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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The Intimidation of Sparkles and Baubles

So, years ago, not long after we were married, when Thad and I were both teaching full time, I used to tell him I wished he had a job that meant I got to get dressed up and go to fancy parties. I love the idea of flow-y dresses, sparkly baubles and fabulous heels.  Yes, Disney and its fairy tales wheedled their collective way into my brain. Who wouldn’t want to trade chores for a glass slipper and a ride in a sparkling carriage? Who wouldn’t love a life of mirrors that told you just how fabulous you looked in the latest ball gown? I was pre-“Dinsey princess” times, where the rags to riches stories are  mass marketed in every shade of pink and purple imaginable, but I did have stacks of books featuring a variety of fairy tale princesses getting happily-ever-after endings in full formal attire.

The teaching world doesn’t provide a lot of those regal-esque opportunities. The closest I got as a middle school teacher was buying a new dress each year for the 8th Grade Recognition Night (i.e.: 8th grade graduation, but don’t even get me started on that topic!) that I planned, prepared and pulled off each year. Those dresses definitely didn’t fall into the “formal” category, being much closer to the “spring casual” one, but they were still a lot of fun. (The 8th grade girls also loved to buy new dresses for the occasion, which really was a pretty big deal for them and their families. One year I wore the same dress, luckily in a different pattern, as one of my students. I was secretly glad to know that I still had the “cool” factor, while she was probably secretly horrified to be dressed the same as her teacher!)

Years have passed. I have a collection of random dresses from each of those Recognition Nights, as well as a couple qipaos (traditional Chinese dresses) and a slew of casual summer dresses, as well as a bridesmaid dress or two. These were doing the trick…until Thad got his new job. Now, as a Foreign Service Officer, he will be expected to attend evening socializing events, as well as more formal ones such as the annual Marine Ball. I definitely don’t have anything in my closet for those!

Now that he has the job that means I need a fancy dress or two, I find myself at a loss! It sounds like I will need a formal and a cocktail dress or two. The problem is, now that I am in that position I used to envy, I don’t really know what to do with it. What exactly qualifies as a cocktail dress? Ack! I go to stores and look at dresses, get overwhelmed and leave without making any headway. This pattern has played out several times over the last few weeks, with the only real progress being the appointment I made for a few weeks from now to go look at a dress that I found online. It falls into the “formal” category, meaning the “cocktail” one is still a complete blur. Where to start?!? (My normal store choices of New York and Co., Target and Old Navy have not been a lot of help. Although, I have found some tank tops and shorts that I will need to add to my dresser before heading to Chengdu!  This is part of the problem- I am easily distracted by easier to wear items and those with price tags that are easier on my wallet. )

I find it odd (and it comes up often as I complain and he reminds me that I am just getting what I wished for) that I used to give Thad a hard time about not having a fancy-pants job, but now that he has a career with the occasional fancy outing (again, none of those in the world of education), I am tempted to shrink back into the land of jeans! I still love the idea of the dressy outing, but shopping for such apparel is a bit intimidating. Once my consular training course is over in just a couple more weeks, dress shopping is just one more thing on my growing list of things to accomplish before our quickly approaching mid-April leave date. Flow-y dresses, sparkly baubles and fabulous heels, I’m comin’ for you!

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