NaNoWriMo Lessons Learned, Part 2 – Personal Takeaways

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is over, but my lessons learned will last me a lifetime.  Part 1 of this series was about my writing takeaways.

Lessons LearnedThe personal takeaways were gleaned from hours of writing, researching the internet for historical context, reading old family letters, reviewing old photographs, interviewing people (mostly family) and having heart to heart conversations with my stepmother.  There were many tears shed during these hours and minutes dedicated to writing my memoir last month.  Below are my thoughts on the personal takeaways from my month of literary abandon.

Personal Lessons Learned

  1. I can let go of a desired outcome.  When life or professional obstacles surfaced during the month, I had to make decisions that I knew would significantly affect my ability to reach 50,000 words.  I chose to let go of the word count goal and the coveted bragging rights that go along with it.
  2. I am not a failure or a quitter.  It would’ve been easy to give up when the obstacles started to surface.  Instead I was able to keep my focus on the higher purpose of my writing and stick with it.
  3. I’m not doing this for myself.  If I was, I would’ve quit.  It took an emotional and physical toll on my body, but I kept sensing God’s calling to continue.
  4. I AM doing this for myself.  Ok, I know that is a contradiction to #3, but it’s true.  As I started to see so many patterns and gain insights along the way, it became very prevalent how important this is to my own healing.  It was a gift to myself.
  5. God’s timing is perfect.  Ok, I knew that, but this confirmed it—again.  There were so many coincidences to things going on in my life now with the past that I knew God wanted me to see them at this very moment in time.  (Lots of blog and writing material here.)
  6. God was with me in the past even when I didn’t sense His presence.  He didn’t forsake me even though I forsook Him.  I knew that too, but got new insights along the way.
  7. I was not alone in the process.  I chose to not use the NaNoWriMo online community and instead relied on my friends and their prayers for support.  They were there for me.
  8. God has been equipping me to write this story and to serve Him in bigger ways.  I can and do trust Him to lead me on my writing journey.
  9. Finishing my memoir is not going to be easy.  This is going to take a long time—maybe years—to write, edit, publish, etc.  I need to be patient and consistent—like the tortoise, not like the hare.Writing
  10. I learned that I really do love to write—even though my brain was a bit fried at times—especially after my push the last week of the month.
  11. I have a greater sense of gratitude for the transformation that God has worked in me over the years.  This past month my writing forced me to face many low periods in my life.  I am grateful He has redeemed it and made me whole.

While NaNoWriMo is over, my memoir writing isn’t.  I’m taking December off from my memoir, but not from writing.  In January I will continue with Chapter 7 and my writing pilgrimage—at a much slower pace.  Along the way, I know God will show up and continue to turn my healing into hope.

NaNoWriMo Lessons Learned, Part 1 – Writing Takeaways

30 days and nights of literary abandon is a pretty accurate assessment of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  As a result, November was a total blur to me!

By the end of the day on November 30, I reached my personal writing goals for the month: over 30,000 words (90 pages) on my memoir and getting through 6 tough chapters of personal highs and lows in my life.  I also kept up with my other writing and marketing commitments (another 30,000 words), dealt with some pressing family matters and celebrated my birthday.  Needless to say, I am thrilled with the result.

Writing a bookI started the month hesitant on what to expect, but knew I needed to get off the fence about my memoir.  I started it over a year ago and only wrote a few pages.  I needed this deadline to get moving again. My biggest fear was failure.  It had nothing to do with the possibility of not hitting the 50,000 word threshold.  It was about starting to write and then giving up half-way through the month.  I faced that fear and so much more last month.

As a former project manager one of the key meetings we held as a team at the completion of a project was the lessons learned debriefing.  It was a valuable tool to bring closure to the team, the project, and to move forward with new insights.  My NaNoWriMo project was also full of lessons learned for me—personally and professionally.  I’ll start out with the ‘easy’ lessons learned related to writing.

