Success is Found in Failure

It’s a beautiful day again today, which means I always feel guilty for staying in the house. I’m pretty much a “hot house flower” because I have such a limited temperature range. I’m comfortable and happy between 60 and 80 degrees, of course the humility has to be lower than 50 percent. Today is such a day. But I’m throwing off the guilt and will try to finish this post quickly to go out and enjoy the day.

If there is any regret in my life, it’s that I didn’t take up my Aunt Mary’s invitation to live with her in San Diego when I was about eighteen years old. But youth is wasted on the young and I made a decision to come back to Wisconsin. What a dope, right? The place offered the weather I loved everyday.

I like to believe I’m a risk taker, but that quality is cultivated by failing, and at eighteen I wasn’t ready to fail at anything. So, I came home and lived the life other people wanted me to live.

I threw off that mantel after a close friend died at age 38. I was about 33 at the time, and a stay-at-home mom, with a desire to do something more than stay at home. I created a successful doll clothes sewing business for Cabbage Patch dolls. I went to area craft fairs and made hundreds of dollars. But like all fads, in a couple of years the dolls ran their course, and I knew it was time to find another endeavor. So far, I hadn’t failed.

I entered college at 35 and heard from my mother, “Well, this is the dumbest thing you’ve ever done.” My husband didn’t want me to go either because my study time took away from my household slave labor work. He also didn’t give me any money to pursue my degree, so I needed to find a part-time job–which required even more time away from home. I believe he thought if he made my desire to graduate college difficult, I’d quit. The opposite happened. I dug in my heels and went forward.

On campus I found Barbara again. I wasn’t somebody’s daughter, wife or mother. I was just me, and guess what? I liked that person. I jumped over all the hurdles people in my life put before me and graduated Magna Cum Laude in four years. To date it is my proudest achievement.

I just wish I hadn’t wasted so much time fearing failing. Initially, failure is tough to take, but in that effort there’s always a nugget of courage. Trying again and again to achieve the goal is success in itself.




Chapter 18

 Berlin, Germany – August 1939—The few words Marta wrote about her escapades in Paris cheered Liesel. Every word Marta wrote transported her to the lovely city. Rereading Marta’s letter helped relieve a bit of her boredom. Only two months passed since she left Berlin? On top of missing her two girlfriends, Leisel’s father added to her disappointment when he forbade her to sit for the university entrance exams. He viewed this action contrary to the beliefs of the Nazi hierarchy. Instead, he announced Leisel would attend finishing school at Schwanenwerder near the Wannsee Lake outside Berlin. At the beginning of September she would spend six weeks at this prestigious finishing school. The emphasis of the program prepared high society girls for marriage.

Leisel did a slow burn when he told her the news. “You want me to go to a bride school? Honestly, Vater. How cruel can you be?”

Colonel Fuchs slapped her. “Frauline Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, is the best. I am giving you the best a German woman could receive. You will be away for six weeks learning the skills to become a good wife for an SS officer.”

“I do not want to go!” Leisel screamed.

“I do not care what you want. You are my daughter and you will be schooled properly. You must learn domestic chores like washing, cooking, childcare as well as home design. “He clicked off activities as if they compared to math, science, and writing.

Leisel suffered in silence. She fought tears wanting to roll down her cheeks. She never wanted her father to think her weak. She stared ahead and closed her mind.

He yelled. “You will also learn social niceties to hold lively conversations at cocktail parties.”

Leisel decided to give her argument to sit for the entrance exam one more try. “Father my excellent grades in secondary school put me at the top of my class. I am more valuable than just a breeder of Aryan children. Would you not be proud of me if I qualified for higher education? Would you not be proud of me as a professor of astronomy at the University of Berlin? Would not a career like that fill you with pride? I want to teach, Vater. I will be successful!”

As she protested Herr Fuchs faced turned beet red, and he yelled. “I forbid any more talk about the university. You will attend finishing school. I will hear no more on the subject.” He stomped away.

As soon as he left, Leisel eased herself onto the floor and let her sobs come to the surface.

Her mother went to her to try to ease her pain. “Liesel, darling. Please don’t cry. Your father wants the best for you. He worked hard to secure a place for you at this special school.”

“Oh, Mutter, how can you be so blind?” She screamed and ran upstairs to her bedroom. She threw herself on the bed and cried. Her mother followed her and after Leisel calmed herself, she embraced her daughter. “Do not be so upset, my darling.”

Leisel wiped away her tears with the back of her hand. “Don’t you understand, Mutter? Father wants me to be a breeder of children and a slave to a home. He believes education at the university would be a waste of time because I am a girl. He never considered my feelings on this issue. He never even told me of his intentions until now.”

“Now Leisel, that is not true. He wants you to enjoy a good life. Being qualified to become a wife of an SS officer is important in our new society. This school will give you ample opportunities to pick the man you want.”

“Do you not think I can get the attention of any man on my own?”

Her mother stood. “Yes, I believe you might. But this school assures you of a good match, and you’ll only be away such short time. You must do as your father dictates.”

Numbness pass through Leisels body like a wave in the ocean. She accepted her father’s edict as a prison sentence.


Her mother tried to quell Leisel’s unhappiness. She made a fuss of having tea and cookies with her every afternoon and would praise Leisel for the smallest accomplishment. Her mother used their time together to sing the praises of what a wonderful experience the bride school would be for her. Leisel hid behind a mask of interest, but her mother’s daily compliments fell on deaf ears. Leisel wanted so much more for her life.  Now she would be required to attend ceremonies, swim at a private club where SS officers went, and dance at weekly parties all so she might snare a handsome SS officer. She lived in a world she didn’t want and worst of all, she saw no way out.

Leisel wrote to Marta and told her about her father’s plans for her future. In the spirit of finding a husband. She asked Marta if Franz wrote to her while she visited Paris. Leisel wrote Franz would be a boy her father would approve, so if Marta had no designs on him, she planned to entice him to be her beau before she left for school in September. As long as her father required her to marry an SS officer, Franz would be her choice after his year in the academy. She didn’t tell Marta she thought Franz possessed a smoldering sexuality which attracted her. His shoulders widened, and she loved the color of his eyes that variegated from deep blue to the color of glaciers. He was so appealing in his uniform, and Leisel thought seducing Franz might be a fun challenge.

