Tag Archive | love

The End

I know many of you enjoy (or at least tolerate) my words of “Wisdom” each day; I really don’t know how many of you stayed around to read the chapters of the second edition of APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS. I’m happy to tell you the book is finished, so today I’m giving you the final two chapters.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Here the sky is blue, the weather is unseasonably warm, and there’s football on the television again. So, enjoy.

#####

Chapter 8

Lacrosse, Wisconsin –September—On Friday, September 8, 1946 at five o’clock Josie and Mario set up their wedding rehearsal at St. Peter’s Church. Josie picked up Donna Jean and her husband, Antonio, at the train station in Mario’s new Ford coupe. When starlet “Sandra Simpson” formerly Donna Jean volunteered to sing at the wedding, Josie burst with happiness. Donna said wild horses couldn’t make her stay away from her best friend’s wedding.

When they found each other on the station platform, Donna dropped her suitcase and ran into Josie’s arms like some cheesy “B” movie. They hugged and cried. Then they laughed all the way home. Being together again seemed like old times.  The only thing that changed between them was the war made them grow up.

When Donna introduced Antonio love in her eyes, Josie realized Donna had found her prince charming. The man possessed drop-dead movie star good looks and a friendly demeanor. He towered over Donna at six foot four, and his gorgeous thick head of curly hair and dark eyes made every woman stare at him.

Josie wanted to hear everything about Donna’s Hollywood life and her upcoming movie debut. In fact, Donna rescheduled her filming schedule to get away for the wedding. The director consented to Donna’s request because she had become one of the hottest tickets in Hollywood.

The wedding rehearsal went without a hitch and afterward Josie, Donna, and Rosalie loved their reunion at Joe’s Diner. Even though they each acquired husbands over the past four years, deep down they remained the young girls who peddled Girl Scout cookies not that many years ago.

After the rehearsal dinner, Rosalie left for home with Angelo; Donna and Antonio went to the Holiday Inn, and Josie and Mario said goodnight on the porch for the very last time.

*****

The morning of September 9, 1946, Josie slipped on  the satin and lace wedding dress her mother sewed for her. The silky gown fit  over her willowy body like a glove. The classical simple dress matched Josie’s personality. The drop waist lace bodice met a flowing skirt of white satin. Dainty covered buttons draped down the back, along with a luxurious long train which started at the waist and flared out behind her. Subtle pleats in the side seams softened the line of the full skirt to enhance Josie’s small waist. A hoop skirt of starched netting supported the satin, giving the dress a bell shape. Josie insisted on wearing her mother’s wedding veil to complete her ensemble.

The wedding flowers came from the farm. Josie carried a bouquet of white gladiolas tied together with a soft pink ribbon. Her attendants dressed in a soft shade of pink satin and carried one pink gladiola stem with a white satin ribbon.

Josie filled up the backseat of her father’s new Buick with her full-skirted dress with no room to spare. At eleven o’clock. Josie returned to the church where she made her First Communion and wore her first veil. In about thirty minuted she would stand in front of friends and family to make promises to Mario, a man she loved unconditionally. The girls waited in the basement for Josie to make her entrance.

Rosalie gasped when she caught a glimpse of the bride coming down the basement steps to fellowship hall. “Oh, Josie! You’re so beautiful!”

Josie blushed before she hugged her friends.

Everyone in the Armani family played a part in the wedding. Rosalie agreed to be the matron of honor, even though she didn’t want the job because at eight months pregnant she complained to be, “as big as a blue whale.” But Josie wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. Instead, she found a dress with a big pleat in the front to accommodate Rosalie’s baby bump. Mario’s beautiful sisters Mary and Beverly stood in as the two other attendants. Five-year- old Angelina made the prettiest flower girl while three-year-old AJ  waited with his sister and Mom to walk down the aisle as the ring bearer.

