Monday, September 17, 2018

This Post Will Self-Destruct

Sorry guys, my daughter is having some flare-ups with her health, and I'm trying to focus on her right now - that's why I missed posting on Friday (we were in the ER most of the day) and why I'm missing today. Right now she needs her mom to be a mom. I'll be back on Thursday.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Today I Cried

In honor of the fallen ones, the heroes, the fighters, the rescuers, and all of those still aching with loss over loved ones no longer with us. In remembrance of a tragedy that brought a nation together, a pain that will never quite heal, and a pride that will never fade. My country is not always perfect - but I'm so proud to be an American, so thankful for my hard-won freedom ...

And still so incredibly fucking pissed at the animals who perpetrated the 9/11 attack in 2001.



Today I cried, with broken heart
for buildings fallen, ashes flying.
I cried for lifeless bodies, shattered lives.
I cried for ever-mourning husbands and wives,
for sons and daughters left behind,
for the warriors who strive
to keep us safe, protect our land,
eliminate the threat
of pain and death and suffering.
That fiercely loving sacrifice
is why no one has beat us yet.

Today I cried, with pride because
this nation I so love 
was built on blood and sweat and tears,
and blessed by God above.
We fight, we cry, and yes, we die -
but throughout all these years,
we've held our own, we've learned and grown,
we stand forever strong.
Home of the free - because of the brave
who armor up and train to fight
the power of their own fears.

Today I cried, inspired by the
Undaunted American spirit -
determined to thrive and filled with the drive
to stay free despite those who fear it.
We're brash and we're loud
but that's just 'cause we're proud
of all we've fought so hard to gain.
And despite our beliefs, our anger, our grief
we still come together as one.
Because while it's true, we've divided before,
we're standing united right now.


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, bringing new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish!

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. Let's keep in touch: become a member of the Undaunted Army to stay caught up on all the most important news.

Or, help me continue to make a difference in coaching others to connect with their Undaunted spirit through empowering women's romantic fiction. Invest in the bigger goal of the Undaunted Army for just $1 a month. You can also 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.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Love Yourself In Every Language: Receiving Gifts


It's funny how I've been writing this series lately, mostly because of how much I've been needing to learn the lessons I've been sharing here. Loving myself is something that has never come easy for me, because I have never been an easy person for people to love - at least, it seems, not for long.

I'm good at collecting people because I'm open and friendly and outgoing, because I tend toward people-pleasing, because I'm fiercely loyal, and because I'm always willing to give everything I have, even when I may not have very much to offer. I'm witty and funny and I go out of my way to be confident and empowering to others.

But somehow, I'm also pretty good at being the person other people find that they've had enough of. I'm introverted and often withdrawn - I'll think of someone daily or even hourly, but not reach out because I just ... can't. I have a tendency toward depression, I overthink things, and I'm the kind of the loud, brash personality that other people sometimes find grating, overwhelming, or even downright intimidating.

But for me, the balance has been off for a long time - not the balance within myself, but the balance within the people I surrounded myself with over the years. At one point, I looked around my life in dismay, and I couldn't find one person (other than my cousin Dana, who doesn't count because she is the exception to every rule) who seemed to genuinely believe in me.

And don't get me wrong - I got a great deal of halfhearted "good job" accolades, and a lot of endearing pats on the shoulder. But when it came to what I really needed the people closest to me to do or be or say in order to support and encourage me as someone they loved, I often met a lot of avoidance and headshakes. It left me feeling incredibly alone in my own inner circle - I had very little sense of personal community, especially when my closest and most treasured loved ones were literally telling me I would never get anywhere or amount to anything.

So I prayed. I prayed for the strength and the courage to let go of things and situations and people who were no longer healthy for me. I distanced myself from people I no longer felt close to. No awkward goodbyes, no big dramatic breakups in friendships or anything like that ... I just backed up and watched to see if anyone noticed. When they didn't, I backed up some more.

It hurt to realize that I wasn't missed enough to reach out for ... but it was also empowering to let go, and emptying my hands of unhealthy relationships that were hurting me opened room in my life for new people to come in. I prayed some more, and I met and connected to people I feel are my tribe, my people, right on down to the strange quirks and unique eccentricities we share that once made us stand apart from those around us. These people hear me out, even when I have nothing good to say for days or even weeks on end. They encourage me, empower me. They go above and beyond to show me that they believe in me, that they value me and what I contribute to the world. The adjust their own lives, creating space for me. They force me to video chat with them even if I warn them that I'm a sobbing, snotting mess that day and would probably be horrifying to look at. They make long drives even when it's out of their way just to share with me when I'm in need. They make a point to reach out, to be genuine, to see the good, to give gracefully, and appreciate gestures of loving kindness with open gratitude.

Which brings me to this post's love language. Like I said, it has taken me a long time to learn to love myself, and I'm still working on it, using words of affirmation to empower and encourage myself, using acts of service to keep track of my self-care and ability to move as smoothly as possible through my life, and using the act of receiving gifts to remind myself that I am lovable and worthy of goodwill from others.

But receiving gifts is another multi-faceted love language that can be challenging to get straight when applied to ourselves, by ourselves.

And sure, for some of us it's easy to get through with the old, "I deserve this!" mantra. I'll have my hair done, buy this new shirt, take myself to lunch ... because I deserve this. I'll go on this trip, I'll see this movie, I'll eat this second cookie ... because I deserve this.

But do we really mean that? Are we really treating ourselves out of love, or are we treating ourselves because we feel like we should? Here's an experiment you can do: think about the last time you made yourself a cup of coffee (or a mixed drink, or a whatever you prefer instead of coffee), and then think about the last time you made one for your spouse or partner or friend. What was different about your intention? What was different about the mood, the movements, the feel?

