Tag Archive | getting started

Change is the Only Thing in Life You Can Count On

Unlike most of the country, Southeast Wisconsin has enjoyed above average temperatures for the month of November. Even the typical gray skies and rainy weather have gone on a hiatus . . . until tonight. Believe it or not, we’re expecting four to eight inches of snow.

I bring this up because when the weather is lovely, I figure it is my responsible to take advantage of it, so I’ve been bumming around instead of plunking my butt in my chair to write. As you might have noticed, I haven’t posted any “words of wisdom” in over a week.

One thing I want to share with you is Ken hasn’t fallen in almost two weeks! It’s an occurrence to celebrate because he was falling at least twice a week. What has caused the change? I’m happy to tell you all it took was a couple of changes.

Because he typically fell during the night, I made a house rule that he was not allowed in the bathroom whenever I was sleeping. To accommodate his late-night bathroom urges, I put a commode in the bedroom. He fought me tooth and nail saying he wasn’t “comfortable” to use it. I told him he’d better get comfortable because I was tired of the firemen seeing me in my jammies in the middle of the night. After a couple of weeks, he admitted the commode was a good idea.

The other change was to have a physical therapist come into the house twice a week. She has shown him better transferring methods from his wheelchair to the bed, recliner, toilet, and car. It’s Ken’s natural tendency to make every thing as difficult as possible; I tease him he chooses the most difficult way because he’s a born engineer. It’s innate.

For over a year, the doctor has insisted Ken do thirty minutes of exercise a day. I’ve worked around him with this therapist because she has given him exercises he can do while sitting. . . of course, he puts them off. Again I need to lay down the law to get him to help himself.

I don’t know whether his reluctance to face something new is due to his fear of failure or just procrastination. Perhaps it’s a little of both. Being the exact opposite of him, I find his willingness to succumb to these little challenges frustrating.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact if I wait long enough, he’ll do what is expected. I really hate having to be a task manager — when I supervised people in corporate I usually had self-starters. I had no tolerance for people I had to micro-manage.

I also realize, though, things are different with Ken. I can’t fire him. He says I can’t lay him off either.  🙂

Getting Organized

I love organization where everything is in its place. But, I have a terrible time achieving such neatness. My girlfriends seem to be able to keep everything where it belongs, but for some reason my things move from room to room. I have dishes in the living room along with shoes I wore the day before. My painting supplies are all in one room, but getting more than me in that room is simply impossible.

I seem to work in a whirlwind. I remember one time when I worked in a corporate office, my boss assigned another woman to help me get my cube organized to make me more efficient. I guess somewhere there’s a rule somewhere that says “only touch a piece of paper once.” Any more touches breeds disorganization and wasted time. I never did get the knack of it. However, I also never missed a deadline. I told my boss I work more effective in organized chaos. She said, “Whatever works, Barb. Just keep hitting those deadlines.”

I believe part of me doesn’t want to work myself to death to keep everything in place because my mother was a fanatical housekeeper. She put keeping things clean ahead of everything else. One time she came into my bedroom with a white glove after I cleaned. She found a trace of dust under my bed and made me clean again. See what I mean?

I tell myself I am far too artistic to keep everything neat all the time. I also love my friends enough to put them first even if I scheduled the day to scrub the kitchen floor. I do have priorities.

I also live with two animals and a husband. I rest my case.

Even though my home is somewhat disheveled, I am organized in my writing. In fact, to keep the timeline correct in the second edition of “Apple Pie and Strudel Girls” I keep a spreadsheet to make sure real history is weaved with the fiction element of the story properly.

The moral to this story: Everyone’s definition of organization is different. Make your world perfect for YOU.



Chapter 24

London, England – Christmas Eve—On his wedding day, Danny decided to dress at the base to allow Heidi her privacy as she prepared to make marriage promises again. His wool chocolate brown dress uniform with brass buttons provided a stunning backdrop for his jacket ribbon bar and the silver wings he wore over his heart. He spit shined his black shoes so bright he saw his himself. He studied his reflection in the mirror before he left his room and realized the boy who came to England to fly planes and kill Germans had disappeared. In his place, a man who experienced friends falling from the sky, became a prisoner of war, and found the love of his life stared back at him..

