Sunday, December 31, 2017

Top 10 Posts Of 2017

You guys. For real. 2017 kicked my ass. I struggled with money, depression, anxiety, single parenting. Health problems. Car problems. Dread. Fear. Death.

But I also rose above the challenges for the most part, and I like to think that I grew and learned and handled most of what came my way with at least some pretense of strength and grace. 2017's focus word was WARRIOR, and I lived this entire year with that mindset - fighting through the things I was dealing with, keeping my eye on victory. And I'm still here. I did it.

And I'm ready for 2018, ready for the promise of a new year and 365 new chances to succeed. I'm ready for new quarterly goals, Undaunted Interviews, new partnerships in the blogging community, and new opportunities to challenge myself.

But first ...


I wrote over 150 blog posts in 2017 - with a major focus on mental health and wellness, sprinkled throughout with the adventures of a single mom raising two daughters on her own. I talked about my PTSD and how I cope with it, talked about my daughters' challenges as they deal with feelings of sadness and abandonment after my split with their dad, and covered tons of the other lifestyle topics I love best.

But what did YOU guys love best? Based on shares and pageviews, here are the top ten most-seen posts (from this blog) of 2017:

1.) "Works For Me Wednesday: Teeth Whitening For The First Time" - This year I had the pleasure of partnering with Smile Brilliant for a product review, and I'm still loving how well this product works for me. I'm still using Smile Brilliant once a week to maintain my smile, and it never fails to amaze me how well this quick and painless process fits into my regular schedule. Want to try Smile Brilliant too? You can get 10% off your purchase of a Smile Brilliant kit with coupon code: authorbrandikennedy10. Now that's something to Smile Brilliant about. Or maybe it's a reason to #smilefearlessly. Either way works for me.


2.) "Interviewing The #UndauntedWoman: Elizabeth Brico" - This post bloomed out of a collaboration effort that was magic right from the very beginning. I first met Elizabeth through a blogging group we were both part of, and the more we interacted, the more cool she seemed. I loved how honest and open she was about her struggles with addiction and motherhood, and I loved how courageously she shared stories about her experiences with domestic violence. There could be no Undaunted Woman Interview Series without her, and I'm still just as honored to have been able to share her story here as I was when the post first went live.


3.) "Depression Is More Than A Keyword -- My Depression Is My Fault, Part I" - In April 2016, I really got honest about what depression was doing in my life and how it had even bled over into my writing - sometimes without me even realizing it was happening. I wrote a whole post series about it, and the post that made #3 on this list was #5 in that seven-part series. In it, I talked about how the world seems to view my "choice" to stay depressed, addressing the idea with as much ludicrous sarcasm as the concept deserved. In the post immediately to follow, I talked more honestly about what depression is really like for me, before wrapping the series up with a post about the importance of hope. This one showing up on this list was a surprise for me since it's an older post - but I'm glad it's still being seen, because the things in it really needed to be said.


4.) "Guest Post: Jennifer K. Ensley - This Writer's Dream Vacation" - I don't usually feature a lot of guest posts here, partly because I'm pretty possessive about this little space I've created, and partly because ... well, it's pretty much completely because I'm possessive about this space. I love this blog and I love the little community of people who come here to read - and while I love sharing this space through interviews and things like that ... I also love that this is MY place. My little corner of the world. It's a place where readers can come expecting ME.

But Jennifer Ensley is not only an amazing storyteller and talented writer, she's also an honest gem of a person and a total delight to be around. Opening my blog to a guest post from her was like opening my front door and admitting a friend, so I'm thrilled to see her post among the best of 2017.


5.) "Works For Me Wednesday: Habit Stacking" - I talked a lot about productivity this year, and how I manage to keep up with this blog despite my frequent bouts with crippling anxiety and depression. There are days when I barely function at all, but this blog is something that means the world to me - it's more than just a promotional tool for my books and a platform from which I can market my Patreon account. This blog is therapy, and not keeping up with it would likely leave my mental health in serious trouble. It truly is a lot to manage sometimes though - which is why routine-building and habit stacking are among my favorite and most useful productivity techniques.


6.) "Monday Movies: 13 Going On 30" - Monday Movies is such a fun post series, and I love that it allows me to take something as fun as a movie and use it to add great content to my blog. It's a fun way to break up the seriousness of a mental health blog while injecting a little bit of who I am and what I like into the posts. Not to mention, this was just such a cute movie!


7.) "Friday Feels: September" - Friday Feels is another one of the series I love best about writing this blog. One part listicle, one part journal - all parts self-love and introspection. In this series, I take a list of ten random emotions/feelings, explore the things in my life that have me feeling those particular emotions/feelings, and encourage my readers to share along in the comments. It's a fun series - still waiting on that reader participation to kick in though ... but that's okay. I love my lurkers too, even if I don't know who they are.


8.) "Storytime Saturday: Downtown" - I loved how fun it was to write this post, because I got to sit down and relive a great family day with the girls. One of the things I've been focusing more on this year was getting out of the house as a family and finding free or affordable things to do. This was a recounting of a truly great day for us.


9.) "Self-Care Sunday: How I Beat Burnout" - How timely that this was on this list! Lately I've really been battling burnout, with Christmas being rough this year, money being almost impossibly tight, and more problems than I was ready to handle coming at me all at once. I've been super overwhelmed and really struggling to keep up with everything in my life lately, which had me so burned out I didn't even want to write at times. This is always a sure sign that I need to indulge in some extra self-care, which is perfect because the self-care techniques listed in this post are my most favorite ways to beat burnout and get myself back on track.


