A Quiet 4th of July

world_spinningKen’s Multiple Sclerosis is a puzzling disease. Everyday is a surprise. Neither of us know whether he’ll have a day free of fatigue or one that is full of it. We hope the different holidays throughout the year will end  up being good days, but as time goes on, we’ve learned MS doesn’t care if we have plans or not.

The Fourth of July this year was a particularly bad day for him. In fact, he fought to keep his eyes open–literally. Not that he was tired. The muscles in his eye lids refused to work, no matter how hard he tried to fight them.

Needless to say, the downtown parade was out. He made me go to lunch at a friend’s home because we are invited every year, and she was expecting us. By evening, he still wasn’t feeling well enough to watch the fireworks–not even on television.

The day was a wash for him. I found myself very angry at the cruelness of his disease because no matter what he feels or thinks, the disease calls the shots. I suppose any serious diseases has the say-so too, but I’m not living with them. I am living with this. I want to shout, “It’s unfair!”

But this thing we call the human condition is not fair. We both accept this fact, so when these days come along, he rests, and I keep quiet and read. It’s called coping. It’s called love.Blog 3-31 003

Dependency on Electronics

Yesterday I swear the ELECTRONIC GODS put a curse on me. It started when we were watching a morning television show that Ken and I both enjoy. All of a sudden, we had no sound. The television worked fine. The cable worked fine, but the Bose speaker system, not so much–at least that’s what I thought.

I examined all of the cords and plugs and everything seemed fine. But still no sound. Heaven forbid! We’d have to watch television in our bedroom — where everything was working. Not a hardship really. But a damned inconvenience. It felt strange laying in bed in the middle of the afternoon to catch the latest shenanigans of the  “General Hospital” cast of characters. Okay. I admit it. I am a soap opera junkie. Let’s go on.

I thought as long as I couldn’t watch television, I would finish “The Fault of My Stars,” by John Greene. (In case you don’t know, this book has been turned into a screen play that came in first at the box office last week. An author’s dream!) It’s a well-written story about two teenagers who meet at a cancer support group. One is terminally ill, the other has lost a leg and is in remission. It’s a beautiful account of young love when falling in love is most pure.

I was almost finished, coming down the stretch with only a dozen pages to go when my Kindle decided it needed a break. It shutdown and refused to turn on again.

My last resort was to pick up my smart phone, feeling totally electronically inept to call my young friend Eric for some advice about everything electronic, only to find out, my phone needed a charge!

Now, I’m down to one electronic toy and that’s my old faithful laptop. Thank goodness the ELECTRONIC GODS didn’t wave their “magic” wands over it. At least I could write a couple of chapters on the new novel, check email, play a couple of games, and pay a couple of bills to fill my time.

I never thought I had become so dependent on my electronic gadgets, but alas, I’m like most everybody else–I need them. I enjoy them. I have to have them. When they don’t work, life sucks. If the power grid ever goes down, we may as well die.

Today, I still haven’t heard from Eric, so I went into Best Buy to talk with a member of the Geek Squad. I told her my sad Kindle tale before she took my baby into the back room, did some Geek stuff, and voila! It worked. She saved me! I was so elated I could finish the last few pages of my novel, I wanted to hug her.

After my exhilaration calmed itself, I asked if she made house calls. She laughed and asked what problem I was having at home. I explained the television fiasco, and she said she had a similar problem yesterday too. It turned out our carrier was the same, so she suggested to turn everything off and reboot the system. No surprise. Whenever you call tech support, their first question is, “Did you reboot?” Right?

So, I went home. Disconnected the power. Left the mess of tangled cords, plugs, and other paraphernalia alone for about an hour, then turned everything back on. The ATT Uverse software did its thing, and I’m happy to report it worked! I’m back in business! We can watch NCIS in the living room tonight!

Needless to say, I felt empowered as I conquered the ELECTRONIC GODS (with a little help from a female Geek.) I not only can cook a decent meal and get it on the table hot, I can reboot! A good day.

How was your day?

Did you Miss Me?

Hi Everybody! I’m back. I went to Florida for three days about a month ago to see a good friend who moved there. It took some preparation to make sure Ken had the care he needed while I was absent, but the trip really happened. I came back home relaxed and ready for summer.

I had a great time. Kay and I have found our separation difficult, but once we were together again it was like old times. We made each other laugh and just had fun being together.

During my short respite, I thought I would use the camera on  my new smart phone. My pictures turned out nice, but when Kay took control of the device, she pushed the wrong button, and alas, no pictures of me. Oh well, I usually hate the way I look in pictures anyhow.

