Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday

My Top Ten Favorite Books Of The Bible:

1. Psalms: my go-to book if I need encouragement

2. Isaiah: the promises and power of God are packed in this book

3. John: this is my favorite gospel, mostly because I spent a year studying it

4. Genesis: I love the stories of the creation, Abraham, Joseph, etc.

5. Joshua: From Jericho to the Promised Land, I love the victories this book portrays and the courage it inspires.

6. Proverbs: Wisdom. I need it. This book's packed with it.

7. Luke: This is my favorite book for the Christmas story.

8. I Samuel: I love the early days of King David's life. What an adventure!

9. Galatians: I learned the order of the books Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians using the acronym General Electric Power Company. I love all of these epistles but if I had to pick one favorite, I would pick Galatians.

10. Acts: I spent a year studying this book and it was rich. I was challenged by the faith and trust in the early church and challenged to live a life that laid claim to that kind of faith and trust.

How about you? What's your favorite?
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Monday, August 30, 2010

In A Food Mood

I got this recipe from an online newsletter I have gotten for years. I thought it would be a great drink to make for Labor Day weekend!

Homemade Orangeade – Combine 6 oz. of orange juice concentrate (usually sold in 12 oz. cans, so make a double batch, mix up regular orange juice, or save for another time), 1 1/2 C. sugar, the juice of two lemons and enough water to make a gallon. Stir well.

I am looking forward to Labor Day weekend-- that last bit of summer. We'll spend it at the pool and at our town's festival that they have every Labor Day. I've been going since I was a child so it's neat for me to take my children. We plan our whole weekend around it.

I am sure we'll grill out too. So here's a great recipe link I found for a marinade that I haven't tried, but plan to soon. Something about the Sprite in it has my curiosity piqued!
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Friday, August 27, 2010

Fiction Friday: Announcement

It's official! My next novel is going to be called She Makes It Look Easy. I had to wait for it to get through titling committee before I could tell you that for certain. But this week I found out that the title I proposed will be the actual title of the book. Yay! Stay tuned for the cover-- I will be sure to post it here once it gets designed.

I am very excited about this book, which will come out next June. I should begin edits on it in the next few weeks, I would expect. In a way I feel like a first-time author-- and I'm sure I will even more once the edits start-- because this book is so different from Mailbox. I went from coastal love story to a story about the complexities of women's relationships. This book focuses on the pedestals we put each other on and the need for authenticity and acceptance between women.

I will share the summary I wrote for the novel-- you guys are the first to see it!

When Ariel Baxter moves to a new neighborhood and meets her backyard neighbor Justine Miller, she knows she’s found someone who can help her achieve her goal of being a better wife and mom. Quickly Justine draws Ariel into neighborhood organizations and a church mother’s group she is convinced will be a lifeline for her. Justine ushers her into a world of clean houses, fresh baked bread, homemade crafts, and organization techniques sure to make her life easier, her marriage better and her motherhood more manageable. When rumors start to circulate about Justine’s relationship with a male neighbor, Ariel must choose whether to believe the best about the friend she admires or accept that what we wish was true sometimes just isn’t. She Makes It Look Easy is a novel about the complexities of women's relationships, the value of being real, and the freedom that comes with accepting who we are, faults and all.

As for the whole "will there be a sequel to Mailbox" question, I can say that we aren't sure. There will probably not be a direct sequel, but I hope there will be some more Sunset Beach love stories coming. How's that for vague? For now we've decided to move ahead with this one. I hope you will all want to read She Makes It Look Easy and will be as supportive of it as you were of The Mailbox. It's you guys who made all the difference in the success of The Mailbox, and you guys can make that difference again!
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thursday Thought

Welcome to all of you who drop in today after reading the devotion at Proverbs 31 titled "The God Of Learning." We thought that devotion was perfect to run right as school is starting for so many of us. It's one of those that came out of my own life-- and my own struggles. I don't want to put the god of learning on a pedestal this school year. Instead I want to put the God of the Universe in first place in all of our lives. What are ways we can do that? I will share a few ways that I have thought of here, and I hope you will share your ideas as well!

