Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Numbers on Her Arm

Monday, January 27th, 2020 marked the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz (a German concentration camp in Nazi occupied Poland). The International Holocaust Remembrance Day is in commemoration of the day, January 27th 1945, when Allied troops found nearly 8,000 sick and starving prisoners and liberated them.

This liberation happened nearly a decade before my birth and as a young child many of the adults in my family spoke in hushed tones about relatives that weren’t lucky enough to have made it to America, and relatives that died in the concentration camps. I was raised amid whispers of different camp names and the evil “Final Solution of the Jewish Question”. Jewish children, safe in America from Nazi Germany’s plans to annihilate our race were sheltered by parents who mourned loved ones and were horrified by what had happened.

My parents had a friend, her name was Anne, and one day I asked Anne about the numbers tattooed on her arm. My mother gasped. Anne took my hand and quietly told me that it was a mark put on her arm by Nazis when she was taken to a concentration camp. And then she somberly old me a “gentle” version of what she had lived through. Knowing how protective my parents always were I innocently asked Anne where her parents were during her ordeal and she told me. And I cried when I learned that she had watched her mother walk into the gas chamber, and she was separated from her siblings all of whom she was sure of their deaths, and her father was shot to death for not working hard enough.

A few years later, in public school, one teacher was brave enough to show our class a film that was taken by a soldier upon liberating one of the camps. There were corpses and tattered clothing, and even remnants of dolls and he told us how many died during this horrendous time; he even told us that more than 6-million Jewish lives had been taken along with thousands of gay men and women, non-Jews who tried to help their Jewish neighbors, Gypsies, twins who were used for experiments, physically and mentally disabled people, Catholic priests, and others who didn’t look Aryan enough. There were parents who were upset about his harsh reality their children witnessed in the film and there were complaints — I think that teacher was fired, we had a different classroom teacher the rest of the year.

Throughout my life I met several more people with numbers tattooed on their arms and poignant stories to tell. And I heard stories of hope as people rebuilt lives. I visited a small local Holocaust museum some years back. And my own daughter visited Auschwitz during a USY (United Synagogue Youth) Pilgrimage to Poland and Israel. And I learned the name of a young relative in my family who died in one of the concentration camps, Sara was just 10-months old.

I was very distressed to read headlines today which implied that growing numbers of millennials have no idea what the Holocaust was. There have always been some deniers, but it happened… the numbers on Anne’s arm were real, the stories I’ve heard from other survivors are real, the film our teacher showed us was real, and 10-month old Sara was real. I fear that #NeverAgain has become a meaningless cry for too many.

We can NEVER FORGET when any people have been tortured, killed, dehumanized, and singled out because of a religion, race, lifestyle or ethnicity. Please teach your children and your children’s children — we must remember so that we can, G-d willing, stop history from repeating itself.

The Railway to Auschwitz


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

I Am Who I Am

I began my life as a writer long before I ever married and after marriage I continued to use my maiden name professionally while I used my married name socially (to be completely honest, I was married BEFORE local laws allowed a woman NOT to change her name to her husband’s). I wear both names with pride, both Chelle Cordero and Mrs. E. Even my official IDs carry both surnames.

So it took me back a bit the other day when this rather nasty old man accused me of using a different surname than my hubby for some nefarious purposes! I felt like shouting “I’m a professional woman married to a man who doesn’t suffer from a low ego!” — But I didn’t. In this day and age, why should I have to explain why I use the name I do? And I’ve never hidden that I am married to Mr. E. and anyone who knows either of us has never questioned the legitimacy.

 Several of my friends also use their maiden names in their professional lives, some of them never even changed it upon marriage. None of our husbands are so small minded that they begrudge the names we go by. I admit that when my own offspring were being married I did marvel at the marriage license application where not only were women given the choice of what name they would use, but so were the men! (and it was their decision for the man’s surname to be used) Times sure have changed, I for one applaud that.

Of course we’ve had some amusing events because of the “different” names. For several years we both freelanced for a newspaper, I worked as a writer and Mark worked as a photographer. There were several times we were assigned to cover the same subject and while we never hid our relationship, we always introduced ourselves by our working names.

There was one day when I left the room where I had just interviewed a subject to get some info from his business partner; Mark remained in the room taking pictures. Out of the blue our subject asked if Mark thought I might be interested in going out with him… Mark took a moment and then replied, she’s married. The subject thought about it and then asked Mark if I was the type to date anyway, without missing a beat, he said, “Her husband has a bit of a temper.” Mark told me about the conversation as we were driving home (okay, I admit, it was a bit of an ego boost, lol).

