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A Day Alone

Yesterday I spent the late morning and early afternoon alone. Ken when to his “Harmony Club,”which is a a a supervised gathering of elderly and handicapped people. The participants exercise, play games, make crafts, and eat lunch together. They have a chance to form friendships, and they end each session by playing Bingo and winning prizes. Ken loves going because he can talk to somebody other than me, plus he enjoys being with older people. Seeing I’m ten years older than he is explains our happy marriage. ūüôā

The four or five hours we have apart gives me a chance to have a little fun with my friends. Usually I meet somebody for lunch and then tie up the day with a trip to some shop to nose around for a little while. I love going downtown because there are a lot of restaurants to chose from and plenty of specialty shops where hidden treasure waits for someone to discover it.

But yesterday I chose to just be alone. I hunted new winter tops at the thrift store. (Since I discovered the place, I haven’t darkened the door of any retail shop.) Then I went home, finished my blog posting for the day, and ate lunch with Ernie sitting on my lap. (He watched my food as¬†I enjoyed¬†my soap opera without somebody teasing me for watching such drivel.) I¬†didn’t talk for four hours! Believe me, that’s a record!

When I picked up Ken at 3:30 p.m., we ¬†both looked forward to being together again. With stuffed peppers and acorn squash waiting in the oven, we had a pleasant dinner followed by a night of television. In the past, days like this would have bored me to death, but now the mundane times are cherished. Call it old age, but normalcy in our world is just fine. Achieving contentment in one’s life takes some time, and I’m glad I arrived at¬†that place when a day spent alone becomes time well spent.

A¬†happy life is one of balance and contentment, no matter how old or young, rich or poor a person is. I’ll warn you though. Achieving such a life is hard work. Just try it. I dare you.

Morning Exercise

Since I vowed to get back into the habit of blogging each morning, I have been true to myself. The worst thing about putting the laptop on my lap while I sip my first cup of java is wondering what to write about. I’m sure you all are thinking right now . . . I can see you’re stalling!

When I taught writing, one exercise to get going was to sit and write for two minutes. The pen had to stay on the paper and it had to keep moving for that length of time. No stalling. No thinking. Just writing . . . anything. The exercise was to help students see that even though they had nothing to write about at that moment in time, the thoughts came as they scribbled away.

This morning I’m having trouble finding something profound to say. I could tell you Ken woke early and felt well. That would be a good story, right? I could tell you about a video of a mama bear and her three cubs enjoying a wading pool in the backyard of a New Jersey home. I saw that story on the morning news. I could even tell you about being woke up with a hug from my pug.

But I won’t. Promise.

Instead I’m showing you to break the drought of writer’s block you have to write. If you produce crap, so what? Nobody knows but you. And then there’s the waste basket or the delete button. ¬†Two great inventions.

The success comes because you produced something. The good words will come.

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 4

Chapter 4

Minneapolis, Minnesota-May‚ÄĒJosie’s completed a three-year nursing program in two years because she accelerated her program by attending summer classes. In a few days she would receive her diploma and graduate with honors.

Her parents took the train to Minneapolis on the Friday before her graduation. Josie went with Tommy to pick them up at the station, while Anna stayed back to clean the Schneider’s¬†overnight¬†sleeping quarters.

When Josie saw her parents, she realized how much she really missed them. She ran to her father and hugged him in the middle of the station. Such public display of affection appeared to be uncomfortable for him because he received her show of affection with his arms at his side not knowing how to react.

Josie backed away. “I’m so glad you’re both here! Anna and I arranged for you to stay in a dorm room in our building for the night.” Josie announced.

“That’s nice dear,” her mother said, “I’m sure we’ll be very comfortable.”

Her father muttered, “I’m just glad we only need to stay one night.”

“Oh come on, Dad, I told the girls living on that floor they can’t run around in their underwear because you’ll be there.” She giggled.

“Gee, thanks, Josie.” He smiled back at her. “You eliminated the one thing I might enjoy.”

Mrs. Schneider playfully slapped him on the arm.

Josie introduced her parents to Tommy, and the men shook hands. Tommy directed them to his jalopy. Josie’s parents sat crammed in the backseat of the coupe, and Tommy drove straight to the campus.

Josie thanked Tommy for the lift and directed her parents to their room. She unlocked the door and said, “Why don’t you two get settled in, freshen up, and dress for the parent’s dinner while I go upstairs and get changed. The administration planned a special meal for parents who came long distances to attend the graduation ceremony.”

Josie handed her father the keys to the dorm room. “I’ll be back with Anna in thirty minutes, okay?” She smiled from ear to ear.

“We’ll be ready, sweetheart.” Her mother said as she entered the room.

Josie ran up three flights of stairs to her room. When she got to the top, she wasn’t the slightest bit¬†winded. She smiled because she had come so far since the first day when she nearly died lugging her heavy trunk up the staircase.

When Josie opened her door, Anna stood half dressed staring into the closet. “Your parents got in okay?”

“Yeah, I just left them. Dad’s not enamored about staying in the dorm.”