10.) "Motivation Monday: Build A Life Of (Core) Value" - I love love love that this post made this list. It's a post I wrote - in part - to promote my Patreon page and let interested readers know a little more about what they could expect as one of my Patrons. My reward tiers have changed a bit since the writing of this post, but the general offering is still pretty much the same - and it still include my amazing podcast series, where I'm exploring core values, what they mean to me, how they fit into our society, and how we can all build a life based on the principles of these values. The podcast series is a real pride point for me, and I love recording them! There are currently nine podcasts in the series, covering:

My podcast is among the most fun of all the various things I'm doing these days, and I can't wait to see how far it grows. Want to listen in? My podcasts are available to all Patrons on the $5 tier (or above), and there are only 79 places left on that tier.


Wow, it has really been a busy year, huh? Sometimes while you're going through it, it's easy to lose track of everything that's happening and changing. Do you remember any of the posts that made this list? Were they posts you shared with your friends - or if you're a new reader here, which of the posts listed above looks most like something you'd like to see more of in the coming year?

If you liked this little round-up or if you know someone who would appreciate the kind of content I'm sharing here, please feel free to share the link with your friends or on your social media - it really helps me get the word out about my blog, and I love the way it brings new readers into our little community! I'd love to interact with you in the comments too, so if anything in this post touched or inspired you in any way, definitely leave a comment and tell me what you think!

Make sure you 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 if you like this blog and want to take an active role in keeping it all running, here are two ways you can get involved:
  1. Make a donation through Paypal by clicking here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. Or ...
  2. Skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens.
Not only is Patreon a great way to help manage the costs of running this blog (and life in general because hey, a girl's gotta keep the coffee pot percolating!), it's also where my readers get 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 sponsorship gives Patrons 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!

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 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.

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, social media, or even Patreon, you can always rest assured that my brand is built on 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.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Interviewing The #UndauntedWoman: Elizabeth Legere

It's hard to believe the way this Interviewing the Undaunted Woman series has grown over the last several months. I've interviewed four amazing women so far and I couldn't be more proud to know women as strong as the ones who have allowed me to share their stories here on the blog. These women are survivors, each a warrior in her own respect, each a women who has battled - and defeated - her own personal demons. From domestic abuse to addiction, to postpartum depression and the lasting impact of childhood trauma, women everywhere are a testament to what it means to be human in all the right ways.

Not only do we stand tall and persevere, but we do it sometimes without even realizing the impact we can have on others simply by sharing our stories - both the struggles and the triumphs. Because it is in the very midst of our struggles that we inspire compassion in the hearts of others - and it is at the height of our triumphs that we give hope to those still struggling.

I didn't look for nominations for this month's woman - because I knew the second I met Elizabeth Legere that I wanted to feature her here, and as I learned more and more of her story, I only came to appreciate her more - not because she presents as a heroine, but because despite the depth of her story she retains the sort of humble spirit and contagious optimism that simply demand to be admired.


Tell me about yourself - what's your story, and how did you become an undaunted woman?
I really didn’t know I was an “undaunted” woman until you called me that. I have been through a lot but try not to dwell on things. My story starts in my teens with the death of my mom (19). This event changed my life. I had my oldest son at 23, my dad died when I was 28, at 29 my youngest son was born. A few years ago my boys dad and I split and the boyfriend I had was physically abusive, I lost faith in the justice system because he got nothing. I’m now back with the boys dad and we are stronger than ever. I had to grow as a person (quit drinking, enrolled in school).


I can relate to that sense of loss - feeling like even the police won't or can't protect you. I had an ex threaten to kill me once, and when I went for a restraining order, the court denied it because he hadn't actually tried to kill me yet. That's what makes a strong woman so admirable though - she's strong anyway. So tell me this then - 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?
When someone berates you constantly you start to believe it. I had to remind myself that I’m worth something and I mean something. I still have anxiety and PTSD from being abused but I ground myself and remember I’m amazing.


Easier said than done sometimes, isn't it? But that's what makes an undaunted woman what she is - the perseverance to stand up and keep trying. What is the one thing you've survived that makes you feel most like an "undaunted woman?"
A man breaking into my apartment and jerking me out of bed from a dead sleep. He threw me into a wall and lifted me off the floor to throw me in the living room. He was so angry he spit in my face while he screamed at me. The justice system did nothing but have him attend anger management class.


That must have been horrifying to live through, and even more so without the protection of the courts. But having survived it now, what aspect of your current life do you find most rewarding?
I’m very proud and love my life now. I keep improving myself and everything I do.


That's the best any of us can hope for, I think. What's your favorite successful strategy or coping mechanism for dealing with challenging people or situations, and how is that strategy impacted by what you've survived?
When I’m facing challenging people I let them talk. Depending on the situation I agree with them because it’s pointless to argue or I tell my side (usually pointless). I try not to waste energy on them. I’m better than that.


That's one of the lessons I've been learning in my own life in the last several years - how to interact peacefully with people who aren't all that peaceful. I find it especially hard when the most difficult people are other women too, because it breaks my heart to know how few women truly want to reach out and lift other women up. What other woman do you most admire, and why?
My mom is and will always be my hero. She was an amazing woman that was very intelligent and strong natured.


It's good that you had that kind of relationship with her - a mother can make such a huge difference, can't they? But tell me, what one quality serves you best as an undaunted woman?
Standing my ground.


Another one I've been learning in my own life. Maybe that's part of why I so admire women like you - women who know where their boundaries lie and are comfortable defending those boundaries from being disrespected. But if you've got that mastered, what one quality are you most looking to improve in yourself?
My financial situation and to teach my boys to be good men.


Admirable goals, for sure! If you could do any one thing right now to help other women become undaunted, what would you be doing?
Listening to them.


It's amazing what a difference that makes, isn't it? Sometimes all a person needs is to be heard; regardless of who we are and what we've been through, we all have stories to tell - stories that deserve to be heard. That being said, if you could stand in front of every woman on the planet right now and speak into their hearts, what would you most want to say to them?
You. Are. Enough.



Three simple words. One small concept - but such a huge difference it makes in your life when you believe those words to be true. You are enough.

You are enough.

Thank you for being here, Elizabeth - and for being willing to share some of your story with my readers. It's stories like yours that give women like me the strength to survive our own struggles, and it's women like you who lay the groundwork for the courage of others to bloom.

