Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Music: New Radicals

This song came on my iPod while I was running last week and I was reminded how much I love it. I remember hearing it for the first time in 1999--in London. A rough fall semester had sent me running to England, and this song just felt so good.

Oh, and New Radicals aren't a band so much as one guy who had a revolving door of friends/musicians playing with him. He put out one album, had one hit (this song) and then declared he'd had enough and went into the production end of things.

Still, he left us with this awesome song, and I still adore it and count it as one of my theme songs to this day. "You've got the music in you," indeed.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Taking Over For God

Last July, I drove to Salinas, CA for a job interview. (On the way home, I stopped for a picnic lunch on the beach near Carmel, then at the Carmel Mission, then in the town itself--really gorgeous part of California.)

I remember sitting in the interview--it was a high school choir position--getting more and more uncomfortable as the principal and teachers present laid out the job. The choir teacher was there, too. He was retiring after a long, successful career and was hoping to find a great, dynamic music teacher to take over his beloved program.

I was looking for the nearest exit.

See, I've been there, done that. I spent two years teaching high school choir in Antioch. I'm not opposed to teaching high school again, but I am opposed to being the poor schmuck who takes over for God, in the form of a much-loved, long-running high school choir director.

My friends, it is hell.

I'm far enough removed from Antioch now that I can talk about it more, and I don't feel like a failure anymore. I wasn't so much a failure as just inexperience and being unprepared. I didn't know who to ask for help. My Leo ego told me, "I got this!" when in reality, I was too young for that job.

Taking over Mrs. H.'s program that first year, was a crazy mix of angry students (if I had a dime for every time I was told "Mrs. H. used to..." or "You should do it like Mrs. H. did..." I could have retired after the first six months, bought an island, and right now I'd be sipping margaritas and having my hot, muscled pool boy fanning me with a palm frond.) and complaining parents. The kids were angry at Mrs. H. for leaving them. They were angry at me for replacing her. They were angry at the universe for the fact that they were teenagers. Anger, anger, anger. Angst, angst, angst.

Also? Endless fundraising. Gah, the fundraising.

If you look at the right-hand sidebar on this blog, you'll see all the months of posts I have written since this blog started in July 2004 (almost eight years--where does the time go?). You might notice that between August 2006 and June 2008, I didn't post a whole hell of a lot.

I was so stressed.

Before Antioch, even in the harried English adventure and the year in Washington, I'd been on a steady downward trend with my weight, or at least holding steady. In Antioch, my weight skyrocketed. For the first time, I was over 200 pounds. I went on blood pressure medication and anti-depressants. My ability to handle stress was always shaky, but in Antioch, I started having panic attacks sometimes, just at the thought of going to work. It was debilitating.

In 2008, enough was enough. I considered a 3rd year but fate had other things in store for me. I got the Stockton job and left Antioch. The rest, as they say, is history. In the four years since I left, I've had a lot of successes, a few setbacks, and it's all been blogged here. The best part is obviously the weight loss and going off all of the medications.

I bring all of this up not because I need to vent it or let it go--goodness knows I've done enough of that to various friends and I've moved past it--a long time ago. I mention it tonight because a few days ago, I was looking for new music postings on Ed-Join (a very awesome web site where pretty much every school district in California posts its job openings) and I saw that the Salinas job I interviewed for last July is open again.

At this point, I don't really care to move all the way to Salinas (even if it is but an easy drive from Carmel, Monterey and my beloved Pacific), but I found it interesting. Apparently, the person who was hired to take over for God at Salinas High School found that it's much harder than appears from the outside, just as I did in Antioch.

I've thought over the last couple of years that I wouldn't mind teaching high school again--but it would need to be on my terms. I'd rather build a nice little program that consists of beginning, intermediate, advanced and jazz choirs, with emphasis on community engagement--singing at assisted living facilities, for example--over the yearly trips to Disneyland and the expectation that the only acceptable outcome in a competition is first place, rather than a chance to get valuable feedback from expert judges and to see other groups and learn from them.

The Antioch experience wasn't entirely bad--I had some students that I was happy to see graduate, believe me, but I also had some wonderful kids who worked hard to cooperate with the new teacher, even when they didn't fully understand my methods. I had some really helpful parent volunteers--I drew the line at sewing Show Choir costumes--and some incredibly supportive colleagues that I still keep in touch with.

