Friday, December 29, 2006


My oldest brother has been dating a significantly older woman for the past few years. And by "significantly older" I mean yeah, she could be his Mom. She's got kids older than him. She's a grandmother.

It's a weird relationship, I guess. She's a very ballsy woman - the complete opposite of my quiet, needy brother. He needs someone to tell him what to do - she likes to be the teller. I guess that's why they work so well together. They seem to fill each others' voids - they're happy together - and that's what matters.

A couple weeks ago, his girlfriend (maybe I'll say "ladyfriend") was diagnosed with colon cancer. She'd gone in for her routine colonoscopy and they found something. They decided to run more tests and discovered that it had already spread into her liver - tumors all over. She's had this stuff growing inside her for a long time and even though she's gone for her routine testing, the doctors have missed it. And now she's screwed.

It's hard to know what to say to a person who is in that situation. She's the first person in my close family with cancer (mostly we all just have heart disease and mental illness.) I've heard the horrors of cancer - the way it takes its toll. I'm scared for her and I'm scared for my brother. She is his first love - I hope he can be strong through it all.

They say that people come into our lives for a reason. I wonder if having to go through this experience will change my brother. He has always been a germaphobic hypochondriac. Now he has to stand tall while the woman he loves battles the real deal. I figure it will either kill him or transform him. I'm hoping for the latter.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Christmas was really good this year. I was just reading my blog post from 2005 and it's kind of incredible the difference a year can make. I kind of feel like this year everything was brand new. "A Christmas of Firsts" - if you will.

I played at Mom's church on Christmas Eve again, but this year I brought along one of my private students - a junior in high school who's interested in pursuing a career in music. We were the two trumpets in the brass quartet and it was her first "gig." I was really proud of her and glad we could share the experience. It made me think of my very first gig, which happened to be at the very same church. I was a high school kid and it meant the world to me to be playing beside my own teacher.

On Christmas day, I woke up and went out for an early run. It occurred to me that it was my first Christmas as a marathoner! I lost myself in the bittersweet memories of my summer training, and before I knew it, I was back home again.

The morning was wonderful. It was just me and my Mom: chatting over coffee, baking up one last batch of cookies with my leftover dough, and just sharing quality Mother/Daughter time. She offered to make my wedding dress. I happily, tearfully accepted. We laughed a lot, listened to Christmas music and got food ready together.

In the afternoon, my family arrived. My brother came first, and we three caught up for a while until my other brother came with his family. A little later, HE arrived and we all opened gifts, shared laughter and just enjoyed 'being.' My heart swelled as I looked around at the happy faces of all ages who embody my life - my love.

It was my first Christmas being engaged - our first Christmas together, in fact. HE was subjected to my family's quirkiness, and was fortunate to experience my sister-in-law's inaugural litter box cake (which I fear may become a new tradition.) HE played with the nephews and the cats, and fit in as if HE'd been there all along.

We dressed the baby up as an elf, terrorized the cat with Bean's remote-controlled car, drank cheap wine and made fun of our creepy relatives. It was the first Christmas where everything was picture-perfect... at least in my eyes.

Monday, December 25, 2006


Best wishes to you and your loved ones for a happy, healthy holiday season.

On this day - and every day - may we remember to take a moment to look around and appreciate all the good things in life, and all the ways in which we are all blessed.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Jeez... where does the time go? Seems like December just started, and here it is Christmas break already. My sincerest apologies for being such a blog slacker. I guess I've been busy?

Between Area Band auditions, volunteering at the county food pantry, gearing up for the holiday concert, and then all the usual holiday tasks - shopping, decorating, baking - it felt like I was never home. And when I was home, I was sleeping.

But life has been good... it's been a really great year. Thursday night we had our faculty holiday party at a little Italian restaurant. It was a fine time - the wine flowed like water. At one point, I found myself in a philosophical conversation with "Poz" - our new, gay librarian. And as usual, I tend to run at the mouth when I have a bit to drink.

"So tell me," he began, "what's the meaning of life?"

I thought for a little bit and said, "I think it's finally realizing who you are, and liking that person - being content. And then being lucky enough to meet someone who loves this person that you are."

Pretty profound, huh? And perhaps a little ironic, timing-wise.

Because as of last night around 6:00 PM... this turtle's engaged!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


It's baaaaack... After eight months of menstrual freedom, I am back amongst the cursed. It's a good thing. Must have been the week and a half of The Pill. Two days after I decided to stop taking it, things started up again so it must have worked. And while I am very relieved to be "normal" again, I really forgot how much it sucks.

[Mother Nature}: "Sheesh... there's just no pleasing her, huh?"

Due to a combination of heavy flannel pajamas and newly flowing hormones, I woke up at 4 AM yesterday, drenched in sweat. And wide awake. I lay there for a few minutes debating going back to sleep for an hour and waking up cranky, or just getting up. I decided to see what it would be like to go for a run at that early hour. I figured I was already sweaty - what the hell?

It was chilly out, but not unbearably so, and the full moon lit up the dark sky. It was almost magical. I set out on a route which I figured would be well lit, and was chugging along - carefree - for about a mile. Then I had a scary experience.

A Jeep Cherokee came creeping up behind me and a guy leaned out the window.

"Excuse me, Miss..."

Every adrenal gland in my body went into overdrive and for the first time in my life, I truly felt 'fight or flight' reactions. I kept running - didn't look at him.

"I'm in desperate need of a gas station. Do you know where one is?"
"Go back," I remember saying. "Go back that way -- go back."
"There's a gas station back there?"
"Go BACK."
"But is it open?"

And with that, I took off on legs I didn't know I owned. Legs I wish I'd owned back in Chicago during those last five miles.

Needless to say, he turned around and drove off. I'm not sure if he'd intended to abduct me - had I stopped to chat - or if he genuinely needed gas, but I'm certainly glad I didn't wait around to find out. Typically, I'm very helpful and hate to be rude to people. But at 4 AM, the rules change.

My nerves settled down after a mile or two and I began to enjoy my magical world, once again. The streets were bathed in moonlight while the town was tucked in bed. Only an occasional house window was lit, and I encountered no one except for a bread truck, a fox, and several cats. I ended up going about six miles, home in plenty of time to shower and get to school.

I thought a lot about my experience. How empowered and independent I'd felt being out running as the rest of the world slept. And how in one instant, everything could change and make me feel small and vulnerable. If he'd wanted to, Jeep Guy could have changed my whole life in many horrible ways.

It made me think.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


One of my 6th grade trumpet students told me about this today.
There is no way I will ever be able to convey my gratitude to him.



Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Way back in March, I went to my general doctor for a checkup. I had been feeling sluggish, exhausted, and kind of 'brain foggy' for a long time. He ordered some blood tests to check my thyroid, etc. and things came back normal.

He asked if I was on The Pill, and I said "Yes, for the past eight years."
He asked, "How long have you been feeling crappy?"
"For about eight years," I replied.

So I decided, back in March, to go off The Pill - to see if I'd feel better, and to give my body a break. To my relief, I quickly began feeling normal again. The tiredness went away and the fog lifted.

But alas, no period came [remember gentlemen, you were warned.]

As usual, I turned to a reliable, informed source for my medical advice: the internet. And while some sites warned I'd be dead from cancer in weeks, the majority told me to relax, assuring that it usually takes a couple months for your body to regulate itself. So I did not panic.

