Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Doing Life Together

 Doing Life Together

 

This week my oldest daughter and her sweet husband celebrate twenty-six years of marriage. They are a good team. Good to each other and good parents. 

 

Allison and David are good at “doing life together.”

 

April 14th marks the one year-anniversary of my marriage to Mike. It is  a wonderful and unexpected adventure for this time of life. 

 

Our Wedding Day with Allison, David 
& Grandsons Joshua and Spencer



Both Mike and I had good previous marriages. Both of us were widowed. He at a young age. And me? Well…not so young. His wife, Betty, died of cancer in 1987 and my husband, Tom, died in 2014 from injuries incurred in a bicycle accident. 

 

Though Mike and I have known each other since ninth grade, we never dated until catching up via our high school class reunion in 2022. 

 

I have a few readers who have watched my journey as a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, professor, author, widow, missionary, and now a wife again. 


Mike and I were talking about my blog over lunch one day. As we talked, I decided I would to recap our first year of marriage here. 

 

Why? To bring us to the important stuff...

 

Mike and I were married atop a hill in Fairfield, Ohio. (We served pizza and cupcakes for the reception, but that’s just how we roll.)


We moved into our new house. It’s good to have a place we can call our own. Then…we remodeled our new house so we could truly call it “Our Own.”

 

Since tying the knot we’ve celebrated our own birthdays and those of our family members. We enjoyed our first Thanksgiving and our first Christmas together. 

 

But what makes our life special isn’t where we live or the celebrations that mark a calendar. 

 

What makes our relationship of value is… quite simply… Doing Life Together.

 

*It’s watching old westerns on television. Or cheering for our favorite sports team together. 

 

*It’s Mike waking me up early one morning saying, “Becky, you’ve gotta come see this! There’s an owl on the dock. Just sitting there.”

 

*It’s Cowboy Church on Sunday and hamburgers on Friday night. And knowing Tuesday is laundry day.

 

*And like today, it’s sitting on the back porch and he looks at me and says, “How about we jump in the car and go to the Cove for lunch.” 

 

*Of course it is also me breaking my eyeglasses and Mike driving me all over to find someplace to get new ones. 


*It’s going to the doctor for our annual check-ups. 


*It’s cooking something new and delicious, going out to eat, or merely reheating leftovers. 

 

Who is it you “do life” with? A spouse? Family? Friends?  Perhaps your neighbors or “church family?”

 

Doing life together is about:


Sharing the past, 

Living in the now, 

and 

Planning a future. 


     And it is good. 


Take a moment to recapture those moments. It is good to think back on the memories you create with those you love.  And be sure to include the "day-to-day" because that's where we find true joy in "doing life together."



Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Tell me you love me...

 Tell Me You Love Me…Or Not

 

I heard a joke once where a woman looked at her husband and said, “Why don’t you ever tell me you love me anymore?”

 

The husband didn’t even look up from his newspaper. “I told you once and if I change my mind I’ll let you know.”

 

No, this post isn’t about marriage or romantic love. It’s about…are you ready? It’s about book reviews. 

 

It is a bit heady to have someone come up to me and say, “I just finished reading your book and loved it!”  Seriously, that is pretty cool. But although the author experiences a “feel good” moment, leaving a book review on Amazon, Goodreads, or any other widely read source is like gold to any writer.

 

A Review My 10-Year-Old Granddaughter 
Gave One of the Novels in an Epic Series
She Usually Loves!

You don’t  have to think it is the best book you ever read. It doesn’t have to have been the book that changed your life. Post a review.

 

Yes, a series of raving reviews increases interest in a book and likely sales for the author. But a good, honest review also helps an author in his or her own writing.

 

For example, my novel, Breathing on Her Own, has over four hundred reviews on Amazon, with the average being 4+out of a possible 5 star rating. 

 

That’s great. I’m happy. There are many stellar reviews. Some are from people I know but most are from readers I never met. And yes, there a few not-so-great reviews for the book as well. 