When Marta answered Leisel’s letter she didn’t share her thoughts about Franz. Marta responded she didn’t carry a torch for him, so if Leisel wanted to start a relationship with him, she should. She would need to find out for herself what a crude bully Franz Reinhart could be.


Colonel Fuchs hated he treated his only daughter so harshly, but he didn’t understand her ridiculous endeavor to continue her education at the university. He wanted to smooth over her disappointment, but he truly felt he was doing his best for her future. He couldn’t stand how she stared ahead and acted like he was invisible. Any suggestions he made to her fell on deaf ears, even when he encouraged her to take part in the Hitler youth activities to build new friendships, seeing Marta and Heidi chose activities outside of Germany.

Colonel Fuchs took Leisel to the community center where an outdoor party for Hitler’s youth was going on. “I expect you to be home at eleven o’clock sharp. Here is some money for you bus fare home.” He handed her a few coins. “Now go and have a good time with people your own age.”

“Yes, Vater.” Leisel took the coins, got out of the car, and didn’t look back. Her smoldering anger made being civil to her father nearly impossible. She followed the sound of a polka band and entered a garden where paper lanterns hung around the periphery of a plywood dance platform. Teenagers sat at wooden picnic tables covered with red flags sporting a black swastika in the center. A few people shared mugs of punch as they sat on park benches situated under the trees. The sizzle of bratwursts grilling on the outdoor fire pit filled the air with a spicy aroma. A table close by the grill offered hot potato salad and cold punch. Leisel took a seat on a bench which provided a good vantage point to view the crowd. She didn’t recognize a soul and her shyness paralyzed her and she positioned herself against the fence.

The boys attending the dance wore Hitler-Jugend khaki uniforms, in contrast with the girls who wore frilly, colorful party dresses. Couples appeared happy as they waltz by. Leisel began to wonder why she consented to come to this party. Clearly, she didn’t belong.

She stood what seemed to be an eternity and no one approached her to dance or join their party of friends, so she decided to leave. As she strolled toward the exit Franz Reinhart laughed with three other comrades at a table near the exit.  In the moonlight he appeared so handsome. His blonde hair and ice-blue eyes made him a perfect specimen of the Aryan race.

Leisel gathered her courage and walked toward Franz and his friends. Her shapely legs and swaying hips always got the boy’s attention. She faked a smile and tilted her head as she said, “Hi Franz.” Her body quivered with uncertainty. Usually she never approached boys.

Franz didn’t look up from his food.

“Don’t be an ass, Franz.” The boy sitting next to him slugged Franz in the arm. “This beautiful frauline greeted you.”

“Shut up, you dum kopf!” He glanced at Leisel and said in a flat voice, “Hello Leisel. What brings you over here?”

“You’re the only person I recognize, Franz. My father made me come.” The second the words flew from her mouth, she hated herself.

“Oh.” He went back to eating his dinner.

Leisel turned and walked away with tears in her eyes.

One of Franz’s friends said, “Man you are the dumbest shit on the planet! That girl is prettier than anyone else here. Go after her.”

“She is Marta’s best friend. Believe me when I say her legs are sewn shut.”

“You are a crude bastard. Is sex all you ever think about? Given half a chance, she probably is a hungry lioness who would like to devour you. It is two months since Marta shut you down. If a beautiful piece of strudel like her said hello to me, I wouldn’t stay here with the likes of you.”

“Hmmh.” Franz stared at his comrade.

“Go get her, man. Be nice.”


“Because I’m sick of listening to how Marta wronged you. Start over. What better justice than to replace Marta’s place with her best friend!”

“Perhaps you’re right.” Franz wiped his face with the back of his hand. He caught Leisel before she boarded the bus. “Leisel, wait!”

Leisel turned around. “I’m leaving Franz; I do not belong here.”

“Aw come on, Leisel. I’m sorry. My parents made me come too, and I took my wrath out on you.” He smiled at her. “Would you do me the honor of dancing with me?”

Leisel blushed. “Thank you, for the apology, but I do not want to dance now.”

Franz found her unwillingness to dance a challenge. “Your hair put up that way is very attractive. You look sophisticated.”

“So nice of you to say.” She smiled.

An uncomfortable silence settled between them like a heavy fog. Franz led her to the center of the party.

“About that dance.” He pulled her into his body and twirled her onto the dance floor. He stomped around like trained elephant with heavy feet. The fast polka made Leisel hang on tight to make the best of his clumsy dancing.

“You are very light on your feet, Leisel.”

“You, too, Franz.” she lied.

When the music stopped, she gasped for breath.  “Would you be so kind to fetch me a cup of punch? The dance made me so thirsty.”

“Let us leave this place. Neither of us wants to be here. So let us leave this dead tanzenir and go for a drive.”

“My parents would not approve. I must present you to my father first.”

“Forget your father. Presenting a beau is old fashioned. Consider this our first date.” He grabbed her hand and steered her toward the exit. His forceful decision overcame Leisel.  Why shouldn’t I succumb to this handsome Nazi boy? Isn’t that what Vater wants for me? She didn’t protest when he took her hand. She looked into his large blue eyes some something inside of her came alive. “Well, if you promise to get me home by eleven o’clock, I will go.”

Franz licked his lips. “Great!” He led her to his father’s Volkswagen and jumped into the driver’s seat expecting Leisel to climb into the passenger seat by herself. “Are you coming?” He yelled through the open window.

Leisel hesitated. Gentlemen opened doors for their girls. If her father witnessed Franz’s behavior, he would ream him with a stern rebuke. She jumped into the passenger’s seat as Franz started the car. The thrill of defying her father energized her. Driving away with a “bad boy” like Franz made her sit on the edge of the seat.

“Relax, Leisel.” Franz said as he glanced at her. “You’re safe with me. We will find more fun at the place I am taking you–guaranteed.” He flashed a smile which melted her.

Disobeying her father like this thrilled her. “Where are we going, Franz?”

“A quiet little place where we can talk. Besides, they serve me beer because they think I am twenty-one.” He grinned before he added. “And you are with me, so they will serve you too.”

She nodded. Leisel never drank alcohol, so this trip would be one initiation into adulthood.

They entered a building which looked like a shack in the woods. The interior carried on the rundown theme with a small counter with stools and a few tables. Franz led Leisel to a table in the corner. The bartender greeted him and brought two large steins of beer to their table.

Franz smiled. “Dunke” Then he lifted his stein gesturing Leisel should do the same. “Skol!” He clinked his stein to hers.

