Category Archives: Friends

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camping 2016

Just returned from a weekend away with my dear friend, Jen. We traveled to the thumb of Michigan this year (our 12th year of doing a camping trip together), which is a place neither of us had ever been. It was lovely there. Really pretty. The campground at Port Crescent was nice. The small towns we visited (Port Austin and Caseville) were both so quaint with that wonderful old town feeling – cute shops, farm markets, etc. It was a wonderful trip and it flew by too quickly.

Before I left for this getaway, I had been feeling very antsy, kind of stuck when it came to my writing, spending too much time online and not enough time getting progress made on editing the novella. This weekend was exactly what I needed to recharge and reset my brain. A little fresh air is so good for that.

There was one point when Jen was out swimming and jumping some big 2-3 ft waves that I just stayed on the shore wading in the waves. Wading is one of my favorite things to do – just listening to the sounds of the water, the smell of fresh air, the beauty of the lake, while the water splashes over my feet and ankles again and again. My mind started wandering to Simon and Maggie in Hello, Forever when they travel to California to visit Simon’s parents. There is a scene where he is teaching her to surf and I just stood there in the cool lake water thinking about those scenes, about the sheer power of the ocean and the waves. I ended up pulling my phone out of my back pocket and typing up some lines I had for the book while I stood in the lake just hoping a wave didn’t knock me off balance and make me drop my phone in the water. ;) It didn’t! hehe!

Getting away from the usual routine and even just taking a little time for yourself is so healthy and restorative, and I’m thankful that Jake doesn’t mind me doing this every year. I’m blessed to have such a supportive husband.

While I was glad to get away for the weekend, I’m so looking forward to another camping trip later this summer with Jake and the kids, Mom + Dad O, and possibly more family. It’s been far too long since we took the kids camping and I’m excited to show them a few of my favorite campgrounds that Jen and I have visited over the years.

adoption day

Look at this little guy! Isn’t he adorable? He has the best smile and such big, bright eyes.

In all the busyness of the week of Thanksgiving (and since), I haven’t had time to share pictures from Adoption Day, which was November 24th. My mom and I were invited by our dear friend, Erinn, to come and celebrate with them as the adoption of their sweet son was finalized. I took a bunch of pictures for them throughout the morning at the court and at their home afterwards, which is where I captured baby Nathan in all his happiness (above) bouncing in his bouncer, smiling, and being loved on. This kid is so blessed to have such wonderful parents and two big brothers (and many more family members and friends) to love him.

It was wonderful to be a part of this important day in their lives. God truly worked out all the little details for this moment to happen, and it was a blessing to witness.

hello, monday

• Had a lovely visit at Mom and Dad O’s on the east side of the state a couple weekends ago. Lots of yummy food and I even spent some time in the mornings working on my NaNoWriMo novel. Morning writing is so unlike me (except for blog posts). I’ve always been an evening writer, but I made myself do it so I could keep up with my word count and the ideas flowed even though I’m so not a morning person. ;)

• It was sort of Friend Week for me last week. I got to visit Heidi and help her design her annual Christmas card. It’s our annual tradition now for me to take their family picture and help design the card. Always a fun time chatting and picking photos and laughing at all the ones where they’re making funny faces or their eyes are closed. I also had dinner with my friend, Jen, and lots of catching up time over coffee (tea for her) at Starbucks afterward. Time with friends always makes it a good week.

• The painting is done. For this year anyway. I finished all but a couple small sections on the way back of the house that need to be reached by climbing on the roof. They aren’t really visible from the ground anyway, so they will be finished in the spring. So our house is all one color finally, and we finished just in time …

• It’s our first Monday with snow. We had the first big snowfall over the weekend. Not sure how much snow there was. At least 6-8 inches piled on top of my car.

• Chloe’s first gymnastics meet of the season was early Sunday morning. We drove through mostly clear roads to get there and had a nice lunch at Cracker Barrel afterwards to celebrate her 3rd place medal on bars and also the completion of painting the house. :)

• I was happy to see The Truth About Drew had the #1 Best Seller banner again this week. I ran a Kindle Countdown Deal throughout the week and it did really well. It’s always fun to see that little orange banner pop up.

