Sunday, September 30, 2012

a letter to my hometown church.

If you are looking for a normal goofy blog post, this is not it (fear not: the goofy posts will be back on Wednesday) . It's a serious post, which I'll only do for important occasions. This, my friends, qualifies as an important occasion: the marriage amendment is rearing its ugly head on the Minnesota ballot this November. I don't think the good people of Minnesota will let it pass, but it's important to get yourselves out there and vote NO. 

Anyway, a little background on the letter you're about to read:

For some time now, my hometown church has been discussing leaving its affiliation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) and joining the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The NALC formed a few years ago when the ELCA announced its acceptance of gay clergy: members of the ELCA who disagreed with this decision left the organization, and the NALC was born. The church council sent out a survey to all the members, asking us to check a box to stay with the ELCA or to leave the ELCA and join the NALC. Here is the letter I sent with my completed survey. 

Dear Trinity Lutheran Congregational Council:

I have received your survey as to whether or not we, as a church, should continue to be affiliated with the ELCA. As you will see from my survey answer, I believe that Trinity Lutheran should remain a part of the ELCA. However, this issue is much more complicated than a simple check mark in a box.

I am disappointed that there is even a question as to whether or not we should leave the ELCA for the NALC. The letter sent out to the congregation suggests that the ELCA has become “more of a political body than a spiritual body” while the NALC is “seen by some people to be more faithful to the Gospel than the ELCA.” The letter goes on to say that those in favor of the NALC feel that the ELCA “is not being faithful to the authority of scripture and is following social teachings rather than the Biblical witness.”

Stating that the ELCA has become more political and is following social teachings while the NALC is more faithful to the Bible is a thinly-veiled reference to the ELCA’s acceptance of gay clergy and gay individuals. The NALC, on the other hand, officially disapproves of same-sex relationships and certainly wouldn’t allow an openly gay pastor to join their ranks. In fact, it seems to me that the NALC formed predominantly because of disapproval of ELCA’s decision to allow gay individuals to serve as ministers. If you ask me, that’s a poor foundation on which to build a church.

A favorite (and flawed) argument for the NALC’s intolerance of gay individuals is that the Bible says that a man shall not lie with another man. The Bible also says that slavery is acceptable and that women may be stoned to death for adultery. Are we to believe that those statements should be accepted as truth, as well? One must also keep in mind that the Bible was not, in fact, written by God. It was written by a number of individuals with conflicting opinions who claim to have been spoken to by God. Just because someone once wrote that it’s a sin to be gay does not make it a fact. In this case, it’s some ancient judgmental writer’s opinion. “Because the Bible says so” is a terribly weak argument.

The NALC claims to follow the Bible more closely than the ELCA. Perhaps this is true, but to follow each and every rule in the Bible would be nearly impossible. Many of the rules do not affect our faithfulness: if you eat seafood or shave your beard, it does not mean that you love God any less. However, it is important to follow the rule that permeates the Bible from beginning to end: love thy neighbor. When you think about the Ten Commandments, they can be divided into two clear sections: honor God and love your neighbor. Commandments five through ten all ask that you treat others with respect: honor your parents, do not steal, kill, covet, or commit adultery. Jesus himself says that the most important commandment is to love and honor God, while the second most important commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22: 36 – 40).

Ask yourselves, as Christians: why would you want to join a group based on its willingness to exclude a group of people? To be a good Christian is NOT to make individuals feel unwelcome in church: everyone is welcome in God's house. As Christians, it is up to us to welcome with open arms anyone who wants to hear the word of God. The NALC suggests that we should reject certain people because of who they fall in love with. How very un-Christian, indeed. Our responsibility as Christians is to help spread the word of God, not limit it to a chosen few. A church is supposed to be a warm and welcoming place, not a place where certain people are more welcome than others.

