Tag Archive | the craft of writing

Creating Your World

A few days ago my daughter called and said she found an outlet for some of my jewelry. Lately, painting has taken the place of my jewelry designing because I have a dresser drawer full of necklaces, earrings, and bracelets just lying dormant. So I was excited a tanning salon wanted to take my creations and sell them. Christmas is coming, after all. The store I had my jewelry displayed downtown closed over a year ago, so I pretty much abandoned my jewelry efforts.That is not to say my paintings are flying off the wall. I’ve found one idea leads to another, then another, and another. Before long, my creative endeavors almost move me out of my house!

I may never sell a painting, but I challenge myself by trying new techniques and practice things like perspective, which I really haven’t mastered yet. The best part is when my artist friend Marie critiques my creations and makes suggestions to improve what I’ve done. Constructive criticism is part of the creative process, so grow a thick skin and ask for it.

I’ve always enjoyed crafting but like everything I seem to take on, I am prolific. I’ve written eight novels and many short stories. I’m working on two more books, too. This is my 482nd blog — and I took a year off.

But I have to do these things. Creating is the reason we are all put here. Really. Maybe you don’t create “art” or “literature” but most people pick something to enrich their soul. My creating keeps me thinking. I hate foggy days (not the weather). When I feel sluggish, I pick up one of my creative outlets and just do it. Nobody has to push me to move into the creative side of me, and before I know it, the fog has lifted and I can go on to tackle more mundane activities like cleaning, paying bills, or cooking the evening meal.

If you don’t indulge your creative side, you’re missing the boat. Pick something you might enjoy. Try it. And if you don’t like the activity, try something else. Creating is in human DNA. You need to express this part to make you whole. Tell me about your creative outlets. I’d love to hear about them.

 

When You See Progress

I’ve posted that I’ve been dabbling in painting for the past two years. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because Ken bought me some paints, a desk easel, and a couple of canvases for my birthday many years ago. I wanted to begin then, but my time was absorbed by a corporate job that sucked all the life out of me.

I had never taken a painting class or even a drawing class. My closest thing to painting on a canvas was in kindergarten when I was a finger painter extraordinaire. I still remember the wonderful feeling of the squishy paint in between my fingers. I remember the exhilarating feeling of being free.

Facing a blank canvas is almost as threatening as a blank computer screen. The first time I attempted to paint I sat in front of canvas afraid. I knew my first attempt would probably be awful. And I was right. Here’s a photo of one of my first attempts.

Early Painting

Early Painting

At the time I thought it was pretty good, so I kept painting. Then my artist friend Marie came home and with her coaching, things got better. Now I think this first painting was butt ugly.

When I look at my early work, I can see I’ve come a long way; that is not to say I don’t have a longer way to go. The same is true about my writing; that’s why I rewrote my first novel and will soon publish the second edition. Nobody commented on the posted rewritten pages, so I only have my own gut feeling to go on.

The important thing is I’m creating and when the bad days come along, I find painting soothing. It doesn’t make a bit of difference to me that my art may never bring in a check.

And the writing? Well, even though that craft is more serious for me, I so enjoy when an idea comes along and burrows into my heart and head so I can tell a good story.

I hope all of you have a craft you love to do and are excited when you get a little bit better everyday. Create! Enjoy! Live!

Getting Organized

I love organization where everything is in its place. But, I have a terrible time achieving such neatness. My girlfriends seem to be able to keep everything where it belongs, but for some reason my things move from room to room. I have dishes in the living room along with shoes I wore the day before. My painting supplies are all in one room, but getting more than me in that room is simply impossible.

I seem to work in a whirlwind. I remember one time when I worked in a corporate office, my boss assigned another woman to help me get my cube organized to make me more efficient. I guess somewhere there’s a rule somewhere that says “only touch a piece of paper once.” Any more touches breeds disorganization and wasted time. I never did get the knack of it. However, I also never missed a deadline. I told my boss I work more effective in organized chaos. She said, “Whatever works, Barb. Just keep hitting those deadlines.”

I believe part of me doesn’t want to work myself to death to keep everything in place because my mother was a fanatical housekeeper. She put keeping things clean ahead of everything else. One time she came into my bedroom with a white glove after I cleaned. She found a trace of dust under my bed and made me clean again. See what I mean?

I tell myself I am far too artistic to keep everything neat all the time. I also love my friends enough to put them first even if I scheduled the day to scrub the kitchen floor. I do have priorities.

I also live with two animals and a husband. I rest my case.

Even though my home is somewhat disheveled, I am organized in my writing. In fact, to keep the timeline correct in the second edition of “Apple Pie and Strudel Girls” I keep a spreadsheet to make sure real history is weaved with the fiction element of the story properly.

The moral to this story: Everyone’s definition of organization is different. Make your world perfect for YOU.

######

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 6 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 24

London, England – Christmas Eve—On his wedding day, Danny decided to dress at the base to allow Heidi her privacy as she prepared to make marriage promises again. His wool chocolate brown dress uniform with brass buttons provided a stunning backdrop for his jacket ribbon bar and the silver wings he wore over his heart. He spit shined his black shoes so bright he saw his himself. He studied his reflection in the mirror before he left his room and realized the boy who came to England to fly planes and kill Germans had disappeared. In his place, a man who experienced friends falling from the sky, became a prisoner of war, and found the love of his life stared back at him..

At the flat Mrs. Smithe draped the lace and satin dress over Heidi’s slim figure. After Heidi gazed at her reflection in the mirror, she didn’t believe the beautiful woman smiling back at her could be the same girl who didn’t think she possessed a happy future after graduating from secondary school. A Jewish family and three long journeys changed her forever. The children made her an adult. Her only disappointment was the wonderful people who entered her life during the past five years could be with her now. Tears welled in her eyes as she thought of her parents, Leisel, Marta, Dora, the Rabbi and Gavriella and Dominik.

A lace veil trimmed in pearls fell from a tiara Mrs. Smithe pinned on Heidi’s head.  She carried a bouquet of Christmas cactus flowers Mrs. Smith grew in her apartment.

“There, my dear.” Tears formed in the landlady’s eyes.

Heidi saw the older woman’s distress. “Oh, Mrs. Smithe. I knew I should not wear Catherine’s wedding dress. It causes you such pain.”

“Don’t be foolish, sweetie. I am not thinking of Catherine; I’m overcome by what a beautiful bride you are.” Mrs. Smithe dried a tear rolling down her cheek. “We better make sure the children are ready to go. We don’t want you to be late.”

Ruthie wore a pretty pink velvet dress Mrs. Smithe made from a pair of curtains she had at the window in one of the rentals. She even solicited her friends and neighbors to find suits to fit both boys. As Heidi and the children emerged from the apartment, no one would guess soldiers still fought and citizens still died. For the few hours they’d be in their wedding clothes, as their lives appeared normal.

Danny arranged for a car to pick up his family and bring them to the base where the Major, the Chaplain, and Danny waited. As soon as Heidi and the children entered the chapel, Danny’s jaw dropped. Heidi reminded him of a drawing of a princess he reembered in one of his sister’s childhood storybooks. At one time he believed Rosalie Lombardo was the most beautiful bride in the world, but now Heidi took that honor.

Ruthie ran to Danny. “Papa Danny, Mama looks pretty, huh?”

“Yes, sweetheart. Mama is the most beautiful bride in the world.”

“So kiss her!” Ruthie said.

Everyone laughed. Ruthie wrinkled her forehead not understanding why everyone laughed. Brides and grooms kissed in her story books, so why did people laugh at her?

Mrs. Smithe wore her “mother of the bride” dress she hid in the back of her closet after Catherine died. When Heidi asked her to be the matron of Honor, she pulled out the dress and could smile again. Major Jamison stood in as Danny’s best man along with David. The whole group gathered around the altar with Chaplain and the intimate wedding ceremony began.

“We are gathered here together to marry Daniel and Heidi in holy matrimony.”

Jacob yelled. “What is mat-tri-monee?”

Everyone turned toward the little boy in short pants, and said, “Shhhh.” The child looked down at his shoes and started to cry. Danny picked him up. “Everything is okay, son,” he whispered to Jacob. “I’ll tell you later.”

Jacob wiped his tears and smiled. “Okay, Daddy.”

Danny returned Jacob to the floor and held his hand as the ceremony continued.

The chaplain said, “Repeat after me, Daniel. “I, Daniel, take you Heidi to be my lawfully wedded wife  . . .

Chapter 25

Naples, Italy—As Christmas got closer, Josie wore a melancholy expression. This would be her third year of celebrating Christmas without snow and family. She became uncharacteristically nostalgic. As she gazed at the palm trees, she thought about Christmas back home. Sap on logs would crackle in the fireplace; a fresh pine scent would waft through the living room while the sweet aroma of cinnamon would come from the kitchen. Her mother always baked dozens of different cookies, but the entire family decorated sugar cookies together around the kitchen table. Christmas in Italy this year would come with cold winds, rain, canned turkey, and hydrated potato flakes.

Mario found her starting out into space in the courtyard. “Hi Sweetheart. Whatcha thinkin’?”

Josie turned toward him with glistening eyes. “About home. I envisioned my parents drinking eggnog in front of a fire as the snow fell and laid a beautiful white covering over the bare trees and brown grass.”

Mario sat beside her and put his arm around her shoulders. “Yeah. Christmastime here leaves something to be desired. I want to go home too. But seeing we can’t, how about we spice the holiday up a little?” He grinned.

“How?”

“Let’s go to Rome and celebrate Christmas Eve at the Vatican.”

“Don’t tease me, Mario.”

“I’m not teasing. We can go. It’s safe there now.”

“How will we get there, genius?”

“Details. Details.” A Cheshire cat smile crossed his broad face. “I got a buddy in the motor pool; he’s got a jeep all gassed up for us, Miss Smarty Pants.”

