Thursday, March 23, 2017

Thursday Therapy: Get The Fidgets



I spent a good portion of my later childhood raised mostly by my Grandmother - these were the most "normal" days of my life back then, hanging out with my cousins in the field beside our house, singing music that made our Grandmother roll her eyes, wandering in the woods behind the house. Playing Barbies.

We grew up in Central Florida, where in the afternoons the high temperature is almost always somewhere between "why am I so dizzy" and "holy shit my arm just melted off." We got up in the mornings, ate breakfast, and went out to play; we were only "allowed" back in the house for bathroom and drink breaks, which had to be kept quick, and lunchtime.

I look at my kids and shake my head - they're good kids, but they're spoiled. When my cousins and I were my oldest daughter's age, we cooked our own lunch if we didn't want sandwiches - we'd boil up a couple of packs of Ramen, and argue quietly amongst ourselves because some of us liked it with a lot of broth and some liked it with only a little.

I say "some" but there were three of us, not counting the one older cousin who mostly did his own thing. And I think it was just me who ate Ramen with no broth. It's saltier that way, when you drain most of the pasta water off before adding the seasoning pack. And I liked it salty.

Stop it. Can't you see I'm trying to be serious?

Growing up, my grandma had a lot of really funny little Grandma-isms. She always hated for us to watch too much TV - she said it would cause square-eyes, and when she said it, her own eyes would crinkle with amusement. In those days, she was exactly what you would imagine a grandma to look like, short and just a little portly, with a stern demeanor and a perfectly set salt-and-pepper perm, held aloft with enough AquaNet to choke you half to death even from the next room.

She could be funny at times (and sometimes she still is, though it's considerably different now, and by the way, #FuckYouAlzheimers), but she didn't like a lot of extreme outward emotion - which is likely why she and I took so long to find our way around each other. I'm obviously very open emotionally even as an adult, and I'm sure this must have been even more so when I was a child.

She didn't like a lot of noise, and she wasn't fond of my cousins and I getting too rowdy. Dana and I were bad about having lots of private jokes (we still are, and by the way Dana - "KekoKeko," if you're reading this), and we also had a sort of strange telekinesis that always seemed to set us up for trouble. We'd just exchange what would for most people be an ordinary instance of eye contact - for us, this was a direct trigger for unstoppable giggle fits, which never failed to annoy our Grandmother.

As a child, we found that terribly amusing. As an adult now, and indeed as a mother, I often wonder what it was she thought we were giggling over. I wish I could ask her. I wish she could remember, if I did.

She used to get irritated when we'd get to giggling, and she'd snap, "Girls! Cool your heels!" And of course, we'd laugh even harder because that's ridiculous. One time, one of us actually sat down and tore a shoe off, yanked a sock off, and started blowing the bottom of her own foot.

Anyway. Another thing I remember her saying was that I'd "got the fidgets." I was an early riser and so was she, and I'd often sneak out in to the living room while everyone else (but her) still slept. She'd be at the kitchen table having her coffee, and she'd shake her head and sigh. I'd take my book and go silently to the couch (when I had the courage not to go hide in the bathroom, reading on the floor - she was a formidable woman in her heyday), and sit down to read. And if I couldn't get comfortable, my wriggling would annoy her, and she'd say with quiet sternness, "Brandi - still still. You got the fidgets."



It's funny now though - for some reason God saw fit to bless me with two early-birds who rarely sleep in, who somehow seem to instinctively know even if I wake up early on purpose to claim some alone time. Two kids with ADHD, who wake up totally alive every day, at full speed and full volume.

God's funny like that.

"God has a most wicked sense of humor." 
-Maureen O'Hara

Anyway, now I've learned to fidget on purpose. I have a single-decade rosary ring that I find comforting when I want something bumpy, and I wear it pretty much 24/7. I find that when I'm in therapy, when I'm bored, when I'm anxious, whenever my hands just need to be busy, I can slip it off and spin it around in my hands, and it helps. Bonus, it reminds me to pray.


I also have a fidget cube, which was given to me as a gift from my therapist. I tend to keep it in my pocket on days when I'm anxious; I like that I can pull it out to work with my hands. It's got different textures and sounds, and I find different ones more helpful depending on what mood I'm in - the girls have both used it too, and they also like different sides of the cube depending on what they're feeling. I find it helpful if I'm driving through a lot of heavy traffic too - this never used to bother me, but lately I find a lot of traffic triggers my anxiety. I like that this helps.


I have issues with chronic eye fatigue, because I have underactive oil glands in my eyelash ducts or something like that. This means by the end of the day, I can't see well enough anymore to do any sort of detailed, close work - but when I can remember my eye drops well enough to stave it off, I also like to color when I'm anxious, depressed, bored, or just moody. I find the mandala patterns soothing (when they aren't blinding), and there's something incredibly satisfying about sitting down to fill them in. It's rhythmic, almost mindless. I have several different books I pull out now and then, and even a set of coloring pens that I keep for only myself - but as soon as I fill up one of my books and can justify getting a new one, I want this one next:


I love that it's edgy but still motivational, so I can release frustration while chilling out - and also remind myself that whatever's going on, it'll always get better.

Another thing that eases me is Legos. It feels a little childish to admit how much I still LOVE Legos, but I can't help it, I do. I love that I can build anything. A house, a box, a car. A robot. I can build as small as I want, or as large as my collection allows. And when I'm done (or if I screw up), I can always take it down. I can go back to fix it. I can change or adjust it. Legos create calm, but they can create a lot of other practical things too, like storage for on top of your desk, boxes to put on a shelf. The best part is when you don't need them anymore, you can take them apart and just make them into something else. My girls seem to find it satisfying just to stir them around, listening to the bricks click against each other.


Recently, it came to my attention that one of my biggest supporters is about to send her nephew overseas. Karen Henderson is a frequent commenter here - she was also one of the first people who ever signed up to support my Patreon account, and her unwavering support has meant more to me than I can say.

