Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Usefulness Of Vulnerability


In my last post, I talked a little about the importance of accepting - and maybe even embracing - our vulnerability as humans. I talked about fear, and how often we tend to be afraid of being vulnerable. Afraid of being hurt, afraid of admitting it when we are hurt. Afraid of being rejected. Afraid of being embarrassed. Afraid of shame. Sometimes we're even afraid of our own fear.

And while I did share some about how fearful I often am due to the chronic anxiety tied to my PTSD, what I didn't necessarily point out is that my ability to accept and embrace the status of my health (both mental and physical) is still entirely new to me.

I have lived most of my life with a certain sense of rage and anger, some of it specifically related to mental illness and those who suffer from it. I am a child abuse survivor - and one of my most damaging abusers was a bipolar patient who would often go off their medications long enough to have complete psychotic breaks. This person was in and out of mental hospitals often - and their many attacks on me have left me with psychological marks I'm not sure will ever heal. Not only because I struggle to trust anyone with my own children, but because admitting and accepting my own mental health condition was incredibly painful for me.

I grieved the lack of total wellness. I grieved the inability to "get over it," the shadows of the past that still loom over me constantly. The little things that trigger emotional flashbacks and poisonous inner monologues, the echoes in my mind of a person who should have made me feel safe but instead made me a personal target when I was a child.

My experiences with mental illness through growing up with my mother haven't been easy either, and the stigma of mental illness and instability was so ingrained that I actually ended up writing books about PTSD long before I actively realized I had it. Accepting my own mental illness was a struggle for me.

Recognizing and embracing the vulnerability in my physical health hasn't been easy either: I've been overweight since I was a teenager, and if I had a dollar for every time someone told me a health complaint was weight-related, I'd be able to out-cash every bazillionaire on the planet.
  • "Seasonal allergies? Oh, that'll clear right up if you lose some weight!"
  • "Broken bone? Tell me, dear, what sorts of things do you regularly eat for breakfast?"
  • "Headaches? Back pain? Well duh! If you weren't so heavy you wouldn't have to deal with that!"
And honestly, while some of that may have a kernel of truth in it, I can literally remember sitting in an exam room, going through a file folder full of records tracking what I ate, what I drank, what exercise I was doing - I had been carefully monitoring everything for months in a desperate effort to lose some weight, and I was there to beg for help. And the doctor dismissed everything I said, treated me as if I was lying, and suggested that I try some kind of TV dinner diet system.

Nope.

I stopped going to doctors. If I thought I was dying, I hit the ER, and once walk-in minute clinics started popping up, I'd go to those sometimes. But I left having a primary care doctor behind, because I hadn't had one in years who really wanted to help me or took the time to listen to me. I had completely lost faith in the medical profession - which led me into a lot of self-education. If I had an illness I tried to figure it out myself, tried to figure out how I could help myself. I learned some alternative methods, accepted some unconventional ideas and practices. And for the most part, that worked for me.

For the most part.

So when my mental health got to a point where it could no longer be ignored, where I could no longer pretend to be fine, and I was beginning to see every day as a struggle less and less worth stepping up for ... I broke down. I gave in. I went to therapy.

I got vulnerable.

I shared my story - and I was heard. I showed my wounds - and they were validated. For the first time in my life, I learned to shed shame-free tears. And I know I'll never be cured; PTSD doesn't go away. But I'm learning to cope, learning to mitigate, learning to live around my barriers.

And I'm learning to love my vulnerability.

Embracing my vulnerability and stepping up for myself in therapy was surprisingly empowering - and in time, it gave me the courage to try again. It took several months, but I found a doctor. I kept my appointment. And I hated her.

But I made another appointment in the same office, specifically requesting that I be given to someone who might be a better fit for me - and I found a diamond. I now have a primary care doctor who has seen me cry, who has heard me completely. She's listened to my ailments, investigated the booboos, and treated my vulnerability with compassion. More importantly, she has answered my vulnerability with respect for the strength it takes for most people to show their weaknesses in such a way. She not only listens to my list of ailments and symptoms, but she believes me; she believes I'm telling the truth, she believes my concerns are real.

Because my willingness to be vulnerable with my therapist gave me courage, and my primary care doctor answered that courage with respect, I was eventually able to ask for a referral to a specialist I knew I was long overdue for. I was able to articulate what I needed - and why. Then, once I felt that my relationship was established with that specialist, I was able to explain my other suspicions about my health in a free and comfortable way. I was vulnerable all over again, in a much more frightening, much more significant way - and he made sure I was heard. He made sure that again, I was believed.

He guided me along the next step in my pursuit of better, more solidly monitored health. He helped me find the answers I had been so desperately wanting but too discouraged to ask for for so long.

It's entirely possible that my willingness to embrace vulnerability will extend my lifetime, improve my prognosis, and restore lost quality of living. At the very least, it has opened doors to treatment I didn't even know I needed.


Since this post is getting so long, I'm gonna cut us off for now - but first, I'd like to leave you with a challenge. Think about the role vulnerability has played in your life. Think about where your vulnerability might be lacking balance. And then come back in a couple of days to learn more about how you can balance the vulnerability in your life ...

... as you move along your journey to become - and stay - Undaunted.


If you liked this post? Drop a comment below - I'd love your feedback, as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me connect with new readers and bring new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are 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, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Beautiful Vulnerability


You guys know how I love blogs, books, music, movies, and all sorts of motivational content - especially podcasts, and especially motivational personal development podcasts. One of my favorites is the Your Kickass Life podcast, which I've been listening through for ages now. Sometimes I go through bursts, where it seems like I've heard so many episodes all at once that I'll never forget the sound of Andrea Owen's cheerful voice and totally realistic way of putting herself out there for her listeners Other times, I'll take a break to process whatever I've learned, or I'll hear something so profound that I just have to turn it off and let it sink in.

Oftentimes, I'll write down my favorite quotes for later inspiration, affirmation, or material from which to grow my own content - and here's one of my current favorites:

"A lot of times, I believe that we view vulnerability as black or white ... either we get completely naked on the first date, or we don't date at all." -- Andrea Owen

I've talked about something very close to this idea before - certainly not in those words, but in similar ways. I've mentioned it in friendships, in relationships. And yes, I've talked about it several times here, in various posts exploring how much I hate it when people see the things I've lived through and survived, or the challenges I'm still facing every day, and they label me "fearless."

I am not fearless. I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which means my life is an exercise in being at high alert at all times. When I walk through parking lots, I'm examining the people and the cars around me. When I walk down a hallway, I'm watching behind me almost as carefully as I watch in front of me. I don't sit with my back to doors or windows for the most part. I'm on such high alert all the time that I hardly even have a scare reflex anymore - my family has made a game over the years of trying to sneak up on me, because it's a huge accomplishment for them if I don't feel them coming. Hypervigilance is my life, a constant state of being on guard, being watchful - being anxious.

