Friday, August 22, 2014

Respect

When I taught high school in Antioch, I was following in the footsteps of a beloved choir teacher--never and easy prospect. My students did not want her to leave and resented me for taking over. I, in turn, was young, naive, and really not ready to take over a high school choral program. I knew about singing, and music...I did not know about teenagers, or running a machine like that one.

When I think back on those days, the memories that stick out are the number of times my students questioned my musical knowledge, as though I was an idiot. Nevermind my degree in music, the years I had already spent studying piano, clarinet, singing, theory. I wasn't Mrs. H., and therefore, I couldn't possibly know anything. In hindsight, I know they would have behaved this way towards any person who had the audacity to take Mrs. H.'s place. At the time, it sliced deep.

Fast-forward six years, and perhaps I know a thing or two more than I did when I fled Antioch. In those five years I worked in a part of Stockton, California that would make a less intrepid person's hair stand on end. I got fired. I lost 90 pounds. I became a runner. In other words, I survived, and even more important, I grew up a lot.

So by the time I took over at my Large Suburban High School last year, I was able to put aside any doubts students might have about my abilities and ready to remind them--every day if need be--that I know what I'm talking about. I put my Chico diploma on proud display in my office so anyone in there could see the piece of paper that represents years of work.

But the most amazing thing happened. Everyone just assumed I know what I'm doing. There was never any cry of, "You are so wrong!! I've been taking voice lessons since I was three years old and no one has ever told me to breathe like that!!" (Yes, I got that one in Antioch. That student lasted one semester as a music major at Sac State.) My colleague, Lynn, from the start, respected my opinions and even asked me, one morning, to listen to her jazz band and give some feedback. When I said, "Not enough bass--can't hear you!" she turned to him and said, "Turn up your amp!!"

It's the same with my kids. They trust my judgement, my ears, and my training. They forgive me for not always immediately knowing the answer. "Let me hear you sing that again," I'll say. "I heard a lot of right notes, but there was something--I just don't know what yet--that was off." They do it, without complaint. We fix things. They grow.

I've learned, too, to open it up to them. A fantastic teaching trick is to make kids assess their own performance. "Why did I stop you just now?" I'll ask them, instead of just correcting right away. Answers will come forward. "We didn't do the cut-off right," or "We missed that one note again." This is often followed by, "Can we hear that one more time, please?" Always, dear students. I'm happy to help you.

I admit, I've been a little daunted by my piano lab class. It's crammed full with students ranging from the very first page of the Level 1 book to students who can play Debussy. And each one of them looks to me for guidance and advice--obviously, some more than others. But when an advanced kid asks me a question, and looks to me for an answer, I sense this quiet respect that was so lacking from many of my students in Antioch. It's as though they are confident that all these years I've studied music, all the time and effort and passion I've put into it, are reason enough to trust me.

This week, as I've wandered through my crowded piano class, answering questions, listening to their first play test, discussing music and seeing them respond with smiles, with trust...it's been amazing. I realized, today, that finally, not only do the people around me know that I'm cut out for this job--I know it, too. And that's huge.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Techno-no-no-NO

Okay, help a lady out, here.

I'm having Internet issues. I'll be browsing along, doing my thing, when suddenly, it freezes. Nothing will load, I'll just see the whirly little circle going round and round for a minute or so until the screen gets a dinosaur image.

Shut up, dinosaur. 

It's random. Sometimes it freezes for one minute, sometimes for five minutes. Sometimes only once or twice in an hour, sometimes ten times in an hour (you can imagine how frustrating that is). It strikes, inevitably, right when I play a word in Lexulous, or right as I hit "send" on that important email, or right as I'm trying to list something on eBay or Etsy. It's been like this since I got the laptop in January, but it has gotten worse in the last couple of months.

So I'm asking for suggestions. Before you start, please do not suggest the following:

1. "Delete your cookies/cache/history!" That's the first thing I tried, obviously. I'm a techo-phobe, but I'm not an idiot.

2. "Don't have so many tabs open at once!" That's not the problem, either. My ancient desktop from 2006 did not have this problem when I had email, Facebook, Twitter and my blog open all at once. (What? I like multi-tasking.)

3. "Try Chrome/Firefox/Internet Explorer/Obscure Browser!" I use Chrome. This also happens on Firefox (I tried). Internet Explorer is just crap.

