Category Archives: writing

Seaside Daisy, a New Wildflowers Novel from Sherrie Hansen

If you’ve read any of my novels, seen my B&B or my house, followed my photographic journeys on Facebook, or even paid attention to the clothes and hats I wear,  you know I love the imagery of flowers.

Grace Corner - Bleeding hearts 2

Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet, Sweet William and Golden Rod all take their cues from flowers and the unique traits of the genus I’m writing about. I love drawing parallels and weaving the characteristics of the flower into terms and images that define the people in my books who are named after them.

 

SEASIDE DAISY, my new release, is my first mystery, the first of my books to be set in Ireland, and my first attempt at self-publishing. But it’s my 6th Wildflowers novel, and as such, I’d like to tell you why I chose to write about Ireland and seaside daisies, formally known as erigeron glaucus.

Ireland - Daisy lavender

Erigeron may look fragile, with its thin, tender-looking petals and pale colors, but it’s the perfect plant for coastal zones and seaside gardening. Wind and salt spray won’t affect this robust little plant. They grow well in sandy, dry soils and even prefer soil that isn’t too fertile. They thrive when dead-headed of finished flowers to encourage more blooms. The plants can be cut back at ground level to encourage new foliage. I can’t begin to describe how hard the frigid, biting winds were blowing the day my husband and I took these photos except to say, we raced to climb back into the shelter of our cozy car as soon as we’d snapped each picture. And we explored the Wild Atlantic Way in early June!

Ireland - beach

When Daisy Fitzpatrick discovers a treasure trove of gold in a sea cave near her Granny’s shanty on Dingle Bay, she rents out her art studio in Dingle, buys an old mansion in Killarney, and overnight, finds herself a local celebrity with a wonderful new life. But when the real owner lays claim to the gold, she loses everything, including her fickle, new friends. Can Daisy find it in herself to start over? With Cavan’s help, the sea captain’s ghost, and her granny’s quilt to point the way, the quest for more gold is soon underway. But when a priest ends up dead and a pirate takes up the search, Daisy may have to learn the hard way that gold can be a blessing, or gold can be a curse. The Wild Atlantic Way might be a hard foe to tame, but the townsfolk of Dingle soon learn that even the roar of the sea is no match for a Fitzpatrick with her mind made up.

Seaside Daisy Front Cover 10-17

My Seaside Daisy was certainly trimmed back to ground level when she lost the gold she’d thought would solve all of her problems. Her spent blossoms were definitely pinched off. A less hardy plant may have stopped blooming, withered up and died. But like her namesake, my Daisy soon started sprouting new growth. As you’ll soon find out if you read SEASIDE DAISY, the more adversity that comes her way, the more she thrives. I hope you’ll give my new mystery a try – I’m a firm believer that God makes beautiful things out of broken pieces… it’s been a recurring theme in my life, and in the novels I’ve written. Because I think we all know that the delicate-looking flowers growing along the Wild Atlantic Way – or anywhere the wind blows – aren’t just pretty faces.

Pansy

SEASIDE DAISY’S SHANTY – an original song by Sherrie Hansen

Where my Seaside Daisy’s shanty’s

On the Wild Atlantic Way,

There’s a treasure at the rainbow’s end

In the caves on Dingle Bay. In the caves on Dingle Bay.

 

In early morn out on the sea,

The fog gives way to sun.

You can hear the seabirds singing

As the waves come crashing in.

Ireland - blue cottage

Where my Seaside Daisy’s shanty’s

On the Wild Atlantic Way

There’s a treasure at the rainbow’s end

In the caves on Dingle Bay. In the caves on Dingle Bay.

 

The Captain’s ghost and Granny’s quilt

Are there to point the way

But a storm at sea and a pirate’s curse

Are turning the blue skies gray.

Quilt - names

Where my Seaside Daisy’s shanty’s

On the Wild Atlantic Way,

There’s a treasure at the rainbow’s end

In the caves on Dingle Bay. In the caves on Dingle Bay.

 

For gold can be a blessing

And gold can be a curse.

But true love is the greatest gift

Through better and through worse.

Droid August 25 2016 056

Where my Seaside Daisy’s shanty’s

On the Wild Atlantic Way,

There’s a treasure at the rainbow’s end

In the caves on Dingle Bay. In the caves on Dingle Bay.

Seaside 17 6-17.jpg

You’ll find SEASIDE DAISY and my other Wildflowers books at Amazon. Enjoy!

Wildflowers of Scotland Novels by Sherrie Hansen (2).jpg

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Bohemian Rhapsody Road Trip by Sherrie Hansen

Exhilarating and Exhausting are the words that seem to best describe our trip to Czechia from August 27 to September 17. We arrived in Prague tired and worn out and in need of rest and relaxation. When you own your own business (me) and are the only pastor on staff at a church (my husband, Mark), there are always a million things to do in advance before you leave on a trip.

Czechia - church roadside

This year was no exception, in fact, it seems like every year, there are more things on our To-Do list than ever before.

Czechia - Prague street

We enjoyed our first two days in Prague and had some wonderful experiences, but we also missed out on seeing several things that we should have due to our frazzled condition. The best thing we did was to schedule a spur-of-the-moment Airbnb Experience:  Ten Course Dinner in a Chef’s Home.

