Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Fill-Ins we go!

1. I was running around like a crazy lady today.

2. I was falling asleep so I left my book on the night stand.

3. Why can't we have more time to read?

4. My husband is in my thoughts today because he's been so helpful lately.

5. One of my father's favorite sayings was just try your best.

6. Tired from working too hard--I know that feeling!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to relaxing, tomorrow my plans include doing all my writing and Sunday, I want to relax, relax, relax!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Author Interview: Margaret Fuchs Singer

During the post-World War II era of McCarthyism, thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and. The primary targets of such suspicions were government employees, those in the entertainment industry, educators and union activists.

Suspicions were often given credence despite the lack of evidence and the level of threat posed by a person's real or supposed leftist associations or beliefs was often greatly exaggerated. Many people suffered loss of employment, careers were ruined and some were imprisoned.

The historical period that came to be known as the McCarthy era began well before Joseph McCarthy's own involvement in it. Many factors contributed to McCarthyism, some of them extending back to the years of the first Red Scare (1917–20), inspired by Communism's emergence as a recognized political force.

Thanks in part to its success in organizinglabor unions and its early opposition to facism, the Communist Party of the United States increased its membership through the 1930s, reaching a peak of about 75,000 members in 1940–41.

While the United States was engaged in World War II and allied with the Soviet Union, the issue of anti-communism was largely muted. With the end of World War II, the Cold War began almost immediately and lasted until 1991.

Some blamed the rise of McCarthyism on liberal reforms, such as child labor laws and women’s suffrage, which were often called “Red plots.” This increased in the 1930s as conservatives saw the New Deal policies as socialist or Communist. They said the policies were evidence the government had been influenced by Community policy makers.

In 1940, the Alien Registration Act made it a criminal offense for anyone to “knowingly or willfully advocate … the desirability overthrowing the Government of the United States … or for anyone to organize any association which teaches, advises or encourages such an overthrow.”

As a result, hundreds were prosecuted between 1941 and 1957, including 11 leaders of the Communist party. All their defense attorneys were cited for contempt of courts and were also given prison sentences.

By 1957, 140 leaders and members of the Communist party had been charged, with 93 convicted. However, by that time, McCarthyism was weakening due to changing public sentiments.

In 1958, the Supreme Courts put a stop to the State Department’s ability to refuse passports based on an applicant’s communist beliefs or associations.

Yet, even though McCarthyism was dead, its legacy continued to live on in the families of those who suffered because of it. One such person was Margaret Fuchs Singer, whose father was accused of being a Communist sympathizer because of a former association with the party. In order to avoid prison, he was required to testify against those he knew were – or at one time were – also members of the party.

In “Legacy of a False Promise: A Daughter’s Reckoning,” Margaret tells the story of her life growing up around the trial and the effect it had on her father and her family.

Today, it is my privilege to introduce you to this fascinating story and to the woman who wrote it.

Tell us a little about yourself and your family outside of your writing.

Ann Arbor has been my home for more than 34 years. I moved here from Manhattan shortly after meeting my husband Michael in 1976. I find Ann Arbor a wonderful place to live. The educational, medical and cultural opportunities we enjoy are as good as any in the country and it’s possible to live a sane and balanced life here.

Michael and I have two terrific grown children, a daughter, a teacher and life coach who lives in Massachusetts and a son who works in marketing and lives in Chicago. In March, our daughter gave birth to a beautiful baby boy – our first grandchild. Michael and I are involved in the Jewish Community in Ann Arbor and consider ourselves very fortunate to have so many friends.

In 2000, I retired from my position as a supervisor at the Washtenaw Intermediate School District after a 35-year career in special education. I worked with wonderful people at WISD and am glad to have been involved in such important work.

