Mind Expanding Book List

Hey my friends!!

I thought I’d share the list of books I will be reading, or listening to, over the next month:

  1.  The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, by Mark Manson
  2.  Mating in Captivity, By Esther Perel
  3.  YOU ARE A BADASS, By Jen Singero
  4.  Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, by Benjamin Franklin
  5.  English Grammar Boot Camp, By The Great Courses

Number 5 is an audiobook on Audible, and it is actually well done.  I hope what I learn will be reflected in my blog.

Let me know if you have read any of these…

Brenda the Brave

Review of Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

I chose to read this book when I saw Brene’ Brown had endorsed it.  I listen to books on Audible pretty often, so I can multi-task.  My favorites are the ones that are autobiographical narrated by the author.  I can feel the emotions as they talk and it makes it that much better.  Glennon narrated her memoir and it was so moving and raw.

I have had to face various types of numbing and addiction in my life so I can relate to all of her emotions behind the addictions.  She has an amazing way of conveying the insanity inside and how we don’t realize that it is insane when we are in it.

There are phrases that she used that touched me.

She commented on how a woman at a church was giving out grace like it was a free-for-all.  She realized a shift when the words resonated with her…”GRACE IS FREE FOR ALL!!”

I love the feeling of that, we all deserve grace.  No matter the path we have taken, God gives us his Grace without charge.  It’s FREE for ALL!

“Numbing keeps us from learning our lessons.”

One thing I learned in AA is that pain always comes before peace.  I was on a retreat earlier this year and one of the lessons was that we needed to accept pain.  We can’t avoid it.  Numbing only delays it.  It is waiting for us to acknowledge it.  The only way passed it is through it.

“Pain is a place brave people visit.”

That really hit home, because it does take courage to face the pain life deals us, real or imaginary.  I say that because we often times create our own pain inside our heads.  The pain is real, but the situation is our own perception of reality.  Once we know that, then we can change our perception and start the healing process.

“Grief is proof of love.”

Sometimes I question whether I am capable of love.  I have spent so much time numbing and afraid that I wonder what love actually feels like.  I have questioned if I ever loved.  Glennon talks about having these same questions and feelings.

I have grieved the loss of relationships, friendships, death and most recently the grieving the loss of family ties that I am not sure were ever there.  I don’t know, in some cases, if there was love from the other person, but I know I loved.

I guess maybe now it is learning how to be loved.  How to let people love me.

This is such a powerful book!  I highly recommend it!!


10% Happier by Dan Harris
The Big Moo by Seth Godin
Thrive by Arianna Huffington
Fish by Ken Blanchard
The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Anchor
So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Seneca’s On The Shortness Of Life
Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
Read to Lead by Ron Smith

These are only ten of the books I have read this year. I don’t just recycle books as art, I read them too!

WARNING: Red Flags Ahead

Hi everyone,

I have not explained in my blog adequately the situation with my domestic abuse experience.  It has been weighing on my mind, as my ex-husband died 3 years ago yesterday.  I felt many things that day, but the strongest thing was relief.  It was finally over.  We had been apart for 11 years and divorced for 9 at the time, but the abuse continued until his dying day.

I think many people don’t really understand what abuse is.  So much abuse is almost deemed acceptable.  I know that being raised in a home that demonstrated many forms of abuse, those abuses were normal to me.  I was sexually abused by a family member at age 6, raped on my first date at age 17.  Neither of these events was addressed at the time.  In my family we don’t talk about feelings and problems are kept behind closed doors.  There were varying degrees of verbal, economic, and emotional abuse between my parents, which overflowed onto me and my little brother as we got older.

I tell you all of that to explain that growing up in this environment gave me a belief that this is normal.  Everyone lives like this…right?!  Sadly, this is more normal than it should be.  One thing I know is that no matter the degree of the abuse, the pain, feelings and reactions are the same.  You eliminate the details of each person’s experience and what’s left?

  • Self-hatred
  • Fear
  • Lack of trust
  • A strong desire to numb the pain
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

This is the short list. Some will find a way out and create a new normal – which I have done.  Some will know only this way of life. I have pulled information on domestic violence from Hopesdoorinc.org a great organization in Plano, Texas.  There are also links for other resources at the end of this post for my local area.

