Tag Archive | the importance of details

A Good Meeting

On Saturday I had the pleasure of meeting a 91 year old man wearing a leather bomber jacket. I asked him if he was an aviator and he said yes. Then I asked him what he flew and he answered, “A P-38.” Then I said, “In the South Pacific?” He said yes. He served with the Fifth Air force, the outfit with Richard Bong and Tom McGuire, the two biggest “Aces” in World War II. I felt as though I was talking to a celebrity! On the flip side, Dave was fascinated that I knew so much about planes which flew during the war. When I told him I had written a novel about women who flew planes for the Army Air Corps during the war, he was impressed.

We talked about fifteen or twenty minutes about his outfit and the kind of flying he did. I was in hog heaven. I had never met a pilot from the historical period I write about. I was like a kid in a candy shop — although, the closest thing to a candy shop I ever experienced was the candy aisle in the grocery store.

Anyway, we had to curtail our discussion because the caretaker meeting we were attending began. The five of us who attended the meeting introduced ourselves and spoke about our caretaking situations. I was the only one who wasn’t caring for a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s. That’s me–unique! Marilyn, the leader of the meeting, said Ken and I had a partner relationship instead of a giver and receiver relationship. At least so far, that’s the way things are between us.

When Dave spoke, he told us a month ago he had to put his combative wife into a facility, and he clearly hated making that decision. For several years he had taken care of her at home, but when she hid three guns in the house and he couldn’t find them, he feared for his life. He knew it was her disease that caused the behavior, but now he carried a load of guilt and sadness.

My heart really went out to him. He lived through a war; raised a family; was married for 47 years and now he had to face the end of his life alone. Life is really not fair.

Usually I hate going to support groups, but this one was special. I came away with a few ideas of how to accomplish having Thanksgiving at our house for Ken’s family. He always does so well when he’s surrounded by his brothers, sisters, and his parents, and it’s becoming almost impossible for us to meet them at their homes because we can’t get his power wheelchair in their homes. This one idea was worth going to the meeting. Meeting Dave was a bonus.

Enjoy your day — let somebody inspire you.

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.



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.


“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.”


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.


Oil Changes and Other Adventures

Since Ken’s fall last Sunday, I’ve been a space cadet. I knew I was upset when he went down in the garage and his noggin hit the  pavement, but I never dreamed I’d become stupid

Here’s one thing that happened the following week. I won’t bore you with all of my ridiculous behavior.

I needed to get the car in for an oil change and tire rotation before the end of September because I had a coupon from the dealership which saved me about $40. I called my friend Pam to pick me up so we could have a cup of coffee while the car waited its turn to have a transfusion and tire adjustment.

We both took off from my house and traveled west. I pulled into the driveway of the garage and thought, “This doesn’t look right. Oh well, I haven’t been out here for quite a while, maybe they did some rennovations to the building.” I drove through the unfamiliar entrance and got out of the car to talk to the intake manager. It went like this:

“Good afternoon, Miss.” (I love it when they don’t call me “ma’am.”) “What can we do for you today?”

I answered. “I have a 2:30 appointment for an oil change and tire rotation.”


“Barbara McCloskey.”

“How do you spell that?”

“M C C L O S K E Y.”

He rattled a few keys on the computer and his face went blank. “Your not in the computer.”

“I called yesterday and talked to Patty.”

“We don’t have a Patty on staff.”

Now I really thought I lost my mind. “I don’t understand. I talked at Patty at Palmen Service Department and signed up to bring my car in at 2:30.”

He still wore a blank expression. “Palmen?”


“Ma’am (oh god, now I’m ma’am.) You’re at Boucher. Palmen is two block that way.” He pointed east.

“Well that explains everything, huh?” I actually didn’t blush. “I’m at the wrong dealership. Chalk it up to a senior moment.”

I got in my car and exited the service bay. In my rear view mirror, I saw him laughing as he talked to one of his colleagues. Great! Now I won the reputation of a crazy lady.

A few seconds later I pulled into the right dealership. Honked the horn to get them to open the door. Drove in. Got out and repeated the process.

