|Pastel Art of James Southworth|
By Jean Southworth
When Zach runs his 100m sprints, I'm always amazed how he pushes himself just before the finish line. Somehow when you're almost near the end, you can give it that last little burst of energy that you weren't even sure you possessed. Maybe it's because you know that rest is soon to follow. Well, I've been sprinting these past few days of the school year.
My greatest challenge came on Wednesday night, when Salem/Keizer school district's Volunteer Coordinator, Pat Abeene, asked me to testify at a School Board meeting. Seems her job is on once again on the cutting blocks at budget time. Pat's been extremely helpful to me in starting our Mentor Program at Salem Heights, even giving up a Sunday morning and several evenings to give recruitment speeches I'd arranged. I've dragged her around to all sorts of business groups and churches in our area. So when she asked me for my help, I couldn't say "no". Problem was, my public speaking is limited to Sunday school kids and 4th grade classrooms.
In preparation for my three minute School Board testimony, I practiced and timed my speech, and curled my hair. I selected a particularly cute Melanie hand-me-up outfit of top, black cardigan and pinstripe pants that were perfect except for an area in the back seat seam I'd had to stitch up some weeks ago. I'd imagined a table of perhaps eight school officials with a small audience of maybe 20, and me on the opposing wall at the microphone. And of course, I'd be less scared since I'd know nobody there. I'd made a serious underestimation.
The room was huge and it was fully packed. Standing room only. Little did I know that soccer was also up for cuts, and soccer moms live up to their reputation. Soccer moms were everywhere, including cousin Jeanne and several friends, which brought the crowd numbers up to around 300. The board members had not one, but eight long tables and they included local government officials. Worst of all, the podium was up front and 90% of the people there would be staring at my back, at my pants, AT MY PANTS INSEAM.
My pants had been fine for weeks, but I knew that there had to be a ripage outbreak, and it was too hot with all those soccer fans to wear the cardigan. Now there are some things in life which you can only ask a relative to do, and that's why I asked my cousin Jeanne to please check out my bottom when I stood before my speech. The soccer fans would not be getting a glimpse of my underwear after all. Now I was prepared for my speech (OK, I was over prepared) but my voice started cracking like crazy. My whole time up there was surreal, with all those officials staring at my face, with all those soccer fans staring at my hair (OK, my hair looked good that night) and my voice broke up more and more as my three minutes ticked away.
Fortunately, my speech content was quite emotional and the voice unintentionally matched that. I think I sounded more passionate than terrified. In reality, I was both. Friends later told me I sounded as if I were about to cry, Pat was pleased and I was greatly relieved to have the school board behind me, as well as intact pants behind me.
My second challenge of the week came in the form of camping with our Girl Scout troop. I've been an assistant leader for several years and somehow managed to avoid any actual camping, but this was the last hurrah, you know-- Annie's last year at Salem Heights and our last year as a troop. As a child I despised Girl Scouts and as an adult I hated camping and here I was going on a Girl Scout camping trip.
I'd told people I was not much of a camper then decided I was not a camper, period; my last time out was when I was pregnant with Zach. Zach is now 13 years old. So we trudged out in the rain and mud to our Yurts at Champoeg State Park. Well, Yurts are cool and the rain even stopped the next morning. Once you knew where the swamps and muck were located, you even stood a chance of making it to restrooms in the next county. Actually, I knew that this was no true camping experience as I didn't have to help pack gear and arrange the food. Colleen took to that. I think she was amazed I was going and didn't want to overtax me. All I had to do was plan the Mom's Skit. (Several other moms came along who hadn't even felt coerced, to my amazement.)
My Young Life days came in handy as I taught the moms an old skit involving the na-na-na-na song by Cream ("I've been waiting so long, to see where I'm going, in the sunshine of your loooovve.") and a psychiatrist's office. As part of the skit, we moms had to participate in all sorts of obnoxious behavior including twitching, nose picking and spastic dancing. Of course, the girls loved it. Unfortunately we forgot that the girls had cameras with them which they used liberally. Now I'm wondering if these pictures will show up in the Salem Heights newsletter or something.
By the end of the second day, I sat in my lawn chair, a summer novel in my lap, listening to my Marc Cohn C.D. on headphones and glancing over camping brochures we'd picked up on our long walk that morning. One mom saw me and decided I was planning my next camping trip. Well, maybe at the end of another of life's races, like Zach's graduation. From college.