Author Archives: jenna

12 Books My Book Club Loved

August 4, 2015

book club pics use this oneWhen I was newly married I started a book club. I thought it would be a great way to socialize, get book recommendations, and eat fancy desserts. Because if there’s anything I love as much as a book recommendation, it’s a fancy dessert.

At the first meeting approximately 386 people showed up. We sat on my super ugly couch in my super ugly first apartment and ate crepes that were super ugly but full of Nutella and whipped cream and were therefore deemed a success. The first book we chose was The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. It was an excellent first choice.

At the second meeting a more reasonable 279 people showed up. It was held at a much cuter (and cleaner) apartment and we ate a much cuter dessert that was also very delicious. I looked up a reader’s discussion guide online and we talked about what we’d loved about the book. (The characters! The important themes!) It was a great discussion and we made plans to meet the following month.

[Unfortunately, about 270 of our book club members formally resigned that night. They were super interested in the socializing and the fancy desserts, but it had just come to their attention that the remaining nine of us planned to actually discuss books at our book club meetings.]

That was four years ago. And book club is still one of my most favorite nights of the month. We’ve read many, many books and interestingly, I’ve found that not all good/enjoyable books make good book club books. A good book club book has to be not only good/enjoyable, it has to prompt discussion. Otherwise you’re  going to spend 5 minutes exchanging pleasantries about how lovely the book was and then spend the rest of the night gossiping about where your super hot 6th grade teacher ended up. (She really was super hot, you should have seen her do the Macarena.)

Unfortunately my memory is on par with a goldfish’s, but I’ve pulled together a year’s worth of book club books that I remember inciting interesting discussion and  general admiration:

JANUARY: The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg. Fascinating, and perfect for kicking off your superhero resolutions.

FEBRUARY: Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden. An old one, but so incredibly engaging. One of those stories that stays with you, and the story and culture made for a great discussion.

MARCH: The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. We read this one then watched the movie. Loved it both ways!

APRIL: Between Friends, by Kristy Kiernan. We thought this was just going to be a light read but ended up having one of our best discussions to date.

MAY: The Female Brain, by Louann Brizendine, MD. Step by step look at how our brains form then function. Very interesting and great to talk about with a a group of women.

JUNE: Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan. Our club is a big fan of historical fiction–meaning books based on people and actual events but with some creative liberties. The (true) ending to this story blew our minds.

JULY: The Piano Teacher, by Janice Y.K. Lee. Very interesting setting.

AUGUST: Necessary Lies, by Diane Chamberlaine. Great read with tons of social issues to discuss.

SEPTEMBER: A Girl Named Zippy, by Haven Kimmel. Laugh out loud memoir. A delight and fun to discuss.

OCTOBER: Second Glance, by Jodi Picoult. Something spooky for Halloween.

NOVEMBER: Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. This book is an experience.

DECEMBER: Holidays on Ice, by David Sedaris. This is a (hilarious) collection of essays/short stories, and we actually read it two Decembers in a row. One year we got a hold of an audio version and listened to our favorite story: “Dinah, The Christmas Whore.” If that title doesn’t make you laugh I simply can’t help you.

My Favorite Trader Joe’s Items

July 29, 2015

corrected I heart TJ

I have this sort of sick obsession with grocery shopping. I say “sick” because there are literally about 100 less expensive/less wasteful hobbies that wouldn’t result in me having five different varieties of gourmet popcorn in my cupboard. But oh, my. When eleven p.m. rolls around and your husband has a fresh episode of Veep pulled up on his laptop and you have FIVE VARIETIES OF GOURMET POPCORN IN YOUR CUPBOARD? It’s kind of the greatest.

I like reading about food, cooking food, watching Food Network shows, shopping for food…but most of all I love TRADER JOE’s. It’s small, unique and has super high quality products for good prices. I love it so much I considered naming my son Joe. (Joe. Trader Joe.)

If you happen to be one of the fortunate ones with access to a Trader Joe’s, let me unveil the 14 things I absolutely will not leave the store without:

14 ITEMS corrected(Starting top left, and moving clockwise.)

TJ’s SUGAR SNAP PEAS. This is just a representative of the many, many pre washed, ready to snack on or pop in the oven/microwave vegetables that will pretty much quadruple your veggie intake. Try these with hummus!

CLASSIC SLICED DRY RUBBED BACON. This is my family most loved bacon. Every time I see someone looking at it at the store I yell BUYITBUYITNOW!

TJ’s WHOLE WHEAT PITA BREAD. Soft, healthy, perfect for an impromptu chicken salad sandwich or to stick in the diaper bag when you know your toddler isn’t going to touch a single item at the family gathering you’re going to.

TJ’s MARINARA SAUCE. You guys. This is the ultimate dinner saver. It’s the only canned marina sauce I’ve ever opened and eaten straight with a spoon. Cook up some ground beef, dump this in, then serve over pasta or vegetables. You have made dinner in 7 minutes.

TEA TREE OIL FACE WASH. I have been battling acne for over 20 years. Wish I were exaggerating on that one. I’ve used every product known to man, and when I use this stuff regularly MY SKIN CLEARS UP. Rumor has it this product is sold under another label by dermatologists for a huge amount of money. Just be careful with it. Tingly on your face? Awesome. Tingly in your retina? Less awesome.

100 CALORIE MILK CHOCOLATE BARS. I generally steer clear of anything with the phrase “100 calorie” attached to it. To me that label generally means: “You’re going to eat this and then twenty minutes later still make yourself that hot fudge sundae you wanted in the first place.” However, these chocolate bars are GOOD. Rich, creamy, satisfying, worthy of your time.

EGG PAPPARDELLE PASTA. I haven’t purchased a single other kind  of pasta since trying this about a year ago. And if you know what a pasta eater I am, you know what a big deal this is. Eat with marinara sauce. Or browned butter. Or chopped up 100 Calorie Milk Chocolate Bars. Just kidding. Don’t do that.

SPICY ITALIAN CHICKEN SAUSAGE. Sometimes you need a good dose of protein and you simply don’t have the time to hunt a bison. Sauté this up with some of TJ’s Power Greens (crap–should have added those to the list!) or put it on skewers with bell peppers and mushrooms. LOVE.

TJ’s CREAMY ALMOND BUTTER. For years I didn’t really get what the big deal was with almond butter. And then I tried this. Creamy, drippy, gritty, rich, WHAT? Chop up some apples and dip it in this. Snack time solved.