• It’s a short school/work week for Thanksgiving. Looking forward to family time and putting up the tree.

• My newsletter is going out later this week. If you haven’t signed up yet, click HERE. There will be a little Black Friday info inside. Stay tuned!

anniversary party | cake and ice cream

What anniversary party would be complete without cake? Lots of cake. Jake’s sister, Missy, was so sweet to make us this cute little cake for the occasion. And Mom got two big sheet cakes, which was way more cake than we needed. But the kids didn’t complain when we had lots of leftovers to take home. ;) We used some more silk flowers for the top of the little cake. And we tore the petals off a couple bundles and I decorated the tops of the sheet cakes – one with random flowers all over, the other with the flowers forming the number 20. I’m sure the lady at the bakery thought it strange that I didn’t want “happy anniversary” or a photo of us or something printed on top of the sheet cakes. They have pages and pages of designs you can have put on your cakes. But I think they looked cute with the flowers on top.

And how can you have cake without ice cream?

When my dad mentioned to his Amish neighbor, Melvin, that they were having an anniversary party for us at the farm, Melvin asked if we would like him to make some homemade ice cream for the party. My parents have become friends with this nice man and his family, and they help each other out with farm tasks often. I thought it was so sweet of him to ask and we eagerly agreed. About halfway through the party, Melvin and his wife and one of their sons walked across the road with this very large and noisy contraption that was whipping up the ice cream.

Family and friends stood around the machine talking, taking pictures, and chatting with Melvin. And the ice cream was so delicious and smooth.

It was a big hit with everyone! Especially the kids. I love that Lindsey captured this sweet photo of our niece, Violet, staring at the ice cream. So adorable.

So grateful to my parents’ neighbors for doing this for us.

All photos taken by Lindsey Gerlinger Photography and edited by yours truly. ;)

anniversary party | details

Time to share some details from our 20th anniversary party in August. It all started with the invitations that I picked out from a Groupon that we got online for cards from Zazzle. I liked these. They were simple and perfect for an outdoor party at the farm. And I imagined little vases of green hydrangeas on the tables and some chinese lanterns hanging inside the tent with strings of lights. So we went with the green and white color scheme to match the invites.

To keep costs down, we picked up some green and white silk hydrangeas and ribbon from Michaels, dollar store vases, which we painted with white spray paint. I had extra invitations left over, so I used the back side of those as a matte for 4×6 photos of us over the years and sandwiched a stick between them, which I shoved down into the flowers. They turned out cute.

I also printed out more photos and attached them to cardboard in the shape of the number 20. I saw that on Pinterest. ;)

In preparation for the party, I pulled out my tub of wedding stuff. We displayed our wedding album and proof books as well as a photo album filled with photos friends and family took at our wedding and the pictures from the disposable cameras we had on all the tables at our reception. Also on display were the ring bearer pillow and my wedding bouquet, which my mom made for me out of silk flowers. And we dug out our rehearsal and wedding videos and had those playing during the party, too. That was definitely fun to watch.

I loved all the green and white. The kids helped stack the plates and cups in alternating colors.

We had a little basket on a table by the tent entrance for cards, but in place of a guest book, I had a basket of Project Life cards for people to sign. My plan is to make a little anniversary party Project Life album, print photos of all the guests and stick the card they signed in a pocket next to their pictures.

There are more things to share – food, yard games for the kids, the cake, guests. Stay tuned for more anniversary posts.

All photos (except the invitation) were taken by Lindsey Gerlinger Photography and edited by yours truly. :)

around the campsite

This was the first year that I didn’t take a picture of the Mackinac Bridge. No idea why. I took this one (above) out the window as we were crossing. Look at the color of that water. Our Great Lakes are so gorgeous. This is the Straits of Mackinac that connect Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.