More importantly, she's a proud veteran, a woman who has taken up arms to serve our country, who has given her time, her tears, and her blood to this land and its people. She's from a family of veterans, and as the next generation of her family heads off to fight for our country, he's asked for just one thing - something he can take with him to battle the long nights of homesickness, the long days of stressful and rigorous work. He asked for a way to keep his stress levels down, a way to keep himself busy in his downtime - a way to bond with his fellow soldiers.

He asked for Legos, and since this isn't his first time deployed overseas, I imagine he knows well what works for him.

If you've been reading here very long, you know already that I'm extremely loyal to my country, that I am pro-military, and that I hold our servicemen and woman at the greatest level of respect - especially those who have been overseas, literally risking everything to protect the freedom and safety of families like mine.

"They know what they signed on for."

Yes, that's true, and that's why I respect them so greatly. No one tricks them into signing up and then surprises them with the risks inherent to military service. They know when they sign that contract that at any moment, the military can and will rearrange their entire lives. They know that they're likely to lose loved ones, marriages, friendships. They know that in the course of their daily job life, they're likely to be called to sacrifice their own bodies, their limbs, their sanity. Their lives.

For me, for my friends, for my daughters. For my nephew, for my brothers. And they know what they signed on for.

If you've enjoyed my blog for any period of time, and you come around just to "listen" to what I have to say, thank you. If you've just found this site for the first time, welcome.

And if you love and respect my country even a fraction of how much I do, help me support our military in a small way that will show a spirit of strength and hope to a young man heading off to place so much different than the one we take for granted. Donate some Legos. It can be as many or as few as you want, and you can send them to this address:

Karen Henderson
1368 Mount Sherman Ward Rd
Magnolia, KY 42757

Thank you.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: My Top Ten Favorite Blog Posts (March 2017)

It was back in January that I took a major step in my life. I decided to embrace a part of myself that had always been in the background, there and worthy and talented and with a knack for using words to touch others.

I've been an independently published romance novelist now for just over four years (I first published in December 2012), and in that time, my entire life has changed. I still love romance, and I'm still working EVER. SO. SLOWLY. on my next novel, but ...

With splitting from the kids's dad, needing to grow my income faster, and wanting to stay home with my kids (mostly because of the way my PTSD issues had grown, but also partly in hopes of avoiding doubling the sense of abandonment my children have suffered), I rediscovered a new outlet - my love for the blog format.

I love the non-fiction, down-to-earth reality of a blog, and I love the quick, simple delivery. I love that it feels like an infinite magazine full of articles on every topic, where I can pick and choose who/what I think is worth reading based on where I am in life. I can read about parenting, mental health, crafting, whatever! And I have loved that through taking my blog into the "lifestyle" category, I can now write all of those topics myself.

It has been a joy, and through this new avenue I've gotten in touch with some great people, discovered some amazing content, and learned so very very much. Today I'd like to share some of that content with you, right here on Top Ten Tuesday.

(in no particular order)

This post on DaishaRenee.com reads like a peek into my own heart. Each and every item on this list of goals was something I could relate closely to, and it felt personal in a really beautiful way. I loved literally everything about it. Made me want one of these SO. BAD:


This post from souledontea.com. You guys, I swear. I just ... I can't even. I can't even tell you what it says, what it's about, what it means, what it ... just ... go read it. Because I can't express what it made me feel. Just go. Go read it right now.

This letter from Ana (FadedSpring.co.uk) to her Aunt really struck a chord with me, because it rings true for the girl I was as a child, targeted by step-parents who saw me as a hassle and a burden, not as adequately protected by my parents as I needed to be ... never CHOSEN over the drama and the hassle. I never felt prioritized, and am left now with a lot of very sour memories of being directly NOT prioritized. Like Ana, I had to grow up too fast, had to learn so many of life's lessons too soon and in the hardest possible ways. But like Ana, I had someone beside me, someone to encourage me, someone to balance out my softness, someone to understand. Not an Aunty - growing up, I didn't often feel like I had a strong authority figure (other than my Grandmother, who I wasn't actually close with until the last ten years or so) - but a cousin. I had my friends who became my family over the years, people who mean so much to me because they are so much a part of who I am. But I had this one little bit of family too, this cousin who became my truest and closest friend. Love you, Dana.

This post from Caitlyn over at BlondeSeekingAmbition.com seriously got me right in the Nostalgia. A list of songs from my era? Uh, yes, please. I was like fifteen when these songs were hits, and there was literally not one song on this list that I don't still know. So many of them are songs I actually still love! Except that last one. Because it was bad. So, so bad.

5.) "TREND ALERT - How To Host A Pink Ninja Party For Girls"
Oh. My. Gosh. Seriously, you guys? I WANT to go to this party that I found on Soiree-EventDesign.com. But the thing is, I don't just want to go, I want to be a kid so I can really enjoy it without looking weird. Even better, I want to be the kid who is the birthday girl. The "stealth entry required" thing? I love it! And the blades, and the creative party chair, and the ... all of it. The fortune cookies!?

You can't see me right now but I'm totally in whine mode. My desk is lifted today so I can type standing up, and I'm stomping my feet. "I wanna go to the parrrtyyyyyy .... uuuuhhhnnnn!"

BONUS: Check out this party too, which also made me pout a little. Also, if you're local and you have one of these parties, please please PLEASE invite me. I really wanna come!

6.) "Italy"
This post about Italy from DeesignPlay.com made me feel like I was there, walking through the romantic streets of Italy's most famous and beautiful cities, enjoying quiet moments by the water, taking in the sights and the culture. I have such a longing for this type of travel that I took over an hour reading and rereading parts of this post, exploring what's shown in the photos.

7.) "I'm Fat. And My Body Is OK."
This post from Divya at EatTeachBlog.com is a serious gem. It's empowering in its message of self-acceptance and positive recognition of what is, and you guys know that couldn't be more perfectly aligned with the kinds of things that like to post and share here. So much of this post so perfectly describes my own youth, and then so much of it perfectly describes me now. In addition to that, it's the kind of blog post that would have reduced Cass from Fat Chance to tears. It's everything about what her journey was as she lived her story, and everything about the things she had to learn and accept along the way.

