John's History

Little Me Now, I will admit that my life may seem exciting and adventurous to most common domestic animals, but the rest of you will probably find it rather dull. I don't care. There is an unwritten law that says EVERY personal web site has to have at least one REALLY boring page, and this is mine. I don't write the rules, I am just forced to obey them or I have to turn in my geek license. If you don't like it, complain to the web police. By the way, try not to snore too loudly while reading this; the neighbors keep complaining. That's not all that they tell me about you, but this is a public forum, and I've been sworn to secrecy about the rest.

Where was I? Oh yeah. I was born on an automobile assembly line in Michigan to Harvey and Melicent Versteeg. Actually, it was in a hospital, but lots of people are born in hospitals and who wants to be normal? People were so upset that they shot Martin Luther King, Jr. four days later. Well, perhaps they were not upset at me. Fortunately, my father was the live-in curator at Fort Wayne, so we were safe, once inside the walls. After all, what self respecting rioter is going to bother to go all the way into a revolutionary fort, just to see if there was something to damage or steal when there was lots more fun things to do on the streets. Museums are known for many things, but great places to riot, they are not.

We moved around a bit when I was a kid. My sister, Toni, was born in New York, while my father was curator of Old Museum Village. In 1971, we finally stopped moving for a while and settled into a little, unsuspecting suburb of Chicago called Forest Lake, Illinois, about 60 miles North of Chicago. For six years, my father was the director of the Lake County Museum, while my mother, always the champion of causes, was active in community politics and in the Mundelin United Methodist Church. It was a GREAT place for a kid my age. There were probably 50 kids in my age range within a half mile radius. I bicycled to them in the summer and walked across the lake in the winter. Oh yeah, we lived on a 30+ acre lake.

In 1977, my grandparents decided that they wanted to snowbird (a term for people who summer in New England and winter down South) in Florida. They were going to sell their old family homestead in Maine for a house trailer across the street (no stereotype there). My father had always wanted to buy that house and its' adjoining woods and was tired of fighting the county commissioners at work, so we bought the farmhouse and moved to Augusta. Before we did, we took a month long vaction to the Oregon coast and back (doesn't everyone take a vaction right after tending their resignation?), which I still remember fondly, if not all together clearly. I was only nine and cannot be expected to remember EVERYTHING.

My family went through a few lean years. Nobody wanted to hire my father for any museum work since he had more experience than they did, and who needs the competition. My mother tried going back to work in her previous field of medical technology, but found 10 years out of practice to be too much of a hurdle. She started taking computer programming courses at the local branch of the University of Maine, which was my first real experience with mainframe computers, around 1980. I loved playing Star Trek on those teletype terminals. Why don't they make games fun like that any more? Anyway, Dad took various jobs, but none seemed to last for more than a couple years due to contracts expiring and companies going under. (Who said that Reaganomics worked?) His most steady work was in technical illustrating, for which he is very talented.

Toni and I were growing up. During my first year in Maine, fourth grade, I was an unknown, and they placed me in with all of the other trouble kids in my grade, including the school bully and his whole gang. He teased me incessantly until I fought him in the spring. Since everyone who saw the fight thought that it looked like I had won (I had him in a headlock when the teacher came), nobody really messed with me again right through high school. Also, since the bully moved away the next year, he never asked me for a rematch. *WHEW!* That grade school is now a playground across the street from where I had an apartment for 4 years.

Anyway, I was an ideal child in public. I kept my nose clean. I loved answering questions in class. I got good grades. I was in Boy Scouts, eventually becoming senior patrol leader and attaining Eagle rank. I won state championships in 4-H. I never got detention and only saw the principal's office a couple of times for bad behavior. I had a few, though not a huge number, of good friends. In high school, I took the hardest courses, just for bragging rights. I was active in many clubs and went on lots of trips and programs, including CUDC and the YMCA's Model State Legislature. I was editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper. I competed in two national chess tournaments in which my team placed second in the lower division (sophomore year), then fourth in the upper division (senuior year). I personally won three and a half games out of seven at nationals my senior year. Animals admired me, and all of the teachers loved me. Yep, I was your basic brown-nosing nerd.

