Category Archives: School

An AWESOME Prom

2017 Spartan Theatre production of The Awesome 80s Prom

In high school I totally skip the dating scene. I blame this on an incident that occurs during freshman year algebra. Our entire class is cutting up and an extremely popular jock I think is cute asks me for my phone number. At that very moment our teacher shuts down the ruckus and being an obedient child I don’t take the chance to even pass a note.

Later in study hall I try to explain but he’s having none of it. I have snubbed him and for the rest of my entire high school days I am considered not cool to all the jocks. And who else matters, this is 1960’s high school. In reality that missed note pass couldn’t have had one thing to do with my popularity, or lack thereof, with hot guys but whatever the reason in hindsight it is a good thing. I am not ready for the world.

All is good until prom season. Junior year involves selecting colors and themes and vendors. I am on various committees. We decorate the gym within an inch of its life. And that is that. No date. My best friend Sandy didn’t have a date either. We move on.

Senior year prom I think about asking a shy guy in our art class since I know that we will all die waiting for him to ask anyone but I never get up the nerve. He goes with a friend that pins him down, being braver than me. Our school photographer telephones to ask me to go with him. I feel that this is going to happen and dread the call. He is nice but dull, overweight and not cool. (After high school he drops the weight, gets a intriguing job and finds himself). I turn him down. Mom is aghast. I have turned down a date to the prom.

He asks Sandy. She accepts and gets to do the dress shopping thing and fancy hair and flowers. As mad as I am at her, the day of the prom I suggest that we go downtown to Lazarus shopping. As we head home a mean girls idea pops into my head and I decide that we will walk home. It’s a nice day. The walk takes us along the edge of a beautiful park and through the high dollar neighborhood of Bexley with its huge homes and manicured lawns. I have no idea what the distance is (seven miles) since we always take the endless bus ride to our stop, the last on the route, but she has let me down by scooping up my rejected date and in the back of my mind I want retribution. It takes us a couple of hours, she is tired and sunburned. I am miserably smug.

Later Mom insists on taking me over to see the decorated gym and then we go home and I probably watch TV or read a book.

So when grandson Martin snags the part of Louis Fensterspock, introverted computer nerd, in interactive The Awesome 80’s Prom I am set to party. After all it’s interactive, awesome audience participation is expected. West Springfield’s theater is undergoing a renovation and this 2017 fall production lands at nearby Burke Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department meeting room. The set is a simple one but it needs to be struck and reconstructed after and before each production, an added layer of stress. The weekend shows are not so bad but Thursday involves working around classes. The awesome crew gets it done in record time never missing a beat.

The last night of the three day run, Martin’s entourage; both set of grandparents, an uncle & teen cousin, his parents and teen sister do our part to make it a smashing success. We’re dressed for the part participants, Donny wears his tux and I’m in a smashing pink number. We’re having a blast. I’ve never seen this show so it’s all new to me. Outside before the show starts a cast member waltzes up to me waving a Ken doll and asks if I’ve seen Blake. I tell her I that can find Louis for her. I know that he’s about to arrive on his bicycle. She’s whispers, “He’s my boyfriend,” and whirls away.

An instant mini of me & DJ Johnny

As the show progresses things periodically happen on stage led by the school DJ. One such is the Best Dressed Boy. Gals from the cast weave through the audience quickly selecting five guys to join the DJ on the stage for this vote by applause event. After some dance breaks and other interactive moments it’s time for The Best Dressed Girl competition. Guys are told to do the selecting this time. I look around at who’s being picked. Suddenly a gal grabs my hand and says, “I’m not a guy but you need to be up there.” She pushes me toward the steps.

I’m game. I join the other girls on stage. The DJ counts us. There’s more than five. He shrugs whatever and proceeds to commence the vote. I look around. The gal next to me is pretty cool looking, she might win. The others are all beauties in their prom dresses. The first girl gets a good round of applause. I’m next. I step forward, hoping not to embarrass myself by receiving only a smatter of claps. I’m already a rogue entry.

