Category Archives: musings

Telling Perspective

My adopted mother and I were never what one would call, “close,” but, although it would take some time to develop “love” for her, I did respect her. She was fair and I knew she was trying her best, she was well regarded by others, and she was now my mother and I was grateful to her. But, I never felt that I really knew her. Her life growing up was not something she ever shared with me. Maybe since my early years were so different from hers she didn’t feel we could relate to one another. An email I just received from a friend explains so much. I’ve transposed some of these timeline numbers to fit what I wanted to say.

My mother was born in 1904. I spent so many years just trying to survive growing up, it never occurred to me to try to imagine what the world was like for her during her lifetime. That seems so selfish of me, I’m embarrassed to say. But children are like that, aren’t they. On reflection, I’m inclined to feel very, very fortunate, indeed.

Imagine if you had been born in 1904. In your 10th year, World War I starts and ends in your 14th year. An estimated 22 million people perish in that war. Later in that same year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits our Earth and isn’t stamped out until your 16th year. Estimates of 50 million people have died from it in those two years. Some estimates were higher, some lower, but still. That had to be frightening.

In your 25th year, the Great Depression begins and runs until you are 29. The United States’ unemployment rate hits 25%, the World GDP drops 27%, and our country nearly collapses along with the world economy.

In your 35th year, World War II starts. I remember my mother telling me she was in Europe when war was declared and she had to scramble to get home to the U.S. via an ocean liner converted into a troop ship. In her/your 37th year, the United States is fully pulled into WWII. Between your 35th and 41st years, approximately 75 million people perish in that war.

Smallpox was epidemic until you were in your late 30’s and killed some 300 million people during your lifetime.

At the age of 46, the Korean War starts, killing 5 million and all your life, you’ve dealt with fear of Polio epidemics each summer. You experience friends and family contracting polio and being paralyzed and even dying from it. (I remember Uncle Don and Aunt Nell.)

At 51, the Vietnam War begins and during the Cold War, you lived each day with the fear of nuclear annihilation. (I, myself, remember air raid drills in school, and years later, my career military husband going off to war during Vietnam.) In your 58th year, you have the Cuban Missile Crisis which was a tipping point in the Cold War.

To deviate from the timeline I have established here, at the age of 60 my mother found out her mother had breast cancer so, although my grandmother had lived with us before, and had left for a few years to live with her sister, she came back to live with us after her sister passed away so my mom could take care of her. Then at 63 my mother was also diagnosed with the same type of breast cancer. She cared for my grandmother knowing she would die the same way. She never even mentioned this to me. It breaks my heart thinking of this. During her illness, I was married with a family of my own, but I visited as often as I could. My dad was a champion and took wonderful care of her until her death at age 71.

My mother had a PhD, and taught chemistry and home economics at college level and later at a high school level. She also served on several national boards. Serving her community was paramount to her. I can remember her saying how important it was to be someone, meaning someone useful to the world, not just someone taking up space. Many of her choices in life were made because of the serious and spare life she had led and because of her sense of an unsure future. Her calculating mind had come from seeing what a lack of education and poverty could do to people. Traits of hers that I thought of as negative when I was a child suddenly became ones of a plan for her own survival.

I finally feel like I know my mother better now than I ever have; forty-five years after her death. This pandemic has forced me to discover and reevaluate my life, and to see how much others have had to sacrifice and endure during their lifetimes. This telling, perspective lesson has been educating and even sad, but also enlightening for me and I feel I am better for it.

 

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

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Pat Your Backs by Coco Ihle

This is my time to say thank you to all the people who have been following the guidelines by implementing social distancing and the health suggestions to get us all through this terrible coronavirus pandemic. I’ve witnessed bravery beyond belief from those in the front lines; not only first responders and health workers in every area of care, but also in the leaders of businesses who have valued their employees enough to hold on to them even in sacrifice, and also to friends who have helped those who have not handled this crisis as well as they.

Kudos to the people who have altered their manufacturing plants to make much needed products. Many doing so without requests made for them to do so. And thank you to those who have generously donated food, medical supplies and other necessary items to those in need.

Thank you to the teachers who are tirelessly not only helping their students continue learning, but are helping the student’s parents, as well. These teachers are using their ingenuity and creativity in amazing ways.

