Tag Archive | happiness

A Day Alone

Yesterday I spent the late morning and early afternoon alone. Ken when to his “Harmony Club,”which is a a a supervised gathering of elderly and handicapped people. The participants exercise, play games, make crafts, and eat lunch together. They have a chance to form friendships, and they end each session by playing Bingo and winning prizes. Ken loves going because he can talk to somebody other than me, plus he enjoys being with older people. Seeing I’m ten years older than he is explains our happy marriage. 🙂

The four or five hours we have apart gives me a chance to have a little fun with my friends. Usually I meet somebody for lunch and then tie up the day with a trip to some shop to nose around for a little while. I love going downtown because there are a lot of restaurants to chose from and plenty of specialty shops where hidden treasure waits for someone to discover it.

But yesterday I chose to just be alone. I hunted new winter tops at the thrift store. (Since I discovered the place, I haven’t darkened the door of any retail shop.) Then I went home, finished my blog posting for the day, and ate lunch with Ernie sitting on my lap. (He watched my food as I enjoyed my soap opera without somebody teasing me for watching such drivel.) I didn’t talk for four hours! Believe me, that’s a record!

When I picked up Ken at 3:30 p.m., we  both looked forward to being together again. With stuffed peppers and acorn squash waiting in the oven, we had a pleasant dinner followed by a night of television. In the past, days like this would have bored me to death, but now the mundane times are cherished. Call it old age, but normalcy in our world is just fine. Achieving contentment in one’s life takes some time, and I’m glad I arrived at that place when a day spent alone becomes time well spent.

A happy life is one of balance and contentment, no matter how old or young, rich or poor a person is. I’ll warn you though. Achieving such a life is hard work. Just try it. I dare you.

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?


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!


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.


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.”


“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.


“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.”







A Peaceful Smile

Peace begins with a smile. – Mother Theresa

            I don’t know if any of you have heard this quote before, but it’s one of my favorites, and if you know me, I am all for the smile. Few people see me with any other expression because I’ve learned smiling makes me feel good.nov 2012 008

For one thing, did you know it actually takes less energy and muscle control to smile than it does to make any other expression with your face?  At this point in my life, I conserve all the energy I can, and if having a smile on my face most of the time will do that, I’m all for it.

Think about it. If people would just smile at each other, we could do so much good. A genuine smile projects trustworthiness. I’m not talking about a smile that only employs the mouth; I’m talking about a smile that lights up the eyes, too. When you smile, it signals to the receiver you’re not faking it. Usually, a genuine smile will receive one in return.

 Have you ever been in a tense situation and just smiled at the fear? Almost magically, the situation simmers down. A smile doesn’t mean you’re giving into or compromising your opinion, it just means you’re willing to listen. 

If you’re a person who wants longevity, learn to smile. A study of baseball players in 1952 proved those who smiled outlived their sour-puss counterparts by seven years. 

Have you noticed how smiling many times leads to laughing? For me, laughing is life’s blood. If I can laugh everyday at myself or something else, it’s a good day.  Medical studies have proven several minutes of laughter is physically good for you. I contend laughing is good for your soul, too, but so far, scientists haven’t figured out how to measure that. Most of them are not even sure we have a soul. Poor guys.

For me, laughing actually relieves pain and anxiety. When I broke my leg in a tobogganing accident when I was 14 years old, I kept the doctor laughing with a very successful one-woman stand-up routine. (Really, I was laying on an examining table, but I think you knew that.)  He commented he never had set a tibia before for a patient with such a great sense of humor. All I know is, laughing about what happened was a lot easier than crying. I had plenty of time to feel sorry for myself in the weeks that followed because I lost the lead of the annual school musical, and I was marooned at home for four months because the break was so serious. 

Nowadays, Ken and I find things to laugh about all day. His MS has presented so many difficult situations, but if we can make a joke out of what happens, we both feel better about the changes that take place. Most nights I even fall asleep smiling as I say thankful prayers that I got through another day in one piece.

So the next time the world has kicked you in the face, smile back. The pain won’t be so excruciating and maybe you’ll even find something to laugh about. At the very least, you’ll find peace. Saints don’t lie.

Some Thoughts About Mothers

mom and pups (1)Have you ever noticed that babies of any species are always cute? Off hand, I can’t think of one baby that is really too ugly to love. I think Nature planned it that way, so mothers would accept their children and not be inclined to kill their young.

Once you’re a mother, it’s a life sentence. The only way to stop being a human mother is to die. We don’t lay eggs and let them hatch alone. We don’t push them out of the nest. We don’t have some breeder give away our young. Even when your children are collecting Social Security, you’re still a mother. Other professions retire, but mothers don’t.

Motherhood is a curious role. You’re expected to be perfect and make all the right decisions, but there is no training for the position. It’s a role that is learned by example.  If you had a loving mother, you’ll be all right. But if not, well, you’re on your own, and most likely your children will fault you for the same shortcomings your own mother had.

