Thursday, March 29, 2018

Thankful Thursday: Blessings Amid The Chaos

You know that old saying, "find the silver lining?"

Yeah, that saying used to be one of the (many) things that would instantly smash down on my rage button. I hated when people said that to me - "You just have to look for the silver lining." Ugh ... honestly, it still makes me a little mad.

The truth is, sometimes there is no silver lining. If your dog gets hit by a car and dies, there isn't a silver lining. "He's in a better place now" is not helpful to think of. It just isn't. And the fact is, it generally doesn't make the person hearing it actually feel any better. Because sometimes there is no silver lining, and something that sucks is just exactly what it is - something that sucks.

But sometimes ... sometimes there is a silver lining.


My life in the last few years has been so cram-packed with chaos that I'm honestly not really sure how I've survived it all as intact as I still am. I've lost friendships, I've lost autonomy, I've lost income, I've lost love. I've lost trust. I've lost the sense of "home." I've lost hope, more times than I care to count.

But slipped in between the many losses ... there have been undeniable gains.

I lost a relationship - but I regained a sense of independence.

I lost friends I had thought would be with me for a lifetime - but I gained new ones who more truly fit with who I am, friends who back me up and support me, who call me out when I'm being ridiculous, who call me up when they know I'm in need, who hear me out and offer encouragement because they believe in me and what I stand for.

I lost the sense of "home" I had before, lost the family I thought I had found - but I gained the chance to build a new home full of hope and laughter, strengthened by the solidity of the family that developed out of nothingness.

In the midst of so much chaos, I gained more courage, developed more strength, nurtured more confidence, and found a stronger faith in God. In the midst of almost constant crisis, much of which I have not shared here, I learned to turn dreams into plans. I learned to turn hope into goals. And I found a more secure sense of self than I could ever have imagined.

I am not untouched by the tidal wave that has washed over my life in the last few years. I'm soaked in insecurity now, covered in fear and shame and loss, and much of my mental health has eroded under the onslaught.

And yet, I find myself taking steps ... tiny little baby steps ... into a future I'm beginning to believe in again. I'm reaching out, I'm opening my heart, I'm embracing possibility, and I'm resting in faith. Little by little, I believe the flood of constant crisis will pull away just as surely as a stormy tide, leaving behind the fresh-washed terrain of a life ready for new beginnings. Empty sands, yes - but empty sands of promise, with a seemingly endless view into a beautiful horizon.

Life is full of crisis, rowdy with chaos, bursting with challenges. But in each crisis hides a lesson, in each round of chaos lies a chance to learn trust, and in each challenge blooms the opportunity for growth.

I hope that in the months to come, my family's changes will inspire you to grow too, to embrace your own resilience, to find your own battle cry, to strive to bring life to your own dreams. To become more confident, more secure, more productive. And together, we'll show the world what it means to be "undaunted."


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new readers to the Undaunted community!

Also while you're here, make sure you 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.

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.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Self-Care Sunday: Breaking Out Of A Rut

Life is picking up for the girls and I lately, and not necessarily always in a good way. We've had tons and tons of stuff going on, we've had more long days and late nights than we like, too much stress, and too many unpleasant surprises. We're making the best of it, but the truth is, sometimes things get really rough and it's easy to fall into a rut.

The kids have been bickering a lot, lashing out at each other over every little thing, overreacting to every perceived slight, and even snapping at me. They're tired and anxious, and at the moment there's nothing to be done about but hold on and ride it out.

I've been having to exercise a lot more discipline lately - for them and for me. I'm tired, worn out emotionally, and stressed under the weight of too many burdens. I want to snap too, and overreact, and quit life for a while so I can take a nap for three weeks. But there's no one to handle things but me, so I'm soldiering through with more coffee than I should drink, more yelling and lecturing than I'd like, and a lot less fun than I want my kids to remember.

But it happens. We got stressed, got tired ... fell into a rut.

And we needed to break out. So we did.


A few weeks ago, the girls and I were fortunate enough to be able to attend a local showing of a stage production of The Wizard of Oz at the Tennessee Theatre here in Knoxville. I had been in the theatre just once or twice before - just far enough to have knowledge of the opulence hidden behind the simple, old-world facade, but not often enough or far enough to have truly experienced the theatre for myself.

