A Confessionary Tale, Part 2.

“All art is a confession.”
~Gaston Lachaise

I confess that: I’ve been meaning to write a new blog post for weeks now, but life just kept on getting in the way. The stress of December and January doesn’t seem to want to let up now that it’s February (erm, make that almost March — how did that happen?!), but I’m hoping things will calm down soon so I can get back to writing here on a regular basis.

I confess that: I’m spending most of my free time these days with Jasper. After another stasis episode last weekend – even though everyone was so hopeful that the dental work would fix the issue – I really thought I was going to totally lose it. There doesn’t seem to be an answer for why this keeps happening, and that drives me crazy, because all I want is for my little guy to feel good always. Fingers crossed that was the last time he has to deal with GI stasis, ever.

I confess that: I was all set to start drafting my new book this week, but that it got put on hold for next week instead. Between a snowstorm and several nights of sleeping on the sofa, waking up every couple hours to check on the bun bun, I knew it wasn’t the right time to jump into a new story adventure. I want my head and heart to be fully in it, because I am so excited about this project. I’ve spent the past month planning out Melina and Bradley’s story – figured out last Friday that there’s actually a mystery involved! – and can’t wait to hang out in their world. It’s one of politics and patriotism, and I think it’s going to be so fun to explore.

I confess that: I like the snow, but I am getting supremely tired of the ridiculous cold weather we’ve had this winter. It’s so freezing that it literally hurts. The predicted wind chill this morning was -32. That is just not cool (well, actually, it’s downright frigid, but you know what I mean).

I confess that: I would love nothing more right now than to be at the shore. Even if it’s only for a day, even if all I can do is sit in a room and look outside … I am craving the thought of being seaside. Since that’s not possible, I look at pictures instead and pretend that I can hear the waves as they gently tumble against the coastline.

I confess that: I have been counting down the days until Madam Secretary returns on March 1st. It has quickly become one of my absolute favorite shows, and I’m so glad it was renewed for a second season! That show is actually part of why I decided to go with my politics book next, out of my whole list of choices, because it just makes me so excited to write about that unique atmosphere.

I confess that: I took a chance on buying nail polish at the dollar store (to say money is tight right now would be an understatement, and it was a brand I’d heard of before, so I figured it was worth a try) and really regret it. It stained my nails so badly that I had to put on two coats of another polish to cover it up, and you can still see the other color poking through in spots. Guess I’m going to have teal tinted nails for quite awhile. Lesson learned.

I confess that: I check my email way too many times throughout the day. You’d think that querying would be less anxiety-inducing after all these years, but nope. My heart still skips a beat whenever that inbox updates.

I confess that: I wish there was a switch to shut off my brain sometimes. It is constantly whirling, spinning, tumbling these days, and it’d be so nice to just zone out for a bit. I can’t wait for the weather to get warmer so I can start going for long walks again, because that’s my time to just let it be … to just let myself be.

I confess that: I’m kind of tempted to go to Rita’s Water Ice for their seasonal opening today, even though it’s currently 16 degrees out. Since I don’t want to freeze my insides, I think I’ll stay home and go for some hot cocoa instead.

Your turn! What do you confess?

Since I Last Posted …

“May your new ideas feel like sunrise.”
~Danielle LaPorte

(I imagine that title being sung to the tune of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone.” Is her song now stuck in your head like it is in mine? You’re welcome.)

