Friday, February 3, 2017

Nightmare on Beacon

I had the most TERRIBLE nightmare the other night! It was so real that I shot right out of bed and went to check on my kids. It took forever to get back to sleep. Now, I don’t watch the news or CSI or anything having to do with child molesters or kidnappers because, well, because my children like to go outside and want to continue to do so.

So here’s my issue. When I gave birth to Bella, I went from easy-going, carefree, soon-to-be-new mom, to a paranoid, vulnerable, heart-outside-of-my-body mom. And then we had two more babies after that, just to make sure I fulfilled my maximum potential of anxiousness.

But I honestly believed it would get easier, because, you know, as babies grow to be toddlers, fevers and funky rashes that could be the deadliest form of Kawasaki’s disease, usually subside. And as toddlers get a little older, they stop sticking pennies and Barbie shoes and marbles in their mouths, or running away for no reason other than to give you a heart attack. And as children turn into teens, they’re more coordinated and don’t fall off their skateboards (or the couch) and break as many bones. And when teens turn 18 years old, when they finally earn the title of adulthood (ha), they know all the things and make all the good decisions and EVERYTHING is right with the world so I never have to worry again. Ahhh!! (Queue heavenly angels singing.)

Actually, THIS is exactly my issue. What no one told me when I became a mom—nor would I have understood if they had—is that I would never see a day without worry. NEVER. EVER.

So when I had the most TERRIBLE nightmare the other night, that I was married to a wife-beating-child-abuser, and that he was going to kill us if we tried to get away, and that my brave and fierce neighbor Mrs. Robertson broke us out and drove us to safety (thanks friend!), it makes PERFECT SENSE that my latest worry is this: how can I make sure that my daughter doesn’t find herself in an abusive relationship and that my sons never abuse their girlfriends/wives. And let’s take it one step further, just for good measure. How do I safeguard our incredible nieces and nephews? Or our sweet Godchildren? OR OUR GRANDCHILDREN?!?!

Are my issues becoming clear? Do I need to point out that we don’t have grandchildren, yet I have found a way to dedicate sleepless nights in their name?

In the off chance that I’m not alone, that someone else out there shares my open-invitation to fear, I’ve been trying to figure out how to let my kids grow up without the irrational need to influence every step of the way. (It's a process.) The news on the street is that we need to let them fail. That’s how they learn. That’s how they get tough enough to survive the real (big, scary, dangerous?) world. I hear that everywhere and I KNOW IT’S TRUE. But my heart's not so sure.

There’s a fine line between informing our kids of a sometimes-harsh reality and scaring them. There’s a balance between our desire to shelter them and their need to be prepared. And pretending that bad things can’t reach them if they stay inside the safe bubble we’ve worked so hard to fortify may help us sleep at night, but it won’t help them when that fragile bubble bursts. Which will happen, in some way, shape or form.

So here’s your take-away...Listen closely because I care about you and I think this is the only thing that’s going to save us all: the way to keep them safe is to realize that we can’t, and to stop trying. We don’t have control over everything that happens to them, not forever. And we need to redirect our efforts to a greater, more important cause: to teaching them how to fall, rebound, contemplate, change direction and grow.

We have to help them find the confidence to advocate for themselves, as well as the resilience to overcome defeat. They need to learn to use their voices to stand up for what’s right, but understand that sometimes, it won’t be enough. We have to show them we have faith in them, at the same time help them build their faith in God. And we need to provide them with the skills and tools to deal with disappointment, work through pain, manage anger and navigate worry. (Easy work, right?)

These things won’t dispel all of our fears, they won’t give us back our sleepless nights, but they will give us something else to focus our energy and attention on. Something much more lasting and impactful.

As a wise fish once said: “You can’t never let anything to happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.” I’m going to remember that one.

Be strong friends and have faith when you aren’t. And if you've found a way to navigate the worry, please share. We are each other's angels.

{J}

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Moments and Milestones

Well, we're back from our whirlwind weekend at the San Diego State University Writers' Conference. It was AMAZING! Yet again, the organizers brought together an impressive collection of talent, inspiration, professionals, tips and tools.

