Tag Archive | family

Pet Therapy

The title of this blog is probably misleading, but it’s the best I’ve got this morning. I’ve had my first cup of coffee as the television keeps me company. About every third commercial had a dog or cat in it, and these ads made me think of my friends and their pets.

March 30 038Most every day I tell Ernie he is the cutest pug in the world. He’s so lovable. As you can see, he really hams it up once we put on a silly hat or other apparatus on his head. His happiest time is when he’s sitting on my lap or Ken’s lap. He is content to just be near us. At eight years old, he could care less if he plays. He doesn’t even want to chew on rawhide bones any more.

poeYesterday I visited with Jackie who took in a boy Maine Coon cat who has quite a personality. She is the process of moving and “Poe” is totally confused because she keeps eliminating his hiding places. She said he looked at her when he went to one of his favorite spots and it had vanished. He let out a loud “meow” as if to say, “What the heck?”

Then there’s my friend Kay who recently took in three stray cats to go with her one house cat. Yes, she has four cats, and no, she’s not nuts. She moved to Florida last year and has found the move more difficult than she ever imagined. I believe the universe sent her these three little boys to keep her laughing and happy. If you have cats, you know you don’t need any other entertainment when a kitten is in the house.

I think we all have these little creatures in our lives because none of us has any grandchildren. Our pets fill a deep seated need to spread our love onto some little being. We always talk about our four-legged children, catching each other up on the latest antics of our pets. A little crazy? I suppose. But that’s okay. When our animals follow us from room to room, none of us feel alone. These little souls give us unconditional love just what we all need.

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2

Chapter 8

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – June, 1939—A few weeks into her summer vacation, Donna Jean became bored with hanging out at the beach, listening to the radio soap opera, “Ma Perkins,” and writing in her diary. Since graduation, her father nagged her every day to go out and find a job, but Donna Jean refused. In retaliation for disobeying him, Donna’s father got physical with her. Any saucy comment resulted in a hard slap to the face.

After the Fourth of July celebration, Josie and Donna met at Joe’s Diner for a Coke and french fries.

Donna sipped her Coke. “The fireworks knocked me out! God, I think every year they get better.”

“Yeah, I love fireworks. So many colors against the dark sky. I only wish I had a boyfriend to keep me warm in the damp summer night.” Josie teased Donna.

“Just because I came with a date and you didn’t doesn’t mean you get to give me the raspberries.” Donna grinned.

Josie said in a dreamy tone. “I can’t believe in six weeks I’ll be off to college.”

“At least you got to enjoy a little bit this summer. Rumors at Joe’s tell you and Bobby did some sparking in the cornfield.”

“You bad girl. I did nothing of the sort.” Josie blushed.

“Josie, you aren’t as pure as you pretend to be. ‘Fess up.”

“I won’t ‘fess up.  Bobby just helped me get the tractor started when the old thing stalled in the middle of the field. That’s all. Nothing happened.”

“Oh, really.” Donna didn’t believe a word.

“Yes. Really. Besides, he’s too old for me. Good looking, I’ll admit. But too old.” Josie got a dreamy look on her face.

“You realized with that dreamy look you just confessed the rumors are true, don’t you?”  Donna said with confidence.

“You and your gossip. One of these days you’re really going to hurt someone by spreading stories that aren’t true.”

“I’ll never hurt you, Josie.” Donna said seriously. “You’re my best friend.”

“Then as your best friend, I’m telling you the truth. Nothing is going on with Bobby.”

“Okay. Okay. I’ll drop the subject.” Donna Jean said. “After graduation I vowed I would enjoy my summer and not look for work until you left for school.” Donna never talked about her father’s abuse.

“Yeah.”

“Well, right now I’m bored. I can’t be with you because you’re working on the farm. So, how would you feel if I got a job?  I’m going stir crazy with all this alone time.”

“I think you should go for it. I’m surprised you think you need my permission to go to work, especially with the way you like new clothes and shoes. I’m surprised your Dad hasn’t kicked you out of the house by now.”

“Gee. Thanks.” Donna pouted.

“Go get the best job you can, Donna, and I’ll be very proud of you.” Josie said.

Donna said, “First thing Monday morning I’ll be out pounding the pavement, but right now, let’s go down by your pond and skinny dip for a while.”

Josie jumped out of the booth and headed for the door. “Last one to the pond is a dumb blond!”

