Tag Archive | perspective

A Better Day

The statistics of my blog are pretty dismal, especially after my unveiling of the crappy things that have happened this week. I think that statistic means people don’t relish reading stuff about ordinary tough times. But color me confused. Why does the news media focus on the worst things that can happen to humans every night? Why do they focus on building fear–even with the weather? They lead story every night is about a shotting, a fire, a flood, an earthquake, a mudslide–you get the picture. Even worse, if nothing of the sort happened in the local area, they’ll dig up stories from other communities across the country to fill their quota of daily horror.

However, if I am going to use this medium as a possible vehicle to help other caregivers, I must relate. If I only talked about all the wonderful things in my life and my relationship with Ken, that would sugar-coat reality. Other caretakers might think they must be doing something wrong because they experience bad days. Their times are anything but good everyday. Understand?

But I also get the point that others don’t want to be slapped in the face with sad stories all the time. So today, I will refrain from any more terrifying stories.

Enough is enough already.

Yesterday I went to “Sam’s Club” with my dear friend Jackie to pick up three months of paper products, a few groceries, and a couple of other things we “needed.” After spending too much money, Jackie and I sat down for lunch. We love Sam’s hot dogs, and of course, we always have chips for a “side,” and soda as our preferred beverage. To top off our indulgent lunch we ordered a decadent frozen yogurt. After sharing a few laughs, we headed home. Our trip lasted about two hours.

When I got home, Ken was sitting in his chair. I put away all the purchases and then made him lunch. The problem was, he was too fatigued to eat. Then I also heard he needed to use his “life line” button to call for help. Yup. He fell again.

First I felt guilty about not being there when he had trouble, and then when I thought about the situation more rationally, I realized what I had put in place to keep him safe had worked. The guilt flew away.

Today he seems fine. Hopefully it will stay that way and we’ll go outside to our patio and enjoy a hot game of Scrabble. Life can be so good in between the crap. Have a good day, everyone!

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2

Chapter 24

Warsaw, Poland – September 1939—Heidi and Dora packed the car during the morning and in the afternoon they sewed money and valuables in hems of coats and dresses. They woke the children after midnight and carried them into the garage at the back of the house. When the children settled down, Dora put the key in the ignition of the Rolls Royce Edward bought the year before. She offered a prayer for a safe journey and backed the car out of the driveway. She choked down her fear of what might come. Would she be able to escape? Would she ever be able to come back to her home someday?  She gave birth to their children in their bedroom. She decorated the place with her art work and made delicious meals in their kitchen. She and Edward would never eat by candlelight in their dining room again, while their children slept safely in their feather beds. She would never play her grand piano again. She would never make love again with Edward in their bedroom. She and Edward built a wonderful life together. But would they ever find each other again? Dora drove away with her memories and fears as she clenched the steering wheel with white knuckles.

Refugees crowded the roads leading away from Warsaw. People of all ages carried suitcases. Horse-drawn wagons and pushcarts of all sizes cluttered the road. When Heidi witnessed so many down trodden people fleeing, she thanked God Dora owned a car. Heidi couldn’t image this journey with three pre-school children on foot.

After they left the city limits, the roads became very dark and unfamiliar. She concentrated on heading south and commanded herself to get to Lviv as fast as possible. Dora tried to focus on the future, not what she left behind. She focused on keeping her children safe.

At the same time Heidi did her best to mask her fear and sadness. They cut the darkness in silence, alone with their private thoughts. Heidi prayed for her Uncle Hans and the children. The invasion would certainly make their lives difficult. For a few seconds she second guessed herself. Perhaps she should have stayed with Uncle Hans and help him with the children. But no. He and the children would be safe. Dora probably wouldn’t be. I’m doing the right thing. God wants me to help Dora. She is a gentle woman. She never experienced a harsh life and the ugliness of the world. She’s privileged and well-schooled, so she needs help with household chores, and I can do those for her. Mutter would do the same if she found herself in this situation. Uncle Hans will understand. Only Vater will be angry.

