Thursday, April 28, 2016

Love, Hate, Separation & Determination... 10 YEARS as O'Briens

10 years people- this is some Special Edition next level blogging right here! 

As per ush, I don’t exactly feel ready to write the ol’ anniversary post I’ve been putting out for 4 years now. (Is it safe to say it's "annual" yet?) I mean who is ever really ready to write about their marriage?! Well besides Bey that is. Can you say #trennnding?!

If this is your first year reading the “anniversary post”, you may want to consider venturing back to my first marriage post where after 7 years of marriage I attempted to break down why Shawn and I got married in 19 days, as well as all of the struggles that came with that decision. (LOTS of cute courthouse wedding pics in that post if I don't say so myself). That blog got a great response... Hence posting again in year 8 and 9... Something’s got to keep the blog afloat, amiright?! I’m not going to go in to any of the reasons behind the “married-in-19-days” story in this post, so if you want the full effect just stop now and go back and start at the beginning. We’ve been married 10 years now so I can hardly blame anything as of late on 19 days.


One of the hardest parts about gathering the courage to write yet another marriage post is that first and foremost, I didn’t want to relive a lot of the last year. Followed by it's harder to blog when you work full time- #1 just the time involved in writing the post, #2 because these people you work with might actually read your blog (I mean who can resist a blog with a marriage title… They don’t call it click-bate for nothing!). I personally like to picture all of my co-workers leading A+ lives at home and would only hope they've conjured up that same thought for me?! (Is that what they call "wishful thinking"?)

Seriously, in my most perfectionistic way, I had every intention of getting to our big 10 year anniversary and publishing my whopping twice yearly blog saying simply, “Shawn and I fixed everything, we had an amazing year 9 since admitting to all of our issues and we plan to adopt a set of twins from the foster care system and implement world peace.” But you know… World peace is overrated when you can spend your time arguing over Target's bathrooms.

I digress. Last year, in my 3rd annual post “Because Marriage is Hard, Even After 9 Years” I blogged a couple weeks after our anniversary and candidly admitted I didn’t feel like writing about what I felt was a struggling marriage stuck in an on/off cycle of marriage therapy for years with little resolve. It’s been an entire year since that post and while I feel like we’ve had some of our biggest highs as a couple… It was a year filled with some incredibly hard times as we tried to navigate another move, Shawn taking some time off from full-time ministry and my re-entry in to a career.

I can honestly say I was pretty uncomfortable in not only my marriage but my own skin this time last year. I couldn’t find my footing anywhere. I felt like an outsider in every aspect of life, from being a wife, to running a small business with Miss Party Mom, all the way to motherhood. Nothing was coming naturally to me and it left me feeling anxious beyond belief.

Because of this and other things on Shawn’s end that only he can really speak to… We decided to put in to action a move out of Santa Barbara, a road trip across the country and essentially some [more] huge life changes. We’d come to the conclusion that more change was our only saving grace to get our marriage back on solid ground. And so we began. We began quitting jobs, packing up again and planning for another future where we could find our footing, for the 2nd time in two years. 

I remember new Santa Barbara friends saying, “Do you see a pattern here? You can’t just pack up when things get hard...” and other well reasoned thoughts about us leaving another town. The thing is, as I blogged about here- I just knew Santa Barbara wasn’t a good fit on so many levels. I knew that as hard as another move was going to be, uprooting Cormac from an elementary school he loved, saying goodbye to a new set of friends, another church, a steady income… I felt on every level I could possibly feel, that a move back to LA had to happen. That we needed to cut our losses, swallow our pride and admit our hastiness with that move all together. There were countless reasons for going “home”, the two biggest being we needed family support with raising the kids and I was ready to go back to work. LA just felt like the light at the end of a very long tunnel.

While fighting and packing and packing and fighting Shawn and I somehow decided to plan a road trip across the country, something we always dreamed of but never had the vacation time to do. Regardless of both of us being aware of our rocky marriage, a summer of travel was one thing we could agree on. As crazy as it sounds, road trips are where we function best. Even while we were planning the 6 week CA-FL and back trip, I knew ultimately that it would be a big ol’ bandage on an infection that had taken root in our marriage. An infection that smelled of bitterness, resentment, misunderstanding, and at times, anger and a dash of hate (for good measure). In a weird way, I was ready for the Band-Aid. I knew we could not only survive 6 weeks traveling the country, but thrive, before going back to reality.

The bandage would be the means to an end and it worked, without fail, as it was intended to. We saw the country as a family in our 1959 Chevy wagon and Shawn and I had moments of laughter, fun, adventure and bonding. But when we came home, back to reality: to unemployment and bills and a dwindling savings account… We came back to… The infection!

Damn that infection… The bandage was so good I’d almost forgotten it was there.

But there it sat, ready for treatment, ready for some magical RX. Ready for someone to acknowledge that something wasn’t right and the fighting and the silent treatment and the walls… They had to give. The infection had taken over and the Band-Aids were all gone. The store wouldn’t even sell them to us anymore.

So after weeks of settling in to our new home in LA, with yelling and anger and downright awful communication… After so much thought it hurt... Shawn and I decided to try a short term separation.  (Every good friend of mine I didn’t tell is currently all WTFFF!!? Sorry the Christians are like WTHHH!!?). I really don’t want that last sentence to come across blasé like I think separating is some mild thing. No, nothing about that decision was easy. It was mind blowing hard. Like I don’t even know how people survive a divorce hard. Telling the kids was the worst thing either of us has ever done. I felt like my chest was literally caving in some days at the thought of us not living in the same house- at the thought of ruining two thriving children. But like our move back to LA, we knew that separating was crucial to the marriage surviving.

I’m sure some people didn’t get the separation. I’m sure some of you reading this are thinking maybe there could have been another way- that God doesn’t desire marriages to separate. Personally I felt the separation was a turning point for us and a gift from God. Trust me, I get the irony that Shawn left Santa Barbara as a pastor, and a few months later we were separated. I’m not here to convince anyone, Christian or otherwise it’s what they should do if they’re in a struggling marriage- or that any of things Shawn and I do are for anyone else! We march to the beat of our own drum and that beat isn’t going to be for A LOT of people.