I truly didn’t intend to go two and a half weeks without posting, but somehow the days have just been whizzing by. It’s strange, because time also seems to be moving quite slowly. It’s a bizarre juxtaposition that I can’t quite figure out. Today is a snow day, though, a sort of wrinkle in time, and I’m glad for the chance to sit down and catch up. Here’s what I’ve been up to since I last posted:

* Keeping a very, very, very close eye on the bunny boy. Jasper had another stasis episode two weeks ago – thankfully the most mild of the three, and the wonderful director of the bunny rescue happened to be around the corner from my home at the time, so she dropped everything to come help out. I couldn’t possibly be more grateful for her kindness. It happened during the week this time, so I was able to take Jasper to his regular vet, who suggested dental work to trim two of his teeth. They’d gotten a bit long, and since that often contributes to stasis in rabbits, we scheduled the procedure for the following Tuesday. It was such a nerve-wracking day, sitting by the phone and waiting for them to call with an update. Jasper did great, but it took him a couple days to feel like himself again after the anesthesia. I just hated to see him so sad and out of sorts. He didn’t want to do much of anything at first, not even eat, so I ended up staying up with him almost all night and hand-feeding him hay one piece at a time. Exhausting as it was, I’d do anything for my furry little love. He’s since returned to binkying and happy-flopping – his new favorite place to do that is between my feet, which melts my heart! – and I’m praying that this is the end of the stasis problem for a long time to come.

* Starting to plan my new book! This has been interrupted on more than one occasion, mostly due to needing to keep a constant watch on the bun bun, but I’ve been having such a good time with it so far. I mostly have general ideas jotted down as of now, and I also did a full character sketch of my new MC (or possibly one of two new MCs – I’m toying around with the idea of doing another dual POV story) Melina. I’m really excited about her. She’s spunky and confident, determined and passionate about making the world a better place. There are so many hidden layers to her, though, and it’s going to be fun watching them unravel – and, hopefully, finding a way to be tie them together in a new design. I’ve wanted to incorporate political science into a story for a long time now (Melina works as a staff member for a candidate running for election), and I can’t wait to dive into writing this. I have another two weeks or so of planning first, but then it’ll be drafting time again. I’m already so eager to type, type, type!

* Revisiting WATERCOLORS. Another reason I had to put a temporary hold on the new project is that I’ve spent this week back in Eden’s world. I’ve been doing some extra research so I can add a new scene to the book. It’s been awhile since I got to hang out with Eden, and maybe this sounds corny, but in a way it really is like going home. I think that’s one of the things I love most about writing, that it allows me to carve out memories in so many different places. If I ever go to Atlanta again, it’ll remind me of Sofie, Brandon, and their kids. The Jersey shore will bring Charlotte and Nolan to mind, and Nantucket – because somehow, some way, someday, I will get to Nantucket – will make me think of Remi and Eli. Nashville is for Eden and all the people who fill her life with song. Physically, Pennsylvania is home, but how lucky am I to have a piece of my heart in so many wonderful places across the country? Writing has done that for me, and I’m so grateful.

* Learning how to put together a newsletter. I’m taking over the bi-monthly newsletter for Luv-N-Bunns, the rescue I adopted Jasper from, and am so excited about it! I met with the woman who’s been writing it for the last year and a half so she could teach me the program and show me the ropes, and as soon as I’m finished with these new revisions for WATERCOLORS, I’m going to jump in and start working on the first of the two February editions of the newsletter. I’m hoping to add a feature that highlights a bunny who’s been adopted … anyone want to guess which rabbit will be the first in the spotlight? :)

* Enjoying the snow! After the insanity of last winter, this one has been fairly calm in terms of precipitation. We didn’t get much measurable snow at all, in fact, until this past weekend. The huge storm that was supposed to hit us last night ended up switching tracks, so we only got an additional four inches or so, but it was still beautiful to watch. I even went out to take a short walk this morning while the flakes were still falling from the sky and floating around like a real-life snow globe.

How about you guys? What have you been up to lately?

Let It Out.

“Do it with passion or not at all.”

It has been a tough few weeks.

