Teachers navigate holiday disasters

Emmily McKinzie 
A&E Editor 

Some of our well-known Christmas disaster movies are what make the holidays fun and full of all sorts of adventures. Fan favorites such as “Home Alone” and “A Christmas Story” show some comedic and holiday disaster stories. Teachers at SHS have a few holiday disasters of their own, nothing extreme like the movies, but just as good. 

Car trips with family during the holidays are always fun, but whether it is fighting with a sibling all the way there or having to listen to your parents music, something disastrous always tends to pop up.

Jumago feels the freeze then he heat

“When I was about 6, my family decided to drive to Illinois to visit my step-dad’s family. It was quite a drive, and it turned out there was a blizzard in the midwest. This might have been fine, except the heater was also broken in our car. So my poor step-dad kept driving through the white-out conditions with just a wool blanket on him, while my mom and I got to crawl in the back of the car, and be inside cozy sleeping bags,” chemistry teacher Rachel Jumago recalled. “Thanks to my step-dad’s perseverance, we made it! And we had a wonderful holiday, and my step-dad fixed the heater while we were there. However, on the way back, the heater got stuck on and we were all melting in the heat for three days as we drove back to Oregon.” 

Frederick avoids turkey catastrophe

History teacher Julie Frederick had modern technology in the 1980s to save one of her Thanksgivings that was going wrong from the beginning. 

“My mother got up at 5:30 a.m. and preheated the oven. She then put the bird in to cook. Mom was a stickler for eating at noon straight up. When we went to put the hot dishes (sweet potatoes and green bean casserole) in the oven at 11 a.m. and the oven was not hot. The stove worked, but alas the oven had given its last breath when preheating,” Frederick recollects. “We had fortunately just gotten a microwave so we could cook the casseroles, but mom wanted that Turkey cooked. So, my step-dad got on the dial-up phone and found a friend who had one of the first hot air convection ovens. It took him 40 minutes round trip to get it, and another 2.5 hours for it to cook, but thanks to modern technology we had a Thanksgiving supper!” Frederick said.

Vuylsteke’s chicken has near-death experience

Growing up, counselor Lexi Vuylsteke ran into chicken problems when one of her chickens broke its leg one thanksgiving. Vuylsteke decided to put her in the entryway, meaning her chicken was not able to walk. Her and her family had grown attached to the chicken and spoiled her endlessly. Every Thanksgiving, Vuylsteke and her family cut a tree down for Christmas  and started to decorate. However, Thanksgiving night disaster struck and Vuylsteke and her family woke up to a fallen over tree and the chicken nowhere in sight. 

“Right next to the star on the top of the now fallen tree though was Matilda, safe and sound. We lost some treasured ornaments that year but we were thrilled Matilda was safe! Over the next few weeks her leg healed and she eventually got to join the rest of her flock outside again, probably always with an eye out for falling trees,” Vuylsteke said.

Sheehan’s dog has other plans for the tree

Matilda Chicken was not the only animal looking for trouble during the holidays. Educational Assistant Mikell Shehan has trouble of her own with her dog during Christmas. 

“We have to block our tree from our dog named Buster to prevent him from using it as his own personal urinal.  We think he believes that he received an early Christmas present..His very own indoor tree,” Sheehan said. 

Shields bakes special cake for her sister

The holiday disasters keep on coming, but what happens when a family birthday lands on Christmas, nothing could ever go wrong right? English Teacher Cherie Shields proved this statement very wrong. Shields’ sister and cousin were both born on Christmas day and both always felt their birthday was forgotten every year. Shields wanted to change that one year and had the amazing idea of baking a birthday cake. Well, while she was making the cake from scratch she realized that she was out of eggs. Being as flexible as she was and wanting to make this work, Shields made the excellent decision any young girl would make and substituted mayonnaise for eggs. Although eggs were not the only thing that needed to be substituted. 

“Unfortunately, we didn’t have some other ingredients as well so I busily substituted other things hoping it would all come out good in the end.  I poured the batter in the pan, without tasting it, and baked it,” Shields said.

She then learned how to make glaze frosting from her aunt, making the cake look beautiful and complete. 

“After Christmas dinner, I shoved a few candles in it and brought it out to my surprised sister and cousin.  They were so happy to have a birthday cake as everyone tended to forget about it during the big Christmas celebration.  We sang happy birthday and I was feeling pretty smug until we cut into the cake and served it around.  Everyone dug in and in a few moments I heard gagging and wrenching sounds and all my family started spitting out cake onto their plates.  As my uncle claimed, ‘It tasted like a funky foot left too long in a sports shoe!’  I was so upset that my big surprise was ruined.  Anyway, they were happy to get some birthday attention and someone went to the store and managed to get a store-bought cake to make up for my disaster. It was delicious,” Shields said. 

