My Protector

Sometime ago, we lived in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Nature abounds in this beautiful area, with mountain peaks all around, desert views, massive boulders, and colorful washes that flow into the Verde River. In the center of town is a lake with a fountain that spouts water 562 feet in the air once every hour.  When we moved there in 1996, I couldn’t wait to get out and explore this beautiful desert country. I went on a few short hikes around town and then set my sights on the McDowell Mountain Park north of town. It was perfect for me, not too far from home, and enough of a challenge with its rolling hills and pathways. I made plans to go hiking one Saturday, but my husband, Dennis, objected to me going alone in such a remote location. His suggestion was for me to take our dog, Hillary, along for protection. It seemed to be the only way that he would be content to let me go out in the desert alone, so I prepared to take her with me.

Hillary was our seven-year-old Boston terrier, stout in the chest, and the kind of dog who played hard, and loved going on walks, but she was strong and willful and usually took you for a walk—not the other way around. I planned to wear a light jacket over a long-sleeved tee-shirt, stretch pants, and good comfortable hiking shoes. In my backpack, I carried sunscreen, a foldable dish for Hillary to drink from, and more than a gallon of water. I didn’t think I’d need any more than that on this spring day where the predicted high was seventy-eight degrees.

On the ride to the park, Hillary took a short nap, snoring and snorting loudly, as she always did in her sleep. When we arrived, there were just two cars in the parking lot. I double-checked the trail map. “Easy” the sign said, so it shouldn’t be a problem for the two of us. We started off with Hillary on her leash leading the way down the dirt path. She charged ahead as we passed saguaros and blooming ocotillos. Mourning doves cooed in an ironwood tree and red tail hawks circled overhead. It was peaceful and breathtaking as the sun peaked through the clouds highlighting the valley and desert below. As we rounded a curve and up a slight hill, a chipmunk scurried out of the grass startling Hillary and me. I laughed. “Scared us didn’t it, Hillary.” She looked back at me and shortened the distance between the two of us. Further up the hill, a series of lizards rumbled around in the tall, dry grass as it tightened its grip around the narrow path. By now, Hillary was trying to walk by my side, but another noise in the grass put her squarely behind me. “Guess you want me to take the lead now?” She surely didn’t object, in fact, she was so close behind me that she bumped my right leg with each step.

We stopped at the top of the hill and I gave her a drink, which she gulped heartily. We rested there for a moment taking in the beauty around us. Off in the distance, I saw a group of riders on horseback coming our way. We continued on. Blooming prickly pear cactus in yellow and red dotted the landscape. Farther along, we encountered the horse riders and Hillary was not thrilled about seeing those critters. Pulling on her leash, she dragged me away from the trail. I had to pick her up and stand on a large boulder until they passed.

We continued on and finally reached the top of the hill, a rocky summit with little vegetation, but 360-degree views. It was then I realized that I hadn’t thought to bring a camera, so I would have to commit the beautiful scenery to memory. We started our descent and the tall grass again surrounded the walking trail. Hillary quickly moved behind me again, panting. I stopped and gave her a third drink of water which she lapped up enthusiastically. By now, she’d sucked up well over half the water, but I figured we would be back shortly so that shouldn’t be an issue.

As we descended the hill, she gave a nervous yelp, and actually ran into the back of my leg. “What’s the matter, girl? Are you nervous about the lizards?” But it wasn’t the lizards she was concerned with. It was then that I noticed a pair of coyotes following us. They kept their heads low, below the level of the grass, and then peaked up above it quickly to catch a glimpse of us. I tugged at Hillary’s leash and picked up the pace, while keeping an almost constant eye out for the coyotes, which had a constant eye on us.

At one point, I picked up Hillary and climbed up on a boulder to get a better view of the two predators stalking us. I’d seen a lot of coyotes before, most were relatively skinny and not really all that big, but these two looked like they were on steroids, and had never skipped a meal. Hillary’s tongue was now hanging out and she was panting like crazy. She looked scared as she climbed onto my lap. “Who’s protecting who, Hillary?”

I must admit that I felt a bit anxious too. The group of horse-riders was long gone and there was no one else in sight. We rested there for a while as I watched the coyotes and they watched us. Finally, they started chasing in circles in the tall grass. Yipping in triumph, they ran off with a chipmunk.

With a sigh of relief, I took out the last of the water and Hillary drank every last drop. “You’re not very good at sharing are you?” She looked at me, still panting as the sun split the clouds and instantly began to heat us up. I took off my jacket and stuffed it in my backpack. “C’mon, let’s go home.” At the sound of the word home, she was up, panting, and eager to go.

We headed off on the path with her right behind me. The sun was high in the sky. I started sweating and she was panting something fierce. Down a small hill, we hit the prairie side, easier walking, but soon Hillary was pulling back. I turned to look at her and she plopped to the ground. “C’mon, girl, we’re going home,” but she wouldn’t get up. I let her rest a minute, and then tugged on her leash. “Let’s go,” but she stayed on the ground, panting hard. Finally, I lifted her up, but she didn’t seem to be able to stand up on her own. I realized then, that she must have been having a hard time with the long walk and the heat of the day. There was no shade on this end of the trail, nowhere to get out of the hot sun.

Finally, I picked her up, all twenty-four pounds of her, and carried her the distance of about six blocks, back to the trailhead. It wasn’t an easy task. When we arrived, I had to lift her into the car. She laid down on the seat in the air conditioning and quickly fell asleep, snoring and snorting loudly as usual. In her sleep, she started moving her legs as if she was running, and I figured she was dreaming of her great adventure in the desert, protecting me from those wild coyotes.

 

 

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Remembering Ron

 

My brother, Ron Palmer, passed away on October 21st of last year. I have so many sweet memories of him and our time growing up together on the Palmer farm.

Ron seemed to always look at the good in people. He was loyal & respectful. He never spoke a bad word about anyone and always said something positive when others were criticizing someone.

Ron was always ready for an adventure. When we were kids, he and Bob built a mighty fine tree house out in the north pasture out of old wood scavenged from around the farm. They also took an old soapbox car that originally belonged to our Uncle Ralph, and got it running again. It was fun pushing each other up and down hill in it. He also helped us make clodhoppers out of coffee cans and baling twine.

