Tag Archive | computers

Will Machines Make Us Obsolete?

I’ve been a fan of Science Fiction for a long time. As a writer, I admire people who can look into the far future and present a story that has the possibility of coming true. All good science fiction has this element. For all you Trekkies out there, you understand. Just look what has happened since William Schatner portrayed Captain Kirk.

“Communicators” have become cell phones. A stun gun is a close relative to the phaser. The crew used electronic tablets–guess what? We do too–ever heard of the I-pad or a Kindle? Remember the touch screen on the television series? Voila! Windows 10 to the rescue! A scientist in Japan has made a look-a-like robot he sends to locations to give speeches when he can’t attend. Remember “Data?” Then there’s there’s the whole matter/anti-matter thing that I really don’t understand.

Why on earth am I thinking of such things. I got inspired last night as the finale of “Extant” aired. If you’re not familiar with the plot, it spins a tale of aliens and machines taking over our world. Far-fetched? I don’t think so.

I’m not going to address the alien part of the story because so far we haven’t even determined whether there is another Earth some where in the galaxy. I will address the takeover machines are making.

Every time I see or read about a machine filling in for humans in the work place, I become leery and frankly, a little scared. So many devices are filling our world and most people welcome them with arms outstretched. They take our jobs. They fill our factories and businesses. They even live in our pockets and purses. Machines run our world already. Satellites connect us and then pull us apart. Other satellites run our computers and even our gas pumps. Wonder if all of the connected and went on strike? Where could that leave us? The growth of technology is supposed to make our lives easier, but do they?

I know the program “Extant” is just so much TV magic, but it makes one think. At least I hope so. I can tell you one thing, if a machine tries to take my job, I would pull its plug!

 

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 6 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 4

North Africa, May—Josie rose early and went about her routine. She worked harder than any nurse under her supervision holding herself as accountable as any nurse in her command.  She earned her title, “Nurse Ironsides” and smiled every time she overheard someone refer to her with her “title of distinction.”

A corpsman met her at the mess tent one morning and saluted her. “Ma’am, beggin’ your pardon, ma’am.”

She returned his salute. “Yes private?”

“The colonel wants you to stop by his tent ASAP, ma’am.”

“Thank you soldier.” Josie left her meal and went straight to the colonel’s tent.

Josie removed her helmet as she entered the colonel’s office and saluted him as she stood in front of his desk. “You wanted to see me, sir?”

“Yes, Lieutenant. Please sit down.”

Josie sat in the chair opposite the side of the desk of where the Colonel sat.

“Josie, you are one of the most integral members of our staff here. The nurses here are a fine team, and that’s on you. Every corpsman, officer, and doctor holds you in high regard.”

“Thank you sir; I’m just doing my job.”

“Well, the brass recognizes your accomplishments too and issued new orders for you.”

“Sir?”

“You’re being transferred to the tenth field hospital in Sicily. They need a nurse like you to head up operations. For accepting this combat assignment, you will receive a pay increase, but unfortunately, no bump in rank. I wanted to promote as well, but the brass seems to think you’re a little too young and not seasoned enough to merit a promotion.”

“Yes sir.” Josie remained stone face serious, but inside she dreaded this move. “When am I to go, sir?”

“You’ll leave tomorrow.”

“Yes sir.”

The colonel rose and saluted her. “Josie, I’m very sorry to lose you. You’re as tough as any man and yet you possess the gentleness of a good woman. Keep your head down lieutenant. And God Speed.”

“Thank you sir.” Josie returned his salute, turned on her heel, and left the colonel’s office replaying his words. I need to leave tomorrow? Why so quickly?

Immediately she made plans to inform her staff and appoint an interim replacement until the Army officially appointed someone. She remained with her thoughts about the move. I guess I always wanted to go to Italy because Rosalie’s father got a faraway look in his eye every time he spoke about “the old country.” And now I’ll see for myself, but I know it will be anything but a vacation.

*****

The next morning a driver picked up Josie at 0600 to bring her to the dock where the ship for Sicily would disembark. Josie readied herself to enter another active combat zone and worked to mentally prepare for her new assignment.

At the edge of the base hospital, all fifty-nine nurses, the corpsmen, and the doctors lined up at the edge of the road and saluted Josie. The driver stopped as the nurses sang the “Army Nurse Corps” song as their goodbye and tribute to Josie. Their gesture spoke loudly to what extent the medical personnel loved her. Tears of joy and sorrow covered Josie’s face. She jumped off the jeep and hugged everyone thanking them for their hard work. She got back and the jeep, waved and shouted, “I’ll miss you guys!”

Josie remained silent the rest of the way to the dock. When the jeep finally stopped, the corpsman got out of the vehicle and hugged her. “Keep your head down, Josie. I’ll miss you.”

“I will, Jack. Thanks for the lift.” She wiped away a pesky tear that escaped from her left eye. She marched with confidence and her equipment on her back toward the ship which would take her into battle once again.

*****

U.S. and British troops invaded Sicily on July 9, 1943. The medical staff needed to arrive three days later, but even with the slight delay, the nurses found themselves in the thick of combat.

As they landed on the island, German Stuka dive bombers sprayed machine gunfire on the troops below. Doctors and nurses dove into slit trenches and foxholes. As Josie crouched in the trench, she thought of the large number of wounded soldiers having to wait for treatment while the enemy kept her pinned down.

When the sergeant in charge told his troops to move out, Josie followed. They made their way into a small town the allies held. The church served as the hospital and Josie was right. Many new casualties waited for help. A nurse triaged the wounded; when she saw Josie she smiled. “Are you Josephine Schneider?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“They need you in the back. Dr. Bachman has his handful without a surgical nurse assisting.”

Josie knew all medical units came equipped with at least one surgical nurse. “What happened to the nurse I’m replacing?”

“She died from shrapnel wounds after a bomb went off in the center of town. Store your gear in the room to the left and then report to surgery – stat!”

“Yes ma’am.” Josie gulped and went to work.

Chapter 4

Paris, France-June 1943—A whole year had passed and there was still no information about Emma.  Marta wrote letters every day hoping a kind prison matron at Anrath prison might deliver her correspondence. It was therapeutic for Martha to keep writing about daily events because discussing them in a letter in the same words she might speak at supper helped her believe Emma still lived. In the back of her mind, she also realized Emma might never be given her letters.

