Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Twenty-three years ago this summer--about this time, actually--Mom and Dad took Aaron and I to Disney World in Florida. It was a fantastic trip for our family.

Shortly after we returned, I had my 12th birthday. One of my gifts was a Mickey Mouse watch, purchased in Florida on the sly and kept hidden until my actual birthday. Over the years, I've worn that watch through three different watch bands and countless batteries.

Earlier this year, I pulled it out of a jewelry box after several years of going watch-less. It felt rude to pull out my cell phone to check the time during music lessons when a quick glance down at my watch was far less noticeable. So I took Mickey to a local jewelry store, got a new battery, and I've been wearing that watch a lot since then.

Yesterday, I went to the gym between working in my new classroom and going to Fusion to teach some lessons. I took the watch off and hooked it onto the lanyard I keep my car key on...and later, I promptly forgot about it and lost my 23-year-old watch somewhere in the gym. As of yesterday afternoon--when I drove back to see if it had been turned in, and to check the locker room myself--it had not been given to the front desk.

Of course, I'm hoping someone will find it and turn it in. Last week, I found a cell phone left on a stationary bike and promptly took it to the front desk, figuring someone's going to want that back. I'm hoping that little bit of good karma will come back to help me. It's not that my little watch is particularly valuable in a monetary sense--but it has huge sentimental value.

I couldn't help but feel sad when I realized my watch is missing. It is certainly replaceable (indeed, I have two other watches my parents have given me over the years), but I've always loved that little watch. I hope it is returned to me, somehow.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Busy Season

Yesterday, I left the gym and drove straight over to my new school. Armed with a couple boxes of classroom stuff, I let myself in, introduced myself to the band teacher next door, and got to work sorting out my office.

I have an office!!

Right off of my classroom is a good-sized office. My choral library is stored in there. The dance teacher also uses the room, but there's so much space, we won't be in each other's laps or anything.

The previous teacher was less neat-freak than I am, so I spent considerable time yesterday clearing the desk drawers out, sorting through things, and figuring out what I'm going to do with the eight pairs of scissors I have. I rearranged some of the posters and pennants left on the wall, and added my own things. I took a bunch of Instagram pictures, so those will be shared on Saturday.

I'm going back today, to meet the drama teacher and get a tour of the theater facilities. The dance teacher (head of the VAPA department) has also been in touch, offering to help me out with anything I need. The band teacher is up to her eyeballs in band camp right now (ahh, memories) but also really helpful and welcoming. It also turns out I have student choir officers and a choral booster group, who are all really excited to meet me next week (one is coming on Monday while I'm working in my classroom). They love choir and want to see the program flourish.

This week, I finish off my summer gig with the exchange students--that will have me flying around tomorrow, Thursday and Friday. There's also my private music students, and gym time, so I've been keeping pretty busy...but busy is good. What's that saying--"idle hands are the devil's playground?" It's true. When I'm idle, I get bored, and moody. Things are really starting to come together in my career again, and not a moment too soon. I'm really excited about all that lies ahead.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Cloudy With A Chance For Joy

I've recently been introduced to the awesomeness that is TEDTalks, and so, when I'm bored, or feeling a need for inspiration, I wander around the site looking for interesting talks. They're all excellent, but of course, some will resonate with me more than others.

I watched this one, "Cloudy With a Chance For Joy" last week, and again this weekend, and I really love it. Gavin Pretor-Pinney is the founder of The Cloud Appreciation Society, which sounds ludicrous, but if you listen to his talk, you realize he makes an excellent point. "We live in the sky, not under it," he says, and his talk isn't so much about appreciating pretty clouds (though he maintains that this is an enjoyable and easy way of calming stress and being present in our world) as it is about being truly in a moment and appreciating life.

It's worth a watch--Pretor-Pinney is an engaging speaker. And it has inspired me to share some of my own cloud pictures, because, no matter where you go, you'll find them, and they're not necessarily a "grey sky" phenomenon.

Clouds emerging as San Francisco's famous fog lifts.

I took this standing outside my classroom in Stockton, California. I love
when you can see the sun peeking from behind a storm cloud.

Over Lake Tahoe.

Storm coming in over South Lake Tahoe.