My retirement gave me an opportunity to immerse myself in the creative activities that have always intrigued me. Aside from my writing, which includes Legacy, several published articles and an as-yet unpublished children’s story and book of autobiographical short shorts, I have established a photography and fabric art business, A Moment to Remember. My work has been exhibited in galleries and other venues in Ann Arbor and in Deer Isle, Maine, where we have a summer residence. The work includes art and portrait photography, quilted wall hangings, landscape collages and baby quilts.

Right now, I’m involved in marketing my book, an intriguing and time-consuming undertaking. After that, who knows? I’m thinking of writing a novel – maybe a spy thriller.

Why did you decide to write your book?

Before my father’s death in 1988, I could never have allowed myself to write about what happened to our family in 1955. Dad would not have tolerated my re-exposing the family by writing about our “troubles.”

The idea of writing did occur to me, in a major way, after reading Carl Bernstein’s memoir, Loyalties. Bernstein was also the child of Communists, brought up in D.C.

Moved to tears from page one, I resonated to the feelings he described in his story: confusion, shame, pride, curiosity.

My mother died in April of 1996. It was then the urge to write became an obsession. Soon after her death, I attended my first writing workshop and my memoir was launched; there was no turning back.

Michael was surprised when I read the first chapter to him. “Where did this come from?” he asked, taken aback by the intensity of feeling expressed. I knew his shock and interest augured well for the book. I was as surprised as he was by what I had written; it seemed to have come from some place I didn’t recognize as my own.

You did a lot of research. What were some of the roadblocks you ran into?

1. I waited many years for my mother’s and my father’s FBI files.
2. Some of the records (of HUAC hearings) were not accessible until 50 years had passed since the time the hearings took place.
3. KGB files out of the former Soviet Union were open to western historians for a few years in the early 1990s; then, they were closed again. There’s so much we still don’t know about Soviet espionage in our country.
4. Many of the people who could have answered my questions died before I was able to contact them.

How did writing this book change your life?

As my book reveals, I experienced a great deal of shame and grief connected with the events my family experienced during the 1950s.

On July 10, 1955, the story of my father’s HUAC testimony broke in the Washington Star. For the next two years, the secret of my parents’ former Communist membership became national news, causing us deep humiliation and paranoia. When it was all over and the crisis was behind us, the secret in its new form went underground.

For the next 40 years, we avoided talking about “the troubles” – until my parents died and my need to write, to rid myself of the family shame, became all-consuming.

I spent the next 12 years researching, writing and finally publishing my book.

Now, my secret is out; the truth has set me free.

What’s the best writing advice you ever received?

Read, read, read!
Take a writing class.
Join a writing group.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about undertaking this sort of project?

Believe in yourself and your story and be willing to work hard to reach your goals.

Thank you, Margaret, for being here today. I truly learned a lot from reading your book and I know others will enjoy it, too.

Legacy of a False Promise: A Daughter's Reckoning

By Margaret Fuchs Singer

From the book jacket:

“Margaret Fuchs was thirteen in June 1955 when she learned that her parents had been Communists while working for the U.S. government in the 1930s and ‘40s. This book chronicles the years during which her parents were exposed and her father was subpoenaed before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Eventually he named names, and subsequently lost his job as a law professor at American University and was blacklisted from teaching. This book also details the author’s quest as an adult to learn whether or not her parents ever spied for the Soviet Union.”

It was never a question of if Margaret Fuchs Singer’s parents were Communists, as her father openly admitted he was – at one time – a member of the party. It was a really a matter of how deeply involved they were. And that’s exactly what Margaret sets out to try to find out.

In “Legacy,” she tells her parents’ story, especially her father’s, and talks about how it affected her and her brother when they found out they were being investigated, as well as when her father faced possible imprisonment and lost his job. She then goes on to talk about how she conducted her research and what she finally discovered.

Margaret did an excellent job writing this book. I’ve read other books where the authors describe their research and it becomes a dry read. This was anything but that. It really brings a difficult time in our country’s history to light and provides a better understanding of the tension during that era and why the government found it necessary to conduct the investigations.