4. "Uninstall and then reinstall your browser!" That's what the very nice young man told me to do in an online help chat a couple of weeks ago. It worked for one evening, and then went right back to being even worse.

5. "Have you tried your computer's Troubleshooter?" Many times. Many. Times.

In the limited amount of information I can glean from various desperate Google searches, I've discovered that it might be the wi-fi card in my computer. No other computer or device has this problem on our wireless internet connection in this house. In fact, I've been known to roll my eyes when the Internet freezes on me, grab my iPhone, and wait it out. Oh, and for what it's worth, when it freezes, there is no yellow or red flag icon next to the internet connection bars.

Never a flag to warn me that my Internet is being a jerk.

I'm really hoping to resolve this soon without sitting through another painfully long help chat with the Dell people (which I then get kicked out of because--you guessed it--my connection freezes). I also don't want to spend a gazillion dollars just on diagnosis, when that money could go towards the cure. I had a sound card issue six weeks ago, and when I took it to Best Buy for a Geek Squad check-up, it worked perfectly. It was only broken at home, apparently. (I think computers hate me.)

So...have at it. Please! I'm open to suggestions for easy at-home fixes that a notorious techno-phobe can handle. (Let me clarify that I just found out today that putting my phone up by my ear while not on a phone call automatically activates Siri. I did not know this and found out in front of a small group of amused teenagers. Sigh. Old people, right? Get off my lawn.)

Leave a comment. Help a lady out!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Outlander

I've been an unabashed fan of romance novels for years, ever since the first time I snuck a read of a total bodice-ripper at my grandmother's house as a young teen. In high school, my friend got me stuck on the likes of Jude Devereaux, which led to LaVyrle Spencer, Nora Roberts, and many, many more.

These days, as vampires and werewolves and self-publishing takes over the genre, my tastes have narrowed. I mostly enjoy the feminist-friendly heroines and whip-smart dialogue of Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Tessa Dare. My romance reading has slowed somewhat, as I explore "regular" literature, travel and non-fiction, and whatever else strikes my fancy. Hey, I just like to read.

The "Outlander" series has been on bookshelves since the 90s, and I have, a couple of times over the years, picked them up and read the description on the back. Then, for whatever reason--possibly thinking that 800+ page books can't be all that easy to follow--I put them back and moved on to other books.

Then, last weekend, I noticed ads and trailers for a TV series to be based on the books. And, while I've known, all this time, that the books rely heavily on dudes in kilts, and I love me a dude in a kilt, it took seeing the ads, with a very fine young man...in a kilt...for me to show any interest in Outlander.

Of course, Starz, a subscription-only station, is making the series. In a clever move designed to get everyone hooked on the show and subscribing to the channel, they put the whole first episode online, free. So I watched it.

And holy men in kilts, it was really good.

This was Saturday night, and I decided right away I ought to buy the book. I usually prefer to read actual books, but in this case, I wasn't about to get dressed and make the 10-mile trek to Barnes & Noble, so Kindle Edition it was. I started reading, and Lordie. I couldn't stop.



Warning!! From here on out, spoilers abound. Read at your own risk.




The book is not perfect. I mean, it's not Shakespeare. And one complaint I've seen a lot is that it relies on some violence too much, with one husband-beating-wife scene and another excruciating man-on-man rape scene. As a feminist who thinks about how women and romance are portrayed in popular culture, I understand some of the concerns about the violence. Though it must be said that Claire, after being spanked (with a belt) by her back-in-time Scottish husband Jamie, makes things fairly miserable for him to the point where he promises to never raise a hand to her again. And, while the 21st Century woman reading the book cringed at his high-handedness and his reasons for punishing her in the first place, there's a part of my brain that acknowledges that in 1740-something Scotland, husbands beat their wives for far less. It's not pretty. I don't love reading about it. But it's a reality.

As for the man-on-man rape, I'm not entirely sure it did anything to move the plot forward, aside from proving--again--how much Jamie loves Claire, that he'd take it. Perhaps there might have been another way.

If the violent parts of the book are a turn-off, they're no match for the romance and adventure. I almost cried when Jamie, having just been told by his wife that she actually comes from the 1940s, not only decides to trust her and believe her, but takes her back to Craig Na Dun, the stone circle where her whole adventure began...then gives her the choice to stay or go.

