chance to go since then, either. But I want to. I want to with all my little heart! Tickets for the 2018 event are already available for this one here, and there will be a Toga Party! What?!

Started as a conference for writers and lovers of Young Adult fiction, this conference grew quickly over the years and exploded in popularity - at least in my circles. I had several author pals who went multiple times, and I always had to unfollow them a little bit during UtopiaCon season, otherwise it broke my heart a little every time I got reminded that there was a major writing conference only a few hours away from where I live ... and I couldn't go to it. I was - and am, for the most part - okay with the fact that travel and conferences just aren't part of this chapter of my life right now, and I was - and still am - thrilled for my friends who are out there experiencing and learning with the pioneers of independent publishing ... but it still stings a little, if I'm honest - especially because this conference was always right in Nashville, only a few hours from where I live. And now I'll never get to attend this one, because they're not doing it anymore.

I don't think a romance novelist can make a list of dream conventions without including something from RWA. Despite recent whisperings in the publishing industry about problems within the RWA, their convention is generally agreed to be well-planned, well-executed, and full of incredibly valuable information. I also love that so many of my personal favorite authors are members of RWA, and thus, I could hope that some of them might be in attendance. Another amazing thing is that if you click the link above this paragraph, you can find information about RWA conferences all the way out 'til 2021. How's that for planning ahead? The only thing is, the 2017 event has already passed - but that just means you've got time to plan ahead for a ton of learning in 2018!

This is another one that came onto my radar because I'm connected to people who have gone to it or are involved with throwing it (similar to Penned Con and Once Upon A Book), and have heard about a million firsthand stories that illustrated the awesomeness of the event while shattering my left-out little heart into jagged little pieces of sadness. This year's InD'Scribe event literally just passed (only a few days ago), with the talented Marie Force teamed up with Brenda Novak to act as keynote speakers at the event. Unfortunately, as the event literally passed, I couldn't find information about the 2018 conference, but the link above would take you to more direct information.

The fun thing about this convention, other than the party and signing event and VIP extras, is that as this event moves around the country, its name changes each time. Aptly named LoveNVegas, the 2017 event will be held in Las Vegas, NV, and hosted at the beautiful Planet Hollywood Hotel. They've even created a beautiful itinerary for this year's Love N. Vegas event, to be held October 27th/28th; tickets are still available for this event, and they'll have volunteers who will act as "bookmarks" to hold your place in the longer lines, so that you have time to meet and greet as many authors as possible! Planning to catch a red-eye and make to Vegas in time? Check out Vegas.com for steals and deals on everything from hotels to shows while you're in town! Future events from Love N. Books are just as cutely named, with LoveNSalem being held in June 2018, and then LoveNColorado to come in April 2019.

This is another huge event, with the 2018 version spanning three days at the end of May 2018 and including celebrities of all sorts, including Ginger Zee (who I loved on Dancing With the Stars), Gabrielle Union (can't wait to read her memoir), and the beautiful Colleen Hoover (OMG I can't even!). Then you tack on the likes of Stephen King and ... well, politics aside, you can see why I'd want to attend. And even if these particular names weren't enough to get you moving, there are dozens and dozens and dozens of learning sessions to attend. Oh, and it's in New York City - as if it needed that. But you guys, NYC?? Imagine!

This particular event combines all the best things about conferences for me - it's a book signing with group workshops and activities ... on a cruise ship ... out at sea. And as if that wasn't enough, it's usually right around my birthday. For instance, the 2018 Book Splash is coming back into port on February 16 in Port Canaveral and will be debark on the 17th. My birthday. This event is a literal dream vacation for me, and is one of those events for which my heart actually aches. It's one of those things where longing sets in and determination locks up your jaw so hard it hurts. And you whisper to yourself ferociously, "ONE. DAY. I. WILL. GO."