Oh wait a minute . . . that’s not entirely true. I didn’t know the camera had a setting for “selfies” and when we were at the beach, I tried to take pictures of Kay flying her kite, but only got pictures of me in my beach hat.

Barb's selfie

Technology . . . got to love it!

To prove life goes on without you, there was a tornado warning while I was gone that brought hail large enough to damage our roof and gutters. So for the past couple of weeks, we’ve been putting the needed pieces in place to get the repair work done. Shingles sit in our front yard as we speak. (Along with vents, tar paper, ice shield, etc. etc.) Not the prettiest lawn ornament, but at least it’s temporary.

Roofing Supplies

We also had a fence installed along one side of our property. It was built while I was gone, so I had a beautiful surprise waiting for me. (The other areas had been fenced in by neighbors.) The funny thing about this fence is it’s called “The Lacrosse.” Lacrosse, Wisconsin is the setting for most of my books!

The other time-eating activity, which has kept me away from you, has been to go through the edits for my latest novel. I’ve been busy correcting my grammatical and spelling boo-boos, as well as rewriting small sections because my editor’s inquiring mind asked questions that needed answers. The book is now two chapters longer than when it went out to her.

In between my trip and putting the finishing touches on the novel, I’ve been digging, weed-waking, cutting down stubborn buckthorn bushes, and planting pots to bring our yard into a good-looking, park-like space we can enjoy for the rest of the summer. I’ve added some pictures below so you can see the fruits of my efforts.

Happy Summer Everybody! I hope it’s warmer where you are than where I am.

Maybe next time I might have some life-changing topics to discuss. Or maybe not. We’ll just have to see.

Unforgettable Accomplishments

MondayYesterday was Monday. A new beginning of the week. A clean slate for starting a diet or a new goal of any kind. I often wonder why our calendar starts on Sunday because Monday is really the pivotal day for most of us.

On Monday of this week, I finished the rewrite on my eighth novel. I felt so accomplished to send this work off to the editor for her to work through my grammar and punctuation boo boos. As I’ve discussed before, editing and proofreading needs to be done by somebody who hasn’t written the work. Our smarty-pants brains only see what we want to see, not what is really there. So, now I wait.

What’s the book about?

The novel is entitled, “Grounded No More,” and it’s a story about the women pilots who volunteered to help the Army Air Corps during the war. The WASPs did a number of aviation tasks including ferrying planes, pulling targets, and instructing other pilots.They flew every aircraft the military owned–even the B-17 and B-26 bombers.

Shirley SladeThe media crowned them heroes in 1943 and at the end of 1944 they became blood-sucking hussies who were taking  jobs away from returning veterans. Neither scenario was quite true.

Now that we will soon celebrate the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, we must remember everyone who put those boys on Omaha and Utah beaches. The men get the credit for fighting, but millions of women served in numeral capacities, too.

After the war the American women pilots were all but forgotten. Like Rosie the Riveter and women like her, when the men came home, they quietly retreated to make homes for their husbands and raise their families. Then they had daughters who became “liberated” in the 1960′s and 1970′s.

In  1975 the first women cadets were accepted at the Air Force Academy. A press release stated,  “For the first time, women will fly American Military planes.” Let me tell you, the WASPs buzzed about that! They organized, and took their case to Capitol Hill.

It wasn’t until 1977 the WASPs were finally recognized as veterans and were granted the military benefits they deserved when President Jimmy Carter signed the GI Bill Improvement Act.

In 1984, each WASP received the World War II Victory Medal. Many of the women had passed on by then so their families accepted the award for them.

And finally, on July 1, 2009, President Barrack Obama gave the WASPs the recognition they deserved when he signed into law Bill S. 614. This bill awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Air Force Service Pilots who answered the call to service when their country needed them most

Through my stories, I honor these extraordinary WWII veterans. Their stories are amazing and their stories of sacrifice and stepping up at a very young age to protect the way we live in the United States should not be forgotten.

That’s why I write what I do.

Home is Where My Life Is

airplaneLast week at about this time, I was packing for a three-day excursion to see a good friend in Florida. On Monday morning in a driving rain, my brother saw me off at the airport for three sun-filled days in the sunshine state. Boy was I ready to go!

In October, one of my dearest friends and her husband decided to make a move back to their Orlando condominium they purchased twenty years ago, and as you might imagine, a lot of things have changed. Needless to say, they weren’t ready for the extreme growth of the area. The two-lane roads have morphed themselves into five lanes. Towns have sprawled, and the theme parks have doubled in size. Because of so many more residents and an abundance of tourists, you witness very creative lane changes on the highways which keep even good drivers on their toes.

