Tag Archive | gardening

Fall Has Fallen

My Neighborhood in Autumn

My Neighborhood in Autumn

I live in an older neighborhood where trees are tall and colors in the fall are plentiful. Maybe it’s because I grew up rather poor, but I can never remember a time when fall color is something I didn’t revere.

As a child, all of the neighborhood kids raked leaves that had fallen in our yards and then arranged them in rectangles on the easement between the sidewalk and street. We pretended these rectangles of fallen leaves were our shops. We had a doctor, a barber, a bakery, a school, etc. Other rectangles served as our homes. We would play with no-cost leaves all day, visiting each other and our imaginations recreated the real world as we saw it as five and six year olds.

When I went to college, I drove down a county road which lead to campus. This road was flanked on both sides by old, large trees of several different varieties creating a breathtaking tunnel of dramatic Fall color. Rich oranges, reds, golds, and burgundies breathed a certain wonder as I drove to a day of classes on campus. It was a perfect way to begin every fall semester.

Now in retirement I still search out the color. Luckily I don’t have to go far because as you see in the photo above my neighborhood provides plenty of color. Oh, I still take a pilgrimage down to campus whenever I can, but I also can look out my window to witness the beauty of Fall which never disappoints.

If you live in a place where the seasons change, you are blessed. Just take a few minutes every day to become part of the Fall season. Recapture that childish joy of wonder because if you don’t winter will come and you would have missed the big show.

Blue Skies Are Shining on Me

The title of this post might be a little confusing even though there’s not a cloud in the sky. The title does relate to what’s going on today. For the last three days, the landscaper has been turning our backyard into a park I’ve been striving to achieve since we moved in here thirteen years ago. I’m not posting pictures because, of course, the work is not done — but that’s half of the beauty. I have learned to be patient as we’ve moved through the different projects this year –the kitchen, the living room, the utility room, and who could forget the “Taj Garage.” As the old comes down and the new goes up, the process is fun to watch — although I admit the Taj Garage did push me to the limits.

I’ve seen the finished backyard in my mind’s eye for over a year. It started with the installation of the fence last year, and now continues with a retaining wall, new plants and cleaning out some of the weeds and old plants and replacing them with updates. The anticipation of the yard being finished is exhilarating.

I thank the weather for cooperating for the past three days — I bet you’ll probably never hear me say that again! But rain has been taking a path north and leaving our area dry. Perhaps it will rain when our landscape is finished for this year. Next year, I’ll tackle the front.

Like all the cliches predict — It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. Sorry. Just had to say it.

Have a good day with blue skies shining on you!

######

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – (CONTINUED)

Chapter 19

Budapest, Hungary – December—The winds of war changed direction. With the Nazis on the borders of Hungary, fear mounted in the Jewish community. If Budapest Jews fate followed the Nazi treatment of Jews in other countries, time would be short before they would be deported.

Rabbi Weismann’s deal with Eichman would diminish once the Nazis overran the city; worst of all he couldn’t keep his promise to protect Heidi and the children any longer. He went to work on a plan to help them escape. If he moved fast enough, they might stand a chance.

Part of the preparation for their journey required the car to be in good working order. The Rabbi hid the Rolls in a neighboring barn for the past three years, and the vehicle needed work. Sitting dormant for so long might become troublesome on the road. The worn tires and cracked hoses needed replacing; and of course, they needed enough gasoline to get to Switzerland. Everything they required was in short supply, but as always, the Rabbi solved the problem. His connections with the black market got him anything for a price.

Heidi also needed a good traveling companion.  The man Rabbi Weismann chose was a trusted Hungarian friend.  Dominik was a perfect choice because he spoke fluent German. When he was small, his father worked in a Nuremberg factory and he learned the language then. His family moved back to Hungary after his grandfather died, and Dominik’s father took over the family grocery business. When the Rabbi told Heidi of his choice to accompany her, she agreed. Over the past three years she met Dominik on many occasions and she trusted him.

Dominik agreed to the plan and mapped out a route which would keep them off the main roads for much of the trip. The route added several hours to the journey, but Dominik believed they would be less likely to encounter German troops on the back roads. The most dangerous part of the trip required them to drive through the Alps. The changeable weather at high elevations provided more danger than any checkpoint. When Dominik shared his plan with the Rabbi, the two men agreed putting safety first  outweighed the extra time the journey would require.

Gavriella packed enough food and water to last for the duration of  the journey. Another friend of the Rabbi’s stole enough petro to drive all the way to Switzerland.  The Rabbi even arranged a false marriage certificate for the couple and a baptismal certificate for David. David could not be Heidi’s child because of his age, so he became her nephew according to the false documents.  The two younger children named Heidi and Dominik as their parents on birth certificates. To be on the safe side, Heidi once again dyed the children’s dark hair blond.

Before they left at dawn, the Rabbi prayed over them. “Almighty God, please go with Heidi, my adopted daughter on this perilous journey. With your protection, and Dominik’s keen intellect, I put them all in your hands as they make this journey to Switzerland. Please ride with them during their journey.” He paused after he finished the prayer and gazed at Heidi with wet eyes. “My dear girl, you will remain in my heart forever.”

“Oh Rabbi, perhaps I should stay with you.”

“No. You must keep the children safe. You promised their mother.”

