Sunday, February 28, 2010

Herbert Hoover and the Mountain of Nasties

I vacuum regularly. I ENJOY vacuuming, so I do it at least weekly, sometimes more, if I get a bee in my bonnet.

So when I finished vacuuming on Friday night with my new Hoover, Herbert, I was dismayed and disgusted to find that the old, crappy Bissell had left THIS MUCH CRAP in my carpets.

And overjoyed that finally I seem to have an awesome vacuum cleaner. I actually vacuumed again today, just because.

Yeah. I know. Just chalk it up as one of my many endearing quirks.

Size 12 Jeans

Even G. the Meanie said, "They even look a little loose!" Before long, I'll be in a size 10. For the first time in at least 10 years. Hell, it's been about 10 years since I've been in a 12!

I took a picture of myself in my workout gear before leaving this morning. Because I can now wear tight tank tops and not feel like an advertisement for "The Blob Returns."

Later on, I had some chores to do, so I slipped on my size 14 jeans. Hope no one was looking in the window while I was dusting the bottom of my piano, because I had a serious case of "builder's bum" going on.

Bad Teacher

I'm a terrible teacher. I decided to teach my kids about pointillism. This has no relevence to their lives.

I started by--oh, horrors!--showing them some print-outs of paintings by George Seurat.

Being terrible at what I do, I provided teacher-made examples.

Yes, the MUSICALLY-TRAINED teacher made these.

Oh, and I put directions up on the board, as well as explaining orally what they were to do.

My kids weren't into this project at all.

It was terrible of me to encourage my students to come up with ideas and to show interest in what they were doing. And it was also terrible of me to paint a couple more examples with them.

The most terrible part of all? FIFTEEN girls spent their lunch period in my classroom because they wanted to work on their paintings more, because they hope I will select their works for the annual district art showcase. They really hate me and disrespect me.

I mean, they even helped me clean up! They asked if there would be more time on Monday.

I'm such a terrible teacher.

Sunday Review: Hoover Pet Cyclonic

My Sunday Reviews have always been books (and those, few and far between), but today I'm doing things a bit differently. You see, I'm in love.

His name is Herbert, and he shall be my friend. Herbert is a Hoover (get it?) Pet Cyclonic and after burning through two useless Bissells in the last four years, I am happy to have him.

I bought him on Friday. I asked the guy at Sears if this would be a better bet than a Bissell. He just gave me a "well, duh, you stupid girl!" look and said, "Oh, yes. Definitely." So I loaded one in my shopping cart, handed over my Wells Fargo Platinum Check Card, and happily carted my new purchase home.

Friday night was a revelation. With two cats and my own long hair (it's about halfway down my back these days), there's a lot of hair flying around this place. Add little bits of food, dust, loose skin, cat litter, and whatever else gets in the carpet (I probably don't want to think about it too much), and you've got a lot of vacuuming needs. Fortunately, I like vacuuming. I am aware that this makes me strange and quirky, but there you have it. I enjoy vacuuming. Keeping my apartment clean makes me feel in control of my world. Vacuuming is satisfying.

I was bound to love Herbert before I even plugged him in. He has one of those awesome retractable cords--just push a button and WHOOSH! The cord goes back in. He's bagless, has attachments, and is easy to put together.

And he really, really sucks. In the best possible way that a vacuum cleaner can.

I started off in my living room. It takes up approximately 120-140 of the 750 square feet of my apartment. I moved the couch to get in all the nooks and crannies, and used the attachment (which, on my old Bissell, barely had any suction) on the baseboards and in corners. By the time I was ready to move on to the 2nd bedroom, the canister was HALF FULL of hair and debris--stuff that the old Bissell, now sitting in the nearest dumpster, had left behind.

Disgusting! And so very, very satisfying.

The real test, however, was the 2nd bedroom. This room is where I keep the litter boxes. Harley and Millie are very good about using their boxes, but they do track litter everywhere. The last few times I used the Bissell in there, I noticed with dismay that it sent up a huge cloud of cat litter dust. I never felt like that room was truly clean, and therefore have pretty much stopped using it for anything other than storing my library, piano, scrapbooking stuff, and the litter boxes. Now I can go back in there and sit, not fearing that I'll form a lump of cat litter clay on my lungs. Because Herbert ROCKED in there. No clouds, no flying dust. Just the satisfying crunch of cat litter getting suctioned up out of the carpet.


Yep, I'm in love. Oh, and he was under $200. So if you're in the market for a new vacuum cleaner, get yourself to Sears.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cat Math

Empty box + Cats = Good times.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Gordeeva and Grinkov, Part Two

What a week for figure skating it's been! Evan Lysacek wins the gold, the Russians get their panties in a wad (in a quad?). Joannie Rochette of Canada loses her mother on Sunday and then skates her best program ever on Tuesday...followed by bursting into tears.

And all this skating has made me so nostalgic about Gordeeva and Grinkov, that I've spent a lot of time watching old clips of them on YouTube and reading about their romance on various web sites.

Between G&G and Joannie, I've cried over a lot of skating this week.

Anyway, I found this wonderful video and had to share it. This was 1994, just one year before Sergei Grinkov passed away. The love and trust between Katia and Sergei is absolutely gorgeous. And the kiss at the end?


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Forty Pounds

I'm there, people. Forty pounds lost since February of last year--half of them lost since December, when I started working with G. the Meanie.

I may piss and moan and whine about him, but the numbers don't lie: I'm seeing results working with him, and I'm a happy camper about that.

Yesterday, I was really worried--last week I was only down 1.1 pounds, and both G. and I were disappointed. This week is a water-retention kind of week, and on Sunday, I was feeling so bloated I wanted to cry. Yeah, tears are another symptom of this week.

But I've been working out (even with all my recent drama) and eating very well (no Kraft Mac and Cheese for this girl anymore!) and I hoped that it would pay off. I've avoided high sodium the last few days, and I took a dose of Midol before yesterday's workout to help with bloating and water retention.

