Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Measuring A Year, Part 5: Intentions

At the beginning of 2013, I set various intentions for myself. Intentions are different than resolutions, in that they're not so much lofty goals as simple intentions to make myself better. I've listed them below, with an analysis on how I fared.

1. Focus on forgiveness and non-judgement.

I did okay with this one; I actually have really stopped focusing a lot of anger and blame on a couple of people from a few years ago, namely a former friend who sent me the strangest "Dear Jane" email ever (she actually used some sort of "the feelings have died" phrase, and I can't truly remember what it was, which shows that I've made progress). However, I've shifted some angst over to the owner of Petite School, for putting me through five months of massive stress, telling me she didn't think I was doing my job even though she never actually stepped foot in my classroom. But that is water under the bridge.I'm getting better at channeling my anger into doing bigger, better things for myself.

The verdict? I think this is a life-long intention...but progress is being made.

2. Continue to progress as a runner, building speed and endurance.

Yes. I absolutely met this one. Now, part of the goal was to get a sub-thirty 5K, and I haven't managed that just yet. But I refuse to see this as a failed intention, because I proved to myself this year that I can run four miles without stopping, and I set two personal bests--first in July, when I brought a 5K home at 31:02, then this month, when I brought it down to 30:43. I am so close to that sub-thirty! I'm going to grab it for sure in 2014.

The verdict? Met this one.

3. Open up new career options.

Well, wasn't this one hilarious? I set the intention of getting certified as a personal trainer while still looking for opportunities to teach. I even started studying a couple of resources my friend Matt recommended, and then, the universe said, "Hey, how about teaching high school choir again?" and I said, "Well, okay." And away we go.

The verdict? Met this one and then some, even if I still don't have that PT certification.

With two exclamation points, even!! I never did get my monthly dinner club off the ground, but I did start meeting my friend Sarah more regularly, and taking opportunities as they arose at my new job. The dating department was great at the beginning of the year, then really, really slow for a few months, then non-existent while I started the new job. Now it's perking up again, and I'm spending New Year's in San Diego with Summer, so I'd say things are looking good.

The verdict? Met...with room for even more.

5. Read 25 books. Blog about each one.

I read more than 25 books this year. Thirty-two, to be exact, not counting a couple of little short e-books on my Kindle. What I did not do was blog about each of them. I started off well, got bored with it, and stuck to reviewing them, half-heartedly, on Goodreads.

The verdict? This was set to make me read more, which I hadn't been making time for in 2012, so I consider it met.

6. Continue the path I've chosen towards health, fitness and strength.

I managed to eliminate all fast food from my diet except Subway a couple of times (when you're driving across Nevada, sometimes Subway is your healthiest option, believe it). I had a few sodas, mostly when seeing movies, and I don't find them at all satisfying anymore. As far as continuing to work out goes, well, I met that one, hands down. I rarely miss a workout, and if I do, it's because I know my body needs the rest.

The verdict? Met. Room for improvement, especially in eating habits, but I'm learning how to live at goal.

The overall verdict:

I did pretty well! Life took a few twists and turns that led to some ideas being abandoned and others bearing even more fruit than I'd dreamed they would. I can't complain.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Measuring A Year, Part 4: The Year in Music

On Christmas Day, my parents and I saw "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," and there is a moment in it, where Walter--staid, wallflower Walter--has a moment in which he has to make a choice to either get on the helicopter piloted by a drunk guy or remain on the ground and miss his chance to save his job--and himself.

His vivid imagination conjures an image of the woman he is infatuated with back home singing David Bowie's "Space Oddity" as she encourages him to be like the song's Major Tom and go out there and do something big. I'm not spoiling the movie when I say that he takes the chance...and it was one of the most effective moments of movie sound tracking I've seen in a long time.

I sat in the theater, hearing this song basically for the first time--I actually guessed initially that it was the Beatles, it's so reminiscent of their later sound--and figured it would fit perfectly in my year-end post about songs that shaped my year.

Because I, too, have taken some huge leaps of faith this year. Like Walter Mitty, my life has been better for them.

But this isn't the only song that has shaped the soundtrack of 2013. Before this one, there were many others that inspired me.

In the choral category, I got a tremendous amount of satisfaction from performing Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Dona Nobis Pacem." The lyrics are poetry by Walt Whitman, based on what he saw on the front lines of World War I. As you can imagine, some of the imagery is grim. And yet, as haunting as it is, there's a sense of hope for better throughout.

"Dona Nobis Pacem" was already becoming a quick favorite for me on April 1, when I learned that Echo had died. That night, I attended the first half of rehearsal, sitting in a sort of numb disbelief as the words of the piece sunk in and took on a whole new meaning for me. Echo fought her own war in life. She was abused and neglected as a child, abandoned first by her parents, then by her grandparents, who kept her sister but gave Echo to the foster system. For a child to go through all of that, and to face life with a few developmental delays, as well, seems hideously unfair. Her demons never fully left her, and that evening, I penciled the words "RIP, dear Echo" on my music, at the end of the third movement.

"Beautiful, that war, and all its deeds of carnage must in time, be utterly lost."

