Author Sue Andrews

Your Home Is Your Castle

A Visit in Georgia

Communication with a Lost Soul

I made the long distance call ahead of time to see if any arrangements could be made to meet him personally.
“There’s no guarantee he’ll be there,” the lady said. Saddened, but not disheartened, I decided my desire to see him was worth the two thousand mile trip. I had loved this “lost soul” from afar after reading everything I could about him. I had to see him. I had to communicate with him.
After a difficult time trying to find a parking space, I hoped this bad luck would not continue. Eventually my husband and I found a spot on the far side of the park, and made the long walk to the entrance. I took my chances that Sunday morning as I strolled into the park hoping he would be there, and I could see him.
One says you can “never go home again,” which I believe is true, but only to an extent. Some things change and some things stay the same. The park was bigger than I remembered it after almost fifty years of being gone. The tall pine trees stood larger, the smell of freshly mowed grass and pine needles still permeated the area, but loads of people continued to enjoy the park. The most famous soul who once lived there when I did, Willie B., died a long time ago, but I was happy to see the monument erected there in his honor. People from miles around, even from other states like myself, gathered around him and took pictures. I wanted to have my photo taken with his statue, but too many kids stood in line wishing for the same opportunity.
We walked around the park for about twenty minutes looking for the place where the lady said I could find him. To my surprise, I saw a figure that looked like him in the distance with a family. Could that be him? As I approached closer, I saw that it was him! Eureka!
His family members were gathered on a stage-like platform looking as if they were getting ready to entertain us and all the other people there. Mom lay on a hammock, and their baby ran around on top of the canopy playing like a typical two-year old. Papa, the one whom I had come to see, lay stage left on the platform pretending as if his audience was doing the entertaining and not his family.
I used my communication skills to best of my advantage. From my stage experience, I stood in the best possible place and communicated in a big way, where he had the perfect view. First, I called his name over and over again. I knew that would grab his attention. Then I shouted, “You! Me! Sign! Same!” I did this over and over again until I finally got a response from him.
“Hello!” he answered back. I cried. I was elated. He signed back to me! The lady on the phone told me he rarely communicates with someone he doesn’t know. I felt privileged as well as overjoyed. I continued to sign to him in American Sign Language. I told him I loved him. I told him I was his friend. From my readings, I knew that his limited vocabulary of 150 words in American Sign Language were sometimes approximate. But I persevered. Then it happened. He communicated again to me.
“Come here!” he signed. I wanted to cry again but this time from sadness. I couldn’t go across the barrier and into the exhibit with the orangutans. I couldn’t meet his family of wife and baby. I had to explain as best I could. I had to stay where I was. I couldn’t get closer.
Zoo Atlanta has a wonderful exhibit as well as a good home for Chantek, the signing orangutan. They do not advertise that he is there. Unfortunately, they have to keep it a secret because of the bad press Chantek had in the past. (As a teen, he had been taken away from his human “mother” who taught him all his signs. He attacked another woman at the university where he had grown up.) There are no photos or souvenirs of him in the gift shop. If you are interested, you can find out more about him on Google or YouTube.
I hope one day they will place a monument like Willie B., the famous gorilla, in Chantek’s image with a plaque that says “Chantek, the orangutan who signed.”

