Tag Archive | women

The Weather is a Good Excuse

Today is a bad day. It began with Ken falling and not being able to get up. Again. Yesterday our morning started the same way. Feeling utterly useless, I dialed 911 and asked for help.

In a few minutes four firemen arrived on a ladder truck, then came to our door. They were a different shift from yesterday, but they had been here before. One of the guys said, “I see you have cement this time.” (The old driveway had been removed on their previous visit.)

They picked Ken up from the floor in a couple of seconds and deposited him comfortably in his chair. Catastrophe over. For today.

My worst fear is Ken might fall and really damage himself. I can’t wrap him in bubble wrap, and I can’t prevent him losing his balance. I’ve tried to remodel our house to better meet his wheelchair needs, but even that doesn’t seem to be enough. I hate being stuck. Worse than that, I hate defeat.

We both want him to stay at home as long as possible, but this load is getting heavier. Thank God we can use a hot, humid day as an excuse for not going out like we planned. The truth is just too darn hard to speak.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2

Chapter 20

 Warsaw, Poland — September 1, 1939—Dora Gessler’s college friends who remained in Berlin after graduation wrote letters about how the city changed since Hitler came to power. For the past six years, Hitler instilled a sense of national pride in the people of Germany. He put men to work and raised up the population in a way no one else could. During college, Dora attended one rally when Hitler spoke. He didn’t impress her because she thought he told people what they wanted to hear, not necessarily the truth. The crowds screamed and cheered him; worst yet, they seemed to be hypnotized by his performance.  Hysterical crowds worshiped him like a god.

But lately his political aspirations changed. Now Hitler wanted to expand German’s borders. The Nazis walked into Austria and people voted to be annexed by its larger neighbor. The next step was Czechoslovakia in Hitler’s quest to unite all German-speaking people. His second goal was to rid the world of Jews.

When Dora read the local newspaper, she learned Germany attacked Poland’s northern border. In a few days the superior German military machine rolled over the Polish outdated weapons and lack of modern training. The report also stated the army was pushing toward Warsaw.

Edward Gessler was away on a business trip in France at the time of the invasion, and Dora tried to reach her husband by phone and telegrams, but both services failed. Dora knew she had to take the children as far away as she could to avoid being enslaved by the Nazis. But how? Numbness spread through Dora’s body as she realized the survival of her children as well as her own life sat solely on her shoulders. Her fears paralyzed her.

Heidi sensed Dora’s angst the morning after the attack. She studied Dora’s tormented expression. Heidi sipped her tea in silence and waited for Dora to say something.

After several minutes of crushing silence, Dora spoke. “Oh, Heidi, what am I going to do? I must make a major decision without Edward, and I am troubled.”

Heidi answered. “How can I help you?”

“Oh dear, Heidi.” Dora said with tears teetering on the ledge of her eyelids. “I am afraid our lives are in jeopardy. Hitler’s army invaded Poland, and it is marching toward Warsaw. The Polish army is no match for professional soldiers. I witnessed the evil of the Nazis while I studied at the university in Berlin, and I must do something. I need to get the children as far away as possible.”

Heidi remained silent with her own fears. She decided to get the underlying tension out in the open. “I hate the Nazis too, Dora. They are vicious brutes. Even though I went to school with students in Hitler’s Youth Movement, I didn’t become one of the blind followers. I am here because I wanted to get away from Berlin. I do not believe what they profess–believing in a non-existent Aryan race which is superior to all others is ridiculous. Do you know the Nazis closed the churches and burned synagogues? They bow to Hitler’s made up religion. I hate–”

Dora cut her off. “Oh Heidi. I am not upset with you. You are German by heritage, not by ideology. I realize that. Set your mind at ease, child. You are wonderful with my children, and I am so grateful you are here. ”

Heidi took a deep breath. “Thank you, Mrs. Gessler.” She took a sip of tea and looked her employer in the eyes. “We need an escape plan.”

“Perhaps you should not help me, Heidi. Maybe you should return to Berlin and be safe with your family. The future does not look good for Poland and worse for Jewish citizens. I will call your uncle today.”

“No.” Heidi responded with strength. “I am your nanny, and I will not abandon you. With Edward gone, you need my help. Please do not send me away.”

Dora smiled. “Heidi. I cannot put you in harm’s way. Such a thing is not right.”

Heidi whispered, “I believe God sent me here, Mrs. Gessler. He wants me to help you.”

“Then, you are right. We must work on a plan.” Dora hugged Heidi. “You are so brave for your young age. Thank you.” Dora took a sip of tea while she thought about the steps she must take. “We must leave Warsaw tomorrow. The best destination appears to be Lviv.”

“Lviv? Where is Lviv?”

