Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday Score: Christmas Magic On A Budget

If you've been reading here for any length of time, you'll know that I'm a single mom, and that my daughters make up the entirety of my world. Nothing I do is done without them in mind - and all I want in the world is to know at the end of my life that I was as good a mother as I knew how to be, that I gave them my all, and that I left them with memories they would want to pass on.

A large portion of my day-to-day existence revolves around trying to rock the task of being both parents to the best of my ability - not only being the mother my kids need and deserve, but also struggling to stand in for the father figure they no longer have.

The thing is, being alone poses a laundry list of challenges, both as a woman and as a parent - but since I'll be tackling how I feel about single life during my BLOGuary marathon (I'll be blogging every day except Sundays in January!) next month, let's focus on the biggest, most stressful challenge of single mom life at the moment.

Christmas on a budget. Making Christmas happen on a budget. Like, a really tight budget. Like, really really close to a zero budget.

How the hell do you make Christmas magical on a zero (or frighteningly close to zero) budget?

Well, here's how I'm doing it.


The first and most major way to create Christmas magic on a low-to-no budget is to change your focus. Don't think as much about packages and presents, and instead, think about memory making. Your loved ones most likely won't remember what you bought them this year nearly as well as they'll remember that this was the year of memories and experiences.

This year my kids saw their dad less and less, and while they had lots of moments where they were angry or sad or insert-strong-emotion-here - especially as they faced their first Thanksgiving without their dad and will now be looking toward their first Christmas without him - they also had a lot of moments where they were able to put aside their troubles and enjoy themselves. And not to toot my own horn here or anything, but a good portion of them being able to cope as well as they are has been because I spent more time focusing on getting them out of the house and finding things we could do together. More importantly from a financial aspect, I've been more actively looking for things we can go do without spending a fortune.

This has actually had a two-sided benefit, too; not only are my kids having fun and looking forward to all the fun things we go out and do together, they're also learning that life doesn't have to be expensive and fun isn't always about throwing money around. We've had lots of discussions about how life cycles through times of want and times of plenty - and we've talked a lot about how important it is to live your life regardless of which extreme you might be living in. So even though these last few months have been very challenging financially and I'm juggling a ton of stuff I'm not sure I can keep juggling much longer, the kids and I have been having fun attending lots of local Christmas festivals and free events I've found for us (mostly on Facebook), making new memories to ease the pain of old ones now turned bittersweet.

Another way I've been carefully working more magic into a smaller budget goes back to something I first introduced last year - our four-gift limit. Of course, Santa brings what Santa brings, but thanks to my carefully working in new strategies for Christmas magic on a budget before the final split between the kids's dad and I, the four gift limit allows my kids to think more carefully about what they really want, allows me to spend my limited money more wisely on gifts I know will be appreciated, and helps keep my kids thankful for what they do have. The bonus of having implemented this last year is that even though I could see where things were headed, the girls hadn't yet noticed all the changes in our family dynamic. Thus, the four-gift limit is not attached to the parental split - and because they didn't connect the timing, my kids don't see the four-gift limit as a symbol of lack in our world, only as a symbol of care and appreciation for simplicity:

  • Something You Want - usually a toy set of some kind for the youngest, and hair accessories, jewelry, or makeup for the oldest.
  • Something You Need - this is almost always socks, underwear, camis/bras, or some combination of these.
  • Something You Wear - since clothes are usually covered at this point (unless there are other clothing items needed like jeans or whatever), I try to get fun with this. Last year, Joey's "something to wear" was an activity tracker - she ended up with a Misfit Flash - while I loved how affordable the Flash is, my daughter loved how easy and intuitive it was to use. We both want to upgrade at some point to the Misfit Shinebecause there are so many more color options! Eden's "something to wear" was a red pair of volume-limiting headphones from OnAndOff and she loved them so hard they eventually gave up on her. She'll be getting new ones this Christmas, which will thrill her because she has missed hers!
  • Something You Read - for this one, I actually like to do Amazon Gift Cardsfor the kids because then I can alter how much I'm giving to cooperate with how much I have, and the girls really love getting online with me and choosing their own books. It's a double gift; they get the giftcard, but they also get an established time that's just me and them (one at a time, so it's extra personal), where we get on Amazon and browse books right up until we're out of cash.
This worked perfectly for us last year, and I can't wait to see what my kids think of their gifts this year!

I've also had fun bringing in new little traditions for us to build on as a family - we've made ugly Christmas sweater cookies together, built marshmallow snowmen, watched Christmas movie marathons, hunted local Christmas light displays, and spent time just jamming to good Christmas music. The kids will be starting their Christmas break from school soon too, and I think we'll probably be spending the time cozied up together, cooking up fun crafts and DIY gifts for our neighbors and friends. There will likely be puzzles, coloring, and lots of board game time involved as well. And who knows, maybe we'll even have the time and/or money to implement one or two of these great ideas, too.

So tell me, how do you create Christmas magic on a budget?


If you liked this post, take a second to drop a comment below and tell me about your favorite Christmas magic strategies! I'm always looking for new ideas I can implement to keep things exciting for the girls and I, and it's always fun to see what other families are doing differently. I'd love for you to share this post so we can get a lot of great ideas in the comments too, especially if you know a particularly genius Christmas magician. But before you go, take a second to subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's a great way to make sure you never miss a post!

If you like this site and want to take an active role in keeping it running, there are several different ways to get involved. The easiest is just to make a donation here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. Or, if you're a book lover like me and/or you'd like to help take charge of my writing on a more committed basis, skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens.

Not only is Patreon a great way to help me manage the costs of running this blog (and life in general because hey, a girl's gotta keep the coffee pot percolating!), but this is also where my readers find a whole new way to read my novels - while I write them. My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors by choosing their favorite reward tier (starting at as little as $1 a month), and that sponsorship gives them access to all sorts of content: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls!

The best part of Patreon is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'll start dedicating each of my blog posts to one special patron - which means YOU could be getting public shoutouts right here on the blog, just for being one of my Patreon subscribers!! Even better ... when we get to 50 patrons, I'll double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you. (PhLogs are public too, so make sure you go check 'em out!)

