Sunday, April 23, 2017

Last Dance

April 15, 2017: Teacher Chaperons at BRHS Junior-Senior Prom
From left: Lori (English), Tasha (social studies), Sherri (math), Mary (English),
Brandi (P.E. & freshman university), and Kay (culinary arts).

Last weekend I enjoyed another "last" on the countdown to retirement: My final opportunity to chaperon Prom. While I don't mind the chaperoning duties associated with being a high school teacher, I wouldn't say it's high on my list of favorites. However, I happily volunteer to chaperon Prom every year. It's such a big deal for the kids, and I love seeing the creative Prom decorations and the students so formally dressed and coiffed that I barely recognize them.

Prom came at the end of a very busy Saturday. My day began with doing bills for the second half of April, along with preparing Mark's and my tax forms to be mailed off. Next came two hours of the shopping I'd put off all week, including picking up everything we needed for Easter dinner the following day, all while battling the other hordes of last-minute Easter shoppers in the Walmart aisles, which seem to shrink in width every holiday.

Sarah and her violin in concert on Saturday afternoon.

From 3:00 to 5:00, Mark, Chris, and I went to enjoy Sarah's concert of the White Mountain Symphony Orchestra. Their performance was amazing, as always.

I can't recall the exact Prom theme. Something like "Never forget" or "Always remember."
I have no idea what it was they were supposed to always remember or never forget.
However, the decor was sort of Moroccan, as in "Welcome to the Kasbah."

After the concert, I hurried home to grab a bite of dinner, refresh my makeup, and spend way too much time wrestling with the pantyhose I haven't bothered to wear for a very long time. I confess that I shed some tears (requiring some makeup repair) and said some words I don't allow my students to say, as the hose twisted this way and that, strangling my knees and thighs. Eventually, I got them smoothed out enough to provide some level of comfort, and at 7:15 I was on my way to the Convention Center at Hon-dah Casino on the nearby Apache Reservation, where Prom was held.

Tables await the arrival of Prom dancers needing to rest their weary feet.

Every year, the first thing I do is take pictures of the decorations before the room is filled with all those excited young bodies. Then I check on my assignment, which has always been to monitor the kids in the main Prom area: the dance floor, the tables, the refreshments area, and so on.

Then, while we wait for the kids to make their way through the line and into the ballroom, after having their tickets checked and apparel choices approved, I visit with the other chaperons and admire the beautiful suits and tuxedos and Prom gowns as the students enter.

The photographer had her set all ready for the Prom attendees.

By the final hour of the three-hour Prom (8-11 p.m.), after the crowning of the Prom royalty and other traditional events and music, I'm starting to feel ready to go home. It was especially true this year, knowing the next morning would be Easter and I'd have lots to do before the family gathered for dinner. At least this year I had no Easter baskets to prepare, now that I have an empty nest!

These two girls were first in the door, both from my English classes.
The one on the right graduates next month. And so do I!

I left the Prom feeling a mixture of excitement and nostalgia. Excited to move on to the next phase of my life, and nostalgic about the things I'll miss when they're over. As I left, I walked past our high school principal and said goodnight. He thanked me for chaperoning, and I grinned and said, "Last one!" He pretended to scowl (he asks me every couple of weeks if I won't change my mind about retiring; it seems that teachers who are certified in both special education and secondary English aren't that plentiful) and asked, "Are you sure you don't want to come back for next year's Prom?" I paused and said, "Well...I might if someone calls and invites me..." Now it was his turn to grin. "I'll remember that," he said.

So now we'll wait and see...

Dancers begin trickling out onto the dance floor while the night is still young.

Halfway through the night, the room is packed and growing quite warm.

The refreshments area was another popular place.

Beautiful dresses everywhere.

A little taste of loud Prom music and young people in motion.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Easter Dinner

Chris, Jake, Dylan, and Sarah enjoy a hand of Uno Dare after dinner.
April 16, 2017

I am falling so far behind on my blogging! Somehow it seems that my final semester of teaching has been more hectic than ever...or maybe I'm just running out of steam, which only confirms my belief that it's time to retire! There just isn't enough energy to meet all of life's demands on my time, and thus my blog has taken a hit. Only six more weeks of school left, though, and then my time will be my own!

So here I am with the tale of our family Easter, 2017, six days behind schedule!

Sarah prepares to enjoy her dinner. By the way, she has lost 40 lbs so far!
She's very motivated by the David Archuleta concert coming in June!