 

Negative reviews could be helpful, but most of those I received weren’t specific enough. 

 

And one that was rather specific suggested that if the main character was really a Christian she wouldn’t have struggled with her daughter’s accident. 

 

The reader obviously thinks we Believers have it made. No heartache, no self-guessing. I let it pass. 

 

But the review that has helped me as a writer most is one made by a woman who started the book, loved the writing, but had to put it down midway through. The car accident was rough, but the struggles the characters faced afterward acted as a negative “trigger” in her own emotional life. 

 

I am currently working on a book that is full of “triggers.” That single review for my first novel has made me think through these scenes in new ways. I will  write a disclaimer to my readers before they pull the thing up on their Kindle. I never want to  cause harm to anyone.

 

Here are a few “reader rules” to live by:

 

·      If you read a book, leave a review.

·      Offer a brief summary stating what the book is about.

·      State what you liked and/or what you didn’t like.

·      Be it positive or negative, offer a specific reason for your rating.

·      Don’t give too much of the story’s outcome away.

 

And if you’re really stumped, you can find more guidelines on the internet.

 

Writing a book can be a rather lonely journey. Authors celebrate typing the words “The End.” Sometimes we take in a deep breath and let out a loud cheer with our family or friends. We love those people deeply. 

 

But the community we appreciate the most? Our readers. And those readers we treasure the most are those who take the time to write a review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

On Writing and Teaching and Writing Again

On Writing and Teaching...

And Writing Again


My second grade teacher liked a story I wrote. She submitted it to the school newspaper and it was published. It was kind of a big deal since our school hosted grades kindergarten through grade eight. (And no…I am not talking about a one-room school!)

 

In twelfth grade, we had a substitute teacher for the second half of the year while our regular English teacher was on maternity leave. The woman replacing her (and yes, I wish I could remember her name) was not only a teacher but also a published author. Her first assignment was something along the lines of a first person story to help her get to know us. 

 

“You may edit and revise these for a better grade,” she announced as she walked through the room, the graded papers in hand. I watched as many of my classmates cringed. I heard a few groans.

 

Breathing On Her Own
1st novel still going strong...
The teacher paused at my desk, put my composition down and tapped it with her finger. “You, young lady… you are a writer.”

 

With those experiences under my belt, I headed to the University of South Florida determined to be….

 

A teacher. 

 

You read that right. Those two women inspired me to be a teacher. I wanted to be that person who encouraged kids, demonstrated confidence in them, and gave them a chance to shine.

 

I taught in the public schools for nineteen and a half years during which time I worked hard to receive my advanced degrees. I then taught at the university for fourteen and a half years. I loved teaching children and I loved teaching young women and men to be teachers.

 

In 2011, my husband had a series of heart “incidents” leading to a quadruple bypass late in the year. On the follow up visit in early December, the surgeon told him, “This is hereditary. This will happen again.”

 

We decided to retire. 

 

Tom said he would golf and fish everyday. I told him I would be a writer. I was able to craft two novels before Tom died in 2014. They have done well. But I hobbled along after his death. I kept the blog going, remodeled a house, and moved. I lived oversees and taught fourth grade in Kosovo for a year. 

 

But writing? Only my blog made it through that dark time of life. I had a few “fits and starts,” but nothing great. And very little finished.

 

If you follow my blog, you know that I am now remarried to a wonderful man. Mike and I will celebrate our first anniversary in April. Mike, like Tom, is an encourager. He likes my writing. And he loves me. 

 

So yes, I am writing again. Those “fits and starts” I mentioned earlier? Three unfinished novels now have direction. Several other projects beg my attention, but they can wait. Like life…I’m taking my writing one step at a time and enjoying every minute of it.


All books are available on Amazon...


Libby's Cuppa Joe 
Novel #2




Chicken Soup for the Soul Books with
From the Lake to the River Anthology on top

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Crossing the Finish Line

 

 Crossing the Finish Line

 

We’re almost to the finish line on the remodel. 


