Morning Coffee: Spring is Coming

feetWinter isn’t done, but spring is definitely just around the corner. For the last week we’ve had mild temps in the 50s, even the low 60s. The snow is gone, except for the banks left by the plows. The smell of wet earth promises flowers soon. The first round of maple sapping was under way this past weekend. There have even been bear sightings.

Hope and promise is on the breeze. I can smell it. I can feel it. I can almost taste it. The sun is warm even when the breeze is cool and it’s still light out when I drive home from work. The greens and fairways are clear on the golf course.

Now, before you shake your heads and sigh at my naiveté, I have not forgotten it’s still only February. I’m a born and bred Wisconsinite. I know that even if spring happens to come early this year, that won’t mean winter is over. We can snow in May, although thankfully not very often! In fact, by the time you read this we might be in the grips of a blizzard. The predictions range from 8-12 inches to a dusting-3 inches by the end of Friday! What? I know, it’s crazy but that’s how the weather goes around here. Will the storm stay on its original tract or will it move south? Local meteorologists are now saying the storm has moved dramatically south and we’re on the northern edge. We won’t know who’s right until the sun comes up in the morning. But, no matter what, we will get some snow.

Well, I say if winter has to have one last (fingers crossed) blast, make it a big one. A really big one! Make it a blizzard where you can’t see two feet outside your windows and you have no choice but to stay indoors. I won’t feel guilty telling my boss I can’t get out of my driveway if I can’t even SEE my driveway. (In truth, I’m part time and have already been told to not come in tomorrow because even a dusting could make my commute slippery, so no guilt either way.) And, what better timing for a snow day than a Friday? There will be no rush to get out the next morning, either. It can be a stay in my pajamas, watch movies, read, and write kind of day.

This week’s blog, like our first taste of spring, is brief; and, like spring, I will return.

Morning Coffee: Valentine’s Day

Valentine 2This week was Valentine’s Day. That one day a year that brings to mind roses, chocolates, wine and a special dinner out. The day when the one who loves you most is supposed to do something extra to let you know, and vice versa.

When I was a growing up, my siblings and I would spend hours shaping valentines out of colored paper or, if we were lucky, mom would buy us each a box of assorted cards made special just for school aged children to share. You remember, the ones with all those corny jokes only children find funny. We’d decorate shoe boxes, cut a slit in the top, and bring them to school in the hopes they would quickly fill with cards and heart-shaped candies from our classmates. Some teachers required that if you brought a card for one you had to bring a card for all, hoping to spare the less popular kids the heartbreak of receiving only a few, or maybe none.

As we got older, valentines became something we gave a special someone, not every friend or classmate, and receiving a valentine meant someone “loved” you. Not receiving a valentine meant you were sad and alone. You could tell just by the look on a girl’s face in the hall whether or not she’d received something. It was even better if it came anonymously. Girls would spend hours, days, with their girlfriends trying to guess who the secret admirer might be.

Even as adults, long-married and confident in the love of our spouse, we still like to have that little affirmation, some simple little gesture that says “I still love you and I am so blessed to have you in my life.” But should it have to be this way?

I don’t mean the gestures that speak of our love for each other. Everyone needs that from time to time. No one should feel like they’re anything but cherished. I’m talking about having a special day on the calendar specifically designated for saying I love you. Shouldn’t every day be Valentine’s Day? Why do we have to be reminded to do something special for someone? I recognize that we live in a very busy fast-paced world but it takes little time, and sometimes no money, to do for others. A nice dinner doesn’t have to be at an expensive restaurant. Cook dinner at home and use the good china, light a candle, pour some wine. And, for goodness sake, turn off the television and turn on some nice music. Talk to each other! If you have two left feet no one has to know if you dance at home. You could even try out some new risqué moves without fear of either making a club full of people ill or, on the other hand, getting arrested for indecent behavior. Perhaps later you can read aloud to each other from a favorite naughty romance book. If you need a few recommendations, just ask. I know some people.

The point is, there are all kinds of things you can do for your loved one any day of the week or year. Use your imagination. Have a little fun. Don’t wait for February 14th to show someone you love them. Surprise him or her when they’re least expecting.

