Archive for September, 2016

Project 52 – 15 and Fabulous!

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

It’s time for Project 52, Week 15!


15 weeks ago, on my 52nd Birthday, I decided to start Project 52 — For 52 weeks, I’m going to reflect each week on one week of my life.

This week, I’m looking at the year I was 15 and in 11th grade — June 14, 1979, to June 14, 1980.

My sister Becky came to visit me last weekend (I mean this weekend, during my 53rd year.), and it reminded me that Becky was a huge part of my life growing up — pretty much until I moved away from California. This was a good thing, but it also always felt good to do my own things. In a big family, it’s very easy to feel overshadowed, and I think I enjoy doing independent things on my own more than most — in part as a reaction to that.

But the summer after I turned 15, I started on something that Becky was not doing — Summer Servants.

We’d started at First Baptist Lakewood the summer before, but the summer before my Junior year, I wanted to do Summer Servants — an intense 6-week program where you went on *all* the youth group trips as well as a training week at the beginning and training in between trips. The leadership expected us to be evangelizing new kids who came to camps and on trips.

In the beginning week, we learned to share our faith with strangers using the Four Spiritual Laws. Yes, I went on day trips — one was to a beach — and accosted strangers with a partner and “led them to Christ.” No, this does not suit my personality type. I wonder what happened with those people all these years later.

Some good things Summer Servants did was have a big focus on each person having daily Quiet Times, spending time with God, good teaching, and getting me out and among other kids my own age. Darlene was going to my church by this time, but I don’t think anyone else from my high school was in Summer Servants, so I made some new friends.

And — I gained a second crush! One for church and one for school (same TGIHACO from previous years). Interestingly, they both had the same first name. But it was pretty harmless, since neither one was “interested” in me in that way. At least with the guy from church, we had some great conversations about spiritual things. I knew he had a heart for God. And he actually stayed a great friend.

[A few years later, when I was in college and getting sad about how this guy still didn’t “like” me, a friend suggested that instead of praying God would change his heart, I should pray that God would change my heart. I did, and God did. I liked him very much, but no longer had a crush on him, and it no longer hurt that he didn’t “like” me that way. Though I might have done well to hold out for a guy with a heart for God like he had.]

But the trips with Summer Servants were memorable and wonderful. And I started bringing my camera!

Oh, and that was also when I learned that if you brought a magnetic chess set on a bus trip, you stood a great chance of getting to sit next to an intelligent guy! (Including the one I had a crush on.) I played many chess games that summer and enjoyed who I ended up sitting next to that way. Of course, it probably didn’t help me seem very attractive that I won most games. And it also probably didn’t help that I enjoyed winning. But what can you do?

Our first trip was to Ensenada, Mexico. The girls slept in this hangar, and the boys in tents outside.


I remember praying Psalm 91 about the “terror of night” — bugs! But we were fine.

I don’t remember all we did there, supposedly helping missionaries, but we did make a trip to an orphanage.


The blonde is Yvette Gold, another junior in Summer Servants with me.

For our next trip, we split up the boys and girls, and the whole youth group was invited. I don’t remember where the boys went, but the girls went to Kings Canyon.


I think that trip was only a few days, and a beautiful place and a good time — but one night I decided to sleep in the bus instead of the tent — and woke up with 50 other girls trying to sleep in there, too — It was raining! That did not work. And I felt like I was there first, but that logic didn’t work, alas!

And then, in the middle of the summer, Kathy came to visit!

By now, Kathy had moved from Catalina Island to the East Coast, to College Park, Maryland. But she came back for a trip, and we got our foursome back together and went to Disneyland.

Here are Kathy and Abby on Dumbo:


And here are the four of us, now nearly all the same height: Kathy, Abby, me, and Darlene:


Kathy’s visit hit a time when the Summer Servants were at home, and all during the summer we had Wednesday Night extravaganzas at church. They involved crazy games. We were all on teams — I was on the Gold Team — and always a meeting at the end that included a testimony and an invitation. Kathy came on Wednesday night:


The next trip was the big summer camp trip of the summer, Hume Lake!