Until August.

After five months without a period, I started to get a little nervous. I went to see my gynecologist. She told me not to panic, that sometimes it can take six months or more for things to get back on track. Plus, she said that training for a marathon probably also had something to do with it. She ordered blood tests and everything came back normal.

After the marathon, she put me on ten days worth of estrogen to try and kickstart my girls.


Then a couple weeks ago, she had me start back up on The Pill. And now I am starting to feel fatigued, exhausted and brain foggy. And it sucks. Hard. And once again, I've sought counsel from the all-knowing internet which informed me that going back on The Pill to regulate is not necessarily a good idea.

So tonight I have made an executive decision: I'm not going to take The Pill anymore. If my period never comes back it will be a blessing. I don't want kids (I'm not a breeder) so it's not like I really NEED to have a period.

And yeah, they say you can develop bone loss in old age with low levels of estrogen, but doesn't EVERYONE develop bone loss in old age? Besides, my blood tests showed that my levels are fine.

My body - my choice. I'm done fucking around with Mother Nature. And I've saved a hell of a lot on tampons this year [again boys, you were warned.]

Monday, November 27, 2006


Wow - it's been so long since I've posted that Blogger is all upgraded and shit. I haven't switched. I fear change. I'm such a luddite.

Things have been chugging along. Thanksgiving was nice this year. Mom and I were supposed to have dinner with HIS family - the first "big official meeting" - but she ended up with a fever of 102 and stayed home. I had a great time with HIS family. It was my first Thanksgiving away, and while I missed my relatives, HIS were more than awesome.

Mom felt worse on Friday and since no doctors were working, I took her to the emergency room. I guess everyone else had the same idea cause it took us three fucking hours to learn she had strep throat. Ah well. We got her pumped with antibiotics and she's been feeling better.

I've developed this annoying habit. It seems like every time I try and stay over HIS apartment lately, I end up waking up around 2 AM and am unable to fall back to sleep. So I lie there getting angry at myself for not being able to sleep. And I start worrying that I'll feel crappy all the next day for not having slept. And then I REALLY can't sleep 'cause now I'm angry AND anxious. So I end up going home in the middle of the night. And as soon as I'm back in my own bed, I'm out cold.

So I don't know what the hell is going on. Everything between us is so frigging good. I have never been as happy with anyone as I am with HIM. But I know this weirdness must be freaking HIM out ever so slightly (even if HE claims it's not.)

I think I'm a mental patient. Too bad I don't know any hot psychologists who work with mental patients.*

*For those of you who don't know, HE's a hot psychologist who works with mental patients.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


This past week marked our second annual Band-Aid: a recent endeavor wherein the kids bring items for the local food pantry's Thanksgiving drive. I set it up as a contest between sections, the prize being a pizza party on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving break. The clarinets won by a landslide.

I teach in one of the wealthiest communities in New Jersey where the annual median household income is up near $200G. It's pretty safe to say that my students don't want for much, and they really have no concept of what it's like to be needy. It felt good to get them involved in a volunteer project - even if their motivation was pizza.

After school yesterday, my friend PMcQ and I dropped off about 10 crates full of donations at the food pantry. The volunteers were rushing around like mad intercepting and dispersing, and I asked if they were still in need of volunteers.

"Can you come in tomorrow?" asked one of the ladies. So I went in from 12-3 today and helped to assemble baskets. They had over 900 families due in during the upcoming week - not counting the 1,300 families who come every month for food. Hearing those numbers and actually seeing the people coming in really made an impact on me...

The elderly couples who probably worked hard all their lives and have had their security robbed by our government. The young mothers with their broods of kids dressed in secondhand clothes. The better-dressed woman in tears, swallowing her pride as she accepted her first round of handouts.

I considered how lucky I am. Although I wasn't rich growing up, we always had food and a big house. We had toys on Christmas, and new clothes every September. I went to college, I got a stable, good-paying job and am now able to afford a comfortable life. Most of the time, I take it all for granted. And while I'm not a very high-maintenance person, I do like little luxuries: dinners out, manicures, the occasional $100 pair of sneakers.

I wonder how many of these people were once in a better place? Who never imagined having to depend on the generosity of others in order to survive? If it could happen to them, why not to me?

It felt really good to help today. It was better than sitting around whining about my own life being boring. It made me realize how fucking lucky I am to be healthy and in a good place. So at the end of my shift, I signed on as a permanent volunteer.

Slowly, I think I may be learning what life is really all about.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Do people actually like Tony Bennett's singing?
Or do they just feel sorry for him?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Today turned out better than the past few days had been going. I was in a little bit of a rut. Maybe it's the looming gray skies and knowing that winter is around the corner (curse you, S.A.D.!!)

Or maybe it's the ongoing drama in my workplace: struggling to model ethical behaviour and strong character for kids while the bureaucracy in charge is anything BUT ethical. Sucks. Morale is at an all-time low and the negativity is as contagious as bird flu. I dunno. I had a quasi meltdown this morning and vented to the gym teacher. I found odd comfort in the fact that he's been feeling the same way these days. Maybe I'm not a depressive basket case after all? Maybe.

One of the kids cracked me up in lessons today. I asked the flutes, "Any of you know what 'syncopation' means in music?" And one girl replied, "No... but it sounds like 'constipation'. Is it like being constipated?" She then proceeded to demonstrate what a constipated flute might sound like. It's moments like these that remind me why I love my job.

After school, I went to the movies with my Mom. They just opened a HUUUGE 16-theatre mega-plex in my town and were showing movies for free today, so we saw "The Devil Wears Prada."

It's so great to have a theatre again. We used to have two: the "Inner 6" (inside our mall) and the "Outer 6" (outside the mall). When I was in high school, all of us band geeks worked at the Outer 6. We had so much fun, but I always thought the managers were a little stupid in hiring us. Whenever we had a football game, band competition or trip - no one could work. Then they'd get mad.

I went into the bathroom during the movie today and as I was sitting in one of the 25 toilet stalls, I thought back to the days of our crappy little Outer 6 and all the fun we had. Being a kid was so much fun. I find myself constantly telling my students to "enjoy these days - make the most of them," and wishing - if only for a few days - to be there again myself.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


My four-day weekend is coming to a screeching halt. Remember when you were a kid and Sunday evenings were the most depressing time of the week because you knew you had to get up and go to school the next day?

Welcome to my world.

All in all, I must say that it was a tremendously good weekend. On Thursday night I caught up with my best girlfriend over some ass-kickingly spicy Thai food. Nothing clears a sinus like some Pad Gra Prow.

On Friday, HE and I took a ride out to Pennsylvania because we'd both received letters in the mail inviting us to come check out this time-share resort. The draw was we'd get a FREE FLAT-SCREEN T.V. just for listening to their 90 minute spiel. It was a beautiful day for a drive to the country so we figured, what the heck? Not like we were going to buy anything, right? And how cool will it be to get a free flat-screen T.V.??

Well, we're holding off on plans for the home theatre...

But, um, did I mention we're now the proud owners of a time-share?

Spent most of yesterday on HIS couch watching NetFlixed episodes of "Six Feet Under" and eating pretzel chips with hummus. We may as well have been shooting up heroin. Have you TRIED these? Don't. Once you pop - you can't stop.

