Tag Archive | retirement

Solving The Retirement Puzzle

This morning we started our day by heading out to the hospital for Ken to have an EEG. The orders were for him to have no caffeine for eight hours, four hours of sleep, and clean hair. He did very well — but me? Well, I’ve gotten real good at “sleeping in” until eight o’clock so I was pretty groggy. We made our way like zombies to the garage and were soon on our way at 6:30 a.m.

Most of the world wakes before that, I know, but Ken and I have gotten very comfortable in our slow retirement life. Even though I’m employed by the state for Ken’s care, I consider myself retired. My time is my own; I don’t have to answer to a boss; and best of all I don’t have to commute for an hour one way any more. I’ll admit I’ve become pretty soft.

I never received a retirement party or gold watch and my employment ended before I was ready. I couldn’t buy a job in 2007 when all of this happened, but I think it was God’s way of telling me I was needed more at home than on any job away from home. I realized I had to swallow my pride and find my way at home. I realized I finally had time to write and publish seven  novels. I also tried painting and learned I’m not that bad. I had an opportunity to teach part-time. Best of all, I got to be with Ken. Sometimes our 24/7 arrangement can be stressful, but if we are able to have a few hours apart a couple of times per week, we do as well as any other couple.

People often ask me if I resent not getting to live out a more “traditional” retirement. I ask them what a traditional retirement is? They often mention travel and volunteering. Of course, Ken and I wish we could live out our dreams of traveling, but we did a lot of it before he got so sick. We missed Alaska and a river cruise in Europe, but that’s okay. We travel via the Travel Channel and Aerial America on television. Sure, we’d like to go to the places we visit via digital TV, but we’re content to live within our changing parameters.

My advice is to grow where you’re planted. If your first attempt doesn’t work out, try another. Some plants need to be moved to a different window if they don’t flourish at the first one.

Have a wonderful day. I think I’ll take a nap today.

#####

 

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 6 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 3

Paris, France – April—Marta searched her heart after receiving her mother’s letter. She finally admitted being with Emma made her happier than staying alone in a quiet town. She never loved anyone the way she loved Emma, and she wanted to be with her until the end of her days.

The war proved time can’t be wasted on trivial things. A happy life is a gift. Marta realized she needed to squeeze happiness into every breath she took. Like so many in Europe, Marta lost so much. Her parents and Leisel had died. She lost track of Heidi. She thought she replaced her old friends with new ones, but the relationships never grew deep roots. Her Montpellier friends proved to be closer to acquaintances than true friends.

She read her mother’s letter again and again. She needed to return to Paris.  If things didn’t work out with Emma, she could always return to the sleepy coastal town she loved. She said her goodbyes at Easter brunch that spring of 1945. Everyone wished Marta well, promising to visit Paris. They said it would be fun to enjoy the world’s greatest masterpieces at the Louvre together.

Marta bought a train ticket to Paris and once again left many of her belongings behind. She packed her clothes, a couple of her favorite paintings, and a picture of her parents. Through the war years, she learned material things are replaceable, but deep friendship and love of dear ones never would be replaced.

Chapter 4

Paris, France – April—Emma settled into a comfortable empty life. Her separation from Marta left deep scars. She hoped after a time, Marta might overcome her stubbornness and move back to Paris, but so much time had passed she lost hope of ever living with Marta again. Since returning to Paris, she expected her soul to come alive again, but it never did.

Emma filled her days with work and very few pleasures. Many of her former friends suffered fates worse than she during the war, and every time she learned of another tragedy, she realized how lucky she had been. The brave Resistance members loved her enough to risk their lives in order to release her from hell. She never thought she had been that important in the movement.

Pierre still lived in Paris. He narrowly escaped German imprisonment by fleeing to Spain, but after the liberation, he returned to the city. Emma often met him at her favorite cafe, and they would debate about France’s future, while they tried to forget the price they both paid to regain freedom.

On a beautiful April day, Emma found a letter from Marta in her box at the Post Office. She ripped open the envelope and read her familiar script.

April, 1945

My dear Emma,

I hope this letter finds you healthy and happy in your favorite city. After much soul searching, I am returning to Paris, and I hope you still want me. I will arrive on the 30th by train.

Because of our long separation, I realize you may not want me again because you went on and built a life with someone else. If that is the case, don’t come to the station to meet me. If I don’t find you on the platform, I will understand and accept my stubbornness cost me the greatest love of my life.

