Category Archives: Family

Click on the title of the blog post to view the entire entry.


spring break 2017 | part three


On our final full day in Florida, we visited Solomon’s Castle. Artist Howard Solomon, who passed away in August of 2016, built himself a castle and the art within using found and recycled materials – wood, aluminum, steel. You name it and he probably used it to create one of his masterpieces.


We enjoyed a delicious meal at the Boat in the Moat restaurant before taking a tour of the castle. There was live music while we dined under the big oak trees with spanish moss hanging from the branches. It was hot out, but it felt nice in the shaded yard next to the big ship and across the moat.

Then it was on to the castle for our tour.

The guide had us all laughing at Howard’s corny jokes during the tour. One of the first things we saw was his “Florida Keys” (upper left) and I knew that this was going to be some interesting art. That was an understatement. There were so many quirky, original displays. But one of my very favorite things was his art made from carved wood.

Especially his 3-d recreations of some of Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post paintings like this one above (bottom right photo) and this cool soap box racer creation below.

As much as I enjoyed the interesting and creative art, I think my favorite part of the tour was seeing where Howard actually lived. His home within the castle was quaint and lovely. Seeing his shoes/slippers under the piano bench was so sweet and sad (top middle). And the beautiful stained glass throughout the entire building was another favorite thing of mine.

This one especially since I am musical (piano) and a writer. :)

It was a really cool place to visit. Definitely worth a stop if you’re ever near Ona, Florida.

We ended our evening with a little shuffleboard. Jake, Mom, Dad and Chloe had played on another night, each winning a game, so they had to do a tie-breaker. Zach sat on the sidelines for a while with his poor hurt knee wrapped up and was the scorekeeper. But then he and I got in on the action and played a couple games. We lost both, but the last game was 109 to 110. So close. ;)


On our final morning of vacation, we went to coffee and donuts with Mom and Dad at the main clubhouse, had water aerobics in the morning with Mom, then floated around in the pool for a while before we headed out for a nice late lunch. Had to soak up as much sunshine as possible. After lunch, we packed up the car in 95 degree heat and headed for home.

Despite Zach’s knee injury, it was a wonderful Spring Break trip. So thankful we were able to go and enjoy this place and the people there that Jake’s parents have come to love so much. Looking forward to many more visits in the future.

spring break 2017 | part two


After a wonderful weekend, we started the week with water aerobics at the pool with Mom O. It was fun and I’m sure it’s part of why my muscles felt so much better by the end of our vacation. Low impact exercise in the water is so good for the body. After aerobics, I floated around in the pool while Jake and Mom went in the hot tub. The kids had been at the pool for a bit swimming and hanging out in the hot tub, but had gone back to the camper. Then Chloe came back suddenly and told Jake that Zach had fallen and hurt his knee. Jake went to check on him and discovered that he had reached for something up on a shelf in the camper, but his shoes (slides) were wet and his foot slipped sideways as he reached causing his knee to pop and he fell. I guess when he stood, it popped back into place. Ouch! So his knee was all swollen and we got him some ice for it, an Ace bandage to wrap it up, and some ibuprofen for any pain. Poor kid. Our plan for the day was to go to Myakka River State Park so he had to stay back and rest his leg. Felt so bad for him, but he didn’t complain.

Our visit to Myakka was nice. Hot, but nice. And we did see gators. Eeeeek!


Felt like we were in Jurassic Park all day … without the dinosaurs, of course. ;) We did the Canopy Walk, which loops through the park a short distance to these towers. You climb the shorter first one, cross this bridge, then climb the second one with lots of stairs that take you above the trees.

Totally worth the climb!



There is a longer hike that you can take through the park, but we didn’t do that one. It was a hot day. We did drive back and see the lake that is there, though. Very pretty area.

I was going to finish the Spring Break posts with this one, but then I started looking through all the pictures from the next day and I knew that one needed a post of its own, so that will be coming soon. :)

(Update on Zach’s knee: after we got back from vacation, our doctor was able to get him in last minute to check the knee. It had a lot of fluid built up in it from the injury, so he drained it right there in the office, right in front of me. I couldn’t look. Too gross. But he could finally bend his knee again. It’s been almost a month since vacation and he rode his bike the other day with no problems, so I’d say he’s healing up nicely.)

spring break 2017| part one


We weren’t planning to travel during Spring Break this year. Not at all. But Jake’s parents have become snowbirds this year and in March, they decided to stay a little longer in Florida than originally planned, which coincided with the kids Spring Break. So we decided rather spontaneously that we would go down for a visit. Best decision ever. All the details fell into place for us to stay as if it was meant to be. :)

So we hopped in our car on Thursday evening (an hour later than I hoped due to a random hail storm that prevented us from loading the bike rack onto the car!) and made the 20 hour drive south (took us about 23 due to stops and traffic and such). We arrived Friday evening and this is the beautiful night sky we were blessed with after the long journey south. Totally worth it for that and for the big hugs from Mom and Dad after not seeing them for a few months.