Writing Lessons Learned

  1. I am a writer. Despite my being published earlier this year, I had occasional doubts about my ability to write.  Over 30,000 words and six chapters later, I put an end to that thought.
  2. I can discipline myself to write.  I set up a schedule to write (or research my memoir) and stuck to it most days.  I now have a distraction free space in my home to continue.
  3. Writing takes a lot of work and is a big commitment.  No more giving lip service to it.  I’m committed to this project.
  4. Writing is a process.  I’ve heard that many times over the past year, but didn’t really understand it until this month.  (This lesson learned is worthy of an entire blog on its own.)  If you are a writer, you know exactly what I mean.
  5. Memoir writing should not be rushed.  There are many nuggets and insights to be gleaned from looking at your life.  By definition, a memoir is a reflection upon key life experiences that make up the person.  When you rush through the writing, it is easy to miss it.  I kept a separate journal of my ‘aha’ moments and processed as much as I could, but it was pretty overwhelming.
  6. Memoir writing is not for everyone.  It includes a painful process of self-examination.  You have to be willing to relive both the good and the bad.  You have to reveal your inner struggle and be vulnerable or else readers won’t be able to identify with your story.  (Again, not for everyone.)

This month long writing exercise was a great opportunity to jump start my memoir.  The result wasn’t necessarily pretty, but it served its purpose for me.  Stay tuned for Part 2 to read about the deeper more personal lessons learned while on my NaNoWriMo adventure.

Using Our Weaknesses

When I started this month of literary abandon, I was nervous I’d embarrass myself and come nowhere near the 50,000 word count that qualifies a NaNoWriMo participant as a winner.   After 11 days, I’ve definitely given up any expectation of writing 50,000 words.  But I haven’t given up the quest.

I am being immersed daily in my memoir, even if I’m not physically writing it.  My mind is on it. I’m pondering the events of my past.  I’m looking for themes in my life and considering which events make the most sense to tie together.  I’m listening to recorded interviews, researching historical information online and talking to family who can help me fill in the gaps.  It’s been a very interesting and healing process.


For instance, I don’t think it is a coincidence that I am considering medication for my ADD/ADHD after white-knuckling it for so long.  I never would’ve considered taking medication before the healing of my mother wounds.  It was too frightening to me.  In my mind, it was like admitting I was mentally ill.  The stigma was too great.

Times have changed and medicine has advanced tremendously since the time when my mother was given electro convulsive therapy (shock treatment) for her schizophrenia in the 1960s.  Taking medication doesn’t mean defeat or that I am crazy.  Sometimes it is necessary.  I’m finding out how people with schizophrenia and other mental disorders can lead successful careers and make significant contributions to society.  In fact, I recently heard that Bill Gates, George Bush and Steve Arterburn have ADD.  How’s that for good company?

As I pondered these ‘coincidences’ in my life, I sensed God lay a new memoir title on my heart.  It stems from a post I wrote on the “Journeys to Mother Love” blog a few weeks ago, “Emerging from the Cocoon”.  Since the first day when I saw the butterfly on the draft book cover, I knew it was the perfect picture to symbolize my emotional and spiritual transformation.

When We Are Weak…He Is Strong

I’ve given my testimony many times at Celebrate Recovery meetings and spoke openly about my healing journey.  I’m no stranger to sharing my weaknesses and in fact God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  However, what brought me to my knees and into recovery over eight years ago had nothing to do with my mother wounds.

I never thought I’d be publicly known or speak about my mother’s mental illness.  My shame was too great around it and my fears of my own sanity lied precariously on the edge at times.  But now, I know God wants to use the pain of my mother’s mental illness to help others turn healing into hope.  My biggest fear in my identity has been removed and is the foundation from which I can openly speak and connect with others.  It is the compassion and sensitivity—the transformation of my heart—that leads me to write and pursue more of His amazing grace.

So it is with that sense of gratitude and awe that I am digging into my memoir this month with a new working title, “Emerging from the Cocoon: One Woman’s Struggle to Overcome a Legacy of Mental Illness”.  I’m embracing this new season of life and the wonders that God continues to reveal to me as I boldly follow Him.

What’s the theme of your life?  Is God calling you to use your weakness for His glory?  I’d love to hear your comments.

NaNoWriMo–I’m Diving In!

If someone asked you how long you thought it would take to write a book, how would you answer?  Six months?  A year?  Two years?  What would you think if someone told you they were going to write a book in 30 days?  Would you think they were crazy?