At the flat Mrs. Smithe draped the lace and satin dress over Heidi’s slim figure. After Heidi gazed at her reflection in the mirror, she didn’t believe the beautiful woman smiling back at her could be the same girl who didn’t think she possessed a happy future after graduating from secondary school. A Jewish family and three long journeys changed her forever. The children made her an adult. Her only disappointment was the wonderful people who entered her life during the past five years could be with her now. Tears welled in her eyes as she thought of her parents, Leisel, Marta, Dora, the Rabbi and Gavriella and Dominik.

A lace veil trimmed in pearls fell from a tiara Mrs. Smithe pinned on Heidi’s head.  She carried a bouquet of Christmas cactus flowers Mrs. Smith grew in her apartment.

“There, my dear.” Tears formed in the landlady’s eyes.

Heidi saw the older woman’s distress. “Oh, Mrs. Smithe. I knew I should not wear Catherine’s wedding dress. It causes you such pain.”

“Don’t be foolish, sweetie. I am not thinking of Catherine; I’m overcome by what a beautiful bride you are.” Mrs. Smithe dried a tear rolling down her cheek. “We better make sure the children are ready to go. We don’t want you to be late.”

Ruthie wore a pretty pink velvet dress Mrs. Smithe made from a pair of curtains she had at the window in one of the rentals. She even solicited her friends and neighbors to find suits to fit both boys. As Heidi and the children emerged from the apartment, no one would guess soldiers still fought and citizens still died. For the few hours they’d be in their wedding clothes, as their lives appeared normal.

Danny arranged for a car to pick up his family and bring them to the base where the Major, the Chaplain, and Danny waited. As soon as Heidi and the children entered the chapel, Danny’s jaw dropped. Heidi reminded him of a drawing of a princess he reembered in one of his sister’s childhood storybooks. At one time he believed Rosalie Lombardo was the most beautiful bride in the world, but now Heidi took that honor.

Ruthie ran to Danny. “Papa Danny, Mama looks pretty, huh?”

“Yes, sweetheart. Mama is the most beautiful bride in the world.”

“So kiss her!” Ruthie said.

Everyone laughed. Ruthie wrinkled her forehead not understanding why everyone laughed. Brides and grooms kissed in her story books, so why did people laugh at her?

Mrs. Smithe wore her “mother of the bride” dress she hid in the back of her closet after Catherine died. When Heidi asked her to be the matron of Honor, she pulled out the dress and could smile again. Major Jamison stood in as Danny’s best man along with David. The whole group gathered around the altar with Chaplain and the intimate wedding ceremony began.

“We are gathered here together to marry Daniel and Heidi in holy matrimony.”

Jacob yelled. “What is mat-tri-monee?”

Everyone turned toward the little boy in short pants, and said, “Shhhh.” The child looked down at his shoes and started to cry. Danny picked him up. “Everything is okay, son,” he whispered to Jacob. “I’ll tell you later.”

Jacob wiped his tears and smiled. “Okay, Daddy.”

Danny returned Jacob to the floor and held his hand as the ceremony continued.

The chaplain said, “Repeat after me, Daniel. “I, Daniel, take you Heidi to be my lawfully wedded wife  . . .

Chapter 25

Naples, Italy—As Christmas got closer, Josie wore a melancholy expression. This would be her third year of celebrating Christmas without snow and family. She became uncharacteristically nostalgic. As she gazed at the palm trees, she thought about Christmas back home. Sap on logs would crackle in the fireplace; a fresh pine scent would waft through the living room while the sweet aroma of cinnamon would come from the kitchen. Her mother always baked dozens of different cookies, but the entire family decorated sugar cookies together around the kitchen table. Christmas in Italy this year would come with cold winds, rain, canned turkey, and hydrated potato flakes.

Mario found her starting out into space in the courtyard. “Hi Sweetheart. Whatcha thinkin’?”

Josie turned toward him with glistening eyes. “About home. I envisioned my parents drinking eggnog in front of a fire as the snow fell and laid a beautiful white covering over the bare trees and brown grass.”