“You’re the only guy I ever met who can get the impossible done.”  Josie laughed. “Mario, I’m glad you didn’t give up pursuing me. I love being with you. You make me so happy.” She leaned over and put a peck of a kiss on his cheek.

Mario blushed. “Thanks, doll. I’m glad you appreciate me because I never worked so hard to get a date. Hell, I almost died to get one with you!” He chuckled as his eyes twinkled. “So is Rome a date?”

“I’d be nuts to turn down a trip to Rome. After I get home, I’ll probably never want to come to Italy again.”

“Only time will tell.” Mario said. “Life can be a constant surprise if you let it be.”

Josie smiled. “Amen!”

*****

On Christmas Eve morning, Josie and Mario took off for Rome. They remained silent as they whizzed through the hills and valleys of the countryside. As they got closer to the city, Josie expressed her fears of what they might find in the Eternal City. “Do you think the Krauts bombed Rome into oblivion?”

“Nah. They got in bed with Mussolini. I think the Italian dictator put down a few rules. I don’t think the Krauts are that barbarian.”

Josie said. “Really?  I think bombing hospitals is pretty barbarous.”

Mario answered.  “You’re right about that. I just hope Vatican Square didn’t appear on their radar.”

“Me, too.”

Once they passed Rome ‘s city limits Josie basked in the city’s beauty. The evening stayed warm and balmy. The stars burned bright and a full moon gave Vatican Square a warm glow. Mario and Josie waited with a throng of people in the courtyard for Pope Pius XII to appear on the balcony.

The Pope appeared through an open window and prayed the familiar prayers in Latin. A choir of beautiful voices sang out, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” and Josie thought about her little church back home where she sang the same song every Christmas Eve. In about eight hours her parents would celebrate Christmas with the same ceremony. For the first time in a long time, she thought about Peter. This would be the first Christmas without his funny sense of humor and sweet demeanor. Josie bowed her head and prayed for her parents because Christmas would be so difficult without any of their children close at hand.

Mario held Josie close. He loved everything about her. He loved her spunk, her courage, and her ability to banter with him. He loved the empathy she showed everyone. He loved her self-confidence and fearlessness. He bent down and kissed the top of her head as the Pope asked God for peace. Josie looked up at Mario with a tender smile.

After the Mass, people left the square, but Mario lingered. He didn’t want the magical night to end. He turned Josie to face him and placed a kiss on her lips. He whispered. “Merry Christmas, sweetheart.”

With tears in her eyes, Josie whispered. “Merry Christmas, my sweet Mario. Thank you for bringing me here. This Christmas turned out to be more special than I ever imagined.”

He handed her a small box.

“What’s this?”

He grinned. “A present, silly. Open it.”

“Mario—

He interrupted her. “Will you just open the GD present.”

“But we agreed to wait until tomorrow to exchange gifts.”

“Look at your watch. Miss Smarty Pants. Isn’t it after midnight?”

“Yes, but—

His voice took a tender tone. “I want you to remember this night forever. Please open the gift.”

“Okay. You win.”

Josie tipped open the lid of little wooden box to find a beautiful solitaire diamond perched in the center of a white gold band. “Mario! Oh my God! It’s beautiful!”

Before she said another word, Mario went down on one knee. “Josie, my love, will you be my wife?”

She said the one word he wanted to hear. “Yes. Oh God, yes!” She pulled him to his feet, wrapped her arms around him, and kissed him like never before.

His eyes glowed with love. “Let’s try the ring on for size.” He took the engagement ring in his thick fingers and slipped it onto her left-hand ring finger. The ring fit perfectly.

Josie couldn’t take her eye off the sparkling stone. “How did you ever buy such a beautiful thing?”

“Let’s just say, I know a guy, who knows a guy, okay?” He paused, “It helps to be Italian in Italy.”

She laughed and kissed again him, while happy strangers shared their joy with applause.

 

The Price of Freedom

Ken and I have been watching the PBS special THE CIVIL WAR directed by Ken Burns.  I love Ken Burns productions because they are so well done, and I always learn something. As you might have guessed by now, life long learning (LLL) is important to me.

As I watched this critical period in our American history, I wondered what would have happened if the Confederate states had won the war. How different our history would  have been if our country was split into two separate countries. First, we’d have to come up with an entirely new name. We certainly couldn’t be called “THE UNITED STATES”could we?  It could have happened if Britain and France would have supported the South. The two European countries needed the cotton the South produced, so it’s not far fetched they may have entered the war.

The other thing that impressed me about this series is the language which is used to tell the story. Burns artfully inserts excerpts from speeches made by principals. He also uses writings and journal entries of soldiers. Their correspondence artfully uses the English language. Hearing words written so well from common citizens put our present use of the English language to shame.

A little tangent: It drives me nuts when I hear incorrect grammar usage by people who should know better. Educated people like newscasters, anchor people, and politicians. For instance, so often you hear “People that” instead of “People who” or “By who” instead of “By whom.” Does anybody care about such things any more in our warp-speed world?

Another thing which impressed me about this program is how strong Abraham Lincoln needed to be to hold things together. His critics were many. Even his head honcho General McCullen blasted Lincoln, which is really funny because for the first two years of the war, McCullen sat on his hands and did nothing. He had every excuse–not enough men, not enough weapons, not the right time. He trained a strong army but he was afraid to use it. So Lincoln got involved, fired the jerk, and put Grant in charge. Boy did people talk about that sudden change of events!

The other event which riled the country was the Emancipation Proclamation. The U. S. had to define itself. People needed to think about freedom and if every person was entitled to it. If freedom is truly at the core of who we are, then slavery had to be eradicated. The war began to save the union, it ended emancipating the slaves and providing freedom for everyone who lived here.

We have one more episode to watch tonight, and even though we know the outcome, we don’t know many of the details which makes this struggle human. History is more than facts and figures. It is created by the people who lived and survived the time period. More people died in the Civil War than in any other war in our history. Through suffering and bloodshed the United States found her identity. Being able to live in a free country is not free. The price has been paid in blood. Just visit Arlington which was formerly the front yard of General Robert E. Lee.

#####

 

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 6 – 1943

Chapter 1

 Lacrosse, Wisconsin – January—Since Angelo invited Bobby to live with his family, the little house on Main street too crowded. Donna realized she needed to move on. As she helped Rosalie hang baby Angelo’s diapers on the basement clotheslines, she approached the subject. “Rosie?”

“Yeah?”

“With Angelo home and Bobby living here, the house is a little crowded.”

Rosie dropped the clothespin she held. “What are you saying, Donna?”

“It’s time for me to move out.”

“No! I love you living with us.”

“I accepted a new job and made some plans. A girl’s jazz band needs a lead singer, so I auditioned and got the job. I’ll be with the USO in Chicago. Isn’t that exciting?”

“Yeah, but aren’t you scared to go to such a big city? People are different in cities.”

“Hey, if you can get through a birth of a baby alone, I can certainly go to Chicago alone.”

Tears sprang up in Rosalie’s eyes. “Chicago? It’s too far away! I’ll never see you.”

“I realize this is a big step, but Rosie, this is a chance of a lifetime! Maybe some big shot will like my voice, and I’ll be on my way to a recording contract. Wouldn’t that be exciting?”  Donna threw her arms out to the side like a star does after they complete a number.

Rosalie hugged her while her voice inferred her disappointment. “That would be swell.”

“So you’re okay with this?”

“No. But I know you’ll go anyhow. Everybody has a right to follow their dreams.  I know you dreamed about something like this since first grade talent show. Chances like this rarely come along. And if you’re a big flop, you can always come back here.”

Donna pulled away. “Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence!”

Rosie laughed and hugged her again. “Donna Jean, I’m just kidding. After you get your first recording contract, I can say I knew you when we hung up diapers on the basement clotheslines.”

The two friends laughed and cried in each other’s arms.

*****

Two weeks later, Donna packed a bag and hopped a train headed for Chicago. She saved her wages for the past few months to make the trip. She needed enough money for a security deposit on an apartment and to buy the glamorous strapless gowns and high heels required by the band for their performances.

Donna met up with the other members of the band at the USO Club as soon as she arrived in Chicago. From now on Donna’s husky, sexy voice would complement the four-piece jazz combo. They scheduled to practice at nine tomorrow.

In the meantime, every week the USO hosted a dance and tonight the hall buzzed with girls pushing tables around so there would be enough room to dance. They decorated the place in red and white for Valentine’s evening. Donna and the other members of the band needed to be on hand to dance with the soldiers who might be shipping out to join the troops in Europe or the South Pacific.

Every USO dance adopted a theme chosen by the USO girls. They decorated the hall, planned and made the refreshments, and then arrived at the appointed hour in their prettiest dresses, solely to make a memorable evening for the soldiers, sailors, and marines in attendance.

As the girls dressed for the dance, Marilyn the drummer offered Donna a room in her apartment. Donna felt relieved she had a place to stay until she had time to go apartment hunting. The two girls fell in sync with each other like old friends. Marilyn and Donna got on a bus and stopped at a six-floor walk-up. Marilyn unlocked the door with the number 620 and ushered Donna to a small bedroom on the Lake Michigan side of the building. “This room is cool in the summer, and unfortunately, cold in the winter. I’ll get extra blankets in case you need them. I share a bathroom down the hall with the next door neighbor, but the arrangement isn’t too bad. He’s a soldier, who just shipped out, but he wanted to keep the apartment, and so far he hasn’t subleased the place.”

“This is so nice of you, Marilyn; truly, I fully expected to stay at the “Y” until I found a place.” Donna said.

“Nah, why should you do that when there’s an extra bed here?”

“What can I pay you?”

“Nothing right now. But if we get along, half of the rent is $50 a month.”

“Seems reasonable.”

They shook hands to seal the deal.

Chapter 2

North Africa, February 1943—Josie never worked so hard in her all of life as she did with the 48th Surgical Unit. The daily oppressive heat and humidity drained the life out of her, but the positive attitude of the constant flow of wounded soldiers kept her motivated. Her nurses learned to take the challenges of combat in stride, as they fought to keep conditions as sterile and comfortable.

