Sunday, February 21, 2016

Passion for Pinning, Anyone?

You guys, have you been on Pinterest lately? A couple weeks ago, I spent quite some time perusing Pinterest (I was sick, that's a valid excuse, right?) and oh-to-the-em-to-the-gee...PINTEREST IS AWESOME!! I am aware that this isn't breaking news, it's just that I had forgotten the mood-enhancing qualities of pretty pictures and happy memes. I'm truly SAD that my kids are out of elementary school and I don't have the need for creative crafts and holiday inspiration like I used to. But now I realize that nothing good can come of me neglecting the beauty and joy that exist on Pinterest.

So, if you haven't visited the wonderful world of everything pretty and inspiring, please do so very soon. Here are some of my favorite finds of my recent journey:

Don't you just HAVE to make these for St. Patrick's Day? And check out the blog, Three Kids and a Fish. Cathy's lovely.

Okay, and check out these winter outfits. I'm in love! And YES...it's still winter, friends. Even though it was 78 degrees today, I'm holding out hope that El Nino will deliver before the season's through. Because I really want to replicate THIS!

Speaking of the weather, we've been at the beach LOTS. San Clemente is one of our favorite local spots but look at all these other cool beaches across America. If you're planning your Spring Break or Summer vacations, maybe one of these will make it to your list.

And if you don't have time for travel because of your kids' sports schedules, you're not alone. But never underestimate the one sure way to escape without leaving the comfort of your coziest, fireside (or court-side) chair. I ADORE this book challenge!

So you see, Pinterest can sweeten up life, keep you warm on a cold, El Nino (they swear it's coming) day, motivate you to find your happy place, and inspire your literary side, all with a few clicks.

What are your favorite Pinterest finds? Do share.

{J}

Friday, January 22, 2016

2016...The Year of Equilibrium

Happy New Year, all! Wow...2016 is here already. The years just seem to slip on by, no matter what I do to slow things down. And with a sophomore on the verge of taking flight, it makes me a little sad. Scratch that. A LOT sad.

Joni Mitchell says it best in the song, "Carousel of Time."

"And the seasons, they go round and round, and the painted ponies go up and down. We're captives on the carousel of time."

Captives. Prisoners. Victims of time's great march. In 2016, it's my plan to challenge that theory and retain some influence over my carousel.

2015 gave us some of the best, new research on our culture of over-scheduling, over-stressing and overwhelming our teens. (Not to mention ourselves.) Doctors stood up and said, "Enough of the madness, parents!" Educators posed the questions, "How much of your child's well-being are you willing to sacrifice? How much of your relationship?" We learned about the rise in depression and anxiety disorders among our young and emerging adults. Stress, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer were more closely tied with lifestyle than ever before. And lifestyle is a CHOICE, is it not?

So can we make different choices?

Did you know that colleges all over the nation are reevaluating their admission standards and high school counselors are rethinking student education tracks? That means that brave parents everywhere are getting creative, challenging the means and methods by which to help their kids be, not just competitive, but successful. After all, those two things can look very different.

Can I let you in on a little secret? This is where we get to reclaim control, friends.

My #oneword for 2016 is EQUILIBRIUM. Defined, it means "a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced." And let's be honest, we hear how important balance is but people talk about it like once you achieve it, you're in the clear. Not so easy with all the moving parts of life. But I can make the choice to look at the "opposing forces" in every day and actively "balance" them out. And more importantly, I can teach my kids how to do that.

So as my daughter plans her final two years of high school and my sons look forward to their own plans, I'm going to do my damnedest to positively influence what we focus our time and energy on. Not just the school and the work and the responsible stuff, but the fun and the downtime and the spirit-fueling stuff.

Yes, AP and honors classes can be important as you're planning for college, but it's my responsibility to weigh the cost. And it's true that activities and sports can contribute to well-roundedness and physical/mental health, but it's my job to take a holistic approach to family scheduling, to consider our weekly time bank and leave enough for a buffer. In the end, the values I hold high, they will too, and I want my family to seek out, recognize and always strive for equilibrium.

So as you enter the new year, list of resolutions aside, I hope you find your #oneword. And more importantly, I hope that it acts as a constant beacon that guides you through the ups and downs of your carousel ride.

Happy New Year, friends!

{J}

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Spirit of Giving

The spirit of giving can be very powerful, especially when we include our children. Last weekend, our family delivered gifts to some families in need. Soccer balls and legos, blankets and shoes, gift cards for grocery stores and other essentials.

As we walked up to each house, our kids commented on how, on the outside, these families looked like they were well taken care of. The homes were adorned with lights and decorations, a car was parked in each driveway and it was easy to fall into a false sense of comfort that maybe things weren’t so bad for these families after all.