Her 1945 husband, Frank, is nice and all, but come on. Who's going to say no to Jamie and his kilted sexiness? Or, you know, his shirtless sexiness as Claire stitches a gunshot wound in his shoulder?

The books are obviously full of drama and melodrama on an epic scale; Outlander itself is over 800 pages, and the subsequent books are comparable in length. I just downloaded the second book, Dragonfly in Amber, to my Kindle this afternoon and started reading it. Anxious to see how Claire and her daughter by Jamie ended up in 1968.

I will likely read all eight books over the next few weeks, dragging Kindle or paperback (I intend to switch over as soon as the used bookstore is open, as it was closed today) with me to the gym, around the house, etc. I won't quite take it to school because, well, you know, I have an actual job to do when I'm there. It wouldn't do to neglect that by camping out in my beanbag chair with my book.

I have a feeling I'm in for an emotional roller coaster over the next seven books. Friends who read the series long ago have told me, "Keep reading!!" And so I shall. I'm also going to keep watching the series, already renewed for a second season after only one episode aired. Having seen the characters before ever reading the book, I now imagine them looking as they do on screen--definitely not a bad thing, especially in the case of Jamie/Sam Heughan. I'll just leave you with one last picture of his soulful gaze and finish this post up. I'm only on Chapter 4 of Dragonfly In Amber, and I have an early wake-up tomorrow.




The Body Project: Thunder Thighs

I'm trying not to focus too much on the size of my clothing, but since getting to goal weight, I've stayed pretty much within two clothing sizes for most things, depending on brand, cut, etc. In pants, I wear either a 4 or 6, and I'm happy with that.

In the winter, I tend to wear pants to work a lot, so I'm always buying more, trying to keep up with the wear and tear in my wardrobe...and pants are just one of those items of clothing you have to try on before buying. If there's anything I've noticed, it's that if a pair of pants are not going to fit, it will be because of either my hip/booty combo...or my thighs.

I don't have a thigh gap. These babies rub. There's a little bit of cellulite on the back, and when I sit, my thighs spread out across the seat. I can wear those tiny running shorts for shorter runs, but anything over 3 miles and Baby Got Chafing.

My favorite pair of "winter white" pants fit perfectly around my waist, hips, and bottom. They flare gently around my calves. But at my thighs, they hug, and they hug tight.

I have thunder thighs.

And that's okay.

My thunder thighs are mostly made up of muscle. Muscle that works hard. This morning, I ran ten miles, marveling at how, even though I'm tired and my calves are sore, my thunder thighs don't complain. They keep pushing, up the hills, down the hills. Sometimes, I briefly put my hands down, and lay them flat on my thunder thighs, just to feel the muscles bunch and release as I walk. There's some fat, too, because most women have a bit of extra fat on their thighs.

I call them my thunder thighs because thunder is powerful. Thunder makes your house shake. Thunder is nature's way of yelling. It's always followed by electricity. If I'm going to be gifted with thunder thighs, then may I use them well.

Yup.

Who wears short-shorts? 

Go, Thighs, Go!!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

My Week in Instagram (Week #90)

Words like "busy" and "tired" don't really do this week justice. But it was a good week. While I shall now be running around like a hyperactive puppy for the next few months, I kinda enjoy it.

Sunday:

Mom. <3 td="">

Dad took one of me, so I took one of him.

I had a birthday cheeseburger.
And it was good.

The Super Moon
Monday:

Aww, thank you, Big Bank that helped tank the economy!

First Day of School selfie.

I wore my green Chucks, of course.

The staff did a gender-bending dance to "Grease" at the rally.

A Grizzly head.
Tuesday:

The morning sky on my birthday. 




My new pink skirt had the most satisfying "swish" to it. I
am convinced it gives me super powers.

The Student Government kids are GOOD.


Lindsay sent me flowers at work!


Birthday cake. 

Birthday cuddles and purrs.
Wednesday:

The mid-week state of my desk. So horrid.

Wednesday night Indian food with Sarah.

Thursday:

Bloodshot eyes. TIRED. 
Friday:

Friday Face

I stayed after school for two hours and got my desk back
in order. 

Organized Teacher is organized. 
Saturday:

Spent several hours today reading Outlander on my Kindle.

With a brief pause for cuddles. 

Very appropriate card from Maayan. 

