Sunday, April 29, 2018

Finding My "Why"

Last month I wrote about what it's like to live my life with a never-ending, anxiety-and-abuse-induced argument going on inside my mind. What it's like to want so much, to be so willing to do what it takes to achieve my goals ... and yet, to be so stranded - so suffocated - by the circumstances of my life and the impact of those curcumstances on my mental health.

The thing is, no matter what's going on in your life, you have two choices: you can become better or you can become bitter. You can choose to learn and grow, using your experiences to enrich your compassion and empathy for others - or you can let yourself grow hard and cold against the world.

And I'm choosing to be better in the face of so much "and yet" - because I'm determined to keep track of my "why."


Tuesday, I picked Josephine up early from school to take her to the hospital, where she was fitted with electrode leads for a 24-hour ambulatory EEG. Wednesday, she stayed home from school, and we went back to the hospital to have everything removed and turn in the equipment. We got home, I sent her up to take a shower, promised I'd help her pick the glue out of her hair when she got out.

We still haven't gotten to that yet; by the time she got out of the shower, I had taken a call from my mother's emergency alert service, informing me that she had pressed her emergency button. She lives determinedly alone, about an hour away. My van issues are getting worse, so even if I had been in a position to jump up and run over, I might not have made it to her on time - or at all. So I waited, with no idea what was going on. "We're sorry, ma'am, we can't tell you that. All she said when we spoke with her was, 'Help me, help me ..."

The week went on, and every day I got more behind on my writing goals. I was increasingly exhausted, depressed, irritable. A stressful home situation didn't help, and I've been in a pretty solid state of extreme anxiety for about three days now. Nausea has been my constant companion all week, coupled with a headache that blurred my vision and kept me clenching my teeth almost painfully hard. Cramping muscle tension is still alternating with shivering chills that leave my body aching.

The fact that it also happens to be what I've come to think of as the "crazy me" part of my PMDD rotation isn't helping. I'm depressed, unmotivated, and all I want to do lately is quit life and curl up in a corner somewhere. Just quit. No cooking, no cleaning, no driving, no running, no visits, no homework ... nothing.

I haven't even had a shower in like two days, because by the end of the day when I could take a shower, I'm so exhausted emotionally that I no longer care to bother with it.

My mother left the hospital yesterday. I'm relieved that the doctors thought her well enough to go home, but also terrified because now she's alone in her home with no one to look out for her.

I went to bed obscenely early last night, dizzy and confused due to the depth of the nothingness inside me. I slept eleven and a half hours, and I slept so hard I barely even moved. I woke up stiff and sore, not wanting to get up.

I did get up though, just like yesterday, and the day before, and the day before. Because of my "why."

My children are my world. They're the sun and the moon, the wind and the rain. They're why I discipline myself into bed when anxiety begs me to lay awake all night - I know I'll need what sleep I can get during the night, as preparation for the coming day. They're why I keep writing, why I keep chasing this dream despite the many challenges - I want to set an example that makes them believe they can chase their dreams, too. They're why I get up, why I juggle our myriad medical and psychological appointments, why I function at all sometimes - they need someone to hear them, to keep them fed, to juggle their needs. To show up for them, to care about them. To nurture them.

And because life has not been easy on them ... because I know that life will probably continue to not be easy on them (because it isn't easy on anyone), I want them to see an example of determined will that they can follow. I want them to see effort turn into success, hope turn into reality, and courage turn into strength. I want them to have what I wished for when I was their age; I want to be for them what I didn't have in my life back them.

They are my "why" - the reason I write, the reason I try, the reason I make every possible effort to find the balance between accepting my challenges and working to overcome them. They're the reason I wrote this post, to keep my blog on schedule even though I didn't want to bother today.

They're the reason I'm going to publish it now and drag myself upstairs to the shower. Not only because they need a responsible mom that at least attempts to keep functioning normally, but because the blessing of their presence in my life inspires me to keep trying to build something that will one day inspire them.

What's your "why?"


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

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

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Stress & Decompensation: When Therapy Comes In Handy

While this year has been a great year for building Momentum in my life - with lots of progress in several areas - 2018 has also been another hard year for my family.

Eden's health is still complicated, Josephine's health is growing increasingly so, and as I begin to set up this post, I'm sitting on a folding couch in my mother's hospital room. My van is just about falling apart, I'm trying to work things out for the upcoming move, my dog's got a weird little growth next to his belly button that I can't really afford to get checked out right now, and I'm struggling to keep everything together.

It's getting better in some ways though - things I've been working toward for a while now are starting to work out well, the move will be a huge stress relief, I've got hope - and my therapist is amazing.

Which is handy, because for those living with PTSD (or Complex PTSD), stress is a huge trigger for psychological decompensation - and I am stressed.


Psychological decompensation, in technical terms, is the temporary worsening of symptoms related to mental illness - in my experience in living with PTSD, this means periods of being significantly less able to function, loss of therapeutic progress, and most notably in light of my recent circumstances, inability to cope with stress.

I've mentioned the use of medication here before, at first to briefly note that I didn't want to use medications due to related anxieties, and most recently to note that I've started taking medication to help cope with the combined symptoms of PTSD and PMDD.