OUR CAMPSITE. Here’s our campsite once we got it all set up. Jen owns all the camping supplies because she camps a lot more than I do. After ten summers of camping together, I pretty much know everything she’s got and where she keeps it. She’s super organized and always thinks of everything. The screened in tent was something she bought a few years ago and it’s been great to be able to sit under there to eat, to protect our food from the bugs (Except this year! We were killing flies left and right!), and to keep us dry if it rains, which it did.

OUR CAMPFIRE. In the background, you can see our neighbors under their screened tent. You can also see the fence and the little electric box, where I charged my phone. If you read the tales I shared the other day about our trip, this is the spot where the line of baby raccoons came parading out to their mama, who was under the neighbor’s tent. Eeeek!

Love me some burnt marshmallows. Mmmmm.

OUR RESTROOMS. These are the lovely temporary restrooms that were set up in the campsite next to ours in place of the modern bath facilities, which had been demolished and were in the process of being rebuilt. I actually just received an email the other day from the DNR informing me that there was construction happening on the bathroom building and about the temporary restrooms, but it said “for your upcoming camping trip on July 16th” and I received the email a week after that. Duh! We had to laugh at the title “Royal Restrooms”. They might be perfect for a wedding or smaller event, but when you’ve got so many campers using them daily, week after week, and often overflowing the toilets (gross!), well, it’s far from a regal experience.

OUR MEALS. I didn’t photograph all of our meals. Gasp. We always bring along marinated chicken, veggies, and Jen added salmon into the mix the past couple years that her parents caught fishing. We cook the meat/fish and veggies in a tin foil packet over the fire. So good. Jen also has a small Coleman grill that we use to heat water for coffee/tea. This year, she invested in a griddle for the grill, so she cooked up some pancakes and sausage, which was so yummy. If you follow me on instagram, you will have seen that our sausage had a mind of its own. See that HERE. When we are out and about for the day, we make sandwiches and take a small cooler with us. And hobo pies are a favorite. We had pizza hobos the first night and hobos with pie filling the last night (I had apple! Yum!).

On the last night, we had a bit of a rain storm blow through. We sat under the screen tent while it passed. We ended up playing Uno by flashlight. And we might have taken pictures of Jen making scary faces with the flashlight pointed under her chin, which made me laugh hysterically, but I won’t share those here. ;)

More pictures to come of all the sights and the beautiful sunsets we saw.

camping in the Porkies

Peace and quiet. I was in dire need of time away from my computer. The days were flying by in a blur of book marketing with the tiniest bit of writing thrown in. :( I needed to clear my mind and regroup and renew and come back rested and ready to tackle this book.

The moment we crossed the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula felt almost like instant calm and peacefulness. There’s something about the U.P. Like stepping back in time to a slower pace. The towns are smaller. There’s so much green up there. The air seems cleaner. Jen and I both took a deep breath and sighed, like “Aaah. We’re back.”

Jen and I have known each other since we were six. We met in first grade and have been friends ever since. This is our 11th summer of going on a girls getaway together and our 10th summer camping. We’ve got it down to a science by now. We set up camp in record time, both knowing which camp duties are ours, and we just get it done.

I’ve never been much of an outdoorsy girl, but I’m thankful every year for our camping trip. It gets me outside in the woods, hiking, enjoying the beautiful world God created. Michigan is a gorgeous state and I’m very happy its home.

This year, we chose Porcupine Mountain State Park, the Porkies as they are called. I’ll share pictures over the next week or so as I go through them all, but today I wanted to share a few stories and tips from our trip.

This was the closest sight to our campground (Union Bay) and was something people online highly recommended. It was gorgeous there. We visited in the morning when it was overcast and hazy and the clouds were hanging low over the hills. Just beautiful. We decided to go back again the next day when it was bright and sunny and we were so glad we did. Everything was so lush and green. I actually used my big camera and had fun playing around with it after not having shot with it for a while. Here’s the side by side of both of our visits to the lake.

We read that there were black bears in the Porkies, so we were a little concerned about that. The woman at the visitor center told us not to worry about them. Jen was like, “OK. But say we are walking along and we come across one. What should we do?” We wanted to make sure we didn’t do the wrong thing in that situation. She said just to make noise and they would run away, and she advised us never to run. We came across people with bells on their backpacks. I said I was just gonna start whooping and hollering if we saw one, but I didn’t have to make a fool of myself ’cause we never encountered a bear.