On a hot day in June, Pierre passed Marta on her way to work. He fell in step beside her and greeted her with daily pleasantries. “Marta! How wonderful to see you again.”

“Likewise, Pierre. How are you getting along?”

“As well as to be expected.” Pierre answered as he tipped his hat to a Nazi standing on the corner of the street.

After they got out of ear-shot of the German soldier, Pierre said, “A surprise for you, mademoiselle.” He handed her a newspaper.

“A surprise?”

“Inside, a train ticket to Vichy is for you. I am sending you on a little vacation to the South of France.” Pierre winked at Marta.

“Really?” Marta wondered why Pierre said such an odd thing.  “Why?”

“Someone wants to meet you.”  Pierre said in hushed tones. “Get on the train today. Take little with you and stay at the train station until you are contacted by one of my people.”

Marta’s body stiffened and her eyes widened. “What’s going on Pierre?”

“Just do as I tell you, Marta. You will be very happy if you follow my instructions.” Pierre raised one eyebrow as he puffed out his chest. He slipped her a newspaper which held her train ticket. “Take this with you, mademoiselle. The story on page six is most stimulating.” He smiled at her and walked away with a swift gait.

Chapter 5

Montpellier, France – June—After her encounter with Pierre, Marta turned to go back to her apartment. She packed an overnight bag and called her superior at the Louvre to say she had been called away for a family emergency and would miss the next few days at work. The train would leave the Paris station at noon.

Marta wondered why Pierre wanted her to make this trip, but because Emma trusted Pierre with her life, she would too. She took the bus to the Paris train station, boarded the train to Montpellier, and chose a seat next to well-dressed young woman. The woman appeared to be about her age, She wore a stylish white suit with matching shoes, a large hat, and a large diamond ring on her left ring finger which proclaimed her wealth.  Marta recognized no ordinary citizen wore such beautiful clothes, and she instantly put up her guard. It was likely this woman was a German sympathizer.

The woman greeted her. “Bonjour!”

Marta smiled. “Good morning, to you too.”She folded her hands across her handbag resting her lap.

“Are you going to Montpellier?”

Marta asked in a soft voice. “Why do you ask?”

The woman’s spoke nonchalantly. “No reason. Just curious. I like to visit with my seat mate when I travel. The trip does not seem to drag on so when I talk with the person sitting beside me.”

Marta really didn’t really want to engage in conversation with this stranger. She didn’t want to take a chance because a bit of her German accent lingered in her voice, and she didn’t want to raise any suspicion.  Plus, instinct told Marta not to trust the beauty who sat on the adjacent seat. Marta wanted to be sure she didn’t divulge anything about her mysterious trip. “I am very tired. I do not want to be rude, but I do not wish to visit. I would rather sleep.” Marta smiled and closed her eyes.

The French countryside whiz by the window as Marta wondered why she Pierre insisted she make this trip. In six long hours, she would understand.

*****

Marta allowed herself to fall asleep which served two purposes. She would be rested when she arrived at her undetermined destination, and the silence fended off any further conversation attempts by the woman beside her.

The train pulled into the station, and after it came to a stop, Marta filed off behind the well-dressed woman. As they left the train, the conductor offered his hand to female passengers aiding them as they made the large step down off the train to the platform.

The well-dressed woman said in a too pleasant voice, “Bonne journ!”

“You enjoy your day, too.” Marta smiled and strolled in the opposite direction.

Now at the train station Marta didn’t understand the plan Pierre set in place for her. She studied the train departure and arrival board as she anticipated her contact. Then she strolled from one of end to the station to the other. A tall man dressed in casual white slacks and sear-sucker blazer approached her.

“Hello, Marta.” He tipped his straw hat.

“Hello.” She said shyly.

“I am your driver. Please follow me.”

Marta hesitated. “You’re a friend of Pierre’s?”

“Yes, mademoiselle.

The mysterious man escorted her to a small car. He pulled away from the station and drove through the unfamiliar countryside to a sleepy Mediterranean coastal town. Marta breathed in the fresh salt air as the coolness of the breeze coming off the sea brushed across her body. A fishy odor permeated the beach area, but in a strange way, she found the scent pleasant. She never saw seaside scenery, and Marta enjoyed the picturesque view. The sapphire colored water, the gentle waves lapping the shore, boats bobbing at the pier transported her to a foreign land she loved at first sight.

The driver stopped in a quiet residential area about three city blocks from the coast. He turned off the engine and smiled. “We are here.” He jumped out of the car, opened Marta’s door, and offered her his arm.

Marta received his gesture, carrying her overnight bag and purse in the other hand. They walked on a cobblestone walkway flanked by beautiful red roses on both sides. Marta’s heart pounded harder against her ribs with every step. She wished the man would tell her why he chose this place. He led her up a flight of stairs to the door labeled Apt. 212.  He unlocked the door to reveal a sunlit cozy flat where a bony old woman rocked in a chair near the window. Marta’s brow wrinkled as she stared at the frail woman struggling to stand up to greet her. Without a word, the tall man put the key to the apartment on the table next to the door and left without a word.

The old woman spoke first. “You do not recognize me, Marta?”

The sound of her voice, told Marta the identity of this stranger. She gasped and put her hand to her mouth. “Oh, my God! Emma?”

“Yes.” Emma nodded as her eyes moistened.

Marta moved closer. “My Emma? How? When?”

“I am free at last. Let me feast my eyes on you. You are so beautiful!” Her voice quavered. Emma welcomed Marta into her bony arms.

Marta didn’t move. How could this woman be Emma?  She stared at this stranger.

Emma consoled her. “I understand my appearance is wretched, but I will recover now that I am with you again.” Her eyes told the truth.

“Oh, Emma. What did they do to you?” Marta moved closer as tears collected at the rim of her eyes.

“Someday I may tell you.  But for right now, I just want to be happy we are together again.”

