Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?

I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, I concocted a plan to take Chuck with me when I travel around the world, which I do frequently. Not an easy task. First, I have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when I arrive, I pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Remembering a Dead Friend Sixty Plus Years Later

The formal entrance gates to the American Cemetery in Luxembourg

       In honor of Memorial Day, Chuck asked that I tell you his favorite story that says so much about why we should take a moment on Memorial Day to remember.
Several years ago, the rascal cat and I were traveling in Luxembourg when we met this elderly gentleman and his wife.  He’d fought in World War II and had decided, now --before it was too late because he was in his eighties and life was slipping by fast -- to pay tribute to a fellow soldier who’d fought beside him in the Battle of the Bulge.  This soldier, who was his driver, hadn’t been as lucky as he was and hadn’t made it back alive. He was buried in the American cemetery in Luxembourg, which was established in 1944 as a final resting place for Americans killed in action.  The families of soldiers have a choice.  Their loved ones can be shipped home or they can be buried in the closest American cemetery located in neutral territory.   

When we arrived at the cemetery, and when you step foot in any of the American cemeteries on foreign soil, you gasp.  They are always beautifully kept up, massive in scope.  The rows and rows of crosses made of Italian marble take your breath away.  The knowledge that so many brave and courageous men and women fought and gave their lives to preserve our way of life hit you  hard when you are far away from your home.  These men and women left their home, never to return.  General Patton is buried here.

View of the rows of crosses--the stars represent the Jewish soldiers.

General George S. Patton made a special request to be buried at the American Cemetery with the soldiers he fought with when he died, and his wife honored his request.

The guide who showed us around the cemetery was a man who remembered the day the Americans freed Luxembourg from the German occupation.  He stood on the side of the road as the American soldiers marched into his town. He’ll never forget that day, and even though he was a boy then, he still felt a sense of gratitude toward the United States of America.
Rene, our guide, at the cemetery

Now in his seventies, he volunteers at the cemetery.  He enjoys saying thank you to the Americans who come to visit the cemetery.  

As to the elderly gentleman, he found his friend, William C. McGee, a Medal of Honor recipient, who died on March 19, 1945.  He stood near his gravesite and saluted.  It was a wonderful tribute to his friend.  

The American soldier who returned sixty years later to pay tribute to his friend

The gravesite of William McGee, Medal of Honor recipient

Chuck and I were amazed that he remembered him so many years later. The bonds that grow between those that fight for freedom. 


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Chuck Visits the Dead at Normandy

It may sound macabre to want to visit a cemetery, but when I told Chuck the story of how the cemetery came to be, he became duly intrigued and insisted on stopping to visit the dead.  We usually don’t think about what happens to the soldiers who are killed in battle on foreign soil. During World War II, there were more than 2,000 American soliders who lost their lives during D Day.  The protocol is that families have the choice--they can bury their loved ones where they died or have them sent home.  

The American Cemetery at Normandy is 172.5 acres of land, located on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy, technically on French soil, but it is considered American land and it’s run by the United States government.  Approximately 9,400 Americans are buried there, and every year millions of visitors from all over the world come to visit to pay their respects.

The first thing you notice are the crosses, each one marking a gravesite.  They are lined symmetrically and they seem to go on forever. Rows and rows of crosses stretch for acres and acres.  It is the sheer  organization of death that hits you--the space and the numbers.  The white crosses against the green of the grass.  Perfectly tended.  Beautiful against the blue sky.  A breeze blows from the ocean. 

Then you notice the other aspects of the cemetery.  A chapel sits squarely in the middle of the grounds.  There is a 22 foot bronze statue in the center of this memorial in the open arc facing the graves, which is called the “Spirit of American Youth Rising From The Waves” appropriate because so many of the dead in this cemetery lost their lives struggling to gain possession of the beaches in Normandy. The names of the 1, 557 Americans who were missing who could not be located or identified from the Normandy campaign are carved on the garden walls behind this memorial. And north of the memorial is an overlook where one can visualize the battle that took place during D Day.

