Sunday, May 10, 2015

naming rights

Change, change, change. It's all I seem to write about lately. I get a new job and, consequently, a whole new lifestyle (which precludes blogging, as you've probably noticed). My children grow taller and smellier and more interested in cell phones than Pokemon cards. My knee and exercise regimen evolved from running outside on a road to physical therapy with bands and running indoors on the elliptical (ellipt-ICK-le).

One change in particular has me reeling a bit still. Over Easter weekend we traded in the Momvan.

The Momvan, in all her dented, slightly rusted, taupe glory.
Ah, beloved, well-worn, dented and slightly rusted. She safely transported us 150,000 miles to church and school, grocery store and baseball diamond, grandmother's house and vacation destinations. I knew exactly how to lift heavy loads out of the back end, how to jerk the side door open when it stuck, how to accept her reluctance to fully unlock

Saturday, May 2, 2015

musings of a prom chaperone

Funny to worry about what to wear to prom at my age. I voted for comfort with footwear (boots) paired with my Sunday best (tunic and leggings), it seemed a little tacky to wear jeans when most of the crowd opts for formal wear.

Even funnier to ask Mr. D, "Can I borrow your car to go to prom tonight?"

Pit stop at coffee shot for a double shot of espresso. Prom lasts until midnight and chaperones must stay alert!

At a Country Club! Fancy-schmancy! Just the staircase up to the dance floor makes for some impressive photo backdrop.

And in they come...awkward couples. Nervous. Excited. Not exactly sure of the etiquette.

Resisting the urge to walk around straightening collars and ties. It's so hard because I want these sweet boys to look their best.

Loving the princess dresses. Sure, they ALL look alike--tight strapless bodice, huge poufy skirt, smatterings of glitter and bedazzlement. Full-length skirts means those girls can get away with comfy shoes--I see Chuck Taylors and Crocs and all nature of footwear peeking out beneath those skirts.

And the COLOR! Back at my prom there were two colors: pink and white. These young ladies are a RAINBOW! Teal! Orange! Coral! Hot Pink! Bright Pink! Green! Yellow! Purple! Eggplant! Really glorious stuff!

Plus these are romantic dresses, not the slutty dresses from a few years ago. I can totally get behind this style for teenaged girls.

The energy level coming out of the ballroom is almost frantic. These kids are so amped up the giddiness is palpable.

Funny thing, when I was in high school all the girls danced and the boys mostly held up the walls. Now it almost looks like more boys are dancing than girls. In fact, when the DJ plays the first slow song after almost an hour, the floor clears out and only a few couples remain. Everyone else is getting a drink or posing at the photo booth.

Certain songs really draw a crowd.  "Cotton-Eyed Joe" and the "Macarena" have amazing staying power. But some of the stuff they're excited to hear the DJ play is new to me. I must live under a rock.

And there's always that one boy about three beats behind on the Macarena. Yep.  Everyone shifts aaaaand yes. There he goes. Heh.

Apparently shedding your dress shirt and going skin beneath your vest is a thing. Almost 3/4 of the boys have done it by 10:00. We chaperones agree to leave them be, but no shirtless kids will be tolerated.

It's a bit disconcerting how the entire floor moves as they jump around and dance. I imagine this is a bit what an earthquake feels like. Am questioning the structural integrity of this building...

What? Fix your updo with bobby pins? Ummmm, you know I have three sons and the only business I know about hair is a buzz cut with a razor kit, right?  Okay, I'll give it a go here, sweetie...

Uh, yeah. That dude in the middle of the dance floor is shirtless. Suspenders are NOT the same as a vest. Draw the short straw and head into the fray to confront him.  Excuse me? Yeah, this is a nipple-free zone, dude. I'm going to have to ask you to put your shirt back on. I don't make the rules, I just enforce them. Yeah. Sorry, man.

Getting back off the dance floor is no easy trick. End up going around the entire perimeter, but that's okay. I check everybody and see no tears, no unseemly behavior. All is well at Prom 2015.  Eat some of the Hershey's Kisses decorating the tables.

Check my phone. Almost an hour to go. DJ walks over and mentions his concern over shaking building.

Have long talk with one of my seniors whose girlfriend is off doing important prom stuff with her friends.

Check my phone. Forty-eight minutes left. Chat with fellow chaperones.

Am very amused by dancers.

Am very amused by dance moves.

Am very amused by how boys and girls cluster in segregated groupings to jump around on dance floor.

Check my phone. Twelve minutes left.  Tell fellow chaperones that's only like four more songs.

Four songs later I check my phone. Five minutes left. Apparently prom is some sort of time warp.

