The velvet hand of patriotism

Splendid Folks

The Old Man and the perfectly preserved Sea-side home

Evidence of Ernest Hemingway’s demons remains scratched into his bathroom walls and, for a moment, I had to look away.

A journalist, then novelist, whose honest exploration of the human psyche (most often his own) earned him both a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize, Hemingway courted specific details for his characters.

I like details too, so I turned back and observed.

Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s Cuban home, still looks as though its celebrated resident might lumber through its perfectly preserved rooms. His typewriter rests, waist high on a book shelf, with easy access to a pacing author.

Trophies from his big game hunts decorate the living room walls. American magazines from 1959 still fill the rack. Though empty now, his swimming pool looks as inviting as it did back in 1957 when Ava Gardner reportedly swam naked in it. Up and down the walls on either side of his bathroom scale, Hemingway’s meticulously recorded weight, scribbled there with various pens, still hints at a troubled mind.

Hemingway wrote both For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea while living at the house, before a crippling bout of writer’s block stole his words.

“Can you imagine a writer with his talent unable to write a single word?” asked the docent who gave us a tour.

Back-to-back plane crashes left both Hemingway and his fourth wife Mary Walsh Hemingway seriously injured though not, as had been widely reported in 1954, deceased. He spent some time at Finca Vigia locked in his bedroom, recovering from injuries, drinking Mojitos and reading his own obituaries.

Reconstructed with care, Finca Vigia offers a telling look into one of America’s most talented and troubled authors.

Hemingway bedroom

Hemingway’s bedroom, including the typewriter he kept on his bookshelf, remains exactly as he had left it.

Hemingway headline

The headline on this newspaper reads “Heminway, wife killed in crash”. I’m not sure which would have been more insulting to him — the premature announcement of his demise, or the misspelling of his famous last name.

Hemingway's bathroom

I took a quick glance at the bathroom and had to turn away…

Hemingway's scale

I thought the meticulously kept hand-written weight notations on either side of his scale hinted at a sad obsessive compulsive tendency and I wondered how pleased he’d be for the whole world to see.


He didn’t invent them, but Hemingway did love a Mojito and we sipped one or two during our time in Cuba as well. Cuba still loves Papa Hemingway and so many bars and restaurants in and around Havana claim to have served him that our guide joked that it would be difficult to find one that didn’t make that claim. When Hemingway died, the fishermen in Cojimar, a nearby village, wanted to pay tribute to him, but they had no money. So, they collected small pieces of brass from their boat propellers and anchors and melted them down to create a bust.

The librarian and Hemingway's library

I snapped our own library media specialist, Kathy, in front of Hemingway’s well-maintained, 9,000 volume library.

Hemingway's boat

Hemingway’s boat, the Pilar, rests in a place of honor above his unused tennis court. On the left you can see grave markers for four of his beloved dogs. I found it interesting that the passionate big game hunter shared his home with 57 cats and six dogs.

Hemingway's pool

You could easily imagine Papa Hemingway cooling off in this immaculately maintained swimming pool. (Had there been water, I’d have jumped in myself. Cuba in July is hot!)

Hemingway house

Hemingway’s home now looks very similar to…

Hemingway's dining room

…Hemingway’s home in 1957. This is the exact same table, game trophies, and dinnerware you see in the dining area above. The picture is shot from the opposite angle as the one above.

A good Cuban cigar

The best baseball pitcher you’ve never seen

Cuba — A people to people cultural exchange

A Few Quiet Moments– A post by Molly

Sr. Anne Arthur: Faith by Works– A post by Molly

“I didn’t ask them, I told them.” Sister Anne Arthur Klinker said firmly.Even her parents could not shake her steadfast resolve to join a convent during her junior year of high school. As a  school sister of Notre Dame, Sister Anne Arthur’s religious calling would take her across the United States and Nigeria.

When my English teacher assigned us to interview someone who we wanted to know more about for our final project, I immediately thought of Sister Anne Arthur. She had already given a wonderful speech about gender equality in religion for my gender equality club earlier in the year and I saw her most weekends at church, but I knew I had so much more to learn about her.

She invited me up to her apartment in Richmond Terrace, where she’s a cherished resident. One Thanksgiving a service group was supposed to provide a turkey dinner for some of the residents, but never showed up, so sister invited everyone up to her kitchen and cooked up frozen pizzas and anything else she pulled out of her refrigerator. She told me she often has fifteen other sisters over for dinner. Given the size of her apartment, I assumed those were pretty cozy gatherings.

We began by discussing her calling into religious life and her time in Nigeria. She started off working at a few different schools in the north of the country, but was transferred south to be the administrator of a brand new school. Over the three years she worked at the school, the student body grew exponentially, and she plans on returning sometime soon to see how it is running at full capacity.

Given her many achievements throughout her career, when I asked her what her proudest moment of being a sister was, I assumed I get some story from a classroom, a church, or a mission.  Instead, I got a story from an air port terminal.  While stranded in O’Hare overnight, Sister Anne Arthur met a woman with two babies.  The poor mother’s flight to California had been cancelled and she did not have enough formula or diapers to last through the night.  Sensing the woman’s distress, Sister called up a former student of hers from the Chicago area to pick up the woman and drive her to a store where she could replenish her supplies.  Without the veil and traditional garb, Sister looked like anyone else.  However, when explained her plan to the young woman, the woman had only one question: “Are you a nun?”

Even though she’s retired, Sister still lives each day for other people. You can sense her kindness and holiness just being around her. She lets her actions, rather than her clothing, speak for her.

Anne Arthur

This was sister’s first, and probably only, selfie. Though I won’t pretend to be too much more experienced.

