Author Archives: Coco Ihle

About Coco Ihle

I am the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, a mystery about two long lost sisters who reunite and nearly lose their lives searching for an ancient treasure and a murderer in a castle in Scotland. I am a member of MWA, FWA, SinC, Alma,a family search organization, Clan Buchanan of Scotland, and Linkedin. My website is www.cocoihle.com

Wyatt Earp, Gone Again

Did you know the real-life Sheriff Wyatt Earp lived from 1848 to 1929 and was most famous for the legendary “Shootout at the O.K. Corral” in Tombstone, Arizona in 1881? And that some of his authentic escapades were used later in the TV show, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp which ran from 1955 to 1961? This blog post is about and dedicated to actor Hugh O’Brian who starred in the TV episodes. I was saddened to learn Mr. O’Brian passed away on Monday, September fifth at the age of ninety-one. He was in TV, movies and theater, but was also a dedicated and important philanthropist.

Many of you might not know that westerns were huge on TV in the late 1950s and 60s. I was a teenager and my parents and I would watch Wyatt Earp together as a family; something that has been almost lost over the ensuing years. My father was a big fan of westerns and we watched most of those shows and I still remember the theme songs from many of them.

Fast forward to the mid-1980s. I was in a restaurant in Montgomery, Alabama with friends and on my way back from the ladies’ room; I spotted a man I was sure I recognized. I returned to my table and asked my friends if they recognized him as well, but no one did. I couldn’t let it go. I had to find out, so I gathered up my courage and approached the gentleman’s table. Apologizing profusely for disturbing him and his friends, I asked, “Are you Hugh O’Brian?”

He smiled at me and said he was. I remember being very nervous, but I told him what a fan I was, and that my parents and I watched his show faithfully every week until the end. I even told him I remembered the theme song of Wyatt Earp. I could tell, he didn’t believe me, but was hesitant to embarrass me, so I offered to sing it to him, if he would forgive my singing. He, clearly, was enjoying my interruption and said he’d love to hear it.

I summoned up the last of my courage and began:

          “Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp,

          Brave courageous and bold.

          Long live your fame and long live your glory,

          And long may your story be told.”

Much to my surprise and shock, there was not only applause from Mr. O’Brian, but also from his friends, and from several tables of people nearby. I’m glad the restaurant wasn’t well lit at that hour (they dimmed the lights for dinnertime), because I imagine my face was appropriately scarlet.

With a somewhat shaky voice, I humbly thanked Mr. O’Brian for allowing me to interrupt him and his friends and went back to my seat. He was so gracious and I think he was pleased to still have fans after all those years. He was a gentleman both on and off the screen. That’s a moment I’ll never forget.

I don’t have a picture of Hugh O’Brian, but if you’d like to see what he looked like, click: his website is:

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

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My Salesman Dilemma

At each entrance to my neighborhood there are signs posted declaring, “No Soliciting Allowed!”

Of course, we all know those signs become invisible to salespeople. Maybe they don’t know what the word soliciting means, or maybe they think their product isn’t considered a soliciting product. I don’t know, but what I do know is that the signs haven’t been effective at all.

So when I answered my doorbell and saw a chipper young man I’d never seen before standing in my vestibule, I’m sure my face expressed the questions that were on my mind. Who are you? What are you selling? But before I could say anything, he started talking and went on, I believe, without breathing for several minutes. I was more fascinated that he wasn’t breathing than by what he was saying. He apparently believed in his product so much, he wasn’t even going to think about giving up telling me about it until he’d actually shown me how great it really was.

When I finally realized he was, Skip, a salesman selling XYZ vacuum cleaners and shampooers, I very kindly, but firmly, told him I wasn’t interested. I had a perfectly wonderful vacuum cleaner and a shampooer that went with it and I was very happy with them both. That didn’t work. He started his “non-breathing” thing again. I tried telling him, nicely, that our neighborhood didn’t allow solicitors and he might get in trouble, but that didn’t work either. He kept talking. I hate to be mean to people, but this guy wasn’t getting my message, so I backed up a bit so I could gently shut the door in his face.