Operas aren't really in my budget; neither are ballets, orchestras, or Broadway productions. I wish they were, but that's just not where my life is right now.

But since Josephine was in the spring production of Singin' In The Rain at her school this year, when several of the kids in her school's drama club ended up being offered tickets to The Wizard of Oz, we jumped at the chance to be able to go. We hadn't been going out together as much as I had planned due to the bitter cold this winter, and we were overdue for an outing. I knew it would be a great way to kick back and relax a little bit together - a great way to change the scenery.

The theatre was just as beautiful as imagined, and while Josephine was much more excited about the play itself, Eden was awestruck by the beauty and elegance of the decor in the theatre. She said she felt like a princess, and as we made our way around, she held pinches of her skirt up as if she were guiding the folds of an elaborate gown. We wandered just a bit, trying to take everything in, but it was too crowded for me to be able to relax and there wasn't much time left before the show was due to start - both girls were excited, the crowd began to disperse, and we made our way through to our seats, where we quite thoroughly enjoyed the show.


In the few days after the play, I couldn't stop thinking about how beautiful the Tennessee Theatre was - and eventually the thought bloomed, becoming an idea to see if I could get a tour of the theatre so that I could feature it here on the blog. I wanted to see it in a way that could be shared, without the crowds and the busy-ness. I wanted the chance to really take it in.

Tennessee Theatre entrance, showing the double staircases from the Grand Lobby

From the first moment you enter the grand entertainment palace that is the Tennessee Theatre, it's easy to understand why this historic treasure has been named the official theatre of Tennessee - and why the huge stage is a favorite among stage actors nationwide. In the lobby alone, guests are greeted with opulence and detail at every turn, from the double staircases to the series of incredible chandeliers ...

There are over 30,000 crystals in the Grand Lobby chandeliers!

... to the old-world beautiful style of the concessions bar.

Tennessee Theatre concessions bar in the Grand Lobby

No detail is forgotten, from the artwork and decor to the emblems, moldings, and textured walls.


Beyond the splendor of the lobby, luxury and thoughtful detail are apparent at every turn, from the tiled floors in the lobbies and halls to the incredible domed ceiling in the 1600-seat auditorium.

This is the central medallion in the auditorium's domed ceiling.

And here's the auditorium from the stage. Well, about a third of it, anyway.

Built in 1928, this building has hosted some of the most incredible names in early show business, from vaudeville's Ziegfeld Follies with Fanny Brice to Helen Hayes, the First Lady of Broadway, to the likes of the handsome heartthrob Desi Arnaz. It's astonishing - and more than a little awe-inspiring, for me, at least - to think that I walked through the rooms and halls once graced by such beloved long-ago icons. To think that I sat with my daughters in an auditorium once opened to the stars and VIPs attending the world premiere of James Agee's 'A Death In The Family' and Anthony Perkins's 'The Fool Killer.'

Withstanding the tests of time until its closure in the 1970s, the beautiful Tennessee Theatre has seen renovation and new beginnings; it has been both loved and neglected. And yet it stands, reopened in 1979 and once again as loved as it should have stayed all along.

Reopening and reviving the theatre for film and live entertainment also brought new life to the Tennessee's Mighty Wurlitzer - a magnificent organ of impossible size and impeccable beauty, played  masterfully by the generous and talented Dr. Bill Snyder (who also happened to be my tour guide).





I wish this photo could properly showcase the majesty of this beautiful organ.

Now fully restored to the glory of its original 1928 design, this instrument is both incredible to look at and powerful to hear.

In the years since its renovation and reopening, the theatre has changed hands, adjusted to changing entertainment standards, and held strong in an always-changing world. It has maintained both beauty and class, hosting such well-known modern-era icons as Robert Palmer, Kenny Chesney, Johnny Cash, Alison Krauss, Tony Bennett, Jay Leno, and Diana Ross - and the theatre's determination to remain standing strong and proud in the heart of downtown Knoxville promises many more years of history in the making. (To see an impressive full history of the Tennessee Theatre, click here.)