Andersonville, Georgia

Last May, I had the privilege to re-visit a memorial that I had not seen in a long time. In my twenties, while living in Georgia, I yearned to visit anything and everything having to do with the Civil War. Being born a Yankee, I wanted to learn more about Southern history firsthand. Visiting old battlegrounds and cemeteries made my history books come alive.
In the 1970s, I had heard about the little town of Andersonville just a few hours south of Atlanta. People had told me about this city with more people buried in the cemetery than actually lived there. The same held true this year with only a few hundred people counted in the population of Andersonville within a few miles of the 13,721 soldiers buried there.
The fields of grass looked the same as the year I first step foot on this Historic site. The twenty-six acres which held the 45,000 Yankee prisoners still looked like an open field left to the imagination of the horror that once took place there. But things had changed since the 70s and there was more to see than crosses and open fields.
When we first drove up, we entered a museum. After purchasing our tickets, the man at the counter asked in his southern drawl, “Y’alls first time here?”
“No, sir,” I said. “First time for my husband, yes, but not for me. I’m embarrassed to say, I was here forty years ago.”
“Well, young lady,” he said, with a smile. “Lots have changed since then. The movie to your right starts in just a few minutes. I suggest you start there and then make your way over to the national cemetery. You can visit the new National Prisoner of War museum afterward on your left before you leave.”
I cannot describe the movie. The documentary encompassed not only Andersonville’s (Fort Sumter’s) history, but other prison of war camps, too. Famous, former prisoners, like Senator John McCain and Vice Admiral James Stockdale, talked about their experiences. As expected, the picture they painted did not sugarcoat the brutality nor severe conditions of different camps they inhabited.
Andersonville, like most camps, quickly became undersupplied with food, water, and wood for warmth and heating of food. With time, poor sanitation also became a problem. Because of these intense conditions, most of the prisoners died of hunger, exposure, or diseases. Some were even killed by a group of prisoners called the “Raiders” who attacked other inmates for jewelry, money, and clothing. After months of victimizing the camp, the “Raiders” were finally caught, brought to justice and hung.
Andersonville remains the most infamous of all Civil War camps in that it not only held the most prisoners but had the highest percentage rate of death (28%.) Months after the camp was liberated on May, 1865, the Commandant of Camp Sumter, Henry Wirz, was tried for acts of cruelty and war crimes due to the inhuman conditions at Andersonville. He was also found guilty, imprisoned, and hung six months later.
We drove to the Andersonville National Historic Site, just a few minutes away from the museum. The crosses have now been replaced with actual reproductions of the original tombstones. Historians found old photographs with the soldiers’ names and their state of origin. Out of the 13,000 plus soldiers, 921 have “Unknown” written on their headstones. Seven Yankee states have memorials placed around the cemetery to commemorate and honor their death. Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Tennessee along with other organizations have erected large granite monuments
As we walked among the tombstones, I cried as a tune went through my head which I hummed to myself over and over again. I didn’t know the name of the song nor the words at the time, but I remembered where I had heard it. It was from an old Clint Eastwood movie called The Good, Bad, and the Ugly. The scene I remembered showed Clint Eastwood coming across a dying Yankee soldier from the Civil War. Clint puts his coat around him and offers him one last puff off his cigarette. It’s a tender scene, and the music always haunted me because of its combined tenderness and sadness.
I looked up this song on YouTube when I came home. It’s called Morte di un Soldato, written by Ennio Morricone. The literal translation is Death of a Soldier, but it has also been referred to as A Soldier’s Story. The lyrics were written by Tommie Connor. Once I heard the words put the music, I was even more moved by the lyrics, and I cried again.

May Trippin’

