Sunday, December 03, 2017

How to Run a Marathon



Now that I'm nearing--gulp--a decade into my running career, I've learned a few things. One of the most important things I've learned is that I have zero desire to train for a marathon. None whatsoever. It's not that I don't think I could run a marathon. I could figure it out if I wanted it badly enough. I just don't want all. 

See, training for a half marathon has proven tough on my body. I love the process and how I feel when a run goes right, but overall, though the months of preparing, I deal with near-constant sciatic nerve irritation and soreness that all the stretching and foam rolling in the world doesn't really do much for. I walk around my classroom with one hand on my back, groaning softly and scaring the children (or at least making them think I'm even weirder than they already suspected). 

Now that I've gone through that process (three times, thankyouverymuch), I feel like I can back off the ole Guts and Glory routine and just run for my general well-being. 

When the opportunity to be part of a relay team for the annual California International Marathon came up, I figured, "Hell, why not?" My school is part of a program through a couple of local shopping areas where we can earn points through making purchases...but also through various endeavors like having students carol at said shopping centers (guess which school music teacher is doing that later this week?) and putting together a four-person relay team for the marathon. 

Four intrepid women--Angela (Spanish), Chrystal (English Language Arts), April (3rd grade) and Yours Truly (Music) signed up and got training. None of us is going to medal in running at the Olympics, but we all enjoy it well enough and were willing to put ourselves out there on the road for our school. Besides, now we can say "I ran in the California International Marathon" and no one can call us a lying liar even though none of us ran the whole thing.

Once our team was set up, it was time to divvy up the different legs. Two legs were a little bit over seven miles, one was 6.2, and the last leg was 5.7. It was decided that Angela would take the first leg (7.3 or something like that), starting in Folsom. I would take the second leg (6.2). Chrystal took the third leg (about 7 miles even, I think), and April the finishing leg. We would cover 26.2 miles, from my hometown of Folsom to the Capitol building in downtown Sacramento. Easy-peasy!

Hold up, there.

See, there's an elevation change of about 300 feet between Folsom and Sacramento, so we figured it would be mostly downhill. And it was...for everyone but me. Turns out my leg is one of the shorter ones because it has more hills. I'm not complaining, but my calves were. 

Anyway, how to run a marathon...relay.

The official starting time for the race was 7:00 in the chilly morning. Because the course is a point-to-point course, and not a loop, runners were taken to the starting point, or to their relay exchange point, in school buses on loan from various local school districts. The buses for the second leg relay runners would depart at 6:30 in the morning. It was still dark out.

The bus was nice and warm, and we had the option of staying on it when we reached the relay point, but I didn't wait long. Though it was cold out, I wanted to see the first competitors come through.

The marathoners using hand bikes and such were the first to start the race, so the first person through was on a hand bike. We cheered like mad for him.

I took my requisite pre-race selfie.

Finally, the first runner came through. He was super-fast and way ahead of everyone else. This was only mile seven-point-something, so I wonder if he burned out later.

Behind him a little ways was a group, and they were fast, but quite obviously pacing themselves.

I almost missed Angela, and she almost missed me. But fortunately I saw her and yelled her name. We exchanged the ankle timer and I was off running.

It was not an easy run for me today. I'm just not in the form I was in a couple years ago, which is frustrating. It didn't help that a good chunk of my run was uphill. My calves were screaming.

Whining aside, the course itself was very high-energy. People lined almost every stretch of it, yelling, cheering, ringing cowbells, holding signs. Dogs in funny Christmas sweaters watched us pass. Aside from the official aid stations with water and energy gels, there were random neighborhoods were several people would be passing out orange slices and banana halves (always wearing gloves). Some people had boxes of tissues for those of us whose noses run as much as our legs do (I had a bandana for such needs). There were even people who had bought water to give out between aid stations. The amount of support and energy given by people whose weekend has been totally disrupted by this event was lovely, and reminded me why I love the greater Sacramento community.

