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Archive for the ‘friendship’ Category

My newest book, A Calculated Risk, opens in a very unusual setting – a funeral.  Certainly not the typical scene to hook the readers and make them want to keep turning the page.  But it is at this funeral the male lead’s small and unexpected act of kindness causes the heroine to begin to realize there may be much more to his character than she’d initially thought.

I was in Pensacola, Florida a few days ago to attend my uncle’s funeral.  No, I didn’t meet my prince charming this week.  But I did witness hundreds of people making small and unexpected acts of kindness out of respect for the deceased and those of us mourning our loss.  And our whole family was so appreciative.  From the moment we left the parking lot of the funeral home, through every stop sign and street light as we wove our way through town, and until we pulled into the cemetery overlooking the bay, every single car in traffic stopped.  Even though some streets were several lanes across with a median dividing directional traffic, the other drivers waited until the entire procession had passed.  No one seemed irate that they might be a few minutes late getting to their destination.  No one sped away as soon as the hearse passed by.  It was truly impressive.

So I would like to say thank you.  First to the deputies with the Sherriff’s department, who moved in tandem with such precision as they cleared a path and got us safely to the grave site.  And next I want to thank the citizens and general public of the city of Pensacola.  It was a small thing.  But by pausing patiently in traffic, you showed respect and compassion.

It didn’t go unnoticed.

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Two f-words have become huge in my life over the last year.  Football and Facebook.

old TV

Growing up, my father would watch any football game that was on television. Didn’t matter what teams were playing.  He knew them all and he had a favorite that he was pulling for in every matchup.  It didn’t make sense to me, as a little girl.  I’d think, “But we live in Georgia.  Why are you pulling for the Dallas Cowboys?”  I knew nothing about the game and didn’t understand how the path to the playoffs worked and that there was a method to the madness if you wanted to see your team in the Super Bowl.

nfl

By the time I was in college, I’d figured it out.  I pledged allegiance to the 49’ers and the Saints.  And when they faced each other, I had to cheer for the Saints (I’m a southern girl, after all).

A funny thing happened, though, and over time I cared less about pro football, but got totally absorbed in college football.  I  became a fan of one certain team, and would watch every game.  I kept up with the rankings every week and kept my fingers crossed that we’d end up in the national championship game.

football map

Then, strangely, this past season got much bigger for me.  I started following not only my own favorite team, but I followed all the others as well.  I started becoming just like my dad…watching football because there was a game on, regardless of the team.  I’d watch to see who was defeating whom, and how much of a threat would they be when we played them later in the season.  And it extended not just beyond my favorite team, but even beyond our own conference.  I watched Ohio State, FSU, Oklahoma, Duke, Notre Dame, Stanford, Oregon, Clemson (well, you get the idea). I kept up with how, if this team loses it helps our ranking go up, and if that team wins it will hurt our ranking.  I’d go to work on Monday mornings and chat with all the guys about the miracle plays we’d seen, or how this team crumbled, or that player got hurt, or there was a new rising star on another team.

So it is safe to say that football has a bigger role in my life than ever before.

And as this past season progressed, I found myself spending more and more time on the second F-word I am writing about today.  Facebook.  Oh, I’m neglectful about posting things to it myself.  I rarely update my status or post photos about anything.    But I’ve gotten somewhat obsessive about reading what other people post during games.  You can learn a lot about your friends by looking at their written  sentiments.  Some people who seem so demure are absolutely evil when it comes to putting down the opposing team.  Some, who have every right to take cheap shots, will never stoop that low and find something positive to say about both teams.  Others – my favorites- inject humor in their posts and come up with some of the funniest plays on words or catch phrases.  Yeah, they might still take a cheap shot (maybe even against my favorite team), but it’s so witty and clever you find yourself laughing with them rather than getting irked.

Phew!  I guess it’s good that the college ball season and bowl games are almost over.  Only a couple more days and I’ll no longer be chained to my favorite easy chair in front of the television.  I need to use those hours to go to the gym to tackle my own new year’s resolution.

