Let the Season Begin!

Today  I’m wading through the aftermath of a horrible performance of the Green Bay Packers last night. Yes, I’m an NFL fan. I’ve loved the game since I was ten years old when I shared Sunday games with my Dad, learning the rules by watching and listening to the announcers.

At the time none of my girlfriends shared my avid  interest in football; they played with dolls and I didn’t own one. I loved sports of all kinds, so when we attended high school games, I became the play-by-by commentator for the girls sitting near me. I explained what  happened on the field and never speculated what the next play would be like so many professional idiots do today. (I love it when the know-it-alls are wrong.)

I told my eager students football is really a simple game. The team with the ball has four chances to make ten yards. If they don’t achieve that goal, they have to give the opposing  team a chance to do the same. After the girls grasped Football 101, I went on to explain some of the penalties and other technical terms like touchdown, field goals, punts, etc.

The Packers are an amazing professional football franchise because they are owned and funded by the community of Green Bay and supported their fans. Every home game is standing room only, and there’s a waiting list to purchase season tickets. People with the coveted season tickets often will them to family members.

August brings preseason games so fans can glimpse the newbies in town who are trying to make the teams. September signals the start of the “real” season. Every Sunday we  don our special t-shirts to stand in solidarity with the fans who are sitting in the stands to watch the green and gold go into battle. Luckily those girls I tutored in the stands on Friday nights in the 60s are still as nuts about the game like me.

People are so nuts about our gridiron heroes they flock to watch the team practice in the heat of the summer. It’s a tradition for players to ride kids’ bikes from the locker room to the practice field, and they will brag about who rode their bike for the rest of their lives. Lambeau Field has become a football shrine through the years. The whole country seems to attend a game there once in their life. We cheer with them and suffer with them — even after a string of poor  coaches and players which took the field in the 70s and 80s resulting in one losing season after another.

What’s the real attraction? Who knows for sure. I think it might be we get to yell at the television at terrible calls by  referees or bonehead plays by the players. We clap and jump to our feet when an exceptional play goes our way. We “tail gate” with finger-licking goodies at the dining room table. We might even have a beer.

In other words . . . football gives us a chance to have a party once a week as we muddle through the change from Fall to Winter. After the Super Bowl, we’re lost. Sunday afternoons become as barren as the weather has become brutal. The only activity left is to take a Sunday afternoon map and let the next six month pass and wait until a new season begins the fun all over again.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 11

 Lacrosse, Wisconsin – Summer—Rosalie cried for two days before she decided she mourned Angelo’s departure enough. She put her energy in sewing a Blue Star Service Flag to hang in her front window. Women sewed these flags to show a family member was off serving their country in the military. She made flags for her two brothers and the Schneider boys. When she presented the two blue stars flag to her father, he proudly displayed it in his restaurant window to honor her brothers. She gave Mrs. Schneider a flag with three blue stars for Johnny, Josie, and Peter. The Armani’s flag displayed a flag with one blue star and one gold one. The gold star represented Tony’s sacrifice and the blue star represented Angelo. Rosalie prayed both stars wouldn’t turn to gold.

Rosalie filled her days with mothering Gina and preparing for the new baby. She also prepared the upstairs for Donna with a good cleaning and a new paint job. Donna picked out a pretty shade of blush pink with the idea Gina would want a bedroom of her own someday; she and Rosie knocked off painting project while Mrs. Armani took Gina for an overnight.

The only person not happy about Donna moving in turned out to be Rosalie’s mother. She argued Rosalie should come home while Angelo was gone, but Rosalie refused.   Her life would not be her own at her parent’s house. Her mother had a tendency to treat her like a child and take control of her life. Her mother would banish Rosalie from the kitchen and insist she clean her plate.  She also didn’t want to listen to her Papa’s radio programs, instead of the ones she enjoyed. Worst of all, Gina would be spoiled rotten.

When Rosalie refused to move back with her parents, Mrs. Lombardo tried another tactic. She called Donna a “loose girl” and a bad influence on Gina. Rosalie defended her life-long friend and turned a deaf ear to her mother’s rants. Finally, Rosalie got angry and warned her mother to stop bad-mouthing Donna saying she didn’t know her friend.

On the other hand, Rosalie kept her eyes opened.  She recognized Donna tended to be a bit on the wild side and having Donna under her roof might create some problems, especially if Donna brought a “friend” home for a sleep over. But Rosalie figured Donna would use her good sense and not put her in such an awkward position.

The most important reason Rosalie didn’t want to leave her home was she felt Angelo’s love. He lived in the carpet he laid, the plumbing he fixed, and the electricity he installed. She sensed his presence in their bedroom. Even though he was a world away, Rosie felt close to him in the cozy home they built together. She found strength and independence there. She needed to stay where she belonged, and she would do everything possible to keep in their love nest forever.

Chapter 12

San Francisco to New Zealand—Summer—Angelo swallowed his tears on the plane all the way to San Francisco. The possibility he might never be with her again proved to be too hard. During the bus ride to the airport, he memorized Rosalie’s sweet scent, her soft lips, the warmth of her smile, her large chocolate eyes, and how her red hair fell gently to her shoulders. He remembered how the baby kicked him when they kissed, as if to say, “Daddy, quit squeezing me!”

After the plane landed in San Francisco, a bus transported the untested Marines to the shipyard where they boarded the Erickson. On June 26th the ship would commence her voyage to somewhere in the South Pacific. Only the Captain of the ship and senior officers knew their destination. Angelo didn’t particularly care where they were going. Any place was a very long way from Lacrosse, Wisconsin.

Angelo never traveled more than one hundred miles from his home. He never rode in a boat bigger than a row boat, and his first sailing experience showed him the power of the ocean. On his free time, Angelo roamed the decks to try to shake the awful seasickness he suffered. For the first three days he thought he might die from nausea and dizziness, but a medic gave him some Dramamine to combat the effects and told Angelo to go up on the top deck and look at the horizon to equalize the pressure in his ears.

During the three-week voyage, a kid named Bobby tried to make Angelo his buddy. Bobby stood five foot six in his stocking feet. The sun bleached his blond hair to almost white and his vivid blue eyes broadcast his wild spirit. His fair ghostly white skin burned easily in the tropical sun. Angelo guessed the kid wasn’t old enough to shave, much less be in the Marines. But teenagers lied about their ages to join in the fight, and Angelo surmised Bobby to be one of them. He couldn’t be more than sixteen, although Bobby he insisted he celebrated his eighteenth birthday before he enlisted.

Angelo realized his young friend carried deep loneliness with him. Bobby still maintained a certain type of innocence, too. His biggest flaws proved to be a quick temper and eagerness to pick a fight. The youngster kept the crew laughing with his ability to tell off-color joke. He also played a mean game of poker. Angelo gave into Bobby’s pursuit and found himself taking Bobby Bobby under his wing. He was a good kid who needed a friend who could quell his wild side. Angelo believed adopting Bobby as his little brother was a way to honor Tony.

The ship dropped anchor at Wellington, New Zealand after three weeks at sea. Everyone disembarked with rubbery legs, and as soon as they stepped ashore, they became a part of ten thousand other Marines. At the port, their officers ordered them to unload the cargo on the ship then reload the needed supplies onto a Marine Transport called USS McCauley.

Soon after the supplies were transferred, battle preparation began. Sergeants led long, tiring hikes into the tropical jungle to give the grunts a small sample of what lay ahead. They honed their shooting skills and hand-to-hand combat. They used straw dummies to fine-tune bayonet training. The training at Wellington lasted over a week.

On the 21st of July Angelo and the others left New Zealand to sail to the Fiji Islands. After arriving at a small island, the next phase of their training kicked in–beach landings. The Marines climbed down cargo nets thrown over the side of the ship to awaiting Higgins Boats. The boats raced toward shore, but never dropped the ramp. Instead, the boat turned around and returned to the ship for the next group to complete the drill. Angelo thought this drill was useless. They needed to experience jumping off the boats into the cold surf and then to trudge through wet sand carrying heavy packs and loaded rifles to be properly prepared for what was to come.

On August 3rd, Angelo and the other enlisted men learned about their mission. They would land on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. When live ammunition was distributed, the mission became real. By August 6th, the marines believed they were as ready as they ever would be.

Chapter 13

Lacrosse, Wisconsin, Summer 1942—Donna moved into Rosie’s house on the hottest day in July. She drafted a couple of young, strong male volunteers from the brewery to move her bed, dresser, and clothes. She decided to store the rest of her furniture and kitchen pots and pans, dishes, and utensils at the Schneider’s storage shed.