Ron was the one who got us into acorn wars. He and Bob made slingshots out of oak tree branches, stripped off the bark, and then cut strips of rubber from old inner tubes to make the slingshots. The acorns were in abundance from the white oak trees, so we had acorn wars. Ron was a tough opponent –very accurate with that slingshot. We played for quite some time until he got me with an acorn right on the cheekbone. It raised a heck of a bump and gave me a black eye. Dad yelled. “Someone’s gonna lose an eye!” and he took the slingshots away. That was the end of acorn wars.

Ron didn’t get into a lot of trouble when he was young, but he did have some challenges. He was allergic to strawberries, and got hives several times. He also burned his right arm pretty severely once. Mom was canning and he bumped the boiling pickles which spilled all over him. We wrapped his arm in wet towels and packed it with ice and it recovered well.

We did get in big trouble once when Mom and Dad were at work. We were all in the house after supper and the boys were done with barn chores. We experimented with food coloring and paraffin wax, melting it on the stove, but it caught fire. Ron grabbed the pan and tried to throw it in the sink, but it was hot and burned his hand. He dropped the pan and wax sprayed onto the kitchen curtains on the right side of the sink catching them on fire. Then he turned the water on and it splashed more wax and flame onto the curtains on the left side of the sink.  We were all screaming and panicking at that point. By the time we got the fire out, there was water everywhere, ceiling tiles were stained black from the smoke, and just a foot of fabric remained hanging at the top by the curtain rods. So, we were punished with no dessert for two weeks, and Mom got new curtains.

I found out years later that Bob, Ron, and Chuck used to steal the cigarette butts from Dad’s ashtray. They’d got out behind the barn and smoke. They never told me about it because they said I would have told on them. They’re right, I would have.

Ron was curious about how things worked. If there was a tractor or some piece of equipment that broke down, he was right there to check it out and always came back greasy. For his 16th birthday, he got a watch from Mom and Dad. They warned him about over-winding it and breaking it. He never did that – instead he took it apart to see how it worked. There were little parts everywhere. But he couldn’t remember how to put it back together. (I guess that’s why none of the rest of us got a watch after that).

Ron was a bit quirky when he was young. He ate bugs—crickets, angle worms, beetles— He said they were good, but it was gross to me, but he said that he heard people in other countries ate bugs, so he thought he’d try it.

Ron was really strong. Both he and Bob were broad-shouldered and worked on the Palmer farm. Tossing hay bales onto the hay wagon helped build those muscles. During high school, both the boys played football, and Bob worked on a sod farm while Ron took a job at Tally Ho as a bus boy. He washed a lot of dishes and did a very good job. One eventful situation was the day Ron dropped a two-gallon jar of mustard and it shattered everywhere. Mom, who was his boss at the restaurant, was quite mad because it ruined his white pants and was a heck of a mess to clean up.

When we were in high school, Grandpa sold his new house on the west end of the farm and he, Grandma, and Uncle Bill moved back into our old farmhouse. Our family had to move out because Grandma said it was just too much for all of us to be in one house again. We moved to Albertville and rented a farmhouse from Vetch’s. Later we moved a mile down the road and rented from Martin’s.

Ron and a couple of his friends tried to form a band. He bought a guitar and an amplifier and learned to play. The band practiced in the old barn on the Vetch farm. It’s a good thing there weren’t any animals around because the rock music at full volume would have had cows giving sour milk. The band did learn a few songs, but never were good enough to play anywhere.

Ron was honest, and I don’t think he’d ever told a lie just to get out of trouble. Of course, there was one time that I thought he was a bit too honest. I went with my girlfriend, Marilyn, to decorate for her parents wedding anniversary party at St. Michael’s Ballroom. A friend of hers gave us whiskey to drink and we got drunk. At home, I was throwing up when Mom and Dad came home. I said I had the flu, but Ron ratted me out. “She’s not sick, she’s drunk.” Oh boy, did I get in trouble then.

Ron and Bob saved money to buy a car together – a beautiful red and white ‘56 Chevy. It was their dream car. They were so cool driving it to school, but wouldn’t let us other kids ride along in it. We still had to take the bus.

I still remember the day Ron drove off to work one day. The Chevy was making a strange noise when he pulled out of the driveway. Not long after that, he phoned to say that it had blown a rod and was towed away. We never did see that car again.

Ron was responsible though. He bought another car to drive to work, but he didn’t have much money to spend. It was a Plymouth, a big car with wings in the back and push-button shifting. He gave us rides in it from time to time, but I learned after the first rainstorm to not ride shotgun. The car had rusted through floorboards. You could lift up the floor mats on the passenger side and there was hardly any floor there—just a frame across it and every time he hit a mud puddle, we got soaked—not just your feet either, but most of you! Sometimes, I think he sped up just a little when coming up on a puddle, maybe not, but he sure did laugh when we got wet. So it wasn’t a good choice for a car, but Ron would tell you he “got a good deal on it.”

After high school, Ron took a job with the Rail Road laying track and pounding spikes—the old-fashioned way, with a sledgehammer. I remember that summer, he was mowing the lawn with no shirt on, and wearing an old pair of cutoffs, he was tan and muscle bound. My dad said the Marines wouldn’t have to do much to make a man out of him.

Both Bob and Ron were fiercely patriotic – Right after high school, Bob joined the Army and reported first. Ron took a job in St. Cloud at Franklin Manufacturing, which made commercial refrigerators. In November 1966, he enlisted in the Marine Corp Reserves, later he changed from the reserves to four years active duty. He had to undergo surgery before going in, but he was determined to serve his country.

Ron was proud to be following in Dad and Grandpa’s footsteps as a Marine in the infantry. He left for basic training at Camp Pendleton, where he quickly qualified on the range for handgun and M14, received Rifleman Qualification, and was promoted to Private First Class.

In July 1967, his Marine unit shipped out to the Pacific where he received special training before going to Vietnam. He arrived at DaNang and participated in Operation Liberty in defense of the northern border at Phu Bai RVN (just south of the central city of Hue)

In September 1967, he was wounded the first time by shrapnel wound to his left hand.

By this time, he had qualified on the M16 and M60 and then participated in Operation Cove near Thura Thien, close to the DMZ at the Vietnamese border.

In December 1967, near Quang Tri, while riding in truck, he received sustained a fragmentation wound to the lower back from a ricochet round while riding in a truck. (It was a friendly fire ricochet).

