Sunday, May 22, 2016

REUNION - Stepping Back To The Future

Sitting with Mr. Turner and Bonnie McClung Chappa, 2006
I am coming up on a big reunion this summer. We were the first graduating class of Gunn High School in Palo Alto. I was one of the twelve students selected to be on a committee to set up our school. We chose our mascot, set up the Student Government, made all sorts of decisions and selected some we wanted the student body to vote on when we started in the fall.

Prior to attending Gunn, our class was split in two. Some went to Palo Alto High, and some went to Cubberly. We started our new adventure as Juniors, with a Sophomore class beneath us. By the time we graduated, Gunn had all three years in place.

There were lots of firsts that occurred, and now looking back some 50 years, I can hardly believe the time has gone so fast. It's been fun chatting online with friends I knew way back then, reconnected with at various reunions over the years as our careers took off and our families grew. Some of us went on to do great things in politics and business and other fields.


Sadly, there are nearly twenty of us who have moved on to their next life, or so I believe. I've written about two of my classmates before. Naomi Solomon, who was our Valedictorian and who was giving a speech to a group of women during a breakfast fundraiser to help women re-enter the work force the day of 9-11. I watch her name come up on my TV screen nearly every year. In 2015, there was a rainbow shown over the city as her name was broadcasted and read.

Another one of our students worked for the U.N. in Algeria, "I take a little piece of California with me back to Algeria - this was one of the greatest years of my life," he told me at our reunion ten years ago. Brought his whole family over so we could meet them. Chad was killed in the terrorist bombing in Algiers in 2007, a year later.



I had a favorite teacher, John Turner, who inspired in me my love of writing. At the time of the last reunion in 2006, I was selling real estate full time. It wouldn't be for another two years before I'd catch that bug.

Imagine the day I saw Mr. Turner walk down Sonoma Avenue on his way to shop in Montgomery Village. Of all places for him to land, Santa Rosa was not a place I would expect him. We'd talk occasionally and when our reunion was being planned in 2006 I asked him if I could drive him down to Palo Alto for the party so he could meet some of his students again. He was delighted. I picked him up as promised, in front of his apartment.

"You're five minutes late," was what he greeted me with.

We attended the mixer that night and the picnic and luncheon the next day. He'd brought a list of the students and wrote notes while he talked to us all. It was a pure joy to spend that time with him. Sadly, this year, he just missed this year's events.

Part of my life's story is the people I've gotten to know. We are the sum total of the parts of everyone's story. For those of us who remain behind, our job is to remember and honor those who came before, until our book of life is finished. And then to pass the torch on to the next generation. We all do it in our own way and in our own time. But we all are blessed by the experience.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

GARDENING THE HEART: Sundays With Sharon

Growing a novel is like working the garden. Fertile soil yields all the nutrients needed to feed a good story, with room for twists and subplots. No matter how fast I wish it to go, each story takes as long as it takes to develop, for the roots to grow and take hold. Very much like putting young plants out when they are leggy from their careful start, into the unforgiving real world of the garden. There is a pause, a few days or perhaps a week or two, and then the new shoots come, as the plant matures and begins to thrive. It grows organically, out of the ICU and into the regular population.

Gardening teaches me patience. Sometimes working on stories is like trying on clothes in a cramped dressing room, other times it's like a time travel to a different time and space. My characters are somewhat a mystery to me as they reveal themselves, even though I've thought out in advance what I want them to be. They stray....or as was said so well, life finds a way.

I used to love watching my baby chicks hatch. The eggs were blue and green, pink and violet. I usually chose the colored ones to let the hens hatch, but the outside of the shell didn't always determine what color or breed of chick would be contained inside. It was always a surprise to see what nature decided should be born into that egg, and then to watch it grow. I had usually three or four roosters so the cross-breeding was fun with some spectacular results.

This year I did the no-no of planting all my corn, all three varieties (two yellow sweet and one ruby red sweet) together. I've been told this isn't wise, but I decided to test those rules. Will I have half red and half yellow corn? Yellow corn with red sprinkles? Or red corn with yellow dots? I'll let you know.