After a full day of moving and organizing, little Gina insisted Donna put her to bed. Rosalie kissed her daughter and wished her sweet dreams as Donna lay the baby down in the crib. Rosalie filled two glasses with ice and poured fresh squeezed lemonade over cubes before she went outside to the front porch. A slight summer breeze brushed her face.

Donna joined Rosalie on the porch. “That’s one sweet little girl you have,  Rosie.”

Rosalie handed Donna the glass of lemonade. “She’s sweet, but she’s got her father’s stubbornness. Just wait.”

Donna laughed and took a long drink from the cold glass. “Rosie, this is the lemonade is so good! It hit my thirsty spot.”  Donna took another sip. “When I put Gina to bed she gave me a new name.”

“Really?”

“She said Nigh-Night Auntie Doe-Doe.”

Rosie tried to hold her giggle back, but she failed because unknowingly Gina hit the nail on the head. “That’s really funny!” Rosie smiled as she fidgeted to get comfortable on the cement step of the stoop. “I’m sorry, Donna.”

Donna said. “Don’t be sorry. I think it’s the cutest nickname I ever got.” She sipped again. “I stored a couple of porch chairs with cushions at the Schneider’s. I’ll go get them for summer nights, if you like.” Donna said.

“A cushion sounds good right now. I swear I’ll never be comfortable again.”

“I’ll pick them up after work tomorrow.”

“That’s swell. Aren’t the Schneider’s just the best people in the world?”

“Yeah. They sure saved my bacon when parents threw me out.”

“For what it’s worth, Donna, I thought your parents made a terribly cruel mistake.

“I guess being pushed out of the nest a little prematurely made me grow my wings faster. To be perfectly honest, I wanted to leave.” Donna never told her friends her about her father’s abuse when he got drunk.

“You’re such a good egg. I can’t imagine any parent treating their daughter so harshly. I’m so glad you’re here with me.”

“Thanks, Rosie. That means a lot.” Donna sipped the tart lemonade and sighed. “Someday I want to own a house and settled down. I want a family, like yours.”

“Really?”

“Why does that surprise you?”

“Well, when you and Danny went off to the World’s Fair, I thought the two of you might be running away to get married. When you didn’t marry him after he got drafted, I wondered why.”

“Danny and I are friends. He wanted more, but I wanted more than he could give.  I want the fairy tale, like you and Angelo.”

Rosalie rubbed her hand over her swollen abdomen. “You think this is a fairy tale?”

Donna laughed. “I guess that’s part of the story they left out, huh?”

Rosalie laughed. “If the stories ended like . . . and the princess got pregnant and spent her life cleaning up messes, changing dirty diapers and washing grubby hands and faces all day . . . do you think any of us would want the fairy tale?”

Donna laughed hard at the picture Rosie painted.

Rosalie stared out into the darkness again. She listened to the crickets sing their evening song. “I wonder what Josie’s doing right now.”

“I just hope she’s safe. I worry about her all the time.”

“Me, too. But if anyone can do the job she’s chosen, Josie can.”

“Yeah.” Donna’s voice trailed off. The girls sat in silence for a few minutes.

Donna picked up her glass of lemonade and said, “A toast.”

Rosalie picked up her glass.

“To Josie. A woman who follows her own mind and possesses the courage to deal with the consequences.”

They clinked their glasses before Rosalie added, “To my friend Donna who will make my abandonment tolerable and fun.”

The girls smiled at each other and then stared out into the night with their private thoughts before they turned in for the night.

 

 

 

Happy Saturday?

One thing I struggle with since I “retired,” is realizing what day it is. With every day presenting itself primarily the same without a work schedule, Ken and I ask each other “What day is it?”

Years ago I would have thought such a question was ridiculous. But unscheduled time is something a person must absorb a little at a time. If a person doesn’t watch out, they will become lazy and never accomplish anything. Working outside the home provides a ready-made schedule. When you’re at home, the schedule is up to you. I’ve never been a buttoned-up scheduler, so I struggle with the concept. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact my time is my own. I can be as productive or as laid-back as I want. But that doesn’t say I’ll accomplish the goal on the right day of the week.

My computer and phone keep me on the correct date, but neither tell me what day of the week it is. I guess that’s why we have calendars–huh? Just match up the date to an old fashioned paper calendar and a retired person will stay on the right day.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 9

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – April—Angelo always handled the family finances, but now the responsibility of paying bills and keeping a checkbook balanced fell on Rosalie. She also assumed the sole responsibility for Gina and would face giving birth to another baby without her husband.

In April 1942, the government set up a program so no American would go hungry during the course of the war. The rationing program provided a booklet of stamps which gave the bearer the right to purchase certain foods. Rosalie quickly realized being in a war meant daily sacrifice for everyone. People living “in the lower 48 states” couldn’t escape the fact the United States was at war. In the post office posters released by the Office of War Information said, “Do with less, so they’ll get enough.” Another pleaded, “Be patriotic, sign your country’s pledge to save the food. Rosalie’s pregnant body and empty bed was her personal reminder of her personal sacrifice.

Almost overnight basic stables disappeared from the grocer store shelves. Sugar and coffee were the first items to go. Rosalie’s favorite Coca-Cola also vanished. Rosalie wondered how she could face another nauseating pregnancy without an ice-cold Coke to settle her stomach.

One afternoon Rosalie heard a knock at the back door while Gina was napping. She couldn’t imagine who would be calling her at this time of day. When she opened the door, Donna Jean stood smiling. “Donna, what on earth are you doing here? Aren’t you working today?”

“I took the day off to go to the school to sign up for the rationing program. I thought you might like to go with me. Are you well enough to go today?”

“Actually, I’m doing fine. You must be a mind reader.  I didn’t want to go alone.”

“Let’s go together. We’ll make the excursion fun.” Donna smiled.

“Right after Gina wakes up. She’s a holy terror if she doesn’t get her beauty sleep.” Rosalie laughed. “Come on in and share a cup of tea with me.”

“Sure.” Donna slipped into the kitchen and sat down. For the next thirty minutes the girls enjoyed each other’s company.

Gina woke up in a happy mood. When Rosalie brought her into the kitchen on her hip, the little girl reached for Donna.

Donna’s heart swelled. “Come here to your Auntie Donna.”

The baby cooed and giggled.

Rosalie looked at the two of them with a smile. “You know, you are the only one beside her Papa she goes to.”

“She probably knows I’d let her get away with murder.”

“Probably.” Rosalie laughed. “We’d better get going. I think the school is only open until three o’clock.”

Donna rose with the baby and followed Rosalie out to the garage. She pulled the baby stroller and Donna put the baby in the seat. The two girls jabbered on as they walked the four city blocks to the school to sign up for the program. When they arrived, they waited in line over an hour to register. Forms needed to be completed which required their name and family size, so people would receive the proper war ration coupon book.

Donna studied her coupon book as she left the school. “Boy, this really makes everything real, doesn’t it?”

Rosalie answered quietly. “Yeah.”

“I’m sorry, Rosie. Sometimes my mouth and brain don’t work together. With Angelo gone, you already realize how real the war is. I’m so sorry sweetie.”

“Oh, Donna. Don’t worry.  Angelo is coming home after boot camp in a few weeks and that’s what I’m focused on. I’m going to think positive from now on. No more nervous Nellie.”

“That’s the spirit.” Donna said. “I need to tell you something?”

“What?”

“I think you’re the bravest person in the world, Rosie. I would be scared to death to give birth without my husband standing beside me.”

Rosalie smiled. “I think the bravest person we both love is Josie.”

Donna put her hand on Rosie’s as they pushed the stroller together. “Yeah, you’re right. But your tops in my book. Lots of people don’t really approve of my choices, but you can always depend on me. You just ask, and I’ll do whatever you need.”

“You’re so sweet, Donna. Thank you.” Rosie said with a warm smile.

Rosie offered Donna a cool glass of ice water when they got back to the house. They examined their coupon books at the kitchen table. Different colored stamps stood for different types of food. Each stamp specified a certain number of points and an expiration date. A “Red Stamp” coupon allowed the purchase of all meats, butter, fat, and oils, and with some exceptions, cheese. A “Blue Stamp” covered canned, bottled, and frozen fruits and vegetables, plus juices, dried beans, and processed foods like soups, baby food, and ketchup.”

“This will take some getting used to.” Donna said.

“Yeah, but the program makes sense. Food rationing will make sure people don’t go hungry. No one can hoard food.” She sipped her water. “Now that spring is here, I want to plant a victory garden to supplement the rationing stamps.”

“That’s brave of you. My experience with farming is very limited.”

“Oh Donna, you’re so funny. A victory garden is not farming, silly, it’s gardening.” Rosalie said. “You want to help me? We can grow all kinds of fresh vegetables and then can them in the fall.”