The applause is decent. I’m happy, this is good. I prepare to step back, but the clapping doesn’t stop. It begins to swell. I’m baffled. Me? My outfit is rocking I’ll give you that. I worked hard on it. So I begin to milk the crowd. I wave. The applause gets louder. I urge them on. It gets louder. I’m elated albeit embarrassed on the flip side of the coin. All the other girls don’t have a chance. To be fair the DJ quickly goes down the line. And then back to me, his winner. I know the question is coming from watching the guy competition, “Where did you get your outfit?” No one really cares about that answer I decide, I deflect, “PARTY ON!” I shout into the mic. The crowd roars, they are with me.

My loot

Later I tell Martin that I could have quipped, “My closet.” He says someone already used that answer in another performance. Spared by my own wit. As I exit the stage I spy Lydia. “You set this up,” I challenge her. She grins, “I may have helped.” Martin/Louis closes the show with his eloquent delivery of how we may act and look different but we’re all really the same inside with the same needs and desires.  Then he declares his love for Kerrie (Ken doll girl) who pines after Blake but after Louis’ heartfelt speech realizes that he is the real deal. They kiss. It’s a sweet ending.

It really was an epic Awesome Prom.

 

Epilogue

April 2018 calls for entries in what will be the last Self Portrait Show Glenn Eure hosts. Pat will hopefully carry on the tradition but without Glenn and his pretty pill winks and his sincere, we need to get together soon to sketch nudes, it will be different. I don’t know this of course when I plan my entry but I do know that my Awesome 80’s Prom outfit needs clearance. I check with Pat & Glenn about such a big entry (the show room is small). “If it will fit through the door, you’re good,” Glenn promises.

I want to make a life size doll and dress her in the Awesome 80’s Prom finery complete with her prize goody bag. I stuff. I sew. I glue. She looks wrong. I tear things apart and start over. It is truly a labor of love. Finally I’m over it. I pose her in a chair. She is art show worthy but looks more like a wasted night on the town gal than a popularity contest winner. She doesn’t pick up any nods at the show. No matter I have already won well enough for the both of us.

When she comes home I nix trying to make her look real and position her in a Chagall exaggerated body pose which is perfect. To paraphrase a very young Martin who, when asked to do something, declares that he can’t move because he has no bones, my prom look alike doesn’t either. But she doesn’t need any. Her one job is to remind us of a fun night with awesome people and she’s a winner at that.

 

 

 

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I Was a Fifth Grade GYPSY

My classroom was on the top floor in the back corner overlooking the playground

My classroom was on the top floor overlooking the playground

Almost. I really, really, r-e-a-l-l-y wanted to be a gypsy. They have a small camp near my school, Main Street Elementary, in Whitehall, Ohio. The kids keep to themselves in school. I give them wide berth, they are fascinating but odd. It is when the girls  come to school with mecuricome stained threads looped through their freshly pierced ears that they get my full attention. I want pierced ears too. With red colored loops keeping the holes open until they heal enough for the real deal. But it never happens. Mom is aghast that I even aspire to such low depths.

baker

Sandy Baker (Finn). Note stockings top. Pantyhose yet in the future.

 

wallpaper

Better shot of the wallpaper. It was a love/hate relationship.

And then in college I decide it’s time for action. But I don’t know any gypsies. And nobody but nobody has pierced ears, except gypsies. “I know someone who will pierce your ears,” good friend day student Sandy Baker (Finn) tells me.  She says to buy some gold post earrings and meet her at Thalhimers where she works part time in Hosiery. Imagine. A entire department for stockings. You have to buy your choices by size, color, type of fabric. No such thing as stretch. Or cheap. Much of my money goes into keeping a supply of matching hose with no runs. Sandy recently told me that she worked in Lingerie but Hosiery fits my story line better, so I’m leaving it. After all bras are still bras although girdles, a must in our world, have thankfully turned to Spanx.

I do as Sandy says. She introduces me to her friend who tells me to follow her into the empty ladies room. She is on her fifteen minute break. Her directives are simple. She doesn’t have much time. “Sit.” There is a small vanity table, mirror and chair. “Hold this ice cube on your ear lob. Be still.” And then. Oh my god. The unexpected pain.

“Don’t move. Or the holes will be uneven. Give me your earrings.” She stalls. “These have screw backs.” That I didn’t know anything about buying pierced earrings became very clear.

“Here use mine. Sandy will trade off after your ears have healed.” I pay her the dollar an ear she charges. She has ten minutes of her break left.

