Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Broken, Chipped, and Beautiful

The beginning of summer. 

I’ve longed for this time of year. As spring ended and summer was on the horizon, I spent a couple of weeks at the beach. The ocean is always a source of energy for me. Energy and renewal. 

I love the way the ocean is ever changing, yet always constant. 

The tides continually roll in and out with the soothing rhythm that lulls you to sleep at night and beckons you to chase the sun during the day.

I used to think people were like the ocean…always moving, ever changing, learning to go with the flow…

But this trip, I came to realize we are much more like the seashells we find along the shore. The waves of life sometimes knock us down or carry us places we never thought to go. Sometimes those waves serve to polish us and make us something beautiful or useful. 

Other times we wind up broken or at least a bit chipped. 

 Broken, Chipped & Beautiful
I used to always search the sand for the “perfect” shells. The unbroken, colorful, and shiny artifacts of a life once lived. But now I’ve come to appreciate the imperfect. The broken and interesting forms of a shell that once housed a living creature; A shell that traveled miles upon miles before being tossed at my feet. Or under them…broken and reshaped into the soft white sand squishing between my toes. 

I walk along the water’s edge and pick up bits and pieces of the ocean’s treasures. As I look at the fragments in my hand, I realize what I’m drawn to time and again is the core. The innermost core of a beautiful shell. 

The evidence of inner strength.

Perhaps that is what I embrace when I’m at the ocean. That inner strength. The power and energy of the waves and the sun. 

One night I could see Mars from my balcony. In the mornings I could look one direction and see the moon and look the other to see the sun rising over the water. People young and old stake a claim on the sandy shore, popping up umbrellas and folding canvas chairs. Others bake in the sun on a terry cloth cookie sheet. And yet when I look at them I see more shells. 

What Draws Me to People is What's At their Core
Some of them are beautiful. Others not so much…by human standards. Most of them are broken in one way or another. Many are chipped. All are flawed. 

And I love them. 

These people…these shells hold dreams and plans and ideas. They live and laugh and love. They cheer and mourn. And they were all…everyone of them…created by the same God who put that sun and moon and planets in the sky. The One who put the waves in motion and set us spinning in orbit. 

And in the end it is what’s at the core that matters.

Be Sure to Leave a Comment! I'd Love to Hear From You!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Journey of Coming Home

“It was like coming home…”

We’ve all heard the expression. We associate that “coming home” feeling with memories and familiarity. Sometimes it has to do with food or smells. For me it means people.

Five years ago, just after Breathing on Her Own was released, Tom and I packed up our things in Florida and along with my mom we headed home to Ohio. The trip home was to include a jaunt to the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina. We’ve spent many vacations there with family and friends. Two dear friends, Toni and Lowell live there year round, unlike the rest of us retirees who were splitting our time between cold and warm climates. Our visit was to include time with them. 
Five Years Ago the Book Club at "The Farm" Gave Me a Gracious Welcome

Toni suggested Breathing on Her Own to the book club in the community where she lives. As a result, one of my first book signings and speaking engagements was with an incredible group of women from “The Farm.”

I remember that event well. I read the first chapter of the book, autographed copies and enjoyed the beautiful spread of food the women had prepared. Tom was by my side. He rushed about setting up the small television so everyone could see the book trailer my daughter Allison had made. He carried books in for me and even checked my hair to make sure my curls (which pop up in crazy ways in humid conditions) were minding. 

Later that year, Tom died, making my memories of the event all the sweeter to cling to since my life was turned upside down. As many of my readers know, I stopped writing my books. I managed to keep the blog going, but I felt as if the ink had run out of my pen. My strongest advocate was gone. 

Healing comes. But it comes slowly and in unexpected ways. Eventually, I polished a book I had written before Tom died. While still living in Kosovo, I submitted it to Ambassador International. Libby’s Cuppa Joe was released this past March. I know that would make Tom happy. 

My Dear Friend, Toni
This week, I had the opportunity to meet up once again with my friend Toni and some of those same precious women who have continued to support my writing efforts. Toni asked others to join us. There were twenty-seven of us in all. I tried to prepare. You see, the trip to Myrtle Beach was emotional. It can be hard to walk about…in and out of the dreams you shared with the man you loved and no longer have at your side. I wondered how I would fare standing in front of these women and telling them of my life experiences. 

Speaking about my journey…the journey so many of us face yet never fully expect. The journey of life and death. The journey of reclaiming your life piece by piece when more than half of you is torn away. The journey of moving out of a home you shared into a new one and then moving halfway around the world. The journey of finding your voice again through your pen when you are too choked up to speak. 

The journey of “coming home.”

Sweet Tea...Becasue in the South They Know How to Do It Right!
And that’s what happened. We gathered for dinner; People I met five years ago and new friends of the “Ladies Night Out” crew. We chatted and joked. We laughed and we cried. I shared my journey…and we laughed and cried some more. I don’t live in Myrtle Beach, but gathering with these women in this place was, well…like coming home.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A Heritage of Faith...A Legacy of Love

I Still Enjoy Grandma's Quilts
This past Sunday we celebrated MOM. It was a great day for many and a troubling day for others. I saw many posts on social media about people who no longer have their mothers. 