If you read this and see yourself in this information, please know you are not alone and there are people that can help you and your children get out of this deadly situation.


What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior used to gain power and control over an intimate partner or family member. Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of gender, age, education, religion, disability status, or sexual orientation. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. It can happen within any type of intimate partner or family relationship – married, cohabiting, or dating couples, child abuse, incest, etc.

Abuse can take many forms and often escalates over time.


Forms of abuse include:

  • Verbal (criticizing, name-calling, insulting your beliefs, race, religion, etc.)
  • Economic (controlling finances, refusing to work, keeps you from working, etc.)
  • Psychological (threats of violence, isolationfrom family and friends, accusations of infidelity, etc.)
  • Emotional (continuous degradation, intimidation, manipulation, insulting, threats, etc.)
  • Sexual (rape, using force or manipulation to make a person have sex, forced prostitution, etc.


Of the 24 red flags below I lived with 17 of them in my marriage.  They did escalate over time and the punishments got worse the longer it took me to stand up for myself.  I taught him how to treat me, so when I started to change the rules things escalated very quickly.

Signs of Abuse/Red Flags

Do you… 

  • Feel afraid of your partner?
  • Feel that you can’t do anything right?
  • Get embarrassed by your partner’s behavior toward you?
  • Believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
  • Avoid topics or situations out of fear of angering your partner?

Does your partner…

  • Humiliate, criticize or yell at you?
  • Blame you for his/her behavior?
  • Threaten to hurt you?
  • Threaten to take your children away?
  • Threaten to harm your children or pets?
  • Force you to have sex?
  • Act jealous or possessive?
  • Keep you from seeing friends and family?
  • Limit your access to money or necessities?
  • Keep you from getting a job or going to school?
  • Constantly check up on you?
  • Threaten to kill or hurt him/herself if you leave?

Does your friend or loved one…

  • Have frequent injuries resulting from “accidents”?
  • Frequently or suddenly miss work, school or cancel plans?
  • Receive frequent calls/texts from their partner?
  • Fear their partner or defer to a partner’s rages or behavior?
  • Lack assertiveness or have submissive behavior?
  • Isolate from friends and family?
  • Have insufficient resources to live (money, credit cards, car)?



How to Help

Most often, a survivor of domestic violence or dating violence will seek help from their support network, including friends, family or co-workers. The manner in which you respond can have a power affect on the survivor’s life and decision to seek further help. Remember, you cannot force someone to leave their abuser. While you can help someone leave a violent relationship, it is ultimately his/her choice to change his/her life and future. Please recognize that the decision to leave an abusive relationship is not easy and the survivor will need your love and support to do so.

If a survivor reaches out to you…

  • Try to remain supportive and non-judgmental
  • Let them know you believe them and want to hear about their experience
  • Allow them to tell their story
  • Let them know you care about and are concerned for their safety
  • Support their right to be angry
  • Don’t deny any of their feelings
  • Respect the cultural values and beliefs that affect their behavior
  • Help them assess their resources and support system
  • Maintain contact with them. Physical and psychological isolation are powerful control tactics used by batterers.
  • Avoid “you” statements, such as “you should”. Instead use “I” statements, such as “I’m concerned.”
  • Offer them phone numbers for local resources. Call Hope’s Door’s  24-hour hotline (972-422-7233) for information on our services and local resources.
  • Let them know that they are not alone, it is not their fault and that help is available.


Important Links

These are valuable links to websites that will give you more information about our cause.

Below are some resources regarding personal safety.


I left my ex twice.  The first time I didn’t have a support system set up and I felt guilty for leaving without warning.  I was afraid of him.  He managed to talk me into moving back home.  I stated a couple conditions, which he agreed to, but little did I know the storm that was coming.

He could only manage his temper for a short time, maybe 6 months, but he had started drinking again, and he was cheating on me, which I was ok with because I had no interest in him anymore.  All my attraction for him was gone, dead and buried.  His anger and desire to punish me was growing.  It went from verbal and emotional abuse to throwing things around the house, to throwing things at me, throwing furniture at me to ultimately standing over me telling me he was going to break my nose.