See, even I can make a pun once in a while.  🙂

 

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windy day

I’m going through withdrawals.  Due to high winds in the area where I live , my satellite dish has shifted just a smidge.  Most channels still come in clear as ever, but a few of the HD channels no longer pick up.  Normally I wouldn’t care about missing a few channels.  With my choice of over 300 other options, there should be plenty of alternatives.

There is one problem though…This is the Christmas season, and the Hallmark Channel is one of the ones I can no longer tune into. And I lost the signal prior to Thanksgiving.   All those lovely holiday romance made-for-TV movies, and I haven’t been able to see a single one!!!  Last year, this became my addiction.  I would record them so I didn’t have to miss any of them, then delete them only to make room for another week’s worth.  This past summer, there was a brief “Christmas in July” sort of thing going on with Hallmark, and they replayed several of my favorites.  I watched them all again.  But now, as the season revs up to high gear, I’ve  watched nary a one.  It’s scandalous!

working out

I’ve been forced to look for distractions, to keep my mind off the lovely stories I’m missing out on.  For one, I have actually started going back to the gym.  This development had the potential to provide a very nice boost right here at the end of the year to help me reach a personal improvement goal I’d set back in January.  However, it was totally offset by the fact I’ve also had time to start my holiday baking.  And with baking comes the requisite taste-testing.  Totally counteracts the time spent at Planet Fitness!!

baking

I’ve also killed time by doing my Christmas shopping.  I’m WAY ahead of schedule on that, with nearly all of it already completed now.

I’ve spent more time with family, fixing meals to share with some of my older relatives who don’t get out as much.  What nice visits we’ve had when I’d show up unannounced with a foil wrapped plate of food to drop off.

Oh, yeah, and as of Friday night, there is the second offering from The Hobbit trilogy.  Kate Patrick and I made sure to go on opening night, and it did not disappoint!  Richard Armitage and Aidan Turner provided a generous amount of eye candy to keep us in a festive mood.

Smaug

My husband has been promising to get up on the roof and reposition the satellite for me.  Hmmm, I’m having a lot of fun with these other diversions.  Maybe I’ll tell him to hold off for a few more days.

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tardis christmas

 

I don’t understand what’s going on.  I think there must be some sort of extra-terrestrial type activity at work here on planet Earth.  I’ve seen enough Doctor Who episodes to recognize that someone (or something) is monkeying around with the space-time continuum.  That is the only explanation for why today I put up my Christmas tree.

Christmas

Yeah, I know…the calendar say it’s December 8th.  But it can’t be, right?  Can we already be into the twelfth month of the year?  Have we actually already passed all the other holidays and milestones of 2013?  Is Christmas really right around the corner?

I guess it is true, after all.  My tree is up and we went to the first Christmas party of the season on Friday night.  And as much as I might want to meet a time lord, I’m forced to concede that’s not likely to happen.  No, I think the explanation is a simple one.  Time just passes so much faster the older we get.

And the lesson to be learned in this is also a simple one.  Enjoy every day to the fullest.  Don’t rush blindly through each successive twenty-four hour period.  Take note of the beauty in nature around you, be appreciative of the kindnesses shown to you by others, and pause long enough to tell those closest to you that you love them.

Here’s hoping you all have a wonderful Christmas season.

 

 

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I haven’t written anything new in ages.  Shortly after my last blog post, the school session began again for my daughter as she started middle school, my son went back to college, there were changes at my job, and life in general got crazy.  Oh yeah, I also wrote a new book.

math

So what inspired me to get back into the cyber world?  Was it to promote my book?  Was it to compare stories with other mothers about the trials and tribulations of trying to help a child with math homework when the methods they teach now are nothing like what we ourselves learned (what the heck are alternative algorithms anyway??)?

