Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations, The Writing Life, Travels Around the World

Two milestones – by Kate Hardy

So August 1 saw two milestones for me – my 25th wedding anniversary and the official publication day of my 75th book for Mills and Boon.

We decided to celebrate our anniversary in the Italian Lakes – and where could be more romantic on the day itself than Verona?

August 1 1992 was a baking hot day.

August 1 2017 was even hotter, because Southern Europe was having a heatwave – 39 degrees (but felt like 44).

And I guess the day was very much like any marriage, because there were bumpy bits in the day, starting with the tour bus not picking us up, an hour trying to find out where they were and discovering that our booking hadn’t gone through even though they’d taken the money, and then making the best of it and catching the local bus to Verona and doing the ‘tour’ ourselves. We saw the Arena, Dante’s statue, amazing churches, pretty courtyards and majestic towers.

We visited Juliet’s balcony – after putting our names on the wall (on a band-aid, no less – well, a Medical Romance author would be prepared…)

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And over the rest of the week we saw some amazing sights. We caught a cable car to the top of the Dolomites.

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We saw the most romantic sunsets.

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We ate lots of pizza, pasta, fresh fish and ice cream (I think my dish of the week just had to be pasta with zucchini and scallops, in this lovely cream and saffron and tomato sauce). We tried local wines. We discovered just how nice Aperol spritz is – the local aperitif, basically 1 part bitter orange liqueur, 2 parts prosecco and 3 parts sparkling water, all served over ice.

And with our eldest about to start his second year at uni and our youngest about to start sixth form, it was probably our last family holiday – and definitely one to remember.

Plus there’s my 75th book milestone with M&B – which, coincidentally enough, is set on a fictional Italian island. The title – The Runaway Bride and the Billionaire – pretty much tells you what the book is about, and it’s part of the Summer at the Villa Rosa quartet which I wrote with Liz Fielding, Scarlet Wilson and Jessica Gilmore.

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So all in all it’s been a pretty overwhelming week. But milestones like these aren’t reached alone – and the support of my family and friends has been really appreciated over the last quarter of a century, plus my M&B readers and writing friends for the last 16 years. So I’d like to raise a glass (of Aperol, of course!) to you all to say thank you – and cheers!

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Foods We Love, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations, Quirky Stories, The Writing Life

ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? Dianne Drake

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAValentine’s Day is one of those days where true love takes over, and all things chocolate, flowers, cards, romantic dinners and gifts are on our minds. Well, most of our minds. I could do without the chocolate and my cats eat my flowers. But I do love gifts and romantic dinners. Have you ever wondered, though, what Valentine’s Day is all about?

It’s said that this festival for lovers had its origin with Emperor Claudius II, who didn’t want Roman men to marry during wartime because marriage distracted them from their killing. Bishop Valentine, an Anglican and a right romantic gent, went against Claud’s wishes and performed secret weddings. For that, Valentine was jailed. While there, he wrote a note to the jailer’s daughter, signing it “from your Valentine.” He got caught, and was beheaded the next day–on February 14, sometime near the year 270.

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Cupids were a popular theme for a Victorian Valentine’s Day.

It wasn’t until the 14th century, though, that the date February 14 became linked to romantic intentions, largely thanks to the tradition of courtly love, which abounded in the circles of Geoffrey Chaucer. Still, it took another 4 centuries before the day became about gifts, and candy and all those other things we typically think about.

And just an aside here–about 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year. Whether or not it’s true, the first Valentine’s Day card may have been a love letter from Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife, while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Makes sense, considering Charles was a Frenchman and France is noted for its romantic traditions. Oh, and in case you’re interested, teachers receive the most Valentine’s cards, followed by children, mothers, wives, sweethearts and pets. But don’t feel sorry for poor Fido and Fluffy, who come in last in cards, because they get 3% of all the Valentine’s gifts given. Not bad for a loved one who has a wet nose.

Speaking of love letters, every Valentine’s Day, the city of Verona, where Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet lived, receives about 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet. But Verona isn’t the only place where letters or notes are popular. In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who would be their Valentine, then write that name in a heart-shaped note and pin it on their sleeve for everyone to see–especially the one whose name was on the note. Hence, the phrase:  “to wear your heart on your sleeve.” It’s still a tradition in South Africa, today and, in some cases, it’s how South African men learn of their secret admirers.

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Forget-me-nots were one of the most popular Victorian expressions of love.

But South Africa isn’t the only country with a unique Valentine’s Day tradition. In South Korea, the gift-giving commences on February 14th, with the women in the wooing mood when they give their men chocolates, candies and flowers. The guys return the woo on March 14th with a little one-upping by adding lavish gifts to the giving of chocolate, candies and flowers. Not to be outdone, however, in Italian tradition, young, unmarried girls wake up before dawn to spot their future husbands, believing that the first man they OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsee on Valentine’s Day will be the one they will marry within a year. Of course, if that doesn’t happen, they have a back-up plan to help them save face, where they simply say, “Well, at least he looks like the man I’ll marry.” That plan runs a distant second to actually marrying the guy, but it’s something to hang on to. Back-up plans like that one are good though, and sticking with Italy, their next back-up plan is to come Valentine-calling with Baci Perugina in hand. It’s a small, chocolate-covered hazelnut wrapped with a romantic quote.

Yes, chocolate… Everybody loves it, including the Brazilians who go a-courting with it, as well. But not on February 14, because it’s too close to Carnival. So they hold off their lovefest until June 12, when they celebrate Dia dos Namorados, or “Lovers’ Day,” And yep, chocolates, along with flowers and cards, music festivals and performances.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So, why chocolates? Why not licorice, or cinnamon red hearts? Honestly, nothing spells romance better than a gummy worm, don’t you think? But, we have chocolate, and it’s been hanging in as the lovers’ favorite since the early 1800s. Back then, though, it wasn’t a romantic thing. Doctors prescribed it to their female patients to help relieve those certain symptoms associated with that special time of the month. It calmed them down, so it was said. Of course, so did those vibrator treatments those wacky doctors were giving out, personally, in their offices, back then. A vibrator AND chocolate…must have calmed m’lady right down into a perfect bliss. Oh, and about chocolate–Richard Cadbury produced the first box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day in the late 1800s, and more than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of pure, silky ecstasy are sold for Valentine’s Day any given year.