When the battles moved, so did the field hospitals. A rumor circling around the camp told a story about German forces breaking through the Kasserine Pass. With the enemy so close to the Evacuation Hospital bivouacked near Tebessa, orders came down the chain of command to move the hospital to a safer location. Nurses and other staff packed up and moved one hundred fifty patients sixty miles. Through careful planning and coordination, the medical staff got the hospital up and running in twelve hours. A remarkable achievement.

As the war progressed, moving hospital facilities from one place to another for safety became a normal routine for Army doctors, nurses and corpsmen. Josie thought herself lucky she didn’t need to move her position, even though the hospital she worked in left so little to be desired.

With so many seriously wounded men, Josie’s triage skills got finely hones.  The severity of a patient’s condition determined where, when, and how he would be treated.  The nurses ran into untrained situations daily, so they learned on the job and improvised with what they had. They gallantly performed their duties earning the respect from the male medical staff and military command.

****

Josie often accompanied patients to the airfield to be evacuated to a general hospital. As the C-46 cargo plane landed, the attending nurse would meet her to get the records for the wounded patients. The nurses working on the planes took special training to become flight nurses–one of the most dangerous duties for medical personal. Even though the planes bore the Geneva Red Cross to protect them from enemy, often the designation was ignored and the plane was shot down.

As the ramp dropped and the nurse came forward to accept the patients, Josie recognized the gait of the woman walking toward her.

“As I live and breathe! Anna! . . .” Josie said as she hugged her college roommate.

“I couldn’t let you get all the fun!” Anna shouted over the plane’s engines.

“But you hate flying!” Josie said.

“Not any more! They needed somebody from a cold climate to work on the plane because there’s no heat in these tin cans.”

Anna laughed.

“What?” Josie could barely hear her over the engines of the plane.

“Yeah, the heaters in these “flying coffins” sometimes explode during flight, so the pilots refuse to turn them on. We keep the critical patients warm with heated blankets and warm fluids while we shiver in our combat boots.” Anna flashed her impish smile that always cracked Josie up.

Josie laughed. “You haven’t changed! How great to see you! Will this be your usual run?”

“Are you kidding? I’m never privy to where they send me.”

“Well, then, let’s make a promise. After the war is over, we’ll get together and compare notes.”

“You bet! Do you think we could get our old dorm room home and talk all night?” Annie laughed.

“No. But my Mom still has the roll away, and I don’t think she’s given my room to anyone else.” Josie thought about their midnight conversations which centered on boys, exams, and new classes. What a world away that was now.

After their brief reunion, Josie went over the charts of the men she released to Anna, while corpsmen boarded the patients on the plane. Anna gave Josie one last hug and then ran to the plane.

Josie yelled, “Take good care of my boys!”

Anna waved and yelled over the engines. “They’ll get my very best.”

The brief reunion with Anna provided a small nibble of home for Josie.

The ambulance driver motioned for her to hurry. Josie jumped into the passenger seat and the driver yelled over the plane engine noise, “We gotta go, Josie! More wounded coming in!”

“I’ll say one thing for the Krauts; they provide job security.”

The driver smiled at the feisty nurse as he left a cloud of dust in their wake.

Chapter 3

Berlin, Germany — March 1943—After the German defeat at Stalingrad, the Nazis public relations department decided to install a program to bolster the moral of the country. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi “spin doctor” declared the March 21st as Heldengedenktag–a Memorial Day to commemorate all war victims with special recognition given to the soldiers who fell in Stalingrad.  Instead of being a stoic holiday, the German leaders professed the day needed to be a celebration, not a day of morning.

Marta’s mother Olga tried to buy into the celebration because she needed to believe her husband’s death stood for something important.  But Olga’s severe loss of the man she loved for over twenty-five years cut deep into her soul leaving a wide void. She couldn’t imagine how she would live out the rest of her life alone.

With Allied planes bombing major German cities day and night, residential areas turned into landscapes of mud, demolished buildings, and charred corpses. Hitler refused to admit he lost the war and continued with his futile ambitions, while his stubborness destroyed the very country he professed to love so much. He believed if the German people didn’t claim victory, they all needed to suffer for their failure.

Olga received letters from relatives living in Cologne with pictures of dead bodies lying on sidewalks. Other photos of children playing among bricks which had previously been their homes broke her heart. Hell rained down across the country and Olga found nothing to celebrate in such circumstances.

Most Germans realized their side lost the war, but Olga’s old friends held on to Nazi delusions about the Third Reich overcoming their losses. Only a fool thought Germany could rise again. No single army, no matter how great could conquer the entire world.

 

 

A Milestone

I’ve been blogging since 2011. This is my 450th post. (I did take a whole year off to produce a novel, so I’m not a slacker.)  I haven’t repeated any “words of wisdom” during that time, so you might imagine writing something interesting can be a challenge.When I’m really dry, you might have figured out I talk about the weather. Sometimes I even enlist Ken to help with an idea. I hoped I could reel in more than 1500 folks during this four-year endeavor, but I refuse to pay to attract more readers. On average, I only get two or three folks who will take the time to write a comment on the post of the day. That’s a bit disappointing too because I spend at least a good hour putting “the thoughts of the day” down in writing. Oh well. People are busy. I understand. I’m not complaining, nor am I bragging.

This morning I wasted almost two hours playing my computer games that are all basically the same as Candy Crush. If I was efficient and savvy I would delete these time stealers from my Kindle and just use the tablet to read novels. But I guess I’m not as proficient as I like to believe. For some reason I can’t pull the plug on the games. It’s digital crack.

I started playing these games during commercials. I think I’m right when I say there are more commercials on television today than ever. When I fill the time designated to hawk products and services, I turn my attention to these challenging games. (Believe me, after you to get level 150 on all of them, it’s a challenge to win.) Of course, there’s always the option to spend money to by tools or extra moves, if you so want to invest. And I confess. I resort to such foolishness when I get really stuck on a level I’ve grown tired of.

Well, will you look at that! I actually came up with a topic for discussion this morning just by writing — I only  hope I haven’t wasted your time.

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 18

 Paris, France – September—Emma’s whereabouts continued to be a secret. After exhausting her attempts to find her, Marta visited city hall to speak to Pierre, Emma’s former boss.  She entered the office where Emma used to work and spied another woman sitting at her desk. Seeing a replacement for her dear Emma brought tears to Marta’s eyes. She walked up to the woman and requested to speak with Pierre.

The stranger asked, “May I tell him who you are?”

“My name is Marta Schiller. I am a cousin of Emma who used to work here.”

“Wait here, please.” The woman got up and opened a door down the hallway. In a couple of minutes the stranger reappeared.  “You may go in. Third door on the left.”

Marta smiled. “Merci.” She walked down the hallway and knocked on the door. She heard a man say, “Come in.”

Pierre stood up behind his desk to greet his visitor. “How can I help you mademoiselle?”

Marta moved toward him and in a low voice said, “Pierre, I need to find Emma. Do you know where she is?”

Pierre’s forehead wrinkled and he scratched his head. “Why do you think I would posses such information?” He turned on the radio and classical music filled the office. Then he put his finger up to his lips.

Marta moved closer and whispered, “I thought perhaps you might know where she is serving her sentence in Germany.”

“Marta, when Emma went to prison the authorities did not tell me where they took her.”

Marta studied his eyes and realized he held something back. “I wish you possessed more information. I am going crazy.”

Pierre discovered the Gestapo had bugged his office so sharing information with Marta at the office was impossible. In a normal tone he said, “I am sorry to disappoint you.” He paused. “The Germans do not inform employers if their employees get in to trouble.” He led Marta to the door and whispered. “Meet me at Moulin Rouge tonight at eight o’clock. I will tell you what I know.”

Marta nodded. “Thank you for your time.” She turned on her heel and left.

After meeting Pierre, Marta went back to her apartment with a glimmer of hope. A letter from her mother lay on the floor. Her landlord always thrust her mail under the door. She ripped open the envelop anticipating good news. She said a short prayer hoping her mother found Emma. Or even better, she got Emma released.

August 15, 1942

 My Dear Marta,

 How wonderful to get your letter, dear. I miss you so much, especially now.

 Yesterday I received a telegram informing me your father died at Stalingrad.  and I can’t stop weeping. We spent over  twenty-five years together, and I can’t think of living without him. This terrible news is too hard to bear. I realize you questioned his political choices, but I hope you understand how much he loved you under his false bravado.

 About the other matter. I spoke with my friends and can only tell you your cousin is at Anrath. I will try to get more news, but all of us must be careful. I wish I could tell you more, but I cannot. With your father gone, I am only one more woman living alone in Berlin.

 Love, Mutter

Marta fell into her favorite chair and wept. She wondered whether her father’s body would be returned to Germany or whether he lay rotting on a battlefield somewhere in Russia. What a dissapointing fate for such a proud, stoic soldier.

*****

Promptly at eight o’clock, Marta strutted into the Moulin Rouge in her best dress. She scanned the theatre and found Pierre sitting at a small table in a dark corner. He greeted her with a smile and a kiss on each cheek before he led her to his table.

“I am so glad you accepted my invitation,  mademoiselle.” Pierre smiled.

Marta played along as Pierre pulled out a chair for her to sit. She smiled up at him. “I would not miss an opportunity to see this show, Pierre. I do not get to come here often.” She flirted with him understanding German officers sat at a nearby table drinking heavily.

Pierre bent close to her. “I learned through our channels Emma is imprisoned at Anrath. Do you know about the city?”

“No.” Marta snuggled closer to Pierre still promoting their clandestine rendezvous.

He smiled at her, then whispered in her ear. “Anrath is a moderate sized city near Dusseldorf in the Northern Rhine area.”

“I understand.” She sipped her cognac. “Can the Resistance rescue her?”