“Are you trying to domestic me, sweetie?” Donna said with a grin.

Rosie grinned back. “One can try.”

“I’ll help, but you might not want my brown thumb around.” Donna took a sip of her water and changed the subject. “When we stood in line at the school, I spied a flyer on the bulletin board advertising a training session to learn how to shop wiser, conserve food, and plan nutritious meals. Would you like to go?”

“Sure. I can always learn new things.” Rosie said absentmindedly. Then she turned to Donna and said, “I want you to think about something.”

“What’s that?” Donna said.

“Would you consider moving in with me after Angelo ships out?”

Donna never expected a question like that. “Are you serious?”

“The whole upstairs could serve as an apartment. There’s a bedroom with a huge closet and another room you can use as your private living room.”

“Why would you want me around?”

“I can’t think of any other person I would like to live with. We’d both be safer together, and to be totally honest, I’m afraid I might lose the house because Angelo’s marine wages are nowhere near what he made at the factory. I can’t work because of this new baby coming–at least not for the foreseeable future. And–,”

Donna interrupted. “I’m honored you want me to live with you. My lease is up in July, so I can come then.”

Rosalie got up and hugged Donna. “You are the best friend, ever.”

Donna hugged her back. “That goes both way, Rosie.”

Chapter 10

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – June—Angelo came home unannounced before he needed to ship out for two years. He dressed in the Marine service uniform of green trousers with khaki web belt, short-sleeve button-up shirt, garrison and black shoes.  The marines shaved off his beautiful black curls along with his mustache. He peered through the back window to catch a glimpse of Rosalie before he knocked on the door. He saw her feeding Gina in her high chair, Angelo smiled and knocked for a second time.

She got up, wiped her hands on a dishrag, and opened the door. “Can I help you?”

The soldier smiled.

Rosalie stared at the stranger’s eyes before her face lit up.  “Angelo! You’re home!” She flew into his waiting arms.

“I’m home. I’m home.” He whispered as he held her baby-swollen body and kissed her. “Oh, Rosie. I missed you so much. Look at you!”

“Look at me-Look at YOU! They turned you into a grunt!” She laughed.

“You said it!”

She kissed him again and again. “Are you hungry?”

“You are such a good Italian girl.” He laughed.

The couple went into the kitchen hand in hand. Angelo moved toward Gina and tried to pick her up, but she screamed and kicked at him.

“What’s wrong?”

“She doesn’t remember you, Angelo. You look so different from when you left. Just give her a little time.” Rosalie said.

“She doesn’t remember me? I don’t believe it.”

“Babies sense of time is very different than ours.”

Rosalie thought ‘that’s what you get for leaving us.’ Instead she said, “Don’t worry. She’ll warm up to you.”

Angelo sat at the kitchen table disheartened. He waited six months to be with his family again and now his little girl, the apple of his soul, didn’t want to sit on his lap.

Rosalie picked up the baby. “Come here, sweet girl. This is Daddy. He loves you very much. You remember Daddy.” Rosie tried to put Gina in Angelo’s lap and again Gina screamed and clung to her mother. “I’m so sorry, Angelo.”

“I can’t believe she doesn’t remember me.” Angelo wanted to cry.

“A lot changed since you left us.” Rosie tried to change the subject. “Why don’t you call your parents and invite them over for tea and cannoli?”

“Sure.” Angelo picked up the phone and called his parents.

*****

Three days after Angelo’s return, Gina ran into the living room and eyed him from across the room. She stood on the fringe of the carpet. Gina appeared to be wondering where this stranger fit into her life.

Angelo put his arms out and kept his voice soft.  “Come to Daddy, sweetie.” Much to his surprise, Gina moved toward him. “Da-da?”

Angelo cried, “Yes. Da-da.” He picked her up and hugged her gently.

She put her chubby little arms around his hard body and cuddled into him.

Angelo held her close. “My sweet little Angelina. I love you so much.”

Gina gently slapped his face and smiled. “Da-da.”

Angelo’s heart soared. He kissed the top of her head as he prayed, “God please, no matter what happens, please let her remember me.”

He went to find Rosalie.  “Rosie! She finally remembers me!”

A slice of a smile crossed Rosalie’s face. “I’m happy for you, Angelo. I knew she would.”

*****

The week with Angelo being at home went way too fast. The day before he left, Rosalie approached him holding a large yellow envelope. Her stern face matched her determined eyes. Angelo never witnessed such seriousness in her before.

She handed him the envelope.” Angelo, I need you to sign some papers.”

“What papers?”

“Some legal papers. I learned wives with husbands in the service, especially a husband going off to war need to take legal steps before he leaves.” Rosie cleared her throat as her eyes filled with tears.

Angelo stared at her. “I’ll sign whatever you need, sweetheart.” He released the metal closure and pulled out the legal documents. The envelope contained a last will and testament, a power of attorney, and a deed to the house. “Geez, Rosie, is this really necessary?”

“Yes.” Her voice quivered. “Please sign the dang papers, Angelo. I must do this because of your choice to avenge Tony.” Rosalie’s true feelings rolled over her like a snowball going down a steep hill. “I don’t want to be alone, but I must. I don’t want to give birth alone, but I must. Just sign the GD papers, Angelo!” She took a deep breath pushing down the hidden implication of the documents.

Angelo signed the papers while Rosalie stood like a sentry next to him. Then he handed them back to her.

She said in a flat voice. “Thank you.” Without looking at the death documents, she slipped them into the envelope.

Angelo stood up and embraced her. “I realize my decision has made our lives harder, but I want you to realize I’m proud you’re taking steps to prepare for what might come.” He tipped her chin and placed a tender kiss on her lips. “I also want you to understand I will crawl on my belly for a thousand miles to come back home to you.  If you need these documents someday, well–” His voice cracked. “I love you Rosie. You’re the only girl for me.” He avoided her eyes, dropped his embrace, and headed for the backyard. He pulled a cigarette from the pack in his shirt pocket. He took a long drag before his eyes moistened. Rosie thinks I’m not coming home. Oh my God, what did I do?

*****

After the document encounter, Rosalie relaxed and cherished the little time left with Angelo. She attempted to remember his scent, his touch, and his kisses. They made love every night and fell asleep entwined. She woke during the night and listened to him breath. She stared at him sleeping peacefully and wondered what he would endure for the next two years. She prayed for his safe return home and put her head on his chest to listen to his heartbeat.  She went to sleep and dreamed the Marines didn’t want him after all.

Angelo’s mother came over way too often during Angelo’s one short week of leave. Rosalie understood her wanting to spend a lot of time with Angelo before he left, especially after losing Tony at Pearl Harbor. Angelo’s father vowed to protect Rosie. Gina, and the new baby; no one said goodbye. The word “goodbye” meant a finality nobody could face.

*****

 Rosie insisted she accompany Angelo to Chicago on a bus. She wanted to be with her husband as long as time would permit. Only God knew when he would be home again. She concentrated on saying “when” instead of “if.”

Angelo welcomed Rosalie’s company for the long bus ride to Chicago.  He needed to hold her as long as possible. He cradled her as she laid her head on his strong shoulder. Sitting so close together reminded him of their high school dating days when they sat in the car for hours watching the “submarine races” on the river. How did two years pass so quickly? High school seemed a lifetime ago.

As the bus roamed through one small town after another, Rosie and Angelo talked about everyday things– what she planned to do to keep busy, about names for the new baby, and how they imagined Gina might behave once the baby came. Rosie told him Donna would be moving into the house in July to help with the expenses and the new baby. Even though Angelo didn’t approve of Donna’s party girl reputation, he relaxed because she offered to stay with Rosie.

Rosie jabbered on about how she planned to can the vegetables growing in her victory garden and how her father helped her keep the plants healthy to make sure of a good harvest. Angelo recalled funny stories about different guys in his basic training group, and what life was like in a barracks full of guys from around the country. They avoided speaking about the war.

Rosalie walked Angelo to the gate where he boarded the airplane to fly to San Francisco. She kept her eyes fixed on him as Angelo walked to the plane across the tarmac. She held her breath as he walked up the ladder and disappeared into the belly of the plane. Rosie lost the battle of keeping her tears away. She waved until the plane taxied away and then let her tears of their unknown future roll down her cheeks. She boarded the bus which would take her back to Lacrosse and stared out the window for much of the trip. Her Angelo was headed for war against a ferocious enemy.

As Rosalie headed home, Angelo fastened his seat belt waiting for the plane to lift off for San Francisco. Through the small plane porthole, he prayed. “Oh God, please take care of her while I’m gone. Please give her an easy time when the baby comes. Please be with her always. I love her so much.”