But with everything going on ...
  • I don't sleep much anymore. When I do sleep, it isn't restful; I struggle to fall asleep, struggle to stay asleep, often have nightmares, and wake up every morning just as tired as I was when I went to bed.
  • My mind doesn't turn off. I have a running litany of things going on in my life that are on constant replay in my mind, not because I'm a worrier but because there isn't time between stressors for me to be able to adequately process one before another comes along. This is twofold - partly because I do have a lot going on in my life right now, but also because I tend to need extra time to process things and I obsess over problems until they are solved, even when they aren't mine to solve and I am powerless to solve them.
  • My emotions don't turn on. I mean, I laugh and cry and love my kids, but other than that I am largely numb. I don't care what we eat for dinner and probably wouldn't bother if not for the girls. I don't care to go out and do things and again, probably wouldn't bother if not for the girls. I wouldn't care to clean, but the kids deserve a clean space and the dog eats whatever I don't pick up. I find many things boring lately, and when they aren't boring, they're overwhelming. Which is weird because ...
  • My emotions won't turn off. I spend a lot of time not feeling much of anything - but when I do feel things, I feel all. the. things. at once. I'm laughing at something funny but in my heart I'm crying over something sad. In my mind I'm angry over something, or wishing I could tell someone something, or checking (and rechecking) my mental to-do list. I might even be celebrating some milestone or accomplishment, while also grieving deeply over my mother's health and worrying myself sick over my kids. Not even kidding, yesterday I went from one hospital with Joey to another one with my mom.
  • I'm stuck on "SLOW." This morning Eden wanted a weird lunch-for-breakfast kind of thing; she asked for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with cole slaw. And as I made her plate, I noticed myself walking myself through the process. "Okay, gonna need the bread. Two pieces, side by side. Peanut butter. Not too thick - she doesn't like too much. Not too thin, or she'll be missing protein. Jelly. She likes the raspberry one, which is almost gone. Gonna need some more of that when I get to the store. Not too much, it'll drop out on her clothes because she's messy, but then it'll bother her because she's got OCD and we don't have time to change clothes before school." Because of things like this, everything in my life takes too long to get through, from making breakfast to taking a shower to ... writing this blog post.
  • Life is made up of short mental health breaks. I got in the car to take Eden to school today, and we sat for a few minutes just so I could breathe. I did it again when I got home from dropping her off. Again when I got into the house. Again after I fed the dog. Again when I got out of the shower. Again when I got in the van to drive to the hospital. Again ... again ... again. Not because I can't breathe, but because every moment is a struggle for me right now.


Fortunately for me, I'm still attending weekly therapy appointments - I literally don't know where I'd be or how well I'd be functioning without that outlet. Therapy at this point is acting as crisis control in my life, giving me a place to unload, quiet space to process, and safety to brainstorm solutions without pressure, discouragement, or negativity.

The strategies I've learned are mostly simple CBT techniques, such as:
  • writing my thoughts out so that I can verbalize them to myself, process them, and make them actionable
  • challenging my inherent negativity with more positive possibilities (along with a return to a more regular practice of using positive affirmation)
  • practicing mindful self-compassion, which reminds me to give myself the same grace as I tend to give others - and to stay right here in this moment, which is the only one I can control right now
  • bilateral tapping, which is a super simple (and almost strangely effective) strategy for dealing with anxiety in a way that's free, easy, and discreet.


There are other techniques as well, but these have been my favorites thus far, the things that have proven most useful for me personally. The thing is, I might not have realized how to make the best of these techniques, especially when under significant stress, if not for my therapist being there every single week to hear me out, validate my concerns and issues, and encourage me to empower myself in regard to boundary-setting, self-protection, and advocacy for myself and my family.

What I wish I had known earlier is how accessible therapy was - I would have sought treatment much sooner had I known that finding a good therapist could be as easy as finding a site like BetterHelp.com, which is an amazing resource for free information about how to improve and maintain strong mental health (and even articles on how to find a local in-person therapist!). The thing that would have really struck me, though, is that BetterHelp is an online therapy service I could totally have used from right inside my home - perfect for me, since I struggle with agoraphobia in office settings particularly in the medical field.

I've been fortunate to find a local therapist I have a great connection with, and she has formed a solid impression on me about the benefits of seeking treatment for mental illness. Besides that, she's the reason I finally worked up the courage (after a year of seeing her) to make an appointment to establish a primary care doctor (after not having one for almost a decade) - which in itself has led to a ton of growth in my life, including my finally being able to admit (both to myself and to my doctor) that it was time to add medication to my treatment plans.

It's how I manage to keep moving from one moment to the next, how I keep pushing toward my goals. It's how I find the ability to muster whatever strength I can find to keep going.

It's how I stay 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 exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

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

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.


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

Monday, April 23, 2018

Top Ten Turnoffs in Romance Novels

When I first started this blog, the plan was for it to be a way to grow my platform as an author, a way for me to reach out to readers and let them know about me - and my books. I wanted to make connections, to find and interact with the people who would love my characters and stories.

Over time, it has grown into something much more, something I'm almost desperately proud of. It has become so much more than books - I've made what I hope will be lifelong friends, accomplished goals I never expected to accomplish, and nurtured a dream I never would have believed could come true.

But in the midst of writing 8 books, keeping this blog for five solid years, and transforming my life so much that it's barely even recognizable anymore, one thing has held strong - despite so much change.

I still love almost everything about romance novels ... except these things ...


1. Romanticizing Abusive Behavior
Maybe I'm just extra sensitive to this because of my story and my experiences, but this kind of thing makes me absolutely crazy, and is the number one thing that will make me slam a book shut and never pick it up again - other than to get rid of it. It seems to be a trend these days, romanticizing abusive and controlling behavior in relationships as if these behaviors are suddenly okay if they're driven by "love."

And when these stories end up with wide, often somewhat rabidly devoted followings, it's even worse - it shatters my heart to know that the "romance" my daughter will one day read and hope for could be based on the Christian Greys of today's fiction, men who sneak around, lie, use manipulation tactics to control, and use their money to gain and maintain power and control over others.

And it's not about the BDSM, either, because while that's not my personal preference, I really don't care if it is for other people. If getting tied up and having your ass slapped works for you, go for it - if you like even more than that, that's cool because it's none of my business anyway. But the idea that Christian Grey, a character who literally BOUGHT the company his conquest worked for in order to control her work hours, income, and environment, is what my daughter's generation thinks is "romantic" ... the idea that a man who flies across the country to stalk a woman while she's visiting her mother, who shows up uninvited to commandeer her time, especially when she went away to get away from him in the first place ... the idea of a man who uses his money and power to control and influence the people his partner is or is not allowed to see and interact with ...

Well, it pretty much makes me want to vomit my insides onto the outside.

And the fact that there is such an abundance of this sort of character ... well, that just makes me sad. Because readers are misguided. So, so misguided, and it's changing the very culture of what love and romance means. It's changing the way we think of the very nature of kindness, respectful partnership, and individual autonomy.

