Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009, you were a good year...


I've never been one to go out and celebrate on New Year's Eve. I remember in 1999, when everyone I knew (seriously, every single person) was doing something big to ring in 2000, I opted to stay home. With 2 great movies (Shakespeare in Love and Sliding Doors--and I know it is weird that I remember which movies, but I can't help it, I remember lots of unimportant details) and a Domino's Pizza (thin crust cheese).

And lots of people called me right before midnight to try and get me to say I was sorry for not agreeing to go out, but I was happy where I was.

For me, the turning over of a new year is more of a reflective time. I don't like the forced cheerfulness and the over-emphasis on having the best time of your life. If that's your thing, then by all means, enjoy, but the best time of my life isn't going to happen at some party or random club at 11:59 on December 31.

I probably sounds like an old stick in the mud. :)

Some might call me crazy for wanting to hold on to 2009 for as long as possible, but I want to squeeze each and every second of it. Big things happened to me in 2009. It was a fantastic year!

Just a few highlights:
  • Holding copies of my first two books in my hand for the first time.

  • Seeing those books in stores for the first time. I still have to fight the urge to take pictures of them on the shelf (and usually end up caving and photographing).

  • Traveling to Washington D.C. and the Grand Canyon for research; traveling to Denver for a writing conference; traveling to Charm, Ohio, for a book signing.

  • Book signings: I participated in 6 signings this year!

  • Hearing from readers who enjoyed the books! This came in the form of letters, e-mails and reviews.

  • Along those lines, one of the biggest blessings of 2009 was meeting so many wonderful people--fellow authors and readers. You guys rock!

I'm hopeful that 2010 will be just as wonderful! These aren't necessarily resolutions, but here are a few things I hope to accomplish in the new year:

  • Get a new book contracted. Or a new series. :)

  • Become reacquainted with my old friend, the gym! It's been far too long.

  • Change my diet. I am ashamed of how unhealthy my eating habits are. If I could just add some fruits and veggies I'd be happy.

  • Come up with fantastic marketing for my May and October releases.

  • Go on a trip that is in no way related to books, research or work. In other words, take a vacation!

  • Get rid of a lot of "stuff"--I have way too much and want to downsize. Maybe I'll never really be a minimalist, but I can try!

  • Finally figure out how to balance life, work and writing. I'm afraid this might mean adjusting my schedule to where I get up early and go to bed at a decent hour...

Okay, I could go on and on, but will stop. Perhaps I should do a mid-year check on these goals to see how I'm doing!

No matter how you choose to ring in 2010, I hope it is wonderful!

Song of the week...my favorite version of Auld Lang Syne by Mairi Campbell & Dave Francis.







Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tis the Season




I'm still feeling a couple of months behind. I still want it to be October so I can carve that pumpkin I meant to carve and put out some pretty mums.

I missed summer while I was locked away writing Love Finds You in Charm, Ohio.

Then I went and missed fall finishing Love is Monumental.

No wonder I'm all off-kilter. I step outside and am honestly surprised it is cold. Where, oh where did that yummy football weather go? The warm/cool that I love.

Clearly I need better time management skills so I won't miss anymore seasons!

With that in mind, I had to make a difficult decision recently--the decision to leave my career as a special event coordinator for a non-profit. It was a dream position for me. I believe very much in the organization and I spent hours upon hours working and thinking about ways to make things better. I was consumed.

But, you see, I was also driven by my desire to be a writer. It was a dream and a gift and something I couldn't walk away from.

When you are being pulled in two totally different directions, both of which mean the world to you, you have to give things up. Like sleep. And seasons. And seeing your family and friends.

So after a lot of prayer and soul searching, I quit the non-profit. I determined that I can't have two careers. I can have a writing career and just a job. But not a career as an event coordinator (that is demanding) and a writing career (that is also demanding).

The same non-profit offered me a part time position working with their database. Such a huge blessing to me. I can pay my bills (yay) but still devote most of my time and brainpower to writing.

Which means that I can sleep again! (I assure you, after several months of working all day and writing most of the night, I feel like a new person now that I'm actually getting several hours again)

And I'm determined not to let any more seasons pass by without me noticing. So my house is decorated--I LOVE the lights of the Christmas tree, the smell of a fresh wreath and the holiday movies on every night.

I'm so glad to be going into this holiday season without the fog of stress and no sleep hanging over me. I can't wait until Thursday--when my entire family will be getting together for gifts and games and lots of food. And Friday we'll do it all over again and maybe catch a movie. Saturday, we'll do some marathon after-Christmas shopping. Then family gatherings again on Sunday and Monday. So fun!

Song of the week: Winter Song by Sara Barielles and Ingrid Michaelson. One of my favorites from my Christmas playlist.

Enjoy your family this Christmas season! Here are Buster and Arnie who refused to pose together in front of the tree...so I made them pose with my Christmas pillows! :)


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Time at the Grand Canyon

First, I must apologize. :) I had trouble with my Internet connection while I was in Arizona. (in other words, there wasn't one) I was thankful to be able to check in on my iPhone, but updating my blog was out of the question.

If that wasn't bad enough, once I finally got back, I was pretty sick. Thankfully, I'm better now and ready to re-connect with the outside world.

So...here's a trip recap:

I drove from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon via Williams, Arizona. It was a neat place--lots of leftover Route 66 remnants. I spent a little time there before heading north to the Grand Canyon.

I could hardly contain my excitement as I drove through the entrance for Grand Canyon National Park! I drove straight to the lodge area and checked in to my room before my first view of the canyon. I opted to stay at the Bright Angel Lodge--a little rustic, but so close to the rim! I threw my stuff into my room and stepped outside for my first view...

There. Are. No. Words.