In the evening, we went and saw Borat. If you haven't yet seen this movie, SEE IT NOW! It is one of the most unique, most hilarious movies I have seen in years. Sheer brilliance, laugh-out-loud, funny shit!

Today I took a run and then did some errands which I NEVER do on weekends. Did you know that New Jersey has the highest population density in the U.S. - an average 1,030 people per sqare mile, which is 13 times the national average? And each of these people owns at least two automobiles - one of which is an SUV - and they were all out doing errands today.

I'm finally back in my lair with my glass of wine. Been trying to switch to red since I've heard how beneficial it is to lab mice. I'm content. Life's good. Bring it, Monday -- I'm ready for your worst.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Wow - I can't believe I've been a "blog cog" for a whole year already. Looking back, I'd say I've made some pretty significant gains since last November...

> I've moved up in the world - I am no longer a Cellar Dweller. I have not had any encounters with crickets in over six months.

> I've lost a dear relative, and gained a new one.

> I spent six months training for - and completed - the Chicago Marathon . Who woulda thought?

> Best of all, I met the love of my life. I can't remember what life felt like without HIM, and I can't imagine a future without HIM in it.

I'd say it's been a fine year in my life - certainly one of the best. And I think it's great that I can relieve it with just one click. And hey, so can you!

A fine year indeed. Here's to many more...

Thursday, November 09, 2006


I could really get used to this. Got up around 8:00, had a leisurely cup of coffee (with pumpkin spice creamer ...mmmmm), and took a 5-mile run in gorgeous weather. Yes, this is a life I could get used to.

Just got back from the podiatrist. Was very excited to get an appointment with him, and feel much better now that he scraped off 3 inches of marathon calluses. I'm shorter now, but maybe my shoes will fit better.

My friend sent me this photo she took Sunday as Dean ran past. Funny how everyone made such a huge deal when Lance Armstrong and his entourage went by, but no one even knew who Dean was, or that he was running his 50th consecutive marathon in the 50th consecutive state.

Maybe cause he was running alone? I dunno. I cheered for him. And I loved that he finished just 36 seconds behind Lance (2:59:36 and 3:00:30) - even without a big posse and thousands of fans screaming his name. Way to go, Dean.

What's truly insane is that 50 consecutive marathons were not enough for him. That's right, HE'S STILL GOING, and wants to try to go all the way back to California. Kind of makes you wonder - not just how - but WHY someone would do that? Maybe so people like me will have something to blog about. Thanks, Dean.

Whew - all this writing is making me drowsy. I think I'll take a nap... just because I can.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


That's right, folks. It's a big, ol' four-day weekend for yours truly. The annual NJEA teachers convention - held in scenic Atlantic City - is tomorrow and Friday, and that means NO SCHOOL!

I have to wonder if anyone actually attends the convention. I mean, "actual" teachers. I remember when I was in college, our student chapter of MENC (that's Music Educators National Conference for all you non-geeks) would go down to the convention. We'd get a few cheap hotel rooms, drink ourselves silly for two days, then drag our sorry asses to the collegiate meeting, where we'd sit on the floor in a corner and try not to throw up on each other. Good times.

But I've never gone as a teacher. And I don't know of any other teachers in my school who go. Mostly it's just a great excuse to get away from the kids for a few days. After all, we've been in school now for a whole two months, and there's still two long weeks to go before Thanksgiving.

Speaking of kids, today we had our first official lockdown drill at school. In the wake of all the crazy school shootings, most districts across the country have had to come up with plans - just in case. And while it's hard for me to imagine one of our own kids capable of such a thing, I guess you never can tell.

The principal had sent letters home to each kid's parents, explaining when and how the drill would work, and we had an assembly on Monday where she explained the procedure to the kids. And this morning at 9:25 AM, she got on the PA and announced, "Attention faculty and students: we have a Code Red."

At that signal, we had to get the kids down on the floor and against the wall farthest out of view; close and lock the classroom door, putting paper on its window; turn off the lights and keep the kids quiet. Four police officers (in quad formation with pistols drawn) searched the school. We could hear their walkie-talkies buzzing as they passed by. We were instructed never to open a locked door unless we heard the code word (which I can't tell you, just in case you decide to come shoot up my school.)

I'll say this - even though we were prepared for the drill, there was still something very disturbing about it all. Today was a bleak, rainy day. Sitting huddled in the dark for twenty minutes with the kids, I started to think about how awful it would be if something ever did really happen. I thought about the horrors of Columbine, Michigan and the Amish schoolhouse - shuddering as I looked at my own students.

I guess lockdown drills are no worse than the air raid drills of the 1940's. I guess we're as fucked up as we've always been. At least we're consistent.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


This morning, my friend and I took the train into New York to watch the marathon. She is also a runner and had done Chicago back in 1996, so she could relate to my fever (which is still burning pretty hot.)

What a perfect day it was! Crisp and sunny, fantastic running weather. We walked up to Central Park from Penn Station - about 70 blocks - and watched from our first spot - mile 18 - on 1st Ave. After we saw the wheelchairs, elite females & males, Lance and Dean go by, we headed over to mile 23 (stopping first at Starbucks, of course) and caught them again. And after that, we wound our way over to mile 25 - right where all the runners entered Central Park - and hung out there for a while.

It was so amazing being on the other side of the curb! By cheering everyone on, I felt like I was repaying the thousands of people in Chicago who kept me going. I liked yelling out names, high-fiving people and feeling the tremendous energy all around me. I loved watching the people - every age, color, size and shape - coming together to share the experience.

Seeing this mother/daughter team go by really touched a nerve. My own Mom spends a lot of time in a wheelchair these days, and she’s one of my biggest inspirations to run. I bet the memory of being able to do this together will last them a lifetime.

I truly believe that running is unlike any other activity. It's the purest, most bare-bones thing a human being can do, and there are simply no words that can describe the feelings it evokes; physically, mentally, emotionally... and spiritually.

So I'm thinking... New York ... 2008.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


The void is now filled.
With HIM by my side, I'm whole.
My heart is peaceful.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


It's hard work being a superhero.
The right fuel is everything.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


It's 9:30 on a Saturday morning. I'm lying here in bed and it occurs to me that this is the first Saturday IN SIX MONTHS that I have not gotten up to go out on a long run. I thought I'd miss it more, but maybe I'm still feeling the afterglow.

Or it could be the apocalyptic weather conditions outside. Between the rain and the wind blowing leaves all over the yard, it looks as if the world is falling to pieces....

...from my view of the window, while nestled snugly in my warm bed.

Yesterday was our school's spelling bee. It is, hands down, one of my favorite days of the school year. Pitting kid against kid in a battle of wits. Lining them up and then one by one, exposing their intelligence (or lack thereof) in front of the faculty, their families and the entire student body. Huzzah!

During my morning Band class, I asked how many of the kids made it into the final 30. About 10 of them raised their hands.

"What? That's all? Come ON! How are we supposed to keep up the myth that Band kids are smarter if you're not all in the spelling bee?!"
"We're not supposed to be smart, Band kids are supposed to be geeks," one replied.
"Well yes, of course you're geeks. But you're supposed to be the SMART kind of geeks."