I will not belong to a church that is associated with a group such as the NALC, which maintains exclusionary policies. Yes, it would be sad: I was baptized and confirmed at Trinity Lutheran, and I have been a member all my life. I have spent every Christmas at Trinity, and countless Sundays in between. But I would rather give up my membership than be a part of the NALC: an organization so willing to pass judgment on those who are gay. Matthew 7:1 says: “Judge not lest ye be judged.” No one in the church, be they NALC or ELCA, has the right to decide who is a good person and who isn’t, nor do we have the authority to say who is and isn’t welcome in church and in the eyes of God.

Finally, I must ask this: if the church does, in fact, switch to the NALC, what good would it really do? I can only speak for myself when I say that I would withdraw my membership if the church switched, but I would not be at all surprised if others did the same. Trinity Lutheran struggles with attendance every Sunday – why would the church put forth a movement that would potentially alienate members and possibly cause them to leave? I feel that there are many more important things that the church could be focusing on: issues that would bring the church together instead of drive members apart.

I do realize that this survey was intended to be confidential, but I am quite comfortable with the congregational council – as well as the entire congregation - knowing where I stand. I stand with a loving, accepting church that will take anyone – gay, straight, or otherwise – into its fold. I stand with the ELCA.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

let's talk about the blood drive.

Before I begin, I’d like to issue a disclaimer: I think giving blood is a wonderful thing to do. Many people have given gallons and gallons of blood and suffered no ill effects. While I am not one of these lucky individuals, I hope my horror stories won’t scare you away from donating. I simply feel that it’s my duty as a blog writer to share with you my mishaps over the years: aka, what didn’t kill me. Just laugh and be glad it wasn’t you.

My dad has given blood for as long as I can remember. Every year, the Arlington chapter of the National Honor Society would host a blood drive in the gymnasium, and they could always count on Dad. When I was inducted into the NHS, I wasn’t old enough to give blood (the minimum age is 17), but I was old enough to solicit past donors. (Sadly, the NHS advisor wouldn’t allow me to use my best Dracula voice and say, “The NHS vants your blooooood!” I think we would’ve gotten more donations that way.)

The following year, I was old enough to donate blood at the NHS drive. I had been there all day already: senior NHS members spent the day wearing Red Cross t-shirts and escorting donors from their gurneys to the cookie/recovery area. As a first-time donor, I had to lay flat on my gurney, and several of my friends gave me moral support: they made horrible faces when the large needle approached and took bets on how long it would take me to faint. 
I didn’t faint: I filled up my little blood bag in no time, and I felt great. My grandma Sheila 
and my dad also donated blood that day: how often do you have three generations donating blood at once?

I gave blood again that summer, shortly before I was to leave for college. Dad and I carpooled to the blood drive, and once again, it was a piece of cake. I even impressed the nurses with my ability to fill up a blood bag in under four minutes. Plus, they had the good cookies and the good juice: what’s not to love?

When I caught wind of a blood drive in Morris, my college town, I signed right up. I strode right into the blood drive, ready to be in and out like I had in years past. This time, I would have no such luck. I breezed through the screening process (having never dabbled in prostitution or heroin, their questions are no-brainers for me) and plopped down in the donation chair. My phlebotomist, as it turns out, was a newbie. The first time she tried to get the needle in my arm, a fountain of blood spurted from my arm. “Oops,” she said: the first of many that day. She tried a time or two to find the vein on her own before seeking help. Even then, the needle must’ve been slightly off: it took me about half an hour to fill up the bag, versus my normal five minutes. Plus, it HURT. During my blood-giving excursions of years past, I emerged with barely a scratch: just a tiny puncture wound where the needle had gone in. After this experience, however, I sported an impressive bruise that spanned from halfway below my elbow to halfway up my bicep. That sucker lasted for WEEKS.

Even after this less-than-pleasant experience, when Morris put on another blood drive in fall 2007, I was willing to give it another shot. I signed up at 2:15: jazz band ended at 1.50, and my next class didn’t start until 4:20, which gave me plenty of time to give blood and get some writing done for my job at the campus newspaper.