But everything changed the minute we were greeted by our first mama-in-need. We didn’t know her story - we didn’t need to - but we physically felt her relief as she squeezed her sweet baby girl and thanked us through tears. At the second home, it was a proud papa who hugged us and introduced us to all of his adorable sons, each wearing the brightest smiles I’ve ever seen. And as we walked back to our car, hands linked and feeling a mixture of happy and sad, each one of our kids put words to their realization that things can look okay and be far from it.

“Maybe someone’s sick and can’t work right now so they don’t have enough money.”

“Maybe they only have enough money to pay for the house and electricity and gas for the car but nothing else.”

“Maybe someone has a mental illness. Sometimes people can’t work when they’re sick like that even though they look okay on the outside.”

“Maybe they’re taking care of other family members and don’t have enough to go around.”

“Maybe they lost their jobs.”

Michael and I agreed that all of those were real possibilities and pointed out that sometimes things aren’t what they seem, that these kind strangers were truly missing something substantial, that we should never judge because, in life, we will have our own crosses to bear. After our good deed and some deep conversation, we had brunch and went to the beach, keeping close the awareness of all of our blessings.

And then, this happened…

Noah decided he wanted to donate all his legos to charity, not pass them down to family friends like we usually do because (his words) “our friends can all afford to buy their own legos and they’re probably getting lots for Christmas.”

Evidence of an impact. It doesn't get much better than that.

So as you enjoy your Christmas (or another) holiday, I hope you have a chance to be something for someone in need. Whether it's through charity, an intentional connection with a loved one, or just a hug, remember that each is an opportunity with the power to shape us. And if the kids can be involved, even better.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

{J}

Monday, December 7, 2015

Entitlement is a Choice

Parents, listen up. We can make a difference in the world and this is how: Don't let our kids fall into the entitlement trap. THEY are kids, and their brains are not fully developed so they really don't have control over their unreasonable expectations, epecially when so few of them ever have to wait for what they want/need. In fact, even their environment is fighting against us ALL the time. Instant access - typically via a mobile device - is conditioning them to be impatient.

I'm serious. Do your kids ever get crazy when someone doesn't text them back right away? The other day I was running errands and I left my phone off while in the store for all of fifteen minutes. This was what my daughter sent me:

are you almost home (notice lack of punctuation and capital letters)

where are you (12 seconds later)

hellllooooo!! (30 seconds later but hey, she's using puctuation here. There is hope!)

ARE YOU HOME YET (I should tell you now that SHE WAS HOME so asking if I was where she was indicates some break here, as do the shouty caps.)

I WANT A DONUT (Okay, this is new information and now I know she's hungry-crazy. Did I mention this is approximately 72 seconds after the first text?)

AND THE FRICKIN WIFI ISNT WORKING AND I CANT FINISH MY HOMEWORK WHERE ARE YOU!!!!!!!!!!! (Hungry, crazy and something isn't working. This is an emergency!)

When I finally saw the text fit, I simply responded: Just got these. On my way. No donuts. Make a smoothie and try unplugging modem.

A few minutes later my sweet child emerged: thx that worked YAY xo

If your children are more civilized than this, you don't have to read further...Facebook awaits.

So, pure panic when feedback isn't immediate...that's not good. Nastiness when something doesn't go their way...also NOT good. Parents standing by, or worse, perpetuating it...REALLY BAD. And we don't always do it on purpose. The other day, I sacrificed my morning tea because my son wanted to get to his friend's house as soon as humanly possible. He followed me around, pestering with his overflowing excitement, until he wore me down. And he wasn't being selfish, he was irresistibly sweet. But I chose to answer his immediate need instead of taking three minutes to make my tea and making him wait. So I allowed his needs to trump mine, even though neither of us thought about it at the time. In isolated incidents, it's ok, but if my default is constant catering, I'm losing the opportunity to teach my children the great importance of hearing NO.

And you know what? There's just not a lot of NO going on out there. I don't think we're consciously trying to ruin them by over-yesing them, but it seems that kids get more and more of what they want, when they want it. I'm not just talking things, they get us as their personal assistants and chauffeurs and short-order cooks. And they don't even pay us!

But we've put a spin on it, haven't we moms and dads? We're just "doing what we can for our kids," who are too busy with activities and school and friends and keeping up, they can't possibly do any of it for themselves. Right? I've done it. I've said it. I've waved the white flag of exhaustion with a sick sense of pride. If we're not all running around wearing UBER-BUSY like a badge of honor, we're not doing everything we can for them. If we're not sacrificing our sanity, our identities, ALL of our free time, then we aren't good parents. No one says it out loud but it's surely implied.