1. Pray for your kids while they're at school and pray with your kids before they leave in the morning. Even if you just place your hands on them and bless their day before they run out the door, they will know they have a mom praying for them! Ask them for prayer requests so that you can pray specifically.

2. Post verses around your house that inspire you and that your family can aspire to together. The fridge and bathroom mirrors are great places to post verses. The verse I am memorizing and praying for our family right now is Psalm 33:22, "May your unfailing love be with us Lord, even as we put our hope in You." (TNIV)

3. Take a few moments each night to read a Bible story or children's devotion aloud to your kids. One of my friends recently shared that-- even though her son goes to school during the day-- she sits down with him every night and does the read aloud and Bible portions of Sonlight curriculum. I was inspired by this thought and am still debating how I could do something like this.

4. Be available to talk to your kids about problems or challenges they're facing, and ask God how you can weave His truth into the conversation. He will give you the words to say that will point your child towards Him. Ask me how I know!

5. Take them to church. Providing a godly atmosphere each week and putting them in a place where they can meet godly friends outside of school is always a good idea. Don't have a church? Find one! And if you live in the Charlotte area, my church is a great one!

And now I would love to hear your ideas cause I know you guys are a lot more creative than I am!
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Psalms For Moms

The verse from Psalms for today is one I am committing to memory. I have set a new goal to not only document verses that speak to me in my journal, but also to write them down on index cards and memorize them. Every morning before or after my daily devotion, I pull out my index cards and review my memory verses. This one was one of the firsts that I memorized:

Psalm 25:4-5, "Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; guide me and teach me, for You are God my Savior and my hope is in You all day long."

Two things stand out to me about that verse:

1. What mom doesn't need to make that her heart's cry? What mom hasn't thrown up a desperate prayer that sounds a lot like that? "Ummm help! I need to know which way to go!" The very act of motherhood is being in a place of constant newness and confusion. Just when you get one stage figured out, another one comes along to knock you off balance. This spring and summer I've been studying about praying scripture and this is a good one to pray.

2. That last line really gets to me. Is my hope in Him all day long? Oh sure, it might be just after I finish up my morning quiet time and I am infused with a fresh dose of hope and encouragement. But later-- when real life starts hitting-- I find my hope sagging. How can I keep that from happening? I want my hope to be in Him-- not in the weather, not in my kids' attitudes, not in the state of my marriage, not in my finances, not in my agenda. Just Him.

Which brings me back to memorizing this and other verses. I can quote these verses, get my attitude and perspective in check no matter where I am or what I am surrounded by. I need His guidance and I need His hope. This is a great Psalm for a mom. Can't wait to share more with you in the weeks to come!
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday

To kick off this new feature, I thought I'd write a top ten list of why I decided to do a top ten list every Tuesday.

1. It had a nice ring to it because Tuesdays and Top Ten all start with "T."

2. Lists are nice because they are fast to read. And who has a ton of time to read very wordy blogs? It's proven that our eyes scan over a lot of text anyway. The list should allow you to read more efficiently.

3. I can write on a variety of subjects using this one device. I am taking suggestions as to what you'd like to see here on this feature! Leave comments if you have ideas!

4. When I decided to create a blogging schedule, this was one of the first ideas I had. And it was one of the ones that stuck. Others did not. Be glad.

5. This will be fast for me to write. Ideally. With my new commitment to write every day using this new posting schedule, I need fast.

6. I can create something you can actually use and benefit from. I love to find links to great posts that I can share with you and I can do that using this feature. I hope to use this idea to round up some of the great stuff I am finding in my own internet searching.

7. Writing a list of ten things might be harder than I expected.

8. I promise not all the lists will be this lame.

9. I am a champion list maker, so this should work out well. It can only get better after this post.

10. “In all planing you make a list and you set priorities.” (Alan Lakein) I have made posting on here regularly a priority. So it makes sense that list-making would be part of that.

