Welcome to Romance, Oregon (And My New Younger Man/Older Woman Story)!

Get Ready to Fall Into Romance!

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What happens when you mix together a group of authors, add laughter, lovable pets, and a dash of pumpkin spice? The perfect combination resulting in ten sweet novellas that’ll have you falling in love all over again!

FIR Boxed Set

Surround yourself in the romance of the autumn season with 10 heartwarming, sweet novellas from the USA Today, national bestselling, and award-winning authors. Each story takes you inside the heart of a small town-its people-and features adorable animal friends in need of a forever home. Take a trip to Romance, Oregon, where falling in love has never been easier and happily-ever-after is guaranteed!

Available for Pre-order Now!
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunesKobo | Google

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Stories and Authors

Lost in Romance by Stacy Claflin

At Second Glance by Raine English

Blown Into Romance by Shanna Hatfield

Wired for Romance by Franky A. Brown

Restoring Romance by Tamie Dearen

Finding Dori by J.J. DeBenedetto

Katie’s Chance for Romance by Jessica L. Elliott

Chasing Romance by Liwen Y. Ho

Lessons in Romance by Kit Morgan

Finding Forever in Romance by Melanie D. Snitker

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Chasing Romance

By Liwen Y. Ho

I consider it an awesome privilege to be part of this boxed set with so many amazing authors! I’ve read several of the stories in the set so let me assure you, they are all such engaging and well-written stories. My story, Chasing Romance, was my first attempt at a younger man/older woman romance and I had such a fun time writing it. I can’t wait for you to meet Chase and Izzy!

Izzy Sutton shelved away her own needs when her ex-boyfriend left town eighteen years ago, leaving her to raise their daughter alone. With Gracie away at college now, she has time to invest in her Bed and Breakfast, as well as her secret songwriting job. Trouble starts though when a handsome singer comes looking for a room, forcing Izzy to decide if it’s worth opening up her heart again, especially to a much younger man.

Pop sensation Chase Lockhart owes his overnight fame to one song penned by an anonymous writer. Desperate for more chart-toppers, he travels to Oregon to collect the other songs she owes him. Finding her is the least of his troubles; getting past her defenses, including her dog who hates him, proves to be the real challenge.

Can a shared love of music lead a young singer and a single mom to fall in love? Anything’s possible in the small town of Romance.

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Don’t forget to pre-order your copy of Fall Into Romance!  It’s just 99 cents!

When Parenting Feels Like Construction Work

I used to think raising babies and toddlers and preschoolers was hard. Oh, those years are long and wild and most of all, tiring, but the upside is that they’re simpler. Most of the time, you feel like you’re working in a production line, going through the same motions (feed, change, sleep, repeat) every single day, but a lot of it is “mindless” work. (Until the tantrums start. Lol) Raising a tween, on the other hand … THAT. IS. HARD.

I wish I could go into details about what we’ve been going through, but the munchkin who has requested to not be mentioned on social media ever again would not approve, so I must respect his wishes. 🙂 Suffice it to say, I told hubby the other day that I am seriously considering dyeing my hair because my white hair is doubling by the week. Groan … mutter … sigh!

Even as I’m praying and struggling through these new challenges, I’m reminding myself that this is all normal. Kids are supposed to grow up, “find themselves”, and navigate that fine line between dependence and independence. During this time, however, bad attitudes, hurt feelings, and mistakes will happen. Words will be said and things will be done that we wish could be taken back and undone. Most of all, this parent-child relationship will be tested time and time again.

Sigh (again)!

I was reminded this week of a show my kids used to watch when they were much younger called Bob the Builder.

Image courtesy of flickr

If you’ve never seen it, it’s an animated show that features a fix-it guy named Bob and his whole crew of construction vehicles. One of the things that Bob always says is, “Can we fix it? Yes, we can!” I thought of Bob and this slogan because lately, I feel like there’s a lot of fixing going on in our house. Our parent-child bond keeps on being tested—and broken. But for every time it does, we can be like Bob and ask, “Can we fix it?” Yes, we can!

Repairing a relationship is not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. We can’t use tools, such as screwdrivers, hammers or nails, to put things back together. Hearts cannot be mended with tape or glue. But you know what we do have that is stronger and more effective than any fix-it gadget? Love.