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

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

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Thankful Thursday: Planet Beach Spa Review

There's a huge outdoor mall on the other side of Knoxville called Turkey Creek. There's no creek there (that I know of), but there are probably forty different boutiques, department stores, restaurants, theaters, and more. It's a great place to spend a day alone or as a family - window shopping, actual shopping, or even just wandering around taking in the sights. You could even drive to the end and park your car, then walk up and down from store to store if the weather is nice.

The thing is, in my daily life, I don't often have the opportunity to do more than a lot of boring grocery shopping, squeezed in between therapy for me and countless various doctor's appointments for the kids - but my favorite thing about this particular area is the huge Christmas tree they put up and light every holiday season. It's completely giant and utterly beautiful and you can see it from the nearby interstate as you drive by. So of course, a few weeks ago, the girls and I headed to Turkey Creek for the lighting of the Christmas Tree in the Pinnacle Plaza of Turkey Creek, and as part of the presented activities, Josephine and I both entered to win a drawing for three free services for one person AND a friend at Planet Beach Spa.

And Joey won!


But as exciting as that was, that was actually where the problems began (for me). I'm a single mom with not one, but TWO girls. I'm also super protective of my kids, and I am not the kind of mom who regularly drops her kids off places to go and do things on their own - especially places where they might be expected to take off their clothes. It was guaranteed from the get-go that my 13 year old daughter's plus-one would be me. But what to do with Eden, who would likely have hurt feelings and experience a little envy?

I did some thinking and quickly came up with the idea of scheduling spa day with Joey on a school day, when I could send Eden to school as usual and then surprise Jo with a sneaky school-skip with me. I explained the plan and my reasoning behind it - and that's where Planet Beach turned up the awesomeness to extend Joey's plus-one to a plus-two.

Cue the happy Mom heart. A spa day for Team Kennedy as a whole? Free? And I can blog it? Yes, please.

So instead of going on a school day, we got up early and headed to the spa on a beautiful Saturday morning; I was eagerly anticipating surprising the girls, and they were (as always) excitedly trying to figure out the surprise.

Eden's young, so she wasn't allowed to do any treatments by herself (w e learned later that the corporate-approved age for spa treatments is 14+ - oops) - so she and I chose to go into the "Saunatox" machine together for our first treatment while Josephine went alone (and uncomfortably naked) to the Hydro-Derma Fusion chamber (which totally looks like a space pod). In the sauna, Eden wrapped up in a little robe and I got cozy in a towel wrap (you're supposed to wear a sauna suit but that would have been terribly immodest since their throw-away shot is totally see-through, plus Eden could never hope to be big enough for one), and we took seats together on the little bench in our heat chamber.

It was peaceful and quiet and deliciously warm, and then Eden said, with the smallest hint of worry in her little voice, "Mom?"

"Yeah?" I said, barely above a whisper.

"I'm getting sweaty," she said.

"I know," I answered. "That's the idea."

"No. Like A LOT sweaty."

I laughed and reminded her that it was okay because she was supposed to sweat a lot. We talked a out skin as a filter for the body, talked about how a good sweat helps the skin do its job better. I even reminded her of our (distant) Native American ancestors, and how sweat lodges were - and still are in many places - a part of the health culture for "our people."

"Oh," she said. "So I'm just supposed to sit here and sweat a puddle? And that's relaxing?"

"I think it is," I laughed. Our session was set for an hour, and we still had about 40 minutes left. Hoping she would settle, I reminded her that we were alone in the room the Saunatox chamber was in, and that at any time if she wanted to get out of the heat, she could get out, get dried off, and get dressed while I finished the session. She promised that if she got out she'd be quiet and read her book - and when she left me with just under fifteen minutes to go, she kept her promise, allowing me to rest quietly in the sunny warmth of the infrared light.

 

Shown above, from left to right: the SaunaTox Eden and I did, the info sheet for the Hydro-Derma Fusion chamber Joey did, and then a peek inside the chamber from up at the head (looking down along the body-length of the pod).

Following the SaunaTox, Team Kennedy reunited in a cozy little area equipped with three automated massage stations: the Jade Fuzion bed, the Yu Me Massage chair, and the DreamWave Massage chair.


 Shown above, from left to right: the Jade Fuzion, the Yu Me Massage, and the DreamWave Massage. Clicking the photos should enlarge them - check out all the benefits of each treatment!

Eden took the Jade Fuzion (because her body was too small to fit either of the chairs right), which was just a heated jade bed. She rested there a while, reading, while I groaned like a helpless (but very happy) fool in the Yu Me chair - it's got a mean shiatsu massage mode, which was the epitome of those sorts of things we like to describe as "hurts real good," and then it had an amazing stretch mode that did a great job of soothing and relaxing my entire body while still managing to contort my muscles and stretch out my tensions. Beside me, Joey laid quietly, alternating between smug contentment and excited gushing about how much she had loved the Hydro-Derma Fusion.



Let me tell you guys - for a first spa experience (yes, that was a total first for me), Planet Beach was AMAZING. Over the next week, I went back twice (alone though, and while the girls were at school, because even though the kids couldn't come they still let me come back for two more days to try almost everything), and let me tell you, that place is like heaven for a stressed out mom like me. I savored every moment too, knowing that those three days of special treatment would soon end and I'd be back to life as usual. The only things I wanted to try that I ended up missing out on were the HotWorx Hot Yoga and Hot Zen programs - and honestly, if my financial situation looked just slightly different, I'd probably be writing this blog post from inside the sauna. I'm not even kidding.

The sad thing (for me) is that it's really not even that expensive - Planet Beach is a franchise, so prices vary from location to location, but at my local spot, it's only $60 a month for unlimited services (with one caveat: you can only do one "hot" treatment per day). The best thing about the Gold Membership though (the $60 one) is that you can bring a friend with you as often as you want too, for free. And as if that wasn't enough, you also get rewards and discounts for bringing in new clientele! I seriously can't even tell you guys how heartbroken I am that this isn't something that would fit into my budget, because I would have been signing those papers in blood if necessary.

