Sunday, December 27, 2015

Manifesto 2016 #Reverb15

Your last challenge for Reverb15 is to write your manifesto for 2016. 

If you’re not sure where to start, I'd highly recommend checking out Alexandrea Franzen's 5 ways to write a blow-your-mind manifesto!

For bonus points, make it into a work of art.

I'm on a 30 minute break right now between job one and job two, hiding out in one of the only two places in Millington, TN there is to hide out in that has WiFi. Although Reverb15 is officially over, my insane work schedule has me a bit behind, but I am determined to complete the prompts that are still haunting me.

Each year Kat ends Reverb with the prompt to write our personal manifesto. This year, I'm taking her advice and following the manifesto template by Alexandrea Franzen

I believe living a lie is a slow death upon your soul. I believe that most people in the world are good.

My daughters have choices and control over their own life. Where hard work is rewarded. Where life may not always be easy, but I can live with ease. 

Everyone has a story. That includes the people you don't like or look down upon. Everyone is doing the best they can, not necessarily the best you expect. That also includes the people you don't like or look down upon. Life is not linear; a decision made at 20 doesn't always mean a set outcome at 40. I know for sure that an afternoon spent in the sun, on the sand, listening to the waves crash against the beach can heal me.

Girls, start moisturizing early. And don't forget to moisturize your neck as well as your face and hands.  Drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep. Laugh, smile and surround yourself with positive people, places and things.  It takes more effort to be nasty than it does to be kind. One nice word, affirmation, or thank you can brighten someones day. 

Just breathe. It's going to be OK. 

And.. for my bonus points to make my manifesto into a work of art... how fitting that Kid 5 surprised me with this hand made Christmas gift this year.

This post is part of #Reverb15, a series of daily writing prompts found at Kat McNally Words To Soothe The Weary Soul. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Alchemy & Serendipity #Reverb15

While alchemy is the active process of creating something of value, serendipity is the passive path to finding an unexpected treasure. 

Looking back through 2015, what did you diligently try to create? 

What great thing did you just happen to find?

This is a special Reverb15 prompt because... I wrote it!

My lovely Australian friend Kat McNally invited me to collaborate with her this year on #Reverb and I couldn't be more excited to participate!

Also, that is my lovely daughter Kid 4 in the picture!

Now, just because I wrote today's prompt, doesn't mean I knew right away how to answer the prompt.  I'm a little behind in my Reverb this year because of my crazy insane work schedule, but the extra time has given me time to ponder and reflect on what I worked for this year, what I accomplished, and what I found unexpectedly.

Back in April I wrote a post titled Time To Take My Writing & My Yoga To The Next Level.  In the post I laid out a list of ways I needed to get serious about taking my writing seriously. I wrote it out, meant every word I said, and then forgot about it.

Yet, the power of manifesting intention has proven true once again! When I looked back at my list I was surprised/excited/pleased to see how much my hard work this year brought about some pretty cool things.

  • Be invited to collaborate in one of the Reverb projects. Hello,  Kat McNally and Alana Lawson? Can I play too? Woop whoop here I am writing and collaborating for Reverb15. Thank you Kat and Alana for including me in your writing tribe.
  • See my book for sale on Amazon. Oh yeah! Here's the link for Amazon sales. 
  • See my book Creating A Joyful Life: The Lessons I Learned From Yoga and My Mom sitting on my book shelf. The book is on my bedroom bookshelf and, even better, on the bookshelf of our local library and local bookstore! 
  • Sell a copy of my book to someone outside my social circle or to someone who doesn't feel obligated to buy it. The cool thing about Amazon is you can track your sales by geographical location. I have sold books in many many places that I don't personally know anyone. 
  • Sell many copies of my book. Many is a subjective term, but I have sold many more than I expected to and I am very pleased with sales. 
  • See my byline on Huffington Post. Well I wasn't picked up by the Huffington Post, but two different pieces I wrote were picked up by Yahoo! and even made the Yahoo! home page. Way cool!
Looking back, my hard work paid off and I hope that with continued hard work it will continue to pay off in the future. 

As for the serendipity part of this prompt, what did I just happen to find? Well I think I found the last item on my list:
  • Take advantage of this time to finally become the person I am meant to be.
I think for the first time, in a long time, I am coming closer to the person I am meant to be. I'm still struggling in many ways, but now I hold my head high and say "this is the life that I have built."

This post is part of #Reverb15, a series of daily writing prompts found at Kat McNally Words To Soothe The Weary Soul. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Secret Ingredient #Reverb15

Like, what if you had to give someone a recipe for how to make a YOU?

What major ingredients would be required? What method would you recommend?

How would your je ne sais quoi be recreated?

The recipe to make a Jennifer

- fierce loyalty
- intense desire to love and be loved
- stubborn willpower (to get things done or to cause your own downfall - depends on the day which way this one goes)
- a bit too much self doubt (to make sure you stay grounded and realistic or to cause your own downfall - depends on the day which way this one goes)
- love and appreciation for the arts
- creativity mixed with realism
- many, many books and a bookshelf big enough to store them all
- the desire need to travel regularly
- lots of chocolate

Warning: this recipe requires regularly scheduled breaks to sit on a beach and breathe salt air while recharging in the warm sun.

This post is part of #Reverb15, a series of daily writing prompts found at Kat McNally Words To Soothe The Weary Soul. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Of Atoms And Stories #Reverb15

Muriel Rukeyser once wrote: The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms. And I could not agree more. Our stories are our own but, in sharing them, they become universal. And timeless. 