I was down 3 pounds, to a total of 182.7. Go me!

But even better, I broke some personal records yesterday. I had to run/walk 2.5 miles of intervals today. I did my first mile in 13:10--a new best time. I then walked for half a mile and geared up for the last mile. I lost track of my time on that one, but I might have done it in under 13 minutes! This is amazing for me.

Plus, all through my workout, I felt strong and capable. My squats are looking so amazing these days--I can really get my bottom down to my heels and then lift myself back up without throwing my arms out for leverage, leaning forward, or lifting my heels off the ground. I wouldn't call my workouts easy--never easy!--but I'm just seeing so many changes in my abilities (not to mention my waistline), that my attitude towards working out is changing.

Yeah, I still joked with G. that he'd better move while I'm throwing a 10-pound weight over my head, lest I hit him with it to get revenge for all the pain, tears, the war wound, and that vomiting incident of a couple weeks ago. He laughed, but he also got out of my way.

Forty pounds. I'm just sitting here shaking my head. I can see and feel the differences in my body. I have size 12 jeans waiting in my closet. Yet sometimes, it's hard to believe I'm actually doing this, actually succeeding at this.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Where Were You Happy?

I have to start this blog post off with a huge shout-out to my friends and family. The support they have shown in the last six months, and especially in the last few weeks and days, has been a gift I will always treasure. They have listened to me sob on the phone, they have read pages-long emails filled with anger and angst, and have offered words of support ranging from, "Well, I think you're awesome" to "GO MEG! Glad to see you sticking up for yourself!!"

My cup runneth over.

And they offer advice. Heather, in particular, is good at this (even though sometimes I get a little pissy and "I KNOW!!" on her--but right now, career change advice is appreciated and welcomed. Love you, girl!).

One thing from one of her recent emails is sticking in my head today. She asked me, "Where were you happiest?" She suggested I look back over my life and think about what about that time made me happy, and why I would want to go back to something like it.

I don't count anything before 2001--I graduated from Chico in 2001, so before that, my life was a rather idyllic procession of band trips, choir concerts, college courses, and a huge lack of real responsibility. I decided to reflect only on my true adult life--that is, life after the music degree was obtained and the teaching credential finished (in 2002). Where was I happiest?

I thought, "Oh, that's easy! Elverta!" I loved that job. It was K-8 classroom music and 6-8 band. My bosses were wonderful and so supportive. My colleagues were a satisfied, close-knit group who welcomed me into the fold with open arms. I went to Rome with a group of them in my first Spring Break as a Real Teacher, and we had a marvelous time. I was involved in a jazz choir at a local community college, and it was there I met Heather. Life was good.

I would probably have stayed for a long time, but...yes, there's a "but." The job was a 50% contract, meaning I worked three hours a day instead of six, and I made about $17,000 a year instead of $34,000. In order to maintain this, I had to live with Mom and Dad. Don't get me wrong, I adore my parents and will happily spend the whole of my two-week Christmas Break hanging out at their house, but living with them as a grown-up is a different story. I missed having my own place, more space to myself, and all that comes with it.

So heh. Maybe I don't really want to go back to that time of my life.

In England I was both incredibly happy (beautiful Burnham, great friends, London at my fingertips) and incredibly unhappy (difficult school, terrible pay for "un-trained" teachers from the U.S.A., and a whole crazy new curriculum to learn). Much as I miss England and long to go back as soon as possible for a visit, I can't go back. That adventure is finished, and unless I marry Richard from Keane a British man, I'm not moving back there. On my own, it's just not practical.

Washington is a blip on the radar screen. It hardly counts. It was an intermission in my life, in which I regrouped from my international adventure and spent some time realizing, "Oh my God, I really, really, REALLY can't live with Mom and Dad anymore!"

Antioch was, plain and simple, never a great fit. I tried, I really tried. But I was unhappy and miserable and eating my weight in Kraft Mac and Cheese. High school wasn't my thing, and at least I can say I tried.

Now I'm in Stockton, and we all know that I'm going through a difficult situation this month...but tonight I had an epiphany.

I was sitting in Chorale rehearsal and I thought, "This is where I'm happy."

Stockton. This is where I'm happy.

Stockton, California made Forbes magazine's list of most miserable American cities. It placed second. Second!

And, contrary little fool that I sometimes am, this is where I'm happy. It is Stockton where I have Chorale--a group of amazing people who pray for sick cats, offer hugs when jobs are lost, and sing like angels.

It is Stockton where I have my neighborhood gym, where G. the Meanie fist-bumped me today because I lost three pounds this week, then bragged to the gym manager, who high-fived me. Where I have made forty--yes, forty!--pounds melt off my body through hard work, dedication, and a lot of support.

It is Stockton where I have Animal Friends Connection--a group of people who paid me the ultimate compliment in telling me they're glad I took one of their kittens, because it is obvious to them that I adore my little dude. They trust me with a key to the cages at PetCo, and trust that I will treat their charges with utmost care and gentleness.

It is Stockton where I started feeling like a good teacher again. Even with someone telling me I'm not a good teacher, I'm still able to think, "No, she's wrong." It is Stockton that helped me realize, for the first time in a good three or four years, that I like teaching. Even though there are parts that make me crazy, overall, I like what I do.

I am happy here. Even with work drama and noisy neighbors (what have they got upstairs, a pet buffalo?!) and Forbes magazine telling me I should be miserable...I am happy here. That's the bottom line.

So, I lost my job. But I haven't lost my fight, and I'm going to fight like hell to stay here.

Monday Music: The Beach Boys

This has to be my favorite Beach Boys track ever. I was reminded of it when writing last week's post, because All You Need Is Love and God Only Knows are both featured in the movie Love Actually.

That's a Large, By the Way...

Okay, I timed my camera to take a picture of myself, but before I could say "Cheese!" my kindergarten class arrived for music. I started walking away and CLICK! went the camera.

