A Tale of Two Jennifers

When we had been in California just a few weeks I surprised Rob by sobbing myself to sleep. I have had many wonderful friends in my life, but I was particularly missing my great friend Jennifer. She’s the kind of friend who takes you just how you are. The kind of friend who invited me over for giant salads for lunch while the kids play and we chatted on the couch and folded laundry together. She was the woman I was doing the business of motherhood with. We traded piano lessons for my kids for doula support during her fourth daughter’s birth. My 6 year old stood on her porch in a temper tantrum and refused to take lessons from her. I almost had to catch her baby girl because she was birthing so fast the midwife nearly missed it. We have been in the trenches of life together.

brunch:jenniferI was lonely for her company and the comfort of knowing she was just 5 blocks down the road and I could meet her in the park at any time. I was sad that her sweet children would be growing up and I would only see it on facebook.

We grew close after years of hanging out with a wonderful group of ladies for regular brunches. We both lived in the same neighborhood so we had set up a weekly lunch on Wednesdays so we could have consistent babysitting for doctor appointments and such, and on the weeks we didn’t need a sitter we just enjoyed our time together. We took zoo trips and saw children’s theater performances. We canned tomato sauce and peaches. I loved all the women from our brunch group, but losing Jennifer’s company was like moving away from family.


It was quite a surprise to me when, after moving to California, I met another Jennifer who became like family. We met at a homeschool park day and we were both new to the area. I invited her family over to dinner because we were desperate to make new connections and I thought maybe they’d be lonely for friendships too. That first dinner together we became fast friends. We joked comfortably. Her husband Ben and Rob had a great time as well, and the kids trampled all through the patio playing like long-time friends.

beach:jenniferOver the course of the year and half I have known my California Jennifer our friendship has grown dear. Our kids are like cousins. She’s seen my kitchen loaded with dishes. I’ve seen her floor scattered with orphan socks. I can call her when I’m stuck in a horrible mood, and she can stop over for impromptu dinner on a week night. We have been in the trenches of life together. She’s not my only friend here in California, but she’s grown to be like a sister. Just like my Ohio Jennifer.

And just like my Ohio Jennifer, my California Jennifer and I will be living our friendship at a distance. Jennifer and her family will be relocating back to their beloved Pennsylvania. Though I am happy for them that they are going home, I am sad because they are taking a large piece of my sense of home with them.

So this post is an ode to the two Jennifers of my heart. Ohio Jennifer and California Jennifer. O.J. and C.J. My life is sweeter because you are in it, even if I will have to count on social media and phone calls to stay close.

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas?

One of these days I’m sure I’ll stop writing about how life in California is different than life in Ohio. Surely, the day will come, right? Until then, you must accommodate me while I marvel at each change in the season. Last year I was in such shock that I barely noticed the change from summer to fall. I spent a lot of time lurking on the Cuyahoga Valley Facebook feed, watching photos of red leaves and then of snow piling up before those red leaves were removed from the trails. I hardly engaged with Christmas here in my own life because I was still reeling from the move. Still focusing on how to stay afloat in our new routine.

This year I noticed the changes. The heat broke in late September making way for cooler nights. As fall crept upon us we’d wake in the morning with a chill in the house and snuggle under blankets or hurry to put on sweaters. The leaves began to change around Halloween when Ohio leaves would be in their peak. The delay was somewhat strange, but as Thanksgiving approached, fall took shape. The leaves around our park changed red and gold. The evening hour came earlier and earlier, casting a golden glow on the afternoons. We began eating dinner in the dark.

2014-12-02 13.21.39

Now the rain has come. Last year the drought was in full force and there wasn’t much rain to speak of. But the locals tell me that this year is more typical of winter in Northern California. Since the last week of November it has rained a little bit almost daily. Sometimes it’s still above 65 degrees in the afternoon, but most days we need a jacket. I’m adjusting to the change, and this wet weather is almost bringing that cosy winter feeling that I used to get as the snow fell outside. I snuggle into a sweater each morning and wrap a scarf around my neck before I head out the door. The girls still don’t ever wear socks, but they are wearing their fleece pajamas to bed each night.



