All Good Things

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Ever been in a place where you were just awed by the majesty of God’s creation? While we were in California on our anniversary trip, one thing we knew we wanted to do was see the Redwoods. Having only seen photographs of these amazing trees, I could hardly wait to experience them up close.

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It was the kind of sight that takes your breath away. And sometimes we need that, don’t we? Sometimes we need to be reminded that God is the creator of all things. That’s He’s the one in control of this crazy world. Not us. And thank goodness for that!

As I thought more about the book I wanted to write over the coming year, lots of things kept pointing me back to that thought. All good things come from Him. And I knew the characters in The Memory of You would have to learn that lesson.

Sometimes Tanner wished they still did things the old-fashioned way. An hour or two of taking his frustrations out on a bunch of grapes might do wonders for his soul.

Both Natalie and Tanner are strong-willed individuals, with struggles that sometimes seem more than they can bear. I knew their journeys were going to be interesting, and at some point, they’d have to come to realize that giving up control over things you can’t change is the first step on the path toward healing. But I won’t give any more away!! We are in countdown mode to release day now! Several cool things are happening.

If you haven’t yet read The Things We Knew, it’s still on sale and you can grab the e-copy for $1.99!

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And on March 28th, the day The Memory of You releases, we’re having an online party!! I hope you’ll join us! It’s going to be on Facebook – and you’ll find the event link on my Author Page, or you can bookmark in now if you like HERE!

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It’s been so much fun reminiscing about my California trip with you. I hope you’ll join me on the 28th! I’m so looking forward to it!

When was the last time you stood in awe of God’s majesty and gave thanks for all the amazing gifts He gives? 

Beyond Imagining

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We’ve been talking about my trip to Sonoma on the blog this month. You can catch up on the past few weeks here and here, if you want! Last week I shared how enthralled I was when we visited a small family-owned winery. I couldn’t imagine what a larger one might look like. And oh my goodness, did I see some beautiful ones!
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As we traveled around the countryside and visited such beautiful homes and gardens, I began to think about what it would be like to live in such a place. How you would come to love the land and care for the vines. I considered the wine-making process and realized it truly is an art. So much goes in to it. I knew that I had to do much research while I wrote the story, and I found it fascinating. I loved that I could take all I had learned on our trip and weave it into the plot, without overwhelming the reader with facts they didn’t care that much about. One of my favorite scenes in The Memory of You was able to give a glimpse into that process without a lecture on winemaking :-

He walked over to a row of vines and examined the leaves under the glow of his flashlight. She watched him carefully turn the leaf and check out the underside.                                            “What are you looking for?”                                                                                                         “Mildew. Bugs.” He bent to snag a weed, yanked it by the roots, and tossed it onto the path. “Do you know how long it takes to get a first harvest, Natalie?”                                   “No idea.” She shot him a tentative smile.                                                                                           “It can take years. You don’t use your first year’s crop. The fruit is too small, not sweet enough. You have to train the vines, you see. You cut them back, tend to them, keep them free of bugs and disease. It’s not a process you can just walk away from.” He stooped low and came up with a few stray grapes that the pickers had left. Walked to where she stood and held a purple globe to her lips. “Taste.”                                                                               Natalie opened her mouth to receive the morsel and allowed the flavor to saturate her taste buds. “Wow, that’s sweet.”                                                                                                         “Too sweet.” Tanner munched on a couple of grapes and spat seeds. “When the fruit begins to ripen, we have to continually monitor what’s going on out here. The ripening process is crucial to our end result. Veraison—when the grapes soften—is when the sugars accumulate, and the taste of the grape tells us when they’re ready. You can’t turn your back on it. Not for a minute.”                                                                                                                      “I suppose not.” Natalie watched him pull a few more weeds around the vines. “Rather like raising a family, right? You can’t bring children into the world and then let them fend for themselves.”                                                                                                                                        “No. You can’t.” He rose, brushed dirt off his jeans. “But it happens all the time.”