What stories touched you this year? Which stories of your own are you glad you shared?

2015 has been the year I finally told my story.

It's the year I published my book Creating A Joyful Life: The Lessons I Learned From Yoga & My Mom. It's also the year I finally told the story of my abusive marriage. And, it's the year I finally told the story of living in a family of addiction. And how addiction affects the whole family.

My story has been met with criticism, denial and even some who have tried to discredit me and call me a liar.  But, it's also been met with the tears and gratitude of those who believe me, because they too are living my same story.

Over and over again I hear people tell me they thought they were the only one, that no one else understands, that they feel so alone. I get it. I also have felt so alone. For many years I was afraid to speak up because no one would believe me. And I was too ashamed to admit the truth.

So, in silence, I suffered.

It's sometimes tough to write the truth, and even more difficult to allow it to be published knowing the anonymous Internet trolls are there waiting to tear me (or anyone) down. But I can't suffer in silence any more. I have to speak up to try to save not just my family, but myself as well.

Writing my story has helped to heal me.

By writing my story, I've given a voice to so many more people out there trying to save themselves as well.

And that is why I will continue to write. 

This post is part of #Reverb15, a series of daily writing prompts found at Kat McNally Words To Soothe The Weary Soul. 

Transformation #Reverb15

You wake up and the light through the window seems different, the air carries a chill or maybe a hint of warmer days. 

What has changed? You? The world? 

It can be a change that happened this past year or one you're looking toward in the time ahead. It can be a broad sweep obvious to all or a more subtle shift that only you know about. 

Tell us about transformation. 

What has changed? My life.

In the span of just three years I've gone from married to a divorced single mom. Working full time to publishing a book.  My finances going from scary to we're going to make it back to scary again.

Who has changed? Me.

A few years ago I didn't think I could make it on my own. Now I know I can and I will. I still don't know how, but I do know I will.

What continues to change? Everything.

I've been walking around for a while now saying something is going to happen in 2016. I'm not sure if it's going to be the rock bottom financial I've feared, or (hopefully), an upward change putting me in a better position, not just financially, but emotionally and physically as well. 

If I've learned anything, it's that life changes in an instant. And even if I sense it is coming, I'm never really sure of what it will actually end up being. 

This post is part of #Reverb15, a series of daily writing prompts found at Kat McNally Words To Soothe The Weary Soul. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Ancestral Healing #Reverb15

   As each year progresses, we unknowingly gather many thoughts, beliefs, and patterns to us. In fact, what we are carrying may have been passed down to us from previous generations.  

Looking at the thoughts and patterns that may be holding you back from living the life you want, trace back through the generations of your family and see if your beliefs originated generations ago.  

In 2016, how can you bring healing to these patterns of thought that are holding you back?

Generational angst. 

We pass down our stories, our sorrows and our dreams.

This time of year my family passes down the same story; the story of the year the Salvation Army kept my grandfather and his family from starving during the Great Depression. Then, many years later, the Red Cross would charge my grandfather and his fellow soldiers for coffee and donuts. But at each train stop the Salvation Army was there to offer hot coffee and fresh donuts for free to the young servicemen. For those reasons alone the Salvation Army will always be on our giving list.

Kid 5 has a large jar at home just waiting to dump all the change we've collected into the Salvation Army kettle next time we are out at a store and see a bell ringer. 

Then there are the stories of sorrow. My grandmother, who was already being overtaken by Alzheimer's by the time my children came along, was a young child the day her mother told her to wait on the front porch while she went to the butcher shop. She promised my grandmother she would be right back. Her mother, my great grandmother, dropped dead there in the butcher shop from what we assume was a heart attack. So my grandmother waited on that porch step till long past dark. Her father had already been killed in the coal mines, now she was left alone to be raised by her brothers and sisters. This was before child welfare services, there was no one else to step in. One brother became a thief, a sister became the town whore. We'll never really know how being raised in that environment, and being left to often raise yourself, truly affected her. But from my recollections, my grandmother wasn't a happy woman.

I don't know what her dreams were. Maybe coming from that beginning she didn't even allow herself to dream. I know my mom had unfulfilled dreams. 

I have absolutely no concrete proof of this, yet I believe my mom was at times a discontented woman. I don't mean that to say she had regrets, that's not for me to know or say, but I mean I feel that at times she wondered "what if."

I know she was adamant with me and my sister about following our dreams and doing what we wanted. And during the times when we were discontent, she understood and supported us. But still always giving us that push to go, get up and do something with our life.

Even now I often feel like she is whispering to me, "Just go, do it. Don't hold yourself back."

As a single mom working myself to exhaustion for my kids, I believe that the moments I do pursue my dreams, are in homage to my mom and to her mom. I will try and do what they never could.

This post is part of #Reverb15, a series of daily writing prompts found at Kat McNally Words To Soothe The Weary Soul. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Selfie Saturday #Reverb15

Go on, show us your selfie! You know you want to.

It's selfie time! Time to scroll back through my iPhone photo albums and see which pics I thought were important enough to keep this year.

One of my favorite times to take a selfie - traveling! I think this was the Dallas airport on my trip out to Seattle and Portland earlier this year.

Oh just two overworked moms running away for the weekend! A girls-only trip down to Birmingham

Seeing my book on the bookshelf at Booksellers of Laurelwood in Memphis!

