Morning Coffee: The Wedding

SummerNot a wedding. The Wedding. You know which one I mean, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the handsome ginger-haired British prince and the divorced bi-racial American actress. The new Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Until now, a storyline you’d only find in a romance novel.

Millions of people from around the world watched in awe, many getting up very early or staying up all night, so as to not miss a moment of the magic. There were the celebrities alongside the royals. There was the bride’s African American mother wiping tears of joy from her face while the groom’s family sat stoically and stone-faced in their seats; no doubt happy for the prince but just not accustomed to showing their emotions. And then there was the black American Episcopalian Rev Michael Curry who gave a beautiful and rousing sermon on love; again, much to the surprise of the royal family.

A lot was said about what everyone was wearing: the style, the designer, the color, and, of course, the hats. Leading up to the big day much was heard from the bride’s half-sister and half-brother about why they thought she was evil and hateful. Speculations were made over whether or not her father would be there to give her away…and ultimately, why not. I think there was probably more jealousy and tabloid money greed than heartfelt warnings behind their tales of woe.

What struck me the most, other than the beautiful clothes and flowers and people, was the love. The prince said, “You look amazing!” when his beautiful bride was handed to him at the altar. He could be seen wiping tears from his eyes on more than one occasion. The bride looked at him with a smile that could have lit all of St George’s Chapel brighter than any candles, electric lights, and the sun combined. They held hands during the ceremony. The Reverend was right when he spoke of “the redemptive power of love.” Love is everything. Love is all that matters. Before the ceremony I was uncertain whether or not I believed this marriage would last because the bride comes from such a different world than the groom. But when they looked at each other and said their vows I knew it was real. This is a love that can overcome everything thrown in its path. Perhaps because Prince Harry will never be king that pressure is off. He’s currently sixth in line to the throne. Or perhaps it’s because of Love. Love with a capital L.

*  Next week I’ll be on vacation. I’m going fishing in Canada and will be off the grid for a full week. I’ll be back on June 9th, when I’ll hopefully have a fish picture to rival my big catch of two years ago.

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June 2016
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Morning Coffee: The Perfect Staycation

SummerCost aside, even in good times getting away on a vacation can be impossible. Parents’ work schedules. Kids’ school and sports schedules. What to do with the pets while you’re gone. All these things and more can get in the way of getting away; thus, the “staycation”. It’s a vacation without leaving the privacy of your own home. No crowds, no traffic, no impossibly long TSA screening lines at the airport.

A staycation can be as short or as long as you want. Maybe all you can manage is a quiet Sunday afternoon. That’s alright. Pop yourself a beer or pour a glass of wine, lemonade, if you prefer, and pick up the book of your choice. Within minutes you can be anywhere in the world or in another time period. If you prefer SciFi or Fantasy you can transport yourself onto an entirely different planet or a fantastical world of the author’s imagination. It doesn’t even have to be a work of fiction. A good biography can make you feel like you’ve just met the person you most admire. Perhaps you always wondered what it was like to fight for the Union army, or wished you were a fly on the wall during the coronation (or overthrow) of a great ruler. All these things and more can be found in a book.

Lately my life has become very busy. There have been the events already on my calendar and all those that came up last minute. This has prevented me from writing much more than this blog for almost two months; but I have still managed to do a lot of reading. There’s the benefit of studying how a favorite author, old or new, pieces together their story, as well as the chance to turn off all the to-do lists that keep scrolling through my brain. Even an hour or two before I turn off my light at night makes all the difference.

Right now I’m reading a non-fiction account of a then famous murder in 1889 Paris and the world-wide search for the guilty pair. The criminal forensics were new for the time. The woman involved claimed she was not guilty because she was under the hypnotic power of her lover and partner-in-crime. Naturally, he denied this. This led to a great debate over whether or not someone could be hypnotized to commit a crime they would never otherwise commit. All this was documented in detail in the newspapers, as well as the diaries of the detectives. Fascinating! I highly recommend Little Demon in the City of Light: a True Story of Murder in Belle Époque Paris by Steven Levingston.

With less than 100 pages to go I’m already planning my next read. The Drums of Autumn, part of the Highlander series by Diana Gabaldon. There’s nothing like a good book about men in skirts and time travel to take me away from the demands of the present.

What are you reading to get away?

Morning Coffee: Strong Women

SummerI love reading books about strong women. I’m currently reading “Last Woman Standing” by Thelma Adams. It’s about Josephine Earp, wife of the legendary Wyatt Earp, a Jewish girl from San Francisco who goes to Tombstone chasing the love of one man only to find it in the arms of another. Before that I read “The Last Tudor” by Philippa Gregory about the three Grey sisters: Jane, Katherine, and Mary. Lady Jane Grey was queen for nine days before being imprisoned and executed by her cousin, Queen Mary. Katherine was imprisoned and ignored by their cousin Queen Elizabeth until Katherine’s death. The youngest of them all and a little person, Mary Grey, was the only one strong enough to survive being imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth until her release.

