Tag Archive | dreaming

Some Times Ordinary is Extraordinary

The sun is shining, the oppressive humidity turned to rain, and voila — I have a perfect day to go grocery shopping. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Just an ordinary chore I do each week. The forecasters warn the weather will resume its “Miami-ness” on Thursday, so seeing I’m a frozen tundra kind of girl, I must get out there and do my duty.

Have you ever thought of how much of our lives we spend just doing ordinary chores? When I was a stay-at-home mom, my entire day was filled with them. Once in a while I’d take a day and do something fun away from home, but I usually had two little girls in tow.

When they went to school and I decided to go to college, the ordinary became anything but. As a full-time student with a part-time job, the ordinary chores had to be distributed among family members — and believe me, everybody got mad at me for that!

After graduation, a divorce, and now a full-time job, the ordinary chores I did for my family for over twenty years fell on the shoulders of my “ex” and my daughters. After all, I was exiled by them and little did they realize how much ordinary stuff I really did. Now I only would do these things for me.

The only time we even think about these normal ordinary chores is when we can’t do them. Ken used to always do the laundry and cut the grass. He still putters at the laundry, but often becomes too tired before he’s finished. I pick up whatever he has left and add a couple of loads to my usual cooking, vacuuming, and cat litter duty. And of course, the grass cutting chore has fallen onto my ordinary plate.

I’ll never win the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” by any means because I really hate housework. I dream someday my novels will propel me into the arena where I might get some help in that department. I love a clean house, but I have no propensity or desire to work at it everyday. And that’s okay. I have to save some time open for extraordinary stuff. Like writing. Like painting. Like going out to lunch with girlfriends. Yeah. Those things are much more fun.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3 (Continued)

Chapter 16

Flushing Meadows, New York – June—Donna Jean and Danny left Lacrosse on a train just after sunrise on the first Saturday in June. They looked forward to what they would experience at the New York World’s Fair. Donna had never traveled on a train before, and she marveled at the experience like a little girl. She gave her ticket to the conductor and then settled back into her seat.

Donna’s parents stayed furious with her from the time she told them of her intentions to enjoy the fair with Danny until the day he picked her up to get to the train station.

Her father yelled out the window as she put her suitcase in the trunk. “Don’t come back here! I’ll have no whore living under my roof.”

Donna shouted back. “Why don’t you sober up for a minute and think like a normal human being!”

Danny slipped behind the wheel as Donna got in the passenger’s seat; he glanced at her and witnessed she was fighting tears. “Don’t worry, babe.  He’ll cool off after the booze leaves his system.”

Donna tried to smile. “The booze never leaves his system. Let’s get out of here and enjoy our trip.”

“Anything you say, sweetheart.”

“My old man is hateful. This display is only a warm up for some of the stuff he pulls. Can we please leave?”

Sure thing, sweetheart.” Danny pulled his old Packard away from the curb. “Let’s paint the town red.”

Donna stared ahead. She wiped a tear away with an embroidered handkerchief and promised she wouldn’t let her drunken father spoil this trip like he had so many other times.

*****

Once settled in their berth, Donna took a fat book out of her bag and started reading. Her father’s words still stung and she wanted to escape to another time. Since seeing the movie “Gone with the Wind” she always wanted to read the book but she never seemed to find the time. As she turned the pages, she transported herself to a southern plantation where life was luxurious for a feisty southern girl named Scarlet O’Hara.

Danny rested his head on her shoulder and tried to sleep as she read, but his tall six foot frame didn’t fit well in the seat. Every few minutes he fidgeted to get comfortable. Donna smacked him with the book. “Will you please sit still? I’m trying to read here.”

“Ow! That hurt!” Danny sat up straight.

After thirty minutes of silence between them, he made a couple attempts at conversation. Donna ignored him.

He complained. “Are you going to read that damn book all the way to New York?”

“Yeah. That’s why I brought such a fat book.” She gave him a smirk.

“Am I that boring?” He said.

“You really don’t want me to answer that, do you?” she teased.

“Come on, Donna. Be nice to me. Let’s talk.” He pleaded.