HARVEST SALAD with GRILLED CHICKEN. I used to buy like 10 of these at a time. I can’t remember why I stopped. (Something about eating our retirement?) SO delicious. High in protein, crazy convenient and really healthy. Dump it out on a plate, drizzle with dressing, stick your whole face in it.

PORCINI MUSHROOM & TRUFFLE TRIANGOLI. You had me at truffle. These are soooo good. Like I don’t know what else to say about them. We drizzle them with olive oil and coarse pink TJ’s sea salt (crap! another thing I should have added to the list!) and cry about how much we love them.

CHEESE & GREEN CHILE TAMALES. I first met tamales about 8 years ago and it has been a strong, happy relationship ever since. I buy them everywhere, but these–THESE–are my go to. Put one in the microwave, slice up an avocado, then dump a bunch of TJ’s salsa on it (should also be on the list). Easy, crazy satisfying, several different varieties.

COOKIE BUTTER SANDWICH COOKIES. Notice that I took a picture of the display vs. an individual box? That’s because I have officially banned them from my house. Some people get religious about these, others lose their minds completely. (I was in the second camp.)

RAINBOW CARROTS. OMG. (OMG is not an official part of their name.) These are GORGEOUS. Purple, red, yellow, orange carrots. Slice them up and roast them at high heat with olive oil and salt–they’re delicious and so so pretty. I don’t know why pretty matters, but it does.

Now it’s your turn: What is my list missing??

 

 

Under the Coffee Shop Table

July 26, 2015

Artist in progress

My first attempt at writing a book kind of devastated me. I was sure that after all my reading and notebook scribbling and dreaming about being a writer, that I’d be able to hole up in a coffee shop somewhere for six months and produce something awesome.

That wasn’t the case.

Yes, I did hole up for six months, and yes I did produce something, but I wouldn’t go so far as to attach the word “awesome” to it. It had okay characters, an interesting setting, and as far as I could tell, some pretty decent writing, but there was only the barest hint of a plot and if I was totally honest with myself, the book was boring.

BO-RING.

And I could have lived with all that if I’d just sort of been half a**ing it. But I hadn’t been. I had worked my very, very hardest. I’d sweated over it, I’d lost sleep, I’d dedicated every inch of spare time I had to that first book, and the results were so mediocre it made me want to crawl under the nearest table of that coffee shop and just give up forever.

It took me many years (and a giant push from my dad) to climb out from under the table and try again. I wish I could say I got it the next time around, but I didn’t. My second attempt was still pretty terrible. And so was my third. Only by that point I had a book deal (potential in attempt #1 combined with a very successful father was enough for Simon & Schuster to take a chance on me). And suddenly a lot of other people were echoing the things I was already thinking. Your book lacks plot. You need stronger characters. It need to be interesting.

In fact, for almost a year my edit letters said things like this:

  • Strong main characters are the meat and potatoes of YA Novels. Yours is coming across as flat.
  • Just like your main character, we feel X is too one-dimensional. He needs to be rethought.
  • Your conclusion to plot point X was disappointing.
  • We don’t think the conflict between X and Y works at all.

It was excruciating. After every round of edits I’d scuttle back under that coffee shop table and I’d have to drag myself back out all over again. When people asked me how the writing was going I never told them how I really felt: I might not be able to do this. I might be about to fall on my face. The stress was paralyzing.

Then one night I hit rock bottom. I had a huge deadline coming up. My last edit letter had pretty much reduced me to tapioca. Sam had been with a babysitter way more than I was comfortable with, David was trying to work full time and take over my role, and I hadn’t eaten anything that hadn’t come out of a vending machine in what felt like days. It was pretty clear that I was incapable of producing even a decent book, let alone a good one, and I couldn’t stand the stress and disappointment for one more second. Suddenly–and more than anything–I wanted to give up.

And that’s when my soul spoke to me. It didn’t say the thing I wanted most to hear, which was: Jenna, you’re totally going to pull this off. You’re going to write something incredible and you’re going to be a crazy famous author and everyone is going to love your book.

No. Instead it said, You were made for this moment. Even if you have a 99% chance of failing that 1% is worth trying for.

Friends, that’s when you know you’re in the right place.

I sat up, wiped my face, and (with shaky hands) threw the coffee shop table into the fireplace. I was still terrified, but over the next few weeks I wrote more than I ever imagined I could. It was the artistic equivalent of a dead sprint. And when I finally hit send at 5 PM on my deadline I pretty much collapsed in a heap. That was it. I’d given everything I’d had. And if I failed…well…at least now I knew I was wiling to accept that.

A few days later my agent called me. Ecstatic. I squeezed my eyes shut as she told me about her conversation with my editor. “They said you did it! They said you completely transformed your book! They said it’s great!”

And then a week later I got an edit letter that said things like:

  • You did a spectacular job of giving your main character a lovely personality and voice!! She’s funny, like really funny, and all kinds of adorable. CONGRATS!!
  • The interaction between X and Y was hilarious!!
  • We love it so much that we sent it straight to copyediting!

They’d never used exclamation marks before. And never ever multiple exclamation marks. I sobbed. I laughed. I turned up music and danced around the house with my 2-year-old. But most of all I was ecstatic because a few days later when I picked up my book I loved what I read. Like really loved it. And it was the first time I’d ever picked up a book by Jenna Evans Welch and thought, What a great read.

I’m not writing about this because I think I am an amazingly brave artist. In fact, I think I’m one of the least brave artists I know. I’m writing this because maybe you’re reading this from under a coffee shop table and you need someone to tell you IT ISN’T GOING TO BE EASY, BUT IF YOUR SOUL IS TELLING YOU TO DO SOMETHING THEN DO IT.

Here, grab my hand. I’ll pull you up. What were you doing under there anyway? You’ve got work to do.

How We Talk To Youth About Abstinence

May 28, 2015

AbstinenceThere’s been an article circulating for the past couple of days that really got my attention. It’s called The Damaging Effects of Shame-Based Sex Education: Lessons From Elizabeth Smart, by Kristen Howerton.

I highly recommend you give it a read, but the gist of it is that a person’s worth is not tied to their status as a virgin or non-virgin, and we need to be so careful about the way we teach abstinence to youth. Shame should not be the driving force behind a teenager’s decision to not have sex.