You know the song, Jesus My Lord? If not, here are some of the lyrics:
Have you ever look at the sunset
With the sky mellowing red
And the clouds suspended like feathers
Then I say you've seen Jesus my Lord

Have you seen Jesus my Lord
He's here in plain view
Take a look open your eyes
He'll show it to you


That song immediately came to mind upon seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. Just awesome.

Once I was able to tear myself away from gazing into the canyon, I set out for a walk along the rim. Totally amazing.

Side note: I am a naturally clumsy person. Like I trip sometimes even when there isn't anything to trip over. (don't let my years as a ballet/tap dancer and cheerleader fool you--I learned to hide my clumsiness, but it was always there) The lack of railing at the edge of the canyon made me VERY nervous.

After a quick trip to the visitor center (via the handy shuttle bus) I watched the sunset from Yavapai point. Being November at 7000+ elevation, as soon as the sun set, it got COLD.

Speaking of elevation, it took me a while to get used to it. The least bit of walking left me breathless and I learned how important it was to stay hydrated.

Another side note: By the time the sun went down on that first day at the park, I was feeling pretty awful. I went to the Bright Angel restaurant and ate some soup, then went right to bed. There are few things worse than being sick and far away from home.

The next day (my first full day at the park) was a good one. Thanks to my friend Benedryl, I felt better. I spent the morning exploring the village area--the lodges, the General Store, etc. After a quick lunch in my room (I'd come prepared with groceries) I set out on a lengthy hike along the rim.

First of all, the views are just amazing. Really just breathtaking. But I am a little bit afraid of heights sometimes, clumsiness notwithstanding. The rim being so close and the huge drop offs made me very nervous. There aren't rails for the most part, except for the key lookout points. Which is good, because they kind of detract from the natural beauty.

A third side note: I can't tell you how many people I saw doing stupid things. One of the rangers I talked to shared my feelings and told me that despite the warning signs posted, some people just didn't understand that there were real dangers. I watched small children running around, dangerously close to the edge. I saw many, many people with pets (leashed) whose owners weren't paying attention. When it was an especially large animal, all I could think was if that dog sees a squirrel (which were everywhere) and goes after it, both dog and owner will topple over the edge. And then there were those people who would climb out onto places that clearly weren't mean to be climbed onto just for a photo opportunity. My lesson from watching these people: I think you need to have a healthy respect for the canyon and many people clearly do not.

Okay, back to my story. :) So despite my fear of heights, I plunged ahead. A couple of times I had to stop and sit on well-placed benches away from the rim just to talk myself into going on. But each new vista was worth the fear. I hiked all the way to Hermit's Rest, where I rewarded myself with a cup of hot chocolate from the snack bar. I took the shuttle back to the lodge and watched the sun set.

I decided to try the Arizona Room for dinner. It seemed a little fancier than the Bright Angel Restaurant. The food was delicious. Warm bread and butter, chicken corn chowder and a yummy burger and fries.

All in all, a perfect day.

The next day, I explored a little more. This time, I went to VerKamps visitor center and checked out the displays. Then I attended a ranger program that was very interesting. I talked to the ranger for quite a long time--explaining that I was a writer and telling her a bit about my Walk in the Park series. She was excited about the books and was happy to answer my questions.

After lunch, I set out on what I knew would be a tough hike. I still wasn't feeling that great, so I didn't push myself too much. I desperately wanted to hike down into the canyon though, so I set out on the Bright Angel Trail. I only went about a mile or so down. It was amazing! I had to stop to let a group riding mules pass me. I know those are very sure-footed animals and all, but there is no way I'd ride one down into the canyon! I preferred my own 'hug the canyon wall' method of hiking.





I'm not going to lie. Coming up was HARD! And I can totally understand those people who go to far and get in trouble--hiking down was easy. And it was SO TEMPTING to go around another bend to see the view that waited around the corner. But hiking up was very difficult--I can't imagine doing it during the summer heat.

I headed to Hopi Point for another beautiful sunset.




The next morning, I got up before daylight and went out to watch the sun rise over the canyon. First of all, it was FREEZING! But such an amazing sight to see.

I treated myself to breakfast at the El Tovar. It is the "fancy" place and I have to say the food was delicious.

Sadly, all good things must come to and end. I spent the night in Flagstaff, then drove to Phoenix early the next morning. One cool thing--on the way back to Phoenix, I drove past some kind of hot air balloon event and saw tons of hot air balloons. I wish I could've gotten a picture of them flying over the red rocks.

Despite the sickness that plagued me, it was a fantastic trip.

Song of the week: Elevation by U2. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Go West....


Well, I'm off on another adventure! This time, I've headed west to Arizona. That's right! I'm writing this from Flagstaff, elevation 7000 feet!

I'm going to spend a few days at Grand Canyon National Park, exploring and talking to rangers about what it's like to work in such a place. I've never been to the Grand Canyon, so I figured there was no better time to visit than while I'm writing Love is Grand the third book in the Walk in the Park series.

Unfortunately for me, I'm a little under the weather--I'm headed to Walmart for some daytime allergy medicine that will hopefully stop my sniffling and make me feel better. I always manage to get sick when I travel.

The flight from Little Rock to Phoenix wasn't bad. Thanks in large part to the fact that I have the soundtrack from Glee on my iPod. :) Love that show!

Driving from Phoenix to Flagstaff last night was an adventure. I had no idea I'd be climbing from 2000 to 7000 feet. Not fun = driving on an unfamiliar, curvy, mountainous road with signs warning of rocks falling and elk crossing. But I made it. Lots of praying going on. :)

Today I'm going to explore some of old Route 66 before arriving at the Grand Canyon. I can't wait to actually see the canyon in person. I've heard that the feeling is tough to describe. We'll see if I'm finally rendered wordless. :)

My plan is to blog and post pictures all week. (provided the Internet connection is available) I thought it would be fun to give away three copies of Love is a Battlefield when I return from my trip. So readers, leave a comment for your chance to win a FREE autographed copy of Love is a Battlefield. Make sure you also leave your email address (name at domainname dot.com/net). You won't be entered in the drawing without it.