I know I’m blessed to have my mom here…in good health…and active. But as Mother’s Day is a day of remembering, my thoughts were drawn to my grandmother and great-grandmother as well. I’ve often thought of writing three novellas trying to tell their stories and capture what I’ve gained from these women. Maybe someday I’ll do that. I know what I’d call them: Samantha’s Blessing, Ophia’s Prayer, and Nora’s Love.

Samantha’s Blessing

I never knew my great-grandmother, though if you ask me, or any of my cousins about her you’ll get a fair description. My grandmother was the oral historian in our family and told us all about her mother…what she knew, that is. Grandma was only seven-years-old when her mother died leaving her and her siblings orphaned.

Grandma often told the story of how her mother, Samantha, blessed them on her deathbed. How she “looked down the line” at each of her children’s faces and told them she had to leave. “God bless mother’s children,” she said. She told them to trust in Jesus and do what was right. 

And they did. 

They had to…the uncle who was supposed to care for them robbed them of their inheritance and left them to fend for themselves. I met a man at my grandmother’s funeral who told how his father came by the farm where they lived and saw them all lined up at the fence. They were waiting for the chicken to lay an egg so they could have breakfast. 

That uncle who was to care for them took my grandmother away to be a servant in his house. She was to see to the needs of his two children. She was to clean their chamber pots and such. As their servant, my grandmother never finished grade school.

But she had so much more. She had her mother’s final words.

Grandma and her siblings survived. They all fared well in the community and Grandma married one of the smartest men I’ve ever known. My grandfather. They had seven children. When the youngest one was around two-years-old, that mean old uncle of hers and his wife fell ill. 

Their children didn’t come to care for them. 

My grandmother, carrying my infant uncle on her hip, walked frequently to her uncle’s house and cared for him and his wife. 

One day her oldest daughter challenged her. “Why? As mean as those people were to you, why help them?”

Grandma’s answer? “Honey, if I don’t forgive those poor old people, how can I expect Jesus to ever forgive me?”

Ophia’s Prayer

Because I had heard this story so many times, I never questioned my Grandmother Ophia’s prayer. She prayed every day that God would allow her to live long enough to see her children grown and on their own. She didn’t want her own children to experience the hardships she had lived through.

“I asked God to let me live long enough to see my own children grown and now here you are, Becky. He’s let me see you grown with your own little girls.”

Grandma lived to see six of her children to adulthood, marry, and have children of their own. She cuddled and cooed in the ears of great-grandchildren and prayed over them as she had her own babies.

Grandma is the one who taught me that God always gives us more than we ask for or deserve.  (Though, I always thought she deserved the best.)

Nora’s Love

My mother, Nora, could well be the model for unconditional love. I know. I’ve been the recipient of her love lavished on me for over half a century. Never wavering love. Love without abandon. Love laced with bear hugs and chicken ‘n dumplings. Love you don’t have to work for…you have it because you are there.

My mom’s ability to love others is rooted in Samantha’s blessing and Ophia’s prayer. It is a love first founded in a relationship with God and nurtured within a family filled with love. Hers is the perfect example of forgiveness and care.

Don’t get me wrong. My mom isn’t perfect. I know that, because none of us are…but she is the perfect mom for me; the perfect grandma to my daughters; the perfect GG (great-grandma) to my eight grandchildren.

Rebecca’s Faith

And so it comes to me. You see, while my trust in Jesus is my own, I have a rich heritage of faith. Without it I couldn’t have breathed after Tom died. Without it I couldn’t have moved to Kosovo. I couldn’t have taken on new challenges. I am the recipient of Samantha’s blessing carried through the years. I am the target of Ophia’s prayer that rings in my ears to this day, and I continue to be the beneficiary of Nora’s love.

This is my heritage. My inheritance… received only to be passed down to my children and my children’s children and so on. 

What legacy will you leave? What will be the title of your life?

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Your Voice Counts...

I am often asked by readers about reviews. “Do they really matter?”… “I wouldn’t know how to write a review”….or something along the lines of “What if I don’t like the book?”

It happened this past week. Someone saw a Facebook comment I made about getting a review on my birthday. I said it was the best present ever! The person reading my post responded with, “How do I write a review?” 

It’s a fair question. A good question. Authors aren’t insulted by it at all. In fact, it is great when someone asks. We love it! Here are a few guidelines to help you, though.

Three Basic Guidelines:

1. Write an honest review. Even if you don’t like the book, be honest. Don’t sugarcoat it. 

2. Be specific as to why you did or didn’t like the book. “I liked it because I grew up in Door County and it brought back sweet memories.” Or  “I didn’t like it because I like books with explicit sex scenes and bad language. This one was too sweet.” Of course neither of these are real reviews of Libby’s Cuppa Joe but if they were, the specifics would help other readers decide if they would be interested in the book or not.