“In the Ukraine. The Soviets are in power in the city, and Jewish people are treated like normal citizens. We will be safe in Lviv.” Dora’s tears spilled down her face and in a short time she sobbed so hard her body shook.

“Oh, Mrs. Gessler. Do not worry. I will not leave you.” Heidi got up and hugged her.

Dora looked up at the young girl with a tear-stained face. She wiped the tears away with the napkin which sat on the table. “I do not want to leave my home, Heidi.  I need Edward to make a decision.”

“Well, Edward is not here, so we must work together to keep the children safe. I am here and I will help, but we cannot waste any time.”

Dora nodded.

Chapter 21

Berlin, German—Since the Hitler youth dance and their experience at the tavern afterward, Franz decided Leisel might be worth his effort. He asked her out several times during August before he entered the military academy. She pledged her love to him with a romp in the backseat of his father’s Volkswagen the night before he went off to training camp. He bragged to his comrades about her perfect body and her voluptuous bosom. Franz loved sex with Leisel because she never turned him down whenever he had the urge. He wondered if Marta would be so sexually accommodating. Being with Leisel provided two advantages–she liked sex and wanted to please him, plus marrying her would advance his career because her father held the office of colonel in the Germany army, and he promised to help Franz climb the ranks.

Leisel found happiness in her romance with Franz. His attention lessened the painful sting of being denied an education at the university. She convinced herself she loved him when in fact, she considered herself obligated to marry him because they enjoyed sex together. Her curiosity about sex led her to believe if the man went away satisfied, she should be too. Franz never cared about her in that way, so she wondered why romantic novels made such a fuss about making loving.  Half of her excitement with Franz centered on the events leading up to their clandestine meetings because he always rushed through undressing her, spreading her legs, and relieving himself. He grunted a few times and groaned with pleasure, leaving her sticky and smelly. Worse yet, Leisel feared if she told him what she needed, he would berrate her, so she buried her true feelings and put on a face of a girl in love.

Colonel Fuchs approved of Franz. Finally his daughter won the attention of an up-and-coming young SS soldier which would surely reflect positively on him. And when Franz went to Colonel Fuchs to ask for Leisel’s hand in marriage, the colonel said after she completed the course at the bride school and secured her certificate, he would arrange a wedding fitting for a beautiful Aryan couple in the Nazi chapel.

 

 

 

Pet Therapy

The title of this blog is probably misleading, but it’s the best I’ve got this morning. I’ve had my first cup of coffee as the television keeps me company. About every third commercial had a dog or cat in it, and these ads made me think of my friends and their pets.

March 30 038Most every day I tell Ernie he is the cutest pug in the world. He’s so lovable. As you can see, he really hams it up once we put on a silly hat or other apparatus on his head. His happiest time is when he’s sitting on my lap or Ken’s lap. He is content to just be near us. At eight years old, he could care less if he plays. He doesn’t even want to chew on rawhide bones any more.

poeYesterday I visited with Jackie who took in a boy Maine Coon cat who has quite a personality. She is the process of moving and “Poe” is totally confused because she keeps eliminating his hiding places. She said he looked at her when he went to one of his favorite spots and it had vanished. He let out a loud “meow” as if to say, “What the heck?”

Then there’s my friend Kay who recently took in three stray cats to go with her one house cat. Yes, she has four cats, and no, she’s not nuts. She moved to Florida last year and has found the move more difficult than she ever imagined. I believe the universe sent her these three little boys to keep her laughing and happy. If you have cats, you know you don’t need any other entertainment when a kitten is in the house.

I think we all have these little creatures in our lives because none of us has any grandchildren. Our pets fill a deep seated need to spread our love onto some little being. We always talk about our four-legged children, catching each other up on the latest antics of our pets. A little crazy? I suppose. But that’s okay. When our animals follow us from room to room, none of us feel alone. These little souls give us unconditional love just what we all need.

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2

Chapter 8

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – June, 1939—A few weeks into her summer vacation, Donna Jean became bored with hanging out at the beach, listening to the radio soap opera, “Ma Perkins,” and writing in her diary. Since graduation, her father nagged her every day to go out and find a job, but Donna Jean refused. In retaliation for disobeying him, Donna’s father got physical with her. Any saucy comment resulted in a hard slap to the face.

After the Fourth of July celebration, Josie and Donna met at Joe’s Diner for a Coke and french fries.

Donna sipped her Coke. “The fireworks knocked me out! God, I think every year they get better.”

“Yeah, I love fireworks. So many colors against the dark sky. I only wish I had a boyfriend to keep me warm in the damp summer night.” Josie teased Donna.

“Just because I came with a date and you didn’t doesn’t mean you get to give me the raspberries.” Donna grinned.

Josie said in a dreamy tone. “I can’t believe in six weeks I’ll be off to college.”

