Between Heaven and Earth

26301710It’s another book birthday! To celebrate I am sitting at my computer, eating a Dole Whip (alas, not at Disneyland unfortunately) and thinking about some of my favorite scenes in Between Heaven and Earth. This Power of the Matchmaker book was a challenge to write–a fine line to walk with the characters and the all too realistic situations they faced.

I’ve heard from readers already that some are leery to pick this story up, worried that they’ll encounter characters who cross a line they wouldn’t. While I cannot answer for everyone’s personal values, I can assure you that this book holds true to my own. It’s a clean romance about two adults facing some incredibly difficult situations–situations that ultimately (along with the Matchmaker, Miss Pearl) bring them together. But–and here is the key–only after keeping them apart.

To give you a hint of what I’m talking about, I’m sharing one of my favorite scenes today. It’s one that marks a turning point in Matt and Cassie’s relationship, where each realize that the friendship they have could be so much more, if only they would allow it. Starting you mid scene, here’s the background.

Matt feels he’s floundering quite a bit as a parent. He wasn’t around much before his wife died, and he’s paying for it in spades now, as he tries to care for his two little boys. When the youngest gets sent home from preschool with lice (see what serious romance material awaits you!), he’s more than a little freaked out and calls Cassie for help. She comes to his rescue, and after treating the boys and then leaving them in her mother’s care, Matt and Cassie head to his apartment for more lice control. It’s the first time they’ve been alone together, and unromantic as the situation is, they quickly realize it needs to be the last time they’re alone.

 

“I wanted to preserve something of our old home, something of Jenna’s,” Matt said. “I got the idea that the bedroom would be the place to do it. You know.” He shrugged then walked past Cassie into the room. “This is the furniture and bedding she picked out. That’s the nightstand where she kept her water glass and jewelry at night. The pictures of us—” All traces of lightheartedness fled his expression, replaced by a bleakness so encompassing that Matt dropped to the bed, sitting hunched over as if weary. “The pictures are to remind me of what could have been.”

“What do you mean?” Cassie took a step closer, concerned with the change that had come over him. She knew Matt well enough to recognize his tone of self-recrimination. “There’s nothing you could have done to stop her aneurysm. It’s just one of those things that happened.” For all the times she’d heard such lame sentiments herself, Cassie couldn’t quite believe she was feeding them to someone else now.

“I couldn’t have stopped it,” Matt agreed, “but we could have lived more before it happened. There should be a lot more pictures on these walls.” His hand swept the room, over the dozen or so framed photos that made up his wife’s shrine. “I wasn’t always the best husband.”

“I find that very hard to believe.” Cassie came farther into the room, then sat on the end of the bed, a few feet from where Matt still sat hunched forward, elbows braced on his legs.

“I was caught up in my career and justified it in the name of providing for my family.”

“I imagine that’s something a lot of men do,” Cassie said, strangely relieved to find that was his definition of not being the best husband.

“I don’t want to be like a lot of men,” Matt said vehemently. “I shouldn’t have been. I should have been an attentive husband who loved and appreciated his wife more.”

“But you weren’t, or you think you weren’t,” Cassie clarified. “So you’ve put up all these pictures as a sort of continued self-flogging?”

He didn’t answer, so Cassie stood and walked to the head of the intricately carved four-poster bed and the matching nightstand that held a close up of Matt’s wife. She picked up the photo and returned to the foot of the bed, this time sitting slightly closer to Matt.

“She’s very beautiful,” Cassie said, admiring the picture of the smiling, blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman.

“Jenna was beautiful. Inside and out.”

Was. The word struck Cassie’s core. Jenna was never coming back. Matt would never hold his wife again. They’d never have another chance to talk or laugh or make love. There was no hope for recovering the past he’d lost. Cassie’s heart physically ached for him as she tried to imagine how awful that must be. She could still have all those opportunities again. Devon would return to her. Life would go on, happier than it was right now. She just had to be patient and try to do her best during this difficult time.

