Goodbyes and Fresh Tears

Loveys, my grandma passed away. We'd been to Texas recently to see her because we knew she was ill, but I think we all felt she'd have a bit more time.
But then Jesus called her and she went.
It was the most emotional weekend I've had in a long time. I walked into her house and stared at the sink where she would wash dishes, and I just cried. The funeral was hard. She was a beautiful person who touched so many lives, and maybe especially because of that, saying goodbye was hard for everyone. Her legacy will live on, I know. And her family will never forget her.
But I feel this very real heaviness at the thought of her being gone. I think it will be with me for a while.
She was my last grandparent. They're all in heaven, and with that, it sort of feels like the end of a chapter of my life. Do you know what I mean? The end of childhood. The letting go of something. And with that comes this ache.
I was close to both of my grandmothers. They were alike in some ways--these two incredibly self-sufficient, capable, loving women. They were both examples of strength in womanhood and being leaders of their families. I'm so much better for having known them and being loved by them. My many memories of both of them are beautiful. They loved their families in such practical, inspiring ways. I hope to love my family like that. I hope to be there for my children and, one day, my grandchildren the way they were there for all of us.
My kids and I went to stay a week with my grandma last summer, and I'm so very thankful we did. Because I'll never forget seeing my children playing in the corners and spaces that I once played in. I'll never forget seeing Ashtyn roll out tortillas with my grandma, or seeing the kids eating breakfast at her table every morning. Watering the plants, thundering up and down the stairs, going out to eat, watching movies--all the things I grew up doing too. I didn't know at the time that last summer was our last summer with grandma, but I'll hold tight to all those memories for the rest of my life because it was such a wonderful time. Sitting with Grandma, drinking coffee together, talking, laughing, eating. She and I sat outside on a bench under a huge tree for a little while, just talking, watching my mom water plants and my kids run around.

This past weekend, I was there at the funeral. And after, with my family, all of us eating together--I was thinking how Grandma would have loved being there with us. And how we're all there because of our love for her. She's the root of us. She's where we all started. I have a special love for my cousins, for my aunts and uncles, because we're linked in this undeniable way.

And really, there with cousins I haven't seen in a while, I was reminded that it's so nice to be with people you always feel connected to. I'm going to miss my grandma. I already feel it. She was irreplaceable. But I'm thankful for the years we had her. I still miss my Mimi so much. But with her too, I feel so thankful for all the time I had with her. I have so many memories of time spent together.

And that's where the ache comes. This realization that those growing-up years, playing at Grandma's house or Mimi's house--those are only memories now. For many years now, I've been a wife and mother and lived my own life. But even grown-up women miss their grandmothers and cry over the loss. I know that part of who I am stems from Dora Vela and Patricia Brumble.

My Grandma Dori was beautiful. Classy. She worked hard and was successful. She had integrity, wisdom, and true love for her family. I loved her.

The kids were crying in the car when Jeff dropped me off at the airport. Everyone wanted to go with me. I was so glad to see them when I got home. Back to my own little family. I was so glad to hold Lily. And even today, as I'm doing laundry and making dinner and putting Band-Aids on little scrapes, it makes me think that Grandma would be pleased to see it. She taught us to take care of each other.

I've learned many things from her, but working hard, doing our best, and taking care of our family--those things stand out in my mind. Truly, I'm so grateful for the blessing of having had her in my life. She's in my heart.

I'll miss her till I see her again.

The Last Summer Book Launch Party!

Loveys, yesterday afternoon I told the Jeffster, "This is my last party ever. If I mention another one, tell me I can't do it."

He laughed. Then he said, "Bran, I don't have that much power."

I was smack-dab in the middle of prepping for my book launch party. Meaning I was going a mile a minute trying to get things ready. Doesn't it always seem as though everything unravels right before a party? The books I ordered never arrived. There were cake issues at the store and I almost cried. The dress I wanted to wear apparently doesn't fit me anymore (sob!). Weather predictions had been hot and sunny all week, then I woke up to clouds and wind on Sunday morning.

By the time seven rolled around and Jeff and the kids were settled watching a movie upstairs, I was exhausted and ready for a sangria (or three). People started arriving (starting with Sam, thank you, sweetie). The sun came back out and warmed everything up. The cake was fine. And I found a dress to wear. Music was playing. Guests were mingling. I was still running about, trying to talk to everyone and keep track of things I was forgetting (like reminding people of the gift bags and where the hot appetizers were. Good grief).

But every time I paused to take a breath--truly, everything seemed fine. Friends filling my house, laughing, talking, meeting new people. Nancy opening more bottles of wine when we were running low. Cami and Liz opening the bags of chips because I forgot. Danielle snapping pictures that I'll treasure.

