Monday, December 30, 2013

Life Update

Our cousins the Carrico’s had another tragedy within their family. Last month I had asked prayer for them because they lost Mark (brother and son), who was a Capuchin friar. Well, on December 19, the Carrico girls’ mother, Bettie, passed away. Our cousins have been through too much this year: from losing their father in February, to their brother in November and finally their mother right before Christmas. They have their faith in Christ to see them through. I am asking for prayers for their comfort and peace of mind but also that next year will be better for them. I thank you in advance.



Thanksgiving and Christmas went well. It will never be like it once was, when Dad was alive or even when our grandparents were living. We didn’t exchange gifts this year, nor did we decorate, and we spent it with friends. Maybe it’s for the best that we are changing our holiday routines. Change is inevitable, right?

Far too often, I forget about this blog. Just can’t think of what to post, other than life updates or an article I stumble on. I know I need to get creative, but I am terrible at this. I am playing around with an idea for a different blog, inspired by my YA WIP that I am working on. We’ll see. It will have to be more than something dedicated to the story; maybe it can be a place to learn about WWII Poland and life during that era. Food for thought.



I am trying to come up with a writing project for this next year. Just when I think I’ve figured it out, I get bored with the idea and want to do something else. It will have to be something far less emotionally demanding then the Holocaust. It will probably end up being another story set in Indiana, those are the easiest to write. I submitted a novel to Steeple Hill before Thanksgiving; I hope to hear back sometime soon. ::Fingers crossed::





Today is my 27th birthday. Don’t really feel different or older. Can’t say that I want anything specific other than for my dream to come true. Maybe 2014 is the year. Birthday wish: that I may hear something positive from Steeple Hill and may secure a literary agent.


Until next time. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Anne Frank’s Diary To Be Turned Into An Animated Film

http://www.inquisitr.com/1062956/anne-franks-diary-to-be-turned-into-an-animated-film/




It’s been some time since we’ve seen a film based on Anne Frank’s diary, but it looks like we’ll be seeing a new one very soon. This time around the adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank will be turned into an animated film.
Director Ari Folman, is heading up the production and surprisingly the adaptation is said to be a “family-friendly” film. Of the animated adaptation Folman said, “Bringing the Anne Frank Diary to all screens is a fantastic opportunity and challenge. There is a real need for new artistic material to keep the memory alive for younger generations.”


Anne Frank is one of the most widely discussed and studied victims of the Holocaust. Frank died at the young age of 15-years-old at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. Before she died, Frank wrote journal entries during World War II. She had received the diary as a gift on her thirteenth birthday.

This new adaptation isn’t the only film based on Anne Frank, but as an animated film that’s geared towards “family” this is the first film on Anne Frank’s tragic life of its kind. In the past TV adaptations and film adaptations have been made and were very successful. So far the feature that has received most attention is the Oscar-winning 1959 film The Diary of Anne Frank. The film went on to win three Academy Awards in 1960 including Best Supporting Actress (Shelly Winters).
Decades later, The Diary of Anne Frank film was ranked on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Cheers list. Millie Perkins played Anne Frank, while Joseph Schildkraut reprised his stage role as Otto Frank. Winters played Petronella van Daan.
The only known survivor of the Frank family was Otto Frank, who was Anne’s father. In the end he wound up with Anne’s diary, and since then it has been published in over sixty languages or more.
Back in June of this year, video footage of Anne Frank had been revealed and released by the Anne Frank House. It is known as the only footage to survive. Frank would have been 84-years-old.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Vintage Inspirations

http://dividingmoments.blogspot.com/2013/11/vintage-journey-giveaway-new-look.html?m=1

Over at Dividing Vintage Moments is a giveaway to commemorate her new blog design. The way to participate is to mention the giveaway in a blog entry and list what items that inspire our vintage journey. I do love vintage, though I am wary about wearing it because I am clumsy and tend to tear things and stain them. Anyway, here are my ten items:

1. The first item is not exactly mine. It is a circa 1932 blue beaded necklace and it belonged to my grandmother. it was a Christmas gift from her father; he died the following year so it was special to her. I have worn it before and it has inspired me.

2. I love what they use to call peddle pushers/clam diggers. I loved it back when I was a teeny-bopper, which was long before I appreciated vintage.

3. Saddle-oxfords. I had a pair that I squeezed my feet into, but they were really too small and gave them away.

4. Coral lipstick. Just love, love, love coral.

5. A great set of stream curlers. They can create the most luscious, bouncy curls. Nothing else can hold a candle.

6. An eyebrow pencil. A little dot on the cheek pays excellent homage to Marilyn Monroe.

7. A black fedora. It is an ode to Judy Garland singing "Get Happy," in "Summer Stock."

8. Black Mary Jane's screams Roaring 20's!

9. Brown eye shadow. It lets blue eyes pop.

10. A pea coat. It is sleek and nice and warm.


All for now!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Teen star appeals for more Holocaust movies

http://www.starpulse.com/news/Dave_Simpson/2013/11/11/teen_star_appeals_for_more_holocaust_m



Child star Sophie Nelisse has urged Hollywood's studio bosses to keep making films about the Holocaust, because she is part of a generation who aren't taught about the horrors of the second world war.

The 13 year old admits she knew nothing about the Nazi atrocities before she started researching her role in The Book Thief, in which her character befriends a Jewish man hiding from German troops, and she thinks youngsters should be aware of what happened.

Speaking at a recent screening of the film in Los Angeles, Nelisse said, "We don't learn about the Holocaust in my school, so when I did the movie I had to do a lot of research.