At home, I was an angel (don't listen to my folks). Toni and I were typical siblings. We fought constantly. We alternated between being best friends and worst enemies. We never did anything that a couple of stitches and a few bandaids couldn't cure, though we tried. Once, I threw the laundry hamper down the stairs at my sister and then jumped off the kitchen roof to spite my enraged mother, but that's a "Versteeg story". Sometime I will add a page for "Versteeg stories."

My family We sometimes had farm animals, and I was charged with taking care of them. At various times, we had two milk goats, a pony, half a dozen geese, a duck, 78 chickens, two dogs, half a dozen cats, and too many mice, gerbils, fish and rabbits to count. To her dying day, my grandmother would always laugh when she thought about me as a 12-year old, gangly kid, feet firmly locked in a water skiing position, being dragged across the lawn by that cursed, black, broken nosed goat. Look up "Versteeg story" in the dictionary; it deserves to be there.

My mother finally attained success as a computer systems analyst for the State of Maine, where she eventually retired. She and the family were involved in various causes in Maine also. Mom was the leader of our 4-H club. There were Boy Scouts and school activities. We sponsored a Cambodian refugee family to resettle in Maine. They developed into quite a few more people than originally planned and are still very good friends of ours. Toni was even adopted by the father as one of his own daughters and was the maid of honor at one of the daughter's weddings. A caucasian participating in the wedding party of a traditional Cambodian wedding is almost unheard of. We were active in church: Dad in choir, Mom in everything but choir. Habitat for Humanity, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the local food bank, even city and state politics have drawn my parents at various times.

Anyway, I eventually graduated from Cony High School. I went to the University of Maine in Orono and enrolled in the Engineering Physics program for ego's sake. College is where I met some of my best friends, including Chris Schultz, and found out that all in life is not easy, or serious. Yes, microarmor, role playing games and Avatar (a MUD on the University of Illinois system) can be addictive and expensive in more than one way.

College was the first time that I had to study, and I didn't. I breezed through my first semester by remembering what I had learned in high school. My high school calculus and trigonometry teacher, Duane Mercier, was an excellent educator who pushed us through all but two weeks of the first two semesters of college level calculus. After the first semester, I still did not study. Eventually, I found out that the dean has two lists. I fought to get off the "other" list for five years, and was kicked out twice. I took the Strong Interest Inventory exam, which showed me that I wanted to be a college professor, ironically enough. Imagine that, a kid who couldn't stand college enough to study and pass the exams wanted to make a career out of writing and correcting those same exams. Go figure. With renewed motivation, I fought, kicking and screaming, to keep myself in college, even going so far as to tell the dean how I was going to "beat the system", if he kicked me out again. My grades did a 180, and I even had a 3.0 for the second to last semester. I finally graduated in 1993 with a BA degree in Physics and was never more proud than having my grandmother sitting in the audience to watch it. She was fighting a battle with leukemia, which she ultimately lost 4 months later. Nobody who ever met my grandmother could say that they were not better for the experience. We were very close.