The last two weeks in May, Ken and I had the most beautiful U.S. vacation that we had had in a very long time. Since Ken had always reminded me that he “rescued me” from the South, (disliking the bugs, the humidity, the flatlands, etc.) I decided it was time to show him the South that I had fallen in love with many years ago. I had lived in Atlanta and Jacksonville half of my adult life. Although my relationships there were not good ones, they were memorable enough to write a book about them.
Now it’s been thirty years since my past life in the South and Ken and I had a good reason to visit. Ken’s brother and his family retired and moved to a little town just south of Atlanta, and my brother retired and moved to a little town just south of Jacksonville. How convenient!
I planned the trip as I do all the travel arrangements. We flew to Atlanta and then rented a car. We went sightseeing in the city first, visited two of my closest friends that I had kept in contact with since I had lived there and then drove to a little town called Madison. It’s the only town in Georgia that Sherman didn’t totally burn to the ground since he had a friend who lived there. It was a quaint little town and we took our first tour of plantation homes there. Next we went to the town where Ken’s brother lives. We got the royal treatment. The first sightseeing trip was to Stone Mountain. I had not been there in over 40 years! Instead of just the mountain to observe, it was now a huge entertainment park with tram and train rides, a park for picnicking, and at night, the laser light show which was very patriotic and moving.
The last day in Atlanta was just as touching – Andersonville. For that experience, I will be writing a separate blog.
The next three days we spent in Charleston where we took another tour of plantation homes, a bus and walking tour and on our last day, a tour out in the countryside to a place called Drayton Hall. It was one of the best and scenic places. This plantation was different than all the rest as it did not have any furniture or paintings with period pieces that did not belong to the owner. The guide told us they would preserve it bare, as is, and you could use your imagination as to how it once looked and thrived. (Think Tara in Gone with the Wind.)
Our last week on the road was spent in Florida where we went to the Kennedy Space Center. It’s a must see for any tourist visiting Florida who is interested in our space exploration endeavors both past and present. The rest of our time there was spent enjoying the beach, our friends, and with my brother and his family in his beautiful home.
I even had an opportunity to give a book “presentation and signing” at the hotel and sold two of my books, “To Live and Love Again” which are still selling on Amazon. Please check it out if you haven’t already at http://ow.ly/TNPhD. Or if you have read it, and still haven’t written a review, I would appreciate it if you would take the time to do so. It would mean so much to me!

April Showers Bring May Flowers

After recuperating from the ulcers (to this date, I still have to watch what I eat) and the bandage on my face for the month of April, Ken and I took a few long weekend type trips to visit relatives. I knew they would be the only people who I could stand see me without make-up and wouldn’t feel self-conscious with half of my face bandaged up.
First, we took a trip to Arizona see our 93 year-old uncle and his wife, and then went to San Francisco to see our daughter and her husband. The highlight of our Phoenix vacation was having lots of laughs while playing many different card games at our aunt and uncle’s lovely home. When we went to S.F., we had fun at the Conservatory of Flowers with our daughter, and then later that weekend the four of us saw the play, Beach Blanket Babylon. If you have ever been to San Francisco and never seen that play, you must definitely go. It’s a side-splitting, knee- slapping comedy that pokes fun at everyone in the media. We couldn’t stop laughing. The talent in the show was tremendous. I highly recommend it.
Those trips did as they were supposed to. They took my mind off of all my crazy my health issues, and the experiences made me laugh. My cardiologist had asked me in the hospital, “What in the world are you doing? Collecting more material for your book sequel?”
“No!” I replied emphatically. “There will be no sequel!”

In Like a Lion and Out Like a Lamb

The following essay was a short story about my last March’s health issues. I’m trying to play catch up with my blog, and as you can see I’m several months behind! Here’s what I had published in the Inland Empire Califonria Writers Club monthly journal.