In a world where we're outraged over the treatment of women in the workplace, in the world, in politics, in show business ... why are we okay with - and even turned on by - this kind of abusive portrayal?

It's just gross. Just totally gross. And that's why it's the first thing that'll make me totally shut down what might otherwise have been a decent read.


2. Errors In Grammar
If a book makes it through the first item on this list without my throwing it in the garbage, this is another sure way to shut me down as a reader. Not because I expect everyone to be perfect (Lord knows, I'm not!), but because when I pay money for something, I expect it to be worth the effort.

I'd be pissed if I bought a shirt only to realize that it wasn't all the way sewed together. I'd be pissed if I went to the dentist and they only cleaned my smile teeth. I'd be pissed if I ordered a margarita and there wasn't any tequila in it.

So I'm also understandably pissed when I buy a book only to find it riddled with errors, typos, plot holes, and lousy sentence structure. Seriously.


3. Gratuitous Swearing
Sometimes when something goes wrong, shouting, "Oh, dad-blasted fart-nugget!" just isn't really sufficient to cover the situation. If I stub my toe in the middle of the night, I might mutter a cranky but mostly not-loud, "Crap!" as I hop the rest of the way to wherever I'm going. But if someone were to hit my car while my children are in it, or if I were to get a good strong oven-burn while cooking (or something like that), you can bet that I'm definitely going to say something much stronger than, "Swizzlesticks!"

That being said, it's really annoying to read a book where the author has filled everything - including the narrative prose - with curse words. First of all, I can see it in dialogue, especially if it's a personality trait inherent to a certain character or number or characters. But when a book is full of cursing just to be full of cursing, it starts feeling like I'm reading a book written by a seventh-grader trying to sound more grown up than they actually are. Secondly, if you're an author, professing yourself to be a storyteller, a master of words, an artist of language ... well, don't you think you should be able to come up with something better?

I mean, I'm just saying.


4. Gratuitous Sex (or Super Kinky/Explicit Sex)
Weird fact about me: I write romance novels, complete with extremely hot sex scenes ... but I'm a complete and utter prude. I don't use certain words to describe certain body parts, I don't write kinky sex or super explicit sex, and reading every horny physical detail of sex in books is just awkward and weird for me. I don't like it. Too much of this, and I'll actually start skipping or skimming entire sections of the book - too much of having to do that, and I'll just quit reading it all together.

When I'm reading a romance novel, I want it to be romantic. Sex is part of a healthy relationship though, so I expect a certain amount of heat between the sheets - but it needs to be in context, it needs to fit the story and the characters, and it needs to be well-written so that it shows off the emotion behind the sex instead of just giving me six pages of different ways to put the P and the V together.

And for the love of God, authors, stop classifying your erotica as romance, because I'm sick of picking up new books just to find out I've got sixty-four sex scenes barely held together with the weeniest possible shred of a plot line just so these two characters can bone each other all over town. Mislabeling your product is bad bait-and-switch marketing, anyway. If you're gonna write gratuitous sex, just call it erotica and be proud of what you've written. There's a market for that, too.

I'm just not part of that market. Sorry.


5. Lack of Character Development
So let's assume we've got a non-abusive, well-edited, moderate-swearing, sexy-but-not-pornographic romance novel. We're off to a great start at this point, right? We've at least got hope for a good story here.

But if the characters are cardboard cutouts with shallow backstories and no real emotional expression ... that's it. It all goes out the window. Because here's the thing; if you can't create characters that feel real to me, characters I can root for and fall in love with, then it really doesn't matter how well-produced your book is, how much solid effort you've put into the writing, or how carefully you've moderated the balance of swearing, sex, plot, dialogue, cast diversity, etc. I'm still going to end up hating the book because I hate the people in it.

This is also why I tend to hate so many popular tropes. Rich guy, poor girl. Hot dude, plain Jane. Good girl, bad boy. Sorority queen, tattooed rock star. So predictable. What about just a girl who meets just a guy? They have flaws and problems and quirks, and I can love them because they're me, they're my mother and my brother and my friend? When did we lose sight of the necessity to develop our characters into people?

More importantly, when did it stop being important to develop characters that make the reader feel?


6. Love Triangles and Cheating
I guess in some ways, this connects to the gratuitous sex thing, but it gets its own category in this list simply because there are so many varieties of it. For me, romance is one person falling in love with another person, flaws and all. Just one on one. The right match. The perfect pair. Salt and pepper. Peanut butter and jelly.

Cheating isn't romantic. It isn't sexy. And it always turns me off of a character I might otherwise have loved, leaving me incredibly disappointed in the entire story when, inevitably, the cheater and the cheatee make up and supposedly live happily ever after.

Nope.


7. Insta-Love
This. Drives. Me. Crazy. I mean, I can see two people having instant chemistry based on physical attraction to each other. But love?

Love is when you sit next to your partner while they puke because they're sick and you don't want them to be alone. Love is not caring about morning breath and noticing when your partner buys the certain brand of cheese you like even though they couldn't care less which brand it is. It's when they know how you like your coffee, when they enjoy the quirks that make you who you are, when they appreciate the intricacies of how your past molds your present.

You just can't have that with the hot guy you just met in a bar. It doesn't happen when you lock eyes with some stranger at a party or restaurant.

Insta-love is a quick turnoff for me, simply because if that's the premise of the romance ... well, now I'm guaranteed not to like, believe in, or respect either of the characters I'm supposed to be rooting for. In my opinion, it's a lazy way of creating romance, usually used when the characters haven't been developed enough to feel real. It often ends in lots of gratuitous sex because the author needs to fill the pages and doesn't know what else to do with the paper-thin characters they've created, especially when there isn't any realism to the development of the chemistry between them.


