Finding my High School Yearbooks, Twenty Years Later

My High School Yearbooks. I was honestly shocked that I still had them. I found them in a box of old mementos that my mother refused to throw away as a child but now refused to store in her garage. My first thought was… don’t open them, High School Sucked! So I buried them under Girl Scout sashes and weird elementary school art projects and walked away.

High School Yearbooks

High School Yearbooks

But they must have been brewing in my subconscious and perhaps triggered me to reach out to a high school buddy that I haven’t seen in years. We both ended up on the West Coast and last weekend, I found myself on the Amtrak heading to Seattle Washington. My life might seem stale right now but she is just as cool as she was in school. However she almost gave me a heart attack when she casually mentioned that our 20th reunion would be next year.

This was not how my life was supposed to turn out.

In twenty years, I was supposed to return to high school a champion. I was supposed to have conquered the world so I could return to Small Town Ohio as a success and be carried upon the shoulders of my enemies. The mean girls wouldn’t ignore me and I wouldn’t be invisible to all the cute boys. Maybe the evening would end with a flattering spotlight shinning upon the huge tiara on my head. Isn’t this the fantasy?

But coming back to reality, I wanted a sneak peek into what happened to my classmates without having to buy a plane ticket to the East Coast. And thanks to social media, they found me on Facebook a few months ago when someone created a Class of 1996 Facebook group. Besides the excitement of connecting with old friends, it turns out that the mean girls still won’t “like” me online and the cute boys are now happy fathers who don’t remember me. But their opinions no longer have any influence on my daily life. My inner 18 year old self took a big sigh of relief.

For this month’s blog theme about photography, I flipped through the pages of my High School Yearbooks, full of images of people who were on the cusp of adulthood. Now I am wondering if I should go back to High School, twenty years later, with diluted expectations of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion or just move on with my life on the other side of the country. But this post did help me realize that I don’t want to be a success for the approval of others. I want to be a successful writer, all for myself.

Jessie - Freshman Year

Jessie – Freshman Year

Jessie - Senior Year

Jessie – Senior Year, same smile, better hair













So has anyone gone to their High School Reunions? Did you have high expectations? Was it a total bust? The best night ever? Or something in-between?




Shooting Under Water

I was never that interested in photography until I started SCUBA diving. The challenging combination of buoyancy control, balanced breathing, patience, and timed trigger finger added to the very zen experience of being submerged under the world’s oceans. In the dense environment of water, everything has to slow down. Your breathing. Your motions. Your mind.

The other unusual thing to keep in mind when taking photos while diving is where the light comes from, always above,  and that the water absorbs certain wavelengths (colors) of the light the deeper you dive. Red and orange are absorbed at about 20 feet, while blue, indigo, and violet stays with you. Those are not absorbed until depths well beyond safe diving limits. In order to get the reds and orange in your picture, carry a diving light or use a strong camera flash.

Although I’m hunting the perfect whale shark shot as eagerly as any underwater photographer, my favorite shots are of the microorganisms  that live in the ocean. Here are some of my favorite shots that I’ve taken over the years.

AMB_CB_BlueEyedHermitCrabThis little creature is called Frank Sinatra crab by the locals in the Cayman Islands and is extremely shy. I discovered this blue-eyed hermit crab in the waters outside Cayman Brac and had to wait a long time before it crawled out from under his house.



AMB_CB_BandedShrimp_BrittleThe Cayman dive sites I visited had an amazing amount of micro-life. I really worked on my buoyancy control while hovering to get the perfect shot. These banded shrimp and brittle star were hiding inside a huge pink sponge. The shrimps’ actual size are smaller than a paperclip.






This is not that great of a shot, but I wanted to include it to show what baby moray eels grow into. Compare this cute guy to the next photo. (This is also a great example of the red and orange colors being absorbed by the water.)









AMB_LaPazMorayLuckily these guys are pretty shy and only attack if provoked (like most animals). I found both of these eels while diving off La Paz on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.







AMB_CB_SaddledBlennyBack to Cayman Brac. This saddled blenny is about the lenght of my index finger. He darts around similar to a lizard’s movements, so getting the shot was another case of perfecting my buoyancy control.








AMB_CB_FeatherDusterWormsThese feather duster worms would retreat as soon as they detected any water movement. It felt like I held my breath for a good minute to get this shot.








AMB_CB_ChristmasTreeWormI’m going to end on the picture I’m the most proud of, my award winning shot of Christmas tree worms. I’ve only ever entered one photography contest and won the top prize: a free tank-top. :-)



What’s your favorite picture or favorite contest?






Not Just More Adorable Bloodhound Photos

Mom and FrankieDogs make me happy. I hadn’t really thought about this until I started casting about for this month’s blog topic: photography.

Like most people, I keep a ton of photos on my phone. But then I got around to thinking about which images I revisit most. Family, vacations, favorite summer sunrises? Nope. The answer was on my desktop. The photos that always make me smile are right there waiting. They all feature my Bloodhounds.

I hope my husband doesn’t read this! He makes me laugh, he is my favorite-ever person, yet there’s just something about dogs. Seeing those long, furry ears, draping jowls, huge paws, and thoughtful eyes. Amazingly, I will even look at these pictures as Angus sleeps Tummy Rubat my feet, his drool spilling onto my sock. (He’s doing a lot of that

Happy Halloween Hound -- makes me laugh, every time!

Happy Halloween Hound — makes me laugh, every time!

lately – sleeping – after he sprained his toe. It’s all swollen up and he’s on bed rest and limited activity for the next week to ten days! )

So what is it about these favorite hound pictures? They aren’t just another group of photos, or a holiday snapshot. They are dear. To me. They fill m with joy.

