Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday Food: National Slow Cooker Month

For this year's BLOGuary stretch (daily blogging through the month of January, except for Sundays), I've been having a blast partnering up with David Elliott, of the Single Dad's Guide to Life. We spent weeks talking about this before January came along, brainstorming post ideas and thinking about how we might be able to coordinate my "mental health and self-empowerment but I'm also a single mom" brand of lifestyle with his more laid-back and chilled out "single dad takes on the world with humor, humility, and fun" kind of vibe.

When I first stumbled upon David's blog, it was because we both happened to be in the same blogging promotional group, and since we ran into each other online so frequently, we ended up chatting a bit about our blogs and what drives us to write them. I personally tend to have a very serious writing style that can, admittedly, get a little heavy from time to time, and so reading David's perspectives on single parenting and his relationship with his daughter tended to be sort of a breath of fresh air. Now and then he surprises with vulnerability of his own too, which is always a delight for someone as chronically serious as me.

But how do we meet the two very different and yet so the same kinds of blogging topics?

Well, the answer is, as always, to find middle ground. We've covered lots of mental health this month and lots of parenting oriented content, but we've also covered travel, fitness, and even movies - all with a general writing prompt that David and I both ran with in our own unique ways. Our perspectives are sometimes vastly different, which offers us a chance to learn from each other, but other times we're spot on and seem in almost perfect agreement. He's been a blast to write with this month, and I'm excited to see what the rest of the month will hold.

But first, deliciousness.


When we realized this month was National Slow Cooking Month, I think David and I both knew we had to cover it on our blog - and what single parent hasn't used a crock pot to make cooking dinner a little more simple, amiright?

But food is one of David's fortes - he actually has a whole series on his blog where he'll celebrate food holidays several times a month, sharing a "fake food history" and usually either a list of his favorite places to find that particular food or his favorite recipe for making it.

For me, food is just a means to an end for the most part. And now, don't get me wrong, I will thoroughly enjoy a well-prepared dish, be it savory, sweet, or some strangely wonderful combination of the two. But it's about the company for me, since good food is so thoroughly enriched by the pleasure of good company. And my being a single mom with a complicated roommate situation ... let's just say some days good company is harder to find than others.

Still, the crock pot is one of my all-time favorite lifesavers, not only in my role as a single mom but also in my actual life as a person dealing with multiple chronic mental illnesses that often have a real and measurable impact on my daily functioning.

With PMDD, I have a week (or two) each month where I am nearly crippled by depression. Some days I feel nearly catatonic, and it's all I can do to veg out with YouTube just so look normal enough to the people around me. The girls don't need to know that I'm actually staring at the wall next to my phone and have pretty much no idea what I'm even "watching." These are often declare "Movie Days" for our family, and while my children watch something fun and entertaining, I hide from them the depth of whatever I'm suffering.

With PTSD, I deal with anxiety that makes it hard to shop (can't tell you how many times I've gotten overwhelmed enough to burst into tears in an overly crowded WalMart) or spend much time in certain places. I live in a pretty constant state of hypervigilance, which makes crowds and possibly-crowded places almost intolerable and turns full parking lots into traps of doom. Coincidentally, it also makes me nearly impossible to sneak up on, which is nice because one of my roommates delights in "getting me" whenever possible; and I find a certain perverse delight in it not being possible very often.

There are other issues too, with overwhelm and over-stimulation being the most common "small" things that can wreck an entire day. And now I've said all that to say this:

The crock pot helps me manage my life as a single mom with mental illness. It's an incredibly valuable tool, because there are days when my family might not eat much more than sandwiches or something frozen, if not for the miracle of the slow cooking method.

On days when I roll out of bed and already Can't. Even, then I drag myself through the morning promising me that it'll get better. I get the girls off to school if it's a school day, or otherwise occupied if it's not, and then I force myself over to either Wal-Mart or Food City, where I pick up something fitting for a crock pot dinner. Back at the house, I toss it all together, set it on low, and rest assured that the dinnertime hours are now guaranteed to be a little less stressful.

Even though the nightly chaos of pajama-changing, bed-making, stuffed-animal-choosing, teeth-brushing, bedtime-avoiding, homework-finishing, medicine-taking, arguing-bickering has begun at it's usual time, I can go through it with a little less overwhelm knowing that I don't also have to juggle the dinner-choosing, veggie-prepping, meat-touching, a-hundred-pans, mountain-of-dishes part of the evening.

So how do I do it? Well. It's really this simple - I make my version of the classic Mississippi Roast.

What To Shop For:
1 - 3 lbs. beef roast, or equivalent weight of diced stew meat.
1 - packet of ranch dressing mix, not mixed
1 - packet of au jus gravy mix, also not mixed
1 - stick of sweet salted cream butter
1 - package of wide egg noodles
cornstarch, optional


What To Do With It:
  1. Place meat into an empty, ungreased crock pot. You're gonna need at least a medium if not large crock pot though - this recipe feeds six.
  2. Sprinkle the ranch powder mix onto the meat. Sprinkle the au jus powder mix on top of that.
  3. Unwrap your stick of butter (I often use less than a full stick - usually closer to 3/4's of one) and set it right on top of everything else. If you feel like being fancy, you can slice it, but half the time I don't bother and it doesn't seem to make any difference.
  4. Set it on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6 hours. Time depends on how long you have before you need the food ready, but longer cooking time obviously means much more tender meat.
  5. Maybe a half hour before you're ready to eat, put some water on to boil for your pasta, and while you wait for that, use about 2 tablespoons of your cornstarch and a little cold water to make a thick, smooth paste. Add some of the juice from your crock pot to this, mixing thoroughly and continuing to add juice until you've got something smooth enough to add back to the crockpot without making lumps of gross. I'm sure there's a name for this, but I don't know it - this is just the process I follow.
  6. Add pasta to your now-boiling water and cook according to package directions.
  7. Serve the meat (with a little of the gravy, of course) over your noodles, and you've got dinner.