My Live at Nine WREG interview with Adam Hammond to promo the book and my upcoming talk at the CourageMaker's Conference.

And a radio interview with Marybeth Conley KWAM to promote the book!

Though not a selfie, my favorite pic of the year. This is me and all six kids (plus my dad in the back) at Kid 2's graduation.

This post is part of #Reverb15, a series of daily writing prompts found at Kat McNally Words To Soothe The Weary Soul. 

But At What Cost #Reverb15

As the year ends, and we look back at the joys, achievements and disappointments of the past twelve months, it's worth taking some time to recognise what our efforts have demanded of us and where our resources have been depleted.

Whether you have spent 2015 bringing some long-cherished project to fruition or simply trying to keep your head above water, it's likely that this has come at some cost to you.

How can you replenish your (physical, mental, spiritual and/or emotional) resources? What do you need most of all at this moment?

Busy, busy, busy. That's me.

But hard work pays off. This year I published my book, wrote a few big pieces that were very well received, began freelancing for a couple independent media sources, worked multiple part time jobs, oh yeah and still was full time mom to my six kids.

But at what cost?

Well, I'm tired. My back hurts from my new night job. I don't do nearly as much non-assigned writing as I used to.

I stayed married for 23 years because I thought it would be best for the kids. But at what cost?
I hope my daughters don't grow up to think they, too,  need to endure addiction and abuse just because they took a vow.

I finally divorced from the bad marriage and took on sole custody of the six kids. But at what cost?
I don't know how being raised by a mom, with a dad who never shows up for events or visitation, will affect my kids when they become parents.

I work multiple jobs to keep us financially afloat so the kids don't have to go without too much. But at what cost?
I wonder if they will look back and know mom did the best she could or if they will look back and realize they didn't get all the same perks their friends did.

My writing that has garnered the most attention has been open and raw and honest. I've received amazing feedback from people thanking me for letting them know they aren't alone. But at what cost? I've also had some truly horrible comments made to me. Hurtful, vile comments from anonymous trolls on the Internet.

But at what cost is always the question.

Recently, three unrelated people asked me if I'm dating. When I laughed and said no they asked why. When would I possibly have the time? The energy? Their point wasn't that I should actually be dating, I know what they really meant was I need to make time for me. To make sure I am taken care of as well.

Yes, I not only understand but agree.  I've turned down two offers to travel these past few months. The cost (not even necessarily financial) was just too high.

I suppose I could take a night off of work. Or splurge and get a pedicure. Right now I'm staying up way too late to write.

But, as always, at what cost?

This post is part of #Reverb15, a series of daily writing prompts found at Kat McNally Words To Soothe The Weary Soul. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Lady Luna #Reverb15

When was the last time you stopped to look up at the moon? 

What did she have to say to you?

I started my new part time job last week (for those keeping track at home, yes another part time job. I've lost count of how many part time jobs I currently have). The hours are 5pm to midnight six days per week.

So far it's working out well, the kids are still getting to their various activities thanks to lots of help from older brothers and from other dance moms. And I'm not too tired from working all day and then again until midnight. (Just kidding as soon as I'm done here I'm going to try and take a quick nap.)

But last night I was kind of grumpy when I finally left work at midnight. My back hurt from lifting and stacking boxes for the past six hours, I was annoyed that I had to spend so much money to get my new car fixed after the third car accident in six weeks, I was worried about having enough money for Christmas presents, I was hungry and I was tired. 

As I made the turn to drive home, I saw her. She was hanging low in the sky and she was shining brightly. 

The moon. The moon has always soothed me and brought me comfort. 

Last night, the moon told me "It's OK. It's all going to be OK."

Some nights I look up at the moon and realize that people I love far away are looking at the same moon as I am. That makes my heart smile.  The moon reminds me I am not alone.  Other times she tells me to sleep.

But always her message is the same, "You are OK."

When I look at the moon, I feel like I am getting a warm, soothing hug of security from the Universe.

This post is part of #Reverb15, a series of daily writing prompts found at Kat McNally Words To Soothe The Weary Soul. 

#TogetherStrong A Day of Unity

I went to bed last night with a heavy heart. Even though we have no cable or satellite TV in our house, my social media feed was full of the horrifying news of yet another mass shooting. More heartache in the world.

Sometimes it's just too much to even comprehend.

But, we have no choice, life must go on.

I woke up this morning and drove down to the waterfront of the Mississippi River here in Memphis to participate in the fifth annual Together Strong Day. Together Strong is a day for people from all faiths, all races and all socioeconomic classes to come together as one.

About a dozen of us met at Tom Lee Park to begin Together Strong Day with a walk along the river. The morning began with Loretta McNary speaking.

"We are truly more alike than we are different," she said. "We are stronger together and can accomplish great and mighty things."

Then Ellen Olford and Carolyn Leake of Central Church read proclamations from the Governor and local leaders declaring today Together Strong Day.

After a short walk along the river, we parted ways, with promises to get together again soon and continue working together.

As I drove home I realized that although humanity collectively is disheartening, humans individually hold great promise and hope.

I'll be blogging throughout the next hour or so on other Together Strong events. Up next, The Marybeth Conley Radio show on KWAM 990 Memphis. You can listen live now!

From the Marybeth Conley Radio Show 12/3/2015:

"It is easier to build strong children, than it is to repair broken men and women," Latrice Ryan                                         

"If you are a better woman, than everyone you touch will be a better woman," Terry Murphy 

"If we don't turn things around we won't survive," Marybeth Conley "It's going to take individuals to do it. Governments can't do it."