Thank you to my local grocery store employees who have been tirelessly and cheerfully working to keep us fed, and the druggists who make sure we have our medications, and to the trash pick-up guys who even work in the dark, and the postal workers and other delivery people who make sure we have our mail and packages. I actually feel not only grateful, but spoiled.

Thank you to those of you who have thought about and made the effort to check on seniors who may be isolated and lonely, not only to see if they are all right, but also to offer to go to the grocery store, or pharmacy for them or to drive them to a doctor’s appointment, or run an errand or two. I’ve been blessed here, too.

I am thankful to our President for gathering experts in all fields necessary to help us successfully get through this war and for keeping us informed each day with a progress report.

Thank you to all the people of many religions who are sharing their faith and comfort with their congregations and friends online. One of my friends who is also an author and a minister’s wife shares a daily prayer and treats us on the piano with her wonderful renditions of famous old hymns. Thanks, Sherrie. I’m enjoying watching you, so much. And I thank Kevin Latty, a friend’s son for sharing his wonderful inspiration today.

Today (as I write this) is Good Friday and as Easter approaches, I’m reminded why I celebrate this time each year, for Jesus is Risen. He is with us today. I mentioned above how spoiled I feel, but I’m reminded that there are many who are grieving right now for loved ones lost or gravely ill. I pray for those people and I also pray in gratitude for those of us who have been spared and only inconvenienced. I pray for those who have lost jobs and I ask for guidance and help for them at this time. I pray that this spirit of togetherness and compassion will continue far into the future as we move ahead and slowly recover from this terrible pandemic. I pray that we have been inspired to be more considerate of others and united as individuals and communities.

And, on a lighter note, I thank so many friends who have held on to their sense of humor and sent funny cartoons or sayings, phone calls, even greeting cards to keep me in a cheery mood. I can say it has worked! THANK YOU! I’m so grateful!  PAT YOUR BACKS!

 

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

 

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INSPIRITING POEM by Coco Ihle

Back in 2011 I wrote about this, but I was urged to mention it again. When I decided I wanted to become an author in my late fifties, I had no idea how to go about accomplishing that goal, but figured I’d learn along the way. When I spoke about it to friends, their responses were varied. Some said, “That’s nice.” I could tell their answer was just that, not one that took any thought, just something polite to say. Some were discouraging without meaning to be, saying it was really difficult and getting published was almost impossible. And a few were encouraging, but uninformed about the possibilities or lack thereof.

One of my dearest friends whose opinion I seriously sought, totally surprised me by not being encouraging at all. She was an educator and a Stanford Grad and I expected a “go-for-it” attitude from her. At that point in my life I might have been discouraged, but I was lucky. I had been successful in my last few endeavors and had gained confidence from those experiences, and my desire to write a book was fueled by the recent discovery of a sister for whom I had been searching for over fifty years.

My deep down determination was pretty sealed, but what cemented it in place was a friend who had traveled the world and wore the wisdom of many varied life experiences. I hadn’t seen him in a while, so when we did meet up one evening, I told him about my search for family and how dogged I had been through the years and that my efforts had finally been rewarded. I told him I wanted to write a fictional story about my search for my sister, but make it entertaining for others to read. As I spoke, I could tell he was hanging on every word and I could sense his interest.

When I finished telling him my hopes, he smiled and said he wanted to recite a poem by an unknown author that had been given to him many years before.  He also said it literally changed his life.  Here it is:

 

I wish I were a could be

if I could not be an are.

For a could be is a maybe

with a chance of reaching far.

 

I’d rather been a has been

than a might have been by far.

For a might have been has never been

while a has was once an are.

 

When he finished he said, “Now, keep this poem close and go write your book.”

I did and I did.

I’d love to hear if you have had any special something that has helped you fulfill your dreams, besides persistence and hard work.

 

 

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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Who Knews About the Tower

I just finished reading a novel about the Tower of London. Although it was primarily a fictional account of a few quirky characters, many true facts came to light about the tower, as well. Facts I had never heard about. I was quite surprised and, now, curious.

Years ago, I visited the Tower and saw the impressive armory and also the priceless Crown Jewels that have been on display since the late 17th century. I learned about it being a prison and heard about all the beheadings. I thought I had a pretty comprehensive knowledge about the history of the Tower of London. Until now, that is.

