Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Inspiration From Dirt and Cheese

As I wrote about foster care and adoption this last year, What I'm Going to Be When They Grow Up, I've been thinking more about types of therapy. Different experiences my family members are going through have made me think through what helps and what doesn't, what to say and when to be still. 

At some point in our lives, we have a "Job and Friends" situation. Do we need to crack down on a loved one's self-destructive behavior, point them back in the right direction and speak the truth that they don't want to hear?


Or do we need to sit beside them in silence for seven days and nights.


Dorothy Perez shared many stories with me as I wrote her book. She told me about pre-teen twins who cussed at her, and how she wouldn't allow it. She also talked about the love and forgiveness they showed to kids who, intentionally or not, hurt Dorothy and her husband over and over again by their poor choices.

And when we are struggling, what do we do for ourselves?

My favorite two types of therapy right now are dirt and cheese. Not together.

Going out to the garden and getting down and dirty is very restful to me. I can finally clear my head. I've heard that dirt is beneficial even on a microbial level. However it may be, it gives me something to take care of and an excuse to go outside for 15 minutes every day.

There's such a joy in seeing morning glories sprout after just a few days of rain. I love tracking how the vines have climbed in a mere 24 hours, and then counting the flowers each morning until there are too many.

Edith Schaeffer talks about this in "The Hidden Art of Homemaking." She suggested that even in a small apartment balcony, morning glories could be grown in a bucket and simple joy be taken in their presence. I found this to be true during my five years in France, where I always found a place to grow them.

My second therapy, is cheese. And the other foods that go with it. To me, there's nothing like the warmth and fragrance of cooking to encourage my spirit. And then I get to eat it. Cooking awakens my appetite when I'm feeling to low to want to eat. It excites my imagination. It's a quiet moment to turn on Netflix while I chop and slice. It makes me feel useful to give a meal to others out of my plenty.

Cooking gives me something where I can control the outcome. Sure, on a bad day a burned meal adds to the heartbreak, but if I give it my attention, it will turn out well. I can pretty much insure that, when not much else in life has a guarantee.

What is your therapy? Do you have an activity you do, a person you talk to?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Inspiration from a Runaway Boy

Roland was a troubled child.

Dorothy and Manuel knew this when they welcomed him into their home. After all, he had come to them after the funeral of his mother, murdered by his father.

This is just one of the stories in the book I wrote with Dorothy, "What I'm Going to Be When They Grow Up." Here's an excerpt:

"Roland was an angry boy. He would get mad and run off. We could understand that he needed some time, but foster children "belong" to the state. If he was gone for over two hours, we would have to report it. We searched for him desperately to avoid this."

Manuel told Roland not to runaway anymore, but the boy disappeared once again. Worried she'd have to call the authorities, Dorothy distracted herself with mowing the yard.

Roland jumped down out of tree, reassuring her he hadn't actually left and offering to mow the yard. He lived with them until married in his late teens.

Read more about this unique foster family in our book, available for purchase here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Inspiration from a GIVEAWAY

And here it is. I clicked the final click.

"What I'm Going to Be When They Grow Up" will finally be printed and the story of a unique foster family will be shared with a larger audience than ever. After 45 years and over 90 children, this wonderful true story deserves it.

To celebrate, I am doing a GIVEAWAY! (see the Rafflecopter below. Just sign in with facebook or use your email. Your information stays confidential. You can complete three tasks to enter your name three times in the drawing.) This won't be the only I do, so keep checking in for the next opportunity.

I will also be setting up a blog tour - if you are interested in me talking about this project on your blog, let me know!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Inspiration from a New Fostercare Memoir

Since I obviously wasn't spending writing time on blogging, here is what I was writing--a memoir of a foster family who parented over 90 children during 45 years.

The foster mom, Dorothy, shared her stories and what she had already written for her senior center Memory Makers group. For the last year, I worked on sewing all the pieces together from interviews with Dorothy, notes by her husband, articles, letters and old photographs.

I worked with a local artist, Adrian Buentello, to remaster an old drawing by a friend of Dorothy's to create this beautiful artwork.

Now the book is almost ready to be released through CreateSpace as a self-published work. I'm excited and nervous. As with most projects, I'd like more time to be sure and really brush up each sentence. As Dorothy is not as young as she used to be, we wanted to not delay the process too long, however.

I do dream of taking the time to interview as many of her now-adult foster children as I can find. I'd love to write this expanded version, find an agent and market this wonderful story.

So enjoy the cover art and I'll be posting updates!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Inspiration from Grief

This morning, I went to the nursing home where my sweet great-grandma spent her final days. I hadn't been there since her death ten years ago. A lot of remodeling had been done, but there was still enough to remind me and make me miss her terribly.

