It’s All About The Memories!

Today is my 54th birthday! Upon reflection of the last 54 years, I can’t help but think about how times have changed. Indulge me while I ponder.

Growing up in the country in Ohio, I fondly remember camping out in the back yard with my brother and neighbors. No tent needed, we used blankets and poles to make our tents. We made camp fires in the back yard, roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, on the same stick. I’m sure there’s some health code violation about that now. We did this for many summers, until the night the neighbor kid somehow managed to fling fire onto our “tent” and burn it down. This memory sticks in my brain, not for the fire, but for how another neighbor came running to put the fire out with a screwdriver. Not sure how Craftsman was going to extinguish the fire!

I remember our dad bringing home mini-bikes for us to ride around in the vacant lot next door. These were smaller motorcycles for kids. No helmets, just lots of fun. We’d ride them until we ran out of gas, or it got dark, whichever came first. And speaking of helmets, my brother and I used to ride our bicycles to the nearest town to get hot fudge sundaes. Our road was a two-lane state highway, with a 55 mph speed limit. But we rode anyway, and no one even knew what a bike helmet was. We survived. If you’ve read my blog in the past you know that my husband and I are avid cyclists, and we wouldn’t dream of riding our bikes without helmets today.

Some of my fondest memories growing up were the many baseball games we had in the vacant field. We had enough kids in our neighborhood to have two teams. We’d play until we couldn’t see the ball anymore. Then we’d move to the cornfield behind our house and play tag. We loved running through the cornfield. If we didn’t have enough for baseball, we’d play foursquare on our driveway. We had tournaments and all. Mom or dad would turn on the outside lights so we could see.

I remember our phone being attached to the wall! Unheard of now, but we also had a party line with eight other families. If you wanted to make a call, you had to wait for the neighbor to hang up. This was ok, until the night I broke up with my boyfriend over the phone. Unfortunately, the neighbor’s house caught fire, and my boyfriend wouldn’t hang up so we could call the fire department. He soon did, the fire department came, and the next day my dad switched us to a semi-private line!

Water bottles were unheard of back then. Everyone would take turns drinking from the hose. Yep, that’s right, the hose. And we all survived. It was a real treat when one of the moms would make a pitcher of Kool-Aid for all the kids to share. We didn’t have cases of bottled water or Gatorade in the garage. We also didn’t have seatbelts in cars, and I distinctly remember a rear-facing back seat in our station wagon. Of course, I could never use it because I would get car sick. To this day, I have to sit facing forward, even on the metro train, or risk getting sick.

Until they finally had garbage pickup at our house, I remember my dad bringing home an empty 55-gallon drum and putting it at the back of our property. That’s where we’d burn our garbage. Everyone did it. I also remember one of our neighbors deciding it would be a good idea to burn an old tire in his. Not such a good idea! It burned for days.

Sunscreen was an option, not mandatory for going out in the sun. The day of my aunt’s wedding, my neighbor and I decided to lay out for an hour covered in baby oil. Yep, I fried like a piece of bacon. My dress for the wedding was a long scratchy number. Not my best decision. The next day my legs swelled up, and one of my aunts said the best way to relieve a sunburn was to put vinegar on it. Again, not the best decision! Hurt like XXXX!

I remember my dad bringing home our first microwave. It was huge in size and event! The first thing we cooked was a frozen hamburger patty. We also didn’t have central air in our house. It was called opening windows and hoping for a breeze. Fans helped at night, but I don’t remember it being as hot during the summer as it is now. You can reach your own politically-charged conclusion as to why that is. I’m not going there.

There was no cable television. We had NBC, ABC, CBS and PBS. If we were lucky and the antenna was turned just right, we’d pick up other local channels. No remotes back then. If you wanted to change the channel, you had to get up and go to the tv and change it yourself. We had a CB radio in the house and a huge antenna on a tower attached to the house. The antenna would turn 360 degrees so we could talk to people all over. We used this in place of a phone to talk to our friends. I remember my dad getting us an Atari video game player. We thought we’d died and gone to heaven.