We did, however, encounter these funny little squirrels that look almost like a chipmunk but with a long body. Someone said they were red squirrels. Never saw that kind before.

We also had to deal with some annoying rascals at our campsite. Our neighbors informed us that they had seen a couple raccoons by the fence that ran along the back of our campsites earlier that day. While sitting by the fire that night, Jen spotted movement out of the corner of her eye and turned the flashlight on it. Then the next day, while it was still light out, a coon just came out and walked along the fence. We scared it back into the bushes. Then a little later, I thought I spotted some movement under the picnic table in the neighbors’ screened in tent. I assumed it was their dog, but then I noticed their dog was lying on the ground by their camper. The raccoon was under there, scrounging around for food. Just as we told the neighbors, about 5 or 6 baby raccoons came out of the brush toward their mama. It was creepy. The neighbor guys scared them back into the bushes. So weird seeing this long line of raccoon babies parade across the yard. I only wish I’d had my phone on me so I could video it, but my phone was actually sitting on top of the electric box right next to the neighbors screen tent, so the baby raccoons would have had to pick up my phone and take a selfie for me to capture it.

And how can I mention “wildlife” and not mention the mosquitos. They were thick this year. And we also had to deal with these nasty little biting flies, which were the most annoying thing ever. I hate bugs. So much. But we kept a constant spray of Deep Woods Off going and did our best to kill the mosquitos and flies that got inside the tent. In the end, I came home with several bites – a few on my legs, and several on my right arm. Why the right arm? Who knows. I think we came out of it OK for the amount of bugs we encountered.

The U.P. is the best place to see the stars. Like all of them. There are no big nearby cities lighting the sky. It’s dark dark dark, which makes it possible to see so many stars and the Milky Way and satellites and shooting stars so clearly. Jen saw a couple shooting stars on the first night and I was so bummed I missed them. But on the last night, as we were about to hit the hay, I looked up and said, “OK, God, give us a big shooting star,” and just as the word “star” left my lips, a big one shot across the sky and we both saw it. It was so awesome. Thanks, God!

Another sight we hit was Summit Peak. This one was about 20 minutes from camp. The path was woodsy and on quite a bit of an incline at times. We were happy to reach the overlook, which sits at the bottom of the long flight of stairs leading to the top. We took a break there and caught our breath (Must get my butt out and run. I’m so out of shape right now. ugh!), then headed up the stairs. I don’t know how many steps there were. Hundreds, I think. Once you make it to the top, there is a large wooden tower with four flights of stairs that lead you to the highest point in the park. The view up there is beautiful. You can see out to Lake Superior and all around.

Jen is not a fan of heights. At all. But she braved the tower and I was so proud of her for that. For whatever reason, we always end up doing things that involve heights and she always pushes through her fear. She’s awesome.

Had to see all the waterfalls. Love waterfalls, and Michigan has so many in the U.P. The weather was beautiful, but muggy the day we went here, and there are a lot of steps and trails to get you to the falls.

While I was sweating my butt of, my leg muscles throbbing, my chest burning, I kept thinking about how much it hurt, but how it would be worth it in the end to reach our goal. So true in so many areas of life. Hard work and determination will be rewarded in the end. And you will get through all the pain and struggles and look back and see everything it took to get to your reward. :)

If you are staying at Union Bay this summer, be prepared to wait in line for the bathroom. The modern bath facilities were demolished this year and there are two port-o-potty trailers, “royal restrooms” as the name plastered across the side of them says, set up in its place. We were “lucky” enough to get campsite #74, which just happened to be right next to these restrooms with their lovely aroma. One of the trailers contains 3 restrooms, each with a toilet, sink, and shower. The other has 2 restrooms/showers, which are handicap accessible. FIVE restrooms total for the entire campground! Considering just how many tent campers there were when we were there, five restrooms is not enough. Especially since they all have showers in them and often they would be filled with people getting cleaned up, so those people who just had to use the restroom had to wait a while or walk to the far end of the campground to the disgusting vault toilets – those lovely toilet seats over a hole in the ground. One more trailer with just toilets would have helped so much. Anyway … just thought I’d share that if anyone is headed to the Porkies this summer. ;)

