Tuesday, April 22, 2014

We're Baaaccckkkk!

Hi all,

Holly and I have missed our regular visits to this place of inspiration. We have been swamped with our other writing and life projects. Isn't that always the way it goes? You have to give up the FUN stuff to make sure all the other stuff fits in the calendar? I know you can relate.

Anyway, since many of you have asked, I wanted to share some of the things that have been keeping us occupied elsewhere:

We have completed our structural edit of Power of 7 and are finishing up a second round of content editing as we speak. I'm sure it sounds treacherous but it's more like a jigsaw puzzle that reveals more magic and possibility with every pass through.

We have completed the official P7 synopsis. Now this IS treacherous work! We are glad to have that behind us. (It's used for marketing and querying and searching for our "DreamAgent.")

We have upped our OC Register writing to every week! And our fabulous editor Kelli has acquired six more papers so our distribution has expanded...we LOVE that!!!

We have read a combined 27 books, mostly in our genre or close to it. It's research people! If you’ve read anything great lately, please let us know!

We have partnered with some incredible writers on projects and blog ideas and outreach. (More to come soon!)

Although we've been busy since February, we find ourselves feeling a little lost without all of you...the people we do LIFE with, the people who keep supporting our writing quest and cheering us on. So we've got a long list of blog ideas and articles and various rantings just for you!

Thanks for sharing your moments with us!

{J&H}

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Measles are Coming! The Measles are Coming!

There's a measles outbreak in Orange County. Break out the masks, lock away your children and batten down the hatches! In other words...PANIC!

Okay, I have to admit, when I got the letter from our elementary school illusively stating that someone with measles had been there, two things ran through my mind. One: "Shouldn't they close the school?" And two: "What's the real likelihood my kids will contract measles?"

Now, for those of you who know me, you know that I can certainly worry with the best of them. In fact, I often do that first-WORRY, then I investigate and look for sound reasoning second. This order of emotional response eventually makes way for rational thinking that reminds me that everything's okay. But it's definitely a process. My friend Glennon Doyle Melton at momastery.com calls it "putting on perspectacles" (perspective-spectacles). She is so right!

Back to the measles outbreak...once the email blast made its way through Ladera, the moms got busy, myself included. We're really good at that. As a self-professed, well-intentioned mama bear, I may even argue that we believe it's our calling, our responsibility, to share information. If that information happens to bring with it a little fear, or even some community hysteria, so be it. We would be negligent to keep the facts to ourselves, right?

But this time, along with the information exchange came some pretty harsh finger-pointing, particularly at the parents who have chosen not to immunize their children. I completely understand the urge to find out who's responsible, to find the origin of an outbreak; the cause for our worry, to have more information in order to protect ourselves, but blame isn't productive people. It separates us from that which connects us in the first place: our common parental motivation to do what's best.

Part of living in a close-knit community and espousing the "it-takes-a-village" approach to raising children, brings with it a deep and unavoidable caring about others: other parents who hurt when they can't take away their babies' pain, and children who may suffer from the high fever, miserable rash and other symptoms that the measles virus is notorious for. We worry about members of our community - the immunocompromised, the elderly, the yet-to-be-fully-immune (for whatever reason), and anyone else who may be exposed to such a contagious disease. But the worry is no excuse for being unkind.

The reason parents panic over things like measles, the stomach flu, lice, and other contagious childhood afflictions, is because we're hard-wired to protect. The fear comes from the heart...the caring, feeling heart. But throughout life, parents need other parents. When we're vulnerable and scared, we need each other for strength and perspective. And as we navigate all the different, "do-what's-best" waters, let's remember one thing: we are all in the same boat. Grab an oar and let's keep moving forward.

{J}

By the way, this picture is Logan at one. Isn't he cute? And no, he didn't have measles, just a good case of roseola. I'm bringing this one out for his first girlfriend. #funrashfromthepast

(Article posted in the O.C. Register on 3/28/14)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Humble Pie on PI Day!

It appears that the Golden Rule doesn't apply to social media. We cast stones over the internet and pass judgement of others in ways we wouldn't if we had to see the hurt in their eyes when the mud was slung. Amidst the e-harshness, I rarely see apologies. I almost never see someone write "I was wrong," or "I'm sorry I hurt you," online. Have we forgotten how powerful our words are?