Anyone who knows me knows that I always try my best to be optimistic, to search for the ray of light in the darkness and the glimmer of positivity hidden amidst the challenges. But this past month or so … it has been one thing after another. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, then you know that one of those things has been my sweet bunny boy. GI stasis is a relatively common issue in rabbits – basically, they develop a blockage that prevents their digestive tract from functioning properly – and if not caught quickly, it can have dire consequences. So when, right before our family Hanukkah party, I noticed that Jasper was just kind of moping around and refusing to eat anything, even his favorite foods, I leapt into action. It was a Sunday, which meant his regular vet was closed, so off to the emergency vet we rushed, my poor little guy huddled in his carrier and his Ma terrified beyond belief. And when the doctor confirmed my suspicions? I nearly lost it. I did lose it when the vet tech got ready to take Jasper back to be admitted. He’d have to stay at least overnight, maybe longer, and I was a ball of nerves – fright and sadness and anxiety all rolled into one. The tech was kind enough to wait a minute so I could say goodbye to Jasper for the night, and, well … I sobbed. Huge tears. Crocodile tears. Tears that gushed down my face and inside my coat. I literally could not control it. It was so bad that the tech actually left the carrier with me on the exam table while she searched the room for tissues to give me. In the moment, I didn’t care. My only focus was on Jasper. On the drive home, though, I thought about how ridiculous I must have looked, bawling my eyes out like that in front of a stranger. But when I went back to visit Jasper the next day, the tech couldn’t have been sweeter. And I realized something: showing such deep emotion isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t something to be ashamed of or embarrassed by. It’s the opposite.

Despite me watching him practically 24/7 and doing everything in my power to take care of him, my Jaspy unfortunately had another stasis episode last weekend, and, again, I melted down while trying to get him into his carrier to go back to the vet. This time, though, I made no apologies. I was less of a mess when dropping him off, but only because I knew what to expect this time and inherently trusted that he’d get the same wonderful care. He’s home again now, thank goodness, he has been since Monday, and I’ve adjusted his diet and bought a fancy new brush called the Furminator (because that’s one of the causes of stasis, when the bunny ingests too much fur while grooming, which is what the vet thinks happened with my boy) to hopefully avoid him ever having to go through this again. Knowing he was in pain broke my heart. Having to leave him temporarily shattered me. How could I not have cried? That bunny hopped his way into my world and I never looked back. I love him more than words can say, and so, even though I felt like a fool after that first breakdown, I also understand it. We cry, we smile, we cheer, we sing and dance and clap (all of which I’ve done since Jasper has been home, because I am just so thrilled and relieved to see him back to his energetic, mischievous, binkying self) because we care. We should never censor that. Caring is a good thing. A wonderful thing.

That got me thinking: the same is true for writing. I talk so much on here about how querying is a roller-coaster ride, but in actuality, the climbs and drops begin way before that. From the very moment I crack open a fresh journal to start planning a new book, my heart is in it completely. I become invested in my characters and their stories. When they hurt, I hurt. When they make bad choices, I feel for them. And when they triumph over the odds, I swell with pride. Sometimes, when the words don’t flow easily or the plot seems to smack against a brick wall, I get so frustrated. I want to scream, or flip the lid of my laptop closed, or reach into the screen and ask the characters for help. That’s the thing about writing: it is full of highs and lows. They are tied together, a delicate balance we perhaps don’t even realize we’re weaving, and it’s probably impossible to have one without the other. But, again, I’m really coming to learn that this is actually a positive. That I feel so much because I adore these book babies. One of my favorite things about writing is watching a character grow. I love when they put their hearts on the line, when they stand up for what they believe in and fight to make their own luck. I love when their emotions flow from their souls to mine. So why shouldn’t I love it when the opposite happens?

I’m not going to be apologetic anymore for wearing my heart on my sleeve. Sometimes we all need to keep things inside, but letting it out is so cathartic. I needed to cry when my Jaspy boy was sick. I needed to get frustrated with my last book, because that pushed me to rework it, to revise it four times, and to be truly proud of the finished version. I’m starting to plan a new novel next week – more on that soon! – and, I know, I will need to get emotional over that story, just as I have with all those that came before it.

I will let my feelings show, and I’ll be okay with that. But hey, Universe? I’ll also be okay with you chilling out now. Sometimes peace and happiness are awesome emotions to feel, too.

