Book-a-Day #Giveaway! I Was Much Happier When Everything I Owned was in the Back Seat of My Volkswagen by Rick Roberts


vw-book

Finalist Legacy Non-Fiction 2016 Eric Hoffer Awards

Here is a review of the book:

Got to Get Ourselves Back to the Garden

This book reads like a roaring fulminating speech. Richard Roberts’ itchy ire is directed at numerous present-day ills—influence peddling and surveillance of our daily lives by the government; politics; the over-medication of old and young; scummy fund-raising scams and insurance that doesn’t always insure; the mall addiction of the young; and more. Remembering the ’60s…Roberts wants Baby Boomers—The “Biggest Generation”— to replant those flowers…He admires, and resembles George Carlin whose half-grouchy irony always bears common sense. “If you want to hear the truth,” he writes, “listen to Blacks. Or comedians. Even better, Black comedians. Or comedian Lewis Black.”

~Mopsy Strange Kennedy

The Improper Bostonian, September 2004

rick-roberts

Rick Roberts was raised in suburban Philadelphia and spent his professional career in Boston. He is an award-winning creative director in advertising and public relations, former adjunct professor, newspaper columnist, and US Army veteran.  He has authored two award-winning books, the non-fiction boomer rant, I was Much Happier When Everything I Owned Was in the Back Seat of my Volkswagen, and the contemporary issues novel, Digital Darling, An American Story.

He was educated at Lehigh University, the University of Iowa and Harvard.  He lives in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Sorry, there is NO book giveaway but……….you can still WIN a $5 Amazon gift card (use it to purchase the book!) by commenting below. One winner will be chosen at random and notified by me. Contest ends one week after publication.

For Better or Worse


vows

Oh, those pesky vows. How they can interfere with one’s selfish pursuits.

Shortly before I married my husband, 22 years ago next month, one of my former co-workers stood in front of me. She was middle-aged and divorced. Giving me a smirky smile, she said, ‘Oh, you think he’s so perfect now. Check back in ten years when the magic’s worn off. Believe me, it disappears.’

Thanks for that, I replied. And I’m sorry your marriage didn’t last, but bestowing your bitterness on me didn’t work. I reflected on that exchange this week as I’ve been thinking about marriage. Commitment. Vows.

Jim and I met up with a couple from New York earlier this week. Sometimes we only see them once a year, but it’s always enjoyable. They’ve been married for longer then we have. They’re two pieces of a puzzle, they’re just both.

Then there’s the woman who, after thirty-odd years of marriage. is still gushy over her husband. It’s sweet, yes, and a bit off-putting sometimes. But she can still get corny after thirty years with the same man, so who can find fault, really?

‘In sickness and in health’

The guy who acts like a seven-year-old when he has the flu. The woman who is unbearable once a month. And now, as I see more and more frequently, the partner with a life-threatening illness. Every day can’t be sunshine and flowers. Every relationship is tested during the most difficult times – illness, financial challenges, raising children. That’s also when a marriage can be at its strongest. Stresses are everywhere. Saying “I Do” means saying “I Will.” I will love you even on the days I don’t like you. I will laugh with you, not at you. I will support you and respect you. I will stand by you, no matter what. And I will love growing old with you.

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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.

Happy Book-iversary (to me)!


99centsMy first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, was published on August 12, 2012 – nearly four years ago! (It was republished with a new cover in April 2013.) In those four years, I’ve written and published six novels, all of which have given me tremendous pride and a sense of accomplishment. I’m doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing, and that is sufficient. Well, pretty much.

New novels can trigger a sales flurry, but sales drop off after a time, even for beloved best-sellers.

So….for the coming week, every one of my six novels will be discounted to 99 cents for the e-book (Kindle version). I have no control over the print price, but if you come to the RI Authors Book Expo on December 3, 2016 http://www.riauthors.org/riexpo/ , I’ll have print copies available for a great price.

