Sunday, July 19, 2020

A Walk in the Park

I'm a few weeks in with my new trainer, Kay the Brit, and he's got me working very hard. I have five workouts a week assigned by him (two with him via Skype), and two active recovery days, Wednesday and Sunday.

Last weekend, I decided to take my Sunday morning walk at a park near me that I had driven by many times, along Dry Creek. It ended up being lovely walking a dirt trail by a winding creek. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to explore another nearby park this weekend.

Gibson Ranch County Park is only a few miles down the road from my neighborhood, and it promised more of Dry Creek, as well as horses to look at. So this morning, I set off early.

The park is lovely--open and well-maintained, with a large pond and all kinds of animals, wild and domestic. After visiting all of this, I set off on one of the dirt trails along Dry Creek, and thoroughly enjoyed myself wandering along with little company except the occasional fellow walker, a couple of people on horseback, and people fishing in the creek below me. Mostly, I just heard birds.

I unplugged from my music andenjoyed the early day sun, the movement of my body, and most of all, the peace.

Of course I had to take some pictures.


I didn't see any turtles around the pond this time.

The one on the left is a donkey. 

Paid me no mind.


The cutest pony.




Canada geese

Ducks and squirrels. 


I came across a fallen tree
I felt the branches of it looking at me
--Keane, "Somewhere Only We Know"

You can just make out a quite large bird of prey (some type
of raptor) on a rock in the middle of the creek.


A couple of miles out, I found a small path that wound down to an actual beach--sand and everything. The beach itself was tiny, and situated in the most beautiful little place. I stayed there for several minutes, listening to birds, watching minnows dart around in the creek. A couple of butterflies searched the bushes near me. I snapped the picture above and thought, as I always do, just how much I love California.

After this, I turned to trek back to my car, and then back into the busy streets of my community. I'll definitely go back to Gibson Ranch again.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

What Options?

Yesterday, Sacramento County announced that all schools would go to 100% distance learning as we start the 2020-21 school year. I fully support this.

You have to understand that I do not want to teach online. If I could wave my magic wand and fix this whole Covid-19 mess (and while we're at it, replace Donald Trump with a grown-up who believes the WHO and the CDC more than he cares about his public image), it would be done. The curve would be flattened. People would stay home, wear masks when they do have to go out, and not be belligerent assholes about it.

Teachers would be anticipating the coming school year (we start August 10 in my district), and starting to go into classrooms to decorate and set things up just so. We do this because we bloody love the first day of school. It's a great day for us--all those faces, so eager to see us, all the new outfits and new school supplies. Kids greeting friends they haven't seen in a while, getting to know a new teacher (or, in middle school, same ole teachers, new grade level). We want this. We don't want to do this online.

But our options, if you can call them that, were all rotten.

We could:


  1. Return to school at 100% capacity, with anywhere from 20-30 kids in a classroom, some ventilation, kids who might resist wearing a mask or just treat the mask like a toy. No tying shoelaces for a first grader, no hugging a child who is having a rough day. No cooperative groups, no leaning over a child's desk to point out where in the work they took a wrong turn. Constant reminders that you can't play basketball at recess, to stay apart. In other words, take away every piece of emotional and social connection that our kids need, but in over-crowded conditions (you can't space 30 desks 6 feet apart from each other in a standard classroom). In this situation, there's a constant threat of the spread of illness.
  2. Hybrid Model--okay, so we have more room to move around, because we can fit 15 kids in the room with distancing, and with fewer kids, you can answer questions with more detail, even if you can't go to that kid's desk physically to help. This is what we were anticipating, at my school, and readying for. It meant having work online for kids to do when they were at home, so of course, it meant a lot more work for teachers. But it also meant seeing our kids in person, even if only a couple days a week. 
  3. Go online...and frankly, with California now setting records for new cases, and the inability of so many people to practice social distancing and mask-wearing, I was getting very anxious about being in school with the kids. It only takes one person with the virus to be a spreader. And I teach approximately 150 middle school kids. The risks are high right now, and I don't want to get sick. I don't want to expose my dad to this when I do see him. 
Here we are. I don't want to teach online, I don't want to add to the difficulty of families regarding childcare and at-home learning. What I want is leadership that takes Covid seriously, and unfortunately, that's not going to happen as long as Donald Trump is in charge.

