Tag Archives: school

Autumn In The Air

Autumn has definitely been in the air this week.  Cooler temps and shorter days certainly add to the feeling that the Holidays are just around the corner.  The sky itself–the position of the sun and even how the clouds look–lends to that Autumn feel in the air.

Tahquamenon Falls, Michigan

Our family loves this time of year.  The coziness that comes with the weather getting colder and the Autumn decorations coming out (excluding anything to do with Halloween) continues on into the Christmas season.  Even more so with all of the Christmas decorations that come out.  Some people and families don’t make this much of a big deal.  And that’s certainly ok for them.  But for us, it takes on a wonderful life of its own.

This time of year also means getting ready for home school.  And this year brings for us a new curriculum that we’re using.  That usually brings a little more stress to the situation since we aren’t familiar with the curriculum.  But compared to the stress teachers deal with in public school on a daily basis, what we endure is hardly worth mentioning.

My wife does Daycare out of the home and has watched kids for a number of school teachers over the years.  One of them was homeschooling her kids, even though she was a teacher!  If that doesn’t go to show how bad things have gotten in our school systems, I don’t think much else will.  That arena certainly is not what it used to be when I was a kid.  I wouldn’t want anything to do with it now, which is another reason we took the home school plunge years ago.

We certainly recognize that homeschooling isn’t for everyone,  but for those willing to do it, it’s very much worth the effort!  We have found it makes things far more flexible for us, allowing for trips to see family in Michigan certain times throughout the school year.

So, as we begin that process once again, it just goes to remind me that Autumn–my favorite time of the year–is here again!

Autumn at Sault Ste Marie, Michigan

Happy Autumn, my friend!

A Pilgrim And A Turkey

As we all know, Thanksgiving is only four days away.  Which brings to mind the fact that I’ll have to put away my Pilgrim/Turkey ensemble for another year.

You’re probably already asking yourself, “What on God’s green earth are you referring to?”  Well, let me take you back to my 2nd grade school year.  What would I have been….seven years old? (I would have turned eight that year, but not until May).  So we’re talking 37 years ago, since I don’t turn 45 until May next year.

It was Mrs. Frank’s class.  My first recollection of that school year is an oriental kid by the name of Moon Kim.  What makes him so memorable for me is the fact that he stabbed my hand with a pencil.  An accident–I think.  He was “acting” like he was going to stab me with his pencil, so my lightening-quick reflexes kicked in and my hand shot up in front of me to protect my sensitive person from this sudden threat to my well-being.  And before I knew it, I had a pencil stuck in my hand.  I remember turning my hand over, watching the pencil rotate with it, and distinctly thinking two things:  1) I feel no pain…that’s odd; and 2)  What the….???  You can still see the gray pencil-lead coloring where it happened (it’s the dark spot at the bottom of my middle finger–the picture and 37 years of skin growth over the pencil-lead don’t do it justice, but you get the idea):

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So where do a pilgrim and a turkey come into this story?  Well, Mrs. Frank was quite the “art-class-involved” teacher.  Which meant that every season through Christmas Break we were in the art room working on some sort of seasonal masterpiece.  October was a witch and a spider (the witch made out of an empty glass Coke bottle and paper-mache, the spider made out of an empty dixie cup, paper-mache and black pipe-cleaners for the legs); November saw a pilgrim (male for the boys, female for the girls) and a turkey (again, the pilgrim made from the classic empty glass Coke bottle and paper-mache, the turkey made of a styrofoam ball for the body, a half-ball for the base and a combination of paper-mache and feathers covering everything);  and December saw us making three things:  a Santa (don’t remember how we made him), a Christmas tree (made out of a cone-shaped piece of styrofoam and plaster-of-paris, with a base of a dixie-cup filled with hard plaster–which comes off of the stick in the bottom of the tree, making it a tempting prospect to fling at someone if they get out of line) and a chimney (made out of the body of an empty grade-school pint-sized container of milk).

As is the same with you, the years have come and gone.  And over those years, most of those things have not survived (carelessness and mice being the two biggest culprits).  But I still have the Christmas tree, and the pilgrim and turkey are alive and well!  The pilgrim lost his gun and his bucket a long time ago, but everything else is just about like I made it 37 years ago:

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So Happy Thanksgiving!  And may your memories live on as well….