What I really loved about the theatre, though, was the way exploring the inner workings of the backstage areas, the dressing rooms, and even the space below the giant stage, allowed me to break out of my stress-filled rut. While the theatre's beauty inspired me to hope and its history reminded me of my own resilience to withstand time's challenges, the quiet calm and obviously proud dedication of my tour guide showed me that nothing is a race - and remarkable histories are always created just one day at a time.


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new readers to the Undaunted community!

Also while you're here, make sure you 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.

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.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom: Momentum, Part II


Last year was the first time I "officially" chose to forego the effort of a New Year's Resolution, instead gravitating more toward the concept of a "focus word" or "theme" for the year to come - but it was definitely not the first time I ever recognized a certain theme or applied a certain word to a specific period of my life. Last year's word was Warrior, and as I made it through the various challenges of 2017, I kept the concept of a warrior in mind - I used the mental image of what a warrior is (in my perception) to boost my own morale, reminding myself throughout the year to strive for strength and perseverance despite the moments in my life that very literally felt like battling through minefields. I wanted to inspire myself in the year to come, as well as to remind myself of the strength gained from the years before - and it made a huge difference in my life and my perspective, giving me more strength of will and courage of heart than I ever had before.

In choosing a new word (for an upcoming year), I usually start sometime in November (or sometimes, even October) - just by opening my mind to what the year I'm finishing looked like. I ask myself questions like: What did I accomplish? What changed for the better; what changed for the worse? What did I lose? What did I gain? And most importantly, how do I feel about my life - and myself - as a result of all that happened during the course of the year?

"Warrior" served me well in 2017 - I started setting quarterly goals, and I achieved a good number of them. I distanced myself from friendships that were no longer healthy for me, not with any ill will toward those specific people, but simply out of a wish for something more fulfilling in my own life - and in letting go of what was, I opened space in my life for new friendships to develop. In 2017, my entire world was enriched by the addition of people who never fail to encourage me, back me up, and reach out to support me in the ways I need most when I'm in trouble. And I've been thankful for the way these people have trusted me to do the same for them when I've been able to. I also made strides in the growth of this site as an income source, added content and connected with new supporters on Patreon, and increased the exposure (and sales) of my novels.

What I did was embrace my "warrior" spirit during 2017, setting up a level of momentum I hoped would take over and begin to snowball as 2018 progressed - and now, as that momentum has carried the girls and I headlong into an untimely but much-anticipated fresh new beginning, I'm seeing the fruition of momentum in my life in a big way.

I'm starting over in so many ways - and while it's terrifying to head so boldly into the unknown, there's also a certain thrill in taking a leap of faith the likes of which only God himself could turn into wings.


As the first quarter of this year draws to a close and I begin to plan my goals for the next quarter, I'm excited to see the coming changes, excited to watch everything develop. I'm looking forward to seeing what God has planned next for my life.

I've set things in motion that I believe will be helpful, created a plan I believe is executable. I have built a support network. And although I'm still waiting in faith for certain things to work out ...

I'm ready to fly.


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new readers to the Undaunted community!

Also while you're here, make sure you 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.

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, March 17, 2018

Saturday Spectacular: Embracing Excitement

I've mentioned it twice now - the upcoming move. In my last Friday Feels post, I alluded to some recent things that have happened in my life, and talked about the way those things have impacted the timing of my future plans for the girls and I. I talked a bit about how our upcoming move is interacting with my mental health, and then in this post I shared how I've been working to put a positive spin on starting over.

But really, how does one take the complete overhaul of their world and make it a good thing? In the last five years, my entire life has turned itself upside down more times than I care to count - in ways both good and bad. There has been a lot of growth, a lot of adjustment, and a lot of adapting, and while many of those things were good, most of the time they were also incredibly difficult to experience and painful to go through.

Still, I'm trying to find the joy in all of it, even the challenging bits, and this has a two-fold impact: I have survived so much stress and struggle in the past, and I've attempted continuously to rise to the various challenges in my life. For the most part, I've been proud of the way I handled things. I've done my best to be someone I can be proud of, even when things were tough; I've sought and embraced the good in even the strangest or most difficult circumstances. And because of my varying success in that effort ... seeing those circumstances change means both the addition of unknown but much-anticipated goodness and the shedding of many of the stressors I've been most deeply struggling with.

