Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Interviewing the #UndauntedMAN? Featuring David Elliott

It was August 2017 when I posted the first in this series, an interview of Jodie Pierce, an author friend of mine who has survived inspiringly despite the way life has conspired to totally kick her in the face. She lives with several mental health diagnoses, has survived traumatic domestic abuse, and still walks around with her shoulders back and her head high. In September, the interview featured Elizabeth Brico, who took time from her own blog to chat with me about her own experiences with mental illness, domestic violence, and even heroin addiction. She's doing her best to rock life these days, and I was so proud to have been able to shine a spotlight on her here.

In October, Maria Hernandez (nominated by Elizabeth Brico) shared her story of adoption, her struggles with confidence and finding her place in the world, as well as some of her journey through living with postpartum depression. She had a moving sense of positivity, and was such a joy to work with! November brought Keisha Harold to the blog (nominated by my sweet cousin, Dana), and Keisha shared how her faith in Christ helped her turn her life around after childhood violence and her own battles with addiction led her life down a path of toxic relationships. Her story and her perspective were incredibly inspiring!

December's Undaunted Woman was Elizabeth Legere, who I met by accident in the Dollar Tree This woman has come to be such a sweet source of blessing and inspiration in my life - she has survived serious health issues in both herself and one of her children, horrific violence in relationships, and so many other things - but she's standing strong, staying positive, and rocking life as a mother of two, a full-time college student, and my personal Jamberry Consultant. Oh yeah, and she manages a regular day job too, because she's unstoppable.

This month my Interviewing the Undaunted Woman series is branching out to include an Undaunted Man among its ranks - David Elliott, of the Single Dad's Guide to Life. David and I have been working together all month, writing like maniacs as BLOGuary tore through our lives like a whirlwind. It was great having a writing partner this year though, and while I can't say blogging six days a week (daily except Sundays) was any easier this year than it was last year, I can say without a doubt that it has been much more fun.

So, considering the partnership for this month and the things I've learned about David's personal story, it seemed only fitting to set him in his rightful place among the ranks of the Undaunted. But first, go get yourself a cup of coffee and a sandwich - he's wildly entertaining and a pretty decent blogger in his own right. Forgive us both for the length of this post.

Ready?


Tell me about yourself - what's your story, and how did you become an undaunted man?
Way back in the ancient times, when people wore bell bottomed jeans and thought shirts with collars open down to their belly button and wearing gold chains was fashionable, a baby boy was torturing his mother with a 23 hour delivery. Ok, maybe my story isn’t that bad. In truth, I grew up in a fairly strict conservative home in La Mirada California, which given the proximity to L.A. seems like an paradox, but was true nevertheless. Whatever my origins, I grew up lower middle class, and bland.

I don’t think I had to turn into anyone else until I got married to my now ex-wife. Back in the spring of 2005 I married a woman who would change my life. I suppose no one gets out of marriage without their lives changed in some fashion. And while I knew there were issues there, I didn’t realize how difficult they were going to be.

Most of the issues we dealt with at the beginning were external. New Job. Moving. Getting pregnant right away. All of those things would have been difficult at the very least. Multiple major life changes create chaos. But then her brother started dying of cancer and all hell broke loose. It’s not that he started dying. It’s that they screwed him up in the process and practically gutted him along the way. Most of the last eight months of his life were spent in hospitals.

I went into super husband and father mode. I took on every last little thing as my ex-wife sunk into depression and despondency. I don’t want to get into all of her issues necessarily. It’s the ones which related to me, which made life hard. She wouldn’t clean. She wouldn’t cook. And she didn’t work. She practically never left her room.

But when she did finally begin to leave her room the depression became something else. Maybe it was there all along. Maybe not. But her depression revealed itself to be part of a larger personality disorder which involved manipulation, lies and being gas-lighted.

Coming from the conservative background I was raised in, I didn’t believe in divorce. Unfortunately, not believing in it doesn’t stop you from doing other stupid stuff to try to deal with the pain inside when every day feels like a constant rejection. And after every time we were intimate she would tell me about all of my problems and how I wasn’t enough. It doesn’t stop it from happening either.

It’s the things I did during this time which still haunt me. And it created the perfect storm. Eventually it would lead to me hitting rock bottom, sitting in the apartment my ex and I were vacating, staring at the ceiling tiles and thinking my life was hopeless.

Honestly, when my ex told me she was leaving me, part of me still wanted to figure it out, no matter how much pain she had caused me. And another part felt relieved not to have to deal with her. (A belief I now realize was ridiculous.) The one thing I feared the most, however, was what would happen to my daughter.

I would love to say the court system is even-handed in this country. And maybe part of it tries to be. But my experience with the courts is favor goes to the mother. I won’t get into my frustrations with this as they are long and not really part of my story. But when the crashing realization I wouldn’t get my daughter even half time fell on me, I realized how much more I needed to become for my daughter.

I had to overcome the fears her mother would encourage about me, and get beyond the barriers to communication which arose as a result of the crumbling marriage. My daughter’s mother had years to poison feelings toward me. And it’s not that my daughter didn’t love me. But my daughter feared me, which hurt almost as much.

I knew I needed to make a turn around. It began with taking the time to spend quality time with my daughter every weekend. This meant outings and playtime and all forms of engagement. And slowly but surely, things began to turn around.

I learned so many things from this time. But the biggest thing I learned from this is about what is possible and what is not possible. It comes down to a realization about what I can and cannot be responsible for. I am responsible for what can and cannot be done only as regards to myself. And if I live up to my own expectations, it’s the only thing I can hope for.

So much of me had been tied into what others thought about me. The truth is, the most important person in this world I need to please is myself. Not in some egocentric way or hedonistic way. But I needed to live up to the expectations I set for myself at the end of the day and not worry about what others thought. And this would make me the most happy. This would make me an undaunted man.