Nope, I’m inspired to write again because of a football game.  How I’d love to enthrall you with a tale of how our team pulled off a hail Mary in the last minute of the game, to score a win and advance to a championship game.  But no, that wasn’t our team yesterday…that was the opponent’s story.  Our team lost.

I love college football.  LOVE it!  And as much as I love to cheer for my team, I have never understood how some people act like winning is a matter of life or death.  I still don’t get that.  But I’m having a very hard time shaking the sadness at having witnessed our defeat yesterday.

For one thing, my son and his friend (who spent Thanksgiving with us) were watching it with me.  I got to see how much the game meant to them.  They actually KNOW many of those players, so the loss was not only a major letdown for themselves, but they could only try to imagine the disappointment their friends – the players – were feeling.

After the game ended, we headed out to see my ailing father.  It was a somber mood at his house, too.  We sat together and exchanged a few brief comments about the game. But we were all pretty much suffering in stunned silence, so the room got quiet pretty fast.  But then we turned on ESPN and started watching the next matchup.  Another team still had a shot at a national championship and was fighting for it with everything they had.  The outcome no longer matters to me…my team lost the chance to go, so I don’t really care who wins.

birds singing

But this morning I got up early to start working on month-end closing for the company I work for.  And as I sat at my laptop, doing the final billing for the month, I noticed that outside the window birds were chirping.  The sun was rising, and it had all the makings of a beautiful day.  And my father has lived to see another Thanksgiving, which no one would have bet on a year ago.

Losing a ballgame is hard to take.  Losing one that puts you in a position for your team to potentially make history is heartbreaking.  But you know what?  Life goes on.  The world keeps turning.  There are so many things to redirect your focus toward.  And in focusing on those other things we can remind ourselves that games are, after all, just that – games.  There will be another season.

gridiron

And in the meanwhile, remember that miracles happen all around us every day.  Not just on the gridiron.  Don’t fail to recognize the miracles in your life, and to be thankful.

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We’re past the halfway mark in 2013.  Can you believe it?  How is it possible for time to pass as quickly as it does?

When my holiday romance novel, The Christmas Dare, was released in early December ’12, one of the tag lines in the promotional materials was “Romance is never out of season.”  I didn’t want people to think that this was strictly a Christmas read, simply because that word was in the title.  And I have been pleasantly surprised that I see units sold every single month.  I’m glad other people feel the same way I do about holiday romances.  I can read them any time of the year and get completely swept away in the stories.  In fact, I have been indulging in one of my guilty pleasures this past week…watching the Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel.  I log a lot of hours every December sitting on my couch and tuning into see whatever romance movie they have scheduled every night during that month.

Merry Christmas

 

So when I was watching Love Begins (based on Janette Oke’s book) last weekend, I was thrilled to see advertisements for their upcoming programs as they celebrated Christmas in July.  My only problem was that there were too many great titles to choose from, and I couldn’t possibly watch them all!  Christmas SongThe Christmas CardHitched for the Holidays A Bride for Christmas.  And, of course, all of Debbie Macomber’s wonderful holiday movies.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!  The choices have seemed nearly limitless this week.  Thankfully, I can Tivo them and watch them as I have spare time.  But my DVR is down to only 33% available space.  🙂

In thinking about what a delight it is to have the opportunity to watch Christmas movies in the middle of the year, I was reminded of that tagline for my book.  Romance is never out of season.  We don’t want to be treated special only on birthdays or anniversaries or on Valentine’s Day.  We like to know we’re appreciated and loved all year long.  Similarly, the Christmas spirit shouldn’t be confined only to a few weeks at the close of the calendar year.  We should strive to find ways to give to others all during the year.

I thought about my husband and how he cuts the grass at a vacant house my parents own.  The house has been for sale for ages.  The yard is HUGE – way bigger than our own yard.  But my husband mows the grass, weed eats and edges the lawn faithfully without accepting a dime for all the hours of work that he does.  He considers it a gift to them.

