Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Chim Chim Cherooooo #3. Lehi High, Memorial Day

Betcha didn't know that the first building in the USA, in the entire country, specifically built to commemorate the sacrifice of soldiers from World War I, was built in my home town of Lehi, Utah. Betcha didn't know that. The building eventually housed the Lehi City offices and the city library. Memorial Day always reminds me of the Lehi "Memorial Building" and the days when I was a kid and my dad was a city councilman. I would go with him to his weekly meeting, stroll the atrium of that mission-style building and look at the faces of all those soldiers and then cut into the library and read until my dad was done.

Lehi Memorial Building, now the award-winning
John Hutchings Museum of Natural History

I grew up in the greatest American town. You can put a gallon of gas in your car and go in either direction to Salt Lake or Provo, by why would you?

A group of Mormon pioneers settled the area in 1850. After several names, it was incorporated by the Utah legislature in 1852 as "Lehi City,"  named after of one of the Book of Mormon prophets. Lehi was a prophet that fled with his family out of Jerusalem to escape oppression. They did not know what the Lord had in store for them, but they went with faith. It's fitting that a pioneer town be named after such a man. In fact, the  Lehi High School mascot is "the Pioneer."

It was Utah's sixth city. When I was born it had just over 5,000 people. My family is considered "old Lehi people." There was one Mormon Stake (groups of wards) and when they made my dad bishop of the Ninth Ward people were shocked that there were enough Mormons to split them into nine groups. Now, according to the 2010 census, there are 47,000 citizens of Lehi. There are two other surrounding towns, Eagle Mountain (famous citizens - Andy and Sarah Shelton) and Saratoga Springs (famous citizens - Steve and Juanelle Shelton). Those two bumper towns have taken the population of Northern Utah Valley to nearly 80,000. I hardly recognize the place when I'm home...it disturbs me... I grew up in a town with NO stop lights and now it takes 20 minutes to cross main street.

Downtown Lehi, Utah
Lehi City's Main Street. Notice the building on the far left...
Lehi Bakery. I spent a lot of babysitting money on fritters
and alligator jaws here. 
I still remember the day my sister came over to announce that she managed to avoid getting the extended "766" telephone prefix for their new house. Whew! That was a close call. She insisted that they have the old "768." Don't mess with the 768'ers. This is their town. When you can trace your heritage back to the original Lehi Pioneers, you just shouldn't settle for 766.

There are a few things that still remain sacred in Lehi, and that's why, no matter where I have lived in the world, I start pining for Lehi around Memorial Day.

The first thing is, of course, my parents still live there. Their parents lived there. They were BORN there. My Grandpa Smith was a rodeo man. Dad's a very well-respected citizen in town and has taken his turn in politics and church leadership. He has a backyard and garden the size of two building lots and he still gets his planting potatoes from Broadbent's store which was established in 1866. If he isn't home working his garden, he's probably down at Kohler's, the town grocery store, talking to someone in the meat aisle. There are many citizens of Lehi still shopping there, desperate to keep it open despite the massive Macey's down the street.

I think Lehi's famous for a few other things. Lehi's often known as the sweetest city in the state, because right after the pioneers settled the town, they erected a sugar beet factory with a grant from the Mormon church. This 350-ton capacity plant was the first sugar beet factory in the United States built with American machinery.

Sewing sugar sacks together - 1920.
When Hawaii's cheaper production of cane sugar pushed the sugar beet industry down, the Lehians, bounced back with wheat. In 1906, the Lehi Roller Mills produced it's first flour. They still mill 100,000 pounds of flour a day. They supply all the flour for the western Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants, but the Roller Mills put Lehi on the map after Kevin Bacon took up employment there in 1984 in the movie Footloose. Yes...that's right...the entire town of Lehi is just one degree from Kevin Bacon. For an entire year, they had to employ someone full-time to answer phone calls about the movie. People still drive into town off I-15 to have their picture taken here...the thing is, it sure doesn't look like this anymore. That grassy field has been replaced by a gas station, a strip mall and a grocery store. Thanks Kevin.

Lehi, UT : Lehi Rollers Mills
The famous Lehi Roller Mills.
June always reminds me of Lehi because of The Roundup. There are three sacred days toward the end of June when the PRCA brings their rodeo to town and people park for a mile down the neighborhood sidewalks to watch the world-famous rodeo. We always walked over. Just follow the smell of burgers frying and the sound of the announcer. I can smell that burger still to this day. I can hear the train...can't have a rodeo without the train rolling through. Famous cowboys from all over America are drawn to the Lehi Roundup. My favorite clown was always Lecile Harris. I miss the rodeo!

The signature opening of the roundup is a horse parade through town. Everyone with horses or wagons enters the parade and there are clowns with wheel barrows every tenth entry to clean up after the mess. That parade passes right by my parent's house and my dad's two sisters and their families gather there for burgers and watermelon before the event. I miss that so much. OH! I love Lehi, Utah! It's a great place to grow up.

Utah Lake
The majestic Mount Timpanogos and Utah Lake, which we often fished as kids.

I also miss Wines Park, penny candy at the drugstore, Lehi Bridal, The infamous apple fritters at the Lehi Bakery that were as big as your head, and of course, there were several teachers that made an impact on me and because of that, I am careful to remember that I too, will make an impact, good or bad. My father taught me to have passion for it, my teachers showed me the power of it.

In Fifth Grade, I was lucky enough to get Mr. Barnes as a teacher. He taught me how to sing. He taught me how to square dance. He laid out my official introduction to the arts. I'm indebted to this day. I also know (and still remember) every word to about 15 John Denver songs thanks to him (and Mr. Adams.) I don't remember another thing about fifth grade...but I remember how happy I felt that entire year.

                  When I was a little bitty boy, just up off the floor
                  We used to go down to Grandma's house, every month's end or so
                  We had chicken pie and country ham and homemade butter on the bread
                  But the best darn thing about Grandma's house was the great big feather bed....

How high was it?  NINE feet high.

I attended Lehi High in the 80's and after spending an hour a day trying to look like Farrah Faucett, I trudged over to the school, just three blocks down the street and spent most of the day in the drama classroom. The patriarch of drama at the time was the beloved Glen Smith. We called him "G." He is a living legend. I don't have to even say why... no one would understand unless you had a class from him, or got to be in one of his shows. He was a safe haven, a port, an oasis. He obviously made an impact on me.

I played "Yente the Matchmaker" in Fiddler on the Roof my freshman year at Lehi. Carl Dastrup played Tevye and people still talk about Carl's performance. That was November of 1979. By January of 1980 I was a full-fledged drama queen. I loved Lehi High School because of G (and Jean Partridge who allegedly drank whiskey, carried a gun and did, in fact, introduce me to Victor Hugo's Les Miserables). I once told G that I would teach there after he was retired. I was right.

