What are you working on at the moment? I’m drafting Good Girl Gone Blue, a non-fiction account of my life as a “Blue” wife – married to a police officer…ten years but the streets got the best of him, which led to his adultery, ultimate divorce, first ever foreclosure, etc. The foreword is written by a psychologist who worked for and with the Dallas Police Department for 20 years which is very insightful, validating and supportive. I’m also including actual police reports to highlight the realities of the life as a Blue and a Blue Wife. Blue as in the color of the uniform, and Blue as in the resulting depression that emanates in the life. I’ve also completed two children’s nutrition books: The Blue Apple and Johnny’s New Race Car.
Putting a pen to words is an art, indeed a gift. Especially when those words have the power to change lives. Mary Lou Weisman was born in 1937 in Fairfield, Connecticut to a mother who believed that writing thank you notes was a high art, and to a father who was convinced that one of the great joys in life was the pursuit of the right word. According to Mary Lou, he was right and so was her mother. Mary Lou became a writer at the age of seven, mainly due to her father’s influence. Although initially she protested writing anything at all, she ultimately came to learn about gratitude and enjoyed searching for the right words to put on the notes. She couldn’t just write “Thank you, love Mary-Lou” when she received gifts. She felt compelled to both acknowledge it and graciously go on to tell the person who gave it to her exactly how she was going to use or enjoy their gift.
Later in life, unlike many of her classmates, she found she enjoyed writing term papers. She recalls two college literature teachers who complimented her on her writing ability. They were instrumental in helping Mary Lou take herself seriously as a writer. She feels she owes them a lot. Mary Lou obtained a solid liberal arts education, married, and secured a position as “clerk typist” in what was called, laughably, “a job in publishing.” The salary at that time during the 60s was a whopping $62.50 a week. She believed she was on her way to a career in journalism.
To this day, Mary Lou laughs at her unlikely success. She believes she’s still a work in progress, despite having published numerous books, articles, and journalistic works. At first she wasn’t sure she had the stamina for writing. Every single writing job involved an initial anxiety attack, but once she delved into the project, she found she loved the process. She describes the culmination of a writing project and the ultimate payoff as a thrilling sense of resolution and accomplishment. For Mary Lou, writing has become not only her career, but a passion. When she first began, she had no other ambition than merely to write. But over the years, she has fallen in love with the process. Of course Mary Lou still gets disappointed if her writing project gets rejected, but she never regrets having written.
Mary Lou is inspired still by her parents. Even though they had no intention of making a writer out of her, inadvertently through her mother’s interest in basic writing skills and good manners, and her father’s love of words, they did so. Later on, the professionals in her life, helped her to do her best. Mary Lou’s first newspaper editor, Paul Good, remarked, “You don’t write bad for a housewife, kiddo.” Some women might have taken offense to that, but for Mary Lou, it made her day. He was no feminist, but, hey, she was happy for the compliment. Further into her career, the editor of Woman’s Day, Ellen Levine, would invariably return her work back two or three times. Saying it could be better, without giving details, Levine never revealed what about the work she didn’t like. Ultimately, Mary Lou realized that there wasn’t anything specific Levine didn’t like. What she was trying to teach her was the life lesson that everything can always be better.
Despite working during the sixties, pre-women’s lib, Mary Lou remained naïve of any ways in which she’d ever been discriminated against as a woman. She believes this largely to be because she normally worked alone or among other women and did not compete with men directly in the marketplace. Although she’s never experienced a male writer, for instance, being chosen over her, Mary Lou constantly runs into a prejudice against women writers. She believes, that tendency is reflective of a lingering prejudice against women in general. If someone, male or female, asks her what she“does,” Mary Lou answers that she’s a writer. Often their next question is, “Have you been published?” She suspects that if she were a man, they wouldn’t ask her that question.
Mary Lou has written five books and scads of newspaper and magazine articles, all of which she considers to have been very rewarding. One of the books, MY MIDDLE-AGED BABY BOOK was a bestseller. Despite that commercial success, the book INTENSIVE CARE has given her the greatest sense of accomplishment. Not just because the book is about her beloved son Peter, who died at the young age of sixteen from Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, although that was enough to make it her most rewarding experience. -and not because it received high praise from literary critics, although she is humbled and rewarded by that, too. It is because so many mothers and fathers of children with Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy and other life-threatening diseases have written to Mary Lou, including myself, to thank her for writing an honest, unsentimental book. Mary Lou’s description of the painful saga is frank and unforgiving. From the very first chapter, she tells it like it is. Organizations like The Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy recommend that all families read this valuable life lesson. These families thank her for acknowledging how difficult their journey is, for inspiring them and for giving them the courage to go on.