I am not fearless.

I think sometimes people just see me that way because I keep going as much as possible - even my guts are burning with fear, when my muscles are weak and tired from trembling, when my heart is racing and my head is aching. I'm still trying to move forward, even if it's just baby steps, even when it's just a little at a time. I accept defeat sometimes, and I have accepted the disability rendered by my stack of chronic health issues - I've even accepted outright failure more times than I care to count. But none of those things means the same as "giving up."

I'm not fearless. Courageous, maybe, but really only in the sense that I am willing to be vulnerable. I'm willing to say I've been weak, that I've been fooled, that I've been homeless, that I've been sick, that I've lost, that I've been rejected, that I've been battered and bruised, attacked and embattled.

Because without me - and others like me - being willing to stand up and say, "Yes, I've been there, I've endured that, and I survived," then how can we expect it to mean anything when we say, "You'll be alright, you're strong, don't let this get you down."

Even then, accepting vulnerability in others isn't nearly as difficult as accepting - or even learning to take pride in - the vulnerability in ourselves.

It's not easy to admit weakness, to admit hurt, to admit struggle. It's hard. It's embarrassing. It's painful. But in a lot of ways, it's also healing ... when it's in balance.

Check back in a couple of days to see how I keep my vulnerability at just the right balance for me - and some of the ways you can learn to get yours in balance, too.


If you liked this post? Drop a comment below - I'd love your feedback, as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me connect with new readers and bring new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are 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, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Friday Feels: July


Man, life gets crazy sometimes huh? I've had so much going on in my life in the last few months, I'm honestly starting to feel a little like I'm in a pit of quicksand.

I told my therapist, and her being her typical spectacular self, her response was to remind me that I've got a rope, tied to a strong oak. I told her I was tired - tired of fighting, tired of struggling, tired of always expecting the other shoe to drop and always being right about there being another shoe. She told me to hold on, and the conversation really did make me think of the way a trapped person would battle to escape quicksand, a little at a time - with such small movements it might feel like there's no hope of ever accomplishing the goal.

It put me in mind of a song I've been wholeheartedly loving lately (Casting Crowns, "Just Be Held"), which in turned took the symbolism of the various challenges in my life as quicksand to a new level. The conversation reminded me to keep a hopeful hold on the rope of my faith in possibility and the idea that consistent effort pays off. It reminded me to keep my eye on the oak my hope is tied to - the God who created me, who knew this day would come, who has already worked out the plan for tomorrow.

In turn, the encouragement gave me the strength to keep trying, to keep thinking, keep planning. To keep making the small, nearly invisible movements that WILL work out, even if I'm tired. To keep working my way up, to keep trying to pull myself free.

But there's also a time to rest. A time to be held, as the song says, which is part of why I so love my Friday Feels blog series - because it gives me space to see my feelings honestly, to process them with courage even when they're terrifying, to learn new, better ways to cope with them. And yes, it gives me space to pray.

With all that said, let's get right into it. I can't wait to see what my favorite random emotion generator pulls out of the hat for us this month ...


1. Accepting:
Living with PTSD and the impact of chronic depression and anxiety has been hard over the years - and as those invisible illnesses become visible in lack of sleep, elevated blood pressures, GERD, and other chronic pain, I've been on a journey in the last several years of accepting that my health is not what I would want. My body is not what I would want.

I'm 34 years old, and I am crippled by chronic pain and debilitating PTSD symptoms. There's so much I want to do ... that I can't do, either because I don't have the emotional energy or because my body simply won't comply. Some days, even sitting upright to write is a constant struggle.

Now that I know more about why my health is the way it is ... now that I know more about why I've suffered through some of the things that have so traumatized me over the years ... now that I have a name for my chronic pain, for my IBS, for my weakened right leg, my ugly, increasingly deformed right foot ... now that I have a better understanding of what's probably the cause of my unusual headaches ... now that I can see a little more clearly into my future healthwise ...

I am accepting "disabled" as a label. I am living with multiple illnesses, all of which complicate my life in so many ways I sometimes struggle just to explain it. I'm still giving everything I have to my life, to my writing, to my family, to my goals ... but I'm also learning to accept that I don't always have as much to give as I wish I did.


2. Enthusiastic:
In our society, we're in a place where we don't know whether to shun labels or to collect them. We don't want to be labeled as anything we might feel is bad (labels like retarded, for example), and yet we adorn ourselves so proudly with other labels (such as bisexual or transgender). It's easy to get mixed up in that too ... trying to put a label on something can sometimes cheapen it in some ways.

But when it comes to labeling a health problem, especially one that has been for so long hiding under the surface of ignorance and misinformation ... it changes everything. I have a diagnosis now, but I still don't know the extent of the damage done by the lack of ongoing treatment. I still don't know what will need to be done in order to treat my issues and improve my health and quality of life.

I have four MRIs coming up next week, and while there's a part of me that's downright petrified of the process and the implications of all the scary possibilities, I'm also completely ecstatic to be moving forward in answering so many long-unanswered questions. I'm excited to be taking these steps ... and I intend to take them with as much enthusiasm as I can muster.


3. Hopeless:
I got some really discouraging news recently - it threw me off my game for a minute, sent me straight to my therapist's office. I needed coaching, I needed a place to vent, to cry, to unload my fears and unleash my injuries. I needed to be safe for a while so I that I could open myself up to feeling stuck and scared and hopeless. I needed that moment when I broke down, when the words that have been rattling around in my mind for too long finally slipped over the end of my tongue.

And I needed the kindness and the honesty and the intensity of the encouragement that followed that moment.


4. Optimistic:
Optimism is why I went to my therapist in the moment that I was struggling. I wanted to go home and crawl into bed and just disengage. I wanted to just ... stop trying so hard. So I called, made an appointment, mustered my courage, and went to work through it.

There's something about that sense of validation, something about the patience of sitting in a quiet room with someone patient enough to just let me feel and experience from my own perspective, in my own way. Not to tell me that I'm always right or that I'm perfect or that I know everything, but just to see me for who I am and believe in my experience as real and valuable and true. Not to nod or applaud or anything like that ... just to be accepting and encouraging.

Going to my therapist helped me give myself permission to feel what I felt in that moment, to admit it and see it and call it what it was. And climbing that barrier? It helped me look back at all the other ones I've made it over. It gave me the strength to finish the day.


5. Powerless:
There's a lot in my life that feels beyond my control right now, a lot of things I'm waiting for - not because I'm holding back or because I'm intending to slow the process, but simply because change takes time and sometimes it doesn't go at the pace we want.

I know I've said it already, but it bears repeating here: I hate that there's so much I want to do, so much I'm ready to accept and take on, so much I'm ready to change and embrace ... and yet, so many areas of my life are currently marked with a big, huge, red-inked, immovable, "WAIT."