Cards, love notes, chocolates…isn’t it romantic? Actually, word romance wasn’t associated with the romance we know. It was originally a Latin adverb for Romanicus meaning “of the Roman style.” You know, when in Rome… The Romans considered themselves a chivalrous people, and their earliest tales of romance were actually stories of chivalric adventures. public-domain-images-vintage-postcards-valentine-victorian-1900s0075It wasn’t, until the late 17th century that the chivalric adventures turned more to the romantic escapades we know today. Probably had something to do with the hunk on the cover of a romance novel one of the ladies of the day was reading. She took one look at his bare chest, his long flowing hair, his well-muscled arms, his steely thighs…well, you know what I’m getting at.

Being the proper lady that she was, though, she surely hankered for the gift of a red rose from her true love, since chocolates weren’t around yet. Which is just another way to transition into why red roses have become the traditional Valentine’s flower. First, the red rose was the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. That’s as good a reason as any. But there’s more… red roses are also considered the love flower because red stands for strong romantic feelings, blood and fire, passion, desire, heat, longing, lust, sexuality…it’s a pretty long, self-explanatory list. Or, in other words, red just works.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So does the Welsh tradition of giving a love spoon for Valentine’s day. Only, it’s not exactly Valentine’s Day. It’s the celebration of Saint Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, on January 25th. The hand-carved spoons were given as token of affection for the women they loved, and different patterns were carved into these spoons, including horseshoes for good luck; wheels to symbolize support; and keys for the keys to a man’s heart. Often, spoons given to lovers had two handles intertwining to form one. Interestingly enough, this tradition of giving spoons known as “spooning” makes it especially fitting when two handles intertwine. We all know what comes of that!

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So, before I end this history lesson, let me leave you with a few more romantic traditions, like an old one in the Netherlands where prospective couples were put in separate sacks in the same bed to sleep together, but not allowed to engage in any premarital hanky-panky. Talk about tough love. Then there was that time during Italian Renaissance when the gentlemen would give their lady loves erotically-inscribed belts which would both remind them of their chastity while at the same time inciting them to horniness. Also, there’s that old, popular stand-by called the bridesworth, which went beyond the offering of the dowry, but could include acts of humiliation or entertainment such as chariot racing, singing, dancing and grueling interviews with the bride’s family. Often, a bridesworth could last for an entire year. And finally–the eating of the haggis every day, from Valentine’s Day to Valentine’s Day, for a year, to prove a man’s worth to his lady love. Actually, I just made that one up. But it sort of fits in doesn’t it?

There are so many kinds of wacky, wonderful, strange and romantic ways to celebrate your love, and that’s something I try to capture in my books. The different ways we go about it. To each his own, as they say. For some, Valentine’s Day is an expression for every day of the year. For a dear friend, it’s the biggest heart-shaped box of chocolates her husband can find. My grandfather always gave my grandmother red carnations for Valentine’s Day, and my grandmother always gave me a fresh, brand new five-dollar bill straight from the bank. For me, personally, Valentine’s Day is all about the thought, not the deed. Deeds are nice, but in end, I’ll take the thought any day. So what about you? Are you doing OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsomething special for Valentine’s Day? Gifts? Chocolates? A romantic dinner? Staying home together in your jammies, eating popcorn and watching a romantic movie? Or a scary one that’ll make you cuddle up?

Whatever your Valentine’s Day will be about, I hope it’s everything you wish for. It’s only one day of the year, so enjoy (unless you take up that haggis thing, then it’s for a whole year!).

And now…promo time. My latest, The Nurse and the Single Dad came out on the 1st. It’s available in all the usual places. That’s it. No more promo, no more wacky Valentine’s traditions like the one where, in 19th century rural Austria, an eligible lass would keep an apple slice crammed in her armpits during an entire evening of dance. At the end of the evening, she would give her used fruit to the guy she fancied. If the feeling was mutual, he’d wolf it right down, which sounds like true love to me. I know the old saying is something about the apple of his eye, but the apple of her armpit? Okay. I’m really done now. Promise.

Until next time, wishing you health & happiness.

DD

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February 1, 2017

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Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations, The Writing Life

The Blessings We Love to Curse

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It’s been a crazy two weeks for me. Joel and I have been on an entertainment binge.    Been to a hockey game,  a Broadway tour of ‘The Book of Mormon,’ the musical ‘Cabaret,’ a Joe Bonamassa concert and a festival of Christmas carols.

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 We have another few things lined up to get us up to Christmas. And tickets to these were so easy to purchase – zip into a website online, pull up a seating chart, plug in the credit card and—voila, ticket on my phone. And when I say phone, I don’t mean the old-fashioned kind like the one that hung on my parents’ kitchen wall, but the one that gives me instant access to the world via the internet, keeps track of my grocery list, wakes me up on time, sends me reminders from my dentist and brings me a delightful good-morning message, every morning, from my sister-in-law who lives 1000 miles away. imag0973_1

Did I say internet? The vehicle that let me have a chat with a friend in India the other day, research the most prominent kind of pine tree in Montana for one of my books, and served as the device for a majority of my Christmas shopping this year? The same vehicle through which I bought a new washer three weeks ago and a brand new car two weeks ago? The place where I pay my bills, check the weather and watch movies, British television and Broadways plays?

It wasn’t that long ago that my husband dragged home this clunker of a computer, one with no internal storage and everything went to large floppy disks. “This is the future,” he told me. I didn’t believe him, but since he’d spent a lot of money on the thing and told me it was mine to use, I used it. Then upgraded, upgraded, upgraded. Got a laptop, a phone with way more capabilities than my first computer, and a tablet which my 4-year-old niece uses to watch her movies.imag0967

                My car is computerized. It has all kinds of neat little gadgets I’ve yet to explore. It syncs with my phone, gives me a rear-view back-up and I’m not sure, but I think it makes coffee. My television is hooked up to a speaker system that’s probably better than the speaker system of any movie theater I went to when I was a kid. And my refrigerator—don’t even get me started on what it can do. Yes, I remember the one that simply froze water and meat, and chilled food. But mine will sing me a lullaby if I let it.

