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Life and Death

January 30, 2008

Well, I’m happy to be alive and able to write this newsletter to you this month.  My husband and I went away for a two-day ski trip to West Virginia, and just got home this afternoon.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t such a great weekend.  We had a car accident on the way up—on the mountain road right before the turn-off to Snowshoe Ski Resort.  We’re okay, thank God, but the car is a bit damaged.  We hit some ice and had a horrible skid—ended up hitting the guard rail head-on, and I thought for sure we’d go through it and off the mountain.  I thought we were goners.  But thank God it held us, and thank God, too, that the air bags didn’t deploy.  We were able to drive the rest of the way to the resort and then back home today, so the only real damage is to the bumper, one fog light and a crack in the windshield.  That, and the damage to our psychological health. It was really a scary situation, and I felt really fragile while skiing, and never did get into the groove of it.   I’m just grateful the guard rail was there because when we drove back the same way this morning, I saw that there were places where there wasn’t a guard rail, and if we’d gone off there, we would’ve been killed for sure.  So, I’m saying a lot of prayers of thanksgiving right now.   

Thinking back through my life, I think there was only one other time I might’ve been close to death—and that was when I was about nine years old, and a tornado came through my small town in Indiana.  We heard the sound of it (yes, just like a freight train) as we hurried down into the basement.  I remember being frightened—but not nearly as frightened as I was in that car, watching us heading toward that guard rail.  All I could think was: We’re going off the mountain!  We’re going to die!  And let me tell you, that messes with your head.  And I think that’s why I never really had a good time skiing this weekend.  I just kept thinking about the accidentand what if? 

I was all set to write about something else in this newsletter this month.  But when you’re faced with your own mortality, it kind of drives everything else out of your mind.  So I just had to tell y’all what happened. Okayso let’s move on.  I’ve started working on a new novel titled INCENSE & PEPPERMINTS.  It’s a novel about a Vietnam nurse, covering the years from 1966-1971.  While doing research for this novel, I came across a picture from one of my old photo albums of a pen-pal—a blond-haired soldier in Vietnam.  I was a sophomore in high school in Indiana when I began writing Danny.  I can’t quite remember how I started writing him, but I think my best friend knew him somehow, and had given me his address over there.  I also don’t remember how long we wrote to each other, but I do remember when he sent me this picture.  Being a boy-crazy girl at the time, I thought he was “soooooo cute!!!”  He even kind of reminded me of Gary Baldauf, a senior in my school whom I was madly in love with (and who barely knew I existed.)  I don’t know how long Danny and I wrote to each other; I’m ashamed to say that I don’t remember if I was concerned when I quit hearing from him.  As most 15-year-old girls tend to be, I was flighty and self-centered and totally oblivious to what was going on half a world away.   I guess I never spared another thought for Dannynot until a few weeks ago when I found his picture in my photo album. I decided to do an internet search on him, hoping that he was alive and well, living somewhere in America with a wife, children and a pack of grandchildren.  I turned over the photo and saw that a portion of it had been cut off.  But written on the back in ink were these words:ny Bruce                                                                

Nam, 1969 The one thing I did remember was that his first name was “Danny.”  I also was pretty sure he was from Indiana.  So I did a search, and found his name on a list of Vietnam casualties.  It listed his name as Private First Class Daniel Dean Bruce from Beverly Shores, Indiana.  He died on March 1st, 1969.  When I read that, my heart kind of dropped.  I brought up his picture on the website.  And my heart sunk lower.  It looked like him.  Same face, same eyes, same expression around the lips.  Of course, in the website photo, he was in his dress blues with his cap, so you couldn’t really see his hair, but it looked blondish to me.  I showed both pictures to my husband, and he thought they looked like the same person.  My son said the same thing.  (He was the one who pointed out the slightly pursed lips in both my picture and the official one.)  I really felt in my gut that this boy who died on March 1st was my Danny Bruce.  And it shook me to the core.  Especially when I read the following on the website: 

Citation:  For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a mortar man with Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, against the enemy.  Early in the morning, Pfc. Bruce was on watch in his night defensive position at Fire Support Base Tomahawk when he heard movements ahead of him.  An enemy explosive charge was thrown toward his position and he reacted instantly, catching the device and shouting to alert his companions.  Realizing the danger to the adjacent position with its two occupants, Pfc. Bruce held the device to his body and attempted to carry it from the vicinity of the entrenched Marines.  As he moved away, the charge detonated and he absorbed the full force of the explosion.  Pfc. Bruce’s indomitable courage, inspiring valor and selfless devotion to duty saved the lives of three of his fellow Marines and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service.  He gallantly gave his life for his country. It’s hard for me to describe how I felt after reading that.  A myriad of emotions went through me—sadness at his death, shame that I’d blithely gone on with my life, not even questioning why I never heard from him again, despair at the waste of the lives of so many of our young men over there, the fact that he left behind a young wife and a newborn baby—and more despair at the waste of lives of all the young people in Iraq today.  But most of all, I felt pride that Danny Bruce—and I’m 99% certain he was my Danny Bruce—died a hero.  I’m happy to have known him, however briefly, and however cavalier I’d been about him being in Vietnam in the first place.  I wish I could go back and be a different person at that time—someone who really gave a damn.  But I’ll try to forgive the fifteen-year-old naïve girl I was back then.  Maybe I can make amends by writing this book and giving the brave nurses who answered the call of duty the tribute they deserve.  That’s what I’m going to try to do.   