The guy says, “Your name in not in the computer.”

“I talked to Patty yesterday and made the appointment.”

“We have two Pattys.”

“Good. I talked to one of them.”

“Hmmmm.” The guy tapped on the computer a bit. “We can fit you in.”

“I have a coupon for the oil change and tire rotation.”

“All right.”

I dug in my purse. My husband calls the thing my black hole, and today he was right on. I had no coupon. Then I remembered I left it on my desk. “When I come back, I’ll bring the coupon.”

He must have sensed I was having a bad day. “That will be fine, ma’am.”

I smiled and called Pam because she was nowhere to be seen. “Hi, my friend. Where are you?”

“The question is where are you?”

“I’m at Palmen where I’m supposed to be.”

“I saw you drive into Boucher and then I lost you.”

“Just come to Palmen, and I’ll wait outside for you.”

“Okay.” She hung up.

Two seconds later, we made contact. I opened the passenger’s door and plopped down in the seat. “I need a drink. Not coffee.”



Chapter 17

London, England – August—Danny and other American escapees boarded a U. S. Army truck to travel to Lyon. They stayed for a week before being flown to London. Debriefing took place at SHAEF headquarters at Grosvenor House. Danny requested he be allowed to rejoin his flying group, but learned they all went home a month ago. Instead, he was to report to Major Jamison in London for his new assignment. The first order of business, though, was to retrieve his footlocker that had been put in storage in Liverpool. Danny flew a B-17 to Liverpool. There the returning POWs were directed to storage building which housed the personal belongings of airmen who hadn’t returned to their units. When the sergeant in charge opened the door, Danny’s mouth dropped. Thousands of foot lockers filled the old facility. Row upon row of lockers stacked to the ceiling told the true cost of war. After the men found their lockers, they went to the mess hall for a typical breakfast of powered eggs and toast. There was little chatter during the flight back to London.

Danny waited about an hour at headquarters for new orders before he was escorted into Major Jamison’s office.

“I understand the Swiss held you prisoner after you crashed.” The major said as he lit his pipe.

“Yes sir.”

“Is it true they gave you freedom to roam the towns, attend concerts, and other activities without guards being present?”

“Yes sir. If an airman needs to be a prisoner, Switzerland is the place to be.”

“How did you escape?”

“I gathered civilian clothes a piece at a time and hid my costume in the floorboards of the barracks. When I had all I needed, I had a waitress I grew to know buy me a train ticket to Zurich. I learned the librarian had ties to the French Resistance. She put me in touch with another woman who made arrangement for my escape.”

“How long did that take?”

Danny gulped. If he told the truth about how long his time in Switzerland really was, the major would think he was a deserter.   “A couple of months.”

“When did you get captured?”

“In February, sir.” Danny then said, “Why do I need to repeat this, sir?  I covered this in my debriefing.”

“I understand. But I need to know for myself. Why so long to get back here?”

Beads of sweat formed on Danny’s forehead. “Well, it took a while to get hooked up with the Marquis.”

The Major pressed Danny further because he sensed the whole story remained untold.  Six months seems like a very long time lieutenant.”

“Yes sir.”

“Can you explain the delay?”

“Well,” Danny’s lying skills left a lot to be desire, so he took a deep breath and confessed. “The young woman who helped me took in three Jewish orphans, and well, uh, she needed some help. The place she lived in needed a lot of work, and well, uh, I fixed up the place a little.”

“That’s quite an unusual story, lieutenant.” The Major drummed his fingers on the desk. “Did you consider deserting, airman?”

“No sir. Never.” Danny stared the major meeting the superior officer’s eyes.

“I still don’t understand the six month delay to get back here.”

“I confess. I fell in love.” Danny remained straight as an arrow in the hard oak chair. “I got married.”

The Major exploded and propelled himself out of his chair. “You what?”

Danny repeated. “I got married, sir.”

Major Jamison got up from his chair and paced around the room like a hungry lion. “Why on earth would you do such a thing? Didn’t you think an American airman might need permission of his CO to marry a foreigner while in the service?”

