high school

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Three


I should have titled this series “The Year to Living Minimally.” (Can you tell I’m doing revisions on my seventh novel?!)

Last week I cleaned out some drawers. This week I cleaned out some more. Don’t worry, though, I have plenty more!


Utensil drawer and gadget drawer. What I tossed out from the top left photo is not really visible, but there were packets of salt, pepper, soy sauce, ketchup, etc. all in the back. Old. Ugh.

I used to love collecting kitchen gadgets. Some things I never even used – vegetable curlers and brown sugar softeners. A cheap little microplane and a spreader with a chipped handle. I’m keeping the Pampered Chef turkey lifters, even if I only cook one turkey a year. 😉


I hate these drawers! Truly the junk drawers, filled with screws and tape and batteries and tools. They’re really my husband’s domain, but I fixed them up, and put a pile of operating manuals (for small appliances we no longer possess) into the recycle bin.

This next one was more emotional…



I donated my piano last year, and was happy to see it find a new home. It wasn’t the piano I’d grown up with, so I didn’t have an attachment to the instrument. And I hadn’t played in a very long time. But I still have an antique sheet music cabinet (my mom was so happy when she found it for me!), and it was filled with music. Look at the close-up at the bottom left of this collage – my sister and I took weekly piano lessons from Mrs. Bowser, and in April 1969 (I was 10), she rewarded us with the musical score to Oliver!


My sheet music collection includes pop favorites from my high school years, hardcover, spiral-bound books (Great Songs of the Sixties, Big Bands, Timeless Classics), as well as all the classical music I practiced so hard to get right. “Rhapsody in Blue” – I never mastered it. Now I’ll listen to it on CD or through my iPod or Pandora, and I’ll enjoy it.

My friend Lila is accepting the sheet music. She’s the Music Director at Providence College, so I’m glad it’s going somewhere good. There is one book of music I can’t part with, though.


I mean, I tattooed my name on his chest! đŸŽ¶đŸ’™đŸŽ¶

Hot Songs – 1976


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Next week is my 40th high school reunion (ack!). So I’m reflecting, of course, and listening to music from 1976 – forty years ago. The 70’s gave us some great songs, ranging from the folky music of the early part of the decade to the raging disco music at the end.

Here are some of my favorites from the summer of ’76:

“Love is Alive” by Gary Wright. Peaked at #2.

“Silly Love Songs” by Wings. McCartney answered his critics with this one.

“Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band. Hit #1 in July 1976.

“Get Closer” by Seals and Crofts. Sorry about the poor quality (it’s 1976!). S&C’s last Top 10 hit.

“Moonlight Feels Right” by Starbuck. Their debut single and biggest hit.

“You’re my Best Friend” by Queen. Reached #16 on the Billboard charts.

Looking Back


TGHS

It’s been nearly forty (what???!!!) years since I graduated from high school. No, really, how the heck did that happen? Now I’m helping to plan a reunion, to be held this August. Unlike some past reunions, this will be in a very casual setting, because at our age, we’ve earned the right to be comfortable.

I stayed away from my high school reunions for years, certainly before I became reconnected to many of my classmates through the marvel of Facebook (hey, it helps – remember that cute boy/girl who broke your heart? He/she doesn’t look the same, believe me). Without social media, we tend to recall only that awkward, sometimes painstaking period of life – you know, before you stopped giving a damn what people thought of you. I even wrote a novel about the lead-up to a fictional class’s 25th reunion.

Do young people even have high school reunions? Or yearbooks? I have no idea (I live in my own little world). But as we get older, time goes faster (man, does it ever), and the opportunity to reconnect with old friends is a chance to laugh and remember something good. Life was easier in 1976, I’m telling you, and perhaps we can look back on that moment in time, when fashion was horrible, music was wonderful, and our future was full of promise.

My Third Novel


Cover Design by StanzAlone Design

Cover Design by StanzAlone Design

In a departure from the “chocolate” series, my third novel, which I’m releasing this Sunday, is about a high school reunion. Here’s the blurb:

How much really changes in 25 years?  Former classmates are poised to find out as their first-ever high school reunion gets closer. Some lives have improved, some have soured, but all remained connected by their shared West Alton High past…

Once the target of ridicule, one-time “ugly duckling” Kellie has transformed in both beauty and attitude, though her fears and fragility remain as deep scars within. Will facing those who once wronged her help or do even more damage to her delicate psyche? Joe was adored by everyone in school. Well…almost everyone. Being gay in a close-minded small town, he knew he had no future in West Alton, so right after graduation, he traded one ocean for another. Now an Oscar-winning Hollywood director, Joe is ready to return. Except that it means having to face the horrific event that ultimately pushed him away… Former cheerleader Cherry planned this reunion to make peace with those she may have wronged in school. But as she faces cancer and stares down her own mortality, will she really be able to make things right again? And then there’s Scott, the West Alton “lifer,” who’s been collecting a disability pension from the town for a suspicious back injury, among other questionable life choices. Are his reasons for wanting to attend the reunion pure? Or does he have another agenda? As the months count down, long-kept secrets will be revealed as the question ever looms… Can you ever really go home again?

Now, I didn’t graduate from high school in 1988, but I remember 1988 for many things: a milestone birthday, a new job, a new apartment. Also, a bad relationship, escalating debt, and the frustration over not doing what I wanted to do (write books). Fast forward 25 years (really fast, believe me) and I’m set to release my third novel in a little over a year. Yes, I’m writing quickly (you write quickly and edit slowly) – I’m finally doing what I love, and sometimes it seems I can’t write fast enough!

The book is available through Amazon, both in digital and print versions. I would very much like to be featured in my beloved independent bookstores, too – just sayin.’ Anyway, I hope you like the book. I thought it was an important story to tell.

