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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Today Is The Day

I was blessed to have another wonderful book signing at Cotton Belles Boutique & Co. over the weekend in Victoria.  I was warmly welcomed by Ashley, Christine, Jill, and Michele and had the opportunity to meet new friends of all ages.  My goddaughter, Sydney, even surprised me with a visit and that truly warmed my heart.  I thank God that she remains cancer-free today!  It was extra cool that she brought along her mom, cousins, and brothers, one of which is named GABRIEL!  Yep.  Awesomeness!

It was interesting that two of my visitors this weekend told me they always wanted to write a book.  One of them started out with a poem about bees and the poem got longer and longer.  He said he just couldn’t come up with a good ending, so he put his work aside six years ago.

The other woman smiled as she told me about being a retired teacher.  She would pass by a publishing company on her way to work each day and wanted so badly to write the book that she had composed in her head.

I encouraged them both to just do it!  Chase the dream and grab on to it tightly.  Feel the fear and do it anyway!  Today is the day!  I hope that they both were inspired to write their books soon because I am anxious to read their stories.

Each of us has a talent or two or twenty.  Seek it out.  Find it.  Embrace it.  Do you write, sing, dance, act, cook, craft, draw, build, or sew?  Are you athletic?  Are you into fashion, gardening, swimming, animals, art, musical instruments, or computers?  Are you an amazing listener or inspirer?  Does your smile or laugh light up a room?  Is your happiness contagious?  Are you incredibly generous?  There are countless gifts and talents among us.  Find yours.  Share it.  Today is the day!

During this holiday season, gift buying is on our minds and to-do lists.  I saw this merchandise “guarantee” the other day that made me giggle, so I had to share:
“We want everyone to be happy.  Our guarantee applies to typically pleasant individuals.  If you are a major grouch who doesn't smile at a puppy or a rainbow, then even WE can't help you!”

Let’s try to be kind this Christmas season.  It won’t always be easy, but as we rush around, let’s make a brave attempt at patience, love, and forgiveness.  One way to show our gratitude and affection for someone is certainly to buy them a gift.  However, I remember a poem that I wrote in 2013 that reminds me to keep things in perspective.  Sometimes I forget that I can’t buy Christmas.

CAN’T BUY CHRISTMAS
Christmas is something we just can’t buy,
Although at times, it seems we try.
We rush around with shoppers galore,
Buying more gifts than ever before.
We fret about cards and wrapping and such,
Causing our stress to be a bit much.
We push and shove for sales and deals,
Sometimes forgetting how anyone feels.
We hurry.  We worry.  Lose sight of the reason,
The heart and soul of this holiday season.
Because the mightiest, glorious gift of them all,
Came surprisingly helpless and ever so small.
Could our Lord Jesus Christ be so humble enough,
To be born in a stable – modest and rough?
Could His mother, so tired, dusty, and worn,
Find comfort in where her Son would be born?
A manger, a trough where animals fed,
Would this be the place to lay His sweet head?
What were her thoughts – this makeshift room?
Did she want to clean up with a mop and a broom?
Or did trusting it all would be okay,
Suppress her fears about that day?
This plain wooden trough, so lowly and trite,
Yet, so very grand – it was just right.
God transforms with a simple touch,
Our lives, a manger, and things that we clutch.
A manger’s a symbol of nothing less,
Than the glory of God.  Our lives He will bless.
We mustn’t lose sight of the reason we give,
Lest we forget He’s the reason we live.
Let’s hold Him close – the baby boy,
With swaddling blankets of love, hope, and joy.
Let’s soften His manger – forgive and be kind.
Let’s pray for all mothers – they surely won’t mind.
Let’s warm the Lord’s room, all covered in dust,
By spreading His peace.  It’s surely a must.
No money could buy this gift of love,
The birthday of Jesus is sent from above.
Without Him on Christmas, it all seems for naught.
We can’t buy Christmas.  It just can’t be bought.

I’m very excited to say that I’ll be heading up the road to St. Philip’s school in El Campo on Wednesday for an author visit.  I truly love sharing Gabriel’s Golden Key with children!  I’ll also be doing some book signings this weekend in Victoria.  Please stop by the Holidazzle Brunch & Bazaar on Saturday, Dec. 3rd at Faith Family from 10am-1pm.  You’ll also find me signing books after each of the Masses at Holy Family Catholic Church on Saturday, Dec. 3rd and Sunday, Dec. 4th.  I’ll have plenty of my books, golden pens, and golden keys ready for the kiddos!  Hope to see you there!