But underneath the anxiety, underneath fear of the unknown, crippling uncertainty, and the sad knowledge that I will deeply miss certain positive aspects of the current status quo, there is a fine line of uninhibited thrill running through my blood.


Every new year excites me because it means a fresh chance to make things happen. Like starting over in some ways - and I know this isn't individual to only me, otherwise new year's resolutions wouldn't be such a big deal.

And just as the newness of a fresh year begins to wear off, in rolls spring - with refreshing rains, the budding of trees and flowers, and the coming to life of new generations throughout so much of the animal kingdom. Spring in itself is a fresh start, an awakening, a return to life after what may have been a long and dreary winter.

Life is much the same in this respect, where the deepest, coldest times of "winter" are always followed by "spring" - a chance to awaken and begin again. To choose a new trajectory - to create new momentum.

This is what this move represents to me in so many ways, and so I've been allowing myself time to celebrate quietly, to sit back and dream and plan. To think about more than just the bills, the hassles, the packing, the things we don't have.

I've been reframing - thinking in terms of clearing out and minimizing. Taking only what's necessary and the things that hold value in the heart. Photos, toys. My salt-and-pepper-shaker collection that I've kept for so many years. The sudden absence of so much other stuff that was accumulated over the years is exciting to me - it opens doors to new looks, new chances to play, new opportunities to rebuild. (I won't even mention how insane the parallels are right now between my current life and the novel I've been working on for the last few years.)

I've been thinking about this move in conjunction with the joy and renewal of spring - with spring comes a new birth of color and beauty. I found this color palette on Pinterest a few days ago, and fell in love with how fresh and feminine the colors are.

See the original pin on my Pinterest board, here.
I had been thinking I wanted a color scheme that would unify our living space while also allowing for our individuality. I'm planning to use greys and whites throughout the space, pulling each room together with the lightness and solidity of those colors while interspersing brighter pops of color to break up the plainness of grey. The idea is to use grey, white, and shades of one color in my room, grey, white, and shades of another color in Josephine's room, and then grey, white, and shades of a third color in Eden's room. From there, those colors will bleed into the rest of the space, showing up in the living room, the kitchen, the bathroom - unifying our space by pulling our individual personalities together. So I adjusted the original palette idea just a little:


I've been window-shopping like a madwoman lately, brainstorming ideas, making tentative plans. Debating ways to make this work for me, not only in my life as a single mom but also in my mental health journey - as well as in my writing.

Starting over with virtually nothing has its benefits; I won't have loads of things covered in memories I no longer want. I won't have loads of things I didn't choose, things which don't fit who I am or my own style. Starting over means starting fresh, with the ability to reflect and repesent my own style in my own space, unhindered by the sometimes alternate needs and preferences of anyone else.

I hope you'll hang out with me and follow along as the plans I've been dreaming up begin to fall into place. I can't wait to share it all with you.


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new readers to the Undaunted community!

Also while you're here, make sure you 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.

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, March 13, 2018

Tuesday Talk: A Positive Spin On Starting Over

I've mentioned it here once before, but only in passing. I thought today would be a good time to put my usual mental health spin on the latest change my little family is navigating through: Team Kennedy is moving.


When the girls' dad and I split up, it was mostly amicable - regardless of the many things that had gone wrong between us and how much we had grown to quietly despise each other, we both knew by that point that we were not well matched and that we would each be much happier without the other. And despite the way the new situation has changed his willingness and ability to maintain solid relationships with the girls, I think we were both right - we're happier and much better off apart.

Still, I was mostly a stay-at-home mom when we split - I had a small writing income, but it was truly a small income. Nothing near what I would need to support the girls and I. And while it was growing (which I will always believe was part of the problem since it was generally very clear that my new independence, such as it was, was not appreciated), it simply wasn't growing fast enough. I've still been slowly nurturing that, along with a few other income streams - but splitting up and then having him ultimately choose to forego the responsibility of helping out at all made things pretty challenging for me.

I'm a single mom, yes. But I'm a mom 24 hours a day, 7 days a week now. I don't have breaks, and I don't have relief. There is no "every other weekend" - and while that's good because it means I don't have to trust someone who regularly slept through time with the kids and often forgot to feed them, it's also been hard for me because there is literally no time to wind down and relax under the safety net of knowing someone else has it covered for a while.