A few weeks ago, my son came home from school and he wasn't himself. He was quiet while he did his homework, he wasn't in the mood for playing in the neighborhood and he was somber at dinnertime. But as we got ready for bed, (BIG things are always revealed at bedtime) it happened.

"Mom, something really bad happened today." His wide eyes filled with tears.

"It's okay...we'll work it out. What happened?"

His story unfolded slowly. Each detail he shared pained him. We had to take a couple breaks to reign in the emotions just to get through it. In the end, it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd feared, but to him, it was devastating and that's what mattered. His experience is ALL that mattered.

Here's what happened: After school while walking past the playground, he'd made a comment to a friend about a man sitting on the swings, waiting for his own child. The comment wasn't kind and the man heard it. He was hurt...my son saw it in his eyes.

"I don't know why I said it. I feel sooooo bad! I wish I could take it back..."

I was disappointed in his choice and I told him so, but my disappointment was no match to his. He was literally sick over the encounter. Among the review of various applicable lessons, I told him that he needed to remember this situation - especially how it made everyone feel badly, including him - and then he had to promise not to do it again.

And then we talked about forgiveness, from God and from himself, and about how some hurts can be made better. While I knew he might not feel comfortable apologizing to the stranger, I wanted him to consider how saying sorry would feel. I wanted him to make the connection between accountability and reconciliation and peace of mind. It seemed like just having the option made him feel better.

The following day after school, my son greeted me with a great big smile. It was the kind of smile that told me that the previous day's burden was gone...that he had owned it and he had fixed it.

"Mom...I did it! I told the man I was sorry about what I said yesterday and he forgave me. He smiled at me. I feel so much better!!"

I couldn't be more proud! He explained his thought process from the night before: if he didn't apologize, whenever he saw the man at school he would feel bad, like he hurt the man all over again. But if he said sorry and made amends, he wouldn't have to feel that way. They would both feel better.

I was so grateful that he got it. He knew that his regret came from hurting someone else. He knew that in seeking forgiveness, the pain he caused the man and the resulting shame that he felt, would be lifted. For him, it was a simple demonstration of cause and effect. And he was empowered.

The ripple effect is real, people. This is simple proof. Our actions, our WORDS - online and in person - make a difference. Whether it's truth or exaggeration, praise or criticism, love or hate. We are responsible for the things we do and say and the way those actions and words make others feel. When we release negativity into the world, it travels much farther than we can ever know. And the same goes for POSITIVITY, except the resulting ripple is much better for us all.

So follow the lead of a brave young boy and remember the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Be considerate. Be kind. And don't forget, when you mess up, OWN it, then make amends.

{J}

(Adapted article published in O.C. Register: March 14, 2014.)

Friday, February 28, 2014

Quit With The Condemnation

(Expanded version of O.C. Register article-2/28/14)

"You should know better" with its unspoken "shame on you" is a damaging phrase. I have found that parents of teens overuse this pointed remark, myself included. This is the problem: teens are children in almost full-grown bodies. That's confusing. They are as tall as us, they borrow our clothes, their voices sound mature, and if you took a saw to their skulls, you would find their brains are practically the same size as ours. But we need to be careful not to equate size with knowledge. Studies show that the brain of an adolescent is still under construction.

The brain, the complex organ responsible for "knowing better," goes through quite a bit of growth during the teen years. Before a person enters their twenties, the parts of the brain involved in managing impulsive and emotional responses are underdeveloped. Add to that the heightened reproductive and stress hormones coursing through their bodies and you will find an unpredictable, self-critical, roller-coaster-of-a-teen. Should we really be making them feel worse for their medically-proven inability to know better?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we should just throw up our hands and leave them to their own devices. We must parent on: reminding, lecturing, spelling-it-out, teaching. That's our job. But don't be surprised, or overly critical, when what seems so obvious to you is completely shocking to them. Yes, we have spent YEARS repeating the same lessons. NO, the rules haven't changed much. But our competition is great. Teens are consumed by things of their world: a comment they heard at school; a picture on Instagram; and the overwhelming feeling that they might laugh/cry/scream/throw up/hit something, every day. It's hard on them and on us. I know...I live with one. But the job of a parent doesn't end until their brains are fully developed, apparently when they are safely in their twenties.