Upstairs Mario’s brother Jimmy stood in as the best man and Josie’s brother Johnny served as groomsman. Angelo and Bobby waited served as ushers to walk the guests down the aisle to the pews.

When the first chord of the wedding march sounded and the congregation rose, Josie took her first step toward a new life on the arm of her father. She smiled at all of her guests as she made her way down the aisle. Mario stood like a proud gladiator with his expansion chest filling with pride as his eyes met Josie’s eyes. After years of flirting with her, he finally won her over, and now she was his bride.

After Josie’s father lifted her veil and kissed her cheek, he took her hand and placed it in Mario’s hand. She beamed at her handsome Mario in his new navy blue suit . Donna’s voice filled the church with bell-like tones as she sang “Ave Maria.” Josie thought her friend must be touched by an angel to sing so beautifully. Her soul soared as Donna hit the high notes. Josie prayed. Thank you God! Thank you for bringing me home. Thank you for this beautiful wedding where I’m surrounded by my dearest friends and family.

The last four years had put terror in everyone’s heart.  Everyone lost and suffered during the war. Nobody was the same. But now the time had come to stop the mourning and begin living again. Josie let go of any lingering sadness of losing her kid brother and focused on the future. She stood beside her soul mate–a man strong enough and caring enough to capture her imagination, and now they were making promises to love, honor, and cherish each other forever.

Life didn’t get better than that.

 

Don’t Censor Creativity

Today on CBS Morning Show the author of “Eat, Pray, Love” Elizabeth Gilbert came on the show to talk about her new book BIG MAGIC – CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR. The discussion with the morning show staff was about how we censor creativity by hanging on to fear. The program got me thinking.

I’ve always had a curiosity about the world around me. I asked “Why” way more than my mother ever wanted me to. Most of the time her answer was “because that’s the way it is.” In six short words she quashed my imagination. When my girls asked why, you can bet I never answered them with a “because statement.” I’d give them an answer and then asked them, “Why do you think it is so?” I tried to get them to think creatively about their curiosities.

When it was time to decide on a career, my mother encouraged me to find an office job. She brainwashed me into thinking I didn’t have enough talent to do anything else, and besides, I would have skills to “fall back on.” Seeing no way to get to college at eighteen, I succumbed to her idea of success and spent seven years typing, filing and taking shorthand.

My office skills helped me throughout my life, but as I look back, I realize what a dope I was to let someone else live my life.  If I could talk to that sixteen year old girl who gave into her mother’s wisdom I would say: Run! Find your own path. Nurture your talents don’t bury them. It will work out.

But to be completely honest, my mother wasn’t to blame for my choice. Yes, she had a hand in it, but I allowed it to happen. I lived in the same fear she did. I hated making mistakes. Little did I realize it is one’s own mistakes that allow growth. Now I live in my creative self, but it took many years to get here, and I suppose most people take too many years to value the creativity inside of them.

If you’re young and reading this post, don’t wait for the “right” time to allow your creativity bloom. Nurture it now. Value it now. Dream and create. It’s why we were put here. Live in the moment and let the fear fall away. It’s not an easy way to live, but it’s the most exciting and fulfilling  journey.

Oh, and by the way, I bought the book just to make sure I’m on the right path.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 6 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 12

Normandy, France-June—For years General Rommel had troops reinforce two thousand miles of French coastline with bunkers, guns, and other deterrents to hinder a land invasion in France. The Germans believed their thorough preparation would discourage any Allied land invasion. The hubris of the German hierarchy believe no army would defeat them.

The Germans believed the most logical place to land was Calais in the north because this location was the closest city to England on the English Channel. All intercepted intelligence reports pointed to Calais. Consequently, the Nazis positioned their superior Panzer tank units in Calais, which proved to be a hundred miles from the attack occurring at Normandy. Hitler held the troops in Calais because he believed another wave of allied forces would attack there.

