Holidays · Life · Writing

Be Present


I struggle each new year to do a proper amount of reflection versus a proper amount of looking forward. And once again, I’ve come up with a “word” for the year. Actually “words” is more appropriate:

BE PRESENT

Maybe I should call it my new mantra or something, I don’t know. But whatever I call it, I know it is how I want to live the next 12 months.

I’ve spent a LOT of time over the past few years not being fully present in my life. I’ve spent an awful lot of time thinking ahead to the next item on my “to do” list or being sidetracked by an email or text message when what I should be doing is focusing on the PERSON in front of me. That MUST change.

Looking back over 2012, I have to say it’s been a pretty good year.

Highlights:

1. Six book releases this calendar year. It’s been a real roller coaster. That I don’t plan to repeat. 🙂 Seriously, I’ve been thrilled with each release, but there has been a price. I’m not going to lie…I burned out. I cried and moaned and complained and swore that I couldn’t do it. In the end I did. I learned that sometimes being a “real” writer means sitting at the desk until it is done. Even when it hurts. Even when your eyes go bad and you have to get glasses (which I did). Even when you have to say “no” to a lot of fun stuff. So I learned a lesson. Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Note to self: set limits. Life is really not a race.

2. Wonderful times with friends and family. There have been concerts (Willie Nelson, Celtic Woman, Carrie Underwood, The Civil Wars, Huey Lewis and the News) and get togethers. There has been a lot of laughter and a lot of stories shared and a lot of yummy food consumed. I am blessed beyond belief by the wonderful people in my life.

3. I ran 4 races this year and although I’m slow, I’m developing a real love for running. Wonders never cease!

4. I’m back in a marketing role at my job. Pausing here to say that loving your job makes your whole life better…

Goals for 2013 (besides BE PRESENT):

1. Continue to run. I say it every year…but I’m so hoping to do a half marathon. We’ll see if this is my “lucky” year.

2. Learn to relax. I take things WAY TOO SERIOUSLY. At least I know it though, right?

3. Travel. 2012 is the first year in a long time that I didn’t travel much. (quick trip to Dallas, but that’s about it) I am hoping 2013 will be full of new places and adventures.

4. Organize my house. (side note: I am a clutter bug and paper seems to multiply around me)Is it terribly wrong that sometimes I pray that God will let me end up marrying some fabulously organized man who will love to keep me organized and yet still be able to put up with the inevitable clutter I will collect? A girl can dream…

5. Read for pleasure. I miss reading. I just don’t get to do it as often as I used to. My shelves are FULL of wonderful looking books just waiting for me to open them.

6. Write something new. And by “new” I mean in a different genre. Not that I’m leaving romance behind…just that I’d love to try something else. I have many, many stories in my head just waiting to come out…and SOON.

So there you have it. My “welcome 2013” post. New years are always a bit daunting to me. Full of wonder. Filled to the brim with the unknown. I have a love/hate relationship with that. Because I know there will be some wonderfully amazing things that will happen this year. And there will also be some horrible, heart wrenching things. Reminds me of Ecclesiastes. There will be a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.

And I suppose that is exactly the way it is supposed to be.

Happy New Year, friends. May 2013 be your best year yet!

Change · Holidays · Life · Writing

Peace is the Word…

There’s been a lot of talk lately in several groups I belong to about finding your “one” word for the new year. I knew my word would become clear to me if I really thought/prayed about it.

And it did. It was right there on my Christmas tree.

Peace.

This year I am seeking peace. Because honestly if 2011 had a word, it may as well have been Chaos or Turmoil. So Peace is sounding pretty perfect to me. 🙂

2011 saw me return full time to my day job and write 4 books and 1 novella. Which basically means I worked in one way or the other pretty much non-stop. I turned in the last of those books 2 weeks ago and am taking a few days off to renew my creativity. MUCH NEEDED time off!

2011 also saw a major milestone for me: I bought my first home and moved back to my hometown. Which was a whole other set of adjustments, which I’m still getting used to. My house is presently under renovation–and I’m trying to do as much of it myself as possible.

Obviously 2011 was a busy year! Some of the wonderful highlights:

1. The aforementioned book contracts! Writing is a blessing and something I feel called to do. I’m so thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given and look forward to making some fun announcements soon about upcoming projects.

2. The release of Love Finds You in Lancaster County–and learning it had reached the ECPA Bestseller List.

3. Traveling to Chicago with some of my best friends to see U2 in concert. What an amazing night!

4. Signing the paperwork and officially becoming a homeowner. It has been a long journey and I’m so thankful to have a place to call my own.

5. Traveling to Charleston to do research for an upcoming book. I absolutely fell in love with the city and can’t wait to return.

6. Spending time with my friends and family–as I get older, those relationships become so much more meaningful. I’m truly blessed.

But back to my word. PEACE.

How will I instill Peace into my life in 2012?