By the final few rounds of the spelling bee, four kids remained and they were all Band kids. And after a grueling 2.5-hour battle, a 7th grade trumpet player reigned victorious.

Score one for the geeks.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


This is an excellent account of what it felt like to be one of the 40,000.

Thanks Lisa!

Monday, October 23, 2006


Just got in a few hours ago. Was quite easily one of the most amazing weekends of my life.

We arrived around 10:30 AM on Friday and took a lengthy shuttle ride to our hotel in McCormick Place. Spent many hours at the marathon expo (which happened to be right next to our hotel) collecting free goodies. In the evening, we took a cab into Little Italy and had amazing pasta here.

Saturday we slept in and had a $60 bowl of oatmeal in the hotel restaurant [note to self: hotel restaurants can be pricey.] We took the shuttle downtown and ended up taking a tour on one of those double-decker buses. It was a total blast! Our guide was hilarious and we got to see so much of the city without getting tired feet.

After visiting the $75 pasta buffet at the hotel for dinner [note to self: see previous note to self] we called it an early night. Right around then, the rain began. I busied myself laying out my gear, fastening my bib, attaching my chip...

We called for a 6:00 wakeup, but I was already up by 5:45. I've learned that eating solid food too soon before a long run doesn't sit well with me, but I had a Luna bar and a bottle of Gatorade, and that was just fine. We headed down to the lobby, out the door and into frigid wind and drizzle. There was a line 40-people long for the shuttle bus which we waited in it for about 15 seconds before deciding to take a cab. Luckily there were two others guys with the same idea and we all shared the fare.

Got to the starting area in Grant Park around 7:00. Lines for the Port-A-Potties were insane, people were milling around dressed in plastic bags, trying to stay warm and dry. I got into the corral around 7:40, huddled in amongst the other 40,000 people - the energy was absolutely AMAZING! And before I knew it, the horn blared and we were off --

-- not quite. It took just over 10 minutes for me to reach the actual starting line (which is why we all have chips attached to our shoes - they record the actual time - or "chip time" - it takes to run 26.2 miles.)

Somewhere during the second mile we all went into a tunnel and runners started peeling off the course and heading toward the side of the road. I wondered what the hell they were doing, then I realized THEY WERE PEEING! Right out there in front of hundreds of people - right on the street under the tunnel!

And as I was marveling over this appaling public display of utter grossness, I realized I had to pee.

So at the next tunnel, when runners started peeling off the course again, I followed them, dropped trou and peed right there. I figured I'd never see these people again in my life - who cares if they see my naked ass?

I felt great right through the half. My pace was comfortable, the crowds were incredible. I'd followed someone's advice and wore a shirt with my name on the front. So the whole time, people along the sidelines were cheering me on by name. And that was more inspiring than I could have ever known.

Around mile 15 the crowds thinned out a bit and things got a little boring. And at mile 18, I totally hit my wall. Luckily they had an aid station providing energy gels, and while I don't usually do well with the PowerBar gels (they make me as nauseous as food) these were a different brand and worked very well. Well enough, in fact, to get me over that hump.

Miles 20-25 were torture, but I kept going - I refused to walk. I heard a guy on the sideline yell out to some people who were walking, "You have the rest of your LIFE to walk! Don't walk now!" - and that was great to hear. I pressed on. And then I saw it: Mile 26. The very same sign I had seen the previous day from the tour bus. And I remembered saying to HIM: "I cannot wait to see that sign tomorrow."

1 mile to go... 800 meters... 400 meters... 200 meters...

I did it.

My official chip time was 4:28:44. One minute, sixteen seconds under my goal time. And no, I never publicly announced a goal time because I had no idea how I'd fare, but in the back of my head, 4:30 sounded nice for my first marathon.

The rest of the weekend was as amazing as the first half. Chicago is my new favorite town: the buildings, the clean streets and sidewalks, and most of all, the people. Everyone we met along the way - they were great. I didn't want to leave.

We met some friends for dinner at Harry Caray's steakhouse Sunday night, where I had the greatest meal of my life, and back at the hotel, I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. This morning after another $60 breakfast [note to self: ...never mind] we took one last stroll out in the cold Chicago air before shuttling off to O'Hare.

Words don't do it justice. What an amazing journey it was. And I am a new person.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Okay, so I had a pretty shitty day yesterday. I'm not typically one for drama, but it seemed as if all areas of my life - personal, professional, physical - culminated in a giant stew of crap right around the same time. And it wasn't even a full moon.

I slogged around crying most of the morning. Then I decided to pick my sorry ass up and I went out for my 4-mile run. Which became 5 miles. Then 6. Then I stopped - not because I wanted to, but because I figured I should. If I'd let them, I think my feet might have just kept on going.

And I felt better. My head cleared - literally and figuratively. Things took on a new light, a different perspective. I found balance. And I remembered the main reason why I love to run: it just makes me feel good.

So I'm psyched for this thing. I'm ready. We're leaving early tomorrow morning and getting to O'Hare by 10:30. I'm so happy that HE'll be by my side, there's no one else I'd rather have there.

When Sunday morning rolls around and I am on that starting line, I will remind myself that all I can do is the best that I can do. I've trained hard for six months. I've become a stronger person, physically, emotionally, spiritually.

And as Ursula K. LeGuin so eloquently put it: "“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


As if playing a game - life.
Carefully, we place each card
Hoping, trusting, assuming, building.
In time, we take for granted.
Never imagining things could
Go so far awry.

How in one instance
Every card can tumble down.
Assume nothing.
Remember, everyone else is building
Towers of their own.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


5 days to go and I may as well be consuming Vitamin Water intravenously. I took some Nyquil last night and slept well for the first time in days. Perhaps a little too well, cause when the alarm went off, I had no intention of getting up. Hence ANOTHER day off for yours truly (or should I say, 'yours truantly'?)

Whatever. After six months of training, I'll be damned if a stupid cold is going to keep me down.

On a completely different note, I'd like to say - or rather, BELLOW from the rooftop of the Sears Tower -


Who could've known that on this day 33 years ago, one (amazing) woman's labor would change the course of history as we know it? Or more importantly, history as I know it. Big kudos to MOM (and to DAD as well, as I'm sure he had something to do with it too.)

And to HIM I say: Thank you for knocking on my door. I love you SO very much. Since you've come along, life has just been so damn GOOD. I never knew loving someone could be so easy and feel so right. With you, life makes sense. I wish you the happiest birthday, and many, many more.

PS - Should I tell them all how good you look in your birthday suit?

Monday, October 16, 2006


I am a complete snot factory. 6 days to go and I am drowning in my own mucus.

In other news...

It's remarkable how bipolar I am when it comes to my job. One minute I am at my wits end, certain that I will not be back the next morning. I weigh my options in my head: "Is it really worth the pension? Or should I just pack up my shit and hole up somewhere 'til they forget about me?"

Then out of nowhere, a kid will do something ridiculous - like get stuck in his jacket - and I'll once again realize that there's no other job on the planet which would pay me so well for doing so little work, while keeping me so thoroughly entertained.

This afternoon I had to sit through a workshop on suicide prevention. It consisted of us watching a PowerPoint presentation while two school counselors read the PowerPoint slides out loud to us. Each of us was also given a packet containing a printed version of said PowerPoint slides. After 90 minutes, I came to my own conclusion that the #1 cause of suicide is probably redundancy.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


This guy is running 50 marathons in 50 days.

