Life with Riley: Growing Up

2016-03-01X22.46.11So, Riley went through a bit of a trauma right before Valentine’s Day.  Our boy was neutered.  Not what you’d expect to see on a romance blog, but I’m a firm believer in spaying or neutering our pets.

Yes, Riley is a purebred, but I also have two rescues. I have no plans to breed, so the right thing to do for all concerned, but most especially the dogs, was to have them fixed.

This photo was taken a few days ago, and as you can see he’s no worse for wear. He’s right back to his shenanigans.


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Life with Riley: An Introduction

Hi Everyone!

I want to introduce you to the newest member of our family, Riley.

Riley is a Rough Collie puppy (think Lassie) who has joined our two rescue dogs, Holly and Casey, in providing endless hours of entertainment.  He arrived on October 21st at eight weeks old, and is now almost five months.  Sharing stories of Riley’s shenanigans seemed like a good idea.  I’m mean, really.  Puppies are cute, and trying to manage one puppy, two active dogs, a job, a house, a writing career and planning a wedding has to be good for some laughs, right? RileyXCollage

So welcome to Life with Riley, which will become a fairly regular feature on the blog.  I hope you love him as much as we do.  🙂



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2015: The Year That Nearly Broke Me

I generally don’t make resolutions. But as I sit here writing this post on New Year’s Eve 2015, I can’t help but wonder if I shouldn’t make a few for 2016. I think we can all stand for a little goal setting, don’t you?

However, I will acknowledge this past year was not normal. The things that hit me in 2015 were situations over which I had little control. My Achilles tendon decided it had had enough, and tore, giving me an unexpected six weeks on the couch; a twenty-one-year-old kid decided he didn’t need to pay attention while driving and rear ended me into next week, resulting in a surgery from which I’m still recovering; add family issues, day-job stress, and burning the candle at both ends and I was ripe for a crash. On top of that, I struggled–really struggled–with my writing career. After a while, my brain chemistry went off the rails, and that’s when life got ugly.Happy New Year 2016 replace 2015 concept on the sea beach

I’ve suffered from depression for years. I’ve worked hard to get it under control, and most of the time it just lurks in the background. But there are times when it takes over, and this year I not only felt my depression, it was crippling. It consumed me to the point that for the first time ever, I opened up publicly about my struggle. I couldn’t hide it anymore.

That was an eye opener. You see, generally if people hear you’re sick or hurt they offer prayers and good wishes in droves. That’s not to say I didn’t get wonderful support, I did. But depression makes people uncomfortable and I know some wished I’d kept this under wraps.

Let me be clear. I don’t want to be “Depression Girl.” I don’t want people to know me because of my illness. In my opinion, it’s a crappy way to gain notoriety.

But I’m not going to stay quiet anymore, and I don’t care who’s uncomfortable. You don’t like it? Guess what? I don’t like it either. I hate it, but I’m not going to hide who I am because anyone is ‘uncomfortable.’

I knew what people were thinking, and I heard what was said behind my back. What can I say? Just tell me you’re there if I need you. What do I do? Nothing in particular, your presence in my life, your compassion, is all I need. She has so much, how could she be depressed? Don’t you think I know this?  Think positive. I’m trying.

I have friends who avoid me altogether now.  I’m not sure why, but it hurts.

Then there was the idiot who said I should “get over it.” Another individual told me to “toughen up.” 

The last two, I wrote off completely. I can’t fix that kind of stupid, nor do I want to try.

Herein lies the battle. For some reason, folks think I have control over my depression.  I don’t.  True depression (sometimes called Clinical Depression or MDD-Major Depressive Disorder) controls you. The statistics will blow you away. Exhaustion, sleep disturbances, lethargy, apathy, high blood pressure, memory loss and chronic pain, are all complications. At its worst, the monster can be deadly.

So what does all this have to do with resolutions?  Simple–I’m looking for ways to make it harder for depression to own me. I’ve resolved to fight back, and to surround myself with people, in real life and virtually, who are willing to go into battle with me. I resolve to keep reaching out to those who need encouragement, and not let anyone give up. I resolve to be humble, but not be treated like a doormat. I vow to avoid drama. Finally, I resolve to keep writing, even when I don’t want to. Writing is like air to me; I need it.Depositphotos_3524271_l-2015

What can you do?  If you know someone battling mental illness, just be there. Hang in and understand that as tough as this is for you, it’s tougher for her. Be the friend you would want to have if you were fighting an invisible demon. As I said, just be there.