Next time, make that coffee with your most favorite loved one in mind. Make it thinking that someone you love dearly is going to really enjoy it. And then give it to yourself as a gift, a gift you allow yourself to receive with grace and gratitude.

And then, love yourself enough to be mindful or intentions as you treat yourself even to the smallest things. Wear your favorite perfume because today is a special occasion. You woke up alive and beautiful and full of purpose. Give yourself the gift of a good breakfast, that treat you've been wanting but saying no to, the supplies for a new project, a bouquet of beautiful flowers.

But don't just give the gift. Receive it. Because if you can't learn to love you, how can you teach anyone else? 


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, bringing new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish!

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. Let's keep in touch: become a member of the Undaunted Army to stay caught up on all the most important news.

Or, help me continue to make a difference in coaching others to connect with their Undaunted spirit through empowering women's romantic fiction. Invest in the bigger goal of the Undaunted Army for just $1 a month. You can also 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.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Love Yourself In Every Language: Acts of Service

If you've been following along lately, you'll know we've been exploring what happens when we combine the idea of self-love with the genius of Gary Chapman's "love languages." (Introductions to this series, part one and part two.) In the last post, we talked about how we can use words of affirmation on ourselves just as powerfully as we can with our other loved ones, and while I didn't give a lot of concrete suggestions (because I wanted you to be able to relate in your own way), I like to think that post was a healthy exploration of how you can treat yourself with a little more love just by being kinder - to you.

In a world that is often harsh, negative, and filled with sources of discouragement, it's incredibly important for us to have influences in our lives that are encouraging and empowering, especially during the times in our lives when we feel weakest, most incapable, and most unworthy of said encouragement.

What we forget is that we're always with ourselves - which sets us up to be our own best advocates, our own best encouragers. Which is where words of affirmation naturally bleed into:


Acts of service are easy to tick off, aren't they? For your husband, you might pick up his favorite beer or specifically make his favorite dinner. For your children, you cook and clean and guide and coach and do so many other things. But what about you? What acts of service could you perform for yourself? (Stop snickering; that's not what I meant!)

Serving ourselves often comes down to the simple things we would already do in some ways - instead of rushing through a shower at the end of the day when you're so exhausted all you're thinking about is how quickly you can move to the next thing, what about running a bath and giving yourself time to soak in the heat, quietly basking in the aromas of scented oils, salts, soaps, or bubbles? Other similar things come to mind too, such as giving yourself a pedicure, painting your nails, etc.

But what about the little things we're already doing for ourselves all the time that we simply forget to appreciate and enjoy? For those of us living with children, messes are a constant familiar problem, and we often become irritated with having to either having to cope with the mess or having to clean in up. But a slight twist in perspective can change everything: I don't run the vacuum because my dog is hairy and my children are messy. I do it because I desire a relatively clean space. Will it be spotless? No - I have a big sloppy dog and two kids who are often hyper and full of life. Messes happen.

But it's not the mess that's the focus here, or where it comes from - it's about recognizing and appreciating the effort you made to clean it up in the first place. We don't often think of it this way, but even those small things are acts of service we perform every day for ourselves.

Our real power lies in taking those acts of self-service and performing them with love, congratulating ourselves on the effort, allowing ourselves to take pride in our work, acknowledging the accomplishment - even if it's a small one.

For me, going to therapy is one of the ways I can best serve myself in love - because it has been through the empowerment of choosing to go to therapy that I was able to seek official diagnosis for the PTSD I've been living with for most of my life. It was through the empowerment of being heard and understood with validation and an absence of judgment or blame that allowed me to move beyond a childhood I didn't ask for or deserve, let go of certain insecurities, and fight back against fears that had been holding me back.

I was able to pursue answers for my physical health issues as well, and I will never forget the tear-filled times I drove home from doctors' appointments, weeping under the weight of basic compassion. My doctor heard me. The next doctor heard me too, and the next one after that - and none of it would have happened if I hadn't come to a strong enough place of self love to serve myself in that way.

I could never have gotten answers if I hadn't been willing and able to finally advocate for myself. I would have continued to put myself at risk every day, just be doing basic life activities, simply because I didn't know what to avoid in order to protect myself.

Now, I serve myself mindfully, just as I make a point to serve my children and my loved ones. I don't always let me be last - because sometimes, I put me first. I take time for me, I adjust and adapt, and I give myself grace when I need it. I take care of me with decent food, with clean teeth, with nightly wound checks on my feet, legs, and back. I take care of me by serving myself with peace of mind when I fill the medication organizers my daughters and I use. I take care of me by serving myself with knowledge and empowerment when I search for answers for my daughters and I, when I create lists of things I need to remember on the fly in my bullet journal - things like our medications and doses, our list of doctors with names, numbers, and specialties, gift ideas, appointments, and to-dos.

I take care of me in the little moments too, allowing myself the pleasure of sniffing fresh, clean laundry, allowing myself the joy of my dog curled up behind my legs at night, allowing myself to take pride in my efforts without minimizing those efforts or kicking myself for what I wasn't doing.

This one is harder for me ... but I'm learning to speak this language because I want to love me better. I want to be a better, happier person. I want to be well-cared for, so that I can care well for others. But it starts with me. It starts with you.

Because you know the old saying right? "You can't pour from an empty bucket."

It's true, guys.