By the end of the trip, I was tired and ready to go home, but my soul felt peaceful. We talked about the trip on our drive home, what our favorite part was. I really loved Lake of the Clouds, but I felt that it was a great trip overall. I loved everything we saw and, while it wasn’t my favorite campground of all the ones we’ve stayed at, it was quiet with good neighbors. Another successful year.

thinking about you

It’s a miracle. I wrote on my blog. ;) My weekend was filled with many happy moments. Lots of laughing with my mom, Aunt Pat and Tonya on our Girls Days trip. Good meals. Catching up. Shopping. Playing Nutsy every night. Being silly. Enjoying the beautiful weather.

On the 4th, I joined up with Jake and the kids, who were already at Heather + Jeff’s. We sat outside on their deck and watched several of their neighbors shoot off fireworks. It was a pretty impressive display. Sunday was Scarlett’s 5th birthday party. One of the sweetest moments was when she saw me curling Chloe’s hair and she asked if I would curl hers, too. My heart melted into a puddle. ;) She sat so patiently while I made little loose ringlets all around her head. So sweet. I love being an aunt.

While I was sitting here thinking about the fun weekend we just had, I started thinking about all of you. I wondered what your holiday looked like, what stories you would tell if we got together for coffee this morning.

Did you have to work the whole weekend? Were you under the weather and in bed the whole time or at the hospital with a sick loved one? Did you just go through the worst breakup of your life and cried your night away while the fireworks boomed loud outside? Or maybe you just got engaged? Or celebrated a birthday or an anniversary? Were you annoyed by your neighbors shooting off fireworks late into the night? Were you happy? Were you sad? Were you grieving? Were you falling in love?

Last night, I jumped back into writing on the new novel. I tried to put myself in Michelle’s shoes and write all of her emotions during a very tough scene. I think that’s why I’m thinking about you guys so much today. I’m trying to think about other people and how they deal with things. And I feel very strongly right now that some of you out there might just need prayer or need to vent or want to share something exciting. If that’s you, then feel free to comment below or email me if you have a prayer request. I’m thinking about ya’.

what a week!

This week has been so crazy full of sharing on social media, answering interview questions, and generally just posting everywhere to get the word out about the book release. I’m pretty much exhausted and don’t quite know where to start on this post.

A few months ago, I asked some friends and family to join a book launch team to help spread the word about Goodbye, Magnolia. I also posted on some Goodreads Groups I’m a member of and on Facebook and Instagram asking if anyone was interested in joining. A handful of ladies responded and we all gathered in a private Facebook group to get to know each other. They were also a huge help in giving me honest feedback on the manuscript before it was in its final form.

Last year, when I was releasing my young adult novel, The Truth About Drew, I did it all by myself. I hit the “approve” button one day when the proof was ready and that was it. No excitement, no big fanfare, and I had no clue where to start. I sent out an announcement to my e-newsletter subscribers letting them know and spent several months sharing on social media about the book. Friends and family shared a bit, too, but it was mostly just me.

This time around, I felt so supported having this launch team. Thinking about it now, I’m getting a little teary-eyed, because this experience has been so much more fun than last year. The launch team girls have shared like crazy about the book this week, some with blogs have interviewed me, there have been giveaways going on, selfies taken, and just so much love for the book.

So, as we end this wonderful LAUNCH WEEK, I just have to say

I appreciate each one of you and all you’ve done for me and my sweet little book.


I’d like to give special shout out to a few of the girls, who have blogs. They all interviewed me this week, so I wanted to make sure to share links to those here.