 All my love, Marta

 Emma cried. “Oh my dear Marta, of course I will welcome you . . . with flowers and chocolate! I cannot wait to hold you again.”

 

Chapter 6

London, England—On May 5th the streets of London filled up with people dancing, singing, and drinking. The city rejoiced with the rest of the Allied World. They crushed the evil German empire and everyone rejoiced. The German bombing of London for over 50 days made the world personal. Now the rubble soon would be carried away, but the city would never forget.

Danny and Heidi celebrated in the streets with everyone else. As he scanned the crowd, he couldn’t believe his eyes. He yelled at the top of his voice, “Johnny! Johnny! Schiller!” He grabbed Heidi’s hand and pulled her through the deafening crowd. “Johnny! Johnny! Schiller!” He repeated.

Katie pulled on Johnny’s arm. “A fly boy across the crowd is shouting your name, love.”

Johnny listened and looked around, but he didn’t recognize a familiar face.

“Johnny! Johnny Schiller! Over here!” Danny screamed as he pushed his way through the crowd.

Then Johnny saw him. “My God! Katie, that’s Danny from home!” He grabbed Katie’s hand and pulled her toward Danny’s direction.

“I’ll be damned!” Johnny said as he hugged his high school pal. “When did you get here?”

Danny shouted. “I wanted to come over and shoot down the evil ones! I asked around if anybody saw you, but I kept coming up empty. I figured you went home.” They hugged again while their wives looked on.

“I want you to meet someone.”  Danny yelled.

“Me, too.” Johnny said.

“You didn’t go and do something stupid like get married, did you?” Danny said with a grin.

“Yeah. And from the looks of your girlfriend, you did more than that!” Johnny laughed as he realized a pregnant girl held Danny’s hand.

“Johnny, please meet my wife, Heidi.”

“Hello, Heidi. Both of you, please meet my wife, Katie.” Johnny puffed out his chest as a proud smile crossed his face.

“Now the war is over, when are you going home?” Johnny asked.

Danny said. “In a month. Unfortunately, the Major told me Heidi and the children won’t join me in the States for almost a year.”

Johnny’s forehead wrinkled. “Children? What children?”

“We adopted three orphans. Heidi got hired as their nanny and when both of their parents died, she took care for them ever since. When I fell in love with her, I got a packaged deal.”

Johnny grinned. “God, Danny. When you do something, you always pull out all the stops, don’t you?”

“Yup.” He laughed.

Johnny laughed, “You’re incredible. Man it’s so good to see you!”  The two men hugged and slapped each other on the back. “I’m just glad you joined the best outfit in the war.” Johnny laughed. “What did you fly?”

“B-17s. And you?”

“Mustang P-51. I served in the Eighth.”

“You didn’t fly with crazy Baker, did you?”

“Yeah. You’re looking at his wing man.”

“Man oh man! I can’t wait to hear your stories! The most exciting thing I did was get captured by the Swiss. “Danny laughed.

“Stories can wait. I just want to be happy with my girl in my arms and my feet on the ground.”

Danny asked, “Me, too! Did they tell you when you’re going home?”

“I got orders to fly home in June. We’re not sure when Katie will join me. Let’s get together later and make some plans so the girls can get acquainted before we leave. I assume Heidi is emigrating like Katie.”

Danny said. “Sound good! Let’s go get a beer!”

The foursome headed to the nearest pub, and for the rest of the night they celebrated the end of the war.

Chapter 7

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – May—The radio announcement that reported Germany had surrendered unconditionally sent people around the world dancing in the streets. Six long years of  hardship and rationing would cease and people finally could think about building a future.

Angelo and Rosalie left the children at home with a neighborhood girl and met their parents at Lombardo’s restaurant to celebrate. Bobby went along and looked for Bianca. He found her at Eduardo’s jammed restaurant helping her parents cater to happy patrons. Bobby put on an apron and carried heavy serving trays laden with huge servings of lasagna, spaghetti, manicotti, and other Italian specialties. Bianca thanked him for his help with a kiss on his cheek. Beer and wine flowed freely and by sunset the downtown area came alive.