The article got me thinking a lot. I am LDS (Mormon) and was raised that way. I attended church every week and was taught by my leaders that sex was reserved for after marriage and that I should be careful to keep myself “pure” so that I could get married in the temple and ride off into the sunset to have a thousand babies. I don’t remember ever having one of those horrible “no one wants gum that’s already been chewed” lessons, but chastity was talked about often, albeit in a vague sort of way.

All that was super easy until I was about 15 and my family moved from Salt Lake City, Utah to Florence, Italy. It was like being dropped onto a whole different planet. Gone were the days of nervous hand-holding and pecks. Suddenly my young dating life was full of french kissing and turning down sex on a regular basis. And here’s that part that really surprised me.

I wanted to have sex.

Like really.

And I’d had no idea I’d feel that way. From the way I’d been taught at church, I’d thought it would come down to me having to put my foot down when some nondescript boy tried to pressure me into doing things I didn’t want to do. I was completely unprepared for the fact that maybe I’d actually want to do those things, and that maybe I’d really like said boy, and oh great. Hormones. This was my struggle for the next seven years. I cared about my church’s teachings and I really did want to wait for marriage, but I also wanted to have sex. Now. And I had no idea how to reconcile that.

This was seriously tricky business. I had lots of boyfriends, some Mormon, some not, and in almost every relationship it was a struggle. Whenever I felt like things had gone too far I ended up beating myself up about it. I was stuck in this awful cycle: slip up, feel awful, repent. {Rinse and repeat.} At one point I had a church leader tell me that there may be a limit to the amount of times God will forgive us. (Can I just add that I disagree with that wholeheartedly?)

It was a struggle, to say the least. And when my wedding day arrived I was almost as excited to stop living in that cycle as I was to

finally.

have.

sex.

So what’s my point with all this (besides some ridiculous oversharing)? My point is, I am really grateful that I didn’t have sex until marriage (I felt strongly about it and I think it saved me from a lot of heartache), but I also wish I’d been a whole lot gentler on myself. I think I was afraid I’d make such a big mistake that I’d never come back from it, and the fact of the matter is–that is never true. Ever.

If adult me could sit down raging teenager me and give her some advice I would say this:

Turns out sex is going to be a big deal to you, and even though it isn’t going to be easy, it is going to be okay. It is a great thing to strive to live up to the things you believe in, but you also need to remember that you’re a human (and a teenage one at that), and you are absolutely going to fall short of your own expectations. But guess what? That’s the whole point of being alive.  You’re here to grown and learn, and no matter what choices you make you are valuable in the sight of God. Also, maybe just choose one guy to make out with on prom night. They might compare notes the next morning, and yikes. That could get embarrassing.

So here’s my big message today. No matter what your stance is on sex outside of marriage, and no matter whether you’ve lived up to that or not, you are valuable, no matter what. You are important, no matter what. Do your best to do what you think is right, and then when you fall short, well, remember that’s the point. We are not the sum total of the things we do or don’t do right.

We are so much more than that.

 

the 8 books I recommend most often

May 26, 2015

Book I Tell Everyone AboutIf you were to say, “Jenna, I’m going on a trip and I need something to read” or “Jenna, I can’t stand the thought of rereading Fifty Shades of Gray one more time” or “Jenna, you know how to read, right? What do you suggest?” These are the novels I would most likely tell you about. They left me with my mouth hanging open. Really. And some of them (Like Yellow Raft in Blue Water) I reread every few years so they can blow my mind all over again. So listen up, friends. I’m about to make your reading life a whole lot awesome-er. (Really-er.)

1. Everything I Never Told You: A Novel, by Celeste Ng. This is the story of a blended Chinese-American family living in a small town in the 1970s. It’s told from a bunch of different perspectives and put me into one of my I’m Never Going to Be That Good of a Writer depressive episodes. I promise you’ll love it. Also, could someone help me out with how to pronounce the author’s last name?

2. The Rosie Project: A Novel, by Graeme Simsion. Hands down the funniest narrator I have ever encountered. I was literally LOL’ing from my seat in 18B. Professor Don Tillman (brilliant, but not exactly what you’d call “street smart”) embarks on a scientific quest to find the perfect mate. Read this book then give it to your saddest friend. It will cheer them right up!

3. The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty. This is actually the one I recommend most often, because it’s fun and engaging and everyone I know who’s read it really loved it. Cecelia is living a happy life when she finds a letter written by her husband that is intended for her to read after his death. Except he’s alive. And her whole life is about to get thrown off course.

4. The Kitchen House: A Novel, by Kathleen Grissom. Wow. Wow. Okay, I don’t really know where to start with this one, except this was in my top 10 best reading experiences of my entire life. Set on a plantation in pre-civil war Virginia, Lavinia is a white indentured servant who is embraced as family by the plantation’s slaves. Where her life takes her and the way the story unfolds totally rocked me. Also, make sure you read at the end where she got the idea for the story–it gives me goosebumps!

5. The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel, by Diane Setterfield. A young biographer is called upon to write the story of a legendary writer, and the story that unfolds is gothic, and mysterious and so utterly engrossing I wish I could read it again and not see what was coming.

6. Where’d You Go, Bernadette: A Novel, by Maria Semple. There’s a restaurant near my house that serves a gigantic slice of bliss that goes by the name of Tollhouse Pie. It’s warm and buttery with big chunks of chocolate and walnuts and every time I eat it I wonder why I ever bother eating anything else. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is Tollhouse Pie in book form. Bernadette Fox is notorious for her bad behavior, and when she goes missing her daughter starts compiling all her correspondence to piece together where she’s gone. I loved this book. Like more than a friend.

7. A Yellow Raft in Blue Water: A Novel, by Michael Dorris. This is my favorite book. (I mean that.) Of the thousands I have read and loved, this is the one. One day I’ll write a separate post on it, but for now let me just tell you it’s the story of a grandmother, a mother, and a daughter and tells the story of their life from each of their perspectives. Mysterious Ida, train-wreck Christine, and lost Rayona. I think about them all the time.

8. The Patron Saint of Liars, by Ann Patchett. I have a writer crush on Ann Patchett. Like really. All of her books are unbelievable, but this is my most loved. And it also happens to be the one that launched her career. Pregnant Rose shows up at a home for unwed mothers and then stays. And stays. Even when her past refuses to remain in the past.

I hope you absolutely love these books. And if I ever develop amnesia like Drew Barrymore on 50 First Dates, would you please instruct my husband to leave these books in a pile on my bedside? And will you please, please tell me what books you recommend? I need a new book.

