Just a small update from the last week or so…

I haven’t done much writing on my novel in a few days, but have been writing for other projects. I have entered the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge! I’ve only just finished my first round story, but I loved every minute of it.

I was challenged with a genre that I have never written in before: Horror. I was also given a character and a setting, so all I had to do was write based on those three things. I bounced ideas off my husband and he did the same. I settled on one of his and got to work!

I didn’t think it would be too challenging, but I was wrong. It made me think outside of my box. It made me write content that I never thought I would. It made me venture into territory that I’m not comfortable writing. I am so happy with how that story turned out. A little less than a week and 2,500 words later, I submitted it.

Now, judging won’t be for a while, but I’m still on the edge of my seat just waiting on the feedback. That’s the part I’m excited about the most. I would LOVE to win this competition, but with over 6,000 other writers entered, I’ll be completely satisfied with making it to round two.

If this was a few months ago, I never would have signed up. I was not comfortable with people knowing what I was working on. I didn’t want people to judge me for my “crazy dream” of being an author. But here I am, putting myself out there and loving the feeling of people knowing that I’m pursuing my dream.

My girls are watching me. I don’t want them to see me fail by just giving up. I have put out into our beautiful universe that I’m writing again. Making others aware has made me more accountable for my work. It’s invigorating!

In what ways have you stepped out of your comfort zone? What goals are you achieving?

This post hits hard on a few levels. We have had a tragedy in our family that has rocked us all to the core. In my little household, it has hit our oldest the hardest. That is where the hardest part of grief comes in.

This past Wednesday my husband responded with his volunteer department to a call that he knew was a family member. He’s worked family calls before, but not like this. It was a call for his cousin’s six year old son. I will not go into details as this isn’t the time or the place. And it’s not my place to do so out of respect for the child’s immediate family. Long story short, the sweet boy passed away.

I have heard panic in my husband’s voice before and I’ve heard him on edge from adrenaline. His voice on that phone call to me was somewhere in between. It’s a sound I don’t think I will ever forget. I will probably even listen for it when he responds to any call from now on. He says he’s fine, but I still worry. Like he’s always been told, it hits different when it’s family.

I was at work when I got this call and left my class in a tizzy and in the hands of another teacher. It was dismissal time, so no instruction was lost. They may only be in second grade, but they know when something’s not right. At this point they knew more than my daughter did.

As I hid in another classroom crying, I managed to call my dad and get him to loop back around to pick her up until I could gather myself and our things. (I should also mention that my mother-in-law had our baby while my husband went to the call.)

I finally managed to keep my composure long enough to sort things out with administration and drive to my parents’ house. My daughter could tell something was off. I mean, Pepaw never picks her up and she not know the reason in advance. It was twenty questions from their house to ours where I met my husband and our other daughter.

Now came the hard part. We had to tell our 8 year old that her partner in crime on that side of our family was gone. I couldn’t do it. It brought back too many memories of me telling her about her father. My husband held her and comforted her as he explained what she would understand.

At first she clammed up and sort of pretended like nothing had happened. She had therapy the next day, so I explained it to the doctor. Still no talking about it. This brings us back to weekly sessions and close monitoring until we feel she is okay. Last night it finally set in. She cried and questioned, got angry that it happened, and even told me not to talk about him.

We were back in school today for some normalcy until arrangements are made. She had a rough start, but managed to make it through with a good report. My husband talked with his full-time chief and still feels okay. This post helped me as writing is my therapy and my family is my biggest concern.

Let me end this by saying I apologize if I step on any toes or make anyone mad. The title is based on my experiences with grief. I am fortunate enough that I’ve only experienced two traumatic losses in my 35 years. The hardest part for me IS watching the ones I love hurt and suffer. I wish I could take their pain and help them cope. But I can’t. With that being said, hug your loved ones a little longer, young and old. You never know when God will need them back.

That term is used in a lot of different ways. Hot Mess Moms range from a strategic messy bun and leggings to bed head and gym shorts. I fell somewhere in the middle of those two this morning.

I start my weekday between 5:40-5:50 am Monday through Friday (and sometimes Saturday depending on my husband’s work schedule or the kids). It started out like any other Thursday morning: slide out of bed, fix my cup of coffee, give Kid #1 her meds, wake the hubby, and so on…By about 6:15 the “poop” hit the roof.

Kid #1 was up and slowly getting motivated to get dressed (10 minutes later than I’d like). The cat was in her room and sniffing around her Barbie house. This was a big no-no this morning. Kid #1 picked up the cat and went to put her out into the hallway. The bad part: our dog was outside the bedroom door making her morning rounds.