"Kids my age - our generation - don't know enough about what happened. Some people think it's annoying that we keep on making these (Holocaust) movies, but I don't think so because all of the (concentration) camp survivors are gonna die at some point... and I just hope that in 100 years, people remember what happened, first of all to not let it happen again and sort of for a way to remember the people that died and to remember the people that fought for them (sic). I just think it's really important that we keep on making these movies."



Her thoughts were echoed by her co-star Emily Watson, who recently told WENN, "We filmed in Berlin, which is a city that is very, very honest and it wears it's history on it's sleeve, and it's very brutal with itself what has happened there. It was pretty relentless because you're filming all day and then you'd go off on a sightseeing tour and everywhere you go there is an exhibit about what happened. It's gutting.

"But it's fascinating to me that Sophie has friends who don't know about the Holocaust. You sit in a room with seasoned hacks (journalists) and they've all seen Schindler's List and The Pianist and The Reader and they ask, 'Do we need another Holocaust movie?'

"Yeah, we b**ody well do. (Co-star) Geoffrey (Rush) was talking about a survey that was carried out in the United States, where teenagers were asked, 'Was Adolf Hitler a dictator or was he a football coach?' Most of them thought he was a football coach! So it's a story you have to keep telling."



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Prayer Request

I would like to ask that whoever reads this, if they would mind praying for my family. My cousin Mark recently passed away; technically he was my Dad’s cousin, but he was mine too. He served God and man as a Capuchin friar and counseled the lost souls of this world. He wasn’t of the best of health but his sudden death came as a shock. He was visiting a fellow friar who was in the hospital and collapsed in the elevator. It was a massive heart attack. Mark is actually the third male cousin to die this way in the last year and a half. My Dad went first in April 2012, our cousin Harold was the second, and now Mark.

Mark leaves behind four sisters and a mother (my Grandmother’s little sister) who is in her late eighties. Naturally they are all distraught. I know we all need prayer, but it is his sisters and mother that need it the most. His father passed away earlier this year so this just compounds them with extra grief.

Mark was a wonderful man. While he was devout, he had a hilarious sense of humor and was especially close to his family.

Thank you in advance.

For more information about the Capuchin order and Mark’s ministry, please click on the following links:



Saturday, October 19, 2013

An Afternoon at the CANDLES Museum

(A little side note: I wrote an entry about the C.A.N.D.L.E.S. Museum back in April when Gov. Mike Pence honored Eva Mozes-Kor and Chaim Weizmann with the Sagamore of the Wabash Award. You can read about it by clicking here.)



On Friday, October 4, my sister, mother and I visited the C.A.N.D.L.E.S. Museum. It was a visit long overdue, especially for me since I am interested in and writing about the Holocaust. We went a long time ago, before the fire, when they had the old building. A couple of members at the Messianic Synagogue we are attending had introduced us to one of the men who lectures at the Museum. 



His name is Walter Sommers. He is a ninety-three year old Jewish survivor of the Nazis and a WWII veteran. He was born in turbulent post-war Germany and witnessed the rise of National Socialism. Thanks to a warning from a German friend and with the help of a cousin, Walter and his family managed to escape in January 1939 and immigrated to America. He fought in the Pacific Theater during WWII and has spent the rest of his seventy years living in Indiana.

Walter is a small man, no more than 5”5; he is a snappy dresser and relies on a cane to get around. His mind is sharp and for over two hours he talked not only about his life, but the Holocaust, the Nazis, the history of anti-Semitism and he also touched on a few current issues that our country is facing. I had the privilege of asking him a few questions that pertained to my YA WIP and one that was out of sheer curiosity.

Walter said, “Over time, we as human beings have become more tolerant, merciful and loving. Compared to the Middle Ages or even a couple hundred years ago, we are far kinder.”

 “Do you feel that we human beings are better now than we were back in WWII?” I asked.

There was a pause and he cracked a smile. “Well, I wouldn’t go that far.”



Our visit soon came to a close. We took some pictures with Walter and purchased souvenir necklaces from the gift shop. Mine reads: Tikkun Olam. It means “Repair the World.”



I don’t know if the world can ever really be repaired, but I think Walter Sommers and Eva Mozes-Kor have made a good start.

The rest of the photographs taken are up on facebook.com, but here are a few for you to enjoy.






For a little background information: Eva Mozes-Kor started the C.A.N.D.L.E.S.Museum, not only to educate about the Holocaust, but to bring awareness to the overlooked fact that twins were selected by the infamous Dr. Mengele for experimentation. Eva and her twin Miriam were survivors of the experimentations,  Auschwitz and the holocaust. She has made it her life’s mission to not only share her story, but emphasize on the fact that she publicly and personally forgave Mengele and the Nazis. 


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Nothing New Under the Sun


The title alone sums up this entry. 








My computer’s hard drive crashed not long after my last entry, so I haven’t had much time for writing or blogging. Still plugging away on my YA WIP. Needs some fleshing out, but I guess it’s going well. Am trying to come up with a writing project for next year. Naturally I want to dive straight into my YA’s sequel, and I probably will. However, I want to get going on something completely different that way I have a back-up plan in case my YA falls through. I guess I’ll come up with something eventually, likely at the last minute. That’s usually how I roll.

Trying to lose weight yet again. Hopefully this time it works out. We have one of those Bow-flex tread-climbers. In one week’s time I’ve lost two pounds. Whoop-dee-do. The trick is keeping those two pounds off and shedding more weight. I pooped out of last night’s workout, so I pray that tonight turns out better.

The government has closed down. What can I say? I think 90% of the goofballs in office need to be voted out. I hope that they quit messing around and get their act together while the government is on hiatus, but I doubt it. Likely they’ll just make the situation worse. It’s what they do best.