Czechia - Ladislov plate

Ladislav, our chef, was an amazing host, and we enjoyed excellent food and conversation around a table for 8 adjacent to the kitchen in his apartment.

Czechia - Ladislov

The other guests at our table were from Canada and Australia, so we all spoke English, in different accents. It was the highlight of our time in Prague. The B&B we stayed in was wonderfully historic and our host very gracious. We were able to walk a quarter of a mile to get on a bus which linked to trams and metros throughout Prague. The transport system was quite daunting for me, and even with it, we walked 7 miles up and down steep inclines, on cobblestones each day. We had our first taste of Czech garlic soup and cinnamon pastry trdelnik filled with ice cream and fruit in Prague. After an extensive search (we got lost), we found the Alfons Mucha museum and saw his portrayals of Slavic maidens. Sadly, the Slav Epic Exhibition I so wanted to see was no longer open.

Czechia - Prague houses

We saw the outside of Prague Castle from an outdoor cafe with a wonderful view of the castle and city below. We enjoyed a delicious Czech dinner where we had our first dumplings (both bread and potato).

Czechia - Dumplings

But the castle was closed by the time we were done, and our attempts to get there had been so traumatic (long story – think three or four story high escalators, an extremely steep hill, overweight and out of shape people who are terrified of escalators (me), hot, humid weather in the high 90s and no air conditioning anywhere, and one crazed taxi driver who tried to charge us $50 for a 3 block ride to a restaurant he never found) that you may understand why we never went back to see the cathedral, basilica, tower, palace, the hall that hosted knightly jousting tournaments, or the royal garden. We also missed the famous Astronomical Clock Tower in the main  square in Old Town, but we did walk across Charles Bridge twice and climbed millions of stairs to see the view of Prague from the top of the Klementinum Astronomical Tower and Old Library.

Czechia - Prague

What can I say? We were half-asleep and in a daze. These things happen when you’re in your sixties and you’ve just missed out on two nights of sleep.  I appreciated the lovely architecture and colorful facades throughout the city. I could see why people love Prague. But a big city person, I am not.

Czechia - church

Unfortunately, our next stop was Brno, another big city 2 hours to the south. We were supposed to stay in a renovated suite in an old 1820 spa house, but there was a water emergency and we were relegated to a city center apartment (which I avoid like the plague when searching for accommodations) which turned out to be filthy dirty. You don’t even want to know about the 3-4″ ginormous spider that came running out at me just before bedtime. Although my brave husband killed it, I still didn’t sleep that night.

Czechia - Brno dancers

The one good thing about our city center apartment was that it was near a tram stop that took us to the International Folklore Festival (one of our main reasons for visiting Czechia), where we had a wonderful time enjoying regional music, vintage bicycles, traditional dancing and more good food.

Czechia - Brno bicycles

We had quark dessert dumplings filled with strawberries and a sour cream sauce that were so wonderful I will dream of them until I die – and fried cheese, and more garlic soup. We climbed to the top of the city (twice) to see the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, a striking 11th-century Romanesque chapel, rebuilt in the Baroque and Gothic styles.

Czechia - Brno

Another highlight was the traditional dance review with costumed dancers from many countries.   

Czechia - Folklore Festival

When planning our trip, we figured we’d need a little peace and quiet after the hustle bustle of a festival in a big city, and boy, were we right! Our time in the tiny country village of Rojetin was our salvation.

Czechia - traditional cottage bed

The stars were brilliant, the countryside was gorgeous, and the quiet was just what we needed.

Czechia - garden door

While there, we were able to see three UNESCO Heritage Sites – a lovely church in Třebíč, a star shaped pilgrimage church in Zdar, and our favorite, the old town center of Telč with its Alpine style Italian Renaissance architecture.

Czechia - Telc cafe

Czechia - Telc

We also discovered a quaint town, Velkabites, where we watched them putting up an extremely high pole with a tree on top for an upcoming festival.

Czechia - Telc statue

It was the season of festivals. We dipped down to stay in Niederösterreich, Austria for the next two days because all the rooms in nearby Mikulov were booked for their annual Pálava Wine Harvest Festival.

Czechia - Wine cellar

We loved the storybook villages and wine cellars of the area, and the wonderful music, medieval processions, dance and fencing performances, historic market, and tasty homemade crepes, sausages and cheeses at the festival.

Czechia - Grape Arbor

But our best memory is of Austria, and a wonderful chef at a delightful restaurant just a few kilometers from our B&B. By the time we left, we were full of creatively prepared food, and we felt like we’d made a friend.

Czechia - Znojmo view

The next morning, we headed to Znojmo, where we stayed in an amazing B&B in an old bakery, and discovered a beautiful church with an amazing view over the heart of Bohemia.

Czechia - Znojmo church

The next few days were a confusing jumble. First, the person who planned this trip one snowy day in April while short on sleep (me), got mixed up and thought the towns of Cesky Krumlov and Karlovy Vary were one in the same.

Czechia - CK Window

Bzzt, wrong. Second, while I was sleeping in the passenger seat, our GPS directed Mark to go east, back to Prague, crisscrossing the country instead of driving a short ways north, from one town to the other. Third, we missed seeing a beautiful castle along the route we were supposed to have been going.