A strong woman is not a bitch. A strong woman does not hurt others by climbing her way to the top over their backs. She does not have to be crude or rude or even ruthless. A strong woman believes in herself and can stand up for her beliefs. She doesn’t have to put down others in order to build herself up. Nor does she have to sleep her way to the top. She recognizes that sometimes doing the right thing means stopping to support another. She also knows when accepting the help of another is what’s right for her at that moment.

So many people have the wrong idea, the old antiquated idea, about romance novels. It’s been years since the main character was a weak woman who needed a man to save her from the bad guy; a woman who, when she says no really means yes; a woman who learns in the end that she really does love the bad boy who took charge and showed her the ways of love.

I write about strong women. In “Mary Bishop”, Mary learns just how strong she is when her husband’s strength fails him and she must rely on herself to hold their world together. And she learns her strength does not fail her when his death leaves her alone to fight those who would harm her, too. In “The Healing Heart”, Alice has to find her own strength when the influenza that almost takes her life does take the lives of her parents. When Alice’s fiancé returns from the war in France, a man damaged both physically and emotionally, she must decide if her strength is enough to bring him back to the man she fell in love with, or if it’s time to accept the love offered by another.

Strong women. Not mean women, or self-centered women. Strong women who recognize what they want in this world, but can also accept when what they want is not meant to be theirs. Strong women who don’t step on others, but also don’t allow others to step on them. Strong women grow tall in the knowledge of who they are, and who they can become.

Celebrate the strong women in your life. Be a strong woman.

Morning Coffee: New Friends/Old Friends

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Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.

Anyone who was a girl scout will recognize these lyrics. We sang it as a round at the campfire. It’s a lesson I still go back to from time to time.

I love my new silver friends since moving back to Wisconsin. There’s Julie, whose smile and laugh lifts my spirits every time. There are my WisRWA friends, most particularly Tina and Beth and Peg and Deb and Karen and Maureen, who encourage me and let me believe I can definitely write a publishable novel; particularly now that I’ve received another rejection.

Then there are my gold friends; the ones I grew up with, went to school with. I had the opportunity to meet up with them again this past weekend at our class reunion. (I’m not saying how many years.) We talked old memories and caught up on all that was new since the last time we got together.

Cindi and I have known each other since the first grade, spent a lot of time together as kids. As adults, well, life gets in the way. I went to college and she went straight into the work force. I moved to New York State while she stayed in Wisconsin. We both married, had children. Now she has grandchildren. We exchange birthday and Christmas cards, but our busy lives keep us from talking or getting together the way we should now that I’m back. We need to work on that.

We all have friends like Cindi. We might not spend a lot of time together, but when we do…well…it’s like we’ve never been apart. I have gold friends from my growing up years, as well as my years in New York. They’re all special to me. I know I wouldn’t be who I am now if it wasn’t for them being in my life back then. And I have my new silver friends. They will help make me who I will be in the future.

Morning Coffee: The Power of Nostalgia

feetNostalgia: a longing for pleasures, experiences, or events belonging to the past; intense homesickness.

We’ve all been there. A song comes on the radio and you’re back at the prom, maybe your first kiss…or whatever…in the backseat of your boyfriend’s car. You bite into a cookie and it reminds you of your grandmother’s recipe and there’s that moment where you miss her intensely all over again. This weekend I’ll be attending my class reunion. There will be lots of talk centered on “remember when”. Sometimes we’ll laugh; sometimes we’ll sigh, wondering where the years went. Hopefully most memories will be good ones, but inevitably some will not. We’ve already lost our share of classmates.

It’s why we treasure the photographs and videos. It’s why we’ll search endlessly for a recipe our mother or aunt or grandmother always made when we were children. It’s why we hit the dance floor without hesitation when “our song” begins to play. We love to remember what was in the past; the things we want to carry into our future. Nostalgia plays a major role in our holiday and special event celebrations.

A recent news story took me back to my childhood. One of my favorite candies may soon be gone. NECCO Wafers. I hadn’t thought of them in years, yet the moment I heard they may soon be discontinued I felt a panicked need to find them and buy them by the box. Commentators are debating whether or not they were any good to begin with. Some make faces and declare them tasteless and they’re glad they’ll be gone; but I’m tightly entrenched with those who say they were wonderful! Are wonderful!