My sister Becky went on this trip, and so did lots of other folks from Brethren High School, including my friend Jennifer. I’m not sure if Darlene went that year, but she did the next.

Wild games were also the norm at Hume Lake:



As well as great speakers and big meetings. But we also had lots of fun on our time off, doing things like hiking to the Little Brown Church. (This is Valerie, a 12th grader at Brethren):


We also went rowing:


The final trip of the summer was just for Summer Servants, summing up the summer. We stayed in a cabin near Lake Tahoe:


Here’s the place where I’d have my Quiet Times when I was at Tahoe:


On our last day at Tahoe, we went tubing down the Truckee. I *loved* it! The part I did was mostly calm and peaceful and wonderful — ending with rapids, which I loved even more.

But we stopped at that point and let people who didn’t want to navigate more rapids stop and go back to the bus. The rest was more rapids. Well, I was starting to feel sick and was really tired, so I went back to the bus and slept. I was always sorry afterward that I did that — because I proceeded to get super sick anyway. Might as well have gone — I couldn’t have been any sicker!

The next week was one of the most painful of my life.

I’m not sure if the pain was quite as bad as the previous year when I was sick for a week because of a sunburn, but it was close. I came down with pleurisy — which is a searing pain in the lining of your lungs every time you breathe. Like with my sunburn, I slept in my bean bag chair — this time because it didn’t quite hurt as bad if I didn’t lie flat.

For years after that, whenever I got a bad cold, I’d get occasional lung pain, which always frightened me that I was getting pleurisy again — though I never actually did. [And how lovely to realize, now, that it’s been decades since I felt that kind of pain in my lungs.]

And we had one more trip that summer — but this time a family trip. Our family actually tried camping in a tent!

There were still ten children — Rick (now in college at Biola but living at home), Becky, me, Wendy (now in 7th grade at Brethren), Randy, Ron, Jeff, Nathan, Abby, and Peter. It was around this time that the habit of family summer vacations, most commonly to visit Grandma Bates in Oregon, had pretty much stopped. But we did try camping at Crystal Lake.

And Becky and I went for a hike!


Once we reached the summit, we refused to believe the distance we’d traveled was as small as the sign said:


After that eventful summer, I started 11th grade, with Becky in 12th grade. We were both in A Capella Choir together — and that year I got chosen for Ecclesia, the smaller ensemble. Jennifer was in Ecclesia with me. Becky and I were both taking voice lessons with Miss Wells by then, and we sang a duet at the ACSI Choir Festival in the Spring. That was just one of many duets Becky and I liked to sing together over the years. Since Becky played the piano, we would sing Second Chapter of Acts songs together. We also had a book of Bill Gaither songs with parts that we’d sing from. This was just the natural result of all our years of singing hymns together in the car on the way to church.

That Fall, Becky was chosen as Homecoming Queen! I was so happy for her! I walked around crying. (I hope I wasn’t trying to put the focus on me. I was genuinely happy for her.) Now, it did perplex me how everyone at Brethren seemed to think Becky was so “sweet,” but well, she didn’t give me her public face. Anyway, since no one at all had ever complimented me on my looks (that I remember), perhaps it is no wonder that I focused more on intelligence.

That year I took Math Analysis with the 12th graders. I kept my rivalry going for top scores with Glen Gibson. I also took Physics — and there were only 2 girls in a class with about 20 boys. Yes, I did enjoy those proportions. Mr. Elliott, who’d taught Chemistry the year before, was the teacher. I kept trying to suggest that we should go to Magic Mountain for a Physics field trip, but he never did go for it.

Have I mentioned that by this time I was a roller coaster fiend? With Magic Mountain my favorite amusement park because it had the most roller coasters. But living in southern California, we got lots of chances to visit all the parks. Here’s Darlene after “Encounter 80” — where lots of area churches got together and went to Magic Mountain. I think that was the year that Colossus opened — one of my favorite roller coasters of all. (Though much much better years later when they let you ride it backwards.)


