Thursday, February 11, 2016

Guest Blog from Jill-Becoming Minimalist

I am pleased that something that I have blogged about has influenced another person. Jill wrote me recently to tell me her story:

Way back in my "high school days" I knew Denise. We were not good friends, she was two classes ahead of me in school and back then, two years made a big difference! Fast forward several decades and we reconnected via Facebook. Our hometown upbringing and other common interests drew us back together. Now we are friends!

Something that Denise mentioned a couple years ago on Facebook inspired me. She repeatedly posted Joshua Becker articles on becoming minimalist. I read them and thought I might want to try doing this. After my kids were grown and long ago out of the house, I still had not only "our" stuff, but "their" stuff too.

What was I keeping all this for? When was I ever going to use this again? Why do I keep moving it from house to house? Most importantly, was any of this "stuff" bringing me joy?

I came to the conclusion the stuff was actually doing just the opposite. It was a burden. I was so occupied with the clutter that it took time away from the ability to have free time for fun. The next thing I knew I made a decision. I was going to get rid of this crap!

It was quite the project. It did not happen overnight. Little by little, I would tackle one area, then the next. I actually really got into it! It was hard work, but it was fun! I felt more and more inspired. I read books, I followed several different methods and at the end of the journey I found myself in a place that I hadn't been in years...I was free. I was able to have time to do things without feeling guilty. I was in a place that felt right. Being organized made me able to enjoy experiences. I had time to live!

Recently I mentioned to Denise that we were planning a move to a smaller place next month. I told her how the minimalist journey had made this possible. She inspired me to begin this journey, and she had no idea of the impact she made on me changing my life!

Denise again, here: the rest of the story. Jill was part of my life at the pool. I had a crush on her older brother--haha! She swam well and was on the swim team and I didn't. I was more into the social scene. Jill's best friend was a military kid and moved across the country. When Jill went to visit her, she met the love of her life. So little Jill, homegrown, hometown daughter of a dentist, ended up across the country, where she has made her life and home. And, she's still with the same guy!

There was no reason for Jill and me to keep in touch until we became friends on Facebook, and I don't even remember how that happened! However, as it is many times, you find things you have in common and establish an entirely new level of relationship.

I have seen her at her return to her class reunion. I didn't go to it, but we decided to get together for lunch. I'm pretty sure we'll do that the next time too!

And now--aren't they cute?

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Fifth Anniversary of Connection Intersection

Well, it’s the fifth anniversary of this blog and I am going to direct you to what I wrote last year on How I Have Changed as a Result of Blogging. Most of that information is not new, so if you have not read it before, then you can now.

It has been interesting to see what people are interested in! Something I think is very normal just explodes! Then there are blogs that I think are good, but no one else does! I always say that the blogs are not all equal, and no person is going to be interested in all of them—except maybe my Mom.

The most read of all time is Sometimes, High School Just Isn’t Fun! The second most read is called Some Interesting Numbers. One Entry that I wrote, edited, found a picture and posted in 20 minutes is one of the most read, The Circle Won’t Be Broken. I think that title drew people in, but it’s a darn good story!

My personal stories (all pre-approved!) have gone well, but Mike and Vicki’s stories have been the most compelling. Let me interject that I am ALWAYS open to guest blogs.

On Being Married to a Teacher was well read, as so many people wonder what it’s like. Well, it’s a job, but the most interesting part is being married to a teacher that was in high school when you were a student. I was not his student.

Learning to Let Go hit a few nerves, directed to moms of boys. Then there was the Letting Go--A Reprise and Twelve Days Before a Wedding, from the standpoint of a Mother-of-the Groom.

All the Christmas Letters draw well, as I send out emails to my Christmas list and Facebook friends check it out too. Those are a journal of our lives.

It will soon be time for some “reruns” with respect to the 45th Reunion. What they have to say doesn’t need to be rewritten. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Because we went to the separate junior high schools, I didn’t meet Greg until I was at least a sophomore. I don’t have a date or a reason. He was just always there.

Greg--unforgettable in "If I Were A Rich Man."
In our junior year, Greg was encouraged by his girlfriend’s mother, to try out for the choir. With his rich bass voice, very mature for a 17-year-old, he not only made the top choir but the “show” choir.

During our senior year, we were pals. We did a lot of choir traveling
together, but we each had many other friends too, so there was certainly nothing exclusive in this relationship. If I had one word to describe it, it would be “comfortable.”

He went to my church at the request of our school choir director, who also directed the church choir. I guess he needed basses. That year, my attendance at church choir was very sporadic because of other things that I was doing, and I don’t remember much about it. What I do remember, is that he and other school pals that did NOT attend my church, went to our senior high youth group retreat. I have movies to prove it, although they are very old and grainy. In the movies, we are all sitting around singing by the huge fireplace and this is a time I WISH we had video and audio together. So much of my childhood and youth is just a look-see only.