Best Books, 2014.

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.”
~Neil Gaiman

It’s time for one of my favorite annual posts — my “best of books” for 2014! I always look forward to compiling this list each December. There’s something special about having the chance to reflect back on all the stories that have touched my heart over the past twelve months, the characters and anecdotes that have resonated far beyond their pages. It’s proof, I think, that each book holds a world of possibility and a twinkle of magic somewhere inside its spine — and inside its words. And so, without further ado, here are some of my favorites from this year:

The Baker's DaughterMemoirs of an Imaginary FriendYou Knew Me When

Catching AirYes PleaseThe Longest Ride

The Baker’s Daughter – Sarah McCoy: I’ve written about this book before, so you already know how much I adore it. Even though I read this story back in April, I’m being completely honest when I tell you that it still runs through my mind often. Reba and Elsie, they are the kind of characters you root for. The kind of characters you care about. The kind of characters that inspire you. I have a soft spot for books that feature a dual narrative, and it was such a joy to hear not only about Reba’s and Elsie’s individual journeys – in present-day Texas and WWII era Germany, respectively – but also about the one they forged together after Reba visits Elsie’s German Bakery to interview its owner. The lessons she learns are profound, and the feelings this beautiful story evokes are the kind that positively fill you up as a reader.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend – Matthew Dicks: I was absolutely captivated by this book. It is so special, so clever, so tender and enlightening and poignant. It’s different from the type of story I normally read, but oh my gosh, you guys, I couldn’t put it down for anything. I sped through it faster than any other book this year, because I simply had to know what happened next for sweet, creative, brave little Max and his imaginary friend Budo. Watching them both come into their own, seeing them grow and spread their wings … it’s a gift for the reader. This might be a story about a child, but when you look at the world through his eyes – and through the eyes of the imaginary friend who pushes him to have more courage than he even thought possible – I promise, you’ll learn a lot about your own world, too.

You Knew Me When – Emily Liebert: This book has been on my to-read list for a long time, and I’m so glad I finally dove into its pages this year. I truly loved every word. This is a story about life and love, but mostly it’s a story about friendship. Getting to watch as Katherine and Laney’s friendship grows – they meet when Katherine moves two doors down from Laney as an eleven-year-old – and then dissolves when a massive roadblock wedges its way into the journey of their sisterhood, it is a treat. Emily does such a lovely job of writing about both the past and present, and tying them together in meaningful ways. I was rooting for Katherine and Laney from start to finish, and I adored the presence of the neighbor who lived between them. Luella was an important part of the girls’ past, and I love that, even though she’s passed away, she gave them one final gift — a hope for their future.

Catching Air – Sarah Pekkanen: For those of you who have been reading my blog over the years, it’ll come as no surprise that Sarah’s on this list. She is every year, because her books are the kind that take us directly into her characters’ homes … hopes … hearts. This story is one of my favorites of all of hers. It’s such fun to join Kira, Peter, Alyssa, and Rand as they open a B&B in Vermont — to see them not only navigate the ups-and-downs of this new business venture, but also the ups-and-downs of their personal lives, including the possibility of adding not one, but two little heartbeats into the fold. And then there’s Dawn, the woman who seeks shelter in their bed and breakfast. These characters are so real, so true. One of my favorite things about Sarah’s books is that they invite you in and let you experience their magic. That’s exactly what happened here, and it left me feeling inspired to catch some air of my own.

Yes Please – Amy Poehler: This is, hands down, one of my favorite memoirs I’ve ever read. Amy’s book is full of humor and wit, but also grace and intelligence. I’m not exaggerating when I say I had six different passages bookmarked within the first two chapters. Hearing about Amy’s life, about her plethora of amazing experiences, was so cool, but what I loved most was her insight into the writing world and her advice on saying “yes, please” to a life full of inspiration. She is strong, she is determined, she is confident … but she’s also not afraid to admit when she’s wrong, to acknowledge that there will always be so much more to learn. I listened to her words of wisdom in the audiobook version, and if you guys like those at all, I highly recommend it. Amy narrates the book herself, and there are some special extras thrown in, too. It adds another dimension, because not only is Amy a wonderful writer, but also a fabulous storyteller.

