Monday, May 23, 2011

How I spent this school year and lessons learned

Outside the event where hors d'oeuvres are served.

I have been involved in a huge project since September. I have an eighth grader. He's been at the same school with mostly the same kids since he was three. That's a long time! As he says, he's spent his whole life there. Last Saturday, we, the parents, hosted an African themed Dinner Dance for his class. This is a tradition at the school. There are about 55 kids in this grade. It's a semi-formal event with the parents and kids having dinner together, then a father/daughter, mother/son dance, then the parents leave and the real fun begins. Some years it is beyond spectacular. One year the parents built a 20' long pirate ship, I kid you not.

A tent in the courtyard area

I was one of four women on the committee this year. We opted for a toned down version, for which I am grateful. I was disappointed at first, but in hindsight, I'm very happy. Trying to run an illustration business and put on an event this big is tough. This was an amazing experience for me. I'm not a planner of events. I didn't even enjoy planning my own wedding. All those details are beyond me and, frankly, don't interest me. Why not elope? Thankfully, my other committee members handled those pesky details, while I concentrated on the design.
Hallway to the main room. I had the kids paint the masks in class.
I've never considered myself a leader or project manager. It's a bit of a joke in my house that I'm just not a people person. That's why I work for myself! I do, however, love collaboration! I love coming up with ideas, but bouncing ideas around with other people adds to the fun and to the outcome. This event was all about collaboration. I don't even lay claim to the design. I had a vision, albeit, not a very clear one. I do have a fully formed idea for an Arabian Nights theme which I hope to use when it's my little guy's turn. The safari theme had me seriously stumped.

The stage. A handful of parents spent over 100 hours making these
papier mache elephants. The mama was 6' tall!

Entry tent

Tent facades vignette

I really enjoyed working with all of the other parents on the work nights. I'd lay out the projects, explain what I was thinking for each one and let them loose. They far exceeded my expectations every time. Some of the parents consider themselves creative or crafty, but most didn't. It was amazing to see them soar, to realize they are creative. I've always wanted to inspire other people and this event was all about that for me. In some cases, I had no idea how to make my ideas come to light. It empowered me and them (I think) to hand off my ideas and see what they would come up with. I feel like I've found my calling in the last week.
Place settings

It took three days to put it all together for the dance. Until the end, I wasn't sure what we had. I concentrated on the walls of the main room. We had a photo area committee, a stage committee, and a courtyard committee. Six dads came in late Thursday night to dress the ceiling! I couldn't sleep much that night, so when Friday rolled around I was no longer thinking clearly. I had major fog brain, but since we had lots of help, it didn't matter. In the midst of all this, I got a call that my dad had fallen on Friday afternoon, and I had to take him to the ER. He's banged up, has a broken hand, but doing great. This was another lesson on trust for me. I had so much support that I knew I could leave for hours and it would be ok. It was better than ok!

Two of my favorite guys and me.

In the beginning, I wondered if I should be taking the time away from my business to tackle a project this big, but I'm so glad I did. I found new confidence and skills that I never knew I had. I'm still wondering how to apply them to my business. I'm worn out from the experience, so a few more days of processing it are in order.


  1. Wow! What a huge project. It looks great!

  2. Congrats Laura! What an amazing endeavor - and outcome.

  3. So that's where you've been! How crazy/amazing that this goes on every year for the school - what a lovely creative outpouring. Isn't it the best when you see others realize their potential - that everyone is actually at least somewhat creative?


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