We were all having a very good time, I do remember that. It’s a fond memory.

Greg was involved with a group that put on dances after home games on Friday nights. I went to them often, although not every week. He claims that he danced with me at some time and I have no memory of it. He was and is much taller than I am and I bet it was awkward from that perspective. You know how high school kids slow dance, hanging all over each other. That simply would not have worked well in this situation, no matter HOW much I liked him or vice versa!

He went away to college and I stayed at the hometown university. The old gang broke up and we went about our lives. He married his college sweetheart and I knew nothing about this until I started doing the research for our tenth reunion and found him WIDOWED! How could one be widowed so young? His wife had died the year before, of toxic shock syndrome. Naturally, he was not interested in attending our tenth reunion and who can blame him?

What I know now is that he was employed by the same company for 33 years so, although there was some travel involved, his work experience was stable.

He was into the theater and did a bunch of plays and things, far too long of a list for me to quote, and even if I were to ask him, he’d have to do some research. There were that many! He met his second wife in a play (she had been a neighbor and friend of mine from school), married her and early on they realized that wasn’t a good idea. It was the “young and stupid” marriage that we all talk about.

Several years later, again he met someone in a show and that marriage has turned out to be the one. They are solidly together, with much history and many common interests. She is lovely and gracious. One thing I can say about Greg during these many years is that every time they moved, I got an email with his new address. (Oh, I wished, that others would do that!) I always knew where he was!

Us in 2010
After 33 years at his job, he was canned. Nothing new in the business world, trim the top of the tree. We reconnected during this time of him looking for another job, but having a lot of free time on his hands. He really enjoyed our luncheons, and came to many of them. He and I, and some others, developed meaningful conversations during these times. I’ll be the first to say that when he did eventually get another job, I sure missed him.

Unlike other relationships like Mike and Gene, Greg IS married and his first priority is to his wife and family. My husband trusts me with all of these guys so it’s not an issue there at all. (When you’re married to a teacher, who taught two of them and certainly knew about the other one, it’s like that). So, we are not able to see each other as much, but we do keep up with email.

Although Greg has ANOTHER job, with more demands, and at 62, I get being tired and I get family commitments, and I don’t hear from him as often. 

However, he is one of those friends that you can pick right up with as if no time has passed.

And it’s still as “comfortable” as ever.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Another edition of the “people I knew, but lost track of” includes my good pal Gene. Gene was also in choir with me, and I will say this right now. Many good friends were in choir and/or church; but NOT ALL! I really had some “Mutt and Jeff” relationships that no one would ever expect, and probably they won’t make it to this blog—sometimes because they didn’t involve my own classmates.

But back to Gene. His family was in the Air Force and he was only in our town for his three high school years. I tend to think of him being here forever, but that is not the case. After graduation, as with many others, his family moved to Texas and never looked back. He resides there today.

I didn’t hear from him until our 20th Reunion. Gene called me to “reserve” a place at the Reunion on the absolute worst day of my life. That day is the day my little baby brother was in an auto accident that left him a quadriplegic. I could never have known how much he would be rehabbed and have a real quality of life. All I heard was “quadriplegic.” I could hardly put one foot in front of another. I had babies to take care of. That is all I could do, other than man the phone for the family and information from his girlfriend.

So, Gene calls me, and I basically said, “I can’t talk. I can’t think. I’m barely functioning here.” He said that he would call me in two weeks, and he DID. Right on schedule. By that time I had much more information about my brother, and how our lives would forever be affected. When something like this happens in a family, I firmly believe that God doesn’t let us have it all at once. We can’t handle it.

Gene and I kind of reconnected that year, and he came over to visit us at the house we lived in at that time. Jerry and I were both glad to see him and enjoyed the visit, because the reunion itself was chaos for me. I had to rush to it after my daughter’s dance recital and barely got there to eat. I also was cramping really badly and didn’t enjoy the evening at all. 

I probably didn’t hear from Gene until we got together on Facebook. He was going through a rough divorce, and when things like that happen—I really keep my distance, knowing it won’t be forever.

On the river.
The year that I was diagnosed with cancer, Gene planned a trip to see everyone. This was two years after our 40th Reunion, but things were just too complicated for him to get to that. We were planning an evening riverboat dinner cruise, so that drew him “home.” He had more people to see than us, he had been in a band that he wanted to visit members of, and some other things to do.

We all got together on Thursday evening at our favorite restaurant. There were probably 20 of us and we had a good time. Gene had a rental car and it was a Mustang convertible. He and I wanted to take a tour of town. I must admit, driving around with a guy in a convertible was big fun! I had a plan to take him through different areas of town, some of which were not fun places to be, and we also ended up seeing some thriving parts of town.

