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

The Miracle Mother

By the age of two, I had developed a syndrome called “failure to thrive”, which is a condition in which a child doesn’t meet recognized standards of growth and, in my case, was caused by neglect, poor nutrition and physical abuse. With me, it manifested itself in my refusing to eat. Subsequently, I was removed from my birth mother’s care and placed in the Foster Care System.

The agency dealing with my placement became worried when I was not responding well within several foster homes and they began a serious search for a foster parent who had experience with children with nutritional and emotional issues. When I was three and a half years old, along came Mrs. Gladys Morrell, who would eventually become my new mother.

Gladys, for some unknown reason, was unable to have children of her own, but she had been very successful in fostering. My case seemed to contain just the challenges Gladys was looking for, so I was placed in her home, where I did well.  When all requirements were met and I was eligible for adoption, I became Gail E. Morrell. By this time I was four and a half years old and my new parents were Gladys and Dr. Charles Morrell, a research chemist.

Although, I was reared in what might be termed an upscale neighborhood, my parents were of humble origins and they instilled in me good Christian values such as honesty, hard work and the concept of giving back to the community. My mother had grown up in a poor area of West Virginia and realized early on that education was to key to one’s choices in life. She graduated from college and started teaching to save money to send her mother through college also. She then went on to get her Master’s degree and had almost completed her Ph.D. when she married.

During the time I was growing up, she joined the local school board and the National Board of the YWCA. And she started a sewing group that met once a month in her house to sew clothing, blankets, and whatever for needy children all over the world. I remember going with her into New York City to get supplies for the sewing group.

She also was an avid antique collector and she decided to collect spindle-style wooden oak, maple or cherry kitchen chairs with the cane seats. Going to garage and estate sales was something my father and I also enjoyed doing on weekends and while traveling. Many times the cane seats in these chairs were damaged, so Mom set out to learn how to do the caning herself. I remember many an evening passed while my Mom caned chair seats in the kitchen of our home.

We had a large basement and Mom stored chairs down there and eventually collected and refurbished what became sets of four, six and eight in addition to individual ones, which she sold over time. Her goal was to sell enough to send money back to her home town in West Virginia to a young person, who without help, could never afford to go beyond high school.  Her efforts sent three kids all the way through college.

Then she was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. Even during her illness, she researched her disease and helped her doctors discover new ways to help other patients. I remember how amazed her doctors were by her.

Throughout the years, whenever I heard people talking about my mother, it was always with such sincere respect. It was intimidating growing up in her shadow, and I knew I’d never be able to even put her shoes on, much less fill them. But I feel so privileged to have known her. She was not only a miracle mother, but a miracle human being.

 

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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The Quest for Techies

The other day I received an e-mail from an organization that caters to seniors (of which I’m a member) and that has a 4 letter acronym as a title. This organization was offering a series of free classes in how to operate a smartphone, both android and iOS (Apple) phones. I immediately read further to get the particulars. I have an older android smartphone and my knowledge of its functions is basic to say the least. I can add and subtract people in my contacts, make calls, text, send a photo to an e-mail address and play with my Bitmoji app. That’s about it, so a class to learn more sounded excellent to me. However the letter also stated that our specific phones would NOT be addressed. We students would learn on a phone they would allow us to use during the class. I could just picture in my mind’s eye the chaos in a room full of seniors, all with “deer in headlight” syndrome, interrupting the instructor to ask how this lesson was different than on the phone they used. I had already experienced this phenomenon when I took a class in operating a late model camera and also when I attended a hospital lecture about AFib for which there are several different medications which all work differently.

The e-mail also said that two classes would be offered for android and two classes for iOS phones. One set of classes was offered in the morning and one in the afternoon for each, and these classes were available in St. Petersburg or Tampa. I live an hour north of each of these heavily congested locations. The next thing I noticed was that all the classes in the morning said registration was already full. I never even had a chance to sign-up for a morning class. And the afternoon classes concluded right at rush hour. Surprise, surprise! I wonder who was responsible for setting that schedule up?

I decided to call the number suggested in the e-mail for further questions and when someone answered they knew nothing about these classes. After fumbling around for a while, putting me on hold and coming back, they didn’t know why the morning classes were already full and they didn’t know why the afternoon classes were scheduled to get out at rush hour. They also didn’t know if any classes would ever be offered anywhere nearer me. Why was I not surprised? This sort of thing is so typical in today’s world. Some half-wit took a great idea and turned it into an idiot’s endeavor, by being too lazy or ignorant to figure out how to make these classes possible for people in this geographic area.