My oldest sister often offers to pick up my mother’s prescriptions at the pharmacy every month.  And if she picks them up, she pays for them.  And never asks to be reimbursed.  My other sister will give her manicures and pedicures.  It’s a way they can give back to Mom.

My colleague’s nine-year-old daughter has a friend whose parents are in the midst of one of the worst custody hearings I’ve ever personally known about.  It all comes to a head this coming week in court.  My friend had a trip to Disney World planned to celebrate her daughter’s birthday.  Even though it wasn’t something she initially intended to do, she included this little girl in her trip to give her a positive diversion in the midst of what could be a life-changing event, depending on the outcome of the hearings.  She told me she felt like it was just something she really needed to do, and even though adding a non-relative to the mix totally changes the dynamics (and adds a lot of expense), she feels like she is doing something very important and worthwhile.  It’s a way she can give something special to this child at a time when it is needed most.

We should all look around us and find ways we can bless others.  Whether you call it giving back, doing a good deed, or paying it forward, it doesn’t really matter.  In the end, regardless of what you’ve done for someone else, you’ll probably be the one who finds the experience most rewarding.

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Well, the month of June brought two miracles into my life.  First, my father survived the month and is still with us.  His birthday was at the tail end of June and he’d been warned by the doctors that it was unlikely he’d live to celebrate it.  But he set a goal that he’d make it, and he did.  And boy did we celebrate – complete with a band and a backyard bar-b-q!  What a fun evening, and the band was amazing.  (The fact it was my son and his friend didn’t make me biased at all!!!  LOL).  Before the night was over, we’d gone down a whole list of upcoming events and told Dad those were his new goals.  His will to live is spectacularly strong, and he may surprise us all and stick around to participate in each special occasion with us.  I certainly hope so!

 

The second miracle came when I actually motivated myself to go join a gym.  Yes, you read correctly.  I joined a gym.  And with all the attention on my dad setting goals, it was time to set some for myself.  Now (obviously!) my goal is to lose a lot of weight. But realistically, I know I need to set smaller, more quickly achievable targets.  So these first couple of weeks it has been to stay on the elliptical machine for one minute longer each day than I did the previous one.  So far I’ve been able to do this each time.  I am also trying to add a new machine to the workout each week.  It’s been fun, and even moreso because  I have a friend who also belongs to the same gym.  Kate Patrick and I try to go together whenever we can because we’re much more likely to go if we’re able to encourage each other.  We laugh and talk about silly things so our minds are too occupied to focus on “the burn”.

I’m so blessed that my dad is still with me, and that we can sit and listen to his stories for a little while longer.  He’s pretty much pain free (though not without some discomfort), so that’s a blessing too.

And I’m thankful that I’m actually to the place that I look forward to my workouts.  I know progress will be slow, but at least I feel like I’m taking baby steps toward reaching a new goal.

 

For those of you who have said prayers for my dad, thank you.  I know prayer is what has helped him keep fighting this fight so bravely.

 

 

 

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Twenty four hours.  One day.

Some days pass uneventfully and we hardly notice them.  Others bring surprises – sometimes good and sometimes bad – that leave a lasting impression.

The twenty four hour period between this past Thursday afternoon to Friday afternoon was full of unpleasant surprises for me.

First, my cat was involved in a totally freakish accident.  I won’t go into the gruesome details, but let’s just say she managed to get herself into a predicament that was a first for our veterinarian’s office.  And she had emergency surgery that very night.

Next, as I arrived at the office Friday morning, I found out a co-worker had unexpectedly died that morning at around 5:00.  Only a month ago he’d been told his cancer was in remission.  Cancer that had been first diagnosed less than a year ago.  Now, suddenly, he was gone.

To round things out, I visited my dad in the hospital that afternoon.  He told me that the doctor had spent a lot of time with him shortly before I got there.  It seems it is now very unlikely that Dad will make it to his birthday at the end of this month.  He had been soldiering on in his own war with cancer for a little over a year now, and looks like it’s almost time to raise the white flag.

