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Sister Bermudes Died on Christmas Day

Sister Bermudes Died on Christmas Day

Sister Vincentia Bermudes died on Christmas

On a recent visit to Mission Santa Barbara, I came upon the grave of Sister Vincentia Bermudes. She died on Christmas in 1863 at the age of twenty. The base of her grave was covered with coins and dollars, as was a nearby tree stump. Why?

I was curious. 

After a day of hard research, I was left with more questions than answers. Why did people leave coins? Were they hoping she would put in a good word with God on their behalf? Was there some urban legend associated with her grave? I still don’t know. In fact, I might never know. 

Though, I did find a few interesting facts about burial customs as I did research on Sister Vincentia Bermudes’ grave. 

Mission Santa Barbara fountain – over 200-years old

First, Mission Santa Barbara is haunted. I knew this from my own visits. From cold spots to weird EVPs (electronic voice phenomenon) to feelings of unease, my daughters and I are convinced. If you want to watch someone’s ghost hunting journey here, I have a link for you.

I also learned that coins are typically left on the graves of soldiers. Pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters, the coins signify a fellow soldier’s connection to their dead friend. A quarter is the most significant offering; it means they were with the soldier when they died. This tradition dates back centuries, possibly to fallen Roman soldiers. Fellow soldiers left coins to pay for their voyage over River Styx. 

Did you know?

People lay peanut butter and banana sandwiches on Elvis Presley’s grave – as well as teddy bears – because he loved both. Visitors leave fresh roses on Marilyn Monroe’s grave. And someone left a container with braids of human hair on the grave of a middle-aged man in Georgia. The author of that blog couldn’t find out the story behind that strange offering…but it is worth a read! 

Interesting. 

I wish I could tell you the story of Sister Vincentia Bermudes; how she lived and died, but I came up empty. I hope the sentiment etched into her gravestone has come to fruition; “May she rest in Peace(sic).”

 

 

 

#MondayMotivation – Love Yourself

#MondayMotivation – Love Yourself

“Love Yourself”

Orchid by Jennifer Hotes

It’s not only a Justin Bieber song title, it’s good advice. No matter how fierce the pressures of job and family and service, steal a few minutes a day for yourself. A better you is better for everyone around you.

Ten Minute Re-Boots

  • Yoga stretches
  • Quick pencil sketch on a napkin
  • Text a compliment to someone
  • Pray or meditate
  • Watch a silly cat video
  • Enjoy a cup of tea
  • Stand outside and breathe deeply

As always, sending you my love. I hope you have a lovely week.

 

 

A Force for Good

A Force for Good

A pledge to myself: This woman, this blog, the books I write, the words I speak, the actions I take, the way I walk in life will be a force for good.

These days, vitriol has become the norm.  Trying to be heard in a hurricane of hate might be futile, but I am going to try. And I refuse to shout. I won’t point fingers. I won’t judge.

Instead, I will think the best of others. We all want simple things: a safe place to raise our families, food to eat, a chance to work or learn. That’s gotten lost somehow.

Today I pledge to stand in sharp contrast to what has become shamefully normal. I might get lonely, but I don’t care. I operate in love not hate.

Wishing you love as you pursue the simple things you need.

Jenn

Would Martin Luther King, Jr. wear a safety pin?

Would Martin Luther King, Jr. wear a safety pin?

thWould Martin Luther King, Jr. wear a safety pin?

I woke up with that question on my mind.

