Thursday, July 24, 2014

And So It Starts

It's almost August--holy yikes--and I'm checking my work email a little more often. Where I'd been logging in maybe once a week in June and most of July, now I'm making a point of checking every 2-3 days. Next week, I'll increase it. Two weeks from today, teachers are back in the saddle.

I'm excited. My grand plans are afoot for a fantastic fall concert, and I'm sincerely looking forward to seeing my kids again--the familiar faces and meeting the new ones.

Tomorrow is my last day with the exchange students. I'm glad...and it makes me sad to say that. But this year hasn't been fun--aside from having some really great co-teachers. Instead of teaching two groups, I've had to juggle three this year, leaving me feeling like I barely got a chance to know any of them. And the disorganization of the program itself has been truly bad this year. "Do this." "No, wait, don't do this, do that instead." Fifteen minutes later, a new person walks in and tells you both of the first two people were wrong.

I just end up doing what seems best at the time.

But it's all finished tomorrow, and next week becomes all about choir. I'll be recording voice parts for songs, working in my room and office, getting ready. I need to prep the piano lab for the class I'll be teaching this fall. I'll also be running, going to the gym, and going to my first kick-boxing class on Tuesday. That's exciting.

Maybe I'll even squeeze a mini-adventure in there, like a day trip to San Francisco. I haven't been to the city in ages.

It's nice to face a new school year feeling truly excited. Summer has been really great, and I've done my share of relaxing. I've made a ton of cards for my Etsy shop, and loved having time to use that creative outlet. I feel pretty recharged after a very hectic spring.

Here's to an even better second year!

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Body Project -- Selfies

There's been a lot of discussion about selfies of late, with one side proclaiming selfies the sign of end times, a sign of overly self-involved idiots, and women who are desperate for attention and "likes," and the other half defending selfies as a means for taking back how we present ourselves to the world. Hashtags like #feministselfie have emerged, and I, for one, kinda dig it.

Selfie with my brand-new kitty, December 1999.
I've used selfies for a long time as a way of proving "I was here!" in fantastic places, when there was no one available to take a picture of me. And Summer and I have taken so many selfies of the two of us, that now it's our go-to method of taking pictures, even if twelve people offer to take it for us.

Seriously, we were doing this in college.

2001 or 2002. 

More recent selfie
Over the last couple of weeks, I've taken quite a few Instagram selfies, and they've popped up in my Week in Instagram posts. I've had a purpose in doing this, and that is to show myself at my best...and my most real. I'm not going to call it my worst, because I'm at my best with or without makeup.

Anyway, here's a collection of selfies. This is me--dolled up, sweaty, tired, happy, and everything in between.

After 8 miles. 

I love this one.

Hanging out at home.

Selfie in Mazda

In my summer classroom.

Beach selfies with duck on head are mandatory.

Tea drinker

Opining on the triple-digit temps.

First run after a week off.

That's a 25-pound kettlebell on my shoulder. I may have
crow's feet, but I'm also Badass Strong.

I bleed green and black, but I have a soft spot for the RHS
cheerleaders 'cause I knew one when she was a baby.
Nine miles, a new record for me. BOOM!
Whatever your thoughts on selfies, I don't mind them. For me, it's a way of showing what I'm doing, or being silly about how I feel (the above picture of me with my tongue out, for example). I actually have a "take a picture, or twelve!" on my daily To Do list, because it's part of staying creative.

And selfies allow me to see how I look to the rest of the world. They're me, reminding myself that like anyone else, I'm worth being seen and heard. So selfie on...I'll even "like" 'em for ya.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Putting the "Kick" in "Kick-Ass."

In my Chico days, I took a few phys ed-type classes from time to time, including aerobics, in an attempt to keep my weight in check. Aerobics, you can imagine, was particularly hellish. Even now, at my highest level of fitness ever, I am not comfortable in an aerobics setting. It always seems that just as I finally figure out what the instructor is doing with her feet and start doing it myself, she's moved on to something even more complicated, involving pirouettes and maybe a squat or two. While the workout itself is effective, I spend most of the class feeling completely out of sync with what everyone else is doing.