So take time to fill your bucket a little bit today, serving yourself in a way that feels loving, a way that relieves your mind and heart for a little while. You know that thing you wish your husband would do for you? Serve yourself. Clean the dishes - not because no one else will or there is no one else to do it, but because it feels good to have clean dishes and an empty sink. Same thing with the lawn, the laundry, the toilet, the chores, the shopping, the kids, the pets, and the countless other things you're undoubtedly doing as you juggle the responsibilities of your life. Do the things you have to do, but let them be done with a full measure of love - not just because you serve your loved ones, but because you are one of your loved ones.


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, bringing new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish!

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. Let's keep in touch: become a member of the Undaunted Army to stay caught up on all the most important news.

Or, help me continue to make a difference in coaching others to connect with their Undaunted spirit through empowering women's romantic fiction. Invest in the bigger goal of the Undaunted Army for just $1 a month. You can also 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.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Love Yourself In Every Language: Words Of Affirmation

Recently, I've been working my way through exploring the concept of self-love in a deeper way. (See post one here, and post two here.) I mean, we talk about self-love all the time in our society - we remind ourselves to treat ourselves, to spoil ourselves. But sometimes we get caught up in the minutiae, and for some people, a pedicure isn't an "I love you" gift at all. And even among those of us who are familiar with the idea of love languages and the way everyone speaks an inherently individual dialect of the language of love, we still often manage to forget to pay adequate attention to loving ourselves.

In tying love languages to self-love, adequately loving ourselves is a two-fold process, because in self-love, we've got the love flowing in both directions simultaneously - we're putting love out in action for ourselves, but we also have to be willing and able to accept that love from ourselves, in part because this inability to practice accepting love from ourselves often sets us up as unable to accept love from others.

Alright, so where do we start?


Of the five love languages, I believe Words of Affirmation is the easiest to put into practice when it comes to self-love. I mean, how hard is it to pay yourself a little compliment now and then, right? After all, we see the way other people light up when we point out to them that we love their dress or their shoes or their purse - it only makes sense that we would have the same reaction to compliments sent our way, too. And who says a compliment has to be sent externally?

I believe self-love begins with cultivating compassion and understanding for yourself and your experience. It begins with understanding that you've probably done the best you can in the situations you found yourself in, with the tools available to you based on your experiences. Once you've done that, you'll be able to seek the good in those experiences, actively looking for the lessons available to you as a person, accepting that you didn't always make the right choices (because you're a human and humans make mistakes) understanding that you did whatever you may have felt was right at the time (informed by the previous experiences of your life, which may or may not have been under your control), and forgiving yourself for mistakes you wish you hadn't made (again, you're only human).

These are simple things, in theory; in fact, we practice them all the time with other people without even realizing it. In my role as a mother, I take the duty of building my children up seriously (when I'm not failing and going off on them because I'm overwhelmed or tired or exasperated), and as such, I actively practice finding ways to compliment them, to encourage them, to make them laugh. I work to practice compassion when they're struggling with something, even if that struggle seems silly to me - I know it isn't silly to them, and validating their struggle is the best way to empower them to push through it. And when they mess up, I forgive them, telling them some version of, "It's not okay because this was wrong, but I forgive you because our relationship is more important than this disagreement."

I do the same thing in my role as a friend - only, I don't need to coach my friends on how to be people, so that last bit about acknowledging mistakes and disagreements is often ignored instead. I don't need my friends to feel duty-bound to mention mistakes and grovel and beg forgiveness/ I don't need to feel good about having forgiven them verbally. All I need is to forgive the slight, understand where the other person is coming from, and let it be because I value the relationship more than I value my desire to feel "right."

Applying this to ourselves is the first act in learning to value and respect ourselves the same way we do with our loved ones. When my daughters get down on themselves, I often ask them, "Would you let someone talk to your friends that way? Would you allow someone to step up and talk to your sister that way?" Inevitably, the fierceness of their loyalty to their loved ones washes over them; they scowl and tell me, usually in no uncertain terms, that they absolutely would not stand by and allow a friend (or a sister) to be mistreated. Which is when I remind them that they owe themselves the gift of that same friendship - that they shouldn't allow themselves to talk to themselves that way, that when their minds want to play back hurtful things that have been said or done to them, they owe themselves the good friendship of arguing back. "No, you are not worthless. You are not forgettable. You are not stupid."

But standing up to ourselves in order to shut down the inner bully is just one side of it. Yes, we do need to defend ourselves against ourselves sometimes, but what about when the inner bully is quiet and yet the spirit is longing for love? The absence of negativity is not always equal to the presence of positivity - shutting down the inner bully is only part of the process of learning to befriend ourselves, learning to love ourselves with grace and compassion the same way we would love our friends, our siblings, our children.

And what do we do when a friend is down? We encourage them, feed the needs of their emotional selves, hear them out with compassion, validate and acknowledge their trials. Yes, sometimes we dish out tough love ... but tough love is called that for good reason - because it's tough to dish out, and it also tough and often hurtful to receive. This is why when a friend is cheated on in a relationship, we're always on their side. It's why when they've had a bad day at work, we take the time to hate their jobs with them. It's why when they come to us in conflict, we're always quick to lift them up in the way that they need.

So why is this so hard for us to do for ourselves?

In the next post, we'll talk more about self-love and how to love yourself in the best way for you, but until then, let me urge you to practice this language. Love yourself with words of affirmation - compliment yourself on having a good hair day (or figuring out how to disguise a bad one). Tell yourself how great you look in those jeans, or what a great job you did completing a task that was challenging or unappealing in that moment. Even if all you did was the dishes, or mow the lawn, or wash the car. Even if you still have twenty other things to do. Build yourself today - and every day - with words of affirmation that will encourage and empower you, not only to keep going through whatever you're going through, but so that you can fill up with joy and positive energy you can share with others.


