The Importance of Workout Buddies

BC, Before Children, I had a great workout buddy.  Her name was Mary Lynn aka Wild Blond.  She and I would walk daily in the spring, summer and fall, and workout indoors during the winter.  She was one who would be sitting in my driveway waiting for me so I couldn’t use any excuses not to go.  She would talk non-stop and sometimes we would even end the workout at the local pub for a beer, a light one of course.  She was the best workout buddy, and I was in the best shape of my life since graduating from high school.

When I met The Captain, he and I would workout together.  He liked going to the gym and on the treadmill.  When I would get him to walk outside with me, he insisted on bringing my hulking golden retriever, who enjoyed sitting periodically on the journey.  This did not make for a real walk, more of a start/stop, pull the dog sort of expedition.  Not quite the motivation of having Wild Blond honking in my driveway.

BC it was easy to find time to workout.  AC, After Children, not so much!

BC it was fun to go to new classes.  AC I am too tired.

BC I was vain and searching for a husband to have children with.  AC, well, yeah.

Sadly, I have not had a workout buddy since my youngest, Squishy, was born.  That was seven years ago.  I think I am in desperate need to get a workout buddy, but I don’t know where to find one because most of my friends have kids, activities and busy lives, too.

I have a friend who teaches workout classes.  She is a workout guru.  Recently, as in two summers ago, I attempted to have her as my workout buddy.  It didn’t go so well.  Instead of Wild Blond honking in the driveway, my workout goals were reduced to guilt.  I was afraid of not doing what I was supposed to do.  It was as if all of the family obligations were overtaking me, and I felt bad about not being able to make a good effort at the gym.  So, I ended the workout buddy relationship, and we are better friends today without it.

The Captain and I were chatting in the kitchen and I was explaining my workout buddy woes.  I asked him to teach me how to run.  I have this fantasy of doing the Princess Half Marathon at Disney, mainly because I want a bag of goodies, cute t-shirt, character autographs and a crown.  Disney, ah.

“I want to learn how to run.  You are a runner, can you teach me?”

“There is no way to teach someone to run,” The Captain replied, already appearing as if this conversation was one he wished to avoid.

“You run.  Who taught you to run?”  I wasn’t letting this go.  No way.

“I am not sure why we are even talking about this.  You have had a gym membership for three years and you have only gone three times.  Maybe you should just go to the gym,” he said, and then picked something invisible off of the floor.

My eyes glazed over, red as the gates of Hell.  My lips quivered, like the impact of a tornado.  My body shook, with the strength of a nuclear bomb.  The wrath was coming.

“Wow.  Really?  When am I going to pencil that in between working, your rehearsals, running kids, helping with their homework, grading papers?”

“You forgot about sitting at your computer for hours,” he mumbled as he went to take out the garbage.  Exit The Captain.  Obviously this was the end of the discussion.

Grrr.  So, I am now reevaluating.  To The Captain’s sheer excitement, I dragged him to the running store and, with his superior running guidance, bought new running shoes.  Now, I just need to find some poor sap who wants to be my workout buddy and make it happen.  Maybe I will increase my gym attendance to double digits.  Maybe…

Anyone want to be my oh-so important workout buddy?  Honking in the driveway is a must.

My new kicks. Time to get going!

Sing Therapy

My wolf pack of BFFs and I take an annual girl’s trip to Hilton Head Island.  It was the second trip we made and we were excited to leave the world, kids and responsibilities behind for a little while.

On the looooong drive down, we end up singing in the car.  A lot.  A whole lot.  Usually it is 80s music, sometimes its (gulp) country, and we have even been known to eerily belt out, with the correct lyrics, many classic rock tunes.  Be jealous, be very jealous.   😉

When we reached our destination, we immediately headed out for some drinks and dinner.  Talking and laughing about our careers as teachers, we all decided to take on different “personas” if we were ever asked what we did for a living.  I decided that I would be a “Sing Therapist” because I think singing makes people feel better.  Nat aka Peanut, who is a little, bitty thing and is a Spanish teacher by day, decided that she would be an artificial insemination specialist for big livestock.  Suz, who shares a love of 80s music and books with me, said she would say that she played the triangle for Bon Jovi.  Double G was going to be a therapist to the stars.  Hooray!  We all had hilarious new jobs!