The door wouldn’t shut. I looked down. I couldn’t believe he’d actually used the old foot in the door trick! I had to admire his tenacity. I told Skip I was not in the market for a vacuum cleaner or shampooer and nothing he said or did would change my mind. He said that was okay, he just wanted to show me. He said there was nooo obligation and he’d vacuum and shampoo an entire room for me at no charge just to show me how wonderful his product was.

At this point I realized he was wearing me down and the only way I was going to get rid of him was by letting him demonstrate his product. So I finally said okay he could demonstrate his product in my living room. He looked beyond me eying my fairly cluttered room with furniture everywhere and probably thought he’d do a small area and then, through his eloquence, sell me his cleaner and shampooer.

I, on the other hand, thought, I might as well get my whole living room vacuumed and shampooed while I had the chance to get it done. Effortlessly and free. So I told him okay. He said it would be a few minutes for him to get all his equipment together and he’d be right with me.

While he was outside, I dashed around and stacked my 5 piece sectional sofa in the adjoining music room along with the coffee table, area rug, two torchier lamps, a folding room screen, an antique chair, two side tables, and an antique brass temple brazier, and two floor cushions.

When he came in the front door with all his equipment, his eyes popped at the sight of the empty carpeted room. Well, he’d said a whole room. So he started vacuuming, telling me and gesturing all the time how well it was cleaning. I was reminded of when my son was small and he would call for me to watch him. “Look mommy, look!” And of course, I’d replied, “Yes, that’s really wonderful.”

When the room was all done, it really did look wonderful and I was happy I wasn’t the one who’d had to do all that work, for a change. I did feel a little guilty that I didn’t buy the vacuum cleaner or the shampooer, but after all, I had told Skip that all along. I wished him much success and told him he was very persuasive and a good salesman, but that I was just not in the market for his product. I think we both felt good when he left.

I’d love to hear about your salesperson experiences.

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

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From Timid to Confident

For some time now, I’ve wanted to share with you readers just how much of an impact belly dancing has had on my life. As I look back over the more than twenty years of my professional dance career and time spent teaching my students, I can’t help but smile while thinking how changed I am from the timid, insecure person I was in the very beginning. Not just in dance, but in every aspect of my life, and I’d like you to imagine my words as an analogy for most any career.

Those who knew me as a beginning dancer probably wouldn’t say I was timid and insecure from their observations, because I was also enthusiastic and very much taken with the mystique of the dance. I, like most of us, suffered silently. I didn’t know many dance steps or how to transition from one to another. I felt my figure wasn’t ideal. I had no idea how to put a costume together or where to find the resources for costumes.  What about hair and makeup? There were so many things I didn’t know, and I couldn’t help feeling intimidated by all those dancers who were so good at their craft. Does this sound familiar?

Take heart. Perhaps if I tell you what I did, you may have similar results.

First of all, you must learn that it is all right to be timid in the beginning. In fact, that trait is helpful. It makes you try harder, want to learn more. If you live in an area where lessons are taught, take as many lessons as you can. Subscribe to publications, read articles and order catalogs that offer supplies. Attend seminars and conventions that give you the whole picture of what you have learned in the classes, and more.

As in any endeavor, networking helps. When I first started going to seminars, I took the time to write to the teacher or guest of honor, ahead of time, letting her/ him know how excited I was that they were going to be teaching and/or performing. That way, when I got to the seminar, there would be at least one person whom I knew, and it’s so easy these days with e-mail. I was always surprised when they remembered that I had written them, but you see, people love to be appreciated. Many famous dancers, I believe, are friends now, because I took the time to make their acquaintance. And the wonderful thing is that belly dancers are really great people. They are eager to teach you the things they have learned and to share their experiences and ideas. So there is really no reason to feel intimidated. Make friends with other students and with vendors, too. After all, your interests are the same.