Mary Lou is humbled that she was named a Belle of Steel. For her, writing is her passion. According the Mary Lou, “As anyone who has had a passion for anything – caring for the elderly, rearing children, playing the violin, fixing cars, teaching, — knows, passion is a strong driving force. If that passion is reinforced by talent, discipline, and a determination to persist in the face of rejection, you are likely to succeed.”
When asked what she hoped to be doing five years from now, again she was frank and honest. First and foremost, she’d like to be 81 and alive. Given that gift, she’d still like to be writing, teaching writing, enjoying her husband, grandchildren and friends, and traveling. But she supposes she won’t be riding her bike by then.
For her courage in writing the truth about an unpopular and devastating disease, and the book that has changed the lives of so many families, including mine, who face the battle of Duchenne’s, AgeView Press is proud to name Mary Lou Weisman its ninth Belle of Steel.
Contact Mary Lou Weisman at www.marylouweisman.com
There won’t be many words in this post. Just images. Images of those who sacrifice their time and service to protect our freedom. Our own United States Military. This weekend, as you sit around large tables filled with families and your feast. Stop. Take a moment. Say a prayer for our troops, both near and far who guard the sanctity of our nation each and every day.
This guest post by @Jrcclark1 is being re-blogged to honor our Veterans and thank them for their service.
Originally posted on Honor the Victims of Terrorism:
Like all mothers who have lost a loved one during military conflict, Cher Kondor struggled to find a means of emotional catharsis in the midst of her sorrow. Killed by an improvised explosive device (IED), her son, Army SPC Martin Kondor, became a casualty of the Iraq War on April 29, 2004 – and his death served as the inspiration behind a unique monument known as the Veterans Memorial Gold Star Healing & Peace Garden, located in York City, Pennsylvania. Constructed for the initial cost of $750,000, the garden honors the memory of Pennsylvania’s war dead, especially those lost to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Realization of the memorial came about in large degree from the efforts of Ms. Condor, who remembers hugging her son for the last time at the Philadelphia International Airport in January of 2004. Posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple…
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Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I look after my two girls, and when they’re at school I’m a teaching assistant. I love playing hockey, and help coach kids, mine included. Other interests include reading, building computers, squash, cycling, great days out with my wonderful wife and kids, as well of course as WRITING! I’m currently editing my second book in the series. This one is called ‘Bentwhistle The Dragon in A Chilling Revelation’.
What is your favorite quality about yourself?
I suppose my sense of humour. I always try and look on the bright side of anything, and I’d much rather be laughing than crying. It’s always lovely to see my kids laugh, and be rather cheeky at times…….although I’d never really tell them that. My sense of humour is interspersed throughout my book…….look out for the giant grinning spider.
What made you want to be a writer?
Oddly it just happened. Sounds a bit crazy really, but one night, when my eldest daughter was just a baby (she’s not far off 11 now) I had the single most realistic dream I’ve ever had. I didn’t remember it until the following day, but when I did, I swear it was just like watching a movie in my head…..so graphic, so intense, so…..mesmerising. Anyhow, I told my wife, who was gobsmacked to say the least. And so was what she said to me, “You have to write it, you just have to.” At the time I just laughed off her idea, bearing in mind that at the time I could only type with two fingers. But over a period of I suppose months, I kept getting more dreams, flashbacks into the story…….sometimes little details, sometimes insights into the characters, sometimes twists and turns to do with the plot. In the end I suppose looking back it was inevitable that I would write it. First I taught myself to type properly…..3 months, and then, well………..I began. At first I needed complete silence to be able to write, something there wasn’t a lot of bearing in mind I was taking care of one young child, with another on the way. But over time I’ve learned to filter it all out and can now write with the kids playing around me if I need to, but I still think I do work more efficiently in total silence. It has taken a long time, and I was surprised how hard and crucial the editing process was. But in the end it was most definitely worth it.
The most surprising part of all though, is that sometimes…the words just flow out of you, almost as if it were supposed to be that way. On occasions, I’ve sat down to write for half an hour or an hour, and in the blink of an eye, over two hours have passed, and I’ve written three or four times the amount I was aiming for. It’s a little bit spooky, in a good way, but wonderful and rewarding at the same time. I wouldn’t swap it for anything.
How did you come up with the title?