Rommel believed the allies would not attack in the terrible weather that hit France on June 4th so he went home to celebrate his wife’s birthday. He believed even if their precautions and fortifications failed, the weather always stood by as a good ally. Strong winds and a thick cloud cover would keep Allied aircraft at bay.

*****

Franz Reinhart realized he received “puff” assignments throughout the war. After Leisel died, though, his situation changed.  When Colonel Fuchs learned his daughter Leisel received abuse and indifference from Franz, he disowned his son-in-law. On top of that, Marta’s father died at Stalingrad, so Franz no longer received favors from a high ranking officer.

When Franz received new orders transferring him from Paris to the Normandy area, he grumbled. The few small skirmishes with the French resistance gave him a taste of combat, but the fighters proved to be more of a nuisance than any real threat. Only his communication talents saved him. He won him the job of radio operator, which also kept him off the front lines.

At 0400 hours on June 6, 1944 his commanding officer shook him awake. “Aufstehen! Aufstehen!” As Franz shook the cobwebs of slumber from his head, he wondered what had Captain Heinz in such a tizzy. Then he heard the distinctive whine of enemy planes overhead. His commander screamed at him again. “Get up! Get up! Something is happening. Get on the radio.”

Franz pulled on his pants and shirt and ran barefoot to the communications building. Excitable chatter screamed over the wireless. “Parachutists are landing! Gliders are landing! Landing craft approaching! My God! The sea is filled with so many ships; we do not have enough soldiers to fight them!” Franz couldn’t believe this catastrophe. Surely, the officers must be exaggerating!

By mid-morning no more communications came in because allied forces either jammed the signal, or worse, they cut the cables. Units lost the capability to coordinate their movements. Infantrymen streamed past Franz’s location and ran toward the coast. The unit scout reported a few bunkers in the Normandy sector got blown to bits.

Franz and the rest of the unit followed the German infantry to the coast. His anger bubbled up because Captain Heinz ordered him to go out to the cold, forsaken beachhead. His job required him to man the radio; a man with his rank should not be reduced to a grunt soldier. His vanity protested.  “But Commander, would it not be wiser to move inland and take the village nearby? Such a location would be more appropriate to plan a counter attack. ”

The colonel’s face looked as if it would explode. “How do you suggest we do that without radios? You imbecile! Are you questioning my orders, lieutenant?”

Captain Heinz did not like to be challenged by any underling. Franz hung his head. “No, sir.”

“Then move out.” The Commander growled like an attacking wolf.

Ja; doch.” Franz saluted and ran after his superior. He felt like a scared child when his father threatened him with a spanking if he didn’t obey. He thought as he ran: “I should not be ordered to fight in a concrete bunker. What am I to do? I never operated a big gun! This can’t be happening!”

As soon as Franz got to the beach, the high commander ordered everyone to shoot blindly down toward the beach. With the radios out, confusion reigned. Conflicting commands went around him. Franz’s brain froze when he realized the beach crawled with wave after wave of infantrymen. Now he understood his orders to “Tet sie alle!”  Kill them all!

The hammering of the big guns, the stink of sulfur, and the stench of death engulfed the beach. Thousands of Americans bounded from their landing craft and opened fire. Everyone screamed at each other. The roar of guns and cries of agony from wounded Americans and comrades told the story of the battle.

Franz tightened his grip on a stationary machine gun; he breathed deep and pulled the trigger. The recoil of the gun threw him backward.  He fired again and thought the weapon came alive like a restrained elephant giving into its instinct to stampede. It took all of his strength to control the weapon.

Abruptly, the gun ceased to fire. Franz panicked not knowing what to do. His hands shook.  His CO screamed at him to reload. He never loaded a gun bigger than a rifle. He clumsily feed the brass string of shells into the chamber and pulled the trigger. As he fumbled, the Commander cursed him. Franz wet himself. His failure to fire allowed the Americans to penetrate the bunker.