Heidi nodded. She understood making this trip would save David, Ruthie, and Jacob’s lives, but saying goodbye to the Rabbi proved to be one more difficult task since she met the Gesslers.

The Rabbi said in a calm voice. “Now, Heidi, we’ve been over this. You must go. You are the best hope for the children. If you stay, even God cannot protect you.” He hugged all of them and backed away from the car.

“I will never forget you.” Heidi said.

The Rabbi waved farewell as Dominik started the car.  “Take good care of them, Dominik.”

“Do not worry, Rabbi, I will protect them like my own family.”

Heidi and the children waved until the Rabbi disappeared in the distance.  The silence that followed for the first few miles hung  like a thick fog. Once again they left a safe home for something unknown. Dominik headed west and everyone remained silent.

After a few miles, Ruthie spoke first. “Heidi, are you our Mutter again?”

“Yes, sweetheart. I am you Mutter forever and ever.”

“Good. I like you as my Mutter.” She leaned against David and closed her eyes.

Book 6 – 1944

Chapter 1

Anzio, Italy – January, 1944—Josie and the rest of the medical staff rang in the New Year in a tent. For the past three years she celebrated the first of January with the medical staff in the same way with a bottle of beer and a cigarette.  She had been transferred from Sicily to Anzio, Italy, but this time her move came with a promotion to First Lieutenant. She made the trip on a ship headed north for the 95th Evacuation Hospital. And like her other encounters with beach landings, as soon as she set foot on the sand, air raid sirens sounded. The nurses took cover near the trucks which would take them to their new location.

After the “all clear” whistle sounded, the driver and the nurses traveled to a field in the middle of nowhere. Josie yelled to the driver. “This can’t be right. Check your instructions private.”

The driver considered her comment insulting and condescending. He hated taking orders from some broad. “I put you where the brass wanted you. Get out of my truck!”

Josie scowled. “Who’s your commanding officer, private?”

“Captain James Smith.”

“He’ll be hearing from me.” Josie jumped from the truck’s passenger seat and motioned for everyone to get out of the truck. She decided reasoning with this hard-head who thought women should stay home and pop out babies would be an exercise in futility. But as soon as she could, she’d let Captain Smith know about his insubordinate driver.

After the driver left, Josie took charge and gave an order to the corpsman in their group. “Charlie, radio headquarters and confirm if we are in the correct location to set up our facility.”

Over an hour later, the corpsman made contact and confirmed Josie guessed correctly.  The knucklehead driver dropped them in the wrong place. “HQ is sending another truck. We are to wait here.”

Josie threw up her arms. “Great!”

One small building stood in the middle of their location. The nurses and corpsmen scattered and fell on their bellies inside the weathered building while shells flew overhead with a sickening whine.

Josie joked, “Nobody can deny the Krauts throw a hell of a welcome party.”

Her tongue-in-cheek comment broke the tension in the shelter and everyone laughed. By now, scattering for shelter due to air raids became routine for these field-tested nurses.

An hour later, another truck picked them up and took them to Nettuno to establish another field hospital. Nettuno was a small town south of Anzio and a short distance from the main road along the beach. The beautiful, park-like surroundings seemed too good to be true. The tents sat on lush grassy fields. The serene location offered a pleasant change from their last assignment which only offered cold, wet, dirty sand. The nurses didn’t even complain when they dug the necessary foxholes under the cots. Josie set up the operating tent to prepare for the wounded who would inevitably come.

As they worked, “Screaming Meenie” shells from the biggest German guns miles away, whistled a foreboding sound overhead on their way toward the coast. As the tents went up and the hospital got organized, combat sounds of machine gun fire, shells whistling, and grenades exploding-seemed all too close. Josie wondered if this peaceful location offered safety or a threat to her nurses and patients.

After their long day of setting up the new hospital, Josie and the others flopped down on their cot hoping for a good night’s sleep before the wounded would appear. The long day left them exhausted, but another air raid blast caused them to dive into the foxholes under their cots. They listened to the sounds of war for most of the night. Planes flew so low Josie swore they would fly through the tents. Dee Dee, a new nurse in the group whimpered. Josie thought, “Poor girl, this must be her first time near a combat zone.” But even as a seasoned veteran, Josie never experienced this kind of fire. Her fear stuck in her throat. She held her breath. The shelling went on for until midnight before they crawled out of their foxholes. The nurses laid in their cots muddy, cold, and scared. No one slept that first night.

The shelling at Nuttuno continued to be a nuisance, so a week after they arrived, headquarters made a prudent decision to relocate Josie’s unit closer to the beach near the other units. The location would be a half mile away from any military target, and clearly marked as a medical unit with big red crosses on the tents.

Any time a hospital needed to be moved, nurses usually grumbled. Tents went down. Instruments needed to be packed in sterilized bags. Corpsmen evacuated the wounded to the new location. Afterward they helped fold the cots and put all of the equipment onto the awaiting trucks. Even though moving a hospital was a tremendous undertaking, no one complained. Everyone agreed their  park-like Eden was hell disguised.

*****

Winter months in this part of Italy brought ugly, bone-chilling cold temperatures. Rain and a wind made a tough job even more difficult for the medical staff. Tent flaps whipped open and put patients in jeopardy of exposure. Even worse, the war-torn tents had become riddled with holes from German strafing and flak. Keeping patients warm until they could be evacuated became a losing battle.

