Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Interviewing the #UndauntedWoman: Keisha Harold

Welcome back for this month's addition to my Interviewing the Undaunted Woman series! I've been having the best time for the last several months, interviewing women who have lived through and survived life's challenges with strength and grace, and as we move toward the Christmas holiday, I'm excited to introduce November 2017's Undaunted Woman, Keisha Harold.

Keisha was nominated to be featured here by my cousin Dana, who was inspired by Keisha's story and thought she would be a great fit for this series - and I'm so thankful to have had a chance to chat with Keisha and share her story of faith and hope here on my blog.


Tell me about yourself - what's your story, and how did you become an undaunted woman?
I am a single mother of two amazing strong sons, Desmond (18) and Keshawn (9). I am a Hair Artist an I love everything about it from the art I get to create to the people I get to interact with. I am Blessed. I am a Sober and Delivered Strong woman of God. I have fought addiction almost my whole life. Then I fell in Love with God and He has changed my whole life, my whole way of thinking. I have a life filled with love, encouragement, STRENGTH and most important Faith and Hope. I am an Undaunted because I refused to give up on myself, my kids and life. Also because of my Faith in God.


I love your perspective of how powerful having a strong faith can be! I can attest to that too, actually - getting closer to God has changed me as a woman for sure. So, have you ever struggled with confidence and/or self-worth? If you have, how did you overcome that struggle - and if you haven't, how did you avoid it?
I found my self worth in May of 2014; that's when I was baptized and became a new person in Christ. I never knew who I was until God showed Himself to me. I was mean, rude and had no self confidence. Now I know how to act in public, conduct my self as a woman. I know how to Love myself and others.


What is the one thing you've survived that makes you feel most like an "undaunted woman?"
I was not always so strong; I have been in abusive relationships, emotional and physical. I grew up watching my mother get beat up on and watching her struggle with her own addictions. My dad was a God fearing man. I didn't live inside my dad's home, but I did see God working in and through his life.


Even that can be a powerful influence - watching God work for the good of other people (such as your father) can be just as impactful in some ways as having Him working in our own lives.  And I think this works with other faiths as well. Now that you have that kind of influence over you more personally, what aspect of your current life do you find most rewarding?
My job as a Mother is the Best ever, scary but so rewarding. Also as a Hair Artist, the way that I can make people feel just by doing their hair, or maybe it's sharing my faith in God with them or the struggle I have overcome.


I can imagine you've had some great conversation with the women sitting in your chair! It's great that you can use your experience to shape your life as a mother as well. Which brings us to this: What is 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?
My successful strategy is to always try and remain calm, try and not let the situation control me. Talk in a cool calm voice. I like to think in a Christ-like way, what would JESUS do. People respond best when I am calm. Also PRAYER is very important.


Prayer is important to me too - it changes so much about my day to day life, so much so that I can clearly see a difference between when I'm closer to God and when I'm not. Let me ask you this, then; what other woman do you most admire, and why?
I admire all the women who never give up, who through the challenges of life continue to fight. My Mamaw Pearl, my sister Holly. My boss Vickie. Vickie has taught me so much about my business and life. And Frances, my Angel, because she took me in and showed me love when I had no idea what it meant. She is a blessing.


Sounds like you've had some amazing strong women in your life - I imagine they had their own sense of Undauntedness. What one quality serves you best as an undaunted woman?
I never let anyone or anything control my mind or thoughts BUT GOD. Never give up. We may get down BUT never give up.


A woman with her own mind - I like it! On the flip side of that, what one quality are you most looking to improve in yourself?
I would like to be more Fearless ... I would love to not over think everything.


Funny you should mention that - the concept of fearlessness. I wrote a blog post about fearlessness once, exploring the idea of myself as fearless. It was a good exercise in accepting my sense of fear, actually - although I'm with you on overthinking things. I do that all the time myself. But progress takes time and our growth is an always changing process, isn't it? So if you could do any one thing right now to help other women become undaunted, what would you be doing?
Right now my sister's family is living with me due to a fire in their home. I am trying to give hope when they are down, I am speaking positive when they say negative things. So I guess I would be their encouragement. I refuse to let this defeat us. We will be united. We are Family. With God all things are possible.

That's amazing. Family doesn't always mean people who stay beside each other and look out for each other - I'm glad you're making sure that it does mean that for your family and for your sister especially. 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?
Wow what a question. I would say, "Hello Beautiful Queen." I would say, "Always put God first. Always set boundaries, always love yourself. Never let anyone take from you. Always invest in yourself, be kind always. Love others."


Thank you so much for being here Keisha! I loved that you were so willing to share your story, and I love that you've allowed God to be such a strong influence on your life. My cousin was right to recommend you, and I'm glad I got over my own anxiety to reach out to you - your story has blessed and inspired me already. Thank you for allowing me to share it here.