Wow, how times have changed! Technology has made things easier. For example, I’m typing this on my laptop on my rental condo balcony overlooking the ocean. I’m going to upload it to my blog and instantly send it over the wifi.  Back in the day, I would have written an article for a newspaper, typed  it on a manual  typewriter, driven to the newspaper office, and used typesetting to get it in the paper.

And while technology has made things easier, sometimes I think about how much simpler life was back then. However, I will be the first to admit that I love being able to call long distance without worrying about the cost, text my children and friends, and type on a laptop instead of a typewriter. Most of all, I love facetiming with my grandson!

It’s not so much about the stuff, it’s about the memories. Enjoy your day!

Check out my novel, One Sweet Development, currently available on amazon.com.

And now, the rest of the year!

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that 2016 was not my best year. It started with the passing of our beloved dog, Woody,  and continued with the unexpected passing of my Aunt Jetta (see Don’t Ignore God’s Nudge). Then the passing of my stepfather in October after an 8 year battle with Alzheimer’s (God’s Unconditional Love Is On Display Every Day) rounded out the year. But in the midst of it all, we had the joyful news that my daughter was expecting our first grandchild and our son would be getting married (all in 2017).

So the first half of 2017 has brought us great joy. Our grandson, August, was born in March, and as my previous post, My Son is Getting Married Today, described we have now expanded our family to include a daughter-in-law as well. We are truly blessed.

And as for me, I have also reached some pretty terrific milestones. In April, I ran my first, and because my knees can’t take another, my only 5K! But I did it, and that’s what counts. I’ll now go back to walking quickly with no regrets. As I’ve been told by physicians, friends, and countless others, it’s the fact that I’m moving that counts. So I’ll stick to walking and bicycling for now. I am, however, going to be doing a yoga class with one of my best friends starting in July. By admission, I am one of the least flexible people on the planet, so maybe this will help.

In May, I reached one of my most proud milestones. I published my first novel (see My First Novel)! I’ve been asked if I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and the answer is yes, since I was in high school back in 1979. But I really never knew how to go about it. But thanks to a wonderfully supportive family, I finally accomplished a huge goal. And because I’m self-published and have to market myself, you can find my novel, One Sweet Development, by visiting my author page at http://www.amazon.com/author/jenniferskinnell. Or you can go to my website: http://www.jenniferskinnellquilting.wordpress.com and click on the book link to order.

While you’re at my website, you’ll see another great passion of mine – quilting. In addition to writing, God has also given me the gift of helping clients preserve their memories through quilts. I’m so glad to be able to use God’s gift for this purpose.

So now, what to do with the rest of 2017. Well, I’m going to continue my gift of quilting and helping people preserve their memories. I’m going to spoil my grandson like crazy! And I’m working on the sequel to my first novel. It will be part of the Hope Springs Romance Series, and my goal is to have it available on Amazon in September. I’m really enjoying creating a small town full of wonderful and wacky folks, some based on wonderfully strong women in my life, and some I’ve created out of my vivid imagination. And I’m happy to say it is a contemporary romantic comedy, under the “clean and wholesome” catagory. G-rated for sure!

Bring on the rest of 2017, Lord, because I’m ready.

 

My Son is Getting Married Today

As I sit here having my recovery coffee from a night of celebration with the wedding party, I can’t help but reflect on the past 24 years. The Lord blessed my husband and I with two terrific children. Our daughter was married two years ago and blessed us with our first grandchild in March. And now our son is married his high school sweetheart. 

They actually began their relationship 21 years ago in Sunday School class. But it wouldn’t be until their senior year of high school before the Lord brought them together by way of their youth pastor and boy telling her they needed a date for homecoming. And here we are today.

By way of these two wonderful people the Lord has brought together to families who will surround them with all the love, support, and prayers to last a lifetime.

As is always the case we pray that our children will grow up to be happy and healthy. Such is the case in our family. Today will be a day of reflection and also a day to celebrate and look forward.

Brian, you have blessed us with so many wonderful memories and we know you and Elizabeth will bless us with so many more. 

Have a blessed wedding day! 

Riding the Indian Head Rail Trail

My husband and I love to ride the converted railroad trails, and this weekend we chose the Indian head Rail Trail. Our son was competing in a triathlon in Smallwood State Park in Indian Head, Maryland, so we decided to make a day of it. The weather was perfect for riding, partly sunny and in the low 70s. However, as we soon found out we were riding into a headwind. And I’m not a fan in riding into the wind!