I can hear you groan (or maybe that’s me!). Yup, unfortunately, there’s no easy fix for a broken relationship. But I do want to encourage all the parents out there who are in the early stages of parenting: You can make it easier for yourself now.

The one thing I’m thankful for is that hubby and I have fairly close relationships with our munchkins. Over the years, we’ve worked to build up mutual trust and respect and, thanks to hubby, a sense of fun. For the most part, we enjoy one another’s company and are sensitive to one another’s needs. Because of this closeness, whenever there’s a disconnect between us, we can feel it. It makes us so uncomfortable that we can’t go too long without wanting to reconnect with the other person. Because of the bond we’ve built (and continue to build upon), it’s easier and more natural for us to repair the bond when it breaks. And this, my friends, has been our saving grace during this crazy time.

So, this is the advice I give to all parents of young kids: Be sensitive to your child and his needs. Love him the way he needs to be loved. And a decade from now, your future self—and your child—will thank you for doing so.

This is a song I’ve been listening to on repeat, Imagine Dragons’ “Walking the Wire”. Even though it’s a love song, I think the lyrics are very applicable to parenting through the hard times.

We could turn around and we could give it up
But we’ll take what comes, take what comes
Oh, the storm is raging against us now
If you’re afraid of falling, then don’t look down
But we took the step, oh, we took the leap
And we’ll take what comes, take what comes

What helped you through your teen years? Are you a parent of pre-teens/teens? I’d love to hear your advice!

It’s Release Day for On Waves of Wanderlust!

The family and I took a trip last week to our happy place: Kauai. We had a wonderful time, despite the fact that vacationing with kids is pretty much life in a different place. 😉 But life on a tropical island happens to be 100% more beautiful, fun, and soothing than life in the “real world”. Here are some photos to prove it …

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It was so amazing in Kauai that I actually disconnected from social media most of the time while we were there. Who wants to look down at a tiny screen when you can be looking all around at the amazing sights?! And breathing in the fresh ocean air. And smelling the sweet tropical smells. And tasting all the yummy fruit? Happy sigh! 🙂

But back to reality … and speaking of traveling … today’s release day for my newest book baby (and the last book in my Seasons of Love series), On Waves of Wanderlust!

YAY!

This story was inspired in part by a cruise we took to Mexico years ago with my in-laws when we only had one munchkin and one on the way. The one thing I’ve learned about cruises is that you’ve gotta be prepared to EAT. The food is amazing, not only in quality but in quantity as well. We’re talking a dessert buffet at midnight. Yup, craziness! The other thing about cruises is that you get to meet new people and go on new adventures … and maybe even fall in love, just like Macy and Jake did in this story. 🙂

If you’ve never been on a cruise ship before, here’s your chance to take a virtual one. It’s the perfect length for when you need a pick-me-up during the day or need to escape real life for a little while. And best of all? It’s calorie-free and you won’t get seasick!

Check out the playlist for On Waves of Wanderlust here!

Where would you like to go on a cruise ship?

When There Is No Finish Line

Hubby has been working out on a regular basis for a few months now . This decision pleased the cheap, ahem, I mean frugal side of me because it meant he’d finally be using the gym membership we’d been paying for on a monthly basis. I’d also be getting a more healthy, energetic and buff husband and who wouldn’t want that? 😉

Hubby’s efforts the first two months were jaw-dropping. He’d go to the gym before the sun woke up and go again before he came home from work. Two workouts in a day? Who does that kind of thing?! Apparently, according to hubby, a lot of people who go to the gym do. They must either really want to get their money’s worth or the happy hormones you get from exercising are a real thing. 😉 There’s likely a third reason though as to why people stick to a workout routine. Hubby explained it to me with a slogan he saw on a shirt at the gym. It read, There is no finish line. 

 

The thought is that in order to stay healthy, energetic and buff, you need to exercise, eat right, and sleep well on a consistent basis. That means every. single. day. Because once you stop, the laws of physics (specifically, the one related to gravity) take over and your body start drooping and sagging and not functioning as well as it could.