Danny gulped. “No, sir. I didn’t.”

“I’m sorry, son, but your marriage to this girl is not legal.”

Now Danny stood. “What?”

The Major and Danny stood face to face. “You’re not legally married in the eyes of the Air Corps.”

Danny didn’t believe what he heard. “How do I make the marriage legal? Heidi means the world to me.”

“I can’t believe you did such a stupid thing!” The major realized he lost control of his temper and lowered his voice. “The proper procedure is to bring her to England. Then I must meet her and sign off on the marriage. Only then you can marry her. Afterward, you’ll be sent home, and she will remain in England until the war is over to be sent to the States.”

“Oh my God.” Danny’s first thought was Heidi. How would find the words to tell her that their marriage wasn’t valid. Danny’s voice quavered. “I never guessed getting married to someone needed any permission.”

“The problem is you didn’t think!” The Major said. “Is she Swiss?”

“No, sir. She’s German.”

“Jesus God! That makes this situation even more ridiculous. You can’t marry the enemy, airman!” The Major yelled.

Danny looked at his shoes. He sensed if he looked at the Major he might cry.

The Major returned to his chair. “Sit down, lieutenant. Let’s take a breath.”

Danny obeyed, but he avoided the Major’s eyes.

“I must say, this is the most interesting predicament I’ve faced. I understand a young guy falling in love with a pretty girl. I’m not dead yet.” The Major chuckled. “But the marry a German? What are you, nuts?”

Danny got the courage to look him in the eye. “No sir.”

The major leaned back into his chair as his mind worked for a solution. ““Give me some time, and I’ll try to work this out.”

“You’ll help me?”

“I’ll explore the options. Getting permission depends upon this girl. I want to listen to her story. But if you say a word about this, and I end up with a reputation of being a softie, I will skin you myself!” The Major said with a harsh tone.

“Yes sir.”

“Let me make a few calls. Come back on Friday.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you sir.” Danny rose and saluted.

The Major returned his salute and then picked up the phone. “James, get me Colonel Chadwick.”


The next three days seemed like three years. Danny killed time by celebrating Armistice Day in London at Westminster Abbey. He went into the pubs at night. He wandered the streets of London and witnessed the devastation the Germans inflicted on the city and wondered how he would react if the Germans had bombed Lacrosse. Then he thought of the cities across Europe which had suffered the same tragedy by the hands of American bombers.

On Friday Danny returned to the Major’s office. He learned the major made arrangements with the French resistance to bring Heidi and the family to Annecy. The Major told Danny he would inform him when her plane landed in London. That afternoon, Danny went into London to look for a proper wedding ring.

Chapter 18

Montpelier, South of France, September—The enticement of returning to Paris proved to be strong for Emma. She tried working as a clerk, but everyday the hours dragged by and she found no joy in her work. She spent her days wondering how different Paris might be. She romanticized her return to the apartment she and Marta shared before the war. She wanted to breathe freedom again in the city she loved. The only solution seemed to be to leave the sleepy little town she and Marta called home for the past several months.

Emma realized Marta wanted to make a  new home in the south of France, but she couldn’t. She didn’t want to appear as ungrateful and selfish because she knew without Marta’s loving care she never would have recovered fully from the torture she endured. Every discussion they had about returning to Paris ending in an argument. Marta loved living in a quiet paradise. Emma equated the little town as another prison.

After Emma packed her few belongings she wrote a goodbye note.

Dear Marta,

You are my eternal lover, but I am finding living here is killing me softly. I want to enjoy a free Paris, so I will go ahead and find an apartment for the two of us and write when I am settled.

It is true the war caused both of us so much hardship, but now it is time to put the terrors of war behind us. I possess no illusions about returning to politics. I promise. I performed my duty to my adopted country, and now all I want is to return to my adopted home.

I am sorry to take the coward’s way out by leaving you this note, but I cannot face your tears or anger.

I hope you’ll forgive me for leaving you this way. Please follow me back to Paris.