So yes, it's blurry and my face looks funny, but I will have you know that the cardigan is a SIZE LARGE, not an XL or XXL.

Oh, and the pants? Way too big, and they have since gone to the Goodwill pile.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gordeeva and Grinkov

With all the Olympics hoopla, I've had my TV on more than usual this week. I've always been especially fascinated by figure skating--the beauty, the athleticism, the power.

I remember watching Ekaterina "Katia" Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov sometime in the early 90s. For some reason, I think I saw them on TV while spending a night at Grandma Bean's house. This would have had to be 1991 or 1992--not an Olympic year, so maybe I'm mixing up memories.

Anyway, I remember seeing a little clip about them that the network had put together. Their story was so sweet--paired as figure skaters at ages 10 and 14, they literally grew up together, and grew into a romance that saw them married and having a baby girl.

They won so many awards--including two Olympic golds. But what made them so amazing on the ice was not so much their abilities--though impressive--but rather their incredible love story.

There is something about the tall, handsome Sergei and the tiny, almost childlike Katia that is so very beautiful. Perhaps its his oh-so-serious concentration as he tosses her high in the air and effortlessly catches her, or the look of total adoration on her face as she skates with him. The total trust they developed over the years together is evident in their skating.

Tragically, Sergei died in 1995 of a heart attack. He was only 28 years old. He left his 24-year-old widow and their toddler daughter behind. The skating world was crushed--one of its most cherished pairs would never skate together again. I remember reading the headlines and feeling terrible.

My interest in figure skating is the fleeting sort--I watch it when I find the US or World Championships, and I love watching the Olympics. So I spent many years not really thinking of Gordeeva and Grinkov, only noting that she finally skated on her own in a tribute to him, and since has been a single skater. She has since remarried--to Ilia Kulik, a marvelous fellow Russian figure skater--and had another daughter. I am glad she has found happiness. But oh, how beautiful she and Sergei were together.

There are many YouTube tributes to "G&G," and I spent some time last night watching as many as I could find. I ended up in tears. Here is one of the best ones, a montage set to Fergie's "Finally." Even though the quality of the old TV recordings is not quite as HD as we're used to, you can see the incredible skill and beauty in the skating, and the love that positively radiates between Katia and her Sergei. I challenge you not to tear up. Watch to the very end--there is a darling clip after the credits.

Tuna-Induced Coma

Shortly after devouring their nightly tuna, both Millie and Harley retired to their favorite high-up places for a good nap. Millie's half-hidden, on top of the fridge.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

He's a Clown, That Charlie Brown

I talked to one of the fine ladies of Animal Friends Connection tonight. I was out of town last weekend, so they had someone else clean the cages at PetCo on Sunday morning. I'll go back tomorrow, and she wanted to update me with who is there and what their needs are.

She was ever so happy to report that Charlie Brown has been adopted! A family who has two other AFC cats took him home, and pending a successful transition into the cat dynamics there, he will have a forever home where people are tolerant of his special needs.

Yay Charlie Brown! He is a very sweet boy, and I fervently hope that he is able to mix and mingle with the other two cats, so that they can keep him.

Performance Under Stress

I kinda got fired this week.

Now, now, Mom. I know you're sitting there at your computer, your face in your hands, thinking, "Oh, Meg!" You don't understand how I can be okay sharing this news...I guess we can chalk it up to a generational thing. Just rest assured that I know what I'm doing. Besides, what are they going to me?

In teaching, there is a system in place that is supposed to help schools keep the good teachers and get rid of the bad.

It doesn't really work.

See, I've known plenty of "bad" teachers (put in quotes because I am not about to start judging from where I'm currently sitting in my little glass house). Sometimes they are good teachers who, for whatever reason, are stressed out, tired, or so close to retirement they can just taste it. Sometimes they are simply clueless.

And probationary teachers can be let go "without cause," even if they are good teachers.

I don't consider myself a bad teacher. I'm not a great teacher, but I've always rather felt that I'm a good sort of teacher who works her ass off, honestly cares about her charges, and wants to continue to grow and improve. And in my first seven years of post-training teaching, my administrators have agreed with me. I've had excellent evaluations, with supportive comments on how I might better pace my lessons (I have a tendency to get-going-really-really-fast-and-it-can-be-overwhelming) or improve other areas of my teaching. But no one has ever told me that what I'm doing is wrong, or bad, or unsatisfactory. It was only in this, my eighth year of teaching, that someone has told me I am doing it all wrong.

There is history with this particular boss. It's not worth hashing out on the blog--a public forum--but suffice it to say that she thinks I am ineffective, and I disagree. I believe that her behavior towards me is very telling to the kids I teach, and that it's caused any classroom management issues I have. And I also believe that I could turn into Jaime Escalante and get all "Stand and Deliver" on her ass, and she would still find fault in everything I do.

I've heard it described as being a "personality conflict." Others have told me it's "harassment." One very intuitive friend said on the phone last night, "I think she must be intimidated by you for some reason, because you are intelligent, and one of those people who goes above and beyond."

Whatever the reason, she has told me all year that I am a bad teacher. And my complaints to my local union fell on deaf ears. "You're a second-year probationary teacher," the union president told me. "Just lie low and maybe they won't decide to non-reelect you." In the mean time, I continued to get horrible evaluations, and finally, the principal told me she could not recommend me for tenure.

Fearing the loss of my job and wanting to stand up for myself after thirty-one years of being a good little soldier, I went to California Teachers Association (CTA) this week. God bless the man in Sacramento who listened to me, and who sent my case to the lady in Stockton who could support me. God bless her, because she tried, she really tried.

But in the end, my local school district backed the principal, even though there was evidence that the principal has behaved unprofessionally and failed to follow proper protocols...and even knowing that my other school site is happy with my performance. Turns out only one of my five bosses had any say in whether I stay or go.