Coming from a single mom perspective, I'm horrified that your daughter's mother would want to turn your daughter against you. As the mother of abandoned daughters, I can't imagine wanting anything more than for my daughters to have a healthier relationship with their dad - and for me to be able to trust him with them - regardless of how he and I now feel about each other. But I can imagine how the relationship stuff really gutted you as a man, too. So have you ever struggled with confidence and/or self-worth? If yes, how did you overcome that struggle - and if no, how did you avoid it?
I really struggled with self-confidence for years in school because I was a really shy boy and had a hard time making friends. And when my parents switched schools when I was eight I lost all my friends and connections. It took years to rebuild them. And it really didn’t happen until I started making friends with people at church in high school that things started to turn around.

First, my friends helped me find the things about myself which I found valuable. They made me realize I had a lot to give. Second, they encouraged me to step outside of myself and become more than the kid I was before. They ended up changing my views on a lot of things. This doesn’t mean my parents taught me poorly. It’s just my friends helped me get rid of the negative self-talk and negative self-image which had built up over years.

And then going off to Berkeley was a big boost of self-confidence. Not only the fact I was capable of getting into a school of Berkeley’s magnitude, but going out there and being able to be me and draw other people of like minds and interests to myself changed me. It seemed to turn things around.


It's amazing how much a little independence can change your confidence and impact how you see yourself as a person. What's the one thing you've survived that makes you feel most like an "undaunted man?"
If I was to discuss one thing which I survived and made me realize I could get through anything it would have to be my divorce and the relationship with my daughter. Bottoming out on both of those things, I knew things needed to change. But at the same time, so much was out of my control. Dealing with divorce and rebuilding the relationship with my daughter made me realize how much I could do. It made me realize I could accomplish anything, and that I could face any obstacle.


I've definitely been there. Divorce is such a common thing in our society; there are so many people who think nothing of it, expect no damage, even plan for it in advance. But it wrecks everything when you have you whole self invested and end up losing out. But these days, what aspect of your current life do you find most rewarding?
It depends on what you mean by rewarding. From one point of view, the part of my life I find the most rewarding would be the growth in the relationship with my daughter. She inspires me to be a better person. And I cannot imagine where I would be without her. As far as personal accomplishments, beginning my blog and starting to write and see people respond to my writing is very rewarding in a different kind of way.


It's funny how those two things can be so connected, and yet so separate. Parenting colors your whole world - it must, in order for it to be done well, I think. But all the same, you have to have something of your own, and I can definitely relate to how meaningful it can be for writing to be that thing. So tell me this: qhat's your favorite successful strategy or coping mechanism for dealing with challenging people or situations, and how is that strategy impacted by what you've survived?
For me it’s the serenity prayer. It comes down to remembering the things I can affect and the things which I have no control over. And then I do the things I can to improve the situation and relationship and give the rest to God as I really have no control over the rest. And if things change, great. And if they don’t, I realize I am not the one who can change them.


That's a strong perspective, actually - or maybe I just say that because I agree with it. Remembering where the end of your own power lies is powerful in itself, and knowing that you've done all you can provides a certain relief. What other men do you most admire, and why?
I don’t know off the top of my head. I would say I have had difficulty with some of my father figures. They have not worked out like I would have liked. I realize no man is perfect, but when physical and sexual abuse by male role models have occurred in your past, you don’t really want to be like those men.

I can say I want to be more like Jesus or Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King. They all had character traits to be admired. Whether forbearance, generosity or love for fellow man, they exemplified amazing virtues I would love to emulate.


I begin to see more and more why you fit so well into this series; with that being said, what one quality serves you best as an undaunted man?
I would say my perseverance serves me the best. I think it makes me keep trying even when all hope seems to be lost. Of course there are things which I cannot accomplish. But for those things I can, the belief in myself and my drive to complete something when I start it no matter how long it takes has served me well.


Perseverance is definitely a good quality to have. what one quality are you most looking to improve in yourself?
If I had one thing I wanted to improve about myself it would be my defensiveness. Maybe it’s from years of abuse. Or maybe some part of me feels a need to be right. Probably, it’s a bit of both. But I get defensive sometimes when people say things about me. Obviously, no one wishes to be run over. And we do need to protect ourselves from others who would run us over. At the same time, it’s not always a good look when someone says something and we take it as an attack. Sometimes they don’t mean anything negative and the defensiveness kicks in. It’s not a good look.


I can relate. I think when you've survived hard things, it makes it really hard to let your guard down or stop yourself from internalizing things. It makes me defensive too - or maybe just more sensitive to perceived slights and rejections, even when the other side of me believes the slights/rejections to be unintended. So if you could do any one thing right now to help other men become undaunted, what would you be doing?
Honestly, I would be doing exactly what I am right now. I love to write and communicate. And I think this forum best suits me for reaching out to other men who have struggled through similar situations. I want to let them know I can be there for them and help them out. And above all, I want them to realize they are not alone. The one thing which hurts us more than anything is the fear we are alone in our problems. When we feel alone, these problems overwhelm us. I want other men to know when they are struggling with divorce, I get them. When their coping mechanisms hurt them even though they are just trying to get by, I know what that’s like and have been there. And when they need a listening ear, I hear them as well.

If you actually forced me to think beyond this, I would have to say I would go to more divorce workshops and work groups. Women are really good at the banding together thing. Men, not so much. We feel like we need to tackle problems alone. Because sometimes we feel like a failure if we feel we need to reach out to someone. As a man, I get that. But as a divorced parent who has been through a lot, I know I need to feel heard. I would go to places where other men could feel heard.


Understandable. Men are still only human, after all, and still just as subject to the emotional need for companionship and to be understood. With that in mind, if you could stand in front of every man on the planet right now and speak into their hearts, what would you most want to say to them?
Life is a journey. We plan, sweat, and work to get what we want. But because life is a journey, it takes us on detours, back streets, and side roads. We may have all the plans in the world, but nothing turns out exactly as we think it. Don’t be upset at this prospect. And certainly don’t give up hope when things do not turn out as planned. Because one of the constants of the universe is nothing turns out exactly as we would like.

