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Hog Creek Review
Allen County High Schools 2009

Creative Nonfiction
Allen East star Apollo Career Center star Bath star Bluffton star Delphos Jefferson star Delphos St. John’s star Elida star Lima Central Catholic
Lima Senior star Perry star Shawnee star Spencerville star Temple Christian
Freshman/Sophomore Division
Cleveland Cavaliers
Danielle Brenner, Lima Central Catholic, $60
Sponsoring Teacher: Tricia L. May

March 16, 2006.  I was on my way to the game, bursting with excitement, not knowing what to expect.  I had my costume in my bag and makeup on my face.  Getting ready in the car, I   pulled my hair back, pinning it out of my face.   I put on my ankle brace, my ankle shooting with pain, then slipped on my tan tights. My shoes were in my bag, camera ready, waiting anxiously. 
We pulled into the hotel and went up to our room.  I set everything on the bed and quickly put out my jazz shoes.  I scanned the halls for my friends Ariel, Ty, and Stephanie.  I walked into their rooms and applied the last bit of hairspray.  I had Ty apply my fake eyelashes.  I raced to find my blush.  I hurriedly grabbed my bobby pins.  I rushed to get ready, only to find that I had plenty of time left to spare.
After waiting for what seemed like days, we finally headed down the elevators to the outside doors.  We walked down the street for six blocks and into the gym.  I climbed on my mom’s back because I could barely walk.  My legs felt like jell-o, about to give out because of my nerves.  We finally arrived and walked up the stairs to our seats.  We were barely able to sit down with all the bundling nerves and building excitement.
The first quarter passed, and we all got up to go backstage.  We stretched and went over the routine.  With two minutes left in the second quarter, we started lining up.  One more minute until we perform.  Thirty more seconds until we make our entrance.  The buzzer rang like a siren on a fire truck, echoing in my ears.  The Celtics players came running out a foot away from us.  Everybody was so excited; no one could breathe.
I adjusted my ankle brace as we were about to run on.  We ran onto the court, bodies frozen with butterflies from all the piercing eyes.  There we were, ready to perform.  The announcer announced our studio.  “Please welcome, all the way from Delphos, Ohio, the Dancer by Gina performing at your Cleveland Cavaliers halftime!” I had forgotten about the pain in my ankle.
The music started.  I waited on the out-of-bounds line until my individual class performed.  Four, three, two, deep breath, one.  I walked on, and it was my time to shine.  I danced like nobody was watching.  I focused on doing my best, having fun performing, and forgetting the shooting pain in my ankle.  I danced the best that I possibly could, and my heart pounded in my ears.  I started breathing heavily, but I smiled big and pretended like nothing hurt.  When my class’ individual performance was over, I skipped off stage.  Three more classes from my studio performed, and I watched people tumbling across the gym floor.  Finally, it was time for all of us to come out and perform together.  All 113 of us performed our production number during halftime at a Cleveland Cavalier’s game.
“Wow.”  We hit the ending post, and the music stopped.  The crowd roared as we all smiled, chests heaving, hearts pounding.  “Did we do okay?”  We ran off the court, and as soon as we exited, I realized that I was in pain from my ankle.  I could barely walk, but I made it up the stairs and back to our seats. 
After our performance, watching the game was nearly impossible.  With all of the excitement, it was hard to focus.  Whenever we walked by someone, they told us how good we had been, even though we didn’t even know them.  The Cavaliers won, and we couldn’t have asked for a better ending, especially considering we were invited to dance again at halftime a few years later.  It was just as nerve wracking as the first time, believe it or not, but all the hard work paid off, and it was definitely worth it. 

