Nice to “meet” you! I’m Janie and when not spending time on Maui — my favorite place in the world — I call “Livable, Lovable Lodi,” California, the “Zinfandel Capital of the World,” home. I grew up here and intend to remain happily “Stuck in Lodi.” I’m a managing attorney, musician, constant reader, book reviewer, writer/blogger/website designer, Reiki practitioner, mom, auntie, and grandauntie to Quinn and Raven.
I earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting, but then had to face the inescapable truth: I just don’t care about financial statements, taxes, and all that the science of accounting entails. Ironically, even as I was framing my degree, I knew that I could not earn my “daily bread” indefinitely in that profession. It was then that I decided to act upon an idea that had been rattling around the back of my brain for many years: I opted to continue on to law school. I was the mother of a two-year-old with plenty of other responsibilities, but I was determined! And the next four years were quite challenging, especially considering that my youngest son, “MattieBoo,” was a special “gift from God” (the meaning of “Matthew”) during my third year of study. He was born just before 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, but I was back in class two nights later because finals were a mere two weeks away. I was the only woman in the maternity ward with a Constitutional Law book and yes, the nurses thought I was crazy when I refused to surrender my books to them, but I did study between contractions. (This chapter in my life helped cement my reputation for tenacity!) Sadly, my father died just two months after MattieBoo was born, but he did enjoy watching me argue a hypothetical case before three invited Supreme Court Justices (from Indiana, Montana, and New Mexico) in my school’s “Final Four” Moot Court Competition.
I graduated from McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California in 1993. While a student, I realized that I wanted to focus my practice on civil rights & employment law. I entered private practice in Stockton immediately after graduation and was a “baby lawyer” when the biggest case of my career to date, Conservatorship of Wendland, began in 1995. I could not have foreseen that I would litigate the case all the way to the California Supreme Court (twice) and secure a victory for my clients in 2001, setting a precedent on end-of-life decision-making that is still debated. You can read about the case — the issues, players, and the toll that monumental battle took on all concerned — at Robert’s Legacy. The moral of the story? Express your wishes while you can so that, in the event that you are incapacitated and cannot communicate your desires, your loved ones — who may not be in agreement about what is in your best interests — will not be subjected to the kind of all-out war that ensued over Robert Wendland’s fate. No one, including the lawyers, emerges from such a skirmish unscathed or unchanged. In my case, the stress of litigating that case for almost six years nearly destroyed my eyesight. Many surgeries later, I remain thankful for the experience because I learned profound lessons about gratitude, what it means to love unconditionally, & establishing & honoring priorities in our lives.
When not practicing law, I’m a constant reader & book reviewer. I also enjoy designing, building, & maintaining websites for charitable organizations, nonprofits, & friends. I created & maintain the official site for my late, beloved friend, the remarkably talented Clint Ritchie, who starred as “Clint Buchanan” on ABC-TV’s “One Life to Live” for more than twenty years.
A lifelong musician, I play piano/organ/keyboards, flute, piccolo, acoustic guitar, & sing. Over the years, I’ve been a member of numerous ensembles, including rock bands, & served for many years as a church musician, including as a liturgical organist/pianist for two local Lutheran (ELCA) congregations. Playing the flute is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Presently, I’m a member of the Lodi Community Band and Stockton Concert Band. With a special ensemble comprised of members of both bands, the Delta Winds, I fulfilled another lifelong dream when I played my flute in Hawaii in 2005 & Carnegie Hall in New York City on March 28, 2007. Remarkably, we were invited to return, so on April 20, 2010, the Delta Winds were showcased at Carnegie Hall. I took my sons with me for a fun-filled week in New York City, during which they not only were fortunate enough to watch their mother perform on the Carnegie Hall stage, but also saw Broadway shows & many other sights in & around Manhattan! You can listen to both Carnegie Hall performances in their entirety at the Stockton Concert Band’s site. In April 2013, the Delta Winds were showcased at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. & I was honored to play both flute & piano on that stage.
In June 2011, I embarked on an adventure that will continue the rest of my life. I began a weight-loss program led by Dr. Daren Primack, a local cardiologist. With support & guidance from Dr. Primack, his staff, & supportive friends, I lost a total of 180 pounds. In the process, I transformed not just my body, but my spirit & psyche. (At the completion of the program, I rewarded myself with my first trip to Maui!) You can read about my experience (and see a “before” photo) here. For a long time, I couldn’t look at old photos of myself, much less share them, for many complex reasons, including shame, revulsion, humiliation, & fear. I had lost & gained back weight so many previous times that when I first entered the maintenance phase of this never-ending journey, I didn’t truly believe that my metamorphosis would be permanent. Now, nearly six years after reaching my goal weight, I see old pictures of myself with detached fondness, as though I’m looking at an old friend who did the best she could with the knowledge & resources available to her at the time. I’ve forgiven her for not being perfect & celebrate her triumph every time I look in the mirror. I never completely forget her, although I can no longer recall exactly how it felt to be the woman depicted in those photographs. For that, I am truly thankful & consider myself blessed beyond words.
“Colloquium” has several meanings, but this definition inspired me to so name this blog:
“An informal meeting for the exchange of views.”
My goal for this website is that it will be a place where people feel comfortable dropping by, reading about my experiences, observations and opinions, & responding by sharing their own viewpoints, experiences, and feelings.
