The past ten days have been a whirlwind of emotions for this girl.
In many ways, I feel like I’ve been strapped into a roller coaster car and left to ride the endless highs and lows of the loops. I’m more than ready to climb off the ride and for life to settle back into “normal” mode. And I do apologize for being noticeably absent from my usual online hangouts like here on the blog, Facebook, and even ignoring my emails.
To keep things simple, I’ll recap the events of the past two weeks:
• Sweet Christmas Kisses 2 released with a flurry of excitement and fanfare. It was incredibly fun and rewarding to see our combined efforts come together in the book.
• On the heels of the release, I received a phone call that my cousin’s husband had a heart attack as he drove home from hunting camp and wrecked his truck. He was in a coma before he passed away, leaving behind his wife, three children and their spouses, and grandchildren who will all miss him dearly.
• I packed my bags and made a five-plus hour drive to Redmond, Oregon, where I would spend six days at the Eagle Crest Resort for the Women Writing the West Conference I’d spent the better part of the last year planning with the amazing, inspiring, and talented Jane Kirkpatrick.
The morning after I arrived, I received a text from Jane that she’d broken her foot and we’d have to adjust our plans. I spent that day running errands, making an airport run to pick up total strangers who quickly became friends, and even helped take care of Jane’s two dogs.
That evening, I received the incredibly exciting news that I can now add this title to my book covers and author biography: USA Today Bestselling Author. Sweet Christmas Kisses debuted on the USA Today Bestsellers list and I did a little happy dance around my hotel room. Ever since I got serious about my writing, it’s been a dream of mine to be on that list one day and it finally happened.
And all of you are the reason it happened! I can’t thank you enough for buying the boxed set, for sharing it with your friends, and writing reviews! You are so appreciated!
A new pair of spurs with silver hearts on them. I can’t begin to tell you how much I love them. He also gave me the sweetest, sappiest card that may or may not may have made my mascara run. I can count on one hand the number of cards I have received from him in the past 22 years – so that made this one even more special.
I was just getting ready to head out of my room when the front desk called to let me know I had a delivery.
The day passed in a flurry of conference preparations and many birthday wishes in person, through texts and calls, and via social media (thank you all for making me feel so loved!).
I met several new friends and connected with old ones. Eight of us went to dinner at the resort’s restaurant where they sang “Happy Birthday” to me while my face flamed with embarrassment and the server brought in the best chocolate cake I think I’ve ever had with a candle flickering from the decadent ganache frosting.
When I returned from dinner that evening, it was to discover that my dear uncle had passed away. You may recall last week I blogged about my beloved Aunt Robbie… her husband was the one who died. Although he’d been sick for a while, it doesn’t ease the ache in your heart. Not at all – especially when you’re in a hotel room alone, far from loved ones.
Just as Aunt Robbie has always been extra special to me – so was Uncle Mel.
Over the years, he quietly shared so many words of wisdom. I often went to Aunt Robbie to vent frustrations or seek advice and Uncle Mel never failed to provide some little nugget of insight that helped guide me in the right direction.
Uncle Mel was also full of fun. He loved to laugh and joke, as can be seen from him and my Mom in this photo. One of CC’s favorite jokes was one Uncle Mel shared with him at a family wedding years ago.
I can’t think of a time Uncle Mel didn’t have a ready smile or a gentle pat on the back. He loved to hunt and fish and spend time outdoors. And he also loved to read.
He read every single one of my books. It didn’t matter to him they were sweet romances – he read them because I wrote them and I can’t even begin to express how much that meant to me.
I’m going to miss this fun-loving man who always had just the right words of encouragement. And my heart goes out to Aunt Robbie and her two boys as they grieve his passing. A huge hole exists where the warmth of his smile used to reside.
• Since I was co-chairing the conference, I told one dear friend about my uncle the next morning then forged ahead with plans. I won’t go into conference details today, but I will share them soon. I will state that despite all the work, all the unexpected speed bumps that happened behind the scenes, and the stress of being responsible for such an undertaking – it was a fabulous experience. I met so many wonderful people, learned much, and am grateful Jane invited me to be a part of this as her co-chair.
• Sunday evening, my friend Kat drove several hours to Redmond so we could hang out together before I headed home on Monday. Kat and I met in college (above photo was during a skit our dorm put on during homecoming – she was afraid I’d ruin my leather jacket and spent the entire time walking beside me with an umbrella – and that is so Kat… she always, always had my back).
She was my maid of honor and then a few years after CC and I wed, I lost track of her. Fast forward to half a dozen years ago when I happened to find her brother on Facebook. We reconnected and have seen each other a few times in the last handful of years. Each time we get together, we just pick up right where we left off. There aren’t too many friends I can say that about. With Kat – it’s like the conversation never ended and we’ve always been a part of each others’ lives.
Anyway, we spent hours laughing and catching up, eating yummy cake and wishing I didn’t have to hurry home the next morning. I felt so bad that she’d driven all that way and instead of being able to spend the day together as we planned, I needed to go home home. She was incredibly understanding and supportive. We enjoyed breakfast together then after a round of hugs and promises to keep in touch, I got in my car and left.
• I arrived home late afternoon Monday where CC and I hurriedly unloaded the car, I tossed a load of clothes in the washing machine and we rushed to repack the suitcase so we could leave Tuesday. I opened the cards and gifts that had arrived for my birthday and sat teary-eyed, undone by the kindness of family and friends in touching my heart by remembering my special day. I was home for less than twenty-four hours and really feeling the exhaustion as I climbed back in the car and we headed out.
• Yesterday was Uncle Mel’s funeral service. It was lovely and heartfelt, yet lighthearted – so perfect for my uncle. Laughter echoed among the tears, and sweet memories filled our hearts as we gathered to celebrate his life and all he’d meant to each of us. I noticed as I hugged my many cousins, we all held on a little tighter, hugged a little longer, sharing the loss of this beloved man who had reached out to all of us and made a difference in our lives.
• On the long drive home last night, I received notification that Sweet Christmas Kisses 2 hit the USA Today Bestseller list again.
The past two weeks have been filled with reasons to celebrate and mourn. It’s been all about embracing Plan B (then C, D, and E) and trying to go with the flow while holding my emotions in check.
As I sit here this morning overwhelmed with the amount of work I need to catch up on, alternating between bittersweet and happy tears, I am grateful to you all.
Thank you for supporting me, for being so incredibly kind, for making me feel loved and appreciated.
My heartfelt gratitude to you all.