Category Archives: musings

Beauty Salon Blues

Years ago when I first started to get my hair cut and colored and my nails manicured or artificial nails put on, an appointment at the beauty salon was an experience where I always felt pampered and special. Am I being old fashioned in thinking that’s still true, or should be?

Almost a month ago, I set up an appointment at a new salon to have a cut and color done on my shoulder-plus-length, medium brown hair. I had researched salons in my area and was impressed by an ad I’d seen in which the owner had expressed how professional she and her staff were and how her salon was a dream come true for her. That sounded good to me, so I set up an appointment with (we’ll call her), Breanna.

I did my due-diligence rounding up photos of favorite styles and examples of color that I liked so I could better explain to my new hair dresser the results I was expecting. Since the examples I selected were actual photos of me, I knew it was possible to cut and color my hair to look like those photos. And I was being realistic in knowing the results I’d see in the mirror would include the wrinkles I now wear, as opposed to some of the early photo examples, sans wrinkles.

Beauty day arrived and I was excited and very much looking forward to meeting and learning about my new hairdresser and explaining to her what I wanted done to accomplish my spiffed-up look, and also to getting my head massaged during the shampooing portion of the appointment. I think just about everybody loves that part!

I arrived a few minutes ahead of schedule and Breanna, a twenty-something girl, came forward and led me to her chair. When she asked what I wanted I showed her the folder of photos and explained that as far as cut was concerned, I’d like a page boy that curled under with a length just below my chin but above my shoulder. She looked at me with a blank look and then pulled out her comb and scissors and started cutting my hair with it dry. Other hair dressers had always cut my hair when it was wet, especially since I have some natural curl, but I‘m not the expert so I didn’t say anything.

After cutting my hair she went to get the color chart. She picked out three reddish samples and I selected a medium reddish-brown that had very definite warm, reddish highlights. She mixed the color, applied it, set a timer and went and sat down and started looking at her cell phone. The owner of the salon (about the same age) was in another chair and they spoke to one another and pointed out things on their phones to each other and ignored me.

Just about the time I was feeling totally neglected, the timer went off, I was directed to the sink and my hair was shampooed very quickly. No massage. In fact, I wasn’t sure she even got the nape of my neck wet. Then the towel was wrapped around my head and I went back to her chair where Breanna started blow-drying my hair. She had me facing away from the mirror so I had no idea what I looked like until she was done.

After spinning me around to face the mirror, someone with dark brown shoulder-length hair stared back at me and the bottom of her hair was flipped up in some places and hanging limp in others. Along with the feeling of neglect, I was trying to understand where the reddish color was and what had become of the page boy I had asked for. Then it occurred to me that Breanna may not have known what a page boy even was. That would explain the blank look she gave me, but I had had a photo of one that I had shown her and I remembered pointing to it. If she was too young to know what a page boy was, why didn’t she say she hadn’t heard that term used before?

I was so disappointed and exhausted by this time, I paid her and left, thinking I’d just not ever go back. When I got home, I went into my bathroom and ran my spread-out fingers up through the bottom of my hair at the nape of my neck and my hand came out covered in wet, gooey, dark-brown hair dye. How could Breanna have dried my hair and not noticed she’d not rinsed all the dye out? I couldn’t believe my eyes! And to make matters worse, there was not a hint of any red in the dye. The more I thought about it, the madder I got. The cut she gave me was too long, too. I had asked for a length between my chin and shoulder. What I got was hair that hung down and split at my shoulder because it was too long. To top it all off, not only did she do a poor job; she had no social skills whatsoever!

Clearly, I made a bad choice in salons, but I never dreamed I could be off that much. Throughout my adult life I worked in a service oriented business and I always gave my customers more than they expected. In other words, I treated people like I would like to be treated.

Is this a millennial thing? Or is this an unqualified stylist thing? Or both? Are young people unable to communicate with the public because of their isolation as a result of technology; the cell phone? Is that the problem? I have noticed people don’t communicate much anymore in doctor’s or dentist’s offices, restaurants and such, but this oddity seems to have totally crippled young people in particular. I might even be so bold as to say this lack of communication has become what appears to be an act of rudeness. Am I alone in thinking this? Do they know this is how some older people feel? Do they even care? Can I ever hope to get my hair done in a salon and feel pampered again? I’ve lost my confidence in being able to tell. Am I being unreasonable? Maybe so, if I didn’t say anything. I guess I should I have told her, but didn’t because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings? This is really bothering me.