Here are a few things I hope will help:

1. Read the Bible all the way through. I sheepishly admit I’ve never attempted this. I read bits and pieces as I’m studying different topics, but I know there are plenty of verses I’ve never read–particularly in the Old Testament.

2. Pray with a purpose. Once upon a time I kept a prayer journal. I think it’s time to go back to that.

3. Exercise. Oh man. This was the first thing to fall by the wayside when my life got all crazy-busy this year, and I think that was a huge mistake. Back when I was running on an almost daily basis, I think my life was much more peaceful. So I’m back to training and am aiming for several 5Ks and the ultimate (for me) goal: a half-marathon. I signed up to do one in 2011, but wasn’t ready. 2012 will be the year.

4. Relax. Somewhere along the past few years of working and deadlines and being a grownup, I think I forgot how to relax. In 2012 I’m planning a spa vacation with some of my best friends and WILL make it to a beach where the only thing on my agenda is sleeping and reading.

5. Get my house organized. This includes finishing the kitchen and living room renovations!

6. Plant a garden. There is nothing as therapeutic for me as digging in the ground. Now that I have a couple of acres, I’m going to make use of them! I hope to have a vegetable garden and also plan a flower garden. 

7. Manage my time better. Juggling 2 full time jobs and a home renovation is a challenge. But I don’t want my life to revolve around working all the time. My very wise grandmother cautioned me recently that she worried I was writing about life and not living it. 2012 will be the year that changes and I think that change starts with being a better steward of the time I have–and also of choosing my projects (both work and home) wisely.

And there you have it. The 7 things I hope will bring some much-needed PEACE into my life.

How about you? Do you have a word for 2012?

Change · Holidays · Life

2010…I Barely Knew You

Is it just me, or does time seem to be going faster than it used to? I can’t believe it is already 2011!

The past year has been full of some very good and very bad moments. I guess every year is that way, but this one has been more so than normal for me.

First the bad:

My family dealt with some tough losses this year. My grandparents each lost a sibling, and then in August, my grandfather was killed in an accident. There is a hole in my family that will never be filled, so the months since August have been ones of adjustment. Christmas was hard–even with 28 people in attendance, their house still seemed empty somehow.

But there were some good times, too. A few of my highlights from 2010 include:

1. Traveling to St. Louis, Indianapolis, Lancaster, Gettysburg, Baltimore, and Washington DC. Although each trip was for work (research or conferences) I still managed to squeeze in some play time as well. 🙂

2. I had 2 books release in 2010–Love is Monumental and Love is Grand.

3. Speaking in chapel during Homecoming at Freed-Hardeman University was such an honor. Definitely on my highlight reel of the year.

4. I completed 4 5Ks in 2010, and although I ran each of them fairly slowly, I’m still happy to have finished!

5. In 2010, I had some really fun times with my friends and family. Some of the highlights: concerts (Miranda Lambert and Sugarland); shows at the Orpheum (Jersey Boys, Chicago, South Pacific, and Wicked); and lots of laughter and get togethers. 

But enough reflecting…I guess it’s time now to make some plans for 2011!

Hopefully these goals aren’t too lofty:

1. Complete a proposal for a new series I’ve been pondering. And actually send it in. 🙂

2. In addition to running in several 5Ks in 2011, I REALLY plan on training to run in the St. Jude Half Marathon. I have almost a year to get ready for it.

3. In 2011, I want to go on a non-research related vacation. The kind where I get to read, shop, eat, and hopefully have my toes in the sand.
4. I need to update my website/blog. I’ve had this on my list forever. When I say “update” I don’t just mean add a few pages. I mean re-design.
5. And even though I could go on and on about my goals and plans for 2011, I’ll stop with this one…In 2011, I want to get rid of stuff. I mean really, really simplify. And I am a pack rat. I have collected a LOT over my 34 years on earth. This will be a big project, but one I am determined to finally tackle.

How about you? What was your highlight of 2010? Or your biggest goal for 2011?

Books · Holidays · Life · Love is Grand

Merry Christmas Giveaway

If you’re like me, these past few weeks have been crazy! As I get older, the more hectic the holiday season gets. I miss my college days when we were out of school for a month and there was lots of napping, shopping, and visiting.

But I’m headed to see my family for a few frenzied days and am so excited about it. Of course, on Monday I’ll be back to the grind–with a book due in January, I can’t afford much time off to play.

So…in the spirit of Christmas, let’s do a fun giveaway!

I’ll draw a random name on Monday, December 27. The winner will get a copy of my new book, Love is Grand. And to make it even more fun, the winner will also get to choose a friend–and I’ll send their friend a copy of one of my books, too!

To enter, answer this question in the comments:

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

Here’s mine: My family gathers at my grandma’s house on Christmas Eve. There is a lot of food, a lot of laughter–and a lot of gifts. There is usually a movie going in one room and at least 2 board or card games going. It is such a happy time–and as the years go by, I cherish those moments so much.

Don’t forget to leave your email address so I can contact you if you win!

Merry Christmas!