Not that there's much to tell. Dylan, Jake, and Mark had to work that day. Thankfully, Mark got off work by noon so he was home to help with the cooking. He made the mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing, as well as slicing the ham. Plus Sarah and Chris came over around 4:00, meaning they were able to help in the preparation, too. Sarah was my right-hand gal, making the green bean casserole and preparing the corn and dinner rolls. All I had to do was get the ham in the oven and put the chocolate cream pie in the fridge to thaw. Oh, and wash up the meal-prep dishes!

Chris, Jake, and Dylan have their meal at the kitchen table.

Once the food was ready, I asked the kids if they wanted to dine formally or casually. After a few minutes of, "I don't care, whatever you want" and "It doesn't matter to me, what do you want to do?" it was finally agreed to eat casually. Dylan, Jake, and Chris sat at the kitchen table together while Sarah, Mark, and I took TV trays into the living room. We even used plastic cups rather than glass, in order to cut down on dishes to be washed. In the past, I've never used paper or plastic dinnerware for holidays!

It isn't a real meal until Dylan shares a view of his chewed food.

I think my family was trying to make it easy on me, rather than pulling out the table from the wall and bringing in the card table and extra chairs and all. It had been a very busy weekend, with lots of shopping on Saturday, followed by Sarah's orchestra concert and then the high school Prom that night. After Prom, I hadn't gotten to bed until about 1:00 a.m. but then I still had to get up at 5:30 a.m. to drive Mark to work. I was pretty tired by Sunday afternoon, so I appreciated having less work and less clean-up.

I guess in the end, formal or casual doesn't really matter, as long as we can be together and enjoy building the memories that bind us together as a family. And I do love my family!

All the ingredients for Easter dinner. That ham was amazing!

As you can see, our menu was basically the same as it is every Easter:

Baked Ham
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Pork Stuffing
Green Bean Casserole (low-carb version, better than original!)
Buttered Corn
Dinner Rolls
Chocolate Satin Pie

Plenty of food for just six of us! My usual brand of ham was sold out by the time I went shopping, so I tried this little 6.5-lb hickory-smoked Kentucky Legend ham instead, and I loved it! That's the one I'll be looking for from now on. Mark really liked it, too, which made me happy since he's been asking for ham ever since Christmas. What can I say, we had a free turkey in the freezer at the time...

My dinner plate with everything but the stuffing (don't care for the stuff).
And I prefer butter on my mashed potatoes rather than gravy...
I was so stuffed, I wasn't even able to take seconds!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Last Mock Crash

Cars totaled in drunk-driving collisions are parked in front of the high school
as a reminder to make wise choices on Prom weekend.

The end of the school year is fast approaching. Seven weeks more and then summer will be here. Twenty-seven days of school remain, and then my teaching career will have reached its end. Knowing this, I find my perspective has shifted somewhat. I've been viewing so many things through the lens of "I may never experience this again."

One of those "lasts" will be tonight's Prom. I have chaperoned Prom for more than the past ten years. I love seeing the kids in their finery and the hard work that goes into decorating the venue to match the annual theme. I was there for Sarah's Prom during her senior year (2008) and for all three of Jacob's Proms (2008, 2009, 2010) and for Dylan's Prom (2015). You can bet I'll have my camera in hand for tonight's event, the last for me.

The whole student body fills three bleachers in the parking lot.
Thursday, April 13, 2017

Another major high school event, which happens in conjunction with Prom every three to four years, is the "Mock Crash." It's been about three years since the last Mock Crash was presented. The one before that was in 2010, when my older son Jacob was president of SADD Club (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and he put together the entire event almost single-handedly. Let me just say, he did an awesome job and it was very well-received by his fellow students. I was so proud.

So this year was a Mock Crash year again. What is a mock crash, you ask? A day or two before Prom, the first-responder heroes of our community work with SADD Club to plan and present a program that reminds our future Prom attendees and other youth of the very real consequences of choosing to drink and drive. It is a shockingly intense experience that makes a lasting point.

Firemen and paramedics race to free and then revive the "victims."

This year, the event began in the gym, where first-responders shared statistics and their own experiences with the injuries and loss of life that too often occur with driving under the influence. After a thirty-minute presentation, the student body of about 800 students was ushered to bleachers set up in one of the parking lots, overlooking a vehicle that had actually been wrecked in a drunk-driving incident. Inside are student volunteers posing as the victims of the crash.

A life-flight helicopter comes over the trees and lands nearby.