The Longest Ride – Nicholas Sparks: Would you believe this was my first Nicholas Sparks novel? It won’t be my last, though! This is another dual perspective book, the story alternating between Ira – an elderly man who has gotten into a car accident and is relying on a lifetime of memories with his dear wife Ruth to keep him holding on – and Luke and Sophia, the couple who find his car off the side of the road. Ira’s sections, in particular, had me spellbound. What a fantastic character Nicholas created in him, and oh my gosh, what a heartwarming love story he had with Ruth. It’s the kind of bond that brings tears to your eyes. And when the two stories intertwine at the end? It’s in such a fitting, beautiful way. I’ve stayed away from Nicholas’ books in the past because I know they often have sad endings, but this one was different. There was hope woven through every page, love threaded through every word.

Okay, now it’s your turn: what are your favorite books of 2014?

Don’t Let the Light Go Out.

“Light one candle for all we believe in
That anger not tear us apart
And light one candle to bind us together
With peace as the song in our hearts.”
~Peter, Paul, and Mary, “Light One Candle”


For as long as I can remember, Hanukkah has been one of my favorite holidays. There’s a warmth to it, a peace and joy, that fills my heart and lifts my soul. I have so many wonderful memories of lighting the menorah with my family, holding tight to the rainbow of ridged candles and watching as their flames danced from one to the other. Of spinning dreidels, giggling as they whirled around in a blur of color before tumbling to the floor with one of the four Hebrew letters facing up. Of seeing the smiles on people’s faces as they opened gifts, of excitedly tearing open my own, of gathering around the table during our family party to eat pizza, latkes, and doughnuts. Hanukkah is togetherness. It’s family. It’s love. It’s hope and faith and belief. It’s light.

And it’s a teacher, too. Here’s what the Festival of Lights always reminds me:

Miracles can happen, if we only believe in them enough. That oil in the menorah so long ago? It was only enough to last for one day, but its flame stayed steady for eight, until more could be found. So often today, we hear about the negative. All we have to do is turn on the television, pick up a newspaper, or scan the headlines online, and it’s enough to knock the wind out of us. This week, especially, the news has been particularly hard to take. And hearing about all these things … well, I don’t know about you guys, but it’s enough to make me want to lock the door and stay inside the house sometimes. But there are wonderful stories, too. Heartwarming ones. There are stories about holiday miracles, like the homeless man who wanted a family for Thanksgiving and got one. Stories about those who dedicate countless time and effort to help others, both people and animals, like the amazing bunny rescue I got Jasper from – they’ve found homes for nearly two hundred rabbits this year! Good is happening out there, too. And no, maybe we won’t all get the miracles we’re wishing for this season, but who knows? Maybe we will.

We can overcome the odds with strength and determination. The odds were stacked against the Maccabees all those years ago. Their temple had been seized. They were in hiding. They had many, many battles to fight. But they didn’t give up. They got that temple back and rededicated it. How many of us can relate? We all have our own battles, big and small. We all have our moments of wanting to give up, to give in. But if we keep pushing, keep listening to our hearts and following our whispers, who knows what we can achieve? I’d like to think it’s something far greater than we can even imagine.

A little light goes a long way. That light shimmered bright as the stars in the temple, even when it wasn’t supposed to anymore. The flicker held strong in the darkness. Something I’ve learned: for me, that light is my family and friends. It’s the people who offer a hand when I’ve stumbled, the ones who are there for me unconditionally, whether it’s to listen, to give advice and support, or just to spend time together, either in person or via technology. You guys are my light. Is that corny? Maybe, but it’s true. When I’m feeling down, all I have to do is think of the truly special people in my life and it brings back a glow. One light begets another. One flame helps the next grow. One person can help another in such important ways.

