Tag Archives: friends

My Christmas Card List

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Christmas Card List

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

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

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

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

Author Unknown


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



Filed under life, musings

Life in Havre, Montana (Final Chapter)

The long cold winter wound down and spring announced itself abruptly. Montana was always windy and I remember having to adjust matchbook covers to quell the howling from our front door frame, but when a dreaded dust storm loomed in our direction, the Havre Air Force Station operator would call each house to give us an estimated time before it would hit. We knew to get inside. Close and lock any open windows and doors.

As the storm approached, a huge brown cloud could be seen on the horizon and as it got closer, like the song, tumbling tumbleweeds leapt and danced across the road until visibility became zero. Within minutes, all was quiet and still again and the sun would bear down on us once more. The only indication a storm had even passed through was the color of the walls and furniture in our homes. Everything was brownish-beige. Time to get out the vacuum cleaner. I couldn’t remember ever having to vacuum walls before. All surfaces were covered with a fine layer of gritty dust, even though I had “battened down the hatches.”

Every day, my son, Rob, and I would play a game. It involved flash cards and actually taught him how to read. When people expressed their amazement as he looked at me with excitement and pointed to a box of cereal or a sign and spoke the words he saw, I felt so rewarded and proud. Sometimes, being inquisitive, though, can be frightening.

One day, I was playing the piano and Rob asked to go outside to ride his tricycle. With his little red jacket on I let him out the front, and continued playing, checking on him every few minutes. It was one of those days that makes one glad to be alive, gloriously warm and sunny. I never had to worry about traffic, because all the husbands were working up at the radar site and the street was deserted. Rob rode up and down the road, around in circles and then, suddenly, I didn’t see him.

I walked outside and still didn’t see him, or his trike. I walked up and down the street. No luck. I walked all the way around the housing circle. No Rob! Now I was beginning to worry. Where could he have gone this time? I alerted several neighbors and we set up a search party. We contacted base security and they checked the radar site area. We checked the fields behind our homes. An hour passed. Two. Still, no sign of Rob.

I was “frantic” personified! All the mixed feelings of fear, frustration and aggravation, had turned to worry, even terror. Where was my baby? We were on a secure military station with a guard gate at the entrance. How could my child have just disappeared? Neighbors were checking in with me regularly, either to report places they’d searched or to give me comfort. All of us were totally perplexed.

In the fourth hour, a car pulled up in my driveway. It belonged to my neighbor, Sgt. Knight, across the street. His wife, Shirley, got out with a tearful Rob in her arms. She approached with a knowing expression that said, “It’s okay now.” I practically screamed, “Where and how did you find him?” They explained they had gone thirty-eight miles into Havre for groceries and spotted Rob and his red jacket in a pasture on their return trip, a couple of miles from home. They were familiar with Rob’s adventurous disappearances since this wasn’t the first time he had gone missing. Their daughter was his babysitter and probably has stories to tell about him to this day.

Between Rob and Shirley, I found out why we couldn’t find him. He had ridden his trike up to the base gate and because the window in the phone booth shaped guard house was up so high, Rob had slipped under the guard arm and out onto the main road, unseen. He was playing, Daniel Boone, explorer. After riding a while, he noticed some cows grazing off the side of the road in open range and decided to get a closer look. He left his trike and scampered down an embankment into the field. These animals resembled highland cattle from Scotland, since they hadn’t yet shed their long winter coats, but as Rob got closer, he realized they were bigger than he thought they’d be. He got scared as he wandered among the beasts, and started crying. This was when he was spotted and rescued by Cliff and Shirley Knight. Bless them always!

That night, there was a celebration at Havre Air Force Station and Rob was the center of attention. I didn’t have to scold him at all. His fear had taught him not to ever do that again. Forty-nine years later, Cliff and Shirley and I still exchange Christmas cards each year and I am eternally grateful to them both.