He was patched up again and returned to service in Operation Scotland in defense of Khe Sanh. The 26th marines were assigned to defend hill 558. Khe Sahn was nothing more than a desert mountain. The enemy was in caves and hiding within the jungle bushes. The Marines were ordered to take the mountain, but they were pinned down half way up. So our government bombed the mountain with a defoliant to burn off the leaves and foliage. Unfortunately, this “agent orange” severely affected both the Vietnamese and our troops for years to come.

In late January, 1968 Ron’s Company F, 3rd Marine Division continued to patrol near Quang Tri. The base was hit by Vietcong mortar and rocket fire as part of the Tet Offensive. Ron was wounded again by enemy explosive device, receiving a fragment wound to his right leg.

Ron usually didn’t talk about the war, but he told one story that I will never forget. He said he and a few other GIs were on patrol and were caught by some Viet Kong. They took them to a camp area and took their clothes and boots, leaving them wearing nothing but their under shorts. They managed to sneak off and escape when the guards fell asleep, but had to run through the jungle in their bare feet. He said they were all glad when they got back to the Marine camp, but felt silly coming in wearing nothing but their underwear and dog tags. Worse for them all, though, was the trench foot they got after that. He said he felt lucky that they did escape and didn’t end up as a prisoner of war because those guys weren’t treated very well.

Ron received the National Defense Service Medal, The Vietnam Service Medal, and Vietnam Campaign Medal. Ron was wounded three times while serving in Vietnam, twice from shrapnel from enemy fire and once from friendly fire. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Gold Star.

In March 1968, he was on his way back to the USN hospital in Philadelphia. Eight months later, he was identified as disabled and released from active duty, but it was several years before he received his honorable discharge.

Ron was a warrior, strong in his convictions to defend his county, but the war changed Ron. None of us expected the change in him from the Vietnam War, but there was no doubt he was different. Jumpy and sullen at times. The military blamed it on “shell shock” which was later called PTSD. That was part of it, but not all of it. Later we learned that defoliant which our own government sprayed –that Agent Orange— caused tremendous permanent damage to our troops. Cancer, lung issues like COPD, and nerve damage, to name a few. This was for anyone the chemical was sprayed over, in addition to those handling it. There is no doubt that it was a pathetic decision and use which caused permanent disability, death, and birth defects to the enemy and to our own troops. Worse also, was the government’s denial of medical and disability claims for our soldiers for years afterwards.

Ron came home a changed man—a different person than the one who left. Even though he didn’t die in Vietnam, he gave his life for his country. There’s no doubt about that, but I am so very glad that he stayed the same sweet person he always was. Many of our veterans returned angry, aggressive, and abusive. Some turned to drugs or alcohol to try to drown out the past, but Ron stayed straight and strong even though it totally affected his life.

Ron took courses in landscape design at Anoka Technical and worked at a nursery. I swear he knew the common and technical names of every plant and tree around. Later he took a manufacturing job at Thermo-serve in Anoka because it paid better and wasn’t seasonal. It was there that he met Kathy Skogman. The two became inseparable, and married December 5, 1970. They rented an apartment in the basement of a house in Anoka for a while. Their son, Michael Shawn was born March 29, 1972 and life was going pretty well for them, so they bought a cabin on Lake Fremont near Zimmerman, but after the diagnosis of PTSD and Agent Orange, the marriage broke up and Kathy and Michael moved away.

The doctors at the VA were predicting a very bleak future for Ron. They said his lungs and heart would struggle and fail and the degenerative nerve disorder would affect the rest of his life until he could no longer function on his own. Ron was convinced that his son would be better off in a stable family and didn’t feel he could offer that, so he gave up his parental rights, which I feel was a very loving, self-sacrificing decision.

Ron continued to work as he could, but he spent a lot of time in the VA hospital. Several years later, he met Susan Russell and they seemed to have a lot in common. They both loved comedies and sports. From the time he was little, Ron loved to laugh,—the Three Stooges were his favorite. He, Bob, and their friend Roy DeMars used to do an imitation of the “wise guys” routine that would crack us all up.

It wasn’t long before Ron and Sue fell in love and were married June 21, 1980. Ron and Sue had something special. They loved their kitty-cats and were both big sports fans—Twins baseball, Vikings football, and hockey, whether professional or high school, and especially the playoffs and tournaments—they followed them all.

Despite all the trips to the VA hospital and the challenges of his illness, Ron and Sue were married thirty-six years. They bought a conservative one-bedroom house in north Minneapolis and made it their home. Despite the changes in north Minneapolis over the years, Ron and Sue had great neighbors and loved their neighborhood. A few years ago, a tornado passed over their area and damaged their house roof, porch, etc., but they got it fixed and continued their life together. It was a good life. A good marriage, they were faithful, respectful, and loving throughout their lives together—and they had a lot of laughs.

One day Ron told me, “I have two families now. Sue’s family treats me like I’m one of them. They’re really nice people and I love them all.”

Ron valued his friendships and his family. He loved and respected everyone. Despite COPD, aspirated pneumonia, central nervous system and other health issues and restrictions, he remained in good spirits throughout his lifetime. He worked when he could, volunteered at Salvation Army, and attended many seminars and training at the VA, and made the best of his life.

Ron was fiercely patriotic, a kind, gentle, person, with a passion for life. He put his life on the line for his country, but the war, PTSD, and Agent Orange changed his life into something very different. It affected his health, his marriage, and his whole life in every way. He spent countless weeks at the VA hospital in a constant battle against the illness that haunted him. The VA doctors tried shock treatments, and experimental medication over the years to try and resolve the issues—nothing worked. But despite it all, he kept a positive attitude. He said he was a lucky man because he was one of the GI’s that came home. He always remembered his fellow classmate, Jim Pepper, who died in Vietnam in September 1967. They had most of their classes together all through high school. Ron said he was a friend,  and a good man, who didn’t have to die.

Ron was a man of gentle strength. He made the best of every day and every situation, happy despite the trials he faced. He looked at the bright side and saw the good in people. I don’t remember him bad-mouthing anyone—ever. He could have been bitter, angry and questioned “why me”, but he never did that.

