Autumn’s Blessings

Clouds lying low in the sky,

The smell of warm apple pie,

Leaves of orange, red, and gold,

Such a lovely sight to behold!

Picking the perfect pumpkin,

Races through leaves–who will win?

Shorter days, longer nights,

Rainbow foliage brings delights!

A chill in the air,

But the kids don’t care

As they ramble and play

Day after day.

Mother Earth is wearing

Her colorful gown while preparing

For a long winter’s sleep

In the snow deep.

These and many more,

The blessings autumn has in store.

Excerpt from WIP Arianna – Part of Chapter 4

When I walked into Nana’s house that day, she turned, elbow-deep in flour as she made bread, and said, “You’re home early.”

“I quit.”  I took a seat at the table, placed my interlocked hands on its surface, and stared at my peeling nail polish.

“You what?”

“I quit my job.”

“Why would you do that?”  Nana wiped her hands on her apron near her hips and went to the sink to wash up.  After the water turned off, she grabbed the tea kettle and filled it.  I knew what was coming.  “We’re going to talk about this over some tea, Ari.”

“Isn’t it a bit hot for, um, hot tea?”

“Fine, then.  I’ll make iced herbal tea, but it’s still best to let the water boil on the stove, the tea bag steep, and then add the ice.  None of this instant nonsense.”  While the kettle warmed, Nana joined me.  “Now, what’s this about?”

I pointed at my face, half-smirking.  

“Your choice of decoration?”

I laughed.  “Yeah, Jeanine didn’t approve.  She wanted me to remove it, said it was against the rules or some garbage.  I didn’t agree, so I quit.”

“Hmm, seems a bit rash, dear.  But then again, you don’t seem that broken up.”

“I thought I might be more upset, but to be honest, I feel free.  And if I’m going to be completely honest with you, Nana, I don’t think I want to continue with beauty school, either.”

Nana’s eyebrows rose.  “Don’t you think you’re making an awful lot of changes, Ari?  I understand if you’re not happy with that way things are going, but too much change too quickly is, well, not healthy.”

I laughed humorlessly.  “Don’t I know it?  Don’t we both know it?  What choice did we have when my parents died, Nana?  None.  I wanna make some choices that are gonna have a better effect on my life.  Example–my whole relationship with Brad was coming apart at the seams for years.  I was living in his shoes.”

Nana chuckled.  “I never really cared for that boy, but I tolerated him because I thought you liked him.  He never stayed for dinner.  A man who doesn’t like my cooking automatically gets a lower grade in my books.”

I laughed at her spunk.  “Oh, Nana.”

Just then, the kettle whistled.  Nana stood and took care of making iced tea the right way.  We enjoyed her creation and further conversation.  I then helped her bake vegan bread, which was something I’d never done.  It was a lot of work, but something was therapeutic about it.  By the end of the afternoon, we had three loaves, one of which we used with dinner.

The Only Way to Fail is to do Nothing

No one wants to talk about, or even think about, failure.

Fear of failure is what keeps us from acting, from trying new things, from fulfilling our dreams.  Because there’s that little nagging voice in the back of our heads that whispers, “What if you fail?  If you don’t try it in the first place, you can’t fail.”

Lies, I say!

I used to subscribe to this way of thinking…for years, in fact.  I have always been writing, but I haven’t always written original stories like I do now.  I spent years and years living in the wonderful world of fan fiction, both reading and writing it.  I was comfortable playing with other people’s characters, but create my own?  Well, that was downright scary.

What a daunting task!

Even after I woke in the middle of one mid-October night in 2006 with a fictional name on my lips and an idea to write a story based on my late grandma’s life, I still didn’t fully embrace conquering my fears.  The momentum of excitement over the idea drove me for a few weeks.  I created a family tree with character names, read my grandma’s accounts of what it was like growing up in the early twentieth century, took notes, and even wrote two chapters.  Over the next two years, I turned out two more chapters.  In early 2009, I had four chapters and not much else.  

Of course, during this time, I was prolific with writing fan fiction.  That took center stage.  But write an original story?  I’d have the idea in the back of my mind and think about sitting down to write more, but I rarely actually opened the document.

I told several friends that my dream was to be a published author.  I had a couple of people who would ask how my story was going.  My answer: It’s not.

And as much as I wanted to be an author, I didn’t really think it would seriously happen.  Ever.

Then a funny thing happened in March of 2015.  I wasn’t writing much fan fiction any longer, my life filled with taking care of my kids.  I thought, “Why don’t I just try it?  I’ll commit myself to writing for fifteen minutes a day, every day, and see what happens.  Even if I never publish it or share it with anyone, at least I can say I wrote an original story.”

pablo (7)

Ten months later, I had my first draft.  A few months after that, I had a final draft and tried querying agents.  Scary, right?

It wasn’t scary at all, but rather liberating and amazing!  I couldn’t believe I’d done it, and I was now serious about writing more books, already in the process of writing two more manuscripts.  