Let me know your thoughts, dear readers.

 

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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Why Mysteries?

People have asked me why I like to read and write in the Mystery genre. My answer: mysteries have it all. If I need an intellectual challenge I can select one that has a complicated plot and denouement and slug all the way through to a satisfying conclusion. Perhaps I’ll spend a good deal of time working out a puzzle, deciphering clues and enjoying the challenge of working out the solution on my own, maybe even before the protagonist does. Mystery writers are great at creating suspense and misdirection and keeping us readers on the edge of our seats. They also generally play fair by providing the clues for the reader to utilize along the way, and they usually wrap up loose ends before the story reaches completion.

If I’m in the mood for a lighter touch, I can turn to the cozy or humorous side of the genre. These mysteries can contain romance, fantasy, laugh-out-loud fun, comfort settings and food, and often a beloved pet. In other words, they provide a happier, more positive and relaxed environment where I can escape from daily trials.

Then there’s the kind of story in which the protagonist sets out on an adventure of discovery and suddenly I’m learning about an occupation or foreign country and its customs and mores unfamiliar to me. Or the atmosphere or setting of a place will inspire me to draw or paint the feeling it gives me or recreate it in an original story of my own. How many times have you been reading something that sparked all sorts of creative ideas in you?

Series mysteries are very popular. As readers follow a specific character or characters through different adventures and become emotionally attached to them and their settings, these characters become “family” and readers enjoy following along in their lives. And, luckily, most series authors are good about making each book work as a stand-alone. I really try to read series books in order though, because the protagonist (and sometimes other characters) tends to learn and develop with each case he/she has to deal with and it’s nice to see how and why these developments occur.

Mysteries often contain atmosphere. British mysteries come to mind immediately. The phrase, ‘A castle in Scotland” immediately conjures up an image somewhat similar for most people, but along with that phrase can come, ancient, gray, crumbling stones, thunder and lightning, rain and fog, lonely, dark and dreary landscapes, ramshackle outbuildings, etc. Or perhaps you see in your mind’s eye a palace with all the finery that comes with that image. Plush, royal robes, crown jewels, carriages, a monarch. Words that are full of colorful paint.

Most of my favorite authors are traditionally published and their books have been edited professionally. That is extremely important to me as a reader, because correct grammar and sentence structure make for clear writing and thus, for me―understanding. I must add that I have read some self-published authors who have gone that extra step to have their books professionally edited and I say kudos to them.

I have a TBR pile (To Be Read) and there are many sub-genres of mysteries represented in it where international characters, each vie for my attention in this century and others, depending on my mood. I do have some memoirs, women’s fiction, biographies, fantasy and horror books, too, but most of my TBR pile consists of mysteries. Mysteries all ready to load onto paintbrushes. What’s your palate preference?

 

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 Art, fiction, musings, Scotland, writing

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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The Season by John E. Stack

Merry Christmas.  Early.  Yeah, I know that it is still a few weeks away but down here in North Carolina we received an early Christmas present.  We got an early snowstorm that dropped around 10 to 12 inches on us.  It’s just God’s way of telling school teachers, “You’ve worked way too hard this year, so take a few day off.”  Gotta love it.

Even if we have to make it up, it was good time off.  I did grade a few papers but also started cleaning up and organizing our upstairs. I got the Christmas tree up and Allie helped me decorate it.  Our stockings are already hung by the fireplace and the manger scene is lit in front of the house.

Tradition is a big part of life.  If you try to break tradition, lots of people get really upset.  But hey, if it works, why change it.  We have a 9 ft. artificial tree that we picked up about twelve years ago.  It’s old but still looks very real.  A few years ago we decided to buy a smaller tree, about 6 ft.  Everyone we looked at looked so fake.  We even ordered one and had to send it back.

Sometimes we tend to lose sight of what Christmas is all about. It’s about giving, not receiving.  It’s about providing money for a decent Christmas dinner for a family whose dad lost his job.  Maybe it’s about learning that a family can’t afford to buy gifts, and your Sunday school class picks up gifts for all the kids.  Maybe watching your daughter save her money all year to buy gifts for another child her age who lives in a poor neighborhood.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  God loved us enough to send his Son to save us.  He was given humble beginnings and died as a sacrifice on a cross.  For us.  All of us.  Talk about a gift.  It is difficult to imagine a love so great.  It hard not to tell people about it.