With the separation, there was no more showing off the Band-Aide as the solution. When someone moves out, it’s for the world to see that things have gone to shit and you’re not even remotely interested in faking it anymore. No one separates because they’re doing great. They separate because they feel like the space might be the only thing that can save them. We separated because we couldn’t be in front of the kids without yelling and blaming and speaking condescendingly to each other.

In the midst of the separation, our friend (who happens to currently be our pastor) showed up, quite literally, on our door step. It’s funny because in the course of our marriage we’ve had younger couples ask us to “mentor” them or provide marriage insight/counseling and I’d always say NO NO NO… We are not professionals; we don’t have a right to tell anyone about their marriage- you need a certified MFT (Marriage Family Therapist) to help guide you. And while I still hold to that in so many ways… It turns out when you’re in the midst of crisis, what’s most important is that you just have someone to listen to you. All great advice aside… Our friend just listened to us. While I yelled at him outside a Starbucks that he wasn’t going to dare tell me I couldn’t get a divorce because I was a Christian! and lots of other awesome things I’m very proud of… He listened first, prayed second and gave some light advice third.

When I had felt like he’d done all the listening I needed him to do, I turned to the advice. His advice was to go to a marriage boot camp called Relationship Lifeline for 4 days. I didn’t like the advice so I said no. I cried no. I told him I was done with counseling, NO.

I went home, cried some more, told God no 100 times… And woke up the next morning and got all of the info we needed for this so-called "boot camp".

With a new goal in mind of attending what I could only imagine as a "super serious 4 day marriage retreat", we decided we would remain separated until it was over. While Shawn saw the kids daily, obviously nothing about any of it was easy. The kids would cry at night. I would get frustrated. It was a reality check to say the very least. We kept communication simple knowing we didn’t currently have a foundation for anything deep at that point. We scheduled a couple of date nights with nice distractions like movies, and went to church as a family on Sundays. Essentially we were waiting in limbo for the miraculous boot camp. In my head I had conjured up a retreat weekend with cucumber water and group sessions where you talk about every fight you’ve ever had and how you did it wrong and practice new ways of doing it right. That sounded about right.

The boot camp ended up being about me. About little ol’ individual me and why I am the way I am, and how I got here. I don’t even really know what Shawn took out of it because by the end, I didn’t really care- as long as he got something. I got everything out of it. It was 4 of the hardest days of my life, digging up things from my childhood that I’d buried so far down I needed a jackhammer to access. I learned about my triggers and how uncomfortable anger makes me. I learned that I have walls that I put up to help me cope and that once the walls are up you’re going to need to do some sort of American Ninja Warrior moves to scale them. I learned that Shawn and I still had so much love, but had let the last 2 years of stress bury on top of all of the love. The boot camp was like removing rubble from an earthquake only to find a sweet baby still alive under it all. 

We came home and Shawn moved back in. 


Nothing with us is ever going to be perfect, or dare I even say, “easy”. We’re both strong headed, opinionated and quick to be right. We have different ways about spending money (he thinks food is important, I think home decorating is important), different ways about spending time, etc. The boot camp helped us learn about each other on a level I don’t know if most couples know their spouses on. I know that sounds braggy, but I truly don’t know how a person would ever get to know their spouse this intimately without going to something along these lines, forcing yourself to uncover and share things about your formative years and how they’ve shaped you in to the adult you are. Walking through meditation and forgiveness exercises and letting go of things you've been holding on to for years.

While I credit the "retreat" to steering us back towards the lighthouse, I also credit our role reversal. Me returning to a career and Shawn taking on the role as stay at home parent has been a huge eye opener on both sides. To completely switch roles in a marriage is a very interesting concept, one I'll admit I was hesitant to consider. For me to go from dishes and laundry to the stress of sole income earner… And have Shawn go from breadwinner to dishes and laundry and parenting that little devil sweetheart Birdie… I don’t know that we’d ever have gotten a taste of “the other side” without quite literally trading places.

Every year I write this I have some sort of marital advice based on our own experiences that I like to share. In the past it’s been to stop making excuses if you're having problems and go to marriage counseling... Break frame- I know! I am not going to tell you to sign up for a relationship boot camp- that is something you can gather info on and see if it's a fit for you. I'm also not here to tell you not to get a divorce or make you feel ashamed if you have divorced. If anyone understands how hard it can be, it's us. There are instances marriage is longer workable, and I get that.

But I do have this idea/analogy that keeps coming to me lately. Maybe it is because our kids are learning Spanish, but one day this concept came to me and I cannot seem to shake it.

When you get married, you’ve chosen, intentionally or not, to learn a new language. When Shawn and I first married we were thrilled we could say hello to each other in the new language… Baby steps! Yay!

But eventually you get bored with “hello” and desire to learn to speak in sentences. You haven’t yet learned the new language so you begin to speak in the language you know- because hello- language learning takes time! But the other person- they don’t for the life of them understand what you’re trying to say. They look at you puzzled and rather confused. And in your head, you’re confused- because you’re making complete sense to you!

Your spouse then responds in their language, but it leaves you downright frustrated…. WHY CAN’T THEY JUST RESPOND IN MY LANGUAGE?!

Because newsflash, they don’t know your language. IT IS FOREIGN TO THEM. Have you ever tried communicating to someone who doesn’t speak your language? Contrary to popular belief, speaking louder doesn't in fact work.

You don't know theirs, they don't know yours: a new language must be formed!

And you both need to CHOOSE to learn the new language. You have to work at it, maybe even taking evening classes if it’s not coming naturally! You have to figure out the proper grammar, syntax and pronunciation in order to become fluent. This is going to be easier for some than it is for others, but if you work at it, chances are- you will eventually learn it. At times, your accent will be terrible- so terrible you will have to take classes again… Because your native tongue is sneaking through! The new language has to be both of yours… A new way of communicating you never desired/imagined you'd have to learn! But you can learn it. If Shawn and I can attempt learning it- TRUST ME: YOU CAN TOO.

So in a nutshell, if you’re struggling with communication… It’s time to buy Rosetta Stone. What?