“Perhaps.”

“That is encouraging.” Marta brightened.

“I cannot tell you more for your own safety.” Pierre hesitated then added, “I must not endanger my family.” He kissed her, ordered two more drinks, and they both settled into watch the show.

Chapter 19

Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands – September—Ordinarily, a soldier in Angelo’s dire condition would be airlifted to a base hospital after the doctors stabilized him in the field hospital, but the marines on Guadalcanal didn’t enjoy the luxury of a close enough base to evacuate severely wounded soldiers. The Japanese fleet overwhelmed the American navy, and to be able to fight another day, the battleships fled to regroup.

When the Japanese finally emerged from the jungle, they fought to the death. The Marines on the beach, fought hand-to-hand and casualties quickly mounted. Medical personnel did their best to provide adequate treatment for the wounded in a tent hospital, but without better facilities and the ability to airlift critical patients to a better facility, large numbers of men died. Worst of all, the situation wouldn’t get better until the navy came back and secured the island.

While the fighting went on the beach, Angelo lay in a coma spending his twenty-first birthday in a state of unconsciousness. His weak body battled fever and pain. Nurses tried to keep him comfortable with cold compresses and heavy doses of pain medication.

In the distance bomb blasts sounded like kettle drums. Cots rocked and IV bottles swayed on steel poles with every strike. Close by the rat-tit-tit-tat of automatic rifles caused medical personnel to wear steel helmets as they treated their patients. Screaming wounded men who lay waiting for help sent shivers through everyone in the hospital.

Two weeks after surgery Angelo opened his eyes. His return to consciousness elated the medical personnel because doctors originally gave him less than a fifty percent chance of survival. His recovery lifted the spirits of the nurses who attended so many young lives who died too soon. Angelo’s spark of life renewed their purpose to provide the best medical care with the meager tools and facilities they had.

After Angelo woke, his first thought was about the Rosalie and the children. His second thought centered on Bobby. He remembered he had been assigned to Red beach. He listened to conversations of medical personnel and learned Red Beach was the place the heaviest fighting took place.

In his waking moments, Angelo prayed Bobby would be one of the lucky ones. No sixteen year old should face battle. But Bobby wanted to fight bad enough to lie about his age. Angelo realized Bobby believed nobody cared if he lived or died, but Angelo did. If he should die on that beach, it would be unfair because the boy never got a chance to go on a date, or make love, or be loved.  Instead his father sent him off to military school with no tenderness where Bobby endured loneliness and harsh discipline. Angelo hoped God listened when he prayed, but then thought God must be very busy listening to requests like his coming from around the world.

Once the fierce fighting started, the battle went on around the clock for days. A constant stream of wounded men filled the hospital at all hours. Medical staff slept little.  Angelo lay sweating as the nurses scurried around him. They buzzed with caffeinated energy doing their best to make the wounded comfortable.  When darkness fell, they took on the appearance of the walking dead, instead of pretty twenty-one year old girls.

A week after Angelo regained consciousness, a man in a body cast lay in the bed next to him. The poor guy had IVs in both arms and cuts and bruises on his face. His sun-bleached blond hair made Angelo want to vomit because he realized the limp body in the next bed belonged to Bobby.

When a nurse came to check on Angelo, he asked “Nurse, what happened to him?”

The distracted nurse said, “He’ll tell you later, soldier.”

Angelo persisted. “Please, tell me. He’s my little brother.”

She appeared incredulous as she compared Bobby’s fair complexion and white blond hair to Angelo’s deep eyes and dark brown curls. “Your brother, huh?”

Angelo gave her his winning grin. “Aren’t we all brothers and sisters, nurse?”

“Your “brother” got injured on the beach. A Jap bayoneted him through the kidney and a bomb blast broke his back. He’s in pretty rough shape.”

Angelo swallowed hard. “Oh, my God.”

The nurse turned away. “Indeed.”

*****

Bobby woke a few hours later screaming and thrashing with pain. A nurse rushed to his bedside with a syringe,  swabbed his arm with alcohol on a piece of gauze, and injected him with morphine.   “This will help.”

Bobby whispered, “Thank you, nurse” before his body went limp.

Bobby’s dreams brought memories of the pain which pierced his ears-like ice picks plunging into both ear canals. He experienced the shaking earth knocking him down. He breathed in hot white smoke and smelled the sickening odor of rotten eggs. When he took a breath, instantly he got a headache worse than a hangover from drinking cheap booze. When a shell landed too close, his bones felt like metal being struck with a sledgehammer. He crawled through sand where body parts of his buddies lay around him. The guys he went with on night patrols lay dead with blank stares into nothingness.

Nightmares like these plagued Bobby every time he drifted off to sleep. He lived again and again the horrific battle ending with a scene of his friend Tommy taking a shot to the face, His headed exploded. A headless Tommy fell forward into the sand.  Bobby froze. The sight paralyzed him. Before he realized a Jap with a bayonet loomed before him. He struggled with the boy about his own age before white lightning streaked up his backside and everything went black. Smudgy, dirty faces of two medics appeared above him. This was the part of the dream when he woke screaming.

*****

Bobby drifted in and out of consciousness as the days went by. Angelo did his best to make his stretches of consciousness longer.  “Hey soldier! What brought you in here?”

Bobby recognized Angelo’s voice and opened his eyes. “Now I’m sure I’m definitely not in heaven. Angelo’s here!” It took all of his energy to make a joke, and he fell asleep smiling.

Later in the afternoon, Bobby woke again. “How’d I get here?”

Angelo smiled when he heard Bobby’s voice.  ” You got here the usual way.” He answered. “By stretcher and ambulance.”

“I don’t remember anything about getting here.”

“That’s good.” Angelo said. “I don’t remember anything either. All I know is some damn Jap bomb bore my name.”

“A Jap bayonet got me.” Bobby said. “What do I look like, Ang?”

“Like hell.”

“That good, huh?” Bobby tried to laugh and put his hand on the cast. “What the hell did they do to me?” He knocked on the plaster body cast.

“I guess they thought plaster would put Humpty Dumpty back together again.”

“How long was I out?” Bobby asked.

“A couple of days. They tell me I took two weeks to wake up.”

“Sure, you always need to one-up me, don’t you?”

“What are big brothers for?” Angelo smiled. “Did you enjoy sweet dreams when you traveled to coma-land?”

“No. Just the same damn nightmare playing again and again like a bad movie. What about you?”

“Actually, my brother Tony visited me. We went home together to help Rosie plant a garden in our backyard. We grew whopper tomatoes and cucumbers. And I even got a peak at my new baby boy.”

“No kidding?”

“Honestly, Bobby, I went home. My beautiful Rosie brought me my son, and she told me she named him Angelo. The little tiger even looked like me with my dark eyes and curly hair. My sweet little girl, Gina, put her arms up wanting me to hold her. Do you suppose Rosie’s spirit visited me?”

“Sure Ang, and Santa Claus is a real guy living at the north pole.” Bobby chuckled and then cringed. “I need to stop doing that to myself.” He took a shallow breath. “No wonder you didn’t wake up for weeks, especially if you rendezvoused with your wife.” He smiled. “I wish I didn’t get wounded, but I’m glad we’re together again.”

“Just getting a look at your ugly mug made my day kid.” Angelo said, “I guess God just doesn’t want us yet.”

“He definitely doesn’t want me. He’ll probably never want me.” Bobby closed his eyes.

“Don’t be stupid. He’ll want you someday. But not now. You’re too young to die; you’re whole life is ahead of you.”

“Yeah, like what?”

“Like having a home, a girl, and a family.” Angelo’s thoughts went to Rosie.

“What girl would want me? I’m a wreck.” Bobby knocked on the cast which encased him.

“You’re young. You’ll heal. And I think my little sister would think you’re a catch.” Angelo said.

“So, you’ll introduce me when we get stateside?”

“Of course. I’ll introduce you to my entire family and all of my friends.”

“Thanks, Ang. You must really love me, bro.” Bobby teased.

“Probably–” Angelo chuckled.

Bobby changed the subject. “Do you think they’ll send us home?”

“I hope so.” The conversation tired Angelo. My two year hitch is only half over, so I don’t know what’ll happen.”  Angelo’s pain began to escalate. “The doctor told me yesterday as soon as our planes can land here, we’ll be airlifted to Sydney.”

“Do you think they’ll send us back to the field?’ Bobby’s voice quivered.

“Like I said, I don’t know what will happen.” Angelo hesitated and then asked, “We’re damaged goods. Are you disappointed?”

“Nah,” Bobby said. “I broke my back and lost a kidney on this damn rock, so I think my country is satisfied they got my pound of flesh.”

“Amen to that, little brother.” Angelo said.

“Ang?”

“Yeah, Bobby.”

“I like you calling me your brother.”  The boy drifted off to sleep.

*****

Bobby and Angelo turned out to be two of the first Marines on Guadalcanal to be airlifted to a hospital in Sydney, Australia in September 1942. After their rehabilitation, they would be sent to Pearl Harbor where this whole ugly war began.

 

Morning Exercise

Since I vowed to get back into the habit of blogging each morning, I have been true to myself. The worst thing about putting the laptop on my lap while I sip my first cup of java is wondering what to write about. I’m sure you all are thinking right now . . . I can see you’re stalling!

When I taught writing, one exercise to get going was to sit and write for two minutes. The pen had to stay on the paper and it had to keep moving for that length of time. No stalling. No thinking. Just writing . . . anything. The exercise was to help students see that even though they had nothing to write about at that moment in time, the thoughts came as they scribbled away.

This morning I’m having trouble finding something profound to say. I could tell you Ken woke early and felt well. That would be a good story, right? I could tell you about a video of a mama bear and her three cubs enjoying a wading pool in the backyard of a New Jersey home. I saw that story on the morning news. I could even tell you about being woke up with a hug from my pug.

But I won’t. Promise.