On quite a more cheerful note, 2013 saw the release of The Best of Keane, a celebration of Keane's 10 years since the release of their first single and album. They released three new songs with it, including "Higher Than the Sun," which many fans take to be a bit of a "love note" to those of us who have been so loyal and supportive over the years. It certainly encompasses the love the guys feel for making music and sharing it with the world--a feeling I can relate to.

"Sounds, sounds like a storm
Rages in the shaken air
Oh, whispers low
Like a friend you never knew was there."

They're going on a bit of a hiatus, which is sad, but also necessary if they want to stay sane. I hope to see them back together, making new albums, soon enough.

In late March, I discovered a newer band I quite like, Young the Giant. This song, "I Got," in particular, has become a favorite.

It was a decent year for pop music, if you discount Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and R. Kelly the Child Molester's new album. Oh, and anything by Miley Cyrus. There were some fun tracks, including "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk:

...and "Brave" by Sara Bareilles:

I love the video for "Brave," it's just so much fun!

Obviously, music is a huge part of my life--every year--and I'm exposed to so many different genres in my listening, performing, and teaching. These are but a few that inspired me this year!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Measuring A Year, Part 3: In Pictures

The vast majority of my pictures this year were taken on my phone, with Instagram, but I did manage to get my Canon out from time to time. Perhaps in 2014, I should make an effort to use it even more. Here are 15 of my favorite pics taken with the Canon this year. I'm proud of them for their composition, their colors, or how they captured a mood.

Karl the Fog rolls in under the Golden Gate.
The amazing and beautiful city of San Francisco.
The Trans-America Building punctuates a gorgeous end-of-day.
I'd never call Nevada pretty, but there is something to its endless
nothingness that is compelling.
The Snake River Gorge, from the Twin Falls side.
Bright, crisp colors along Highway 1, north of San Francisco.
An abandoned boat in Inverness, California.
The famous outer gate to Folsom Prison, which I'd seen many times, but
never photographed.
Folsom's Historic Sutter Street.

Over Muir Beach, north of San Francisco--California's gorgeous coast.
When I came around a bend and found this gorgeous church set against
the almost blinding blue and green, I had to stop in tiny Nicasio, California.
A colorful carousel in Vacaville, California.

Classic Americana in Woodland, California.

Woodland, again. I love the colors, and how the sun is hitting the building.
Normally I prefer symmetry, but something about this
building in San Rafael caught my eye.
The San Rafael mission (right) next to its modern counterpart.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Measuring A Year, Part 2: Moments

Amazing how a moment in your life can seem insignificant at the time, and then, in hindsight, be so important. Some moments take your breath away, others leave you smiling, laughing, or feeling peaceful. It's been a year full of moments. Here are some of the biggest.

A Moment That Still Seems Impossible

 On April 4, I attended the funeral of my 16-year-old niece, Echo. I was there, I saw the pink casket covered in pink flowers, and yet it still seems almost unreal to me, as though it didn't really happen.

It just seems so impossible that Aaron called on Monday morning--April Fool's Day--upset and almost incoherent, telling Dad, "Echo is dead..." I went to the gym as usual after that call, because I couldn't wrap my mind around it and that's just what I do on Monday mornings.

Eight months later, it is still surreal.

Sadly, it really happened.

A Moment of Hope
I spent much of the Spring applying for various music teaching jobs, getting interviews here and there, as usual. It wasn't really even the proper "interview season" just yet, but in May, as things started warming up, I got a call from a local high school. An interview was set, and I donned my new polka-dot blouse with a Peter Pan collar and set off for the school, little knowing what to expect...and thinking, "I'm not entirely sure I ever want to teach high school again." By the time I left the interview, I knew. "I want this job. I really want this job."

I aced the interview. I know this because I got the job...but at the time, all I could do was hope. 

A Moment of Pure, Cathartic Joy

January was a tough month, emotionally, professionally, and hormonally. It felt like everyone--from the owner of Brookfield (Petite School) to the estrogen in my birth control pills, from the guy hogging the foam roller at the gym to every single driver in California, was conspiring to send me over the edge.

But on January 11, I left that all at the door--specifically, the door of the Warfield Theater in San Francisco's seedy Tenderloin--when I saw Keane live for the fifth time. It was the first time I ever cried listening to them live. Most of the time I'm so excited to be there I just scream and giggle a lot, but that night, songs like "Silenced By the Night" (about coming out of a dark place) and my old favorite, "Somewhere Only We Know," brought the tears bubbling to my eyes. I stood there and sang along, wearing a huge smile and letting those tears come.

The Moment It All Became Real
In July, I got the keys to my new classroom, and the principal's secretary showed me to it. I opened the door and smiled in delight when I saw my new domain. I have an office! Moving on up.

As I set about making the room and office my own, and getting ready for a new school year, every so often I would stop and look around, marveling at how fortunate I am to have landed here. I still do it from time to time, just stop and think about the good things that have happened, and the hard work yet to come.

I'm up for it. : )

A Much-Needed Moment of Release

By July, I'd been to two funerals (a choir friend, then Echo), I'd had a ton of stress put on me by the owner of Brookfield (it is a truth universally acknowledged at that school that she is a dipshit, but she also holds the purse strings), I was excited-but-terrified of my new job, and to top it all off, I'd come to care for a silly boy more than I should have...and he found someone else.