Part of that best can be helping Matt. Maybe that was the reason she had to wait a little longer for Devon to wake up and come back to her. If he were awake now, she wouldn’t be here with Matt. The possibility brought a sharp and conflicted pain to her chest. She certainly wasn’t wishing for Devon to remain as he was. But since he had… well, she could only feel grateful for having Matt in her life, and not just because he could fix things for her.

Maybe I can fix this one big thing for him.

“How old are you, Matt?”

He turned sideways to look at her, question in his eyes. “Thirty-four. Why?”

“The average life span in the United States is somewhere around eighty years now, isn’t it?” Cassie mused. “Another forty-six years is a long time to be alone, don’t you think?”

“What is it you’re suggesting?”

She wasn’t quite sure. She was sort of making this up as she went, but she hadn’t forgotten everything she learned in school. She relied on that training now, along with the sincere desire to help him.

“Keep all of these pictures up for now but give yourself a deadline for when they need to come down.” Cassie stood and, starting with the pictures on the wall, studied the couple in each. The first two photos showed a younger Matt, dressed as he did now, in jeans and an untucked shirt, but the farther she moved around the room, the more the photos changed. Jenna’s hair was perfectly styled, and she wore more jewelry. Matt’s shirts were tucked in and accompanied by ties and jackets. The locations changed from places like the beach to fancier venues.

“Events through my employer,” Matt said, as if he’d heard her unspoken question. “NBA stuff.”

“Do you miss it?” Cassie asked.

“Not as much as I thought I would.”

She heard the revelation in his voice and turned to see that his face mirrored the discovery of his statement.

“It was an exciting life,” Matt said, “but I was missing out on the real excitement.”

“Like head lice.” Cassie grinned.

“Exactly.” Matt laughed.

She turned back to the photos and finally placed the one in her hand on the nightstand again.

“As you were saying…” Matt prompted.

Good. He wanted to hear this. He wanted to feel better. She’d learned during her internship that there were people who, oddly enough, didn’t want to get better but preferred to remain miserable, though Matt had never struck her as that type.

“Keep all of these up for now,” Cassie repeated, “but give yourself a deadline for when they need to come down. Maybe by the one year anniversary of Jenna’s death. When is that?”

“January.” Matt was looking down again.

“All right.” Cassie surged forward with her plan. “In January, I will come and help you take these down if you’d like, or you can do it gradually over the next few months. That might be better. You can keep one out, maybe this one.” She glanced again at the picture on the nightstand. “And the boys ought to have a photo of their mother in their room or readily available to them, too.”

“So I take the pictures down, then what?”

His interest encouraged her. “With each picture you take down, you have to forgive yourself for something with your relationship with Jenna, something from the past. You need to say it out loud and literally pack it up for good, put it in the box with the picture and tell yourself that it’s in the past. That part of your life is done. Unfortunately, none of us get a do-over.”

Even Cassie realized she wasn’t going to get that. Devon would never be able to live the first five years of Noah’s life. They couldn’t have those lost years back, but they could at least go forward together, just as Matt needed to move forward.

“What we get is a ‘do better.’” That’s pretty good. Her education was kicking in now, filling her with excitement and ideas. “With each picture you remove, you should put up a new one of a memory with you and Austin and Asher, of the things you’ll be doing with them between now and then. These will be your doing better photos.” Instead of punishing himself, Matt would see his successes and the happiness he could have with his boys now. “Along with putting the pictures and the past away, you need to make some long term plans for the future.”

“I did,” Matt said. “I sold our house, bought a new car, got a new job, moved.”

What more could you ask? she imagined him thinking. She was going to ask anyway, going to push him a bit.

“What about pursuing a new wife?”

His gaze was sharp as he turned his head to her again. This time he sat up so they met eye-to-eye.

“You think it’s that easy?”

“I didn’t say anything about it being easy or hard or anything else,” Cassie said. “I just asked you to consider it. You’ve got two little boys to raise, and you’ve got your whole life ahead of you.” What is with the trite phrases tonight? “You could make some woman very happy, and you could be happy, too.”

“I’m happy now.”

“Liar.” The word was out before she realized it. Cassie clapped a hand to her mouth as she uttered an apology. “I didn’t mean that. You’re not a liar.”