Embrace your dream…whatever it is!  TODAY is the day!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  I’ll be back for more Sips in January!

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!  Bye for now!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanks For Noticing

Photo Credit:  knaughton from morgueFile.com
Doesn’t it feel good when someone notices?  You know, that new haircut, pair of shoes, dress, or purse, or that you lost a bit of weight?  Or that you put in the sweat hours to tone up that under-arm-dingle-dangle that used to keep swinging long after you stopped waving to that friend of yours?  Whether we voice it or not, it lifts our spirits and brightens our day when someone notices something about us.  It does.

There seems to be an extra skip in a child’s step when we notice how hard they are working in school or how they’ve made extra efforts to get along with their siblings.  Their lights truly shine when we take notice and tell them.

Sometimes, it’s easier to notice things about our close friends and family.  How about someone we don’t know at all?  I took the opportunity last weekend during my book-signing-trip to College Station to “notice” a couple of complete strangers.  Here’s the scoop:

Stranger #1:  My mom, daughter, and I stopped at Dairy Queen late Friday evening during our cold, rainy drive to Aggieland.  After we ate our meal, my daughter and I were eyeing the Blizzard selections while our taste buds were getting primed.  We just wanted a tiny bit of something sweet before we hit the road again, so we decided to split a mini Blizzard.  However, the tough part came when we were supposed to agree upon what flavor to share.  I wasn’t budging and neither was my daughter.  I wanted chocolate chip cookie dough and she wanted M&M.

I had noticed the woman working the cash register when we first arrived.  She appeared very tired and wasn’t smiling.  She was helpful as we purchased our food, but I felt in my heart that she sure could use a laugh. 

So, my daughter and I approached the counter to order “our” Blizzard.  With a grin on my face, I explained to Susan the flavor dilemma that my daughter and I were having.  Then, I proceeded to keep smirking while I winked at the cashier and informed my daughter that I was so sorry to share that they were completely out of M&M’s.  I told my daughter that she would just have to sacrifice for Momma this time and settle on the cookie dough.

Then, I got a huge smile out of Susan, the cashier.  Why?  Well, because the joke was on me.  Guess what?  They weren’t out of M&M’s at all.  HOWEVER, they WERE out of cookie dough because of a recall!  WHAT?!  Oh, I started laughing so hard and so did my daughter, Susan, and the rest of the customers who were eavesdropping on this little conversation.

Much to the happiness and delightful enjoyment of my daughter, we shared a M&M Blizzard that night.  It was so memorable!  Why?  Because we made a complete stranger smile a much needed smile and laugh a much needed laugh.  It was priceless.  She thanked us for making her day!

Stranger #2:  We arrived at the hotel for a late check-in.  The poor young man working there was staring at his computer screen while talking on the phone that was ringing off the wall.  He barely looked up as I gave him my credit card and driver’s license.  I noticed how weary he was and I also noticed his name tag.

After punching in some information on his computer, he politely gave us our room keys.  I said, “Thank you so much, David.  It’s been a busy evening, huh?”

And, there it was!  A smile.  He flashed the smile that I was looking for.  He smiled at me and then proceeded to tell me a little bit about his crazy shift.  Basically, he was saying “thanks for noticing.”  It made my day and I’m pretty sure that it made his too.

During this month of November, many of us are feeling thankfulness and gratitude about the blessings in our life.  One of the many things I thank God for is the gift of laughter.  Here’s an adorable giggle that Brigette shared with me over the weekend while hanging out at her awesome store, The Gift Box, in College Station.

She said that a friend of hers had just purchased a mini-van.  However, her four-year-old son was not okay with the new ride.  He said, “I am absolutely NOT going to call our car a mini-van because it sounds waaaay too girly.”  So, in perfect Disney-fashion, he said, “Instead of a MINNIE Van, we’re going to call it a MICKEY Van!”  How cute is that?!

Anyway, I am also thankful for all of the love and support I’ve received from my family and friends as I share my new children’s book with the world!  Woo-hoo!  So many sweet and generous ladies have warmly welcomed me into their stores to sign Gabriel’s Golden Key and I can’t thank you enough – Angels & Outlaws, The Market of Victoria, and The Gift Box!

I’m excited to say that I’ll be back in Victoria this Saturday, November 26th from 10-5pm at Cotton Belles Boutique & Co. for a book signing!  There will be lots of goodies to munch on and beverages to drink while getting some Christmas shopping done in this beautifully charming and unique boutique!  Thank you so much, Ashley, for having me.  I’m ready with my golden pens and golden keys for the kiddos!