She slammed the cover shut. “Okay Jabberjaws. What do you want to talk about?”

“I don’t care. Just stuff.”

“Stuff, huh. What stuff?”

“Tell me what’s going on with Rosalie and Angelo. How’s the baby?”

“The baby is a little girl named Angelina. She sleeps, eats, poops and sleeps some more. She is cute like all Italian baby girls. Anything else?”

“Why are you being so mean?  What’s buggin’ you?”

“Beside that fiasco with my father? Well, when I want to read I want to read. It’s simple.”

“I just wondered how Rosalie and Angelo are doing. Since they got married, I don’t get to see him very much.”

“The baby’s birth turned out to be really rough for Rosie, and it is taking her a long time to want company.  She looked awful in the hospital, and I only saw the little rose bud for a couple of seconds through the nursery window. When I called Rosie after she got home, she said they had the baby’s ears pierced. There that’s all I know.”

“No kidding? That seems mean.”

“Rosalie said the babies don’t feel a thing.”

“I wonder how Angelo is handling being a Daddy. I can’t imagine being a dad at nineteen.”

“Parenthood is not for me, either.” Donna Jean said.

“Ever?” Danny’s face showed his surprise. He loved Donna and wanted to build a family with her. He didn’t ask her to marry him yet because Donna often talked about having a singing career. Danny thought her desire was a teenage pipe dream.

“The whole scene just doesn’t interest me. I want a life of my own before I get tied down. My dream is to sing. I want to perform.”

“I’d be your biggest fan.” Danny kissed her cheek. “I want a family some day.” He continued in a low voice. “Just not now. I’m having too much fun with you.” He reached over and put his hand on her thigh.”

She pushed his hand away. “Watch the hands, buddy.”

*****

The train trip took about twenty hours, and both Donna and Danny left Penn Station exhausted as they lugged their suitcases to a bus which would drop them at the hotel. “At least we’re on the last leg of the journey.” He tried to sound cheery.

Donna smirked. “You always look on the bright side; I’ll give you that.”

“Come on crabby. We’ll get to the hotel in a couple of minutes if you put a wiggle on.”

They chose a new Holiday Inn for their stay in New York. The front door opened to a lobby with a long mahogany registration desk. To the left four leather chairs sat around a round oak table covered with magazines. Donna grabbed a brochure sitting on the desk which pictured the hotel’s amenities–a typical double room, the indoor pool, and a dining room. Danny and Donna’s room turned out to be on the fourth floor, and the only elevator was out of order.

Danny trekked up four flights of stairs carrying all of the luggage, He waited for Donna who trailed behind him to open the door. “Come on, sweetie, these bags are heavy!”

“Keep your pants on, sweet cheeks.” She slipped the key into the lock and the door clicked open. Danny dumped the bags in the corner and flopped onto the bed. Donna dropped down beside him, and both fell asleep in a few minutes.

When she woke, Donna turned on the light on the night table to glance at the clock. Midnight. She looked at Danny who lay on his back with his mouth wide open. He snored as loud as a steam engine, and she shook him awake.

He sat up abruptly. “What?”

“Cut it out!” She said.

“Huh?” He said drowsily.

“You’re snoring. Stop.”

“Is that all?” He fell back on his pillow and flipped on his side.

She snuggled next to him and went back to sleep too.

*****

Donna woke at eight o’clock and patted the space beside her. Danny was gone. She heard water running and realized Danny was in the shower. She threw the blanket and sheet back and crawled out of bed. She looked in the mirror and made a face. She appeared a mess–hair ratted and knotted, make-up smudged, and old mascara providing her with two black eyes. Her dry mouth made her yearn for water and a date with her toothbrush.  She needed a complete overhaul.

Donna knocked on the bathroom door, “Hey good-looking, you just about done? I gotta pee!”

A towel clad Danny opened the door. “Sure-wooo, look at you!”

“Shut-up!” She rushed past him and waved him away.

He laughed and let her take over the bathroom.

The toilet flushed and then the shower started. He hoped Donna wouldn’t be too long because his hunger made the wax fruit sitting in a bowl on the dresser look good enough to eat.  In a few minutes, Donna screamed. Danny jumped up and rushed into the bathroom.