In 1999, my principal was being moved to Lehi High and he took me with him. It was his prerogative to move teachers around to advance the school in his own way. Sheldon knew a school was only as strong as it's arts program because those kids like to come to school. Those kids usually have good grades = good test scores. Lehi High was on the verge of a growth explosion. Sheldon looked down those tracks and saw it coming. He needed a teacher in the arts department that could ride that train and turn a big musical into the town badge of honor. He had watched that happen at Mt. Ridge and so I was transferred to my own alma mater. Weird.

I walked into my old classroom on the very first day with a broom and a mop. It became my life theme. I truly admire the artist that was there before me. She just didn't see the incoming train. She was also a gifted visual artist and could expand that program too. So she was moved to visual art. Drama was small, about 20 kids total. Many were mad at the teacher change and had dropped out...right after they left their u.r.i.n.e. in the floor heating vents as a sign of their disgust. That was a smelly October. I forged on.

My brother Brad, who had been a successful theatre actor and technician in junior high, was spending his time at Lehi on the soccer team. It killed me. He was a trained Shakespearean actor. So I asked the soccer coach for his schedule, rehearsed the first musical around that schedule in order to use the soccer team as the "Washington Senators" in Damn Yankees. I worked the halls like a pimp: "Hey, you wanna be in the musical? It'll be fun...the soccer team's doing it." Pretty soon I had about 40 great kids and I could work with that. The kids that were more like me, were coming into the program. They were worker bees and loved the challenge.

Side note: look at the drama teacher and you will see the kinds of kids that are in their program. You have an eccentric right winger that wants to produce obscure musicals for the sake of their art? Those kids are tortured artists. That teacher is constantly in the principals office. You have a motherly, loving teacher that doesn't like to raise their voice and rushes to the aid of a sick student? You have chaos, sudden epidemics.  You have a straight male testosterone-filled teacher? You'll have no problem finding a leading man. Drama becomes cool to do. You have an unfulfilled actor that took the job because he couldn't get acting gigs? You have a lot of bitterness and envy. The kids I attract are book nerds that rule the school...the kids Andy attracts are clowns that need an audience. Just the right combination of "I must do my homework at rehearsal." They help each other. It works for us.

The nerds flocked in...sorry nerds but you know who you are and I love you for it. I realized that there was a pattern that God had consistently required of me. I liked the notoriety that came my way when I would take a new or challenged program and pop it into the school's focus. Pretty soon, my 800+ seat auditorium was  full to the brim and I was showcasing talent and then getting it off to college. (I've always felt that high school should only be a launching pad to college. To my students that are struggling with that idea ...whatever. Get over yourselves, get away from your video games and go back to school. Don't be stupid. Shake off your natural man. You'll end up there eventually anyway. Might as well get it over with.)

I digress...as usual.

Working at Lehi was both a challenge and an obligation to my alma mater. I thought I would retire there. I built a house in Lehi. I had dogs. I was directing the community arts program as well. We won a lot of competitions and sent a lot of kids to college and pretty soon, the program was so big, that I had invested in a refrigerator, microwave and sleeping cot, just to save time. The district built a scene shop for me and a new classroom with it's own stage. I was bringing more money into the school than ALL of the sports programs combined. We did 30 fundraisers to take 40 kids to Scotland! We did New York regularly. We took State. The monster had become so huge...it was eating...M.E.

Because I was spending more time with the kids than their own mothers, the kids started treating me like their mother. It wasn't positive in any way. The expectation changed. Suddenly they knew more than I did. After seven years, there wasn't anywhere for me to grow. I was in a personal ditch. A hole. A dark hole. I was trying to feed my children from an empty bucket. The loneliness of going home to an empty bed was also eating my soul. I felt sure that God had directed me back here...and that He had abandoned me now because He wasn't worried about Lehi anymore. I stopped praying to Him. B.I.G. M.I.S.T.A.K.E.

I'm trying to dance a little around the real reasons so as not to offend, but in addition to being just plain tired all the time, I didn't like the way (some of) the kids were treating me. The director's gifts went away, the cards of "thanks for pouring your blood sweat and tears into me" went away. Not that you HAVE to have a gift at the end of a show, but it's just a symptom that they were taking you for granted. They knew you were a rock and would getting something out of the bucket no matter what. I had created an environment that plays were no longer special. They were just "to be gotten through" so you can put them on your resume...so you can get scholarships. Dump it out of the plate and serve it up.

Parents were wanting their child to be on my fast-track to scholarship nirvana, and instead of being the hero for turning a small program into a scholarship machine, they now scorned me for not casting their child in a leading role. Those memories were gone. I was the obstacle. The enemy. How could I not see that their child was Broadway bound? Working at Lehi had apparently made me blind and deaf. I could feel the wind changing.

Chim Chim-i-ney, Chim Chim-i-ney Chim Chim Che-roooooooo....
Good luck will rub off when I shake 'ands with you...

It was right about six and half years into my term at Lehi when Hyrum Smith (the founder of the Franklin Day Planner, and Tuacahn)'s sister, who lived in my mom's neighborhood, told him that he should see the plays at Lehi High..."they are like going to Broad-way." I saw him standing at the back of a rehearsal and I thought he was someones dad waiting for their kid. I had seen him at other rehearsals. This particular day he walked down the aisle and shook my hand. He said "I'm Hyrum Smith and I want you to come and work for me at Tuacahn." I heard a voice say, as clearly as ever, "you are not going to work at Lehi much longer." And I didn't.

Now as the ladder of life
'As been strung
You may think a sweep's
On the bottom most rung

Though I spends me time
In the ashes and soot
In this 'ole wide world 
There's no 'appier bloke

I bleed Purple. I will always be a Lehi High Pioneer. I will always cheer for the Purple and White. In fact, Andy went to American Fork High which is a neighboring town, and the two schools used to be great rivals. The American "Farkers" are "The Cavemen." I think that's just a ridiculous mascot. The Pioneers? Majestic! I tease him relentlessly, but he has the greatest comeback...."you're welcome for the wheel." And I can't deny his prehistoric contribution.

Without it, we'd still be in Missouri.

Lehi High School, Home of the Mighty Pioneers.

P.S. Fifth Grade Quiz:
1. Grandma's feather bed was soft as a _______    ________?
2. What was it made out of?
3. How many hound dogs did it hold?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Blessings of May 17th

When you look better at forty than you do at 18 - THAT'S HUGE. When you are excited to look as good as your mother does at 70+ that is bigger than huge!

I mean, just look at them! Stunning women! Born on the same day, a few years apart, ;-) May 17th.

My sister Penny is child number 5 in our family and the oldest of the "younger kids." Even though, she's turning F.O.R.T.Y. today which makes me both sigh for her and giggle at the same time...welcome to the over 40 Club. This blog is for all the nasty birthday cards you given me over the years.