If you liked this post or if you enjoy following this series, please feel free to share the link with the undaunted women in your life - let them know how much you appreciate their strength and 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! I'd love to interact with you in the comments too, so if this post touched or inspired you in any way, definitely leave a comment and tell me what you think of this series or what else you might like to see here!

Make sure you subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar while you're here - it's a great way to make sure you never miss a post. And if you like this blog and want to take an active role in keeping it all running, here are two ways you can get involved:
  1. Make a donation through Paypal by clicking here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. Or ...
  2. Skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens.

Not only is Patreon a great way to help manage the costs of running this blog (and life in general because hey, a girl's gotta keep the coffee pot percolating!), it's also where my readers get 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 sponsorship gives Patrons 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!

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 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.

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, social media, or even Patreon, you can always rest assured that my brand is built on 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.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Monday Minute: Merry Christmas


Finally finished. A crazy, happy, wild, mismatched, fun-loving holiday for ten. Merry Christmas, friends - from my family to yours.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Friday Feels: December

I love these posts. Friday Feels is maybe my second favorite series here (after the Undaunted Interviews, of course), because I love that it's simple but honest, I love that it keeps my mental health focus while allowing me to share my life with my readers ... and on days like today, when I just learned that Eden will be having surgery number six in January ... these posts are set up to be easy to write.

Every time you go to or refresh this page, you'll be given a randomly generated emotion/feeling, and what I like to do for these posts is just refresh the page and take the first ten feelings I'm given. Then I spend a little time on each one, thinking through what's going on in my life that might provoke or connect to that feeling. Sometimes they're easy to do and I can come up with things that are easy to share ... other times I have things come up that I'd rather not share here, or I have a tough time coming up with something to match the emotion.

Either way - the exploration of what I'm feeling combined with the honest admission of why I'm feeling it helps to enrich my understanding of myself and my world ... and I like that in sharing my own story so honestly, I'm able to give clarity and comfort to others with similar experiences.

So let's see what comes up in December, shall we?


1. Absorbed:
For lack of what I feel would be a solid way to connect this particular term to my own emotional range, I'll take my awesome cousin's suggestion of sharing what I'm most absorbed in lately, which would probably be The Hunger Games. I know, I know, I'm late to the game ... but still.

I'm still reading through the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, but recently Eden read the first Hunger Games book, and she was desperately hungry to be allowed to read the second book. I asked her, "How would I feel about that?" and she said, "Well ... there was some holding hands and some kissing in the first one - but that was all, I promise! No sex stuff!"

"Do you think I would think we should have a talk about that book and what was in it?" I asked.

She shrugged, her shoulders stooping over in anticipated disappointment. "Probably."

"And do you think this is something I should pre-read?"

She frowned, but I had a moment of abject pride when she nodded. "Yeah, probably," she sighed.

So I read the first book - and I was hooked. I read the second, approved it (with talking conditions), and then moved on quickly to read the third. And seriously you guys. If you haven't read these and you love a great adventure that's inspiring and empowering and suspenseful and actually features a female character as the hero ... then go get the Hunger Games now. You can pick up the whole boxed set in paperback here, or go for the e-books here - it's just under $20 for the paperbacks and just over $20 for the e-books, and either way you won't be disappointed.


2. Disappointed:
I think this month, the thing I've been most disappointed in is my own inability to get into the "proper" Christmas spirit. I love Christmas - I love the giving spirit and the magic of the Elf on the Shelf, and I love that my kids still love Santa. I love the music (aside from the idiocy of people trying to take this song and make it about a damn date-rape), I love the sense of tradition ... I love it all.

But this has been a hard year for me, and a lot has changed - and sometimes the weight of it all is just too much to allow much of that Christmas joy to seep through. When I add my daughters suffering over being abandoned by their dad, the financial stress of trying to manage pretty much everything alone, my mother spending several days recently in the hospital, and the news that Eden will be having yet another unexpected surgery soon ... well, I'm just not feeling it. Which is a disappointment to me, because I miss being able to feel that excitement.

And the fact that I'm currently shoving myself through a period of PTSD-induced decompensation isn't helping.


3. Dreary:
Dreary. That's the decomposition for sure. It's the sense of complete and total boredom that makes everything unappealing. I'm not hungry enough to be excited about eating even my favorite foods, not able to enjoy the scent and spirit of a good cup of coffee. I did alright with reading though - that was one of the things this month that I was actually able to engage in. But the rest of it? I'm just ... meh.

Even colors don't seem all that bright lately. It's just all ... boring. PTSD sucks.


4. Fuming:
The holiday season has been rough on my kids, especially the youngest. Abandonment is hard to deal with at any age, but when you're an eight year old kid who already has issues with anxiety and depression and then you have someone you love completely disappear from your life (like for months at a time with no warning at all) ... it has an impact. She's recently asked me to make her an appointment with a therapist because she knows how much mine helps me ... and she seemed relieved to learn that there is medication for depression. It breaks my heart.

But it also really, REALLY, REALLY pisses me off. I mean seriously.



5. Helpless:
Motherhood is hard, guys. It's the biggest blessing of my life, and I'm proud of the way my kids are turning out. They're kind-hearted, sweet girls who go out of their way to defend and befriend the kids around them. They're helpful and generally eager to please, emotionally intelligent, generally honest and usually open. I love them with every fiber of my being and every cell of my spirit.

But it's hard; being a single mom is hard enough on its own, but both of my kids have a pile of health problems to manage, and they each have their own mental health troubles as well. Coaching them through life and being everything they need me to be ... sometimes I just feel like no matter how good I get at juggling, I'll always be dropping the ball somewhere.