Wispy Van Gogh-like clouds over the Napa Valley.

Clouds add to the spartan drama of Nevada.

Nevada's landscape is boring as all get-out, but look at that sky!

Nevada, again.

Over Southern Idaho.

The edge of the storm--Southern Idaho.

Either Southern Idaho or Northern Nevada.

My own back yard. : )

Sunday, July 28, 2013


In the blogosphere, my blog is ancient.

Many blogs I followed when I first started this little pink confection, nine years ago today, are long abandoned, filed away in some corner of the Internet. For some reason, blogging has stuck with me, and as other blogging friends moved on towards Tumblr and Twitter exclusively (I use Twitter daily and have used Tumblr), I have stayed loyal to Blogger and this creation.

A guy once told me he was a little bit jealous of my ability to put my thoughts out there like this. I told him I just have a lot of words and thoughts and feelings tumbling around in my head. He replied, "It's sexy, to be honest."

Maybe. I just know that all my life, I've enjoyed telling stories. As a child, I tried to write my great novel every so often--I wanted to write a story about twins, just like the Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High books. Then I wanted to write about a girl and her race horse, just like the Thoroughbred series. All of these would be made into blockbuster movies, of course. Starring me.

The advice all writers get is to write what you know, so...I do. This blog is nine years--nine years!!--of my adventures. I joke that I can make an adventure out of going to the grocery store (actually, I can). I've been fortunate enough to have a great many grand adventures since starting this blog--teaching in England, living in Washington, surviving depression, losing ninety pounds. I also feel very fortunate that very rarely have I lost my interest in writing about them. There was a stretch of time while I lived in Antioch where my muse left me, or I just didn't feel comfortable sharing what was really going on in my life with the world--this was when I gained a lot of weight, felt my absolute worst as a teacher, and suffered from some pretty hefty anxiety and depression. And in recent months, I've been light on the blogging, not always feeling inspired. Until recently, actually, I've felt like I ought to keep quiet about certain things on my blog...but the truth is, I miss just being candid and real. I'm a human being, with a lot of words, thoughts and feelings tumbling around in my head. Sometimes the choice of whether or not to share them is entirely out of my hands. The posts just write themselves.

At any rate, it's been a Wild and Absolutely True nine years, and I hope to continue blogging for a long time to come. I don't do it to go viral, or get a ton of comments. I write here simply because I need to tell my story, even if few people see it. If you are reading it, thank you.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Race Recap: Fab 40's 5K

Several weeks ago, I had a conversation with Matt the Reasonable that went something like this:

Matt: When's your next race?
Me: Well, I was looking at one in July, but I am determined to get a sub-thirty, and I've been waiting to register 'til I feel my running is better, and I've been pushing the mileage, and...
Matt [grinning through all of this]: I think you should just sign up for a race.
Me: I know...I know...and thing is, most race courses are flatter than what I've been running, so I'd be faster just from that.
Matt: Exactly. So find one!
Me: Okay, okay!!

Anyway, that was the gist of it. That evening, I signed up for the Fab 40's 5K. No excuses!

I've been running treadmill sprints a couple of days a week, and trying for 3-4 longer runs throughout the week, but I'm not going to lie--a combination of extreme heat and a summer teaching job have had me getting fewer miles of late. This week, in particular, all of my running was confined to treadmill sprints, though I did get a lot of miles in on the bike at the gym. So I approached this morning's race with a certain feeling that it might be...difficult.

I felt pretty good to start, and I know enough now about not pushing myself too hard, too fast. I lined up with the 9 minute milers, and I'm pretty sure my first two miles were in the 9:00 to 9:30 range. The course was mostly flat (the tiny inclines were insubstantial for someone who runs in Lincoln Hills all the time, but I noticed other people slowing a bit) and the time on the clock was 19:45 when I reached the 2-mile mark.

The last mile was the hardest. I was determined to run the whole race, no walking--and I almost did. However, that last mile was tough and I could feel myself getting queasy, so I walked for a moment--no more than a tenth of a mile. Finally, I reached the three-mile mark and pushed my speed a bit for the last tenth to the finish.