*****

Donna Jean started her job search early Monday morning. She dressed in her navy blue “career girl” dress, a pair of sensible high heels, and a smart hat to make a good impression. She submitted applications with the city’s biggest employers including Autolite, Allis Chalmers, Northern Engraving, and G. Heileman Brewing. Several of the personnel managers gave her a typing and shorthand test. All day she filled out applications and other paperwork as she walked from one company to the next. By evening the soles of her feet burned, and she acquired a couple of blisters on her heels.

Three days after visiting G. Heileman Brewing, Donna received a phone call from the personnel manager. He told her she scored high on both the typing and the shorthand tests, and he wanted to meet with her for a more informative interview. Donna maintained a calm voice as she spoke with the manager, but the second she hung up the phone, she jumped and screamed, “Mom! G. Heileman wants to interview me!” She grabbed her mother and whirled her around the kitchen. ”

Her mother frowned and broke Donna’s hold. “Don’t get your hopes up. You’re  not as good as you think you are, young lady. At least now I your father might stop screaming at you.” She walked into the living room.

“Gee, thanks, Mom.” Donna’s eyes moistened. Why did her mother enjoy bursting her bubble?

Chapter 9

Berlin, Germany — July 1939—Heidi sat in the kitchen with a glass of milk and piece of strudel as she dreamed about escaping Germany and getting on with her life in a different country. The nanny position might be a good experience. She loved children. She enjoyed teaching and caring for them, and she even didn’t mind doing some light housework, if required by her employer. A job in Poland would also give her a chance to meet some boys who didn’t fall under the spell of the Nazis.

Since she spoke with her mother about working in Poland, Heidi got more excited about leaving home. She went to the library and read about their neighboring country and wrote a letter to her Warsaw cousins. The day she received a reply from her Uncle Hans inviting her for a visit, she and her mother went straight to the train station to buy a ticket.

Heidi’s father didn’t think his daughter should be influenced by  the inferior Poles. He never understood why his brother didn’t return to Germany after his Polish wife died, but Heidi’s enthusiasm to see her uncle and cousins made denying her difficult. But at least she didn’t talk about dancing so much any more.

Heidi kept her eyes on her parents through the train window as the train pulled away from the station. Her father put his arms around her mother as she dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief. For a second, Heidi wondered if she shouldn’t take the trip.

When her parents faded away, Heidi pulled out a book from her bag and began to read in Polish. At an early age her father insisted she speak two languages, so she learned Polish. Learning a new language was fun, so Heidi learned French and English too.

Between children screaming and the jostling of the train, Heidi didn’t sleep the entire ten hours of the trip. She thanked God the train trip ended as she stepped onto the Warsaw train station platform. All around her other languages bombarded her; and her fear of speaking Polish and making a mistake when asking for directions scared her. All of a sudden crippling shyness took over. How strange to hear foreign words. Before she could understand the conversations around her, she needed to translate each word into German. And because the native speakers talked fast, she fell behind and got lost.

Out of the din, a man shouted in German, “Heidi-hier dren!”

She turned around to see a man waving. When she studied his face, she realized he must be her Uncle Hans. His image matched the photograph her father kept on the mantel at home.

“Uncle Hans!” Heidi shouted and ran toward him.

The tall man with bushy eyebrows took her bag. “Did you enjoy your trip?”

“No.  I am so tired. Between the train noise, passengers talking, and children screaming, the journey proved difficult to sleep.”

“Perhaps you are just a little bit nosy to block them out?” Her uncle teased and chuckled.

She laughed with him. “Perhaps a little.”

He escorted her to a waiting car with three children in the backseat. “Heidi, these are your Warsaw cousins – Gertruda, Michal, and Anka.”

Heidi said with a broad smile, “Hello everyone.”

Anka spoke first in German. “We are very glad you are here, Heidi. Father told us about where you live.”

Then Michal said, “Yes. Papa told us that you live in Berlin. What is the city like?”

Gertruda, the youngest said. “Papa said you are a dancer. Will you teach me?”

Heidi appeared a bit flustered at the bombardment of questions.

Her uncle came to her rescue. “Heidi is very tired. How about we let her rest and after dinner she can answer all of your questions.”

“All right, Papa.” They said in unison and settled into the backseat.

Heidi sat forward in the passenger seat to avoid their disappointed faces.

Hans smiled as he drove home.

 

 

Absent But Not Forgotten

handsToday I had a wonderful surprise from one of my blog buddies — I haven’t posted for quite some time and she sent a note saying she was worried about me.

