Saturday, November 22, 2014

Keyed Up

Yesterday, as I pulled up to the gate at the back of the Large Suburban High School, I reached into my purse for my school keys so I could let myself in. I park behind the theater, but to get there, I have to get past a locked gate (school safety). It's no big deal, I've got the key, I let myself in, I lock up behind myself...but yesterday, I didn't have my keys.


I searched my purse, and felt a small knot form in my stomach as I emptied it onto the passenger seat. My keys were not where they should be.

I pulled into a parking spot on the outside part of the gate, and sternly told myself to stay calm. After my workout, my purse had been upside down on my gym bag within my locker, so maybe the keys were in my gym bag. Except they weren't. Still refusing to panic, I grabbed my school things and started walking the long way 'round to the front of the school, where the only unlocked-during-school-hours gate is located. I called home, asking Dad to check my bedroom. He even looked in the garage, in case I'd dropped them, but alas, no green lanyard.

The next step was to call the gym. I'm very good about checking the locker and the area where I do my hair and makeup before I leave, but maybe I'd missed the keys. The girl at the front desk was even kind enough to run back and look for me, keys.

I still didn't panic. There were two more possibilities--the tire shop or my office. I called the tire shop as I walked, and got the same answer: no keys had been found.

By this time, I was in the school quad, nearing my classroom. I couldn't get into the office via the choir room, but the band room was wide open for their 2nd period class, so I slipped in that way. One of the drum majors saw me and pointed to my desk--"They just brought that for you!" I looked and saw my familiar green lanyard, and shouted, "Oh, thank God!!"

(It turns out the keys had been there all along, what had been brought for me was a gift of yummy chocolate from my PEST, so the drum major was initially confused at my loud deity-thanking, believing it was for chocolate!)

Seriously, though, I'm so glad I found those keys. I'm usually very good about making sure they're in my purse when I leave, but I was distracted by tire concerns on Thursday. If I'd lost them, it would mean re-keying a whole building. The key that lets me into my room is the same key for the whole of the theater building--all of our classrooms, offices, the main lobby to the theater, etc. Not to mention I have a gate key and a key to the piano lab.

So it's all's well that ends well, thank goodness. Rest assured that from now on, I'll be even more paranoid than usual in checking that I've got my school keys with me.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Stepping Out

If there's anything I've learned in a decade of teaching--and it took most of that decade to learn it--it's that stepping outside of my comfort zone is often what yields the best results for me as a teacher. This is especially true for me when it comes to asking for help (my considerable Leo pride can get in the way of that) and also in putting myself out there to new people. See, I'm not the most extroverted person I know, but nor am I an introvert (the term for me is ambivert, and it really depends on my mood and current stress level). However, I have a deep dislike of feeling like I'm pushing myself into someone else's space, which I believe comes from hating having my own space pushed into.

Sometimes, though, it's necessary, though in this case, it's no so much pushing myself in as just blatantly asking for some time. If I'm going to be a successful choir director, I have to start building relationships and learning everything I can now. So in the last month, I have emailed two different local choir directors and asked if I could watch them teach.

Both teachers I met or encountered at least briefly at a couple of recent choir events I took my kids to, so it's not like I'm some perfect stranger coming out of the woodwork. Still, we're all busy getting Winter Concerts ready, so having someone come in to watch can be a distraction, even if that someone is perfectly happy to sit in a corner taking notes. But both times, now, I've found that both directors were really happy to have someone want to watch them and learn from them, and both have been happy to sit and talk choir between class periods. It's gratifying, to slowly make myself part of this community, to know that I, too, can be a bigger part of it as I grow in my own teaching.

Of course, it makes my boss happy, but that's not why I am doing it. I'm finally realizing that to become an expert, one must be exposed to experts in their chosen field. I must surround myself with experienced choral directors--singing for Don in Sac Choral, watching other teachers, maintaining good relationships with the other choir directors in my district--in order to grow in my own teaching. More importantly, I'm realizing that no one minds me asking for opinions or a bit of time to observe; in fact, I think they're rather flattered that I am singling them out.

It's been interesting, making myself step outside of my comfort zone to contact new people and ask if I can observe them, but it's paying off big-time. I'm finding new ideas, seeing how some things I already do are actually good practice, and I'm getting a better sense of how to run a choir program. It's all about putting that pride aside and acknowledging that I don't know everything--but I certainly can learn.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

My Week in Instagram (Week #103)

It's finally starting to look like fall around here. In this part of California, Autumn lasts for about a week between Really Hot and what passes for winter in these parts. So I like to catch it as much as possible.


The Niners have been giving me indigestion all season.

Mom gave up on the game and ran some errands. I texted
her updates.


I felt kinda cute on Monday. 

I stayed late to update and submit my mid-quarter grades,
which were due on Wednesday for progress reports. Tuesday
was a holiday, so I wanted grades finished.

Flags flying everywhere in our neighborhood. : )

I went for a nice walk that morning.

