Letter to Baby, On Her 18th Birthday


To Baby
September 16, 1999

Good morning. It's just after 10 a.m. Yesterday, when I got home from work, your father and I went to sushi for dinner and a little celebration. You see, we have both established ourselves in our careers and in our home and really have wonderful things to be thankful for.

When I came home from dinner though, I wasn't feeling very good...I guess you're not a big sushi fan yet. I went to bed early and felt a bit of a buzz throughout my whole body. Little did I know, you were the electricity flowing through my veins. My sleep was restless and my dreams kept waking me. I hope they didn't wake you as well, my little child.

When I woke up this morning, still feeling out of sorts, I decided not to go in to work. Your father was up and on his way to his third grade class and you and I stayed in bed for a few more hours of leisurely slumber. I arose at 9 a.m., showered and dressed and set out for the store. Your father didn't want to pick up a pregnancy test last night so I was on a mission to do so. I bought three yogurts and an EPT. Scott at Lucky's shared in the anticipation with me while I was in line. He simply said as he bagged my things, "You and Michael will be great parents." I wonder if he knew...

I got home and used the stick and three minutes later, I was aware of you. My hands shook, my heart raced and my eyes cried. It was the best moment of your life thus far, for it was when you revealed yourself to me. And it was the best moment of my life thus far, for I started to get to know you. And I gave you a name..."Baby."

I love you my child, and I can't wait to share the news with your dad, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles. You are going to be so blessed with family and friends and unlimited love. But for now, and for the next six hours until your father comes home from work, I will have you all to myself, and I will walk proudly with you, I will talk softly to you and I will keep you warm and safe.

With love forever,
Your Mommy

Today, our sweet Baby Bella turns 18. She is a beautiful spirit in this world, compassionate, intuitive and wise beyond her years, yet at the same time, she holds onto the magic of her childhood. In some ways, we're not ready for her to grow up, and in others, we can't wait to witness all of the grand experiences she'll have, the beautiful relationships waiting to be formed, and the many ways that our Bella will leave her fingerprints on the world.

Godspeed, sweet girl. We love you always.

Love,
Mom and Dad

Holly and Jenn

My Emotional Relationship With ExtraCare Rewards and Why My Son Is Now My Servant

I

I am a selfless person. In most instances, I will fulfill the needs of every single member of my household before I even contemplate my own. The chores: I will do the lion's share because they are so busy. The lists: I will cross off all the things before putting my feet up. (Wait, that's funny. I don't think I do that.) I know it's a mom thing, but sometimes I feel guilty if I put myself first. Anyone get me?

If you answered yes, I think you will understand my reaction to a recent situation. I came home from work the other day and found my thirteen year old, still sweet and considerate Noah, playing Fort Night (ugh...for another post) with a wide array of junky snacks. There were three boxes of Cheez-Its, two tubes of Pringles, some beef sticks and a giant Arizona Ice Tea. (Or is it Iced Tea?)

This is how the conversation went:

Me: Hey bud.

Son: Oh, hey mom.

Me: How was your day.

Son: Pretty good. How was your day? (See, considerate.)

Me: Busy. And good. (I may have munched on a few Cheez-Its here.)

Son: You like those?

Me: Yes. Yes I do. Where'd you get them?

Son: CVS.

Me: That's fun. Looks like you scored today. Did you and your friends buy all this?

Son: No. Just me.

Me: Wow...that's a lot of stuff for just you.

Son: Guess how much it all cost.

Me: Hmmm...I'd say $15.

Son: Nope. Just $2.50.

Me: What? How? Some sort of blow-out snack sale?

Son: Well, actually, when we first got there, I just got the Arizona. But when I checked out, the guy
gave me the receipt and it had $18 of coupons.

Me: Wait. Are you talking about the ExtraCare Rewards?

Son: I don't know but it was $18 in free money. So I had to go spend it.

Me: So you spent all $18 on this junk food?! (I possibly waved my hands a bit wildly here.)

Son: Mom, even you like the Cheez-Its. I'll share.

Me: But you spent ALL of the $18? All of MY Rewards?

Son: Well, the guy gave them to me so I just used them.

Me: But...but, they're mine.

Son: (Puts down the XBox remote in response to my whiney voice and maybe the tension in the room.)

