Monday, May 12, 2014

Keep Calm...and Carry On?

I have been mulling over how I can mention this to all of you without having you feel sorry for us or shake your heads, feeling the sting of the disappointment that Jenn and I felt when we were told “No”.

It’s actually not the kind of no that you may be thinking. I mean, it was definitely a “no, we aren’t ready to publish your book right now and make you millions”, but the sentences that surrounded the “no” were priceless and heartfelt. We are ever so grateful for them. When Jenn and I started this adventure, one of the things that we read about the most was how to handle the rejection. Because there is A LOT of it. We have sensitive writer hearts so trying to prepare ourselves to hear “no” over and over wasn’t something that we wanted to practice. We have been pretty lucky so far with the encouragement and feedback that we have gotten from people that we admire. Our journey has just begun and we have been riding our wave of excitement from our very first conference back in January! Overall, we finally received the email we had been waiting for over two months. With nervous anticipation we opened it together and read the first line…(keep calm…)

“Hi Jennifer and Holly,

Thanks very much for your patience with me on POWER OF 7. There is a lot to love here, but I am afraid I am going to pass on the chance to go further with this project.”

We both sighed heavily and our hearts sank in unison. Not the first line we were hoping to read.

Then, as Jenn read on out loud, a few thoughts came to mind. We felt rushed with our first edit and should have asked for more time. Establishing a longer timeline would have given us a more thorough edit and we could have paced ourselves. In the past few months during our time of waiting, we were able to see several areas we would have developed more clearly and even some new elements that we would have added to make the story the compelling one we envision in our dreams. (so here comes the Carry On part…)

My first reaction of course was a big let-down. Should we keep at it? And then… How could we not? I was steadfast for about 24 hours. Then my doubts crept in. Am I good enough? Can I do this? Do I even have any talent? Am I dragging Jenn down? I was in a bad place for about five days. My confidence went down the toilet. I lost my voice. I had almost decided that it would be best for me to say goodbye to this dream for now. Then, I remembered why we had started writing in the first place. It was fun. It was challenging and exhilarating. It made my heart sing. Jenn and I always encouraged each other to try our best and to get up and try again if it didn’t go so great the first time. So I turned my back on the nagging doubts that threatened to pull me down and I prayed, A LOT! I re-committed to the words and found my voice again. My faith in the words and the partner, to whom I am so indebted, brought me back to what is real. I am forever grateful.

In the end, this agent that we have grown to respect, gave us some very kind words,

“I wish I had better news for you – you are clearly a talented writing team and I wanted to make a connection with this one. We would love to look at new projects if you don’t place this one.”

She also reminded us that every agent looks at a manuscript in a different way and encouraged us to keep looking. She offered to look at this story again once our revisions are what we would like them to be. So REALLY it was good news, probably the best “rejection” letter we could have received!

So please, do not tell us you‘re sorry, and don’t be sad, because this is the beginning of a really great thing. We are writers and we are committed to telling our story in the best way possible. For those of you that are waiting to be our beta-readers, it is coming! Thank you for being patient and we hope it will be worth your wait! We will continue to keep you up to date on all of our progress and whatever news we have to share. Until then, we will be hard at work getting our edits done and we will do our best at blogging and posting on FB. Thank you friends for your unending love and support! We treasure you!

Carrying On...{H & J}

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mother's Day Wish List

Mother's Day is a day of indulgence. It's the day when moms don't feel the least bit guilty about being spoiled (or spoiling themselves.) It's the time of year when I reflect on the things I want most from my kids, and FOR my kids, and my list is long people. Very. Very. Long.

For Mother's Day, I want my children to be happy. Not the temporary happy that comes from a candy bar in the check out line, or a new "must-have" on our Target run, but the real, lasting kind of happiness that they will carry with them long after they leave the nest. I want them to smile often, laugh even more and feel deep down that they have a happy childhood, the one that Michael and I are trying hard to create and sustain. I want that happiness to be planted early and deeply, so as they grow, it will provide fulfillment and gratitude during the good times and hope and perspective during the hard times, both of which they will have along the way. Happiness, hugs, smiles...I want those things for my kids.