When I heard this slogan, I couldn’t help but cringe. Working out every single day? If only I had enough energy to do that. Well, the irony of it all is that when you start working out, you gain more energy which helps you continue the vicious, I mean, wonderful cycle. So once you get going, it’s easier to keep going. Exercising will still require effort, time and commitment, but as you continue to do it regularly, it will become a part of your routine. Which is a good thing because there is no finish line when it comes to staying healthy.

This slogan got me thinking about how so much of our lives requires daily maintenance. Our minds, hearts and souls need regular nourishment and “exercise” as well. I’ve been experiencing this need as I stay home with the munchkins during their summer vacation. Boy, whoever came up with that slogan must’ve understood what having kids is like because believe me, there is no finish line when it comes to parenting. This job requires you to get up, clothe, feed, and clean up after your kids every day. And that’s just the physical, “easy” part of being a parent. It’s the emotional and mental stuff—being patient, kind, forgiving and gracious—that really kicks you in the butt. Sigh. 😉 I’ve been reminding myself to work on listening well and keeping my expectations realistic. And making sure I get some me-time and good sleep so I can be on my best behavior for them.

We have one week of summer vacay under our belts now and ten more to go—whew! Fortunately, I find that the longer I’ve been a parent, the more I know how to keep going on a daily basis. Not that it gets easier, but it does get a lot more predictable and a little more manageable. And there are plenty of rewards—shared experiences, funny moments and silly stuff—to keep you going … and going … and going … 🙂

What things do you want to keep working at on a daily basis?

Raising Our Kids for Other People’s Benefit

One of the munchkins came home recently and told me their teacher joked that we (hubby and I) were having a hard time with them and offered to adopt them. My first reaction was, Ha, he doesn’t know what he’s asking for!; my second thought, After all the hard work we’ve done?! No way, buddy! 😉

This joke got me thinking though about our job as parents. We have kids for ourselves, to fulfill a desire within us that imagines how nice it would be to have our own mini-me’s. However, when we raise our kids, it’s not only for our benefit. We raise our kids for other people, too.

What do I mean? All the teaching, guiding, correcting, and nurturing we do with our kids eventually benefits the people our kids come into contact with. This includes their friends and teachers and their future employers, potential spouses, even society as a whole. Whoa. That’s a sobering thought. But isn’t this the goal of parenting? To love, influence, and bless our children so they can in turn love, influence, and bless others.

Parenting is a huge responsibility and also one of the most thankless jobs out there. Even though we don’t always directly reap the rewards of our labor, there are moments when we get a virtual pat on the back for the job we’ve done. Like when a teacher tells you what an inspiration your child is to him. And he offers to adopt said child. I think that’s a good sign you’ve done something right as a parent. 😛 And now that I’ve thought through this offer some more, I’ve changed my mind. I’m warming up to the idea … especially with summer break around the corner. 😉

Speaking of the break, I’ll be returning to a summer schedule for posting to this blog (aka. whenever my kids allow me to!). I’ll leave you now with this fun video from the musical episode of The Flash (my favorite superhero!), featuring the song “Put A Little Love In Your Heart”, which is a good reminder for me as I think about all the time I’ll be spending at home with the munchkins. 😉

In what ways are your children a blessing to others?

You’re Never Too Young or Too Old to Become an Author

I’ve mentioned before that I would not be the author I am without my (virtual) village of fellow authors. I owe a lot of my growth to one Facebook group in particular: Clean Indie Reads. Recently, I polled the members of CIR to ask them an important question: At what age did you publish your first book? Below is a snapshot of the results, which really surprised me!

As I suspected, the majority of the members published for the first time in their 30s; I did as well when I was 38. But I was blown away to discover many people were in their 50s and 60s when they first published! Whoa baby. 😀 How cool is that?

The results of this poll prove it’s never too late to pursue your dream of becoming an author.

Hubby and I were just talking about this the other day. He remarked,” Writing is one job where your age doesn’t matter.” There are plenty of other professions where youth is a desired trait and what usually accompanies it—beauty, strength and energy—are requirements of the job. Being a writer, however, only requires that you have a mind to think and imagine and some way to get your thoughts down on paper. Readers don’t mind how old an author is, as long as their stories touch them.