My parents lost the baby they delivered just before they had Penny. You gotta hand it to them. When a baby dies and you don't get to take anything home from the hospital, you are not excited to jump back into that terror too soon. But they did. I remember one thing about Penny's birth and it was that we were all nervous that she would be okay. I also remember that my mom really loved the name Penny, which is, 40 years later, enjoying a big resurgence of popularity. It's a sort of "retro" name, if you will, perfect for a person that is also RETRO herself now. ;-)

When you have as many siblings as I have, you tend to categorize them, give them a family "title." If I'm the Drama Queen, Penny is definitely the Party Queen. Her personality color is yellow with a touch of red for bossy. I love that about her. It's as if she is always saying "Damn it! Come to the party, I said! Everyone's doing it!"

Therein lies a major contradiction in her journey. She is the first to pull the family together for holidays and celebrations, but she was the first to move away from Shelton Central permanently. She married Joel Beckstrand, and they started having kids. I thought maybe they were just young and nuts. Turns out, they were just following The Spirit and they raised those five fabulous kids on a dime and a prayer....maybe just a prayer....in St. George. I think this is actually the year that she has lived in Southern Utah longer than she lived in her beloved Northern Utah. I don't think she'll ever say that she's from St. George...but her kids are.

Shayne, Josh, Joel, Ben, Sophie, David, Penny
The Super Model, Joel

The "younger girls" with mom at Penny's
Seminary graduation, 1990 

The updated version.  2012. Aren't they gorgeous?! Sheesh!

I'm actually pretty intimidated to write this blog because Penny is the family historian. She was the families first blogger. She's been taking pictures and talking about what they do as a family for several years now at:

That's a funny title, right? She's a funny, funny person. Which I have found helps a lot when you live in St. George.

Penny inspired me to write the blog because she desperately wanted me to write down my stories. But she didn't just tell me to do it. One day she showed up at my house with a little tape recorder. She wanted me to "just speak into the machine" and she would take the tapes and type it all up. That made me feel so good. She thought what I had to say might be important. She had faith in me.

Penny has faith in people in general. Especially teenagers, which is one of the reasons we are so alike. One year I needed a company manager for my summer show and I convinced her to bring David along (her youngest). She organized all the housing, meals and activities for the cast. She did not take their excuses or allow them to be stupid while they were away from their parents. She acted as if she was their parent.

She is mom to so many kids in her neighborhood. On a regular summer day you can go past their house and there will be 15 kids mulling around, jumping on the trampoline, riding their bikes up to the front door. I said to her one day "doesn't it drive you nuts that every kid in the neighborhood congregates here and she said - "Oh no, at least I know where they all are and what they're doing."

In the dorms with the summer cast of High School Musical

Penny has a way of making people feel comfortable around her. No pretense, no 4-inch heels, no million dollar jeans. She just wants to know who you are. She wants to figure you out so she can know how to help you. Now she's a Bishop's wife (the main leader at church). Just like her mother before her. I could see that coming a mile down the road.

She is a missionary too. I've always been jealous of her ability to feel the Spirit push her toward people that need the gospel. She has been responsible for FAR more baptisms than I ever was and I served a full-time mission. They are the family that sucks you into the church because the Spirit is so strong in their house. You can not walk into their home and not wonder what kind of people they are.

She worked several years when they were first married as the resident blood sucker at a doctor's office. She quit working to raise her kids. Now that her kids are in school, she has returned to nursing part-time to raise money for her impending college students, missionaries and weddings.

(Tiff Nutter - this next part is for you:) All my sisters have exercised their faith in this way. My mother forged that path. They haven't always had two dimes to rub together, but their kids have come home to their mom. Let me just brag...none of their kids have been in jail, have been expelled from school (verdict still out on Evan - too young to tell), have run away from home, have been in rehab...all of the older ones graduated from high school when they were supposed to and all of the younger ones are in regular public schools where their mothers watch over them from the P.T.A. seats.

Pineview Swim Team - taken from the mom seats
I work in public ed. I've seen the craziest things. I had to ask a girl to take out her "sternum post" one day. She was new to the school. She had not lasted long at ANY of the five other schools she had tested in the valley. She was covered in tattoos and had lots of creative holes in...well everywhere. She had a bolt that came out of the center of her chest that she had implanted there. She had cut a hole in her shirt so that it could stick out. I watched her walk toward me and my knees almost buckled from the weirdness of it all. "This is a uniform school," she was told. "You can't wear that here." Eyes rolling, then twist, twist, twist...twist. It popped out. I'd like to say that she was a miracle story like so many of them, but she didn't last long at THS either.

If that girl had grown up in Penny or Kay's house...she would be on a Swim team or in a play...or doing temple work with the kids her age. We Mormons are pretty square that way. Being Mormon DOES NOT guarantee that your children are going to be tattoo/jail/rehab free. Far from it. However, the Mormon children in the Shelton house, specifically, would rather not find out what happens if they came home with a tattoo. The unspoken threat is too real. Who knows what all those empowered women would do...as a group! You might get held down and scrubbed until the tattoo was magically...gone. OW WEEEEEE! Better cancel that appointment I have to get the drama masks tattooed on my tailbone. Too much symbolism anyway. (drama = pain in the ass... get it? Sorry, it's so late.)

These families are very, very lucky...and very blessed because every Shelton grand child leaves their mother in the morning and comes home to...their mother. There are rules, expectations and a lot of prayer going on in all 6 of those homes. There is homework first, chores, piano practicing (or some kind of rehearsal or practice for something productive). Then we go watch each other play in ball games or concerts, be in musicals, celebrate something awesome that, when you have a family this big, is never-ending. This is because of the example from the Queen Bee - my mom. My dad always worked several jobs to allow that to happen, it's true, but because he was a teacher, we always had the same vacations as he did. (This strongly influenced my brother-in-law Joel, who became a school principal.) My mom never worked in a traditional setting but she was the ROCK on which the Shelton family was built.

Brad, Jan, JoEllen, Andy, Penny, Paula, Steve
Mom Kay, Dad Joe
Here's the thing. I've made it sound like the Shelton family has no kryptonite. While it's true that several of us fight diabetes, high blood pressure, and the constant knowledge that we are not perfect (guilt is my BFF), we are a strong unit because of the WOMEN we have been taught to be, or have invited into the circle. (I'll give the boys some credit next month at Father's Day, don't worry) They are women of faith. That's all. Sometimes there's nothing else, especially in the early days, but there is faith.

I am not saying that if you work outside your home your kids are going to turn into monsters. (I don't remember when I haven't worked, but because I married later in life, I have not worked up faith in this area. In every pregnancy I've had, I've cried out with anxiety about how we would live if I stopped working... Oh Jan of little faith) Staying at home to raise your kids is NOT everyone's option. What I'm saying is...boldly...if you are afraid to stop working because you think you can't afford it...take a look at this picture and HAVE FAITH with me. Can I get a hallelujah?! These are women that put their lives on HOLD to raise kids first and now, some of them are finally getting back to school, finally going on vacation, etc... But that was their first 24/7 job. I'm so proud of them for that. They are an incredible example to me.

The two people with glasses, sitting down, they created this mess. Happy Birthday MOM and THANKS!