He was a faithful, respectful husband, always praising Sue whom he said was, “one of the best things that ever happened to me.” There is no doubt in my mind that the world would be a lot better place if there were more men like Ron in it. I certainly miss his positive spirit and his phone calls. It was always fun to talk with him. Especially, some of the recordings he would leave. “Hey, Sue, no one’s answering, hello, hello. Nope, they’re not there. What should I do, Sue, leave a message, or what?” She’d say yes, and he’d hang-up anyway. Or she’d say, “You can call back.” Sometimes he’d just sit there, breathe, and wait. It was so sweet. But our conversations were always good. We’d talk about whatever was going on in his life, yard work, the weather, sports, etc. Just simple conversations. He’d always call me several times a year to talk about his son, Michael, especially at the start of school, at Christmas, and on Michael’s birthday each year. He always wondered how Michael was doing, but said he knew he was well taken care of because Kathy was a good person. He said he just wished he knew if he had a good life, and I’d tell him each time that I was sure that he did.

God blessed us with Ron. He was a good brother and a good son, a patriot, sports enthusiast. He was funny, and a generous loving father to a son he chose to never see again to give him a stable home. God brought him back to us after the war and kept him with us for many more years than the military predicted. God gave him a positive attitude and kept him decent, respectful, kind and loving for all the years he was here. Even though we miss Ron dearly, I know for certain that Ron knew the Lord. We talked about it several times, and for that, we know with all certainty that he is with the other family of believers in heaven. We’ll see him again. For now, his memory is always with us.

We love you Ron. Save a place for me, I’ll be coming too.

 

2 Timothy 4:7-8  I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me, the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day.

 

Remembering Aunt Ethel

ethel-hs-graduation

 

Today is my Aunt Ethel Neumann’s birthday and I am reflecting on the wonderful influence she was on my life.

Aunt Ethel was modest and quiet by nature, tall and thin, she walked with a proud German stature. She was a woman of gentle strength, an accomplished musician, playing the piano and mandolin at church and in a Christian folk band.

Ethel was a humanitarian, first volunteering at the age of ten when she cut up old sheets into narrow strips and rolled them up to be used for bandages in Africa or other countries around the world. She lived a very simple, no frills kind of life, yet she was able to collect socks, combs, and soap for the homeless people during the Great Depression.

For many years, she unpacked and catalogued books at Osterhus, a small Christian bookstore and publisher in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. She typed and stuffed envelopes for the Billy Graham Association, and folded tracts with the salvation message to hand out on the street corner. She supported her local church, volunteering often for children’s and elderly ministries. She also gave generous financial support to mission organizations, missionaries, and orphans in other countries every year. When we visited her, it was fun to see the pictures of missionaries and children that she kept on her desk and hear the stories of the countries they lived in.

She was quiet and unassuming and went through life planning for her future. She attended Northwestern Bible College after high school and worked full-time from age eighteen at Sears Roebuck on Lake Street in Minneapolis, first as a clerk and then taking dictation for a vice president. When he retired, she took a position in the shipping department, creating outbound loads and scheduling pickup by freight carriers. She retired a few years early to take care of our elderly grandfather after he had a stroke. She was a wise investor and retired with a pension and multiple investments which would take care of her and our mother for many years.

Ethel was single and lived with her parents. I asked her once why she never married and she first said that no one ever asked her, but later she confided that she had a serious relationship when she was twenty. He tried to take advantage of her, and it ended badly, so she never dated after that. Ethel had no children of her own, but she taught Sunday School for many years and had a positive impact on many children growing up in her church. In addition, she cared for me and my siblings as if we were her own.

She bought a 1966 Nova the year she retired and kept it until she was unable to drive. It was rusted and worn from sitting outside, but only had thirty-three thousand miles on it after thirty-four years of driving. Still she tried to take good care of it and the engine still purred like a kitten when she went on her weekly trip to the grocer, drug store, or driving an elderly friend to the doctor.

*   *   *   *

I’ll never forget the September day of her funeral. My knees shook as I moved forward down the aisle. I didn’t want to be there—not now—not ever if it were my choice. I reached the end of the aisle and glanced at the beautiful oak coffin with mahogany inlay on the lid. She would say it was too fancy and a waste of money, but they didn’t have the one she picked out thirty years prior when her father died and she prepaid for her own funeral. She was like that—always planning in advance—not wanting to be a burden—never afraid to approach something that others avoided—like death.

I stepped forward now gazing into the coffin that held her lifeless body. She looks good, a woman behind me said. Another replied, just like she’s sleeping. “No,” I wanted to shout. “She doesn’t look good and she’s not going to wake up—she’s dead—she’s gone.” My precious Auntie Ethel, the woman who gave so much of herself—the woman who was often more compassionate than my own mother—was dead—gone to be with Jesus—her soul discarding her earthly form and going to be with Him for eternity.

Ethel was absolutely the most perfect example of a Christian person that I ever met. She loved the Lord and read her Bible every single day. We actually found seventeen very used bibles when we cleaned out her small one-bedroom apartment. There were four of them that had pages so thin that they were falling apart, the pages loose from the binding and so many passages underlined in red, blue, and green, that it cracked through the fragile paper. She wrote comments in the margins giving us a glimpse into her daily dedication to His word. She was a true prayer warrior and kept notebooks with dates, and names of family and friends, and their need for prayer. When she told you she would pray for you, you best believe she would.

Ethel also volunteered serving meals and helping with accounting at a homeless mission in south Minneapolis. We wanted her to stop because it had become an undesirable neighborhood plagued by crime and drug related activity, but she continued to go until one day when a guy knocked her down and stole her purse at the bus stop. She said she prayed about it and felt comfortable that God would provide someone to take her place.

She was loyal to the north Minneapolis neighborhood where she grew up and that had once been a melting pot of working class citizens, proudly taking care of their homes and properties, although it had long since changed. One evening, gunshots rang out shattering the glass on the back door of her apartment building and sending shards of glass on her parked car that sat directly in front of her basement apartment windows. Still she remained there, because she knew all her neighbors and her church was nearby.

In her ninety-four years on this earth, she had only attended three churches, going every Sunday, first as a young girl in Sunday school, then teaching it, playing the piano for services, and sometimes directing the small choir.

Her father, Eugen Neumann, was a devoted Christian and a man of uncompromising principles who tried to live according to the Bible’s instruction. He left one church because they were playing cards for change in the basement on Saturday nights. He referred to the passage in the Bible where Jesus overturned the tables of the money-changers in the temple, saying: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’.