I'll pull from the comments made throughout the week, beginning today.

And if you become a follower of my blog, I'll consider it an extra entry!

Song of the day/week: Go West by the Village People. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

On the Road

I got the chance to travel to Charm, Ohio three weeks ago. It was fantastic. I did a book signing at Keim Lumber during Charm Days.

For those of you who've read Love Finds You in Charm, Ohio, you'll remember Keim as the place Noah Weaver works.

I decided it would be fun to drive from Memphis to Charm, so I rented a car and hit the road. It was actually a great trip. The weather was nice, I had my favorite music with me, and the car even had satellite radio.

Every now and then, a girl just needs a road trip!

And for the most part, it was tons of fun. Except for the time I was stuck in road construction traffic for more than an hour. Or the part where when I finally got to the hotel (somewhere in Kentucky) it came a monsoon and I was seriously drenched by the time I got inside. And then I left my laptop charger at said hotel, so I was without my laptop the entire trip. And of course, on the return trip I decided to take what turned into an hour long detour to see the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln but it was CLOSED by the time I got there.

Everything else was perfect. :)

I arrived in the picturesque town of Sugarcreek, Ohio just in time for dinner on Friday evening. After I got checked into my room, I went to eat at the Dutch Valley Restaurant. The food was so good I felt compelled to take pictures. In fact, pretty much every meal I ate was photo-worthy.



Fun side note: the hotel I stayed in had my book for sale. As did the restaurant. I'm still waiting to get used to the feeling of seeing my book on the shelf. I resisted the urge to tell people. :) I'm sure they wondered why the weird girl was taking pictures of the book rack though.



Saturday morning, I set off for Charm. There were lots of buggies on the road and I saw lots of Amish on bicycles. Once I got to the "Charm" sign, I could see that Charm Days were already well-underway. There was some kind of horse show going on and there were people everywhere.

The signing went really well. Susan Downs and Connie Troyer (both from Summerside Press) came to the event and sat with me at the table. I was very thankful to have them there. It would've been really daunting to be there alone. I met a lot of very nice people--some who'd already read the book and some who purchased it at the signing. I signed for nearly three hours in all and just had the best time.


After the signing was over, Connie, Susan and I had lunch at Grandma's Homestead Restaurant, which is featured several times in my book. The food was yummy and we had a great time visiting. After lunch, Connie and set out on a walking tour of Charm. First we stopped at the Charm General Store. The owner and her son were so nice. They're selling the book in the store and I actually signed a copy for an Amish family who bought it while I was there. We went to a quilt store and a fabric store--the quilts are just beautiful. I bought the cutest apron to add to my apron collection. (yes, a random thing to collect, but I love aprons--especially cool vintage ones)

Then it was back to Sugarcreek to visit the Christian bookstore. That was the first time I'd seen both of my books on the shelf together. Everyone I met was so nice and many had read the book and told me how much they enjoyed it. (I did meet one lady at the signing who told me she wished I would write just a regular book with no romance in it because she was tired of reading about love--I thought that was kind of funny)



By this point, I was seriously exhausted. I had a quick dinner at Beachy's Restaurant in Sugarcreek--again, the food was delicious. I had some of the best food ever on this trip!

The next day, I spent a couple of hours driving through the small Amish towns. I went back to a deserted Charm and took some pictures. The leaves were beautiful and I loved passing the houses--one yard full of Amish guys playing football and another driveway with Amish girls playing basketball. It was just a very neat place.





But all good things must end, and it was soon time for me to turn my car toward the South. Uneventful, except for the aforementioned detour to see the (closed) home of Honest Abe. I made it to Nashville for the night and then to Memphis the next day.


Oh yeah. One more thing. 1500+ miles in a rental car with no problem and I backed into a tree in my driveway on the way to return it to the airport. (am just thankful it was only a tiny ding...but still I felt pretty silly explaining to my insurance company!)



The song of the day: Life is a Highway, the Rascal Flatts version. Enjoy!

A few more photos:




Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Love is a Battlefield Has Arrived!


Okay, I am the world's worst blogger! But I have the best intentions!

Two weeks ago, on October 1, Love is a Battlefield officially hit the shelves!! It is the first book in my Walk in the Park series. Each book will be set in a different National Park. (Coincidentally, the Ken Burns National Park series premiered the same week Battlefield released...and I am hoping everyone has a renewed interest in National Parks!)


Things have been a bit of a whirlwind lately--I went to ACFW Conference last month in Denver. Fantastic time! In fact, that was the first time I'd officially seen Love is a Battlefield in real book form! My editor, Becky Germany, held up a copy on Thursday night in front of the entire room full of conference attendees. I thought I was going to bounce out of my seat! I was so excited to hold that book--it was seriously years in the making. The next night, Barbour passed out copies of Battlefield at the author reception, which then turned into an impromptu book signing. Very cool.

Photos below are me right after I got the book for the first time and then signing at the author reception:



Denver was really fun. I even met Ted Dekker (who gave me advice about writing: once you've turned in a project, stop thinking about it and look ahead to the next one...don't look back.)

Here we are, and I'm still holding Love is a Battlefield like a trophy! haha



And now, Battlefield has been out for two weeks. Hard to believe! I'm learning that once the book releases, the hard part begins! You see, I love this book. I want you to love this book. I want your grandmother and your mailman and your slightly annoying co-worker to love this book. But I realize that everyone isn't going to. And that's kind of hard. :) But I am dealing.

The song of the day...could it really be anything else??

Love is a Battlefield by Pat Benatar


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

First Book Signing!

There's just something about "home" isn't there?

I did my very first book signing Sunday afternoon in my hometown. The ladies at the Woodruff County Monitor hosted the event at the local newspaper office, and I was really touched at how many people came.

