In Twenty Years

In Twenty Years book coverIn Twenty Years: A Novel
Allison Winn Scotch
Lake Union Publishing (July 1, 2016), 334 pages
Kindle edition $4.42, Amazon paperback $4.65

I am a sucker for college novels, and so by extension of college reunion novels as well. Upon reading about this book in the spring, I therefore marked my calendar to download the Kindle sample on its July 1 publication date. I bought the Kindle edition shortly thereafter. I was not disappointed.

Six students, Bea, Annie, Lindy, Catherine, Owen, and Colin, shared a house in college. Bea bought the house after graduation, but died ten years later. However, she made arrangements through her attorney to ensure that the remaining five were reunited over the Independence Day holiday in the old house in yet another ten years—twenty years after graduation.

They are a diverse group. Annie is a stay-at-home mom with a nanny. Her husband is a high-powered professional. Lindy is a famous pop star with a female lover at home, but who is, in fact, bisexual and discovers herself pregnant.Catherine and Owen are married. Catherine is a Martha Stewart-like media mogul whose empire is declining and Owen has given up his law practice to be a stay-at-home dad. Colin is single and a plastic surgeon.

As you would expect, they do not leave their personal and professional problems behind for this reunion, and old hurts and slights return to the surface. Bea’s presence is pervasive. There are no loose ends wrapped up in this novel, and everyone leaves with the same problems they had when they arrived. In fact, for all except Colin they leave with their issues and challenges exacerbated.

Nonetheless, In Twenty Years is a highly readable portrayal of five people—six, really—and their personalities, their struggles, and their motivations.

Sacred Music Friday: This Is My Song (Finlandia)

This Is My Song (Finlandia), Jean Sibelius, The St. Paul’s Concert Chorale, St. Paul’s School for Boys, Brooklandville, MD.

sticking with what works

I had long thought of El Pollo Loco strictly in terms of chicken pieces with tortillas and salsa. El Pollo LocoBut recently I had noticed television ads that mentioned their chipotle avocado burrito. That sounded interesting to me. The other day after Toastmasters I wanted to grab something quick so I went through the drive through and got one.

I was disappointed. There was definitely avocado, but no chipotle flavor of any Chipoltekind that I could detect. It would have been just as easy to have driven another block to the Chipotle Mexican Grill and have gotten a burrito I would have known that I really would have liked. Since it was well after the lunch hour there wouldn’t have been a line, and it would have been only two dollars more than El Pollo Loco. And that’s only because I have to have my guacamole in my burrito. Without, it would have been about the same price.

Sometimes it’s best simply to stick with what works.

people helping people

One of my Facebook friends posted an article entitled “Today’s Tech Oligarchs Are Worse Than the Robber Barons,” the premise being that the robber barons created good-paying jobs and the “tech oligarchs” of today are not. At least not beyond the scope of their own companies. There is some truth to that.

At the same time our online world and social media have been doing some good things. I have mentioned my friend Alison before. She has been a close and loyal friend since my post-college Claremont days in the mid-1970’s. I was present at the wedding in the Santa Cruz mountains when she married Glenn. When Terry and I got married here in Hemet in 1994 Alison was part of the wedding as Best Person. (Terry had a Man of Honor, some of you will recall.)

gofundmeGlenn is a professional musician. He’s a dulcimer player and plays at places like Renaissance fairs in their various incarnations and the Dickens fair. He has developed quite a following, and built up a lot of goodwill. Making ends meet as a musician, however, can be difficult. Glenn and Alison found themselves at risk of losing their house. A friend set up a Go Fund Me page for Glenn with a goal of $4,000. In less than 48 hours the page received $4,200 in donations.

Crisis averted. People are good. People do care.

quiet time

chair & quiet time resourcesI have long found it difficult to get into a habit of quiet devotional time. I have not found a routine that worked for me. Until just very recently.

I somehow simply of fell into this. I sit in my chair and read the day’s Forward Day by Day meditation. Then I pull out my copy of the marvelous book, 2000 Years of Prayer, which I have owned for more than a decade and a half, and flip to a random page where I read a prayer or two or three.

Simple and straightforward. And so far it’s working.

getting it

I subscribed to a web site for a number of months that offered training and support for writers trying to make a living writing. It had some valuable information, but many of the most essential webinars were out of date in this rapidly changing online world. One of the services they offered was an evaluation of your web site. I submitted mine and while I got some useful feedback much of it was phrased in a way that was downright rude. I cancelled my membership, but not before describing how we learn to present evaluations at Toastmasters: that is, in a positive, constructive manner.

My role last week was to evaluate the speech of a newer member who is really coming along nicely. There were some areas where she could improve and I presented those in a positive manner. I also focused on what the purpose of that particular project was and pointed out how she could have paid more attention to that focus. The general evaluator, our immediate past president, and a highly experienced Toastmaster who has earned the Distinguished Toastmaster designation, went off script, if you will, to say what an asset to the club he thought I was and how “Mike gets it.”

I really appreciated that. Another member handed me the note that you see here.

your eval is as terrific because you picked up on the flaws & presented them kindly but effectively

There are a certain set of values that accompany Toastmasters which I have been working to adopt and internalize. I’m delighted that other members seem to think that I am doing so.

Sacred Music Friday: Let all the world

Saint Paul Cathedral Choir, Let all the World