Witnessing fear in the wounded when the sirens sounded devastated Josie and the nurses. Patients well enough to put on their steel helmets and crawl under their cots to avoid flying shrapnel did so. Nurses and corpsmen lifted others to the ground while other patients who couldn’t be moved stayed in their cots with a caring nurse holding his hand until the shelling stopped.

Chapter 2

Anzio, Italy – January—To speed up the slow pace northward through Italy, Allied commanders planned a landing behind the German line in an attempt to break the stalemate at the Gustav line–an imaginary line which ran across the Italian “boot” from sea to sea. The landing commenced on January 22—a cool but sunny day. The break in the weather came as a welcomed relief from the cold and rain, which had plagued the area since the Italian campaign ensued.

The beach landing at Anzio–some one hundred miles south of Rome–was a surprise to the Germans, and men and supplies came ashore with little resistance. The Allies intended to establish a foothold in Italy, fight their way north, and capture Rome. Mario’s unit practically strolled onto the beach. The situation proved to be eerie with so little resistance. The men breathed a sigh of relief, and by midnight, some thirty-six thousand men, thirty-two hundred vehicles, and a vast store of supplies reached the beachhead. Any soldier killed the first day fell victim from Stuka bombers which strafed the beaches and dropped bombs as they dove out of the sky.

During the American landing, the Germans pulled back from the beaches and regrouped to prepare a strategic response for the unexpected Allied offensive. In a week’s time, the Germans mustered enough troops to counterattack what Adolf Hitler called the “Anzio abscess,” and for the next four months, Americans encountered some of the most savage fighting of World War II.

Mario’s regiment got trapped on the beachhead.A strong German ground attack and brutal air attacks from the Luftwaffe kept the Americans in their foxholes. . One evening an incoming shell exploded near Mario. Shrapnel riddled his chest, neck and down his legs. Blood poured out of him like a leaky sieve. Medics treated him with bandages to stem the flow of blood before the stretcher bearers got to him to the evacuation hospital.

The nurse who met Mario at the hospital resuscitated him and started an IV with non-cross matched plasma. He required immediate surgery and a strong desire to live. The nurse shoved another needle in the opposite arm for fluids and the drugs he needed during surgery. If Mario lived through surgery, he would receive whole blood when time allowed to properly determine his blood type.  Like so many other wounded soldiers, Mario faced a race against the clock. Doctors stabilized him and spent hours removing the metal shards throughout his body. Mario slipped into a coma after surgery. The sooner he awoke the more likely he would fully recover. Mario faced the most important fight of his life.

It was two days later when Mario finally managed to open his eyes  He saw a pretty nurse standing beside his bed.

He looked up at her and whispered, “Where am I?”

The nurse said, “You’re in the hospital. We’ve been waiting for you to wake up, sleepy head.” She smiled.

He tried to smile but his face didn’t respond. He wanted to banter with her, but he didn’t possess enough strength.

She said, “You’ll be leaving us now that you are conscious.”

“What?” Mario’s parched throat made talking difficult.

The nurse said, “You’re scheduled to evac to Naples. Patients go there to get better care than we can provide here. Don’t worry. You’re going to be just fine.”

The pretty brunette nurse gave him a warm smile. She was kind, but Mario wished it was Josie standing beside him.

“Oh.” Mario wished another pretty nurse named Josie was taking care of him. He closed his eyes and went back to sleep. Say five words used most of his strength. He moaned from the pain.

The nurse gave him a shot of morphine. “This should help, sweetie.” She patted his hand. “Good luck, Mario.”

 

That afternoon Mario was transferred onto a hospital ship headed for Naples. At the hospital there, he would receive the intensive medical care he needed to make a full recovery.

 

Day Four of the “Taj Garage” Saga

It occurred to me this morning that I should have been taking pictures of our garage construction, but I’m about four days too late. Kevin told Ken that I would be able to park in the garage tonight after they finished their work day. I’ll have to see it to believe it.

After all we’ve gone through to get this structure built, it almost seems like a dream that we’ve come this far in four days. But there it is standing proudly on it’s cement slab with four walls and a roof. Hippee!

The only hiccup we’ve experienced happened yesterday. I looked out the window to see the progress and witnessed a man digging a trench along the edge of the patio so the electrical service could run from the house to the garage. Ouch. (Look deep into the hole to see the wire.)

Wire in trench

Wire in trench

I just planted three bunches of perennials in the same place. I searched the yard to find out what happened to my newest babies and saw them dumped in a heap next to a bed of weeds. taj garage 006

I thought, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” took a deep breath, and closed the blind. Even though I was horrified the guy digging the trench obviously didn’t revere my flowers as much as I did, I calmed myself knowing if the poor phlox and daisies died, the garden center still had some left.

When I went out to take these pictures this morning, I noticed my new bench cushions are now covered in saw dust.

taj garage 004

So before we invite hordes of people to help us celebrate our new building, I have a couple of chores to attend to. But I certainly think such an accomplishment deserves a party. I haven’t had a good excuse to have a party all summer.