So really, what is in a name? Neither woman nor man should have to give up their own identities because they want to share their lives with each other. The choice of which name or combination of names should only be made by the individuals involved. Be proud of who you are and who you’ve chosen to be with, it is nobody else’s business.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Who will remember me?

I went to a shiva call the other night (shiva: In Judaism, the first period of structured mourning. Throughout the shiva period, mourners come together in the mourner’s home to offer their condolences and support.) Although it might sound odd to those who are not familiar with the custom, this shiva was truly what one should hope for.

Yes, everyone offered their condolences and concern for the bereaved, but then the house was filled with smiles, chuckles, and remembered stories to share. The table and counters were laden with trays of cookies, cakes, fruits and hot foods — all brought by visitors or sent by friends to help “take care” of the grieving family.

The house was full, so much so that there was barely a place to sit, with friends who knew the deceased (some from early childhood), knew the mourning family, and distant relatives. The woman had been a teacher and former students and her fellow teachers came, neighbors stopped in, members of her social club. There were a lot of people filled with love.

Seeing how this woman touched so many lives and how many people loved her makes someone wonder at their own mortality and how she will be remembered when her time comes. Of course I know my immediate family will be there and most probably some cousins and even a neighbor or two… but will the funeral chapel be filled and will my loved ones’ home be filled with people who remember me and who will help to ease the grief?

I’ve been haunted by a funeral I once attended. She was, in my heart, a wonderful person, but she had survived all of her blood family and many long-time friends. There was a storm the day of the funeral and while she had been active in her local community, she had pre-made her arrangements in a funeral home that necessitated public transportation for her neighbors to attend. Between those that weren’t left to mourn her passing, the horrible weather, and the distance from her small circle of friends, there were only five of us (plus the officiant) in the chapel. Six people to send her on her way. Six.

When it is my time, will there be a houseful of people to remember me, or only a mere handful to send me off? Which one will I be? I hope that people will laugh and smile, I hope that I will be remembered fondly, and I hope there will be warm hearts to surround my loved ones and help them to move on.

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
Who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has left the world better than he found it;
Who has looked for the best in others and given the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory is a benediction.
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, January 8, 2020


I came across this little bio I wrote about my writing when I was included in "50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading" produced by The Authors Show in 2010. This is full of enthusiasm and excitement about writing, and, wonderfully, it is STILL the way I feel. My parents always encouraged me to find a vocation that I LOVED doing and I did.

I began dabbling in writing in High School (maybe earlier if you count my scribbled storylines for my favorite TV shows) and two of my short works were selected for my High School yearbook. The first time I actually wrote for publication was in college – it was a newspaper report and it was printed in a local weekly paper where I lived.
I went back to writing as a pastime but pursued it as a business in the early 80’s. As a child, and even now, I always had a very vivid imagination and loved making up stories and playing “what if?” My imaginary friends were very complex individuals and quite believable when I spoke about them. I often had teachers ask my mom how she managed raising five kids (there was only my sister and me).
I write because “I have to” – it isn’t just a job, it is a drive inside of me, it just has to be. I always say that my writing is synonymous with my breathing. I like knowing that my words are being read, whether it is my fiction or my newspaper journalism. I like reaching people and making them think because of something I’ve said/written. It’s even better when my words create a dialogue between readers. Because I have a strong Internet presence, readers have been able to find and contact me online. It is wonderful to read their comments and to be able to say “Wow. He (she) really gets it!” and to know that my meanings are clear.
It’s not always easy to combine creative writing time with the business end of promotion, marketing and even finances. No matter how well written or interesting your book may be, if no one knows about it, then no one reads it. To be “in the business” means that you have to tackle some of the non-creative stuff as well. Seeing my name on a book or as a byline under an article always thrills me. My greatest victory as an author has been seeing my work published and knowing people are seeking out my words to read.
The day I sent my manuscript query to Kimberlee Williams at Vanilla Heart Publishing was a huge moment in my life. I was thrilled when she asked to see the complete manuscript and literally speechless when she offered me a contract a short while later. Kimberlee is a terrific publisher, she is very accessible and encouraging, and she remains on top of her industry to learn the newest and most innovative ways of doing things. Promotion and marketing of my books is a team effort between author and publisher and what we are doing seems to be working.
I was very fortunate to have poet Daisy Aldan as my creative writing teacher in high school. The late Ms. Aldan was very encouraging and taught us how to tap into our imaginations. I would have loved to have lunch with Daisy Aldan and let her know what a wonderful influence she had on my life. Later I volunteered in the NYC Auxiliary Police in the early 70’s and was mentored by Detective Hank Spallone – Hank was our police department liaison and community affairs officer. He taught me to open the lines of communication with people. I use what I learned from both Aldan and Spallone in my career as a full-time writer; I write both fiction (my favorite) and non-fiction journalism. I enjoy developing a character and a setting, building a background and seeing it all come to life in my fiction. I immensely dislike walking away from my computer keyboard when I have more words in me to type.
I think that we humans like to tell stories and writing books is a way of recording our stories and giving them life. I build my characters with personalities and pasts that affect their thoughts and feelings, then I sort of throw them into a world I’ve created and let them make their own decisions. I always have a story to explore and I am always working on another book.
All of my fiction is based on life. I glean story ideas from the world around me, my own experiences, newspaper reports and even random people-watching. Little snippets of conversation may be the beginnings of an entire novel as I use my imagination to fill in any missing pieces and give names to the otherwise unknown characters. I tend to embellish things that have happened; I say to myself that I can’t be the only person to have experienced such things, but my imagination still runs rampant.
I enjoy helping new writers learn about the field and pursue their dreams. It’s sad to hear that someone gave up on a dream because of lack of confidence or encouragement. I’ve been blessed with the generous support and encouragement of my family, friends, publisher and fellow VHP authors. I’ve facilitated workshops on the writing process, character development and the road to publication. 
I write as a job and sometimes have to juggle the hours to make everything fit. I lead a very busy life with my community and family. Writing of any kind helps to relax me, even under the tightest deadlines. Whether it was seeing my words on the typed page as in my early days of writing or on my computer screen in more modern times, there is a thrill inside from the first opening sentence through to the last line of a book.
I write when I feel the urge and can get to my computer or a pad and pencil. Writing is a way of life, it’s a way of thinking and a way of breathing. Always remember that you are dealing with humans who have thoughts and ideas of their own – some people will like your work, some people won’t, you’re the one who has to believe in your work the most. 