On a lighter note, my new book, TANGO’S EDGE, will be released in e-book format on Valentine’s Day by Cerridwen Press.  Order your copy at their website: www.Cerridwenpress.com.  In celebration of my new release, I’m attaching the prologue and first chapter of TANGO’S EDGE exclusively for my newsletter group.  (If you’d like to join my newsletter group, e-mail me at Carole@BellaceraIf you’d like to win a copy of TANGO’S EDGE, go to my website and enter my January contest: www.CaroleBellacera.com.  I hope all of you will have a blessed February! Blessings, Carole  

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“The Wife”

January 23, 2008

Happy 2008!

Well, New Year’s Eve was quite an eventful one for me, so I have to tell y’all about it.  First of all, I’ll just say “the Wife” made an appearance.  This is not a good thing.  But on second thought…that’s not necessarily true.  Sometimes, “the Wife” has to make an appearance.  Before I get into what happened on NYE, let me tell you how I came to get the nickname of “the Wife.” 

It was way back in 1980.  I was a young mother living on Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado with my husband and toddlers.  My stint in the Air Force was long over, but Frank was still on active duty.  I won’t go into the long, drawn-out story, but let’s just say that I got into an altercation with the Barney Fife of Security Policemen when he tried to treat me like I was still an airman, giving me a ridiculous order that I had no intention of following.  That’s when he threatened to take me to jail, and I taunted him to do it.  He didn’t, and the little scene ended up with me taking my kids home, and calling up this loathsome little man’s supervisor to give him a piece of my mind.  Barney Fife got an official reprimand for overstepping his bounds, and I got the nickname, “the Wife.”  (I’d overheard the supervisor on the phone stage-whisper, “it’s the wife!”)

The Wife hasn’t made an appearance in some time, but it happened on NYE.  But it all began on the afternoon before.  Frank & I had booked a condo at the resort where we own in Williamsburg, and our friends, Diana & Jim, joined us there.  As usual, when we checked in, we got the usual spiel from “the welcoming desk,” inviting us to attend a “welcome meeting,” the next day to update us on all the “exciting news” that Wyndham owners have in store for them.  Well, we’d been through this just four months ago down in Myrtle Beach–and we just weren’t in the mood for the thinly disguised sales pitch they called “exciting news.”  But Karen, the woman at the desk, was most insistent–even after we’d refused three or four times. 

“Tell you what,” she said.  “You come to this appointment, and I guarantee I’ll get you in and out in 45 minutes.  With $100 cash in your hands.”

That got my attention.  $100 cash?  Just for listening to them for 45 minutes?  As visions of outlet shopping danced in my head, we gave in to Karen, and got our appointment for the next morning at 10:30.  So we made our plans with Diana and Jim.  At 11:00 sharp, Jim would call my cell phone, and we’d tell the salesman we were meeting them for lunch at 11:30.  What could go wrong?

The next morning, we met our salesman–yeah, let’s call him what he is–a salesman.  He was nice enough I guess.  A typical salesman, though.  Real friendly at first, but as soon as he realized he wasn’t going to get anywhere with us, he got progressively cooler.  That happened pretty fast, actually, because the first words out of my mouth after our introductions were: “We’re meeting friends at 11:30, so we really can’t stay beyond the 45 minutes Karen said it would take.” 

At 11:00 sharp, my cell phone rang, and I spoke loudly for the salesman’s benefit. “Yes, Jim.  We’ll definitely be there at 11:30.”  I couldn’t have been on the phone more than two minutes as Jim and I arranged where we’d meet, but when I got off–the salesman was gone. 

“Bringing up our files on the computer,” Frank said.  Ten minutes passed, and Frank & I were still left cooling our heels at the table.  Finally, at 11:14, I got up and went looking for the salesman.  Found him behind a counter at a computer screen.

“Excuse me,” I said in my best “the Wife” voice.  “We have to go.  And I want my money.”

He looked up from the computer with this pained look on his face.  (Maybe it was gas.)  “But I’m just trying to help you,” he said.

“No, thanks,” I said.  “I just want my $100 cash, and we’ll be on our way.” Suddenly he wasn’t Mr. Nice Guy anymore. 

“Go on out to the front desk, and I’ll be there in a minute,” he growled.So, we did.  15 minutes passed, and he didn’t show up.  But several other salesmen did, and I sent each one looking for him.  I was just getting ready to ask for his supervisor when he appeared–with this dumbfounded look on his face.  “What are you doing out here?”  he said.  “I told you I’d meet you (somewhere else).”

“Oh, no you didn’t,” I snapped.  “You said at the front desk and that’s where I’ve been waiting for almost 20 minutes now.”

“Follow me,” he said, leading me and Frank back through another door.  Stupid me. I thought he was taking us to the cashier.  Instead…and this, I still can’t believe…he took us to another salesman!!!! 

So this new guy gives me this big, cheesy grin and sticks out his hand.  “Hello, I’m–“

“Oh, no,” I said, glaring at him.  “I’m not talking to anybody else.  I want my $100 and I want it right now.”

And before I could throw a real hissy fit, another man–his supervisor apparently, stepped in and said, “Give her the money.”

They led me and Frank to the cashier, and moments later, we walked out with $100 cash.  Total time spent: 1 hour and five minutes.  As we walked to the car, Frank snickered.  “You are the wife!

 That $100 paid for our dinner at The Trellis that night.  Not a bad way to start the New Year.  Maybe next time, Wyndham won’t try to force us into one of their little “welcome presentations.”  But if they do, I’ll be more than happy to take cash off their hands.

Congratulations to Carol Ezovski from San Jose, California, winner of my December website contest.   Be sure and stop by my website, www.CaroleBellacera.com, to enter January’s contest.  And don’t forget–TANGO’S EDGE comes out next month on Valentine’s Day.  Check out the prologue on my website.  🙂  And while you’re at it, stop by my MySpace page, http://www.myspace.com/carolebellacera and add me as your friend!!!

Blessings,

Carole   

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January 23, 2008

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