My potatoes are up. My peas are beginning to vine and climb up the fence, as are my early beans. I've clipped off the first fruits of my squashes, and the heads of snapdragons so the plant will be bushier and yield more fruit, more flowers later on. Sacrifice some for later bounty. Work to weed for the blessings that come from the garden health. Add the ladybugs and praying mantis and let them multiply. My eggplant hasn't grown a bit, telling me I was too early with it. A couple of my tomatoes are like that too. The lettuce loves this early summer, as does the dinosaur kale, cabbage and onions. My dogs have caught several moles but we have a huge gopher in the rear yard they cannot get to. I keep forcing onion bulbs down his hole and he keeps shoving them out. I'm hoping he'll tire of the game and move on somewhere else before he discovers my corn, and especially my potatoes.

My collage True Love Heals in the Gardens of the Heart
Like a quilt, or tapestry, the different varieties of the garden grow at different speeds, just like my characters and my stories. When it takes shape and gets polished, which is where I'm at today, it starts to get very exciting. But there's always the element of wonder, even to myself as the writer, what will happen.

Just like gardening, it is work, but it also is a calling.

What do you learn from the garden?


Sunday, May 8, 2016

MOTHERHOOD: Should Come With Warning Labels

I think our family had given up hope that Don and I would have children. The pointed questions had stopped. Now we heard, "So, what's new, anything?" I was attending Court Reporting school in San Francisco, and had a part time job typing medical dictation for a doctor's group near U.C. Their ultrasound machine had just been repaired and they needed a guinea pig, so I drank the gallon of water and hopped on the table. My boss walked in and asked me if I had news I wanted to tell him, and I didn't have the faintest idea what he was talking about. He confirmed that the little thing less than the size of an olive was going to be my first born. Our son.


Typical of the San Francisco work force, I had not one but three women come in, sit down next to me and tell me I didn't have to go through with it. "You have a choice, you know." Well, I expressed to them that no, I really didn't have a choice. And besides, didn't they know I was married? But during the hour-long drive home I
began to worry what my husband would think. Birth control, after all, was not anything we ever talked about (believe it or not), and by default, was more or less my responsibility. I'd told Don I had some news for him, and he said the same. We would discuss our news over a nice dinner.

"You go first," I said. 
"Well, I quit my job."
"I see. Can you get it back?"
"No. But I hated that job. I'm free now! I thought you'd be happy for me."
"Like I said, can you get it back?"
"Hell no. It was a big scene and I walked out. I felt great afterwards."
"But you're going to get another job, right?"
"Well I was thinking about going back to school or perhaps taking some time out. Maybe start our own company. We can do that now."
When I didn't answer, he asked me for my news.
"I'm pregnant."

So, after nearly seven years of marriage, we were starting a family. I didn't know how apprehensive my mother was until later on in my pregnancy. She'd lost 3 to miscarriage. I later did the same, but this time, our son missed Valentine's Day by a day, and I got to celebrate Mother's Day in style.

Being a mother has been the toughest job I've loved doing. My dad gave me some great advice. My mother had been very sick after I was born, so he often did the 2 AM feeding, letting her sleep. He decided that those were some of the best times of his life. He vowed that at whatever stage I was at, he'd enjoy that stage for the beautiful gift it was, not wishing I was some other age. I've tried to adopt that with my own four now grown kids.


So, if there was a warning label on motherhood, maybe some of them would look like this:

1. You won't feel like you have the time or energy to get up in the wee hours of the morning for feeding, sometimes a bath and certainly a diaper change. And then perhaps another bath and diaper change. But somehow, you'll just find a way.

2. Motherhood is part nurse, part camp counselor, part disciplinarian, taxi driver and the unlimited source of funds. But all those things are done out of love. You learn to get used to the feel of clotted spitup traveling down your back and into your butt crack occasionally.

3. Being a mother is very simple, but not easy.

4. Your home will be invaded with smelly soccer teams and brownie sleepovers. You'll recover your furniture and replace your carpet about every three years. You have to instruct the little ones not to pick up the dog by its belly, or by its ears, or the cat by its tail.

5. When you give a gift to the relatives and the children are present, they'll always tell the recipient you got it on sale. They're practicing being truthful.