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3 (Continued)

Chapter 10

 Lviv, Ukraine – April—Russian occupiers in Lviv dictated the Jews needed to swear allegiance to the U. S. S. R. or otherwise, they would be sent to Siberia. Train cars full of Jews started to leave the city everyday, and Heidi’s intuition told her she should get ready to leave too. She returned from her afternoon dance lesson with the children and witnessed Fritz throwing his meager belongings into a flour sack.

“Fritz, where are you going?”

“To Siberia. The Russians are deporting me.”

“No!” Heidi gasped. “You cannot go. You must run!”

“Run where, frauline? I cannot go back to Poland. I do not possess the money to get to Switzerland or Israel. Where should I go?”

“I will help you, Fritz.”

“You are not Jewish, Heidi. You are German so take advantage of it. You must leave with the children.”

“Where? Where would we go, Fritz? I can’t possibly go on the road alone with them.”

“You must go to Hungary. My friends in Budapest will help. I will write you a note of introduction.”

He searched for a scrap of paper and wrote a few words in Hungarian.

Heidi pleaded with him. “Please come with me, Fritz. Together we can succeed in such a journey.”

“No. I would only be trouble for you sweet Heidi. The Russians will hunt me down. and I would put you in jeopardy. I cannot take responsibility for you ending up in a gulag, and what would become of the children? The Russians might even hand us over to the Nazis for deportation to the concentration camps.”

“I cannot travel alone with three children under the age of six, Fritz.”

“You can and you will. You are strong, Heidi. Stronger than you realize.” He handed her an envelope with a Hungarian address. “Take this. These people will help you.”

She bit her lip to hold tears back. “Please reconsider Fritz. You are my friend. I cannot lose another friend.”

Fritz touched the side of her face and studied her blue eyes. “I am a true friend, my sweet Heidi. I am letting you go for your own good.” Fritz kissed her forehead. “Be careful. Leave as soon as possible.” He grabbed his bag and left her standing in the hallway sobbing.

*****

Since the burial of their mother, David and Ruthie remained sad and quiet. Heidi tried to soften their loss, with stories about a girl and three children who went off on a long journey to a new magical land. People believed the new land was beautiful, and best of all a wonderful wizard lived there, and he would protect them from the terrible wolves in the forest. With the wizard’s help, the children would be safe and happy.

David asked a lot of questions about the three young heroes, and when Heidi told him he could be just like them, David perked up. “I am ready to go and find the good wizard. Let’s leave, Heidi!”

“Soon, David, very soon.

*****

Heidi planned the next two weeks carefully. She decided to turn David and Ruthie into German Catholics. First she dyed the children’s hair blonde. Then she bought newer clothes and shoes and discarded all of their Jewish books and clothing so no signs of Jewry existed.

Denying the children of their heritage made Heidi sad, but to protect them, she needed to disavow their parents and their religion. Heidi found a children’s catechism book in some books at the church and began drilling them on Catholic beliefs. David and Ruthie learned new prayers by rote. Heidi taught them the sign of the cross and how to use a rosary saying the prayers they learned–The Hail Mary, Our Father, and Glory Be. When Heidi sensed they absorbed enough, she took them to Mass each Sunday and introduced them around town as her children.

She also taught David and Ruthie simple German words and phrases which might come in handy if they met any Nazis on the road. By the time they would leave Lviv, Heidi would transform these children to look and talk like German gentiles.

Heidi drilled David everyday. “Remember, David, you must never tell anyone that you lived in Warsaw. You must never say we lived in Lviv. You must not speak of your parents. We are from Berlin. We are going to visit relatives in the next town. Do you understand?”

David shook his head to the affirmative. “Yes, Miss Heidi.”

Heidi said, “One more thing. I realize this is hard, David, but you must call me Mutter.”

David screwed up his face. “Why?”

“Because your mother would want you to. That’s why.” Heidi hated herself for being cross with David.

She turned to Ruthie and spoke softly. “You must remember the same, my sweet girl.”

Ruthie smiled. “Ja, Mutter.” She said with a perfect Berliner accent.

Heidi smiled and then turned stern in an instant. “Most importantly, you must never tell anyone you are Jewish. Do you understand?”

The two small children looked at Heidi with wide eyes. They didn’t understand why Heidi demanded such silly things, but they loved her and understood their mother would want them to obey her.

Heidi hugged them. “Oh my sweet children. This is so hard; I understand. You must not be afraid. As long as I am with you, I promise to keep you safe. We are going on a great adventure, and someday, you both can tell Jacob about our travels.” She forced a lilt in her voice.

David hugged Heidi around her legs. “I love you, Heidi. I will like you to be my mutter.”

Heidi smiled and kissed him on the cheek. “Bedtime, my dear children. Let us say our prayers.”

The children knelt on the bare wooden floor, bowed their heads, and folded their hands. “Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. . . .

 

 

 

Finding Peace

Did you ever have a day when you just wanted to growl at somebody?Yeah. You read correctly. I wanted to growl yesterday, and as you might have also noticed, I didn’t post anything. My words might have come out toxic, so I skipped a day.

Realizing I was cranky, I made sure Ken was okay, and I got in the car and drove. Ordinary when I feel like this, I just go out to my backyard and drink my coffee as I enjoy my flower garden. But, right now, my backyard is a disaster because the garage isn’t up yet, and of course, landscaping is impossible before that building is done. But I digress . .  . I really didn’t have a destination for my car ride, except sometime during the day I needed to go to the grocery story for our weekly grub. Surprisingly my car turned into a garden shop.