So many people pooh-pooh the social network saying its a tool for the self-absorbed. As I see it, that comment is probably pretty true because most people who are “connected” are very young. But I also see social networking as a terrific tool to connect with new and old friends. It’s a wonderful tool to “meet” new people — from across the country and across the world.

Lately, I haven’t felt like I have anything important to say. My world has shrunk since I left the work place and stay at home most days with Ken. But I guess I was wrong. Some people want to hear from me. And thank you for that.

Since my hiatus, I have also been lucky to connect with some very old friends. One woman is a classmate from grade school. We’ve had lunch a few times and hours have sped by. We are so like-minded it’s wonderful to be together. We both have suffered loss. We both have suffered sickness. We both put family first. Even our look at spirituality is the same. I’m so thankful God has put her back into my life again.

The same is true for another friend who has drifted in and out of my life since high school. When our children were small, we were close. We went to the same church on Sunday and had a lot of other connections. After my divorce and her divorce, we lost each other, only to come together again as caretakers — she for her mother, me for Ken.

Then the frosting on my friend cake is the return of a dear friend who spent the last twenty-five years in Florida. Now that she is older, she wanted to be close to her children and old friends. She misses her pals in Florida, and is frustrated she can’t find things in her new house, but we got to have lunch together yesterday for the first time in a decade–and that was fun. Our reunion is like little time had passed. Our connection was still there.

I think God has put these people back into my life because I need them. I need to laugh with them. I need to get their opinions. I need to know I have a safety net when I feel like I’m falling into oblivion. Most of all I need their hugs because Ken can no longer do that for me. And that, my friends is a loss more than I can express.

So for those who have missed me in the blogging world, I thank you, too. You have reminded me that reaching out is my saving grace.

The Best of Christmas Everyday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

thanksgivingHolidays are curious times. Most of us look forward to them; some of us dread them. We all have a perception of the “perfect” celebration, which is usually unrealistic. So, when the actual holiday rolls around we are either elated or disappointed. There’s  no in between.

This year I was looking forward to being with Ken’s family in Chicago only to learn they all are heading to Nebraska to be with Ken’s other brother and his family. Needless to say, I was in a funk. My picture of our usual Norman Rockwell-type Thanksgiving with the turkey sitting golden brown on the perfectly set dining table, surrounded by smiling faces were dashed with one phone call.

Last year we went to my dear friend Kay’s house. Little did I know that would be the last time we’d be together for the holiday because this fall Kay and her husband moved to Florida. I’m so thankful we had the opportunity to be together because Thanksgiving is special to Kay. It’s the one American holiday she enjoys as a Scottish immigrant.

This year, though, I had to develop a plan “B,” so  I called a few friends to see if they had plans for the unique American holiday only to find out they were already busy.  It looked like Ken and I would be roasting our 15 pound bird alone, and then we’d sit across the dining room table just like any other ordinary night, staring at each other, while we would eat a meal which was meant to be shared.

And then the phone rang.

Just as I accepted our lonely fate, I got a call from a close friend. It was our Dave inviting us to his family’s Thanksgiving dinner. He and Terry have been friends for over 20 years; we have watched their boys grown into handsome young men and supported each other through good times and bad. This invitation lifted my spirits more than I can tell you.

Now instead of moping around like an orphaned child, I’m actually looking forward to Thursday. I’ll begin the day with a cup of coffee, while I watch the Macy’s parade in my jammies. Following that tradition, Ken and I will enjoy a special breakfast, before we watch the Packers/Lion’s football game dressed in our Packer regalia. Finally, we’ll toddle off to a thankful feast with great friends. Sounds like a good day.

A Fall Into Darkness

Autumn by the pond 001Have you noticed how short the days are becoming? Enter soon the dark, dark, dreary month of November–probably my most hated month of the year. I remember one November in 1991 when there was only eleven hours of sunlight! As a sun sign, I was never so depressed.

The only saving grace of November is we have Thanksgiving, which is a unique holiday to America. It’s a time when most families gather together, stuff themselves with great turkey and trimmings, then remember how lucky they are to have each other. Since 1992, this holiday was dashed for me because when I got divorced after 22 years of marriage, my ex and I had to pick the  holidays when we would have our children. He got Thanksgiving, so ever since I’ve been a Thanksgiving orphan.