Photo by my friend, Rose.

On our drive to enrichment classes this morning, the hills that usually glow in the sun with golden grasses, instead were a dusty green. It’s not the chartreuse spring green of Ohio in April. But the winter rains have awoken the grasses, drawing the cattle off the tops of the hills into the valleys to graze with a new enthusiasm. Christmas joy for cattle in Northern California comes as fresh green grass. For the humans it comes as turning off the sprinklers for the year, and donning rubber boots. Soon we should be switching our jackets for coats. And it may even get frosty over night.

2014-12-04 19.15.45But if we want to see snow we’ll have to drive to the mountains. Rob has never been a native Ohioan in spite of all the years he lived there. Snow doesn’t equal Christmas for Rob the way it does for the girls and I. He is feeling the winter spirit already. But even though I feel more in season this year, I still miss snow. As I write this a man just walked into the coffee shop wearing gym shorts and t-shirt. That would never happen in an Ohio December.

But we have our own signposts pointing to Christmas here. And as I look I notice them more and more. I follow the Yosemite facebook photos of the waterfalls. Snow is falling in the Sierra, promising an easier year for the drought. The hills are greening up, but the live oak that dot the hills are bare-branched. The trees in our park have lost most of their leaves, and as the rain continues more they should be bare soon as well. At night, the moon shines through a haze of clouds wrapping the orb in a circular rainbow. And the Christmas tree in the house brings so much joy to our girls that it’s infectious. We will have a green Christmas this year. But it will be Christmas indeed.


Shifting Priorities

First, a nod to our new ten-year-old who inspired us to blog. Happy birthday to our sweet O (I’ve made the choice to start using initials in our blog posts and public social accounts because the kids are getting old enough to require that level of privacy). I feel honored to be her mother, and am overjoyed at the young woman she is becoming. You can see some one of her awesome ideas here.

Next, some news about our family and me. Moving to California was a really great choice. We’re all very happy here and thriving. Rob is enjoying his new job (if not so much the commute). Homeschooling has been a great choice as well, and the girls are learning just as quickly as they were in traditional school, but they are getting more sleep and living with less stress and hurriedness. I’m hopeful that as they get older and become more skilled at balancing their own priorities they’ll start learning even more deeply the things which they are most interested in. It’s already happening to some degree, like with From Scratch News, but I can see so much more potential for growth with all the free time homeschooling can provide.

And now for the sad news. Honestly, I’m not sure how public I’ve been with this because of how difficult it was to come to the decision. I’ve decided to take a longer hiatus from doula work. I waited about 6 months after our move to start working, and I was getting some opportunities to work which excited me. Without giving away any private info about my clients, the births were so much harder on my kids and on Rob here in CA than they were in Ohio. Having family to pull together to help out was such a difference in support for us, and without it the kids were really suffering. When O is old enough to be the babysitter for an hour or two, I’ll head back to doula work but in the meantime I need to put my kids and homeschooling first. I spilled a few tears, but it’s time to move on.

So what am I doing instead? Everyone knows I’m too high energy to not have something going on the side. It’s not easy finding work I can do which I can keep in the margins of my first priority which is schooling and raising these girls. But I have a few solutions which are working out well. I’m teaching sewing classes on Friday afternoons while the girls are away at their enrichment classes. I’m building websites for friends here and there which is fun. But I’m most excited about a manuscript I’ve finished for a children’s picture book. I’m in the company of a couple of children’s authors in my kids’ park day (here and here) and it has inspired me to take my own shot at it. I’m in the editing phase but plan to be submitting it to publishers in the coming months. Leads and personal experience is definitely welcome.

When people told me that it would take a year to settle in after a move, I believed them. But what I didn’t expect was that a cross country move wouldn’t just change my location, but it would also change my priorities. A lot of the plans and work I was doing were very location-centric. I haven’t really changed the person I am through moving, but my position in the community has changed by necessity, and so my contribution has changed as well. It’s definitely taken a whole year, and I’m not even sure the transition is complete, but I’m finally more certain of where my spent efforts will have the biggest payoff. When you only have a few hours a week to spend your efforts, a good ROI is a high priority.