You can grab a three-book series, described by one reader as “writing (that) draws wonderful pictures of the characters and allows you to really ‘fall into’ the book ~ which is one of my favorite things about reading.” Or read about a group of classmates readying for their 25-year high school reunion and visiting old grievances. A novel about a young woman pursuing her dream of becoming a best-selling author, only to face a harsh reality check. And finally, a lighter story involving two friends who gamble on a dream of turning a rundown farm into a premier wedding venue. If you’ve already read these books, here’s a chance to give some gifts. In any event, I’m grateful – so very grateful – for all the positive feedback and encouragement I’ve received, from friends and strangers new friends, over the past four years.

The Eight Months of Chocolate Takes a Respite


Because it’s too hot! This past week, I received a package from one of my junior-year-abroad friends who had traveled back to Switzerland on business. I knew this because he posted some lovely photos on Facebook, and (of course) I hinted at my favorite Swiss chocolate bar, one that can’t be bought here in the USA.

swiss chocolate bars DV

He’s a good guy, and sent me two! My husband and I dug into the Giandor first, but we’re saving the Frigor. Saving it for what? Christmas? Hey, it’ll be gone by the next blog post.

Anyway, it’s getting too hot for chocolate, isn’t it? The Giandor was a little soft. So take a break! We all know that the Halloween candy will be back on the shelves as soon as the munchkins are back in school this fall. And thus begins another round of the Eight Months of Chocolate. October through May – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, after-Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day. Any excuse to sell/buy/consume it. Aren’t you chocolated out by now?

Strawberry Ice Cream Cone
Strawberry Ice Cream Cone

Take a break from chocolate. It’s ice cream season!

And in case you were wondering, I have limited my sugar intake tremendously.

 

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.

You’re Going to Leave the Country?


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In 1980, I was a recent college graduate, intelligent but politically ignorant. I’d first voted in 1976 for Jimmy Carter. My father was infuriated. But I tended to lean left then, even if I wasn’t entirely sure why. I made the bold proclamation that if Ronald Reagan was elected president, I’d leave the country. Oh, how easy! I was 22 and full of ideas.

Reagan was elected, and in April 1981, I flew away. It wasn’t just because of Reagan, of course – I’d desperately wanted to return to my beloved Switzerland, so I bought a one-way ticket and had enough money to last a few months.

A former professor at the university where I’d spent my junior year of college helped me answer a couple of ads. One was local – a couple needed an au pair for at least the summer. The other was at the prestigious Monte Rosa boarding school in Montreux. One paid very little, one paid considerably more. I heard back from the couple first, and, needing to secure employment, accepted their offer. (The Monte Rosa contacted me a few days later, and, trying to be honorable, I turned them down and another American took the job.)

The husband of the family interviewed me at the hotel where I was living. We sat outside, at a tiny table, and drank strong coffee. His Italian-accented French was easy to understand, and we conversed without problem. He said to me, “You Americans, you’re always saying, ‘We’re Number One!'” He demonstrated with his index finger while smirking at me. I answered, “That’s because we are,” and grinned back.

I’m reminded of this exchange, and that long-ago summer, as I hear and read about people – adults my age – saying they’ll leave the country if Donald Trump is elected our next president. I’m sure some feel the same way about Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominee on the other side. It’s not that easy to move to another country, and you know it. Unless you’re loaded with money and extraordinary connections, relocating for at least four years is nearly impossible. My life abroad in 1981 lasted less than six months. The Swiss government made it clear that my ‘visit’ was coming to an end.

If you go, be sure to send me a postcard!

Nov 9 – Meet RI Author Patricia Mitchell


Mitchel Pat

When did I first consider myself a writer? I never really thought about it. Stories play over in a continuous loop in my head today, and for as long as I can remember. (I’m hoping to go digital soon, but who has time?). Decades of meticulous construction have resulted in what is now my slanted but seemingly parallel universe that places me as star, heroine, beauty, clown, and the most popular victim simultaneously. But identifying the exact moment when pencil met paper and sparks flickered stumped me at first. Then I remembered.

My fifth grade teacher, Mr. Z, punished me once by assigning me a ten page essay about appropriate classroom behavior. Such punishments were aptly named “Sides,” as in 10 Sides, 20 Sides, and for some poor souls, 50 and 60 Sides or more. Each Side represented one page of white-lined composition paper. One could get a Sides essay assignment, or be asked to repeat a phrase, like “I will raise my hand when I want to speak in class” for a given number of sides. I dreaded my first 10-sided essay – what could I possibly come up with to fill so many pages?