There was quite a long wait when I arrived for my appointment, and I didn’t actually get called until 3 o’clock. No problem: I still had ample time before my art history class. I finally got situated on my gurney, and I stuck out my arm: ready for action. My phlebotomist-of-the-hour approached me cheerfully and stabbed me in the arm without much ado. But then what did I hear? “Oops.” For some reason, my remarkably easy-to-find veins (according to the Arlington blood drives) had become elusive in Morris.

At the first Morris blood drive when my vein couldn’t be found, the staff had taken the needle out of my arm and re-punctured it, trying again. This time, they didn’t take the needle out of my arm: they WIGGLED IT AROUND IN MY ARM TRYING TO FIND THE VEIN THAT WAY. If that doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies, I don’t know what will. Meanwhile, I was doing my best not to pass out as the trickle of blood out of my arm grew into a stream. The needle wasn’t taped down or secured in any way, so it would slide and flop about and aid in my queasiness. After about an hour of this – yes, friends: ONE HOUR – they finally gave up on me. I was bandaged up and sent over to the recovery area, where they had sub sandwiches and orange punch.

I couldn’t stay and recover too long: after all, I had an art history class to attend! As I stood up to leave, I tried to pick up my backpack… and found that my right arm (the donor arm) would not work. I couldn’t grasp anything, and I wasn’t even able to extend my right arm. I was a pathetic sight. I dragged my sorry self over to my art history classroom to explain my situation to my professor: in a class that involved taking notes for the entire hour-and-forty-minute duration, there was no way I could accomplish anything with a non-functioning writing hand. My professor took pity on me: “Go home!”

Going home was another issue entirely. I didn’t often drive to school, but on this particular day, I had. All throughout college, I drove a little five-speed manual. The shifter, of course, is on the right: my right arm didn’t work. I’d have to reach over with my left hand to shift while driving with my knees. Luckily, I didn’t have too far to go. That evening, I was supposed to go to an on-campus event and write about it for the school paper: that, too, involved taking notes. I gamely attempted to write some feeble notes: while I had regained gripping ability, I was still not able to write legibly. Luckily, James came with me, so I was able to enlist his help. He took notes, I got my article written, and my arm was back to full power in a couple of days (but the impressively disgusting bruise, much like the last one, lingered for quite some time).

This was five years ago. When I learned about the Bloodmobile making a stop near my workplace in mid-September, I signed right up. It had been five years, after all, and it was time for me to get back on the blood-giving horse. I put myself down for a slot right after lunch, so I was sure to be well fed. I arrived for my appointment, and the screening process was just like I remembered. I settled down in my blood donor chair, and I have to admit, it was a little weird: the Bloodmobile is a glorified bus, and it stayed running the whole time, causing me to vibrate while I sat there and gave blood. It was also freezing in there. The blood pumping tube thing was draped over my arm, so my own hot blood on my cold, cold skin was a little disconcerting. No big deal, though.

I was done with the whole process in about twenty minutes. They bandaged me up and said, “Ok, you’re free to go!” This was unusual: in all my blood-giving years, I’d only ever donated with the Red Cross. When you’re done at the Red Cross, they make you sit for at least 15 minutes, during which time you must have a glass of water, a glass of juice, and some kind of snack. This was not the Red Cross, though, so they did not require you to stay. At the front of the bus, they had some snacks and pop that you could take with you, and a little bench to sit on if you chose. No one before me had stopped to recover on the benches, and I didn’t either: I felt just fine, so I took a Dr Pepper and a little packet of Oreos and went happily on my way.

The walk back to work was only about two blocks, but around half a block into my journey, I started feeling a little strange. I was suddenly very hot, and my vision had gone fuzzy. I stumbled over to a brick wall and leaned against it, totally confident that I just needed a minute to breathe and I’d be fine. The next thing I knew, I was face down on the pavement, and some guy was telling me he was going to get a nurse.