That was the moment…I knew that if I didn’t get out now I was not going to walk out that house one day.  I knew he had the capacity to kill me.  This was 6 months after 9/11 and I now had people I could depend on.  The switch was flipped and I got out while the getting was good.  I let him have everything he wanted to leave me alone.  Well, he got everything and still called and texted me, found my new phone number when I changed and continued to call and text until he passed.  He kept that underlying fear going for 11 years after I left.

The best thing I got out of that relationship was my step-son Shannon.  I love him more than he will ever know.

I am still single today, because when I see red flags I shut it down.  I am happy in my life as it is, but I still have hope that one day a great guy will come into my life.


Brenda the Brave

Productivity Tips I learned from Laura Stack

I took Laura Stack’s  on-line 8 week “Accelerate Your Productivity” course.  I have training goals for work and I like to revisit time management every 5 years.  Much of this seemed logical to me, but I needed to be reminded to do it.  Other things I always felt they were pie in the sky ideas.  I decided to apply as much of her course as possible and share tips with my boss.

This course is very affordable for the amount of information and tips you get from it.  You also are expected to apply it through the course so you can see how it works as you go.  Here is the link to her site so you can check out all her courses and blog posts.

Laura Stack Productivity Pro Offerings

She starts with determining what your capture style is.  Do you capture information, ideas, tasks, appointments electronically or on paper?  I am a hybrid.  Some things I prefer to write down because it helps me remember it, or helps me to focus on my task or in a meeting.

A good capture tool should always be available, you use it consistently,  easy and quick to use, suits your personality.

She refers to a great article on The 20 Best Online To Do List Apps.  This is a must read.

The key it to track all your the things you need to do in one place, personal and work to avoid conflicts.  I choose Outlook as my tool.  Make a list of everything you need to do then prioritize them by: things that eventually need to be done; things that have a due date, but are not due today; the things you must do today.

She discusses the use of tasks and your calendar to handle everything as it comes into your inbox.  The key is to prioritize or do something with each item so you only touch the email once before either do it, file it , delete it, or set a start date to do it.

My 3 favorite email best practices tips are:

  1. Use the signature option to insert standard responses to emails, or monthly, quarterly or annual emails that only require minor adjustments.
  2. Use the “Ignore” for irrelevant reply all strings
  3. Use the “Clean up conversation” to eliminate redundant messages.

Also, schedule everything!!

  • Workout
  • Quiet time
  • Interruptions – When someone comes in you schedule a time that is better for you so you can maintain focus
  • Do priority tasks during your prime time of day.  (when you are most productive.)

Something I have used for a while:

  • If I didn’t do this at all would anyone notice?
  • Is this providing ultimate value to my customer, or is it just an internal process with no value?

I used to plan my day in the morning, but that eats up a good portion of my most productive time.  Laura discusses why planning your next day before you leave work.  This has been a very helpful change in my behavior.  The benefits include:

  • Compartmentalize
  • Reduce Insomnia
  • Avoid Reacting
  • Enjoy Family time
  • Anticipate failure
  • Execute Efficiently
  • Lower Stress

This is just a small part of what she covers in her course.  Laura is an interesting and effective trainer and speaker.  I highly recommend visiting her site and trying her courses or subscribing to her blog.

The pie in the sky item is saying  “No” to meetings.  where I work now it is not acceptable.  However, my personal experience is that many meetings could have been an email or phone call.  I do recommend asking yourself before having a meeting “Is this a meeting or an email?”  I find most meetings are just big time suckers.

Brenda the Brave


Recent Photo Shoots

fountain 2 - Copy
fountain 2 - Copy
Aperture: 9Camera: NIKON D5200Iso: 400Orientation: 1
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Personal Growth and the Mirror

Hello my friends,

As my readers know I have been doing some personal growth and self reflection over the past years.  After my recent retreat the self reflection has picked up the pace.  Change is uncomfortable for everyone.  The person changing is uncomfortable and the people in his or her lives get uncomfortable.

I have come to this place many times and the same thing comes out of it.  When I meet someone and I have an immediate negative reaction, I need to stop and really look at what it is that is bothering me, then I have to look in the mirror and see that part in me.  100% of the time when there is something I don’t like about someone or I have a negative reaction to someone, it is something I see in me that I don’t like.  It’s that damn mirror.