I was prepared for rejection from agents, as I had read a lot about the process.  Few unknowns get their foot in the door.  That was okay with me, because the bigger accomplishment was writing and then editing the story!  I had looked my fear of failure in the eye and owned it.  It wouldn’t be a failure to me if no agent picked it up, because I had done something to be proud of.  I self-published the book, and now I’m living my dream.

The failure wasn’t in not traditionally publishing it.  Nor was it is not making a ton of money or having a load of people read it.  

Because I wrote it.  I tried, really made the effort.

The only way I would have failed would have been to not write the story AT ALL.

So you try something and decide it’s not for you, or you start something and give it your all and it doesn’t pan out.  Okay.  You did NOT fail.  You tried, really tried.  You didn’t let fear dictate your life.

I have come to firmly believe that the only way we fail is to do nothing.

Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

That’s in the same spirit as my belief about the only way to fail.

Be bold.  Be courageous.  Be triumphant.

Because life isn’t meant to be lived in a box.

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post a new blog every Friday, including book reviews.

My new novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for only $2.99 here.

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An Everlasting Love

The vows we said

The day we wed,

A promise made

As we bade

Farewell to the past,

Hello to a future to last.

Through the years,

Laughter and tears,

Happiness and sorrow,

And hope for tomorrow–

Our foundation is love,

Precious gift from above.

Our rings a token

Of a circle never broken,

Blessed by God

As life’s path we trod,

In sickness and in health,

Poor or in wealth,

Our love remains true,

Holding us–me and you.

-written Sept. 2017

Excerpt from WIP Arianna – Beginning of Chapter 3

 

After leaving Brad’s house, I drove in circles until I pulled into McDonald’s and ordered a large fries, two cheeseburgers, and a Coke.  I found a spot under a tree in the corner of the parking lot and turned off the car.  I kept the radio on and spent the next ten minutes eating away my sorrow and pretending that the girl singing the latest song of heartbreak was belting out those lyrics just for me.  After finishing the Coke, I felt sick.  The food didn’t sit well with me, and judging by the tightness of my shorts, I knew I should stop my bad habit of getting fast food almost every day.  Nana’s meals weren’t keeping me full.

I wondered about texting Kelly from work to see if she was still out with some of the other girls.  Maybe a few drinks with “the girls,” even though they weren’t my girls, would be the escape I needed–from thinking about Brad, my parents, my dead-end job, my supposed beauty career.  

I pulled my phone out of my purse.  My finger hovered over the screen in indecision.  Biting my lip, I glanced at the fence in front of me.  My eyes locked onto a sign there.

“Looking to make big money?  No experience needed.  Call 216-555-7634.”

I wrestled a pen out of my overstuffed purse and wrote the number down on an unused napkin.  Why I was doing this, I wasn’t entirely sure.  It was probably a scam.  Something too good to be true.  All I knew was that I needed a change.

I turned for home.  When I entered, Nana was sitting in the armchair in the small living room, reading her evening Bible verses.

“You’re back sooner than expected,” she said as she set her materials aside and removed her reading glasses.

I dropped onto the couch.  “Yeah, um, things didn’t exactly go as planned.”  My voice gave way at the end.  Damn it.

Nana left her seat and joined me.  “Ari, what’s the matter?”

“Brad and I, we br-broke up.  I mean, I broke it off with him.”

“Oh, Ari, honey, I’m so sorry.”  Nana drew me into a hug.

“I don’t know why I’m crying.  I should be glad to be rid of that– that–”

Nana released me and gazed at me with a small smile.  “It won’t be the first time a young lady had her heart broken, even if it was your choice to end things.  It sounds like things must have been going south for sometime if you weren’t happy with him.”

“Maybe.  Yeah.”

“Isn’t there anyone you want to call, Ari?  A friend?”

I shook my head.  “It’s pathetic, but I don’t really have any friends, Nana.”

“Really?  There’s no one?”

“Not really.  I kinda pushed the few friends I had away since Mom and Dad died.  I’m not really close with anyone at the salon or at school.  I mean, sure, there are some girls I talk to at work or school, but we’d never do anything social together.”

“What about that one girl you were close with back in high school?  What was her name?”

“Lori?”

“That’s the one.”

“Lori and I haven’t talked since the summer after high school, Nana.  She went away to college, somewhere on the west coast, I think.  I never heard from her again.”  That wasn’t completely true.  We were Facebook friends, but I didn’t think that counted.  We never interacted on there, and Nana understood social media about as well as I understood how a car worked.

“Maybe when you go to beauty school tomorrow, you should consider getting to know someone there better.  You have something in common, after all.”

“Yeah, we’ll see.  I think I’m just gonna turn in for the night if it’s all the same to you, Nana.”

“Well, good night, then, Ari.”  Nana kissed my cheek.