What you should remember when things change is that you now have a whole new set of opportunities before you. Think about where you stand now. Think about the possibilities in the future. And then go for it. For me, it’s like a road trip. I start at point A. I have a point B in mind. How I get there will never be exactly as planned. But my favorite part of any road trip is those unplanned things which occur. Whether it’s driving through large redwood trees or skipping rocks on a riverbank, I never forget those times. Those times I remember long after the road trip concludes. Your personal journey should be the same way. Start at point A. Head towards point B. But take time to appreciate how you get from point A to point B and don’t be upset when things don’t go as planned.


Thanks for being such a good sport with this interview, David, and for being so open to being honest and vulnerable with your answers. Having a man among the interviewed gives everyone a richer look at what it takes to be undaunted - to walk through life looking for the best, with your heart ready for the good but your mind always prepared for the bad. Life is different after you've seen the dark side of it, and being able to keep moving forward is admirable.

But you're right - it is easy for women to band together, and I think that has made it simple for me to interview women here. We understand each other in different ways, and it's sometimes easier for us to be vulnerable because we're already expected to be that. But for a man, I know there's a different level of openness required in order to be able to take out the baggage and sift through it in front of an audience. Thank you for sharing so much of that here.


If there was anything about this interview that inspired you or something you felt you (or someone you know) could relate to, make sure you leave a comment below - I'd love to hear from you, and I'm sure David would love the gesture of appreciation! Be sure you check out his blog, too - it's a great place to hang out!


If you liked this post, share the link with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new readers to the Undaunted community! Also while you're here, subscribe by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's the best way to never miss a post! If you like this blog enough to want to take an active role in keeping it running, here are the best two ways to get involved:
  1. Make a donation through Paypal by clicking here; you choose any dollar amount 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 another way to manage the costs of running this blog, but it's also where my readers get to read my works while I write them! Patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors, and sponsors gain access to all sorts of content - depending on their budget and desire for involvement: there are several reward tiers to choose from, and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our big goal right now is 50 patrons - and when we hit that goal, I plan to double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same small monthly contribution from you.

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, social media, or even Patreon, always know that my brand is literally 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 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 30, 2018

Tuesday Talk: Self-Care For Single Moms

Okay, I don't know if y'all noticed, but this month has been INSANE. January consisted of:

Yeah. So if you missed the counts, that's 31 days, 23 blog posts, 13 goals set, 10 days of gleeful stat-checking, 6 doctor's appointments, 4 LAFFS, 2 poems, 1 fiction chapter, one birthday, one surgery, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Except not the partridge. Or the pear tree.

Anyway, this month has been a little busy - so busy that I haven't had time to put new Jamberry wraps on, or take a nap for no reason, or soak in a long bath. I haven't treated myself to lunch, kicked back with a glass of wine, or spoiled myself with a present.

But February is coming, you guys - and February is the month of (my birthday) love so I'm planning to kick back, enjoy some downtime, and let this coming month be a time of rest.

Not entirely of course, because I need to be writing or I'll die of misery ... but I'm at least going to make sure I complete ONE self-care task every day. Something a little more than just the little things for once, you know?

Wanna join me?


Here's the challenge: take the list below (make sure you pin the graphic!) and make sure you complete one item every day through the month of February. These items don't have to be done in any particular order, and they don't all have to get done; you just choose one each day (even if you did it yesterday but want to do it again) and give yourself the gift of a little tender loving care. 

Especially if you're single and the only one there to tender love you is you. Someone's gotta do it, right?

Besides, they say other people will treat you the way you teach them to treat you - so teach by example and pamper yourself this month!


So many of the things on this list went by the wayside for me this month, or otherwise lost their pleasure factor in the midst of everything going on. But in February, I'm determined to give myself the gifts of patience and relaxation for my birthday, by showing myself a little extra love throughout the month. I'm betting by the beginning of March I'll be fully recovered, feeling totally luxurious, and ready to break down the way the month worked out for me, self-care-wise. (Psst: Make sure you subscribe so you don't miss the update. There's a form at the bottom of the right sidebar; just fill it out with your name and email!)


What are your favorite self-care techniques? How do you get luxurious and make yourself feel special even if you're single? Leave me your best tips and tricks in the comments - I'm always looking to try new things!

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 the way we plan out our schedules and our vision boards for the year, to what we're feeling lately and how parenting has changed us as people. Make sure you check out David's blog too, to see how he's countered my posts and also just to hang out because he's awesome.

If you liked this post, share the link with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new readers to the Undaunted community! Also while you're here, subscribe by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's the best way to never miss a post! If you like this blog enough to want to take an active role in keeping it running, here are the best two ways to get involved:
  1. Make a donation through Paypal by clicking here; you choose any dollar amount 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 another way to manage the costs of running this blog, but it's also where my readers get to read my works while I write them! Patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors, and sponsors gain access to all sorts of content - depending on their budget and desire for involvement: there are several reward tiers to choose from, and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our big goal right now is 50 patrons - and when we hit that goal, I plan to double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same small monthly contribution from you.

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, social media, or even Patreon, always know that my brand is literally 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 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 29, 2018

Monday Minute: Plan With Me


I've been meaning for a while to add "Plan With Me" posts to my blog for a while, and with January finally drawing to a close, now seemed like a great time to start talking a little about how I keep my life organized. I've done it in small bits here and there along the way - sharing my quarterly goals as well as talking about habit stacking, the Pomodoro technique, and some of my favorite ways to stay sane in my crazy single mom life. In 2016, I even wrote about some of my favorite apps for organization and productivity - and while the list of apps I use on the regular has changed a little, the purpose for most of what I use has stayed the same. (Stay tuned for an updated version of that list, coming sometime in February.)

But I've never actually gone so far as to share my actual schedule and how I really manage my busy life - even though the planner and journaling community is totally one of the places where I feel most at home, and even though I was wild into the digital scrapbooking craze several years ago, and even though I'm madly in love with the whole concept of everything Project Life. (Excuse me while I sip my super-over-large-half-caf-double-whip-extra-lactase-because-I'm-lactose-intolerant-blahdiblah-complicated-mochaccino-on-the-rocks.)

Anyway, here's the coming week, digitally prepared because for various reasons I cannot for the life of me keep up with an actual paper planner ...