My stomach started rolling, so I sucked in huge gulps of air and kept pushing. As I approached the finish line, a local radio personality, Big Jim Hall, announced my name among the others who were finishing near my time. The clock read 31:06. A photographer snapped a picture of me as I tiredly sprinted across the finish line, dripping sweat and feeling that awful lurching in my stomach.

I slowed to a walk and tried to take deeper breaths. My stomach continued to protest, and my hand flew up to my mouth...nothing. A minute later, the same. I spied a garbage can straight ahead and made a beeline for it, hoping I wouldn't throw up but pretty sure my stomach was going to insist.

And then, yes, it insisted.

Fortunately, it didn't last long, and no one came running up to fawn all over me. I tried to puke as unobtrusively as possible, and I think I managed...but then, I didn't really stick around long to see if people were staring at me in disgust.

(I know I can't be the only person who throws up after overexerting myself running.)

That taken care of, I headed to the computer bank to see my official time...31:02! It's not sub-thirty, but considering my lack of substantial mileage in recent weeks, I'm pleased that I ran almost the whole course, and that I had a strong two miles--really, a strong two-and-a-half miles--before fatigue and an unhappy tummy had their way.

I got passed by a lot of faster runners today, but it doesn't bother me. I'm not competing against anyone out there--only myself (though I'm pretty proud that I finished 13th in my age group, out of 53, and in the top 50% overall). And every time I get out there and run a race, I push myself to run faster, and better. Four years ago, a 5K was impossible.

My Week in Instagram (Week #36)

This week has flown by in a blur of busyness--teaching my exchange students, teaching my music students, working on stuff, going to the gym, a prom, and sometimes even sleeping. And to cap it all off, a 5K this morning.


On Sunday, while we were all in the house, the glass on the
patio table inexplicably shattered.

I helped Dad clean up the mess.

Abandoned old building in Loomis--we were going out to

I took my parents to an Indian place my friend Sarah and I
discovered and love.

Chicken korma, chicken tikka masala, rice, and garlic naan.

I admit it, I watched. Not obsessively, but I kept my eyes on
the news as I worked on lesson plans.

I love England.

Found some Angry Birds stickers among my things.

They look great on my planner.

We had some clouds on Monday night--the sky looked
really lovely.


On Tuesday, my students made "newspapers" after doing
the chapter on newspapers in our book. They did a great

I went to the gym after school, then drove straight to Fusion
to teach a bunch of lessons.

Dad and I have been playing "hide the bubbles in creative
places" this week. I put them in the coffee pot on Wednesday

My students made comics on Thursday. This was my
sample for them. Setting. Problem. Solution.

I went to Mecca Charming Charlie on Thursday. Happy
Early Birthday to meeee!

These were our nominees for "Prom King" for the EF
2013 Summer Prom. The two in the middle (in the jean shorts
and green shorts, respectively) are two of my brightest
kids. Jonas (left, Marilyn t-shirt) is from Germany, and Flo
is from Austria.

Chinese students hanging out before prom. They looked


Bright and early on a Saturday.

The run started and finished in a cemetery.

Ready to run!

I was feeling optimistic, and actually ran the first couple
miles at probably a 9:00-9:30 pace.

Big Jim Hall is a local radio personality. He has a fabulous
voice and it was fun hearing him call "Megan Cooper!" as
I finished the race.

Tired but triumphant runner, after setting a new personal
best time (and then promptly throwing up in a garbage can).

Caturday Post #1: Raising A Millennium

Every Saturday on Twitter, Richard, the drummer for Keane, posts a picture of one or both of his cats with the hashtag #Caturday. Of course, this led to all of us fans doing the same, and we all enjoy sharing pics of our furry friends, and commenting on other cats as well.

In November 2011 I attempted NaNoWriMo, writing a non-fiction book of cat stories based on a lifetime of loving and being owned by cats. I never reached 10,000 words, but I did write some amusing chapters. I came across these stories a few days ago, and thought it would be fun to publish them here on the LPB in honor of Caturday. Enjoy! This first one is devoted to my long-time love, Ms. Millennium Joy.