Instead I’m showing you to break the drought of writer’s block you have to write. If you produce crap, so what? Nobody knows but you. And then there’s the waste basket or the delete button.  Two great inventions.

The success comes because you produced something. The good words will come.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 4

Chapter 4

Minneapolis, Minnesota-May—Josie’s completed a three-year nursing program in two years because she accelerated her program by attending summer classes. In a few days she would receive her diploma and graduate with honors.

Her parents took the train to Minneapolis on the Friday before her graduation. Josie went with Tommy to pick them up at the station, while Anna stayed back to clean the Schneider’s overnight sleeping quarters.

When Josie saw her parents, she realized how much she really missed them. She ran to her father and hugged him in the middle of the station. Such public display of affection appeared to be uncomfortable for him because he received her show of affection with his arms at his side not knowing how to react.

Josie backed away. “I’m so glad you’re both here! Anna and I arranged for you to stay in a dorm room in our building for the night.” Josie announced.

“That’s nice dear,” her mother said, “I’m sure we’ll be very comfortable.”

Her father muttered, “I’m just glad we only need to stay one night.”

“Oh come on, Dad, I told the girls living on that floor they can’t run around in their underwear because you’ll be there.” She giggled.

“Gee, thanks, Josie.” He smiled back at her. “You eliminated the one thing I might enjoy.”

Mrs. Schneider playfully slapped him on the arm.

Josie introduced her parents to Tommy, and the men shook hands. Tommy directed them to his jalopy. Josie’s parents sat crammed in the backseat of the coupe, and Tommy drove straight to the campus.

Josie thanked Tommy for the lift and directed her parents to their room. She unlocked the door and said, “Why don’t you two get settled in, freshen up, and dress for the parent’s dinner while I go upstairs and get changed. The administration planned a special meal for parents who came long distances to attend the graduation ceremony.”

Josie handed her father the keys to the dorm room. “I’ll be back with Anna in thirty minutes, okay?” She smiled from ear to ear.

“We’ll be ready, sweetheart.” Her mother said as she entered the room.

Josie ran up three flights of stairs to her room. When she got to the top, she wasn’t the slightest bit winded. She smiled because she had come so far since the first day when she nearly died lugging her heavy trunk up the staircase.

When Josie opened her door, Anna stood half dressed staring into the closet. “Your parents got in okay?”

“Yeah, I just left them. Dad’s not enamored about staying in the dorm.”

“Don’t worry. He’ll be fine. I think he just wants to give you the raspberries. Anybody can endure a dorm for one night.” Anna giggled.

“I hope you’re not going to the dinner like that!” Josie teased.

Anna gave her a dirty look. “You smarty pants!” She threw a pillow at Josie.

A half an hour later, the two girls emerged from their dorm looking like they stepped out of the pages of “Everyday Woman” magazine. Both dressed in smart little black dresses. Anna wore glass pearls she found at J. C. Penny’s and Josie showed off her slim boyish frame with a silver belt. Anna topped her ensemble with a pill-box hat with sheer netting that covered her eyes.

Josie’s dad whistled when he saw the two girls. “How am I going to escort all of you beautiful ladies? God only gave me two arms!” He joked.

The balmy night allowed students and parents to stroll to the cafeteria without sweaters. Usually this early in May Minnesotans enjoying such warm weather was a rarity.  Josie hoped the good weather would hold for tomorrow when she would “walk the plank” in her cap and gown.

When the girls entered the building, the class president of the Junior class greeted them, gave them name tags, and then escorted their party to an assigned table. Josie didn’t recognize the place where they ate most of their meals for over two years. Round tables covered with gold linen table clothes replaced the long utilitarian banquet tables.  Candles and bouquets of maroon carnations sat on mirrors which reflected a soft, warm light to make the cavernous cafeteria more intimate.

Just after Josie, Anna, and the Schneiders sat down on metal folding chairs, the event began. The chancellor strolled up to the microphone. “Good Evening everyone! Please take your seats and we’ll get started. I want to call up our campus chaplain, Steven Samuelson who will say the blessing.”

A young man in a black suit and white shirt with a chaplain’s collar stepped up to the microphone and asked everyone bow their heads. In a strong, confident voice he prayed. “Thank you Lord, for bringing all of our graduate’s parents safely to our campus. We thank them for producing such a wonderful crop of graduates who will go off into the world very soon to do your work. Thank you for the food we will eat tonight and bless everyone when they travel back home. Amen.”

Everyone repeated the word “Amen.”

As the chaplain left the stage, servers dressed in school colors served plates filled with roasted chicken, baked potato with butter and sour cream and green beans. Bread sat in a basket on the table. The chef made the simple main course appear like it came from a five-star restaurant. When the guests didn’t think they could eat another bite, ice cream and chocolate chip cookies came out of the kitchen for dessert. After dinner, the Scholastic award winners went to the stage to receive engraved plaques.

When the festivities ended, the crowd flooded the grounds as they leisurely strolled back to the student housing buildings. The perfect night ended with a breathtaking sunset; the sky was ablaze in shades of pinks and purples.

Josie lagged behind with her mother as Anna and Mr. Schneider walked ahead of them. Mrs. Schneider put her arm around her daughter’s shoulder. “I’m so proud of you, Josie. You worked hard and gave up so much to graduate.” Her eyes filled with proud tears.

“Mom, I didn’t graduate yet.”

“Oh yes you did. Sure “Pomp and Circumstance” hasn’t played yet, but you’ve graduated already. You grew up and became a beautiful, educated woman. Do you realize you are the first person in our family to complete college? And with honors, no less. I couldn’t be more proud.”

“Oh, Mom.” The two women hugged. “Without you in my corner supporting me all through high school, I would never accomplished this.”

“We both know that isn’t true, Josie, but thank you.” Her mother kissed her cheek, and they caught up to Anna and her father.

Chapter 5

Minneapolis, Minnesota, May—Graduation ceremonies proved to be bittersweet for Josie. The endless essay papers, all-nighters before exams, and the anxiety that went with both had ended. The dances, pantie raids, bonfires, and long talks with Anna in the darkness would cease too. With college completed, adult life would set in. The saddest part about leaving campus and going home would be the separation Josie and Anna knew was inevitable.

Peter drove the family truck to campus to haul all of Josie’s things back home. Mrs. Schneider hugged Anna before she climbed in the truck. “You plan on coming to Lacrosse, Anna. Any time is just fine. You’re always welcome in our home.”

Anna held her tears back. “Thank you” was the only two words she could produce.

Josie waved to her folks as they drove away. She would take the train back to Lacrosse in the afternoon because the truck cab didn’t accommodate four of them.

A few hours later Anna, Josie, and Tommy stood on the platform waiting for the train to arrive; the girls stayed quiet for fear tears would start falling. The reality of not knowing when they would meet again seemed to overwhelm both of them.

Tommy broke their silence. “I think this is your train, Josie.”

Josie nodded. “I sure will miss you, Anna. Promise to write. I want all the gory details about your adventures with Tommy this summer.”

Anna brushed a tear a rolling down her check.  “No problem.” She hugged Josie like they were saying goodbye forever. She whispered, “Come and visit me, okay?”

Josie nodded. “Take my mother up on her invitation, okay? I’ll try to get up north, but everything depends on the job I find.”

Anna nodded as any of her words seemed to be lodged in her throat.

The girls’ show of affection made Tommy uncomfortable. “Come on you two. This is not the end of the world. We only live about one hundred fifty miles from each other. Come on Jos, you gotta go.”

The conductor just sounded the last call to get on board.

Josie broke away from her two friends and disappeared through the last car of the train. She found a window seat before the train chugged forward. She couldn’t see Tommy holding a bereft Anna on the platform. During their three years on campus they became closer than sisters. They laughed, cried, and went through the trials and tribulations of going through a college curriculum, and they both wondered how they would ever get along without each other.

Josie readjusted herself in the seat and thought about going home.  She looked forward to sleeping in her own bed that evening, and waking up to the sweet scent of hot cinnamon buns her mother often made. She planned to decompress for about a week, and then turn her energies into finding a surgical nursing position. Above all, she looked forward to seeing Donna and Rosalie again. After all, they stepped in as her sisters before Anna came along.

When Josie finally arrived home, she opened the back door to the lovely old farm house and shouts of “Surprise” greeted her.  Relatives and friends filled the house. Rosalie and Donna had decorated the room in her school colors of maroon and gold. She got hugs and congratulations from everyone, but best of all, in the midst of the crowd, Johnny stood in his Army Air Corps dress uniform. He lingered on the periphery of the crowd and hugged her last.

Josie cried, “You’re here! Oh Johnny!”

“In the flesh!” He kissed her cheek. “I wanted to get to the graduation celebration, but my plane ride didn’t get there in time.”

A table laden with gifts wrapped in colorful wrapping paper waited for her in the corner of the living room, while a table filled with chaffing dishes filled with different Italian dishes waited. Mr. Lombardo waited in the background. “Little Josie,” he said. “Ima so proud of you!” He kissed her old world style on both cheeks and then went to work behind the overflowing table to serve the guests.

Rosalie stood near. “Papa insisted he cater your party.”

The shock of everyone’s generosity and desire to celebrate her accomplishment thrilled Josie. “How do I ever thank all of you?”

Donna teased. “You can’t, silly. Just go through the food line so the rest of us can eat!”

Josie laughed. “Same old Donna.” Everyone at the party laughed with her.

Rosalie’s little fifteen-month Gina walked around the legs of the adults like a wind-up doll in a frilly pink dress. Josie last saw the baby at Christmastime. “Rosalie, Gina’s so darling! She’s gotten so big!”

“Well, you’re home now; you can watch the little weed grow.” Rosie laughed.

Donna Jean handed Josie a beer, “I hope college gave you an appreciation of the good stuff.”

“Good stuff? Pointe beer is not the champagne of bottled beer, you know.” Josie joked.

