Saturday, June 29, 2013

My Week in Instagram (Week #32) Special Swimmy Edition!!

I had the bright idea to make this week's Instagram pics--all of them, every single one--feature Cali Swimmy, my infamous lucky rubber ducky. So this post is devoted to the duck. I got a little creative.


I did my nails on a rainy-ish Sunday. Cali had a rejuvenating
eye mask.

We watched some of Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet before
the NASCAR race came on.

Drinking tea and quoting Jane Austen.

All those tomato pics I've posted from Mom's garden?
We started eating them on Sunday!

Cali Swimmy, chasing rainbows.


On Monday, we all went to Barnes and Noble.

No one seemed to notice me surreptitiously taking a pic
of a rubber duck in the cafe.

I bought an old childhood favorite for kicks. Cali's never
read it.

Lots of fresh veggies in Monday's dinner.

Watching the rain fall. Odd weather for June, espeically
because now, a few days later, it's over 100 degrees!

Ducks don't mind rain.

About 2 seconds before Cali fell and beaned Millie
on the head.

Cali is thrilled about my new job, as am I.

Singing Keane's "My Shadow."

Having a singing lesson between some of my other students.

Millie the Purrito gets a snuggle from Cali.

Filling up the gas tank in Rosie Pro.

Admiring the view on a clear day over the Sacramento

In the garden.

Yep. Another tomato pic.

Watching Mumford & Sons on TV and remembering
the awesome memories we made at the Railroard
Revival tour with Maayan and Izzy Swimmy.

A bit of bedtime reading.

Woohoo! Jury service is finished, without having to

Sometimes, you just need a blue raspberry Icee.

Cali made a little drawing before I got started teaching
some piano lessons.

It was so hot outside, even Cali was sweating.

We were not thrilled with the forecast for the weekend.
No pictures today; I spent most of the day sweating my way through piano/voice lessons. Despite having A/C at Fusion, my little room gets SO stuffy!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Then This Happened

For the curious--the link I gave him directed to this.

Big News!!

First, I told a few friends, asked for some crossed fingers. Then, I told Twitter, because most of them don't really know who I am anyway. Yesterday, I put it out on Facebook, which makes it all very real and official. Now, it's time to blog about it.

I am the new choir director at a very awesome local high school!

It's been coming about for several weeks now, but I couldn't talk about it or make any announcements until this week. Here's how it all unfolded.

In May, amid all the crazy, hectic madness of Sac Choral rehearsals and putting on a musical at Petite School, I interviewed for a job at a local high school. The job was originally listed as English/Choir, and though I have the proper credentials for both subjects, I don't have the experience teaching English and in the end, the school thought I'd be perfect for the choir stuff, but they could cover the English classes with someone who has the experience. For legal reasons, they had to repost the job as just choir, but the principal let me know he was very interested in having me take the job.

I put it all out of my mind a little; I had to, to get through all of the extra days at Petite School and the work of pulling off a musical and concert. That all went quite well (the feedback I received from parents and my colleagues was fantastic), and I had a warm glow in me on my last day of school. It was hard to think of the possibility of leaving a job I loved, such great kids, etc.

But during the lunch break on our staff inservice day, I received a call from Mr. Principal at the high school, letting me know they were still very interested in hiring me. I discussed some concerns with him--if I get kids to enroll in choir, will this position grow from being very part-time to more full-time? Absolutely. I told him some ideas for recruiting--taking my choirs to the feeder middle schools, giving concerts in the community, taking them to the Folsom Jazz Festival to build interest in starting a jazz choir. I'd love to do an American Idol-type concert at the school to generate interest in the program. All of my ideas were met with huge enthusiasm, and the statement, "I will let you take these kids anywhere, if it means this program grows."

I asked for the weekend (this was a Friday) to make a decision, and he gracefully allowed me that. As my day progressed, I came to a couple of big realizations: first, that the position at Petite School will not grow. It will be one day a week, with the expectation of putting in a lot of extra, unpaid time, without compensation. I love my job, but Petite School is a 35-mile one-way trip from Lincoln. I also realized that next year, I'd be taking on larger classes, combining grades awkwardly and forcing me to completely recreate my curriculum. Combined with some general uncertainties as the school tries to move to a new site and juggles the financial side of all that, I started feeling like it wasn't a safe bet to keep a job there, no matter how much I love those kids.