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I never imagined all the hard work and care that went into one bottle of wine. We take such things for granted. Things we just pick up at the store, wine, cheese, olive oil, even milk, vegetables . . . things we may not think much about, but others have. They have spent years cultivating and perfecting the product we bring to the table. And I realized as I wrote this book, that there are so many things in life we don’t fully appreciate. About the world around us and those closest to us. And I knew that would have to be a major part of my characters arc, an awakening if you will, to all the good things life has to offer.

Come back next week to learn more about The Memory of You!

Have you ever been surprised at things you’ve learned in unexpected ways?  I’d love to hear your stories! 

A Different Perspective

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Welcome to another Throwback Thursday Post! We’re talking about my California anniversary trip that inspired me to write The Memory of You! If you’re just jumping on here, you can read last week’s post here.

Today we’re going to to talk about perspective. Meaning, how we view things, the world, our families, friends, co-workers. Sometimes life gets hard doesn’t it? Sometimes we need that different perspective to spark a new idea or a new way of seeing something.

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One of the first stops on our tour of Napa/Sonoma was an amazing family owned winery. Robert Hunter Winery was tucked away amidst the rolling hills and towering trees, and took my breath away the moment I stepped out of the car and looked around. Beautiful scenery, rose gardens and the most amazing wisteria vine I’d ever seen, surrounded a delightful home where the owner and his family had lived for generations.

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It was fascinating to tour such a small winery, but also to listen to the history of the place. The Vintner obviously loved what he did and loved the land he worked on. He and his family lived on property, and I found myself thinking what a cool place this must be for kids to grow up. The highlight that day was meeting Robert Hunter himself. He was pretty frail all those years ago, and I suspect he’s probably long since passed, but he spent some time with us on his beautiful patio overlooking the vines, and it was one of those moments where you know you’ve been in the presence of an old soul who’s seen more in one lifetime than you could imagine.

If I had to pinpoint one particular day when the first spark of a story idea started, I think it would be that day, staring over the vines and wondering about the people who had come and gone through the doors of the old house. And I wondered if this island girl could possibly create a story based in California. A story about something she knew so little about.

A matter of perspective.

I didn’t know how this story would shape up yet. But I knew I had to write it and as always, trust that the words would come. Because sometimes that’s the only way, isn’t it?

Once I determined to do it, I knew the rest would fall into place eventually. And I’m so glad it did.

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Sometimes it’s all about changing our view for a little while, isn’t it? When we find a new perspective, anything can happen!

Have you discovered something new through a shift in your perspective? Let’s talk! 

#TBT – A Dream Come True!

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As you may know, my upcoming release, The Memory of You, takes place in Sonoma, California. As we count down to March 28th, we thought it might be fun to use “Throwback Thursdays” to share the origin of that story, and how the seed was planted back in 2010.

One of my bucket list trips has always been to travel to California. Growing up on a small island in the 70’s and 80’s, I immersed myself in pop culture. I dreamed of living in California, of partying with the television and movie stars who smiled down at me from the Tiger Beat posters tacked to my bedroom wall. California had an allure all its own and I knew one day I would get there. Now of course, years later, the glow of the screen has faded, and I’m not so attracted to the big bright lights. But when my husband started musing about a trip to California wine country to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, it only took a half second for me to jump all over the idea.

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And so, that October, we were off. I was beyond excited, and although I can be a bit of a nervous flyer,  I was okay on the long flight from Atlanta to San Francisco because I just couldn’t wait to see this place of my dreams. My husband had already done all kinds of research and pretty much planned out our entire trip. With the help of the concierge at our hotel, we were looking forward to ten days of touring, tasting and relaxation. He was all about the food and wine, and I couldn’t wait to see the scenery. We’d heard from friends who’d done wine country tours how beautiful it was, so I had pretty high expectations going in. And as we passed over the Golden Gate Bridge, (which is more of a rusty red by the way),  drove a little further along the highway and the first glimpse of red rolling hills lines with rows upon rows of vines, my heart jumped a little.

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‘As she crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, bright shards of light split the clouds and the California sun began to warm the car’s interior. Her smile broadened as the scenery changed. Rolling brown hills ran into rows upon rows of lush vines that hid clusters of purple and gold treasures under green foliage. The sight unwrapped feelings she thought she’d long put aside. The sweet smell of grapes permeated her senses, and the joy found in simply being here surprised her.’ The Memory of You

Our first stop was a delightful little restaurant called The Fig, and then it was on to our hotel, The Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa.