I can’t help but think about the importance of prayer during this time of year.  As we remember and take note of the special people that God has placed in our lives, we can also think about the roof over our head, the clothes on our back, and the food on our plate.  Amidst the hustle and bustle, let’s stop and say a prayer of thanksgiving for all we have.  A grateful heart is a joyful heart. 

I’m quite certain that as we pray in gratitude for the countless blessings in our lives, God is smiling while saying, “Thanks for noticing.”

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!  Bye for now!
Making new friends at book signings is always fun!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sweet

Sweet.  That word can be used several different ways:  I enjoy a tall glass of sweet tea.  She’s such a sweet lady.  That little boy has a sweet smile.  It was sweet of her to take care of her elderly neighbor.  He has a sweet golf swing.  I love the sweet sounds of jazz.  That puppy has a sweet disposition.  How sweet it is to be loved by you.  I have a sweet tooth…and the list goes on.

There are sweet jokes:  “I lovingly gave my niece a kiss on her cheek upon seeing her at a family get-together.  Afterwards, I noticed her wiping her cheek.  ‘Are you wiping off my kiss?’  I asked her.  ‘No,’ she smartly replied, ‘I’m just rubbing it in!’”  Sweet!

There are, um, “sweet-cheek” jokes:  A couple was in an accident where the woman's face was severely burned.  The doctor told her husband that they wouldn't be able to graft any skin from her own body.

So, the husband offered to donate some of his skin.  However, the only skin on his body that the doctor felt was suitable would have to come from his buttocks.  The husband and wife agreed that they would tell no one about where the skin came from, and requested that the doctor also honor their secret.  After all, this was a very delicate matter.

After the surgery was completed, everyone was astounded at the woman's new beauty.  She looked more beautiful than she ever had before.  All her friends and relatives just went on and on about her youthful beauty!

One day, she was alone with her husband, and she was overcome with emotion at his sacrifice.  She said, "Dear, I just want to thank you for everything you did for me.  There is no way I could ever repay you."

"My darling," he replied, "I get all the thanks I need every time I see your mother kiss you on the cheek."

Ohhhh my goodness! 

Anyway, after that little giggle, I want to share something else that was sweet.  And, that was my book signing this past Saturday!  Debbie, Brigette, and Mary were so kind to warmly welcome me into The Market of Victoria.  They had sweet golden key cookies for the guests as they arrived at their absolutely precious store!  It was such a memorable day, full of making new friends and seeing familiar smiles.  The loving support was truly heartwarming.

Getting to see the happiness on the kiddos’ faces as they picked out their special golden key and took their first bite of their golden key cookie was…SWEET!  Talking to a 13-year-old girl who is finishing up her first book manuscript was just the sweet icing on the cake!  I’m so thrilled for her!  I encouraged her to be patient and persevere.  I told her that I looked forward to seeing her name on the cover of a book very soon!


For anyone who missed this book signing, I'm heading up the road to College Station this weekend to The Gift Box (Saturday, Nov. 19th from 10-6pm) and Jingle Bell Market (Sunday, Nov. 20th from 12-4pm).  College Station holds many dear memories for me, so Aggieland...here I come!  I’m an A&M grad and now I’m an Aggie author!  I can’t wait to share my book with my fellow “Gig ‘Em” friends!  Whoop!

If you haven’t heard about The Gift Box yet, it’s a gift shop that has the perfect gift for any special occasion including candles, home decor, soaps, lotions, fun wine glasses, jewelry, accessories, t-shirts, Yeti, SIC cups, Oggi water bottles, baby gifts, and clothing.  They carry sizes newborn through toddler.  They offer custom monogramming and decals and of course, they are Aggie alumni owned and operated.

I found this sweet tidbit on their website as well:  “We are passionate about respecting our Veterans for their ultimate service.  As a small token of our appreciation, The Gift Box is offering 10% off for our Veterans on Veterans Day and every day!”  How SWEET is that?!

Ever heard of Jingle Bell Market?  The purpose of Jingle Bell Market is to support local businesses and charities, and to provide a unique and enjoyable shopping experience for the College Station community, with over 30 vendors on-hand.  Their goal is also to raise awareness and support for the wonderful local charities, which are making a worldwide difference. Of course, Santa will be there, ready to take pictures with your little ones.  Admission on Sunday is free and that’s super-duperly-sweeeeet!