I offered what I hoped looked like a smile and not a grimace and went to my room.  Pulling out my phone and plopping down on my bed, I went onto Facebook and pulled up Lori Hensen’s profile.  She was still single and was now in a master’s program.  She had a ridiculously big grin on her pretty face in her profile pic.  As I clicked through her photos, she was almost always surrounded by friends.  My finger hovered over the message button.  Oh, what the hell?  Why not try?

Hi Lori, sorry we sorta lost touch.  How’s life?  I didn’t say anything on here but I lost my parents last month.  Plane crash.  Sorry if that’s tmi.  I just thought I’d check in and say hey.  If you got a sec I’d love to talk sometime.  Miss you. X

I sent the message, but it didn’t look like she was on.  Deciding that maybe Nana had a point, I tapped on Kelly’s number.  I’d never actually texted her before.  We’d exchanged numbers early on, just because Kelly was the type of person who was nice to everyone.

Hi Kelly, its Arianna from work.  Hope ur havin fun 2nite.  

I was surprised when the phone pinged.  Up popped a message from Kelly: Hey arianna!! Whats up girlie?  Ur missin a fun time.  U sure u dont wanna come out w/ us?

If I were the partying type, I would’ve jumped at the prospect.  I walked to the vanity and glared at myself.  My eyes shifted to the journal and black binder, and my hand hovered over them.  Stay home and write away my sorrows or go out on the town?  You want change or not, Arianna?  This is a chance to get out there and make that happen.  As Nana would say, to take the bull by the horns.

Review of Emilia: The Darkest Days in History of Nazi Germany Through a Woman’s Eyes by Ellie Midwood

Warning: contains spoilers.

emiliaEvery so often, a novel feels so real that the characters seem to be breathing right off the page.  Emilia is one of those stories.

The title clearly states what this book is about, but it doesn’t give away the horrors that the protagonist, Emilia Brettenheimer, endures during World War II.  Emilia is a young Jewish woman who grew up in Germany, but her family is forced to relocate to a ghetto.  She lives with her parents and three brothers, two of whom are considered useful workers in the ghetto.

While living in the ghetto, she thinks her life has surely taken a turn for the worse.  Food is hard to come by, at least enough food to thrive.  She begins, out of desperation, to give away the family’s hidden gold and then her services, in the sexual sense, to an SS guard named Richer, in exchange for enough food to feed her family.

She becomes pregnant with his child.  Just when she is on the brink of wondering what to do, things turn even darker.  Her mother, Hannah, and she are carted off to a labor camp in Poland after the unthinkable happens.

We all know the horrors of concentration camps.  Emilia’s baby is aborted, and she is put through a harrowing procedure that renders her no longer able to have children.  I cannot imagine the physical and emotional pain that would have involved.  Being a mother, having my children is one of my greatest blessings.  To take that away from a person is to say they are somehow not worthy of being a parent, that they are subhuman and should be allowed to be neutered or spayed like an animal.

The one saving grace poor Emilia has is her new friend, Magda, a red-headed girl about her age who finds something to be grateful for in the midst of hell.  Magda explains that an attractive young woman like Emilia could use her looks to get on the good side of the SS guards and get more food.  It’s a matter of survival.  The game they’re playing has no real winners, for a young woman loses her innocence to get a piece of bread.  Some of the guards are no less than bears, the sex nothing less than pure rape.

What Emilia had with Richer was heavenly bliss in comparison.

Things continue to unravel.  Emilia’s life spirals downward, for how can she hope to survive this horror, let alone hold to the belief that there is any mercy to be had?  

The war ends, but the price of survival is too much to pay.  Embittered to the point of hatred for her tormentors, and understandably so, Emilia tries to make her way in this new world.

Yet there are people in Emilia’s life who have been the balm of healing, those who have shown her a better way.  Will Emilia, broken and battered from her experiences, choose to hold onto her shattered pieces, or will she manage to rebuild her live, one piece painstakingly at a time, to create the masterpiece of forgiveness, wholeness, and love?

Ellie Midwood’s extensive knowledge of World War II is evident throughout.  She writes Emilia’s experiences with gut-wrenching rawness.  It hurts to read, but you can’t stop.  Perhaps to experience just a small fraction of the pain a Jewish woman would have endured during those years is a testament to us all of the horrors of humanity and one of the lowest points of history for mankind.  To think there are things going on like this in the world today is an atrocity.  This fictional book raises awareness to a very real evil.

5 out of 5 stars

Buy Ellie’s book here.

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post a new blog every Friday, including book reviews.

My new novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for only $2.99 here.

My first novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful,  is available for $3.99 here.

Precious Child of Mine

Little one, I love you so.

I watch as you grow.

From the day our eyes first met,

I have never had a regret.

Booboo kisses on the knees,

Climbing, hanging out of trees,

Learning, playing, having fun,

Crawling, walking, and then the run–

The days feel long,

But such is life’s song

That short are the years,

Filled with laughter and tears.

Before my very eyes,

You grow and I realize

So little you are not.

But, child, I never forgot

How precious to me you are,

You, my lovely shining star.

-written Sept. 2017