The Tie That Binds Us...


This is not a political post. I will not tell you that your viewpoint is wrong, flawed, or less worthy of consideration than my own. I will not unfriend you if your passionate opinion is not mine. We are more than our affiliations or parties or platforms. We just are.

Instead, this post is a call to action. For ALL of us, no matter what side of the spectrum we find ourselves on. Despite how we feel when we watch the news, regardless of the division and ugliness that bogs us down, and resisting the "well, they started it!" accusations, this is a call for a renaissance of some of these most basic and essential ingredients of humanity:

--Respect: due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others
--Kindness: the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate
--Patience: quiet, steady perseverance, even-tempered care
--Understanding: sympathetic awareness of other people's feelings, tolerance and forgiveness
--Peace: freedom from disturbance, or the cessation of violence
--Love: feeling of warm personal affection for someone or something

I believe that if we focus on all that connects us rather than that which separates us, it makes it easier to treat others well. Like the love we feel for our families and friends, the care we show in our communities, the hope we have for future generations. We can choose understanding and patience even when our opinions differ. And if we do that, we may be able to live alongside one another with respect, kindness and peace within differences.

In no way does this mean we shouldn't stand up for what we believe in, and work with our voices and votes to propel those causes forward. But don't you think we can do all of those things with respect, kindness, patience, understanding, peace and love? I do. (Resist the "well, they don't" here too. Like I tell my kids, you are the only one responsible for your behavior. Don't let someone else bring out the worst in you.)

So if we all did that, if we tried not to let the world change how we treat others, wouldn't it be a nicer world to live in? Just a thought.

Love you all...truly I do.

Peace be with you.

{J}

Photo credit: Will O.-Unsplash
Holly and Jenn

Parents, I Stand With You.


Friends, many of us have recently taken our kids to college and LEFT THEM THERE! I've read lots of blogs and taken the advice of some very wise women who've charted this path before my time, but I still wasn't fully prepared for what it would feel like.

For those of you still reeling a bit, I'm with you. For those of you yet to experience this normal, healthy progression in life, here are some things you should know:

  1. When you pack up your child's room, you will discover that there is way too much crap. This is not the best time to go through every cubby and drawer and keepsake box. You do not have the emotional stamina to endure a walk down memory lane as you are sending a piece of your heart away. Resist the urge. You'll be wrecked soon enough.
  2. When you unpack them in their dorm or apartment on campus, there are two main objectives. First, you want them to feel as comfortable as possible, so you wash everything in your family detergent, you fill their mini-fridge with favorites from home, you help them set up their room for function and familiarity, because that will all help with the transition. Second, you want to make sure they survive the night so you take the campus map and highlight the health center and emergency numbers and all the various places where they can find food and water. And maybe you have a little refresher course on the buddy-system and stranger-danger.
  3. When you tour the campus, every corner, every hedge, every narrow passageway feels like it could be a potential crime scene where your child is the victim. Then you're really glad you got the two-pack of pepper spray, and you might suggest she looks for a self-defense class, just in case. (Maybe this is just with girls??)
  4. When you see your college student interact with her RA, his roommates, her fellow students, the dining-hall-check-in-lady, you are impressed and proud and a little baffled that you had something to do with that. The confidence, the friendliness, the spirit they possess...WOW! Then you feel a tad bit better about them managing things on their own.
  5. When you say good-bye and hug her for the last time, it's gut-wrenching, soul-crushing, heart-breakingly sad.
  6. When you walk through the airport with big fat tears running down your face, most people will avoid eye contact. But some will inquire kindly and listen to your story and say they understand because they've been there. Maybe you'll feel momentarily better - part of a tribe of parents who have survived this unnatural, awful parting. But when you leave the nice, strong, reassuring strangers to board your plane, you'll find that the tears were not done with you.
  7. When you get home, even though their room is still cluttered and messy and you can sense their presence and know they'll be back soon, the house feels weird. Off. Empty. Lonely. And oh-so-wrong.
  8. When you settle into bed that first night, you may request a proof-of-life photo. At first she won't know what that is. But then she'll think you're funny. You weren't being funny.
  9. When you see your other kids miss their sibling, your heart breaks a little more.
  10. When you see your spouse pause at the door to her empty room, that just about takes you down.
  11. When you talk to other moms, you realize that everyone's experience is a little different. None is more right or wrong, weak or strong. Just different. And there's comfort in those conversations with your sisters-in-life.
  12. When you talk to other dads, you realize that men are really good at compartmentalizing. And maybe, for like a second, you wish you were a man. 
  13. When you get that first text, you are totally cool and love how fun texting your grown-up-child-friend is. And then you transfer some money just because you're so happy.
  14. When you get that first call, you take it more seriously. It feels like every word has to be perfect because for the first time in their life, they can control the frequency of contact and the conversation. And more than anything, you really want them to WANT to call home.
  15. When you get the first FaceTime call, you notice your adult-child looks different. Like they grew a little overnight. And you realize how much you missed seeing them and how much their expressions reveal about their time away. The way her eyes light up when she's excited. The way his smile stretches all the way to his eyes. The way her laugh crosses miles to warm your soul. The way his voice tells you exactly how he's feeling. You also realize that they really are fine, even if they're not quite sure yet.
  16. When you hang up, you wonder if she knows how much you miss her. Did you tell her? Then you wonder if you'll make her sad if you say it too much, either because she feels the exact same way. Or worse (better maybe?), she doesn't. 
  17. When you talk the next time, you'll listen more, you'll take her lead, you'll let him share. It's the job now: ADAPTING. And you'll re-engineer your role as parent, until like Goldilocks, her favorite bedtime story when she was five, you get it just right.  
  18. When you adjust to the new rhythm in the house, in your day, in your week; when you sleep through the night without waking up in a panic at 3 a.m.; when you can finally do the laundry she left behind, you feel a little bit like a superhero who truly can endure anything. Because you just did probably one of the hardest things that parents are tasked to do in life: love them good and let them fly. 
Stay strong parents-of-college-kids. We're all going to be fine.

{J} 

Photo cred: Tim Gouw, Unsplash
Holly and Jenn

Summer Is...



Good vibes only.
Toes buried deep in the cool sand.
Long, lingering walks anywhere.
Adventure around every corner.
Vacations, staycations, leisurely days at home.
Family time.
No routine. 
Saying YES more.
Bike rides, beach days, bonfires, BBQs.
Healthy, yummy salads.
Followed by froyo or ice cream or gelato.
Books to fall in love with.
Movie theater visits, extra popcorn.
Netflix binge-watching with your girl before she moves to college.
Quiet mornings and a cup of tea while the kids sleep in.
Long nights playing your favorite music.
Cold drinks with the best of friends.
Less social media, more phone calls.
Mindfulness.
Making memories.
Life is sweet, in the summer.
Holly and Jenn

Godspeed, Graduates!


These are our babies. Our first borns. Our hearts.
Today, they graduate from high school. 
Today, they close the chapter of their youth and prepare for the next great adventure.
Today, they bask in their determination, their passion, their success. 
Today, they claim ownership of their wild dreams, their lofty goals, their story. 
Today, they celebrate. Today, we celebrate.
Congratulations Jake and Bella. We are so proud of you!
We'll be front and center for the next chapter, cheering you on and supporting you every step.
You got this!!
Godspeed!
Holly and Jenn

Go Boldly Into The Feelings, Parents...


I missed Senior Awards last night. Scrolling through social media this morning was a bad idea. You know how they - the wise people of FB - say that we shouldn't compare, we should CONNECT through social media? Well, that's all nice and dandy until you miss a milestone and then feel the harsh pangs of guilt while scrolling through everyone else's pictures. (Disclaimer: I'm a little emotional about ALL the things. Hoping to process here. Writing = Therapy.)