The more you learn the more confident you become. The more confident you become, the more relaxed you are and the more you can enjoy this beautiful art form. I’ll always remember taking a seminar with the famous performer and teacher, Bert Balladine when he held his head high and told us that each one of us was a gift of God’s and we needed to dance as though we believed it. In the beginning, you may need to pretend you feel that way, (I certainly did), but as you master each challenge, it becomes easier to feel the beauty of the dance and feel beautiful performing it.

When you feel confident and beautiful in one area of your life, it’s amazing how that bleeds into other aspects of it. Because of my experiences in the world of dance and the wonderful people I have met through the years, I feel I have become more interesting, confident, sharing, and even disciplined than I would have been had I not had the courage to enter in with love, enthusiasm, and a willingness to try. So put on that smile, lift yourself up and start on your journey. You, too, can go from timid to confident.

With that said, see how you can take this “dance lesson” and translate it into advice for writing, or for artwork, or for music or science, or whatever your interests are. And have fun!

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

 

 

 

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Medieval Brass Rubbings

Being a romantic, I’ve always had an affinity for the Medieval through Renaissance periods of Britain; roughly between the 5th–17th centuries. Some really beautiful artwork can be found in catacombs and tombs in churches and abbeys, particularly in England, in the form of monumental brasses, which memorialize burials of important people of the day. Brass plates were often etched in effigies of the deceased and sometimes included relatives, pets, armor, status, even occupation of the individual. For historical or artistic value, many people have sought to copy some of these brasses onto paper. I decided I’d like to do that too.

Medieval brasses date back to as early as 1015 AD, I was told, but most of the ones that have survived through the ages are from the 14th century on up to the present day. Many were lost during the Bubonic Plague or Black Death beginning in 1347 AD, building and reconstruction projects, and destruction from wars throughout Europe. Although, the largest collections of brasses are in England, others can be found on the Continent.

Much information can be gleaned from these brasses, such as style and fashion, occupations and status, genealogy, heraldry, the history of armor and even ecclesiastical history. In fact, one could spend a lifetime studying this subject. For me, though, I was interested in learning the craft of rubbing and having a couple pieces of history in my home as mementos of my trip. I have a room with a 6½ʹ tall x 4ʹ wide medieval tapestry and I wanted a couple of brass rubbings for that room, as well.

I lived in Germany at the time and researched for several months to find brasses of the right ilk and then headed for England. Unfortunately, many of the really old brasses are not available anymore for rubbing, because they have been worn down over time, but replica brasses have been made, many of which are exact copies of the originals and are available for rubbing. There are also miniature brasses for those who don’t have time to rub a large one.

To make my rubbing, I used a special black rag paper, a gold metallic, hard wax block and a smaller pencil shaped wax tool, and masking tape to affix the paper to the brass. Many people have thought that making rubbings would be easy, just like coloring. But I can tell you, if you want a really good rubbing, it takes time and patience and sensitivity in one’s fingertips to feel through the paper to the raised areas of the design in order to know where the edges are. The weight of pressing down with the hard wax tool one uses to actually rub is tricky and the consistent direction one rubs makes for a neat and attractive finished product. Achy fingers are a given, before a brass rubbing is completed, I can assure you, but the finished product, for me, was well worth it.

I now have three framed brass rubbings. A small one, I rubbed myself, which is about 26ʺ tall x 10ʺ wide, and a pair, each 3½ʹ tall x 16ʺ wide, of Sir Roger Bellingham, d. 1544 and his wife Elizabeth, d.1500 from Kendal, Westmorland, England; my knight in shining armor and his lady.

If you are interested in learning more about brasses in England you may wish to visit The Monumental Brass Society online. My brass rubbing are below. I also have some grave stone rubbings that I made here in the U.S. Have you ever done any rubbings?

P1020390             P1020400      P1020411

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

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TO CATCH A “TOM”

Last night was one of those occasional nights when I had trouble getting to sleep. My brain was too active and thoughts were rushing through it like people with tight timetables at Grand Central Station. Disjointed memories darted here and there, but one pulled together and stuck with me.

In the early seventies I was living a few miles west of Clovis, New Mexico, where tumbleweeds and roadrunners ruled the land. As usual, I was reading before turning in for the night. The window was open a little, letting in a cool breeze off the desert and I could hear the distant, haunting wail of a freight train. I imagined if I took a moment to look out the window, I could see it way off, a tiny thread in the full moonlight. But my book had me captivated inside.