“What’s the matter?” He said.

With the shower curtain wrapped around her she screamed. “You jerk! You used all the hot water!”

“Sorry.” He backed out of the bathroom. “Really, babe, I’m sorry.”

“Get out!” She screamed at him.

“Jeez, I said sorry.” Danny chuckled under his breath, grabbed his clothes, and dressed for the day.

*****

Donna emerged from the bathroom at ten o’clock. Danny never understood why women took so long to get ready, but when Donna emerged from the bathroom looking like a model straight out of “Vogue,” he got it. She wore a soft pale peach dress and hat to match. She pulled her blond hair into an “up do,” and her perfect make-up used a soft peach blush on her cheeks to match her outfit. Danny thought he never saw such a pretty girl.

“There’s my beautiful doll!” Danny said.

“I’m not your doll.” She pouted. “I’m not anybody’s doll!”

Donna bruised his feelings. After dating for almost two years, Danny believed Donna to be his girl, but her behavior lately told him otherwise. “I’ll tell you what. Tomorrow, you can shower first, and I’ll take the cold one. We’ll be even then.” He kissed her on the cheek.

She smiled. “Okay.” She never stayed mad at him for too long.

“Let’s get something to eat. I’m starving.”

Chapter 17

Flushing Meadows, New York-June, 1940—Donna and Danny arrived at the fairgrounds at noon having to change buses twice before stopping at the front entrance of the World’s Fair. The theme of “The World of Tomorrow” presented an idyllic picture of the future.  Donna prepared for their trip by reading magazines and newspapers ahead of time to plan an itinerary of which exhibits they would visit on which day.

Excitement swelled in Donna as she spied a glimpse of the white orb and tower in the center of the fairgrounds. They bought tickets and entered the fair grounds gawking. A huge white globe called the “Perisphere” could be seen from a long outdoor escalator which brought them into the park. The Perisphere covered a whole city block, and once inside visitors could see a model of a future city. Pleasant, quiet, one-family homes surrounded a large centralized city. The planned city provided painted a picture of easy living. After Donna and Danny took in the sights of the future, they exited on a broad sweeping ramp called the “Helicline.”

“Wow! What a gas!” Donna said to a smiling Danny.

Danny said. “I’m so glad you talked me into this trip. Can you imagine living in a city like that?” He laughed. “We’re not in Kansas any more, Dorothy!”

She playfully slapped his chest. “What is your first clue, Toto?”

Donna wanted to experience everything, especially a new invention called “television.” Almost a year ago, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave the opening day speech talking about the virtues of America’s ingenuity, but few saw the broadcast because nobody possessed a television; Donna wished she could buy a TRK-12  after seeing one, but its price was in the stratosphere.

Beside the Perisphere, a seven hundred foot, three-sided tower called the “Trylon” shot up into the sky. Donna stared up at the icon. “Wow, Danny! I can’t see the top of that tower. Can you imagine a city so big where all the buildings are so tall?”

Danny looked up at the Trylon with Donna. “No, sweetheart. I can’t imagine a place like that. Let’s see what else the fair offers.” He took her hand and led her to a serious of buildings constructed by the biggest U. S. companies.

The National Cash Register presented a building that resembled a cash register. A giant igloo served as the Carrier Air Conditioning building. The Glass Incorporated Pavilion taught them about the history of glass making with models encased in glass bubbles. In every direction the fair exhibited unbelievable things. Donna loved the walk-through waterfall by the Electric Utilities. Danny’s favorite exhibit was the huge bronze-colored smoking robot that talked and turned. As they walked through a new Douglas DC-3 airplane, Donna dreamed someday this big silver bird would take her away from Lacrosse and her father.

After a light supper of hot dogs and Coca Cola, Donna and Danny held hands as they stood in line for two hours to enter the General Motors Pavilion and get on a ride called the “Futurama.” Once inside, the ushers strapped them into chairs which moved like cable cars over an exhibit below.

A narrator began the presentation in a deep radio-type voice. “Ladies and gentlemen. I give you the future.”

