I met Christina Berry at my first writing conference in 2006. We did yoga together and shared stories of our very similar personal lives and left with each other's email addresses. She became my first critique partner.
Our lives continued to mirror each other's. We both got agents through that first conference. We both finaled in contests. We both sold our first novels around the same time. (She won a Carol for The Familiar Stranger, which I'm hoping bodes well for me someday.)
Then her husband left her.
I was shocked. She'd just come to Idaho to visit me and speak at our first IDAhope Writer's Conference. We'd spent a lot of time together, and I'd had no clue that there had been anything amiss in her marriage. But she hadn't known either as cheaters usually try to keep that thing a secret.
I read the email she'd sent out. I said to my husband, "I'm so glad I have you."
A few months later, my husband left me too.
Christina was there for me through it all. Divorce. Single parenting. Dating.
The night she met Dave Tarabochia, she went home and wrote him a poem. She sent it to me. I thought, "Wow, she is so brave to let herself fall in love again."
Then I met Jim Strong. I didn't feel very brave, but somehow I knew he was brave enough for both of us. I told Christina, "I met the man I'm going to marry."
We danced at each other's weddings. She went first, of course. And as she walked down the aisle, I whispered to Jim, "I tried on that wedding dress!" I also have a dress very similar to the one she's wearing below. (Doesn't she look like Princess Kate here?)
Now we meet for lunch when I'm in Oregon to share our lives as a blended family. The beauty is that I know she's experiencing the same things I go through. So much so that when I posted a picture of our new puppies on facebook, she commented, "Nooo, I'm not ready for a dog!" They ended up getting one anyway.
We've talked about writing a book together: Plan B Marriages. Because we've learned from experience (in life and in writing) that life doesn't always work out the way we plot it, but God doesn't allow that to be the end of our story.
Speaking of story, my latest book has a hero named Dave. He's the oldest brother in the Lake family, so I'd named him back when I wrote Finding Love in Sun Valley--back when Christina and I were in our Plan A marriages. But as I started writing my novella for Finding Love on the Oregon Coast, I knew that I had to name the love of Dave's life Christina.
This weekend I got to give a copy of the book to Dave and Christina when they braved downtown Portland to come see me at the NW Book Festival. It was an honor and the least I could do for all they have done for me.
I love you guys, and as always, I believe this is just the beginning of our beautiful friendship.