Add-On Options:
Most versions of Mississippi Roast also ask for a few pepperocini peppers as part of the recipe, but since I'm not a big fan of peppers, I never use them. No one complains about this omission, not even the pickiest of the eaters I cook for. So use your own discretion with this. 

If you're having a rough day and you really don't feel capable of pulling anything else together, this beefy pasta dish can be a hearty, delicious meal on it's own - but if you're living with mom-guilt because your kids don't eat enough veggies, then you can go with SteamFresh Broccoli from the frozen section at your grocery store (for an easy option) or actually steamed fresh broccoli if you feel like making the effort. I use real when I can, but I also enjoy the ease of something quick when and healthy when I'm having a hard day.

You could also serve this with a crusty bread to mop up the gravy, and you could even add a little side salad if you're making this because it's delicious and not because you needed something easy.

Because rest assured, while this recipe is quick to throw together and almost totally effortless to prepare, it still steps up and offers an unbelievably scrumptious payoff - which is good for your belly, your body, and your mental health.


Do you use a crock pot or slow cooker in your own home? If so, what's your favorite slow cooker recipe? Have you ever used yours for desserts, and if you have, what did you make? What about breakfasts? Brunch? Share your crock pot successes with me in the comments below!

And don't forget, this BLOGuary is a writing partnership! David Elliott from the Single Dad's Guide to Life has been partnering with me this month to balance my single mom perspective with the single dad side of everything from quotes that inspire us to lessons we've learned, to travelpoetry, and our goals for the future. Make sure you check out David's blog to see his thoughts on these topics and more!

If you liked this post, share the link with your friends - it really helps me get the word out about my blog and it brings new readers into our community! But while you're here, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's the best way to never miss a post! And if you like this blog and want to take an active role in keeping it all running, here are two ways you can get involved:
  1. Make a donation through Paypal by clicking here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. This is a great way to help cover the costs of running this blog, and it's also a great way of saying, "Thanks for the content, how 'bout you get yourself a Frappucino?" Or if you want more regular involvement ...
  2. Skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens.
Patreon is a great way to help manage the costs of running this blog, and it's also where my readers get to read my novels while I write them! My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors, and sponsorship gives Patrons access to all sorts of content depending on their budget and desire for involvement: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls!

There are several other reward tiers to choose from too - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 50 patrons - when we get to 50 patrons I plan to double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you.

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

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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Thursday Therapy: Yoga As Self-Care


I haven't focused quite as intensely this month on mental health and self-care, and while it has been nice to take a break from the deeper aspects of this blog, the truth is, those aspects of my life remain - and I believe that for most people drawn to this blog, those aspects still remain alive if not quite well in your own lives too.

If you read this blog because you struggle with mental illness of any kind, particularly illness resulting in severe chronic anxiety and/or depression, then it's likely that even if holiday cheer was enough to lift your spirits for a while, the holidays are over, the excitement of the new year has passed, and we're all getting back to regular life - and regular symptoms.

For me, the holidays meant missing a PMDD cycle, which was a relief because my PTSD symptoms had been somewhat out of control through most of December. I was more anxious, more watchful, more irritable. More prone to worrying, less able to sleep. More dependent on my calendar and list-making strategies to get through the day, less able to focus to complete things no matter how many lists they were on. I missed deadlines in November and December simply because I couldn't keep up, and I had to scramble to at least look like I was keeping things together. It wasn't fun.

I kept up the pretense though, smiled for my babies, and made it work as best I could. Christmas went well, the babes liked their gifts, I was proud of pulling it off, and that carried through into the beginning of the new year with hope, excitement, and big plans for carrying last year's momentum into 2018.

Not that I wasn't overwhelmed though - I was. I still am, actually. My kids are finally back to school after what felt like an impossibly long Christmas break, only to have had the last two days out due to snow and weather. This, and other small happenings in my daily life, have conspired to steal much of my peace from me despite certain other things that have had me flying high with glee.

So, while I've been writing daily this month to unload my thoughts and keep myself focused on something productive, I've also been working extra hard to seek out therapeutic self-care - especially as the weather has also stopped me from attending therapy as reliably as I need. I've been seeking out the little things - turning to quotes that inspire me, taking a few extra minutes to really pamper myself in the shower, shutting down to watch a movie. And yes, I've done my fair share of daydreaming.

But mostly, the way I cope with stress is to get active. I wish I had a gym membership, where I could go spend a couple of hours sweating myself half to death - ideally, it would be a gym where I could drop Eden in the childcare center and take Joey with me to work out. It would be good chatting time for us during warmups, and I'd love being able to take the place of coach as she begins to show more interest in fitness. But since a gym membership is an expense I can't afford at the moment, I like to do things at home - bodyweight exercises mostly, and I love pilates. But when I need peace and there simply isn't any to be found, that's when Eden and I turn on some nature sounds and dig into our favorite yoga routine.


This list of poses is one that I made up because I got obsessed with the fluidity of moving yoga sequences and also desperately needed a way to regularly loosen my chronically tight calves and hamstrings. I'm a long way from being able to get my heels on the floor in the downward dog pose, but using this as a goal (as well as seeing an end to the tension living in the backs of my knees) also gives me the benefit of this pose reminding me to keep my shoulders our of my ears.

I like the way this sequence of poses is easy for Eden to do with me without a ton of coaching, relaxing for the tension I carry in my back, shoulders, and legs - and yet challenging enough to engage my body and muscles in a way that allows me to disengage my overworked mind. Eden and I both love the way it feels completely natural to move through these poses, with each new pose easily flowing from the last and into the next.

Depending on how long you hold each pose while moving through this sequence and how long it takes you to settle into each pose, this routine can be done in as little as five energetic minutes, or in as much as thirty more relaxing minutes. We go back and forth, depending on what we need most in the moment - sometimes it's energy, other times it's meditation.

