Welcome to My Book Blog

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

Hello, welcome to my blog! I’m so glad you stopped by. I’m a new indie author that loves to read and write. I decided to create a blog to give my books more exposure and to write about my ideas and anything interesting that’s on my mind. I’m a regular person who loves to read and talk about it. I’ve been reading like crazy I was a kid and I haven’t stopped. Reading fiction and non-fiction got me through some very difficult times in my childhood and adult life. I was very into mystery books in my teen years devouring every Nancy Drew book out there. Someone recommended Sue Grafton mystery thriller books to me in my young adult years and now I’m a sucker for romance stories with some inspiration books thrown in there occasionally when I need some emotional uplifting. I recently started delving into the world of writing and self-publishing. It’s an exciting world full of ups and downs but I write because I enjoy it and its’ an emotional outlet for me. I’ll keep writing as long as I keep enjoying it. Check out my books and ramblings by following me. Thanks again for stopping by!

Skye Bailey is the pen name of an author who lives in the United States. She likes to write heart-wrenching, dark romance stories with characters that have gone through hardship and abuse and have survived and become thrivers. The author herself has gone through many struggles in her life and sometimes incorporates those struggles into her stories. Her stories will almost always have HEA endings because the author loves to give her characters hope and happiness in the end after much hardship.

Tainted Heart: A Dark Captive Romance

Tainted Heart: A Dark Captive Romance: A Second-Chance Possessive Love Novel by [Skye  Bailey]

Hi, for all you dark romance lovers out there, I’ve just released my latest dark romance novel. It’s dark and steamy and meant for mature audiences 18+

I just got my first two reviews and they were negative. What I got from the reviews was a little confusing. Did they not like it because it wasn’t their cup of tea, or was it for some other reason? You be the judge. Check it out and tell me what you think!

GR link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54259301-tainted-heart

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Tainted-Heart-Captive-Second-Chance-Possessive-ebook/dp/B08BRY7PN7/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2ADX7LXJSAVFP&dchild=1&keywords=tainted+heart+by+skye+bailey&qid=1593738709&sprefix=tainted+heart+by+skye+%2Caps%2C391&sr=8-1

Blurb: “Audrey, understand something, here right now, you belong to me. You’re mine! You do whatever I say, whenever I say. I’m going to do whatever I want to you. I’m going to break you into a million pieces. Then I’m going to put you back together the way I want to.”

Audrey and Flynn are each other’s soulmates, married and mated for life. Nothing could undo their happily ever after, until something does, and just like that, everything changes.

Flynn was a changed man, a broken man. He wasn’t the same man she’d married. He’d seen and done horrible things. There was a darkness in him now that wasn’t there before, and he couldn’t undo it. It was a part of him. He wouldn’t taint her with his love; so he went far away. So far away as to never have to worry about running into her. He went to the other side of the world, to a place ice-cold just like his heart. But then destiny decided to play a cruel joke and now she’s in his sights again. He can’t think, can’t live knowing she’s so close but yet out of his reach.

He wants her back. He wants to imprint himself on her and not only mark her but crave for her to be marked by him. But he was a changed man. Could he be enough for her? Could he still love her the way she needed? Whatever the outcome, he couldn’t turn back now. He had to keep moving forward. He’d already taken her…

This is a standalone dark romance with an HEA, featuring a heroine who is stronger than she thinks and a possessive anti-hero who isn’t as monstrous as he thinks.

Note: Trigger warning. Tainted Heart includes spankings, themes of BDSM, rough and graphic sexual scenes, strong D/s themes, intense sexual punishments, and non-con sex. If such material offends you, please don’t buy this book. Intended for mature audiences 18+

Not Your Usual Sex Ed: The Unexpected Results of Teaching Teens Fertility Awareness

By MARGARET BRADY

Do you remember your first “very special” health class? Mine was taught by a middle-aged lady whose first priority was eliminating dirty fingernails. She stalked around our fifth-grade public school classroom, examining each girl’s hands, prepared to name and shame any offenders.

Besides the hygiene review, we also received a blurry diagram of the female reproductive system. The teacher unconvincingly strove to impress upon us that we each had inside ourselves a duplicate of this diagram, and that soon these organs would power on, like a self-aware computer. As far as I was concerned it may as well have been a map of the battle of Gettysburg, labeled entirely in French.

She explained that an egg would one day travel down one of our tubes like a marble, and if that egg wasn’t fertilized by sperm, “it” would happen. “It,” the teacher made clear, was an unstoppable part of life. The train was bearing down upon us and there was no way to unstrap ourselves from the track. Carnage—ahem, menstruation—was inevitable.

We also watched a sappy video produced under the mistaken assumption that all tween girls long with their whole hearts to get their periods, grow breasts, and most of all, be noticed by boys. I was in no hurry to grow up, and I experienced the same feeling of loneliness I got from reading Judy Blume novels. The girls in the video, like the characters in the Judy books, seemed anxious and very unhappy, so I was glad their problem was not my problem. Still, was there something wrong with me? Should I be worried that I wasn’t worried about eggs and tubes and bras?

Unless you were very lucky, you can probably tell a similar story about your first sex-ed experience. It was probably strange, awkward, and not what you needed. Can you imagine another way? What if the way kids learned the “facts of life” was positive, useful, and even feminist?