8.) "How To Get The World To Send You Love Notes & Birthday Wishes"
I'm not sure I've ever seen anything quite like the concept described in this post by Jasmine from JazzOnTheRun.com ... but it made me smile, and it made my heart leap a little with happiness. What a beautiful thing for people to be doing!

Okay, seriously. David from SingleDadsGuideToLife.WordPress.com is such a delight. His blog is infused with a certain self-deprecating humor that I can totally relate to (it's the same sense of humor that I filled Cass with in Fat Chance, making her hilarious to some and actually a bit depressing to others who didn't "get it.") He talks a bit about his daughter, his life, the local sights (California, USA), and his efforts to get his fitness under better control. But recently he wrote a more personal post that skipped over the usual "Ten Facts About Me" (my favorite color is blue, my best friend's name is Sarah, booorring) and went A LOT deeper. Sure, he included some superficial things and a dash of humor to keep things light, but he also stepped into a vulnerable place of sharing that stole words I didn't even know I had right out of my heart. Click over and check out items 1, 3, 4, 8, & 10, with special emphasis on those last few to see what I mean.

10.) "Enraged"
This post from Hyla (HylaAndPeterEchols.com) really struck a nerve with me when I read it. I'm not sure the effect it had is exactly in line with what Hyla's intent seemed to be, as the post felt to me like a lesson in forgiveness ... but it gave me a new sense of understanding with myself. Something my therapist has brought up somewhat tentatively with me lately is my inner child - the part of me that stayed frozen in childhood, in response to what happened in my childhood and the things I saw and experienced. I don't put an awful lot of stock in the "inner child" concept (not yet, at least), but something DID strike me just in the moment of reading this.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder; it's like being stuck permanently in the fight/flight/freeze cycle, unable to escape even the reactions of your own mind. Anything can set it off - the beeping of the microwave (yes, even if you expected it), someone standing too close to you (yes, even if you know them), even certain scents (yes, even if there's a part of you that likes the scent) - but nothing really shuts it down. The problem with it, particularly for me, is that it keeps me so anxious, always. Anxiety is my constant companion - it's there when I eat, when I shower, when I'm walking the dog, when I'm alone in the quiet. It's there in the night - sometimes I even wake up in a panic for "no reason." Anxiety is frustrating though - it makes every sound louder, every experience more jarring, every light brighter, every emotion stronger.

The constant sense of OVERWHELM ... well, it pisses me off sometimes. Leaves me SO ANGRY. For "no reason." It isn't (usually) there because I'm offended in the moment, or because I've got hurt feelings in the moment, or because I'm sick or sad or anything. It's just there, like a sleeping lion inside me, and I never know when something's going to wake it.

Until I read Hyla's post, it never clicked for me why the lion was there, either. Until.

And that's where I come back around to that inner child. The little girl who felt left behind, the little girl who felt unprotected, the little girl was chosen last and didn't feel prioritized, who had to be "placed" in a children's home because her "home" wasn't safe enough to stay in and she had already begun to show the signs of psychological trauma. The kid who moved too much to build lasting friendships, the kid who saw things no kid should ever see.

And now I understand the lion - he's there to protect the little girl, from her own sense of justified anger. And maybe, maybe now that the little girl and I are coming to an understanding ... maybe now, together, she and I can learn to put the lion to rest.

BONUS: I've done this type of Top Ten before! You can check out some other great posts I've found by looking at Top Ten Tuesday: My Top Ten Favorite Blog Posts (January 2017)!



And there you have it, my most recent Top Ten Blog Posts (to read). I hope you'll click through and read some of these, and if you love them as much as I did, make sure to leave a comment! We bloggers love our readers, and we especially love comments!

For access to the audio version of this blog, please click here.


Questions for the Comments Section:
  • Did you end up going over to read any of these posts (or do you think you will)? If so, which one(s), and why?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Self-Care Sunday: National Let's Laugh Day


Today is National Let's Laugh Day, and since I've been struggling with the demon of my Depression lately, I felt like this was a perfect reminder from the universe: you may not ALWAYS be strong enough to choose happiness, but you at least owe yourself the effort.

So do I.

I'm depressed again - it's been coming back for a while now, coming down over the horizon of my life like twilight. I can't sleep, I can't work. I can't stop feeling guilty over everything - the things I jokingly call "momfail!" are the things I replay over and over in my head at night.

My income, my career status, my moods, my frustration.

I'm exhausted.

But I am a warrior - I have been a warrior since I was child, when I survived abuse and violence, and things that I'm still so ashamed of that only my therapist knows them. I am a warrior - I even made it my focus word this year.

I am a warrior, and even my novels testify to my message and my mission of standing up and staying strong - each one has its own theme of personal strength and empowerment.

So I'm going to keep being a warrior. I'm going to keep being strong. I'm going to keep on keeping on.

I'm going to mother my children - imperfectly. I'm going to write, for those who love my work - and be damned to those who don't or won't back me up. Especially the ones in my own inner circle. I'm going to respect myself - and demand that same respect from those around me. I'm going to care about the people I care about.

And because sometimes "it's laugh or cry"?

Damn it, I'm going to laugh.





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Questions for the Comments Section:

  • When you're feeling down, what do you do to get yourself laughing again?
  • What's the funniest thing that happened to you lately?
  • What's your favorite joke?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday Food: Comfort With A Twist


I've been struggling lately. With my oldest daughter officially hitting the teen years, we've had a couple of hiccups in our way of doing things, which hasn't been helped by the situation of her feelings of abandonment with my split from her dad.

It doesn't help that she and I are SO alike - I often tell her that I'm proud to be her mother, because she's made up of so much of the best of me, but that it's incredibly hard to be her mother, because she's made up of so much of the worst of me, too. I see so much of what I love about myself in her - my inner strength and fire, my sense of justice, my need for respect and validation from the people important to me. But I see the things I'm not so crazy about, too - my stubbornness, my determination to "win," sometimes even when the "battle" doesn't even matter. My standoffishness, my guarded nature. My obsessiveness. My ... well, you get it. We butt heads.