Despite the downpour of rain and tumbling tumbleweeds, we arrived to the conference on Friday eager to meet some new writerly friends and pitch, pitch, pitch! We had our list of workshops and our advanced reading appointments all set. Friday night, we hung out with a great group of people at the mixer-game night hosted by the hilarious creators of Game Night in a Can - Jason and Barry. They lead us in a series of team activities and physical challenges, complete with prizes and killer music!! I'm happy to announce that the YA table - District 14 - won the Best-Worst Book Title and Cover prize for a children's book called There's a Dead Man in My Dreams. It was so fun!

Saturday we perfected and practiced our pitch, met with engaging agents and savvy editors, learned more about our art, networked, brainstormed and Tweeted (the writing world is all over Twitter). We had appointments with literary agents and editors seeking authors for their publishing houses. The end result was three of them asking for us to send them the whole manuscript. That's a WIN!

When Holly and I woke up this morning, we could barely talk to each other. Not for lack of words and ideas, but because of ALL THE WORDS AND IDEAS! So we played the Fault in Our Stars soundtrack while we got ready for the morning festivities. And then, AND THEN, we were honored and so, so surprised to be nominated for the Conference Choice Award. Erin Quinn, our brilliant conference director says that there's a lot of negative feedback in the world of writing and these awards are meant to let us know we're doing something right. To Holly and me, it was the cherry on top, the icing on the cake, the fuel to our fire.

If you don't know any writers or editors or literary agents or book promoters or writers' conference directors, you should know this one thing: they are generous. They share their stories, their formulas for success, their encouragement and even a few fair warnings. And I think they impart such wisdom because they've been here, in this scary place where doubt and fear make writers feel like their work isn't good enough. This weekend, the keynotes were bestsellers R.L. Stine, Jonathan Maberry, J.A. Jance and Sherrilyn Kenyon...BESTSELLERS, famous and successful and still kind. They were gracious and funny, inspiring and authentic, and genuinely hopeful for all of us. And that's why people come from all over the world to attend this conference. This is our community you guys, and it is wonderful!

So thank you to everyone who messaged, texted, encouraged and prayed. We made friends, learned more than we could have imagined and have A LOT to do! We will keep you posted on our progress.

And #SDSUwriters, thank you, truly. We will see you next year!!

{J&H}

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Word of 2017 Is...

Happy New Year, all! Wow...2017 is in full swing! The years just seem to slip on by, no matter what I do to slow things down. I believe this is the same sentiment that begins every year. Last year, my #oneword was EQUILIBRIUM and reflecting back, I think the Hales did a good job of maintaining it, despite my bout of vertigo in November.

2016 gave us some great moments and some sobering ones. On the international scene, markets rose and fell and proved as unpredictable as ever. We celebrated the Summer Olympics in Rio and worried about Zika. President Obama went to Cuba and NASA's Juno went to Jupiter. When some countries achieved peace, some endured prolonged war. Leaders were impeached, revolts gained ground and the UK left the EU. Refugees searched for safety; some found it, others were turned away. Terrorists attacked and ISIS recruited more extremists. Maybe most profoundly, Pope Francis declared 2016 the Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy. Don't you find it interesting that amidst the year of extremes, the world was called to be forgiving, to show compassion and embrace mercy?

On the home-front, we saw killer clowns and tragic shootings ALL OVER social media. The Cubs won the World Series and we captured more gold medals. Sadly, a dizzying number of beloved celebrities left this earth, but never our hearts. The first woman presidential nominee was selected by the Democratic Party but the first billionaire won the election and the Oval Office. We got Stranger Things and This is Us and (SQUEALING) the return of Gilmore Girls. We got the Mannequin Challenge and Pokemon Go, self-driving cars and phones that caught on fire. Bomber jackets and bodysuits (WHAT-WHY?!?), bottle-flipping and "Damn Daniel." And these are just a few of the highlights and lowlights.

What a year. But what really became evident to me, through conversations and online observations, is the emergence of a culture: a culture of criticism. We're judgy and negative and point lots of fingers. Our opinions and comments have taken on an unprecedented harshness and it doesn't seem to matter which side we're on, there's righteous indignation EVERYWHERE! I say "we" because I am guilty too. (And if you're saying "not me" right now, you may need to look a little deeper. Maybe.) It's hard not to get wrapped up in the negativity when Facebook and Google target our feeds to convince us that everyone shares our worldview. This is serious. How are we going to bolster our kids to not just survive the culture of criticism, but change it?