I also like that there are countless other poses to choose from, and we can use little poses we're already good at in our efforts to work toward more challenging poses in the future - although my daughter will probably be fully grown before we're advanced enough to try any of this serious mother-daughter stuff, and even then we may never come close to anything resembling the splendor of acro-yoga.

Still, a good half hour of practicing, either together or apart, if often all it takes to reset our bodies and minds - and sometimes the whole day in general. Which means that for Team Kennedy, yoga takes the self-care win.


What's your favorite physical way to work on your mental health - and if you like yoga too, what's your favorite pose? If you're a parent, have you ever shared your yoga practice with your kids? What poses work best for them?

Don't forget, this BLOGuary is a writing partnership! David Elliott from the Single Dad's Guide to Life has been partnering with me this month to balance my single mom perspective with the single dad side of everything from quotes that inspire us to lessons we've learned, to travelpoetry, and our goals for the future. Make sure you check out David's blog to see his thoughts on these topics and more!

If you liked this post, share the link with your friends - it really helps me get the word out about my blog and it brings new readers into our community! But while you're here, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's the best way to never miss a post! And if you like this blog and want to take an active role in keeping it all running, here are two ways you can get involved:
  1. Make a donation through Paypal by clicking here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. This is a great way to help cover the costs of running this blog, and it's also a great way of saying, "Thanks for the content, how 'bout you get yourself a Frappucino?" Or if you want more regular involvement ...
  2. Skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens.
Patreon is a great way to help manage the costs of running this blog, and it's also where my readers get to read my novels while I write them! My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors, and sponsorship gives Patrons access to all sorts of content depending on their budget and desire for involvement: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls!

There are several other reward tiers to choose from too - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 50 patrons - when we get to 50 patrons I plan to double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you.

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

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

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Wednesday Would You Rather: Single VS Coupled?

If you've been following along with this year's BLOGuary, you'll have noticed that I'm not daily blogging on my own this January. I've been teaming up with David Elliott of the Single Dad's Guide to Life this month, and it has been so much fun so far! David's a single dad and I'm a single mom, so I've been enjoying reading the way his posts from the single dad side counter my single mom perspective so neatly. We haven't focused exclusively on parenting though - we've also written about lots of different things this month, so I hope you've been reading along with his posts, too.

Today we're tackling single life VS coupled life - and I'm going to apply this to my role as a parent, but as I also know I won't always have my children in my daily life, it will likely apply somewhat more to my just being a woman. Because in the end, I want a partner who fits perfectly alongside my children ... but is still with me many years after they have moved on.


This is my second stint as a single mother, and honestly, there are parts of me that like it this way. I like that when I need to make an appointment for myself or for either of my kids, I'm not trying to juggle that against someone else's work schedule or personal needs - because there is no one else to juggle with. So when appointments or plans need to be made, I just make them. No second-guessing.

For most single parents, there is still some sense of juggling, though - a single mother co-parenting with her former spouse would need to check with the other parent before scheduling surgeries or other important events, but since my kids's dad is in and out of their lives randomly, sometimes not seeing them for weeks at a time, I just do what needs to be done on my own.

As for myself:
  • I like that this means not worrying about what my partner likes or doesn't like for dinner, what he likes or doesn't like to do for fun, and where he does or doesn't like to hang out.
  • I don't have trust issues over my partner lying to me or sneaking around.
  • I don't have as much financial stress because I know how much money comes in for me, where it's going out to, and that I'm the only one messing with it.
  • I don't find myself carrying forgotten empty glasses to the sink every morning or constantly cleaning up video game paraphernalia.
  • I don't worry about calls that don't come or texts that go unanswered for hours at a time.


There are countless other things I don't have to worry about because I'm single, both as a parent and as a woman, and like I said before, there are things about single life that make me grateful for my lone romantic status. In fact, when I wasn't single ... there was a part of me that actually missed being single.

But the grass isn't always greener on the other side, is it? And what's that old saying? "If the grass is greener, that's because they're fertilizing with different shit." It makes sense though, doesn't it?

I can enjoy being single because I've been badly matched, and being single is always better than being in a relationship that leaves you feeling alone. And for me personally, "alone" has always meant "safe," where being "coupled" has always meant "pain" and "abuse" and "distrust." But with that being said ... I still miss the good parts of being coupled, too.

I miss having someone there to talk to when my kids are having trouble or I have something personal going on and I'm not sure what to do or how to deal. I miss having someone to lean on when I'm overwhelmed or exhausted, someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to share breakfast and laughs and dreams with.

  • I miss the way it feels to have a man's fingers intertwined with my own.
  • I miss the solidity of a man's chest under my cheek as I drift off to sleep.
  • I miss the contentedness of having a good partner, when I had one.
  • I miss watching movies together, talking about the various ups and downs of the day.
  • I miss having someone to pray with, to congratulate, and to be congratulated by.

I miss so many things about being well-matched - things that were so easy to forget when I was not well-matched. Like I said, each side has its advantages.

So if it's true that each side has advantages, and if I could choose to have all the freedoms of single life OR all the romance of being perfectly coupled ... well, which would I choose?

Honestly, that's an almost ridiculously easy answer for me. I mean, I am a romance writer after all - so maybe it's only to be expected that while I have (mostly) learned to practice gratitude and contentment during whichever romantic phase I find myself in as the years pass, choosing to be well-matched with just the right partner would feel more than a little like a no-brainer.

Lucky for me, learning what I don't want from previous relationships coupled with learning what I do want from examples in movies, music, and fiction means I've developed a much higher standard these days - both for what I might offer to my partner as well as what I would expect for myself. 

Which means I'll be choosing far more conscientiously in the future.

Which means it's a good thing I've learned to enjoy the single life, because this phase could last a while.


