Mother's Day Weekend

Loveys, how was Mother's Day? My weekend was full and crazy in the very best of ways. Beginning with a quick trip to Virginia with my sweet friend Tammy. The kind of trip where you leave around three o'clock in the morning and travel all over the United States before landing at your destination. Where you drink wine at noon because you're way up in the sky and it's totally fine. And you're just two moms without your kids so you eat a million Starburst and Junior Mints and Twix. Then you drive for a few hours in the rain. And I'm so excited because it's Virginia and there are a million trees, so every few seconds I'm pointing out the window and telling Tammy, "Look at that tree!" Despite the glorious trees, she and I were quite worried about the torrent of rain since commencement was in the morning.

We got to my parents' house and my parents were thrilled. My dad actually had no idea I was coming with Tammy, so that was a fun surprise. An even bigger surprise was that the Jeffster flew into Lynchburg about an hour after Tammy and I arrived. (Though he flew straight to Lynchburg, not taking the US scenic route like Tammy and I did.) So in the pouring rain that night, my mom needs to buy shoes, and my dad wants to come since I just surprised them, so the three of us drive to the store, where Laura and Wes meet up with us after having picked up Jeff. And then he shocks my dad. And my dad is looking for the grandkids and telling us all that he can't believe the deception in our family. Ha! We're laughing and hugging and still worried about the steady rainfall. And we buy shoes as the store is closing then head back home. The kids were safe and snug in Colorado with my mother-in-law. (Thank you, Gloria! We appreciate you!)

I just love being with my family.

Commencement morning comes EARLY. And it's not raining, hallelujah! But it is cold. Still, since the torrent was a few hours before, we'll take cold over downpour. It's like five in the morning, but my dad has already been upstairs and left me coffee on a side table. (I just love him.) He had to go to the airport to pick up a wife to a Backstreet Boy. :) So he dropped us off early and my mom and Jeff and I go have breakfast. And we're still so relieved the rain is holding off.

Then we wait for a little while in this room and Jeff is thrilled because Jim Kelly is there and he gets to talk to him. And I'm thinking that my bangs are looking flat. But there's more hairspray in the bathroom! Another hallelujah!

Then . . . you know . . . the PRESIDENT of the United States comes in and we're all excited. (And I had planned to say, "It's an honor to meet you, Mr. President." Then he's shaking my hand and I am absolutely frozen and can only get out, "It's a blessing." Oh Lord.) So we take a picture with him and it's super fun and all that.

Then we're escorted out to our seats to watch commencement, which is fun and we're all thrilled that it's NOT raining. Then we're having lunch with so many nice people and talking about how Liberty looks SO different from when I went there. (By the way, this cute young guy asked when I graduated and I told him 2003. Then he thinks that over and tells me he was eight years old at that time. Hmm.)

I was so, so glad the Jeffster was able to fly out. He left for Colorado that night, but it was such a cool experience and having him there was extra fun for me.

Jeff headed back to Colorado, but I was able to stay a few more days and spend time with family. My parents and I went to my sister's in-laws' house for a Mother's Day brunch and I loved every moment of that fun day. Delicious food and unexpected adventure in the form of this girl being smack-dab in a creek while wearing a long sundress. Also, things like holding on for dear life while riding a 4-wheeler across said river while still in that dress, then a dirt bike--that dress has experienced a lot at this point. It's been a super long time since I was out playing in the woods, and truly, it was So. Much. Fun.

They live in this picture-perfect Virginia landscape that just makes you want to stay there. It was a beautiful day.

And after all that fun and family time and adventure, it was time for me to come home to my husband and my babies. And to flowers and Mother's Day presents. I love my people so much. (And thanks to Laura for driving me back to the airport!)

Also, I came home just in time for the mega snowstorm that has overtaken our little Colorado town. Yes, it's May. I'm not sure what's happening. But it looks like Christmas out there.