Be the change...right? It's a simple statement that can be translated in many ways, all of which can lead to progress. So my #oneword for 2017 is OPTIMISM. Defined, it means "hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something." It's not only a mental attitude, or a philosophy, it's a choice. And even more importantly, with the turmoil of the past year and the uncertainty of this one, I think it's our only choice.

Maybe it won't change what happens in the world, but an attitude adjustment can change what happens in your home. That's a worthy endeavor, don't you think? Studies have shown that optimism positively impacts a person's mental and physical well-being. People who score high on optimism assessments have lower levels of stress than their more pessimistic peers. They are less lonely, less depressed, less anxious and get sick less often. Optimism is directly associated with life satisfaction, happiness, psychological and physical well-being. So why don't we see more of it?

Because the internet is evil! Okay, that may be extreme, but the prevalence of trolling, shaming and reckless posting, has never been greater. Somehow, the habit of putting negative statements and energy into the world has outpaced the habit of being kind. But we can change that. And I want to be the change...

I'm not saying that crap doesn't exist or that we shouldn't express ourselves when we're upset by the ugliness in the world. But where we can control the output, we should. I can't promise that my little corner of the cybershere will always be full of sunshine and lollipops because life is a mix, and an honest portrayal of life, should be also. But I can choose to feed the world with small doses of optimism, avoid the unnecessary spewing of criticism and limit the amount of negativity that I view. I will choose to see the hope in the midst of the inevitable ick and I will show my kids how to see it too.

So as you enter the new year, list of resolutions set in ink, I hope you find your #oneword and that it has the power to spread love and hope and joy. We get one shot at this life, let's make our legacy a positive one.

Happy New Year, friends!

Love,

{J}

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

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}

Friday, November 4, 2016

Spinning on Repeat

The world is spinning. Things are floating and moving at unusual speeds. It feels as though a tsunami has hit the coast of California and our house is toppling over and at any moment, I will land on the floor. No, it's not vodka. It's vertigo. And it's BACK!

I Have. Vertigo. For the fourth time in ten years. The first time I had vertigo was one year after I was in a car accident. My daughter was five and we were turning cartwheels and summersaulting all over town. The spinning happened the next morning as I rolled out of bed. The room shifted and the next thing I knew, I was on the floor. Initially diagnosed with an ear infection, I was given antibiotics. When the meds didn't make the spinning stop, I was sent to Dr. Jacobsen of the Head and Neck Associates of Orange County, a gifted Ear, Nose, Throat doctor. He knew what was wrong and promised to fix me.

The next episode was in 2014. Then again in summer of 2015. And now, for my birthday. Happy birthday (you're getting OLD) to me!!

There are many types and causes of vertigo. A migraine headache or a virus in the inner ear can cause symptoms of vertigo. Luckily, they can be remedied with medication and rest and time. The most common type of vertigo, one that typically afflicts people over 60 or with those who've had head injuries, is called BPPV: Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo in which dislodged crystals travel though the labyrinth of the inner ear and send mixed messages from the vestibular system to the brain. It's what I had ten years ago and what I have had each time since.

The key word is "benign" so we know it's harmless, except for the falling and nausea and inability to function normally. This type of vertigo that is inextricably tied to movement. If I move too fast, I spin. If I flip my hair, things get shaky. If I look up, left or right too quickly, I feel disoriented and faint. Oh, and I kinda feel drunk. That's because my blood pressure is rising and falling, rapidly, sometimes 30 points in a matter of minutes.

The treatment for BPPV - the Epley Maneuver - is like magic. With a vibrating disc pressed behind my ear, Dr. J shifts my head until the misplaced crystals travel back through the inner ear to where they belong. The treatment induces extensive spinning during which I try not to throw up on Dr. J's shoes. For at least a week, I am required to limit my movement and sleep in a recliner so the crystals stay put. Doctor's specific orders: "Don't move much, and if you do, move like a zombie." But it has to be done. Once my brain trusts the messages from my vestibular system, the world, my-spinning-twirling-falling-over-world, is set right.