I am looking forward to Top Ten Tuesdays-- hope you are too!
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Monday, August 23, 2010

In A Food Mood

Originally, my plan was to call this Monday post "Rooms" and go through different rooms in my house, describing what we were doing for that week in each room. Instead I've decided to call it "In A Food Mood" because I've noticed that you guys like it when I post menus and recipes and kitchen tips. I think this is because 1) cooking is necessary but it isn't always joyous-- we all need inspiration in that department and 2) we're all probably doing a lot more cooking at home in this new, budget-conscious economy we live in.

And so, every Monday it will be my goal to share something to put you "In A Food Mood." Whether it's a full menu plan or tips on cooking or just a favorite recipe, then that's what you will find here on Mondays.

So, what's up for this first edition of "In A Food Mood"? I wanted to talk about my recipe portfolio. All summer I've had this one item on my to-do list that kept getting moved to the next week: "Update recipe portfolio." Basically, my recipe portfolio is a collection of all the clipped recipes I had accumulated corralled into one very large binder, divided into the following sections:

Breakfast Items
Desserts (and yes this is the biggest section of the book)

I wrote a post about it last September-- it's buried in the middle of a Daybook entry so scroll down. I included lots of how-to links in case you would like to learn more.

At one point early in the summer, I went through some back issues of Southern Livings and Paula Deen magazines and ripped out the ones I wanted to try. Those torn-out recipes are now sitting in the pocket of my binder, waiting to be affixed to a piece of cardstock, slid into a page protector, and filed into the proper section in the notebook. That step has been on my to-do list all summer. Now that the kids are back in school, I plan to make it happen-- no more excuses!! The one thing that I have found now that I have the recipe binder is I USE it so much. I pull it out when I am planning menus, flip through and in no time I have a week's worth of meals planned. I highly recommend it.

So, if you have lots of clipped recipes you're continually digging through (I used to keep mine in an index card file box), I would encourage you to create a binder instead. It's so much simpler to flip the binder open to the section you're looking for and flip through the pages til you find the recipe you need. And the page protectors keep the recipes safe from drips and splatters while cooking. Since this binder features recipes you've clipped, that means you're much more likely to want to cook whatever it includes!

And actually wanting to cook is more than half the battle. I hope you will all keep coming back each Monday to check out the latest installment of "In A Food Mood." And I hope that reading these posts will put you in the mood to produce some great food for your family!
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Friday, August 20, 2010


Today I am going off to write while my kids are tucked away in school. I will admit, I did not get a lot of writing done while they were home this summer... but I didn't mind. I did get a lot of reading done by the pool while they splashed and played. And we had a great summer that we all agree went by waaaay too fast. But summer's turning into fall and there's no stopping it.

Check back next week as I begin my new posting schedule. I am liking it so far-- it takes the ambiguity out of what to write and I can work ahead when I have a few minutes. In all things it's better if you have a target to aim for, and blogging is no exception. I hope you'll keep coming back as this new school year begins. I like new beginnings. They feel hopeful.

And hope, as you know, doesn't disappoint.
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How I Started Running (By Someone Who Couldn't Run)

"I can't believe you run," a family member recently said to me.

I smiled back at her. "I can't either," I said.

I was never a runner. I can still remember deciding that I needed to be involved in sports in middle school-- this from one of the most uncoordinated, unathletic people you've ever met. I decided that perhaps running would require the least ability. It didn't require hand-eye coordination like soccer or softball so maybe I had a chance. I circled the tryout day on my calendar and devised a training scheme. That afternoon I attempted to run from my house to the fire station that was near my house. It was, at most, 1/3 of a mile away. A good start.

I made it half way and had to stop. My lungs burned, my legs ached. I went home with my head hung low. I would never be a runner, I decided. My short foray into "training" proved it.

What I didn't know then-- and because I never told anyone about this until, umm, just now-- was that that was only day one of training. I should've kept it up. I should've run just a bit further the next day, and so on until I was actually running distances. Perhaps I would've become a track team star. Instead I gave up and adopted the "I am not a runner" mentality that would follow me into my late 30's.