I had lots of family there, which was cool. And several people from my mom's church. Some high school friends and former teachers. Lots of people who have known me since I was a baby. It was really neat. In all, I signed nearly 60 books!

I tried to explain it to someone later and this is the best I could come up with: (and Carrie Bradshaw made this same point once, so I know I'm not crazy--haha)

I'm not married (yet) nor have I had children (yet) nor do I own a home (yet). So I've not had a wedding shower/wedding/baby shower/house warming. And you know, after you graduate from high school, if you remain single and childless, there aren't many celebrations for you. Sure, there's the occasional birthday get together, but not anything major.

So it was a little weird for me to be the center of attention. Each time I'd look around and realize all those people were there to celebrate me I was really shocked. And happy. It was nice to feel so loved.

I have to thank everyone who stopped in and encouraged me to keep writing and told me how proud they were of me. I can't thank all of you enough!

The song of the day is My Town by Montgomery Gentry--it has always reminded me of home.

Photos from the day:

Megan, Elvis and me:


Me and my grandmother:



Mom and me with my display of books:

Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer Girl

I'm a little bummed that August is zooming past.

I closed my eyes for a second in early May and a second later when I opened them, it was August. School is back in session and fall clothes are out in stores. What?

I am a summer girl, through and through. Always have been. Even when I got my "colors done" way back when that was cool. You guessed it. I was a "summer" hands down.

I want a flowy dress, flip flops and my hair up in a ponytail. A glass of sweet tea and a lazy day on the lake. Maybe a hammock in the late afternoon and a good book. Dinner outside, preferably something right off the grill and either cold watermelon or homemade ice cream for dessert. Maybe both.

Am I describing a vacation? I don't remember those. :) I've taken vacation days lately, sure. But they've all had a purpose and included some form of work.

But as crazy as it is right now, life is good. My first book is in stores now! I can't get over that. And my second book will be out before you know it. These are exciting times.

So please don't think I'm complaining. I'm not. I'm just trying to remind myself to take a little time to smell the roses. Before summer's a thing of the past.

Song of the day, Summertime by Kenny Chesney.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sitting Here On Capitol Hill...

**Okay, this little travel recap was written yesterday...but I fell asleep before I could muster the energy to go downstairs to the lobby where there is wireless access...**

This was my first full day in D.C. and it was pretty great. My phone has a built in pedometer—it registers that today I walked 17,327 steps or 8+ miles. I believe it!

My first mistake of the day was not ordering breakfast in my hotel room. Last night I thought—no way, too expensive. I’ll grab something on my way to the Capitol. Wouldn’t you know it…I was running late for my tour and didn’t even have enough time to grab so much as a coffee. The second mistake was thinking it wouldn’t be too far to walk from my hotel to the Capitol. Ha. Things are farther away than they appear! It was more than a mile and I arrived at the last minute, a bit out of breath from the nice jog I ended up taking the last half of my journey. Of course, I’d chosen today to wear a skirt. So there I was, running up Constitution Avenue in my skirt, having had no coffee. (I admit that at that point, I may have been just a little bit grumpy...)

Note to self: take the Metro. Just take it. Second note to self: remember your sunscreen when you know you’re going to be outside most of the day. Third note to self: remember your sunglasses too.

But despite my tardiness and general frazzled feeling, the tour of the Capitol Building was cool. Oh my—the rotunda made me think of when President Reagan died. I watched the whole visitation on CSPAN and wept. (he was my favorite president, after all). But it is so beautiful in there. Photos (at least taken with my camera) don’t do it justice.

Anyway, from the Capitol, there is a tunnel to the Library of Congress. But it seems that none of the other hundreds of people there realized that, because I went through the tunnel all alone. After being in such huge crowds, it was a welcome relief, but a little weird.

The Library of Congress—OH MY GOODNESS! What an awesome place! If you know me very well, you know of my immense love for libraries. That’s right. I. Love. Them. And this one is the largest library in the WORLD. The building itself is beautiful, but the books and collections are just amazing. I seriously saw Thomas Jefferson’s books today. And the Gutenberg Bible. I could go on, but I won’t. But I did something quite cool. (okay, maybe the fact that I think it is quite cool makes me a nerd—but I don’t care!)

I went and filled out the paperwork to get my very own Library of Congress card, which means I can use the collection! Okay, so I might not ever actually get to do it, but I needed to know the ins and outs of using the LOC so that when my characters in Love is Monumental are doing a little research, I will know the procedures.

After leaving the LOC, I made my way over to the Supreme Court. Shamefully, I did not go inside to tour. By that time, it was after noon and I still hadn’t eaten anything. I went to the Reagan Building to the international food court and had…wait for it…a French baguette with butter and Swiss Cheese. (my meal of choice when I was in Europe) followed by hazelnut gelato. (Oh, gelato, how I’ve missed you…)

From there, I walked to the White House Visitor Center for a quick stop, where I set off the security alarm because my shoes have some kind of metal on them. That was super, super fun.

But when I left there, I noticed that there were police and secret service agents and they’d stopped traffic in all directions. And there were people lined up on all sides of the street. I made my way over there in time to see President Obama and his motorcade headed to the White House. I videoed the event…will post later! And can I pause here to say that secret service agents are, as a group, very handsome. :) Am beginning to wish I’d made Thatcher (the hero in Monumental) an agent. Oh well.

Later in the afternoon, I went to the Museum of American History. Highlights: Dorothy’s ruby slippers, the puffy shirt from Seinfeld, Abe Lincoln’s top hat, the chairs and table Grant and Lee used in the surrender at Appomattox, and the original Star Spangled Banner. Pictures forthcoming!

I ended the day where I started it—at the Capitol Building. The US Army Band was performing a concert on the steps. Great way to end the day. But then I got lost on my way to the metro and ended up walking about 12 blocks. Don’t ask.