The Bloodmobile nurses arrived and dragged my limp body into the nearest building. Unfortunately, the office where they laid me out the floor had a lot of foot traffic and a large window: I got quite a few stares as I was sprawled out on the floor. All I could think in my woozy state was “Thank God I didn’t wear a skirt today.” It took almost an hour for me to even be able to sit up without too many issues, so there was no way I’d be going back to work that afternoon, but there was no way I could drive myself home, either. Thankfully, two of my coworkers arrived to scrape me off the ground and deliver me safely home. Talk about embarrassing.

Luckily for me, James was only an hour away from home. When I called him and told him about my pitiful day, he rushed back to Sioux Falls. James did a great job nursing my scraped elbow and my bruised pride: James has all the bedside manner and compassion that I so obviously lack. Next time James is sick, I’ll do my best to be nice to him. It’s against my nature, but I’ll give it a try.

Though my blood-giving experiences have been more misses than hits, I don’t think I’ll give up that easily. Next time, though, I’ll take some extra precautions: I’ll sit down and eat cookies afterwards whether they want me to or not. I’ll be sure not to wear a skirt. And it might not be a bad idea to invest in some elbow pads. It will be a while before I donate blood again (this last fiasco happened just over a week ago), but when I do, wish me luck: obviously, I’m going to need it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

let's talk about golf.

Once upon an eighth grade summer, I decided that I wanted to take golf lessons. For the life of me, I cannot remember why. I had never played a real game of golf in my life, and I wasn’t too fond of mini-golf. Maybe I just wanted an excuse to use my grandma’s plaid golf bag, or maybe I liked the idea of a guaranteed morning off from work each week. In any case, it seemed like a really good idea at the time.

The “guaranteed morning off from work” didn’t work out quite like I had planned. I worked at a little ice cream store on the lake that didn’t open until 11… and golf lessons started at 7am sharp. I found this out after the lessons had been paid for, of course. What can I say? I haven’t been an early riser since I was 7 and had to get up in time to watch the 6am Lion King cartoons on Saturdays.

This was also the summer I began taking driver’s ed classes (which is a story for another time). I wouldn’t get my learner’s permit until after those classes were finished, and I had to wait another three months beyond that to get the license that allowed me to drive without parental supervision. So I still had to rely on people to give me rides to and from golf lessons at the Lake Poinsett course. One of my neighbors was also taking golf lessons, so either her mom or my dad drove us back and forth.

 I don’t remember much about golf lessons that summer, except for one unfortunate realization: I was terrible at golf. Just God-awful. When I teed off, it would often take me three or four swings to actually hit the ball – and I always manage to completely destroy the green around my tee. When we started playing nine holes, I always had the highest score and was the last to finish. I have said for years that if my golfing score and my bowling score could be reversed, I would be a champion.

When my summer of golf lessons ended, I had no desire to ever lay eyes on a club again. I told myself that at least I had tried, and now, thanks to this experience and many embarrassing years of PE, I could officially label myself “bad at sports.”

Skip ahead to spring 2002. I was finishing up my freshman year of high school, and I was the proud holder of a restricted driver’s license. I heard in the announcements one day that spring golf was now open for sign-up. My friend Meagan knew I had taken golf lessons, so she suggested we both join the team. I vaguely recalled my ineptitude of the preceding summer, but I convinced myself that I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was and signed up for golf.

Meagan and I were on the varsity team – not because of our skill, but because of our age. Golf practice started off in the grass by the school, but it was moved to the Lake Poinsett course when one too many golf balls were (accidentally?) hit at parked cars. After a handful of practices, I realized that I really WAS as bad as I remembered, and Meagan realized that golf was not nearly as fun as it looked. Practices were two or three times a week, and Meagan and I began to do our darndest to get out of them. We always rode together, so if Meagan had leave early to water her horses, I HAD to go with her – she was my ride, after all. Same rule applied for my dentist appointments (I had braces at the time, so the appointments were all too frequent) and any other conflict we could conjure up.