When I reached mile 12, I had a little over a mile to go. I texted Chrystal a picture while jogging, and a little while later, I told her, "Be ready."

I shuffled in to find her waving and cheering me on. I yelled, "Oh my God I did it. Thank God I'm done!!" as she strapped the anklet on. I patted her on the back and said, "Have a great run!" Then she was off, and I was left thinking, "Okay, now what?"

The "now what" was easy--there were signs directing me to the bus to get back downtown.

But first, a selfie:

My bus, I was delighted to see, was Folsom school district for the whole of my public schooling, and later, my student teaching. I chatted with the driver, who has actually driven band trips for my former band teacher.

Traffic on the freeway was a nightmare, but we finally reached downtown, and were let off right by the capitol, where the finish line was. It was a hot mess of people, and I'm not a huge fan of crowds on a good day. When I've just slogged through 6.2 miles of hilly terrain on two spoonfuls of peanut butter (breakfast) and a few packets of Gu, crowds are downright terrifying.

So I grabbed some pretty pictures of the Capitol and the fall colors, then I spent a few minutes cheering runners on as they approached the Mile 26 sign. But my stomach wouldn't wait and my calves were gently weeping, so I crossed the street to my car and got on my way.

Team GIS did a great job today, finishing in 5:15 and earning points and pride for our school. I couldn't have picked a better team of people, and hope that if we do this next year, we have two relay teams, so people have running partners. 

That's my marathon story. It was exciting to be part of such a huge event, but I'm glad I didn't have to do twenty more miles than I did. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Dear Neighbors

Dear Neighbors,

I want to thank you all for putting up with me the last two-and-a-half weeks.

See, on November 8th, as I came home from work with my work bag, my lunch bag, my purse, and some shopping, my cat Archie got out. He'd slipped out the door before, but this time he was determined to see beyond the stairs in front of my unit. He got all the way down. I gave chase, but he was fast, and he was spooked by now.

We got a few buildings down and I couldn't catch him. I had left my door unlocked, so I doubled back to get my keys. When I came back, I could not find him.

Over the last few weeks, I've been that lady posting Missing Cat signs on all of the mail boxes. I've been the one creeping around behind your buildings, in the bushes and mud, calling "Hey Archie!! Hey Doodle Boy!" I honestly do not want to be a creeper. I did not look in your windows. I was just anxious to find my dear boy.

I was that woman with another orange and white cat on a leash, trying to sniff out our wayward brother cat. And I was that woman who would kiss her fingers and gently touch them to the picture of the missing cat on the community mail boxes every time she picked up her mail.

And thank you to Joy, a woman in my community who came running up to my unit tonight, panting, hand on chest. "Is your cat still missing?!"


"I just saw a yellow-and-white cat over by the pools. He's crying."

"I just need my shoes!!"

I threw on my trashed old ballet flats that I only use for watering my balcony garden or taking the trash out. I grabbed my keys, locked the door, and ran. By now Joy was panting along the sidewalk, and I introduced myself before crossing the parking lot to the pool.

"Archie? Hey baby, are you here?"

I heard a meow.


I realized I had not thought to grab my glasses (I rarely wear my contacts at home), so everything was blurry. I squinted at a cat that came trotting out. It looked like Archie, but again, things were blurry. I held out a hand and he trotted over to me--but not all the way.

"Archie?" Up closer, I was almost convinced. He had a collar on, but I couldn't really see it well. I reached out, and he backed away.


He crept closer again. I knew it was him now--that white face, the white legs.

I crouched down, held my hand out for him to smell. He must have recognized my voice, because he cautiously crept closer for a sniff. He let me pet him.

The collar said "Jedi Master."

"Archie!! Oh, baby, it's you."

I grabbed him by the scruff. He struggled, out of fear and maybe a little bit of brattiness.

So yes, neighbors, I was that woman carrying a struggling cat home while exclaiming, "Oh, my God! It's you! It's you!! You're back!!" Joy met me on the sidewalk. "Is it him?!"