Moving Forward
Kylie Schroeder, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Tricia L. May

It was the last weekend in May, and all my cousins and I were at my Grandma Judy’s house, swimming and grilling hotdogs and hamburgers for Memorial Day.  Everyone was enjoying themselves, eating and laying out in the sun when my grandma’s phone rang.  Nobody thought anything of it; we all just thought it was another phone call.  But when she hung up, she said that her mom, my great grandma Maxine, who we all called Grandma Burt, had had a stroke and that an ambulance was on the way to help her.  My great grandma was at Grandma Judy’s sister Barb’s house, and that was who had called her to let us know.  Barb also said she was not doing well at all and was unresponsive. 
My grandma rushed around, gathering things to take with her to the hospital because she had a feeling that she was going to be there for quite some time.  She said that the rest of us should not all go to St. Rita’s right at the time, because Grandma Burt would just be getting there.  It would just be too much commotion.  So Grandma Judy, my mom, and my two aunts quickly ended their refreshing pool fun and fearfully headed toward the hospital. 
I, only being twelve at the time, did not fully understand what was going on.  I understood that she had a stroke and was unresponsive, but I did not really get all the effects of a stroke.  But I decided that now was not the time to ask questions, so I just kept on participating in the biggest splash contest my cousins and I were having.  A few hours passed, and everyone that was still at my grandma’s was full from watermelon, potato salad, and hamburgers.  We were all just sitting around talking and wondering about what has happening at the hospital.  Then, about twenty minutes later, my Grandpa Joe’s phone rang.  He told us Grandma Judy had said that Grandma Burt had not really improved much, and that no one should really come to see her.  This was hard for all of us because we were really close with Grandma Burt.  She came to all our birthday parties ever since we were little. Also she was at all of our Christmases, and she would make little gifts for us on Halloween and Valentine’s Day.  Now, she was in the hospital in and in an unresponsive state.  That none of us could see her was super hard.  It was getting late and we were all tired from swimming and laying out in the sun all day.  We started cleaning things up and getting ready to leave.  We said our goodbyes to each other, and this very long day came to an end.
Over the next couple of weeks, I spent a lot of time going to and from St. Rita’s hospital.  Most of the time spent at St. Rita’s, I was sitting around waiting for any type of news I could find out.  Also it was spent visiting with the family and being with one another during this time.  One day when I was there, Grandma came up to me and said, “Do you want to see Grandma Burt?”  A million thoughts started running through my head.  I wanted to see her, but I knew it would be scary and I was not sure if I could handle it.  My instincts were telling me I had to and that I could do it, so I nodded my head to Grandma.  She said, “Okay.  This might be a little tough, but it is all right.  It is just Grandma Burt.”  I replied with a shaky, “Okay,” and we walked into the room.
When I stepped into her room I was instantly overwhelmed with thoughts, sights, and sounds.  I saw all of these machines with wires going in every direction into Grandma Burt and into other machines.  I heard machines softly humming beeping noises and green lines running across monitor screens.  On the one blank wall, there was a white, dry erase broad, hanging on the wall with some markers sitting underneath it.  It was one of the most involved scenes I had ever laid eyes on.  My eyes then ventured over to Grandma Burt.  She was lying still as a rock in the hospital bed, with IV’s going into her hand and tubes going down her throat.  She looked a way that I had never seen her before.  My first thought was that she had died, and Grandma was just taking me in to say goodbye.  I realized at that point that the effects of a stroke can change someone’s appearance very dramatically.  I walked up to her bedside and grabbed her hand.  Instantly tears came rolling down my face.  This was the first moment I had cried throughout all of this.  Grandma Judy came up to me and put her arm around me saying, “I know, I know. It is hard.”  I decided not to stay in there any longer, so I let go of her hand and started to walk away.  I was almost out of the door, and I turned around and walked back to the white board that was hanging on the wall.  I knew that Grandma Burt could not read what I would write, but I still wrote, Get Better! with a smiley face, and walked out.