Mario sat beside her and put his arm around her shoulders. “Yeah. Christmastime here leaves something to be desired. I want to go home too. But seeing we can’t, how about we spice the holiday up a little?” He grinned.


“Let’s go to Rome and celebrate Christmas Eve at the Vatican.”

“Don’t tease me, Mario.”

“I’m not teasing. We can go. It’s safe there now.”

“How will we get there, genius?”

“Details. Details.” A Cheshire cat smile crossed his broad face. “I got a buddy in the motor pool; he’s got a jeep all gassed up for us, Miss Smarty Pants.”

“You’re the only guy I ever met who can get the impossible done.”  Josie laughed. “Mario, I’m glad you didn’t give up pursuing me. I love being with you. You make me so happy.” She leaned over and put a peck of a kiss on his cheek.

Mario blushed. “Thanks, doll. I’m glad you appreciate me because I never worked so hard to get a date. Hell, I almost died to get one with you!” He chuckled as his eyes twinkled. “So is Rome a date?”

“I’d be nuts to turn down a trip to Rome. After I get home, I’ll probably never want to come to Italy again.”

“Only time will tell.” Mario said. “Life can be a constant surprise if you let it be.”

Josie smiled. “Amen!”


On Christmas Eve morning, Josie and Mario took off for Rome. They remained silent as they whizzed through the hills and valleys of the countryside. As they got closer to the city, Josie expressed her fears of what they might find in the Eternal City. “Do you think the Krauts bombed Rome into oblivion?”

“Nah. They got in bed with Mussolini. I think the Italian dictator put down a few rules. I don’t think the Krauts are that barbarian.”

Josie said. “Really?  I think bombing hospitals is pretty barbarous.”

Mario answered.  “You’re right about that. I just hope Vatican Square didn’t appear on their radar.”

“Me, too.”

Once they passed Rome ‘s city limits Josie basked in the city’s beauty. The evening stayed warm and balmy. The stars burned bright and a full moon gave Vatican Square a warm glow. Mario and Josie waited with a throng of people in the courtyard for Pope Pius XII to appear on the balcony.

The Pope appeared through an open window and prayed the familiar prayers in Latin. A choir of beautiful voices sang out, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” and Josie thought about her little church back home where she sang the same song every Christmas Eve. In about eight hours her parents would celebrate Christmas with the same ceremony. For the first time in a long time, she thought about Peter. This would be the first Christmas without his funny sense of humor and sweet demeanor. Josie bowed her head and prayed for her parents because Christmas would be so difficult without any of their children close at hand.

Mario held Josie close. He loved everything about her. He loved her spunk, her courage, and her ability to banter with him. He loved the empathy she showed everyone. He loved her self-confidence and fearlessness. He bent down and kissed the top of her head as the Pope asked God for peace. Josie looked up at Mario with a tender smile.

After the Mass, people left the square, but Mario lingered. He didn’t want the magical night to end. He turned Josie to face him and placed a kiss on her lips. He whispered. “Merry Christmas, sweetheart.”

With tears in her eyes, Josie whispered. “Merry Christmas, my sweet Mario. Thank you for bringing me here. This Christmas turned out to be more special than I ever imagined.”

He handed her a small box.

“What’s this?”

He grinned. “A present, silly. Open it.”


He interrupted her. “Will you just open the GD present.”

“But we agreed to wait until tomorrow to exchange gifts.”

“Look at your watch. Miss Smarty Pants. Isn’t it after midnight?”

“Yes, but—

His voice took a tender tone. “I want you to remember this night forever. Please open the gift.”

“Okay. You win.”

Josie tipped open the lid of little wooden box to find a beautiful solitaire diamond perched in the center of a white gold band. “Mario! Oh my God! It’s beautiful!”

Before she said another word, Mario went down on one knee. “Josie, my love, will you be my wife?”

She said the one word he wanted to hear. “Yes. Oh God, yes!” She pulled him to his feet, wrapped her arms around him, and kissed him like never before.