But one thing I always enjoyed was the kick-boxing elements we sometimes included. The kicks and punches were easy enough for me to follow, and I liked how they felt--at once easy but also very, very effective.

Last week, a water main broke at my gym on Wednesday morning, leaving me to work out in the garage with my hodge-podge medley of equipment--a kettlebell, a balance board, a resistance band, and a yoga mat. As I worked out, I thought back to those kick-box workouts and started throwing quick punches and jabs, and doing high kicks.

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to incorporate some kick-boxing into my fitness regime, so this weekend, I looked for deals on classes, and found a Groupon deal--8 classes for $50. I'll be calling to set up a time this week and I'm really excited. If I like the school, maybe I'll invest in more classes. I'm thinking once a week will be great, in addition to my gym workouts and running.

Incidentally, the running is going well. I set a new best distance at 9.21 miles today, well on my way to getting to the 10 miles Matt recommended in my half marathon training. I figure sometime in August I'll hit that 10-mile mark. The Urban Cow Half is October 5, so there'll be a week or so of tapering before that (which conveniently coincides with my first concert, when I won't have any time to run anyway).

I feel good. Running is never going to be easy, but I'm finally at a point that as I'm out there, sweating, breathing hard, wondering what the hell is so fun about this, I find myself smiling randomly, or working through things in my head. I'm not nervous about doing a half marathon, just excited. While I'll initially be nervous about starting kick-boxing, I'm mostly just excited to do something new that is fun and good for me.

And Then There Were Three

Three weeks.

I have three--really, two-and-a-half--weeks left of my summer vacation from the Large Suburban High School. Teachers go back on August 7th, and kids on August 11. I will, of course, be there more and more over the next few weeks, readying my room, recording practice parts for the kids, and making sure I'm ready for another fast-paced, amazing year.

And it will be amazing. I insist.

I'm a little nervous. Year Two means I officially cannot use, "Haha, I'm new! I'm learning!" as an excuse if I screw something up...but I also feel so much more organized and in charge going into this year. I know what needs to be done and have a better idea of the timeline for things.

It's also nerve-wracking, having a new boss. She seems really terrific, but change is scary. Mr. Principal hired me because from the minute he shook my hand in the lobby of the office, he liked me. I impressed him in the interview, and he loved my style and my attitude all year. Mrs. Principal is inheriting me, and while I'm sure she has no complaints about me so far, I know I need to do my best to show her I am absolutely what this choir program needs...because, you see, she was the founding choir teacher at the school. It was hers; she built it up, and it sadly declined after she left. I'm tasked with making it big again.

I'm up for this. But of course, being me, I'll always have a nagging little voice in my head asking, "But what if you can't?" I do my best to ignore it, to not feed it. Let it starve in there.

For all the little things that make me nervous, however, there is one big thing that doesn't--the kids. It will be great to see the returners, and meet my new kids. I've got a great crop of incoming freshmen, and I'm excited to get to know them. I'm excited about our Broadway & Beyond show, and ready to see my vision for it become reality.

I'm ready, in some ways, to be back to my routine--showering at the gym three days a week sucks in its ways, but I feel good when I start off my day with a great workout. Sac Choral will be starting back up, and I will enjoy singing with my friends there. That just feeds my soul. I no longer have piano lessons three nights a week, but will continue teaching three kids on Wednesday afternoon. I'm home by 5:15, and that's my "late" day. It will be so nice to have my evenings back.

Besides, the heat has been maddening, and everyone is ready for some cooler temps, and California, in particular, is hoping for an El Nino winter of rain, rain, rain and snow, snow, snow. I'm ready for 49ers games on Sundays and pumpkin soup.

So the next few weeks will be a little less lazy, and a lot more productive. My weekly goal list will be heavy on stuff for the upcoming school year, as I finish off my summer job with the exchange students (which hasn't been as fun this year, but more on that in another post).