“At least you got to enjoy a little bit this summer. Rumors at Joe’s tell you and Bobby did some sparking in the cornfield.”

“You bad girl. I did nothing of the sort.” Josie blushed.

“Josie, you aren’t as pure as you pretend to be. ‘Fess up.”

“I won’t ‘fess up.  Bobby just helped me get the tractor started when the old thing stalled in the middle of the field. That’s all. Nothing happened.”

“Oh, really.” Donna didn’t believe a word.

“Yes. Really. Besides, he’s too old for me. Good looking, I’ll admit. But too old.” Josie got a dreamy look on her face.

“You realized with that dreamy look you just confessed the rumors are true, don’t you?”  Donna said with confidence.

“You and your gossip. One of these days you’re really going to hurt someone by spreading stories that aren’t true.”

“I’ll never hurt you, Josie.” Donna said seriously. “You’re my best friend.”

“Then as your best friend, I’m telling you the truth. Nothing is going on with Bobby.”

“Okay. Okay. I’ll drop the subject.” Donna Jean said. “After graduation I vowed I would enjoy my summer and not look for work until you left for school.” Donna never talked about her father’s abuse.

“Yeah.”

“Well, right now I’m bored. I can’t be with you because you’re working on the farm. So, how would you feel if I got a job?  I’m going stir crazy with all this alone time.”

“I think you should go for it. I’m surprised you think you need my permission to go to work, especially with the way you like new clothes and shoes. I’m surprised your Dad hasn’t kicked you out of the house by now.”

“Gee. Thanks.” Donna pouted.

“Go get the best job you can, Donna, and I’ll be very proud of you.” Josie said.

Donna said, “First thing Monday morning I’ll be out pounding the pavement, but right now, let’s go down by your pond and skinny dip for a while.”

Josie jumped out of the booth and headed for the door. “Last one to the pond is a dumb blond!”

*****

Donna Jean started her job search early Monday morning. She dressed in her navy blue “career girl” dress, a pair of sensible high heels, and a smart hat to make a good impression. She submitted applications with the city’s biggest employers including Autolite, Allis Chalmers, Northern Engraving, and G. Heileman Brewing. Several of the personnel managers gave her a typing and shorthand test. All day she filled out applications and other paperwork as she walked from one company to the next. By evening the soles of her feet burned, and she acquired a couple of blisters on her heels.

Three days after visiting G. Heileman Brewing, Donna received a phone call from the personnel manager. He told her she scored high on both the typing and the shorthand tests, and he wanted to meet with her for a more informative interview. Donna maintained a calm voice as she spoke with the manager, but the second she hung up the phone, she jumped and screamed, “Mom! G. Heileman wants to interview me!” She grabbed her mother and whirled her around the kitchen. ”

Her mother frowned and broke Donna’s hold. “Don’t get your hopes up. You’re  not as good as you think you are, young lady. At least now I your father might stop screaming at you.” She walked into the living room.

“Gee, thanks, Mom.” Donna’s eyes moistened. Why did her mother enjoy bursting her bubble?

Chapter 9

Berlin, Germany — July 1939—Heidi sat in the kitchen with a glass of milk and piece of strudel as she dreamed about escaping Germany and getting on with her life in a different country. The nanny position might be a good experience. She loved children. She enjoyed teaching and caring for them, and she even didn’t mind doing some light housework, if required by her employer. A job in Poland would also give her a chance to meet some boys who didn’t fall under the spell of the Nazis.

Since she spoke with her mother about working in Poland, Heidi got more excited about leaving home. She went to the library and read about their neighboring country and wrote a letter to her Warsaw cousins. The day she received a reply from her Uncle Hans inviting her for a visit, she and her mother went straight to the train station to buy a ticket.

Heidi’s father didn’t think his daughter should be influenced by  the inferior Poles. He never understood why his brother didn’t return to Germany after his Polish wife died, but Heidi’s enthusiasm to see her uncle and cousins made denying her difficult. But at least she didn’t talk about dancing so much any more.

Heidi kept her eyes on her parents through the train window as the train pulled away from the station. Her father put his arms around her mother as she dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief. For a second, Heidi wondered if she shouldn’t take the trip.

When her parents faded away, Heidi pulled out a book from her bag and began to read in Polish. At an early age her father insisted she speak two languages, so she learned Polish. Learning a new language was fun, so Heidi learned French and English too.

Between children screaming and the jostling of the train, Heidi didn’t sleep the entire ten hours of the trip. She thanked God the train trip ended as she stepped onto the Warsaw train station platform. All around her other languages bombarded her; and her fear of speaking Polish and making a mistake when asking for directions scared her. All of a sudden crippling shyness took over. How strange to hear foreign words. Before she could understand the conversations around her, she needed to translate each word into German. And because the native speakers talked fast, she fell behind and got lost.