A neighborhood band set up on the town square and blasted big band tunes. Men and women in and out of uniform danced in the streets. Angelo thought Tony must have seen the future when he was unconscious. His older brother told Angelo it was not his time to die and encouraged him not to give up when Angelo laid in a coma on Guadalcanal. Today he was so glad he came back from the dead to hold the woman he loved in his arms again. He kissed and hugged Rosalie until she brushed him off. Her embarrassment showed in her pinkish cheeks. Angelo didn’t care who witnessed his love for her. He realized he never would ever take life for granted ever again.

Josie and Mario missed the impromptu party. According to a letter Rosalie received they might be home in a month to get married.  They also signed a contract to build a new home in Pleasant Hills.

Around ten o’clock, Bobby and Bianca joined Angelo and Rosalie along with other friends and family in the street. Lacrosse streets were a sea of smiles. Every light was lit and people didn’t want the night to end.

 

 

Happy Saturday?

One thing I struggle with since I “retired,” is realizing what day it is. With every day presenting itself primarily the same without a work schedule, Ken and I ask each other “What day is it?”

Years ago I would have thought such a question was ridiculous. But unscheduled time is something a person must absorb a little at a time. If a person doesn’t watch out, they will become lazy and never accomplish anything. Working outside the home provides a ready-made schedule. When you’re at home, the schedule is up to you. I’ve never been a buttoned-up scheduler, so I struggle with the concept. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact my time is my own. I can be as productive or as laid-back as I want. But that doesn’t say I’ll accomplish the goal on the right day of the week.

My computer and phone keep me on the correct date, but neither tell me what day of the week it is. I guess that’s why we have calendars–huh? Just match up the date to an old fashioned paper calendar and a retired person will stay on the right day.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 9

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – April—Angelo always handled the family finances, but now the responsibility of paying bills and keeping a checkbook balanced fell on Rosalie. She also assumed the sole responsibility for Gina and would face giving birth to another baby without her husband.

In April 1942, the government set up a program so no American would go hungry during the course of the war. The rationing program provided a booklet of stamps which gave the bearer the right to purchase certain foods. Rosalie quickly realized being in a war meant daily sacrifice for everyone. People living “in the lower 48 states” couldn’t escape the fact the United States was at war. In the post office posters released by the Office of War Information said, “Do with less, so they’ll get enough.” Another pleaded, “Be patriotic, sign your country’s pledge to save the food. Rosalie’s pregnant body and empty bed was her personal reminder of her personal sacrifice.

Almost overnight basic stables disappeared from the grocer store shelves. Sugar and coffee were the first items to go. Rosalie’s favorite Coca-Cola also vanished. Rosalie wondered how she could face another nauseating pregnancy without an ice-cold Coke to settle her stomach.

One afternoon Rosalie heard a knock at the back door while Gina was napping. She couldn’t imagine who would be calling her at this time of day. When she opened the door, Donna Jean stood smiling. “Donna, what on earth are you doing here? Aren’t you working today?”

“I took the day off to go to the school to sign up for the rationing program. I thought you might like to go with me. Are you well enough to go today?”

“Actually, I’m doing fine. You must be a mind reader.  I didn’t want to go alone.”

“Let’s go together. We’ll make the excursion fun.” Donna smiled.

“Right after Gina wakes up. She’s a holy terror if she doesn’t get her beauty sleep.” Rosalie laughed. “Come on in and share a cup of tea with me.”

“Sure.” Donna slipped into the kitchen and sat down. For the next thirty minutes the girls enjoyed each other’s company.

Gina woke up in a happy mood. When Rosalie brought her into the kitchen on her hip, the little girl reached for Donna.

Donna’s heart swelled. “Come here to your Auntie Donna.”

The baby cooed and giggled.

Rosalie looked at the two of them with a smile. “You know, you are the only one beside her Papa she goes to.”

“She probably knows I’d let her get away with murder.”

“Probably.” Rosalie laughed. “We’d better get going. I think the school is only open until three o’clock.”

Donna rose with the baby and followed Rosalie out to the garage. She pulled the baby stroller and Donna put the baby in the seat. The two girls jabbered on as they walked the four city blocks to the school to sign up for the program. When they arrived, they waited in line over an hour to register. Forms needed to be completed which required their name and family size, so people would receive the proper war ration coupon book.

Donna studied her coupon book as she left the school. “Boy, this really makes everything real, doesn’t it?”

Rosalie answered quietly. “Yeah.”

“I’m sorry, Rosie. Sometimes my mouth and brain don’t work together. With Angelo gone, you already realize how real the war is. I’m so sorry sweetie.”