Almost.         


The Cat Knows How to Chill
During a Remodel...
Totally Adaptable Feline

 

The floors we ordered are installed throughout the house. The new vanity in the guest bathroom is now operational, though the mirror we ordered won’t be delivered for a couple of weeks. The stone facing on the fireplace will be completed this week and the backsplash in the kitchen in done. Of course, there may be a bit of touch up painting here and there. I’m not worried. Our contractor is quite diligent. 

 

And…now…we finally retrieved the stove from the garage and moved the refrigerator in from the back porch.

 

Loving the New Kitchen

The countertops are beautiful. The kitchen sink is in place and hooked up to water. That means no more washing dishes in the garage. (See last week’s post HERE.) 

 

Also, having a sink sitting there not hooked up? Mike and I both caught ourselves about to pour our ice or the last drop of lemonade in the sink as we pass by. We didn’t do it, but it is a habit we had to address.

 

I won’t say “never again” to paper plates. Just not every meal… every day. And I’ll still enjoy eating out from time-to-time. But I like to cook and this kitchen makes it even more enjoyable.  

 

The big stuff is out of the way. 

 

If you read the February 28th post, you know we tore everything out. Including a few walls. We had new cabinets installed. New lights and ceiling fans made the whole house feel updated. 

 

Don’t misunderstand. I still enjoy music from the seventies and eighties. I just don’t care for the old fixtures and ugly paint. 

 

Everything that needed fixed is fixed and the whole house is painted inside and out.

  

* No more ordering pizza one night and reheating slices in the George Foreman the next. And yes, that can be done. 

* Less eating out. More eating in. 

* No more having to order on Grub Hub. Though we discovered new places.

* No more cooking in a crockpot on the porch.

 

 

We’ll still go out to eat from time-to-time, but somehow the food tastes better when you dine at a restaurant by choice instead of by need.

 

We are now in a place where, hopefully, there will be no more nights away from home unless we are on vacation. We appreciate Mike’s nephew letting us use his lake cottage nearby. It is beautifully decorated and comfortable, but those three days confused the pets and left us a bit disoriented ourselves. 

 

I simply sleep better in my own bed.

 

As I began crafting this post, it occurred to me how we all become comfortable with “the way things are” and tend to “live with it,” be it good or bad. That includes our habits. The foods we eat. Our health. Our surroundings. Change forced upon us can be hard. But often, those simple transformations serve to make life better. More enjoyable. Healthier.

 

The more adaptable we are, the better we handle change. Or perhaps, for some of us, the more we face change, the more adaptable we become. I don’t know.

 

What I do understand is this: To navigate life we must face change and the challenges that come with it. 


If we face those challenges head on instead of letting everything sort of flatten us like a steamroller, in the end we are better people for it. 


We grow stronger, become more flexible and we are happier. We cross the finish line as winners in every way.

 

What changes have you faced? How adaptable are you? I’d love to hear your story.

 

 

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

20 Ways to Keep From Writing Your Blog

  Twenty Ways to Keep From Writing Your Blog

Twenty ways to keep from writing a blog post on time while renovating your house… Since obviously, being totally distracted living in a house with plywood countertops, an almost finished fireplace, and a missing vanity, you still need to craft a blog post.


Here’s the list:

 

1)   Forget where you put your computer when the floor guys were installing your new floor.

 

2)   Find your computer and decide to play a game while you think about the blog.

 

3)   Take a walk so you get a few steps in. Everyone knows exercise and fresh air helps you think. 

 

4)   While you are out, chat with a few neighbors. It

       is important to be neighborly.

 

5)   Go to the refrigerator…relocated on the porch during your renovation… for some cold water. 

 

6)    Decide on sweet tea instead.

 

7)    With potato chips.

 

8)    Find something interesting on television.

 

9)    Wash your hands after eating way too many

       chips. 

