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.


(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


Burning Jake



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.


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 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.

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 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.


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