“Any more than you are, at any rate.” Matt looked at her appraisingly. “I’d say we’re both pretty good at pretending, though you’ve had a few more years than I have to perfect the deception.”

“Some things make me very happy,” Cassie said defensively. “Like Noah. I love being his mom. We have a lot of fun together.”

“And yet…” Matt prodded.

Cassie shrugged. “Okay, so the nights are bad. I miss Devon. I’m lonely. And sad. A lot.” She released a breath and looked away, not quite believing she’d just told him so much, so easily. How had this conversation been turned toward her problems? This was supposed to be about helping Matt.

“I know you feel all those same things,” Cassie said. “The difference is you have the choice to move on. I get that you’re still grieving right now, and dating probably sounds terrifying.” It did to her. She could only feel grateful that wasn’t her problem. “But you don’t have to do it all right now. I’m just saying that you need to quit punishing yourself for the past. No one’s perfect. Be as good as you can now, for Austin and Asher and for yourself. That probably means figuring out how to not be alone for the rest of your life.”

There. She’d said it. Now let him hate her or not.

Matt leaned closer, bracing his hand on the bed, so close to Cassie’s that their fingers were nearly touching. “The night I called you and asked if we could be friends I figured out how to not be alone.”

“That’s not what I—”

“It’s not a perfect situation.” Their gazes locked. “Some of the kinks are pretty big, but I think it mostly works. I’m happier. The boys are happier— mine and yours— when we’re together. I’d like to think that you do a little better, too, that my friendship maybe eases a bit of that loneliness you just admitted to, or that I’m at least worth hanging onto for my repair skills.”

“You are. You do.” Cassie fumbled for the right words that wouldn’t say too much and finally settled on his. “I am. Happier.”

“Good.”

Neither moved for a long moment. Part of her never wanted to move but wanted to suspend time in this moment, with Matt sitting so close that every nerve in her body was aware of him. His hair was a mess from the many times he’d run his hands through it all evening in various stages of frustration. She longed to reach out and smooth it down for him, the same way she wanted to soothe the hurt in his life.

In his eyes, she read unmistakable desire, which she knew she should have rejected at once, but it felt good to be noticed by a man. Probably without even realizing it, Matt frequently said and did things that made her feel like a desirable woman instead of the frumpy school secretary and soccer mom she worried she’d become.

Her gaze slid down to his arms and hands that were always serving her. How she wanted to feel those arms around her, not in a romantic sense so much as to feel of their comfort. She knew what a hug from Matt would mean because she knew what she’d say with hers if she ever gave him one, which she couldn’t. But if she did, it would mean so many things. I’m sorry for all you’ve been through. You’re such a great person. Thank you for being my friend. I need you. I care about you. I—

“I should go.” Cassie stood abruptly. “Tomorrow’s a school day and—”

Matt pressed a finger to his lips as he stood. “Don’t ever feel like you have to hide what you’re feeling or really want to say to me. We’re not sophomores in high school. We’re mature adults with a tricky situation, and a friendship I don’t want to mess up.”

“Okay.” Cassie nodded, then turned to go. Matt caught her arm.

“We’ll do better with each other if we’re honest. So I’ll say it tonight. Being together like this— alone— while awesome, isn’t a good idea. So we won’t do it again because I find you too attractive; we’re both too lonely, and I, at least, am only too human.” He raked his hand through his hair again and sighed heavily. “It would be too easy—”

“Good summary,” Cassie agreed as she hurried from the room.

This time, Matt let her go.

 

But maybe not forever :) Because in addition to writing clean romance, I promise happy endings as well. Though, as in real life, it’s not without some pain and sorrow along the way.

You can find Between Heaven and Earth here in ebook. The paperback will be coming in the next few months as well.

Happy reading and enjoy those last few weeks of summer!

Worth the Read–A little romance to chase away the January blaahs

Ah January . . . for many of us that means temperatures so cold we want to drag our blankets around with us when we get out of bed in the morning (anyone notice how popular “blanket scarves” are right now? I’m thinking that started with the whole blanket from the bed thing. Maybe I will start dragging mine along and calling it a scarf).

