Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Music: Gym Class Heroes

I just discovered this song over the weekend. While watching the coverage of men's gymnastics at the London Olympics, I was impressed by one of the USA's own--John Orozco, son of immigrant parents, and a true embodiment of the American Dream...and a true fighter.

A couple of years ago, he tore his Achilles--a seriously painful injury, and a major setback to a gymnast--yet now, he is competing in the Olympic Games. The band Gym Class Heroes featured him in the official video for "The Fighter," and it's very moving, with images of John, his family, his friends, his home turf.

The song also really speaks to me--these games have been really fun for me to watch because this time around, I watch them as an athlete. I don't claim to understand what the Olympians have sacrificed to get where they are, but I can understand that feeling of needing to push your body, needing to push harder, go faster, get better. I admire the hell out of these men and women and predict quite a few moments of crying in my little batcave in the Cooper house over the next few weeks.

Give em hell, turn their heads
Gonna live life 'til we're dead.
Give me scars, give me pain
Then they'll say to me, say to me, say to me
There goes the fighter, there goes the fighter
Here comes the fighter
That's what they'll say to me, say to me, say to me,
This one's a fighter

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Yesterday, I met Summer in Folsom for some frozen yogurt and a bit of shopping. We were poking around Michael's (the craft store) when I looked up and saw a lady staring at me with an odd look on her face.


Suddenly, I remembered her. It was a lady my parents used to know very well, who I hadn't seen in at least five years, maybe more. Suffice it to say, the last time she saw me, I definitely matched my before picture, and I still had blonde hair.

"Yes, it's me!" She gave me a big hug, and we chatted for a few minutes.

"I almost didn't know it was you! You look great!"

All I could think to say was, "Thank you...eighty-five pounds!"

It's the first time in the last three years that I've run into someone who doesn't know about my Odyssey, who hasn't been following it on Facebook or this blog--someone who was completely surprised by the changes in me. I admit, it felt really good to see her reaction, to know that despite the tricks my own mind plays on me, other people are shocked by the difference in me between before and now.

It's easy for me to forget just how much my body has changed in the last three years. I still focus on the tummy flab, the bits I want to tone up and slim down, whereas other people see the overall picture--I am very different than I used to be. Encounters like yesterday remind me that I have a lot to be proud of.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Eight Years...Still Wild, Still Absolutely True.

Eight years ago today, I started a blog.

A few weeks later, I boarded a 747 and started the adventure of a lifetime. My year in England was full of highs and lows, ups and downs, loop-de-loops and adventures big and small.

As my adventure in England came to an end, I wondered what I should do with the blog. I'd grown rather fond of it, so I kept it, figuring that moving to Washington--a state I'd previously visited exactly one time, for about four days--would be an adventure in itself. I was right.

Surely returning to California in 2006 was an adventure, too, right? And it was, as I rediscovered the Golden State and learned that I really do love this crazy, diverse, legislatively-inept, beautiful, wonderful chunk of real estate that sits right next to the biggest and most powerful ocean on our planet. It took leaving for two years, then coming back, for me to understand just how incredibly beautiful this state is. That for better or for worse, it's home, and I'm a California Girl.

In the six years I've been back in the land of fruits and nuts, I've taught high school choir, moved to the Most Miserable City in the country, survived two years of unemployment, lost almost 90 pounds, learned a little body confidence, become a runner, made friends, lost friends, enjoyed the friends I already had. I've been changed forever by a Sadist, a Sweetie, a Meanie, and a very Reasonable guy. I've become a Keane fan(atic). I've sung with two great choral groups, watched the Kindergatos grow, nursed my sweet Millie through a scary illness, and adopted the wild and unruly demon-spawn called Harley Dude.

I even let four teeny kittens into my bathroom for two weeks (and into my heart forever).