The Breakdancer

Let’s talk some more about this.

I realize that Breakdancing has morphed into something truly spectacular with today’s dancers.  All we need to do to see that is watch the last few seasons of America’s Got Talent.  I say that it has morphed because, as amazing as it is to watch today, there’s something about it that’s different.  And then I find myself thinking back to what it was like when it really came on the scene in the early- to mid-80’s…..

I mentioned when we last caught up with each other that I was the Breakdance King of Bath Middle School.  That was 1984 in eighth grade. For me, it started a couple of years prior to that when we were up in northern Michigan at the family cabin on Paradise Lake.  We had made a trip to Cheboygan or Petoskey and on that trip I found a big instructional picture book on how to breakdance.  I absorbed that book for the next year, practicing behind closed doors and then making my talent known to my family as I got better.  (Although Mom wouldn’t let me practice any “helicopters” on the living room floor.  Of course, I really didn’t mind that, since I had no desire to get rug burns or smash into Dad’s stereo equipment.)

So I learned from a book!  Says a lot in today’s world of YouTube videos and such.  Some moves I never did–like The Helicopter–but most of them I mastered as best I could:  The Wave, The Centipede, The Crab and everything else the book had.  But oh, the music!  Remember the music?  There were a couple of songs that were just the best to breakdance to.  I have them both on my music list (for nostalgia’s sake, of course.  No other reason….)  The first one was “Jam On It” by Newcleus.  A good one, but not near as good as “Freakazoid” by Midnight Star!  What a beat this song has at the beginning!  Definitely the best by far.  In case you don’t remember it or haven’t heard it in years, here is the first 50 seconds of the song (you’ll see what I mean!):

Breakdancing came to an end for me when I entered high school as a Freshman in the Fall of ’85.  The high school had its own version of Friday night Fun Nights, but by then breakdancing’s popularity was beginning to wane.  That wouldn’t have stopped me–because breakdancing to me was a lot of fun–but the style of breakdancing the high schoolers used was aggressive and very suggestive.  It only took one visit to a high school Fun Night for me to know that this was no longer something I was going to be doing.  I could see egos on that dance floor, making it more about competition than having fun.  So when one of them repulsively taunted me to come out on the floor, I stood there with my arms crossed and refused to lower myself to that kind of breakdancing.  I figured everyone would think I was scared to dance in high school, but I didn’t care.  I knew the real reason…..

Well obviously that was years ago.  Many years ago.  But  four or five years back, my co-workers where I worked at the time got wind of my middle school fame (my telling them about it may have had something to do with it, but all that really did is just cement my fame in their eyes).  They bugged me and bugged me to dance for them.  I told them I might eventually possibly get around to doing something for them, but “we’ll see”.  I worked with quite a few other people in a fairly open room that was inside a big garage for trucks.  It was towards the end of a work day and we had a “lull in the action”, so-to-speak.  So I grabbed my phone, started the “Freakazoid” song and started playing it over the intercom.  I have to admit, it was cool!  I could hear it echoing in the garage:  “Freakazoids, robots, please report.  Freakazoids, robots, please report to the daaance flooooorrrr….” and then the drum beat and keys started:  “Bear/chick/bear-bear/chick/bear-bear-bear-bear/chick/bear….”

They came running!  And I could hear them hollering, “He’s dancing for us!  He’s gonna do it!  Hurry up!….”  And they gathered around in that inner sanctum and watched a 40-year old do something he hadn’t done since he was 14.  At one point, while doing The Centipede, I just about knocked the air out of me.  Maybe almost pulled a muscle or two.  It was all a big blur with the adrenaline coursing through my veins and all.  I was definitely rusty.  But the joints still worked sufficiently enough to warrant an autograph and a couple of pictures.  Actually, it got me on YouTube for a short while, but I never saw it (no, you can’t either.  I already looked for it.)

So my “Breakdance King of Bath Middle School” days will now live on in infamy–at least in the minds of a privileged handful of co-workers who witnessed something that will probably never happen again.