Leisel followed his lead and took a big gulp of the bitter brew. Her face contorted.

“What is wrong?” Franz laughed. “Do not tell me you never drank beer before? What kind of German woman are you?” He paused and took a gulp of the brew. He wiped the foam off his face with the back of his hand. “Don’t worry, Leisel, you’ll get used to the taste. When I tried the beverage the first time, I did the same. After a while, you’ll crave the brew.” He took another hearty gulp from his stein.

Leisel forced a smile and tried again. The beer didn’t settle any better the second time but she took a big gulp anyway. In a few minutes, her head started swimming, and she giggled. “This drink makes me happy.”

Franz smiled. “Drink some more, my sweet frauline.

“I better not.”

“Where’s your sense of adventure, Leisel?” Franz teased.

“My father squashed my my dreams with his edict I attend a bride school. He keeps me under lock and key. I am accountable all of the time.” A sly grin passed over her face, “But not tonight. I am here with you tonight drinking a stein of lager and I do admit, the beer makes me feel good.”

Franz laughed. “You’ll get used to the taste, sweetie. Do you want to dance?”

Leisel remembered being embarrassed by his lack of finesse on the dance floor. “No. I’d rather talk to you.” She slid her chair closer to him, so she could whisper into his ear.

“Sure. If that’s what you want.” He finished his stein and ordered another. In thirty minutes, Franz downed three steins of beer. He said very little in between sips while he surveyed other girls in the bar.

Leisel worked on her second beer and wondered why she sat with a boy who didn’t seem interested in her. Did he find her boring? Did she not live up to his standards? The awkward silence which settled between them reminded her of the way her mother and father didn’t communicate. Her “date” with Franz seemed to be a disaster.

Leisel tried to start conversation again. “Marta and I keep in contact through letters. Did she write to you?”

“No. I hate the bitch.” He growled. “Did you learn how she treated me?”

“Yes. But even so, hate is a strong word, Franz.”

“So what? She treated me like a peasant.” He took another hearty gulp of the beer. “Her father and I planned everything. He gave me his blessing. And what does she do? She heaves my ring across the yard and runs off to crazy France! I am better off without that hudin.

Listening to Franz bad-mouth her friend made Leisel uncomfortable. Marta hurt him, but to put on such a display seemed to be overkill. She said in a soft voice, “Truthfully, Marta lacked the fire you need from a girl, Franz. She never seemed interested in boys at all.”

Franz looked at her with icy blue eyes. “She put herself above me. Do you believe that? I am one of the top candidates for the academy.”

“I say she’s the loser.” Leisel put her hand on his face. “You are so strong and handsome. I think she’s crazy to turn you down. I would never treat you so badly.”

He stared into her sapphire blue eyes. “You are really beautiful, Leisel. How would you like to go on a real date on Friday? I will take you out for dinner and dancing. I promise I will be in better humor. I apologize for my anger tonight. I’m just in a bad mood and none of this is fair to you.”

A broad smile spread across Leisel’s face and her eyes sparkled as she admitted they would make a beautiful Aryan couple. “That would be wonderful, Franz!” She slurred her words.

She glanced at the clock across the room which appeared out of focus. Only fifteen minutes remained before her curfew. She stood holding onto the edge of table to steady herself. “I really must get home, Franz. If I miss curfew, my Vater will be very angry with me.”

“If you insist.” He took her hand and guided her to the car which looked like a mechanized beetle. Leisel’s fair skin appeared translucent in the warm moonlight. At that moment, Franz thought he never dated such a beautiful girl. He wrapped his arms around her and pinned her up against the car. He bent down and placed a serious kiss on her lips. “You are so beautiful Leisel. I think I am falling in love.” He kissed her harder, with an open mouth. Stale beer lingered on his tongue, but she still responded to his kiss. He pulled her body closer. A large bulge in his trousers sent a sudden chill down her spine. She squirmed when he put his hand on her breast. He writhed against her, and when his hand slid up her leg and rested between her legs he aroused in a way which scared her. Her body grew hot and her breathing became more rapid than usual. She wanted his touch. She wanted him to be her first, but not in a parking lot. Not tonight. She needed to get home. She pulled away from his embrace. “Franz, we should stop. I must get home.”

He stepped back and glared at her. “You’re nothing but a little cock tease. You work me up and now leave me like this?” He grabbed his crotch.

“Franz, please do not be crass. I like you. I want us to go on a real date. I want to become your girl, not your whore.”

“You want to be my girl? Really? Why would you let me go so far?”

She began to cry. “I guess I am a little drunk. I did not intend to lead you on.”

Anger poured out. He stomped around the front of the car, ripped open the door and flopped behind the steering wheel. He started the engine and drummed the steering wheel with his fingers as Leisel climbed into the passenger seat. He left the parking lot with the tires throwing gravel in all directions. Neither of them said a word as Franz sped toward Leisel’s house. He parked in front of her house and growled. “Here you are.”

“Aren’t you going to walk me to the door?” She asked.

“Why should I?” He still stung from her rejection.

“Because that is what boyfriends do, Franz.”

“When I become your boyfriend, frauline, I will walk you to the door.”

“I am sorry our first evening together disappointed you.” She opened the door. “Please behave like a gentleman and walk me to the door.”

Franz exited the car, slammed the door, and made a sweeping gesture with his hand for her to get out. She stood and grabbed his hand while she rocked unsteadily on her high heel shoes. He rushed her to the door. “Good night, Leisel.” He turned on his heel to leave.

She ran after him. “Don’t be like this, Franz.” She put both of her hands on either side of his face and kissed him with an open mouth. “Please don’t be angry with me. Leave Marta in the past. I guarantee you will not be disappointed next time we are together.” Leisel turned and went into the house, leaving Franz staring after her.


Chapter 19

Minneapolis, Minnesota – September, 1939—Josie stood in lines during her first week on campus. Lines for registering. Lines for class selection. Lines for buying books. Lines for cafeteria meals. Lines. Lines. Lines.

A girl named Anna from a very small town called Hayward, Wisconsin turned out to be her roommate. Five foot two Anna seemed like a ball of fire—strong and full of energy. She wore her strawberry blonde hair in a ponytail, and like Josie, she didn’t bother with make-up. Anna’s perfect oval face and flawless porcelain complexion attracted special stares from boys as she strolled through the corridors of the different buildings. From their first introduction, the girls connected like close sisters.

