Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Gratitude challenge: week 9...

And this week's challenge is...

How do I feel?



Honestly? Kind of stressed. I can't share why as of yet, but our family is embarking on an adventure. A BIG adventure, and it is so out of our box, I almost feel like I could throw up.

(It's so far out of our box, that I can no longer see the original box. It's now a speck on the horizon.)

So right now I am feeling stressed.

Thank you for asking.

xxoo
Brooke

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Gratitude challenge week 8...

This week's prompt is:

Express gratitude to 3 people!

Okay, then...let's do it.



1.) Jess Tichenal

Girlfriend helped me to see that I could get published, thus inspiring what turned out to be an awesome career. I am extremely grateful for her friendship.

2.) My niece, Ryann.

She's just one of those kick butt young people that COULD have turned out so screwed up, but wound up developing herself into one of the strongest, smartest, most responsible and thoughtful young adults ever. She makes me want to be a better person, and I appreciate that in a kid.

3.) Mr. Hanson.

I don't know where this guy is, or what he's doing nowadays. Last I heard, he wasn't teaching because of some scandal. I don't know if this is true or not, but the teacher I knew way back when was different. He encouraged me and drove me to work harder. He helped me get the highest GPA of my high school career, and literally made me believe in myself for the first time. He was the only teacher at my po'dunk school in the fields who didn't think I was a dumb degenerate. The only one.

xxoo
Brooke

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Gratitude challenge week 7...

This week's prompt is:

A friend.

This topic was difficult for me. I'm almost 40 now, and frankly, my best friends are my husband and my kooky old mother. But I write enough about them....so I had to expand my search a little.

Friendship is a strange, fickle beast. I have friends I no longer talk to, but still love like I see them every day. And I have friends that I talk to all the time, but don't feel all that connected to at all. It's just casual. Airy-fairy, and such.

I have a small handful of friends that I've maintained over the years, and a few friends who are fairly new to the fold.

Some friendships have waxed and waned and some have moved on. And surprisingly, I'm okay with that. The fact is, sometimes friendships change, and sometimes people change. I know I have. What I like/don't like, what I'll tolerate/won't tolerate, what I want/don't want from a friendship has evolved over time. The older I get, the smaller my circle becomes, and for that I'm grateful. I would rather have a tight group of trustworthy friends than a wide circle of toxic ones. Wouldn't you?

I guess growing older has made me look at friendship with more realistic eyes. I no longer set my sights really high, expecting the types of friendships that rock my world, and move mountains. I now enjoy the small, peaceful friendships that ebb and flow in my life, enjoying them while they're great, and smiling fondly after they've fizzled.

I think age makes me see friendships for what they are. They're happy little blessings that come and go in your life. Little gifts from our Heavenly Father, to encourage us to press forward and keep our chin up. They don't always have to end in matching tattoos and cars going off of the side of the Grand Canyon, a'la Thelma & Louise. They can also be that one person you get an email from a couple times a year, who makes you smile and think, It's so nice to know she still cares.

Any higher expectation than that--not that that's all I have, mind you--is unrealistic.

So I decided to go with a friend I've had for years, and hope to have for many more. She's patient, and kind, and maternal, and loving. She tolerates my inadequacies--which are in abundance--and never seems to hate me, despite my obvious flaws. She makes me laugh, and laughs even when I'm not very funny. She loves my children like her own and I love hers like my own. She is my "in case of emergency" contact. She makes me want to be a better wife, mom, and woman. She shares my love/hate relationship with camping with ALL our kids, and gives me goodies to snack on when I'm down. She and I share an eye-rolling relationship when it comes to our goofy husbands, and she looks at motherhood with very realistic goggles, which I SO appreciate in this world of Pinterest and pretending that we're all freaking perfect. She is also a spiritual inspiration to me.

I'm forever grateful for her.



Her name is Amelia. And I think she's wonderful.

xxoo
Brooke

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Psssst....guess where I'm going a week from today?

My family (yup...me, my hubby, and all FOUR of our kids) flies to South Korea next week.



HOLY HANNAH BANANAS ON TOAST.



We are taking an international trip. To Asia.



*blink, blink* I still can't believe we're doing this.



We're going for my husband's work, and it will be a (somewhat) brief holiday. I'm not sure what to expect from jet lag, 12 hour flights, a new language, new foods, etc etc etc...



I can't wait to post pictures. And tell you the highs and lows of international travel with four children.



xxoo
Brooke

What happens when...

