Janell Kennedy (Program Manager) has built a background of technical writing, creative design, and creative writing experience in many different genres and industries. While technical writing has made up the bulk of her professional career, creative writing and design has always been her first love. She holds a Bachelors degree in English, but is always eager to learn new things to broaden the scope of her abilities to affect change. Janell became involved with the 10 Greatest Gifts Project recently and manages all the logistics and technical materials for the project. Her passion for this project is to provide sturdy support for all volunteers, presenters, and the 10GG team so they can impact parents and grandparents while performing their roles to the best of their ability.


Janell around age 5

Passions + Parenting

From a young age, I’ve always been interested in writing. In fact, my parents remember me curling up in my writing inspiration spot, which was under the Christmas tree, and writing my first short story, Rainbow Trail. My imagination was endless and I didn’t have the creative inhibitions in which we tend to trap ourselves as adults. This love of writing led to another short story called Train Robbery, which I read to my little brother in front of the fire place. The original handwritten stories were saved and treasured, and I still have them today. These memories are just a couple that I can look back on fondly and remember how blessed I was to have such a forward-thinking set of parents. They always encouraged my writing and creative process and cheered my drive to achieve something I had set my mind on.

This love of writing was expanded in college when a professor who also loved creative writing suggested that I consider pursuing technical writing because there is much more immediate earning potential in that field than creative writing. After college, I was hired by a computer security company to work in the training department creating and editing classroom workbooks, managing training sites, and creating self-guided tutorials. In future companies, I learned how to write procedures, policies, and ultimately how to best present technical and non-technical information to fit the audience and make it an easy, understandable read. The sheer variety of technical writing work I have done has certainly prepared me to take on all the different kinds of writing and project management I encounter in my role as Program Manager for The 10 Greatest Gifts Project.

First ski lessons…in Arizona

I was a strong-willed child and made my mom cry a few times, but she was blessed with patience and the restraint to put herself in timeout so she wouldn’t strangle me on occasion. In addition, both of my parents had the parental wisdom to know that they needed to take some time to cool off before speaking with me about my bad behavior so they wouldn’t dole out punishment from a place of anger, but from a place of love. I noticed that they were always intentional about punishment, they considered it carefully, and they discussed the issues and the consequences with me to make sure I understood what I had done wrong and that they were punishing me because they loved me. I firmly believe that with my strong personality, I could have become a very different, probably be a much more self-centered and coarse person.

Visiting Grandma and Papa in Arizona (Sienna 6, Janell, Ashton 9)

I now have a strong-willed girl of my own. I thought because she was second born and I was first born, I’d get a more tame little lady, but my first born son left all the strong will and attitude behind in the womb for my daughter to absorb. I am very grateful to my parents for the way they handled me because that provided me with an invaluable example of how to parent a strong-willed child in a way that will not push her away. My mom thought all the grief I gave her had come back to haunt me in my daughter, but I felt pretty confident in handling the same personality that I have because I understand it. If God had given me a child like my brother, then my mom would have something to laugh about. While I didn’t quite get that degree of difficulty, God gave me my son who has been a miraculous challenge from the very beginning.

Just before we started thinking about having kids, I discovered that my body favored my family’s history of high blood pressure issues and immediately went on pregnancy-safe BP medication. Around 27 weeks of pregnancy, my doctor was concerned about the low weight of the baby and started seeing me more often. At 30 weeks, my blood pressure was so high that he put me in the hospital immediately and intended to keep me there to term. My son had different ideas, and he was born by c-section just 5 days after I was admitted. He weighed 2 lbs. 7 oz. and spent 6 weeks in the hospital. He was a miracle for us and for our families. He had no outward adverse effects and he grew up as a very happy little boy.

Now, he is in fourth grade, but since first grade, he has battled constant academic struggles. In addition to academic struggles, his confidence and self-worth are in the pits. As a parent, it is so hard to see your child beating himself up for a small infraction or mistake on homework, knowing that you have done your best to always encourage him and remind him how valuable and intelligent he is.

Daddy’s hands over Ashton under the jaundice lamp just days after he was born

I wish I could make him see how smart and awesome he is, but just like Steven discusses in his sessions, you can’t make your children do or not do anything; you can’t make them feel or not feel a certain way about something, even about themselves. The best we can do is continue sending positive messages patiently and genuinely and cheer them on. After that, it is up to them (with God’s help) to see the truth in the messages we are sending. I was prone to giving myself an emotional black eye when I made mistakes as a child too, but the example my parents gave helped me to move past mistakes. I can only hope I’m able to display as good an example as they gave me, because I certainly wouldn’t be the wife and parent I am today without their example.

The Path to The 10 Greatest Gifts

Family Photos Summer 2018

I learned about the 10 Greatest Gifts Project through a friend at church who knew Steven. He was looking for someone to help him create The 10 Greatest Gifts nonprofit and get all the technical and logistical elements in place. My friend knew very little about what Steven was envisioning, but after talking with Steven about my background and his vision for the project, I realized it was much more than writing a book. He was on a quest to bring the valuable tools he had discovered to other families who could greatly benefit from them and move their families upstream where the water tends to be calmer. I was thrilled to have this opportunity for several reasons:

  1. In many technical writing jobs, I wished I could be doing something more impactful, not using my talents to contribute to a company who inspires people to get into credit card debt or is just out for their own bottom line. I know I am contributing to a very special and impactful cause working with Steven.
  2. After our first in-person interview, Steven gifted me the original 10 Greatest Gifts I Give My Children book. After reading several chapters on the tools, I couldn’t help but try them out on my kids, and I realized that even after a great example in my childhood, there were still things I could learn about parenting. Being a part of this project became even more exciting.
  3. This company was brand new, with no structure, website, content or anything. It is extremely exciting to be able to lead the charge on designing a new website, trying new things and coming up with ideas as a team to best serve families and effect change around the world. I love helping to create the structure of this organization where my creativity is able to run free.

Before we moved to Colorado, I had my own photography business, but owning and managing my own business did not agree with me. It seemed that I was always working on something and my family was on the back burner. Having a fresh start in Colorado with no clients, I decided not to pursue the business further and instead stayed home to settle my house and family. My personality certainly could run her own business successfully, but my sensibilities have told me that I am much happier supporting someone else’s business. I am thrilled to be an integral part of the rebirth of The 10 Greatest Gifts Project.

Steven is such a special man, having learned from everything in his past and striving to help others avoid the mistakes he made, and I love being a part of such a redeeming story.

Personal Background

Wedding Day – Married to my HS sweetheart, Chad Kennedy

 

Lily, Acrylic on stained wood

My parents both mostly grew up in Arizona and my brother and I are Arizona natives, having been born and raised there. I was a swimmer/diver in high school and was heavily involved in high school and college theater. I went to college in California at Azusa Pacific University to study English. I married my high school sweetheart after college and we have a son and a daughter. I have worked with different churches to create drama clubs and skits for fun and for use in youth lessons. We moved from Arizona to Colorado in 2015 for my husband’s job at Lockheed Martin.

Janell (college) and brother Chris (HS)

While I thought I would always live in Arizona, we have put down wonderful roots in Littleton and are convinced that this is exactly the place God wants us. I am interested in almost anything creative, including photography, videography, acting/directing, painting, writing, calligraphy, and crafts in general. I also love gardening and have very much expanded my gardening prowess since moving to Colorado. And yes, this dyed-in-the-wool Arizona girl has done fine driving in the snow.