The next week I was sitting at home when my mom told me that Grandma Burt had another stroke.  No one thought there was any way that she would be able to live through this one after already being very weak.  Grandma Burt managed to make it through the stroke but got a little worse.  The respirator, heart monitor, and all other machines were still hooked up to her.  At this point, everyone pretty much knew that she was going to pass away soon, but we just did not know when.  About another week passed of Grandma Burt just laying in a stiff sleep.  Ever since I had written the message on the white board, everyone else who visited her did also.  On July 2, 2006, when she passed away, the white board was filled with all kinds of messages from friends and family. 
At the funeral, to try and lighten the mood up a little bit, the white board from the hospital room was displayed with all of our messages on it.  This was to give us a smile or two at such a sad time.  The funeral finished and the burial process all took place.  It was a very emotional and difficult time for the whole entire family.  With it being Fourth of July weekend and very hot outside, we thought that we should end the journey the same way it started.  With that, my aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, parents, and grandparents went back to Grandma Judy and Grandpa Joe’s house to swim and eat leftovers from the funeral meal.

Junior/Senior Division
Give Me a Five
Andrew Wellmann, Delphos St. John’s, $100
Sponsoring Teacher: Pam Hanser

Music has inspired and shaped me as a person because it has been influential in my life for as long as I can remember.  It has profoundly instructed me to take every opportunity presented to me.  What I have learned thus far in my life is similar to what Mr.  Keating tried to teach his own students in the movie Dead Poets Society.  As their teacher, he wanted them to understand and live out the Latin phrase carpe diem which, when translated, means “seize the day.” As a musician, I have many goals which I ambitiously hope to reach.  That particular Latin phrase is one that has helped me get to where I am as a musician today.  While several of my goals have been accomplished, some remain in progress.  Additional goals have yet to be imagined.  However, there was one goal that loomed in the distance for many years.  I focused my eyes on the prize and my journey began.
My mother enrolled me in piano lessons at a local studio when I turned three years old.  I began studying the Suzuki method while learning how to read music and play scales.  After a few years of lessons, my teacher recommended that our family attend a summer Suzuki workshop that was facilitated at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.  It was there, in one of my classes, that my family was introduced to Mrs. Hauck.  She was leading one of my group classes at the institute, and my family thoroughly enjoyed her classes.  At the conclusion of the week-long workshop, we asked Mrs. Hauck where she lived.  When she told us that she lived in Cincinnati, our faces fell.  My mother wept.  Why did she have to live so far away?
As the months wore on, I continued with my piano studies.  Toward the end of the year, my piano teacher informed my mother and me at one of my lessons that she would no longer be offering lessons out of her home.  We were saddened to hear of this news because she was one of the few Suzuki teachers in the Delphos area.  Nevertheless, we had to devise a new plan because I wanted to continue my studies and my sister, Chelsea, was just beginning.  We went home that night and had a family discussion regarding our musical future.  Everyone agreed that we needed to continue our studies, so we felt that there was only one option remaining.  We phoned Mrs.  Hauck.
Upon receiving our call, Mrs. Hauck was delighted.  She was glad to hear from us, and like us, she was dismayed over the loss of our local piano teacher.  She explained to us that we should pray and remain strong in our faith and that God would work something out if it was His plan for us to continue our musical hobbies.  God heard our prayers and answered them – all in a matter of seconds.
When my father posed the question to Mrs. Hauck over the phone, my mother, Chelsea, and I all sat silently on the couch.  Suddenly, a huge grin appeared on dad’s face and he hung up the phone a bit later.  Then he said, “Guess what? We’re going to Cincinnati!”
This was the beginning of my epic journey, well, many journeys.  Our first lesson in Cincinnati with Mrs. Hauck was wonderful.  We enjoyed her as a teacher, and she enjoyed us as students.  At one lesson, she mentioned a music program entitled Junior Music Experience (JME).   She said that it was an evaluation, not a competition, in which all of her students participated.  Even though we came from over two hours away, she wanted to give us the opportunity to be involved with it.  She informed us that a judge would rate our piano playing on a scale.  A superior is worth five points, an excellent yields four, a very good nets three, a good gives two, and a fair leaves a participant with one point.  A ribbon is awarded at each evaluation and trophies are given at semi-annual award ceremonies after points are accumulated.  My family and I all thought that it would be a good idea, so my sister and I were entered as participants.