For Mother's Day, I want my children to be full of peace. I want them to be peacemakers and peacekeepers. Not just the kind of peacefulness that keeps them from slugging that annoying kid at school (or one they live with), but the kind of peace that helps them stay grounded when their lives are filled with everyday chaos. I want their home to be a buffer from all the demands that confront them the second they walk out the door. I want us all to slow down and leave room in the schedule so they can experience the value of peace. I want them to offer peace when in an argument, to extend a hand whether they win or lose, and to agree to be kind even when it's not easy. I want them to yearn for the kind of peace that comes with a spring day when the only thing to do is lie in the grass and watch the clouds dance in the sky. Peaceful easy feelings, I want that for them.

For Mother's Day, I want my children to be confident. Not arrogant or showy, but I want them to possess a sense of self that stems from experience and wisdom. The development of such confidence is a gradual one. I want them to have the "wins" in life that help them see their potential and encourage their effort. But I also what them to have the "losses" that teach them to be humble and that it's more important to celebrate the successes of others than merely your own. I want them to have a confidence that gives them strength in the face of peer pressure, like a drink or a "just-try-it" at a party. I want their confidence to be the motivator that urges them to try harder next time, maybe at a sport, on a test, or in a relationship. I want them to always feel like they are enough. And throughout life, as that confidence takes root and grows, I want it to hold onto their hearts and stave off the ugliness of things like jealousy, mistrust, greed and entitlement. A life filled with humble confidence, that's what I want for my children.

For Mother's Day, I want my kids to have compassion. When they encounter a fellow student who's injured on the playground, or a friend with a broken heart, or a stranger in need of a smile or a dollar, I want their first instinct to be to help. I want their hearts to hurt when they witness another person's pain. I want their thoughts to turn often to those in need rather than to their own desires. I want them to experience a friend's compassion so they understand the importance of being there for someone else. When they no longer have me pointing out the needs and hurts of others, I want their own compass of compassion to do the job and reveal to them how they can offer kindness, love and support. Compassion and a heart that's driven to give, that's what I want for each of my children.

For Mother's Day, I want my children to have faith. Faith in their God, in their family, in their friends, and in themselves. I want them to believe in things that aren't easily seen or held or measured, things like love and hope and humanity. In spite of what their peers say or what society tells them, I want them to stand up for their beliefs and have faith. As life goes on, I want them to take that faith with them so they can share the spirit of possibility everywhere they go. It's an unrelenting faith and life-affirming faith. I want that for them too.

Lastly, (and bless you if you've made it this far), for Mother's Day, I want my children to have love. They will surely experience differing degrees of it in their lives and I want them to eventually learn how to give and take the kind of love that lasts forever. The kind that leaves a legacy as it's modeled and replicated and shared. My kids will always have the love of their family, but I still want them to earn that love and respect us all the same. Friends will come and go, but I want them to learn how to cultivate lasting friendships, reciprocating and compromising frequently. I also want them to one day find their soul mates, live love-filled lives and grow old with their best friends. I want them to be generous with their praise and appreciation of the people in their lives. I want them to support them, and be supported during times when their confidence has lost its luster. I want them to offer and aspire to the kind of happiness that endures the rough waters. And I want them to have loved ones all around that feed their spirits as the phases of life wax and wane. Most importantly, I want them to know that the way to truly and completely and fully love others, and to be loved back, is to simply start with loving oneself. I really want my children to experience a lifetime of having and giving love.

So that's my Mother's Day wish list. Happiness. Peace. Confidence. Compassion. Faith. Love. And the greatest of these is LOVE!

Happy Mother's Day to all you amazing moms. May your day be filled with everything that makes your heart sing. And especially to my wonderful mom, who has shaped the woman and mother that I am today...I love you forever!

{J}

Friday, May 9, 2014

Being Grateful

First of all let me say Happy Mother's Day to all my mommy friends out there! I hope you have a joyous weekend enjoying the little ones (or big ones) that gave you the title of "mom". It can certainly feel like a thankless job at times but if you can look past the monotony of the day and stop counting the times you asked someone to pick up their _______ (fill in the blank with your own daily burden) then you can focus on the beauty of the day and what being a mom really means to you. If that doesn't work, look at old video's and listen to the sweet voices of your babies and relish the memories of when they used to listen to you without asking "WHY?" or stomping there gigantic feet in the opposite direction. I hope you get breakfast in bed but no food on the sheets. I hope you get handmade something to pack away and cherish for years. I hope you get smiles and laughter and memories so good you don't have to write them down to remember.