IN LIKE A LION AND OUT LIKE A LAMB

People refer to this saying when describing the weather in March. But I had to use it to describe my health last month.
The first day in March started out with a roar. I learned yet again another basal cell carcinoma appeared with an indentation on my face. To my surprise it would require a MOHS surgical procedure. Although no stranger to MOHS, nor to the doctor who had done it four times before on my face, I became scared. The location this time was not a place that I could hide with hair, unless I wanted to grow a beard. The fact that it was mid-cheek would require many stitches. I tried to forget about the whole thing and not worry. In the process I forgot about other things as well, such as drinking enough water and eating enough iron-enriched foods.
The next week I felt a hot a flash in church. My hot-flash days had flown by long ago so something felt amiss. The last two times weird feelings came over me happened immediately before my last two heart attacks. Since this new feeling flittered away as fast as it came, I ignored it, drove home, had something to eat and drink, and felt better. That must be it, I surmised.
Later, feeling tired and weak, it was time to walk the dog, so I ate a snack again and ignored what my body was telling me. When will I ever learn? On my way home from our walk, I feared I’d pass out. Luckily, I didn’t, and immediately called 9-1-1.
The trip to the hospital was uneventful. The paramedics ruled out another heart attack, but encouraged me to go to the hospital anyway. After six hours in the ER, with chest x-rays, blood tests, and so on, there wasn’t enough serious information to keep me there. They said I was dehydrated, anemic and low in iron. I knew that something was wrong. Why couldn’t they see it? My blood pressure never got over 90/55. I didn’t understand. Why were they letting me go?
We arrived home, and I could barely make it up our thirteen steps to our master bedroom. I huffed and puffed like one of the Three Little Pigs. I couldn’t catch my breath.
“What’s wrong?” asked my husband, alarmed.
“Well, it’s not my heart, so we can just go to sleep,” I said. “I’ll be alright in the morning.”
The next morning proved to be worse than the day before. I was even weaker.
“Please make me a good breakfast,” I said to my husband. “We were there until almost 10 last night, and they didn’t give me anything to eat.”
“Ok,” he said. “Let’s see if that will help.”
While Ken cooked breakfast for us, I looked over the discharge sheet with a long list of symptoms the doctor warned me about.
“Come back to the hospital if any of those show up,” he said.
Ken brought the eggs, sausage and hash browns to the table. It smelled and looked delicious, but I could only take a few bites. I know I’m sick when I can’t eat.
After I went to the restroom, I saw more of the symptoms on that paper. The sheet didn’t explain what the symptoms meant, only to call 9-1-1 if I saw them. So on day two, I called the paramedics again. One of the same men came back to my house.
“What can we help you with today, Mrs. Andrews?” he said, with a smile.
I showed him the paper with the new symptoms circled.
“They told me to call you guys if I had any of these. As you can see, several items are circled.”
Again their readings didn’t show anything abnormal with my heart, but they took me to the hospital where I was properly diagnosed. Bleeding ulcers were the culprit. Overnight my hemoglobin had dropped below 8.0. I needed some electrolytes intravenously fed plus two pints of blood. The doctor cauterized five ulcers on my stomach and duodenum.
Weeks later I had my MOHS procedure the end of March. The doctor removed thin layers of cancer-containing skin progressively and examined the cells each time until only cancer-free tissues remained. That’s all behind me now and my twenty facial stitches have been removed. The surgeon did such a beautiful job people no longer notice it and can’t believe it until they see the “before” photos.
The month of March took a memorable turn, but it went out like a lamb with a cancer-free face and no more ulcers.
“I look forward to the ‘April showers that bring May flowers,'” I told my husband.
“You don’t have to wait living here in Southern California, ” he said. “See our roses in bloom in our front yard? They’re just for you.”

February is Heart Month

I need to tell you that the U. S. is in a dilemma. More than 400,000 women will die of heart disease this year, and we need to become educated. That means that more women will die of heart disease than all the cancers combined, yet because of more attention, women often think that breast cancer is their number one threat. It isn’t. It’s heart disease.
Actually, one out of every four women will get some sort of heart disease and one out of every nine women will get breast cancer. Another misconception is that it is a man’s disease. The fact is, since 1984, more women than men are dying of heart disease and the gap keeps widening.
Since 2007, when I attended the Science and Leadership Symposium in Rochester, Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic, I have been volunteering for the WomenHeart Organization. They put on the Symposium in conjunction with the Mayo. This year is the Clinic’s 15th year hosting this event. The conference is open to any woman who has had any kind of heart episode. However, there is a strict screening process. First, the woman must fill out an application form, then write an essay about her heart event, and thirdly, get written approval from their cardiologist stating she is able to attend the rigorous training and afterwards agree to volunteer in her home communities. The pledge each one of us had to take was to commit to six hours of volunteer work. However, I have gone beyond that, and this will be my ninth year volunteering.
I have enjoyed speaking at schools, churches, my gym, women’s clubs, Macy’s and most recently at the Burlington Coat Factory. In the past five years Burlington has partnered with the WomenHeart Organization to bring heart healthy information to their employees and the public. At my presentations, I hand out red and white bags called the Red Bag of Courage in both Spanish and English. They are filled with information on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment options. Of course, I add my personal stories of experiencing two heart attacks. It’s nice to connect a face with a survivor.