One is also never too young to become an author. One of my munchkins’ teachers is an awesome out-of-the-box thinker and he calls his class the 4th Grade Dreamers. He assigns “dreamwork” to the kids every week, homework that encourages them to think about their dreams and find tangible ways to pursue them. The dream of one of my munchkins (the one who has requested to never be mentioned on social media again, ahem) is to become an author. The mom part of me hopes he’ll also find a day job, but the author part of me is pleased to see him follow in my footsteps. 😉 It was really neat to see him working on his dreamwork this week, creating a story to share with his classmates. He enjoyed the process so much, he even laughed out loud as he wrote … which made me laugh. It was such a joy for me to see him take pleasure in something that took me almost four decades to embrace. I wish I had someone who encouraged me to pursue my dream of being an author when I was ten. Fortunately, I was still able to start—and continue—dreaming as an adult. Because age doesn’t matter. You’re never too young or too old to become an author.

So, whether you’ve always wanted to write a book or you have a manuscript hidden away somewhere that you want to publish, here’s my tip for you: Just do it! 🙂

If you don’t know where to start and have a million questions, feel free to ask me! Or you can join Clean Indie Reads, the most awesome authors group on Facebook and learn from the best.

Clean Indie Reads’ Facebook group

Clean Indie Reads’ Website

What dreams do you want to pursue?

Embracing the “Lasts” of Childhood

I was driving the munchkins to school yesterday when we got stuck in a mile-long traffic jam, thanks to a broken-down train. The road we were on happened to be near a park we used to go to regularly when they were younger. C looked out her window at the empty swings, slide and spinning-thingy and remarked, “It looks so small.”

I laughed and replied, “That’s because you’re bigger now.”

This truth is something I’ve been chewing on lately as a mama. My kids are bigger now, so big that one of them is getting too tall to be my chin rest. They’re heavier now so that when I try to carry them—with one arm under their head and the other under their knees—I can only manage to stay upright for ten seconds. They’re also outgrowing a lot of the activities they enjoyed before: going to the park or playground, holding my hand when we cross the street or having me read them a book (or three!) at bedtime.

As parents, we always look forward to the firsts of childhood: a child’s first word, first step, first time pooping in the potty, first day of school, first performance … the list goes on and on. But what happens when some of these “firsts” start becoming their “lasts”?

I used to complain about reading to them before bed. I was tired, blurry-eyed and, quite honestly, looking forward to my alone time after the family fell asleep. The last thing I wanted to do was crack open a book and narrate it in my most dramatic voice. Just between you and me, I may or may not have only borrowed reeeaaalllly short books from the library to shorten the reading time. 😉

There came a day when the munchkins were in bed, waiting for me to take a shower, so I could read to them afterwards. Except that on this night by the time I was ready to read, they were already asleep! And the same thing happened the day after and the day after that. By the third night, other than realizing I could’ve taken longer showers (haha!), I started to wonder if my job as a bedtime book reader was coming to an end. Maybe the munchkins didn’t want me to read to them anymore?!?! :O Noooo!

That’s when I decided reading to them at bedtime wasn’t such a bad thing. It’s something that takes time and effort, but it’s also a great privilege and—sniff, sniff!—a temporary one.

As much as we long for our kids to grow up, it’s hard when it actually happens. It’s hard to accept that your baby doesn’t need you the same way he did before, but trust me, it’s a good thing. Before you know it, your little one won’t need you to brush their teeth for them. They won’t need you to wipe their bottoms or their noses. There will come a morning when she will shake her hand free from yours when you reach the school gate. An evening when he won’t ask you for another bedtime story. And maybe even a day when your child will be the one showing you neat shortcuts on your phone that you had no idea existed. And it’ll be okay. Because their growth and their independence is our reward. It’s a sign of a job well done. 🙂

So, let’s celebrate the “firsts” of our children, embrace their “lasts”, but most of all, enjoy all the in-betweens.

Here’s a beautiful rendition of “How Far I’ll Go” sung by Voctave, from the movie Moana. Just think, one day we won’t be bombarded by Disney songs (unless of course you choose to be)!

What childhood “lasts” have you learned to embrace?

Life Lessons from a Wannabe Strawberry Plant

Remember my post a few weeks back (you can read it HERE) about how munchkin #2 waited 72 (I repeat, 72!) days for her strawberry plant to sprout? Here’s part 2 of this epic saga. Saga is the correct term because it means “a long story of heroic achievement”.