Friends are impressed. They want their ears pierced, too. I have started a trend and a little business. One dollar a lobe. They line up. All through college I rake in some easy beer money.

Finally a gypsy! At least that’s what mom calls me when I tell her what I’ve done. But hey, I live in a room with hand painted French wallpaper. Hand painted. French. Look at it. Huge red, white & blue decorative plumes. On all four walls. Picture a night of bingeing surrounded by this as you swirl to sleep.

The gypsy life has come to me.

 

 

 

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At Home(School)

Chemistry of Cooking

Chemistry of Cooking

When we last left our three, fresh from the constrains of public school (okay two Lewis was still too young for formal school), homeschoolers we were just getting into the swing of our routine.

Our academic routine. Not for everyone. Crazy and yet it worked so well for us. But there’s more. During the day when we were all awake, (those night owls slept in rousing when the mood fit) I had them work on projects like these.

building

How it Works

I was a stickler for entering every creative contest that came along. Art contests. Writing contests. Poster contests. National Geographic’s Geography Bee. We subscribed to Cricket Magazine and religiously every month I had all three enter the Cricket League competition. Open to all with several age group categories. The League rotated between prose, poetry, art, photography monthly. There was always an intriguing prompt. Later Cricket added an adult category and the boys insisted that I had to enter too. I was the teacher, I hesitated. But what’s fair for the the goose is fair for the gander. And so I did reluctantly. We all won. Multiple times. Sometimes first place, second place, third, honorable mention. Sometimes nothing. This was an international contest too with hundreds of entries. And everything had to be mailed with a stamped return mailer if you wanted your work back. Work. But worth it.

drinking & driving poster driving safety poster heart poster

Sometimes to mix things up we took all the academics outside and worked together. We ate, chatted, studied, took breaks, went swimming. We had fun. But you know what the best part was?

They. Never. Got. Sick.

It was as though the sick switch turned off. And while we did not belong to any homeschool groups (we were our own group) we did interact with the world. They swam on our local community summer swim team. They went to summer 4-H camp. They were all on Dare County Parks and Recreation basketball teams. We traveled to Richmond to be with Donny at work. Being school Geography Bee champion, Stephen got to travel by Amtrak to the state level competition in Raleigh. Andrew got to go to the state level competition too when he was old enough too but no free train ride. (By the time Lewis was eligible organizers had figured out their mistake and banned independent home schools.) Home school for us was not stress free but it was stress that we could handle.

lessons outdoors dune diving karate kids

Next time, how they faired in college and the real world. Spoiler alert. Fleek!

 

 

 

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I’m Going to Do WHAT?

I was chatting with friend Jen today (you really should subscribe to her blog, Life in the Circus, it’s always a great read) about home schooling and how I would approach it now. Hard question. When we decided to home school after dialoguing for a full year with school personal about how they could provide better opportunities for Andrew and coming up practically empty handed (a few token classes but nothing meaty) we decided to try home schooling. Emily was a freshman at UNC-CH and Donald finishing out his high school years at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham.

Even though it was mostly my idea, okay all my idea, and Donny supported me, this is pretty much how I felt. A helpful selling point for both of us was the article that we read about three home schooled brothers who had recently graduated from Harvard. And all of our kids had skipped at least one grade so we figured if it didn’t work out we could drop them back into their chronological age grade and not miss a beat.

I'm going to do what?

I’m going to do what?

Stephen was maybe as skeptical as me but for a different reason, “This is how it’s going to work, Andrew,” he said after we told them the plan. “We’re going to go to regular school and then come home and Mom will teach us.” He could not believe that he would never have to go to public school again. Neither of the boys were getting into trouble or performing poorly academically. They were just bored. My take? They were learning really well how to efficiently waste time.

And so we took the plunge. And for weeks we did nothing, literally nothing. We were all so exhausted from all the trappings of getting ready for school, traveling to and from school (a good hour each way), working on projects not to mention homework that we just sat and stared at each other in silent glee. Then I started rounding up text books. I knew what I wanted them to learn and no curriculum was going to offer my eclectic blend. I found a company, Follett Textbooks, that had used books listed in an endless tiny print catalog, no pictures just books by category, page after page. They offered no questions returns. I jumped on that one. Remember this is still pre-public access internet days. I ordered books, returned books, relentlessly until I was satisfied.

