We had a great time kicking off the new year with our son and his lovely bride and our charming granddaughters. Since they'd done Thanksgiving with us they stayed in California to celebrate Christmas with her family. Let me tell you, this sharing the kids stuff is hard! It was the first year our son didn't come home for Christmas so that was a bit of an adjustment. Of course, the trade-off was a fabulous new daughter-in-law so I figured I shouldn't really complain. And I consoled myself by inviting Gerhardt and myself down to Sunny CA to help them ring in the new year.
It turned out to be a great idea (said she modestly) and we had a fabulous time with the kids. Of course, they entertained us royally, taking us to the Griffith Park observatory in Los Angeles and to the Santa Monica pier to kick off our New Year's Eve celebrations. That was fun, fun, fun. The magician doing tricks on the pier was good enough to give David Copperfield a run for his money. He used my lovely daughter-in-law as his assistant and of course I filmed the whole thing with my handy, dandy iPad mini.... on fast speed. Sheesh. I'm hoping we can figure out a way to slow it down since I'd planned on posting it on my little Youtube channel. Darn it all! I get so irritated with myself when I do dumb things like that ... dumb things that could be avoided if a girl read up on how to work her new toy. I wondered what the deal was with that little, red, swirling circle icon. Sigh.
In between sight seeing there was much conversation and many games, including one called Black Peter (the original Old Maid invented in the nineteenth century by some German crooks - the loser of each hand of cards gets a mark on his or her nose. The one person who comes out unscathed is the winner - you can see by the picture that the participating grown-ups all lost, which delighted my granddaughter.) I enjoyed walking around the neighborhood and never got over the novelty or orange trees growing in people's yards. (Maybe people who come to Washington feel the same way when they see us with our apple and pear trees.)
Anyway, our new year has begun splendidly. I'm looking forward to some small trips, hanging out at the Romantic Times conference in Las Vegas as well as the Romance Writers of America convention in San Diego (hope to be signing books at both of those!), and, of course, seeing more Sheila books hit the shelves. ("Home on Apple Blossom Road" will be out this spring.) I am also trying to take good care of myself because one of my goals for 2016 is good health. (Actually, that's a goal for the next several years but I'm planning to take it a year at a time and be grateful for every year I get with family and friends.)
So, here's to a new year. Here's wishing you a wonderful one, too!
I can't think of a better way to start December than with a visit to Icicle Falls, which I did this week. And going with girlfriends makes the whole thing even more fun! We wound up with four of us taking the train to Leavenworth, WA, the adorable little Bavarian town that attracts thousands of visitors every Christmas. We took the train up and spent a day visiting many of the shops in town. I wish we'd allowed ourselves another day because we only scratched the surface. But I did get a chance to treat myself to a couple of little goodies from Schocolat, a gourmet shop that makes the most amazing chocolates from Belgian chocolate. Oh, yum! Found a couple of Christmas presents, including a little something for Gerhardt - Lebkuchen, which I know he'll love.
After a day of shopping it was time to go to the party at A Book For All Seasons bookstore. Pat the owner and her husband Ed have been featured in some of my Icicle Falls books and I always have such a good time hanging out with their wonderful family and all the special people like Theresa who work so hard to help make that little store the success it is.
If you're looking for a fun place to visit in December, I highly recommend checking out the town that inspired my Icicle Falls series. Who knows? Maybe we'll all have to congregate there and have a giant party. Would you come?
I came home to find that Gerhardt had been decorating. He'd hung the lovely wreath that arrived from my beloved publicist Nancy Berland. I think it looks great over our fireplace, don't you? Only one little problem. Can you see it? If not, I'll give you a hint. Look where the bow is! We're hosting a big party for my old college buddies tomorrow. I'm going to make sure he re-hangs it. Otherwise the guys will never let him live down his boo-boo.
Well, that's it for now. I hope you're all enjoying the joys of the season.
A couple of weeks ago I woke up at 4:30 a.m. with my right hand asleep. Hmm. And my face was feeling a little snoozy, too. This couldn't be good. Of course, I've had migraines on and off for years and the numb hands and numb face could be that. But what was this warmth in my chest? Maybe I should go to the hospital.
I sure didn't want to go to the hospital. I'm the world's biggest hypochondriac. I was sure the doctor would say, "You're fine. Take your tingly hand home and go back to bed." Still ... okay, I should go. So, because who wants to arrive at the hospital all stinky, I took a shower. Then I didn't feel so bad so I decided to just go back to bad. And here came the numbness and the chest warmth again. Okay, off we go.
No way was I going to wake up my husband for what would probably turn out to be a false alarm, so I did another intelligent thing. I drove myself. Children, don't try this at home. Happily, there was hardly a car on the road and I stayed conscious but looking back I ask myself, "What were you thinking?" Actually, I was thinking I didn't want to turn my husband's life upside down.