Anyway, all of this came rushing into my head when I saw the job posting on Ed-Join. Who knows what the particulars are--but it seems that the first replacement for the much-loved choir teacher wasn't tough enough to keep going. I made it two years. It's a tough gig.

Pacific Sunset

This was originally posted on my now-deleted blog, The Anxious Traveler, on September 30, 2009. When I still weighed nearly 200 pounds and had blonde hair. Heh. Anyway, I wanted to share it here because hello! The California sunset is incredible. I love the Pacific.

After my milkshake dinner in Mendocino, I started driving back towards Fort Bragg. I pulled off Highway 1 at Ocean Drive and found a place to park my car. I wasn't the only person there with the idea of catching a Pacific sunset. More people arrived as the sun inched lower in the sky.

I read my book while I waited, and took pictures of the seagulls.

The light on the rocks and water is gorgeous.

Finally, the sunset. I was experimenting with different settings on my camera, so I took a bunch.

The Anxious Traveler poses with the setting sun...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Town

Today I found myself in downtown Lincoln, pretending to help with the local Rotary group's Lincoln Wine Fest, but actually just enjoying the sunshine, going for a wander, and sampling local food and wine. I took a few pictures to share.

When I was in college, I used to drive through Lincoln all the time when going back and forth between Folsom (my hometown) and Chico (my college town). In the late 90s, Lincoln was a little depressed and feeling abandoned, but the mid-naughts boom in real estate (including where my parents currently live) has brought it back and our downtown is doing quite well. It's not huge, but there are some great restaurants and businesses and it has its own unique flavor. I'm glad it's no longer a lonely place.

Cali Swimmy got to have a quick paddle.

Historic building

My dad gets his hair cut here, by Al the Barber.

Highway 65 runs through downtown.

Home of the Lincoln News Messenger

Gotta love that despite our fancy restaurants and Wine Fests, we also
still have a competition on ammo.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fitspiration Friday

This is so true. Running is never going to be easy for me--I've just gotten better at getting out and doing it. My attitude has gotten better. Burpees? Oy vey, I don't enjoy them...but I do them. And my arms? Oh, they'll tell you that Burpees are worth it.

That said...what are you going to do for your body this weekend?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Little Bit Badass

Yesterday was my first Wednesday workout on my own in a long time--the good news is, M. the Reasonable plans to keep me in good workouts (he's so awesome) and the even better news is I can motivate myself to keep up with the program (though I miss having someone to talk to).

Yesterday's routine was appropriately fierce:

The point is to do one minute each of those first five exercises, with a ten-second rest period between, then rest for one minute and do it all again. Three times through all of this? Brutal. I'm still sore, Thursday evening.

But what really makes me feel a little bit badass is the plank push ups. A short couple of months ago, I could not do these--we tried them at one appointment and all I could do was struggle, grunt, and collapse. Moving from a plank (elbows and forearms on the floor) to a push-up position was simply not possible. Fast forward to April simply is possible. It's difficult, but I can do it. I love seeing concrete evidence that I'm getting stronger!

Yesterday, I set up in the functional training area, grabbing a set of dumbbells, a kettlebell, and positioning my Kindle Fire (I bought a fantastic timer app for it that does all the work for me) just so. I went to grab a mat but alas, they were all in use. So I went about my three sets of cross-over step-downs, plank push ups, sumo dead lifts, pull ups, and Burpees in rapid succession.

It was only after all of this, as I got ready to do my ab work, that I noticed the toll the plank push ups, done without a mat, had taken on my elbows.

Big ole bruise and a side of road rash.

I'm so hardcore.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Seeing Myself As I Am

On Saturday, I had a "fat day." You know, one of those days in which your jeans feel a little tight, and you notice the tummy flab jiggling when you move. The kind of day that reminds me I'm not "done" with my weight loss yet.

I stood in front of my bathroom mirror, staring critically at the bits of fat here, and the bits of fat there, hating them, almost hating myself for having them. And then those awful, horrible words crept into my head.

"I'm still fat."