So, I'll teach online until it is deemed safe enough for me to go back to the classroom. I will work my ass off to make lessons for my kids that are engaging, understandable, and meet my standards. All of us will rise to the challenge, because we're teachers. This is what we do all the time. 

Fortunately, I work in a school that is hugely supportive. My colleagues and I are already sharing ideas, talking each other down from the anxiety, and focusing on our number one priority: the well-being and learning of our kids. I'll add here that we're in the middle of our summer vacation doing this, so don't come bawling to me that we get summers off. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Reminder

I've been thinking about it all week.

But when Dad's text came in tonight, telling me that his friend Geri had texted saying she'd pray for us tomorrow, it took me a moment to remember why. My phone jingled just as I was closing the door to the kittens' room after feeding them. Foster kittens are a great distraction.

It was only as I dialed his number to ask him that I remembered what I've been thinking of all week: tomorrow is the second anniversary of losing Mom.

Time flies, doesn't it?

I don't cry as often as I used to, and that's a good thing, because crying over your dead mom only leaves people wondering how to comfort you, and uncomfortably aware that they can't comfort you. But I think of her every day, and sometimes, in the privacy of my home, I still find myself overwhelmed by the loss. The child version of Meg that still resides in there is wholly lost without her mommy.

But Grown-Up Meg carries on. I know she is proud of me, wherever she is. I know she didn't want me to be miserable--and I truly am not miserable. I love my job, I am surrounded by people who love me, and having three tiny foster kittens taking over my home hardly leaves me any time to do anything but laugh. But I miss her constantly. I am always aware of the loss of her.

That Geri remembered the date without any sort of prompting meant something to Dad and I. Mom was special to a lot of people, and we all miss her. I'm not alone in this. Dad and I spent a few minutes just now reminiscing; how lucky we were to have her. She was ours, and we were hers.

Even after two years, that rogue wave can sweep me into the sea. Right now it's tossing me around and in a few minutes, I'll no doubt be thrown back on the shore, a bit bruised and fragile, but still alive.

I will never stop missing her.
















Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Working Out in a Pandemic

Since March, when everything shut down, I've been working out exclusively at home. Fortunately, I have a nice little collection of weights and other items that enable me to get a decent workout, supplemented with plyometric exercises and a daily walk or jog.

Then, on Monday last week, as I briskly marched through my neighborhood...I fell. Hard.

Fortunately, nothing is broken, but my foot has been bruised for a week-and-a-half now, and walking has been more difficult. Going for a 2-3 mile jaunt in my neighborhood has been impossible. No plyometric exercises on this foot--just thinking about how that would hurt makes me feel ill. It's getting better, but I still have to rest and take it easy.

The lack of working out has been really, really hard.

I have been wanting to get a simple spin bike for several months now, because the gym ones can get a little out-of-repair. But for now, I decided that since my gym re-opened this week, I'd try going in for a workout.

I had my reservations. While masks are "required" in California, enforcing it is hard, and a lot of businesses simply don't have the needed resources to do so. But 24 Hour Fitness has put a lot of things in place to make re-opening feasible, like:


  1. Limiting how many people can be in the club at one time, and requiring a "reservation" for a one-hour block.
  2. Between each one-hour block is a 30-minute block where club employees clean.
  3. Masks are encouraged, but it's hard to require them when people are huffing and puffing on a treadmill.
  4. Everyone is being encouraged and reminded to wipe down all equipment.
  5. Equipment has been spaced out to promote social distancing. 

Still, a lot of people are not keen on going to gyms now, and if my foot wasn't giving me trouble, I'd stay away, too. But I really, really needed some cardio, so I went, taking some precautions of my own:

  1. I wore a bandana tied around the lower half of my face to keep my own huffing anThed puffing contained. I kept it off my nose and practiced the in-through-the-nose, out-through-the-mouth breathing technique.
  2. I took my own hand wipes and some Lysol wipes to clean down the bike and weights. 
  3. I religiously avoided touching my face with my hands, using my workout towel to wipe sweat, scratch my nose, etc.
  4. I did not go in the locker room. 
The experience wasn't terrible. For a gym that is usually very busy, there weren't a lot of people. I don't know if that's the limit on how many people can come in, or if people are staying away. The cardio area was better for distancing than the weight area, since machines had been removed to force it. I noticed the weight area was slightly more crowded. 