Filed under life, musings

In The Works by S. M. Senden

People have been asking me when my next book will be coming out since they loved the first one so much.  There are a couple of reactions that immediately come with that question.  First is being so pleased that people love my writing, characters and story.  An author never knows how the public will react to a creative offering, and hoping for the best launches it into the world, optimistically expecting the best.

Then comes the obverse side of that coin ~ will they like the next book as much?  Since it is not part of a series, will the characters grab them?  Will they be propelled through the book because they have become involved in the lives of people they will only know on the page; or device depending on what you read?  The committee of negative activities lurking in the back of my mind will whisper that it is a fluke and will never happen again.

All I can do is swat those negative thoughts away and after writing, polishing, rewriting and polishing some more, then release the manuscript to the publisher.  So that finally once in print, the reader tell me what they think.

So what is the next book about?  It is a story set in a small town in 1939 as Germany is making advances on Poland, and the world watches with horror as they spark another world war.  As they watch, people go on living their lives in cities, the country and small towns.  This story is set in the county seat of MontgomeryCounty in the city of Red Oak in Iowa.  It is a story about the secrets people keep in this small town, the lies people live and live with.  How they deal with truth when it is revealed.  It is about memories buried deep under the dust of time, of the people who move in and out of our lives, some slipping away almost unnoticed and nearly forgotten.

And that gets me thinking…

In a poem by Dory Previn, she states ~

We never stop to wonder till a person’s gone,

We never yearn to know him until he’s packed and traveled on.

As I worked on this story I thought of the many people who have come and gone in my life.  Some are there for a long time, some pass quickly through.  Each person I encounter gives me something, recreates something in me, for better or for worse.  Every time my being interacts with someone else; I am changed, transformed in some way, even if it is a very small and hardly noticeable change.

Think about the people you have known in your life.  Some teach us so much, some give us joy and laughter, others give us pain and hard learned lessons, but each has had an impact on who we are.  I think about some of the people who have died, and I wish I’d known them better.  I wish that I’d been able to know more about them, their lives growing up, and their experiences.  But I thank them for being a part of my life.

From all this pondering, I hope that I will be a positive impact on people, their lives, and that in future people will say ~ she made me laugh, or think or taught me something wonderful.  These are the things I think about as I create a story and characters.  I want them to touch the reader’s lives, and hope they will not soon be forgotten.

1 Comment

Filed under writing

Tough Birthdays

My birthday is tomorrow the 12th, and it’s a big one. The one after “middle age” and the beginning of  “elderly.” It’s difficult to fathom I’m there already. I don’t feel elderly. I’m told I don’t look elderly. However, the calendar says I am. During the last several years when my birthday rolled around, I said it was just a number. I still felt young and vital and physically fit, so it didn’t have any effect on me. This one is different. I’m feeling my mortality, as a being who must eventually die, the dictionary says. Ye gads! This is the first time my age seems connected to a time schedule.

I remember thirty was difficult for me. Was I where I was supposed to be, I wondered? I reviewed my accomplishments and goals and soon became absorbed in just living and forgot all about time passing. There were too many things yet to do, places to visit, people to meet. I had a child to educate, nurture, train, and wifely duties, and responsibilities to my community. The concept of age was too remote to be concerned about.

This past August I had a stroke and barely a month later I was a passenger in a potentially fatal car crash. Wow, what a wake up call. For the first time in my days on this Earth, I realized I was actually mortal, that I wouldn’t be here forever. Of course, I knew the Grim Reaper would eventually claim me, but I didn’t think it could be this soon. The aftereffects of the stroke are about gone now, but the impact of what it did to my psyche is on-going. I’m also healing from the injuries incurred in the car crash, and now I have this urgent need to get my life in order, just in case. I’ve never felt like this before.

After the stroke, shock gave way to relief that I was still here. I can’t say I was afraid per se. It was more like incredulous. How could this have happened to me? Disbelief became a desire to educate myself so I could make changes to lifestyle, diet, exercise. Then gratefulness settled in that I was “warned” and had time to learn what to do to survive. An author friend e-mailed me about her stroke and offered encouragement and guidance, which helped tremendously. It gave me the comfort of knowing I wasn’t alone and it gave me a course of action to take.