Some people have disdain for seniors, claiming they are too stupid or lazy to learn how to use a smartphone or other technology. Those who feel this way are not being fair. I am a senior and I love to learn new things, as do many of my friends. The problem is in finding a source for that learning. I’ve always been good at reading owner’s manuals or going to a store where I’ve purchased an item when I’ve gotten stuck. Owner’s manuals are no longer being printed. The manual that does exist is on the phone, but if one doesn’t know how to get to it, what good is it!!! And if by some miracle you do get to the manual, nothing is explained in detail. It’s assumed we are already tech knowledgeable. And phone stores don’t typically teach people how to use their phones. They upgrade!  The few classes I’ve seen offered are too basic for me. Talk about frustration! It’s laughable!

We seniors need patient young folks to offer instruction in operating cell phones!!! Other technology, too! We’re even willing to pay. Help!!!

 

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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Size Matters – to Me

As a reader, I have a general book length that I prefer reading. As a writer, I found I did, too. When I wrote my first book, it just naturally came out to about 75,000 words which equals roughly between 250 and 310 pages of either a Mass Market Paperback or the larger Trade Paperback, and can vary even more with e-books.

I guess most of the books I read are classified as traditional mysteries, historical mysteries and cozies with an occasional fantasy or adventure thrown in, and these books are all in that general word length mentioned above.  I almost always read every day for at least an hour, sometimes more, so one could say I read a lot of books.

Keeping the price of reading under control is a challenge because I really enjoy keeping up with my favorite authors who have to be prolific in order to keep their publishers. And publishers seem to understand this, so they have encouraged authors, especially best-selling ones, to recommend their favorite books to the public through companies who promote current books (as if authors didn’t have enough to do in marketing their own books). Note: I seriously find it hard to believe that some of the authors listed as recommending some books actually have read them, much less have the time to recommend them. Okay, call me cynical. But, I don’t want to miss out if so-and-so says it’s really great… What to do? Opps, I got a little off track.

Lately more and more opportunities have become available for books to be offered at a discount, both in print and in e-book form and not all the books are current. Some are classics or books that were popular years ago, went out of print and have just become available again (largely due to Print-on-Demand).  Sometimes the books are free or $.99, or $1.99, sometimes more. These books help my budget, provide good PR for the authors and keep their name “out there.”

Maybe I haven’t been paying enough attention, but recently I noticed a trend where a favorite author has a new book out and in my rush to get it, I didn’t check the word-count or length of the file or page count, and after I’ve downloaded it to my Kindle, I find out the book is only 55 pages long. True, I may have only paid $.99, but I feel cheated when the book was not advertised as a novella. It’s easy to check when purchasing, but I’ve been excited and in a hurry and downloaded before checking a few times now. That won’t happen again!

When I read a book, it takes time for me to discern the plot of the book and get the characters straight and usually by 55 pages, I’m really getting interested, not ready to close the cover. Here I’ve invested my money, time and effort and (granted) senior memory in this book and it’s already over. That makes me very unhappy. Has anyone else noticed this trend, or is it just me? Makes me want to mumble, “Grrrrrrr!!!”

With some really favorite authors I’ll wait impatiently however long it takes for the next book in their series to come out and I’ll pay the full price at release date (or pre-order price), but I can’t afford to do that with all my reading material, so from now on, I’ll watch carefully to see how long the book is before I order, because I want to be a happy reader.

How about you?  Have you noticed this size thing? Does it matter 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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My Christmas Card List

My early adult years in the mid 1960’s were spent as a military spouse and as such, friends were most likely people who had shared my husband’s and my life. Military bonds tend to run deep, because they frequently involve hardships. So when friends are made, they often remain so for life, at least for me.

For instance, my husband, Byron and I were assigned to a small radar site in northern Montana, six miles from the Canadian border as the crow flies and thirty-eight miles from the nearest town, population 10,000. Temperatures reached minus 50 degrees that first winter and sand storms were the norm in the spring and fall. Twenty-eight houses comprised the living quarters for families and a small BOQ (bachelor officer quarters) held two or three single men. We were lucky to have TV, but the signal was interrupted every 18 seconds or so with the sweep of the radar antenna. Once every three months, we had a doctor, dentist and priest/minister rotate to our site for a few days, so neighbor helped neighbor, regularly. We became family, a concept particularly meaningful to me, having been orphaned early in my life.