This coming week promises to be just as insane. Bring it on. ; )

Friday, August 15, 2014

Whirlwind

Well, there's Week 1 in the books. I'd say I'm off to a good start.

I certainly didn't finish most of what I thought I should this week, but then, who could? The first week of school is always brutal, and, as I told my new boss, Mrs. Principal, today, I'm very, very hard on myself. "So am I," she replied.

That's good and bad. On the one hand, it's not cool to be so hard on oneself. On the other, it does rather raise the bar towards excellence. At least I have weekends for balance.

It was a good week. I like my kids. They're a young group, leaning mostly towards the younger half of high school. I'm okay with this, because, if I can engage them and excite them about choir, they will stay. They're friends who are currently still in junior high will want to join them. The program will grow. It just takes time, and remembering to water the roots.

My piano class is fun--I have too many kids and not enough pianos, but we're working on it. Today, a few kids left early for activities, so I sat at a vacated piano. "Are you going to play for us?!" one kid said excitedly. This prompted most of the class to take their headphones off and look at me. I smiled. "Nope! I'm going to play for me." To a chorus of "Awwwwws," I put my headphones on and started playing Fur Elise. Several bars in, I realized the room was very quiet. I paused and looked up. Across from me, T., a mischievous freshman, was grinning and holding the jack to my  headphones.

"Oh, good grief, you all could hear that?!"

My class started clapping and woohooing. An advanced student said, "That sounded great, Ms. Cooper!!" I laughed and looked at T., with an evil grin. "I'm so going to do that to YOU during your first play test." He just laughed. It's only day 5 and they already know I won't do that.

I have absolutely passed out every night this week, even though I'm reading a book that's hard to put down. My body simply decides it's time to sleep, and the Kindle eventually shuts itself off. A little while later, I start awake, turn off the lights, and properly go to sleep.

My To Do List is only going to get longer, but I feel up to the task...especially once I get this weekend in. I have nothing scheduled, except a long run (I'm up to ten miles!) on Sunday. I plan to do laundry and clean the bathroom tomorrow, but not much else. I'll do a bit of planning for the week ahead, but I also just want to relax as much as possible. Sit and chat with my parents, read, maybe watch my DVD of "To Have and Have Not" (rest in peace, Ms. Bacall).

On Monday, I'll hit the ground running again, refreshed. Bring on Week 2!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Very Merry Birthday

My 36th birthday celebrations started early, with Mom's cat Bella serenading me at 1:00. I believe this morning's wee-hours rehearsal involved Wagner's Ring Cycle. I know for certain it involved me getting out of bed, peering grumpily at the kitchen clock, and half-yelling, "Bella! KNOCKITOFF!" into the living room before harrumphing back into bed and passing out again.

I appreciate her efforts, though.

Things got a little more manageable later in the day. I went for a walk as the sun was starting to rise up over our neighborhood, and it put on a hell of a show for me.


Keane was playing on my iPhone and the sun was doing this--I stopped in my tracks and just enjoyed the moment. Sometimes, pure joy just takes over.

After years of never being at school on my birthday to carry balloons around, these days, I work on my birthday. Last year, it was the first day at my new job. This year, it was the second day of school and less of a deal. Still, the student government kids put a sign up by my classroom door, and my choir sang to me. One sprinted into my office to grab the inflatable tiara we use for birthdays, and I gamely wore it for a few minutes.



Otherwise, things were quiet. At lunch, I bustled through the office on the way from my choir room to the piano lab, and saw a man waiting in line at the front counter with a flower delivery. I thought vaguely that someone else must have a birthday or something today, as I sailed out, my arms full of papers, my planner, and the massive stack of catalogs I'd found in my mailbox...and my brain full of everything I needed to get done during the piano lab class today.

During 4th period, I had a text from my duck lady, Lindsay, in Michigan, asking if a surprise had arrived. In a rare free moment, I responded that I hadn't been home since early this morning, to which she responded, "No, at school!!" After school, I headed back to my office off the choir room, to find an email from the front desk ladies informing me I had a delivery.

Sure enough, those flowers had been for me. : )


(She even had "Go Grizzlies!" put on the card!)

I didn't stay long after school. I originally meant to, or to go to the gym, but home was calling me. Home meant a nice chat with Mom and Dad, and chocolate cake, because of course there's cake on my birthday.