"You can't do it all, but you can do something," Marybeth Conley

"You can't name one great person, who went down in history, who didn't fail more than he succeeded." AC Curtis

"Let's do something, every little bit counts," Latrice Ryan

"A challenge to all the dudes out there, guys you see a need, fill a need," AC Curtis

You can also follow along #TogetherStrong on Periscope @sherrihenley

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Lists & Prayers #Reverb15

In her seventh ever blog post, all the way back in March 2003(!), the inimitable Andrea Scher wrote: “Maybe lists are like prayers.”

What sorts of lists do you have on the go at the moment? 
What do they suggest you are praying for?

I am an avid list maker. My iPhone notes are full of lists; grocery lists, writing ideas, Christmas gift ideas, important phone number I shouldn't forget but since I didn't put a name next to it I don't know who it belongs to, etc.

I've also unintentionally made two important lists here on my blog:

Forty Four For My Next 44 Years - a list of things that I wrote in 2013 that I wanted to accomplish in my new post-divorce life. It's been interesting to look back at the end of each year to see just how many I have been able to scratch off. And how many more I want to add to my list!


Time To Take My Writing and My Yoga To The Next Level - a post I wrote one night when I decided it was time to take myself, and my writing, seriously.

Writing things down not only holds me accountable, it lets me put into writing what I really am hoping (praying) for.

The list makes it real.

Prayers and desires only have the potential to be real once you believe they can be real.

Writing down my hopes and prayers helps me believe they will eventually become my reality.

This post is part of #Reverb15, a series of daily writing prompts found at Kat McNally Words To Soothe The Weary Soul. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Top 10 Reasons To Reverb This Year

Reverb is a reflective writing challenge that began in 2009. It is a series of writing prompts to reflect on the year that has passed, and to consider what you would like to manifest in the year ahead.

I've been participating since 2010.

There are many Reverbs available, but my favorite by far is the one offered by Kat McNally. Kat is a writer in Australia (which makes her cool right there for living in Australia) who says her mission is to "soothe weary souls" ( how cool, and soothing, is that?) I've never met Kat personally, but through Reverb and our emails back and forth to each other, I just know if put in the same geographical location we would be fast friends.

Kat will again this year be hosting Reverb. Her theme for 2015 is Alchemy.  You can sign up to receive the prompts here, and you can even follow along via the Wolf and Word Facebook page.

  1. You don't have to be a professional writer to participate in Reverb. No one cares if you have published a book, write in your journal, or know the proper use of a semicolon. Everyone is welcome to Reverb.
  2. By following along either on Kat's page or the new for this year Facebook page, you have the opportunity to read some amazing writing from bloggers you would never even know about. I have met some great blogging friends through Reverb.
  3. Those bloggers will read your posts and many will leave feedback for you as well! And unlike Internet trolls found on some of my published writing, bloggers are genuine and encouraging when they leave a comment.
  4. It's fun to look back at the year and trace your path. I've rediscovered moments I would have forgotten about and have been able to make sense of things I didn't understand at the time.
  5. Looking ahead and becoming clear about your intentions is always a good thing. But sometimes one that's hard to do. The Reverb prompts really force you to think about what you want, and what you are willing to do to get there.
  6. No pressure. Really, no pressure at all. Reverb begins December 1 and goes for the first three weeks of December. You can write a post for each daily prompt or choose just the ones that speak to you. This is your chance to Reverb your way.
  7. No pressure to even post publicly! Although it's fun to read other bloggers posts, you are under no obligation to publish your Reverb posts. If you aren't ready to bare your soul to the world, that's OK. Take the prompts, write it out, and keep it for yourself only.
  8. Reverb really gets the creative juices flowing. I've been fortunate to turn Reverb posts into paid published pieces in the past.
  9. You can win prizes! If you do choose to publish your posts, be sure to add the link to Kat's page. At the end of Reverb she will have a drawing and two random winners will receive a fantastic prize.
  10. Reverb is a collaboration and this year Kat honored me by allowing me to create one of the daily prompts! I am so excited to be participating both as a blogger and as a contributor this year. And I think it's further proof that the potential friendship between me and Kat is only hindered by an ocean and a couple continents. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Shameless Art of Self Promotion

So, now that I'm this big time author and I've been on TV I guess I'm kind of famous. Ah... the life of a celebrity.

Just kidding. I know I'm not famous in the way we usually mean it, but I have been interviewed on radio and TV and my kids think that's pretty cool. So I'm good with that level of fame!

I have this bad habit of playing small. I've done it for years! Any accomplishment or credit I get I immediately downplay. Why? Maybe I don't want to come across as boastful or arrogant? Maybe because I'm embarrassed? (Embarrassed of doing something good. That makes no sense at all). I've even been told I play small because I don't think I'm worthy.

The real reason is a mix of all those and then some. But playing small has gotten me... not very far.

So a few years ago I had this idea for a book. It took me a long time to write it, partly because life kept getting in the way, partly because I was playing small and afraid to actually let my dream come true. Little ol' me a published author? No way.

But I finally finished the book and had it published! Woo Hoo!

(Get ready for a shameless plug here)

You can buy Creating A Joyful Life: The Lessons I Learned From Yoga and My Mom on Amazon or any major retailer where books are sold. You can also buy it out of the trunk of my car. Seriously, I keep some in my car to sell. And believe it or not I've sold quite a few that way.