If you liked this post or you've enjoyed following this series for any reason, please share the link with the undaunted women in your life! Let them know you appreciate their strengths and if you're inspired by their resilience. Or you could even take it one step further and nominate a woman for next month's interview; you can find details on how to do it here!

Subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar while you're here, too - it's a great way to make sure you never miss a post. And Keisha and I would love to hear from you; feel free to leave a comment below to share some of your story or to thank Keisha for sharing hers!

If you like this blog and want to take an active role in helping to keep it all running, there are several different ways to get involved. The easiest is just to make a donation here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. But, if you're a book lover like me or you'd like to help take charge of my writing on a more committed basis, skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens. Not only is Patreon a great way to help me manage the costs of running this blog (and life in general because hey, a girl's gotta keep the coffee pot percolating!), but this is also where my readers find a whole new way to read my novels - while I write them.

My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors by choosing their favorite reward tier (starting at as little as $1 a month), and that sponsorship gives them access to all sorts of content: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls! But the best part of Patreon is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'll start dedicating each of my blog posts to one special patron - which means YOU could be getting public shoutouts right here on the blog, just for being one of my Patreon subscribers!! Even better ... when we get to 50 patrons, I'll double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you. (PhLogs are public though, so go check those out for free - a really hilarious one went up over the weekend, and it still makes me laugh every time I think of it.)

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, my social media profiles, or even Patreon, you can always rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal. Click here to find out more about what it means to be an undaunted woman - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for our next Undaunted Interview!

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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Um ... Saturday Screwup? No Blog Post?

To my wonderful (and hopefully patient and forgiving) readers,

Sometimes, you just need to shut down, draw in, and take a break. This week I've been making a point to live life and love my kids - and since they've been on break from school, I've sort of been on break from writing. I'll be back on schedule in time for Tuesday's post though, where I'll be featuring November's Undaunted Interview. In the meantime if you're having content wothdrawals, feel free to click around here on the blog - I've got almost five years worth of content here! And if that's not enough, come on over to Patreon and sign up - I'm working on several novels over there, and have also built a collection of podcasts, bits of poetry, and little mini-blogs with fun pictures attached. 

I'll see you here again on Tuesday, but until then ...

Stay Undaunted.
B.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom: Thanksgiving As A Verb

You know the old saying about moms that says a Mom can turn anything into a verb? Like if you nag your mom all afternoon and then, while she's cooking dinner, you tell her you're hungry and ask her for a cookie, she might (if she's anything like me my mom) turn around shaking a finger at you and irritably declare, "I'll cookie you!"

Honestly, even if you stand there without a single pretense of a damn clue as to what she means by that, you're probably still smart enough to know it's not something good. So you leave her alone to cook, thank her for dinner, and then hopefully you'll still get that cookie for dessert.

Or something.

It works with Thanksgiving too. Thanksgiving is a beloved holiday celebrated in many different countries, in many different ways - but it's also a word, a feeling, an attitude. It's the glass half-full, it's the light at the end of the tunnel, it's a remembrance to stop and count the blessings in our lives. Thanksgiving, not as a pretty concept or a food filled holiday, but as an action word that moves us toward the inherent hope of a new year with gratitude and inspiration.

Recently, I read a great blog series about Thanksgiving-inspired-Thankfulness, and as the blogger took time out of normal life to outline 70 different things he was thankful for, I found myself both inspired and surprised - he had things like death, pain, and silence, mixed in with more expected things like his daughter, his parents, and his senses, and ... well, his list (combined with the general thankfulness that tends to spread like wildfire in November) got me thinking about the things I'm most thankful for, so I thought now would be a perfect time to share just a few of those things with you, my readers for whom I am always incredibly thankful.



01. My Daughters
Mom life isn't always easy and single mom life can sometimes be downright miserable. My oldest has finally developed strong coping mechanisms for her ADHD/ODD/Anxiety, but we still struggle with teen issues - and my youngest is nowhere near developing adequate coping skills for her ADHD/OCD/Panic Disorder. To top it all off, my sneaking suspicion that she might be on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum is beginning to sneak with a lot less subtlety. It breaks my heart to watch my girls struggle with feeling abandoned by their dad, and the burden of coaching them through their emotions isn't always easy to bear.

But despite all those things ... my children are the very light of my life. They bring me unimaginable joy; there are times when I'm quietly sitting in the background just watching them be who they are, and my heart fills up so suddenly with so much love I'll actually cry a little. They're smart and beautiful, kind, considerate, and generally amazing young women, and I'm incredibly blessed to be able to know them. It honors me to be the one who gets to see so much of the process as they become, day by day, the women they will someday be.