I'm just relaxing tonight. There's tons to do, and I'll be up early tomorrow to do it, but for now, I figure I am allowed an evening of relaxing and reading. And digesting chocolate cake.

It's been a lovely birthday.

36

Thirty-six is an even number, divisible by 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 18 and 36. It is the square of 6, and the number of degrees in the five inner angles of a pentagon. There are 36 inches in one yard.

It is the atomic number of krypton (a noble gas), a perfect score on the ACT test, and the standard number of gallons in a beer barrel in the United Kingdom.

Otherwise, it's not the most exciting number, but that's okay. It's my age today, and I suppose I'm officially starting to "push 40" or something. I'll just happily be 36 for now, munching on a cupcake and maybe having a celebratory margarita later.

Happy Birthday to me!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cleared For Take-Off

I have a couple of unfinished blog posts that never got to publication state over the last week. I've simply been so busy! But the good news is, I'm ready to get going tomorrow, as my kids come back. I have 18 kids in choir this semester, which is a little smaller than I'd like, but apparently, I have 33 next semester. Woohoo!

I have a lot of freshmen coming in, which hopefully means I'm doing something right in my recruiting efforts.

The course handbooks (for choir and piano) are finished, my rooms are ready, and all I need is a great night of sleep (please Universe, none of this too-excited-to-sleep stuff tonight, I'm bloody tired!) and a good workout in the morning. I ran 10 miles this morning, so I'm certainly tired enough physically to sleep well tonight.

The next seven weeks are going to be absolute madness, leading up to what can only be a great show. I want Come Fly With Me to knock socks off, and I hope I can get a great audience. Having only 18 singers, that's a little scary, but I am creative!!

Before we know it, I'll be watching my kids soar up on stage, then taking the girls on a field trip the next day (my local chapter of CMEA does a Real Men Sing event in September and  Women's Choral Festival in October), resting on the Saturday, and running a half marathon on Sunday. Bring it on.

And that's that. I'm cleared for take-off and ready to make this semester, and the school year as a whole, amazing.

Fasten your seat belts and turn off our electronic devices. This is going to be a hell of a ride. ; )

My Week in Instagram (Week #89)A Foun

This was the week I really went back to school, even though kids don't start 'til tomorrow. And yet I still managed to get a lot of Instagram pics.

Saturday Evening:

I bought myself some LEGOs and built a plane.

LEGOs are seriously awesome.


Sunday:

Nine miles, feelin' strong.


Sunday with Bella.

And JUNIOR WINS!!!!!!

I love this--his crew chief ran out to congratulate him.

Stunning sunset.


Monday:

I got my new posters up, and reveled in how awesome they
look. P.S. Even with a tall ladder, getting Frank up there
was terrifying. 



Note values

On the left, there will be pics of my choir kids.
Tuesday:


Rain!!!! 

Good morning, Drum Line. 

Great pic but...um, what's with the extra M?

Birthday board.
Wednesday:

My last poster had arrived, so Wednesday, I put it up.
"You buy 'em, we fly 'em!"

I seriously can't stop being all giddy about this stuff.

Ahh, that's better. 

Student government puts these up to help students find
their classes. Notice I have TWO classes this semester!

Two girls came in to help me out, and one wrote this on
the board. I love their excitement. I have terrific kids.

The other girl did this. Very cute. 

Almost ready!! 
Thursday:

Thursday was a district-wide inservice. I took copious notes.

No one told me there'd be a test!! I went to a pull-out
session on making grading more meaningful, and part of
it required taking a mock test (it all made sense, trust).

Kap is back!! First pre-season game for the Niners.
Friday:

Every year, the student government kids give us breakfast
on our first day back at the site. And they cheer us as we
come into the cafeteria. So awesome.

School-wide theme for the year.

A gift from student government--it's a pen. 

We were split into groups based on bears. There was a
Teddy Bear group. :) 

I spent some time working on Friday afternoon, getting
chairs set up. Ready!

Found two little tiny kites at Walgreen's on clearance. Win!

Posing with my handiwork. 
Saturday:

Seen at Papyrus in the mall. 

Fake ducks!

I met my friend Meghan and her daughter The Roz for
lunch and some back-to-school shopping yesterday. Saw
this at Hot Topic.

Star Wars Vans. So awesome.

My Little Pony shoes. 

This week is going to be full of nuttiness. First week of school, my birthday, etc. etc. etc. Good stuff.