All for now!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

“The Plum Tree,” by Ellen Marie Wiseman



Author:
Ellen Marie Wiseman discovered her love of reading and writing while attending first grade in one of the last one-room schoolhouses in NYS. Her debut novel The Plum Tree - a WWII story about a young German woman trying to save the love of her life, a Jewish man - was released by Kensington in January 2013. Ellen lives peacefully on the shores of Lake Ontario with her husband and three dogs, where she loves to cook, watch movies, garden, and spend time with her granddaughters. She would love to have you join her on Facebook, www.facebook.com/EllenMarieWisemanAuthor, Twitter, @EllenMarieWise and on her web site: www.ellenmariewiseman.com




Book Description:

A deeply moving and masterfully written story of human resilience and enduring love, The Plum Tree follows a young German woman through the chaos of World War II and its aftermath.
"Bloom where you're planted," is the advice Christine Bolz receives from her beloved Oma. But seventeen-year-old domestic Christine knows there is a whole world waiting beyond her small German village. It's a world she's begun to glimpse through music, books--and through Isaac Bauerman, the cultured son of the wealthy Jewish family she works for. 
Yet the future she and Isaac dream of sharing faces greater challenges than their difference in stations. In the fall of 1938, Germany is changing rapidly under Hitler's regime. Anti-Jewish posters are everywhere, dissenting talk is silenced, and a new law forbids Christine from returning to her job--and from having any relationship with Isaac. In the months and years that follow, Christine will confront the Gestapo's wrath and the horrors of Dachau, desperate to be with the man she loves, to survive--and finally, to speak out. 
Set against the backdrop of the German homefront, this is an unforgettable novel of courage and resolve, of the inhumanity of war, and the heartbreak and hope left in its wake. 

My Thoughts:
From the moment I heard of this book, I was determined to read it. Rarely do I buy books anymore; usually I wait for them to show up at the library. For whatever reason, my library did not buy a copy so I went out and bought “The Plum Tree.” Anymore, it is a rare thing for a novel and its author to be so accurate in her research during that dark period in history. I’ve read my share of fiction set in the Holocaust and WWII and it is generally the lack of understanding of that period that drives me crazy and makes me throw the book down in disgust. Well, WWII enthusiasts and Holocaust experts, you need not fear “The Plum Tree.” Not only is this book entertaining, the author knows what she is writing about. Aside from all of that, I found it refreshing that it was the heroine, Christine, who was the strong one in the relationship. I don’t mean to imply that Isaac was weak, but he was placed in a difficult position and was stripped of his power. Without giving away the plot, be rest assured that Christine is not one to give up in the face of adversity. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The One Without a Title

August has slipped by me and this blog has been neglected. Even now I can’t think of much to write about.

WIP #2 has been revised and revamped, with no avail. It is a little sad because I love it and the characters. Have only had one request for the full manuscript and another request for the first five pages. Both ended in rejections. None of the agents want to touch it. In hindsight, I had much better luck with WIP #1. But I’m not devastated. My latest project has me distracted and is my consolation. I actually sent off a query for it, just as a test to see what response it would receive. It was a rejection, of course, but the agent encouraged me to send it to her associate at that agency. It needs quite a bit of polishing, but at least she didn’t say it had “potential.” I’ve heard that phrase so many times that I loathe it now. May that word be forever banished from my vocabulary. (Just kidding.)

Newest developments around here? My family and I have upgraded to mobile phones and we have become addicted to them. Between the phones, DVR and our own computers, we have entered into the 21st century.




All for now!

Friday, August 9, 2013

When in Rome…

“Give thanks for the fullness of the days spent together, the friends that we pray will be with us forever, the feelings we've shared, the food and good fun, with faith that God's blessings have only begun. Amen.”- Dutch Cafe in Kokomo, Indiana

I think that sums up my recent feelings. I went to visit my Aunts’ in Kokomo last week. I wasn’t sure I could do it, anxiety-wise, but I went and had a wonderful time. Yes, there were panic attacks, but on the whole, I did really well. They showed me around their home town and I was able to bask in my love for my state.

They had a big surprise for me. I was totally clueless on what they had planned. On July 22nd they finally told me what they had in store. We were going to Gene Stratton Porter’s home in Rome, Indiana, on Silvan Lake. 











For those unfamiliar with Porter, she is a local Hoosier author and was famous in her own right. Actually she was more than just an author. She was a naturalist, preservationist, photographer, musician, architect, etc. I had always wanted to see her Cabin in Wildflower Woods. She was an environmentalist before such a thing was popular. Porter was a woman ahead of her time. In her book, “A Girl of the Limberlost,” there is a character called the Bird Woman. Clearly she based the character on herself.

It took a couple hours to travel up there but the wait was well worth it. The wooded area near Silvan Lake was serene; the blue waters shimmered as they rippled beneath the breeze. The leaves of trees, some a couple hundred years old, rustled and birds made music for us. 



No wonder Porter loved it there. I more than wanted to lose myself in that magical place.



I was able to tour Porter’s house and discuss the author with the tour guide fairly intelligently, since I had read five of Porter’s books and a biography on her. Everything about her house paid homage to nature: the windows were perfectly situated to look out at the lake while she wrote at her desk. 



In one back room she managed a makeshift greenhouse.  Another tiny room was sealed off by itself and the window painted red, to be used solely for a dark room.



When the tour concluded, my aunt and I walked up to Porter’s monument (she shares it with her daughter) and paid our respects, then the three of us headed to the gift shop. Naturally we had to buy our share of souvenirs.


Our visit to Rome, Indiana had come to an end and we had to head back to Kokomo. We agreed that if we ever had the money, we would buy a house on the lake and move there. Until then we can only visit, possibly vacation there and daydream about it.