If you were faced with this choice today, what would you choose, and why? What factors would come into play, what pros would you demand, and what cons would you be willing to put up with? What are your most and least favorite parts of single life VS coupled life? And whichever phase you happen to be in right now (single or coupled), what's the one thing you miss most about the other side of things? What thing makes you most thankful for your current romantic status?

Don't forget, this BLOGuary is a writing partnership! David Elliott from the Single Dad's Guide to Life has been partnering with me this month to balance my single mom perspective with the single dad side of everything from quotes that inspire us to lessons we've learned, to travel, poetry, and our goals for the future. Make sure you check out David's blog to see his thoughts on single life vs coupled life as well - this post is truly a gem, and as I read it, I felt very much like I was reading a much more honest and thorough version of the thoughts I hold so close to my heart they escape expression. He's usually already a great blogger, but in this, David has quite outdone himself.

If you liked this post, share the link with your friends - it really helps me get the word out about my blog and it brings new readers into our community! But while you're here, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's the best way to never miss a post! And if you like this blog and want to take an active role in keeping it all running, here are two ways you can get involved:
  1. Make a donation through Paypal by clicking here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. This is a great way to help cover the costs of running this blog, and it's also a great way of saying, "Thanks for the content, how 'bout you get yourself a Frappucino?" Or if you want more regular involvement ...
  2. Skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens.
Patreon is a great way to help manage the costs of running this blog, and it's also where my readers get to read my novels while I write them! My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors, and sponsorship gives Patrons access to all sorts of content depending on their budget and desire for involvement: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls!

There are several other reward tiers to choose from too - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 50 patrons - when we get to 50 patrons I plan to double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you.

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

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

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tuesday Travel: A Single Mom's Dream Vacation

If you've been around here for any length of time, you'll know that my bucket list is about forty bazillion miles long and that even if I won the lottery tomorrow or became some kind of professional traveler, there would still be very little chance of my being able to accomplish everything on the list. It's always growing too, always changing and adapting as I learn about and experience new things - it's an ongoing project likely never to be finished.

I think about it often, solidifying "someday" ideas for blogging (and RVing) my way though a future lighthouse tour, making imaginary plans for peaceful mornings spent writing in the rising sun. I dream of walking through temples like Angkor Wat and Wat Rong Khun, strolling along the beaches of Hawaii, Greece, Thailand. I have had big travel dreams ever since I was a very little girl - and the more places I learn about, the more I want to see. 

Right now though, my life doesn't allow for much travel - at least, not outside of exploring my own city with munchkins in tow and a very firmly-set budget in mind. Single motherhood (and single parenting in general) is tough on its own; playing single mother to two kids with health problems ... well, we juggle at least two appointments every week, with some weeks much more busy. Let's just say it keeps me pretty tied to one place.

And it's not always easy from the dad's side of things either, even if your time with your child is limited. Yes, limited child-time means lots of kid-free time, but for many parents, any time spent away from our children is challenging, even as we acknowledge the need for adult pursuits that may not always be family friendly.

Between parenting 24/7, life as a blogger/author, and the personal challenges of my current life circumstances, this chapter of my life simply doesn't allow for extensive travel - but dreaming is free, and it has the added bonus of not crowding up an already overly crowded calendar. So when David and I were discussing today's BLOGuary topic, travel dreams felt like a great thing to focus on!

Dreaming ... I'm good at that.


I thought it would be fun to break this post up into two sections though - I'm a mom whether my kids are with me or not, so breaking this post into something that could include "dream vacation with kids" and "dream vacation without kids" seemed like a great way to go. Each section of this post will include a few pros/cons, travel planning ideas, itinerary suggestions - and buckets of envy for those of you who find this post and use it as an aid in planning the kind of vacation I'm still only dreaming of. 

So if you're planning a trip, grab a pen and paper to take some notes - but if, like me, your travel dreams are nothing more than futuristic goals, grab some coffee, get your imaginary bags packed, and let's go on an adventure.

VACAY WITH KIDS:
An All-Inclusive Family Cruise
There are so many places I'd like to see, and I love that a cruise is a great way to manage travel and entertainment on a budget. I'd be a single mom traveling with two kids and very probably a service animal, so there are a lot of things to manage for our family - but I've always wanted to go on a cruise and I think it's amazing that cruises are so family-friendly these days.

Right there on the ship, families can spend their travel time enjoying water parks, concerts, activities, movies, bowling, kids clubs, and more. There's shopping, parades, and a variety of other entertainments available, but with an all-inclusive cruise, your days of stressing over the minute tasks of the day are over - there's no cooking, no cleaning, no planning, and with so many cruises also including on-board daycares and in-cabin babysitting, there's also no overwhelm for a single mom juggling the needs, moods, and various excitements of two kids on a getaway.

Once the cruise reaches the destination, there's a whole new world just outside the ship, where a family like mine would have a blast exploring new lands and new cultures, taking in the sights and sounds of people who live, eat, speak, sing, and dance differently than we do.

I also like that cruises are so varied - you can choose a ship geared more toward adults if your kids are older teens, or more toward young families if your kids are still little. You can book longer or shorter cruises too, based on your budget and tolerance for travel and excitement, and you can also choose your cruise based on departure ports closest to you or where you specifically want your cruise to go.

In researching cruise options for this post, what I didn't like was the sneaking suspicion that while all-inclusive cruise costs look pretty affordable, they don't always turn out that way - often, there are added gratuity charges as well as other pop-up costs for things like on-board spas and off-ship port excursions. A single mom on a budget would need to really watch for things like that, otherwise an unexpected bill at the end of the trip could totally kill the vacation vibes.

STAYCATION INSTEAD:
My family is made up of a trio of Tennessee babes who love the ever-present silhouettes of the Smoky Mountains, and one of the best places to enjoy the beautiful views while adding some excitement to life is Wilderness at the Smokies, a gorgeous hotel resort with included on-site waterpark access. Best part for Team Kennedy? Less than two hours travel time even on busy roads, suites with fireplaces and pool access, loads of amenities ... and with careful planning, a full weekend of major fun could be had for just under $1000. Now that's my kind of fun.