6. Strong:
Through everything I've been juggling this year in general and this summer so far specifically, I've found a new admiration for what my mother has suffered through during the years of her life. I've found a new inspiration in her strength, and new strength of my own.

She is an abuse survivor - so am I. She is a person with chronic illness - so am I. She is familiar with struggle, with hunger, with heartbreak, with homelessness - and so am I.

But she is strong - impossibly strong, undeniably resilient. She's flawed and broken and damaged ... but in her will to survive anyway, she's everything Undaunted is supposed to mean.

And so am I.


7. Terrified:
With so much going on in so many areas of my life, there's a lot up in the air - and the lack of control is terrifying for me. I can't fix what's outside of my control, and I can't change things that are out of my hands. But some things in my life ... well, they're urgent.

I know I compared things to quicksand earlier, but when I'm exploring fear and terror in my life lately, I can best describe it this way: my life feels like a bomb, a new kind of bomb I've never encountered before. And I'm supposed to defuse it, but I don't know how because it's new, and I don't know how much time I have to do it before it blows. There's no timer, just a fuse that shortens at varying levels and unpredictable speeds.

But if it blows because I failed to figure it out? Yeah, that's terrifying.


8. Torn:
Earlier this month, my aunt lost her battle with renal cancer; the final decline coincided with a major break that had my mother in the hospital for several days for the third time this summer.

I missed my aunt's funeral; it broke my heart to know that I had the opportunity to go, but I couldn't because I was afraid to be that far from my mom while she was in the state she was in. I couldn't go to Florida while my mom was in a hospital bed in Tennessee.

I know I made the right choice. I know I did what my aunt would have wanted me to do. I know she would have understood.

But I wish I could have seen her face one last time, even if she wasn't behind it anymore.


9. Warm:
This has been a hard year in a lot of ways, but it has also been rich with growth and inspiration. One of my best friendships has grown and developed into something I never would have expected or hoped for (love you, Lauren!!), another has been an outright blessing from God (thanks for being amazing, Amanda!), and the steady dependability of another has given me comfort despite so much change (always so thankful for you, Dana!!).

I'm grateful every day for the people who have come into my life in a loving way, and even more grateful for those who have been able to love me despite my flaws. These are the people who give me strength and will and endurance. They are the source of my determination to keep trying, the fount of my ability to believe in myself, and the confirmation of my faith in the good in this world.

And really, what's warmer than that?


10. Worried:
Well, y'all know me well enough by now, don't ya? If you've been following this blog for very long, you'll know how much I worry. And the wild thing about my life as it is is that I don't tend to worry about useless or insignificant things very often. I worry about real things that are coming into play, things that are confirmed, not just suspected:
  • My mother's health is failing. Her major organ systems are all in trouble, her balance is shot, her cognition is suffering. Death has been a long journey for her, with health problems, psychological issues, traumatic experiences, and good old-fashioned struggle all coming into play. She's been close to death since the blood clot that nearly killed her when I was a child ... but now? Now she's frail, fragile, broken, misshapen. Weak. I know we don't have much longer with her - and I worry about how to handle it when it's time. How does one lose their mother? And more importantly, how do I coach my children through it?
  • My health is complicated by a serious lifelong illness, and though I didn't know the name of it until just recently, I've been living with it since birth. It has been slowly getting worse, slowly causing more damage - some of which is specifically because since I didn't know what it was, I wasn't able to make sure it was treated properly. And I worry because at least one surgical correction is most certainly in my future. I don't know how soon it will have to be or how long I'll be able to put it off ... but in the meantime, I'm still a single mom with two kids. How do I take care of them if I'm in the hospital? How do I care for them when I go home? How will I support them during that time, when even sitting up to write literally might not be possible?
  • My oldest daughter is currently undergoing the long process of seeking diagnosis for her own chronic, come-and-go illness. This could take years to figure out - but in the meantime, her lack of a specific name for her illness doesn't negate the reality of her symptoms. She's doing alright with it ... but me? Well, I'm her mother. I worry.
  • My youngest has complicated health issues of her own, many of which aren't remarkably serious - but there are just. So. Many. Issues. I worry about how to juggle them all, how to best mitigate her symptoms, how to help her learn to vocalize and advocate for herself when she's struggling, how to teach her the importance of not internalizing everything. So, I worry.
  • On top of those things, there are other real issues like the problems with my car, typical single-mom concerns, the move I'm still working on, the stressors of regular daily life. And yeah, I worry.


And that's it - Friday Feel for July. It's funny how 3 and 4 were opposites, and then 5 and 6 were opposites too, huh? Like a little back-and-forth - what a fun way to challenge myself to counter my initial reactions to some of the things I've been dealing with lately! It's interesting to see the ways in which my family's current health developments featured here, too.

So tell me, have you been dealing with similar feelings this summer? If so, what's got you feeling that way? Let's chat in the comments!


If you liked this post? Drop a comment below - I'd love your feedback, as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me connect with new readers and bring new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are 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, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

UPDATE: The 10 Apps That Keep Me Sane in 2018


Back in 2016 I wrote this post, outlining the ten mobile applications that were pretty much keeping me sane at the time. Several were writing and productivity related, but others were entertainment apps I used either as a coping mechanism or as a way to veg out and escape reality for a while. Several of the apps I chose to list in that post are no longer installed on my devices (or at least, not used as frequently), so I thought now would be a great time to update my list with my more recent loves.

But first, a breakdown of the old list:
  • Jorte: I've deleted this because I switched to Google, which was easier to sync not only with my various devices but also with my colleagues in the writing community when needed.
  • Microsoft OneNote: I still use this but only sporadically.
  • Microsoft Word: I don't use this as much in the mobile form - but Word is still my preferred program for writing.
  • Facebook: I obviously still use this, but not nearly as much.
  • Slacker Radio: This one is definitely still one of my life savers! It has its quirks, but I love it anyway.
  • YouTube: Another app that stands the test of time with me - I'm still watching YouTube almost on the daily, and in fact, it has become basically my only TV source.
  • HULU/WWE: I don't use either of these anymore. With less time available and less motivation to spend time watching TV in general, I no longer needed either application.
  • Clue: I still use this app regularly to track my feminine cycles, not only because it's a healthy habit to have but also because I have PMDD and tracking my cycle accurately helps me more adequately recognize and manage my symptoms.
  • Chrome: I still use this constantly for everything, of course. In fact, I'm using the Chrome browser right now and have multiple tabs up on all of my devices.
  • JetPack JoyRide: Meh. I still have this, and sometimes I play it ... but not usually.
Which brings us the new list of 10 apps I'm using most often lately:


Chrome:
This is the default browser on every device I use - and since I use the internet for planning, blogging, and researching, plus I use it for blog-reading, managing our library account, and general browsing ... well, I'm sure you see why this app is right at the top of my list.