Did you know it was built by William the Conqueror in the 1070’s? Or, strangely, did you know it had housed a menagerie of exotic animals from foreign lands that were collected by King John starting in 1204 and later his son, King Henry III. And in later decades some animals were gifts from foreign dignitaries? I didn’t know that. Such diverse animals as lions, kangaroos, leopards, ostriches, bears, polar bears and even an elephant were housed there. The menagerie was closed by the Duke of Wellington in 1835 and the animals became the basis for London Zoo in Regent’s Park.

I didn’t know the Tower had been a Royal Mint from the reign of Edward I in 1279 until 1810. That location was selected because it was the most secure in all of London.

I didn’t know the term; “Beefeaters” had been given to the Yeoman Warders because they were given as much beef from King Henry VII’s table as they wished, to guard the king. Today the Yeoman Warders guard the visitors, but still carry out ceremonial duties, such as locking and unlocking the Tower every day in the Ceremony of the Keys, and that they are long term veterans of military service to the Monarch. I’m realizing how little I knew about the Tower of London.

Most everyone remembers tales about Henry VIII and his six wives and how he had two of them beheaded; Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. And many of you are familiar with the story of the two princes, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York who were imprisoned in the Tower by their devious uncle, who became Richard III. Legend has it that he had the two boys killed so he could succeed to the throne. In recent centuries more evidence has come to light including the discovery of the bones of two young boys in a chest in the Tower which have all but been confirmed to have belonged to the boy princes.

Although only one bomb fell on the Tower of London in the First World War (it landed harmlessly in the moat), WW2 left a greater mark. On 23 September 1940, during the Blitz, high-explosive bombs damaged the castle, destroying several buildings and narrowly missing the White Tower.

During WW2, the Tower was used as a Prisoner Of War camp. Rudolf Hess, Deputy Chancellor of Nazi Germany, was imprisoned in the Tower after he attempted to parachute into Scotland. He was placed in what was the King’s House but is now the Queen’s House and he was free to roam the Tower grounds. After the war, any damage was repaired and the Tower was reopened to the public.

Many of you have heard that Ravens have always been kept at the Tower of London. When Charles II (a very superstitious Monarch) asked for the Ravens to be removed, he was advised that if the Ravens were removed, The Tower would crumble and great harm would befall the nation. Ever since, ravens (at least 6) have been kept at the Tower.

It is also said that several ghosts are said to haunt the Tower, including those of Anne Boleyn, Henry VI, Lady Jane Grey, Margaret Pole, the Princes in the Tower – and a grizzly bear! That’s something else I didn’t know. I guess I can say when it comes to knowing about the Tower of London, I have been almost completely ignorant! Who knew? There’s more history about it to learn, if you’re curious!

 

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 Grateful Ornament

This is the time of year when everyone is running madly around trying to get things done in preparation for the holidays. In other words, it’s a stressful time. Right? To be honest, this year has actually been more stressful than most for me, whether it be good stress or bad stress, but through it all, I’ve been reminded how important it is to just stop for a few minutes to reflect on how fortunate I am.

No matter how good things are, they can always be better. No matter how bad things are, they can always be worse. But, I think the key to surviving it all comes from deciding what things are worth dealing with and what are not and to pay special attention to those things that edify one’s life over those that do not. Life is too short to waste on negativity. As a result of all this thinking, I decided to make a virtual, all-important ornament for my Christmas tree this year. It started out as a clear ball and developed from there. I named it, the “grateful ornament.”

To me, the “grateful ornament” has many layers. In its core is LOVE; that I picture as molten, ready to flow and seep into any space no matter how small or large. Surrounding this center are smaller layers that contain things like PATIENCE, FORGIVENESS and UNDERSTANDING. The outside of this ornament consists of a rich, glossy covering of KINDNESS that glows and pulses and is mixed with a multicolored, bumpy HAPPINESS, whose appearance reflects the favorite color of whomever is beholding it. But the wonderful thing about this ornament is that it has a magical quality that makes those who gaze upon it―full of HOPE and ASSURANCE that every year can be experienced with these wondrous qualities.

So my dear readers, this year I encourage you all to join me as I place the “grateful ornament” on my Christmas tree, front and center and you place your “grateful ornament,” on your tree, as well. As we race against time to get all things accomplished before year’s end, may we have the grace of gratefulness and so much more to carry us through. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a very ornamental new year!