Marta blinked again and again to ward off the tears wanting to escape as she stared at this poor, bone-thin woman struggling to move. Seeing Emma in such bad condition broke her heart. Her healthy, athletic, beautiful Emma now appeared as a battered, broken woman. Emma put her skeleton arms around Marta and hugged her. Marta didn’t expect her to be so strong.

After standing close for several minutes, Emma kissed Marta’s cheek while her eyes glistened. “I thought we would never be together again.”

Marta caressed her gently. “Welcome home, Emma. I missed you so much.”

 

 

 

Computer Woes

I’m going to keep this post very short because I am struggling with two computers which are not behaving. I telll them one thing and they do another. It’s like coping with disobeying children. My old computer is locked saying its “Logging Off.” It’s been logging off for three hours now. I wish I could give it a pep pill, and order it to work.

My new little baby is also being stubborn. I’ve been trying to load my HP software for my printer/scanner/copier,  and I can’t get it to accept the software. Perhaps it’s too old? It works on my husband’s computer so I don’t know why I can’t bring it up on mine. Then I tried to set up an email address and got more frustration. Both chores should have been easy, but today its not. So, I’ve found the best course of action is to wait for another wave of patience and try again later.

If this strategy doesn’t work, I’ll be forced to contact the Geek Squad and pay them to straighten out these two bad boys.

######

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 16

Lacrosse, Wisconsin — August 7th—Exhaustion ruled Rosalie’s day. The heat stayed oppressive, and her due date sped by without stopping. She thanked God Gina still took an afternoon nap, so she could put her swollen ankles up on the ottoman while she listened to the afternoon soap operas on the radio. Rosalie also .planned their meals around the foods which would be available in the grocery store for that week. Rationing made meal preparation a science, but the government’s monthly meal-planning guides offered menus using the available food, and Rosalie found them helpful.  Rosalie made sure dinner was ready when Donna got home. Dining together was good for both of them. Rosalie didn’t need to face the hardest part of the day alone. And Donna’s first two weeks on the assembly line made for interesting conversation. Her keen ability to relate a story in a humorous ways kept Rosalie’s laughing. The other source of joy came from little Gina who gave both of them a constant source of entertainment as she learned how to talk.

As it turned out, Rosalie’s parents got so involved in the war effort they didn’t have time to help her. Eduardo volunteered to head up the scrap drive at their church and worked tirelessly hauling scrap metal, paper, and rubber to the recycling center. He also volunteered to be the block captain for air raid drills. Mama Lombardo ran the restaurant. Rationing deeply affected their menus, but Mama made an arrangement with Mrs. Schneider to get extra eggs from their farm to make pasta. So far, flour didn’t disappear from the grocery shelves.  When Mama wasn’t making pasta, she canned spaghetti sauce with the fresh tomatoes, peppers, and garlic they grew in their garden. Eduardo planted twice as many plants this year, anticipating shortages.  At night, she “rested” winding bandages for the soldiers with the Red Cross.

******

The first Saturday in August Donna planned a picnic at the riverfront to help Rosie cool off. Both girls needed a break from the stifling August heat wave. Donna drove Angelo’s truck because Rosalie’s pregnant body no longer fit behind the steering wheel. They parked at their favorite spot along the riverside park and all of a sudden Rosalie held her breath.

“Rosie, what’s going on?  Donna’s voice grew concern.

“Nothing. Just little twinge.” Rosie said.

“What kind of twinge?”

“It feels like a little tug across my belly.  I’m fine, let’s enjoy our picnic.” Rosalie grabbed the picnic basket and drew in a deep breath as she bent over. “Ow!”

“Tell me when the next one comes, okay? Promise me, even if the twinge is a little one, you’ll tell me.” Donna ordered.

“Why?”

Donna answered. “Because I want to time them. I think your twinges are the beginning of labor.”

“But, I don’t feel anything in my back like last time.”

“Of course, not silly. Labor isn’t in your back.”

“Gina’s labor was.”

Donna reminded her. “Every baby is different. Maybe this one wants to come into the world face down.”

Rosalie grabbed her belly. “Oh–Wow!”

Donna stood up on the blanket and picked up the picnic basket. “Come on!  We’re going. I’ll drop Gina off at the restaurant with your Mom, and then you and I are going to the hospital.”

Rosalie protested. She wanted to be at the beach all week. “But–”

“No buts, I’m not arguing with you.” Donna piled everything back into the truck, picked up Gina with a kiss, and got behind the wheel. “Get in the car, Rosie.”

Gina kicked and screamed, “No, Auntie Doe-Doe. Go Swim!”

Donna smiled at the sweet child. “I’m sorry, sweetie. Mommy needs to go to the hospital to bring your new sister or brother into the world..”

“No! Go swim!” Gina stomped her feet and cried until Auntie Doe-Doe gave her a gentle swat on her butt and wedged her between herself and Rosie. Gina cried all the way to the restaurant.

Donna took the wailing child into Lombardo’s restaurant and found Rosalie’s mother in the kitchen. When Mrs. Lombardo saw Donna with the distraught Gina, she wiped her hands on a towel and motioned to Donna to hand over the child. “Donna, what are you doing here? Come here, bambina. Nana will fix. Do you want a cookie?”

Donna gasped for a breath. “Rosie’s in labor. I’m taking her to the hospital.”

“Oh, my God!” Mrs. Lombardo said. “I must call Eduardo. You go. He will come to the hospital and meet you.”

“Okay.” Donna ran to the truck, patted Rosalie’s hand, and squealed the tires as she left the parking lot.

A nurse shortage required Rosie to be put in a labor ward with a dozen other women. Moans and screams echoed through the halls as mothers and sisters stood by trying to coach the woman in the bed through her agony. Only one man held his wife’s hand.

Rosie promised herself she wouldn’t scream this time; instead she planned to offer up her pain up God so He might protect Angelo.

Donna wiped the sweat off of Rosalie’s forehead and shared every labor pain as they ripped through Rosie’s body. She wondered if Angelo experienced the same helplessness she felt now. Donna held Rosalie’s hand and told her to squeeze hard when the pains came. After two hours, Rosalie appeared surprised.

“What’s wrong, Rosie?” Donna asked.

Rosalie whispered. “I feel like I need to poop!”

Donna said, “Do you mean you want to push?”

Rosie nodded yes.