 Yet, we are a discontented society as a whole. Nothing is ever fast enough. Nothing ever has quite the right amount of capabilities. In fact, the online response time on my computer had bogged down to a whopping 5 seconds, and I was pretty darned frustrated by how slow it was. I wanted that pine tree information, and I wanted it NOW! So, I called my internet service provider and complained that their service was too slow, it was wasting my time. They pressed a switch on their end, upped my band width and gave me a 2 second response time. I was so happy. Makes me wonder how happy I would have been in the old days when I’d have gone to the library just to research that one little fact. Back then, I thought it was amazing that so much was available to me in any number of books I could check out and take home. The other day, I thought it was downright awesome that I was given back 3 whole seconds.

This is the time of year when everybody is more mindful of their blessings. Friends, family, pets, good fortune in our lives, health. We do have so many things to be grateful for, and I am. But when I got home from a Christmas tree display (which I’d found online) I got a message from a friend I rarely see because she lives so far away, I turned on my computer to write this blog instead of trying to do it on a typewriter imag0925(because I can’t type on a typewriter) and I sent a lovely picture of a Christmas tree made from books to all the people who follow me on Facebook – a picture taken on my phone. And you know what? These are blessing, too. Maybe not the ones that complete us and make us better as individuals, but the ones that make our lives easier, and quicker and more convenient. I’ll admiimag0923t, I’m the first one to get angry when my computer slows up or my phone has to be rebooted. It’s frustrating when I can’t click right into Acorn and get my fix of ‘Doc Martin’ because something isn’t feeding properly at that precise moment. And heaven forbid I should be delayed from my Broadway streaming when I want to see ‘Les Miserables’ or ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ But last night, when I took a picture of MacKenzie, didn’t have to wait for a day to see it developed, and was able to send it to everyone in my family within minutes, I was grateful for that phone. It allowed me something I wouldn’t have had so very long ago—the chance to share the best moments of my life with the people I love. That’s what this season is about—sharing those moments. And sure, they may take you an extra 3 seconds if your computer is bogged down, but when I look at the tin type of my grandmother from 1889, and consider the amount of time her family had to wait for that photo, and the one minute it took for me to snap MacKenzie’s picture and send it to my aunt 2000 miles away, imag0960_2I know that something we love to curse is really a blessing that enhances our lives every day, in little ways, and in big ones. It’s a beautiful thing.

“Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm. Philosophies fall away like sand, creeds follow one another, but what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons, a possession for all eternity.” (Oscar Wilde)

From my family to yours, I hope you have a lovely  holiday season.

And, wishing you health & happiness

Dianne Drake (www.Dianne-Drake.com)

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                                                                     Out February, 2017.

 

 

 

 

Excerpts, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations

Excerpt–The Doctor’s Sleigh Bell Proposal

 

 

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CHAPTER ONE

Screeching vehicle brakes caught Dr. Chance Freeman’s attention. That would be his three new staff members arriving. They should have been here last night but bad weather had delayed them. He’d needed them desperately. His other team had left that morning and today’s clinic had been shorthanded and almost impossible to manage.

Chance glanced up from the Honduran baby boy he was examining and out the entrance of the canvas tent located in a clearing near a village. Beyond the long line of waiting patients, he saw a tall, twentyish woman jump down from the rear of the army surplus truck. She wore a tight green t-shirt, a bright yellow bandana round her neck and tan cargo pants that clung to her curves.

Great. High jungle fashion. He’d seen that before.

Shoulders hunched, he drew his lips into a tight line stopping a long suffering sound from escaping. Years ago he’d helped Alissa out of a jeep. She believed in being well dress in any environment as well. They had been newlyweds at the time. That had only lasted months.

Everything about this new staff member’s regal bearing screamed she didn’t belong in the stifling heat of a rainforest in Central American. He bet she wouldn’t last long. In his years of doing medical aide work he’d learned to recognize those who would stick out the tough conditions and long hours. His guess was that she wasn’t one of them. Everything about her screamed upper-crust, big city. Pampered.

When had he become so cynical? He hadn’t met her yet and he was already putting her in a slot. It wasn’t fair not to give her a chance just because she reminded him of his ex-wife. Still he didn’t have the time, energy or inclination to coddle anyone, even if he desperately needed the help.

From under her loose-brimmed hat she scanned the area, her gaze coming around to lock with his. She titled her head shielding her eyes with a hand against the noon day sun. One of her two companions said something and she turned away.

Shaking off the spell, Chance returned to the child. He’d hardly looked down when there was a commotion outside. People were screaming and running. What was going on?

He didn’t have to wait long to find out. Two men carried another man into the tent who was bleeding profusely around the face and neck area and down one arm. Quickly handing the baby to his mother, Chance cleared the exam table with his arm.

“Put him here. What happened?”

The men lifted the injured man to the table. Despite Chance’s excellent Spanish they were talking so fast he was having to work to understand them. Apparently, the man had been attacked by a Jaguar while trying to save one of his goats.

A feminine voice asked from the end of the table, “What can I do to help?”

A fragrant scent floated in the air. He was tempted to lean forward and inhale. There was a marked difference between the feminine whiff and the odor of the sweaty bodies around him. Unfortunately, he would need to warn her not to wear perfume in this part of the world because it attracted unwanted insects.

Chance looked up into clear blue eyes that made him think of the pool of water at the bottom of his favorite waterfall. The woman he’d just seen climbing off the truck waited. She’d removed her hat and now he could clearly see a long blond braid falling over a shoulder. With her fair coloring she would burn in no time in the hot Honduras sun.

“Start with cutting away the clothing.”

She stepped to the table. The paper on the table was soaked with blood. He glanced up to see her face blanch as she viewed the man who would be disfigured for life from the deep lacerations.

“Don’t faint on me,” he said through clenched teeth. “Michael, get over here.” He nodded toward the other table. “Go help there. Michael and I’ll handle this.”

She moved off to see about the case Michael was working on. Chance didn’t have time to ponder why someone in the medical profession couldn’t handle this type of injury.

He and Michael worked to piece the Honduran man back together. It may have been the largest number of stitches he’d ever put into a person. There would a long recovery time.

