Introducing Author Niki Meadows!

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I met Niki on WordPress a little more than a year ago, and we instantly connected. I related to the premise of her blog, The Richness of a Simple Life.  She’s always been  amazingly supportive and encouraging, not only to me, but to all of her fellow bloggers.

Niki has written her first book that’ll be out soon, and I’m so excited for her! Click here to get to Niki’s book page.

Wage War On Your Mind & Fight For Your Life details Niki’s 17-year struggle with depression. Along her journey to recovery, she devised strategies to heal herself through self-care and self-love. She shares her plan and personal stories in her new book.

Readers will see how Niki transformed from being severely depressed to living a positive and productive life, filled with hope and confidence. She’s now a life coach, helping women find their purpose and live their best life.

I was honored to be a beta reader for Niki’s book. You can read my review here.

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Recently I had the chance to get to know Niki better. Even though we live thousands of miles apart, it felt like we were sitting and chatting, enjoying a latte together. Please join us…

First of all, congratulations on publishing your first book! When did you decide to write it, and why?

Thank you, Jenny! Well, it’s not something I planned on. I was actually inspired to write a book while washing the dishes one day. I thought it was a strange thought to go through my mind because I was listening to a podcast and I had no idea where that idea came from. The very next day as I washed dishes again, I had to stop, wash all of the soap bubbles off of my hands and get to my laptop because the title came to me and I wanted to write it down before I forgot it. 

I sat down to type it up along with a vision I had for the cover. I ended up drafting the first three chapters of the book. This was back around the end of September of last year. I’ve tried writing a couple of fiction novels in the past that didn’t go anywhere; part of me thought that might be the case with this. Deep down I knew this was something I was going to move forward with because I’ve never had that sort of experience before. I felt like the words were flowing out of me and I had to type as fast as I could to keep up with them.

You have two little girls. How old are they? I’m sure they’re curious about what you’ve been writing, and what your book is about. What do you tell them?

I do! My oldest is 8-years-old and my youngest recently turned 2. My youngest doesn’t quite get it yet. She’s seen the drafts and I tell her it’s a book but she can’t understand why it’s not in her hand or on her bookshelf. She gets excited when she sees me on the computer and asks if that’s my book and wants to see the pictures. I actually just explained the content of my book to my oldest a few weeks ago. I wanted her to hear it from me rather than overhearing a conversation. I explained to her that Mommy went through a really rough time up until a few years ago. I felt so bad about myself I didn’t want to exist but that I found a way to get better and I thought it was my duty to share that with other people. I explained that there are lots of other people that feel the way I did and even though I was scared to share that, I had a feeling it might help someone. She had a lot of questions and was confused because thankfully she was too young to remember me in those days. She’s very proud that I’ve decided to move forward with the book and is one of my biggest supporters.

There’s a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness. Was it difficult for you to open up and share your story on your blog, and now your book?

There is, I think talking about it and having open honest conversations is crucial. You know, it wasn’t as difficult to share on my blog. I don’t think very many people that I know in person read my blog. I’ve made a lot of really great friends blogging and they know me in a way many people don’t. I actually feel very comfortable sharing about this topic on my blog. Writing the book itself was relatively easy although there were some parts that were a little harder for me to write about. I reveal things about myself that those closest to me know but that’s it. So knowing that some of my most personal struggles will be out there for everyone to see makes me feel vulnerable. I felt that transparency was crucial and decided I just couldn’t worry about what people would think.

As I wrote, I really tried to take myself back to that point in my life so I could speak to people that are where I was. I was actually surprised by how much harder it’s been for me to move forward with the last few stages of the publishing process. I’m very excited to get this out but I’m not going to lie, there’s a part of me that’s thinking “are you crazy? you’re really going to go through with this?”. I’m a little nervous but most of all I’m proud of moving forward even though there’s a little fear. I’m also humbled to share my story in a way that is meant to empower those who can relate to it.

You’ve taken a photography class, and from what I’ve seen, you’re taking beautiful pictures! Did you take the photos for your book?  

I did complete a photography course! Aw, thank you! You know, I put a lot of effort and energy into writing the book and wanted to make sure the content was of the quality I wanted to put my name on. I wanted to take the photos but I thought that might delay the process. In the end, I used images on a site that photographers can share their work under a creative commons license that doesn’t require attribution. I in turn, shared the number of photos I used for my book and felt that was an even exchange. I do have one photo in the book that I took which is of my girls. The photos of me were self-portraits but the rest are not my own. I have to say the images are beautiful, and I’m so in awe of the talent of the photographers that shared their work.