6. Joyous:
On the other side of that helplessness and the range of negative emotions that color periods of decompensation, there are still moments of joy that tear their way through the numbness that defines the majority of my days when I'm struggling. Moments like the one right after Eden's surgeon dropped the round-four surgical bomb on me, and while I struggled to maintain an appropriately calm tone and demeanor for Eden's sake, Josephine saw through the act pretty quickly; she stepped into her big sister role like a champ, pulled Eden into a conversation that distracted her, and made me a proud mommy. Moments like that are my favorites, because when I'm feeling like just about everything I do backfires in my face, my kids turning out the way they are reminds me that something's going right with them. And since I'm the major influence over who they are, it stands to reason that I have had at least a little bit to do with that. I fail a lot, and I have my own set of quirks for sure - but these kids are, without a doubt, a job very well done.


7. Optimistic:
The one good thing about periods of decompensation combined with my own penchant for honest introspection is that, when I'm sitting around feeling sorry for myself and thinking that I'm on my knees in the rock bottom of my life, I can remind myself that if I'm right and this is rock bottom, then there's nowhere left to go but up. It's going to better because it must. Because if what goes up must come down, then the opposite is also true, and what goes down must also come back up.

And if all there is in front of me is growth and increasing success in the various areas of my life where I'm totally busting my own ass every single day ... then that's the very height of optimism, isn't it?


8. Passionate:
When I'm struggling, music is a passion for me - the beat drives me and feeds the places in my soul that are hungry, and the lyrics give me words I didn't even know I needed, support where it's otherwise hard to find, and the fuel I need to keep going when I'm burned out. And when that doesn't work, there's always writing. There's this blog, where I can come and share a story with a reader who might relate, share a life lesson with someone who needed those words right in that moment, or ask a question hundreds or thousands of people might take the time to help me answer. There's Patreon, where I can sink myself into producing poetry that allows me to express the depth of what I'm feeling in a way that's pretty and appealing - no matter how ugly and unappealing my feelings might be in the moment. Patreon, where I'm writing eight books one chapter at a time - both because it's thrilling to know someone will read along as I go, and because the knowledge that someone is waiting is probably what keeps me hopeful enough to be inspired to do it.

When even that fails ... there are two little girls, one with solemn, slightly mismatched green eyes, the other with curious orbs of palest blue, each her own version of dark-haired innocent beauty. And every morning when they wake up full of life and oozing sass, their energy breathes life and purpose into me - and that is passion enough to keep going.


9. Scared:
January is terrifying to me at the moment. Christmas is coming, and after that 2018 opens with a bang. I'm doing "Bloguary" again this year - blogging every day in January (except Sundays), and while I'm super excited about some things that have developed and some posts that have been planned, I'm also a little intimidated by the rigorous writing schedule required in order to make it all happen - especially with the beginning of the month dedicated to the girls being out of school for winter break and the end of it dominated by pre-op appointments and surgical preparations. I'm excited enough to at least attempt it anyway because I want to ... but I'm also definitely concerned about the very real possibility that I will fail to get it all done as intended.

And that's without going into my fears and concerns regarding the fact that in just over a month, I'll be giving my baby away to her surgeon again, trusting that in the end, he will be able to give her back to me.


10. Skeptical:
I've been looking back on this last year with a mixture of admiration for myself and an abject feeling of defeat. Under the surface, I made major strides toward the advancement of my family - I kept going the therapy, I found myself a doctor (after nearly ten years of not bothering with one), I made motions toward changing and growing and bettering the situation my family is currently in. I hired an assistant to help me promote my writing. I wrote like a fiend. I grew my blog. I made new friends. I learned to set emotional boundaries. And I accomplished a load of quarterly goals.

But I still have a lot of progress to make, a lot of growth to accomplish, and a lot of learning to do. I have ambitious goals for 2018, beginning with the previously mentioned "Bloguary," and hopefully ending with my life and my family on the road to success.

That requires SO MUCH to fall into place in order to work though. And while I am hopeful - and yes, even optimistic - I am also incredibly skeptical. I don't generally have the best of luck, and I have very little faith that it's going to miraculously turn around in 12 months.

Then again ... It might. Right?


Which of these ten feelings have you been dealing with most lately, and what has inspired that feeling in your life? I'd love for you to share your own Friday Feels in the comments - and it would also be awesome if you take a second to share this post with your friends!

If you'd like to make sure you never miss a post here, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - but before you do that ... did you know that you can help keep this site running? There are two ways you can get involved:
  1. Make a donation through Paypal by clicking here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. Or ...
  2. Skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens.

Not only is Patreon a great way to help manage the costs of running this blog (and life in general because hey, a girl's gotta keep the coffee pot percolating!), it's also where my readers get 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 sponsorship gives Patrons 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!

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 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.

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, social media, or even Patreon, you can always rest assured that my brand is built on 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.)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tuesday Talk: Five Years As An Author

I don't usually make a huge deal out of every anniversary that passes by. I don't always post "book birthday" stuff on the anniversaries of my books' publication dates, and I don't go crazy as each new year passes by.

Sometimes this is because I don't need to make a point of celebrating each and every milestone - I"m much too busy searching out the best way to reach the next milestone I'm headed toward. Other times, I don't publicly celebrate anniversaries because I have days where I feel like celebrating an anniversary of what I have done is just another way of pointing out to myself what I still haven't done. Twisted, I know. Welcome to my world.

But skipping public celebration of a first or second or fourth anniversary isn't the same as skipping a milestone. Five years, you guys. It has been exactly five years since I wrote this post, starting this blog as a way to grow and nurture my brand new author platform.

In the five years since that first day, I've published seven novels, one short story, a handful of poems, a bunch of podcasts, over a dozen bonus fiction chapters, and four hundred seventy-nine blog posts on this site - and while I was doing all that writing, my life was changing in more ways than I could handle, making me need the writing all the more.