All my love, Emma








It’s Been Monday for a Month

Yesterday the weather was beautiful. Breezy, sunny, warm not hot, and a joy to be outside. We played a game of Scrabble on the new patio, sipped a beer, and laughed together. I tried to ignore the frustrations of my backyard which is still under construction.

It all began when we decided to build a new garage. The old one leaned to the left so badly I thought it might fall over. The paint peeled, the roof went organic, and the concrete cracked in at least a dozen pieces.

The general contractor demolished the old garage, left the outdoor stuff under one of our large trees, and the other “perishable” stuff went down to the basement. The cement contractor came a couple of days later and removed the garage floor, the old patio, and the complete driveway with an excavator which kept the neighborhood boys and me entertained for the afternoon. The next day, the rain came.

Now we had mud and were held captive for three days. Yuck. On top of that, the contractor found a city water shut off and our troubles increased.

Our contractor went to the city and told the people who hand out building permits what he had found. He got shuttled from one inspector to another, each of them saying it was unbelievable we had a water shut off on our property. Then men started to show up in our backyard. At least four inspectors from different departments made our acquaintance. It turns out, we not only have water lines running across the middle of our back yard, but we also have sewer lines! What were they saying? I couldn’t replace my old garage with a new one on my property? I couldn’t believe it.

I found myself in front of the Public Works Committee and plead my case. They approved my planned garage with stipulations which would come from the City Attorney. Do you see why I hate politicians? Nobody wanted to make a decision.

Two weeks later I received a letter from the City Attorney, along with a document I need to sign in front of a Notary Public, which means BOTH Ken and I must go to the bank and put our signatures on the document BEFORE we can get a building permit.

I’m pooped. I just want a new garage and at this point, I will sign most anything. Hopefully, in a couple more weeks I can hide my garage stuff in a new building and be able to cut the grass.

Color me exhausted.



Chapter 6

Berlin, Germany, 1937—People considered Leisel Fuchs an Aryan beauty. Her large almond shaped blue eyes sparkled, while her long butter blond hair framed her flawless oval face. Her high cheekbones always appeared a soft shade of pink without any make-up. In another world Leisel surely would be a movie star or at least a pin-up for male athletic lockers.

Her parents expected Leisel to be bright, polite, and thoroughly versed in how to run a household. As the daughter of a Nazi senior officer, she needed to be especially careful because other officers scrutinized her public behavior and would report to her father if they caught her doing something unladylike. Then she would face her father’s wrath.

Henrich Fuchs grew up as a butcher’s son in a poor section of the city, but he never talked about his childhood. His neighbors happened to be Jewish shopkeepers, and as a youngster he played with their children. His attitude toward his old neighbors changed after he joined the Nazi party. Like his brethren Nazis, Henrich believed Jews were inferior beings and should be punished according to the new laws. He joined other SS Nazis humiliating and beating Jewish men on the streets. He participated in the “Krystal Naught” and laughed as synagogues burned and store windows of Jewish shopkeepers crashed into the streets.

Henrich and his dutiful wife enjoyed the fruits of his high rank in Hitler’s elite SS. They lived in a beautiful home situated in the best part of the city. Leisel’s parents instructed their perfect Aryan girl the new regime understood the way to prosperity. Her father believed Leisel would make a beautiful wife for some worthy SS officer he would hand pick. On the surface Leisel bought into her father’s dream of pairing her with a handsome Nazi to produce a large family of perfect Aryan children.

Deep down, Leisel aspired to be more than a perfect wife. She wanted to attend the university and become a professor of mathematics or astronomy.

Chapter 7

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – 1937—Rosalie held the position of the fourth child of Eduardo and Maria Lombardo. Her crop of thick, red hair caused people to think she hailed from the Irish ancestry, but her dark chocolate eyes attested to her Italian heritage. Her unusual coloring caused a controversy in the Lombardo family because all of her sisters, brothers, and many cousins sported dark curly hair. Rosalie stuck out like a bastard stepchild and many whispers of her legitimacy wafted through the family.