Is that really a shameless plug? Or is it self promotion?

I am learning that not only is it OK to self promote, it is encouraged and expected. And, in fact, self promotion is the best promotion there is! No agent in the world is going to be more connected to your story or product more than you.

Who better to tell your story than you?!

It's a lesson I learned very quickly this summer. I call it the" Summer The Universe Kicked My Butt Out The Door And Away From Playing Small".

It began, as these things usually do, with making a connection through a friend. I know someone who knew someone who knew someone, and I ended up being interviewed for a magazine. That led to a radio interview. Then another radio interview on a bigger platform.

Eventually my work caught the eye of some local media people and I was asked to do the Marybeth Conley radio show. Which led to the Earle Farrell radio show.

(Cue music to Moving On Up here)

That led to an interview on WREG Memphis Live at Nine. My first live TV interview!

And what was my first thought when I was asked to be on TV?

"Oh my god what do I wear?!"

I wasn't too concerned about what to say, my content, after all, was my story. I knew I could tell  my story. I just was a little nervous about telling it on LIVE TV. What if I looked dumb?

With radio, there was no concern about looking dumb. Now sounding dumb, perhaps. But I've discovered radio is a more intimate setting. Just you, the interviewer and a big microphone in your face. If I brushed my hair out of my face or talked with my hands as I often do it didn't matter.

Radio felt like sitting in the kitchen talking to a friend.

TV is like sitting in your kitchen talking to a friend, with 10 people looking on giving direction, adjusting lighting, testing your sound level, counting down the time, and all telling you to just act natural.

I will admit, if you watch my Live at Nine interview for the first few seconds I look scared to death. I wasn't scared, I just wasn't sure what to do or where to look. I was told not to look at the monitors, But did I look at the camera? The host?

Once the interview began I loosened up and felt more at ease. Again, I was telling my story. No one else in the world can tell my story, so it quickly felt natural. Or as natural as it can feel with bright lights and cameras in front of you.

So, looking forward to more promotional opportunities heading my way, I will remind myself of the following things I've learned this summer:

  1. I worked for this and I earned this
  2. I will let myself enjoy this moment
  3. Wear solid colors on live TV, prints just don't look that good
  4. A little extra make up can cover up a very tired look
  5. Don't trust google directions time estimates. Leave about 15 minutes early
  6. Surround yourself with people who believe in you
  7. Bring at least one extra book everywhere to give away to anyone willing to read it
  8. Remember, they wouldn't have invited you if they didn't think you had something of value to say
  9. Let your kids think you're famous
  10. Have fun

Monday, November 16, 2015

#NightofConversation with Dr. Oz

I am honored and crazy excited to have my latest piece posted to Dr. Oz The Good Life Magazine.

Even more flattering, it is being posted in conjunction with Dr. Oz's #NightofConversation. From his website:

In partnership with SAMHSA, NIDA, and the National Council on Behavioral Health, Dr. Oz is asking families across American to hold a #NightofConversation on Thursday, November 17, 2015. At that evening's dinner, he is asking parents to speak with their children about addiction. A discussion guide is available here. Dr. Oz is also asking everyone to post a picture of an empty dinner plate on social media on the 17th as a symbol that this special meal is not about the food, but instead about the conversation.

I hate that I have become knowledgeable enough about addiction to be able to write about it. But, if any good can come of the pain my family has been through due to addictive behaviors, I hope that it can open up a conversation about the need for better mental health care and more accessible treatment options.

Please click the link, read, share with your friends, and talk to your kids.

My Family Has Learned Things About Addiction We Never Wanted To Know

Sunday, November 15, 2015

My New Website

Last week I wrote about needing a more professional presence if I was going to run with the big dogs.

One of the most important things I was told to do was to make a website with a dedicated URL. I was concerned about 1 - developing a website on my own that didn't look like I didn't know how to design a website, and 2 - losing all my content here on Blogger. I just can't leave this blog behind.

Well, thanks to my blog friend Stephanie Faris for suggesting a web platform and to everyone I asked to do this for me that told me it's really not that big a deal I can do it myself, I now proudly announce my new website:

And no, I am not leaving Blogger. The blog tab on the website brings you right back here!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

5 Most Annoying Mom's In The School Drop Off Line

The dreaded school drop off  line. It’s an evil necessity for many families who don’t have bus transportation, and a luxury for those who just don’t want their children exposed to the mayhem of a daily bus ride.

I am very fortunate that on rainy days or early days I have been able to drive my kids to school. Now that Kid 3 is driving, he chauffeurs Kids 4 and 5 to the middle school and high school.

That just leaves Kid 6, the last one in her last year of elementary school.

I know by Kid 6 I'm a bit jaded and over the whole "oh my baby is getting so big" thing. But, wow, it's just a school drop off line. It really shouldn't be that big an ordeal.

If you’ve spent more than five minutes dropping off or picking up your kids from school you know there are a set of very strict rules that must be followed. The rules are necessary and set for the safety of all the children.

You pull in to the designated unloading zone, say goodbye, pull out and drive away. That’s all there is to it. Keep it moving people!

The school drop off line isn’t rocket science. Yet there’s always that one mom who insists on f’ing up the whole system.