Way to burst my bubble.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Just finished my final "long run" before the big event. I did 8 miles in some rather cold weather - mid 30's when I started out, frost on the lawn. But a gorgeous morning, nonetheless.

Took a trip to the doctor yesterday. I'm not a big fan of doctors, but with 8 days 'til the race and this pesky cough not getting any better, I sold out. He gave me the new 5-day dose of antibiotics and told me to "drink a lot" - WOO HOO! - "of water." Oh.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


I'm playing hooky today. Shame on me. But the 6th graders are away on their annual camping trip, the building is quiet and it seemed like a good day to sleep late.

Shame on me.

While I was out running (my 3 measly miles) this morning, I saw a flock of birds lining up on a telephone wire. I guess they were getting ready to head south for the winter. I started wondering how they go about that.

I mean, is there a group leader? One bird designated to make sure everyone's there? A bird who takes attendance and has all the maps and stuff? Luckily they don't have much to pack - that's one less thing to worry about.

Do they go back to the same place every year? Like time-share? How do they know when to leave? Is there a mailing that goes out?

Are there stupid birds? Ones who get lost or show up late for departure? Maybe that's why they were all waiting on the wire.

"Damn it, where the hell is Phil? Why is he always the last one here?"
"Sorry guys - I had to drop the pets off at the boarder."
"Yeah, whatever dude. You're at the back of the V."

I wonder if we went over any of this in Biology class. Maybe I was playing hooky that day too.

Shame on me.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

T-11 DAYS...

First, thanks to everyone for the comments about Delilah. I appreciate your concern more than you know. So thanks :)

Okay - so I am in the middle of my "taper". That's the three week period before the marathon where mileage decreases so that the body may repair and get itself ready for the big day. All the books urge you to taper responsibly and not to freak out or get weird. I guess the authors, being runners themselves, can relate to the neurosis we're all feeling.

Yesterday I did 4, today 6 and tomorrow 3. And I'm worried cause those little runs seemed harder than some of the longest ones. Perhaps it psychological? I hope so.

Also, I have this weird congestion in my chest that makes breathing difficult & keeps me up at night coughing. I think I may go to the doctor - in case it's bronchitis or something. That would really just suck.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


August, 1992.

I'm about to enter my senior year of high school, and I am at band camp - a place called Camp Green Lane - somewhere in Pennsylvania. It's the third or fourth night of camp, and my friend Bob and I are up to our usual antics. This particular evening we'd decided it would be great fun to disconnect the water to the staff cabin. So we're creeping about in the woods when suddenly from behind I hear, "Meow?"

I turn around to see the most adorable cat emerging from the woods. She's a small muted calico - white, grey and orange. And at that moment, I fall in love. I name her Delilah, after the Queen song.

I bring her back to my cabin and she becomes my pet for the rest of the week. At each meal, I carefully wrap up food to take back and she's quite content. When Saturday rolls around, I'm not sure what to do. Bringing Delilah back on the bus is not an option, so I say my goodbye's and we part ways.

A few days later, Bob and I decide to take a road trip. We hop into my 1984 shit-brown Pontiac Firebird and head west, and we find ourselves back at Camp Green Lane. Delilah is waiting for us - as if she knew we'd be back - and she settles herself into the back seat.

Traffic heading home that evening is brutal. And as a stupid 17 year-old, I don't realize that leaving the car's A/C on full-blast while stopped in traffic is a bad idea. Naturally, I overheat. So here we are: two dumb kids and a cat - stuck on the side of the highway.

As it turns out, we had an angel that day. We're not waiting long when a woman in a Jeep Cherokee pulls over and offers us a ride.

"Um... we have a cat, too," I confess.
"That's okay - hop in."

Bob's dad was a dentist, and the woman drives us all the way to his office. The three of us wait for him to finish with his patients. Delilah sits in her own chair in the waiting room, enjoying the adventure.

A few days after I'd brought her home, I take Delilah to the vet for a check-up.

"She's a beautiful cat," he says. "I'd say she's about a year old. Very healthy. Oh - and she's pregnant."


I learn that once pregnant cats pick where they'll build their nests, you really can't change their minds. And while I try to set up comfortable boxes for Delilah's convenience, she instead opts to bear her litter in my underwear drawer. Four beautiful kittens - two boys, two girls - and Lilah is a fantastic mother.

The years passed. I graduated high school and moved on to college, to grad school. To new homes with roommates, friends, lovers. And each time I returned home, Delilah welcomed me back as if I'd never left.

She was a chatty cat with a gentle purr. The fur around her neck was snow-white, and she was very diligent in keeping it clean. She had a toy pom-pom - which we called her 'fussball' - and she'd play with it every night on the stairs, tossing it up and down and chasing after it. If she caught you watching, she'd get embarrassed.

A few months ago, Delilah started to lose weight. We took her to the vet and learned that she had some tumors in her stomach, there wasn't much they could do for her and it was only a matter of time.

This evening, HE and I took Delilah to the vet one last time.

She got angry when I tried to put her in the cat carrier. She even growled - as if to say, "Leave me my dignity. I didn't come here in one of those things." And so she rode to the vet seated on the back seat.

Driving home from visiting HIS parents last night, we got into a discussion about what happens when we die. HE shared with me his beliefs that we are all essentially made up of energy, and although our bodies may be gone, our energy lingers.

After it was over, we were sitting on the bench outside the vet's office. Thinking back on all the years and the many memories of Delilah, I turned to HIM and asked, "Where did she go?"

To which HE replied, "Nowhere."

Thursday, October 05, 2006


I saw a very well-endowed woman out running today. She looked really uncomfortable - as if they might bounce up and hit her chin. And at that moment, I thanked the Anatomy God for my little B-cups -- the same ones I used to bemoan before I became a runner.

I was thinking of the many strange physical phenomena I've encountered during my marathon training. And while being knocked unconscious by my boobs did not make the list, I'll proudly present the "Top Nine" that did...

#9 - The armor-like calluses I've built up on my feet would scare any unwitting pedicurist back to Asia.

#8 - I've consumed enough protein in gnat-form to qualify as an Atkins disciple.

#7 - I can pee ANYWHERE.

#6 - With the help of my podiatrist, I've learned the correct procedure for lancing, draining and dressing blisters (Yay $18 bottle of Betadine solution!)

#5 - I've come to surpass my deodorant's threshold four times a week.

#4 - I've learned that few things hurt more than the shower jet hitting freshly chafed skin.

#3 - My toenails have been become transparent.

#2 - After long runs, my skin is saltier than the upside of a Pringle.

#1 - My snot-rockets are the envy of all who know me.

17 days to go -- what will normal life be like again?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Yeeecchh. Everyone at school is sick -- kids, teachers... I swear, I'd probably stand a better chance of not getting sick if I were working as Head Toilet-Licker in a tuberculosis ward.

I've been pounding the Airborne every few hours, hoping to create an effervescent forcefield of health.

In other news, five gnats flew into my eyes while I was out running today. This kinda creeps me out 'cause I gotta wonder that if five flew into my eyes, how many must have flown into my gaping mouth? I mean, it's a lot bigger than my eyes. And wetter - if these gnats happened to be seeking moisture.