It was a very emotional and “heavy” twenty-four hours for me.  Life is like that…it can throw you curve balls in a split second.  If you’re not careful, they can knock you down.

I will choose to look on the bright side of things.  My kitty’s appearance is now forever altered.  But she survived, and she’ll always be adorable in my eyes anyway.

My co-worker was a Vietnam veteran, and lived his life fully.  I mean VERY fully!  Despite his “hell’s angels” appearance, he was surprisingly very cultured and into the arts.  He also had an incredible talent for finding steals while antiquing with his wife.  He’d bring these diamonds in the rough (that he’d bought for pennies on the dollar) home and then refinish them to their original beauty.  Having once experienced the horrors of war firsthand (he’d been a sniper!), this handyman’s hobby gave him years of therapeutic tranquility and a peaceful end to a remarkable life.  He will be missed.

Finally, just over a year ago, I was told my dad only had a matter of months to live.  He more than doubled what we had anticipated.   And cancer can be a very cruel way to go.  But Dad has enjoyed what time he’s had, and has been miraculously pain free with it.  Sure, it hasn’t been a cake walk. Weakness set in pretty fast and he’s been more or less housebound except for doctors’ visits and trips to the hospital.  And he’s had a lot of discomfort in his body for various reasons.  But it hasn’t been overwhelming or unmanageable.  And his mind is sharp as ever and he hasn’t taken the first pain pill in over a year.  I am thankful for these blessings.  And when the end does come soon, there will hopefully be a peace about his passing, even as it leaves a huge hole in the hearts of all of us who love him so dearly.

So when you wake up each morning, take a moment to appreciate the gift of life and good health.  Don’t aimlessly wander through the day, using up precious moments that you’ll never get back.  Make the most out of each day, and hope that everyone has a good surprise in store for you.  If you make the effort to notice all the great things that life has to offer, then maybe it will help us handle the unpleasant things a little better when they come our way.

 

 

 

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Today is Mother’s Day.  It’s a day to celebrate motherhood, whether you have one, are one, hope to be one some day, or maybe you’re just an awesome friend to someone else who is a mother.  Having a great support group is one of the ways we moms cope with life and its challenges and rewards.  So no matter what role you play, celebrate the day and I hope it’s terrific for you!

hydrangeas

Growing up in the deep South, there are a lot of customs that are perhaps unique to living in the “Bible Belt”.  One of the ones that I always found humorous as a kid was the way my church honored mothers on Mother’s Day.  Of course, the service was centered around what it meant to be a mother.  Usually there was a gift for every single mother in attendance.  Some years it might be a flower (a carnation or a rose).  Some years it was a bookmark (usually imprinted with some scripture on it).  And then the fun part started…they would query the crowd and ask for a show of hands for three categories:  youngest mom, Mom with the most children, and oldest mom.  To help speed the process (and I can hear my own uncle’s voice in my head as I write this, since he often was in charge of this part at my grandparents’ church), he would say “Do we have any mothers here younger than 25?.  A flurry of activity followed, as there were usually several ladies who fit the bill.  Then he’d narrow it down, “Okay, how about any mothers younger than 24?” and so on and so on until only one hand was still raised.  Then she received a special gift to honor her.

Then they moved on to the number of children.  “Anyone here today with more than 4 children?”  and so forth.  You get the idea.

Finally, the last category was oldest mother.  Usually he’d start with 80, and go from there.  My own grandmother won this prize several times, as she lived to be almost 98 years old.  My sister and I were always so excited the years she won, and we wanted to see what her prize was!  Was it a box of candy?  Or maybe some perfume?  In truth, it was usually some sort of Christian literature, such as a daily devotional book or a book about being a Godly mother.  At the time, my sis and I felt like it was a little bit of a gyp, and we’d have preferred the candy!  🙂  But Granny always admired whatever it was and was thankful.