To see more photos of my trip to Gene Stratton Porter's Home, check out my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/veronicaleighbooks.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sagamore of the Wabash

What is “Sagamore of the Wabash?” I had never heard of it before May 30th. It is an award created by the state of Indiana and is the highest honor in this state. In the past, it has been bestowed upon “astronauts, presidents, ambassadors, artists, musicians, politicians, and citizens who have contributed greatly to Hoosier heritage.” For more information, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sagamore_of_the_Wabash.



Since my family and I have started attending Hope of Israel, a Messianic church, a few of the members invited us to the ceremony honoring Dr. Chaim Weizmann. Who is Chaim Weizmann? He was a chemist who developed a new technique for industrial fermentation in the production of acetone. He and his associates established Commercial Solvents Corporation right here in Terre Haute, Indiana (my great-aunt actually worked there). His discovery led to the Allied victories of WWI and WWII. He was later selected to be Israel’s first president in 1948 and served until his death in 1952.



The C.A.N.D.L.E.S. Museum hosted the ceremony. Eva Mozes-Kor is one of the museums’ founders and author of the book, “Echoes of Auschwitz.” She and her sister Miriam were Holocaust survivors and were one of the many pairs of twins tested on in Auschwitz by the infamous Dr. Menegele, during WWII. She has made trips back to Auschwitz and publicly announced that she has forgiven Dr. Mengele and the Nazis for their sadistic treatment.








Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Indiana Congressman Larry Buschon and Terre Haute’s mayor Duke Bennet were present, with the governor presenting the award posthumously to Dr. Chaim Weizman.



Towards the end of Pence’s speech, he said that he had a special announcement… that Eva Mozes Kor was also a recipient of the Sagamore award! Applause was plentiful. No one deserves the award more than Kor.



I was happy to witness this historic event, even though I didn’t have the opportunity to meet Kor or any politician there (we had to leave early). Years ago, I went to the old museum and had the honor of listening to Michael Kor, Eva’s husband, speak. Since then the C.A.N.D.L.E.S. museum had to rebuild due to a fire (intentionally set), so it was nice to see how amazing this new building is. We live only a mile or so from the museum, so maybe within the next few weeks we can get over there again and look around a bit more. I did have a great chat with a gentleman who lived in Germany as a young man and escaped before it was too late. He and his family came here to America and he later served in WWII.


Until next time!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Days of Our Lives

Don’t worry, this is not a post about the soap opera; it’s just a cheesy title for this entry.

Been busy the last few weeks and have many entries to post. One that is way over due, about Eva Mozes Kor and an event hosted at the C.A.N.D.L.E.S. museum. Maybe I can put that entry up early next week. Awesome pictures will be included.

Haven’t written much this week in regards to my novels. Which is okay; it’s good to take a break now and then and let the creative juices simmer. Close friends of ours asked me to babysit their granddaughter this week and help out with the housework. These folks- I love them completely and would do anything for them, but I do so appreciate getting paid. This is only for a week, but I’ve been praying for a “job.” I consider this also a test for my endurance, anxiety wise. I am so high strung/shy and backwards/OCD that I wasn’t sure I could hold down a job. But God knows our strengths and our limitations better than we do.  

So, I have been spending my days with a little girl, who I consider like a niece. Only God knows if I will ever have children of my own (it’s doesn’t look like it); I’m not overly maternal. I sort of consider motherhood a calling, the way the priesthood/church/mission field is and I have yet to receive that call. Still, there is no sweeter feeling than a pair of small, thin arms wrapped around my neck. And nothing makes me smile more than a childlike giggle. Nothing breaks my heart melt more than when she is hurt and needs to be held and comforted. This is probably the most difficult job I have ever had, but above all, the best.

Meanwhile, we are having work done on our property. A privacy fence now encloses our backyard, that way we will feel more protected, our furry babies will have more freedom and it will keep the lurkers out (druggy neighbors, nosy neighbors, animal abusers, trash pickers, etc.). It has gone smoothly for the most part, until yesterday. My sister had a lot to deal with due to a certain person. Won’t go into it, because it’s not really worth mentioning or harping on. Hopefully the next few days will go better for her.

This Saturday, my Mom, aunt, sister and I go to lay flowers on the graves. It’s overdue, but better late than never. We haven’t seen Dad’s grave since Thanksgiving. We bought special black and orange silk flowers for him; black and orange in honor of his high school, Gerstmeyer (those were the school colors). It will be bittersweet, I’m sure.


Until next time…

Monday, May 27, 2013

What Have We Done?




When asked, “What religion and/or denomination are you?” I would usually reply “Christian and/or Independent Protestant.” Over the years we have attended a slew of churches: Independent, Baptist, Alliance, Pentecostal, Methodist… you get the picture. Where we felt God lead, we followed. Almost four years ago, for the fun of it, my family and I visited a Messianic Synagogue a couple times and had a blast. Our weekends were pretty jam-packed and we were members of a Baptist church at the time, so we didn’t go back.

About a year and a half ago we left that Baptist church and have been on the lookout for another place to worship. Twice we thought we found what we were looking for but after six months or so we went our separate ways. In our town, churches are slim pickin’s. There are the mega churches, the wanna-be mega churches and maybe five teeny-tiny ones.

Where to go, we asked ourselves. Then we remembered the Messianic Synagogue that we visited a while ago. We had to rearrange our schedules but decided to try it again. It was a little bit different from the previous time; they met in the basement instead of the sanctuary (a Methodist church lends their building to them) and they have a different Rabstor (Rabbi/Pastor) but we liked it. The Shofar is blown. Men and woman both wear the Tallit (Jewish prayer shawl). Blessings are given to the children. Messianic songs are sung and prayers are said first in Hebrew, then in English.

