Author Archives: dorothy

Confessions of a Late Bloomer

My name is Dorothy and I’m a late bloomer. Though I powered through my university program, finishing my BS degree in 3.5 years, my master’s and Ph.D in 28 months, I spent fourteen years  as a teacher, then as a curriculum and strategies consultant, then as an administrator, waking up every day longing for a different kind of life.  

But I came of age in a time when even college-bound women were encouraged to become either nurses or teachers.  Confined to my local state university by family and finances, I couldn’t take a major in journalism, my true love, because the school didn’t offer it. I took every class that was offered, and worked a paid position as a writer and editor at the University Press. 

I was past forty when my first novel –a historical for young readers, was published. It took another decade before my first novel for adult readers came out.  Now I’m in the middle of reinventing my career once again, a  daunting task in this youth-obsessed literary culture.

Maybe you’re  a late bloomer, too, and longing for the path you didn’t take earlier. Maybe you want to paint, or resume the piano lessons you gave up back in third grade. Maybe you want to finish that degree that was deferred when the kids came along, or  pursue another one in a different field. 

 It isn’t too late. And there are some distinct advantages we late bloomers bring to the table. By definition we are more mature which means we are more resilient, we have more insight into ourselves and others. We are curious and not as susceptible to comparisons with others as we might have been at a  younger age. 

Recently I read about a woman, let’s call her Sherry, who had always wanted to be a doctor, but put off medical school to start a family and support her husband’s career. Now the kids were older and busy with their own lives and her friend encouraged Sherry to go for her dream.  “But I’m already thirty-five!” Sherry said. “It will take ten years to get a degree, finish medical school and complete a residency. By then I’l be 45.”  

Sherry’s wise friend said, “In ten years you’ll be 45 whether you go to med school or not.”

We each deserve the opportunity to bloom in our own time and in our own way. If there is an unfulfilled dream tugging at your heart today, my message is to go for it.  

Are you a late bloomer, too? I’d love to hear your story! Comment below. 

 

Other Women, Other Wars

Good morning from Casita  Marron where smoke from the annual burning of fields in Mexico has cast a haze over the hill country.  It looks like rain, which we desperately need, but alas….

The ongoing war between Israel and Hamas has me thinking about wars and the ways women experience them. The women’s historical fiction space has been dominated for several years now by stories set in World War II to the near exclusion of stories about other women in other wars. I want to recommend a few historical novels. Some are new; others have been around a while but are still very much worth your time if you’re reeling from WW II saturation fatigue. 

The Women. Kristin Hannah

Unless you’ve been traveling in outer space  this spring it’s unlikely you’ve missed the publicity for The Women, Kristin Hannah’s new novel that follows Frankie McGrath, a young army nurse serving in a fictional evacuation hospital in Vietnam. The hospital scenes are emotional and  immersive and detailed but also graphic, so keep that in mind if you’re squeamish. The second half of the book follows Frankie’s return to her home in California and her difficulties in adjusting to civilian life. This second half contains one significant historical error and a couple of unbelievable coincidences, but clearly, Kristin Hannah knows her audience. The Women offers opportunities to talk about a painful time in our history that is still unresolved after half a century and for that reason alone, it’s well worth reading. 

The Berlin Letters. Katherine Reay

The Berlin Letters opens as the Berlin Wall suddenly goes up, separating families caught on opposites of the city.  The lead character, Luisa Voekler is reared by her grandparents and grows up believing her parents are dead. Years later, as  a codebreaker at the CIA, Luisa discovers a cache of letters from WW 2 that sends her back to Berlin  to free her father from an East German prison. I coudn’t help comparing this novel  to the Cold War novels of the master of the genre, the late John LeCarre. Katherine’s tale is just as compelling, and worth the read if you’re interested in this time period. 

Switchboard Soldiers. Jennifer Chaiverini 

I have to admit I was sad to discover this book last week only because I intended to write my own novel about the women who served with the U S Army Signal Corps during World War One. Nicknamed “the Hello Girls” these 200 plus women served as switchboard operators in France, facilitating communications between General Pershing’s troops. Some of the women were issued helmets and gas masks and served in the trenches near the front.  Predictably they were not given veteran status when they returned from the war. That designation didn’t happen until President Carter recognized them in 1977. Jennifer Chaiverini builds her story around three of the women who served—-Grace Banker, the leader, Marie Miossec, an aspiring opera singer, and Valerie DeSmedt, determined to strike a blow for her native Belgium.  Lots of historical detail. 

 The Widow of the South. Robert Hicks,

After the devastating Battle of Franklin that transformed Carrie McGavock’s home, Carnton, into a field hospital, hundreds of casualties from both north and south were interred on the  property. For the next forty years, Carrie tended the graves of the lost men, mourning for them in place of their lost families and earning the nickname The Widow of the South. I’ve visited the cemetery twice. Seeing the graves, and knowing Carrie’s story brings this piece of history alive for me.  If you missed this novel when it was first published, take a look. I think you’ll love it.

My Name is Mary Sutter. Robin Oliveira.

This is the story of an ambitious young midwife who longs to become a doctor. Mary travels to Washington DC to tend the thousands of Civil War War wounded men. When Mary’s mother pleads with her to return home to help with the difficult birth of her twin sister’s child, Mary must decide whether to honor her mother’s wishes or pursue her dream of a medical career. 

If you have recommendations for novels about women in wars other than WW2, please share.

Till next time, be safe, be happy, be kind. 

Much Ado About…Something

How was the eclipse viewing in your neck of the woods? After weeks of warnings to be prepared with food, water, and gasoline as crowds descended on the hill country, there were a few spots of heavy traffic but nothing too terrible. Here at Casita Marron the eclipse was marred by thick clouds that obscured the view. We  stood on our back porch as darkness fell and the birds went silent. My neighbor’s security lights came on. The wind came up. Peering through our eclipse glasses we caught fleeting glimpses of the outer edge of the sun as the moment of totality arrived. 

Some people said ah well all those prep warnings, all the hype about the eclipse itself were much ado about nothing. Honestly I was disappointed not to have a better view, but these few moments when Americans across the political, religious, and economic spectrum came together in parks and parking lots and along roadsides, drawn together to witness a once in a lifetime event —was not nothing. It was a reminder of shared history.  A moment of shared humanity when we all stilled to experience together the wonders of the universe. 

It was something. 

 

Bluebonnet Legends

Just as the rose is a symbol of England and cherry blossoms are a symbol for Japan, the bluebonnet is known around the world as a Texas symbol. Even before the Texas legislature, after considering the cotton stalk and the cactus pear named the bluebonnet the official state flower in 1901, the state’s school children learned the legends of the bluebonnet.  One story goes that after a drought led to near starvation, the Comanche people built a fire and sacrificed their most important belongings. A little girl tossed her favorite cornhusk doll, adorned with a blue feather, into the flames. The next morning, the legend goes, the fields were full of blue flowers. 

Another story from the 1700’s claims that a blue-cloaked nun working among the people in New Mexico one day appeared to the Jumano people in Texas. On the last day she appeared to them the fields were suddenly carpeted with blue flowers.  

This time of year, our fields and roadsides are ablaze with these beautiful wildflowers. Thankfully, the Texas Legislature listened to the cadre of Colonial Dames of America who lobbied for the bluebonnet as the state symbol. Without them, we might well be watching each year for the first cotton bolls to open.