Josie acquired all of the classes she wanted and purchased the required books and unused school supplies. Anna and Josie used the few days before classes began to map out the locations of their classes. They tramped from building to building, getting lost more than once, but they corrected their course in order to boost their confidence for the first real day of classes.

The semester began at a snail’s pace, but in a few weeks, the pace quickened and Josie and Anna studied every waking hour. A dorm full of active, noisy girls didn’t lend itself to serious study, so the library became their home away from home.

Josie’s mother wrote every week, reporting on the activities of the farm. Betsy took sick, and they called the vet twice, but now Josie’s prize cow continued to improve. Josie’s brother Peter took a job at the local Autolite factory and her older brother Johnny enlisted in the Army Air Corps to become a pilot.  Johnny would leave for basic training around Christmastime to train at Randolph Field in Texas. Her mother also wrote his girlfriend, Mary came to the house deeply upset with his decision.

Donna and Rosalie wrote about the latest news from their perspectives. The letters helped Josie overcome the homesick bumps in the road her mother prophesied. She gained confidence with Anna by her side as the days passed. Before they realized it, several weeks of classes proved to both of them that they were in the right place.



Building and Rebuilding

Since March I’ve been spending money. After my father’s estate was settled, I tried to imagine how he would want me to spend his hard-earned money. I decided he would be happy if I invested in something that would make me happy. Something tangible. Something that would make my life better. With this in mind, I decided to make our home more wheelchair accessible.

We began making changes two summers ago when Ken’s relatives pooled their money and had a wheelchair ramp built. A few months later, an van with a wheelchair lift came into our life. Our transformation continued the following January by moving our washing and drying machines upstairs. So, I continued the process with my windfall.

First we remodeled the kitchen, opening the doorway by twelve inches and building in a table with no legs at a higher height so Ken can easily sit at the table. For me, I got a sink as big and deep as a pig trough, more cupboard space, easy-to-keep clean flooring, and new lighting. Needless to say, I LOVE my new kitchen.

In the living room, I had the contractor eliminate the 1950’s half wall and spindles so when Ken blasts through the front door he has a clear shot into the living room. I also had him widen and extend the flooring so Ken can park his wheelchair off the carpeting. Oh yeah, and we replaced the carpeting throughout the house too with a short pile that’s soft on  my feet, but tight enough to take the wear of his motorized chair.

To finish off our home improvement project, we had the contractor paint the kitchen, living room, and hallway. I gotta tell you, it’s like we moved but didn’t have to pack.

I’m sure my Dad is happy we used his money to improve our home because he and my mother always kept their place in tip-top condition.

What’s next? The garage. Yup. But we already discussed that project and it’s lack of progress.


APPLE PIE & STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2 Continued

Chapter 12

Warsaw, Poland — July 1939—Uncle Hans drove Heidi to the Gessler mansion the next morning. As his tiny niece ascended the front steps and ran the bell he wished he had the means to hire her himself. A woman with dark curly hair answered the door, and Heidi disappeared into the house.

Hans relaxed into the upholstered car seat and reflected on how happy Heidi made his children. Since she came to visit, her joyful disposition breathed life back into them. She filled the void their mother left; something he could never do.

Hans also saw changes in Heidi. Her initial shyness disappeared in just a few short days. She gained a great deal of confidence as she ran the household while he worked,  Hans dreaded the thought of not having her around.

Heidi stayed in the large house for almost an hour before she returned to the car with a brilliant smile.

“Uncle Hans, I’m hired!” She bubbled as she embraced him.

Hans wanted to be happy for her, but his voice couldn’t mask his disappointment. “That’s wonderful, Heidi.” He turned on the ignition and stared ahead.

Heidi jabbered on. “Mrs. Gessler wants me to start on Wednesday.”

“That’s only two days from now!” Hans frowned.

“Yes. She said she would prefer for me start today, but she wanted to make sure my room is ready. You should see it, Uncle Hans. A huge window looks out to the backyard which is filled with wild flowers. The bed is big enough for four people! In my wildest dreams I never thought I would sleep in such a wonderful room.”

Hans raised his eyebrows. “You will live with them?”

“Yes, Uncle. The position is for a live-in nanny.” Heidi’s face brightened. “The children are adorable, and the rest of the house is as beautiful as any king’s castle. A grand piano sits in the living room!”

Hans remained silent realizing he couldn’t counter an offer the Gessler’s made to Heidi.

Heidi bubbled over. “Best of all, Mrs. Gessler is an artist. Her wonderful paintings are displayed throughout the house. When I admired a painting of a ballerina, I told her I dreamed to become a dancer. She offered to introduce me to the national ballet troupe. She serves on the Warsaw orchestra and dance company. so she promised to get me an audition! Isn’t that wonderful?”

Hans forced a smile and nodded. He didn’t want to burst Heidi’s bubble. “Yes, Heidi. It is wonderful for you. But won’t you be lonely without your family around?”

“I suppose. But three children under the age of six will keep me very busy.” Her laugh sounded like musical notes traipsing up the scale.

Hans remained silent.

“Uncle, do you not want me to take this position?”

Hans cleared his throat. “Of course not; you should take the position–” His voice trailed off. “I am being selfish. I am sad your visit proved to be so short. ” He took a breath. ” I apologize.” She reached over and touched his hand on the steering wheel. “Please do not be sad. My weekends are free when Mr. Gessler is at home. He travels during the week, so that is when Mrs. Gessler needs my help. Uncle. I can visit you and the children then.”

“I wanted to suggest you stay with us whenever you are not working.” A slice of a genuine smile formed on his face. “I love this job makes you so happy. Tell me one thing, though. Are the Gesslers Jewish people?”

“Yes, Uncle. Does that make a difference?”

“No,” he said. “I just wondered.”

Chapter 13

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – August, 1939—Rosalie Lombardo’s August wedding turned out to be the biggest event of the summer. Donna Jean stayed at Josie’s house the night before the wedding, so she could help Josie with her hair and make-up.  Donna prided herself on the art of primping and preening, so she took over the challenge of enhancing Josie’s best features.

The simple floor-length butter yellow bridesmaid dresses looked beautiful on all the girls. A small slit in the back of the dress allowed for easy walking in the sheath design. The bodice rose up modestly to the neck and a demur capped sleeve covered the top of their slim arms. The girls slipped the light yellow crepe creations up over their hips and zipped the dressed closed, As they wiggled into the tight-fitting dresses, Donna Jean wondered how Rosalie’s plump sisters would look in such a fitted gown. She thought these dresses must be Rosalie’s way of getting back at her older sisters for all the grief she endured as the youngest in the family.