Eduardo ignored any such remarks knowing his daughter took after his beloved mother. The first time he held his little girl, he cried believing God blessed him with his mother’s spirit. His last memory of his Mama lingered in his mind. He still pictured her tear-stained face when he set sail for America at age sixteen. As the years went by, his mother’s image faded in his mind, but with the birth of Rosalie, kept his mother’s love alive in his heart.

Eduardo found life in America challenging.  He suffered the stigma of being Italian and the humiliation of speaking poor English. Racial slurs and jokes about his heritage often came his way, but he ignored the stupidity of others. He kept his head high, worked hard, and always tried to be a good American citizen. At eighteen he married Maria; at twenty he owned his own home, and at twenty-two he opened his restaurant.

He envisioned creating a bistro like one he frequented in Italy . He rewired, painted, and fixed the plumbing in an old building on Main Street to pass the city inspector’s stern eye. His best friend Guido painted the bare white walls with colorful frescos of Italian villas with mountainous backgrounds and a view of the Mediterranean Sea. Often when Eduardo admired Guido’s work, he got homesick.

When Lombardo’s Restaurante first opened, Eduardo cooked his Mama’s old world recipes. Six round tables covered with red and white checked tablecloths sat in the little cafe, while Italian music wafted through the little establishment from a phonograph. Tables filled up every night before the Depression for the good food and the ambiance. Eduardo created a little piece of southern Italy in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.

After the Depression in 1929, business got tough. The overflowing customers who waited over thirty minutes for a table, stopped coming all together. Eduardo found it nearly impossible to keep food in the bellies of his eight children. After ten years of drought, the restaurant started picking up as more men went back to work full time.

Tonight was Rosalie’s sixteenth birthday party. Her friends planned to eat dinner at the restaurant and then go out to see a movie. Eduardo didn’t understand how his youngest child grew up so fast. His petite daughter grew into a stunning beauty. Her long red hair fell on her shoulders like a veil, while her dark brown eyes sparkled-especially when Angelo Armani made an appearance.

For most of those sixteen years, the Lombardo family lived next door to the Armani family. Rosalie and Angelo became friends when they wore diapers. They attended Catholic school together, and everyone said the two made a good match.

Angelo proved to be a good kid, but the day he dropped out of school Eduardo demanded Rosalie stop seeing him. He believed any man who wanted to be serious about his daughter needed an education to be successful in America. He couldn’t bear the thought his daughter would suffer because she married an uneducated man.

Angelo’s father teamed up with Eduardo on the benefits of completing high school, but their lectures fell on deaf ears, and a stubborn Angelo took a job as an assembly worker at the Autolite plant. He only told the truth to Rosalie one night as they parked by the river.

“Your father isn’t happy with me.” Angelo stared ahead trying to conceal the tears forming in his eyes.

“I can’t argue, Angelo. School is important.”

“It’s so hard, Rosie. I’m tired of failing.”

“But you’re so smart! You rebuilt this car we’re sitting in. The fence you built in the backyard is perfect. I don’t want you to quit either.”

“Oh, Rosie I can rebuild or build anything with my hands, but studying ancient history and algebra is not for me. Besides,” he pulled her close and placed a gentle kiss on her mouth. “I want to give you a house before we get married. Two years will go fast.”

Rosie returned his kiss. “Not fast enough.”

Rosalie never looked at another boy. As soon as she graduated, she planned to marry Angelo, give birth to his children, and probably work in her father’s restaurant until she turned eighty.




Lighting up the Night

I love outdoor Christmas lights. I love looking at them with the bright red, white, green and blue. I love images of Santa and his elves. I also love nativity scenes. As long as a front yard is lit up, I’m in awe.

Since we moved into our house 12 years ago, Ken and I have put out Christmas lights, and I’ve loved all of our decorations. Over the years, my collection of outdoor lights has grown, so now the entire front of the house is covered with lights.

I’m sorry to tell you that my old mechanical reindeer, I affectionately named Rudolph, had to retire to the Goodwill after last year’s appearance in the front yard. He no longer could move his neck from side to side, and he lost his lights on one leg. I replaced him with a five foot angel sporting over 150 white lights. I thought an appropriate place for her was in my father’s memorial garden. The wheelchair ramp, which surrounds the angel, is covered with a lighted pine garland. There is a wreath with a big red bow on the front of the display that ties all of the decorations together.