The good news is, rather than wallow and turn to the nearest chocolate to soothe my pain, instead, my Inner Hot Girl started screaming her head off. "You are not fat!!!" she screeched in my brain.

I took out my old size 18 jeans and slipped them on. I danced a silly dance in front of the mirror, letting them fall around my ankles, exposing my underwear. I pulled them up over my chest, holding them to myself with both arms and giggling at how ridiculous I looked, dancing around my bathroom with a pair of jeans that dwarf me pulled up to my armpits.

I looked at my reflection and quietly whispered, "You. Are. Not. Fat."

To have come as far as I have--I weighed in at 143 on Monday, so that is 79 pounds overall--and to feel bad about a few little bits of residual flab is ludicrous. But I do it, all the time. I compare my "fluffy" belly to other women at the gym, or press the tiny bit of cushioning on my hips and wonder when it will burn off. I inspect the wobbly bits on my arms and hope that soon, the amazing muscles I've built there will demolish it.

And I have a hard time seeing myself as I really am--not fat. I am simply not a fat person. I have fat--I'm supposed to have some fat--but I am no longer unhealthily overweight.

It's so hard to see that. But I'm not alone. This morning, a blog I follow, Fit to the Finish, posted this post about how, after dramatic weight loss, we have a hard time actually accepting that our bodies are smaller. Diane picks up a blouse at the store and thinks it will be a perfect fit, while her husband looks on and says, "That's way too big." I do exactly the same thing. While rationally I know that I can fit in a size 6, I still pick up a 10 and think, "That should do it."

It's baffling, and maddening. I'm working on it.

And every day, I remind myself that there are way better adjectives to describe myself with than fat versus not-fat. I am capable. I am passionate. I am loving. I am determined.

I am strong.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Music: U2

Again, this is what happens to be playing on iTunes as I remember that it's time to schedule a new Monday Music. That said, I love this song, and I have loved U2 for years. This is a good song to run to.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My Philosophy

I found this on Pinterest, and I can't think of anything that better describes how I've decided to live my life.

It is better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.

Right, Cali Swimmy?


Thursday, April 19, 2012


I hardly know where to start. I'm sitting here at the computer, bawling. The ugly kind of crying that involves a lot of nose-blowing and red, puffy eyes and surely a fierce headache if I don't knock it off.

I'm so happy right now. But I can't stop bawling.

I'm coming up on two full years of unemployment. I left Stockton Unified at the end of May in 2010, confident that I would find a job fairly quickly. Sure, the economy sucked, but I had eight years of teaching (nine if you counted subbing and student teaching) under my belt and I'd done awesome things like teach in England and run a choir program. Who wouldn't want me?

Well, it turns out, no one did.

I know I came close many times. I just always ended up getting edged out by someone with a little bit more experience, or with slightly better interview skills, perhaps. It's all well and good to come close, but "close" doesn't pay the rent.

So I forged ahead on unemployment. It kept he rent paid--in the year I lived in Stockton with my benefits, I was only late paying rent one time, and that was because the Independence Day holiday delayed my check from arriving in time for me to turn in my rent payment.

Living on unemployment has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life. Going two years, searching for job opportunities and being turned down by Target--Target!!--has been humbling. It is not easy on my huge Leo pride to go to interview after interview after interview and come back with nothing to show for it.

Moving back in with Mom and Dad at age 33 wasn't the easiest thing, either. It's been an adjustment for all of us, and believe me, I know I am one lucky, lucky woman to have parents who will allow her to be a "boomerang child." They are nothing but supportive, and have remained so through this whole crazy year of more interviews, more rejections, the Great Insurance Debacle of 2012, and more.

On Saturday, I interviewed for a job with an arts camp that is designed for ESL (English as a Second Language) kids here in the Sacramento area. It's funny; I left the house feeling like my lesson plan was weak, but a busy week and a hectic weekend of choir rehearsals and concert call times had me almost not even caring anymore. I just wanted to survive Saturday so I could spend Sunday afternoon napping.

But the most amazing thing happened--I got to the interview and suddenly realized that my lesson was everything the ladies on the panel wanted; that my approach--less emphasis on fancy-schmancy music terms and more focus on just learning the English language--was what they wanted. And that my attitude, my love for working with kids, and my experiences of working with kids from many different backgrounds and cultures, were huge marks in my favor, as well. I left the interview feeling very positive, after the panel told me they loved what I had to say, they loved my lesson, and were very interested.

