Category Archives: Holidays

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Merry Christmas!

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!

wonderful chaos

“Being a part of the Gilbert family Thanksgiving, complete with several guests of the Bed and Breakfast, was absolutely joyful. There were so many different conversations going on all at once, it was hard to keep track. Claire soaked it all in. Thanksgiving at her grandparents’ house was always a little more subdued. Her family had a good time together, but this was a completely different experience, a wonderful chaos that made her feel warm and happy.”

THE TRUTH ABOUT DREW is on SALE for just 99¢ thru Monday.

I hope your time with family this holiday season is filled with good conversation, laughter, wonderful chaos, and so much love. Hold those you love close, savor your time with them. Don’t let the days go by without letting those you love know it!

hello, monday

What a nice weekend we had. It was an early Easter celebration at my parents’ farm with our annual egg coloring and cookie decorating on Saturday, then a nice meal with my family on Palm Sunday and a little egg hunt. The kids are teenagers now, but Chloe insisted on doing the hunt. I love that she still wants to do it. So my mom and my brother, Rick, went out and hid a bunch of eggs for the kids to find. It was a gorgeous day with lots of bright sunshine, but the breeze was bitterly cold. My fingers were numb by the time I was done taking pictures.

After all the candy was sorted into bags for each of the kids (seriously, they have like 5 pounds of candy each!), we played a game of Settlers of Catan. Zach won! Chloe and I kept battling for longest road. She snatched it from me more than once. We always have fun when we play that game, but this particular round took us hours, so we were happy when Zach finally built a settlement and won the game.

We hung out for a while afterwards. Jake and Chloe took a walk down the lane. We looked at old photobooks I had made for Mom for Christmas, which made me really want to get out my big camera and take more pictures. I’ve fallen into using only my phone for photos over the past few years, which is fine. It takes nice pictures. But not the same as the Canon. Must challenge myself to carry it along with me more often.


• Jake has a couple job prospects this week. We are praying that something will come from one of them if this is the direction God wants him to go.

• Zach signed up for his classes for JUNIOR YEAR this past week. What? How is he so close to being done with high school. He’s been getting mailings from colleges all over the place already inviting him to get more information and check out their schools. It’s craziness.

• Chloe is nearing the end of her gymnastics season. She has decided this will be her final season. It’s been so fun seeing her excel in gymnastics over the past four years, but she doesn’t love it like she used to and I’m not going to force her to stay in. I always wanted to be Mary Lou Retton or Nadia Comaneci when I was Chloe’s age, so having a daughter in gymnastics has been a dream.

• I spent a couple late nights working on more revisions of Until Then this weekend after receiving some very helpful feedback. I think it’s very nearly ready (the story anyway). Still have lots of copy editing to do, then the fun of formatting for paperback and ebook. Coming right along for the MAY 24th RELEASE!

• I started reading Anne of Green Gables last night. It’s been many, many years since I last read it. I’m in the progress of reading a couple other books already, but this is sort of research for me. The character in my next book LOVES Anne of Green Gables (as do I), so I thought I might take some inspiration from it before I sit down to start writing her story.

Praying you all have a wonderful week. Only two more weeks until our Spring Break begins. That’s something to be thankful for. ;)

a new year

I think I’m still in denial that 2015 is over. It hasn’t sunk in yet. Christmas and all the family gatherings flew by in a blur. We attended 6 family Christmases, not including our own on Christmas morning, and did more traveling this time around, but it was worth it to see lots of family this year. We spent our last weekend of break at Jake’s parents’ on the east side of the state. We were there for New Year’s Eve (lots of games, movies, and yummy soup), then had our final family Christmas on New Year’s Day.

These are just a few photos from New Year’s Eve. I tend to share a lot more photos on my Instagram account. If you’re an instagram addict, like I am, feel free to follow me. My username there is kristajean.

My Merry Christmas book giveaway wrapped up this past weekend, too. The winner was LETTY MAR! Congratulations, Letty! :)

Are you setting resolutions for yourself this year? I’m not. Not really. But there are a couple things I want to accomplish this year.

• I have challenged myself over on Goodreads to read 50 books. I read just about that many in 2015, so I’m sure I’ll have no problem reaching that goal. And I want to finish reading through the Bible this year, too. I’m about 25% of the way through (started last year, but didn’t finish).

• And it’s time to kick my book editing into high gear so I can finish Until Then and get it ready for all of you. Then it’s on to the next book. ;)

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s. Looking forward to all that 2016 holds.

five random thoughts

I have seriously been writing this post for FOUR days. It was first meant to be my “hello, Monday” post, then I named it “random tuesday thoughts”, then Wednesday passed me by, and now it’s happening. Finally. On Thursday. Such is life. ;)

Five random thoughts:

– Christmas music is playing on one of the local radio stations. They switched over to all Christmas tunes last week. I thought this would annoy me since it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but it’s actually making me kind of happy and in the mood for the holiday season.

