Author Sue Andrews

Your Home Is Your Castle

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The Girl in the Flowered Dress

She sat at a card table in the back of the room. Her hands covered with paper-thin latex gloves and a white face mask. Her table covered with tools, she worked alone in silence. The whirring of her electronic instrument sounded like something you’d hear in a dentist’s chair. She was an artist. The kind who makes cameos from seashells.

Outside the tour guide had explained to us what we would see inside the shop. In large jewelry cases, we perused hundreds of cameos with different designs, big and small, primarily oval, but with various colors and shapes. I had never seen so many in one location before—rings, pendants, brooches, and bracelets. The guide told us the Caribbean and Italy boasted the best artisans of shell carving with the most cameos.

The young girl wore a printed flowered dress made from cotton. The lightweight fabric was abundant in this Central American country as people lived in summer-like conditions year round. Her small hands and fingers appeared as delicate as the shell she was carving. She made curves and lines beginning an undefinable shape. In the way she handled her tools and the shell, she seemed to demonstrate a reverence to the skill she had learned.

My friend, Melody, found the young girl first and tried to strike up a conversation. The artist never looked up and pointed to a piece of paper.

“My name is Theresa,” it said. She continued working, as Melody kept talking and tried to make eye contact. When the girl looked up and saw Melody was still talking to her, she pulled down her mask, pointed to her ear, and shook her head “no”.

Melody and I had been friends for twenty-five years. We worked for the same school district as teachers of the deaf. When Melody saw Theresa point to her ear and shake her head, that was all she needed. Melody started signing to her in American Sign Language hoping it was the same signing system that was used in the Honduras as every country has their own distinct sign language. To both of their amazement, Melody and Theresa understood each other!

“Sue!” yelled Melody from across the room. “This girl knows ASL! Quick! Come here!”

I hurried across the room and soon we were having a three-way conversation. Theresa’s eyes brightened when I started signing to her, too. I was positive that didn’t happen very often even with the thousands of tourists that visited her shop on an annual basis. She seemed happy to able to communicate with somebody.

People in the store started to stare. But they weren’t gazing at the beautiful work of the young girl. They were looking at us talking with our hands. Soon the boss came over and scolded us in a semi-polite way that we needed to leave Theresa alone as she needed to get back to work demonstrating her talents.

Melody and I walked away happy because Theresa was able to tell us privately how she and her family learned the craft and became workers for the company. That day was one of the highlights of our vacation. I bet Theresa considered it an eventful and happy day herself.


April and May

There’s been lots going on with the Andrews’ family over the past couple of months. First Ken’s shoulder got worse after his fall, and he went in for a MRI. The outcome was worse than we had thought. He had severe tears in his rotator cuff which required orthoscopic surgery. The surgery went well, however, his arm has had to be in a sling for the last 5 weeks. In the beginning I had to play nursemaid but after the next couple of weeks, he learned how to do things with one arm/hand and luckily it wasn’t his dominate side that had the operation. He sees the doctor next week, can take his arm out of the sling and will start physical therapy. Yeah! For him and for me. We both want his independence back!

As for me and my writing, I had taken a break from my book and my blog. I was depressed getting several rejections on my memoir, and although I knew that memoir is one of the hardest memoirs to publish, I realized I had to move on with it.  A week ago I came to the conclusion I needed to get my story out by self-publishing. I have since taken my first “baby steps” by making connections to a cover artist and a self-publishing company. I’m hoping to sell my book by the first of August.

In between times, Wiley has been a pretty good doggy and not up to his usual old tricks (although he did steal a slice of pizza off a paper plate of mine that was on the table!) He hadn’t done that in a long time so I guess I got lazy and didn’t put it far enough in the center out of his reach. He has also been having a little continuous problem with limping. He got a complete exam the other day but nothing showed up abnormal. Might he be getting arthritis like his “mother” at any early age? Or might he be putting on sympathy pains for his “father”? The vet said the limping may be rooted in a shoulder problem. Yikes! I didn’t know pets took after their masters.

So there you have the newsy part of my blog.  I have another short story to tell you. It’s about a person I met on my cruise. See “The Girl in the Flowered Dress.”

February and March 2015

It’s been  a whirlwind of a month between February and March. I went on the cruise with my “gal-pals” and had a lovely time in Honduras, Belize, and Cozumel. My eight days of fun, relaxation, and getting to know new friends ended abruptly when I arrived home.

My husband took away all my “thunder” and added more guilt because he fell off a ladder! If you saw his picture on FB and I’m sure most of you did, you could tell it wasn’t a pretty sight. His text of  “I’m coming with a black eye” was an exaggeration in the other direction.  A badly bruised face, a cut on his cheek,  a swollen eye with the white of it all bloodshot and a sore shoulder was how he showed up. He’s still suffering with the latter (no pun intended) and we’re finally getting the MRI tomorrow.