XO

Priorities

May 22, 2015

I can do anything

On the eve of my son’s first birthday I got some news. Bone melting news. My dream of publishing a young adult novel was suddenly a reality and OMG was I dreaming? It was like winning the lottery. Suddenly I had a publisher, an agent, and an honest to goodness book deal and what?  Simon & Schuster wanted to set up a phone call and they needed my bank info so they could wire me my advance, and oh by the way, they needed my author photo and bio?

I didn’t sleep for a solid 72 hours.

My deal was different than most because it was basically this: We think you’re a good writer, and we think people are going to like your book, but you’re going to have to rewrite it. How does one year sound?

And thus began my life as a nap time writer. And by that, I mean I kept my most important job as a full time mom to what may be the fastest toddler on the planet but also had to figure out a way to squeeze in some writing time. Okay, a lot of writing time.

This was really, truly (really) not easy. (Did I mention I’m mother to the fastest toddler on the planet?)

The first few weeks I decided to just stop sleeping. I’d stay up all night writing and take care of toddler by day. Perfect, right? What could go wrong?

(Cut to me sobbing into a carton of Cool Whip at 3 AM.)

So then I started the actual work of finding more time. It was a huge process and required a whole lot of patience on the part of my husband, but I did figure it out, and over a year later I am the proud author of a novel I cannot wait to shove in people’s faces. So where did all that extra time come from? Some was paid for, some was borrowed, but a lot of it came down to my big lesson of the year:

I CAN DO ANYTHING, BUT NOT EVERYTHING.

And by that, I mean, if I want to be a full time mom and a writer I can totally make that work. But  if I want to be a full time mom and a writer, and part time employee and dedicated yogi and a perfect housekeeper and a gardener and volunteer and keep up on all my favorite blogs, and get my hair done every six weeks….well, that’s not going to work.

So here’s what I did:

  • I hired a babysitter for 8 hours a week
  • I gave up my yoga membership and started doing shorter workout videos at home
  • I stopped spending nap time doing stupid stuff like surfing the Internet
  • I pretended to not notice all the weeds in my yard
  • I stopped blogging (sorry)
  • I took people up on their offers when they asked to watch Sam
  • I let my hair get long and scraggly
  • I told my dad I still really wanted to work as his writing assistant, but I could only do the actual writing assistant part and not the other things (events, fan mail, websites, etc.)
  • I shuffled our finances so I could hire a housecleaner to come twice a month
  • For several months I got up at 6 AM to write for two hours before the day started
  • I got good at quick dinners
  • I hung out with my friends less
  • I gratefully GRATEFULLY allowed my husband to take on more than his fair share
  • I sometimes wore my clothes twice because no one had time to do the laundry
  • I lost a lot of sleep

I know I am crazy privileged to have been able to do things like hire outside help, and I am also blessed with a lot of family/friend support. But my point is, even if you are a young mom, or you’re supporting your family, or you’re taking care of your aging parents or you have a super demanding job or WHATEVER, I really think you can find a way to do the one thing you truly want to do. (Really.)

So here’s my advice to you. If you find something that makes you want to sing from the rooftops and has you waking up from a dead sleep to scribble wildly on a pad of paper you keep next to your bed, then find a way to do it. Even if its for ten minutes a day.

Because seriously, people. That’s what we’re here for. Don’t give up!

(Imagine a swell of inspiring music.)

XO. And thank you so much for reading my blog, it means a lot to me!

 

8 YA Books You Should Read Immediately

May 21, 2015

YA COLLAGEPeople ask me things all the time. Things like,

  • Who told you that baby wipe baths are an acceptable alternative to the real thing?
  • Why are you feeding your two-year-old a diet that is 60% condiments?
  • Did you really wake up in the middle of the night because a clown was playing circus music over the baby monitor and drag your husband halfway to the baby’s room before realizing it was a dream?

I’m not going to answer any of those questions. They apply to parenting, and I’m obviously killing it in that department. KILLING it. But there is one question I am always happy to answer.

WHAT SHOULD I READ?

And seriously, don’t ask me if you don’t  want an answer. Because I will give you a recommendation. Or three. And then I’ll probably bring up books every time I see you, so then you’ll be like “Hey, I just asked you the one time so we’d have something to talk about, and now you think we’re having an impromptu book club meeting every time we see each other.”

Sorry about that.

But I’m really not sorry about this list I’m going to give you today. You will LOVE it. It’s a list of novels written for teens* and they’re smart and funny and made me turn green up to my eyeballs because I wished I’d written even just one sentence of them.

*ADULTS. Listen to me. YA novels are for you too. You are going to dive into these and love them because you were once a teenager, and regardless of how magical or horrible your teen years were, I’ll bet you anything you think about them often. And I bet you remember how much you FELT every little thing, and how up and down things were, and how bad and how GOOD it all could be. So take a minute to relive it all, okay? Because I know being an adult can feels like milk toast. Reject the milk toast. But keep saving for retirement, because really. You’re an adult now. You have to do crap like that.

1. Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell. I’m not even going to tell you about this one, just GO READ IT IMMEDIATELY. Fall in love. Get your heartbroken. Remember what it felt like to be a misfit.

2. Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins. I have to admit I was totally put off by the title. It sounded kind of…cheesy? But I figured 800+ ecstatic Amazon reviews couldn’t be wrong, so I gave it a shot and suddenly I was falling headfirst into Anna’s year in Paris and falling for the divine Etienne and OMG my head exploded. And so did my little sister’s. Really, so so fun.

3. Out of Reachby Carrie Arcos. So smart, so lovely, what a whirlwind. A girl goes looking for her drug addict brother. LOVED this. As I finished the last paragraph I thought “Now THAT’s what a YA novel should be.”

4. Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley. Two stories in one–which I love–and you won’t believe how they tie together. Cullen’s cousin overdoses, his small hometown becomes obsessed with the reappearance of a rare woodpecker, and his 15-year-old brother goes missing. Get ready to stay up late reading.

5. An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green. Did you think I’d make this list without one John Green book? No. Heavens no. He’s like YA royalty, and if I ever get the chance to meet him I’ll probably get all sweaty and awkward and before I know it say something ridiculous that I’ll regret for absolutely the rest of my life. But this BOOK! So fun. The premise killed me. And John Greene’s writing is just so damn special. I can’t get over it.