I took a cart and sloooowllllyyy walked through the blooms. The color and fragrance calmed me. I took a couple of  laps around the place going up and down the long aisles. The discounts on perennials helped too. About a half dozen of them jumped into my cart.

Spending thirty to forty minutes in this beautiful place put my day right. I now felt at ease and ready to get on with my weekly chores. It’s a good strategy to let nature calm the inner beast. What do you do to bring peace into your life when other things are completely out of whack?

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Note: Because I was delinquent yesterday and didn’t post two chapters of Apple Pie and Strudel Girls, I’m giving you four chapters today. Have a good weekend!

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2 Continued

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. Emma requested everyone bring an ornament to dress Marta’s little Christmas tree 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 the same friends at a nearby restaurant before they took in a show at Moulin Rouge. Marta bought an off-white woolen suit with a stylish rolled collar. Large covered buttons went down the front of the jacket which had a fashionable peplum flared at her waist. The pencil skirt flared into pleats at the knee which softened its lines. Her delicate eighteen-inch waist appeared even thinner in this outfit. She wore sheer silk stockings and matching off-white heels.  To complete her outfit, Marta wore an off-white wool beret she tilted to the side. Before living the bedroom, Marta checked her reflection in the mirror. A fashionable young women stared back at her.

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 still stung after receiving his damning letter. Marta told herself she should no longer care 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.

BOOK 3 – 1940

Chapter 1

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – March, 1940—The months after Christmas sped by for everyone except Rosalie. Her belly grew bigger, and she became clumsier as the months passed. When March arrived, she wanted to get her pregnancy sentence over.  She wanted to be free of the child growing inside of her who caused stretch marks, backaches and sleepless nights.

Angelo wished he could relieve Rosalie’s misery. He hid his tinge of guilt because his desire to make a family put her through such agony. He sensed her pain as she fidgeted to find a comfortable position in an overstuffed chair. He left the room when she shifted her weight from foot to foot to wash dishes. Every night he lay awake as she tossed and turned in bed, but worst of all, his sweet little Rosalie turned into a complainer. Unpredictable mood swings brought a stranger into their house. The closer she got to her due date, the sharper her tongue became.

Angelo rubbed out his Lucky Strike cigarette into the cement shop floor as the lunch break whistle sounded. He bounded upstairs to use his boss’s telephone wondering what kind of mood his Rosie would be in today. With six kids of his own, Angelo’s boss took pity on the soon-to-be new father and let him use the office phone every noon to check on his wife. Angelo dialed the familiar four-digit number on the heavy black rotary phone.

“Hello.”

Angelo smiled at the sweetness in her high voice. “Hi honey. How are you today?”

Rosalie sighed. “I’m as big as an elephant and my back is killing me. Sorry the news isn’t cheerier.”

He chuckled to himself, imaging Rosie’s pretty face on the body of an elephant.

“Don’t you dare laugh or next time you can carry the baby!”

“Angelo laughed even harder as he pictured himself pregnant.”If I could carry a baby, I would. Just for you, sweetheart. But then you would need to put up with this hot, stinky, dirty factory.”

“Today, I’ll trade with you.”

Angelo changed the subject. “What’s for supper?”

“I took out some ground beef. I usually don’t goof up hamburgers.”

“Perhaps we should go out for supper tonight. Give you a break.”

“What’s wrong with my hamburgers, Angelo?” She sounded cross.

“Nothing. I thought a change of scenery and a little relaxation away from home might hurry this kid along.”

Rosalie smiled. She loved her sweet husband. “Are you asking me on a date, Mr. Armani?”

“Yup.  What do you say?”

“Sounds wonderful. I’ll be ready when you get home.”

Angelo reminded her, “Okay, but I’ll want to wash up and get out of my work clothes before we go.”

“I guess I can wait that long.”

“Listen, babe, I need to go–the whistle is blowing. Don’t want to get docked when I’m married to such an extravagant gal.”

Rosalie giggled. “I love you, Angelo.”

“Love you too babe. Bye.” He made a kissing sound and hung up.

*****

At four o’clock sharp, Angelo turned his pickup truck into the driveway of their little bungalow. He always took a few seconds to gaze with pride at the house he and Rosie turned into a home. He didn’t want to be anywhere else–he loved his wife and his life with her. He looked forward to seeing their backyard in the spring when the trees and flowers they planted last fall would come to life. Best of all, soon their first baby would come home, completing their American dream.

Rosalie greeted Angelo in the mud room at the back of the house. She was dressed in a pretty blue cotton eyelet top she recently sewed. She wore a pair of blue slacks held up with a draw string tied around her enormous belly. Angelo remembered how hard he laughed when Rosalie showed him her first pair of pregnancy pants which included a huge hole where her belly would eventually fit. He didn’t believe her petite body would ever get that big, but by now her belly filled the hole and then some. Rosie pulled her thick red hair back into a pony tail while wisps of her bangs covered her forehead. She looked more like twelve years old, instead eighteen. Angelo’s love swelled in his chest as he looked at her; he also thought her baby bulge looked a little lower than usual.

She smiled and teased him. “Hi big boy, need a date?”