And now…am wishing I could sleep in tomorrow. But I have an early tour of the Washington Monument! SO EXCITED to see it and talk to the rangers.

A few photos below...and the song of the day is I'm Just a Bill from Schoolhouse Rock, which I had in my head all day.

The Library of Congress!


The Capitol Building during the Army Band Concert:


An impromptu stop at the White House:


Me, in front of the Capitol--I was actually at the Supreme Court when this was taken:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

First Day in DC!

Whew! My first day in DC is coming to an end...mainly because I'm about to collapse into bed, not because the day is actually over.

First of all, I did not get much sleep last night. Not only did it take me forever to pack (trying to find outfits that don't scream "I am a tourist and have no idea where I'm going" but yet also say "I am prepared to comfortably walk 5+ miles in any weather" can be a difficult task) but then once I was finally in bed, I was too excited to sleep. And maybe a little nervous about flying.

Let me pause here to say I could do an entire blog SERIES about my irrational fear of flying. I know...it is safer than a car, blah, blah, blah. I can't help it though. The older I've gotten, the more chicken I've become. (I did jump off a mountain once, but I was 21 and didn't know any better)

Anyway, my very sweet mother (who came to my house yesterday to help me get ready for my trip and is dog sitting for me while I'm away) took me to the airport bright and early this morning. And wouldn't you know--the flight was fine. :) A little bumpy but I didn't have too many panic-laden moments. And as we were flying into DC, we flew RIGHT BY the Washington Monument. I was so excited! I'm loving writing Love is Monumental, and I think being able to spend some time here is going to make the book much more authentic.

After I collected my checked bag (which cost $15 dollars to check--what a crime!) I set out for the Metro. I'd considered a cab, but decided taking the Metro would be better for research purposes. :) Got to my stop and found my hotel with no problem. Lovely hotel.

I grabbed lunch (and waited out a rainstorm) and then set out for Ford's Theatre. I had a reservation there for the museum and ranger program. (it was a good thing I'd planned ahead, because they were out of tickets if you hadn't gotten them in advance) The museum just opened earlier this month. Very interesting. I will post photos soon... Ranger program was good. I learned lots of interesting things about the assassination of Abe Lincoln. Those of you who know me well know that this kind of thing is right up my alley.

I left the theatre and walked to the National Archives. Passed the FBI building along the way. I've always had a secret dream of working there. :)

The line at the archives was brutal and it was hot outside! Finally made it in and seriously think this was one of the neatest places I've ever been! All those historical documents, photos, recordings, etc. Just cool! Especially if you love history as much as I do.

Don't judge me, but I didn't wait in the hour+ long line to view the Declaration of Independence. By that point, I just couldn't wait in another line. I did see the Magna Carta though. And a petition from the 1830's meant to keep Arkansas from becoming a state. Seriously!

It began to rain as I left the Archives. First just a little sprinkle--my new umbrella was perfect. And then the bottom fell out! There isn't an umbrella in the world that would keep a person dry in that kind of weather. I was drenched by the time I made it back to my hotel. My new umbrella sprang a leak too.

And now, I'm in the hotel restaurant, eating a yummy BLT. Looking forward to a hot shower, a good night's sleep and then...a BUSY day tomorrow! I have to be at the Capitol Building by 8:15 a.m. (that is 7:15 my time...ugh!)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Milestones



Being a writer is an odd thing sometimes. At this point in my fledgling writing career, each milestone I come to is worthy of a call to my closest friends and family members to tell them about the latest "neat" thing that's happened. I'm not sure at what point that novelty will wear off. Maybe never, so I'm hoping my family and friends will continue to clap and cheer and jump up and down with me when I need them to. :)

My biggest news right now is that I have 2 books releasing back to back--one in September (Love Finds You in Charm, Ohio) and one in October (the first in my 3 book Walk in the Park series, Love is a Battlefield)! I am beginning to get excited about the releases. I think for so long, it didn't seem real, while I was caught up in writing, deadlines, and edits. But now things are starting to pick up--I'm scheduling book signings, interviews and even have an author page on Amazon.

The other day, something happened to make it completely real. I received my first box of books. My books! I am not (too) embarrassed to say that when I pulled the first copy from the box, I literally sank to the floor and cried. I'm not an overly emotional kind of girl. But I expect that when I hold the next one in my hand, I will have a similar reaction. And possibly when I see them on the shelves at stores come September and October. I'll be the weepy girl doing the Snoopy Dance on the book aisle at your local Wal-Mart/Barnes and Noble/etc. Just fair warning. :)

One of my biggest lessons throughout the process has been finding out that writing is truly a labor of love. It's wonderful when the words are coming easily, the plot is coming together and I'm meeting my word per day goal. But then there are those days when the words don't come at all, and the deadline seems like it is creeping closer. The nights when I'm up writing and it is 2 am and I know I have to be at the office the next day (I have a full-time job, after all!). Those are the times when the love really kicks in. Otherwise it would be too tempting to walk away and claim it to be too hard.

I'm working now on Love is Monumental the second book in the Walk in the Park series. It will release next May. I'm leaving Thursday morning for a research trip to Washington DC, and plan on posting lots of blogs/pictures while I'm there, so stay tuned!

Song of the day is This Time of Year by Better than Ezra--favorite song, favorite band. Saw them in concert this past Friday night with 3 friends from college. I'm pretty sure that for a few songs we were 22 again. :)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Holiday! Celebrate!

Did you like that little shout out to Madonna circa 1983?

Okay, so those who know me know that the the 4th of July is my FAVORITE holiday. Hands down. What, you ask? Not Christmas? How about Thanksgiving?

Before you start thinking that I'm some kind of unthankful Grinchy person, let me assure you that I enjoy those holidays. But they just aren't my favorite.

So the 4th--celebrating our Independence. That's big. I think many of us forget just how blessed we are. How many men have fought and died to protect our freedoms. So I think this is an important day for remembering.