Brigadire General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. is buried in this cemetery.  He is one of three Medal of Honor recipients, who was awarded his medal posthumously for his valor during the Battle at Utah Beach.  He did not die on the beach that day. The oldest soldier who landed on the beach, beset with a heart condition and with arthritis, he acted courageously and survived only to die one month later of a heart attack. His brother is buried next to him.  In all, there are 38 sets of brothers buried in the cemetery.

The American Cemetery at Normandy is one of the world’s best known military cemeteries. As Chuck and I leave, we discover that near the Visitor’s Center, newsmen visiting in 1969 buried a time capsule--to be opened on June 6, 2044. 


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Chuck Goes Up, Up, Up - the Eiffel Tower

     After seeing the Mona Lisa, Chuck wanted to go--up, up, up.  He was determined not only to see the Eiffel Tower, he wanted to ascend to the top of the tower.  Staked out in our room at the Montparnasse Hotel in Paris, Chuck meowed and meowed.  He scratched on the hotel room door, as if he were a prisoner.  
     It seems that he had run off a photo of the Eiffel Tower and stuffed it in his own personal carry-on bag that he brought with him wherever he traveled.  There was a photo of his twin sister, Ella, of course, in the bag, and now clutched in his paw--a glossy picture of the Eiffel Tower, grandiose in the early morning mist. 
     Where he’d gotten that photo from--I can’t begin to guess, but the longer we stayed in this magical city, the more obsessed Chuck became. 
     Finally, on the last morning we were in Paris we agreed to take him.     
     From our hotel to the tower, we took the subway.  And I might as well admit up front, there is never a good time to visit the Eiffel Tower.  
     This tower of steel is always crowded.
     Open seven days a week, tourists constantly mill about.  Some decide to walk up the over 300 steps to the first level and then another 300 steps to the second level.  We decided to take the lift.  But we had to stand in line for what seemed like an eternity.  
     I decided that if we were there to see the tower, Chuck may as well learn all about it.  I told him that the total height of the tower was equal to an 81 story building in New York and because of the antennas built on top, it was the tallest manmade structure in the world.  
     Chuck wasn’t impressed.
     I told him that it was built to celebrate the centennial of the French revolution.  He rolled his eyes.
     Did he know that the names of 72 scientists were engraved on the tower?  He didn’t care.
     I told Chuck--and I really thought that this cool fact would pique his interest--that it took between fifty and sixty gallons of paint every year to keep the Eiffel Tower looking spiffy.  
     But by now, Chuck was hungry, and all he wanted to know was when we were going to get a snack.
     Finally, we climbed on the lift and began to ascend to the top.  
     I thought Chuck would be excited.  After all, here we were-going higher and higher.  The view of Paris--once we arrived--was one hundred percent guaranteed to be spectacular.
     I was wrong.
     The one thing we didn’t figure on was that the  “Belly Boy” was afraid of heights.  When the elevator clanged to a stop (metaphorically), and we stepped out to take in the sight, Chuck froze.  He began to shake.  The poor kid was frightened to death.  Immediately, he demanded to go back down.
     “Just shut those peepers,” I said.  
     He buried his face in the crook of my arm.
     The good news was that Bob and I enjoyed the loveliest view of Paris.  
     The bad news - Chuck did nothing but complain the entire way back to the hotel.  He ripped up his photo of the Eiffel Tower and swore he would never meow about it again.  
     The big baby!   


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Chuck Asks What Do Moms Really Want on Mother's Day

         Chuck, the rascal cat, and I are home for this Mother’s Day, which gave us plenty of opportunity to observe first hand the commercialization of this day dedicated to mothers all over the world. 

We became curious about how this day came to be. 

Ever since I was born, Mother’s Day has been a celebrated holiday.  

Chuck wanted to know--how did it all get started and when he asked the question, I confessed I had no idea.  

I just assumed we’ve always celebrated Mother’s Day.

Little did I know the irony that lurked beneath this fascinating story . . .

The woman who lobbied for an official Mother’s Day, which became as you well know the second Sunday in May (at least in this country) and then nine years later who became the first major opponent against the abuse of the celebration was Anna Jarvis. 

She began the campaign. She started the celebration of Mother’s Day in 1908 in West Virginia and helped establish it as a national holiday in 1914. By 1920, however, disappointed by the commercial nature of Mother’s Day, she did a complete turnabout. 