VACAY WITHOUT KIDS:
The Brando
This absolutely stunning Polynesian resort is all-inclusive, luxuriously appointed, and quickly closing in on a barely-there carbon footprint status. This place appeals to me on the deepest level, as single motherhood often leaves me with almost desperate cravings for peace, quiet, luxury, and the beautiful magnificence of the sea I grew up next to but haven't seen in far too long. The Brando resort on the island of Tetiaroa is just a short 20-minute flight from Papeete, Tahiti, and as if the clear ocean and beautiful beaches weren't enticing enough, the Brando also includes one spa treatment a day for adult guests.

Amenities are plentiful as well, but most exciting to me is that if I were to plan a getaway at the Brando, my stunning villa would come equipped with plunge pool, outdoor bath, and direct access to the island's incredible sandy beaches. And yet, the splendor doesn't stop there - villas also come with access to loads of island attractions, a bike for carbon-free transportation, 24-hour room service, and an actual butler. There are also various tours and excursions, a beautiful lagoon to explore, a fitness area, and countless other amenities.

And you know, all for the low low price of about $26k a week. But hey, I did say this post was DREAM vacations, right?

STAYCATION INSTEAD:
Since $26k is out of  my budget and is likely to stay that way for a while, I'm thinking another great way to kick back and relax would be to drive up through Pigeon Forge and spend some time at the Margaritaville Island Hotel. While this great staycation spot isn't at all all-inclusive (I couldn't even find package vacation deals on their site.), it is still a great place to get away and let life's stresses fade into the past for a while. Equipped with a spa of its own (with both an a la carte and package-oriented menu), Margaritaville Island Hotel is a perfect local escape - and with a "frozen concoction maker" in every room, even staying in for the evening can become a bit of a party it its own right. Outside of the hotel, amusements abound as Pigeon Forge is a spectacular destination on its own, loaded with sightseeing opportunities, window shopping, theme parks, and other attractions.


BUT UNTIL THEN ...
Until my life opens up with more travel opportunities, my daughters and I are having fun continuing to explore our city. Knoxville is full of rich history and tons of opportunities for entertainment at just about any price range, from the beautiful getaway known as Blackberry Farm to the more budget-conscious variety of self-guided walking tours through and around the city.

Which is fine. For now.


Do you have a travel bucket list too? And if you do, does it include solo travel or is it more family-oriented? It is budget-friendly, or more luxury-focused? What makes a great vacation, in your opinion, and where would you most like to go? Leave me a comment and tell me about your travel dreams.

Don't forget, this BLOGuary is a partnership! David Elliott from the Single Dad's Guide to Life has been partnering with me this month to counter and balance my single mom perspective with the single dad side of everything from movies and music to foodfun, and the future. Make sure you check out David's most recent post to see his thoughts on traveling both near and far from home, as well as how he applies the concept and idea of vacations to his responsibilities as a father and the way traveling would impact his relationship with his daughter.

If you liked this post, share the link with your friends - it really helps me get the word out about my blog and it brings new readers into our community! But while you're here, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's the best way to never miss a post! And if you like this blog and want to take an active role in keeping it all running, here are two ways you can get involved:
  1. Make a donation through Paypal by clicking here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. This is a great way to help cover the costs of running this blog, and it's also a great way of saying, "Thanks for the content, how 'bout you get yourself a Frappucino?" Or if you want more regular involvement ...
  2. Skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens.
Patreon is a great way to help manage the costs of running this blog, and it's also where my readers get to read my novels while I write them! My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors, and sponsorship gives Patrons access to all sorts of content depending on their budget and desire for involvement: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls!

There are several other reward tiers to choose from too - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 50 patrons - when we get to 50 patrons I plan to double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you.

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

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

Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday Matters: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream"


Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and while we generally use the third Monday of January to celebrate the changes Martin Luther King Jr brought to life in the U.S., it also happens to be his birthday today. So it's understandable that as I thought about what to write today, I just kept hearing the echo of his famous words in my mind.


"I have a dream." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Maybe it's just that I myself am a dreamer - a girl with her feet on the ground but her head still floating in the clouds - but this speech has always meant so much more to me than skin color. It has always brought to mind my own fervent wish for not only the chance to succeed, but the desire to move forward from wherever I am - because I believe success means nothing without the courage to strive for it despite the risks, and I believe that regardless of race, color, disability, religion, politics, or any of the other categories we use to separate ourselves from each other, the gift of American citizenship is useless if we don't stand up and accept it.

I am not a black woman, but I have suffered my own share of disadvantages, well-meaning rudeness, and purposeful but undeserved judgement of who I am, where I come from, what my potential is, and what I deserve from this life - not only because of where my life began and the history of the parents who started it, but also because of the size of my body, the clothing or hairstyles I chose, the music I listened to ... and yes, even the color of my skin.

But none of those things should matter at all, because the things that DESCRIBE me (mother, woman, writer, plus-size, short, white, etc) do not DEFINE me - and no matter what they are, yours don't have to either.


"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
These days, we've come a little farther in that most of us include women in this sentiment as well - taking King's dream of ending racial discrimination and continuing to apply the beauty of his idea to things like gender equality in the workplace. Many also apply this concept to more fluid ideas as well, such as sexual orientation ... and yet, we still have so far left to go, not only because there are so many of us who still see others as being greater or lesser than ourselves, but because we also tend to see ourselves as being greater or lesser than others.

We preach equality all the time, and a great many of us are honestly pursuing a world where every human matters just as much as every other human - and yet, as we struggle to reach across the great barriers of race and gender, disability, religion, nationality, economic status, and education, we often forget the most basic meaning of what it is for two things (or two humans) to be weighed as equals, with neither striving to be better, to have more, or to take advantage of extra breaks or privileges.