The lights dimmed and a futuristic model of an ideal United States came alive. Donna said with excitement in her voice, “This must be how a person feels in an airplane, huh?” Magically they flew from coast to coast over cities of the future. Cars motored on spacious roads and pedestrians walked on elevated walkways.

Donna said, “So this is what 1960 will look like. I hope I’ll still be alive then.”

Danny looked at her curiously. “Where do you think you’ll be in twenty years?”

“I have no idea. When I get home, my father will probably kill me. ” A tinge of nervousness filter through her laughter. She pointed below to a red sports car. “But before I go I want a car like that one!

Chapter 18

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-June—After Danny brought Donna home from their trip, Donna Jean waved to him as he drove away. She tried her key at the backdoor and it didn’t fit and mumbled under her breath. “Oh, come on. Really? They changed the locks?” She banged on the door. “Oh, come on! Let me in.”

Her father yelled, “I warned you not to go off with that boy. Your clothes are in the garage. Take them and get the hell away from here. No whore will live under this roof.”

Donna yelled back. “Mom, open the door.”

“I can’t Donna. You made your sinful bed. Now lay in it.” Donna realized her mother wimped out again to protect her own hide. She wouldn’t challenge her husband because she refused to take a beating over Donna’s foolishness. Donna’s mother suffered a fist to her face way too often. The beatings usually came after a night of drinking, and today he began the day with whiskey instead of coffee.

“You’re damned to hell, Miss Donna Jean. Damned to hell. Now GIT!”  Donna stood in shock. She never expected her father would make good on his promise to kick her out of the house. She left her suitcase in the driveway and walked to Joe’s Diner to use the payphone.

“Hi, Jos. What’s new?” Josie immediately guessed something serious happened. Donna’s voice produced a tone of forced frivolity.

“I’m putting the finishing touches on my paper for English class. What’s up with you?”

Donna dodged the question. “I know you don’t like to write.”

“Yeah, but this too shall pass.” Josie laughed. “This is really a surprise call. Is something wrong, Donna?”

Donna cleared her throat to stifle her tears. “I’m kind of in a jam, Jos.”

Josie thought, again, but said softly, “What happened?”

“Danny and I took a wonderful vacation together to the World’s Fair.”

“And. . .

“Well, my parents locked me out because my father says he won’t allow a whore to live under his roof.” She mocked her father’s voice. “Jos, I can’t think. Tell me what to do.”

“Oh boy. You are in a jam.”

Donna cried. “I’ll think of something. I guess. I just needed to talk to a friend. That’s all really.”

Some of Donna’s choices bordered on poor, but she was a good person deep down. Nobody would find a more generous, helpful and fun friend. Josie loved her. She realized Donna’s wild rebellious streak usually got her in trouble. Going on vacation with her boyfriend turned out to be one of those times. Donna didn’t commit a crime. If anybody committed a crime her father did. Everybody in town understood he was a hopeless drunk.

“Call my Mom, Donna. I’m sure she’ll let you stay in my room until you can find a place.”

“That’s an awful big imposition.”

“Stop being ridiculous. My mother loves you. I’m sure she’ll help. Call her.”

“What should I say?”

“Tell her the truth.”

“Yeah, but she’ll probably think I’m a whore like my parents.”

“Donna Jean! My mother doesn’t judge. She’s loved you since you turned ten. She understands your spirited soul, and she would never turn you away.”

“All right.” Donna sniffled. “If you think she’ll understand, then I’ll call.”

Donna’s sniffles upset Josie. “Oh, sweetie. Don’t cry. Things will work out.”

“I hope you’re right.”  Donna said through her tears. “I sure got lucky when I got you for a friend. Thanks, Josie.” Donna hung up and dialed the Schneider’s number.

 

 

 

A New Tool of the Trade

My birthday is on Friday. Since Ken lost his driving privileges, he always feels bad when he can’t go to the store and buy me a “just right” present. I miss his thoughtfulness too, but we’ve both accepted this is just one more challenge in our journey through the world of MS.

Everybody asks me what I’d like for my special day, but I have most everything I need. Really I love presents and I love surprises, but I don’t like asking for specific gifts. However, my present laptop is over six years old–ancient in computer land–so I asked for a new a new laptop.