The last thing Franz remembered was a thump of metal hitting concrete. He spun around to see a grenade. A second later,  shrapnel from the exploding weapon ripped open a large wound in his groin severing his femoral artery. A white-hot pain flashed through his body and he passed out. Franz cried out with pain. He fell into a fetal position as his life drained away.

Chapter 13

Normandy, France-June—Johnny learned a lot from Captain Baker. Except for unusual incidents, they recognized most aerial victories required two men. The wingman concept proved to be a lifesaver and an effective enemy destroyer. Through months of flying together, they developed a technique of interchanging roles of number one and wingman as the situation demanded. Their bond grew so strong they anticipated each other’s next move.

Up until D-Day, the fighter pilots of the Eighth Air Force focused on destroying the Luftwaffe. The fighters still escorted the B-17’s so the boys in the bombers were protected before and after hitting their targets, but on June 6th, the fighters’ assignment changed. Now they provided support and protection for the men on the ground.

Everyone knew the invasion would be a hell of a fight. They all needed to remain focused.  Johnny needed to push the thought his kid brother fought on the ground to the back of his mind. Every man was a small cog in a very big machine. Johnny flew his fortieth mission on D-Day, and as soon as he completed his assignment, he planned to marry Katie. War taught him time is finite, and a guy needed to enjoy happiness wherever he could find it.

Chapter 14

South Pacific, Summer—Donna and the girls toured tent cities in fields and beachheads for months. Performing in such dangerous places didn’t faze Donna. She loved the spotlight. Standing alone in the darkness made her feel alive and powerful. She realized she held the audience in the palm of her hand as she poured out raw emotion with her voice. Once inside their souls, she brought a glimpse of home to tearful soldiers.

Donna told a reporter from the “The Stars and Stripes” newspaper: “The boys are my heroes, and I give them all I possess during every show. When I sing “I’ll be Seeing You in All the Familiar Places,” I dive into their hearts and take them back to their girls back home. Performing in these shows is important to everyone in the band because we can provide a little fun and a short escape from this ugly war.”

The exposure Donna gave the band would never happen in any other situation. The girls vowed they would stay together for the duration of the war, but after seeing Mr. Hope and the other professionals perform, Donna secretly wanted to take a run in Hollywood after she got home.

The girls and other USO performers also visited the hospitals at most locations. With so many beautiful young boys suffering such debilitating wounds, Donna found it difficult to hold her tears back. Witnessing severe burns or missing limbs made her want to cry. Putting on a smile for these occasions was the toughest thing she did during the war, but if an autograph or a kiss on the cheek helped a man through the day, she was happy to do it. Donna’s charm washed over the men as she thanked all of them for what they gave to preserve American freedom. Staying calm and cheerful in the hospitals proved to be the hardest role she would ever play.

By the summer of 1944, the troupe traveled thirty thousand miles throughout the South Pacific. They performed shows in exotic sounding locations like Eniwetok, Tarawa, Kwajalein, Saipan, and Majuro. They traveled to twenty-three countries over thirteen months. The Foxhole Circuit produced some of the most seasoned veterans of the USO camp shows. The most difficult part of their travesl turned out to be keeping up with Bob Hope’s grueling pace. He was tireless and expected everyone else keep up. The troupe traveled on ships and planes through combat zones, performing at least two shows a day.

As the months went on, the girls grew weary of the travel, the dangers of war, and living in mosquito infested tents. The dirt, bugs, and snakes got old fast. Donna dreamed of getting her hair and nails done in a salon again.

When Mr. Hope announced they had completed their last show, all of the performers breathed a sigh of relief. They looked forward to warm beds and good food. They could retire their steel helmets with other trophies. Rationing and shortages would be easy after their field experiences. Their joy hid the guilt they experienced because when they headed home so many millions couldn’t.

 

 

 

Getting out of “Dodge”

travelI hope some of you noticed I took a hiatus from blogging. Being missed by someone is a compliment, so I guess I’m also being presumptuous you’re glad I’ve returned.