I suppose I'd better dust off these dusty vocal chords. ; )

Saturday, July 19, 2014

My Week in Instagram (Week #86)

Nothing too out-of-the-ordinary this week. More work with my exchange students, etc. etc.


There's more Burt's Bees stuff in my bathroom.

All in a day's work. ;)



Monday was a Bun Day.

It was also simply too hot outside to exist. Ugh.

They're sooo excited to learn square-dancing.


"I'd liked to request some good lap time, please."

After  a week off, I was happy to get back out on a run.

Our chapter was about psychology, so OF COURSE I
showed a video of my favorite psychiatrist.

Mom's garden is just gorgeous.

A water main burst at my gym, so I had to work out in the

Selfie with a 25-pound kettlebell.

App Bingo for the students. 

Lovely sky on Thursday morning.

Showing the kids some marching band from my Large
Suburban High School.

Cats and boxes. Boxes and cats.

Some Roseville HS cheerleaders came to cheer for the
exchange students. 

The blonde girl, front row, second from right? I held her
when she was two days old. Her Mom is my friend Sarah.

Unpacking our adjectives.

Spent a nice chunk of Friday evening chatting online with
a dude in India...who walked me through downloading and
installing new audio drives in my laptop. I have sound back!!


Mom and I went shopping today. : )

Friday, July 18, 2014


It's been a rough week, if you follow the news.

Increasing violence between Israel and Hamas-ruled Palestine, resulting, this week, in the deaths of several children (seven that I've seen in recent articles, including the high-profile shelling of four boys who were playing on a beach). I can't claim to truly understand the long history in that region--what I do know from history classes and the media I do read is that it is long, and bloody, with no easy solution in sight.

A passenger airplane shot down--shot down--over Ukraine, with Ukrainian officials pointing at the Russians and Russians pointing at the Ukrainians. Meanwhile, armed men are keeping neutral crash site investigators from doing their job, and bodies are starting to decay on the ground. I won't describe a picture I inadvertently viewed on Twitter yesterday, taken by someone at the scene--a close-up of a victim. It was every bit as horrific as you are probably imagining, as the poor soul no longer looked human. I sincerely hope his/her family does not see that image. I would never have viewed it, except that there it was, on my Twitter feed, uncensored, as I opened the app on my phone.

I'm so tired of this "violence will solve our problems!" approach I keep seeing in the world. Scared of intruders? Get a gun and shoot that son-of-a-bitch. Passenger plane in your "air space?" (the plane was actually in a safe zone)? Shoot that fucker down. Throw some rockets at the problem in Gaza. Uh-oh, Iraq is deteriorating, let's go in and shoot 'em up!  (Gotta protect our oil reserves. To hell with environmentally friendly cars, right?)

Nearly 100 AIDS researchers were brutally shot out of the sky yesterday, for the grievous crime of flying at 33,000 feet over a rebel-held region of Ukraine. AIDS researchers who devoted their lives to solving the pandemic that kills so many--the strides they've made are remarkable, and worthy of praise. And they are gone because, on their way to a conference in Australia, they had the audacity to get a little too close to a world "hot spot."

Kids going on holiday, shot down. For what?

No, really. For what?

It's all so disheartening. We do our best to live, to make life good and happy for ourselves and those we love. We hope that love is strong enough to be a force greater than the hate and violence...some weeks it just feels like it's not enough.

But I have to continue holding out hope. I have to continue giving as much good as I can to the world, whether it's being the best teacher I can be, or the silly things, like showing 17 exchange students a picture of me and my lucky rubber duck meeting Donald Duck. I have to believe that the good outweighs the bad. So I search it out.

The death penalty in California has been ruled unconstitutional in a federal court. Three little girls from a photo that went viral in April are all now in remission from cancer. Weird Al Yankovic takes the rape-anthem "Blurred Lines" and schools the world on proper grammar with it. News may not be so bad for bumblebees (and therefore, our food supply, and, therefore, us). A dude in India helped me via Dell Support Chat tonight to reinstall my audio drivers, so after a week of no sound on my computer, I'm happily listening to music on iTunes, and finally able to view that above-mentioned Weird Al video.