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As I settled into the large, luxuriously soft king bed that night and sleep descended, I knew we’d landed in a special place. And I knew there was a story here, just waiting to be told.

Next week I’ll share more about my California dream trip and tell you about the first spark that resulted in The Memory of You!

Have you been on a special trip, traveled someplace you’d always wanted to go? I’d love to hear about it!  

Being The Grown-Up In The Room

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I read this excellent post on Jen Hatmaker’s Facbook page yesterday. She talked about looking for the grown-up in the room, i.e. the person not arguing, not using childish banter to go on the attack, the person others look to because they’re talking sense.

Sometimes you have to be that person. Sometimes you have to be the grown-up.

And that, my friends, is no easy task. Let’s think about it. How many times over the last few months have you felt shut down because what you wanted to say fell on deaf ears? How many times have you tried to use your voice for good and had it turned and twisted until your original thoughts looked nothing like the words being thrown back at you? How many times have you lost it, and not been the grown-up?

Yeah. Me too.

The things we are experiencing as a culture, in the United States and around the world, are unprecedented. I’ve never witnessed so much hostility, sometimes downright hatefulness, and vitriol on social media, ever, and I’ve been on it since forever. It is shocking and sad that our interactions have ceased to be pleasant. I know friends that have quit altogether. And honest? I miss their voices. Because they had something important to say, but nobody wanted to hear it. And so, rather than continuing to shout into the wind, they retreated.

I’ve kind of done the same. I go back and forth on the Facebook thing. But honestly, I love it for what it used to be. I love it for the interactions with good friends and family, and the writing groups I belong to. So now when I interact, I’m looking for the grown-ups. Looking for folks who are having open-minded discussions about current events without the entire thing turning nuclear. Because I think it’s important that we keep talking about these things, even if it’s hard. Even if it hurts. But we need to get to place of understanding. And I’m trying to be the grown-up too, and not post every thing that’s on my mind. Which again, is not easy, because sometimes . . . oh I’m tempted to let my inner-child come out to play.

Sometimes being the grown-up means taking a stand.

I believe it does. I believe we need to keep speaking out against those things that are wrong. I believe if we are truly convicted about something, we must speak out. To say nothing would be to silence our own voice. Which is what those who disagree so vehemently want. They don’t want to hear the truth. When two sides are in heated argument, neither side believes the other might have a point, and nobody wins. And yet, I think to stick one’s head in the sand and wait for the madness to pass is probably just as bad. Because it won’t. If anything, it’s going to get worse. I’d love to see more honest and open discussions about the things that are happening instead of the flame-throwing.

Being the grown-up means being in control. 

I remember those days when my kids would go off into full-blown temper tantrums. And wasn’t it tempting to grab their little shoulders and get right up in their face and shout right back? Oh, yeah. But what would that have accomplished? Nothing but an even longer, louder and most certainly angrier tantrum. And I’d probably go to bed early with a whopping headache. No. Sometimes you just have to wait it out. If you can’t be heard, walk away. Be the grown-up. And if you’re not being heard yet you still feel the need to speak, think very carefully about the words you post. This is especially difficult in the heat of the moment. So maybe come back to that topic later. When you don’t want to toss a chair through a window.

Don’t give up.

As with any great paradigm shift where it suddenly feels as though the entire world is off-kilter and there’s a vast majority that simply don’t see it, it’s tempting to give up. Tempting to go off and find a little hobbit hole someplace and just stay there. At least for the next four years. But don’t give up. Because for all the crazy, there’s still good happening. You just have to look a little harder. And sometimes you can be that good thing that happened to somebody today. You can encourage, smile, love, share your humor and your fancy self and just be that good thing this old world so desperately needs.

We’re all tired. 