 

10)   Sit down at your computer, determined to write

        a stellar blog post. 

 

11)    Stare at the computer.

 

12)    Let the dog out.

 

13)    Let the dog back in.

 

14)    Sit back down at your computer. 

 

15)    Notice there is a bit of dust on the end table 

         by the couch. Dust  anything that doesn’t

         move.

 

16)    Meet the Habitat for Humanity truck so they

         can load up the dishwasher, sinks, and ceiling

         fans you no longer need.

 

17)    Watch your husband cook dinner on the grill.

         Because… during the construction mess you

         have no stove. (Well, you have one,

         but it is in the garage.)

 

18)    Watch your husband wash dishes in the garage

         utility sink since your new kitchen sink isn’t 

          installed yet.

 

19)    Laugh when your husband comes up with a

        workable dish drainer system. Hey the tools

        weren’t using that pegboard anyway.

 

20)    Look at your list. Decide that’s good enough for one day. Join your husband to watch the sunset over the water.

 

The truth? Our contractor is doing a stellar job. All is falling into place as planned. Yes, living in the house during the remodel has been a challenge, but well worth it. By next week’s post, we expect to be enjoying our home fully. 


In the meantime, Mike is good at making it all work!


If you wash dishes in the garage, 
of course you drain them on your pegboard!


Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Cattle Dogs

Cattle Dogs, Readers, Writers, and Musicians

 I had seen the sign “Cattle Dog” while walking around Inverness. But to be honest, I hadn’t explored that stretch of restaurants and stores since moving here last summer. 

 

The only cattle dog I know is a beautiful Australian Blue Heeler named Honeybee. As it turns out, Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters was named after another beautiful Australian Blue Heeler named Barney.

 

Our Blue Heeler, Honeybee

A Facebook friend and I connected through one of our high school online groups. Stephanie and I were a year apart and had never met, though we had several high school friends in common. We discovered we now lived fairly close to each other in Citrus County. 

 

After a bit of messaging, we decided to meet for a cup of coffee. Where? You guessed it, Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters in Inverness. 

Chamberlain Grads:
 That's Stephanie in Pink

 

Stephanie let me know she liked my writing and followed my blog. She had read Breathing on Her Own and Libby’s Cuppa Joe. And, although I’ve published in several Chicken Soup for the Soul publications as well as other articles, my heart wasn’t in my writing after Tom died in 2014. I’ve often said that the day he died, the ink ran out of my pen.

 

But my life is on the mend. That is in a huge part due to my husband. Mike likes my writing and encourages me in it. Because of him, my interest in writing has found new life. 

 

In Ohio, I was connected to a couple of writing groups. I hadn’t made that connection in Florida. I know the power of participating in such a group. Before I married Mike last April, I kept my blog going, but writing another novel? No. I had a few “fits and starts,” as they say, but nothing sustainable. 

 

I found renewed interest and starting churning out a couple of thousand words a day after Mike and I married and it feels good.

 

When Stephanie and I met at the coffee shop, she had copies of my books. She wanted my autograph. Though I was honored, I was also humbled by that request. As we talked, I shared with her how I was finally writing again. We were sitting at a little table for two near a small bookcase. We both had a brunch item and coffee and enjoyed quiet conversation about the journeys we had taken in life. Note: “quiet conversation.”

 

Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters

Then a band started to assemble and people started pushing tables together right next to us. We could have moved, but the band was great. They are called “Grey Denim” and played songs from our era. Stephanie and I smiled at hearing songs of the seventies. 


We didn’t stop there. We kind of sang along. I’ll admit it. 

 

We both pulled out our phones to catch some of the music. I mean these guys were great and... the band gave everyone present permission to take pictures and record their performance.

 

Grey Denim

As it turns out, the sixteen people or so who assembled next to us were there to support one of their group members who played in the band. “What kind of group?” You ask. 