I hope these picture will make you smile too. And maybe you’ll even share some of your own favorite dog photos with me. I’d love to see them.

Me and the fabulous Mr. Angus at nine months old. We're kicking back on the sofa on a Sunday morning.

Me and the fabulous Mr. Angus at nine months old. We’re kicking back on the sofa on a Sunday morning.

A picture is worth…

I’m a day(ish) late with my post this month. But I have an excellent excuse. July at See Jane Publish is photography month, and I was out taking awesome pictures.

I mean, maybe the photos themselves aren’t awesome, but I had an awesome time TAKING them. For the Fourth of July weekend, I had family in town and we met for feasting and fireworks and fun. Temperatures have been unusually high here, so my mom and Monster Girl I headed for the hills. We hiked in the mountains, splashed in the river, and I filled up my 2G mem card. Oops. I won’t bore you with all of them, but here are a few of the highlights along with a few sorta photography/life tips from a half-assed amateur button pusher.

Tip #1: Choose a perspective

Jessa Slade hiking with dog SW Washignton 
Jessa Slade hiking with dog SW Washignton

We here at SJP love our dogs. Here I have the same dog, same lake, different thoughts. It can be interesting to shift the lens from “big picture” to “little picture” and see what’s to be seen through that new eye. It helps, of course, that in the second image, Monster Girl is swimmed out and ready to pose a little.

Tip #2: Learn from the masters

Jessa Slade bw newt

I’m no Ansel Adams. No large print silver gelatin for me. But his art and conservationism are inspirational. He recalls upon his first visit to Yosemite “there was light everywhere…” That’s a beautiful way to see photography, art, and life: light everywhere. Adams preached previsualization — working out how a shot would appear before clicking the button. In my stumbling way, I try to do that with my writing by plotting and prewriting. To varying success, much like my photography. :D But I liked this little newt floating under the trees.

Tip #3: Make the most of the mood

Jessa Slade mountain SW Washington photography

Jessa Slade Mt St Helens

Like Adams said, light is everywhere. But somehow for me, the light is usually shining right into my eyes when I’m trying to take my shot. Oh well. If I can’t get the unobstructed, light-drenched front of Mount Adams, I’ll take the moody, mysterious backlit misty Mount St. Helens. Maybe by the time I hike back, the light will be better.

Tip #4: Take the shot

Jessa Slade waterfall hike

Sometimes I get weird about taking boring pictures. I mean, how many waterfall pictures does the world need? But I had a photography professor who said he expected to take one good shot for every hundred clicks. And this was in the days of film! So if I take a bad picture, I remind myself I have 98 more to go before I get to the good one. Plus, even the most boring waterfall picture is still a pretty picture at the halfway point of a good hike.

Tip #5: Look out from the lens

In the end, even if I don’t get the shot, I still get the memories. So I make sure to put down my clicker toys sometimes and just live.

If you have tips for taking good pictures, please share in comments. I’m always looking to sharpen my skills. And my focus. :)

Side note: For the next three days, OMGReads is featuring a “Stuff Your eReader” 99¢ sale for mid-summer reading madness. My alter ego Jenna Dales is featured in a box set HOT BEACH READS, and my other alter ego Elsa Jade has her first book in the Mating Season Collection, Wolves of Angels Rest: HERO, available. Check out all the titles here.

Girl on the Train, People Watching for your Benefit

This month I was on a mission to be a “secret shopper” and find out what other people are reading to bring you some interesting Summer Reading suggestions. This meant that I was going to put my 2+ hour daily commute on public transportation to good use by observing what my fellow passengers were reading. I immediately hit three major roadblocks:

1 – Most people reads from their Kindles. Since people tend to read on the train to avoid human interactions, I couldn’t break this unspoken rule by verbally asking them what they were reading. However, I have come to believe that a few individuals were just staring at blank screens and zoning out, clearly some form of meditation.

2 – Most people read their books like they are smuggling contraband, holding them close to their chests. Plus, they either removed the dustcovers or they put on their own book covers, which is a very common thing to do when reading a romance novel in public so everyone doesn’t see a sexy man chest cover the first thing in the morning.

3 – I am no Jenny McCarthy; I could never be a spy. So unless the books were in my immediate area, I really couldn’t see the book titles. I blame the constant swaying of the train on the tracks and not, I repeat not, on my eye sight. I don’t need glasses. (Note to Self: I should probably make an appointment with an Ophthalmologist.)

After all those disclaimers, below are some involuntarily book recommendations from passengers who brought in regular books and made the mistake of sitting near me.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: This 896 page book has the added benefit of also serving as a heavy blunt object in the case of a self-defense emergency. The book also breaks the no talking rule as Jamie Fraser Fever is at a record high. Many women give the nod of approval when this book is out in the open.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein: It was hard not to notice that the reader was holding back tears. I believe this excellent book should come with a warning, to all animal lovers that this book is worth the read but not to expect to have dry eyes.    

Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart: As the person next to me read this book, I fought hard against sympathy itching while repressing memories of past poison ivy experiences.

Girl on the Train


Lastly, My Recommendation: Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, strictly for the synchronicity to my blog’s theme. It’s getting a lot of buzz, awards, and a movie deal so it doesn’t need me to sing it’s praises but that won’t stop me. However it was almost creepy to be reading a book about a complicated woman describing the minutia of daily life on a commuter train when this reader was on a train trying NOT to identify with the messed up main character. It’s kind of like reading Moby Dick while on a boat, why do that to yourself?

So what are you reading right now? Or more interesting, what book have you seen someone else reading?


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