Fertility awareness has been grabbing headlines recently as women discover one of medicine’s best kept secrets—that they can plan their families without being chained to a pill bottle. But fertility awareness is not, at its core, about avoiding pregnancy. It proposes the radical notion that women are people with bodies that deserve to be studied, understood, and appreciated. I spoke with three women helping lead the fertility awareness charge to find out what that looks like with teenagers.

Sex ed that teen girls actually want to learn

Cassie Moriarty is a women’s health dynamo based in New York City—she’s a certified breastfeeding counselor, a trained DONA postpartum doula, and knows multiple methods of natural family planning. She’s also a certified teacher for FEMM, a comprehensive women’s program that helps women understand how their cycle intersects with their health.

“I got involved with TeenFEMM when I was training with FEMM,” Moriarty says. “I saw it as such an opportunity. I view sex ed as something that happens periodically throughout one’s life rather than a conversation that happens once; sex ed should happen even throughout your twenties. The idea of teaching teens about fertility awareness sets a great foundation for young girls with their bodies.”

Moriarty works with clients of all ages, usually in small groups or in one-on-one sessions, sometimes even with OB/GYNs alongside teens who are dealing with hormonal disorders. Regardless of the setting, the material hits home.

“Honestly teens are some of my best students!” says Moriarty. “For one, they are in the swing of learning. They are used to having homework and pop quizzes. Almost everyone I have taught has been bright, mature, curious, and excited . . . they are usually more intrigued than embarrassed. I joke that the couples I work with who are getting married sometimes act more squeamish than a 13-year-old girl.”

I asked Moriarty what young women can learn from fertility awareness that they may never discover otherwise.

“The biggest most obvious piece is cervical fluid. That is something virtually every teen girl experiences, and just about all of them aren’t taught about it in their public school sex ed. A lot of young girls, like myself at that age, experience shame about a totally normal bodily function,” she told me. She also says that students benefit from hearing “a different angle” than simply “Don’t get pregnant!”

I remember as a 13-year-old feeling like pregnancy wasn’t even close on my radar . . . but I did want to know more about that strange bleeding I was experiencing. And headaches and cramps.

“Sex ed is usually built upon the message of ‘here’s how pregnancy happens, here’s how to avoid it’ rather than ‘here are these amazing (and sometimes annoying, strange, and intrusive) things your body is doing.’ I hardly even talk about pregnancy in the first few classes. I talk more about mental health, hormonal health, and cycle health.”

Your body is feminist

Leah Jacobson had been working with young people and moms for more than a decade by the time she founded the Guiding Star Project in 2011. She saw a deep, unmet need for an initiative to bring together whole-woman feminism and women’s health. Guiding Star Centers around the country offer a variety of location-specific health-related services like childbirth education, breastfeeding support, postpartum care, and family planning to help women achieve or avoid pregnancy. It also includes fertility awareness outreach to young girls.

“The core of these programs and our philosophy on fertility, is that there’s nothing wrong with our fertility. It’s a really beautiful part of who we are,” Jacobson says. “It’s our belief that by giving [young people] the tools and the education to understand their bodies, they’re going to make better decisions that are in line with avoiding risky behaviors. They’re going to care for their dignity and the dignity of their partner.”

In our culture, which regards a woman’s fertility as an obstacle or a potential threat to her success and happiness, Jacobson has seen first hand how women have lost touch with their bodies.

“It’s sad; we have had women come in for the first time to learn how to chart their cycle, and you explain to them more than once that they have to come off the Pill to chart,” Jacobson told me. “They don’t understand, because they somehow think that they have a natural cycle, when what they actually have is withdrawal bleeding [when they take the ‘inactive’ drugs in their pill pack]. That’s an incredibly shocking and alarming situation for women to be in. They feel empowered, they feel like they’re ‘doing something’ because they’re taking the Pill. But for them to not even know that they’re not ovulating and that they don’t have a cycle . . . that’s disturbing, because it means they don’t at all understand the function of these drugs that they are [taking].”

For so many of us, that confusion starts at the very beginning, with that first period. Almost as a rite of passage, many moms take their daughters to the doctor, who may perform a pap smear but who almost certainly will want to discuss medication to “treat” and control her new, risky state of natural fertility.

The result is that thousands of children are prescribed synthetic hormones. It’s clear many kids are never told how the Pill works, nor are they routinely screened and warned about the Pill’s links to depression and breast cancer. Some girls stay on the drug for decades, until they decide to have children—only to confront the reality that they know virtually nothing about what to expect from their bodies once the medication leaves their system.

This is even more so the case if girls complain of symptoms like cripplingly painful periods or irregularity. Few OB/GYNs make the effort to find out what is wrong when hearing of period symptoms.Take for example endometriosis, a painful condition that affects one in every ten women and can destroy a woman’s quality of life and fertility. Even though it is one of the most common diseases affecting women’s health, it takes a woman an average of seven years of suffering, begging, and doctor-shopping before she can get a diagnosis. Because hormonal contraception covers up the symptoms of diseases like endo, doctors often employ birth control as an easy fix for any potential reproductive problem—as if passing the buck to the next doctor to figure out whatever it may actually be. One study from the Guttmacher Institute found that more than 80 percent of teens on the Pill had been prescribed contraceptive meds for non-contraceptive reasons.

“What is our health-care system doing? This is a complete act of paternalism,” Jacobson says. “It’s dignifying to tell girls the truth about themselves. It should be the core of feminism. Feminism that fails to acknowledge the female body does not have women’s best interests at heart. All it is, is a facade for a male normative culture. Fertility is a liability to how success is currently defined in [that culture].”