January is the time we start thinking about treadmills and taxes. We go on literal diets and spending diets to make up for all that Christmas eating and shopping. It feels like the cold will last forever and summer vacation is forever away. For many, January is sometimes just tough. I’ve always thought it would be a wonderful month to take a cruise to the Caribbean, but since that’s out of financial reality for many of us, I have an escape of a different kind to suggest.

A little romance. Found easily on your kindle, or in paperback for those who prefer. Grab one of these books, light the fireplace, wrap up in your blanket scarf, and pull out your stash of after Christmas clearance chocolates. For a few hours, at least, January might just be a little more fun.

Broken Things to Mend by Karey White

Karey is the talented author leading off the Power of the Matchmaker series which I am fortunate to be involved with later this year. This heartwarming story is set in the town of Sisters, Oregon–a place I promise you’ll want to visit yourself after reading. Though the Deschutes National Forest is an important part of this story, don’t expect to see any glistening vampires roaming the woods. But rugged firefighter Silas Toller is a worthy, if reluctant, hero when it comes to rescuing Celia, who is suffering under the weight of some of the worst heartaches imaginable.

I adored everything about this story. I loved the small town feel and the way Celia’s background and story unfolded. I love that not everything worked out perfectly for the characters–even at the very end. I appreciated the moments of joy each experienced and felt like their sorrows were very true to life. And best of all, the ending was full of promise and hope–exactly what a romance novel should be. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who loves happily ever afters and appreciates seeing the struggles and reality along the way. Five Stars.

You can get Karey’s book here.

Power of the Matchmaker by Heather B. Moore

If you’re looking for a shorter read, this moving novella can be read in one sitting. Mae Li’s story is the prequel to the Power of the Matchmaker series of twelve novels that will be released, one per month, in 2016. Mae Li’s story will truly transport you to another time and place (one that makes current day January look pretty good!), and her love and loss will tug at your heart. This beautifully written novella shows how the magic of Pearl’s (Mae Li’s) matchmaking began and the price she paid in order to help others through the centuries find their true loves.

Power of the Matchmaker is on sale for .99 and can be purchased here.

Keturah and Lord Death  by Martine Leavitt

This fairy tale was different from any I’d read previously, and so many of the passages/sentiments expressed in it kept me thinking for days afterward. The writing is gorgeous, and Keturah’s journey seemed much more about life and an appreciation of and for it, then about her ultimate appointment with Lord Death. I wouldn’t qualify this story as a true romance, but there was plenty to love about it.

You can find Keturah and Lord Death here.

Loving Helen by Michele Paige Holmes

And finally, if you haven’t read Loving Helen, and you’re on a spending diet like me, it’s on sale for .99 this week. Having written this story, I am of course, rather partial to it. Loving Helen parallels the time frame of my first Hearthfire romance Saving Grace, showing some of the same events from Helen’s perspective. Her love story is more tender while Grace’s was somewhat volatile. But each have their fun moments, one of my favorites being at the very end of Loving Helen. 

You can find it here.

A little romance can certainly put a spark in an otherwise dreary January. I hope one–or all–of these help you through the coldest of winter days. And I’d love to hear your suggestions as well. Happy reading.

Marrying Christopher Cover Reveal

Marrying Christopher EBOOK size (1)I’m just wrapping up the manuscript for the third book about the Thatcher siblings, and Christopher’s story has been a lot of fun. It’s a departure from the other two–literally, as very little of this story takes place in England–but I hope readers will enjoy it every bit as much as his sisters’ stories. And if you haven’t read those, no worries. Like Christopher, his story is independent of the others. I hope you enjoy this brief description. More details and teasers to come as the release date (July) grows closer.