Czechia - Chesky Krumlov shop

In our defense, I will say that we were completely wiped out from walking miles and miles a day up and down hugely steep hills on cobblestones and rough rock surfaces. In the rain.  Or did I already mention that?

Czechia - Cesky Krumlov

Despite some rain while we were there, we loved Cesky Krumlov. I’m so glad we thought it was Karlovy Vary or we might have missed it. We actually liked it much better than Karlovy Vary.

Czechia - Cesky Krumlov river

It was quaint and beautiful, with a magnificent medieval castle and beautiful gardens, picturesque river walks, good restaurants, and (be still my heart) several hat shops.

Czechia - Cesky Krumlov view

Due to my confusion, we didn’t ever stay in Karlovy Vary. That was fine with me, because the nearby town of Loket, where we did stay, was smaller, more manageable and twice as delightful.

Czechia - Loket

I liked it so much that I’ve decided it’s going to be the settling of my next book, Plum Tart Iris, a Wildflowers of Czechia novel. We saw a spectacular sunset while eating outside at a great cafe wrapped in furry blankets to combat the chill from the mountain air.

Czechia - Loket sunset

The medieval castle was amazing, as was the river that curves around town on three sides, and a pottery shop and a creative tea house that I fell in love with.  I interviewed a few locals, and discovered some interesting historical facts that will define the plot of my new book.

Czechia - Karlovy Vary colunnades

But back to Karlovy Vary. I’d already committed to writing a murder mystery set there, so we had to research it. Since 1358, Karlovy Vary has for centuries been a popular destination for Europe’s elite, from royalty like Peter the Great to famous composers and writers including Beethoven, Chopin, and Goethe.

Czechia - Karlovy Vary spa

The town has 13 large springs and Neoclassical and Art Nouveau colonnades with drinking and bathing fountains.

Czechia - Karlovy Vary mineral water

We walked miles to experience as much of it as we could, but were glad to retreat to little Loket at the end of the day.  Have I mentioned that we were quite tired and very sore but this point?

Czechia - Cesky Krumlov table

Mark spent a lot of his time sitting on a bench while I explored the town. I may have been in as much pain as he was, but I am more stubborn. Or maybe not. He was hurting pretty badly.

Czechia - Pernstejn Castle near Zdar

Our next stop was a small castle in Jilove that was built by a famous doctor in the early 1900s, then taken over by the Nazis in World War II (Hitler even stayed there) and then, by the Communists after the war, who used it for visiting dignitaries, and then, turned it into a factory. It still needs a lot of work, but the new owner is working hard to get it renovated and we enjoyed staying there and being a small part of its history.

Czechia - woods

Our objective for this stop was to see the Bohemian Alps. Bohemian Switzerland is an especially picturesque region in the northwestern part of the country.

Czechia - sunset

After a run in with a lot of road construction and some unsavory Vietnamese entrepreneurs who were gatekeepers to the parks, we decided to forego the promised paradise of rock castles, ravines, scenic overlooks, mountains, and arches. However, while in the area, we drove through a bit of Germany, where I enjoyed a mug of hot Gluhwein and a German dinner and Mark had fun driving 100 miles an hour on the autobahn in our Mercedes rental car.

Czechia - crystal

Other highlights – when our plans to see more of the National parks soured, Mark researched and found a factory seconds outlet store at a glass bead factory where I bought millions of unique Czech beads for my art projects. It was heavenly! We also found a Bohemian crystal factory outlet store and came home with two treasures from their shelves.

Czechia - glass beads

Our last four days in country were spent in the small town of Lesany, just south of Prague, at an honest to goodness castle, where we hoped to get rested up before our trip home, since we always have to hit the ground running when we get back from a trip. It had a wild boar skin on the floor and the bed was so hard it was like sleeping on a granite slab. But other than that, we liked it. It was very charming.

Czechia - Lesany

We could have gone back to explore more of Prague, but we opted to see some castles in the nearby countryside instead.

The medieval castle and surrounding village, Hrad Karlstejn, was incredible, and after climbing everywhere, we decided to splurge on a horse drawn wagon ride which took us part way to the top.

Czechia - Karlstejn Castle tower

We walked all the way down to take in the shops and eating spots along the cobblestone streets.

Czechia - Karlstejn Castle

In České Budějovice, the huge white Neo-Gothic Tudor Hluboká Castle, which is said to be the most beautiful of the Czech Republic’s many castles, was also stunning. We were able to find an English speaking guide who gave us a private tour of the huge chef’s kitchen in the castle.

Czechia - Hluboká Castle

Our final excursion and another favorite was Průhonice Park, which is home to Průhonice Castle, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, was delightful. The formal gardens, wooded areas, streams, and ponds involved a lot of walking, but we persisted and got some beautiful photos.

Czechia - Roses

I had been longing for gardens and flowers and water, as we’re so accustomed to seeing them when we travel to Great Britain, and I was not disappointed.

Czechia - Průhonice Castle

I can’t begin to touch on the dozens of other quaint villages, delicious meals and delightful experiences we had or we would be here all day.