His eyes glowed with love. “Let’s try the ring on for size.” He took the engagement ring in his thick fingers and slipped it onto her left-hand ring finger. The ring fit perfectly.

Josie couldn’t take her eye off the sparkling stone. “How did you ever buy such a beautiful thing?”

“Let’s just say, I know a guy, who knows a guy, okay?” He paused, “It helps to be Italian in Italy.”

She laughed and kissed again him, while happy strangers shared their joy with applause.


Back to Normal, Now It’s Catch Up Time

The nasty virus which attacked me on Friday has taken a step back. Thank goodness! I’m not up to full power, but 85% is pretty good, but I might need a nap on this ridiculous dark, dreary day.

Ken did his best to take care of me by fetching water and pills which might help. He scrounged his meals from leftovers he could microwave. But what is left in his wake are piles of messes. He can’t help it for two reasons — one he’s not able to keep things neat and clean because his disability doesn’t allow too much leeway, and two, he’s a man who doesn’t think of such things.

So today, the post is short again. After all there’s dishes and laundry to do.

But at least I can give all of you the next few chapters. I still haven’t heard if anybody is enjoying or hating them, so I’ll just stick to my original plan and keep publishing the chapters every day until we finish the story.



Chapter 14 

Paris – June—Marta and Emma always listened to their radio after dinner. In between a comedy and a selection by France’s Royal Symphony, they listened intently to a broadcast by a French tank general named Charles de Gaulle.

“The leaders who, for many years, led the French armies formed a new government. This government, alleging the defeat of our armies, made contact with the enemy in order to stop the fighting. It is true; we got overwhelmed by the mechanical, ground, and air forces of the enemy. Infinitely more than their number, it is the tanks, the airplanes, and the tactics of the Germans which are causing us to retreat. The tanks, the airplanes, and the tactics of the Germans surprised our leaders to the point of bringing them to where they are today.

“But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final? No!  Believe me, I who am speaking to you with full knowledge of the facts, and who tell you that nothing is lost for France. The same means that overcame us can bring us victory one day. For France is not alone!

De Gaulle repeated the line: “La France n’est pas seule!”

“She is not alone! She is not alone! She has a vast Empire behind her. She can align with the British Empire that holds the sea and continues the fight. France can, like England, use without limit the immense industry of the United States.

“This war is not limited to the unfortunate territory of our country. This war is not over as a result of the Battle of France. This war is a worldwide war. All the mistakes, all the delays, all the suffering, do not alter the fact that there are, in the world, all the means necessary to crush our enemies one day. Vanquished today by mechanical force, in the future we will be able to overcome by a superior mechanical force. The fate of the world depends on it.

“I, General de Gaulle, currently in London, invite the officers and the French soldiers who are located in British territory or who might end up here, with their weapons or without their weapons. I invite the engineers and the specialized workers of the armament industries who are located in British territory or who might end up here, to put themselves in contact with me.

“Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must not be extinguished; and it will not be extinguished. Tomorrow, as today, I will speak on the radio from London.”

The unknown French General’s appeal moved Marta and Emma to tears as he called upon the French people to rise up and resist the Germans. Since coming to Paris two years ago, the girls now thought of themselves as French citizens, so this message made a strong impression on them.

The first order of business of the Vichy puppet government decreed a death sentence for Charles de Gaulle.

Chapter 15

Budapest, Hungary – June—After dinner, Heidi packed the children into the car for what she hoped would be one last time. Baby Jacob, who she now called Jake, fell asleep immediately once the car rolled down the unfamiliar road.

David sat in the front seat with Heidi. “Mutter, where are we going?”

“In all honesty, David,” Heidi said, “I do not know. Fritz gave me the name and address of a person we must contact. I trust Fritz. He is a good man.”

“Ya, Fritiz ist ein guter mann.” David said in perfect German, and he then added, “Do you think Fritz is okay?”

“I pray he is.”

“Me too.” He paused. “Heidi, why do people hate us so much? Why do we need to run away?”

David surprised Heidi with his mature question. “Sometimes people are just so full of hatred they become stupid. Remember hate is very dangerous.”

