Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Cedar Cove Book Exchange

 The Cedar Cove Book Exchange

I am a writer. It seems I have always been a writer. I have always enjoyed books. Before I could write, I made up stories for my dolls. By second grade I was penning my own stories. In fact, if you follow my posts or have heard me speak on becoming an author, you know that my first fiction piece was published when I was in second grade. (Okay, it was the school newspaper, but the school housed several classes of each grade… kindergarten to grade eight, so the audience was pretty big for a seven-year-old.) 


And…I am a reader. I think I inherited that gene. My maternal grandfather loved to read and my mother devoured the printed word the way most kids eat corn flakes. I don’t know if Grandpa ever read much by the way of fiction, but I can still see him sitting in a chair on the front porch reading his Bible. I’ve actually known him to read the dictionary! He loved the printed word and he loved to learn.


When Mike and I married and moved to Inverness, Florida, one of the first tasks I completed was getting a local library card. We have a great library here. It isn’t within walking distance, but not too far away. It made me think…


For a while now I have been intrigued by the Little Free Library movement. What a great idea Todd Bol had for book sharing in communities. Books are placed in a protected area. People can borrow a book. It is set up with the notion that if you take a book out, you leave a book in its place for someone else to read.


Mike and I live adjacent to a small 55+ community. (Even though we qualify, we are not members of that community.) However, I walk every day around the area and have met many of the folks who live there. I started talking about the idea of setting up a small lending library for my neighbors. Mike was supportive of the idea. 


I did my research. I could set up a lending library, but if I used the Little Free Library name I had to register it. I felt compelled to protect my little group of neighbors. I didn’t want strangers driving through their small community looking for my book sharing box. Luckily, as I read the guidelines, I don’t have to register the box, if I don’t use the trademarked name.


Our little cove is called Cedar Cove. So my book sharing box is the Cedar Cove Book Exchange. The research was complete. The name was set. My daughter, Allison, designed a label for me to put on the box. 

Now I needed a box.


I tried to find something that would work for me on Facebook’s Marketplace. Mike found someone who would build something for me for $800. You read that right. It was a great idea, but not for that kind of money. I looked at old newspaper stands. The enclosed kind that would stand up to our Florida rains. There was one available that was perfect…in North Carolina. That wasn’t going to happen.


I was at a thrift store one day when I spied what was labeled a “Barbie Doll Town House.” Ten dollars. But this was half off day. Okay, five dollars. I told the worker there I only wanted the roof. The young man took it off, said someone would want the rest, and they sold the roof to me for $2.50. “Half off,” he said. Half off half a house. I didn’t argue.


Now all I needed was a cabinet. I was with my sister-in-law at an antique mall a couple of months later when an old galvanized pie safe caught my eye. I didn’t have the measurements with me for the pink roof so I eyeballed it and bought the thing.


My brother-in-law is the build anything go-to person, so I turned to him. Ronnie was able to attach the roof to the pie safe and he painted the roof blue! It matches our front door. Now that’s cool.


Mike secured the book exchange box to the fence by our mailbox with angle iron and some screws. It looks great and is super sturdy.


So I am ready. I put ten books in the cabinet. I put up a temporary sign. I’ve already told some of the neighbors about it. I’ll make a poster for the community bulletin board next. It’s pretty exciting. 


But the best part? I went out to take a picture of it for this blog post and …there were only nine books inside! 


Happy Reading!


Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Of Sunsets and Salt Air

Of Sunsets and Salt Air

I am crafting this post on the last evening of our stay at the Kon Tiki resort in Islamorada. Mike and I stayed here last year for our honeymoon. This year is our anniversary trip. One of the things I love about this place is the fact it is not a fancy-schmancy high-rise hotel. 


Kon Tiki is a cluster of villas on the Florida Bay side of Islamorada. (Islamorada is one of the Florida Keys) The unit we stay in reflects what Mike and I tend to call “old Florida”…and we love it. It is the bathing-suit-and-cutoff-jeans sort of vibe we experienced in high school.

Yep, that's our villa
in the background.

We came prepared. We brought everything we needed. Swimsuits and sunscreen. 


I’m pretty sure we used very little sunscreen in high school, but we certainly do now.  Of course we packed a few other necessities like beach towels and clothes to go out to eat. 


The eating thing is interesting. The unit we stay in has a kitchen, but we’ve yet to cook anything except our morning cup of joe in the Mr. Coffee. Hey, it’s a vacation from … well…everything. Even cooking. And… the food here is incredible. 


We hit Lorelie’s for breakfast (one of Mike’s traditions and fast becoming mine). We love to sit outside by the water on the Florida Bay. The rest of our meals have been at places like Hog Haven (incredible mahi tacos) and Lazy Days for dinner. The place has delicious food and great outdoor seating on the Atlantic side. We found a new place called Papa Joe’s. We loved it so much we ate there twice. It is the first time I’ve ever had malted vinegar infused aioli sauce instead of ketchup on fries. No more ketchup for me, thank you. 