So thanks to a green-thumbed friend of mine who saw a photo of C’s plant on my Instagram, we learned the strawberry plant was in fact not a strawberry plant, but more likely a dandelion. When I broke the news to C, her whole body slumped as she wailed, “I’ve been growing a WEED?!”

Poor C. My disappointment was only a smidgeon of the shock and despair she was feeling. In that moment she wanted to give up. She was ready to hand over her bright green shoot of long, spiky leaves and have me take care of it. And quite honestly, I didn’t blame her.

I took a deep breath and racked my brain, trying hard to come up with something redeemable about the situation. I rubbed her back and said, “Sometimes things don’t work out the way we expect them to. You didn’t grow a strawberry plant, but you did grow something! You did a great job watering and taking care of it every day for so long. Now you know what it takes to grow a plant.”

Her answer? “I’m growing a weed!”

Yup. Such is life, my dear. 😛

I wish things were different. I wish one strawberry seed had made it so C could have something to show for her hard work and patience (because to an 8 year old, 72 days is like an eternity!). But in the midst of all our disappointment, I appreciated the life lesson this wannabe strawberry plant reminded me of: Things doesn’t always turn out the way we expect, but that doesn’t mean these experiences were for naught. The disappointments we face, the unexpected detours and U-turns we make, the epic failures we go through—they are what make us strong and resilient and persistent. Nope, they’re not fun or pleasant, but they build something precious and desirable: they build character. And the hard times are what make success and victory sweet.

This experience taught C so much, and I can see how her perspective has changed. Just this past weekend we decided to start a small garden in the backyard. C jumped at the idea and we all went to the store to buy seeds to plant. While C was browsing, she turned to the back of the seed packets to look for the number of days it would take before the vegetable could be harvested. Several times she remarked, “52 days? 66 days? That’s so fast!” I had to keep myself from laughing at her reaction. This was the same girl who had moaned and groaned for 72 days while she waited for her strawberry/dandelion plant to grow. But now? She’s become a pro at waiting. 🙂

So, I want to say thank you to the random dandelion seed who flew into our house and found the perfect place to land. You may be a weed, but you’re a wonderful weed. Thanks for the life lessons you taught my munchkin. But whatever you do, please don’t spread your seeds into our backyard. 😉

Here’s a picture of C’s weed. Next to it is some lettuce she’s growing, too (which is super easy to do; go here for instructions)!

Here’s an oldie but goodie, Wilson Phillips’ song “Hold On”, that talks about holding on through the hard times.

How have disappointments and failures shaped you?

Why Mother’s Day Isn’t for Moms

I’ve been blessed to be a mama for a decade now and the one thing I’ve learned as a mom is that you need to go in to Mother’s Day with the right expectations. 😉 Why? Because I used to think that this one day of the year would be an actual day where I could get away with sleeping in, having breakfast in bed, and generally speaking, not having to lift a single finger the whole day. How did I ever get this crazy idea in my head? Because I was led to believe that Mother’s Day is a day designated to celebrating moms. And when you’re expecting to be treated like the VIP that you are (wink, wink), you look forward to this day the same way that you look forward to going on a tropical vacation: You say “bring it on!”.

Well, soon after I experienced my first Mother’s Day, reality set in. Nope, I did not get to sleep in (because babies don’t understand the concept of sleeping in), I still had to change diapers and wipe little behinds, I still had to feed people, I still had to do whatever request a munchkin asked me to do because as moms all know, you’re the only one special enough to do such a request. 🙂 Dishes still piled up in the sink, the laundry baskets were still full and the bathroom was still the one place I couldn’t go alone.

I got to the point where I decided the best way I could enjoy Mother’s Day was to prepare myself for it. By prepare I meant doing the laundry (washing, drying and ironing) a day early. Vacuuming and mopping the floors earlier in the week. Making sure the fridge was stocked and would last us through the weekend. Doing any other things that needed to be done before Mother’s Day, so I could do what I was supposed to do on Mother’s Day: enjoy Mother’s Day. Pretty silly, huh? 😉

I came to the realization that my expectations were all wrong. I had set the bar so high for this one particular day. I didn’t want to do any housework. I didn’t want my kids to ask me to do anything for them. I wanted to be wined and dined (even take-out would be fine!) I just wanted the whole day to be perfect (is that too much to ask?!) LOL. I was essentially asking to not be a mother on Mother’s Day.