“Oh.” David seemed satisfied with Heidi’s answer.

Heidi breathed a sigh of relief when David didn’t ask further questions. Sometimes his grown-up questions proved to be too tough to answer.

After stopping a couple of times for directions, Heidi found the address on the note Fritz had given her so many weeks ago. The unpainted wooden structure sat in the heart of downtown Budapest. Heidi turned off the car engine and instructed the children to wait while she went up to the front door and rang the bell.

A man with a long white beard came to the door. He wore the traditional dress of a rabbi with a black kippah resting on his bald head. “May I help you, miss?”

Heidi cleared her throat. “A friend of mine in Lviv gave me your address. He said we would be safe with you.” She handed him Fritz’s letter of introduction.

The man read the note; then he looked at the car parked at the street with three small blond children. “Please, pull your car around to the back of the house, and we will talk.”

“Thank you.” Heidi said.

Once Heidi got her brood into the safety of the house, the man welcomed the family. “I am Rabbi Weismann. Welcome to my home. This is my wife, Gavriella, and my children-Abraham, Isaac, Sarah, and Hannah.”

Heidi replied, “I am Heidi Schiller from Berlin. I am the nanny for the Gessler children. They are from Warsaw. When Mrs. Gessler died in Lviv, and all of the Jews got sent to Siberia, Fritz told me to come here.”

The Rabbi’s eyes widened with surprise. “These are Jewish children?”

“Yes, Rabbi. Their last name is Gessler. I dyed their hair blond so no questions would be asked if we encountered trouble at the checkpoints. I wanted the Germans or Russians to think they belonged to me. I even taught them a few Catholic prayers and some basic German.”

“You are a very brave girl to come alone this far alone.” He said in amazement.

“I begged Fritz to come with us, but he thought he would put us in danger if he made the trip. I pray he is all right.”

“Where did he go?”

“When he wouldn’t pledge allegiance to the U. S. S. R., the Russians sent him to a place called Siberia.”

The rabbi’s face fell. “I understand.”

Gavriella asked, “You must all be hungry. Come, let us share some bread.”

Heidi smiled. “Thank you, but we just ate.”

The rabbi studied the young girl and the three children. Even with the blond hair, the Rabbi noted Jewish features in the children. Why should she take on such a burden if her story is not true?

The rabbi nodded to his wife. “Gavriella, would you please make a room ready for our newest guests? They appear very weary from their long journey.”

Gavriella nodded in agreement. Her husband thought he bore the responsibility to help Jews escape Nazi tyranny. Many strangers from other parts of Europe came to him for help, but these three children and their young nanny made an exceptional case. “I will prepare the room in the attic.”

The Rabbi smiled. “Thank you, my dear.”

Gavriella said. “Come with me, Miss Heidi and children. I will show you to your room.” The rabbi went ahead of them to pull down a hidden staircase from the ceiling.  He lit a candle and began to climb the stairs. Gavriella followed and motioned for Heidi to follow.

David pulled on Heidi’s skirt. “Mutter, is this the wizard we are looking to find?”

Heidi’s face turned red. “Shhh, David. We will talk later.” She nudged David to climb the stairs.

Ruthie sucked her thumb and refused to move.

“Ruthie, what is the matter with you?” The fatigue of holding a sleeping Jacob strained Heidi’s arms, and her patience waned. She didn’t want to deal with a tantrum from Ruthie.

Mutter I am scared. Monsters are up there.” She cried.

“David and I will keep you safe. I am sure the nice rabbi would not give us a room with monsters.”

The rabbi overheard Ruthie’s complaint and came to Heidi’s aid. “Ruthie, we save this special room for our most honored guests. I scared all the monsters away before you go here. Come. See the toys upstairs. Perhaps you will find one you like.” The rabbi offered his hand to the little girl.

Ruthie put her hand into the rabbi’s palm. Her short little legs strained to propel herself up the steep ladder while the rabbi followed her. Gavriella lit candles in the sconces on the outside walls of the large room; the attic revealed itself to be a beautiful dormitory. The spacious room offered several beds and a toy chest at the far end. “We can really stay here?” Ruthie asked in her four year old squeaky voice with her eyes wide open. “I can sleep in a bed by myself?”