I also like that there's a month-to-month price too, for people who want the unlimited treatments but don't want the commitment of a membership contract - for just $70 a month, you can go in as often as you want to and take advantage of being able to kick back and do something special just for yourself. And again, this isn't something that fit into my budget (yet), but when it does, this is likely the option I would go for. Commitment free relaxation and self-spoiling? Uh, yes please.

What's cool though, is that if you can't (or don't want to) sign up for memberships at all, you can actually set an appointment and pay service-by-service for $40 - which is admittedly more expensive, but I  still like that it comes with no commitment, which means that until I can squeeze that monthly $70 out of my budget, I can still go when I can afford to go, and totally skip it when I can't.

But the best part is that Planet Beach is a franchise business with locations all over the place (even international!) - which means that even if you aren't in the Knoxville area, you might still have one close enough to you to visit!

In the meantime, here's the breakdown of things I got to try - in order of what I liked best.

  1. SaunaTox - I loved the way the saunatox made me completely fall in love with warmth as a sensation. I don't usually like to be hot, I don't like to be sweaty, and I don't like the way sometimes it's hard to breathe in a normal sauna. But SaunaTox is no normal sauna. It was truly amazing.
  2. Hydro-Derma Fusion - I tried this on my second day, and this was like having my entire body encased in the most deliciously hot, steamy, vibrating shower. My skin felt amazing afterward, and I felt energized and rejuvenated. I also liked that you do this one nude, so there's no weird suit or anything required. It was also nice that there was a fan on my face; it kept the steam away and helped keep me from being too hot. My chief complaint with this was that it lasted about a half-hour, and I could easily have laid there for days, steaming gently and sleeping peacefully.
  3. Yu Me Massage - As mentioned above, this chair had a great shiatsu massage that worked really well for the tension in my upper back, shoulders, and neck, and I also liked the way it worked the tension out of my legs while leaving my hands free. I did this one on the first and third days of my sessions at Planet Beach, and I liked it so much that I chose it on that third day even knowing that it meant I wouldn't have time to try the Jade Fuzion.
  4. The Slim Capsule - I actually liked how hot this one was, and that the vibration of the table was a little stronger than with the Hydro-Derma Fusion; what I didn't like was the sauna-suit you're supposed to wear. It was terribly uncomfortable for me - it fit fine even with my being plus-sized, but was much too long in the legs and then it was so much too short in the body and arms that it didn't come all the way up to my shoulders. It really took away from what would otherwise probably have been #2 on this list.
  5. DreamWave Massage - I did this on my second day (after the Hydro-Derma Fusion), and while I liked it (it was a little less strong on my tender sciatic area), I didn't like it as much as the Yu Me. It wasn't as strong and didn't have the awesome stretching mode. But I did love that it did my arms, hands, and feet (the Yu Me didn't), which was wonderful.
  6. The Red Light Bed - I liked that this was warm even though I wasn't crazy about being terrified that the eye protection I purchased somehow wouldn't be protective enough (or would slip) and I would end up relaxed with great skin but totally blind.
  7. The Red Light Facial - This one I wasn't crazy about either; it was fine for the most part, but I actually thought it was a little boring. My face skin did feel pretty amazing though, and the sweetheart who attended me during my sessions assured me that the benefit of the red light facial is meant to be cumulative.
As mentioned above, I didn't get to try the HotWorx Hot Yoga or the Hot Zen - I suspect if I had had the chance to try those, my list would look a little different, especially since the HotWorx uses the same infrared heat as the SaunaTox. I think missing out on the HotWorx sauna is probably the biggest part of what makes me so sad that I can't currently sign up for a Planet Beach membership.

So if you do, make sure you come back and tell me all about it, 'kay? Because I need to live vicariously.


If you liked this post or if you've ever tried anything like Planet Beach Automated Spa, take a second to drop a comment below and let me know what spa services are your favorites! I'd love for you to share this post too, especially if you know someone who might benefit from a visit to the spa (pssst - you can actually get a first-time pass for free), or needs to take some time to do something for themselves. But before you go, take a second to subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's a great way to make sure you never miss a post!

If you like this site and want to take an active role in keeping it running, there are several different ways to get involved. The easiest is just to make a donation here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. Or, if you're a book lover like me and/or you'd like to help take charge of my writing on a more committed basis, skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens.

Not only is Patreon a great way to help me manage the costs of running this blog (and life in general because hey, a girl's gotta keep the coffee pot percolating!), but this is also where my readers find a whole new way to read my novels - while I write them. My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors by choosing their favorite reward tier (starting at as little as $1 a month), and that sponsorship gives them access to all sorts of content: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls!

The best part of Patreon is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'll start dedicating each of my blog posts to one special patron - which means YOU could be getting public shoutouts right here on the blog, just for being one of my Patreon subscribers!! Even better ... when we get to 50 patrons, I'll double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you. (PhLogs are public too, so make sure you go check 'em out!)

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

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

Monday, December 4, 2017

Monday Minute: Announcements and Invitations

This entire year has been a whirlwind of change for my writing. I revamped my entire persona as a writer, changing my branding imagery, my tagline, and even the content and visual appearance of this blog. I grew and expanded the content on my Patreon account too - but more importantly, I had an amazing time with all the growth, making this not only my fifth year as a published author but also my favorite year as a published author.

With just one little snafu: I didn't actually write any new books this year. I didn't finish even one. I mean sure, most of the year was spent writing my fingertips off, and I am currently working on EIGHT different novels on Patreon (which my patrons get to control by voting on!), but ... new novels on the market? Nope, not yet.

I had planned to finally finish my ninth book this quarter (and the quarter before that, and the quarter before that, too), but the way it worked out, this quarter (just like the others, obviously) was spent on other things - and to tell you the truth, I'm not even sorry because I stumbled upon blessing after blessing this year, ending with one no sane author with any kind of desire to succeed could pass up.