My husband was asleep next to me and my dog, four paws in the air, was wedged between us; both were gently snoring. After turning a page, I reached for my iced soda on the night stand, took a sip and snuggled into the pillows supporting me against the headboard. I heard what sounded like a faint cough. Figuring the sound came from my husband while I was turned to get my drink, I ignored it.

In the book I was reading, the protagonist had to use his senses and deductive abilities to try to solve the looming mystery. I figured, in sympathy with him, I was being more sensitive, too. That is, until I heard a sniff. I wasn’t absolutely sure I was actually hearing something, or if I had imagined it, so I continued reading, with one ear alerted. I didn’t have to wait long. Another cough, very faint, but definitely a cough.

I sat there pretending to read while I thought about what I should do and remembered a few days ago one of my neighbors mentioned she thought our neighborhood had a Peeping Tom. I’d forgotten about that, but gosh, maybe we did. If I tried waking my husband, “Tom” would overhear, and since he was obviously sitting up on our six-foot-high concrete wall that surrounded the back yard and was scrunched up close to our bedroom window so he could see in, he’d be gone before I even finished uttering my husband’s name. Not a good plan.

I peeked over the top of the book at my dog. How come she hadn’t alerted us to the intruder? Did she know him? Or did she not hear him? She just continued to snore with an occasional twitch of her paws as she galloped along in doggie dreamland.

My brain beat a path through my “little grey cells”, trying to come up with some sort of effective course of action. Then, through the fog, it came to me, and after much deliberation I decided it was the best plan I could think of that might also help capture the guy. I was feeling really good about it and went over it several times to work out the order of steps.

Boosting my courage, I got up and casually walked across the bedroom to the bathroom in the hall carrying my soda glass. A couple of minutes later, I flushed and ran the sink water for a few seconds. Then I came back into the hall, but instead of returning to the bedroom, I turned the opposite direction as though I was going to refill my soda glass in the kitchen on the other side of the house. But, instead of going to the kitchen, I continued down the hall two doors from our bedroom to my husband’s study and gunroom. In the dark room I snuck up to the window and peeked out, careful not to be seen, and had a really good view of the guy sitting on the wall outside my bedroom. Between the full moon and the light from my bedroom he was pretty much spotlighted. I figured he was somewhere in his late teens or early twenties. It made me angry that he would invade our privacy like that so blatantly. Thank goodness I was dressed modestly.

My heart was hammering in my chest as I proceeded to the next step of my plan. I got my camera, turned it on and carefully placed the lens against the window glass, looking through the viewfinder until “Tom” came into view. In my other hand I held my husband’s Colt revolver. Hopefully, the combination of the camera flash, the moonlight and bedroom window light would also light up the gun. After taking a deep breath, I tapped on the window with the gun barrel to get “Tom’s” attention. When he jerked around and looked toward me, I snapped the picture. He practically took flight, leaping off the wall trying to get away.

I was so happy my plan worked. “Tom’s” photo turned out well, he was arrested, went to jail and we had peace in the neighborhood again. A neighboring family, however, was not so happy with their son.

Perhaps my experience may be helpful to you.

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

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How to Make Book Cover Pins

Want to try a super easy method of advertising your book? Make a book-cover pin to wear everywhere you go. It’s amazing how many people will ask you about it! Just be ready to have a clever one-sentence answer that will make them want to read your book. That may take you longer than actually making the pins, but will be worth the time spent.

I have a PC, so if you have a Mac, the instructions may vary. Before my book was published I got a photo of the cover from my publisher which I keep on file in my computer for guest blogging and other promotions. I made my pins 1 ¾” by 2 ¾” but you can make them any size you prefer.

So, go to Microsoft Word (I have Word 10) and click Insert. Find the picture of your book cover in your files, select it and insert it in Word. Resize it to 1 ¾” by 2 ¾”. Click on the picture and you will see Picture Tools at the top right-center of page. Click on that and directly below that will be Picture Border where you can select the thickness and color of your border. I picked a 4 ½ pt. border in black.