I’m sorry to tell you that very year when I put lights outside, I have electrical challenges. This year was no exception. In fact, I think it takes an electrical engineering PhD to make things work properly, and needless to say, my English degree doesn’t help.

This year I put the garland on the railing BACKWARD, so I either had to turn the damn thing around or purchase a LONG extension cord to make it to the connection. I also needed a way to plug the new lights into the existing connections, which was impossible.

As the weather turned frigid (20 degrees Fahrenheit) yesterday, I decided to make a trip to buy what I needed. I came away with an 25 ft. extension cord, a new timer (because I couldn’t remember how to work the old one), and a 3-way plug to pull everything together. Feeling confident I had the ingredients to make my lighted winter wonderland come to life, I plugged in everything and waited for dusk for the lights to come on like magic.

As the sun dropped into the horizon, the lights came on! I stood in the living room doing the dance of joy, but wait. There was a problem. All the lights BLINKED, which was not in the plan for my outside design. I stopped dancing and cursed the electrical Gremlins who were out there tinkering with  MY lights! Because of the cold weather, I decided to let the Gremlins have their way, after all, all of the lights were lit.

I went to bed feeling confident that at 11:00 p.m. the lights would turn off and all would be good–that is, until I let Ernie out this morning. The BLINKING lights were still flashing!

I’m totally stumped. I’ve used all my electrical knowledge and came up short, so  I guess I’ll have to go back to Plan A, which requires me to pull out the plug in the morning.

As luck will have it, my friend Scott will be here on Saturday, and he knows his way around electrical connections, so maybe he can shed some light (pun intended) to my solve problem. If not, let the Gremlins be merry!

A Red Letter Day

redletterdayYesterday was a what my mother would have called a “Red Letter Day.” How that expression ever meant something good happened is beyond me. Perhaps I’ll add it to my list of “Inquiring Minds Want to Know” for my students. But, I digress.

A couple of major events went right yesterday, and I want to share them with you. Sharing good news with others always makes it better, don’t you agree?

First, I had $700 land in my lap straight from heaven. Yup. I kid you not. Here’s the story. When I bought the wheelchair van a couple of weeks ago, I was so thrilled a dealership would help me. During the past three years, I’ve watched my 800 credit score take a nose dive into to 500’s because of unemployment and illness. But there I go again, getting off the track. Do you think old age is setting in?

The manager who did the assessment of my Outlander said the dealership would give me $6700 for my trade-in. (This was $2000 more than a previous assessment of our car at a different dealership.) On top of that, Palmen was able to get me financing at 11.9%. I was so thrilled I could make this deal, I signed the financial papers before they could change their minds!

A couple of days later, I studied the papers I had signed with unemotional eyes and found a mistake; they only gave me $6000 for the trade-in, so I called the salesman right away and told him of the discrepancy. Because I discovered the mistake in the middle of Labor Day weekend, I would have to wait until the following Tuesday to get he problem rectified.

The following Tuesday I got my good self out to the dealership. The salesman met me at my car with a big smile and said, “Barb, you were exactly right. The loan guy found the mistake, and you’ll get a check for $700 in a couple of days.” We shook on it, and I went home.

As you might imagine, $700 is a lot of money for me, so I waited for the postman everyday like a lovesick teenager waiting for a letter from her beau. After two weeks went by and no check had appeared, I called the Palmen General Manager and told him my story. While I waited on the phone, the manager confirmed the details with the salesman, returned to the  phone, and said there would be a check waiting for me at the cashier’s office the next morning. Yippee!

Bright and early, around nine o’clock, I pointed the van west and was off to the pick up the check. I immediately plopped it in the bank and now my savings account is fatter than it has been in over five years.