"Yes!! It's my boy!!"

She was so happy, and she wished me a very merry Christmas. And though I am not the blessing time under normal circumstances, there I was in the parking lot tonight, hugging a scared, dirty little cat to my chest and saying, through near-tears, "Bless you! Thank you so much!"

Tomorrow, I'll be the one walking through the complex happily tearing down the Missing Cat signs that remain, laughing quietly to myself as I do so. But for tonight, I'm locked up tight in my unit with my two sweet boys, overjoyed to have Archie home where he belongs. And maybe giving him a bath.


The Cat Lady in Unit ____

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Lot

I am a high-anxiety person. I always have been.

These days, I take two Lexapro a day to handle it, and it works--I don't have the crying and stress I used to. I can handle things. But no drug is a miracle...there's still work involved. There are still days where the worry takes over everything else.

A week ago today, Archie got out when I got home from work. I tried to catch him, but he got spooked and ran from me. I haven't seen him since.

A couple of days after that, my usual fall allergies started causing a slight soreness in my throat.

I'm handling it.

There has been no crying, just an effort at finding my cat and bringing him home. Signs posted, bushes searched. I bought a harness and leash for Popcorn and we've been on a few excursions trying to scent out his brother. I update friends on Facebook and reassure them that I'm okay. I'm fine. He'll come back.

He will.

Meanwhile, my allergies turn to a minor cold. My throat hurts, talking is more difficult each day. I cough a little to move everything around in there. But I'm a Good Employee, so I go to work. My kids need me. My bosses need me to be there for my kids. I don't want to burden the school by bringing a sub in. Besides, I have all of next week off to relax and rest. I can make it.

So I get up early and do my job. I'm tired and maybe a little cranky, and I sit at my desk more than usual. But I get through the day with no incident and when I get home I curl up on the couch with a book and an extra-clingy Popcorn.

Yesterday, shortly after starting my drive home, my car beeped at me--loudly--a few times. A warning light came on. I looked at the computer, and found it was low tire pressure. "No problem," I thought.

I needed an oil change anyway, so I called Mazda and set an appointment for this morning. "Make sure they check my tires," I said.

I'm so handling it.

This morning, I got up, showered, fixed my tea, packed my lunch, made my smoothie. I fed Popcorn, checked outside for Archie, put on my makeup. My eyes were a little bloodshot, and I was coughing a little, but I gathered everything up and walked down to the car. I was going to drop off my car and get the courtesy shuttle to school a few miles away.

But nothing went according to plan. That tire pressure? Turns out I drove over some sort of screw, and that tire was flat. 

Still, I handled it. I called to change my service appointment. I called USAA for my roadside assistance. I texted my vice principal, who lives a mile or two from me, asking for a ride to work.

I didn't hear back from her in time. Dad had to drive Mom to her chemo appointment and couldn't help me right away. I would be massively late for work. I sat here at my computer, and thought to myself that maybe this stupid flat tire is a sign. Rest, Meg.

But I'm a Good Employee. I don't take sick days lightly. I've taken one this year, and it was because I thought I had strep throat, which is very contagious. I hemmed and hawed for a few minutes. What if my boss gets mad at me for taking a sick day? What if I can't get a sub so last-minute? What will happen if I have the 8th grade class take one day off from working on The Nutcracker production we're doing next month??

These are the questions that run through my brain, on full volume.

The answers are: She won't. People will cover, and it will be okay. Not great, but okay.* The show will go on.

*Turns out the job was taken by a sub within a few minutes, so hooray. 

I'm so bloody anxious about handling everything, that it takes the universe literally forcing me into staying home to take care of myself.

As I stood by my car waiting for the service guy to arrive, coughing and ducking out of the rain under a metal parking cover, it hit me full in the face: it's okay. I am legitimately allowed to take a sick day when my throat feels like this, and I'm so bloody tired, and my cat is missing, and my tire is flat. It's okay to curl up on my couch with some hot chocolate and a book and a box of Kleenex (because my nose is running, too) and just breathe. 

