The first time I saw “the Sound of Music,” I was in love.  Not just with that happy-go-lucky story (quite a boast for a movie with Nazis), but also with Salzburg.  The mountains that drew Maria to their wild peaks also had a powerful hold on me.  So much so that the opening sequence, where they just sweep over Austria’s beauty, was my favorite part.

Although, to be honest, I didn’t believe it really looked like that.  I’ve been around film and its “movie magic” for too long.  The mountains couldn’t possibly be that green.  The waters wouldn’t be that clear.  In this day and age, no village is that picturesque.  I was a cold, hard skeptic.  So, I made myself a promise.  Someday, I would go and see it with my own eyes – no “fixing it in post,” and no movie magic. Read More

Last year, I tapped into my long-dormant poetry well, and I posted a series of seven poems about World War II.  They were all from the vantage points of the many people, from many places, killed during the conflict.  This year, the “Let Me Tell You How I Died” series is back with seven segments from World War I.  It was a conflict so encompassing in its devastation that it came to be known as “the Great War.”  Before it was through, it had laid waste to most of Europe as well as an entire generation of fighting soldiers.  Here for you is the first segment of Part II of this poem epic.  I hope you enjoy it, as well as the following six that will be posted over the next few months. Read More

Messines Ridge – And the Big Kaboom

It was June 7, 1917, a little after three in the morning.  Over a small swath of Belgium known as Messines Ridge, the first rays of dawn glittered on the horizon.  Mud-splattered German soldiers slumbered in their trenches, while their British counterparts huddled across the way.  A few flares fizzled over the soggy fields that were riddled with shell holes and puddles.  Sporadic artillery guns woke up and belched the first cannons of “morning hate.”  It looked like this day would be just like any other…

…Until the clock struck 3:10am exactly.  Then, the Battle of Messines Ridge opened with a bang.  A really, really big bang.  A bang that took almost two years to put into place, that involved nineteen separate mines, thousands of personnel, and about 990,000 pounds of explosives.  A bang that killed 10,000 unsuspecting German soldiers in one fell swoop, injured countless others, caused eternal hearing problems, and left a permanent scar in the plains of Belgium that is still visible today.

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            It was a hot day in the isolated countryside of Belgium.  So hot…. The horizon was vast and unbroken.  On either side of the car, there were just open farm lands, and tidy hay blocks that were stacked in pyramids or speckled in uniform over the fields.  Tall, green grass rippled in the wind.  The sky topped it all with its fantastic sapphire dome. 

            While my husband drove, I fiddled with the GPS.  It babbled some robotic nonsense back at me.  It couldn’t help me.  It didn’t really know what I wanted. 

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What’s In a Name? Ask King Tut.

Once upon a time there was a young girl who was obsessed with Ancient Egypt.  She read any book she could get her hands on.  She dressed as an Egyptian Queen for Halloween.  She was mesmerized by hieroglyphics and even learned how to write her name in them.  She was absorbed by the lives of pharaohs and especially their mummy tombs that were filled with treasures.  She especially marveled at pictures of the many treasures of King Tut.  While flipping through these photos, she dreamed of seeing them with her own eyes someday. 

Twenty years later (or so…), this young girl was a fully-grown woman with a deep passion for history.  Egypt wasn’t as big of an obsession anymore, but the enchantment of this ancient culture never left her.  And, she has now seen with her own eyes some of the magnificent treasures from those books.  She didn’t have to go far either, thanks to the King Tut exhibit at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.  The exhibit was there for a few months in 2018, and let me tell you, it didn’t disappoint.  There were three or four rooms packed with treasures that were found in the boy-king’s tomb.  Although these items were thousands of years old, they looked brand new.  The gold still sparkled on the many statues and figurines.  Scarabs had paints of red and deep blue that looked like they were just applied yesterday.  There were golden chests, hand-carved chairs, and stunning pieces of jewelry.  Seeing it all with my own eyes was way more powerful than I ever dreamed it would be.  And as it turns out, it was a part of something way bigger as well.  In reading those books as a little girl, and in seeing that exhibit as an adult, I was actually part of saving an almost-forgotten pharaoh’s life.  Because in Ancient Egyptian culture, there is an awful lot to something as simple as saying a name. 

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Hello everyone!  As promised, here is the final segment of Part I of my Poem epic – the conclusion to the WWII part of the series (which is brought to you with some mild confusion on the new block editor … so apologies if it doesn’t look the same!) I hope you have enjoyed this first part!  Next year, the epic will return with Part II which covers the First World War.  I will look forward to seeing you then.    

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I won’t lie to you guys.  I’m one of those people that goes a little crazy on Christmas.  The pumpkins from Halloween are barely soft before the Christmas decorations go up. The stair railing gets wrapped in holly garland, lights adorn our kitchen window, and unwitting cats are dressed in various Christmas outfits. There is lots of fun in preparing for the holidays, but it’s the Christmas Tree that holds an extra-special place in my heart.

There’s just something comforting about sitting in the glow of a Christmas Tree. My favorite is picking out ornaments to decorate it with. I love it when stores cram their shelves with colorful balls, fun shapes, and sparkling decorations. We already have plenty in our own ornament stash (because I have little control at Christmas), but we add to it every year in one of our own traditions. Each Christmas, my husband and I get each other an ornament that marks something special about that year. In addition to that, I splurge on at least one new box of regular ornaments. Last year, it was Shiny Brites (click here to read all about it). This year took me in a slightly different direction.

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The first thing we saw at Talbot House was the garden.  It was spacious and green.  There were beautiful flowering shrubs all over the grassy lawn.  Butterflies flitted everywhere.  It was a haven, and I let out a nice exhale.  In my first five minutes there, I saw why so many soldiers from the Great War and the nearby Ypres Salient found peace at Talbot House.  As Sgt. Jacob Bennett of the Scots Guards wrote of his own visit – “In April 1916 I spent two happy days at Talbot House, and in that Garden, where all was Peace in the midst of war.”

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When I first began research for my historical fiction novel about World War II, I wanted to include a scene that dealt with the bombs.  I collected many materials – first-hand accounts, histories, etc. and got to work.  It would be a very emotional experience for me, much more so than I expected.  Stories from survivors about these two attacks left me devastated and disturbed.  I could barely handle the accounts of it, I truly cannot even imagine having gone through it in person.  My heart cracked so deeply that I had to stop the research, and my plans to include the bomb in my narrative were scrapped.  Because even as a writer, I could not find the right words for this event.  All I managed to eek out was this poem.  I think it’s important that we always remember these events – for they should never… EVER… be repeated.

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A Delicious History of Candy Corn

20181009_154406Well, it’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing, the nights are cooler, Halloween is upon us, and every store is stocked with candy corn. It’s my favorite time of the year, and all that candy corn is a big reason why. I wait all year long for the first sightings of the familiar, brightly-colored bags on the shelves, because candy corn has been one of my favorites since childhood. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in Iowa and we love corn in all its many varieties there. Maybe it’s because those colors are so pretty to look at. Or maybe it’s just that good (but I know a lot of people would disagree with me there – it seems to be a love it or hate it kind of candy).

I love candy corn so much that one year I contemplated trying to make my own, but after seeing the complexities involved, I decided it was better for everyone if I don’t attempt something like that in the kitchen. Besides, I don’t know exactly what accidents our insurance policy covers. So, I won’t be sharing a personal candy corn recipe with the world anytime soon. But I am good at sharing the history – so I dug into the roots of this iconic candy to find out how it came to rule the drug stores every year at Halloween.

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