02. My Parents & Family
I've talked a lot here about the way I was raised, and the things my parents endured in their divorce and subsequent second marriages - but I don't feel that their stories are truly mine to share, so I have (almost) always shared those stories from my own perspective, as a child who was there and was impacted by the various things happening around me. Still, my parents have taught me amazing lessons over the years, both in what I wanted to be and what I didn't - as well as what I want from love and what I don't. My parents, for better or worse, have always been examples to me, and as I pick through those examples to file away the bits and pieces I want to hold onto, I'm thankful for how valuable those lessons are.

The same could be said for the rest of my family, which is a mashup of amazingly wonderful people and amazingly horrible people. From the strength and resilience of my grandmothers to the intelligence and entrepreneurial spirit of my mother's younger brother to the cold, calculating cruelty of certain other members of the family, I can say with definite certainty that I come from strong people who tend to know exactly what they want and are eternally determined to get it. From this group of people, I have learned not only who I am but how to love myself for who I am. I've learned to accept so much about myself and the world around me, and I've also learned that I have the power to change what I cannot accept, one halting but persistent step at a time.

03. My Friends
In my life, I've known the joy of deep and genuine friendship my times, but my gratitude could not be nearly so encompassing without the fact that I have known the pain of insincerity. I have had people I trusted turn their back on me, and I've had friends walk out of my life without ever looking back. I've  even been ghosted by someone who consistently accused me of not wanting to talk to them but would frequently ignore messages and texts.

But I've also been chosen and held onto. I have known the sweetness of being in a dark moment just when the right person calls - I've put on a happy face and a false sense of cheer while answering the phone, only to be asked, "What's wrong? Why are you crying?" I've been known by people who could see through the smile and hear the truth behind, "No I'm fine, just tired." Because the truest friends don't just open up to you and trust you with their secrets - they also come into the quiet places in your heart and make themselves at home, learning your secrets and accepting them for what they are. Without the blessing of my friends, I would be a very lonely woman indeed.

04. My Dog
My dog Chance is probably my best friend in all the world. He is my dearest, most dutiful companion, steadfastly devoted to being the keeper of all my secrets. He has stood calmly beside me for five years, soaking up tears with his fur, calming the fires of anger with puppy kisses, and sending away the shadows of loneliness simply by being there. He helps with my anxiety, he serves as friend and companion to my children, and his loyalty to Team Kennedy is unmatched. And it is his presence in my therapist's office that gives me the strength and courage to be there. I'm so thankful for his steadiness and his genuine desire to love and serve my little family, and I'm even more thankful when I think of how we almost missed having the blessing of each others's company.

05. My Emotions
When I am not emotionally numb due to my struggles with PTSD and PMDD, I am a woman of great emotional depth, and on the days when my emotions are working, it isn't uncommon for me to run the gamut emotions all in the space of one short 24 hour day. On these emotionally flooded days, not only do I tend to feel a wide range of emotions, but I feel each one incredibly strongly. These are days when I laugh or cry at the drop of a hat. Days when I love more deeply, smile more widely, and celebrate with abandon, not necessarily because all the emotions I'm feeling are good ones, but because I can feel them.

There is a place in life for sadness, for pain, for fear - the negative emotions are unpleasant, yes, but how can one truly appreciate something sweet without first having endured the shivering grimace of bitterness?

06. My Faith
My life has definitely had its share of ups and downs, but the one thing that always helps me through the toughest times is my faith in Christ. Prayer gives me peace and hope, my Bible gives me courage and guidance, and the teachings of my faith help me make sense of the world around me, even when it's ugly. My faith inspires me to seek beauty even where there is none, and to find compassion for even the most challenging people, because no matter how difficult the individual, I am (almost) always mindful of the belief that each and every person was created on purpose, for a purpose, by a God whose wisdom is infinitely greater than mine.

07. Language
Without the blessing of words and the ability to use them to express my thoughts and feelings, I would be a complete and total disaster. Writing has been my favorite and most effective coping mechanism since long before I was even old enough to consciously recognize it for what it was, and I am and will always be eternally thankful for the gift of eloquent expression. It is through communication with one another that we foster love and closeness, share our sorrows and struggles, and form the intimate bonds that take us beyond the limitations of the spoken word - and I give heartfelt thanks each and every time I sit down at a keyboard, not only because I feel so blessed to be able to use words to create art, because I am humbled and honored to have readers to appreciate it.

08. Sleep
This week has been a busy one for me, which is compounded by a lack of sleep. My nightmares have been worse, my nocturnal panic attacks have been more frequent, and I've had a general sense of discomfort that has plagued me for the last several nights. I'm exhausted - and that's why this list ends here instead of being as long as I had wanted it to be. Because sleep, when I can find the peace to rest in it, is one of the biggest, most restorative blessings of my life. And frankly, I'm in desperate need of some.