And this was probably some type of ditch day, but here’s Darlene and Ruth and Ruth’s brother Tom at Knott’s Berry Farm, with Montezuma’s Revenge in the background:


And here’s Ruth at a trip to Universal Studios:


And there was another Youth Group trip in winter. Ruth and Darlene went with me to Winter Camp.

Oh, and that must have been the year of my disastrous day of skiing!

Every time I fell down, my skis fell off. Well, my first time on the ski lift, just as I was getting ready to sit on the lift seat — they stopped it because it hit some other lady. So instead of sitting on the seat, I sat down in the snow and my ski came off. So the guy running the lift picked me up, put me in the lift, and handed me my ski. So I went up holding one ski terrified I was going to drop it. Of course I fell down at the top, getting off with only one ski.

Some day I will have to take actual ski lessons. That time we tried to have Ruth show us how and, well, it didn’t work. (Ruth and I don’t actually think the same way. I want step-by-step how-tos. Ruth wants to wing it. That didn’t work well for me.)

But the rest of Winter Camp was super fun. My favorite thing was innertubing down a hill!


Here are Darlene and me going over a “jump”!


Winter Camp included more meetings with great speakers and singing. Here’s Becky and some other friends:


Here are Darlene and Patty with a snowman that was the best we could do. We didn’t know anything about snow, but this was not good packing, so we just piled up some chunks.


And we also had good times in our cabin. Here’s Darlene:


And here’s the entire cabinful of girls:


Look at that! By then I had given up my glasses. I started wearing them in 4th grade and quit in 11th grade because my eyes had gotten better. [I was very sad at 50 or so when I learned it was a continuum — the eye that was most nearsighted at 15 is the least farsighted at 50. By now at 52, I need to wear glasses all the time again. But it was a nice respite.]

And I found this picture of a view from my window taken that spring:


Here’s a picture of Senior Square after the traditional toilet papering at the end of the year.


I was super sad about that year’s seniors leaving, including TGIHACO. But there was also excitement that now we would be Seniors and that thrilling feeling of independence with no older siblings at my school.

I was a Junior Honor Guard at graduation. Since they didn’t count P.E. in GPA, I was tied with straight As. I was very sad that they were leaving — but that day, two days before I turned 16, I got my first kiss. Tracy Bunn was going around giving hugs — and kisses — much to my surprise. But I was a bit satisfied that I could not, after all, say I was “Sweet sixteen, never been kissed.” Though a surprise kiss when you aren’t expecting it — and don’t respond — definitely wasn’t the best kiss I’ve ever gotten. But it was the first.

Looking back over the whole year, that was a good one! One of the lovely things about all the church activities was that it was cool at that church to be wholeheartedly seeking to please the Lord. They caught us young. In fact, it was either that year or the year before that I got baptized.

And God was good to me. Yes, I kept praying for a boyfriend. But I had so many good friends and so many interesting activities. Lots of friends and lots of fun.

Project 52 – Lucky Birthday!

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016


It’s time for Project 52, Week 14!

14 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I decided to start Project 52 — for 52 weeks, I’m going to reflect each week on one year of my life.

As everyone in my family knows, the year your age is the same as the day of the month you were born is your “Lucky Birthday.” So my Lucky Birthday happened on June 14, 1978 — which was the last day of school for my 9th grade year.

And my wonderful friends, Ruth, Jennifer, and Susan, threw me a surprise party at lunchtime! Here’s what I saw when I came to eat with them. I’d brought my camera for the last day of school — I was still unaware of what was up when I took this picture.


They gave me presents


And had a very creative solution to lighting candles not being allowed:


So that was the way 9th grade ended. Something I remember about that summer was that at the beginning of summer, we switched churches. We’d been going to University Bible Church for years, but it was far away and gas prices were high and there were fewer and fewer kids our age. So we began going to Lakewood First Baptist Church, which had a large, active youth group.

The first event we went to at Lakewood First Baptist was a skating party. I remember I was wearing the “Jesus is Lord” t-shirt that Jennifer gave me for my birthday (at the party). I thought it was kind of funny that Matt Boone started witnessing to me — even though my t-shirt said “Jesus is Lord.” That’s the kind of group it was.