My family and I- we’re not Jewish. We speculate we may have Jewish heritage, but none of that has been proven. We are very much Gentile, if you catch my drift. Yet, I have always been drawn to Judaism and Jewish history. At first I only read about the religion for a novel I was writing, but now it fascinates me. I always thought that if I didn’t believe in Jesus, I would convert to Judaism.


So, I guess this Messianic Synagogue gives me the best of both worlds. Jesus is the center of it all and it is Jewish. I hope to post more about our adventures in regards to this new way of worshiping.




Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Strange Addiction


My hands tremor, my eyes bulge and are bloodshot. I stagger about, desperate for another fix. I scrounge through all of my stashes, become irritable because they are gone and I lash out at those I love most. I must bide my time before I can go get my drug of choice and I begin to convulse as I go through withdrawal. My eyes cross and I grit my teeth. Foam puffs out of my mouth. People ask if I have rabies.

I must endure this… just a little longer.

Yes, it’s true. Even we Christians fall prey to temptations and get wrapped up in dirty, foul sins. For years I lived in denial and refused to admit that I had a problem. I would make promises, vows and sacred oaths that I would never, ever do it again. I could go a couple weeks without it but inevitably I would break down. It would begin with snitching here and there and escalade to full-blown consumption.

Ah, I am again at peace. Yes, I indulged. I can’t deny it; the warm fuzzy feeling I get chases away all evidence of my previous agitations. As a Christian, I must be open and honest about my shortcomings. Please, do not judge me. We all have crosses that we must bear.

Now is the moment of truth. Here is MY STRANGE ADDITICTION.





















Pray for me, oh, please pray for me!

Friday, May 10, 2013

“I Believe in Healing,” by Cecil Murphey, Twila Belk








Cecil Murphey | Atlanta, GA
Veteran author Cecil Murphey has written or co-written more than 135 books, including the bestsellers 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper) and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (with Dr. Ben Carson). He's the author ofMaking Sense When Life Doesn't and Knowing God, Knowing Myself. Murphey is a recipient of the Gold Medallion Award, two-time recipient of the Silver Angel Award and Retailer's Choice Award, and the inaugural recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. His books have sold in the millions and have brought hope and comfort to countless readers around the world. (www.cecilmurphey.com)






Twila Belk | Davenport, IA
Twila Belk, also known as the Gotta Tell Somebody Gal, is a writer and speaker who works full time with bestselling author Cecil Murphey. She co-authored (with Murphey) Because You Care: Spiritual Encouragement for Caregiversand Heavenly Company: Entertaining Angels Unaware. (www.gottatellsomebody.com)

Book Description:
When a loved one is injured or ill, what do Christians do? They pray, expecting God to intervene with a miracle of healing. They pray not only because the Bible says to do so, but also because God has shown Himself faithful to heal throughout history and even today. I Believe in Healing is a one-of-a-kind collection of true stories that demonstrate God’s healing power. Readers will find dozens of biblical, historical and present-day accounts of physical and emotional healings, written in Cecil Murphey’s heart-warming, uplifting style that made 90 Minutes in Heaven a New York Times bestseller. Anyone who needs a touch from God for themselves or a loved one will find encouragement and inspiration in these pages.

My Thoughts:
I am a bit biased about this book because I have a story published in it, entitled “The Healing Season.” Even if I hadn’t contributed to it, I would still promote it. Not only are modern day healings recorded, healings from the Dark Ages and in through the 19th century are also included. Alyssa Barlow (of BarlowGirl), Oral Roberts, Don Piper, St. Francis of Assisi… are just a handful of healings documented in this book. Remember, science only goes so far, then comes God.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Life Update


Well, it’s been a month since I have updated on my life. The month-long posts dedicated to the Holocaust were pretty successful, I think. All of those stories of survivors, victims, rescuers and resistors remind me of what got me interested in the first place. No matter where I go or what I do, the subject of the Holocaust isn’t far behind me. I can’t explain why, but it my magnificent obsession.

It has been a full year since my Dad has passed away. At times it feels like it happened just yesterday and at other times it feels like it has been over a decade. Sometimes the pain is so deep and the sadness so great that I don’t have the words to express my grief. Or the tears. I am going through a dry spell when it comes to crying. I can only muddle through and place my hope in God that someday times will be better. In many ways it is getting easier. We’ve gotten through all of the firsts and we are making plans. So that’s good.

My sister discovered that she has a gluten allergy. For the last few years she’s had issues with her digestion. Last year she had her gall bladder removed and expected that after a couple months to feel better. In many ways she only got worse. A few weeks ago, after a bad reaction to a meal, the three of us prayed and I did some snooping around on the internet. A half hour or so later, we concluded that she was gluten-intolerant. Now that she has detoxed from gluten, she has started to feel better. 

I am slowly and carefully querying the agents for WIP #2. I sent out a barrage of queries for WIP #1, up to ten a day at times. This time, however, I have limited myself to six queries a week. One agent (that I had high hopes for) rejected it sight unseen. One Christian agent (rather her assistant) said it wouldn’t fly in the Christian market because the heroine is deceitful. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across Christian novels with a deceitful hero or heroine. She did say that the tone was good. Meanwhile, keeping myself occupied with WIP #3. It’s difficult to pace myself when it comes to a project that I am especially psyched about. I just want to dive in, head first, swim around and lose myself in it completely. I had my sister read a draft of it and she liked it and gave many helpful suggestions for it. If all goes according to plan (in all likelihood, it won’t because life never goes according to plan) perhaps I can query the agents about it in the fall. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I Believe


"I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love,
even when there's no one there.
And I belive in God,
even when he is silent,
I believe through any trial,
there is always a way
But sometimes in this suffering
and hopeless despair
- My heart cries for shelter,
to know someone's there
But a voice rises within me, saying hold on
my child, I'll give you strength,
I'll give you hope. Just stay a little while
I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love
even when there's no one there
But I believe in God
even when he is silent
I believe through any trial
there is always a way.
May there someday be sunshine
May there someday be happiness
May there someday be love
May there someday be peace...."