I KNOW this is one of the greatest reasons these children are obedient, grateful, strong, educated and FUN people. This is why these parents can pay for piano lessons and not rehab. (I think we did have to photo-shop one crying head off and replace it with a smiley one). I'm tooting a horn that may offend some...I don't mean to. I have just learned so much from my siblings and my mother who exercise great faith in the face of this economy. (And it's my blog.)

My mother and father are my greatest blessings. I've said it over and over. I hope to be just like my mom one day. I'm such a work in progress but I know she's rooting for me. She could fix the world's problems I think. I have that much faith in her. (See Blog #2) She definitely defies her age! Happy Birthday today MOM! I'll never tell.

I celebrate this day for two reasons every year. May 17th is the day my mother came into the world. About 34 years later she gave herself a birthday present, and she gave me one too. I have LOVED moving to St. George to truly get to know my two younger sisters. It is with great regret that we have to give up our easy access to them to go on to our next job. They have graciously allowed me to use their kids in my plays when I need them. They drive out to Tuacahn (with these gas prices) wait for their kids, get to know my kids, get to love my kids, help us build the set every year, babysit the dogs when we can't get home, substitute for our classes, drive our bus, give us priesthood blessings, pick me up from the college when I'm stranded....the list goes on and on. I am so indebted, that it's a good thing they will all need a wedding cake one day. Such a small payment toward my great debt.

But with family, you are never far away. Because nine of the grand kids live here, that's nine graduations, nine missions, nine weddings....27 reasons for Penny to plan a party. "Get on it! Right now!"

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Octo Mom: Mothers Day

Warning:  Hiding my true feelings has never been my strong point. Please don't take offense at this blog, especially if you are a mother. This is just a rant...don't read it if you're susceptible to offense, and don't call me and tell me how sorry you are for me. I'm okay. I'm grateful that I have a place to put my feelings. The rocks in my pockets are slowly being sorted out. Don't make me paranoid about that. I want to able to continue being honest...sometimes it's pretty raw...this is one of those times.

There have been times in my Mormon-dom that I have wished I was a nun. Mother's Day is one of those days. 

April 14, 2012. It's inevitable. It happens once a year whether I like it or not. The great and horrible Mothers Day is coming. That is the one day of the year that, ironically, I remain in the fetal position most of the day.

I acknowledge my ridiculousness. I have started this Octo Mom blog a full month in advance - but I'll wait to post it next month when I can be mature enough to take out all the cursing. Sometimes a good strong blog needs time to mature. Or should I say ferment?

The second Sunday in May is the annual grand pity party. I don't do anything on that day.  N.O.T ...A ...T.H.I.N.G. I don't even shower. I prep for the day, just as if I was buying groceries for a Fourth of July block party. I eat anything I want, I watch violent action or horror movies and I skip church like a delinquent. I haven't been to church on Mother's Day since 1988, when I first noticed the biological clock start it's evil count down. It used to seem that, as the years passed, the clock was louder at church, where EVERYONE is pregnant. At least, the ticking clock had hope back then, though quieter and quieter each year, at least it was still whimpering out it's relentless call right until the end. Now the silence is deafening. The silence of my body in response to every flowering pregnant woman cackles at me in stereo, gives me a big, wet raspberry as they pass by me, sit by me, say hello to me. PLUHPHPHPHPHP!

Those women don't even know how much their very presence makes my ears ring. Maybe I shouldn't tell them so publicly. I don't want them to feel bad...I just need to get my feelings OUT of my system and onto the computer where they can stay. Maybe when they read this blog they will have a new appreciation for their swollen feet, back ache and constant need to pee. Next time they throw up, I hope they remember to thank God for that. But pregnant women aren't reading my blog. They are reading those popular blogs that have crafts and scrapbooking ideas. They are on Pinterest looking for ways to decorate their nursery. They invented Pinterest.

I don't go to church on Mother's Day because the meetings are always dedicated to the grand role of motherhood. Which is indeed, GRAND. And should be celebrated! Your mother gave you life! The role of creator is akin to the role of being God. That's holiday worthy. It's the fact that in the Mormon wards, the younger kids hand out flowers to all of the moms in sacrament meeting. Every single mom gets a little potted plant, or a booklet, or something from the ward... At least that's what they do around here.

Back when I still went to church on Mother's Day, years ago, I would watch the little 12 year-olds, go up and down the pews, flower pot in hand, look at me in confusion, "flower or no flower?" Then they would look at the people around me, no kids... right...no flower. Sometime ago, they changed the rules. I'm told they have the older men hand out the flowers now. EVERY female over 18 gets a flower, mom or not. As if to say, today is female day. Today we are celebrating the fact that you have a birth canal and ovaries whether you use them...or not.

But if you aren't there, Sunday after church, someone will bring it by your house and they KNOW you aren't in church because ever year, I STILL GET the damn flower. It's as if they are saying "we know you weren't in church today because you have issues with your singularity... or your infertility. They don't acknowledge the fact that I might not have been there because I just don't like to be reminded of it so thoroughly all day long. Then you have that flower in your house, all week long until it dies. Because I let it die. My lifestyle does not support plant life.

I KNOW they mean it in the kindest way. I know it!!! I really do! I do not deny them the opportunity - nay the responsibility - of honoring the women in their lives. So I just take myself away from it, instead of adding my negativity to it. But that little innocent flower with all that it represents and all that I have hatefully eschewed it with...makes me want to throw it against the nearest wall. I could plant it. I could water the little thing and let it fulfill the measure of it's true creation. But that would mean that I would be giving my bitterness away...and on this one day a year, my bitterness blanket comforts me. As does the entire pan full of mac 'n cheese that I will be eating while I watch "The Grudge."

I could try to see that it isn't about my inabilities, but it's about my mother and her infinite abilities - she is the world's greatest mom. Then I formally request, that they send her my flower. She will allow it to fulfill the measure of it's creation because that is one of her gifts. There isn't anything that won't grow in her presence. Giving it to me is flower suicide.

It all started when I turned 31. See...there are different kinds of groups in the Mormon church. They group us up by "wards" so we can take care of each other. You can go to a "family ward," where there are...families, kids of all ages, nurseries for the toddlers, and a lot of noise. Or you can go to a "singles" ward where there are no kids. Just single people. Those wards are quiet and everyone dresses up in case your future mate has wandered in that week. There are a lot of activities in those wards to keep everyone meeting people and socially on track. Heaven forbid you fall into the rut of spending your time waiting in line at the Red Box...by yourself....on a Friday night...when you could be dancing the night away at one of the many regional singles dances that are held all over the county. I consider those dances "self-inflicted pain" and I believe the church is against anything like that... so I'm still confused about why that archaic tradition is still being observed.

There are also wards for people that speak other languages, deaf wards, college wards (also for singles going to college), college married wards (like for the Rabbit Hutch at BYU) and in St. George we even have "Snowbird wards" for retired people that only live here during the winter.

I digress.