“We need some help here.” Michael called as he finished suturing an area.

The woman stepped to the table again.

Chance glared at her. “I thought I told you—”

She gave him a determined and unwavering look. “I’ve got this.” She turned to Michael. “What do you need?”

“Bandage this hand,” he said.

“I’ll take care of it.” The words were full of confidence as fingers tipped in hot pink picked up the saline and 4x4s sitting on the table and began cleaning around the area.

Chance had to stop himself from rolling his eyes. That manicure wouldn’t last long here and there wouldn’t be another forthcoming either. He moved on to the next laceration. As he looked at the man’s arm Chance kept a watchful eye on the new staff member. With the efficiency of few he’d seen, she’d wrapped and secured the dressing and move on the next spot.

At least she seemed to have recovered from whatever had been her earlier issue. He was used to temporary help, but he still wanted quality.

Many who came to help with the Traveling Clinic were filled with good intentions and the idealism of saving the world, but didn’t have the skills or common sense required to work in such primitive settings. The clinic served the medical issues in the small villages outside of LaCeiba. Making it even more difficult was that the locals were often hesitant about asking for help.

A jaguar attack wasn’t the clinic’s normal injury but they did see a number of severe wounds from accidents. He needed staff that could handle the unexpected and often gruesome. If Chance wasn’t such a sceptic he’d have given the new woman points for her recovery but he’d been doing this type of work for far too long. Seen staff come and go.

He was familiar with people who left. His mother had done it when he was a child. He’d been seven when she’d just not been there. His father had been a world renowned surgeon and been gone much of the time. With his mother’s absence Chance starting acting out in an effort to keep his father’s attention even to the point of stealing. That got him sent to boarding school. Even in that restrictive environment Chance pushed back.

In a stern voice the headmaster had said, “It’s time for you to decide if you’re going to amount to anything in your life. Right now I’d be surprised if you do.”

He was the one man in Chance’s life that had taken a real interest in a scared and angry boy. The grizzled and gruff headmaster had believed in him, had time to listen. Unlike his father. Chance wanted to make the headmaster proud and made a change after that conversation. He’d focused on his studies. Dedicated his life to helping others. But in the area of personal relationships he had failed miserably over and over to the point he had long ago given up. Those, apparently, he wasn’t capable of having.

Why were dark memories invading now? Maybe because the new woman reminded him so much of his ex-wife, Alissa whose defection always made him think of his mother. Two females who had rejected him. He’d moved passed all that long ago. His worry now was how to keep the clinic open. Pondering old history did nothing to help with the present problem.

He watched the new woman as he changed gloves. Her movements were confident now.  Marco, a Honduran man who served as clerk, translator, and goffer for the clinic entered

the tent with a distressed look on his face. He hurried to her and said in his heavily accented voice, “I no not where you are. Please not do not leave again without telling. Much danger here. Not get lost.”

She looked at him. “I’m sorry. I saw the emergency and thought I should come help.”

“It’s okay, Marco. I’ll explain. See to the other two,” Chance said to the short but sturdy man.

“Si, Doctor Chance.” Marco nodded and hurried out of the clinic.

Chance gave her a pointed look. “Please don’t leave the clinic area until we’ve talked.”

Her chin went down and she nodded. “I understand. By the way my name is Cox. Dr. Ellen Cox. Like Bond. James Bond.” She flashed him a grin.

She was a cheeky little thing. He wasn’t certain he appreciated that.

 

He finished up with the attacked man and sent him off in a truck to the hospital in

LaCeiba. He would check in on him when they got back to town. Chance cleaned up and moved on to his next patient who was an older woman with an infected bug bite. It would be necessary to drain it.

Before starting the procedure, he stepped to the table next to his where a five-year-old girl sat. Digging into his pants’ pocket he pulled out a peppermint and handed the piece of candy to her. She removed the clear plastic cover and plopped it into her mouth, giving Chance a wide toothy grin. He’d given a child a second of happiness. He just wished he could make more of a difference. What he did wasn’t enough.

As Chance returned to his patient, Ellen joined him.

Since she was so enthusiastic he’d let her see to the woman as he watched. “We’re going to need a suture kit, a box of 4x4s and bandage. Supplies are in the van.” He gestured toward the beat-up vehicle that had been parked partially under the tent so that the backend was protected from the daily afternoon rain and could function as a portable storage room. Chance waited as she hurried after the supplies.

Returning to his side she placed the kit on the bed and a bottle of saline water as well. “I’ll get a pan.” She was gone again.

Chance spoke to his patient in Spanish, reassuring her that she would be fine and that what he was going to do wouldn’t take too long. A few moments later Ellen was back with the pan and plastic gloves for herself.

He helped the older woman lay back on the table.

Ellen gave the patient a reassuring pat on the shoulder and then turned her attention to opening the suture kit placing it where he could easily reach the contents. Taking the plastic gloves off the top, he pulled them on. She did the same with hers. Removing the blue sterile paper sheets, she placed them on her patient’s leg around and under the inflamed area.

Chance handed her the scalpel. She took it without question.

Michael called, “Chance, you got a second to look at this?”

“Go ahead. I can handle this,” Ellen said.

Chance hesitated then nodded. He liked to oversee the new staff for a week or so just to make sure they understood the locals and the type of work they were doing but she should be able to handle a simple case.

The patient eyes had grown wide went he left. Ellen moved to his side of the table and began speaking to her in an elementary mix that was more English than Spanish. As she distracting the woman by having her pay attention to what she was saying instead of what Ellen was doing the woman calmed down to the point of smiling a few times.

He glanced Ellen’s way a few times to see how she was doing. By the time he returned the patient was bandaged and ready to leave. Ellen had done a good job.

Chance moved on to the next person waiting. She assisted him with the next patient. They were just finishing when Marco returned with the two other new staff members. He introduced the man as Pete Ortiz and the woman as Karen Johnson. Both nurses. Ellen moved off across the short aisle of tables to help Chance’s colleague, Michael Lange. Because Pete spoke fluent Spanish, Chance sent him to do triage and Karen stayed to help him.