“Oh, Donna. Don’t worry.  Angelo is coming home after boot camp in a few weeks and that’s what I’m focused on. I’m going to think positive from now on. No more nervous Nellie.”

“That’s the spirit.” Donna said. “I need to tell you something?”

“What?”

“I think you’re the bravest person in the world, Rosie. I would be scared to death to give birth without my husband standing beside me.”

Rosalie smiled. “I think the bravest person we both love is Josie.”

Donna put her hand on Rosie’s as they pushed the stroller together. “Yeah, you’re right. But your tops in my book. Lots of people don’t really approve of my choices, but you can always depend on me. You just ask, and I’ll do whatever you need.”

“You’re so sweet, Donna. Thank you.” Rosie said with a warm smile.

Rosie offered Donna a cool glass of ice water when they got back to the house. They examined their coupon books at the kitchen table. Different colored stamps stood for different types of food. Each stamp specified a certain number of points and an expiration date. A “Red Stamp” coupon allowed the purchase of all meats, butter, fat, and oils, and with some exceptions, cheese. A “Blue Stamp” covered canned, bottled, and frozen fruits and vegetables, plus juices, dried beans, and processed foods like soups, baby food, and ketchup.”

“This will take some getting used to.” Donna said.

“Yeah, but the program makes sense. Food rationing will make sure people don’t go hungry. No one can hoard food.” She sipped her water. “Now that spring is here, I want to plant a victory garden to supplement the rationing stamps.”

“That’s brave of you. My experience with farming is very limited.”

“Oh Donna, you’re so funny. A victory garden is not farming, silly, it’s gardening.” Rosalie said. “You want to help me? We can grow all kinds of fresh vegetables and then can them in the fall.”

“Are you trying to domestic me, sweetie?” Donna said with a grin.

Rosie grinned back. “One can try.”

“I’ll help, but you might not want my brown thumb around.” Donna took a sip of her water and changed the subject. “When we stood in line at the school, I spied a flyer on the bulletin board advertising a training session to learn how to shop wiser, conserve food, and plan nutritious meals. Would you like to go?”

“Sure. I can always learn new things.” Rosie said absentmindedly. Then she turned to Donna and said, “I want you to think about something.”

“What’s that?” Donna said.

“Would you consider moving in with me after Angelo ships out?”

Donna never expected a question like that. “Are you serious?”

“The whole upstairs could serve as an apartment. There’s a bedroom with a huge closet and another room you can use as your private living room.”

“Why would you want me around?”

“I can’t think of any other person I would like to live with. We’d both be safer together, and to be totally honest, I’m afraid I might lose the house because Angelo’s marine wages are nowhere near what he made at the factory. I can’t work because of this new baby coming–at least not for the foreseeable future. And–,”

Donna interrupted. “I’m honored you want me to live with you. My lease is up in July, so I can come then.”

Rosalie got up and hugged Donna. “You are the best friend, ever.”

Donna hugged her back. “That goes both way, Rosie.”

Chapter 10

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – June—Angelo came home unannounced before he needed to ship out for two years. He dressed in the Marine service uniform of green trousers with khaki web belt, short-sleeve button-up shirt, garrison and black shoes.  The marines shaved off his beautiful black curls along with his mustache. He peered through the back window to catch a glimpse of Rosalie before he knocked on the door. He saw her feeding Gina in her high chair, Angelo smiled and knocked for a second time.

She got up, wiped her hands on a dishrag, and opened the door. “Can I help you?”

The soldier smiled.

Rosalie stared at the stranger’s eyes before her face lit up.  “Angelo! You’re home!” She flew into his waiting arms.

“I’m home. I’m home.” He whispered as he held her baby-swollen body and kissed her. “Oh, Rosie. I missed you so much. Look at you!”

“Look at me-Look at YOU! They turned you into a grunt!” She laughed.

“You said it!”

She kissed him again and again. “Are you hungry?”

“You are such a good Italian girl.” He laughed.

The couple went into the kitchen hand in hand. Angelo moved toward Gina and tried to pick her up, but she screamed and kicked at him.

“What’s wrong?”

“She doesn’t remember you, Angelo. You look so different from when you left. Just give her a little time.” Rosalie said.

“She doesn’t remember me? I don’t believe it.”

“Babies sense of time is very different than ours.”

Rosalie thought ‘that’s what you get for leaving us.’ Instead she said, “Don’t worry. She’ll warm up to you.”

