Did I Actually Just Enjoy Halloween?

Halloween costumes can be a walk down memory lane (or at least another block in the search for the end of the sidewalk.) One year I was a mouse, wearing black tights over black shorts, a black shirt and some mouse ears, plus an electric cord for a tail. One year I was a clown with this crazy jumpsuit that came out of my mom’s closet (I have no idea why she owned it in the first place!), added some wild hair and was a clown. And there was the year I dressed up as the Chicago Bears defensive end with the best grammar and writing skills. (I didn’t actually know what defensive position Shea plays, so I had to look it up on my handy-dandy internet, which sent me to his Wikipedia site. You know you have officially reached “it-dom” when you have your own entry on Wikipedia.)

After teaching middle school for nearly a decade, I saw an array of crazy costumes many of them straight out of a package from the store. (Don’t even get me started on the parents of middle school students who buy them *any* costume with the word “sexy” on the packaging. It happens…more that you would like to think.) Maybe it is a sign that I am getting old (that and the streak of gray hair that has appeared on my temple, which my stylist in America insists is white, which I guess makes okay somehow), but I remember costumes being made from what you could find around the house and then adding a detail or two, if needed, from the second-hand store. When I was a kid, costumes were more about creativity and craftiness than the shimmery and skimpy outfits being pushed by retailers. Although, I do have to say I’ve been very impressed with some of the pictures I’ve seen on the internet. People are still creative! But, the thing that all those awesome costumes I see online have in common is they are cobbled together from pieces of this and parts of that, original designs, not store-bought tedium.

Being in charge of this year’s Halloween events at the Consulate in Chengdu meant I was right in the middle of the spooky goodness this year. But you know what? It was great! Since Halloween costumes can’t be bought in Chengdu, families either had to prepare in advance (super advance!) or come up with something from what they had here. I loved that yesterday’s costumes ranged from an Olympic track athlete, decked out in a warm-up suit, race number and medals to the white rabbit in her dance leotard, tights and cute little ears, with some of Mom’s makeup for a nose and whiskers.  Halloween, Chengdu-style, was a bit of a throwback, which was awesome!

To further point out how maybe my hatred of Halloween could be toned down just a tad, a high school friend and fellow blogger (and all around awesome gal!) put together an amazing Halloween display in her yard. As one who professes to not be on the Halloween bandwagon, I kind of, really, wish I had been there to see the spectacle in person. (Check out her blog here.  This whole month has been filled with holiday posts and pictures. The mummy is my favorite!) Her enthusiasm and excitement are contagious, even from the other side of the world. (Could Halloween be like SARS, spreading on the wings of sneezes and airplanes?)

For someone who claims to dislike Halloween so much, it sure seems to get a lot of play time on this blog. Could it be that I secretly love this ghostly and ghoulish holiday? No, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon, but there are parts of it that are growing on me. (Adults in costumes will never be one of them though.)

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Making a Small Town Proud

As I sat on my couch last night, tuned in to my first (and probably last) NFL draft, I couldn’t help but wax nostalgic about my years in Marsing. I started teaching there in 2000, just out of college, twenty-one years old and greener than Al Gore. I will forever be grateful to that interview committee that thought giving me a shot at a classroom of my own was a risk worth taking. I’m not sure I would look at someone barely legal to drink and think, “Heck yes, let’s put her in charge of thirty fourteen year olds at a time, several times a day!” But, they did, and I had a great run in that small town middle school. (And I’m forever grateful that those 8th graders didn’t realize just how easy total anarchy would have been!)

I have a rather indifferent relationship with football. I play Fantasy Football with friends from Idaho, but usually am bored with the whole thing, managing my guys as loosely as possible, by halfway through the season. My initial picks center around players with awesome names and those that play for teams with the best uniforms- meaning there has never been, nor will there ever be, a Brown on my team, Playing in Stilettos.  (Although, earlier this week, I did call eternal dibs on the defense of whichever team picked Shea up during the draft. If it had been the Browns, we’d now be facing the crisis of the century.) Watching Shea get drafted #19 on Thursday was awesome! There were high fives and cheers throughout the mo-partment.  (Having been his English teacher, I would have preferred he went to the Ravens, as then I could claim a bit of Poe-influence in his football career, but I doubt he was pondering the brilliancy of “The Raven” or “The Cask of Amontillado” as he sat, waiting for that fateful call.) Shea is a great kid, humble and loyal and a hard-worker. He deserves the attention he is getting and the rewards that are coming for his years of dedication as a student and an athlete. I will proudly wear my McClellin jersey (as soon as it comes out and can be delivered to China!) in Chengdu on game days and root him on for the length of his career.

But, with Shea’s success and the sudden spotlight that has focused on our rural Idaho town, I can’t help but think of all the other great students who came out of Marsing High School over the decade that I worked in the district. There are so many students that I am proud of, whose accomplishments aren’t being splashed on the front page of newspapers or on primetime ESPN, but that are fabulous and achieving great things on their own. These awesome kids aren’t making headlines in Chicago, but they are making their families and teachers proud.

There is Jose, a young man I had in my English class for three years straight. (I had one class that I taught the year I muddled my way, painfully, through sixth graders, and then I moved with them to both seventh and eighth grade. I was their sole middle school English teacher- for better or for worse!) Jose went from a middle schooler who relied solely on his charismatic personality to get ahead in life to a fabulous young man who has worked hard to reach his dreams. (Although, I am sure he still plasters on that charming smile when he needs to get his way!) He is headed to St. Francis College in New York this fall to play basketball and finish his college degree.

Or how about Tyson, who was accepted into medical school last year? He worked his way through NNU’s undergraduate program with the support of his wonderful wife (also a former student) and two beautiful daughters and is now focused on this next phase of his education. He will be a fabulous and caring doctor- an asset to whichever community is lucky enough to have him.

And don’t forget Nicole, the artist-extraordinaire who is chasing her dreams near Seattle, Washington. Her creativity and design abilities always blew me out of the water and now she is putting those skills into action as she explores a variety of genres in the world of art and design, including a great blog about photography. (Check it out here.)

The thing is, this list could go on and on as I tell you about how proud I am of Mayra and Ethan and Taryn and Jessica and Sean and Dixie and Peyton and Rose and Brian and Kacie and Miguel and Jacob and…the list goes on!  (And don’t even get me started on the ones that are still in school. It has been a rough year, to say the least, in Marsing, but watching the kids come together and support and love each other through the tragedies of the past few months has made me as proud of them for their hearts and their compassion as I am of their brains and their academic achievements.)

Marsing has been the foundation for so many wonderful kids who are now adults (as old as that makes me feel!), out in the world following their passions, making their small sections of this planet a better place.

So, congratulations to the newest Chicago Bear- Shea McClellin. You have earned your place in the spotlight and all of Marsing is proud of you! But also, a job well done to all of the other students coming out of Marsing who are succeeding in their chosen fields, who are shooting for the stars and who are also making our little community proud as can be!

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