6. You will cherish those little soap dishes and ashtrays made in grammar school, and will never throw out the handprint painted bright blue or green made in preschool. You'll look for evidence of talent in the butcher paper drawings you'll be presented with. 

7. You'll not have the heart to throw out the baby teeth the Tooth Fairy stole, leaving money under the kid's pillows. You will learn it's okay to read the same bedtime story over and over and over again. You won't get medals or pay raises. You won't be given an instruction manual.

8. You'll never forget the fact that you will be the first woman your sons will love, and they'll show it to you even though they try very hard to cover it up. And you try not to laugh.




9. You'll discover enthusiasm for bugs, water fights, large bubbles, pink plastic high heels, fold up field chairs, hard wooden gym benches or the midnight bad dreams that bring the kids back to your bed occasionally. You'll remember and cherish all of these memories. Christmas morning will never ever be the same again.

10. Motherhood means the celebration of unselfish love, belief in all things, even when everyone else has given up hope. Mothers hope a lot. And they pray. They keep and tell the stories of the family. They demonstrate the healing power of love. They remind us all that we are family.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you, and to all of you who are honored to help a mother celebrate her special day by saying thanks.



Sunday, May 1, 2016

CAMELOT DAYS

It's May!

My freshman year in college I attended Lewis & Clark College in Portland. There were a lot of firsts that year, the biggest one being my first year living away from home for more than a camping trip or church ski event.

Thinking ourselves so incredibly grown up, my roommate and I were daring ourselves all sorts of things. For the most part, we did them. I took off my bra in my International Affairs class and tossed it at the person I was required to. This was all done when the professor, the legendary Carlin Capper-Johnson, who had been a close personal friend of Winston Churchill, was out of the room.

I wore a nightgown to a concert.

I think Melissa had to moon someone from a friend's room overlooking the entrance to our dorm. We both marched ourselves down to the infirmary and got birth control pills, because we were on a mission of another sort too. Both of us had very mixed results.

We'd lay on our beds and look up at the ceiling and wonder who we'd fall in love with, who we'd marry, what our life would look like. We'd listen to Rod McKuen and think about finding someone that would love us so deeply, and never go away.

I spent an evening with the guys of Sandpipers (Guantanamera), who came to perform at the spring concert, and had to crawl back into my room at night. I got the job of cleaning the basement that Saturday because someone turned me in. But it was magical! I hear that song so often these days, and wonder what happened to them all. They were nice guys.


In high school I met Joan Baez at a friend's house in Palo Alto. The dreamer in me thought I could sing just like her. I love the music of Sweet Sir Galahad came in through the window in the night when the moon was in yard...I can't tell you how many times I've sung this in the shower. Probably 2000 or more. And here's to the dawn of their days... Just love the lyrical expression of this singer. Made me take up guitar for about 2 minutes... But the voice in my heart is still there, even though I can't sing like that. I still want to...and do you think I'll fail at every single thing I try.  

Sweet Sir Galahad went down with his gay bride of flowers, the prince of the hours of her lifetime.
And here's to the dawn of their days....

Ah, those days when I was barely over twenty, when I had my whole life ahead of me, looking through clouds, looking for that thing that's hardest to find, looking for love even then...

Sunday, April 24, 2016

SUNDAYS WITH SHARON - GARDEN BLISS

Those of you who garden understand this. My mother used to spend hours and hours in the garden, just "playing with the plants" as she would say. She loved roses, which has become my favorite as well. I go for the scented ones as much as possible, the deep rose-red and intoxicating scent of the Chrysler Imperial being my very favorite. This rose is the Peace rose, another favorite of mine.

We've built our rock walls spanning the past 2+ years, and the sprinkler system was removed to do this, so it has been barren around our house, save for the occasional calendula or nasturtium volunteers. Several foxglove have been discovered, and even some potato plants that cropped up when we were filling holes created from the wall building, importing soil from our rear old garden yard.

As has been said before, "Life finds a way." That's certainly true of my plants. I let volunteers bloom and grow where they are planted, even if planted by mistake. I think the garden faeries reward me by doing so. Just doesn't seem right to pluck out a young plant just because it couldn't know where to put itself with it's own kind. Sort of like my life.

Now that the kids are gone, my garden has become my outlet for the need to tend and bear children.