(Well, as soon as I figure out how to make malted vinegar infused aioli sauce, that is.)


We boated for three days, visiting the sand bar on the Atlantic side and exploring some of the passes and channels on the Gulf side in the Florida Bay. We also managed to do a few new things. 


On Sunday we decided to take a break from the sun and engage in a bit of touristy sight seeing types of experiences. We went to the Hurricane Monument, the Florida State Geological Park, and we visited the History of Diving museum. Curiously, we both agreed that the Geological park was our favorite. It was an interesting hike and a bit warm, but packed with information on how settlers used the island resources to meet their needs. They have a park ranger managing the indoor (read “air conditioned) museum part of the site. Such a nice man. It was a very good day. Many firsts for both of us.

A Poisonwood Tree
on the trail...


While eating lunch at Hog Haven that afternoon, we could see across the water to the sand bar. We grinned and had to pat ourselves on the back for choosing to not visit the sand bar that day. There had to be over two hundred boats anchored out there.  


Mike has been enjoying Islamorada for twenty-five years now. I’m on year two. I have some catching up to do. But I’m willing to give it a go!


In the meantime, Islamorada has inspired me in my writing. There is something in the salt air. Something in the peaceful rustling of palm tree fronds as the breeze pushes them toward the open water and back again. 


Relax on the Florida Bay

It’s watching a manatee and a saltwater crocodile swim together, the manatee rolling over to clean scales from his back on the ridges…keels… of the crocodile. They have a comfortable relationship. 


Can you see the manatee? 
I tried to upload the video, but failed...

It’s sharing a sunset with someone you love. Someone who encourages you in your writing and pulls you away from it long enough to ride the waves of the ocean for a few days and breathe in the salt air. 

Another beautiful sunset...
And...yes...that is the crocodile
swimming away.

And finally, a special SHOUT OUT to Deborah and Hugh who do an incredible job managing the resort! Click here for their website!


Tuesday, April 16, 2024


Missing the Girl Already

Ever since Mike and I married, Tiki, Honeybee, and Roxy have been part of our family. 

Tiki is a cat. She is cute and cuddly when she chooses… but aloof and independent at other times. 


Honeybee, or “Bee” for short, is an Australian Blue Heeler. She is beautiful, about sixteen years old, and fully dedicated to Mike. She puts up with me. 

I can give her a treat and she’ll gently take it from my hand. She lets me scoot up next to her and scratch behind her ears. But Bee’s eyes are failing and so is her hearing. If I approach her without warning she may snap. Once she knows it’s me she calms down. I always try to warn her first.


Then there is Roxy. I never expected to love Roxy. She is a full-blooded pit bull, though I understand her official breed is Staffordshire Bull Terrier. 


Meet Roxy

I had heard stories…horror stories…about pit bulls. I understood them to be mean, ferocious animals ready to tear the head off of anyone who came near them. 


Roxy is none of that. She is a kind and caring dog. She is likely the most loving dog I’ve ever known. Roxy doesn’t just wag her tail she wags her whole body. Pick up a stick and throw it and she is in heaven.


Roxy loves to chase squirrels and rabbits. She never catches anything. In truth I don’t know what she would do if that ever happened. She is simply playful.


Roxy is also very brave. One day she went after a terradactyl…okay it actually looked a lot like a blue heron to me, but it was one big bird. She ran after the thing, barking as loud as she could. 

Roxy's terradactyl

As the bird flew over the fence, Roxy stood watching. 


Finally, she turned and stared at me. I could almost read her mind. 

How did he do that? I want to do that.


I love that girl.


So it is hard, but this week we will take her to Shawn’s house. You see, Roxy is his dog. About the same time we moved here, our son Shawn moved as well. He works, so he needed to make his new house a safe place for Roxy while he's on the job. 


Shawn put up a privacy fence and recently installed a special order sliding glass door with its own built in doggie door. That will give Roxy access to the screened in porch. He then installed a doggie door in the porch door so Roxy can go outside at her pleasure. She’s going to love that. Sunbathing is one of her favorite pastimes. 

Sunbathing is a
favorite pastime.


It’s kind of like sending your child to college. You know she’ll love it, but you’ll miss her terribly. You know she’ll have all her needs met, but you can’t help but wonder what she’s doing. Will she think we didn’t want her? 


No. Just like the college kids, Roxy will be having the time of her life. She won’t even think about us until we pull up in the drive for a visit. 

Then she’ll run to us wagging her tail. And her whole body.



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 marked on 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, 


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.