The other sad news is that we had to make an emergency trip to Chicago last week to bury two of Ken’s uncles. The younger one, Uncle Roy, we had been very close to as he was only ten years older than we were. More like an older brother than an uncle to Ken.

“Aunt Judy” watched Wiley while we were gone and will watch him again while we travel to San Francisco. There will be plenty more of fun Wiley stories coming in the future. I’ll just tell her to hide the fruitcake!

Where Did the Summer Go?

I don’t have a good excuse as to why I have not been writing on my blog.  I suppose you could say the summer bug has bit me.  It’s been great being outside, swimming and reading, in between editing my book, and enjoying my usual involvement in club activities, and social engagements.  We also enjoyed a trip to San Francisco and had our relatives from Arizona visit us a few weeks ago.  We leave for our next trip soon which I’ll be talking about when we get back.

We drove up to the Bay Area the end of June to visit our daughter and son-in-law. This would be the first trip we took Wiley Coyote with us.  I’m not sure if it will be our last trip with the dog or not.  He made it quite memorable.   The first night, after an eight hour drive (two hours longer than usual due to an accident), Ken and I were “dog-tired” and thought we’d get a good night sleep.

We called our daughter and said, “Let’s meet only for dinner tonight, sweetheart.  We can visit more tomorrow and the rest of the week. We need to turn-in early.”

After a relaxing dinner at a pet-friendly restaurant, Ken, Wiley, and I drove back to the motel. It was Wiley’s first stay in a motel and he didn’t like  hearing the noises. (It’s very quiet where we live with an occasional howl from coyotes.) Wiley heard every single footstep and voice outside our room. There must have been a party going on down the corridor.  Just after we’d get back to sleep, Wiley would wake us up again by barking at the noises outside.

The next morning I said to Ken, “Google the closest PetSmart.  We need to find a vet who will give us some sleeping pills for Wiley.”

We were lucky there was one close by.  (Thank you, Dina, for encouraging me to get pet insurance!) PetSmart  was able to pull up my chart from hundreds of miles away in Rancho Cucamonga. Amazing! Hooray for technology!

After promising the vet we just wanted the pills as a short term solution for our five-day visit, we were relieved he gave us some. Wiley slept like a baby with an occasional howl and we got sleep the rest of our stay. It was great to see our kids and spend some quality time with them. Even Wiley and their cat, Kenyon, learned to co-exist when we were at their house. (Although Wiley liked to sneak Kenyon’s food when we weren’t looking!)

Wiley’s motto is . . .  “Wiley’s my name, Trouble’s my game!”

New Adventure

Wiley isn’t the only one with a new adventure. It’s me! This will be the first time I will be leaving my husband and dog home alone while I leave on a cruise with some girl friends. I’ve never done that before being married or single.  I did travel alone when I visited family members who were ill, but never on a vacation. We’ll see how it goes.  I will miss my men at home, but know I’ll have fun with the other women.

The sea is not my favorite place to be.  I cannot swim and have a fear of drowning. But like I have a fear of heights, I love to fly. So being on a cruise ship doesn’t seem to bother me. When I was out in the ocean on my old 32 foot cabin cruiser with my first husband, now that really frightened me! I nearly drowned twice in my lifetime from small boats, but Princess Cruise Line doesn’t worry me. My last two cruises were more than twenty-two years ago. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it as much as I did back then.

Ken hates cruises and the husbands of all the other gals didn’t want to travel to Central America.  That is how the whole excursion came to be. I’m joining the group who always travel together minus their men.

My next blog will let you know what happened.

Where Did the Holidays Go?

The last few months I have not put anything on my blog because I was quite busy.  But that’s no excuse. I tend to do better in the new year.  Getting ready for the holidays and then putting all the decorations away did take some time and energy.

In between times, I was  getting my “ducks in a row” to publish my memoir.  By that I mean, in October I purchased the Writers Market 2015 book. It took me awhile to comb through it from front to back. First, it took me several weeks to compose a great query letter with the help of my Critique group. Then I went back to the book, and highlighted potential publishers, made my list and checked it twice. The list included 40 indies who a) accepted memoirs, and b) accepted non-agented authors. I fall into both of those categories, so the indies had to list both. It was a big task in the mist of all the holidays’ festivities, and this year we were invited to more than the usual.

I suppose the latter is why I have not sent off one manuscript so far, nor written on my blog.  I did email a few potential publishers and got some negative responses from their editors who told me that a) I should get an agent as “nobody” important goes to the internet to get book solicitations, or b) they are not accepting memoirs at this time, or c) the memoirs they accept are rare and only of a professional kind. They would never accept  a personal one such as mine.