1999 was quite an amazing year for me. With the year 2000 looming, and all of the attendant Y2K worries, I was entering my fourth year of college that fall after spending the spring semester studying in London, England. Three previous years of sharing small spaces with roommates had convinced me that it was time to try living alone for a while. I settled into a tiny one-bedroom apartment near campus, and got down to the business of studying. I loved living without roommates, and having a kitchen and a bathroom all to myself.
But something was missing—I didn’t know it, but my parents did, and acted on it. I had wanted a cat of my own for a long time, but lack of money and a strict no-cat policy in my apartment complex was holding me back. It didn’t stop Mom and Dad. On a Saturday in December, they called me and asked if they could visit the next day to take me to lunch.
 I should have known something was up—my parents usually only visited me in Chico when I had a music concert or something important going on. They had never made the two-hour drive from our home in Folsom just to take me to lunch. All of this passed right by me. I was busy studying for my final exams, which were due to start that week.
Sunday was a perfect California winter day—sunny, cold, and clear. I watched Mom and Dad’s car pull into the parking lot from my living room window, and got up to go downstairs to greet them. My eyes were drawn to the back window of their car. I could see a cat carrier in the back seat, which was odd—my parents have always kept their cars clear of clutter. If there’s a cat carrier in the back seat, chances are, there’s a cat in it.
Dad got out of the car and waved at me as I stepped outside of my apartment. “Come on down,” he called. “There’s someone we want you to meet.”
I raced down the stairs to the parking lot. When I reached the car, Mom was opening the door, and I caught my first glimpse of a small torbie. She had one arm sticking out through the bars of the carrier, and she was letting us know in a very loud voice that she did not appreciate being confined.
 Disbelief, shock, excitement, and wonder: all of these feelings rushed across my face as I turned to Mom. She smiled at me. “The ladies at the shelter called her Punky Brewster, but you can name her whatever you want.”
Within minutes, I’d settled on Millennium. From the start, I knew I’d call her Millie, but with the upcoming New Year and the fears that all the world’s computers would fail spectacularly and plunge us back into the Dark Ages with their inability to recognize the year 2000, Millennium seemed appropriate.
That first week with Millie was full of all the highs and lows that come with raising a kitten. At three months of age, Millie was still small (and cute) enough that it was impossible to stay mad at her, but big enough to inflict real damage on my apartment. Curios were broken, sleep was disrupted, and the very thought of getting rid of my new roommate prompted stressed-out crying and apologetic hugs for my impatient, wiggle-worm of a kitten. I never believed in love at first sight until I met this cat.
 To add to the stress, my apartment’s no-cat policy was clearly being violated. The on-site manager confronted me one day.               

“I know you have a new kitten,” she said. “I don’t really care—you’re a good tenant and I know you won’t leave her when you move out. Just the other day, I had to set a cat trap because someone moved out and left their cat behind.”
“People do that?” I gasped. I couldn’t imagine.
“Yes. I know you won’t, so I don’t mind that you’ve got your cat…but if my boss sees her, he will not be happy. So you might think about keeping her out of the front windows.”
From that point on, Millie stayed closed up in my bedroom and bathroom area whenever I was not at home. She could sit in my bedroom window and look out at the view of a street, without being seen by the apartment owner.
After finals were over, I loaded up my car to go home for Christmas. My parents had assured me that any time I visited home, Millie was a welcome houseguest. Getting her into the cat carrier was never easy, but we managed, and Millie would ride shotgun, buckled into the seat facing me, napping most of the way home as I blasted my favorite mix tapes and sang along.
 My brother Aaron came to see me at Mom and Dad’s house a few days before Christmas. Mom and I were at the grocery store when he arrived, so he met my crazy kitten and had a chance to get to know her without me hovering over them both. When Mom and I arrived home, it was to the sight of my 6’2” brother cuddling Millie, a silly grin on his face as he beamed at me and said, “We’ve met.”
It was Aaron who first called Millie “the party girl from Chico.” Chico State University had a long-time reputation as being a “party school,” and while it was no longer very accurate when I attended, it was something everyone joked about. Millie lived up to Chico’s reputation with her kittenish antics, keeping everyone in our house on their toes all through that first Christmas. If she wasn’t racing around the house with a mouse toy in her mouth, it was very likely she might be halfway up the Christmas tree.
We were all smitten.

Young Millie, hiding out.

Surprise! The day I met my sweet girl.