 

 

When MS Strikes

I haven’t posted anything about Multiple Sclerosis this week because Ken has had a pretty good week. . . specifically I mean he didn’t fall once.His falls make my heart stop before I run to his aid.

We went out for lunch yesterday, and I can see our outing is taking a toll today. He’s struggling to charge his power wheelchair and then walk four feet to his recliner. When he does complain, which is hardly ever, he says he feels off balance. Can you imagine that? I can’t. As time goes on, he’s losing the ability to walk at all. It’s like his feet and his brain are on two different frequencies and needless to say, his thoughts and actions don’t communicate.

Now he can’t stand up and give me a hug and kiss because his balance is so poor. Some times his speech is slurred and I can’t understand him. When I tell him so, he must concentrate on just get the words out. But at least these episodes are not frequent. I don’t think either of us could tolerate that.

But the times when debilitating fatigue takes over are the worst. I fear someday these symptoms will become the norm. I fear someday he’ll have to go to a nursing home because I can’t take care of him any more. I’m hoping by that time, we can just have the necessary equipment moved in and a 24-hour nurse will stand by.

I think uncertainty is the real culprit. I’ve found that when I understand a situation, I find a way to cope. But this enemy is tricky. A symptom might appear today and scare the heck out of us, only to vanish the next day. One symptom we’ve encountered a couple of times is uncontrollable crying. It’s called PBA. We got medication for it, but later found out the psych drugs he must take which help him think are not compatible with the PBA drug. So we had to stop it. Luckily, Ken hasn’t suffered the disturbing crying episode again.

During the past six years we’ve been together full time, most of it has been good. I’ve had to assume many more household duties I don’t like to do (cutting grass comes to mind), but I’m at least able to spend the good days with the man I love. If I was working, all day, I’d be thinking about how he was doing at home alone. With me here, at least he can get out of the four walls and enjoy the cooking of someone else once in a while.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 7

Northern England – August 1942—Johnny flew with the Brits before the Americans entered the war in Europe through a special arrangement between the United States and Britain. During that time, he became a seasoned and very talented Spitfire pilot.

After  Germany declared war on the United States, his orders transferred him to the 31st Fighter Group of the Eighth Air Force which was stationed at Westhampnett, England. Because of his previous combat experience with the RAF, Johnny became a valuable asset. Instead of flying combat missions, he now taught the green U. S. pilots how to fly and fight together in tight formations. Soon these novices would undertake daylight strategic bombing campaigns over the European continent. The good news was half of the highly trained Luftwaffe pilots had been stationed on the eastern front,supporting the German soldiers on the ground in the Soviet Union.

Now that hundreds of American pilots were filtering into England Johnny didn’t feel like such an anomaly. Their Midwestern, Southern, and even east coast accents brought a slice of home to him. Their presence helped ease the sting of losing so many of his RAF buddies in battle.

Johnny proved to be a born teacher. He stressed flying in battle needed to be a buddy activity. He taught fighter pilots the finer points of working with their wing men to escort the B-17 bombers to their destinations. The cocky young bucks needed to be tamed. Most of their bravado could be attributed to their youth, but their willingness to take risks was essential too because the physical, mental, and emotional demands of air fighting required these qualities. Johnny trained them to walk this delicate line to stay alive.

Pilots faced other dangers beside the Luftwaffe. Flight suits didn’t protect the crews from the below zero temperatures they endured at high elevations.  Another enemy proved to be flak fields produced by anti-aircraft guns on the ground. Flying through a flak field  got to be part of every mission. After their first mission, the young bucks realized their lives could be snuffed out in a flash. If a pilot put his plane in a fast dive, he often suffered blackouts–when for a fraction of a second gravity pulled the blood from his brains. If the pilot recovered in time, he needed to make a sharp skidding turn to ensure he lived to fight another day.

Seasoned pilots admitted fear, and eventually every pilot faced a time when the competition or “sport” of the flying game didn’t sustain them any longer. That’s when the instinct, training, and the release of adrenaline took over. Climbing in the cockpit after several missions got to be like any other job in the war. There was a chance he might not see tomorrow.

****

In April, Johnny flew with a thousand bombers to destroy the city of Cologne. Besides the destructive bombs, they also dropped Allied propaganda leaflets that read: “We are bombing Germany city by city. Don’t let the Nazi’s drag you down–it is up to you. We are coming!”

After the run, Johnny meandered into the mess hall to get a cup of coffee. He found a new guy staring out a window. Johnny recognized the signs of trauma and walked over to the young pilot. “Hey Randy. How’s it going? Tough day?”

The young boy’s eyes said everything that needed to be said. Johnny stood beside him in silence.

Before too long, Randy opened up. “When I got here, I wanted to get up there and fly to my first bombing mission. I didn’t care about how important the target might be. I just wanted to bomb the hell out of the Krauts. Today I few Red-Two, the wing man for the squadron leader. We patrolled parallel to the side and above another bomb wing. All of a sudden, a huge burst of flak exploded directly in front of the lead aircraft. The pilot needed to fly straight into the flak field to complete the mission.   At the end of the day, we must complete our mission. Right major?”

Johnny nodded. “Go on.”

“The flak hit the B-17, and the pilot did a sudden quarter roll to the left, away from the formation.” Randy cried. “I’m sorry, sir. I don’t mean to break up.”

“Keep going.” Johnny said. “It helps to talk about these things.”

“A blazing flash of fire blinded me and when the sky cleared, the plane vanished. No parachutes hung in the sky below. I looked down and saw a few small smoking pieces of the plane fall to earth. Ten men. Gone. I ate breakfast with that crew this morning! And now–there’s no trace of them.”  The young pilot’s voice cracked as he relived the event. “How do I get over this, sir? How can I climb in a plane again, knowing something like that can happen to me?”

Johnny put his arm around the new pilot’s shoulder. “You just do. It’s our job. That is why we’re here.”

Every time Johnny listened to stories like this, he shared the loss. The first time proved to be the hardest. Losing buddies in the air felt like being hit with a sucker punch that knocks the wind out of a person.

“Unfortunately, all fighter pilots experience this, Randy. Losing buddies in the air never gets easy. Even after flying over here for two years, sometimes I can’t get out of the cockpit after a close call. Witnessing someone dying in front of your eyes means you narrowly escaped the grim reaper. Every time we go up there’s no insurance policy we’ll come down in one piece. I can’t tell you accepting times like this will get easier, but the more seasoned you get, you’ll put the losses behind you faster. You can’t think about dying. You need to be cocky enough to think you can fly out of anything.”

Randy nodded.

Johnny remained with him for a few more minutes. “From now on, fly for the guys who died today. You’ll kill the bastards who took their lives. Right now the only thing you can do is cry or get drunk. You need to put this horror behind because tomorrow is a new day and your job requires you to crawl into the cockpit again. Always believe you’re going to be the lucky one who comes back.”

Randy’s tears quietly rolled down his cheek.

Johnny put his arm around his shoulder. “Come on lieutenant. Let the sorrow out. Don’t be ashamed you care.” Johnny led him toward the door. “Come on. I’ll buy the first round.”

Chapter 8

Paris, France-April—The weeks following Emma’s arrest, the Gestapo picked up Marta for interrogation. They questioned her all day, let her go, and then picked her up again the next day for more of the same questions. After a few weeks of this routine, the Gestapo realized Marta did not work with the French Resistance.

Her meager wages at the Louvre didn’t cover the rent on the apartment, so she moved to a one-room studio became available in the building. The woman who previously lived there moved to join her husband in England with the help of Pierre’s group.

Moving into a smaller apartment made Emma’s absence too real for Marta. The last two years together gave both of them the love they desired. Emma opened a whole new world for Marta, showing her the way to discover her true self. Marta loved being near fine art all day and went home to a cheerful partner. Now, the Nazis kept her in a prison somewhere in Germany. Not knowing her whereabouts was the hardest part of their separation.

With Emma gone, Marta understood her mother’s angst over her father’s absence.  She thought about leaving Paris and returning to Berlin to comfort her mother, but Marta realized she might never find Emma if she left Paris. Her mother’s last letter told her it had been months without a word from her father. She also said newspaper stories about the eastern front battles were manufactured by Hitler’s propaganda machine.

Marta stuttered and stammered as to what to do. She wanted to find Emma, but she realized she didn’t possess the street smarts to take on any covert assignments.  Then she thought perhaps her mother might be able to help her. She picked up a pen and started writing.

April 30, 1942

Dear Mutter,

 I apologize for not writing as often as I should, but as you might imagine building a new life in a different city is all-consuming. But now I find myself alone and I am struggling. I wish I could speak with you over a warm cup of hot chocolate because your advice is always wise.