On the brisk November morning of my first piano competition at a small church in Cincinnati, I was rather nervous.  I had never experienced anything like this in my life, and I was equally unsure about what to expect.  Nevertheless, adorned in a shirt and tie, I entered into the chapel to take part in the first adjudicated event of my life.  My performance went well, and I was ushered out of the chapel and into my mother’s open arms.  She led me to the table, and I was given my first purple ribbon.  The purple ribbon bore the word superior in bright gold letters, and it was worth five points.  I wondered if the smile would ever leave my face.  We attended the award ceremony in January, and my eyes fell on something that I knew I wanted with a passion.  At the end of the table, towering over all the other trophies and medals, stood a gigantic golden cup.  I knew that I could not, and would not, pass up that fine specimen.
Even though I was not aware of it, it was at that moment that I set my goal.  I told myself that someday I would be holding that gold cup in my hands which, I feel, was a very important part in my process of achieving the goal.  After I earned those first five points, I set my eyes on the April competition and another chance for five more points.  Because there are only two events each year, it is only possible to gain ten points annually.  Once I realized that the enormous golden cup was worth ninety points, I knew I had a lot of work to do.
As the years went by, I continued to persevere, and I progressed in my piano studies.  Chelsea and I continued to take piano lessons from Mrs. Hauck, and she shaped and formed us into wonderful musicians.  Her efforts gave us confidence in ourselves while helping us accomplish the most at our lessons.  My mother sat (and continues to sit) each day to listen to me practice at home.  She was a piano student as a child, so she provides invaluable help for which I am also truly grateful.  My dad, though lacking severely in musical abilities, was (and still is) the best cheerleader around.
When April 28, 2007, finally arrived, I knew that it was crunch time.  It was my big moment and all those practices and lessons were about to be put to the ultimate test.  I walked into the JME evaluation that morning with my family surrounding me and seventeen consecutive superior ribbons awaiting a new friend at home.  The pressure was on as I played Bach’s “Invention” and Joplin’s “Solace.”  It seemed like the great monarch butterfly migration was happening in my stomach.  When the performance ended, I gracefully placed my hands on my lap where my sweaty palms made contact with the pleats on my black trousers.  I sat there silently and waited.  The judge finally shattered the seemingly never-ending silence by informing me that I could leave the room and that she would be finished writing her comments soon.  I entered the lobby, sat down next to my mother, and waited for what seemed like an eternity.  Suddenly, I glanced up nervously and saw a person advancing in my direction.  The evaluation sheets were held tightly against his chest, and the ribbon’s clip was holding them together.
When I saw my eighteenth purple ribbon, I was simply overwhelmed.  I realized the magnitude of what I had just accomplished when my mother embraced me and began to cry.  This was my 18th superior ribbon, and for once, I didn’t need a calculator to do the multiplication.  Since the age of seven, I had known that eighteen times five was equal to ninety.        
I immediately said a prayer in thanksgiving to God for allowing me to reach this milestone.  I expressed gratitude to my family and to Mrs.  Hauck for helping me develop my God-given gifts and talents along the way.  Although people played a major role in helping me to accomplish my goal, my own mind-set was equally important.  It was at this point where carpe diem manifested itself by being instrumental (no pun intended) in my musical career.  Each and every day is a precious gift from God, and, on each and every one of those days, I know that I need to practice.  If a day of practice is missed, my skills deteriorate rapidly.  I forget my pieces and move backwards at a faster rate than what I can learn.  It is of utmost importance that I seize each and every day and practice each chance I get.  If I become lazy and allow practicing opportunities to fall to the wayside, I forsake a chance to better myself that I will never get again.  Shinichi Suzuki said it best: “You only practice on the days that you eat.”