“Don’t worry. He’ll be fine. I think he just wants to give you the raspberries. Anybody can endure a dorm for one night.” Anna giggled.

“I hope you’re not going to the dinner like that!” Josie teased.

Anna gave her a dirty look. “You smarty pants!” She threw a pillow at Josie.

A half an hour later, the two girls emerged from their dorm looking like they stepped out of the pages of “Everyday Woman” magazine. Both dressed in smart little black dresses. Anna wore glass pearls she found at J. C. Penny’s and Josie showed off her slim boyish frame with a silver belt. Anna topped her ensemble with a pill-box hat with sheer netting that covered her eyes.

Josie’s dad whistled when he saw the two girls. “How am I going to escort all of you beautiful ladies? God only gave me two arms!” He joked.

The balmy night allowed students and parents to stroll to the cafeteria without sweaters. Usually this early in May Minnesotans enjoying such warm weather was a rarity.¬† Josie hoped the good weather would hold for tomorrow when she would “walk the plank” in her cap and gown.

When the girls entered the building, the class president of the Junior class greeted them, gave them name tags, and then escorted their party¬†to an¬†assigned table. Josie didn’t recognize the place where they ate most of their meals for over two years. Round tables covered with gold linen table clothes replaced the long utilitarian banquet tables.¬† Candles and bouquets of maroon carnations sat on mirrors which reflected a soft, warm light to make the cavernous cafeteria more intimate.

Just after Josie, Anna, and the Schneiders sat down on metal folding chairs, the event began. The chancellor strolled up to the microphone. “Good Evening everyone! Please take your seats and we’ll get started. I want to call up our campus chaplain, Steven Samuelson who will say the blessing.”

A young man in a black suit and white shirt with a chaplain’s collar stepped up to the microphone and asked everyone bow their heads. In a strong, confident voice he prayed. “Thank you Lord, for bringing all of our graduate’s parents safely to our campus. We thank them for producing such a wonderful crop of graduates who will go off into the world very soon to do your work. Thank you for the food we will eat tonight and bless everyone¬†when they travel back home. Amen.”

Everyone repeated the word “Amen.”

As the chaplain left the stage, servers dressed in school colors served plates filled with roasted chicken, baked potato with butter and sour cream and green beans. Bread sat in a basket on the table. The chef made the simple main course appear like it came from a five-star restaurant. When the guests didn’t think they could eat another bite, ice cream and chocolate chip cookies came out of the kitchen for dessert.¬†After dinner, the Scholastic award winners went to the stage to receive engraved plaques.

When the festivities ended, the crowd flooded the grounds as they leisurely strolled back to the student housing buildings. The perfect night ended with a breathtaking sunset; the sky was ablaze in shades of pinks and purples.

Josie lagged behind with her mother as Anna and Mr. Schneider walked ahead of them. Mrs. Schneider put her arm around her daughter’s shoulder. “I’m so proud of you, Josie. You worked hard and gave up so much to graduate.” Her eyes filled with proud tears.

“Mom, I didn’t graduate yet.”

“Oh yes you did. Sure “Pomp and Circumstance” hasn’t played yet, but you’ve graduated already. You grew up and became a beautiful, educated woman. Do you realize you are the first person in our family to complete college? And with honors, no less. I couldn’t be more proud.”

“Oh, Mom.” The two women hugged. “Without you in my corner supporting me all through high school, I would never accomplished this.”

“We both know that isn’t true, Josie, but thank you.” Her mother kissed her cheek, and they caught up to Anna and her father.

Chapter 5

Minneapolis, Minnesota, May‚ÄĒGraduation ceremonies proved to be bittersweet for Josie. The endless essay papers, all-nighters before exams, and the anxiety that went with both had ended. The dances, pantie raids, bonfires, and long talks with Anna in the darkness would cease too. With college completed, adult life would set in. The saddest part about leaving campus and going home would be the separation Josie and Anna knew was inevitable.

Peter drove the family truck to campus to haul all of Josie’s things back home.¬†Mrs. Schneider¬†hugged Anna before she¬†climbed in the truck. “You plan on coming to Lacrosse, Anna. Any time is just fine. You’re always welcome in our home.”

Anna held her tears back. “Thank you” was the only two words she could produce.

Josie waved to her folks as they drove away. She would take the train back to Lacrosse in the afternoon because the truck cab didn’t accommodate four of them.

A few hours later Anna, Josie, and Tommy stood on the platform waiting for the train to arrive; the girls stayed quiet for fear tears would start falling. The reality of not knowing when they would meet again seemed to overwhelm both of them.

Tommy broke their silence. “I think this is your train, Josie.”

Josie nodded. “I sure will miss you, Anna. Promise to write. I want all the gory details about your adventures with Tommy this summer.”

Anna brushed a tear a rolling down her check.¬† “No problem.” She hugged Josie like they were saying goodbye forever. She whispered, “Come and visit me, okay?”

Josie nodded. “Take my mother up on her invitation, okay? I’ll try to get up north, but everything depends¬†on the job I find.”