Sorry...I digress...last night was Senior Awards night and I couldn't make it. My husband was obviously there but he couldn't stay the whole time since he had to take care of other children and a bed-ridden wife. But he was there for her special moment. He assured me that I shouldn't feel guilty and that I shouldn't be sad because I've been to ALL THE THINGS. Nonetheless, sad, sappy, sick girl remained.

Here's the thing, well, one of the things. I still can't entirely wrap my head around the fact that my first born, my little girl - once lover of all things pink, watcher of Bear and the Big Blue House (I absolutely ADORED the singing moon Luna!), consumer of salami and cheese like a true Italian, singer of Sara Hickman, reader of Angelina Ballerina, and NOW, lover of all things bohemian, watcher of too much Netflix, consumer of mass quantities of Starbucks, singer of country music, lover of Jesus and HTYM, but STILL my baby - is finishing high school. How did that happen?

I don't know about you, but lately, I turn into a bucket of tears just folding her laundry, or walking down the street (she used to stop and crunch every.single.crunchy.leaf.), or hearing her voice mail memo when she doesn't pick up. In his defense, Michael has been making LOTS of space for my emotions and he's been very sensitive. So last night, I know he was trying to make me feel better when he gently pointed out that, due to my PITA vertigo, I looked a tad bit like a heroin addict and would likely embarrass our daughter if I showed up to awards, walking like a zombie+looking like a junkie. In truth, I haven't even been able to walk to the bathroom without nearly falling over so he was right. It was better if I just didn't.

But I couldn't stop thinking about the moment when our daughter, our about-to-fly-the-coop daughter, had her name called and I didn't hear it. Walked up to the stage and I didn't cheer for her. Smiled full of pride and I didn't capture it. (Torture...I'm good at torturing myself.) I really wanted to do all of those things. But I couldn't. And I was still connected to the moment - the LAST of all awards ceremonies - emotionally. And that's my issue.

What it comes down to is that I missed out on a moment. A moment that mattered to me, that I wanted to store for all eternity in my memory, along with all of the other important moments. Because they are fleeting these days. And even though sometimes she's an emotional, snarky, impatient, eye-rolling teenager, even as she practices her independence and it breaks my heart a little, I know I don't have many more milestones that I get to witness first-hand, front-row, camera-clicking, heart-swelled, knowing that I had some small part in getting her there. Because soon, there will be so many important moments that she'll be experiencing all on her own, that I won't even know about until she shares them with me. From a distance. As it's meant to be.

Moms and dads with kids leaving for college, it's okay for us to feel the sorrow for the future moments we're about to miss. The important thing is that we don't forget to embrace all the RIGHT NOW moments. Let's soak in the celebration, be present in the prepping, and see them, memorize their features and squeeze them tight every chance we get. These are the memories that we will treasure when the house feels empty, the texts come less often, and our babies bravely chart their own paths. Even though they won't see us, we'll be praying for them and cheering them on through it all.

Go boldly into the emotions friends, know you're not alone. Come over...maybe some vodka+LaCroix will help, (when the spinning stops). I'll hold your hand as you tell me all the things your dear one has accomplished and we'll learn how to navigate this new stage together.

Sending love and strength from my couch.

Jenn

By the way, when Bella got home last night, I climbed out of my bed and into hers and told her how sad I was that I missed the event. I told her that she is so so LOVED, even though I might've been the only parent in all of Tesoro that didn't make it. And finally, I told her that I was so, SO proud of her. Then I gave her a great big hug. She hugged me back, told me she understood and said that I really shouldn't leave the house looking the way I did..."Zombie Mom". We laughed, and I'm going to hold onto the humor instead of what I missed. Thank you writing-therapy!!

Holly and Jenn

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

The run-down of the time my son tried to have a rave in the desert for his 18th birthday


Jakepalooza

Burning Jake

Jakearoo

Jakechella

The play on words (and epic concert venues) went on and on. The flyer was sent to a manageable list of friends. The plan was in place. Camping in Joshua Tree. A bonfire of old Christmas trees. And lots of music. Because that is what Jake is all about. His music. This kid dreams BIG.