I may not be politically correct, but I know what I believe.

Whether you believe or not, whether you celebrate Christmas or something else, I pray that this holiday season brings you much joy and happiness.  Blessings to all.

 

*** John E Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Olivia’s Sweet Adventure and Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo.

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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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Crazy Quilts and Sage Sayings by Sherrie Hansen

I grew up wrapping my baby doll in this soft, little quilt, made with scraps from dresses my mom and grandma sewed for my sister and I and themselves in the late 1950s and early 1960s. There’s a bit of the dress my mother made for her first class reunion and some of her curtains, too. My Great-Grandma, Mathilda Jensen Paulsen, from Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, stitched it together, along with a big quilt that matched. Later, when I was old enough to sew but still young enough to play with dolls – Barbie dolls instead of baby dolls by this time – my grandma and I made doll clothes out of more scraps from some of these same fabrics.

Quilt - baby doll

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love quilts and the memories and history woven into them – or when I didn’t embrace the concept that nothing should be wasted – not the extra fabric after a pattern was cut out, or the few inches of lace or rickrack left over from a project, or the odd button on the button card, or even an empty feed sack. Waste not, want not. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Quilt - twin bed

And thanks to my Grandma Victoria, who scraped out her bowls so clean that you couldn’t tell they had been used, I know that the batter that lingers in the pans of people who don’t scrape out their bowls is enough to make a whole extra muffin or two cookies – very probably the ones you will get to eat!

Quilt - fabrics

I grew up in a family of thrifty, hardworking, creative, and yes, stubborn Danes with a dash of Bohemian, German, English and Scottish thrown in for good value. And I mean that literally. The melting pot that was my family tree produced a bumper crop of large-boned, freckle-skinned, hardy folks who could do most anything they set their minds to – unless it was sports related. We weren’t athletically inclined, nor were we ones to waste time or energy on things that weren’t essential, necessary, or needed.

Quilt - off to bed

When later generations grew up wanting to dabble in the arts – make pretty quilts from calicos bought from quilting shops instead of scraps (because they were in colors that matched a room or enhanced a decorating scheme), eyebrows were raised, prayers were said, and people wondered what the world was coming to. I was a part of the younger generation – I loved certain colors, and it was very important to me that everything matched. One year, my Grandma Victoria made rag rugs for us for Christmas, I dug through the pile until I found one with no red.

Quilts - EJ

Bright red didn’t match the pastel pinks and roses I used in my house. To satisfy my artistic eye, even the threads the rugs were woven with had to be blue or green instead of red – or heaven forbid, orange. (Thankfully, someone had put an old pink bathrobe in the rag bag at some point, so I did get my color-coordinated rug.)

Quilt - houses

It was clear. The writing was on the wall. Never ever would I sew a quilt out of old dresses or wool suits (or whatever leftover fabrics happened to be in the mending pile) in a mish mash of helter-skelter colors. I was a colorful prima-dona, a quilting artiste.

Quilt - mine

Something else had changed over the generations. The hodgepodge, crazy quilts we slept under and covered our beds with and used to keep the dust off of the furniture were replaced by quilts that were so perfect and pretty that we didn’t want to ruin them by putting them on our beds or actually using them.

Quilt - hearts

We hung them on the walls, put them in our hope chests, and lovingly guarded them for posterity’s sake so we could pass them down to future generations. We took them off our beds and put them in our cedar chests.

Quilt - Mom

We collected old quilts at auction and estate sales and revered any family quilts that had survived said family. Sometimes people made numerous pillows or even teddy bears out of a grandma’s quilt so each grandchild could have a small piece of it. But we didn’t snuggle under them or swaddle our children in them, or cuddle in front of the fireplace wrapped up in them, or throw them on the ground and spread a picnic out on top of them.

Quilt - crazy

So, how does this pertain to my books, Night & Day and Daybreak? Jensen Marie Christiansen comes from a long line of quilters to whom a quilt meant nothing more than something to keep you warm on a cold winter night. Jensen is a designer and creator of art quilts. In Night & Day, Ed has a pilly old bedspread in drab tones.  Anders sleeps under a sailboat quilt in bright blues and yellows that his mother made for him.

Quilt - sunbonnet sue

Quilts become the catalyst for the conflict of a family, generations of hopes and dreams, and the uncertainty of what lies ahead – a solid, predictable, convenient future with Ed or a wild ‘trip around the world’ with Anders?