Cue screams of near fatal injury!! No, but seriously, the kid ended up with a nasty scratch across her knee from the cat and a few on her left hand. (Writing hand was safe!) I coax her into the bathroom to clean it up and somehow made it worse.

Note to self: cold rags on cuts aren’t good for her. Panic from pain and blood set in and more screams took place. By this time it’s 6:40, my hubby left for work, neither of us are ready to go, and my mother-in-law just pulled up to watch Kid #2.

My options at this point were to give in and just bandage it up or ring in Round 3 of the lightweight championship. I waved the white flag and proved that “out of sight, out of mind” is more than just for toys and stuff. Covered scratch means pain is gone. Now to find a proper school uniform that doesn’t bunch the bandage and fix lunchboxes all while changing the baby, walking the dog, and keeping it together.

That last part I managed pretty easily…until I realized my work stuff was still scattered on the table and no one has had breakfast yet. Defeat! I threw muffins in a lunch bag with sandwiches and jello and grabbed my coffee to go. Five minutes late, but still making it. Did I mention that I forgot to let the dog out? Thank God for my in-laws!

I’m driving the speed limit(ish) to school/work and get behind every driver that wants to drive five under the posted speed. I don’t get a chance to pass, so this adds another five minutes to what I was already running behind. By this time I’ve scrubbed most of my makeup off in frustration and my hair is pulled back before my day at work even begins.

Needless to say, I was late to work and hungry with cold coffee and not at all put together. The plus side to all of this: I teach and my coworkers get it, I wear a mask and cover the flustered cheeks, my hair is already out of my face, and my students were strangely calm this morning.

I 100% qualified for that Hot Mess Mom title today. Was it the worst it could have been? No. Do I want to try to handle worse? Also no. Am I grateful for every minute I was gifted today, even the tough ones? Absolutely!!

What about you? Tell me your Hot Mess Mom (or Dad) stories. Make me feel better about my struggle. 😆

This past winter break I vowed to not touch any work stuff for the duration of the two weeks. And you know what? I succeeded! (Shocking, I know!) The first week consisted of Christmas gatherings and family. The second was visiting elderly family in Virginia and having a small town getaway as a family.

I would love to introduce you to Hillsville, Virginia. About two hours above Charlotte, North Carolina and an hour from Roanoke is the small town of Hillsville. If you’re looking for big city shopping and dining, you’ll have to travel a little farther. But if you want a great day trip with that cozy, mountain town feel, spend some time in Hillsville.

We went a few years ago when the weather was warmer. We rode the winding roads, stopped by some creek accesses, and just enjoyed the views. But nothing beats visiting when there’s a blanket of snow.

We stayed with family, so the cost was very minimal for us. They have a sled in their garage that hadn’t been used in about twenty years, but my daughters and I put an end to that. At 35 years old I was able to sled for the first time! I enjoyed this first with both of my girls while my husband gave us the push start. I then let him go down the hill to watch the girls faces while going downhill. That was a sight and sound we will never forget! (We have two snow babies who just happen to live near the ocean.)

After an eventful day of sledding and snowball fights, we put the toddler down for a nap. Our family members were gracious enough to let us take the oldest out for a ride to see the snowy view. We went the same places as our first visit, but it looked totally different with the glistening white layer of snow. Even the creek accesses were breathtaking.

Now, I’m the mom that likes to explore whenever possible, so I found a walking trail nearby for us to visit the next day. It’s about three miles of a gravel path with bridges over different passes of a mountain creek. Beautiful…breathtaking…just, wow.

Beaver Dam Walking Trail is an easy entry to pass by if you’re not looking for it. There is parking, but it’s on one side of the road down a slope. There’s also a small sign pointing to the location. We parked and carefully walked up icy steps to the roadside where we had to cross and walk down more icy steps. Not an easy feat with an excited eight year old and a toddler on Dad’s shoulders. The path started out grassy and bordered by trees on one side and a pasture on the other. First wildlife sighting: a horse grazing in the brush of the pasture.

The further we walked the whiter the path became. The tree cover kept the sun from melting the snow too quickly. The creek ran down the left side of us lined by beautiful river rocks. The first bridge we came to was painted red, but covered in white. We had MANY photo opportunities on the trail. With all four of us enjoying it, I took close to a hundred…I’m sure my husband hated me by the twentieth one.

We walked about halfway down the trail, stopping to enjoy every bridge. We crossed five total by the halfway mark. There were also benches and a covered shelter to sit on and just enjoy the wilderness. If we wouldn’t have had the kids we would’ve walked the whole trail, but after about a while our oldest just “couldn’t go any further”.