As it turned out I did. I about gave the poor man a nervous breakdown with my little "Not to worry. I'm just at the hospital getting something checked" note. As for me, I wound up having a little spa weekend at my local hospital while the doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with me. (Edited my work in progress - what a workaholic cliche! - and caught up on all my favorite episodes of "House Hunters.") The doctors found no blockage so I came away stent free. Yay! Their conclusion... I have dysfunctional capillaries. Whatever that means. Oh, yeah. For the time being it means medicine.
So, what did I learn in all this? First of all, I learned never to brush it off when my body is misbehaving. Women, we have totally different symptoms of heart failure than the guys. I'm assuming you all know that! But just in case you don't... Don't expect crushing chest pain. You might not get it. Watch for sweating, nausea, shortness of breath, a feeling of anxiety and yes, that warmth in the chest. Anything that isn't normal for you is something you need to see a doctor about. Secondly... no one at the hospital will care if you don't come in fresh as a daisy. They see mangled bloody bodies all the time. A little body odor or imperfect hair and no makeup won't phase these people. And, of course, don't drive yourself!
Now, Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I am counting my blessings, thankful to still be here with my loved ones, thankful that in good times and bad (and we've had our share of those these last three years!) God watches over me.
How about you? For what are you thankful?
I ended a very fun weekend by going to the Kitsap County wild mushroom show with my buddies Kimberly and Kathy. While most everyone in the county was busy watching the Seahawks - did they win? I don't even know! - I was learning about my favorite fungus and hanging out with good friends. I was surprised to see many mushrooms on display that I've passed when out in the woods, sure they were poisonous. Who knew? Not little Sheila. But then, that's why we have experts, to help us learn more about all that free food we can forage. Next week, if all goes according to plan, I'll be out in the wilds on a foray with a mushroom expert who will teach me more about this interesting edible that offers many health benefits. Woohoo!
And that's it for now sports fans. Speaking of, I guess I'll go ask someone how the Hawks did.
Last night I heard Dr. Caroline Leaf talk about how our thoughts affect every aspect of our lives. According to Dr. Caroline our mind and our brain are not the same thing. The brain is the hardware that does what the mind tells it. She had all kinds of slides and scientific proof for all this, much of which was beyond me. What was easily within my grasp, however, was the fact that our thoughts affect our actions. Every action begins as a thought.
Yes, I knew that... in my head, in that piece of hardware inside my cranium. But knowing that and implementing the knowledge are two different things.
I came away determined to implement that knowledge more effectively, and to do that I had to take a serious look at the thoughts I let rampage around in my brain. Often they are fear and worry based. What if the cancer comes back? What about that burned section of my esophagus, what if cancer grows there? I have an endoscopy looming and part of me doesn't want to do it for fear of what the doctor might find. And then there's the matter of my kids. And my grandkids. I tend to worry about them. This leads to middle of the night stewing sessions where I turn over their problems in my mind, trying to think of ways I can get them on track. (As if this is solely my responsibility!) Worry is a waste of time and lack of sleep is not good for our health. Everything I heard last night confirmed what I've been suspecting for a long time: I need to quit trying to be god of my little universe and fix everyone and everything. I can't. I also can't travel into the future and see what's going to happen next. And I don't need to go there. God's already there and He's got everything covered.
So, what do I need to do? I need to focus on letting go of my fears and concentrating on the blessings of today. I need to quit playing the "What If" Game since I rarely play it in a positive way. (Like, how come I never ask myself, "What if someone sends me chocolate today?" ) No more worrying about what if the cancer comes back, what if a new problem erupts in my children's lives, or what if the economy collapses? Instead I want to start each day asking, "What can I learn today?"... "How can I be a better person?"... "What fun thing can I plan?"... "What can I accomplish?" I want to greet the sunrise with joy, to look around and appreciate the rain that makes my plants grow and the air I breathe. I want to realize what a privilege it is to get to live here on a planet perfectly designed for human life. I want to wake up every morning and quote Psalm 118:24. THIS IS THE DAY THE LORD HAS MADE, LET'S REJOICE AND BE GLAD IN IT.
I'm starting today with gratitude. Gratitude that I'm still here, that I've got great kids who love me, that I've got a wonderful husband. That I have food to eat and a place to live. That my family cares about me and my friends are fabulous. I don't know what today holds and instead of wondering when the other shoe will drop or what new trouble will hit me I want to be looking for what new thing I can find to be grateful for. There's always something, even in the midst of hard times.
So, today, I'm rejoicing in a new day. Thankful that I'm still here. How about you?
There's nothing like out of town company to help you get reacquainted with where you live. That's exactly what we did when we hosted two ladies from Germany. Our friends hailed from what used to be East Germany before the wall came down and grew up behind the iron curtain. Of course, they were told that the West was evil. I'm glad they didn't believe that!