Fast forward to a few years ago when I decided that, no matter what, I was going to get in shape. I tossed aside all of the excuses I had used as a crutch up til then. All modes of exercise and training were fair game. Over time I circled back to running. It was cheap, it was accessible and it didn't require me driving to a gym. My kids had gotten old enough to watch themselves long enough for me to run around the neighborhood (to this day my route still takes me back by my house several times that they can get me if they need me). So I got a good pair of running shoes and set out, full of hope and promise.

I ran about as far as I did that fateful day in middle school. My legs burned and my lungs ached. I was not, I remembered, a runner. Who was I kidding?

The difference is that this time, I didn't go home a quitter. I went back out the next day and the next and the next. Each time I pushed myself to run just a little bit further than I had before. I still built in walking times, but they just got pushed further and further apart.

Today to miss a run is a huge disappointment to me. I have been known to run in crazy heat, in rain, and in the midst of really busy days just to get it in. I was talking to a guy this summer who told me that the reason why he runs is so he can eat. I slapped him high five on that one. That's pretty much why I do it. Plus I like the health benefits. And I also like the feeling-- I won't lie-- of strapping on my headphones and literally running away from home with the support and permission of my family. It just feels good for a lot of reasons.

So if you are not a runner, but you've always wished you could be, don't throw your hands up and say it'll never happen. Make it happen by doing it every day, little by little. At first you'll walk more than you'll run. But gradually you'll see your endurance increase, your distance lengthen and your commitment to keep getting out there growing.

Here are a few tips I've arrived at from my experience:

  • Get good running shoes. Some fitness equipment type places have experts who will watch you run and advise you on the right shoe for your foot. These shoes are not cheap, but they are worth every penny.
  • Figure out a time you can go-- early morning, mid afternoon, evening. There are lots of options. Barter with your husband, an older child, or a friend or neighbor to let you go if you have small children who need watching. Husbands, I have found, are surprisingly supportive of this endeavor if they see you are serious about doing it.
  • Get an iPod or Mp3 player with a good set of earbuds or headphones to keep you company while you run. Stock it with your favorite music and treat yourself to a soundtrack of your favorite songs while you run. My husband likes to listen to podcasts while he runs. Another friend I know listens to books on tape. Whatever makes the time go faster. I, of course, prefer 80's music. My son recently told me that it's proven that people will run longer and faster if they have music going than if they don't.
  • Don't quit. Just because it gets hard doesn't mean you aren't meant to run, it just means you're going to have to do what I didn't do back in middle school-- keep getting out there in spite of the pain and resistance you are encountering. You will be so proud of yourself if you do!
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Monday, August 16, 2010

New Posting Schedule To Defeat The Blinking Cursor

Starting next week (in honor of school starting, which is its own sort of new year), I have decided to go with a posting schedule for this blog. I have struggled for several months with sitting down in front of that blinking cursor, wanting to write something, yet wondering what in the world that should be. During the month I took off from posting, I missed you guys but didn't miss the blinking cursor. I debated what I should do about it and decided that coming up with a posting schedule would be a way to keep myself posting regularly without stressing over content.

So, starting NEXT Monday (a week from today) here's what you should encounter:

Mondays) "Rooms" post, in which I go through the different areas of my house and share what's going on in our house for that week. My plan is to include my menu and some recipes too!

Tuesdays) A top ten list of some sort-- it might be the top ten books I have on my TBR list, or the top ten things I've learned from my kids that week or the top ten best writing tips I've encountered, my top ten favorite songs to run to-- there's no end to what I will most likely attempt.

Wednesdays) Psalms For Moms-- I will pick a whole Psalm or a few verses that apply to moms and talk about them. This is a book I used to think about writing, so I figured why not just do it here as a regular post? I hope it'll be a nice mid-week pause for all of us.

Thursdays) A favorite quote or a personal post if I have something enlightening to share that I am compelled to write.

Fridays) Fiction Friday: I will share some aspect of my writing process, updates on what I am writing, interviews with fiction authors, and reviews of books I am reading, both Christian and secular.

I doubt I will post much on weekends, but when I do they will be filed under the miscellaneous category. That means anything goes!