The history of the NECCO Wafer is a long one. “In 1847, a young English immigrant, Oliver Chase, invented the first American candy machine, a lozenge cutter. After initial success selling his new candy, he and his brother, Silas Edwin, founded Chase and Co., which became the pioneer member of the New England Confectionery Company (NECCO) family. Over the years, NECCO Wafers became so popular that in 1913 the famed Arctic explorer Donald MacMillan gave them to Eskimo children on his journeys to the North. And in the 1930’s Admiral Byrd included 2 ½ tons of NECCO Wafers in his supply list for a two year stay in the Antarctic. Then, during WWII, the U.S. Government requisitioned a major portion of production for American soldiers serving in WWII, as the wafers didn’t melt and rarely broke during transport. Today, approximately 630 million NECCO Wafers are made each year. Placed edge to edge, they would go around the world twice!” (http://www.necco.com/candy/wafers.aspx)

I will definitely be searching out a supply to stock up on…just in case they really do go away.

Morning Coffee: Hemingway in Key West

beach-3Last week we returned home from a vacation that included our first trip to Key West. I have to say, I loved it! Not only was it much warmer than at home (where snow continues to fall, despite the fact that March has changed to April) but the laid-back island life was a whole different world; different, even, than the rest of south Florida. My favorite was our tour of Hemingway’s house.

It was his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer who made the house a home, decorating it with antiques and trophies from their travel adventures. She oversaw the planting of palms, tropical flowers, bushes, and trees. I can only imagine that if it wasn’t for her the house would have been run down, furnished with old but serviceable furniture, and the only thing in the kitchen would have been a well-stocked supply of liquor for when he wasn’t imbibing with the locals down at Sloppy Joe’s. It’s unlikely it would have been his home at all if it wasn’t for Pauline. It was her uncle who purchased it as a gift for them in 1931 at the cost of $8,000. The initial plan was to stay on the island for six weeks, but Hemingway fell in love with the characters who lived there, making life-long friends with George Brooks, Charles Thompson, Captain “Bra” Saunders (the model for The Old Man And The Sea), and Sloppy Joe Russell. Except for a few trips to Cuba and Spain, Hemingway lived there until their divorce in 1940. Pauline stayed in the house until her death in 1951, at which time their two sons took over ownership.

Hemingway's study 1Hemingway loved the island life. His writing studio was on the second floor of the carriage house. He wrote all his best-selling novels in that studio during the brief time he lived in Key West. He liked to write in the mornings. He’d start at 6am and wrote until noon, 2pm if the writing was going well, and averaged 300-700 words a day. He loved to deep sea fish in the afternoon and in the evening, of course, he could often be found at such Hemingway's study 2local haunts as Sloppy Joe’s drinking with his friends into the night. He wore old cut-off pants held up by a piece of rope when he was out about the town. He had a boxing ring set-up in his backyard and paid local boxers to spar with him. Before Pauline built the pool, he swam in the waters near the old naval base.

Hemingway's poolWhile Hemingway was assigned to cover the Spanish Civil War in 1937-1938, Pauline had his boxing ring removed and a salt water pool built in its place. This would be the first swimming pool on Key West because the difficulty of building one made them cost prohibitive. (They also have one of the only basements, which proved to be a great cool place to store his liquor.) When Pauline initially discussed this with her husband his answer was an emphatic no; and when he returned from Spain to find she’d done it anyway, removing his Hemingway's poolside pennybeloved boxing ring, and at a cost of $20,000, he exploded with rage. He yelled, “You may as well take my last penny too,” and threw one at her. Pauline kept that penny and had it cemented into the tiles by the side of the pool, where she enjoyed telling the story to any and all who asked. It’s still there.

Hemingway's fountainHemingway was equally as underhanded in his response to Pauline’s pool. His favorite bar, Sloppy Joe’s, was being forced to move when the building landlord raised the rent. Joe Russell decided everything, including the fixtures, was rightfully his. When Hemingway arrived to find the men’s urinals standing all in a row against the wall he asked his friend why. His response to Joe’s explanation was that he felt he rightfully owned one of them because of all the money he’d poured down them over the years. His friend agreed. How Hemingway got it home that night I don’t know but when Pauline woke the next morning to find a urinal in her garden she was outraged and told her husband to have it removed immediately. He agreed to remove the urinal as soon as she removed the pool. The urinal remains to this day. Pauline tried to pretty it up with decorative tiles and bought an antique Spanish olive jar to act as a fountain.

hemingways-cats.jpgYou can’t talk about Hemingway’s house without talking about the cats. He loved cats and was enthralled by his friend the captain’s six-toed (polydactyl) cat. The captain gave the cat to Hemingway as a gift and dozens of the cat’s descendents can still be seen wandering the grounds. They’re accustomed to the many visitors that walk through every day, taking their picture, and just go about their own island life.

For more pictures and details, check out their website at https://www.hemingwayhome.com. And if you find yourself on the Keys, be sure and stop in and see for yourself. And after, check out Mallory Square for the nightly sunset festival; or, better yet, take a sunset cruise.

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