Anyway, when you turn 31, and you STILL haven't found an eternal mate, they spit you back to the family ward, whether you like it or not. See, single men over 31 and women entering the ward at 18...not an ideal combination.  I would sit in that singles ward and watch the 18 year-olds fly out the window, wearing the diamond she got from the 27 year-old "menace to society" (see blog #?) that I wished I was dating. Very disheartening when you are 26 and making more money than most of the men in the ward. (I continue to digress....Apparently, my feelings are strong here and this is another blog for another time.)

So you'd think that getting kicked out of the singles ward would be a good thing, but to me turning 31 meant that I had failed the church, or my parents, or God...or all three! I had tested the system and it gave me an "F." That was a VERY difficult day for me because of that milestone. I've never gotten an "F" in my life. No just kidding....I'm refering to the Turning-31-in-the-Mormon-Church-Without-a-Husband milestone.

My good uncle was my church leader and he had the task of bringing me into his office and telling me 1) how much he loved me 2) how much the Lord loved me and 3) Happy Birthday and by the way you've just aged-out of the singles ward and we are releasing you from your responsibilities and have notified your home ward that you will be jaunting back. He wasn't that blunt. He cried. He knew how bad I felt. He didn't want to have to follow the rules for his own niece. I'll always be so grateful for his compassion that horrible night.

I drove from his office to the local park, which was empty... probably because it was December now that I think about it. I sat in a wet swing and cried for an hour or more, wiping my red running nose with the sleeve of my coat and gripping the cold chains while I called upon the Lord mightily, "How is it done, when is it going to be my turn?" Theme song here. I'm sure He was on the other side of the veil shaking his head at me in frustration "If only you could see what I see, know what I know. Ya gotta gimme a break! I'm working as fast as I can here!" I felt His Spirit gather me in and I calmed down. As usual. Could I endure my celibacy, my loneliness, another day...month...decade? Yes, I could. It was asked of me, and I would do it.

I adjusted my grip on the iron rod and went back home. 3182 blogs later (ten years), I would be kneeling across an alter from the greatest gift of a man I could ever possibly been given. I'm telling you...adjust your grip. That way, when you're blessings are ready... the one's the Lord has been frantically trying to align for you (while you cry out to Him night after night)... your "blessings hatch" will be open and ready for receiving.

Oh brother... Where was I? Blessings hatch?! PFHT!

April 22, 2012.  Today in Primary I occured to me that the primary kids have to sing in church on Mother's Day. Because I lead the singing in the children's portion of our meetings, today I dug out the old standards "Mother I Love You," and "I Often Go Walking." I made a poster while the other teachers were conducting "sharing time"...I can turn out a poster in about 3 minutes. I helped them learn the songs and all the time I was panicking about the fact that I might actually have to come to church on Mother's Day.

The conundrum is...who will lead the kids, if I'm not there? Who will hold up the poster? Who will get all the kids up on the stand? Who will do sparkle hands if they aren't singing loud enough? Will I have to bite the bullet and just show up...in my pajamas...after a long night of crying and feeling sorry for myself? Everyone will know. Crazy Sister Hunsaker's been drinking again....!?!? If only!

May 12, 2012. What's a husband to do for Mother's Day when his wife has recently decided to give up the dream of being a mother? Today Andy did an amazing thing for me. He called my Primary president and told her that I had a hard time on Mother's Day and that leading the kids through those songs might just push me over the edge. She was amazing about it and said she would take care of it, no problem. She got it. I knew she would. So I won't have to be there and I can spend one more year wrapped up in the bitter blanket.

May 13, 2012. Last year, Andy didn't get me a gift on Mother's Day. (I don't think he has anything for me this year either, but the days not over.) I was really mad at him for that. He thought, having deduced, from my hatred of the day, that if he got me a gift I would think he was being cruel. I always want the gift as a token of his love and I want HIM to remind me that I AM a mother. I want him to remind me that he knows the depth of my pain and that it's okay. So husbands - you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. Again, I acknowledge my ridiculousness.

There are a few things the average person can know about how to approach a couple that doesn't have children, or how to deal with a woman that would rather be a mom than anything else, but hasn't been given that opportunity on this earth.

First of all, you don't have to know WHY they don't have children. Maybe they don't want kids. Maybe they are waiting for better times. Maybe they are infertile...all issues that are none of your business. Why do people always want to know? Many times people have said, for lack of something better to talk about, "how many kids do you have? or to compound it, "have you tried having children?" Answering either of those questions is a hot bed of coals for me. What I really want to say is "We heard that you have to have sex to get children and that's just weird to me, I'll have nothing to do with that craziness." Then I'll sit back and watch what happens.

Secondly, if you are a leader in the church, remember that it's tough for women that are single, divorced or infertile, to give lessons on the subject of raising children, improving your marriage or to speak in church on Mother's Day. Most of those women have tender feelings about that issue or simply feel like failures in that area. No need to draw attention to it. Just pre-empt that if you can with a lesson about faith. They know a lot about faith.

Thirdly, if you notice that there are certain women that aren't in church on Mother's Day, abstain from calling them and asking if they are okay. They are.

Number next, if you are a blessed mom with children, when you are around those that can't have children try not to complain about your new baby, or your kids. It may seem like you are telling us how lucky we are to be getting all of our sleep or how lucky we are that we aren't changing diapers, but we would KILL to change a diaper if that little bum belonged to us. I always want to "one-up" people like that and say, "my child is back in heaven where he will never look at porn, cheat in school or be addicted to anything...my child is perfect. (Because he is.) But some people would think that was weird. However, it calms my heartache sometimes.

My favorite complaint is from moms that have kids in school. I always start hearing it around the end of May...which is quickly upon us, suckas! "Argh...school is almost out. I'll spend my entire summer keeping them all out of trouble. Do you teach any summer classes out there?" Better get on Pinterest and find something crafty for them to do...for the next 12 weeks. (evil laugh) I'm going to use the time to clean my classroom, put up new bulletin boards, organize the props and costume closets, write the new student planner, plan four overnight competitions, develop new lesson plans and read a new textbook for a class I've never taught, and somewhere in there, I hope to be able to do some laundry, sell my house and move.

Finally - I have some advice for people like me..in fact, I'll shoot this advice directly at myself:

1. Quit taking offense. People don't know that you can't have your own children. So when they say how many kids do you have, just say "We don't have children yet." And when people that DO know your struggle say "but you are a teacher, you are a mother to so many," don't be offended. Buck up. BE a mother to sooooooo many. Some of them need you to be their mom. Don't think of that job as the consolation prize. Don't be offended when you get called to teach other people's kids. The Lord isn't asking us to do something difficult, he's asking us to help out. Dry your tears and get back to work.


2. And while you're at it, give away your bitterness. (I'll work on that.)

3. Look outside yourself. Realize that others are suffering too. They may have been given children as their personal test. They are sleep deprived and covered in kid juices most of the time. They are constantly teaching too and sometimes they just need someone to talk to someone that has a vocabulary of more than 37 words...just like you do.