I imagine you have an idea what I’m trying to say about how deeply military families extend and grow to include neighbors and friends. And in each place Byron and I were stationed, our original family of three became larger and larger. From our first deployment, I decided to create a Christmas card list so I could keep up with my family no matter where we all were.  Even now, fifty-five years later, after a divorce even, I’ve kept up with many people from those wonderful military days. From Montana, the people across the street, Cliff and Shirley had a daughter who babysat for our son, Rob, when he was three. Cliff has passed now, but Shirley and I still stay in touch. Then when Byron was teaching aerospace studies at North Texas State University to ROTC students, several of those students are still exchanging Christmas cards with me.

Three years in Germany added to the list and New Mexico and Texas did too, and I gained another friend when I was lucky to invade my husband’s remote tour (without family) to Iceland for a two week R&R (rest and recuperation) visit. And during Vietnam, I spent time with my in-laws since I lived nearby. Our last assignment was in Montgomery, AL at Maxwell Air Force Base Wing Headquarters ROTC and we lived just outside the back gate of Gunter Air Force Station, so the family we gathered there were not just military, but members of a Scottish society and civilians alike.

My husband and I may have divorced, but not my through-the-years friends. In fact they became even closer to me since I’d lost part of my family. And I made new ones from neighbors, church, and various interests.

Yesterday, I received a Christmas card from my sister and enclosed was a poem that I just have to share with you. It says everything I feel about my Christmas card list. Perhaps you have your own version.

 

The Christmas Card List

There is a list of folks I know
All written in a book,
And every year at Christmas time
I go and take a look.
And that is when I realize
Those names are all a part
Not of the book they’re written in,
But deep inside my heart.

For each name stands for someone
Who has touched my life sometime,
And in that meeting they’ve become
A special friend of mine.
I really feel that I’m composed
Of each remembered name,
And my life is so much better
Than it was before they came.

Once you’ve known that “someone”,
All the years cannot erase
The memory of a pleasant word
Or of a friendly face.
So never think my Christmas cards
Are just a mere routine
Of names upon a list that are
Forgotten in between.

For when I send a Christmas card
That is addressed to you,
It is because you’re on that list
Of folks I’m indebted to.
And whether I have known you
For many years or few,
The greatest gift that God can give
Is having friends like you!

Author Unknown

 

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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Well I’ll Be!

Although I live surrounded by neighbors, I don’t necessarily see them every day. In fact, sometimes I won’t see a single soul for maybe even a week. That’s not unusual since I’m retired and most people who live near me are younger and have jobs that keep them away during the day. And I’m the type who almost always has a project or two lined up to keep me busy, many times inside.

Since I live alone, I don’t always have someone to bounce ideas off of unless I use my phone or email, so I’ve become one of those people other people like to make fun of, because I talk to myself. Do any of you ever do that? I honestly don’t know why, but I don’t talk to myself out loud. I whisper, and only when I am alone. How strange is that?

Occasionally, when I’ve been out shopping or whatever, I’ve actually seen and heard people talking out loud to themselves, so I’m assuming I’m probably not THAT unusual, but I have no idea why I whisper. Maybe, my inner-self thinks it’s weird to talk to oneself, so if I whisper no one will notice? But if I’m alone…that doesn’t seem to make sense. I decided it wasn’t that big a deal and not serious enough to be concerned about so I just go about my activities as usual.

Often, my friends and family contact me via email, so I spend a part of each day conversing with them silently. However, my son makes it a point to phone me usually once a week or so. Most of the time these days, when my phone rings,  it’s a political ad, someone trying to sell me something, or someone trying to scam me, so if I don’t recognize the name on my Caller ID, I just ignore calls, and as a result, there may be days when I don’t speak with anyone.

I noticed the last few times my son called, my voice was hoarse and my tone was elevated and he asked if I was okay. I assured him I was fine, but started to be aware of my voice sounding differently. I also noticed I was having a little trouble swallowing and decided, since I had my annual check-up coming up, I’d run this past my doctor, just to make sure all actually was okay.

