Tag Archive | Apple Pie & Strudel Girls

Woke by a Thud

The worst way to wake up from a good night’s sleep for me is to hear my dear husband fall. Through this MS experience, Ken has become a falling expert. So far, he hasn’t hurt himself except for developing a few bruises. But this morning, I found him on his belly, hips balancing precariously on the first step leading to the basement, arms out-stretched on steps three and four, while his legs lay in the back hall.

I thought for a few seconds how I was going to get him safely on the landing, and the only answer seemed to be to tell him to push with his arms while I pulled on his legs. Long story short — I rescued him. This time.

I’ve cautioned him a zillion times not to go near the basement steps, but the MS has formed lesions on his decision-making part of the brain, and he believes he can accomplish tasks he really shouldn’t take on in the first place. Today may have done the trick. I think he scared himself silly and will be less apt to attempt any activity which involves being any where near the back hall.

These kind of experiences first scare me and then frustrate me. My sadness comes from the ever-changing dynamics in our marriage, making me more of a caregiver than a wife. But what’s a person to do? I guess the only answer is to live in the present, try not to think of the past, and not anticipate the future. Yeah. That’s what I’ll do once I can breathe again.



Chapter 8

Berlin, German -1937—Heidi Schiller considered herself the black sheep of her family because her fair complexion and blond hair set her apart from her three siblings with dark hair and eyes. Heidi stood almost five feet tall, and she carried herself like a graceful bird in flight when she walked. Her dreams of becoming a ballerina and dance on the biggest stages of Europe kept her busy. When she danced, an exciting stimulating current moved through her body. As she moved her body to the notes of classical music, her spirit soared to heights she wanted to keep forever.  Best of all she realized audiences sat breathless as she floated across the stage like a fragile butterfly.

Her parents wanted her to travel the regular journey of a girl–to marry, keep house, and give birth to healthy children, which was a world away from what Heidi wanted for herself. Her world centered on dance. Even now at age sixteen she never bothered thinking about boys. The boys her age stayed focused on the expanding army while they dreamed of serving Germany. Heidi found their political talk nauseating.

Her sweet personality endeared her to her father, but her shyness frustrated him. He usually caught Heidi curled up with a book in some corner of the house when she should be attending parties with her schoolmates.

Heidi held no realistic visions after completing her secondary education. Her parents made it abundantly clear dancing needed to be left in her past and she should quit dreaming about such a frivolous future.  When the pressure of her future got too much, Heidi ran into the woods and danced among the trees. How could she ever forget about dancing when this art filled her soul?


Book Two


Chapter 1

Berlin, Germany – April 1939—Leisel invited Heidi and Marta to help her shop for a special outfit for the Fuhrer’s fiftieth birthday celebration. Heidi loved beautiful clothes as much as her friends, but such frivolous purchases didn’t fit into the family budget. Instead she encouraged Leisel and Marta while they selected pretty dresses, shoes, and hats for the Nazi party. Heidi only bought new hair ribbons. Over a lunch of bratwurst and potato salad at the Hoffbrau Haus they rested their aching feet and tried to guess what the special birthday party would offer.

“Marta, I just love the dress you bought; that blue suit brings out the color in your eyes.” Leisel commented and added. “Heads will turn when you walk by.”

Marta teased. “No. Boys will only look at you. We are only dust in the wind.”

Leisel blushed. “I can’t help I am beautiful.” She tossed her head back and laughed. “Perhaps you girls should get your heads out of the clouds and get serious about finding a beau. Heidi your parents will never allow you to dance as a ballerina, and Marta you are just as bad wanting to become an artist. You must realize our fates are set in stone. Why torture yourselves with such dreams?”

“What are your dreams, Leisel?” Marta turned the tables.

“My Vater will not allow anything but marriage. He informed me he intended to choose my husband.”

Marta persisted. “But if you dreamed of the most wonderful future in the world, what would you like to do when you graduate secondary school?”

“I would become a teacher. No. A professor at the university. As long as we are dreaming, I may as well make my non-existent plans large, ja?” She laughed.

