Behind the Filters and Smiles

For over 40ish years now, I’ve just assumed I wasn’t a happy person. I didn’t know how to be happy. I wasn’t meant to do more than plaster on a fake smile and pretend that I was okay.

I got pretty damn good at it, too. I smiled. I laughed. I joked. I slapped on a brave face and hoped no one saw the gritted teeth.

I didn’t have any excuse to not be happy. Sure there were things in my childhood that sucked – the loss of a parent, divorce, emotional abuse – but nothing that I’d ever consider trauma. I didn’t have it worse than anyone else. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, I had nothing to complain about.

Yet, I was in pain. I was sad. I felt lost. Unloved. Unloveable. Unworthy. Unacceptable.

In trying to bury these big feelings and emotions, I slipped into various coping mechanisms. I found comfort in food and then in severe restriction. For years, I bounced between limiting to 300 calories a day and then binging far too many to count. I lost weight. I gained weight. I added more and more layers between my heart and the real world.

Rather than addressing any of these feelings, I self-medicated with food and tried to self-analyze my problems. I listened to self-help books. I believed the toxic positivity and again decided the issue was my own aversion to happiness. I was the problem. Maybe I was just wired all wrong. I’d been born into quicksand and there wasn’t anything to balance my weight against.

I tried religion. I tried applying more layers. I leaned into the little things that made me happy for a moment (new shoes! new nails! new makeup! books!) but nothing worked. I overanalyzed again and again.

Maybe … just maybe … this new thing was the cure.

New obsession after new obsession … nothing changed.

I still wasn’t happy. Did I even want to be happy?

In 2020 and 2021, the bottom dropped out. The world crumbled. We isolated. I became angry and stressed. My marriage suffered. My kids suffered. I suffered. A job I once loved became toxic. I experienced gaslighting as an adult and was able to recognize it. I saw what it did to me. I saw how it made me react. I nearly lost myself in trying to put out the flames. But then I took charge. I took a risk that was so far out of character it made me nauseous. I quit the job and walked away. I put myself first. I let the fear of becoming someone I didn’t want to be win. (Sometimes, it’s okay to let fear win.)

Something inside me rattled loose. Memories I’d buried. Feelings I’d ignored. Truths I’d refused to accept. It all flooded out.

I realized it was more than I could handle alone.

I turned 40 and realized I was tired of living like this. I was tired of masking and pretending everything was rosy.

I researched therapy and started talking to someone. Then, something magical happened.

My trauma was acknowledged and validated. I was reminded that while my traumas might not be the BIG traumas I compared myself to, they were still painful and they left a lingering impact.

I felt seen and understood in a way I never had before. It was liberating.

I still have a lot of work to do, but I am learning more and more about myself every day. I’m learning to find new ways to process and feel these emotions I’ve ignored for far too long. I’m trying to set a better example for my kids, and I’m finding more patience every day—both with myself and with those around me.

I’m also learning that it’s okay to let the mask slip off. I don’t have to pretend to be perfect or even okay. It’s not easy to let go of that control, but it feels good.

I don’t know what this year will bring nor do I know if I’ll find that magical light at the end of the tunnel, but I can feel the change.

There is happiness ahead.

Falling in Love with Work

Children’s books make my heart sing. The beautiful words. The lessons learned. The gorgeous and whimsical illustrations.

I knew I’d enjoy working in children’s publishing, but even I couldn’t have predicted just how much they would impact my life as I fell in love with each and every title. It’s been amazing watching these books move from idea to words and drawings to a book on a shelf. I’m in awe of the passion these authors have shared.

All of these amazing picture books are available to order or pre-order now.

Opal Lee and What it Means to be Free by Alice Faye Duncan


Good Morning, My Little One by Amy Kavelaris coming 2/8/22


Edward & Annie with Shedd Aquarium coming 3/8/22


What Will I Do With My Love Today by Kristin Chenoweth coming 3/8/22


Thank You, Mama by Linda Meeker coming 4/5/22


You’re Always Enough and More than I Hoped For by Emily Ley coming 5/10/22

Change

Change is hard. Change is necessary. Change is (sometimes) scary.

I’ve never been one to dive headfirst into the water. I’m more of a dip my toe in, test it out, make a to-do list (first one toe, then two, then maybe a foot … you get the idea), and then, and only then, will I consider diving in headfirst.

