Tag Archives: class reunions

Are You a Truly Beautiful Person? by Sherrie Hansen

When I was 16 years old, I weighed 80 pounds less than I do today. I had double the amount of hair on my head that I do at age 53 (and it was brown, not gray) and half the amount of hairs on my chin. Yet for some unimaginable reason, when I was a teenager, I thought I was fat and ugly. Not only did I believe it, I felt it – physically. I spent every moment of every day feeling huge, gawky, clumsy, and out of place.

My latest release, Water Lily, addresses the subject of beauty – inner, outer, perceived, actual.

The main character, Michelle, has an “ah ha” moment when she’s helping her thirteen year old niece, Theodora, pick out clothes from her cedar chest to wear to a retro day at school.

From Water Lily:
The jeans she’d worn in high school fit Theodora to perfection. The top accentuated her niece’s small, high breasts and the indention of her waist. Her first thought was that she’d been insane to be dissatisfied with that body, that beautiful body.  She’d grown up believing she was unforgivably fat and inherently unlovable, when all the time, she’d looked like Theodora did now? She reeled as the truth peeled years of misconceptions from her eyes.

I’ve been thinking a lot about beauty these last few weeks. I recently attended my 35th class reunion and – well, to be honest – no one looked as beautiful as they once did… at least on the outside. Conversely, I spoke to some people who are – have become – truly beautiful, on the inside.

Age has a way of refining us, of making many of us more beautiful. Others, including some who have retained much of their youthful beauty, seem to have become bitter, brittle, hardened, and haggard, traits that make them appear unattractive both inside and out.

It raises a lot of questions about beauty in my mind. What makes a person truly beautiful? Does a person have to believe they’re beautiful for others to perceive them that way? Is loving yourself a prerequisite to being lovable? To whom is a woman beautiful when she’s had a breast removed and lost her hair to chemotherapy? To those who already love her? Or can her inner beauty shine through so strongly that even strangers take notice and are drawn to her?

I don’t have the answers. I do know that in nature’s grand scheme, a beautiful water lily rises from the murky, watery depths to blossom in the sunshine.

It’s taken me most of 35 years to start to believe that I am a beautiful person. Working on Water Lily these past few months has given me some “ah ha” moments of my own as I’ve contemplated what it is that makes a person truly beautiful.

As a result, I’ve started looking at – seeing – people differently. I’ve started to notice the beauty that’s in my own back yard, to see beauty in the ordinary, everyday things that surround me, to appreciate people who are beautiful on the inside even though they may look a bit crusty on the outside.

I dedicated Water Lily to the friends, family members, and acquaintances in my life who have helped me to believe I am beautiful. Their ongoing love and encouragement means the world to me…

I’ll leave you to think about beauty on your own, but in case no one has said it recently, you are truly beautiful.

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A Good Swap by Sherrie Hansen

I was recently fortunate enough to get to read Christine Husom’s new mystery, “An Altar By the River.”  When it becomes available (Coming SOON from Second Wind Publishing), I highly recommend you pick up a copy. I just as strongly recommend you DO NOT start reading it right before you go to bed… #1. You will be up most of the night because you won’t be able to put it down. (You’ll tell yourself you’ll stop at the end of Chapter 10, then 12, the 15, then 20… but you won’t.)  #2. You’ll be so psyched out by the evil element that you won’t be able to go to sleep even if you muster enough resolve to put down the book and try.
Trust me… start reading “An Altar By the River” before you go to bed and you’ll be tired and cranky the next whole next day and it will be Christine Husom’s fault. 🙂
In return for letting me read her new release a little bit early, Chris got to preview my upcoming release, Water Lily.  Here’s the official word from Chris:
“Hansen’s Water Lily captures the emotional upheavals of a woman’s lifetime struggle with her self-image. Will that struggle come between her and the man she loves, or will outside forces do that instead? Hansen is a natural story-teller, adept at presenting frustrating circumstances, likeable and unlikeable characters, misunderstandings, tender moments, and steamy love scenes. Water Lily kept me reading and touched my heart.”
I love the way Chris so casually deduces that a woman’s struggle with her self-image is a lifetime event. She’s exactly right. What we think and feel about ourselves changes as many times as we do. My own self-image is changing yet again as I come to grips with being in my 50’s. I wrote the first draft of Water Lily after my 20 year class reunion, a time when many of us get introspective about the way we look, and the way our bodies have changed since we were 18 years old and a senior in high school.  And not just our bodies… but our attitudes, our dreams and expectations, our goals… have we done with our lives what we set out to? Have we made at least one of our dreams come true? Has the reality of our lives disappointed or surpassed our childhood dreams?
Reunions are a time to take stock, assess, set new goals. My 35th class reunion is coming up in a few weeks. Can it really have been that long? When my mother was in her late 30’s, she had my “little” brother, Corey. At 16 years old, I thought she was ancient – way too old to be having sex, getting pregnant and having a baby. Now, friends and relatives in their 30’s seem pretty darn young. It’s all a matter of perspective.
I’ve recently lost 40 pounds. My new, slimmer figure will make going to my reunion a little easier. (Although one has to wonder why I care… if at 53, I haven’t learned to accept who I am, and that it’s what’s inside that counts, not what it’s wrapped in, there may not be any hope for me.) But still, a girl has her pride, and having lost weight makes me feel differently about myself… again. It affects how I write, how I think and feel…. everything I do.
And it’s not just women… my husband’s bald spot is getting bigger, as is his belly…  and you can’t tell me they make Just for Men for no reason.  Men struggle with the same issues women do.
How about you? How’s your self-image? Set in concrete or in a state of flux?
In Water Lily, Michelle finally learns to love herself, just the way she is. Her perspective only changes once she finally understands that true beauty is born of adversity. What will it take to get me to learn the same lesson?