Thank you once again for your sweet support of my book, Gabriel’s Golden Key!  You all have been incredibly amazing!  Thank you for bearing with me as I talk about my new book week after week!  I appreciate you and can’t thank you enough for sharing in my joyous excitement!

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!  Bye for now!


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Pictures Speak

Pictures speak.  Well, not literally.  But, they say that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Most of us have heard this common expression.  However, I got to experience it firsthand at my book signing last Saturday.

I arrived at my friends’ store, Angels & Outlaws, a bit before 10:00am.  Andi and Amy set up a cozy little area for me to display my books, golden pens, and golden keys.  They had delicious cookies, treats, and beverages ready for their customers.  We were prepared for a full day of book signing and shopping.  Then, I heard the door open at 10:00am sharp.  “Front door,” echoed the soft recorded voice as the door handle turned.  A sweet couple entered and began to look around.  Andi and Amy warmly greeted them, as well as each and every customer who entered their store that day.

The couple made their way over to my table.  I asked them if they had any children on their Christmas shopping list.  They did!  We chatted about my book for awhile and then I grabbed my golden pen.  I signed my name and wrote the child’s name, Bentely, across the top of the title page.  It was my first book to personalize at my very first book signing and I’ll never forget it.

Now, here’s where the pictures started speaking.  Around 11:00am, a woman entered the store with her young twin sons.  One of the boys immediately ran over to my table while the mother and other son continued to browse.  I guessed that the boys were about six years old.  I asked the child what his name was and he said with an eager smile, “Ethan.”  I asked, “Ethan, do you like to read books?”  He said, “Yes!  I do!”  I told him that I had written a book and Ethan asked to look at one of the copies on the blue table.  “Sure!” I said.  He slowly flipped through the pages, looking at all of the pictures.  Then, he tucked the book under his arm, walked over to his mom, and tugged on her shirt, asking to buy the book.

Ethan walked around the store holding on tightly to my book.  He stopped by my table at least twenty times and said, “My mom told me that I could hold on to it.”  He kept eyeing the keys.  On the twenty-first visit to my table, he asked to look at the keys.  I let him pick out his favorite one.  I knew that it would be virtually impossible to share one golden key with his brother.  So, I told Ethan that if his mom decided to purchase the book in his arms, I would give him a bonus key to share with his twin.  He was thrilled!

That is when Ethan plopped down on the floor just inches beside me.  He sat there and looked through the entire book with me, page by page.  He spoke a thousand words…at least.  It was precious!  Ethan giggled and laughed as he looked at all of the pictures, as if they were speaking to him.  Ethan then began to show me the pictures.  He looked at me and pointed to each picture, “Hey!  Hey!  Look here!  Did you see this?!  Look at this!  This is so cute!  Look at these angels.  Let me tell you what they’re doing.”  He then proceeded to explain to me what each of the seven angels was doing on page 10 of my book. 

My smile could not have been any wider because yes, dear Ethan, I had indeed seen those pictures before...about a BAZILLION times over the last year in my meticulous attempt to make sure they were “just right” for the story.  My ever-so-patient illustrator did an incredible job!  I was delighted that the pictures were talking to Ethan.  That was my intent.  That was my hope.  That was my goal for having an illustration on every other page.  I wanted my book to be FULL of pictures.  If a child couldn’t read the words of my book just yet, I wanted the pictures to speak to them. 

My dream for the book that Ethan held in his arms that day is for every child to have a copy on their book shelf.  I want Gabriel’s Golden Key to be the tattered, well-worn book that has been read over and over again.  I would love for it to be the “go-to” bedtime story each night.

Pictures speak.  They do.  Ask any passionate photographer or artist.  Why do we hang pictures on walls or decorate our homes and places of business with them?  Why do we take photographs?  Why do we color and paint?  Why do we draw?  A great deal of emotion and meaning can be conveyed in a single photo, image, illustration, or other piece of artwork.  Many times, a picture can do this more adequately and effectively than a million words.

Pictures speak.  God speaks too.  But, oftentimes, He just knocks and patiently waits for us.  If you hear God knocking on your door, just answer it.  You don’t know what He has in store for you, but it’s going to be an amazing ride, no doubt.  You have gifts and talents that He wants you to use.  Do it!

I’m so pleased that I decided to answer the door when God wanted me to write a children’s book.  It’s been a beautiful journey so far and I look forward to enjoying the rest of the adventure!