Our nation is still reacting to a presidential election that surprised everyone. Millennials are wearing safety pins to say, “You are safe with me. I stand with you.” Here’s a link to a more in-depth article that explains the origins of the safety pin movement. 

th-1Again I ask. Would MLK wear a safety pin? I’ve been streaming his speeches on Spotify and have to wonder. Would MLK want us to feel safe? Maybe. Then again, maybe he wouldn’t.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought against racism from pulpits, pavements and prisons. He gave his life for a civil rights movement that shaped our country into something better. When things got violent, he stepped into the fray and preached a position of love and peace. Here’s a link to his famous speech, “Loving Our Enemies.” I encourage you to take a few moments to read it. Don’t worry. I’ll wait. 🙂 In this speech, Dr. King tells us that “Jesus wasn’t playin’.” He says we are to love (not like, LOVE) our enemies. In other speeches he urges us to look upon our fellow man and expect goodness. Those sentiments lead me to feel that Dr. King might not have donned a safety pin. A recurring theme of his speeches was to challenge us to look upon each other and expect the best, expect goodness, expect safety.

thMaybe that’s why I resist wearing a safety pin. I want to walk through my days and look into the eyes of my fellow man for goodness, not look down for a pin on a lapel. Because what if it’s not there? What then? Do I assume that person is unsafe? Ignorant? Racist? Misogynist?  I can’t. I won’t. Right now there’s enough us versus them, him versus her in the world. I choose to look upon everyone as safe and if I am harmed because of that supposition, well then, I’ll hurt. But I won’t let it color my judgment against everyone.

To every single person wearing a safety pin, I respect your choice. Your fear is real and I have great compassion for you, but the truth is places of fear and discomfort have inspired the most dramatic steps forward in civil rights. If Rosa Parks hadn’t refused to give up her seat on that bus, forward progress would have been delayed for who knows how long? Anxiety, fear, anger, discomfort, and the passion to right a wrong led to change.

I guess the mom in me needs to say something else, too. Whether you’re a millennial or middle-ager like me, you have a right to feel however you feel. For now honor it. Cling to one another. Grieve. But then for God’s sake rise up! Take action to defend what you feel is most at risk. Use your fear and anxiety to push you out of your comfort zone and use your voice, your strong, unique and perfect voice to take action.

Attend that city council meeting. Write a letter to president-elect Trump and and local politicians to say that you expect the rights of all to be preserved and revered by this administration. Volunteer for a suicide hotline. Give to the local food bank. Help a neighbor. Do. Something. Now.

This has been my strategy all week and I feel better, way better doing something with my anxiety and fear than not.

And I’ll confess something ugly to you, too. If Hillary had won last week I’d be smiling. I’d feel safe. I’d feel comfortable. And I sure as hell wouldn’t be recommitting myself to the causes I’ve always felt most strongly about. So for me, a self-confessed Pollyanna, this is the silver lining.

Wishing you all love and peace,

Jenn

 

 

 

Are we addicted to hate?

Are we addicted to hate?

Love and Hate text concept on red and black dices
Love and hate are closely related

Hate. Did you listen to mainstream media today and scream? Did you jump on social media and stalk a few haters using words you’d never use with your kid in the room? Did you scream at the television during the ball game and scare off the cat?

You may be one of millions of Americans addicted to hate.

Brainscans show hate triggers OCD behaviors
Brain scans show hate triggers OCD behaviors

Neurologists studied brain scans and found some alarming facts. Feelings of intense hate and intense love trigger the same areas of the brain except for one key difference. Hate triggers the brain to judge more sharply. Love clouds those same judgmental neurons. Hmm. Interesting. Here’s the study if you want to read it in full. So love and hate ARE related, but love makes us look past each other’s flaws and hate does what? Oh, hate makes us harshly judge one another. Ouch. That’s right. No matter what the truth is about that other person, our hate filter shows them as ugly.

Here’s another interesting part of the study. Both intense hate and intense love are closely linked with the areas of the brain that trigger OCD behavior like compulsive thoughts. So if we feel intense hate, neurons are triggered that cause us to want to create that hate-filled surge again and again. Yeah. That seems addictive.

Does this explain why we troll people/groups on social media that make us angry? (I might’ve done this to the kicker’s wife that threatened Richard Sherman…) Is this why talk radio continues to flourish? Is this why sports are so damn popular? I’m not sure. Maybe. All I can say for sure is that I’m a simple woman that had a question and started down a rabbit hole of research about hate that I’m finding really really interesting.