I truly feel that I seized the opportunity in order to gain that large gold trophy.  It took me nine years, but I accomplished what I had set out to do so very long ago.  I learned many things along my journey in addition to the importance of seizing the day.  I learned that determination and motivation go a long way, and I also realized that it is critical for me to always do my best and put all my effort into everything I do.  I know that I can never give up on my dreams because I could never have achieved this if I would have abandoned this mission when it became challenging.  It is so very important for me to ask God for help and to remember that I am absolutely nothing without Him.  I am truly grateful for the many talents and blessings He has so generously bestowed upon me.  As I look back, I realize that I will get out of my life everything that I put into it.  If I give one hundred percent to all that I do, then I can leave the rest in God’s hands.
I have continued to participate in the JME program and I now have twenty purple ribbons that total one hundred points.  I look forward to my next opportunity to earn five more points at the November 2008 evaluation.  I do not think that they have an age limit, so I intend to participate as long as I am playing the piano.  I will not put an age limit on my dreams.

Red Lipstick
Emily Stepleton, Lima Senior High School – Progressive Acad.
Sponsoring Teacher: Jennifer Stepleton

The old brown trunk creaked.  Its heavy lid was hard to lift with my little hands, but the struggle of opening it was worth it, seeing what was inside.  I found my favorite yellow dress of my grandmother’s that I always thought looked so beautiful.  With it, I paired two long brown leather gloves that went all the way up to my elbows and a pair of vintage purple heels.  I felt like a movie star.  There was something magical about this trunk.  In these clothes, I could dress up and be whoever I wanted to be.  This freedom to dream was something I always sensed of at my grandma’s house.  Grandbarby, as I called her since I can remember, has always instilled belief in me.  I could grow up to be a dancer or an artist.  I could be whatever else I loved doing. 
The piercing ring of our telephone broke my daze.  “What do you mean?” said my mom.  At first I wasn’t quite sure who she was talking to, but soon I realized it was my Granddaddy.  “No! I can’t believe it!” I could hear the anger and fear in her voice.  “All right.  Well, I think we’ll come this weekend then.”
I heard the urgency in my mother’s voice and knew deep in my gut that something had to be terribly wrong.  Granddaddy, who has smoked all his life, has been hospitalized before with emphysema and other respiratory problems.  I immediately thought he might be sick again.  When my mom told me Grandbarby had been diagnosed with leukemia, I was in shock.  I felt my stomach twist and a bulge start to rise in my throat, the kind of bulge that comes just as your eyes tear up.  I thought she’d be the last to ever get sick. 
At 75 years old, Grandbarby was always the one climbing the rocks down by the dock or swimming out to the big orange buoy in Lake Erie.  In all my life, I never remember her getting even a slight cold.  Nothing slowed her down.   I never imagined that her life could change so drastically in such a short time.  I never imagined that ALL of our lives could change.
The first time I saw her in that hospital bed was the hardest.  I just remember hugging my uncle John and crying in his huge bear arms.  I wanted so badly to hide my feelings and be strong.  I wanted to build a wall and not let Grandbarby see how truly scared I was.  I stood in the hall, not wanting to venture into the hospital room.  I couldn’t see her like this.  That would mean she was really sick and it wasn’t just a dream or prank phone call.  But no matter how hard it was, I knew I needed to go see her.
 “Grandbarby doesn’t care if you cry, Emily.  She understands you are sad.  We are all sad; it’s normal.  She just really needs to see your sweet face right now,” said my mom, trying to reassure me to go into the room.   “Grandbarby is more worried about what you will think when you see her.”
It was hard to look past the oxygen mask and hospital gown she was wearing, but I still noticed her fire-engine red lipstick painted on her familiar smile.   Even lying there so helpless, she was still determined to “have her face on.” This lipstick meant everything was okay.  To me, it symbolized she was willing to fight.  Who thought that particular shade of red could have so much comfort in it at the time?