I applaud Margaret’s tenacity and bravery she needed to write this book. She went about it with honesty and revealed her own personality so the reader feels a true part of the story.

“Legacy” is a poignant and well-written memoir most people will definitely enjoy.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday Mail Call

This weekend was the opening of little league season in many areas, including ours. My grandson will be playing T-ball this year, so it will be fun to see some of his games.

Hubby did quite a bit of work in the yard this weekend. I suppose part of that is my fault. I made the mistake of going into the gardening section when we were at Lowe's the other evening! I just can't resist all the plants they have.

Unfortunately, I was unable to spend much time outdoors. My computer was shut down for three days, so I had tons of work to catch up on. But next weekend ... watch out!

These are the books I received in my mailbox this past week:

1. The Sweetheart's Knitting Club by Lori Wilde
2. The Healers by Thomas Heric
3. Grounded by Sandra Cox (the package included a pretty bracelet, magnets and a handmade card I can use as a bookmark)

In my email box, I got a copy of Gypsy Moon by Brianna Roarke.

I hope everyone has a great week. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Short story review: The After School Question

This is a really sweet little story by Kimberlee Mendoza about Riki, a high school girl who has had a crush on one of her best friends for years. They've grown up together, but she doesn't know how to take their friendship to the next level.

Just when she thinks Corey is finally interested in her, another boy tries to get in the way.

Will Corey ask her to the school dance? Or has the other boy scared him off?

Enlightened Cakes

By Camilla V. Saulsbury

From the book jacket:

“If you have had a lifelong love affair with cake but cringe at the thought of all the fat and calories, Enlightened Cakes is for you. Full of ‘lighter’ versions of old favorites as well as fresh, new combinations, the cakes found in this collection are also a breeze to make.”

Camilla Saulsbury again brings one of her “enlightened” recipe books to the shelves as she offers more than 100 cakes that are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.

What I really liked about this book was the way the recipes are arranged. There are separate chapters for old favorites, icings, layer cakes, cheesecakes and, even, cupcakes! How fun is that?

And, as always, her recipes are easy to make and absolutely delightful.

I’ve reviewed other “enlightened” recipe books by this author and I love adding her books to my kitchen shelf. The review for “Enlightened Soups” can be found here and “Enlightened Chocolate” here. These are wonderful cookbooks, but the one issue I’ve had with all her books is the minimal number of pictures because I really do like to see what the recipe is supposed to look like.

With “Enlightened Cakes,” there are no pictures at all, which is especially disappointing. However, anyone who does a lot of cooking and baking should be able to imagine what the recipe will look like. After all, a cake looks like a cake … or at least it should!

If you’re trying to cut back on fat and calories, I highly recommend this series. These recipes allow you to eat healthier without sacrificing taste and that’s a plus in my book.

And you might want to check out Camilla’s Enlightened Cooking blog where she shares recipes, product reviews and giveaways with her readers.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Friday Fill-Ins

I'm posting this a day late because I've been without my computer since Thursday.

We had to replace a piece of ceiling in the room I use for my writing. Hubby took down one corner and dust was everywhere.

This isn't ordinary dust ... it's sheetrock dust, which is a fine white powder that settles over everything. In fact, he had to take out the smoke detector while he was working because the air was so full of dust, it kept going off.

He put a tarp over my work station to protect the computer, but it couldn't be removed until all the dust settled and it was cleaned up around my desk.

Finally, about an hour ago, everything was pretty much cleaned up and I powered up the old CPU, held my breath and watched Windows open. Whew! What a relief! I had this awful fear it was going to blow up, but all is well.

However, I spent the past hour going through emails. I have several addresses because each one is for a specific purpose. The emails were piled up and I had to sort, read, delete, etc.

Of course, not only did the emails pile up, but so did the work I needed to get done.