Having seen his sisters Grace and Helen happily married, Christopher Thatcher is free to pursue his dream of life in America. With adventure in his heart and mind, he boards one of the first steamships set to cross the Atlantic in the record breaking time of only twenty-five days. Within the first two of those, his resolve—to avoid women and the complications they often bring to a man’s life—falters when he meets Marsali Abbott, a young woman with a past even more troubling than his own. Whether from years of habit protecting his sisters, or simply because he feels drawn to Marsali, Christopher chooses to help her and becomes her friend. As the truth about what awaits Marsali in America becomes evident, he is faced with a more difficult choice, one that will impact their lives far beyond four weeks together at sea.

Fifty Shades of Clean

With Valentines Day upon us and the much anticipated release of the movie, *Fifty Shades of Grey, I’m happy to offer an alternative for those of us here in Happy Valley and elsewhere who prefer our romance squeaky clean–as in I can read this story to my grandmother or teenage daughter and not blush fifty shades of red.

For those who enjoy clean romance but wonder if it is lacking the excitement and allure of its more steamy counterpart, this post is for you! Below you will find a comparison of some key components of FSOG (as gathered from Wikipedia and other internet sources) and an example of how those same elements are found in my latest novel, Loving Helen.

Mentally tortured Christian Grey has nothing on Mr. Samuel Preston, who still feels responsible for his wife’s death and whose attempt to find love again ended in rejection from Grace Thatcher in Saving Grace. Fortunately, he’s about to get another chance at love with Grace’s younger sister Helen, who has her own demons from the past to face.

A few things you will find in both novels–

ROPE

Fifty Shades–used to tie up the heroine of the story, so she cannot put her arms around the hero and offer him love and comfort. Unfortunate, as it seems he needs both pretty badly.

Loving Helen–Mr. Preston uses a rather long and sturdy piece of rope to make a swing for his daughter in a stately ash tree growing on his property in Yorkshire, England. Of course he offers Helen a turn on the swing as well–just one of many scenes that builds their relationship into something more.

“Higher?” Mr. Preston shouted behind her.

“Yes, please,” Helen said, then felt his hands upon her shoulders, pushing her forward. Her stomach fluttered again, which she could not credit entirely to the new height the swing had attained.

Beth was on her feet, clapping and shouting instructions. “Put your feet out more. Lean your head back.”

Helen tried this and for a second found herself looking up into Mr. Preston’s smiling, dirt-smudged face as he pushed her once more.

She laughed, partly at how amusing he looked and partly because she was having so much fun — more than she could ever recall. When, after a few more times, he grabbed the ropes and slowed the swing, she felt keen disappointment.

PASSIONATE MAKE OUT SCENE IN AN ELEVATOR

Fifty Shades–An intense first kiss with hands in places they shouldn’t be (how is having your hair pulled romantic?)  and in a setting that really isn’t at all lovely. Perhaps if they were headed to the top of the Empire State Building . . .

Loving Helen–no elevators in the English countryside in 1828, but a gazebo isn’t a bad location for a first kiss either. Of course there is a build up before–five months of build up, to be exact. And then there is the note Mr. Preston sends Helen, inviting her to meet him if she wishes to participate in said kiss. As for the kiss itself . . . it’s sweet, satisfying, sentimental. Oh, and Helen does put her hands on Mr. Preston. They start on his shoulders then slide to the back of his neck. Someone turn on the fan!

A SILK TIE

Fifty Shades–Because rope isn’t always available? And also because a grey silk tie can be a knock out for marketing.

Loving Helen–from the last scene of the book– Mr. Preston “pulled the previous night’s hastily discarded cravat from a chair and proceeded to wrap it around Helen’s eyes.” Never fear, those of you in the squeaky clean camp. You won’t need to blush. What you will do–hopefully–is sigh with contentment when you discover Mr. Preston’s surprise for Helen and finish this sweet romance.

Whatever your romance preferences, happy reading and happy Valentines Day!

*Disclaimer: References to content in Fifty Shades of Grey are based entirely from media coverage and/or Wikipedia.

Work In Progress Wednesday

I’ve decided that once every month or so I’ll post about my work(s) in progress. Don’t ask me which Wednesday it will be, or even if it will be every month. I can’t commit to being that organized or consistent with this blog (or much else in my life, it seems), but I am trying!