Marta never heard Leisel be serious about a career. “What would you teach?”

Leisel waited before she answered. “I would teach mathematics. No. astronomy. I wonder what is beyond earth in the stars. I wonder how the sun continues to burn keeping a whole planet inhabitable. Yes. Astronomy. I would choose astronomy.”

Marta and Heidi sat stunned.

Marta said, “You must go to university, Leisel. You would make a grand professor.”

“And how would I so such a thing? My Vater would rather die than encourage a girl to rise to such heights. Even if he condoned my studies, only men get into the university.”

“You must think of a way.” Marta encouraged her. “Women go to university. What about Ida Noddack, the chemist who co-discovered rhenium?”

“Why should I dream of such things, Marta? It is impossible to change my Vater’s mind about anything.”

“Or how about Emmy Noether the mathematician?”

“Marta, please stop. I admit some women are exceptions to the rule, but we all realize only men are professors. If I possessed the stamina to travel such a lofty track, I would only become a bitter unfulfilled woman. I am content to accept reality and be happy about marriage and children.” Her tone showed an element of defeat.

“You are so brainwashed, Leisel!” Marta blurted. “Why should men deem our destiny?” She realized her voice and grown loud.  She softened her tone and added. “I guess we all look at the future in different ways.”

Heidi remained silent. She would never let go of her dream of dancing. As the other two girls pictured their non-existent futures, she pictured herself floating across the national stage as a world famous ballerina.

Marta sat silent, too. She vowed she would not let her father quash her dreams no matter what.


The Fuhrer’s birthday party started on the afternoon of April nineteenth and continued for a couple of days. Throngs of his followers lined the streets with flaming torches to light the way for their charismatic leader. People screamed as a cavalcade of fifty white limousines brought the Fuhrer into the city. The motorcade traveled a four-mile route to a newly built boulevard which became the central thoroughfare to Hitler’s new capital of “Germania.”

The parade traveled to the Reich Chancellery, Hitler’s residence in Berlin. He appeared in a window and saluted the crowd below. Leisel didn’t understand why he appeared with no expression. If she thought people wanted to celebrate her in such a flamboyant way, she would be waving with great enthusiasm.

Marta concluded Hitler seemed bored. She didn’t understand why most people screamed with hysteria. She thought he clearly viewed himself above all others.

Because Leisel’s father secured invitations for his daughter and her friends, the three girls went inside the Chancellery to attend the ball after the parade. The girls strolled into the grand ballroom to witness hundreds of gifts piled on tables around the periphery of the room. A twelve-foot high model of a huge triumphal arch designed by Albert Speer sat as the centerpiece in the room. Everyone attending the party got a sneak peak of the architect’s dream of the future.

The over-the-top affair took Leisel’s breath away, and she realized she would carry this special night with her for the rest of her life.

A handsome Nazi officer approached Leisel and bowed. “Frauline, will you dance with me?”

Leisel extended her hand, winked at Marta, and took the hand of the boy. He whisked her away twirling to a Strauss waltz.

Marta’s aristocratic beauty attracted a good-looking young man asking her to dance, but she refused saying she didn’t want to leave her friend Heidi alone. Heidi longed to sway to the beautiful waltzes, but in her plain-looking house dress, no boy approached her all evening.


A bigger spectacle took place the next day on April 20th–the Fuhrer’s actual birthday. Huge tanks, trucks, and half-tracks drove by the crowds. Fifty flag bears escorted goose-stepping Wehrmacht soldiers in straight lines. Leisel put her hand over her heart as the new country flag of red with a black swastika passed by. Waves of the Luftwaffe flew in formation overhead. Hitler seemed more pleased with this show of military strength than the previous night’s events. As his car passed, he stood and saluted the crowd.

“Isn’t this parade the most exciting thing?” Leisel screamed as the most popular leader in Europe went by.

Heidi and Marta nodded. No words could explain such a spectacle.

Since Hitler’s election as Chancellor, Germany took her place among the world’s greatest powers. New buildings and a system of roads named autobahns put people back to work throughout the country. People once again held their heads up with national pride. Down-trodden Germany was the past, and a new Germania emerged.  Hitler pulled Germany out of the deepest depression the world ever experienced and now life held promise for a prosperous future.