 

 

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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Recovered Treasure

Recently, my son, Rob, came to visit and help me clean out my garage. It was a chore I’d been putting off for years, because every time I tried to get started on it, I became overwhelmed very quickly. As a result, things that needed to be returned to shelves weren’t getting returned, and since the garage was so congested, I could no longer get to said shelves. It became a snowballing problem. Yikes!!! Does that sound familiar?

Well, I guess Rob got tired of me complaining about not having any more room in the garage and when he visited, it became obvious I wasn’t exaggerating, so he found a week and convinced me we could tackle this job together. It did not take me long to be convinced. I had been praying for such an intervention all along.

The first day, we picked a spot to the left of the door from the kitchen into the garage and started a clockwise pattern of cleaning out, sorting, setting up a “throw away” pile and a “garage sale” pile scheduled for the end of the week. We put on soothing classical music and spent a delightful week laughing, encouraging each other, and generally bonding, despite our aching bodies.

Needless to say, the garage looks fantastic now, but I want to tell you about a discovery we made. When we lived in Germany back in the late 1960s, I found a wonderful art teacher and took as many art lessons as I could from him during our three years there. His inspiration has stayed with me since. Especially because our shopping on base was limited to everyday type items, not art supplies specifically. So, I was always looking for common or easy to get art supplies.

It was Christmas time, so I was interested in coming up with ideas to decorate my home for the holidays. And I was teaching a class to other wives interested in art and craft ideas. I learned about a technique using ordinary crayons to color a drawn design. This idea was fairly easy to do and could become as detailed as the person doing the project wanted, depending on their talent and time spent.

I drew a somewhat modern angel and after it was drawn, I colored it with crayons and then outlined it with a permanent marker. Then I cut out the design into smaller pieces and crumbled the waxy paper tightly in my hands and then spread out the designs and straightened them back out with my fingers and put them back together like a jigsaw puzzle and glued them in place with paper glue. At this point, the next step was to cover the design with black water color paint and immediately wipe away the paint. This technique insured that the cracks absorbed the paint, and the waxy parts rejected the paint. The overall effect gave the appearance of “stained glass”. Then I took the design and mounted it on an arched foil background and outlined the arched part with a designed border from the gift wrap department of the Base Exchange.

Angel 1969?

Three-panel Angel – 1969

 

 

Rob is holding the panels up so I could photograph them and they’ve been through a zillion moves since 1969, but you can get an idea what the finished project looked like. I also did a realistic stained glass window that has since been lost in the annals of time, but it looked even more like stained glass.

This was such a fun project and as I said, not difficult, so perhaps some of you readers might be inspired to give it a try for your own personalized decorations this holiday season. It’s quick, easy and inexpensive! Please let me know if you feel inspired. I’d love to hear all about it!

 

 

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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Cozy Authors & Social Media

It seems to me that mystery books by cozy authors have become more and more popular among readers in the last few years. I am one of those readers and I love escaping to another world or hovering temporarily in a favorite character’s life where discoveries are made, problems are solved and often humor and lighthearted banter is exchanged. I enjoy pondering a good puzzle, perhaps learning something new, and knowing all will be wrapped up in the end for the protagonist(s). It’s comfort food to me.

I guess the key word here is “escape.” My experience with that word comes from a more than twenty-year career in the entertainment business as a belly dancer, doing mostly “belly-grams” to celebrate special occasions like a birthdays, anniversaries, get-wells, fare-wells, even family reunions. When I arrived on my job site, before I even left my car, I was in character and remained so until I returned home. Every detail was considered important to me, from my freshly laundered elaborate costumes to exciting Middle Eastern music on my boom box, and from immaculate fingernails to my beguiling smile. My 10 minute surprise dance routine was designed to involve many spectators beside the Guest of Honor, so no-one felt left out and it was conducted with class and meant to be good clean fun for all.

All through my career every time I left my house for any reason, I was aware there might be people (past or potential) who would see me and form an impression, so I always made sure I had my make-up on and my hair washed and clothing presentable. As it turned out, there were many, many times I was glad I had gotten in that habit, because I lived in a smaller city and worked full time and eventually became well known. I was proud of my reputation and had worked very hard to gain respect.

With all that said, since I’ve gone to a lot of writers’ conventions and conferences, I’ve met quite a few authors and many of them write cozies. The opinions I formed about these writers came from hearing them speak, perhaps on convention panels, and by reading their books. And often I associated them with their characters.