“I’m going to get the doctor.” Donna ran from the ward and flagged down the only nurse in the hallway.

The nurse gave Rosalie a quick check. “Mrs. Armani, you’re ready to delivery your baby.” She helped Rosalie into a wheelchair and headed for the delivery room.

Like all good husbands, Donna got banished to the father’s waiting room.

Fifteen minutes later, the nurse came back with good news. Rosalie had a boy.

Donna stared at her. “A boy? What the hell are we going to do with a boy?”

The nurse gave her a strange look and took Donna back to Rosalie’s bedside.

“I hear Angelo put the stem on the apple!” Donna said.

“What?” Rosalie said with weariness.

“The baby’s a boy!” Donna exclaimed. “And everything is all right?”

“Everything is perfect.” Rosie whispered as a single tear rolled down her face. “I want Angelo, Donna. He needs to hold his son.”

“Oh, Rosie. What can I do?” Donna said as Rosalie cried and held her son close.

Donna bent down and peaked at the baby. In a soothing voice she spoke to the new mother. “Holy Cow! He’s about as big as a loaf of Wonder Bread! Can I hold the little tiger for a minute? You look so tired.” Donna consoled.

“Sure.” Rosalie handed the baby to Donna with a smile. “You’re his Auntie Doe-Doe after all.”

Donna cradled the new born with a surge of love she never experienced before. She peeled back the blanket to reveal a perfect baby. The nurses arranged his dark curly hair in a kewpie-doll twist on the top of his head. She counted his fingers and toes and noted he came with the right number of digits. “He looks just like his Daddy, Rosie.”

“I know. I see Angelo’s eyes when I gaze at him, so he’ll get his Daddy’s name, too.”

Donna whispered. “Welcome to the world, little Angelo.” She kissed the baby’s forehead. His newborn scent settled in her nose. Donna wondered at that moment whether she might want a baby of her own someday.

*****

Eduardo entered the room as Rosie slept, and Donna rocked the baby boy at the side of her bed.

Donna whispered, “Mr. Lombardo, come in.”

Eduardo crept into the quiet scene.

Donna pulled back the blanket to reveal the baby’s chubby face. “Meet your Grandson Angelo.”

Eduardo’s chest seemed to expand two sizes. “He looks just like his Papa.”

Donna smiled. “Yes he does.”

Eduardo faced Donna and said, “Thank you for taking care of my Rosie. I will always be indebted to you for your kindness.”

“No thanks is necessary, Mr. Lombardo. I love Rosie, too.”

Eduardo hugged Donna and finally understood why Rosalie considered her such a dear friend.

Chapter 17

Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands – South Pacific—On August 7, 1942 at 0600 hours the American Navy started shelling Guadalcanal Island. Intelligence told the Americans the Japanese intended to finish an airfield, so their planes didn’t need to rely on their aircraft carriers. The Americans needed Guadalcanal airfield to begin bombing Tokyo and other major cities in Japan. Angelo and his unit ate a hardy breakfast of Spam and powered eggs before the first marine division landed at 0730. Securing Red Beach seemed simple enough during the briefing, but most men on the ship never faced combat before. Most hid their fear in bravado or silence. Their unknown future proved to be more of a threat than the enemy.

Angelo fidgeted and paced the deck. After weeks of sea sickness, tedious work, night watches, plus drilling every waking hour, the time finally came to put his killing skills to work.

The only Marine who didn’t appear anxious was Angelo’s young friend Bobby.  He sat alone taking deep drags on a cigarette. His youth and inexperience blinded him from the realities of battle. Angelo guessed Bobby viewed their assignment as a game. Or, maybe Bobby didn’t give a damn if he died because he thought nobody loved him.

The Marines descended the net ladder to the Higgins boats which bobbed in the surf. When the unit filled the boat, the driver headed for shore. This time the ramp would lower. This time they all would run for the beach. This time they would encounter the enemy. Everyone stared ahead with their private thoughts.

After the ramp dropped close to the beach, the marines jumped into the waist-high water with guns held high. They expected bullets to impede them, but no shells or bullets greeted them.  Angelo breathed a sigh of relief. His first landing proved to be a cinch. No enemy. No casualties. No death. He looked up to the sky and said under his breath, “Rosie must be doing some hardcore praying.”

Bobby scowled with disappointed after the quiet landing. The sergeant in charge yelled, “Hey kid. Put your rifle down and get busy unloading supplies.” Bobby saluted and walked back into the water to accept supplies coming ashore.

The beach became cluttered with too many men and too much equipment. Chaos ensued because inexperienced steersmen in the landing boats didn’t get specific instructions as to where the supplies should be located, and men on the beach stood together with their hands in their pockets clueless what to do first.

A couple landing parties advanced inland toward their target—the Japanese airfield. Angelo served in one of the units selected to enter the jungle. The marines knew the Japanese were still on the island. But where? As the men advanced into the jungle thicket every sound seemed threatening. Angelo and his unit felt like they were stalking a ghost.

Once in the jungle, the men met an enemy they didn’t expect. The climate. The oppressive tropical heat and steamy humidity defeated the unprepared soldiers in many ways. Men who carried rocket launchers and other heavy supplies stumbled and collapsed from heat exhaustion in the first hour. The officers discovered the dampness and humidity raised havoc with the radios. Messages from the jungle to the beach didn’t get through. Worst of all, everyone suffered from dehydration which produced weakness, headaches and a powerful thirst none of them experienced before.

*****

While Angelo’s unit moved closer toward the airfield, Bobby and his unit continued to haul ammunition from the battery to the ammo dump near the beach. The first action the boys on the beach encountered happened at noon. An air raid siren warned the men to take cover when a few Japanese planes were sighted. Three planes strafed the Americans working on the beach, while a few more Japanese zeros dropped a payload of bombs near the ammo dump. On sea, the transport ship named the USS Elliot took the fire of a suicide bomber who flew his plane into the ship killing its crew and sinking the ship.