He played along. “As a matter of fact, cutie, I’m supposed to meet my wife tonight. We’re going out on the town. I’m looking for a swell time. Did you seen her?”

“Yeah. Some pudgy broad hung around here earlier. I told her to get lost.” She laughed.

“Now, why would you go and do something like that?

“Well, you see–” she put her hand on his face, “I got this thing for you.” She giggled and kissed him.

He patted her tummy, “Evidently.” Their playfulness reminded him of something they did when they dated. “If my wife comes back, tell her I’m in the shower. If she’s not here by the time I’m ready to go, I guess I’ll take you out.”

“I’ll be waiting, hot stuff!” Rosalie gave him a smile that drove him crazy. How he wanted to pick her up and carry her to the bedroom. He ran his hand through his thick black curly hair, drew a heavy sigh, and went directly to the bathroom.

With the promise of his happy wife waiting for him, he cut his shower short, dried himself, and dressed in ten minutes. He did a quick swipe with his razor on his five o’clock shadow and then slapped his cheeks with Old Spice aftershave. He combed his hair back off his face the way Rosalie liked, hurried from the bathroom to the bedroom where he picked out his favorite sweater and a pair of dungarees. He slipped on his penny loafers, put his wallet, keys, and coins in his pockets and then strutted into the kitchen.

Rosalie sat patiently. “You look good, sweetheart,” she said. “I’m sorry I am such a pain lately. Thanks for taking me out–”

He cut her off. “Shhhh-This pregnancy is tough for you, and I realize you want to get the whole thing over, but let’s forget about all of that tonight. Let’s just go and find some fun.” He slipped her coat over her shoulders, picked up his own jacket, and led her to the truck.

As he walked around the front of the vehicle, she slid over on the bench seat. She cuddled into his shoulder and gazed at him thinking.  Her fatigue and pain left her as he backed out of the driveway. Angelo put his muscled arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. “I love you so much, Rosie.” He kissed the top of her head.

“I love you more.”

Chapter 2

Lacrosse, Wisconsin—(The next morning) The alarm clock sounded at 5:00 a.m. Rosalie rolled over and gently kissed Angelo on the cheek. “Time to get up, sweetheart.”

“Already?” he groaned. “We just went to bed.”

“I’m afraid so,” she said with a touch of sleepiness in her voice.

“Can’t we play hooky?”

“Come on, sleepyhead; we’re not millionaires yet. We need the money because I’m not working at Papa’s restaurant until after the baby comes.”

She rolled out of bed and pushed her feet into the scuff slippers waiting for her on the floor. Her cotton nightgown stuck to her bloated frame.

Angelo whispered. “God, you’re beautiful.”

“Your sweet talk won’t work this morning.” Rosalie patted his butt as she scuffed off to the kitchen and began her morning routine. First, she filled the percolator with water, put three tablespoons of Maxwell House in the coffee strainer, plugged the cord into the outlet, and let the peculator come to life. Brown liquid bounced in its glass cap and a rich robust aroma filled the kitchen.

She waddled across the room to the Frigidaire and pulled out the Oscar Mayer Bologna, Wonder Bread, and a head of iceberg lettuce, butter, and the brown horseradish mustard. At the counter she made two sandwiches and wrapped them in wax paper. She grabbed a banana from the bowl on the table and two oatmeal raisin cookies from the cookie jar. Then she piled the food in Angelo’s metal lunchbox. She followed this same set of steps since they came home from their honeymoon.

Next came breakfast. Rosalie grabbed the box of Kellogg’s Cornflakes from the pantry, two bowls from the cupboard, a couple of spoons from the silverware drawer, and put everything on the table. When the coffee finished perking, she poured two cups and poured the rest into a thermos.

Angelo meandered into the kitchen, absentmindedly kissed Rosalie’s cheek, and grumbled something about being too damn early to get out of bed. He dressed in navy blue coveralls, a flannel plaid shirt, and heavy steel-toed boots.

“You sure tossed and turned last night, babe. Did dinner make you sick?”

“No. My stomach is fine, but my back is still killing me. Last night gave me a boost. I actually forgot about being pregnant for a couple of hours.” Rosalie purred.”Thank you so much.”

He poured cornflakes. “I had fun too. I think the baby dropped.”

“What?”

“It means the baby will be here soon.” He placed his hand over her hand which rested on the table.

“Not soon enough. If I get any bigger, this kid will walk home.”

“I doubt that,” Angelo laughed.

“The doctor says we’re going down the home stretch.” A touch of fear crept into her voice.

“You aren’t worried, are you, sweetheart?”

“A little.”

“Don’t be. Mother Nature brings babies into the world everyday, and I won’t leave your side. Everything will be fine.”

“Spoken like a man. I’m sure you speak from experience.” She grinned before her tone turned serious. “Mothers die in childbirth, Angelo.”

“Well you won’t. My Ma gave birth to eight babies with a midwife in her own bedroom. We’re a lot better off than that.” He touched her swollen belly. “This little sweetie pie will be born in a modern hospital with a good doctor, and plenty of nurses standing by. Nothing but the best for my girl.” He kissed her.

Rosalie beamed. Her love for him grew more each day.