I had a plan, we ended up at my house and had another good visit with Jerry. Gene did have to drive me back to the restaurant to get my car.

On Saturday, I did go to the riverboat cruise with other friends, because a girlfriend and I stayed in a room together after the cruise. However, Gene was there, and we ALL had a great time! Those who were there would do it again in a heartbeat.

Gene and I have a thing about texting silly pictures to each other. It’s just another fun way we keep in touch.

I expect Gene to come to our 45th Reunion next year. He’d better!

Saturday, January 23, 2016


Previously, my “vignettes” have been about people that I did not know personally in high school. Today, I am going to switch gears a little.

Yes, I did know Mike in high school. Everyone knew Mike. Mike twirled a baton and people came from three states to watch this guy do his 50-foot aerials, fire and three batons at a time. He was awesome!

Mostly I knew Mike from being in A Cappella Choir with him for two years. (actually, we sang in junior high also) I won’t pretend that I knew everyone equally, but Mike and I were talking the other day about choir, and I couldn’t remember anyone I DISLIKED. It was a good group to be a part of.

So glad I could find this!

Unfortunately, Mike was in an accident after high school that took his middle finger. Now, I know that in the grand scheme of things, a finger is, well, little; but for Mike it took away the possibility for fame (maybe not fortune) at the college level. So he reinvented himself. And this reinventing says two things about Mike.

  1. He had the ability TO reinvent himself.
  2. He used service to others to do it. In other words, he passed on his knowledge to younger students.

Mike worked with bands, drill teams and color guards. This was NOT his day job! He may have had a stipend, but these types of jobs are SERVICE to the community and the students involved. Even today, he is adored by former students and co-workers.

As is typical with this type of work, he knew everyone everywhere in the area. He knew people who were not in the area, or had moved.

We lost track of Mike. He didn’t come to reunions, and he wasn’t interested in them. This was NOT HIM. Although he has shared some of his reasoning and I am not going to share that here; the lesson is that THINGS CHANGE, PEOPLE CHANGE and if EVER there was a person who should be involved with connecting classmates and encouraging them to attend reunions, it is him.

I just sit back and watch it happen.

The things that I do are administrative, and I like to think of myself as likeable, but Mike is a natural at this! Facebook and our Class of 1971 web site are his best friends….

Mike has another side also, a deeper side. He was married to a woman for about ten years and she died of breast cancer. Because of this, he has been, other than family, my biggest supporter. I joke that if anyone wanted to look at my cell phone records, they would surely think we were having an affair! Fortunately for me, my husband knew him then and knows him now, and while aware of our great friendship, he knows where I am at night!

When Mike and I talk about the “deeper” things of life, I am AMAZED at how similarly we look at them; people, things that are happening, politics and anything you can imagine. We both think it’s downright creepy. We do not finish each other’s sentences, but we have a random and maybe a little controversial thought about something, only to find that the other person has THOUGHT THE EXACT SAME THING! Fortunately for us, we don’t care if we are politically correct or not.

This deeper side is shown on Facebook. While my posts are light-hearted, for the most part, he has some things to say. People respond. It is wonderful to watch.
 Mike at his "retirement" party.
As IF, he will continue to serve
others in some capacity.

This is an example of a friendship that has been totally reinvented. I consider him in my top five of all friends. He is not the only male in that elite club, but he’s the one I hear from regularly and have the support of. What a gift! Thank you, Mike. And thank you, Jerry, for allowing me the freedom to have a wonderful male friend like Mike. He enriches my life.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Class of 1971 Web Site

Over six years ago, I did something “new” and different; something that had intimidated me for years. I created a web site for my high school graduating class and upcoming reunion. Every paying job that I had ever had, I had IT people to help me with tasks. I didn’t think I was capable of doing this. Wasn’t there someone else with more experience?

No one stepped up, and I felt led to do something. I was inspired by what the class ahead of us had done. Specifically, I was impressed with how our high school music had been presented. I remember the night of my “muse,” if you will. Remember that I am married to one of our high school teachers, so although he never taught me, he “gets” a lot of the issues, activities and individuals that I went to school with. Most people do not have that “luxury.” Their spouse just is out in left field and doesn’t understand at all.

I was specifically listening to the music of Christmas 1969. We always ended the concert with Silent Night. I have sung Silent Night in every style possible, but my mind always goes back to this arrangement. There’s a solo. This particular night, it was being sung by a young man whom I had dated the previous year. He died when he was 52 and that was a very sad thing for me. I was sobbing, and I grabbed my laptop and chased my husband down on the other side of the house. “Jerry, come listen to this!”

In my mind, I could do this. I could share this feeling with my classmates.

I remember a late night conversation on the telephone with the creator of that web site. He said to me, “Denise, if I could do this, YOU can do this!”