........you and the obstetrician you're secretly in love with find yourselves wanting to buy the same house?

Wait. Say what?

Do you like the pretty new cover?


Yeah. Lexie's life is a peculiar comedy of errors....but enjoy their first kiss. I sure did.

Shivers danced across my skin, and I shuddered—yes, shuddered—at the mention of the good doctor’s name. “F-fletcher’s here?”
I wanted to do a happy dance, and throw myself onto the floor for a tantrum at the same time. Andrea’s eyes screamed an apology as my brother and Fletcher entered the room.
“Hey, sis. You know Fletcher, right?” Corbin called, clapping Fletcher on the back. Andrea made a face at him, and his eyes widened. “Oh, right. Of course you do.”
            Fletcher’s cheeks reddened when he saw me. In true Fletcher style, his hair had been tousled into perfect bed head, and his low-slung faded jeans accented his vintage Elvis (Elvis!) tee shirt perfectly.
            “Lexie.” That was all Fletcher said. He shoved his hands in his pockets and stared at me.
            “Fletcher.” I tugged my denim jacket around my belly as best I could.
Now, let’s get one thing clear: I was so grateful to be pregnant, and the thought of holding my baby in my arms soon was almost more than I could stand. But, if there was ever a time when I wished I could have my thin frame and flat belly back, this was it.
Fletcher’s eyes grazed over my whole body, from my faded Chuck Taylor’s to the bandana in my hair, leaving a trail of electricity behind as they moved. There was no denying the volt of energy surging between the two of us. Hell, if the lights had been on in the house, they would’ve blinked.
            Brian cleared his throat, and I suddenly remembered that Fletcher and I weren’t alone.
“So, um, Fletcher,” he said. “Did you know Lexie found out the sex of the baby?”
            Fletcher blinked a few times. “What? Did you have another ultrasound? I didn’t see the scans.”
            When I shook my head, it felt like I was underwater. “No.”
            “She came to make an offer on the house.” Andrea rubbed her forehead. “I feel so bad.”
            Corbin stepped forward. “You want to buy the house?”
            “I, uh, yes.” I held up a rumpled sheet of paper. “I got a loan. I didn’t get a realtor. I knew you’d make more money that way.”
            “I didn’t, either.” Fletcher ducked his head. “Lexie, I’m so sorry, I had no idea you were interested in the house.”
            “Neither did I.” Corbin pressed his lips together. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
            Tears flooded my eyes, and I opened them wider to prevent them from spilling. Curse these damned hormones. “I didn’t want to say anything until I was completely certain. I came over as soon as I got the paperwork.”
            Candace took my hand. “Oh, honey, don’t cry. It’s okay. There’ll be other houses.”
            The tears escaped, and slid down my face. I didn’t want another house. I wanted this house. I practically saw myself holding my baby in the window seat upstairs, and making my morning coffee in the sunny kitchen. This was how I would prove to myself—and to my mother—that I didn’t need a husband to take care of the baby and me, that I could do it on my own. Being a homeowner was the ultimate proof.
            Andrea and Candace wrapped their arms around me, while all three men stood in an awkward semicircle. “No, no, no.” I waved them away. “It’s no big deal. I’m just tired. That’s all. I’m just… I’m just…”
            “Disappointed,” Andrea finished for me.
            Fletcher turned to Corbin. “I’m tearing up the deal.”
            “Wait.” A look of panic flashed across my brother’s face. “Lexie, are you serious? Are you sure you’ve got financing?”
            Fletcher reached for the papers in Corbin’s hand. “Listen, she’s family, she—”
            “No.” I straightened my shoulders. “Ignore the tears. They fall at random, I’m telling you. I’m really fine with this. I promise. Fletcher—” Saying his name gave a zap of hysteria right down into my core, and the baby flipped in my belly. “It’s your house. I promise.”
            Corbin dragged a hand down the length of his face. “Argh. I don’t know what to do.”
            Fletcher’s bright blue eyes bored into mine. “I’m so sorry.”
            “You couldn’t have known.”
The air between us was heavy, and judging by the uncomfortable expressions on everyone’s faces, they could feel it, too.
            After an awkward pause that lasted entirely too long, Candace cleared her throat. When I moved my gaze to her face, she widened her eyes. We’d been close our whole lives, and I knew this expression to mean, What in the world is going on with you?
            I shrugged. It was all I could do.
            “Why don’t we give Lexie and Fletcher a few minutes to sort this out,” she offered, corralling everyone towards the door. “Kids, come on. Let’s go look at the pretty landscaping Andrea did in the backyard.”
            The sound of a toilet flushing rang out, and then the kids toddled their way through the living room and out the French doors. Brian, Corbin, Andrea, and Candace followed, and when the door clicked shut, Fletcher and I found ourselves standing alone on the gleaming hickory floors.
            Fletcher took my hand, and by gosh, the thrill shooting up my arm was practically lethal. “Lexie, take the house. It’ll be a great place for you and the baby.”
            “No, it’s perfect for you and Martha.” I turned my palm so our fingers laced together. It was like our hands had been cut to match each other’s. We fit together like puzzle pieces.
            No, wait.
Fletcher was Marisol’s boyfriend. Not mine. Marisol’s. And Marisol was my friend. Good grief, I needed to rein it in.