When darkness fell, a pesky sniper fired from the foreboding perimeter of the jungle. These small skirmishes sent a message to the American boys the Japanese still occupied the island, and they intended to fight to stay there. These tedious pesky attacks put fear into everyone on the beach. The boys got jumpy at the slight sound or movement. They wildly fired into the jungle even when they couldn’t see the enemy. The Japanese held a psychological edge over the untested Marines. Not being able to pinpointing the enemy’s location got to be unnerving causing the Americans to keep alert at all times. Bobby remembered the officer’s warning on the ship about being thankful for a clean rack and a good night’s sleep. He realized it might be a long time before he’d ever sleep in a real bed again.

The marines had to cut through the jungle in order to make a road to get to the airfield. The first day of swinging machetes cutting down the thicket of tropical plants took the sap out of the young soldiers. They fell into foxholes at sundown and slept until the morning sun poured the heat on them. The second day brought more of the same tedious work, but the second night, brought them the ugliness of a tropical storm.  A downpour went on for hours, making sleeping in foxholes impossible. Once the rain stopped, the marines emerged muddy, wet, and sticky. Even thought the Japanese hadn’t attacked, throngs of mosquitoes and ants did. Soldiers were peppered with irritating bites that burned and itched. Angelo never remembered a miserable time in his life.

Cutting through the thick jungle with sharp machetes proved to be slower than estimate;. it took three days to cover six miles. In some places, the dense tree canopy prohibited the sun from shining through, making the jungle even more foreboding. The deeper into the jungle they went, new animal sounds and different musty scents made every man wonder what was really in this place. A peculiar sweet, musty odor surfaced after the rain. As the unit slugged through the jungle, they discovered the source of the peculiar odor; it came from rotting coconuts which fell beneath unattended coconut groves.

With all of the challenges the jungle provided, the unquenchable thirst proved to be the worst. The small amount of water in their canteens needed to last until a water purification system could be installed on the banks of the Lunga River. Angelo’s dry lips cracked and his parched throat nearly choked him as he longed for a tall, cold glass of Rosie’s lemonade.

*****

Angelo’s unit arrived at the airfield on the third day of their trek through the jungle. The marines thought for sure they would encounter the Japanese as they secured the half-finished air strip, but the enemy still remained a ghost. The truth was the Japanese didn’t expect the American landing on Guadalcanal and they didn’t possess enough weapons or manpower to overcome a large landing party. The few soldiers that occupied the island retreated deep into the jungle. In their hasty retreat, they left behind several useful pieces of heavy equipment.  The Americans confiscated bulldozers, wheel loaders, and excavators and went to work to repair the runway. Completing this strategic airfield needed to be accomplished as quickly as possible so American planes could launch air attacks on other Japanese-controlled islands.

When Washington D. C. and Canberra in Australia learned the Marines captured the Guadalcanal airfield in such a short time, the brass celebrated. Little did they realize the Japanese possessed no intention of giving up the island without a fight.

*****

While Angelo labored in the jungle, Bobby experienced the war he dreamed about on “Red Beach.” A bomb fell from a Japanese plane, landing near his position. The island shook hard enough to make men fall, and the deafening explosion pierced his eardrums. Bobby escaped the bombing unhurt, but he now realized war was no game. His fertile imagination gained an inkling of what future attacks might hold in store for him.  Strikes like these put the Marines to work digging four-foot deep foxholes for protection. As days went by, it was not usual for men to lay in their foxholes thirteen or fourteen hours per day waiting for the enemy to appear again. Daylight bombings and night time skirmishes got to be tedious as they all wondered when the big fight would come.

Bobby hated night patrols, comparing this duty to fighting the boogie man in a bad dream. He wished he and Angelo hadn’t been separated because Bobby conceded he was stronger with Angelo at his side. When Bobby went off on an imaginary tangent, Angelo always brought him back to reality. Now he was alone. He stayed alert, cataloging his surroundings.  He learned to let flies, birds, and insects alert him to head for cover. Every time the air raid sirens sounded, he ran to his foxhole where small animals and insects already occupied were there. He called them his advanced warning system.

******

Because the Japanese Navy controlled the sea around Guadalcanal, the Marines on the island were trapped with no other American support. Japanese “zeros” took off from carriers and impeded progress the marines had made the day before.  Again, the Japanese held the psychological advantage. Marines working on the landing strip got frustrated and discouraged when one pass of a Japanese plane undid their hard work.

Like Bobby, Angelo made mental notes of his surroundings. He recognized the tat-tat-tat of sniper fire at night, and the high-pitch whine of the Japanese Zeros in the distance. Instead of watching the animals and insects like Bobby, Angelo believed if he stayed attentive to the sounds around him, he could anticipate the enemy’s attack and stay alive by heading for cover with time to spare.

Angelo operated an excavator or bulldozer, leveling the sandy, rocky land to complete the runway. As a little boy he dreamed about using such equipment, and this duty looked a lot easier than a host of other jobs on the island. Unfortunately, the loud grunts of the heavy equipment drowned out the very sounds he wanted to hear. Air raid sirens cut through the equipment noise, but they limited his time to head for cover.

On August 10th, the air raid sirens blasted and Angelo looked up. Three Japanese zeros appeared out of nowhere. He shouted and waved to his workmates “They’re coming! Run!”

All three men ran for the ditch beside the runway, but they couldn’t out run the bomb the plane dropped. The force of the blast threw all three of them into the air, leaving Angelo writhing in pain from shrapnel and burns. Body parts of the two other men littered the airfield. Angelo felt his life drifting away as he lay in his own blood.

After the bombing ceased, a small patrol of corpsmen accompanied by a medical officer jumped in a jeep ambulance to survey the airstrip for any wounded men. By the time they reached Angelo, the medic moved quickly to keep him alive. Blood poured from the shrapnel wounds all over his body. In an instant, the medic removed the sulfathiazole tablets in the medical kit, lifted Angelo’s head and forced him to swallow the pills. Then the medic sprinkled sulfathiazole crystals into the multiple wounds to help prevent infection. Two corpsmen stuffed sterile gauze into Angelo’s abdominal wound to stop the bleeding, and after a shot of morphine to ease the pain, the corpsmen lifted Angelo onto a canvas stretcher and secured him onto the ambulance.