So on Wednesday, I skipped out on an appointment with G. the Meanie to talk to a lawyer who works for CTA. I don't have an harassment case that any court would hear. Turns out that because the boss and I are both white women, my harassment claims aren't strong enough. Sad, but true. Never mind the Xanax prescriptions, the upset stomach, or the fact that she has actually lied to my face about things she sees in my classroom.

On Thursday, it was off to the district office for my meeting with the director of Human Resources. It was all so formal and ridiculous. They pulled me out of school, arranging for a sub (which I didn't need, just had to cancel kindergarten music for that afternoon) so they could sit me down for fifteen minutes and tell me, "You won't be employed by this district next year." My local union president was there (and useless, as ever). The CTA rep came with me, too, and though she was awesome, she couldn't change HR Man's mind.

So there you have it. I'm out of a job. I'll continue teaching until May, and then my future is wide open. I knew, deep down, that this was probably coming. If it wasn't budget, one bad administrator would drive me out of my job.

I've moved so many times in the last nine years. My first job was a part-time contract, and I couldn't live with Mom and Dad forever. So it was off to England, which was only a one-year adventure, even though I briefly considered staying longer. Washington was a whirlwind year, and Antioch--and teaching high school--was never a great fit. But here in Stockton, I've started planting roots. Chorale makes me happy--I look around the room every Monday night and think, "I don't want to leave these good people!" My volunteer work with Animal Friends Connection makes me happy. And frankly, my gym makes me happy. I've never been to a 24 Hour club that is so friendly, so supportive. I feel like I've got a team there--a team of people cheering me on, honestly caring about my progress (a team that comprises more than just G. the Meanie and a 10-pound basketball).

So I have some thinking to do, thoughts to write down. Maybe I'll find a teaching job in another area district. Some are laying off a lot of teachers, but some aren't. Maybe I'll leave teaching and pursue something else--nothing is permanent, here. I could always go back in a few years, when things are looking better. Or maybe I'll find that I don't miss runny-nosed kindergartners, or singing "Race Car" every day, or the "I-love-you-I-hate-you!!" attitude of middle school students.

All I know is that my first priority is trying like hell to stay in Stockton--Forbes Magazine's 2nd Most Miserable City in the United States, home to gangs, high poverty--and also so much more than it's bad reputation implies.

I thought about taking yesterday off. I was to go back to the school at which I can do nothing right, and I didn't want to be around the kids, or the teachers who talk about me behind my back. I didn't want to see the administrator who put me in this situation. My pride is bruised.

My pride, however, is what made me go to work. I made it through the whole day--no tears, no bad attitude--and I held my head high. I will do this thirty-one more times this school year (unless I have to take a day to go on a job interview), and then I will never have to work in this particular negative environment ever again.

And that, my friends, is the whole story. I am remarkably calm--thanks to daily exercising, friends who are quick to say rude things about my boss so that I don't have to, plenty of cuddles from my furbabies, and supportive parents. I know I'm going to come out of this better off, and that I will make another school or business one hell of an employee.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Due to a long, complicated series of events this week, I had to cancel my Wednesday training appointment with G. the Meanie. Now this is a guy who calls clients who aren't feeling well and tells them to get their butt to the gym, pronto. He doesn't care who he pisses off. But he knew the back story and why it was important for me to cancel at last minute, and he was completely understanding.

In short, he's not always a total meanie.

But he's a meanie most of the time, and today was no exception. It was Cardio Day, and just because I've spent quite a bit of time this week in tears, not sleeping, and popping Xanax (never more than the dose I'm supposed to take, Mom, so don't freak out!), doesn't mean I can get away with anything less than 100% effort.

We started, as usual, at his desk. He picked up a medicine ball and said, "We have a teammate today." A medicine ball is basically a basketball, except that it only bounces about a foot off the ground because it weighs 10 pounds.

"This ball is not allowed to touch the ground AT ALL during our workout today. We'll take turns holding it."

"Okay..." I replied with a growing sense of forboding.

"We're going to do 20 minutes stairs, some Versa Climber, some sprints and some skips and see what time it is when we've done all that."

"Right." Oh, shit.

He walked briskly to the row of Stair Masters as I trudged behind. We had a new rule today--no holding on. He didn't seem to care that I have a near-constant feeling that I'm going to fall backwards off the damn machine to my certain death three feet below. "No excuses, Megan!"

We started at level 3, which is fairly easy for me when I'm holding on. After one minute, we bumped it up to level 7. This is when the whining started. Finally, it was back to level 3--with a twist. It was my turn to hold our teammate for the next two intervals.

We made it ten minutes and the whining that came from my mouth was pretty epic. G. just kept pushing, not allowing me to quit, hold on, fall off, or otherwise give anything but 100%.

After an all-too-brief rest, it was back up to the Stair Master for another 10 minutes of grueling, I'm-gonna-vomit-now, fun. When I shared my fear of upsetting my lunch, G. just smiled and said, "Good!"


"Come on, Megan, you're not doing anything that I'm not doing with you!"

"I...*gasp* oughtta...make you...*wheeze* come to Chorale and sing sometime. You *gasp* wouldn't be doing *groan* anything I wouldn't be *sniffle* doing with you."

That got a belly laugh. Finally, we were finished. G. jumped nimbly to the ground as I clung for dear life to the bars and gently let myself down, gingerly testing the ground to see if the gym would start spinning. It didn't, so off I went, following him to the Versa Climber and feeling fifteen kinds of wretched.

We took turns doing one-minute intervals, holding our teammate when it was our turn to rest. I'm not a huge fan of the Versa Climber (my exact words when the gym manager commented that he'd never used it were, "I HATE THIS THING!!") but I made it through my five sets relatively unscathed.

Next, it was out to the parking lot for sprints. This should, in theory, be easy. Sprint about 50 meters, jog back. Ten times. No problem, right?