Authentic feminism, according to Jacobson, will “redefine the worldview—not just accept the male normative world and say we have a right to fit ourselves into it. It’s confusing to tell our daughters, your breastfeeding is good, you should breastfeed, but your fertility is dangerous, you should suppress that. We have to have a consistent narrative. It’s all good.”

Each Guiding Star center has different programs, ranging from the Guiding Star Cycle Show—a five-hour, interactive, hands-on experience for young girls—to offerings that can be accessed online, particularly useful in the era of coronavirus. Jacobson specifically points out that the programs are science-based and secular. “Our presentations don’t have a religious aspect. . . . We want every girl regardless of any religious affiliation to understand this applies to her,” she says. They’re already used in public schools in Germany, China, and the United Kingdom.

Jacobson has a new book, Wholistic Feminism, coming out in the fall, and I for one will be reading.

Teens who understand their fertility are less sexually active

Dr. Hanna Klaus is a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. She’s also the founder of Teen STAR, a fertility awareness program that has spread to Europe, Africa, Asia, and North, South, and Central America since it began in 1980.

The program got momentum through a chance connection with Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who was President John F. Kennedy’s younger sister and at the time, the vice president of the Kennedy Foundation. Shriver had a special interest in helping people with intellectual disabilities, and one of the risk factors for intellectual disabilities is premature birth to a teenage mother. So, in the interest of seeing how fertility awareness training could affect teenage girls, the Kennedy Foundation provided Teen STAR with its first research grant.

The results of the research were profound. “What we found was that [learning fertility awareness] helped prevent girls from being sexually involved, and also half of those who had already started stopped. And that’s been characteristic of our program overall,” Dr. Klaus told me. Decades later, Teen STAR continues to be the subject of research worldwide.

There are programs for both boys and girls, and for different ages. “We invite the girls to understand their mucus discharge, what causes it, where it comes from, what hormones are responsible for which changes, what those hormones do to your emotions, thinking, and relationships. Ultimately these girls own their womanhood and make better decisions about adult relationships,” Dr. Klaus says. “We ask boys to monitor their emotions. They don’t have a cycle to track, but they can get in touch with the fact that they have emotions—a lot of them are supposed to have a ‘stiff upper lip’ or [believe that] ‘men don’t cry.’

“They really love discovering about themselves. We don’t just tell them these things, we ask them questions and let them make their own discoveries. Generally it takes the girls three cycles before they get a handle on it and recognize, ‘this is ME.’ This is when they move away from peer pressure.”

Then Dr. Klaus told me about an element of the program that made my heart leap.

“One of the things the girls really like is assertiveness training,” she said. “That doesn’t just deal with sexual matters, but can have to do with anything in a relationship. It’s important whenever you’re being asked to do anything you don’t want to do. You have a right not to be bullied into anything.”

Can you imagine what the world would be like if every schoolgirl was trained in her right to be assertive and stand up for herself, not just when it comes to sex but in all her relationships?

“The biggest obstacles are the gatekeepers. On the one hand, that’s parents who are afraid that if you talk about this it will be an invitation to become sexually active—our statistics show the opposite,” Dr. Klaus told me. “And on the other hand . . . I belong to ACOG [American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists], and I’m also a member of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. They want to make sure that girls are protected against pregnancy and that they know about avoiding sexually transmitted infections. That particular bit hasn’t been helped very much—adolescents make up about a third of the population and have half the STIs,” she says. “Something isn’t working out.”

She particularly calls out efforts to promote long-acting contraception, IUDs, which don’t prevent the spread of diseases like HIV or HPV and can perforate a woman’s uterus. Women can still get pregnant with an IUD, but the device means that when such pregnancy occurs, often the embryo will implant in her Fallopian tube instead of her uterus—a medical emergency that the baby cannot survive and that threatens the life and fertility of the mother. Since this form of birth control is often presented as virtually failure-proof, women may not suspect their symptoms are coming from a pregnancy that has gone very wrong. “These are not sugar pills,” Dr. Klaus says.

Each of the women I spoke to was inspiring for her knowledge and her passion for girls and their health. Will every teenager one day have access to sex ed that is body positive and corny-video free? The future looks bright. 

Instagram and the Illusion of Intimacy

By LAURA LOKER Verily Magazine

When I was pregnant with my first baby, I was sure that once my son was born, I would rarely have time for mindless internet scrolling. Of my many false ideations of motherhood, one was that it would be relatively screen-free: my attention would never wander from the beautiful child in my care, the superficial entertainments of my iPhone rendered dull in comparison.

Of course, I spent more time than ever on my phone after my son was born, especially in those early nursing-round-the-clock days. Sure, a lot of it was spent taking photos of the precious babe, and sometimes I’d listen to podcasts or audiobooks, but for the most part, I thumbed through Instagram. (Apple’s Screen Time feature wasn’t available yet—what a relief. File that information under “Things I Don’t Ever Want to Know.”)

At the time, influencers were gaining steam in every imaginable area of interest: fashion, fitness, travel, DIY. I’d been following a handful of influencers who ranged from event-planners to foodies, but after my son’s birth, I gravitated toward other moms.

There were plenty to be found. Some focused their accounts entirely on motherhood and its joys and difficulties; others built their platforms to sell their art or get their writing in front of more readers. Some were thoughtful and introspective; some were funny. I loved them all. In a season that yielded as much loneliness as it did joy, I was grateful for a bit of solidarity.