The driver raced to the northeast end of the airfield where a make-shift wooden building served as a field hospital. They sprinted into the building with their unconscious patient. A doctor immediately started an IV and plasma flowed into Angelo’s right arm. Then he started another IV in his left arm to administer saline and other drugs necessary for surgery.

Angelo’s survival now depended upon whether the surgical team could win the race against the clock. If Angelo got through surgery, his will to live needed to take charge.

 

 

In With the New

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

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

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

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

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

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5

Chapter 1

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

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

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

“Yes Angelo.”

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

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

“Since Tony’s death, I’m–

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

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

His words puzzled Rosalie. “And that is?”

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

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

“I’m going to join the marines.”

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

“Rosie, I feel useless.”

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

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

“And what did he say?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, Papa, this is so hard.”

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

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

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

“Rosalie?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 2

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

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

Jan. 15, 1942

My dear Marta,

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

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

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

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

Your loving Vater

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

 

In With the New and Retire the Old

 I’ve been writing on a laptop since 2009. The operating system is Vista and the “Word” software is Office 2003. Dated? Yup. Besides having software from the stone age, my faithful computer is also broken in a couple of places. I’ve used this machine so much I’ve worn the paint off letters N, B, and E. That’s why I asked for a new laptop for my birthday. But I’m finding once again–be careful what you ask for.

Excitement filled me as I signed on the dotted line to take ownership of the package the FedEx guy delivered. I tore open the box and there she was. Bright, shining and virginal–the new little Dell was ready for action–well, not quite yet. There was a booklet of instructions included in the package and when I studied them, I decided I wouldn’t attempt initializing the machine right away because who wants to get frustrated on a perfect birthday. Right?

My birthday celebration and the aftermath have passed. The “Taj Garage” is halfway completed and poor new little Dell is still sitting untouched. I realize I must gear up and find some techie courage to begin making my new machine mine. I  must accept my first try loading software maybe a challenge. I also must accept I will need to transfer files and links to other websites I use all the time. I will bang my head against the wall trying to remember passwords and user names. See why I’m dragging my feet?

“Old Faithful” Dell has become a comfortable friend. She has produced eight novels, a blog with over 400 posts, over twenty short stories and too many emails to count. She’s entertained me with certain games and connected me with long lost friends. I haven’t the heart to replace her even though I know I must. Weaning myself away from my old friend a little bit at a time seems to be the only sensible way we will part. Perhaps if I set new Dell on the table and look at her for a while, I may gain some courage to make the replacement.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3

Chapter 8

Lacrosse, April 1, 1940—Rosalie came home a week after Angelina’s birth. A nurse took her down to the exit the hospital in a wheelchair, and Angelo treated her like a fragile flower as he helped her in the car. The birth took so much of her strength and vitality; he wondered how she would ever be able to take care of the baby alone.

Mrs. Lombardo and his mother volunteered to care for both Rosalie and the child until the new mother regained her strength. They assured him Rosie just needed rest and a chance to bond with the new baby.

When Angelo brought Rosie home, her mother met the couple in the driveway with open arms. “Bambina! Welcome home!”

“Oh Mama,” Rosalie cried.

“Let me carry the bambina for you. You look so tired.” Mrs. Lombardo scowled when she saw the dark circles and pale complexion of her daughter.

Angelo carried the suitcase and helped Rosie get into the house. Mrs. Armani prepared a hot lunch for everyone, and Angelo’s father made sure a beautiful bouquet of yellow roses welcomed Rosalie home.

Rosalie sighed. “I’m so glad to be home.”

Mrs. Lombardo took charge. “Let’s get you out of that coat, sweetheart so you can eat lunch.” She handed Angelo the coat to hang in the closet. She continued with her orders, “Then you can nurse the baby before her nap.”

Simmering hot beef, roasted carrots, and potatoes made Angelo salivate. “Doesn’t the food smell good, Rosie?” Angelo lived on cold sandwiches while Rosalie recovered in the hospital, and now he planned to gorge himself on a hot, home-cooked meal.

Angelo pulled out a chair for Rosalie, and his mother put a filled plate in front of her. “Mangiare!”

As Angelo gobbled down a healthy portion of the meal, Rosalie picked at her food. “Mama, I’m sorry. I’m just not hungry.”

“But Rosalie, you must eat to make the baby’s milk.”

Rosalie threw her napkin on top of her food. “I’m sick of having to eat for the baby. The baby is out of me now, so why do I still need to eat for the baby?”

Her mother stared in disbelief. She tried to understand how Rosalie might be overwhelmed. “My sweet girl, the baby needs you as much now as she did before she came into the world, bambina. God planned it that way.”

“It’s not enough she tore me up inside and out? Now I am supposed to be a cow, too?” Rosalie screamed and stomped into the living room.

Angelo hung his head and stared at the good meal in front of him. He realized he didn’t possess the right words to calm her. He hoped Mrs. Lombardo and his mother might know the right things to say to bring Rosalie out of her funk.

Mrs. Lombardo followed Rosalie. She sat beside her daughter on the sofa.  “I understand this is hard right now. The first baby makes you learn so many new things. Being a mama is a big job, Rosie.”

Rosie cried. “I never wanted a baby! And now I must serve a life sentence taking care of her?”

Mrs. Lombardo’s mouth fell open and her hands went directly to her hips. Her voice took on a stern tone. “That is about enough, Rosalie. It is time to grow up. Stop acting like a spoil child. Maybe a nap might help.”

Rosalie pouted. She hated it when her mother made her feel small. She got up and dragged herself to her bedroom. She had been banished like a child who misbehaved in her own house! She pounded her pillow and cried.

Mrs. Lombardo returned to the kitchen and picked up the phone to call Eduardo at the restaurant. “Eduardo, you need to come. Rosie needs you. She is in such a state; I do not understand her. You always do.”

A couple of hours later Eduardo left the restaurant and drove to his daughter’s house. He conferred with his wife in the kitchen and then went to his daughter who sat in the rocking chair nursing his grandchild.

“What a beautiful sight, bambina!” He said.

“What’s beautiful about this, Papa? I’ve become a cow like Josie’s Betsy.”

Eduardo sat close to her on the floor. He spoke in a soft voice. “Oh Rosalie, no, you are a mama. You are not a cow. You are doing important work. You are feeding your little girl, my granddaughter. This is a great miracle.”