“Where are your girls?” I asked, pulling my hand away.
            “My girls?” A wrinkle formed between his eyebrows.
            “Martha and Marisol.” I stepped backwards to widen the space between us. He followed.
            “Oh, right.” He cringed. “They’re getting pedicures today. Martha doesn’t know I’m here. It’s a surprise.”
            I forced a smile. What a lovely mother-daughter outing for Marisol and Martha. I wondered how Marisol was tolerating it. She usually got her pedicures at high-end salons that didn’t exactly welcome children. Of course, they could be having the time of their lives, holding hands and gazing at each other in familial adoration. Jealousy pressed down on my shoulders.
            “Pedicures sound fun,” I squeaked.
            He chuckled. “I’m trying to help them bond a little.”
            “Got it.” Nodding, I pressed a hand to my belly. Both the baby, and my nerves, were going wild. And when Fletcher inched closer to me, it didn’t help.
            His cerulean eyes moved to my middle. “You all right? Nauseous?”
            “No.” I shook my head. “Just nervous.”
            His palm went to my stomach. “Baby moving? Sleeping okay? Eating enough protein?”
            “Yup. Everything’s good.” I backed away from his touch. It felt too freaking good. Like something that could melt me right into a puddle on the floor if I let it.
“Good.” We’d now moved into the hallway off the living room. Even though it was dimmer there, Fletcher’s eyes still sparkled. “Listen, Lexie, I won’t buy the house. There are other houses out there.”
My heart twisted. I pictured Martha running across the front yard after getting off the school bus, a backpack bouncing on her shoulder, her dark curls flying out behind her. “Absolutely not. This is yours and Martha’s home. I can feel it.”
He looked around, his eyes scanning across the crown molding and refinished built-in cabinetry. The corners of his mouth pricked upward. “I really do love this house.”
My palm covered his hand on my middle. “Then you should live here.”
His eyes came back to mine. “You really think so?”
“Yeah.”
And I meant it. I mean, I wanted the house. Bad. But I could see Martha cozied up to the fireplace with a cup of cocoa in the winter while Fletcher set up a freshly cut Christmas tree in the corner. It was the perfect house for them. “Maybe I’ll buy the house next door, and we’ll be neighbors.”
“That would be great.” Something flashed in Fletcher’s eyes, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. His lower lip pulled between his teeth while I was trying to figure it out. He looked so edible when he did that.
“So that’s settled,” I whispered.
Fletcher took hold of my upper arms and brought me against his chest. I could feel his heart galloping. “You really are something, Lex. Thank you.”
I opened and closed my mouth a few times, but couldn’t think of anything relevant to say. The scent that was so him flooded my senses, making my ears ring and my eyes slide shut against my will. He smelled like fabric softener, and minty toothpaste, and something else. Something musky and so, undeniably male it made my toes curl in my sneakers.
“I wish…” Fletcher’s words petered out, and we were left in the dim hallway with silence all around us.
His hands started tracing circles on my back, leaving trails of tickling heat behind them as they went. I shivered beneath his touch, knowing I needed to put a stop to it, but wanting it to go on for at least another hour. Maybe two. Or possibly forever. The moment stretched out from three seconds, to five, and then to ten. I felt Fletcher’s nose against my messy hair, and listened as he drew in a deep breath. The electricity between us was so strong, it nearly buckled my knees
“You wish what?” I pulled back and looked up at him.
“There’s something between us,” he whispered, his breath dancing across my lips.
I gulped. I wanted Fletcher. I’d wanted him for months. But this was wrong. So wrong. It was like I was at battle with myself.
“Yeah.”
He pressed one hand to the small of my back and brought the other up to cup the back of my neck. I loved that. “I can’t fight it,” he mumbled, walking me backwards slowly.
The little redheaded angel on my right shoulder shook her head solemnly. Tell him to fight it. Walk away, drive home, and eat some chocolate. That’s the right thing to do.
Fletcher brushed his nose across my cheekbone, and my heart started Irish clog dancing inside of my chest.
The little redheaded devil on my left shoulder joined in the dance. Screw doing the right thing. Tell him to kiss you, and to make it worth your time!
“Then don’t fight it.” The words came out of my mouth before I had any time to think about what I was saying.
That must’ve been the green light Fletcher was waiting for, because his lips were on mine before I could even process another word. They were full and warm, but surrounded by a glorious five o’clock shadow that made my limbs go weak and my eyes roll back in my head.
And roll back, they did.
Because when his head tipped to the side, and his tongue traced a path along my upper lip to encourage my mouth to open more, it was over. My hands dug into the back of his hair, tangling into his blonde locks, and securing his face to mine. His hand pressed my body into his even more, arching my back before sliding down my hip to my thigh, which he raised against his hip as we landed against the wall with a muted thud. An old painting swayed near the back of my head, but I didn’t care as Fletcher’s fingers kneaded gently against the back of my knee, and his teeth caught my lower lip with the softest of nips. His mouth moved down my jaw line to my neck, just below my ear, where his breath against my skin caused me to gasp—yes, gasp—as every nerve ending in my body hummed with utter awareness.