8. Too Much Pointless Drama
I have a super-dramatic life. Like, in real life. I'm a single mom of two kids who both have chronic physical and mental health issues, I'm also dealing with my own chronic physical and mental health issues, I struggle financially because I'm a single mom of two kids, managing without help from their dad. I was abused as a child in just about every possible way, bullied as a teen because of health problems, poverty, my weight, etc. I grew up and ended up entangled in one abusive relationship after another, which have included multiple kinds of domestic abuse, and even death threats.

So when I'm reading a book that's too dramatic even for me, that's when I know I'm reading a book by an author who didn't want to take the time to form a solid plot line, so they just threw some characters together, stirred the pot, emptied a can of "gee, what can I put them through next?", and then published it.


9. Ridiculous Nicknames for Everyone
I love pet names. I love to be called pet names by my significant other, and it is when I develop a pet name for a significant other that they should know they are, in fact, significant. But ...

Every character doesn't need to call every character by a pet name. And no character needs a dozen pet names given to them by every other character. Unless it's a personality trait written for a specific character, like a character who almost always calls everyone by something other than their name just because that's what they do - I could tolerate that. And I'm okay with nicknames too, like if there's a Bartholomew in the story and now and then people call him Bart, or if there's an Angelina but people call her Angie. That's cool, I can go with that.

But when there are so many pet names flying around that I start losing track of which character is which, that's when I quit the book.


10. Obnoxious Characters (the heroine's bestie, the super "Alpha" male, etc.)
I'll agree that this can be well-done with proper effort - and even when it isn't so properly done, I can generally tolerate it if most other aspects of the book are well-done and in good taste. But the best friend that's a total moron, out of control, proud to be a disaster? I hate that character. The total slut, the idiot, the ... extreme anything. I hate the characters that are so obnoxiously one thing because they aren't developed enough to ever hope to be anything else. They don't have good stories, they don't grow, change, or learn. They're just cardboard. No substance.

And don't even get me started on the "alpha" fascination, which just seems to be a code word these days for "asshole who gets away with it." Ugh. I can't even.


So, those are the ten things that drive me most totally crazy about romance novels (and books in general, really). Did you relate to any of these? Or are any of the things listed here among the things you tend to love reading? Would you like to see me post a list of my top ten turnONs too? Leave a comment below and let's chat!


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

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

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Friday Feels: April 2018

Friday Feels - the one place where I'm planning to keep the alliterative post titles. I can't help it, I just love this series too much to change it.

I don't know if it's the calm that settles in after I take the time to write one of these, or the fun of exploring myself and my feelings in such a random way - but whatever it is, I just had to keep this series going.

Things are still pretty crazy for me and the girls, and will likely only get crazier in the next few months as we end another school year, begin another summer, start Josephine's transition to high school, and hurtle toward the exciting unknown lying in wait behind our upcoming move. So it's not at all unexpected that I would be feeling lots of feels - including these:


1. Absorbed:
I've definitely been absorbed lately in solidifying my plans for the upcoming move. I've chosen a couple of places I think the girls and I would like, but since those places happen to be full at the moment, I've got us on waiting lists for openings. In the meantime, I've been making plans for how to use the move in my writing, thinking about what I want the new place to look and feel like, and obsessing over all the various things I need to figure out in order to make the process as seamless as possible for my little family.


2. Disappointed:
We all have them - the people we look up to and admire, the people we want to emulate, befriend, and impress. The ones who seem to have things together, who have good hearts, who can (and do) accomplish all the things we long to accomplish ourselves.

I have a solid number of those people in my life, people I think of as mentors, whether they realize it or not. Recently I had one of those people show an entirely new level of ugly, and while it made me sad for them and those impacted by their behavior, mostly it just disappointed me. This was a person I have thought highly of for a long time despite many different issues - and it hurts my spirit to have that mentorship so shattered, not only because I lost faith in that person but also because it intensified my doubt in my own ability to judge the characters of those I surround myself with.


3. Distrustful:
The same person and issue mentioned above comes to mind here too - not only because now I feel more certain than ever that this person cannot be trusted or counted on, but also because, as mentioned before, their behavior and treatment of others has made me distrust my own judgement even more.

This is a person I truly thought the best of even in the worst of times, believing in their heart and their desire to do good and see the best in others ... and now, if the recent ugliness revealed to be lying beneath the surface is what's really there and I never saw it ... well, now what?

At the very least, I've been praying earnestly for better discernment as I choose friends, mentors, and other influences in the future.


4. Fascinated:
The thing that has fascinated me most lately is the impending project of taking what will be an embarrassingly empty apartment and turning it into a comfortable home - chill enough for the girls to relax in after much too long of not being able to do so, and yet pretty and organized enough for me to love. I've been looking at color schemes, scouting decor options, daydreaming about art, and even planning crafty projects around the thought of creating my own home my own way for the first time.

In the past I've always had a mashup of hand-downs and things that were purchased and used not because they were wanted but because they were the right mix of necessary and affordable - I often didn't even like the things I found myself surrounded with, and it had a huge impact on me over the years. What I'm most looking forward to with moving is actually the emptiness of the new space, and the potential lying in that emptiness.

I am making a point this time not to accept or purchase things I don't want, instead choosing to save up for the things I think I'll love best while also finding budget solutions for certain necessities. This upcoming project is the singular thing I am most excited with in my life lately, and I have been spending every spare moment planning and brainstorming.


5. Fuming:
I don't know if this is really "fuming" or not, but I have been feeling a very decided sense of anger over the lack of compassion I'm seeing in the world lately. Particularly in certain parts of my personal circle, there is an assumption that if someone isn't whining or complaining all the time, it must be because they don't have anything going on, and are therefore available to be used as an emotional dumping ground - or a source for the suction of emotional vampirism.

Lately I've been really bothered by the way people don't think of each other. We don't assume that someone's acting out because they have something going on or because they're ... whatever. We assume instead that this person is a jerk, is dishonest, is a user, is ... whatever. Too often, we don't show up with open hearts or open minds, and we don't give each other nearly enough grace.

Then again, maybe my perspective on this is how I ended up with the kinds of people in my life who make me constantly doubt my character judgement. But I suppose that's fodder for another post.