I've taken pictures, visited as many of the old California missions as possible, driven to Santa Barbara just to see Mumford and Sons, and allowed a crazy lady from New York that I'd never met in person to stay in my apartment for a few days in one epically awesome week of fun, friendship and incredibly loud car sing-alongs.

And we can't forget the duck.

A few months ago, I was chatting with my  friend Chris on the phone. Chris has known me since the day before my 16th birthday, and he's heard many a crazy story from my life. I told him a new bit of news on the phone that day, about a date gone awry or something silly I'd done. His booming laugh filled my ear and he said, "Oh, Megan."

Giggling, I responded, "My life,'s never dull."

Still laughing, it was all he could do to respond. "No, no it isn't." 

But honestly? I wouldn't have it any other way. Life isn't meant to be lived on a treadmill, going the same speed with no change in elevation or circumstance. It's meant to be lived--an adventure.  The lyric that always comes to mind when I start feeling bored, lethargic, or as though life isn't going the way I want it is from that Harvey Danger Song, "Flagpole Sitta..."

"Well if you're bored, then you're boring."

Every so often, when I've got some time on my hands and nothing in particular that needs to be done, I go back through old blog posts and I'm amazed at how I've grown and changed in eight years. My opinions have sometimes changed, and my appearance certainly has, but at my core I'm still the same hopeful, adventurous, often silly, always real Meg that started this blog eight years ago today. I keep blogging not because I feel that everyone needs to read my story, but because I need to document my story, the things I've accomplished, the stresses I've survived. This blog is the story of my life, with its ups and downs, its loop-de-loops, and the joys and sorrows that come when you get out there and really live.

Thanks for reading my story. Here's to more adventures--Wild and Absolutely True--to come.

Channeling my inner Bridget: London 2004

In Washington (2005)

Meg in Motion (2006)

Elementary School Teacher, 2008

Summer's "Bachelorette Night" in 2009

Sarcasm and Scarves...2010 (Read this post for the story. This one, too.)

It just wouldn't be a fun day without the obligatory duck-on-head photo
op on a beach. (2011)
On my way to sing a serious choir concert...let's get the silliness out of
the way before we even leave the garage, shall we? (2012)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Eight Great Memories

In honor of the Little Pink Blog turning eight years old this week (that's ancient in blog years!), I'm posting some eight-themed posts this week.

I've had some incredible adventures in the eight years I've been blogging. Here are eight of the most memorable moments, in pictures.

"She thought she could, so she did..." Summiting Mt. Diablo in March 2010.

Finally meeting Maayan and Izzy Swimmy in April 2011.

Meeting Richard Hughes (drummer for Keane) in July 2010.

So many awesome memories with Summer, but showing her my beloved
England was definitely a highlight! This is us at the Burnham-on-Crouch
rail station in 2004.

The silly caption that started so much silliness...and some wonderful
friendships. (2010)

Becoming a success story at the Stockton gym. Even
better will be in a few weeks, when M. the Reasonable
can post my final results in the Roseville club! (2010)

Adopting a crazy, hyperactive, yet oh-so-sweet little purrvert with a loud,
rumbling purr and a tendency to drive me bananas...Harley Dude. (2008)

Continuing the adventure with my sweet Millennium Joy--this pic is sweet
indeed, as it was taken the night I brought her home from a three-day
stay in the animal hospital for pancreatitis. Her survival (pancreatitis can
be fatal in pets) was a Christmas gift for me, and over three years later,
my sweet girl is spunky and awesome as she ever was.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Back To the Bay

Yesterday, I tagged along as ESL Arts took 60 Chinese exchange students to San Francisco. It was a great (and exhausting) day filled with lots of walking, a cable car ride, and shopping.

First stop: Pier 39, in all its kitschy glory.

We walked from Pier 39 to the cable car terminus near Ghirardelli Square.
The kids were delighted by the view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Waiting, hanging out, taking pictures.

Some of our American buddies have really bonded with the Chinese
students. Here's a group of the odler boys playing some sort of game that
involves smacking at each others' hands (but it's not violent).