Go back to Word’s Home Page  (set the Page Orientation to Landscape) and right-click on your bordered picture and left-click on Copy. Go to a space to the right of the photo and click Paste. Then reposition it to line up with previous photo. Continue to paste across the page to total 5 covers. If you’d like, you can make a second row below this row, giving you ten book cover photos.  Now that you have your book covers all on one page, save it and print it on Glossy Photo paper.

I purchased a 9” thermal laminator at a local box store for around $30 and laminated the sheet of photo paper (just follow the instructions enclosed with the laminator) and then cut out each book cover pin. After a trip to the local craft store to get pin-backs the right size to glue to the back of the covers, I was all done!

I’ve had people ask me about my pin at the grocery store, while dining out, at book signings and talks, all sorts of places. If you wear a plain top in a complimentary color, the book cover will stand out better. Have fun wearing your new pin and give some away to fans, friends and family. If you have a contest for a give-away of your print book, include a book cover pin.

After you’ve made your pins, you can use the laminator for other purposes: for recipe cards to send as gifts, or announcements, special photos to keep in your wallet, etc. I’d love to hear some of your ideas how this project can be used! Enjoy!

Coco with Book Pin

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Today is Why-day

Most of my adult life I’ve tried to keep up with the latest technology, but lately, I’ve fallen behind. Recently, my son asked me with a grin  as he looked at my cell, “Mom, isn’t it time you got a “grown-up” phone?” I answered I really didn’t need one. In addition to my bundled land-line, I have a cell phone that takes photos (in case I’m in an accident), a slide-out qwerty keyboard that enables me to easily text a friend with a hearing disability, voice mail, and unused Internet that drains the battery, besides the obvious ability—phoning people. And it is cheap to own and use each month. So what if my phone is dumb, not smart!?

As a writer, my home and office are located in the same place, so I don’t need traffic and weather reports, or coordination with carpool members. My home computer provides most of the information I need each day and connection with the outside world, and I have GPS in my car.

I’m probably shocking a lot of you readers, but I’ve seen some of you isolate yourselves from the art of conversation at the doctor’s or dentist’s offices, in the grocery store line, at the hair salon, in restaurants, etc. How can I learn how to develop my characters if no one will talk with me?

I remember years ago when I had my dance business; I depended a great deal on my answering machine for acquiring jobs. When messages changed from analog to digital, I suddenly found it difficult to understand them. The digital ones were tinny and it sounded like people were mumbling far off in a concert hall. I still have that trouble. When people call me now, I ask them to call me back on my land line, because I have difficulty understanding them on my cell. I even had my hearing checked to see if it was just me. Nope, I have great hearing.

But, my son’s question played around in my mind. By not having the latest gadget, was I losing my edge, whatever that means? Why do I need to spend a lot of money, time researching, and effort learning how to use a smart phone?

Never the less, I did some research on smart phones and, my goodness, they do a lot these days! They also cost a lot. I’m not poor or cheap, but I can think of better ways to spend my dollars for something I rarely use. Anyway, I went to several consumer websites to gain more information.

Do you know there is not a single review that gives any of the myriad of smart phones an excellent rating on voice quality? Out of a ranking of 5 points they all rank a three. Isn’t that what telephones were originally created for? Apparently, not anymore. I do know it depends on the chosen carrier and the signal and the phone, but…

We humans can send people to outer space, but we can’t make a phone that has great voice quality? That is shocking to me.

Remember the days when, if you purchased a multi-function machine of some kind and if one thing went wrong or broke, you were stuck with having to replace several items or buying another combo-unit? I think that has influenced me also in not buying a smart phone. It does too many things. I know eventually it will be inevitable, but do I have to take that step yet? Hmmm, what to do?

Okay, folks, tell me why you can’t manage without a smart phone. If I’m missing out, I want to know.