6. Hopeful:
With so much uproar in my life lately, I've been wavering a lot between being full nearly to bursting with hope and positivity, and being completely overwhelmed with everything and totally devoid of hope.

But when I'm hopeful, I'm hopeful for good things to come from our move, good things to come financially and with my writing. Good partnerships with sponsors for the blog. Growth and healing for myself and my daughters ... and so much more.


7. Powerless:
A lot of things in my life right now are just kind of a waiting game, and while I'm doing what I can to move things along as quickly as possible, there's so much that's out of my hands. I've been doing a lot of planning, yes, and I am hopeful because I truly believe everything going on is going to work out for the best ... but for a girl living with chronic and often crippling anxiety, the waiting is extremely difficult and incredibly stressful.

And I can't change that. All I can do is keep giving my best to this life, to my family, to my loved ones, and hope that that's enough. In the meantime, I've been praying for change, for peace, for patience, for strength, for confidence - because feeling powerless absolutely sucks, but it's also a great exercise in trusting God to mean what He said in Jeremiah 29:11.


8. Respected:
I've talked a lot over the last year about relationships that have either taken a back burner in my life or ended entirely, and I've talked about the way that happened - partly a natural happenstance of the way individual people are always growing and changing, and sometimes they simply grow apart, and partly from the impact of my learning to love myself more and set stronger boundaries that require a certain level of respect from the people around me.

In some cases, these changes within myself have conflicted with the people around me, particularly people who have been in my life for long periods of time, and because I've allowed myself to be treated with certain levels of disregard for so long, I've lost or given up people who were once very important to me. I learned exactly how valuable I wasn't in the eyes of some of the people in my life, and while that was incredibly painful to go through, the empty places left by those people have since been filled with amazing people with huge hearts.

I've never felt so supported in my entire life as I feel now, by the people in my close daily circle of influence. From the friendship and encouragement of the PA in charge of helping me to promote and grow my writing, to the people who have stepped up to back me on Patreon, to the friends who care enough to check in on me if I go too long without contact, my personal community is richer now than it has ever been, and this is in large part due to the simple fact that these people appreciate and respect my contribution, not only to our individual relationships, but also to society and the world in general. Because of them, I feel not only respected but supported and valued. These people make my world keep spinning around, simply by being as awesome as they are.


9. Upset:
Honestly, there's not one specific thing to mention here, other than the overwhelm of all the other little things rolling together at the moment. I've definitely had more peaceful times in my life - and I have complete confidence that peaceful times will roll in again at some point - but right now my life is a storm and I'm just holding on until it passes.

In the meantime, I'm overwhelmed and exhausted. There's a lot of chaos, a lot up in the air, and I'm just doing the best I can to juggle it all.

Which means I often go to bed only to lay in the silence and stare at the ceiling. When I sleep, I often have nightmares. I wake up already in the midst of anxiety attacks. And yes, I'm upset.


10. Warm:
Spring is rolling in here in East Tennessee, and while I despise the onslaught of the tree and flower pollen that literally rains down on the valley during these months (seriously, you should see it all over my van), I do love watching everything come back to life after such a long, bitterly cold winter. The colors are beautiful and vibrant, the temperatures are exactly where I love them best, breezes are strong and frequent - and the perfect time for taking the girls to hang out at the local parks is on the way. The anticipation of sunny days and summer outings thrills me.


What have you been feeling lately - and why?

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

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

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Creating Stillness In The Midst Of Life's Storms

I almost didn't write this post. I almost wrote a little thing about needing a break - a paragraph explaining why I couldn't show up for this one.

I'm stressed, and lately it seems like every time I push myself through one crisis, there's another one waiting to be dealt with. Sometimes they're crises that directly impact me - other times, they are crises that hurt the people I care about in some way. Each time, they hurt my heart and lessen my faith in people I once looked up to. Each time, I am left more confused, more discouraged. More disappointed.

People can be so cold. So selfish. And it amazes me to see how little compassion we have for each other, how quick we are to offer judgement instead of support.

So I was thinking about this post, trying to decide what to write about, what would be safe to share, what lesson I could learn, and how it might help someone reading here ... and I came across a quote I thought fit too perfectly to be overlooked. A quote that reminded me to stop, breathe, rest, and let God help me create a moment of stillness in my storm.


Life is full of storms - there's no getting away from the truth in that. But there is hope inherent in the idea that what goes up must come down - because in turn, what falls down must at some point come up again. Storms, regardless of the power they wield and the havoc they wreak, are not forever. They pass. They end. They fade into the background of what is; in time, they become lost in the fog of what was.

But it's in the moment of the storm that we struggle. In the wrenching winds and pouring rains, we fear. Even in the calm of the storm's center, we fear. And as the storm passes and we stand staring at the destruction left behind, we fear. We fear the damage, the change, the process, the cleanup, the impact.

And so, in the chaos of such a storm of crisis and change in life, how does one find stillness in which to rest - particularly if one struggles with fear and anxiety even in the best of times? How can we remind ourselves to hold on - to breathe in each moment and hold out until the storm passes? How do we find rest?


Sometimes, the best stillness is found in acceptance. There is pride and accomplishment in productivity, in staying proactive, in giving your all to the fight of life. But there is rest in accepting the things we have no power over, peace in finding contentment in even the worst of circumstances, and hope in looking toward a better, brighter day.

Many of my personal storms are not ones that I can change or control at the moment - and for those over which I have some control, I have mostly done all that I can do to move forward. I have made plans, I have set those plans in place, and I have taken action toward the things I want to see in my future. I've been working on more positive self-talk, I've been maintaining an effort to visualize a better future, and I've been nurturing a stronger faith, supported not only by my own efforts but by the little quiet ways in which God is showing up in my life.

In many ways, I am taking as many steps as I can, and I am taking many of those steps despite overwhelming fatigue and crippling anxiety - some days I'm taking too many steps at once, other days, I'm so exhausted I can barely move. But in other ways, I am unable to take steps even were I ready to take them ... many of my current storms cannot be mitigated and must only be waited out, with the patience of knowing that time is passing and the hope of knowing that no storm lasts forever.