Grounded No More,” my seventh historical novel has been keeping me away, but this morning I put the finishing touches on it to go to my editor. I so enjoy historical fiction. I love researching other time periods to catch a glimpse of the people who lived those years. I’ve zeroed in on the World War II era because I find the sacrifices and hardships people endured amazing. I enjoy how people faced their fears and carried on in the face of adversity–particularly the women who were expected to become someone else in a blink of an eye. Through propaganda campaigns, they entered the workforce in all kinds of jobs, including some very dangerous ones.

The other fact that has kept me away from blogging is personal. I’ve been soul searching for some answers. Being a caretaker impacts a person in ways you never expect. As you might imagine, Ken’s Multiple Sclerosis can be trying at times. I must continually remind myself what he does is the disease and not him, but sometimes I drown myself in something artistic to put down my emotions of losing him bit by bit.

The winter has kept us both in the house longer than usual, so I haven’t been outside to start my spring clean-up and plant my flowers. We’ve been together 24/7 for over three years, and I need a respite, but going on such a journey has turned into an overwhelming task.

Because Ken would rather stay home than go to a care center, the quest is more difficult. I need to find him a qualified person to provide 24-hour care. When I expressed my frustration with the woman who acts as our coordinator, she said she’d work with the nurse and help me get this done. I guess it helps to whine once in a while.

Another part of my challenge is myself. My heart needs to stay home, but my head realizes without a break sometime in the near future, I might snap. My patience will wane, and I’ll do or say something I will regret. I equate the emotion to putting my little girl on the bus for kindergarten, only this time I’m the little girl.

My ordeal now boils down to letting go. When I must release my hold on something or someone I love, I need to take small steps, so when a girlfriend invited me to go “up north” with her for a weekend, I could consider her offer. I realize baby steps will be best for both Ken and me, so we’ll muddle through this first short separation, and if things go well, perhaps then I can plan a trip to Florida to visit my dear friend Kay–which was my original intention when I began this respite quest. I’m simply not ready for such a long separation.

Ken and I are lucky.  Through our relationship of nineteen years, we enjoyed many wonderful trips together. Timeshares in different parts of the country. A couple of cruises. Weekend getaways in quaint Bed & Breakfast places or swanky hotels. I am thankful for all of the good times, but I’m sad we will probably never travel together like this again.

 

The Best & Worst on the Same Day

Do you remember that famous quote, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”?  Charles Dickens sure could turn a phrase, couldn’t  he? At the very least, he summed up my experience last week.

Last Wednesday, I confessed I celebrated a milestone birthday. I also confessed I’m a big kid about my birthday, and I pout when my friends and family ignore my big day. I also told you my friends are sweet enough to indulge me with great food, laughs and of course, presents. All of this happened last week—all week.

The worst of times concerns how Ken felt most of the week. He suffered debilitating fatigue from the damn MS. Most everyday he was unable to walk from the kitchen to the living room, which was heartbreaking because we live in a small 1100 square foot bungalow. We both planned to celebrate my birthday by enjoying lunch at Red Lobster, one of our favorite restaurants. But when July 31st rolled around, the poor guy was too weak to go.

He collapsed in the hallway after he struggled to get dressed, and I couldn’t help him get up. He was dead weight and even when my daughter Sarah tried to help us, we were unable to get him up off of the floor and onto the sofa. So, he lay in the hallway insisting Sarah, Joyce and I go off and leave him home.

The last thing I wanted to do was leave, I had been through this scenario several times before, and I knew in about thirty minutes he would regain enough strength to move to a more comfortable place, but I wanted to stay with him. He almost got angry with me when I said, “Let’s go another time.” He gave me a look that said, “Just go!”

As I drove to the restaurant, I wanted to turn around and go back home. I didn’t feel like celebrating anything without him, but I knew he’d be more upset if I went home. He would think his sickness once again put a damper on my good time. What he didn’t realize is, when he’s not able to enjoy the outing with me, I don’t have a good time either.