Me: You see, they accrue from all the purchases I've been making at CVS. Like your hair stuff. And razors. And your sister's face stuff. And everyone's Easter stuff!! Everyone else's stuff. That I buy. And each time I check out, I wait for that special, really long receipt, that thanks me for all of my time and effort and patronage at CVS. I really look forward to my ExtraCare Rewards. And now they're gone!

Son: Sorry. I didn't know.

Me: (I had no nice words so I said nothing.)

Okay, so maybe I got a little emotional about my youngest stealing accidentally using what was rightfully mine, but the thing is, I kind of feel like those Rewards are exactly that: a reward. MY reward. For all the planning and all the sourcing and all the buying-for-everyone-else. I can purchase a blow-drying-curling-brush for half the cost with those rewards. I can invest in some fancy hair treatment oils and face masks with those rewards. I can buy the really good wrapping paper (to wrap their stuff in) with those rewards. I can secure a whole new summer palette of Esse nail polish with those rewards.

But I get none of the guilt-free-shopping-just-for-me if someone wastes them on a shit-load of crap!! (Pardon my French.) Am I alone here? I don't think I'm alone here. Perhaps there's a support group for people who strive to have a healthy relationship with their ExtraCare Rewards.

But for now, Noah owes me. And maybe, just maybe, I'll kick my feet up while he does some of my chores.

Rant over.

{J}
Holly and Jenn

Together, We Can Create Anything


You guys, we've found an AMAZING new podcast: the 21st Century Creative Podcast!! The brilliant Mark McGuinness, poet and creative coach, offers insight on many facets of creativity and how to achieve not only creative fulfillment, but also some semblance of success, however a person may measure that.

Through a mix of guests and topics, each episode is designed to focus on issues and trends that creatives encounter within their various crafts, as well as showcase an expert, their medium, experience and process. Additionally, a creative challenge rounds out each episode, aiming to inspire us and make a meaningful difference to our work. 

But not only that, each episode reminds us that as creatives, we are not alone in our often solitary endeavors. And in fact, fostering relationships and sharing creative energy will allow us to add unique value to the world. 

Please enjoy the first episode here, and listen on. We promise, whatever your creative medium, whether you're creating now or waiting for the right time, you will be enchanted and uplifted and inspired.

Until next time, happy dreaming, happy creating.

{J & H}

(Photo cred: "My Life Through A Lens"-Unsplash)
Holly and Jenn

Is LoJack Still a Thing? Can I Attach it to My College Student?

I completely understand that people go to college all the time but I'm thinking there should be some classes to prep parents like me, the ones who are maybe not totally sure how they're going to handle such things as their BABIES going away to college. Am I alone in this? Please tell me I'm not alone in this.

Lately, Facebook and Instagram have been filled with college commitment announcements. It's so fun! And I have MANY friends who seem to be experts at dealing with their children-but-also-apparently-adults being away at college. In true social media fashion, it's all sunshine and lollipops. No ugly crying, no panic, no fear...maybe that's just in my house, because everyone else seems to be really prepared.

This is my issue. I'm not very good at handling the not-knowing. Example: text chain below. Please tell me, honestly, how long you would've waited before maybe almost looking up missing persons info on the interwebs. (Maybe don't be honest.)








Soooo...I have the Find Friends app and Bella's pretty responsive, but when she's in San Francisco, adulting all on her own and I don't know all the details of her whereabouts, who's going to walk me off the ledge? Could someone just tell me if LoJack still exists and how it can be attached to my adult-child? I think that might help. Any other strategies would be greatly appreciated too.

Thanks friends. So glad our tribe is authentic and supportive and doesn't judge the mom who sometimes has an over-active imagination. I'm grateful for your wisdom and perspective.

{J}
Holly and Jenn

Breakfast Cereal, School House Rock and Social Media


Saturday mornings were always the best growing up. Before I turned thirteen, I used to be a morning person (believe it or not) and waking up early to get my bowl of Cheerios or Grape-Nuts (no sugar in our house) and flip on Scooby-Doo and Looney-Tunes was a highlight of my week. I learned what a "Bill" was in the government and how to properly use conjunctions. It was education and music all rolled up in a ball of fun. I can still sing all the School House Rock songs by heart. Then I'd jump on my bike and ride all day till the streetlights came on. That, my friends, is the epitome of childhood. Riding free with the wind through my hair (no helmets then either). Stopping at houses of those we knew along the way and having neighbors feed us and ask about our families. No phones. No internet. We did have Atari but not until 1981 and that is for another post.