My favorite California icon.

Some of the boys--typical teenagers--acted a wee bit "too cool for school"
about riding the cable car.

Leaving Ghirardelli Square

Going up! (Straight behind, you can see Alcatraz.)

I love, love, LOVE San Francisco's many different architectural styles.

Up some more...

Those "too cool for school" boys were LOVING the
downhill bits. They all cheered like mad as we coasted
downhill. Their delight made me laugh out loud.

Later, after a couple hours of shopping in Union Square (one girl bought
an iPad!), the kids gathered as we waited for everyone to get back. I love this
shot, showing how these kids are bonding across cultural and language
differences. It gives me hope for our future.

Kids are kids, no matter where they come from. Cell
phone, iPod, even the clothing.

Blondie giving me the evil eye here was not part of our group.

Pizza for dinner! (I went around the corner and bought myself a sandwich
at Subway.)
It was a great day--a bit stressful at one point, as I was the only teacher on the first trolley load and had to direct about 30 people to Union Square with zero Chinese (well, I know that "nihau" is "hello") and their limited English. But it's pretty easy to yell, "Follow me!" while beckoning with my arm. They all cheerfully followed me, snapping pictures, peering in shop windows and enjoying San Francisco's unique vibe.

I do have to say that, in all the field trips I've done in my career, I've never had students who were so awesome about showing up at the appointed place and appointed time. No one got lost, no one had any problems, and everyone seemed happy to take in the city and shop. I asked them in music class today if they liked San Francisco and received a happy chorus of "Yes!!" in reply.

Another awesome moment--we were absolutely crammed onto the cable car, and I found myself standing on the edge (which is really the only way to ride the cable car, if you ask me). But at the first stop, a couple got off, leaving one of the benches behind some of the boys empty. They immediately turned to me and asked, "Teacher, do you want to sit down?" I told them I was happy to remain standing and let someone else sit and rest. And indeed, I was.

At the end of the day, as we walked back to our buses, waiting for us in Union Square, one of the girls approached me and asked why the buildings have stairs on the outside. After a quick second of surprise at this question, I responded, "Oh, those are fire escapes. It's a way for people to get out of the building if there's a fire, and each one has a ladder that can come down to get them to the street." It amazed me to think that in Chengdu, a fairly large Chinese city, where these kids come from, they don't have such a thing.

As ever, my students seem to teach me more than I could ever possibly teach them.

I love teaching.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Eight Is Great!

In honor of the Little Pink Blog turning eight years old this week (that's ancient in blog years!), I'm posting some eight-themed posts this week.

To get this started, here are Eight Great Photos...eight pictures I've taken since starting the blog, pics I'm quite proud of.

Sunset on the River Crouch -- Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex. Originally
taken with film and scanned into my computer. (2005)

Nature Takes It Back -- Point du Hoc, Normandy, France.
What remains of a German fortification on the Channel
Coast is now taken back by nature. (2005)

Atlantic Coast -- Glenbeigh, County Kerry, Ireland. Even in the rain,
Ireland is incredibly gorgeous. (2005)

The Golden Gate in Fog -- San Francisco, California. A fairly typical sight
in the City By the Bay. (2009)

State Capitol Building -- Sacramento, California. The sun sets on a lovely
building. (2011)

Two Worlds Collide -- Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I love the piper
and the totem pole, reflecting two vastly different heritages present in
this gorgeous city. (2006)

Red Flowers, Grey Skies -- Port Hadlock, Washington.
Near where I lived for a year, the often-present grey
skies can't dampen the beauty of tulips. (2006)

Mill Flower -- Salt Lake City, Utah. A bunch of historic buildings near an
old mill are home to some great little shops. This flower caught my eye, and
the red of the shutters in the building behind it. (2005)

Monday, July 23, 2012

You've Come A Long Way, Baby

So, in case you hadn't heard, I'm going to do a triathlon next year. (That's sarcasm. I haven't shut up about it on this blog.)