 

A group of writers. Writers of varying genres. Writers supporting other writers. Writers who meet once a month…near me… and they call their group Citrus Writers. Their regular once-a-month meetings are on Wednesdays. This was a social event. There were men and women…writers of varying levels… all from my county in Florida gathering to enjoy a great lunch and listen to one of their own perform with the band.

 

I consider it an answer to prayer. I have wanted to connect with other writers in the area. 

 

As for Stephanie? We had great conversation and enjoyed each other’s company. We will meet again. We hope to get our spouses together as well. 

 

And me? I am writing. Need I say more?


*A big thank you to Sheila McDonald of Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters for sharing the coffee shop's story with me. Want to know more? Click HERE.

 



Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Refurbish or Reimagine?

Refurbish or Reimagine? 

Or is it Revise and Rewrite?


Mike and I are in the midst of remodeling our house. The kitchen was gutted and now sports new cabinets. 

We've had to eat out a lot.

 

Step 1? Tear Everything Down

Everything will soon be painted. Every ceiling. Every wall. Inside and out.

We’ll move out a few days for some of that.

 

The floors will be changed from the “almost looks like wood” linoleum to a durable manufactured "luxury vinyl" wood plank floor. The lights will be brighter and more up-to-date.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. 

 

We’ve taken this on at the same time I am crafting a new novel. I can’t help but note how the remodel of our house is like writing a book. We have the core elements in place. Now that we’ve lived here for a bit, we are ready to revise.

 

In my current novel, my main character, Will, runs a growing business in a small town. He purchased an old house and engages a contractor by the name of Jess Torres to bring new life into the house. 

 

Here’s the excerpt where the two meet:

 

Will parked his car and walked up the three steps to the wide wrap around porch. He didn’t see a contractor, only a slim woman with long dark hair pulled up in in a ponytail. “I’m supposed to meet a contractor named Jess from Ace Construction.”

The brunette tossed her head causing her ponytail to swish around. “Hi, that’s me, Jess Torres.” She stuck her hand out and gave the stunned man a firm handshake.

“I, uh, I…uh my assistant said you’re from the Ace Construction company. Uh, you’re Jess? I mean of course you are, it’s just that I expected…”

“Someone older?” Jess smiled at Will. “I’m very experienced, I assure you.” She shielded her eyes from the morning sun and studied the house. “My dad is Alex Torres. You’ve probably heard of him.”

Alex Torres? Never heard of the guy. Will offered a slight nod. 

“Most people call him Ace. Hence the name Ace Construction. We specialize in older homes. Let’s see what you have here, shall we? I’ll take notes and pictures to help us plan, okay?”

 

And here is an excerpt from later in the same chapter... once they’ve done a complete walk through: 

 

Jess fell in step with him as they walked down the main staircase. “You know this really is a beautiful house.”

“That’s why I’m getting bids on restoring it.” Good to let her know I’m keeping my options open. 

“Restore? What you described is more along the lines of refurbishing.  What I’d like to do here is re-imagine.”

“Isn’t that just a matter of semantics?”

“Not really. Restoring takes it back to its original state. That’s good. It’s costly, but good. Refurbishing is a matter of making it work. Giving it an overhaul to make it functional, fresh, updated. Get it? That’s marketable. 

“But reimagining is what this house calls out for. For example, that kitchen could be stellar." Jess walked toward the storage area. "We can open up this wall. The kitchen would be the place where people gather to enjoy each other’s company as well as cook and share meals." She walked to the other end of room into the outdated dining room. "The dining room could be opened up here and here, so  you have wide doorways to what you call the living room.  Making both doors wider makes both areas feel more open. Spacious.” 

 

A short excerpt, indeed. But, well, you get the idea.

 

I’m close to completing the book. I wrote the above section long before Mike and I bought this house. I have to finish writing the book to see how Will’s house turns out. 


But our house? 


With walls out, new cabinets in the kitchen, new floors and such? I guess we took Jess’s advice. We went beyond refurbishing. We are reimagining this space. 

We're getting there...