Category Archives: life

A Discipline Mood Trick

I’m so happy to be with you again this month, dear readers. Since we can’t seem to get completely out of this pandemic, I’m concentrating on helping people stay, or at least try to stay positive, until it is gone. Being cooped up tends to have several negative effects on us humans.

Depression from loneliness, a tendency to become a little too self-absorbed, lazy behaviors and sloppiness, even uncleanliness, are negatives that can lead to a loss of feelings of self-worth. These negatives often happen slowly and without people realizing how bad they are becoming. And before they know it, they’re in real trouble.

How many times have we been a little lazy and have run real quickly to the grocery store without fixing ourselves up to look presentable, thinking that no-one will see us and we’ll only be gone a few minutes? Then just as we get into the store we invariably run into someone who really matters to us and here we are looking our worst! Oh, rats!

Before I retired and when I was working, my job as an entertainer depended on my appearance being a major priority for me, which included clean and styled hair, makeup on, clothes well-chosen and neat, nails polished, and wearing my signature perfume. I never left my house not looking up to par, but once I retired and moved to a town where people didn’t recognize me, I started relaxing my rules a little. Even now, occasionally, I slip out real quick to run an errand, but I fight that urge all the time. Here’s why.

If I take the time to fix my hair and make-up when I first get up in the morning and then later decide I need to go somewhere, it takes little effort to dress in something presentable, grab my car keys and go. I find my whole demeanor is different! I have confidence and I am therefore more apt to be happier, friendlier, more helpful and even more inclined to compromise if need be. Read this paragraph again. It’s important!

If I am prepared to meet ANYONE, I will also be putting my best self forward!  In fact, one of my readers is from Scotland and he is known as the “Village Kiltie” because he has a whole wardrobe of kilts. Some Scots have abandoned wearing their kilts all the time and wear trousers instead, but my friend prefers the traditional kilt with accoutrements. He believes that “clothes make the man/woman and with a hearty cry I encourage people to dress to impress in spite of the gloomy climate.” In fact, he tells me he always feels the need to wear his Sunday-best kilt to church. I think his attitude makes him a happy and confident person and I think that’s grand.

So, especially since this pandemic has stuck its evil nose in our lives, I have tried very hard to make myself presentable first thing in the morning. I’m not quite awake yet and before I know it, it’s done. That way, no matter what happens during my day, I can face it with my best personal self. I’ve psyched myself into an attitude of confidence, helpfulness, and friendliness and that equals HAPPINESS. How about that!

 

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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Ihle’s Smiles

I took a photo of a double rainbow from my sunroom window a few weeks ago and emailed it to all my friends and family, because seeing it had given me so much joy and I wanted to share it. The response I got from quite a few gave me the idea for this month’s blog. I started thinking what exactly is it that makes me smile.

Of course, you realize, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and the tendency to self-reflection is something with which many of us are dealing. I include myself. So, I started writing a list of things that made me smile, which went on and on, but showed me that it depended on the time in my life these smiles occurred.  I found myself dividing my life into sections.

When I was newly married, my husband was commissioned an officer in the United States Air Force and we moved to Texas where our son was born. Early smiles were centered around the new baby, and meeting and making friends with other military people. As time went on, traveling to new places and different climates were added along with more new friends. I started collecting masks and sculptural faces for decoration and to fill up empty places on walls and also to remind me of some of those places we had been and people we’d met. Many of my masks have smiles on their faces.

One of those military assignments was to an R.O.T.C. detachment at North Texas State University for four years in the late 1970s. My husband taught Aerospace Studies and I provided a social home for many of his students along with our commander and other officers. I’m proud to say I am still in touch with some of those former students and we still exchange Christmas cards and yearly newsletters. In fact last week, one of those students sent me a current photo of his growing family that not only brought me a smile, but also a tear of pride to my eye.