Like an answer from the gods, I got an email from Dell. It turns out they are having a sale, so I asked Ken if he’d like to give me a new laptop for my birthday. He thought that was a good solution, seeing he got a new dishwasher for his birthday, so I ordered a new computer. Not only did I get a wonderful low price, they offered a free update to Windows 10, a $50 instant rebate, and free overnight shipping. I think Dell knew it was my birthday, too!

So have a good day, everybody. Mine started off pretty nice.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2

 

Chapter 30

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-December—Christmastime on the farm always made Josie nostalgic as family traditions emerged. This year every special element of celebrating Christmas held more significance for Josie. Her months away at school made every emotion more intense. She forgot the tranquility she always experienced at four o’clock in the morning before sun-up when she milked the cows. The animals didn’t care if Christmas was near; they still needed to be milked everyday. Josie found it strange she missed the chore even though she always groused about her loss of sleep. Josie thought Betsy smiled as she put the milking stool beside the heifer.

Josie also enjoyed being with her mother in the cozy kitchen while they baked the family favorite Christmas cookies. Josie loved sampling the results over a cup of tea with her Mom after the last pan came out of the oven.

A week before Christmas, her brothers went with their father into the woods to cut down a blue spruce. The boys trimmed the tree outdoors before they placed the fir into the tree stand. Mrs. Schneider inspected their work to assure the tree stood straight before it was positioned in the traditional place in front of the living room picture window.  Josie helped her mother haul out the decorations they collected over the years. As she took out the ornaments from their boxes, Josie traveled to the past remembering when each ornament first appeared on their Christmas tree. Every year the Schneider Christmas tree lived as a testament to the family’s experiences through the years.

By evening, the fresh fragrance of pine filled the house, and the crackle of the fire in the fireplace brought Josie to a sentimental place. The fire lapping at the logs mesmerized her as she sipped a cup of tea. Her mother lit candles to add to the room’s ambiance, and Josie thought being home again couldn’t be more perfect.

On Christmas morning, everyone met in the living room in their bathrobes to open a plethora of presents. Frivolity and teasing between brothers and sister went on like every year, but this year a kernel of sadness lingered their happiness. In three days, Johnny would leave for Army Air Corps basic training in Texas.

*****

The family threw Johnny a farewell party one night in between Christmas and New Years. The party attracted almost everyone in Lacrosse. Johnny’s father made sure the beer flowed freely all evening, while his mother kept the food table overflowing. When Rosalie and Angelo arrived, Angelo teased Mrs. Schneider. “Mrs. S, are you sure you aren’t Italian? No one ever would leave your table hungry or thirsty.”

Johnny didn’t believe so many people wanted to wish him well, but his girlfriend Mary didn’t hide her unhappiness. A few weeks ago, Johnny asked her to be his girl, and since then, she wore his class ring around her neck on the gold chain he bought for her. She stood by his side most of the evening, but halfway through the party she excused herself going outside to hide her tears. The farewell party confirmed the reality of his departure.

Josie commiserated with Mary.  She dreaded saying goodbye to her closest brother. She always counted on Johnny to keep her secrets, and he always stuck up for her if she got in a jam. Twelve hundred miles would separate them in just a few days.

Like Mary, Josie escaped into the frigid night to hide selfish tears. The snow from last night’s storm crunched beneath her shoes, while the full moon lit the way. She shivered as the nighttime chill ran up her spine. Her fingers grew numb in a few minutes, but she stood like a stone statue and allowed her emotions to take over. Footsteps behind her jolted her out of the moment. Donna Jean came to check on her.

“God, Josie, what are you doing out here in the frozen tundra?”

Josie cleared her throat and wiped her face with the back of her hand. “I needed some fresh air. The cigarette smoke got to me.”

“That might work with somebody else, but not with me. Tell me what’s going on.”

Josie looked directly at her. “I never thought saying goodbye to Johnny would be this hard.” She sniffed. “It will be so long before we’ll be together again.”

“You left him in September and didn’t think anything of that. Why is his departure any different?”