4. Celebrate your own mom. This is her day. She put her life on the line, and her formal education on hold to raise you. Her outside shell is like titanium armor. Take a lesson. You turned out! What can you do to make her life easier in return?

Today I honor my strong mother, Kay Shelton, and her incredibly generous gift to me - life. I feel like Abraham Lincoln when he said "All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother." When we sing "I Often Go Walking" that song could not be a truer sentiment about how I feel about my mother. Maybe that's why I love it so much. It's a song about Kay Shelton. (though I'm pretty sure if she found any clover in her yard, she'd eradicate it's weedy blue head.)

I often go walking in meadows of clover
And I gather armfuls of blossoms of blue
I gather the flowers the whole meadow over,
Dear mother all flowers remind me of you
Oh mother, I give you, my love with each blossom
To give forth sweet fragrance a whole lifetime through
For if I love walking and meadows and blossoms
I learned how to love them dear mother from you.

I'm so grateful today for my courageous grandmothers Mary and Leona for giving me my mother and father. I'm indebted now to my stalwart mother-in-law Christine who gave me her son.

When I look at it this way, there have been so many HUGE gifts to me on Mother's Day. I will adjust my grip today. I will "press forward with a steadfastness in Christ having a perfect brightness of hope."

President Spencer W. Kimball, the prophet of the LDS church in my youth, spoke to us all that grieve our losses and unfulfilled blessings when he said:

"Please know that our Father in Heaven is aware of your anguish, and that one day he will bless you beyond your capacity to express."

If I truly believe that, and I do, I'd better stop complaining about it and get back to work. I have so much to do before then.


Happy Mother's Day, everybody!


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Chim Chim Cherooooo #2, "Fire Starter"

I worked at two junior high schools. Lakeridge Jr., (by the lake) for a year and Mt. Ridge Jr. (by the mountains), both in Utah County. It was a happy, happy time for me personally, but, being a red personality I resented the fact that people didn't take junior high drama seriously...at first.

I took the Lakeridge job because it wasn't debate. I knew that if I wanted to teach high school drama, I needed to earn my stripes just like everyone else. Work through the system. But when those kids walked through the door on the first day, I thought I was back in the babysitting business. They are very small people for the most part...sort of stuck, in a way, between childhood and teenager. They are covered in acne, braces and bras that don't fit. They're still on the deodorant learning curve. Their voices are changing. They wear their emotions like an over-sized shirt. They protect themselves with lies and silence. The girls are often much taller than the boys. They are like baby animals: they socialize with caution and attach themselves to adults that will protect them as they go through "the change." If you are their junior high drama teacher, (or a coach) you are usually that person.

How do you choose a play for that weirdness? I was one of two drama teachers at Lakeridge. I was grateful to be teaching Speech and Drama and to have my weekends back! I met kids like "Greg" (We'll Call Him Greg) who had Turret's and yelled out "bereaved" because he was told that was the worst word ever. I wonder if he ever found out the truth? I listened to a lot of speeches, persuasive, informative, impromptu... they talked about things like "how to make a successful lemonade stand" and "ostrich meat."

As the new kid on the block, I was not allowed near the musical, but I got to direct a play. I chose "The Mousetrap" an Agatha Christie play with quirky characters and no romantic kissing. I have a hard time watching kids kiss. I'll blog about that later. That was a fantastic cast, and most of them are still involved in drama somehow even though now they are married and have kids. The lead in Mousetrap, Schmet Scmidchett, now works at 4-Wall Entertainment in Las Vegas and I spend a lot of money on lighting equipment and supplies there. It pays to have been nice to the kids that will make your life easier later on.... KARMA! Whenever you look at a squirrelly kid, think of them as your doctor in 20 years, it will completely change how you treat them. I always invest in that idea, it has never let me down.

At the end of the year, there was no longer a need for my position. My classes were going to be given to the senior teacher. My principal, a great, great man called me in and told me that all he had for me the next year was seven periods of seventh grade English. OH the H.O.R.R.O.R. I have minors in both English and Speech Ed. Whoops. Wish I could hide that certificate sometimes.

He felt terrible that the drama program was shrinking. So he let me in on the idea of "in-district transfers," wink, wink. He knew I would be happier somewhere else. Good principals do. So I applied for this consideration and waited. Maybe, some drama teacher in the district could be "taken out." Just kidding.

Meanwhile, with all my spare time I volunteered to help my friend Diane with a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I was the "make-up lady." No opportunity was too small. I smelled change in the air and I could feel the Lord working His magic. I was staying close to the Spirit, looking for opportunities, riding the wave.

Interesting side note: Andy Hunsaker was 15 years-old and playing the role of The Baker in that production. I put his makeup on him every night. I followed his work as he went through high school. Little did I know that 13 years later I would be bearing his child. Hahahahaaaaa......oh that's awesome.

I digress.

Diane was friends with a man named Sheldon Worthington who was a film actor and happened to be the principal at Mt. Ridge. We were using his stage for this community musical. He wandered in one day to ask us how we were doing and I was introduced to him. It just so happened that he was looking for a drama teacher and interviews were the next week. This program was only one year old.

I worked at Mt. Ridge with a faculty that can only be described as "perfection." Sheldon had combined genius and heart. Everyone that taught there opened their arms to me. Even the P.E. teacher, Jen, was a light in my life. The choir teacher, Cathy...I don't even know how to talk about her without crying. She was sister, mother and therapist to me all in one. She was also the music director for the musicals. We had a great lunch bunch, we went to each other's events...we laughed a lot. Even the Vice-Principal was amazing. The front secretarial staff was like an army. We kept the building clean because we LOVED the custodians and when I got engaged the LUNCH LADIES crocheted an afghan for me (not the people, the blanket). I'm not sure there can ever be a place like this ever again. Utopia with 700 goofy kids attached.

One memory encapsulates my experience at Mt. Ridge. Cathy and I were producing The Music Man with about 75 genius kids. We ran the show four nights and it was completely sold out. On the last night, I had to go outside to the line of people that were waiting for tickets and announce to them that none of them were going to get to see the show. There was groaning and begging...I felt terrible. Then from the back of the line, way down by the book drop in the bus lane, a man in a suit yelled out "I just got back from a business trip and I MUST see my son in this play, I will give you $1000 for two tickets right now." I said "right this way," and escorted him down the aisle to where my own parents were sitting and I said "mom, dad, get up, we're moving you to the light booth." The next day, I was informed that a $1000 donation had been made to the department. That community was sooooooo supportive.

I had a junior high-aged Tevye, Horace Vandegelder, Harold Hill and Frank Butler. I had a junior high-aged
Golde, Dolly, Marion the Librarian, and Annie Oakley. I remember them all. I remember their gifts, their struggles and their performances. I remember telling them to practice kissing because for so many of them it was going to be their first kiss and it would be in front of hundreds of people. I would tell my little leading man to take my keys and his leading lady and lock themselves in the light booth and "come back when it's no big deal." Truthfully I just wanted them to come back when it wasn't so hard to watch. Good times.