Anna nodded as any of her words seemed to be lodged in her throat.

The girls’ show of affection made Tommy uncomfortable. “Come on you two. This is not the end of the world. We only live about one hundred fifty miles from each other. Come on Jos, you gotta go.”

The conductor just sounded the last call to get on board.

Josie broke away from her two friends and disappeared through the last car of the train. She found a window seat before the train chugged forward. She couldn’t see Tommy holding a bereft Anna on the platform. During their three years on campus they became closer than sisters. They laughed, cried, and went through the trials and tribulations of going through a college curriculum, and they both wondered how they would ever get along without each other.

Josie readjusted herself in the seat and thought about going home.  She looked forward to sleeping in her own bed that evening, and waking up to the sweet scent of hot cinnamon buns her mother often made. She planned to decompress for about a week, and then turn her energies into finding a surgical nursing position. Above all, she looked forward to seeing Donna and Rosalie again. After all, they stepped in as her sisters before Anna came along.

When Josie finally arrived home, she opened the back door to the lovely old farm house and shouts of “Surprise” greeted her.¬† Relatives and friends filled the house. Rosalie and Donna had¬†decorated the room in her school colors of maroon and gold. She got hugs and congratulations from everyone, but best of all, in the midst of the crowd, Johnny stood in his Army Air Corps dress uniform. He lingered on the periphery of the crowd and hugged her last.

Josie cried, “You’re here! Oh Johnny!”

“In the flesh!” He kissed her cheek. “I wanted to get to the graduation celebration, but my plane ride didn’t get there in time.”

A table laden with gifts wrapped in colorful wrapping paper waited for her in the corner of the living room, while a table filled with chaffing dishes filled with¬†different Italian dishes waited. Mr. Lombardo waited in the background. “Little Josie,” he said. “Ima so proud of you!” He kissed her old world style on both cheeks and then went to work behind the overflowing table to serve the guests.

Rosalie stood near. “Papa insisted he cater your party.”

The shock of everyone’s generosity and desire to celebrate her accomplishment thrilled Josie. “How do I ever thank all of you?”

Donna teased. “You can’t, silly. Just go through the food line so the rest of us can eat!”

Josie laughed. “Same old Donna.” Everyone at the party laughed with her.

Rosalie’s little fifteen-month Gina walked around the legs of the adults like a wind-up doll in a frilly pink dress. Josie¬†last saw the baby at Christmastime. “Rosalie, Gina’s so darling! She’s gotten so big!”

“Well, you’re home now; you can watch the little weed grow.” Rosie laughed.

Donna Jean handed Josie a beer, “I hope college gave you an appreciation of the good stuff.”

“Good stuff? Pointe beer is not the champagne of bottled beer, you know.” Josie joked.

“So now you can distinguish the difference!” Donna laughed.

“Leaving Anna was hard, I am so happy to be hone with you two again.” Josie said.

“We’re happy our trio is back together too.” Donna clinked the neck of her beer bottle to Josie’s bottle and Rosie’s Coca Cola.

“So what are your plans now?” Donna said as she took a long drag on her cigarette.

“When did you start smoking?” Josie snarled.¬† “Do you realize you’re destroying your lungs?”

“No lectures, today, kiddo. I asked you what your plans are.” Donna said.

“I guess I’ll go be a nurse somewhere.”

“No kidding.” Donna cajoled. “Are you going to take any time off?”

Josie answered. “About a week; I got so used to working all of the time, I think by then I’ll be ready to hit the pavement.”

Donna reminded her, “You promised me you’ll come and stay at my place for a few days.”

“Me and my big mouth. Maybe next weekend. I’ll need to¬†rest up to keep up with you, Donna.”

Donna laughed. “Good plan. You’re going to need it!”

 

 

 

Patience — A Hard Learned Virtue

Every morning I listen to national as well as local news. And every morning I am thankful I do ¬†not have to deal with traffic and all its frustrations. For years I drove almost an hour one way — first south to Illinois and then a few years later I drove north. Both commutes took a lot of patience.

When I was younger, I wanted everything “right now!” I found it difficult to wait for anything, and considering my birthday is in July, and Christmas is in December, waiting for gift getting¬†seemed like an eternity. So, on the advice of my teachers, who were Catholic nuns, I began to pray for patience.

What a mistake that was! Ever since, it seems my creator has sent me a continuous stream of exercises to learn the virtue of patience. And then, I pick a profession that REQUIRES patience. Writing, rewriting, rewriting–well you get the picture if you’re a serious writer. I also dabble in painting. I want to¬†improve, so I practice and practice and practice–another exercise in patience and persistence. And then, of course, as most of you have read if you are out there reading in the blogging world, I am a caretaker for my husband, and I must stand back and wait for Ken to attempt doing something first before I step in to help. Needless to say, I’ve learned to count beyond ten.

Moral to the story: Be careful of what you ask for–you most likely will get it.

Have a good day, everybody!

