My First High School Prom ever!

High School Prom.  59 years old and I’m finally able to scratch attending a prom off the list.

Raising my children has made for a lifetime of do-overs.

The closest I came to attending a high school dance in my teens was stepping just inside the entrance doors. A younger brother asked me to go with him. Earlier, he had stashed a bottle of peppermint schnapps. I had never tasted anything so good. I told him that I’d wait for him outside the high school doors.

The best part of this prom night was before the dance at a friend’s house where the girls were having their hair done.

“Well, since you’re going to be there tonight,” one of the moms said to me, “you can take pictures.”

With excitement in her voice, a teen spoke up, “You’re going to be there? Yeah!” Another girl quickly chimed in her delight.

My date.

This surprised and pleased me. As a Police Reserve Officer, I attended all of Juan and Crystel’s middle school dances, even when they didn’t go. I thoroughly enjoyed joshing with their friends. It warmed me that I continued to be welcomed.

Up until now my involvement with this high school prom was as an observer. I witnessed the teens’ enthusiasm and angst over what they were going to wear, who they were going to go with, and what they were going to do before and after the dance. I didn’t say a word. I watched. I asked questions. I raised my eyebrows.

I arrived at the dance fifteen minutes before it opened. This time I had no peppermint schnapps or alcohol of any kind. I walked through the front door, past the registration table.

A scattering of students were milling about. This was not like the middle school dances where students packed themselves at the entrance doors impatient to get in. Tonight, there was a deliberateness in the air. Like you had to time your entrance, not be too early, not appear too eager and definitely, not appear too much like middle school.

When my date arrived, we had our picture taken under the balloon rainbow. For us there wasn’t any angst about what to wear or how our hair was done. Once the doors opened it was our job to observe and escort students who returned to their car to change into shoes that didn’t hurt. A few times my date and I circled the dance. On one of those rounds a student was being crowdsurfed.

Crystel and Juan Jose’

Later, Crystel and her group of friends walked over to where I was sitting. I was near the exit, informing students that were leaving they wouldn’t be allowed back in to the dance. I leaned into the group and whispered, “Seems to me, it was more fun before the dance than the actual dance itself.” They expressed the same opinion. Picking outfits, getting hair done, pictures, and dinner at a friend’s house was more entertaining. They soon left for a sleepover.

For me, there would be no waking up the next morning with hives from poisoning myself with peppermint schnapps and I could scratch my first prom dance off my bucket list.

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What Makes For A Strong Family?

Richfield Dual Language School fiesta. Playing games on McGruff.

Richfield Dual Language School fiesta. Playing games on McGruff.

I think about this a lot since my children will be starting middle school next year. Middle school means 900 students in three grades compared to 400 students in five grades at Richfield Dual Language School.

Middle school means dances, parties, old and new friends.

Middle school means more access to social media.

Middle school means I’m just outside of my parent’s reach.

Guatemala

Guatemala

Or, does it?

A strong family is in my mind because I want my children in my circle of influence. I don’t want them to make choices that have no do-over.

So, how to keep them close?

A lot of people believe that eating dinner together every evening or even several times a week is vital. That isn’t going to happen in our family. Jody and I often don’t eat dinner in the evening, although we make sure our children and their friends are well fed.

One constant in our life is putting the kids to bed. We take turns with them, as we have since they were infants. This of course, will become less practical as they get older.

I don’t want Antonio and Crystel to be lost in middle and high school like I was. I want them to be able to ask me for help without rebuke and even to bring their friends’ concerns to me if need be. I want to be accessible.

Boundary Waters

Boundary Waters

To this end, I’ve done a good job, even though at every school conference this year Jody and I’ve been surprised. The children take turns with who is having ‘issues.’I tell my kids that they couldn’t ever do anything worse than I did in school and that is the truth. The difference is the world is a much more dangerous place and a lot less forgiving than it was 44 years ago.