Not the first time. The first time looked great. G. praised my running, and I actually felt kind of good. But the second time, it was my turn to babysit our teammate. I learned--quite quickly--that holding a ten-pound basketball really slows a gal down. G. is always telling me to really use my arms to propel myself forward when I run--impossible when trying not to drop the stupid teammate and trip on it.

"What's the matter, Megan? Why are you slowing down?"

"Uh, this is kind of hard with a ten-pound ball, you know."

"Is it really?"

"Uh...DUH!" I'm really witty when I'm exhausted.

We did the ten sprints with very little break between. After the sixth or seventh time, I was gasping and begging for a second to recoup.

"No break! Right back to it. Come on."

"Have I told you lately that I hate you?"

Finally, it was back inside, to do some high-knee skips in the aerobics room. Still with the teammate, which I was really starting to loathe. By the time I finished those (and I'll point out that my other teammate, one G. the Meanie, did NOT do these with me), I was a sweat-drenched, barely-breathing pile of smelly gym clothes.

It's days like this that really make me want to hate G., but I can't. I'm seeing too many awesome results, and while I call him a meanie, he's actually not so bad. He honestly cares about his clients and wants to change lives. I appreciate that. I'm not paying him to let me quit, or to treat me like a baby. I'm paying him for exactly what I get: intense work-outs, huge support, someone who doesn't let me quit...and some excellent blog fodder.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I'm posting from email, 'cause Blogger has some kind of glitch tonight. Heh.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Music: The Beatles

I can't leave out the Fab Four, right? It's about time I featured them in Monday Music. This is one of my favorite Beatle's songs, along with Penny Lane, Let It Be, and, well, many others.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

After Last Year, 2nd Ain't Bad

My favorite headline after the race is this: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his beard power to 2nd place.

Awesome. Shades of the old Junior showed today, and I hope this is indicative of things to come in the 2010 season.

Daytona 500

My interest in NASCAR waned a bit last year--partly because Dale Jr. had such a horrid season, and partly because I had other things going on in my life that made it harder for me to find time to sit around on a Sunday afternoon watching racing. Also, the races got kind of boring with the way the cars are set up these days.

But today a new season starts, and I always love the Daytona 500. It's such a huge race, and Dale Jr. is so good there most of the time. I have grand plans to sit on my keister watching this today.

Go Junior!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Very Bad Fan

Robbie Williams released his latests album in November, and I completely missed it. I knew it was coming and simply forgot.

Of course, this might be because the first single, "Bodies," was...not so great. I really didn't like it.

But this one, "The Morning Sun" is quite nice--very reminiscent of, perhaps, his albums Sing When You're Winning and Escapology.

I'll have to check out the rest of the album on iTunes. My tastes have changed to a more Brit-rock sound, rather than Rob's Brit-pop, but I can't entirely let go of my love of this cheeky Brit.

Random Pictures

Just out of the shower, cuddling with my little dude:

The vest outfit is what I wore to work yesterday. Today I wore the jeans and black tunic-style t-shirt.

Wednesday was Mom and Dad's anniversary. He bought her roses, as usual.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Meg at 186

Better pics soon. This is blurry and I'm in sweaty gym clothes. Then again, those sweaty gym clothes are part of the journey. My uniform, you might say.

Anyway, all that hard work is paying off in a big way.

To Write Love On My Own Arms

In 2006, Jamie Tworkowski wrote an essay about a girl named Renee, a 19-year-old addict and self-mutilator who spent five days with him and his friends coming down before she could enter rehab.

He and his friends prayed with her, took care of her, helped her. They looked on in sadness at the words "Fuck-Up" that she had carved on her arms with a razor.

The title of the essay was "To Write Love On Her Arms," and since then, Renee has come out of rehab and continues to recover. Tworkowski started the non-profit To Write Love On Her Arms, and has worked to make the conversation about depression, suicide, self-mutilation and addiction one that is not so shameful.

The mission of TWLOHA is not to replace existing agencies that help people, but rather to raise money for them, and to help people find the help they desperately need.

I first heard about this organization through Facebook in the fall, when there was an international "To Write Love On Her Arm Day" event. I participated, even though I thought it was just a little meme.

When I saw another one for tomorrow, February 12th, I decided to do some research. And tomorrow, I will proudly walk around with LOVE on my arm. Not just in support of an awesome cause, but because in recent weeks I've been allowing someone else's opinions--based not on fact but on prejudice and all things bad--to cloud my own vision of myself. Because I have been in that dark place called depression, and I have friends who have been even deeper.

I will write LOVE on my arm, because my hope is that my friends continue to find reasons to write LOVE on their own arms. Never words like "fuck-up," "loser," or "unworthy."

You were created to love and be loved. You were meant to live life in relationship with other people, to know and be known. You need to know that your story is important and that you're part of a bigger story. You need to know that your life matters.
From TWLOHA Vision.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

Today, Mom and Dad celebrate 42 years of marriage.

They have quite a story--they met at a party in Sacramento in August 1968. Within about a month, they were engaged. Grandma Bean was worried when Mom told her, but her fears were soothed when Mom simply said, "Mama, he's my best friend."

And indeed, he is. Forty-two years later, my parents are still happy to spend time with one another. They don't even mind having me tag along, which is nice, because I like being with them.

It hasn't always been easy. Dad was an Air Force man when he met Mom--and the conflict/war in Vietnam was already raging. "Leaving On A Jet Plane" has particular poignance for my parents--because there was never any guarantee that Dad would come back. Military marriages fail all the time, but Mom and Dad held strong and made it work.

These days, you'll find them hanging out in their home in Sun City Lincoln Hills. It's a community for people who are 55 and older. Mom is involved with the Needle Arts group; Dad just finished a year as president of the Veteran's Affairs group. They have a few seperate interests but spend most evenings together at home. They still enjoy travelling together.