Speaking of languages we do not speak, we are headed down to Mexico this weekend for our 10 Year Anniversary. We married on a Wednesday morning in 2006 and headed down that weekend to Puerta Nuevo- and we’re going back! We got the first of MANY items we’ve since had stolen as a married couple on that trip (our camera) and so we plan to take lots of photos this time. (Follow our Mex-Adventure on IG here.)

Interesting fact about celebrating 10 years… When we married I clearly remember saying prior to our courthouse wedding, “At 10 years- do you PROMISE we can do a huge vow renewal with a fancy dress and all of our friends?” And of course, Shawn, beaming with nothing but ignorant bliss said, “Yes! Of course!”

Through the years I have even said, “At 10 years- we’re going to have a huge vow renewal. It’s going to be epic!”

And now, we are here at 10 years… And I can’t think of a less wise thing to do than to go in to debt over a vow renewal that I would be getting only due to cashing in on some blindly made promise 10 years before. And no matter how much I love parties and decorating and an MPM comeback… I love the fact that I’ve learned that it’s not worth it to push it. That we would suffer the effects of such an expense and the time invested in it for far longer than a night of great dancing with friends. That going to Mexico for 3 days is celebrating within our current means, even if it’d not what I had planned 10 years ago.

Plus, our mega 15 year vow renewal wouldn’t be nearly as special… RIGHT?!

My last little story is about a conversation I had with a hairstylist in TN who was doing my hair for a friend's wedding I was recently in. The hair stylist was a new-ish bride and after mentioning that I was approaching a 10 year anniversary she said, "You know what I hate? I hate when people say, 'Love isn’t supposed to be this hard'". I looked in that sweet girl's face and said, "Well that is some straight bull shit. 'Love' and marriage can be extremely hard... But hard doesn’t have to mean impossible." 

I truly feel like I have never loved Shawn as much as I do now. I have never enjoyed his company as much as I do now. We have never communicated as well as we are right now. And to get to this current place of contentment in our marriage, we had to go through some harrrrrd times. 

Because hard doesn’t have to mean impossible!


Friday, January 1, 2016

Re-Entering the Workplace After Being a SAHM (and A Couple Things I Learned in The Process)

One of the things I've always valued about Mattel was the holiday break in between Christmas and New Years. What a great way to refuel your employees. I love being home with my kids during their school break... And I love being able to fit in a much needed blog post! The ability to hit up all of the post Christmas sales doesn't suck either!

The reason I've decided to write this post is not to say, "Hey look at me, I got an awesome job..." but to encourage any woman (or man!) out there who are thinking about going back in to the work place after taking a long break to raise children. And to debunk the myth that I was just handed this job out of mid air. I want to actually explain how hard I worked to make this happen, and how every prayer I said was answered- and then more.

First off, when I decided to go back to work about 7 or 8 months ago, it is not something I did because I believed in my ability to land some amazing job back in my old field of toy design- I will touch on my mountains of insecurities soon! It was because financially we were in a place were I needed to make an income. After a lot of thought my husband was leaving his job in Santa Barbara and we weren't sure where his next job was coming from. We'd lived modestly (on a youth pastor's salary) for our 9 years of marriage, but in order to do any of the things we actually wanted to do (like family vacations or send our kids to college) we realized I really needed to start looking to get back in to a career, for immediate as well as future needs. At first, I'm not going to lie, it was a daunting thought to me for so many reasons. Although I never set out to be a SAHM, I didn't hate it. I mean, it definitely didn't come as naturally for me as some of my other mom friends, but the thought of giving it up still stung. As a flight attendant my own mom was gone a lot working to provide for us so I'll admit I had pre-conceived ideas that I'd never see my kids again if I went back to a career. On top of that I'm a Christian and we all know the Proverbs 31 woman did not go to work every day... OH WAIT, YES SHE DID. I digress... Despite so many thoughts, I forged on and began brainstorming different career paths.

*Just to touch on my party planning business, Miss Party Mom Event Planning... It was a great run. I'm sure if you've followed me for any amount of time you know how much I enjoyed it. From filming for Nickelodeon, to an article in American Baby Magazine and numerous online features across all the party sites... It was a ton of fun and gave me so much creativity while staying home with the kids. For our family though, there came a point when I needed to make real money and I will be there first to admit, party planning is a hard industry to do that in. Plus, in all transparency... The messes drove Shawn nuts. And messes/chaos/putting things away for days after throwing a party are inevitable- ask any party planner! Bottom line, I really don't know how married woman planning parties do it... It was NOT working for us anymore!*

In brainstorming different career ideas, the first thing I acknowledged was that I never disliked designing fashion dolls for Mattel...And that I've always had a place in my heart for Barbie. Landing the job when I was 20 years old, after 2 years of college was a dream come true. I'd put in a few years in high school and college interning for Mattel and after graduating with an AA in Fashion Design, I pretty much said, "Now can I have a job designing for Barbie?" and to my disbelief they interviewed me and handed me a temp position as an Associate Designer. I worked my way up to Senior Designer and left there when I was 25. I designed concepts, features and fashions for Barbie, My Scene, Mary Kate & Ashley and more. Ultimately I was young, naive (and didn't realize how good I had it) and I left to open up a clothing store with my best friend Kelsey. There are no regrets with that, opening BFF Vintage Clothing were some of the best years of my life. But in deciding to return to work, Mattel was at the top of my list.

Upon telling a hand full of people that I was looking to return to work, I started doing a little panic dance in my head where I told myself all too often, "You're not good enough. You're too old. You don't have the right skill set anymore... The industry has passed you by" and so on. Even though early on I received tons of great encouragement and advice, if anyone mentioned something I needed to brush up on, I clung to it. During this crazy time (Shawn and I were moving counties, leaving a job- i.e.: financial security, pulling our son out of a school we loved and pretty much in all of this- having a hard time in life) I began seeing a therapist in Santa Barbara. I started to tell the therapist about how when I got moved back to LA I'd like to go back to work full time in to a career, but how this-this-and this reason, prevented me from doing so. Each appointment he told me that I needed to focus on my strengths and stop dwelling on my weaknesses. He said all the therapist cliches, "You ARE enough Kenna... Let's say it together... 'I AM ENOUGH'... Do you believe that?" HA! No I didn't believe that. He'd obviously never designed a toy before. I wasn't very receptive to his positivity until he asked me to list my strengths as a toy designer and bring them in next session. So I did. "Ideation, 3D Design, Trend Forecasting, Fashion Design, etc.". I thought he was pretty much an idiot because all I could do was think about my weaknesses- how behind I was on Photoshop and Illustrator and how my drawing skills were never the best... Why couldn't we just focus on that for a minute? I would argue with him that I had let this industry pass me by and that I probably needed to go back to school and get a degree of some sort to have a chance to go back to designing fashion dolls. But instead he told me to start taking the strengths that I identified and using them to sell myself in my resume. And so I did.