I love that quote on the side - "Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations." It's such a great reminder to take a step back and breathe because even when life is so hard and you're pretty sure there's no way you can stand up under the burdens you're carrying ... you can. And you will. And so will I, because life goes on - and while the good times always seem to be so terribly temporary, it's so important not to lose sight of the fact that bad times are equally temporary and this too shall pass. Even a mansion looks like a mess while it's being built, and sometimes I just need to remind myself to hold on for the ride.

And what a ride this week is setting up to be! Today consists of finishing this blog post while the laundry works out its issues in the washing machine, chucking the laundry in the dryer before heading off to therapy, and coming home to haul it upstairs. Josephine will be tasked with sorting it later (while I make dinner) after I pick her up from after-school drama club. And speaking of Joey, I still need to call and reschedule her podiatry appointment. (Hang on.)

Now that that's done, let's look at tomorrow, when I'll be running errands most of the day. I need to check my post office box because there's stuff waiting in it, need to pick up groceries for the week, snacks and drinks for Joey and I to have at the hospital on Wednesday, and easy comfort foods for Eden to have while she's home with me post-surgery, and also need to call her pediatrician with an update about the effects of a recent medication adjustment. I'll also be setting up things for her do while she's home healing for the next week (or two), writing a blog post, and making sure to top off my social media feeds. (I use buffer for post management, but am 100% in charge of what gets posted, and 100% present in the comments sections, in case you were wondering. It's all me, just more dependable and with regular scheduling.) I'm hoping I'll have some time squeezed in there for packing a tote bag for Wednesday, as well. We'll see.

Wednesday is surgery day, which means up early, out the door hungry, and maintaining my cool in front of my kids. We'll ride quietly to the hospital, Eden will likely start nervous-chatting once we get there, and Joey and I will await the magical moment when the Versed kicks in and everything gets a little more funny for a while. Then the doctors will take my munchkin away, I'll pretend I have to pee so I can cry a little in the bathroom without Joey seeing, she'll hug me when I come out because this kid is too observant for her own damned good, and we'll settle in for the wait - probably with snacks because she eats like a trucker and will be utterly starved by this point. The afternoon will be a tossup - we don't know how long the surgery will last, how well it will go, what complications might arise, how long recovery will take, or when we'll get home for the evening. At some point I'll also still be blogging and I also owe my Patrons February's fiction chapter on the first, so ...

Thursday is about rest and recovery for Eden, stress management and LOTS of writing for me, and back to school for Joey. We'll get Jo off to school, then Eden and I will just see where the day takes us. At some point, it'll take me to the laptop, where I'll write until my fingers fall off, or until I have to jump up and run away from it because Eden's barfing or hurting or crying or otherwise needing the skills of Dr. Mom.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday pretty much look the same as Thursday, with the variation that instead of writing new material, I'll be focused on rereading one of my novels in prep to FINALLY FOR THE LOVE OF GOD write the sequel to the aformentioned novel. If I can accomplish this during that downtime, not only will I be able to check it off my first quarterly goals list for 2018, but then I'll be able to get a head start on actually (have I mentioned finally?) writing the book.

After that ... well, after that, I'll take a breath, soldier up, and dive into the next week. Because that's what I do.


Do you keep a planner - and if so, do you prefer digital or paper formats? If you use digital planning, what apps are your favorites, and if you prefer paper, what planner are you currently using? Even if you don't keep a planner, what sorts of things are on your schedule this week? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

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 serious things like the impact of blogging and how to raise strong women to more lighthearted topics, such as crock pot foodfitness, and travel. Make sure you check out David's blog for "Week In The Life Of" post too, because seriously you guys. This guy had an INSANELY busy weekend with tons of life stuff going on, and he still managed to kick ass with his very first vlog!

If you liked this post, share the link with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new readers to the Undaunted community! Also while you're here, subscribe by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's the best way to never miss a post! If you like this blog enough to want to take an active role in keeping it running, here are the best two ways to get involved:
  1. Make a donation through Paypal by clicking here; you choose any dollar amount 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 another way to manage the costs of running this blog, but it's also where my readers get to read my works while I write them! Patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors, and sponsors gain access to all sorts of content - depending on their budget and desire for involvement: there are several reward tiers to choose from, and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our big goal right now is 50 patrons - and when we hit that goal, I plan to double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same small monthly contribution from you.

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, social media, or even Patreon, always know that my brand is literally 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 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 27, 2018

Saturday Spectacular: My Digital Vision Board For 2018

When I first heard of vision boards, I pretty much fell in love with them except for one small thing - for the most part, we are living in a paper-and-pen world - and I'm a mostly-digital girl.

Society at large may be heading more and more in a digital direction with the ease of e-readers, portable computer devices, and even wearable smartphones taking the world by storm. But the part of the world most filled with my people - the somewhat productivity obsessed journal/planner community - has been heading back to the comfort and tactile security of the old ways, complete with notebooks aplenty. There are pens, markers, washi tape, stamps, and stickers abounding, and just as I find my people, I once again find myself on the outside looking in.

I love the creativity of the planner community, but I also love how perfectly structured it is - while allowing the freedom to change and adjust what doesn't work for one person even if it worked perfectly well for another. I love the beauty and ease of structured systems like the Happy Planner - being able to basically just fill in the blanks means that you have less pressure to create and more freedom to just do, but you also have lots of space to individualize with stickers, doodles, etc.

But I also love the individuality and changeability of the less structured bullet journal system, which is amazingly free-form and easy to change up at a whim - but that's because you carry all the pressure of creating your own layouts, spreads, and pages on your own. My favorite notebooks for this tend to be composition-style books with dot grid paper; they're small and easy to carry, totally affordable, and the dot grid helps keep everything straight and even-looking without being as visually busy as full grid-lined paper.

Still, there's so much stuff involved, and I don't like a lot of stuff especially when I need it to be portable. The notebook itself could be fine - but then I need pens in various colors and styles, stickers, tapes, stamps, stencils. I'm still a perfectionist in a lot of ways too, so I'll also need white-out or some kind of mistake-corrector and then ... well, it just all gets out of hand. I don't want to have to carry a backpack with me just to know whether or not I can make an appointment next Thursday at 8:30, you know?