Instant New Found Friends

Did you ever meet someone that you instantly liked? I don’t think it happens often, at least not to us, but this phenomena occurred to my husband and me three years ago.

It happened in October during the Anaheim Phoenix Club’s Oktoberfest. My husband and I decided to join my German class for a Sunday afternoon of Oompah music, German sausages, sauerkraut, and naturlich~Bier! As soon as we paid for our tickets into the park, we saw a white tent with handcrafted wooden items of cutting boards, baskets, and mantel clocks. It caught my husband’s eye, and we walked into the booth.

My husband, who is a woodworker himself, seldom looks at anyone else’s work. This is because he can just about make anything anyone else does with wood, only better. But Ken took one look at the items and saw how professionally done they were and had to take a closer look. As Ken checked them out, I struck up a conversation with the man who had made the beautiful items. Herr “E”, as he will be referred to throughout this story, was a jolly, amiable man with a slight accent. After talking to him for awhile, I asked him if he had been born in Germany and where was he from.

Herr “E” replied, “Yes, but you probably never heard of it. It’s a little town in central Germany.”

“Try me,” I said. “I’ve been there five times and traveled extensively throughout.”

“Well, the little town I was a born in, with only a couple hundred people, I’m sure you wouldn’t know, but the closest town to that is called Fulda.”

“Oh my God!” I said. “We just came back from there this past summer. Our best friends who live over there were born and raised in Fulda.” Then I turned in Ken’s direction, and yelled, “You won’t believe where Herr “E” is from!”

We talked for quite awhile with Herr “E”, and his wife, Frau “A.” We became instant friends. She was just as sweet as he was. After we exchanged information, Herr “E” came to our house several times showing Ken how he made his cheese-cutting boards and borrowed some of Ken’s tools to finish work on his big cutting boards. Ken had offered the use of his shop to help the man.

The second and third Oktoberfests have come and gone. But we never failed to stop and talk with our new German friends from Fulda. After this past year’s festival, we promised to get together on our own. We planned to meet at the Phoenix Club’s restaurant not during Oktoberfest. After the holidays, Frau “A” phoned us and suggested we come to their house instead of the restaurant for an authentic German meal.

Their home was just as comforting and inviting as our new friends. Several photos and plaques with German sayings filled the rooms. The food was delicious, and better than any restaurant could have served in the states. We feasted on my favorite dish called Rinderroulade (rolled stuffed beef) and red cabbage, prepared German style. Both melted in your mouth. After dinner we had Applestrudel for dessert, another Deutsche delight.

“What games would you like to play?” Herr “E” asked. (I thought that was an odd question as no one had ever asked us that.)

So I asked, “What games do you like?” When he started to list the games they enjoyed playing, they were the exact games that we liked. So we ended our evening with three games of Sequence, talking and laughing about our experiences in Germany and our travels here in the U.S. Ken and I were so pleased to meet such wonderful friends. They are the kind we will keep for life.

January 2016, Happy New Year!

Hooray! I’m starting the new year calling myself an author, though I have to pinch myself to actually believe it.  My memoir, “To Live and Love Again” went on sale with Amazon (paperback as well as Kindle version)  the end of last October. I’ve had nothing but rave reviews and I hope book #2 (a novel which I started over the holidays and yet to be titled) will be just as popular.

“To Live and Love Again” was a surprising hit with almost 200 book sales. I had three book signings last fall and will be having book signing #4 in a few weeks. It will be at the Inland Empire California Writers Club. They meet every fourth Saturday of the month at 10 am at the Ovitt Library in Ontario. So I will be there, on January 23rd, along with other self-published writers in our club, talking about our craft and the road to publishing.

