“Real Life Stories–Women of Inspiration. Jacqui”

I used to live in the same neighborhood as Jacqui for a few years.  She’s not only stunningly beautiful, she’s crazy smart and creative.  She’s a writer and I had the privilege of reading her first completed Young Adult novel which I can’t WAIT to see in print one day.  

She’s fiercely dedicated to her kids and you can tell she always puts them first.  She’s also recently taken up running which just makes me happy.

Real Life Stories

1.  Give me a quick peek at your story.
I grew up in the pine-covered mountains of Flagstaff, AZ, the oldest sibling of six opinionated, semi-crazies.  A lot was expected of me as the oldest, and I’d escape from responsibilities by entering my own imaginary fantasy worlds.  I loved escaping into a book and got into lots of trouble because I was easily distracted.  I sang in the HS choir, ran track on year and worked for my dad from age 13 on. My parents taught me to work hard.  I studied abroad the first semester of my freshman year, traveling from Russia to Western Europe.  Traveling gave me a worldview and an appreciation for God’s love for me and for all of His children.  I reinvented myself that first year way from home.  While at Ricks College I met the most adorable identical twin from Tennessee.  He could talk to anyone, was easy-going, confident and had mad cooking skills.  Plus his apartment was clean–even the bathroom.  We transferred to BYU and got hitched mid-winter semester, 1997.  I graduated in English and had four babies over eight years.  I love staying at home with the kids and have been married over 17 years.

2.  Tell me about an “every day moment” you are grateful for
I was born to be a mom to teenagers.  Little kids and babies stressed me out big time.  Chatting with my teenage daughter (who is taller than me and borrows my clothes) and helping her with make-up techniques or friendship dilemmas is so fun for me.  I LOVE having her friends over tot he house.  Teenagers are such a riot and have so much potential.  I love watching the antics of my 12-year-old as she creates artwork and executes crazy ideas like filling Rubbermaid tubs with hot water in the winter and soaking in them on our back patio.  I love kicking a ball with my 8-year-old son, or trying to answer his deep questions about the nature of God.  I’m absolutely drinking in pulling my six-year-old onto my lap and kissing her tiny face.  She’s like a little kitten and I know how fast her siblings grew up, so I’m snuggling her a lot.  Also, I love our 15-20 min drive to our charter school.  It’s like herding cats getting all four of them into the car in the morning, but we have to be together and the best talking of the day is before and after school.  And at the dreaded bedtime.

3.  What is one ambition you have in your life right now:
As much as I’d like to focus on my ambition to be a published novelist, my number one ambition is to be invested in my teenage kids as I was with my infants.  I want my house to be a safe, comfortable place for them and their friends.  It’s important to me to listen and connect, even through fist-bumps and passing hugs.  A well-timed conversation can turn the course of a teenager’s life.  I want to keep feeding them–both their bellies and their souls, and I want them to rely on me to be a steady voice in a crazy world.  I’m honored to help them navigate their unique path to God.  Their souls are precious, and I want them to realize their worth.  It’s my greatest ambition.  I fail all of the time, but I want to make a difference.

4.  If you could speak on anything to a large group of women, what would you talk about?
We can’t control a lot of our trials, but in spite of all the ways Satan tries to take us down, we are happiest when we become God’s hands.  I love learning from other women, and am all about copying.  If you have a good idea, I’ll unabashedly steal it and try it in my home or life.  So thanks to those overachievers who make my life look good.  Most likely anything that’s working wasn’t my idea in the first place.  Women have such unique gifts, and we can change the world when we abandon competition and instead lift and bless each other.  Society’s definition of what we should be is pretty much a physical one.  It doesn’t focus on the fierce courage or intense intellect that we have.  It’s a good reminder to me that the Lord doesn’t look on the outward appearance, but on the heart.  We should stand together and celebrate when we’ve kept our tempers and extended compassion.  And if you are potty training, you deserve a daily shout-out.  you inspire me.  Women have wicked smart brains, strong muscles, voices of truth and compassion.  And if we aren’t who we want to be, we have the potential to change.  Always, we have the potential.

5.  What does the phrase “create a good life story” mean to you?
Creating a good life story means that I purposefully recognize the daily meaningful moments, even if the feelings are temporary.  I find my most blissful moments are small–when I sent down my phone and observe what is going on in the present–the angle of my daughter’s face as she reads on the couch, the way the light bounces off of my son’s summer-blond hair, the way my husband’s nose twitches when it’s allergy season.  Whatever it is, I want to be in the present–intentionally emotionally aware and available–as many times as I can.  This is a challenge for me, but I don’t want to waste my life overlooking the greatest blessings.  I also hope that my story continues as it has been written so far–that I learn from my mistakes, change what needs to change, improve daily through the grace of God and be grateful for my blessings, especially when life is hard.