 

DSCN4239The entire 13 mile trail is paved and very wide. Since we were going in the afternoon, it wasn’t too crowded, however I’m sure that wouldn’t have been the case if we’d started in the morning. We passed many cyclists going the other direction when we started. From Indian Head the trail is a gradual incline toward the end in White Plains. Along the way, you pass by some really pretty scenery and wetlands. As I have found from our many other rides, and if you’ve read my blog post Cross That Bridge When You Come To It, you’ll know that I’m not much for inclines, boring scenery or wind. So I was really happy there were lots of backyards, creatures, and various other views to keep my mind off the fact that we were going uphill. But, really, the incline is only a degree or two.

img_0005When we reached the end of our 13 mile slight incline, it was time to stop for lunch. We had packed the usual PB & J and chips, and were pleasantly surprised that when you reach the end of this trail at White Plains, there is a train depot, restrooms (not port-o-potties), water to refill if needed, and a nice picnic area. After a nice rest, we snapped a few pics before heading back to Indian Head.

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This was a cool windmill made from a bicycle in the top of the rest area.

 

 

 

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This beautiful mural depicts the trail and scenery along the way.

 

 

 

We of course had to get a picture with the caboose!

DSCN4247Once we were done taking selfies, it was time to head “downhill” back to Indian Head. Ok, maybe one more selfie!

The wind, indeed was at our back, and it was more downhill. However, I expected to coast back to Indian Head. Not the case. Still had to peddle. But it was easier than going the other direction. In fact, it was about 10 minutes shorter. Not much, in the grand scheme of things, but oh well.

All in all, it was a beautiful, relaxing ride that I would highly recommend if you ever find yourself in Indian Head, Maryland with your bicycle.

Oh, as for my son’s triathlon. He finished 9th overall and 1st in his age group!

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If you’d like more info on the Indian Head Rail Trail, here’s the link: https://www.traillink.com/trail/indian-head-rail-trail/.

Thanks for reading!

Check out my new book on Amazon entitled One Sweet Development about a wonderful group of women in a small town who also have a love of quilting. Go to Amazon.com/author/jenniferskinnell for all the details! Love and Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quilts for a Lifetime

I’ve done many quilts in the past few years to help clients preserve their memories. It’s what I love to do. As I was completing three projects in the past couple of months, I realized how these particular gifts actually were for three important stages of life, but for three different people. Let me explain.

The first was a prayer drape I made for my future daughter-in-law. She is a lovely girl, and we are so excited she and our son will be getting married in June. I wanted to make something special for them to remember their special day. I was thrilled to find this pattern, which I modified with the embroidery in the heart and a special bible verse on the back.

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The second was a baby quilt. My client, who is also my Aunt Jeanie, asked me to make a quilt for her daughter that was similar to a dinosaur quilt I had made last year. Her daughter, however loved scottie dogs, so we switched the dinosaurs for scottie dogs. Whe I asked her the colors, she explained that her daughter wasn’t actually pregnant yet, and this would be a gift for future grandchildren. We opted for the primary colors you see here.

As I was working my way through the quilt, Aunt Jeanie emailed me to check on the progress. She said that she would, unfortunately, be going into hospice care soon, and wanted to having the quilt to give to her daughter before then. I had no idea this was happening and the reason behind this special gift. Luckily I was able to get the quilt completed in time. She also wanted me to know her daughter had had a puppy quilt as a small child and loved it so much, she literally loved it to pieces. Aunt Jeanie wanted a puppy quilt for her to give to her future children. Such a precious gift.

 

 

 

The final quilt was for a client who wanted a special quilt for her mom for Mother’s Day. She brought me a bag with 3 shirts (2 flannel and 1 cotton), 3 t-shirts (1 camo), 1 sweatshirt, 2 hats, 1 Army P-coat, and 1 tie. These were items she had remembered her father wearing, and she saved them after he passed away two years ago. She asked if I could somehow turn them into a quilt. Of course, I said yes! Here is the result. See if you can find all the items listed above.

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Here is a close-up of the middle where I used the two hats, p-coat name and rank that were stamped on the inside of the jacket, and tie.