As time went on, however, I began to feel pinpricks of . . . something. Skepticism, maybe? Annoyance? Disillusionment? Whatever it was, it wasn’t positive. Slowly but surely, I began to unmask my relationships with these women—that is to say, the reality that I had no relationships with them.

The friendly neighborhood of microinfluencers

Some influencers gain followings in the hundreds of thousands, even millions, their lifestyles approaching the glamour of Hollywood celebrities’.

Many others, however, gain relatively modest audiences in the tens of thousands, some even falling below the 10,000-follower “swipe up” threshold. Often referred to as micro- or nanoinfluencers, these were the types that dominated my own feed.

“Their lack of fame is one of the qualities that make them approachable,” explains business reporter Sapna Maheshwari. “When they recommend a shampoo or a lotion or a furniture brand on Instagram, their word seems as genuine as advice from a friend.”

But while brands may have latched onto the efficacy of working with micro- and nanoinfluencers, many such women (and they are mostly women) eschew sponsorships entirely. They share their lives and their creativity, and the draw for their followers isn’t so much product recommendation as it is relatability. Perhaps there’s no better example than the #fridayintroductions convention: on Fridays (though not typically every week), an influencer might share a post introducing herself and welcoming new followers. It reads like an offer of friendship—and, I’d hazard a guess, is often genuinely intended as such.

The illusion is insidiously easy to maintain. In many ways, these women are everything you’d want in a friend: they offer generous (and frequent) windows into their homes, their families, their musings, their struggles. As a new mom, I clung to the knowledge that I wasn’t the only one who spent more time sitting on the floor than in an office chair, whose biggest outing for the day was usually a walk in the neighborhood, who longed for adult conversation even more than sleep.

And yet, as I began to unpack the emotions that had begun to nag me, I discovered that the similarities to real friendship ended there. These were not women who knew me in any meaningful way—really, in any way at all. They were unfamiliar with my home, family, musings, struggles. Their recommendations and advice lacked helpful personal context that long-standing relationships in my life had, and as such, the solidarity I felt was short-lived.

The pitfalls of the platform

Many early users of Instagram were drawn to the app for its filters, not even realizing it was a social network, co-founder Kevin Systrom told Recode Decode in 2017. “What happened was they started getting likes, and before you knew it, it was like oh, there’s an actual network here,” he explained. “And it started to take off.”

Today, it’s hard to imagine an Instagram in which we’re not hyper-aware of our audience. We download third-party apps to edit our photos; we carefully craft our captions. And even after we finally tap “share,” we still often feel what writer Collier Meyerson dubbed “post-post anxiety” in those vulnerable moments before the likes start rolling in. We’re caught between wanting to record our experiences in a way that’s real and true while also making a favorable impression on our followers—who, by the way, can range from coworkers to best friends to an ex-boyfriend’s sister.

But it’s also hard to imagine an Instagram in which we’re not conscious, on some level, of being the audience. By the time we see a post from an influencer in our feeds, it already has hundreds of likes, if not more. Comments likewise proliferate—just take a look at any giveaway post (which seem to appear as frequently as spotless kitchen counters or latte art). Navigate to an influencer’s profile, and you’ll find out what miniscule percentage of her followers you comprise. Even if Instagram permanently removes like counts from posts (a change it’s currently testing in the United States, among other parts of the world), each post will still proclaim, “Liked by so-and-so and others.” The “others,” even if not visibly enumerated, will always be around.

There are some venues for which it’s preferable, or at least normal, to be part of an audience: concerts, movies, panel discussions, art shows. But relational intimacy thrives in privacy. What our friends choose to share with us—and, importantly, when they choose to share it—is no small part of the relationship. If they shared their struggles broadly as they were happening, it would not only risk their own mental health, but it would cheapen the confidence they’d placed in us.

And yet, it has become the norm for influencers to do just that on Instagram to ever-growing audiences. Every once in a while, we are forcibly reminded just how vulnerable this makes them: when they come under fire for how they respond to a pandemic, for example, or for what they do or don’t say in the face of systemic racism. And unfortunately, even the most well-intentioned sentiments cannot manufacture a relationship between an influencer and every follower. As I’ve written before, it’s a matter of numbers: if I am one of thousands of followers, I’m anonymous and expendable. Desire for the relationship to be two-sided—even from both parties—does not make it so.

Of course, we’ve assumed so far that these posts always come across as wholly genuine. The truth is, they often don’t. Most of us act differently when we’re conscious of a crowd watching, and even earnest attempts at authenticity can ring hollow. (Occasionally, they’re downright disingenuous. I once reached out to a woman who was, let’s just say, quite a bit less friendly over direct messages than in her own feed.)

Furthermore, it’s possible that any image-first platform would suffer from some level of inauthenticity: any true vulnerability in a caption is nearly always at odds with the accompanying perfect picture.

“Instagram is built for beauty (its filters make your life look better), not for rawness,” observed Sarah Pulliam Bailey in an article about the “Mom Internet.” Posting real captions is one thing; posting real photos is, for most, a bridge too far. And if a picture speaks a thousand words, Instagram’s caption character limit would need to be long enough for the entirety of this essay thus far to outweigh the perfect tile-floor shot.

All of it makes for an odd dynamic. There’s a lot that can be said about how it affects influencers and their own emotional health (too much to address in this piece, in fact). And when followers reckon with the true nature of those relationships—whether simply by observation; by direct messages or comments left unresponded to; or, worst of all, by direct messages or comments responded to unkindly—they’re left feeling even lonelier than before.