“So now you can distinguish the difference!” Donna laughed.

“Leaving Anna was hard, I am so happy to be hone with you two again.” Josie said.

“We’re happy our trio is back together too.” Donna clinked the neck of her beer bottle to Josie’s bottle and Rosie’s Coca Cola.

“So what are your plans now?” Donna said as she took a long drag on her cigarette.

“When did you start smoking?” Josie snarled.  “Do you realize you’re destroying your lungs?”

“No lectures, today, kiddo. I asked you what your plans are.” Donna said.

“I guess I’ll go be a nurse somewhere.”

“No kidding.” Donna cajoled. “Are you going to take any time off?”

Josie answered. “About a week; I got so used to working all of the time, I think by then I’ll be ready to hit the pavement.”

Donna reminded her, “You promised me you’ll come and stay at my place for a few days.”

“Me and my big mouth. Maybe next weekend. I’ll need to rest up to keep up with you, Donna.”

Donna laughed. “Good plan. You’re going to need it!”

 

 

 

What’s in a Letter?

Yesterday I received a letter from a childhood girlfriend who has lived around the world. She married a sailor and her military life took her places neither of us ever envisioned when we were girls. As she will retire in a few months, she decided she’d rather write about her plans than talk about them on the phone. And I understand.

When I was young, I loved writing letters. I started when I was in grade school writing to my Aunt Mary who lived in San Diego. In high school I wrote to a cousin in Colorado. She was an extraordinary girl. At sixteen she was the only girl on the ski patrol at Aspen. It was fun learning about a sport I never tried to conquer.

When I met a boy from a different county, we corresponded through letters in between our dates on the weekend. After high school, I wrote to friends who moved away from home. I wrote to the boy next door who opted to join the Marines after high school. Through letters I stayed in touch and learned about living in different parts of the country. Whenever the mailbox coughed up a response, it was always a good day

What I learned from writing letters is people say things in writing they don’t speak in words. Letters are also a permanent record of a space in time, and people write about things that are on their mind from their hearts. That’s why I’ve included numerous letters in my novels between characters.  (Also, the only correspondence during the war years were letters.) Soldiers a world away needed to keep their loved ones close through letters. And letters and answers to them gave the boys a slice of home.

Nowadays email. Skype, and digital phones discourage letter writing because we have morphed into a culture which demands immediate satisfaction. Time to write a letter is too long and waiting for an answer is even longer.

But I do miss letter writing. Sometimes I’ll drop a line to a friend just for fun. The anticipation of getting an answer to my letter still does it for me.

######

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 4

Chapter 1

Budapest, Hungary-January 1941—The Rabbi came into the classroom Heidi set up for the children. He waved a letter in the air. “Heidi, a letter for you!”

Heidi couldn’t hide her surprise at his announcement.  “Who is it from, Rabbi?”

“Open the letter and find out.” He seemed as excited as she.

Heidi’s hands shook as she ripped open the paper envelop and read aloud.

December 1940

 Merry Christmas, my dear niece, Heidi.

 I hope this letter finds you well and safe. I got your letter just a few days ago. Thank you so much for writing. You must be very proud, Heidi, because I do believe you saved the lives of the Gesslers. I hope you are still safe with the Rabbi. I imagine life in Budapest is very different from Berlin.

 Life in Warsaw changed a lot since you left. The Germans bombed the city almost to oblivion as they pushed forward. Unlike the Parisians, I’m happy to say we Poles fought back. I developed blisters on my hands from digging trenches and erecting barricades as the Nazi leaflets fell from Luftwaffe planes ordering us to cease or evacuate. We did our best to hold the invaders off, but I our fight seemed hopeless from the beginning.

After the battle cooled down and the Germans controlled the city, non-Jews received a chance to enjoy the same benefits as German citizens only if we signed the Volkliste – a declaration of membership and loyalty to the German racial and cultural community. I did not sign such a document. My reward for not signing turned out to be a sentence to work in a labor camp, but I am holding on.

 The Nazis took my poor neighbor Helga away. The bastards used her and other neighbors as guinea pigs for medical experiments. This is the worst nightmare of my lifetime, and it goes on awake or asleep.

Even though my situation is terrible, I am not suffering like my Jewish friends. The first thing the Germans did after they paraded down our streets was to  force Jews to identify themselves by wearing Star of David armbands. Then they forced them to live in a walled off section of the city. The resulting ghetto is filled with starvation, malnutrition, and disease. Jews live with hopelessness is in their eyes. I am sure Mrs. Gessler and her children would never survive such terrible treatment. It is a blessing you and she took the children away from here.

I am happy to tell you that your parents consented to take in my children until my situation changes. I rest easy because they are far from the bombs and hunger. I also sent your letter on to your parents because they are very worried about you. Please understand my sweet niece; you are brave beyond your years.

Somehow we all will get through this nightmare. Sending you my love,

Uncle Hans

Chapter 2

Paris, France-April—A year passed since the Nazis marched into Paris. Tension, hunger, and suffering lay beneath the facade of normalcy. The “Resistance,” a small secretive army, fought to undermine the invaders. Unfortunately, the movement only mustered a small irritant to the massive German military regime. Savage beatings and killing of local people working for the Resistance usually discouraged others from joining the clandestine fight.  His Maquis arm of the resistance movement supplied the Allies with vital intelligence reports, as well as, created a huge amount of sabotage to disrupt the German supply chain and communication lines within France.

Emma served in any capacity the movement needed. She delivered documents, forged identify cards and carried messages to other factions of the resistance movement in Paris.  She never told Marta of her activities, but Marta recognized Emma often got preoccupied with thoughts she wouldn’t share.

One afternoon before Marta got home, Emma heard a knock on the apartment door. When she opened the door, two men clad in black stood with grim faces.

“Mademoiselle Emma Schiller?”

“Yes.” Emma said with apprehension.

One of the men flashed a badge and said, “German police.”  We need to carry out a small search of your apartment.” The two officers pushed Emma aside and barged into her home. They emptied drawers, closets, searching all the usual hiding places people used. Their efficient and systematic behavior told Emma such a search must be a normal occurrence for them.

Under a false bottom of her underwear drawer, one of them found a copy of “Resistance” the underground newspaper published by a Parisian group headed by Madame Agn Humbert.

“And what is this?” The officer stared at Emma with disdain. “So, you are part of the resistance against Germany.”

Emma stared ahead and didn’t answer. The larger of the two men handcuffed her hands behind her back, and shoved her out of the building. Neighbors closed their curtains after seeing the strangers in long, black trench coats escort Emma away.

One of the men pushed her into the backseat of a large black car waiting at the curb. Emma tasted real fear for the first time in her life. She assumed her arrest stemmed from her resistance activities, but they didn’t let on the real reason for her capture.

The car skidded into traffic and drove to the other side of the city. They entered a brick building with thick iron gates. When the car parked in a courtyard, the taller of the two men dragged her from the car and hurried her into the building. She stood in front of a tall desk where a SS officer glared down at her from above.  “Mademoiselle, you are arrested by the Gestapo for acts against Germany. You will be held here until your trial comes up.”

Emma stayed silent.

The officer screamed. “You do not contest the charges?”

“I will wait for my lawyer.”

All of the uniformed men laughed. “She thinks she is entitled to a lawyer! What an idiot!

The officer at the desk pointed to a door on his left. “Take her to holding.”

Emma was dragged down a flight of stairs and thrown into a cold, dark, cement room with one bare light bulb hanging by a single cord from the ceiling.

“Welcome to Prison du Cherche-Midi frauline.” Growling and laughing the two arresting officers left her alone and locked the door behind them.

Emma sat on a small wooden stool. A thick chain wrapped around her hands and waist was secured with a padlock. Every time she moved the chains pinched her skin and the clanking sound broke the heavy silence of her isolation.

Hours later a tall, burly Nazi pulled her to her feet and escorted her to a six-by-six foot cell. He slammed the iron bars and locked them with a huge iron clad key. He threw his shoulders back and puffed out his chest. In a thick German accent he informed Emma of the rules of the prison. “You will get no letters, visitors, books, cigarettes, newspapers, or food from the outside. Furthermore, you will be subject to a regime of “extreme harshness” if we are not satisfied with your answers to our questions.” He turned on his shiny heel and left her alone, still shackled.

Alone in the damp darkness Emma allowed a second wave of fear to run through her. She imagined how they might torture her. She began preparation for the coming days. Over and over she repeated to herself she would not let her captors discover her role in the resistance movement, nor would she give them names of the others. She intended to die first.

*****

When Emma didn’t appear for supper, Marta’s intuition told her she might be in trouble. Emma often went out after their evening bowl of thin soup and bread, but she never missed a meal with Marta. When she didn’t come home by morning, Marta panicked. She went door to door in their building, asking if anyone knew what happened to Emma. One old man on the first floor told her in hushed tones he saw the Gestapo police put her in a big black car and drove away.

Upon hearing the account, Marta felt sick.  Why in the world would the Gestapo want Emma? What did she do? Where did they take her? How will I ever find her? 

Chapter 3

Lacrosse, Wisconsin–May, 1941—Rosalie and Angelo settled into a wonderful life with their little girl Angelina. The baby proved to be the main attraction at Eduardo’s restaurant whenever Rosalie worked as a hostess. Her proud Grandpapa set up a playpen in the back storage room where the baby played and napped when Rosie worked.

The staff called the baby Angel saying the never met such an alluring baby.  The tiny girl smiled and gurgled at anyone who held her. Waitresses flipped coins for who would feed or change her the next time. But more often Edwardo overruled all of them, proclaiming a Papa should care for his bambina.  Needless to say, Angelina didn’t use her playpen very much. Rosalie soon realized her baby must be the most spoiled grandchild ever.

With Angelo’s promotion at the plant, and Rosie working again, the couple put away a little bit of money each month. Angelo said they should probably think about a bigger house, while Rosalie just wanted to accumulate a little stash for a “rainy” day.