Written on the wall of a cellar, by an unknown Jew in the Cologne concentration camp, during WWII.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

One young girl...


by Tadeusz K. Gierymski






The Righteous Among the Nations, the rescuers of life, are for me the most admirable people to emerge from the abattoir of WW II.

"Hidden in Silence" is a TV movie, telling the remarkable story of Stefania Podgorska, who for two and a half years hid and cared for 13 Jews in Przemysl, a small town (about 70,000 inhabitants in 1991) in south-east, German-occupied Poland. At the beginning of the WW II it was occupied by the Soviets.

I shall relate this story as real Stefania and Max tell it in the documentary film, "The Other Side of Faith."

Stefania, an ardent Catholic, was only 16 when, in November 1942, Max Diamant, who adopted the name "Joseph Burzminski," appeared at her apartment, asking for refuge. He jumped out of a train on the way to Belzec from Przemysl ghetto.

She had worked in Diamant's family store, lived with them, and after the Diamants had to relocate to the ghetto, she stayed on in theirapartment. She not only let him stay, but later went searching for his brother Heniek and Heniek's fiancee Danuta, to induce them to escape from the ghetto and to hide in her apartment.

At this time she was also taking care of her six-year old sister, Helenka, and was fully aware that she was risking not only her own, but also Helenka's life. When it became necessary for them to leave the old apartment, Stefania rented a flat consisting of two rooms and a kitchen in a ramshackle building without electricity, without running water, with only a privy, on Tatarska 3. There they walled off a cramped space in the attic above the apartment, where eventually nine adults and four children had to hide, as Joseph put it, "stacked up like sardines, head-legs, head-legs" much of the time. Joseph was a designated look-out, and the twisted position he had to maintain resulted in scoliosis.

Stefania worked in a factory to earn money "for her people," as she called them in the documentary film, and to be "legal" herself. She had to shop for, and to bring the food in unobtrusively; she had to help with complications of hygiene and demands of nature of thirteen people, who could not show themselves in public.

In the last weeks of the occupation Stefania was ordered by the Germans to vacate the premises in two hours. It was a death sentencefor the Jews hiding there, as it would have been impossible to find another hiding place, and to evacuate them at such a short notice. They asked Stefania to run and save herself and Helenka.

In despair, unable to abandon them, she went to pray in the nearby church instead. There, as she tells it in the documentary, she heard a woman's voice, a sweet, calm voice, telling her not to worry. She went home, assured her less than convinced charges that everything would work out just fine, and refused to leave them.

In the TV film she prayed in front of the pictures of Jesus and Holy Mary on the wall of her apartment, and "her people," somewhat hesitatingly and as if to support her, also slowly knelt behind the praying girl.

Shortly before the deadline she was told that only two German army nurses would be billeted in one of the rooms, and that she and Helena would be allowed to stay in the other.

The nurses had their soldier lovers spent the nights with them, and Stefania and her charges lived in constant terror of discovery until the Germans were driven out of the city by the Soviet Army.

They all survived the war, thanks to her, to Joseph, and their strong will to live. The group dispersed to other countries in Europe, to Israel and the USA. Only Dr. Schillinger and his daughter Judy remained in Przemysl. Helena is a physician in Poland.

In 1945, still in Poland, Stefania married Joseph. They now live in Boston where he is a dental surgeon and she works as his office assistant. At least such was the case in 1990 when Stefania and Joseph visited Przemysl to make a documentary, the production of which was encouraged by the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

One or the other is filmed at various locations: the railroad tracks where Joseph jumped off the train, at both apartments, in the attic, inside the church, on the streets of Przemysl, as they tell their recollections to the camera.

Like practically all rescuers, when praised, when called "heroic," Stefania answers that she only did what she thought she should do.

The documentary is free from artifice and lacks finesse; perhaps this fact gives it an extra dimension.

("The Other Side of Faith," Produced by the Documentaries International, a program of the Washington Liaison Office of T.S.E. Limited, 1990.)






"Hidden in Silence," the TV movie contains some events not described in the documentary, but its fictionalization does does not seem to do violence to the story as told by Stefania and Joseph.





Thursday, April 25, 2013

Remembering Margot








Jetteke Frijda was Margot's best friend. They were at the same school, first the Girls' High School and later the Jewish High School. In July 1942 Margot suddenly disappeared. Jetteke heard that the family had fled to Switzerland. It wasn't until after the war that Otto was able to tell her what had really happened. Jetteke Frijda also went into hiding in the summer of 1942. She was not betrayed and survived the war.

"I first met Margot Frank at the Girls' High School. That was in 1938 when we were both 12 years old. At first I didn't have much to do with her but later we went a lot together, especially when we went to the Jewish High School. I knew, of course, that Margot had come over from Germany but she never spoke about it. She spoke fluent Dutch. Only if you listened very carefully could you hear a slight accent. Margot was sweet and kind. She was good at everything but also very modest. you could trust her; you could rely on her. Margot never spoke much about herself she was closed. What did we do? together? I can't really remember anymore, it was more than sixty years ago. I do remember that once, when I had 'flu and croaked " I'm dying, I'm dying," Margot said to me "You won't die that quickly.""

"Anne was a frivolous child who always sought attention and always wanted to be the first at everything. She was three years younger than Margot and that was quite an age difference. Margot looked upon Anne as her little sister, someone she had to protect. She must have been irritated by her occasionally but she never let it show."