In the distance heavy artillery shells exploded lighting up the sky with thunderous blasts. The road rumbled. Dora squeezed the steering wheel harder. Her instinct demanded she drive faster, but with the stream of refugees, she maneuvered the car slowly. The moonless night engulfed the travelers in uncharted darkness. Dora prayed. Two women traveling alone with three children provided an easy target.

After an hour, the crowd of refugees thinned as Warsaw faded miles behind them. The starless night seemed to be an omen of dread; nobody desired an uncertain future, but that’s exactly what everyone in Poland inherited from a blood thirsty neighbor.

As Dora’s fear escalated, she drove faster. Her thoughts kept repeating: I’m doing the right thing. I must save the children. I must get out of Poland.

The high speed frightened Heidi. “Mrs. Gessler, I think we should slow down; we don’t want to attract attention with your fancy car.”

After listening to Heidi’s comment, Dora laughed. “I will slow down, Heidi, but I think we can drive as fast as we want with no other vehicles on the road.”

Heidi laughed with her. Some how the ridiculous comment broke the tension each of them felt. Heidi took a deep breath and settled back into the soft leather seat. The two women retreated back into their own thoughts as the miles passed. Heidi read the map with a flashlight and instructed Dora to make the proper turns to reach their destination. With every mile behind them, Dora thought, “What will I do if we’re stopped?”

*****

After driving nearly three hours, Dora found enough gas to get them the rest of the way to Lviv. Heidi gave herself private pep talks to assure this adventure would be positive. She hedged her bets by praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary for a safe journey into a foreign land.

After filling the gas tank, the rest of the trip proved to be uneventful until they entered Lviv. The streets overflowed with tired, hungry refugees. The sight of their dirty faces and blank stares alarmed Dora as she realized professionals and peasants existed on an equal plain. In a few short days, Lviv turned into a ghetto of people with no where else to go.

Chapter 25

 Lviv, Ukraine – September, 1939—Dora and Heidi were luckier than most people who came to Lviv for Soviet protection. Along with their clothes, they packed enough food for a couple of weeks. Shortages of food and water drove people to fight in the streets.

Heidi suggested they stay in the car on the outskirts of the town until Dora found a place to live. While Dora searched, Heidi attended to the children and distracted them with games and stories. David cried to go home; Ruthie wanted her toys; even baby Jacob seemed to understand things had changed.

After two days, Dora still searched for suitable housing. Every place offered rundown, crowded, conditions. Very few clean rooms existed. On the third day of her search, Dora settled on renting one room in a newer apartment building. The windowless room only offered two beds. They needed to share a bathroom at the end of the hall with four other families.

Dora returned to Heidi and the children before lunch. The petite, beautiful woman appeared much older than she was the day before. Tears formed in her eyes as she told Heidi about their new residence. “I found a place for us to sleep. The room is clean, but Spartan. We should be safe living there.”

“I am sure it will be fine, Mrs. Gessler.” Heidi said in a calm voice.

“My dear, Heidi. From now on, please call me Dora. We are partners in this adventure, not employer and employee. Our roles changed overnight, do you not agree?”

“Of course.” Heidi paused. “Dora.”

Dora’s voice went higher as she spoke to the children. “Time to go. Mama found a place for us to sleep. We do not want the landlord to rent our room to someone else. We must hurry.”

David asked, “Why are you crying, Mama?”

“They are happy tears, my darling. Do not worry. They are happy tears.” Dora lied.

Dora drove into the bulging city while people stared at the car. If they drove through the center of town in a red fire truck with sirens blaring, their appearance wouldn’t have caused as much attention as the brand new Rolls did.

Heidi whispered. “I think we need to hide the car.”

“Yes, but let us first get the children settled into the apartment.”

Heidi nodded.

Dora parked behind the apartment building and instructed David and Ruth to grab a bag and follow her. Heidi brought up the rear with the baby and whatever else she could carry. Dora led them to the third floor and put a key in the lock. When the door opened, six year old David cried. “Mama, this is our new house? I want to go home!”

“Now David, don’t be fresh. We must stay here until I can find something better. I need you to be a big little man.”

Ruth stomped her foot. “I want to go home too!”

Dora hugged her daughter and whispered, “Me too, sweetheart. Me too.”