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.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Love Yourself In Every Language, Part II

In the first post of this series, I talked about the various love languages defined by Gary Chapman, but then I took the concept and applied it to the idea of self-love, and the common opinion that you can't truly love others - or accept love from others - until you've learned to love yourself.

And I know I'm not the first person to have thought about it in that way - I'm certainly no love expert in any form. I can write a romance novel because as a woman, I can share what appeals to women like me through my writing; I can share stories I love about characters I can relate to, filled with concepts and symbolism that are important and personal to me. But that doesn't make me an expert.

Even in self-love, I'm far from being anything close to an expert. I don't know all the strategies. I don't know all the tips and tricks. I don't know why some of the things work for some people and those same things don't work for other people.

But then again, maybe I do ...


In certain ways, I guess I am something of an expert on this topic after all ... I mean, I've spent the last 34 years learning about me, studying me, hanging out with me. I haven't always been lovable, but I've spent this time learning to love me anyway, to appreciate the things about me that make me so very me. I'm abrasive and brash, I've got a foul mouth and a sporadic, uncontrollable sense of humor. I laugh at inappropriate times, crack jokes to break up awkwardness, and I've got a quick wit that can be pretty biting now and then. I'm sarcastic, but I'm sarcastic with a straight enough face that sometimes other people can't tell if I'm kidding or not. And man, am I quirky.

But I'm just me, and that's all I know how to be - me. I'm made up of the things I've felt and seen and survived, the love and the loss, the lessons learned, the opportunities lost, the joys, and yes, the regrets.

That being said, I'm actually pretty lovable - I'm funny and open, honest and loyal, and I give second (hundredth) chances way too often because I'm forgiving and I want to see the best in people. I'm thoughtful and considerate, and while I fail at all kinds of things all the time, I am one of those people that takes life seriously and truly gives their all to making the best of what's available.

I'm really sort of awesome, now that I think about it.

But liking myself and really showing love to myself? Well, those are two different things.

Because sometimes, if I haven't worked hard enough on whatever project I'm attempting, I don't feel like I deserve nice things. I still struggle with simple things like wearing the perfumes I own ... because they're special, and I need to save them for special occasions. Because they're special and I'm somehow ... not. Except that I am.

But I do this in so many areas of my life - I don't put myself first even when I can and should, because I'm looking out for my other priorities, which are rarely ever me. I knew I needed therapy for years before I made time to go, knew I needed to see doctors for my health issues for years before I made the time to go. I put me off. I waited because "after this I'll do it" or "once that's settled then it's my turn."

No wonder I stopped feeling loved, huh? No wonder I stopped being able to feel loved, stopped being able to accept gestures of love from others. No wonder I started filling up with shame and self-loathing every time I did something for myself or allowed someone else to do something for me.

No wonder my self-talk went to shit and I started becoming the worst abuser in my own life.

I forgot to love me.

Like in theory, I loved me. I took care of me, kept me fed and clothed and sheltered. Found ways to survive, to meet my most basic needs.

But I didn't LOVE me. I kept me fed, but I didn't feed my body the fuel it needed, didn't pay attention to proper hydration. I let my hard-won fitness slip. I kept me clothed, but I felt no pride in my clothing. I was dressed because it isn't proper to be naked all the time and pants tend to be required in common society. But I didn't dress in the style that appeals to me, I dressed in the style that was simplest, easiest to manage, and lowest in maintenance - so that I could get it over with and move on to more important things, more important people. Because I loved me, but I didn't LOVE me. I did the things that must be done for me ... but I didn't go the extra mile, didn't take that extra step.

I gave myself love: the emotion. And that's fine because it was all I had to offer myself back then, and even that was sometimes hard to come by. I wasn't proud of me, wasn't proud of anything. I couldn't see the value in this lump of flesh that is me, couldn't see the worth in the beating heart, the contracting lungs, the pumping vessels of blood. Couldn't appreciate the value of the mind and spirit that have developed out of the mire of my life. Once I could, I could give me love: the emotion. I could love this survivor girl who had to become her own hero because everyone she looked up to abandoned her, abused her, or let her down. I could love the girl who kept on trying no matter what, who didn't quit, who never gave up no matter how much she wanted to. I could even love the girl who cried at night because I was the only one who loved me.

But I felt very alone in my little world - surrounded by people, but screaming in silence. Often, surrounded by the wrong people, aching almost desperately to be known intimately and loved anyway, but unable to simply offer my authentic self because I didn't see my authentic self as anything special to offer.

Now, I see it differently. Now, I think I've mostly mastered the art of love: the emotion, at least when it comes to loving me. And what's more, I don't just love myself now - I have an honest, soul-deep respect for the woman I turned out to be after what I've survived. I could have made so many choices better ... but I could have made so many choices worse. I did the best I could with what I had though, and I can see the value in that now in a way that I couldn't before.

So what's the old saying? "When you know better, do better." And how do I apply that to this topic?

Oh, that's easy. When you already have love: the emotion, and you know what to do with it, how to apply it even to yourself, the one person on the planet about whom you have the most deeply intimate knowledge, the person whose shadows you have lived in and whose darknesses you have explored, then there can only be one logical next step in our quest to do better now that we know better.

We must take love: the emotion, and learn to turn it into love: the practice. Love: the action. Love: the verb.

In the next post, we'll continue to explore this more deeply. Stay tuned - but in the meantime, leave me a comment and tell me where you are on your self-love journey. Do you love you yet? And if so, how? Why? What are you still working on? I'd love to hear from you!