As parents, we need to lay off the shame and regularly remind our kids that what they're going through is totally NORMAL. They need our compassion, love, guidance, support, patience and protection. We need to check our expectations and help them navigate this overwhelming and confusing time. When we use those four condemning words tainted with the tone of disappointment, we stoke their self-doubt and communicate to them that they aren't intelligent. When we scold them for lack of control over their impulses (which, again, have been proven to be uncontrollable), we ignite their defensiveness instead of aiding their understanding. When we mistakingly expect our adult-sized children to act with the discretion and wisdom of an adult, we set them up for failure.

So, the more we know and understand the abilities and vulnerabilities of our teens, the better equipped we are to safeguard this critical stage in their development and in turn, their life-long mental health. If we are their advocates, their support system and their guides, they will come out of it with their hearts whole and their sensibilities intact. And don't we owe that to them, especially since we know better?

{J}

You can find more cool info about the teen brain at www.appsych.mrduez.com.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love Evolution

(Published 2/14/14: OC Register-Ladera Post)

When you're a child, Valentine's Day means decorating a shoebox to collect fun notes and cards and sweet treats from your classmates. There may even be a lunch exchange or a party. And whether you like all of your classmates, you'll bring enough Valentines to share with everyone in your class. It's an "equal opportunity" holiday.

When you're a teenager, Valentine's Day has a little more at stake. The girls hope they get some sort of acknowledgement from the boy they like and the boys just hope that the girl likes them back. The communication about "the liking" is typically carried out by the friends of the supposed "likees." It's a "socially conscious" holiday.

When you're a young adult, Valentine's Day is about over-analyzing the level of investment of your first serious mate. Your expectations are high and the pressure's on. Your gift needs to represent exactly how you feel for him or her without overshooting or underestimating, either of which could be deadly. It's a "make it or break it" holiday.

When you're a newlywed, Valentine's Day is about indulgence. Fancy dinners, elaborate gifts, extensive foreplay and lingering passion. You and your spouse are completely into each other and demonstrating your undying love is paramount. If it's Facebook worthy, even better...you'll score major bonus points. It's a "more is better" holiday.

When you're a parent to babies or young children, Valentine's Day is about falling deeper in love. You never imagined your spouse could become more attractive but seeing them love your little ones--changing a diaper, singing a lullaby, kissing a boo-boo, telling a bedtime story--fertilizes that deep-rooted emotion you have for the person you've chosen as your partner in all things. It's a "count-your-blessings" holiday.

When you're a parent to tweens and teens, Valentine's Day is about remembering the reason you fell in love in the first place. Life is less about your marriage and more about your all-consuming, completely exhausting, totally thankless job of parenthood. Even though you're tired and the newlywed luster has faded while the business of life has settled in, it's more important than ever to sincerely demonstrate what a loving relationship looks like. Your children are watching and they need to see that the terms "unconditional" and "everlasting" are attainable and worthy of the work. It's a "put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is" holiday.

When you're an empty-nester, Valentine's Day is about a more refined level of indulgence than during your newlywed bliss. You enjoy life at a slower pace and have discovered a true understanding of what your lover wants and needs. On a daily basis, you act out your vows with more intention and promise than ever before. It's a "slow and steady" holiday.

So on this Valentine's Day, please take the opportunity to surround yourself with the people you care about, sharing your love and fostering relationships that will last throughout all the seasons of your life. In fact, the same goes for the other 364 days of the year. After all, there is no limit to love. Valentine's Day really should be a year-round holiday.

{J}

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Are You Ready For This?

So remember a few posts ago when we told you that we were almost done with our book and ready to find an agent? Well, we are back from the first step in that process: a whirlwind weekend at the San Diego State University Writers' Conference. It was AMAZING! An awesome collection of talent, inspiration, professionals, tips and tools. We learned more than we could have imagined and have retained most of it (there was A LOT). For the stuff that overflowed out of our filled-to-the-brim brains, we have our notes...pages of them!