So I use my phone.

But what's all that got to do with vision boards?
Using my phone for productivity means I use my phone for just about everything - scheduling, organization, entertainment, and yes, even motivation. I keep a folder full of images on my phone, mostly with quotes on them; but I also love using the power of imagination to forward my progress in life and keep myself inspired. Visualizing success in my various endeavors is what helps me remember why I'm trying so hard even on the days when my efforts don't seem to be paying off, and keeping that visualization consistent is what helps me see progress when some is made.

And since vision boards are visualization personified ...


In recent years, I've loved using Pinterest as a tool for digitizing my vision boards. I made one in the beginning of 2017 that was filled with affirmations, reminders of my goals, and tips on things I wanted to work on, such as mindfulness. It was very empowering and incredibly encouraging - and if I had used Pinterest more in 2017, it might have been more helpful. But since I wasn't on Pinterest all that often, I didn't look at my board and visualize the results of it as much as I could have - so even though I did manage to successfully internalize several of the ideas there, I didn't make as much progress as I would have liked.

(NOTE: I would normally link to the 2017 board here, but since I delete each old one when I create the new one, there isn't a link to share. I'm also not going to share an impermanent link to 2018's board, knowing that in the future, readers of this post wouldn't be able to go see the board. However, I will share a collage graphic below, and readers of this blog can always choose to come see all my boards - including my most current vision board - on my Pinterest account.)

For 2018's vision board, I looked through my old board one last time, deleting pins that no longer fit where I am in life, where I'm going in life, or what I needed to learn or internalize. Then I took what was left and put it into my 2018 board, thinking carefully about each pin and how it spoke to my goals and plans. Once I got that done, I actually searched other people's Pinterest vision boards for ideas - it's amazing how creative people are on there!

This is my current board, zoomed WAY out.

This in itself would be plenty if I took the time every day to really go look at my board and visualize where I want this year's momentum to take me - but I knew I wouldn't, and I wanted something a little more accessible. So I took some of the most compelling images from my board and created the collage below - the graphic is also tucked safely into my cloud storage, where I can access it at anytime for a little jolt of motivation.

Favorites from my 2018 Vision Board pins.

I love the way this little board turned out, and I also love that there's so much more content for me to work with on my actual Pinterest board.

I won't break down every pin I ended up pinning because that would takes ages, but the basic concept of my hope for 2018 is laid out on the graphic above. That being said, here's the breakdown of that, as best I can manage from left to right and top to bottom:

  1. #UNDAUNTEDWOMAN is the hashtag I've been using intermittently for months now to represent my brand. I use it to label most of my social shares of the Undaunted Interviews, and whenever I'm talking about any woman I admire or strategy I love that helps women be more self-empowered. This year I hope to see it grow, and I'd love to see more interaction from the community with nominations for interviews.
  2. The little shadow couple were included because while I don't specifically aim to be in a relationship by any certain time or have any frilly wedding-gown dreams, I do miss the companionship of a good man in my life, and would like to open my heart more to possibility just in case it shows up.
  3. "A little progress each day adds up." - This was included to remind me not to get down on myself. Sometimes even hitting a goal is discouraging to me because even though I should celebrate hitting the goal, the smallness of the goal hurts my heart. That being said, I do increase the goals each time, and I keep hitting them consistently (some of which are because I have help - shoutout to Michelle, my awesome PA) ... but I want to hit BIG goals, dammit. So I need to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.
  4. The "Welcome Home" sign is because my personal life is complicated and thus, so are certain parts of my living situation. I'd love to see things get simplified in this in 2018.
  5. I included the US map with "adventure awaits" for two reasons - one, to remind me that life is an adventure, and two, to inspire me to think more about traveling, even if it's on a small scale.
  6. The Zoo Knoxville emblem is because my daughters and I truly love our local Zoo, and I'd love for us to get to spend more time there this year.
  7. Obviously, the car is because I need one pretty bad. My van's transmission has been given an "I don't know when, but sometime soon" death sentence from my trusty mechanic; apparently it's slowly eating its own gears away and the fact that the transmission pan always has metal shavings in it is very bad, indeed. Which leads me to ...
  8. Gold coins, raining down into waiting hands. Money. I have not lived a life of abundance, and because of that I don't tend to have an attitude of abundance. Seriously, it's bad - I even hoard perfumes and other things like that until they end up expiring because I don't know when I'll be able to get more, so I'm "saving it for a special occasion." This year I want to get better about the famine attitude that triggers this behavior. Oh, and this is also one of my ways of asking the universe to send me money I can use for a new car, so there's that.
  9. "Vibrate Higher." - A reminder to keep positive, to stay in the right mindset, to encourage myself, to ignore the "haters" in my life, and to keep shooting for my stars. To work toward a mindset that will attract better things.
  10. "Beautiful. Kind. Loved. Enough." - A reminder that I am all of these things, always, without needing to qualify.
  11. The whole #GIRLBOSS idea is wildly inspiring to me for so many reasons! I won't go into all of them in this post though - because honestly, if you know me at all and how much I want women to find empowerment and self-confidence in this world, you already get it anyway.
  12. "I Am Courageous." - A reminder to keep being a Warrior even as I strive to build Momentum.


Do you create vision boards? If not, why? If so, do you make them with actual posterboard and stuff, or do you prefer digital methods like me? Either way, what kinds of things do you like to put on your vision board - or what would you put on it if you were to make one? (P.S. Really want to actually look at my Pinterest version? You can find all my boards on my account here - the current vision board I'm working with should be listed right at the top.)



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 serious things like the impact of blogging and how to raise strong women to more lighthearted topics, such as crock pot foodfitness, and travel. Make sure you check out David's blog too - his vision board is beautiful, as is the meaning behind it.

If you liked this post, share the link with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new readers to the Undaunted community! Also while you're here, subscribe by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's the best way to never miss a post! If you like this blog enough to want to take an active role in keeping it running, here are the best two ways to get involved:
  1. Make a donation through Paypal by clicking here; you choose any dollar amount 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 another way to manage the costs of running this blog, but it's also where my readers get to read my works while I write them! Patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors, and sponsors gain access to all sorts of content - depending on their budget and desire for involvement: there are several reward tiers to choose from, and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our big goal right now is 50 patrons - and when we hit that goal, I plan to double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same small monthly contribution from you.