Angelo sat at the kitchen table disheartened. He waited six months to be with his family again and now his little girl, the apple of his soul, didn’t want to sit on his lap.

Rosalie picked up the baby. “Come here, sweet girl. This is Daddy. He loves you very much. You remember Daddy.” Rosie tried to put Gina in Angelo’s lap and again Gina screamed and clung to her mother. “I’m so sorry, Angelo.”

“I can’t believe she doesn’t remember me.” Angelo wanted to cry.

“A lot changed since you left us.” Rosie tried to change the subject. “Why don’t you call your parents and invite them over for tea and cannoli?”

“Sure.” Angelo picked up the phone and called his parents.

*****

Three days after Angelo’s return, Gina ran into the living room and eyed him from across the room. She stood on the fringe of the carpet. Gina appeared to be wondering where this stranger fit into her life.

Angelo put his arms out and kept his voice soft.  “Come to Daddy, sweetie.” Much to his surprise, Gina moved toward him. “Da-da?”

Angelo cried, “Yes. Da-da.” He picked her up and hugged her gently.

She put her chubby little arms around his hard body and cuddled into him.

Angelo held her close. “My sweet little Angelina. I love you so much.”

Gina gently slapped his face and smiled. “Da-da.”

Angelo’s heart soared. He kissed the top of her head as he prayed, “God please, no matter what happens, please let her remember me.”

He went to find Rosalie.  “Rosie! She finally remembers me!”

A slice of a smile crossed Rosalie’s face. “I’m happy for you, Angelo. I knew she would.”

*****

The week with Angelo being at home went way too fast. The day before he left, Rosalie approached him holding a large yellow envelope. Her stern face matched her determined eyes. Angelo never witnessed such seriousness in her before.

She handed him the envelope.” Angelo, I need you to sign some papers.”

“What papers?”

“Some legal papers. I learned wives with husbands in the service, especially a husband going off to war need to take legal steps before he leaves.” Rosie cleared her throat as her eyes filled with tears.

Angelo stared at her. “I’ll sign whatever you need, sweetheart.” He released the metal closure and pulled out the legal documents. The envelope contained a last will and testament, a power of attorney, and a deed to the house. “Geez, Rosie, is this really necessary?”

“Yes.” Her voice quivered. “Please sign the dang papers, Angelo. I must do this because of your choice to avenge Tony.” Rosalie’s true feelings rolled over her like a snowball going down a steep hill. “I don’t want to be alone, but I must. I don’t want to give birth alone, but I must. Just sign the GD papers, Angelo!” She took a deep breath pushing down the hidden implication of the documents.

Angelo signed the papers while Rosalie stood like a sentry next to him. Then he handed them back to her.

She said in a flat voice. “Thank you.” Without looking at the death documents, she slipped them into the envelope.

Angelo stood up and embraced her. “I realize my decision has made our lives harder, but I want you to realize I’m proud you’re taking steps to prepare for what might come.” He tipped her chin and placed a tender kiss on her lips. “I also want you to understand I will crawl on my belly for a thousand miles to come back home to you.  If you need these documents someday, well–” His voice cracked. “I love you Rosie. You’re the only girl for me.” He avoided her eyes, dropped his embrace, and headed for the backyard. He pulled a cigarette from the pack in his shirt pocket. He took a long drag before his eyes moistened. Rosie thinks I’m not coming home. Oh my God, what did I do?

*****

After the document encounter, Rosalie relaxed and cherished the little time left with Angelo. She attempted to remember his scent, his touch, and his kisses. They made love every night and fell asleep entwined. She woke during the night and listened to him breath. She stared at him sleeping peacefully and wondered what he would endure for the next two years. She prayed for his safe return home and put her head on his chest to listen to his heartbeat.  She went to sleep and dreamed the Marines didn’t want him after all.

Angelo’s mother came over way too often during Angelo’s one short week of leave. Rosalie understood her wanting to spend a lot of time with Angelo before he left, especially after losing Tony at Pearl Harbor. Angelo’s father vowed to protect Rosie. Gina, and the new baby; no one said goodbye. The word “goodbye” meant a finality nobody could face.

*****

 Rosie insisted she accompany Angelo to Chicago on a bus. She wanted to be with her husband as long as time would permit. Only God knew when he would be home again. She concentrated on saying “when” instead of “if.”