As soon as we got back from our road trip and settled in to our house in LA, I began searching for a job. Every morning I devoted the first 2 hours of the day to trolling every job website I could find. Incase you're not aware, LA is the hub of the toy industry. I sent emails to old colleagues and used LinkedIn to network as much as possible. I Facebook friended anyone I knew from Mattel. I tweaked my resume for each job I applied for and wrote new cover letters with each resume- I probably had 20 different resumes at one point. Within a week of being home from the trip I had (with the help of a friend) put together an online portfolio showcasing all of my work and had announced I was back in LA and seriously looking for a job. It's times like this you figure out who will help you, who will even take the time to look your resume over and give you some advice. During this time, the previous VP of Barbie Design responded to a Facebook status I wrote about being on the job hunt. From that point until the day I landed my job, she encouraged me in my job search. She sent me every job opportunity she came across and before interviews would prep me with any advice she had for that particular company. I will always be grateful for the time she invested in me and all of the wisdom she imparted and hope one day I can do the same for someone else.

The entire process of re-establishing myself back in to a career took about 2.5 months. Even as I type that I'm like, dang... That happened quickly, lucky you. However, while I was waiting out that time... It seriously felt like an eternity. We were eating through savings and I had unbelievable anxiety. I don't wish any of it went differently because it lead me to my current position... But I did learn a few things that I want to share. The first, and most important in my opinion, is to surround yourself with people that are rooting for you and pushing you towards your goal. I started taking advice from a lot of people, anyone really. Some that took me down the wrong path (unknowing on both sides) and some that spurred me on to make another call, or send another email. I don't know if my sister even knows how huge of an encouragement she was to me during this time, but she was literally my lifeline. If I sent out a resume and they didn't get back to me she'd say, "Their loss! Anyone would be lucky to have you, you're amazing!" To this day I still think about how powerful her daily words and texts of affirmation were to me. So, if you're looking for a job- get yourself a support system, like ASAP. Find a mentor like I was lucky enough to have with my old VP. Because unless you're THE most employable human on the planet- nothing will break your spirit more than looking for a job. The rejection is intense, and often if you're sending out resumes via job finding websites.

In all the advice, welcomed and unwelcomed I had wrapped my head around 2 things, #1- everyone getting hired in the toy industry had a 4 year degree now. #2, their skill set was a heavy illustration hand and advanced graphic design skills... Neither of which I possess. So, as I mentioned I was in self-doubt mode. One thing that I had forgotten about however, was the natural ability to get shit done, which I now know isn't something that can be taught. You either have it or you don't... and thank you Jesus, I have it. If you can get someone to recognize it in you, you're beyond grateful.

After about 2 months I'd had two phone interviews, a few phone chats with recruiters, a coffee "meet-up" (I can't even call it an interview) and two actual interviews. I was at a stand still and wondering how any SAHP ever goes back to work after raising kids... I was starting to get so bitter at Corporate America because I knew I'd be an asset to the toy industry, but explaining a 9 year break was A LOT harder than I ever imagined.

I may not have had a million interviews, but I did settle on this amazing
romper as my go-to interview piece! I mean, priorities right?
Around this time I was convinced I needed to do something to up my skill set so I could up my resume. My friend and her husband came over to talk to me about next steps in the job search and after an hour, they had pulled up an online graphic design course located in LA for me to look in to. When I first saw the price, I thought there was no way in hell that was happening. But you know what they say... Sometimes you need to invest money in order to make money! I thought about it for an entire week and then I asked my mom for a loan to prevent us from tapping in to more savings. My mom has always been my biggest supporter and she was happy to help me out. I started the 3 week graphic design course, commuting every day to downtown LA, an hour and a half each way. The class was intense- certain things I picked right up, and other things were so hard I was wondering if I'd retain any of it. During the 3 weeks, I missed both of my kids first days of school as I was gone from 6:45am-6:00pm. But I was learning so much good stuff- things I had wanted to learn for literally 10 years. I updated my resume (with the help of another friend) and was working late nights to constantly upgrade my online portfolio.

Earlier I mentioned that surrounding yourself with encouraging people during your job hunt is a must. The second thing I want to touch on is taking any opportunity that comes your way. No matter how much it might seem like it'd a dead end... You never know where it might take you. This next story is going to tell you exactly why!

A couple weeks in to my graphic design class, I got an email from a Mattel email address... I stepped out of class (strict no cell phone policy!) and opened that email within 5 seconds of getting it. To my total let down it was a PR company Mattel had hired, not someone responding to my resume as I was hoping for. The email wasn't exactly "to me"... But more like to any LA "mom blogger" that blogged to the PR company's desired niche. The email simply asked if I would be interested in attending a Barbie concert at the LA Paladium in exchange for a blog post about where to purchase tickets. Because I get so many of these offers a week for anything you can think of that one does not actually need... I wrote the offer off at first. I really didn't want to drive to Downtown on a weekend after driving there to class so often. However, I couldn't stop thinking about it because it WAS a Barbie concert. So I emailed back and asked if any Mattel employees might be attending the event. I was told probably not, as the agency had been hired to put it on and Mattel employees would not be working the event. At that point I figured I'd do the blog post and get my name on the will call list and if I decided to make it, great. After a couple days I had rounded up a crew of 4 year olds and thought, hey- we're broke and this is a fun free event for me to take Birdie, my niece and another 4 year old to... WHY the heck not?