And on a different note, I think this is just a happy day. There isn't the stress that seems to come with Christmas or Thanksgiving. Just happiness. Lots of cooking out and laughing. Swimming and lazy afternoons. It's perfection, really. Then fireworks later, which still have a way of making me feel like a little kid.

So there you have it. My essay on "Why I love the 4th of July". :)

The song of the day...a little Bruce. Born in the USA.

Enjoy the holiday!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ever-Elusive Relaxation

A couple of years ago, a co-worker called me and asked me a very simple question about signage for an event. I think it was something silly, like "how far from the edge of the sign do you want the lettering?" And you know what? I had an answer. Because I had already thought about precisely how far from the edge I wanted the lettering. Her reply? "I figured you'd know just how you wanted it, that's why I asked."

The truth of the matter is that sometimes I worry about things that don't matter at all. I stress over them. In my endless quest for perfection I have a hard time just letting things go. I'll labor endlessly over finding just the right word or just the right font or just the right photo. I can't just let it go.

Some days, I think this quality helps me. Other days, I realize how much it hurts.

I read a fantastic book recently, Eat, Pray, Love--and let's just say that there were parts that were painful for me. When the author has to come to grips with her own control issues, I had to spend some time facing mine. One of the people she met on her journey made her realize that the world wouldn't fall apart if she checked out and relaxed for a couple of days. That really got me to thinking.

Relaxing isn't something I do very well. I get too caught up in work and deadlines and goals--and I forget to relax. Seriously. I have a LOT going on right now. So I wrote out a schedule the other day--to try and make sure I keep on track. Pretty much every waking hour is scheduled right now. And I honestly laughed at myself because on most days, my list says something like "5:15-5:45--relax". I'm pretty sure there is something WAY WRONG when I have to have "relaxing" on my list!

And in thinking about this, you know who I've decided I really envy? Someone I like to call "Girl in Catalog." I just got a catalog in the mail today from one of my favorite designers, and here is what I saw:

Girl sailing
Girl reading peacefully on the beach
Girl looking into the distance, not a care in the world
Girl smelling the flowers
Girl walking through a farmers market, carrying a straw bag
Girl throwing her head back in laughter

For Girl in Catalog, there is no worry. No deadlines. No bills to pay. No over-analyzing of male behavior. No thinking about exercising. No house to clean. No lawn to mow. Just relaxation. And I'm pretty sure she didn't have to pencil it in on her "to do" list!

And I realize that they aren't real. They're getting paid (probably large sums) to look happy, and carefree. But you know what? Every now and then, I think we could all stand to have a day where we pretend to be Girl in Catalog. I know I could. Maybe I'll even find the time...in a few weeks. :)

The song of the day--Sheryl Crow's I Wanna Soak Up the Sun. Because when I finally find time to schedule my day to be Girl in Catalog, I hope it's a sunny one.

















Monday, April 13, 2009

One of those days...

Okay, every now and then I have one of those days/weeks that makes me want to stick my head in the sand or hide under the bed or some such thing.

And although there wasn't really anything that I can specifically point out as to why this was one of those days, I just have that feeling.

The Pollyanna/Scarlett in me says that tomorrow is another day and it will be bright and shiny and new.

However, right now I say that I deserve a cheeseburger, fries and a Dr. Pepper. And maybe some ice cream to top it off. Except that I don't want to get in my car to go get any of those things, so instead, it is scrambled eggs and cheese for me tonight.

I'm rambling, I know.

So here is a list of things I've been pondering lately. They don't really go together though. So really, there is no theme to this blog post...

1. Odd fears of mine:

I have several, but will just highlight a couple. I read a book by Dean Koontz once where the lead character's girlfriend was in a nursing home because she got botulism from a can of soup. Every time I open a can of soup now, I have a tiny moment where I wonder if I should really risk it.

I'm also always afraid someone will put poison in my dog's water dish outside. Not sure why anyone would do this, but I usually carry the dish inside with me when the dogs aren't outside. Again, this particular fear is stemmed from a book I read a couple of years ago.

2. Fantastic things I've read lately:

Love Walked In and Belong to Me. They are by Marisa de los Santos and make me almost ashamed to know I'll have a book in the same store as them. They are so beautifully written. Someday I want to write something that will make someone feel the way I did when I read them.

3. Days off:

I love my job. I never thought I would have a job that love as much as I do this one. I'm happy to go every morning and most days I work late and don't even mind. But I desperately needed last Friday off. I can't explain to you how happy I was on Thursday night knowing a long weekend stretched before me. It was a nice weekend, full of friends and family and I needed it.

4. The gym:

Okay, I'm trying really hard to make it to the gym several times a week. I want to get in shape. (side note for people who grew up in the 80's--do you remember "get in shape girl"? I can still hear the commercial) But I have to say that gym behavior is amusing to me. I do not understand why people try to talk to other people while they are working out. When someone is all sweaty and trying to work it on the elliptical machine, does it really seem like the appropriate time for conversation? I think not. And the people who read magazines while they work out--really? How do they keep their place? Last Saturday, there was a guy on an elliptical reading a tiny paperback. I don't get it. Are their lives so full that they must multi-task reading and working out? I'm busy, but not THAT busy.

5. Magazines:

I love magazines. Until I open them. I realized the other day that the magazines I get pretty much make me feel bad about myself. Martha Stewart, I can never live up to you. Yet the cover of your magazine is so pretty I subscribe anyway. Fitness, you make me feel like a blob even though I go to the gym (see above for proof). Must you only use models who are already perfect?

Okay. I will spare you the rest of my random thoughts. The song of the day is from the Zac Brown Band. It doesn't have anything at all to do with this blog post. But the song makes me happy, and for today, that is reason enough to include it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Where's Lloyd Dobler when you need him?

Get ready for some rambling.