After a good night’s sleep, we took it easy on Saturday, visited Joshua Citrus for yummy ice cream (mine was pineapple/orange twist! Yum!), did a little shopping, picked up some groceries for the week, and enjoyed the Chinese buffet for dinner.

On Sunday, we ventured out to the Red Barn flea market in Bradenton. The guys ventured off one way while us girls went another. I don’t think we even saw half of the things offered there. It is huge. The kids picked up some souvenirs. I grabbed some fresh strawberries to nibble on. Mom treated us to some mini donuts made right there in the booth and iced coffee (lemonade for Chloe).

Then it was off to the Gulf of Mexico. We drove through Bradenton, which takes forever with all the traffic heading toward the beaches, and made our way to Anna Maria Island to find a place to play for the afternoon. We came across Coquina Beach and settled there. It was a really nice location and a beautiful day for some swimming.


OK. I really do like Jake even though this looks like I’m pushing him away. That’s just because he was soaking wet and I was dry. :D And Chloe had to do a little gymnastics on the beach, of course.

We ended our day in Sarasota for dinner and took some family pictures by this pretty tree that was behind the restaurant.



Need to go through the second half of my pictures and then I’ll share our further adventures from the week!

Happy Easter, everyone!

around here

Remember when I used to blog? Like all the time? Every week? Sometimes daily? I really did. I love blogging, always have, but I think now that I’m writing full time, my brain is more focused on my fictional stories than the stories of my everyday life. I started this blog to share pictures and stories about the kids with family and friends. It’s become much more over the years, now a place for me to share about the books I write. But I still want it to be a space where I can share about our life, where you can get to know me as a person, not just a name on the cover of some books.

• A TALE OF TWO JOB INTERVIEWS
When Jake lost his job in January 2016, we just knew that God had a plan in all of that. And I just have to share this story of his two VERY different job offers. Jake interviewed for a job in a town two hours from our home. Not ideal, but we were willing to relocate if it was the job God wanted him to have. All went well there. It wasn’t exactly what he had been doing before (running the eBook department), but it was still in his skill set in publishing. This company worked with many different magazine publishers and the guy who interviewed Jake told him that they sometimes work with Playboy. A job offer came in from them for 20% more than he was making at his previous job. Tempting, right?

He had another interview set up for the following week with a Christian publishing company much closer to home. This job was pretty much exactly what he had been doing at his old job – he would be in charge of the eBook department and more. He got an offer, which was much less than the “Playboy” job, as I teasingly call it, only about 5% more than he was making before.

When Jake and I were discussing everything, I told him it was like an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. One company that publishes wonderful Christian content and another that … doesn’t. The decision was a no-brainer really. We got to stay put, he got a job he absolutely LOVES – a job that clearly God had in the works for him all along – and he would not be part of a company that helps publish photos of naked women.

What I loved about the whole thing was just how clear cut it was for us. It was just another reason that we knew God had it all planned out. With the two offers staring us in the face, the choice was so obvious. Wouldn’t it be nice if all decisions in life could be that easy?


Last fall, Jake traveled to New Hampshire for a work conference, and I was able to join him and visit New England for the first time. It was such a blessing. I even took a little day trip down to Concord, Massachusetts and visited Orchard House, the Alcott’s home, where Louisa wrote Little Women. That was such an incredible experience for me. To walk through the rooms where she and her family walked and talked and laughed. To see the little table in her bedroom where she wrote Little Women and glance out the window she must have looked out so many times while writing. To hear the stories of so many of the little details of the house and learn more about their family. The entire trip was worth it just for that. But I also got to spend some time with my hubby and even take a little drive across the bridge into Maine one evening. It was a wonderful trip and all because of this new job of his.

• BACK AT GYMNASTICS
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you probably saw my post last year at the end of gymnastics season when we thought Chloe was done with it for good. Despite working really hard all year, she only medaled twice the entire season, which I think was a big disappointment for her. It just wasn’t fun for her anymore, so she said goodbye to competitive gymnastics.