Never give up, never stop writing.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy 2020!

So it’s a New Year (in the Gregorian calendar) and aside from all the jokes about having terrific vision this year (2020 eyesight and all that), it is, like all New Year celebrations, another NEW beginning; I wrote about new beginnings this past October.

So what makes THIS new beginning different from all other New Year events? Well for one this New Year is based on the Gregorian calendar and seems to be more universal, most times even people who observe religious and ethnic based festivities also celebrate the coming of January 1. The Gregorian calendar is accepted as the most widely used calendar as it most closely represents the Earth’s spin around the Sun.

Most of us will probably, as in many years past, need a while to get used to writing the “2020” in our checkbooks and other correspondence. Luckily for those of us who make use of EFT (electronic fund transfers) through our online banking apps will send our check payments out with the correct date thanks to the computerized systems. But snail-mailed greeting cards and letters, for those few still doing that, will provide enough challenge, lol.

Here’s some fun facts about the year 2020: It’s a leap year since it is divisible by four (4), which means that there are 366 days instead of the usual 365 — this allows for the approximately one-quarter extra day per year that the Earth moves around the Sun, or exactly 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes and 46 seconds. This year February 29 is a thing! By the way did you know that the turn-of-the-century years, even though still divisible by four, are NOT leap years? This is because years that are equally divisible by 100 are excluded… I have no idea why.

October 2020 will make the 438th anniversary of the Gregorian calendar, its predecessor was the Julian calendar (named for Julius Caesar). The Gregorian calendar was named for its creator, Pope Gregory XIII (with the assistance of undisclosed and uncelebrated astronomers). It seems that the approximately 11 minutes per year that the Julian calendar did not take into account threw the observance dates of certain Christian holidays askew. The new Gregorian calendar specifically allows for 365-days per year with an extra day every year divisible by four (February 29), and centuries divisible by 400 (otherwise years divisible by 100 are excluded).
Whew, I am glad I didn’t have to do the math!

Most people still make resolutions, ideas of things to better themselves, every New Year. And then most people break those well-meaning resolutions after only a few weeks (if they are that lucky to last that long). The new concept recommended by therapists and life-guides is to set goals WITH plans of how to reach those goals so that we each have a “road-map” to guide us. Part of reaching January is to let go of the past year — that doesn’t mean forgetting! Build on what happened last year, it taught you lessons, maybe you met new people, maybe you lost someone dear, but it was a definite part of making YOU. Let go of the disappointments, know that you have a chance to re-do most of what you didn’t manage in the year before.

Perhaps that fact that this year is 2020 and allows for all the jokes about vision is a sign… It’s a new year, and a new time to evaluate ourselves and work towards doing better. It’s a time for us to treasure our friendships especially those that have traveled the many years with us. Be sure to celebrate the person you’ve become, you reached this day, this year and this new opportunity.