Let’s move forward to the present day.  Yesterday my sister and I shocked our mother by going to a church sponsored Mother/Daughter Tea.   She was excited beyond words when we said we’d go.  OF course, she is very smart, and used reverse psychology when she proposed the idea.  Rather than just ask if we would go with her, she said late Thursday night, “By the way, the church is having a mother-daughter tea on Saturday, but I know none of you is interested in going.  But Sister Brenda (as I said, I live in the South, so everyone in church is known as Brother this and Sister that!) said it was all right if I had to come alone.”

Well, how much of an immediate guilt trip is that???  I couldn’t possibly have said, “GLad you understand how to live with disappointment, because you’re right.  I don’t want to go.”  No, instead I said I could probably make it.  After I told my sister, she was more than willing to go too, just to make Mom happy.

Well, the surprise was on us, because it was an absolutely lovely experience!  The room was decorated beautifully, with gorgeous bouquets on every table.  The table linens were all in soft shades of pink and green.  The spread of food rivaled some of the nicest wedding receptions I’ve been to.  And all of mother’s friends acted like we were celebrities when they met us!  It is obvious that my mother does love to talk about her family all the time.  🙂  And one of the neatest ideas I thought was that each mother had been asked to bring her own personal favorite teacup from home to use for her hot tea.  I loved that idea!  It was fun to see what each lady brought, and some of them even shared the story behind where the cup came from, if it was special.

The ah-ha moment, however, was when we came to the end of the tea hour, and the wife of the senior pastor stood up and announced, “We have some prizes we want to give out today.”  Bam!  Instant memory blast, taking me right back to those church services of my childhood.  Yep, you guessed it, they were going to honor the oldest and youngest mothers.  There was a little competition on youngest mother, with it coming down to two ladies.  Diplomatically, the pastor’s wife didn’t choose between them – she gave them each a gift.

Then she said, “And now it is time for the oldest mother.  And I think I know who it is without even asking.”  My sister and I had already started scanning the room, and settled on one table across from us  that appeared to have two obvious candidates.  Imagine our surprise when the woman made a bee line straight to our table and handed a beautiful gift bag to our mother!!!  How could that be?  We don’t feel old.  How can our mom be?  And I have to say she certainly LOOKS much younger than either of those other two ladies.  But just to be sure, she was asked to reveal her age.  Mom stood up proudly and said “I’m 79 and next month I will turn 80 years old.”  There was an audible gasp from some of the ladies.  As I said, my mom looks so young for her age (and with no plastic surgery or botox, I might add).  But she won the award fair and square.  We were proud of her, and know we are so blessed to have grown up under her guidance and with her loving voice always there to teach or reassure us.  I will soon be 50, and I still depend on it at times!  Some days only your mama’s love can make things better!

I’m glad she won her first award as oldest mother, and I hope it’s just the first of many, many more, because that means I’ll have her with me for many more years.  And guess what – the gift she received was even awesome!  It was a pair of salt-and-pepper shakers, each in the shape of a small bird.  How great is that?

Happy Mother’s Day to all.

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What if you grew up with an older sister who was obsessed with weddings?  One who was always sketching out designs on scraps of paper, then made you stand perfectly still as she draped bed linens around you and straight pinned them until they resembled bridal gowns.  One who was constantly doodling elaborately decorated wedding cakes on napkins, then practiced in the family kitchen with Betty Crocker mixes and let you sample them.  How would that shape your ideas about love and romance?

In my soon to be released Bama Bride, Neal Sinclair has had just such a childhood.  By the time she’s grown, she’s ready for her own fairy tale, Cinderella story.  All she needs is the right Prince Charming.

bride and groom cake top

I am pleased to announce that BookStrand Publishing has set the release date for my newest book for April 2013.  Only two more months to wait!  I am very excited about this sweet contemporary romance, and will be sharing more information in the coming weeks.

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