After my husband and I separated and divorced, and my parents died, I spent some time reinventing myself. I hadn’t finished college before marrying, so my choices were limiting, but as luck would have it, I met a gal who was a rather famous belly dancer and we hit it off as friends. She was generous enough to share with me her secrets to success in this business and also in costume design. My gal-friend’s job took her to nightclubs in New York and New Jersey and I lived in Alabama where there were none, so I had to come up with a way to use these skills I was learning in a totally different environment. I decided to start a Belly Gram business. People hired me to dance a short routine for someone’s special occasion like a birthday, anniversary, farewell, get-well, even family reunion. I spent more than twenty years in this job and had smiling moments every single day. I loved it.  I was fortunate enough to be able to help someone celebrate their special day! What could be better?!

Before I decided it was time to retire from dancing, my next career slipped into my life. For over fifty years I had been searching for a sister I knew existed and suddenly found. Talk about smiles! For those who don’t know, I was orphaned when just a toddler and later adopted at the age of four and a half. But I digress. I decided I wanted to write a book about my search to honor the ALMA Society, the agency who helped me find her, and also to have something to dedicate to her. It took me many years since I had to learn how to write. I started attending writing conventions and reading everything I could find about writing and then I began writing. It took me ten years, about 8 years after I retired from dancing, to get the book written, find an agent who found my publisher, and SHE HAD TO KNOW became a reality.

And now I am retired, retired! I write my blog each month and I try to help promote authors whose work I admire, because reading has become my favorite activity as I get older. As a result, I feel so fortunate to be able to say that several authors have become friends. I have bookshelves on either side of my desk in my office where my computer is, so each morning when I come in to read my email, I have a whole lot of people to greet. How can I say I live alone?! That makes me smile!

And during all this I’ve continued to search for my birth family. A year ago, through Ancestry.com, another sister was found. We have visited with one another once, but then the pandemic hit, and we have had to limit our contact to emails, but that’s okay. This sister has a sister whom I haven’t met yet, and that’s something for me to look forward to. And I recently discovered I have a granddaughter I didn’t know I had. She is also an Ancestry.com discovery. Luckily, I was able to meet her and attend both her high school graduation and her wedding. I am so thrilled. Maybe the family will be growing one of these days. There are smiles and more smiles coming in the future I’m sure!

What are the things that make you smile? 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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Craela’s Omar & Yasmeen

I’m still in my grateful mode, dear readers and this month I’d like to give tribute to a very special human being, who was an extremely talented person, and who just happened to be my mother-in-law. Her name was Craela and she was one of those rare people whom everybody loved. I adored her.

Craela

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She was the manager of an ice cream store in Overland, Missouri, which is a suburb of St. Louis and every time my husband had leave from the military, we’d pack up the car, gather our son and dog and head in that direction to visit, stopping at Velvet Freeze Ice Cream store on the way in.  Hubby and I always had a hot fudge sundae and, Rob, our son, had bubble gum ice cream, you know, with the tiny chiclet type pieces of bubble gum in it. And when Rob was small, his name for Craela was Nano

Inside Velvet Freeze, Craela had drawn posters in colored markers of her customers, especially the “apple cheeked children” and had them displayed all over the store. She knew everybody’s name and everything about their families and what kind of ice cream they liked. People flocked from all over the area to go there. I was always amazed she could remember them all.

Craela loved to paint in oils and later in Acrylics and she’d often give newlyweds a painting of hers as a wedding gift. Her style was really unique and hinted on fantasy and sometimes her subjects were humorous and somewhat cartoony. I remember one Christmas she’d hand-blown eggs and painted the shells to look like each member of the family. They were personalized Christmas ornaments on her tree and were really beautiful and so remarkable. And the neatest thing about them was that they looked exactly like each of us!

One year she made me one of those kitchen witches that were so popular years ago. I still have mine hanging in my kitchen. The witch is supposed to keep away gremlins that like to misplace things, but I think mine has gotten lazy. Anyway, she’s so unique and I love the way she looks! What do you think?