I am far from perfect in my actions to become a better person and happier with my life.  I try to be positive, but it ebbs and flows.  Recently, I was in a hormone induced ebb.  I was very moody and negative.  When I am this way I have found that I need to look at what is causing it.

I ask myself questions like:

Am I sleeping well?

Am I spending too much time with negative people?

Is it hormonal?

Am I depressed?

Am I anxious?

Have I been eating right?

Am I exercising?

Sometimes it’s a combination of these, but what ever it is I have to figure out how to defuse it.  Exercise, eating right and getting a good nights sleep all can bring my mood up.  Sometimes I am just being judgmental and I need to look at changing something about me.  Sometimes it’s a friendship that is no longer working for me.  Those usually fall away naturally, but sometimes it doesn’t and a decision needs to be made.  Sometimes a discussion needs to be had in order to set boundaries.   Whatever it is, it is an action that has to come from me.

Honestly, IT SUCKS!! When I come to this place I go to my big book and start working the steps on what is bothering me.  I am so grateful today that I have a new person in my life to work with because I need to get out of my head space for a while and just enjoy the now.  I have so much to be grateful for, and such a wonderful life.  It is too short to spend it in a dark place, well dimly lit place.

It’s time for action and more change!

Thank you to all my new retreat ladies who support me through the bumps as they come up.

Love Ya,

Brenda the Brave



Hi  everyone,

I just spent a week in California for work.  I have always loved the Monterrey and Carmel area.  I also have found that I prefer to visit on my own.  I don’t enjoy working around what other people want to do or deal with how they travel.  I have lived alone since 2002 so I have gotten used to  having things my way.  I just tried to enjoy the view as the driver crossed double yellow lines to pass people and took us on a ride without checking the gas tank first.  I was just a bit on edge.

I made the best out of it and relied on the girls from the retreat to redirect my mind to more important things.  I am sure you are wondering what this has to do with the title of this post.  Well, our last stop before the airport was Santa Cruz (no one checked to see if anything would be open by the time we had to leave.)  We spent from 8 am to 10:30 sitting around waiting for something to open.

We were all watching a wiffle-ball tournament while we were waiting, when this family from Korea came up to us – Mom took me, Dad got the intern and daughter took the other of the three of us.  At first when Mary came up to me it was like she was a fortune teller and I expected tarot cards to come out any second, but then she asked if I went to church and what my faith was.  It was difficult to explain my faith to someone who has a  defined image of what everyone should believe.

Now I was raised Christian and I believe in God, I have been baptized 3 times.  I have a very solid foundation of faith, however, over the years my concept of God and my perception has grow and morphed into something I don’t think has a name.  It is my relationship with God as I know it through my experience not just straight from a book, which different people interpret to their advantage.

I am not an expert on the Bible nor do I expect others to believe the way I do.  I believe that Jesus died for our sins and was raised from the dead by his father, God.  My concept of heaven and hell are not what they were when I was growing up.  I believe in a loving and forgiving God who wants us to learn and grow.  He wants us to be examples to others, but not be perfect.  Noone can relate to perfection, it’s unattainable.  People can see how we respond when something horrible happens and learn from what we do when times are tough or even unbearable.

I don’t attend a church because when I do eventually it turns into putting people in boxes (good  and bad, heaven or hell).  I think blind faith is worse than no faith at all.  We were given these brains to learn, question, grow and come to our own conclusions.  It is important to be in a community of faith.  It is also not our place to judge an others religion, unless it involves harming people.  I don’t believe God wants us to blow up abortion clinics, or condemn the GLBTQ community.  Who are we to judge?

Honestly, for a long time I thought that hell was living life here on earth, because I was always in pain and afraid.  Heaven would be dying and getting out of this place.  Now, I couldn’t tell you if there is a heaven or hell.  I believe God kept me alive in this world for a reason.  I have chosen to be as kind, loving and generous as a possibly can.  I have gotten to a place where I can forgive the people who have harmed me and let go of those who are toxic to me.