Morning Coffee: Reconnect

feetWe live in a fast-paced world where everything is tightly scheduled and there is no room for deviation. Children no longer go outside to play after school or on the weekend. They are too busy being chauffeured to their various sports activities, music lessons, and the tutoring that will hopefully get them into a better university after graduation. Even pre-schoolers have scheduled “play dates”. No one sits on their front porch anymore, waving to their neighbors as they walk by, inviting them to stop and chat over a cold drink. Most don’t even know their neighbors’ names. Children no longer play kick-the-can in the growing darkness until their mothers holler out the back door that it’s time to come in. Dad’s in one room reviewing departmental reports while mom is in another preparing for her big morning presentation in front of the Board. Meanwhile, if by chance the children are actually done with their homework, they are on their computers either perusing their social media accounts or deep into a multi-player video game, stopping only long enough to answer a text from their friend who probably lives right next door or across the street. None of them, parents included, can even sit down for a family meal together without their cell phones right there within easy reach. Ask them an hour later what they had for dinner and I’d wager a bet most of them couldn’t tell you. Did they even taste it? We live in a world of texts written in indecipherable shorthand, tweets of 140 characters or less, and emojis.

While I would say I’m better than most, I am guilty of taking phone calls, reading emails, and answering texts during a meal…unless in public or at dinner with friends. Luckily, this doesn’t happen very often. Nonetheless, I do feel the loss of connection with other people. I do often choose email or texting over phone calls. When was the last time you received or wrote a letter? I’m talking about a traditional letter, the kind that comes in an envelope delivered to your box by the US Postal Service along with your bills, magazines, and advertising flyers.

I have one friend, Virginia, who writes me regular letters. She always encloses copies of interesting articles, short stories, and poetry that she’s read. She’s a marvelous poet who lives back in New York State, and belonged to my writers’ group there for years. I can’t tell you how much I love seeing that fat envelope in our mailbox. Sometimes it’s hand-written, sometimes typed, but it always feels like she’s right there with me as I read it. I can even hear her voice. We learned early on that we share a birthday. This year she will turn 90. (I will not.) How fast the years go by.

I know that it won’t be too many more years, if even that long, before the letters stop coming. It makes me sad. I’ve attempted writing to other old friends now far away and they don’t respond. I guess they’re too busy to take the time to do more than quick well-wishes in a store-bought birthday or Christmas card, and some not even that. For a while I wrote long letters to everyone in my old writers’ group but I’ve fallen into the habit of emailing with two and only writing to Virginia. Sad thing is, the fourth woman does not have email so I tend to just say, “Pass this on”, when I email one of them. I will make an effort to write them more “real letters” from now on. And I will continue to try and reconnect with others in this manner. I don’t want to get to the day where I can never again look forward to a letter in my mailbox.

If you don’t already, do me a favor and reconnect with someone through pen and paper. Let’s not allow this wonderful old tradition of letter-writing to come to an end. Without letters preserved, what will future generations have to look back and study when they talk about us?

Morning Coffee: A Beach Restart

beach-3Two weeks ago I wrote about my plans to “shake things up”. Well, this was the week and I’m calling it a complete success! I’ve spent the last three days on Ft Myers Beach, just me and my notebook on the beautiful Gulf shore with hundreds of my closest friends. . .but that added to my success. I sat in the warm sand and listened to the surf and the gulls; watched small children play in the water (LOL), retired couples walk hand-in-hand (smile), and parasailers soar overhead (bucket list!); and I wrote. I wrote and I wrote. Drafting in long-hand, as hoped, opened up my creativity. I wasn’t tempted to go back and edit, the way I am when I’m on the computer. I wasn’t confined to writing where there was an electrical outlet and no damaging sand and water. And note paper doesn’t have that sun glare problem! I could go anywhere. I wrote on the beach and poolside. I wrote in my room. I wrote sitting at an outside table of a little Greek restaurant while enjoying one of their delicious gyros. My notebook and pen went in my beach tote every morning and followed wherever my wondering feet led me. When I was inspired, when a plot question resolved itself in my mind, all I had to do was find a place to sit and write.

017Each of those three days I wrote one chapter. Today I will write a fourth and tomorrow a fifth. I estimate a total of 40-50 pages completed by the end of my trip. To some writers that might be a set-back, but for me it was very productive. After all, I needed to leave time to walk, shop, and read; time to allow the tropical sunshine to recharge my half-frozen northern brain.

I’m currently at my son’s house, but they’re at work leaving me alone with the cat (Panda’s hiding). No beach distractions but plenty of time to write while sitting on the lanai. Saturday’s plan is the Naples Zoo and then Sunday morning it’s back to Wisconsin, with the cold and snow that goes with it this time of year; but the fire that fuels my story has been lit and I will continue to write once home.

When I retire I’ll be able to spend more time on the beach, that’s the goal. In the meantime, I now know I can, indeed, write anywhere. All I need is a notebook, or two or three, and a handful of pens. Warm beach sunshine and white sand between my toes is the cure when the familiar winter cabin fever sets in.