3. Choose a “star rating.” I kind of go with the 
            one star = “Yucky, I couldn’t stand it.”
            two stars = “A good story idea but it was poorly written.” 
three stars = “Meh…the book was okay but I could take it or leave it”
            four stars = “Wow…this was pretty good”
            five stars = “Wow!!! I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone!”

This is just me…you can determine your own criteria…but your stars and specific comments should go hand-in-hand.

How long should the review be?
There is no set length. I will share, however that short reviews are often read by many, whereas longer reviews are glossed over. I have an author friend who received a review so long and detailed there would be no need for anyone to read the book! You don’t want to spoil the plot for other readers. And more words doesn’t always mean better.

Where can I review the book?

You can review a book on Amazon, Goodreads, or anywhere else it or readers hang out. For example, Libby’s Cuppa Joe is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well as for purchase through the publisher, Ambassador International. Copies have also been purchased directly from me. 

So let’s say you came to a book signing and purchased a book from me, the author. Can you still leave a review on say, Amazon? Sure. Simply say in your review, “I met the author at a book signing.” 

One more word of advice…be sure you are reviewing what you think you are reviewing. One author’s debut novel received a glowing five star review. In the comments however, the reviewer wrote, “I’ve read every book in this series and they keep getting better and better.”  The author, though at first thrilled to see those five beautiful stars, came crashing down. “What series?”

Now for the “How-To”(I’m using Libby’s Cuppa Joe as the example since it is my newest release.) This would be after you read the book of course.

Go to 
·      Type in Libby’s Cuppa Joe in the search bar. I hyperlinked it to the title here so you can click on it.
·      See where it says reviews? You can click on that link or scroll down to where it says “Review this Product.” (hint: it is under my picture and a few ads)
·      Choose the “star” rating: remember…one is yucky, two is not so good, three is “meh”, four is pretty good, five is great, or “Wow, I’d recommend it to someone.”
·      Write your honest comments. Your comments need not be long, just honest and match your star rating. You get the idea.
·      And if you didn’t buy it on Amazon? No problem. You simply say, “I bought the book at a book signing”…or  “I met the author at an event”
·      That’s it. Submit your review.

Do Your Words Matter?
Of course a book receiving many reviews advances in rank and tends to draw in more readers. But another big “plus” is that feedback helps writers grow in the craft. We learn what you like and don’t like. We know when we’ve hit the mark or missed it completely. Sometimes your comments lead a writer to craft a sequel or explore one of the secondary characters more in-depth in a subsequent novel.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Another Trip Around the Sun

My grandfather died July 16, 1971. Tom and I were engaged at the time and I remember Tom talking about how Grandpa died so young. Young? Really? Grandpa died on his sixty-sixth birthday. Sixty-six sounded old to me. And Grandpa seemed old to me. So did Grandma. 

To my way of thinking…my grandparents were always old.

But here I am…a grandmother to eight incredible young people. The oldest just got his driver’s license. His brother was in a golf tournament this past weekend and is talking about the high school golf team next year. 

The other “Grands” are reading and writing and acting so mature I’m amazed by them. The youngest may not be reading much yet as he’s only two, but he is articulate and tall…making people think he may be older than he really is. 

I wonder if my grandchildren think of me as old. Probably. But they are too considerate to say it to my face.

There were so many things I wanted to do before I got old. Some of them I’ve completed…like hiking and skiing and writing a book. I’ve travelled and lived in wonderful places. I have friends literally all over the world. I think I’ve made a difference…mostly for the good…sometimes not so much.

I look around me and realize I’m not old at all. I know so many more people who are much older than I am at this point in time. They’re active and fun. Yes, we’re all getting those gray hairs, and I’ll confess…sometimes I call it a late night if I stay up after the news. 

Actually, I am merely getting older…not old. I think there’s a lot left for me to do. More books to write; more adventures ahead. And I still want to learn to play the piano. 

I have time. I think I’ll take a little snooze. After all, I won’t be sixty-six until…uh…tomorrow.

Yep. This time last year I celebrated my birthday in Kosovo with a wonderful group of people. We got dressed up and went to a fancy restaurant. My hair was blond. Don’t ask. [If You Want to Visit My Birthday Celebration in Kosovo, Click Here]

This year my hair is returning to its normal color with its natural glistening highlights of gray. My family is gathering at my house for dinner. I decided if the weather is warm we’ll have a cookout. If it’s cold and rainy I may make chicken and dumplings. It isn’t the food that’s important. It’s the people. 

Like birthdays. The year doesn’t matter. It’s the people you share those moments with that are important.

I’ve never been one to hide my age. It’s just a number. I want my time here to count for something. I want to always enjoy my family and friends. Despite their ages…or mine. And I want God to look at me and say, “A life well lived.”

So since I’m crafting this post before the big day marking the completion of another trip around the sun, I think I’ll dig out the music and make another attempt at playing the piano. 

As for you? Take a walk. Hold someone’s hand. Enjoy the season. And if you want to read a book…may I recommend Libby’s Cuppa Joe? (Like the way I worked that in? It's Available On AMAZON)