You see, one of my favorite authors is Lauren Dawes, and that's not only because she's a fabulous storyteller with a dark style and a penchant for the paranormal. Over the course of the last few years, Lauren and I have gotten to know each other fairly well outside of stories, and I've learned that when she's not busy being a spectacular writer, she's also a talented graphic designer - among other things. Currently, she's building a side business as a book cover artist, and you guys, the girl is talented. Like I'm not even kidding, look at what she's done:
In the beginning of October these new Selkie covers went live, giving me the chance to fall in love with my books all over again thanks to Lauren's creative genius and her eye for design. I love how much better these covers fit the soft, romantic side of the Selkie story, but I also love the way, once you've read the books, you can't look at these covers without seeing the deeper struggles of the characters I hoped to bring to life.

Selkie: Annie Jacobs's marriage fell apart, leaving her heart and her trust broken. Even her friends couldn't ease the pain of betrayal and eventually, Annie packed up her life and moved on. In peaceful Bar Harbor, Maine, Annie is finally able to find solace. She makes new friends, she finds a new routine, and she begins to pick up the shattered pieces of her confidence. Just when Annie thinks she's found contentment once again, a series of chance disasters threatens her new life -- and nearly ends her life entirely. When the man who saves her turns out to be something more than Annie ever would have expected, her life is thrust once again into turmoil. A near-death experience takes Annie into an entirely new world, one she would never have believed existed. It seems like death has its sights set on Annie for sure this time, and a war is closing in. Even immortality may not be enough to save her now. (Purchase for KindleiBooksNookKobo, or Inktera/Page Foundry.)

Selkie II: The prophecy begins to work itself out as the war draws near. The world at large is searching for Annie Jacobs, a woman who disappeared unexpectedly – her disappearance the first in a series of crimes set in motion by a chance encounter that changed her life in unimaginable ways. The man she loves is now on the run, the main suspect in her disappearance, as well as countless other crimes. Enemy clans are closing in, increasingly determined and shockingly violent. They want Annie – they want the baby spoken of in the prophecy, the innocent life growing even now in the shelter of her womb. One clan wants the baby dead, one clan wants control of her and everyone connected to her. The clan Killian wants only to protect her as a member of their family. More clans are coming – but whatever they want, they all share one common thread: they’ll stop at nothing to accomplish their goals. The only thing Annie and Malik want is to raise their child together, in love and in peace. Follow them as they struggle to protect themselves, their baby, and each other, in a time filled with fear, danger, and the sheer power of the only magic that can save them … the love of one soul for another. (Purchase for KindleiBooksNookKobo, or Inktera/Page Foundry.)
November saw the release of this new cover, which brings out so much more of the harsh reality illustrated in Fighting For Freedom. This story is so close to my heart, not only because it hurts me to know how many people aren't aware of how horrifying domestic abuse is ... but because I have survived it on nearly every possible level, and can personally testify to how real this problem is, even here in beautiful America.

In Fighting For Freedom: "He'd finally done it. He'd beaten me to death. For years, I'd been taking it, accepting the beatings, silently believing the worthlessness he saw in me. I'd obeyed his rules, I'd catered to his whims. I finally woke up in a hospital bed. Bruised, broken, in shock. That was the moment. In that moment, I knew that I had to get out. I loved my husband. I missed him. But I needed more than he would ever offer. I deserved more than I'd been given, more than flying fists and fragile tempers. I deserved to wear what I chose. I deserved to go where I wanted. I deserved goodnight kisses. I deserved gentle touches. I deserved to feel loved, and not possessed." WARNING: Although it is meant to be a story of hope and physical empowerment, this book is focused on the topic of domestic violence and abuse, and it does contain scenes of extreme violence as well as some very strong language. It is NOT suitable for young readers. (Purchase for KindleiBooksNookKobo, or Inktera/Page Foundry.)
But now it's December and as my fifth author-versary approaches, I thought it best to save my most deeply personal series for last. The Kingsley Series is focused on a family rebuilding after one of their members survives an incredibly terrifying betrayal. This series picks up around a decade afterward, but every member of the family is still left with psychological shadows of the past haunting their present lives, and for many of them, each new day brings its own new demons. Finding love is hard when you're living with trust issues, fear of the future, flashbacks to the past, and a host of insecurities ... but sometimes, it's finding the right person to hold your hand in the darkness that finally allows the light to shine through.

In Fat Chance, you'll meet Cass Keaton, who struggles with the concepts of confidence and self-love. She's had a rough life, and her ability to see her own worth is damaged by the tests of time, the trials of being orphaned, and her harsh memories of bullying and rejection. Finally on the brink of doing the unthinkable, Cass seeks the help of a therapist, and this one choice changes her life in ways she wouldn't even have dared to dream. (Now FREE on AmazoniBooksNookKobo, and Inktera/Page Foundry.)

In Prescription For Love, you'll have the chance to attend the very first Kingsley wedding. You'll also meet Cameron Kingsley, a jaded but very successful wedding planner who doesn't believe in forever. She has experienced the very worst of the dating world, and she's seen more marriages fall apart than she'd care to admit. But with a little encouragement from her family, the right kind of pressure from a certain sexy therapist, and the courage of an unbreakable spirit, Cameron just might be willing to try one more time ... (Purchase for KindleiBooksNook, or Kobo. Also available on Inktera/Page Foundry.)

In Wrestling Harmony, you'll get to know the youngest girl in the Kingsley family. Harmony's biggest dream is now behind her, unaccomplished and out of reach. There's no going back though, and she has no choice but to move on. Some choice encounters with a prickly local athlete get her all hot and bothered, but she's not ready to risk her heart. But on her quest for a new career, she finds a connection she hadn't had the courage to wish for, and a new path that she can walk confidently. Armed with a fresh new perspective, Harmony begins to plan an entirely new future she never even knew was possible. (Purchase for KindleiBooksNook, or Kobo. Also available on Inktera/Page Foundry.)