Sadly, we were only asked once what we did for a living.  What do you think we all said? “Teacher,” in unison.   🙂

But, I digress.  My point is not just writing about the blast we had in Hilton Head with the wolf pack, but it is the realization that I sing all of the time.  I am Sing Therapy.  I didn’t really notice I did this until a student in my English 11 Honors class said to me, “Mrs. M., you should really be in the choir.”

“What? I am a teacher.  I can’t be in the high school choir.” I asked as I was passing out copies of The Crucible.

“You sing all the time.  You have a nice voice.  Our choir could use you.”

“I don’t sing all the time,” I stated, and then the class went into complete and utter chaos.

“Wait a minute, everyone, why all of this chatting?” I said as I tried to give them the “you better stop your talking” eyeball and the teacher spoken code for “be quiet.”

A sweet, quiet girl raised her hand, and strategically said,  “Mrs. M., you don’t know that you sing all of the time?  You do.  Every time we enter the room, in the middle of your sentences, during your lessons, you sing a ton.”

“Really?? No way.” I replied.

“Yes way.  So far, you were singing a line from that annoying Friday song and then repeating “Last Friday Night” over and over.  You have been singing all day,” said one student triumphantly as if he had written down everything I have ever said word-for-word.  If only he would take notes that way!

“That is impossible,” I said with a tone. “Plus, I have nothing to sing about when it comes to The Crucible.  Now, let’s get to work.”

Another student raised their hand.  “Yes?” I asked.

“Ah, yeah, um, yesterday? When we finished the Act I quiz? You…um…you started singing “You Gotta Keep Your Head Up.”

“Oh, wow.  OK.  Let’s begin.”

After that, I began to ponder the question Do I Really Sing A Lot?  I think I am going to have to ask around.  Meanwhile, I can’t get the Beatles song “Hello, Goodbye” out of my head.  Go ahead, sing it with me.  You know you want to.

My new place of employment? I think not.


Finer Things

Do you remember hearing the Steve Winwood’s The Finer Things song?  Well, it is one of those songs that touches my heart, brings me back to high school and, even, makes me wonder why I would have ever owned a pink unitard.

I did an interpretive dance to this song.  Hopefully, you did not spit out your coffee or choke while reading the last line.  Hence, it is true. I was interpreting that song like it was my job.  To add more sugar to your coffee, I wore a pink unitard.  For dancers, we know that this is an entire body covering, shoulders to ankle leotard.  Sexy?  Not really.  Add in the silver leg warmers, the silver Flashdance belt, and the silver bloomer-type bottoms and you have me circa 1987.  Looking back, I am not proud of the outfit choice, but at that time, I thought it was awesome.

Interpretive dancing aside, I really liked the song.  I heard it first at a church camp I attended called Pennington. When people say church camp is for church and that is the main reason teens want to go, they have never been to church camp.  Church camp is a dating mecca.  Plus, it is a great place to meet new people (aka hot guys) and that is where I met my lifelong friend Erin (who is a guy, by the way).

This morning, The Finer Things song came onto the radio.  Which is strange considering the song was released in 1986 and I wasn’t listening to an 80s channel.  Then I thought, damn that pink unitard and interpretive dance stylings of my younger self.

Sometimes I would like to just be able to groove out again to The Finer Things.  Or, maybe I will just by something cool off of Etsy and call it a finer thing.  Hmmm.  I wonder where that pink unitard is…

Keep shining through

To let go of To Kill a Mockingbird

In my past zillion nine years of teaching, I have mainly taught freshman. Freshman are unusual creatures. They usually still like some aspects of school and they are easily entertained through humor – or what I refer to as my stand-up comedy teaching routine. This works when we read my ultimate favorite novel of all time: Harper Lee’s amazing To Kill a Mockingbird. Each year I have perfected my Mockingbird teaching like when I performed a podcast reading of the first chapter with a Southern accent. Or when I took a super-cool (to me, that is) informative slideshow and turned it into a video introducing the novel.  That novel and I are soul sisters and teaching it gave me an excuse to shout it out to the mountaintops (well, to the ninth graders) and make them love it as much as I did.  Some did.  Others did not.  Some didn’t read a bit of it.  Still, this was the book I loved teaching.  Until this past year.

For some reason, the class of 2014 did not take kindly to the book.  Some had a lot of trouble with the dialogue, some were confused with the parallel story lines and some were just breathing in oxygen.  I started getting random questions as we were nearing the end of the novel.  The straw that broke the camels back was when a young dude wearing a LeBron James traitor to the Cavs jersey asked why the narrator was so smart for a six-year-old.  There needed to be a change.