Chapter 3

 Lacrosse, Wisconsin-Later that day—Besides being uncomfortable, Rosalie’s boredom plagued her. She had worked in some capacity at the restaurant since age ten and staying home all day with only housework to keep her busy lead to boredom. Isolation and loneliness never left her. Only Angelo’s noontime call broke up the monotony.

“Hi Babe!” Angelo’s cheery voice greeted her.

“Hi Sweetheart. You sure are in a good mood. Did you get a raise or something?”

“What gave me away?” He frowned; she spoiled his surprise. “This morning Gus told me he promoted me to lead man, and with the title I’ll get an extra twenty-five cents an hour.”

“That’s wonderful!” Her cheerful voice turned in a second to one of fear. “Oh, my God!”  She dropped the receiver on the floor as water spilled out between her legs.

Angelo’s voice raised and octave and several decibels. “Rosie – Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” He waited several anxious seconds. Finally she picked up the phone.

“Something weird just happened. I got a really sharp pain, and I wet my pants.”

“Oh my God! Your water broke!” His heart beat faster.

“What?” Rosie didn’t understand.

Angelo said. “Didn’t the doctor tell you anything?”

“Tell me about what?”

“Didn’t the doctor tell you what happens when you go into labor?”

“Not about wetting my pants!”

“Gushing fluid means your amniotic sac that protects the baby broke. Are you having any pain?” Angelo volunteered for the rescue squad in the town and they covered childbirth in his first aid class.

“No.”

“This means labor will start soon. I’m coming right home! Call the doctor. Tell him what happened. I’ll be home in a minute.”

Rosalie shook her head, replaced the receiver in its cradle and called the doctor.

 

*****

Angelo prayed a cop wouldn’t “pinch” him as he broke all the speed limits to get home. He screeched into the driveway and ran into the house. He found Rosalie in the kitchen sitting on a towel with her packed suitcase at her feet.

“Well, we’re on our way, sweetheart,” he said with a broad smile. “You ready?”

“Not really.”

“Don’t be scared, babe. Just squeeze my hand. We’ll do this together.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you Miss Me?

Hi Everybody! I’m back. I went to Florida for three days about a month ago to see a good friend who moved there. It took some preparation to make sure Ken had the care he needed while I was absent, but the trip really happened. I came back home relaxed and ready for summer.

I had a great time. Kay and I have found our separation difficult, but once we were together again it was like old times. We made each other laugh and just had fun being together.

During my short respite, I thought I would use the camera on  my new smart phone. My pictures turned out nice, but when Kay took control of the device, she pushed the wrong button, and alas, no pictures of me. Oh well, I usually hate the way I look in pictures anyhow.

Oh wait a minute . . . that’s not entirely true. I didn’t know the camera had a setting for “selfies” and when we were at the beach, I tried to take pictures of Kay flying her kite, but only got pictures of me in my beach hat.

Barb's selfie

Technology . . . got to love it!

To prove life goes on without you, there was a tornado warning while I was gone that brought hail large enough to damage our roof and gutters. So for the past couple of weeks, we’ve been putting the needed pieces in place to get the repair work done. Shingles sit in our front yard as we speak. (Along with vents, tar paper, ice shield, etc. etc.) Not the prettiest lawn ornament, but at least it’s temporary.

Roofing Supplies

We also had a fence installed along one side of our property. It was built while I was gone, so I had a beautiful surprise waiting for me. (The other areas had been fenced in by neighbors.) The funny thing about this fence is it’s called “The Lacrosse.” Lacrosse, Wisconsin is the setting for most of my books!

The other time-eating activity, which has kept me away from you, has been to go through the edits for my latest novel. I’ve been busy correcting my grammatical and spelling boo-boos, as well as rewriting small sections because my editor’s inquiring mind asked questions that needed answers. The book is now two chapters longer than when it went out to her.

In between my trip and putting the finishing touches on the novel, I’ve been digging, weed-waking, cutting down stubborn buckthorn bushes, and planting pots to bring our yard into a good-looking, park-like space we can enjoy for the rest of the summer. I’ve added some pictures below so you can see the fruits of my efforts.

Happy Summer Everybody! I hope it’s warmer where you are than where I am.

Maybe next time I might have some life-changing topics to discuss. Or maybe not. We’ll just have to see.

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.

Backyard Bliss — Almost!

Some of my faithful blogging friends wanted pictures of my handy gardening work I did over the weekend. Granted, I’m not done yet. I came home again yesterday with MORE flowers, but these photos will bring you up to date on my progress. Just roll your mouse over the pictures to see the caption. That’s all (for now) folks!

Springing Into Action

iris 003I live in a part of Racine that dates back to the 1950s. All of the houses are different and most are well-kept. People in this area love their homes and their city lots and go to great lengths to take care of both. I am no exception. However, keeping a yard looking good on a small budget is more challenging than you might think.

On Saturday, I treated myself to exploring a new green house  about 30 minutes from my home. This place is in the middle of Nowheresville, but the flowers were amazing. I was in dangerous territory on a limited budget. I could do so much damage in there because when I’m around flowers, I’m like an alcoholic in a saloon. I had to restrain myself from filling up the entire back of my SUV with pretty plants, and I’m proud to announce I didn’t get drunk. . . only a little tipsy. With a few blooms in the back of my car, I turned up the oldies channel and sang with the radio all the way home.