I walked out of that interview knowing that this was exactly what I wanted...and yet so afraid to hope that after two years of "almost" and "it was close, but we hired someone else," I might actually get this job.

A few minutes ago, I received the following message in my email:

We are pleased to let you know, that we have selected you as Music Instructor, on our ESL Arts Advantage team, for the upcoming summer camps. We are still waiting for the numbers to come in so we can send you official offer letters with more details in regards to your positions. Please bear with us, we cannot rush the process, and we appreciate your patience.

If you have secured another position or are not interested in accepting this position please let us know. We need to fill each position and want to know if you would like to join our team. 

Friends...I read this and I promptly burst into those noisy, snotty, obnoxious tears. Two years of applying for jobs, writing letters, driving insane miles for interviews (Salinas, King City? I would have moved there had I been offered the jobs). Two years of uncertainty. Two years of choosing between paying the electric bill or having a little extra on hand for gas for the car this week. And finally, finally, someone wants to hire me.

Two years of feeling like no one would ever want to hire me to teach again. Because it seemed like no matter how good I looked on paper, no matter how enthusiastic and knowledgeable I came across in an interview, I couldn't get past the non-reelect, or the time of unemployment.

This job is not a permanent job--it is only temporary. But in terms of how it will build my confidence, just being hired again, and how it will look to have current employment on my resume, it is huge. A very big deal. The panel said there could possibly be an opportunity for the job to become a more permanent thing as the company grows; if so, that's great. If not, I have that oh-so-important current working experience, and a new, valuable reference on my resume.

So yes, I cried uncontrollably and soaked through half a box of tissue. I am feeling so much joy, and yet so overwhelmed by it. So all I could do for a few minutes was sob. I've managed to calm down now...I just can't explain how it is to go two years, starting to face that you may never be hired to teach music again.

This doesn't stop my job search. But it does make me confident that a position in a school could become available to me...I'm making things happen!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

That's It. Done.

Online dating simply isn't my thing.

I have tried it, in various forms, at the urging of friends who swear by it as a way of meeting people, over the years. And it is a cesspool.


Attention Assholes: This is NOT how to get me to respond.
I have friends who have met and married wonderful men they've met through online dating, but I simply seem to keep getting accosted by the frogs--you know, the ones that don't turn into princes. I just don't have the patience to deal with messages like this in my inbox first thing in the morning. I would rather take my chances going out and living my life, which is why tonight, I'm taking myself on a date, to listen to an Irish music jam at a little pub in the area.

Chances are I won't meet Mr. Right (or even Mr. Right Now) tonight, but at least I'm not at home wondering why Match is such a pit. And I'll be having some fun in the process.

As for the date from last week...I saw him again yesterday, and he's nice enough. And...he nonchalantly told me about his job as a cop, and how he once shot a guy, and...*sigh* Oy vey. (Picture me, sitting at my desk, head in hands, muttering under my breath that I'm going to become a nun right now.)

Oh, Meg. Focus on getting a bloomin' job.

Conversations With My Trainer

So after today's butt-kicking workout with M. the Reasonable, I have one lone session left with him--for now. Make no mistake, I will buy more when I can again, because 1) I'm not at goal yet and 2) dare I say it? He's the best trainer I've had. G.the Meanie was awesome and everything I needed at the time to bully me into becoming an athlete. M. has taken what G. helped me build and has fine-tuned it to precision. You should see my arms and shoulders. (Actually, according to M., I've become quite "shapely." Good word!)

But beyond being a fantastic trainer, M. has also been a good friend. March wasn't exactly a fun month to be me, let alone to have to listen to me. He bore it with a smile and many encouraging words. My twice-weekly butt-kickings with M. are truly what kept me sane.

I've been lucky to get along well enough with all of my trainers, but I've had a particular rapport with M. that stands out, and makes for great conversational gems. Going back through my blog posts from the last six months, there are some stand-outs that still make me giggle.

For example, the day I met him:

"I have a tendency to get very sarcastic when I feel backed into a corner," I told him today.