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS — Book 2

Chapter 26

Minneapolis, Minnesota ‚Äď November‚ÄĒThe biting wind and snow of Minneapolis came early in the fall of 1939. By now, Josie and Anna fell into a comfortable routine on campus. Learning something new everyday excited both of the new freshmen. Josie especially enjoyed biology because peering through a microscope seemed like entering an unexplored world. She tolerated Art History class, and found calculus challenging.

The pressure to do well on final exams caused Josie and Anna to be testy with one another. Their little jabs grew into a knock-down-drag-’em-out shouting match one day over socks. After the blow up, the two stubborn girls refused to talk to one another and simmered in their own stew.

Josie replayed the scene in her mind the next day and couldn’t believe they argued over something so inconsequential.¬† How can two intelligent girls fight over something as foolish as socks lying on the floor?

At noon Josie guessed Anna would be in the cafeteria sitting at the same table they chose everyday. She glanced around the cavernous room and spied her roommate sitting in the corner staring out the floor-to-ceiling window which overlooked the snowy campus. Josie placed her tray on the table next to Anna and said, “Is this seat taken?”

Anna looked up at her. “No, but are you sure you want to sit with me? I’m such a bitch.”

“No you aren’t; I am.” Josie sat. “Two are needed to argue.”

“But-

“But, nothing.” Josie said. “I’m sorry. I’m blaming my bad behavior on the pressure of my first college finals. I keep studying, but I still worry I’m not prepared.”

Anna looked at Josie and recognized a genuine apology on her face. “You too? Oh, Josie! I’m so sorry. The minute those hateful words left my mouth last night I wished I never said them. I need to get A’s or my scholarship won’t be renewed next semester.” Anna confessed.

“Why didn’t you tell me? We attend a lot of the same classes; we should study together. So what if we drew different professors?” Josie touched Anna’s hand. “I am confident you will do fine. You’re one of the most brilliant students on campus . . .¬† next to me, of course.” Josie cracked a¬†smile.

“I don’t think I’m brilliant.” Anna pouted.

Josie scowled at her. “How dare you put yourself down! Stop it.” She paused and took a bite of her sandwich. “Here’s a thought.”

“What?”

“You’re working too hard. You need a break.”

“I can’t take a break now with so much on the line.” Anna protested.

“Nonsense. If you cram too much into your brain, some knowledge will leak out of your ears. Then you’ll really have a problem!” Josie chuckled. “Then I would have to take you to a doctor and he would prescribe two aspirin and a good rest.”

Anna was drawn into Josie’s banter. “And if I refuse to listen to the doctor?”

Josie put on a serious expression. “I would have to drag you to the union.” Josie paused. “Then you’d probably bump into Tommy, and he’ll take over. He’ll dance with you till your feet get blisters and your ears ring from the loud music. By the end of the night you’ll wonder why you kept reading the same paragraph over and over.” Josie teased.

“You do that too?” Anna laughed. “I am so lucky you’re my roommate, Thanks for being such a good friend.”

Josie smiled.¬†“No problem. Any time Doc Josie is needed, she races to the rescue. So we’re on tonight?”

“You bet!” Anna slammed the cover of her Chemistry book. “Enough of this stuff!”

The two girls finished their sandwiches and drank their hot chocolate. Anna smiled. “Back to the salt mines.”

“I’ll be back at the dorm around five.” Josie waved goodbye as she watched Anna leave the cafeteria. Relief set in. She chuckled when she thought their first fight ended without bloodshed.

Josie returned to the dorm and before she went upstairs, she¬†picked up her mail. She was delighted to find Donna Jean’s loopy scrawl on a pale pink, scented envelope.¬†¬†Donna’s letters always put her in a good mood.

November, 1939

Dear Josie,

Hope all is well at U of M. Things here are pretty much the same. I love my work, but I can’t say the same for my boss. I swear that man is another species of octopus. So far, my street smarts and quick reflexes have held him at bay, but I don’t know how long I can last.

The biggest change since we last corresponded is I’m dating Danny every weekend. We went to the movies last night. Took in “The Wizard of Oz.”¬† Danny thought the movie was a kids’ show. But I loved the picture. Dorothy reminded me of you. She got lost in this strange land called “Oz,” and all she wanted was to get home. She made friends along the way and together they searched for the Wizard who possessed the power to send her home and grant the others their wishes. When she landed in Oz, she pissed off the wicked witch because Dorothy put on the ruby slippers which belonged to the old bag’s sister. When old green face tried to take the shoes off of Dorothy, she got hit with a spark of electricity. She needed to kill Dorothy to get the shoes back. I wish you could be with me, Josie. Then we could rave about how wonderful it is to watch a movie in color!¬† I loved every minute!

¬†Before the movie, a newsreel presented a story of the New York World’s Fair¬†taking place¬†in Flushing Meadows. The name of the exposition is called “Building the World for Tomorrow.” I suggested to Danny we should go. He agreed the fair would be a gas, so we made tentative plans to take the train to New York. If we’re still together in June, we’re going to go. Won’t I be the talk of the office-a single girl going off with a boy¬†without a chaperon? How scandalous! (Ha, ha.)