My wishes and hopes for you include one more thing. Awareness. As moms we are usually really good at this. The whole "eyes in the back of our head" thing. I am asking for your awareness to include the possibility that the woman sitting next to you or driving by in her car, or standing in line may have a different weekend ahead of her than a large majority of the country. I heard a few horrible stories this week through social media. Heart breaking stories of loss that will, should you read them, make each and every one of you cringe with your own fear of loss that is beyond comprehension. As I click on the heading of these types of stories, sometimes I think maybe I should just click the X at the top corner before I get pulled into the whirlwind of thoughts that will accompany them. Inevitably I read on. Two in particular caught my attention as it's the week before we celebrate motherhood. We will soon be reading many blog posts and articles about being a mom. The story of the "three year old's handprint" will circulate again and bring tears to our eyes as we either, remember our bigs with little tiny hands, or we actually hold onto those little tiny hands and pray that they won't get bigger too fast. Then there are the women in my life that have prayed for a pair of little hands to hold for so long but still do not have a child to call their own. My heart grieves for you. And then, there are the moms like the ones in the stories, who are in deep mourning and I have no words for that. All I can offer is to mourn with them in silence and pray for the sickening pain to ease as they think about the children lost. These words are hard to hear and harder to write as I think about my three babies. My heart goes out to the moms who are painfully remembering this weekend (and always)and have had a little piece of them go onto to heaven before they were ready to say good-bye. As moms we have imagined the worse-case scenario and to be living through it takes something that is known only to God. I pray that their relationship with Him can offer comfort in those moments and I will not be so presumptuous as to offer any kind of comforting words or advice. I do not have them.

We, as parents, often have a piece of us that wants to make it all better. So situations like April Smith's story take our breath away because we can't. Maybe what it will do though, is make you hug your babies tighter and kiss that teenager like he was five again. Moments like these bring my gratefulness FULL FRONT AND CENTER! That no matter how much they messed up today and how many times they didn't listen, they are here, with me, getting tucked into bed with stories and kisses and hugs and "I'll see you in the morning"...God willing. I'm sobbing as I write this (which is a little embarrassing in the library) and I'm wondering what I can do so that my kids know how much I adore them right in this moment. We NEVER know how many moments we truly have here on this Earth. Am I making the most of mine with my children good and bad? I hope so. I want that.

My father in law was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. He is 77 years old and the doctors told us that with chemotherapy he could have a life expectancy of five to eight years. Getting the news about his life expectancy has got me thinking about how much I take life and time for granted. I get in the rut of daily chores and carpool and work and schedules and because of that I may forget to REALLY live each and every day. Sometimes I’m just too tired to think about anything but getting in bed and starting over in the morning. It's so easy to forget. It's so easy to not be intentional about living and having real living moments. Until you’re introduced to the scary unknown of cancer or other illness, or until you lose someone and are thrown in to the upheaval of grief. We are human. It is in our nature to get caught up in the minutiae of living when we are in the daily grind. It takes habit and AWARENESS to step out of that and enjoy the living of the moment, even the boring ones, because the laundry still has to get done (and put away, just sayin')...and even that holds the power of gratitude. Being grateful that your kids are out running around and getting those clothes dirty, or that they are growing big and strong so that favorite shirt doesn't fit anymore...the NOTICING of those things is a living moment.

So how do we do that every day? That will have many different answers. We will forget. We will have to catch ourselves and sometimes we will have to search REALLY HARD and dig REALLY DEEP to live in the moment. But we can do it. We can do it because we think about Ryan and his parents and we are reminded of the preciousness of life and just how fragile it is. (#redballoonsforryan)

We are privileged, BLESSED really, to parent these little creatures even when we are pulling out our hair and not enjoying any of it. Even the bad moments are real living moments because when we piece them together they create our life. My last mother’s day wish for you is many real living moments when you can have complete awareness, a deep breath and a mental snapshot and the opportunity to let those you love the most know just exactly how much.