It's okay. And yes, I'll need four new tires now, which will deplete my savings again, but that's why I have savings. Yes, my cat is still missing, but I'm confident he'll find his way home at some point. The Nutcracker will be okay if I miss one day.

I have to remind myself of this, and I will have to throughout the day. It's okay. It's okay. It's okay.

That's anxiety, and it's maddening.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Well, Then

In the entire history of my blogging, I don't think I've ever gone so long without an update. It's not lack of ideas or interest, it's really just lack of time and energy. I'm working long days and spending my free time doing all the other things I need and want to do, like working out, playing my piano, reading, etc.

And let's face it, this blog never had a huge audience, but now it only gets read if I post the link on multiple social media, and provided it's not something I've already discussed on all of those social media sites already. I barely even blog about my adventures anymore, simply because I post them on Instagram in real time.

Blogging has become obsolete in a lot of ways, but I'm not ready to throw in the towel. I've put a lot into the Little Pink Blog, and I hope to keep going. It's a document of a large chunk of my adult life.

So stay tuned, if you are still tuned in. Meg's True Adventures are still ongoing.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Forgotten Women

For some time, I've had Songs and Sweet Airs: Forgotten Women of Classical Music on my Amazon Wish List. Recently, I had the pleasure of borrowing it from the library, and I've been reading it over the last week. 

In premise, it may sound interesting to you--and it is. But there is one caveat. The author, Anna Beer, uses a lot of music theory-speak, which is fine by me, but may be confusing to anyone who doesn't know what strophic form means, or what a cantata is. 

That said, the main take-away I'm getting from this book is that I--feminist, musician, music teacher--am sorely lacking in knowledge of women in music history.

Sure, I learned about Hildegarde von Bingen, Fanny Mendelssohn, and Clara Schumann a little in college. But that's it. I've sung a few choral works by women composers here and there, but for the most part, my performing life has been filled with the works of men. 

I'm setting out to change that. I've been looking for reasons to blog more, and this is one way to do it: I will be searching out female composers and listening to their surviving works, documenting here what I learn of them. 

For a start, I leave this gem I've just found tonight on YouTube, by Germaine Tailleferre. I know nothing of her...yet.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Labor of Love

Today is Labor Day, so I enjoyed a nice lie-in while Popcorn repeatedly stepped on my breasts in an attempt to get breakfast at the usual time (Popcorn doesn't understand "weekends").

Eventually, I got up and gave the boys their wet food, and now I'm relaxing with a cup of tea.

As I perused Facebook, the story of Alex Wubbels, the Utah nurse who was unlawfully arrested for refusing to let a detective take blood from an unconscious patient, came across my feed again. I've been seeing it for several days now, and like everyone else, I was shocked and outraged at the treatment she received from the detective. She was doing her job, and not breaking any laws. The detective was, of course, completely in the wrong.

Her story has reminded many people of something that was driven home to me in a very personal way to me this summer. Nurses are amazing. Of course, you get the occasional Nurse Ratched...

...but as my mom lay in a hospital for nine days in July, prepping for and then recovering from surgery to remove a tumor from her colon, I learned anew why nurses are so important.

When Mom was moved out of the ICU to a regular room after her surgery, one of the nurses, upon seeing her, gave her a hug, a kiss on the cheek, and said, "I'm so happy to see you again!" She was always cheerful, always ready to help Mom with whatever she needed. Mom loved her, and it made a stressful situation more bearable to have someone who so obviously cares for her patients on hand during the recovery process.

The other nurses were just as fantastic--attentive, efficient, caring. When Mom was in the pre-op area, one of the surgical nurses came in to talk to her. He was inputting information on the computer and talking quickly, and I could tell Mom was unable to hear him well, without her hearing aids in. I (nicely) interrupted him and said, "Just FYI, Mom's hard of hearing..." He stopped, smiled, and said, "Well, then, I can do this over here." He pulled a chair up next to Mom and wrote information down on paper instead of inputting it at the computer.