Have you enjoyed the process of writing and publishing? Will you be writing a second book?

I have! Inspiration is a funny thing. Sometimes I’d start writing late at night once everyone was asleep. Other times I’d be sound asleep and wake up at 3 in the morning and know it was time to write. As a creative, I love the writing but don’t enjoy the process quite as much. This is my first time publishing so there was a lot of research to do and once I fell into that black hole it was hard to get out. That stifled my creative part of the process, so I decided to just write and take breaks a week at a time to do research. That ended up working out well for me. I have to say, I was able to lean on my network of bloggers which was a great help.

Actually yes, there will be a second book. I already have the outline of the second book ready and soon I’ll start working on my first draft. I wasn’t planning on it but as the book came together, I realized it was probably best to break it up into two parts. This book details the process I used to overcome depression. The process happened in two stages. The first stage was roughly two years and consisted of me climbing out of rock bottom and trying not to fall back in the hole I climbed out of. The second stage was once I was far enough away from that hole, I just had to keep my distance and keep moving forward. I also combine life coaching into the book so I thought it might be easier for the reader to work on using this two-stage approach as well because it’s not a weekend read, the reader needs to take action as well.

Favorite food? Green chili chicken enchiladas

Favorite genre of book to read? Crime thrillers

Do you like to cook? Favorite dish? I love to cook! A family favorite is a spinach and pesto stuffed pork tenderloin with a red wine reduction sauce I learned to make in a cooking class. I serve it with baked sweet potatoes and roasted vegetables on the side. I’ll have to send you the recipe. (she did, and I can’t wait to try it!)

Do you like to travel? Where would you like to go next? Oh my gosh, I love to travel! My dream is to own an RV so we can full-time within the next 5 years. I’d like to take my family to visit a town I lived in as a child in Germany.

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I was just watching the news and saw something really exciting, I had to share.

A video has been released of Prince William and Lady Gaga FaceTiming — he in the United Kingdom and she across the ocean, at home in her kitchen. The issue they discussed?

Mental health.

How great is that? These two high-profile people are addressing the need to have conversations about mental health. You can see their FaceTime call here.

Prince William and Lady Gaga are trying to encourage more people to be open about mental illness. Their talk is part of the #oktosay Heads Together film series.

Lady Gaga recently admitted she has post traumatic stress disorder. She’s been speaking out about her challenges and the importance of not being ashamed of having a mental illness.

The Royal Family — the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry — is committed to improving mental health issues, and has begun an initiative called Heads Together. It’s a campaign to raise awareness of mental health and to end the stigma.

This past week, Prince Harry opened up about his twenty year struggle with mental health issues after the death of his mother, Princess Diana. He says he had attacks of panic and rage, and has needed therapy to come to terms with it.

“It’s time that everyone speaks up and really feels very normal about mental health. It’s the same as physical health. Everybody has mental health and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it and just having a conversation with a friend or family member can really make such a difference.”  ~Prince William

Duke of Cambridge, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Henry of Wales standing together

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Let’s Talk About It

“What should I do if my friend is having a panic attack?” “If you have anxiety, will you get depression when you’re pregnant?” “I know my friend is depressed, but she won’t admit it. What should I do?” “Can you get panic attacks while you’re sleeping?”

These are some of the questions I was asked last week when I spoke to a class of 36 high school juniors. I presented a program called Ending the Silence, developed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The purpose is to raise awareness of mental illness and help end the stigma.

I love to speak to high school students and bring attention to mental health. If I attended something like this when I was a teen, maybe I wouldn’t have waited so long to get treatment for anxiety and panic attacks.

Mental illness is a difficult subject to discuss, and can be especially hard for young people. If kids aren’t embarrassed or ashamed to talk about it, there’s a good chance there would be less stigma for the next generation.

When I stood in front of the class to share my story, I noticed how engaged the students were. I had their full attention, and for the next fifteen minutes they would learn how panic changed my life and also my daughter’s. They’d see that recovery is possible. I wondered if any of them had ever heard anyone speak openly about their struggle with a mental illness.

My co-presenter and I explained the warning signs and symptoms of anxiety, depression, suicide, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder.