Out of the din, a man shouted in German, “Heidi-hier dren!”

She turned around to see a man waving. When she studied his face, she realized he must be her Uncle Hans. His image matched the photograph her father kept on the mantel at home.

“Uncle Hans!” Heidi shouted and ran toward him.

The tall man with bushy eyebrows took her bag. “Did you enjoy your trip?”

“No.  I am so tired. Between the train noise, passengers talking, and children screaming, the journey proved difficult to sleep.”

“Perhaps you are just a little bit nosy to block them out?” Her uncle teased and chuckled.

She laughed with him. “Perhaps a little.”

He escorted her to a waiting car with three children in the backseat. “Heidi, these are your Warsaw cousins – Gertruda, Michal, and Anka.”

Heidi said with a broad smile, “Hello everyone.”

Anka spoke first in German. “We are very glad you are here, Heidi. Father told us about where you live.”

Then Michal said, “Yes. Papa told us that you live in Berlin. What is the city like?”

Gertruda, the youngest said. “Papa said you are a dancer. Will you teach me?”

Heidi appeared a bit flustered at the bombardment of questions.

Her uncle came to her rescue. “Heidi is very tired. How about we let her rest and after dinner she can answer all of your questions.”

“All right, Papa.” They said in unison and settled into the backseat.

Heidi sat forward in the passenger seat to avoid their disappointed faces.

Hans smiled as he drove home.

 

 

It’s Always Too Soon to Say Goodbye

Yesterday I attended the wake for my surrogate mother. Her daughter Debbie and I got acquainted during the summer of 1965, and soon we were together most every waking hour. We usually met at Debbie’s house because of my mother’s constant warning, “SHHHH, get out of here; your father doesn’t feel good.” On top of that in so many words she proclaimed Debbie was a girl not up to my standards. Needless to say, my mother made many bad decisions and I just went on being friends with Debbie.

Deb helped me scale the fears of going to a BIG junior high school. For eight years I sat in one room at a parochial school and studied everything from art to math. Just thinking of changing rooms between classes brought on a cold sweat. At the new public school there were no uniforms, so I also spent my summer sewing new dresses wondering if I would fit in with the rest of the girls. On the first day of school, I got panicky when I went to find my ride home in a sea of twenty or more buses lined up at the school curbs.  But Deb found me and saved the day. She got me on the right bus so I didn’t have to drop a dime to call my mother and admit failure.

Four months later, I broke my tibia in a tobogganing accident at Girl Scout Camp and my world fell apart. I had the lead to the school musical, and lost my fame in a split second when we hit a tree on a snowy hill. My childhood dream included singing on Broadway someday, so this accident was devastating. I spent four and a half months in a toe to hip cast and needed to recuperate at home. But once again, Debbie came to the rescue. She visited me everyday bringing stories about school activities and friends to keep me in touch. She was my lifeline.

We carried our close friendship through high school and afterwards, and her parents treated me like one of their own. Her father called me, “Miss Barbie” and soon the whole family chimed in christening me with that special name. With the death of Debbie’s mother, her father, and both of my parents, I truly feel like an orphan.

I realize we are not built to live forever, but when the people we love leave the earth, it’s always too soon. I’m lucky Debbie is still here and after many years of separation, we’ve vowed to close the gap. We still need each other.

*****

BOOK TWO – 1939

Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Lacrosse, Wisconsin — June — Josie, Donna, and Rosalie entered their school proudly wearing robes and mortarboards. Rosalie wore a beautiful rose on the lapel.

“Did Angelo give you that?” Donna Jean purred.

“No. Papa did.”

Josie and Donna Jean said, “Awww–he’s so sweet.” Both wished their fathers showed affection like Eduardo always did toward Rosalie.

“I wish Papa wouldn’t,” Rosalie said, “I’m a freak; nobody else is wearing a corsage.”

“Shame on you, Rosie. Your father loves you so much; he’s just showing you how proud he is of you. Remember, he never got a chance to go to high school.” Josie said.

Rosalie nodded. “I guess you’re right.”

The principal Mr. Cameron blew a whistle to get the attention of the fifty graduates. “Class, line up like we practiced yesterday!” Boys and girls assumed their position in a long line. The school band played Pomp and Circumstance announcing the procession should begin.

As class valedictorian, Josie led her class into the gymnasium. With every step she told herself not to be nervous, but a flock of butterflies suddenly woke up in her stomach. Her heart pounded against her ribs, and her hands sweated. Her feet grew heavy, like she waded through thick, wet, mud.

Josie took her place on the stage and gazed out at her friends. She sat when the last student took his seat.

The program began with Donna singing the “Star Spangled Banner.” After the audience sat, the principal greeted everyone. When he introduced Josie, she rose on rubbery legs and walked the few steps to the podium. She grabbed the sides of the lectern to steady herself, cleared her throat, and began her final words to her classmates.

