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Twenty Years Ago

The lyrics from Kenny Rogers have been on my mind lately. Tonight is my 20 year high school reunion.

Twenty years.

Truth be told, I don’t feel much older than I did back when I walked the halls of McCrory High.

Twenty years ago, we didn’t have cell phones.

Or e-mail addresses.

We passed notes between classes. Handwritten ones, we wrote on notebook paper during class.

Twenty years ago, when someone wanted to ask you out, they called. Some even asked face to face. No texting. No Facebooking. No Tweeting or Instagramming.

We didn’t document what we ate at every meal. We weren’t glued to screens. We talked to each other. A lot.

I wrote my research papers by hand…and then by typewriter. We didn’t have a computer at my house, and certainly not a laptop. I can’t think of anyone who did. We used the computer lab at school sometimes. Mostly to play Oregon Trail.

Class of 94
Class of 94

We had to wait for photos to get developed, unless they were the kind you shook.

It was…a simpler time. My childhood, my teenage years—I didn’t worry about terrorist attacks or public massacres at schools or at malls. The worst thing we experienced collectively was the Challenger disaster when we were in elementary school.

So maybe Kenny was right. Maybe life was easier twenty years ago.

I keep up with many of my former classmates on Facebook, and although twenty years has definitely changed (and aged) us, when I look at them I still see them as they were—boys on the football or basketball team giving their all for the Jags…girls I cheered with for so many years and spent so many hours with making spirit signs or working on new routines for pep rallys…friends I sat beside from kindergarten through senior year who helped me cram for tests because I procrastinated. We’ve grown up. We have spouses and children and in some cases even grandchildren. We’ve gone on to careers in cities and traveled around the world. But in my mind, in my heart…we are still gathered together outside the high school auditorium waiting for the first day of school assembly or making mains on Friday nights after the game.

Those were good times. Times I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Our last game.
Our last game.

And if I could go back in time twenty years to my senior year of high school, and give myself some advice, this is what it would be:

  1. Enjoy it. For a few years, you really have no responsibility except to learn and to become the person you’re going to be. Enjoy it. Don’t stress over Senior English. Don’t worry about not having a prom date. Stop and smell the roses.
  2. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you’re less because you come from a small town. Small towns are wonderful. Small towns are the heart of America. Big things can happen to people who come from small towns. It’s not a limitation, it’s a blessing. Embrace your roots.
  3. Talk to your parents. Get to know them as people, because they are people—not just parents. Someday you will be the age they are right now and you will still be figuring out life. Cut them some slack.
  4. Talk to your grandparents. Really talk to them. Find out everything you can about their lives. And hug them a lot. You won’t regret it.
  5. Please, please don’t go to the tanning bed ever again. You were just not meant to be tan. Accept it.
  6. Before you go to college, go to a salon and get a hair style. Seriously girl. Do it. Layers are your friend.
  7. Don’t throw away all those novels you’ve started. Trust me. Someday you will want to re-read them.
  8. When you go to college, don’t take accounting no matter what your advisor says. You know you aren’t really going to major in business so don’t hurt your GPA on a whim.
  9. Trust your instincts. They will rarely steer you wrong, yet you will ignore them a lot. If you can learn this lesson now, you will be better off.
  10. Pray more often. I know you think you pray a lot now. Do it more. Be thankful, all the time. You are blessed even when you’re having a rotten day. Remember that.
Family · Life

Ashes to Ashes

The last family photo made at Grandma's house. Christmas 2013.
The last family photo made at Grandma’s house. Christmas 2013.

A house isn’t a living, breathing thing. Not really.

But a house that is full of love, full of happy memories is beautiful and warm. It’s a place of comfort. A soft place to land when you fall. A beacon of light in what can otherwise be a dark world.

My grandparents’ house was that for me. As a child, it was more magical than Disneyland. I learned to roller skate down the hallway, learned to cook in the kitchen. Some of the happiest times of my life happened between those walls.

Once upon a time...
Once upon a time…

Over the years, we played football and volleyball in the yard. Put a baseball diamond in the field across the dirt road. My grandpa played with us sometimes, barefoot like he had when he was a boy. For a time, my grandmother allowed her dining room table to be replaced by a ping-pong table so we could have family wide tournaments on Sundays after lunch. We gathered for holidays, sure, but we also gathered for Sunday lunch. The house was often filled to capacity, but it never felt too crowded.

We’ve celebrated births and mourned deaths in that house. Even after my grandpa was killed a few years ago, being in his house made me feel like he was still around. I almost expected to hear his voice, calling to us from the living room like he used to do.

In January, on the coldest day of the year, the house burned to the ground. I’m thankful that my uncle and my grandma made it out. That overrides the sorrow over losing such a special place.

But it still hurts.

There are some places that become part of us. That help shape us and form us into the people we will become. Their house was that for me. We prayed as a family before every meal. An American flag flew out front, a testament to my grandparents’ patriotism–something they passed along to their children and grandchildren.

Jeremy, me, and Jeff, after a Sunday afternoon of playing at Grandma's. We had probably been playing Dukes of Hazzard...
Jeremy, me, and Jeff, after a Sunday afternoon of playing at Grandma’s. We had probably been playing Dukes of Hazzard…

Grandma is 94, and planning to rebuild. Her remarkable faith and courage is something that we can all learn from.  And I know that her new house will soon be filled with the same love and laughter as the old one.

That doesn’t mean that there won’t be times that I’ll wish for those old paneled walls and tiled floors and red brick. That I won’t miss seeing Grandpa’s old recliner and the photos that lined the hall.

But time marches on, whether we’re ready for it or not. The older I get, the more thankful I become for my family. And while I know it’s normal to miss the house because of the memories it held, I also know that the bricks and the concrete aren’t what made Grandma’s house magical.

It was the people inside.

Grandpa and Me
Grandpa and Me. If I could go back in time to that moment, I’d give him a hug.

 

 

 

Books · Life · My Books · Writing

Happy Birthday Elvis Book Giveaway!


A lot of you know that I love Elvis. I have since I was a little girl and my grandma used to play his records on her record player. I’d sit in the floor next to the speakers and be lulled to sleep by his smooth voice.

When I decided to write a book series set in Memphis, I HAD to tie Elvis in somehow:


In All Shook Up, the main character works at Graceland. The characters even run in the Elvis Week 5K that I run each year!

In Can’t Help Falling in Love, one of the characters has some interesting Elvis memorabilia.

Such fun to put a little Elvis into those books!

And since today would’ve been his birthday, I’ll celebrate by giving away a set of books to one lucky winner!

To enter, just leave a comment telling me your favorite Elvis song/movie/story and be sure to leave your email address. I’ll choose a winner on FRIDAY, JANUARY 11.

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!