So when it turned into 75 kids wanting to caravan out to the desert on a cold winter weekend in January, his father and I raised our eyebrows (and our voices). "WHAT?!?? Are you INSANE?! That's not happening." He couldn't for the life of him wrap his head around why we were putting the kibosh on his plans.

"We're EIGHTEEN!"

Yes my darling son you have reached a milestone. Quicker than I could have anticipated. Sometimes I still see the little three year old swinging his bat with all his might in our back yard. The one who was born to swim and whose bright blue eyes lit up at hearing the name Santa. Now I see a man standing in my kitchen who makes protein shakes and runs his own business. ALL.GROWN.UP. Except for the parts where you aren't. NOT.QUITE.YET. You still depend on dear old mom and dad for enough things that adulting is something that you are still practicing. Our job is to let you go little by little until your capacity for good judgement and responsible decision making ripens just a TAD more. So no.

"NOTHING is going to happen! You always think the worst!"

Again, you are correct! My mama brain can conjure up things that haven't ever happened to anyone, but it's possible that an earthquake could split the sand beneath your tent and drag you down into the depths of the Earth. Or maybe not. But you really aren't prepared to deal with a scenario like that. Or many of the other very real and possible scenarios that could happen in the middle of nowhere with 75 teenagers. It was brought to my attention that many of the girls that had planned on joining the group had NEVER been camping before. I suggest that maybe a weekend on a dry lake bed in 30 degree temps with no running water or toilets may not be the first camping experience they would hope for? Just a thought. But even if you're just sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows and singing kum-bah-yah, with that many people, chances go WAY up that something bad will occur. So still no.

"When will you TRUST me?"

Oh my. I could trust you more than I've ever trusted anyone in my life and this would still be a bad idea. With maturity comes trust (see above). Social media has taught me many things and one of them is how much we as parents CANNOT blindly trust what you, our teens, are doing. Engaging in activities on "the down low" and with utmost secrecy is almost like a badge of honor for your age group. Secret accounts, secret apps to hide pictures, etc. Smartphones and Snapchat encourage secretive behaviors that often lead to poor choices and even worse consequences. I know what happens in our house. I have no idea what the other 74 kids may be thinking and I don't trust that either. So again, no.

"Can't we COMPROMISE?"

Actually yes. I am completely willing to negotiate terms with you as a budding adult. I will lay out my expectations of you and you can overlay your hopes and wishes and we will see if we can come to a conclusion both of us can live with. This is a great life lesson for that adulting thing I mentioned earlier. You have to know my precious boy that the way things will work out will not always be what you envisioned or even what you really wanted. Sometimes you will be blessed beyond belief and have the desires of your heart. Other times (most other times) you will have to give and take and sometimes just concede because it's the right thing to do. Do it with grace and your heart will be full. I promise.

P.S. After days of back and forth, we did reach a mutually agreeable compromise. 25 kids, 1 wary but always willing dad, 15 fire ready Christmas trees, and 2 large speakers made for a very memorable (and safer) 18th birthday. The picture speaks for itself. I hear plans are already in the works for a repeat next year. #BurningJake2019


Holly and Jenn

She Rested Her Head on My Shoulder and I Didn't Dare Move


She rested her head on my shoulder and I didn't dare move. As we watched the waves roll in, I did everything in my power not to upset the moment. Because it was a moment of joy, as my almost-18-year-old daughter closed the distance that had lately grown between us. It was a moment of hope, that maybe she still found comfort and security there, upon the shoulder that she'd used as a resting place so often in the early years.

She rested her head on my shoulder and I didn't dare move. As the beauty of God's great ocean reminded me of how fleeting this life on earth is, I did everything in my power not to forget that one special moment. Because lately, I've been distracted. Because lately, I've lost focus of the important things. Because lately, it's easier to react to the loudest noise rather than seek out the holy silence.