 The Gestapo arrested Emma some weeks ago and sent her to a prison somewhere in Germany. The ridiculous charges against her sentenced her to three years in a Gestapo prison. She is no enemy of Germany. She never showed any signs of being a part of the Resistance, but the Nazis do as they please regardless of the truth.

 I am wondering whether you can use your connections to get her released. I realize you are in touch with women who are married to high ranking officers, like Vater, so perhaps you might be able to find Emma’s whereabouts.  If you cannot help with Vater away on the eastern front, perhaps others can shed some light where she is being held.

Emma suffered plenty at the hands of the Gestapo right here in Paris. I went to her farce of a trial, and I hardly recognized her. She appeared undernourished with many bruises on her face. They cut her hair short and uneven. Her dirty clothes hung on her thin frame.  I can only imagine what they are doing to her now. I am so scared for her.

 Please do whatever you can to help me learn where she is being held.

Love, Marta


Deciding What’s First

When I went to work outside the home, I always put the most demanding or disgusting chore I had to accomplish as the first thing I’d tackle. I figured I was strongest in the morning after I had my coffee and breakfast, but since I’ve been working at home, I forgot that discipline.

On Monday, I reinstated that technique by filing the letter I received from the city attorney to allow the city the required easement for my garage construction. I’ve never been comfortable with the courthouse and city hall environments, so I had put off this necessary evil for almost a month. A call from the attorney kicked me in the butt and I got this chore done–first thing. After I completed this task, I took the day off.

Tuesday was dreary around here. The temperatures didn’t climb anywhere near 70 degrees and the skies remained gray. I don’t do well with gray skies, so I kept the curtains drawn and painted for most of the day. I had no energy for a hard task today.

Wednesday’s first chore was to take out the garbage because we’re on a weekly pickup schedule for that day. Who wants filled bags of trash taking up space, right? So, I put that chore first.

Today I’m writing my first blog from my new computer. I’ve been dragging my feet because experience has shown starting from ground zero never goes well. But I need practice to get used to the smaller keyboard and screen. I also wanted to  download “Chrome” because I prefer that browser to Explorer. Mission accomplished. The next important task was to move a few files  from the old computer to the new one so I had what I needed to complete my blog post. As you can see, I’m up to speed for today.

What’s the moral in this dissertation? I’m encouraging you to put your hardest task of the day at the time of day when you’re strongest. For me, it’s first thing in the morning. For you, it might be later in the day. Figure it out, and I guarantee you will enjoy a satisfying day all day long.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 5

Camp Young, Arizona–February—Josie said goodbye to her parents in the kitchen at breakfast the day she left for nurse’s training. She couldn’t bear to see them crying at the train station, so she asked Rosalie, Donna, and Mary to take her to meet the train for Minneapolis. Once in the city, she would take a bus to the airport. She found the gate with little trouble and waited for her flight to be announced.

As she climbed the stairs from the tarmac to board the plane, Josie’s chest tightened. She never flew before and the whole idea of flight scared her. She preferred her feet stay on the ground.

Her travel lasted all day. The pilot set the plane down in Kansas City and then again in Denver to refuel.  As the plane took off and landed, Josie compared the sensation she experienced to the ups and down with her favorite roller coaster at the country fair. When the trip ended in Phoenix, she understood why Johnny became a pilot.

Before Josie disembarked the plane in Arizona, the captain announced the current temperature to be 101 degrees. When the attendant opened the door, a blast of hot dry air took Josie’s breath away. She thought she just walked into a blast furnace as she descended the steps of the plane to make her way across the tarmac and into the airport. She wondered how any place could be so hot in February.

She boarded a bus which would take her to Camp Young, Arizona–the training center where she would spend the next four weeks. She and the other recruits were dropped at a guard house where they needed to sign in. Jeeps brought the girls to headquarters. On the way they got a good look at the base which consisted of an odd collection of old buildings and endless rows of tents

.A male officer welcomed the bus load of women to Camp Young and waved them to a table where  a female officer handed everyone a uniform, a pair of heavy leather boots, a steel helmet, and a canteen belt.

Next they received a tent assignment. The tent she was assigned to stood on a wooden platform. Four cots and orange crates to store their personal items would serve as home for the duration of their training. The surroundings reminded Josie of a similar tent she encountered at Girl Scout Camp when she was eleven years old. Her three bunk mates were already storing their gear.

Josie introduced herself. “Hi, I’m Josie Schneider from Wisconsin.”

A pretty blond shook Josie’s hand.  “Come on in, Josie. It’s nice to meet you, Josie; I ‘m Theresa from California.”

A redhead continued the introductions. “I’m Maggie from Maine.”

Finally the tallest girl with the darkest hair Josie ever saw came forward. “And last but never least, my name is Joan. I’m from the great state of Texas. I bet you never experienced the desert in February, did you sugar?”

Josie laughed and played along. “You’ve got me, Tex. This Yankee never even dreamed February anywhere was this hot.”

Joan laughed with her. “Don’t worry sugar, You’ll get used to it and eventually you’ll wonder why you weren’t born here. I heard snow is highly over rated.”

Josie laughed. “I understand we’re to report back to headquarters as soon as we’re settled. Then we’ll have supper in the mess hall at 1700 hours.” She looked right at Joan. “That’s five o’clock, Tex.”

Joan put her arm around Josie. “Well, bless your heart. I guess we’d better git a wiggle on then. Come on girls. Snowball here seems to have become our fearless leader.”

Headquarters overflowed as two hundred nurses filed in. A hush fell over the female chatter when the male commanding officer stepped up to a podium. “Welcome to Camp Young, ladies. I’m Major Henderson. While you are here, it is the army’s intent to put you through drills and other activities you never imaged. This training is tough but necessary. It is our job to prepare you for some of the experiences you may encounter in the field. At this time, we are not aware where your orders will take you; our job as training officers is to prepare you for combat situations. We’ll begin tomorrow at “0600.”  Your instructors are responsible to train you properly. But before we begin to whip you into shape, we’re providing some good chow tonight. Enjoy it. After tonight, you will be eating MRE’s and other field delicacies. Don’t be late. Dismissed!” The major left the building and the nurse’s chatter resumed.

“What the heck are MRE’s?” Theresa asked.

Joan answered. “It’s army talk for meals ready to eat.”

“Yum.” Maggie said.

Josie chimed in. “Yum, indeed.”

*****

When the women reported for duty at  six o’clock the next morning, Josie realized her extensive Girl Scouting experience, even survival training in the woods, didn’t prepare her for Camp Young.

Their first assignment was to take a tent down, move it 10 kilometers and then put it back up again to prepare them for moving a field hospital. They were instructed on the measures they needed to take to keep equipment sterile in the most adverse conditions.  After lunch, they experienced how to handle handle poisonous snakes and scorpions, not to mention fire ants and other poisonous insects.

Joan, Maggie, Theresa, and Josie climbed into their cots after an exhausting day.

Maggie sighed. “I suppose I’ll dream of snakes and other creepy crawlies tonight.”

Theresa added. “I think I found muscles my body never used before.” She paused. “Hey Tex, I thought the desert got cold after the sun went down.”

“Who told you that, chickadee?”

“I think I read it somewhere.”

Joan quipped. “I wouldn’t go back to that library again if I were you. Let’s just shut up and get some shut-eye. God knows what they’ve got cooked up for us tomorrow.”

Josie had the last word. “For once we agree, Tex. Pleasant dreams.”

*****

For the first week of her stay at Camp Young, Josie wondered if she had made a mistake by enlisting. Arriving from a cold climate made the dry heat harder on her than some of the other women–especially Tex. But day by day Josie adapted. She learned how keep her body hydrated to prevent fainting or suffering sun stroke. She learned to work steady and pace herself to conserve her energy. She complained about the heat but she wouldn’t let a simple thing like weather defeat her.

Every morning began at 5 a.m.  The nurses reported to the exercise yard for calisthenics and weight lifting before chow. After breakfast, they hiked twenty-miles in fatigues, steel helmets, and combat boots, carrying thirty-pound backpacks, mess kits, and gas masks. After lunch, they attended classes on how to camouflage themselves to blend into their environments. Other classes taught them how to improvise when the didn’t have normal equipment to do their jobs like making a bed pan from a newspaper and stretchers from trousers. They even learned how to chlorinate water.

Some of the training required they breathed mustard gas and other lethal chemicals in order to identify them. They even crawled on their bellies over seventy-five feet through a tear-gas chamber and learned how to extinguish incendiary bombs.

One of the final tests required the nurses to maneuver through a “no man’s land” of trenches and barbed wire. Charges of dynamite exploded on either side of the trench, while machine gun bullets zinged a few inches over their heads. The nurses became skilled at triage techniques for incoming wounded soldiers.