One Friday afternoon after her shift, Rosalie picked up the mail and found a letter from Angelo’s brother Tony. Tony joined the U. S. Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton in California, and his letters painted humorous tales about his life there. Tony and Angelo shared a close relationship, and Rosalie realized Tony’s letters meant the world to Angelo.

As soon as Angelo got home, Rosalie sat his customary cup of coffee and cannoli from the restaurant on the table. She had propped Tony’s letter up against the cup. Angelo kissed Rosie and smiled when he recognized Tony’s scrawl. He ripped open the envelope and read aloud.

My Dear brother Angie, Rosie and most importantly, little Gina,

Here I am in my skivvies writing to you before chow. I’ll be very busy all day as we will leave port this afternoon and sail the USS California to Pearl Harbor on Oahu. (That is in Hawaii, in case you slept during geography class.) I’m told the trip should last about four days providing we experience smooth seas.

A few guys are boasting about being in the islands before and they say Oahu is like the Garden of Eden.  Beautiful beaches, beautiful girls, beautiful sunsets, beautiful girls, lush green mountains, beautiful girls–oops said that already, huh?

I’m seeing palm trees in my dreams. I tacked up some pictures of the place in my locker. Those hula girls drive me crazy! I’ll be glad when this brutal boot camp is over. Somehow I always attract the attention of the DI and end up doing push-ups until my arms want to break. I can say “Yes, Sir!” with the best of them.

I’m about as trained as I can be. Nobody can expect miracles. After all Ma tried for twenty-one years to train me and most of her lessons didn’t take. (ha,ha) I’ll kill you if you repeat that last sentence to her.

While I’m in port, I’ll “post the guard” and be a gopher for the captain and executive officers. While we’re at sea, I will man a five-inch gun on the port side of the ship. (That’s left for you land lovers. Ha, ha.) Hopefully, while we’re on maneuvers I’ll get a chance to fire the GD thing.

That’s about all for now. My seasick pills and my “Mae West” life jacket are packed, so don’t worry. I’m fine. Looking forward to buying one of those loud Hawaiian shirts for you, brother! (Ha, ha), and I expect you to wear it when I get back home.

 Give my little beautiful niece Gina a kiss for me. (God, I love being an Uncle.)

 Until next time. . . Love you all, Uncle Tony

 Angelo laughed as he read his brother’s letter. “What a guy, huh Rosie? I think he’ll never change. Always an eye for the ladies, only now it’s on land AND sea! Angelo laughed at his own joke.

Rosalie giggled. “I don’t think he’ll find pretty girls at sea, unless he bumps into a mermaid!”

Angelo laughed at his wife’s clever rebuttal and took a bite of the cannoli. “Maybe you’re right.”

 

 

Patience — A Hard Learned Virtue

Every morning I listen to national as well as local news. And every morning I am thankful I do  not have to deal with traffic and all its frustrations. For years I drove almost an hour one way — first south to Illinois and then a few years later I drove north. Both commutes took a lot of patience.

When I was younger, I wanted everything “right now!” I found it difficult to wait for anything, and considering my birthday is in July, and Christmas is in December, waiting for gift getting seemed like an eternity. So, on the advice of my teachers, who were Catholic nuns, I began to pray for patience.

What a mistake that was! Ever since, it seems my creator has sent me a continuous stream of exercises to learn the virtue of patience. And then, I pick a profession that REQUIRES patience. Writing, rewriting, rewriting–well you get the picture if you’re a serious writer. I also dabble in painting. I want to improve, so I practice and practice and practice–another exercise in patience and persistence. And then, of course, as most of you have read if you are out there reading in the blogging world, I am a caretaker for my husband, and I must stand back and wait for Ken to attempt doing something first before I step in to help. Needless to say, I’ve learned to count beyond ten.

Moral to the story: Be careful of what you ask for–you most likely will get it.

Have a good day, everybody!

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS — Book 2

Chapter 26

Minneapolis, Minnesota – November—The biting wind and snow of Minneapolis came early in the fall of 1939. By now, Josie and Anna fell into a comfortable routine on campus. Learning something new everyday excited both of the new freshmen. Josie especially enjoyed biology because peering through a microscope seemed like entering an unexplored world. She tolerated Art History class, and found calculus challenging.

The pressure to do well on final exams caused Josie and Anna to be testy with one another. Their little jabs grew into a knock-down-drag-’em-out shouting match one day over socks. After the blow up, the two stubborn girls refused to talk to one another and simmered in their own stew.

Josie replayed the scene in her mind the next day and couldn’t believe they argued over something so inconsequential.  How can two intelligent girls fight over something as foolish as socks lying on the floor?

At noon Josie guessed Anna would be in the cafeteria sitting at the same table they chose everyday. She glanced around the cavernous room and spied her roommate sitting in the corner staring out the floor-to-ceiling window which overlooked the snowy campus. Josie placed her tray on the table next to Anna and said, “Is this seat taken?”

Anna looked up at her. “No, but are you sure you want to sit with me? I’m such a bitch.”

“No you aren’t; I am.” Josie sat. “Two are needed to argue.”

“But-

“But, nothing.” Josie said. “I’m sorry. I’m blaming my bad behavior on the pressure of my first college finals. I keep studying, but I still worry I’m not prepared.”

Anna looked at Josie and recognized a genuine apology on her face. “You too? Oh, Josie! I’m so sorry. The minute those hateful words left my mouth last night I wished I never said them. I need to get A’s or my scholarship won’t be renewed next semester.” Anna confessed.

“Why didn’t you tell me? We attend a lot of the same classes; we should study together. So what if we drew different professors?” Josie touched Anna’s hand. “I am confident you will do fine. You’re one of the most brilliant students on campus . . .  next to me, of course.” Josie cracked a smile.

“I don’t think I’m brilliant.” Anna pouted.

Josie scowled at her. “How dare you put yourself down! Stop it.” She paused and took a bite of her sandwich. “Here’s a thought.”

“What?”

“You’re working too hard. You need a break.”

“I can’t take a break now with so much on the line.” Anna protested.

“Nonsense. If you cram too much into your brain, some knowledge will leak out of your ears. Then you’ll really have a problem!” Josie chuckled. “Then I would have to take you to a doctor and he would prescribe two aspirin and a good rest.”

Anna was drawn into Josie’s banter. “And if I refuse to listen to the doctor?”

Josie put on a serious expression. “I would have to drag you to the union.” Josie paused. “Then you’d probably bump into Tommy, and he’ll take over. He’ll dance with you till your feet get blisters and your ears ring from the loud music. By the end of the night you’ll wonder why you kept reading the same paragraph over and over.” Josie teased.

“You do that too?” Anna laughed. “I am so lucky you’re my roommate, Thanks for being such a good friend.”

Josie smiled. “No problem. Any time Doc Josie is needed, she races to the rescue. So we’re on tonight?”

“You bet!” Anna slammed the cover of her Chemistry book. “Enough of this stuff!”

The two girls finished their sandwiches and drank their hot chocolate. Anna smiled. “Back to the salt mines.”

“I’ll be back at the dorm around five.” Josie waved goodbye as she watched Anna leave the cafeteria. Relief set in. She chuckled when she thought their first fight ended without bloodshed.

Josie returned to the dorm and before she went upstairs, she picked up her mail. She was delighted to find Donna Jean’s loopy scrawl on a pale pink, scented envelope.  Donna’s letters always put her in a good mood.

November, 1939

Dear Josie,

Hope all is well at U of M. Things here are pretty much the same. I love my work, but I can’t say the same for my boss. I swear that man is another species of octopus. So far, my street smarts and quick reflexes have held him at bay, but I don’t know how long I can last.

The biggest change since we last corresponded is I’m dating Danny every weekend. We went to the movies last night. Took in “The Wizard of Oz.”  Danny thought the movie was a kids’ show. But I loved the picture. Dorothy reminded me of you. She got lost in this strange land called “Oz,” and all she wanted was to get home. She made friends along the way and together they searched for the Wizard who possessed the power to send her home and grant the others their wishes. When she landed in Oz, she pissed off the wicked witch because Dorothy put on the ruby slippers which belonged to the old bag’s sister. When old green face tried to take the shoes off of Dorothy, she got hit with a spark of electricity. She needed to kill Dorothy to get the shoes back. I wish you could be with me, Josie. Then we could rave about how wonderful it is to watch a movie in color!  I loved every minute!

 Before the movie, a newsreel presented a story of the New York World’s Fair taking place in Flushing Meadows. The name of the exposition is called “Building the World for Tomorrow.” I suggested to Danny we should go. He agreed the fair would be a gas, so we made tentative plans to take the train to New York. If we’re still together in June, we’re going to go. Won’t I be the talk of the office-a single girl going off with a boy without a chaperon? How scandalous! (Ha, ha.)

After the movie, we went to Pudgy’s for a beer. Danny and I played the jukebox and danced to “I’ll Never Smile Again.” I just love Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra is such a babe. Now why can’t I meet a guy like him? (Ha, ha.)

Rosalie’s been a stranger lately. I called her but she said she didn’t feel well enough to meet. I guess she and Angelo must be hunkered down in the bedroom.

Well, gotta go. Want to get this in the mail for pick up tonight. I miss you lots. Can’t wait to hug you at Christmas. Be sure and save me some time when you come home.

Your friend forever, Donna

Chapter 27

Paris, France – November, 1939—Emma and Marta found a small flat near Napolean’s Triumphal Arch at the end of the Champs-Elysees.  The apartment’s convenient location proved to be perfect. Emma could walk to city hall, and Marta could hop a trolley to get to the Louvre. Cinemas, theatres, and luxurious shops which displayed the latest fashions in lovely windows surrounded their new home. Beautiful gardens and fountains made the area enchanting in spring and summer, but now that winter settled in, the girls made a habit of meeting after their work day at their favorite cafe to sit in the warm glow of its fireplace while they discussed their day.