After the movie, we went to Pudgy’s for a beer. Danny and I played the jukebox and danced to “I’ll Never Smile Again.” I just love Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra is such a babe. Now why can’t I meet a guy like him? (Ha, ha.)

Rosalie’s been a stranger lately. I called her but she said she didn’t feel well enough to meet. I guess she and Angelo must be hunkered down in the bedroom.

Well, gotta go. Want to get this in the mail for pick up tonight. I miss you lots. Can’t wait to hug you at Christmas. Be sure and save me some time when you come home.

Your friend forever, Donna

Chapter 27

Paris, France – November, 1939‚ÄĒEmma and Marta found a small flat near Napolean’s Triumphal Arch at the end of the Champs-Elysees.¬† The apartment’s convenient location proved to be perfect. Emma could walk to city hall, and Marta could hop a trolley to get to the Louvre. Cinemas, theatres, and luxurious shops which displayed the latest fashions in lovely windows surrounded their new home. Beautiful gardens and fountains made the area enchanting in spring and summer, but now that winter settled in, the girls made a habit of meeting after their work day at their favorite cafe to sit in the warm glow of its fireplace while they discussed their day.

“Do you think we can get a Christmas tree?” Marta asked.

“Where will we put a tree in our little flat, Cherie?

“If we got a very small one, we might put it by the window.”

Emma witnessed Marta’s enthusiasm for the German tradition. “Don’t you think buying a tree now is a little early? The fir will drop its needles before Christmas.”

“I did not intend to buy one now, but I would really like to celebrate our first Christmas in Paris by decorating a Christmas tree together.” Marta sipped her espresso as her eyes grew moist.

Emma moved her chair closer Marta. “Oh, Cherie, what makes you cry?”

“I am a little homesick. I got a letter from Vater yesterday¬†saying he never wants to lay eyes on me again.” Marta brushed away a tear rolling down her cheek. “I miss my mother’s Christmas cookies and all of the things we did together to get ready for the holiday. As much as I love Paris and being with you, I miss these things.”

Emma put her arm around Marta. She lifted the girl’s chin to search her eyes. “Homesickness is not a sin.¬† Please do not be sad.” Emma hugged her. “We can bake cookies and put up a tree. Anything you want to do to celebrate Christmas, we will do. Now we must make our own traditions, ja?”

“I hate being such a baby, but up until now we kept busy visiting all of the sights, fixing up our apartment, and just going on with life. I did not think about holiday traditions.¬† But with Christmas around the corner, I am remembering the good things about being with my parents.”

“Sweetheart, no matter what you chose to do after graduation, your life would never be the same. Everyone must learn how to live away from their parents at some stage. Do you want to go back to Berlin?” Emma said softly.

“No.” Marta said in an instant. “I love Paris; I love you. I want to stay.”

Emma interrupted her, “I love you too, and I want to make you happy. We will get a Christmas tree as big as a Sequoia if you want.”

Marta took another sip of her espresso. “No matter what happens in the future I want you to understand this time with you is the happiest period in my life.”

Emma placed a quick kiss on her cheek. “I feel the same,” she whispered.

*****

A few days later, Emma picked up the afternoon paper and the front page headline shouted at her. “Nazis Smash, Loot, and Burn Jewish Shops and Temples.”

November 9-10, 1939 ‚ÄďThe assassination of a German diplomat, Ernst vom Rath, by German-born Polish Jew, Herschel Grynszpan, gave the Nazis an excuse to damage Jewish homes, shops, towns, and villages. As the violence escalated, German civilians joined in the destruction with sledgehammers, leaving the streets covered in pieces of smashed windows-the world is calling the event Kristallnacht or the “Night of Broken Glass.”

Ninety-one Jews died and the SS storm troopers deported 30,000 Jewish people. Approximately 1,668 synagogues across the country suffered damage and 267 burned to the ground.

Emma gasped and threw down the paper in utter disgust. “Marta. You must read this.” She pointed to the headline.

Marta read the article, and no longer questioned her decision to stay in Paris.¬† Neither of them wanted to return a society that beat defenseless and innocent people. “This is terrible.”

“Yes.” Emma didn’t say she thought Marta’s father probably gave the order to attack the Jews. He made it no secret he hated them and now the Nazi leadership acquired an excuse to persecute the race.

Since 1936, each large city in each Germany specified where Jews could live. If they strayed away from this area, they faced beatings, jailing, or they might be shot in the street. No Jew could attend movies, plays, concerts, or other public social gatherings. All of these new laws isolated the Jewish population from other German citizens. A propaganda campaign of posters and newsreels portrayed them as less than human.

The political changes led to two goals. Eliminate the Jews from Europe. And expand Germany’s borders with another world war.

A Better Day

The statistics of my blog are pretty dismal, especially after my unveiling of the crappy things that have happened this week. I think that statistic means people don’t relish reading stuff about ordinary tough times. But color me confused. Why does the news media focus on the worst things that can happen to humans every night? Why do they focus on building fear–even with the weather? They lead story every night is about a shotting, a fire, a flood, an earthquake, a mudslide–you get the picture. Even worse, if nothing of the sort happened in the local area, they’ll dig up stories from other communities across the country to fill their quota of daily horror.