We assured the teens there is no shame in having a mental health condition. We told them millions of people around the world live with some type of mental illness. It affects not only the person dealing with the disorder, but their families as well.

Our message to the students was clear. The stigma needs to end. Many people don’t say anything about their condition, in fear of being ridiculed. Stigma can keep someone from reaching out for medical help.

It took me twenty years to go to my doctor. I knew it wasn’t normal to have extreme bursts of fear. My heart would beat fast, I’d get clammy and shaky, and was afraid I’d faint. I couldn’t imagine what was wrong with me. I didn’t think anyone would understand, not even my doctor.

We wanted those high school juniors to know they aren’t alone.  If they or someone they know has a mental health condition, it’s important to talk about it and get help. The sooner, the better. We wanted those students to know that even though mental illness can be extremely challenging to live with, there is hope.

Together, we can end the stigma.

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Tending Our Gardens

talking to plants

I smiled when I saw this quote, because I definitely can relate. When I was about twelve, I started to love house plants. Once a week, it was my job to water and mist the fern in our living room. I loved that chore (much more than the vacuuming and dusting I had to do).

My mom saw how much I liked caring for plants, so she bought me some for my room. At one point, I think I had eight, which now seems like a lot for one bedroom. When it was time for watering, I’d carry each plant to the bathroom and put it in the tub. It looked like a jungle in there. I’d get a large plastic cup and sprinkle water over the Boston Ferns, Spider Plants, and Peace Lilys, and let them drain.

There was something I didn’t want to admit. I talked to my plants. I would’ve been mortified if my sisters or friends heard me. I’d sit on the edge of the bathtub and tell my “friends” how pretty they were and how well they were growing. I told them I loved them and that I loved taking care of them.

I’ve always heard that if you talk to plants, they’ll be happier and healthier. Even now, when I’m deadheading my roses and perennials, I whisper how beautiful they are.

I was just noticing that what I’ve said to my plants — you’re beautiful, you’re doing so good, I love taking care of you, I love you — they’re all words and phrases that people in my life want, and need, to hear.

And I do say those things. Often.

One thing our world needs is more kindness. We can never have enough.

So yes… “If speaking kindly to plants helps them grow, imagine what speaking kindly to humans can do.”

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Two weeks ago today, I had surgery. While I won’t go into details, it was for a female issue and also something else. I figured while I was under general anesthesia, I may as well get the two things fixed together. Nothing to worry about, it was partially elective.

The procedures at the outpatient center went fine and I felt good when I got home. I was told to take a pain pill and not let the pain get ahead of me. I ate a piece of toast and took my antibiotic and pain medicine. An hour later, I was nauseous and couldn’t keep anything down. I was sick to my stomach for eight hours, on and off. I knew it couldn’t be good.

It wasn’t. The result was broken blood vessels that developed into a hematoma, which had to be drained. Six days later, I was back at the surgery center, bright and early. The procedure went smoothly. It was a step backward, but I was happy because that day marked the true beginning of my healing.

It’s been a week since the second surgery, and I have to say I thought I’d feel better much quicker. I’m tired of being tired. I know my body is doing what it needs to, and I must give it a lot of rest and time. But I’m used to being active and leading a busy life. This has definitely forced me to slow down.

I’m grateful beyond words that my husband is an amazing caregiver. He’s always there to remind me to rest and not move around much. I’m able to relax because of his support.

There’s been a flood of anxiety throughout this entire process. The anticipation before surgery was overwhelming at times. I was finally able to let out a deep sigh of relief when it was over. But that good feeling was short-lived because of the hematoma.

I don’t take my health for granted, I’m always thankful for it. But this experience has given me a new appreciation for being healthy.

I can’t wait to feel energetic and have the desire to get out of the house. Right now just the thought of going to the grocery store or out to eat sounds exhausting. I’m tired of being weak and having to sit down every chance I get. I’m looking forward to putting on exercise clothes and walking in the mountains, or at least around the block. I want to want to put on jewelry and do my nails.

I’ve only been able to take sponge baths, which is getting really old. I want to step in the shower and let the hot water stream down my back. Lather my hair with shampoo and watch the bubbles slide down the drain… Soon!

Right now all I want to do is rest and the farthest I walk is out to a lounge chair in my backyard. I know this situation is temporary, and I thank God for that. I’m actually trying to enjoy this time of recovery, basking in the deliciousness of slowing down.