Angelo welcomed Rosalie’s company for the long bus ride to Chicago.  He needed to hold her as long as possible. He cradled her as she laid her head on his strong shoulder. Sitting so close together reminded him of their high school dating days when they sat in the car for hours watching the “submarine races” on the river. How did two years pass so quickly? High school seemed a lifetime ago.

As the bus roamed through one small town after another, Rosie and Angelo talked about everyday things– what she planned to do to keep busy, about names for the new baby, and how they imagined Gina might behave once the baby came. Rosie told him Donna would be moving into the house in July to help with the expenses and the new baby. Even though Angelo didn’t approve of Donna’s party girl reputation, he relaxed because she offered to stay with Rosie.

Rosie jabbered on about how she planned to can the vegetables growing in her victory garden and how her father helped her keep the plants healthy to make sure of a good harvest. Angelo recalled funny stories about different guys in his basic training group, and what life was like in a barracks full of guys from around the country. They avoided speaking about the war.

Rosalie walked Angelo to the gate where he boarded the airplane to fly to San Francisco. She kept her eyes fixed on him as Angelo walked to the plane across the tarmac. She held her breath as he walked up the ladder and disappeared into the belly of the plane. Rosie lost the battle of keeping her tears away. She waved until the plane taxied away and then let her tears of their unknown future roll down her cheeks. She boarded the bus which would take her back to Lacrosse and stared out the window for much of the trip. Her Angelo was headed for war against a ferocious enemy.

As Rosalie headed home, Angelo fastened his seat belt waiting for the plane to lift off for San Francisco. Through the small plane porthole, he prayed. “Oh God, please take care of her while I’m gone. Please give her an easy time when the baby comes. Please be with her always. I love her so much.”

 

 

Happy Saturday

Being retired is an interesting time in life. It’s a period where you can be as busy or quiet as you choose. Saturday doesn’t have to be the day for daily chores that used to be crammed into this 24-hour period like it did when you worked outside the home.

These days, few people leave a work place on their own terms. Most of my friends simply quit working because they were down-sized, their unemployment insurance ran out, and they couldn’t find work afterward. I don’t know anyone who got a gold watch.

I’ve reinvented myself numerous times to keep working. After college graduation, I worked as a freelance writer. After a divorce two years later, I found employment in a small ad agency as a project manager. When the company had money problems, I was laid-off. Three months later I went to work as a Communication Specialist at a Fortune 500 company. I was hired to spearhead website development. At the time, I didn’t even understand what “the web” was, but I pushed ahead and saw the medium’s potential when so many others didn’t. After three years on that job, an Italian company purchased the firm and most of the folks in my department lost their jobs.

Six months later, I found the best position (next to being retired) at a mid-size company as the E-Commerce Administrator. I had a supportive boss believed in my abilities and acted as a coach when we discovered uncharted territory. I met with all the company leaders to ascertain the activities in the company which could be automated using E-commerce. With the information I got from them, I developed a five-year plan of action. Unfortunately, 9-11 happened which affected the company in a negative way, and once again the bean counters eliminated my job. Six months later, the entire marketing department got walking papers.

Six months later I worked at another small ad agency for about eighteen months and learned the owner was an entrepreneurial nut with no sound business sense. She fought me at every turn, and I was just trying to the job for which I was hired.

A year later I decided to try something else. I became a financial adviser. After six years of working on commission and selling investments and insurance in a depressed area, I got burned out and quit. I never worked out of the home again.

Is it any wonder I love being at home as a care-giver for my husband who suffers from MS?

Now Saturday is just another day in the week. I no longer need to jam my household chores into this day. Heck, half the time I don’t know it’s Saturday!

Since being at home, I had a chance to explore my creative side. I designed costume jewelry and explored selling it on a website. Not one of my best moments.

I’ve explored painting on canvas with acrylics. Like writing, painting is a continuous process. Pictures I painted three years ago show me how far I’ve come. When I study my mentor’s paintings, I realized I have a long way to go.

Best of all, I got a chance to write and publish. If I didn’t leave my “day job,” I wouldn’t be able to explore my creative side to the extent I have over the past six years. I’ve written eight novels and constantly strive to hone my craft.

Every time I drive down the expressway, I thank my lucky stars I don’t have to do it five days a week any more. And who wears a gold watch any more? I can use my phone to tell me what time it is.