In More Than Friends, Michael Kingsley is nursing a still-broken heart. He's the first and only member of his family to ever be divorced, and the failure of his marriage has caused significant damage to his confidence as a man. Still, life goes on. He goes to work, he pays his bills, and he sometimes spends his nights with women he doesn't love. He drinks more than he ought to, and he turns to his best friend for support. But when his mother is hospitalized with an illness-related injury, it's that same best friend who steps up in a whole new way. Now Michael's seeing Renee in a different light. Will she be the one who can finally heal his heart and help him move on? (Purchase for KindleiBooksNook, or Kobo. Also available on Inktera/Page Foundry.)



There's only one more book to re-cover, and the conversation as the design comes together has been amazing - I'm so proud of Lauren for pulling her talents together and using them in the way that she is, and I am as always totally in awe of her incredible skill. I'm betting Sly Fox Designs becomes a favorite design source in days to come, and I'm so thrilled to have been able to share so much of my writing journey with such an amazing person.

But enough of the gushing, right? I mean really, this post might be about my book cover makeovers, but the undertone is totally #womancrushwednesday on a Monday. If she reads this, Lauren will surely end up all blushing and adorable, so ...

Mission accomplished.

But seriously though, all that to tell you guys this: December 18th is my five year anniversary as an independently published romance author, and I'm celebrating the day by having a really fun blowout event on Facebook. The event is called Blind Date December, and I'm looking forward to meeting new readers, interacting with loyal old readers, playing games, giving away book swag, and hanging out for my first (possibly annual) blind date book event! So come on over, mark yourself as attending, and invite your friends - that's the best way to find out how I'm translating blind date books to a digital format, and I'm always happy to get to know more readers!


If you liked this post, drop a comment below to let me know which of my new covers you like best - and it would also be great if you shared this link with your friends to invite them to check out my books (or join us at my FB party)! It's always exciting when new people discover my stories, and even more so when the right reader matches up with just the right set of characters. And if you do decide to pick up one of my books (or if you've read any of them already), please make sure to leave a review - I love the feedback!

But before you go, take a second to subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar - it's a great way to make sure you never miss a post!

If you like this site and want to take an active role in keeping it running, there are several different ways to get involved. The easiest is just to make a donation here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. Or, if you're a book lover like me and/or you'd like to help take charge of my writing on a more committed basis, skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens.

Not only is Patreon a great way to help me manage the costs of running this blog (and life in general because hey, a girl's gotta keep the coffee pot percolating!), but this is also where my readers find a whole new way to read my novels - while I write them. My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors by choosing their favorite reward tier (starting at as little as $1 a month), and that sponsorship gives them access to all sorts of content: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls!

The best part of Patreon is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'll start dedicating each of my blog posts to one special patron - which means YOU could be getting public shoutouts right here on the blog, just for being one of my Patreon subscribers!! Even better ... when we get to 50 patrons, I'll double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you. (PhLogs are public too, so make sure you go check 'em out!)

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

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

Friday Fashion: Jamberry Manicure Hacks

Recently, I told you guys I had a brand new love in my life - Jamberry. I'm still thankful to have met my Jamberry consultant, too - not only because she's a total sweetheart and a hero of a woman, but because she's introduced me to a new product I truly love.

But there are just a few (seriously very few) things I don't exactly love, so here's how I'm hacking my Jamberry manicure to fit my lifestyle and my limited single-mom budget.

That pretty ring-finger nail? That's the Copacabana: #COPACABANAJN

When I first met with Elizabeth Legere, I was intimidated by several things about the product she so obviously loved. For one, there's like, a PROCESS for applying and removing these things. Like a legit process with steps and stuff, with actual tutorials. And then even if that hadn't bothered me (because to be honest, there are steps to proper nail polish application as well), there's still the $15-a-sheet price to be considered, and the fact that Jamberry's vinyl wraps are heat-activated - and yes, they have a cute little heater you can get (for $19), but if you want the heater, you're better off picking up Jamberry's starter kit ($58) which is worth way more than you pay for it. But ...

Since that $15-a-sheet pricing makes me cringe (even though it's totally affordable for most people and way more financially wise than getting old-school salon manicures), here are my favorite ways to hack a Jamberry mani for a price that doesn't make me cry.


STEP ONE: ALTERNATIVE HEAT
Sure, you can pick up the little Jamberry heater. It's just under $20, it's portable, it's handy, and it's calibrated to be just the right heat level for the vinyls ... or if you're trying to save money on supplies so that you can use that money for more wraps, you can just heat them with a hair dryer on a low setting to activate the adhesive - or if you're like me and you're feeling too lazy to run upstairs and get the hair dryer, you can use a stove burner on medium heat.

Photo from Jamerry's Website. Wraps shown are Copacabana.

STEP TWO: TRIM CAREFULLY
A full sheet of Jamberry wraps will give you two full manicures and two full pedicures - but I don't spend a lot of time on my feet other than to scrub them in the shower, lotion them like a madwoman, and trim my nails so they don't look all gross. I don't usually paint them though because when I go out, I usually have to wear shoes, and when I'm at home, I'm not usually laying around admiring my feet. Don't get me wrong, I love to be spoiled with a good pedicure just as much as the next girl, but doing it myself? Ain't nobody got time for that.

So instead of wasting the vinyls meant for pedicures (that would be the two wraps on the top and bottom right in the photo shown above - see cutting instructions here), you can actually trim those down and use them on your fingers too. And even if you're one of those people who overthinks everything and worries needlessly about stuff that doesn't matter all that much in the long run (like me), and you're so worried about messing up your Jams that you actually end up not even wearing them ... then you'll be just as happy as I was to know that there's a hack for that too!


STEP THREE: CONSERVE
There's no rule saying that just because your sheet of Jamberry wraps CAN do two full manicures and two full pedicures, that it can ONLY do two full manicures and two full pedicures. The fact is, your wraps are bought and paid for, and you can use them however you want. You can trim them down and make them into french-style tips, you can cut them into stripes. You can use cute hole punchers to makes hearts, flowers, whatever you want. You can do a full nail as an accent with french tips cut from your wraps. You can do french tips with polish and use your wraps for the accent nail or use one to hole-punch some decals. Or you can keep it simple and do yours the way I like to do mine, with one (or more) Jamberry accent nail(s) on each hand, and then a coordinating (or contrasting, if you'd rather) nail polish or gel on the other fingers. It looks great this way, and I love the way my plain polished nails make the artsy look of my Jams really pop.