So take mom guilt and roll it all together with the overwhelm of bored kids on spring break, then sprinkle a dash of PTSD-therapy-is-hard on top of it, and you get a messed up woman who mostly smiled all the way through therapy this past Monday but has cried herself to sleep three times in the last five days.

Lately I've been noticing - sort of in the back of my mind, slowly making its way to the front - that when I'm in therapy, I talk about my own issues in an afterthought sort of way. It's as if I'm talking about someone else, passively, mixed in with things I say about other people - my kids, my ex, my ex ex, my parents, my childhood. It's all together, mixed up in this soup of impersonal conversation that doesn't even feel like it's about me at all sometimes. That makes it easier to talk without crying though.


Is that dissociation? I don't know what the label is - I just know that it bothers me, and that I could go to therapy every day of the week and still get NOTHING out of it if I can't find a way to make myself engage.

Knowing this, that I'm going to have to step beyond the things that are relatively easy to talk about and move into exploring the deeper places inside me that are aching and injured and hurting, knowing that I'm going to have to get really personal, that I'm going to have to FEEL ... well, it doesn't feel good at all. And then there's PMS, which is just the icing on the proverbial cake.

Which is where Halo Top Ice Cream comes in. Of course.

Photo thanks to this post on thedieline.com.

I love ice cream. It's one of those easy comfort foods that makes everything better, and I love that ice cream comes with so many options. Chocolate, vanilla, cookie dough, butter pecan. With or without candy, caramel, syrups, toppings. In a bowl, a cone, or even right out of the carton, ice cream just seems to be made of magic. And don't even get me started on fresh hot brownies topped with melty goodness.

I still remember how utterly satisfying it was as a kid, to sit down with a bowl of ice cream and stir it until it was mush, then set the spoon aside and drink it down like a milkshake. I haven't done that in years, but simply the presence of the memory is comforting.

But ice cream is a guilt food, right? So many calories, so much BADNESS! Plus I'm somewhat lactose intolerant, so it's even more BAD. Not only is it sugary and fattening and unhealthy, but I also know that I'm going to pay a digestive price for my indulgence.

Some days, it's worth it, and I go for it anyway. Like this week, when everything in my mind was crap, and I just needed to sit down with something sweet.

How timely that early in the week, I received a text from a friend, recommending that I try Halo Top Ice Cream because it's so totally low calorie that you can eat AN ENTIRE PINT virtually guilt-free.

Uh, yes, please.

So when I got groceries for the household, I picked up a pint of Halo Top in Vanilla Bean (partly because yes, I'm actually that boring, and partly because so many other flavors begin with basic vanilla, so I figured this would be a good starting point), thinking that I'd give it a shot. Guilt-free ice cream?

Again. Yes, please.

Imagine my delight when I also discovered that it's high in protein, which is likely due to the egg content (See? I do read the labels, even if I don't always respect what's on them.). I also noticed that, also probably due to the egg content, this ice cream has a somewhat different texture. Not so much "creamy with the little air pockets" that you expect from a typical ice cream, but more like, "frozen custard met pudding, and magic happened."

It's just so good.

Seriously, you wouldn't expect "health food" ice cream to be delicious, but this totally was. The texture was YUM, the flavor was spot on and perfectly vanilla, the melt-factor was pretty close to zilch, which allowed me to enjoy the ice cream longer, and I was actually so satisfied with it that I didn't eat the whole pint. I'm calling it an utter success, a total repeat buy.

And then the fact that I've found another way to up my protein without having to constantly live on meat, cheese, and protein shakes - ice cream with 6g of protein per serving!

Do I really need to say, "yes, please" again?

Yeah. I didn't think so. So I bought mine at the local Food City grocery store, but it's also available (near me) at Kroger, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, and Publix. You can even search for where to find it near you by clicking here, where apparently, you can also search BY. FLAVOR.

Seriously.

And with more than 15 low-calorie, high-protein, probably completely delicious flavors to choose from, what have you got to lose? On the company website, you can find recipes, merch, and even a contest where you could try to win a full year's supply of this ice cream!

And now - input from the Peanut Gallery:

  • Joey's Point of View: "I thought that it was really good actually. You said that it was healthier, and usually things that are healthier ... it doesn't have lots of sugar in it so it doesn't really taste good. So I was surprised by how good it tasted."
  • Eden's Point of View: "It tasted so delicious, and I never knew it was really healthy, but it was just so good. I really liked it - and we really need to get more of that ice cream!"

Also ... "No, this wasn't a sponsored or affiliate post." I bought the product with my own money, ate it with my own face (except for the parts eaten by children's faces), and loved it with my own heart-filled tummy. Although if Halo wants to pay me in pints, I'm ready to sign a contract Right. Now.

To access the audio version of this blog, as well as other exclusive content, please click here.


Comments for the Comments Section:

  • Have you ever tried this ice cream before? If not ... WHY?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Monday Movies: 13 Going On 30

Five Stars! Click image to watch!

Starring:
Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis

Directed by: Gary Winick
Released: 2004
Length: 1h 37m

My oldest daughter turned thirteen in January, and it was a major milestone for our family - major for her because as she turned thirteen, she left her childhood behind and took one more step closer to being the woman she's someday going to be. And major for me because ... my God, I've got a kid who's thirteen!

Seriously though, it was major for me because I've watched nearly every moment of her life, sometimes coaching gently and sometimes ... well, coaching somewhat less gently. But every moment of her life, I have loved her, and wanted the world for her. I want to watch her strive and achieve, I want to see her continue to learn eagerly. I want to see her outgrow the teenaged angst that she won't be able to escape; I want to see her experience joy and happiness - and yes, the suffering confusion of growth that will change her into whoever she'll someday be.