 

Unforgettable Accomplishments

MondayYesterday was Monday. A new beginning of the week. A clean slate for starting a diet or a new goal of any kind. I often wonder why our calendar starts on Sunday because Monday is really the pivotal day for most of us.

On Monday of this week, I finished the rewrite on my eighth novel. I felt so accomplished to send this work off to the editor for her to work through my grammar and punctuation boo boos. As I’ve discussed before, editing and proofreading needs to be done by somebody who hasn’t written the work. Our smarty-pants brains only see what we want to see, not what is really there. So, now I wait.

What’s the book about?

The novel is entitled, “Grounded No More,” and it’s a story about the women pilots who volunteered to help the Army Air Corps during the war. The WASPs did a number of aviation tasks including ferrying planes, pulling targets, and instructing other pilots.They flew every aircraft the military owned–even the B-17 and B-26 bombers.

Shirley SladeThe media crowned them heroes in 1943 and at the end of 1944 they became blood-sucking hussies who were taking  jobs away from returning veterans. Neither scenario was quite true.

Now that we will soon celebrate the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, we must remember everyone who put those boys on Omaha and Utah beaches. The men get the credit for fighting, but millions of women served in numeral capacities, too.

After the war the American women pilots were all but forgotten. Like Rosie the Riveter and women like her, when the men came home, they quietly retreated to make homes for their husbands and raise their families. Then they had daughters who became “liberated” in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

In  1975 the first women cadets were accepted at the Air Force Academy. A press release stated,  “For the first time, women will fly American Military planes.” Let me tell you, the WASPs buzzed about that! They organized, and took their case to Capitol Hill.

It wasn’t until 1977 the WASPs were finally recognized as veterans and were granted the military benefits they deserved when President Jimmy Carter signed the GI Bill Improvement Act.

In 1984, each WASP received the World War II Victory Medal. Many of the women had passed on by then so their families accepted the award for them.

And finally, on July 1, 2009, President Barrack Obama gave the WASPs the recognition they deserved when he signed into law Bill S. 614. This bill awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Air Force Service Pilots who answered the call to service when their country needed them most

Through my stories, I honor these extraordinary WWII veterans. Their stories are amazing and their stories of sacrifice and stepping up at a very young age to protect the way we live in the United States should not be forgotten.

That’s why I write what I do.

One Photo, One Instant, One Memory

Looking backward can be counterproductive–thinking of when we were younger, probably healthier, and our world was beginning. Like writing, life is a process. Nobody ever gets younger. A pessimist would say we begin dying as soon as we are born. An optimist would say, the world is our oyster. I say the real world lies somewhere in between the two.

I came across a photo of my dear husband and our cat a couple of days ago. I had forgot about the photo, but the minute I laid eyes on it, I laughed and remembered what happened at that very moment.  I’m sure most of you have had such an experience. It’s fun, isn’t it? Take a look at this.

Ken and Parnelli with bowties

 

Our cat Parnelli LOVED wearing a bow tie–I kid you not, and Ken with his long neck looked very handsome in one. So one night, I got a call from the bedroom. “Sweetheart, come here. I have something to show you.”

When I entered the room I found both of the guys in my life with a “come hither look” buried in the blankets. I doubled over laughing and grabbed the camera to capture the moment.

This was Ken at his best, and Parnelli going along with the joke. I wish I could have frozen time. Aren’t they both so handsome?

Unfortunately, Parnelli passed away about five years after this picture was taken. As you might imagine, he brought a lot of laughs into our lives in his seventeen years. He was an extraordinary little being who didn’t let the fact that he looked like a cat stop him from doing dog and human type things. Did you ever meet a cat that did party tricks on command? Parnelli did. Did you ever meet a cat that loved being the center of attention when company dropped by? Parnelli did. This picture captured his funny nature.

And then there’s Ken. With  his MS symptoms which hinder him from doing so many things these days, I easily forget his great ability to do something creative to make me laugh. Pictures like this one aid me to remember all the wonderful, funny moments we’ve shared together. But, I don’t think about what we’ve lost; I think about what we’ve have together.

That’s the power of photographs, isn’t it?