Listen, WE are the grown ups here and we need to bring back some perspective and balance into our homes, for everyone's sakes. That starts with choices. Sometimes hard choices. You might be afraid of being judged. But THIS IS OUR ULTIMAYPTE ASSIGNMENT, to prepare our kids for the real world. I think about this a lot with a sophomore, especially when she shows me her Pinterest pages for her fancy wedding, where she wants to travel and her future luxury beach house. Without shattering her dreams, I want her to know that the grown-up starter kit does not typically include a blog-worthy beach house. That things aren't always going to be easy. I want my kids to be prepared for hard work. And more than anything, I want them to have some of those experiences now.

And they need us to expose them to these life experiences, instead of making everything easy for them. When we say no to getting back in the car after two hours of carpool just to take them to see a friend, they learn how to compromise their wants for those of someone else, like a parent who desperately needs to NOT be in the car for ten minutes. When we say no, you can't go do that fun thing because you've been out doing fun things all weekend and you need to do some chores, we show them the necessity of balancing their obligations and learning important life skills, like laundry and work and budgeting time. When we ask our children what they could've done to better prepare for that test, project, game, etc., instead of telling them they deserve better, they learn that the world is filled with people who don't know them like we do and that their choices reveal their character.

Raising entitled children who don't know the meaning of "not now" or straight out NO, is a choice. Preparing them for successfully living in the real world, is a better one. The best thing we can do is give them the experiences to find growth through grunt work. To show them how to start at the bottom and EARN their accomplishments instead of being "gifted" the best, newest, most expensive. To let them falter a little and support them as they rebuild instead of constantly rescuing them, even if it was with the best intentions.

Hard work, I tell you. For them AND for us. But we can do hard things and the world will be a better place for it. Who's with me?

{J}

Friday, November 20, 2015

Guest Blog Post: Jami Gold

I am very excited to be featured on one of our favorite author's blogs. She's a master of all things writing and invited me to share a bit about our process. You can find the whole article here: http://jamigold.com/2015/11/7-tips-for-a-writing-partnership-guest-jennifer-hale/

7 Tips for a Successful Writing Partnership

Writing partners. Do you have one? Have you ever considered it? Sharing the work? Having a constant sounding board; an endless source of inspiration?

Or do you cringe at the idea of letting someone see inside the chaos of your creative brain? Well, sometimes, it’s really not up to you.

We’re Jenn and Holly. We’ve known each other since our high-schoolers were in kindergarten and we shared the job of room mom, way before we learned we were steered by a common muse.

Each of us spent many of our mommy years dreaming of the day when we could get the words on paper, writing ideas on Target receipts and scheming up character names with interesting pasts attached to them.

When One Thing Leads to Another…

I learned about Holly’s writing interests after a dinner party a few years ago. She had just quit her job to write. She belonged to a writing group. It was serious business. She wasn’t just thinking about it. She was actually doing it.

I told her that I’d always wanted to write, so she invited me to the next meeting. It was there, in Karen’s living room, surrounded by other serious writers, that I first considered my writing dream a real possibility.

The next year, Holly and I started a blog and began writing a regular newspaper column for the Orange County Register. We shared ideas and edited each other’s work for months. With all that collaboration, it seemed like the natural next step to co-author a book.

Co-Authorship Is a Serious Decision

As with any business venture—and writing a book is more business than most authors would like to admit—there are challenges. The crux of a writing partnership is the relationship, and when you mix in passionate opinions about fictional characters, it can get tricky.

Getting a traditional publishing deal (if that’s your goal), may also be tough. We’ve heard that some agents and editors don’t want to work with author pairs.

And don’t forget that a good book must have consistency of voice, pacing and style. Can two authors deliver that? YES!

7 Tips to Make a Writing Partnership Work

Holly and I have found that the benefits of collaboration far outweigh the challenges, truly. If you’ve ever considered such a match, here are seven powerful tips that have helped us along the way:

Tip #1: Have a Common Focus

I know it sounds like a given but it’s easy to get swept away in the excitement before ensuring that you have the same ideals.

These are the essentials:

genre,

major themes,

publishing goals (self, indie, traditional),

division of labor,

timelines, and

contingency plans.

If all those things align, your foundation is set. Details will work themselves out later. Sounds like pre-marital counseling, huh?

Tip #2: Don’t Be Afraid of Giving and Receiving Criticism

If you’re not practiced in either one of these, you have work to do before you’re ready to commit to an honest, reciprocal writing partnership. Communication is critical to staving off resentment. Talk about it all and have plans in place.

For example, what do you do with that scene or character or detail that one of you absolutely adores while the other can’t stand it? Maybe it stays until the draft is complete and then it’s revisited, or maybe you have your beta readers (or husbands) vote. Talk to each other.

Tip #3: Be Willing to Be a Cheerleader

If there’s one guarantee about the writing process, it’s the occasional crisis of confidence. And when it happens, you have each other to pull out the pom-poms (otherwise known as wine or chocolate, or both), and kick that doubt out the door.