Fast forward six months and she was really starting to miss it, but she did not want to go back to her old gym. She wanted to try someplace new. One of Chloe’s former teammates switched to Grand Rapids Gymnastics (GRG) a couple seasons ago and they had great things to say about it. So when Chloe started mentioning gymnastics again, I decided to give GRG a call. I spoke to Coach Emily, who invited Chloe to come try a practice with the team and see if she liked it. Pretty much from the moment we walked in the door, we felt welcomed and Chloe felt like this was the place for her. At the end of that first practice, Emily told me that Chloe fit right in with the other girls. No surprise there. She’s not shy and tends to make friends very quickly.

It took a bit for her to get back some of the strength she lost during those six months off and she had to basically relearn a lot of things that she was never taught properly at the old gym, but she has been improving on every event all season long. And out of 7 meets, she medaled at all but one, earning 11 medals.

Switching gyms was the right decision. Absolutely. :)


• 14
Our girl also turned 14 in February. Hard to believe. We spent the weekend at Heather and Jeff’s and brought along her BFF Jenna. Heather took us all ice skating for Chloe’s birthday. It was Chloe’s first time and she pretty much clung to Jenna or the wall the entire time, but we had a blast.

On that Sunday, we had a nice lunch and birthday celebration at my parents’ house. I just love Chloe and Jenna’s friendship. They are truly like bickering sisters sometimes, but they love being friends. And after all of last year’s middle school drama, it has been wonderful for her to find some new friends this year that get her and accept her and are drama-free for the most part.

This sequence of pictures makes me smile. :)

• COLLEGE PLANS
Zach will soon finish his junior year of high school, so we are all about discussing college lately. He loves architecture, so we’re looking at schools in Michigan that have programs specific to that. Looking back, he has always had a love of building and designing – from Legos to Minecraft to other computer games he’s played over the years.

This year, he took an architecture class and has really enjoyed that. Next year, I think he’s going to take an engineering class, so we’ll see if he changes his mind and wants to study that instead. Maybe he’ll follow in his grandpa’s footsteps (my dad is an industrial engineer).

• MY DAD
Speaking of my dad … at the end of last year, he fell off his tractor and broke a few ribs. He was in a lot of pain and had some swelling in his abdomen that was not going down. So the doctor called for a CT, which revealed that he has cirrhosis of the liver due to fatty liver disease, which he was diagnosed with a couple years ago. Looking back, mom said he was starting to show signs of it for a while now, but they didn’t know that’s what it was. We think the fall just made things worse. So in February, we traveled back and forth to the University of Michigan Liver Center for tests—-lots of tests—-and he is now on the list for a transplant.

I’ve learned a lot more about the liver and transplants over the past month than I ever thought I would. It could be a while before he gets his new liver. His place on the list is determined by blood tests taken every few weeks. On one hand, we want him to be able to go on with his daily life as normally as possible. On the other, we want him to get a new liver soon, which means his health would have to deteriorate so he can move up the list. I know God has a plan and it will all work out in His perfect timing. In the meantime, our family would appreciate prayers for us, for the doctors, specialists, surgeons, and the family of the person whose liver my dad will one day get.

• GETTING HEALTHY
For a really long time now, I’ve led a mostly sedentary life. I’ve sat for hours upon hours writing and editing my books, staring at my computer, not really getting up and moving as much as I should. And I have felt it in my body. I have been sluggish and tired, no energy to do anything else, moody. So at the end of 2016, Jake told me I should join the gym with him (he has been a member for a while). I said no at first. I didn’t want to spend the extra money each month. It was too far to drive. I made excuses. But then I thought that the small amount of money I would spend each month is going toward helping me to be healthier and happier and more productive in both work and home life. So I did it. I signed up at Planet Fitness.

Starting the first week of January, we have been at the gym at least once a week – most weeks 3 times – working off the fat, getting stronger, losing inches and pounds. I am down 14 lbs. now and have lost a combined 8 inches off my waist, hips, and thighs. It’s nice to put on my jeans and not have to squeeze into them anymore. And the amount of energy I have is so much more than I’ve had for many years now.

We’re also preparing weekly meals ahead of time. Chicken and veggies usually. We separate them into bowls so they are easy for Jake to grab for work or me for lunch at home. Just pop them in the microwave and voila. Easy, healthy meal.

This all seems even more timely now that we’ve learned of the condition of my dad’s liver. I was already on a path to a healthier life, and now I understand how very important that is.