Anyway, in the comments of Joey's birthday post, Debra Schroeder suggested that Joey and I watch 13 Going On 30 together, and this past weekend, we did! Here are our thoughts (but mostly just mine because even though she watched attentively and laughed several times, all she actually took time to say was, "Yeah, I liked it," because obviously, she's way too cool for movies with her lame mom):

This movie is such a flashback, because like Jenna (the movie's heroine), I was totally the nerdy kid in middle school - although I tended to embrace my nerdiness more like Matt, who is the quintessential nice-guy, even in middle school. I had my own little crowd of weirdos, and I was happy with that - in fact, I generally despised the fakeness of the "cool" kids I went to school with.

And to top it all off, Jenna is utterly clueless to Matt's obvious feelings for her - she's busy trying oh so desperately to find her place in the popular crowd. She wants to be known and liked by the cool girls, she wants the power that comes with being one of the "six chicks" clique that runs the school, and she wants the attention of dreamy jock, Chris.

Unfortunately for Jenna, her eagerness to be accepted is pretty obvious, and the clique takes total advantage, humiliating her on her birthday. Jenna's birthday ends in tears, and she wishes that she could be 30 - the magical age of the fun, flirty women featured in her favorite magazine, Poise.

Fast-forward a bit. True to type (think Freaky Friday, but less of a Mommy/Daughter flick and more of a Rom/Com), Jenna wakes up the next morning to discover that she's no longer a brand new teen; instead, she's a thirty year old woman! Hijinks ensue, during which she gets flashed by her cute and playful (but not too bright) boyfriend, and creeped out by her cell phone. She ends up fleeing her apartment in a negligee, only to conveniently find herself face-to-face with her best friend, who shuffles her off to work with a pep talk and a strong side-eye.

The last thing Jenna remembers is the day of her thirteenth birthday, and the last face she remembers seeing is Matt's. He was the boy next door, her best friend, so naturally he's who she wants to turn to now that she's completely lost in a life she can't remember, living in an apartment that doesn't feel like home, with every second a new realization that she's become someone she isn't at all proud to be.

Too bad Matt isn't who he used to be, either - and Jenna's faced with the idea that she's partly to blame.

A disconsolate trip back to her childhood home sets her straight though, and Jenna realizes she's got to find a way to fix things - before she loses the one thing she never knew she wanted. She's got to find a way to make everything right, and in the true fashion of an exuberant youth, she sets out to create and implement a plan that will help her, if not to turn back the clock, at least to get things back on track in the now.

This movie was a delight, in turns laugh-out-loud funny and shed-a-tear sweet - and while the surface of the movie wasn't anything truly special, the underlying message made this the perfect movie to share with my teen. It was a great way to spend an afternoon - cuddled up in bed with a kid that's crossing the line between woman and child, enjoying the weight of her presence beside me while she's still with me to enjoy, soaking up what I hope was a lesson for her in appreciating those who love you above and beyond the temporary glamour of what's "cool."

Hidden Delights From This Movie - seriously, there were so many! These are just a few:
1. Joey instantly recognized the crowd of it-girls in the beginning of the movie, and not because she's one of them. My kid is well-known for befriending the lost and the broken - a major source of pride for me as her mother.
2. "Arriverderci. Au revoir."
3. The wishing dust? The house? The way Matt put himself in the place of protector?? Awwww ...
4. Matt's face when he took Jenna's hands in the closet, before he realized who she thought he was.
5. When Jenna caught her own face in the mirror and fell over the wall.
6. "You! You ... put on your pants and ... stop calling me Sweet Bottom."
7. Jenna's response to Eminem's phone call.
8. "I like your dress."   "That's because I have these incredible boobs to fill it out!"
9. Chris at 30 - oh my gosh.
10. The scene in Matt's bedroom - their talk, behind the closet door, Jenna's courage, Matt's face.

While this movie has received extremely mixed reviews over the years, Joey and I both felt that 13 Going On 30 was 97 minutes well spent. And for those who might not be enjoying this with a kid, let me add that the romantic aspect of the story wasn't at all underplayed; while Jennifer Garner was spectacular in her role, successfully bringing the overreaction and naivete of youth to 30 year old Jenna, it was Mark Ruffalo's standout performance as Matt that made this such a truly endearing movie. His ability to lend emotional power to his character really showed up in this role, and it took what would have been just another sweet movie to a whole new level.

Or maybe I'm a sucker for the puppy-dog eyes, I don't know.

To access the audio version of this blog, as well as other exclusive content, please click here.


Questions for the Comments Section:
  • Have you seen this movie?
  • If you have, what were some of your hidden delights?
  • If you haven't seen it, do you plan to?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Saturday Sentiment: A Letter to Sixteen Year Old Me

My birthday was in February; I turned 33 this year, so I thought this would be a good time to write a letter to sixteen-year-old me. Yes, I know that if I'm dividing by two I'd be sixteen and a half, but by sixteen and a half the half didn't matter as much to me anymore, so sixteen it is.

When I was sixteen (and a half) it was the year 2000. I had just moved from Florida to Tennessee with my mom, and my life was changing in every possible way. The decision to move had been resting on my shoulders for a long time, and I hated the circumstances under which I was forced to make it; I hated saying goodbye to my friends (those to whom I even had a chance to say goodbye), and I was heartbroken that I didn't have a chance to say goodbye to my father. I hated knowing that I was leaving behind a solid network of beloved friendships, headed for the unknown where I would be The New Kid.

The only "plus side" to it was that my boyfriend was moving with us, and I was comforted by his proximity, by his presence, by the certainty that he would be someone familiar to me - someone that was on my side, in a place where I knew no one, a place where the surrounding family mostly didn't like me or approve of me because I was an overweight teen, because my mother is financially illiterate, because her financial ignorance kept us dreadfully poor.

