Monthly Archives: June 2014

No apples for these teachers. Except maybe just this once.

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Today should have been our last day of school. But since we apparently live in Narnia, we’re making up snow days until NEXT TUESDAY. I ran into a friend at Target last night, and we are torn. We just want school over already. But we’re also not ready to entertain and chauffeur kids to summer activities. It’s such a mixed bag. Summer is great, but it’s a lot of work.

One of my favorite things about the end of the year (besides the lack of homework), is end of the year teacher gifts. We don’t get Pinteresty. I just like to ask the girls what they think their teacher would like, because I want them to give something they’re excited about, now that they’re old enough to get it. And I love, love, love seeing what they’ve picked up on over the year. Mr. B drank a Red Bull every afternoon and is a healthy eater so he should NOT get candy (he admits Red Bull is his vice). Maybe a package of almonds! Miss S. liked the bottled Starbucks Frappuccinos. Ella was able to recognize the bottle so we could get the right kind.

When I asked this year, Natalie answered in a nanosecond, “Pens! Mr. L needs pens. His are always breaking.” So, off we went to Sam’s Club to buy some pens. She was very particular about them, and chose so carefully. I only wish I could let Mr. L know what love went into choosing a pack of pens. “He uses black, blue, and red pens. So the pack should have all of those colors.” She wanted to make sure they were good pens. We found a pack that also threw in a couple purple and green. She wasn’t so sure. Would he use those colors if he had them? Should we stick to a pack that had only the colors he uses? We spent a lot of time in the office supply aisle. Then we had enough leftover to get a smaller gift card. Where did she think he would like one for? He likes to fish. It should be something with fishing. Gander Mountain? No, because that’s what we got him for Christmas. He also works in a bait shop! Could we get him one for a bait shop?? Well, if he works in a bait shop, he probably doesn’t want/need one for a bait shop. We settled on Menards because he just bought a house and is getting married this summer. Surely he will need something from Menards. “Is there even anything you can BUY at Menards for only $10??” Oh, honey. No one spends just $10 at Menards. He will buy a whole bunch of things, and he will get to spend $10 less than he would have in the first place. She also wanted to bring him an apple. I’m on a strict, no-apples-or-apple-themed-items-for-teachers mode of operation, but she says he eats an apple every day and would appreciate an apple. I may cave.

Ella didn’t know where the gift card should be for, but she needed Dove chocolate to go with it. Had to be Dove. Could we pick up a Starbucks drink for her? If we knew what she drank, yes. Ella has not yet been exposed to the Starbucks situation. She knows that I go, but she doesn’t understand that there are roughly a zillion options, and we need a lot of details. Ella just knows Mrs. F drinks coffee every day in a white tumbler with a white lid and pink foam grip. I had to explain that she is likely drinking teacher’s lounge or home coffee in that tumbler, and that means nothing in terms of a Starbucks drink. I may give in and just ask her what we can bring her. I was lucky enough to meet someone through work this year that is a good friend of hers, and she was able to confirm that a Target gift card was an excellent choice.

They also couldn’t wait til the last day to give their gifts. I guess since this was supposed to be the last day, it’s close enough. I just wish I could relay to Mr. L that these pens were a Big Stinking Deal, and not at all a random gift. But from what I know of him, and the fact that he’s gotten to know Natalie all year, I think he’ll get it. Whatever we give, it’s never enough. We have been so blessed with amazing teachers yet again this year. They are delightful people, great teachers, and they really seem to know and like our kids.

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Mr. Paulson

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I knew Lee Paulson ever since I was a baby. Story goes, my mom handed me off to him at church or somewhere when I was a newborn, and I ended up peeing all over him. He was an English teacher forever, and the drama director of everything our town ever saw. By the time I reached high school, he had retired from teaching, but he couldn’t quite let drama go. Or they wouldn’t let him. I’m not sure. Maybe both?

I remember after the new high school was built, he came and found 8th grade me in the lunch room. Could I help him out organizing the new costume rooms? One simply did not say “no” to Mr. Paulson. A little because he was so insistent and convincing, and a maybe little tiny bit out of fear. You see, Mr. Paulson liked to yell if the need arose. I’d always known him, so my level of fear was pretty small (which might just say that I knew to shut up and do what he wanted the first time). In any case, I said I could maybe help for a bit. Which is how I ended up backstage for the next five years.

It was fascinating to watch the man work. He was not a spring chicken. But I swear he had more energy and drive than all of us teenagers put together. He had a passion for theatre that I will probably never see again. And boy could he yell. Of course I know now that he yelled to get your attention. He yelled because he knew you could do better and try harder. He yelled because he expected and demanded your best. And when he got it? Oh my goodness. The feeling of seeing him proud was amazing.

I dragged my friend Trish in, and we lived backstage for those five years. Late, late nights. Weekends. Operating power tools with zero supervision. With the keys to anywhere in the school, which he handed to us so he wouldn’t misplace them. Whatever needed to be done. All the shows blend into one in my memory now. But I have so many memories.

I don’t remember which show it was, but I remember him mid-tirade walking backwards right off the stage. He fell to the floor. And then he popped right back up and finished yelling. He must have been around 70. Scared us all to death. But I think he hoped he scared us into what he was asking for in the first place.

One day Trish and I were building sets on our own, and Mr. Paulson offered to get us some lunch. He ran into town to Subway and brought us footlong subs, chips, cookies, and drinks. That seemed a little excessive. But he must have known something I didn’t, because I think I ate the whole blasted thing. 

He knew I loved James Dean and Natalie Wood. One year, we did Rebel Without a Cause. I was able to help with the window displays from my personal collection of James Dean paraphernalia, including a life-size cardboard cutout and several posters. He brought one of his own, which I was deeply in love with – all purples and blues with black and white James Dean in the center. Later, he gave it to me.

When I was a sophomore, all I wanted in the whole world was to not be in high school anymore. I did everything I needed to do so I could do post-secondary and take college classes my last two years. I took the ACT a year early, I went on my college visit – I got all my post-secondary ducks in a row. “You’ll miss out on high school!” people said. “Great!” I said. I will never ever forget when I went to tell Mr. Paulson about it. We were standing right in the middle of the auditorium. “Well, you’ll miss out on high school, and that might be what you want, but you’ll also miss out on the college experience.” I thought about that long and hard. If fitting in was what I wanted, I certainly wasn’t going to fit in at college as a 16 year old. Living 30 minutes away. Being at least two years younger than everyone else. Still technically in high school. I decided not to go. I will be forever grateful for that perspective when I needed it, because it ended up being the best decision for me.

Later, when I got married, he was there. Our wedding was family and close friends – only 76 people. But you’d better believe he was one of them, and I’m not sure which category he fell into – family or friend. Not that I would have ever considered calling him “Lee.” I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded, but there are just some people in life that you can’t call by their first name.

Mr. Paulson passed away on Saturday. He was 89. The loss for my hometown is incredible. If ever there was someone worthy of “legend” status, I’d say it’s him. But I’m even having trouble with the idea that the world no longer has him in it. I spend my days quietly going about my business. I can’t imagine he ever did a thing he wasn’t passionate about. He had a passion for teaching. A passion for directing. A passion for politics. A passion for his church. A passion for reading. A passion for empowering youth to reach their potential.

Every once and a while I think of something he said or did, and I’m still learning from him. I am so grateful. And looking forward to the day I can see him and say thank you again. I hope I can infuse a fraction of his passion for life into mine.