I’ve often joked that as the product of a hippie mother and an ultra-conservative father, I fall smack dab in the middle of practical and impulsive. I dream of the freedom and fun that comes from being bold and impulsive, but I crave the stability of planning and routines. It’s a fun place to live.

This past year has been filled with all the cliches of personal growth. I spent a lot of time soul searching, even more time trying to unblur the lines between work and home, and a LOT of time juggling dirty diapers with Teams meetings and to-do lists. I wish I could tell you that I’ve come out of that phase of life with a renewed sense of clarity and purpose, but that would be a beautiful lie.

If anything, I am more confused than ever. Well, I suppose I could claim to have a confused sense of clarity. The things I want and need are clearer, but the path to get there has gotten a bit rockier than I’d anticipated.

I won’t regale you with all the gory details of the bumps and potholes that have littered that path, but I will say this … they’ve forced me to sit and think. I’ve spent countless hours the past few weeks meditating and thinking and contemplating what my next steps in life are.

The only certainties I’ve found are that my passion continues to lie within words and stories and humanity. I find solace in a good book. Writing is my therapy. I will always, always be a loud advocate for and a student of human rights. There are the three strongest pillars of who I am at the core of myself.

With all of this soul searching, I’ve also found that there are situations I cannot and will not tolerate. It is with this newfound knowledge and appreciation for my mental health and well-being that I am embarking on the next phase of my life and career. I am opening myself to the possibilities that lie ahead … with a teensy bit of fear and trepidation, but head and heart first.

Indie Author … and Podcaster?

If I look tired, it’s because I took this at 10 pm

I’ve decided to make #indielovethursday a thing. This week, I’m gonna explain why …

If you’d have told me six months ago that I’d be staying up until 10 pm recording a podcast, I’d have laughed at you and said NO WAY.

But as this story usually goes, here we are.

When I published my fourth novel, After Everything, I was reminded of all the barriers and roadblocks that indie authors have to tackle on their journey to market their books.

Between the stigmas, the cost of competing against a billion-dollar industry, all the no’s that hit before the question is even asked … y’all, it can be demoralizing.

But it’s worth it. Why? Because indie publishing is amazing. The freedom to publish what you want when you want without the rules, constraints, and timelines of that same billion-dollar industry.

This is why Maria Ann Green and I started the Indie Author Book Club. We wanted to introduce readers to new indie authors AND we wanted to demolish the stigmas.

I am so proud of the work we’ve done over the past few months and cannot wait to see where this journey takes us.

Mani Time …Me Time … Self Care … Mom Time … Whatever …

My Nail Cart

Pick your favorite buzz word. Self Care. Me Time. Mom Time. Indulgence. Happy Time. Whatever you want to call it, it’s important. IMPORTANT. As moms (working out or in the home) trying to survive a pandemic, taking time for yourself is beyond crucial.

I have a few, let’s call it self care, things that I do that are just for me. I read. I write. I scroll Instagram. I giggle at silly TikToks.

My absolute favorite self care activity is doing my nails. Since last March, it’s become a hobby I indulge in at least once a week. For me, it’s about so much more than just having fun or pretty nails. It’s a source of pride.

If you’ve been here a while, you know I have a history of being an anxiety nail biter and picker. My poor, poor cuticles have been through the ringer. When I see old photos of my hands, I cry and cringe. My fingers used to always hurt. I hated the way they looked, but mostly I hated the way they felt.

My nail journey started with Impress press-on nails back in the fall of 2019. In early 2020, I discovered the magic of dip powder. I had a few salon dips, but then the pandemic hit. So, I hit up YouTube and far too many Facebook Groups and learned how to do my own dip at home.

It took some trial and a lot of error, but I found a method that worked for me and fell in love. Somewhere along the way, nails became part of my brand. When I have naked nails, friends like to take bets on how long I’ll last. So far, 72 hours is the max … BUT I had Covid, so I don’t think that really counts.

Every Wednesday, I post my Mani of the Week (or last week, depending on how many manis I’ve done recently). If you ask my IG friends and followers what they know me for, they will answer nails, books, coffee, and wine.

I’ve shared a few of my favorites below. I’ve also shared links to the powders and liquids I use.

Have you tried dip nails? If you haven’t and want to know more, hit me up! I love talking about nails. And books. And coffee. And wine. Seriously, slide into my DMs and ask away!

Revel Dip Powders & Activator (link for 10% off).
Triple Vitamin Base and Top Coat.
UNT Peel Base.