These are the things I remember when I look at the menorah now. Happy Hanukkah to everyone celebrating, and Chag Sameach!

Wordless Wednesday: From My iPod.

“Always remember to fall asleep with a dream and wake up with a purpose.”

Thank you all so very much for your support, encouragement, and sweet words on my last post. It’s appreciated more than I can say, and truly does help. You all are the best, and I <3 you — so much so, in fact, that I'm going to subject you to more bunny pictures. Hee. Apologies if you've already seen some of these on Instagram and Twitter. My furry BFF has taken over my iPod these days, but I do manage to snap a few other photos, too.

Hmm, maybe I'll give this writing thing a try. It always looks like fun when Ma does it. Perhaps a book series about a bunny?

Hmm, maybe I’ll give this writing thing a try. It always looks like fun when Ma does it. Perhaps a book series about a bunny?

Jasper's getting to be a pro at the selfie.

Jasper’s getting to be a pro at the selfie.

Who needs turkey on Thanksgiving when you can have hot chocolate instead?

Who needs turkey on Thanksgiving when you can have hot chocolate instead?

I got a Jamberry gift certificate for my birthday and ordered some awesome designs.    First time using it and I'm already in love.

I got a Jamberry gift certificate for my birthday and ordered some awesome designs. First time using it and I’m already in love.

Pondering the great, wide world.

Pondering the great, wide world.

It's always a joy to visit with Nancy. Of all the GH fan events, hers are among my very favorites.

It’s always a joy to visit with Nancy. Of all the GH fan events, hers are among my very favorites.

Music is power. Music is hope. Music is inspiration. Grateful for these songs which speak to my soul and remind it to keep on trying.

Music is power. Music is hope. Music is inspiration. Grateful for these songs which speak to my soul and remind it to keep on trying.

And a quick video, because what’s cuter than a bunny binky?

Enough is Enough.

“Sometimes the key to making progress is to recognize how to take that very first step. Then you start your journey. You hope for the best and you stick with it: day in, day out. Even if you’re tired, even if you want to walk away, you don’t. Because you are a pioneer. But nobody ever said it’d be easy.”
~Grey’s Anatomy

Enough is enough.

It’s a statement of strength, a declaration of clarity. Enough is enough; I’m putting my foot down. Enough is enough; I’m taking control of my destiny. Enough is enough; I’m choosing to travel down another path.

Those thoughts have all floated through my mind multiple times since I dove head-first into the querying process almost five years ago. Five years. That’s a long time, friends. It’s a long time to ride the roller-coaster, your hopes soaring sky-high as the cart inches up and then plummeting back down to the ground as you enter the steep drop. It’s a long time to put your work out there, your babies out there, your heart and soul out there, knowing full well that it’s making you vulnerable in such an emotional way. And there have been wonderful moments, to be sure. There have been requests that etched a perma-smile on my face and feedback, both from agents and loved ones, that filled me up with pure joy. But there have also been not-so-wonderful moments. There have been form rejections and no responses at all. There have been emails that made me want to curl up under the covers and hide away from the world. There have been tears. Lots of tears, more than I’d like to admit. So many times, I’ve been tempted to give up. Enough is enough. Something you love so deeply shouldn’t, in turn, bring about all this hurt. It’s not right. It’s like Eden, my most recent MC, says: “Sometimes inspiration doesn’t matter. Sometimes we can wish with all our hearts, work day in and day out to create the lives we yearn for, and still, it doesn’t happen. Reality isn’t like a song, or a book, or a movie, and happily-ever-after doesn’t always exist. When we realize that, maybe it’s best not to push it. Trying to fit a square peg into a round hole just ends up chipping off its corners.”