We'll get back to the concert...

By the end of my second week of class, a toy company that I had already interviewed with called me back for a 3rd interview, with their CEO. The agreed to my asking price, which was highly motivating and gave me back some of my long lost confidence. They asked me if I would be ready to accept an offer if they made one- I was thrilled. The job wasn't totally ideal because it was a crazy commute, but regardless of that, YES I was ready. I was recommended to them by my old VP who had great things to say about the company so I was willing to make the commute in order to get my foot back in the door in the toy industry. Mattel hadn't gotten back to me at this point and so I felt I had to move on from the idea of going back there.

Back to Concert Day. We got dressed to impress, met up with our friends and were ready to have a blast... We arrived to walk down a hot pink carpet with photo opps galore and drinks like "Barbie Pink Lemonade"... I was so glad I made the decision to go... Birdie and Co. seemed to be having the best day ever. Little did I know deciding to attend was maybe the smartest decision I'd ever make!

An hour in to the concert, drooling over the beautiful Zendaya and dancing our 4 year old (and thirty-something) butts off to a routine we were learning from a choreographer, I got a tap on the shoulder. I turned around to stare at my old friend and colleague, who was now the current VP of Barbie Design... And pretty much the one person in the entire world I'd want to run in to. I was literally in shock. I think I even said, "You're not supposed to be here, I asked!" which she probably thought was incredibly odd. I told her how I'd blogged for the PR agency in order to get free tickets to attend and from there we caught up on everything, including how I'd been trying to get an interview at Mattel and now was looking in to taking a job at another toy company. From there things just began to happen. A Mattel recruiter contacted me that Monday which gave me hope and anxiety all at once. I'd wrapped my head around the other job and felt really hopeful about it. Although Mattel was my first choice, I also didn't want to miss the other opportunity by waiting on Mattel.

I told the recruiter on a Monday that I had an important interview that Friday at 3pm so anything Mattel was going to do interview wise, had to be done before then. Talk about a time crunch and putting pressure on the one company you're dying to get in at!

That Friday morning around 10:00am, I accepted an offer with Mattel after interviewing with a 2 people I already knew and had the utmost respect for. I immediately called the other company and let them know I'd accepted another offer. A few people disagreed with my choice to not go to that third interview but you know what, I did what I felt was right. I was handed exactly what I wanted and to me there was no reason to go and fake interest with another company when I had what I set out to get- a job as a Project Designer for Barbie. A dream come true in my book.

For weeks (and even now) I was in awe of how things came together- I felt like I was walking on clouds, like it had to be too good to be true. I couldn't get over how God answered every prayer, down to the exact position on the exact brand. I believe He paved a way for everything to happen exactly how I desired, because He delights in giving us our desires. All the tears shed and anxiety in the process and yet the entire time I felt Him saying, "Wait on me Kenna, my timing is perfect." I recently remembered back to a low point when another toy company never got back to me after what I felt was a perfect phone interview, or the one that did and told me about the salary which was 1/2 of what I was asking. I re-discovered in this process of looking for a job again what true determination looks like and how pushing through rejection sucks big time- but is so worth it.

I've never felt more gratitude than these last few months of being back at Mattel. Jumping back in to a job that I feel I was created for... There are days I feel like I never left. And the things that used to drive me nuts about Corporate America, like meetings... I feel almost honored to get a meeting notice now. I adore my manager and ironically have had framed Barbie illustrations drawn by my Senior Director in my home for over 10 years. How amazing that the artist in our house would one day be my boss and the colleague I had a great connection to in my previous life at Mattel, would one day be my VP!

In terms of switching roles with Shawn as the financial provider of the house, we've had a pretty easy transition which has surprised me. If anything, "trading places" has given him the ability to see how staying home with the kids is an actual J.O.B. and for me to feel the pressure of being the one to earn our income... It's no joke! It's been great for us in understanding each other. Shawn's been freed up to work on his doctorate, he enjoys cooking our meals, helping with homework and taking the kids to sports and dance practice. I no longer have to stress over cooking, which I've always hated... And I'm able to get the adult stimulation I'd been missing for years. For me to get up every morning and care about being fashionable again and put makeup on... It's done wonders.

Of course, the kids miss me and there are days Cormac will say, "I wish I saw you more"... But you know what, they said that when Shawn worked full time too. It's life. Someone's got to work. Our weekends are spent as a family and I'm much more choosy about what I do in my family hours because I know it's more limited now.

The last little nugget of advice I want to give is this: love where you're at in life, don't take it for granted! I was recently at the Manhattan Beach mall on a lunch break from work and I saw this group of cute moms wrangling their toddlers near the water fountain. I just stopped and stared at them, like... Wow, how sweet is this? I wanted to walk up and say to them, "I hope you're enjoying this time because you're making me miss it"... But of course I didn't, I'm not that crazy. But you know, there are some days I do miss it. But when I had "it", all I could think about was working full time again and how I didn't want to chase the toddler in the mall anymore- I wanted to come to the mall on a lunch break... Alone. Oh irony, you're so silly! So this time of returning to the work place has taught me to be content. Happy in whatever the current situation is... Because honestly, both roles- raising kids at home or working- BOTH are equally important. Neither one is more fulfilling in my book, just different. And you have to decide which is for you, which lends more to your family dynamic... Maybe there's a few years where one role is for you, and then you switch over. It's an ebb and flow, marriage and raising children. You're constantly navigating how to make it work the best possible way.

All in all, The O'Briens are on the up and up. It's been probably the hardest year of our marriage (maybe I'll blog about that next) but we've made huge changes and persevered. I'm incredibly thankful to each and every person who helped us end 2015 on a high note... I truly hope you know who you are.

Blessings Upon You in 2016!


Monday, December 21, 2015

A Tiny Prints Inspired "Bright and Cheery" Christmas!

When Tiny Prints contacted me again this year to collaborate on a Christmas inspo post I was honored and overwhelmed all at once. I took a little while to think about it because as most of you know I’ve gone back to work full time, as a Project Designer for Barbie, back at Mattel Toys. This has been a real shift for me in what I’m able to accomplish creatively outside of work and just how much free time I have compared to this time last year when my life revolved around chasing after the kids, planning parties and crafting/blogging in my spare time.