And I am very excited about all of the great romances I’ve got in progress right now. These past two years have been the most fun I’ve ever had, in terms of really enjoying the writing and editing process. It is great to be at a point where some of those stories I’ve been working on are starting to be published. It is wonderful to hear from readers and know others are enjoying them too.

To those of you who have taken the time to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads, and/or who have posted a review of Saving Grace on your blogs or websites–a heartfelt thank you! Aside from the additional readers that reviews generate, it is the most gratifying reward for an author to learn that someone loved her story. It’s the motivation to keep plugging away, when a current work-in-progress has one pulling out her hair or otherwise feeling frustrated.

Next up for publication is a novella ( a longish one–very rarely do I write anything short) titled Loving Helen. It’s a companion to Saving Grace, and is the story of Grace’s younger sister Helen.

Helen’s story has been particularly enjoyable to work on because it takes place during the same time as Grace’s and includes some of the same scenes from Saving Grace, from a different (before unseen) point of view. The novella continues to the end of Grace’s story–and beyond. Already knowing the characters and bringing back favorites for their happy endings has been such a fun process, much like revisiting old friends and discovering new secrets about them.

I can’t wait for readers to enjoy it as well. To that end, here is the gorgeous cover and a few paragraphs from the very beginning of the story. Hope you enjoy.                 Publication date: February 9, 2015.

Chapter One                                                                                                               Yorkshire England, October 1827

Helen Thatcher gathered the voluminous skirts of her satin gown and tiptoed across the small foyer. Stopping outside the double doors that led to the sitting room of Mr. Preston’s guesthouse, she peered through the crack between the doors and spied her lady’s maid, Miranda, busily folding linens at the table. Like this room that filled so many purposes—they visited, dined, read, and sewed here—her maid had taken to doing many tasks outside her usual duties as well. Helen wished it might be otherwise, though it did seem that both her servants, Miranda and Harrison, were happier here than they had been since her grandfather, the late Duke of Salisbury, had died and the new duke summarily dismissed them from his residence.

We might all have stayed and continued on in comfort. The guilty thought plagued Helen, as it had every day the past several months. Had she only accepted the new duke’s proposal, she and her siblings, Grace and Christopher, along with Miranda and Harrison would still be at the grand estate, with everything they needed, even everything they desired, at their disposal.

Yet because I did not desire it, we’ve become little more than penniless outcasts.

Because of her cowardice and refusal to marry her distant cousin, Grandfather’s heir, her sister had been forced to meet with suitors of their father’s choosing, each of whom proved to be wretched, lecherous men. Until the last, Mr. Samuel Preston, had surprised Grace with genuine friendship and a concern that extended beyond her welfare to that of her siblings and servants. But by then Grace had taken drastic action, and her reputation had been ruined, by a most unfortunate middle-of-the-night mix up in the bedroom of Lord Nicholas Sutherland, Mr. Preston’s closest neighbor and former brother-in-law.

Even then, amidst the worst of circumstances, Grace had been concerned for her siblings. And so Mr. Preston had arranged for the four of them—Christopher and Helen, and their servants Miranda and Harrison—to reside at his guest house, until the matter of their inheritance was favorably settled.

Would that I had a shred of Grace’s courage or selflessness, Helen thought, frustrated with herself yet again. She smoothed the front of her gown, knowing that what she was about to undertake, while a small step, was going to require at least one of those valiant qualities. She desperately hoped she possessed courage somewhere.

On Having It All

The past few years have been tough for me in terms of anything to do with writing—time to pursue it, books published, finding an agent, blogging . . . The fledgling career I began in 2007 when Counting Stars was published seemed extinguished before it was even fully lit. I was sad about this, but life became so demanding there was little I could do.

In 2009 we were finally blessed with our fifth child—nine long years after his closest sibling. He was a hard-earned gift, and I intended to cherish every minute with him. For the most part, I feel confident I’ve done that. I’m known for telling everyone I can that they should have a baby at forty. What joy, what fun, what a miracle he is. How awesome it has been to have another round of toddler time at the library, more trips to the zoo and children’s museums, more Disney movies and music playing, more Legos strewn everywhere in our house, more tucking in at night and snuggling, more magic.

