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I have recently been invited to join a book club in my home town and was pleased to receive the invitation. I respect and like the members of this group. I did have some trepidation about accepting since I don’t often have time to do all the reading I would like. And If I were obligated to have read a book in its entirety each month to speak intelligently about it, I would feel guilty about being unprepared for the critique and discussion about the assigned book.

It has been two months now since my induction into this group and I consider myself a complete failure so far. The first author who was chosen is a writer of thrillers, not my most favorite genre. I tried. However I found him to write in such a fashion that I never became interested in any of his characters. So how can I read a book about people for whom I don’t give a hoot? I voiced my opinion and sat silently listening to those who did enjoy the book. Sigh!

This month the chosen book is The Wizard of Lies the Madoff story. Again, I felt like I would be in above my head. I know nothing about stocks and bonds, converting convertible bonds into common stock, mergers, accuisitions, tax-write-off, etc., etc., etc. Never mind, I told myself, I will read this book to find out why Madoff became the criminal, thief, and robber that he is. You see, I am interested in people and what makes them become who they are. Is it some thing in their environment, in their upbringing, some experience they may have had, or what? Why did Bernie Madoff become the Bernie Madoff who destroyed hundreds of people’s lives and who now rots in prison? This will be interesting, I said to myself.

Wrong again! Sadly, it disappointed me. It was written more like a historical treatise about his family background, not unusual or pathologic, and then the steps he took in his career that led him to the ponzi scheme that we know as the mother of all ponzi schemes.

The book failed me in showing me Bernie Madoff as a person, someone who not only thinks and plots, but someone who also loves and hates and plays and feels. The book fails to do that and I shall attend the next book club meeting once again without having finished reading it.

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I have been busy writing my book, so much so that I haven’t had a chance to post a blog. Until today. My book is not a sequel to my memoir, Becoming Alice. Rather it is what now is called creative nonfiction. I won’t belabor the point by going into a lengthy definition of that category, but instead I’ll tell you it is about a young woman who basically wants to get married. What woman doesn’t?

In the process of dating and the man and woman in my story have a lot of yin and yang between them. I thought you might like to know what that means. I went to my dictionary and here it is: “Yin and Yang (Chinese philosophy) are two principles, one negative, dark, and feminine (Yin) and one positive, bright, and masculine (Yang), whose interaction influences the destinies of creatures and things.”

I object! I have never heard yin-yang used in such a way. I have always thought of it as two forces that pull in different directions, perhaps like the positive and negative in electicity or the currect Republicans and Democrats in Congress. I just had to get that one in there. I personally used it in the back and forth dance couples often do when they first get to know one another. Or, what married couples often do for the rest of their lives.

Being a woman I STRONGLY OBJECT to the negative force being identified as feminine. And who says the positive force is always masculine.

I’ve got to do something to protest. I can throw my dictionaly away. Obviously it is way out of date. Or, I could give up on Chinese philosophy on which I have often relied. My favorite sayings are “He who hesitates is lost.” and “Patience is a virtue.” Perhaps it was Confucious who said that.

In any case I am right about people not always seeing things the same way. That is just part of the human condition, call it yin and yang or whatever you like.

My dog sitter moved out of town and I panicked. Visions of being trapped into caring for my seven-year-old Golden Retriever around the clock 24/7 indefinately made me feel anxious, despite the unconditional love he emits to which I am addicted. I needed to get a dog sitter right away, having already committed to a weekend away in August and another overnight in September. In trying to get a referral, I found out that none of my friends own a dog. It reminded me of that saying I heard some time ago: “Happiness is when your youngest daughter gets married and your dog dies.”

Well, I don’t feel that way about either my daughters or my dog. I needed a dog sitter.! I got some cards from the desk of my veterinarian who did not know the caliber of their work. And then I got a referral from a neighbor who has cats. Still no dog referral. However my neighbor said she knew of someone who did this kind of work and perhaps I might like to call her.

“Yes! Yes!” I shouted. Ten minutes later my neighbor called back and in an apologetic voice told me the referral was for a lady who was not really very sophisticated, that she had a sort of limited background and now made a living cleaning houses … and taking care of pets. “However, she is kind, loyal, honest, and straigh-forward,” my neighbor said.

In my book, those are the most important qualities. I intervied this lady. She entered with a shy smile, wearing a simple house dress, and looked like a fish out of water. During our interview, she showed me that she liked my dog, who didn’t leave her side. I liked her, too and asked her for references. She whips out her iPhone for their telephone numbers. I don’t even have an iPhone. I like her and tell her I’ll call her … after I check her references.

Before leaving she says, “Oh, by the way, I borrowed your book, Becoming Alice, from a friend and liked it very much.