For me, this particular pattern might be a little too "look at me!" if I used it on all of my nails, but I love it just used as an accent with this glittery turquoise shade on either side. Red would have worked just as well, or yellow, or even a paler leafy green. And I think black would have been a good color pairing too, because the darkness of black nails would have made the colors in the wrap stand out so much more. Then again, I might love using all of these as a full manicure, or these. Or these.

Wanna know a secret? I've got over 100 different wraps on my Jamberry wishlist. Seriously guys, I'm out of control - and I can't wait to show you all the fun ways I end up using these wraps! My favorite thing is that since I've learned how to trim them creatively, I'll also be able to share them with the girls for Mommy-Daughter Manicures!


If you liked this post or you're as in love with Jamberry as I am, share the link with your friends - or click any one of my links here to purchase your own set of Jamberry nails! They're really not that hard to apply, and I love that they last so long. I especially love that when you order through the website, your products are shipped directly to your door - so you don't have to hunt down a local consultant, and I get the blessing of sharing my consultant with you.

You can also subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar while you're here - it's a great way to make sure you never miss a post, and I'd also love to hear from you in the comments! Have you ever tried Jamberry nails? And if so, what's your favorite way to wear them? Do you have a favorite wrap?

If you like it here and want to take an active role in keeping this blog running, there are several different ways to get involved. The easiest is just to make a donation here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. Or, if you're a book lover like me or you'd like to help take charge of my writing on a more committed basis, skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens.

Not only is Patreon a great way to help me manage the costs of running this blog (and life in general because hey, a girl's gotta keep the coffee pot percolating!), but this is also where my readers find a whole new way to read my novels - while I write them. My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors by choosing their favorite reward tier (starting at as little as $1 a month), and that sponsorship gives them access to all sorts of content: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls!

The best part of Patreon is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'll start dedicating each of my blog posts to one special patron - which means YOU could be getting public shoutouts right here on the blog, just for being one of my Patreon subscribers!! Even better ... when we get to 50 patrons, I'll double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you. (PhLogs are public too, so make sure you go check 'em out!)

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

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Interviewing the #UndauntedWoman: Keisha Harold

Welcome back for this month's addition to my Interviewing the Undaunted Woman series! I've been having the best time for the last several months, interviewing women who have lived through and survived life's challenges with strength and grace, and as we move toward the Christmas holiday, I'm excited to introduce November 2017's Undaunted Woman, Keisha Harold.

Keisha was nominated to be featured here by my cousin Dana, who was inspired by Keisha's story and thought she would be a great fit for this series - and I'm so thankful to have had a chance to chat with Keisha and share her story of faith and hope here on my blog.


Tell me about yourself - what's your story, and how did you become an undaunted woman?
I am a single mother of two amazing strong sons, Desmond (18) and Keshawn (9). I am a Hair Artist an I love everything about it from the art I get to create to the people I get to interact with. I am Blessed. I am a Sober and Delivered Strong woman of God. I have fought addiction almost my whole life. Then I fell in Love with God and He has changed my whole life, my whole way of thinking. I have a life filled with love, encouragement, STRENGTH and most important Faith and Hope. I am an Undaunted because I refused to give up on myself, my kids and life. Also because of my Faith in God.


I love your perspective of how powerful having a strong faith can be! I can attest to that too, actually - getting closer to God has changed me as a woman for sure. So, have you ever struggled with confidence and/or self-worth? If you have, how did you overcome that struggle - and if you haven't, how did you avoid it?
I found my self worth in May of 2014; that's when I was baptized and became a new person in Christ. I never knew who I was until God showed Himself to me. I was mean, rude and had no self confidence. Now I know how to act in public, conduct my self as a woman. I know how to Love myself and others.


What is the one thing you've survived that makes you feel most like an "undaunted woman?"
I was not always so strong; I have been in abusive relationships, emotional and physical. I grew up watching my mother get beat up on and watching her struggle with her own addictions. My dad was a God fearing man. I didn't live inside my dad's home, but I did see God working in and through his life.


Even that can be a powerful influence - watching God work for the good of other people (such as your father) can be just as impactful in some ways as having Him working in our own lives.  And I think this works with other faiths as well. Now that you have that kind of influence over you more personally, what aspect of your current life do you find most rewarding?
My job as a Mother is the Best ever, scary but so rewarding. Also as a Hair Artist, the way that I can make people feel just by doing their hair, or maybe it's sharing my faith in God with them or the struggle I have overcome.


I can imagine you've had some great conversation with the women sitting in your chair! It's great that you can use your experience to shape your life as a mother as well. Which brings us to this: What is your favorite successful strategy or coping mechanism for dealing with challenging people or situations, and how is that strategy impacted by what you've survived?
My successful strategy is to always try and remain calm, try and not let the situation control me. Talk in a cool calm voice. I like to think in a Christ-like way, what would JESUS do. People respond best when I am calm. Also PRAYER is very important.


Prayer is important to me too - it changes so much about my day to day life, so much so that I can clearly see a difference between when I'm closer to God and when I'm not. Let me ask you this, then; what other woman do you most admire, and why?
I admire all the women who never give up, who through the challenges of life continue to fight. My Mamaw Pearl, my sister Holly. My boss Vickie. Vickie has taught me so much about my business and life. And Frances, my Angel, because she took me in and showed me love when I had no idea what it meant. She is a blessing.


Sounds like you've had some amazing strong women in your life - I imagine they had their own sense of Undauntedness. What one quality serves you best as an undaunted woman?
I never let anyone or anything control my mind or thoughts BUT GOD. Never give up. We may get down BUT never give up.


A woman with her own mind - I like it! On the flip side of that, what one quality are you most looking to improve in yourself?
I would like to be more Fearless ... I would love to not over think everything.