I’ve finally come full circle on this whole Mother’s Day issue. I now accept that Mother’s Day is not for me. 😉 It’s for my kids. It’s a day for them to look forward to as they wake up excited in the morning to bring me breakfast in bed. It’s a day where they have the chance to present me with a gift they made with their own little hands or bought with their own money. It’s a day for them to give me hugs and words of appreciation because they honestly think I’m one of the most important people in the world. It’s a day to marvel at their unconditional love for me just for being their mom.

It doesn’t get better than this! 🙂

So I’m good with Mother’s Day. I may even be looking forward to it this year. 😉 I hope you are, too. And if you’re still hoping for that one day a year where you don’t have to lift a finger and everything is perfect? There’s always your birthday. 😉

Here’s wishing you and your family a very happy Mother’s Day! Thank God for moms!

Celebrating Our Sweet 16 (Years of Marriage)

Hubby and I will be celebrating 16 years of marriage tomorrow. Yup, we chose May 5th so it’d be an easy date for him to remember. 😉 (Fun fact: He has trouble remembering his own parents’ birthdays.) As we approach our sweet 16, the one emotion I feel is that of gratitude. I am so thankful because I know I married the right person.

Recently, hubby came back from work to have lunch with me. After our meal, we decided to go to Peet’s (coffee for him, tea for me), and on our way there we saw a man sitting outside on a bench. He held up a handwritten note on a piece of torn cardboard, asking for help. Hubby and I exchanged a quick glance as we passed him. Inside the cafe we placed our order and he went to the restroom. While I waited for him, I took my wallet out of my purse and checked if I had any cash. I rarely do, but that day I found a few bills and placed them in my pocket. I then picked up our order and met hubby as he came out of the restroom. I watched as he also pulled out his wallet to look for cash, and that’s when I knew … I had married the right guy.

“I already got some money—”

“You did?” he responded in surprise. He paused his search and took the cash I handed him. “Oh, good.”

We left Peet’s and handed the money to the man outside.

I don’t tell this story to brag about our “good deed”, but I do want to brag about my hubby. 🙂 In the time I’ve known him, I’ve learned that he is a generous person with a soft spot for people who would be considered underdogs. He is generous with his money (guess who’s the saver in the family?), but it’s because he understands that money is a tool which can be used for good. Even though he can never wait to get the latest and greatest gadgets, he is patient where it counts the most: with people. He makes time for the munchkins and showers them with daily “I love you’s” and kisses (in private of course, never at school!) and also forgives quickly. I still remember the time munchkin #1 accidentally dropped his precious Nikon SLR camera on the floor. He winced for a split second, but his love for his kids soon replaced any other emotions he could have had in that moment. As a husband, he has been my biggest fan from day one. He walked by my side as I finished grad school, let me squeeze his arm during labor contractions, and supports me daily as a stay-at-home mom. Even though he has yet to read any of my books (he doesn’t like to read, haha!), he encourages me to write and proudly tells his coworkers that his wife is an author.

Hubby is the more generous, gracious and giving spouse in our marriage, and quite honestly, my better half. And because of who he is and his care for our family, I have learned to be more generous, gracious and giving. The reason I wanted to give money to that man outside of Peet’s was because I’ve seen hubby do the same time and time again. The fact that we both opened up our wallets that day showed me that the past 16 years of our marriage have molded and shaped us. We started out as two very different individuals, and while we still are opposites in many ways, we have also influenced one another for the better. Our viewpoints and interests are more aligned. We see eye-to-eye on the bigger issues in life and let the minor ones fall to the side. Rather than a state of coexistence, our relationship has become one of communication, cooperation and companionship. And would you believe it, our marriage has also become more fun. 🙂

If you’d asked me early on in our marriage whether or not I’d married the right person, I don’t think I would have been able to answer with a firm yes. But now? I’m certain I married the right man. Because this man makes me want to be a better woman.

I’d like to take a moment to thank the Lord and our family and friends for supporting us through our marriage! And our munchkins for bringing so much joy (and white hair) to our lives. Happy anniversary, Honey! I love you. 😀