In days gone by, it used to be popular for authors to have their own website. Now days, group websites seem even more popular along with social media like Facebook. I follow authors through Goodreads and Amazon, but don’t have much time to go to Facebook unless there is a book giveaway by a specific author or authors. Twitter is just too much for me. I’m with Betty White!

Yesterday, I was visiting the website of one of my favorite authors, Molly Greene, and she wrote something that really spoke to me. She said, “Social media is a tough road right now, with the world upended and chaotic, and folks are understandably distraught and upset much of the time.”  This sentence explains so well why I read cozies. It’s the escape thing, so well said!

So I’ve actually been shocked lately to visit some of my favorite cozy writers’ Facebook pages for a giveaway offer or something, only to feel my escape mode splintering and being destroyed by negative remarks that have nothing to do with writing, cozy books or anything about their characters. I want to ESCAPE, not be drawn back into chaos. It’s become so upsetting to me, I’m thinking of dropping a couple of my favorite cozy authors for this very reason. Years ago I had an editor tell me that a certain sentence wording or something-or-other pulled them right out of my story. It’s the same thing. I feel yanked out of my cozy mood and thrust back into the “world and its troubles.” Authors are entertainers too, and I want to be entertained!

Am I alone? Are there others who feel this way, too? Let me know by leaving a comment below. If you can’t see the comments area, go up and click the title of the blog and it will refresh the page for comments. And have a comfortable, happy, cozy 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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What makes You Happy?

I have a question for you. It’s the title of this post. I was thinking about what makes me the most happy of all the things, actions, thoughts, whatever, and I came up with what sounds to me as cliché , but are actually true. The thing I like to do the most is find something to do or say or give to someone else that I feel might make them feel good. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a big thing, sometimes a smile will do, or forwarding a funny email, or encouraging someone in an endeavor.

Shopping for that perfect gift and then eagerly waiting for that person to open it. I think that makes me giddier than anything else. Knowing they will love my gift and also knowing that they know I took the time to really think of them while shopping. Sometimes, we buy what we like when we don’t know someone that well and if we are general enough, that approach will usually work out, but it can be scary. I try to learn about people so I don’t have to face that awkward time, but if I’m not sure, I’ll take a chance rather than miss it altogether.

Maybe because I’m a senior I’ve learned to value friendships so much, because our time on this Earth is short and I think it’s important to make the most of the time we have. And, because I’ve lost many dear friends over the years, I’m perhaps more aware how precious our acquaintances, family and loved ones are. When we are young, we are immortal in our minds and losing anyone is not at all in our minds until it happens, and then happens again, and then again.

But, I never will forget an experience I had a few years ago. It was early in the morning in my bank. The teller’s line was slow and I could hear the lady behind me impatiently sighing, and out of the corner of my eye I could see her shifting from one foot to another. It was obvious she was in a hurry and was not happy she had to wait. I stood there in the line and tried to think what I could do. Finally I was first in line. I cashed my check and as I turned around to leave, I leaned toward her, smiled, and in a low voice said I had the feeling she was having a rough day and I hoped it got better. She just looked at me, startled. About an hour later I saw her again at the post office and she made a point to come up to thank me for making her day. She said I had completely turned around the direction her day was going and she felt it was important to thank me. That day was a very important lesson for me and will remain in my memory. We both knew I didn’t have to say anything to her, but we both were glad I did. Sometimes a lift from a stranger is a wonderful help to someone.

As a result of that experience, there have been times when I’ve found I was becoming impatient with someone for some reason and instead of getting annoyed and/or angry, I take a deep breath and pretend that person is a fictitious, dotty little grandmother of mine, and I’m suddenly more patient and not annoyed anymore.  I’ve noticed this technique also appears to be helpful to my nerves and blood pressure.

So now, dear readers, I want to hear what makes you happy. And what are some of your secrets?

 

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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Let’s Celebrate!

Back in April 2011, when my book, SHE HAD TO KNOW came out, my publisher asked me if I would write a blog once each month for what is now Indigo Sea Press. I thought it would be fun and agreed. Today I am celebrating my 100th post!!! During the last eight years, I’ve only missed one. For that one, I was blessed to have Pat Bertram fill in for me with an exceptional post. Thanks again, Pat!

For my blog posts, I was given free rein and have been allowed to write about anything I wanted. The only exception would be a topic that might compete with my publisher and/or the other authors writing for ISP, or be subject to controversy. We strive to be G rated.