Then yesterday was a perfect day. The temperature was in the mid 70s, with a light breeze, the sun was bright, and the sky was blue. If I ever find a genie in a bottle, I will instruct him to make everyday like yesterday. It was as close to San Diego weather as possible.

The first thing I did was purchased two cans of spray paint –one red and one sage green — for $3 each at Big Lots. Then I went home and started spraying. My old pots that had seen better days got to look like new with a fresh coat of the Rustoleum make-up. The rusty iron umbrella stand got a coat of the sage green (which matches the umbrella), and one of the old park benches got a new coat of pale yellow paint that I had in the basement. I felt like a little fairy going from one item to the next with my magic wand, spraying or slathering color where there was none. It was great! After things were dry, (and it didn’t take long on this warm, breezy day), Ken and I celebrated out patio with a glass of ice tea.

I was so happy with my accomplishments, that is, until I sat down in my chair to watch 60 Minutes and within a few minutes, I couldn’t move. The arthritis in my body let me know it wasn’t happy. Even my fingertips were screaming that I had made them work too hard. But tough. I was happy. I spent my day doing things I love to do, so I got out the Advil and let myself recover.

I love this time of year when I can watch things grow and colors fill my yard. It’s just too bad I’m getting older and have to pay for my efforts. I just have to learn to take small sips of spring excelsior.

Gardening and Writing

asparagus_field-1Some friends who are out in Montana right now to see their son Jon receive his master’s degree in fine arts, told me I could pick their asparagus while they were gone. I love asparagus, so the invite was truly welcomed. Yesterday, I pointed my SUV north and did the picking.

As I was bending down to pick the fresh, thick spears which had poked their heads out of the crusty ground, I was taken back to when I did this chore at my Grandma’s house. You see, both my grandfather and grandmother had grown up on farms and having a huge garden was one way they kept the simple life in their lives. Unfortunately, I never got the vegetable gardening gene.

Just because gardening is basically simple — you plant, you water, you weed and you harvest–doesn’t make it easy. In fact, gardening in pots is fun for me, but I’ve never been good at having a garden of any size because I love the planting and the harvesting, but I have no interest in the hard work in between. So, my veggies die of neglect and I vow again and again, I will never try to grow anything that doesn’t flower!

garden (1)

In a lot of ways writing is like a garden. You have to purchase the seed/plants (your idea for the story). You have to water and wait for them to sprout (the plot). You have to continuously tend to the plants–hoeing, spraying for pests, pulling weeds (through rewriting and editing), and finally, you have to harvest fruit/vegetables from healthy plants, then you and others can enjoy your labor (your finished book, story, article).

Thank goodness I don’t see writing the same way I see gardening or I would be an utter failure. Because writing, like gardening, comes alive in the WORK stages.

For some reason, I enjoy hoeing the weeds out of my prose after I’ve laid the words down. I enjoy watering areas that are dry, and cutting and pruning other areas. I’ll get a better story by doing so. I love feedback on my progress. (Remember I’m the student who loved the red ink of the teacher because I saw her comments a lot like fertilizer–Now don’t go there! )  I didn’t say manure, I said fertilizer–the stuff that helps plants grow and flourish down the road. And best of all, I love touching the fresh, healthy final product in my hands.

So the next time you’re whiny about having to weed your  garden of prose, take heart. You’ll be picking a crop of fresh of yummy new ideas that are all yours. And just like me. you’ll be anxious to see your words in print. NOTE: “Finding Gessler” is fully ripe and going through the production state. I can’t wait until I hold it in my hands!

What have you planted lately?

The Agony & Ecstasy of Spring Gardening

spring gardenNow that the weather is staying warm for a couple of days in a row, I enjoy the morning hours writing to the sounds of many birds chirping. It’s so peaceful to hear them singing to one another. I’m thankful we live in a neighborhood that has big trees so they stay around. In fact, one of the tallest trees on our city block is planted in my backyard. Never mind it’s a messy locust tree with teeny little leaves that get into everything, and it sends baby locust trees all over my yard that I happily mow down with my lawn mower. The tree provides a nice perch for so many outdoor friends.

But now its time to get off my butt and start discovering what happened to my yard after the long winter. I sure wish I could look out the backyard and it would look like the picture above, but that’s just a dream. A fantasy.

Without looking I know the weeds are doing well. I sure wish they weren’t such hardy critters. I did notice that the hyacinths are blooming because I smelled their beautiful fragrance. The daffodils across the street are in bloom, so mine must be close behind. Tulips will come later. Now is the time to resurrect the dormant geraniums from the basement and encourage them to grow again. I always get such joy from watching my flowers awaken and assure me that spring is here–even though the weatherman often tells a different story.

But like all chores, I have to lay the foundation before I can get to the real fun. That means picking up sticks and getting rid of old clutter that covers the lawn–like dead leaves and debris that blew in over the late fall and winter months.  The next step is to tune up the lawn mower, so it will run through the summer months again. This is my least favorite gardening chore–probably because I always had a man in my life who took on that responsibility up until now. I guess I’m lucky that I’ve had to endure the chore just recently since Ken can’t walk any more.

So, if I miss a post in the coming months. Don’t worry about me. I’m just outside enjoying the birds and flowers — or cutting the grass that grows with so little effort.

Happy spring!

Thanks for reading.

Barbara