This birthday was the first time in almost twenty years we were apart. Up until recent years, Ken always made a special effort to make me feel special on my day, and now he can’t. He can’t drive to a store, shop for a gift, make dinner reservations, and take me out. His decline has made him dependent on others, and that’s a hard pill to swallow for both of us, but it was especially painful on my  birthday.

If you learn anything from me, take this away: Don’t take anything for granted. Be thankful for what you have and who loves you.  Appreciate people you love and tell them often how much they mean to you. Tell them you are a better person because they have wanted to be part of your life. Believe me when I say, the only sure thing in life is CHANGE, and I guarantee someday your traditions will fade, and you will end up apart from the person you love–and maybe it will be on your birthday.

Sunday Afternoons and Ice Cream Cones

When I was a child, Sundays were always special. It started by going to church, going home, changing out of our “church clothes” into play clothes, having lunch and then piling in the old Buick for our Sunday afternoon ride.

The four of us0001With my brother and I in the backseat and my parents in the front, we’d head off for one of two destinations–a visit with our favorite cousins or a trip to a local park called Petrifying Springs for an ice cream cone. We could have had any flavor we wanted as long as it was chocolate, vanilla, or New York Cherry. You have to remember Baskin and Robbins 31 Flavors hadn’t come to town yet.

Even though my brother and I knew the outcome of our Sunday afternoon ride, we always looked forward to them. Dad always tried to make it exciting by taking different routes to the destination—but even as small children, we knew if we saw Lake Michigan we would see or cousins in just a few minutes. It didn’t matter where we would end up because we had a good time in either place.

Today it’s hard to imagine children would be delighted with a single scoop New York Cherry ice cream cone, but it was one of my favorite memories of my childhood. Our life was simple, but it was good.

Dad worked in a muffler factory and Mom stayed home. By today’s standards we were poor, but we didn’t know it. We always had enough to eat and a pair of shoes that fit. My mother had a knack for stretching a dollar as far as it could possibly go. She cut our hair, sewed our clothes, canned all the vegetables we ate, made jams and jellies, plus she kept our home so clean you could have eaten off the floors at any time day or night. (I never got that gene.) 

On Friday evening, Dad would take his meager check to the bank, cash it, save a couple of bucks for himself and hand off the rest of the money to my mother to buy the rest of the food, pay the bills and save a little for a rainy day. He also gave John and me an allowance of 25 cents–a dime for church, a dime to save, and a nickel for something we’d like to buy for ourselves. It wasn’t until we were in about Second Grade that we got a pay raise to 50 cents. Then it was a dime for church, a dime for girl scout dues, a quarter for the bank (we each had a Christmas savings by then), and a nickel to spend on ourselves.

Growing up like this taught us a lot about money and life. We knew having almost enough was okay. And I don’t think I could cope with my circumstances of my adult life if my childhood had been filled to the brim with new bikes, store-bought clothes and every toy a kid could imagine. Instead, it was filled with enough  love and an ice cream cone on Sunday. And that’s okay.

Family is An Anchor to Life

Easter BunnyYesterday I celebrated the anniversary of being welcomed into the McCloskey clan. It happened eighteen years ago, when my mother told me she would rather spend Easter just with my father instead of including me in their plans. I was alone after a miserable divorce, and her insensitivity to my situation devastated me.

But Ken had recently come into my life, and when I shared what had happened, he put his arm around me and he said, “You’re coming home with me.” At the time, we just started dating, and I was afraid it was too soon to meet his family. But, it was the best thing I ever did.

I thought the fact that I was older than Ken would cause a problem, but  it never was mentioned. Unlike my own family, his Mom, Dad, brothers, and sisters just accepted me as I am. And as you might imagine, it was a wonderful day.