Writing gives me freedom. It's therapy for me - it's a way to escape through creating stories. It's a way to express with the beautiful power of words. It's a way to live in a world where things turn out alright in the end - a world I'm not sure really exists anymore, if we're being honest. Sometimes, it's a way to live in an outright fantasy for a while, like I did with Selkie, leaving the real world's troubles behind. My ultimate dream is that one day, this writing that I so love will become a way to fund the futures of my children, my daughters who are the reason I wake up every day and the motivation that keeps me trying to succeed.

But writing has not come without cost - for reasons I've hinted at but won't go into full detail on, publishing that first novel and taking that step into an independent career cost me my home and my relationship. It changed everything about my way of life, took things I counted on and make them nonexistent, took things that were still functioning in my world and made them irreparable. Through everything that happened in the last five years, writing stayed something I could lean on because it would be there, something I could do because I'm good at it, a safe place I could hide in because I could create whatever world I wanted. Perhaps that's the root of why I love writing, why it's my passion -  and why I honestly feel with all my heart that it's my purpose on this planet, the thing I God intended me to do.

As I witness the end of my first five-year period as an author and celebrate the beginning of the second, I'm still seeing changes in my life, many of which are terrifying for me. And yet I push on, both in life and in fiction - living through each day as it comes, writing new stories word by word. It's still a little hard to believe how much has changed in my life, and in me as a person, during the course of the last five years. I've grown so much and become in so many ways an entirely new person - one that I'm proud of even as I struggle to accept some of the changes.

But no matter what changes, no matter what variables are constantly in flux, there will always be writing, there will always be stories and characters. There will always be a little notebook nearby, slowly filling with ideas for the next character, the next book, the next series.

I hope you'll keep following the journey - there's still so much more to come.


Five years, can you believe it!? Have you read any of my book in that time, or are you strictly a blog reader? I'd love to get to know you more in the comments - I've been telling about me for five years now, so it's more than time for you to take your turn! It would be awesome if you wanted to share this or any other post before you go too, and if you'd like to make sure you never miss a post here, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar!

If you like this site and want to help keep it running, here are two ways you can get involved:

  1. Make a donation through Paypal by clicking here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. Or ...
  2. Skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens.


Not only is Patreon a great way to help manage the costs of running this blog (and life in general because hey, a girl's gotta keep the coffee pot percolating!), it's also where my readers get 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 sponsorship gives Patrons 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!

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 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.

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, social media, or even Patreon, you can always rest assured that my brand is built on 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.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wacky Wednesday: The Best Gag Gifts for 2017

I know that for many of us, December is all about Christmas and showing our loved ones how much we care by surprising them with the perfect gift. It's about shopping and Santa and twinkle lights and holiday baking; it's candy and decorations and all the excitement we can stand.

For others, there's very little Christmas involved and the focus is more on the remembrance and celebration of Christ. or other religious beliefs. And sure, gifts are probably still involved, but the fun fancy festivity isn't the major focus.

But for those of us for whom the gift-giving is one of the most joyous parts of the Christmas season, here's a few of my favorite ways to squeeze just a little extra oomph out of your gifts this year.


Make 'Em Hunt For It.
One of my favorite ways to amp up a Christmas gift, whether I'm trying to buy a little more time and draw out the process or I'm trying to raise the bar on what I'm afraid might be a gifting dud, my go-to answer is always a gift hunt. I love doing them with my daughters, especially, because after I've spent weeks (or months) agonizing over the right things to get, the most magical way to deliver them, who's getting credit for what, where I'm gonna hide it all, how I'm gonna wrap it all ... well, let's just say the last thing I want is for my efforts to literally go up in smoke as my kids RIP through their gifts in five minutes flat and then spend the rest of the day telling me how bored they are.

Now, granted, they don't actually usually do that because I actually have pretty chill kids for the most part, but still ...

One year, Joey was really into money saving and shopping with her own money and stuff like that. So I got her a little electronic ATM penny bank for Christmas as her "big gift" that year - but even though I was pretty sure she would love it, I wasn't entirely positive she wouldn't be disappointed that it wasn't an American Girl doll or whatever other expensive toy I couldn't afford that year. So I tried to beef up the excitement factor by turning it into a hunt. Before I went to bed on Christmas Eve night, I hid the gift in the bathtub behind the shower curtain knowing that she was highly unlikely to discover it before it was time, and then I hid about 6 or 8 little hints all around the house, each one leading to the next. The first was hidden in a Christmas ball on the tree, and the hints took her to various places in our apartment - the bottom of the fish tank (accessible through the storage cabinet the tank was sitting on), the silverware drawer in the kitchen, even the mailbox outside. Ultimately, the gift was a hit - but would it have been as much of a hit if there hadn't been so much pomp and circumstance?

Who knows. I plan to keep doing hunts now and then though, just to be sure.

Box 'Em Up - In Multiples.
Got a small gift that might lose some impact (or be too obviously what it is?) in it's original packaging? I mean really, a ring box can only be a ring box after all, right?

So how about getting creative this Christmas and leaving the guesswork intact for your gift recipient? What about wrapping your ring box and putting it into a slightly bigger box? What about also wrapping that second box too? What about putting the ring into a balloon, adding that balloon to a box full of other balloons, and letting your gift recipient pop all the balloons to find the gift?

Not only does this amp up the element of surprise, but it also makes your gift something memorable and special - not only for the awesomeness of the gift itself, but also for the memory now permanently attached to it.

Disguise It.
I've talked a little here about my maternal Grandmother, and how it breaks my heart to know that Alzheimer's will be the monster that takes her out of this life. I've talked about how strong she always seemed to be to me when I was growing up, and I've talked just a little about what a survivor she was throughout her life. But what I haven't talked a lot about is the way she took such a huge role in my childhood - in many ways, she was the one constant, the one safe place, the one haven of strength and predictability that existed in my life.

But she was such a prankster. I remember one year when my mom's health was still in the beginning stages of the painfully slow failure our family has been forced to watch over the last 20 years, and we were living with my Grandmother and my cousins in her little duplex in Deland. That year, we had Christmas together in that little living room, filled with the furniture she still owned twenty years later when she finally entered a nursing home to be cared for as Alzheimer's took hold over her mind.