“Papa, would you think I’m a bad mother if I told you I didn’t want to feed my daughter? Or change her? Or rock her to sleep?” Rosalie spat the words like she bit into spoiled food.

Eduardo frowned. “How can you say such things?”

“Because. I hurt all over and now my breasts are cracked and bleeding from her pulling on me. I hate this! I want to quit being a mother.” Rosalie cried.

Eduardo knelt in front of her. “Rosalie, a mama makes many sacrifices for her babies. You are very young, but your mother was only sixteen when your brother Giovanni came, and her mama lived in the old country across an ocean; your mama is just around the corner. She will help you.”

“Mama thinks I’m hateful.” Tears welled in Rosalie’s eyes. “I am selfish. I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but right now I wish somebody would take this baby away from me. I can’t do this.”

Eduardo held her hand while he stared at his sleeping granddaughter. “No, my bambina, you are just afraid. Deep in your heart you love your little Angelina as I love you. You and Angelo will experience a wonderful life together, and now with little Angelina here, the love between you will grow even more. You are not alone, bambina. I am here, Mama is here. Angelo is here. His parents are here. Your brothers and sisters are here. Donna and Josie will help. When you get stronger, you will be the best mama in the world.”

“Oh, Papa.” She stared into her father’s moist eyes. “I want to believe what you say.”

Mrs. Lombardo came into the room and sat on the sofa. Rosalie looked at her mother with different eyes. “Mama, how did you ever do this?”

“One day at a time, my sweet daughter. One day at a time.”

Chapter 9

Lviv, Ukraine – April 1940—Heidi slipped into the bed she shared with Ruthie. She closed her eyes in the darkness and dreamed of the days in Berlin when she led a selfish, carefree life with her only desire to become a ballerina. Then overnight her life changed. She left her homeland and went on the run with three small children and their sick mother. In the still of the night she second guessed her decision to accompany Dora. She worried about the welfare of Uncle Hans and her three cousins. His only advantage might be his German background; perhaps his chances with the Nazis in power might better for him than other people. She prayed this would be the case. Some of the neighbors told her some non-Jews had been forced to work as slaves in mines and factories. Everyone needed to carry papers to prove their identity.  If people didn’t carry papers stating where they lived and worked, the Nazis would put them in prison.

The children woke before their mother at eight o’clock. Their hunger made them cry. She used the last of the cornmeal to make the breakfast porridge, and Heidi wondered where she would find more cornmeal.

Dora slept and didn’t stir for breakfast.  Usually the children’s activity would wake her, but today she lay still under a thin blanket.

Heidi bent down and whispered in Dora’s ear. “Dora, breakfast is ready.”

Dora didn’t respond.

Heidi shook Dora. No response. Dora appeared grey. Heidi gently shook her again. “Dora, please wake up. The children are asking for you.” Still no response. Heidi touched Dora’s forehead. She expected Dora to be hot with fever but instead her forehead seemed cold. Heidi pulled the blanket down to Dora’s waist and found a bottle of pills in the bed. The label on the bottle read, “Cyanide.”

“Oh Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” Heidi screamed.

“What is wrong Heidi? Is Mama sick?” David held Ruthie’s hand, and she sucked the thumb of the opposite hand.

Heidi stared at the innocent faces of the two children. “I think your mother is very sick, David. You stay here. I will get some help.”

Heidi ran down the hallway and banged on a friend’s door. “Fritz! Fritz! Please open the door. It is Heidi!”

A thin young man with a gaunt face came to the door. “Heidi, whatever is wrong?”

“Dora won’t wake up! I think she is dead.”

“Oh no!”

Heidi cried. “Yes! Oh my God! What am I going to do now?”

Fritz pulled up his suspenders attached to his tattered trousers and followed Heidi to her room. He approached the figure in the bed and one glance told him Heidi had guessed right. With urgency in his voice, he said, “I will go down and get the landlord. You keep the children calm.”

David cried, “What is wrong with Mama, Heidi?”

Heidi bent down and hugged the six year old. “She is very sick, David. We must fetch a doctor to tell us what is wrong.”

David looked at her with frightened puppy eyes.

“Don’t worry, sweetheart. I will take care of you.”

The landlord came to the room and went to Dora’s bed. He wore a stone face as he looked at the body. He turned to Heidi. “I will call the coroner.”

Everyone in the apartment complex came out of their rooms. A horse-drawn wagon pulled up in front of the building, and two men dressed in white uniforms came to the third floor.  They gently placed Dora’s body onto the stretcher as Heidi and the children stayed out in the hallway. David held her hand while Ruthie clung to Heidi’s skirt still sucking her thumb. The men struggled down the staircase carrying their mother away. Only baby Jacob seemed oblivious to the situation.

David cried. “Where are they taking my Mama?”

His tender young voice broke Heidi’s heart. She decided she must tell him the truth. “I am so sorry, David. The man with the stretcher told me your mother died in the night and went to heaven.”

“Where is heaven?” David cried. “I want to go too!”

She stooped down and held David close. “I’m afraid we can’t go there, David. God will send us a special angel when it is our time. Without the angel’s help, we can’t find heaven.”

“That’s not fair!”

“I know, sweetheart. It is definitely not fair.”

Frantic thoughts rushed through her brain as she tried to soothe her young charges.

*****

After she tucked the children in for their afternoon naps, Heidi found an envelope addressed to her in Dora’s handwriting.

My dearest Heidi,

You are right. God did send you to me because he realized I am not strong enough to care for the children alone.  I did not realize my own weakness when we departed from Warsaw. I cannot accept this situation.   We live like peasants in one dreary room. There is no food and little hope of ever going back home. But I am sure I made the correct choice to leave. 

I cannot go on like this any longer. Everything I loved is gone; the future holds nothing for me in this world. I am a burden to you. I must leave.

Please love and care for my children and forgive me for leaving you with such a heavy burden. I believe you are strong enough to protect yourself and the children. You are wise beyond your years. Perhaps you can make your way to Palestine or Switzerland.

 I leave you my car, money, and jewels. A large rare diamond is sewn in the hem of my coat; it may help you someday.