So what does hate say about the hater? Well, according to Psychology Today, hate says everything about the hater and nothing about the hated. Hate is usually accompanied by fear and anxiety and often shows an ugliness inside us that we’ve spent a ton of energy stuffing deep deep down into the shadows of our minds. If you feel hate, let it be a wake up call. Notice that hate, name it and then ask yourself where it came from. If you can put a finger on that wriggly little thought-worm, then you can also deem it powerless.

thFinally, no matter what cause haters organize against, hate is a terrible vehicle for action. In another Psychology Today article about the toxicity of hate, I was struck with this powerful quote, “Anger: an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” 

We all remember the hate-fueled Westboro Baptist Group, right? That group was most certainly addicted to hate.

Well, I won’t hate. More than ever, today I’m called to love and care and give.

And for me, love and compassion are the antiserum to this climate of hate. When I dip a toe in social media and start to feel the hate, I yank myself away and tie on my Asics. After running a couple miles, the runner’s high hits and the hate fades to nothing. The fake ugliness, the not-so-important differences between us seem insignificant. And again I  see my fellow humans as they are, beautiful, loving, complicated people just trying to do the best they can.

 

I Am Grateful

I Am Grateful

Back CameraWhen I was in college I began a list called, “Good Things Coming My Way.” Yeah, looking at the title now it seems a bit…umm…me-centric. But, the point of the list was to take note of all I had to look forward to in the coming days. Back then I was juggling a volunteer position for University of Washington athletics, a part-time job, and a full load of classes. It was easy to feel overwhelmed, but my little list put the positive in sharp perspective.

Here are a few that showed up every week:

  • Clean white socks on my feet
  • Food in my stomach
  • Healthy legs so I can exercise
  • My paycheck
  • A call or visit home
  • Spending time with my friends

Simple stuff, right? Well, I didn’t realize how well that attitude for gratitude has served me until I lost it recently.  This election season has been derisive, corrosive, mean and ugly. And when people hurt, I hurt. It’s who I am. For a time, I was struggling to get out of bed.

Now though, after a week away from the news and social media, I’m lighter in spirit and seeing the blessings around me again.

PollyannaToday I am grateful for:

  • Shelter over my head
  • Food in my cabinets
  • The freedom to worship God
  • The freedom of others to worship or not as they choose
  • Family and friends
  • Good schools and great teachers
  • People that do their jobs, not for the paycheck, but because they feel called to
  • My neighbors and community
  • Hope and healing
  • Healthy feet and legs that allow me to exercise
  • Fresh starts, not just on New Year’s Day, but every single day we  choose to forgive, try again, or move on

flag series copy copyA president will be elected tomorrow and we will all be okay no matter who wins. We will be okay. And if your gut still burns, focus on every little thing that is actually good in your life. You’ll find that other stuff shrinks shrinks shrinks and your heart (hopefully) heals. And if you’re still feeling fatigued, check out some panda vids here. 🙂 

 

Things We Have in Common

Things We Have in Common

big heartWe breathe.

We need to eat to live.

We love.

We try our best to do the right thing.

We care about our families.

We care about strangers.

And there’s so much more that I’m missing, right? What else do we humans have in common? As the United States seems to rage with hate-fire, I need to remind myself this is all propaganda, garbage that is leading people to become protectionist because the sky seems to be falling.

Well, the sky is still in place. And right now outside my Seattle window, the sky is actually clear and blue.

img077
A picture of my brother and me a long long time ago

We’re going to be okay. And also know that I love you. I care about you. And I want you to make strides towards that dream you have that brings you joy.

Add onto my list. What do you feel we all have in common?

 

 

 

UNITED States – One Fat Pet Tweet at a Time

UNITED States – One Fat Pet Tweet at a Time

fat pet
#fatpet on Twitter

The other day #fatpet was trending on Twitter. So was #blackfamilythanksgiving .