Tae Kwon Do

Tae Kwon Do

Having a strong family means having strong relationships within the family. It’s very important to me that Antonio and Crystel are friends. Sometimes, I still remind them that we adopted them together so they would always have each other.

Mondays have become our family Tae Kwon Do day. It is our sit down dinner. Antonio, Crystel, Jody and I are black belts. We have had many meals together the last several years. Our testing day is a banquet.

Once in a while we have game night, and when Amazing Race is on television, we all gather around imagining Mama Beth and Mama Jody as contenders.

Loft Mentor Series

Loft Mentor Series

Out of all that we do, I think it is our adventures that keep us strong. Doing new and different activities or eating meals in new restaurants. Since I won the Loft Mentor Series, we’ve been attending the readings as a family and eating out at a new restaurant prior to the reading.

And then there are our more adventurous trips which go a long ways toward bonding us as a family—camping in the Boundary Waters, visiting Guatemala, taking a train to Chicago, Mexico, driving to Arkansas, Florida, and cross country skiing in Wisconsin.

Mexico

Mexico

Sharing the above with family and friends also tightens the bond.

A strong family can mean many things. Tonight a strong family means no electronics and no friends over until all MIS (missing homework) on a fifth grader’s conference report are replaced with a grade.

High School Reunion: Go or No? and Something Amazing But Good

When the notice of my 40th high school reunion arrived, my immediate reaction was, “This can’t possibly be right. I’m not THAT old.” But a little quick math (2012 – 1972 = 40 ?!?) told me it was true.

yeah, I’m afraid I really did have octagonal glasses . . .

And quick on the heels of that thought was, “Even if am that old, I have no wish to live in the past.”

But then I had a voicemail from the former class president—a really nice guy—somebody I’d always gotten along with. We weren’t that close, but I sensed we both yearned for something more out of life. I don’t know what he hoped for—but we recognized that in each other.

So that made me curious. As I recall, he was a runner and a good writer. What had he done with his life? That led to wondering about a few other people, and the Go/No Go debate was on.

I can think of a million reasons NOT to go. Here are four—

1. The reunion is in Ohio. I live in Minnesota.

2. I haven’t thought about high school or most of those people in years—why start now?

3. I have no desire to network with the insurance sales people or financial advisors in the group.

4. I don’t want to be squashed back into the shy insecure persona I had years ago just so I fit somebody’s memory of me.

And yet.

1. When I went to my 20th reunion, it was fun.

2. People seemed to remember my essential self—my best qualities—not how dorky I was.

3. They were kind. And genuinely pleased to see me . . . despite the prank I played with my profile in the memory book (The idea of bragging was distasteful to me, so I decided to be as outrageous as possible. I claimed to have won the Nobel Peace prize, to have married a rocket scientist, and to be raising two child prodigies. I assumed that description was so over-the-top that everyone would know I was joking. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, so then I felt bad for mocking the profiles).

4. Certainly, after 40 years, we’ve all gotten over high school. No one cares any more about who was cool and who wasn’t. Now we’re all old (and therefore uncool).

Gawd, I sure hope we no longer have to prove anything to each other. Many of us wanted to be somebody, do something, make a mark. Did we? I don’t know, but I hope my classmates are at peace with whatever success (or lack of) they have.

Maybe I prefer to imagine that members of the class of 1972 at Central Catholic High School are content with their lives. I’m not sure I want to find out if some of them are still insecure and wearing their accomplishments like merit badges . . . .

After forty years, my classmates feel as I do: fond of some genuinely nice people I used to know.

What do you think—Should I go?  Or not?  Let me know!

If your 40th reunion is looming out there in the future, will you go?

Amazing But Good

Today, the Star Tribune reported, “Minnesota’s biggest Boy Scout group said that gays and lesbians remain welcome in its troops.” I applaud the Northern Star Council, which represents 75,000 Boy Scouts in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, for their inclusive stance—a position that bucks the national Boy Scouts of America policy banning openly homosexual people from participating in the Boy Scouts. See my June 21st blog, “A Parental Dilemma” for more on this topic.