It's this marriage that has given me the standards I have--I want that kind of friendship, that kind of commitment. I have learned from the best that a strong marriage has its moments of weakness and fighting, but always rallies back because there is genuine love and friendship at its core.

So Happy Anniversay, Mom and Dad! Here's to many more. I love you.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Monster Milk

I can't tell you how many times I've walked by the little shop at the front of my gym and giggled or rolled my eyes at the Monster Milk.

Today, I bought some Monster Milk. Because apparently, a scoop of this with some frozen berries and milk will make an excellent breakfast smoothie with enough protein to make me some kind of fitness goddess.

But check this out: it's a TWO-POUND TUB of powder! I must be mad. One serving size is two scoops (and they're pretty big, if the scoop in the container is any indication). I can get away with using one scoop to halve the calories.

And I think all of my blogging is starting to revolve around my fitness regime. I promise people, I am looking for other things to talk about!


Gymbo (noun): A person who spends many hours at the local gym, working out and ogling the club's manager's adorable well as other muscle-bound men

Example: Look at her drool at the club manager doing a one-armed pull-up. What a gymbo!

Okay, okay, I'm not a bimbo. But I was looking for a good word to describe how much working out has taken over my life and "gymbo" popped into my head. I like making up new words (a scrazy little thing I do) and gymbo is, for now, going to stick.

Anyway, I was standing in my closet--my big, gorgeous, walk-in closet that makes me happy--last night and thinking it's pretty funny that I have three pairs of tennis shoes, all with different purposes.

First, we have my Crap Shoes.

This is a pair of New Balance trainers I bought at some department store well over a year ago. They were okay at the time, but now, I wouldn't work out in them if you paid me. They wouldn't offer good enough support at this point, so they have become my walk-over-to-get-the-mail shoes, and good shoes for going to A Chance For Bliss (in other words, I don't care if they get covered in horse poop).

Last summer, I bought a new pair of workout shoes. I found them at J.C. Penney's on clearance. Twenty-five bucks. Score!

I still use them for strength training sometimes, but I don't use them for cardio anymore. Ever. Because for cardio, I've got...

The Super-Awesome, Trainer-Approved Cardio Shoe.

I bought these in January at Fleet Feet. When I showed them to G., he nearly swooned in delight. Apparently, these are top-of-the-line running shoes. There is so much technology in these shoes, I can't even tell you. I got hopelessly lost as G. rapturously explained how the N design on the side is designed to do something fabulous to my foot.

All I know is, I'm hooked.

Between the shoes and the special inserts, I spent, well, a lot more than $25. This was my big splurge in the month of January, and a new pair will be my big splurge in June. These shoes have helped make running so much easier--I once tried running in my clearance score shoes, and it just wasn't happening. It's very true that the proper shoe makes all the difference in running.

Oh dear, I really am a gymbo.

Monday, February 08, 2010

I Needn't Have Worried

Well, another 3.2 pounds of Megan are gone with the treadmill. Weighed in at 186.8 today. While I was still processing the number in my head, I heard a soft, "Yessss!" from behind me and figured, well, if he's happy...

I, too, am very happy. I made it through interval training today (the same routine that made me barf on Friday) without any upchuck urges, and though I was exhausted at the end, there was a huge sense of pride in knowing that I had made it, without G.'s hand on my back, bulldozing me along through the hard parts.

It's like my body is melting away. I'm feeling so many differences. Muscles that weren't there before are becoming more visible. My clavicles and elbows no longer hide under layers of fat. I'm quite sure I could cause injury with my bony elbows now. All of the working out I do is making my hair and nails healthier. Normally at this time of year, my nails are brittle and breaking all over the place, but right now they are strong and looking quite lovely (though a little stained in a couple spots from the curry I made yesterday). My skin looks better--more glowy, less acne-prone. I went to the bathroom after my run today and my face was quite red, but there's also a definite glow that has nothing to do with the sweat pouring from my forehead.

A sweater and a sweater dress, both bought in December and found to be a wee bit too tight, fit just fine now. I'm going to wear the dress to work tomorrow. Pretty soon, I'll be off to Old Navy for size 12 jeans. In the mean time, I have to buy new bras, as the two I've been using for the last few months are too big, even on their tightest setting.

I joke that I've become a total gymbo (gym bimbo), because the hottie manager of the club now greets me by name (I'm bringing in a lot of money!) and all of the employees there, if they don't know my name, at least recognize me as a frequent flyer. Hell, I spent $200 on proper running shoes and inserts in January. Every once in a while, G. still peers at my shoes and says, "Those are some GREAT shoes," much like I would drool over a hand-made Buffet clarinet and say, "That's an AWESOME clarinet."

The biggest difference of all, of course, is my posture. I stand taller--well, as tall as a lady of 5'2" can stand--and carry myself with more confidence. My body is becoming a fit, healthy, fighting machine. And I feel great.


Today is weigh-in day. At some point, I'll stand on a scale with Mr. Fitness Is My Life looking over my shoulder, and hope like hell that all the running I've done, and the good eating, will have paid off.

I don't see why it won't. I've done everything I'm supposed to do this week. Still, doesn't stop my mind from playing tricks on me. I had a dream last night that I stepped on the scale, expecting to see my weight in the 180s. I wasn't looking at the number, waiting for G. to respond. I heard only a dead silence, so I looked down.

209 pounds.

Thankfully, I woke up quickly and realized I had only been dreaming.

Thank God.

Monday Music: Anne Murray

I grew up listening to a lot of folk and/or singer-songwriter music. My parents loved artists like Peter, Paul and Mary, John Denver, Anne Murray, and many others.

I was sifting through my iTunes library for Monday Music ideas and found this song. I haven't listened to it in ages. It was originally by Kenny Rogers, but Anne Murray's gorgeous alto gave it new life.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Hidden Brother

A few days ago, I fell for one of those little memes on Facebook: in honor of siblings, post a picture of you and your sibling(s), past or present. I posted a picture of my brother Aaron and I when I was about two or three. He would have been nine or ten.

