The View From Here

IMG_0558It’s the Friday after Thanksgiving and I am avoiding stores. Shopping is stressful enough, and as a perpetually overstimulated introvert, I savor a day to recharge at home. It’s morning and still dark. I have the little white twinkle lights on because they make me smile and think of the millions of the same twinkle lights in the trees along Michigan Avenue. Living in an apartment again – and love it. The kitchen is perfect. The layout feels spacious. Possessions have been trimmed to the favorites. It’s quiet and peaceful here. As I look around, every item has a story. Drinking my Starbucks Morning Joe coffee, comfy in my favorite chair, I’m thankful for all I have and for everything, and everyone that have brought me to this place.

The rest of my day will be planning the next three weeks of classes until Christmas Break. I am teaching U.S History and World History high school classes this semester for a dear friend who had back surgery. (I told him it’s a good thing he teaches history because if he taught algebra, he’d be on his own!) It is a challenge that is taking almost all my waking hours and all my brain capacity. It is good. It is good to be challenged and learning everyday. Every night I’m up working until I stumble – really, stumble into bed. Every morning I’m up before my alarm goes off at 5am, ready for another day.

The one where I try to sum up my 2013

This was the year I regained my senses (at least sight and hearing), became a Catholic, and reconnected with high school classmates that I have not seen in 39 years.

That about sums it up.

The forbidden Wild Cheetos tree, the fruit of which, inspires Steelcase designers

The forbidden Wild Cheetos tree, the fruit of which, inspires Steelcase designers

Ok, if you insist, here are some details. First, the senses thing. The world had very quickly become dark and blurry in 2012. I went to see my new eye doctor (a BCHS grad) and had cataract surgery on both eyes before February. What an amazing procedure – but, I hate to think about the first person who had it, “You’re doing WHAT to my eyeball?”  I also developed some hearing problems that I didn’t take care of right away because I kinda liked having the world be not so loud. But, fixed that in the last couple weeks. I realized that I am more distracted by sounds than sights – hence, the beagle running through the house is OK, but his barking/howling bothers me.

 

Beagles, as a species, would be extinct if they weren't so cute.

Beagles, as a species, would be extinct if they weren’t so cute.

Second, it took a year for me to become an official Catholic, and I have so much more to learn. I love the Mass and have found comfort and power in the Rosary. I have met amazing people on my journey – Father Mel, Rhonda, Dan and Betty, Gene, and my sponsor, Linda (a BCHS classmate). I find that I love Ordinary Time. Perhaps I’m getting old, but I also appreciate vanilla ice cream, plain bagels with plain cream cheese, black coffee, plain chicken and rice, unflavored potato chips, simple dark chocolate. Ordinary – no frills.

And……I'm in!

And……I’m in!

Now, when I’m asked about my time on staff at an Evangelical megachurch, I can respond, “Well, I’m Catholic now,” and leave it at that. (It was the staff retreats at St. Mary’s Seminary that got me started if you want to know, not the shaming or the pressure to reinvent Christianity every week.)

Third, in a project that went way beyond what I had imagined, I started hunting down and meeting with members of my high school graduating class. I thought, with our 40th reunion looming, and with my returning from Chicago after several decades, what a great excuse to reconnect. Not everyone is on Facebook and not everyone has email.

It's good to have friends/classmates in high places.

It’s good to have friends/classmates in high places.

I found and talked to about 35 so far, out of a class of 109 graduates. We’ve had two small get-togethers and I started a newsletter. I’ve also been so impressed with the changes in my little hometown that I’ve been researching and writing about it (see my blog at www.cynthiahoppe.com).

The summer went by way too fast and I got too few walks on my beach.

Not my beach. Saugatuck, where we go when being around people is OK.

Not my beach. Saugatuck, where we go when being around people is OK.

I am discovering other county parks in the area (thanks to Bob, a BCHS classmate). And stay tuned (for those of you who know me at all, you better sit down) – as I start as a substitute teacher (there is, of course, a story). Yeah, just gonna drop that one there and wish you all a great 2014.

 

Mighty Fine Arts

When I was in high school, if the marching band could play “Rock Around the Clock” and not bump into each other – it was a good day. As the assistant director of the school play my junior and senior year (there was only one play a year) we had to do “something funny” or no one (parents, community) would come. Forget anything involving singing, dancing, crying, etc. I should not complain. If we didn’t put on “Harvey” my senior year, I wouldn’t have met my husband, I don’t think a teen crush on the asst. director could have prompted him to try out for, say, “Oklahoma”.

Jazz Drummer Ali Jackson working with BCHS students. Photo: Marc Townley

Jazz Drummer Ali Jackson working with BCHS students. Photo: Marc Townley

 

Recently, I went to Byron Center High School’s “Artastic”, billed as “A Holiday Celebration of the Arts in our School!” Let me toss out some statistics gleaned from the program. First – it was well over two hours of amazing art: singing, musicians in groups and solos, and videos. There were two acts; the first had 20 performance pieces and the second had 21. While there was overlap, here are the number of members in the performing groups:
BCHS Orchestra – 42
BCHS Wind Ensemble – 71
BCHS Jazz Lab – 27
BCHS Symphonic Band – 80
BCHS Jazz Band – 18
BCHS Jazz Orchestra – 24
Women’s Chorus – 27
Concert Choir – 36
Vocal Expressions -22
Advanced Jazz Combo – 5
Sixteen Strings – 4
BCHS String Quartet – 4
Brass Quintet – 6
BCHS Theatre – 4
BCHS Audio/Visual – 6

That’s 376 positions – probably over 300 kids! In 1974 terms – everyone in the sophomore, junior, and senior classes. Then there was no “jazz”, there were no strings, there was certainly no “theatre”. We had a “play” and had a small marching band that occasionally performed sitting on folding chairs in the gymnasium.