6. Something Real, by Heather Demetrios. This is about a girl whose entire crazy life (she’s one of 13 kids) has been recorded on reality TV. For a few perfect months she gets the chance to live a normal life, but when the cameras come swooping back in she has to decide what she really wants. I’ve basically been singing from the rooftops about this one. SUCH GREAT WRITING. I was so unbelievably sucked in.

7. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. You know and LOVE the character in approximately six words. Gorgeous writing, important themes, BEAUTIFUL.

8. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, by Jennifer E Smith. Hadley and Oliver meet on a flight to London. She’s flying to attend (reluctantly) her father’s second wedding. And he’s flying…why? Lots of fun.

BONUS: (SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION) Love & Gelato, by Jenna Evans Welch. Lina’s had a bad year. The worst, really. And now she’s leaving the shreds of her life to travel halfway across the world to live with a father she just found out about. Oh, and minor detail. He lives right smack dab in the middle of the cemetery. And his past with Lina’s mother? Pretty shady. Part mystery, part ice cream, part love story, I can honestly say I’ve been losing sleep over this story for a good year now. I will be adding a pre-order link the second it’s available, but for now, plan on Spring 2016. And pray I’ll survive this next round of edits!

DOUBLE BONUS: I didn’t list the Michael Vey series because you’ve already read it and are anxiously awaiting book #5, correct? If not, start with Michael Vey: Prisoner of Cell 25. It’s fun, adventure packed, super creative, and wow. That guy really knows what he’s doing. But don’t take my word for it. Check out the over 1,000 Amazon ratings with an average of 4.5 stars.

Happy reading! What YA novels have you loved?

 

 

How to Write a Novel in 47 Easy Steps

March 3, 2015

1. Learn to read. Start with things like Little House on the Prairie and about 93% of the Goosebumps series. Fall madly, deeply in love with the printed word. Substitute shampoo bottles and owners manuals when books are scarce.

2. Become a pre-teen and realize there isn’t much for you at the library. The gap between The Boxcar Children and Adult Fiction is filled with very little, and what is there feels vapid and discusses lip-gloss way too often. Denounce said literature.

3. One day when standing in the tiny young adult section at your local library announce “When I grow up I will write books for this age group!” Then head straight for the classics section. Gone With the Wind at eleven? You’ll never be hungry again.

4. Attend high school in Italy. Meet a girl who lives in a cemetery in Florence and think “Huh. That would be a cool setting for a book.” (Remember this. It will come in handy later.)

5. Enter college and pretend for two full semesters that you don’t know what you’ll major in. Tell people, “Maybe biology? Maybe psychology?” Quietly sign up for four English literature classes.

6. Take creative writing classes. Find that you’re terrible at poetry but stories come pretty easy. Try not to be too grossed out by the ubiquitous 10% of your classmates who insist on writing thinly veiled retellings of their own sexual experiences. You’d just so much rather not have that visual.

7. Graduate. (Predictably) flail.

8. Get married. When deciding whether to change your name to Jenna Lyn Welch or Jenna Evans Welch, go with the latter. It sounds more literary. Also, it means your initials will be JEW. Hilarious!

9. Tutor elementary students in reading/writing. Find out after six months of this that your boss has told the parents of your students that you are an elementary school teacher. Feel terrible that they were misled. Leave.

10. Decide to write a young adult novel. Deep breaths. The first draft will be written almost entirely on a crappy computer in the upstairs room of a local coffee shop. You’ll subsist almost entirely on the establishment’s triple chocolate cake and you’ll feel that you’re doing something grand and dangerous.

11. Realize pretty early on that writing your first book is neither grand nor dangerous. Also, you have no idea what you’re doing.

12. Keep writing anyway.

13. Print out copy of book. Give to a few friends. Get some positive and some negative feedback. Read it yourself and realize that while your character and writing are pretty good, the plot is absolute garbage.

14. Try to fix plot. No success.

15. Despair.

16. Try again.

17. Despair.

18. Shove novel in closet.

19. Start working with Author Father on his novels. Spend several years doing this. Also start writing a blog. Continue reading feverishly.

20. Author Father asks, “What about your novel? You need to get back to work on it.” (Ignore Author Father.)

21. Author Father: “You are a great writer. You have improved every single one of my novels. You ‘hear the music.’ Why aren’t you writing?” (Hem and haw.)

22.  Pretend to be okay about not writing. You tried, right? And you couldn’t do it. Your plot was total garbage. Just because you know good writing doesn’t mean you can do it.

23. Keep pretending you’re happy about not being a writer.

24. Have Child. Give him Mark Twain’s real first name.

25. Keep reading.

26. Just before the candles are blown out at Child’s first birthday, get some astounding news. Despite your hemming and hawing Author Father and his Fancy NYC Agent have gone behind your back and presented your novel to the editors of Simon & Schuster. They see real potential. They want you.

27. Have exact feeling you had when husband proposed (nausea + panic).

28. Wonder why the best moments in your life always seem to make you feel nausea + panic.

29. Say “What? They want MY BOOK? But it doesn’t have a plot.” Fancy NYC Agent assures you they do want it. And the plot can be fixed. Then she tears up and tells you that getting you this book deal has been one of the greatest joys of her career. (She may be fancy, but after being in your life for 20 years, she’s also family.)

30. Suddenly realize they aren’t making this up. A major publishing company has just offered you money to make your biggest dream come true. (nausea + panic x 8)

31. Blow out candles on Child’s birthday cake. Feel as though you’re in a dream. Decide not to tell anyone your news until book deal is finalized. Last exactly four minutes before pulling out phone and calling everyone you know.

32. Begin work on rewriting novel. You have one year.

33. Write and write and write. This includes about a thousand starts and stops, and at least eleven meltdowns. Start neglecting other responsibilities (laundry, cooking, cleaning).

34. Hire a cleaner when in a burst of cleaning energy you realize Child responds to the vacuum like it is something he is seeing for the first time.

35. Hire a babysitter for 8 hours a week when you realize naptime is not enough time to write a novel.

36. Have at least 700 conversations with your husband that begin with the words, “What if….” and ends with some new plot twist. Feel incredibly grateful that he is the only one who will ever know every ridiculous turn your book could have taken.