Forgiveness is an amazingly freeing thing, but there are those who do not deserve our forgiveness.  There is a brother that I tried to forgive for harms done to me.  I needed to do the best I could at the time to save my life, but it never quite settled in my heart.  I went through a process where I was able to forgive those people I love and want to keep in my life and say good-bye to those who are toxic and leave them for God to sort out.  I truly feel free now.

Faith for everyone looks different and it is up to you to know what feels right for you.  We get to choose our faith, who we forgive and who we set free.  We choose the direction we want our life to go.  It’s free will and it is a gift from God.

I do not believe, anymore, that the sexual abuse, emotional abuse and the physical abuse were punishments for things I had done.  Today I believe that it was God and my faith that gave me the strength to get up and fight again and again and again.  You will not beat me!  My life is important!!  I am here and I am strong, deal with it!!

As in my politics, I am firm in my beliefs but not extreme.  If you don’t agree with me that is fine, if you do that is fine too.  If you feel the need to be negative and attack my beliefs, don’t waste your time, I don’t care what you think of my beliefs.

Take care and live life!

Brenda the Brave


Where have these memories been?

Hello my friends,

I was working on an art project this week and in the process I was flooded with random happy memories that had been hidden behind all the “stuff” I have been focused on most of my life.  The negative stuff has had it’s turn…BYE-BYE NOW!!   Here are some of the random happy memories that are good emotional buttons for me today.  Enjoy…I grew up in New England then moved to California when I was 11 years old.

  • Picking blackberries by the side of the road.
  • Picking apples in the orchard with my Mom and brothers
  • Playing kick the can
  • Seeing pheasants in the morning standing on the well in the back yard.
  • The quiet area: lounge chairs in the middle of beautiful white birch trees.
  • The smell of fall in New England making me want to buy school supplies.
  • Helping my mom make chocolate chip cookies.
  • The smell of pot roast cooking when we got home from church every Sunday.
  • Ice skating on the home-made ice rink in our side yard in the winter.
  •  Hot chocolate at Mac Intire Ski Area
  • Climbing to the top of the huge pine tree in our front yard
  • Miniature golf
  • 8-track tapes
  • The smell of my Barbie camper, house…
  • Making camouflage dresses for my Barbie and playing in the mud.
  • Lunch boxes
  • Christmas – I love Christmas time
  • The Freedom Trail in Boston
  • Going to see how they make maple syrup.
  • Tapping trees to make our own maple syrup.
  • Watching baby ducks and chicks hatch.
  • Separating baby ducks in the house and watching the peep at each other until they find each other.
  • Afternoon Delight playing as I sat on the curb in front of our new house in California.
  • Going to Zuma Beach and listening to the ocean
  • Running on the beach
  • In college, going to the beach to study.
  • Running with my dog Angel.
  • Going Dancing with my friend Rhonda
  • Driving to San Diego for spring break..
  • Going to Palm Springs for spring break.
  • Playing softball year-round in California
  • Competing with guys in my classes to see who gets the better grade.
  • Going to UCLA football games with my family and flirting with my brothers friends.
  • Breathing the cool crisp air in the mountains


What are your happy memories about growing up?

UNCONDITIONAL: The Week of a Lifetime

Hey there,

I have been back from my retreat for a week now.  I have been physically laid up so my mind has been working overtime. Transitioning back into reality has been bumpy, but so much easier with all the ladies who are now part of my life.

Putting words to my feelings and the internal shift that has happened for me has been a challenge, but today it came to me…


I can put that word in front of every feeling I have about the retreat and it fits!!


I didn’t feel there were any conditions to be met while I was there!

I am not holding myself back with conditions now!  I have always had conditions that I had to meet before everything…EVERYTHING!!

For my future, life, happiness, self-love, fun, aspirations and joy now to be unconditional is the most freeing feeling I have ever felt.  My feelings are unconditional.  What I mean by that is I can allow myself to let my feelings wash over me and let them go without being carried away and lost in some past event or future fear.  I have experienced what it feels like to just notice how I am feeling, feel it and then move on.  I have heard about this, read about this and dreamed about this, but after this retreat I am free to experience it!!




Love you all

Brenda the Brave

Bringing Courage, Creativity, and Spirit through My Stories

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