6.  Tell me something someone taught you that made an impact on your life
You can do it.  That is what a woman in my neighborhood told me when I was 14-years-old and sat at her piano, fumbling through the first couple pages of the most difficult composition I’d ever seen.  It was well above my skill level, but she sat down next to me, assisting me through it.  And when I closed the music, she put her hand on my shoulder and looked me straight in the eye.  “You can do this,” she said.  “You can play this piece.”  Her belief in me flipped a switch.  I felt empowered by her complete faith in my abilities.  She gave me the music.  I worked my guts out, and I went well beyond the skill level of that piece.  I had the wings to fly.  She showed me how to open them.

7.  Name one event in your life that has made a significant impact on the course of your life story
I sat with thirty other college students in the airport in Istanbul, Turkey.  We’d just finished a month’s travels through Russia and Ukraine, a 56-hour bus ride through Romania and Bulgaria, and a fabulous week in the catacombs, cisterns and mosques of Istanbul.  Now we waited to board a plane to Amsterdam to begin our Western European tour.  One of my instructors plopped down next to me and said, “You weren’t supposed to be here.”  He went on to tell me the study abroad had been completely full for months, so when two students unexpectedly dropped out he picked up the phone to call the next two people on the long waiting list.  As he went to dial, his eyes moved down the list and he felt confused.  So he dropped to his knees and prayed, asking the Lord who needed to go on this trip.  He opened his eyes and put his finger on my name.  I was far down the list, but the Lord had led him to me.  I had no idea it was even a possibility to go.  But my life was forever altered because my parents loved me enough to inquire about the grip, and my teacher had faith to ask God who needed to go.

8.  What is something you want to accomplish you haven’t yet?
I’d like to be published.  My goal would be to go the traditional route–to be represented by an agent who sells my YA (young adult) novels to a great publisher.  I’ve been close to landing an agent.  I could say that it’s a tough market in the publishing industry (because it is), but I haven’t hunkered down and put my all into querying again.  But I will.  And all heck will break loose in my household when I do, because it’s pretty much a full-time job.  Maybe I’ll do it while my husband is working on his Executive MBA this fall.  Why not add more crazy to the mix??

9.  What photographs are you most grateful for from your childhood or teen years?
My favorite photos from my childhood are a series of thumbnail prints of my mom and me when I was a baby.  We don’t have the negatives because my parents were too poor to purchase them.  I love photos of my grandparents, young parents and ancestors.  My favorites of me are spontaneous shots, like the one my mom took when I was about nine.  I’d made this mug in ceramics at school that collapsed in the kiln into what vaguely resembled a lopsided pot.  My friends’ mugs were beautifully formed, smooth and shiny.  Devastated that mine was riddled with holes, my mom took me out to pick flowers, in order to dry and display them in my mug.  While out, she snapped a picture of me holding a Twinkies box full of picked greenery.  I’d been experimenting with new smiles, and had a friend who had a high gumline that I thought was so pretty.  So I tucked my upper lip up high, smiling my new smile, which in reality made me look skeletal.  I hated that picture as a kid, but now I love it because it shows how innocent childhood is.  (By the way, my mom displayed that ugly ceramic mug for years.  She taught me how to be a good mom.)

10.  What are you most proud of?
Bringing children into the world is incredibly empowering.  I’m proud of (and grateful for) my strength through my difficult labors and deliveries.  And I’m proud of my marriage.  It takes work and commitment to have a good marriage, and I married a guy who values both.  I’m also proud I finished writing a novel and am working on several others.  And I’m proud of myself for overcoming my aversion to distance running and working hard to run several half marathons.  Running has been a huge mental strength for me.

11.  What is the best parenting advice/tip someone gave you?
There are seasons in life to just let things go.  If you have an infant and toddler, let the dishes sit in the sink so you can snuggle their sweet bodies because (now I sound old) they grow up so fast!  You have a nursing baby, so let the laundry pile up and breathe in the sweet scent of baby hair–it’s gone too soon.  Let things go that aren’t as important as being in the moment with your children.  Also, each child is unique.  Find their strengths and magnify them in a way that they feel loved.  Parenting is not one size fits all.

12.  Tell me something you are sure of
I am sure that there are unexpected trials awaiting me in this life.  I just hope to be strong enough to conquer, or at least survive them.

13.  What is your favorite quote or your life motto?
“The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do.”  
“A person’s mind is so powerful.  we can invent, create, experience, and destroy things with thoughts alone.” -Anon  
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”  -H.D. Thoreau

14.  What is your favorite part about yourself (not a physical trait)?
My favorite part about myself?  Despite being an English grad and writer, I have an engineering mind.  I can figure out how to make things work.  I attribute this to my dad making me think through how things work.  It really comes in handy sometimes.