What will become of the next generation without people of Ethel’s caliber—strong in their beliefs and convictions, dedicated to serving others, giving of her time, energy, and money  to help others in need, taking care of elderly parents, leading a quiet unassuming life, and dedicated  to sharing and living a life pleasing to God? I believe that this world would be a whole lot better place if there were a lot more Auntie Ethels in it. She was a gentle, devoted, Christian woman in a caustic, “me” society that exists without manners, respect, or concern for the welfare of their family, friends or neighbors. I have absolutely no doubt that she is in heaven with Jesus. But it wasn’t the things that she did or the labor of her days that brought her to heaven. It was her absolute unshakeable belief in Jesus as her Lord and Savior.

I wish you a Happy Birthday in heaven, my dear Auntie Ethel. May you rest in peace. I know I will see you again one day in heaven when my days on earth are done—for I am a believer too. I look forward to wrapping my arms around you and the other family of believers as you welcome me into our heavenly home.

Anything for Love

1968-red-camaro

Sarah McAllister knew all about men. At a very early age, she realized that she had a powerful hold on the guys she wanted. Right now, she had a huge crush on Nick Albright, captain of the football team, and an honor roll student. His father bought him a red Camaro for his birthday and Sarah couldn’t wait to take a ride with him in that gorgeous car. But Nick wasn’t interested in Sarah—he was ga-ga for Missy Adams, head cheerleader with long blonde hair and pretty blue eyes.

Sarah was dark haired with deep green eyes, and at fifteen, she had curves that most girls didn’t have at that age, but since she couldn’t have Nick, she decided to never let another boy get away from her. She would seduce him, and do anything to keep him. When she was done with him, she’d dump the guy and move on. She didn’t care when she got a reputation as a party girl, but as time wore on, Sarah began to look at things differently. Now at twenty-nine years old, her biological clock was ticking loud in her ear. She was envious of the married women with their close-knit families and their tidy little homes. She saw them in the park, pushing their kids in strollers, having picnics, and going to church.

Sarah wanted a family, and stable relationship, but no one seemed to care about her. She felt as if she left pieces of her soul in each empty relationship that ended. As the years went by, she became angry and resentful. It affected her sleep and consumed her thoughts. She realized that if she didn’t change, then her life would be like this forever.

One day, a neighbor lady, who had always seemed like a goody-two-shoes, invited Sarah to go along to church. At first, she made excuses, but one Sunday morning, she took a chance. She dressed in a modest blouse and slacks and arrived at church just as the music began. People greeted her at the door and made her feel welcome before she slipped into an empty seat in the back row.

Sarah had never experienced anything like this church service. All these people worshiping and singing to music which she found uplifting. When the sermon began, she looked around the church. It was more like an auditorium with a stage upfront where the band and singers performed. It wasn’t stiff and formal like the church her grandma attended, with the organ blaring minor tones that made shivers run up her arms.

She listened closely as the pastor began to speak about death. It seemed like a strange topic for a bright Sunday morning. Not a subject she liked to think about, since the passing of her own sweet daddy when she was only five.

“You’ve probably all been to a funeral and heard someone say, ‘He’s in a better place’. Or they might say, ‘She was a good person, I’m sure she’s in heaven now’. Well, the truth is—that may not be true.”

Grandma said something about that. ‘You got to know the Lord Jesus, if you want to get to heaven’.

Her grandma was a devout Christian, going to church every Sunday morning and every Wednesday evening. Her Bible lay open on the table next to her chair in the living room and she would quote verses from that book.

Grandma sure did know a lot about Jesus.

“Jesus said, ‘I am the Way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father, except through me’. Do you understand that? No one goes to heaven unless they accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.”

Sarah’s mind wandered as the pastor continued speaking. Momma used to take me to church, but after Daddy died, things changed. We stopped going. Momma began to criticize church-going folks, called them hypocrites. She said all you had to do was be a good person and you’d go to heaven. After Momma died, everyone said she was in a better place—free from the pain of this world. After all, she took care of Daddy when he was sick with cancer. And she suffered over twenty years with arthritis that knotted up every inch of her poor body.

Sarah had believed she must be in that better place. But now she heard something different.

The pastor continued. “God loves you and wants each and every one of you to be saved, but we are all sinners—there is no one here that is without sin. No matter what we’ve done in our lives, Christ paid the price for our sins. He was crucified and rose into heaven to be with God the Father.”

I remember Grandma said that too.

The pastor held up his Bible. “Jesus said ‘No one comes to the Father except through me’. Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Do you believe He is God’s son?”

Sarah nodded her head. Yes, I do.

“If you died today, would you know for sure that you would go to heaven?”

Sarah’s heart was pounding and her hands began to sweat. I don’t know. I sure haven’t led a very good life.  

“If you aren’t sure, you can make that choice right now. You can choose to follow Jesus, to ask Him into your heart and life.”

Sarah blinked back tears. Yes, I want Jesus in my life.

“If you want to make that choice, please pray with me now.”

Sarah lowered her head, folded her hands together, and prayed with the pastor. “Dear Lord, I know I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead.  Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.”

That prayer didn’t have magic words that immediately transformed her, but it was the beginning of genuine change in her life. She stopped hanging out in the bars and turned down dates from guys only looking for a good time. She figured if a guy wasn’t someone she would want to marry, then there was no point in dating him either. Over the next year, she kept going to church, attended Bible studies, and even took a couple classes at the community college.

One Sunday, a tall, good-looking guy came to church. He was her neighbor’s cousin, home on leave from the military. Sarah was curious when he introduced himself as Jake Albright.

“Are you related to Nick Albright?” she asked.

“Yeah, he’s my younger brother, do you know him?”

“Yes, from high school.”

“Kind of sad about him and Missy. They’re getting a divorce.”

A Divorce? With three little kids. How awful for them. “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”

Jake frowned. “Well, he wasn’t the kind of husband or father he should have been.”

He touched her arm and smiled. “How about you, Sarah? I don’t see a ring on your finger, are you seeing anyone?”

Sarah suddenly felt weak in the knees. She couldn’t even speak. She just shook her head.

“Would you like to go out with me?”

Sarah thought for sure he could hear her heart pounding. She hesitated. “It depends.”

“On what?”

She took a big breath. “Whether you’re a believer or not,” she said cautiously.

He grinned from ear to ear. “I am very glad you asked. I most certainly am.”

Sarah looked into his deep blue eyes and smiled. “Well, then, I’d be open to dating.”