 

Looking Back and Going Forward

Book cover 1

I spoke with my brother Mark this morning. I hadn’t heard from him in a week, so I was concerned. During the course of our conversation, Mark told me he had taken my first book, “Apple Pie and Strudel Girls” to the Veteran’s home where he works, and according to Mark, the book is a big success. Veteran to veteran pass the book around, and I guess the book is probably well accepted because its time period is when most of these people were young.  I’m curious about what they think about what they read. I’d like to hear their experiences at the time, and I wonder how close I came to the truth of the time.

“Apple Pie and Strudel Girls” was my first published book, and like all “first” works, I wish I could revisit parts of it and write it again. Since its publication, I’ve learned so much about writing. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that I need help with editing and proofreading. Writing in a vacuum doesn’t produce the best product. Oh, I believe the “yarn” (as my Scottish friend calls my stories) is good, but some of the techniques and writing style could be better.

Growing is all about getting better at what we do. The first time we do anything will never be as good as subsequent attempts. I remember the first time I drove a car. I had to think about every move I made. I gripped the wheel with white knuckles. I made wide right-hand turns, and I nearly took the mirrors off the side of the car as I attempted to put it into the garage.

Now, I get in a car and drive. The maneuvers are easy. I don’t think about what to do as I weave through traffic, and I can park in the garage without worrying about knocking off the mirrors.

When we write, we constantly evolve. We learn in school “writing is a process,” but do we believe what a continuing process it is? I doubt it. It isn’t until we look back and review our prior work with critical eyes. Doing so may be a learning experience, but being too critical of early work really isn’t fair. We did the best we could with the tools and experience we had at the time we put pen to paper. Going back is all right, but going forward is what is important.

Everyday Heroes

heroesOne of my favorite times of the day is in the morning as I wake up. I’m somewhere between drowsy and coherency. I drift along paying no attention to anything in particular. The quiet of the morning lays on me like a warm blanet as I prepare to leave the land of limbo knowing in a few minutes I’ll stir and join the land of the active living.

In my waking period this morning, I heard a comment on the television that resonated with me. The speaker said, “Real heroes are those people who go about their normal day and rise to the occasion when they need to.” In my half awake state, I agreed. There are heroes all around us who we rarely recognize.

Instead we hear about soldiers, police, and firemen who protect us from ourselves. Thank God we have people like them who are willing to do these kinds of jobs, but do they do them to serve the community or do they do them for the adrenalin rush they feel every time a call comes in and they spring into action? My Dad was a volunteer fireman for over forty years, and my ex-husband did this work for over twenty, so I recognize the look in their eyes when they are called into action. Like I said, I’m glad they did what they did, but are they heroes in the true sense of the word?

Or are heroes those who live good lives with love in their hearts for everyone who crosses their paths. Are heroes the volunteers who teach our children the joys of outdoors through scouting and 4H Clubs? Are heroes people who check on their elderly neighbors, helping where they can without being asked? Are heroes people who give rides to people who can’t drive or aren’t lucky enough to have a car? Are heroes the nurses who are dead on their feet and still find time to give you a genuine smile?

You’ll never hear about people like this on the six o’clock news because for some reason the people who own the networks seem to think inspiring a culture rooted in fear sells more advertising. The stories of everyday heroes are just not exciting enough.

Personally, a hero for me is one who opens a door for my husband as he rolls through in his motorized wheel chair. A hero for me is a person who wears a smile and has a kind word for others even when they carry pain with them everyday. A hero for me is someone who turns a personal tragedy into a positive outcome for someone else.

We are all connected, people. We need to appreciate the heroes in our lives who don’t wear medals or are awarded plaques. Medals tarnish. Plaques are thrown in the attic into a long-forgotten box. But a smile or a kind gesture will live on–sometimes forever.

My Writing Process

ground_hog_2007Have you ever felt like you were on the set of “Ground Hog Day?”  You know the movie. Bill Murray relives the same day over and over and over again. There seems to be no way out. I think I know how he felt.

This winter has been horrible for everyone. People living in the northern states have learned how to endure the never-ending grey, COLD, snowy days. People in the southern states say have winter–temps in the 50s and 60s, but this year there has been ice and snow in Atlanta.