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, August 27, 2018

Empowered By Controlled Perspective

I was supposed to write the next post in my series about using love languages to learn about and explore your self-love practice, but I'm putting that off for the moment, because I want to tell you a story. Actually, I'm gonna tell you two stories, so bear with me if this gets a little long.

You might want to go grab a drink for this one. Maybe a sandwich. We're gonna be here a while.


Story #1:
She pulled up outside the pain clinic, ashamed to be there but thankful to have made it. It had been a long drive - a long drive spent in silent prayer. "Please, let me make it there. Please, just let me make it there."  
She made it, breathing a sigh of relief as she stepped out of the car with just a minute to spare. The relief turned to horror as soon as the door clicked shut; eyes closed, she turned to look inside the car, one hand slipping hopefully into the too-light pocket of her pants. The keys were in the ignition, swinging mockingly. But that would have to be a problem for later. At least there was enough money for a locksmith. 
Limping inside, she gave her name and took a chair to wait, breathing slowly to still the fluttering chaos of uncontrollable anxiety. Her name was called; she filled out the necessary papers and went back to waiting. Her name was called again; she gave the necessary samples, shame washing over her in waves, her spirit vulnerable, her joints and muscles aching. Later, leaving the clinic armed with a piece of paper and a renewed sense of hope, she made the necessary call. The money was needed for other things, of course, but at least it was there. 
The locksmith made quick work of the problem, retrieving the overwhelmed woman's troublesome keys, only for another problem to arise - the bank card with the money on it had expired. "No problem," she thought, proud of having thought ahead for moments like this. "This card is linked to that account too; we'll just use it instead." 
Except that through a roundabout of circumstances beyond the woman's control, that card didn't work either, and she stood in steadfast dismay as the locksmith placed her keys on the floorboard of the vehicle, locked the doors, and drove away. It was horrible, but it was fair - he had performed a service, and in the absence of payment, his sensible solution was to absolve the service. 
But hours later, the woman was in her car, heading home from a long, stressful afternoon. A one-hour appointment had turned into several hours of sitting in the sun, aching, worried, stranded. Afraid. It had taken four solid men to find another suitable solution, to improvise another suitable tool. 
Still she drove home smiling through her tears, her heart warmed by the kindness of strangers, her hope restored by a validating piece of paper, and a spirit full of encouragement. After all, it could have been worse - and all in all, it worked out well.


Story #2:
"Oh my god, you've got to be kidding," she muttered, staring down at the tire. The very, very flat tire, which had not been flat only moments before. She frowned skyward, praying aloud, arms crossed over her chest. She was running late to an appointment, a check-up for the hyperactive, strong-willed child now bouncing anxiously around inside the vehicle. "You know we were late, right?" she said irritably, still addressing the skies. It was only half an hour before the appointment they'd been heading out for - which was about a half-an hour's uneventful drive away. 
This, clearly, was not meant to be an uneventful drive. "Whatever," she whispered. "Just gotta fix it." With one hand, she reached up to press a button on the headset she wore. In her ear, a beep sounded, and she ordered the headset to initiate a phone call. There was no way they'd be making the appointment - it would have to be rescheduled. But at least she knew how to fix it. 
Jack in hand, she headed for the offending tire, mentally reviewing the list of steps necessary in order to safely make the change. "Remove the hubcap, jack the car up some. Damn nuts are too tight, jack it back down so the weight will hold the tire still." 
The problem was, the lug nuts wouldn't budge; one of them would move for nearly an hour, despite repeated attempts by the woman and multiple kind passers-by. 
It was hot, and sweat burned as it dripped into her eyes. Her back burned too, a white-hot line of pain running up the middle, radiating outward to wrap itself slowly around her ribs. Panic set in quickly when one of her volunteer assistance mentioned having called for a tow truck. "Wait, you already called? How much is that going to be?" She didn't have the money for a new tire, let alone a tow truck. Not right then, and likely not for a while. 
"Don't worry about it," he answered, looking gratified as the woman smiled gratefully up at him. 
"It was nice of you to stop," she said. "And to come back. And to stay. Thank you. You didn't have to." 
"A couple of years ago, I wouldn't have," he answered quietly. "But then Jesus Christ got a hold of me and changed my life."
Some time later, the woman was on her way home, her consoled child strapped safely in the back of their vehicle. Both were covered in sweat, hungry, thirsty, and stressed. They had missed their appointment - but as they made their way to the relative safety of home, complete with the pleasure of air conditioning, the woman smiled again. Despite the news, despite the happenings of her lifetime, despite the misfortune of her current circumstances and the way they complicated the coming week, it all could have been much, much worse. They were safe and sound, there was kindness in the world, and there was still hope for tomorrow.


