Tag Archive | reading

Hunkerin’ Down in the Heat

This summer didn’t show up until a few weeks ago. our temperatures were in the high 60s and low 70s–PERFECT.  But since Thursday, things have changed. Wisconsinites are not used to temperatures in the 90s, and the temperatures soared into the 90s with little “warm up.”

Usually when temperatures get this hot, we have a big thunderstorm and it cools off. Not this time. Oh, we did get a thunderstorm bad enough to haul out Ernie’s “thunder jacket,”  but instead of cooling off, the temperature returned to its intensity. As MS patients don’t do well in the heat, Ken and I are marooned until the weather gets more like Wisconsin instead of Florida. Luckily, we don’t have a problem keeping busy because we both have our own distractions. Even so, we do much better when we can get out and enjoy our friends. So, we’re keeping our fingers crossed the temperature will drop and we will be able to escape our four lovely walls.

I hope all of you are surviving this goofy weather that seems to be happening all over the country. Have a wonderful weekend, and if you’re indoors like we are here’s the next two chapters of APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3.

Chapter 25

Paris, France-October 1940—By autumn, the French people stood in line for food rations. Gasoline for cars and coal for heating required specific stamps to purchase any quantity. Electricity service became sporadic. Parisians even suffered a shortage of fabric and leather which caused department stores’ racks to be empty. The German occupation provided a lack of everything but fear.

The outside world never realized the reality Parisians suffered. Other countries never read stories about French citizens standing in long lines to receive weekly ration tickets for potatoes, carrots, and any seasonal fruit every month; they never realized the rations allotted amounted to a third of what they received before the Germans took control.  The rest of the world thought the French were soft because the Germans rolled over them so easily.

Marta wondered how much time would pass before Jewish property would be confiscated, and the owners would be deported on trains.

Marta carried her fear with her; she wanted to leave Paris and go somewhere else. But where? All of Europe fell under German control. And why should she leave?

The morning after Marta’s confession she might be pregnant, Emma felt compelled to avenge her.  She intended to join the French Resistance. Her German background would be a great help to the movement, and her fluency in French would pass for any native.

For some time she surmised her boss Pierre to be a leader in the movement, so when she got back to work after Marta recovered, she walked into his office. “Pierre, I must talk to you.”

“Yes, mademoiselle?”

“I need to speak to you in private.” Emma’s voice dropped.

Pierre turned on the radio. “What do you need?”

Emma said in hushed tones. “I want to get involved. I need to get involved. How do I start?”

Pierre smiled. Emma worked in the office making identity cards, passports, and other official papers, so her help would be essential to the cause. If a German officer requested to look at a citizen’s identification papers, he or she needed to produce them on the spot. Emma would now produce false papers for people needing to escape Paris. “You start from where you are already.”

Emma nodded.

“You possess numerous invaluable skills, Emma. Your penmanship is exemplary. Your ability to write with your right and left hands will also come in very handy. Above that, you speak German. Someday we may even need your translating skills. I am pleased you want to help.”

Emma agreed she would be very good at forgery.

Pierre rubbed his goatee as if deep in thought. “You are quite convinced you want to be involved in this dangerous work?”

Emma nodded. “I am most serious, monsieur.”

Pierre smiled. He hoped someday Emma would come to him and volunteer her exemplary her skills. “Beside forging identity cards when they are needed, you will also deliver documents and communiques in the confines your bicycle. Can you do that?”

Emma shook her head. “Yes, Pierre. I will do whatever you need me to do.”

“Good.” He handed her an identity card he received from another operative. “I need you to deliver this. Where is your bicycle?”

“Out behind the building.”

“Good. Show me.”

Emma went down two flights of stairs with Pierre in tow. She opened the ground floor door and pointed out her bicycle. “There it is.”

Pierre went right to work, schooling her on how to conceal documents in the handlebars of her bicycle. He removed the rubber grips, rolled up the documents, and slid them into the hollow tubing. As soon as Pierre secured the identity papers, he handed Emma an address. “Meet Edward Gessler at that address. He is a German national on our side. He got stranded in Paris after the Nazis attacked Warsaw. He realized he would be a dead man should he return to his homeland, so he wants to flee to England.”