That’s where I was on Friday, after a particularly heart-wrenching week in the querying world, and, to a point, where I still am now. It’s where I’ve been before. And, I know, it’s where I’ll be again. Because even though I sat myself down on Friday and really, truly considered giving up, that just isn’t a possibility. When I think of not jumping into all the stories still on my to-write list, it makes me so sad. When I think of abandoning the characters who have already become such a part of me, it leaves me feeling empty. When I think of a life without writing … honestly, it’s unimaginable. Literally, I can’t fathom it. So I remind myself this:

If I’d given up after the first rejection, I’d never have gotten a partial or full request. If I’d given up after the first book queried, I’d never have written five others. If I’d given up after it felt like the publishing part was draining the happiness from the writing part, I’d never have gotten to work on the project that filled me with pure, unadulterated passion and delight. If I’d given up when a draft was particularly challenging, I’d never have seen how rewarding the revision process can be. If I’d given up after the form rejections, I’d never have gotten the ones that, even though they were ultimately a “no,” still made my heart sing. If I’d given up all those times, I’d never be the writer, and person, I am today. And if I give up now? Who knows what I’ll miss out on?

Despite the countless hours of work, I’m not where I want to be yet. Not by a long shot. There’s so much more I want to do, and I feel limited a lot. I can’t share my stories with everyone yet. I can’t invite the real world into my characters’ worlds. I can’t call myself a published author. I can’t buy extravagant or expensive holiday gifts, because devoting so much time to making this writing dream a reality doesn’t exactly help my bank account. I can’t donate to all the charities I want to, and I can’t adopt more than one bunny, because I just can’t afford the added expense right now. I can’t.

Enough is enough. And that’s okay.

Because maybe I can’t do it all, but I can do something. I can’t rescue all the bunnies, but I can give Jasper a warm, good home where he feels safe and loved after a life that didn’t start out that way. I couldn’t write a large check for Giving Tuesday last week, but I could donate a small amount to three of my favorite charities. I can’t fix all the horrible things that have been in the news lately, but I can make myself aware and educated. I can’t get my book babies out there yet, but I can share them with a smaller circle and let their feedback be what I focus on, what I let buoy me up when it feels like I might drown. I can do what I can, with what I have, and I can recognize that, for now, that’s alright. All we can do is our best. All we can try is our hardest. That’s enough. We’re enough. It’s tough to believe that sometimes, especially when it feels like the world is telling us otherwise, but I’m going to try. I’m going to try really, really hard. I hope you all will, too.

Because sometimes enough truly is enough.

26 Reasons to be Thankful.

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
~Melody Beattie

Today, and every day, I am filled with gratitude for an alphabet of blessings. Some are big; others are small. Some are common; others are unique. Some create a framework; others create a patchwork. All bring happiness and color to my life; all make me come alive. I hope the same is true for y’all – that whatever you’re giving thanks for this holiday, it brings a smile to your face and joy to your heart.

It was tough to narrow down this last, really tough, and I love that. Because, truly, twenty-six letters will never be enough to express my appreciation. Let me try, though:

Animals that make our lives better and more fulfilling. Books that transport us into their beautiful worlds and resound with a glittery kind of magic. Charities that provide so much help, in so many ways, for those who need it most. Daydreams and wishes that light our creativity on fire and turn those sparks into brilliant flames. Empathy that allows us to treat others with kindness in a world where there is, too often, not enough of that to go around. Friends and family who support me unconditionally and make my life so much more special, just by being in it. Good health, which will forever be the most important thing. Hot chocolate and hot chicken soup, which not only warm my body, but also my memories. Imagination, which lets me travel to places I’ve never seen and discover things I’ve never experienced. Jasper, my furry little love, who has brought more happiness and companionship to my life over these past two months than I even thought possible. Knitting and crocheting – not because I have any talent in either, but because Gram did and that means I get to have her with me always, just by grazing a hand over one of the blankets she made for me. Lunch notes from my mom – twelve school years’ worth, all of which make me smile whenever I reread them. Music and song lyrics that speak to the soul and remind us we’re not alone.