While students and staff look upon this gory tableau, the keening of emergency vehicles is heard in the distance, growing louder and louder as they draw nearer and then burst onto the scene. Police cruisers, firetrucks, and paramedics reach the scene and rush to the aid of the kids in the vehicle, working to free them from the wreck and treat or revive the injured. Police officers take statements from survivors and witnesses, who are visibly shaken.

The helicopter kicks up dust as it lands on campus.

One student is so badly "injured" that she must be airlifted to a hospital. Her parents arrive on scene just as she is being rushed on a gurney to a helicopter that has landed nearby. The mother sobs as they lean over her and give her a quick kiss before she's loaded into the helicopter and borne away.

The badly "injured student is loaded into the life-flight helicopter.

Another "victim" of the crash does not survive her injuries. Her mother arrives just as they've placed her on a gurney and covered her with a white sheet. (During Jacob's Mock Crash in 2010, the "deceased victim"--who was the daughter of one of our teachers--was actually zipped into a body bag. Now that was an intensely emotional moment...) The woman who portrayed the mother this year was the actual mother of the girl who played the deceased teen, and she was amazing. Her wracking sobs and hysterical pleading of "I want to see her" were so convincing that it really struck a chord, and there were few dry eyes in the place. I had to keep wiping away my own tears, sliding down the grit left on my face during the copter's landing. Meanwhile, an officer physically held up the distraught mother while her daughter was placed in the back of a hearse and driven away.

Yes, we all knew it wasn't real. These students will surely be back in school on Monday, sharing memories of the fun they had at Prom and happily anticipating the delivery of their Prom pictures. Still, the Mock Crash is a sobering reminder of what one bad decision can do, of the heart-wrenching pain it can bring to real families and real communities. Thanks to SADD Club and our first-responders for bringing Mock Crash to life.

A life-flight helicopter carries the badly "injured victim" away to the hospital while her parents watch.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Fifteen Years Ago Today

1954: Jane Butler (Hazel Jane Haley Butler) at age 17, already a young wife and mother.

When I was looking at the calendar a few days ago, it suddenly hit me that the fifteenth anniversary of my mother's death at the too-young age of 64 was almost upon us. And now it's here. Fifteen years ago today she left us. Ironically, she passed away on what would have been her own mother's 96th birthday, April 7th. I imagine their reunion beyond the veil was a joyous occasion.

The headstone my dad chose for Mom has weathered the time well.

As it happened, my youngest brother, Darryl, and his wife, Tamera, came for a short visit while I was still on Spring Break three weeks ago. During their visit, we went to visit Mom's grave site, along with Darryl's  two daughters (and my nieces), Brittany and Savannah. Even though I live only 7-8 miles from the cemetery, I hadn't been there in years. We found her headstone already festooned with bouquets, so she has not been neglected. I know Savannah visits her grave often.

My offering. Mom's favorite color was the same as mine: blue.

It's hard to believe fifteen years have already passed, that it's been that long since the last time I was able to talk to her. The truth is that, although my mom was a practically perfect mother to my four younger siblings, she and I had some serious issues that started when I was twelve and lasted until perhaps the last five years of her life, when I was married with children of my own. We made a peace of sorts, though we never really recaptured what was lost over the years. In some ways that made it more difficult to lose her, the final death-knell for any hope of reclaiming the closeness we should have shared, at least in this life. I've often thought that we'd have been good friends if we hadn't been mother and daughter, because we were so much alike. Nonetheless, despite the issues we had, I find sometimes that I still miss our long conversations. She was the queen of common sense and inspired wisdom.

She loved being a mother, and the back of the headstone honors that fact
with a family photo and all six of her children listed by name in birth order.

I'm 62 now, just two years shy of the age at which my mother moved on to Paradise. I have no idea how much longer I'll be around. My kids tell me I'm not allowed to die until I'm about a hundred years old. (I tell them not to wish that burden upon me!) I'm hoping for maybe twenty more years, enough time to perhaps enjoy some grandchildren someday and to realize my dream of becoming a published author. I'm relatively healthy, so it could happen. 

But sometimes I also wonder what it will be like when my time comes to cross the veil, and what kind of reunions I'll experience. Will my mom be one of the first in line? I'd like to think so. At any rate, I'm sure she knows she's loved and missed by the children and grandchildren she left behind. How grateful I am that families are forever.

We all commented on how well this porcelain portrait has withstood the ravages of time.
Mom, Dad, and me in the back; Darryl, LeRoy, Karla, and Jeff in front.
June 1, 1968 at the Oakland Temple in California.