As I was doing the dance of joy over that feat, Tom from Erickson Mobility came to see whether he could fix Ken’s power wheelchair, so it would fit into the van. He almost had to take the whole chair apart, but there was a way to lower the seat a couple of notches, so now the magic wheels could be lifted into the van on the lift. Not only did he fix the chair, he adjusted the lift and told us the car might be older, but the lift was only two years old–and get this, he remembered installing it. Yippee–again!

Well, Ken and I couldn’t let these two wonderful events go by without celebrating, so we got dolled up and went out for an inaugural date. We decided on having a light supper at IHOP because I had a BOGO (buy one get one) coupon. If we had been at a five-star restaurant, we wouldn’t have been any happier.

So God Bless the good folks at Palmen Motors and Erickson Mobility in Racine. And if you think this testimony is an unsolicited commercial, you’d be exactly right. It’s nice to know there are honest people still running businesses right in my own backyard.

Incredible Stories

historyMy first love — after my husband and my pug dog Ernie — is writing. My second love is history. The best combination is writing about history.

I think I love history because I imagine what I would have done in a  particular situation. Of course, none of us really knows how we act. Will we be the hero or would we run away as a coward? Would we have been strong enough to stand up for our ideals with the threat of death or would we would hide our true feelings and go with the flow? When it boils down, no one truly knows. You have to be immersed in the facts and action of the time and space.

So much of true history is lost because people who write down the history we learn are usually the victors.

I’m not interested in the lives of the heroes that are celebrated.  I want to unearth the unsung heroes who are lost in time. That’s why most of my research is about ordinary women who have always risen to the occasion when their men go off to war. Because woman have been considered “the fairer sex” or even worse as “property,” their stories often get lost.

I would bet most of you didn’t know British women were drafted to work in the factories during WWII. I would also bet you didn’t know how Russian women pilots defended their country in combat in the battle of Stalingrad. Have you ever hear of the WASPs? How many nurses have you come across who landed with the troops in North America dressed as GIs with no weapon except a red cross on the sleeve of their uniform? Yet all of these situations actually happened.

All of these stories are out there, but you have to need a pick and shovel to find them. My novels, pay tribute to these women through fictional characters. I want to pass on these extraordinary stories because they are too amazing to ignore.

Real History Told

historyI love history. I love learning how people lived during different time periods. I want to know how they viewed the world and what they did because of their beliefs. I also enjoy hearing how written history — what we all learned in school — is just one person’s take on what really happened. Not surprisingly, the tales we learned are just that — tales.

Last night, I enjoyed a History Channel program called Fact or Fiction. The program covered the Mayflower coming to America, the Pilgrim’s first year of life here, and first Thanksgiving. The show compared the “facts” most of us believe with what actually happened in 1620.

Did you know the Mayflower was one of two ships that set sail for the new land? Yup. The other ship had to turn around twice before it ever left England because it leaked. Because the ship couldn’t be made sea worthy, the Mayflower took on more passengers than it should have had. mayflower

As far as landing on Plymouth Rock, well nobody knows for sure. In the historical log, there is no mention of the big rock. Actually, the Pilgrims were sailing for the port that was at the Hudson River (NYC), but strong winds blew them north, thus they landed in what now is Massachusetts. More likely Plymouth Rock was a landmark and for sure the Pilgrims didn’t step on it. 

The first year of life was tough on the novice settlers. Only half of the Pilgrims lived, and the survivors wouldn’t have lived if it hadn’t been for Squanto, an Indian who had earlier been captured by the English and thrown into slavery. While he was in England, he learned the language. At some point he escaped and sailed back to his home only to find that most of his tribe had been wiped out by smallpox.squanto

But this man, put aside any anger he might have had for the white man and taught the new settlers how to plant corn, hunt, and fish. Squanto was also instrumental in arranging a treaty with the Wampanoag Indians. In 1621, Massasoit, the chief of the tribe signed a “treaty of friendship” giving the English permission to occupy 12,000 acres of land. 