So I looked into the product and presented the idea to some of my committee pals. Was this worth the money? I went ahead, and once it was live, asking for donations was easy. People are more likely to donate when they SEE what they are getting. They did.

The hardest thing is uploading the database. I always prided myself in data management. After all, I did this for a living! The upload humbled me. Many mistakes had to be corrected. Fortunately for me, no one had to know. Most of this consisted of commas in the wrong place, the wrong state abbreviation, or the phone number entered incorrectly (not XXX-XXX-XXXX). It was annoying but easy enough to fix.

The next major job was creating an album of our yearbook on Photobucket and embedding that to a page on the site. Other admins have chosen to do this differently, but by using a third-party, I don’t use our vault “space.” It is limited, but we can always BUY MORE! The music is on a third-party site also. As time has marched on, I have used Dropbox, YouTube, Photobucket and something called Reverbnation. I also used the now-defunct Playlist.

With each new function, I felt more proud of myself and felt that I did have an ability to take on something new and that which I had never done before. I did receive much help from the vendor founders (we used Class Creator©). They were great, and I am sure I would not have attempted as much without their help.

Invitations were sent to classmates to join and I was inspired by the reaction and interaction. I continued to and still continue to build new pages and interest in the site. People continued to join. It was fun to watch folks “find” us. Registration was through the site so people joined during that time also. (We do provide a way to register for the reunion for those who do not want to do so online).

My biggest joy is when people “find” each other. I know they are enjoying their old friends.

Here we are again and it will soon be time to register for the next reunion. During this process, I expect to see some new people joining. That will be exciting to me.

If you are interested in taking a look at our site, it is at Much of it is locked to protect our members, but much of it is open too. A person can definitely get an idea of what can be done.

What an admin does or does not do depends on the amount of time the person has to donate to the project, the creativity and ability of the admin, and the amount of content available. I have used almost every picture I own and would love for people to donate more! I must decide how much time I will donate to the project. I have a spouse and family and church and other stuff to do. So, as with many other things, it’s about balance for me.

This is to say that there is a wide variety of what different classes do, but I am still just amazed at what all we CAN do.

Things we couldn’t have imagined when we graduated!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Aging Issues: Social Security's Calendar

If you are on Social Security, or know someone who is on Social Security, you should read this.

By no means am I complaining that “I didn’t get a raise this year,” or anything of the like. SS has always been the plan for my “running around” money. Literally that is what it is. We decided to take it early because we wanted to put at least that amount into a savings vehicle that we took money from to buy our condo and be debt-free.

I am NOT suffering!

But this month reminds me of something that has been going on for many years now. In an effort, which I supported, to spread out Social Security benefits so that everyone is not getting them on the same day—I worked in a bank for many years and the first and third were horrors—the Social Security Administration deposits your check into your account on a day that lines up with your birthday. Mine happens to be on the third Wednesday.

Four times a year, it’s every FIVE weeks, not every four weeks. I have to squeeze the buffalo on that nickel just a little tighter, but I certainly won’t starve. (Coming at Christmas is not the best, but every year will be different.)

For those who are paid on the first, such as my husband’s STRS pension, there is a different feel to February’s 28 days and March’s 31. We got used to it, and if you aren’t retired yet, you will too.

I got to thinking about my former clients, and other older people for whom Social Security is their primary income. (For our age group, that should never be in the planning, but there are still some folks for which this is true) Going five weeks between checks would be a hardship for many of them!

For me, I will plan, and there may be a few times that I DON’T go out to lunch, or make a trip to some outlet mall to go shopping. But I will NEVER be without medicine. I will never be without food, although I may not have the healthiest food in the house, and the car may be running on fumes.

However, for some people, even if they have the best medical coverage and are as “healthy as a horse,” there still is five weeks between checks, for groceries, for rent, utilities, and all the things required for a household. It could be more of a hardship for them.

All I am saying is have some awareness of those who may be in your world of influence. Without coming out and asking “What day do YOU get your SS check?” be aware that it might be “that time of the month” for them. (Crap, didn’t I get rid of "that time of the month?")

My Grandma used to get her check on the 3rd. I would drive in to see her at least once a month, taking my little girl with me. She never knew my son. She insisted on giving me $20 for “gas.” I was a stay-at-home mom at the time, and it was nice to have a little money in my purse. However, I never wanted her to think that I went to see her for the gas money, so once in a while I would show up on the 2nd of the month, chuckling on the inside. She lived on her Social Security, drawing off of her husband’s earnings, and the interest from the proceeds of selling her home.

This is not a problem for me and will not be a problem for me. I still have a husband and a source of income should I run short. However, I do try to “live on my income” just as I did when I worked. It just gives me an awareness of how this works, and how it impacts budgets.

I’ll definitely be looking at the calendar when I make my hair appointments!

Until we "connect" again.......