We arrived on Friday with great excitement and hungry for the experience of our first conference. We didn't know what to expect and our "best case" scenario was that we would get good feedback from the agents that were reviewing our work. Let's just say that it FAR EXCEEDED our expectations! Most of the time I think we both felt as if we were floating around (on cloud 9...oops I used a cliché!) We were affirmed and encouraged to the point that we kept waiting for someone to say, "Oh, we were just kidding!" But that NEVER HAPPENED! What did happen was a weekend full of what we LOVE to do and great people that turned our burning passion into a roaring bonfire! We CANNOT WAIT to get started on making our finished first draft the best that it can be. So you locals out there, when you see us at CP with our noses in our computers, if we don't look up and say "Hi," it isn't you, we are just hard at work and on a deadline and only have so much time away from the kids!

If you have an interest in what a writers' conference looks like, here's a snapshot of our weekend:

ONE "Conference Choice Award" (see above)

TWO networking mixers (we met so many great writers, agents and editors!)

THREE "Ask the Agent" panels (i.e., the pages of notes...)

FOUR advanced reading appointments with literary agents (pure gold people!)

FIVE workshops on writerly topics (again with the notes...fingers cramping and all)

SIX "New Adult" genre writer friends that we met (forming a new writing group as we write this!)

SEVEN hours of sleep (each night) in a fabulous house with gorgeous views, water and chocolate placed lovingly by our beds, and TIME to discuss our day without interruption

EIGHT outfits each, just to cover all our bases

NINE dollars for each "Happy Hour" cocktail...we sipped them slowly as we networked

TEN is the rating we give this FABULOUS conference!

We will see you again SDSUWC and we can't wait!

{J&H}

Monday, January 20, 2014

Never Fear a Good Challenge

VS.

This cookie photo courtesy of Cinnamon Productions, Ladera Ranch...world's best bakery and writing spot.

(Article published in OC Register on Friday, January 17)

Happy New Year! Well, I guess so. I’m on a diet and it’s hard. Like many, I spent the period from early-October (when Halloween candy hit the shelves at a low cost) through January 1 (when greasy food hit the spot from the eve’s festivities), eating whatever and whenever I wanted. Most of that three month period of indulgence has landed around my waist and it’s time to reel it in.

This year, one of my dear friends inspired me to join her with a two-week healthy eating challenge. There’s a book, a Facebook page and a support group to make sure we are successful. I’m sure at the end of it, I'll be one of the success stories but right now, this is how I feel: HUNGRY.

Though I've cut my intake of calories, I’m really trying not to starve myself. Something that's become very clear to me is that my need for food is psychological and it’s causing a very physical reaction in my body: cravings, hunger pains, heightened sense of smell (I swear I can smell the cookies from Cinnamon Productions a mile away), and crankiness. My poor family. I’m safest to be around pretty much only when I’m sleeping. My kids have been fairly warned and are being as sweet as pie...so sweet I might take a bite.

In all seriousness, I’m told these symptoms are completely normal and will subside by week two or three, if I make it that far. When I complained about the diet to my mom recently, she asked why I felt compelled to suffer through it. That gave me pause to think. Why am I depriving myself? Why am I allowing the desire for what I can’t have affect my moods? Why do I need to adhere to the diet’s rigidity? (Love her...my protective mama!)

But then I asked myself, well, why not? I’m the one who got myself into this position: addicted to sugar and craving carbs, not to mention the extra pounds of padding I've added around the middle. I'm the one who's moody because I can't have what I want when I want it. I'm the one whose self-indulgence landed me here. So I really am the only one who can change my position and perspective, and that takes work.

I may not enjoy every step of the way and I may growl on occasion, but I will appreciate a healthier me when I get to the end of this challenge, and I'll be proud that I did something good for my body. Isn't that what every challenge is about: hard work, good results and a rewarding sense of accomplishment?

As you evaluate your plans for the rest of the year, don't shy away from the tougher jobs that take more of your effort to fulfill, for they are well worth the work. They humble us and help us grow. Whatever your challenge may be, stay the course, and don't forget to celebrate at the end of the race, preferably with something sweet. As for me, it'll be a CP chocolate chip muffin and a Diet Coke. I can't wait!

{J}