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, social media, or even Patreon, always know that my brand is literally 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 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.)

Friday, January 26, 2018

Friday Feels: January

It's been several months now since I stared this series, and these Friday Feels posts are still some of my favorites here; I love how simple they are but also that they give me a different way to sit down and examine how I feel about what I'm going through in the moment.

These posts make a huge difference in my mental health too, because they give me clarity. I use a random feelings generator to make my list each month, and because these aren't labels I've put on myself, they force me to get outside the box a little bit and really think about what I'm going through in fresh ways. For example, I may not realize that I've been so angry lately because I've been really sad or worried about such-and-such thing, but sitting down with a sometimes unexpected emotional label and thinking it through often helps me connect and clarify what I'm really feeling, even if I hadn't previously understood it well.

January has been a wild month, and I've been pretty much feeling all the feels. BLOGuary (daily blogging through January except for Sundays - this year with a blogging partner!) is kicking my butt, but I've been keeping up and I'm totally proud of myself. I'm still keeping up with Patreon too, although I have admittedly been a bit late on a few things. And in the meantime, my oldest turned 14 yesterday and my youngest is having surgery the 31st. So we're putting it mildly when we say there has been a lot going on in my life.

Oh yeah, and I got sick too, so there's that.

Like I said - all the feels. Let's see which ones pop up this time, shall we?


1. Calm:
This month there has been one awesome thing that has helped keep me calm despite everything chaotic going on in my life - my habit tracker. When I'm stressed or overwhelmed, I tend to forget pretty much everything, so using this app to track things like my water consumption, whether I've taken my Prilosec or not, and how I'm doing with blog views and book sales has made a huge difference for me.

A few years ago I got really into bullet journaling and even had a pretty kickass DIY planner, but it got to be too much of a hassle to keep up with and carry around, so I've been searching ever since for just the right combination of apps to keep me moving toward my goals without becoming overwhelming to manage. I haven't quite got there yet, but using Google Keep to manage notes and tasks, Google Calendar to keep appointments, blog dates, and Patreon obligations, and my Loop Habit Tracker has made all the difference for me.

Now if only I could get my various journals condensed and under control - but hey, one step at a time, right?


2. Confused:
What is it about people that makes them actively seek unhappiness? Seriously, there are so many people in the world today who seem like they're actually looking for things to be upset over and offended about, and I just don't get it. In a society so focused on building happiness, seeking contentment, and cultivating mindfulness practices, what on Earth are we trying to so hard to be miserable for? From politics to Hollywood to product reviews and even the way we manage our relationships, it seems like we're always looking for fault, seeking to discount options, answers, and people before we even truly give anything a chance.

But how can we truly find happiness as a society or anything even close to resembling brotherhood as a community, when all we're really looking for is something to be upset about?

All I know is that I'm not willing to live my life that way or give the space in my mind to actively seeking trouble. Because I'm seeking my own happiness too - but I reckon it would a lot easier to find if we made more effort to look for it.


3. Elated:
This month, Fat Chance somehow shot right up the charts on Amazon, and ended up spending a little over a full week ranking in the top 100 (free) books in three separate categories. It went all the way up into the 200's in the entire free Kindle store and stayed there for nearly a day. I woke up every morning of that week, checked the sales stats for my novels, and proceeded to cry.

I've seen my books rank several times before over the years, but never for that long in one stretch. I'm still totally high on how amazing it was to watch that happen ... and now more determined than ever to make it happen again.


4. Heartbroken:
I don't know where the resilience comes from, but this month my little Eden is a hero. She's eight years old, and she's struggling to keep up in third grade despite being an unbelievably smart kid. She can remember just about anything, she learns as quick as lightning - but her attention span is just about zero. She's a kid living with anxiety, depression, abandonment issues - and on top of all of that, she's got health stuff. "Surgery" has become a regular thing in our world, and she takes it like a champ every time. Even when there's always another surgery to come, this is never the last one, and no one can guess how many more there will be.

She just takes it. She keeps getting up in the morning cranky because she is plagued by broken sleep and nightmares. She keeps taking forever to get ready for school because she's unfocused. She keeps demanding the same breakfast almost every single day because she's rigid.

She keeps trying, she keeps growing. She keeps learning. She climbs every wall life puts in front of her, she tolerates the poking and the prodding and the problems. And she does it no matter how much her body might be tired, her heart might be aching, and her mind might be in chaos.

She breaks my heart with the completeness of how awesome she is.


5. Jubilant:
Jubilance is fleeting - what goes up must come down, right? - but it has come and gone often throughout the month, showing itself in the moments of love I feel for my daughters as well as the pride that carried me through a tough week because of the crazy jump in Fat Chance downloads.

BLOGuary makes things busy for me, and in some ways it complicates a life that's already incredibly complicated. But it also feels good - it gives me time and space to think and express, to create, and to be who I am in this little corner of the world. These things to most people might seem only small ... but happiness is found in the little things anyway.


6. Lonely:
I'm putting a positive spin on everything because that's how I'm getting through each day. But each major thing happening this month has its own downside, too. BLOGuary is exhausting but I'm proud of myself for doing it and proud of what it accomplishes for my brand and my platform. And I'm thrilled to have been joined by a great writing partner who has made this month so much less stressful and so much more fun. Spending so much time chatting with David as we planned and coordinated our posts for this month has been a pleasure even as it pointed out to me how much I missed having strong relationships with my other writing friends. So I've been reaching out more.

Eden's a hero for taking every hit life sends her way standing strong. From one thing to the next, she just keeps on moving through life, and I'm amazed by her tolerance for stress as well as her willingness to stay hopeful and upbeat. But I know I deserve a certain portion of the credit for this as well - I am her biggest (and sometimes only) advocate. I'm her coach when she's afraid, her reminder when she's losing hold of herself, the anchor she leans on for control when she's drifting. And while this gives me pride and purpose as her mother, it does leave me aching for a advocate of my own, someone to coach me when I'm don't know what to do next, remind me when I forget that I can handle so more than I believe, and anchor me to something solid and safe. Because I am a strong woman - but I am still a woman.