I can honestly say that the best part of writing my book (besides it being cathartic) was when people gave me feedback such as, “I couldn’t put it down!” “I read it in two days!” “What a story!” and “I liked your style of writing.” It made me feel good to know that people enjoyed my writing as well as the story I had to tell.

For those of you who have read my book and not posted a review on Amazon, please do. More positive reviews helps sell books. And if you have not yet read, To Live and Love Again,” all you need to do is type my name or the title in the subject line and it will come up. But for your convenience, here’s the direct link: http://ow.ly/TNPhD

People say “Don’t make New Year’s resolutions. You’ll never keep them.” But this year I’m making one that I hope to keep. And that is to continue writing in my blog. My goal is writing something at least once a week. I’m going to try my hardest not to let book #2 get in my way!

To Live and Love Again Update

Well, I got the FIRST proof back and believe it or not, there were even more changes to do! As one author put it, “I’ve edited so much, I’m ready to scream!” and that about says it all. I thought this would be the end, but OH…NO…there is yet ONE MORE proof book to look over and make SURE the changes I’ve made are the ones I want and they did it as I said.

So here it is October and there is one more book they are sending me. I thought I’d be further along in this process, but as my writer friends said, you want it to look the best that it can be! After I edit it a last time, it should only be a couple of days until it will be available. So October WILL the month. I just don’t have  a day yet. But I do have a surprise for you. I do have a date for a book signing!

My first book signing will be in Yucaipa, CA in the back room of the Big Boy’s off “the 10” freeway and the Calimesa exit. Times have yet to be determined. My friend and author, Brenda Hill, will be hosting this. There will be food, snacks, and other IE authors there pitching their books. I will be one of them. This event is open to my fans who will like an autographed copy. I know this is far for those of you in the LA area, but I promise I’ll have some later in your area.

The date for the book signing is Saturday, November, 14th. Please come!

Waiting for To Live and Love Again, a Memoir

The last couple of months have been somewhat uneventful, yet fast-paced compared to last year as far as publishing my book is concerned. This past June I decided to get off the merry-go-round of reading rejection letters traditional publishers sent me. One year was all I was willing to give them—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Yes, some were short and to the point. “We’re not interested” they wrote. Others were downright curt. (“Your memoir sounds interesting, but it doesn’t fit our mold”). Some didn’t bother to answer. It was time to self-publish.

As soon as I contacted a self-publishing company, we were ready, set, and go. Within the first month, my ideas about a cover and an explanation of my story on the back of my book came to fruition. I printed the original cover and showed it to many of my friends. I valued their input when more than one suggested that the title words be put into more eye-catching colors instead of the drab ones that seemed to disappear in the backdrop of the cliff’s shadow. The new, improved, and revised cover came out this past month.

After the long process of re-editing the book last May, I also sent the new and current publisher my eighty-four thousand word count manuscript that first week in June. Within a month, I received my first reply with words slashed through, more than one set of comments per chapter, and a five page letter of recommendations. My manuscript was now down to sixty-one thousand plus words with much of it being edited out—but for the right reasons. I had dwelled too much on insignificant stories and not enough on the important ones, she said. It was sad to dump that many words but it was for the greater good of the book.

When I sent it back corrected, accepting the majority of the editor’s remarks I thought I would be receiving the proof book in the mail any day. Wrong!  I forgot that I had purchased two rounds of editing. So on August 31st, almost three weeks later, I received Edit Number Two. This time the second editor had rave reviews with only two pages of remarks. She was very complementary. All comments were easy fixes, and with time being of the essence, I sent the book back over the holiday weekend.

So, if you are reading this, I am not announcing when To Live and Love Again, will be available. But I promise it will be soon. I’m sorry for the delay. Hope you won’t be sorry after you’ve read it.

 

Book Cover

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