Facebook Messenger:
I use this app daily as well, to keep up with my writing friends, my real-life friends, my family members, etc. Since I spend so much time shuttling from one appointment to another, my social life sometimes feels a little dry - Messenger helps me stay in touch with my people.


Google Calendar:
When I left Jorte behind, it wasn't because I didn't like Jorte. Actually, I loved how cute it was with stickers and stuff like that - it met my "digital planner" needs perfectly in that way. But since I wasn't ready to shell out hard-earned money to get full access to the features I wanted, I left the pretty-ness of Jorte behind in favor of the functionality of Google Calendar. It may not be quite as pretty or as customizable, but I can color-code, I can sync, and I can allow other people to view or even add to my calendars as needed.


Slacker Radio:
This is another app I use daily. My musical interests vary with my mood, my circumstances, who I'm hanging out with, how I'm feeling, and what's playing, so I love that with Slacker, there's a bit of everything I might be in the mood for. Music is a huge deal for me because it helps me block out background noise when I'm trying to write, helps me calm anxiety when I'm struggling, lifts me up when I'm depressed, and gives me an outlet when I'm dealing with anger or frustration. I'm not sure I'd be coping nearly as well if I didn't have music in my ear all the time.


Habits:
Setting up and using this app has been a great way to take my quarterly goals and turn them into daily targets I can shoot for without getting overwhelmed by everything I'm trying to accomplish. It has also been a great way to help me remember to take my medications (or remember if I've already taken them), track my intermittent fasting schedule, keep up with my reading goals, remind myself to spend time in the Bible, and keep up with other recurring daily goals. Without this app, I wouldn't be nearly as functional as I am.


Habitica:
Just like using Habits to track and encourage my own routines, Habitica has been an invaluable resource for tracking Eden's routines and behaviors, as well as inspiring her to try harder and make more of an effort in taking charge of her own issues. Habitica gamifies habit-tracking in a really fun way that makes it easy for her to relate to as a child of the tech generation, but it also uses old-school tracking methods gone digital as a way to keep her motivated.

With Habitica, accomplished tasks and behaviors (which are completely customizable) are awarded with experience points that help you level up, as well as gold, the game's main currency. Negative behaviors and daily tasks not accomplished result in a hit to your avatar's health level - which you don't want, because if you lose all your health, your avatar "dies," which means you lose a level AND all of your current gold stash. Gold can be used to purchase upgrades for your avatar, but is mainly used to purchase real-life rewards (also fully customizable).

What I really love about this app is that it gives Eden more control of her world - she's learning that while some behaviors (such as not obeying, wandering during meals, and not cleaning up after herself)  may not necessarily have immediate consequences, they still impact her life in real ways - costing her time in earning the rewards she wants. She helped choose the rewards we use on her Habitica account, and also has a say in what tasks and habits are listed on the app, which has also helped to keep her motivated to try.

Seriously. If you have kids and you aren't using this app ... you're missing out. (Oh, and adults can use it, too - I've actually been thinking of switching to this myself, just for fun. The only reason I haven't yet is because the app isn't equipped for multiple users yet.)


Google Keep:
Google Keep is one of my favorite apps even though I still haven't really gotten the hang of making it work for me as well as it could. I actually have a couple of different Google accounts signed in on my devices, and I love that this app allows me to keep track of so many different things. It's like having my own personal bulletin board on the go - I keep shopping lists, goal lists, writing and blog ideas, quotes I loved, and sometimes even phone numbers I need to keep track of but don't necessarily want to add to my contacts.

I would like to get it a little better organized, though.


(YouVersion) Bible:
This is my favorite Bible app and has been for years - I love that there are loads of free devotional plans I can get in on, depending on where my life is and what my walk with God is looking like at any given time. I also like that if I sign onto a devotional plan but it isn't working for me, I can totally drop it and choose another at any time. I can speed up the plans by reading extra, back it up if I've missed a day or two - or I can ignore the plans altogether and just use the app for good old-fashioned Bible reading.


OverDrive/Kindle:
These are the apps I use for my non-Bible reading - OverDrive is a great way for me to utilize my local library to access and read the books I want without having the actual clutter of actual books. I also like that I don't need to keep track of due dates and late fees either; when my books are due back, they just disappear from my device. I also use OverDrive to check out audiobooks for when I know I'm going to be doing a lot of driving, or for when I want to read but am simply too lazy to actually do it.

I check out digital library books for my kids all the time too, which is simple because I can check them out, send them to my Amazon account, deliver them to my my kids' Kindles, and then add the titles to their FreeTime settings. This is a great way of making sure they always have something new and interesting to read - without wasting money buying them books they may not actually end up enjoying. Obviously, we also have a good number of purchased books on our Kindles, and we're always excited to add more!


YouTube:
This is my go-to for TV these days - I don't spend a lot of time watching actual TV so we don't have any subscription services anymore. But I follow several channels on YouTube and even Eden has her own YouTube favorite. This is great because we can watch things on demand, we get to choose the content we're taking in, and by watching the creators we love, we're helping to support them too.


So that's it - these are the ten apps I'm currently using the most in order to keep my life organized and put together. If you've used and loved any of the same apps, let me know in the comments - and if you know of an app that might be helpful for my family, be sure to tell me that too!


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

And speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among the ranks of those who have fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too, and those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. But there is strength in numbers, as as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month. And now, you can wear your Undauntedness with pride by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely 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, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Undaunted Pride


"So I just had to ask. Why do you wear your past like it's some kind of badge of honor? I mean, everyone has a past. And frankly, I don't think yours is one to be that proud of anyway." --Instagram DM

I don't usually get a lot of public interaction. This blog doesn't regularly get loads of comments, and neither does my social media. Half the time, if I ask a question no one answers. Honestly, if it weren't the various analytics and insights proving that people are seeing my content - and coming back consistently to read my writing ... I might quit entirely. I mean, I love writing, but the point of writing publicly is to share it, to be seen and heard, to hopefully use my story to motivate and inspire others dealing with similar experiences.

It's the certain knowledge that some people find what I'm doing to be empowering that gives me the will to keep doing it. It's the screenshots of messages people have sent me, the affirmation of people encouraged to endure because I share how I've done it, the unbelievable blessing of people who actually thank me for sharing my story because it makes them feel less alone in theirs. Sometimes I have little bursts of people who send me private messages or emails; mostly, they're in support, like the one I got recently when my aunt died. Other times they're rude - comments about my body or my children or their perception of my motives or the value of my story.