After the parade, Marta realized the show of military might positioned Hitler as a catalyst of impending catastrophe. She read accounts of the “Night of the Long Knives,” in the newspaper when Hitler executed leading members of the party to maintain his position. Under his instruction, a propaganda program designed to humiliate and dehumanize Jews grew up around Berlin. Posters and graffiti littered windows and the streets.  Many people laughed, but Marta felt ashamed because of her father’s involvement with the movement.

Marta believed a man like Hitler should never be celebrated.



It’s Been Monday for a Month

Yesterday the weather was beautiful. Breezy, sunny, warm not hot, and a joy to be outside. We played a game of Scrabble on the new patio, sipped a beer, and laughed together. I tried to ignore the frustrations of my backyard which is still under construction.

It all began when we decided to build a new garage. The old one leaned to the left so badly I thought it might fall over. The paint peeled, the roof went organic, and the concrete cracked in at least a dozen pieces.

The general contractor demolished the old garage, left the outdoor stuff under one of our large trees, and the other “perishable” stuff went down to the basement. The cement contractor came a couple of days later and removed the garage floor, the old patio, and the complete driveway with an excavator which kept the neighborhood boys and me entertained for the afternoon. The next day, the rain came.

Now we had mud and were held captive for three days. Yuck. On top of that, the contractor found a city water shut off and our troubles increased.

Our contractor went to the city and told the people who hand out building permits what he had found. He got shuttled from one inspector to another, each of them saying it was unbelievable we had a water shut off on our property. Then men started to show up in our backyard. At least four inspectors from different departments made our acquaintance. It turns out, we not only have water lines running across the middle of our back yard, but we also have sewer lines! What were they saying? I couldn’t replace my old garage with a new one on my property? I couldn’t believe it.

I found myself in front of the Public Works Committee and plead my case. They approved my planned garage with stipulations which would come from the City Attorney. Do you see why I hate politicians? Nobody wanted to make a decision.

Two weeks later I received a letter from the City Attorney, along with a document I need to sign in front of a Notary Public, which means BOTH Ken and I must go to the bank and put our signatures on the document BEFORE we can get a building permit.

I’m pooped. I just want a new garage and at this point, I will sign most anything. Hopefully, in a couple more weeks I can hide my garage stuff in a new building and be able to cut the grass.

Color me exhausted.



Chapter 6

Berlin, Germany, 1937—People considered Leisel Fuchs an Aryan beauty. Her large almond shaped blue eyes sparkled, while her long butter blond hair framed her flawless oval face. Her high cheekbones always appeared a soft shade of pink without any make-up. In another world Leisel surely would be a movie star or at least a pin-up for male athletic lockers.

Her parents expected Leisel to be bright, polite, and thoroughly versed in how to run a household. As the daughter of a Nazi senior officer, she needed to be especially careful because other officers scrutinized her public behavior and would report to her father if they caught her doing something unladylike. Then she would face her father’s wrath.

Henrich Fuchs grew up as a butcher’s son in a poor section of the city, but he never talked about his childhood. His neighbors happened to be Jewish shopkeepers, and as a youngster he played with their children. His attitude toward his old neighbors changed after he joined the Nazi party. Like his brethren Nazis, Henrich believed Jews were inferior beings and should be punished according to the new laws. He joined other SS Nazis humiliating and beating Jewish men on the streets. He participated in the “Krystal Naught” and laughed as synagogues burned and store windows of Jewish shopkeepers crashed into the streets.

Henrich and his dutiful wife enjoyed the fruits of his high rank in Hitler’s elite SS. They lived in a beautiful home situated in the best part of the city. Leisel’s parents instructed their perfect Aryan girl the new regime understood the way to prosperity. Her father believed Leisel would make a beautiful wife for some worthy SS officer he would hand pick. On the surface Leisel bought into her father’s dream of pairing her with a handsome Nazi to produce a large family of perfect Aryan children.