However, if I am going to use this medium as a possible vehicle to help other caregivers, I must relate. If I only talked about all the wonderful things in my life and my relationship with Ken, that would sugar-coat reality. Other caretakers might think they must be doing something wrong because they experience bad days. Their times are anything but good everyday. Understand?

But I also get the point that others don’t want to be slapped in the face with sad stories all the time. So today, I will refrain from any more terrifying stories.

Enough is enough already.

Yesterday I went to “Sam’s Club” with my dear friend Jackie to pick up three months of paper products, a few groceries, and a couple of other things we “needed.” After spending too much money, Jackie and I sat down for lunch. We love Sam’s¬†hot dogs, and of course, we always have chips for a “side,” and soda as our preferred beverage. To top off our indulgent lunch we ordered a decadent frozen yogurt. After sharing a few laughs, we headed home. Our trip lasted about two hours.

When I got home, Ken was sitting in his chair. I put away all the purchases and then made him lunch. The problem was, he was too fatigued to eat. Then¬†I also heard he needed to use his “life line” button to call for help. Yup. He fell again.

First I felt guilty about not being there when he had trouble, and then when I thought about the situation more rationally, I realized what I had put in place to keep him safe had worked. The guilt flew away.

Today he seems fine. Hopefully it will stay that way and we’ll go outside to our patio and enjoy a hot game of Scrabble. Life can be so good in between the crap. Have a good day, everyone!

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2

Chapter 24

Warsaw, Poland – September 1939‚ÄĒHeidi and Dora packed the car during the morning and in the afternoon they sewed money and valuables in hems of coats and dresses. They woke the children after midnight and carried them into the garage at the back of the house. When the children settled down, Dora put the key in the ignition of the Rolls Royce Edward bought the year before. She offered a prayer for a safe journey and backed the car out of the driveway. She choked down her fear of what might come. Would she be able to escape? Would she ever be able to come back to her home someday?¬† She gave birth to their children in their bedroom. She decorated the place with her art work and made delicious meals in their kitchen. She and Edward would never eat by candlelight in their dining room again, while their children slept safely in their feather beds. She would never play her grand piano again. She would never make love again with Edward in their bedroom. She and Edward built a wonderful life together. But would they ever find each other again? Dora drove away with her memories and fears as she clenched the steering wheel with white¬†knuckles.

Refugees crowded the roads leading away from Warsaw. People of all ages carried suitcases. Horse-drawn wagons and pushcarts of all sizes cluttered the road. When Heidi witnessed so many down trodden people fleeing, she thanked God Dora owned a car. Heidi couldn’t image this journey with three pre-school children on foot.

After they left the city limits, the roads became very dark and unfamiliar. She concentrated on heading south and commanded herself to get to Lviv as fast as possible. Dora tried to focus on the future, not what she left behind. She focused on keeping her children safe.

At the same time Heidi did her best to mask her fear and sadness. They cut the darkness in silence, alone with their private thoughts. Heidi prayed for her Uncle Hans and the children. The invasion would certainly make their lives difficult. For a few seconds she second guessed herself. Perhaps she should have stayed with Uncle Hans and help him with the children. But no. He and the children would be safe. Dora probably wouldn’t be. I’m doing the right thing. God wants me to help Dora. She is a gentle woman. She never experienced a harsh life and the ugliness of the world. She’s privileged and well-schooled, so she needs help with household chores, and I can do those for her. Mutter would do the same if she found herself in this situation. Uncle Hans will understand. Only Vater will be angry.

In the distance heavy artillery shells exploded lighting up the sky with thunderous blasts. The road rumbled. Dora squeezed the steering wheel harder. Her instinct demanded she drive faster, but with the stream of refugees, she maneuvered the car slowly. The moonless night engulfed the travelers in uncharted darkness. Dora prayed. Two women traveling alone with three children provided an easy target.

After an hour, the crowd of refugees thinned as Warsaw faded miles behind them. The starless night seemed to be an omen of dread; nobody desired¬†an uncertain future, but that’s exactly what everyone in Poland inherited from a blood thirsty neighbor.

As Dora’s fear escalated, she drove faster. Her thoughts kept repeating: I’m doing the right thing. I must save the children. I must get out of Poland.

The high¬†speed frightened Heidi. “Mrs. Gessler, I think we should slow down; we don’t want to attract attention with your fancy car.”

After listening to Heidi’s comment, Dora laughed. “I will slow down, Heidi, but I think we can drive as fast as we want with no other vehicles on the road.”

Heidi laughed with her. Some how the ridiculous comment broke the tension each of them felt. Heidi¬†took a deep breath and¬†settled back into the soft¬†leather seat. The two women retreated back into their own thoughts as the miles passed. Heidi read the map with a flashlight and instructed Dora to make the proper turns to reach their destination. With every mile behind them, Dora thought, “What will I do if we’re stopped?”