Holy Trinity Church opened the doors at nine thirty for the ten o’clock wedding. Angelo and Rosalie’s baptisms, first communions, and confirmation ceremonies took place in this church. The congregation watched the pair grow up in the faith. Angelo’s parents owned a flower shop and decorated the church with yellow roses on the ends of all the pews. A matching large bouquet sat on the altar.

The girls arrived at the church around half past nine. Rosalie’s Aunt Melina ushered them to the church basement and helped them pin on crowns of yellow roses and baby’s breath with silk white with yellow ribbons falling down to their waists. The attendants carried white baskets filled with yellow roses and white carnations.

Rosalie and her mother entered through the back door to the church, and Donna Jean gasped when Rosalie entered into the church in her wedding dress. Petite Rosalie wore a fitted silk and antique lace dress with a dropped waistline. An organza skirt flowed down to the floor, and when she walked, it appeared like she floated.

“Rosalie, you’re so beautiful!” Donna ran to her and gave her a hug. “You look like a bride on top of a wedding cake!”

Rosalie’s thick red hair was pulled into a pony tale at the top of her head, and thick curls cascaded down to her shoulders. A sheer white veil trimmed in antique lace fell from a tiara.

Josie stood frozen. How could this beautiful bride be the same girl who used to get stuck in apple trees and wore bandages on each knee until her twelfth birthday?

“Josie, you okay?” Rosalie asked.

The question jarred Josie into the present. “I’m fine, but you’re just so darn beautiful you take my breath away. You look like one of God’s angels.”

Rosalie blushed. “I wonder what Angelo will think when he sees me.”

Her mother gestured with her hands as she spoke in her broken English. “If that boy does not appreciate the way you look, he’s stupido and does not deserve you. I will take you home!” All five bridesmaids howled at the joke. A few seconds later a deacon rushed into the basement shushing them.

In another few minutes, the girls lined up for their entrance. The five bridesmaids walked down the long aisle on a white cloth the ushers rolled out for them. After they all reached the front of the church, the organ paused and then played  Eduardo waited in the back of the church and stared at his daughter with glistening eyes. He took her tiny gloved hand and threaded her arm through the crook of his arm. He whispered, “Sei cosbella mia figlia.” Eduardo Told Rosalie she never looked more beautiful.

“Graci, Papa.” Rosalie smiled and appeared as calm as a warm summer’s night. The congregation stood and waited for her to pass by. The first notes of “The Trumpet March,” acted as Rosalie’s cue to begin her journey down the aisle to transform from a single girl to a married woman.

A small tear teetered on the edge of Eduardo’s eyelid. He took his first step to give his daughter to another man who waited for her at the front of the church.  He smiled at friends and family who stood to witness his little Rosie change her name from Lombardo to Armani.

Angelo’s eyes stayed fixated on Rosie. He stood tall and proud in a new navy blue suit perfectly tailored to his muscular frame. He also wore a special red bow tie his mother gave him that morning. As Rosalie and Eduardo got closer, his large brown eyes widened, and he held his breath.

Eduardo stopped at the step leading to the altar. He lifted Rosalie’s veil, placed a gentle kiss on her cheek and put her hand into Angelo’s calloused hand. Eduardo turned and took his place beside his wife in the front pew. He removed his handkerchief from his inside breast pocked and dabbed his eyes. Eduardo cried through his smile. Maria’s eyes leaked too.

Angelo helped Rosalie up three more steps to stand in front of the priest. At that moment his nervousness disappeared. He waited for this day since his thirteenth birthday, and he thanked God for his beautiful bride.


Reunited and It Feels So Good

I can’t believe a month has passed since my class reunion. This reunion was not a high school get together; it was an eighth grade graduation from our Catholic parochial school. Yes. You read it right. If I was vain, I wouldn’t tell you it was our 50th.

The idea to put on such a party started about four years ago when some of my classmates from high school partied together. Two guys thought it would be wonderful to get as many of the 34 students who graduated from Saint Sebastian’s together again.

So they went to work. David W. had a website created so once a week classmates could chat together. Then after he found a few of the students, he went on a merry search to find other people who scattered around the country.the class0001

Dyann, Debby, and I worked here at the base station of Sturtevant, Wisconsin putting the details of the party together . . . you know, the work. We figured out how to provide a tent, tables, chairs, and porta-potty. Then we turned our attention to the food. All three of us are good cooks, so consequently, we could have fed the whole village with the leftovers.

The day before the party, we decorated Dy’s backyard with a poster of the class from 1965; I volunteered an artifact — the hated beanie we girls had to wear to church everyday. Debby made a mobile with pictures of all the crazy dances we used to do, and she also put signs like “Nitty Gritty,” “Sock it to Me,” and other colloquial teenage words on colorful tag board and hung them around the tent.

I got together old pictures and created a “movie” which represented everybody in the class using background music from 1965. After dinner, we had a premiere showing on Dy’s big screen TV and gave each guest a DVD as a parting gift for everybody to take home.

How did it turn out? Pretty cool.

Even though we’re all 64 or close to it, nobody looked old. . . at least not to me. Nobody stood apart from the group; everyone mixed well–even the spouses who were brave enough to come along. Half the girls were teachers, the other half nurses. Most everybody had two kids, and were married going on 20 to 45 years. I joked I had been married 42 years–but I accomplished such a feat with two men. I also didn’t fall into the teacher/nurse occupation. I guess I’m still an odd ball. I had 20 years in corporate communications and website development, and then six years as a financial adviser. I also joked it took me until I was over fifty to finally grow up and admit I’m a died-in-the wool writer.

Only five classmates remain in the area; everyone else came from long distances. Two made the trip from California, one from Arizona, one from Connecticut, one from North Carolina, three from Florida, and one from Virginia. Three others live in Wisconsin, but had to drive four or more hours to get here. And finally, four classmates looked down from heaven.  We all were glad we made the trip. There’s nothing like spending time with the kids who played “Red Rover Come Over,” jump rope, double dutch, and hopscotch on the playground.

Where did fifty years go?



