Tag Archives: memories

Masks from Travels

I guess most of us collect souvenirs when we travel and I’m guilty of that, as well. Along with photographs and pamphlets or coffee table books and gifts for friends, I also like to try to find a mask or face from each place I visit. I’ve been lucky over the years to be able to find the faces I’ve gathered together for a wall in my music room, especially since the places have been so diversified.

Mask Wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For instance, one mask came from Branson, Missouri, here in the U.S. and next to it is a mask from the Isle of Malta and below it is one from Tulum, Mexico. Then there is a rendition of the death mask of Agamemnon, the King of Mycenae from 1550-1500 B.C.E. that I bought in Greece and below that a shell mask from Tarpon Springs, Florida, or a face of Vlad the Impaler from Transylvania, Romania near a classic Greek face from Athens. There’s a hand carved wooden mask from Bavaria and not far from it is a clay face from a craft fair in Montgomery, Alabama.

Malta Mask

Branson Face

 

All the faces have memories associated with them either of the place in which I purchased them or of the people I met along the way, so as I look around my home, I can relive those fond memories of my travels and of the wonderful friendships I’ve made throughout the years.

Tulum Mask

Agamemnon

 

Classic Greek

Mexico

Shell Florida

P1020555

 

I’d love to hear if you are a collector and if so, what do you like to collect? Do you have a regular place for your items? If so, are they where you see them and remember your experiences associated with them?

 

 

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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People and Things, by Carole Howard

My mother died in 1997 at the age of 80. She’d been losing weight and the docs neither found out why nor ended her slide, even after I insisted they admit her to a hospital and get some nutrition into her body.  Still, it had never occurred to me that she was gravely ill. So it was a shock when I got the phone call. Naivety, I guess. Or maybe denial.

My brother and I flew to Florida to pack up our mother’s things and help our dad decide where he’d live. (He couldn’t care for himself — that had been my mom’s job – because of Parkinson’s.) The packing-up process practically smacked me in the face with, “All this stuff we accumulate, in the end, it’s just….. stuff.”

But the hangers in the closet did me in.

After I took some pieces of her clothing that I wanted, I sorted the rest (which involved removal of my mother’s notes to herself, like “This blouse goes with the blue pants or the green skirt plus the paisley scarf), then donated it to the nearby synagogue. But they didn’t want the hangers. What was I to do with them? It felt wrong to just throw them out.

The hanger issue tormented me. I gathered them into bundles and used twist-ties to join them at the curvy ends. They were unwieldy. I unbundled them, then put them in cardboard boxes. It took a lot of boxes to accommodate those pieces of wood, plastic, and wire. And I was still left with the question of what to do with them. In the end, I put them back in the closet, neatly arranged according to type. Closure. Logic. Neatness.

I knew my reaction was crazy but, just like the time I went up to the apartment my husband and I were moving from, to get one last thing, and unexpectedly bawled, I knew there was something else involved.

Yet when a very good friend and member of my extended family recently died, I had a completely different reaction to her possessions. “Lily” knew she was dying, since she was the one who had declined chemotherapy. The process wasn’t a mystery, just the timing. In the last month or so of her life, she had friends come over, a few at a time, so she could give away her beautiful (she was an artist) clothing and jewelry. She had a LOT. Every piece had a story. What was unsettling to me was that she took enormous pleasure – glee, practically – in telling the stories and giving the pieces away. Really, glee. I wanted to be gleeful, for her sake, but glee was too much to ask.

Now that she’s gone, I have quite a collection of things that remind me of her: scarves, sweaters, earrings, earrings, and more earrings, and one pair of shoes. So does my daughter. She wears them frequently. I have another approach: I take out one thing and wear it a few times before I take another. Each one reminds me of Lily, one at a time, widely spaced.

I’m not sure what accounts for the difference between my reaction to my mother’s things and to Lily’s, nor the difference between my daughter’s approach and mine. Nineteen years older? Mother vs friend? Cleaning everything out vs accepting some gifts to give Lily pleasure?

I just don’t know. Did anything similar ever happen to you?

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Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, a murder mystery with a musical undertone, set in West Africa.

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A Local Evening in Germany

A few days ago, my son came to help me put up Christmas decorations and, wanting to reward him, I offered to take him and his girlfriend to dinner at a restaurant of his choice. He chose a local family-owned German restaurant here in coastal, west-central Florida. We go there often and are friends with the owner and his lovely wife who immigrated here a number of years ago. Just stepping inside their restaurant always makes us feel as though we have traveled back in time and are journeying down memory lane, once more.