*****

After driving nearly three hours, Dora found enough gas to get them the rest of the way to Lviv. Heidi gave herself private pep talks to assure this adventure would be positive. She hedged her bets by praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary for a safe journey into a foreign land.

After filling the gas tank, the rest of the trip proved to be uneventful until they entered Lviv. The streets overflowed with tired, hungry refugees. The sight of their dirty faces and blank stares alarmed Dora as she realized professionals and peasants existed on an equal plain. In a few short days, Lviv turned into a ghetto of people with no where else to go.

Chapter 25

¬†Lviv, Ukraine – September, 1939‚ÄĒDora and Heidi were¬†luckier than most people who came to Lviv for Soviet protection. Along with their clothes, they packed enough food for a couple of weeks. Shortages of food and water drove people to fight in the streets.

Heidi suggested they stay in the car on the outskirts of the town until Dora found a place to live. While Dora searched, Heidi attended to the children and distracted them with games and stories. David cried to go home; Ruthie wanted her toys; even baby Jacob seemed to understand things had changed.

After two days, Dora still searched for suitable housing. Every place offered rundown, crowded, conditions. Very few clean rooms existed. On the third day of her search, Dora settled on renting one room in a newer apartment building. The windowless room only offered two beds. They needed to share a bathroom at the end of the hall with four other families.

Dora returned to Heidi and the children before lunch. The petite, beautiful woman appeared much older than she was the day before. Tears formed in her eyes as¬†she told Heidi¬†about their new residence. “I found a place for us to sleep. The room is clean, but Spartan. We should be safe living there.”

“I am sure it will be fine, Mrs. Gessler.” Heidi said in a calm voice.

“My dear, Heidi. From now on, please call me Dora. We are partners in this adventure, not employer and employee. Our roles changed overnight, do¬†you not agree?”

“Of course.” Heidi paused. “Dora.”

Dora’s voice went higher as she spoke to the children. “Time to go. Mama found a place for us to sleep. We do not want the landlord to rent our room¬†to someone else. We must hurry.”

David asked, “Why are you crying, Mama?”

“They are happy tears, my darling. Do not worry. They are happy tears.” Dora lied.

Dora drove into the bulging city while people stared at the car. If they drove through the center of town in a red fire truck with sirens blaring, their appearance wouldn’t have caused as much attention as the brand new Rolls did.

Heidi whispered.¬†“I think we need to hide the car.”

“Yes, but let us first get the children settled into the apartment.”

Heidi nodded.

Dora parked behind the apartment building and instructed David and Ruth to grab a bag and follow her. Heidi brought up the rear with the baby and whatever else she could carry. Dora led them to the third floor and put a key in the lock. When the door opened, six year old David cried. “Mama, this is our new house? I want to go home!”

“Now David, don’t be fresh. We must stay here until I can find something better. I need you to be a big little man.”

Ruth stomped her foot.¬†“I want to go home too!”

Dora hugged her daughter and whispered, “Me too, sweetheart. Me too.”

 

Preparing for Spring

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll send pictures.

Create Your Own World by Writing It Down

Every time I turn around, I read something that reminds me that I have the power to design my own life, create my own world, manifest good things into my life. I know deep in my heart this is¬†true because every important thing I’ve ever wanted has come into my life. My children, Ken, a cozy home, my pug dog, my cat, and even our wheelchair van have appeared when I needed/wanted them.

After I divorced my first husband, who was a person would not leave his backyard, I finally had a chance to do the travel I always wanted to do. My adventures were shared with two wonderful women I met on a “fam” trip which landed in my lap because I did marketing for a travel agency and no one could participate in this completely free trip. After our first meeting, Jane and Robin¬†took me along as their companion on other “fam” trips for the cruise lines.

I thought cruising was only in my dreams, but to my delight, even this exotic dream manifested itself into my life. We traveled the islands of the Western, Southern, and Eastern Caribbean. I saw Bermuda and Mexico. Then Ken came into my life and we cruised down the western coast of Mexico and South America, through the Panama Canal and into the Caribbean to land on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico.

I always wanted to have a book published, and becoming Ken’s caretaker gave¬†me an opportunity to get six of my stories published. In this department, I still want more. I want to be published by a larger publishing house. Now my affirmation goes something like, “I will be a well-known author.” I think about this everyday. What I haven’t done is put it in writing. Funny, huh? You’d think this would be the first thing a writer would do, right?

Because I do believe in the power of words and thought, I’m very cautious about what I say. Do I want big royalty checks and all the hoopla that goes with them? I’m sure I’d like the money, but I know I will never sell my soul to get it. Life is too short. So I hesitate.

As I ponder this great question of fame and whether I want it or not, I have fallen into a deep drought of ideas for my next story. Inspiration has alluded me, and all of you are probably nauseous that I would bring up the “block” again. It frustrated me I haven’t been able to even start a short story. . . or for that matter to stay loyal to my blog. So those of you who take the time to read this post, I thank you for putting up with me. I truly hope that you manifest what you want in your life. Remember, it only takes a moment to put your dreams in writing and watch them come true.