I’m sure Beaver Dam Walking Trail is very pretty in the warmer months, but I’m grateful that the snow stuck around for us to enjoy it icy and white. We didn’t see any more wildlife but did see tracks of a few different animals. We are planning to visit again in the summer if everything works out to enjoy the things Hillsville has to offer then also.

Hillsville is nestled not far from North Carolina and some larger areas of Virginia. We were close enough to go and do if we wanted, but far enough away from the hustle and bustle to enjoy the quiet of the mountains. If you ever get a chance, stop by and spend the day there! You won’t regret it.

Beaver Dam Creek Walking Trail

As a growing writer, I am putting myself out there to guest post for other bloggers. It gives me a chance to polish my skill and practice new ways of writing. My first guest post was published today!! To say I’m excited is an understatement!

Take Time For Yourself!

There’s the link for your enjoyment. Check out her other posts also. The content of her blog is amazing and very helpful in many ways! Liz Talton, thank you so much for this opportunity. 2021 is starting out on the right foot!

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I am in the process of writing a novel that I hope to self-publish by this summer. It’s a story that is very near and dear to my heart for many reasons. Those that know me will almost immediately make the connection, but those of you who don’t will see it as just another novel to read. That’s why this post is what it is.

I started my novel around five years ago when one of the most devastating times of my life happened. It was a bit of an outlet for my silent pain. Ok, it was my only outlet for that pain. (It’s also why self-care is so important to me.)

My oldest daughter lost her biological father five years ago this past September. We were married but going through a divorce for numerous reasons. All in all, it wasn’t a healthy relationship. This is where my novel starts. My pain and disbelief is all rolled into the first three chapters. (Chapter one is a post of its own if you want to go back and read it.)

The only part that rings with any truth is the emotion. The characters aren’t real, they aren’t based on real people, all except for Natalie and Ryann. Those two are based on my daughter and myself. Which is why I think this is the hardest story for me to write. I am keeping my reality out of it while still pouring some of myself into it.

The chapters after signify our new beginning and shows the strength it takes to bring yourself back up from the wreckage. I’m not saying my story is the worst it could have been. I’m sure there are many who have had it way worse. But my novel IS my therapy. It’s a slow moving process, but I want it to be just right.

Slow and steady is the title of this post for a few reasons. One is because it’s taking so long for me to get it all onto paper. Two, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Three, I’m still holding it close to my chest. My husband has seen only the first three chapters. I’ve only made chapter one public. I have yet to talk to my close friends and family about it. Not because I’m afraid of what they will say, but because I’m afraid of how they will view me after it’s all said and done. Will they like it? Will they even read it?

I’m still growing as a writer. I don’t think that ever ends. I have big dreams and I intend to reach them all. But I’ll only get there by being slow and steady…

Going into the new year, I’ve always stressed over the things to come. Taxes that are due quickly after the start of the year, back to school plans, laundry…always laundry. This year I feel like I need to leave 2020 with peace and not stress over what’s to come.

The past few weeks have left me feeling accomplished, yet eerily calm. I was able to complete report cards and first week back plans before break started. I went into Christmas break with a clear mind knowing I wouldn’t have to work it all away.

Somehow I’ve stuck to that and haven’t touched my work bag since December 18th. This feels so strange to me as I’m constantly planning and replanning as I go. If you ask my husband, he’ll tell you my motto for the past few weeks has been “It’s fine…It’ll all be ok”. He’s probably wondering what happened to his control freak of a wife. (Or loving every moment until that personality returns.)

This year break has been very relaxing. I’ve enjoyed moments with family, made big leaps with some even bigger issues for me, and actually rested during vacation. I haven’t written much, but ideas are constantly floating through my mind. I can’t remember the last time I’ve enjoyed time off this much.

I said it in the title and I’ll say it again now. I am leaving 2020 behind with peace. Peace of mind, peace in my heart, and at peace with old wounds. I am looking forward to all that 2021 has to offer me and my little family. Happy New Year to you all!!!

But not real fun.

This past year has been a struggle for many (if not all) of us. It all started with the Coronavirus outbreak. The word “pandemic” shot fear through everyone worldwide. We’ve started wearing masks, hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer, and avoiding daily tasks due to risk of illness.

My family has been very blessed to have avoided it so far. (Knocking on wood and saying lots of prayers!) With mine and my husband’s jobs, we surely thought it would’ve made its rounds by now.

A few months into the year our small community was devastated by a massive tornado. So many people lost everything and one beautiful family was taken from us. Even through the devastation and heartache, people from all over pulled together (in the middle of the pandemic) to help. Clean up crews, churches, neighbors…you name it.

Fast forward and skip a few things, we went through a very trying time with our oldest. As I’ve mentioned before, her ADHD and mood disorder diagnosis has not been easy. We are still in close contact with her providers and are finally on the right medication path (for now). It cycles, so we take the good and relish in it until it’s time to start over again.