The picture shows us sprawled on Grandma's couch, each clutching a Peanuts comic book. We were both smiling hugely, and it is obvious that Little Meg just wanted to be wherever her brother was, doing whatever he was doing.

I thought I might get a few comments about how cute it was, but what truly surprised me was my friend Amanda's comment.

"I didn't even know you had a brother!"


I knew Amanda in college. We were fellow music education majors and spent a lot of time in the same classes, and at the same choir rehearsals. For a time, we were pretty good friends. Could I have really known her for those three or so years and never mentioned that I have a brother? Was I that self-absorbed?

In retrospect, I think I must have at least mentioned him from time to time. I know that I probably complained a lot about his wedding being the weekend before my last finals week, and I'm sure, every once in a while, I must have told some anecdote about growing up as The Baby in a family of four.

It has been a while since Amanda and I have seen each other, and I wouldn't expect her to remember these things, but it made me think. I can't tell you how many times people have simply assumed I am an only child. Maybe it's because I do so much with Mom and Dad, and Aaron simply isn't around. He's in Idaho with his wife and children, living his life. Miles and money make it hard for the Idaho Coops to travel to California often, and they are busy with all of the craziness that comes with being a young, middle-class family, as they should be.

Amanda's comment made me think, and realize that sometimes it really must seem to other people that my family is just Mom, Dad, and me. No, I have a brother. We're opposite sides of the same coin--so different, and yet part of the same unit. We go weeks without talking, but then spend an hour on the phone catching up. He sends me postcards and I try to remember to send him some, because I know he enjoys collecting them. The Idaho postcards grace my refrigerator until a new one comes along. I open the door to get the milk and think of my hidden brother.

I may not talk about him a lot, but don't think I don't love him. Because I do.

On Refusing to Quit

When I was nearing my 7th birthday, Mom and Dad let me in on a big, exciting surprise:

"We've signed you up for piano lessons!"

I wasn't all that excited. I wanted baton-twirling, like my friends had. Piano held no interest for me. But Mom and Dad were not moved by my whining, my crying, or my melodramatic proclamations of refusing to go along with this plan. So I went.

I did everything in my power to prove to them that they were making a huge mistake, and wasting their money, too. My teacher probably dreaded our weekly half-hour lessons. I would whine to my parents how much I hated playing piano, how much I wanted to quit. I always got the same response.

"Coopers aren't quitters."

Well, great. Just dandy. Tell that to a drama queen 8-year-old.

We all know what happened there. We moved to Folsom, I got a new teacher. Mrs. Heindmarsh was wonderful and before you can say "arpeggio," I was taking up clarinet, singing, and all kinds of musical endeavours. I now proudly hold a degree in music.

The whole point, of course, is that I was taught at a very early age that quitting isn't an option. See things through. Don't give up. Finish what you started. I finally "quit" piano lessons when I left for college, and having a weekly lesson was no longer feasible, but I never did quit playing.

There have been many, many moments in the last six weeks that have made me cry. I have rolled my eyes at G. the Meanie, told him I hate him (promptly followed by, "I don't mean that...") given him the finger when his back is turned, and made God-only-knows-how-many sarcastic remarks. I have whined, I have complained. But I haven't quit. And I'm proud of that.

It doesn't matter that I had to stop and lose my lunch behind the gym on Friday--I still finished the planned mile-and-a-half of running and power walking. It doesn't matter that this morning I woke up feeling like an 80-year-old woman, all creaky and groany--I still dutifully saddled up on the treadmill and went for the gold. I couldn't run. Hell, I could barely manage 3.5 miles per hour without holding on to the bar for dear life. My body protested every step, and no amount of stretching was going to make today's workout any easier.

But I did it anyway.

Summer came to visit yesterday. We spent a lot of time catching up and discussing the most pertinent news items in our lives at the moment. Both of us are working on weight loss and fitness, so that took up quite a bit of conversation. Summer just shook her head when I told her about Friday's vomit-inducing run. "I would have quit," she said. I searched for a reply, finally coming up with, "I wanted to, Summer. But...I couldn't."

I've reached a point in this bizarre Odyssey in which I can't go back. I feel too good about what I am doing to stop doing it now. I can't find enough words to describe how badly I wanted to walk away from G. on Friday, telling him to "fuck off" and leave me to barf in peace. But if I walk away, if I give up, I'd not be letting him down. I'd be letting myself down. I've come too far to do that.

So I heave, I groan, I cry. And then I pick myself up and get back to it.

Coopers aren't quitters.

Friday, February 05, 2010

"You'll Have Something to Blog About Tonight."

On Monday, I showed G. the Meanie two blog print-outs of my adventures in running. He was quite complimentary, and I caught him chuckling at parts. So he knows I blog about momentous events in my training, like big weight loss, war wounds, and funny stories about how annoying he is.

The title of this blog post is something he actually said to me today. And boy, do I have a doozy of a story for you.

Until now, we've been meeting twice a week, but due to a promotion for February that will give me two free appointments if I see him twelve times, we've been meeting three times a week. On Monday, it was all about upper body strength training. On Wednesday, it was all about lower body. Friday, he told me with a sadistic gleam in is eye, would be all about running.

Oh, goodie.

Still, I was ready. I've been working really hard at becoming a runner and while I'm not entirely there yet, I've shown tremendous improvement. G. laid out the plan for me as we left the gym and walked around behind it where he's measured out a half-mile loop.

"Okay, first half mile, we're going to jog. That's a warm-up. Then we're going to do some interval training. We will speed-walk for a quarter of a mile, then run full-speed for a quarter of a mile. Then we'll repeat that for a total of one mile. Got it?"

"Got it. Sounds good."

A mile-and-a-half? Easy, peasy! I've been doing two-and-a-half miles a day for a good week now.

We set off at a jog. My form was good and I kept up pretty well. G. was impressed. We did one big half-mile loop around and I was thinking, "I RULE!"