My next book signing is this Saturday, November 12th at The Market of Victoria.  I’ll be signing books from 10:00am to 5:00pm.  Many of you have purchased your copy on Amazon already.  Great!  Just bring it in and I’ll personalize it while you pick out your golden key.  If you don’t have a copy already, no worries!  The Market is selling my book, in both paper back and hard cover versions. 

Please stop by The Market this Saturday, as it’s a marvelous store full of “home furnishings, d├ęcor, clothing, and gifts with panache of the past, present, and future.”  I can’t wait to see you there!

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!  Bye for now!

P.S.  As Ethan left the store that day, he flashed me the biggest grin as he held his new book in one hand and two golden keys in the other!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Up The Road

Photo Credit:  Morast from morgueFile.com
Hello there, Sunshines!  I’ve shared this from Mikey before, but since I love words so much, I thought I would share it again!

A two-letter word has a hundred completely different meanings.  So what is this stuff about English being easy?  There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meaning than any other two-letter word, and that is "UP."

It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we waken in the morning, why do we wake UP?  At a meeting, why does a topic come UP?  Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election?  Why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?

We call UP our friends.  We use it to brighten UP a room and polish UP the silver.  We warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen.  We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP old cars.

At other times, the little word has real special meaning.  People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.  To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.

This UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.  We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP!

To be knowledgeable of the proper uses of UP, look UP the word in the dictionary.  In a desk-sized dictionary, the word UP takes UP almost one-fourth of the page and definitions add UP to about thirty.

If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used.  It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP.  When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP.  When it rains, it wets UP the earth.  When it doesn't rain for a while, things dry UP.

One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP, for now my time is UP, so I'll shut UP!

I always soak UP the fun of reading things like this, so I hope it cheered UP your day as well!

Speaking of UP, I am heading UP the road on Saturday, November 5th to Angels & Outlaws in Gonzales, Texas for my first book signing!  I’m pumped UP about it!  If you haven’t heard about this incredibly awesome place, here is the write-UP from their website:

Angels & Outlaws, Inc. is a funky little boutique in the heart of downtown Gonzales, Texas.  We specialize in Texas Fashion; the look-good, feel-good, “show some grit and look good doing it” kind of fashion.

We are two best friends that have been through it all together - elementary school, high school, and graduation from Texas A&M together (Whoop!).  Our children are the same ages and they get into the same trouble that we did along the way, so they keep us on our toes.  The kind of loyalty, commitment, and give-and-take a life-long friendship like ours requires is hard to find these days.  It's the same kind of loyalty and commitment we give our business, our customers, and our dream.

Our families have owned land in Gonzales County, the birthplace of our Texas Freedom, for over one hundred and twenty five years and have owned businesses in Gonzales County for more than sixty years.  These have been passed down from generation to generation.  The pride of Texas runs in our blood and shines through every aspect of our dream, Angels & Outlaws.  We started our business with a few empty liquor bottles (for display), some glitter, and a lot of hard work and encouragement from our families.  We are so excited Gonzales has helped us grow exponentially, and hope a little bit of that excitement shines through to everyone that visits our website.

Our little shop is a fashion boutique that helps strong women look fabulous whether it’s a ‘Harper Valley PTA’ kinda day or you’re gonna ‘Thelma and Louise’ it with your bestie.  Whether you’re spending the evening under the ‘Friday Night Lights’ or the ‘Neon Lights’, we can help you put together an outfit that will look amazing for any occasion. Angels & Outlaws is where southern casual meets big Texas bling - where you can dress like an Angel by day or add some edge and become an Outlaw by night.  We look forward to serving each of our customers whether they get the chance to stop by our cozy little shop we are so proud of, or just order from us on our website.  We will try to give them a taste of the Angels & Outlaws vibe that we think matches the feel and the style of Gonzales, Texas. The home of the historic "Come and Take It", the home of "Apache Pride", Where the Oilfield is Booming, and Rodeo is Strong, Where 'Gun Town Girls' wear their hair teased high and they are blinged to the nines!

Doesn’t that sound like fun?!  It will certainly be worth the short drive UP the road to check out Angels & Outlaws and line UP to grab your copy of Gabriel’s Golden Key for the perfect children’s Christmas gift!  I’ll sign your book with my golden pen AND you’ll get a special golden key for the little one!  I must take this opportunity to thank the man UPstairs too, because without God, my book wouldn’t even be here!

Are you UP for it?  It’s totally UP to you, but if you are, then I’ll see you UP the road very soon!

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!  Bye for now!