Chapter 10

Warsaw, Poland – July, 1939—Heidi enjoyed her young cousins during her first weeks in Warsaw. She took them swimming, picnicking, and biking during the warm summer days while her uncle worked. Uncle Hans proved to be gentle and kind. After his wife died from pneumonia the year before, he went on raising his children alone. Right away, Heidi trusted her uncle and realized she could confide in him.

After the children went to bed, Heidi relaxed with Uncle Hans in the parlor.

She cleared her throat before she spoke. “Uncle?”

He put down his newspaper and gave Heidi his undivided attention. “Yes, Heidi?”

“Is now a good time to talk?”

“I will always make time for you, Heidi. What’s on your mind?”

She fidgeted trying to work up the courage to tell him about her desire to become a nanny in Warsaw. She decided to talk about the children before broaching the subject. “Gertruda loves her daily ballet lessons. She is so fun to teach.”

Uncle Hans chuckled. “Yes. When I tucked her in tonight, she said you and she are performing tomorrow evening in the parlor.”

“Yes. That is the plan.”

Hans smiled. “Shall we invite the neighbors?”

Heidi paused. “Not just yet. She still is a bit—uh, how do I say this delicately?” Heidi searched for the right word. “She still is a bit niezdarny—clumsy.”

Hans chuckled. Heidi went silent and sipped her cup of nighttime tea.

“Is something troubling you, Heidi?”

“When Papa and Mama wrote to you about my visit, did they tell you I might want to find a nanny position here in Warsaw?”

“I wondered when you would mention your intentions.”

“So they did say something.”


“Good.” She relaxed and took out the ad her mother received in a letter from her cousin.

“I would like to apply for this position with the Gessler family.”

Hans studied the ad. “Heidi, this ad is weeks old. Perhaps the position is filled already.” Heidi’s face fell. She remained silent. Hans read the ad aloud. “Wanted: A nanny for three young children – ages six, four, and thirteen months.” Hans paused. “This position comes with a lot of responsibility, Heidi. Do you think you are up to such a challenge on your first job?”

“I am qualified, Uncle. I brought my certificate from school, and I always cared for my brothers and sisters. I want to apply.”

“You do not need my permission, dear Heidi. If you can handle three little children, you must apply. The address is a very good part of Warsaw, and you are wonderful with your cousins. I will give you a good reference if you want one.”

“Thank you Uncle Hans. That is a generous offer I’ll accept.” She rose. “I’ll call the phone number right now!” She ran into the hallway and picked up the phone.

“If you get an interview, I will drive you there.” He shouted after her.

A few minutes later, Heidi returned with a broad smile. “Uncle Hans, I’m so excited!” Hans once again put the nightly newspaper down. “I can see that.”

“My interview is tomorrow at nine o’clock! I must get ready.”  She bounced up the stairs to pick out an appropriate outfit for the occasion.

Chapter 11

Berlin, Germany – July 1939—Leisel fell into a mild depression with both of her close friends so far away for the summer. She filled her time by helping her mother with the household chores and exploring new hairdo’s she found in fashion magazines. With the majority of her free time, she studied for the entrance exams to the university.

Since Marta encouraged her to pursue her dreams, Leisel began to believe she possessed what it took to be successful in college. She found housework and cooking tedious and wished for something more exciting to do. Her strict father forbade her to go out at night without a chaperon. When she asked to go out with one of the neighborhood boys, he said “no” and sent her to her room for the evening. He had bigger plans for her, He expected her to marry well and not fall in love with any neighborhood boy.

One balmy evening Leisel mustered enough courage to tell her father of her intentions to sit for the entrance exam, but in one sentence he quashed her dreams. “I forbid it!”

Leisel’s eyes filled with water, and she stomped her foot. “You are not being fair, Vater. I will be a good student and make you proud.”

He stood up and puffed out his chest. “I will hear no more of this nonsense. You are going to Schwanenwerder.  No where else. I enrolled you. When you graduate from there, you will make me proud.” He strutted out of the room mumbling girls had no business at the university.

Leisel dropped to the floor and sobbed. Her father just told her he enrolled her into a premiere bride school. Instead of studying academics, this school stressed the social graces. Upon graduation Aryan-looking girls like Leisel became perfect mates for SS officers in order to perpetuate the Aryan race of blue-eyed blond children.


A Hint of Celebrity?

Now that Ken and I spruced up our home with a few pieces of new furniture, a washer and dryer, and new kitchen chairs, I decided it was time for a little Barbara upgrading. Yup. I spent some coins on myself, and I didn’t do it at the thrift store. 🙂

The items I wanted included a pair of new glasses, some wrinkle cream and skin spot remover, along with a couple pair of new sandals. (I still think we may have at least a couple of days of summer in the near future.)

On Saturday, I went to pick up my new specs. For once the sun was shining, but little did I know in a few seconds it would shine on me. When the receptionist requested my name, I replied, “Barbara McCloskey.”

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One of the customers turned around with a surprised look on her face and said, “Barbara McCloskey? I know that name. Sure, there’s somebody by that name who is an author.”

I replied, “That’s me!”

The customer’s voice went up an octave as she said, “No kidding?”

I whipped out my business cards I got for such opportunities and gave  one to each customer in the store.

bus card

For a couple of seconds, I felt like a big shot. Fame shown it’s fickle light on me and I smiled in the illumination. Even though I hadn’t been facially recognized, somebody did recognize my name.

I’ve emblazoned this scene in my mind with the exception someday I will be facially recognized, and my “fan” will have read all of my books.

I truly believe this is the first step to fulfilling my dream–to become a successful author. This first step is simple, but necessary.

Here’s the bottom line to this tale. I don’t believe dreams happen. Having a clear vision of what we want to achieve is key, then we must share it with others. In the meantime, put your nose to the grindstone and work, work, work. In my case, I need to read and write everyday. Persistence is key–you can’t give up even when the ugly face of writer’s block crosses you path. Then grab opportunities when they come along. Do radio interviews. Get your name in the local paper. Pass out business cards advertising your genre and titles. Get your book reviewed. Don’t hide your light under a bushel basket — no one can shine hiding. Perhaps you might even get a little “luck” as you go through the actions of working toward your goals. No one can turn down good luck, right?

My only caution is to be careful what you ask for. . . there’s a good chance you will get it.

Getting out of “Dodge”

travelI hope some of you noticed I took a hiatus from blogging. Being missed by someone is a compliment, so I guess I’m also being presumptuous you’re glad I’ve returned.