Later I went to the ceremony my dad's Veterans Group holds
each year.

Dad gave a really great speech (the one I blogged on Tuesday)
and Mom and I were bursting our buttons with pride.

Dad's Air Force bling.

Some cuddle action with this character.

But who's counting?

I cleaned out my file drawer and found this--which goes back
to my credential classes, 13 years ago. The language is the
same, but the acronyms have changed. So it goes.

Only my hometown would put an ice skating rink around a
Gold Rush era railroad turntable.

I was meeting my friend Meghan for dinner--we'd decided on
The Fat Rabbit but when she mentioned walking by Hop
Sing Palace we both decided Chinese sounded better.

Another selfie, 'cause why not?

My fellow Keane fans will get the reference. (They have a
song called "Staring At the Ceiling.")


This tree is right outside the choir room. It's finally turning.

I'll be gone on Monday (observing another choir director), so
I left this note for my kids.

Friday Night Lights. We are in the playoffs.

I volunteered for duty because all teachers have to do a certain
amount each year, and an upcoming event I was supposed
to work got cancelled. They'd find me for something, so I
figured I'd volunteer. It was cold. Very cold.


Mom and I went to a craft fair in Lincoln. 

Some people are so amazingly talented.

Others are...very creative. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sadness and Cookies

I'm actually surprised at how sad I am.

This season (starting with the school year) is my fourth with Sac Choral, and until a few weeks ago, I've never missed a concert. Of course, a few weeks ago, I had pink eye and anxiety--sitting out was just what I needed. Still, I didn't like doing it.

And now, I'm sitting out again.

I went to the first rehearsal for Home For the Holidays three weeks ago, excited to get to the Christmas music. While I love singing all concerts, this one is a favorite--a wonderful time of year, great music, and tons of tradition. We sing it in Memorial Auditorium, right in the middle of downtown Sacramento--it's an institution in the city.

In that first week for this concert, Don mentioned the absence policy--miss two rehearsals, and you can't sing the concert, he reminded us. This is nothing new...but this was: "And if you miss any dress rehearsal, don't plan on singing."

My heart sank. We have two dress rehearsals for Home For the Holidays--Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. Friday evening happens to also be one of my two Winter Concert evenings at the Large Suburban High School. This same conflict happened last year, and there were no problems. I missed the Friday rehearsal, but caught up quickly on Saturday. This year, however, Don has to tighten up on these mandates, because someone recently tried to take advantage of the absence policy and got really upset when he held them to it. So yesterday, when I emailed him about my dilemma, he told me I'll have to sit this one out. I'm actually being put on the "inactive list."

And yes, I'm really, really sad about it.

Oh, there's some good. The concert is the same day as a Christmas Cookie Exchange that Mom and I are invited to, so now I get to find a fabulous recipe and go eat cookies. (I'm leaning towards these super-easy but very cute Grinch Crinkle Cookies.) And while the holiday season heats up, I won't be spending my Monday evenings driving all the way to Sacramento (it's a 45-minute drive for me), getting home late, etc. But still, I feel kind of like I've been kicked out of choir--which isn't remotely true. Don even said, "I'll expect you back on January 5th."

I just can't help feeling like I'm being penalized for my job--a choir director--by another choir director, simply because other people missed too many rehearsals and got pissy when they weren't allowed in a concert.

I suppose it's also good that instead now of three harried nights of choral performances in a row, I'll only have two (and then cookies!). But I didn't really mind last year, especially knowing that I could sleep late on Sunday and that even the following school week--Finals Week--would be really easy. Once the Winter Concert is over, Choir doesn't do a whole lot.

At this rate, I probably won't go to the concert. If I can't be in it, I don't really feel like sitting out there--while the concert will be wonderful, I'll just be thinking the whole time that I ought to be up there, not sitting in the audience. Mom and I will go to our cookie exchange to eat cookies and sip champagne, and come home that evening to relax. I'll likely feel a little bit lost; after all, I'm a singer, it's what I do.

What Is A Veteran?

Today, Veteran's Day, I want to share a speech my Dad is giving this morning at a ceremony the local veteran's group does every year. He also gave it at a local middle school on Friday. 

When I was a kid in Salt Lake sometime during the last century, we had a big parade every year on July 24th, which is Utah’s Statehood Day, and that parade was even bigger than the one on the Fourth.  There were floats, bands, fancy cars and all sorts of patriotic displays.

 There was also a cadre of men, the ages of my dad and my grandfather, in the parade right up front behind the grand marshal.  The older men rode in convertibles and the younger marched proudly in formation.  Some wore hats and parts of uniforms, and many carried flags.    I asked my Grandmother who these men were and she replied, “they’re veterans.”

“What’s a veteran?” I asked, “What does that mean?"

“Veterans are men and women who have served in the Navy or the Army or the Marines during the War,” she replied.  We watched them pass proudly line by line.

I still didn’t understand the significance of the word veteran even though we soon began to hear about our military serving in Korea and how many of them were being killed or wounded. They would also be called veterans.

