Sunday, December 28, 2014

Measuring a Year, Part 1: Moments of 2014

It's time for my annual end-of-year blog musings. Part 1 brings us the moments of 2014, in pictures and words.

A Moment of Welcome

I spent New Year's in San Diego with Summer, my first trip that lovely part of California. On New Year's Day, we drove north towards Los Angeles, stopping for the required sunset pictures somewhere near Huntington Beach. I welcomed 2014 going on an adventure with a dear friend, visiting California missions, and putting toes in sand. Not a bad way to start things off.

The sunset was a bit hazy, but the colors were beautiful nonetheless. Southern California beaches are never empty, and this one was no exception. Surfers caught the last waves of the day, and a boat sailed in front of the setting sun on the horizon. Summer and I breathed in the ocean air and rejoiced in some brief, quiet beach time.

A Moment of Being the Student Again

Why do I teach? A lot of reasons, but mostly because I want to make a difference.

In late January, I stopped by the Folsom Jazz Festival to see my colleague's jazz band play, and my alma mater, as well. While there, I walked down a hallway and ran into The Man, himself: Mr. Gaesser. I idolized that man in high school--we all did. He's an amazing music teacher. I still get impressed reactions when I tell people I was one of his jazz kids.

Running a huge jazz festival is a lot of work, so Gaesser was a busy man--but when he saw me, he did a double-take (the last time he'd seen me, I was about 90 pounds heavier), before his face split into a wide grin.

"Hey," he said, opening his arms wide for a bear hug. We could only speak for a minute, but I know he was happy to hear that I was loving my new job.

The next day, on Facebook, he sent me a simple that meant a lot. I have already had the opportunity to tell a former student I'm proud of her (she's a nurse now). I hope to have many more.

A Moment of Ducky Hilarity

I think there are some people who don't really understand the duck. That's okay, it makes me happy, and in the end, that's all that matters. It certainly doesn't hurt anyone.

When I took my choir to Anaheim in March, I was excited and nervous about the trip, and happy to go to Disneyland...and did I mention nervous? I took my small rubber duck along, and told my friends, "Cali is sooo excited to meet Donald Duck. That's his idol."

Five minutes after walking into Disneyland, I saw Donald himself. While my choir kids ran off towards food and rides, I got in line to get my picture taken. When it was my turn, I held up my intrepid little traveling duck, and explained to Donald and his handler that I have a lucky rubber ducky. I expected laughs. What I never expected was that Donald would grab Cali Swimmy out of my hand and wave his (her) arms around in excitement, or that such an adorable picture would come out of it. And I certainly never expected that his handler would suggest a close-up of Donald with my little duck on his bill, while I stood there giggling helplessly and remembering just why I love Disneyland.

Thank you, Donald and Handler. The whole trip was pretty awesome, but you playing along with a nervous teacher's silliness made it that much more fun. I have these pictures in a frame in my office.

A Moment of Perspective

In July, I ran a 5K that benefits a local Alzheimer's charity. As you cross the finish line, a local radio guy, Big Jim Hall, announces your name, which is a bit of a thrill. Last year, in the same race, I set a PR (and threw up in a garbage can). This year, not so much. I crossed the finish line at about 36 minutes, and promptly took this selfie.

A few minutes later, Big Jim Hall announced another finisher, but not just a name. This man was running in his own honor--a recent Alzheimer's diagnosis had changed his life forever.

My finishing time forgotten, I turned around to watch this guy jog across the finish line, and remembered exactly why I was there. It's not about time--it's about health, and wellness.

A Moment of Pride

My experiences teaching in Antioch took a long time for me to get over. But the Large Suburban High School has been a much better experience, and I'm a different Meg than I was in 2006, in so many ways.

When I attended the awards ceremony at the music festival in Anaheim, my only real hope was that we had maintained the silver rating this particular choir was used to. And we did!

That plaque has my name on it. I'm the director who accomplished that with a tiny group--and I started to really believe, that night, that I could do even more. We will, at some point, get gold.

It takes a lot of reminding, but the longer I work at the LSHS, the more I believe. It's an incredible feeling.

A Moment to Put Pride Aside

My last couple of years in the Chico Music Department were stressful. I was young--so young. And I left the school angry about some things, with a chip in my shoulder that has gradually filled in as I've earned some maturity and wisdom with age. In February, I ran into a couple of former professors at the California Music Education conference. They remembered me, and greeted me warmly with hugs, wanting to know what I'd been up to.

I realized something that day: these guys were never out to "get" me. The department had some growing to do, but so did I. It's nice to watch the water flow under the bridge.

So in August, when my annual invitation for the Alumni Band arrived, instead of saying, "Hell no" and tossing it in the trash, I gave it a second look. Then I wrote a check and made a hotel reservation.

In October, I hauled my trusty Buffet to Chico, and wandered into the PAC with it. For the first time in 14 years, my Buffet and I made music on a Chico stage...and it was so much fun. Pride has its time and place...but I'm glad I set it aside this time.

A Speechless Moment

I had no words to properly caption this picture on Instagram, so I simply tapped out, "No words" on my iPhone and sent it to Twitter and Facebook.

Perhaps my speechless state was due to being out of breath, or exhaustion. Mostly, it was just sheer disbelief that I can now call myself a half marathon finisher. It's a pretty awesome club to be in.

Running a half was not easy for me, and there were good portions of the race in which I questioned my sanity and vowed I'd never do this again. (I'm already signed up for my second. What can I say? Runners are weird.)

When I ran across the finish line of the Urban Cow Half, just under the three-hour mark, I had my eyes on my prize--the coveted finisher's cowbell. That cowbell represents months of training, but also more than that. It represents years of believing I couldn't run, being trampled into the ground one mile at a time. It represents everything I've become since starting on this crazy and amazing journey to better health.

A Moment of Self-Care

Over the last few years, I've grown accustomed to dealing with anxiety organically--that is, with exercise and a decent diet. This fall, that became harder, so when I woke up on Friday with pink eye, missed a doctor's appointment for it, and promptly burst into inconsolable tears in a Kaiser parking lot after running away from a receptionist trying to help me, I realized that it was time to practice some self-care.

I spent that weekend at home, resting. Saturday consisted of watching a cheesy movie, reading, and sitting around in my pajamas (after one quick trip to the pharmacy for eye drops). The following week, I spoke to my primary care physician, who put me back on the low dose of anti-anxiety meds I took years ago in Antioch. Circumstances are different now--for the better--but sometimes, we all need a little bit of extra help coping with the things that make us anxious (for me, a massive and unfounded fear of failure).

A Sweet Moment

This semester, I took on a piano lab class. It was a fun class--though chatty and sometimes needing to be hollered at to be quiet so others could hear themselves play, my group was, overall, a respectful and fun-loving group of kids who seemed to enjoy making music.

We had our crowding issues (31 kids, 30 pianos, some not always working properly), but for the most part, the class went along pretty smoothly. On the 17th of December, we had our end-of-semester recital. A ton of parents showed up to proudly watch their kids show off what they'd learned. From the brand-new musicians playing "Deck the Hall" to the 11-year pianist whose hands were all over the keyboard, everyone was impressive, and I was so proud.

On the day of our final, I received this note from one of the kids, and it quickly made it's way into my Smile File, a folder in my file drawer where I keep the little things that remind me what I love about this job. It's nice to know my love of music came through to these kids, and made their time in Piano Lab that much better.

What a year! Another busy, busy year. I like it that way. Let's just see what 2015 brings, shall we?

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