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

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K-9 at the Courthouse

I’m a volunteer for the Pasco County, Florida Sheriff’s Office in the West Pasco Judicial Center along with partner, Bob Warms. We work at the Information Desk in the front of the building, just inside security and when Deputy Cheryl Hazelton and her canine (K-9) partner, Dobies, came in, we had a “front row” demonstration of how those two partners work together. What a treat.

Before the doors opened for the day, Deputy Hazelton introduced her partner to us and said Dobies is a “Meth Lab.” Of course, it was a play on words for a very real job they perform for Pasco County.

Deputy Hazelton told us eighteen-month-old, Dobies, a Black Labrador Retriever, was a Christmas present this year and she is in training. Both partners were full of energy and smiles. Dobies warmed up a bit by chasing and retrieving a ball thrown by her partner down the hallway several times before the doors opened and they got down to business.

A class from a local high school was coming to the courthouse for a tour and the drug sniffing dog was part of that experience. Another part was a visit to Judge Declan Mansfield’s courtroom. In fact, Judge Mansfield came down and watched as the kids filed in through security before being introduced to him.

I’ve been to several K-9 demonstrations at writer’s conventions that were put on by FDLE agents and I graduated from the Citizen’s Police Academy of Pasco County and have seen the various ways canines help officers of the law, but today’s experience had a little more of a personal touch, and especially because it was unexpected.

The Canine Unit is assigned to patrol sectors and assist uniform operations by responding to routine calls for service when they are not providing search assistance. Canines are trained for area searches, article searches, and evidence recovery, building searches, tracking criminal suspects, locating missing persons, narcotics and bomb detection. The Canine Unit is also involved in public education, performing demonstrations of canine ability and uses to Pasco citizens.

There are several myths and misconceptions about K-9s, says Jim Weiss. One is that K-9s are kept in kennels. Actually, they are kept in their handler’s homes, but trained in a Sheriff’s training class.

Another misconception is that K-9s can’t pick up scents from metal objects, concrete or water. Not true.

The bite sleeve isn’t being used as much as it used to. Now, full body bite suits have been found to be more natural, because the dogs learn they can bite anywhere.

Myth: K-9s are only good for five years. Pasco County generally gets seven to eight years’ work out of their dogs before they retire them.

Myth: K-9s are robots. Like people, dogs have good days and bad days. Unsuccessful searches can happen to both dog and handler.

Myth: K-9s are expensive. Actually many K-9 programs have a lot of community support that keeps the costs down. Area veterinarians often provide the dogs treatment at their own expense. Charity fundraisers help with costs, as do community leaders. Many people are supportive.

Most of the dogs in the Canine Unit are German shepherds, but there is a bloodhound also, along with Dobies. These dogs risk their lives every day, just like their human partners. I tip my hat to these officers, both human and canine. Their motto: “We serve as one.”

Below is a photo of Dobies at the security scanner.

Pasco Sheriff's K-9 Assoc. Post

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set primarily in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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In Search of Elusive Quiet

 

Although it’s cloudy today, the weather is a mid-seventies mild and there’s a light breeze, perfect for having my doors and windows open to the fresh air while I settle down to write this blog post. The problem is that there’s noise everywhere and it’s difficult to concentrate.

My neighbor behind me has decided today’s the day to repair his yard-separating fence, which requires cutting fence lengths and posts with an electric saw and his German Shepherd dogs are barking at nosy crows swooping from trees to lamp posts and cawing back. The house across the street is having new tile put in a bathroom, so the tile cutting motor is grinding its song to join in the cacophony. And somewhere high above there is the rumble of distant airliners approaching and departing Tampa International Airport.

I’ve been staring at my computer screen waiting for the usual easy to find idea for a blog subject and I can’t even hear myself think. Am I more sensitive today than usual? Or is it just that it’s one of those noisy days that happen now and then? And what can I do about it?

Classical music is something that usually helps me concentrate, so I am now basking in 18th Century music. There’s a little change, but not enough. As I sit here in my office looking around the room waiting for an idea to hit me, I’m remembering an article I read a while ago about a rather famous Florida author, whom I admire. In the article, there was a photograph of him in his writing space. He was wearing headphones. That intrigued me and I read on. The photograph showed a body of water and a boat through a window beyond the headphoned author.