  1. The mom who makes sure everyone knows she has a very important professional job that she must get to immediately so it’s necessary for her to cut in front of the line every single day. Because surely she is already far too over scheduled to leave her house a few minutes earlier. And us stay at home moms have nowhere else to be right? Bonus points when she sneaks into the bus only lane!
  2. The mom who reinforces to her little darlings that they are special and precious and should never have a drop of rain or bad weather touch their fair skin. Therefore she must wait until she is at the very front of the drop off line to open her doors and quickly whisk them into the school doors just a few yards away. It’s OK, the rest of us who dropped off our kids within the designated zone will wait on her and her weather apprehensive children. I’m sure giving her kids an umbrella would be an undue burden upon them at such a young age. 
  3. The mom who designates herself Safety Mom. She is very vocal in reminding other parents of the rules, which are already well posted. She always has pen and paper handy to write down the license number of cars not following the rules. I've even seen Safety Mom go so far as to post pictures of the offending car to Facebook.  I guess she thinks public shaming is an appropriate deterrent. 
  4. The mom who holds up the line because she's decided now is an appropriate time to have a conference with her child’s teacher or needs to discuss an issue with the principal who is outside greeting the kids. Her child’s AR level is obviously more important than anywhere the rest of the cars behind her need to go.
  5. The mom who expects her elementary-school child to be able to carry a heavy load by himself.  If your child is loaded down with a backpack, lunch box, cage holding the class pet and a Styrofoam replica of the solar system, then now would be a good time to park your car – in a designated parking spot- and walk your child into the school. 
My kids school is really good and the teachers that monitor the drop off line do a great job of keeping the kids safe and the cars moving. But, really, at one time or another I've seen it all.

The afternoon pick up line amazes me as well. There are some cars lining up as early as 1pm! Our school doesn't let out until 2:30pm. What are they doing sitting in their car in line for so long?

Oh well. To each their own. And my own can get on the bus!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I Am A Serious Writer! No, Really I Am. Sometimes.

For this month of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, more of my insecure ramblings.

I've been told by those in the know that I need to start taking my writing career more seriously if I want others to take me seriously. Well I know that.

But, what if I take myself seriously and they laugh at me?
What if I take myself seriously and do the things that have been suggested  and it ends up all being for nothing away?
What if I take myself seriously, do the things that are suggested, but then have to pull back because of another family or financial crisis?
What if...

You get the insecure picture right?

The suggestions I've received have included:

  • Get a real professional head shot and for the love of God please stop using that selfie you took in your car!
  • Send out at least three pitches weekly
  • Create a new website with a dedicated URL (this is the one causing me the most angst)
  • Develop my purpose, mission and vision
  • Write out my ultimate wish list
  • Get to work on my second book

    So, after doing my usual 'do nothing out of fear' for a few weeks thing, I finally completed step one - a real professional head shot.

    I contacted my new friend and famed Memphis photographer Marci Lambert and told her what I needed. Outwardly she was excited for me, but I'm sure she groaned a bit inside. She was the photographer for my first photo shoot commissioned by a local magazine. I didn't exactly give her a hard time, but I didn't make it super easy on her either with my whining about how I don't like my picture taken and I don't like any picture ever taken of me.

    But, Marci is amazing and she managed to put me at ease and she even convinced me to smile!

    So step one - complete!

    Step two - three pitches weekly? Three? I get it, I get it. The more you write, the more you submit, the more you publish. OK, I'll work on that.

    Step three - a new website with dedicated URL. But that means leaving Blogger! Of everything on the suggestion list this one is my biggest hang up. I can't even handle the thought of losing everything I've done here these past five years. Literally, it makes me anxious and tense just thinking about it.

    But I understand the need. No one is going to Google Diapers, Detentions & Downdogs. They are going to Google my name.

    I simply can't pay anyone to create the switch for me, there's just no budget for it. Which means figuring it out on my own.

    Anyone have any advice on switching from Blogger to a new URL? What about all you Word Press people?

    Any and all advice or assistance would be very very appreciated for creating a dedicated URL!

    Four - my purpose, mission and vision. Ummmmm. Well I always say I want to help women find their voice. I suppose I could jazz that up.

    Five - my ultimate wish list. I've told everyone this - I want to get my book on the Ellen Show! Why Ellen? Because she loves yoga and she loves her mom. It's just a bonus that my kids will think I am the coolest mom ever if they see me on Ellen!

    Six - start writing book two. Actually, and this will be the first time I'm publicly admitting this, I think book two is beginning to rattle around in my brain. But I'll save that for next months Insecure Writer's Support Group post.

    This is the picture from my first professional photo shoot. Marci may have got me to smile, but I still think I look scared half to death in this one. Hopefully I look much more relaxed - and more serious about myself and my work - in the second one posted above.

    Friday, October 30, 2015

    Comparison Is The Thief Of Joy

    Today's text conversation:

    Me: So I'm kind of a shallow jealous person :( Seeing these Facebook posts... buying houses and cars and being so darn happy. Everything I do is such a struggle.

    Natalie: I totally get it. But have continued to be a real parent. Comparison is the thief of joy. Go write a gratitude list :)

    Ugh. I hate it when people throw the stuff I say back at me.

    But, Natalie is right. 