To refresh my memory, I skimmed through previous past posts to see the variety of subjects I’ve covered and realized I’d touched on lessons I’ve learned about writing techniques and discoveries having to do with the craft of writing; places to which I’ve traveled and objects I’ve collected that reminded me of those travels; what it was like living in certain places like Germany and Montana; discovering my Scottish roots; dealing with the loss of friends through death; and various emotional subjects with my expressions of joy, sorrow, surprise, wonderment, even fear. One example was a post in 2012 written while I was in the hospital recovering from a stroke. The stroke came as such a shock (I mean, I had always been so healthy and I was so happy I survived), I complained about a normal problem like dealing with Microsoft Windows 10 on my new computer as opposed to a previous Windows program. And I had to keep the post short, because I was having difficulty typing with my still limp left hand.

But my very favorite part of all the monthly offerings was, and still is, when readers contribute by adding comments and likes and even emails. I love it when people tell me about how my posts affect their lives or when they share how glad they are to not be the only ones who feel a certain way about something. I love it when readers tell me about their experiences. It’s always so special when an author realizes that people actually enjoy reading their posts and exchanging ideas and opinions. Not all people know we generally don’t get paid to write blogs. I don’t anyway. It’s our opportunity to share our somewhat isolated lives with the outside world, which suddenly becomes smaller and more intimate. I love that!

So, on this day of celebration, I want to thank all my readers out there, especially the ones who have given me feedback. And I thank other author friends whose works I’ve learned about through blogging. Here we go. I’m lighting 100 candles. Help me blow them out. To the next 100! Let’s celebrate!

 

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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Friendships Through My Ages

My very first friend was, Miss Woodward, the lady who accompanied me to my foster homes. Since it took several tries, we had time to bond while she figured out the answer why. And even though I was still a toddler, I somehow knew she was my only link to my past and I didn’t want to lose that. So when we finally found my “Forever” home, I made sure it would be possible for me to keep in touch. At first we exchanged Christmas and birthday cards. Later, when I was in my twenties, I showed off my child to her to demonstrate and confirm the possibility of successful adoptions. And as time passed we continued our correspondence until she died many years later.

My adopted mother was very involved and influential in my everyday life. In my younger years, she picked friends for me and they were always people who were more knowledgeable or talented in something than I or at which I wasn’t as good. Most of the time, I didn’t mind, because I enjoyed learning, but occasionally, I felt inferior to them. And as I look back at that time, I could have used more confidence building.

My father had six weeks’ vacation each year and the three of us would take a large chunk of this time to travel out West to see the National Parks. We camped all along the way and I was fortunate to visit all the states except Washington and Oregon and all the provinces of Canada. Campsites in those days were great spots to make pen-pal friends and I met several from both the States and Canada.

A couple of my friends were terrific artists who shared their love of horses and art with me. Another loved to cook and she and I had taffy pulling parties. Later, a guy friend shared his love of car mechanics and he helped me keep my ’56 T-Bird in tip-top shape. Another guy friend was into S.C.U.B.A. and we became diving buddies. I later took my diving equipment to Cannes, France when I was in school there, so I could dive with the local club during my stay.

When I found out I had Scottish roots, my son and I joined the local St. Andrews Society and we met several really special people with Scots ancestry and also found a bagpipe teacher. Other people in the society taught me about the history and customs of Scotland and inspired my trips there and interest in writing a book about my adventures. In fact, a lovely man from Scotland has become a friend after he read my book and contacted me to tell me so. He calls himself “The Village Kiltie.”

During my husband’s military career, I took belly dance lessons in several places where we were stationed and after my parents died, I went home to N.J. to settle their estate. While there, I met a gal who became my inspiration/teacher/mentor for a whole new twenty-plus-year career. Who would have guessed it?!

One of my guy friends was into opera, ballet and orchestral music, and since I had studied ballet, piano and cello most of my growing up years, he and I used to share season tickets. And another guy friend and I consoled each other when we each went through divorces.

I had a friend who was a 29 year cancer survivor, who taught me more about living than anyone I’ve known.

As I look back, my mother had a good idea in introducing me to people who could teach me something. It may have been a little difficult in the beginning, but the more I learned the more I wanted to learn, so I pick friends like that, still. I always want to grow and find things and people who inspire me. I have been so fortunate to have met so many really special people. I have photographs of most of them on shelves on either side of my desk and every day when I enter the room, I greet them with cherishing thoughts.

 

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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