Nano’s Kitchen Witch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I think the crowning glory of the things Craela made me over the years was a doll named Yasmeen. She was a Christmas gift and in the box with her was the story of Yasmeen’s life. It told of how Yasmeen has searched the world over for her beloved and would continue to search until she found him. The next gift was Omar, Yasmeen’s beloved. They met, fell in love and are now forever together. I found an exotic looking chair painted it gold and decorated it with jewels for a dance show I was in and it is where Omar and Yasmeen like to stay now. They reside in my bedroom and as I look at them every day, I’m amazed again and again that Craela just dreamed up these dolls and made them completely out of her imagination. She even used real eyelashes for Yasmeen and toe rings for her feet, harem pants and a jewel in her navel. And Omar has rings on his fingers, removable shoes and a turban on his head. Absolutely amazing!!!!

 

Omar & Yasmeen

 

 

Omar & Yasmeen

 

 

Sadly, Craela left this world in 1993 and I’ll always miss her, but I’m so grateful I have such fantastic memories of her. In fact, my son and I were talking about her just yesterday. And since my former sister-in-law and I have remained friends through the years, we can reminisce together about a truly precious person.

Do you have a special person that has influenced you in your life? I’d love to hear.

 

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

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Cataract Chronicles

At least 10 years ago, when I was 66 years old, I was diagnosed with the beginning of cataracts in both my eyes during a routine eye exam. The doctor at the time said every person and every eye is different so any information she gave me would be general. I wasn’t having any trouble seeing except I did need reading glasses. So I got a prescription for those and they were upgraded throughout the years to more magnification.

Shortly before this past Christmas at my eye checkup, the doctor told me I was close to needing cataract surgery, but not quite yet. In March, I was scheduled and then unscheduled due to the pandemic and then finally rescheduled for May 18th for the left eye, which was the worst eye and after some dancing around with surgery schedules, I was scheduled for the right eye on June 1st.

Many of you may already know what this type of surgery is all about, but for those who don’t know what to expect, I thought I’d relay my experience with it. The majority of my friends told me it was a breeze and their only complaint involved putting in lots and lots of eye drops before and after.

I found I was responsible for making sure my primary doctor filled out a medical clearance form for the surgery center stating I was healthy enough to have this eye surgery and it needed to be done in a timely manner. A seven month old form would not be accepted.

Medicare pays for this surgery including the basic lenses, which often require reading glasses afterwards, but if the patient ops for a more specialized lens, that lens is extra and needs to be purchased ahead of time. I decided on the specialized lenses to correct my astigmatism and to also allow me to see close-up, at a medium distance and far away without requiring eyeglasses. My lenses were $3000 each. I anticipated wanting to invest in the special lenses, so I allowed time to save money for them.

During my initial exam, my doctor told me I had dry eyes and needed to start a regimen about a month ahead of time to help the moisture situation in my eyes. He said it would improve my chances of successful surgeries. Lubricating my eyes with a good over-the-counter lubricating eye drop (without redness control) taken regularly beforehand (six times daily in each eye) prepared my eyes quite well.

I was given some samples and I purchased some eye drops specifically relating to the surgeries starting the day before surgery and continuing until they were used up, all except the antibiotic, which was stopped after 10 days. I’m in that phase now with my right eye. And there are so many different eye drops to take; it helps to have a system for making sure you are conscientious in taking them. I was told this is very important. My son showed me how to set alarms on my cell phone to remind me when to take drops and I worked out a system of color-coding different drops for each eye. Believe me; it can get confusing if you don’t have it worked out ahead of time! Once you have a system, it’s a breeze.

Okay, now it’s surgery day. I had no food or drink after midnight except for one medication and a small sip to get it down an hour before leaving for the surgery center. They wanted to know I had a way to and from and I had to provide them with the phone number so they could call my ride to come pick me up after I was out of the recovery room. And since a patient can’t drive for at least 24 hours after surgery, I needed to provide them with my ride information for the next day’s post-op appointment.

After I arrived at the surgery center, I was taken into a room where a nurse gave me an EKG and an IV was started and capped off for when it was needed later during the surgery. A cap was put on my head to keep my hair contained and I was given a Valium tablet. I was transferred from a chair to a gurney and wheeled into the operating room. The rest, I don’t remember until afterward when I woke up and was told all went well. I caught my ride home and the drops began.