And besides sharing your faith, they did encourage everyone to have daily quiet times. Now, I already had that habit, but sometime in there I stopped using “The Bible Fellowship” — a by-mail devotional system and began just writing out daily observations. On top of spending an hour a day memorizing Scripture.

I found my old quiet time notebooks and was reading them last night. I was in Psalms then, just like I am now. I wanted a boyfriend, just like I do now. I gave that over to God, just like I do now.

Seriously, it was good to read how faithful God was to 14-year-old Sondy.

A little less seriously, I’ve been thinking about crushes. I had long-lasting hopeless crushes during high school, and felt silly for that. When I was a teen, those crushes were wrapped up in the questions “Am I lovable?” “Am I attractive?” “Does he like me?”

It’s rather lovely that now, at 52, I know that feeling attracted to the nice men I’m friends with doesn’t have much of anything to do with those questions. Because I know I’m lovable. And doggone it, I’m attractive, too! (At least to people who like somewhat nerdy and very enthusiastic cute little people.)

And a cool thing? I have many men friends these days who honestly do like me. Most of them are married or otherwise unavailable, but it feels good to know that some very fine men honestly like me.

But that’s now. Attraction now is different than it was then. Then — I didn’t know quite what to make of it — but I do remember how thrilled I was on the first day of school when I saw the guy I had a crush on walk into 2nd period Chemistry class.

That year, I was the only 10th grader in Chemistry. Chemistry and Physics were only offered every other year. Since they required Algebra 2, which I was taking a year early, and since I did NOT want to take Biology (When I was in 8th grade the Biology class had dissected a poodle and I decided never to take Biology.), I took Chemistry in 10th grade.

That year I got to know T.G.I.H.A.C.O. (The Guy I Had A Crush On) a little better. I sat in front of him in Chemistry class. My brother Rick sat on the other side of me. Or maybe Rick sat next to T.G.I.H.A.C.O. Anyway, I actually *talked* to him many times that year!

Chemistry class was fun! Mr. Elliott was the young and enthusiastic teacher. His experiments didn’t often work, but he was a great teacher.

All the years I had a crush on TGIHACO (all the years he was at Brethren High School from the first day he walked into math class), I would have been mortified if he knew. I was never under any illusions that he liked me back or would ever ask me out. So now I’m taking a risk! Anyone from high school who reads this — he is identifiable. And he is currently my Facebook friend, all these years later.

So, TGIHACO — if you read this and realize I had a crush on you all those years (You probably knew, actually.) — thank you for not humiliating me about it all those years ago! Please take it as a compliment! And you were always kind to the somewhat starstruck little 10th grader.

I don’t blame the guys of my high school for not taking an interest in me and not asking me out. I was a lot nerdy in those days — and completely enjoyed getting higher grades than the guys in my classes. That was the year I finally got my hair cut at a salon rather than just getting it cut by my Dad. I finally got “feathers.” (This was the 70s!) And I finally figured out that it wasn’t fashionable to wear polyester elastic-waist pants. Sigh.

I continued being a basketball stat girl. But my Sophomore year, I got to take stats for the Varsity team. I’m not sure why. I think when we were signing up, someone or other urged me to do varsity, and the coach was the Algebra 2 teacher, so he let me. That was fine with me, since TGIHACO was on the Varsity team. Yes, I enjoyed watching him play and riding on the bus with the team. I still really enjoyed the feeling of freedom of getting to stay after school and go to all the basketball games.

Tenth grade was the year that I forsook the band and joined the A Capella Choir. My brother Rick and sister Becky were also in the choir. We had an outstanding choir director, Miss Hutton — who had also been the choir director when my Uncle Rich had gone to Brethren High School. I sang second soprano. This meant I finally had more classes with Darlene, since she was in choir. I think Ruth was still in Band, though she joined choir before we graduated. And Jennifer was a second soprano like me.

I loved singing in the choir. We made beautiful music together. We sang in many local churches and went on tour to northern California for ACSI Festival. And being part of a group singing praises in four-part (or 6-part) harmony is a wonderful thing.