Sybille and Gundi were the perfect house guests and I hope we were the perfect hosts. We gave it our best shot for two weeks, taking the ladies all around the Pacific Northwest. They got to see a waterfall for the first time, had a day at an American shopping mall and found several goodies on sale, went for a boat ride (thank you Susan Wiggs, boating queen!), visited Debbie Macomber's office and had lunch with the amazing Debbie, had lunch at the Seattle Space Needle, took a ferry boat ride, went to the ocean, had root beer floats and a banana split, saw Mt. St. Helens, shared meals with friends,and learned how to country line dance. We were busy every day of the week. A big highlight was getting to meet our charming mayor of Bremerton, Mayor Patty Lent, who treated them like rock stars, pinned our Bremerton lapel pin on them and gave them each a Bremerton ball cap.
Sybille came bearing eleven pounds of chocolate courtesy of Berggold Chocolates, for whom she was writing a blog on the trip. Berggolda, the German version of Flat Stanley (if you don't know who that is, think the Travelocity gnome) came everywhere with us and had her picture taken with various folks and at our many tourist stops for the blog back home.
Our company had a wonderful time, and so did we. There truly is no place like the Pacific Northwest, and it was fun visiting places where we just don't normally go. For example, I hadn't been to the Space Needle since I was a kid. Going as a grown-up I think I appreciated the view a lot more. And you know what? They still serve the lunar orbiter, an ice cream treat that, thanks to hot water and dry ice, makes a very impressive dessert. A kid at the table in back of us was having one and boy did that bring back memories. I remember my godmother buying me one when she took me to the Space Needle for my birthday.
But you know what was best about the whole adventure? Spending time with new friends and getting to know more about them and their country. My German is still not very good, but I'm going to keep working on it because we want to go there and visit our new friends and let them tour us around their home towns. I bet they, too, will wind up seeing where they live with fresh eyes.
And now, what about you? What fun tourist attraction near your home have you not seen in years? If you had visitors from another country what would you show them?
Our baby got married last week. Sigh. I'd been anticipating this event for months, dieting forever to get in my mother of the groom dress, making plans, packing and unpacking, loading up goodies to take the the newlyweds. And then, in a blink, it was over and all my eye makeup had run down my cheeks. I was not even remotely prepared for the emotional wallop that comes with watching your child get married. Oh, my!
And I was hardly a momzilla at all. Okay, yes, I had one meltdown moment... not one of my finer. And I'd have been saved from that if someone had told me that hiding under the tablecloth of some of those tables in the fancy venue was ... a hole. A sneaky, hiding hole that didn't reveal itself until I set down a vase of flowers and they spilled all over the table. Sheesh. Yes, patio tables pulled in for extra duty do have a hole. And, as one of the servers helping with setup said, it would have been nice if they warned us. I guess better to have that happen to me than the mother of the groom.
Anyway, a good time was had by all. It was fun to be included in all the preparations, especially visiting that amazing L.A. flower market district where we went crazy over flowers. My daughter-in-law has great taste. And my daughter has quite a gift for flower arranging!
We adore our new daughter-in-law and lovely granddaughters. And we are going to enjoy visiting with our son's new in-laws over the years. All in all, a perfect melding of families. Can a girl ask for more? And now, as our daughter once said as a little girl, we can all live happily ever after.
What a funny coincidence that, just as I have a new novel out about weddings, I've got a son getting married! Needless to say, I'm excited. Yes, about the book, of course, but even more so about the fact that our son has found a lovely woman to spend the rest of his life with.
When it comes to marriage, cynics have all kinds of comments. "What's the point when half the marriages in America end in divorce?" ... "It's just a piece of paper."... "Weddings are too expensive."
Well, I must say, I concur with that last observation. When Gerhardt and I married we were the tail end of the old-fashioned reception in the church basement with cake, punch, nuts and mints. Suddenly, everyone was booking glamorous venues and feeding the multitudes. So, yes, weddings these days are big business and a big expense. But a wedding can also be inexpensive - held in a park with friends bringing various dishes. Held in someone's home. Held at the church with cake and punch and nuts and mints. (And okay, bring in some salads and cold cuts!) As for wedding dresses, I've seen gorgeous ones at Goodwill and in consignment stores. You can even rent a wedding dress these days. So, to the newly engaged couple stressing over finances - don't listen to the cynics. You can find a way to have your wedding cake and eat it, too. We can't all have a royal wedding but we can all celebrate.
And weddings are worth celebrating. Yes, many weddings end in divorce but they all begin with hope. And hope is worth celebrating. And yes, that marriage license is just a piece of paper, but it symbolizes something important, the joining together of two people who (at least in theory) will go through life sharing the ups and downs, the highs and the lows, the sickness and health. A wedding celebrates the fact that two people want to spend their lives together, helping each other become all that God wants them to be. A wedding is about even more than the couple saying "I do" - it's about the community coming together to say, "We love you and we'll support you." It's about new love starting out and old love remembering. It's a party, guys!
So, for all of you who have gotten married this summer, to all of you with sons or daughters saying those two important words, I wish you all a happy wedding. Love is worth celebrating so get out there and celebrate for all you're worth!