One reason I'm talking/blogging about tri training so much is because my substantial Leo pride will not allow me to back out of something if I tell the whole world I'm going to do it. But let me be honest--I'm terrified. The what-ifs and the hows and the what-am-I-even-doing-heres are still roaring through my head every time I struggle to put my swim cap on (there has to be an easy way to do this. I haven't figured it out yet).

Anyway, the point here is, I'm having weekly crises of confidence. It's a Big Deal, going from 220 pounds to 130-something. It's an Even Bigger Deal to then say, "Yeah, no problem, I'll do a triathlon next year!" Thing is, I know I can do it--I can get out there and finish a race. I don't even care where I finish, I just want to finish, and be that woman who goes from obese and unable to run half a mile to healthy and finishing a sprint tri.

I've come such a long way.

That's why I've been a bit baffled with myself of late, thinking about how scared I am to get out on a bike again. I grew up racing around the neighborhood on my bike. I know how to do it. What in the world is so scary to me about doing it again?

Then, a day or two ago, a memory came roaring back at me from some deep recess in my brain. I had a bike in my first couple of years at college, but I never really used it. My freshman year, I lived on campus and everything I needed was on campus, so I walked everywhere because you couldn't ride bikes on the walkways.  My second year, I lived off campus, but the walk wasn't that bad and I just didn't bother with the bike.

One weekend, the boy I had a crush on at the time suggested a bike ride. He rode his bike all over the place and was dismayed that mine was collecting a fine layer of dust outside my apartment. Thinking it would be fun to go out for a day, I eagerly agreed and saddled up.

I guess Boy thought we'd ride for a while, but after a mile, maybe two tops, the long-unused muscles started whining, then screaming at me. I was tired. I wasn't having any fun. I wanted to go home. In retrospect, I think it's reasonable, seeing as how it had been a while since I'd ridden and I wasn't in the best shape anyway. But Boy got a little bent out of shape, and was a little pissy with me about the whole thing. I was embarrassed, and felt like I must be really awful, being so out of shape that I couldn't go more than a couple of miles on a bicycle on a Saturday afternoon.

I never rode that bike again.

It's funny how we let people make us feel bad. I don't blame Boy--he was immature and sometimes unreasonable, but I allowed his displeasure to make me feel inadequate. It was reactions like this to events in my life that led me to gain weight later in my 20s. I have to own that. But as the memory of that afternoon came back to me this weekend, I felt a moment of belated anger at those two silly kids.

And then I had a revelation: That's not how it's going to be this time.

In a few weeks, when I buy my bike, I'll be a little apprehensive about balance and controlling a fancy racing bike, but I know that as I get out there, I'll gain confidence. No one expects me to ride five miles the first time out, but rather to just ride a bit, getting a feel for the bike and getting to know it. Stopping when my legs tell me it's time, and letting my body work its way up to being able to ride longer distances.

Funny how remembering a moment that ruined biking for me for over a decade allowed me to finally process what happened that afternoon and...get over it. To realize that I have, indeed, come so far that riding a bicycle will be like, well, riding a bicycle. I can do this.

Now, if I can just get over my fear of open water.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Week That Was

What. A. Week!!

I haven't had the time or energy to put a coherent post together. It was a crazy, busy and incredibly satisfying week in my world. Here's what went down...


It's wonderful to be teaching again. Every day, I work up a sweat as I sing, move around, and talk to my kids. They are mostly quite attentive; there are a few boys who try to get away with talking and I've learned that when it comes to cell phones, Chinese teenagers are just like American teenagers and British teenagers...they don't want to put them away! But they do when I ask.

Their English skills are very good as far as listening and comprehending, but most of our charges are quite shy about speaking. They worry about embarrassing themselves, so we teachers encourage conversation (and singing!) as much as possible. I had to smile on Thursday when one girl approached me to ask how a word was pronounced in one of our songs (the word was "corporation"). She repeated to me a couple of times to make sure she had it. These kids very much want to speak English well.