While in college, I took a summer job doing basic laboring work on the State of Maine Department of Transportation Control Survey Crew. I started at $5.14 per hour in 1987, which I thought was fantastic compared to the $3.65 that I had been getting for dishwashing the summer before. Within 15 months, I had been promoted twice and was making around $9 per hour. It was a good crew to work for, and they liked having me there, so they kept requesting me back every summer. We ran all over the state doing basic coordinate geometry work, as well as any special surveys that came up. During the next six years, I worked with fathometers on a barge off Sears Island, EDMs on an abutment under the Portland Million Dollar lift bridge, photogrammetry by backpacking in the isolated area on the other side of the washed out bridge in Allagash, precise level baseline establishment through Moscow, traingulation points that we moved in LaFleur airport, waking up at 2 AM to hit the GPS window for a pilot project along Rte 9 going to Calais, lugging equipment up mountains, being nearly hit by I don't know how many cars, digging and setting concrete posts everywhere, nearly freezing while surveying the middle of the Penobscot River the week before Christmas in a small boat in the icy tide, sloshing through 4 feet of snow with a range pole in one hand and a radio in the other, driving up mountains where deer would hesitate to go, and having fun everywhere. Other than the occasioal late nights on the road or the practical joke wars involving water, styrofoam peanuts and dead snakes, we occasionally got a little work done too. We didn't want to do too much work, that might tarnish the reputation of public servants everywhere.

When I graduated from college, I was accepted into graduate school, but my grades were too low for a scholarship, so I kept working for the state. Out of sheer boredom, I took and passed the 12-hour EIT exam which most people take on the road to become an engineer. For some reason, I didn't. After a year, I was promoted to be the survey crew chief based out of downeast Maine. I moved to Harrington and spent most of my time in that isolated town for almost two years. A wonderful place to vacation, but a terrible place to place for a single, 25 year old outsider named John Versteeg to live. During the winters, they brought me into the Augusta office for a few months, where I got some MOSS CAD experience. In April 1996, I jumped on a chance 1-2 year temporary transfer to the computer services division in the CADD technical support group. In April 1997, I took a small demotion to get a permanent office job in the computer network support group and planned to stay there until I got my graduate degrees. It was a good job, and I loved the people I worked with. I occasionally even got a good challenge or a chance to teach a training class. I love teaching.

In August 2000, I finally decided that I was never going to go back to graduate school while working at MDOT. I did the hardest thing I have ever done in any job, I handed in a request for a 3 month leave of absence without pay and told them that I hopefully would not be back. I did not have a job lined up, I had not been accepted fully into graduate school and I did not have a place to stay. Two weeks later, I was in classes for a Physics masters degree at UNH. It was hard and I noticed the seven years without the scholastic reenforcement, but I was managing. Meanwhile, it took me a month to find an apartment, and I was still looking for a job. My credit card debt was climbing fast. One day, I got this call from some company I had never heard of in downtown Boston. Being from Maine, I knew that I hated the city. I didn't want the job but I figured it is always good practice to go to an interview. To my surprise, they came back with an offer that was inticing. I then looked at what I was up to. Graduate school was not the great life that I had remembered. I really did not think that I wanted to be a professor any more. The job offered me roughly 2 1/2 times what I made in Maine in the public sector. I found a great apartment in the North shore area to move into. So, I jumped. I did complete that semester with a "C" average.

I worked at that job for seven years until I was downsized. Now, I work as a high school math teacher at a Catholic girls school. I never really liked the life of a computer support person anyways. The thrill of carrying a pager wears off after the first or second page at 3 AM after finishing a previous page at 1 AM. I love teaching, and who wouldn't like the opportunity to warp, I mean influence, impressionable young minds (resistance is futile). Seriously, though, anyone who believes that you can significantly influence the minds of high school students has forgotten what being a teenager was like. The best I can do is to present the information as clearly as possible and hope that some of it sticks in the long run. As a former MDOT coworker once said when I was teaching him how to use a computer program "when you pour water through a pipe, some of it sticks to the sides." They are a great bunch of girls, and it is a pleasure and honor to staand before them and be part of their lives. I find it hard to believe that it took me so many years to find a career calling, but now I have. I literally smile when I drive to work in the mornings. I may not make as much money as when I was in computers, but I am happy, and that is worth a LOT of money.

Our house On a less professional note, my wife, Kathy, and I were married in Oct 2003. Kathy and I bought a house in Wilmington. In 2012, we moved from Wilmington to Merrimack NH so that Kathy would not lose her contract. We love our condo and the commute to work is half of what it used to be. Merrimack is a wonderful town and we love traveling around NH on day excursions.