What an adventure! One drop was an antibiotic, one an NSAID, one was a steroid and one a lubricant. Some were one drop four times a day, some two, and some one time a day. Two of the drops were fairly clear, one was creamy and looked like ranch dressing and another was yellow and thick-ish and rather like Italian dressing. Both the “dressing” ones were rather opaque so I tried not to have either in both eyes at the same time. Otherwise it was 15 minutes before I could see through all that. After my first post-op appointment, I was told I could blot more after applying my drops than I had been doing. That was good because I was missing whole sections of the TV shows I was trying to keep up with in-between all the drops. My mind had some pretty weird plots it was trying to process. Ha! And one thing that was good; I was getting plenty of exercise getting up and down and trapesing back and forth to put in the latest eye drops all day and evening long.

The most wonderful thing about it all was the surgery was painless both before and after, Medicare took care of the cost (except for my special lenses), the world is now brighter and more colorful (cataracts make things appear yellowish) and I can now read the bottom line of the eye clinic’s eye chart! I feel like a kid again!  Yipppppee!!!! And I want to extend another thanks to my rides to and from the clinic.

 

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

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Telling Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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The Grateful Ornament

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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What makes You Happy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Let’s Celebrate!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Friendships Through My Ages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Risks in DNA Searches

DNA testing can be used in many fields including archeology, paternity, medical history, law enforcement forensics, and even extraterrestrial and pet breed testing. But today I’m talking about the ever popular kits advertised on TV these days. DNA testing is a wonderful tool for ancestry searching, but it can have some unexpected negatives if people aren’t careful.

Many of my readers already know that I was orphaned at a very young age, sent into the foster care system and later adopted. I secretly searched for my birth family during my growing-up years, but continued my search in earnest after my adopted parents passed away. Knowing they were unable to have children of their own, I hadn’t wanted them to know I was searching for fear it would hurt them. We were/are real people with real emotions.

I’m afraid too many people take the DNA test and wait for the results informing them they are a certain percentage this nationality and a different percentage of another and treat it as a game. The connection is so far away, it’s just exciting and fun to know where in the world one started. That’s all well and good, but sometimes people forget these ancestors were real people, with feelings and stories, tragic and wonderful.

Some people may still be alive, and although they may have joined one of the search organizations, that doesn’t mean another member should inquire information from this person without trying to be thoughtful, considerate and/or diplomatic in their query. The ancestry sites try very hard to protect people’s privacy, especially those still living, but some members don’t realize they themselves need to be aware of protecting someone’s privacy, too.

For example, a relative of mine through marriage found some personal information about someone closely related and, without thinking it through, proceeded to copy that information and email it to both another relative and to me, thus violating the person’s privacy who was the subject of the information. As a result, feelings were hurt and this inconsiderate relative is no longer spoken to by several family members. The information was none of that relative’s business and should not have been forwarded so blatantly, however innocent the intentions.

Another case comes to mind, even more serious. I have a friend whose husband wanted to get his DNA done and sent in his sample. My friend had escaped an abusive relationship years before, but at that time this abusive person told her if he ever found out where she was, he’d kill her. I was concerned that her abusive ex, might use an ancestry search company to find her. He had already tried other methods, she told me. There are scammers everywhere. There is always a possibility they could lurk within an innocent source. So, I’m real careful on any site that is open to the public.

With all that said, I’m now 76 years old now and joyfully still finding family members; two other sisters, whom I plan to meet soon, and, sadly, I learned of the death of my brother and mother. Needless to say, it’s an emotional time for me right now, but I’m grateful to know.

Ten years ago I wrote in a short story that, “I pray I live long enough to be reunited with the rest of my family. Even if success proves elusive, I’ll continue to search. I’ll continue to dream.” I believe that finally my dream is coming to fruition. Thanks to God, and to DNA testing!

 

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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