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.

Morning Coffee: Vacation

beach-3By the time you read this I will be on vacation! That warm southern sun has been calling me for several months now. As I’ve said before, I’m not much of a winter person. I want snow for the holidays. A fresh snowfall, especially a wet one that sticks to the trees on a sunny morning, is pretty. I’ve discovered I like snow shoes. But I don’t like the cold, I don’t enjoy shoveling, and I think skiing is for crazy people. (I’m married to one of those crazy people!)

Our children live in the south. Our daughter’s in North Carolina and our son in southern Florida. That’s who I’ll be spending a couple weeks with and I’m really looking forward to it. I don’t get to see enough of them.

I have a cross-stitch project ready to go with. My Kindle is loaded with books to read. I’ll be doing my WisRWA Fab5 judging and I’ll definitely do some writing on my next book, “The Healing Heart”, but I don’t plan on blogging while on the beach.

So I’ll see you when I get back after Easter. Hopefully most, if not all, of our snow will be gone by then.

Morning Coffee: Positivity

RevisionsThe power of a smile was stressed in my business classes. When you answer the phone, smile. If the caller is angry or frustrated and you speak with a smile on your face your voice will reflect that smile and the problem is unlikely to escalate. If it’s a cold call from someone looking for information, your smile will make you sound friendly and will reflect positively on your company.

The same can be said about your choice of words, your attitude. When I’m feeling uncertain about my writing, beginning to question whether or not I can succeed at becoming a published author, I always smile and tell people I know it will happen. I explain that that particular agent or editor turned out to not be the right one for me and my book, but there is someone out there who is and I will eventually find him or her. Even if internally I might not believe it myself at that moment, if I say it with a smile on my face I will believe it. Then I move on to a new submission. Or perhaps I take another look at my manuscript and fix some of the things the previous rejection mentioned as not working for them, should they have been kind enough to give a little feedback. I want my agent and/or editor to LOVE my book.

Sounding positive leads to feeling positive; and feeling positive leads to the persistence that leads to success. The only thing negativity leads to is more negativity. If you believe you are incapable of doing something you will not be able to do it. If you believe you are a failure, you will be a failure.

So, believe in yourself. I do. Last week I participated in my first Twitter pitch party. It was quite the experience and at the end of the day I walked away with a submission request from an editor. Naturally, I immediately sent her the synopsis and my first three chapters. Within a few days I received a reply asking for a full manuscript. They wanted to read more! This is definitely a positive response and I’m hoping it will lead to success. It’s a response I never would have received if I’d let myself believe the occasional negative thought that tried to push its way into my brain. Instead, I listened to the positive thoughts, believed in myself and my book, and went for it.

If not this one, then perhaps the next one. I know there’s someone out there who wants to read my book; and I know there’s a publisher who wants to sell it to them.

Morning Coffee: March In Like A Lion, Out Like A Lamb

winterWe’ve all grown up with the old adage if March comes in like a lion it will go out like a lamb…or vice versa. Of course, the former is more likely to be true merely because it would make sense that as spring approaches the weather will gradually improve.  As for the former, that could easily happen, too, because March weather is so volatile. Warm fronts from the south begin pushing north while those cold Canadian fronts continue to push south. When they meet…well…that’s why we have some of our worst winter storms in March.

This year March came in like a lamb. I wrote last week how the mild temps were teasing us with the smell of spring in the air. But we were less than a week into the month and we were hit again with a whopper of a storm. It started the morning of the fifth with the hard winds that blew in advance of the front. Our yard quickly became littered with branches, both large and small. I watched knowing that once the snow melted we’d have to go out and collect them. Hard gusts rattled the pipe leading down to the gas fireplace in the living room and shook the windows. In the afternoon we had sleet one minute, snow the next, and then back to sleet. The icy pellets danced on the back deck, reminding me of the styrofoam beads that spill from a beanbag chair if it’s ripped. By evening the snow won and the wind blew it into white-out conditions. A soup supper and card game night planned with two other couples had to be cancelled due to hazardous driving.

Then the next morning it was all over. The sun was out and so were the shovels, snow blowers, and snow plows…again. I spent two hours clearing about four inches of very heavy wet snow from the driveway. The end with all the waterlogged deposits from the plow was the worst. I’m hoping this will be the last time I have to do this, but I wouldn’t put any money down on that bet. At least the temperature wasn’t all that bad, or maybe it just seemed that way as I heated up from the shoveling. It definitely helped that the wind had died down to a gentler breeze. And now it’s cold again.

But this is what March is like, every year, and it’s just another sign that spring is coming.