*****

APPLE PIE & STRUDEL GIRLS

Chapter 3

 Lacrosse, Wisconsin 1937—Josie Schneider woke to a rattling alarm which jolted her from a restful slumber at four o’clock in the morning. Since her tenth birthday she got up early to milk the cows before going to school. She crawled out from under the heavy quilt and stepped onto the ice cold hardwood floor. She slipped her long legs into overhauls, threw on an old flannel shirt her brother outgrew, and finished by pulling on thick wool socks and heavy rubber boots. She crept down the creaky wooden stairs, made her way through the country kitchen, and out the back door. She tramped down to the barn still half asleep as she shivered in the darkness. Secretly she wished Betsy and the other girls could wait to relieve their milk at a more civilized hour.

When Josie opened the barn door, she breathed in the familiar earthy scent as Betsy greeted her with a loud moo.

“Well, Good morning to you too, girl,” she laughed at the heifer she raised from a calf. Time seemed to fly by; Betsy turned six years old this year, and she gave birth several times to calves of her own. Even though family’s small herd only provided milk for local people, milking ten cows before school everyday proved to be hard work. Josie placed her milking stool beside Betsy and rested her head on the cow’s left flank. She reached under the cow and began to pull one utter after another. Betsy seemed to sigh at Josie’s touch as the milk filled the bucket in squirts. Josie relaxed, too. Somehow this early morning chore always grounded her.

She let her mind wander as her hands worked on each cow. She grinned when she thought about Donna and Rosalie being assigned this chore. Their noses never got close to the barn because they complained about the dirt and earthy stink. If Josie spoke about farm things, the two other girls’ eyes glassed over. Her friends didn’t understand her love of the farm because farming is a lifestyle not just a place to live. Every person from the youngest to the oldest  works for the welfare of the whole; everyone understands their place and responsibilities, and they go about their business without complaining.

Josie didn’t want to grow up anywhere else. Life on the farm equated freedom. Josie loved the fact no one expected her to behave like a prissy girl. She wore blue jeans, flannel shirts, and work boots most of the time.  Her tall willowy frame, combined with her physical strength made her a natural athlete, while her porcelain complexion and contrasting wide-set dark eyes gave her a look of feminine softness. Josie never put on airs to be someone other than herself.  She loved the simple life, but after graduating high school things would change. For the first time, she planned to leave the farm and attend the university to become a. surgical registered nurse.

After Josie emptied the last bucket of milk into the processing container, she said goodbye to Betsy and the other “girls” and shut the barn door. A hearty breakfast would be waiting on the table for her. Her mom always sent her family off with full stomachs of eggs, bacon, and toast made from homemade bread. Mrs. Schneider’s duty amounted to good cooking and keeping a warm, inviting home.

Josie carried some guilt when got to school because she learned her friends went hungry some of the time. Donna Jean happened to be one of those people. Since the crash of 1929 her father only worked a few days a week, and he drank most of his paycheck. Josie’s mother always packed an extra apple and sandwich for her friend.

Chapter 4

Berlin, Spring, 1937—The parents of sixteen year old Marta Schmidt expected her to find a suitable husband after her graduation from secondary school. Marta loved art, not boys, and finding a husband now was unthinkable.  She lived in her imagination. She dreamed of sailing away to Paris and Italy so she might enjoy the work of the masters. She envisioned standing in front of famous sculptures and paintings for hours at a time.

Unlike her good friend Heidi, Marta didn’t share her parents with other siblings. She got used to being alone in quiet places. She didn’t see herself married changing baby diapers, cooking, and cleaning. She wanted to experience the world through her own eyes.

Unfortunately, her status as an only child always put strict boundaries around her. Her parents rarely let her out of their sight, so convincing them to allow her to go to Paris as a graduation present required special planning. She practiced ways to engage her father in such a conversation. Now it was time to put her escape plan into motion.

Like most evenings, Marta’s father sat at the kitchen table reading the newspaper. He didn’t acknowledge Marta when she entered the room and stood beside him.  “Vater?

Klaus hated to be interrupted and his irritated tone reminded her of that fact. “Yes, Marta?”

Vater, I need to speak with you about something very important.”

His interest laid elsewhere. “What?”

Marta took a deep breath and blurted, “I want to go to France this summer.” She stammered. “For a graduation present.”

Her comment caused Klaus to drop the paper into his lap and glare at his daughter. “Whatever are you talking about?”

Marta threw her shoulders back and gazed at her father like one of his subordinates in the army. “School is nearly over. I worked hard and received top grades, and I believe I deserve a special gift for my efforts. I want to travel to France for the summer.”