Another big thing from that year: 10th grade was the year I beat my brother Rick on the MAA Exam by 1 point. This meant that he did not have the high score in our high school for three years in a row (a silver pin) — but that I eventually did. The MAA Exam was a test sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America. The person with the highest score in the school gets an award. If you win two years in a row, you get a bronze pin. Three years in a row gets a silver pin, and four years would get a gold pin.

It was a big deal to me winning that exam. Even though I knew that one point made it a matter of luck. But I was third in a big family and felt insignificant and unnoticed — and in math, in the shadow of my brother. So it felt significant to actually get a higher score than Rick did. That may have started my steps down the path that led to being a math major.

Oh, and my family… 10th grade was when the 10th kid in the family was born. And there was one Hatch in each of the three upper grades at the high school. We had:

Rick, 17, 12th grade;
Becky, 15, 11th grade;
Me, 14, 10th grade;
Wendy, 11, 6th grade;
Randy, 9, 4th grade;
Ronny, 6, 1st grade;
Jeff, 4;
Nathan 2;
Abby 1;
Peter — born March 1979, I think while we were on choir tour.


So that was 10th grade, the year I was 14 years old. It also included lots of hanging out with friends, lots of laughter, and an overall great year.

Project 52 – A Teenager! In High School!

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016


It’s time for Project 52, Week 13!

13 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I decided to start Project 52 — for 52 weeks, I’m going to reflect each week on one year of my life.

And this week I’m covering June 1977 to June 1978 — the year I was 13 years old and in the 9th grade, high school!

I noticed last week that when I was in 8th grade, there were 8 kids in the family.
When I was in 9th grade, there were 9 kids in the family.
And when I was in 10th grade, the 10th kid was born.

July 1977 was when we finally got a baby SISTER! I had been spending the night at my friend Jennifer’s house when I got the news that Mom had finally had ABBY! I will always remember the year Abby was born, because she was almost born on 7/7/77 — but not quite. (And Horse #7 won the 7th race at Hollywood Park on 7/7/77, by the way.)

Anyway, at the sleepover at Jennifer’s house, they threw me a surprise birthday party. I’m pretty sure Ruth and Susan were also there. It was a couple weeks after my birthday, so I was indeed surprised! It was very sweet of my friends.

At home, the family now included:
Rick, 16, and in 11th grade;
Becky, 14, 10th grade;
Me, 13, 9th grade;
Wendy, 10, 5th grade;
Randy, 8, 3rd grade;
Ronny, 5, Kindergarten;
Jeff, 3;
Nathan, 1;
Abby, newborn.

Here’s our family going on a hike in Angeles National Forest when Abby was young (probably that Fall).


And here’s my Dad holding baby Abby:


I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet that we spent most of our summers in the pool!


And that reminds me that Summer 1978 was when I got the worst sunburn of my life. For that matter, it’s the worst sunburn I’ve ever heard of anyone having — though feel free to tell me about worse ones in the comments!

I think it was toward the start of the summer. I had recently gotten a brand new bathing suit. Before that, I’d been wearing my P.E. uniform — shorts and a shirt with sleeves — to go swimming. So the skin on my shoulders hadn’t seen any sun in a long, long time.

Aunt Susie was living with us then, and she took some of us kids to the beach! Yay! I wore my brand new swimsuit. We were there from 10:00 to 2:00. It was overcast. I spent a lot of time in the water, but did some lying in the sun. This was just *before* sunscreens with SPF 15 or 30 were developed. I did put on sunscreen, something like SPF 3. And I went in the water and it must have washed off. And my skin had not seen the sun….

The thing about me is that sunburns don’t show up for a few hours. If it starts to show up while I’m still at the beach, I’m in trouble. This did.

I was in bad shape. That night, I got up to use the bathroom, going down the stairs and through the house — and started to black out on the way back to my room. I had to lie down for awhile on the couch before I could make it back to my room.

The blisters developed pretty quickly — everywhere, but especially on my shoulders. They lasted a full week. I slept in my bean bag chair the first few nights because I couldn’t put my arms down — it stretched the skin too much. It was summer, but I cancelled my flute lesson because I couldn’t move and stayed in bed (or on the bean bag chair) for most of the week.