Regardless, Every person has a story, and it took a long time for me to realize how valuable mine could be. When I was a little girl tossed repeatedly from one abusive situation to another, I felt small and alone and unloved. When I was bullied and badgered and beaten by people who should have nurtured and loved and supported me, I felt diminished and devalued. When I was ignored and overridden constantly by people who asked me what I wanted my life to look like but never truly stepped in to help me, I felt powerless. Abusive relationships left me feeling worthless, meaningless. Replaceable. Parenting two children with complicated chronic health issues made me feel guilty, and judgement from others coated me in shame.

I have been chronically victimized. I have experienced sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, and even economic abuse. I have had my story used against me. And I've been victim-blamed. I've been accused of wanting what happened, of causing what happened, of "asking for it." I've been blamed because I left, and I've been blamed because I stayed. I've been accused of making it up, even when there is irrefutable proof. I've been dismissed because the brutality of my story makes others uncomfortable.

I am disabled by chronic physical and mental health issues - but I am nothing short of a survivor. I have been beaten, but I kept moving despite fear. I have lost everything I loved and valued and treasured, but I kept trying despite failure. I have been held back, held down, but I kept pushing despite barriers.

I kept learning, kept growing, kept picking myself up.

I wear my story like a badge of honor because it is one. I didn't quit when I wanted to. I didn't give up. I didn't throw in the towel or accept defeat. I survived. I gave - and still give, and will continue to give - everything I had. I did - and will always do - the best I can, regardless of how that may or may not compare to what someone else has to offer.

I know everyone has a past. But this is mine, and there is strength in looking back on it. When I struggle today, I remind myself of what I survived in years past. When I am weak today, I draw from the strength my life has instilled in me. When I am ready to give up, I hold myself to the standard of a woman who has survived - because that standard requires me to continue surviving. I use surviving yesterday as proof that I can survive today, too.

And I share my story as if it's something to be proud of because it is. Not giving up is an accomplishment I'm proud of, because there have been so many times I wanted almost desperately to give up. Developing healthy coping mechanisms is an accomplishment because there are so many other routes my life could have taken. I am a statistic ... but it could have been worse.

I spend every day searching for ways to step up in the world, not because I want much for myself because I want a better start for my daughters. Not because I want to be elevated, but because if I am elevated, I can reach down to uplift and empower others. Not because I want to hear myself speak, but because in speaking, I hope to help others find their own voices.

My story is a source of pride because I'm still living it. I am Undaunted. And I will continue to wear it with pride - because I've earned it.


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

And speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among the ranks of those who have fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too, and those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. But there is strength in numbers, as as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month. And now, you can wear your Undauntedness with pride by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely 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, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

How Marriage Counseling Fuels Self-Love

As a single woman - a single mother - I've learned a lot over the years about the value of a healthy relationship and how much work they can take. And regardless of the nature of the relationship, be it romantic or non-romantic, it does truly take two people who want to make it work, who are dedicated to making it a successful partnership, who love and respect each other as people. I've learned how much it means to step outside your comfort zone in order to comfort a loved one, and how much it means to have someone else take that extra step in order to show they care for you.

As a divorced woman, I've learned how much it hurts to look at someone I once thought hung the moon, only to realize that he was just a human, flawed like me, filled with imperfections and weaknesses.

As a person interested - and sometimes downright fascinated - with the inner workings of the human psyche and the way we interrelate with each other as a society, largely because of the way we see ourselves in accordance with our experiences, I can still see and appreciate the benefits of marriage counseling from a couple of different standpoints.

One, counseling of any kind is something I am always willing to vouch for; my journey through therapy as part of my treatment for PTSD and PMDD has been a priceless addition to my life. Because of my therapist and her willingness to hear my story as I've experienced it, I've nurtured the courage to share it here. I've discovered the strength to advocate for myself in so many other areas of my life. Two, marriage counseling specifically is a great way for couples to get to know each other better in a place that allows both parties to feel heard, validated, and understood. It allows people who love each other to show their love by being willing to step outside of comfort and embrace vulnerability together in order to grow. And three ...


Marriage counseling fuels self love by helping two people get to know each other better - and in that process, if both parties are being truly honest and open, they cannot help but also get to know new things about themselves. Learning to be a better partner or spouse is always about learning to be a better listener, a more compassionate helpmate, a more concise communicator. You learn your partner's love languages - what makes them feel loved, as well as how they best express love - but you also learn to recognize your own.

You have to look inside yourself in order to be clear about what you need from your partner. You have to know what makes you feel loved before you can express that to your spouse. You have to learn to love yourself in order to truly accept the love of others - regardless of who they are.

When we apply all this to romantic relationships only, what we might not think about is how much this kind of thing can bleed into the rest of our lives - the way stronger communication skills also impact us at work, in our friendships, in our parenting. Because we're not just learning our partner and how to mesh well with them - we're learning people at large. We're learning to understand, to listen, to open our hearts to compassion, to release our fear of vulnerability

But it's important to realize and remember that none of these skills are romance-exclusive; all of them are beneficial when applied to our lives on a more holistic basis. More importantly, the things we learn in relationship counseling are often largely focused on learning who we are, what we want, where our boundaries lie. What hurts us, what heals us, what grows us. What inspires us.

What better self-love is there than that? To know oneself so thoroughly, and to have the courage to be that intimate with another person present - to share that level of depth with someone we love, trusting that they love us back and want the best for us ... learning to master that level of sharing with another person out of respect and partnership ... that's the very foundation of how self-love can make a marriage more amazing than you ever imagined.

There's actually a ton of great information about marriage counseling in this article from BetterHelp, which talks about how marriage counseling can work for you (and your relationship). It even walks you through parts of the process and digs into some of the methods used, which was really cool to look into.

I like to think my next partner will be my last partner - not only because he'll be a better fit for who I am and what I need, but also because he'll be open enough to allow me to fit who he is and what he needs. Thankfully, when we stumble into inevitable hard times, there's always counseling to help us bridge the gap.


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

And speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among the ranks of those who have fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too, and those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. But there is strength in numbers, as as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month.

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely 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, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.


Note: This post is a partnership with BetterHelp.com, in conjunction with my love of their site and content combined with their love of giving people a better, more personalized way of accessing quality mental healthcare. All thoughts, opinions, and ideas expressed in this post are my own - and as you know, I would never recommend any site, service or product I didn't authentically love.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Quarterly Goals 2018, #3

I'm pretty sure the second quarter of 2018 was the worst, hardest quarter I've encountered since I first fell in love with this idea (through the beautiful and inspiring Jenna Moreci). Making lists of my quarterly goals has been helpful in so many ways - keeping me focused and on track, helping me break my goals down into manageable chunks, reminding me to keep trying, and pushing me not only to set goals in the first place but also to continue breaking them down.

I share (most of) my quarterly goals here, but what I haven't shared so much of is the way I break those goals down into daily targets, which I use an app to keep track of. Like I mentioned though, the spring quarter was pretty tough on my family and I; my mother was in and out of the hospital twice, readmitted this past week, is looking to stay admitted for a while, and our family also lost a loved one. It has been hectic, both in life events and in the way those events have impacted my mental health.