That’s what I thought a year ago when I first heard of National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short.  I couldn’t fathom what would motivate a person to do such a thing.  Yet one year later, I am registered to participate in this writing free-for-all along with thousands of other writers around the world (9,500 in Seattle alone)!

November 1 kicks off the start of National Novel Writing Month.  The tag line on is “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon”.  Abandon means to yield (oneself) without restraint or moderation.  That is a scary prospect—to write with that sort of intensity for a month.  The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  That averages out to 1,667 words per day.

Why would I decide to take on such a big project at this juncture of my writing career?  I need a deadline to get me moving on my next book project.  I’ve been so busy with the release of my story in Journeys to Mother Love this year that my memoir has been on hold.  (If you follow my story, you know that my trip to Spain next summer is a big piece of the writing.  I want to get a skeletal draft of the book done before then.)

Help Along the Way

Thankfully, I will not be alone in this endeavor.  There is a huge online community of other “NaNo” writers.  Last year there were 256,618 participants and 36,843 crossed the finish line.  Finishers get a winner certificate–a hard earned award and coveted milestone on their writing resume.  That is a huge accomplishment.  Win or “lose”, I’ll be further along on my project than I am now. is full of tips and support for this month long undertaking.  The main one I have embraced is telling everyone that I am doing this.  The theory behind doing so is to motivate us to avoid humiliation if we don’t cross the finish line with 50,000 words.  That’s a sobbering thought.

I think more than the possible embarrassment of not completing NaNoWriMo is the regret I would feel for not having tried this.  And that brings me to the best piece of advice I’ve found yet; do this for yourself.  So that is what I am doing.  I will be pouring a labor of love into myself this month.  I am searching for the nuggets that need to be called out of my story to share.  I am getting in touch with lost parts of my identity.  I am writing to share the hope and encouragement that following Jesus brings into the deepest parts of our soul.

Letting Go of All Expectations

So if NaNoWriMo is the vehicle I need to get me off the fence, then I’m all in.  I imagine it will turn my life upside down for the next 30 days—including Thanksgiving and my birthday.  I’m telling my friends to not expect to see me, but to pray for me.  I will need lots of encouragement.  (I hear week 2 is especially hard.)

In preparation for this dedicated writing, I have lined up some guest bloggers to fill in for me.  These women have all expressed an interest in writing and blogging.  They have been a source of encouragement to me along my writing path.  I know you will enjoy their stories and what they have to say about how they walk out their faith.

My newest writing prop. All set to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Other than that I have no idea if I will do an occasional post, do updates on Facebook or just fast from all social media and other possible distractions.  I’m trying to let go of all expectations.

Tomorrow, I am taking my next big leap of faith.  As I do the words to “Dive”, a song by Steven Curtis Chapman, are running through my mind.  Like the song says, “sink or swim, I’m diving in”.

Wish me luck, send me notes of encouragement, or better yet, pray that regardless of how many words I complete over the next 30 days that I stay in touch with the bigger purpose that I believe God is calling me too—and that I do it one day at a time.

Writing: My First Year, Part 2 – First Steps

I’ve had a burning desire to be a writer ever since my mother died about 1½ years ago.  But it wasn’t until I voiced that desire in a support group meeting one year ago last week that my desire started to become more of a reality—emotionally on the inside and visibly on the outside.

Since that day, I have received one confirmation after another.  Coincidence? (more…)