That year, my cousins and I received magazines we would never possibly have been interested in, plastic fruit, and other such ridiculous gifts. But inside those magazines were CDs we had desperately wanted, and inside those fruits were beautiful necklaces. Dana and I still laugh about that year, and I don't think I'll ever forget the way I fell in love with my Grandmother's mischievous side under that little tabletop Christmas tree.

I wish Alzheimer's had a cure. She's not even gone yet, but I miss who she was terribly, and I wish I had been a better, more connected Granddaughter to her. It hurts me to know I wasn't as appreciative as she deserved me to be, and that it's too late to change it now.

Give 'Em A Gag Gift.
There's nothing like a good gag gift to make Christmas morning extra merry, and if you want to take it further than disguising a necklace in a plastic banana, there are tons of hilarious items on the market to choose from, such as this prank coffee mug or this bag of unicorn farts - and if your gift-giving tastes run a little more on the naughty side, then perhaps you'd laugh a little harder waiting for your best friend or favorite neighbor to open this butt face soap. Unless you think they're more in need of the weener cleener - but I'll leave that up to you.

But I know it's pretty close to the holiday already, and even if you're willing to go broke on the cost of expedited shipping there's still a good chance that your gag packages won't arrive in time for the big day. But that's alright, you still have time to put together any number of great ideas for awesome DIY gag gifts for Christmas.

Here are some of my favorites this year:
  • Vampire Teabags - if your gift recipient is obsessed with Twilight and has a great sense of humor.
  • "Gift Not Included" - for toy-loving gift recipients of all ages.
  • Merry KISSmas Whisk - great for a neighbor, or to leave in the mailbox for your delivery person to find. Also good for your kids's teachers, etc.
  • Turtle Dicks - perfect for an older brother or friend who knows the Ninja Turtles. You may need some skills to make this one happen though.
  • Earthquake Detection Kit - for the "DUH!" lover in your life. This one actually made me laugh out loud when I saw it.
  • Life Decision Kit - for the indecisive person in your life.


There are so many great ways to inject a little extra magic into the Christmas season, and I love that gag gifts are one of those ways. Have you ever gotten a gag gift before? Have you ever given one? What was it? Let me know your thoughts on gag gifts in the comments! I'd love for you to share this post too, but before you go, take a second to subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's a great way to make sure you never miss a post!

If you like this site and want to take an active role in keeping it 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. Or, if you're a book lover like me and/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!

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 too, so make sure you go check 'em out!)

But 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, December 10, 2017

Sunday Score: Christmas Magic On A Budget

If you've been reading here for any length of time, you'll know that I'm a single mom, and that my daughters make up the entirety of my world. Nothing I do is done without them in mind - and all I want in the world is to know at the end of my life that I was as good a mother as I knew how to be, that I gave them my all, and that I left them with memories they would want to pass on.

A large portion of my day-to-day existence revolves around trying to rock the task of being both parents to the best of my ability - not only being the mother my kids need and deserve, but also struggling to stand in for the father figure they no longer have.

The thing is, being alone poses a laundry list of challenges, both as a woman and as a parent - but since I'll be tackling how I feel about single life during my BLOGuary marathon (I'll be blogging every day except Sundays in January!) next month, let's focus on the biggest, most stressful challenge of single mom life at the moment.

Christmas on a budget. Making Christmas happen on a budget. Like, a really tight budget. Like, really really close to a zero budget.

How the hell do you make Christmas magical on a zero (or frighteningly close to zero) budget?

Well, here's how I'm doing it.


The first and most major way to create Christmas magic on a low-to-no budget is to change your focus. Don't think as much about packages and presents, and instead, think about memory making. Your loved ones most likely won't remember what you bought them this year nearly as well as they'll remember that this was the year of memories and experiences.

This year my kids saw their dad less and less, and while they had lots of moments where they were angry or sad or insert-strong-emotion-here - especially as they faced their first Thanksgiving without their dad and will now be looking toward their first Christmas without him - they also had a lot of moments where they were able to put aside their troubles and enjoy themselves. And not to toot my own horn here or anything, but a good portion of them being able to cope as well as they are has been because I spent more time focusing on getting them out of the house and finding things we could do together. More importantly from a financial aspect, I've been more actively looking for things we can go do without spending a fortune.

This has actually had a two-sided benefit, too; not only are my kids having fun and looking forward to all the fun things we go out and do together, they're also learning that life doesn't have to be expensive and fun isn't always about throwing money around. We've had lots of discussions about how life cycles through times of want and times of plenty - and we've talked a lot about how important it is to live your life regardless of which extreme you might be living in. So even though these last few months have been very challenging financially and I'm juggling a ton of stuff I'm not sure I can keep juggling much longer, the kids and I have been having fun attending lots of local Christmas festivals and free events I've found for us (mostly on Facebook), making new memories to ease the pain of old ones now turned bittersweet.

Another way I've been carefully working more magic into a smaller budget goes back to something I first introduced last year - our four-gift limit. Of course, Santa brings what Santa brings, but thanks to my carefully working in new strategies for Christmas magic on a budget before the final split between the kids's dad and I, the four gift limit allows my kids to think more carefully about what they really want, allows me to spend my limited money more wisely on gifts I know will be appreciated, and helps keep my kids thankful for what they do have. The bonus of having implemented this last year is that even though I could see where things were headed, the girls hadn't yet noticed all the changes in our family dynamic. Thus, the four-gift limit is not attached to the parental split - and because they didn't connect the timing, my kids don't see the four-gift limit as a symbol of lack in our world, only as a symbol of care and appreciation for simplicity:

  • Something You Want - usually a toy set of some kind for the youngest, and hair accessories, jewelry, or makeup for the oldest.
  • Something You Need - this is almost always socks, underwear, camis/bras, or some combination of these.
  • Something You Wear - since clothes are usually covered at this point (unless there are other clothing items needed like jeans or whatever), I try to get fun with this. Last year, Joey's "something to wear" was an activity tracker - she ended up with a Misfit Flash - while I loved how affordable the Flash is, my daughter loved how easy and intuitive it was to use. We both want to upgrade at some point to the Misfit Shinebecause there are so many more color options! Eden's "something to wear" was a red pair of volume-limiting headphones from OnAndOff and she loved them so hard they eventually gave up on her. She'll be getting new ones this Christmas, which will thrill her because she has missed hers!
  • Something You Read - for this one, I actually like to do Amazon Gift Cardsfor the kids because then I can alter how much I'm giving to cooperate with how much I have, and the girls really love getting online with me and choosing their own books. It's a double gift; they get the giftcard, but they also get an established time that's just me and them (one at a time, so it's extra personal), where we get on Amazon and browse books right up until we're out of cash.
This worked perfectly for us last year, and I can't wait to see what my kids think of their gifts this year!

I've also had fun bringing in new little traditions for us to build on as a family - we've made ugly Christmas sweater cookies together, built marshmallow snowmen, watched Christmas movie marathons, hunted local Christmas light displays, and spent time just jamming to good Christmas music. The kids will be starting their Christmas break from school soon too, and I think we'll probably be spending the time cozied up together, cooking up fun crafts and DIY gifts for our neighbors and friends. There will likely be puzzles, coloring, and lots of board game time involved as well. And who knows, maybe we'll even have the time and/or money to implement one or two of these great ideas, too.

So tell me, how do you create Christmas magic on a budget?


If you liked this post, take a second to drop a comment below and tell me about your favorite Christmas magic strategies! I'm always looking for new ideas I can implement to keep things exciting for the girls and I, and it's always fun to see what other families are doing differently. I'd love for you to share this post so we can get a lot of great ideas in the comments too, especially if you know a particularly genius Christmas magician. But before you go, take a second to subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's a great way to make sure you never miss a post!

If you like this site and want to take an active role in keeping it 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. Or, if you're a book lover like me and/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!

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 too, so make sure you go check 'em out!)

But 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.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Thankful Thursday: Planet Beach Spa Review

There's a huge outdoor mall on the other side of Knoxville called Turkey Creek. There's no creek there (that I know of), but there are probably forty different boutiques, department stores, restaurants, theaters, and more. It's a great place to spend a day alone or as a family - window shopping, actual shopping, or even just wandering around taking in the sights. You could even drive to the end and park your car, then walk up and down from store to store if the weather is nice.

The thing is, in my daily life, I don't often have the opportunity to do more than a lot of boring grocery shopping, squeezed in between therapy for me and countless various doctor's appointments for the kids - but my favorite thing about this particular area is the huge Christmas tree they put up and light every holiday season. It's completely giant and utterly beautiful and you can see it from the nearby interstate as you drive by. So of course, a few weeks ago, the girls and I headed to Turkey Creek for the lighting of the Christmas Tree in the Pinnacle Plaza of Turkey Creek, and as part of the presented activities, Josephine and I both entered to win a drawing for three free services for one person AND a friend at Planet Beach Spa.

And Joey won!


But as exciting as that was, that was actually where the problems began (for me). I'm a single mom with not one, but TWO girls. I'm also super protective of my kids, and I am not the kind of mom who regularly drops her kids off places to go and do things on their own - especially places where they might be expected to take off their clothes. It was guaranteed from the get-go that my 13 year old daughter's plus-one would be me. But what to do with Eden, who would likely have hurt feelings and experience a little envy?

I did some thinking and quickly came up with the idea of scheduling spa day with Joey on a school day, when I could send Eden to school as usual and then surprise Jo with a sneaky school-skip with me. I explained the plan and my reasoning behind it - and that's where Planet Beach turned up the awesomeness to extend Joey's plus-one to a plus-two.

Cue the happy Mom heart. A spa day for Team Kennedy as a whole? Free? And I can blog it? Yes, please.

So instead of going on a school day, we got up early and headed to the spa on a beautiful Saturday morning; I was eagerly anticipating surprising the girls, and they were (as always) excitedly trying to figure out the surprise.

Eden's young, so she wasn't allowed to do any treatments by herself (w e learned later that the corporate-approved age for spa treatments is 14+ - oops) - so she and I chose to go into the "Saunatox" machine together for our first treatment while Josephine went alone (and uncomfortably naked) to the Hydro-Derma Fusion chamber (which totally looks like a space pod). In the sauna, Eden wrapped up in a little robe and I got cozy in a towel wrap (you're supposed to wear a sauna suit but that would have been terribly immodest since their throw-away shot is totally see-through, plus Eden could never hope to be big enough for one), and we took seats together on the little bench in our heat chamber.

It was peaceful and quiet and deliciously warm, and then Eden said, with the smallest hint of worry in her little voice, "Mom?"

"Yeah?" I said, barely above a whisper.

"I'm getting sweaty," she said.

"I know," I answered. "That's the idea."

"No. Like A LOT sweaty."

I laughed and reminded her that it was okay because she was supposed to sweat a lot. We talked a out skin as a filter for the body, talked about how a good sweat helps the skin do its job better. I even reminded her of our (distant) Native American ancestors, and how sweat lodges were - and still are in many places - a part of the health culture for "our people."

"Oh," she said. "So I'm just supposed to sit here and sweat a puddle? And that's relaxing?"

"I think it is," I laughed. Our session was set for an hour, and we still had about 40 minutes left. Hoping she would settle, I reminded her that we were alone in the room the Saunatox chamber was in, and that at any time if she wanted to get out of the heat, she could get out, get dried off, and get dressed while I finished the session. She promised that if she got out she'd be quiet and read her book - and when she left me with just under fifteen minutes to go, she kept her promise, allowing me to rest quietly in the sunny warmth of the infrared light.

