Congratulations Debra Danz-Solitario on Twenty-Nine Footfalls!

Debra Danz-Solitario, former member of the American Women’s Club Writers Group, has a new “hot off the press” book, TWENTY-NINE FOOTFALLS.

In a shared insight, Debra noted, “the purpose of this book is threefold: first to immortalize my late husband, Tom; second to give my children a true unity of their parents’ art forms; but most importantly, ‘Twenty-Nine Footfalls’ is meant to reach out to any and all grieving hearts with true compassion in hopes of lending a guiding hand and an escape from silence and loneliness.”

Accompanying 29 photographs taken by her late husband, Thomas Danz, Debra’s twenty-nine short stories reveal her walk toward healing after her husband’s death.  Her stories are grouped into categories along the lines promulgated by the renowned Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her “stages of grief” model.

We’re so proud of Debra and her successful completion of this heart-felt book designed to help others on their own grief journey. Way to go, girlfriend!

(P.S. Deb didn’t ask for this but … the book is available on Amazon.)

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Karin and the Little Mouse by Daniela Agostini

Karin was airing out the picnic blanket on the clothesline when she heard a sad squeaking sound by the car in the garage. She followed the sound, bent down and asked tenderly, “Why are you crying little mouse?” The little mouse rubbed his eyes that were brimming with tears, then replied: “I left my nest in the roots of the Eucalyptus tree near the river to explore the inside of your car. I was hoping to find my way into the picnic basket that your mother had packed  for your trip to the river today. I found my way into your car and basket alright. But I am miles away from my home under the Eucalyptus tree by the river. In the dense underbrush underneath the tree is where my family has its nest. I should never have allowed myself to be lured by the goodies in the picnic basket.  When will I ever see my family again?” Karin felt sorry for the little mouse. Suddenly the mouse said, “Can you take me back to the river, to the big Eucalyptus tree. There is only one Eucalyptus tree in the clearing where you were.” Karin knew the way back to the tree but hesitated due to the distance involved in walking there.

The mouse was distraught and little mouse finally said, “I will grant you three wishes if you take me back to my family.”  An impish grin came over Karin’s face. She said, “very well, to begin with, I wish for a whole baking dish of chocolate mousse.” The little mouse huffed and puffed and with an exhale made a dish of chocolate mousse appear. Then little mouse said somewhat out of breath, “let us be on our way to the Eucalyptus tree and there I will grant you your two remaining wishes.”

Karin said, “very well” and placed little mouse into her jacket pocket and set out for the river. It was about an hour away on foot. Little mouse was happy to be carried for granting wishes made him tired and breathless. They finally reached the Eucalyptus tree and Karin was ready to make her 2nd wish. She wished for a blue velvet cape. The little mouse huffed and puffed and blew a blue velvet cape onto Karin’s back. Karin was delighted with the cape. She did not see however, how pale and exhausted the little mouse appeared after granting two of Karin’s wishes. The little mouse began to cough uncontrollably. “What’s wrong?” Karin asked. The little mouse said that granting wishes took a lot of energy out of him. The little mouse wrapped his tail around himself and tried to rest a little. But Karin said that the little mouse could rest after her last wish had been granted.

It was late and Karin had a long way to return home. Karin made her third and last wish. “I wish for an Icelandic pony.” Little mouse huffed and puffed and blew Karin’s wish into existence. Blowing life into things was most strenuous. In front of Karin appeared a beautiful white Icelandic pony. Karin grabbed the pony by its mane and jumped on its back. The magical pony followed Karin’s lead perfectly. Karin circled back to thank little mouse. But Karin found him motionless on the ground. Karin dismounted the pony and took the little mouse gently in her hands. “What is wrong?” she cried out.

Karin remembered that little mouse had said it took a lot of breath to make living things like a pony come to life and that he had needed to rest. Karin cried and cried, “Little mouse, wake up, little mouse wake-up.” Karin had the idea to take little mouse to the underbrush of the Eucalyptus tree. There she placed him on the ground in front of his home. She removed herself and from a distance she watched. The little mouse’s family crawled out from the brush carefully and were nudging him tenderly. And lo, the little mouse began to open his eyes and his family began to make squeaking noises of joy.