“Yes of course.” The rabbi smiled as he led her to the toy box.

Heidi’s eyes widened with surprise. The white plastered walls made the attic appear cavernous. Colorful floral curtains covered the one large window in the room.  Paintings of country scenery decorated the wooden walls. on every wall. A wooden rocking chair stood beside a handmade crib. Heidi laid Jacob in the crib and covered him with a colorful handmade quilt. When she turned around, she realized beautiful quilts covered all of the beds.

Heidi glanced at Gavriella. “Did you sew these wonderful quilts?”

The short, stocky woman blushed. “Yes.”

The rabbi interjected. “Gavriella does many things to make our guests comfortable. I would never be able to help so many without her special help.” He and Gavriella shared a special look only couples understand.

“How do I thank you for opening your home to us?” Heidi smiled.

The rabbi put his arm around his wife’s shoulder and held her close. “We both hope you will be happy and safe here, You are very brave, Miss Heidi. If you need extra blankets, tell Gavriella. The night can get chilly -even in June.”

All at once the emotion of the past few days flooded into Heidi’s eyes. “God brought us here, Rabbi. We may practice different religions, but we share the same loving God.”

“You are right, my dear. All of the prophets say to love one another. I too believe He sent you here.” He smiled. “Sleep well, children. Tomorrow we will eat a nice breakfast.” He climbed down the ladder.

Gavriella stayed to help Heidi get the sleepy children into their bed clothes and tuck them in. Heidi kissed them all and hugged Gavriella.

“Goodnight, everyone. Sweet dreams.” Gavriella waved as she descended the ladder.

The soft candlelight in the large room put Heidi at peace. Her weariness allowed her to let go of any fears of what might come next. She extinguished the candles in the sconces with a soft breath and undressed by the light of a single candle beside her bed. She lay down on the soft straw mattress and studied the reflection of the flame dancing on the white ceiling. Gavriella’s warm quilt wrapped her in the warmth of a mother’s love. Heidi slipped into the twilight of sleep and her tension floated away; she blew out the last candle and quietly said her prayers. “Dear God, Thank you for bringing us here safely. Bless Fritz. Without his friendship with the Rabbi, I never would be here.  Thank you for introducing me to Rabbi Weismann and Gavriella. They are most kind. Amen.”



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.

The Writing Drought

After I finish a novel, (I’m using the term “finish” very loosely.) I have a writing drought. I fall into the bad habit of thinking about what to write next and then do nothing about it. Before I know it, the idea has vanished, and I’m drier than before I had the thought.

When times like this occur, I turn to something else creative. This weekend I dragged out my jewelry making supplies and put together a few more necklaces and matching earrings for a show on Sunday afternoon with a few friends. Sometimes stringing beads in lively combinations loosens the cobwebs for more serious tasks–like writing, but unfortunately, no inspiration cometh.

April 14 003

Then it’s time to try my other passion, painting. I do so love smearing pigment on a canvas, even though I have no clue technically what I’m doing. My dear friend Marie who is a very accomplished watercolor painter, has told me, “Now that you’ve had a great deal of  fun, don’t you think it’s time to start learning what you’re doing wrong?”

April 14 004

My answer was “no.” Not yet. I enjoy doing what I’m doing. When I learn what goes into a good painting, I will look for that purpose instead of just creating. When I started taking singing lessons to polish the edges off my voice, I never heard a soloist the same any longer, and I must say, I even lost a bit of joy in my own performances. Besides, I have no allusions about selling my paintings. I fill up the basement with canvas’ that are not so okay and many of the others cover the walls in my home. (even the bathroom).

April 14 005

My worst fault is being prolific. No matter what I chose to do, I do a lot of it. Being prolific is a blessing and a curse. It’s a double-edged sword. It’s also satisfaction.

So far, my tactics to inspire myself have failed; the writing drought still exists. The kernel of the next novel is planted, but so far, no germination. I am struggling with where to start. I’ve even tried writing pieces that aren’t the beginning to save for later. This sucks.