"Well, I have a very sarcastic personality, too, so that's fine!" he replied.

"I once told my last trainer that I hated him." I came back.

"Oh, I've heard that one more than once."

All of this was said with friendly smiles and not a hint of animosity or bad feeling. I have a feeling we're going to work well together.

I've never felt backed into a corner, working with M. One thing I learned as he started training me is that I've had a major attitude adjustment since my days of working with G. It's called "believing in myself." There comes a point where even Burpees stop being impossible. They'll never be fun, but you just shut up, do 'em, and then sit and marvel at your awesome arm muscles. 

Also, for the record, I have heard, more than once, that M. likes being "M. the Reasonable" after I've had, you know, B. the Sadist and G. the Meanie. He earned the name. His mentality is far less "push through the pain" like what I got used to with G. and more "let's not hurt ourselves, here..."

If you've encountered me in person, you've most likely noticed that I talk much like I write--constant parenthetical statements (it's how I roll, yo), dramatic uses of ellipses...I can get pretty animated. I also talk to myself. Fortunately, it's not the voices-in-my-head variety of talking to myself, it's the "I need to hear myself say it to comprehend just what I'm doing" variety. Case in point:

Meg: I can do this!

M: Yes, you can!

Meg: That was more for me than it was for you.

M: I know, I just wanted to let you know I'm on your side.

Meg: I appreciate that! Actually, I do that a lot. I mutter to myself as I'm working out. It's like I need to hear it, not just think it. People must think I'm crazy when I'm running.

M: I do that, too!

This is why we get along so well. And, you know, because he's never told me to push through the pain...but also because he is always appropriately impressed by my accomplishments. I still laugh when I recall his reaction to seeing my size 18 jeans:

His smile turned to a look of shock as I unfolded the jeans and held them up in front of myself. M. is not a particularly loud person to begin with, but his very quiet, "Oh, my God." made me laugh out loud in delight.

A big smile spread across his face. "You could fit two of you in those!" He stood there, shaking his head, smiling, as I laughed and told him of my own reaction to pulling the jeans out for the first time in a long time. Finally, he said, "I just...can't imagine you ever being able to fit into those!"
"Neither can I, and I did, indeed, used to fit into them!" 
(His reaction when I recently "gifted" him with a tag to my recent purchase of size 4 jeans was a half-yelled, "Oh, SNAP! I LOVE IT!!" that had me laughing and people around us staring.)

It never occurred to my reasonable trainer to do anything insulting, like yell, "Mush!" when I was pushing him across the aerobics room on a dog sled.

Then he sat down. "You're going to push me across the room and back."

It wasn't that hard. M. isn't a heavy guy, and while it took some effort, I managed to get him across the room. As we neared the opposite side I said, "If you say, 'MUSH!' so help me God..."

Laughter. "I wouldn't do that!" He got up to turn the sled around and said, "But maybe I should stand on it, facing backwards, yelling in your face: "GO! GO! PUSH HARDER! FASTER! GO!!!"

"I'd have to hit you."

"I'd be mad at you if you didn't!"
Yesterday, M. emailed my Friday assignment workout to me from his fancy new iPad. I responded to let him know it had come through, and sent the link to Monday's post, in which I made my first-ever semi-snarky remarks about wanting to kick him. He loved the post, and we chatted about it today, laughing at how I really, truly wanted to tell him to go to hell when he told me, "Only 40 seconds of work left!"

Today found me doing the same timing intervals as Monday's treadmill torture on the ropes, whipping them around and generally trying not to fall on my ass in a heap of exhaustion and tears. And with two intervals left to go, my reasonable trainer let his sarcastic streak shine through. A smirk came across his face as he said, "Only 40 seconds of work left!"

I let my right middle finger respond for me.

And, because we're on the same wave-length, we both simply laughed.

Monday, April 16, 2012

English Grandeur

Sac Choral has a photographer friend named Ronnie Johnson. He always gets fantastic pictures of our performances, and I share a few of them here, with full credit to him, today. Just so you all can see how massive this concert was.

There were over 200 singers, with Sac Choral Society combined with the University Chorus. Add a full orchestra, and you've got a massive, massive sound.

I won't forget this concert any time soon.

There I am!