Everything they endured at Camp Young served a purpose. The army brass wanted to ensure the girls got tough enough to face the hardships they would experience after they deployed.

The four short weeks at Camp Young simulated the hell the women would experience in field hospitals. The army did a good job preparing them physically; however, no program could prepare them for the sights, sounds, and putrid odors of battle and death. They would learn those elements on the job.

Chapter 6

Lacrosse, Wisconsin—March—The last time Rosalie felt sick in the morning, she turned out to be pregnant, and today she started her day in the bathroom vomiting. She didn’t want to think she might be pregnant again, especially with Angelo gone. How would she face a birth alone when Angelina’s birth left her so depleted? She missed one period already but attributed it to the stressful goodbye she said to Angelo over six weeks ago. When she missed her second period, her fears proved to be right.

After another week went by, and Rosalie found herself sitting in Dr. Ward’s office again. When the nurse called her name, Rosalie took a deep breath and braced herself for the news she expected to get.

The doctor did a pelvic exam and said, “Well, Rosie,  Gina will be a big sister about six months from now.”

“Are you sure doctor?”

“Quite sure, my dear.”

Rosie’s eyes welled up in tears. “How am I going to do this?”

The doctor helped her sit up on the examining table. “Don’t cry, Rosalie. Everyone who loves you will help you get through this pregnancy. Don’t worry about a thing.”

“But Gina’s birth was so hard last time, doctor. It took me months to recover, and Angelo helped so much. Now he’s gone and I have Gina to care for as well as a new child..”

The doctor raised his eyebrows. “Your husband enlisted?” ”

Rosie nodded. The doctor continued. “You must really miss him, but everyday women come in here and must face having a baby without their husband by their sides.”

“I suppose.” Rosalie said in a low tone. “But I don’t want to go through a birth without Angelo.”

The doctor took her hand. “I’m afraid you will must.  I will take good care of your health. You’re in a safe place, and you’ll be okay. When times seem too hard to go on, think about the women around the world who are having their babies in jungles and bombed out buildings. At least your baby will be born in a clean, safe hospital.”

“I must sound like a baby. I never thought about that.” Rosalie hung her head.

“You’ll be fine, Rosalie. Mark my words.”

Rosalie dressed and left the doctor’s office ashamed she showed the doctor her self-pity, but she still stung from Angelo’s decision to enlist. Now she needed to tell him she was pregnant again through a letter.

After Gina went to bed that evening, Rosalie wrote to her husband.

March, 1942

 My dearest sweetheart,

 Everything at home is fine. I do miss you so much, Angelo, I find my body actually aches for your touch. Some nights I dream your arms are wrapped around me, and you are whispering secrets into my ear. Then I wake and must realize you still are away.

 I’m writing to tell you I’m pregnant. That’s right, sweetheart, we’re having another baby. I went to the doctor today to confirm my fears. The baby will come in August. 

 I’m looking forward to you returning home after boot camp, and I pray everyday your drill sergeant won’t kill you before then.

 Sending all  my love, Rosie,

 

 

Standing on a Soapbox

Does it bother anyone else that presidential hopefuls begin their rhetoric two years before the election in November 2016? 

This morning I got up early when the house was quiet. I fed the pets and made the coffee for the day, and then I turned on the television and voila–Donald Trump and the other Republican boys were the lead story. The local station reported Scott Walker was in Iowa. Why is he in Iowa instead of Wisconsin? Did he quit his day job? But perhaps it’s a good thing he’s out of the state. At least he won’t be destroying education, health care for the disabled, and breaking more unions.

I think this early campaign stuff is disgusting. It’ll be a year before they will impart their plans for our future. In the meantime they will put other candidates down as they dig up dirt on each other.

And what’s this “The American People” phrase? Every time I hear those three words it sounds like the speaker is separating his/her self from the rest of us. Are they ashamed to be part of The American People? Have they elevated themselves above us poor slobs who elect them? Perhaps they are. Once in Congress, they are set for life with self-legislated pensions and healthcare benefits. On top of that, they legislate their own raises. Who in the private sector can do that?

When our forefathers put this government together, they never imagined it would be a full time job for the rest of their lives. Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and the rest of the Revolution boys must be pulling their hair out if they are observing the ridiculous campaign and election process which has evolved.

And another thing, once a person makes it to Washington, he/she is sworn in, given an office, and expected to work for “The American People” they love so much. Right? Well, it ain’t necessarily so–once elected they immediately start planning for their re-election. Then they plan their time away from Washington. It’s a miracle if anything gets done. Right?

I could go on, but I won’t because then I’d sound like a politician

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5

Chapter 3

Paris, France–January 1942—Emma suffered beatings and torture which broke most men. Day after day she protested she did nothing wrong. Six weeks since her arrest passed slowly. She sat in darkness most of the day, and shivered from the cold most of the night. Emma remained strong. Her only fear involved Marta. Did she do enough to protect her?. The Nazis already proved a young woman like Marta made an easy target.

On January 15th Emma’s trial commenced. Her captors led her into the courtroom and stood her in front of a Gestapo officer pretending to be a judge. The charges against her were subversion and espionage, but after months of looking for evidence to prove she provided false identification papers for people fleeing France, the Gestapo investigators could not substantiate the charge. However, the subversion charge stayed because the Gestapo found the French resistance newspaper in her apartment.

Emma stood straight in her chains before the judge. He spoke in a monotone voice. “Young woman do you wish to say anything in your defense?”

In a clear strong voice, Emma answered. “Yes, your honor. Since my arrest, I never uttered a word of truth to your interrogators. I concocted a web of deceit to protect my friends, not to exonerate myself.”

The judge shook his head in disgust. “You will be confined for the maximum period of three years in a Gestapo prison to be named later.” He slammed his gavel on a wooden block, and a bailiff dragged Emma away.

Marta witnessed the sham of a trial from the gallery in utter dismay. Emma appeared so thin and gaunt Marta barely recognized her. Her long hair had been cropped with a dull scissors, and her face appeared battered and bruised. But even though she appeared beaten, her strong voice showed her spirit had not been broken. The German thugs achieved no success in breaking her. At that moment, Marta’s love for Emma grew exponentially.

*****

After the trial, the Nazis immediately transported Emma to a prison in Anrath, Germany–a city near Dusseldorf. The train arrived in Germany after midnight. A bus awaited the prisoners for their final leg of their journey. After a twenty mile bus ride, the vehicle stopped at a building surrounded with barbed wire and bright search lights.

The bus driver turned off the ignition and stood to face the downtrodden women. “Stand and file off one-by-one.”

The clanking of dozens of chains was the only sound as the women shuffled off the bus. Everyone kept her head down.

A female warden received them. She wore a stern expression like someone woke her from a sound sleep. She yelled at the prisoners to form a queue and led the women into the prison to another matron who stood behind a desk.  This stout woman with a square face and hateful eyes glared at Emma. “Name?”

“Emma Schiller.” Emma said in a strong voice.

“You are not Emma Schiller any longer, frauline. You are now prisoner number 3103. From now on you will answer to this number.”

Emma stared straight ahead as another guard dragged her to a six-by-six cement cell in another dark, dank basement. The guard unlocked her shackles and pushed Emma inside the cell. A small cot with bare iron springs would serve as her bed. A bucket sat in the corner, which would serve as her toilet. She thought surely the guard would drop by with a mattress and blanket later, but he never did.

When morning arrived, the cell remained dark.  Emma realized no natural light would ever penetrate the dungeon she would call home for the next three years.

Emma slept little her first night in prison. A harsh male voice jarred her from her thoughts. “3103, get up. It is time for your examination.” The guard unlocked the cell door with a large iron key. He shackled Emma and dragged her to the prison doctor.

Emma waited alone in a small white room. After being in the dark for so long, the brightness of the overhead light made her shield her eyes.

After she waited twenty minutes on the examining table, an old man in a white coat came into the room and asked, “Are you sick?”

Emma said. “No.”

“Do you have any diseases?”

“No.”

“Then you are fit to work.”

He made his diagnosis without ever touching her.

 

*****

Emma’s months of incarceration taught her how to cope with the cruelty and loneliness of being treated like a caged animal. She commanded her thoughts to focus on a routine. She needed to shelve the good times in her life because when she drifted into the past, her depression grew unbearable. Memories of falling in love with Marta in Paris or recalling Marta’s delight when they decided to live together in the city of lights brought thoughts of how much she lost. If she pictured Marta’s smile, Emma broke down.

Her experience in the Paris prison showed her the best defense against her captors was never showing the guards see her soft spot. She needed to stay detached, cold, uncaring, and strong enough to endure her sentence. Emma realized she had to live in the moment to get through the next three years.

