Morning Coffee: New Friends/Old Friends

Mockingbird2

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.

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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.

Key West sunset cruise 11

 

Morning Coffee: Spring Tease, Part 2

Healing HeartThe old adage that if March comes in like a lion it goes out like a lamb, or vice versa, sure proved true this year. As I wrote last month, March came in with teasing spring-like temperatures filling everyone with hope that winter was coming to an end. Unfortunately, for those of us who are so over winter, it went out like a lion. Saturday the 31st a late winter (early spring?) snowstorm blew through. I was in Florida driving back to my son’s house after several glorious days in Key West; but I did see lots of discouraging pictures on Facebook thanks to family and friends who wanted to be sure we knew what we were missing.

For April we say, “April showers bring May flowers.” Is that true for April snowstorms? Do they bring May flowers? If April comes in like a lion will it go out like a lamb? I sure hope so. You see, on the third we drove back to Wisconsin and into the second half of a two day snowstorm. Our driveway greeted us with at least a foot of new snow. My husband, of course, is elated as he will get in a few more ski days this weekend, maybe even next weekend for his birthday. Me? I wanted to turn the truck around and head right back to Florida. As I said in my previous blog, “Vacation”, I was expecting the snow to be gone, at least a good share of it, by the time we returned. I was not happy going from temperatures in the 80s to temperatures in the 20s.

We are an impatient society. Right now we’re complaining about the cold and snow, wishing it were summer. Not so many months from now it will be summer and we will complain about the heat and humidity, the mosquitoes. We complain when it rains, and when it doesn’t. We want instant gratification. We want what we want and we want it right now.

Writers are no better than anyone else. From the moment we plot our novel we want it complete. We want that first draft to be perfect and sell immediately. We want it to be #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Writing a novel isn’t the same as reading one. A really good book can keep a reader in their seat from start to finish in one day; but a really good novel is not easily written. The author spends several years writing and rewriting. Then there’s the marketing timeframe. First we send a synopsis and sample chapters and wait, maybe months, for a request for a full manuscript. Then we wait, maybe months, while they read it. After that, if accepted, we start on our editor’s changes, followed by more waiting. You get the picture. Writing and publishing a good novel does not happen overnight. We know this, yet we expect it. We want it and we want it right now! I’m in the middle of that cycle with both of my novels. “Mary Bishop” is a full manuscript submission waiting for a response. “The Healing Heart” is about a quarter of the way through a rough first draft. When “Mary Bishop” sells and “The Healing Heart” is being marketed I will be busy writing the first draft of my third novel.

Golf leagues are scheduled to start in a month. Hard to believe when I drive past a course still buried in snow. Especially after driving by so many down south that were green and busy with golfers enjoying the warm sunshine. I know if I’m patient our course will soon be green and warm, too. So I will be patient.

In the meantime, while I wait for the snow to melt, and while I wait to hear the final decision on “Mary Bishop”, I will keep writing my second novel.