Our kids don't get to experience life that way anymore. We have become more aware and more "educated" than our parents were. So much so that the thought of letting them jump on their bikes and ride around town before the age of twelve feels somewhat like neglect. We just know too much and and I may have mentioned at some point how I have a very active-can-assume-the-worst-possible-scenario-imagination? I'm working on it...

I heard recently that we are the first generation of parents that are having to deal with social media issues and the anxiety (etc.) that comes along with having ALL THE KNOWLEDGE at our fingertips. Our children are growing up more depressed, more anxious and more suicidal than any other previous generation. WOW. I sometimes wish I could go back to myself ten years ago and tell her that it's okay if your kids don't have smartphones because no one knows how to deal with the problems they create.

We are flying by the seat of our pants a lot of the time. I'm sure there are families that have found fabulous ways of setting boundaries and limits around phone usage and screen time and I'm not really into debating parenting styles, I'm just saying that it is HARD and UNEXPECTED probably a little bit for everyone who has kids in 2018. It's okay to feel overwhelmed about it but also know that you are not ALONE. I think the more we engage with each other about the difficult parts of parenting the more authentic we can be and that may be the key to finding our new normal in this age of Snap Chat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Is it possible for a kids to have a simple life anymore? I'm not sure.

I realized our problem was more extensive than I had imagined when I heard my fourteen year old quote something from the lovely TV show "American Dad". It sounds like it really could be a wholesome program, but it's exactly opposite of that. It's filthy. A cartoon geared toward adults is not something I want my child to have in his head. But thanks to social media and MEMES he knows all about it. Did I mention he's getting a C- in German? Maybe his teacher should start making memes to help the class memorize the language better? Just a thought. Makes me feel like a real superstar as a mom. Somewhere along the line I failed.

But in reality, the older they get the less control I have over what they see and experience. That is the normal part. The really-far-from-normal-part is that now, it's not just what they may hear from friends or rated R movies that we need to be concerned with. It's what they could possibly hear from ALL THE THINGS because they have ALL THE KNOWLEDGE at the click of a button. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Is there a way we can go back to pre-social media living? Saturday mornings with cereal, School House Rock and all day bike rides? The kind of day that when you wanted to know where your friends were, you looked for all the bikes scattered on someone's lawn instead of Snap Chat. Maybe  there will be a solar flare that takes out all the cellular satellites so we can head back to those days in the 70's. But as it is, we have to adjust, come up with new ways to deal with this technology and information and learn how to protect our kids in ways our parents didn't or couldn't have fathomed.

Thank you Lord for prayer. JESUS. Please save us. And eveyone said...Amen.

Holly



Photo credit: Ajeet Mestry on Unsplash

Holly and Jenn

Jesus and Avocado Toast...


Guns have been in the news a lot lately. Gun control reform, safe schools, even my husband's school is talking about them. As we should be. But sometimes, talking isn't enough. And when I don't know exactly how to respond to things, when I get overwhelmed by the noise and the fighting, I pray.

So at church on Sunday, I prayed for God to heal the people who are hurting, in Parkland, and in other places like Sutherland Springs, Newtown, and across the nation. I prayed for the victims...the countless victims who have suffered horrific pain and anguish, and for the thousands of family members and friends suffering alongside them. And I prayed for the ones who inflicted the pain. Wherever they were on the scale of mentally ill to evil, we have to imagine that only a life of extreme anguish or abuse (whether physical or emotional or mental), could lead someone to carry out such a horrendous and malicious act. 

Then I prayed for the mentally ill and the addicted and the abandoned, that somehow God can help us find better ways to help them. I prayed for the communities that these tragedies have shaken and all the schools that are full of more pain and fear. I prayed that we wouldn’t get used to school shootings and guns in the hands of our young, because it’s NOT NORMAL. I prayed for a united focus, on mercy, on compassion, on reason, on love. 


I stared at the cross and prayed for people to abandon political agendas right now for the singular, bold act of doing what is right, of figuring out a way to control the accessibility and use of lethal weapons that inflict mass injury and terror. Just doing the next right and brave thing...I prayed more people would be called to that, even if it means they have to go through extra screening before they get to buy their next box of ammunition or that certain automatic rifles are pulled from gun shows and online marketplaces. I prayed for an increased value to be placed in the greater good of our children.