Bits of Broken Glass


Long Ago and Far Away - James Taylor

Long Ago and Far Away – James Taylor

Wow. I’ve written another book. This is my third, and although I don’t expect to release it for at least another month, it’s pretty exciting!

This one is not part of the ‘chocolate’ series, but there’s one more to come, probably around November (I’ve already completed the draft), titled Bittersweet Chocolate. It will finish the series and I’m happy with it.

But this book, Bits of Broken Glass, is different. Many books have been written about high school or college reunions. While I was writing this story, one of my favorite authors, Claire Cook, published Time Flies, about a high school reunion. Now, I’m no Claire Cook, but she’s definitely been an influence, as have Anna Quindlen, Elizabeth Strout, and Catherine Ryan Hyde as storytellers.

Bits of Broken Glass is contemporary women’s fiction. It’s not a lighthearted romp to the past by any means. And when I call it women’s fiction, I don’t mean that it’s just for women. But I do include a strong female character in my books, and, as a woman, I write from a woman’s point of view.

And if you’re wondering about the record at the top, this is the song that inspired the title. My main character grew up listening to the album, hearing her mother sing the song, and it’s been significant to her in her life. At the end of this blog post, I’ve included a You Tube video of James Taylor singing “Long Ago and Far Away.” Have a listen.

I didn’t attend my five-year high school reunion (I was living overseas at the time). I found out about my ten-year reunion after the fact, when I ran into a classmate in the city. Apparently no one knew where I was living. I almost attended my fifteenth. A friend from high school persuaded me to attend a planning session for the reunion, even though I really didn’t want to. Despite the fact that I lived in the same state, I hadn’t kept up with my high school friends. That evening, at the reunion planning meeting, I was greeted effusively by my classmates and promptly asked three questions: ‘Are you married?’ (No.) ‘Oh, sorry, are you divorced?’ (Nope! Never been married!) ‘Well, do you have any kids?’ (Um, no.) And that was it. I had failed their test, apparently, and there was nothing more to discuss. I wanted to say, “Wait! I’ve traveled, I’ve lived in another country, I’ve had some really bad dates that are actually pretty funny.” But they weren’t interested. At least that’s how I perceived it, and I skipped my fifteen-year high school reunion, feeling completely inadequate.

When the twentieth rolled around, I couldn’t go. All the talk about children would have been too painful for the girl who’d just learned she’d likely never be able to have children. I didn’t have the inner strength to attend.

So, when the twenty-fifth loomed, I told my husband that I wanted to go, only because I didn’t want to regret not going. And it was really a lot of fun. Many of the ghosts from twenty-five years previous had evaporated, or were simply forgotten.

Where are you on the high-school reunion circuit? Do you love them? Loathe them? Avoid them like the plague?

Bits of Broken Glass will be released in the fall. Don’t worry, I’ll be publicizing the heck out of it as the release date gets closer!

The Runaway


This morning, one of my Facebook pals (and a high school classmate) asked us to post about memorable (the good and the bad) teachers. Since most of the group had attended junior high and high school together, we posted about the teachers who inspired us, and the ones who never should have been teachers.

One name that was brought up evoked a memory. It was 1971 and I was not yet thirteen years old. I’d been goofing off in my Social Studies class and probably had done poorly on a test. Standard procedure was for the teacher to issue a written warning, on a form, to be brought home by the student, placed in front of the parent(s), signed by at least one parent, and delivered back to the teacher (punishment left to the parents). I received one of those warnings. Panic set in. It’s not that I feared my parents, but I, like my sisters, was expected to (a) behave, (b) be respectful, (c) do all assignments, and (d) perform to the best of our ability in school. In my case, based on those Iowa tests and IQ analyses, I should have been at the top of each class. I was not. I was a mixed-up adolescent whose performance was far beneath her potential.

I did not hand the warning to my parents. Instead, I forged my dad’s signature (thinking it would be easier to forge his than my mom’s). I found one of the blue ball-point stick pens and tried very hard to write “John M. Reynolds” on the line in his small, up-and-down cursive handwriting. It didn’t look very good, so I used the handy pen eraser to correct it, and wrote again. John M. Reynolds probably wouldn’t have signed, erased, and signed again.

The next day, I handed the warning back to Mr. McElroy and took my seat. The class quieted down and waited for him to begin instructing. Instead, without looking up, he started talking about warnings and verification, and telephoning parents. I stopped listening, knew I’d been caught, and began plotting my escape. All I knew was that I could not return home that day.

When school ended that afternoon, I didn’t board the bus. I didn’t have much of a plan, so I walked. It was early May, a pleasant day, and I walked. From Lockwood Junior High School, up West Shore Road. There was an Almacs supermarket at the corner and I went inside. But I had no money; how was I going to eat? I stole a roll of Life Savers and got away with it. In hindsight, it’s too bad, because had I been stopped then, I’d have been home within the hour (to answer to petty theft and forgery charges). I kept walking, through unfamiliar neighborhoods. A policeman drove by me, slowly. (I learned later that my mother, so distraught she couldn’t think straight, gave the police a completely inaccurate description of the clothes I was wearing).

By eight o’clock that evening, I was scared. I didn’t know where I was (I was near the Greenwood Inn, about two miles from school). I’d been walking since around three o’clock that afternoon. I stepped into a service station and broke down. Through heaving sobs, I was able to give the kind stranger my telephone number and my parents received the news they’d been praying for: your daughter is safe and here. Come get her.

The rest of the story is inconsequential. I wasn’t punished, and it was only years later that I could fully understand what I’d put my parents through that day. But I think I ended up with a “B” in Social Studies, so I must have made amends, in my studies at least.