Everyday the police paraded Emma and other prisoners down the middle of the street on their way to the factory. On-lookers glared at them with disdain. Their stares puzzled Emma, but when she passed a window of a dress shop and caught a glimpse of her reflection she understood. She had become a wretched creature like everyone else in her group. Emma choked down the tears and marched forward with a blank expression on her face.

The work the prisoners did was dividing large skeins of rayon thread and then wrapping it by hand onto smaller spools. Rayon dust hung in the air like poison gas. Workers swallowed the fumes with every breath, and the toxic air made their throats so dry swallowing became difficult. Civilian workers, who sat beside Emma, sipped from bottles of fresh water during the course of the day to soothe their thirst, while prisoners needed to endure their work hours with dry tongues. A water fountain hung on a nearby wall, but prisoners were forbidden to take a drink. One day a woman prisoner attempted to drink from the fountain, and she received a beating which left her bloody and unconscious lying on the floor. All of these hardships were intentional to get the women to breakdown and die.

Even with the many rules and hardships, which destroyed prisoners everyday, Emma’s tunnel-vision determination and strong spirit helped her get up and report to work. After studying the operation of her work for a few days, she discovered how she could continue her Resistance work while in prison.

Her job required her to tie flat weaver’s knots when rayon skeins were joined together. Any other knot would jam the looms and cause costly downtime for the weavers at the parachute factory. Emma made sure her spools included lumpy knots to cause a fine mess for the German weavers, but she hid her sabotage by making sure the outside of her spools appeared smooth, neat, and correctly tied.  Every time she turned in one of her spools she imaged the frustration of the weavers when her sabotage jammed the looms and set production back. This self-satisfaction served as Emma’s purpose to stay alive.

Chapter 4

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-January—After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Josie joined the Army Nurse Corps. War meant her surgical nursing skills were needed overseas a lot more than her tedious clerical work the Allis Chalmers factory. She thought any LPN could do the work she did, keeping charts, taking out slivers, washing debris out of eyes, and bandaging small cuts. The most exciting event every week occurred when Mario came in with his weekly phantom ailment. After a month, he finally invited Josie to a movie, but she had already made plans with Donna for Saturday evening. He went away dejected but he was not a person easily discouraged.

Josie received her letter of acceptance to the Army Nurse Corps in January. In a month she’d be sworn as an officer. But now she faced the hardest part–telling her parents she had enlisted.

The perfect time to tell her mother presented itself in the kitchen one snowy afternoon.

“Mom, I need to tell you something important.”

“What’s that Josie?” She said absentmindedly as she stirred a pot of soup.

Josie took a deep breath and blurted, “I joined the Army.”

Mrs. Schneider laughed. “You’re such a kidder, Josie. They don’t let girls into the Army.” Her mother turned away from stirring her soup and stared at her daughter. She recognized Josie’s stone-like expression which told her daughter wasn’t kidding.

“Mom, I’m serious. I joined the Army Nurse Corps. I’ll be training in Arizona in a couple of weeks.”

Her mother’s face dropped. “No!”

“Yes, Mom.”

“Oh my God! You can’t do this, Josie. Isn’t bad enough that Johnny is gone?”

“Now that we’re at war, Mom, the Army needs medical personnel to serve the needs of our soldiers. I possess the training they need. I need to go.”

“I thought you liked your factory job.”

“Mom, any monkey can do that job. My surgical skills will be in high demand. Thousands of soldiers are wounded every day. What if one of them turns out to be Peter or Johnny? Wouldn’t you want a nurse like me to take care of them?”

Her mother shouted.  “Don’t say such things! I can’t think about my sons being wounded.” She sucked in a deep breath and plopped down in the nearest chair. She held her head with both hands choking down tears. Josie stood beside her mother and rubbed her shoulder. “Oh Mom.” She said quietly. “Please don’t cry.”

In a few minutes Mrs. Schneider composed herself.  “I’m sorry, Josie. When I think about my children going to war, the thoughts are too vivid.” She stood and faced Josie. “I guess I can only blame myself. I always encouraged you to follow your heart. If this is what you must do, you be the best damn nurse in this man’s Army.”

“You mean this ‘woman’s’ Army, don’t you, Mom?”

Her mother hugged her. “Yes. I guess I do.”

 

 

 

In With the New

After looking at my new computer for almost a month, I got brave yesterday and plugged the cord into the electrical outlet. Completing the set-up was pretty easy, as the machine walked the user through simple commands. But that was all that was easy.

What I never anticipated a smaller keyboard would drive me nuts. The new computer doesn’t have a 10-key layout so my hands automatically went to the wrong keys. I never expected this fact when I purchased the machine.

I did expect the Office Suite of programs would be challenging, and boy, where they! I haven’t upgraded those programs since version 2003, which means I’ve been working on the old version for over ten years. I hoped I’d pick up the ins and outs of the updated programs like I have programs in the past. (So far, I’ve taught myself all the programs I’ve ever used.) The new programs proved I’m not so smart. EVERYTHING changed. To give you an idea–it took me several minutes of searching to open a new document!  Between the smaller keyboard and the changes in the program, I was spent about ten minutes to write a new paragraph. I understood going any further would require a pile of patience.

I think a person gets old when he/she doesn’t want to learn about new technology. So far, I’ve been pretty good at staying young. But this upgrade might be my undoing. And yes, I’m posting to my blog on my old, comfortable laptop that has been used so much “n” and “c” are completely worn off.  After yesterday, I’m not ready to retire her any time soon.

After my baptism, I promised myself I will boot up the new beauty once a day and spend at least ten minutes of frustration while I absorb Windows 10 and Office 2013. Wish me luck. I bet you can’t wait until I upgrade my phone!

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5

Chapter 1

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-January—Tony’s death plunged Angelo into a deep depression. He found happiness in nothing–even the funny antics of his precious toddler Gina didn’t bring smiles to his face. He stayed distant. He put himself in a place where the girls in his life couldn’t go.

Rosalie remained patient as Angelo went through his grieving. She made his favorite meals and provided anything else that might bring him a smile. Angelo appreciated her efforts, but he couldn’t shake the emptiness in his heart.

One day Sunday afternoon he said, “Rosie, sweetheart?”

“Yes Angelo.”

“You understand I love you, more than my own life, don’t you?”

“What a silly thing to say. Of course I know.”

“Since Tony’s death, I’m–

She filled in his sentence, “You’re lost.”

“Yeah. I can’t stop thinking about him and everyone else in my life. I need to do something to avenge his death.”

His words puzzled Rosalie. “And that is?”

“I’m going to join up. Most of the guys my age at the shop are enlisting.”

Rosalie couldn’t believe what he just said. She asked him to repeat himself.

“I’m going to join the marines.”

“But, sweetheart,” she said with a gentle voice, “Most guys your age are supporting a wife and a baby girl.”

“Rosie, I feel useless.”

“Useless! Whatever do you mean? You put a roof over our heads and food on the table. With Tony gone your parents will need you more too. Did you think about any of us? How can you enlist and leave us?” Rosalie’s voice rose higher.

Angelo said in a soft voice. “I talked to my Pa about how I feel.”

“And what did he say?”

“He said the final decision is mine, but he wants me to stay home.”

Rosalie’s stiffened. “Good. Your father is a smart man. You should listen.”

“Pa also said he understood why I want to fight the Japs for Tony.”

Rosalie didn’t believe him. “This makes no sense. I don’t believe your father would ever say such a thing.”

“I realize accepting this decision is hard, Rosie. But sooner or later they’ll draft me anyway, and I want to do this on my own terms.”

Rosalie folded her arms across her chest and stared at Angelo directly into his eyes. Her tone became stern. “Men with children are not being drafted.”

“This is a huge war, sweetheart. We’re not only fighting the Japs, in the South Pacific, but we’re fighting the Krauts in Europe, too. The military will eventually draft me. They need me.”

“I need you!” Rosalie screamed. “Doesn’t that count for anything?” She ran to the bedroom and threw herself on the bed.

Angelo followed her and took her in his arms. “I love you, Rosie. I don’t want leave, but don’t you understand? I need to do this. I can’t hide behind your skirt.”

“No! I don’t understand!” Angry tears covered her face.  “You’re being selfish and irrational.”

He said softly. “Please try to understand. I don’t want to go to war with you hating me, but I must to do my part.”

“Just because Tony died doesn’t mean you need to go off to war and die too. Angelo, think! I can’t live without you, and Gina needs her Daddy!”

He took her in his arms and she sobbed into his chest. “Don’t do this, please!”