Eleventh row, very end. Yep, there's 5'2", behind a ton of tall altos!

You can make me out in this shot (well, I can, anyway).

Nearly 300 musicians on stage at the Sacramento Community Center Theater.

My Butt...It Is Kicked

I met with M. the Reasonable this morning, for our usual Monday morning workout. We started a new regime today, and that's always kind of exciting. I have somehow turned into that gymbo type who rather enjoys getting her butt kicked and handed back to her on a platter.

Go figure.

Today, we started off strong--I did exercises like "curtsy lunges" and floor presses (think bench press, without the bench) and kettlebell swings. Then there were the eye-level row-type exercises with the resistance band and throwing a ball against a wall and going into a squat when catching it.

One minute of all of these exercises, with 10 seconds to rest in between. Three times.

Tired? You don't know what tired feels like until you're in that third set of ball throws, losing your balance and unable to do something as simple as catch or throw a big ball.

My arms, people.

Anyway, next up was three sets of three different Pilates exercises for abs. They were pretty killer, but I got through them.

Finally, we headed over to the treadmill...and for the first time in the almost six months I've been working out with M. the Reasonable, I wanted to kick him. (To put things in perspective, I lost count of all the times I wanted to kick G. the Meanie. Almost daily.)

Really, the routine doesn't sound bad. Get the treadmill going at 5 mph, set the incline to 10 so you're running uphill. Start the timer, run for twenty seconds, rest for ten seconds. Do this eight times.

Come on, how hard can it be?

Ha. Haha. Ha.

I've done it before, and I really loathe uphill interval runs on the treadmill.

Today was particularly difficult. The first couple of intervals were okay--not fun, but not embarrassing, either. The third and fourth intervals were more painful. I made a whiny remark about my legs being tight, which elicited a chuckle from my torturer trainer. The fifth and sixth intervals found me starting to gasp--loudly--for air. I don't normally have issues with breathing (except that sometimes I forget to) when I run, so that was odd, but I kept plugging along.

"Only 40 seconds of work left!" called M. encouragingly from behind me.

And this, dear readers, marks the first time in six months that I've ever wanted to turn around and growl, "Go. To. Hell." at M. the Reasonable.

Somehow I pushed through those two intervals, while M. made those "Yes!" and "Awesome!" noises that trainers like to make. Finally, I heaved my feet to the sides of the treadmill for the last time, gasping and doubling over, accepting the satisfied praise from my trainer while also trying not to throw up on his Vibrams. (What is it about running that makes me feel like I'm going to hurl?) We joked about my unkind thoughts of him, and he acknowledged that such thoughts are justified--it's not an easy exercise, and especially not after everything else I had done in our session today.

At this point, we were finished, but we detoured around the gym so I could catch my breath and start feeling my legs again before sitting down at a desk--where I promptly started coughing.

Seems all that breathing difficulty on the treadmill was caused by loose phlegm rattling around and was now uncomfortably lodged in my throat. For the next 15 minutes, no amount of coughing or water-drinking would move it. I somehow managed to drag myself out to Rosie Pro and drive myself home.

The good news in all of this is that it didn't kill me, so I guess my body must be getting even stronger. I've got more coming to me on Wednesday, and a Friday assignment that looks killer.

Bring it on.

Monday Music: Keane

Yeah, yeah...again.

This is one of their new songs from the upcoming album. It was made available through a game on Keane's website, so of course it's already all over YouTube.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wild and Wonderful Weekend

I feel so full this morning.

Full of stories and adventures and random pictures of random moments from this crazy, exhausting weekend. A weekend that in the end was pretty damned amazing, for many reasons. The best way I can sum it up is in sections. Starting with this morning, and then going back to Friday afternoon and moving along chronologically.

The 5K That...Wasn't

I was supposed to run a 5K this morning. It's happening right now, as a matter of fact, and here I sit, in my pajamas, just finishing my morning cup of tea and tip-tapping away on the keyboard.

As I drove home last night, nearly delirious with exhaustion, I decided that getting five hours of sleep, forcing myself awake, and returning to Sacramento to force my tired body and mind through a 5K sounded like pretty much the worst thing I could do to myself. While I hate missing the race, the bottom line is that it's much healthier to get a good night's sleep, allow my body time to wake up and recover, and then go for a good run here in the neighborhood. So that's what I'm doing.