So, my appointment came and my doctor checked me over and asked if anything was different than before and I told him that I felt well except for the slight difficulty swallowing and hoarse voice. He said it was probably normal, but he’d recommend me going to see an Ears, Nose and Throat doctor, just to make sure. So long story short, I went to the ENT doctor, who did a thorough check and this is what he said, “I think you’re fine. It’s not uncommon for us, as we age, to get dry mouth, which you’ve told me you have, so my recommendation is to drink more fluids when eating. That will take care of the swallowing difficulty. And for the hoarse voice, I suggest you talk out loud to yourself during the day. That will keep your vocal cords warmed up and working for when you do need to say something to someone.”

Well I’ll be! Can you believe that? Have you ever heard of a DOCTOR prescribing talking out loud to yourself as a cure? This has become my favorite story to tell my friends. Hahahahaha!!!! Maybe those people I saw and heard talking to themselves were following their doctor’s orders!

 

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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Hurry-Cane Michael

For a couple of days now, I’ve been glued to my TV trying to keep up with the latest movement of Hurricane Michael. I live in New Port Richey, Florida, close to the Gulf of Mexico in west-central Florida. It’s 3:30 in the afternoon on this tenth of October, 2018 and we are experiencing bands of gusty rain squalls from this storm, which is almost 500 miles northwest of here, as the crow flies. I’m quite safe, but what has had me so intent on my TV screen is friends who are not.

One friend, along with his family, lives and owns a grocery store in the Apalachicola, Florida area, just about dead center of “ground zero.” Another friend is visiting her friends in Crawfordville, directly south of Tallahassee, not far from Michael, who has, at this point, just gained landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, just one mile-per-hour shy of a Category 5. That’s 155 miles per hour that it is spinning and causing havoc! Can you believe that? The weathercasters are saying this storm is one of three of the strongest storms in history to breach an American coastline.

I went through Hurricane Irma last year and that experience is still fresh in my mind. And as a Floridian since 2002, I’ve ridden through a few hurricanes and tropical storms since I moved here.

Some people have asked me why I would choose to live in such a dangerous place. I’ve actually thought about the answer to that question and have decided there really isn’t a place I’d want to live that is any safer, these days, anyway. I grew up in NJ. There’s snow there and hurricanes too. I’ve lived in Indiana where there are ticks in the grass. Ewww! I know, poor excuse. Montana got down to 50 degrees-below-zero the first winter I spent there and I vividly remember a storm that produced baseball sized hail right after I planted hollyhocks. Grrrr! I lived a couple of places in Texas where I had to deal with scorpions in one place and pigeon mites in another. Alabama was pretty safe except I moved from there to be closer to my son as I grew older.

My conclusion is every place will have advantages and disadvantages and now that I’m here, I’m stayin! I like the warmer weather until summer hits and I’m truly blessed to have a neighbor behind me who has a hurricane-safe-rated house. So, last year, during Irma, I sat securely in her house keeping an eye open on my house. Everything turned out okay and the only thing I lost was a wonderful old backyard hedge, which I replaced with a vinyl fence.

My friends I was worried about, I’m still worried about because I’ve gotten word they have lost power. So, at this point, my action calls for heavy prayer, but actually, that’s the action I started out with and it usually works the best. Please help me pray? I’d appreciate it!

Update: It’s Thursday the 11th and I heard late last night that my friends are safe. Thank goodness. I’m continuing to pray for all those others who have gone through this monstrous storm, and I also pray that Hurricane Michael will hurry out of the U.S. so we can start the healing process.

 

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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Bouchercon World Mystery Convention

I normally write something about writing in general or about my life in my blog, but this month I hope my publisher will pardon the account of my adventure of the last several days.

Bouchercon, the annual world mystery convention, this year began Wednesday, September 5th and ended early Sunday afternoon at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is named for Anthony Boucher (rhymes with voucher), famous writer, reviewer and editor, is held each year in a different city and is organized by a group of volunteers. The authors represented are literally from all over the world.

The people who attend are fans, authors, agents, publishers, booksellers, and other people who enjoy reading mystery and crime fiction. This year we numbered almost 2,000. The first Bouchercon was held in Santa Monica, California in 1970 and there have been others in New York, NY; Chicago, IL; St. Louis, MO; Anchorage, AK; Austin, TX; Madison, WI; Washington, D.C.; Denver, CO; Toronto, Canada; to mention just a few.

Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine announces the Barry Awards each year at the Bouchercon opening ceremonies. This year those prizes went to:

Best Novel: The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

Best First Novel: The Dry by Jane Harper

Best Paperback Original: The Deep Dark Descending by Allen Eskens

Best Thriller: Unsub by Meg Gardiner

Attendees of the convention register and receive a book bag filled with books from publishers along with a Bouchercon book which contains ads for books and author’s biographies complete with photos, so we can recognize authors we don’t know by face, a schedule of events, maps of the hotel so we can find our way to various panels, Guests of Honors’ biographies and a listing of candidates and their books for the prestigious Anthony Awards which is announced at an awards ceremony on Saturday night.

Each day we all traipse to different panels that might be of interest covering all sorts of subjects. Some are funny, some are about the craft of writing, some are about helpful thoughts or experiences authors have had and are eager to share. After the panels, we rush to the book signing area to get authors to sign books we have purchased in the on-site book store and often to get a photo taken with said author.

In between all this, there are times when we may see an author we admire sitting in an alcove in the lobby area. They are always so friendly and willing to talk and share their experiences. It’s just amazing how giving mystery authors are.

The Guests of Honor this year were:

American Guests of Honor: Sean Chercover and Karin Slaughter

International Guests of Honor: Mark Billingham and Sara Blaedel

Lifetime Achievement (And Not Done Yet) Honoree: Ian Rankin

Toastmaster: Lisa Unger

Florida Guest of Honor: Tim Dorsey

Fan Guest of Honor: Judy Bobalik and Ayo Onatade

Ghost of Honor: John D. MacDonald

This Years’s Charity: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

 

And the nominees for the Anthony Award were:  (Winners in bold print)

Best Novel: 

  Bluebird Bluebird by  Attica Locke

The Force  by Don Winslow

Glass Houses  by Louise Penny

The late Show  by Michael Connelly

 Magpie Murder  by Anthony Horowitz

 

Best first Novel:

The Dry  by Jane Harper

Hollywood Homicide  by Kellye Garrett

The Last Place You Look  by Kristen Lepionka

Ragged; or, The Lovliest Lies of All  by Christopher Irvin

She Rides Shotgun  by Jordan Harper

 

Best Paperback Original: 

Bad Boy Boogie  by Thomas Pluck

Cast the First Stone  by James W. Ziskin

The Day I Died  by Lori Rader-Day

  Uncorking a Lie  by Nadine Nettman

What We Reckon  by Eryk Pruitt

 

Best Critical or Nonfiction Book:

Chester B. Himes: A Biography by Lawrence P. Jackson

From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon by Mattias  Boström

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

  Rewrite Your Life: Discover Your Truth Through the Healing Power of Fiction by Jessica Lourey

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards

 

Best Short Story

  “God’s Gonna Cut You Down  by Jen Conley

“My Side of the Matter”  by Hilary Davidson

“A Necessary Ingredient” by Art Taylor

“The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place” by Debra Goldstein

“The Trial of Madame Pelletier”  by Susanna Calkins

“ Whose Wine Is It Anyway” by barb Goffman

 

Best Anthology

Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea- Andrew McAleer & Paul D. Marks, Editors

Just to Watch Then Die: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Johnny Cash-Joe Clifford, Editor

Killing Maimon-Dan & Kate Maimon, editors

 The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir-Gary Phillips, editor

Passport to Murder, Bouchercon Anthology 2017-John McFetridge, editor

 

Best Online Content

  BOLO Books

Do Some Damage: An Inside Look at Crime Fiction

Dru’s Book Musings

Jungle Red Writers

Writer Types Podcast

 

Bill Crider Award for Best Novel in a Series

Dangerous Ends (Pete Fernandez #3)  by Alex Sequra

Give Up the Dead (Jay Porter #3)  by Joe Clifford

Glass Houses (Armand Gamache #13)  by Louise Penny

Two Kinds of Truth (Harry Bosch#20)  by Michael Connelly

  Y is for Yesterday ( Kinsey Millhone #25)  by Sue Grafton

 

All in all, Bouchercon this year was another exhilarating and exhausting few days of events. It was wonderful seeing old friends and making new ones, finding authors I had not read before and connecting with established ones, seeing some getting their well-earned rewards and being disappointed for others. And for you, dear readers, perhaps I’ve given you some names of authors to try for the first time. Next year Dallas, Texas will be the host city. Until then…

 

 

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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Great Day Versus…

When I wake up and start my day and everything just follows along in a neutral way and nothing out of the ordinary happens, it just becomes another day, for which I’m grateful. If something doesn’t go well for enough of the day, I might classify it as a bad day. Or, if a lot of things do go well, it’s a good day. Do you judge your days like that? Do you even think about it?