She actually began lobbying against the very thing she’d fought so hard to secure. She hated what Mother’s Day had become in six short years. She criticized greeting cards and advocated, for example, the writing of personal letters to your mother.  

But she was fighting a losing cause.

And, therein, lies the irony. 

It seems that the popularity of a holiday is directly proportional to the amount of revenue it can generate for all concerned. Other holidays have come and gone. If they don’t make money, they don’t last.  

Now consider Mother’s Day. The tradition, the protocol is the card and the gift. In fact, in most people’s minds, sending a card/gift is more important than even making an effort to see or talk to your mother.  

Hallmark/American Greeting specialize in the cards.  

Every major store offers their idea of the perfect Mother’s Day gift.

Commercialization of Mother’s Day has hit an all time high and I cringe to think what Anna Jarvis would think if she could see what Mother’s Day has become today.

Top Five Gift Choices:
1 - Flowers or a Plant
2-  Candy, preferably chocolate
3 - Jewelry
4 - A book - cookbooks or gardening books are always popular
5 - Baskets filled with a collection of something usually related to a hobby of some sort - exercise gear, cooking paraphrenalia, make-up, etc., lotions and potions, etc.

But here’s the other ironic thing about Mother’s Day.  What do mothers really want on Mother’s Day?  According to a survey done by Child’s Play Communications as reported in the Huffington Post, after the Do It Yourself gifts, moms actually want an “off duty day.”  The list looks something like this: 
1- Handwritten cards or letters
2- Uninterrupted showers
3- Naps
4- Silence
5- A Day Off

Sadly, when pressed, only three percent of the mothers actually thought they would get any of the things they really wanted. To read the article, hit:

When I told Chuck all of this, he shook his whiskered face. 

You had to ask, Chuck, you just had to ask!

        Chuck and I wish all the mothers out there get their heart’s desire. 

My paranormal romance, Wild Point Island, is now available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in mass market paperback and ebook.  Reader reviews 4.8 stars. Romance, adventure, magic and mystery.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Chuck Visits Utah Beach

You can be totally ignorant of the history of World War II, the battles and the larger issues that tumbled the entire world into war, and yet someone can say:

D Day Invasion of German occupied Normandy, France

Your tousled head comes up and you recognize the term and the place and the pivotal moment.  That was Chuck.  That’s what propelled this rascal cat, this world traveller, first to Omaha Beach and then to Utah Beach.  

I’d hinted to Chuck that Utah Beach had it’s own own unique story, which I told him as we headed toward the museum that now commemorates this sacred ground where men sacrificed their lives for freedom. 

When the United States 4th Infantry Division landed on June 6, 1944, they met little resistance from the Germans.  In fact, out of the 23,250 troops who landed, they suffered less than 200 casualties. There were several reasons for this, but I think the most compelling reason was that Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., Assistant Commander of the 4th Division, insisted on landing with his troops.  

He was the only general to do so.  He had requested permission to come ashore with his troops several times and been denied, but finally received the OK to his written request.  At 56, he was the oldest soldier to land on Utah Beach, but he wanted to personally lead the attack.  And it was a good thing, too.

Unfortunately, that day the landing craft drifted far south of its objective.  Roosevelt, realizing this fact, was the one who contacted the other commanders and coordinated the attack.  He is famously quoted for saying, “We’ll start the war from here.”  Throughout the day, he pointed almost every regiment to its changed objectives.  For his bravery on the field--which, of course, saved lives--he was awarded the Medal of Honor.  

One of those "saved" lives was J.D. Salinger, who survived that battle and others in the war and returned home to write The Catcher in the Rye, which stayed on the New York Times Bestseller List for thirty weeks. 

I remember reading The Catcher in the Rye and meeting Holden Caulfield for the first time.  I'm sure that I'm one of hundreds of thousands of high school students in America and around the world that were affected in a positive way by Holden Caulfield's story.  

When Chuck and I arrived at the museum and looked at the artifacts, I tipped my hat to Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. 

Chuck was impressed, too.  He likes stories where one man's actions make a difference.