The little things were nice, but I also found that the nurses were willing to do just about anything to ensure the well-being of their patients, and they are fierce advocates. When Mom was first admitted, we didn't have a set surgery date, so she was fasting well before she needed to. She was scared, confined to a hospital room, and uncertain of what was next, and meanwhile, her blood sugar was plummeting. Anxiety started to take hold. It was a nurse who called the doctor in charge over and over until she got through, and insisted to him that Mom be given something. Mom went on a liquid-only diet, but at least she got some needed calories.

Nurses work twelve-hour shifts, three days on, which, when you think about it, has to be exhausting. They are on their feet, they help lift patients in and out of bed, they clean up toilet messes, vomit, and goodness knows what else. They are yelled at by difficult patients, ordered around by tired families, and they take orders from busy doctors who bustle in and out. It is the nurses who truly know how their patients are faring, and it is nurses who are the first to advocate for those patients. To see Alex Wubbels quietly, firmly telling a police detective that she cannot and will not let him take blood from a patient because he did not have a warrant or patient consent should surprise no one.

Nurses work holidays, miss first days of kindergarten, comfort grieving families, patiently answer every question under the sun--or offer to get an answer from a doctor. They deal with bureaucratic red tape and doctors with superiority complexes. They are exhausted, frustrated, and yet they take a deep breath and walk into that patient's room with a smile and a calm demeanor, because they know that patients need reassurance and calm along with the pain meds and IV fluids.

I am, of course, in awe of Dr. P., Mom's surgeon, and Dr. D., her oncologist. Dr. P. did amazing work getting a grapefruit-sized tumor out of Mom's colon, and ensuring that everything went well. Dr. D. is an expert in oncology and every time Mom sees her, she leaves feeling reassured.

But it was the nurses who, every day, made Mom comfortable, helped her get to the bathroom, made sure her needs were met. So on this Labor Day, I'm thanking them, and all of the nurses who work so hard for their patients. Alex Wubbels is getting national attention, but I'm sure she'd be the first to agree that she is no different than any other nurse out there.

P.S. Mom is doing great. She's had two rounds of chemo, and the third is tomorrow. She's had a chemo rash that was pretty uncomfortable, and she naps every day because of the fatigue, but otherwise, she feels really good and her prognosis is good. She's still got her Fightin' Pants on, and she's still staying active in her social activities, as much as she can. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Fun With Cystitis

I woke up at 6:00 on Saturday morning to Popcorn peeing on my pillow.

Besides being an unpleasant way to wake up on a day you're supposed to be able to have a bit of a lie-in, it was also a problem because 1) Cat pee = stinky, and 2) Popcorn and Archie are both really, really good about using the litter box. Usually.

I gave it another day and nothing happened, but on Monday, he was leaking a bit of urine and straining to go potty when he didn't actually need to. So it was off to the emergency vet (because of course I don't notice that he needs a vet until all the main veterinary offices are closed) for a check, to rule out blockages.

Amazingly, I was not at all anxious, really, just ready to get him mended.

Fortunately, he has no blockages--which can be fatal in cats, and quickly. He does, however, have Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (crystals in the urine) and he needs a few days' worth of meds to help things along.

Popcorn is a sweet, adorable, loving cat who turns into a total hellion when you try to give him medicine.

Millie wasn't exactly a fan of taking meds, either, but at eight pounds, she was easy to subdue. Poppers is twelve pounds--a block of muscle. I've taken to mixing the more foul-tasting medicine into his tuna, which is working.

I've also sprayed my bed and my couch with anti-marking spray and so far, the bed has fared well. The couch got peed on today (sigh) while I was at work, but I managed to get it out and eliminate the smell.

Ain't pet ownership fun?