Funny you should mention that - the concept of fearlessness. I wrote a blog post about fearlessness once, exploring the idea of myself as fearless. It was a good exercise in accepting my sense of fear, actually - although I'm with you on overthinking things. I do that all the time myself. But progress takes time and our growth is an always changing process, isn't it? So if you could do any one thing right now to help other women become undaunted, what would you be doing?
Right now my sister's family is living with me due to a fire in their home. I am trying to give hope when they are down, I am speaking positive when they say negative things. So I guess I would be their encouragement. I refuse to let this defeat us. We will be united. We are Family. With God all things are possible.

That's amazing. Family doesn't always mean people who stay beside each other and look out for each other - I'm glad you're making sure that it does mean that for your family and for your sister especially. If you could stand in front of every woman on the planet right now and speak into their hearts, what would you most want to say to them?
Wow what a question. I would say, "Hello Beautiful Queen." I would say, "Always put God first. Always set boundaries, always love yourself. Never let anyone take from you. Always invest in yourself, be kind always. Love others."


Thank you so much for being here Keisha! I loved that you were so willing to share your story, and I love that you've allowed God to be such a strong influence on your life. My cousin was right to recommend you, and I'm glad I got over my own anxiety to reach out to you - your story has blessed and inspired me already. Thank you for allowing me to share it here.


If you liked this post or you've enjoyed following this series for any reason, please share the link with the undaunted women in your life! Let them know you appreciate their strengths and if you're inspired by their resilience. Or you could even take it one step further and nominate a woman for next month's interview; you can find details on how to do it here!

Subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar while you're here, too - it's a great way to make sure you never miss a post. And Keisha and I would love to hear from you; feel free to leave a comment below to share some of your story or to thank Keisha for sharing hers!

If you like this blog and want to take an active role in helping to keep it all running, there are several different ways to get involved. The easiest is just to make a donation here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. But, if you're a book lover like me or you'd like to help take charge of my writing on a more committed basis, skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens. Not only is Patreon a great way to help me manage the costs of running this blog (and life in general because hey, a girl's gotta keep the coffee pot percolating!), but this is also where my readers find a whole new way to read my novels - while I write them.

My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors by choosing their favorite reward tier (starting at as little as $1 a month), and that sponsorship gives them access to all sorts of content: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls! But the best part of Patreon is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'll start dedicating each of my blog posts to one special patron - which means YOU could be getting public shoutouts right here on the blog, just for being one of my Patreon subscribers!! Even better ... when we get to 50 patrons, I'll double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you. (PhLogs are public though, so go check those out for free - a really hilarious one went up over the weekend, and it still makes me laugh every time I think of it.)

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

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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Um ... Saturday Screwup? No Blog Post?

To my wonderful (and hopefully patient and forgiving) readers,

Sometimes, you just need to shut down, draw in, and take a break. This week I've been making a point to live life and love my kids - and since they've been on break from school, I've sort of been on break from writing. I'll be back on schedule in time for Tuesday's post though, where I'll be featuring November's Undaunted Interview. In the meantime if you're having content wothdrawals, feel free to click around here on the blog - I've got almost five years worth of content here! And if that's not enough, come on over to Patreon and sign up - I'm working on several novels over there, and have also built a collection of podcasts, bits of poetry, and little mini-blogs with fun pictures attached. 

I'll see you here again on Tuesday, but until then ...

Stay Undaunted.
B.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom: Thanksgiving As A Verb

You know the old saying about moms that says a Mom can turn anything into a verb? Like if you nag your mom all afternoon and then, while she's cooking dinner, you tell her you're hungry and ask her for a cookie, she might (if she's anything like me my mom) turn around shaking a finger at you and irritably declare, "I'll cookie you!"

Honestly, even if you stand there without a single pretense of a damn clue as to what she means by that, you're probably still smart enough to know it's not something good. So you leave her alone to cook, thank her for dinner, and then hopefully you'll still get that cookie for dessert.

Or something.

It works with Thanksgiving too. Thanksgiving is a beloved holiday celebrated in many different countries, in many different ways - but it's also a word, a feeling, an attitude. It's the glass half-full, it's the light at the end of the tunnel, it's a remembrance to stop and count the blessings in our lives. Thanksgiving, not as a pretty concept or a food filled holiday, but as an action word that moves us toward the inherent hope of a new year with gratitude and inspiration.

Recently, I read a great blog series about Thanksgiving-inspired-Thankfulness, and as the blogger took time out of normal life to outline 70 different things he was thankful for, I found myself both inspired and surprised - he had things like death, pain, and silence, mixed in with more expected things like his daughter, his parents, and his senses, and ... well, his list (combined with the general thankfulness that tends to spread like wildfire in November) got me thinking about the things I'm most thankful for, so I thought now would be a perfect time to share just a few of those things with you, my readers for whom I am always incredibly thankful.



01. My Daughters
Mom life isn't always easy and single mom life can sometimes be downright miserable. My oldest has finally developed strong coping mechanisms for her ADHD/ODD/Anxiety, but we still struggle with teen issues - and my youngest is nowhere near developing adequate coping skills for her ADHD/OCD/Panic Disorder. To top it all off, my sneaking suspicion that she might be on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum is beginning to sneak with a lot less subtlety. It breaks my heart to watch my girls struggle with feeling abandoned by their dad, and the burden of coaching them through their emotions isn't always easy to bear.

But despite all those things ... my children are the very light of my life. They bring me unimaginable joy; there are times when I'm quietly sitting in the background just watching them be who they are, and my heart fills up so suddenly with so much love I'll actually cry a little. They're smart and beautiful, kind, considerate, and generally amazing young women, and I'm incredibly blessed to be able to know them. It honors me to be the one who gets to see so much of the process as they become, day by day, the women they will someday be.

02. My Parents & Family
I've talked a lot here about the way I was raised, and the things my parents endured in their divorce and subsequent second marriages - but I don't feel that their stories are truly mine to share, so I have (almost) always shared those stories from my own perspective, as a child who was there and was impacted by the various things happening around me. Still, my parents have taught me amazing lessons over the years, both in what I wanted to be and what I didn't - as well as what I want from love and what I don't. My parents, for better or worse, have always been examples to me, and as I pick through those examples to file away the bits and pieces I want to hold onto, I'm thankful for how valuable those lessons are.