And speaking of health, I've finally gotten some long-held questions answered regarding my physical health and well-being. But that's for another post.

In the meantime, with this quarter being so wild for me, my tracking totally fell off about halfway through. My ability to keep up with tracking my goals disappeared, buried under trips to various doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes - I did keep my goals in mind throughout the various crises though, so while I'm not using my tracker this time gauge my success on goal-keeping, I'm still going to be as honest as possible in how I feel about whether I accomplished my goals or not. With that being said ...


SPIRITUAL:
Last Quarter's Goal: Keep up with my daily devotionals and continue to increase my trust in God's plan for my life. PASS.

Next Quarter's Goal: Continue reading and studying daily devotionals, and work to nurture trust in God's provision.

This quarter was really hard, but I did try to keep up with my devotionals. Using daily readings from scripture really helped me, and while letting go of my rosary memorization did losing the meditative aspect of my prayer life for the most part, it also freed me up to speak more honestly with God about the things I was going through and worrying over during the spring quarter. As summer goes on, my goal is not only to succeed at reading a devotional every day, but to make a point of carrying the message with me as a meditation throughout each day.


PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT:
Last Quarter's Goal: Continue listening to at least one personal development podcast daily. FAIL.

Next Quarter's Goal: Rebuild the habit of listening to a personal development podcast daily.

Everything got too overwhelming for me to keep up with this, and then as the stress of my declining health, my mother's health issues, and concern for several other ill family members (one of whom has recently passed on), I just stopped caring. I didn't want to bother. I didn't want to listen to encouragement and cheerfulness and self-building. All I wanted was to sleep - and I hardly even had the mental capacity to do that.

I kept up with my writing here - and most other things in my life - by sheer force of will, but podcasts went by the wayside, and while my heart is still too detached and exhausted to care, my mind still recognizes how healthy this habit is for me, so I'll be working to build it back again in the summer quarter.


HEALTH:
Last Quarter's Goal #1: Drink 75 ounces of water every day. FAIL.
Last Quarter's Goal #2: Remember to take my meds daily. PASS.
Last Quarter's Goal #3: Continue intermittent fasting 3x weekly. FAIL.

Next Quarter's Goal #1: Drink 75 ounces of water every day.
Next Quarter's Goal #2: Purchase and implement medication organizers.
Next Quarter's Goal #3: Address better pain management options.
Next Quarter's Goal #4: Continue intermittent fasting 3x weekly.

On the first goal, I honestly have no solid idea of how I did with my water intake during the spring quarter. I know I drank more water than I tracked, but I also didn't track well enough to have a solid look at how bad this fail really is. I know I drank too much coffee and not enough water ... so I'm just keeping the same goal going forward with this. In the summer quarter, I'll be aiming for more success with drinking 75 ounces of water a day.

On the second goal, I did a great job. I remembered my meds well even as new ones were added to my regimen - however, in the summer quarter, I'm planning to purchase and set up some weekly pill organizers for the girls and I. With my health still changing and big things possibly in my future, I think getting a better-organized system set up for my family's medications is a good idea. I'm also hoping to look into better options for managing my pain levels - sometimes ibuprofen and tylenol don't cut it anymore, but I'd like to avoid stronger drugs for as long as possible.

Last quarter's third goal (3x weekly intermittent fasting) is another one where I know I didn't do as well as I would have liked, but I'm not truly sure how well I did or didn't do. I was mindful of my eating schedule, but as I went from hospital to home almost as many days as I didn't, sometimes things got unorganized. There were days when I ate all day because I was ravenous, and days when I barely managed to find time and emotional energy to eat at all. In the summer quarter, I'll work harder to get this under control again, regardless of whatever might be going on.


ROMANCE:
Last Quarter's Goal: N/A
Next Quarter's Goal: Still N/A

I'm still not really paying much attention to this - even on the days when I'm longing for the excitement of a new relationship or wishing I had someone strong to lean on when I'm in crisis, the fact is, I don't have the time or energy to really devote to a healthy relationship at the moment. So I'm continuing to let this rest, in faith that God knows where I'm supposed to be and who I'm supposed to be with. Things will come together when they're meant to.


FAMILY:
Last Quarter's Goal #1: Continue to make fun time with the girls a priority with some sort of outing or focused hangout time every week - and keep making the coming move an adventure they can be excited about. PASS.
Last Quarter's Goal #2: Secret family goal. PASS.

Next Quarter's Goal #1: At least one weekly family fun day.
Next Quarter's Goal #2: Secret family goal - same as last time, but instead of being 3 times weekly, I'll be shooting for daily this quarter.

Surprisingly, this quarter the girls and I managed to go on a ton of fun outings despite everything that was going on. Some of those were silly times we spent laughing and hanging out with my mom at various hospitals (I didn't count the days that weren't fun), others were days spent hanging out at home playing games together, but most were days we spent at the park or other places with friends or family I think it was the going out and making a point to have fun that made the spring quarter bearable. In the summer quarter, I'm shooting for the same goal - just to make time to have fun with the babes at least once a week. In the meantime, we're still working on making our move as much of an exciting adventure as it can be.

As the summer goes on, I'm also keeping my secret family goal - but I'm stepping this one up a bit despite everything that's been going on lately. This one is super important to me, so I'm glad it did so well as making it a priority last quarter. I intend to do the same this quarter.


BUSINESS/CAREER:
Last Quarter's Goal: Write at least 10,000 words on SFFF. FAIL.

Next Quarter's Goal #1: Write at least 10,000 words on SFFF.
Next Quarter's Goal #2: Catch up all writing tasks and Patreon rewards.

Okay, this one was an absolutely abysmal failure. I literally wrote NOTHING on Still Fighting For Freedom. And I could list a thousand excuses, from hospital visits to the busyness of having the girls around for summer to the complications with our various health concerns ... but the list doesn't matter. What matters to me is that I failed to accomplish a goal that I've been consistently failing at for so long, and that this failure was actually so deeply horrifying that I also ended up falling behind on fulfilling the rewards for my Patreon subscribers. I'm not currently super behind, but it's definitely a goal to get - and stay - all caught up. In the meantime, I'm carrying last quarter's goal over, and I'll keep carrying it until SFFF is published. I so desperately want to tell the rest of Christine's story.


FINANCE:
Last Quarter's Goal #1: 2000 page views a month. PASS.
Last Quarter's Goal #2: Secret book sales goal. FAIL.

Next Quarter's Goal #1:  2500 page views a month.
Next Quarter's Goal #2: Secret book sales goal - same as last time.