Nantucket, which has inspired several of my books and given me a place to dream of visiting one day. Ordinary moments that are extraordinary in their own right. Photographs that are freeze-frames in time and let us relive “moments like this” all over again. Qualified and compassionate doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers, and teachers, all of whom impact countless lives with their work. Reading – not only books and news articles, but also the letters, emails, IMs, social media posts, and text messages that let me keep in touch with friends who might be far in distance, but never in thought. Shelters, both for people and animals, that offer a warm place to stay, loving care, and a voice for those who are trying to find their own. Television shows like General Hospital and American Idol, which have given me endless hours of entertainment, and, more importantly, friendships that will last a lifetime. Uniqueness – because life would be awfully boring if we were all the same. Ventnor, New Jersey, the place where I spent two weeks every summer growing up, the place that will always remind me of Grandmom Dot and Pop Joe, and the place I’ll always love with all my heart. Writing – my passion that only continues to grow and has gifted me with the most amazing experiences, getting to create stories in my head and meet the characters who write their journeys into my own, and also the most amazing people, a writing community that is, quite simply put, wonderful beyond words. Xylophones, guitars, drums, flutes, and all the other instruments that bring a melody to our everyday lives and make them hum with a new tune. You – all of you who are reading this, thank you for being in my life and changing it for good. Zealousness, because enthusiasm brightens every day.

That’s my alphabet of blessings. What’s yours?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Wishing you all the most beautiful holiday! XOXO.

Tuesday’s Tunes: On Repeat.

“Put my heart where my head should be
And light up the rest of me
‘Cause the dreams
They won’t fall apart
Through the stars, through the stars
When your life is a work of art.”
~Rachel Platten, “Work of Art”

Wow, it’s been forever and a day since my last Tuesday’s Tunes post. That’s partially because of WATERCOLORS – when I’m working on a book, I tend to listen to its playlist repeatedly and focus mainly on those songs – and also because it’s been a long time, too long, since I bought any albums. The good news? Some of my favorite singers have released new music within the past couple months, which means there are fresh melodies twirling through my mind and inspiring my soul. Here are a few of them:

“Work of Art” and “Fight Song” – Rachel Platten: Okay, I can’t choose just one song from Rachel, because I’ve been listening to both of these every day lately. She released the first one a couple years ago, and “Fight Song” is new. Both are wonderful. Both are inspiring. Both are special. These songs seep into the crevices of your heart and make it beat with added hope and faith. In fact, they’ve become the soundtrack to my life as of late, as I navigate the roller-coaster that is querying two books simultaneously. There are days when I’m on top of the world and days when I want to scream in frustration, but no matter what, these songs remind me to keep going, keep persevering, keep fighting for what I believe in.

“Trouble” – Didi Benami: Didi was my favorite on American Idol back in 2010, and she just released her debut album Reverie in September. It’s a fabulous collection of insightful, evocative music that works its way into your head and refuses to leave. There’s a whimsy to Didi’s lyrics and her voice, and it really sets her apart. “Trouble” is one of the singles from her new album, and it does an awesome job of showing how unique her music is.

“Universe Electric” – Angie Miller: Angie is another Idol favorite, and I just love her debut EP Weathered. It’s hard to pick which song I like best – so many are awesome – but if I had to choose, it’d be “Universe Electric.” Not only is it catchy, but it has such a great message about us all joining together to turn a spark into a flame. Angie is always telling her supporters to “dream big,” and that sense of hope and optimism definitely comes through not only in this song, but in the whole album.

“I Was Here” – Kristin Chenoweth: I was so excited when I heard that Kristin was releasing a live album. It was such a special experience to attend her concert in February, and now I get to relive it every time I listen to Coming Home! My favorite song on the album is “I Was Here,” not only because it’s the theme song for two of my characters, but also because it’s mine. It’s the kind of song that builds you up and gives you wings … the kind of song that makes you want to fly. Kristin explains why she loves it, too, in this video.

What songs do you have on repeat lately?