If you liked this post because you've also been practicing thanksgiving as a verb, please share the link with the people you're thankful for! Make sure you take the time to subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar, too - it's a great way to make sure you'll never miss a post. I want you to know that another thing I'm always thankful for is your comments here - I love it when my readers make this blog interactive, so definitely leave a comment and tell me all about what you're most thankful for down below!

Just in case you're new here and didn't know this, if you like this blog and want to take an active role in helping to keep it all running, there are several different ways to get involved. The easiest is just to make a donation here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. But, if you're a book lover like me or you'd like to help take charge of my writing on a more committed basis, skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens. Not only is Patreon a great way to help me manage the costs of running this blog (and life in general because hey, a girl's gotta keep the coffee pot percolating!), but this is also where my readers find a whole new way to read my novels - while I write them.

My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors by choosing their favorite reward tier (starting at as little as $1 a month), and that sponsorship gives them access to all sorts of content: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls! But the best part of Patreon is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'll start dedicating each of my blog posts to one special patron - which means YOU could be getting public shoutouts right here on the blog, just for being one of my Patreon subscribers!! Even better ... when we get to 50 patrons, I'll double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you. (PhLogs are public though, so go check those out for free - a really hilarious one went up over the weekend, and it still makes me laugh every time I think of it.)

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, my social media profiles, or even Patreon, you can always rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal. Click here to find out more about what it means to be an undaunted woman - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for our next Undaunted Interview!

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

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Soiree: International Women's Entrepreneurship Day

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

But, if you're a book lover like me or you'd like to help take charge of my writing on a more committed basis, skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens. Not only is Patreon a great way to help me manage the costs of running this blog (and life in general because hey, a girl's gotta keep the coffee pot percolating!), but this is also where my readers find a whole new way to read my novels - while I write them. My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors by choosing their favorite reward tier (starting at as little as $1 a month), and that sponsorship gives them access to all sorts of content: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls! But the best part of Patreon is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'll start dedicating each of my blog posts to one special patron - which means YOU could be getting public shoutouts right here on the blog, just for being one of my Patreon subscribers!! Even better ... when we get to 50 patrons, I'll double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you. (PhLogs are public though, so go check those out for free!)

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, my social media profiles, or even Patreon, you can always rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal. Click here to find out more about what it means to be an undaunted woman - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for our next Undaunted Interview!

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


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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thankful Thursday: Dollar Days At Zoo Knoxville

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

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

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

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

*affiliate disclaimer at the bottom of post*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Did you know that if you like this blog, you can take an active role in helping to keep it running? There are several different ways to get involved! The easiest way if just to make a donation here - you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever you like. But, if you're a book lover like me or you'd like to help take charge of my fiction writing, skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens. This is where my readers find a whole new way to read my novels - while I write them. My patrons directly sponsor my fiction writing by choosing their favorite reward tier (starting at as little as $1 a month), and that sponsorship gives them access to all sorts of content: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, and the weekly L.A.F.F.S.! But the best part of Patreon is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'll start dedicating each of my blog posts to one special patron - which means YOU could be getting public shoutouts right here on the blog, just for being one of my Patreon subscribers!! Even better ... when we get to 50 patrons, I'll double my monthly fiction chapters! (PhLogs are public though, so go check those out for free!)

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, my social media profiles, or even Patreon, you can always rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal. Click here to find out more about what it means to be an undaunted woman - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for our next Undaunted Interview!

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



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

Monday, November 13, 2017

Motivation Monday: The Power Of A Good Word

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Did you know that if you like this blog, you can take an active role in helping to keep it running? There are several different ways to get involved! The easiest way if just to make a donation here - you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever you like. But, if you're a book lover like me or you'd like to help take charge of my fiction writing, skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens. This is where my readers find a whole new way to read my novels - while I write them. My patrons directly sponsor my fiction writing by choosing their favorite reward tier (starting at as little as $1 a month), and that sponsorship gives them access to all sorts of content: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, and the weekly L.A.F.F.S.! But the best part of Patreon is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'll start dedicating each of my blog posts to one special patron - which means YOU could be getting public shoutouts right here on the blog, just for being one of my Patreon subscribers!! Even better ... when we get to 50 patrons, I'll double my monthly fiction chapters! (PhLogs are public though, so go check those out for free!)

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, my social media profiles, or even Patreon, you can always rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal. Click here to find out more about what it means to be an undaunted woman - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for our next Undaunted Interview!

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday Feels: November

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because duh. Sorry, Mila.

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

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

Hm. Maybe I am stubborn, after all.

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

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

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


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

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