“That’s great. Are you busy tomorrow night?”

Sarah held up her hand. “Why don’t we start by having coffee? I’d like to get to know a little bit more about you first.”

Jake‘s eyes held her gaze. “I think that’s a great place to start.”

Melancholy Morning

old-lady-sketch-copyBefore the break of day, I pull my robe snug around me and pad down the hall, my bare feet chilled by the cold travertine. A cup of hot tea and I nestle in to my favorite chair as our little dachshund, Maggie, snuggles in beside me.

The furnace clicks on and a few moments later, a burst of warm air surrounds me as apple cinnamon tea warms my inside. My body warms up, but my mind does not—I’m still melancholy—empty—and cold like the frozen earth in my garden—in winter’s sleep. The sun breaks the horizon now, clearing the night shadows, but it won’t unthaw the ground or the sadness in my heart.

The hum of the refrigerator stops as daylight creeps into the room highlighting sparkles on the crystal in the glass curio. Mementos of my life in the teacups with matching saucers, the blue glass candy jar and the long-since broken lid. It was a wedding gift to my Mom and Dad in 1945 after he returned from the war—patched together on the outside, but broken still on the inside.

And the other treasures: the Depression glass plates and little fancy bowls from my Grandma Neumann; the brown glass candy jar from my Grandpa Palmer which he gave me because he said I was the only grandchild who could lift up the lid, sneak a candy, and replace the lid without making any noise; the green-glass spooner and fragile antique vases from my great aunts; the snow globe with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, which was a gift from my son; the Capo-di-Monte porcelain flowers of peach and red and other glass and crystal useless pretties that were handed down over the years. All of them, pieces of my life—a good life for the past twenty-five years during my marriage to Dennis—a good Christian man—who was full of life and laughter when I met him. Now as he hobbles down the hall, I can see that time is taking its toll on him—and I know it has a grip on me too. You cannot stop aging. Life moves on whether you want it to or not.

As clouds roll before the sun and then move on, the room becomes dim, then bright again, and it reminds me of when the kids were small and playing with the light switch. My days are like that now—bright for a few moments and then dull and uneventful the next. The future seems to predict more of the same—if I but look to the world.

My children and grandchildren are busy with their own lives and holidays offer just a brief encounter with most of their time spent with their eyes and attention focused on cell phones, tablets, and TV. Their world is different from mine and although I know they love and care about Dennis and I, their attention is all on themselves, just as mine was when I was their age. I thought my parents and grandparents would always be around, but sadly, they are gone. All of that generation  has taken their places beneath the headstones in the family cemetery—and while we visit twice a year to clean the grass off the tombstones and place fresh flowers—I wonder who will come to remember us when we move on to our place beneath the grass?

Why am I in such a rut right now? Sorrow seems to surround me. It certainly includes the remembrance and loss of family and friends over the past several years. My mother-in-law, Vi, passed in October, 1995, my Dad in February, 1998, my Aunt Ethel in September, 2003, my Mom in December, 2011, my Uncle Richard in December 2012, my sister-in-law, Yvonne, in February, 2013, my Uncle Ralph in October, 2013, my dear friend Kathy in January, 2014, my brother-in-law, John Nugent last January, and my brother, Ron Palmer last October—all dearly missed. So many in such a short period of time, and I wonder who will be next?

I see the decline in family members—the slower steps, the effort it takes to get up and down, the lack of energy, the illnesses, the dementia—and my heart aches.

Sometimes I still feel like I graduated from high school just a few years ago, but then I look in the mirror at the wrinkled face of an aging woman and it’s obvious that my days are flying by. It’s hard to know if I’ve been enough of a positive influence on my children, family, and friends. Oh, how deeply I love them all. Anais Nin said, “You cannot save people, you can only love them.” I hope I will leave them with a legacy of love and a positive outlook—even if I don’t feel it at this moment. I hope that my Christian witness and the way I have tried to live my life has made a difference in their lives and that it would be something they would seek to have also.

My faith and love of the Lord is the one thing that I regret not yet being able to give my family. They don’t have a relationship with Jesus, and it makes me wonder what they have to sustain them in the hard times if they don’t have the Lord? How will they live their lives here on earth, and the real question is—where will they spend eternity? This is a burden I cannot bear. I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ—God’s one and only son—and I believe I am going to heaven when my time here is done, but regardless, my burden is for them.

Lord Jesus, I pray that you save my children and grandchildren—and those family members and friends who are good people, but don’t yet know you. I place them in your arms Lord, and trust you to take care of each one. Amen.

maggie-annabell

We adopted Annabelle from our granddaughter, Hannah a few years ago. When Hannah turned sixteen, started to work part-time, and drive, she didn’t have enough time for her little dog. This sweet little Yorkie was over four years old, and had been trained to go potty indoors in a special doggie-litter box to avoid going outdoors in the harsh Minnesota winters. She spent much of her life in a basement while Hannah’s dad worked. Sometimes she got to ride along on his sales trips, sitting in the back window of the car, but mostly she saw the world through a small basement window, looking up at grass and sky and not much more. Given the chance, she escaped a few times, heading down the county road as fast as her little legs would take her.  She also had experiences with large dogs that made her extremely afraid of them, so anytime she saw a dog bigger than herself (which is often for a Yorkie) she would bark hysterically to try and frighten them away.

When Hannah first mentioned that she was looking for a new home for Annabelle, I was really sad. The poor little thing hardly had a chance to live life and now she was being shuffled off to some unknown home where she might spend her days pining for outdoors. We had to take her—to give her a life where she could run and play and roll in the grass. Little did we know that she had the most peculiar habit—she talks—well, not in words, but in doggie language, making grunts and groans that seem to repeat and mean something to her. She has a unique way of grunting differently for different situations, such as when she is hungry or wants to go out. Of course, this is accompanied by either running in circles, or sitting up, the usual things that dogs do, but she is unique in her verbal communications.

We have had Annabelle, or Annie as we call her, for over three years now and I couldn’t imagine life without her. Although, I think our other dog, Maggie, a very refined eleven-year-old dachshund, would probably prefer being an only dog, rather than having Annie continually in her face. No kidding, she actually gets just a smidgeon in front of Maggie’s face and grunts continually at her. It’s intimidation at best and Maggie just tries to turn her head and look away, but Annie won’t allow it until she’s done harassing Maggie.  Sometimes she also growls at her.  She sometimes used to growl at me when I’d try and pick her up off Dennis’ lap to take her to bed, but we broke that habit with a nightly treat. Now she barrels down the hall ahead of me, and jumps into her bed waiting for her treat. No more growling from her.