Czechia - after dinner

Suffice it to say, I’m so glad we went, and I so enjoyed walking where my Bohemian ancestors walked.

Czechia - country sunset

In other news, Seaside Daisy, a Wildflowers of Ireland Mystery, is now available in both paperback and Kindle versions.

Seaside Daisy Front Cover 10-17

Please grab a copy soon and let me know what you think! Reviews warm my heart!

Czechia - Plum Tart Iris

I plan on starting Plum Tart Daisy during NaNoWriMo this November while the trip to Czechia is still fresh in my mind. My goal is 50,000 words by November 30. Thanks for listening!

Czechia - Rose Garden

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Filed under photographs, Sherrie Hansen, Travel, writing

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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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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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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Comfort Foods and Calming Books by Sherrie Hansen

Here in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota, we’ve been snowed in by a blizzard for the last few days. For two days, we were completely cut off from the rest of the world by 6 and 7 foot high drifts up and down our road. Now that the plows have come through, there are walls of snow 8 or 9 feet high on either side of the road, and the drifts that haven’t been already been blasted away are as hard as cement. Our temperatures heading into the month of March are forecast to be in the single digits, so there’s no sign of a spring thaw anytime soon.

Blizzard photo 2On Sunday, church was cancelled for the first time in decades, and I’ve been totally discombobulated ever since, wondering what day it is and awakening in the night thinking it’s time to get up and play the piano. Our schools have had 10 snow days in less than a month and at the rate we’re going, they may be making up days until the 4th of July.

Zion 2013 snowy

Not to complain… our electricity has stayed on and we have heat. We had plenty of warning that the storm was on its way so we were able to get where we needed to be before the weather turned the roads to glare ice and stock up on food to eat while we were snowed in.  Thank goodness!

Blizzard - 2019

Is it just me, or do you get hungry for good old-fashioned comfort foods when something in your life isn’t going quite right?  This weekend, I’ve had meatloaf, home-grown sausage, egg salad sandwiches, and raisin cinnamon bread with a lot of smooth, creamy butter spread on top – and a lot of wonderful cheeses because I was supposed to have a cheese tasting party (it also fell victim to the blizzard).

Cheese

I have a lot of other foods that I associate with warm, cozy feelings – chocolate chip cookie dough (well, any kind of cookie dough), Grandma Hansen’s chicken pie with baking powder biscuits on top, homemade apple pie, Skippy Super Chunk peanut butter and butter sandwiches… I could go on… This is part of the reason I struggle with my weight.  But my point is that food does a great job of  soothing frazzled emotions and making us happy. So do books, and they’re a lot less fattening!

Food - Strawberry Pie 2.jpg

Reading a favorite book can take you back to happier, less stressful times. Books can transport you to another part of the world, a different era in time, or an altogether unique universe where fantasy reigns. In a well-woven story, dreams can come true. The characters in a wonderful book can reassure you that things could be worse – that your life and your problems aren’t half bad after all. A good novel can help you to dream again, to move forward and keep trying when your own world seems hopeless.

Quilt - bear

Books can fill your heart with hope. They can uplift you and make you laugh. They can provide a quick escape from the harsh realities of life and renew your perspective.

Celtic Crosses

That’s why I like reading a good book when I’m stranded in a blizzard, trying to relax, or feeling anxious and overwhelmed by what’s going on in my life.

Wildflowers

My love for books helped shape my business, a bed and breakfast and country inn called the Blue Belle Inn, just as my passion for good food has. If you come to visit, you’ll find rooms named Never Neverland, On the Banks of Plum Creek, Secret Garden, Anne’s House of Dreams, A Wrinkle in Time, and Heaven to Betsy from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy Tacy books. I’m a writer because Betsy Ray was, and if Laura Ingalls Wilder could make it through the Long Winter, then I can survive these horrible winds and snowstorms we keep having.

Scot - Chanonry Point

If you’re an avid reader, you know exactly what I mean. If you haven’t picked up a book in awhile – I urge you to give reading a second chance. Whether you need comforting or calming, perking up or settling down, a good book can help. Hopefully, it will bring a smile to your face and a song to your heart.  Cookie dough might give you a momentary lift, but reading can change your life.

heaventobetsy-179x269

Sherrie grew up on a farm south of Austin, MN. After living in Colorado Springs, CO, Augsburg, Germany, Wheaton, IL, and Bar Harbor, Maine, she returned home twenty-eight years ago to be nearer her family. Sherrie rescued a dilapidated Victorian house in St. Ansgar, Iowa from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. After twelve years of writing romance novels, Sherrie met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. They divide their time between 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and Sherrie writes her novels and murder mysteries on the run whenever she has a spare minute. Sherrie enjoys playing the piano, photography, and traveling to far off places with her husband. Sherrie has eleven books in print, including her highly acclaimed Wildflowers of Scotland novels. Her new release, DAYBREAK, published by Indigo Sea Press, is the long-awaited sequel to her first novel, NIGHT & DAY, set in southern Minnesota and Copenhagen, Denmark. You can contact Sherrie at https://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor/ or

https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/ or

https://www.amazon.com/Sherrie-Hansen/e/B007YXQJ4W/


			

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Does the Human Species Have the Will To Save our Planet? – By Maribeth Shanley

There has been one issue that has occupied my mind for quite some time.  Recently, I listened to a report that put my brain on high alert based on the fear that humans have run out of time.  Here’s my thinking.