After I regained control of my jaw, which had dropped a considerable amount in surprise, I said, “I’m so glad.”

This compliment from a person who is not supposed to be sophisticated and who I am almost positive doesn’t know a thing about Jews, has just read a book about a child in the holocaust, a book that she borrowed and probably couldn’t afford to buy. I am honored!

What’s in a Name

Last night I went to a meeting of a book club which I have been invited to join. I have known some of its members, but not all. In being introduced, I learned that there is another woman in the group whose name is Alice. My head bobbed back a bit in surprise. Alice! Nobody I know, or have ever known, has been named Alice.

The lady I met was as shocked as I to meet another Alice. Well of course there are others: Alice Roosevelt, the daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, Alice B. Toklas, member of the Parisian avant-garde of the early twentieth century, or Alice Paul, associated with furthering the suffrage movement for women, to name a few. The one thing we have in common is that we all are of a certain age and older.

It makes one realize that names are fashions of an era, just like the clothes we wear, the music to which we listen, the art we admire, the way we raise our kids, the values we hold, and the list goes on.

In my day girls had names like Nancy, Barbara, Elaine, Patricia, or Anne. Fast forward a couple of decades and you get names like Linda, Laura, Bonnie, Sue, or Kathy. Fast forward again to the names of today’s kids and you get Ashley, Laura, Bridget, and Emma.

As you probably read in Becoming Alice, I actually chose the name of Alice for myself. What was I thinking? I wasn’t. I chose it because my brother was dating a girl named Alys. In today’s world that name would be Allison. I don’t fit that name.

Most people don’t ever veer from choosing the names of the time for their babies. That’s why I have so much admiration for the young couple I know who had the courage to name their son Oscar.

Yesterday was a great day for me. I had been asked to speak to the occupants of an assisted-living facility. I accepted, of course, thinking the presentation and discussion would be different from any of the others I’d done in the past. I’ve talked to book clubs, libraries, social groups, temple groups, children’s classrooms, country clubs, book fairs, and the list goes on. But I’ve not spoke to a senior group that reside in an assisted-living home.

I anticipated that some participants would be walking into the room with the help of canes or an attendant’s arm, or even in wheelchairs. I was pleased to see that wasn’t necessary for my group. I also anticipated that once I began to speak, that a good number of my audiance would nod off for a little afternoon nap. Another preconceived notion I had was regarding the sale of any Becoming Alice books. I was asked the the home’s Activity Director to bring a few copies … just in case. I was wrong on all accounts.

With the exception of one lady who nodded off here and there, everyone was with me, attentively listening to me telling them my story, the story of a holocaust survivor. At the end of my presentation, I asked if anyone had an questions. They did. And they were questions that opened up whole new avenues about WWII history, anti-semitism, life as refugees, and fitting into the American way of life. Many had stories of their own to offer.
I was so impressed.The lesson to learn is to never “judge a book by its cover.” I had such a good time with this group of remarkable people.

My final surprise came when several of them asked to purchase my Becoming Alice.

Becoming Alice is now available at BarnesandNoble.com as a Nook eBook for $4.80.

In Becoming Alice you found out that Ilse became Alice in the 20th Century, not only in name, but also as an American person. Fast forward just a bit. Well no, fast forward a long way in years all the way into the 21st Century. That same Alice who was such a fish out of water and struggled to fit into the American landscape, is now trying to catch up to the technological demands of the 21st Century.

Yesterday I spend most of the morning trying to replace an ink cartridge in my printer. I’ve done those replacements before. No big deal, I thought. The trouble arose out of the fact that I purchased a new printer that not only prints, but is a fax machine, telephone, and has internet access capabilities. I haven’t checked whether it also will brush my teeth in the morning. I only wanted a printer. Period. Nothing else. There is no such animal on the market.

Never mind, I’ll just use the printer and send off those first ten pages of my new work to someone whose judgement I trust and who would give me an honest critique. I purchased a double cartridge, not wanting to be bothered so often. God, but they are expensive. I digested the price. Writing is really important to me and proceeded to install it.

I lifted the top from the printer and the ink cartridge carrier came into full view. Piece of cake, I thought. I removed the old one and installed the new one. The printer/fax/telephone/computer told me it didn’t recognize any of the red, blue, yellow, and black cartidges. I hadn’t even touched the color inks.

I’m not without any technological knowledge altogether, so I turned the printer/fax/telephone/computer off and unplugged it from the socket. Replugged it, turned it on, and the same message came up. I went to the handbook. There is no information about “how to replace an ink cartidge.”

Long story short: It took me two and a half more hours to notice that in installing the new black cartridge the other three colors popped out of their place by 1/16th of an inch. I needed to reinstall all four colors to make the @#$%&* work. Sigh!

Being a writer in the 21st Century is not for sissies!

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