15.  What type of photographs do you wish you had more of?
Pictures of my great-grandparents when they were younger.  Pioneer ancestors.  Spontaneous pictures of playing, riding bikes, family interaction, etc.  And I love details.  Pictures of each room of the houses I lived in growing up.  Pictures of my parents’ most beloved items and memories.  Pictures of myself–particularly playing with my kids, working in the yard, or snuggling with my husband–pictures that i didn’t have to ask people to take or pose for.  I feel stupid asking people to photograph me, but I do wish I had more photos.

16.  What is something you do to help drive away fear or anxiety?
Yoga, running, writing and time alone to ponder, plan and meditate.  Dancing, singing and playing the piano.  Playing games.

17.  What is your favorite part about being a mom?  Your least favorite part (just keeping it real on this question–I know you love your kids)?
 I experience intense surges of love at the most random times.  It’s a miracle to me how my love for my children expanded with each birth, and continues to grow as I get to know them.  I love them all equally–in different ways and for different reasons, but equally.  That’s crazy to me.  I could have never predicted my feelings–that I would sacrifice myself for their good.  I thought maybe I would, but I didn’t know before I became a mom.  id on’t love the emotional upheavals, and being a broken record when they don’t listen to the things I ask them to do.  I hate nagging.  Ugh.  And crumbs and sticky surfaces are not my faves.  Don’t even get me started on laundry…

18.  Tell me something about yourself that may surprise people
I once at two live nightcrawler earthworms to with $100 to Hale Center Theatre.  It was at a Halloween Survivor-themed party, and Jeff and I tied with another couple for the grand prize.  The woman picked up one of the eight-inch long earthworms that we’d had to slurp into our mouths for a previous challenge (but not swallow) and said, “I’m the mom of four boys, I’m breaking this tie right now.”  She swallowed the worm whole amid the cheers of the twenty other guests.  I guess you could say I learned I was competitive that night, because a fire lit somewhere in my cold little heart.  Immediately the stakes were raised–if I wanted the tickets, I had to no only swallow two of the earthworms; I had to chew them up first.  The worm-swallower gloated at me, arms crossed over her barmaid costume.  I looked at her, looked at the 1/2 cup of wriggling worms on the plate, and popped those babies in my mouth.  I gagged twice as the slime coated my mouth and my teeth crunched the dirt inside the worm’s intestines, but I swallowed those darn worms.  And then I said, “I’m the mom of two girls,” as I took the grand prize.

19.  What’s one thing you wish you would have known when you were younger?
I wish I’d know that it would all turn out okay, and that God was well aware of me and believed in me.

And for fun:

Favorite book:  Dang.  Don’t make a writer choose a fave.  Proably Wonder by RJ Palacio

Favorite Family tradition:  Christmas activities with the family

Something you enjoy doing with your spouse:  running, traveling and eathing ethnic foods

Talent you wish you had:  I wish I were more of a peacemaker

Favorite meal:  too many.  I love food!  If I had a last meal it would probably be Thai Waterfall beef salad, Tom Ka Gai coconut milk soup and mango sticky rice for dessert.  And an avocado bubble drink.  Oh baby

If you never had to do one specific things again what would it be:  L.A.U.N.D.R.Y

Favorite TV show:  I don’t watch TV.  I liked Parenthood on Netflix.  Kinda edgy sometimes, but real. I love historical dramas like Downton Abbey but can’t stand to watch anything on a weekly basis.

Something that scares you:  heights, confined spaces, being outside in the dark, deep water, big flying bugs, bare feet in the ocean.  I’m a wuss.  But I try so hard not to be.

Favorite thing about your husband:  He can talk to anyone.  He is one of the friendliest and most genuine people I know.

Something you can’t live without:  my creative brain.  I love to think, ponder and create.  Sometimes it gets onto paper, and sometimes I just like to plan things in my mind.  I’m a weird that way.  I like to envision things differently–how I’d change things in my life, in my house, in myself

What’s something you think about often:  What a blessed and privileged life I lead, and how I need to do more to give back.

THANKS for doing this Jacqui!!

If you want to read more from the “Real Life Stories–Women of Inspiration” series, click HERE.

What am I so “busy” doing anyway?

I’ve made a new addition for my wall.

I’m putting this in a spot I walk by and look at often in my home.  To remind me to slooooooow down.

I’ve been focusing a lot on my WHY.  Why I do what I do.  What’s most important.  How I am using my time.  What is consuming most of my time.  Am I just busy or am I doing what matters most?  And does it all support my underlying why?

What can we eliminate as a family to have less “busy” and more intention?  What things will get us where we want to be?  And what things won’t?