Practices were one thing: golf meets were something else completely. Varsity team members were required to go to so many meets per season in order for it to count towards our A-pin. An A-pin is a lifetime pass to all the sporting events hosted in Arlington. Not too useful for someone like me, but you never know: my dad is an A-pin holder, and he said that the first time he used his card was to hear his kids play pep band. Anyway, you need a certain number of points for an A-pin, and you earned these points by participating in sports, the arts, and for making the honor roll.

Anyway, Meagan and I were required to go to a handful of meets. We had to wear collared shirts, which was a NIGHTMARE. 
We looked a lot like this.
Few South Dakota ninth-grade girls would be caught dead in a collared shirt (unless it had some kind of desirable logo, which none of mine did). We did get to leave school early on golf meet days, though, so that was a definite bonus. If our golf meets were in DeSmet, we even got to stop at Dairy Queen on the way home. One golf meet even landed on my birthday, but (much to my delight) we got rained out.

Our golf meet performance was awfully pathetic. Meagan and I made sure to golf in the same group so we could at least have fun while being terrible. And we did have fun: we bragged about how awesome we were, and we tried to see how many golf bags we could fit on one of those little two-wheeled metal cart things (we never got to use the REAL carts).

Meagan and I were usually teamed up with one or two girls from other towns. Every once in a while, we’d get someone who just joined golf to get some fresh air, and she would get along famously with Meagan and me. The vast majority of the players were usually very focused on the game and their scores, and they simply ignored Meagan and me. The worst, though, was when we’d get partnered with someone who was as bad as we were, but they THOUGHT they were good. Meagan and I were grouped with a girl from a neighboring town who was absolutely horrible. She was doing worse than Meagan and me! It was a nice change not to be the suckiest players on the green, that’s for sure. The crappy girl would hit her golf ball totally out of sight, and she’d vanish while she’d try to get it towards the hole. She wouldn’t reappear until she was putting the ball in, and she’d claim that she’d made par. Meagan and I rolled our eyes – this girl was over par before she even hit the golf ball off the tee! It’s one thing to be a bad golfer, but to be a bad golfer who is also bad at cheating? Come on.

There was one tournament, however, where Meagan and I actually came home with ribbons. I came in fifth place, and Meagan was sixth. I bet you’re thinking that we improved drastically after hard work and dedication? Not exactly. There were only six girls competing in the tournament that day. So even though we got fifth and sixth places (out of six), Meagan and I were still proud of our ribbons! I have that ribbon to this day.

Golf ended in the spring of 2002, and that’s the last time I picked up a golf club. I might be willing to give it a try again someday – I hear it’s a lot more fun now that I’m old enough to have beer on the golf course.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

adventures in Brookings: the Pizza King edition.

Welcome, friends, to the next installment of my Adventures in Brookings series. This particular article will deal with the best damn pizza I’ve ever had in my life, and it comes from a little downtown restaurant called Pizza King.
When I was growing up, we were a Pizza Hut family, thanks in no small part to Book-It. If you were in elementary school in the 90s, you are probably familiar with Book-It: a reading incentive program that rewarded you with Personal Pan pizzas. (This, of course, was before anyone was really concerned about childhood obesity.) For every so many minutes you would read aloud to your parents, you would earn a little star sticker on your classroom Book-It chart. Once you earned a certain number of stars (five, maybe?), you could cash them in for a pizza coupon. 
And you got really dorky pins.
My siblings and I were Book-It champions (I even managed to earn a little Book-It medal for reasons I wish I could remember), so our family of five ate at Pizza Hut for almost nothing.

After I outgrew Book-It (you got cut off at sixth grade), I was drawn to Pizza Hut for their buffets. Plus, they had Cinna-Sticks and stuffed crust. I blame Pizza Hut for my Fat Calla Years.