    So here is my gratitude list for tonight:

    • Six healthy kids all living (mostly) in harmony in my house
    • Being up-to-date on the mortgage of said house even with the financial struggles I've had the past year
    • Watching my daughter's eyes light up when she dances
    • Boys who are really young adults who have taken over more than their fair share of responsibilities in the house
    • Friends who cheer for me
    • The same friends who remind me to get over it when I'm doubting myself 
    • Good car insurance that is paying 100% the cost of the repairs on my car from being rear ended and paying 100% for a rental car while the repairs are being done

    Saturday, October 17, 2015

    Good Yogi's Don't Get Depressed

    A Book Excerpt

    The demons got to me again.

    I saw it coming but I couldn't stop it this time. Depression set in and it set in strong.

    This last month was bad enough that I finally got myself to the point that I knew I needed help. Of course, I didn't actually go get the help right away.

    No I waited until I was tearing down the backyard pool and accidentally gave myself a really big gash on a rusted out piece of metal that required medical bandaging and a tetanus shot. While he was cleaning the wound I decided to ask in a nonchalant way about once again prescribing me some depression medication.

    Doctor: Have you considered harming yourself?
    Me: I swear this cut on my arm was an accident!
    Doctor: But you have considered it?
    Me: Well, kind of, yeah.  But this here on my arm really was an accident!

    I am very thankful my doctor believed me that I needed help, and that the cut on my arm really was from tearing down the pool. He not only gave me a prescription, but he called the pharmacist personally to be sure I would be able to afford the medication since I don't have health insurance.

    Step one - I finally asked for help. Step two - he listened. Step three - I helped myself and began taking the medication.

    Today is the first day I can really feel a difference. The heaviness is gone.

    I am not ashamed to admit that the chemicals in my brain are out of whack right now and I need some help regulating them. I no longer think this makes me a bad yogi or a bad mommy.

    I talk quite a bit in my book about depression in women. I'm sharing an excerpt here with you as a reminder that if you too are suffering with depression, you are not alone. It's also a good reminder for me as well.

    Chapter 1: I'm Not The Crazy One! Am I?

    Meditation vs. Medication

    Good yogis don’t get depressed. Good yogis don’t need medication. Medication is for the weak.

    I believed those lies and it almost destroyed me.

    During the immediate aftermath of my husband walking out on our family, I fell apart. I couldn’t function in simple day-to-day tasks. Eating was impossible. Sleep didn’t happen. I couldn’t stop crying. It all came to a head one afternoon in the backyard with Kid 1 and his teenage buddy as witnesses.

    For some reason I decided I had to mow the backyard and it had to be done at that exact moment despite my lack of sleep, energy and mental capacity. Except the mower wouldn’t work.

    Kid 1 tried to help me get it started, but I was so far gone from rational thinking all I could do was huddle under a tree to cry and scream. Without me realizing it, my son’s friend went inside the house and called his mom.

    “Ms. Jen needs help.”

    As Christy walked around to the back of my house I saw her and began lashing out at her, too. She stood there calmly and listened to me, and then she hugged me. I fell against her and sobbed on her shoulder for I don’t know how long.

    She led me over to a chair and we sat and talked. When she first suggested I might need to see a doctor I once again got angry. Eventually I exhausted my screaming and my tears and she sat with me while I called the doctor and scheduled an immediate appointment.

    I found a counselor who diagnosed me with PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Again, I lashed out at her and told her that was a bit extreme. I’m not a soldier on a battlefield.

    She helped me see, though, that trauma is trauma and my body’s physiology was reacting to a trauma. My body didn’t know the difference between a battlefield attack and an attack on my marriage, my family and my life.

    I accepted and began taking antidepressants that my doctor prescribed. The medication helped me begin to function in a way that allowed me to face my situation in a slightly more rational and slightly more calm way.

    The antidepressants were a short-term solution to allow me to make long-term decisions.

    Entire libraries are full of writings on depression, it’s causes and treatments. I’m not qualified to diagnose or discuss whether medication is the right solution for you. I can only speak from my own experience.

    I do want you to understand though, that if you or your doctor feel you need help, take it. Don’t let pride, ego or ignorance stand in the way of becoming the woman you are destined to be. Too much is at stake for you to stifle yourself.

    Sunday, October 11, 2015

    This Is Depression

    Here's what people don't understand about depression:

    It is totally possible to feel happy and alive at 9am yet feel hopeless and distraught at 10am.

    The 10am hopeless feeling lasts longer and is buried deeper than the 9am happy.

    It's possible to be depressed when people say you have "no reason to be depressed".

    Depression is sneaky and can hit without warning.

    But sometimes I see it up ahead. I know it's coming. And even when I do all the self care things I know I need to do it happens anyway.

    You can't just "snap out of " depression.

    Most of the time I can paint a smile on my face and mask the depression until I'm alone again. In fact I'm really good about cracking jokes to friends about it. But inside I'm not laughing.

    Depression makes me believe I'm weak and a failure.

    I know the depression is just in my head. That's the problem. It's in my f'ing head and I can't get it out!

    Wednesday, October 7, 2015

    Writing The Crazy Out

    I've been very honest about the reason I write is to get the crazy out of my head. In fact there's a section of my book titled Get The Crazy Out (Creating A Joyful Life: The Lessons I Learned From Yoga and My Mom).  I'm a big believer in getting the demons out of your head and onto the paper.

    But sometimes, the demons don't want to go away. Sometimes they are hunkered down for the long haul and no amount of writing, exercise or ice cream will make them go away.

    And then I feel stuck. Depression sets in. I lose all interest in writing. I can barely bring myself to read the posts from all the other amazing bloggers I follow who don't ever seem to get down and stuck.