She rested her head on my shoulder and I didn't dare move. As the the sun settled on the horizon, I did everything in my power not to weep. Because just as the light faded, I've felt my moments with her fading too. She'll be out on her own in less than a year. And lately, I've felt the loss of my first baby with her wispy blond curls and determination. I miss the little girl in pink lace who came equipped with equal parts reliance and independence. And I wish I had more time with the young lady who, this year, seemed to magically experience more growth and grace and enlightenment than could be measured, all to prepare her for now.

The pride swelled in my heart with every thought of our moments gone too soon, and the pain hitched in my heart with every reminder that she will be too. So I held back the tears and anchored into that moment when she rested her head on my shoulder and I didn't dare move.

{J}
Holly and Jenn

Another #ONEWORD because TWO of us write this blog even though you may not have known that...

Sometimes goodbye is a second chance..

Oh blogging world! It has been TOO LONG! My wonderful, talented and patient friend and writing partner has taken up my slack for the past year few months and graciously allowed my name to still appear on these pages, for which I will be forever grateful. Sometimes it just takes awhile to get one's ducks in a row, and although some of mine continue to waddle off, I feel that most of them are finally staying put. One of which is this crazy writing dream that we jumped into with full faith years ago and continue to pursue in spite of set-backs and heartbreak and all the other crazy feels. Moving forward...

In revealing my #ONEWORD for 2018 I first have to share that it was really HARD to narrow down my list. I thought of HEALTH which was my 2016 choice but is still just as important this year and probably will be a focus of mine for years to come (being over 45 40 now). INTENTIONAL was another choice a few years ago and seems to be a constant thought that niggles at the back of my brain with my children growing into adults before my very eyes. My oldest will graduate this year. My youngest son will get his permit and my daughter will start middle school (which terrifies me in other ways but that's another post). I have no babies anymore!

This year is the year of many lasts. I can't think about them without tearing up. Making time with each of them more intentional has been a goal since school started. There have been some hurdles. If I could destroy all cell phones and social media it would be much easier to be intentional with people (aka TEENAGERS) who are addicted to seeing what everyone else is doing and saying and tweeting and snapping and posting at all times, all day. Ugh. ENFORCING is another word for another post (and EXHAUSTED).

An interesting thing that I've noticed more and more about myself is I tend to put all the chores, jobs, lists and other "need-to" (and BORING according to my daughter) things above and before binging Netflix, dance party, and all the other FUN. If there are dirty dishes in the sink its very hard for me to "not see them". It leaves me feeling like a task master. It has really limited the amount of good feelings that I have in my home and with my family when we are all together just hanging out. I'm thinking of what's on everyone's chore list and they are regretting that they are home or trying to avoid eye contact so I don't ask them to clean the toilet. It's no bueno. My MOOD then spreads through the house until no one is happy or joyful. Boo.

So my #ONEWORD for 2018 is JOY. I need to see the JOY in all the events that will be taking place over the next year, even when my heart feels sad or the dishwasher needs to be unloaded. The feelings will run the gamut I know. I will need to have GRACE for myself and those around me and choose JOY first. One of my favorite authors said this:

“I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don't want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift.” 
― Shauna NiequistCold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life


That. Right there.  That's what my 2018 is going to INTENTIONALLY be about. I want to be glad of my life in spite of the mundane daily sameness and live it to the fullest with those I love around me. ALL the feelings. ALL the words. ALL the things. JOY. It's time.

~Holly
Holly and Jenn

New Blog, New Word


Happy New Year, friends!! How can we already be in 2018? Can someone answer that question for me? When I was young, I distinctly remember old people often said, "Slow down and enjoy your youth. It's gone before you know it." But I really didn't think those old people had a clue so obviously, I ignored them and turned up Wham on my walkman.

But guess what? I'm that old person now, and I repeat those words so often my kids are sure I'm losing my memory. But really, I think it's more of a wish, that in some way, hindsight and perspective might just form a bridge so I may travel back in time and respect my elders. I'm told time-travel is unlikely though, so instead, I'll keep telling my teens to slow down and enjoy. They think I'm senile wise. They love to hear me talk.