Friday Afternoon Blues

By Friday afternoon, I was getting sick and tired of the storming. I wouldn't mind it if I hadn't been stuck at home alone, avoiding the crazy drivers of the world...but I was starting to get some serious cabin fever (if posting a video documenting three days of weather didn't convince you of that...) and yet, I had absolutely no desire to go out to choir rehearsal on Friday night. No, I wanted to crawl in bed and feel sorry for myself.

But I couldn't do that. I made a commitment to choir, and I have been looking forward to this concert, so at 5:30, I saddled up Rosie Pro and hit the trail for Carmichael, a nearby community in Sacramento County, where we would be meeting in the gym at Jesuit High School.

Along the way, I found some reasons to smile.

I made about three U-turns to come back around and get this sign pic.

After stopping for a hot chocolate, I turned down the street for the school
and promptly found a full-arch rainbow. Sometimes the universe gives you
these things to remind you to smile.

Then I found THIS. I knew Keane Dr. existed in Carmichael and had
vague plans to someday find it to get the sign pic. To find it when I had
to be there for choir? Priceless. Yes, that's more rain.

From the gym parking lot at the school. Many of my fellow singers were
also marveling at this display by Nature.

In the gym. The seating arrangement for this concert had the Soprano 2
section in the back stage-left corner of the choir. Odd set-up, but it worked.
Rehearsal ended up being fantastic--the music we've been doing is so uplifting and glorious (not to mention challenging). Finally hearing it with full orchestra, instead of just a piano, was incredible.

I arrived home at about 11:00 Friday night, exhausted and ready for bed, but I had some things to plan and pack for Saturday. Because my life doesn't seem to be able to be dull, I had a bloomin' crazy day planned, starting with...

A Job Interview

Earlier in the week, I had a call from ESL Arts Camp, a small organization that runs three-week camps for students who are learning English, usually groups from China who come for a three-week session to practice their language skills and stay with a host family to learn the culture. They are looking for music instructors and I am looking to teach music, so they asked if I would interview on Saturday morning. No problem! I knew it would be wacky, fitting that in before yet another choir rehearsal and the concert that evening, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

I spent the morning doing everything that needed to be done--breakfast, feeding the cats, washing up, and packing a duffel bag with my outfit changes, makeup bag, choir music, dinner, Ibuprofen (just in case), and my Kindle. I left at 10:00 to get to Sacramento before my 11:00 appointment, armed with a lesson plan and a lot of nerves.

The lesson requirement was to present "Little Miss Muffet" to teenagers in a music lesson. I'm creative, but good grief. I left the house with this feeling of total dread that my lesson idea was weak...but I was determined to claw my way through it.

Turns out I was mistaken in thinking I'd actually be teaching the lesson--the good news is that I just had to present my idea to a panel of three really friendly ladies. This made me feel much better.

What I ended up doing was a lesson using layered rhythms. And it turns out that the lesson I'd feared might be weak was actually pretty perfect for what these women aim to do--bring fun, musical activities to English learners as a way to help them learn and practice the language. The panel loved it, and told me they really liked what I had to say. I'm very hopeful that this bodes well for me--the job is a temporary thing, but to be hired and working is something I could put on my resume, and it would open more opportunities up to me (not to mention be another reference).

And this kind of job is right up my alley. This is the stuff I love to do.

The goal would be to divide the kids into three groups, performing the
three rhythms at the same time.

I pointed out to the ladies, as I demonstrated the rhythms, that I was using off-beat (syncopated) rhythms that mimic a lot of what is used in current pop music--the camp director's face lit up. Turns out, they love using contemporary pop as much as possible because the visiting students love American culture. "Would you be okay with using pop music?"

"Definitely!" And I am--I love using music that is fun and relevant to my students. I talked about studies I've read about, showing that English learners benefit from repeated, rhythmic practice of English. I pumped up my teaching training and my previous experience teaching ESL students (by the way, ESL stands for English as a Second Language), and how it is impossible to avoid teaching ESL students in California anymore.

I am very, very hopeful this morning. The panel seemed very enthusiastic about what I presented and had to say.