My lack of sending out manuscripts has more to do with my lack of enthusiasm than my lack of time. Or should I say defeatism before I even start? It’s the old mantra that most beginning authors have at one time or the other. “Who would read my book anyway?” ‘The thought of me letting go and sending out copies of my four years of hard work  to people I don’t know is frightening. But I know I must do it.

My goal if getting all the manuscripts or chapters out to each publisher (and they all want something different!) by the end of 2014 did not happen. Now I’m hoping by Spring.  All I can say now is my “Road Less Traveled” is a scary one.

The Girl is Gone

A month ago, we had a “quick write” at our California Writers Club. It was a prompt using current titles of movies that were out. We were to select a title from several given for our impromptu writing or poem. I decided to try my hand at poetry, which I only write on occasion.  I have not been writing on my blog as I have been busy finishing my memoir, and editing using the suggestions (or not) that my three editors have given me.

Speaking of which, my manuscript was completed last June, but in the process of the feedback from my editors, I still have work to be done. First, I need a new book title. I wasn’t happy with the one I had selected and neither did one of my editors. Second,  I need to write another chapter or epilogue to my book to tie up the loose ends. Third, I had to compose a query letter to pitch my manuscript to would-be publishers in the hopes that one will select mine for their list. So I have been busy with writing, just not blogging.

Anyway, hope you like this poem. Please don’t confuse it with the movie now out. It has nothing to do with it, but perhaps two of the words in the title. Hope you enjoy it!

The Girl is Gone


Gone are the days of innocence

Jumping rope, playing jacks,

Hide and Seek

And all that.


Gone are the days before the first kiss,

A first embrace, a longing look,

A broken heart

And all that.


Gone are the days of education,

School books, studying, for degrees,


And all that.


Gone is the woman who fought for and against causes

The Viet Nam War, Civil Rights

The Deaf

And all that.


Gone is the woman who wrote a book,

Sang her song, danced for life

And all that.

The High Roller

I went to Las Vegas last month and found myself on the tallest Ferris Wheel IN THE WORLD! I’m afraid of heights, so that was no small feat. Here is the short story I wrote about my experience.

The High Roller

My fear of heights started at a young age. I don’t know whether it was the glass elevator in the Museum of Science and Industry, or my first (and last) roller coaster ride I took as a kid in Chicago that caused it. Perhaps it was something else. I often wondered how an airplane ride could thrill and excite me, while a walk on an overlook standing on any tall hill, rock or platform petrified me.

Thank goodness I could see the Grand Canyon without walking to the edge. I praised God there was a high wall and razor wire on top of the Empire State Building. Each time I experienced the Seattle Space Needle or John Hancock Building in Chicago, I was ecstatic there was a far enough distance between myself and the glass windows at the highest levels. Riding inside the glass elevator at the Peachtree Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, I always took the middle position so I couldn’t see out as we climbed to the twenty-second floor.

There were many other well-known places I missed on purpose or kept my distance to avoid my fear. I do remember being graced with long lines and several broken elevators the two times I was in Paris. They were the reasons why I never rode to the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Last week, I decided to face my fear. It was a modern Ferris wheel that tantalized me with its giant white orbital gondolas; each weighing 44,000 pounds, glittering with a total of 2,000 multi-colored LED lights. It looked like something out of the futuristic, animated TV show, The Jetsons, with people flying around in space ships instead of cars.

Ironically, the wheel reminded me of something old at the same time. If I hadn’t read the book, “The Devil in the White City,” I would have never known about the man who invented the Ferris wheel.  He built it for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Mr. Ferris’ original wheel did not look anything like the two-seater swinging buckets of today but rather like the one I just experienced in Las Vegas. If people could ride something like this over 100 years ago, why couldn’t I? It beckoned and dared me to ride it.

We got on board one of the twenty-eight orbs. “The High Roller,” as it is called in “Sin City,” had my stomach in knots and my heart in my throat. When it was too late to turn back, I found out the wheel never stopped moving. Patrons are required to jump on and off while it moves one foot per second. Oh, God! What did I get myself into?

The High Roller reminded me of what I had read in that book.  There were lots of similarities. They both had glass enclosed gondolas for observation, our half-hour ride was only few minutes longer than the original, and both held forty people in each of the pods. In Vegas, we took the “adult-only party” cabin (which served drinks at a bar) so less people were on board.  We decided to take our ride while it was still daylight.  I’m glad we did as the view was spectacular, even from the fiberglass seat I plastered myself against.

Probably the look on my face and the fact I was the only person sitting, the bartender started talking to me.

“Afraid of heights?” he asked.