But despite the rain of my storms and the ever-changing winds whipping at me from all sides, I am excited. I am ready for the storm to pass and the rainbow to show itself. I'm ready to look up into clear skies, take a deep breath, and rebuild.

For now though, I'm just sitting in the storm, sheltered under an admittedly flimsy umbrella, listening to the wind shriek and the thunder rumble. I'm watching the rains wash away the filth of what was before, watching my life drink up the renewal of change.

And in the stillness, fear slips away, leaving me to rest.


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

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

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

How To Nurture Your Mental Wellness

I've shared so much of my story here over the years, falling more and more in love with blogging both as an outlet and as a way to connect with the world outside my own circle. And I don't just love writing the blogs, either - I love reading them for about dozen different reasons, one of which is mental wellness.

Through reading blogs (and similarly, watching vlogs), I've learned so much about mental health and personal development - so much so that it couldn't have been more seamless for me to transition this blog from a simple author blog to a lifestyle blog in the beginning of 2017. I opened my content options so much, switching from mostly talking about my publishing journey to also sharing about my life in general, including my PTSD diagnosis, tidbits about my life as a single mom, and so much of the personal history that still drives me every day.

What I love most about this transition is that it gives me a platform I can use to share the things I've learned with others - tips about productivity and how to be more productive despite mental illness, how to encourage and uplift yourself when you lack a strong support network, and where to find outside support resources when they're needed. I've even shared self-care recipes and strategies, tips on dealing with anxiety, and why I choose to take things personally on purpose in my efforts to solidify the porous boundaries that keep getting me into toxic relationships.

With that being said, things in my life have been understandably chaotic despite the excitement I feel over the upcoming move and subsequent lifestyle changes, and because of this, I've been working my favorite five-step mental-wellness-nurturing routine a little more often lately. And I thought, since I share so much here already, someone out there might appreciate me sharing this, too.


1. Unsent Letters
One of my favorite ways to let off some steam is to go ahead and give myself permission to say whatever I want, however I want, to whomever I want - with one catch: it can't hurt anyone. When I've got a mind and heart full of things I can't allow my mouth to say, my favorite way to deal with the pressure of that is to sit down with a pen and some paper and go ahead and let the poison pour out. Sometimes I address these letters with a name, other times I don't bother. Sometimes they're written in love, out of emotion I don't feel comfortable sharing with that person (or at all), other times they're full of anger and insult and abuse. No one ever sees them, either way.

These letters are often pages and pages long, repetitive and circular - but always honest, brutally and undeniably honest. Once they're written, I shred them, burn them, tear them into pieces ... whatever is most convenient or feels best in the moment, but also ensures that what I've written will never be seen.

In theory, they seem so useless; what's the point of all that effort, all that emotion? The hand cramps, the tear-streaked, ink-covered pages? And yet ... the freedom to be so completely honest and true to myself and my feelings is ... well, it's freeing. It releases the pressure of whatever I'm feeling, relieves the tension, and allows me to express whatever's been building up in my spirit. Then, knowing that no one will ever see what I've written gives me comfort; in this way, unleashing the thing that hurts me will not, in turn, hurt anyone else - because words have power, and I don't want mine to become weapons.


2. Self-Compassion
I love the way writing unsent letters helps me ease the internal pressure of my emotions, but it often leaves me feeling drained and exhausted - and sometimes I end up just a little angry or disappointed in myself. Because I give myself complete permission to be as brutally honest as needed to express whatever I'm feeling in the letters I write, and the need to write them most often stems from unexpressed anger, frustration, or hurt, my unsent letters are often terribly mean, petty, insulting, or even outright abusive. These letters are where I express emotions in a way that is healthy for me without hurting anyone else ... but they are also where I most clearly see my own ugliness.

They're where, for just a little while, I allow myself to become everything I'm proud of not being.

So after the letter is written and the poison is gone - and I'm a little disgusted with myself - I'll spend a little quality time giving myself some compassion, reminding me that I have a right to my emotions. Taking some time to own that right is what allows me to move forward, and being kind enough to myself to be compassionate with my emotions and needs also helps me remember to be compassionate with the person I just wrote to. It helps me forgive - both the person I'm upset with, and myself for letting the issues fester.


3. Affirmation
Giving myself grace over my emotions - and the need to express them somehow - helps me remember how proud I am of myself for finding a non-toxic way to cope with the issue at hand. This is where I find encouragement and nurture the ability to be kind to myself.

It is because I am kind that I choose to begin with unsent letters. It is because I am generally respectful of others that I choose to air my deepest grievances in a private way that doesn't create conflict. It is because I crave peace that I choose not to send the letters I write, and it is out of loving compassion for others that I choose to understand the issues that may be playing into the behavior of the other person.

I mean, I'm a long way from perfect ... but I'm actually pretty amazing, once I get to thinking about it.


4. Self-Defense
Now that the emotions are dealt with and I'm feeling better, this is the right place for me to think about my boundaries. What was the issue that drove me to write that letter in the first place, and how can I prevent it coming up again in the future? Usually, the issue is that I've let something small fester; something happened that hurt or angered me, something was said that offended me somehow, and I didn't say anything. I didn't stand up for myself. I didn't draw a line, didn't set a boundary. I didn't respect myself, which is why I now feel disrespected.

So ... would sitting down and talking it out with the other person help? If I sit down with this person and tell them I'm hurt or upset, tell them why, and ask them to do something that will resolve the issue, will they hear me out? Will they change behavior?

Self-defense. The emotions aren't raw anymore, I'm feeling better both about myself and the situation in general, and now it's time to set boundaries that will protect me emotionally in the future. People treat you the way you teach them to treat you - so now I need to find a calm, kind, but honest way to teach this person that I deserve to be treated better. That I, like any other person, am valuable. And that in order for the relationship to heal and grow in a healthy way, I demand to be treated well.

It is, after all, only fair.