37. Write. Then write some more. Six months later, send in first draft to your Two Lovely Editors.

38. Wait a realllly long time. Catch up on Desperate Housewives. And the laundry.

39. Receive edit letter. Learn that your Two Lovely Editors are incredibly lovely about the way they present their feedback. Learn to understand that sentences like, “We really feel your story is engaging, and want it to be that way from the beginning,” actually mean “Your opener is boring. Try again.”

40. Try again.

41. Write. And write. Throw away half of it then start again. Continue neglecting other areas of your life. Realize how bad things have gotten when kitchen timer goes off and rather than shouting “Nutritious home cooked meal!” Child shouts “Pizza!” Hope your insane writing schedule won’t have permanent effects on his diet.

42. Gratefully allow husband to take over more than his fair share. Spend every second you’re not caring for Child, writing. Completely stop posting to your blog, because WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT? Your hair hasn’t even been washed.

43. Write at full speed right up until 5 PM on your deadline. Turn in novel again. Time this just before Valentines Day as a gift to your husband. He cares about you (and your book) but could really use a break from hanging out with someone who is spending most of her time with people she made up.

44. Wait. Breathe several sighs of relief. Do the laundry. (Has it been done in six months? No one seems to remember.) Marvel at how easy life can feel when you’re only existing in one world.

45. Hear back from editors. Time to edit. And edit. And edit. Throw out some scenes you think are perfectly lovely but no fourteen-year-old in her right mind will every care about. Make some more big changes. Make a bunch of small changes. Wonder if your book will ever really feel really done. But then one day, somehow, it is.

46. Attach your novel into body of email addressed to Two Lovely Editors and pause for just a moment. That little attachment is your work. Your dream. It represents your very, very best try. Once you press send there will be readers and critics and Amazon reviews and people who hate it—and that’s just if you’re lucky. It’s like standing with your toes over the edge of a cliff.

47. Press send anyway.

P.S. Love and Gelato will be out in March/April 2016.

Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer

January 16, 2014

Into_Thin_Air

I just finished this book today. It’s an old one and I’m sure many of you have read it, but if you haven’t I definitely recommend it. It is the personal account of a journalist who survived the May 1996 disaster that killed a record number of people on Mt. Everest. This book was not light and easy for me to read–there is a lot of details about climbing technique and the names and places are recorded carefully (Jon climbed Everest as part of a journalism assignment)–but it really took me into a different world. It was fascinating to me what people undergo (endangering their lives aside) to ascend Mt. Everest. After reading this I am 110% sure that climbing Everest is not in my future. But reading about it from my warm bed? That I’m up for!

Distraction-Free Parenting

January 15, 2014

photoI think the universe is trying to tell me something. Last week I saw this video posted on Facebook and thought about it for an entire day. A few days later, my cousin posted this on her blog. And tonight when I checked my email I had a message with the subject line Acknowledge the Cost of Your Distraction. It was an article from HuffPost “Stress Less Parenting” series. I recommend reading the article, but the bottom line was that all of our devices take us away from moments we can never get back.

I have been so plugged in (and yes, I realize the irony of blogging about this). I check my email while sitting at red lights and watch YouTube videos while feeding Sam breakfast. To get through daily chores I don’t like I oftentimes listen to podcasts or the radio. I’ve written about this before. But lately it seems worse. Staying at home with a baby all day can be challenging. It’s isolating, and tedious, and to be honest, it can be really boring. I am immensely grateful that I have the opportunity to stay at home and spend my days with Sam–there is nothing I would rather be doing. But it’s easy to fall into the Internet trap, and I want to change that! I’m not totally sure how to, but I started by unplugging for an hour tonight. I carried Sam around while making dinner, letting him touch everything (an onion, cheddar cheese, a loaf of bread), and then talked to him while he ate. Then I rocked him, played with him, and put him to bed. It was a completely normal, mundane night. But I know without a doubt that there will come a day when I will wish more than anything to be able to go back and spend one more night rocking my baby. I can’t save up tonight for later but I can enjoy it now.

Apps That May Help You Keep It Together

January 14, 2014

I seriously considered taking a few photos of my house to show you why I need to write and utilize this post. But then I got worried that a government agency would rope off my dresser in order to do a study/excavation of the layers of clothes, papers and ice cream bowls that currently reside there–perhaps to determine if they are harboring any life. I also (half-heartedly) considered cleaning off said dresser instead of writing about it, but quickly dismissed that idea. Sam might need it for a science project in junior high. By then it should be teeming with life! I am such a great mother!

I drag my heels when it comes to technology. Until about 18 months ago I was using a phone that didn’t even have the Internet. (I think David almost gave up on me.) But it makes no sense for me to hesitate, because every time I hop on a digital bandwagon (the iPhone/Instagram/e-book readers) I am absolutely amazed. How have I lived without it! Why didn’t anyone tell me how great they were? Internet forever!

Apps are my new thing. I have several that have made an honest to goodness difference in my life and home–and for the better! (Leave my dresser out of this. There are rows of clean baby bottles in my cupboard and I am wearing a bra and clean clothes right now–that shows progress!)

INTUITION+

The other day I had a lot to get done and so I started to make a to-do list. Several interruptions and a few hours later I realized I hadn’t even gotten around to finishing writing said to-do list. Motherhood requires but does not lend itself to organization. Also, I think it burns up your short term memory in a fiery ball of crazy. This app helps. It basically allows you to make as many to-do lists as you want and then have them on hand when you need them. Every time I notice we’re out of something I quickly add it to my grocery list. If I hear of a book I want to read I add it to my “To Read” list. I also love that it is visually pleasing–you can color code everything and it is easy to cross items off and add them back on if you need them again. Price: FREE.

photo-2 photo

Also, see that little cricket in the bottom right? If you click on him he will tell you encouraging things. He will be your new BFF.

MOTIVATED MOMS

Sadly, I am not a natural housekeeper. I love doing things related to my home, but tend to make giant messes cooking and rarely put away clean laundry. Once Sam was born things got worse. Every time I had a few spare minutes I would start running around like I was auditioning for a Scooby Doo montage. What do I do first? Shower? Work? Run the dishwasher? Nap? I’d often collapse in a heap having completed about 14% of each of those tasks and having created an even bigger mess and completely exhausting myself. This app is awesome because it tells you what to do.