First Day of School

Remember when?

There really was something exhilarating about getting all that new stuff for the first day back to school.  And then, an hour into it, you were ready for it all to be over.  But you still got to see friends that you hadn’t seen all summer (and maybe even a chance to see that playground bully again–yup, really missed him).

Of course, the older I got, the more interested I became in how much the girls had changed over the summer.  Whether you’re a man or a woman, you know the reaction I’m talking about:  “Whoa!  Who’s the new girl??  No way!!  You’re serious?  That’s Jessie Nimrod??  That’s the girl who had braces on her teeth and was shaped like a stick at the end of the school year last year?  You sure that’s not a new girl in our school?”  And all the boys would be huddled in groups of two or three debating and arguing over who was going be the first one to ask her to dance at the Friday night Fun Night (and trying to act like it’s no big deal when they know good and well that their insides are liquified at the thought of asking her).

Remember those Friday night Fun Nights?  Dancing and games and junk food.  How about this:  remember when Break Dancing was king in the mid-80’s?  Well, you might not be able to tell now, but back then, I was the “Break Dance King” of Bath Middle School.  If I had a picture of what I looked like back then, I’d show it to you.  Since I don’t, though, let’s see what I can do to give you a decent mental picture:  black parachute pants with a black-and-white-checkered bandana tied around my right thigh; pink high-tops (remember the pastel colors of the 80’s?); a long-sleeved blue shirt under a white muscle-shirt (the very popular “layered” look for break dancers); and plenty of cologne on for when I might be asking a girl to dance.

Never quite got the hang of that last part.  Really, though, I think every boy probably felt that way if he’s honest with himself.  That walk across the dance floor to the other side where the girls are all huddled around each other is the longest walk in a young man’s life.  I swaggered or moon-walked across the dance floor (don’t remember which) and as I would get closer, they would start “talking”.  Ladies, do you realize what that does to us guys?  Reindeer games, that’s what that is.  As soon as we see that, it’s “game on” in our heads.  What are they talking about?  Do I have toilet paper sticking out of my pants?  Is it stuck to my shoes?  Why are they laughing?  They keep looking at me.  Can they see a booger from there?  Is something so big in my teeth that they can see it from there?  Can they smell my breath from there?  Is someone making bunny ears behind me?  It’s sure hot in here!  It feels like everyone’s staring at me.  Wait a second!  Did the D.J. make an announcement that I was coming over?  Who keeps turning up the heat?  She keeps looking at me!  What’s she gonna say?  What if it’s “No”?   What if she laughs at me?  Why do I feel like Charlie Brown?  Wait a minute!  She’s got red hair too!!  What am I thinking?!  She’ll never say yes!

I don’t think I ever got a “No”.  Not because I was a stud (although my wife thinks differently about that); I think it’s just because I was one of those “nice guys” that girls couldn’t help but give a courtesy dance to.  I’m sure you remember those “courtesy” dances.  It’s when you can tell the other party doesn’t really want to be there, but nonetheless, you can at least say that you got to dance!  Don’t get me wrong….I didn’t do a whole lot of asking to begin with and most of the dances that I remember were “legitimate”, so-to-speak.

It’s interesting what memories stick with you over the years.  And for this visit, it’s all thanks to our kids going back to school!

The M65-28 Formula Trash Bag

Juniors in high school.  English class.  Project assigned to pairs of students (naturally, my best friend–Rick–and I paired up).  What’s the project?  To write a commercial that incorporates six things:  Humor, symbols, ecologically safe, statistics, happy family appeal and a special offer.

Now before I get into this, you need to know some things about my best friend from high school and myself.  We buddied up in 6th grade and almost instantly “clicked”.  Jesus was important to both of us, even at that age (that,I’m sure, was a big part of the instant bond we both felt).  Besides that, though, we were like Abbott and Costello–one of us the serious one (me) and the other the goofy one (Rick).  Put us together and it was quite the mix–me usually making a sarcastic remark with my dry sense of humor to Rick’s hilarious antics.  Not to mention his laugh!  He was known throughout our whole class for his laugh.  And not the weird kind that makes you do a double-take to the question in your mind of “Who just made that sound?”  Nope, just a great unique laugh that would always make you start laughing just hearing it.  Ever known someone like that?  When you do, you never forget it.  We lost contact for a few years, but around 13 years ago, my Mom got his contact information and we reconnected.  We’ve been in contact ever since–and nothing has changed.  We’re still that way, much to our wives’ and kids’…..um…..enjoyment.