Everyone is talking about the weather, even though I try to keep my comments to a bare minimum, but being retired now, this weather is holding me prisoner.

One day my car didn’t start because even sheltered in the garage, the temperature was ten below zero. One day my back got a chill and the muscles seized up which has put a severe pain in my backside.

Ken and I feel like a couple of grounded teenagers. Worst of all, this inclement weather has emphasized the sameness of our “normal” life. When the temperature rises above zero, we have two or three inches of snow to jazz things up . . . and because Ken’s wheelchair doesn’t have snow tires, he can get stuck in the stuff.

The one good thing this sequestering has done has been to plunk butt down in my chair and finish the first draft of my seventh novel. Now, I’m re-reading the story and putting the first pass of editing on it before I send it off to my editor.

Yesterday when I talked to a friend who has moved to Florida (who was sitting on her porch slipping lemonade), she was flabbergasted I would reread and edit my work a couple of times before any other eyes saw the text. I see this element as part of the process. I was surprised at her reaction because she likes to think of herself as a writer, too.

Do any of you come from the school of writing that I do? Do you rewrite your prose a couple of times before sending it out? Do you pass it in front of a person you trust before thinking it’s “done?” I can remember doing such a thing since I was in high school. To me this part of writing is normal.

What do you do when you complete a “first draft” of one of your pieces?

Cold Weather Strategies

With temperatures in Chicago colder than Siberia, and temperatures where I live even colder than that, Ken and I are hunkered down with 60% of the rest of the country. We all have our own strategy to keep warm.

Vinnie, my shy cat, has parked his fat little body in front of the heating vent as a constant stream of warm air emits from the furnace.scan0001

Ernie is dressed in his sweater, perched in his favorite spot on the back of the couch, keeping a watchful eye on everything going on outside our window. I think he actually felt sorry for the mailman this morning because he neglected to bark as poor Travis dropped the mailbox.

Christmas Party 015

Ken and I are still in our flannel pajamas, wrapped in a fleece bathrobes, under an electric blanket, while we both type away on our laptop. He’s been working on his word search puzzles, while I’ve drafted three new chapters for my novel. That in itself warms my heart. Writer’s block has miraculously left me and my mind is once again communing with my characters again. It’s a good day.

But as I stay toasty, I pray for others who are not as fortunate to have a warm place to wait out this arctic cold snap. With temperatures at fifteen degrees below zero and wind chills between thirty and forty degrees below zero, the weather has been the headline story for the lower 48 states. In fact, last night anchor people spoke about “warming places” that have been established, so people can get out of the dangerous cold. At these places, people can also get hats, gloves, mittens, sweaters, and other warm clothes, as well as something warm to drink. In the background of the location, I could see small children with their parents trying to stay warm, and this image made me sad.

It’s my opinion people shouldn’t be homeless in a country of such wealth, but then, I’m a bleeding heart liberal who thinks human rights and dignity are more important than developing more and more weapons that can obliterate a population. I think taking care of our citizens should be a priority, not an obligation . . . Silly me.

So stay safe if you’re lucky enough to have a nice warm home as Mother Nature does her worst. Remember those indoor projects you never have time to complete? Now’s the time to get them done.

If you’re lucky to be in a warmer place, count your blessings. We northerners will pray for you in the summertime. Promise.

 

The “Blessings” of Below Zero

Oak Trees In the Snow at DawnIf you live in the northern states, you have felt bone chilling temperatures this week. Worst yet, the cold climes have come with a foot of snow and promises from the weatherman of even more arctic air. Brrrr . . . .

Winter months provide us with some of the most beautiful scenery we may see all year, but somehow Mother Nature has a knack of combining beauty and destruction in one stroke. As long as I don’t have to venture out of my cozy little house, I’m good.

Whenever I feel cabin fever creeping in, I remind myself of days not so long ago that required a 45-mile commute to my job, where I spent my day in cube-land on a telephone. When I wasn’t in my “office,” I was driving around seeing clients to sell investments and insurance.