“Joining the Air Corps is more serious than going to college. Germany is marching through one country after another in Europe. Anybody who thinks the U. S. won’t be involved in another European war is crazy. FDR is simply waiting for the right time.”

“That’s you’re biggest problem, Josie. You think too much.”

“I am who I am, Donna; you ought to realize that by now.”

“Yeah, but I love you anyway. Be realistic. The only thing that is for sure is the present. The past is over and the future we can’t control. If we get involved in a war, we’ll deal with the consequences then. Johnny’s going to need you to be positive and strong. Boot camp is no country club affair. Stop being selfish. Go inside and celebrate.” Donna’s tone sounded like an army drill sergeant.

Josie pouted. She hated being admonished, especially when she knew she deserved it. Leave it to Donna to get it right.  “You realize you’re the only one who can talk to me like that.”

Donna smiled. “It’s a gift.” She laughed and put her arm around Josie’s shoulders. “Come on, sweetie. Your butt’s going to get frostbite if you stay out here any longer.” She giggled. “Besides, my beer is getting warm!”

Chapter 31

Paris, France – December—Emma and Marta enjoyed a wonderful Christmas together. They invited their new friends to their apartment and celebrated the holiday with thoughtful gifts, good food, and a cute little Christmas tree Emma found on her way home from work. Emma requested everyone bring an ornament to make Marta’s little tree dressed for the occasion. Marta loved the ornament of the Eiffel Tower carved out of wood; Emma liked the Can-Can dancing girl ornament.

For New Years Eve they planned to meet some friends at a nearby restaurant; then the girls planned to take in a show at Moulin Rouge. Marta saved for months to buy an off-white woolen suit with a stylish rolled collar. Large covered button went down the front and a fashionable peplum flared at her waist. Her delicate eighteen-inch waist appeared even thinner. The pencil skirt flared into pleats at the knee which softened its lines. She wore sheer silk stockings and matching off-white heels.  She completed her outfit with a off-white wool beret she tilted to the side. Before living the bedroom, Marta checked her reflection in the mirror. She had achieved the high-fashioned look she desired.

Marta emerged from the bedroom, and Emma gasped. “Cherie, you are beautiful!”

Marta smiled. Whenever Emma admired her, she gained more confidence.

Emma gave her a kiss on the cheek and took her hand. “We should be on our way, or we will be late. I cannot wait to show you off tonight.”

A warm smiled crossed Marta’s face. “I am so happy we decided to stay in Paris, and I’m pleased you do not consider me a child any longer. ”

“I stopped seeing you as a child many months ago, darling. You are a strong, wonderful woman, and I am so lucky to be with you.” She put her arm around Marta’s tiny waist and together they took a leisurely stroll to the restaurant.

After enjoying a meal at an intimate bistro, the girls walked to the theatre. Marta’s heart beat faster as the tip-top of the famous red windmill of the Moulin Rouge came into view. The host sat them at small tables near the stage. Andre Ekyan and his band the Kit Cats headlined the show. Marta loved jazz, especially this musician’s famous hits “Rosetta” and “Sugar.”

When the famous can-can dancers took the stage, Marta sat shocked as they performed bare breasted. Their high kicks and antics kept the audience on the edge of their seats. The cabaret show also featured comedians who kept them laughing into the wee hours with bawdy jokes which certainly would be forbidden by her father. Marta shut him out and rarely thought of him since his damning letter. Marta told herself she no longer cared about his opinions.

The show ended at eleven-thirty, and the girls hopped a trolley to bring them to the base of the Eiffel Tower where a huge crowd gathered to ring in the New Year. Bright colors of blue, white and red, the French National colors lit the landmark and a big clock ticked off the seconds before midnight. When time expired, the crowd yelled “Bonne Ann!” at the stroke of midnight. The city’s bells rang in unison while Emma took Marta in her arms, and the two lovers kissed in public like all of the other couples. Marta would cherish this moment forever.

 

 

Success is Found in Failure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2

Chapter 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

#####

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

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

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

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

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

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

Franz didn’t look up from his food.

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

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

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

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

Leisel turned and walked away with tears in her eyes.