Quilt - pink and green

In Daybreak, everything has changed and Jensen is searching for order in a world that has become all too crazy. The freeform, artistic quilts she has always designed are suddenly too flighty and fancy free to meet her needs. As her hopes and dreams swirl out of control, she needs the precision of perfectly aligned corners and points that come together the way they’re supposed to. When her family starts to fall apart, and she needs the constancy of her heritage. She even starts a quilt in a red and white Danish design (well, a pretty cherry red, almost burgundy in hue.)

Quilt - CH

The imagery of quilts – a doll quilt that a young Mathilda wrapped her baby doll in, and then gave to Leif to wrap Maren’s newborn baby in, a quilt made by Jensen for the daughter she feared she would never have, a great-grandmother’s quilt that was Jensen’s most cherished possession – the tapestry of a family’s life, patched together in a way that unites the generations of my family for all times.

Quilt - Mathilde

My life – I skipped a generation in Night & Day, so in real life, Maren was my great-great grandmother, Mathilda was my great-grandma, and baby Victoria was my grandma – but it’s all there.

Quilt - Victoria

The scraps and memories, pieced together with bits and bobs from my imagination, all joined together in fiction form, misunderstandings and conflicting perceptions of the world – a completely different world than existed back then – smoothed out in a colorful pattern and stitched with love.

Quilt - Grandma Hansen

Jensen and her family are very close to my heart, and I hope once you read Night & Day and Daybreak, you’ll feel the same way. I chose the design and colors for the quilt on the front cover of Night & Day to coordinate with the color palate in one of my guest rooms – On the Banks of Plum Creek – at my B&B, the Blue Belle Inn.

Quilt - bear

I wanted to use a Trip Around the World quilt – it would have matched the theme of Night & Day so perfectly, and if there’s anything I love more than coordinating colors, it’s perfectly synchronized symbolism – but my publisher liked this one, so that’s what we went with. If you come to stay at the Blue Belle one day, you can still snuggle up under this quilt and dream the night away.

Quilt - plum Creek

I saw and fell in love with the lovely quilt on the front cover of Daybreak online, which has a unique symbolism in and of itself. The colors were perfect, and the design, with sunrise and sea, spoke to me of oceans and time, and seemed perfectly suited for Jensen and Anders’ continuing story. I was able to weave the design into the story in ways that brought the whole tale to life. I hope you agree. (The cover art quilt for Daybreak is by Elena Stokes, and was photographed by the artist. You can visit her website to see more of her work at www.elenastokes.com and follow her at www.facebook.com/elena.stokes.art.)

Daybreak Elena Stokes - It Suddenly Dawned 300 ppi

I’m sure some folks wonder why I would put a quilt on the front of a fiction novel instead of a character or a sketch of Maren’s old house, Peter’s bonfire, or any one of the beautiful scenes from Minnesota or Denmark that unfold in the course of the book. But to me, the quilts say it all. Quilts were the inspiration for these stories. The plot revolves around them. The characters are defined by them and shine because of their existence. In both Night & Day and Daybreak, the quilts connect the generations across oceans and time through each precise stitch – a miraculous labor of love, and the gift of a special artistry known only to quilters.

Quilt - Danish flags  Quilt - DEnmark

Even after all these years, when it’s midnight in Minnesota and daybreak in Denmark, somewhere, a night owl like me is quilting.

Quilt - Maren

Someone else is fast asleep under a quilt stitched by a mother or grandmother who loved them. Someone on the other side of the world is crawling out from under the covers, ready to face the dawn of a new day, and someone else is sitting cross-legged on a quilt, writing in her journal, and falling in love. Crazy quilts of life – God makes beautiful things out of broken pieces, leftovers and scraps. So do the hands of quilters.

Quilt - names

Now off to bed, sleepy heads.

(Sherrie is the owner of the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House in St. Ansgar, Iowa. She is a Wheaton College alumni, and attended University of Maryland, European Division, while living in Augsburg, Germany. Her husband is the pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, an LCMC Congregation in rural Hudson, Iowa. In Sherrie’s spare time (?) she likes to dabble in the creative arts, play piano, paint, quilt, decorate vintage homes, and travel. Her new release, DAYBREAK, is the long awaited sequel to her very first book, NIGHT & DAY. Both books are full of quilting imagery and sage sayings.)

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