Still, I struggled--anyone who has followed this blog long enough knows that my experience teaching high school choir before was a huge struggle. But the more I thought on it, listed the obstacles in my head, the more I realized something--I am not the same Meg who waltzed into DVHS full of false bravado and foolish hope. I had no idea what I was getting into when I walked into that job, and I learned a lot of hard lessons. In this case, I'm taking over a program that has been declining, for a teacher who does not want to stay on. My challenge will not be, "You're not The Goddess!!" as it was at DVHS--I fully anticipate it will be, "Gee, how long are you gonna last before giving up?"

I'm no quitter.

The bottom line, according to my new principal, is that the kids haven't been excited by the choir curriculum. In the interview, he asked how willing I am to incorporate more pop music. I told him, "I love pop music. I'll tell the kids, we can do some of your music, as long as we balance it out with some of mine." This is what got me hired--my willingness to create a program that will excite the kids, make them want to be a part of it.

I have so many plans and ideas. First and foremost, I want to get my choir singing the National Anthem at a football game--an immediate performance for their families and peers, to show off what they can do. I want to get them singing some fun music, as well as "serious" music, and also devote a small chunk of my 80-minute lessons (gotta love block scheduling!) to really good warm-ups and sight-singing exercises that develop their singing, breath control, and listening skills. I want to start an A Capella group--vocal percussion, beat-boxing, the whole she-bang. A jazz choir. A madrigal choir for the students who want more of the "old" stuff.

But back to the progression of events. ; )

After that Friday at Petite School, I knew, in my heart, what my choice was. So, on Monday morning, I called the high school principal and let him know I'm all in. He said, "Great!" and let me know the rest of the process--he'd call my reference from Stockton, get the paperwork submitted, and we'd be good to go. This was June 10.

A week later, I had not heard back, so I called to see how things were going. My reference had not gotten back to him yet, so he sent off an email that day, hoping she'd get it and give him a quick call.

Another week.

(You all know me well enough to know what was going on in my head at this point. A lot of screaming.)

Finally, this week. On Monday, I scrounged up the contact information for a less-recent supervisor--as I hadn't yet told Petite School I was leaving, I didn't want to surprise Dr. Principal with a call from another school--and emailed that to the high school. Before he even had a chance to contact that reference, my Stockton reference called him back...We were good to go!

I'm superstitious enough to not just get on social media and scream from the rooftops right away, so I kept my announcement to Twitter on Monday, and sent my resignation to Petite School. Yesterday, I spread the joy to Facebook. Today, I received an email from my new principal's secretary, welcoming me to the Grizzly Family and asking what size shirt I wear for my staff shirt. Soon, I should hear from the school district office, setting up a time to come in and sign all the papers. That reminds me, need to dig up all my various school transcripts.

So there you go--my big news. I'm nervous, excited, and full of ideas. I'm not waking into this thinking it will be perfect, and I'm fully aware I have a lot of hard work ahead. I also have a new confidence in my education, my skills, and my ability to teach those skills to others that I didn't have in 2006. So bring it on.

The first day of school will fall on my August 12--my 35th birthday. In the last 7 years, I've gained a lot of perspective and maturity, lost a lot of self-doubt, and proven to myself that I can do unimaginably awesome becoming a runner. I'm confident I can take on this new adventure with a sense of humor and grace.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Question I Won't Tackle

Over the weekend, I was looking back through some blog posts to share a picture with someone on Twitter of asparagus ice cream. In one of my posts about the Stockton Asparagus Festival, I found this:

I was actually not having fun deep-frying asparagus. It's hot, nasty work.

I can hardly believe that is actually me, but there you have it. In April, 2009, when this picture was taken, I weighed somewhere around 200 pounds, and, because I topped off at 5'2" when height was handed out, I was considered obese. At this point, I was two months into my weight loss journey.

But here's the question of the week, maybe even the month: was I medically sick? Mentally ill? Lazy? Uneducated? 

All of the above?

The blogosphere I follow--feminists, fitness buffs, fellow weight loss success stories--have been discussing the recent announcement that the American Medical Association (AMA) has declared obesity a disease. Everyone has an opinion, it seems, so of course, Meg of the Little Pink Blog probably has one too, right?

Thing is...I don't.

I can only analyze the factors in my own life that led me to be obese, and while I believe that my mental health played a large part of it, making it very much a disease in its own right, my obesity also stemmed from bad food information, a complete lack of interest/confidence in physical activities, and a tendency to react to stressful situations by comforting myself with treats. Chocolate cake on a bad day. Mac & Cheese for dinner because damn, work was just too much to deal with today.