I fear that humans don’t have what it will take to stop global warming brought about by our desires and habits.  I am left feeling sad for humans.  I am also left feeling that the basis of our condition stems from our greed, our desire for progress and convenience,  our still primitive mythologies, and our lack of cohesiveness as a species.

Greed

We’re all guilty of this.  As a human species, we’ve allowed ourselves to compromise principles for what we want here and now.  Think of how our society markets to us.

We all want the latest phone.  We all want the latest, classist, most up to date computers.  We all tire of our cars after a few years and begin thinking of our next car.  If we are up and coming in our work, we think of the next, classiest vehicle with all the bells and whistles, and such features as sporty appearance, or rugged handling, etc.  We focus on whatever fits the self-image we present to the public, our audience.

There’s a commercial for Grub-Hub that chants the line, “I want it all.  I want it now.”  You know the one.  You can probably hear it in your head as I do.

We do want it all, now, not later or never.  But, at what cost?

I’m not talking about the monetary cost to our wallet.  I’m talking about the cost to our environment and our future.  Now, consider the reports that are becoming more commonly published.  Think of the two whales a lot of us recently saw posted on Facebook.

Two sperm whales were found beached on the shore.  The photo was an aerial one.  The focus of the photo was these two behemoths lying side by side as specks of humans hovered around the giants.  The humans were saddened, curious and befuddled by the spectacle.

Later, scientists determined the cause of death.  As they cut open the bellies of the whales, the researchers discovered they died of malnutrition.  Yes, their bellies were full, but what filled their bellies?

Their bellies were bursting with all the gadgets of technology we all throw away while we replace them with newer, smarter gadgets.  Their bellies were jam-packed with plastic bottles and bags, fishing nets left in the ocean as well as car parts.  Yes, car parts!  We, humans, have trashed our oceans so we can have it all and have it now.

Greed goes way beyond you and me.

The upper management of the oil industry has known for decades the damage fossil fuels are causing to our environment.  Nevertheless, the oil industry continues to focus funds on digging deep into the ground and ocean floors for oil.  The same energy companies also rupture the subterranean rocks of our planet as the industry digs deep and fractures that same ground through the violent means of fracking.  The marketers tote fracking as a safe means of siphoning “clean” gas.

Clean, where have we heard that term in the recent past?  We heard it from the dying coal industry.  Common sense tells us that oil, gas, and coal are anything but clean.  All we have to do is pull up images on the web showing how oil fields destroy everything under the ground, as well as on top, and around that same ground.  Reports of flames spewing out of people’s faucets and causing those same people to purchase and drink bottled water because the well water that naturally houses their drinking water has been poisoned by the fracturing of the ground around it is commonplace.  Fracking is not clean and it’s not safe.

In fact, according to the experts who study fracking, fracking causes extremely small earthquakes, but they are almost always too small to be a safety concern. However, the injection of wastewater and salt water into the subsurface can cause earthquakes that are large enough to be felt and cause damage.  However, humans probably won’t accept that potential result as dangerous until a major earthquake is caused by fracking.

Greed persists among the wealthy and climate change deniers as they refuse to do what is needed to stop the pollution of our planet and its atmosphere.  Our president conveniently calls climate change a Chinese Hoax.  Then he eyes our natural and historical monuments which previous administrations designated public and protected lands such as Bears Ears, and Escalante National Monument among twenty-five other national monuments and parks, including parts of Yellowstone for extracting fossil fuels and precious minerals.

Escalante will lose half of its pristine beauty while Bears Ears will lose 85%, all in the name of progress and convenience.  Trump was caught on camera when he mouthed the words, “If it’s in the ground, we will go dig it up and use it!”

Then we have politicians with whom we entrust our future, that of our children’s, and great-grand children’s future as well chiming in as they too deny that climate change isn’t real.  Consider Oklahoma Senator  James “Mountain” Inhofe’s snowball stunt as he decried the global warming hoax.

In the winter of 2015, as a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, the Senator stood at the podium on the Senate floor.  In his right hand, he held up a snowball and asked, “Of National attention, in case we have forgotten, we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, I ask the chair, do you know what this is?   It’s a snowball from just outside here.  So it’s very, very cold out.  It [the weather] is very unseasonal.  Alright, Mr. President, catch this,” as he tossed the snowball out to the Senators sitting in front of him.

How ironic his stunt was.  It was sarcastic because twice Senator Inhofe chaired the same Senate Committee.  In fact, during his committee tenure, the senators were listening to Scientists testify on Climate Change, when Senator Inhofe made the following comment.  “Do you realize I was actually on your side of this issue when I was chairing that committee, and I first heard about this? I thought it must be true until I found out what it would cost.”

Inhofe has since repeatedly decried climate change as he invokes the Bible as proof that God would not allow humans to perish over something as benign as climate change.  During his career,  Inhofe has invoked two failures of how difficult it is for humans to deal with, let alone accept the reality of climate change.  His cost comment appeals to human greed, while his bible quoting summons biblical mythology as reasons for not allowing our Federal Government which is supposed to protect us from harm from addressing the topic of climate change.