“I’ll be back in about twenty minutes.” Emma rode her bike down a back street in the red light district. She went around the back of the building to meet the contact. A very tall man with blond curly hair appeared. He spoke fluent French. “Please miss, might you spare some bread for a hungry man?”

He used the correct password. “Of course.” She pulled a baguette from her basket and removed the handlebar grips to remove the documents. The man stood close to her as she transferred the documents in a slice made on the baguette.

“You are so kind.” He smiled.

“I am happy to help.” She smiled at the stranger and wondered would become of him.

He disappeared into the darkness and Emma pointed her bicycle in the opposite direction. After her encounter with Mr. Gessler, she experienced a moment of clarity. She vowed the resistance movement would be part of her life as long as the Nazis remained in France.

*****

Her next assignment came the following week. She met the mayor and police chief to procure their signatures. Her heart bounced inside her chest as she looked each man in the eye, but she remained cool and under complete control leaving them both with a smile. They just gave her what she needed to forge important documents.

Emma always kept to herself at work. As a lesbian, other French people didn’t wish to interact with her, which worked to her advantage. Even if someone ever suspected her as a spy, they wouldn’t tell for fear the Gestapo might associate them with her.

Emma thought it best not to burden Marta with her new role in the Resistance. This way, if Emma ever got arrested for her activities, Marta would be protected. The Nazis would learn nothing because she didn’t know anything about the operation. The strategy might save her life.

Chapter 26

Paris, France-October, 1940—Marta didn’t want to think about being pregnant. But every morning when she vomited, and every afternoon when she needed a nap in a closet at the Louvre, she realized denying her situation would not be an answer. She couldn’t let herself think about the mass growing inside of her as a baby; soon her body would give her secret away.

Emma stayed patient with her and did small favors to make Marta comfortable. She took the burden of preparing meals, cleaning the apartment, and other small chores off of Marta’s shoulders to allow her enough time to come to terms with herself. Marta appreciated Emma’s efforts to let her decide how to proceed without voicing her opinion.

Under the pressure from the Germans, the puppet government in Vichy passed a law making abortion a capital crime in France. Marta never thought she would break any law, but now she faced the realization if she terminated her pregnancy, she would do just that. But how could she in good conscience carry Franz’s Reinhart’s bastard child?

When she told Emma she had made the decision to terminate the pregnancy, Emma hugged her and rejoiced. “You did not disappoint me. I believed given enough time you would not want to carry this child of rape. I understand how hard this decision is for you. For what it is worth, I believe you chose wisely.”

Marta’s eyes filled with tears. “If the situation happened differently–

“But it did not, Cherie.” Emma embraced her and said in an understanding soft voice, “You are very brave.”

Marta cried. “But how do I get rid of it? How do I do this? Everything I tried failed. I lifted heavy weights; I douched; I punched myself in the abdomen, but I am still pregnant.”

“Some of those methods are old wives’ tales, Cherie, and they are not reliable.”

Marta replied. “I cannot think about shoving a coat-hanger or a knitting needle up myself, either.”

“You should never think about hurting yourself; there are other means.”

The two women stared at each other as if searching for answers from each other.  Emma spoke first. “I do not want you to be angry with me, but I learned about a housewife in Cherbourg by the name of Marie-Louise Giraud who performs abortions in her home. I understand she is quite expensive but very effective.”

“We can barely get by now. Where will we get the money?” Marta said.

“Money is a problem.” Emma agreed. “But if we need to, my friends will help.”

“Before we borrow any money, what do you think of this?” Marta handed Emma a recipe.

Ingredients:

  •  Fresh parsley
  •  500 mg pills of Vitamin C
  • Treatment should last three days only: DO NOT EXCEED 3 DAYS!!
  1. Insert a fresh sprig of parsley as far as possible into the vagina. Parsley induces contractions. Change every twelve hours. The parsley will become soft and may be difficult to remove, but this is not dangerous.
  1. At the same time, drink parsley infusions. Two to six tablespoons four times daily.

To make the infusion: Boil 2 1/2 cups of water for every ounce of parsley. Add parsley to boiling water, remove from heat and cover. Do not boil parsley in the water because the infusion will be less effective. Steep for at least twenty minutes to two hours. (The longer the parsley steeps, the more potent it will be.)

3. During the three days (or until your period starts) take high doses of Vitamin C orally–500 mg every hour up to 6000 mg a day. You can continue using the Vitamin C for up to six days. Vitamin C can bring on menstruation even three weeks after a “late” period.