Be safe my child. I will wait for you in heaven.

Love, Dora

Heidi read the letter again and again in disbelief. Oh Dora? How could you? How could you trust someone so young with your three little ones?

During the past few months, Dora and Heidi grew close. But Heidi didn’t recognize Dora’s deep despair. Life had become more difficult than either of them imagined. And what would she do now? She may not be Jewish, but the new laws stated anyone who protected Jews would be punished by the Nazis too.

Heidi stared out into space as the children took their afternoon naps. Dora taught her more about art, music, and literature than she ever learned in formal schooling; she enhanced Heidi’s life so much in the little time they shared together. She and Dora planned exciting things in Warsaw, but now all those dreams disappeared. Heidi never would dance on the biggest stages in Europe with Dora looking on in the audience. Instead, she now bore the sole responsibility of caring for Dora’s three little children.

A few pills changed everything for Heidi and the children, and she couldn’t hide her fear and anger. Why couldn’t Dora be stronger? Why couldn’t she accept the harsh treatment the world dished out to her as so many others? As Heidi gazed at the orphans asleep, she promised someday she might forgive their mother; in the meantime, she would do her best to keep them safe and promised never to abandon them.

 

 

 

Epilogue and Prologue of a New School Session

downloadThe unofficial end to summer is only days away, but the weather is protesting this premature ending. It will be close to 90 again today. For a northerner, this is not exactly the climate we signed up for. So, while many other people prepare their last hurrahs for the end of summer, I will be home in the air conditioning preparing my syllabus and waiting for my letter of employment to be sent to my “in” box.

The college “powers that be” decided they would jump into the 21st century and use the internet to broadcast this most important document to all adjunct teachers. The document was supposed to come yesterday, but if I know technology, it will probably show up sometime next week. The delay will be caused by unexpected bugs and the necessary training the administration staff needs to complete their end of this process. It should go smoothly–in a couple of years, that is.

Why is it everything that is supposed to make your life easier never really does? It’s been my experience that such changes are painful at first. It seems no one has the empirical knowledge to take into account all of the variables that need to be considered and then compensate for them. It isn’t until the program crashes a few times before the pesty computer gremlins are rooted out before the programmers get the results everyone is expecting. In the meantime, everyone sweats the deadline and fears they won’t get paid because of some computer glitch.

Last Saturday all adjunct teachers attended an “In Service” training session to get the latest greatest news and developments on campus. This automated LOE (letter of employment) was one of the things presented to us. When the IT guru said the service wasn’t quite ready, I groaned. You see, I’ve worked with technology people for years in web development, and I learned the nuances of the trade. If I had been in charge of this project, I would have had a stack of paper LOEs in the wings for back-up. Everyone would sign their John Hancock’s on the paper in case the automated system fell on its butt. Yeah. But that’s just me.

So, over the weekend, I will be preparing my lesson plans, syllabus, and other new things I want to try in my class this fall, while the computer gods make the technology folks nuts with their tricks. We’ll just have to wait and see who wins the battle.

Being Connected

technology-solutionLast night I watched the commercials more carefully than most nights. Usually, I let them pass before my eyes and not allow them into my head, but I became intrigued with the Windows 8 commercial. As most of you know, this software allows people to connect all of the electronic paraphernalia together, so the user can be “connected” at all times.

Hmmm .  . . I wonder just how connected people really are these days.

It seems to me that “being connected” has nothing to do with physical human interaction. This bothers me. I realize I’m showing my age here, but tough. Maybe the young people building this kind of software need to realize they are actually building walls around themselves, and the only interaction with another real human needs a machine to facilitate it.

I long for the days when kids could gather in the park and not have their parent’s worry that some boogie man would come along and snatch them. I wish kids could go for a bike ride with each other and not have to be concerned with a hurried motorist mowing them down. I long for the days when neighbors knew each other and helped each other. I long for coffee clutches with my girlfriend next door. Why did all of these fears come to pass? Instant communication which is possible by technology which connects us. Be serious. Every night the news media scares us all to death. If a murder didn’t happen that day in our own community, they dredge one up in Timbuktu. Really? We need to know this? I think not.

This post is a vendetta against technology. It is a rant about how the wonderful capabilities of technology is used. I love my laptop. I am entertained by my HD television. I have an wireless printer, for godsakes. If I could afford a smart phone, I’d have one of those too. I just wish we all could take a step back from technology and realize it is not the be-all and end-all of existence. Keep your  Iphone on vibrate when your visiting with friends. Lock away the tablets and computers for a couple of hours and go out an play or take a walk in the woods.

We need to find the balance, and so far, we’re not there.

Dell Computer’s Day Off

Yesterday my computer went on strike for a day. It booted up and pretended to be normal, but when I touched the keys nothing came out on the screen. It was like my ever-faithful partner in writing had laryngitis. It would not or could not speak. My heart sank. My normal routine wasn’t happening today. I had to get it to the doctor ASAP. I was disconnected. I couldn’t work. For a day, I would be silent.

Because I believe most everything happens for a reason, not being able to use my computer forced me to do other things. I made a killer pot of cauliflower cream soup and barbecue pork chops for dinner. I went downtown to see my friend Doug who is good enough to put my handcrafted jewelry creations in his store. And later in the day, I took Ken out to meet his friend Patrick. Both of them suffer from serious diseases–Ken with MS, and Patrick with Type I diabetes. We met at McDonald’s, sat near the gas fireplace and on a cold, windy, November day the three of us warmed ourselves inside with coffee and laughter and outside with the warmth of the fireplace. It was a nice time.

After I brought Ken home, I took my problematic computer to a local business, hoping that the “fix” would not be serious or at the very least, inexpensive. The technician opened the laptop, booted it up and was able to put in my password! I kid you not! I watched him do it. And just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, he did it again. Whatever was wrong in the early morning wasn’t wrong any longer. My faithful friend got her voice back!

I scurried home and immediately called up my Facebook page to see what I missed. (I guess that says something about social media, huh?) Then I checked my two email accounts and after all of that, I sat down and started working on my new nonfiction creative piece I will submit for a grant later this year.

I’m so thankful that my computer “speech” problem went away on it’s own, and believe me, I will never take her for granted again.