We were a military family and we lived in Germany for three years. Our home was in Morbach snuggled in the Hunsrück Mountains near the Mosel River and not far from Luxembourg. At the time, it was a rather small village with delightfully helpful people and was not an area known much to tourists. So, most of our friends were either fellow Americans or German neighbors or people we met while we were there.

Every chance we got, we traveled around the country, trying to cram in as much history, art and culture as possible and as I looked around the restaurant at all the beautiful objet d’art that decorated the rooms, I was reminded of some of those experiences. Folklore fascinated me and how it was manifested in artwork and in particular, woodcarving. In the Black Forest, I met an artist who sold me three of his works that he had hand carved. He explained that the styles might be different in each, but they were based on German fairy tales, folklore and history.

The first object was a witch with a cat sitting on her shoulder. It was 8 ½” tall and carved with large strokes of the cutting blade which, amazingly didn’t hamper the detail of her figure or face or of the little animal. This technique actually created shadows and wrinkles and character.

Witch with cat

Witch with cat

The next object was a mask about 11 ½” tall.  I was captivated by the fact that the carving totally followed the grain of the wood; the center was the tip of the nose. It had to take real planning to imagine ahead of time how to accomplish the carving. The kind of thinking-ahead required of a chess player, I thought. Amazing!

 Carved Mask

Carved Mask

And the last object was a mountain climber which measured 22” from the top of his upper hand to the bottom of his lantern.  The carving technique on this work was similar to the witch with the wider carving strokes and was also rendered from a single chunk of wood, except for the feather in the climber’s cap, and of course, the metal lantern. I found it enchanting that the lantern actually lights up and hangs from the ceiling by the climber’s rope. Since then, I’ve seen this piece often copied because of its uniqueness and popularity.

Mountain Climber

Mountain Climber

Germany will always be a special place to me. I have wonderful memories of good times, good people, and good experiences that I shall cherish always. Opportunities to spark those memories again and again abide in my local German friends. Thank you, Dagmar and Uwe.

Do you have a place or people that remind you of a cherished previous time in your life, just by going there and seeing it or them? I’d love to hear.

Coco Ihle is the author of  SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month

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She’s a Centenarian

How many people you know are 100 years old or more? I’ve known several in their eighties and nineties, but, for me, only one who turned 100—yesterday. Her name is Nellie and she is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. She lives next door in a house she maintains herself. She does her own cleaning and laundry, cooking and washing dishes. She even still drives her car and is a safe driver. She can count backwards from one hundred just like I would count forward. I can’t do that!

Nellie is also stubbornly independent. She insists on getting her mail from across the street, often in the rain. I try to beat her to it, but she scolds me saying she needs the exercise. This past summer, she and I wanted to re-sod our lawns and, since she doesn’t have a computer, I did the research on sod sources and lawn maintenance companies and someone to check our existing sprinklers. Together we set up appointments to get estimates and made arrangements to get the work done. She already knew how to program her sprinkler and now we both have fabulous new lawns.

I asked, “If you could describe your life in one word, what would it be?” She immediately said, “Happy.” Then I asked her if she had highlights she could tell me about. She said her 61 year marriage to her husband, Johnny, and the birth of her daughter were tops, but she went on to tell me about many trips and adventures she shared with her family, and card parties and going to Busch Gardens every year. Without hesitation she said, “I have no regrets.”

I asked her if there was anything bad she remembered and she told me how she and her husband bought a house here in Florida and they kept up flood insurance payments for many years and when the insurance got too expensive and they’d had no problems, they dropped it. Of course, a few years afterwards, a storm completely flooded their house and they lost everything. She related how she saw a snake swimming through her home and screamed for her husband to get rid of it. He wasn’t very enthusiastic about this and she said, “Okay, I’ll get a bucket.” She scooped it up praying it wouldn’t jump out, and trying to wade as fast as she could through thigh-high water, she squealed all the way to the toilet where she tossed it in. “It’s funny now, but it wasn’t then!” she chuckled.

Her best friend is Lillian, a widow like her and also her sister-in-law, who lives on the next street. Lillian is like Nellie in that she also lives alone and drives, and she’s ninety. The two of them love to get together to play cards, sometimes until the wee hours and Nellie likes to sleep late. One advantage of being a bit hard-of-hearing is that she is not disturbed by the early morning sounds of yard men mowing and such, since she takes her hearing aids out when she sleeps.