Midnight strikes, but DJ announces TWO more songs!  Sigh and lean back in chair. Almost done.

Slow song. Couples resign themselves to staying on dance floor because they hope the next song will be a fast one. How times have changed!  Used to be the other way around back in my day...

And this is it!  Exit ballroom to make sure post-prom party chaperones are in place. DJ switches to radio station. Couples begin flooding the bar area to hydrate and I raise my eyebrows at the Chief Chaperone. Are we good to go?

By 12:10 I'm recovering during my a palate-cleansing ride home, listening to alternative rock on radio because the crap kids listen to these days about makes my ears bleed.

(Can I hear a "harumph," people?)

Monday, April 6, 2015

hideous and miraculous

Spring is always a circus of baseball and yard work and chores and amped-up schedules. This year is no exception, but I felt like I had a good handle on each part. I choreographed my classes to allow a grading-free weekend in correlation with my annual Girlfriends' Getaway.  This meant some smooth talking to access laptops for hours 1, 3, 5 and 6 in addition to minor adjustments to hours 2 and 7's reading schedule. The end of the quarter loomed, but if the week went as planned, I'd be heading to Elkhart Lake with a duffel bag in one hand and a bottle of red in the other and no guilt dragging me down. I'd made lists, coordinated the logistics of computer labs and assignments at work, caught up with laundry and orchestrated appropriate carpools for Mr. G and Mr. B's weekend activities so Mr. D could coach his varsity team without interruption.

You know what they say about people who make big plans.

I left school on Monday with a MESS on my desk, reasoning I'd wrap up more grading tomorrow. That night I worked out, stretched out, showered and read before heading to bed. Tuesday I woke up with a stiff knee, but I guessed I'd slept funny. Nothing a couple ibuprofen couldn't fix.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

feeling a bit like julie andrews when she's twirling in circles singing about hills being alive

When I take stock today, I find myself feeling pretty giddy about life.  What's going on? All kinds of sweetness and goodness!

*My bedsheets smell like fresh air because I'm using clotheslines and it's only the middle of March.
*It has been over 60 degrees ALL WEEK LONG, and it's only the middle of March!
*Basketball is done for Team Testosterone, and now it's track and baseball season AT LAST. No more sitting in bleacher seats in gymnasiums all weekend long. 
*Mr. D's mom is on the mend.  Long story, but a happy ending.  Mr. D's stress level is reduced and he'll be back from Iowa tomorrow night.
*Windows are WASHED and screens are ON--it's only the middle of March, but my house smells a gazillion times better and Jax feels like he's part of our family again because of open doors and windows, too.

*I met the loveliest people this morning at a retirement community where I taught a little course on creative writing.  They had the best stories about living through the Great Depression and WWII, I sure enjoyed meeting them. The facility was gorgeous and offered every amenity imaginable. 
*I teach some senior girls who are totally gnarly feminists with cool ideas and big plans.  They make me want to sing.
*Lunch out with my boys, watching Wisconsin beat Purdue, enough cheese curds for everyone and the waitress complementing me on their fine manners when we left.
*Hair metal in the Momvan--and Team Testosterone knows the words AND when to break into air guitar/drum solos. 

* I have a son who sings to himself because he's happy and feeling fine. On a school day.  No fooling.
* Wrestling champions at Happyland High. They worked hard and won first place at state and now they are done cutting weight and much more pleasant to be around. And they do homework, too. Even their faces have plumped out a bit, one boy showed up first hour with a family pack of cookies and a soda. I couldn't even be irritated because for the first time all season he arrived before the bell rang.
*A friend gave us the heads up on a hunters safety course so we're able to get Mr. B licensed before baseball season gets under way.  Really nice of him to think of us.

*Walking around barefoot outside and it's only the middle of March.
*Wickedly creative book projects from some of my English 12 students.
*Running outside with sunshine on my face in the evening and my knee isn't acting like vicious.
*Praying for energy to teach Cubbies on Tuesday nights after teaching high school all day--and always receiving it. Doesn't make sense, but I walk out filled up instead of spent. God is amazingly powerful.

*Hearing the kids play outside together, roaming around on their bicycles and making big plans for summer break.
*Spending Friday night parked in front of back-to-back-to-back episodes of Modern Family, belly laughing with my sons.
*Catching up with friends I haven't seen in a while, including a few unexpected encounters.
*Mud tracks.  A sure sign of spring around here.  And robins.

Spill it, reader.  What's making your heart sing these days?