On a positive (I think!) note, being without my computer forced me to take a couple days off from working, which was probably a good idea because I have two weeks of non-stop writing ahead of me. Now, though, I think I'm addicted to HGTV!

So, here's my post for the Friday Fill-Ins, which is hosted by Janet at her blog, which you can find here. we go!

1. Where are my best friends from high school?
2. If wishes were horses I'd be unable to ride them.
3. I'd like to see more sunny days so I can take some pictures of my garden.
4. When I was a teen, I thought I'd never be as happy as I am today.
5. One of my mother's favorite sayings was don't marry a man like your father.
6. I'd have a hard time doing without my computer the last couple days.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to watching TV, tomorrow my plans include catching up on my emails and Sunday, I want to relax but I have so much work to do since my computer was down the last couple days!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ladybugs: Nature's Little Wonder

In celebration of Earth Day, I'm posting some information on ladybugs I hope you'll enjoy! These pretty little whimsical beetles are often associated with Earth Day because they are so beneficial to both home and commercial gardens.

Why do ladybugs have spots?

When you think of a ladybug, you probably have a picture in your mind of a little beetle that is bright red with several black spots on it. That’s how most people picture ladybugs and these are the most well known of all of the ladybug species.

Not all ladybugs have black spots on them, though, and not all ladybugs are red. There are many different species of ladybugs and they all look a little different in their colors and patterns. But since you, and most people, think of a ladybug as the red, spotted variety, you might wonder why ladybugs have their spots and what they mean.

The reason entomologists think ladybugs have such brilliant red coloring and black spots is to warn predators they taste really bad and are a little bit poisonous. Once a bird eats that first ladybug, it will get so sick it won’t ever want to eat another one and it will remember the unique colors and spots of the ladybug and stay far away from them.

How ladybugs can help your garden

The scientific name for a ladybug is a coccinellidae, which means ‘little red sphere,’ or coleoptera, which means ‘sheath-winged,’ but most people just call them ladybugs, lady beetles or ladybird beetles.

In the 1800s, orange and lemon farmers in California began having problems with insects destroying whole groves of orange and lemon trees. The insects were Australian scale insects, so the farmers imported Australian ladybugs and released them into the orchards. Within two years, the orchards were free of the scale bugs and the entire orange and lemon industry was saved by the ladybugs.

Today people buy ladybugs in smaller amounts to release into their gardens to have healthy plants without having to use pesticides. You can get some from your local nursery or garden center to use in your garden. You can also order ladybugs online.

The best ladybug species to use in the garden or on a farm are called hippodamia convergens. You can recognize these ladybugs by the two white dashes that are on the back of its body above the hard wing casings. These ladybugs can eat a ton of aphids in no time and they will stick around to protect your garden for a long time, too.

What do ladybugs eat?

Most ladybugs are predators. They eat other insects, most of which are considered pests to humans who like to grow plants for food or beauty. They are often called a ‘gardener’s best friend.’

The most common insects ladybugs eat are aphids. They also eat other insects that have soft bodies, like mites, white flies and scale insects – all of which are pests of plants.

The sub-family Epilachninae is actually considered vegetarian ladybugs. Some eat fungus, like mushrooms. There are some that like to dine on mildew.

Even more fun facts

· A Ladybug can lay up to 1000 eggs in its lifetime.

· Not all Ladybugs have spots.

· Ladybugs will clean themselves after a meal.

· Ladybugs come in many colors like pink, yellow, white, orange and black.

· Over 300 types of Ladybugs live in North America.

· Ladybugs hibernate in large groups in cold weather.

· Many countries consider a ladybug to be a sign of good luck.

· The spots on a Ladybug fade as they get older.

This article is courtesy of the website Ladybug Life Cycle. If you visit their site, you can find out more interesting facts. As a bonus, you can order ladybugs, ladybug growing kits and ladybug houses. Plus, you can download ladybug activity and coloring pages for the kids.

For even more information, be sure to watch the video I posted yesterday.