There were the Doxey twins and M. Bailey (who weighed about 62 pounds) my first real stage managers. Those kids saved my life. There was another kid - his name was Josh. He played Charlie in Annie Get Your Gun and he was brilliant. He is a drama teacher now and was very recently named Utah's "Teacher of the Year." P.R.O.U.D. D.R.A.M.A. M.A.M.A.

Should you teach on the junior high level? YES! Junior high kids don't have distractions. When you cast them, you aren't competing for their time. They don't have jobs. They don't date. They don't even drive (which is tricky if you need someone to go buy you another pound of 2" screws at Home Depot). They L.O.V.E. drama. They CHOSE you as their one precious elective class. They run into your room. They smile at you. They appreciate their costumes and they don't miss rehearsals. You are the person in their life that makes it fun. I've always liked that pedestal. I always giggle when I hear a math teacher complaining. It usually ended with "you shouldn't have chosen to teach such a horrible subject." Hahahahaheheheheh. When they hear me complaining about leaving the school after dark, they say "you shouldn't have chosen a subject that owns your soul," as they hit the parking lot at 3:00 shooting me a raspberry from their car. Touche.


So when you get them involved in drama at that age, they are hooked, generally, for life. I followed their progress by attending all of the high school shows (they never gave me a choice) and it was, 90% of the time, the SAME kids. So junior high drama teachers have the responsibility of being passionate about what they do. Because YOU LIGHT THE FIRE. That is not a small gesture. I've said it before and I'll say it again, it is NO SMALL THING when a child is placed in your path. If you are looking for a good junior high drama teacher, look at the high school program that it feeds. If it is big, productive and successful, you know there is a junior high teacher stoking it from below. Those jr. high teachers often feel like you don't notice that service. It feels pretty thankless sometimes, and because you can't go to a lot of competitions when you are a jr. high teacher, you can also feel invisible. But you matter! You are the fire starter! If you are a high school teacher receiving those kids...attend the plays at your feeder junior high. Work out mentorships with them, do ticket trades, matinees... build a bridge. Notice.

So five years after Sheldon opened Mt. Ridge, it was coasting at full-speed and he was called in by his district bosses to transfer to a school that needed a major remodel in every possible way. It was my own alma mater, Lehi High School or as the community of Lehi was calling it "the bastard child of the school district." They had decided it was time to send Sheldon in, diagnose the issues and F.I.X. I.T. I remember the call like it was yesterday..."Jan, this is Sheldon...you know I've always believed that a school is only as strong as it's arts department." "Yessssss....," I replied. I'd heard him say it a hundred times. "I need you to come to Lehi with me."

The winds were picking up.

And I cried for two days because I had to leave that beloved school with the incredible faculty and the super supportive parents. I cried because I knew God was moving my weather vane in a different direction, again. I didn't question it even though it seemed like the strangest thing to leave a job and kids I loved so much to go to a school that was struggling and a community that needed a big old-fashioned musical pick-me-up. But it was the school I had grown up in! It was the home of the original fire! I felt that responsibility too. My younger brother Brad was at Lehi. That was a bonus. But I would be teaching debate again, AND English, AND even a period of American History. What the...? I'd be building that program as fast as I possibly could. I'd be ticking off those classes as fast as you could say "Auditions will held for Damn Yankees on Friday."

If you build it...they will come.

And they did.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Chim Chim Cheroooooo, Part 1, Davis High

Chim Chimeree Chim Chimeree Chim Chim Cherooooooo......

Note: Last Saturday night, after Titanic closed, we told our students that we are not returning to Tuacahn High next year. We have found employment closer to our aging parents. Working at Tuacahn has been like finding my people. However, working at Tuacahn has also been a treacherous journey in losing myself. I don't know who I am anymore. I spent my whole life as a single person, using the theatre as my spouse, my master even. I came here and became a wife at 41, a role I have wanted to play since I was 12. Then I became a mother, for a moment, another role I always dreamed of playing. But motherhood was not meant to last, or meant to be, so I hid my dreams in other people's kids. One by one they graduate and leave you because they are not your real kids. They may send you a wedding announcement in a few years but you are probably not invited to the ceremony. Your influence stops at the diploma.

To my detriment, I'm addicted to growth and creating things. That is what I am truly meant to do on this earth. I've been very successful at going into new or struggling theatre programs and building them into machines that spit out good kids. That is exactly why I was hired at Tuacahn. But when it looks like there is no room for more growth, the winds change. I cannot feed my addiction, so I must move on. I feel terrible that I am now dragging my husband away with me to a new school that can use our building skills, but this move will allow us to get involved in community theatre again. Maybe Andy can actually use his Equity card in Salt Lake. Maybe we can think about adoption. I have a feeling that this move is about personal growth too.

There are so many good memories here...I have felt such pride in my kids here. But when I drive into the canyon, the ghosts are there too. So many ghosts. 

This mini-series is about going where God wants you to go. Doing what God wants you to do even though you may not want to do that thing. This is about being strong enough to look back and see the hand of God in your life and admit that He is never wrong.

Telling our beloved Tuacahn kids that we are leaving them may have been the hardest thing I have ever done but it is the right thing. This mini-series is also about gratitude for all the kids I've ever known and had to leave. I hope this helps them understand why we need to graduate with them this year.

I was raised by a teacher that stayed in one place for 35 years. He taught me that no job is worth doing half way..."half-assed." I got that from both of my parents. My dad was an award-winning teacher. I always knew that I would be a teacher. So after college, I went to work in Japan for a year because I wanted to find out what they had that we didn't. I wanted to plagiarize every good idea from them. I'll start a mini-series on Japan one day. I was offered a second year contract that I politely turned down because I could not see growth or creativity in teaching there. I'm addicted to growth...to the possibilities! So I left that stagnant system. Apologies to my friends there that read my blog, maybe it's better now?

When I got back, it was August and there weren't many teaching jobs still available. I interviewed at several junior highs and Davis High School in Kaysville, Utah. I felt good about taking the Davis job, however, it was 5 periods of debate and 1 period of Drama One. I felt like it might be fun to teach debate. I had been teaching English to Japanese kids and anything would have sounded more fun than that at the time. 

And it would have been . . .

But the insanely great debate teacher that I was replacing, a legend really, was...insanely great. And I was a theatre person with a lot of debate in my background. A lot of colleges had offered me debate scholarships, recruiters with check books sat in my moms living room, and my dad would hang his head when I explained that I was going to major in theatre. I liked debate but  it was a grueling way to spend a weekend and I loved the stage and everything about it.

But August isn't a good time to be looking for teaching jobs. I could not afford to be picky. So after I signed the contract at Davis I also signed myself up for debate camp and got back in the business of Team Policy Debating. When I introduced myself to the other teachers at the camp I said "I will be teaching at Davis High." Silence. Then a quiet...."I'm sorry," from the back of the room and the crowd broke down into chuckling and shaking their heads back and forth. The camp director explained to me that it would be tough following such a great teacher, and to be prepared for that. How do you prepare for that?