This is one of the best parts of sharing the writing journey. Motivation and excitement and perspective are in ample supply.

Tip #4: Trust Your Partner and Be Trustworthy

Honesty starts with knowing your own limitations. Knowing what you can commit to and following through on those commitments. Open communication and flexible planning are critical to keeping things balanced and moving the project forward.

Trust comes with time and experience so don’t rush it. Have lots of meetings and hash-out sessions, thoughtfully considering all the logistics before you jump into a writing relationship. (This gig really is like a marriage.)

Tip #5: Push Your Envelope and Challenge Each Other

Think outside the box and be willing to explore new ideas that take you out of your comfort zone. Safe sometimes equates to boring. Take each other on otherwise risky adventures and be open.

For example, when your partner wants to introduce a time traveler to the story and you can’t wrap your head around the space-time continuum, just go with it. See what happens. At least one of you will be able to write that part.

Tip #6: Look Forward to Writing Time

Planning and writing sessions are critical. Holly and I have a standing writing date every Monday morning. We have a few favorite spots where she gets coffee, I get tea (or a Diet Coke) and we share an array of pastries—a happy mind is a creative one, after all.

If possible, schedule writing retreats, weekends away to immerse yourself, escape from the distractions of your life, and WRITE with abandon!! If you can mix in a couple webinars on the craft and writing conferences, even better.

Tip #7: Be Understanding…and Patient…and Flexible

The excitement and motivation, the frustration and writers’ block, the disappointment and the dreaminess, all these things will ebb and flow.

There will be times when life, family, the job that pays, burn-out, rejection, or any combination thereof, will attempt to steer you off course. You may need to take a break here and there. That’s OK!

Just have a plan and talk about it. Have another project or place to focus your creative energy during those times when you and your writing partner are out of sync. But no matter what, don’t give up.

Our Process

Our process includes lots of lists and research and outlines. Our book, a Young Adult Paranormal Adventure, is written with two points of view, which simplifies things. Holly writes the male protagonist’s POV and I write the female’s, alternating chapters.

When we meet, we read what we’ve written to each other, discuss needed changes and take notes. When editing, we can easily spend twenty minutes on a sentence.

We read TONS of books on writing, in our genre and out. We listen to music, we post pictures of our characters on Facebook, we write blog posts, we have a Pinterest page dedicated to inspiration and we fall in love with our story over and over again.

Because we have each other.

Kismet. That’s what we call it. Fate. That’s what we believe.

It isn’t always easy or fast or as productive as it should. But whose writing journey is? Of one thing we are absolutely, undeniably certain: our book is infinitely better because of two hearts and two minds and two writers.

Write on, friends.

{J}

Monday, November 16, 2015

Thankful for Words of Wisdom

NaNoWriMo 2015 (National Novel Writing Month) has been all about editing for Holly and me. Since March, when we decided to change our book's genre from New Adult to Young Adult, we have fully re-written FORGED, book one of Power of 7. Our efforts have been positively influenced by several people and the instrumental tools that they've created. So when you find yourself in need of writing wisdom and editing advice, you will find them here:

1. DearEditor.com and Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson

2. One Stop for Writers and the amazing descriptive thesaurus collection by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

3. Writership and all of the insightful writing podcasts by Alyssa Archer and Leslie Watts

I guarantee there are MANY more amazing editing tools to find out in the webworld but these are our go-to's. In the spirit of thanks and deep admiration of what these talented writers have developed for the betterment of us all, we encourage you visit them today and see how they can transform your writing process.

Good luck and happy writing!

{J & H}

Sunday, November 1, 2015

#NaNoWriMo-Day 1

National Novel Writing Month is here!! And we are taking advantage of the NaNoWriMo campaign to edit FORGED, with the help of our incredible editor, Deborah Halverson, and prepare for pitching it at some upcoming writers' conferences.

If you've ever considered writing anything, visit www.nanowrimo.org to get inspired. It's and AMAZING conglomeration of talent and motivation.

Our NaNoWriMo novel page begins with our short synopsis:

FORGED - POWER OF 7 (book 1) is best described as young adult paranormal adventure with elements of romance and historical fiction. Told from the points of view of Emily and John, it follows the "Healer" and the "Listener" and five other gifted Innates, as they discover that they've been brought totether for a very specific purpose. They are tasked with finding the source of their powers in order to confront a force of evil that only they can overcome. As Emily begins to accept the benefits of being different, John only sees his power as a curse, one that threatens the emerging love between them. In an atmosphere riddled with spirits, demons and centuries-old legends, these seven will find that by embracing that which makes them ordinary, they have the power to restore humanity.

Is this something you think you would read? We'll share more throughout the month and are happily accepting feedback.

Happy NaNoWriMo2015!

{H&J}