When Dancing with the Stars was on she and I would talk the next day about which dances we liked and which stars we rooted for. She even took the time and trouble to vote! And even though we thought all the dancers in the finals were fabulous, we both were pleased when Derek Hough and the lovely and gracious Bindy Irwin won the Mirror Ball Trophy.

This Christmas season, as we celebrate the gift Our Father has given us in the birth of Our Savoir, I am thankful for the gift of Nellie in my life. She is such a gracious and happy person even though she suffers from some of the aches and pains of old age. I want to be just like her when I grow up!

Happy 100 Nellie!

 

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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Christmas With Bob Hope

The last few days I’ve been putting up my Christmas decorations with the sound of carols playing in the background. This time of year is always a time for reminiscing for me, and while unpacking, one storage box held memories from 1966. Inside was a garland of realistic holly, boxwood and pine intertwined with miniature old world lanterns that light up. I remember splurging on it at a department store Christmas boutique that year. The Vietnam War was on and my husband was stationed with the USAF in northeast Thailand at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base. The amazing thing about that garland is that it still works! I’ve never replaced anything on it, and it’s been lighting a wall or fireplace mantle every Christmas since, for 48 years!

As I stepped back to admire the garland, memories flooded back of that time my husband was gone. In those days there was no R&R (Rest and Recuperation Leave) for our troops overseas at the half-way mark and no phone calls for the entire year. The Internet and Skype didn’t exist. Only letters. How the men looked forward to letters from home and an occasional gift package.

Probably the most exciting time for them that year was a visit from Bob Hope. Stars accompanying Mr. Hope were Vic Damone, Phyllis Diller, Joey Heatherton, and Miss World, Anita Bryant, plus some minor acts. The men at the Nakhon Phanom base talked about it for weeks ahead of time and families at home were eager to see the Bob Hope Christmas Special when it came out in January to see if they could catch a glimpse of their son, brother, uncle, husband, or father.

I remember my son and I sat on the living room floor as close as we could get to my parents-in-law’s TV without blocking anyone else’s view, to see if we could find my husband in the crowd. He had written to say he was in front sitting on the ground only about ten feet away from the stage. During the special, everything happened so fast and there were so many faces to search, I couldn’t be sure we actually saw him or not, but the important thing was that the troops were able to see Bob Hope and company. What a thrill it was to them! I wish there were DVRs then!

Not all the memories of that time were good ones. Last month was Veteran’s Day and many Americans thought of all the sacrifices our soldiers have made for their country. I’d like to mention the sacrifices of the families of those soldiers as well. That year my husband and I missed sharing the celebration of our birthdays, our anniversary, several extended family events and a year of our 4 year old son’s life in a country that wasn’t very supportive. My husband’s paycheck documents got lost and for several months, we had no money coming in at all. It was a difficult time sometimes, but we persevered until his return. We considered ourselves really blessed that he was able to come back to us!

Ninteen sixty-six was a different time and military families have some advantages since then, but they also have more challenges and difficulties than ever before. I just hope that as we celebrate this holiday season, we remember the families, as well as the soldiers and airmen, for the dedicated, selfless people they are. And that those families have something nice to remind them of their sacrifice, like my garland that keeps staying lit.

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My New Word for Nostalgia

This is the time of year many of us have musings of a bygone time in our lives and we call it nostalgia. I always thought “nostalgia” was a sad word, because it brought to mind events of the past that we could only relive in our memories, of a time already gone that we could not visit again. The dictionary says nostalgia is a longing or homesickness for something far away or long ago for former happy circumstances. That longing is what gives sadness to the word.

To remedy this, I made up a new word. “Hearthy.” To me, hearthy is a happy sounding word to start with, and it illustrates the mood or moods of this time of year. When I ponder on the word hearthy, I think of brightly-colored falling leaves and shuffling through them on the way to somewhere; bobbing for apples; lounging on a braided rug in front of a fireplace all aglow; watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV; looking up at the stars on a still, crisp night; listening to the carols of the season; catching the first flakes of snow on my tongue. These are not just memories of the past, but things that can be experienced year after year. Now, and in the future. That’s what makes hearthy — happy.

In my office, I have bookshelves on either side of my desk that are filled with photos of my family and friends. When I enter each day I am greeted by them and often I find myself thinking about and remembering favorite times with them. Granted, some of those people have passed away, but I have made peace with that, and only think of them in happy terms now. Although they are part of nostalgia, I prefer to think of them when I am doing something hearthy and they become part of my hearthy life rather than my past nostalgia one. I have no idea if that makes any sense to you, dear reader, but for me, it’s a way to remember without being sad.