All of this change for a person in her sixties has been rough on my friend. After I arrived, she told me my visit was as much for her mental health as mine, but like all solid relationships we picked up where we left off and enjoyed being together. She had a lovely bedroom for me to stay in and pampered me like a queen. I got the rest I needed, and she had a buddy to laugh with.

As the days progressed, I got my quota of sun, sand, and tropical foliage, and was ready to go home when Friday rolled around. It was nice not to have the responsibility of a caregiver for a few days, but I missed Ken and Ernie a lot and knew it was time for me to go home. It was comforting to Ken was fine at home with the help I arranged, so the next time I need a few days away, I can go without being alarmed about his welfare.

It’s also good to realize my dream of having a palm tree grow in my front yard is just that–a dream. The ninety degree weather was too hot for me, and my poor northern skin rebelled even with a sunscreen of 70! My true happiness is right at my front door, and I’m not seeking anything else at this point in my life.

I can travel to see the wonderful places this world offers, but I choose to be where I am. There’s no way to replicate my friends and family who make me who I am, and  I would never want to be the same place where Kay is right now, starting a new life in her sixties.

Eventually she will make friends in her new space, but forming new reciprocal relationships takes years.  I hope she’s up to the challenge.

One Photo, One Instant, One Memory

Looking backward can be counterproductive–thinking of when we were younger, probably healthier, and our world was beginning. Like writing, life is a process. Nobody ever gets younger. A pessimist would say we begin dying as soon as we are born. An optimist would say, the world is our oyster. I say the real world lies somewhere in between the two.

I came across a photo of my dear husband and our cat a couple of days ago. I had forgot about the photo, but the minute I laid eyes on it, I laughed and remembered what happened at that very moment.  I’m sure most of you have had such an experience. It’s fun, isn’t it? Take a look at this.

Ken and Parnelli with bowties


Our cat Parnelli LOVED wearing a bow tie–I kid you not, and Ken with his long neck looked very handsome in one. So one night, I got a call from the bedroom. “Sweetheart, come here. I have something to show you.”

When I entered the room I found both of the guys in my life with a “come hither look” buried in the blankets. I doubled over laughing and grabbed the camera to capture the moment.

This was Ken at his best, and Parnelli going along with the joke. I wish I could have frozen time. Aren’t they both so handsome?

Unfortunately, Parnelli passed away about five years after this picture was taken. As you might imagine, he brought a lot of laughs into our lives in his seventeen years. He was an extraordinary little being who didn’t let the fact that he looked like a cat stop him from doing dog and human type things. Did you ever meet a cat that did party tricks on command? Parnelli did. Did you ever meet a cat that loved being the center of attention when company dropped by? Parnelli did. This picture captured his funny nature.

And then there’s Ken. With  his MS symptoms which hinder him from doing so many things these days, I easily forget his great ability to do something creative to make me laugh. Pictures like this one aid me to remember all the wonderful, funny moments we’ve shared together. But, I don’t think about what we’ve lost; I think about what we’ve have together.

That’s the power of photographs, isn’t it?


Preparing for Spring

The winter this year has been abominable for most of the country. Last year, we knew we were pretty lucky because we enjoyed temps of 60′s and 70′s in April.backyard 005

Here it is May and we’ve enjoyed exactly two days of temps in the low 60′s. A couple of daffodils have been brave enough to bloom. Now is the time brave Wisconsinites put on hoodies, tune-up lawn mowers, clear the yard of old leaves, pull out the patio furniture, and keep fingers crossed it will not snow again until next December.

As far as weather is concerned, I’m skeptical. I haven’t done any of the above–with the exception of putting on a hoodie. I don’t want to plant my fragile posies only to have them frozen by a deep freeze as I slumber under two blankets and a comforter.

I do figure at some point Mother Nature will give in and bless us with temperatures that don’t require outerwear. So, yesterday I took a big step. I went to the garden store and bought dirt. Yup. Three bags of high-power Miracle Grow Potting Soil. You see two of them, as Ernie photo-bombed the picture. The colorful bag with big, bright blooms was only two bucks a bag, and I figured when I do finally get to planting flowers, the poor little plants will stand a good chance to produce a summer of healthy blooms.
backyard 003

I also bought the two new large green pots to replace the winter weather beaten pots which have were destroyed by the colder than usual temps. These pots look like they have suffered through a war of the worlds.

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So, when Mother Nature decides to grant us “normal” weather, with sunshine and temperatures that hover in the 70′s, I’ll put on my gardening gloves and go to town.

I’ll send pictures.