Costume Changes

When I left the house, I was wearing my interview outfit--slacks, button-down top, professional shoes. Immediately after, I drove straight to a nearby Starbuck's I'd staked out, ordered a hot chocolate, and dashed into their bathroom for a costume change into jeans, tank-top, hoodie and tennis shoes. I'm a pro at the post-interview quick-change (I can don skinny jeans while sitting in the driver's seat of my car), and my bare feet never even touched that bathroom floor.

I spent a lovely hour at Starbuck's, playing on my Kindle and relaxing with hot chocolate and a protein plate. There was absolutely no way I was going to drive 40 minutes back to Lincoln, only to turn around an hour later to return to Sacramento for choir rehearsal. I thank Mom and Dad all the time for giving me a Kindle Fire for Christmas. That thing is all kinds of entertaining.

The Choir Nerd Rides Again

Call time for our choir rehearsal was 2:30, so I found my way to the Community Center Theater early to see if I could help with anything or just generally get in the way. I left Rosie Pro in a nearby parking garage, gulping madly at the thought of how much it might end up costing me to park there for about 8 hours (turns out they stop charging at 6:00, so it ended up being a bank-breaking $5. Ha.). Feeling smug and very much like a professional musician, I hoisted my duffel bag on my shoulder, my choir dress over one arm, and strode a few blocks to the theater, where (and I love this part) I went in through the back stage performer's entrance. Enter through the lobby? Horrors. No way.

I helped out a little bit with some set-up in the lobby area, but I also had some time to wander outside a little. The sun was out and Sacramento looks glorious in the sunshine.

Women's dressing room.

The view from the stage.

I walked on it, just to spite whoever put that silly
sign there.

Between the theater and the convention center.

A few blocks away, the Cathedral of the Blessed
Sacrament, where we had a concert in October.

Our director, Don, with his dog, Mushu.

With over 200 singers on stage, we needed risers.

We had a full orchestra accompanying us.

Out in the lobby.

As we got closer to rehearsal, I took my spot in the 11th row nosebleed
section and got a pic of my perspective. You can *just* see Don's stand.

Cali Swimmy has grand dreams of being a famous baritone soloist.

During the dinner break, I went for a quick wander and got this pic of a
beautiful and useless building where nothing is ever accomplished...yep,
our State Capitol!
Once rehearsal was finished, we had a two-hour dinner break. I had a quick wander before settling in with my Kindle, my iPod (to avoid talking to people so I could rest my voice) and a packed dinner of apples, peanut butter, carrots, and two mini bagels with cream cheese. I drank water and did my best to relax. I was already tired.

The Concert

Finally, showtime. We started at 8:00--the first half of the concert flew by, and finally it was time for our showcase piece, "Belshazzar's Feast." 

When I received my copy of this behemoth in December, I immediately started listening to the practice CD and...well, what is this?! It actually took me three rehearsals to decide if I would love it or hate it (there can be no in-between with a piece like "Belshazzar's Feast"). I decided I loved it. What an enormous, monumental, insane piece of choral music. It is full of passion and energy, yet moments of extreme tenderness and beauty. And it is bloody difficult. There are dissonant chords sung at full volume and moments designed to make the hair on the back of the necks of the audience to stand on end. It is a full workout for the singers, the orchestra, and especially the conductor--and it is epic and wonderful.

I could spew adjectives all morning, and never come close to really helping you understand just how monumental this piece was to me as a singer.

It is rarely performed here on this side of the Atlantic (it's by an English composer, William Walton), because it is rather obscure to American audiences and because it is such a huge undertaking. It requires a large chorus--we actually had Don's Sac State University Chorus sing with us to take our numbers over 200--and a large orchestra.

If you ever have a chance to hear it performed live...take it. Please, just trust me on this.


By the time I returned to my intrepid little Protege after 10:00 last night, I was near-comatose with exhaustion. How I managed the drive all the way back to Lincoln remains a mystery. Along the way, I made the decision to sit out of today's 5K and let myself sleep...and I'm so glad I did. I'm still a little on the tired side, so a gentle run and some relaxing this afternoon are just what I need. Tomorrow morning, I hit the ground running with an early workout with M. the Reasonable.

What a weekend.