09. BlogHer
I've wanted to go to BlogHer ever since I first learned of it many, many years ago. I've been blogging off and on for a little over ten years now, and when BlogHer became a thing back in 2011, I was chomping at the bit over the idea of being able to hang out with people like me - creative people who loved the written word and had a passion for storytelling, whatever form it takes. And while this isn't a novel-writer's conference, blogging is quite similar (to me) in that it still requires dedication and a strong desire to spend time writing, combined with a need to be heard and a willingness to speak - so I think a blogging conference still qualifies for sure. I also love that this conference has such a focus on empowering women to be themselves and tell their stories in whatever form works best for them - y'all know how much that whole idea means to me especially. Still, I haven't yet been, so here it is, on my wish list to the universe.

Last but certainly not least on this list is the RT Booklovers Convention. This is another one that settles in a different city every year, giving authors (and readers) from around the country a chance to attend without going bankrupt on book shipping. Like most other events on this list, the RT Booklovers Convention 2017 has already passed, but 2018 promises to be an exciting time in Reno, NV, with panels, parties, signings, and more! 


In honor of today's book-con-themed post, today's "Featured Favorite Product" is exactly the kind of lightly lined, beautiful hardback journal you'll want to keep at your side at any convention. It would make a great keepsake, filled with the signatures and information of all your favorite authors and writing industry professionals, and is definitely among my list of must-bring convention items.


Seriously, isn't it gorgeous? That one's called Versailles, but if you click through, this particular seller also has several other cover patterns that are all utterly stunning. Like this celestial one - so pretty! (You can just click either image to purchase - these are both under $15 on Amazon.)


I like that these are great for just regular journaling too, if conventions aren't your thing; and they'd also make a perfect gift for the writer in your life, regardless of your preferred writer's preferred writing style.

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links here, remember that if you choose to click product links on my site and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a (very) small commission for referring you. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you, but my family and I appreciate your support. (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with, click here.)
If you could choose one of these conferences to go to, which one do you think sounds like the best fit for you? Are there any others you've been to that you didn't see mentioned here - or that you think should have been mentioned? If you've been to any conferences, what was your favorite thing about them, and what would you say is the number one most important thing to bring (besides books, because duh)?

Take some time to look around while you're here, too; if you find something that really resonates with you, I'd love for you to share a link with your friends! I'd also like to invite 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.

And if you're a book lover like me, come on over to Patreon for a whole new way to read my novels - WHILE I WRITE THEM! You can sign up to sponsor my writing journey for as little as $1 a month, and your dollar gets you access to all sorts of content, including photos and mini-blogs from my personal life. And if you want a little more, for just $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, and the one from October 2017 is REALLY good.)

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." 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 our next Undaunted Woman Interview!

And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Storytime Saturday: Downtown

I've posted a bunch of Storytime Saturday posts before, and even a really funny Storytime post that wasn't on Saturday. Most of them were written in my usual conversational blog style - just me, talking to just you, sharing my story and my experience with someone who might relate to where I've been or understand where I hope to be going. But I love writing fiction too, and even though one of my novels is actually available for free and I've shared a little bit of my fiction writing here on the blog, I thought it might be fun to write this storytime post in a fictionalized style.


"Urrrgh!" The car jerked a little as it slid forward, inching up through the coils of the parking garage. I pressed a little harder on the gas, careful to let up from the clutch. I was giving up on second gear; there was no way we'd be going that fast anytime soon anyway, not with the slow old man in front of us driving like he'd never been in a garage before.

"What's wrong, mom?" My teen spoke quietly from the passenger seat beside me. She shifted her eyes to my hands, clenched tightly on the wheel, and the corners of her mouth tightened as she pressed her lips together.

"Nothing, I just hate this car." I loosened my grip on the wheel, reminding myself to keep perspective, and smiled over at my daughter. "It's a decent car, I guess, but I'm out of practice. It's okay, Jo."

In the backseat, her sister chattered mindlessly, an endless outpouring of cheerful but totally unfiltered thoughts about the day to come. We had been planning Trolley Day for weeks, and while both girls had been disappointed at the need to rearrange the day, both had recovered well. There was nothing we could do about the trolley system not running - but we still had a whole day ahead of us, and we were determined to make the best of it.