I think it’s time for a nap.

Take care, Jenny


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Precious Treasures


I’ve always loved to read. For me, it’s one of the best forms of escape. Books take me to places I’ve never been. I get to travel back in time or to the future. I meet people and am exposed to cultures I never knew existed.

This past weekend I watched a video that inspired me. It was by Danny at Dream Big, Dream Often. You can watch his vlog here. He talks about how crucial reading is, in order to learn and grow. One habit of successful people is that they read. A lot. Whether books are educational or entertaining, they expand your knowledge about the world.

Danny mentioned something that stuck with me. He quoted Mark Twain, who said, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”

What that means to me is that since I can read, I have no excuses for not continuing to learn. There’s a wealth of information waiting for me in books.

I started taking Mackenzie and Talee to the library when they were very young. It was a fun and free activity. As they got older, around five and seven, we made a trip to the library every few weeks. They’d browse the shelves and once they had a huge stack of books in their arms, we’d settle into comfy chairs to look at them.

When we were ready to leave, the girls would hold their library bags that were stuffed with books, audio tapes, and puppets. I can picture the huge smiles on their faces. They’d practically run to the car because they couldn’t wait to look at their new treasures.

It was like I  bought them a bunch of toys or outfits from their favorite store. They’d be that excited. It warmed my heart and made me smile. It still does.

Now that they’re in their twenties, Mackenzie and Talee still love to read. One day when they’re both home for the weekend, I should take them to the library. I bet they’d love that. I know I would.

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Old Habits Are Hard to Break


The other day I was in the check out line at the grocery store. I was buying a lot of vegetables to put in my slow cooker minestrone soup. A man in his thirties was behind me. I couldn’t help but notice the difference in our items. He loaded up the conveyor belt with peanut butter cup, caramel, and chocolate chip ice cream. Three boxes of cereal; Trix, Lucky Charms, and Cap’n Crunch. Sugary drinks. Potato chips. High fat and sodium-rich frozen foods. I tried not to stare, not to judge.

Maybe he was having a party. Maybe his nieces and nephews were coming over. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. But what I really think is that he enjoys those foods and that’s what he’s used to buying. An unhealthy habit.

It got me thinking how habits–both good and bad–become routine and such a part of us, we may not even realize it.

Habits can become so automatic, that we may do them even if we don’t necessarily enjoy them anymore. We get used to doing what’s always worked. It’s hard to be open-minded and scrutinize things we’ve done for months or years. If someone points out one of my bad habits, I may get defensive. But later I take a good look at it to see if that person is right. If I’m ready to change that habit, I figure out how.

For instance, I eat a treat almost every night while watching TV. Sometimes I’m not even hungry. But my husband gets some popcorn or ice cream, the dog gets a rawhide bone, and I want to join in.

I’m working on being mindful about our nightly ritual. If I had a light dinner and really am hungry, or if I plain and simple want to munch on something, I won’t deny myself. As long as I stop and think about it, and make a mindful decision.

Often I grab something relatively healthy, like a banana and a low-fat graham cracker. Or a cup of decaf tea and a piece of fruit. That way, I’m able to eat a treat with my husband (and dog), and it’s a healthful choice.

But there are times when I crave a bowl of ice cream or a brownie, so I indulge. I don’t regret one bite, as long as I truly want it and make a conscious decision to have it. I’m only  angry with myself if I eat it, and don’t even want it.

Some of my bad habits:

  • Eating later at night.
  • Craving and eating popcorn and candy at the movies (and we go often). My mouth waters just walking into a movie theater.
  • Not going to the gym enough (or not at all).
  • Procrastinating.
  • Spending too much time on social media.

Some of my good habits:

  • I eat healthy: a lot of fruits, veggies, Greek yogurt, chicken, fish, whole grains, and not much red meat.
  • I drink a lot of water.
  • I don’t smoke or drink (except an occasional glass of wine)
  • I walk every day, with a goal of reaching 10,000 steps per day.
  • I practice deep breathing which helps calm me.
  • I smile and laugh easily.

Habits are choices. If there’s something we want to change, we first need to acknowledge it. And then figure out a way to replace that bad habit with a positive one.

I wonder what I’m going to choose to nibble on tonight when I’m watching TV.

A little wisdom from Calvin + Hobbes

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