Riding High After the Writer’s Renewal Conference

After spending two days at the Northwest Christian Writer’s Renewal Conference, I am riding high and a bit on overload.  The conference was jam-packed with workshops and opportunities to meet pre-published writers, authors, agents and editors.  And yes, I deliberately chose the word “pre-published”’ after hearing “Gym” Rubart use it instead of “unpublished”. 
As a first time attender, I was paying attention to everything I heard.  And it wasn’t just the variety of people that I was listening to at this conference.  I was also listening for God’s voice and nudging for confirmation and discernment, and hopefully a neon flashing arrow that pointed in the direction of my next right step.  I think it would’ve been hard to be at the conference and not hear Him calling you to continue on your writing journey.  It was such an amazing place of encouragement to writers at all experience levels.
Like any other new endeavor we try in life, there is bound to be some trepidation and maybe outright fear.  While I know attending this conference was my next right step of obedience, I also know that the harder work is still ahead.  That was the biggest message that I left the conference with—it takes time to write a book, it takes time to hone your craft, it takes time to cultivate relationships, and it takes time to engage in social media.  Even so, spending vast amounts of time on these tasks doesn’t guarantee a publishing contract.
What I think it does do is mold you more into the person God created you to be.  For me, I think it will provide a bigger training ground for trusting God and waiting on His timing.  In other words, to work on two key fruit of the spirit that I still seem to lack—patience and self-control. 
Now it is time for the bigger challenge—to physically write the book that God has laid on my heart to write.  I learned lots of valuable information to move forward on this project, the biggest one from attending Cindy Scinto’s class on outlining.  Even with that new tool in hand, I still have to choose to step into this bigger arena. 
As Andrea Mullins asked in my final workshop, “What things in your life are stopping you from embracing the world of publishing?”  She followed that question with this piece of encouragement for the journey, “God gives us a message because He wants us to proclaim it.”
I firmly believe that about this new direction in my life.  And even if my book never makes it to a bookstore shelf or an e-reader, I know God will use this season in my life to provide more spiritual growth.   And along the way I will proclaim His message in whatever way He leads.
What about you?  What has God taught you through the process of writing for Him?

Waiting on Pins and Needles

               The days were slowly passing by since I sent my manuscript off to the publisher on December 1.  At first I put the entire idea of being published out of my mind.  I had gone away for a weekend to write the manuscript and put so much of my normal family and life commitments on hold as I worked toward the manuscript deadline.  So naturally after I sent the manuscript into the publisher, I felt a tremendous sense of relief.  I met my goal.  I wrote the story.  I celebrated.  Then I filed it in the back of my brain and jumped into the thick of the holiday season.
                Then one week passed by, 2 weeks, 3 weeks.  As Christmas approached I hoped that maybe there would be a Christmas gift in my email.  On December 22, I did receive an email from the publisher.  The subject line read: Christmas Gift from Cladach.  My heart skipped a beat.  I opened the email with much anticipation only to be immediately let down by the reality that this was a marketing email to announce a free e-book that the publisher was offering.  It was a nice Christmas promotional idea, but my hopes were dashed.
And there it was again—right in the front of my mind.  This email seemed to trigger all of my doubts about going down this path and if I really could be a writer.  I had put myself out there.  I had written what was on my heart to write—the story that I felt God calling me to write—and it came back void.  I felt exposed.  I was already in a writer’s funk and not writing on my blog.  There was nothing I could physically do about it, so I worked on letting go of my fears and doubts emotionally again.
The New Year brought renewed hope for me.  I attended my monthly Christian Writer’s meeting and started to think about setting some writing goals for 2012.  I decided to hold on to the belief that this piece would be published this year—if not by this publisher then by another.  So many people had witnessed this story unfold and told me how amazing it was.  So many people had been inspired by it.  So many people said they couldn’t wait to read about it.  God was definitely telling me to pursue it.  I trusted Him with this story and again put it in the back of my mind.
As a beginning writer, I was learning how difficult the waiting part of this process was.  I definitely wasn’t looking forward to the potential rejection that commonly follows.  I knew that the two month milestone would be pivotal to me.  It is at that point, that a writer usually contacts the publisher if they haven’t heard.
A few days before the two month anniversary, I watched the movie “The Help” again.  The first time I saw it, I was just starting to see myself as a writer, so Skeeter’s journey to become a writer really resonated with me.  This time around I watched the bonus feature about the making of the movie.  The bonus video clip told the story about how the book debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list and the impact it had on Kathryn Stockett, the author’s, life.  She was with friends when she got the news and immediately they marked this moment in time (with a toast) as an event that would forever change her life.  I got goose bumps when I saw this video clip.  I sensed that I was moving toward this event in my life too.  I felt encouraged and wrote about this in my journal.  I felt poised for success.  I was on pins and needles.
The following day, the much anticipated contact from the publisher arrived.  The subject of the email was the reply (RE) to the original email I sent with my manuscript.  I knew as soon as I saw it that it was the long awaited answer.  I let out a scream and held back on opening the email.  I received it as I was on my way to an appointment. I delayed opening the email until later in the day when I wasn’t so rushed.  After I returned from my appointment, I prepared myself by spending some time in prayer and surrendering the outcome to God. 
The email reply was short—just one line.  I immediately thought it was a rejection.  I had a friend on speaker phone with me to share this moment.  I read the line silently and then began screaming—and crying. 
“What, what, what?” my friend asked.  “What does it say”?
“They’ve accepted my story!” I shouted through tears of joy.  “They are sending a contract!”  My sheer joy elicited excitement from her as well.  The house was filled with a mixture of shouts, laughter, and tears.  My son rushed downstairs to find out what all of the commotion was about.  He thought that something terrible had happened.  I told him the good news and held him in a big hug for a long time letting all of the emotion release from my body.
This excitement was followed by emails to the publisher, my husband, my prayer partners, my writing teacher, and of course, Rosa and Pedro in Spain.  Later that evening, I attended my regular support group meeting and let the tears flow some more.  The timing was so perfect with the anniversary of my mother’s passing just one week away.  This day was also the 8-year anniversary of the devastating event that led me to start recovery in the first place.  God had perfectly redeemed this day for me into something with such a positive nature.
The icing on the cake that night was celebrating and toasting this occasion with my friend at her house.  It was like déjà vu.  Just like Kathryn Stockett, the author of “The Help,” my life was taking a potentially dramatic change.  We were marking this date as a milestone in my life and thanking God for His blessing.
Toasting the acceptance of my manuscript with a friend, January 2012.