The reason I ask is yesterday was a great day for me, and as I expressed it out loud to some friends, I was surprised, and I wanted to know why. I guess I don’t take time to analyze each day, one way or another, I just live it and go on. Does that make sense?

But for some reason, I felt it was important to tell my friends I was having a great day. I felt that I should let them know that great days happen. Maybe they had only had ordinary days or not so good days lately. Or perhaps they might have had a couple bad days even. They hadn’t said so, but I wanted to plant a “great day seed.” I have the feeling you may be convinced I’m bonkers. So now, I guess I need to explain what makes up a good or great day versus one not so good or bad, at least for me.

As I thought about it, I decided that generally my days are good days, not bad or great. I get a lot of satisfaction out of finishing projects and setting goals for myself, and I enjoy trying to do something or say something nice or inspiring to/for someone each day. I guess that gives me a sense of purpose and self-worth.

Lately, I’ve been battling with a seller over a merchandise return and refund that started in May. All I wanted to do was return the items and get a refund. Things were complicated by the fact that I was dealing with a foreign company and shipping dealt with customs and taxes. I had paid for the items through a mediator, who was trying to help me, but it was all online and somewhat confusing. I guess that issue weighed me down more than I realized. So when I was dealing with another company with online back orders and discontinued items, I thought more complications and disappointment were on their way.

Yesterday, the day started with an email stating all was settled with the foreign company,  items were returned and I was getting my refund. Another email informed me that the items I thought were back ordered and discontinued might not be and had shipped. I was a bit confused by that email, but the mailman arrived moments later and all items I’d ordered were in the package. I could hardly believe it. Oh, joy!

To top it off, a package arrived from a friend I hadn’t seen or spoken with for some time. He had called two nights ago saying it was on its way, but wouldn’t tell me what it was. It was a porcelain bell with delicate painted flowers and my name on it. He’d seen it and was reminded of me and decided to send it to me. I was so touched when I saw it.

Then to top it off, I was preparing to go to my monthly luncheon with three friends and when I offered to drive, one of the gals said she’d already planned to drive and would pick me up. We all spent a couple of hours relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. What’s not great about that?! So I shared my “great day” news with my friends and decided to share it with you, too, dear readers. A great day doesn’t have to be a spectacular or phenomenal or supernatural occasion, at least not for me. Just a day in which things go right and friends are strong. How’s your day?

 

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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Neighbors – These Days

I live in a deed restricted community of about 200 houses about 35 miles north of Tampa, FL, in the $100,000 to $200,000 range, built around 1990. The yearly fee we homeowners pay is partly used for a landscaping company’s grooming around several ponds and for maintenance of our two electrical entrance signage areas. Our fees are also supposed to go for any legal action needed to collect any tardy or non-paid yearly dues. A couple years ago our homeowners’ board and members voted to resurface a portion of road that had gotten too badly potholed, added a beautiful fountain in one of the larger ponds, planted crepe myrtle trees in some common areas, etc. We used to receive a newsletter each month letting us all know what the board had been up to since the last one and I always volunteered to deliver that newsletter on my street.

Unfortunately, our most active board member moved away and for some reason the board lost its oomph and kind of fell apart. Now we get a newsletter once a year along with a yearly member’s meeting. Enforcement of the bylaws that kept our neighborhood looking nice, like lawns mowed and edged, trees and bushes trimmed, houses painted and roofs cleaned of algae, etc., have gotten lax and rentals have been allowed.

What’s happened is big companies or small groups of people like the “flippers” you see on TV are buying up houses and renting them to people who have no direct interest in this community. There is a county law that disallows cars to park on the street or on the lawns, for instance. The renters don’t care, so they do it anyway. And many renters are not taking care of the properties they live in. Those of us who have purchased homes here risk becoming “bad” neighbors if we say something. Many of us old timers are concerned about lower property values. Our homes are already almost thirty years old and many of us have remodeled insides and re-sodded outsides in order to maintain healthy values.

Directly next door to me is a group of unrelated people living in a single family dwelling in what they term a “blended family.” The problem is, I don’t see the same people all the time coming or going and there are multiple cars parked in the street at night, which is not allowed. When these people first arrived, I went over and introduced myself and I got first names of some of them, but no full names. They were very vague. I told them if they needed anything or needed help in any way, I’d be glad to do what I could. Most neighbors on my street know one-another, so this secretive behavior from them confused me.