That's when a friend like Summer steps in and takes you to the beach. And reminds you that it's not you, it's the boy. It's not you, it's the idiot (and thankfully, now former) boss. Most importantly, she reminds you to forget the bosses past and the silly boys as you plop your butt on your beach towel and drink in the ocean air and the sound of waves crashing and seagulls crying, and to remember that you are awesome, you've got this new job, you're not the same Meg who waltzed into DVHS starry-eyed and naive.

So dig your toes in the sand and chew on that.

A Moment of Hilarity

Sometime in February, Dad jokingly asked Mom, "Do we have any pie? I want some pie." Mom gave him her usual dry, "No, I'm sorry, honey. We don't have any pie." You would think the matter would be closed, but oh, no.

See, our house is small, and I heard this exchange in my bedroom, and decided to help my dear Daddy out.

I even gave him whipped cream. He gave me the finger (and he laughed!).

It's never dull in our family. : )

A Moment of Huge Pride

I had my first concert at GB, and we nailed it. The next day, my boss would remark that the kids looked so relaxed, "but you looked terrified!"

"I was!" I laughed in reply. "I just wanted it to go well."

It did. My kids were so proud of themselves, and so sweet to give me a gorgeous bouquet and a lovely gift.

That evening, after the concert, I stared at the flowers on my desk and breathed a sigh of relief. Then the pride took over.

And a Moment the Pride Faltered

My second concert didn't go quite as smashingly as the first. For whatever reason, the kids and I were all nervous, all uncertain, and we knew it wasn't the best we could have done. Fortunately, we had a chance to redeem ourselves the next night, and redeem we did. But still, those hours between the Thursday night show and the Friday night show were so very difficult for me. Hours of second-guessing, self-blaming, wondering if I'd picked the right music. I can be so terribly hard on myself.

The good news is that I got through it, and Friday night we strode onto that stage ready to knock it out of the park. My kids made me proud.

A Record-Setting Moment

Just last weekend, I ran the 5K Santa Run, where everyone gets a cheap Santa suit to run in and hilarity ensues. My running the last few months hasn't been as consistent as I'd like it to be, so I set out for this race figuring I'd be happy to bring it home in under 35 minutes. When I reached the finish line, the clock said 30:43.

So I didn't reach my goal this year of a sub-thirty 5K, but damn, did I get close! Still breathing hard and feeling that now-familiar post-race rumbling in my stomach, I pushed my way through the crowded finish area to find a pocket of fresh air where I promptly pulled my phone out and texted my friend Matt. Then, of course, I bragged to Facebook and Twitter and any other social media outlet I could think of.

I've totally got this in 2014.

A Moment of Joy...Millennium Joy.

And so it's the end of the year, and I'm writing my annual blog posts and thinking of intentions for 2014. December has been hectic and crazy, with concerts, workouts, work, and parties. It was so nice to have this week to just relax and do very little. Not a lot of driving and running around. Reading if I feel like it, watching movies here and there. Making a gorgeous Christmas Eve dinner with Mom.

Pausing, now and again, to spend some quality time with my own personal joy-maker, Millennium Joy, who celebrated 14 years with me a few weeks ago by doing her usual morning routine of figuring out the exact moment I exit the REM phase and starting her incessant meowing for attention. As I type this, she's fast asleep on top of my hard drive, one back leg and her tail draped over the side, her front legs tucked under her sweet face. I admit that I get impatient with her constant need for attention when I'm trying to work...but I can't imagine life without my sweet girl.

Here's to many more moments--big and small--in 2014!

Friday, December 27, 2013

My Week in Instagram (Week #58)

It has been so nice to relax this week! While I love my job at GB, it's been nice to get away from the grind and have some time to sit around in my pajamas whenever I like. And I'm definitely loving the time off from private piano lessons.

It hasn't been a terribly busy week, but definitely a fun one.


Sunday done right.

Sparkly pink nails.


At our favorite Turkish restaurant.

The hummus didn't last long.

Neither did my kebabs.

Chai tea.

I may have pretty hands, but I go all-out at the gym.

Equipment. Looks sort of like planets!

At Barnes & Noble.

Willie Mays was at the last 49er game at Candlestick Park.

Mom was seasoning the turkey.

And making "Christmas Crack."

 I started to set the table.

And stopped to get a pic of my girl and I.

Pretty Millie.

Sparkling wine.

The table coming together.

Duchess made an appearance.


One of my presents.

I'm getting a laptop. : )

Paper Cat.

We went to see "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and
enjoyed it very much.


I met a new dude for lunch on Thursday in Auburn.

I was early, so I wandered around a little.

The verdict: he seems nice, but I'll need another date or two
to decide for sure.

At Fry's to research laptops.

Gorgeous evening sky.
Tomorrow is take-Christmas-down day, so I don't anticipate taking a lot of Instagram pics. Sunday, I leave for my huge San Diego adventure with Summer, so there will be a TON of Instagram pics. And so it goes.