 

If successful you should start to bleed in two to three days. You may experience severe cramps.

High amounts of Vitamin C can cause loose stools. You may also experience “hot flashes” – A side effect of Vitamin C.

Watch for signs of toxicity specific to parsley: Nausea, hallucinations, vomiting, vertigo, hives, paralysis, swollen liver, scanty and darkly colored urine, and tremors. Contact a doctor if any of these symptoms occur.

After Emma read the instructions, she said, “The hardest thing about this will be to find the Vitamin C, and you are more than three weeks late.”

“A pharmacist comes to the Louvre often. I will ask him where to get it.” Marta said.

“This is worth a try.” Emma said. “If the treatment does not induce a miscarriage, then we will pursue Marie-Louise Giraud.

Marta sighed. “All right.”

Emma said something totally unlike her. “Amen!”

*****

The Friday after their conversation, Marta came home from work with a bottle of Vitamin C her pharmacist friend gave her along with a bunch of parsley Brigetta brought from her home garden.

Emma boiled the water on the hot plate and waited. Marta thought the water took an unusually long time before Emma removed the boiling pot from the heat. Marta tossed in the big bunch of parsley.

Emma looked at her wristwatch. “Six o’clock. We’ll begin in two hours. Are you ready?”

Marta looked at her with determination. “Yes. I want my body to be my own again.”

Emma nodded. “You are very brave, Cherie.”

Marta stuffed her vagina with the fresh green herb, and took six vitamin pills. She poured herself the required amount of the hot parsley water and kept up the procedure every four hours through the night. She slept periodically between doses, but when she woke, she prayed God would forgive her for ridding herself of this child.

The cramping started the next morning. Marta cried with pain and rocked on the floor holding her stomach. Emma shared every spasm. In any other circumstance, she would fill a hot water bottle to relieve Marta’s cramps, but in this situation, they wanted Marta’s uterus to contract and expel the fetus.

Marta continued the process all weekend. The pain grew in its intensity. Marta cried in pain. “He still is hurting me, Marta.”

Emma held her. “I know, darling. But the treatment appears to be working. Perhaps you will not suffer much longer. Hang on. Let’s put you to bed.”

Marta rolled back and forth unable to find a comfortable position to fall asleep. When she did sleep, nightmares of the rape haunted her. She cried out, sending Emma to Marta’s side.

The third morning, Marta cried from the bathroom. “Emma, come here!”

Emma raced to the bathroom and found Marta pale and breathless. “What is it, Marta?”

“Look.” She pointed to the water in the toilet where a bloody mass floated.

“Oh my god, the treatment worked!” The two of them cried in each other’s arms.

Marta flushed the toilet and put the most horrendous chapter of her life right where it needed to be.

Building Vocabulary, Word by Word

colorful libraryDon’t you just love how things in this world all work together? We have to separate knowledge into different departments in school to make subjects manageable, but if you’re smart enough and take enough classes, you’ll realize that what you learn in a film class affects literature and what you study in an English lit class is mirrored in history. So on and so on.

With that in mind, yesterday, in my writing class I gave a different kind of spelling test. It wasn’t a “normal” spelling test–a list of words to memorize or even better, to sound out to help them increase their vocabularies and make them cognizant of tricky spellings.   The words came from an assigned reading about a day in the life of an ER nurse. At the bottom of the pages in the reading, the unusual words and their meanings were pulled from the text and defined. All the class had to do was read the lesson and pay attention to the footnotes.

Yesterday, the test was given. SURPRISE, SURPRISE! All but one student failed. I proved my point.

This demonstration showed them that reading and writing work together in many different ways, and one of the most important ways is to expand one’s vocabulary. I asked them what they did when they came across a word they didn’t understand. One student said, “Look it up,” of course this is the apple-polisher in the group. Another honest student said, “Skip it and go on.”

Now granted, in common vernacular we don’t use words like cacophony, bane, or palpable too often, but in order to get the most out of the reading a person can just stumble over such words and go on. Their first instinct should have been to head for the nearest dictionary. If they had taken the time to look up the word, their memories would file away another tool in their word arsenal to use later on. They would have accomplished a goal and increased their vocabularies by one more word. My students are adults, but somewhere along the line, they haven’t been taught such a wise idea, or they have become apathetic and don’t care. In either case, they are cheating themselves from growing.