Grounded No More,” my seventh historical novel has been keeping me away, but this morning I put the finishing touches on it to go to my editor. I so enjoy historical fiction. I love researching other time periods to catch a glimpse of the people who lived those years. I’ve zeroed in on the World War II era because I find the sacrifices and hardships people endured amazing. I enjoy how people faced their fears and carried on in the face of adversity–particularly the women who were expected to become someone else in a blink of an eye. Through propaganda campaigns, they entered the workforce in all kinds of jobs, including some very dangerous ones.

The other fact that has kept me away from blogging is personal. I’ve been soul searching for some answers. Being a caretaker impacts a person in ways you never expect. As you might imagine, Ken’s Multiple Sclerosis can be trying at times. I must continually remind myself what he does is the disease and not him, but sometimes I drown myself in something artistic to put down my emotions of losing him bit by bit.

The winter has kept us both in the house longer than usual, so I haven’t been outside to start my spring clean-up and plant my flowers. We’ve been together 24/7 for over three years, and I need a respite, but going on such a journey has turned into an overwhelming task.

Because Ken would rather stay home than go to a care center, the quest is more difficult. I need to find him a qualified person to provide 24-hour care. When I expressed my frustration with the woman who acts as our coordinator, she said she’d work with the nurse and help me get this done. I guess it helps to whine once in a while.

Another part of my challenge is myself. My heart needs to stay home, but my head realizes without a break sometime in the near future, I might snap. My patience will wane, and I’ll do or say something I will regret. I equate the emotion to putting my little girl on the bus for kindergarten, only this time I’m the little girl.

My ordeal now boils down to letting go. When I must release my hold on something or someone I love, I need to take small steps, so when a girlfriend invited me to go “up north” with her for a weekend, I could consider her offer. I realize baby steps will be best for both Ken and me, so we’ll muddle through this first short separation, and if things go well, perhaps then I can plan a trip to Florida to visit my dear friend Kay–which was my original intention when I began this respite quest. I’m simply not ready for such a long separation.

Ken and I are lucky.  Through our relationship of nineteen years, we enjoyed many wonderful trips together. Timeshares in different parts of the country. A couple of cruises. Weekend getaways in quaint Bed & Breakfast places or swanky hotels. I am thankful for all of the good times, but I’m sad we will probably never travel together like this again.


The Best of Christmas Everyday

Christmas Party 007With Christmas just around the corner, I’m happy to share what a great life our time here can be. Even with all the hardships of Ken’s M. S., we still find joy in each other as we spend each day doing ordinary things. We are truly blessed with a wonderful family and a stable of faithful friends. Sometimes I wonder how we got so lucky.

Usually people count their blessings on Thanksgiving, but I do everyday. Ken’s wonderful family has sustained us through times when our car was repossessed, there were few groceries in our cupboard, and a pile of bills we didn’t know how we would ever pay. Ken’s Aunt Lil rallied the family together to pay for a beautiful wheelchair ramp our friend Scott Martyn built. Now we can get Ken’s power wheelchair out of the house and into the van that also miraculously came along this year.

Aunts Sharon, Lil, and Rita have sent us checks when we really needed the money. Our friends gathered together to clean our kitchen, which had gotten to the really yucky phase because my arthritis in my hip and knee doesn’t allow me to wash floors and walls any longer.  Then there’s Ken’s brother Steve who has treated us to many a meal out. And who can ever forget our Secret Santa who has sent us extravagant gift cards every year for the past four years.

Through the intervention of angels, we were put in touch with the ARDC which helped us learn about agencies that aid people like us who have fallen into a financial pit because of devastating illness and unemployment. Then there’s the people at Societies Assets who agreed we needed to move our laundry facilities upstairs. Again, Scott and his crew stepped in and built us a beautiful laundry room that will save so many agonizing steps. There’s also the support of the IRIS people who have provided us with Kaitlin who guides us through the government bureaucracy.

This year has been one of learning how to accept help. For a couple of baby boomers, this is a hard lesson because for so many years we’ve stood on our own two feet, not needing such help. For some, accepting help is a lesson in humility. For me, it has been a blessing. I’ve learned to how to say thank you in so many ways.

Even though these trials have come along, so has the opportunity to focus my energy into producing stories and novels. Needless to say, these years of hardship have also been wonderful for my writing career. Teaching basic grammar has strengthened my writing and also given me satisfaction of reaching one or two students. This blog is my 368th post, and slowly, I’ve been able to spread my words and phrases across the world. It is my hope that I give hope and inspiration to other writers, along with a few laughs and joys to others who just enjoy reading what I have to say.

My wish is that everyone reading this post will find happiness inside. Then share that happiness with a friend, a family member, or even a complete stranger because it’s through everyone of us God works his miracles. And believe me, they do exist.

An Impending Interview

interview_in_progressI had a big surprise this morning. Greg Berg from the local public radio station called and requested an interview to talk about my novels! I’m always excited to talk about my writing, but to have a public forum like this is very special. Right now I’m basking in the afterglow and saying my thanks to the writing gods.

We’ll record the interview over the phone next Monday morning. The radio program is on the air early in the morning–I think he said his show is aired from eight to nine o’clock in the morning. He asked me whether I had anything going at that time, and I replied, “Other than sleeping, not a thing.” That got a laugh. Little did he know I was telling the truth. This retirement gig has its perks.

So, next Monday I will be talking about all my “girls” and their men who go through World War II like no other generation. As I continue to research and write about this time period, I am always awed by the way a divided America came together overnight after the Japanese attack. People assumed roles they never would have in any other circumstances as they all faced an uncertain future.

We also talked about the fact I teach at the college where the program is broadcast. I made the comment teaching basic writing and grammar has made me a better writer because I’m conscious of the building blocks of our language.

Perhaps this interview will also spur me on to get back to writing my latest project about. Lately I’ve lost my drive to write everyday and crank out at least a chapter a day. The carpal tunnel really derailed my efforts, but then the malady became an excuse. And the excuse became a bad habit.

After the Thanksgiving festivities, and as I stay out of the craziness on Black Friday, I will once again get back to work. Now that my intention is in writing, I WILL get back on the writing track. Carpal tunnel be damned!

Writing Restraints

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It’s been two weeks since the doctor put me in hand and wrist supports. She wants me in these restrictions 24/7, which I’m finding tough. Things have improved, though. On Sunday, I was able to get through the whole day without taking any pain medication. The tingling in my fingers has ceased most of the time, so it’s safe to say that with the supports my nerves are getting a much needed rest. Unfortunately, so has my writing.