I negotiated a little compromise and got a plot rototilled and fenced so I could have a small vegetable and flower garden this year. I've kept it small because I only got a few man-hours to use and I used our helper on the hard stuff - pulling weeds and tilling the soil. My garden soil is nice and sandy-loamy, after 30+ years of putting 6-8 yards of mushroom manure on it every year before I planted. But the front of the house has, like the rest of our property, thick black soil loaded with nutrients, but makes the roots work harder when allowed to dry. I can dig a hole a foot deep, fill it with water, and a week later, it's still there.

My roses have had lots of chicken manure over the years from the chickens I used to have. They actually became pets when they got too old to lay eggs, but at least I got to collect their manure embedded in the bales of sawdust lining their boxes! My 66 very expensive pets, most of them hatched on my property (and I watched nearly every one being born), eventually had to go the way of the garden, my koi pond and everything else on our outside landscaping after the fire and rebuild. I was sad to see them go, but that's when I threw myself into writing. A silver lining.

I don't think I have seen my roses so lush as this year. And now, a new venture for me: my small vegetable garden. I'm good at negotiating, so got some tractor time in the rear yard and now have it set up to plant corn, as soon as I finish my next book. If you look at my calendar, you would see garden things noted, as well as editing deadlines and story launches. It's that important to me.

This time of year is magical for me - before the hot weather puts me into overdrive to protect and water, buds forming and branches are not yet leggy and needing to be pared back. Everything is small in the vegetable garden, ripe with possibilities for a savory summer of cabbage, kale, squash, peppers, beans, peas, eggplant and swiss chard.

Gardens are hopeful, like new love, they start out precious, perhaps a bit fragile. These lovely beings take their own time. Like falling in love, I'm learning how to enhance their beauty, and that brings me great joy.

It's always a wonder at this time of year, how my garden will come back. This year, I'm charmed with the magic of possibility for a wonderful blooming adventure and prosperous year.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A-Z BLOG CHALLENGE - CATCH UP WITH LETTERS G, H, I, J, K, AND L


Playing catchup to the #A-ZBlogChallenge, and my topic for the month is gratitude.

G is for:

Get out of my head
Get into my heart
Grateful to know the difference


The Heart is the seat of the soul.
How do I do less and do more?
Grateful for the HEALING POWER OF LOVE.

I is for:


I am a writer because I write.
Grateful for the IDEAS.

J is for:

The Joy of Writing
JUST do it

K is for:


Long, slow kisses
Keeping my commitments (energy and opportunity to do so)...

L is for:


Love
Urgent Love
Perfect Love
Sustaining Love
Persistent Love
Neverending Love
Love in all its forms.....


Sunday, April 17, 2016

SUNDAYS WITH SHARON - Goodbye to Vegas - Home to my own bed!

Romantic Times Book Convention was one of my best. Although they seem to get better and better for me each year, I think I'm finally beginning to figure things out. I gave away about 60 books, and met some wonderful new readers. Sold a bunch of books this year, more than I'd planned on. Met with author friends, did one panel on Heroes Out Of Uniform, which was moderated by Gennita Low - many people said it was the best panel of the whole convention. Participated in the Military Tribute (thank you Elle for organizing it), and of course rewarded my new recruits with swag and tee shirts.
Lucky to have one of my readers who attended my Coppola book signing in Sonoma County, come to this event to sit at my table.

Got to mention the Operation Aloha Shirt Quilt and sold out of raffle tickets (wish I'd brought more).

Met with Cissy and Susan at Writer Space, who do my newsletter and so much more.


You can see my interview with this handsome cover model on my RB4U Blog post last year here.
We are a community of writers. I always like spending a lot of time in my writing cave, which is what I have to do when I get home, but without our writer friends, and the suggestions they make (I am a big one on asking questions and getting information), I wouldn't have the kind of career I am lucky enough to have. My readers wouldn't get as much from me, either.

So, from the Erotic Museum, to the rooftop gazing at the VooDoo Lounge, the Club RT and the Giant Book Signing, I go away with happy memories of hard working authors dedicated to their readers. The work ethic and professionalism of our industry, fueled by such fandom, is outstanding. I am so inspired to go home and write my heart out for all of you who take a chance on my books.