So the stage is now set for our commercial for English class.  I have always been one to have difficulty coming up with an idea, but once one is given, I can run with it and add to it.  Leave it to Rick to come up with this one.  So here, from my high school archives and for your reading pleasure, is the actual script, word-for-word, of our commercial for the M65-28 Formula Trash Bag (Rick was the man holding the torn trash bag and I was the Salesman):

(Scene:  A man is standing with a torn trash bag in his hands, trash scattered all around his feet.)

Man:  (In a dopy voice) “I thought dogs is supposed to be man’s best friend….”

(Salesman walks up to man with trash bag.)

Salesman:  (In a 30-second commercial “but-wait-that’s-not-all” announcer’s voice and holding the sign below)

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“Don’t blame your dog; the fault is of the bag!  You should be using the M65-28 Forumula Trash Bag.”  (Man’s face first shows immense interest and then repulsion at the smell in the air; at the same time, salesman puts on a white face mask and continues talking.)  “This bag is not an everyday trash bag.  It has a unique smell that would not only keep your dog away, but also rats, cats, bats, maggots and other rodents that would make your trash all…..messy.”

Man:  (Holding his nose) “But does it work??”

Salesman:  “Shut up, you’re interrupting me.  Studies have shown that eleven out of ten regular human beings, just like you, have tried the M65-28 Formula Trash Bag and found it successful in keeping trash in and dogs, rats, cats, bats, maggots and other rodents out.”

Man:  (Still holding nose and now wiping away tears from his eyes) “Will the M65-28 Formula Trash Bag hinder the environment around me?”

Salesman: (With slight, vacant look on his face) “Uh….no, no, not at all, my dear friend!”  (Pats man on back.)  “The birds will still be around–but who cares!  Our objective is to keep the dogs away.  Don’t worry about the environment; it’ll be fine without….it’ll be fine!  And with this trash bag, your whole family can take out the trash to the road together without the fear of dogs, rats, cats, bats, maggots and other rodents hindering you.”

“But that’s not all!  With the purchase of the handy M65-28 Formula Trash Bag, you can receive a nuclear waste dump in your own back yard!!” (Man has look of utter shock and disbelief, which the Salesman sees as a look of someone getting the “deal of the century”.  This just spurs the Salesman on….)  “Yes, we’ll give you everything you need to start your nuclear waste dump–which is not harmful to the environment–from your M65-28 Formula Trash Bag to your official M65-28 Formula Trash Bag Gas Mask!” (Hands man his own gas mask.  Man can barely see well enough to grab it out of the Salesman’s hand and put it on, taking huge gulps of air once he does.)  “And, if you respond within 2 days, we’ll send you ten barrels of nuclear waste free!  Just send the M65-28 Formula Trash Bag coupon which is enclosed in the trash bag box, along with $19.95  and $50.00 shipping and handling to:

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Visa or MasterCard accepted.  Send for your dump today!!

The Jetta

Got a quick story for you….

I’m pretty sure it was my Junior year of high school.  Me and my best friend back then whose name was Rick were going to hang out with another friend of ours from school–Mike–whose parents owned a Volkswagen Jetta.

Mike loved to drive.  In a way that was….”parent-challenged”.  And Rick and I didn’t mind.  Especially since it wasn’t a car that belonged to either one of us.

I had been with Mike before in a car and knew what to expect, so Rick was in the passenger seat–strapped in–and I was in the middle of the back seat–strapped in.  I had the middle seatbelt around my waist; the left-hand seatbelt crossing me and attached to the right-hand seatbelt receiver by my right hip; and the right-hand seatbelt crossing me the other way and attached to the left-hand receiver by my left hip.  Did I mention I also had a handle above the inside of both back doors to hold on to?  I wasn’t going anywhere.  And as it turned out…I needed those handles.