"So first we're going to the library?" The chatter ended on this question, the word library accented with the higher pitch of hope seeping into Eden's voice as she anticipated the pleasure of losing herself in the stacks.

I rolled my eyes and maneuvered into a parking spot, still frustrated with the car and glad to be out of it. "No, not 'til later, babe," I said. I watched the reflection of her lowered face in the rearview mirror, smiling as she pouted a little in disappointment, my pride in her love of books washing away the last of the annoyance over the car. "We'll go there last - just in case."

Her face came up quickly at that, her eyes finding mine in the mirror, lit with excitement. She smiled faintly; I smiled back, ignoring the twinge of sadness that hit me as I looked into her face. Already self-conscious of her crooked teeth and too-small mouth, she rarely smiled completely, but I loved her face. "Just in case what?" she asked. "In case we get books? But I thought we weren't getting any books because it's a hassle to keep track and that's why we always check them on the kindle so we --"

"Just in case," I said again, smiling wider. If I didn't cut in and stop her she'd talk this over for the rest of the day and we'd never get anywhere. But she was right and I knew it - we would get books despite my vehement denial of this possibility. We all knew it - because I was a mom who couldn't resist a book, proud to raise two book-loving kids.

Beside me, Joey sighed, shaking her head. She knew too. "You guys ready to go?"

"Yep," I answered. "Grab your drinks."

Armed with bottles of flavored carbonated water and a small backpack of grocery store snacks, we left the car and headed out, making our way from the garage. Out in the sun, we looked around, trying to decide on the course of action for the day. I pulled up my trusty GPS. Downtown Knoxville can be crowded at times, and if you were unfamiliar with the area, it wouldn't be that hard to get turned around - but with a glance at the map on my cell phone screen, we were off.

I lingered alone as we walked, hanging just a few steps back, watching my daughters interact together. They traded playful elbow jabs and alternated between bickering and joking together, and I marveled at the way the five year age difference between them had begun slowly growing less and less obvious as Josephine's growth slowed down and Eden's began - finally - to catch up. They reached the end of the street and I called out to stop them, holding them back with the sound of my voice, thankful that my voice was enough to command them. They waited the few beats it took for me to catch up, two girls looking up to the sun-filled sky, bottled waters held carefully close, and then, reunited, we stood together on the corner of the intersection, waiting to cross.

It was Eden's first time crossing the Henley Street Pedestrian Bridge, and as we walked, she looked through the protective barriers, exclaiming over the height of the bridge and the relatively small size of the cars passing below us. I smiled knowingly, waiting until the girls were ready to keep moving. They would both be exclaiming soon.

Within the next fifteen minutes I stood grinning widely, one arm around my oldest daughter's waist, the other arm resting lightly on my youngest daughter's shoulders. And they were exclaiming - at the beauty of our city, the sheer height of our view from inside the Sunsphere, the minuteness of the people walking the streets and sidewalks below. We made our way slowly around the observation deck, admiring and comparing the views - did we like the World's Fair Park side, or the downtown view? Both had their perks, but we chose the park side, with it's wide expanses of bright green and the sparkling fall of the water in the park fountain.

"Is that where we're going, Mom?"

I followed the direction of Joey's arm as she pointed toward the spires of a park in the distance. It stood out from the buildings that surrounded it, painted wood tops colorful against the darker wood of the playground structure. "Fort Kid?" I asked, shaking my head. "Not this time." I took her hand, adjusting her arm so that it pointed toward the playground we were aiming for - the World's Fair Park Playground. "It's just there," I told her, aiming her wrist so that her finger pointed toward a stand of flags.

"Not a playground, mom," she answered, lowering her hand.

Beside me, Eden had spotted the largest splash pad in the city and was all but vibrating with excitement. "We're going to the fountain?"