I miss not having Thanksgiving with my daughters because they still go to their father’s place on turkey day, but I’ve had twenty years to get used to it. I always looked forward to my orphan status because every Thanksgiving dinner was different, and I didn’t have to put up with a sister who has issues with me or nieces and nephews who never learned social graces.

Every year I always had a place to go because of my strong network of friends who included me with their families. When I met Ken, I finally had a family again. The way they accepted me and included me was a gift, and I was never an orphan again.

So as November approaches, and the time change plunges us into darkness, remember there is a wonderful holiday coming up at the end of the month to remind us just how lucky we are. And then, the next day the craziness of “Black Friday” and “Cyber Saturday” begins — if you’re into that nonsense to take you into frantic December.

Out With The Old

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

I’ve taken a few days away from the blog to do some serious furniture shopping. I’m happy to say, after a few trips to various stores, I found a sofa and a recliner to compliment Ken’s lift chair and our pug boy Ernie.

I think the saleswoman thought I was a little nuts when I told her my criteria for a sofa. I specified the sofa had to be comfortable enough for a night of insomnia and wide enough for me and, of course, Ernie.

After going through four books of swatches, I decided upon a gray fabric with a thin black line to add some texture. Best of all, the soft fabric is polyester, so it will wear well for an animal’s feet.

The chair? It isn’t part of a sofa set, instead, it’s an automatic recliner. (That means you plug in the chair and push a button instead of having to pull a crank.) The chair is upholstered in solid polyester fabric that looks like suede, so again, it’s Ernie-proof.

For all of you who are not dog and cat lovers, you might think this kind of shopping is crazy, but for Ken and I, we are just compensating for our “kids.” Our animals are part of the family and both Ernie and Vinnie have run of the house. We haven’t restricted them from jumping on the furniture simply because we love them sitting beside us when we plop down for a night of television. Stroking their soft, silky fur lowers our blood pressure and makes us feel cozy. Neither of them are good conversationalists, but they always listen when we talk to them. Who could ask for better friends?

So, now all we have to do is wait eight to ten weeks to have the manufacturer build our sofa to our specifications. The chair, however, will be arriving tomorrow between one and three o’clock in the afternoon. I just hope when we put my “writing chair” out on the curb, my muse won’t go with it.

 

Crossroads in Life

Which wayHave you ever daydreamed about what would have happened if you had chosen a different path from the one you’ve chosen? I don’t do this often because I’ve promised myself I will live without regrets, but I do wonder about a couple of key decisions I’ve made as a young person with little life experience. A different decision would have drastically changed my life.

For instance, I let my mother talk me out of going to college after high school. I don’t blame her for my decision, but she was a key element in my decision to take business courses like typing and shorthand to be able to go straight into the work force at age seventeen. Working as a teenager in a thirty-year-old world was the worst time in my life. There I was, marooned on an island where the adults saw me as a little kid. Men weren’t interested in dating me, and the boys I knew were away at college. I went a whole year without a date. Making matters worse, my girlfriends were in school, too. I was abandoned by no choice of my own. My class rank was 33 in a class of 667. I should have been on campus burning my bra instead of sitting behind a typewriter from eight to four.  It was the only time in my life I wanted to die — seriously, I didn’t want to live any more in that world.

When I turned eighteen that summer, my Aunt Mary in California invited me to visit. I had been writing to her all of my life and now I had the chance to spend a week with this woman I knew only through letters. The trip was exciting in all aspects. It entailed traveling by plane for the first time with airport delays and such, but then, the plane ride was part of the adventure. There were no metal detectors. Family could meet you at the gate. People were relaxed and friendly. The food was good and served on a tray. There was no terrorism stress. It was terrific.

My Aunt Mary met me at the San Diego airport and brought this weary traveler home. (Did I mention we had a six-hour delay in Chicago?) She was so sweet to me. Everyday we had a new adventure. She introduced me to beautiful San Diego, and I fell in love with the oleander bushes that brought color to every yard. I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time at La Jolla beach. We visited an old mission. I went to Disneyland for an entire day with my cousin Carolyn who was four years older than me. Aunt Mary took me to Sea World where I saw the dolphins and whales for the first time. Up until now,  I had only seen such animals in books. Most every night we got dressed for dinner and ate in fancy restaurants. It was a trip I never will forget.

Aunt Mary and I hit it off so well, she invited me to live with her. I was torn between home and California. California offered another direction for my life. but I had never been so far away from home, and giving up my job and my car and living in a different place scared me. To this day, I’m sorry I didn’t give it a try. I have lived in Racine all of my life. I see now, this was a mistake. But my world was too small when I was eighteen and I wasn’t in any hurry to expand my horizons. What is it they say? Youth is wasted on the young?