Pizza King first appeared on my radar one day when I was out to dinner with my friend Allison and her family. We were fairly young, so we had to eat wherever her parents told us we were going to eat. When Allison’s parents suggested Pizza King, I proceeded with trepidation: I had never heard of this place, and HOW could it be better than Pizza Hut and their crispy pan crusts?

I soon learned what a fool I’d been. After one bite, Pizza King’s superiority was clear. First of all, this was the first pizza I’d ever had that was cut into squares, not triangles. Secondly, they don’t put shredded mozzarella on their pizzas: they lay down thick slices of cheese, resulting in much better cheesy coverage. We had gotten a pepperoni pizza, and the pepperonis were all underneath the cheese: this means that the pepperoni won’t fall off the pizza like it is wont to do when placed on top of the cheese. Pizza King had the winning formula, and I was in pizza heaven.
James's first time at Pizza King. He wasn't convinced...
until he took a bite. He was instantly sold.
I went home that night and told my parents that I’d just discovered the best pizza in the world, and it was right under our noses in downtown Brookings. When I told them that it was Pizza King, my parents looked at each other and said, “Huh.” My parents informed me that I had NOT, in fact, “discovered” Pizza King. It had been around since they were young, but they hadn’t eaten there in many years. “Well, next time we want pizza, let’s go to Pizza King,” they declared.

And go to Pizza King they did. My parents were in the same heaven that I was when I had partaken of Pizza King for the first time. Apparently, it was much better than they had remembered, and they bemoaned all the wasted years of eating Pizza Hut instead of Pizza King.

From that point forward, we became a family of Pizza King junkies. We even had Pizza King for Easter dinner one year. Our love for Pizza King grew when we found out that they would let us take and bake: we lived half an hour out of Brookings, and it was difficult to keep a pizza hot for the duration of the ride home. Mom asked Pizza King if they’d bake our pizzas halfway and give us instructions to bake it the rest of the way at home, and they happily obliged. We usually didn’t have leftovers from our take and bake Pizza King pizzas, but when we did, they were fought over.

Whenever I was home on a break from college, Pizza King was always on my to-do list. My sister, who lives in Arizona, is experiencing the same kind of Pizza King withdrawal that I did. She was home in January, and we had taken Dad’s brand new pickup to Brookings. This pickup is his new favorite thing: we were even a little nervous to breathe on it wrong. We picked up Pizza King to take home, and I got to drive the beast of a pickup home. (Side note: IT WAS AWESOME.) Mom was in the front seat, and we were happily driving along. Suddenly, Mom looked in the back seat: “TIM! Are you EATING THE PIZZA?!” Dad had opened up a box of pizza and was snacking away. “That is SO TACKY!” she said incredulously. Dad’s response:  “Well, I can share!” He passed out little squares to all of us, and even Mom had to break down and eat a piece or two. Apparently, no one can resist the smell of freshly baked Pizza King. We were also amazed that Dad was condoning eating – and eating pizza, no less! – in his shiny new pickup: turns out that Pizza King is always the exception to the rule.
After my grandma's 80th birthday party, we all
loaded up and went to Pizza King.
Now that I live in Sioux Falls, it’s a lot easier to make regular visits to my two favorite Brookings eateries: Nick’s and Pizza King. I even spent part of the last night of my 24th year (aka the day before my birthday) having Pizza King with my parents and James.

Next time you’re in downtown Brookings, I would highly recommend stopping at Pizza King for a bite. If you’ve never been there, just stick your head in the door: the smell is intoxicating, and you’ll have a hard time walking away. You’ll even get to see them tossing their pizza dough in the front window.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

let's talk about my condemned school.

There was nothing unusual about August 2002. I was about to be a sophomore in high school, and my friends and I were dreading the imminent beginning of the school year. Little did we know that the usual back-to-school rigmarole was about to get a lot more interesting.