When we arrived, my boyfriend was informed that he wasn't welcome after all, due to the two-faced calculations of certain members of my family. They had used him - he drove our u-haul up, and had even paid to rent it. Everything he owned was in it, along with mine and my mother's possessions. When we arrived, he was packed on a bus and sent away - and I was utterly crushed. I'd been shamed for even having such a serious relationship at such a young age, and my boyfriend was spoken to as if he were barely better than the dust on the ground.

He was sent to his mother's house several hours away, making it basically impossible for us to see each other anymore. We tried to maintain a long-distance relationship, but that was a lot harder back then - we didn't have social media and cell phones to keep us close. We had expensive long distance phone calls, and letters that could never be as personal as the close proximity we were so used to. He went to a party, got drunk, cheated on me with another girl. His conscience made him confess - he told me in a letter. We broke up.

And that's where I was in my life when I was sixteen and a half years old. Brokenhearted and displaced, an utterly lonesome and totally misfit teen.


Dear Me,

Everything's a mess right now, and I know that. You're scared and hurt, and most of the time, you feel like no one understands you. Most of the people around you seem to think you're too much of one thing or another, and the people who don't think you're too much seem to think you're not enough. Neither of these extremes is the truth, and the only thing truly wrong with you is that your life is filled with the wrong people. I wish I could tell you that this changes, but it doesn't.

For the next sixteen years, you'll continue to have people in your life that find and feed on your insecurities - and it will open you up to trouble of a progressively damaging nature. Get ready, because life isn't getting easier for you anytime soon, and you'll need to rally the inner fire that's helped you survive so long.

I know I could warn you of everything - I could give you the gift of foresight, and I could tell you what to watch out for, what to steer clear of, but I won't. Instead, I'll give you encouragement, because although the years to come will often be painful for you, they are necessary to create the woman you're going to be when you're me.

Hurting over the end of your relationship with J, you'll enter a relationship with a much older(than-you) man, and you'll think L is amazing and mature, steady and full of potential. He has his own issues though, and those issues are going to drive him away from you long before you're ready, so appreciate him while he's yours. Once he's gone from your life, you'll want to spend the next several years kicking yourself for answering the phone on the night that changed things between you and L, but don't fall into the trap of regret.

Even though you won't realize it right away, in time you'll see the truth of L's own insecurities, and you'll understand what made him too afraid to stick around - you'll see the echoes of his past hurt in that last phone call, and you'll understand. When you do, take the lesson from it and release the pain - some people are only meant to enter your life for a season. And as trite as it'll sound while you're crying over some of the best poetry you'll ever write, you'll still need to understand this: it's true that some things just aren't meant to be. Take the gifts L will give you - your new appreciation of the depth of your own feelings, and the realization of how important good conversation will be to you in the future.

Eventually, you'll learn some things through the grapevine that will make you grateful for when it ended - but don't let the pain of it ending negate the beauty of what it was. Plus, he's a spectacular kisser, and you'd better enjoy that while it lasts. You'll miss it like fire when he's gone.

Romance will come and go in your life, and each new relationship will teach you just as much about what you want in love as what you don't want. Be open to those lessons - they lessen the pain that will strike you as you enter some of the scariest days of your life.

Hold confidence - you can do this.

By the time you're me, you'll have experienced so many things - the excitement of impending motherhood, the crushing pain of miscarriage, the triumph of live birth. You'll know the exhaustion of new parenthood, the fear and uncertainty of divorce, the insecurity of single parenting, the excitement of new love. You'll reconnect with friends you'd thought long gone from your life, and you'll embark on a journey that changes everything.

I can't promise it'll all be good - in fact, I can promise that a great deal of it won't be good. But I can also tell you with the utmost certainty that you're stronger than you think, and that your ability to survive will inspire everyone who knows your story. I can tell you that you'll grow and learn so much, that you'll reconcile with God. You'll become the kind of strong woman that repels the insecure, and while this will be especially painful to experience, it will help you cleanse your life of toxic people.

It's going to be a wild ride and you're going to come out dizzy and damaged in so many ways - beaten and broken and lost. But you'll have learned so much over the years, and by the time you're me, you'll be strong enough (and finally confident enough) to reach out and look for help. You'll find the right diagnosis, four little letters that explain SO MUCH - and when those four letters finally click for you, you'll start an entirely new journey - one that will change everything, finally, for the better.

Get ready.
Me.

For access to the audio version of this blog (as well as other exclusive content), please click here.


Questions for the Comments Section:
  • Have you ever written a letter to a younger version of yourself? If you have, what sorts of things did you tell you? And if not - what's the one thing you would say now to the you of the past?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Thursday Thoughts: Why I'm Proud To Be A Jerk Mom


Recently I read a great post on AiringMyLaundry.com, which was titled "Why I Won't Co-Sleep," and which was so relatable I couldn't help laughing. It was similar to another (more recent) post on the same site, titled, "I'm A Butthole Wife (Sometimes)," which also had me giggling to myself as I read.

I loved the honesty in both posts, and the way each one said, "I am who I am, this is what works for me, and I go with what works for me." It was just so self-accepting, and such a secure way of saying, "I have boundaries, and I expect other people to respect them."

As a woman who has struggled with setting solid boundaries in the past, and who has struggled greatly with defending my boundaries even when I have managed to set them, these two posts RESONATED in me in such a deep way. I loved the way Amber wrote about her willingness to be "a butthole wife" - especially if it meant letting her husband know that being his houseWIFE didn't mean she was okay with being his houseMAID:

"... that I should be grateful that he'd rather spend time with me than pick up his socks. He picked people over dirty socks. Yay me! No. I'm sorry, but no. He's a grown man with hands. Socks belong in the hamper. It's not rocket science. So I would complain ..."

I also loved the way she stands up for her own personal time and her own personal space with her kids, letting them know that she's a person too, and that being a person comes part and parcel with certain needs for time and space - and uninterrupted sleep:

"I wanna sleep with you, Mommy." 
"Well, I want to weight 20 pounds less but I like food too much and it's not going to happen. We don't always get what we want."
This is something I wish hadn't been so hard for me throughout the course of my life. I wish I hadn't gone back after leaving my ex-husband the first time, because it was so painful when someone I loved and respected was disappointed in me for "quitting" my marriage to an addict who had endangered our family. I wish it hadn't hurt so much to have that same person tell me how disappointed they were that I went back to my husband - because I "didn't stick up for myself."