When less is more

We’ve all read memoirs, books, or essays where we felt a true connection to the author. Is that connection also illusory?

I don’t think so. For one, there’s a privacy, a uniqueness, in the experience that just doesn’t exist on Instagram. Even if millions of other people read the same book, I’m not conscious of their presence while I’m reading it, which makes the experience more wholly mine. And in the absence of photo after photo, our imaginations play a more active role, personalizing it further. It’s almost as if the author stepped into our homes, sitting with us in our kitchens, rather than us sitting at their (often enviable) farmhouse-chic dining room table.

Even more importantly, we’re more aware of the boundaries of these mediums. They can’t be as in-the-moment: they’re based on months or years of thought, research, reflection. (Even an article, which can be published quickly, is no match for the immediacy of Instagram Stories.) But far from being hemmed in by a lack of real-time updates, the reader-author connection instead transcends time and space. There’s no expectation of interaction or affirmation. The author casts his or her work out into the world, and if it catches someone at the right time, in the right season, it can be as impactful as the words of a trusted friend—even while it isn’t mistaken for real friendship.

When my firstborn was about six months old, I stumbled upon Anne Lamott’s memoir Operating Instructions, a journal of her first year as a mother. It’s raw, funny, and beautiful. I turned page after page, often muffling my laughter so as not to wake my sleeping baby, and I found more consolation within its covers than I ever had on my phone. Her son is a couple years older than me; the book was published when I was a baby. And yet, none of that mattered as I read her journal entries. If anything, the passage of so much time between when she wrote it and when I read it affirmed the universal nature of the highs and lows of new motherhood, a comfort in itself.

These days, I’m taking care of my second baby. It’s a lot easier this time around. But should I ever be plagued by self-doubt or loneliness, it’s real friends and family I’ll turn to—not Instagram. 

And if they’re all busy? I might just pull Operating Instructions off my shelf for another read.

Tips for Mental Well-Being When You Can’t Get to Therapy

By PATTY BREEN Verily Magazine

One of the greatest gifts I have been able to give myself in my late twenties and early thirties has been the gift of inner healing.

Throughout my early off-and-on relationship with therapy, I never felt like I was growing as a woman or working through my own baggage. But over the last five years, the therapist I see has helped me dig deep into my own story and do the healing work I have long needed to do.

Therapy is a gift I can give to myself and one for which I am incredibly grateful. But I am well aware that, for many women, the luxury of going to counseling is something that may not be feasible in their life for a variety of reasons (finances, insurance coverage, fear of what others will think). While going to therapy is a wonderful avenue, there are still various tools you can use in your life to help you deal with stress, even if you’re unable to go to counseling.

Knowing your triggers

What exactly is a trigger? Triggers are reminders of or flashbacks to a past trauma. This sudden reminder or memory can create a sense of anxiety, fear, sadness, pain, or anger. Triggers can take many forms: sounds, smells, people, the anniversary of a traumatic event, etc. This has become one of the most critical things I have learned about myself and my own

In his excellent book, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk offers the helpful insight that sometimes our triggers can be an indicator of deeper trauma that may need some healing. Triggers reveal some deeper healing work we may need to embark upon, and there’s no shame in that at all.

How do you determine what your triggers are? Pay attention to your physical bodily reactions. Notice what thoughts are running through your head or any particular feelings or emotions attached to those thoughts.

Some other helpful questions include: are you able to identify who or what triggered that emotion? What happened right before you felt triggered? Do you have any needs in this moment that are not being met?

When we become aware of our triggers, we can grow more self-aware and can choose to not expose ourselves to people or situations that do not feel safe or harm our mental health.

Reading reliable sources

While therapy is the ideal, there are so many excellent books and free resources available to us from the mental health community. If you are unable to go to counseling, consider one of many books, talks, or podcasts that can help support your mental health.

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend will help you understand that boundaries are important, healthy, and something we all need in life to stay emotionally safe. Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie teaches readers about patterns of codependency and how to learn to walk away from that in life.

Pia Mellody’s Facing Love Addiction: Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Love is a book that helped me begin to navigate dating in a new way. My counselor has had me read several of Mellody’s books, and each of them has helped me grow in new ways.

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love by Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller looks at the science behind our attachments as babies and children and how it affects us as adults in romantic relationships.

Practice diaphragmatic breathing

When our flight or fight response kicks in or we’re experiencing anxiety, what is one thing our body forgets to do? Breathe.

Deep, focused breathing from the abdomen can help relax your body when experiencing stressful or upsetting feelings or emotions. The diaphragm is the most efficient muscle that helps us to breathe, and this type of breathing is the basis for most relaxation techniques.

While breathing this way helps to deal with anxiety, it also offers the body numerous physical benefits, including lowering the effects of the stress hormone cortisol and helping people with PTSD cope with their symptoms.

Daily gratitude

The power of gratitude is something that seems to get a lot of press time when the holiday season begins in early November. But daily gratitude can have many positive effects throughout the year for both our mental and spiritual health.

Research suggests a link between regularly practicing gratitude and improved well-being. Gratitude helps us look at our past with more graciousness and the future with more hope; in many ways, it is a healing practice for our souls. A daily gratitude practice not only makes you feel good, it also has lasting effects on your brain.

When we find things in daily life to be grateful for, it can help shift our perspective in a more positive direction. Something as simple as setting a timer for five to ten minutes to practice gratitude or naming what you’re grateful for on your daily commute can improve your heart and mind in many ways.