Which would be hard enough already, but when you tack on mental health issues for all three of us that include PTSD, PMDD, Depression, Anxiety, ADHD, and OCD, and then you also sprinkle chronic and somewhat serious health problems ... well, what you get is a stressed out mom who's doing her best to create a life that works, while having very little to actually work with.

No wonder I'm in therapy, right? But I think it's paying off - so much of my life is changing because I'm learning to set better boundaries, to demand more for myself, to make space and take care of me, and to let go of people and ideas that aren't healthy for me or my family. (Want to learn those things, too? I think in time, you'll learn them as I share what I'm learning here - but you can do it much faster with the kind of personalized, professional therapy offered online through sites like BetterHelp.com, where you can change your mind and your life - right from the comfortable security of your own home.)

The girls and I have been living with their grandmother for a while now (their dad's mom) - which has obviously had its share of ups and downs. We all mostly get along okay, it has been great to help each other out in some ways, and this arrangement has allowed the girls a place to adjust while keeping them in a space where their dad felt like he had whatever access he wanted. But it has a been a while, and it's never easy keeping two families under one roof - even with a multigenerational blended family like ours, there are strange dynamics, eclectic quirks, and rough edges that must be considered carefully at all times, and this can be exhausting and stressful on everyone involved.

So it's time for this move - past time, probably. And while I'm definitely stressed about it because we're starting over with literally almost nothing ... 

I'm actually also getting pretty excited.

I've been alternating back and forth between excitement over starting this new chapter in our lives and stressing over the basic things we don't have right now - things I'll need to come up with, like a microwave, a TV ... dishes, furniture. When we moved here, we ended up losing a lot of what we had, so I'll truly be starting over, and it's pretty easy to let myself get intimidated by how daunting that will be, considering the limitations of my budget and mental health.

But in the moments where I'm excited? In the moments where I'm facing an empty space that always echoes because it hasn't been made a home yet ... I'm looking forward to figuring out how to create that home for the girls and I, in a space of our own. We'll be so much more US there, the girls and I, and I imagine us really enjoying being able to be a bit more relaxed, empty space or no.

I'm planning to share that journey here, complete with bits about our new home as we create it, bits about the way we end up filling it, and how we end up making things work as it all plays out. I've been making plans - I've got us on two different wait lists for apartments I think the girls and I will love, and I've already starting making lists of things we're going to need.

I've got a plan - and while the change is pretty terrifying ... starting over doesn't have to be a bad thing. Because we're also starting fresh - in a setting we can be comfortable in, where we can surround ourselves with what makes us happy.

And I'm ready for that. I hope you'll follow along.


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new readers to the Undaunted community!

Also while you're here, make sure you 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.

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

Friday, March 9, 2018

Friday Feels: March

Is it weird that one of the reasons I'm sorry for setting a fourth-day blogging schedule this year is that it means I have less Fridays on my writing schedule?

Because seriously, I love writing Friday Feels posts, and I'm actually authentically a little sad that having less Fridays means sometimes missing months in this series. This series has made a legitimate difference in my mental health - I love it that sitting down to explore my feelings in this way gives me so much emotional clarity!

Still, even if the new schedule means missing a month here and there, the series will remain the same because I already love it just as it is. It's so simple; I just use a random feelings generator to make my list for each post! And since the emotional labels that come up are often labels I haven't thought to apply to my own life, they encourage me to think outside of my comfort zone, exploring feelings I might not even have realized I was dealing with until I found myself looking at them.

This past week has been really tough on Team Kennedy in general, but it has been especially rough on me specifically, complete with crying sobbing snotting vomiting panic attacks that I had to be talked out of in order to be able to find myself again. For a moment (ahem, couple of days), I even sort of lost track of the "Undaunted" I've been so confidently claiming these days - I almost let circumstances trip me up, almost lost the joy of this year's momentum.

I'm sure this edition of Friday Feels will be a little tumultuous so consider yourself warned ... I hope you're more ready for the onslaught than I was.