 As I read her cards from friends and family, I couldn’t stop the tears rolling down my cheek.  In the stack, there were many cards with kittens on them, paying tribute to the “cat lady,” because she feeds all the stray cats in Lakeside.  Inside were many heartfelt messages about how great of a person she is and how sad people are that this has happened to her.   I thought to myself, Why should I even need to read such cards? I wish everything was fine and there were no need for them.  I began to think back to when things were happy and normal, back when Grandbarby and I walked Bingo on the lakefront.  I would be wearing my cool, cotton, violet night gown even in the middle of the afternoon.  She never cared what I looked like.  At Grandbarby’s house, I could wear pajamas all day.  On her front porch, we would have hot cocoa tea parties served in her dainty, floral-printed teacups.  She would teach me silly songs.  I can hear her singing the “Chicken Song” now.   “Oh, there was a little chicken, and he wouldn’t lay an egg / so I poured hot water up and down his legs.”  Over and over she would sing this and bounce me around so that I wouldn’t cry when my mom left the house. 
When I was older, I remember lying in bed and looking out at the stars.  The cool, summer-night breeze blew in through the windows in my mom’s old room in Lakeside, and we’d sing, “I see the moon, the moon sees me / the moon sees somebody I wanna see.”  Grandbarby and I would sing this so that I wouldn’t miss my mom so much. 
But as I watched her lay in that cold hospital room and heard the beeping monitor, I felt chills run up my spine, and I wondered if things would ever be the same again.  Every time her monitor would start blinking and beeping, I’d say a little prayer, hoping for her numbers to drop back down and oxygen levels to stabilize again.  It’s almost funny to think such a little noise like that beeping monitor could create so much fear in a person. 
Weeks would pass, and just as the sun rises and falls, so would Grandbarby’s health.  Each day was its own blessing or struggle, a roller coaster of remission to cancer’s return.  Some days she would wear the lipstick; others she wouldn’t.  Doctors would tell us it was the end, but after begging God not to take her from me yet, somehow my prayers were answered and things would turn around.  I soon realized that the line between life and death was not sharp, like a marker, but blurred, like a brush stroke. 
It was so hard seeing her go through all the pain and knowing that she was fighting her hardest to stay with us.  I know how badly she wishes to one day see me fulfill the dreams I had from that childhood dress-up trunk.  I, too, hope she’ll be here to watch me become the passionate dance teacher I once pretended to be. 
Grandbarby has always been a fighter, one of those strong women with a “go-get- ‘em” attitude.  I knew she was willing to take on the challenge of battling this disease.  It wasn’t her time to go, not yet, and nothing was going to take her life without a hellish war. 
But a war it would be.  Cancer cells, such small things, could take over a person’s body as rapidly as a blink of an eye.  What an evil disease, I thought.  There was hope of treatment and remission, but never a cure. 
I tried so hard to just escape from this reality, but after seeing my Grandma at her very best and worst, I knew I must come to terms with the fact that it was true.  I found hope and inspiration through quotes like, “We are continually faced with great opportunities which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems.” This implies that although a situation may seem dreadful, something good can always come of it.  I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, good or bad, and it will teach us lessons that will change our lives.  Maybe I’m just trying to be optimistic and look at the glass half full, or maybe it’s just my way of dealing with the disappointment in the world.  Either way, it gave me some comfort.
Grandbarby’s leukemia taught us all to never take the precious gift of life for granted and to just enjoy every minute of everyday the best we can.  There are no guarantees of how long I may walk on this Earth, so I better make every step count.  I’ve learned to take risks and enjoy life.  Who knows?  Tomorrow could be my last.  Her cancer has also taught me to make light of a bad situation, try to hold my head high, and just smile about it.  Although something like a red lipstick smile could seem like such a small gesture, it really can make all the pain disappear for a moment.  I think Grandbarby would like hearing me say this.