You probably already know that in both of those stories, the woman was me. The first story was from a few weeks ago, the other from this morning. There's a lot I'm not telling from both days, to save time and space ... but let's leave it with this:
  • When Anxiety and Depression read Story One: "Man, that sucks. It's bad enough to have to deal with chronic health problems, especially when they're always painful for you but rarely visible enough to seem legitimate for others. And now to have to suffer the indignity of the process of getting help to manage the pain? And I locked my keys in the car because I was anxious about the appointment and the van and ... everything else? And then to have that guy literally lock my keys back in the car? I mean, I get it, but what kind of person actually does that? Ugh!! How does this always happen to me???
  • Story One with the influence of Controlled Perspective: "I made it to the clinic. They see the legitimacy of my issues, if not proven by the prescriptions I was given, then at least testified to by the raising of an eyebrow, the dragging down of the corner of a lip, the sympathy in the eyes of a blonde with a soft voice and a kind heart as she read through the various results of the tests I went through this summer. And even with the circumstances, it's a beautiful sunny day,  And there are four solid, kind-hearted men who teamed up to find a way when I couldn't. They wanted no thanks, asked no reparation. And they didn't give up, they didn't walk away, they didn't leave me hanging. It worked out well, and I ended up not being out $50 after all, which is handy because I needed it."
  • When Anxiety and Depression read Story Two: "Oh my god, this again? Why can't I ever catch a break? It's always something ... is it me? It must be me. But what have I done to deserve this kind of luck? And doesn't it just figure that I've gone out of my way to learn how to change a tire, only to need the knowledge and lack the ability to apply it? Story of my life, and of course Eden's being hyper as usual. Freaking Monday. I just want a good day for once! And on top of all of it, my everything hurts. Back, neck, ankle, foot, head. I'm tired and hot and sweaty and thirsty and ..."
  • Story Two with the influence of Controlled Perspective: "Thank goodness this happened before we got too far from home, and that we can walk back if we can't get this straightened out right now. The people who run this business we're parked in front of are kind and would let me leave the van until tonight when I could come back. And in the meantime, I'm right in front of the local greenway (walking trail), where strong, active people are bound to pass by often. Fortunately, a good number of those were helpful people, and I ended up in great hands with genuinely kind people who wanted nothing from me but for me to graciously accept their help. As always, God provides, in His way, in His time. And all I had to do was trust it would work out."

Mind you, it's not like I was sitting there doing nothing in either of those circumstances, and yes, I did battle the negative side of me that always has my glass half empty. But I was hopeful enough to stay proactive, taking whatever steps I could think of, whatever steps I felt capable of, to try and make things better. Still, when God sent me help, I sure wasn't going to send it back! So I made the best, got through it with gratitude, iced my ankle when I got home, rested my back, and got back on schedule - because I had a blog post to write, and I needed these moments.

What challenges have you been dealing with lately? And how do you think controlled perspective might help you conquer those challenges?



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, August 24, 2018

Friday Feels: August (II)


Here we are again, on a Friday - and that means it's time for another Friday Feels - the second this month! As always, I'm thrilled to be taking the time to sit down and explore what I've been feeling lately and why I've been feeling it. And I've definitely gotten my fair share of practice, since I've been using feelings as prompts in my daily bullet journal spread! But since I just use the same ones every day in my journal to help inspire the memories I take note of, I'm still looking forward to using my favorite random emotion generator for these posts.

That being said:


1. Brave:
Bravery is a strange thing, isn't it? Hard to come by sometimes, too - but when you see it, you tend to know it for what it is. For me, bravery lies most comfortably in the sharing of my life story in such a public way. Sure, there are bits I choose to keep private, things I don't share in order to protect my loved ones, and secrets of my life that I'll take to my grave. But sharing the abuse I suffered as a child? The way it felt to be powerless and small and vulnerable and unimportant? Speaking openly about what that has done in my life over the years? That's brave.

Sharing my hopes, my fear, my weaknesses? It's brave. Sharing the recent revelations with my health, despite how fresh the very private pain those revelations have caused still is? Brave.

Having the courage to know my story, to own it, to share it, and to use it to reclaim power over my own voice? That's brave. Using that to encourage empowerment in others?

Well, that's all I could really hope for.


2. Cheerful:
Fall is peeking around the corner in East Tennessee - we've had several beautifully loud thunderstorms, and thankfully some of the summer heat is edging away. Acorns are falling, leaves preparing to brown and drop from their limbs to blanket the earth. Fall is my second favorite season because in fall, the world cools to a temperature I can much more easily tolerate. The excitement of the coming holiday season begins to set in, and ... well, it's a cheerful time for me.


3. Enraged:
Two words, and I'll leave this one behind. Not because I'm done being flat-out freaking pissed over it, but because this isn't the place to discuss how and why I'm so thoroughly infuriated.

Two words. Mollie. Tibbetts.


4. Heartbroken:
Again. Mollie Tibbetts. Not because I knew her, but because I have a daughter not too much younger than she was, and another daughter as well. Because my oldest daughter has college dreams of her own and the youngest is still so full of varied hope and promise that she doesn't yet have a dream. Because the dangers of today's world are just as real for my babies here in the city of Knoxville as they were for someone else's baby as she took an evening jog in an unsuspecting Iowa town.

It breaks me heart to know that I can't give my children a safer world. I can try to protect them. I can try to shelter them some, try to coach them and guide them. But nothing I can do will guarantee their safety in this world, or that of their families.


5. Interested:
My interests have never been secret here, but they are often changing - adapting and adjusting as my life changes with time. I still love photography and art, still love sculpture, and am still looking forward to the upcoming move the girls and I are planning. I still love crochet and other yarn crafts, still want to learn to hand sew.

And I'm still as in love as ever with the idea of a perfectly organized journal or planner system. Having finally figure out the right way to take analog bullet journaling into my digital world has revolutionized the way I feel when it comes to be organized and on top of things - as best I can be, anyway. But now that I've got the basic system settled, I want very much to learn to make my journal pretty, so I've been practicing making digital stickers when I find spare moments in which to play.


6. Loving:
With my daughters back in school, I've had a little more time to myself. Not much, but a few hours each day in which to breathe, focus on my own things, and feel productive without feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. I've had time to focus a little better in therapy, time to think more about where to go next regarding my health, time to pray and enjoy a moment of silence with my morning coffee.

It gives me peace, makes me a better mother. More able to love and enjoy, more patient. And yes, more loving.