 

Shown above, from left to right: the SaunaTox Eden and I did, the info sheet for the Hydro-Derma Fusion chamber Joey did, and then a peek inside the chamber from up at the head (looking down along the body-length of the pod).

Following the SaunaTox, Team Kennedy reunited in a cozy little area equipped with three automated massage stations: the Jade Fuzion bed, the Yu Me Massage chair, and the DreamWave Massage chair.


 Shown above, from left to right: the Jade Fuzion, the Yu Me Massage, and the DreamWave Massage. Clicking the photos should enlarge them - check out all the benefits of each treatment!

Eden took the Jade Fuzion (because her body was too small to fit either of the chairs right), which was just a heated jade bed. She rested there a while, reading, while I groaned like a helpless (but very happy) fool in the Yu Me chair - it's got a mean shiatsu massage mode, which was the epitome of those sorts of things we like to describe as "hurts real good," and then it had an amazing stretch mode that did a great job of soothing and relaxing my entire body while still managing to contort my muscles and stretch out my tensions. Beside me, Joey laid quietly, alternating between smug contentment and excited gushing about how much she had loved the Hydro-Derma Fusion.



Let me tell you guys - for a first spa experience (yes, that was a total first for me), Planet Beach was AMAZING. Over the next week, I went back twice (alone though, and while the girls were at school, because even though the kids couldn't come they still let me come back for two more days to try almost everything), and let me tell you, that place is like heaven for a stressed out mom like me. I savored every moment too, knowing that those three days of special treatment would soon end and I'd be back to life as usual. The only things I wanted to try that I ended up missing out on were the HotWorx Hot Yoga and Hot Zen programs - and honestly, if my financial situation looked just slightly different, I'd probably be writing this blog post from inside the sauna. I'm not even kidding.

The sad thing (for me) is that it's really not even that expensive - Planet Beach is a franchise, so prices vary from location to location, but at my local spot, it's only $60 a month for unlimited services (with one caveat: you can only do one "hot" treatment per day). The best thing about the Gold Membership though (the $60 one) is that you can bring a friend with you as often as you want too, for free. And as if that wasn't enough, you also get rewards and discounts for bringing in new clientele! I seriously can't even tell you guys how heartbroken I am that this isn't something that would fit into my budget, because I would have been signing those papers in blood if necessary.

I also like that there's a month-to-month price too, for people who want the unlimited treatments but don't want the commitment of a membership contract - for just $70 a month, you can go in as often as you want to and take advantage of being able to kick back and do something special just for yourself. And again, this isn't something that fit into my budget (yet), but when it does, this is likely the option I would go for. Commitment free relaxation and self-spoiling? Uh, yes please.

What's cool though, is that if you can't (or don't want to) sign up for memberships at all, you can actually set an appointment and pay service-by-service for $40 - which is admittedly more expensive, but I  still like that it comes with no commitment, which means that until I can squeeze that monthly $70 out of my budget, I can still go when I can afford to go, and totally skip it when I can't.

But the best part is that Planet Beach is a franchise business with locations all over the place (even international!) - which means that even if you aren't in the Knoxville area, you might still have one close enough to you to visit!

In the meantime, here's the breakdown of things I got to try - in order of what I liked best.

  1. SaunaTox - I loved the way the saunatox made me completely fall in love with warmth as a sensation. I don't usually like to be hot, I don't like to be sweaty, and I don't like the way sometimes it's hard to breathe in a normal sauna. But SaunaTox is no normal sauna. It was truly amazing.
  2. Hydro-Derma Fusion - I tried this on my second day, and this was like having my entire body encased in the most deliciously hot, steamy, vibrating shower. My skin felt amazing afterward, and I felt energized and rejuvenated. I also liked that you do this one nude, so there's no weird suit or anything required. It was also nice that there was a fan on my face; it kept the steam away and helped keep me from being too hot. My chief complaint with this was that it lasted about a half-hour, and I could easily have laid there for days, steaming gently and sleeping peacefully.
  3. Yu Me Massage - As mentioned above, this chair had a great shiatsu massage that worked really well for the tension in my upper back, shoulders, and neck, and I also liked the way it worked the tension out of my legs while leaving my hands free. I did this one on the first and third days of my sessions at Planet Beach, and I liked it so much that I chose it on that third day even knowing that it meant I wouldn't have time to try the Jade Fuzion.
  4. The Slim Capsule - I actually liked how hot this one was, and that the vibration of the table was a little stronger than with the Hydro-Derma Fusion; what I didn't like was the sauna-suit you're supposed to wear. It was terribly uncomfortable for me - it fit fine even with my being plus-sized, but was much too long in the legs and then it was so much too short in the body and arms that it didn't come all the way up to my shoulders. It really took away from what would otherwise probably have been #2 on this list.
  5. DreamWave Massage - I did this on my second day (after the Hydro-Derma Fusion), and while I liked it (it was a little less strong on my tender sciatic area), I didn't like it as much as the Yu Me. It wasn't as strong and didn't have the awesome stretching mode. But I did love that it did my arms, hands, and feet (the Yu Me didn't), which was wonderful.
  6. The Red Light Bed - I liked that this was warm even though I wasn't crazy about being terrified that the eye protection I purchased somehow wouldn't be protective enough (or would slip) and I would end up relaxed with great skin but totally blind.
  7. The Red Light Facial - This one I wasn't crazy about either; it was fine for the most part, but I actually thought it was a little boring. My face skin did feel pretty amazing though, and the sweetheart who attended me during my sessions assured me that the benefit of the red light facial is meant to be cumulative.
As mentioned above, I didn't get to try the HotWorx Hot Yoga or the Hot Zen - I suspect if I had had the chance to try those, my list would look a little different, especially since the HotWorx uses the same infrared heat as the SaunaTox. I think missing out on the HotWorx sauna is probably the biggest part of what makes me so sad that I can't currently sign up for a Planet Beach membership.

So if you do, make sure you come back and tell me all about it, 'kay? Because I need to live vicariously.


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