© 2014 Melissa Westemeier All Rights Reserved

Saturday, March 7, 2015

sad loss

We are fortunate to live among some of the best people, and one of them died a little over a week ago.  Our neighbor J lived in the low-slung, well-kept ranch in front of our house with his wife, a couple so sweet you first questioned if they were for real, but then after your teeth ached because of their sweetness, you gradually accepted and appreciated that they were, in fact, the real deal.

When we called the number to ask about the property where we eventually built our house, J answered the phone.  After determining that we were not developers, interested in parceling out the acreage into a subdivision, J invited us out to take a look.  J, his sister (our other neighbor) and the rest of their siblings gave us a really nice deal on the family's farmstead.  He took a slice of the property to even out the edges of his lot and we promised to be the best kind of neighbor.

Instead, J proved to be the best kind of neighbor. When the big trucks came to dig our basement he took pictures and mailed them to us. When we moved in, he and his dear wife brought a plate of home-baked goodies and dandled Mr. T on their knees.  They welcomed us into the fold and helpfully watched Mr. T and his brothers during the occasional parent-teacher conference or school program.

J is the reason I have a raspberry patch, he brought over enough canes to grow the berries to make all the jam I ever want.  He and his wife also gifted us our entire slope of day lilies, in every wonderful shade of burgundy and orange and red and yellow. A fellow gardener, we watched J shape his own back yard, planting apple trees and picking tomatoes for home-made salsa. He was generous with his garden, always ready to talk about the finer points of keeping slugs away and what birds were frequenting his bird feeders.

We have a standing joke in our neighborhood about the night the cops showed up because a neighbor heard gunshots.  Of course the police came straight to our house, we were the new people on the block. Mr. D told the police it wasn't us shooting a gun, and after he was pressed to point a finger, he reluctantly pointed it towards J's house.  The next morning a sheepish J stood on our front stoop with a bag full of fresh picked beans and an apology.  Raccoons were fighting on their back deck, he'd shot at them to scare them off.  We laughed for years about the original Pa Ingalls, killing varmints and someone even gave him a taxidermied raccoon as a gag gift one Christmas.  J never lived that down.

He was quick with a joke, he had a deep and rumbling kind of laugh and the biggest, whitest smile. J was a fit man, always busy with a project, enjoying fishing and hunting and his garden.  He and his wife would often walk the trails, Mr. D mowed them a little access path to encourage their enjoyment of the prairie and woods.  J and his wife rounded out our little neighborhood of four families, the oldest on our block.  With them at the helm, we four couples had every stage of life represented--retired, new empty-nesters, married with children and newlyweds.  At our annual Christmas gathering, J would always have a sly joke up his sleeve, delivered with a twinkle in his eye. He doted on his wife, putting every husband on the block to shame with his chivalry.

One winter Mr. B and Mr. G shot a rabbit and they brought it to J, who said he'd use it to make stew.  The following summer they brought him another rabbit, not knowing how nasty a rabbit smells and tastes in summertime.  J kindly chopped off the feet instead, and sent our young hunters home feeling satisfied anyway.

But the most special thing about J was how he and Mr. G cultivated a friendship.  Mr. G would often detour to their house after school, hanging out with J in their garden, playing ping pong with him in their basement rec room.  I worried that we was under foot and annoying, but J assured me that Mr. G was a welcome visitor any time. They liked having him around to talk to and dote on and Mr. G LOVED J. He became a surrogate grandfather, handing down wisdom, advice, and gentle affection.  On one particular day Mr. G asked J for help on a book project for school.  J drew the most amazing horse, wall-sized on a sheet of butcher paper.  Atop that horse, he helped Mr. G draw a headless horseman.  That project graced the school's hallway, then Mr. G's bedroom wall and now is curled in a roll in his closet, a wonderful reminder of J's artistry and friendship.

When Mr. G's picture appeared in the paper, J would clip it out and send it over. J and his wife mailed Mr. G birthday cards and celebrated him like their own grandchild. J always had time to visit with Mr. G, his wife would stuff Mr. G full of cookies and together they gave my youngest child a place to feel alone and cherished and special.