1. Crushed:
As mentioned before, this has been a hard week. I got some news I wasn't really ready for, and while I knew it was coming, expected it, and had been preparing for it ... I still wasn't ready yet. The things said during that conversation are still stinging, honestly - and the motive I believe to be behind it all is incredibly selfish. petty, and cruel. It damages my faith a little, not in God but in other humans and their capacity for compassion and understanding.


2. Eager:
While I wasn't ready for the news I got, nor am I quite healed from the way part of the conversation felt like being kicked in the heart, I am actually pretty excited about the changes to come. I may not have been ready yet, but while I may doubt the compassion and empathy of others, I do not doubt the presence of some serious resilience and strength in myself. I've survived a lot over the years, and as a result, I'm pretty tough.

Plus I had a friend remind me of all of this during a moment of weakness; she called me while I was battling panic, and she spent over an hour filling me up with hope and encouragement. I'm so thankful she gave me what it takes to be able to move forward with excitement despite my anxieties.


3. Furious:
I know a lot of this blog post revolves around the events of the last week in my life, but that's fair because those events are most in control of the path my life is taking right now. I've been a lot of things in the last week - hurt, sad, angry, excited. But furious?

What made me furious was having something I couldn't stop from happening be used against me as a tool. What made me furious was having people I should be able to trust - people who call themselves family - turn their backs on me in retaliation. What made me furious was the overabundance of "coincidence" driving the choices of certain people around me.

Which leads me back to "eager" - because while change is and will probably always be extremely difficult for me, lessening certain sources of toxicity in my life is definitely something I'm looking forward to.


4. Humble:
Humility is generally just something that I believe is a part of who I am. I don't usually think of myself as better or worse than anyone else. I don't want to be treated better than anyone else, and I don't tend to ask for anything more than what I believe every human needs and deserves - to be cared for and appreciated for their contribution, to be encouraged and to belong.

But an extra reminder of the necessity of community is rarely a bad thing, and I kept that in mind this week as I allowed myself to lean on my friends, allowed myself extra time for self-care, and made some pretty tough (and super humbling) phone calls.


5. Nervous:
As I've already mentioned before, change is difficult for me. It's hard for me to initiate, hard for me to cope with, and hard for me to see myself through - especially when I am not prepared adequately and the change is time-sensitive. I'm excited about the coming changes; I've actually gone to bed grinning over it for the past few days in a row, and woke up more optimistic than I have been in a long time.

That being said, I'm still nervous. Still anxious. It's a good change that's long overdue - but it's a big change with a lot of risk for me. I go to bed smiling and wake up optimistic - but I also lay awake worrying, wake up every few hours even when I do fall asleep, and I've had trouble dealing with lots of severe nausea this week.

I had a doctor's appointment yesterday and they took my blood pressure a couple of times during the appointment, hoping it would go down. It didn't.


6. Offended:
In a separate instance, I also recently had a conversation with someone trying to lecture me on how "happiness is a choice." The implication (that I took away from the conversation) was that because "happiness is a choice," I am therefore choosing my depression issues, choosing my anxiety issues. It's not a history of trauma that left me with such a long list of symptoms, it's my "choice" to maintain a perspective that leads to unhappiness. The weird thing about the conversation is that this person sees me up close and personal on a pretty much daily basis - they see how I joke around with my kids, see me kidding with others, watch me try to be an encouragement to the people around me. I'm offended that anyone who knows me so closely could be so ignorant of the fact that if I could "choose" my way out of mental illness, I would. I'm offended by people who think psychological struggle is a "choice."

That being said, anyone who has followed me for long knows that I do agree it's important to monitor and attempt to regulate your perspective - thus my efforts in yoga and meditation, my addiction to herbal teas, almost two years of therapy, and my brand new Zoloft prescription. However, I also feel that it's very important to acknowledge circumstances, diagnoses, trauma experience, and the individuality of coping mechanisms and skills. And that's without accounting for chemical and hormonal imbalances that leave people with mental illness completely disconnected from experience.

Let me be perfectly clear to anyone ignorant enough (or sheltered enough) to believe that "happiness is a choice" - if you truly believe "happiness is a choice," then by extension you must also believe that "depression is a choice" and "bipolar disorder is a choice" and "schizophrenia is a choice."