And I don't mean to imply that certain privilege doesn't exist in our society, or that all the races and socioeconomic statuses are as balanced as they should be. But I think Martin Luther King would remind us that privilege isn't based on race any more than a lack of privilege would be. For every man (and woman) to truly be equal, we must first acknowledge that our capacity for and risk of hardship and challenge are not decided by the color of our skin any more than they are decided by the type of our blood.


"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Brotherhood. King wanted the varied races of humanity to live among each other as brothers. As family. Bridging the barriers of color and culture and style with the sheer unadulterated power of the kinds of love and acceptance that guarantee each of us the right to compassionate understanding, and mercy, and grace.

As a mother, I strive every day to teach my children that they don't have to be "white" girls. That they don't go to school with "black" girls. Not in the sense that their skin color makes them remarkably different from the other kids - because it doesn't. I mean sure, some kids are more white, some more brown, some more yellow or olive-toned. But each child, regardless of his or her color, is still nothing more than a child. A little person making their way under the hopefully strong guidance of a parent who is trying as hard as I am to show the next generation that we don't have to see color in that way anymore. I have taught my daughters that skin color is nothing more than a descriptive term, nothing more significant than eye color, hair color, and whether or not a person has freckles. Fat, muscular, thin, tall, short. Black, white, brown, yellow, olive. Red.

In my home, description is not a separator - because the best way to honor King's wisdom is to live it. To look beyond barriers in search of brotherhood.


"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Don't we all want this? Doesn't every parent want this - for their children to be given a fair chance, an education, and the opportunity to chase their dreams?

The truth is, every child will not achieve their dreams. Every child will not always apply themselves in school, will not always get good grades, will not always steer clear of self-destruction. But every child is given the opportunity to strive and to try - to do their homework and pay attention in class, to apply for college if they're interested, or for jobs if they aren't. Regardless of where they start out, every child is given the chance to try - and even if they start out at rock bottom (like I did), regardless of their beginning they do (in general) have the chance to climb rung by rung up the economic ladder and reach for their own version of the American Dream, without the burdens of discrimination and prejudice.

I know this is the very deepest and most heartfelt dream in my own spirit as well. One of my children has already experienced prejudicial judgement based on her race, and the other has been teased and bullied over economic status. These are not problems belonging solely to one race or class of people - and these problems will never end if we don't make the effort to end them, seeking brotherhood and sameness rather than enmity and division.

"And when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: 'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'” -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

I like to think that somewhere deep inside each of us, the remnant of King's dream remains - the longing to feel equal, to be seen as equal, to be treated as equal. Not as a white man or as a black man ... but most simply as nothing more than a man - or woman, of course - but to be seen and appreciated as human.


What do you think of how our society has moved forward to Dr. King's legacy - and more importantly, how are you using his wisdom to guide your own life? What are you doing every day to become part of the solution he wanted so much, not only for his own people but for all people as brotherhood of humanity?

Don't forget, this BLOGuary is a partnership! David Elliott from the Single Dad's Guide to Life has been partnering with me this month to counter and balance my single mom perspective with the single dad side of everything from movies and music to food, fun, and the future. Be sure to check out David's most recent post too - he shared a list of his favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes, leaving King's words to stand beautiful and strong on their own.

If you liked this post, share the link with your friends - it really helps me get the word out about my blog and it brings new readers into our community! But while you're here, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's the best way to never miss a post! And if you like this blog and want to take an active role in keeping it all running, here are two ways you can get involved:
  1. Make a donation through Paypal by clicking here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. This is a great way to help cover the costs of running this blog, and it's also a great way of saying, "Thanks for the content, how 'bout you get yourself a Frappucino?" Or if you want more regular involvement ...
  2. Skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens.
Patreon is a great way to help manage the costs of running this blog, and it's also where my readers get to read my novels while I write them! My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors, and sponsorship gives Patrons access to all sorts of content depending on their budget and desire for involvement: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls!

There are several other reward tiers to choose from too - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 50 patrons - when we get to 50 patrons I plan to double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you.

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

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

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Saturday Song: Inspiration For Moms


I'm so many different things throughout the course of each day that sometimes I feel almost like I'm losing track of who I want to be - like the woman my spirit inherently embodies is sometimes lost in the chaos of all the other women my life requires me to represent to the world. This is especially true in my role as a mother, where the essence of who I am and what I want as a woman is sometimes buried beneath the more important tasks of turning my two babies into strong and powerful women who will strive to use their various talents to change and improve the world they live in.

The sacrifice is worth it though - I willingly postpone or even outright sacrifice my own womanly needs all the time in favor of the greater goal of succeeding in my role as a mom. And as a mom, I drive my kids literally everywhere they need to be, see that they are safe and cared for - but because of my PTSD issues, I rarely leave the house without  being armed in some way, and I am hyper-vigilant enough that sometimes even my oblivious children notice. I am a driver with included security service.

I soothe their wounds, assuage their fears, kiss their boo-boos, medicate and mediate their various illnesses, both mental and physical. I am friend, confidante, doctor, therapist, and coach. I am also the housekeeper, the problem-solver, and the personal chef. I am the personal shopper - and I am an infinite number of other things as well, always changing and adapting to learn and become whatever it is my role as a mother needs me to be. But behind those things, behind the planning and the worrying and the coordinating and the sacrifice ... there is a fierce and unending depth of willingness that no other person or thing has ever inspired in me.

So when my BLOGuary partner (David Elliott from the Single Dad's Guide to Life) and I were planning what to write for today's post, parenting - and the music that inspires us - was of course an easy and uppermost topic for us to go with. We're both parents, and the way his single dad perspective balances out my single mom perspective is a total blessing to me - he may not have realized it before just now, but in sharing so much about his relationship with his daughter and what matters most to him in regards to his feelings about fatherhood, I often feel better equipped to gauge and mitigate the needs of my own daughters as they navigate the complicated and often painful process of a parental split.