(See my last years "Black, White & Gold Christmas" Tiny Prints post here...)

When I went on the Tiny Prints website to see if anything “spoke” to me, I was immediately drawn in by their fresh Christmas color palettes and unique card designs and holiday décor… SOLD! I couldn’t stop thinking about all the different card options and I loved the idea of offbeat Christmas colors like coral, turquoise, mint and peach. I love that Tiny Prints offers matching envelope liners, return address labels and custom photo stamps to really bring the entire look together. 

What really sold me were the new custom name stockings for our entire family. I became obsessed with the idea of finally updating our stockings and I’m so happy I did, I love the way they turned out! Stockings that are cute and high quality, with our names on them… What more could you ask for!?

I got around to styling our Christmas mantel a couple of weeks ago- one of my pure joys in life! I looked to Pinterest for some inspiration and came across a photo backdrop made out of ribbons that I thought would translate to a mantel backdrop quite nicely! I got out the ol’ ribbon bin and started pulling out anything bright and cheery, my 2015 Christmas theme. After so many depressing things have gone on in the world these last couple of months, I figured a bright and cheery Christmas is exactly what we needed. Nothing cheers me up more than woodland animals and kitschy pieces, so I gathered everything I had in this feel and brought them all together to live on my mantel for the month! They're simply loving the reunion.

I happened to have a wreath from years past that I knew would tie all the bright colors together, and I hit up Target for some cute felt ornaments to hang on the blacks pom-poms that I had draping across our white bricks. 

Our Tiny Prints Christmas cards came and I was even more blown away by their quality than last year. If you haven’t used Tiny Prints before, they print on thick card stock that has a bit of a texture to it, making it look almost canvas like. I was a little concerned how our card with only one photo would print, since the card itself relied on great photo quality instead of a cute graphic backdrop… And it was stunning! The card with two photos was a real crowd pleaser, all of my designer friends simply loved the scalloped edging... It's all in the details, am I right?! I was so proud to mail out our cards this year!

Aside from the mantel, we have another section of the house wear I switch out our decor for the holidays, and that is on top of our credenza. Like so many of us I have been collecting Santa pics of my kids every year since they were born. Every Christmas it brings the biggest smile to my face to see the kid's and their planned out/ color coordinated Christmas outfits sitting on the big jolly guy's lap... This year I let Cormac skip the traditions-old bow tie which was a total drag (for me) but my little surf/skate rat was fighting for shorts so I had to give in somewhere!

Seeing the Tiny Prints holiday inspired pillows made me giddy to place my order as we have these two chairs, one on each side of the credenza that I love to put holiday pillows on. I love the quality of these pillows- the colors are bright, the fabric is thick and they just look fabulous. You can even choose the wording on a few of the designs... I actually did the Merry, Merry, Merry one on my own! Each design they have is a nice modern twist on Christmas pillows! 

Notice our last years acrylic photo block there on the left... LOVE this piece. Such a great gift, I actually ordered two of these this year as gifts- they're really fun alternative to a picture frame... I can't wait to give the two I got away as presents! 

To go along with decorating the house this year, I got in to making “Ugly Christmas Sweaters” for a couple of parties Cormac and I were attending. At first, like everyone else I hit multiple thrift shops to see if I could score anything downright horrendous to wear. I came up empty handed and I’m convinced no ugly Christmas sweaters last more than a day in a thrift shop now, since this theme has become so freaking popular in the last 10 years. As a side note, I heard about a new theme this year, “Christmas Onesie Party”… Freaking genius and why haven’t I been invited to one already? I can most definitely fit in to a kid's size XL onesie, I tried one on at Target the other day just in case an invite were to come my way...


For mine, I decapitated a moose ornament (kids not happy about this decision, FYI) and sewed him closed at the neck. Then I got some brown and tan felt and created somewhat of a tree stump look to “mount the moose head to”… Get it? I took a brown Sharpee and lightly drew in some tree rings on the tan part of the trunk. I then cut off a few gold glitter branches and hot glued them on- I could have sewn them but I figured there’s no way this thing is surviving a wash, so why waste time on sewing when hot glue will do the trick. To make the moose head cute (you didn't really think I'd be making something actually ugly, did you?) I added some earrings and a bow to her head. I topped the design off with a couple of fake tree branches and a red ornament just for some much needed gaudiness...

For Cormac’s I took an argyle sweater he had and crafted a Santa out of felt to add to it. To make the Santa, I cut a face shape out of cream felt, 2 pink felt circles for the cheeks, one smaller pink felt oval for the nose, two blue felt circles layered on top of two bigger black felt circles and a two small white accent marks created the eyes. For the mouth I cut a lips-like shape out of red and gave a white smile line for some contrast. I gave him a Santa hat out of red felt trimmed with white felt and Cormac found a bag of bells in my craft room so I added one to the end of the Santa hat! I took white batting and created the eyebrows, mustache and beard… And last but not least I took gold wire and twisted up some specs for ol’ Santa to see… When all was said and done I hot glued it on to the sweater and he got some great compliments at his school party! All in all, neither sweater cost me a penny and I maybe invested an hour total... WIN.NING.

Believe it or not, I am about to be off of work for 7 days! In this time I'm hoping to get a blog post up on how I ended up back at Mattel and what the transition has been like for our family... I have it all written in my head, I just need some time to get it on the computer!

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas or other holiday if that's what you're celebrating. As a Christian, I am proud to celebrate Christmas... However, I don't say Christmas to offend anyone else, there is never spite in my Christmas wish or my Christmas cards... If you celebrate Hanukkah- blessings upon you! If you like to say "holidays" because you don't believe in Christ... That's fine by me man! I wish you an amazing season regardless of what you believe!

Thanks for reading the laziest blogger who ever blogged, blog.


Everything I have said in this blog post is my own thoughts and words... However, I have been compensated for this post... DUH.   

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hey Los Angeles... It's a Barbie Rock N' Royals Concert!