Finding Balance in Chaos … or Not

Holy mackerel, y’all. It’s been a freaking year.

What’s that? It’s only January 15?

Yes, I’m aware, but I swear each day since January first has been a month long.

We started the year with my son in virtual school, which is super fun with kindergartners (as I am sure many of you know) and my husband and I working from home. Last week, we added in a quarantined toddler.

Not to mention the domestic terrorist attack on our Capitol. Not that I was incredibly surprised by what happened, but it was surreal to watch it unfold.

I’m not quite sure I’ve ever been as stressed as I am now.

I can’t focus on writing or reading. My patience is thin and short. I have no motivation to work out, and all I want is coffee, cookies, and wine … and a nap or ten.

If I learned anything in 2020, it was that nothing is consistent anymore. There is no such thing as a routine or expected outcome.

One thing I haven’t learned yet is how to handle the consequences. My kids have both been in various stages of sleep regression since March. No one is getting enough sleep and we’re all stretched thing. We’re cranky and tired of each other.

And, I think, that’s okay. None of us know how to operate in a global pandemic. Or how to handle watching in insurrection unfold.

It’s important to admit that sometimes, we don’t have the answers. I know as adults and parents, we’re expected to know how to react in every situation, but some things you cannot plan for.

It’s okay to be wrong. It’s okay to make mistakes.

As long as you know when it’s time to apologize or ask for help.

We’re all humans and we’re doing the best we can.

Mr. President, America is Speaking

Mr. President, America is speaking.

Bear with me today, friends, this may be a bit of a ramble as I gather my thoughts.

Four years ago I woke up in tears. I walked into my 18-month-old son’s room and apologized to him. I listened to Christmas music on my way into work and cried as I noticed that my neighbors had already pulled down their Hillary Clinton yard signs. I cried at my desk. A co-worker took me to lunch and to get ice cream.

Then I got angry. I marched. I volunteered. I canvassed. I donated. I spoke up.

This year, I’m numb but angry. I’m in shock but not surprised.

America is a racist nation. America is filled with single issue voters that have decided their one issue matters more than the rights of their fellow citizens. They’ve decided that they’re okay with racism, homophobia, xenophobia, bigotry, and sexism as long as their white “Evangelical” issues are protected.

Look, I know votes are still being counted. I know this fight isn’t over.

But the tired old man that they elected king is going to do everything he can to destroy our democracy. He’s been slowly picking it apart for four years, and if he wins, I fear for the future my children will face.

Every vote must be counted. Every fucking vote matters. We cannot and will not let voter suppression re-elect the tyrant. I will not lose my country. I will not standby as my country gives into the dark side.

This race is close—too fucking close.

We will not go down without a fight.

Vote Like Your Life Depends On It

When I am stressed, I do my nails. I am calling this mani the Blue Wave.

Today is the day, y’all. I’m feeling all kinds of emotions … hope and fear, mostly.

As a mother.
As a woman.
As an aunt and a daughter.
As a human who cares deeply about the lives and rights of others.

If you didn’t early vote or mail your ballot, please vote today. If you’re in line when the polls close, stay in line—you will be able to vote.

Know your rights. Voter intimidation is illegal. No one can take your vote away.

Save your voting selfie for after you cast your ballot as many states have laws against taking photos in the voting booth.

Take care of yourself today. Be vigilant. Be kind. Be patient. We likely won’t have results tonight.

The State of Things

Y’all I don’t even know anymore. This year has been one punch in the face after the other.

Personally, there have been some highs but the world is literally burning, so those moments pale in comparison to the lows. It’s hard to celebrate a new house or a new book in the midst of a global pandemic that’s infected millions and killed hundreds of thousands or as we watch Black men, women, and children being murdered in cold blood by the people who are paid to protect and serve or as the rights of our LGBTQ+ friends are on the line.

Yesterday, I received the lovely contact tracing call. Last night (7 days ahead of a presidential election) the “Senate” confirmed a radical originalist to the SCOTUS that forever changes the landscape of the court.

I’m not going to lie, it’s hard to remain positive or feel hopeful.

I’m beyond angry. I don’t know if there is a feeling deeper than rage, but I’m feeling it.

If you haven’t voted, make a plan for 11/3. VOTE. Don’t be cute and vote for Kanye because you believe the bullshit being spoon-fed to us by Fox News, Russia, and internet trolls. There is too much at stake this year.

Oh, and wear a fucking mask.