The goal I set for my blog views is always fairly conservative because I want my blog to grow organically. I love this blog and I love what it has brought into my life in terms of friendships and financial blessing, but I want writing to be the way I spend most of my time, not promoting. I do some promotional stuff with the blog, sharing my content around - but for the most part, I'm just using this goal as a way to keep track of the progress the blog is making on its own. Even if there is some promotional effort involved, I tend to think jumping from 2000 views a month to 2500 as the goal should be an almost natural progression, so I have total confidence in this one.

In the meantime, the goals I set for book sales in the spring quarter appear to be exactly the right goals for growth and progress. The secret goal is twofold, and only one part of the goal was hit in one month out of the three last quarter - and while on the one hand I'm a little disappointed to have not done as well as I'd hoped, I'm actually really looking forward to spending the summer quarter trying again. I know it'll be super fulfilling when I'm able to hit this goal consistently, and it'll be a great way to build my little "snowball."


FUN/RECREATION:
Last Quarter's Goal #1: Secret self-care goal. FAIL.
Last Quarter's Goal #2: Read four books. PASS.

Next Quarter's Goal #1: Improve regular accomplishment of my secret self-care goal - create a habit.
Next Quarter's Goal #2: Read four books.

My self-care goal isn't anything majorly important, but it is definitely something that makes me feel way better about myself when I keep up with it. I'm a little sad that I wasn't able to give that gift to myself in the spring quarter because I was so overwhelmed I ended up largely shutting down, but I'm looking forward with hope that the summer quarter will end on a more positive note.

As for the reading goal, I did read four books in the second quarter of 2018. Here's what I found time to dive into this spring:
  • Lodestar, by Shannon Messenger: This book is part of the Keeper of the Lost Cities series I've been reading for months, and I'm pretty sure I'm madly in love now. Shannon Messenger has an amazing talent for weaving a world full of lovable characters, each with their own intricate backstory - and yet the story doesn't feel overly dramatic, the cast isn't overly full, and the story is rarely overwhelming unless the overwhelm stems from the emotional richness of the plot lines and character development. I'm currently working on getting the full series from our local library for Eden (that's how I've been reading them), because there's no way she would settle for reading this series one book at a time without driving me utterly mad.
  • The Perfect Hope, by Nora Roberts: This was the final book in the Inn Boonsboro Trilogy, and it was a beautiful wrap to the series. This little miniseries follows the love lives of three brothers as they find just the perfect women for them - with a little help from a lovesick spirit eager to see those she loves have loves of their own.
  • Confess, by Colleen Hoover: I can see why this book has won a Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance. I can see why this book was turned into a mini-series for Verizon's Go90. I can see why Colleen Hoover's CoHorts so loved the story. Just like every other book I've read from her, it's absolutely, one hundred percent lived up to the hype.
  • Nowhere But Up, by Pattie Mallette: Venturing out of fiction now and then, I find a good memoir and settle in for something real I can relate to - and Justin Bieber's mom is so much more than the mother figure of the famous (or infamous?) pop star. She is an undaunted woman in her own right, and I was touched by how deeply impacting her story was. She's survived so much, and she came out of it with a great story to share, a great testimony with which to reach others, and the kind of compassion our world today so desperately needs more of. She had such a beautiful perspective on recovery and forgiveness, and I found her utterly inspiring.
I have no idea what the summer will bring - but as for reading, I know the coming quarter absolutely brings the next chapter of Sophie's story in Nightfall, book six of the Keeper of the Lost Cities series. Pretty sure this'll be one of those series' I look for in hardback to add to my collection once I've got my family moved. I can't wait to start filling bookshelves once I have the space!


SOCIAL:
Last Quarter's Goal: Tell someone I'm thankful for them daily. PASS.

Next Quarter's Goal: Tell someone I'm thankful for them daily.

Spring is usually a really hopeful time for me, and this was no different despite the many setbacks and challenges. I'm looking forward to continued growth and change as the summer quarter passes, looking forward to continuing to build the momentum of 2018 as 2019 approaches with impossible speed. The thing about hope is that it breeds positivity, which is why I did so well with making sure that the people who bless my life by being in it knew how thankful I was for them this past quarter. From buying flowers to sending cards to simple phone calls and my trademark "thinking of you" text, I was proud of the effort I made through the spring quarter to reach outside my comfort zone and share my heart with others more openly. As the summer rolls on, I intend to keep this habit up, building and nurturing it until it grows irrevocably into the very foundation of my character.


So ... if you've been following along with the PASS/FAIL ratio, we're at 7 passes and 6 fails, which is basically a miracle as far as I'm concerned. This was a tough quarter for me, with doctor's appointments, court dates, hospital visits, the end of the school year, and the upcoming move all bearing down hard on my heart and soul. But just like always, I stood up and survived. I kept up my therapy appointments, I looked out for my girls, I advocated for myself. I got things moving in the right direction, and did everything I could to keep things moving as well as possible. It was a hard quarter, but I'm proud of myself.

Moving forward, I intend to search for better balance in my life, and also to start doing more with the brand new Undaunted Army Coat of Arms. I'm hoping to create more merchandise designs, and I'm even brainstorming ways to use the new Coat of Arms in a fun Undaunted Army game!

What are you working on in your life? Do you set quarterly goals - or goals at all? If so, what goal is heaviest on your heart right now, and what are you doing to accomplish it?


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

And speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among the ranks of those who have fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too, and those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. But there is strength in numbers, as as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month.

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely 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, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Cresting The Wave, Part III: Arming The Undaunted


In the last few posts here, I've been hinting at something I've been super excited about lately. I've had a ton of stuff changing and going wild in my personal life (if you're the praying type, my mom, my aunt, and my family in general would greatly appreciate your prayers), and as a result my stress has been high, my pain levels have been just on the edge of unbearable, and my psychological symptoms are much worse than usual.

I needed something to distract me, a way to exercise my creative muscles in a different way than usual. So instead of working on catching up my writing tasks (I'm almost there though) or beating myself up for how abysmally I've failed at accomplishing my goals this quarter, I let myself get sucked into researching Meghan Markle's Coat of Arms, given to her by the Queen of England when Meghan Markle married Prince Harry. I let myself be drawn into the romance of the tradition, the magic of the symbolism. And then I let myself spend some downtime brainstorming how I might create a Coat of Arms for the Undaunted - for you.

I've already named my readers the Undaunted Army, already changed my language from "subscribe" to "enlist," and I've even changed the format of my Patreon account so that subscribers there are now purchasing their Undaunted Army Officer Commission - complete with rank titles, exclusive perks, and even Army-only merchandise.

But I wanted something everyone could get their hands on, even if they don't want to receive email updates, sign up for a monthly subscription to my Patreon, keep in touch through social media, or even fall in love with the characters in my novels. So much of my content is locked behind dollar signs or subscriptions of some kind - but this blog has always been and will always be free to read. I love that I can share my story through my writing here, that I can use my writing gift to hopefully bless others with the tips and strategies that work for me.