Self control: gone.



Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Gratitude challenge week 6...

This week's prompt is:

The city I live in.

The city I live in is sort of boring. I mean, I love it, because it's home, but I love my whole home state of Washington more so than I love any one city within. Does that make sense?

Plus, our family is facing some major changes in the near future, in which we may be living somewhere different. Which both thrills me and scares me.

But for now...I'll focus on the city where I live, and share a few pictures that show the best of what it has to offer.








xxoo
Brooke

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What does a 35 year old woman....

......and a 26 year old man have in common?


The answer is chemistry. Lots and lots of chemistry.

Check out some of that chemistry right here....then click the link at the bottom of the page to grab YOUR copy of Then & Now, book 3 in the This & That Series.

“You’ve never tried my scrambled eggs.” He smiled confidently. “Harold’s are good. But mine? They’ll change your life.”
            “What do you put in them? I mean, if I am going to see the face of God in scrambled eggs, I want to know what makes them so good.”
            “Wait,” Mason said, taking another bite. “Weren’t we talking about you being out of practice, sexually speaking?”
            “Yes. But wait.” I waved my hands. “Go back just a sentence or two. What makes your eggs life changing?”
            “Cream cheese. The whipped kind.”
            “I see.” I held out a bite of crepes for him. “Try these. They’re amazing.”
            Mason closed his eyes as he chewed. “Oh dang. Those are good. Is that loganberry?”
            “I’m impressed you know that.” I took a bite of my own. “And the cream cheese trick.”
            “My grandmother used to cook them that way.” He shrugged. “I learned a few tricks. Not many, though. Because I still can’t make brownies from a box.”
            “It’s an acquired skill,” I admitted, giving him another bite. “These crepes are orgasmic. Do you realize that?”
            “Well, they’d better be, since you’re insistent on taking those baby steps.” He plucked up a chunk of mushroom from the omelet container. “Hey, speaking of orgasms, what makes you think you’re out of practice? Don’t they say it’s like riding a bike?”
            I rolled my eyes. “Shut up.”
            “Come on,” he said with a grin. “I don’t think you give yourself enough credit, Candace. You’re beautiful, smart, active, and sexy as hell. I think being alone for two years has shattered your confidence.”
            “Maybe so.” I used a napkin to wipe at a string of cheese that had attached itself to the edge of his lip, and he grabbed my hand. My pulse spiked. “Maybe I just need to jump back on the bike? Fall a few times. Scrape up my knees and elbows until I figure out how to get my… my…”
            Kissing the inside of my wrist, Mason whispered, “Mojo?”
            I cupped the side of his face, relishing the way his whiskers prickled my palm. “Yeah. My mojo. My confidence. My skills.”
            “You know you can practice on me anytime, right?”
            I let my hand drop and reached for another bite of waffle. “Says the twenty-six year old.”
            Growling, Mason grabbed me around the waist, and rested me back on the couch cushions. His body was suspended above mine, as I lay there with waffle poised on the end of my fork. “Hey!” I laughed.
            He bit the waffle right off the fork and chewed it proudly. “Why do you always do that?”
            “Do what?” I wriggled to be released, but he wasn’t budging. Not that I minded.
            “Turn it into an age thing?” He frowned down at me. “Why are you so hung up on my age?”
            I stopped moving and just looked him in the eyes. They were beautiful. The same shade of blue as his pool. “Because you’re too young for me.”
            “Who says?” Mason took the fork out of my hand, and set it on the table. Then he lowered himself gently so that he was lying on top of me on the couch. “I thought dating someone younger was a status symbol for women these days. Like a right of passage or something. They make movies about it.”
            “I know, but… I’ve never been interested in being a cougar.”