7. Satisfied:
While I do admittedly suffer from the same cycles of loneliness that any single person deals with, I'm actually mostly satisfied with the single life at the moment. I like that I can talk to whoever I want, try different things to see what fits, and learn a little more about what works - and doesn't work - for me as a woman.

Not that I'm completely happy to stay single, mind you - and if the right opportunity to change my single status should come along I'd be totally open to it - but in the meantime, I'm not miserable because of being single, and in this time of so much growth and change in my life, I like that I don't also need to juggle date nights and things like that while I'm struggling to build my writing, guide my daughters, and put my life back together.

That being said, maybe having someone to team up with to face the challenges would be good too. I suppose I could be satisfied either way.


8. Secure:
Very few things in my life right now feel secure. Writing is an always changing thing, and it feels like it grows only in leaps and bounds, springing forward quickly, only to stall again until I've almost given up hope of any more progress. As such, my income is much the same - sometimes showing growth, other times not so much.

But motherhood is a place of security for me even when it's painful or I'm struggling or my kids are having a hard time. My girls and I are a solid unit - and while we definitely have our ups and downs, Team Kennedy is, and will always be, in it to win it.


9. Uncertain:
I try to stay positive for the most part and keep my eyes on the prize. I keep my quarterly goals list on my phone where I can look over it often, and I keep a file full of motivational and inspiring quotes on the cloud where I can easily access them at any time. I'm making it through each day, sometimes hour by hour, but mostly minute by minute.

But I'm stressed over things and uncertain of the future, because no matter what our goals are and how ambitiously we chase those goals, life is a fluid and unpredictable thing. There's no telling where I'm going to be in a year, a decade. No telling who will be part of my life at those times - and who won't be.

With so much uncertainty, it's easy to get anxious and worried - so I remind myself of the only thing I am certain of. Which is that I will still be standing, and I will still be trying.


10. Uncomfortable:
So much about my life has changed in the last five years - and there is still so much change to come. While I'm excited about the coming changes and what they could mean to my future, I'm still uncomfortable with processes that are unfamiliar to me and goals I'm afraid of never accomplishing. I'm uncomfortable with the idea of progress not made; this discomfort is sometimes impossibly driving and other times impossibly paralyzing, and both extremes trigger my anxieties in ways I often don't even notice until after the fact. You can call it discomfort, or you can call it fear of failure - or you can choose from any number of other things, but regardless of its name, this is the demon I battle with most often. Perhaps 2018 will be the year I can finally set it aside.


What have you been feeling so far in 2018, and how do your feelings this month differ from what you were feeling around this time last month? Leave a comment below and tell me this: if you were to choose one emotion that you felt the most during the month of January (so far), what would you choose, and why?

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 serious things like the impact of blogging and how to raise strong women to more lighthearted topics, such as crock pot food, fitness, and travel. Definitely check his blog to see how he countered my posts throughout the month. I loved his answer to today's post, as he expressed such similarity to my own feelings of overwhelm with daily blogging being such a huge endeavor.

If you liked this post, share the link with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new readers to the Undaunted community! Also while you're here, subscribe by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's the best way to never miss a post! If you like this blog enough to want to take an active role in keeping it running, here are the best two ways to get involved:
  1. Make a donation through Paypal by clicking here; you choose any dollar amount 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 another way to manage the costs of running this blog, but it's also where my readers get to read my works while I write them! Patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors, and sponsors gain access to all sorts of content - depending on their budget and desire for involvement: there are several reward tiers to choose from, and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our big goal right now is 50 patrons - and when we hit that goal, I plan to double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same small monthly contribution from you.

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, social media, or even Patreon, always know that my brand is literally 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 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 25, 2018

Thankful Thursday: Parenting Changes Everything ... And I'm Glad

I was barely eighteen years old when I got pregnant for the first time, and I was thrilled. I was in love and I was going to be a mother. I was young, yes - but I was ready. I quit smoking, I quit coffee. I quit chocolate. I took vitamins. I did everything right. And my baby died.

Just before it would have started to develop ears, ears I was already anticipating filling with music and stories and words of love and encouragement ... it died. It left my body and faded into the past just as certainly as if it had never existed, and now, thanks to an unfortunate system crash resulting in mass record loss at my doctor's office, there is barely even a record of it happening. Aside from a blip in the archives of the hospital emergency department I went to when the bleeding started, the most complete and accurate record of that lost child's existence can only be read in the jagged little scar it left on my heart in the brief few weeks of its life.

Even though nothing changed on the outside, that miscarriage made me childless in a way that I hadn't been before, and left me with a void of grief I had not previously experienced; it left my arms open and empty and craving the weight of young life.

We tried again. And again and again, for months with no results. I spoke with my doctor about fertility issues, had consultations discussing how long you had to "try" unsuccessfully before seeking help. Around the ten month mark, I was told 12 months was the customary time of "waiting to see."

15 months after my miscarriage, I was pronounced pregnant for the second time.

I spent my first trimester in fear and misery; I was plagued endlessly by hyperemesis gravidarum, coupled with an odd mix of emotions - an almost desperate hope to see this pregnancy through, but also an incredibly defiant rage.

I didn't smoke and I did take my vitamins - but I also ate chocolate and drank coffee whenever I wanted to, each bite of chocolate and each sip of coffee taken with a daring eyebrow lift into the ether, as if to say, "Come at me, Universe. I dare you."

The child lived, and in the moments of her formation, I became a mother - no longer childless.

In the years since her birth, I have become an entirely different person, with different views on nearly everything - with more wisdom and knowledge, yes, but also with more compassion and understanding, more patience, and a far more selfless heart.

Which is more than fair, I think, since it's also her fault that my breasts changed, my hips widened, my stomach lost what little tone it ever had, I still have GERD to this day, and my back has never been the same. And that was just Joey!


Today my oldest daughter turned fourteen.