Please be patient with me as I work to keep up with this new schedule and get used to providing content that will be both consistent and informative. Most of all, I just want to keep writing here and not lose my momentum. This posting schedule-- I hope-- will enable me to do that! I am learning that, in all things, the less I have to think, the better. This schedule helps me defeat that infernal blinking cursor by giving me a guide for what to write. That will go a long way towards productivity. At least, that's the theory.
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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Random Pictures From A Whirlwind Summer

The most important picture first-- here are my three youngest at the beach this summer. We spent ten days there and this is the only picture we took. (Ducking head in shame.) But I do love this one!

Here's a shot of She Reads authors Christa Allan, Tom Davis, and myself. That would be me talking... what'd you expect?? The She Reads signing at She Speaks was a big success. Thanks to all of you who came and got books signed and to the authors who took the time to come and spend time with us at She Speaks!

This is me and Shelly at She Speaks, who is also a mom of six. Moms of six unite!

This is me, Terri (a born encourager and all around sweetheart), an author whose name escapes me (forgive me!) and Diane Chamberlain, who I had the pleasure of signing books with at The Pelican Bookstore annual event they put on in Sunset Beach. This is my favorite bookstore evah, so being asked to be a part of their reader appreciation event was a humbling and amazing thing. Surreal! And meeting Diane, who's written about a bazillion novels, was also pretty neato. Incidentally, I am wearing a black dress. Shari Braendel tells me I am not supposed to wear black so this is me disobeying for all of you to see. Be sure to check out Shari's new book Good Girls Don't Have To Dress Bad so you can learn from my mistakes.

One of my readers snapped this for me-- my book on display at the Sunset Beach Trading Company right on the island. Pretty cool to see my book for sale in the place it is set. The good news is, the owners tell me it's selling well!

Here I am signing books at the Charlotte Airport. That's right. I will sign books just about anywhere they ask me to! I met the lovely woman I signed the book for and now we are Facebook friends. You might notice to the left of the picture is the poster of my extremely large face. I declined taking it home because really, my family just does not need that hanging around. They see plenty of my face already I assure you.

So there it is, folks. That is what I was doing in the month of July while I was missing from around here. Signing books, traveling, and just enjoying life as a first-time novelist and long-time mom. All in all, it's been a terrific summer. I am sad-- beyond sad-- it's drawing to a close. And now I am off to go sulk... by the pool.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Help From You Guys...

I need YOUR ideas!! I am writing an article on saving money on vacations and I need your help to supply stories and tips on what you've done to save money. Since most of us are coming off vacations, now's a good time to send in your tips while it's fresh on your mind! Email me directly, find me on Facebook or just leave a comment here. I can't wait to hear from you and, really, I need your help. In my own life we save money by using my uncle's beach house for free. I don't think saying "find out if any family members have a beach house you can crash at" would be good info for the majority of readers... Really, I need you.
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Monday, August 09, 2010

Writing In The Midst of Life

One of the questions I often get asked is how I write in the midst of a busy life. This answer from an interview I read is a perfect one so I thought I'd share it!

Q: You have one of those things I call a very beautiful, messy life – it’s full of family, friends, grandbabies, and lots of love! How do you possibly find time or the energy to write in the midst of it? What advice would you offer to people who want to write and become published that have a hard time juggling all manner of things in their life to accomplish that?

A: The only way to write in a big beautiful, messy, life is to learn how to churn the words out in the middle of life's unending dramas. The writer's retreat—why, it sounds heavenly, but I can't do it. I have to keep the deadlines knocked out in the middle of it all. The second half of your question speaks to one of my soapbox subjects. If you need to write, if you have to write because it's what you do and who you are, you'll find time to write. None others need apply sounds harsh, but it's the cold hard truth from where I sit.

And I had to add this quote I found further down in the interview, because it's so true!

Q: River, what have you found to be the very best advice anyone has ever given you about writing and what hard-earned experience from your own career would you would most want aspiring authors to know?