Catch Your ANTS

No I am not talking about the bugs that show up while you’re on a picnic, but rather the automatic negative thoughts (ANTS) that can seem to bombard us if we’re working through some difficult or uncomfortable situations.

We all experience negative thoughts from time to time in daily life. However, there is a difference between an old negative thought and a negative thought that is continual, constant, and disruptive to your daily life. What often happens is habitual negative thinking creates more permanent ANTS.

And while “thoughts” may seem ethereal and harmless, they have real effects. Did you know that every time you have a thought, your brain releases chemicals that have a direct impact on how you feel? Every time you have a thought that is good, happy, hopeful, kind, or loving, your brain releases chemicals that make you feel good. However, when you have thoughts that are negative, sad, anxious, or hopeless, your brain releases chemicals that make you feel bad. The good news is that the human brain is incredibly resilient; we do have the power to capture negative thinking before it becomes more ingrained, automatic negative thought patterns. When we correct our negative thoughts and patterns, we can take away their power over us.

During times that can be very heavy and emotionally draining, these tips and tricks can help you live with more peace in the present moment, whether or not you’re able to seek the help of a therapist.

REBUILDING AMERICA by beautybeyondbones

I saw this post on BBB and just had to share and repost!

“It is what it is.”

I bet you’ve heard this saying recently. Maybe even muttered it yourself.

But this popular quarnatine-ism is — I believe — society’s way of dealing with their anger and — probably more accurately — resentment — towards the state of the worldIt is what it is.

We’re picking up the pieces after an incredibly long and drawn out lockdown period that left literally millions without jobs. A lockdown that completely annihilated our thriving economy, which will take years to rebuild. Not to mention the personal loss felt by every single citizen, in some way – big or small — from plans, to finances, to travel, to socializing, etc.

It is what it is. Throw up your hands, wave the white flag, and accept the current situation.

Tonight, on this Memorial Day evening, I want to offer a hopeful juxtaposition to this common feeling of anger.

Anger — which I believe — stems from the feeling that our liberties are being squelched.

It is what it is? No — it will be what we make it.

Here we are, on the unofficial kickoff of summer, and we have a laundry list of rules and regulations that deeply impacts our wellbeing — socially, mentally, spiritually, etc.

Our freedom is being restricted. Sure, we can argue it’s for benevolent reasons, but like it or not, the way of life — the freedoms — we’ve grown accustomed to — are being thwarted right before our very eyes.And we’re letting it happen.

This is not the America I grew up knowing. One that is scared and restrictive, and resentful.

But there’s a tiny silver lining of hope in all of this, that unless we’re specifically looking for it, we’d miss it.

The America we know and love is still here — it’s just hiding in plain sight.

The America we know and love is present in the people.

We the people, of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union…

America is us. You and me. The people who make it up.

The people who will rebuild it. America will be what we make it.

We are seeing that America is compassion. It’s people helping out during this crisis.

People volunteering to make masks, to run errands for the elderly or homebound. It’s parents learning to homeschool on the fly. Children making cards for those in the hospitals. Parades and cheers for our everyday heroes.

America is the creative adaptivity and staunch perseverance we’ve seen in response to restriction and fear.

It’s restaurant owners finding ways to pay their staff, even if it’s coming out of their own pocket. It’s businesses finding ways to keep vital services flowing and fighting to stay open so there will be jobs when normalcy returns.

It’s medical companies and the government working together to find new cures, expand testing and supply PPE.

It’s not the 2% of people blasting our leaders on Twitter, or the corrupt law makers. No.

America is the goodness of humanity.

It is the ingenuity and compassion that resides in We the People — which comes to life in times of distress.

That is the America that our brave service men and women died for.

And that is the America I’m championing today, and every day.

We are the land of the free, and home of the brave.

And there’s nothing more brave than those who choose to do good for others, especially in a world that looks as it does now.

So perhaps, if we’re feeling angry, or resentful, or down this evening — thinking about the restrictions on our freedoms that are felt particularly acutely during days off, let’s choose to see the America that is still there — the America that was worth fighting and dying for.

Stay healthy, stay well, and to all the current or former service men and women and their families: I thank you for fighting for the freedom we have grown so accustomed to, here in the beautiful U S of A.

God bless you, and God bless America!

How a Stranger Made My Day During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Alex Skye 

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, I thought it would take a lot for someone to make my day. But no; on a “normal” Thursday, someone bought my drink for $5.13 at the drive-thru. If only the driver knew how that impacted me.

It had been one of those days. My dad was sick with COVID-19 and my cat had the stomach bug. I got laid off from one job and picked up another with awful hours. I was running on one hour of sleep and was beyond fatigued. I was seeing double in-between blinks while waiting in a ridiculous line at the drive-thru. I guess I was just as overwhelmed as the others. I was convinced that some caffeine would get through the next few hours.

After 24 minutes in line, I rolled down my window and stuck my sweaty head out a few inches to order my drink.

Money was tights I had a crumpled one-dollar bill, three dollars-worth of quarters, ten dimes, two nickels and three pennies. I was happy to have scrounged up enough change so that I wouldn’t have to pull out my worn-out debit card. I had been plagued by unforeseen bills during COVID-19 and I was back to food pantries and researching food stamps. Again, it had been a long night at work, so I just wanted 8 ounces of sweet energy so that the headache would subside and I could breathe again.