Davis High had been state champions. The classroom was full of trophies. Just walking in the room made me feel smarter. They owned their own copy machine. I planned on continuing that tradition. I just needed to be reminded how to do it. I was not scared. I was smug. I had my own trophies...back in the day. W.A.Y B.A.C.K. in the day.  

The language of policy debate came back pretty fluently. Though not an amazing debater, I had the nuts and bolts of it down and I had a plan (as I always do) to let the older kids, the really awesome debaters, mentor the novices. I would supervise that process and in return, I would stay 30 seconds ahead of the kids. 

My sister Paula and I found a little tiny apartment in North Salt Lake, right next to the oil refinery and on a good day, you could actually see our apartment from I-15. I think it was $210 a month. $210 for all the air pollution you could take in. Paula had just returned from serving her mission in Italy and she had been hired to teach P.E. at an elementary school near the state capitol, so we were living in between the two schools and commuting like grown ups do. 

I decorated my new classroom with the year's debate resolution, posters of lofty goals, rules of course, pencil holders and "IN," "OUT," and "Latework" boxes. I signed up for the teacher's union, got my insurance card, my parking sticker, and some new skirts and dress pants. 

On the first day back to school, the kids met their new teacher....with disgust as predicted. They made it very clear that I was not the teacher they left back in June. Because he had decided to leave during the summer, they did not get a chance to grieve the loss of their mentor. It wouldn't have mattered if I was the President of the United States, just by standing there, I represented the fact that the rumors were true...their beloved teacher had left them. There was hatred in their eyes and I was too young not to take it personally. I, being a novice myself, sat there naively waiting for them to run into my open arms so we could all be buddies! It wasn't going to happen. They didn't know me. I didn't know that kids could love a teacher so much. They were going to put me through a series of tests first. I would have to prove my dedication to them. (I've done this four times since then...the tests are tough, but now I don't take their disdain so personally.) I was fairly warned and so far, everything everyone predicted had come true.

I spent the next several months crying every night and feeling just plain stupid. I would prepare SIX lessons a night. I would make strategies about how to combat the resistance. I wasn't getting any sleep. I was getting migraines and even kidney stones. Eventually I took my team to their first tournament and they brought home the First Place trophy at the Governor's Cup. I cried all the way home, but in the back of my mind I was thinking "...it's because the last teacher was so good...it's because of his lasting influence....it's because the varsity kids, who were taught by him, are mentoring the novices...I'm still not a good debate teacher."

But the mentoring system...which required participation hours, points, and teaching time, was working. And that was my idea. These kids would rather die than get less than an "A" and I was the keeper of the points. I offered them extra credit if their novices won at tournaments. Genius. In turn, by having to teach debate principles to their younger teammates, they were solidifying those ideas themselves. I've always known, that if you want to learn how to do something well, just teach it back to someone.     

My first check was $900 and something after taxes. Less than $1000 for the month. For the M.O.N.T.H. 

I never won those kids over until I started teaching the individual speaking events. My students dominated Oratory and Extemporaneous events because I was good at teaching them the DRAMA of speaking. I have to give props to the debate teachers in the state. It is THE hardest coaching job in a high school. You spend SIX months of Friday nights and all day Saturdays on buses with high school kids and searching for qualified judges who will actually show up for $5 a round. You spend the day waiting around, watching your kids spew out evidence and arguments then you take your plastic trophies home and start it all over again. For the love! Yep....for the love.

And then I was offered an opportunity at the end of my second year at Davis to direct A Midsummer Night's Dream, and my love of theatre came rushing back at me like a warm blanket and I started looking in earnest to return to my true love. On closing night, during intermission, I ran to my classroom and printed a letter of resignation I had written nearly two years earlier. I had accepted a position in the same school district I had grown up in. I would be teaching 3 periods of speech and 3 periods of drama in a junior high school. I had learned what I needed to learn at Davis High...apparently there was something for me to learn from the 13 - 15 year olds.

I have never considered moving to another school without consulting God first. It is my firm belief that you are sent toward the people that need you for a reason. Your talents and their deficiencies are a perfect match...

...or visa versa. 

For me, mostly visa versa. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Sail On!

Sail on! Sail on! Great ship Titanic! TITANIC HAS OPENED!
MAY 2 -5, 2012 - Tuacahn Amphitheatre

Almost immediately the wind kicked up and the flags were flying
right into the face of the driver. Hilarious!

Morse code or ipod?

Doin' the Latest Rag - looks more like squashing the latest bug.... we are in an amphitheatre after all.

Mr. Mustachio and his wife Alice

We're so grateful the show if finally open!

What the heck are my words here?

I've been wearing gray hairspray since I got to this high school. Now the beard and mustache...this is ridiculous!

Let me guess, the facial hair arrived?

Dry stage...

...wet stage. Wet actor.

Oh my back...

My boat...no MY boat...my boat...I saw it first...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Godspeed Titanic

I'm scared. We open a massive musical on Wednesday and today was the first time we have ever done the show on the set. First time with costumes. First time with lights. First time with props. First time with the flood effect. First time with microphones and sound effects. A.L.L. I.N. T.H.E. S.A.M.E. *#!*!R.E.H.E.A.R.S.A.L. I turn to my blog for comfort.

We've got one more shot and in tomorrow's first hour of the day, I must do the following...

Finish and submit the playbill to the printer.
Write a press release...and submit it...with a picture.
Sew four Maritime flags (that no longer exist).
Create three Edwardian style phones.
Arrangements four First Class centerpieces for the Captains table.
Adhere dinnerware and table cloths to a 14 foot table...figure how to get the 14 foot table on stage.
Find out where UPS delivered my poker set, my facial hair, my spirit gum and my British flags. How's a girl supposed to do Titanic without facial hair and a few Union Jacks? (According to FedEx, all of them were signed for on the property...but nobody knows where they are.) That's the first hour . . .

We got a lot of help today from my favorite men in the Tuacahn Center Scene Shop and some great parent volunteers. They're all incredible. Still... we've all worked like dogs for the last 48 hours...I re-blocked the entire show WHILE it was going tonight because we did NOT have the luxury of stopping. See, in the Tuacahn OUTDOOR Amphitheatre, you have to program lights in the D.A.R.K. and the window you have, in April-nearly-May, between dark and kids needing to hit curfews on a school night, is like four minutes. God is punishing me for loading in on Sunday...but there was a Martina McBride concert on Saturday night! Her band left their beer in the dressing rooms and I was just about to drink myself into a stupor when I remembered how much I hate beer.

Oh yeah...and I don't drink. But this musical is driving me toward it...at 23 knots, easily.

What do they say about bad dress rehearsals? Good shows? Well this rehearsal was like a sinking ship....I felt like I was drowning...talk about a disaster waiting to happen...this may be the first production of Titanic where everyone survives.

I miss my blog.