I held a 9-month-old boy yesterday, and danced with him to some pop music during a break at school. (His dad, a friend of one of my co-teachers, was tossing a football around.) I marveled at how he took it all in, and giggled at the Italian and Spanish girls who approached to coo at him in their native tongues and pinch his cheeks and tickle his belly.

Life is so beautiful in so many ways, yet there's always that storm out there somewhere. When it's nature, you mourn, but you understand that nature always, always, wins in the end. When it's another human being causing the's just so much harder to swallow.

So I do my best to spread the beauty. The silly. The happy. The love.

Thank you for reading this.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Looking For Signs

It all started in London Semester, 1999.

England, you see, is filled with these wonderful little places called pubs. And pubs have unique signs, often pictoral, because back in the day, most of the population was illiterate, and having a sign with a picture of an eagle carrying a baby would help them understand they were at the Eagle and Child pub. Fascinating, and, of course, it inspired Young Meg to snap a pic.

Taken before digital--I scanned it years later to add to my sign collection.
P.S. This is in Oxford
Soon, I was noticing signs everywhere, but it wouldn't be 'til about 2004 (incidentally, when I was back in England, this time as a teacher), that the habit would really take off.

Glenbeigh, Ireland

Spring Break in Normandy


Dear Burnham

Still one of my favorite sign pictures ever. No one ever
believes me when I tell them about this one.


In Burnham

Well, this one HAD to be taken.
Since then, I've accumulated a whopping 1,619 pictures...and that number will grow.

Of these, 61 are pictures that friends have sent me ("A great sign! I thought of you!!"), or pics that Mom and Dad have taken on their various travels. These days, if we're out on a day trip, Dad will offer to slow the car down and/or pull over so I can get a sign pic.

From Dad

Apparently Mom nudged Dad with her elbow and said, "Doug!! Get a pic
of that for Meg!!" 

From Maayan, when I had my sweet Harley Dude.

A great one taken by my Facebook friend Kate.

From Nicki

From Sarah (this is so English and awesome).

From Sherry, a fellow Keane fan.

From Lindsay.

From my blogger friend Suzanne.

From another Facebook friend, Alyssa. 
I even got Richard of Keane in on this.

I don't have any particular criteria for my sign pics. If I see one that makes me laugh, I snap a pic. If I see a really great vintage sign, out comes the camera (I love those gaudy old neon signs, they're grand). Anything with Cooper...

Just this weekend!

Near Monterey

Davis, CA

Monterey--Coopers made barrels.

First thing I saw when stepping off the train in Scotland in 1999. I nearly

I actually live kinda near this.

Nevada City or Grass of the two.

Just found this one on Saturday, in Martinez, across the street from the
Wells Fargo where I stopped to get cash for a bridge toll.

I've got a lot of favorites. I started going through, folder by folder, and I could have had about 500 on this post. I do love my signs. Here's a random sample of signs that made me laugh, made me stop in my tracks, or just caught my fancy.

"Someone stole the last sign.

An original, from Edinburgh, 1999.

Along Interstate 80.

Oh, Berkeley.

Don't drive down this one.

Always gives me chills.

Thank you, Disneyland and Brawny. Good advice.

Fort Bragg, CA. 

Fantastic old sign.

Twin Falls, Idaho

My Large Suburban High School

I happened to find this when going to a Sac Choral rehearsal.

I love puns.

Can't tell you how many times I drove past this one,
halfway between Folsom & Chico, in my uni years.

So much pride when I reached the summit of Mt. Diablo.

Hey, my own company!

Newport Beach, CA. This just screams, "seaside."

Rough and Ready, California. Yep. A real place.

The famous Hollywood sign, taken from a moving bus.
My biggest folders are my Sacramento (105 pictures), San Francisco (209) and Stockton (106) folders. Those are parts of California I've spent a lot of time since taking up this little hobby.

And there you have it. Sixteen hundred sign pictures, and always growing. I suppose there are weirder things to collect, and at least these don't need to be dusted.