Working in Honduras on and off for eight years had only made Chance see the needs there grow. There was a time he thought he might really make a difference. The people needed real clinics. Brick and mortar buildings with dedicated doctors, not just a few coming in and out every few weeks.

He loved this country. The weather which he much preferred to the cold of the north, the coast. Scuba diving was one of his greatest day-off hobbies. Walking through a rainforest and being surprise by a waterfall was amazing. But most of all he like the open generous smiles of the people. In Honduras he had found home.

The Traveling Clinic had been his idea years ago and he’d worked long and hard to gain funding for the idea. The clinic was a successful concept but money was forever a problem. Again tomorrow the clinic would be stopping at different villages and the locals would line up. Some would wait all day for care. The day would start just as this one had. Never enough, and more left to do.

A couple of times during the afternoon hours the sound of laughter reached his ears. Michael and the new doctor seemed to enjoy working together. That was what he’d thought when his wife had spent so much time helping his clinic partner, Robert. They had gotten along so well she’d gone home with him.

The sun touched the top of the trees by the time Chance saw his last patient. Michael was finishing up with his as well. Now all that was left was to break down the clinic, load the trucks, and head for a hot shower. He leaned up against the nearest exam table finishing a note on his patient’s chart.

“Doctor, if you’ll excuse me I need to fold this exam table.” Ellen gave him a pointed look as she flipped her hair back implying he needed to move.

She reminded him of a teenager. Looked no older than a fresh out of high school girl even though she must be at least twenty-eight, to his tired forty-one-year-old eyes. Breaking down the clinic was Marco and the local men he’d hired to help him. As much as Chance was amazed by her zeal she needed to understand a few things about the culture and dangers here. “Marco and his men will take care of that.”

“I can get—”

He lowered his voice. “I’m sure you can but they take their jobs and positions seriously. I don’t want them insulted.”

“Oh. I didn’t realize.” She stopped what she was doing.

“Now you do. You need to tread more carefully, Doctor Cox. There are cultural and safety issues you should be aware of before you go off willy-nelly. Don’t reckless. This isn’t Los Angeles, New York or wherever you are from.”

A flash of something in her eyes he couldn’t put a name came and went before she said,  “New York.”

He looked at her a second. “There’re not only animals in the jungle that could hurt you, as you saw today, but there’s a major issue with drug traders. Neither play around nor allow second chances. You should never go out alone. Even in the villages or clinic compound always have someone with you.”

“Are you trying to scare me?”

Did she think this was some exotic vacation spot? “No, I’m trying to keep you out of harm’s way.” He looked straight at her. “If you don’t follow the rules, you don’t stay around here long.”

Her lips tightened as she glanced toward the men working to breakdown the clinic. “I’m sorry I upset Marco. I saw the amount of people waiting and thought I should get to work.”

“You would be no good to them if you get hurt.”

“Your point is taken.”

“Chance.” Michael called.

“Just remember what I said.” He walked away to join Michael beside the supply van.

Half an hour later the tent was down and everything stowed in the vehicles. Now their party was bumping along the narrow dirt road toward the coast. Chance rode in the supply van with one of the locals driving while Michael was a passenger in the truck. The others rode in the rear of it. The hour trip to the resort might be the toughest part of the day. As the bird flew the distance wasn’t far however the roads were so rough and winding it seemed to take forever to make the return drive. Chance usually tried to sleep.

For some reason his thoughts went to the young doctor traveling in the truck behind him. She’d worked hard, doing her share and some more. There was no way she was napping while sitting on that hard metal bench. If she complained, he would point out that the ride was just part of doing this type of medical work. Anyone who stayed with it learned to accept the hardship.

 

Ellen’s head bumped against one of the support frames running around the bed of the truck. Taking a nap was almost impossible. She pulled a jacket out of her duffle bag and folded it up before stuffing it between her head and the unforgiving metal.

Looking out the slats, she watched the fascinating countryside go by. The vegetation grew rich and huge. Some of the leaves were the size of an umbrella. And so green. It looked impossible to walk through. She’d never seen anything like it. The flowers were such vivid colors. A pink hibiscus always caught her attention.

As the plane was coming in that morning she’d looked down on the coastline of the county. The pristine white sand against the blue-green of the water made her want to experience it for herself. It was a beautiful country. She already love it.

Completely different from New York. The land of buildings and lights. She’d worked at an inner city clinic that saw pregnant teenagers and babies with colds. It was nothing compared to the type of patients and conditions she’d experienced today. It had been exhilarating. Except for that one moment when she looked at that man and all the memories of her mother caught in the car had come flooding back.

The Traveling Clinic cared for people who truly need it. These people had no other way of getting medical care. They hadn’t made poor life choices like the drug addicts and drunks in the city. Here they had nothing, and the clinic offered them something they desperately needed. Still they had a bright smile to share.

The type of work she’d done today was why she’d become a doctor. As a child a car accident had killed her mother and left Ellen in the hospital for weeks. There she’d learned the importance of good medical care. The staff had loved and given special attention to the little girl who had lost so much. Ellen had determined then that she wanted to work in the medical field. Do for people what had been done for her.

The only sticking point had been her father. As a Manhattan socialite, and the only child of an over-protective father she’d worked at being taken seriously when she announced she was going to medical school. Ellen wanted to do more than chair committees and plan fancy fundraisers. She wanted to personally make a difference, get to know the people she was helping.

When Ellen had started working at the intercity clinic her father had pitched a fit. It was too risky. He didn’t want her to work there.

“You’re acting like your mother. She all went in head first and then thought,” he said more than once to her growing up.

Ellen told him he had no choice. A number of times she’d noticed a man watching when she came and went from the clinic. Some days later she found out he had been hired by her father to watch over her because he was concerned about her safety.

A few weeks later she heard Dr. Freeman speak with such passion about his work in Honduras and she was hooked. She wanted to make that kind of difference, offer that kind of care. The next day she’d applied to join his staff. It had taken her six months, but she was finally here.

After her decision to come to Honduras, she’d thought of not telling her father but she loved him too much to just disappear. Instead, she told him she was going to Honduras not specifically where she would be fearing he’d send someone to watch over her again. Again he accused her of not thinking it through. She assured him she had. For once she wanted to do something on her own, free from her father’s influence.