The other naughty thing she does is race to the couch ahead of Maggie and stand above her grunting trying to intimidate her so that Maggie won’t try and come up to sit down. If Maggie gets to the couch first, then Annie will simply sit down with her back to Maggie, back up and wiggle her backside into the spot she wants to sit in, causing Maggie to move or be sat upon. Honestly the interaction at times is hysterical to watch.

Annie also takes all of the toys. Maggie only gets assertive when it comes to dinner time. Food is one thing that Annie doesn’t try to take away from Maggie, but any toy or doggie bed is always Annie’s first choice. Maggie takes whatever is left.

I guess dogs are a bit like us humans, aren’t they?


 

Carol Palmer Nugent is a member of Word Weavers of Northern Arizona, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Gopher Prairie Writers group. She spends winters in Arizona, and summer and fall in Minnesota with her husband and two dogs. She enjoys gardening, reading, writing, and learning something new each day. She has published short stories in 2016 in The Good Old Days and Ruby for Women Magazines, a true story in A Woman of Worth anthology in July, and two stories in Christmas Collection II for 2016. In addition, Carol received an honorable mention in the 2016 -85th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. Carol is currently working on a fiction story about her Grandfather Carlisle Palmer growing up in the Palmer House Hotels.

   writers-digest-award

Should-a Known Better

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November 1955

It was a dark day for me, Phoebe McAllister, that first day at the new school. At my old school in the little town of Zimmerman, Minnesota there were only twenty-one kids in my second grade class and I knew all of ‘em, in fact, the town’s so small, l pretty much knew everybody. But now that my father moved our family to the big city of Minneapolis for his new job, I gotta attend a new school.

Here there are five classes of second-graders with thirty or more students in each class. I was confused and a little overwhelmed that first day with the noise that erupted as school buses unloaded, and kids shuffled in the halls before the first bell rang.

My three brothers and I sat in a row while Mama stood at the counter fillin’ out paperwork to register us for school, when a man shuffled in. He was the strangest man I ever did see—a big, bulk of a man—with dark curly hair and big spooky eyes that looked like they might pop right out of his head. He had a wide broad nose, big lips that looked exaggerated even on his face and dark skin— even darker than mine did after bein’ out in the sun all summer long.

His blue uniform was neatly pressed, but he slumped over, head down as he walked to a desk and handed a piece of paper to a woman. I tried to hear what they was sayin’, but I couldn’t make it out. The woman handed him some money and he took it and said, “Yes M’am, I’ll get right to it.” He turned then to leave and looked right at me. He was scary—very scary—and I leaned in a little closer to my brother as he passed by.

Mama finished the paperwork and then left to catch a bus to her new job as a waitress at Woolworth’s cafeteria. She never worked outside the home before, not ‘cuz she didn’t want to, but there just weren’t places for women to work in a small town. My Papa worked on a turkey farm back home, but the birds got sick, and it went out of business. Now Papa found a job in north Minneapolis, so last week we loaded all our possessions—two beds, a table and four chairs, two rockers, and a dresser—into Papa’s rusty old pickup truck and headed for the city. The one-bedroom apartment we moved into was on the third floor of a brick building so it was a good thing we didn’t have much to carry up all those stairs.

Mama turned to us before she left. “You children be good now—mind your manners.”

“Yes, Momma,” we responded. Then a woman took us to our classrooms. We followed her down the long deserted hallway stopping at the third door. She said a few words to the teacher, handed her a paper, and then pushed me in through the door, closin’ it behind me. There I was with all them eyes lookin’ right at me.

The teacher, a tall thin woman with spectacles and a big smile, introduced herself as Mrs. Wilson. “Class, this is a new student, Phoebe McAllister. Please welcome her.” In unison, they said, “Welcome Phoebe,” but it did nothin’ to make me feel welcome when she pointed to a stool in the front corner. “You’ll have to sit there. We have no extra desks in the class right now.” I walked over and climbed on the stool and the kids laughed. I could feel my face turn red. I knew it was the dunce stool.

Mrs. Wilson returned to the blackboard where she was explainin’ ‘bout addin’ numbers. I knew ‘bout this stuff ‘cuz I listened when Mama helped Buddy with his numbers. Buddy is a year older than me, but he’s—well—he’s different. A little slow at his learnin’, but I practiced with him and he got better at numbers, but not so good with his readin’ and writin’. He seemed to get his letters all mixed up. The teacher told Mama that Buddy was addle-brained and would never learn. She wanted Mama and Papa to send him to the state hospital at Cambridge, but Mama said no. She said he would get along better stayin’ with us, but now we were all worried ‘bout how he would do in a new school.

Mrs. Wilson wrote some problems on the blackboard and picked three students to come up and answer them. Then she turned to me and asked if I could do the last one. “Yes, Ma’am.” I picked up a small piece of chalk and stared at the board. The kids were workin’ their problems, but a tall husky boy, named Butch, standin’ next to me was scratchin’ his head. I watched as Butch wrote thirty-seven on the board. I knew it was wrong—should be thirty-nine—but it wasn’t my place to say nothin’. I quickly wrote down an answer to my problem and then went back to the stool. The teacher went through each problem on the board. When she got to the one Butch did, she said it was not correct and then wrote the right answer—thirty-nine. Butch turned red in the face. For my problem, she said I did a good job—it was correct.

After that, it was time for lunch and I took my lunch pail with me as the children filed into the lunchroom in the basement. It was a huge room and incredibly noisy with the clatter of dishes and roar of children’s voices. I sat at a table and ate the cold chicken leg and apple that Mama sent. I took my cup and got water at the faucet. Back home we had fresh milk from one of the farms, but here we had to pay for milk and lunches, so I guess we’d never have those. After lunch, we went out for recess. I looked for my brothers, but didn’t see ‘em. No one talked to me. I stood alone against a wall just watchin’ the other kids swingin’ and slidin’.

Two girls came over then, both with pretty store-bought dresses and ribbons in their hair. The girl with a beautiful plaid dress and long blonde ringlets spoke first. “Where are you from?”