Toasting the acceptance of my manuscript with a friend, January 2012.

I know my writing isn’t Pulitzer quality and that I am only one of eight authors in this book.  I also know that this was only possible because it is God’s will.  My waiting for this news wasn’t just something that was two months in the making.  This is part of the bigger story about how God redeems years of heartache, depression and loneliness.  It is the restoration for the years that the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25). 
The really cool thing about this is that this story is not done yet.  God is at work in my life.  He is at work in Spain.  He is at work in the Protestant Church and the Catholic Church.  God is at work all around us.  He is for our good if we surrender to His will.  That is the message of this story.
I’m no longer on pins and needles about the publishing of my manuscript.  However I am still on pins and needles on what lies ahead.  It is a quiet tension inside of me that I need to get used to as I live a life where I often struggle to put God first.  When I do, He is graciously waiting for me.

Counting Words

I just returned from a weekend of solitude at a Christian camp all by myself so I could write a short story for publisher submission due in a few days.

“Have a nice time,” people would say when they heard about it.  “Really,” I would usually think to myself.  “A nice time? What is so nice about being locked up in a room by myself for over 48 hours to write.”

Nothing fancy, locked away in a lodge to write in solitude.

Nothing fancy, locked away in a lodge to write in solitude.

Prompted to Submit my Story

I was in fear.  I had backed myself into a corner with the deadline.  I had never done anything like this before.   And I had never submitted a story for publication either.  Needless to say I had lots of doubt.  But I was a woman with a mission.

I heard about this story submission after joining the Northwest Christian Writer’s Association a few months ago.  It was one of the first emails that I received as a member.  I knew as soon as I saw it that it was tailor-made for my story.  It was a story about mother/child healing.  But I didn’t act on it.

All of this writing stuff was so new to me.  I had just started my blog and was writing devotionals for my church.  Was I ready to take on a project where my writing would be competing against other writers?  I was sure that there were lots of writers with stories about healing.  After all, my story of healing was what led me down this writing path in the first place.

Committed to Write

As the deadline approached, a kept getting a nudge from God to submit my story.  Of course, then I argued with him.

“But what about my book?” I would ask him. “If I do this story, then I may never write my book.”  His loving response was to just trust Him and to stop questioning it.

Preparing for my writing retreat with prayer from friends.

Preparing for my writing retreat with prayer from friends.

So as I committed to do the writing and prepared to write, I received several confirmations that I really have lots of material for a book.  Writing this story submission was not going to detract from the bigger book.  In fact, I started to embrace the idea that regardless of the outcome, that my weekend of writing would be a step I needed to take in my quest to become a real writer and that none of my work would be wasted.

It was with that attitude that I sat down at my laptop at the camp this past weekend—alone and away from family on Thanksgiving weekend.  But I wasn’t totally alone.