The whole story came to me in a dream one night, and in the dream, I could see the main character in his dragon form, with this very clear marking of a bent whistle, etched on his scales……hence his name…..Peter Bentwhistle. Whenever I think of him, that’s the first thing that pops into my head. As for the ‘threat from the past’, that’s more about the opening part of the book, that in my mind loops around and connects to the very ending, while still leaving a few unanswered questions for the readers to think about. All will be revealed, some bits in the not too distant future.
What do you do when you are not writing?
When I’m not writing I like to either spend time with my wife and children, or play hockey. A day at the beach down in Swanage or Hengistbury Head followed by a meal out on the way back sounds perfect. If not that, a family bike ride somewhere or a walk in the New Forest. I do love a game of hockey with my friends at Salisbury hockey club, but as I get older it’s much harder to do on a regular basis. I help coach my kids and other children every Sunday morning though, and still try to get to men’s training weekly. Playing squash weekly with an old friend, helps me get through the week. (He’s mentioned in the book.)
What was your favorite part of the book to write? Why?
My favorite part to write was easily the second to last chapter……….’Fawking Hell!!!!!’ As you may have gathered from the chapter title, it has something to do with bonfire night. This whole chapter had been in my head for years before I started writing it, and given that it’s around twenty-two thousand words long, I absolutely whizzed through it. It was a pleasure to write, and the words just zipped out of my head and on to the screen. I could genuinely see every little detail of what happens. Twists and turns abound in that chapter, and it includes a graphic fight scene, which ends in a most unexpected way. It’s easily my favorite part of the book, and just thinking about it sends goose bumps down both of my arms.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Well, I’ve only just finished writing my follow up book….’Bentwhistle The Dragon in A Chilling Revelation’, and before any editing it’s just over 215, 000 words long, considerably longer than the previous one. It picks up pretty much from where the first book left off. Only in this one, things get much……..chillier. Quite literally. There’s another tale from the nursery ring (where dragons grow up), related to something that happens much further on in the book. Old and new characters alike feature in what I think is an adventure even more action packed throughout. We come across the mysterious nagas, for good or bad, and we learn a little bit more about the background and living conditions of the king, as well as discovering that he’s far from past his sell by date. There’s much more dragon and human team sport. Tank, one of Peter’s friends, even gets to play a whole detailed game of rugby, in a much similar vein to Peter’s hockey match in the first book. Plus more death defying laminium ball matches, this time in the league, rather than the global cup, with the Indigo Warriors perhaps biting off a little bit more than they can chew. Some of the action here is truly EXPLOSIVE! (A clue, methinks…) The characters, new and old alike, reveal a little bit more about themselves, with something for everyone. The new places visited include Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Egypt, USA, and of course the underground world of the dragon domain. My warped sense of humour still features in places of course. Watch out especially for two of the King’s Guards in the early part of the book, that are particularly good value on that front. Other than that, there’s not much more I can tell you without giving away some of the plot, which of course I’m reluctant to do.
The Goodreads page for my book can be found here
Keep up with Paul Cude on facebook here
Or on twitter @paul_cude
What would it be like to be aboard a floating city of men? Essentially , a men’s only club, where the sign reads “No Girls Allowed.” Retired Navy Captain Valerie Ormond knows. She was among the first female naval intelligence officers aboard a combat ship for the United States Navy. One of very few women aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.
An aircraft carrier’s crew consists of the ship’s company, those permanently assigned to the ship, and the air wing personnel, who come on when the air wing is deployed. Normally, the air wing comes aboard for training, work ups, and deployments. The total ship’s company is normally around 3200. The air wing totals about 2400. Therefore, the total personnel on board a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is usually over 5500 people. In addition, there are others that are not part of the ship’s company. These peeps consist of NCIS agents, contractors, teachers, the Admiral’s staff, and the like. Some interesting factoids on the USS Abraham Lincoln and photos can be found here.
The number of women assigned to the USS Abraham Lincoln’s ship’s company, air wing, and Admiral’s staff was 363 out of 5500. She was one woman amidst a sea of men.
Valerie was assigned to Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron FIVE (VQ-5) as part of Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN (CVW-11) from November 1994 – July 1996. Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron FIVE flew the ES-3A Shadow, an aircraft carrier-based electronic reconnaissance aircraft. Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN was assigned to the USS Abraham Lincoln in 1994 and 1995. Missions included a Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf deployment participating in Operation Southern Watch, the enforcement of the no-fly zone over southern Iraq, and Operation Vigilant Sentinel, in response to Iraqi threats against Jordan and Kuwait. VQ-5 is now decommissioned, but for some great data on VQ-5 and naval aviation click here .
As an intelligence officer, Valerie found that being on the squadron’s first six-month deployment on board a carrier with real world missions to be very fulfilling. There were some who said that as a woman, she had no place there.