And quite frankly, that sort of thinking makes you an asshole. Because I do not choose to be depressed. I do not choose to have crippling anxiety. I do not choose to have nightmares and flashbacks. I do not choose hypervigilance, chronically elevated stress reactions, tremors, chills, body aches, and periods of dissociation. I do not choose to be haunted by suicidal ideation.

Then again, the person I had this conversation with was the very same one who once had the nerve to suggest that "perhaps" I was violently abused as a child because I was "a handful." so there's that.


7. Serene:
Stressed as I am about the things to come, I am still - as I said earlier - eager to explore the changes to come (if you're not subscribed to this blog yet, get on it because it's about to get exciting around here). Now that I've had a little time to recover from the news, and I've had a little time to formulate a plan and set it in motion, I feel a bit more peaceful about everything.

I've been reading a really good Devotional lately, and everything in it has been perfectly aligned to what's been going on and what I needed to see and relate to. Even with utter terror over everything coming and with crippling anxiety over how it could still get worse ... I feel peaceful.

I've been keeping a couple of Bible verses close to me lately, which have been helpful. (Interested? The verses I've been loving lately are Exodus 14:14, Jeremiah 29:11, Isaiah 54:17, and the meaning behind entire story of David VS Goliath.)


8. Tender:
It doesn't matter how stressed I am, how overwhelmed, how much is going on in my life, or how desperately I am trying to juggle everything I must do alongside the things I want and need to do. There is always one source of undeniable peace - the sleeping faces of my children. They've been changing my life all of their lives, and I'm so thankful to have the opportunity to be their mom; watching them grow and become who they will be is such an amazing process, and seeing them act with compassion and care for others gives me hope.

They make everything better - and when everything is not better, they give me a reason to keep trying for better.


9. Tickled:
A few days ago, someone did something sort-of sneaky, trying to ... I don't know. Make a point? Take a stand? Get revenge?

Doesn't matter.

It ended up solving a problem for me in the end, which still has me laughing days later. It was a problem I'd been working over in my head for a while anyway, and now that it's been remedied (even if it wasn't really in the way I had hoped), it makes my shoulders a little lighter - which is pretty nice even when you don't add in how funny it is when someone tries to screw you but ends up doing you a favor.


10. Warm:
We're moving - the girls and I - and I am super excited. Where we live now, we didn't usually have a lot of company and we often felt a little cut off. We liked the neighborhood and even built friendships with some of the neighbors. But in general, it was a place of quiet and none of us really felt all that much "at home" because we're pretty outgoing (yes, even introverted me) and we tend to be very chatty, busy, anxiety-induced-energetic people.

We're delightful ... but we can be overwhelming to others, and we know it. So trying to "tone down" all day every day is pretty stressful, and we're looking forward to being able to let loose. The girls are looking forward to slumber parties, game nights, movie nights, and slightly less moderated mess-making. I'm looking forward to more space. And I think we're all looking forward to feeling a little more Undaunted on the daily.

It's gonna be good.


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new readers to the Undaunted community!

Also while you're here, make sure you 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.

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, March 1, 2018

Thursday Thoughts: Living With "And Yet"

Sometimes, my life seems really full of "and yet." I want thisthing to happen ... and yet. I need to accomplish thatthing ... and yet. I'm longing for this, craving that ... and yet. And yet.

But honestly, even with the challenges of parenting two complicated kids as a single mom with no co-parenting partner, that's just life. I'm not the first woman to have ever found herself in this position, not the first little girl who grew up to write stories, not the first person with a feast in their heart but a famine in their life. Even my challenges aren't original, though they are many and often complicate each other despite my best efforts.

The hardest thing about it is the way it's all entangled with my battle with PTSD. Life is full of "and yet" - and yet, dealing with that sense of waiting, of watching, of walking into the unknown with every step, of struggling to climb a barrier you can't even see ...

Well, that can be tough to cope with sometimes.

And yet ... I'm trying.


Lately, the idea of public speaking has been nagging at me. Several months ago, I had someone reach out to me, asking if I would be willing to come and speak at their local library - they wanted me to talk about writing, sign some books, that sort of thing.