I know, I know. I put a blog out and you're thinking why the heck isn't this blog about the final days of the road trip... I've seen the comments about wanting closure on the trip and it's just so huge of a subject I can't even handle it right now. Hoping eventually I'll get to our final days on the road, what coming home was like and maybe even a blog on how to road trip the country with kids in 7.5 weeks. I'd love to get to all of those posts and if I wasn't taking a class and looking for a full time job I'd be all over it!

In the meantime... May I have a minute of your time for something far more shallow? You see, sometimes when you're "a blogger" you get offered sweet perks in exchange for blog/social media shout outs... And THIS IS ONE OF THOSE TIMES.

I get lots of emails for free stuff. I even got offered one of those toilet seats with the small insert for kids in exchange for a blog post but I decided to spare you all and you're welcome. I usually say no because I don't want to bog down my readers with annoying posts on random crap... BUT. Bare with me because when I came across this I knew I had to sell out to the blogging-gods.

Think Barbie and The Rockers in 2015. If you're younger than 30 that means nothing to you. And if you're in your 30's and you didn't love Barbie and the Rockers... I probably don't even like you. Pretty much what we're talking here is Barbie Rock N' Royals, aka Barbie wishing she was still in Barbie and The Rockers, aka... Barbie Live with her homegirls in LA rocking out and being all kinds of wild and fun. I mean seriously how do you resist that when you have a 4 year old girl and used to design Barbie dolls and were slightly obsessed with Barbie and the Rockers? You can't resist that. It's a proven fact. I am the proof.

Anyway. We can't wait!! Birdie and I are gonna rock the house. 
If you decide to go too- hit me up! More info and link to purchase tickets is below! 
Thanks for getting this far in the post.

Timed to the launch of Barbie’s new movie, Barbie in Rock ‘n Royals, which is available now, Barbie and Zendaya are encouraging kids to “Raise Their Voices” in a first of its kind experience including up-and-coming musical and dance acts!
During this rockin’ music experience, Barbie fans in the Los Angeles area will have the opportunity to:

·         LIVE performance – Enjoy songs from the movie including, “Raise Our Voices,” “What if I Shine,” and “Brand New Song” from surprise guests
·         Super Style Zone – Get rock star ready with Glamzies and Glitzies who will be providing hair jewelry and flash tattoos
·         VH1 Rock Star Zone –  Jam out with guitars, drums, flutes & more with teachers from VH1 Save The Music
·         Be Super Dance Zone – Twist and shake along with professional dance choreographers 
For tickets to the Rock ‘N Royals Concert Experience, visit All ticket sales will benefit VH1 Save The Music.

Saturday, September 26
12 PM  


Hollywood Palladium
6215 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, California 90028

Sunday, July 26, 2015

O'Briens Going For Broke: Loosing Some & Winning Some!

So much to blog and always feeling behind which is so frustrating since I had real intentions of blogging this trip thoroughly!! I’m mainly just going to share some general road tripping woes and feelings stuff.

Hot Springs, Arkansas (going to blog about Arkansas more at some point!)
In the spirit of always “keeping it real” (social media’s current favorite term that’s starting to drive me real nuts)… After Shawn’s mom (aka Nana) left this past Thursday- joining us for 4 days of the trip, the kids started feeling REALLY homesick. It’s been somewhat of an ongoing theme throughout the trip, but it’s always been a quick and easy fix as kids are resilient and easily distractible. It’s also fluctuated between the two but after Nana’s departure it hit Cormac hard that we weren’t going home at the same speed as her (aka, a plane).

 At the Christ of the Ozarks in Arkansas, a place their Nana had visited as a kid!
He took pretty much a day of solace to cope with the thought of another week on the road. Lots of tears involved. I mean, at 6 weeks in… Who can blame him, really? Trying to explain that we’re at the tail end of our trip and there’s only a week left was a frail attempt that no longer worked. We were toying around with a few different routes home, possibly to see another set of friends and add a few days, but have decided against it in the spirit of keeping our timeline… And so our son doesn’t end up in the loony bin at 6 years old.

As of lately on the road… Let’s see, we did Branson, Missouri for 4 days. I felt like an idiot because I had never heard of Branson before. And now I cannot figure out how I’d missed out on this huge part of American tourism.  It’s an entire town completely dedicated to tourists who are looking for some good, clean fun. And I mean clean… like finding liquor in this place is a task. Branson is a weird place, I’m not gonna lie. The only way I can describe it is like a dry Las Vegas for old people and kids. Someone else called it Geriatric Vegas. That works too. Not that Shawn and I didn’t have fun- we totally had a blast. Mainly because it was so random and unusual to the type of fun we’d normally set out to have that we enjoyed every moment knowing we may never see the place again.

The essence of Branson.

Watching the Grand Country Jubilee (four men who had so many outfit changes their act could easily translate to West Hollywood given some song changes) perform lots of mainly patriotic songs (and a great YMCA- case in point) was nothing short of amazing. People were literally raising their hands worship style and waaaait for it… fist pumping (!) to God Bless America… Definitely an experience! It was MERICA! at it’s absolute finest… GOD AND COUNTRY baby!

We stayed at The Grand Country Resort and half of the fun with this place was the buffet... The all-inclusive-all-you-can-eat buffet. Biscuits and gravy and chicken fried steak any time you want (if you haven't read about my chicken fried steak mishap from our last road trip- DO IT). There wasn’t a fit person to be found within miles of this place. Shawn and I included- I mean we’ve been sitting in a car for 6 weeks we’ve obviously lost all muscle retention. We lost our minds on this buffet and don’t you dare judge because you would have too, just trust me. We began revolving our days and activities around meal times- everything coming in second to loading up a plate with mashed potatoes and gravy. I’ve never cared so much about food in my life, like I’m pretty sure I had a dream about the rolls… And in the dream I saw Shawn as a Southerner… It wasn’t pretty.

This is an actual stock Grand Country Dining photo. You're welcome.