“Fellow students, esteemed faculty, family, friends and guests. Today we leave this safe, comfortable school as changed people. We will travel different roads during the next few years. A few of us already understand where those roads will take us. Others will go on a journey of discovery. The most important thing about today is from this day forward, we will start to live our OWN lives.

Our childhood is over. Our parents are no longer responsible for us. We are now responsible for the world we will live in. But none of us came this far without help. In  my case, and through the love and support of my father and mother, I will attend the University of Minnesota in the fall. Others of you will enter the workforce which makes our country strong. And still others will get married and add new citizens to our lovely community.

 What I’m trying to say is this: To be here today, we all walked on the shoulders of many caring people. Our parents provided for us and encouraged us; our teachers taught us skills and gave us tools we’ll need as we make our mark in the world, and our friends supported us in their own special ways.

 School days will be remembered fondly. We worked, yes, but we also enjoyed bond fires, the pep rallies before football games, the special dances, school plays, and other events throughout the year. I hope your days at Lacrosse High School provided sweet memories for all of you. My memories are burned into my heart.

Remember this: we will never be sheltered like we are here. No place will ever nurture us like high school has. We will never be at home like we are in this place.  The world will be exciting, but it also can be cruel. I sincerely hope you will experience more of the former than of the latter.

 So graduates of 1939 go forward and show the world what you are made of. You all possess something unique to contribute. We are fervent in our endeavors and our country will remain strong because of you. May God walk with you as you explore your future!”

Students shouted and rose to their feet. Josie descended from the stage and took her place with her classmates. Busting pride replaced her earlier fear.  Her high school graduation proved to be the greatest day of her life.

*****

Even though Josie enjoyed her high school graduation, as the hot summer wore on she became antsy to begin her new career as a college student. Since receiving her acceptance letter from the University of Minneapolis, she walked on air. A new life waited for her one hundred miles from home. Attending college would be her first experience of being so far from her family and friends for any length of time. Her excitement and fear of the future seemed equally balanced.

Josie and Donna Jean vowed to spend as much time together as they could before Josie left. With her wedding only a month away, Rosalie couldn’t promise because so many last minute details filled her days. Eduardo dropped his animosity toward Angelo when the boy asked for his permission to marry Rosalie. When Eduardo witnessed the love Angelo gave to his precious daughter, her realized the boy would walk through fire to protect his daughter.

On one hand, Donna and Josie envied Rosalie because she had chosen the pathway for her life. She loved Angelo more than her own life and they would someday raise a family.  Josie and Donna wanted to explore professional careers before settling down with anyone but they both wished their future could be more nailed down. Exploring the unknown comes with corresponding uncertainty.

*****

Donna Jean dated Danny Peterson throughout the summer. They danced to the big bands that came to town; they went to the movies most every weekend and afterward went to Lookout Point to “watch the submarine races.” Donna never dreamed about marrying Danny, even though her parents made it clear she would be on her own after graduation.

Donna graduated at the head of her class in business skills of typing and shorthand. Her father nagged her to go out and find a job the night of graduation. But Donna had no intention of wasting her summer in a stuffy office. She learned at an early age she possessed strong powers of verbal persuasion, so she cleverly argued finding work in September would be easier because every month that passed, the depressed U. S. economy improved. Her father couldn’t argue with statistic; after years of part time work, he once again found himself working a forty hour week. President Roosevelt’s New Deal seemed to be working.

Chapter 3

Berlin, Germany-June—When Marta received her Abitur certificate – the designation for the successful completion of her secondary education–she wondered what she would do next. Her mother encouraged her to sit for the final exam to receive the official document Zeugnis der Allgemeinen Hochschulreife-which included a graduation certificate and a university entrance exam. Any girl who went beyond secondary education proved to be a rare gem, so Marta promised her parents she would pass the exam and enter Berlin University after she spent her summer in Paris.

*****

Marta masked her feelings with a broad smile as she endured the kisses and well wishes of family and hordes of Nazi officials at her graduation celebration. To her the graduation party seemed to be more of an instrument for her father to exploit his importance in the Nazi party than a graduation celebration for Marta. Leisel’s party proved to be the same in this regard.  Like Marta’s father, Leisel’s father also rose in the ranks quickly.

Marta’s excused her father’s pandering to the ranks because he approved her up-coming trip to France. Of course he did so with a great flourish during the party. On top of that, Klaus presented Marta with an eighteen carat gold “Love Knot” lapel pin. Accompanying the gift, he wrote a short note: “When you wear this pin, remember my love for you.” Both gifts were bestowed on her in front of the horde of Nazi strangers. Marta wondered if her father cherished the feeling of being a big shot more than celebrating her accomplishments. As a dutiful daughter, she stood on her tiptoes and thanked Klaus with a hug. He stiffened as his daughter showed emotion in front of his cronies.