We writers are often accused of having little voices bouncing around in our heads as we write and I can attest to that, so wouldn’t it make sense to be able to “hear” them? Hmmmm. I decided to test that theory and I made a trip to my local box store and found some noise-canceling headphones in the hunting department. I tried them on and Voilà: quiet! This was a eureka moment for me, an epiphany. I bought them and came home to test them out.

I think it actually turned out to be a cosmic experience or something. The moment I put on the headphones, everyone quit making noise. The birds flew away. The dogs quit barking. My neighbor stopped working and went inside and the tile guys packed up and went home for the day. No sign of airliners either. Removing the headphones didn’t make any difference. The silence was almost palpable. Now there’s a gentle drizzle falling, perceived only by light reflecting on the tiny drops against the dark trees.

Was it the coming precipitation that caused this lack of noise, or did the famous Florida writer have some sort of karmic secret? I don’t know, but I now have my blog post written and I’m happy and calm and ready to relax.

Do any of you have a way to acquire the quiet you need to write? Or do you even need quiet? Share your secrets, please.

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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She’s a Centenarian

How many people you know are 100 years old or more? I’ve known several in their eighties and nineties, but, for me, only one who turned 100—yesterday. Her name is Nellie and she is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. She lives next door in a house she maintains herself. She does her own cleaning and laundry, cooking and washing dishes. She even still drives her car and is a safe driver. She can count backwards from one hundred just like I would count forward. I can’t do that!

Nellie is also stubbornly independent. She insists on getting her mail from across the street, often in the rain. I try to beat her to it, but she scolds me saying she needs the exercise. This past summer, she and I wanted to re-sod our lawns and, since she doesn’t have a computer, I did the research on sod sources and lawn maintenance companies and someone to check our existing sprinklers. Together we set up appointments to get estimates and made arrangements to get the work done. She already knew how to program her sprinkler and now we both have fabulous new lawns.

I asked, “If you could describe your life in one word, what would it be?” She immediately said, “Happy.” Then I asked her if she had highlights she could tell me about. She said her 61 year marriage to her husband, Johnny, and the birth of her daughter were tops, but she went on to tell me about many trips and adventures she shared with her family, and card parties and going to Busch Gardens every year. Without hesitation she said, “I have no regrets.”

I asked her if there was anything bad she remembered and she told me how she and her husband bought a house here in Florida and they kept up flood insurance payments for many years and when the insurance got too expensive and they’d had no problems, they dropped it. Of course, a few years afterwards, a storm completely flooded their house and they lost everything. She related how she saw a snake swimming through her home and screamed for her husband to get rid of it. He wasn’t very enthusiastic about this and she said, “Okay, I’ll get a bucket.” She scooped it up praying it wouldn’t jump out, and trying to wade as fast as she could through thigh-high water, she squealed all the way to the toilet where she tossed it in. “It’s funny now, but it wasn’t then!” she chuckled.

Her best friend is Lillian, a widow like her and also her sister-in-law, who lives on the next street. Lillian is like Nellie in that she also lives alone and drives, and she’s ninety. The two of them love to get together to play cards, sometimes until the wee hours and Nellie likes to sleep late. One advantage of being a bit hard-of-hearing is that she is not disturbed by the early morning sounds of yard men mowing and such, since she takes her hearing aids out when she sleeps.

When Dancing with the Stars was on she and I would talk the next day about which dances we liked and which stars we rooted for. She even took the time and trouble to vote! And even though we thought all the dancers in the finals were fabulous, we both were pleased when Derek Hough and the lovely and gracious Bindy Irwin won the Mirror Ball Trophy.

This Christmas season, as we celebrate the gift Our Father has given us in the birth of Our Savoir, I am thankful for the gift of Nellie in my life. She is such a gracious and happy person even though she suffers from some of the aches and pains of old age. I want to be just like her when I grow up!

Happy 100 Nellie!

 

Coco Ihle is the author of She Had to Know, an atmospheric, traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

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