Perhaps my vacation in a couple of weeks will do the trick. That’s right. The pieces fell into place so Ken has the best care and all precautions for his safety have been covered while I get away to Florida for four days. Now, if¬†I could only control the weather . . .

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.

 

Who Misses Grocery Shopping?

grocery shoppingOur corner of the country is still in the grasp of this never-ending winter. Every night the weather man (who I am beginning to hate), forecasts colder than  normal temperatures and of course, snow. Yuck!

I’ve done my best to fight back with writing and painting, but honestly, the gray sights outside my window and the mounting bills of snow removal are getting to me. Enough already!

Ken and I have a fear of falling on the ice. I can’t pick him up. In fact, last week, I had to call 911 to get some help to pick him up off the floor after we struggled together for an hour. Having him fall outside would be tragic, and if I went down, we’d both be in hot soup.

So, winter has kept Ken and me in stasis. We work on our computers staring at each other across the room. He’s become a Spider Solitaire junkie as I entertain myself with reading, writing, and Candy Crush (as well as other FB games). To break this monotony we promised ourselves, on a good day we will leave these four walls at least once a week to enjoy a nice dinner/lunch together. . . even if we only go to Burger King.

Yesterday was our day.

Temperatures soared¬†rose into the 20’s and off we went. It always amazes me a change of scenery has such a positive effect on both of us. In a restaurant we ponder over the menu to find that special dish that will send our taste buds into a happy place. We use our restaurant manners, putting napkins on our laps. We joke with our server. We take our time and make conversation about what is going ¬†on around us. Best of all, when we are finished, there is nothing to clean up. We pay the check, put on our coats, and leave. Who would think such a simple outing would perk us up the way it does?

I share this snippet of our simple life as a reminder life can’t be taken for granted. Because life is in a constant state of flux, you never know what surprise waits for you around the corner. Ten years ago, Ken and I would meet for dinner after an exhausting work day because neither of us had the energy to go home and cook dinner. We would joke with a Greek owner of a family restaurant we were going to “let her cook” tonight. We satisfied our hunger and went home to “let it all hang out.” Going to a restaurant at this point in our lives was to fulfill a need; it was not a social event.

As Ken’s Multiple Sclerosis progresses, doing simple things have become exhausting for him. Taking a shower, getting dressed, and driving his wheel chair to the living room tires him. Having energy to go out and enjoy a meal has become rare.

As I watch him struggle everyday,  I wonder what will be left for us tomorrow and the next day. We have lost so many simple pleasures already. Even enjoying a hug and kiss has become difficult. Do you realize we used to enjoy grocery shopping together or going about our Saturday chores together? It strikes me funny I miss those simple activities. But I do.

If any of you learn anything from me by reading this blog, I hope you understand it is important to live in the present. Don’t take simple things like grocery shopping with your husband for granted. Make parties out of ridiculous things like “it’s Tuesday.”

Enjoy every minute even if you are in pain or feeling lonely. You’re present circumstances may be pleasant or miserable, but I assure you, they are temporary. Hopefully, the sun will come out for you tomorrow. ¬†Find joy in every minute . . . no matter what.

A New Day, A New Year

new yearAs we turned the calendar from the last day of 2013 to the first day of 2014, most people look at the new year as a clean slate–a time to start anew. Optimism outweighs pessimism. Joy outweighs sorrow. The ball dropped in New York. Let’s get on with it. Right?

The truth is for most of us, things change very little. The resolutions fall by the wayside in a couple of weeks, and our lives go back to “normal.” Yet, every December 31st we are all hopeful for bigger and better things. Why? Is the unknown that appealing as we look forward? Or do we look to the new year for an escape from what is too familiar? Who knows for sure?

I do know one thing, though, on the television program, “Let’s Make a Deal” contestants usually take the unknown value in lieu of what is a sure thing. The unknown for some reason is more appealing to them.

I’m the first person to get in line to try something new, but through the years I’ve become more cautious. All of my positions in the corporate world for twenty years were new ones. I blazed a trail and didn’t have to run on a worn track. I loved the challenge that the new positions gave me.

Three years ago, I took a teaching job when I never planned to teach anything and found out I enjoyed it . . . for awhile. When I discovered after three years, so many of my students didn’t have curiosity to learn and challenge themselves, I fell out of love with teaching.

This year I plan to devote myself to writing. It’s the one thing I have always come back to when other professions have beat me up. Because I deviated into teaching, I lost my zest for communing with my computer for hours and fumbled the ball. I didn’t blog everyday as I intended. I convinced myself I had writer’s block, when in fact, I got lazy and played mindless computer games for hours.

But it’s a New Year. My resolution is to get back to basics and finish my next novel. I am committed. As I watch commuter gridlock on the television news, I am thankful I don’t have to fight the winter elements to complete my tasks. I can sit on my new recliner and go to work with my little Ernie dog keeping me company in my chosen solitary profession. Life is so good.

What have you promised yourself for 2014?

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.