Deep down, Leisel aspired to be more than a perfect wife. She wanted to attend the university and become a professor of mathematics or astronomy.

Chapter 7

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – 1937—Rosalie held the position of the fourth child of Eduardo and Maria Lombardo. Her crop of thick, red hair caused people to think she hailed from the Irish ancestry, but her dark chocolate eyes attested to her Italian heritage. Her unusual coloring caused a controversy in the Lombardo family because all of her sisters, brothers, and many cousins sported dark curly hair. Rosalie stuck out like a bastard stepchild and many whispers of her legitimacy wafted through the family.

Eduardo ignored any such remarks knowing his daughter took after his beloved mother. The first time he held his little girl, he cried believing God blessed him with his mother’s spirit. His last memory of his Mama lingered in his mind. He still pictured her tear-stained face when he set sail for America at age sixteen. As the years went by, his mother’s image faded in his mind, but with the birth of Rosalie, kept his mother’s love alive in his heart.

Eduardo found life in America challenging.  He suffered the stigma of being Italian and the humiliation of speaking poor English. Racial slurs and jokes about his heritage often came his way, but he ignored the stupidity of others. He kept his head high, worked hard, and always tried to be a good American citizen. At eighteen he married Maria; at twenty he owned his own home, and at twenty-two he opened his restaurant.

He envisioned creating a bistro like one he frequented in Italy . He rewired, painted, and fixed the plumbing in an old building on Main Street to pass the city inspector’s stern eye. His best friend Guido painted the bare white walls with colorful frescos of Italian villas with mountainous backgrounds and a view of the Mediterranean Sea. Often when Eduardo admired Guido’s work, he got homesick.

When Lombardo’s Restaurante first opened, Eduardo cooked his Mama’s old world recipes. Six round tables covered with red and white checked tablecloths sat in the little cafe, while Italian music wafted through the little establishment from a phonograph. Tables filled up every night before the Depression for the good food and the ambiance. Eduardo created a little piece of southern Italy in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.

After the Depression in 1929, business got tough. The overflowing customers who waited over thirty minutes for a table, stopped coming all together. Eduardo found it nearly impossible to keep food in the bellies of his eight children. After ten years of drought, the restaurant started picking up as more men went back to work full time.

Tonight was Rosalie’s sixteenth birthday party. Her friends planned to eat dinner at the restaurant and then go out to see a movie. Eduardo didn’t understand how his youngest child grew up so fast. His petite daughter grew into a stunning beauty. Her long red hair fell on her shoulders like a veil, while her dark brown eyes sparkled-especially when Angelo Armani made an appearance.

For most of those sixteen years, the Lombardo family lived next door to the Armani family. Rosalie and Angelo became friends when they wore diapers. They attended Catholic school together, and everyone said the two made a good match.

Angelo proved to be a good kid, but the day he dropped out of school Eduardo demanded Rosalie stop seeing him. He believed any man who wanted to be serious about his daughter needed an education to be successful in America. He couldn’t bear the thought his daughter would suffer because she married an uneducated man.

Angelo’s father teamed up with Eduardo on the benefits of completing high school, but their lectures fell on deaf ears, and a stubborn Angelo took a job as an assembly worker at the Autolite plant. He only told the truth to Rosalie one night as they parked by the river.

“Your father isn’t happy with me.” Angelo stared ahead trying to conceal the tears forming in his eyes.

“I can’t argue, Angelo. School is important.”

“It’s so hard, Rosie. I’m tired of failing.”

“But you’re so smart! You rebuilt this car we’re sitting in. The fence you built in the backyard is perfect. I don’t want you to quit either.”

“Oh, Rosie I can rebuild or build anything with my hands, but studying ancient history and algebra is not for me. Besides,” he pulled her close and placed a gentle kiss on her mouth. “I want to give you a house before we get married. Two years will go fast.”

Rosie returned his kiss. “Not fast enough.”

Rosalie never looked at another boy. As soon as she graduated, she planned to marry Angelo, give birth to his children, and probably work in her father’s restaurant until she turned eighty.




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.