I hope 2016 brings us all joy, peace and humility.  As cliched as that sounds, I can wish you nothing better.





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The Christmas Tree Incident

We’re decking the halls in my house this week, including erecting a very big Christmas tree in our living room.  It’s gorgeous, with ornaments we’ve collected over our twenty-seven Christmases together. But here’s the thing: we don’t have a real tree.  Blasphemous, I know.  Especially from a Christmas crazy like me, but about fifteen years ago we had what we have come to know in my family as the “Tree Incident.” I’ve told this story before, but wanted to share it again.

The children were 10, 8 and 6 and since our trees always dried out before we were ready to take them down, we decided to go to a tree farm to cut our own. I thought fresher was better.

The day before our outing, youngest was riding his bike, ran over something in the driveway, and flipped over the handlebars. It was a bad fall, but he was wearing a helmet, thank goodness, so his noggin was spared. His mouth, however, not so lucky. The poor kid was a mess. He ended up losing a front tooth from the whole ordeal, but what we knew immediately was that he was in no shape to tree farm. So, I stayed home and watched cartoons with my banged-up little guy, while my daughters and my husband went to find a tree.

I don’t have a big house. I have a modest front-to-back split level, but what I do have is a vaulted ceiling that’s twelve feet at its highest point. I love that I can have a tall tree and my husband and the girls went out to look for our eight-footer.christmasXroom

A few hours and several phone calls later, and my tree farmers pulled in the driveway with a large evergreen lashed to the roof of our station wagon. I was very excited to get it inside and start decorating. And that’s when I noticed it was sticking off the ends of the car. BOTH ENDS. An eight-footer this was not.

Once my husband wrestled the tree in the front door, I looked at the trunk. It had to be a foot in diameter. After hearing the stories about how hard it was to cut down with a hand saw, we tried to stand it up. Needless to say, it did not fit in the tree stand and the top of the tree bent at the ceiling line. Yup. It was over twelve feet tall.

Hubby went out and bought a new tree stand, cut away at the base of the trunk, and eventually the tree stood. Victory! No. We took off the netting and it was like the scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when the tree explodes. Fortunately, there was no squirrel, but the tree that was still brushing the ceiling was now taking up half my living room. HALF! And I didn’t have enough lights, or garland or ornaments.

I stared at my husband and my daughters and shook my head. “I wanted a big tree, but not this big!” I said. My husband was cold and tired and I think he might have growled, but it was my middle daughter who put it in perspective. She looked up at the tree with its dense branches and bent top and with hands on her hips said, “It didn’t look that big next to the sky.”

Out of the mouths of babes.

So, after making a few trips for more decorations and lights, the tree was finished. There were too many branches near the floor to put presents under the tree. We had to move several pieces of furniture so we could walk through the room and the star wasn’t square on top, but tilted off to one side. We had to tie it to the stair railing with dental floss because the cat enjoyed climbing into the branches, and the last thing we needed was for the blasted thing to fall and take out the front window.

In the end, we had a good laugh over it. The tree was a great conversation piece and it has been a good story for years. Did it stay fresher than a pre-cut tree? NO! I had more needles
in my house than ever before. I think I was still vacuuming up the ChristmasWishes-FRONTlittle suckers in June.

It was then that we decided to buy a fake tree. We still have it. It fits the room perfectly, but it’s never going to give me a story like the one I just told you.

Do you have a family holiday story that gets told every year?  Share with me.  One commenter will win a signed copy of my new Christmas duet, Christmas Wishes, which contains my novellas This Christmas and Finding Christmas.  (18 to enter, US and Canada only. Comments will close on December 11th, 2015.)



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Giving Thanks

Last week, my tenth book came out.

Ten. Books.

I’m a little blown away by this, just so you know.

Why, you ask?  Well, there was a time, not too long ago, that I was ready to throw in the towel. I’d been writing for over ten years. I’d gotten close to publishing more than once, but then a book I loved failed to sell.  Then it happened.  And it’s been a wild ride ever since.

I don’t know that I’ll ever get over the thrill of release day. Books 9 and 10 came out within

days of each other and I was excited when both of them went live for readers.   And when I thought about it, that’s what mattered most.  My readers.

My readers are a blessing, and I’m thrilled to say many have become friends. And with each book my community grows. If I’d quit I wouldn’t have all these great people in my life and that just wouldn’t be acceptable.  Not at all.

So today I give thanks for everyone in my orbit.  Life has a way of knocking us down, but all of you pull me up.  You fill my days with laughter, wonder, and breathtaking moments.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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