Next came a quarter of a mile of speed-walking. This is a breeze. The hardest part is matching my pace to his, because, well, I'm a shortie.

At the halfway point, we paused. "Are you ready?" G. asked.

"Bring it on!" I replied. I wasn't really looking forward to a fast run for a quarter of a mile, but I figured, hell, I can do this.

I made it about a third of the way and started slowing. "Keep up the pace, Megan! Come on!" I was gasping and feeling like I couldn't get enough air in my lungs. I told him so.

"You're doing fine!"

But I wasn't. Suddenly there was a horrible feeling in my stomach.

"I'm going to throw up, G."

"That's okay, just turn to the left if you do." He was on my right when he said this, and I had brief-but-delightful mental images of throwing up on his fancy running shoes.

I had made it about halfway when I stopped and started dry heaving. There's just no way a body can run and heave at the same time. Finally, it happened.

I threw up.

I am not a person who throws up very often. I rarely ever get sick to the point of vomiting. A mix of sweat and tears streamed down my face as I was sick on the pavement behind the gym.

"I'm so embarassed..." I mumbled pitifully.

"Don't be. You're not the first, and you won't be the last. I've thrown up from running, too."

This all happened in the space of a minute or two, and before long, I was back to running. I finished off the quarter of a mile and turned around to speed-walk. As we reached the half-way point of our loop, I felt some mild dread, but figured I would make this happen or die trying.

We spent most of that last quarter-mile with G.'s hand on my back, bulldozing me along at the pace he wanted. I was literally gasping aloud with each breath. My whole body was screaming obscenities at me, but I didn't stop.

"Come on Megan, don't quit. Only way we're quitting is if you pass out." Gee, great, dude. Just don't let me hit my head if I do, 'k?

We reached the end of the course and I slowed to a walk, glad to be finished. Then I found myself clutching a chain-link fence and throwing up some more. How pleasant. G. kept a safe distance (probably thinking that if he got too close I might go for his shoes just to spite him) and waited for me to stumble back over to him, gasping for air and feeling ten kinds of embarassed.

We took a quick break to walk back in the gym so I could get some water and my towel. Then it was back outside to do five fifty-meter sprints. I made it through those with no problem (what's 50 meters after a quarter-mile, vomit-inducing run?) and then went back to the gym to do three sets of high-knee skips and three sets of twenty jumps onto a step-up board.

The word "tired" is hardly enough to describe how I feel tonight.

As we closed out today's session at his desk, G. said, "I thought you might quit for a minute, there."

I glared at him. "I don't quit. I might stop and throw up, but I don't quit."

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Slow News Week

I have a cold, I've been running every day, and tomorrow, G. is going to make me run for most of our appointment. In other words, he's going to kick my ass.

He's been mumbling stuff about making me have a faster mile--dude, I did a mile in 13:40 the other day, a first in 31 years of living on this planet, and a hell of an accomplishment! Today he asked me how long it takes for me to do my daily two-and-a-half miles. "About forty-five minutes?"

"No, actually, I've been doing it in under forty minutes."

I was quite pleased, of course, to inform him later, "Thirty-seven-thirty."

"Two-and-a-half miles in thirty-seven minutes?"


"Hmmm...better than I expected."

Which means he's probably going to push me even harder than originally planned tomorrow. It's okay, I can take it.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Hot Laundry

Don't you just love putting on warm-from-the-dryer socks and pajamas on a cold day? I know I do.

So does Millie, apparently.

Monday, February 01, 2010

World's Shortest Political Quiz

No surprise in my results.

LIBERALS usually embrace freedom of choice in personal

matters, but tend to support significant government control of the

economy. They generally support a government-funded "safety net"
to help the disadvantaged, and advocate strict regulation

of business. Liberals tend to favor environmental regulations,

defend civil liberties and free expression, support government action

to promote equality, and tolerate diverse lifestyles.

To take the quiz, click here!

Fat HOT Girl

Even though I've been doing everything I'm supposed to (with the exception of those M&Ms on Friday--a true moment of weakness after a very stressful week which included a traumatic and embarassing fall and war wound), I was worried today, when I stepped on the scale. I needn't have felt any stress.

Last week I weighed 194.0. Today, I was 190.0.

I immediately started a rather loud and butt-wiggly victory dance right there on the scale (which is in a rather busy part of the gym). My arms were doing the ole V-for-Victory manuever. I turned around to see G. smiling broadly and looking very pleased.

As we returned to his desk to sign off on today's workout, I wiggled and cheered my way past He of the Cute Bootie, who, it turns out, is the club's new manager. He smiled as I danced by, and G. said, "Four pounds in seven days!" Bootie Cutie just grinned and gave me a congratulatory fist-bump.

G. started talking about when I hit the 170s, and I just shook my head. I told him, "It seems like it's so far away,'s not. I can actually do this." It's like it's taken this whole year to realize that I really can do this. Amazing.

Needless to say, I'm very well pleased with myself. Oh, and the current tally of weight lost since February 20th, 2009, when this whole adventure started? Thirty-two pounds. Thirty-two pounds of Megan, gone. I've lost all that weight, but I've gained so much more: confidence, posture, strength (physical and emotional). My blood pressure is healthier. My depression and anxiety are more managable. I'm no longer shopping at Lane Bryant (except for bras, and soon I won't even be buying those at LB anymore).

Seriously, people. It is so doable. If I can do this, you can. Anyone can.

Monday Music: Alan Jackson

I'll never forget hearing Alan Jackson sing "Remember When" live. My parents love this song, and watching them hold hands and wipe tears from their eyes (even Dad!) was a poignant moment for me.

It's true--I like country music. Well, some, anyway. Alan Jackson is a great performer. He has a terrific voice, a huge sense of showmanship, and some lovely songs, like this one.

Listen and watch. I challenge you to keep your eyes dry.