– I finished the entire series of Friday Night Lights finally. I got behind on it years ago when it first aired and never caught up, so when I reached that point in the series on Netflix, I got even more excited to watch it since I had no idea how things were going to play out. I’ve never been a huge football fan. I like to watch the Super Bowl sometimes, and I went to my share of high school football games (just to be with friends mostly). But I’ve spent the past couple months immersed in all things football while watching that series and I have to say, I think I understand the game a little better and might not cringe if I’m flipping channels and the only thing on is football. ;)

– My mom is the greatest! A couple years ago in the fall, we started painting our house. We only got up about halfway and then the cold set in and we didn’t finish. Ever since then, the house has been two colors – the bottom half a lovely color called Earthy Mushroom Taupe (a greyish color with a hint of brown to it) that I adore, the top half a dirty looking yellowish color that I was never very fond of. For various reasons, I chose to focus my time on other things and did not touch a paintbrush to the siding for far too long. It annoyed me every time we drove in and I had to look at the two colors on our house or when someone was coming over and I had to tell them to just “look for the two-tone house”. ugh! But this fall, my mom suggested that we work on it again, so we have. And we almost have it complete. A couple small sections of yellow left way up high (must gear myself up to climb that high on the ladder), the shutters, and a section on the back that will require me to climb up on our roof. When I drive in now, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment that it’s almost done and looks so nice. And it’s all because of my mom pushing me to do it. Plus, she’s been the best ladder holder, making sure it doesn’t slip while I’m climbing to all the high places. :)

** Note: I did it! I climbed up to the peak of the house and got rid of the ugly yellow color. It looks so much nicer now. Two more peaks to paint. Hoping for nice weather next week to finish those sections. When I drive in now … the entire front of my house is Earthy Mushroom Taupe with dark chocolate brown shutters. Swoon.

– My daughter is so resilient. She’s had kind of a rough year friend-wise, but I’m proud of her for not letting the loss of a friendship get her down. She has been spending time with other friends, getting to know some of the other girls better, and trusting God to bring some new friends her way.

– I’m more in love with writing than ever. This month, I decided to be crazy and participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) while still editing my next book, Until Then. It’s been a lot of fun. I am working on the young adult dystopian/fantasy novel that I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before. This idea has been knocking around in my head for a year, so I decided to get the first draft of the first book written. I’m fairly sure this one will be a series of a few books. This is also allowing my mind to think about something besides Until Then, which has been pretty much all I’ve been thinking of and writing for months. NaNoWriMo is a crazy mad dash to finish a 50,000 word novel in thirty days and I’m right on track to finish. I passed 20,000 words last night. That’s more than 40% of the way and it’s going well. My main characters are forming and the hero is getting into all kinds of trouble. Good times! ;)

Have a wonderful weekend!

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’.

hello, tuesday

It’s always nice having long weekends together. The kids always have Memorial Day off, of course, but they also had no school Friday due to some extra time that was added to the school day to make up for excess snow days. I guess we earned enough extra time to have that day off. Jake only had to work half a day on Friday, so we had a really nice long weekend together.

We did some gardening on Friday with my Mom. She brought over a whole lotta bags of mulch, and we weeded the garden and around one side of the house. Mom and Zach worked on replanting some things that needed to find new homes. Both the kids were pretty good helpers, except for the constant complaining that they were hungry. They are always hungry. ;)

On Friday evening, we went to our niece Kaylea’s graduation. Whenever I attend a graduation ceremony, it takes me back to my own. What I remember most about that day is this overwhelming feeling of importance, like I just accomplished something, this huge milestone in my life. It’s so funny how feelings like that can come back in an instant. I felt it again on Friday for Kaylea and her classmates. So much hope for the future.

It’s hard to believe our nieces and nephews are graduating. And we’ll be attending graduations for the next three years as our nephew, then our niece, then our baby boy Zach all reach this milestone. I don’t even want to think about it.

It was a morning for sleeping in. I needed it after a long, busy book launch week. The kids, especially Zach, will sleep until noon if you don’t wake them. And Zach pretty much did. It was a work day around here in the afternoon. Chloe reorganized and cleaned her room. Zach mowed the lawn. Jake and I worked on de-cluttering the front porch.

We had a family day at my parents’ farm. Mom grilled up so much food – burgers, dogs, brats, chicken. All very tasty. We hung out and played two very long games of Settlers of Catan. I do enjoy the game, but I suck at it. I always put my settlements on places I think have so much promise – with numbers that are rolled fairly often and locations that have the possibility to get me lots of resources I need. But it never fails that numbers that were rolled so often in one game just never get rolled in the next. ugh!

I put off all the household chores this weekend. By Monday, there was a huge pile of laundry and dishes stacked sky high. All afternoon, I ran loads of laundry and folded them. By 9 pm, I had no energy left for the dishes and I went to my desk to write this post. The dishes can wait.

Things at school are coming to an end over the next couple weeks. I knew once Spring Break was over the rest of the year would fly right by. It always does with all the end of school year events and such. Chloe’s new season of gymnastics training (three days a week now!) will begin soon, too.

I just wanted to start this week with another big THANK YOU to those of you who have ordered your paperback or downloaded the eBook of Goodbye, Magnolia. I’ve started to hear from some of you already with the sweetest compliments about the book. It makes me so happy. I hope you’ll tell your friends and family about it and leave a review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. You can pick up your own copy HERE.