7. Pleased:
My van isn't doing well at all, but it's still hanging on. Between the front seats, I have a little basket that I use as a sort of catch-all - I keep a packet of tissues in there, some empty plastic bags for trash, a book usually, and whatever other junk ends up being dropped in there. Recently I cleaned it out and found that a barbecue sauce packet from Wendy's had been torn open at the bottom of the basket. The basket and sever other things were ruined - which led to a further cleaning out of the van as I searched for a suitable replacement for the basket.

I ended up with a new basket which worked perfectly, along with a second, smaller basket in which to drop my mail or cell phone or other small things. But it's the back of the van that has me most pleased - I got a short stack of three cute, pink plastic crates from Walmart and stacked them in the back of the van to use as storage. They're working perfectly.

I love them. (Best $9 I've spent in a while.)


8. Scared:
I have big things coming up this fall, things with the potential to completely remake the shape of my life. Most of these things are good things, things I'm generally quite excited about ... but some of them are not, and the potential for misfortune is pretty terrifying sometimes. There's a lot that's up in the air for me, and some days are quite a struggle perspective-wise. I was in physical therapy the other day, and as I spoke with my therapist/trainer, she looked at me in awe and said, "How do you stay so positive with all that going on?"

I laughed because I actually hadn't told her that much, just about the complications with my health and little conversational bits about my daughters. And I shrugged and said, "It is what it is." But in truth, on the dark days I cry myself into exhaustion - but still can't sleep for fear of all that could go wrong and the burden of everything that's outside my control. Thankfully ...


9. Secure:
God has been making a point to reach out and reassure me lately. I keep seeing various Bible verses, hearing various songs, catching messages in tv shows, blog posts. Reminders that God is bigger than my storm, reminders that if he could take an entire nation out of Egypt, he can certainly guide me around my own proverbial mountain. Reminders to rest in faith, to trust in his promises.

It's the only place in my entire life that feels secure - and that's more than enough.


10. Torn:
I've been wrestling with this quarter's goals. I've been going through a long period of feeling stuck; in the PTSD community, we call this decompensation. The loss of progress, or the stalling of progress. Regression of symptoms, loss of coping abilities. I haven't been tracking my goals as effectively as I had been, and I have moment where I hardly care about those goals at all.

That being said, I am no quitter. And you don't become Undaunted by giving up. So I'm tracking as much as I can, keeping track of my goals as much as I can, and using my bullet journal to help propel myself forward with the sheer force of my desire to check off the boxes on my daily to-do list. I'm tired, but I'm trying.

I'm overwhelmed, but I'm moving forward. Slowly but surely. This is a period of rest in my life - but even the flowers rest when the winter settles over them, until spring comes to bring them back to life again.

And even the longest, coldest winter has sunny days to break the monotony. To warm the spirit. And to remind us that winter ends.


What have you been feeling this month?


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, August 21, 2018

Love Yourself In Every Language, Part I


I've had Gary Chapman's 5 Love Languages book on my to-be-read list for longer than I'd care to admit. I think reading it would give me a lot of insight into myself and the relationships I've been in over the years, including not only why they didn't work but why they did - and the only reason I haven't made it to this book is that my reading wish list is simply so long.

Still, I've made a point over the years to learn a little about the five love languages how they work, not only as a woman still hoping for a healthy, long-lasting marriage with a safe, solid, and trustworthy partner, but also as a mother raising two daughters I hope will become strong and productive women in the world, and most importantly, as a member of a society seriously lacking in compassionate love for one another.

But - among many others - Joyce Meyer spoke an important truth when she said, "If you don't love yourself, it's impossible for you to love others. You can't give away what you don't have." And I know she isn't the first or the only person to express that sentiment, but I love the way she says it particularly because of that last bit. If love is something to be shared, it makes perfect sense that if you don't know how to even love yourself, when you know yourself perhaps better than anyone else possibly can ... then how can you learn to properly love anyone else in a way that they can feel and recognize?

If you're mute, how can you learn to speak someone else's language? If you're starving, how can you feed others? It's simple: You can't.

But we can fix that, just by taking the time to learn about ourselves. You can learn to love yourself by first learning your love language, and then making a point of practicing that language on yourself. There are so many possible ways to treat yourself, but when we think of self-care and self-love, the first thing we tend to think of is a pedicure or a bubble bath or some other type of physical pampering. But what about the people for whom that doesn't work? What about the people for whom that isn't enough? What if you hate bubble baths, but you love the idea of how they work to show self-love? Are there alternatives?

Let's start with this - in this post we'll talk just a bit about the five love languages, then we'll resume this series next week, where I'll explore each love language in more detail, sharing my favorite tips and tricks for using these languages to speak love into your own life.


WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
More than .just a quick "good job," words of affirmation speak directly the value of a specific person. Sometimes it does mean acknowledging a job well done, but more importantly, affirmative speaking is about acknowledging the value of the person more than the task. Further, if speaking affirmation into the hearts of those around us can inspire and motivate them to keep trying, what more could we accomplish of we were our own cheerleaders?


ACTS OF SERVICE
Serving others is an important part of showing that we value and respect them. A servant heart can turn a simple chore into an act of love, regardless of the difficulty - or lack thereof. And in serving others, we ourselves reap the benefit of gratitude and appreciation - or at the very least, a sense of accomplishment and good will. But serving ourselves has value too, as no one else can know quite what we need as well as we can.


RECEIVING GIFTS
It really is better to give than to receive. There's a certain joy in giving someone a gift and watching their surprise turn into joy and gratitude. But there is joy in receiving too - the magic of a gift is undeniable. And who says we can't spoil ourselves now and then with some small trinket or token of self-appreciation?