Enough said. So let’s find something fun to do. I’m embarking on a month of personal challenge. I’m shutting out the noise, taking back control of what I eat and drink, exercising more, and I’m hoping to find some more inner peace in the process. I’ve also given myself that 30 days in which to complete this manuscript I’m working on. I’m being the grown-up. I’m making the rules. And I think I’ll be a whole lot happier at the end of it, whether I’ve achieved those goals or not. Because I tried. And really, that’s all any of us can do.

Are you working for change in your life and your community? Are you trying to be the grown-up? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Some Reflections . . .

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I should be working out right now, but it’s way more comfortable on the couch. 🙂 And I have some stuff to say. Thing is, I’m not quite sure how. My mind swirls with thoughts that some days make sense and some days . . . well. So I just keep quiet. You know?

I could talk about being in Boston this past weekend, and seeing The Women’s March. I could talk about the political climate over there and how uncertain everything feels. But I feel like everything I have to say, want to say, it’s been said before. And it seems like every topic of conversation lately brings about contention. And I’m so very tired of all the arguing.

But you know, sometimes it just helps, coming here and sharing words, sharing my heart. So I keep doing it, and I don’t worry too much about where the words land. I do however, worry about the words I use. Because they’re important. And after this past season of crazy politics, and the furor doesn’t appear to be calming down anytime soon, I’m about wrung out. So I had some thoughts.

I belong to a great group on Facebook where we share ideas about writing, support and pray for one another, and the other day I shared this post, and I’d like to re-post it here.

“We are all wordsmiths or lovers of words in this group, and assumedly all pretty (or somewhat) sane and rational people,
I have a specific request today, and would love for as many as possible to agree in prayer.
It is that we use our words kindly, with the love and grace afforded to us through the blood of Christ.
I have spent the last week in the US, and I know the climate is uncertain. I get that. I also get that it feels like there’s a huge division that may take years to heal. And I’m saddened by that. I get that we all have differences of opinion and the right to voice them. I get that we must stand up for what we feel is the right thing, whatever that ‘right thing’ may be. What I don’t get is what I see as the complete and utter breakdown of moral and human decency in our communications. When did it become okay to be vicious, to jeer and taunt and incite? When did it become okay to deem any opinion other than one’s own null and void? When did it become okay to know and not care that people are growing afraid to speak up, to speak out . . . to speak at all?
My friends, I can’t express how deeply this grieves me. It has been a hard season and will most likely grow harder before it gets any better. I don’t care what side of the fence you’re on, but for the love of the God we all claim to serve and follow, can we take a collective breath? Can we determine to choose to use our words for good? Many of us are commissioned to projects where our words will be published on a larger scale. We can all make a difference here, can’t we? Can we agree to spread love and basic human decency, respect one another? We are greatly blessed with freedom of speech, and the freedom of being able to write what we want when we want. I do believe it is our duty to guard those words wisely, and cover them in prayer. Because like it or not, we are accountable. And a lot of us, including me, are failing. I’m not pointing fingers, but merely making a point, and I hope it’s seen as done in love. So maybe we can start anew this week, with fresh purpose, open hearts, open minds and hands to help each other out, hold each other accountable, and begin the healing that so clearly needs to happen. We are over 400 souls here in this one Facebook group. That’s a lot of change. A lot of hope.
Anyone on board for changing the tide?”

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all agree to be kind? To love one another despite our differences? Oh I know it’s hard, believe me. But we’ve got to start somewhere. So those were my thoughts this week.

And in other news  . . . I’m blown away and ever so grateful to be the recipient of a Starred Review in Publishers Weekly for The Memory Of You. This is recognition of ‘a book of exceptional quality.’ I read that the stats are, they review about 10,000 books a year, and 500 get starred. So if that’s accurate, it’s a pretty big deal, and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to my publisher, Harper Collins Christian Publishing, my agent, Rachelle Gardner, and my family for their love and unwavering support, and all the very many friends who surrounded me with prayer and kicked my butt along on this crazy publishing journey, and refused to let me give up. I love you all, seriously, and could not do this without you.

Surreal moments like this make all the worry and frustration and fear so worth it. I don’t know why God chose to bless me with the gift of words, but it’s a gift I don’t take lightly. I’m truly humbled that I get to share my stories and even more astounded that readers like them! I can’t wait to share this book with you! Two more months!!