Loveys, it was a good weekend. I hope your Mother's Day was filled with love and laughter and all kinds of fun. My heart feels so full with love for my family and appreciation for moments that you never want to forget. And now we're snowed in over here and my mother-in-law is whipping up a batch of chicken and dumplings for dinner.

Whether we're warm and cozy at home by the fire, or out crashing through the woods to see a waterfall, or having coffee at my mama's breakfast table--something about being with people we care about just makes all these special moments feel written on our hearts forever. Making memories and being thankful.

It's winter in May at the moment, but I'll take it anyway.


Faith, Food, and Fiction! The Romano Family Collection

Loveys, it's here! The Romano Family Collection is finally live on I'm so excited. Special thanks to my sweet friend Meghan Gorecki for her work creating this yummy cover! The truth is that when you pour yourself into your writing, you grow really attached to your characters and their stories. That's why I'm so thrilled for these three novels to get new life with new packaging. I just love the Romano family, and I hope readers get to know them all over again (or for the first time!).

So this collection is made up of my three novels (previously published by Heartsong Presents) Table for Two, Second Chance Café, and Recipe for Love. It includes a bonus short story titled A Southern Belle Road Trip, and a recipe. I hope you'll hop over to Amazon and check it out. And it would mean so much to me if you'd consider leaving a review on Amazon, Goodreads, anywhere and everywhere! The collection is available on Kindle as well.

Thinking of food and fiction--Ashtyn and I had tea at my friend June's house the day before Easter. It was a perfect tea party--beautiful table, delicious food, wonderful friends. And as we sat there at the table together, I mentioned to June that her ham salad makes an appearance in my next book, The Last Summer. When you're a writer who loves food, these things happen. And for me, they make the story extra special. Because when I think about the tortillas with butter Mandy orders in Table for Two, I go back to that restaurant in Longview, Texas, the only Mexican restaurant I've been to where they serve tortillas with melted butter, like chips and salsa. And how those tortillas were so delicious, I've never forgotten them. And when I read Second Chance Café, I think about June's white bean chicken chili, and Tara's spicy chili and the bruschetta at Siena at the Courtyard that I cannot get enough of.

Recipe for Love has my wonderful friend Nancy's delicious breakfast casserole. And Alison's sugar cookies, that she learned to make from her mother-in-law--were inspired by my Aunt Stacey's mother-in-law, Diana, and the Christmas cookie party she throws every year when she makes the BEST sugar cookies I've ever tasted.

In Looks Like Love, Kasey's love for European white chocolate mirrors my own. When my dad used to come back from being overseas, he'd bring white chocolate for me. In The Last Summer (releasing in June), we've got June's ham salad, and other things close to my heart--like Whataburger down in Texas. And Shipley's Donuts. And my current work-in-progress has Daneal's chicken divan. (Jeff loves it, Daneal, I'll forever be thankful you shared that recipe with me!)

I can't seem to help myself, food finds its way to the pages in my stories. For me, they add that extra flavor that makes me want to sink into a story and get lost there. Some of life's best moments happen around the table, or when being captivated by a good book.

Lovey, I hope you'll get to know the Romano Family . . . and maybe share a recipe or two with me. I'll be doing a giveaway soon for a copy of the book, so stay tuned for that.

One of the things I love about this new cover, is that it reminds me of a cookbook. In Table for Two, Leo Romano talks about his family's cookbook, where all their special recipes are kept. Now you know, lovey, that the recipes and meals you read about in these stories, truly are special recipes to me.


Emotional Spills and One Hundred Hangers

Loveys, I got crazy this weekend and wanted to do some spring cleaning. This was brought on, in part, by the Jeffster making not-positive comments about our closet. But regardless, I've known for a while that our closet really needs attention. But spring cleaning is tricky. Things get so much worse before they get better. And you find all kinds of treasures (along with junk), and then your husband finds you on the floor by a pile of shoes, along with a HUGE pile of maybe one hundred hangers, holding a box of stuff, and sniffling because tears are threatening to spill out of your eyes.