Once again, I attempted to throw another plate of imaginative spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. In this case, I can only hope some of my class will learn from my little practical demonstration. After all, it would be nice to know one other person who knows what cacophony means.

P. S. I didn’t grade the test.

Precious Words

festival_of_books1This morning on CBS Sunday Morning, there was a poignant story about a WWII veteran, one of the few living soldiers who participated in the D-Day landing. He had a box full of military medals, but that wasn’t what this story was about. Instead, this piece was about another battle that he fought all of his life.

Throughout his life, he was cut out of a very important world–the world of reading. Others “covered” for him with work reports and other important documents he needed to understand. And he was ashamed that he let them do that for him. He thought being illiterate was more shameful than anything in his life. Oh, he tried to learn to read at different periods, but either he quit or his teacher gave up.

That is, until he recently met a young woman at Northeastern University, who gave him the patience and had the skills to open up the world of reading for him at age 90. His story should be an inspiration for all of us.

First, all of us who can read don’t realize what a precious gift our teachers gave us a long time ago. We can experience different worlds, professions, viewpoints, through millions articles, newspapers and books. We can enjoy novels that touch our hearts. Words are all around us. It’s how we learn. It’s how we expand our worlds from one single town to the universe.

Second, as writers, we are even more blessed because we can contribute our ideas and thoughts to the libraries. We have a chance to touch others in memorable ways. Our true or fiction stories have the power to change people’s lives. With that being true, we must also remember it is our responsibility to tell the truth as we know it.   

I know from now on when I want to whine about how hard it is to write on a particular day, I will remember that veteran,  shut up, and get to work. His quest to learn to read taught me something today. He appreciates books and what they contain. If I never becoming a best selling author, it will be my fault because he reminded me that if I want something, I have to go after it. I have to dig deep, work hard and keep my eye on the prize.

In his memorable words, “If you want to do something, get in there and learn now because you ain’t going to learn in that pine box.”

An Author, A Breakfast, and A Confession

I’m gearing up for a big deal on November 10. In fact, my preparation has turned my back bedroom into a storage facility. Boxes of books are stacked up for a book signing that will take place at a rather prestigious event in our city. This year I was invited to speak at “The Friends of the Library” Annual Breakfast which will raise funds for the one library we have left. When I was a kid, there were several library branches around Racine, but now we only have one left.

I’m very honored I was asked to speak at this event because our libraries are something that we need to protect. Growing up in Sturtevant, (a small village about six miles west of Racine), my only exposure to a library was a bookmobile that stopped at the public school twice a month. I was fascinated by this special vehicle, which was really a city bus retrofitted with bookshelves and a check-out desk. But to a elementary school-aged child, it was a fascinating vehicle, which opened my imagination to all different kinds of things.

If it hadn’t been for that glorified city bus, I wouldn’t have been able to read my favorite stories about deep sea adventures and imaginary ships that explored space.  The unfortunate thing about having the bookmobile come to our village was I never got a chance to visit a real library as a child. In fact, I didn’t really walk through a library until I went to high school. This lack of exposure caused me to be intimidated by libraries.

The sheer mystery of the place frightened me. Terms like the Dewey Decimal System, card catalogs, inter-library loans, made me feel stupid because I had not idea what they meant. So, I avoided libraries until I found myself at the University of Wisconsin. I know it’s crazy, but I was probably the only English major on campus with a library phobia.

I’m happy to tell you that like other childhood maladies, I out grew my fear of the library. Now I can roam the stacks like a great explorer and discover things I didn’t know before. I can “meet” famous people. I can go on journeys that I might never otherwise take. I can escape to worlds I never knew existed, or remember events that I’ve lived through. Best of all, I can research details for the books I write.

If you have small children in your life, I beg of you–PLEASE take them to the library. Don’t let them grow up like I did with an unnatural fear of a building that holds so many wonderful gifts.

Better yet, if you can support your local library, do so. Even if it means just going to a breakfast to hear an author speak.  If your interested, here’s the story that appeared in our local newspaper: http://www.journaltimes.com/calendar/benefit-and-fundraiser/breakfast-with-the-authors/event_033d6bec-21ee-11e2-bb03-0019bb2963f4.html