That was what I needed. I found out what a wonderful family and great friends I have. I mean, I already knew that, but in this time of crisis, knowing they were there, ready with their love and support gave me the fuel I needed to keep on keepin’ on. As one gets older, relationships become more and more important. I am truly blessed to have deep and meaningful relationships with both my family and my friends.

So, when it finally comes my time to shuffle off this mortal coil, I’ll go in peace.


Filed under life, musings

Home is Where the Mama Is

I’m in the midst of selling my childhood home. As nostalgically sad as it may sound, I’m not having a problem with it. On this path, I look neither left, right or behind; I keep my feet pointed forward.

The roses were in full bloom a few weeks ago. A solid line of red blossoms climbed along the side of the house as bees busily buzzed in and out. I checked the permanent nine-year old bird’s nest to see if any new babies were in it, but it was empty this year. The coalition of mother birds had moved on to other places.

Maybe it was a sign.  Not a sign for me, though. I don’t have sentimental attachments to structures I own.  The sentimental attachments I carry are for the structures I build.

My relationships are my buildings. My family and close friends are my houses. I furnish my homes with my heart, and, though I may move from place to place over the course of my life, I carry the hearth with me. I have always told the kids, “Home is where the mama is.”

Lately, world events have dominated most conversations. Beginnings and endings over the past several days give one pause to reflect. Selling my childhood home is an ending and a beginning. I know what the ending means; the beginning, eh, not so sure, yet.

At the beginning, I write a book. At the end, the book is published. I see it on its way and then I don’t look back. I’m sure that’s a character flaw for a writer, but it’s how I am. Rewrites? Oh, yes, I’ve had my share – before the novel flies out to the publisher. After that, it’s pretty much, goodbye, baby bird.

All of the things happening around me, in my own world and in the bigger one, remind me of a line in a song by The Three Degrees:

Is this my beginning
or is this the end?

Although the sentiment is slightly morbid (considering the world is scheduled to end next year – guess I better get busy . . . or not), beginnings and endings are necessary for the entire scope of the human experience.

With the Monterey Pine, fire serves to end and begin the life of this tree. The cones stay closed until the heat from a forest fire pops them open and scatters new seeds upon the burnt ground. Our own personal fires signal our starts and stops throughout life.

Goodbye, childhood house. May your next journey take you on as many adventures as the first family who lived within your walls did. You and I will never cross paths again in this life, but I will speak of you fondly to those who ask. Goodbye and godspeed a quick sell.

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

1 Comment

Filed under fiction, life, musings, writing

My extended family

I am surround by family. I have a husband, son, sister, mother, and brother. I have more cousins, aunts, and uncles than I could count, even using my and your toes. Oh did I mention in-laws.

I have friends that count as family. Those that call me after months of not hearing from them…

“Hey, Suz. I need your couch.”

I hope I’m not unique in that.


I have a very special extension of my family too. While we all have some things in common, we are as different as… well snowflakes come to mind. Mostly because of the flake part. 

We are creative, smart (at least we think so), loving, and friendly. We are also testy at times, each have moments of “duh”, and get hurt feelings, even when it was not intended.

We are unique in the fact that, while we work together, hardly any of us have met. We know more about each other than some of our blood. We talk, we share, we agree, and sometimes must agree to disagree. 

I am of course talking about the authors around me that have found their home in Second Wind. I’m talking about writers that range from Mainstream Fiction to Paranormal Romance. We also range from thirty years-old to past retirement.

We live from coast to coast and everywhere in between. We also love to read, love to write, and create in ways that amaze me from day to day.


And though we all write, our books are as different as we are. We have different voices, different genres, and different ways of looking at each. And through it all we will stand as family, like any family; with love in mind, and stories to tell.


Suzette Vaughn

The Second Wind Publishing Family

Author of Badeaux Knights and Mortals, Gods, and a Muse


Filed under books, fiction, life, writing