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  • Writer's pictureJessie Oliveros

Looking Back on My Year of So Much

I LOVE the beginning of a new year. It's so refreshing and filled with possibilities. And I start a new planner. (A weird detail about things that thrill me.) But even as I look forward to 2020, I can't just put 2019 behind me because 2019 was good to us. There were parts that were hard, but overall it really was a year of so much.


I suppose beginning 2019 with two awards was a good start. A few weeks into January, I received the call from Lin Oliver of SCBWI that The Remember Balloons had won the Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Text. About a week later, I received another call, this time from ALA, that The Remember Balloons had received the Schneider Family Honor. Both of these were so completely unexpected. I was thrilled.


In February, I attended the Golden Kite Gala in NYC with my husband to accept my award. That golden dress now hangs in my closet as a constant reminder of that beautiful night...leaving gold glitter on the white of my wedding dress next to it!

(photo credit SCBWI)


March happened and my baby turned three. Three, for me, feels like an official exit of the baby years. Now she is a very talkative almost-four-year-old with very strong opinions and a new obsession with all things Moana.

Later in March, I attended my cousin's wedding in Kansas City. But with the good, there is the sad. My family wasn't all there celebrating together. My dad was absent. You see, 2019 was also the year of missing one-or-the-other parent at a family gathering. 2019 was the year of my parents' divorce.

From an adult perspective, I understand why they needed to separate. But as a child of two people who have been married for over forty years and gave five kids a beautiful childhood, it was excruciatingly painful.

The day the divorce was final, I cried, but I also felt relief for them both. This needed to happen so they can both heal and more forward. I do believe there is happiness for my family in the new form we have taken. And soon there will be a day when we can all celebrate weddings and baptisms and birthdays and holidays together without it being weird or painful.


April dawned with TLA, which was such a lovely experience. At TLA I had my first (and likely my last) experience talking to a puppet.


My dream of attending the Storymakers Conference was finally realized in May. I made new friends and officially met long-time friends such as my critique partner, the wonderful Myrna Foster.


June, you were so lovely. My husband and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. My middle daughter turned seven. We swam all month long at swim practices, swim meets, swim lessons, and swimming just to swim. I helped raise money for the Alzheimer's Association on The Longest Day.

And I went to ALA in Washington DC to accept the Schneider Family Honor.

My favorite part was accepting it alongside Dana. I'd already met Dana in real life a couple times before this, but I loved getting to know her better that weekend, as well as her now-finance, Sean.


July was the beginning of an epic vacation with my family that began on South Padre Island and ended in Utah's Little Cottonwood Canyon.


In August, I became the mother of a teenager. That is, my son turned 13. This has ushered in a whole new era for us. An era only parents of teenagers can understand. LOL. Because you see what fabulous adults they are going to be but they are in this cocoon stage in which they drive you crazy. I'm learning how to talk to this boy, though, as he transverses this new age.


This is also the year Della the Dog calmed down. She had two strong puppy years, but now she isn't chewing our house to pieces. My kids feel like they can play with her more. Sometimes they even dress her up, and she LET'S THEM! She sleeps in their beds, and they like to fight over whose bed she sleeps in. (She prefers my oldest daughter's bed. Shhh.)


At the beginning of October, I sprained my ankle jumping in the water to save my Three. I'd taken her to the bathroom and removed her puddle jumper. When we returned to the pool, I gave her a cheese stick, turned to talk to my mother-in-law, then saw that the cheese stick was on the ground and my Three was in the pool. I SCREAMED and jumped in (with all my clothes on) after her. I pushed her up from underneath, and my husband came around and pulled her out. She was fine, thank goodness, just scared.

When I jumped in, my foot hit the long step that ran along the edge of the pool and I sprained it badly. A small casualty considering how badly that day could have gone. (Put those puddle jumpers on as soon as you get inside the pool gate!) I ended up being in a boot for two months afterward. And so, the Fall of 2019 was characterized by hobbling about.

There is a bit of humor in this story. I mean, who are we if we can't find humor in the scary or the sad (pretty much how my family copes with things). As we were driving home from the pool, my Three said, "Mom, remember when I drowned and Daddy pulled me out of the pool?" Of course, she hadn't actually seen me jump in or push her out. She remembered only that he had pulled her out. I made sure I set her straight on that one.

I did deal with "I'm such a bad mother for not putting her puddle jumper back on" guilt and "she should know how to swim" guilt. Guilt can be such a pervasive feeling in motherhood sometimes. We are entrusted with these creatures and are so obsessed with getting things right. And when something does go wrong, that thing stares us in the face and reminds us of our inadequacies. But I've learned to focus more on the things I AM doing right.

(photo credit Sarah Brown Photography when my littles were littler)

In October, my grandpa turned 94. As many of you know, he was the inspiration behind The Remember Balloons. I'm happy to share that while his memory declines, his constitution and sense of humor are still strong. I see him every summer and sometimes more. I captured this photo of him this past summer as he read The Remember Balloons. There is a bit of magic (the good with the sad) in that every time he reads the book, it's like the first time.

"There sure are a lot of balloons in this book," he says with a chuckle, meeting my eye like we are both sharing a joke. Then he gets to the end and slides out a second copy of The Remember Balloons from beneath the first. "Well, what's this?" And he reads it all over again for the first time, and I love him.

November and Now

The rest of the year was otherwise unexciting. My oldest daughter's birthday. A visit from my mother. But a quiet few months was just what I needed. It's given me time to ponder and pray and mother and work on my relationships. Christmas, for me, is such a good way to end the year. It is a chance to reflect on my blessings over the last year and see His presence in my life. We are human and humans try so hard to do things right but sometimes they fail. We are broken through things like divorce and guilt, but through Christ we are whole. And for that I'm eternally grateful.

One of my favorite scenes from the nativity video The Christ Child.

Looking Ahead

I have so many wonderful things ahead for 2020. If 2019 was my year of So Much, I'm sure 2020 will be my year of So Much MORE. I'm looking forward to sharing them on social media and in this space. So stay tuned and thanks for reading!


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