Every day you are presented with a doable housekeeping list of rotating chores. They include the everyday (dishes, sweeping, laundry) as well as the yearly (flip mattresses, change AC filter). It even tells you what days you should clip your baby’s nails and and when you should have a little You Time. I also adore that “Read to children” is on the daily chore list. You can try a Lite Version for free (I think it lasts two weeks), or buy it for $8. They also sell ebooks that you can print off if you’re more of a paper and pencil type of person. You can customize your lists (no need to clip your teenager’s nails or feed your nonexistent pets). Here are screenshots of my lists for today.

photo-3photo-4

Price: $8 for the year.

Are there any apps that have helped you out? I’d love to hear about them!

Christ as an Infant

December 25, 2013

I have spent the entire Christmas season wondering what Christ was like as an infant.

Was He a good eater? How old was He when he slept through the night? Was He calm? Active? Did He laugh easily? Did Mary chase Him around the house all day trying to keep Him from slamming His fingers in drawers and drinking from the dog’s water bowl?

Having an infant has made the divine birth feel so real to me. The images we see of the Nativity scene are so serene and beautiful, but I wonder if they mask the truth of how physical birth is. Of how tired Mary must have been, and how worried Joseph was that he couldn’t find a more suitable place for his new son. I believe that Christ went through mortality in a very real sense–along with experiencing the sins and pains of the world, He also went through teething, scraped knees, and hurt feelings. That He was comforted by a mother who didn’t always know the right thing to do, and a father who did his best.

I’ve also wondered how much Mary understood. Did she know that the infant she held had created the world? Did she know He would grow up to be loved and hated, and eventually killed? I like to think she didn’t know everything, that she held her infant and only knew some of the simple truths of mothers everywhere: that she loved her baby. That she’d do anything for Him. That He was divine and precious and a gift.

I am grateful for the new perspective and gift of motherhood, and in particular for an understanding of Christ that brings so much joy and peace into my life. Merry Christmas! I hope you spent it feeling the love of those around you.

 

Dear Childless

August 6, 2013

Dear Childless,

photo bombA few months ago we were at a BBQ together–do you remember? I had dressed up my baby in something really cute for the party, but he’d puked all over it just minutes before we arrived, so we showed up fashionably late and smelling slightly of puke, but we were there.

Maybe you were just being polite, asking me about the day to day life of mothering a newborn. You asked about being pregnant, and giving birth, and about all the sleep I hadn’t been getting. You agreed that my slightly pukey smelling baby was adorable and said you liked his name. And then, in a sort of round about way you asked me this: Is it worth it?

I’ve thought about your question for a few months now. I’ve also thought about all the questions I had before becoming a mother. I was surprisingly hesitant about having a child. I say “surprisingly” because I’ve always been in the Loves Kids category. As you know,  I’m the oldest of 5. I was a favorite neighborhood babysitter. I nannied all through college. And yet whenever girls talked about how dreamy it would be to have a child, I  just thought they sounded naive. I’d seen the hard days and long nights. I’d watched the stress and anguish and worry. I knew that the unexpected could happen. But here I am today, an honest to goodness mother. And I just keep thinking about your question, as well as all the questions I had before having a baby. So if you’re up for a little advice, here are the questions I had pre-baby, and my best attempts at answering them.

Do I have to have kids? Of course not. But let’s be honest: We live in a place and a culture that expects us to have children. But I seriously don’t think societal pressure is a good reason to become a mother. You can affect and change so many lives, kids or not. You can have so much love in your life, kids or not. You can be happy, kids or not. You can be fulfilled, kids or not.

DisneylandAm I ready? I wondered that for several years. And then one day I realized that I was never going to feel completely ready. More than anything I wanted that one pivotal moment where I’d know for sure, but it never came. Sometimes you just have to jump.

Will I always be happy about being a mother? No. There will be a day when your husband will come home from work to you in tears because you’re positive the baby hates you. It is just sleep deprivation. There will be days that feel so unbelievably long and lonely you can’t believe it. You’ll have to call your mom and haul the baby and his 30 lbs. of stuff to the mall to remember there is still a world out there. There will be moments that someone will tell you to “trust your motherly instincts” and you will want to smack them because you feel like you don’t have a single motherly instinct in your body. But you’ll be okay. You really will.

Will it be hard? Duh. But seriously, what phase of life isn’t? Work is hard. Marriage is hard. High school was hard. Look back on the easy-peasiest time period of your life and I bet you’ll remember some hard. That’s just life.

Will it affect my marriage? Yes. You’ll see the man you love loving that baby you made and you’ll feel like your heart is going to explode. Other days he will forget to start the dishwasher full of bottles and you’ll feel like your head is about to explode. Motherhod is draining, and there will be times you’ll feel like there isn’t an ounce of anything left of you at the end of the day. It will take extra commitment, extra communication, and lots of patience with each other. You will see the best in him. You’ll love him even more. You’ll have a connection you didn’t know you were missing.

Can I do it? Of course you can. As one book put it, you come from a long line of succesful parents. It is in your genes. No, it isn’t all intuitive. And no, I have ‘t figured out which cry is “hungry cry” and which is “wet diaper cry.” But you can do it.

Sam and PhillyWill it be like I imagine? A whole hearted no. It will be better. It will be worse. It will be crazier. One day you’ll leave the house fully aware that there is spit-up in your hair and you’ll wonder Who the heck am I? But it most definitely will not be like you imagined.

So, finally. Is it worth it?

Over the past 5 months the following thought has come to my mind on a weekly basis: These are the moments you will look back on for the rest of your life. I keep feeling like this is the most important thing I have ever done. I keep looking at Sam’s impossibly big eyes and feeling like I am the luckiest person I know. And to be honest, I didn’t know I would feel like this–I just hoped.

I will not try to tell you whether or not it will be worth it to you, but I will tell you that it is hard to know what it will bring into your life until it happens. So listen to whatever voice is speaking to you. Follow it. If you feel like motherhood is for you, then head in that direction. Embrace it! So much love will come into your life. So much life will come into your life. Be excited! But if it isn’t for you then allow yourself to be at peace. Be kind to yourself and shower the people you love with all the good things you have to offer. You’ll know what to do. And remember, so many of the good things in life come from embracing the unknown!

Love,

Unsolicited Advice

10 Things Thursday

July 25, 2013

220px-Some_Like_It_Hot_posterFirst of all, I wanted to say thank you for all of the insightful comments, shares, and all-around love about yesterday’s post. I cared a lot about it and I was so grateful to hear that so many of you have walked the same path I have.