One thing that struck me about these kids was how well they performed as a group, especially in formation or in unison. In the 70s, we were all individuals and we were like trying to herd the proverbial cats – we did nothing in unison. Being good at anything other than sports was scorned – it wasn’t cool. These kids I saw at Artastic had great technical skills, and also the very important life skills of being a team, supporting each other, acknowledging a solo performance, time management, and the discipline of daily practice. When there was a solo or another group performing, the others on stage where quiet and focused on the performers. I saw no fidgeting – and I was looking for it because it was remarkable for its absence. I wonder if it’s too late for me to learn.

My October – in brief.

It’s November 1st, and grey and rainy. Where did October go?

It started with a great birthday/reunion on October 4th.

Me and our teacher - now State Rep. Hooker.

Me and our teacher – now State Rep. Hooker.

Had some great sunrises.

One of the many beautiful sunrises this month.

One of the many beautiful sunrises this month.

Got distracted by this dog several thousand times.

Don't be fooled by the cute face! He has a never-ending need for walks, treats, and belly-rubs.

Don’t be fooled by the cute face! He has a never-ending need for walks, treats, and belly-rubs.

Spent way more time on a piece for Byron Center Life than I planned. But, learned a lot.

BCHS Marching Band and Color Guard

BCHS Marching Band and Color Guard

A regular practice.

A regular practice.

Made a last minute visit to Florida to help my stepmother.

My bedroom at Casa Ginny - 15 stories above the ocean.

My bedroom at Casa Ginny – 15 stories above the ocean.

The pool I never got to use.

The pool I never got to use.

Atlantic sunrise.

Atlantic sunrise.

Got to see my brother.

My 6'5" baby brother.

My 6’5″ baby brother.

The 1965 Corvair that took me to the airport.

The 1965 Corvair that took me to the airport.

And now am preparing to officially become Catholic tomorrow.

Cathedral of Saint Andrew window.

Cathedral of Saint Andrew window.

It was a good October.

 

I remember it bigger.

Another visit to a building from my past. After attending Deb Sportel’s gallery showing, I stopped by my old elementary school. Blain was one of the “feeder” schools that were built in the early 60’s to accommodate baby boomers.

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There were several around the district and they had four rooms – one for each grade – first through fourth. Blain was pretty much on the other side of some hills that made up the acreage of our backyard. If there could have been a path cleared through woods and prairie, I could have walked to school instead of being the first one picked up by the bus and the last one dropped off (not that I’m bitter). Deb (Maier) Sportel was my best friend in grade school at Blain. I would go over to her house and we would put on musical shows in the barn.
Blain has been abandoned for several years. The playground area is overgrown and all the swings, monkey bars, and huge pieces of concrete pipe that we used for “safe” when playing tag – those are all gone.

 

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A new elementary school was built a couple miles away and has more than four rooms in it. It’s used by the kids and grandkids of my classmates at Blain and the many other people that have built the big new homes in the area that used to be farms and fields.

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Classmates Project Update

As a person who has squandered many braincells learning (or not so much) DOS, MS-DOS, Windows, WordPerfect, Compuserv, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Pages, Keynote, Outlook, gmail, yahoo, WordPress, Palm Pilot, Final Draft, Scrivener, HTML, Movie Magic, my iPod, Evernote, various company specific software/lookups/cash register programs – and I won’t even get into cell phones, smartphones, iPhones, and all the required apps – I’m distressed by the number of my high school classmates that “don’t do the computer or email stuff.” I don’t know how you managed to do that and I envy the stress you avoided and the time you saved by not having to click on cute puppy videos.

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I planned to interview until August 15, being certain that I could hunt down 40 or 50 of my classmates. I got 21. There are, possibly, a couple more I could get. Took pages of notes. Had lots of pleasant surprises and a lot of fun. Working now on compiling my findings. Don’t know if there is a full-fledged reunion in our future but there may be some smaller events.

Blueberries and Book Booths

Yes, again, it was all about the blueberries – The Blueberry Festival in South Haven, MI. We drove 45 minutes to get the South Haven, spent another 45 minutes finding parking and walking from parking. Really crowded – just wanted blueberries and a pie. There was a sea of all things crafty – jewelry, baked goods, doll clothes, things that you didn’t even know could be made out of other things.

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I was overwhelmed by the masses of people, so I didn’t get too close to the vendors. But, I noticed something I had not ever seen before – authors with their own booths.

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Two authors had written books set in Michigan and were there to sell books and greet their fans. So, for any of you looking for a good novel and want to support a Michigan author, here are the links to their websites: David B. Burch and Chris Zimmerman.
I am currently reading a book set in Michigan recommended by one of my high school classmates that I recently interviewed, Starvation Lake, by Bryan Gruley. It’s a mystery set in Northern Michigan and I’m learning about hockey and small town newspapers as I get pulled into the story.

Hey – it’s August – go sit outside with some Michigan wine and a blueberry scone and read a book.