 

 

 

There are so many ways to keep memories and traditions alive, and to create new ones. It was my pleasure to work on these three special projects. Knowing these will live on in future generations is one of the many reasons I do what I do.

Thanks for reading!

Check out my new book on Amazon entitled One Sweet Development about a wonderful group of women in a small town who also have a love of quilting. Go to Amazon.com/author/jenniferskinnell for all the details! Love and Happy Reading!

 

 

My First Novel!

So excited to announce that my first novel is up on Amazon.com for download or in paperback! One Sweet Development has been a life-long dream of mine. Here’s what it’s about:

Hope Springs is one of those quaint historic towns about an hour outside the big city where everyone knows everyone and most people like to keep it that way. It is also in the midst of a contentious revitalization project, much too many locals’ dismay. 

            Chandler Bradford owns the town bakery, Sweet Stuff Bakery. She is also a member of the Advice Quilting Bee, run by local matriarch Rosie Macintire of Rosie’s Quilt Emporium.  Chandler has lived in Hope Springs all her life, and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else

            Peter Frederick, Rosie’s grandson, grew up in the city and has worked hard to build his development business.

            When Peter comes to town to bid on the revitalization project, he meets Chandler.  She is tasked by the ladies of the Advice Quilting Bee to give him a tour of the town, not knowing his real intention is to demolish most of the historic buildings, including Chandler’s bakery.

                      As their relationship grows, Peter realizes the historic structures his company is looking to destroy are the heart and soul of the town.  He sets out to come up with an alternative plan.

            Unfortunately, his employee Cassia Collins has another idea, especially when she figures out Peter has his sights set on Chandler and not her.

            Can Chandler trust an outsider used to tearing down the old to make way for the new? Can Peter give up the city for life in the country? And what’s with all the ghost stories?!?

I had so much fun creating this wonderful, and sometimes wacky, characters for this series. Yes, that’s right! This is the first in the Hope Springs Romance series I’ve created in my mind!

Thanks for reading my blog, and I hope you’ll visit Hope Springs in One Sweet Development!  Visit my author page at amazon.com/author/jenniferskinnell for all the details! And please remember to leave a review on Amazon!!

Hiking is Great Exercise for Body and Soul

As I’m sitting here looking at the snow flying out my front window, I can’t help but think that just a week ago, we had painters here making the outside of our home look like new. And just two days ago, my husband and I were hiking in beautiful Riverbend Park along the banks of the Potomac River. I know, usually we are bicycling somewhere. We are planning a trip later this year to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park. This will entail a lot of hiking, so we will be gearing up for that.

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Sunday morning was sunny and brisk, good weather for hiking (not so much if we were biking.) We set out on a 4.6 mile hike around Riverbend. A good place to go, because although there are some hills, they aren’t mountains. And since we were walking, I could actually enjoy looking around and snapping a few pictures. Here’s what I saw!

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This big tree had come down recently, and the park rangers had begun the process of sawing it up. But it made me think as I looked around and saw other trees laying on the ground that this was Mother Nature’s way of cleaning house. Who needs a bulldozer when you have a big gust of wind that comes along and does the same thing.

As we walked along we saw this lovely little pond along the trail. I’m guessing the dock is for standing or fishing, and not swimming.

The trail brought us down to the banks of the Potomac River, Virginia side. I don’t know about you, but listening to the sounds of the water is always calming to me.

 

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As we were getting ready to head back up the hill from the river, we came across this beautiful rock formation. It made me think about how old this land was, and just how our time here to enjoy it was limited.

 

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We continued on our trek, going up and down the hills and really getting our heartrates up. Hiking, not just going for a walk, is really good cardio and I was definitely feeling the burn. We came across this hollowed out tree, and I thought it was really beautiful. I imagined an animal of some kind turning this into their winter home.

 

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By now our hike had brought us again down along the Potomac. We came upon this group of ducks in the river, and wondered if they knew of the impending snow storm.

 

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The just past this group, we saw this group standing on the rocks and thought they had the right idea-get out of the cold water!

 

 

The peace and tranquility of a brisk Sunday morning broken occasionally by the sounds of the birds and the wind rustling the leaves. These are the sights and sounds of God at work on a Sunday morning. Even though it was chilly, I could have stayed there all day. Enjoy the work of God everyday.