Her head bounced again. The picture of Dr. Freeman’s displeased look when she’d frozen came to mind. Her lips formed a wry smile. Later she had seen a small measure of respect in his eyes.

The wheels squealed to a painful halt. Ellen looked out the end of the truck to see a beautifully groomed foliaged area. Where were they? The others filed off and she brought up the rear. With her feet on the ground, she looked around. It appeared as if they were in the back parking lot of a resort.

A couple of Honduran helpers pulled her bag along with Pete’s and Karen’s down from the truck. Her fellow staff members she hadn’t met until time to board the flight to Honduras. Pete was a nice guy, who was looking for a change after a bad marriage and Karen was a middle age woman who thought working with the clinic would be a nice way to see a new country. Ellen had liked them both right away.

Their group was joined by the two doctors. She’d enjoyed working with Michael Lange. He seemed fun and laid back. The same couldn’t be said about Dr. Freeman. From what she could tell he was an excellent doctor. Everything she’d heard about him had been glowing. But on the Mr. Congeniality scale he was pretty low. He could work on his warm welcomes. He hadn’t even taken the time to offer his name.

After hearing him speak Ellen had expected him to have less of a crusty personality. He acted as if he’d seen too much and couldn’t leave it behind. He was as strikingly handsome as she remembered. With thick, dark wavy hair with a touch of white at the temples that gave him an air of authority, he was someone who held her attention. Even when she hadn’t been working directly with him she was conscious of where he was in the tent. She generally didn’t have this type of reaction to a man.

“I’ll show Ellen to her hut,” Michael said.

“No, she’s next to me,” Chance said. “You see to uh, Pete and…” He looked at the other nurse. “It’s Karen, isn’t it?”

“That’s correct.” Karen picked up her bag.

“Okay. Dinner is at seven in the private dining room behind the main one.” Dr. Freeman headed toward a dirt path between two low palmetto plants. There was a small wooden sign there giving arrow directions to different areas of the resort. “Coming, Dr. Cox? I’ve got a call to make to the States before it gets too late.”

He’d not offered to carry her bag. If he thought she couldn’t or wouldn’t carry her own bag, he had another thought coming. Grabbing her duffle, pulled the strap over her shoulder, Ellen hurried after him. The man really was egotistical.

She followed him along a curving path through groomed vegetation beneath trees filled with blue and yellow macaws chattering. She lagged behind when she became caught up in her surroundings. The place was jaw-dropping beautiful. Completely different from any place she’d ever seen.

“Dr. Cox.” The exasperation in the doctor’s voice reminded her of a father talking to a distracted child. She didn’t like it.

“It’s Ellen.”

“Come along, Ellen. I still have work to do tonight.” He took long strides forward.

From what she could tell he had more than put in a days’ worth of work. What could he possibly need to do tonight? “Coming, sir.”

He stopped and glared down his nose at her. “The sir isn’t necessary.”

“I just thought that since you were acting like a general I should speak to you as such.”

“Ellen, you’ll find I’m not known for my sense of humor.” He continued on down the path as if he didn’t care if she followed him or not.

“I’m sure you’re not,” she murmured. Hefting her bag strap more securely over her shoulder, she focused on catching up. They moved farther into the landscape until they came out in a small grassy opening where two huts stood with only a huge Banyan tree separating them. Each had a thatched roof, dark stained wooden porch with what looked like comfortable chairs with bright floral pillows.

The space was perfect as a romantic getaway. “This is amazing. I expected to live in a tent and have to use a bathhouse.”

“You have a top of the line bath. We work hard and the board believes the least it can do is provide a nice place to stay. The resort gives us a deal.” Dr. Freeman pointed to the structure on the left. “That hut is yours. Follow the signs around to the dining room. Need something, call 0 on the phone.” With that he headed toward the other one.

Well, she wouldn’t be counting on him to be the perfect neighbor.

Ellen climbed the three steps to the main door. There was a hammock hanging from one post to another. The living arrangements weren’t what she expected but she wasn’t going to complain.

She swung the door open and entered. Her eyes widened. She sucked in a breath of pleasure. Talk about going from one extreme to another. As rough as the working conditions were the living quarters were luxurious. She lived well in New York but even by those standards this was a nice living space.

The floor plan consisted of an open room with a sitting area on one side and the bed on the other. The ceiling was high with a slow moving fan that encouraged a breeze through the slated windows. A gleaming wood floor stretched the length of the room. The only area of it that was covered was in the sitting area where two chairs and a settee created a cozy group. A large bright rug of  red, greens and yellows punctuated the space.

But it was the bedroom side that made the biggest impression. A large square canopy bed made of mahogany with identical twists carved into each of the four posts set there. If she was going to spend a honeymoon somewhere this would be her choice.

She’d come close to a wedding a couple of times but it seemed like her father stepped in and changed her mind just as she was getting serious. It was as if he couldn’t trust her to know who and what she wanted. That was one of the reasons she’d come to Honduras. At least here she could make her own decisions.

The open air shower blinded from any onlookers by plank walls was a new experience. At first she’d found it intimidating but as the warm water hit her shoulders Ellen eased into the enjoyment of the birds in the trees chirping at her. She was officially enchanted.

Half an hour later, Ellen headed down the plant-lined walk in the direction of what she hoped was the dining area. She turned a curve and a crystal blue swimming pool that resembled a fern encircled grotto came into view. The resort was truly amazing.

Beside it Dr. Freeman sat on a lounger talking on the phone. He wore a t-shirt, cargo shorts and leather thong shoes. His legs were crossed at the ankles. He appeared relaxed but the tone of his voice said that was far from the case. She wasn’t surprised. Her impression had been he didn’t unwind often.

“Look, we need those supplies. We have to raise the money.” He paused. “I can’t be in two places at once. You’ll have to handle it. And about the staff you’re sending me, I’ve got to have people who’ll stay longer than six weeks. No more short term. The people of rural Honduras need a standing clinic.” He glanced her direction.

Ellen continued toward a tall open air building hoping it was where she should go. Footfalls followed her.

“Ease dropping, Dr. Cox?”