Arlington High School was divided into two sections: the old section and the new section. The old section was built in the 1920s and contained the high school, a small gym, and some offices. The new section was added on in the 1970s and housed the elementary school, a larger gym, the cafeteria, and a few more offices. That August, news came through the grapevine that the roof over the old gym couldn’t withstand another winter: an inspector had been through and had determined that if the roof held another pile of snow like it had in winters past, it could very well collapse.

The news of our gym roof was exciting: to think we had been THIS CLOSE to disaster! The closure of the old gym wasn’t going to disrupt much of anything: we only used it for PE and the occasional indoor recess. No big deal.

The precarious state of the gym roof must’ve gotten school officials thinking: if that roof was failing, how was the rest of the 1920s building holding up? Another inspector came through and recognized that the entire older portion of the school was in poor condition. The mortar had all but turned to sand, the wood was rotting, and the rest of the roofing was also on the verge of collapse. The entire high school was immediately condemned. Now, things had gotten really interesting.

This news broke within two weeks of the first day of school. My friends and I speculated wildly: would they postpone the beginning of school? Would we have to attend school in a neighboring town? What was going to happen?

Our hopes for a delayed start date went unrealized. The school board acted fast and arranged for classes to be held in the Lutheran and Catholic churches. The school and both churches sat on Main Street: the Catholic church was just kitty-corner across the street, and the Lutheran church was a couple of blocks away. The arrangement was temporary: the school was awaiting the arrival of some little government houses to sit in the parking lot and become makeshift classrooms.

The condemned school was pasted with signs labeling it as such, and barbed wire fences were strung up around it. It looked eerily like a prison, and my friends and I began referring to it as "the Big House."

One of the major downfalls of the condemned high school was that all of our lockers were condemned with it. Some of our teachers would let us keep our books in their classrooms, but this wasn’t always an option. So we all bought extra-large, extra-sturdy bookbags and spent plenty of time whining about how heavy they were.

Two of my classes were in the churches (English in the Lutheran church and geometry in the Catholic church), and the rest were scattered about in nooks and crannies in the new portion of the school. I wasn’t too sure that I would enjoy schlepping all my books from school to church to school to church to school (I had a class at the school in between my two classes at the churches), but I ended up really enjoying it. We got more time in between classes to make the journey, and it was nice to get some fresh air in the afternoons.

The government houses arrived in mid-October, so our days of strolling to the churches for class were over. We had four of these little houses, and each house was divided in half to house two classes. We still had no lockers, but now it was a much shorter distance to haul our bookbags. There was still plenty of whining, though, especially when it began to snow.

Our classes were in the government houses from October 2002 until May 2004. Being school-less really wasn’t as tough as we thought it was going to be. We’d have to get creative on occasion (like prom in the band room and study halls in the cafeteria), but on the whole, life went on as usual. The new school was supposed to be ready in time for the beginning of the 2004 – 2005 school year, which would make my class the first to graduate from the new high school.

Sure enough, when my senior year began, the new high school was ready to go. It was set up a lot like the old school, except a lot brighter and without a second floor. We had to get used to using lockers again (I was never good at combination locks, and now I was two years out of practice), and it was really quite nice not to have to drag your coat with you from class to class.

Everyone was excited about this brand new school of ours, so a big open house was scheduled. The National Honor Society was tasked with leading tour groups. I was an NHS member, so I led a handful of tours… but mine was TOTALLY on the news. It was a short clip of me wearing an Arlington Cardinals shirt (for that was the tour guide uniform) and saying something about the math room. Our math teacher was Mr Kones, so I had said something like, “This is the algebra classroom, but we call it the Kone Zone.” The news clip cut me off before “Kone Zone,” which was a pity.

After all the excitement wore off and the hullabaloo died down, it was business as usual at Arlington High. Papers still had to be written, and pep band still had to be played. I had a blast that year in high school: maybe it was the new school, maybe it was all the goofy things I did (think Saturday Night Live: The Play), or maybe (definitely) it was knowing that I was about to go on to bigger and better things. Either way, my class was the first to graduate from the new high school, and that just doesn’t happen every day.