And I prayed for parents. Because we are the biggest part of the violence prevention program. Fixing society begins within our homes, with actual rules, where the hard work of parenting happens. We need to set limits and expectations, instill empathy and kindness, be involved and aware. Deep conversations need to happen. The word NO needs to happen. It is a BIG job friends. Our kids need us to teach them how to be selfless and passionate and authentic, how to be inclusive and to love and to serve. And they need us to teach them by example.


I’m not kidding...I prayed about all of it. Because it’s complex and scary and hard work, but it is essential and it belongs to all of us. We belong to each other, even in our differences. I don’t own a gun but I don’t want to take them away from all people, just some people. I’m a Californian with some left and some right views. I love Jesus and avocado toast and I really want to see more of us, hands reaching for each other in the middle of the aisle. There are lots of us I think. 


So let’s pray for God’s merciful healing of the pain and hurt and then let’s band together and do something good in honor of the countless, unnecessary victims of these recent tragedies. Let's remove the insults and condemnation from the conversation...they just cause more pain and division. I hope as you open your hearts and minds for this important dialogue, you remember what Gandhi said: "In a gentle way, you can shake the world." I really think we can.


Love,
Jenn

(Photo cred: Renee Fisher-Unsplash)
Holly and Jenn

Writing and Rising From the Ashes


Writing a book is no joke. Seriously…it’s hard work. But it is SOOOOO fun too!

I know, some of you just cringed, thinking back to the days in college when you had to type a multi-page paper about some subject or other and find the words that would sound unique and intelligent and earn you that A. If you feel a little bit nauseous thinking about said days and want to check your diploma just to make sure you did graduate, writing does not fill your cup.

But, if like Holly and me, you wrote poems about unrequited love in middle school, filled multiple journals about the torture of life in high school, and LOVED to compose works of philosophical and literary glory in college, then you would LOVE this writing process!

For us, the act of writing is like planning a party. We research names and locations and trends in the craft. We analyze the stories that have stroked our emotions and we wrestle with plot lines with reckless abandon. We are giddy with each “ah-ha” moment, (and friends, we have oh-so-many of those). But the greatest joy in writing is the journey of discovery. It’s exactly like opening a book and falling into the narrative, letting the prose and the characters take you for a glorious trip, destination unknown. If you read, these are to books that you can’t put down!!

As many of you know, Forged, our first book that garnered much enthusiasm and interest (even an award) from literary agents and editors at the SDSU Writer’s Conference in January of 2017, was essentially laid to rest by industry professionals by summertime. We had written and YA fantasy with Native American history, legends and characters. And at the same time, the #ownvoices movement in publishing gained traction.

Here’s a little lesson on the campaign. #Ownvoices is meant to encourage, publish and showcase books written by authors who share the identity of their characters, such as a book with a Native American protagonist written by a Native American author. The reason this is so important is because marginalized people are the best ones to tell their own stories. It’s not just enough for an author to write authentic and sensitive stories outside their culture/experience, even when sensitivity readers are involved. The industry wants those diverse populations to tell their own stories. The #ownvoices movement and others that promote diversity in literature, aim to rightsize the publishing world where, historically, stories about marginalized and diverse communities have been told by privileged (white) people.

In a nutshell, since neither Holly nor I are Native American, as one agent put it, “No publisher will even consider publishing this book unless you remove the Native American elements. Perhaps you can use Gaelic legends, change the origin story and some of your characters?” As we researched and toiled over the fate of Forged, we realized that, unless we self-published, we would not be able to find a home for that version of Forged. So we decided to let it go. (Oh the anguish…I’m not kidding. We couldn’t even talk about it for a few months, we were so sad/sick/upset. Don't even ask the Mike's about it...they can't even!)

But please don't feel sorry for us. Like the phoenix, goodness always rises from the ashes.

Plotting out our NEXT book has been just as magical. And very soon, we get to begin the work. This is the fun part for us…the discovery and the adventure as we embark on our new story. We are holding onto our characters, changing them up a smidge, but we love them and they told us they don’t want to be tucked away in a drawer. They have a story to tell. We can hardly contain the excitement to share the twists and turns with you, our most treasured fans and cheerleaders.

So tell us, if you were going to write a book, what would the title be and what would it be about? And if you have an urge to put down some ideas, let us know. We’d love to encourage you.

Happy writing. It is the best of times.

{J}

(Photo cred: Kent Pilcher-Unsplash)
Holly and Jenn