In his book, More or Less, Jeff Shinabarger says there has been “a recent cultural shift:  we now determine the significance of a person by how busy they are.”

Something I think of often:  If Satan can’t make you sin, he’ll make you busy.  Either way, he keeps us from fulfilling a purposeful life.

If I were to strip the purpose of life down to the bare bones, I would say the only thing that counts is how we treat other people.  How we make other people feel.  What kind of real, authentic relationships we created.  How approachable we are.  How we LOVE other people.  How we love ourselves.  What we give back to other people (time, attention, love).

Bob Goff
Am I available?  Am I accessible?  Am I present?  Or am I too busy doing too many other things (even if those things are seemingly important)?

For some reason, when I (we) become increasingly busy, the first thing that suffers is my relationships. My time for other people, for service, for FUN, for leisure time just BEING with the people I love is often the first sacrifice.

 So I ask myself, if a friend calls and needs support, will I drop everything and go?  Will they even call me in the first place if they think I’m “too busy”?  If one of my kids needs some extra love and attention, can my “to do” list be put aside?  

Do I make sure I get quality time with my husband?  Do I make sure I take care of and nurture ME ?  Do I have enough time, and energy, to serve people around me?

What makes my soul come alive and how am I proactive in making time for those things?  The same for my kids and husband?  What makes us come alive as a family?

What do I spend my free time doing?  And why?  Do I even have free time?  If not, why?  Does my use of time reflect who I am and who I hope to become?

“We give lip service to the idea that people are supremely important.  But what does our use of time say is important?”
                                                                                                         Jeff Shinabarger

It’s okay to slow down.  It’s okay to not be busy all.the.time.  It’s okay to take things off the schedule that don’t support my WHY or the goals and ambitions of our family life.  It’s OKAY TO SAY NO.  Because when I say “no” to one thing, I say “yes” to something that supports my why.  Something that matters MORE.

So I’m trying to slow down.  BE STILL.  Listen.  Pay attention.  Notice details.  Be deliberate with my time.  Nurture relationships with family, friends, and strangers.  And solely focus on what really matters to me.  People.  And love.

We’re mom’s. We save lives.

Sometimes when people ask me what I do, I like to say “I save lives”.  Because truthfully, I do.  All day long.  I’m a mom.   And I think toddlers spend 80% of their day doing things that could kill them.  And we save them. 

And then those toddlers grow up and they continue to do things that could kill them, either physically or emotionally.  And we save them.

This video is worth your time.

The girls say their mom did someting unimaginable.  But she actually didn’t.  Because I know EVERY SINGLE MOM out there would do just what that mom did and jump in front of the car.  Because her babies were inside.  And we love them more than we love our own life.  Notice I didn’t say we love them more than we love ourselves.  I hope we love ourselves just as much as we love our kids.  But we’d definitely be willing to sacrifice our lives for theirs.

So please, please, please, Mom’s, don’t spend your days feeling guilty or sad.  Celebrate.  Celebrate the love you have for those kids.  And the lessons they have taught you that you probably couldn’t learn any other way.

These girls said their mom continues to save their lives every.single.day. 

We save lives.  And you love your kids.  And those kids need YOU.  And THAT makes you a remarkable woman and mother.

Create a better story for your family. And photograph it.

I’ve been working crazy hard on the content of the “Tell My Story” intensive two part course.  I believe in the message.  And I believe in the importance of the message.

The first time I taught a photography class, it was because someone asked me to.  Now that I have found the real message of the class, I teach because I feel compelled to share something that directly impacts the course of my family story.

The next “Tell My Story” photography class will be on THURSDAY, MAY 15th.  It will begin at 9:45 am and will be over around 2:15 pm (depending on the amount of questions).

The course has TWO parts.   The first portion of the course will be completed online where you can work at your own pace before the live portion of the class on May 15th.  The theory behind this goes along with the Khan Academy where we’re essentially flipping the traditional classroom model and you will do your “lecture” at home, and then come to class to do the “homework”.  (You can see Khan’s TED talk here)

The online portion of the course will cover all things related to “better” photos.  Both technical and emotional.  We will also talk about CREATING a story for your family.  Ways to be an intentional parent.  And then how to photograph that story so it is documented and continues to fuel our memory and hearts.

After completing the online portion of the class, we will meet together and use that foundation of knowledge in an interactive, hands on class where you will learn how to be in control of your camera, get consistently “better” photos, and intentionally create and document your family story.

You can read more about what you’ll learn at the “Tell My Story” course HERE.  

And as always, e-mail me with any questions!  [email protected]

You deserve this!  And so does your family.

“Photography fuels memory….
and memory fuels the heart and soul”
Mitchell’s Journey

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