And then we started in earnest. Before that there was learning going on. Just not out of a textbook.

 running on sandbags floating chain the bic and the boyslooking for indian artifacts with dad

Our days went like this. I would write out assignments for the two older boys after doing each one myself to be sure that I understood what I was asking of them and to ascertain about how long each lesson should take. Lewis was still in the hands on stage at this point. Reading and math were enough and quickly covered. I would line the books up (cannot locate the picture but it was awesome) on a bed and then they would have the day to complete it all. There was no school clock. No school room. They worked wherever and whenever they wanted. Inside, outside, long breaks in between, it didn’t matter.

We called ourselves the twenty-four hour family. Someone was always awake. The one rule was that all work for that day had to be completed by midnight. If they ran out of time they had to stop whatever else they were doing and finish up. I was usually in bed by then, but they didn’t abuse the system, or if they did they make it work, because when I got up the next morning the books with completed assignments were back in my court.

You didn’t think I was going to cover this all in one post did you? This is almost as much work as writing out assignments. I love both!

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Above the Fold

This is the third time my picture appeared on the front page of a major Richmond newspaper.  Here is the second time. I’ll tell you about the first in a future post.

We had plans to take the Church Hill Christmas tour on Sunday and even surprise snow didn’t slow us down. It was a short drive and just some gentle flurries. I had stopped to fix Andrew’s mittens when a guy with an impressive camera asked if he could take our photo for the newspaper. I guess we provided some fun color with all the winter whites and also a nice juxtaposition against the lamplight Christmas decorations.

church hill winter

The ice on the right is what’s outside today

I said sure. He took a few shots, got our information and we all went on our way. Imagine everyone’s surprise the next morning when we woke to find some of ourselves on the front page of the morning paper. It was a big picture and above the fold!

Even today the photo is great, the memory a cherished one, but the point of the story is a building you cannot see in the picture, the reason we were even on the tour. It was (was because while the building is still there the school is no longer in operation) St Patrick’s School. Run by the Daughters of Charity this tiny not upscale community school took it upon themselves to implement a rarely utilized, because it was so much work to put in place, form of education. Just before we landed there (the connection you see) head mistress Sister Mary Dorothy decided to trash regular grade by grade reading and math and put each and every student on an individually guide path. That meant testing each one, sorting them out, matching like groups up with a teacher and making a workable schedule, all while avoiding chaos. It was daunting. But she did it. And we were lucky enough to jump in at the right moment.st patrick's church hill

We tried a private school with Emily which was a bad fit. Then public school for a year and a half until we’d had enough. Home school was for religious exemptions only, not our thing. We heard about St Patrick’s from friends and since it was on Donny’s way to work (ride with Dad to school) decided to give it a try. It was everything we could have wished for and more. We aren’t Catholic but the community embraced us. They elected me President of the Home and School Association (the first non-Catholic ever) and a few years later Donny became Chairman of the school board (again first non-Catholic).

The next school year was to be Donald’s kindergarten year but he was way past that curve. Plus St Patrick’s did not even have kindergarten. Sister Mary Dorothy told us to have him independently tested and provided the scores were good she’d take him as a first grader. Of course his scores were off the chart. He was in but even in an IGE he was such an anomaly that he had his own reading teacher.

We stayed with St Patrick’s until we moved to the Outer Banks. With one tiny exception. When Emily reached middle school age she decided that she might like public school better. More things to do. After much discussion we withdrew and enrolled in the brand new local middle school. Memory is hazy but I think maybe half a day, maybe less, and we were back at St. Patrick’s.

Our last chapter with St Patrick’s came when Andrew reached kindergarten age. Well almost kindergarten age. That was the problem. He was like Donald, academically more than ready, but his birthday was three weeks past the cut off date for Dare County kindergarten enrollment. Next year we were told. Donny was still commuting to Richmond at the time and so he took Andrew with him, and with Sister Mary Dorothy’s blessing, enrolled him in St Patrick’s for a week. Then brought him home, transferring him into the Dare County system.

There’s more much more to our education journey. You will be reading the more.

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