 

 

 

 

Absent But Not Forgotten

handsToday I had a wonderful surprise from one of my blog buddies — I haven’t posted for quite some time and she sent a note saying she was worried about me.

So many people pooh-pooh the social network saying its a tool for the self-absorbed. As I see it, that comment is probably pretty true because most people who are “connected” are very young. But I also see social networking as a terrific tool to connect with new and old friends. It’s a wonderful tool to “meet” new people — from across the country and across the world.

Lately, I haven’t felt like I have anything important to say. My world has shrunk since I left the work place and stay at home most days with Ken. But I guess I was wrong. Some people want to hear from me. And thank you for that.

Since my hiatus, I have also been lucky to connect with some very old friends. One woman is a classmate from grade school. We’ve had lunch a few times and hours have sped by. We are so like-minded it’s wonderful to be together. We both have suffered loss. We both have suffered sickness. We both put family first. Even our look at spirituality is the same. I’m so thankful God has put her back into my life again.

The same is true for another friend who has drifted in and out of my life since high school. When our children were small, we were close. We went to the same church on Sunday and had a lot of other connections. After my divorce and her divorce, we lost each other, only to come together again as caretakers — she for her mother, me for Ken.

Then the frosting on my friend cake is the return of a dear friend who spent the last twenty-five years in Florida. Now that she is older, she wanted to be close to her children and old friends. She misses her pals in Florida, and is frustrated she can’t find things in her new house, but we got to have lunch together yesterday for the first time in a decade–and that was fun. Our reunion is like little time had passed. Our connection was still there.

I think God has put these people back into my life because I need them. I need to laugh with them. I need to get their opinions. I need to know I have a safety net when I feel like I’m falling into oblivion. Most of all I need their hugs because Ken can no longer do that for me. And that, my friends is a loss more than I can express.

So for those who have missed me in the blogging world, I thank you, too. You have reminded me that reaching out is my saving grace.

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.

Home is Where My Life Is

airplaneLast week at about this time, I was packing for a three-day excursion to see a good friend in Florida. On Monday morning in a driving rain, my brother saw me off at the airport for three sun-filled days in the sunshine state. Boy was I ready to go!

In October, one of my dearest friends and her husband decided to make a move back to their Orlando condominium they purchased twenty years ago, and as you might imagine, a lot of things have changed. Needless to say, they weren’t ready for the extreme growth of the area. The two-lane roads have morphed themselves into five lanes. Towns have sprawled, and the theme parks have doubled in size. Because of so many more residents and an abundance of tourists, you witness very creative lane changes on the highways which keep even good drivers on their toes.

All of this change for a person in her sixties has been rough on my friend. After I arrived, she told me my visit was as much for her mental health as mine, but like all solid relationships we picked up where we left off and enjoyed being together. She had a lovely bedroom for me to stay in and pampered me like a queen. I got the rest I needed, and she had a buddy to laugh with.

As the days progressed, I got my quota of sun, sand, and tropical foliage, and was ready to go home when Friday rolled around. It was nice not to have the responsibility of a caregiver for a few days, but I missed Ken and Ernie a lot and knew it was time for me to go home. It was comforting to Ken was fine at home with the help I arranged, so the next time I need a few days away, I can go without being alarmed about his welfare.

It’s also good to realize my dream of having a palm tree grow in my front yard is just that–a dream. The ninety degree weather was too hot for me, and my poor northern skin rebelled even with a sunscreen of 70! My true happiness is right at my front door, and I’m not seeking anything else at this point in my life.

I can travel to see the wonderful places this world offers, but I choose to be where I am. There’s no way to replicate my friends and family who make me who I am, and  I would never want to be the same place where Kay is right now, starting a new life in her sixties.

Eventually she will make friends in her new space, but forming new reciprocal relationships takes years.  I hope she’s up to the challenge.

Getting out of “Dodge”

travelI hope some of you noticed I took a hiatus from blogging. Being missed by someone is a compliment, so I guess I’m also being presumptuous you’re glad I’ve returned.

Grounded No More,” my seventh historical novel has been keeping me away, but this morning I put the finishing touches on it to go to my editor. I so enjoy historical fiction. I love researching other time periods to catch a glimpse of the people who lived those years. I’ve zeroed in on the World War II era because I find the sacrifices and hardships people endured amazing. I enjoy how people faced their fears and carried on in the face of adversity–particularly the women who were expected to become someone else in a blink of an eye. Through propaganda campaigns, they entered the workforce in all kinds of jobs, including some very dangerous ones.