    They don't ever get writer's block. Maybe they don't even have demons? Maybe their life is filled with unicorns and writer's retreats?

    Not me. My life seems to be one crisis after another. To the point that I even don't want to talk to friends anymore for fear of being "that girl who only ever has bad news". I pull away from friends and loved ones so my negativity doesn't bring them down too.

    Yet the demons in my head are still screaming. I've managed to jot down a few notes this past week of the randomness in my mind. Maybe eventually they will turn into amazing pieces of writing. Or maybe I'll forget about them until they start shouting again.

    Writing is an isolating activity. Living in turmoil is isolating. I am constantly surrounded by people all screaming at me to meet their needs, yet I feel so alone. And I feel like I'm failing everyone, including myself.

    Yet my book is called Creating A Joyful Life. I don't feel very joyful right now. If I admit that does it mean I'm a hypocrite?

    Add hypocrisy to the list of my insecurities today.

    Friday, October 2, 2015

    The Amaranthine: A Book Review

    I don't normally read fantasy novels but was given a copy of Murees Dupe first novel The Amaranthine (Thelum Series #1). I was very pleasantly surprised and ended up reading the whole book in just one weekend.

    This past weekend I came down with some weird virus - high fever, sore throat, ear ache and the worst case of exhaustion I can remember in a long time. I slept and slept almost non stop.

    When I wasn't sleeping I had no energy to do anything so I flipped open my Kindle and found The Amaranthine. I wasn't sure at first if I would like it because fantasy, vampires and werewolves really aren't my normal choice of literature. In fact I'm probably one of the few people on earth who has never read Twilight or An Interview With A Vampire.

    But I really did like this book! And you know I'm not just saying that because I've been given many books to read and review that I have never actually reviewed -- because I didn't like the book and didn't want to give it a bad review.

    So if I'm saying I liked this I really did like it.

    The story line and characters are believable. In fact, although they are immortal, I can think of a few mortal people I know that remind me of some of the characters in the book. There is some sexual tension between the two main characters but it's written in a non-cheesy way. It's tough to write sex scenes but Murees did a good job of keeping it light in a way that didn't make me roll my eyes and think oh puhlease!

    I especially liked the way the main female character really comes in to her own through the course of the book. We watch as she goes from a timid loner to a self confident powerful female force.

    I definitely recommend The Amaranthine and truly hope book 2 is released soon!

    Friday, September 25, 2015

    It's Called Stealing And If You Steal You Suck!

    I suppose I should be flattered...


    So, it turns out that not everyone values artistic integrity.

    This summer two very popular posts I wrote not only went viral but they also made it all the way to the Yahoo home page. YES! However, I also soon realized that both those posts had been stolen and reprinted without permission on to other websites.

    Yes, stolen. And no I'm not being dramatic.

    When someone takes a post and reprints it on their website, without permission and without attribution, it is intellectual theft.

    Theft! Call the police.

    Except there really is no Internet police.

    I could send a Cease and Desist letter. I could even send a Take Down Notice to the website informing them that under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) they must take down the portion of their website that contains my writing.

    But, really, I'm not sure it's would do much good.

    Until tonight. Tonight I realized a couple websites are selling unauthorized and illegal downloadable copies of my book.

    Oh hell nah!

    I suppose I should be flattered.


    One website is in German so I really have no idea if it's even translated correctly. The other American website is hosted on a popular and reputable blog publishing service and run by a woman with the word "mummy" in her blog title.

    Hey mummy, do you teach your kids that stealing is wrong?

    Again, I suppose I could waste my time sending Cease and Desist letters. But I probably won't. Except to "mummy". She's getting one for sure.

    However, I do want to say to anyone out there that thinks it's OK to take someone elses work and copy it, give it away or call it your own ... YOU SUCK.

    I also want to say to anyone who has legally purchased my book, who has read my writings, and even commented on or passed along something I've written... THANK YOU.  Sincerely and truly thank you to all who have read, commented, challenged and encouraged me.

    For the rest of you, I'm adding a copyright notice to my blog here. The book was, of course, copyrighted and anything you see linked to a published website is copyrighted.

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Stealing just makes you a thief.

    This blog button was legally copied from who
    graciously shares info and
    advice on
    content theft

    Wednesday, September 9, 2015

    My Fellow Author Friend Just Had Her Book Released

    I know how excited I was when my book was released, oh who am I kidding? I am still crazy excited! So I'm crazy happy to help spread the word about my blog friend Murees Duple's book release.

    I just received my copy today so haven't started it yet, but from the reviews I've read it's fantastic!

    Title: The Amaranthine (Thelum Series)
    Author: Murees Dupé
    Genre: Paranormal Romance
    Release Date: 8 September 2015

    Claire is sassy, human, and an outcast of society―who only wants to know where she belongs.

    Alex is arrogant, selfish, and an immortal warrior―who thinks he’s prepared for everything.

    Claire knows the world of immortals is where she belongs. As her guide and guardian, Alex finds it hard to resist Claire’s subtle charm. Can the two overcome their differences and embrace their passion for each other, or will the possibility of true love be lost to both forever?

    Find your copy here:
    E-book: Kindle * Nook * Ibooks * Kobo
    Paperback: Amazon

    About the Author
    Murees Dupé was born and still lives in South Africa. When she is not thinking up new stories, she is spending time with her family, playing with her three dogs and cat, watching TV, or overindulging on desserts. To learn more about Murees, visit her website