I write it like it's such a simple thing, like I get offers like that every day, like it's just so passe. But it's not. That was new for me - but even as new as it was, it planted a seed.


And yet.
In the months since, I've gone back and forth on whether or not that trip will even be possible. I've been offered partial reimbursement for the trip, but it won't be paid until afterward and also won't be enough to cover the cost of a trip for a family such as mine - and going alone isn't an option since I'm a single mom and therefore, a package deal in all ways. I don't have someone to leave my family with, and honestly I'd rather have my kids with me anyway; a road trip would be a great thing for Team Kennedy.


And yet.
My van isn't reliable, so I'd need a rental car. I'd have the munchkins with me, and probably Chance too, so I'd need a dog-friendly rental company. And since the speaking engagement would be in the evening, I'd need at least one night in a hotel. Plus fuel and food and things to amuse the girls and ... well. I would have loved for it to be simple, to all fall into place.


And yet.
I'm also peaceful with the idea that this trip might fall through - peaceful with the idea that traveling outside my home base might just not be in the cards right now. Peaceful with the idea that I'm looking to God and asking, "Is it time yet?" and He's patiently shaking his head. "Not yet."


And yet.
Even if it isn't the time for travel, the way for me to write - and to talk about writing - is still wide open. In fact, I live just outside of a big city with lots of possibilities, and the variety of my platform would allow me to speak well about any number of things. Writing would obviously be a choice topic - I could share about my process, how I develop my characters, how I combine "planning" and "pantsing" to allow my well-planned characters to lead themselves through a plot I've only loosely outlined beforehand. I could share about the organization process, about the journey of independent publishing, about finding time and motivation to write even when life gets in the way.

And speaking of life getting in the way, I could speak about boldly single parenting, about the challenges of raising strong daughters in today's world, about coping with multiple mental illnesses. I could connect my life lessons to my writing and speak about self love and female empowerment - both in fiction and in life. The possibilities are endless.


And yet.
Are they, really? Are the doors really so wide-open, is the opportunity really just waiting for me to reach out and take it? Are the possibilities really so endless? Is the sky really the limit?

Even for me? The woman with all the problems, the woman with the past trauma, the woman with the present trauma? Me, the woman with financial challenges and lifestyle challenges and health challenges? Me? The woman who is so incredibly open and yet simultaneously so buried under such an insurmountable pile of secrets?

I have to believe in possibility. I have to believe in hope for change, and I have to trust that even the most shareable journey begins with one impossibly small, insignificant step. I have to believe in the value of my own hesitancy even as I embrace and attempt to overpower the fear that rules so much of my life. Because I can't move forward at all without that one shaking step, without that minuscule inching forward.

PTSD does not live in leaps and bounds; I despise and am deeply triggered by swift or unexpected change even when it's the good kind, and the truth is, I am not fearless at all - nor am I as strong as my friends and family want to believe. Quiet suffering is suffering nonetheless, and "invisible illness" is no less ill.

There is a hidden part of me that is always quaking at the thought of the unknown, squinting into the future with a roiling stomach and knees knocking painfully together. And, hidden or not, that part of me will likely always be there, whispering doubt into my heart and fear into my thoughts - sometimes in my own voice, other times with voices borrowed from those no longer part of my life.


And yet.
I awaken each morning, if not quite ready to leap or bound, at least prepared to tiptoe a little bit forward - and I spend each day creeping as far as I can go, preparing always to begin again after a bit of rest, no matter how interrupted that rest may be.

Because it's in the little things. in the tiny motions of our waking moments that barely even look like progress, that momentum is built - like the created ember of a new fire, forced into being but then nurtured and coaxed until finally it bursts from its own smoke with such unexpected possibility that even the firestarter braces against the shocking heat of the flame.

As much as I share here, very few people are actually close enough to know the fullness of my reality - and yet those who keep coming back to this site don't need to know every detail in order to keep cheering me on and believing in me. And I don't need to know the fullness of your reality either. But what I do know is that you too are a flicker in the wind, perhaps not yet fully empowered to flame - and that together, we can spark the inferno of an Undaunted community, each empowering the others to burn more brightly.


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new readers to the Undaunted community!

Also while you're here, make sure you 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.

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.