 

 

 

 

The Birth of a Stained Glass Quilt, or “how the heck I made this!”

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I’ve been asked by many people just exactly how I made this quilt.  What pattern did I use? Where can you buy the pattern? How long did it take?

Basically, you can’t buy the pattern, because there isn’t one. I made it up as I went along. And it took me over 83 hours from start to finish.

 

 

 

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Here’s how I did it.  I took a whole bunch of muslin, sharpie pens, a ladder and some blue tape and went to my church on a really sunny day.  It also happened to be about 90 degrees and the air wasn’t on in the sanctuary that day, but that doesn’t really matter.  Just a random fact.

I taped the muslin to the window and traced every line I saw, and felt. I also took really good photos from every angle.

 

Once I was finished with this process, I went fabric shopping.  Since the majority of the window was done in the purplish/blue color (a very technical color term), I decided that would be the foundation fabric for the whole project. I found this particular fabric at Millers Dry Goods in Charm, Ohio www.millersdrygoods.com. I got 6 yards to make sure I had enough! Since I live in Virginia, I knew it wouldn’t be an easy trip back to the store if I ran out. (Lesson learned long ago.)  For the rest of the fabrics I was fortunate to be able to go to the WebFabrics.com brick and mortar store in Purcellville, Virginia, not far from my home. Check them out at www.webfabrics.com.

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My next step was to take the muslin I had traced and clean up the lines so everything matched nice and trace the design onto white tracing paper. The best way to do this is with a light box.  Fortunately I was able to use nature’s light box, otherwise known as my sliding glass door on a sunny day. Using markers, rulers, and the photos I had taken, I made a “clean” drawing of the window from top to bottom.

 

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I divided the window drawing into sections, and carefully traced all the lines onto the purple fabric. Whew! That took about a week. Fortunately for me, I have a television in my studio and the Summer Olympics were on! Got to watch a lot of it!

 

 

 

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Once the lines were all traced, I began the process of making the middle medallion. Once again referring to my photos, I was able to recreate this by tracing the design onto fusible web, laying the pieces where they needed to go, and using by embroidery machine to sew them into place.

 

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Next I worked on all the surrounding window colors. I didn’t want to cut and sew a bunch of tiny pieces, so I decided to use a “cutaway” technique. I placed the corresponding color under it’s place on the purple fabric and stitched on the solid line around the shape. Then I pulled the two fabrics away from each other. Taking my time with this process, I cut away the purple to show the other fabric underneath. I knew the stitching line would eventually be covered up by ¼” black bias tape for the stain glass affect.

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I continued this process through the entire window.

 

 

 

 

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When I got to the bottom, I again used my embroidery machine to “Welcome” everyone to my church and incorporated that piece into the design.

 

 

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By now, the Olympics were over and it was on to the Little League World Series (another one of my favorite sporting events). It was also now time to take the 50 yards of ¼” fusible bias tape I had purchased, and begin what I called the “leading” process. I fused one line at a time with my iron, and then stitched it in place with my 4.0 double needle. I would eventually also stitch each line as I quilted the entire quilt.

 

 

ipad-pictures-115Once all the leading was completed, I sewed the surrounding fabric and borders on. I freehand drew a trellis design around the outside of the window (kind of like looking into a garden), and decided to stitch scallops around the borders.

ipad-pictures-103Once the quilting and binding were done, I attached a hanging sleeve on the back, the quilt was ready for it’s closeup!

I enjoyed this process so much, I’m ready to do more, just not on such a grand scale! Oh, and I’m for hire!

Thou Shalt Be Organized. Yeah, right!

How many times have we started the new year saying we were going to get organized in one aspect or another of our life?  How many times have we been told by the “experts” on TV what steps we should take to lead an organized life?  But really, how many times have you taken the time to plan your day only to have a single action throw that plan out the window. If you can relate to this last statement, welcome to life!

Anyone who tells you their life is totally organized and everything goes according to plan, isn’t living. Whether you have children, a job, or just have to fight traffic to get anywhere, your life isn’t always organized.