“Zimmerman,” I said and smiled at her thrilled that I might make a friend on the first day.

“Do you have a family?” she asked.

“Yes, my mother, father, and three brothers.”

“Where do you live?”

“On Penn Avenue and Thirty-Sixth Street,” I said, “in a one bedroom apartment.”

“You all live in a one bedroom apartment?”

Oh shoot—what was I thinking. I could feel the heat creep up my face. “Well…”

“That’s awful. You must be poor.”

Were we poor? All us kids slept in one bed, but…

The other girl with red hair and freckles finally spoke. “They must be poor. Look at her dress and shoes!”

I looked down at my dress and shoes. I wish they didn’t come from a rummage sale.

Blondie looked me up and down. “My father works at the bank. He’s a Vice President.”

And Red said, “My father owns the automobile dealership on West Broadway. What does your father do?”

I hesitated. “He—ah, he works in a factory down on Washington Avenue.”

“Humph,” said Red, and she and Blondie turned away laughin’ as they went.

My stomach started to hurt and I wondered it if was the chicken or just the lingerin’ effects of those girls that made it churn. I started to go back inside when I ran smack-dab into Butch.

“How’d you git so smart on them numbers?” he asked.

“I—I learned ‘em when my brother did his homework.”

He pointed his finger stabbin’ it in my chest. “Where’d you come from anyways?”

“Zimmerman.”

“Never heard of it. You a homeless kid?”

“No. We have an apartment and my Papa got a job at the chicken factory.” Oh no, I never should-a said that.

“The chicken factory? So your father feeds chickens?”

“Yes.”

He moved in closer to me. “And he cleans the chicken barn?”

I began to sweat. “Yes, I guess so.”

“And he kills ‘em and plucks their feathers?” He spit as he said it.

I wiped my face. “I dunno.” Please leave me alone.

He was right up close now—nose-to-nose—lookin’ real mean. “So, your father’s a poop-shoveler and a chicken plucker.”

I didn’t say anythin’. I mean whaddya say to somethin’ like that.

“Chicken plucker. Your father’s a chicken plucker.”

My face felt hot and I bit into my lip as he taunted me. “Chicken plucker, chicken plucker.”

Before I could think about it, I blurted out, “Well, you’re fat and stupid!” I shoulda-known better, but I said it anyway. My words hung in the air and several boys stopped tossin’ the ball and came over to where we was standin’. I wished I could take it back, but it was too late—the damage was done—I could see it from the look on his face.

“You-u-u-u,” he groaned.

I straightened up and stuck out my chin. “I’m not afraid of you.”

“Feeee-be,” he sneered, “what kinda name is that anyway? Feeee-be, Feeee-be. Sounds like a bird. A dirty little bird with a chicken-plucker father.

I gritted my teeth and clenched my fists—my knees beginning to shake.

“Your father cleans up chicken poop,” he shouted. Then he leaned in close to my face and said, “Chicken-plucker.”

The kids were gatherin’ around now watchin’ and they took up the taunt “Chicken-plucker, chicken-plucker.”

He was so close I could smell his hot stinky lunch breath. “I’m not—afraid—of you,” I said again, but inside my belly felt like churnin’ mush.

He took a big breath and shoved me—hard—and I went tumblin’ down. He reached down, grabbed the collar of my dress, and twisted it in his big left hand.

I spit on him and it ran down his face.

“If you weren’t a girl I’d sock you!” he snarled as he twisted the collar tighter in his chubby hand.

I began to tremble. I never been this scared before and I realized then that I peed my pants—just like a baby—I couldn’t stop it. I got all choked up in my throat and tears came. I wasn’t really cryin’, but my eyes were leakin’ down my face. I tried to get free, but he was much stronger than me. I didn’t know what to do.

Suddenly my brother, Buddy appeared from out of nowhere. He pulled Butch away from me, and threw his fist connectin’ with Butch’s fat face. Down he went. The kids cheered as Buddy stood over Butch shoutin’, “You leave my sister—alone!”

Butch struggled to his feet. He looked twice Buddy’s size, and he took a swing—wide and hard—and Buddy went down. The kids formed a big circle around us and screamed, encouragin’ the fight. Buddy slowly got up, but he staggered and was barely steady when Butch hit him again and down he went. “If you get up, I’ll hit you again.”

It was then that the big scary man in the blue uniform appeared, pushin’ his way through the crowd. He caught Butch by the collar. “You ain’t ‘spose ta be fightin’.”

Butch yelled, “Let me go,” and tried to get away, but the man held him tight, then lifted him up off the ground with his big strong arms, and gave him a shake. Butch’s eyes got real wide and he stiffened hoverin’ up there in mid air.

“You stop it now. No more fightin’.” He put Butch down and shook his long dark finger at him. “Fightin’ just leads to hurtin’, and that leads to more fightin’ and killin’. We ain’t gonna have none of that ‘round here. Understand?”

Butch dropped his head. “Yeah.”

“You all go on now—do some playin’—recess is almost over.” The crowd scattered, but Butch stood there sayin’ nothin’. “Go on now—on your way.”

“Ain’t you gonna make me go to the principal?” asked Butch.

“I reckon not, but you gotta promise not to bother ‘dem kids no more.”

Butch looked at us and nodded.

Buddy held out his hand to help me up. He took one look at me and said, “C’mon, let’s get you home.” We walked back to the apartment in silence. I changed my soiled clothes and put on my old pants with holes in the knees and a faded tee shirt. Then we went out to the old tire swing on the empty lot next door. As Buddy pushed me in the swing, I thought that I’ve never been prouder or richer in my whole life than I was right then. And it was all because of my lovin’, addle-brained brother, Buddy, and that nice man who wasn’t one bit scary.


The above story is fiction–the picture is me at about seven years old.

Author bio: Carol Palmer Nugent is a member of Word Weavers of Northern Arizona, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Gopher Prairie Writers group. She spends winters in Arizona, and summer and fall in Minnesota with her husband and two dogs. She enjoys gardening, reading, writing, and learning something new each day. She has published short stories in 2016 in The Good Old Days and Ruby for Women Magazines, a true story in A Woman of Worth anthology in July, and two stories in Christmas Collection II for 2016. In addition, Carol received an honorable mention in the 2016 -85th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. Carol is currently working on a fiction story about her Grandfather Carlisle Palmer growing up in the Palmer House Hotels.