ANITA’S BLOG & GIVEAWAY: Anita had such great questions. We chatted about writing and photography and coffee. She also shared a picture of my workspace. When Jake saw the photo, he said, “The picture on Anita’s blog is a lie. I’ve never seen your desk that clean.” ;)

LAURA’S BLOG & GIVEAWAY: This is the second time Laura has interviewed me for her blog. She did a fun interview when The Truth About Drew came out, too, (you can read that one HERE if you want to), so it was fun to do this again with her.

NICOLE’S BLOG & GIVEAWAY – Nicole’s questions were so fun. We talked about the book, but also about fun stuff like food and travel and what I’m planning for my next book.

And, of course, I must end the post with this fun little beach banner. Click the heart eyes emoticon to go to the launch day post, where you’ll find all the links to purchase paperback and ebook versions of the book.

Have a wonderful weekend! Happy reading! <3

hello, monday … on tuesday again

Had a really nice weekend followed by a busy Monday and since I took up my Hello, Monday post yesterday with the big announcement about the book release date, I’m going to once again share a little recap on Tuesday instead of Monday.

After school on Friday, I decided to run the car through the car wash on the way home. With it being such a nice day, there was a long line of cars waiting to get rid of all that winter salt and dirt. I didn’t notice that as we sat waiting with the car idling that the temperature gauge was climbing and climbing. Just before we entered the wash, I noticed some smoke coming from my engine. I turned the heater on in my car, but we just couldn’t breathe from the heat, so once inside the car wash, I turned my car off. Big mistake. I had a horrible feeling that when the wash was finished, I would not be able to get my car to start. I was correct. Had to get a couple guys that worked there to come and push my car out of the car wash stall and get my car out of the way for the other ten cars behind me waiting. It was SO embarrassing! I wanted to curl up in a ball and hide. They said it was OK for us to leave the car there to cool down, and the kids and I walked home. We don’t live too far away from the car wash and it was a beautiful day.

On the walk home, I stepped in a stupid mud puddle.

When Jake got home from work, we drove down to the car wash in his car to see how my car was doing. Only, we ended up having to wait to get the last tenth of a mile to the car wash because there was an accident at the street just before it.

Friday the 13th indeed! ;)

We were able to start the car right up and get it home, by the way. The coolant level was low, so Jake added some.

The evening improved greatly when my dear friend, Jen, came for a visit. We went to dinner at the Chinese buffet then to Biggby for some coffee (tea for her!). We chatted until they closed. We also planned out our annual camping trip. It’s back to the U.P. for us this year. We love it up there!

Saturday was a hang at home kind of day. My brother, Rick, came by and we did his taxes and chatted for a while.

Jake spent the majority of Saturday evening with headphones on reading my book, while Chloe and I watched Gilmore Girls reruns, and Zach played on his computer in his room. Jake finished my book after 1 a.m. and then we sat up talking about it, even though we were both really tired. He loved the book, and some people might say that he is just biased because he’s my husband, but he’s been an avid reader since childhood and he knows when a story needs work. Not that he normally reads much chick lit, but I completely trust his opinion. ;)

On Sunday afternoon, Chloe, my mom and I went to see the new Cinderella movie. So good! Besides being beautiful to watch, it had such good messages. “Be kind and have courage” was the big one. But I also liked that they brought it around to being worthy of love just as you are, even without a fairy godmother to magically make you into a princess. Love that.

My mom and I have decided to start walking each day now that the weather is improving. We had a nice walk on Monday around town. This morning was very windy and chilly and back in the 30’s, though. Brrrr. We cut our walk short.

Monday was busy around here. I spent the morning spreading the word that my book now has a release date set! May 19th, here we come! So there were emails to send to my Launch Team and newsletter subscribers, social media posts, and a blog post to write. When the kids and I arrived home in the afternoon, there was a box on the steps containing Advanced Reader copies of the book. Oh my goodness! I can’t even describe what it feels like to hold an actual physical copy of my book in my hands. And it’s not even the finished product. But still, it makes me so happy!

So, I’m back to editing the book this week and I can’t wait to dig into it and make it even better. In case you missed it, the eBook is already available for PRE-ORDER on AMAZON. Eeeeek! Place your ORDER HERE!

Have a wonderful Tuesday!

AJAXed with AWP