"I didn't get on very well with Margot's mother, I found her distant. Her father was completely different, he was a very nice man. He showed me the office on the Prinsengracht once. I really found it very interesting, because I was shown around by the boss himself! He showed me the premises and told me everything about Opekta, the product that he sold. We used Opekta at home every day. I can see myself being shown around and I must have been into the secret annex too."

"My father was professor and member of the Academic Support Fund, a committee for academic refugees from Germany. We had a lot of contact with the refugees because my parents met these people, arranged accommodation, food and clothes for them. It's because of this that we had an idea of what could be expected when the German army occupied the Netherlands. In the thirties there was also anti-Semitism in the Netherlands, but it was hidden. I was at school with children whose parents were in the NSB (Dutch wing of the nazi party) but didn't notice anything in particular. These children didn't shout 'You're a Jew so get lost,' but you knew that they were anti-Semitic."

"In May 1940 the Netherlands were occupied by the Germany army. In the Autumn of 1941 all Jewish children had to attend Jewish schools. Margot and I went to the Jewish High School. It was the first time in our secondary education that we had boys in our class. It was a class of six girls and nineteen boys. The attention we received was wonderful! Of course, I had a boyfriend. Whether Margot had one I don't know. She was very reserved. Outside school there wasn't much to do because we always had homework and we had to be indoors by eight o' clock. Jews weren't allowed to ride bicycles anymore so we had to walk everywhere. From one day to the next something new was forbidden. I felt very threatened and had the feeling that I would suffocate from fear even though it wasn't as bad then as it was to become later."

"On a summer's day Margot Frank had suddenly disappeared. I went to their house on the Merwedeplein straightaway because I wanted to know what had happened. I heard from a neighbour that the Franks had fled to Switzerland. The door was slightly open and all there things were still there. I went into Margot's room and looked around. I took a book from the shelf to remember her by. It was a book about Dutch poets. Margot and I were both very interested in literature. Then I left quickly because what I had done was dangerous. I was wearing a Star of David and I was looking around the house of a Jewish family that had fled."

"In August 1942 I went into hiding. I moved hiding places five times. I was in an orphanage in the Veluwe region, in Zeist, in Amsterdam, sometimes for a few days, sometimes for months on end. My hiding situation was completely different from that of Margot. I could still walk the streets because I didn't look particularly Jewish. Once I took a short walk with a women where I was hiding and she introduced me to someone as her niece. 'Yes,' said the person, 'you can see that you look alike.' Thank goodness I was never arrested then I would really have been in trouble. Although I had forged papers I didn't know much more than my false surname. It would really have been better if I had learnt my new identity off by heart, but I could never bring myself to do it. My hiding places were all different. In some places I didn't have to do anything at all but in others I had to perform household tasks, such as in the orphanage. There I wasn't allowed to talk to anyone. Later I heard it was because they were afraid that someone who worked there would betray me. For the last year I was in hiding with a very religious family. There, I had to help a lot in the house and they tried to convert me."

After the war Otto Frank was so busy with Anne Frank's diary. I told him then: 'I think it's a pity that nothing is mentioned anymore about Margot. She is also worthy of being mentioned.'

"After the liberation I contacted my family straight away. They were very good to me. I hoped that Margot had survived the war. I started work in the Public Reading Room in The Hague. One day I heard that there was someone looking for me. It was Otto Frank. He told me that his wife and daughters had perished in concentration camps. He had met my father in Auschwitz. He cried. I don't remember how I reacted anymore, so much happened in those days; people who came back, those who didn't... Then I heard that my father had been murdered. I just had to accept it. I had always known that it was a possibility. You just accepted what happened and it didn't seem to surprise you. During the war I was very afraid and humiliated. After the war I had no security anymore. I had no friends, no furniture, no house, nothing. I had to start all over again. Only when you have experienced that can you imagine what it's like. We didn't talk about emotions then as we do now. Emotions were pushed away much more."

"After the war Otto Frank was so busy with Anne Frank's diary. He was very impressed with what readers of the diary had written to him. I told him then. 'I think it's wonderful what you are doing for Anne, but I think it's a pity that nothing is mentioned anymore about Margot. She is also worthy of being mentioned.'"






Monday, April 22, 2013

Former inmate recalls daring escape from Auschwitz


By Monika Scislowska, Associated Press Writer

With every step toward the gate, Jerzy Bielecki was certain he would be shot.

The day was July 21, 1944. Bielecki was walking in broad daylight down a pathway at Auschwitz, wearing a stolen SS uniform with his Jewish sweetheart Cyla Cybulska by his side. His knees buckling with fear, he tried to keep a stern bearing on the long stretch of gravel to the sentry post.

The German guard frowned at his forged pass and eyed the two for a period that seemed like an eternity — then uttered the miraculous words: "Ja, danke" — yes, thank you — and let Jerzy and Cyla out of the death camp and into freedom.

It was a common saying among Auschwitz inmates that the only way out was through the crematorium chimneys. These were among the few ever to escape through the side door. The 23-year-old Bielecki used his relatively privileged position as a German-speaking Catholic Pole to orchestrate the daring rescue of his Jewish girlfriend who was doomed to die.

"It was great love," Bielecki, now 89, recalled in an interview at his home in this small southern town 55 miles (85 kilometers) from Auschwitz. "We were making plans that we would get married and would live together forever."

Bielecki was 19 when the Germans seized him on the false suspicion he was a resistance fighter, and brought to the camp in April 1940 in the first transport of inmates, all Poles. He was given number 243 and was sent to work in warehouses, where occasional access to additional food offered some chance of survival. It was two years before the first mass transports of Jews started arriving in 1942. Most of the Jews were taken straight to the gas chambers of neighboring Birkenau, while a few were designated to be forced laborers amid horrific conditions, allowing them to postpone death. In September 1943 Bielecki was assigned to a grain storage warehouse. Another inmate was showing him around when suddenly a door opened and a group of girls walked in.