“Do you think we can get a Christmas tree?” Marta asked.

“Where will we put a tree in our little flat, Cherie?

“If we got a very small one, we might put it by the window.”

Emma witnessed Marta’s enthusiasm for the German tradition. “Don’t you think buying a tree now is a little early? The fir will drop its needles before Christmas.”

“I did not intend to buy one now, but I would really like to celebrate our first Christmas in Paris by decorating a Christmas tree together.” Marta sipped her espresso as her eyes grew moist.

Emma moved her chair closer Marta. “Oh, Cherie, what makes you cry?”

“I am a little homesick. I got a letter from Vater yesterday saying he never wants to lay eyes on me again.” Marta brushed away a tear rolling down her cheek. “I miss my mother’s Christmas cookies and all of the things we did together to get ready for the holiday. As much as I love Paris and being with you, I miss these things.”

Emma put her arm around Marta. She lifted the girl’s chin to search her eyes. “Homesickness is not a sin.  Please do not be sad.” Emma hugged her. “We can bake cookies and put up a tree. Anything you want to do to celebrate Christmas, we will do. Now we must make our own traditions, ja?”

“I hate being such a baby, but up until now we kept busy visiting all of the sights, fixing up our apartment, and just going on with life. I did not think about holiday traditions.  But with Christmas around the corner, I am remembering the good things about being with my parents.”

“Sweetheart, no matter what you chose to do after graduation, your life would never be the same. Everyone must learn how to live away from their parents at some stage. Do you want to go back to Berlin?” Emma said softly.

“No.” Marta said in an instant. “I love Paris; I love you. I want to stay.”

Emma interrupted her, “I love you too, and I want to make you happy. We will get a Christmas tree as big as a Sequoia if you want.”

Marta took another sip of her espresso. “No matter what happens in the future I want you to understand this time with you is the happiest period in my life.”

Emma placed a quick kiss on her cheek. “I feel the same,” she whispered.

*****

A few days later, Emma picked up the afternoon paper and the front page headline shouted at her. “Nazis Smash, Loot, and Burn Jewish Shops and Temples.”

November 9-10, 1939 –The assassination of a German diplomat, Ernst vom Rath, by German-born Polish Jew, Herschel Grynszpan, gave the Nazis an excuse to damage Jewish homes, shops, towns, and villages. As the violence escalated, German civilians joined in the destruction with sledgehammers, leaving the streets covered in pieces of smashed windows-the world is calling the event Kristallnacht or the “Night of Broken Glass.”

Ninety-one Jews died and the SS storm troopers deported 30,000 Jewish people. Approximately 1,668 synagogues across the country suffered damage and 267 burned to the ground.

Emma gasped and threw down the paper in utter disgust. “Marta. You must read this.” She pointed to the headline.

Marta read the article, and no longer questioned her decision to stay in Paris.  Neither of them wanted to return a society that beat defenseless and innocent people. “This is terrible.”

“Yes.” Emma didn’t say she thought Marta’s father probably gave the order to attack the Jews. He made it no secret he hated them and now the Nazi leadership acquired an excuse to persecute the race.

Since 1936, each large city in each Germany specified where Jews could live. If they strayed away from this area, they faced beatings, jailing, or they might be shot in the street. No Jew could attend movies, plays, concerts, or other public social gatherings. All of these new laws isolated the Jewish population from other German citizens. A propaganda campaign of posters and newsreels portrayed them as less than human.

The political changes led to two goals. Eliminate the Jews from Europe. And expand Germany’s borders with another world war.

Walking Down New Roads

When I’m not in a hurry, I like drive down roads I haven’t explored in other trips. That’s one great thing about being retired; you never have to be in a hurry to do anything. I haven’t published any posts in over a year simply because I didn’t think I could write anything someone would like to read. It was time for me to explore other creative roads.

First, I finished my eighth novel and got it published. I love the story and wish other readers would pick it up and enjoy the story about American women pilots during WWII. Didn’t know women pilots flew military planes so early? Neither did I. As I researched the subject, I got more intrigued about these pioneers, and voila, I discovered a story within me.Grounded No More cover

 

I write historical fiction because it gives me joy. But I’d be a hypocrite if I said that was the only reason I produce these novels. I do have a dream of raking in the royalties someday, but so far, I haven’t seen a penny for the eight novels I’ve produced.

I purposely don’t hawk my books on this blog because I really dislike people using this medium exclusively to sell things. but I do wish I could sell more books and rake in some royalties.

But every time I walk into Barnes and Nobel, reality slaps me in the face. I’m just one little drop of water in the HUGE ocean of publishing. So what does an author do to get more exposure?

One thing I do is participate in marketing opportunities through the publisher because I couldn’t possibly reach out to the audiences they reach at book fairs and other events. And paint when I get stuck. I turn on the classical music and warm up my acrylic paintings and favorite brushes and spread my frustration on canvas.

This group of paintings were created for our remodeled living room. Since my last post, Ken and I were able to hire a contractor to make our home a bit more wheel chair friendly, seeing he’s in his electric wheel chair for most of the day lately.

 

I’ve never taken a formal painting class, but I love watching Jerry Yarnell who appears on PBS and demonstrates painting techniques. My other teacher is Marie who has come home to roost after living twenty years in Florida. Marie is a wonderful watercolor artist and she is willing to critique my paintings. So far, she’s only turned one picture over because she couldn’t bear to look at it. (I’ll tell you about that experience in another post!)

 

I also took a look at my first novel which was published about four years ago.  Needless to say, I write better now than I did then, so I rewrote and edited the story again with the intention of publishing it again. What I have decided to do is put a chapter a day on this blog. Do you think we can build an audience this way? Let me know what you think

*****

Apple Pie and Strudel Girls 

A coming of age story about six girls living a world apart.

BOOK ONE — 1936 to 1938

Chapter 1

Berlin, Germany-1936—After World War I, German people endured hunger and shortages of all kinds because of the harsh treatment they received by the allies in the Versailles treaty.  In 1933 the people elected a new Chancellor who worked to restore hope and pride in the Germans. His charisma and speaking ability fired huge crowds into frenzies as he infused a sense of urgency to join to the Third Reich.

Hitler made people believe Germans should throw off the stigma of defeat and economic hardship inflicted on them after World War I. They should pick up the mantel of becoming the strongest nation in the world. He instilled a sense of pride in the German people again and through new policies and programs he raised them up from despair. Since Hitler came to power, the store windows once again displayed stylish clothes. People didn’t suffer hunger any more, and best of all, the men found jobs building new roads and repairing a neglected infrastructure.  He also put youth movements in place for children of all ages. The program for girls, the BDM – “Bund Deutscher Mel” emphasized the importance of women in the home to raise children and please their husbands.

Marta Schmidt, Leisel Fuchs, and Heidi Schiller met as six year olds at a “Bund Deutscher Mel” meeting. As little girls, they learned how to be good housewives, seamstresses, cooks, and bakers because men considered them future breeders of the Third Reich. The Nazi party considered a woman’s role to be that of Kinder, Khe, Kirche—children, kitchen and church.  In fact, Heidi’s mother won the “Cross of Honor” for simply having four healthy babies. Oddly enough, other women coveted her award, and Heidi looked forward to the day when she would win a Cross of Honor of her own.

As the girls matured into teenagers, they enjoyed going to youth sponsored parties because they loved to dance and socialize with boys their age who now donned the uniforms of soldiers. The dances and parties showed Leisel she had power over boys. She exchanged her school uniform for beautiful dresses which emphasized her young womanly figure.

As teens, Marta, Heidi and Leisel didn’t understand the significance of Hitler’s rise to power, but they did recognized how things changed for them.  They found fun again. People wore smiles on the street. Parties took over for drudgery.

Of the three girls, Leisel got swept away as she cheered for smartly dressed German soldiers who often paraded through the streets of Berlin in perfect lines. Marta and Heidi seemed less impressed with the battalions of strutting men dressed in the crisp uniforms; however they recognized a distinct difference in the overall climate of their country, especially after their fathers joined the Nazi organization and rose up the ranks quickly.

Chapter 2

Lacrosse, Wisconsin, USA-1936—The girls of Scout Troop 73 sat quietly as their Girl Scout leader spoke. She talked about a cookie drive which would present an opportunity to raise money for their national organization as well as their troop’s summer camping fund. The Girl Scout Cookies sold for twenty-five cents a dozen, and Mrs. Hanson’s enthusiasm for the venture rubbed off on all of the girls sitting in the “friendship circle.” When the meeting ended, Josie, Donna Jean, and Rosalie walked home and buzzed about how they would sell cookies at school, church, and door-to-door to their families and neighbors.

Bubbly Donna Jean yammered all the way home with ideas how she would win first prize for the most sales. Josie remained quiet. She wondered how people could afford cookies when most families struggled to put a decent meal on the table every night. Rosalie stayed quiet too. Her father owned the best Italian restaurant in town, but customers didn’t come in like as they did in the past. Most people considered eating at a restaurant an extravagance, and many nights the restaurant stayed empty.

Donna, Josie, and Rosalie began their friendship in first grade. They all went to Saint Rose’s Catholic school, attended Girl Scout meetings once a week after school, and played together as often as their spare time allowed. They all loved scouting. Their meetings taught them skills they didn’t learn at home. They went on trips to museums and other places  which taught them about history. They visited local factories to learn how things got put together. They did service projects to help their community.

Josie’s loved learning about the outdoors on camping trips while Donna Jean served as the troop pitch pipe leading the songs they learned. Rosalie accelerated at craft projects they made out of everyday junk. Selling cookies would add one more skill to their experience; they would become saleswomen as they took to the streets with their cookies. But nothing topped their close friendship they intended to carry with them for the rest of their lives.

The things they discovered about themselves through years of scouting would carry them into adulthood. Josie emerged as a leader, Donna a singer and performer, while Rosalie developed her artistic ability.

 

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.