I’m sure we all have such crossroads in our lives. Tell me of a time when you had to make such an important decision about what path to travel, and we can compare notes. Come on. I dare you!

Pickles & Memories

bread-butter-pickles-1-550I have dear friends who share their fresh produce from their garden with me. I am so grateful because I am inept at growing vegetables. I do all right with herbs and flowers, but I haven’t produced a tomato in ten years. It’s probably due to the fact that my yard is almost completely shaded by huge trees. Yeah. That’s right. I’ll blame it on the trees!

At any rate, today I’m making bread and butter pickles. I haven’t canned since we moved in this house over 12 years ago, so this is quite an undertaking. (I might wuss out and just keep them chilled in the refrigerator; we’ll see how ambitious I turn out to be.)

I always loved canning when I was younger. It was one time my mother and I worked together without butting heads. I especially loved freezing corn because there were so many steps to that vegetable. It turned out to be an all-day process by the time we shucked the corn, blanched it, chilled it, cut it off the cob and finally filled freezing containers with the kernels.

My mother never made any kind of pickles except for bread and butter pickles. I liked the pickles Mrs. Johnson, my best girlfriend’s mother, made. She trained me on the process of jarred dill pickles and also crock sweet pickles. Another neighbor taught me how to make watermelon pickles. I thought any pickle was worth my time and talent because I loved them all.

Canning somehow makes me feel more in touch with my food. I carried on the tradition when I had my children living with me, but when they grew up, it seemed senseless to can for two people. There’s a part of me that misses the process and the freshness of canning. I miss the sweet smells and seeing the bright colors in Mason and Kerr Jars lining the cupboard. The pretty pictures on store-bought veggies can’t compare.

What I don’t miss is the mess and sweating over hot kettles in the summer time. Menopause brings its own flashes of heat now, so I guess I’ll just remember my canning days when one of those self-made heatwaves comes along!

Red Geranium Inspiration

This year my geraniums are beautiful. For five years, I have been following in the footsteps of my grandma and saving my geraniums from year to year. I pull them out of their pots right before it freezes, knock off the dirt, put them in brown paper bags from the grocery store and then put them in a dark place in the basement to grow dormant.

In the spring,  after the threat of frost has passed, I resurrect the plants from their hiding place and plant them in their pots once again with a drink of water and a little fertilizer. In a couple of weeks, the brown stems start producing green leaves and in a few more weeks gorgeous flowers appear. The plants keep up their beauty through the summer and into the early fall. Every time I go through this process, I think of my grandma and know she bequeathed her “green thumb” to me.

For the past couple of days, I’ve taken a hiatus from writing (except for blogging), and have delved into researching my next novel. I also had an itch to paint. I found my inspiration in my own backyard, and I attempted to capture the red geraniums. The one on the left is the painting; the one on the the real thing. Tell me what you think!

Another Ending

love_heart_flowers-HDAfter almost two months since my father’s passing, it’s now time to empty the house and sell the place where I grew up and my parents lived for over 60 years. I haven’t lived in that house since I was 18, but still the dwelling holds many memories.

I remember when we moved from the small house next door into our “big” house. . . of 1000 sq. feet . . . but to us the place was a palace. My brother and I each had our own room. We had a long hallway where my father taught me to skip. We had a basement, which was a whole world we never had in our little house. The basement was where we used our imaginations to make up plays,  play dress up, and even help mom with the wash once in a while. When we got older, it was where my mother had den meetings for my brother’s Cub Scout den. It also was where I had my first girl-boy party when I was in eighth grade.

Every inch of that house was special because my father built it with his own hands. Every inch was neater than I could ever make anything because both of my parents were neat freaks. They had few things new or expensive items, except for my Dad’s lawn equipment in the garage. I didn’t take much. A dresser. A chair. A coffee pot, three china tea cups and saucers, an indoor grill and some dish rags. I didn’t want much because I have a whole household of my own. Going through this chore was especially hard for my younger brother and sister because both of them were closer to my parents in recent years than I was.  It still was surreal to me, to go through drawers I never opened in my life. I kept reminding myself that it was only stuff, and my parents are together again in another place. Some of what they left behind holds sentiment and other stuff will live on in usefulness for someone else.

It’s a stage of life we all go through, but I’m thankful I only have to do this once.