“Yes. How did you guess?” I said, making a lame joke without smiling.

“I see many people sitting right there in the same spot, and they never take their eyes off me.”

“Sounds like a good idea. I think I’ll do the same.”

“Care for something from the bar?”

“Oh, no, thank you,” I said. “I don’t think I could hold it down.” I pause. “Just in case, where is the trashcan?”

He pointed to it, and we continued our conversation. The longer we talked, the more I realized it was silly for us to have a conversation with the distance between us.  I stood up and walked the few feet toward him. We chatted about the facts of the wheel and I felt more at ease. The wheel moved so slowly no one could feel it. I asked him if that would change when we rounded the top and went over to the other side.

“No,” he said. “You won’t sense a thing. There will be a countdown on the screen explaining it to you. It’s quite unremarkable.”

A young, good-looking man with celadon eyes came to the bar for a cocktail. Since I wasn’t looking outside the orb, I stared at his handsome face. He had heard our conversation and chimed in.

“That’s right. Take baby steps,” was all he said as he took his drink and turned away.

Without humiliating me and saying those three little encouraging words, I mustered some nerve to walk a few feet to my right and stood by my husband and friends. For the last ten minutes, they had been standing close to the glass enjoying the view, while they pointed out their favorite haunts, and drank their favorite cocktails. Like a little kid, I hugged my husband from behind. Every now and then, I would peek out from around his waist to grab a quick look. Then fear crept back inside me, and I walked a few paces backwards to my original seat. I knew the countdown would be soon. I wanted to be prepared and seated for that.

The same attractive man saw what had just happened.  He looked at me and smiled. “That’s right. Take baby steps.”

I thought he was so mature and considerate. I looked back at the television screen. The man started to explain our location, and descent. We were half-way through our rotation and about to go over the five hundred and fifty foot apex. I sat like a statue, afraid to move, and wondered if the bartender was correct. Would I not feel anything?

My eyes were fixed on the bartender who was joking and making drinks for the young people. He had an interesting technique with a splashy performance. It was one I had never seen before. The twenty-somethings toasted each other, took pictures with their cell phones, and moved away to take-in the 360 degree vistas. The bartender and I started again our silent “stare” dance. I stood up and walked toward him.

“I’m curious. What was the name of those drinks you were making?

“Those are called Kamikazes,” he said. “They’re shooters of Vodka and triple sec.”

“Oh,” I said. “Perhaps I should have had one of those.” This time I was laughing.  The orb was on its way down. I really didn’t need a drink, but was satisfied I had taken those baby steps encouraged by “Handsome” with the celadon eyes.

I walked to the edge and relished my last few minutes alone by the glass. The Las Vegas scene from the tallest Ferris wheel in the world was magnificent.


The Heart of the Mooseman

The substitute teaching position I accepted the last two and a half months of school warmed my heart and touched my soul.  Although it was tough waking up in the morning and getting out my door by seven a. m., once I was in the classroom with all my former students, I had an exceptional time seeing the academic growth that happened since I last taught them four years ago.

When the students were in pre-school through first grade, we had a tradition.  The tradition was  every Halloween, my husband would come to my classroom and carve a pumpkin for the students to enjoy.  They would tell them the shapes they wanted each facial feature to have and then we would turn off the lights and light the candle.  The first time my husband came to the school, he worried.

“What are you so anxious about?” I asked.

“What shall I wear?” he pondered.  “Everyone will have on a costume but me!”

I told him to just bring his old hat with the moose antlers.  The children will get a kick out of it.  He had bought the hat years ago when our daughter was in elementary school, and we frequented a local amusement park and pizza parlor called “Bullwinkles,” after the cartoon character.  My students thought my husband was funny, and enjoyed watching him carve the pumpkin and show off the final project.  After the second time he visited with the moose hat, the kids nickname him, “Mooseman.”

When I retired, we thought Mooseman had made his final appearance at the park across the street from the school.  He grilled hamburgers and hot dogs for all the students and their families.  The families brought the side dishes and drinks.  It was time for school to end once again after substituting with the same kids and families. Ken and I decided Mooseman would make another appearance at the park.

After about an hour of the children playing with all the families present, Mooseman arrived with his meat, buns, and grilling items to once again cook for everyone.  The children all shouted with joy.

From across the lawn, they ran towards him shouting, “Mooseman! Mooseman is here! Yeah!”

Everyone had a wonderful time at the park.  My husband was touched by the students, how grown up they had become and polite they were.  My husband doesn’t know American Sign Language, but he and the children were able to communicate.  The next and  last day of school, I had the students draw a picture of what happened at the park and write a thank note to Mooseman.

When I showed Ken the cards the students had made for him, he was touched.  He read the notes and cried. We both did.



The Bracelet

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