Let’s fast forward to the mid ‘60s.  As a new college graduate, I was informed by my draft board that I would soon have the opportunity to become a veteran. Twenty-plus years later, I retired from the Air Force and joined my civilian counterparts still without an adequate understanding of what it meant to be a veteran even though I was one and had served with many others.  I didn’t think about it much until I retired a second time years later.

I was recruited by the Library of Congress to do interviews for the Veterans History Project in order to record the oral histories of veterans.    I began the interviews and I was, to say the least, amazed.  The stories poured forth and reflected not only the tragedy and suffering but also the humor and poignant stories common to all servicemen and women.  The vets came from every income level, every social status, every race, and from all across our great country.  The only things they had in common were that they had been through many of the same experiences and all had the same feelings for their country and what it meant to be an American. 

I interviewed an 80 year old Army veteran who had been in the Normandy landings.  He had been a young Mexican-American growing up in Farmington, New Mexico who had never strayed more than 25 miles from home when he was drafted.  After training, he was sent to England to await the invasion of France.  A few days after the landing, he received a head wound and was captured by the Germans, held for a few days, and then retrieved by fellow G.I.s.  After recovering at a hospital in England, he was returned to the front where he received the Silver Star for taking a machine gun position by himself.   Even though he stood barely five feet, he managed to operate the large Browning Automatic Rifle which was nearly as long as he was tall and he ensured his unit’s success without further casualties.  He returned to New Mexico after the war, married his high-school sweet heart and moved to California where he and his wife raised their children. 

I remember the Coast Guard Veteran, a mere man of forty who had never been in war, never seen combat.  By his own admission, as a youngster he was aimless and a drifter.  Often on the verge of trouble and without any real possibilities, he enlisted in the United States Coast Guard and after a lackluster year or so of active duty the cutter on which he was a crewman was called to a sinking sailboat off the east coast of the United States.  In treacherous seas, they rescued several children from the distressed boat and from that point on, he said, he realized he had a purpose in life and that he could make a difference and what he did counted.  He became a career coastguardsman, husband, and father and he retired after 20 plus years of service.

So what is it that makes a veteran?  Is it combat experience?  I don’t think so because for every soldier, sailor or airman who saw combat, there were nine or ten behind him who provided the support for him to be successful.  Could it have to do with intelligence?   Possibly, but it seems that common sense always prevailed.  Was it bravery?  Many are never called upon to demonstrate this.
No.  It is many things.  It’s an ability to deal with boredom and endure separation from home and family and know that these things would only end when victory was assured. It’s a feeling of a duty to answer the call of your country in its time of need.  It’s the ability to rise to the occasion no matter what the cost.   It’s loyalty to one’s country and, particularly, to one’s fellows.  It’s a sense of what is right and proper and a commitment to do that which is right and proper no matter what. 

 It is what makes this country, our country, so wonderful and so great and such a shining ray of hope in such a troubled world.  God bless America.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

My Week in Instagram (Week #102)

It's beginning to look a lot like chaos. ; )


Cold enough to wear gloves at the start of my run. : ) 

An easy 5K on Sunday. 

Gorgeous morning.

Mom made popcorn. I dropped my bowl and watched it roll
under my bed, scattering popcorn everywhere. 

Personal Foul: Yarn Interference. Five yard penalty. First Down.

"Have an excellent day at work, Mommy. I'll just sit here,
curled up in a warm blanket, while you work hard to bring
home the tuna. When you get home I'll insist on cuddles and
follow you into the bathroom while you shower."

The next five months:
"Whatcha doing this weekend, Meg?"
"Oh, running. Sleeping."


Two for Tuesday. With the time change, it's easier to get out
early to run on weekdays.

I love and hate this bookstore with equal measure.

Twenty candy canes from the 99 Cent store, to be used
by the Large Suburban High School Choir in the Winter

Wednesday wasn't busier than any other day, but I managed to
go all day without taking any pictures until sunset.


There's this warm-up we do where we do different animal
sounds or sing the words "Many mumbling mice are making
midnight music in the moonlight...mighty nice!" in various
styles. The kids decide. 

Fall color at the Large Suburban High School.

From the school paper. I love that this is on their radar.

I love haiku, I love these two in particular, and I love the kid
who wrote them (she's in choir, and she's awesome).

Psst: Don't tell anyone that I'm from another school in the
district!  Infiltrating another school so that I could...

...see this young woman cheer. She's Julia, the daughter of my
friend Sarah, and I remember her as an infant. She's 16 now.
It was fun to catch up with Sarah, and also to see Julia cheer. 

Cat ears in the morning.

Good morning, sweet girl. Yes, I'm awake.

Fall color.

Mom's roses are still thriving.

She planted some fall flowers yesterday.

That's it. Tonight I'm off to a small party to honor my new boss, full of performing arts types (dancers and singers and actors, oh my!) past and present from the Large Suburban High School. Should be fun.