Mythology

The Bible states, “And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and every living thing.”‘ Genesis 1:28

I can grasp that the mainstay of religion and its mythical beliefs stem from our human fear of death.  As I march toward my demise, I feel the pull of the strings that link me to my Catholic background.  We all need to have hope that there is a life after death.  That belief or desire to believe is what gets us through life.  However, it is mindboggling that humans prefer to invoke that mythology when there is pragmatic evidence that climate change is real.

The best science technology dates the oldest found Biblical transcripts, the Dead Sea Scrolls, as having been written as far back as the third century BC.  In fact, according to historical research, scientists believe the Hebrew Bible in its standard form, first came about some 2,000 years before the carbon dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

How can we trust the research and its empirical findings that tell us how old the Dead Sea Scrolls are, while, at the same time, we deny the identical type of research findings because we believe they go against the mythology of believing in something we can neither see nor touch, let alone prove?  Why would that God take care of everything instead of giving humans the means to figure it out for themselves?  In that sense, God did not abandon humans once He kicked them out of Eden.  Instead He gave us the ability to help ourselves in our new paradise we call Earth.

As we consider this current scientific dating process, we discover that the men who wrote the transcripts lived over 4,000 years ago.  How could they, who were mere humans, know what the distant future would bring?  How could they know that their distant descendants would still be primitive in some of their thinking and behavior yet be brilliant in their ingenuity to invent and build the technology of today?  How could they know that their descendants would become consumed with greed and convenience?  How could they know that their descendants, every one of us, would consider that, if we are so smart and all animals are not, then we are kings and queens of our dominion?

That type of thinking encourages those same kings and queens to misinterpret the bible in order to rationalize that everything in our new paradise must be here for our use and abuse.  As such, God simply wouldn’t accept our interpretation.  He would, instead, expect us to use the gifts He gave us to help ourselves!  If  faith, hope and charity are virtues, then covetous and sloth are not.  Instead they are two of the seven deadly sins and the complete antithesis of the virtues.

Senator Inhofe also claimed that God would never allow climate change to harm humans; and, as such, He would prevent the damage to our atmosphere from happening in the first place.  What makes humans think that the same God wouldn’t expect us to solve the problem for ourselves?  After all, we all know that God does indeed help those who help themselves, especially in this new paradise He created for us.

Now consider that, it was the same God that banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden because they disobeyed God by caving to their own human selfishness as they ate the forbidden fruit.  Thus, this same mythology and God would further warn all the descendants of Adam and Eve to take care of their new paradise by respecting its riches.  He would warn against exploitation and corruption of those same riches found in that new paradise to the point that it harms that paradise.  As such, if God would become angry and punish Adam and Eve for eating the forbidden fruit, then, it makes sense that God would also punish Adam’s and Eve’s descendants for creating harm to all animals He created and for usurping the riches of their new paradise.

That same mythology would teach us that God created the knowledge called science.  Subsequently, He also created the inquisitive science-oriented mind equipped to figure out when humans were causing harm.  He would encourage those science-oriented humans to develop methods that would protect the new paradise.  In that sense, God is helping humans to help themselves.

Progress and Convenience

What is progress?  The definition of progress is an advancement.  The description of progress claims it as the developmental activity in science, technology, etc., especially concerning the commercial opportunities created thereby or to the promotion of the material wellbeing of the public through the goods, techniques, or facilities created.   As one species of living creatures among a vast number and variety of living creatures, we must exam that hypothesis.

The word that jumps out at me the most is the word public.  The culture of that word describes only one species, the human species.  In other words, progress calls upon the advancement of the human species alone.  It suggests that humans should not factor in the welfare of other living beings when considering, planning and creating progress.  That definition is the most careless description of human intention.

Progress denies the right of other living creatures who co-habit the Earth.  Every time we drive down the highway, we witness our selfish notion of progress when we see animals who have lost their lives as a result of human progress.  Every time we drive down the same street we’ve driven down numerous times and see an empty lot where trees stood, and animals lived and played; we see the result of human progress.  All the progress we see around us is species-centric and only defines progress in human terms and for human convenience.

As we again consider the two beached whales, we can’t help but admit that our greed, and our lack of conscience toward all other creatures who share this planet with us have suffered.  We’ve been so focused on our perceived needs that whales are dying because they mistake our trash for food.  In addition to killing the animals of Earth’s oceans, climate change is also poisoning the oceans as well. However, that’s a topic for another blog.

Lack of Cohesiveness as a Species

We don’t need to look very far for evidence of that.  When Donald J. Trump took office, one of his first acts was to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement which is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Change (UNFCCC), dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance, starting next year in 2020.

As of November of last year, 195 UNFCCC member countries have signed the agreement, and 184 countries have become a party to it.