First of all, I just finished watching Say Anything for the millionth time this week. Love me some Lloyd Dobler. More about that later.

Tonight I found Ciao Bella gelato at Fresh Market. Am trying the hazelnut kind right now. (nocciola in Italian, just FYI) It's pretty good. Although the best gelato is one eaten while sitting on the steps of the Duomo in Florence, or at least standing on a bridge in Venice, I suppose it will have to do for the kind to be eaten in my kitchen in Memphis. At least I didn't have to get on a plane for it. (Incidentally, I think the main thing that will get me back on an airplane headed overseas is the potential for lots of gelato)

Can I just pause now to say that this has been a long, crazy week that has induced a good bit of left eye twitching, which is what happens to me when I get stressed? That's right. It seems that my eye now twitches when I'm really stressed out. Thankfully, you can't actually see it happening. But I can feel it. I met with my accountant the other day, and was sure he thought I was winking at him. But my friends at work promise me that they can't see it twitch. So here's hoping Mr. Accountant didn't think I was hitting on him. (although if it would cut down on my taxes...KIDDING)

Now, back to Lloyd. Or rather, the anti-Lloyd, who has turned out to be none other than single dad bachelor Jason Mesnick. I admit that I was sucked in to the show this season because Jason seemed like such a likable, nice guy. But slowly over the season, I began to have my doubts. When he let Jillian go, labeling her as "too much of a best friend" or some such nonsense, I knew he was just another dumb guy. (I mean, don't most people strive to fall in love with their best friend? Isn't that really a best-case scenario? But I digress.) So Jason chose Melissa. Proposed to her, even. And sent Molly with her "star-gazin' amazin'" eyes packing. (those were his words, not mine) But it seems that he wasn't through with ol' Mol. In fact, despite his engagement to Mel, he continued to have contact with the runner up. And finally broke up with Melissa. On National TV. Granted it was a reality show. But still. And 5 minutes later, rekindled with Molly, who for some Crazy (with a capital c) reason, took him back. And then they made out. On National TV.

So now, there is a new word floating around. "Mesnicked" Let me use it for you in a sentence.

"I thought things were going well, but then he totally Mesnicked me and told me he's found someone else."

See? Reality TV is good for something. Expanding our vocabulary.

Song of the day--In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel--straight off of the Say Anything soundtrack. (which I own, by the way, on cassette tape)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Like Sands Through the Hourglass...

I mentioned in my last blog post that 33 had always been my "scary" birthday. It's always sort of loomed out there for me. Not really sure why. Perhaps it's because I remember my parents at that age. I have no recollection of either of them turning 30, but I distinctly remember when they were 33. It was 1987 and I was 11. And (I thought) they were grown ups.

And now I'm apparently a grown up as well. At least I suppose that's what people think! Although most of the time I don't feel that way. I do, in fact, still feel 25...most of the time. (thanks to George Strait for that sentiment!)

But if I could go back and actually be a twentysomething again I wouldn't. Sure, there were some good moments...
  • I'd love to be back at FHU in the dorm with my friends for a couple of days, prank calling the PKA guys, skipping class and sitting out in the commons, and having Tea Society meetings at Dawn's. Maybe one more Spring Break trip to Florida with the girls and of course I'd love the chance to be in Makin' Music one more time around.
  • I'd probably take another week of backpacking through Europe with Kelly, fearlessly exploring country after country, going to see U2 and REM in concert again, and maybe having a large hazelnut gelato on the Duomo steps.
  • I'd love to have a couple of days in the apartment in Henderson on Gailbraith Street where I lived with Vickie, Nicole, Mandy, Julie and Bethany. (only Vickie and I were there the entire time, the rest rotated). It was in this apartment, right after college graduation when I coined the (now famous in some circles) phrase "These are the worst times of our lives," which must be said very dramatically with your hand placed to your forehead just so.
  • I'd like a couple of days in the house in Nashville on Linden Street with Katherine and all of our crazy neighbors, grabbing endless cups of coffee at Fido and flirting shamelessly with the musicians who worked there.
  • I might take a couple of days back at Shiloh as a ranger. That job was such a dream come true for me and my weird Civil-War-buff-since-4th-grade-self. There's nothing quite like firing a Civil War musket...
  • I wouldn't mind a couple of days in Mobile to visit with everyone at the Chamber and enjoy a long lunch out on the deck at Ed's. And maybe a long weekend at Gulf Shores and, of course, a Mardi Gras parade.

But looking back, I wouldn't want to actually permanently be back in any of those times or places. I loved those years. I'm so blessed to have had the experiences and the friendships that grew along the way. And all of those combined experiences have made me who I am today, and brought me to where I am today.

If you've caught on that this blog post is meant to convince me to embrace 33 rather than dread it, you're right! So happy birthday to me. My wise friend Dawn tells me that the 40's are better than the 30's which were better than the 20's. She hasn't steered me wrong yet, so I'm going to believe her. And if the best is yet to come, there must be some great times ahead! And that thought alone makes turning another year older worth it.

Song of the day is Seasons of Love from Rent. Love it. 525,600 minutes--that's all the time I get to be 33, so I'd better enjoy it!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

32 Flavors

My birthday is right around the corner. Which wouldn't normally be a big, blogworthy deal.

However, this one has always been my "scary" birthday. Not quite sure why. I did okay turning 30. No panic. But the thought of 33 has always scared me. I googled it and found out I'm not alone with the whole 33 fear! Which made me feel a little better. I always like to have other people validate my neurosis.

So I decided to make a few lists. (If you know me, this is no surprise because I make lists all the time...)

My list for today is sort of a take off on what I've seen going around Facebook lately. So here are 32 random facts about me, one for each year I've lived!

THESE ARE MY CONFESSIONS...