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 That’s it from me today. I hope you’re having a great week so far. And now I’ll go work out. Ugh. 🙂

Friday Fun Chats With Friends!

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WOO!! Here we go! I had so much fun talking with Carried Schmidt. We’re kind of new friends, we met online last year after she reviewed The Things We Knew and she was so amazingly gracious – we started chatting and got to know each other, and here we are, and OH yes, we got to meet in person this past summer in Nashville!!

if you don’t know Carrie, you’re going to love her, trust me. And you have to check out her blog right away for all the latest about our favorite subject – BOOKS!! Reading Is My Superpower is a great resource for readers and authors alike! Due to technical glitches, I’ve had to split our chat into a few sections, but I hope you enjoy getting to know Carrie today!

And here I thought Carrie had been blogging for years! She’s so good at it! And you guys, wait until you hear how many books this woman reads in a year!! But that’s coming up. Now we’re going to find out a little more about the kinds of books Carrie loves the most, and I’m going to ask her a tough question. 🙂

Well that was too much fun! Don’t forget, readers, go check out the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat website, and sign up for this year’s retreat!!

Okay, let’s see, what else can we talk about? Oh, I know, how about more books? Or we could just . . . chat.

OH!! Our connection cut out again!! The suspense is killing me! What’s your favorite book, Carrie??!!

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely looking forward to talking to Carrie again! (Will you come back, Carrie, or did I scare you away forever?!)

If you have any questions for us about books, writing or our amazing pooches, please leave a comment and keep the conversation going!

Thanks for participating in my very first Friday Fun Chat, Carrie, and thanks to all of YOU for watching!!

So let’s see, anyone out there beat Carrie’s record for books read in a year?

Will It Really Change Us?

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There’s a calm over the ocean this morning. A certain stillness. An anticipatory hum seems to fill the air on this second day of a brand new year, and it asks the question, “What will you do with this gift?”

We’ve closed the door on 2016. Some of us have slammed it shut and bolted the locks. Some of us wish to set fire to the thing and never think on it again. And some of us simply waved and watched twelve months fade into memory, not really fussed either way. Stuff happens. 

Yes, it does. But I think 2016 will be a year for the history books. I think it has to be a year we don’t soon forget. Because it was a year that pulled back the curtain on our true selves. A year that revealed a few things about our hearts and souls and minds that could well have been left undisturbed. But disturbed we were. Agitated. Angered. Confused. Prone to outburst on social media, fingers flying over keys with words we can’t take back. Words we could have, perhaps should have, kept to ourselves.

2016 was the game changer.

Don’t believe me? Think about it. Think about all the events that occurred that touched you, moved you, stirred something deep within you – I’m not just talking about the election. There were many, many events last year that challenged us, challenged our way of thinking, caused us to re-evaluate the way we see ourselves and others.

Will it really change us? 

The more fitting question might be this –

Are we willing to change? 

Can we keep the pages of 2016 open a little longer and learn from them? Can we remember certain incidents, days, moments where we discovered something about ourselves, something that made us uncomfortable, something we didn’t want to face, didn’t realize we held onto with such a vise grip? Can we give ourselves a little time to process, and to accept that maybe everything is not as cut and dry as we once believed it to be? Can we extend a little grace, not only to ourselves, but to others? Maybe, if we put our minds to it, we can move down the pew a little and make room for someone else.

Are we willing to change? Because we have to answer that and answer it now. It’s too easy to shut the door and forget. It’ll all work out in the end. Well. It might. But what if this was our chance to work for the greater good, for the higher purpose, and we missed it? What if those hard things we went through in 2016 were set up on a shelf in a tidy box, maybe even tied up with a pretty ribbon, because . . . we came through it okay, didn’t we?

Did we? I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think we still have a long way to go.

There is work to be done. Much work. And it will be hard. Not one of us is excused from this. Because we have to move forward, move on, together. Without anger. Without malice. Without all the many differences that separate and divide us. We will all be called to this challenge, we already have been. Like it or not, we are accountable.