Most people did not wear masks, though some of us did. I would think that encouraging people to breathe in through the nose (not covered) and out through the mouth (covered) would help--that is how I've learned to breathe when working out, anyway, and then you can get air in without a mask impeding you, while also shielding everyone from droplets from your mouth. Perhaps it's not a perfect solution, but I'd think it's better than everyone just breathing all over.

Most 24 Hour gyms have really high ceilings and decent ventilation, so that is helpful. This article from the Wall Street Journal gives some excellent insight on how the virus seems to be spreading, and ventilation in inside spaces seems to be a huge key.

If I were immuno-compromised, I would still completely avoid going to the gym. Even now, I'm hoping to resolve my own situation so I don't have to go back again for some time. I've signed up for some online training with a trainer I met on last summer's cruise, and now more than ever, buying a spin bike for home is something I'm seriously considering. I like doing spin--it's great cardio. I've missed it these last few months, and I'd love to be able to hop on here at home.

So, should we all be rushing back to the gym? I think it's a bit early to tell. I went out of some desperation and took a few extra precautions along the way. I likely will not go back soon, and just see what K. the Newbie (he'll need a new nickname) can come up with for me with my foot. 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Pictures From Isolation (Part 3)

Some people have been keeping track of how long they've been isolated at home. I lost track after the first week. Does time even exist anymore?

I suppose it does, because I've been taking pictures every day. I'm hanging in there, and very glad that school is out after this coming week. I need a mental vacation.



I found this in my Facebook memories, and
gah...the memories. I miss her so damned
much. I was so lucky to have her.

Because I never get tired of taking pictures of these cuties.

My mandevilla is absolutely gorgeous right now. So many
blooms coming, one after the other.

My local Fleet Feet has it all set up for contact-less ordering
and pick-up. I ordered online, got a text that the shoes were
in stock, paid by phone, and called again as I was pulling up
outside. One of the ladies working, ran out, tossed them in my
trunk for me, and called, "Thank you SO much for your
business!" I called back, "I'm so glad you're open!!" 

I planted these wildflower seeds a couple months ago, and
they are flowering all over now. 

I was chatting on the phone with Dad, sitting my chair on the
balcony, when I realized I had a hibiscus bud. The plant has
been looking a bit wan, and I was worried it was dying.

Striped petunias. 

My parade roses starting to open up. 

Popcorn has taken to sleeping on top of the throw pillows on
the sofa when my lap gets too warm, or I'm sprawled in a way
that he can't curl up on me. 

He makes a good pillow. 

I wore a dress and put on mascara a few days ago. I was asked
to sing a song (on video) for our 5th and 8th grade promotion
ceremony (which will be broadcast on screen at a drive-in
movie theater). I sang "Try Everything" by Shakira. 

I have wanted a Dyson for YEARS. They are awesome vacuums,
and they are spendy, so I never splurged, until this week. I saw
an ad for a Memorial Day sale, and had heard recently that
the company has done right by it's employees in this pandemic.
So I bought myself a Dyson and friends...it's love.

Finally finished off the Marvel movies, with Avengers:
Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Both really good (and
sad). Popcorn? Not interested. 

Perhaps a hint that it's time to eat? Or maybe that they want
grilled mouse and catnip salad for dinner? 

The middle school electives team was tasked with creating
an image that sums up our school year. Note the grimace. The
year was perfectly fine, of course, until all of this happened.
And yeah, Jambarific Chipootles. If you have to ask, you'll
never know.

My happy, snoozy, adorable, tubba-chubba-love, Archie. 

Popcorn attended my Zoom Book Club with me this week.

It had to be done. I went to Lowe's for more flowers. I had to
get my hands in some soil. 

Dad gave me the welcome froggy, "to welcome your phrog
phriends back." I adore it.

Yes, I'm aware foxglove are poisonous. The dudes don't go on
the balcony because one of them, anyway (cough, cough,
Popcorn), likes to chew on plants. 

I did some major Garden Therapy yesterday. Planted four
new plants, rearranged everything so it all fits, swept up the
mess on the floor, and did a bunch of pruning and dead-heading.





On Saturday evening, Sarah, Julia, and I played an online
Cards Against Humanity while on Zoom together. Hilarious.