This “family’s” house is on a corner, so the front and one side are very visible. The property was immaculate when they moved in and since then it has gone very quickly downhill. They don’t mow the lawn, edge it, take any care of the lawn, trees, bushes, and have left bright white sandbags left over from hurricane Irma outside along my side of their house along with a kayak (strictly a no-no according to our by-laws). I tried to tell them nicely, but they don’t care and they ignore all the rules.

Finally at the request of some of my other neighbors, I resorted to reporting them to the homeowners’ association board so a letter of encouragement could be sent to them. I had given them a copy of the by-laws when they moved in since they told me they had not seen them. The president of the board told me to just call our county code enforcement office. What used to be handled by the board is now expected to be handled by the citizenry of the neighborhood. I was concerned about retribution problems, but I waited until I saw mold appearing on the outside of their sunroom and the grass was two feet high and I saw a rat. It was time I did something.

Luckily the county was swift in acting and the people mowed today and a truck came and cut up all the dead tree branches and cleaned up the flower beds these neighbors let die from lack of water and care. So it took almost a year for these people to realize that they had some rules they had to follow or else fines would have to be paid. I’m just praying it doesn’t take that long for them to mow and clean up again.

I spent $3,000 on new sod just two years ago and I have a monthly service that keeps it healthy. I also have a regular man who mows my lawn, and edges and blows the grass off the street. I really don’t want these neighbor’s weeds to spread into my yard. Other homeowners feel the same way. I can’t understand why people don’t want to live in a neighborhood that looks nice. The whole neighborhood used to be really friendly, too. Now many of the long time neighbors are not happy with the renters and that causes tensions.

Anyone have a suggestion or solution? I’d really like to hear!!! The most logical is to forbid rentals, but I don’t think that’s possible.

 

 

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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Understanding My Epiphany

I was reading a book a couple of days ago when suddenly, in a clear flash of understanding; I became aware of what propels me most in making choices and decisions. I found that especially shocking since I’m seventy-five years old. One would imagine, by that age, one wouldn’t be surprised at all by anything they might choose or decide. Yet, I was blown away.

The book’s passage had to do with how different people relate to life. Some people are practical and stoic and are led by natural laws following virtue alone, or through reason, fear, boredom, led or indifferent to other’s opinions, passions or emotions. I’ve always considered myself a rather practical person, most of the time, weighing pros and cons to make good logical choices. So I thought.

Instead of reading on in this book, I found myself dwelling on the dialog of one character to the other when he said to her that she was the kind of person who had to have passion when she picked her friends, selected favorite music, decided what to eat, even when decorating her abode. Those choices were what made her, her. But, she thought, if she believed hard enough, could she choose to follow convention or settle for security and not incorporate her passion?

What suddenly hit me was, the choices and decisions that have made me the happiest and most satisfied in my life have been the ones made with passion first, and not necessarily with thoughts of security or convention or so-called common sense. And I’d never really thoroughly thought this out before.

Not long ago, I attended my 55th high school reunion and our former class president asked several of us to each tell the group what we were passionate about now. One classmate said he wasn’t passionate about anything in particular. He was the only one of us who had not retired and when asked about that, he wasn’t sure what he would do when he did retire.

I remember feeling immensely sad for him when he said that. Here was a well-educated man, nice looking, healthy, very comfortable financially, with potentially lots of years left to him. The former class president asked him what he liked to do and the answer was, sail. Later I found out he’d bought a sailboat and I was so happy for him until I learned he was in the process of selling it. Too much trouble keeping it up was his reason why. He was divorced and didn’t have anyone to care about except two grown children. I kept in touch for a while, but the last time I spoke with him on the phone, he told me he wouldn’t want to live if something ever happened to his kids. Gosh!

I have a son, daughter-in-law, grandson and a sister and her family and I look forward to talking on the phone with them and visiting whenever possible. I don’t think about negative things that might happen to them or me. I just enjoy them and look forward to sharing my life with them and vice versa, now and in the future. There still are so many things I want to do, experience and share.

Although I’ve tried to be sensible, passion has made my life more rewarding and fulfilling. My mother taught me to be a “Save for a rainy day, but also enjoy each and every day to the fullest” kind of gal. But, for me, the special ingredient of passion has made “fullest even fuller.”

How about you, have you ever analyzed what drives you in life? I’d love to hear.

 

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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Filed under life, musings