Was buying this drink a bad idea? Should I have saved that money for something else? Oh well, too late.

I pulled up, and the masked and gloved barista told me that the driver in front of me paid for my drink. The emotions were building — I didn’t know what to say. The barista could see my wrinkled uniform and the pain in my eyes. Though I couldn’t see his mouth due to the mask, I knew he was smiling by the slight squint in his eyes. He walked away to get my drink and came back with a beverage twice the size of what I ordered and three small scones. He told me to hang in there, smiled one more time and promptly shut the sliding window.

I pulled off to the side, took one sip, one bite and I cried. It was a moment of kindness I will never forget. That $5.13 went a long way. Thank you, Ma’am or Sir. Stay healthy out there; I won’t forget you.

Consider This: Quarantining as a Married Woman

By MARY ROSE SOMARRIBA

Let’s start this reflection with a positive in my life—my nails have never looked better.

When I am going through stressful times, my nails are usually the first to suffer, which creates self-perpetuating cycles of frustration. Early on in the pandemic, I did a little online research and found that I could do salon-quality powder-dip nails at home. I ordered a set, and my nails are now looking longer and lovelier than they have in years!

These days, I’ve got to take what positives I can get to keep going.

As a woman with family members working in health care, I was grateful when my state of Ohio announced social-distancing measures early in facing the novel coronavirus. We have since seen the flattening curve, and I am so thankful for the care we’ve taken to stop preventable deaths and suffering I would wish on no one.https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

So there’s a great part of me that doesn’t want to share any negativity about the fact that I’ve been staying home, because I wouldn’t change a thing in the circumstances. But upon being asked how this has impacted me as a wife and mother of three children, I will tell you, and I will try not to whitewash away the negative elements. 

Overall I feel there are limitations we are all experiencing in the world of COVID, and as a working mom, this plays out in a feeling of overwhelm, juggling the responsibilities of taking care of little ones while completing work that contributes to our livelihood. I was struggling already with mental fog from my postpartum experience and was feeling a need to make adjustments to my work schedule and home routines to lift the load—and then the world blew up. On any given day, I waffle between feeling extremely weighed down and waltzing through this surreal chaos.

Being a work-at-home, stay-at-home mother

Thankfully, I still have work. It was remote to begin with, so that aspect isn’t a challenge. What’s hard is to do remote work while taking care of two school-age kids and a baby (for whom I previously had occasional in-home childcare). That, mixed with adapting to the new chaotic normal at home, makes me almost want to laugh at times in the past when I thought I was burnt out.

The older kids can do self-directed play, and the baby can take naps, so I always hold onto a glimmer of hope that I can get some block of work done; but, more often than not, it falls apart like a house of cards. A kid gets hurt; or a disagreement needs to be mediated; or I get struck with ravenous hunger, as a breastfeeding mom does, and have to get up and make myself another meal.

Infinite things interrupt my flow, to the point where it feels like the only constant is interruption.

Previously, my older kids were out the door to school by 8:30, leaving me and the baby at home, with long stretches of relatively uninterrupted work. Now, we’re all in the throes of a new daily routine that none of us are quite adjusted to. I’ll get them started on school work and finally get to my own work around 9:30 or 10, but it’s inevitable one of them will need another worksheet or audio lesson for their schoolwork, or they’ll want permission to go outside, or some other question. I’m in no way annoyed by their requests; they have needs, and as their mom, I’m happy to fill them. But the lack of uninterrupted time to work does remind me that we’re all juggling more than feels possible to do at once.

Each week, each day, each moment, I’m trying to think of new ways to improve the ever-evolving system of home and work management, striving at every juncture to keep my composure while doing the “next right thing,” since I can’t do it all. My latest plan is to scrap daytime work attempts altogether and start work after the kids are down at 7:30 p.m. Most days I end up working until 1 or 2 a.m. anyway; I might as well give myself the daytime off, to conserve energy.

Bearing the mental load

There have been some times when my husband is home and suggests I go upstairs to work uninterrupted while he watches the kids. Many times, the adrenaline of deadlines looming pushes me through a solid chunk of work. On occasion, however, my mind and body completely shut down. It’s like just one moment of silence, after hours of carrying three kids’ needs, is paralyzing.

On the one hand, genuine self-care is hard to come by: I have few moments alone that last longer than a shower. The house never goes quiet, as it did for just a couple hours when my older kids were in school and I was just taking care of a sleepy angel baby. I miss the option to have an afternoon or evening off, thanks to babysitters, to help clear my mind and recharge. My husband helps with the kids when he’s available at home, but we both feel very pushed to the brink. The most neglected items are sleep and tidying—the lack of which both unfortunately compound stress. Between tripping over things in the house or struggling with dishes, it can feel like constant survival mode with no breaks, with a nagging feeling that I’m still not doing enough—while I know I’m doing the best I can. Which is what makes it feel as much a physical struggle as a mental one.

Then, there’s the sheer enormity of the pandemic in the background. I feel a hyperactive instinct to take care of my kids at this time, to protect them from the virus, from any injury that would require medical attention, from emotional overwhelm and fears in their little experiences of this life. I’m always checking the task list in my brain over and over to make sure I haven’t missed some provision we should have during a period of not going out frequently, during a period when normal needs like food and medicine are less accessible. And my mind is often on our loved ones in vulnerable situations, those in worse situations than mine, and what I can do to help.