5. Therapy
Boundaries are hard for me. Conflict is hard for me. In the past, I've had too many instances of weak boundaries on my part leading to my being disrespected, demeaned, or otherwise devalued for too long without my saying anything. I have, in essence, taught people (both in romantic and non-romantic relationships) to mistreat me by accepting the treatment I was given without much complaint. I've let my own feelings sit in the dark of my heart and grow more and more painful until they could no longer be hidden, and then I have stood up, lashed back, and spoken out - too late.

This has cost me dearly in terms of personal safety, financial security, self-worth and self-confidence - and over the years, even my faith as a Christian has taken a hit. But in therapy, I'm able to talk through the past, learn how it impacts the present, and create a stronger me heading into the future. I went for depression, was diagnosed with PTSD and PMDD ... but in taking that step (going to therapy), I gained something more valuable than I can express: I've learned so much about myself and who I am, what I want my life to look like, where I want to go moving forward.

I've learned to see how my own choices helped to get me where I am, both good and bad, and how I can adjust to get where I want to be. I've discovered comfort in conversation, safety in self-expression, and validation in vulnerability - and those are gifts I wouldn't trade for the world.


And that's it, the five most helpful strategies I use to keep my mental health as in check as possible. If you'd like to try any of these, please be sure to let me know how they work for you in the comments below! And if therapy seems like it's not an option for you because of insurance issues or because it's simply too expensive, I urge you to check out online therapy options like BetterHelp, where you can even try quality online therapy for free.


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

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

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.


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

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

My Top Ten Favorite Blog Posts (April 2018)

Over the years, I've written my way through several different post series. I've dropped them when they didn't work for me, picked them back up again at will, and adjusted them as needed to fit my writing style and current interests. But one of the things that remains the same throughout many years of blogging is that I love to read blog posts just about as much as I love writing them.

I can't help it, really; it's like having the nostalgia of reading the perfect magazine article - complete now with photos and sometimes even video! But it's better because it's customized to me, curated content that I pick and choose based on what I love most at the time. It gives me comedy, compassion, education, relatability.

And that's why I can see this post series sticking around for the long haul - I love sharing my story here, with all its ups and downs, all its challenges, lessons, and celebrations. It's such a beautiful blessing to me to be able to do this, to know that there are people out in the world who will stop in to catch up.

So I like to pay that forward by sharing the blogs I love, right here on a blog I hope you love.

(in no particular order)

When I first found this article from Marelisa at DaringToLiveFully.com, I was actually building this post and had gone to Google for help, looking to clarify my memory of a different but similar metaphorical comparison. I didn't find exactly what I had been looking for, but I went ahead and built my own post, saving this metaphorical exploration for another time. Days later, I finally found a few free minutes to sit down and read these 10 life lessons - and I'm glad I did. This post fit so well in that moment with the things I'd been thinking and dealing with, and the comparison between life-building and gardening was spot on. Not to mention, there were some hard truths hidden in the post as well - which is a good thing. Pruning, after all, is how we continue to grow.


2.) "How To Date Yourself"
Dating ourselves isn't something we often think of; so many of us are running through life frantically trying to find someone else to date. We find it shocking when we meet someone who isn't looking, and we can never quite understand why a person would be perfectly okay with being single. But I believe spending time alone - as a single, unattached and not dating person - is just as important at times as being attached with a significant other of some kind.

Yes, we need love and companionship, and we crave the sense of being fully known and accepted that is found most readily in a romantic relationship, but one of the things I've learned over the last year and a half in the single life is that you can't appreciate the feeling of being known by others until you have learned to know and accept yourself.

Besides, how can anyone else really know you if you haven't bothered to get to know yourself well enough to be able to show yourself to others authentically? Which is why Kia Stephens's post on FatherSwap.com had such an impact on me personally - and that's without counting the whole "father wounds"/"daddy issues" concept that often plays into things like this with women who have troubled, toxic, or nonexistent relationships with their fathers.


3.) "How To Tell Her You Love Her"
I found this post - written by "Human Parts" on GoodMenProject.com - entirely by accident, and I just totally loved it. It expresses so beautifully how terrifying new relationships can be after heartbreak, and how appropriate it is that we walk into new relationships with a certain measure of perfectly understandable caution. But I also love that this article reminds us - in a poignant, yet pointed way - how much we need relationships, while also giving us an idea of how we can walk into new relationships intentionally, going the extra mile to let our loved ones know that they are loved. Because here's the thing about life:
"Life will never wait for you to be ready. It will toss you towards the people you’re meant to be with and the places you’re meant to be in with such stunning velocity that you will wonder how you made it in one piece. And you have to accept that someone or something infinitely wiser than you made this happen."


4.) "Cultivating Happiness"
This was a great post from Jessica at garvinandco.com, and it's one I plan to keep in mind for a while. The post itself was a great list of little ways to cultivate happiness in daily life, but the quote about prayer (in general) and being bold in prayer (more specifically) really stood out to me in a way that was perfectly attuned with things I had already been dealing with. The thing is, I have experienced my fair share of pain due to people who should have believed in me but didn't, and as a result I tend to pray with great caution, almost as if God Himself would also scoff at what I most want in my life. But then I remind myself that HE is the one who planted my dreams, and that all He's waiting for is for me to request manifestation. This post was a great reminder of that concept.


5.) "you are not too (fucking) sensitive"
I have spent huge portions of my life being told that I am "too sensitive." That I "take it personal" or I "give too many f@cks." And honestly, it hurts. It's a crappy way to speak to people, a careless way of invalidating someone else's right to feel hurt or sad or ignored or disregarded. Or angry.

I've heard it so many times I've even gotten pissed off enough to write about it here, addressing the wrongness of this way of treating people and my firm stance against folding under the pressure of it. No, I am not too sensitive. And I'm not wrong to take it personal - because how I am treated by others is personal to me. I have a right to be annoyed or offended or whatever I am ... and I don't need anyone else to approve or like it in order for it to be valid. I'm not going to be told that I'm "too sensitive" or that I "take things personal" as if that's a wrong way to be, because I believe that in general, it isn't.