*****

A month later Angelo left. The whole Armani and Lombardo clans came to Rosalie’s house to send him off. Josie and Donna and a few friends from the Autolite plant came too. Rosalie’s friends imagined how hard Angelo’s departure must be for her. With so many people in the house, Gina kept putting her arms up for her Daddy to hold her; somehow she sensed her father leaving. Angelo held the toddler close while he tried to visit with everyone who came to wish him well.

The bus picked up Angelo up at one o’clock in the afternoon; Rosalie prayed they wouldn’t come, but the damn vehicle showed up right on time. She wished everyone would go away, so she could spend the last minutes with her husband alone.

The driver honked the horn summoning Angelo’s departure. He picked up his duffle bag and shouted goodbye to his family and friends. Rosalie walked him to the back door and kissed him long and hard. He held her so close he almost squeezed her breath away. Rosie’s tears flowed freely. How can I say goodbye? We’ve been together for so many years, but we’ve only been married for two. How will I tell Gina her Daddy is off to war and may never come home again?

Rosalie looked up at him. “I love you so much Angelo. I don’t agree with you, but I love you. Please take care of yourself.”

“I will sweetheart.” He kissed her again. “I’ll write everyday.”

The bus horn honked again. Angelo let go of Rosalie, opened the door, and ran to the bus. He took one last, long look back at the home and the people he loved. He waved to everyone with a tearful smile.

Rosalie turned around to find her Papa at the top of the stairs. He held his arms out to her. She ran to him and sobbed into his chest.

“Oh, Papa, this is so hard.”

“Oh bambina.” Eduardo’s heart broke as he witnessed his little girl suffer such a huge loss. “Oh honey, you will be okay. Papa is here.” He thought saying goodbye to his sons going off to war was easier than watching the heartbreak of his little girl. His sons volunteered.  Rosalie did not.

Rosalie collapsed in a kitchen chair. A systemic numbness ran through her body. Her world just collapsed. Josie and Donna sat with her in silence. Eduardo went into the living room and escorted all of the other guests out the front door.

After Josie and Donna hugged Rosalie and assured her they would stay close, a crushing stillness filled the room. Eduardo approached his daughter who still sat in the kitchen with dead eyes.

“Rosalie?”

Rosalie let out a deep sigh. “Yes, Papa.”

“I want you to remember Mama and I are right down the street, and we will help you. All of the Armani’s are also with you.”

“Yes, Papa. I know.” She forced a smile.

Eduardo kissed the top of her head and left. He realized at that moment some hurts even a father couldn’t fix.

With everyone gone, Rosalie sobbed. Her body already ached for her husband.

Gina toddled to her mother’s side and pulled on Rosalie’s skirt. “Mama cry?

She picked up her daughter and held her close. “Yes, Mama is sad. But I’ll be okay.” Then she said whispered, “Somehow.”

Gina put her thumb in her mouth and rested her head on her mother’s shoulder. Rosalie walked to the nursery and placed Gina in the crib covering her with her favorite blanket. Rosalie stared at the child’s innocence and realized she now would do the job of two parents. Without Angelo, she needed to stay strong and provide for her daughter.

Rosalie slipped back into her bedroom and embraced Angelo’s pillow trying to memorize his scent before it would fade away into nothingness. She wondered how she would ever fall asleep without being in his arms.

Chapter 2

Paris, France–January 1942—Rations in Paris became critically low, and Marta often went to bed hungry. She walked through her life everyday in a daze. Pierre learned Emma whereabouts and shared the news with Marta.  In the French prison she couldn’t receive anything from the outside.–no letters, no visitors, and no packages. Marta couldn’t imagine how Emma would survive confinement in a small cell. She told herself Emma was strong but even her spirit would break with enough abuse.

One afternoon when she picked up the mail, Marta found a letter in her box written from her father.

Jan. 15, 1942

My dear Marta,

I regret I got angry with you for staying in Paris with Emma. A young girl should decide her own life and enjoy a chance to explore a little before settling down in the humdrum of adulthood. I am sorry, Marta.

In retrospect, you are probably safer in France than you would be in Germany. I fear our Fuhrer made a terrible decision by sending us into Russia and declaring war on the United States. Our ranks will be stretched to thin.

When all three million of us boldly marched into Stalingrad six months ago, we anticipated the campaign would be over in six months. We wanted to be victorious before winter, but our calculations did not come to pass. We are fighting an awesome beast, plus the weather is colder here than anywhere on earth. I fear I will never leave Russia alive. I wanted to fix what went wrong between us before I die.

I want you to understand I always loved you, Marta, as much as I love your mother. Please remember the good times.

Your loving Vater

After Marta read her father’s apology, her eyes filled with tears. The tender times of her childhood flashed through her mind. Her father always championed her desires, but he became unreachable ever since he joined the Nazi party. What really troubled her was knowing her father never would write such a letter unless he found himself sick or injured, even though he never mentioned such a situation in his letter.  His stoic behavior took over when unpleasant events came along in his life. Marta returned the letter to its envelope and said a silent prayer for her estranged father.

 

How to Have a Good Day

Good morning everyone! It’s going to be a good day. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and temperatures are in the low 70s. But that’s not why I know it will be a good day– but it certainly helps.

How do I know that? Because I think it will be a good day. It’s as simple as that. Believing it will be a good day is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

No matter your circumstance, healthy or ill, rich or poor, young or old–we all create our own world. Isn’t that great?

I know. I know. You’re thinking I’m putting on my Pollyanna cloak, but I’m not. I’ve learned if I think positively and believe I’m going to have a wonderful day, I will, It doesn’t matter if I’m going outside my home or just staying in. I will find happiness because I demand it.

Conversely, if I’m tired and crabby and negative, I may as well go back to bed because I certainly will have a bad day. I confess every once in a very long while, I want to be cranky and have a pity party. I’m human after all. But thank god, I never dwell on negative thoughts for too long.

I think we all have a responsibility to live a life that is full of wonderful days. So drink your coffee, go through your morning routine, and then face the world with a smile. It works. Believe me.

#####

I’ll  APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 4

 

 

Chapter 9

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-December 1041—A two o’clock on a sunny, cold December 8th afternoon Angelo and Rosalie listened to their radio to hear President Roosevelt’s address to Congress. The newspaper reports about the Japanese Empire bombing Pearl Harbor the day before were sketchy and they wanted to hear how the President would handle the attack. Everyone was sure he intended to ask congress for a declaration of war.

Gina played with her building blocks as her parents listened and held their breath.

“Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 – A date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons commenced bombing Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands caused severe damage to our American naval and military forces. Many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships reported they got torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan, therefore, undertook a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States already formed their opinions and understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always we will remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounding determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war exists between the United States and the Japanese empire.”

After the speech, “The Star Spangled Banner,” played. Angelo and Rosalie stood at attention with their hands over their hearts. Angelo’s eyes filled with tears and his chest grew tight because he knew his brother Tony was stationed at Pearl Harbor.  Instead of crying, Rosalie prayed. She understood Angelo’s fear. Tony’s ship the USS California might be in the harbor where the attack occurred.

Chapter 9

Lacrosse, Wisconsin—December—The Armani family went about preparing for Christmas like they did every other year, until two naval officers knocked on their front door.  When Mrs. Armani saw their sad eyes, she broke down in sobs and fell to her knees. “No, not my Tony. Please God, not my son Tony!”

The officers stood stone faced and one of them took her hand. In a soft voice he said, “The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that your son, Anthony Armani is missing in action at Pearl Harbor.”  Then they handed her a banner with a Gold Star appliqued on a white background.

Mama Armani rubbed her hand over the gold star and wept. Tomorrow she would hang the flag in her living room window to show the world her son gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country. But now she would weep as a piece of herself perished.

Mr. Armani called Angelo and Rosalie to come to the house immediately. “We got news about Tony.”

Rosalie grabbed Gina, and Angelo backed the truck out of the driveway throwing gravel in all directions.

He parked in front of his parent’s home and ran to the front door leaving Rosalie and Gina behind. He opened the door and found his mother sitting in an upholstered wing back chair sobbing. In an instant, Angelo realized Tony died in the Japanese attack. He fell to his knees and put his head in his mother’s lap. “Oh Ma, it can’t be true.”

She ran her hand through Angelo’s curly hair. “Itsa true, my son. Itsa true. Tony is gone.”

Rosalie and Mr. Armani witnessed the pain of a mother and brother realizing there was nothing they could do to ease their loss.

“How is he ever going to get over this?” Rosalie thought. “I can never fill such a big void in his life.”

Mr. Armani looked away with tears in his eyes. He walked out of the house and sat on a swing on the back porch. He did his grieving for his oldest son in private. He asked God why he needed Tony so much. He stared at the statue of the St. Francis in his flower garden and prayed for all the other families who lost a son at Pearl Harbor.