Laughing, I shook my head, plucking at the fabric of her cotton sundress. "No, we're not dressed for that. But look there. Between the flags and the water. Those trees are blocking the playground, but there's one there."

"Does it have a tire swing?"

Josephine had fallen in love with tire swings recently, and this question from her was no surprise. Shaking my head in amusement, I steered my girls toward the elevator that would take us back to the ground below. "We'll see."

There was a tire swing, and two hours later, the girls and I broke away from the heat of the park to rest on a bench in the shade, snacking on the sweet chocolate-dotted granola bars we had carried along for the day, guzzling the rest of our waters.

"Do we have to go now? To the library?" Eden asked, talking as always with her mouth full. There wasn't much that would stop her from talking - not even a mouth full of granola.

"Chew first," I reminded her, pulling my cell phone from my pocket. I tapped the screen to wake the device, checked the clock, and sighed. The heat of the day had been wearing on me already, and while it had been a fun afternoon, I was ready for it to wind down. "Yeah," I said. "The library closes in a couple of hours, so if we want time to really look around while we're there, we need to go."

On the way back, we stopped to run our hands through the waters of the fountain pool, rode the elevator back up to the observation deck of the Sunsphere, and chatted about our day as we crossed the pedestrian bridge. But back in the downtown area, we check the map again.

"Which way is the library?" Eden asked. She had been equally as excited about the prospect of books as she had been about playing at the park, and I smiled down at her, proud to have successfully shared my love of books with her.

"It's close, right?" Joey asked, gesturing further down the street. "Like a block or two?"

"I think it's a few blocks over, actually," I answered, studying the map. "Yeah, but we're close though."

Walking into the children's section at the Lawson MgGhee branch of the Knox County Public Library was like leading a child into wonderland. Eden dropped my hand as soon as she'd entered the doors, anxious to scour the shelves for her next new read. Josephine headed for the computers, her mind already suggesting and discarding possible titles and authors to search for. And I? Well, I was in the world of printed pages, surrounded by the smell of aged paper, comforted by the heavy silence of the books and the quiet whispers of my children.

This photo was originally shared to Patreon here.

Two hours later, we left the library, weighted down with books, our hearts light and our minds already racing in preparation of the adventures we had checked out. Joey and I exchanged amused glances as we juggled books around the still-chattering Eden. It was over, and we were all ready - but it had been a great family day, downtown.


In honor of today's story, today's "Featured Favorite Product" is ... well, me. Some of you know that I recently had the opportunity to update the covers on two of my books, and I'm so excited to share them again here because I'm in love with how gorgeous they are! I mean, not that I didn't like my covers before, but wow. These are gorgeous, aren't they??

 click to purchase      click to purchase

The Selkie Trilogy is a series of sequential romantic fantasy novels. Each book in this series follows the last, with each new book continuing the story. These books are best enjoyed in order of publication, and this series contains mild/moderate sexual content. More information about this series and the books in it can be found here - or if you're one of those people who sees a gorgeous cover and just can't resist the one-click, then you can find Selkie here, and Selkie II here. There's sex, love, adventure, fighting, death, birth ... well, let's just assume you'll love it, shall we? Because you will. Because it's awesome.
What did you think of today's post? Did you like the short story format? Have you ever visited my city before, and if so, what was your favorite part of the visit? And what do you think of my new book covers? Are you as in love as I am? And if you've read the Selkie books, how do you feel about how these covers fit the story?

Make sure you take the time to look around while you're here; if you find something that really resonates with you, I'd love for you to share a link with your friends! While you're here, I'd like to invite 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.

If you liked this bit of fiction, come on over to Patreon for more - you can sign up to sponsor my writing journey for as little as $1 a month, and your dollar gets you access to all sorts of content, including photos (like the one I shared in the post) and mini-blogs (that expand on the photos) from my personal life. You'll also get advance peeks at my fiction writing, which is a pretty slick deal for just over $.03 a day. But if you want a little more, for just $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." 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 our next Undaunted Woman Interview!

And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.