Still, sometimes I find it too easy to ignore my own needs in favor of meeting the needs of my children - I forget to consider myself as valuable and significant as the leader of my little family, the guide, head coach of Team Kennedy.

But I'm not the only mom who does that either, and I'm sure David isn't the only dad. So today ... for myself, for any other mother like me, and for any woman who all too often puts herself on the back burner of her own life ... here are the songs that inspire me in my role as a mother. For a father's perspective, make sure you head over to David's blog and check out the music he's sharing!




01. Oh Mother, by Christina Aquilera


This is maybe a dark song to start out an inspirational post with, but it's one of my most favorite songs about motherhood. My own mother survived an incredibly violent second marriage, a four-year hell during which she was beaten, bruised, bloodied, strangled, threatened, and run over with a truck. I hated her for the longest time because I blamed her for exposing my brother and I to a psychopath - what I didn't see then was how helpless she must have felt, and how ashamed, and how trapped.

Now, I've had my own experiences and I understand her much better. And I'm thankful that the piece of garbage that took my mother and morphed her into a shadow of what she once was is now buried underground, as useless and as harmless as a flower but not nearly as worthy.


02. Mom, by Meghan Trainor


I don't know how closely I relate to the "my best friend" part of this song, because my mother and I still have a somewhat complicated relationship - but we've gotten much closer in recent years, and I value my mother greatly. She went through unspeakable trauma and still stuck around to mother me the best she could, and while she wasn't perfect ... well, what mother is? Certainly not me.

But she's my mom - and she has given all she ever had to doing the best she knows how in this life. There is no other person on this planet that I would look up to more than her as the role model of what it means to have a survivor spirit. As far as I'm concerned, she is the original Undaunted Woman.


03. In My Daughter's Eyes, by Martina McBride


This has been a song I've kept close to my heart for years - the song that expresses so much of what I want to be in the eyes of my daughters, and how much I want to leave them someday with the impression that they were well-loved by a mother who gave everything she had to momming successfully.

My children are my entire world, and all I want is to have done well as their mother - to raise successful young women who are strong and confident in their own power, assured of their own value, and certain of who they want to be.


04. A Mother's Prayer, by Celine Dion



This song is so simple, but so beautiful - and it speaks so honestly into what most mothers want for their children. Guidance, grace, safety, security, success. I want my daughters' lives to be filled with opportunities, to be filled with blessings. To overflow with everything I've ever wanted ... and everything I never had.



There are countless other amazing mom songs out there, but these are my personal favorites, the songs that most readily encompass both my experience with having a mother and my experience with being one. But for the moment (it's late Friday evening as I'm writing this for early Saturday morning) I'm exhausted and today was long. Josephine and my mother both ended up in separate emergency departments throughout the day (Josephine is fine, my mom is still undetermined), I'm running on just a few hours of sleep per night for this whole week, and frankly I've totally crashed headlong into the wall at the end of my stress tolerance for the day. I'm going to go cry in the shower, crawl into bed for the night, pat myself on the back for building BLOGuary with Sundays off, and hopefully come back with happy updates for Monday.


Which of these songs do you like best? What songs best remind you of your mother - or of your children? Did you check out David's dad post over at the Single Dad's Guide to Life? If you did, which of his songs was your favorite?

If you liked this post, share the link with your friends - it really helps me get the word out about my blog and it brings new readers into our community! But while you're here, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's the best way to never miss a post! And if you like this blog and want to take an active role in keeping it all running, here are two ways you can get involved:
  1. Make a donation through Paypal by clicking here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. This is a great way to help cover the costs of running this blog, and it's also a great way of saying, "Thanks for the content, how 'bout you get yourself a Frappucino?" Or if you want more regular involvement ...
  2. Skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens.
Patreon is a great way to help manage the costs of running this blog, and it's also where my readers get to read my novels while I write them! My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors, and sponsorship gives Patrons access to all sorts of content depending on their budget and desire for involvement: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls!

There are several other reward tiers to choose from too - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 50 patrons - when we get to 50 patrons I plan to double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you.

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

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

Friday, January 12, 2018

Friday Finds: Favorite Self-Care Products

This month is BLOGuary, and just like last January I've been blogging every day this month (except Sundays) - and just like last January, I've been loving the challenge of balancing daily blogging with daily life.

It's stressful, yes. I'm tired, yes.

But I also think focusing on blogging is a great way to keep from stressing over Eden's next surgery (the end of this month) and all the ways this one is more complicated than the others. Focusing on growing this blog is better than sitting around wringing my hands over my worries. It builds my momentum, gives me focus, clarity, and an outlet.

Oh, and have I mentioned I have a writing partner this BLOGuary? 'Cause I do. David Elliott is a single dad, a poet, a deep thinker, a movie lover, a food enthusiast, a sometimes comic - but more to the point, he's the blogger behind the Single Dad's Guide to Life, and I'm super glad we spent so much of last year getting to be friends! David has his own story to tell and has, in his own way, become very much an Undaunted Man ... and in spite of what he's been through, David is inspiring in that he keeps himself positive, maintains his perspective, and is almost always looking to spin a circumstance into a lesson. Definitely go over and check out his BLOGuary posts, especially his post for today ...

... which will be his counter to my Favorite Self-Care Products - how being a Knott's Berry Farm Brand Ambassador has blessed David's relationship with his daughter.


The last few years haven't just been rough on my emotions and my mental health - they've also been tough on my hair. Stress changes your body in countless ways - not the least of which is your hormones - and while stress has been changing my hormones, my hormones have been changing my hair. When I was younger, I had the most thick and luxurious shining reddish-brown hair. I don't even know how to describe it other than to say that I was totally proud of my good hair.

Now, things have changed a bit - my oldest daughter has thick, beautiful curls that spill all the way down her back almost to her waist. My youngest has straight hair, but hers is no less lovely; it's almost impossibly thick and incredibly silky.

They took my hair.