If you ever experience symptoms of vertigo, avoid driving, take things slow and see your doctor right away. For best results, find yourself a Dr. J.

{J}

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

NANOWRIMO16

National Novel Writing Month is here!! And we are taking advantage of the NaNoWriMo campaign to make our final edits to FORGED and prepare for pitching it at the SDSU Writers' Conference in January.

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 but below, we have included a more in depth teaser:

When a boy lands in a bloody heap at Emily’s feet, her first thought is to run. Instead, instinct compels her to touch him and a surge of energy pulses from her hands in a radiant stream of colors and warmth. She is shocked when his broken bones snap back into place, revealing her power to heal, and she’s pretty sure senior year isn’t going to be the fresh start her parents said she needed.

When the ghost of his father urges him to the library, John finds a beautiful girl, shaking, covered in blood, and in the evil grip of a student possessed by a demon. He rescues her and is unable to deny the powerful connection between them. For the first time since his father’s death, John has hope in embracing who he is.

That’s when their worlds collide.

The Healer and the Listener quickly learn that they are not the only students with extraordinary gifts at their east coast boarding school. In fact, there are seven Innates who, according to Native American legends, must band together to prevent Armageddon and the demon occupation of the human race. But how can a group of unlikely prep school students whose eyes were just opened to this secret world, be expected to restore the balance of good and evil?

FORGED, a young adult, paranormal adventure can be described as Breakfast Club misfits on a Lord of the Rings journey. It will appeal to readers who yearn for fantastical elements grounded in American history. Told from the points of view of Emily and John, we follow the Innates as they battle malevolent spirits in search of the source of their powers and the only thing that can save them. The expedition will challenge the group to acknowledge their diversity—of origins, of powers, of desires—and do what they have to do even when it goes against every self-centered, self-conscious, bone in their bodies.

We can't wait to share the magic of FORGED with you!!

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

Happy NaNoWriMo2016!

{H&J}

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween...Really!

Happy Halloween! What a fun holiday, especially if you have kids who still dress up and go TOTING (Trick Or Treating), like all youthful candy-hoarders do. I'll admit, I've really enjoyed the annual excuse to eat too many Twix bars and Butterfingers. I have very little willpower.

When the kids were younger, we had them dress in coordinating costumes. How much say should kids under five really have about their costumes, right? My favorite year, our boys were the brave Prince and cuddly Gus-the-Mouse to match Bella's Cinderella costume. (Photo reference above...SO CUTE!)

When the kids were younger, we used to determine exactly how many pieces of candy they could ingest on Halloween and each day after, for roughly one week. At that point, the Candy Fairy would visit and magically whisk the candy away (except the Twix bars and Butterfingers), leaving a delightful treat in its place, sure to bring just as much joy to our candy-addicts' sugar-overloaded hearts.

When the kids were younger, we'd share a pre-TOTING meal with friends - chili, salad, cornbread and some sort of Autumn-blend, micro-brewed beer. Then we'd take pictures with ALL the neighborhood kids before setting out through elaborately decorated streets, dodging ghouls and collecting goodies, all the while capturing photos and video at each doorstep and reminding them of their lines: "Trick or Treat" and "Thank you!"

When the kids were younger, we had a little more control of the Halloween festivities. But now that they're older, the holiday has taken on a new feel. Today, our kids have their own thoughts on costumes and there's no way you'd find them in any sort of coordinating set. Dorothy, a Ninja Turtle and the Headless Horseman don't go together, and that's okay. Today our kids have their own hidden stashes of their candy favs and they don't have to ask for permission to indulge, and that's okay. Today our kids have their own plans for Halloween - parties and hanging with friends - and none of those plans include mom and dad following closely behind with a video camera, and that's okay too.

Today is a different Halloween and I'll admit, I'm a little sad about it. Not simply because they're growing up, but because the festivities lack the luster when the kids aren't around. So friends, keep those kids close and gobble up those Halloween memories. You never know when it's going to be the last one with them.

Happy Halloween! I'm going to make myself a cocktail and have a Twix (and maybe a Butterfinger.)

{J}

(This post was originally published in 2014 but applies this year. I'm happy to report the ditching didn't hurt as much this year. I'll call that growth. Or maybe concession.)