Fourteen years ago today, I was lying in a hospital bed, nursing my fresh new c-section scar, arms full, heart bursting. I was doped up on morphine, relieved of the burden of a miserable pregnancy, and feeling impossibly pleased with the reward for my troubles. My fresh, pink, new baby girl had huge blue eyes, a full head of jet-black, glossy hair, and a perfectly pouty little rosebud mouth.

I wept, holding her - it felt like my heart was splitting open with love and gratitude, and everything I had every experienced suddenly felt worth it. (PS. Childbirth + Morphine = Endorphin High) I wept again when she was taken from me hours later to be examined, leaving my arms achingly empty. How had I existed before her?

I watched the seconds turn into minutes as the hands of the clock made their way around the dial, and hardly made it half an hour before I was ringing the nurses, demanding my child's return. No, I didn't want them to keep her in the nursery for me to rest - yes, I was sure she would be fine right in the room with me. In fact, she would be absolutely perfect right in the bed with me, cradled in my arms, her little head pillowed by the very flesh that worked so hard to form her.

Now, fourteen years later, that first live child has been joined by a second - and because of these two little girls and everything their existence has meant in relation to my own, everything about me is different.

And I love it.


Motherhood made me fierce.
My upbringing was not quiet and peaceful. I wasn't raised in a quaint little townhouse with delightful neighbors and sidewalk-lined streets, with gently loving parents who were able to see to my every need. I was not reared in an environment that took great pains to instill confidence and a sense of value in me.

But being raised with challenges made me resilient as a woman - and surviving those challenges mostly intact gave me the confidence to be fiercely protective as a mother. Twice now, I have looked down into the tiny face of a child borne of my own flesh and vowed, with all the intention I could muster, that that child would never be exposed to the same struggles I faced, that she would never be placed in violent hands, would never be exposed to substance abuse, would never know the crushing weight of believing that nowhere in the world is safe. I vowed to protect them, to watch out for them. To choose them and guard them and fiercely protect them. Always.


Motherhood made me selfless.
It doesn't matter how determined you are as a parent, you can't control the world. You can't protect your children from everything - and sometimes it's when you think you're doing the best you can, that you unintentionally expose them to things you would never have wanted for them. When my oldest daughter was 11 months old, I made the choice to leave personal security and the relative safety of complacency behind, to abandon a marriage that was no longer even pretending to be healthy. In addition to everything happening in my marriage, my infant daughter had also been diagnosed with a heart defect - and as I embarked on my first stint as a single mother, I was terrified at the prospect of dealing with everything alone. I was heartbroken and ashamed over the loss of my marriage, terrorized by violent threats, and struggling with the sadness of watching my child be abandoned. But I had become, above all, a mom - and my most solid commitment was to the idea of ensuring that my daughter grew up in a safe home filled with love, even if that meant risking everything about myself to create what I had hoped she would have.

So many years later, I am both awed and disgusted by the cycle of life's ups and downs - I am again a single mother, facing many of the same losses and challenges. Too, I face many of the same choices, with each path into the future carrying its own set of risks and promises, both for me as a woman and for my family as a whole. Despite my best efforts, my children have seen and been exposed to things I would have prevented if I'd been able to - but my children are secure in the knowledge that they come first with me always, despite any sacrifice, and that I would give my life to preserve and protect theirs.


Motherhood made me brave.
Completely disregarding the many challenges of single motherhood, motherhood of any kind is terrifying in itself - what if something happens to these children in my charge? How do you deal with sexual issues, identity crises, hurt feelings? Bullies? Dietary needs and restrictions? Are you putting them to bed too early? Not early enough? Is their diaper too tight? Shoes too small? How do you teach them respect for others, to be kind and compassionate? And how do you balance this with the need to teach them caution - the need to tell them that everyone is not a friend, that monsters are real and that we must be on guard? Where is the line between "Stranger Danger" and "Messed-Up Kid?"

It's a challenge, motherhood. An almost impossible balancing act. There is fear of failure, fear of loss, fear of shame, even fear of success. Motherhood is described as "the state of having your heart walk around outside of your body," and I find this to be a very accurate description indeed.

It's terrifying, sending my most treasured little "possessions" off to school each day knowing I might never see them again - and it's equally terrifying to have them with me, knowing that this world is full of chaos and life is such a fragile, unpredictable thing.

But moms? We rise to the challenge - and we do it with the kind of courage only love could create.


Motherhood made me conscious.
As a young girl, it was easy to look at the world around me with angry resentment. Everything was very clearly delineated, and right and wrong were incredibly easy for young me to label. My opinions were plentiful and always rock-solid - and I would defend my convictions with such passion that anyone who knew me was sure I'd grow up to be a lawyer. 

But there was so much I didn't know about the world, so much I didn't understand about the power of love, or fear, or rage. Over the years, I picked up lessons here and there, gleaned bits of compassion and glimpses of hope. But after all these years, it is in the eyes of my children that beauty blooms in the world again, all the lines blur, and black and white run gray together.

Because of my children I read books differently, listen to music differently, watch the news differently. And because of my children, I look at my life - and the world as a whole - so much differently. Because of them, because of the future forming right before my eyes, because of a family legacy that dies with me, because I wish so fervently to protect my daughters and give them what took me so long to find on my own ... because of my place as a mother and the lessons my children teach me each day, I have regained a hope for the future, an openness of heart, a willing eagerness to learn, and eyes that are opened to what matters in a way only motherhood could accomplish.


As a mother, there are so many things I "can't" do now, whether it's due to lack of time, lack of money, or lack of inclination - but I often find that I don't feel I'm missing out on anything. I'm not much of a party girl, the dating bar scene isn't for me, and I'm totally cool to curl up with my kids on a Saturday and watch movies together. For some, the dedication to parenting and resultant lack of external social life might seem like a sacrifice - but for this mom, it's purpose personified. But what about you? Are you a parent, and if you are, how has parenting changed you as a person - what do you see or do differently now? And how do you see your own parents differently now that you're an adult? I'd love to chat with you in the comments below!

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 fitness to travel to music and movies. Make sure you check out David's blog for his thoughts on these topics and more - you can even read about how fatherhood changed him as a man here.

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