Will you accept the weight of that? Will I?

2016 may have kicked us in the gut more than once. But it’s time to get back up. Time to do better. To be better. Kinder. Gentler. Laugh more and love harder. 2017 could be the best year yet. We don’t know anything for certain, do we? Tomorrow is not promised. But today is here.

Brand new. All yours.

What will you do with it?

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Buh-bye 2016 And What’s Up 2017?

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So here’s my last vlog for 2016, not that there’ve been many. But I did get my feet wet and that counts, right? I have a bit of a cold, so I sound stuffy, and I apologize for the unsteadiness of the camera, not real sure what that was all about! Anywhoo, here I am with the news and a final farewell to this year!

Don’t forget, if you want to leave questions for me, leave a comment, or email me at catherine@catherinejwest.com or on my Facebook Author page.

HAPPY 2017!!

Onward to 2017!

I hope your Christmas was fabulous! We spent a quiet day together, and then, in a shocking break from tradition, we went to a restaurant for Christmas dinner! It was lovely not having to spend the day chopping, peeling and cooking, constantly checking the clock to make sure everything was running on time. I’ll admit, it wasn’t quite the same as being at home, but there were definitely advantages. Christmas was also a little different this year as we did not have our son home for the first time ever! We missed him a lot, but he spent a happy holiday with his fiancée, so I don’t think he missed us quite as much! 🙂 And now here we are in the last week of December, waiting for 2017.

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The coming year promises to be an exciting one for our family. We are eagerly awaiting the birth of our very first grandchild in April! Our daughter and son-in-law have chosen not to find out what they’re having, so it will be a great surprise for us all, but I can tell you that this little one is already being spoiled! And we’ll have a wedding in the works – we don’t know the date for that yet, but the happy couple are so excited, and we are too. Amidst all that, I’ll be launching my second release from Harper Collins at the end of March. I can’t wait to get The Memory of You into the hands of my readers, and I hope you’ll love the story as much as I do. In the meantime, if you can’t wait a few more months, you can grab an advanced copy on NetGalley! We love early reviews, so please leave one on GoodReads if you end up reading it that way! You can also PRE-ORDER your copy now and it’ll be delivered on release day, March 28th!!

Lately, I’ve been evaluating how I spend my time, and how best to reach out to my readers and really make those meaningful connections. As you may know, I do hang out a lot on Facebook, and you’ll find the most updated information about my books and writing life on my Author Page, but I’d love to make this blog a fun regular place for us to interact as well.

My plan for the new year is to post every Monday and Friday. Mondays will be my usual musings on writing and life in general, and I’ll try not to be boring, but Fridays I thought we could talk about books, tv shows and movies, because who doesn’t love to talk about that? And if you have any questions you’d love us to chat about, shoot them my way and we can work them into the schedule as well. Speaking of chats, my next Author Chat Party will be held on Tuesday, January 24th, if you’d like to mark the date for that! I’ll be setting up a Facebook Event closer to the time, so look for it, and I hope you’ll join us. The last one was really fun, with great conversation and giveaways!

Speaking of fun and giveaways . . . today is the start of my FUN POST-CHRISTMAS PHOTO CONTEST!! Now you can’t tell me you didn’t just get up and dance around the room!! It’s okay if you didn’t. 🙂

Here’s how it works –

* Send me your cutest Christmas photo – your dog, kids, spouse, anything that captures the fun you had over the holidays – email the photo to catherine@catherinejwest.com (By sending your photo you give permission for me to post it in the Fun Christmas Photo Contest Gallery on my Facebook Author Page).
* All photos must be received by and will be posted on January 1st, 2017! My readers will be asked to vote over the next week, and decide on the 3 best pictures!
* 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners will all receive one copy of any one of my books, winner’s choice! Winners will be announced on Monday January 9th! 

And that’s all there is to it! I can’t wait to see all your fun photos! Here’s my fun photo to inspire you!

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“The things I do for this woman . . .” said Noah, putting on his most adorable pose in hopes of an extra treat.

Well, that’s about all the news from this end, thanks for reading!

Tell me how your Christmas was, what was your one best thing this year?