Not All Alone

During one of my meals with the camp staff, I heard the story of a woman whose mother-in-law was just diagnosed with cancer.  They were in the process of deciding her course of treatment and weighing the options for quality of life.  The options were all very grave.  I almost started to cry as I had just finished writing about my mother’s illness and the quality of life choices we made for her.  “Thank you God,” I thought to myself for this kiss and confirmation that I am not alone in this.

The internet and cell phone were also available for me to reach out when I needed a break.  On a lighter note, I found out that Facebook now has the capability to do video calls.  I placed my first video call late one night.  Having some face time was a good break that gave me the momentum to write a few more hours into the early morning.

Aside from these few human interactions, my best companion I had over the weekend was God. He kept me out of my ‘head’ much of the time in my writing. Every day my devotional spoke words of confirmation and encouragement for my mission. It was the kiss that I needed each day to tackle this project.

A walk to stretch my legs and a friendly face to urge me on.

A walk to stretch my legs and a friendly face to urge me on.

Counting Words

The one place I couldn’t get my head out of my writing was with my word counts though. With a word limit of 5,000 to 10,000 words, I became very much aware of my word count to track my progress. I started the weekend with 2,000 words already written. By the end of the first day I was up to 4,600 words. By break time on Saturday night I was at 7,600 words—twice as many words as my recovery testimony. When I realized that, I was a bit overwhelmed by the magnitude of what I was doing. That writing took me over a month to write.

By the time I left the camp on Sunday afternoon my first full draft of the story was 9,188 words–right on target. Last night as I read the entire draft for the first time, I started to cry. It is a beautiful story. Someday I know it will be published. I have my friends to thank for their prayers and encouragement as I go down this road. Above all else, I am thankful that God is giving me His words to tell it.

And by the way, it really was a nice weekend.  Word count = 842, but who’s counting?

Update 8/24/2012: My story was accepted by Cladach Publishing in January 2012 and released in August of that year in “Journeys to Mother Love.”

Chapter 8 - Walking My Mother Home by Ardis A. Nelson

Chapter 8 – Walking My Mother Home by Ardis A. Nelson

Overtaken By Blessings

Yesterday I officially celebrated my 50th birthday with an anointed group of 12 dear friends.  It wasn’t really my 50th birthday as I turn 52 tomorrow.  That’s because two years ago when I was ‘supposed’ to be celebrating my 50th birthday with friends, some painful life circumstances intervened that pushed my celebration to a very low priority.

52 B-day 00036 5x7

My mother, JoAnn, whom I had rarely communicated with over the past few years, had a major stroke that left her partially paralyzed and virtually unable to communicate.  God was doing some major heart surgery on me as he called me to spend my ‘first’ 50th birthday at the feet of my mother.  It was very humbling and bittersweet.  She gave me life and now I sensed that I was giving it back to her.

JoAnn never recovered from that stroke and she never regained her voice.  Her life continued to deteriorate until the Lord finally took her home in February of this year.  So yesterday’s birthday celebration was my rescheduled 50th birthday party—my first birthday since she passed.

Yesterday’s party wasn’t a party in the traditional sense of fun and games or cake and ice cream.  It was a celebration with connecting hearts, inspiration, hope, tears and laughter too.  It was a celebration of life’s richness, healing and transformation.  It was a celebration of how God does turn our mourning into gladness—not just for me but for my new family in Spain as well.  It was my gratitude to God and the people in my life who have helped me carry my burden these past two years.

Joined via Skype by Pedro and Rosa from Spain.

Joined via Skype by Pedro and Rosa from Spain.

Today I embark on the start of a new journey and I am carrying a new burden.  It is the responsibility that God has placed on my heart to write this story.  It is not a small task.  It will require lots of discipline and the openness to relive and process all of the pain and the joy over and over again.  I know that God will see me through it.  My purpose is clear.

My devotional reading for yesterday, titled Overtaken By Blessings, couldn’t have been more appropriately timed by God: And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 28:2)  I have been overtaken by blessings.  I am on the mountain top.  While I know I can’t stay there, I can choose to carry His love for me in my heart and to gratefully remember that I am going down this path for Him—one day at a time.

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    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

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