We're going to miss our neighbor--his deep rumbling laugh, his slightly stooped figure dipping between the pepper plants to fill a bag with produce, his friendly face at the town hall where he volunteered on every election day. J was a class act, a gentleman with a gentle, kind heart. We ache for his wife, alone after being by his side since high school when they became sweethearts--a marriage that lasted almost 6 decades. We count ourselves lucky that we have a small piece of his legacy, though, held in our memories, growing in our garden and rolled up in the corner of Mr. G's bedroom closet.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Stretching thinner and thinner here. A long, cloudy winter with mediocre snow and frigid temps has everyone acting snappish. Mr. T has rubber bands on his braces now and I seem to find those blasted little circles every two feet.  Mr. B is wrestling like a boss this season, and because of back to back meets this week and nobody around to do his laundry in a timely manner, his singlet will be stinky tonight.  I still cannot quite get used to the "required uniform" (fellow teens from the 80's, did you get that clever reference? I say it constantly these days), it's so tight and, well, clingy.  However, he's way more comfortable wearing it than Mr. T ever was. Mr. G is his typical rubber self, bouncing from activity to activity with more vim and vigor than a room full of toddlers drinking Mountain Dew.  I wish I could bottle whatever he's got running through his veins and take a swig twice a day.

Teaching pulls every last ounce of energy out of me. Can blood vessels be tired? Toenails? Eyebrows?  I believe so.  Happyland High is a good school.  A bit understaffed and underfunded (I know! Shocking to hear about a public school lacking!) but my co workers are phenomenal, supportive people. My students are mostly good, though verging on apathetic as they reach the end of their senior year.  I'm pleased with the amount of freedom I have to develop a curriculum and we've had more hits than misses so far this year. But oh dear did I forget how emotionally tapped out the gig makes me feel.  My students aren't even particularly needy or weird, but teaching 6.5 out of an 8 period day makes me really sick of answering questions and responding and even talking. Then I come home and Mr. G needs help with homework and Mr. T is bored (which makes me annoyed and point out to him all the possible things he might do to be helpful, but none of them are fun for a teenaged boy, you know). I drop my bag, kick off my boots and roll up my sleeves for the second shift--the dinner and dropping off at practice and dishes and such.

That last bit explains the silence around here lately.  Plenty is going on, but I haven't a whole lot to say.  I'm still tethered to Henry David Thoreau for a couple more weeks with the AP students, trying so hard to get them to appreciate solitude and silence and nature (incidentally, three things I wish I had more time to enjoy). I kicked the tires on a few seed catalogs but haven't ordered anything yet. I went to the big gala fundraiser for the boys' school last weekend and failed miserably and utterly at getting any auction items I bid on--except for a cedar bench. My knee is still somewhat inflamed and a recent attempt at upping the dose of my meds went badly.  It seemed to be improving, but not anymore. My hair needs a trim. The clothes dryer is making a wretched sound when we use it. Rose is into everything--houseplants and dirt and toilets and garbage, making her one of the worst free-range pets in the history of all pets.

Mr. D and I have had a few skirmishes. Nothing major, just sniping at each other about politics and youth sports and how we should spend our limited free time. In so many ways these are glory years, three kids who are pretty responsible and easy to raise, no health concerns, some money in the bank and gainful employment that makes us both feel useful. We shouldn't bicker, instead I need to stop and be grateful for the good stuff and shut up about the rest.

I'll end with a few more things that spring to mind:
Mr. G's fantastic fourth grade teacher
a friend's child healing after a horrible accident
Saturday morning yoga
a 3-day weekend coming up
Mr. T getting within shouting distance of his Eagle Scout award
good friends who say the right things and make me laugh and feel accepted
apple bread

Spill it, reader.  What's stretching you lately? 

Friday, February 13, 2015

number of the week: 9

Finally it's Friday, sweet Friday.  I spent Monday night at a wrestling meet an hour away to watch my kid wrestle one match (Mr. B got a pin!) and have two byes.
I got home at nine. 
Then I spent Tuesday night teaching at church and then drove home at 35 mph because the roads were slow with fresh snow.
I got home at nine.
Wednesday night I had book club, which was good in that I always enjoy the Bumbles and the book was fabulous.  The venue, however, was not so nice.  My overpriced food was mediocre and the service lousy.  The wine was fine, but by midweek I'd drink Boone's Farm and feel pleased.
I got home at nine.
Thursday I shuttled kids to and from practices and spent the remainder of my night glued to my ipad where a basketball game played out with much intensity. (We'd have gone to the game except for the practices on our schedule.) Mr. G and Mr. B and I sat on the couch and held our breath through the second half of a live stream, we didn't even get commercial breaks. Our team lost and we were crushed.
The game got done around nine. 
All week long I've been busy from six in the morning until nine at night.  I'm tapped, shellacked, wiped and zonked.
Tonight I came home after work and dashed out twice to pick up children (one my own, two belonging to other people). I ordered pizza to be delivered. I read a week's worth of blogs, cleared up some bill-paying and paperwork, wrote two letters, tidied up the piles and ran a load of wash. I'm ready for bed and guess what?
It's not even nine yet.