After almost losing her little friend, Karin promised to never again be so demanding as to put someone ‘s health at risk. Little mouse had strained himself to the point of over exhaustion. And never again would little mouse risk getting lost for a picnic basket. Karin got her three wishes and little mouse was returned to his family. Both Karin and little mouse learned lessons that day and so it was a good day to remember….

(c) All text copyright of Daniela Agostini, used with permission by Writing Women of Zurich.

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Deb Hoffmann – Eyewitness to the Sinking of the Andrea Doria



While I was a Boston College student, my creative writing and journalism teacher was Bill Meek of the Boston Globe.  He teased me about marrying a Swiss next summer and wondered whose life would be more fun, mine, or the recently married Grace Kelly of Monaco.             

On July 26, 1956, my parents and I boarded the SS Île de France for a lively departure for my 11th of August wedding. After the lifeboat drill, I was much too excited to go to my cabin before the Captains welcome cocktail and dinner.  Later I joined a group of young people and we talked about safety on the high seas.  The fog horns began to blow so they left but I decided to examine my ship.  Suddenly I felt vibrations and a slowing and turning of the ship.  This was most unusual, so I went below and saw the glassed-in deck was being curtained off and officers standing by.  I told my parents that something was going on and to get their cameras out and open their porthole.  I returned to the uppermost deck and found a deckchair with a blanket.

When I awoke, we were approaching the scene of a disaster with a large ocean liner listed way over and many small boats lighting it.  Soon the Île was lowering all lifeboats and going to the rescue. I found the radio room and asked what had happened, they told me that the MS Stockholm had come out of a fog bank to find itself on a collision course with the Italian ocean liner SS Andrea Doria. Our ship had heard the MAYDAY call when I felt it turn back.

Every effort to avoid the crash was made we learned later, but it was too late.  The Stockholm’s ice breaker prow crashed 30 ft into Andrea Doria’s 90 ft hull opening the watertight bulkheads and cutting off the electrical supply to them. Thus, the unsinkable Andrea Doria began to list immediately, and one could only imagine the fear of those aboard. Suitcases sliding around for the next mornings arrival in New York, some had been watching a movie and tried to find their cabins.  The Stockholm had backed away, closed its bulkheads and also sent lifeboats. Smaller boats picked up any who had been thrown overboard on impact. The sailors on the lifeboats held blankets to soften the fall of those jumping and for the children.  Many families were separated, and this was terrifying as well. There were a number of Italian immigrants who feared they had lost all of their possessions.

When the Île de France had done all it could, it turned and headed back to New York in the grey dawn.  We went below and looked in our suitcases for shoes or clothes we could replace and brought them to the deck where survivors were lying on deckchairs and left them. I also got out my typewriter and wrote about witnessing the disaster. When the pilot boat arrived to take us into the harbor, it was full of newspaper people.  I found the Globe reporter and passed my letter to him.

In New York we watched the survivors leave the ship, some on stretchers and all in various stages of dress. Hollywood actress Ruth Roman was desperately searching for her 3-year-old son and was overjoyed to see him walking down our gangplank hand in hand with a sailor.  A miracle child had been found on the prow of the Stockholm, the daughter of newscaster Edward P. Morgan, who had been told she was missing. The impact ejected her from her bed aboard the Andrea Doria onto the Stockholm and she only had a broken arm! In fact, only 35 people died that day, a miracle in itself.

The next day telegrams arrived from family and friends and classmates to say they had seen the disaster on TV, and that my report was headlined on the front page of The Boston Globe under the byline:    Deborah Potter Hoffmann.

PS:  My husband-to-be was in Basel having a haircut when the barber asked if he had seen the news that the Île de France had sunk in the early morning hours!  A newspaper was quickly brought to sighs of relief!

All text copyright of Deborah Potter Hoffmann, used with permission by Writing Women of Zurich.

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