Being stuck inside with Ernie and Ken is so much nicer than dealing with traffic and straight commission.  I’ve escaped the sameness of my surroundings by reading a couple of books, blogging, and writing a dozen chapters in my new book.  Other hours are filled with some of my favorite television shows.

As long as the furnace runs and the electricity stays on, I’m good. How do the rest of you deal with weather that keeps you indoors? I’m open to suggestions — but please, if you think housecleaning is a good thing to do while being held hostage by Mother Nature, keep that suggestion to yourself! 🙂

A New Day, A New Year

new yearAs we turned the calendar from the last day of 2013 to the first day of 2014, most people look at the new year as a clean slate–a time to start anew. Optimism outweighs pessimism. Joy outweighs sorrow. The ball dropped in New York. Let’s get on with it. Right?

The truth is for most of us, things change very little. The resolutions fall by the wayside in a couple of weeks, and our lives go back to “normal.” Yet, every December 31st we are all hopeful for bigger and better things. Why? Is the unknown that appealing as we look forward? Or do we look to the new year for an escape from what is too familiar? Who knows for sure?

I do know one thing, though, on the television program, “Let’s Make a Deal” contestants usually take the unknown value in lieu of what is a sure thing. The unknown for some reason is more appealing to them.

I’m the first person to get in line to try something new, but through the years I’ve become more cautious. All of my positions in the corporate world for twenty years were new ones. I blazed a trail and didn’t have to run on a worn track. I loved the challenge that the new positions gave me.

Three years ago, I took a teaching job when I never planned to teach anything and found out I enjoyed it . . . for awhile. When I discovered after three years, so many of my students didn’t have curiosity to learn and challenge themselves, I fell out of love with teaching.

This year I plan to devote myself to writing. It’s the one thing I have always come back to when other professions have beat me up. Because I deviated into teaching, I lost my zest for communing with my computer for hours and fumbled the ball. I didn’t blog everyday as I intended. I convinced myself I had writer’s block, when in fact, I got lazy and played mindless computer games for hours.

But it’s a New Year. My resolution is to get back to basics and finish my next novel. I am committed. As I watch commuter gridlock on the television news, I am thankful I don’t have to fight the winter elements to complete my tasks. I can sit on my new recliner and go to work with my little Ernie dog keeping me company in my chosen solitary profession. Life is so good.

What have you promised yourself for 2014?

Entering a New Life

423019Last night one of my best friends called to say her twin brother had died. Jerry suffered from an incurable cancer. Everyone who loved him hoped that his first remission would have lasted longer, but after a short eighteen months, the cancer returned. The news was disheartening for his family.

Whenever I hear about someone my own age dying, it has always had an affect on me. Selfishly, I wonder what I would do if I had to face dying. I like to think the best. I like to think I would die with dignity, facing the unknown like I have faced so many other unknown situations that have entered my life. I like to think I would look at death as my next big adventure. I hope my next stop is a better world, where there is no pain or hunger. I hope this place lets me have the freedom to hurt no more. I hope this place is happy where I can rejoin others who have passed before me.

For thousands of years humans have believe in an afterlife, but is there such a place? When it comes down to it, we truly don’t know what happens after death. Growing up Christian I was taught I am an eternal being, and this earthly place is just part of my journey. If I live a good life, I will be rewarded in heaven. This ideology is a pleasant thought, isn’t it? Even Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” He believed in heaven. If that thought is good enough for Him, then it certainly is good enough for me.

But are we humans really better than all of the other living things on this earth? Personally, I’m a little ashamed of my species. After thousands of years, we have learned nothing about living in harmony with nature and one another. We just keep on thinking of better ways to destroy our world and each other. It’s no wonder we want to leave here. Will we really do better in heaven?

I hope for Jerry’s sake there is a heaven. I hope for my sake and everyone I love there is a beautiful place where we all can meet after death and have a grand party. When I must face my own death, I will die as I have lived. Death is part of the cycle of life, and hopefully, I’ve fulfilled my mission here, even though I truly am not sure what it is.

Until that day comes, though, I will continue on the path I’ve struck. I will continue to live with love in my heart, and hope that love has touched others in a way that will live on. So if there is a heaven, I hope to see you there someday.