Lastly, I felt I had to share this... Yesterday I was making soup and a grilled cheese for Bean's and my lunch. There was a bit of chaos going on - workmen pounding on the walls and my brother trying to put something in the microwave - and the soup boiled over while the sandwich burned.

"Shit.." I muttered a little louder than I should've.

And Bean - a three year-old with the wisdom of Ghandi - looks at me and kind of shakes his head and says, "That's not a very nice thing to say."

He was right.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The past few days I have been reading a bunch of runners' blogs and discussions on the Runner's World website. I think it's actually starting to sink in -- the marathon, I mean.

Since April I have been training religiously... following the huge Hal Higdon chart on my refrigerator, and seeing the little green X's accumulate as I cross off each run that I complete. I guess for the majority of the summer, October just seemed so far away. And now it's here - and in just three weeks, it will all be over.

And that makes me sad.

Because I've never worked so hard for anything - committed as much time and energy... Every week passes and I surprise myself by going a little farther. Never could I have imagined coming to think of a 10-miler as "an easy run."

It's become such a part of me. And words can't do it justice - can't convey what it feels like to hurt so bad and feel so good.

This program alone is worth getting the new Mac.

Saturday, September 30, 2006


It was hard, but it was great. And it's the farthest I have to go until the real thing (which is just three weeks away!!) I didn't stop to walk, although I did stop to pee at mile 8. Damn walnut-sized bladder of mine.

I feel pretty good right now, aside from a few aches and pains which I think are normal. The weirdest thing is that I am feeling very weepy. I don't know if this has to do with being physically exhausted? I'm standing at the sink washing up some dishes. Bean is here so I have on the Disney channel and that movie "Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey" is on. It's the one about the cat and two dogs that travel miles to be reunited with their family.

And I am absolutely SOBBING through most of it, snot running down my nose into the dishpan. And I'm trying to look like I'm not crying, cause I don't wanna freak out my nephew. So I'm gasping and fake-laughing and scaring him even more.

It's wonderful to feel this much. It's like my senses wanna explode.

This is why I run.

Thursday, September 28, 2006



Oh happy day!
My beloved passed HIS dissertation defense and is gonna git HIMself a bona fide PhD!

I can hear my Dad's side of the family cheering from the heavens:
"She's found herself a Jewish doctor -- Mazel Tov!"

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Holy crap, has it been a week already?? Wow. I forgot that going to work every day leaves me with far less time to sit around in my self-absorbed bubble, analyzing every thought that enters my consciousness.

But work is good!

The year is off to a fantastic start. I have a great group of kids, and my colleagues have all been in very good spirits (so far). I've taken over the position of Media Club Advisor, and with that have also received a phat new MacBook Pro! Just waiting for the Tech. Dept. to load 'er up and then I shall play. Oh, how I'll play...

And after far too long a hiatus, I have picked my trumpet back up and am playing with this great group. I used to play with them back when I was in college, as they were way better than our college wind ensemble at the time. It's good to be part of something musical again - with grownups!

Running is going great. Just did 14 miles, and am about to embark on the toughest week yet which culminates in a 20-miler next Saturday. Then begins the great taper, and the run is less than a month away (29 days to be exact). If I've learned anything from all this running, it's about pacing... the runs and life in general.

Finally this week, my dear BOY is defending the dissertation HE has been working on for the past two years. HE's been a bit nervous - and rightfully so - but I know HE will be great. HE's one of the most brilliant people I have ever known (and I'm not just saying that cause I have sex with HIM). If all goes well, HE will be "DR. HIM" in December.

So that's where I's been. Once again I reiterate, "Life Is Good" -- for as long as it is, I am grateful. And even when it's not -- I'm still grateful.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Why can't there be E Coli in something like ice cream or wine? Then maybe I'd stay away from those things which are not good for me. Or not.

18 long miles this morning. I wonder how I will fare 36 short days from now. The last few today were tough. And me without my spinach.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


I was a total tomboy growing up. I blame it on having two older brothers. It drove my Mom crazy because she'd always wanted a little girl she could dress in pink, and who would be into playing with dolls and dancing ballet. What she got instead was me: jeans, skateboards and sports.

As an adult, I have realized how much greater it is being female. It's clearly the more superior gender. We're smarter, more intuitive, and can get out of speeding tickets by playing dumb to even dumber male cops. I'd say our only downfall is those pesky internal reproductive organs.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have "penis envy" or anything like that. In fact, I often marvel at how strange penis's are, and how miserably inconvenient they must be -- always popping up or flapping around. And let's face it, even the best penis is ugly to look at (except YOUR's -- it's STUNNING!!)

But at least if something goes wrong on a guy, they pretty much know it right away. Women not so much. Tomorrow I have to go in for a colposcopy. After two abnormal Paps, the doc wants to get a better look at things. So this kind of sucks. I'm kind of nervous.

It's still better than having a penis, though.

Monday, September 11, 2006


I was half-listening to the news while making dinner a little while ago. They were covering 9/11 stuff - local tributes, etc. - and suddenly I got all verklempt while slicing a tomato.

It's strange... Five years have passed and people talk about that day on a regular basis. We talk about who's to blame and what the world has become since that day. And with all that 'coming to terms' with stuff, I kinda feel like my heart should be stronger by now. But I think it's the personal accounts that get me.

People have come to ask, "Where were you when the towers were hit?" I was at school. It was the first week and since we hadn't yet had Band sign-ups, I didn't have any classes going on. I remember walking down the hall towards the bathroom and another teacher telling me that a Cessna or something had hit one of the twin towers. I went to the bathroom thinking, "Duh..."

When I was finished, I wandered down to the main office and knew something was wrong as soon as I went in. The principal, secretaries and a few other teachers were standing around a radio, their faces ashen. I stood with them and listened to the chaos that was ensuing in New York. It felt like the world was coming to an end.

I remember walking back to my room in a daze, passing by classrooms where teachers and kids who had not yet heard were going about their business - laughing, learning. "They have no idea," I remember thinking. And for those brief moments, we were living in two different worlds.

The rest of the day was a blur. I joined the principal and counselors in going to the different classes to talk to the kids. So many of them had Moms or Dads who worked in the city. Parents came in droves to collect their children, and I acted as a runner, finding their kids and bringing them to the office.

The memory that haunts me most is that of a newly widowed mother collapsed with her daughter in the hallway. The husband/father didn't make it out. Another boy - one of my trumpet players - lost his Mom that day.

I didn't see any television until I got home. And when I saw the images, I could not turn them off. At the time, I was sharing a house with a crazy Canadian chick and when she got home from work, we took a drive up to this condo complex on a huge hill. From where we stood we could see the twinkling New York skyline, a large patch of it cloaked in darkness. We could see the smoke still rising from its gaping wound.

I suppose everyone remembers that day in their own way. I remember the faces of the people in the main office. I remember that woman and her daughter in the hallway, broken. I remember U2's "Stuck In A Moment" playing on the radio as I drove home from school, and how I can never hear it without thinking of that day.

I also remember the days following, when we as a nation felt the type of camaraderie that only comes from surviving a tragedy. I remember wondering how long that bond would last. And now, five years later, I still feel it, and I can say that my life has changed. I think I stop to smell the roses a little more, and I tell the people in my life that I love them.