I’m rather appalled at this point that my parents didn’t take me to a doctor. But to be fair, I probably didn’t even tell my Mom about the fainting episode in the night. And it was just a sunburn, right?

Now, I later had some more second-degree sunburns in my life — but for those the first blisters only lasted a few days. This one was especially bad in that the first round of blisters did last a full week. In fact, the initial sunburn happened on a Saturday. The following Saturday, I was invited to a skating party. By that time I was moving around, but blisters on both my shoulders had merged into one giant blister. So I had big yellow bubbles the size of a 50-cent piece on each shoulder. Well, I fell down some skating and the blisters popped and left yellow fluid on my clothes. (Gross enough for you yet?)

It was the day *after* that when that first layer finally peeled. Then the second layer *also* formed blisters — but those were the little white blisters, much smaller and much much less painful. But rather significant that both layers of skin blistered.

And that is why the thought of skin cancer frightens me. (I’m getting a small mole looked at this week, in fact.)

So that was my summer! I was still taking flute lessons with Bev Matsumura, and still in Band with Mr. Engel in 9th grade.

I was still ahead a year in Math, and 9th grade was Geometry with the exuberant Miss Royer. Ruth and Penny and I sat in the back and were allowed to work at our own pace. Miss Royer let us talk among ourselves — so we could help each other with the math. I will confess — that is *not* what we usually talked about!

Oh, and come to think of it, my Freshman year was the first year I was on the Math Team, in the slot especially for a Freshman. And I won a prize, in competing with other schools! Yes, Math was pretty much my favorite subject already.

Oh, and Freshman year I began being a Stats Girl for Basketball — you got to sit at the referee’s table and record who made baskets and keep the official score. I did it for the Freshman team. We’d usually go to eat during the JV game and then watch the Varsity game. It was so much fun to stay after school and go to the games or, best of all, get to ride on the bus to away games with the team.

The most memorable game was the one against Ontario Christian. It was pouring rain. After our game, we walked to a pizza place through the rain. The streets were pretty flooded, too. Well, as we were walking along, we came to a place where the sidewalk ended. There were some construction signs up, but it looked like there was just a bit of water covering where the sidewalk had been. There was still a narrow curb, but the street was really flooded on the other side of the curb, so we weren’t just going to walk in the street.

The person leading the way hesitated when the sidewalk ended. I was a little behind and wondered what he was waiting for. Then Mr. Halberg, the coach, got impatient and pushed ahead of Karl, who was in the front. Mr. Halberg stepped in the puddle where the sidewalk ended — and disappeared!

You see, it wasn’t actually a puddle. It was actually a Very Deep Pit!

Now, Mr. Halberg popped up quickly and swam to the other side. In fact, he acted so quickly, I illogically thought he knew what he was doing and was annoyed with him for not telling me it was a Very Deep Pit — Another few moments and I would have pushed ahead and gone that way.

Mr. Halberg lost a shoe in the pit and threw his other in. So he spent the rest of the evening wet and barefoot! And I learned to never assume you know how deep standing water is!

9th grade was also memorable because the last day of school was on my birthday! And my friends threw me another Surprise Party. Since that was when I turned 14, I’ll post pictures of that party next week. But I brought my camera to school the last few days of 9th grade, and I’ll post some of those pictures here.

This one’s from P.E. class on one of the last days of school when we didn’t dress out. All high school grades were in P.E. together. This includes my friend Debbie and my sister Becky being silly:


Then Ruth and I thought it would be fun to get pictures with her arm around various guys. Mark Arnold doesn’t seem to mind! And there’s Darlene walking by:


Here’s Ruth with Merle Anderson:


And here’s Ruth in a tree:


The next day I got in on the action. Here we are with Harold Lind, who was my brother’s friend and a quick-fingered clarinetist in the band with us:


And here’s Ruth with our friend Paula Christie. Paula was in the band with us, playing the saxophone, but she only went to Brethren High School that one year. But we enjoyed her very much that year.