Along with all of that—how exhausting, how crazy, how nuts is it to be raising children whose ages span eighteen years and who seem to be at just about every stage in life. Young married? Got one of those. College students. Five, if you count my daughter’s husband and my son’s fiancée. High schooler. We’ve had that one covered for the past several years. I’m still patiently waiting to graduate myself—from algebra and term papers, especially. And finally, this year, we’ve got a kindergartener. Our miracle baby is no longer a baby, but an exuberant little boy, so excited his turn to go to school has finally arrived.

Along with the busyness of starting parenthood over, while in the midst of surviving the teen years with our older children, Dixon and I became grandparents a couple of years ago, a scant eight months after our daughter’s wedding. Her miracle was that her firstborn survived—after arriving three months early. His sudden appearance caused a ripple effect of financial and other stresses on our still newlywed daughter and her husband, and as a result our basement is used for a lot more than ping pong tournaments these days.

Along with living with us, our grandson spends mornings with me, driving children to school and then driving me a bit crazy as he gets into everything he can in our very unchildproof house. It’s impossible to be upset with him—the memories of his fragile two pound self are still too fresh, and I can only feel grateful that he is both curious and fast, with both a mind and legs that work quite well. So easily it could have been otherwise. We are truly blessed to have this little boy tearing around our house.

Still, writing time continues to be at a premium and a minimum. I haven’t had time to mourn my youngest going off to school, because I don’t come home to an empty house. There are eight of us currently living here, five of those students, which makes for a lot of insanity. And a lot of good times too. I worried that Andrew would grow up alone, since his siblings are so much older. Instead, it feels like he’s got a little brother to pal around with, and he knows not only his oldest sister, but her husband as well. They all share a bathroom, and it doesn’t get much closer than that!

So while I may not be able to devote much time to that fledgling career just yet, I still do feel like I have it all. Or the all that I’ve chosen, at least.

I don’t have to look any farther than my critique group to see others enjoying/enduring a similar phenomenon. Our group meets regularly these days—maybe ten times a year if the fates align! Somewhere along the way our lives all became too complicated, our houses too far apart, our schedules too different, for the consistent weekly meetings we used to have. Some have to travel a lot, some are dealing with serious health crises, some support their families financially, and all of us have families. And those families have always come first. It’s a universal rule that we all understand and respect. And at the end of the day, or the year, and eventually our lives, I don’t think any of us will feel too much regret that we never had enough time to write.

Fellow critique group member and dear friend, Lu Ann Staheli gets this perhaps more than any of us. Lu Ann married later in life and then opened her heart and her home to foster children, five of whom she adopted. It hasn’t been smooth sailing with her five boys—far from it—but she has been and is the mother they needed, all during years when she might have been having great successes with her writing—because she is an amazingly talented author. Over these years Lu Ann has also been a teacher, nurturing talent in others and watching as many of those students went on to their own successes, sometimes achieving the dreams she’d set for herself and not yet had time to reach for. But her generosity has continued. I am just one of many benefactors.

Last summer Lu Ann learned she has stage IV cancer and has since entered into a determined fight for her life. During her treatment she continues to write—letters to her missionary son and then her novellas and novels and non fiction as she has time and feels well enough. She is upbeat and positive, and has exhibited quite an amazing peace about her situation and a readiness to do what must be done to beat the cancer. In this too she is a wonderful example, as she has been an example of having it all, or the all that matters.

So if you happen to be at a point in your life (middle age, anyone?) where you feel your goals are lagging, and you just haven’t accomplished all you hoped you would, I hope you’ll think of Lu Ann and others like her. I do believe that we can have it all, in terms of families and careers. The caveat is that we cannot have it all at once. Our challenge is to choose wisely that which comes first. For me that will always be my family. Any hero I may write will never be as great as the guy in the other room folding a mountain of laundry right now. A paycheck in my purse will never mean more than sticky hands and slobbery kisses on my cheeks. How blessed I am to have to have those, even if it means my writing career remains fledgling a little longer.