Fresh off the heels of terrorist attacks in Paris and Tunisia and Lebanon and Israel and Baghdad, I was more than grateful for the lightness these threads provided. Yes, scrolling through countless tweets was a sweet diversion, but it quickly became more than that as I giggled over post after post, most of which I could relate to from my own life. I had a light bulb moment. Yes, we are spread out across this nation, we have different struggles, dreams and fears, but these Twitter threads illustrated how much we still have in common.

And it hit me. I knew in that moment what I value most about the United States of America –  it’s the united part. What unites us? Well, that’s a beautiful complication. Our innovative spirit? Freedom of speech? Our belief in the American dream? Freedom of religion? Our rich diversity?  Our unwillingness to quit? Yes, those are common strings that bind us, but they only begin to scratch the surface.

wing detail
Crow’s Wing Detail by Jennifer Hotes

Recently, KUOW did a story about the crows of Seattle. Here’s the link in case you’d like to read it. Every evening at sunset,  tens of thousands of crows take to the skies and fly north. Observing this, the reporter became obsessed with finding out where they gathered and why. After a harried drive through the city, she followed the crows to a cemetery in a northern suburb. The crows clustered across the grounds of Calvary Cemetery. The strongest birds perched in the treetops overhead, standing guard. The rest of the crows sat on the grass, arranging themselves so that the younger, smaller birds were surrounded, protected by the others. As the sun sunk into the Olympic mountains, all of the crows stood facing the same direction as a community. Their instincts led them to this place, where they stood a better chance of surviving the night against predator attacks. United.

Jenn TweetAs I read this story, the hair stood up on my arms. These crows are smart. They know there is safety in community. By instinct, they know to protect the frail, the young and the old. At night they stand together. Safe from the coyotes and raccoons and raptors that probably detest this unity because it makes killing all the tougher.

There are global predators that wish to do harm to America, obliterate our way of life. Can we stand united against them? Or will we continue to allow our mainstream media and political leaders to fracture us? Pit you against me? Us against them? Him against her? Or should we take a lesson from the crows and unite. Can we agree to protect our most vulnerable? Can we view our differences as a blessing? Can we seek to find our commonalities and rejoice in them?

So, if your social media threads of late have left you feeling angry, frustrated, scared, and maybe even invisible, I suggest you unplug for a couple days. Connect with people in real life. Look for the good your neighbors are doing right now, then roll up your sleeves and join them. Live your truth and value the person next to you who has their own take on the world. Relish the differences and find the common threads. Gather at sunset and face the same way. United.

 

Go Visit a Cemetery!

Go Visit a Cemetery!

IMG_4486
The Deathbed grave referenced in my first book. It resides in Bayview Cemetery, Bellingham, Washington.

I’ve been obsessed with cemeteries since I was a child. It all began when my mom, needing to attend night classes for her Master’s program, hired an unusual babysitter. The lady was nice enough, but she happened to be the daughter of a cemetery caretaker. Yes. Our sitter lived in a graveyard.

On that cold autumn afternoon, darkness descended before my brother and I had so much as swallowed down a decent after school snack. Cozy in the caretaker’s cabin, we started in on our homework when the babysitter encouraged (okay, maybe pushed) us out the front door. “Go get some fresh air before supper.”

I clung to my big brother’s arm, looking at the gray tombstones through my fingers. “What’re we supposed to do out here?” I asked.

“Well, how about hide-and-seek?” she offered. “My brother and I spent hours playing that out here when we were kids.”

That was a long night. And, toward bedtime, I was grateful to see the beam of mom’s headlights flash through the front window. I had nightmares after that. Well, in truth, I’ve always had nightmares. But after that experience, graveyards burrowed under my skin. My new two-headed fascination and phobia began.

FullSizeRenderFast-forward to 2015. Traveling through London with my family, I stumbled across a book, HAUNTED LONDON. During an hour of down-time in the hotel, I read it cover to cover. Inside the author mentioned a place called, “Crossbones Cemetery.” A quick Google search and I found out it was a stone’s throw away from our hotel. I was determined to see it myself. Click here to book a haunted London walking tour!