Meyers’s father-in-law gets unintended haircut

Health/P.E. Teacher Chris Meyers spends his holidays with his family, but one year his nephew decided to make a Christmas Day they will never forget. 

“My nephew got a Big Wheel truck for Christmas when he was young. These are the kinds that you roll them backwards to wind them up and then they go forward on their own. Well he rolled his backwards and then put it on my father-in-law’s head to go forward and the tires picked up his hair and wound it around the axles so tight it couldn’t move. They had to cut his hair with scissors to remove it from his head,” Meyers said.  

Luff’s sister scores coveted gift

Every kid has at least tried to sneak a peek of their Christmas gifts at least once, but once is normally the first and the last time they do it. Educational Assistant Rebecca Luff learned the hard way when she was a little girl that sometimes it’s best to wait until Christmas. 

“One year when I was around 7 or 8 years old, I discovered that my Mom hid all of my sister’s and my Christmas gifts in her closet. Being a sneaky little gal, the temptation to take a peek was just too strong to resist. Excitedly, I rifled through all the bags and boxes, thrilled to see what ‘Santa’ had in store for Christmas morning. I was very happy to see a Baby Alive doll in one of the bags – and couldn’t wait to feed her real food and change her real diapers!” Luff said. 

Little did Luff know there was an even bigger surprise for her in store Christmas morning. 

“Christmas morning came – my favorite morning of the year. But because I had already seen all the gifts, the pure excitement and joy that I usually experienced was replaced with a dull lack of enthusiasm. And to add disaster to disappointment – the one gift I was eager to receive, that beautiful eating and pooping Baby Alive, wasn’t even mine! It was for my older sister – and I’ve never been more jealous in my whole life! But I did learn a valuable lesson – and I never spied on the Christmas gifts again!” Luff said. 

Gregg takes harrowing trip in a whiteout

Science teacher Renae Gregg has had a good luck streak, but on her way to Christmas dinner in Central Oregon with her mother’s family, her good luck streak finally ran out. 

“I always looked forward to going because it was one of the few times I got to play with my three cousins who were both around my age and very fun. One particular Christmas, my dad had had to deal with several disasters as a vet, but my mom stood firm….we were still driving to Kent for Christmas dinner. It was tense,” Gregg explained. “On the way, a big snowstorm hit. We were driving to my uncle’s house in a virtual whiteout. He lives on the John Day River and there is a half mile section of road that is a small carved out “path” on a “sheer” cliff that has a great overlook of the John Day River from several hundred feet up. That’s all great, but as a kid it always scared me to death to drive along that bumpy, curvy death trap (as I remember it). Somehow, we made it, but it was completely silent in the car with three young kids. That says it all. We all survived and dinner was lovely, but we never went to Christmas dinner in Sherman County again,” she said. 

Faulty car derails Grasle’s holiday plans

While others were able to make it to their families for Christmas, science teacher Sadie Grasle’s car had other plans in store for her. 

“Last year my boyfriend was planning to come to Christmas with my extended family. He had met them before, but hadn’t seen them for a few years so we were both excited, and he was a little nervous. Our plan was to leave his house in Government Camp as soon as he was off work, then drive into Portland and show up just in time for dinner. I spent the day getting ready, wrapping presents for my family, and baking a dessert to take with us. Five o’clock rolled around, and he rushed down from work to make it home in time to change and race out the door – everything was going according to plan,” Grasle said. “We checked that we had everything twice! And we slid out to my car, presents loaded up. I got behind the wheel… and my car wouldn’t start.” 

A trip to a gas station for car parts and a call to her boyfriend’s brother for advice didn’t help. On Christmas Day, the car still wouldn’t start. So, they improvised.

“We decided my old car wasn’t going to steal our Christmas, and made our own. I snagged a branch off a nearby tree, cut out some ‘ornaments’ from sticky notes, and wrapped up some presents (mostly snacks from the gas station). I don’t think we’ll make it a tradition, but it was fun to celebrate Christmas a little differently, and being with each other was enough!” Grasle said. 

Salveter’s disaster shared by the world

With the many different holiday disasters that teachers have gone through, History teacher Robert Salveter refers back to this year in utter disappointment that his Thanksgiving plans did not get to happen. It is a disaster we can all share. 

“I remember one time our annual massive family Thanksgiving gathering was canceled because of a worldwide pandemic,” Salveter said.

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