But Valerie would hear nothing of it. To her, it mattered not whether she was male or female. She was there to use her mind over matters of war. With a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Mass Communication from Towson University in Maryland, as well as a Master of Science in Strategic Intelligence from the Defense Intelligence College in Washington, D.C., she was a match for any man’s mind. She loved school and learning, and it showed. Valerie later attended the U.S. Army War College and was awarded her second Master’s degree in Strategic Studies. She believes that all of that schooling reinforced what her parents taught her early on: education teaches one how to think.
Valerie’s training has ranged from basic military survival skills to executive military leadership. But she doesn’t believe that any education or training is as important as experience. She feels she’s learned from every experience and as such, has tried to apply that learning to future steps in life.
As a retired, decorated, naval officer, Valerie never dreamed she would be where she is now; especially as an author. She didn’t plan either path from childhood, but fortunately followed where life led her. One of Valerie’s favorite quotes is from Alfred Lord Tennyson, “I am a part of all those I have met.” She describes being lucky to have met extraordinary people and sharing the lessons learned from them with others.
The top two mentors who have inspired Valerie are retired Vice Admiral Jake Jacoby, U.S. Navy, and her dad. But her mother comes in a very close third! Admiral Jacoby believed in her, supported her, and never told her she couldn’t do something because she was a woman. He advised her to take jobs which at the time she didn’t understand would be the best for her and her future in the navy. Valerie now understands that being a mentor doesn’t mean always telling the person who seeks your guidance what THEY want to hear. Sometimes a mentor must bear bad news and say, “No, I understand that’s what you’d like to do, but this is what you need to do.” She appreciates that Admiral Jacoby took her under his wing and never steered her wrong.
Although Valerie hadn’t planned on a naval career from childhood, her father indoctrinated her in the Navy from day one. Her father served as an active duty officer, a reservist, a naval civilian, and a navy contractor. Quite simply – he loved the navy. A ship’s clock rang in their house 24/7. Her dad explained the meaning of the bells and their relation to watch shifts aboard ships. Her brother and she grew up with and learned expressions like “Rank Has Its Privileges,” “Change Step Move Out,” and “Reveille, Reveille” in grade school. Her father taught her about navy traditions, leadership, and the pride and value of service. Interestingly, he was also a very gifted writer, which he never pursued beyond a hobby.
With such a strong, naval minded father, what about her mother? Valerie describes her as “brilliant, sassy, creative, supportive, and still working at the age of 78. Need I say more?” Valerie thinks SHE is the real “Belle of Steel” here.
Concerning obstacles in her path to success in a male dominated world, Valerie remembers early in her navy career being teased by salty fleet sailors. They felt since she hadn’t served at sea, that somehow she was a less worthy member of the team. It made no difference to them that there were so few positions at sea for women officers at the time. And they were not being filled by English major Ensigns. A memory struck her regarding the sign outside of a boy’s fort. “No Girls Allowed.” As a young girl, she would have walked in and challenged the threat, but Valerie knew the United States Navy was far from a kid’s fort. Protocol and decorum were at play. She had to navigate the game.
Although she felt it was unfair to have something held against her, it was something over which she had no control. She volunteered for and served in assignments designated “sea duty equivalent” per the bureaucracy, but that didn’t seem to matter to naysayers. The impetus which compelled her to do her part occurred when the exclusion on women serving on combat ships and in aviation squadrons was lifted in 1993. She decided she could and would overcome the obstacle. Finally, she had the Navy’s permission to enter the fort.
When the first jobs opened up for female intelligence officers on combat ships, there were few positions for the many seeking them. Valerie was lined up for four separate jobs before she finally received orders as one of the first women aboard a combatant aircraft carrier as an intelligence officer in its air wing. Persistence, flexibility, and a willingness to do things never done before paid off in the end.
Valerie believes her most rewarding experiences in the military occurred when she could do something for someone else. In her current career as an author and national speaker, sharing her leadership experiences with others through media is the most rewarding experience. It struck her that she still had much to offer. Valerie believes that sometimes, “We don’t know what we know about ourselves until we share with others.”
As a naval officer, Valerie attributes one of her personal strengths to be the revelation that she can’t do everything herself. It was earth-shattering to realize that it’s okay to admit that. Valerie knows that tenant probably comes from having support from so many for so long. To this day, she is thankful to have the most amazing support a person could ask for from her husband, also a retired naval officer. She never takes that for granted. Valerie describes herself as someone not afraid of change. In fact, she’s become pretty good at not only accepting, but embracing, change. And finally, Valerie still believes that everything happens for a reason. Her mantra? Rather than dwell on the negative, try to move on to the positive.