"It seemed to me that one of them, a pretty dark-haired one, winked at me," Bielecki said with a broad smile as he recalled the scene. It was Cyla — who had just been assigned to repair grain sacks.

Their friendship grew into love, as the warehouse offered brief chances for more face-to-face meetings.

In a report she wrote for the Auschwitz memorial in 1983, Cybulska recalled that during the meetings they told each other their life stories and "every meeting was a truly important event for both of us."

Cybulska, her parents, two brothers and a younger sister were rounded up in January 1943 in the Lomza ghetto in northern Poland and taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Her parents and sister were immediately killed in the gas chambers, but she and her brothers were sent to work. By September, 22-year-old Cybulska was the only one left alive, with inmate number 29558 tattooed on her left forearm. As their love blossomed, Bielecki began working on the daring plan for escape.

From a fellow Polish inmate working at a uniform warehouse he secretly got a complete SS uniform and a pass. Using an eraser and a pencil, he changed the officer's name in the pass from Rottenfuehrer Helmut Stehler to Steiner just in case the guard knew the real Stehler, and filled it in to say an inmate was being led out of the camp for police interrogation at a nearby station. He secured some food, a razor for himself and a sweater and boots for Cybulska.

He briefed her on his plan: "Tomorrow an SS-man will come to take you for an interrogation. The SS-man will be me."

The next afternoon, Bielecki, dressed in the stolen uniform, came to the laundry barrack where Cybulska had been moved for work duty. Sweating with fear, he demanded the German supervisor release the woman. Bielecki led her out of the barrack and onto a long path leading to a side gate guarded by the sleepy SS-man who let them go through.

The fear of being gunned down remained with him in his first steps of freedom: "I felt pain in my backbone, where I was expecting to be shot," Bielecki said.

But when he eventually looked back, the guard was in his booth. They walked on to a road, then into fields where they hid in dense bushes until dark, when they started to march.

"Marching across fields and woods was very exhausting, especially for me, not used to such intensive walks," Cybulska said in her report to Auschwitz as quoted in a Polish-language book Bielecki has written, "He Who Saves One Life ..."

"Far from any settlements, we had to cross rivers," she wrote. "When water was high ... Jurek carried me to the other side."
At one point she was too tired to walk and asked him to leave her. "Jurek did not want to hear that and kept repeating: 'we fled together and will walk on together,'" she reported, referring to Jerzy by his Polish diminutive.

For nine nights they moved under the cover of darkness toward Bielecki's uncle's home in a village not far from Krakow.
His mother, who was living at the house, was overjoyed to see him alive, though wasted-away after four years at Auschwitz. A devout Catholic, however, she was dead-set against him marrying a Jewish girl.

"How will you live? How will you raise your children?" Bielecki recalls her asking.

To keep her away from possible Nazi patrols, Cybulska was hidden on a nearby farm. Bielecki decided to go into hiding in Krakow — a fateful choice they believed would improve their chances of avoiding capture by the Nazis. The couple spent their last night together under a pear tree in an orchard, saying their goodbyes and making plans to meet right after the war.
After the Soviet army rolled through Krakow in January 1945, Bielecki left the city where he had been hiding from Nazi pursuit and walked 25-miles (40-kilometers) along snow-covered roads to meet Cybulska at the farmhouse. But he was four days too late.

Cybulska, not aware that the area where she had been hiding had been liberated three weeks before Krakow, gave up waiting for him, concluding her "Juracek" either was dead or had abandoned their plans. She got on a train to Warsaw, planning to find an uncle in the United States. On the train she met a Jewish man, David Zacharowitz, and the two began a relationship and eventually married. They headed to Sweden, then to Cybulska's uncle in New York, who helped them start a jewelry business. Zacharowitz died in 1975.

In Poland, Bielecki eventually started a family of his own and worked as the director of a school for car mechanics. He had no news of Cybulska and had no way of finding her. In her report Cybulska said that she was haunted in the years after she left Poland by a wish to see her hometown and to find Jurek, if he was alive.

Sheer chance made her wish come true.

While talking to her Polish cleaning woman in 1982, Cybulska related her Auschwitz escape story. The woman was stunned.

"I know the story, I saw a man on Polish TV saying he had led his Jewish girlfriend out of Auschwitz," the cleaning lady told Cybulska, according to Bielecki.

She tracked down his phone number and one early morning in May 1983 the telephone rang in Bielecki's apartment in Nowy Targ.
"I heard someone laughing — or crying — on the phone and then a female voice said "Juracku, this is me, your little Cyla," Bielecki recalls.

A few weeks later they met at Krakow airport. He brought 39 red roses, one for each year they spent apart. She visited him in Poland many times, and they jointly visited the Auschwitz memorial, the farmer family that hid her and many other places, staying together in hotels.

"The love started to come back," Bielecki said.

"Cyla was telling me: leave your wife, come with me to America," he recalls. "She cried a lot when I told her: Look, I have such fine children, I have a son, how could I do that?"

She returned to New York and wrote to him: "Jurek I will not come again," Bielecki recalled.

They never met again and she did not reply to his letters.

Cybulska died a few years later in New York in 2002.

In 1985, the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem awarded Bielecki the Righteous Among the Nations title for saving Cybulska. The institute's website account of the escape and its aftermath is consistent with Bielecki's account to The Associated Press.

"I was very much in love with Cyla, very much," Bielecki said. "Sometimes I cried after the war, that she was not with me. I dreamed of her at night and woke up crying. Fate decided for us, but I would do the same again."