I think mothers in general want to love their children. But what if you get a kid who’s turned into a person you don’t like? What if they make decisions that are hard to accept? Then what? Are we supposed to standby and not have an opinion. Aren’t we allowed feelings? Usually not.

Isn’t it always the fault of the mother that problems arise in adult life? Many psychologists believe that. Maybe they are right, but why does all the responsibility and blame  fall on the mother? Where’s the father in all of this? And don’t children have any skin in this game?

I find myself think about these things because today is Mother’s Day—a made up holiday where people try to make their mother feel valued with a card and a plant from the local nursery. And this is the first mother’s day my own mother isn’t here to enjoy the sunny day.

We were never close, but I find myself thinking about her. In her way, she was a good mother. She sacrificed for her children. She kissed our boo-boos and read stories before bedtime. She cooked good meals and kept our house cleaner than it needed to be. She was a stay-at-home mom who did the hard job of saying “no.”

As I reflect today, I just wish she could have found more happiness in what she had. I wish she could have learned to play a little more–even be silly once in a while. But I think she thought she wasn’t allowed because she had to be a good mother and set an example. I am thankful, though, she found us cute enough to keep us around to adulthood.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I hope you found the happiness you were looking for in heaven.


Prime Time for Primroses

primroseA couple of weeks ago I was in the grocery store, heading down the home stretch to the check-out, when a beautiful little plant called to me. It was a pink and yellow Primrose.

I have always had a soft spot for these dainty little flowers because they signal that Spring is just around the corner. Right. It’s January in Wisconsin. Who am I kidding? This far north, winter has been known to stretch well into the month of May!

The plant was marked 99 cents, so I picked her up and brought her home. I planted her in a pretty little fluted vase and gave her the position of honor on my kitchen table. For some reason, I smile every time I look at her lush green leaves and sweet little pink flowers. I talk to her and tell her how beautiful she is. Hopefully, my encouragement will help her live.

You see, there’s a problem. My house has a tendency to kill plants I bring home. I have no good place to give plants what they usually need–sunlight–direct or otherwise. The best I can do is pray everyday that this sweet little beauty will be brave enough to live long enough so I can safely plant her outside. I’m hoping this time will be different because she’s already brought me many smiles on a cold day. . . like today, when the windchill temperature is 25 degrees BELOW zero.

I think having flowering spring plants in the house during the dead of winter is a kind of therapy for me. Cabin fever is something all northerners suffer several times during our long winters and having bulbs like daffodils and tulips and flowers like this sweet little primrose coming to life in the house is as exciting as seeing them erupt in our gardens in the spring.

Are we impatient for the warmer temperatures of spring? You betcha! Winters are just too stinking long up here. I think November to March is long enough, but sometimes winter invades spring. In fact, sometimes we just jump from winter to summer and skip spring altogether!

So, I’m saying an extra fervent prayer to the plant gods to let my little primrose live. I’ll be doubly delighted when I plant her outside in my yard and watch come back to me after suffering a long, hard winter next year.


Understanding the Chinese New Year

chinese dragon animatedLiving in Wisconsin, the Chinese New Year comes and goes with little fanfare. But across the world, it’s a really big deal. I got to wondering about this two-week celebration and went out into the Internet-land for a little research. I’m sure all of you are teeming with curiosity, too, right?

This year, the Year of the Water Dragon is celebrated from January 23, 2012 – February 09, 2013. The Water Dragon is a symbol of good fortune and a sign of intense personal power. In my book, it should be a great year.

In my research, I found a wonderful website called, “Mirth and Motivation,” and found a wonderful article about the yearly celebration. Here’s an article that Elizabeth Obih-Frank posted: http://eof737.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/happy-chinese-new-year-ten-blessings-ten-things-to-know/. I thought it to be most interesting.

If you don’t have time to read the article, here’s the “Cliff Notes.”

  • The tradition of the holiday is to forget and forgive old grudges you’ve been lugging around for the past year. Then you SINCERELY wish peace and happiness to EVERYONE. How cool is that if everyone could do it? After all, there would be no more war if there were no grudges, right?
  • The color RED is very important in Chinese culture. Is it a symbol for prosperity. (Makes me want to go out and buy a completely red wardrobe. Maybe that will bring some prosperity into my life instead of his ugly brother poverty.)
  • One of the most important tradition of the holiday is to have a special meal with friends and family. I find this very interesting that throughout human history, sitting down and sharing a meal is an integral part of our holidays. Just try to think of one where eating together is not important. Even Jesus had a “Last Supper.”
  • Finally, firecrackers are lit to drive away the evil spirits because the bad guys don’t like loud noises. I think firecrackers would also drive away pesky, bothersome critters. (Perhaps I should pass this tip along to my friend, Bob, who is battling neighborhood squirrels because the little varmints are eating his gourmet bird seed.)

So to all, I wish you peace and happiness for the Chinese New Year–but I don’t need a holiday to do that. I do that everyday.