The same could be said for the rest of my family, which is a mashup of amazingly wonderful people and amazingly horrible people. From the strength and resilience of my grandmothers to the intelligence and entrepreneurial spirit of my mother's younger brother to the cold, calculating cruelty of certain other members of the family, I can say with definite certainty that I come from strong people who tend to know exactly what they want and are eternally determined to get it. From this group of people, I have learned not only who I am but how to love myself for who I am. I've learned to accept so much about myself and the world around me, and I've also learned that I have the power to change what I cannot accept, one halting but persistent step at a time.

03. My Friends
In my life, I've known the joy of deep and genuine friendship my times, but my gratitude could not be nearly so encompassing without the fact that I have known the pain of insincerity. I have had people I trusted turn their back on me, and I've had friends walk out of my life without ever looking back. I've  even been ghosted by someone who consistently accused me of not wanting to talk to them but would frequently ignore messages and texts.

But I've also been chosen and held onto. I have known the sweetness of being in a dark moment just when the right person calls - I've put on a happy face and a false sense of cheer while answering the phone, only to be asked, "What's wrong? Why are you crying?" I've been known by people who could see through the smile and hear the truth behind, "No I'm fine, just tired." Because the truest friends don't just open up to you and trust you with their secrets - they also come into the quiet places in your heart and make themselves at home, learning your secrets and accepting them for what they are. Without the blessing of my friends, I would be a very lonely woman indeed.

04. My Dog
My dog Chance is probably my best friend in all the world. He is my dearest, most dutiful companion, steadfastly devoted to being the keeper of all my secrets. He has stood calmly beside me for five years, soaking up tears with his fur, calming the fires of anger with puppy kisses, and sending away the shadows of loneliness simply by being there. He helps with my anxiety, he serves as friend and companion to my children, and his loyalty to Team Kennedy is unmatched. And it is his presence in my therapist's office that gives me the strength and courage to be there. I'm so thankful for his steadiness and his genuine desire to love and serve my little family, and I'm even more thankful when I think of how we almost missed having the blessing of each others's company.

05. My Emotions
When I am not emotionally numb due to my struggles with PTSD and PMDD, I am a woman of great emotional depth, and on the days when my emotions are working, it isn't uncommon for me to run the gamut emotions all in the space of one short 24 hour day. On these emotionally flooded days, not only do I tend to feel a wide range of emotions, but I feel each one incredibly strongly. These are days when I laugh or cry at the drop of a hat. Days when I love more deeply, smile more widely, and celebrate with abandon, not necessarily because all the emotions I'm feeling are good ones, but because I can feel them.

There is a place in life for sadness, for pain, for fear - the negative emotions are unpleasant, yes, but how can one truly appreciate something sweet without first having endured the shivering grimace of bitterness?

06. My Faith
My life has definitely had its share of ups and downs, but the one thing that always helps me through the toughest times is my faith in Christ. Prayer gives me peace and hope, my Bible gives me courage and guidance, and the teachings of my faith help me make sense of the world around me, even when it's ugly. My faith inspires me to seek beauty even where there is none, and to find compassion for even the most challenging people, because no matter how difficult the individual, I am (almost) always mindful of the belief that each and every person was created on purpose, for a purpose, by a God whose wisdom is infinitely greater than mine.

07. Language
Without the blessing of words and the ability to use them to express my thoughts and feelings, I would be a complete and total disaster. Writing has been my favorite and most effective coping mechanism since long before I was even old enough to consciously recognize it for what it was, and I am and will always be eternally thankful for the gift of eloquent expression. It is through communication with one another that we foster love and closeness, share our sorrows and struggles, and form the intimate bonds that take us beyond the limitations of the spoken word - and I give heartfelt thanks each and every time I sit down at a keyboard, not only because I feel so blessed to be able to use words to create art, because I am humbled and honored to have readers to appreciate it.

08. Sleep
This week has been a busy one for me, which is compounded by a lack of sleep. My nightmares have been worse, my nocturnal panic attacks have been more frequent, and I've had a general sense of discomfort that has plagued me for the last several nights. I'm exhausted - and that's why this list ends here instead of being as long as I had wanted it to be. Because sleep, when I can find the peace to rest in it, is one of the biggest, most restorative blessings of my life. And frankly, I'm in desperate need of some.


If you liked this post because you've also been practicing thanksgiving as a verb, please share the link with the people you're thankful for! Make sure you take the time to subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar, too - it's a great way to make sure you'll never miss a post. I want you to know that another thing I'm always thankful for is your comments here - I love it when my readers make this blog interactive, so definitely leave a comment and tell me all about what you're most thankful for down below!

Just in case you're new here and didn't know this, if you like this blog and want to take an active role in helping to keep it all running, there are several different ways to get involved. The easiest is just to make a donation here; you can choose any dollar amount and do it whenever or however often you like. But, if you're a book lover like me or you'd like to help take charge of my writing on a more committed basis, skip the donation link and come on over to Patreon where the real fun happens. Not only is Patreon a great way to help me manage the costs of running this blog (and life in general because hey, a girl's gotta keep the coffee pot percolating!), but this is also where my readers find a whole new way to read my novels - while I write them.

My patrons directly sponsor my various writing endeavors by choosing their favorite reward tier (starting at as little as $1 a month), and that sponsorship gives them access to all sorts of content: the $1 tier gets access to one new romance chapter a month, two brand new poems from my upcoming poetry collection, the weekly L.A.F.F.S., and occasional content polls! But the best part of Patreon is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'll start dedicating each of my blog posts to one special patron - which means YOU could be getting public shoutouts right here on the blog, just for being one of my Patreon subscribers!! Even better ... when we get to 50 patrons, I'll double my monthly fiction chapters, which means twice the writing from me in exchange for the same monthly contribution from you. (PhLogs are public though, so go check those out for free - a really hilarious one went up over the weekend, and it still makes me laugh every time I think of it.)

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

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