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A Panic Attack from a Different Perspective by Sherrie Hansen

Okay – I’ll admit it. Each time one of my books is released, I have a panic attack of sorts, imagining what certain people are going to think when they read the book. Of course, since my characters are entirely, 100% fictional, there’s no need to worry – right?

Still, it happens. People recognize themselves, an incident, a snippet of dialog that originally came straight from their mouths.

Sometimes people miss the obvious (I hope) and see themselves where they shouldn’t. A guilty conscience? Skewed memories?

Fiction or no, the things that inspire me as a writer are a unique combination of my experiences, my perspective (often warped, I’m sure), my memories of certain people and events, and my wild imagination.

Yesterday I talked to someone who was browsing the bookshelves and stumbled upon a book (a memoir) written by someone they knew. Someone they’d known a long time ago – when the author was a teenager. They immediately panicked – and yes, they were in the book. The names had scarcely been changed. The incidents related were half true, half not, basically horrifying.

From their perspective, it was an awful experience, reading personal things about their past that were sometimes true, sometimes false, sometimes not at all flattering – and every bit of it out there for the whole world to read.

It threw them for a loop. They had to go to counseling. Months later, they are able to laugh about it. But the original discovery caused a royal panic attack.

When I told my husband the tale of what it felt like to be exposed in a book, he quoted Oscar Wilde: The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

I think I’d rather be incognito.

My upcoming release, Water Lily, was written after my 20 year class reunion. I’ve changed the graduation year (even the decade), the name of the school, the names of my classmates, and pertinent details. Still, I fear some of the characters are recognizable. When I think about certain people reading the book, I start to panic. If they recognize themselves, will they be flattered? Mortified? Angry with me? Like my friend, in need of therapy?

Is it too late to stop the presses?

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Class Reunions… a warm, fuzzy feeling of deja vu or the stuff nightmares are made of? (By Sherrie Hansen)

My third book, Water Lily, begins on the night of Michelle Jones’ 20 year class reunion.

Michelle wasn’t even going to come to the reunion, but her girlfriends talked her into it. Not that it was any big deal. She couldn’t care less what people think of her – especially not those people. Michelle is smart, successful, and very happy with her life, thank you very much.

That’s when she saw Jake Sheffield and realizes that what she wants more than anything in the world is to dance with him. Just one dance. For a second, it seems like her dream is finally about to come true… that is, until Liz Allen, former Miss Minnesota and Almost America, bounces into the room, all Tiggerish to her Eeyore, and whisks Jake away from her… again.

Probably a good thing. The last thing she needs is to re-live a bunch of memories that weren’t all that great to begin with.

Jake has been looking forward to his class reunion all summer. He has no plans to hook up with Liz Allen again, but he’s been nursing a bruised heart ever since his divorce, and he has to admit that taking a stroll down memory lane with a woman as beautiful as Liz on his arm feels pretty darn sweet.


For many of us, class reunions are the highlight of our decade. Familiar faces, a warm, fuzzy feeling of deja vu – it’s like being Norm at Cheers… everybody knows your name. Everybody’s glad you came.
For others, revisiting the past is the stuff nightmares are made of.

We go, expectations high, only be be let down, or humiliated all over again.

I’ll freely admit that reunions are not one of my favorite things. I feel as awkward and out of place as I did in high school – times ten. I’m too fat, I’ve shrunk an inch, and my hair (which has always been fine) is now thin and totally gray. I have no children, no grandchildren, no photos in my wallet to brag about, no comfort zone. My graduating class was over 500 people – I usually can’t remember 90% of the names that belong to the strangely familiar faces around me… most of the time I’m not even sure who’s a classmate, and who’s a spouse (except for the men with mid-life crisis child brides – pretty obvious who’s who in those scenarios).

My 35th reunion is coming up this summer – silly me volunteered to be on the committee. I figured I’d rather have a job to do than to have to stand around and make small talk for 3 or 4 hours. Seriously, I am looking forward to seeing my old friends, and catching up with people I’ve recently reconnected with on Facebook, but I’m a bit nervous, too. How about you?

 

A project I made for art class in high school.

 

Do you relish an occasional flash from the past? Do high school memories make your chocolate swirl, or fill you with panic?

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