What’s up next for me?
I’ve been asked this a few times lately and in one of the interviews I did last week regarding the book. I’ve started writing my next book. It has no title yet since I’m in the very early stages of this one, but it will be another book in the same world as Maggie and Simon, taking place along the same timeline as Goodbye, Magnolia, but from another character’s perspective. I’m not giving away any more than that right now, but I think it will be a good story and give even more insight into the characters you are all loving from Goodbye, Magnolia.

Have a wonderful Tuesday!

a happy easter

It was such a wonderful time with Jake’s family this weekend. I brought along the big camera and took a bunch of our nieces with their Easter baskets and hunting for eggs and playing Hide and Seek outside with Chloe. I love the first two pictures (above). Jake decided to lift Violet up by her overalls. And the one on the right of Chloe petting Emmie is so cute. She loves dogs.

Could Violet be any cuter? ;)

The little chicken on the right (below) actually lays little gum eggs. We all got a laugh out of that one.

We actually woke to snow on Easter morning, but by the afternoon it had warmed and the snow melted. The girls went outside and played. Love Scarlett’s “Found you!” shot on the right.

Love our family!

hello, monday

My posts usually go up earlier in the day, but we arrived home late this afternoon from a few days with Jake’s family, so I’m just now getting to my computer. Had a wonderful time with Mom and Dad O, Heather and the girls.

• Played games.
• Watched movies – Watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty for the second time. Have you seen that one? There is just something about it that I love. Beautifully shot and such a good story. Love it.
• Lots of chatting and laughing and catching up.
• Celebrated Chloe’s birthday (belated) and Jake’s birthday (early).
• The little girls had baskets of goodies on Easter morning.
• Had an egg hunt for all the kids.
• Enjoyed yummy meals and way too much candy.

It was such a nice time. We were sad to go, but so glad it worked out for us to visit.

On our way home, we stopped for lunch with Jeff (who wasn’t able to be there this weekend because of work) and the girls (yay! we got to see them again!), then a quick stop at IKEA to buy a desk for Zach that we’ve been promising him. We arrived home just in time to take Chloe to gymnastics practice. Busy day, but worth it.

I took a bunch of pictures of the little girls this weekend. Will share some tomorrow. :)

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

hello, monday

Last week was very long. Jake was away on a business trip, so it was just the kids and I all week. We went about our usual weekly schedule with the addition of me having to drive the kids to school (I’m so not a morning person!) and a couple of dentist appointments throw into the mix. I spent every waking moment working on the book and, by week’s end, was pretty much sick of my own words. I needed a couple days off.

• Friday after school, we went directly to my parents’ farm to color eggs and decorate cookies.

• Jake’s flight landed in mid-afternoon, so he was able to come straight to where we were and take part in the egg and cookie fun!

• The eggs got the minion treatment this year. Mom picked up a bunch of different eyeball stickers. We had fun making those.

• Zach decided to make one of the eggs be his dad. :D So funny seeing his little head peeking out from among the eggs. hehe.

• It was so good to have Jake home. We all missed him so.

• On Saturday, there was a big bike race going on here in town. Some of Jake’s friends were taking part, so they came here in the morning and hung out before the race, then Jake went downtown to take some pics and video as they were taking off.

• We had an early Easter dinner on Saturday back at my parents’ farm. It was the only day that worked out this year. We had ham, mashed potatoes and corn and lots of yummy dessert.

• After the meal, Jake taught my Mom and brothers how to play Settlers of Catan. They enjoyed it and ended up playing a couple games.

• I spent the afternoon at the opposite end of the table, listening to their Catan fun, while I signed bookmarks to promote the new book.

• Kind of a funny story … not from my perspective, but … The signatures seemed to dry nicely, but I touched one when my hand was a little sweaty and it smeared instantly. :( When I got home, I used rubbing alcohol to remove all of those signatures (So. Many. Signatures.) and re-signed them all. Didn’t want to waste $$. Being self-published, I don’t have a big publishing company behind me to cover marketing items, so I’ve gotta use my money wisely. Tossing a couple hundred bookmarks was not an option. Live and learn, I guess. ;)

• Baby in a box. My parents live in the midst of Amish country. While there on Friday, we saw the little Amish neighbor kids walking down the road with a wagon. Inside the wagon was a cardboard box and inside that box was their baby sister (not an infant, but I think less than 2 yrs. old) propped up, leaning against the side of the box. I’m always so worried about those kids because they are walking along a country road that vehicles tend to fly down at high speeds. They made it to wherever their destination was and back safely, because we saw the “baby in a box” again on Saturday. This time pulled by their father. :)

• I’m staring at my calendar right now and kind of in shock that Wednesday is April already. There is a little sense of panic setting in. My book’s official release date is May 19th, which gives me a little over a month and a half to get this baby ready. I’m very close to having all the editing done. It’s a process, that’s for sure. But I’ll be happy to check one more thing off my book “to do” list.

• Spring break begins at the end of this week. I can’t believe that either. The temps have been in the 30’s and 40’s here lately and I’m so wishing we were going on vacation to a warm climate. Not this year. :(

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

AJAXed with AWP