I’m not saying that I have no organization in my life.  My closet is organized because I just had to empty it to get painting and carpeting done. After putting everything back, I am happy to say that I have an organized closet!  But if I were to tell you that my kitchen pantry is organized, I’d be lying.  Some of the shelves are, but not the entire pantry. And that’s ok.  Life will go on without my pantry being organized. And very rarely does my day go according to plan.  Something as simple as turning on morning television can throw my schedule off.  You know what I mean; just have to watch one more wonderful story about the good deeds of others.

I have purchased an organizer.  But let’s be honest, it’s more to use to keep track of appointments and things I need to do.  I could keep track of those things on my phone, but I’m a visual person.  I can keep my brain better organized if I see what I’m supposed to do on a piece of paper, instead of my phone. Plus, I’m not very good at looking at my phone calendar to see what I’m doing every day. It’s much easier for me to look at my big wall calendar. Trial and error has taught me many things over the years!

And because I not only have my home life to keep track of, I purchased an organizer I can use to also track my progress on various quilting and writing projects.  I also know this about myself – if I can check something off a to-do list, I feel so much more accomplished at the end of my day.

But really, if we lead a life that’s a little disorganized it’s not a bad thing.  Really good things can happen on a totally unorganized day.  The trick is to see these good things for what they are – a wonderful distraction.  Enjoy the disorganization. Life is full of distractions and disorganization. Embrace them every day.  Because no matter what you do, there will still be more of them tomorrow.

The Roller Coaster Ride We Call Life

If 2016 taught me nothing else, it has taught me that life is a definite roller coaster ride.  Sometimes the climb up seems too steep that you really want to get off.  Other times it’s so smooth and even, you want the ride to go on forever.

My 2016 started out with our sweet dog of 14.5 years, Woody, having a stroke on New Years Day.  We had to make the difficult decision to say goodbye to him the next day.  As anyone out there who has ever loved, and said goodbye, to a pet knows, it was one of the hardest experiences our family had gone through, ever.  Little did we know at the time, harder times were coming.  We climbed that roller coaster hill together and made it to the top.

Then our son gave us the wonderful news that he was proposing to his high school sweetheart.  She said yes, and the planning began for a wedding in June 2017.  Good, 2016 was looking up.  We zoomed down the roller coaster hill into summer and just when things were leveling off, we were faced with another hill to climb.

My mom called with the news that my aunt, her baby sister, had tragically died in a car accident.  If you’ve been following my blog, I paid tribute to my Aunt Jetta in my July post, “Don’t Ignore God’s Nudge.”  Once again we were faced with saying goodbye to a loved one taken too soon.  To be honest, we’re still reeling from that one.  But we climbed that hill one more time and made it to the top.

The first week in September we were looking forward to our summer vacation with our kids.  As we all met at our house the night before we were to leave, our daughter and son-in-law gave us the wonderful news that we were going to be grandparents for the first time!  What an emotional high going into a wonderful, relaxing vacation at the beach!  That rollercoaster seemed to be leveling off again.

Then the first weekend in October my mom called to say she had made the difficult decision to put my father in hospice care, after taking care of him for 8 years at home.  He had Alzheimer’s. I chronicled their relationship in my blog, “God’s Unconditional Love Is on Display Every Day.”  I went to be with her to get everything set up at home, and then we traveled back there two weeks later for his memorial service.  That roller coaster hill took almost a month to climb.  But we made it.

In November and December, while our entire country was on a more public roller coaster, luckily my personal one leveled off.  We spent time with family and friends, and just enjoying being together.  I also met one of my goals by finishing my manuscript for my first novel.  Stay tuned for more info on a release date in the spring.  By December 31, I think everyone was breathing a collective sigh of relief that the year was over.

But, as 2017 begins, our family and friends have been hit with another loss.  A young man who grew up with my son, tragically lost his life in the early hours of New Years Day.  My heart breaks for his family as they must start the new year on their own personal roller coaster.  There are no words.  I will leave at that.

In 2017, my own family will be experiencing new birth and a wedding blending two families for life.  My hope for each of you out there is that your roller coaster is more of a kiddie ride, just some gentle rollers, and not a full blown heart-stopping freefall.  God bless each and every one of you, and I am so grateful you are interested in what I have to say.