I had an emotional moment there in the closet. I found these boxes that were half-good stuff, half-throw-away stuff. The "keep" things were making me cry. A letter from Ashtyn's kindergarten teacher at the end of that school year (oh Lord, I'm welling up again). A journal I'd written three pages in (I'm not much of a journaler) the year Ash was born. A card I'd written to Jeff when our marriage was in a particularly fragile place. Cards I'd written to my Mimi (that she'd saved and have made their way back to me) when I was a child. By the time I'd gone through all those things, and narrowed three boxes into one "keep" box, I was an emotional wreck. For real, spring cleaning is not for the faint of heart. The closet now looks great, the bedroom now looks like a tornado has come through. And all those hangers are about to be thrown away. (Even though the closet looks good, I still feel like there are approximately three shirts hanging up that I actually wear.)

Emotionally and physically, I've been feeling a bit spent lately. It seems like for weeks my family has battled illness. The flu and strep and constant runny noses and coughs and moms and dads who never get enough sleep. It wears you down. I went to celebrate my friend Evan's birthday last night, and was chatting with my sweet friend Krista about how sometimes you feel like you've been cooped up and home so long that applying makeup and going out feels foreign! (And then you're like, This makeup is from 1999 and why don't I have better makeup, and how come with the pile of clothes that I just put on my bed, I still have nothing to wear?)

More emotional spills from a mama who feels like every time she takes her kids to the grocery store, they all come home with the plague.

Really, when we're tired, I think we're more prone to emotional spills. But tired or not, reading letters from Mrs. Raj (Ash's kindergarten teacher) will probably always make me cry. I love how she loved every kid in her class. And glimpses of things like journals and cards take us back to wonderful, difficult, and even bittersweet moments. And we remember that life is a series of all of these things. Sick days and healthy days. Good days and bad days. Busy days and homebound days (which can be busy too, but in my case, mean lots of the Disney Channel and doling out yogurt sticks). It's all of it. Blissful marriage moments and not-so-blissful (or worse) moments. The bittersweetness of Ashtyn graduating kindergarten. Moving on and growing--beautiful and bittersweet. The more I think of it, the more that "bittersweet" seems like a good way to describe so much of life. For my dad, my wedding and Sara's and Laura's came with plenty of emotion. (Have you ever watched Father of the Bride, lovey? I. Can't. Even. describe how emotional I get. Weddings are hard.) I asked my mom once why all the weddings weren't as emotional for her and she said to me, I can't even think of it that way. It's too hard. I have to concentrate on how good it is. I'm gaining a son-in-law. My girls are always my girls. That never changes. My mother is always my mama. It never changes.

I understand, lovey. It's bittersweet times one hundred.

When Lily is sick (as she has been lately) and I hate seeing her miserable, she won't sleep in her room. I'm exhausted and spent, so I just bring her in bed with me. And when she wouldn't sleep in her room, in mine, she curls up next to me and is asleep almost instantly.

Bittersweet. I'll take it. And those cards and letters and keepsakes that are up in my closet, well, I'll keep them forever. (Along with my clothes, it seems like. I'm thinking I need to branch out and go shopping, lovey.)

I'm ready for summer. It seems like a lot of families we know have battled sickness this spring as well, so maybe summer will be better for all of us. I hope.

And hopefully my room will be clean by then. But all I want to do is read and drink coffee and keep my kids away from grocery stores and doctor offices. Jeff snapped this picture above of me this weekend. (I was on a small break from the mountain of hangers in the closet.) It's basically the story of my life. Reading at the table. For as long as I can remember, I've been the kind of person who brought whatever book she was reading to the table. One of my happy places. Especially when there are runny noses and sore throats and messy rooms. Spring has been rough over here. It sometimes is.

But summer will be here before we know it. Trips to the mountains, camping (maybe), fishing, sprinklers, watermelon, lazy days--all good things. I'm ready. The beautiful and hard moments of life together. I'll take them all.  

And if anyone needs hangers, I've got lots.