So, here it is November. I’m probably one of the few who still sends out Christmas cards to almost a hundred people each year and I’ve got them all ready to address and to write a little note in each. I’ll start putting up Christmas decorations soon and make my power company happy for the next couple of months. As I decorate the tree, hearthy thoughts will fill the room as brightly as the hundreds of lights that sparkle on it.

Hearthy holidays!

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Precious Memories and A Few Things I’d Rather Forget by Sherrie Hansen

Today is a day when we look back and remember. As people go, I am blessed with a rich heritage of wonderful people and good memories. But the truth is, there are a lot of things in life I’d just as soon forget – poor choices and the repercussions that followed because of them, people who’ve hurt me or treated me rudely or unkindly, money or things dear to me that I’ve lost, tragedies and heartbreak that have affected me, the people I love, or even the world in general. Yet here I am, blogging on a day devoted to memories, a day that memorializes the sacrifices made by those who gave their lives so that we can enjoy the freedom we are so blessed with – a day that brings to mind some of the most painful episodes of history imaginable.

Photo100

Memorial Day is a day that can trigger tears and warm fuzzies, pride and patriotism, joys and regrets.

Flags - row

When I visit the cemetery, I focus on the wild violets growing in the woods around the edge of the lawn, the pretty posies put on my Grandma’s graves – peonies and lilacs, lily of the valley, wild honeysuckle and columbine – sweet signs of life and living.

Flower - Lily of the Valley

I watch the flags blowing in the breeze and am so glad I can move, and feel and see.

Flags

I do not fear death because of my faith, but I do not like to think about it just the same.

Zion 2013 Sunset shadows

If I had my choice, there would be no more deaths. I like things the way they are right now – the people and things that are a part of my life. I really don’t want to lose any more loved ones – ever.

Grave

But that is not the way of the world. Time marches on. Borders and time are ripped in two, sometimes naturally, sometimes so painfully I can hardly bear to think about it.  Loss comes a visiting whether we like it or not. For every delightful event that occurs in our lives, there is a disappointment or a period of grieving that follows to balance things out.

175 Scotland - Cambo gardensraindrops

For me, the silver lining to all of this is my writing. Whether I’m hurting or sad or just going through an awkward transition in my life, writing about it, in fiction form, with names and details changed to protect the not so innocent, is very cathartic. Writing works a certain kind of magic, in which the real and painful and close becomes fictional and muted and distant. While my characters shed tears and endure the unthinkable, solving problems and masterminding solutions to their dilemmas, I am somehow freed from my past hurts, embarrassments and sorrows.

Photo36

On this day of remembering, I am thankful for the sacrifices people have made for me, the love that surrounds me. I am thankful for memories, for reminders of the wonderful things I have experienced in my lifetime. And I am thankful that sometimes, things that are best forgotten really are.

Scotland - Celtic Cross

 

About Sherrie Hansen:  Twenty-three years ago, Sherrie Hansen rescued a dilapidated Victorian house in northern Iowa from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Sherrie grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota and has lived in Bar Harbor, Maine, Colorado Springs, CO, and Augsburg, Germany. She attended Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL. After 12 years of writing romance novels late at night when she couldn’t sleep (mostly because she was so keyed up from working 12 hour days at the B&B), she met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. Sherrie lives in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and writes on the run whenever she has a spare minute. With her Wildflowers of Scotland novels, “Wild Rose” and “Blue Belle”, she has seven books in print. Sherrie enjoys playing the piano with the worship team at church, needlepointing, photography, decorating historic homes, traveling, and going on weekly adventures with her nieces and nephew.

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The Importance of Locations by Deborah J Ledford

Crescendo F. Cover -w blurb 7 HR-FinalOkay, so keeping with the “Importance of” theme, let’s discuss locations. How important are they to you as a reader? How about as a writer? For me, the main location for my Steven Hawk/Inola Walela has definitely become a main character.

I grew up spending my summers in a small town nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina. This is a place that remains close to my heart and senses. There are times when I awake in the middle of the night, replaying events long passed, the scent of “green” still nestled in my brain.