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

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

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

“Hmmh.” Franz stared at his comrade.

“Go get her, man. Be nice.”

“Why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So nice of you to say.” She smiled.

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

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

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

“You, too, Franz.” she lied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I better not.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Because that is what boyfriends do, Franz.”

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

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

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

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

 

Chapter 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.

backyard 004

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 . . .

A Hint of Celebrity?

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

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

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

Blog 3-31 003

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

I replied, “That’s me!”

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

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

bus card

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

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

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

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

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

Inspiration – Where does it come from?

City scape 002For some reason I had an itch to paint today. I wanted to create a large sofa-type painting to accompany the new furniture we purchased during the past few months. I’d never painted anything “abstract” but I had this vision of a city along the seashore. So here it is. I tried to make the colors as true to the real painting with my camera, but I never quite get there. This is a close facsimile, though.

I have never taken an art class. I do have a friend who is a wonderful artist and when she moves back home from Florida this spring/summer, I’m hoping she will enlighten my efforts. In the meantime, I’ll let the spirit move me when it desires and be happy with the outcome. My paintings will never hang in a museum, but perhaps when I know a little more about what I’m doing, we might try a gallery.

Unlike writing, which I enjoy too, painting gives me more freedom because I’m ignorant about technique. When I write, I am conscious of grammar, plot  lines, character development, and all the other elements that go into creating a good story. The sheer knowledge of knowing what to do can take the fun out of writing and it eventually becomes my work. I’m proud to tell people about my writing because I love what I’ve created in my books, but I paint for the sheer joy of creating and don’t critique myself; I simply enjoy the activity.

So the next time when the “spirit” moves you, go with it. Enjoy. Feel the love of what you’re doing, then drop me a line to tell me about your tickle of inspiration. With almost twelve hundred people following this blog now, I hope a few of you will share. . . it the most fun of blogging. Don’t you agree?

Imagination is a Wonderful Escape

On Wednesday of the is week, our temperatures zoomed above freezing! (Well to tell the truth, they didn’t “zoom.” They crawled to 32 degrees.) It was a day for celebration. A day to open all the window blinds and let the sunshine pour in. A day to wear sandals! Yeah. Right.

As I sat in my chair writing the final chapters of “Grounded No More,” the UPS guy dumped dropped a package on my deck and ran for his truck like his life depended upon that one second he could have used to knock on the door. I have grown to hate shopping, except for browsing through thrift shops, but the internet has given me another option and since my Social Security checks started arriving in September, I’ve been doing some damage letting my finger tips click and save!

I waited a few minutes for the rude UPS guy to drive off and then secretively retrieved my latest package from the porch and brought it into the house. With a quick flick of a carpet knife, (over the past few months I’ve become quite proficient with this tool), I had the box opened and gazed upon a pair of Clark’s metallic sandals. I took them out of the box and gazed at their beauty. These two shoes had to be one of the most stunning pair of summer shoes I had ever seen.sandals 012

Patience is a virtue and in situations like this, I am not virtuous. I shook off my fur-lined slippers with a quick kick and reverently adorned my feet in the beautiful sandals. The pewter color of the leather gave my feet the appearance they belonged to a princess–or at this stage of my life, a queen, and I pictured my yet-to-be perfectly manicured toes with a summer shade of peach polish light up the exquisite shoes.

I slipped my ugly winter toes into the sandals and voila! They fit like a cobbler had made them for me. I imagined myself strolling through the throngs of tourists in the Straw Market in the Bahamas. Then I lazily stretched out on a chaise lounge on the top deck of a cruise ship while a handsome waiter brought me a umbrella-adorned tropical beverage in a tall glass. Next I sauntered down a white beach in Jamaica. Before I knew it, I was driving through the Art Deco section of Miami in a convertible with the top down. Graceful palm trees danced in the gentle breeze as my right sandal pushed down on the accelerator and I buzzed passed them.

Yes, winter cabin fever can make a person do screwy things.  I’m happy to tell you I didn’t take off my precious new sandals all day. I let our large DuraFlame heater assure my toes they would not freeze as I exposed them so prematurely. But for eight hours, while my new sandals and I got acquainted, we dreamed of our debut in the warmth of eighty degrees and sunny. Not a bad winter day at all.