1. I miss playing sports. I wish I were still on a softball, volleyball or basketball team.

2. I once hitched a ride in Italy with a guy on a Vespa.

3. Cooking helps me relax. Weird, I know. But I can spend hours in my kitchen, trying new recipes. Someday I hope to have a huge, state-of-the art kitchen.

4. When I started writing Love is a Battlefield, I didn't think it would ever really get published. When I saw the book cover for the first time last week, I screamed. Loudly.

5. Sometimes I still check under my bed for monsters.

6. I talk to my dogs like they are people. Sometimes we argue.

7. Once in the jungle, in the Darien region of Panama, while on a medical mission trip, I scrubbed little kids heads to get rid of their lice. It was a hard job, and we made up songs as we worked. We sang "You've got lice, babe" and "Lice, lice, baby". That was when I learned that sometimes humor is the only way to get through certain situations.

8. I often pray while I'm driving. So if you ever pass me in my car and it seems like I'm talking to myself, I'm really talking to God.

9. I'm confused as to how I was able to fearlessly jump off of a mountain in Switzerland with just a plastic parachute strapped to me, yet flying in a plane scares me every time.

10. I am a control freak and a perfectionist. Sometimes I have to make myself just let things go.

11. I was a cheerleader in high school and I can still wear my uniform from my senior year. Guess what my favorite Halloween costume is?

12. I am such a procrastinator that I wrote my speech for high school graduation while I sat on the football field in my cap and gown, waiting on my name to be called.

13. I have three recurring dreams: My teeth crumble in my mouth. I get to the airport to go to Europe, only to find out that my passport has expired. It is the day of a big event (one that I've planned in the past) and I get to the event only to find out that I've not started planning it yet.

14. Sometimes I think I belong in a different era. Maybe the 50's.

15. I love politics and have considered running for office someday. Not anything major, but perhaps local government.

16. I love SEC football. Any match up, but especially the big rivalry games. Saturdays in the fall, you will find me watching football.

17. I love to fish. I can even bait my own hook. But I don't ever keep any of the fish I catch because I can't bear to eat something I've looked in the eye.

18. I don't really have any big regrets. All the choices I've made in my life have brought me to where I am now. And I think I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. So if I had it to do over, I wouldn't make any major changes.

19. I'm thankful I lived in Mobile. Not only did I gain a lot of experience that has helped my career, but I also met some great friends.

20. I love libraries and can spend hours in them.

21. I think letter-writing is a lost art. If I could find a man who would write me hand-written letters, I think I'd marry him.

22. When I was 11, I had a crush on Kirk Cameron.

23. When I was 17, I had a crush on Billy Ray Cyrus. In fact, I was in the VH1 special One on One with Billy Ray that year. Oh yes, I am a star!

24. Today, I have a little crush on Tim Tebow, despite the fact that he was born in 1987 and I remember 1987.

25. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. And I don't have a poker face. So people usually know how I feel about things. Sometimes this can be a problem.

26. I love the fleur-de-lis. It is the symbol of the city of Florence, Italy, and the summer I lived there, I fell in love with the design.

27. I think Anne Taintor is hilarious.

28. I also love StoryPeople. Sometimes I find one that seems like it was written just for me.

29. I hate it when people make fun of other people for things they can't help.

30. I tend to be really tenderhearted, and I think this will come as a surprise to many. Among many other things, I get teary-eyed at the end of reality shows, commercials about shelter dogs, and every time I hear pomp and circumstance.

31. I love my job. I think what we do is important. In fact, if I were in the Miss America pageant, my platform would be organ donation. But, alas, I am too old to be Miss America.

32. I think I've finally stopped running from who I am. I'm embracing my quirks, my nerdiness, my introversion and my interests. I don't even try to pretend anymore. Finally, finally, at nearly 33, I'm comfortable in my own skin.

Fittingly, the Song of the Day is 32 Flavors. This version is by Alana Davis.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

All New and Fresh and Shiny...

Welcome to 2009!

The beginning of a new year is always daunting to me. So many things I want to do, so many things I want to reflect on. . . where to start?

First:

2008 was a good year because...

job i love
book contract
old friends
new friends
new city
and the list could go on

But rather than bore you with a highlight reel of my 2008 I will instead tell you what I hope for 2009.

Some are sort of resolution-like, others are just plans.

1. Finish book #1 (okay, this is sort of unfair since it is almost finished and is due on Monday--but it will feel good to check it off the list)

2. Finish books #2 and #3 (whew! I am finding that writing is an emotional experience. Never really realized that until recently. So this means I am likely to be an emotional basket case for much of 2009...haha!)

3. I have a HUGE list of books I want to read. I have a confession. I've never read Jane Austen. Not a single page of anything she wrote. So at the top of my list, once I've turned in my book on Monday, is to read Jane Austen.

4. I'm going to get serious about becoming a homeowner. Yep. It's about that time. I'm nearly a grown-up, after all.

5. I want to run in 2 5Ks this year. I completed one in 2008--so I'd like to double that in 2009.

6. I want to have less stuff in 2009. I'm due for a big old yard sale. And then...the stuff that goes away won't be replaced. This includes shoes, jeans and dresses. I seem to have a problem with those 3 items. I buy them in bulk.

7. Travel. It has been eons since I've been on vacation. So 2009 is the year of the trip. Plane, train, or automobile--I don't care. Have baggage, will travel.

8. In 2009, I will get out of my comfort zone a little more. Try some new things. Meet some new people. Really, I will.

9. I will cook more. Hopefully while wearing vintage aprons (which are what I want for my upcoming birthday). And when I cook, I will invite other people over to enjoy it. (see #8)

10. Finally, but also most importantly, I will be a better student of God's word in 2009. My faith needs sharpening and there is no better time to start than today.

Okay, there are some of mine. How about you? Anything in particular you hope to do in 2009?

And because I simply couldn't resist, the song of the day is a beautiful version of Auld Lang Syne.

Happy New Year!

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