And this picture reminds me that 9th grade was the year we started taking Dan Deguisne to school. He lived near us in Wilmington. This continued throughout high school until our Senior year, when Dan did the driving. Here’s Dan getting in the van on the morning of the last day of school:


Here’s Jennifer You-can-run-but-you-can’t-hide Schilpp:


And here’s Susan Willems:


And my next-door locker mate, Rebecca Hardison:


Oh! And Freshman year, I was in the *high school* 5-in-a-row tournament. (And the hex tournament. And the 3D tic-tac-toe tournament.) That meant I had to beat my brother Rick in order to win. I did, which was a very big deal to me. (I didn’t win the other two games, but I was on the 2nd year of 5 years in a row of winning at 5-in-a-row.)

So yes, that was 9th grade. Since it was the same school as we’d attended in junior high, I was already established with friends. There was new freedom, going to basketball games, and I remember it as a good year.

Project 52 – Eighth Grade!

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016


It’s time for Project 52, Week 12!

12 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I decided to start Project 52 — for 52 weeks, I’m going to reflect on one year of my life.

This week I’m looking at June 1976 to June 1977 — the year I was 12 years old and in the 8th grade.

8th grade was SO much better than 7th grade! From the bottom of the heap — youngest at a new school, not knowing many people — to the top of the heap, at least of the junior high. (The junior and senior high were all in the same school, but there was some natural separation. Lunch and P.E. and chapel were all done separately — at least for most people.)

And 8th grade was the year I had every single class with my friend Ruth Douglas. And that was the year we really became best friends.

The reason we had all our classes together was that we were the only two 8th graders in both high school band and high school math — Algebra I. Because of the way our schedules worked out, we ended up going to chapel (once a week) with the high school. Instead of feeling very small because of this — this made me feel very big and important.

Ruth is a lot more outgoing than me. And a lot more willing to look crazy. But in junior high… hanging out with Ruth meant I did a lot of wild things (to me!). And it gives me a big smile just to think about that time.

It’s also the year I, to quote John Pavlovitz, “chose my heterosexuality,” and got a crush on a 9th grader in my math class that lasted until he graduated from high school. (But I eventually got another hopeless crush on a guy at church. The crushes could coexist because they weren’t actually based in Reality. Fun though!)

High school band, I’m afraid, wasn’t as fun as the year before. We had a new band director, Mr. Engel, and he wasn’t a bad band director, but he didn’t know how far the band had progressed the previous year by working so hard on such challenging music — and he selected much simpler music, which was rather a let down.

Mr. Engel did introduce me to a new flute teacher, Bev Matsumura. Bev had all her students perform in a recital every three months — so I got lots of practice learning to get up in front of people without shaking. Well, I shook less. It’s very embarrassing when you shake holding a flute, because the whole flute shakes. But that wasn’t enough to stop me playing the flute, like having to play in the piano festival got me to quit piano. I really enjoyed the flute.

And we performed at the football and basketball games as a pep band. It was so much fun to stay after school and go to the games! (This references back to feeling big and grown up. On my own for a few hours. Wild times!)

Oh, and sometime in junior high is when I grew to LOVE roller coasters. The picture at the top is from when Ruth’s family took me to Magic Mountain. That’s Ruth and her brother Tom with me. I remember the first time I rode the Revolution at Magic Mountain, that feeling of doom when we went into the loop and I went upside down on a roller coaster for the first time — and it was so much FUN! I decided if I wasn’t afraid of that any more, well then I wasn’t afraid of any roller coaster!

I still say that getting lots of chances to ride roller coasters in junior high — when you’re a little crazy just by nature — guarantees that a kid will love roller coasters for life. With Ruth as my best friend, there was no way I was going to hang back!

And I had more friends by then. Here are some pictures I took the day our whole grade went Whale Watching, while we were waiting to leave.


That’s Christine Van Aalst and Penny Cypert.


And then Lauri Ann Stone and Jennifer Schilpp. Those pictures (and others that didn’t come out as well) remind me that 8th grade felt much less lonely than 7th grade.

My pictures of Whale Watching aren’t dated, but I’m pretty sure it was 8th grade, because that was the year we had Science class.