Skip a few more months to October. Happy birthday to me! Oh and thanks for the ER visits and medical bills. My first big health scare in a very long time came the day after I turned 35. Tests, scans, bloodwork, reactions to contrast…and daily medication. But I feel better, I’m gaining my weight back, and my condition is manageable. It turned out to be nothing too serious but had me down for a month.

It’s December now and a bout of insomnia has set in. I have medication for a sleep aid, but feeling hungover the next morning doesn’t work for me. I take melatonin most nights only to wake up around 2:00 am, and now I’m writing this at 4:00.

BUT!! My daughters are healthy, we are face-to-face at school, my husband and I still have an amazing relationship, and I’ve started the venture of writing again. All in all, I’ll take the bad and weigh it against the good. The good outweighs it every time. Optimist? Yes. This day and time you almost have to be.

When I started blogging I didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I do. Yes, I love writing, but the idea of figuring out what to blog about is still a little tough for me. What do people want to read? What will end up being my niche? What successes will come from this first step of putting myself out there?

Well, I’ll start by celebrating my small steps. I’ve been working on my novel for a while, and still have a long way to go, but I’m adding pages almost daily. Celebrate!

I’ve come up with an idea for a children’s book that is seasonal but I think will do well. I’ve already written a rough draft for about half the number of pages I’m striving for. Celebrate!

I’ve been fairly consistent with posts on here, averaging about three to four a week. No niche yet, but I’m writing what I know, feel, and enjoy. I’m putting myself out there. Celebrate!

I’ve submitted three guest post inquiries to other bloggers in the past two weeks. One was a bad inquiry in which I didn’t hear anything back from. But two!! Two of my inquiries will be used as guest posts in January! Celebrate!

Back to my novel, which is my writing baby…I’ve held this content VERY close to my chest. I haven’t shared it with anyone other than a few chapters with my husband. Even then I squirmed while he read it. But I felt the need to share it on here with y’all. I posted chapter one of my novel on this site, which was a HUGE step for me. Celebrate!

None of these small steps have made me an overnight success, but they make me do a little happy dance every time I think about them. I’ve found that I really do enjoy celebrating my small steps to accomplish my dream of becoming a published author.

Who knows…maybe one day I’ll see my name on a printed cover. 🙂

(Who else pictured Steve the Monkey from the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movie every time they read “Celebrate”? Just me?)

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have a hard time getting my brain to power off at the end of the day. It’s almost like the computer program that runs constantly in the background. You know, the one that asks if you’re sure because you could lose unsaved data?

With the end of a nine weeks coming up at work, my husband taking certification courses and working, running after both girls…you get it. The day never seems to end. And when I finally get a chance to lay in bed, I crash hard.

After many nights of this and restless sleep, I decided to research and try out techniques to help my brain slow down. Here’s a few that I have liked best.

1. Brain Dump- yes, it’s as appealing as it sounds. The first few times are tough because you want what you write onto the paper to make sense. It doesn’t have to. Write whatever comes to mind. Grocery items, a to-do list, or just random thoughts. If I’m able to get it out of my head and onto paper, it doesn’t creep back in just before I drift off.

2. Mind numbing games- this one sounds counter-productive. And for some it may be. For me, if I play a crossword game it helps to slow my mind down. I can last maybe five to ten minutes before I risk dropping the phone on my face from getting sleepy. Sometimes I even get my husband to play it while I watch and fall asleep on his shoulder. (He secretly enjoys this one too!)

3. Read- I can usually grab the book I’m currently reading and enjoy it for a few minutes to make myself sleepy. It’s almost like I’m not in my own thoughts, so they drift off and I can do the same. Now, I can’t do the Kindle version for this. It has to be a physical book. For some reason it has a different effect.

4. Melatonin- there…I admit it. I sometimes take one of my daughter’s melatonin gummies to help me sleep. I don’t wake up feeling groggy like I do when I take any other form of sleep aid. This is the one I resort to when it’s been an incredibly hectic day and I feel like I got nothing done.

And if none of these work, I move on to my tried and true method.

5. Write- I feel like this one is a given, especially since I’m laying in bed as I type this post. It kind of wraps up a brain dump into making myself think and getting out what’s on my mind. I’ve tried journaling, but it’s not for me. I have random notes stuck everywhere and ideas for stories on the corners of notebook pages.

As short as this list is, it makes me happy to share it. For all you parents out there, my daughter does these things also. Her go-to is reading. I’ve found flashlights and books under her pillow many mornings from where she read to put herself to sleep.

How to you make your brain power off? What’s your go-to method to “shut down” from the day?