The agreement’s language was negotiated by representatives of 196 state parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Le Bourget, near Paris, France, and adopted by consensus on December 12, 2015. The Paris Agreement’s long-term goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and to limit the increase to 1.5 °C, since this would substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change.  (Source, Wikipedia)

Under the Paris Agreement, each country must determine, plan, and regularly report on the contribution that it undertakes to mitigate global warming.   No mechanism forces a country to set a specific target by a specific date, but each target should go beyond previously set targets. In June of 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw our country from the agreement. Under the agreement, the earliest effective date of withdrawal for the U.S. is November 2020, shortly before the end of President Trump’s current term. In practice, changes in the United States policy that are contrary to the Paris Agreement has already been put in place. (Source, Wikipedia)

As he does with all other matters, Trump has placed our country in violation of the Accords we signed and are obligated to adhere to.  Without human cohesiveness at the national and international level, cohesiveness at a local level seems fruitless.

In closing, I wish to define for those sitting on the fence of believing or not believing that climate change is real, the distinction between climate and weather.

First, I am happy that our species is finally having open and public discussions regarding climate change.  It wasn’t until last week that a verbal distinction between climate and weather was discussed.  It is a distinction that should have been expressed years ago.  If it had been expressed, Senator Inhofe would have exposed himself to be openly ridiculed for bringing that snowball onto the Senate floor as evidence that global warming is a hoax.

According to the American Geosciences Institute:  Whereas weather refers to short-term changes in the atmosphere, climate describes what the weather is like over a long period of time in a specific area. … Looking at Climate Normals can help us describe whether the summers are hot and humid and whether the winters are cold and snowy at a particular place.  (Source, Wikipedia)

Both weather and climate refer to local conditions (temperature, rainfall, wind strength, etc.) in a particular location or region, but the main difference between them is a matter of time. “Weather” refers to local conditions on the scale of minutes, hours, days, and even months to years: you can have a particularly wet month, warm winter, or rainy decade.   Whereas, Climate” is an average of weather conditions over 30 years or more, and can be assessed for a single location, large area, or globally. While weather can change dramatically in a single location from day to day (for example, cold and rainy one day, followed by hot, dry conditions the next day), climate generally changes less quickly because it represents the average of weather conditions over a longer period of time. (Source, Wikipedia)

When someone laughs at the notion of climate change while invoking the fact that the Earth has experienced Ice Ages, it becomes instantly apparent that person has no clue what he or she is speaking of.  It is true that the Earth has experienced at least five ice ages, but those took thousands of years before they began to form and thousands of years of frozen ground ice before the ice began to recede giving way to more temperate climate conditions.  Those five ice ages were natural phenomena.  Humans had nothing to do with causing them.

On the contrary, the climate change our Earth is currently experiencing is human-made and the changes we are experiencing took less than 300 years to reach the critical stage we now find our home.

The climate change scientists speak of began at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution which took shape between 1760 to 1840.

Before the Industrial Revolution, most humans lived in what we now call rural areas.  There were towns, but those towns were small, and they largely serviced the rural outlying areas.  With the revolution came sprawling cities populated by masses of humans who were needed to fill the jobs of the industries the revolution birthed.

Many of us remember industries with their factories that spewed out huge plumes of dirty smoke from large smokestacks that rose up to the sky.  The factories also deposited their waste into the rivers that ran through the cities and those rivers dumped into the oceans.

In the hinterlands, farms began to grow.  Those farms not only fed families, but they began to feed cities.  Farming changed dramatically.

More ground was needed to be cultivated, and more plants needed to be planted.  Equipment became large, and they all depended on gasoline to fuel them.  Chemicals were developed to encourage crops to grow larger and produce more.  Other poisonous chemicals were developed to kill the insects that posed a threat to the health of the crops.  All those chemicals found their way to the rivers during rain runoff.

In the cities, people needed transportation, so automobiles needed to be purchased which also gave way to public transportation.  All these vehicles needed gas to fuel them.  What happens to fuel as it burns?  It dumps into the atmosphere and as the years progress the atmosphere experiences an abundance of invisible fumes from the fuel that causes the atmosphere to choke.  It chokes just as you and I choke when we stand in a garage with the door shut and the car running.

The fumes have nowhere to go, but up into the atmosphere.  For some time, our trees that evolved to breathe in carbon dioxide (the fume composition of the gas that fuels the cars and factories) were able to breathe in the carbon dioxide and change it to oxygen.  However, when tons and tons of carbon dioxide are exhausted into the atmosphere, those trees become incapable of inhaling all the exhaust, so the atmosphere chokes more.

Then, because the cities encourage human population growth, more and more trees are cut down to make room for buildings whether they are office buildings, factories, stores or living dwellings.  Continue to multiply that and soon you have an overworked atmosphere which is becoming sicker and angrier, when, suddenly, that atmosphere can’t take it anymore so it begins to rebel via climate change which causes more powerful storms taking place at unusual times with winds and floods that destroy the buildings in the cities.

Climate change also causes droughts which have plagued a large portion of  California.   Last year was so dry, that fires broke out and spread so rapidly that fire fighters couldn’t keep up.  The result was massive, out-of-control  fires that destroyed a large percentage of land and forests, including an entire town.