Today I’m introducing something new. Every week I will be posting a list of 10 things that caught my eye or attention in some way. Imagine we are having an Internet lunch date. After ordering some version of a turkey sandwich (so predictable) I lean forward and say one of the following:

1. Let’s imagine a fantasy world where we can eat an entire tray of cookies for lunch and leave feeling fabulous. Now let’s make it a reality.

2. Let’s imagine ourselves as the sort of people who can take a man’s T-shirt and make something worthy of Anthropologie out of it. Then let’s remember what happened the last time we tried to sew something and head right back to #1. They’re impossible to mess up.

3. Let’s add to our already impressive list of adult skills (like fixing our AC and scheduling regular dentist appointments) by getting our finances under control. 

4. Noodles, schmoodles. Let’s make a mouth-watering lasagna with thinly sliced zucchini. And be called a genius by our hungry husband. (Yes, I am referring to our one collective husband.)

5. Let’s allow reality to slap us in the face. I knew there was something fishy about all those orange-skinned “After” photos.

Screen shot 2013-07-25 at 2.12.53 PM6. Let’s go to Target and let our baby try out all the cool baby gear. Also, let’s wash him with Baby Magic and spend the rest of the day smelling his head.

7. Let’s meet this girl. Her writing and story are oh so beautiful.

8. Let’s get our butts kicked by tiny ballerina athletes. And then go back the next day (and next) for more.

9. Let’s enjoy exaggeration at its finest. Lines from this blogger have made it into the Welch family vernacular.

10. Let’s take some time to re-watch our favorite movie.

 

*Ten Things Thursday is inspired by the ever inspiring Shutterbean.

What We’re Really Talking About When We Talk About Our Bodies

July 24, 2013

Half MarathonSo.

There was this one time about 7 years ago that I gained some weight. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough that I worried. It was the very first time it had ever happened to me and I decided it was a problem I needed to correct immediately. I signed up for a weight loss program and began a long year of tracking all the food I ate and weighing in weekly.

There were some good moments. For one, it was easy to lose weight. I lost about a pound and a half a week, and I felt like I’d accomplished something big when I reached my first goal. I learned more about nutrition, learned to cook a little, and felt pretty great about how I looked. I also started exercising regularly and started spending a lot of my free time doing active things, like hiking and yoga.

There were also some not so good moments. At a certain point my weight loss stalled, and regardless of what I did to try to regain the magic of my early weight loss days, the scale simply would not move.

wedding day danceAfter several months of redoubling my efforts a few things happened. One, I burned out. Two, I became pretty obsessed with everything weight related. What followed was several years of yo-yoing. I felt like I was doing everything I could to not gain weight, yet it just kept happening. At one point I was on a raw food diet–meaning I basically ate vegetable juice, salads, and sweet potatoes, and was still managing to gain weight. Those years were super painful. I wouldn’t say I ever got really big (at my highest I was about a size 12/14), but I definitely had a big problem in my head. I was obsessive about my weight and drastic in the things I did to try to change it, swinging from “I don’t care, I’ll eat whatever I want” (translation: I’m eating as a way to mask how painful this experience  is for me) to “If I don’t lose weight I will never be happy” (translation: I’m not eating as a way to mask how painful this experience is for me).  Neither position was healthy, and I went through some shaky times.

It took a couple of years and several doctors to clear things up. After a while I settled at a weight I felt fairly comfortable at and have been able to arrive at a healthier mental state. But I definitely have some residue left over from my weight loss experience. For one, I listen hard when people talk about their bodies. I feel like they are saying so much when they look in the mirror and say “Ugh. I hate my arms,” or “What happened to me? I used to be so toned.”

I’ve come to believe that the way we feel about our bodies tends to have nothing to do with reality. I have seen tiny women bemoan their chubby thighs the same way I’ve seen larger women do. I’ve seen people point to nonexistent lovehandles. I’ve seen women stand around talking about their worst features as if it was fun. I’ve also come to believe that having a thin, attractive body is not the fast track to happiness that so many of us believe it is. You can look great and be miserable. It’s all about perspective. If you aren’t happy you aren’t happy, regardless of what kind of body you are living in.

Angels LandingAlso, a lot of us take away everything else that we’re made up of and boil it down to one issue–fat or thin? We can be  intelligent, kind, creative, funny and sexy, and the only thing you think you are is fat. So what is it that we’re really saying when we say we want to be thin? Do we want to be loved? Special? Admired? Accepted? Cherished? Do we want to be happy? Comfortable in our own skin?

So does your weight just not matter? Of course it matters. If I’ve learned anything, its that ignoring your body doesn’t work. It’s what hauls you around on your grand adventures. It’s what gets you up in the morning and drives you to work.  It’s what looks back at you in the mirror.

Whenever I run into an issue that is causing me significant stress I like to give it the “End of Life Test.” And by that I mean that I imagine it is the end of my life and I am on my deathbed. Does the issue I’m so concerned with have any bearing in that moment? When it comes to weight, my personal answer is yes and no. No, I will not wish that I’d had thinner thighs or lived off of diet shakes so I could fit into a size 4. But yes, maybe I will wish that I’d taken better care of my body so I could do all the  things that matter: play with my kids, work hard, experience less stress.

So what if you have a long road to health ahead of you? So what if you’re behind in the game and need to make some big changes? You can do it–start today. And in the meantime, treat yourself like you treat your best friend. I’ll bet you don’t dwell for a second on her arms or hips or thighs. When you look at her, you see all those late night conversations and that time she did a Cher impression that made you laugh so hard you peed your pants, or the afternoon she brought you a grocery bag full of pizzas and ice cream and a tiny stuffed elephant because for a whole week you’d thought you were pregnant and when you found out you weren’t you were devastated. That’s what the people who love you see as well. Be one of those people who loves you.

first moments with SamI think we all know what we need to do. We know we need to exercise and eat well and say no to unhealthy foods more often than we say yes. But we also need to look in the mirror and say thank you. Thank you for making it possible for me to swim in a waterfall in Costa Rica and have my babies and dance like a ridiculous grasshopper at that summer wedding. Thank you. I’ll do better at taking care of you–but for today, just thank you.

You may have noticed the pictures scattered through this post. These are  pictures of important moments in my life over the last few years–the finish line of a half marathon, the pinnacle of a challenging hike, my first day with my baby, dancing on my wedding day. Those were moments that couldn’t have happened without my body and yet I don’t remember thinking much about it in those moments–so I’m taking the opportunity to say it: thank you.