A: Best writing advice – To listen to the story asking to be told. Advice to aspiring authors? I really used to think that getting my first novel published would change my life overnight. Now I roll around on the floor and laugh and cry when I think of that. I would never want anyone to lower their expectations but I would encourage them to embrace the writing life over the long road and enjoy every day of it.
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Friday, August 06, 2010


Thanks to all of you who visit after reading today's devotion. Since the devotion is about noticing our abundance instead of our lack, I thought I would write about being thankful. This was written last night:

Tonight is a night for being thankful. Thankful for the faces that met us at the door as we came in from our anniversary trip to Charleston SC. Thankful that they were well taken care of in our absence. Thankful that my husband's business took us to such a romantic city, and that we got such a great deal on a beautiful hotel in the heart of that city. I have memories tucked in my heart from our trip, things I will treasure long after the trip is over. I told my husband more than once, "We should always go away for our anniversary." He agreed.

If you can swing it, I highly recommend going away for your anniversary, even if it's just for one night. I will admit, I felt guilty about going so soon after being gone for She Speaks. But my best friend gave me some sound advice that her own mother gave to her: put your marriage first, above the children. She looked at me intently. "This trip is about investing in your marriage. The kids will survive." With her urging, I made myself go... and I am so glad I did.

And yet, I am thankful to be home as well. Thankful to be back to the sights and sounds of home. Thankful for the safe trip we had. Thankful for my 10yo daughter who is feeling better from a terrible case of swimmer's ear-- thanks to all of you who responded to my private pleas for prayer on her behalf. We visited the ear, nose and throat specialist today and he said that, while she has a ways to go, she's much better. One more week and she should be back to normal. The moral of this story? Swimmer's ear isn't just a bothersome earache that clears up on its own like someone told me (we've never had a case of it in our home so I was clueless). It's an infection that, if untreated, can get serious real fast.

Now I am sipping red zinger tea with milk and sweetned with Stevia while perusing some of my favorite blogs-- blogs on enjoying home and on being a better writer, 2 things I hold equally important so they get equal attention. I am thankful for one thing I feel like I've been doing right lately as a mom: at dinnertime the tv goes off and it does not come back on for the rest of the evening. After dinner is time for talking to each other and for getting out our books to read. Nights are spent with children curled up on their beds and on the couches silently reading. Peace envelops the house. ("Your house is scary quiet," my best friend said when she visited last week.) It is nice to not have a tv droning on loudly, canned laughter distracting us. I didn't plan to turn the tv off at night, it just happened and-- as the summer winds down and school threatens to start again-- I am thankful it did. I do not like the tv. It is an unwelcome guest in our home and I am glad to silence it, if only for a few hours each night as we end the day. Peace and quiet is not overrated, and nothing takes the place of several hours with our noses firmly planted between the pages of some great book. It feels good to do something right, even if I stumbled on it by accident. For that I am thankful.
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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

On Routines and Habits

It occurred to me, after the third day of this "routine," that I rather
liked beginning the day with my children this way. I'm three months into my
personal morning habits. The rhythm is well-established: exercise, prayer,
shower, dress, tea, Bible. All before 7:30. Even if the day unravels from there,
I can still take comfort in the fact that I got to those things. When I
considered my personal routine in light of the new habit that was unfolding, it
dawned on me that the acquisition of habits could be a layering. Habit upon
habit, I could build into each segment of the day the rhythm I desired.

Quote taken from this post written by a woman I have greatly admired for years, Elizabeth Foss.

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Monday, August 02, 2010

I'm Back...

Sort of. She Speaks 2010 was wonderful-- I so enjoyed meeting those of you who attended, signing copies of The Mailbox, and spending time with my P31 teammates. But... I am tired!! It might take me a few days of rest and recharging for my brain to get back to full working capacity.

Tomorrow Curt and I celebrate our 19th anniversary with a quick trip to Charleston SC. I am planning to spend the time just taking it easy. We come back to not much time before the kids go back to school-- which means back to school shopping. Shudder.

In the meantime, I have missed sharing life with you guys during the month of July. I was glad I took the break because July was a whirlwind month of family time and traveling to enjoy summer break. Now that August is upon us life will be transitioning from the fun freedom of summer to the routine and rules of school starting back. Which means, I will build more time in to blog.

Know that in the coming weeks I will be checking in here more regularly and updating you with what I am learning and experiencing. I look forward to it...
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