Category Archives: musings

A Moment of Magic

July 26, 2020, one of my most admired people in the world, passed away. Born on July 1, 1916, she had a long and accomplished career as an actor, author, and most gracious lady. Her name was Olivia de Havilland. Many of you will remember some of her iconic roles in motion pictures, such as Melanie in Gone With the Wind. And sadly, some of you will be too young to remember her at all. Thank goodness for film archives and the Internet.

Before I get into the meat of my story, I’d like to fill you in a little on Ms. de Havilland’s many varied career accomplishments in her 104 years. She was nominated for five Academy Awards and won two Oscars; the first for To Each His Own in 1946, and the second for The Heiress in 1949. She wrote a bestselling book called, Every Frenchman Has One. She campaigned for women actors for fair treatment and even won a lawsuit which changed Hollywood.

On Nov. 17, 2008, at the age of 92, she received the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush at a White House ceremony, “For her persuasive and compelling skill as an actress in roles from Shakespeare’s Hermia to Margaret Mitchell’s Melanie.”

She received honorary Doctorate degrees from The American University of Paris, France, The University of Hertfordshire in England, and Mills College in California, U.S.A..

In 2010 she received the Légion d’honneur in Paris, France; the highest honor for military and civil merits.

And in June 2017, two weeks before her 101st birthday, she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

I mentioned all this to let you know why I considered her someone really special. What an amazing life she led, and her death announcement reminded me of an experience I shall never forget.

In the early 1980’s, my son and I were in a Scottish bagpipe band, called the St. Andrew’s Pipes and Drums of Montgomery, AL. Former Post Master General under President Nixon, later businessman and philanthropist Winton M. Blount had a huge estate and his estate manager was our bass drummer, John Lesenger. Finding a place to practice our piping was a problem until Mr. Blount offered us part of the estate as our marching and practice space. Out there on the estate, we couldn’t disturb anyone.

Mr. Blount’s wife, Carolyn, was an avid Shakespeare supporter and together they offered to finance a new home for the financially strapped Alabama Shakespeare Festival if it would move to Montgomery. Not only that, The Blounts gave up part of their estate for that new home. The groundbreaking ceremony was Aug. 10, 1983 heralded by the St. Andrews Pipes and Drums with such dignitaries as Gov. George Wallace and Mayor Folmar in attendance.

Mr. Blount’s son, Thomas and Perry Pittman designed the 100,000-square-foot, 21.5 million complex, christened the Carolyn Blount Theater which houses two theaters—the 750 seat Festival stage and the 225 seat Octagon—as well as production shops, a costume shop, dressing rooms, rehearsal halls and administrative work spaces.

The opening occurred on Dec. 7, 1985 led once more by the St Andrew’s Pipes and Drums and the occasion sparked national interest and actors Tony Randall and Olivia de Havilland served as masters of ceremonies.

Before the public was allowed in, those people most involved with the event were given the opportunity to tour the theaters. As pipers, my son and I were among that group. We all wandered around at leisure and I walked through the big theater and through to the smaller octagon shaped one in the semi-round and came out on stage center with the audience seats in front of me. I was alone and the room was quiet. I stood silently with my eyes closed remembering my college acting days when all of a sudden I opened my eyes and looked down and sitting facing me in the front row was Olivia de Havilland. I was frozen in place until she smiled at me ever so gently. That moment took my breath away. Tears come to me as I remember this. I walked over to her and asked if I could sit next to her and she said, “Of course.” I told her how much I admired her talent and enjoyed her movies and we chatted for a few minutes. I’ll never forget how gracious she was. It truly was a moment of magic in my life. Brava, Olivia de Havilland!

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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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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Pat Your Backs by Coco Ihle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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INSPIRITING POEM by Coco Ihle

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

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

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

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

 

I wish I were a could be

if I could not be an are.

For a could be is a maybe

with a chance of reaching far.

 

I’d rather been a has been

than a might have been by far.

For a might have been has never been

while a has was once an are.

 

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

I did and I did.

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

 

 

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

Join her here each 11th of the month.

 

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Who Knews About the Tower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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The Grateful Ornament

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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Filed under How To, life, musings