Klaus laughed. “Such a crazy idea! France?” He went back to reading his paper, thinking he effectively dismissed her.

Through the years, Marta learned her father said ‘no’ as a reflex before he thought about anything. Marta ignored his reaction and kept the course. “I want to visit the Louvre and the other art museums. I love the French Impressionists and pictures in books do not do the masterpieces justice. I want to walk along the Seine and sip coffee in the sidewalk cafes. I want to eat baguettes and brie. Please Vater. Give me permission to go. You can choose any chaperon you wish.”

Klaus dropped the paper into his lap and studied Marta’s classic Aryan face. “I do not understand where you get such head-in-the-cloud ideas.”

“Please Vater. Promise me you will consider my request.” Her voice became whiny.

He glared at Marta, and shouted. “Stop whining! You sound like a spoiled child! No daughter of mine will appear weak.”

Marta dropped her eyes to her shoes. She let herself down. Why did she resort to childish behavior? She remained standing like a disciplined soldier. Klaus witnessed her willingness to take his wrath. Deep down he didn’t want to deny her, but her request went way beyond anything she ever asked for in the past. “Humph.”

“Thank you for considering my request, Vater.” She hugged him.

“I did not grant you my permission. I said I would consider your request;I must speak with your Mutter before I make a decision.”

Marta put out a pouting lip. “Mutter will never approve. She wants me to marry Franz or some boy like him. He’s such a bore. I do not want to marry now. I want to experience the world first.”

“Girls do not explore the world. Didn’t the BMD teach you a good German woman is destined to care for her home and family, not to go gallivanting across the continent to eat bread and cheese?”

“Yes Vater.” Marta bit her cheek to hold back the tears forming in her eyes; she never allowed herself to cry in front of her father. His tendency to slap her when she cried deterred her.

“I think you should marry, too. Franz is a good catch.” A slice of a smile crossed his lips. “But I can tell this trip is very important to you, ja?”

“More important than anything, Vater.  I promise when I come home, I will get married as you and Mutter want.”

Her father stood at attention, dropping the paper to the floor. “When I speak with her, I will tell her your marriage intentions, Liebster.  Now get ready for bed.”

“Yes father.” She ran to her upstairs bedroom with hope in her heart knowing full well she would never marry Franz Reinhart.

 

 

It’s Thursday? Really?

Which wayThis morning I awoke at seven o’clock and looked forward to turning on the television to watch Lester Holt on NBC’s weekend “news” program. I was totally convinced that it was Saturday, so I made coffee and settled into my cushy recliner, picked up the “zapper” (my pet name for the TV remote) only to learn that it was Thursday. Damn.

That’s the trouble with being retired. Every day is pretty much the same. No weekend anticipation like there was when I worked nine to five. No. It was just Thursday.

Retirement for me wasn’t a fanfare. It was more like a fart. You know, those silent but deadly ones that seek up on you and nobody takes credit for the stink. It all started in 2009 when I left my job and then couldn’t find work closer to home. I wanted to continue working because I wasn’t even 59-1/2 and not ready to retire. But I had become that magic age when businesses don’t want to invest in somebody who is seasoned and actually knows something.

But by 2011, I had papered the landscape with resumes and frankly I just gave up. By now, Ken also needed me to be home, so here I am. Oh, I kept myself busy designing costume jewelry, painting,  and getting several novels published, but I did miss the camaraderie of workmates and going out to lunch.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love not having to fight traffic every morning. I like the fact that I don’t have to shower, dress in a business suit, and rush out of the house with a pop tart in my left hand and my briefcase, keys, and purse in the other. I do not miss having an alarm clock catapult me out of a sound slumber either. I don’t miss having to take orders from somebody dumber than me, sitting in a “cube” as small as a phone booth, and interfacing all day with computer keyboard.

But not realizing it is Thursday troubles me. Has my world shrunk to such a small size that I don’t even know what day it is? I think it must have. But when did that happen? And why?

A shrinking world seems to be another part of being a caretaker and having to stay home most days. Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t change things—at least not until I can’t properly take care of Ken any longer, but what does a person do for inspiration when nine to five is not possible any more?

I’ve come to the conclusion that time is a curious critter. It goes too fast when you’re young, and it slows down to a turtle’s crawl when you retire. I haven’t decided if that’s a good thing or not.