Since that time, this family has become very dear to me. I love all of them very much. I’ve gotten a chance to watch “little” Kristen grow from a vivacious three-year-old to a beautiful young woman who will graduate from college next year. I’ve sung at Steve and Tara’s wedding in New York. (They helped me cross off that “bucket list” entry.) I also sang at Sue and Carl’s wedding in Chicago. I was there when Catherine was baptized. I held Isabel when she was a baby. I was there for Sue’s baby shower when she was pregnant with Joey. I was there for Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary where I got to meet most of Ken’s uncles, aunts, and cousins. It’s been a gift to be included in this family. I thought these kind of people only existed in books.

With Ken’s MS it has become more difficult to be with the family because preparing for the trip is laborious. When Ken was well, it was no problem because he helped pack the car, and we took turns driving. But now, all of the packing, preparing, and driving is up to me. On top of that, Ernie has become of the McCloskey clan and expects to go, too. By the time I get to Steve’s house after all the commotion and driving about 100 miles through construction and Chicago traffic–I need a hug. Luckily, when I get there, everyone is standing in line to give me one. All of the effort was worth it because once again, I have a chance to bathe in the positive energy I get from the McCloskey family.

So yesterday, I not only celebrated Easter, as I watched the kids find their eggs the Easter Bunny had dropped all over the yard, I quietly celebrated my anniversary of being welcomed into this wonderful family. And the sun shone on me once again.

The Value of Friendship Scrutinized

CircleOn Sunday Morning on CBS there was a piece about friendship. The reporter interviewed a group of women from Wisconsin and a group of men from another state (sorry, I can’t remember that part). Each gender group talked about how valuable their friendships were.

Then to back up the unscientific testimony, the reporter PROVED how valuable friends are with a series of medical and university studies–after all, it is a NEWS show. One medical study proved people holding hands with a friend during an MRI showed less anxiety and brain activity, while the patient received intermittent electric shocks, than they did when they went through the test alone. A university study showed when people were asked to estimate how steep a hill was without a friend standing next to them, the hill appeared steeper than when their friends were with them.

So, these studies prove we all do better when we have friends than when we don’t. Dah. That’s a no-brainer.

But remember if you want a friend, it’s like any relationship — there’s a give and a take, a symbiotic part to it. Experts on the program made the point that sometimes friends can become toxic and drain your energy. In such a case, it’s better for you to cut the cord and make a new friend who enriches you as much as you do them. Ending a friendship is hard, especially when you’ve put so much energy into making the friend in the first place. The last thing you want to do is cut them loose.  But sometimes, it has be done. Many times, a friendship gone bad becomes visible when you’re growing in a certain direction and they are not. Just like divorce, the process is hard but necessary. The good news is both parties usually come out stronger for the experience.

Like the women in my books, friendships are my life blood. The people who I have elected to bring into my life are precious gifts. They are my safety nets, my confidants, my helpers, and my companions. We laugh together, play together, cry together, support each other, share our fears, and express our love for each other. They fill my life with beautiful color. Without them, my life would be cold and gray.

My wish for all of you reading this is that each of you have at least one good friend you can always count on. A whole stable of friends would be even better  because life without friends is like an empty Easter basket or a Christmas tree without decorations. Where’s the joy in that?

When Accidents Happen

OopsWhen I went to a Caregiver counselor a few weeks ago, she gave me a book called, Daily Comforts for Caregivers by Pat Samples. I thanked the counselor, read a few of the entries, and then didn’t pick up the book until sometime later. Even though the entries are short, somehow I didn’t find time to read one everyday. I’m like that. Aside from my blog and writing on one of my WIPs, I don’t do much of anything EVERY day. That would be too disciplined.

But today, I picked up the book and read a couple of entries. There was one in particular which resonated with me. It talked about “Accidents” which often happen around the house. I have to admit, one of the most frustrating things for me to accept is when Ken has an “Accident.”  Here’s what I’m talking about. The coffee carafe smashes on the kitchen floor because he doesn’t have the strength to pour the water into the coffee maker. He spilled a g;ass of milk  trying to carry it from the kitchen to the living room because of his trembling hand. Or how about the time when he sat on his glasses because he forgot where he put them. And I haven’t even mentioned the numerous falls he takes because stubbornly believes he doesn’t need his walker “for that little distance.” In this case, I hold my breath, say a prayer, and yell, “Are you okay? Need some help?”