Sorry. Let me get back on track. So in 2017, my #ONEWORD was optimism and my goal was to infuse joy in my tiny corner of the world. I attempted to teach my children how to find the truth and happiness and positivity amidst the judges and criticizers and trolls surrounding them. I think we did a pretty good job but I'm rolling over my 2017 word and adding it to the agenda this year. We should really make a habit of optimism.

In 2018, my #ONEWORD actually has two unique meanings, both of which I'll attempt to employ this year. First, MUSE: An instance or period of reflection. With a year of transitions ahead - mainly, my girl going to college and leaving me with all the stinky boys - I really think the best way for me to cope is for me to be completely aware of ALL THE FEELINGS that are sure to flood in. And the only way to be truly aware is to reflect, discern and then process, preferably without crawling into a hole, or violently lashing out, or relying too heavily on vodka and Netflix. It's called balance, 2016's #ONEWORD, in fact. This definition of MUSE has a lot packed into it. Even typing all those expectations out kinda makes me want to take a nap. But I'm going to try. That's my first step.

Maybe I'll have a bit more measurable success with the second meaning of MUSE: a source of inspiration; a guiding genius. This definition most definitely requires me to get my ass back in the seat. (My writerly friends will get the reference.) It's time to kick up the writing again. Not just blog posts and articles, but THE BOOK.

Last year, when Holly and I got swept up in a vortex of political correctness and controversy and bad timing, the wind was taken right out of our sails. Actually, our ship crashed right into a massive wall of rock. We were crushed. And it's taken some time to remember the origins of our journey. Our purpose. We spent some time ashore, we've rounded up the good lumber and assembled an even better, sturdier ship, and we're ready to take to the waters again. For this journey, we will trust our MUSE, and keep our eyes on the horizon.

So MUSE will be my guide and my goal. I look forward to 2018 with equal parts excitement and pause, but filled to the brim with gratitude. I hope you have found that #ONEWORD that helps you navigate the exciting year ahead. Maybe a word that will stretch you or anchor you. Please share. We'd love to cheer you on along the way.

Wishing you lots of love, a solid tribe and a year overflowing with blessings great and small.

Jenn

By the way, if you don't listen to MUSE (amazing artists), please fix that. Some songs to download and enjoy: Madness, Uprising, Starlight, Panic Station, Undisclosed Desires, New Born. You're welcome.
Holly and Jenn

Do We Dare To Podcast?


Do we dare take on the challenge of podcasting? Yes...we dare.

Until we square away the content and technical details, enjoy one of our absolute favorite writing podcasts - Writership. They provide editing tips, inspirational missions and writing tips. Hundreds of episodes are available, really, hundreds.

Listen to OUR first pages  critiqued here.

Until next time, happy dreaming, happy writing.
Holly and Jenn

So Many Feelings

One of my favorite parts about taking Christmas down is going through all the cards one more time before wrapping them up for storage. Then, when I put them away, I go through one stack from a previous year. This year, with Bella on the verge of leaving for college, I won’t lie, I was a bit of a mess. So many cards from so many beautiful families that we’ve done life with. I’m feeling overwhelming gratitude for this community and I cherish the life we’ve been blessed with.

And see the Beacon Point Climbing Tree ornament in the picture? When a huge branch was cut from the tree at the end of our street - the tree that ALL the neighborhood kids grew up climbing - our sweet neighbor made these so we’d always have a piece of that priceless memory. (I’m bawling!! Aren’t you bawling?!?!)

So as we put a wrap on the crazy, busy, hectic, happy, beautiful and bountiful holiday season, I hope you can find a way to ignore the annoying mess and soak up the fleeting memories. Because all too soon, we tie them up with a ribbon and pack them away. ❤️

#feelingdeeplytoday #ALLtheemotions #letscommittolesscomplaining #lifeisreallygood #godbless2018

{J}



Holly and Jenn