Our world is so complex and so very fragile.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


I have been going "Back To School" in some capacity - as a student or a teacher - every single September for 26 consecutive years.
That's 26 "First Days of School."
And tonight also marks the 26th "Night Before the First Day of School."
Cue the jitters-induced insomnia, and... ACTION!

Saturday, September 09, 2006


Fuuuuck. Today was just plain hard. I did 16 miles, but they were neither fun nor easy. I think running without the iPod is a bad idea because without the music, my mind has nothing to concentrate on except for the looming miles and the little aches and pains.

I'll be going along fine and then I'll start to think about how much farther I have to go and how I can't fathom taking one more step. I'll think, "Fuck it, I'll just stop... 'cause really, who's making me do this anyway?" And the answer is as simple as it is frustrating: I AM. If I stop, I'm only letting myself down. So I press on.

And I did finish, even though it sucked. I think I was probably a little stupid to go out for Happy Hour yesterday. I didn't get hammered or anything, but I've learned by now that alcohol + running = shitty results. Shame on me. And shame on you, Cosmos, for being so damn tasty.

Ah well, at least I did gain something from today's run. I appear to be growing a sixth toe on my left foot. Maybe I'll move out to Key West when all this training is over. I hear the conch fritters are to die for. Mmmm... conch.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


First day back was okay. It's weird: after spending three months being more or less alone 80% of the time, I found it really uncomfortable to be around so many people. It's like I'd become de-socialized or something. I felt a little anxious, truthfully. Not sure what that was all about, but I didn't really like it.

We had a Coffee Hour from 8-9 AM in the high school cafeteria. That entailed standing around asking everyone you see, "How was your summer? Do anything cool?" and then feigning interest, while not giving a rat's ass and wishing you were home in bed. I lasted about 2 minutes before escaping to find the two band directors, who were naturally hiding in their bandroom.

After the district and teachers' union meetings, we were sent to our respective buildings for yet another meeting. Then they fed us lunch and we were dismissed to do stuff in our classrooms.

I dunno what it is. All summer I've been psyching myself up to have a really positive, exciting year. And now that it's upon me, I feel less than enthused. Anxiety. But I don't know why.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


I just read that Steve Irwin died this weekend. A stingray's spiny tail punctured his heart while he was swimming with it off the Australian coast. I'm not sure why this made me sad - clearly, it was bound to happen sooner or later - the guy made his living pissing off dangerous animals. But maybe that's the whole reason why it's so sad.

While running this morning I saw the first round of this year's school buses, zooming around to pick up disgruntled high schooler's all seemingly wearing dark jeans, black sweatshirts, and dour expressions. Ah, September...

My district starts Thursday and Friday for teachers, and the kiddies come next Monday. It's been a great summer but I am looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. I'm ready for a good year, even if my job is not as glamorous as the Croc Hunter's.

But then again, I've never heard of anyone being killed by an angry pre-adolescent trombonist.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Four days down, two more to go. The weather has been crappily rainy and cold, except for the two hours yesterday when it got Africa-hot and we were swarmed by mosquitos (the ones that had been breeding in the puddles and were now awake and hungry for geeky band-flesh.) We start rehearsals at 10 AM and go until 9 PM - essentially eleven hours, give or take an hour for a meal here and there.

I have to say, the kids have been AMAZING. Were I a kid in this band, I probably would have quit on Saturday. But they have an incredible work ethic, and a seemingly endless amount of energy. So many times I've just wanted to sit down and/or start crying because I'm tired, cold and wet. But then I look around and realize I haven't heard one kid complain -- and then I feel like a wuss.

I have gotten very used to working with middle school kids. I've learned that their attention spans are about 23 seconds, max. And as a result, I've gotten used to teaching in a sort of rapid-fire way to keep them engaged. Working with high school kids - especially ones as hard core as these - has been a shock to my system. I forgot how GOOD they can sound, and how they are able to really pay attention to detail. Truthfully, it's been a little intimidating for me.

I guess I can make it through two more days. It's probably good for me. Maybe I need to raise my own bar and the bar of my own students a little higher this year.

Monday, August 28, 2006


So I woke up this morning
the rain was coming down.
The idea of fifteen miles
did make me wanna frown.

I thought just for one second,
"Fuck it - I will not go."
But then a bigger voice piped up,
"You're not gonna melt, you know."

And so I donned my sneakers,
and took off on my run.
And soon enough i found my pace.
I didn't miss the sun.

I went through several phases:
from "Doing great!" to PAIN.
Running is so mental -
A workout for the brain.

Around the seventh mile,
my stomach stirred a bit.
And by the time I hit mile twelve
I totally had to shit!

And when I thought I couldn't
hold that poop inside my body,
fate stepped in and saved my life
in the form of a Port-A-Potty.

I ducked on in and emptied out.
I felt so light and free!
The rest of the miles were easy as pie,
and I sailed through the final three.

Through this book I've been a-skimmin'
(Hal's the author's name)
he talks of "personal records"
being more valuable than fame

If that's the case, I'm lucky
for on this one morning's run
I achieved TWO "PR's"
and two is better than one.

Not only did I cover
more miles than I had never,
I also crapped in the middle of nowhere -
I'll remember THAT forever.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Last night I had a dream I was back in college. Or maybe that I'd never left? Regardless, it was a pretty cool dream.

I had a lot of fun in college. Being a Music major is probably different from being a Business or Engineering major. Although I did have to take some general ed. classes during undergrad (English, math, science, etc.) the bulk of my coursework was music-related. So while my peers were busting their brains doing stock analyses and the like, I was tooting away on a bassoon and singing solfege syllables to nursery rhymes.

To you peers, I simply say: Ha.

College was so fucking awesome. I had a great group of friends, and we only left the music building to eat, sleep or drink. And actually, we did most of those things there as well. When we graduated, we went our separate ways, but lots of us stayed local and we see one another at the annual music teacher conferences and state band auditions.

Next week I'm teaching a band camp (go ahead and say it...) Band camp is the week at the end of summer when the marching band kids learn their "field show" (aka: the intermission during halftime when most people go buy their hotdogs.) I like working with high school kids... in small doses. And since our district's high school doesn't have a marching band, I have to whore myself out to other towns.

This one is at a big high school nearby, with three band directors: one with whom I went to college; one with whom I went to high school; and one with whom I taught for a couple years. The two other guys - directors in the district's two middle schools - are also friends from college. In short, the week promises to be one big, dysfunctional family reunion -- and I can't wait!

Aside from the chaos and fun that's sure to transpire, I think it will help me to get back into "teaching mode" after a long summer of sloth. And perhaps our zany collaboration will inspire other youngsters to pursue careers in music so that they may be left with the many fond memories (and dreams!) as I have.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Ever have one of those mornings when you wake up and think, "Hmm.. Maybe today I'll go buy some paint and cover the white walls of my classroom with cow spots?"

Me too.

Monday, August 21, 2006


On Friday, my friend L and I travelled back in time. The dial on our silver time machine (which bore a remarkable resemblance to L's Jetta) was set for 1986, and what a year it was...

Big hair. Reebok hi-tops with the velcro straps on the top. Def Leppard and Poison blaring from speakers. And the piece de resistance: airbrushed bajas.

How did we manage to travel back 20 years and still make it home before midnight, you ask? Simple. We just hopped on the Garden State Pkwy and headed SOUTH.