The other fact that has kept me away from blogging is personal. I’ve been soul searching for some answers. Being a caretaker impacts a person in ways you never expect. As you might imagine, Ken’s Multiple Sclerosis can be trying at times. I must continually remind myself what he does is the disease and not him, but sometimes I drown myself in something artistic to put down my emotions of losing him bit by bit.

The winter has kept us both in the house longer than usual, so I haven’t been outside to start my spring clean-up and plant my flowers. We’ve been together 24/7 for over three years, and I need a respite, but going on such a journey has turned into an overwhelming task.

Because Ken would rather stay home than go to a care center, the quest is more difficult. I need to find him a qualified person to provide 24-hour care. When I expressed my frustration with the woman who acts as our coordinator, she said she’d work with the nurse and help me get this done. I guess it helps to whine once in a while.

Another part of my challenge is myself. My heart needs to stay home, but my head realizes without a break sometime in the near future, I might snap. My patience will wane, and I’ll do or say something I will regret. I equate the emotion to putting my little girl on the bus for kindergarten, only this time I’m the little girl.

My ordeal now boils down to letting go. When I must release my hold on something or someone I love, I need to take small steps, so when a girlfriend invited me to go “up north” with her for a weekend, I could consider her offer. I realize baby steps will be best for both Ken and me, so we’ll muddle through this first short separation, and if things go well, perhaps then I can plan a trip to Florida to visit my dear friend Kay–which was my original intention when I began this respite quest. I’m simply not ready for such a long separation.

Ken and I are lucky.  Through our relationship of nineteen years, we enjoyed many wonderful trips together. Timeshares in different parts of the country. A couple of cruises. Weekend getaways in quaint Bed & Breakfast places or swanky hotels. I am thankful for all of the good times, but I’m sad we will probably never travel together like this again.

 

Chance Encounters

City scape 002Yeah, I know. You’ve all seen this painting before, and I truly am not bragging by any means, but I included it because it’s central to today’s post.

I took this abstract Cityscape to Michaels  craft store to have a custom frame made for it. A sweet young clerk waited on me and put up with me taking over half of the framing samples off the wall to put them on the corners of my painting. One thing that aided both of us was a software program that actually took my frame selections around a photo of my painting, so I could see what the finished product would look like. In twenty to thirty minutes, I made my decision, plus I almost stayed within my budget!

Breille asked me how I spelled my last name, so to make things easier for her, I pulled out one of my business cards. (I went to Vistaprint and designed a card that has pictures of my novels on the back side.) A business card is the cheapest advertising you can have for yourself–so if you don’t have one, it’s a good investment. Breille was impressed by my prolific collection of historical fiction, and it turned out she is a student at my Alma Mater. Of course, we spent a few more minutes talking about her present experience with her classes and professors.

Because my graduation was almost twenty-five years ago, most of my professors are either dead or retired, so I didn’t know any of the instructors she mentioned. I don’t even know if the Communication and English programs are the same as what I completed. You know, time changes all.  Yada Yada Yada.

Breille wants to become a media journalist, so I asked her if the University offered this type of major within the Communication, and she didn’t know. I asked her if her adviser was helping her, and she said no.

I encouraged her to find an adviser who would work with her, and then I shared my experience with my adviser and how she helped me achieve the goals I wanted. In the English department, a business writing major wasn’t offered, but through eighteen credits of internship, my adviser helped me graduate with a professional portfolio I could show potential employers once my sheepskin hung on the wall. The caveat was I graduated with a year of practical experience because I became a member of a professional writing team with a Fortune 500 Communication company.

Breille’s eyes lit up as I told her what I had done, and I encourage her she could get what she wanted, too. All she had to do was see the goal and work toward it with everything inside of her. I truly believe if you want to achieve you can.

The best part of this story is I left the store with a gift. Breille told me, “Meeting you made my day, Barbara.”

I love chance encounters like this one because perhaps something I did or said might make a difference for someone else. You never will realize the future affect of your actions or words because these moments are the cliff- hanger of life. The most important thing, though,  is connecting with another person in a special way for a few special moments.

Oh, and by the way, Breille made my day, too.

An Interview of a Different Kind

interviewYesterday I was interviewed by the area public radio station. We talked about my novels, but the interviewer also focused on how the books were conceived and how I achieve the details that were including in the writing. His questions challenged me because I’ve ever discussed such things before–especially on the fly. Most of all, I wanted to sound like I had something on the ball as a writer.

If I had given the interviewer a truthful answer, I would have told him I truly don’t know how writing these books first started. Apple Pie and Strudel Girls came on the heels of having a disappointing experience with another woman who wanted her strange story of meeting a witch made into a novel. Originally, we decided to co-author the book, but in the end, she put her name on the book cover. As I didn’t earn any money for my writing and most of all fleshing out a story that was a page-turner, I felt I had been duped. The good news of the experience is I showed myself I could write over 50,000 words. Up until this point, my longest piece was a three thousand word special report I did for a business magazine.