• WRITING
Yes, I am still writing. Currently, I’m working on two very different projects. One is the young adult dystopian novel I wrote a couple years ago during NaNoWriMo. The other is still mostly in research phase, but I did write the first lines of chapter one recently, which was awesome! This one will be a historical romance. I’m excited to share more about both when they get closer to completion. The YA book will most likely release first, hopefully later this year, but I don’t have a set date for publication yet. There’s still a lot to be done on this one as I edit through it. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to get the novel out of your head and onto the page, so it’s very rough and needs a lot of filling in at this point.

For now, the pictures above give you an idea just how different the settings are for these stories. :)

Thanks for sticking by me through this long post. Hope the rest of your week is wonderful. This will be our first weekend in a month without a gymnastics meet. It will be strange not traveling somewhere, but also kind of nice.

Blessings,

Merry Christmas!

christmas2016
As I sat down to write this to you, I took a deep breath in and let it out slowly. That’s how I feel about 2016. It’s been a year of change for our family. In so many ways. There were happy moments and sad ones, too. Busy times and times of rest. Cherished traditions and new experiences. Endings and beginnings. New job. Drivers ed. Middle school drama. It’s been interesting and tough at times, but we’ve seen God work through it all.

This year really stretched me as far as my writing goes, too. I released two books – one in May, the other in November. I’ve been a one-book-a-year girl until now, so writing, editing, formatting, releasing, and marketing two books required me to push myself more than I ever have before. I came out of all that a little stressed but happy to have two more books in my series, stories that I absolutely loved writing and felt God wanted me to tell.

Until Then, the second book in my Cornerstone series, is Michelle’s story of finding love after a rough upbringing while also searching for God’s purpose for her life, and Hello, Forever is a novella that takes place just after the events of Goodbye, Magnolia and gives more of Maggie & Simon’s love story. You can start reading the series for FREE with the first book, Goodbye, Magnolia today.

I hope 2016 has treated you well. I don’t know where you’re at this Christmas, how you’re feeling, if you’re surrounded by loved ones or on your own, but just know that you are thought about and prayed for. From my heart, I wish you so much happiness and peace this holiday.

Thank you for being a part of my writing journey.
Merry Christmas!

budding photographer


Earlier this month, we went camping as a family for the first time since 2007. The last time we went, the kids were little (Zach was 6 and Chloe was 4). Not sure why we never went again. We took other vacations instead over the years. But in June, I asked the kids to make a list of some things they would like to do this summer. Two of the things on Zach’s list were to go camping and to go to the U.P. again. I asked what he thought about combining the two and camping in the U.P. He was OK with that idea and so the planning began. We decided to ask Jake’s Mom and stepdad if they would like to join us and it was a really great time together.

I will share more pictures of the trip later, but I found these two today while looking through the ones that Chloe took. I gave her my backup camera from when I used to photograph weddings, showed her a couple of settings she could play around with, and told her to have at it. She was so excited to be using the big camera, and I love seeing all the things she pointed her lens at. A lot of little detail shots – just like her mama. And she’s got such a good eye.

I love these two pictures taken on our first night of camping at Muskallonge Lake State Park north of Newberry in the Upper Peninsula. It’s a favorite campground that Jen and I discovered a few years ago, and ever since then, I’ve wanted to take my family there. So glad I was finally able to. The lake is so pretty, sometimes so still that it reflects like a mirror, sometimes with these pretty ripples like the night these were taken. And the sunsets there are always so beautiful.

Here’s our little photographer. I took the one on the left of her that night while we were photographing the sunset. The other is one she took of herself when we were visiting Fayette, the old ghost town near Manistique.

first and last 2016


Seriously? Wow! I knew the kids had grown this year, but seeing the side-by-side images made me gasp. It’s so funny how hard it is to see them growing and changing when you are with them every day. I knew both kids were taller, but gosh, they matured so much. Both of them started the year still looking like kids and now they both look like young adults.

This is why I do these pictures every year!

I love how they posed exactly the same way. I think I have them trained by now. Zach is wearing the same pants he wore the first day, only you can see how he finally grew into them. He also finally got to the point where the long hair bugged him and he wanted more of a style. Once he got it cut earlier this year, he hasn’t gone back and has even started using a little product in his hair. And Chloe has pretty much the same hairstyle in this picture. She said she wanted to wear it the same way as she did on the first day to see how tall her bun had grown. :D Also, she is wearing makeup now, which makes her look much more grown up.