I guess I’ll have to haul out the writer’s block bible — of which I have a few — and see if there are any more clever ideas to climb out of the trenches into the writing no man’s land.

If you have ideas for me, jot me a line. After all, with over 1300 followers, I’m sure each of you has a strategy for times like this. No?

Breakfast and Sidewalks

sidewalkI woke up to the melodious tones of construction equipment in front of my house. As we live on a dead-end street, the noise brought me to my feet to peek out the slats of the blind and sure enough, there was a wheel loader, a skid steer, a dump truck and about a half dozen men with picks and shovels. They had come to replace the concrete sidewalk–or at least to dig it up.

My first thought was, oh great! Here I am in my jammies, and I need to get my car out of garage and park it on the street. Needless to say, I raced down to my bedroom, stripped off my nightgown and donned a pair of shorts and a top to be presentable enough to move the car. What a way to start the day!

When we first moved in to this little house of horrors twelve years ago, we had to replace all the major things a person has to do to live in a home comfortably, including having the cement sidewalk in front as well as up to the house replaced. I thought we’d done our part to help make the city safe as people walked by our house. But there’s a troublesome tree on the easement between the cement and the street and the darn roots raise havoc when it comes to keeping the cement even. So here we go again. Sometimes I think I would rather live in a tent. (No, not really.)

The only thing I don’t understand is this: If the sidewalk belongs to the city, why do I have to pay to replace it? It’s one of many mysteries of life.

Hope your Monday starts off a bit quieter than mine did.

The First of Many Days

bookwormWe’ve turned over a page of the calendar over the weekend, bringing us to September–my favorite month of the year. The weather is warm, but not hot, the mums start blooming, and school starts again.

For the past three summers, I have taught writing part-time at the community college, which was followed by a two-week hiatus before the next semester began. Tomorrow I will meet a new crop of recruits. A new chance to inspire a another group to learn the basics of English grammar and writing.

Even though I’ve taught this same class a half dozen times, each first day of school is filled with apprehension for me. Will I have chemistry with my students, or will they stare at me with glassed-over eyes? Will they see me as a vibrant teacher or some old babe who is making them sit for two hours to plow through the dry subjects of parts of speech. Will the new things I have planned flop or fly? Will I get lucky and impress upon a few students that writing is a fun, creative outlet or will I have to fail over half of them for lack of interest? I ask myself the same questions every time I step in front of a new class.

I’m just happy that we are introduced to each other at such a pleasant time of the year. For some reason, the Fall Semester signals a time to let the fun of summer go and begin work again. It’s been ingrained in us since we were five and toddled off to kindergarten. I only hope my adults students will carry that same excitement I remember when I went back to school every Fall. It would make everything so much easier for all of us.

Epilogue and Prologue of a New School Session

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

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

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

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

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

Travel Time — Take It!

beach sceneAs  most of you have figured out by now, Ken and my life is rather simple. We no longer take exotic cruises or travel on airplanes to use the timeshare properties we once owned. We rarely get more than 25 miles from home. I’m so happy we took the opportunity to travel when he had the chance. Now contentment at home is what we enjoy. I don’t think we’d be satisfied to stay so close to home if we hadn’t taken the trips that we did. Our pictures and my journals allow us to live the great times over and over whenever we want.

Sometimes I’m sad that our traveling days are over, but then I think of my parents and grandparents. My Mom and Dad always dreamed about going to Hawaii on their 25th Wedding Anniversary. Just before the big day appeared on the calendar, my Dad had a massive heart attack and the life they led changed forever. My grandma only got to travel vicariously through travelogues that were shown at Memorial Hall because my grandfather refused to take an expensive trip. Luckily, my brother and his wife went to Hawaii for their 25th Wedding Anniversary and had a great time–only to have to say goodbye prematurely with her succumbing to colon cancer about a month ago.

I have never felt guilty for taking eight cruises with my girlfriends after I got divorced. The experience was traumatic, and I needed the getaway for my mental health. I didn’t have a full-time job, but I did have excellent credit, and the cost of the trips were reasonable because my friends were travel agents, and I went along as their companion.