After that disappointing experience, I decided to embark on my own, and to my surprise, I wrote a pretty good story about girls who grew up during the war years. What I didn’t realize was I needed an editor and excellent proofreader. I wish I would have considered that piece out of the gate because now I see mistakes that were missed, and frankly, I’m a little ashamed the book was published with these boo-boos.

But, back to the interview. Just how did I conceive the story and why did I choose this time period? After pondering for a few seconds, I realized it was my curiosity and love of history that drove me to want to know more about a time period when young people didn’t believe they would have a future. When bombs fell on houses in England and when one man literally enslaved every country in Europe, I wondered how people survived such horror.

With that said, I also learned I had to concentrate on the day-to-day lives these characters were living as the world events shaped their lives in a way they never conceived. This part was easier because the characters began talking to me as I developed the story. They interrupted my sleep, shopped, vacuumed, and yes, I did admit this to the interviewer. I wonder now if he thought I was schizophrenic–but this was a true fact. These pesky characters whispered in my ear until I wrote down what they told me.

The interviewer also thought it was interesting I kept an Excel Spreadsheet to keep track of the timeline. Using this tool saved me from repeating the same research in subsequent novels.

Character sketches were also helpful. Then there was the research of reading journals and personal accounts of real people who expressed how they felt when bombs were falling on their neighborhoods while they huddled in bomb shelters. I read accounts of men in battle, and got a taste of the fear they endured as they did things they never dreamed they would have to do. There is no glory in war, just dirt, grime, death and suffering. I also read letters written by women who were waiting for their men to come home. These real-life accounts helped me to immerse myself into the time period, as well as the lives of people who survived the horrific 1940’s.

The experience of speaking with an interviewer on the fly kept this author on her toes, but I would welcome the opportunity again and again. It was fun to think on my feet and project myself as a credible writer. The show will air on Thursday at 8:00 a.m. on 91.1 FM – WGTC. In the meantime, I’ll just write.

A Dumb White Collar Writer

Garfield and MondayDid you ever endure “hardship” because it was the weekend and you didn’t want to call a repairman and endure the weekend double-time charge? I did. Yesterday.

The thermostat for the furnace pooped out, so we relied on a little space heater to keep us warm. It does an adequate job to warm the living room. Our beautiful autumn weather has turned cold enough to fire up the furnace.

All day, Ken and I huddled under warm fleece blankets while we sat in our comfy chairs and enjoyed a full day of football games. In between keeping our body masses warm, we dared to venture down the hallway for a couple of bathroom breaks and into the kitchen for lunch. By suppertime, the heater had warmed the room to 68 degrees, so we watched “The Good Wife” in comfort.

Needless to say, the first thing I did this morning was pick up the phone and dial our heating and cooling professionals to see if someone could come out and fix whatever major catastrophe we had suffered. Much to my surprise the woman who answered the phone said, “We can be there in twenty minutes.”

Twenty minutes! I was still in my pj’s and hadn’t had my first cup of coffee! Like somebody who just had a fire lit under her bum, I jumped up, pulled on some jeans and a sweater, ran a comb through my hair and next thing I knew, Ernie was barking and the repairman was on our porch.

I let the repairman in with a bright smile and showed him the thermostat. He took off the cover and said, “Do you have a couple of batteries?”

I was puzzled. “Batteries? Really? That’s all that’s wrong with this thing? I thought, “I could have replaced the batteries. Even I’m capable of that!”

Sure enough, Jason the furnace man popped in two new AA batteries and the damn furnace fired up and heat started pouring out of the vents.  I felt so stupid. Two AA batteries, honest to God!

I think he felt a little silly charging me $70 for a trip charge to just swap out a couple of batteries, so he took a quick look at the furnace in the basement. He reported everything looked good except we had a dirty filter. After a trip back to the store and a return trip back to our house, (The store is about ten minutes away.)  Jason installed a new filter and only charged me $84 for the whole enchilada. If anybody is looking for a fair furnace repair service, call Kiernan in Racine.

So, my Monday was full of surprises. Not only did I get the furnace “fixed,” my day also included a trip to the doctor. Because I haven’t had insurance for over three years, and my doctor moved out of town, I had to break in a new doctor. This time around, I’m opting for a female doctor who thinks I have carpal tunnel inflammation going on in my hands, but I also have to have a series of blood tests to check out other possible maladies. I won’t know anything for sure for two weeks, but she gave me two wrist supports at no cost. Between Jason the furnace guy and the new female doctor I saw, I know there are fair caring people still left in the world. My only regret is not paying attention when my father tried to show me how to fix stuff around the house. Being a dumb white collar writer can be very costly.