IMG_6289The Crossbones Cemetery holds somewhere around 14,000 women and their children. There are no gravemarkers and prayers were never uttered over any of the bones within the property grounds. These were London’s castaways. Women of the night or Churchill’s geese for the orange hoods and white cloaks they were required to wear, these women were seen as too steeped in sin to warrant niceties like church rites and grave markers. That was 200 years ago.

Modern Londoners are atoning for the mistakes of their forefathers. On numerous occasions, developers have attempted to morph the property into a parking lot or other profit-churning venture. It’s always been fought and defeated. And now, well, what’s happening leaves me speechless.

IMG_6299Londoners come together once a month at Crossbones Cemetery. After uncovering the names of the women and children, they write those names on pieces of ribbon and tie them onto the surrounding fence. Slowly, they are remembering the dead, honoring their lives and reclaiming those lost souls.

As I tied our flower offering to the fence, I stood in awe. There was an overwhelming sense of peace at Crossbones. And love. And forgiveness.

This week, not because it’s Halloween, but because history lives and breathes in these sacred spaces, walk a cemetery. Take a photo. Tidy the leaves off a grave. And maybe utter a name etched into a tombstone. Who knows what this simple act will do for you or the person buried beneath your feet?

Do You Believe in Soul Mates?

Do You Believe in Soul Mates?

If you smell the faint scent of smoke issuing off my website, it’s my smouldering Kindle. I’ve been reading overtime to find you some new authors for your autumn reading.

Meet A.M. Willard

A.M.-WillardToday, I’d like to introduce you to A.M. Willard. She is a true believer of soul mates, and happy ever afters. She enjoys reading, sailing, and of course writing contemporary romance with some saucy scenes. Releasing her first novella of the One Night Series on April 12, 2014 has sent her on a new journey in life.

A.M.’s passion for writing started at a young age, but with the love and support from her husband of eighteen years pushed her to follow her dreams. Once she hit that first publish button, she hasn’t looked back. She is a proud member of the Romance Writers of America organization.

A.M. Willard was born and raised in the Panhandle of Florida, but resides in Savannah GA with her husband, son, two cats, one rotten dog, and her six chickens. Yes, we said chickens…

You can connect with A.M. Willard on her hot looking website at www.amwillard.com or on Twitter @AMWilliard1.

Fading Memories51hm6PpP9pL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_

In this Mature Contemporary Romance, A.M. Willard brings you Fading Memories—a story about love, grief, and memories that slowly fade with time.

Isabel Nichols’s life changed in more ways than one through the years. As a young child, she experienced a loss that devastated her. It wasn’t until she was an adult that the universe around her shattered. In a twenty-four-hour time frame, she lost what she’d thought was her world. What followed was a year of mourning, a year of grieving, a year of darkness. Now, there’s one man who can show her the light.

Dakota Jackson left his life behind on a whim, moving to a beach cottage away from the big city where he grew up. He sees through Izzie’s clouds as he gets to know her, with the drive to be everything that she’s ever needed. The only problem is, Dakota holds the key to a secret that could ruin both of their hopes and dreams.

Passion isn’t always enough to heal a broken heart; love isn’t always enough to guide you through the darkness.

This is about two souls that were meant to be together from the day they were born. Two people who have to figure out a way to look past the memories. It’s the now; it’s living your life as you’re meant to, loving the one your heart craves. It’s about letting go of the grieving, learning to be who you are, and accepting life for what it is.

Can love cure all things despite its hardships?

What Readers Are Saying

plates on wallJessie on Amazon.com gave Fading Memories five stars. Here’s what Jessie wrote:

“LOVE LOVE LOVE! Not only a wonderful story, but great characters. A great story of heart break and finding love again after terrible pain and loss. It’s really a deep and touching story that is full of emotion, and of course romance. The character pairing is perfect, they all work great together and make the story flawless. Truly a great story!”

Fading Memories is fresh off the presses. I encourage all the romance fans out there to download it and enjoy. If you love it like Jessie did, post a review on your favorite site.

That’s all for today, but join me tomorrow when I introduce you to another fabulous author – and maybe your new favorite book!