Just this week, the upper mid-west and the east coast experienced record-breaking temperatures that took the lives of nine individuals.  Several areas recorded temperatures below those in the Arctic Circle.  The cause was a fracture in the vortex over the Arctic Circle which caused the air that typically swirls over the Arctic to be blasted south into Canada and the upper mid-west states as well as the uppermost eastern States even causing unusual frigid air into southern States such as the one I live in, South Carolina.  Although fractures in the vortex over the Arctic Circle are not un-common, scientists claim this recent fracture was indeed a result of climate change, caused by the warming of the atmosphere over the Arctic Circle.

Climate change is real alright, and it’s only going to get worse.  Scientists thought we had more time to work up the courage it will take to address that climate change to stall it and then stop it from progressing.  However, their research is proving that the changes are happening at a far more rapid rate than previously thought.

Recently, scientists reported that we have only twelve years to change our ways before the weather becomes even more erratic and more damaging.  We can’t wait that long.  In real time, twelve years is a blink of the eye.

Still, the question remains, do humans have the will and the dedication to change to save the only home we have.  If we don’t, we have nowhere to go.  The only place we can move is another place on our planet.  However, that will be an act of futility because the entire planet is suffering from climate change.

I am typically an optimistic human being.  However, I must confess.  Given the state of the desires and habits of the human species, I am not at all optimistic; and, that makes me very sad.

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Filed under Maribeth Shanley, writing

Reunification by John E. Stack

It has been a while since I’ve written about foster care, but I felt that I needed to share this.  If you know anything about foster care, then you know that one of the main objectives is reunification of the child with their birth parents.  As a foster care provider, aka foster parent, our job is to keep the child safe until the court says it is okay for the child to go home.  We have found that this may take a year, eighteen months or even 3 years.

If the birth parents do what the courts ask, then they will receive temporary custody of their child(ren).  If all goes well, then after six months they will receive full custody and the Department of Social Services (DSS) will step out of their lives.  If not, then parental rights will be removed and the child will be put up for adoption.

In the eleven years that we have been foster parents, we have had one child be returned to her mother.  We have had several where the birth parents have signed their rights away and had decided from the beginning that they could not provide a stable home for a child.  The one that did go home was a special situation and her mom did everything she needed to do, plus some.

Anyway, number twenty-two, may be the second child to make her way back home.  I’ll call her Abbie.  We received Abbie when she was two weeks old.  She had gastrointestinal problems which resulted in colic.  Most babies out grow colic in about four months or less.  Abbie’s lasted about five and a half months.  About two and a half months ago, the court decided to give her placement with her grandfather.  This was encouraged by DSS. We figure it was because in a relative placement they do not have to pay the monthly stipend.

Since the move, her grandfather has contacted us several times a week, sometimes to ask a question and others to send pictures.  He lives real close to Abbie’s mom and dad, so they have supervised visitation as often as they want it. This past week, we received a message from mom.  She wanted to know if we could come to Abbie’s first birthday party.  Of course we did, and we did everything we could to make it.

Abbie didn’t seem to know us at first – almost as if she was mad.  After about 30 minutes, she started to warm up.  She showed us how well she could crawl, which she was just starting before she was moved.  Now, she is cruising around the furniture getting ready to walk.  She has continued to put on some weight and appeared to be a truly happy toddler.

So, at the end of the month the mom and dad will find out if the courts are going to let them have their little girl back.  They have been working real hard to do all the things the court required.  She has her grandfather wrapped around her little finger, and I do believe her mom and dad too.

Maybe, just maybe, we are getting ready to see a second, successful reunification.  God’s miracles are often surprising and we are so happy to see this family receive his blessings.

In the meantime, we are at a crossroad.  Are we supposed to continue traveling this overwhelming adventure called foster parenting, or are we at that time in our lives where we need to allow someone else to enjoy the bumps, twists and turns of a path that usually ends in a broken heart.  We have been praying about this, but we can’t see where God has given us an answer, yet.  We are both at or near the age of retirement (I just turned 65 and I won’t say how old my better half is) and we are raising our nine-year-old.  Keep us in your thoughts and prayers that God will tell us what to do.  That is how we started this journey and it is only right to end it that way.

I have a friend who moved away to another state and he called me recently to say they had completed foster parent training.  They had been asked to do respite care (short term) for a two-year-old (I believe).  Anyway, her time was up and her other foster parents were going to get her the next day.  His question to me was “So, how do you deal with this?”  My response was something like this, “First off, I never told you it would be easy.  Second, you have to realize that even your own kids were never your own.  In turn, this one is not yours either.  Third, prepare for a chunk of your heart to be ripped out and know that it hurts like hell.  Fourth, don’t be to big or to tough to cry, and know that it is okay when you do.  After the bleeding stops, God will heal that spot and will place another little one in your arms to help in the healing.  Take some time to regroup.  Suzanne says that every child in care deserves to have foster parents grieve when they leave.  Otherwise, you are not doing your job.  Love you guys.”

Have you ever considered foster parenting?  Know that if you do, you can change the lives of the children you care for and better yet, you can become a person that you thought you could never be.  You will know great blessings and many broken hearts.  People use the excuse that they could never let the children leave because they would fall in love with them.  For some children, you could be the first one to fall in love with them.  What a concept – to be loved so much by someone they couldn’t bear to let you go.  That’s called a family.  Take a chance and change a life.

 

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

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