Patriot Pies — a post by Molly

Before the first fireworks flew into the sky on Monday, I started my own Independence Day celebration with my own Declaration of Independence: I turned the oven on.

The tone of the oven when it reached its set 350o rang through the empty kitchen and could be heard ’round the air condition-less house.

After an afternoon of overbearing expectations and regulations from the ruling summer heat, I couldn’t help but resort to kitchen warfare. The summer heat had melted my butter, caked my sugar, and spoiled my strawberries; and I had had enough.

Of course these are ordinary issues for bakers further south, and they rarely complain, but they live subject to the summer heat all year round, of course they are used to his influence in their kitchen.

It is simple common sense that a ruler, who can only be bothered to stick around for a few short months, should not have control of his subjects’ entire lives.

So I marched to the oven, armed with my troops of star-shaped mini pie shells, and waited until the late afternoon when I knew the heat would be lazily complacent. Under cover of SPF 30, I slipped the shells into the oven. Despite the best efforts of the heat to break my spirit and force me to turn of the oven in some dehydrated delirium, I held my ground and the pie shells came out golden and unscathed.

After my afternoon struggle, I became even more grateful to the American patriots for fighting the actual rebellion, so that I and many others could fight silly rebellions every day. So go ahead light those fireworks on your residential street, grill all those burgers for just a few people, and bake a pie when it’s 90o out. Save the rule following and meat pies for the Brits, Fourth of July belongs to the rebels.


Star Spangled Kitchen Pies

1 cup Butter

1 cup sugar

2 cups flour

2 tbsp milk


1 cup favorite pie filling (I recommend Apple, Cherry, or Berry for max patriotism)


  1. Mix all of your ingredients (besides the filling) until they form a stiff dough, it should be too wet. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.


  1. On a well floured surface or between two sheets of plastic wrap, roll out the dough until it’s only a few millimeters thick (you might have to divide into two pieces).


  1. Using a star shaped cookie cutter, cut the sheets into stars and place the stars in a well-greased mini muffin tin.


  1. Bake in a 350o oven for 15 minutes, cool and remove from pan by twisting the shells.


  1. Place 1/2 tbsp of your favorite pie filling (I used mixed berry left over from my own Independence/Graduation party) in each shell and chill in the fridge until ready.
They call me the Betsy Ross of the kitchen

They call me the Betsy Ross of the kitchen

I would hang these pie pans from a flagpole if the pie wasn't so delicious

I would hang these pie pans from a flagpole if the pie wasn’t so delicious

This pie filling also helped us celebrate my Independence from high school

This pie filling also helped us celebrate my Independence from high school

Leave the meat pies to Sweeny Todd

Leave the meat pies to Sweeny Todd

May our crusts always be flaky and our fillings free from liver and other nasty bits, from sea to shining sea.

May our crusts always be flaky and our fillings free from liver and other nasty bits, from pan to shining pan.

Father Bill’s last mass

Father Bill’s last mass at St. Therese mirrored the man.  Casual and unassuming, still pious and profound, the mass and the priest celebrated the joy of genuine faith and sweetly tended friendship.

“How do you treat a new pair of shoes?” he asked in his homily. “You break them in patiently. You treat them with care.”

Though our current pair of shoes remains beloved and has plenty of good miles left in his sole/soul, we at St. Therese will be getting a fresh pair this week. Fresh is good, except no one here wants to say good bye to the priest we’ve had for the past 14 years.

Father Bill has been reassigned to St. Phillip Parish in Green Bay, where he single-handedly will replace four priests assigned to the parish on a part-time basis, and a pastoral leader.

A Catholic Superman with a contagious guffaw and a freezer full of chicken soup collected from parishioners during a recent bout with the flu, Father Bill, no doubt, is up to the task. Bilingual and unfailingly kind, he gracefully negotiated the occasionally perilous waters of our newly bilingual parish with a sly tip of his optimistic Cubs hat, and an open invitation to his card table.

An Oz sense of life and color seeped into the church with Father Bill’s arrival. The church pews filled with families and those old walls hummed with song.

Our stoic, German parishioners welcomed immigrants from Mexico and Micronesia and, to their delicious casseroles and potato salad, added tamales and coconut curry. St. Therese may have become the tastiest parish in the diocese.

Our community feted Father over the weekend, with masses, celebrations, songs, dances and a going away party that lasted all afternoon.

But, Molly and I ducked in to say our good byes yesterday morning, during weekday mass, Father Bill’s last in Appleton.

We welcomed the privilege of praying with him and, though we intend to pop in to St. Philips from time to time, we also most sincerely wanted to thank him for the legacy he leaves behind.

The last lines of the Catholic mass seemed especially appropriate yesterday as we said them with the small congregation assembled there.

“Go in peace to serve the Lord.”

“Thanks be to God.”


Father Bill has been Molly’s priest since she was three-years old. He was the priest at her First Communion.

Father Bill

He kindly said a prayer at Vince’s investiture 

Father Bill's last mass 002

I snapped a few pics at Father Bill’s last mass at St. Therese (which he noticed and mentioned in his homily. Whoops.)

Father Bill's last mass 009

The last mass may have been less crowded than all of the pew-filling celebratory masses, but it was no less sincere. 

Father Bill's last mass 012

At the heart of everything is a profound faith…

Father Bill's last mass 017

…and a delightful sense of fun. This is Father Bill modeling a furry gift from a parishioner. He’ll be nice and warm in Green Bay.

Family pic

We popped into Father Bill’s rocking good bye party Sunday afternoon. We’re smiling here, but we’re very sad to see him go. 


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