How I proposed to Kathy is an interesting story. I was in LA taking a Landmark course in which we talked about what things we always say to each other and what things we never say to each other. I started to think about how when Kathy and I first started dating, we talked about everything openly, but, gradually, over the 5 months we had been dating, we stopped talking about marriage, then about money, and then about dreams, and futures and kids, and anything else that MIGHT lead to talk about marriage. That night, I called her in NH to tell her about this revelation and to admit that I was scared to bring up the subject to her because I was afraid it would drive her away. One thing led to another, and I asked her to marry me over the phone. Her first two questions were "What?" and "Do you want me to answer that now?" After about 3 minutes of stalling, where Kathy says her brain completely disengaged, she said "yes". It was so out of context with the rest of the conversation that it took me a second to realize what she was responding to with the "yes". Needless to say, I was a little blown away. Kathy says she remembers nothing from the time I asked the question to the time she said "yes". I had this whole plan worked out beforehand about how and when to propose on her birthday 3 months later, but it just kind of worked out differently. By the time we went to meet her parents for the first time at Thanksgiving, most of the major wedding plans had been finalized, AND we finally had her engagement ring. She even got to choose her perfect ring, which I never would have guessed right.

As far as accomplishments, I was the state 4-H citizenship winner in high school, which earned me a trip to Washington D.C., then to Chicago the next year for another award. I was on the state championship chess team 4 years running, going to the national championships twice. I am an Eagle Scout. I had a no-code technicians HAM license: N1OYB. I have passed the Fundamentals of Engineering exam but don't plan to take the Professional Engineers exam. I have my advanced open water scuba dive certification. I was a member of the National Mathematics Honors Society in college, as well as a member of the Society of Physics Students. I have taken the Landmark Education curriculum for living and have found out who I am (and I didn't even know that I was missing). I passed the MA professional teachers' exam and math specialty exam on the first try. I am currently half way through my masters of education degree at FSU.

Kathy and me Truthfully, my two favorite accomplishments were getting two particular "thank you" Christmas gifts from students. The first was from an adult student who I had coached four months earlier. It is a little cartoon in a plastic case stating "Well, if it doesn't matter who's right and who's wrong, why don't I be right and you be wrong?" He had my parents sneak it under the tree. I literally cried when I opened it, and it still sits on my desk at home. The second present was simply a note from a high school student stating "I probably would have given up, if it was not for you." Those are the kind of accomplishments that you cannot predict or buy.

I have visited 44 of the 50 United States, 4 Canadian provinces, Bermuda, Mexico and the Carribbean. I have relatives and friends scattered throughout the country in over a dozen states. I used to visit Disney World at least every couple of years. My current record is 15 hours of non-stop driving from the Orlando airport to my college friend in Arlington, VA. Kathy would kill me long before the road ever did, if I attempted to break my record now. I have visited most states east of the Appalachians many times. I have been to a dozen major theme parks (If you are at Demon's Drop at Cedar point, please return my stomach.) I have white water canoed and rafted; water, down hill and cross-country skiied; traveled in almost every kind of vehicle short of a fighter jet; hiked mountains; walked on glaciers; sunned on white island beaches; walked through temperate rain forests; seen ancient Mayan ruins; helicoptered over Hawaii; actted and sang on stage; made huge differences in people's lives; performed the impossible routinely, but taken longer for the miracles; and not won the lottery many times, though Ed McMahon promises that it may happen anytime. Ironically, I have never left North America, but I have plans to visit Italy very soon.

That's about it. I said that my life wasn't really exciting. We now live quietly in our condo in Merrimack. Kathy is self employed, so her car rarely leaves the parking lot, and she has a terrible commute to work. We don't even have any pets to brag about.

My life is pretty boring. Whose isn't?

There is no cure for birth or death save to enjoy the interval.
-George Santayanna

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last updated: 01/29/16