Everyday Heroes

heroesOne of my favorite times of the day is in the morning as I wake up. I’m somewhere between drowsy and coherency. I drift along paying no attention to anything in particular. The quiet of the morning lays on me like a warm blanet as I prepare to leave the land of limbo knowing in a few minutes I’ll stir and join the land of the active living.

In my waking period this morning, I heard a comment on the television that resonated with me. The speaker said, “Real heroes are those people who go about their normal day and rise to the occasion when they need to.” In my half awake state, I agreed. There are heroes all around us who we rarely recognize.

Instead we hear about soldiers, police, and firemen who protect us from ourselves. Thank God we have people like them who are willing to do these kinds of jobs, but do they do them to serve the community or do they do them for the adrenalin rush they feel every time a call comes in and they spring into action? My Dad was a volunteer fireman for over forty years, and my ex-husband did this work for over twenty, so I recognize the look in their eyes when they are called into action. Like I said, I’m glad they did what they did, but are they heroes in the true sense of the word?

Or are heroes those who live good lives with love in their hearts for everyone who crosses their paths. Are heroes the volunteers who teach our children the joys of outdoors through scouting and 4H Clubs? Are heroes people who check on their elderly neighbors, helping where they can without being asked? Are heroes people who give rides to people who can’t drive or aren’t lucky enough to have a car? Are heroes the nurses who are dead on their feet and still find time to give you a genuine smile?

You’ll never hear about people like this on the six o’clock news because for some reason the people who own the networks seem to think inspiring a culture rooted in fear sells more advertising. The stories of everyday heroes are just not exciting enough.

Personally, a hero for me is one who opens a door for my husband as he rolls through in his motorized wheel chair. A hero for me is a person who wears a smile and has a kind word for others even when they carry pain with them everyday. A hero for me is someone who turns a personal tragedy into a positive outcome for someone else.

We are all connected, people. We need to appreciate the heroes in our lives who don’t wear medals or are awarded plaques. Medals tarnish. Plaques are thrown in the attic into a long-forgotten box. But a smile or a kind gesture will live on–sometimes forever.

Who Knows the Path from Sleeplessness to Slumber?

sleepless nightA couple of years ago, I started waking up every night in the wee hours of the morning, my body screaming with pain. My mind was not fully awake, but my brain heard the command, “Move it! Move it! Move it!” from a voice that sounds likes burly Army Drill Sergeant. My old bones woke me again!

I tumble out from under the blankets and stumble into the bathroom. I open the medicine cabinet, take a couple of Advil, and use the facilities as long as I made the trip. But by now, my stupor lifts, and I find myself wide awake. If I go back to bed, I’ll disturb Ken because I know I’ll toss and turn for at least a couple of hours before sleep finds me again.

Instead, I toddle out to the living room sofa and make myself comfortable with several pillows and an old comforter. Ernie joins me and the two of us settle in to watch some obscure program on the History2 or Science channel hoping a monotone narrator will send me off to slumber land again.

After I shared this nightly sleep interruption with a few of my girlfriends, I learned I’m not alone. Lots of them are awake at 2:00 a.m., too. Curious. Maybe we should start a two o’clock club and meet at the bakery.

Recently bought a new sofa, and because I spend so much time laying on the old one, I had to make sure the new piece of furniture was not only comfortable, but it also had to fulfill other specific criteria, too. First, it had to have removable pillows, so it would be wide enough for Ernie to lay beside me because every night he faithfully follows me and settles in beside me. Second, it needed to be supportive. and finally, the fabric had to take the abuse of Ernie’s sharp toenails. Hey, wait a minute! It looks like I picked out the new sofa as much for Ernie as I did for me!

Christmas Party 001

Ernie on the Couch

I don’t see this pattern changing any time soon, so every night I try a different pillow configuration until I get my comfort level on the new couch as high as it was on the old one. The best part of this sleeplessness is enjoying the soft light of the indoor Christmas lights. Yes, I keep vigil by the lights of the season. It almost makes waking up worth it.