I only teach an hour a day, but I end up staying at our center for about three hours when you factor getting there early and staying through lunch. I don't mind; I really like my colleagues and the kids are a joy--both the Chinese students and the American "buddies."

Making Connections

One of the most fun parts, of course, has been making connections across cultures. Our fearless leader, Gayliene, put a basketball hoop up in the courtyard area so the kids can play at lunchtime. It's fun watching these kids, from two very different cultures, bond over a sport they all love, and it inspired the following conversation between myself and one of the students at lunchtime on Thursday:

Me: So, you like basketball?

Student: Yes, I like basketball. [The students answer in complete sentences, which is refreshing after so many years of American--and British--kids simply grunting a half-hearted "yeah" in my general direction.]

Me: It's a fun game. I like to play, but I'm not very good. I'm too short! [Motioning with my hands to indicate my short stature.]

Student: Oh no! I think you'd do well!

Me: [Laughing] Did you know Sacramento has a basketball team?

Student: Yes! The Kings!

Me: I went to one of their games a few years ago and they were playing against the team on which Yao Ming plays.

Student: Yes! Yao Ming. He plays for the Houston Rockets! He is very good.

Me: And very tall!

At this, my student laughed and we parted ways. On Wednesday, a cute story emerged when one of our American "buddies," a son of one of the ESL teachers, bragged to me and his mom that he is great at using chopsticks (our cook had provided chopsticks for everyone, as we were eating terriyaki chicken for lunch). He ran off to join the Chinese students at a table. A few minutes later, one of his friends came over to us and asked where he could find a fork. Seems his new American buddy "has a hard time with chopsticks."

When he left, Jodi (Mom) and I burst out laughing.

Fitness Fool

With driving, teaching and hanging out at the center, I haven't let my workouts slide. I ran every day this week, except Tuesday, when I attempted some treadmill intervals but couldn't stop yawning. I also managed my three strength training days, but skimped on the swimming. This week will be better.

In other exciting news, I stopped by a local bike shop and asked some questions. I know I'm ultimately going to need assistance in all this from M. the Reasonable so that I don't walk out of there with a ton of stuff I don't need, but it was fun to look around the shop and get an idea of what prices are like, what the cycling world is about. I'll look at other shops, too, and the big sporting goods stores in the area. I can't wait to get my bike and get out there riding it.


In all of this busyness, you'd think I wouldn't find any time for my creative pursuits, but happily, this afternoon I made some new things for my Etsy shop.

Paper hearts glued around raffia to make a cute
vertical banner.

"French Provincial" card stock banner.

I even managed some mad productivity this week--getting my TB test and Live Scan (fingerprinting) done for the new job, making sure my lesson plans for ESL Arts are in order, teaching my private music lessons, and finding time to write each day (not on the blog, obviously--I have started writing little things for myself, not for public consumption, mostly as a positive visualization exercise).

The Week Ahead

This week promises to be just as busy--and fun. I am tagging along on Wednesday as we take the kids to San Francisco. The plan so far is to walk them from Pier 39 to Ghirardelli Square, then take the trolley to Union Square. A lot of walking, a lot of shopping, a lot of sight-seeing. It should be a great day, though. I look forward to seeing the kids' reaction to a city that I love so well. I'll take lots of pictures.

I have my normal music lessons, as well, and I have to drop some paperwork off at the new school. And, of course, I will be running, swimming and strength training like the fitness nerd I am.

And in a bit of awesomeness, this Little Pink Blog will turn eight years old on Friday! Eight years--I can hardly believe I've stuck with blogging that long. I have a great big post planned for the occasion, and might do some fun little posts revolving around the number 8 this week.

So yes--the word of the week is "busy." That's not a bad thing--it's actually wonderful. I haven't felt so satisfied in a long time.