Great-Grandma's home-going was my first acquaintance with death. I had just received the news when I had to leave to help my cousin and aunt host a Bible study's Christmas dinner. My aunt saw my face when I walked in. I told her what had happened, expecting she would send me home. My aunt pulled me into a hug, then gave me instructions for the dinner and whisked off to her guests. I didn't know then that it was my first lesson in dealing with grief. Cry, then move on. I would need to remember that when that same precious aunt died three years later. I still find myself turning down the road to her house, or wanting to call her for design advice.

My grandfather came to live with us under hospice care. He hadn't been a huge part of our lives in recent years, so my main feeling was inconvenience at giving up my bedroom. However, Grandpa's story of his deathbed rebirth, newfound faith and desire to see the face of Jesus, changed me. I wrote the story down and it became my first published work in Focus on the Family's teen girl magazine, Brio. Through Grandpa, I saw death as a golden doorway, a beautiful rest for a tired soul.

The final conversation with my Wyoming uncle centered on my upcoming marriage. He wanted some reassurance about the stability of my relationship. If I had known we would never talk again, or that I wouldn't drive up his sage-covered mountain again, would I have let him end the conversation so quickly? I wasn't even on the same continent when he died.

By the time my paternal grandfather was doing poorly, I had begun to seize this lesson; the people you love will not be here forever. On our visit back to the U.S., Grandpa was unusually talkative, sharing the history of our small town and a particular willow tree in the arboretum. I was once again in France when he passed away, but that final visit was a peaceful parting to remember.

I lived sweet, blessed years before grief knocked again. This time, it hit even closer to home, as I miscarried a tiny baby.

Sometimes I wish I was a psychologist. I am not but let me say what I have learned about grief. You can't escape it nor ignore it. As my aunt would sing, on this bear hunt, you're gonna have to go through it. I hope you find help, friends or family to hold you through it. Time won't stop the grief, but at some point, you'll be able you breathe again. At some point the grief will feel bittersweet as you remember.

That's partly why I write, because seeing the words makes what I'm thinking clearer to me. It also feels like the emotion has overflowed from my heart, helping to even out that unstable organ. Finally, it feels like I am keeping my end of the bargain. I believe that if God gives me an experience, it is so I can use it for someone. If He gives me a story, it is to share it.

My son and I read a story from Cambodia about a boy who heard wonderful stories from an old man. But the boy refused to tell the stories and they were caught in an old bag. Resentful, the stories tried to harm the boy on his wedding day, but the old man intervened. The boy learned that he had to share the stories he was given and began telling them to his bride and later to their children.

This is what I think. My stories will sour inside me if I don't share them with you. And yours might boil inside of you if you too do not share them. If you would like, please share them with me, in the comments or in an email to jenna.vincentquentinATgmail.com. Ultimately, the one to share your griefs and joys with is Jesus. He is the greatest Listener ever, trust me.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Inspiration from Daily Life

I'd like to get back to blogging about stories I see in life, taking the time to record and share them.

Like this one:
A father leaned against the door frame, watching his young son. The four-year-old had arranged his dinosaurs in a circle, with one isolated in the center. The father frowned, picturing a ring of bullies.

"Hey, buddy. Why is that one in the middle?" He asked, concerned.

The child looked up with wise, green eyes. "He is their leader. He is telling them that they are strong and brave."

Friday, October 3, 2014

Inspiration from About Time

I don't often pick favorites.
I have seven sisters, so I can't afford to annoy the others for the sake of one.
The same goes with books and movies.
But I have found a film that is definitely my current favorite. "About Time."

I love everything about it. 
Delightful characters: good strong men, desperately in love with their families.
Inspiring relationships: Father/son, husband/wife, brother/sister
Challenging message: Live each day seeing all of the good, precious things about it.
Clever dialog and just good, British humor, despite some swear words. 

What's your favorite film or book and why?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Inspiration from Women in STEM

The biggest thing I believe about womanhood is that it should be supported. If a girl wants to be a stay-at-home mom, support her. If she wants to work part-time from home, support her. If she wants to nurse in public, support her. If she wants to put the kiddo with Grandma or at a daycare, support her. If she doesn't want kids, support her. (You just found a babysitter...just kidding, just kidding.) If she wants to get a PhD in Applied Mathematics, and have a baby while she does her thesis (I'm looking at you, Carole), support her.

I was curious what exactly is the climate for women working in traditionally male-dominated jobs in our small county. Here is the resulting article, giving a little glimpse at two women's careers. 
Working in STEM, Women Who Rock Science, Tech, Engineering and Math