In general, I try to talk myself down to a reasonable level of worry, but the overwhelming desire to save my family from every possible malady is strong. Some days are worse than others, but the emotional drain is ever-present.

One of the challenges early on was discussing with my husband how strictly to practice social distancing norms. He was following protocols of caution (wash hands, stay home if you are sick), but I wasn’t convinced these measures were enough given the chance of being an asymptomatic carrier. At first I attempted to make him see things my way by sharing stats on social distancing, but arguing with my equally intelligent husband on statistics was going to go nowhere. I soon discovered it was more productive when I spoke directly about my feelings and what would help me feel more safe. When he heard about my concerns of protecting our family (our baby was having respiratory issues at the time, lingering from prior RSV), he said that’s all he needed to hear to get fully behind my desire to opt for minimal outside contact whenever possible. Ultimately it was more effective for me to ask clearly for what I wanted, than to try to convince him about numbers and data. We both felt much more in tune with each other after that.

Seeking silver linings

Still, at the end of each day, there are moments of hope and gratitude.

I’m thrilled the kids are spending more time exploring our backyard than ever before. I’m dazzled by the ingenuity they display in their self-made projects each day, as well as my baby girl’s delightful little face, ever oblivious to the world’s problems. As my husband said the other day, as I struggled washing the baby bottle after the last feeding of the day, “Hey, look, she’s fed! She’s happy, and she’s healthy, and that is the most important accomplishment.” It was such a comfort to be reminded about what really matters and what I can be grateful for.

We’ve also fallen into a rhythm of late, leisurely lunches, where I have enjoyed daily chats with my kids about what’s going on. Early on I explained how germs are something we are avoiding even more these days, just like when the baby was born in flu season. I explained how we needed to wash hands for at least 20 seconds, a task they immediately took seriously, and we talked through how they’re feeling about it all.

Furthermore, despite churches being closed, the spiritual life in our home has skyrocketed since the pandemic. I have felt no shortage of opportunities for grace in the present challenges and feel brought to my knees much more frequently throughout the day. The kids and I prayed the worldwide rosary with Pope Francis weeks ago in a reverent way I’ve never seen before in their behavior. They’ve paid quiet attention to our televised Masses and church services. They’ve prayed for their two aunts who are in contact with COVID-19 patients at our local hospital, and for all the suffering people around the globe.

Things are far from perfect for us, or for most people, right now. All we can do is resolve to try better the next day. I have made some time to journal. I have had video calls with friends one-on-one and video “happy hours” with my sisters. I have ordered takeout to help lift the load of cooking. And I am aware I need to do more to improve my self-care since I haven’t even gotten into the basics of good sleep and daily exercise. I’m trying to take it one day at a time.

But there are some habits I’ve made during these tough weeks that I want to keep. After this crisis passes, I want to keep the heightened level of concern for others’ suffering and find more ways to help people in need. I want to give more generously and pray with greater frequency. I want to keep the close bond I’ve forged with my husband during this time of crisis that we’re in this home-making game together. I want to spend more time talking with my kids and really listening. And I want to keep having beautiful nails.

For Your Family’s Sake, Lower the Bar

By Kelli B. Trujillo

This weekend I made a big mistake: I set the bar too high. Way too high. My motives were good: I desperately wanted a beautiful day of refreshment and relaxation for all of us. (We all need it, as I’m sure your family does as well!) The weather was lovely. I began the all-day process of making homemade bread to accompany a homemade dinner I’d planned for the evening. The baking and cooking would be relaxing for me, I thought, and we’d all enjoy each other’s company.

I’ll spare you the details of all that went wrong that day and just get to the climax of the story in which I was in terribly horrendous mood, very close to completely losing it during our dinner together. Suffice it to say: It was not a relaxing and refreshing day for me. As it drew to a close, I grappled with the negative impact our month into stay-at-home orders was having on my thoughts and emotions.

So I absolutely relate to this week’s featured article in which Karen Stiller reflects on lessons she’s learned in recent weeks. She speaks from her experience as a pastor’s wife, but her insights relate to all of us. As she’s struggled with the toll the situation is taking on her, her marriage, and her family, she writes, “Here’s where I’ve settled. It has surprised me with its simplicity. It’s almost old-fashioned. The two children with us are 19 and 21. The dining room table seems to be the place where we now meet once a day. That is enough. I have lowered my expectations of this being a great time to grow closer as a family to a more manageable ‘Let’s get out of this still speaking to each other.’ That takes the pressure off everybody, including my husband.”

Lower expectations. Take the pressure off. These are the words of wisdom and encouragement I need this week! In the article, Stiller goes on to unpack additional basics she is focusing on that you may also find helpful. What about you? With the bar lower—much lower—we can find grace for others and for ourselves. Check out “The Best Thing I Can Do as a Pastor’s Spouse Right Now? Take Care of the Basics” and consider what it would look like for you to focus on whatever “the basics” are for your marriage and your family.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/our-latest/

Nailed it: Coventry Romance Series #1 by Claire Watson

This was a very sweet, insta-love, romance book. The writing was great and the plot line and characters were likable and believable. I loved the instant connection and attraction that Stella and Jay had. I also liked how strong and confident Stella was portrayed, especially when defending her employees and herself. She had a big heart. Jay was also very likable. Even though he was very wealthy, he was down to Earth and was sincerely looking for love. This was a short, light read with a good ending. If you want to read a fast, sweet, feel- good book, then this is the one for you. Great job to the author! Hope to read more of her books!!

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.