            He brushed a piece of my hair back from my face and looked at my lips. “What about now?”
            I bit my lip. “I’m seriously considering getting back on that bike.”
            He seemed to like that answer, because his mouth pulled back into a slow smile. “So…” he whispered, brushing the end of his nose against my cheekbone. My heart chugged. “In all actuality, I’m doing a public service by helping to reacquaint you with your skills. Right?”
            I couldn’t help but laugh. “If that’s how you want to look at it.”
            He shifted, bringing our chests together tightly. My skin flared like the couch beneath us was in flames. “Then, Mrs. Chang, I am at your service.”
            “You live to serve.”
Without even thinking about it first, I wound my arms around his neck, pulling Mason’s entire body flush against mine. He was so solid and strong.
            His eyes dropped to my mouth. “It’s my duty to serve.”
“And protect?”
He licked his lips. “Uh huh.”
            “Mason?” I whispered. My whole body tingled with anticipation. This was it. I’d spent the day flirting yesterday, now it was time for a kiss. This was the natural progression of things. This is a good thing.
            “What?”
            I looked at his mouth. “How long are we going to keep making cop puns before you kiss me?”
            His eyes were heavy lidded. “Are you giving me permission?”
            I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. I was too turned on. And nervous. But, mostly turned on. I just nodded instead.
            “Well, then…” His words faded, and he brought his mouth to mine.
            The touch was as soft as silk, and light enough that I might have missed it had his tongue not tickled the inner edge of my upper lips ever so slightly. Heat spread from his body to mine, as I sank into the kiss. Swirls of light and color danced behind my closed eyelids, and my heart pounded in my ears. Mason’s lips closed down on mine with the gentleness of someone building a card house that could topple in at any time.
Maybe he thought I was fragile. Maybe he was right. But I’d waited two years and two months for someone to kiss me again, and this was undoubtedly worth the wait.
Then—just as softly as it had started—it ended. Mason pulled his lips from mine, and gazed at me with soft eyes, the air between us thick with haze. I just lay there, breathing deeply, blinking up at him.
“Baby steps,” he whispered.
I nodded. Every nerve ending in my body was like a hot wire. I’d forgotten how good a kiss could feel. How even a kiss as small and simple as that one could reach into a person’s chest and breathe life back into their soul.
“Thank you.” My voice was barely audible over the sound of my heart beat.
“Anytime, ma’am.” He pressed a quick kiss to my forehead, then sat up. “Now that I’ve had something to eat, I’m beat.”
I propped myself up on my elbows. There were dark circles under his eyes, and he looked ready to topple over. “I suppose our date’s over now.”
“Yeah.” His eyes searched mine, and the air between us crackled. “Probably for the best.”
“All right.” I swallowed back all of the random, insecure questions I suddenly had for him. Are you ticked we stopped at just one kiss? Are you coming back? Will we go out again? Do you really like me, or is this some sort of older woman fetish you’ve got happening?
He smiled, and crinkles appeared in the corners of his eyes. “I’m headed home to bed, then.”
I’ve got a perfectly good bed upstairs.
I pressed my lips together. I wasn’t ready for that. Not yet. But good grief… it was tempting. The broad planes of his chest were visible through the paper-thin cotton of his undershirt, and I had to ball my hands into fists to keep from touching his pecs.
“Your leftovers,” I said, standing up and gathering up the half empty containers. “Let me—”
“Save them.” He took my hand. “We’ll finish them after my next shift.”
“Okay.” I faced him with no idea what to say next.
After a minute of silence that seemed to stretch for way too long, Mason cupped my cheek. His touch sent thrilled shivers skating up and down my spine. “Goodnight, Candace.”
I smiled. The day was just beginning, but for him, it was coming to an end. “Good morning, Mason.”

He grinned, and the dimple in his cheek sank in. “Oh, and by the way… I’m always here if you want more practice.”