As you might imagine, typing in these things is challenging and frustrating because I must go slower and I experience mucho typos as I go along. So all you proofreaders out there, take the next month off. I don’t need any more aggravation.

My blogging has taken a hit, and so has my novel, but yesterday I eecked out a couple more chapters to the first draft of my eighth novel. For anyone who’s been following me for a time knows it’s my quest to write and publish enough books to fill up my bookshelf in my living room. When I see an interview with Paterson or Nora Roberts, who both could fill a library with their stories, I know I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me to compete. But should I?

It’s taken a forced retirement to get to the point where I have the time and inclination to dedicate myself to to write fun stuff. I have a twenty-year career of writing for profit, as a freelancer, a copywriter, a communication specialist, a marketer for small business, and a website developer.  I’ve written just about everything, from technical copy to sales materials to website copy. I don’t claim to be great at all genres, but I have enjoyed the writing ride.

After writing novels for the past three and a half years, I can’t say this kind of storytelling is more fun; it’s just different. My imagination, along with the research I do, does a dance with my own life experiences or people I’ve been lucky enough to meet. Then I let the characters tell their stories.

What remains the same is the writing process–A draft, a second draft, a third and possibly a fourth draft, then a pass to the editor, a rewrite or two and then off to the proofreader.

I have a tough boss. Me. If I don’t like the product, I can’t sell it. If I don’t understand a product, I can’t sell it. The only thing that has really changed is the deadline because I’m the one who sets it.

So, if you ever pick up one of my books, my promise to my readers is this: I promise to do my best to weave a good story that will keep the pages turning, so you will feel your money was well spent.

And the wrist supports–well, they may be with me for a time, but I will adapt and the writing will continue. I’ll leave the typos to the editor and proofreader.

What is Carpal Tunnel, except for a Pain in the Wrist?

Today I am attempting to post this blog with a brace on each hand. I’m beginning to think the doctor might be right about me experiencing problems with my carpal tunnels. By wearing the braces to bed last night, I slept through without waking. That was the first time in over three weeks! Needless to say, though, this new development is putting a damper on my writing.

I’ve been a pretty good typist since the ninth grade when I taught myself how to use the keyboard. At the time, I was marooned at home, recovering from a broken tibia, and I was restricted to bed rest.  It was a devastating experience at the time. I lost the lead of the school musical because of my injuries, and I was isolated from all of my friends, which was certain death to a thirteen year old girl.

During that time, though, I learned so many important lessons I never would have experienced any other way. I quickly recognized my true friends. and I learned how invaluable they were to me.  Since then, I’ve cultivated and maintained many good people in my life. I also learned I could improvise. Even though I was sequestered to my bed, I developed different ways to do things. I saw the difficulties as challenges to conquer. I also recognized I could teach myself anything I wanted to learn.

Four months later when I returned to school with a toe-to-hip plaster cast still on my leg and a pair of crutches, my good friend Debbie stayed with me, carrying my books and helping me in any other way she could. The popular kids at school who tried to hitch their wagons to my brief shining star didn’t remember my name by the time I returned to school. Before I was anybody, I was a nobody. I learned the “importance” of popularity and from then on chose my friends by their character, not their status.

Even now, the lessons I learned almost 50 years ago still resonate. Now that I’m experiencing a temporary limited use of my hands, I recognize I cannot do things the same way I did in the past years. I will have to limit my computer time or perhaps invest in a tool like “Dragon” to help me keep “writing” my books. I’ll have to wear support braces until the issue is healed or resolved by surgery. But in no way, will this little setback of tingling, painful hands keep me down. I may not post everyday, but when I do, I hope I can share something that is useful to you.

Please excuse the typos, though.

A Dumb White Collar Writer

Garfield and MondayDid you ever endure “hardship” because it was the weekend and you didn’t want to call a repairman and endure the weekend double-time charge? I did. Yesterday.

The thermostat for the furnace pooped out, so we relied on a little space heater to keep us warm. It does an adequate job to warm the living room. Our beautiful autumn weather has turned cold enough to fire up the furnace.

All day, Ken and I huddled under warm fleece blankets while we sat in our comfy chairs and enjoyed a full day of football games. In between keeping our body masses warm, we dared to venture down the hallway for a couple of bathroom breaks and into the kitchen for lunch. By suppertime, the heater had warmed the room to 68 degrees, so we watched “The Good Wife” in comfort.

Needless to say, the first thing I did this morning was pick up the phone and dial our heating and cooling professionals to see if someone could come out and fix whatever major catastrophe we had suffered. Much to my surprise the woman who answered the phone said, “We can be there in twenty minutes.”

Twenty minutes! I was still in my pj’s and hadn’t had my first cup of coffee! Like somebody who just had a fire lit under her bum, I jumped up, pulled on some jeans and a sweater, ran a comb through my hair and next thing I knew, Ernie was barking and the repairman was on our porch.

I let the repairman in with a bright smile and showed him the thermostat. He took off the cover and said, “Do you have a couple of batteries?”

I was puzzled. “Batteries? Really? That’s all that’s wrong with this thing? I thought, “I could have replaced the batteries. Even I’m capable of that!”

Sure enough, Jason the furnace man popped in two new AA batteries and the damn furnace fired up and heat started pouring out of the vents.  I felt so stupid. Two AA batteries, honest to God!

I think he felt a little silly charging me $70 for a trip charge to just swap out a couple of batteries, so he took a quick look at the furnace in the basement. He reported everything looked good except we had a dirty filter. After a trip back to the store and a return trip back to our house, (The store is about ten minutes away.)  Jason installed a new filter and only charged me $84 for the whole enchilada. If anybody is looking for a fair furnace repair service, call Kiernan in Racine.

So, my Monday was full of surprises. Not only did I get the furnace “fixed,” my day also included a trip to the doctor. Because I haven’t had insurance for over three years, and my doctor moved out of town, I had to break in a new doctor. This time around, I’m opting for a female doctor who thinks I have carpal tunnel inflammation going on in my hands, but I also have to have a series of blood tests to check out other possible maladies. I won’t know anything for sure for two weeks, but she gave me two wrist supports at no cost. Between Jason the furnace guy and the new female doctor I saw, I know there are fair caring people still left in the world. My only regret is not paying attention when my father tried to show me how to fix stuff around the house. Being a dumb white collar writer can be very costly.