I was interrogated!
1. Tell me the number one reason you love to read.
Reading is relaxing. I have a very stressful career. Reading a compelling work of fiction allows me to completely distance myself from the demands of my job and life . . . for a little while. It’s refreshing and rejuvenating.
2. What is it about sharing your reviews that keeps you going?
The most rewarding comments are those received from the authors whose work I review. Recently, I reviewed “The Perfect Family,” a fictional work that was very personal to its author, Kathryn Shay. She was pleased and gratified by my reaction to the book. In turn, I was happy that I experienced her book in the way she hoped readers would and was able to validate her hard work.
Of course, it doesn’t always turn out that way. But so far, there has been only one occasion when I simply could not find anything good to say about a book I reviewed. It was a disaster that should never have been published because the author was simply not qualified to opine about the subject matter – and was a very bad writer, to boot. I hope that never occurs again. Most of the time, especially when dealing with fictional works, some aspect of the reading experience was enjoyable.
Of late, I’ve been contacted by a couple of authors who asked me to review their books because they happened upon my site and enjoyed reading my reviews. Obviously, that’s flattering and inspiring.
3. Who is your all-time favorite author?
I could not name just one because there are so many whose work I enjoy: Anita Shreve, Jodi Picoult, Jan Karon, Janet Evanovich, Nancy Thayer, Gregory Maguire, . . .
4. What is your all-time favorite book (single or series)?
Again, I could never pick just one! I love Jan Karon’s Mitford series about Father Tim and his adventures. I am also a huge Janet Evanovich fan: Stephanie Plum and the rest of the characters are so much fun. I am definitely a Ranger woman.
Probably To Kill a Mockingbird is the book that most influenced me as a child/young adult. I wanted to be the female Atticus Finch when I grew up.
5. If you could pick one fictional character and bring them to life, who would it be?
Again, probably Atticus Finch. Imagine the conversation we could have about our cases!
6. Do you always finish a book, even if you know you don’t like it half way in?
Most of the time, although I recently gave up on a nonfiction book. I just couldn’t get through it because the writer’s style was so laborious and plodding.
7. Do you own an eReader? If yes, why? If no, why not?
No! Between work and home, I spend enough time using computers. I want to hold a book in my hand. I want to highlight, make notes in the margins, bend the corner of the page if I want to, and smell the paper.
Update: My answer is completely different today. I read exclusively using the Kindle app! I am gradually giving away all of my physical copies of books because I love carrying my entire library with me. I also love that I can perform word searches, highlight, etc. directly within the book I’m reading!
8. What is your all-time single favorite genre to read?
Fiction geared toward women. I like to read about relationships, families, and how people evolve over time as a result of their life experiences.
9. Here’s your chance to plug your book review blog, twitter, facebook, etc. You know, make a general plea for people to like you.
At Colloquium, I write comprehensive reviews. Some people might argue that they are too lengthy, verbose. But I believe a writer puts so much effort into crafting an enjoyable, memorable experience for his/her readers that I owe him/her a thoughtful, purposeful review of the result.
I’ve been fortunate to host a few authors’ guest posts and interviews, as well as some book giveaways. There are some great events upcoming so I encourage all of your readers to stop by for a visit and subscribe!!
In June 2007, I was the Featured Villager at Blog Village. Here are the highlights of that interview:
Janey Loree: Who is Janie? Tell us something about Janie that you haven’t posted in your blog Colloquium!
JHS: I don’t come from a privileged background (my father was a car mechanic and my mother was a homemaker) and couldn’t care less about money, wealth or the social status those things bring. I just want to have enough to live comfortably. After obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting, I realized I could not spend the rest of my life looking at balance sheets, ledgers, tax returns, etc. because I just couldn’t make myself care about any of it. I needed to earn my daily bread doing something that required a more meaningful investment of my entire self. So I continued on to law school. Once I took my first civil rights course, that was it. I knew I had found my niche.
Janey Loree: What prompted you to start blogging in the first place?
JHS: I was moved to start blogging during the final days of Terri Schindler-Schiavo’s life because I was so distraught about the fact that her parents’ legal appeals all proved futile.
For six years, I litigated Conservatorship of Wendland all the way to a victory before the California Supreme Court. I am among a select group of attorneys who understand the stress of handling a high-profile, high-stakes case over a protracted period of time.
The cost for all involved was enormous. In my case, it impacted my physical health, but also changed me in many other ways. I wanted to share my experiences by telling the cautionary tale in order to encourage everyone to make end-of-life decisions while they are capable of doing so and communicate their wishes to their friends and family both orally and in writing. A battle about how to proceed in the face of incapacitating illness or injury is devastating to family, friends, caregivers, attorneys, guardians, judges, justices. As noted, I, along with everyone else involved in the Wendland case, am living proof that no one comes out of the battle unscathed.
A lot of people told me I should write a book. I prefer to blog about it . . . which I am doing gradually. It’s too overwhelming to try to write about all of it at once and all these years later, I’m still processing my thoughts and feelings about that momentous battle.
From there, the blog evolved into a discussion of all sorts of topics, some very serious and some more light-hearted.
Janey Loree: When do you find time to read other blogs?
JHS: Late at night and on weekends. I can lose a lot of hours following links . . . I’m sure your readers can all relate!