Before the girls, not only did I have great hair, but I had almost effortlessly great hair. These days, I have to work a lot harder ...
  1. STEP ONE: The first thing I do when I get in the shower is massage a little of Garnier Fructis's 3-Minute Undo Dryness Reversal Treatment into the long ends of my hair, using just enough water to make things work. While that sets in, I'm washing my face, body, etc.
  2. STEP TWO: After rinsing the 3-Minute treatment from my hair, I go ahead and wash it - lately I've been having a pretty serious love affair with Pantene Pro-V's Micellar Revitalize Shampoo because I'm totally amazed with the way it gives my hair life again without drying it out too much or weighing it down too much. Right in the middle - it's perfect! And my hair has shine again.
  3. STEP THREE: Now that my ends are less desperate and my hair is clean, I'm onto the real work - conditioning (yes, again - there are serious consequences if I don't). While the hair close to my scalp is just fine typically, the ends of my hair are chronically DRY - even right after I have a trim. There doesn't seem to be much I can do to battle this except to condition the hell out of my ends, so now we're up to Avon Advance Techniques Reconstruction 7 Conditioner, which I bought from my cousin not only because I was searching for a conditioner that would work but also because my cousin was an Avon rep and I wanted to support her as a small business. She's not a rep anymore because she ended up going into nursing, but if you'd like to try this conditioner, you can find it (and a rep) here. It wasn't a miracle for me and I'm just using it up because I don't like wasting stuff ... but who knows? Maybe it'll be just the thing you need. I like to let this soak into my ends while I pumice my feet, etc - then I'll massage it up through my hair just before rinsing.
  4. STEP FOUR: Now that my hair is mostly under control and the other showering-type things are finished, I've still got one more thing to do - comb through with a wide-toothed comb, squeezing out the excess water from my hair as I go. Then I finish up with a treatment with Garnier Fructis's Leave-in Color Shield Conditioner- which is amazing.

How nuts is it that this is something I have to do several times a week, otherwise my hair gets totally insane?

Seriously. It gets insane.

Fortunately, other aspects of my life are easier these days - like my nails. For the last several months, I've been seriously loving how easy and beautiful Jamberry nail wraps are. They go on in moments, are incredibly easy to take off, and have just about literally infinite potential for how you can choose to wear them. Use them as accents, cut them into strips or other shapes, alternate (or layer) them with polish or gel ... the possibilities are endless. But you can always count on the product experience being amazing (as long as you follow the directions, of course), and I definitely think they kick butt when compared to discount brands. Lately my favorites have been Copacabana and Royal Bliss, but I actually have a Jamberry wish list about a mile long.

One of my favorite things about Jamberry is the way they're always changing things up, and yet you can also always count on certain classics. They even have a Style VIP service you can subscribe to, which gives you 15% discounts on every regularly-priced item all. the. time. But what I really love (even though it's something that's unfortunately still on my "someday" list) is the Stylebox - a monthly subscription service that gives you two full sheets of Jamberry wraps ($30 value) for just $25 a month (free shipping, too!). You get to customize the box to make sure you'll love what's in it, and at $25 for enough wraps for 4 pedicures AND 4 manicures PLUS a ton of accent nails ... well, it's a good deal, that's all I'm saying. Besides, I love that my love for Jamberry can help support my amazing Jamberry babe, Elizabeth Legere, who becomes just a little bit more of a hero to me every time I learn more about her.

There is no suitable explanation.

There's something about soft lips and pretty colors that makes a girl feel spoiled, so when I'm needing a little boost to my confidence or just a little extra self-love, I go the extra mile with my pout - sortof.

I mean, I know you can find a thousand beauty bloggers and vloggers and gurus out there to tell you that you just simply cannot have a beautifully kissable mouth without such-and-such $20 gloss and so-and-so's $30 lipstick - but I've got a perfectly poutable mouth and I do it using the same kind of Strawberry Lip Smacker I've loved since middle school and my same all-time favorite lip stains.

In my dreams, though. But I do love me a red lip.

Those are my most major favorites lately, but here are some others:
  • The Bored Button app on my phone. I know this isn't technically a product, but I love that it's a great way to find cheap entertainment when I'm waiting somewhere, bored, or needed to veg out if I'm stressed. I also like that I can save games I really like for later. Currently I'm loving Make 7, Flight Sim, Let's Park, and It's Raining Boxes.
  • Goetze's Caramel Creams- these things are so yummy! They've been one of my most favorite candies since I was younger, and I don't see this changing anytime soon.
  • Lotions. I usually hate lotion because I serious despise the way it ALWAYS leaves my hands feeling completely nasty. But winter is in full force right now in East Tennessee, and my skin is almost always thirsty. So I've been tolerating the lingering lotion feel on my hands in order to keep my skin touchably soft. Plus, a good smelling lotion just feels totally indulgent, doesn't it?


What are your favorite self-care products, and when's your favorite time to use them? How do you relax after a long day, prep for a long day, or otherwise make it through a long day? Tell me, how do you indulge? I'd love to interact in the comments, so if you leave a comment with your thoughts on this post, be sure to click "notify me" in the comment box so you'll know when I've answered you back!

If you liked this post, share the link with your friends - it really helps me get the word out about my blog and it brings new readers into our community! But while you're here, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's the best way to never miss a post! And if you like this blog and want to take an active role in keeping it all running, here are two ways you can get involved:
  1. Make a donation through Paypal by clicking here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. This is a great way to help cover the costs of running this blog, and it's also a great way of saying, "Thanks for the content, how 'bout you get yourself a Frappucino?" Or if you want more regular involvement ...
  2. Skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens.
Patreon is a great way to help manage the costs of running this blog, and it's also where my readers get to read my novels while I write them! My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors, and sponsorship gives Patrons access to all sorts of content depending on their budget and desire for involvement: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls!

There are several other reward tiers to choose from too - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 50 patrons - when we get to 50 patrons I plan to double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you.

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

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


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