Thank you, Lord, for healthy, growing kids. Even though I wish time would slow way down and they would stay young.

our Memorial Day weekend


We had such a nice weekend visiting with Jake’s mom on the east side of the state. Jake’s aunt passed away this past week, so Mom really needed to be surrounded by family after losing her sister. It was much needed for all of us, I think.

It was relaxing … and hot. Summer is here, for sure. The kids had a great time running around in the sprinklers and shooting each other with water guns. We enjoyed watching a couple of storms with crazy awesome clouds roll through. Delicious meals on the grill were enjoyed. It was just a wonderful Memorial Day weekend overall.

After a busy week of launching my book, my brain was totally fried. I needed to step away from all of that, do nothing much at all, let my mind rest. It’s sort of that let down feeling you get after you’ve planned a big event, like a wedding or a party, for a really long time and the day has come and gone, and you just sit and think back on it and you just want to cry. I did cry actually. Especially from all of the support I got from friends, family, launch team, and even strangers online who have already read the book and posted nice reviews.

“I like how well the author depicted what it’s like when someone has past hurts and has accepted Christ, but hasn’t fully let go. … Kudos on a well written book about redemption and grace!” – Nina Y, Amazon Customer

Isn’t that the sweetest? Thank you, Nina.

Check out the NEW PAGE I put together specifically for UNTIL THEN. There is a link to purchase the book there as well as more reviews.

And if you ordered a paperback, I’d love to see a picture of you with the book. Happy reading, friends!

hello, monday

On Friday, Jake texted to tell me that his friend Tony had a couple extra tickets to the Grand Rapids Symphony for Saturday for Star Wars and More: The Music of John Williams. We saw a show like this once before over in Detroit and it was so much fun. I thought what a fun date night it would be. When I mentioned it to the kids on our drive home from school, Zach seemed genuinely bummed that he couldn’t go.

We went out to my parents’ that night and had a little pizza party/game night. Settlers of Catan, of course. My brother, Tim, kicked all our butts. It was a fun time together, as always.

On Saturday morning while doing some laundry, I kept thinking about how bummed Zach was about the symphony and the thought came to me that maybe he could go in my place. Not that I didn’t want to go, because I love the symphony, but I had been before, and it crossed my mind that this would be something really special for him to experience with his dad. And I was totally right!

My guys had a great night together and Zach LOVED the whole experience. It made this mama really happy to give this to him and let him enjoy the power and beauty of music. Plus … storm troopers and Darth Vader!

While the guys were away at the symphony, Chloe and I did a little shopping, then went to dinner together. Afterwards, we went to the park for a little photo shoot per her request. It’s been a while since I just took photos with my good camera for fun. And I LOVE these so much.

We spent maybe half an hour or so running around the park. Well, she ran around and I walked slowly to catch up with her. She’s got so much stinkin’ energy. The light was gorgeous since it was the last hour before sunset. It was perfect. Our evening concluded with a few episodes of Girl Meets World. ;)

It was a fun guys/girls night out!

We were all back together for Mother’s Day Sunday, which I spent working on some formatting issues on my books. Jake and the kids cleaned, mowed, and made dinner for me – chicken and veggies on the grill. We ate dinner in front of the television watching Fuller House. :)

It was a wonderful weekend! How was your weekend? Did you do anything special?

roller skating flashback


Today is flashback time! Going back to Woodland skating rink in December of 2007, because a scene in the new book takes place there. These pictures were from a roller skating party our son, Zach, had through school. Jake, Chloe and I went along, and we had such a fun time.

Look how tiny Chloe is. hehe! She was 4. She pretty much stayed by the wall or along the rail the whole time.

Zach had actually had lessons in his P.E. class, where they taught the kids how to skate, so he did pretty well out there. Well, most of the time.

I always loved to roller skate. My friends and I would go to our little local roller skating rink, Roll-A-Rama, in high school sometimes. I wonder if I was ever there at the same time as my husband, because he told me that he used to go skating on the weekends sometimes, too. So funny to think that we might have been out there skating next to each other and not even known each other yet. :)

During college, I went to the Woodland rink, shown in these photos, with a bunch of people from college, which inspired the scene in the book that takes place at this very skating rink. I saw recently that, after many years, the Woodland rink closed for good. So sad. But I’m glad to have happy memories there and some fun pictures of our kids skating at the place I enjoyed so much. And it will live on in my book, Until Then. ;)

AJAXed with AWP