After leaving Branson we headed for Kansas and stayed our first night at a State Park (El Dorado). For a state park we were super impressed: clean enough bathrooms and camping right on the lake. I guess we were feeling really safe and lax because for the first time on the entire trip we decided not to lock everything we owned up (who are we kidding, I never lock anything ever- hence having two cars stolen with the keys in them... FOOL ME ONCE Kenna! Anyway, Shawn usually bolts the place up). There were few campers around us and we’d met our neighbors who were very sweet. So we left things out that turns out we'd come to regret! Shawn woke up first to get breakfast started and he said, “Kenna I think we got our pan and spatula stolen!”. At first I was thinking what a strange thing to steal, they must have been hard up for eggs or something… But when Birdie and I came back from the bathroom Shawn’s list had grown… It became like a scavenger hunt to find items. All in all, our cooler full of food (and our Ozark mountain jelly we never got to try and yes I’m really pissed about that one), 3 fishing polls (one of which was Birdie’s recent birthday present from Shawn), a chair and some cookware were taken. I’m sure they’d have taken the stove if it weren’t so loud to pack up. These thieves were ballsy as they stole stuff while we were sleeping in a tent with no rain guard in the middle of the camp. I’m kind of shocked I didn’t wake up since I’m such a light sleeper but in a way I’m glad I didn’t because I’m nuts and already know my whole fight or flight response and let’s just say “flight” isn’t in my wheel house (takes off gold hoops and walks towards thieves carrying cooler yelling, “AHHH HELLS NAH…”).

The only redeeming factor to getting our campsite robbed was that we got to experience the generosity of our neighbors (who also had a lantern and beer taken from their cooler) who came over and insisted we take a pan, spatula and a chair to replace ours. These people had next to nothing as they were actually living at the campground with their 3 kids for the summer to get back on their two feet. They were so bummed that on our first night in Kansas we’d had that experience. It was heartwarming to see strangers lend a helping hand and reminded us that there’s bad and good people everywhere.

We arrived at the KOA campground in Salina, Kansas for the KKOA car show (KOA for the KKOA- confusing, I know) on Friday the 24th of July. This campground was perfect, probably my favorite of the entire trip. If you’ve never camped a KOA- it’s a very different experience from a State or National Park. It’s a well-monitored campground, clean beyond clean (sometimes you feel like you’re not ‘truly camping’), and there are amenities like showers, laundry, parks, pool, rec room and more. This KOA was really fun because it was only 4 miles from the car show, hence it was a campground full of old cars- a mini car show in a way. We made friends right away as we were camping next to another family with kids. Birdie made a little camp bestie named Danielle who she longed to play with while stuck at the car show. One of the things I love most about camping is meeting people from all over who you’d never otherwise met. Getting to be social with total strangers is so freeing- that “blank slate” feeling is the best. They don’t know your baggage! No really, they have no clue. And you can kind of act normal for a couple days and fool the entire campground in to thinking you’ve got things together!

Birdie & Danielle
The KKOA car show was a huge turn out and a great show overall. It was fun to see 2,000+ cars that we hadn’t seen before. After going to West Coast Kustoms and Ventura Nationals for years, we’ve gotten used to seeing the same old cars (literally) and faces. The pro of that is that we have a little “crowd” we hang out with and so things like parking or packing lunch isn’t something we think about. It’s always just family style food, parking near friends, etc. Getting to the KKOA, we couldn’t have gotten in to an in-crowd if we tried. Not that people weren’t friendly, everyone seemed very sweet and welcoming- we just didn’t know many people… We did have a few “fans” from Shawn’s thread on the HAMB so that was fun to have people come up and chat us up who’ve followed our journey online... We love our fans!!! (I’ve always wanted to say that so just give it to me.)

This is my pick of the show- 58' Chevy Convertible called the Rag Doll. I love the clean look and super sweet interior!

One great thing about the car show was that it was next to a waterpark. Praise God for that water park because in 100+ degree heat, we were desperate for something to cool us down. As warned, the heat was insane. This whole “heat index” thing is terribly annoying! You’re looking at your weather app like, “HOW IS IT ONLY 97 FLIPPING DEGREES AND I’M THIS ANGRY?!” Well, add the humidity factor in to that 97 degrees and I’m not quite sure it could have actually gotten any hotter, like it appeared to me that we were physically melting... However that could have just been me.

I’ve had a few “rough days” on the trip where I’ve felt like if there was a bridge nearby I might decide to use it. Car Show, pre-water park I was having a bridge moment. The heat paired with the kids paired with the heat and kids… I was borderline crazy mommy. You know her right? Please tell me if you're a mom, you’ve been her at least once. If not, try a 7 week road trip with two kids in ungodly heat… You WILL discover your inner crazy mommy I promise you.

We had a great time at the water park and couldn’t believe it was only $4.00 each to get in… We mentioned this price to Kansas locals and they said when it first opened residents were furious at the prices! We got a good laugh out of that since a water park like that would be about $20.00 a head in California… The perks of the mid-west!

Another huge perk of the trip was that the wagon was entered in to a contest put on by a Kansas local hot rod & kustom photographer, RoyBoy Productions for a "People’s Choice" Young Blood Award that he gives out every year. The guidelines are you must be below age 35 and have a bitchin' old car. Shawn got news of it and entered us and we immediately hit up social media for votes. We had a good feeling about winning but were still beyond happy to hear our names announced at the Young Blood party on Saturday night at the Paramount Bar in Salina, KS. Travis, the owner or RoyBoy Productions, shared our entire story before calling Shawn up on stage to give him our $500 cash prize. People clapped. Shawn gave an acceptance speech giving yours truly a huge shout out. Women went wild. The people clapped some more. It was pretty awesome. For the first time in a long time I felt really proud of us, like we’d set out to do this crazy-ass trip and here we were 6 weeks later, almost done with it- winning $500 and pumping people up with our story about putting 11,000 miles on a 1959 Chevy wagon during the summer of 2015. It was kind of a surreal moment. Until the kids started pushing each other off of bar stools and then I realized our kids were sitting at a bar at 9pm at night and that's weird.

Shawn on the right, Travis from RoyBoy Productions in the middle and Gus on the left, winner of Travis's Favorite Car Pick.

There it is. You’re caught up. We spent today (Sunday, July 26th) at the car show and water park again and tonight we’re at a Best Western somewhere in Kansas living the high life. Our plan is just to “head west” and hope to see the ocean again in the next week.

xo road trip or die xo