I wish I hadn't had to cut ties with that person, because I still miss them everyday even though I have accepted that I can NEVER please them.

But there were good things that came out of that, too - I learned that you truly "can't please all the people all the time" - and that lesson thickened my skin, preparing me for:
  • life as an author, where even though the majority of reviews on my novels are good, there is an occasional one that hits me hard in the emotions. I might have quit a long time ago if I hadn't learned to be okay with not being able to please everyone I encounter.
  • the end of an abusive relationship that stole my self-confidence and my sense of independence, little by little, in the sneakiest of ways, until I realized with sudden shame that I had become hardly more than a helpless toddler living in a grown woman's body. Who knows who I might have become if I hadn't had that thick skin, that bit of fire, that strength of will that helped me fight back until he realized I was no longer a suitable target? (That relationship, its duration, and its end, helped to finally spark the complex-PTSD that I live with today. I asked my therapist once how I lived through so much in my life and this one thing sent me spiraling, and she said sometimes it just takes that last straw to set it off.)
  • the scaling back of a friendship that was hurting me, with a person who didn't and couldn't believe in me. I feel the loss of that person every day too - but I also hear the echo of their voice, scoffing, speaking their doubts into my future.
  • motherhood. This job is 100% worth doing about 95% of the time, but it's the hardest thing I've ever done in all my life. I have often been known to say things like, "Man, if I needed to get my self-confidence from the feedback in this family, I wouldn't have any at all!" Because kids, by their youthful and animalistic nature, are self-centered little buggers to the very last atom of their being. Which is why I'm so proud to be a jerk mom.
It's not that I'm impossible to please, or that I set an impossible standard to achieve. I'm just as likely to praise a low C as a high A on a report card, depending on what I really think my kid is capable of - although I'm happy my kids are naturally pretty smart (which is a total fluke, since they obviously did NOT get it from either of their parents). I'm also just as likely to tell my daughter that she can be a model, or an astronaut, or a teacher (or an author?) - if she's willing to put in the work and accept that EVERY career option has it's drawbacks.

But ... I did tell my teen that modeling probably wasn't for her, because having to starve herself into a size zero would shatter her quality of life. She's naturally pretty svelte but she loves food, and if she had to live on the kind of diet models are rumored to be expected to eat ... well, let's just say I recommended other career options that allow food.

I know right? What a jerk mom! I'm supposed to be telling her she can be anything she wants to be, right? And that the rest of the world has to sit back and hush up and let it happen, because she's special?

But the thing is ... she's not special. Not to the fast food manager who is probably going to be her first employer. He (or she) will know that teenagers are a dime a dozen, and that there's any number of them out there looking for a job so they can get the newest phone/shoes/clothes/car that everyone else has and BE COOL. That person will not think my daughter is special just because I do. And I'm not going to teach her otherwise, because her second boss won't think she's special either. Niether will her third boss, or any of her college professors. To them, she'll just be another person making their way in the world - and the world doesn't coddle sissies.

I'm also a jerk mom in other despicable ways, too:
  1. I make my kids (yep, both of them) earn time with their electronics. If they go to bed on time on Monday night, they get their electronics for one hour on Tuesday afternoon. If they ALSO get up Tuesday morning and get ready for school on time and without arguing, they get their electronics the whole afternoon. On weekends, the adjustment is that if they go to bed without a fuss (because bedtime is a bit lax on the weekends, but the bedtime stall tactics are not), then they get electronics for two hours the following day, and if they ALSO read quietly in bed until I wake up on my own (just because they don't sleep in doesn't mean I shouldn't, right?), then they get electronics for the whole day.
  2. How many of you caught that part about going to bed on time? Yes, my kids have a bedtime - even the teen. Bedtime for both kids is 7 PM on school nights, with one hour for quiet reading and/or music before lights-out at 8 PM. This usually has Eden asleep by 8:15 and Joey asleep by 8:30, which allows them to soak up the beauty rest until I wake them at 6 AM, at which time they both get up RESTED because I, as a jerk mom, made them go to bed at a decent hour. This also works out for me, as a selfish mom, because I'm also a single mom, and those quiet evening hours between 8 and 10 belong to me. Alone. Period. And before anyone starts going nuts in the comments about how that's SO MUCH SLEEP ... rest assured, I have adjusted bedtime often over the years, accounting for my observation of when my children wake up on their own in relation to what time they went to bed. Bedtime is set according to their own personal sleep hours - just because I'm the adult who enforces it doesn't mean I just do it because I feel like it.
  3. I make them clean up, too. Every day, each child is expected to make her bed. Not in the mornings, because apparently, making your bed is bad for you because it traps allergens and skin cells under the sheets or something, but because chores are good and because it's nice slipping into a well-made bed. Also, I wanted my kids to know how to make a bed, and you learn skills by practicing them. So part of our nightly routine is to make beds before getting in them.
  4. They also have laundry chores. Josephine is responsible for folding and putting her own laundry away. All of it. And I do not step in to do it for her. Eden's job is to sort the clean laundry into baskets according to who the clothes belong to, so that I can fold and put mine and hers away. She also pulls her own socks and panties out of her basket, folds her panties and puts them away, and puts her socks in the sock-box in her drawer. Occasionally, without being asked, she will also fold all of her pants - but she leaves the shirts for me because I'm such a weirdo on how they get folded (to prevent wrinkles).
After many years of being raised by a jerk mom, my children are familiar with "the mom look," which usually stops them misbehaving within seconds (unless we're at home, where their sense of safety overrides their fear of being embarrassed by public discipline).

For instance, they would never do anything like this:


because it would make me do this:


and then this would happen:


and since I'm such a jerk, we'd probably come directly to this:


after which my kids would:


Because sometimes, you just gotta be a jerk mom to get the job done.