I wanted a way for those readers to engage, too - aside from commenting, sharing, and emailing. I wanted merchandise all of my readers can get their hands on, a way for readers who love this blog to help spread the word about it.

And a Coat of Arms? Well, that fits perfectly, both with my love for symbolism, tradition, and familial community, and with the "Army" style branding I've chosen to adopt. The Coat of Arms is symbolic in so many ways, both as a source of history as well as a way of showing pride and community. Traditionally, the Coat of Arms was used by knights and soldiers - literally emblazoned on a fighters shield as a way to identify him. Later, Coats of Arms became a sort of heirloom, passed from a soldier to his oldest son, etc - and the crest atop the Coat of Arms became a sort of family tradition in many cultures.

It fits the Undaunted community so well. So, working together with a friend of mine who has a sharp eye for design and a willingness to tell me how I could improve the idea, I created this:


As mentioned before, the symbolism in a Coat of Arms in general has always been something important to me - long before I ever thought of creating a Coat of Arms for any personal reasons, I loved the romance of so much personal meaning all in one place. So without further ado, here is the breakdown of symbolism behind the Undaunted Army Coat of Arms.


THE COLORS:
Pink is pretty self-explanatory - Pink is part of my general brand, both in my novel-publishing and in my writing here. It is both a nod to my feminine nature and desire to nourish myself, my daughters, and my community, and a general choice simply because pink appeals to me. I chose grey/silver for my brand for several reasons: one, because it looks nice with the pink; and two, because silver and stainless steel are my favorite metals.


THE SHIELD, RIBBON, AND FLOURISHES:
For this, I chose a simply shaped quarter-divided shield because I like things to be simple and clear. However, to reflect my love of things pretty and stylized, I chose to have my simple shield backed with flourishes. These particular flourishes remind me (depending on the mood I'm in when I look at them) of the uncontrolled determination of the wild rise and fall of the ocean and the unbridled power of a fire once it reaches full steam. Occasionally, I see leaves in the flourishes too - for me, a revolving symbol of the way life cycles through phases, dying out in autumn only to feed and create rebirth and new life in spring. Below the shield is the ribbon bearing the word UNDAUNTED, a word which has come to hold great meaning for me personally and one which I hope my community would be proud to embrace.


THE IDENTIFYING SYMBOLS:
  • WHEAT: Proudly atop the shield (in the traditional place of a crested helmet) is the tip of a sheaf of wheat, chosen for several reasons, the most simple of which is this Sandra Kring quote, which has stuck like a blade in my mind ever since the very first time I encountered it: "Be like the single blade of grass, for she too, has been trampled on, mowed down, and hit with such bitterly cold stretches that she had to shut down to survive. Yet still, she stands upright with dignity, knowing that she endures, and still she dances with the wind." This quote made me cry when I first read it, and I've carried it close to my heart ever since because it acknowledges strength and resilience despite incredible odds - and a field of wheat (which is a grass) is like the Undaunted community, often growing strong and standing tall despite storm, famine, pestilence, and even predator. I also like that wheat is a symbol of resurrection and rebirth, in that as it dies and releases seed from the grains, new wheat is given life. In the Bible, John 12:24 (NIV) quotes Jesus saying, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." In this quote, he was predicting his own death and the birth of the Christian church as it is today. But in reference to the Undaunted Army, the symbolism speaks to the benefit and necessity of sharing our stories as survivors of life's challenges. For it is in having the courage to share our stories of struggle and survival, often "dying" emotionally of shame and ostracism in the process, that we give life to new strength and hope in others. Another quote that bears mentioning here is a wisdom on potential from Vincent Van Gogh, who said, "If I am worth anything later, I am worth something now. For wheat is wheat, even if people think it is a grass in the beginning."
  • BOW & ARROW: Traditionally, a bow used in heraldry is a symbol of readiness for battle - and a bow together with an arrow is a symbol of war and power. Both meanings are fitting for those in the Undaunted Community (particularly the proud members of the Undaunted Army) because as survivors of abuse, addiction, assault, and other forms of traumatic experience, we are warriors in our own rights, powerful and steadfast enough to have survived our challenges - perhaps a little damaged, but standing strong all the same.
  • EAGLE: The phoenix is a symbol of resurrection - a bird that rises from its own ashes to become something newer, stronger, better. In the absence of a suitable phoenix image, I chose a strong and well-respected counterpart: the eagle. Eagles are a symbol of power, strength, and alertness, and in America (Because I'm American) the bald eagle is a symbol of freedom and longevity. In a nod to my maternal Native American ancestry, I'll also mention here that in many Native American traditions, the Eagle was also representative of leadership and vision, both of which I hope to embody and inspire in my readers.
  • LEFT ARMORED FIST/HAND: In heraldry, the arm or armored hand both symbolize leadership, and conjoined right hands symbolize unity and alliance. I like the symbolism of of this in general, especially when applied to what I hope the Undaunted Army will grow to become - but I chose instead a left hand specifically because I am left-handed.
  • QUILL: I wanted something to represent my writing, as it is the way I speak most effectively and the gift I hope to use to support my family in time. Writing in general has been therapeutic for me in countless ways, the first of which was actually birthed by the writing of others. As a reader, I have always loved the power of the written word, and now as a writer, I hope with all my heart to use my own writing in ways that will empower others. Choosing the quill over other possible symbols was my way of giving a nod to the heraldic meaning behind feathers in general, which represent serenity - a valued quality much striven for among the mental health community in general and the Undaunted Army more specifically.

THE BADGE:
Front and center on the shield of the Undaunted Army Coat of Arms is a simple silver badge bearing a fleur de lis, the common stylized lily created of three petals bound together. Lilies are my favorite flowers (the calla lily, specifically), but I love the fleur de lis specifically for several reasons. One, it's a simple representation of my why, with the three petals representing myself and both of my daughters, bound together by blood and familial loyalty. More symbolically, it could stand for the Holy Trinity, the center of my Christian faith, and a specific credit given to God; in this representation, the binding cord represents the Virgin Mary, of Mother of Jesus, chosen by the Father, endowed with the Spirit. Beyond religious purposes, the personal meaning of the fleur de lis is deepened by the concept of the individual petals as being representative of faith, wisdom, and chivalry - all qualities I hold dear as the seeds of hope, honor, and integrity. My specific choice of the French style over others (the Italian style with included stamens, for example) reflects back on my longtime love of France and the French culture and language.



STAY TUNED FOR more information to come about my plans for usage of the Undaunted Army Coat of Arms both in merchandise and in ways to grow activity among the Undaunted community; in the meantime, find out how you can proudly sport your own Undaunted Coat of Arms here.


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

And speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among the ranks of those who have fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too, and those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. But there is strength in numbers, as as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month.

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely 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, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.