So, I held my quivering chin up and discussed the situation with my amazing colleague.  She suggested moving the sophomore novella, Of Mice and Men, to the freshman level and my beloved To Kill a Mockingbird to the sophomore level.  The only heartbreaking thing is that I don’t teach sophomore English.  So bye bye to TKM.  Sniff sniff.

I went into panic mode.  It was October and I hadn’t read Of Mice and Men since my sophomore year many moons ago.  I think I was also in a class behind the cutest guy named Tim and I don’t think I even concentrated at all on the class discussion.  I believe my sophomore year was The Year of Tim, and one where I didn’t even realize my hair was burning (hey, silly girl with major Crush on Tim, meet the Bunsen burner!) until I smelled it.  Yeah, Tim was in that class, too.  Sigh.

Needless to say I was in panic mode.  Severe.  My super-dee-duper colleague came to my rescue like Superman to a runaway elevator.  She gently led me through activities, discussion topics, study guides and helped me find some much needed courage.

Amazingly enough, it has worked out well so far.  My freshman love Lenny and George, and even want to get up in front of the classroom and read the dialogue from the novel – which is a great use of oxygen!  Hooray!  I even got a little teary-eyed at the part about Candy’s dog (let’s be honest here – who wouldn’t?!)  And I was lucky enough to have an excellent teacher helping me through this transition.

As Atticus Finch would say, “It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.  You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”  Ah, Atticus, my hero.  I am really going to miss you. But, I do think I will refer to you now and again AND I think I may use that quote tomorrow when I teach The Scarlet Letter for the first. time. ever.

Regret and a letter to an old friend

I write letters to people and never send them.  It stems from a long time ago in a land far away when I was just finishing my undergraduate work at Auburn.  I was really depressed, I mean in the toilet, swirling around in need of a plunger, depressed.  My parents recently were divorced after 25 years and I just couldn’t think of a future without the stability of my family (although dysfunctional) unit.

My dad, who is none too empathetic with tears of sadness, actually suggested I go and talk to someone.  I did.  It was good advice.  The sage I went to said to write letters to people and get things off of my chest.  I began writing letters and never sending them.  I didn’t write angry letters.  I just wrote to the person of the day with more reflection.

I still write letters to people and below is a note I wrote to one of my favorite people.  We were always at a miss – missed chances, bad timing, crappy excuses, but of all the people in my life at the end of my college career, this was the one person who brought me home to Ohio.  Two children and two careers later, I re-visited the place of our missed connections.  Ohio University.  The question that hangs in the balance is if I should finally send this letter.  For real.

Here is the never-sent letter:

Ty,

I went back to OU…

I don’t know why but the colors were different. Not green, like I remembered them, but more hazy and old-looking like my grandmothers house the last time I was there. I just don’t know what to think of that place anymore. I think I put so much emphasis on how it was not a good place for me but maybe I was not a good thing for it…

One of my favorite students is there now. He reminds me so much of you – the dark hair, the confidence, it is almost startling for me to think how he is seeing the colors of that place. Probably close to how you did or do in your reminiscence.

Oh what I did. Because of naivety, maybe, because of stupidity, sure, because of being overly self aware, definitely. Sorry for that.

I think about you sometimes. In the dim of night when the lights have faded and winter moves in close, too close. I think of the times we talked and you were so full of your goals and I of what I thought was important but really was not at all…

I think of your loss. Your father. I can’t believe I could not share some events with you like when my uncle did the same thing and how I went off a deep end afterwards and have never quite recovered. Or when my other uncle was killed and I just didn’t know how to deal with the reality of the entire situation. I am sure that you would have had some words, something that you could have given to me but you were no longer there.

My overall mission of this note, this freedom, is to tell you that I took your friendship for granted. It proves the old saying “you don’t know what you’ve got…” And it also makes for interesting thoughts and memories, doesn’t it?

I have to go back to Ohio U in April. I am sure it will be like the last time, when I expected to see you every time I turned the corner yet you weren’t there. I will go there again as a (gulp) teacher to learn and be scrutinized by my older peers. But that is OK, I guess. I will probably see a glimpse of us as we were proud and young and free and waiting for what we expected the world to give us.

I miss you, friend.

A