So when I was listening to a podcast that briefly referenced "you are not too (fucking) sensitive," I paused the podcast and Googled the article, which turned out to be a brief but meaningful post from Kate Courageous on YourCourageousLife.com. Check it out - if you've ever been told how "too sensitive" you are, then you'll love it as much as I did.


6.) "The Secret To Being A Good Listener"
I confess, I'm not always the best listener. I'm actually rarely ever even close to pretending to be the best listener. You see, I am a recovering people pleaser and - partly because of my particular anxieties and partly because of my genetic hardwiring - also have a tendency toward problem-solving. I like to plan things, I like to organize things, and I like being able to answer a question when someone asks it.

But sometimes I struggle to remember in the moment that just because someone brings me a problem, that doesn't necessarily mean that they're bringing it to me to solve. Sometimes, my person just wants to be heard, and I'm trying all the time both to be better at this and to be better at understanding why I'm not so great at it (so as to become more mindful and therefore better at it). I want very much to be known as a good listener, a good friend, and a solid person that other people could count on to be there; like Kelly said in the article referenced here, "I want people to remember me by the feelings I gave them." And I want those feelings to be good ones. This article from theeverygirl.com was a great way for me to remember how much I want that - while learning how to get closer to achieving it.


7.) "I Want To Make You Uncomfortable"
I love the way this post from Nicole at jthreenme.com totally reminded me of how strong I can be simply by reminding me of the people that make me most passionate: my kids. The post is really about taking challenges and opening your heart, life, and world to the unexpected blessings that only seem to find us when we're on the edge of our comfort zones, but it's also about the resilience and warrior's grit needed to carry on despite the things we might be afraid of - especially when it's for the sake of those we love the most.

Already in 2018, we've had a surgery (Eden), an MRI (Joey), a 30-day heart monitor (Joey), a failed vascular surgery (my mom), a tire blowout, a sprained ankle (Joey), a financial crisis, several other injuries and minor illnesses, and more interpersonal conflict with certain other people in our circle than we care to admit. We've had school bullying issues, conflict with teachers, drama, tears, and struggle.

We're all outside our comfort zones a lot lately ... but we're learning to lean on each other as we cope with the discomfort, and as we soak up those lessons, we're also learning to appreciate how much stronger we are for the struggle.


8.) "Creating Stress Free Mornings"
Mornings tend to be stressful for lots of people regardless of their job, their age, the number of children they have, the ages of those children, and the relative health and wellness of the person in question. Some people just aren't morning people, right? And that's okay.

But I'm a non-morning person with one non-morning kid and one totally balls-to-the-wall-morning kid. It gets a little stressful sometimes, and because of that, I often feel neglected or too rushed to take time for myself. So I loved how this article from Justine (at JustineSpencer.com) was filled with such common-sense practicality. Little things like getting up a few minutes earlier so I have time to pee, wash my face, and brush my teeth in peace changed the entire scope of my mornings, then when I started adding other simple things like having everything I need packed and ready to go as often as possible ...

Well, that really helps too - partly because it helps me sleep without stressing over what isn't done yet, and partly because utilizing the space between when the girls go to bed and when I go to bed means that I can do what needs doing in relatively uninterrupted peace. Which means less anxiety during the process, less resulting stress and brain fog, less forgotten to-do's, and a smoother life all around.


9.) "The Power Of A Kind Word"
In the last few years, I've been paying a lot more attention to the way I allow myself to be treated - both by myself and by others. I've put extra focus on using affirmations with myself, activating self-compassion, staying mindful as often as possible, and setting boundaries in my relationships with others. It hasn't always been easy, either - I've lost relationships, friendships, contacts.

Why? Because I'm a little less easy-going. I don't always say "sure, I'd love to!" or "oh I'm fine, how are you?" I don't agree to everything, and I don't agree with everything. And I'm confident enough to say so.

But what the loss has meant is that I learned the truth of the old idea that "when God takes something out of your hands, He's making room for something better." In the time since I started letting go of old relationships that were no longer healthy for me, I've open space in life for ones that are, allowing space in my heart for people who see value in me even when I can't. People who step up for me, go to bat for me. People who believe in me so solidly that they have sacrificed in order to prove ME to ME.

People who say things like "you deserve this" and "you can do this" and "I can't wait to see what's next for you" - and they mean it. They open every message, every email. They answer every text. They offer encouragement over every little thing, especially when the only things going right are the little things. They keep me trying - and this article from author Joshua Becker on becomingminimalist.com was a great reminder of why one of my goals this quarter was to make sure I'm reaching out in gratitude to the people who love me with more than just words.


10.) "Motherhood Confessions: Parenting When You Had A Toxic Parent"
I found this post from veronikasblushing.com while scrolling through recommended reads on Bloglovin' (follow me on Bloglovin' here), and I cried a river of tears while reading it. Veronika's openness about her childhood and the way it still impacts her as a mother spoke so deeply into my heart.

I still struggle all the time with countering my determination to give my kids a "better" life than I had against my need to be compassionate with myself and my own flaws (and yes, by extension, the flaws of my parents, who were only doing the best they had with what they had to work with at the time). Sometimes little things do get the best of me, and sometimes I'm a much less stellar mom than I imagined myself being.

But when I ask my kids, "Do you know I love you?" and they answer every time without hesitation, "Yeah, I know," it soothes my soul. When I follow up with, "But how do you know?" and they give some variation of, "You show me," it gives me hope. Hope that one generation can break the legacy of the last, setting a new course for the next. This article reminded me of my own worth as a mother, of my own need for grace and mercy as the grown child of dysfunction, and of the reason I get up everyday to keep on trying for a better way.


I hope you read and liked some of the posts I shared today - and that if you liked them, you left a supportive comment for the authors of the posts! Comments mean the world to us, because they let us know someone cared and wanted to interact with us in a more personal way. If you read any of the linked posts, which were your favorites? And if you didn't read them, why not? What was the best blog post you've read lately? Tell me about it in the comments!

BONUS: I've done this type of Top Ten before! You can check out some other great posts I've found by looking at My Top Ten Favorite Blog Posts from:

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

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

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and Undaunted Army itself are solely built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.


NOTE: 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.)