Luckily, like many ten-year-olds, I prided myself in expressing sarcasm at every opportunity, and decided Mr. Z needed a good dose for daring to punish me, a stellar, albeit obnoxiously loud and awkward student. I soon discovered as I babbled along I had plenty to say. At the same time I found the assignment most enjoyable. Fun, even.

Fifth grade stumbled on, and I found myself misbehaving in hopes of receiving more essay assignments. Mr. Z did not disappoint. He enjoyed it as well, assigning me essays when he could have easily given me a sentence to repeat forever. “Ten sides, Patricia,” became a lyrical phrase rivaling those of the DeFranco Family, the Bay City Rollers, and Shaun Cassidy, feeding my twisted little fifth grade mind and heart with purpose.

Mr. Z began to write his own comments in reply, and handed essays back for me to read. Sometimes he would simply write “Ha!” next to a particular sentence, egging me on to write more. The punishment morphed into amusing banter and helped me survive fifth grade, the most awkward stage of my life to date (other than menopause); full of peer pressure, hormones and meaningless work.

After nearly a lifetime, I’ve gained the confidence to write for more than just me, or a teacher with an assignment due. It’s with much gratitude I now attribute this special time of learning to conquer what often fails me in the world outside my head: reaching out, connecting, and giving the stories inside me that continue to pile up a chance for release.

Mr. Z, thanks a thousand times over. Or at least 10 sides worth.

Patricia Mitchell recently published A Girl from the Hill: My Mother’s Journey from Italian Girl to American Woman, and is currently working on a teen novel. You can read more of her essays on her website here.

I Ditched my Cell Phone – and Survived


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To me it was no big deal, but based on the reactions I’ve received so far, you’d think I’d committed matricide. “You what?” “How could you possibly live without your phone?”

I’m living, and living just fine, thanks. I got rid of something I didn’t need – we do that all the time. Spoiled food, stained t-shirts, toxic relationships. I ditched a device that I rarely used but still paid about a hundred bucks a month to keep. Kind of like cable.

When I’m home (most of the time, writing my next novel), I have access to a land line (even though I hate answering or talking on the phone), Facebook messenger, and email. Friends can find me. When I’m at work (usually a couple of days a week), I’m…working! Yeah, no time for the phone. I bring my iPad with me and check messages and posts during lunchtime.

But…but…what about taking pictures of your food when you’re in a restaurant? What about checking in when you’re at the beach, or a concert, just to let everyone know where you are? Did it. Don’t do it anymore. Realized most people don’t care anyway, especially if they’re not having as good a time as you are.

I may pick up another phone later this year – look, I’m not against them, and I stay well connected online. If I find I need a cell phone, I’ll get one, probably a low-end model. It’s all about choices, and for now, I’m delighted with this one.

Okay, have at me! Or better yet – tell me what you’ve given up recently.

I’ve Grown Accustomed to the Fleece


www.LLBean.com
http://www.LLBean.com

It will come to an end, and likely soon. After all, we’re nearly at April in southern New England, and even though early April has been wintry in the past (remember the April Fool’s Day blizzard?), we march out of March and straight into spring.

Since October, I’ve been wearing fleece. Every day. Every blasted freezing day. Better than a sweater, in my opinion, and it’s great for layering. Like when you need to wear two tee shirts and a shirt under that fleece. I’m going to have withdrawal symptoms.

There will be a day, soon, when the temperature rises, to the mid-60’s, perhaps, and I’ll see folks in shorts and tees, unable to wait any longer for spring and summer. Yeah, they rush the season, but they’re young (mostly) and should be forgiven. When I was a college freshman in Providence, I made a trip home at the end of April and relinquished all my winter clothes. There were only a few weeks left to the semester and I wouldn’t need them.

And then it snowed. Yep, in May. In Providence. Seven inches of snow! I had sandals, and jeans, and one cardigan sweater. Nothing more. Certainly no fleece. But the snow melted and the daffodils sprang back to life.

Onto warmer weather. And fleece? Time to pack it away! I’ll leave one within reach, though.