We were cruising through the east side of town down a road with two lanes on each side.  As we were waiting at a traffic light, the guy next to us revved his engine as he glanced over at our Jetta.  Mike looked at us, started to smile and revved his engine in return.  Rick and I looked at each other with a “Is he really gonna do this???” expression on our faces and braced ourselves for a whole new meaning to the words “going for a drive”.

As soon as that light turned green, we were weaving through 35mph traffic at a good 50-60mph.  At one time, Mike and the other driver had lost each other, then found each other, then lost each other once again….all the while weaving in and out of traffic.  It was like the Toy Story movie when Woody lights the rocket on Buzz’s back and his lips are flapping in the wind as he tries to hold onto the racecar with all his might.  Mike’s adrenaline was ramped up so high that by the second time he had lost the other driver, he screeched into a grocery store parking lot and came to an abrupt halt–hyperventilating with exhilaration (Rick and I were hyperventilating for other reasons).

Remember those handles I told you were above the back doors?  I think I made my own finger grooves in them.  And Rick–well, remember the nickname given to those big handles in the dashboard that were positioned in front of the passenger seat?  The “Oh, _ _ _ _!!!” handle?  Before we took this leisurely drive with that nice gentleman in the other car, he had no handle in front of his passenger seat.  When we were done, he had made one.  I can tell you this, though:  I didn’t budge an inch that whole ride!

The Play of ’79

It was Spring of my third grade year.

There I was, a shy kid in the second year of being in my new school.  And suddenly I find myself elected to be a cloud on a stage with three other kids (another boy and two girls–even scarier for a 9-year-old boy who finds girls to be intimidating).

I think the play was about Spring–maybe the different seasons–I don’t remember exactly, because all I cared about was the fact that the four of us had to carry a cloud (painted cardboard or something along those lines with a handle on the back of it) and do some sort of choreography to The Beatles’ song, “Here Comes The Sun”.

Remember that song?  A rather pleasant one, as far as I know.  I haven’t paid attention to the lyrics to know for sure what it’s about.  Could be nothing more than the sun coming out after a good rain.  I don’t know and I don’t care.  I haven’t liked that song since this, “The Play of ’79”.

You’re probably asking yourself, “Why the animosity towards such a nice song as ‘Here Comes The Sun’?”  I caution you:  if you like this song, don’t read any further.  It may cause you to never hear it the same way again.

I’m sure that every kid has at some point in their early grade school years been subject to other kids using bad language around them.  I was no different.  I never used bad language and I didn’t grow up in a household where it was regularly used either.  So where exactly this came from, I don’t know, but I can only assume that I have fellow classmates to thank for it.  (Just a disclaimer:  You aren’t going to actually see any bad language in this post, although you will be able to put two-and-two together….)

So get the song in your head.  If you haven’t heard it, go find it off YouTube or somewhere and pay special attention to the chorus.  Got it?  Ok….The words to the chorus….

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun, and I say it’s alright

(….Sigh….) After that first line of the chorus, there’s a little musical ditty that has a “Da Da Da Da” pattern to it (the emphasis being on the first and third beats of it, as you can see and hear).  In my little sweet innocent 3rd grade mind, every time that I heard this song and it got to that point in the chorus, I heard:

Hear comes the sun (mother  _ _ _ _ _ _ )

I know, I know!!  Awful, but nonetheless true.  (As I said, I would love to find the classmate responsible for this.)  Every rehearsal.  Every performance.  Every day in-between.  And every time I would hear it on the radio.  To this day, I cannot hear it without that memory!

This little bit of personal history came out in a gathering of close friends five or six years ago.  Shortly after they had all stopped laughing hysterically, my wife–caring and sensitive woman that she is–got on her smart phone and found the song.  She made a ringtone out of it and sent it to all of our close friends that had been there that night.  So all of those close friends–caring and sensitive friends that they are–promptly downloaded that ringtone onto their phones for when I call them (a couple of them still have it activated).

And thus ends a sordid memory of my past….