And that's the heart of a party.


I think the highlight of the evening for me was my friend Jen Turano's reading from The Last Summer. Jen is one of my favorite historical fiction authors. When I found out she lived in Denver, I reached out to her, because, well, she's awesome and I want us to be friends. And she was kind enough to come to my party and do a reading and share some of her own publishing story. And for a writer, hearing stories and sharing stories pretty much takes the cake. There were some questions afterward, lots of laughter, and I loved it.

A book launch party is, of course, a way to celebrate a book release and get the word out about your book. But to me, it's mostly a reason to get together with friends. When you're planning a party, you're thinking of your guests. What food to serve. What music to play. What games or ideas you can come up with so it will be fun for them. The book is there--but the guests are the ones experiencing the party with you. Planning/hosting the party is my gift to them. And to me, their presence and support and time is their gift to me. And it means so much.

In the end, it's a fun, summer's night shindig with wonderful friends, complete with flip-flop party favors and sweet tea sangria. To me, as I'm getting older, these moments are worth marking. Birthdays and milestones and job changes or moving to a new place. (As you can see, I like reasons to party!) In big and small ways, acknowledging these moments in our lives is a good thing.

I'm so grateful for everyone who came out to help launch The Last Summer. My heart was so full. And we finished off the end of the night with a little dancing.

Those summer nights, lovey.

Four Days from the Release Date for The Last Summer!

Loveys, I can hardly believe we're almost there. The release date for The Last Summer is around the corner. Yesterday I wrote a blog post, talking about the origins for the story and the very cool link from the character names with my kids' names, hop over to my other book site, Thinking in Words, to check that out.

Today I have one million things to do. We just got back from a wonderful trip to Texas. It was hot and humid and everything Texas--perfect for a kick-off to The Last Summer. We stopped by places that are mentioned in the book: The Houston Museum of Natural Science (where my main character works!),  Whataburger, Shipley's, Hermann Hospital, etc. I ate Mexican food THREE times because it's THAT good in Texas.

Texas is home to me and Jeff. We were born and raised there and we love going back. My parents were in town as well, so it was extra fun. We all stay with my fabulous Aunt Stacey whenever we're in town and she's such a wonderful hostess. This was actually a last-minute, quick trip to visit my grandmother, who's been in the hospital. I'm so thankful we were able to visit her and see my parents and hang out with extended family. All blessings to be sure. And being back in Texas just made me more excited for the release of The Last Summer. It's Texas to a T. I had lunch by the lake one evening with my parents, and gosh, it reminded me of the book so much. The story starts out at a lake house in Texas, where my characters love to go stay twice a year. That was actually inspired by a real lake house that Michelle and I went and stayed at by Lake Livingston. The woodsy drive up to the house that is described in the book is just like the woodsy drive that Michelle and I took so long ago in Trinity, Texas. Wonderful memories. There's nothing quite like the peace of being by the water.

On our way back to Colorado this time, we detoured a bit and spent a night in the magical city of San Antonio. Truly, my Coloradan children were drained by the heat and humidity. (Ashtyn kept telling me, "I'm not used to this!" Yes, child. Your mother understands.) But it was fun regardless. We spent a cloudy (thank you, Lord!) day at Sea World and had dinner the night before on the River Walk. Moments with family that I'll hold on to forever, good food, adventures at Sea World--summer is off to a really wonderful start over here.

Now we're home and laundry is out of control again. I'm sitting at my table, drinking a second cup of coffee, and there's barely room for my laptop because the table is filled with favors and decorations for an upcoming book-launch party. That takes me back to the one million things I need to do that (mainly) involve cleaning (sob) and creating a play list and a grocery-store list. If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that I actually LOVE parties. But I'll be honest, I get very nervous right before.

I'm in that right-before stage at the moment.

Also, cleaning is difficult when there are three VERY ACTIVE children at home with you all day. And going to the store is difficult when your car is in the shop AGAIN.

That leaves me and Pinterest--I need to find a sangria recipe (send me ideas!). And work on decorations. And now I'm blogging. And I want more coffee. And I need to choose an excerpt for a book reading. And create that playlist to accompany a summer night. And I need to be crafty when I'm not crafty. And Jeff wants me to pull weeds at some point.

And then I take a breath and remind myself that, honestly, throwing a party comes down to one major thing: Sharing what you have with others.
And that I can do, lovey.

In four days, this book will make its way into the world. There will be a launch party on Facebook from three to five (central time, two o'clock mountain). I hope you'll read it and leave a review on Amazon!

As for me, I'm making a party list and putting champagne at the top!