The summertime nights were humid during those cherished weeks every year, but that never bothered me as I chased fireflies, capturing them in the Mason jar my grandmother would provide from her stash under the sink.

fireflies-two

The drives with my grandfather are gems I unfortunately only remember snippets of—sitting in the back seat of his huge Buick as he backed up the long drive to the two-lane, twisting highway that would lead us to the gas station/country store where he would buy me a paper sack full of Atomic FireBall jawbreakers. Even decades ago Kudzu vines hugged the trees and power poles, massive hulking monsters, disturbing yet fascinating.

kudzu

The fog that would rarely completely lift hovered over the expanse and deep in the valleys when we reached a rise high enough to look down at the most enchanting, wondrous Great Smokies I will never release from my memories.

smoky-mountains-sunrise

I go back from time to time to the real city of Bryson City, where Inola Walela, Steven Hawk and his family live in my books. My imaginary characters visit locations I still remember; essentially playing out the life I could only dream of. I suppose that’s one of the best parts about being a novelist…the “what if” and “why not” of every story one can create.

Deborah J Ledford’s latest novel of suspense, CRESCENDO, is book three of the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela series. Other novels include, STACCATO, and SNARE, Finalist for The Hillerman Sky Award and the NM-AZ Book Awards. Deborah is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and her award-winning short stories appear in numerous print publications as well as literary and mystery anthologies. Part Eastern Band Cherokee, she spent her summers growing up in western North Carolina where her novels are set. Deborah invites you to visit her website.

Photograph Credits: Smoky Mountains Sunrise ©Dave Allen. Kudzu ©Felicity Green.

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The Latest Educational Strategy – A Must-read for Today’s Parents

When I look at photos of the innocent faces of youngsters slaughtered in Newtown, my tclasshoughts take me back to the first day my son went to school. Both of his parents were teachers, so he was well prepared for that golden milestone in his life: his first day of school. We had convinced him that education is a marvelous thing, school an exciting place and studying the mysteries of life, the earth and universe a fulfilling and incomparable delight.

About to leave the house that morning for his maiden day of education, my son said,” Daddy do you want to hear me say my ABCs?”

“Of course.”

He recited them.

“And will you listen me say my numbers?”

“Certainly.” He counted as far as he could. “Son, I’m proud of you. Goodbye and have a good day. See you tonight.”

“Bye, Daddy.”

After what happened in Newtown, I’ve mentally rerun the above scene a thousand times, and I know if it took place today, it would play somewhat differently. My son, no doubt, would still recite his ABCs for me and still “say his numbers.” And then I would add, “But you didn’t mention the most important thing I taught you about school.”

AK-47“Oh, you mean that. Yeah, now I remember: you said when I hear the first gunshot, I should hit the floor fast, not move a muscle and pretend I’m dead. That way, maybe the gunman won’t shoot me.”

“Well learned. I’ll see you tonight, son.” As soon as he had closed the door I’d add, “I hope.”

And then…I’d cry.

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Christmas With My Sister For The Second Time by Coco Ihle

Joanie & Coco

Joanie & Coco

Next week I’ll be traveling to spend Christmas for the second time with my sister Joanie. Our first Christmas together was when we were in our fifties. We’d searched for one another for over fifty years after having been separated as small children, sent into foster care and later separately adopted.

Our reunion in 1994 was a fairy tale filled with exquisite joy and discovery. Two Christmases later we went to the Mall and sat on Santa’s knee for the first time together. Instead of asking for material possessions, we told him how grateful we were for the gift of each other. We’d missed many years of sharing this special holiday and many others, but we intended to make up for lost time. And we have.

My sister has two married daughters who have children of their own, so I have an extended family, something I thought I’d never have. Just think, I have two nieces with wonderful spouses, three great nieces and a great nephew, and I must not forget, even dogs and cats. I feel as though I should hum the tune to “A Partridge in a Pear Tree.” I’m sure the kids have grown quite a bit since I saw them last and I look forward to their hugs.

Joanie and her husband live in a Hansel and Gretel log cabin in a forest in the Adirondacks. It’s a magical place that looks like a scene from a Thomas Kincade painting. The warm glow of light shining through the windows onto the glistening snow outside. The sound of total silence, save the sighing of the pines in the breeze. The crisp smell of winter and stars brighter than I’ve ever seen them.

Inside the aroma of dinner, the chatter of family, the warm snugness of a throw over the legs in front of the fire, and prominent splashes of red make the rooms cozy and inviting. The glow of candlelight setting off the shining golden color of the logs as they climb up to the rafters of the cathedral ceiling. And the gentle sound of  Christmas carols floating down from the balcony.

All these memories I’ll be able to re-live soon, and I can’t wait!

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