Now let’s talk about Thanksgiving. First of all, the Pilgrims only invited Chief Massasoit to dinner to commemorate the treaty. He in turn, invited 90 other Indians who first went out hunting and provided the meat for the meal. And no, it wasn’t turkey. It was venison.pilgrims

The thanksgivings after the first one were very dark–not at all the “Home Sweet Home” version we like to conjure up. If you’re interested in reading how the white man murdered over 700 Pequot Indians, here’s the link.  http://rense.com/general45/thanks.htm It’s much too gory for me to repeat.

My point to this discussion is that we all remember history to suit our needs. The truth about what really happened is in the hands of  people who wrote it down, and when stories are retold, the bad things seem to get lost. Worse yet, even some of the good things get lost. How many of you ever heard of Squanto?

I rest my case.

Epilogue and Prologue of a New School Session

downloadThe unofficial end to summer is only days away, but the weather is protesting this premature ending. It will be close to 90 again today. For a northerner, this is not exactly the climate we signed up for. So, while many other people prepare their last hurrahs for the end of summer, I will be home in the air conditioning preparing my syllabus and waiting for my letter of employment to be sent to my “in” box.

The college “powers that be” decided they would jump into the 21st century and use the internet to broadcast this most important document to all adjunct teachers. The document was supposed to come yesterday, but if I know technology, it will probably show up sometime next week. The delay will be caused by unexpected bugs and the necessary training the administration staff needs to complete their end of this process. It should go smoothly–in a couple of years, that is.

Why is it everything that is supposed to make your life easier never really does? It’s been my experience that such changes are painful at first. It seems no one has the empirical knowledge to take into account all of the variables that need to be considered and then compensate for them. It isn’t until the program crashes a few times before the pesty computer gremlins are rooted out before the programmers get the results everyone is expecting. In the meantime, everyone sweats the deadline and fears they won’t get paid because of some computer glitch.

Last Saturday all adjunct teachers attended an “In Service” training session to get the latest greatest news and developments on campus. This automated LOE (letter of employment) was one of the things presented to us. When the IT guru said the service wasn’t quite ready, I groaned. You see, I’ve worked with technology people for years in web development, and I learned the nuances of the trade. If I had been in charge of this project, I would have had a stack of paper LOEs in the wings for back-up. Everyone would sign their John Hancock’s on the paper in case the automated system fell on its butt. Yeah. But that’s just me.

So, over the weekend, I will be preparing my lesson plans, syllabus, and other new things I want to try in my class this fall, while the computer gods make the technology folks nuts with their tricks. We’ll just have to wait and see who wins the battle.

We Lust for Conflict

The_Apples_Fall_From_Grace_by_FlyinG__DutchmaNWhy don’t writers write novels, short stories or even blog posts about beautiful things? Why is the candy-coated story considered boring by most?

The answer lies in what makes writing worth reading. Conflict needs to be present in order to keep readers interested. The story has to have a problem a character needs to solve. Don’t we all like stories in which characters fall from grace, and then scratch and claw to reinvent themselves in order to get to the top again? We root for them; we cheer them on; we all want them to clear their name or we want them to win. I could make a long list of characters to demonstrate, but I think you know what I’m talking about.

Maybe the lack of conflict is the reason I don’t find poetry interesting. I appreciate its thought-provoking qualities, the vivid word images, and the cleverness of word usage, but when push comes to shove, I’d rather read a juicy novel about hardship and struggle than a book of poems from cover to cover.

Perhaps rooting for people who have fallen from a pedestal is why our news media has evolved as it has. Instead of reporting the facts, they have turned the industry upside down, making a news story entertainment. They do such a thing to increase ratings.

Seriously, do we really care if a politician is sexting or carrying on with a mistress? Politicians are powerful men and women, and I would bet if we took a poll, over 90% of them engage in such activities. So, why is such behavior news? I really don’t care who is screwing who. Why is such behavior a lede story, especially in a society where extra-marital affairs have become common, and we have accepted sex without marriage as okay.

The only reason for such reports seems to be our appetite for exposing famous people and to see them sweat. We enjoy their  fall from grace. We berate them, damn them, and then cheer them on to come back. It’s the conflict we love.

My simple life will never be put on a pedestal and that is just fine with me. The fall from grace provides a hard landing–all for the sake of conflict.