I'm okay with being a jerk mom because it means I care about how my kids turn out - and my kids know and acknowledge what that will mean for their potential in the future. Josephine has already come home from school many times, telling me stories about kids she knows who are allowed to drink and smoke, who spend time alone unsupervised with boys, who are already dating, who are allowed to dress immodestly. She tells me these stories with a mixture of shock and awe - and she always ends the story by thanking me for caring enough to protect her from herself. This almost always trickles down to Eden too, who tends to observe these stories with sadness and empathy for the kids Joey talks about at home - after which, she comes to hug me and thank me for being "the kind of mom who makes us listen and be good little kids."

Maybe it's because Joey's pretty mature for a kid of just thirteen, and maybe she would have ended up this way anyhow. Maybe Eden doesn't need my influence to be a rule-follower or a respectful person, and maybe she doesn't need Joey's influence to see the good side of having a jerk mom. But maybe, just maybe, it's because for all their lives, they've been taught with a generally loving hand, guided by a generally thoughtful teacher, and now and then, set in place by a generally jerk mom.

In other news: My grandma came through her surgery and is now recovering. Broken hips are a challenge though, and healing from surgery is rough even for the young and healthy. We're still watchful.

For access to the audio version of this blog, please click here.


Related posts - lest you should leave here today thinking anything other than that I adore my children:
  • Here are a couple of poems I wrote for Josephine and Eden a few years ago.
  • And here's one I wrote about motherhood and the way it changes the women who undertake it.

Questions for the Comments Section:
  • Did you have a jerk mom? What was the most jerk-like thing she did that you're now grateful for?
  • Are you (or were you) a jerk mom to your kids? How do they feel about it today?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

No Post ... Sortof.

It's important to me to keep my schedule, to keep my consistency. To show those of you who come here loyally to read what I have to say, that I still care enough to keep coming here. That this place, that the community we're building together ... it matters.

But lately ... lately, I've been battling the cloud of depression. I've been trying to fight off the nagging feeling that I don't matter, especially within the confines of my family. Ignoring the demoralizing suspicion that if I quietly dissipated into thin air ... no one would even notice.

At least, not until dinnertime, right? Or when someone can't find something?

I've been looking "on the bright side." I've been pretending it doesn't hurt. I've been taking the steps, and going through the motions, and ignoring the complete and utter lack of motivation. I've been pretending that the sense of lonesome emotional emptiness wasn't there.

But I've been struggling.

There's no big post today, no well-thought plan. I'm down to the last hour and my Grandmother broke her hip Sunday night. She's having surgery to have it repaired, and I'm struggling with the idea that it might be the last time I see her.

She's in her 80s; she's got heart trouble and kidney trouble, she's feeble and unhealthy. And she's not a good surgical candidate because of all those things, but it must be done because the alternative is possibly worse - a swift and sudden decline in her quality of life, such as it is.

Her phone number is in the "favorites" list in my phone. She could call even if my phone was silenced - her call would come through. I'm having trouble knowing that that number won't come up anymore (not only because of the surgery, but because her dementia is also nearing the final stages, and she recently moved back into a nursing home for more around-the-clock care. She won't be going home again, even without the hip issue).

So I'm going to be at the hospital today. And that's why there's no post.

But I'll be back Thursday ... and I'll try to be normal again.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sunday Score: $1 Deals on the Wish App


On the last Sunday Score, I shared the great deal I found on the Misfit Flash (March Madness Sale! Take 20% OFF the Misfit Shine 2 with code MARCH20. That's an almost $20 savings!), and how much Joey and I have loved using the product. We're still loving our Misfit Flash devices - but we definitely love the colored lights on the Shine!

This time, I thought I'd share something that gives you even more freedom of choice - and even more amazing savings! Lately, I've been loving the Wish App - I have it on both my phone and my tablet, and back in December, I used Wish.com on my browser to order winter coats for both of the girls! I ended up with two cute coats for around $35, and even though one of them came in the wrong color, they both worked out perfectly! Actually, I think the one coming in black instead of pink was sort of a godsend - the black goes much better with most of Eden's clothes! But both coats are super cute, and Wish really took care of me when it started to look like maybe Joey's coat was lost in the mail. They refunded the cost of that coat completely - and then when the coat came in the mail the following week, they told me to keep it, as an apology for my having to wait longer than expected.

Now, that's the kind of customer support that makes a loyal customer out of me. Since then, I've ordered a few other things with no trouble at all, and I love being able to find decent products at bottom-line prices - since I'm not a high maintenance kind of girl, I don't really care if they aren't necessarily high end products.

So I thought it would be fun to share some of my recent Wish finds with you - and every one is listed for just $1 (at the time of this posting)!! How cool is that - with Wish.com, you can get a full product haul for less than the price of a good car wash! Just look:



The best part is that there's so much more than just $1 items or fashion/makeup. There's clothing, household appliances and decor, shoes, bags, curtains, wall art ... the list goes on!

And now, I'm off to do some shopping - I saw a bag collection I'm totally in love with for $13 - it comes with a tote, a shoulder bag, a cross body bag, a clutch, and a wallet, all for $13! It's nothing less than a steal, so I'm gonna go snap it up before it's gone or the price changes.

Then again ... maybe I'll get a new pair of boots. Or some bracelets. Or maybe new makeup brushes? Well, you get the drift. Anyway, happy shopping ...

To find out more about how to access the audio version of this post, please click here.

Questions for the Comments Section:

  • Have you bought anything from the Wish App or Wish.com before? If so, what did you get, and how did it work out?
  • Sunday Score is about living well on a budget, being careful with your cash but still enjoying your life. I've had fun sharing my scores recently - what's one of yours?

*Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click the links and choose to purchase the products promoted here, I will earn a small commission at no cost to you. However, all opinions expressed herein are 100% honest and 100% my own. Thanks for your support!
REAL CHARACTERS. HONEST LOVE. BRANDI KENNEDY BOOKS.