Ahh... SLEAZ-SIDE Heights - the Jersey Shore's finest. May I never forget my roots.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


My long run reached 13 miles last week. I found a great route that takes me down country roads (yes, we do actually have those in New Jersey) and past several farms.

Not only do I get to see standard horses and cows, I also pass by alpacas, miniature donkeys and peacocks! It's like being in my own little Disney film.

I usually do my longer runs while plugged in, but this morning I decided to savor the serenity of my 10-miler and forego using my iPod. And it was going FABULOUS (normie) for a while until a verse from the 1980's Salt 'N' Pepa rap "Supersonic" lodged itself into my brain on a repeating track.

It was the part where Salt and/or Pepa break down the word 'super' like an acronym. And I easily remembered that:

S is for Super
U is for Unique
P is for Perfection
E ...
R is for RAP ("so tell those motherf**ers just to stay the hell BACK")

What I could not remember is what E was for.

So for 10 miles, it ate away at me. And it occurred to me that this may be what drives people to mental breakdown. I envisioned myself sitting in the corner of a room in some asylum, silently rocking back and forth, clutching a ratty Cabbage Patch doll. I'd be mute, except for the sound the drool made as it trickled out the corner of my mouth. The acronym would play over and over in my head (minus the E) until I finally hung myself with my shoelaces.

If anyone out there remembers what the E is for, please help me out. Perhaps you'll spare me (and those lovable state psychologists) from such a hideous fate. Thanks.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Children -- so fragile.
Mere lumps of clay.
We shape them with actions,
not just what we say.

By being there for them,
their trust we do earn.
They're safe when they're with us,
we help them to learn

that if they get weary
or life gives them a scare,
our shoulders are strong,
their burden we'll bear.

We teach them it's okay
to depend on "others" -
For children, this usually
means fathers and mothers.

So that when they're older
the dependency moves
from early role models,
to the partners they choose.

They won't have the walls,
or in bitterness drown.
No looming expectancy
of being let down.

It's harder to learn
how to love now, I'm older.
That it's really "okay"
to lean on a shoulder

of one who is unlike
the model I knew.
As a kid, I grew up
with one model - not two.

And so I learned early
that it's better to stay
alone, with my guard up -
I'd be there anyway.

Never knowing a strong man
to stand by my side,
I built up my fortress
and hid deep inside.

Its rooms are so empty,
its floors just grow colder.
I'm no little kid,
and as I grow older

I'm starting to realize
the thing I want most,
is what I never got
from my father, The Ghost.

To terms I have come
and I feel like I'm ready
to let go and let HIS hand
be what keeps me steady.

If you have your own child,
or one dear to your heart -
remember these words:
Teach well, do your part.

So then they can grow up
with hearts in good health,
knowing love is by far
the greatest of wealth.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


A few weeks ago, my friend P.McQ's daughter "Brat" got a pair of rollerblades for her 9th birthday. One evening she was dying to try them out, so we geared her all up and got her rolling. Within ten minutes, she was practically a pro. I thought to myself, "Hmm. It looks so easy, I really should dig my blades out of the closet and give it another try. Maybe it won't be anything at all like the last time...."

[Cue 'dream sequence' music]

I'd bought a pair of rollerblades one summer when I was in grad school up in Rochester, NY. My friend James was a doctoral music theory student and a Canadian. He was also very good on rollerblades (the Canadian thing, no doubt) and inspired me to give it a go.

And so I did and it was fine. We spent many a weekend cruising along the scenic Eerie Canal path which was flat with grassy edges.

Did I mention it was flat? That's an important detail because, due to the path's flatness, I never quite learned how to stop.

When I came back down to NJ, I decided to go out for a spin in the parking lot of a local college. This was a very fancy, multi-tiered parking lot with lots of hills. And I was by myself that day.

I started out pretty confidently - perhaps a little TOO confidently - and figured I'd just 'whip down' one of the hills to the next tier. And as I was 'whipping', I remembered having never learned how to stop. And I was really picking up speed and starting to get scared, as there was nothing but asphalt all around me.

Suddenly I had a brilliant idea: "Maybe if I drag one foot against the curb, it will slow me down enough so I can regain control!"

Yeah, I know. But it seemed like a great fucking idea at the time. And when I connected the side of my right foot with the curb, my foot DID stop. But the rest of me kept going. And I spun down to the ground and rolled about 20 yards.

Now that I think about it, it probably would have been cool to see -- kind of like a stunt woman. But at the time, I pretty much thought I had broken every bone in my body (save for my wrists, as I was wearing wrist guards. JUST wrist guards).

So I dragged my bloody self back to my car. I peeled off the cursed wheel-shoes and threw them into the closet when I got home. Which is where they've been for the past 7 years.

That is, until today.

HE has a pair that have gone unused as well, and we've been discussing the idea of trying to rollerblade together. So this afternoon, I dug out my [bashed up] rollerblades and drove over to the local elementary school's FLAT parking lot. I put on my long socks and donned the skates (and wrist guards), and I cautiously stood up.

I clomped about 3 ft. into the lot and said out loud, "Screw this, " then promptly removed them.

I think I am still a bit traumatized. Rollerblading simply does not feel natural to me. And I've got nearly 250 miles invested in this marathon training, and about 250 left. A broken leg might throw a bit of a wrench into all that.


You win again, rollerblades. Back to your comfy old closet. But don't get too cocky or I may have to leave you out in the rain.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


This cereal rocks.
Two boxes for a dollar?!
WalMart's greatest carb.

Monday, August 14, 2006


What if Junior Mints are really just little chocolate-covered blobs of toothpaste?

Friday, August 11, 2006


Thursday, August 10, 2006


TO: Dog Owners
FROM: The Pensive Turtle
DATE: August 10, 2006

This morning during my run, I was nearly assaulted on three separate occasions, by three different dogs. None of these dogs were on leashes.

Owners, are you BEGGING for lawsuits? Are your lives really so empty and your pockets so full?

The first dog was one of those stealthy, shepherd types. I didn't even know it was there until I was about ten feet from it, at which point it sprang to life in a barking frenzy. Luckily I knew what to do in a situation like this: scream my ass off and run faster. Which, in turn, caused Kujo to go even crazier.

Finally I heard the owner (who sounded like a 90 year-old, chain-smoking waitress) bellow from inside her screen door for the dog to back off.

The second incident occurred about fifteen minutes later. This dog I heard and felt, but did not actually see. It had a deep bark and was on the other side of a wooden fence I was passing. It followed me the distance of the fence and all I could do was pray that its owner had latched the gate.

Owner, you're damn lucky.

By this point, I'd had enough. My adrenal glands were running dry. But just for spite in the last leg, the third and final dog - an Irish Jack terrier - decided to add its two cents. It came careening down the driveway at me and while my initial response was to kick it back up to its house like a soccer ball, I refrained. Jacks are my favorite dogs.

Bottom line: Owners, please leash your mongrels. For the sake of all involved.
Thank you.

PS: Please note that this memo was not directed toward the two men standing in their driveway watching the [unleashed] pit bull sparring with the Doberman. Fortunately the dogs were way too consumed with killing each other to notice me.

And fellas, your instigation of such a grudge-match (and obvious delight) is twisted enough to warrant your own memo, forthcoming.