But this only pertains to me. Doctors can analyze my case 'til the cows come home and it won't be exactly the same as someone else. Someone else may actually have a severe thyroid problem that causes weight gain/retention. The next person may be a food addict. This person, the lady typing her story on a pink blog in a forgotten corner of the blogosphere, had her own issues and dilemmas--they weren't medical, they were completely related to mental health. They're not entirely gone. I've just learned strategies for coping with the anxiety that leads me to "cure" my angst with food. It also helps that I learned to love working out.

Is obesity a disease? An addiction? An epidemic? It's none of these, and all of these. It's entirely dependent on the individual, not a group of thousands. I simply can't answer any of these questions with a simple yes or no answer, because human beings go much deeper than that.

There is one point on which I do have an opinion, however:

If declaring obesity a disease causes physicians to take a deeper look at what is causing it in their patients, and helps more people find their way to a healthier lifestyle--not necessarily smaller clothing, just a healthier lifestyle in terms of eating and physical activity--then it's a good call. Maybe, instead of sitting with a Kaiser Permanente nutritionist being given terrible advice like, "Well, here's a food pyramid, and...uh, maybe have half a bagel at breakfast instead of a whole bagel,"* people will actually get information that can help them thrive.

*Yes, this happened to me. It's why I turned to a personal trainer at my gym to help me kickstart the weight loss process.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Eat Your Broccoli!

I finished my last Burpee--three sets of ten, in the books--and wearily pushed back up from a squat to standing. The image in the mirror in front of me wasn't pretty. Sweat dripped down my neck, my face was flushed, and my hair frizzing out all over the place. Impatiently, I swiped a hand over the fly-aways, trying to make them stay down.

A few feet away, my friend and former trainer Matt was doing his own workout, engrossed in his own routine and whatever music was pumping through his headphones. As I turned away from my worn-out reflection, our eyes met, and he grinned at me in greeting.

I grinned back. "I hate these!"

He laughed in response. "I, too!"

"But I've gotten better at them!" I bragged, recalling the times I struggled through Burpees in my appointments with him, over a year ago.

"Yes, you have!"

"Doesn't mean I like 'em, though," I said with a wry smile. Matt chuckled. "No, but you've just got to make them your own, and get stronger."

I nodded, as a thought flew into my head. "You know, I tell my piano students all the time, 'Look, I know scales and stuff are boring, but they're the broccoli.'" Matt's grin got a little bigger, and I continued. "Everyone wants chocolate cake, but you have to have your broccoli, too, right? It's good for you!"

A burst of laughter escaped Matt. "Burpees are broccoli!"


It's easy enough to dismiss exercises we don't like doing, but the point of working out is to challenge our bodies. Obviously, if an exercise is too hard on us, causing real pain, it's time to step back and reassess whether or not your body is ready. I remember a few times Matt would give me a new exercise to try, only to watch my back bow painfully and tell me to stop immediately. It's also important to know that exercises shouldn't be Easy Street, either. If a regular squat has gotten to the point where you can do 50 of them and barely feel a twinge, it's time to shock your body a little bit by adding dumbbells or some sort of extra challenge.

Burpees are not painful for me; they're simply challenging, and exhausting. I don't enjoy them; they make my muscles quiver and sometimes challenge my coordination. But I do them, because they're good for me. They make me stronger. If I'm going to keep--and grow--the great fitness levels I've achieved, I have to eat my broccoli. Literally and figuratively.

P.S. I actually love broccoli--steamed, with a bit of lemon juice. So good! I just use it as an example because it's the first veggie that leaped into my mind when I first used the "eat your veggies" concept in a piano lesson. If I wanted to use a veggie I can't stand, I'd pick Brussels sprouts. *shudder*

My Week in Instagram (Week #31)

It was a mostly lazy kind of week. The biggest excitement in my life revolved around produce and sock buns.


We went out to dinner for Father's Day, so I wore one of
my favorite little frocks.

Daddy and Meg...a very cute picture after a few attempts...

I am my father's daughter.

On Sunday, I found a new app for editing iPhone pics.
So I used an older Instagram pic to make this.


New round of workouts started on Monday.

More fun with PicLab.

Millie, when I won't let her on my lap, sits under my chair.

Success with the sock bun!

Mom, Dad and I went to a farmer's market to stock up. yummy!

Summer squash

These heirlooms were huge.


Mom's tomatoes started turning this week.

Heirlooms starting to grow.

Various tomato plants


I took one pic on Thursday. I had a break between piano
lessons and a good book.

Friday was a slow day. After the gym I mostly sat around.
Kinda needed it, though.

Same cluster of tomatoes as the ones pictured above--Mom
and I picked that lovely red one and another on the bush
that was ready. Gorgeous!