She looked back at him. “I wasn’t. I was just on my way to dinner. And I told you I prefer Ellen. When you say Dr. Cox it sounds so condescending.”

“I’m sorry. Ellen.”

She now wished she hadn’t insisted he call her by her first name. His slight accent gave it an exotic note that sent a shiver up her spine. Not wanting to give that reaction anymore analysis she said, “I’m hungry.”

“The dining room is this way.” He started up the steps to the building and she joined him.

They entered the large completely open space with a thatched roof supported by huge poles. A wooden desk with a local man standing behind it was located off to one side. He waved in their direction as they cross the gleaming wooden floor. Ellen follow him around one of three groupings of wicker furniture toward a shuttered doorway that stood open. Inside were tables with white clothes over them and low lighting. Dr. Freeman kept moving then stopped at a single door and opened it.

“Close the door behind you,” he instructed.

Ellen did as he asked. They were now in a small room where a long table was set in the middle and a buffet area along one wall. The other members of their group were already there talking among themselves. They grew quiet as she and Dr. Freeman joined them.

“I thought you guys would already be eating.”

“Not without you, Boss,” Michael said with a grin.

“You know better than that. Well, if no one else is going to start then I am.” Dr. Freeman picked up a plate off the stack on the buffet table. Everyone else followed his lead and lined up. Unsure of the protocol or the sitting arrangement, Ellen move to the back of the line. With her plate full of chicken and tropical fruit, she considered which chair to take.

“Come sit beside me,” Michael offered.

With a smile Ellen took the open seat. She glanced a Chance. His eyes narrowed as he looked in their direction.

She and Michael discussed where she was from and what she thought of her hut then he asked, “So Ellen, what brings you to our little slice of the world?” Michael asked.

She shrugged. “I wanted to work where I could make a difference.”

“You weren’t doing that where you were?” Dr. Freeman asked.

She hadn’t realized he’d been listening to their conversation.

“Yes, but these people really need someone here. I was seeing young mothers and babies. I found my job necessary and rewarding but there was a tug to do something more. Others were there to help those girls but not enough here to help these. I wanted to come here.”

“How did you find out about us?” Michael asked.

“I heard Dr. Freeman speak. I knew this is where I wanted to be.”

“Well, Chance. You made a convert.”

Dr. Freeman shrugged and went back to eating.

“So, what did you think about the work today?” Michael asked.

“It was different, I have to give you that. But I loved it.” She glanced to the end of the table where Dr. Freeman was sitting.

“You might feel differently after a few days of hot, unending work,” Dr. Freeman drawled.

“Aw, come on Chance, don’t scare her.” Michael smiled at her. “Don’t worry about him. The great Chance Freeman has seen so many people come and go here he’s a little cynical about all the new people. Many don’t stay the full six weeks. Some haven’t lasted but days. It’s made him a little jaded.”

“That’s enough, Michael.”

The doctor’s snap didn’t seem to faze Michael. He just grinned. Ellen looked at Dr. Freeman. “I don’t plan to be leaving anytime soon.”

“Dr. Freeman?” Michael chuckled. “We’re a casual bunch around here. First names work just fine. Especially after hours. Isn’t that right, Chance?”

He leaned back in his chair. “Sure.”

After that Michael turned his attention to Pete and Karen asking them about themselves.

Ellen concentrated on her dinner and was glad to have Dr. Freeman…uh Chance’s, attention off her. When everyone had finished laughing at a story Michael told, Chance tapped on the table with the back of his fork gaining their attention.

“Okay, we need to talk about tomorrow. We’ll be in the Tooca area. Near the River. This is our first time there so let’s be on our toes. We’ll need to be at the trucks at 4AM ready to roll. Get some sleep and be ready for a really long day.”

Ellen shuffled out of the dining room with the rest of the group. It turned out that Karen was housed not far from her so they walked back toward their huts together. After leaving Karen, Ellen continued along the path lit only by lights in the vegetation. Thankfully the porch lights were on at her and Chance’s huts. One of the staff at the resort must have come by while she was at dinner.

Ellen had just crawled under the covers when the light flicked on inside Chance’s hut. His silhouette crossed in front of the window. His passion for what he did was a major factor in why she’d came to Honduras. It was obvious he needed nurses and doctors to help him. So what was his problem with welcoming her?

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations

Introducing Charlotte Ellis

charlotte-ellis-bio-imageHello everyone!

I’m Charlotte the new Editorial Assistant for the Harlequin/Mills and Boon Medical Romance team. And seeing as I’ve been here at True Love towers for a couple of months I thought it was high time I introduced myself—but bear with me, writing about yourself is a lot harder than I first thought! Although as we’re on the countdown to Christmas and the Medical Romance Christmas line-up is in full swing I think it best to start there.

I’ve always been one of those people that was adamant Christmas celebrations should be saved until December and in our house the smooth melodies of Michael Bublé’s Christmas album and whimsical sound of ‘Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ (my favourite Christmas song) are not normally heard before December 1st. But recently I’ve realised how very wrong I was! Working at Harlequin/Mills and Boon you get the holiday season in abundance and I’m loving it! Not only do I get to work with the wonderful and real-life Medical Romance authors and our editorial team but the fact that our gorgeous doctor heroes start appearing in Christmas books from October means I can certainly see the benefits of the extended holiday season.

But that’s just one more thing to love about Christmas. For me the real magic of Christmas isn’t just the day itself but those few weeks in the run up to the special day and the anticipation that builds as each and every single chocolate is released from its little advent calendar prison!