Five years from now Valerie would like to still be helping other people – such as young women aspiring to leadership positions . She trusts that helping someone else by sharing something she’s learned will achieve goals far beyond her own. Her award winning book, Believing in Horses just won the Gold in young adult fiction for the Military Writer’s Society of America. It is a story of a young girl whose father is serving in Afghanistan. It’s a coming of age story regarding overcoming the fear of losing her father in battle through horsemanship. The powerful fiction is a beacon for children of deployed parents. Again, Valerie giving hope. For this reason, AgeView Press is proud to select retired Captain Valerie Ormond, U.S. Navy (Ret.) as Belle of Steel #10.
Follow Valerie Ormond and her career inspiring others.
On a rainy Sunday afternoon in Baltimore, MD, I was desperate to catch my flight back to Dallas. After all, my showtime as an author over, it was back to reality. On Monday AM, I was due back at my real job. The one that paid the aching nursing.
Honored to have been selected to participate, I had been in DC as a part of an amazing group. Academy Women, a Women in Military Service leadership group had invited four authors, all book award finalists from the Military Writer’s Society of America. I was one of them. What an amazing event it had been. Young, brilliantly smart women representing the multi-cultural tapestry of America. Midshipmen, Cadets, Lt. Colonels and Generals. Students and leaders. Active duty and retired. It was a mecca of honor, courage and commitment.
The two day conference, designed to mentor future women leaders of tomorrow was held at the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Hallowed halls depicting the history of women’s service within our U.S. armed forces. As featured authors, we presented on what motivated us to write about women in service.
I had timed my departure from Arlington down to the tee. A quick dart up 295 to the Baltimore-Washington parkway and I would be on my way to BWI – and my Southwest Airlines flight back to Dallas Love Field. Except for one small detail, somehow I missed my turn. I was on 395 and then Highway 50, being stopped at every red light in roughtown DC! There wasn’t a chance in heck I was going to make my 5:20 PM departure. And that was the last series of flights back to Dallas that evening.
To make matters worse, once I got to I-95 into Baltimore, my cell phone died. I had no way to notify Southwest I was going to miss my flight! According to the new cancellation policy, I would lose those funds. For a starving author, that simply wouldn’t do. This honorary trip has alrea-dy cost me more than $400 bucks.
As I approached the terminal, I had to make a choice. Return the rental car and surely miss the ten minute notification window or park at departures illegally, run in and try to find an agent. I chose the second. Rushing inside the terminal I spotted Southwest gate agent, Darlene F. She greeted me with calm reserve. “Take a deep breath, with the rainy weather, some of our flights are about ten minutes late.
“No, you don’t understand” I protested. “My plane to Dallas leaves in twelve -minutes. I am going to miss it and couldn’t notify you. I can’t afford another ticket!” my voice quivered. The tears had started up.
“Just breathe. Consider me Lois Lane. See Clark Kent over there?” she joked pointing to a grey haired, pleasant gentlemen at check in. “We’re gonna work some magic for you and save the day. Have you got your reservation?”
I nodded and handed her the copy of the electronic ticket. -
“You go turn in your rental car, before you get a ticket. When you come back, just find me. We’ll have it all worked out for ya. No need for those tears.”
I smiled then with a huge sense of relief. Dashing back out the front door of the terminal, I managed to get to my rented VW bug just before the airport cops made it around the circle. Off to the rental car pavilion some two miles away. Then, back on the rental car bus to the terminal. Total time? Fifteen minutes. It was now just after 5:00 PM.
Running into the terminal, I spotted “Lois.”
“Here comes your problem child” I called out.
“Head over to Kent” she pointed. “He’s gotcha all sorted out.”
“Really? Wow, you guys are awesome!”
“That’s what cha get when you fly Southwest. Great customer service”
“Boy, no kidding! Thank you so much” I exclaimed.
As I made my way to the counter, My “Clark Kent” who was really gate agent Kent B. gave me a big smile. “Got cha all taken care of. We routed you through St. Louis, but you’ll be home before bedtime. Your flight leaves in twenty minutes”
“Wow, you guys are just awesome. I can’t tell you enough how great my service has been on Southwest! Great flight attendants. Kind, upbeat people at the counters. It’s been great!”
“Thanks, just doing our jobs. But it’s nice to hear.”
What surely would have been a missed flight and hassle on another airline, was made doable by people that really care about their customers. Thanks Southwest – yet again. I know I have a choice when I fly. Thanks for reminding me why I love to fly Southwest!