Ruth and I were in 5th period Science class with one other girl, Karen Baker — and about 30 boys! The teacher was a woman, Mrs. Erickson, but that set-up was a little awful. Most eighth grade girls were in junior high choir that hour. Ruth and I were in band, and Karen wasn’t in the choir. So we were in Science class with all the boys. After awhile, we made a petition to Mrs. Erickson to sit together, and dripped water on it for tears. She didn’t even argue! She said, “I see your point.” and let us sit together from then on. (We took advantage of it and passed a lot of notes.)

I don’t have many family pictures from 8th grade. I realized when I was thinking about this post that in 8th grade, there were 8 kids in the family. In 9th grade, there were 9 kids in the family. And in 10th grade the 10th kid was born. (A google search shows that, just as I remembered, 1977 was when the TV show “Eight Is Enough” became popular. My Mom was already pregnant.)

Anyway those 8 kids the year 1976-77 were:
Rick – 15 in October – 10th grade
Becky – 13 – 9th grade
Me – 12 – 8th grade
Wendy – 9 in October – 4th grade
Randy – 7 – 2nd grade
Ronny – 4 in October
Jeff – 2 in October
Nathan – 1 in January 77

And okay, playing with babies was still fun at that point. Jeff and Nathan got dressed alike and were SO CUTE! We older siblings taught the babies to walk and to read and played with them. We seriously did teach the little ones to read. Jeff basically taught himself. He’d point at words and ask what it said until he knew. But watching that process was so much fun! All of them were reading before Kindergarten, and we were all in on teaching them.

Speaking of reading, 8th grade was the year our English teacher Mrs. Ossen announced that there would be year-long contest to see who could read the most books! The requirement was that we write a summary and write out the definitions of five words in the book that we didn’t know. I read a lot of Agatha Christie books that year — we’d switched to the big Torrance Library near my Dad’s work — and I’d use British spellings, not realizing they were actually the same word. I also read Gone with the Wind that year – Mrs. Ossen let us count it as two books if it was over 500 pages.

Yes, I won the reading contest. Gail Karber was my closest competition, but I read more than 100 books, and was pretty decisively ahead.

That was also the first year I won a five-in-a-row Tic Tac Toe tournament. The high school math teacher, Miss Royer, ran three pencil games tournaments at the end of each year. That was the first year I entered (the junior high tournament), and I got hooked. I didn’t win at Hex or 3D Tic Tac Toe that year — but I started my streak of winning Five-in-a-row — and ended up winning five Five-in-a-row tournaments in a row. (You use graph paper for an unlimited board. First one to get five in a row wins.)

Another thing I remember is that the summer before 8th grade was when I started spending an hour a day memorizing Scripture. I remember because I so badly wanted to go on the 8th grade History class trip to Washington DC. I was born in Washington DC! My parents paid me to memorize Scripture — and I earned sixty dollars that summer. But it wasn’t enough to go on the trip. But I did get hooked on memorizing Scripture, and that was pretty much something that got me loving God’s word. I’ve already written about memorizing, but that ended up being a wonderful thing in my life.

And sometime in there I started doing The Bible Fellowship — a daily Bible study program put out by our church. The Bible Fellowship is big on check charts — which suits my personality perfectly! But it did help me establish a daily habit of studying Scripture.

And apparently I still got together some times with Kathy, Abby, and Darlene. Here we are at Abby’s house celebrating Abby and Kathy’s birthdays (June 4 and 5) at the end of 8th grade.


And I just remembered one more thing about Junior High. Darlene still car pooled with us from the high school to the elementary school. I am sure of that because once we got to Junior High, we could buy candy at the Student Store. However — if anyone in the car found out we had candy, we had to share with EVERYONE. One of my favorite candies to buy was red hots and I would foolishly try to eat them secretly.

Darlene and I still talk about how Ronny would turn around in his seat and look at us and say, “I smell somepin!”

So, looking back, Eighth Grade was a very happy year — especially compared with Seventh Grade. I don’t remember as much about Ninth Grade — at least not yet. As I think about it this week, who knows what memories will pop up out of the woodwork?