So here are some of my favourite parts:

  1. The cold weather! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean actually being out in it! Being a netballer, I have had to endure the wind, rain and snow willingly on occasion, but I do not normally enjoy having to brave the elements. There is, however, a wonderfully magical appeal to curling up on the sofa with a mug of tea and the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy (though it’s not the same since the loss of McDreamy) and watching as the weather wages war outside.
  1. Family get-togethers. I love spending time with my family and Christmas for me is really an excuse to do just that. Our adaption of Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Disc’s’ into a family Christmas event has become an annual favourite.
  1. Christmas trees. Is there anything more wonderful than the smell of a Christmas tree?!
  1. The lights! Everything is lit up like, dare I say it, a Christmas tree, giving everything a beautiful glow and making the journey home from work much more festive.
  1. The chance to read a good book (or ten!). With the extra time off at Christmas the chance to read a good Christmassy book has finally arrived. And mixing it with a little romance makes it all the more magical. Indeed Medical Romance is stuffed full of Christmas crackers this year. From a wonderful Christmas duet by Emily Forbes and Amy Andrews, released in October, to a full on Christmas line up in November and December, including a gorgeous four-book seasonal linked miniseries set in maternity from Tina Beckett, Kate Hardy, Susannne Hampton and Scarlet Wilson and fabulous festive stories from Alison Roberts, Annie, O Neil, Janice Lynn, Amy Ruttan, Carol Marinelli, Sue MacKay, Susan Carlisle and Louisa Heaton. I can’t wait!

I’d love to hear from you so leave me a comment below (and tell me all about what makes your Christmas so special!)

Charlotte x

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations, Reading, The Writing Life, Women's Business

What Makes A Strong Woman Strong?

Hello, again!

maisey

 So, I’ve been thinking about what my blog should be today, and I kept coming back to an autumn theme. Joel and I have been doing a lot of autumn things lately – picking apples, buying pumpkins, photographing the turning leaves. Next week we’re going to take a fall foliage train excursion and we’re also going to an out-of-state park where 1100 carved jack-o-lanterns will be on display in the evening. So, autumn did seem like the logical choice for today. Then I looked at the date this blog was assigned – October 14 – my grandmother’s birthday, 127 years after the day she was born. And the topic of strong women came to mine. Priscilla Dosler Copp White was a strong woman, and probably the most influential woman in my life.

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She was a little German lady, born of German-English heritage. Raised in a tiny Pennsylvania Dutch community, she didn’t have much opportunity to become educated. Her schooling ended with 3rd grade, around age 8. She hadn’t learned math yet, but she taught herself in later years. And she hadn’t learned to write either, but again, she taught herself. She also taught herself to spell and to read because she valued education. Which is why, in later years, she took in laundry, scrubbed other people’s floors, did sewing—anything to save money to put each of her five children through college at a time this country’s economy had crashed.

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Nana, as I called her, married young. She was 17, but that was expected of young girls in 1906. Marry young, have children, cook, clean—that was pretty much their lot in life back then. Nana did all that. Plus, she was a mid-wife. No, she didn’t have any formal training, but all the pregnant ladies in her tiny town turned to her to help them through pregnancy and childbirth. Or when they had the flu. Or needed stitches. Even when I was a kid and someone in our neighborhood had a medical crisis, they came to Nana.

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On Sundays, Nana played the piano at the local Lutheran church. She also made all the choir robes and laundered them, directed the choir, arranged flowers for the altar, swept the floors, made sure the hymnals were in proper repair, fixed Sunday dinner for the pastor and his family, and called on people in her congregation who were ill. Every day of the week, she fed the “hobos” as she called them, telling me that her fence post was marked so anyone who needed a meal knew to stop by her house. She always had a pot of beans on cooking for down-and-out strangers who needed to eat. And she fixed daily meals for a number of shut-ins in her neighborhood. Sometimes she cooked for as many as five different families, as well as her own. She lived with us when I was growing up, and put the best German meals on the table you could ever want. In fact, she was still cooking right up until her death. Feeding her family was one of the great joys of her life.

Nana sewed, too. Beautifully. I was the best-dressed kid anywhere. But she didn’t just sew for me. She sewed for what she called “the poor people.” If she needed two yards of fabric for a dress, she’d buy four, make two dresses, and donate one. She darned socks because one hole didn’t mean it should be thrown away. Made curtains, bedspreads and tablecloths because the prices you paid for them in the stores were disgraceful. She re-upholstered furniture because why throw out a perfectly good chair when it wore out when you could just put new fabric on it? And she turned any and everything into lamps, or storage containers, or tables. The little table sitting next to my office chair was part of a kitchen set we had when I was a kid. She cut off the back, upholstered it and added ball fringe (her trademark). It’s been a functional piece of furniture in my life more years than I’ll admit.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 And, a spotless house—oh, my gosh, was she a housekeeper! I remember when I first left home, I wasn’t so tidy about my own apartment. But Nana would walk to my apartment several times a week (she never learned to drive) just to clean for me, do my laundry, stock my fridge, and do all the things she’d done for me my entire life. This was quite a chore for someone in her 80s, but that was Nana. Always busy. Always taking care of the people she loved. It was her love, not just for her family but for everyone she knew, that made her so strong, I believe.

Nana never held a regular job. She was a happily-married homemaker for 53 years, and after my grandfather died, she moved in with my family to take care of us. Quite honestly, I don’t remember a time in my young life when Nana wasn’t there. Of course, there were those big, explosive times when she was there too much—as in, she was one heck of a disciplinarian. Nana didn’t speak German around the house, even though she was raised in a German-speaking home herself. But when I got in trouble and heard the words – Gott im Himmel! – coming from her, it was time to run. I was in deep, deep trouble and there’s nothing scarier than a 93 pound, feisty German woman who is on the warpath.

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Reminiscing aside, Nana had one accomplishment in her life, other than her family, she was most proud of. My tiny little grandmother was a suffragette. She started her march for women’s right to vote in 1915, and kept on marching until 1919, when women in the United States were given that right. Her first ballot was cast in 1920, and she never missed voting in an election after that. She told me she’d worked too hard, for too long, to be considered equal, to throw it all away. To me, that made her more than my grandmother. It made her my hero. I think it made her a hero to women in general, too, because women like her made it possible for women like us to be us—women who are able to choose our destinies, whether it be staying at home to take care of our families, writing books, heading up international corporations or running for political office.

So today, on Nana’s birthday, I think about who I am, and about who so many other women are because of people like my grandmother. She had her place in this world. It was in her home, taking care of other people. Maybe that’s why I became a nurse. It was in her church, playing the piano. Maybe that’s why I became a musician. It was in teaching herself, by the light of an oil lamp, how to read and write. Maybe that’s why I became a writer. It was in marching for something she believed in. Maybe that’s why I became an advocate for equality.

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Happy Birthday, Nana!

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