So many of Ken’s accidents end up costing money. The all involve having to clean up a mess, and worst of all, he could get hurt. I wish I could wrap him in bubble wrap to protect him from himself, but as we all know, there would be a law against doing so. A more rational approach would be to just take over, and do everything for him. But, I can’t do that. He already knows his previous capabilities have deteriorated  He used to fix everything around the house, and now he can barely hold a screw driver still enough to tighten a screw. When accidents happen,  he is humiliated his Multiple Sclerosis has brought negative attention to him — again.

As much as my frustration wants me to yell  scream at him, I’ve learned to take a deep breath and smile. You can’t be angry when you smile and me dumping my wrath on him wouldn’t accomplish anything good; after all, he feels terrible already.

I love this man. I can’t take away his dignity and his eagerness to do things. He needs to try. I NEED him to try because I need to know he hasn’t given up. Plus, he feels good when he accomplishes the small feats. “Normal” people wouldn’t consider walking down the hallway without holding on to the wall an accomplishment, but for Ken, doing so makes a red-letter day. It’s a big deal for both of us. Sometimes we celebrate with a beer!

Like every other change that comes along, we find ways to cope. With accidents, I laugh and say, “So, gravity got you again, huh?” Then he laughs and says, “It’s the law, you know.” Our laughter takes away the immediate frustration we both feel. I clean up the mess. The sun comes up tomorrow and we both carry on as best as we can.

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.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Walking Through Tragedy

Troubled Waters by McCloskey

Troubled Waters by McCloskey

When tragedy strikes, the shock changes you. You can’t help but feel “why me?” You wonder why things didn’t go the way you had planned. We all go through it at sometime during our lives. To some a tragedy strikes at a young age. For others, it might take until you’re 20 or 30 years old. For still others, it waits until you’re almost old enough to retire.

My brother John is going through such a personal shock right now. He’s sailed through his life with little conflict. He has an Ivy League education. He’s done important research in his job. He’s never suffered unemployment. He’s never been seriously sick. He’s enjoyed a long happy marriage. He’s watched his three children grow up and find happy, successful lives. But just recently he felt the first, true, personal earthquake. His wife of over 30 years was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. I can imagine what the words of the diagnosis did to both him. I’ve been there.

I’m sure my brother will keep his heartbreak inside. I’m sure he is a rock for Wendy. I’m sure he’ll support her, no matter what she has to face.  I’m sure he might be scared that this disease has the possibility of separating them forever. He’ll cry in private.  He’ll never speak of  his impotency to change the situation. After all, there are no words. I’ve been there.

But I also know John and Wendy are surrounded by close friends who want to help. Living in California, so far away from their blood relatives, they have acquired a new family through their church activities. These people will be their saving grace. The right people will step forward and walk the journey with them. They will get what they need at the time they need it. God will see to it. And whatever is needed will be fulfilled by another person. I know.  I’ve been there.

So even though I can’t be with my dear brother and my sister-in-law because of the vast distance that separates us, I know in my heart that they will be all right. I know that no matter what happens, life will go on. The sun will come up every morning and set every evening. They will learn to take a day at a time and enjoy what they can together. They’ll probably cry in each other’s arms, but I also know they will find a way to laugh again. They will strengthen each other. I’ve been there.

Watching a spouse deal with surgery, life-threaten complications of that surgery, and the devastating effects of chemotherapy is a tough road. Ken and I were lucky to have come out of the positive side of this journey over 10 years ago. And now, I pray for that same miracle for Wendy and for John who is standing by.

If you have a minute, send a prayer my brother’s way. Okay?

John and Wendy

John and Wendy