QUALITY TIME
With so much of our society today so focused on busyness, productivity, and constant striving, we often forget (or outright neglect) to give ourselves downtime to just be. We forget how to enjoy our own company, forget how to listen to the sounds of our own longings. We stop being our own friends. But we're worth the effort, aren't we? They say the best way to have good friends is to be a good friend, right? Well, who better to practice on than yourself?


PHYSICAL TOUCH
Don't get up in arms, y'all - we're not taking this blog post to that place. That being said ... yes, there is a place for physical touch in self-love. The skin is one of our largest and most sensitive input receptors, and there are so many different ways to engage touch as a form of self-love. From a scented lotion rubdown to a soft blanket to a simple heating pad, there are tons of great ways to show love to yourself through physical touch.


But before we dig deeper into the love languages and how we can adapt them to create a stronger self-love relationship in our lives, spend a minute thinking about your love language - and your self-love language. Are they the same, or are they different? Do you relate most to just one, or would you best appreciate some combination? Let me know in the comments, and then make sure you're coming back for part two of this series, which will resume right after this month's upcoming Friday Feels.


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.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Digital BuJo: The Set-Up


In my last post, I was super excited to share a little of the process of how I fell in love with bullet journaling, and how I ended up taking it digital to make it fit more easily into my life as a single mom with chronic disabling illness and two kids with chronic health problems of their own, as well as my workflow as a lifestyle blogger and romance novelist. I've shared a lot over the years about how I try to stay productive despite my PTSD symptoms using strategies like habit-stacking, routine-building, goal-setting, and the Pomodoro technique - but as my other health problems continue to worsen without much hope for relief, I've been really focused in the last few months on learning to accept my life as what is often referred to as a "spoonie."

Still, sometimes all the things I have to keep track of on a daily basis can get overwhelming. Between my two girls and I, there are 18 doctors, some of which are shared by multiple people. There are 22 prescriptions, all of which I am in charge of keeping filled, stored, organized, and properly dosed multiple times a day. And on top of that, I have my own goals and wishes and dreams, my own writing schedule I try to follow, and the tasks of daily living that are often physically taxing if not outright against my doctor's orders ("no lifting over 10 lbs, no prolonged sitting or standing, no bending, stooping, or twisting, no straining or strenuous motion, and nothing that increases g-forces in and around the spine and brain").

I need a way to keep track of it all, a way to keep things organized as best I can - and a safe place to write out my fears and desires, my struggles, my emotions. I need a place to plan and process, a place to grow and grieve. A place of my own that cannot be taken away, criticized, altered, or misunderstood. Which is why I originally fell so in love with the concept of what a bullet journal is - until the inherent limitations of an analog journal in a digital world made it so unfitting for my current stage of life.

When I first saw this video though, it all clicked. It looked suddenly simple in a way that it hadn't before, even though I had actually tried bullet journaling with OneNote previously. From that first video on how to set up a OneNote bullet journal, I ended up watching this one about how to use digital photos and other digital art in a OneNote notebook while maintaining the look and feel of old-school analog scrapbooking and scrap-journaling. That opened a lot of door in my mind, and the more videos I watched on the topic, the more excited I got. Then I found this one, and there was no turning back.

From there, I started playing around in my mind, thinking about what I might want as I tried again to start a bullet journal, this time armed with a few new tips and tricks on how best to utilize my chosen app. I began, as most bullet journalers do, with a simple, two-column index utilizing tables to keep track of dated journal pages and collections.


As you can see in the photo above, my index has calendars for each month, with each date being a link to the corresponding page in my notebook. A table of contents, but beautifully organized, easy to use and adjust, and without the hassle of keeping numbered pages. At the end of each month, I'll also be adding links to my Monthly Memory Saver, which has space to note each date and day, the weather that day, and something that made me smile that day. For fun, I've also added the second column of boxes, where I'll note songs I loved that month various favorite things, and how my book sales were that month.


Since I started this journal after missing the first several days of August, I won't be including a monthly roundup for August, but I'm really looking forward to spending September filling out the first of these pages! In the meantime, I've been having fun every day making time throughout the day to fill in my customized, mental-health-focused daily spread:


On this spread I've got space to choose a bible verse to meditate on that day, space to include tasks and appointments, space for emotion-centered journaling, and of course, plenty of room for traditional rapid-logging, complete with a bullet-journal symbol key. This has been an amazing resource for me, not only because it's a great way to keep track of how I'm doing and what I'm doing, but also because it's portable (I can use it on my phone, tablet, computer, whatever) and it's searchable, which means I can search for keywords, symbols, names, whatever - and OneNote will take me to a list of possible results.

Much better than having to flip through a traditional notebook, especially if you're like me and you plan to actively use your journal both for fun and productivity. I've even created a Year In Pixels page, which I won't be filling out this year but am looking forward to starting in 2019.


But perhaps the biggest joy I've taken so far in this digital bullet journaling this is the idea that I can create stickers pretty easily just by downloading royalty-free .png images and then inserting them into my notebooks. 


Yeah, so I'm sure you can tell how totally in love I am with my journal now, huh? It's still growing though, as I adapt to it and adjust the ways I want to use it. I have a feeling I'll be adding and removing elements here and there, and I'll probably share some of my collections and stuff along the way too.

But first, tell me something: Would you guys be interested in seeing some Plan With Me posts here? I don't know if I'll be doing a lot of planner-style spreads, but I would be totally willing to share more about how I'm using this journal to keep things organized. I'd also love to see how you guys journal in the comments below - do you prefer digital or analog? Do you use a planner? And if you bullet journal, what kinds of things do you include in your spreads?


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.