The end result was two years of wonderful memories I wouldn’t have if I had been practical and waited for the “right” time. Through it all, I got to see most of the islands in the Caribbean, spent weeks in Florida, saw a magnificent sunset in the Miami harbor I will never forget, and enjoyed the English atmosphere of Bermuda. I was invited to the homes of my traveling companions in Maine and Boston, so I got a taste of New England.

I am so happy I had the opportunity to see a little bit of the world. Perhaps someday, I will be able to travel again, but right now, I’ll travel with the characters in my books.

My experiences taught me traveling makes a person’s world bigger. I got to know people from around the world and corresponded with many of them afterward. I snorkeled with the stingrays in Grand Cayman and floated along the current of the Palancar reef off the cost of Cozumel, Mexico. I bartered with the locals in Jamaica and learned what excellent salespeople they are! I climbed Mayan ruins in Cancun and walked hand-in-hand with a lover down 7-mile beach on white sand. I learned the electric slide line dance with the ocean swaying below my feet. I tried foods I never would have ordered in a restaurant because they would have been too expensive. I also tried local foods–cow foot, swordfish and Ackee (Jamaica’s national fruit), and Cuban red beans and rice.

My message is important. Don’t wait for the things you want in life. Explore. Experience. Enjoy.  If I’ve learned anything, it is this:  Don’t put your dreams on hold. Don’t live with regrets. If you really want to do something, go and do it. Don’t make excuses that you have to work or don’t have the money. Find the time and make the money. Life is much too precarious to wait for the “right” time. There’s a big world waiting for you, and there may not be a tomorrow.

Teaching More Than English

teacher at blackboardA month of my writing class has gone by. This class is a great bunch of adult students (18+) who are, for the most part, cooperative.  Most come to class regularly. Most take notes. Most pay attention. I’m happy teaching people who want to learn. I especially enjoy teaching adults who have a purpose for being in school.

Right from the beginning, I can pick out the ones who will succeed. These people are engaged because they have their eyes on the prize. They can see through the long tunnel of classes to the end where their diploma lies. They are serious about learning to make a better life for themselves and the people around them. I admire them. I will stand on my head to help them achieve their goal of getting through my class because they want to learn.

My hardest task is dealing with people who are just taking up space.

Today I had a student tell me,  “She don’t write like that.”

I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t imagine talking to my teacher like that–in any grade.

I looked her directly in the eye and told her she was in my class to learn how to write properly, so she could communicate with others of authority, get through college required courses without appearing stupid. Needless to say, this smart little chickie in the front row had little to say for the rest of the class.

Sometimes I have to restrain myself from shaking some of these young people and shout, “WAKE UP!”  In one smart-ass comment, this girl announced she wasn’t interested in learning. Perhaps she thinks because this is a  basic class, it will be easy. Sorry, honey. Once you get through the basic classes in college, you realize they are the hardest ones in the curriculum. If her attitude gets in her way, she won’t pass my class because she will continue to “don’t write like that.” Then she will have to repeat the class with someone else after she grows up and realizes she doesn’t know everything.

One of the first assignments I gave this class was to write a paragraph about their BIG dream. Basically, I want to see how they see themselves. More often than not, I see mundane dreams. For instance, “I need an education so I can get a better job.” Or, “My father always said I’d be a good cop.” Or, “I like to be outside so I thought I’d try being a civil engineer.” Really? Has the pressures of life made them limit themselves to the point where they can’t even dream?

I’m paid to teach all the nuts and bolts of our language–in a word, grammar. But what I really try to do everyday in the classroom is get them excited about learning. I try to raise their level of curiosity, so they will go and seek answers to their questions. I want to inspire them to reach for something bigger than just an entry level job that requires a two-year degree. I want them to want more.

And if I get one out of a class of twenty students, to buy into being excited about asking questions, then I’ve achieved 1/20th of my goal. But I can be happy with that because I know that one person will go on and inspire one more person.

All anyone needs to hear is, “It’s okay to dream. Dream big. If you have dream, you can make a plan to get there. Life is short. Make your dream come true.”