Chuck, and Sue, and Me

Today I bid a fond farewell to another graduating class of seniors at the high school where I work.  All my teachers out there know the feeling.  After the amount of time you spend with you, you alternately feel as though it’s simply time and that you wish you had another four years with them.

That’s because you love them.

“But that title?” you ask.  What’s with the New York local news anchors?

I was asked last week to write a letter to one of our graduates.  The woman asking me to write was the mom of the young lady and she wanted to include letters of advice or memories or well wishing to her daughter from teachers she knew had been particularly admired by her daughter.  OK, 1) that’s powerful right there.  A mother shared her child’s education duties with me and here she is acknowledging that I hadn’t let her down.  There is no 2.  That’s humbling.

This young woman was a delight to teach.  She made the classroom a fun place to be for everyone.  She was polite, intelligent, caring, and passionate about her interests.  Among these activities was her work on the student-produced news magazine that aired once a week.  We shared many stories over my own television production work and I applauded her for hers.  This could explain why yours truly appeared on every single episode of the broadcast this year.  Hey, self-promotion…  It’s the way to go.

In the spirit of writing my letter to her, encouraging her to continue to pursue her dreams because I’m sure the Will of God lies somewhere in the imaginations that He’s given us; I began to remember why I wanted to work in TV.  I looked up a clip on Youtube of the two people who were a huge part of my life as a child.  Obviously my mom and dad are not on Youtube (yet) but Chuck Scarborough and Sue Simmons most definitely are.  They anchored the news together in New York for over three decades and most of that time I watched religiously.

Other kids would come home from school and watch cartoons.

I came home from school and did my homework quickly so I could watch Live at Five.

And then I clicked on a clip of Chuck talking about 40 years at WNBC.

And it hit me.

I can’t believe I hadn’t know this all along.

If you ever want to know where I developed my “style” both in dress and speech pattern when speaking in public, in writing scripts (like the things I say “spontaneously” to my class) and in how I can “anchor” down a conversation…  Well, just look at this clip.

Seriously, I used to wonder if they’d ever adopt a three-anchor format just so I could sit between Chuck and Sue.  I didn’t even care to read any stories, just to bask in their glory.

Instead I am happy to inspire others to make the most of their dreams, to teach and not to do, to be an anchor in the classroom and for the faith, to tell the story of Jesus Christ.

But so help me God, it this chick gets to meet Sue Simmons I will hunt her down.

The Backhanded Compliment

Do you know what “trainer” said to me today?

During a conversation about what qualifies as a “real” pull up – yes he and I have these kinds of convos at work – we were comparing the two standard varieties. There’s the US Army standard of pulling up from a bent arm position and the US Marine Corps standard of pulling from a complete dead hang.

Guess which kind he does. That’s right.

Hey, I’m working on it.

“The dead hang,” he said, is the only way to get it done.”

He’s transforming…”

Then he went on to regale me with his prowess at how he had once done 170+ of these in a single day. OK you already knew I was impressed. Thing is, he wasn’t. He went on to speak at length about how weak he felt and how he wished he could have done more.

For the record I can do like three of these.

Here’s the kicker…

pull ups

Neither Army nor Marine Corps; these are the REAL deal here.

He continued, “One time in college my suite-mate saw me doing the Army kind. He told me those weren’t real pull ups.  We had seen each other shirtless before and here’s the thing. He really didn’t have room to talk. I mean I looked – well, I always look good. He was, well,” he said “He was transforming.”

This is when he went on to say that the guy was basically a fatty who was “trying to get in shape. “Eventually,” he added, “he got to looking somewhat decent.”

The implication is, of course, that us lower beings have no business addressing the genetically superior.

Why didn’t I think of that?!

Here’s why. I’m just transforming or is it transfiguring? Maybe I’m just transitioning as in from fat to not quite as fat but never be on the same level. Perhaps one day I’ll be in the ranks of the “somewhat decent”. I’ve poured my heart and soul, blood, sweat, and tears into this effort for almost a year now. I’ve gone from not running to running several miles at a stretch; from one push up to dozens; from a carefree diet to a rigorous regimen loaded with veggies – the bane of my existence. But I wonder if that’s ever going to be good enough.

I take his words for what they are – the advice of a friend and he’s been really helpful too. If not for him I’d be nowhere near as healthy as I am now. So no offense taken.

One day, though, he’ll be somewhat decent at lifting people up. And I’ll be somewhat gracious (and possibly an inch closer to somewhat shredded).

The “Fix” Is Working

I shared with you a week ago that I was on BeachBody’s 21 Day Fix Extreme.  Tonight I rounded out day 8. No, Annie, there won’t be any before and after picture, at least not until it’s all done and I’m drunk. Suffice it to say that things are going better than expected. 

Even “trainer” noticed a difference. At work on Friday he casually mentioned that I was looking very fit. “Whatever you’re doing, keep it up!” He has no idea how valuable that comment to me was. For a guy as fit as him (read: “shredded”) to tell pathetic old me who is far from fit and in fact may be classified as deformed that I’m looking better is huge. And I was fully clothed too so that speaks volumes. Of course he made this comment while doing 25 squat lunge-burpees and then took off to run 4 miles during the change between classes, but… He still said it and he can’t take it back. 

This will be me at 40. *Not ALL parts depicted accurately.

Tonight it was back to plyo workout. I felt great when I finished. Not only did I complete every damn set but it didn’t feel like I would die. And yes, I’m starting to notice little things here and there – things like abdominal muscles (not phenomenal but there) and the ribs that frame out ones chest when he’s actually jacked. I know this doesn’t mean much to most people or even to “trainer” who’s probably sick of seeing himself in a mirror but to me it’s big. As a younger man I never felt that I could just rip my shirt off whenever I felt the urge. Still don’t. Instead I had to win friends and indluence people by sharpening my wit. I was always the smart, funny friend whom everyone loved to have at a party but not necessarily on their team. So I found ways to insult them with clever words and then to insult myself and make a joke out of my shape. It’s worked for me for years and I’ve gotten quite good at it. Just the other day a friend shared a clip with me of a baseball catcher making an incredible catch. Meant nothing to me since I never played baseball (not even a game of catch in the yard with my brothers) but I could appreciate the intensity of it and my friend’s sense of awe. Fighting the urge to say “Wow, such coordination. Someone can use his hands,” I said instead simply “Wow.” But I didn’t say it with an exclamation point. 

My ultimate hope is to be able to say in a year and a half when I turn 40 that I’m in the best shape of my life and to have the body to back that up. And if not I can always cut everyone around me down to size with a quick jab of my vocabulary. There’s a part of me that would love the “revenge” aspect of that as I watch my friends who once had athleticism struggle to avoid obesity. Of course “trainer” will somehow find a way to shed even more body fat by then. But on some plane where the rest of us mortals dwell most might think I’ve done OK for myself. 

Autumn ( the woman from the workout videos) keeps saying “Remember why you’re doing this!”  Then she yells at Cat. I keep responding “so my wife will find me irresistible” and realizing that’s not the right answer.  

I’m doing this for me. 

Ancient Aliens

An old favorite of mine… Enjoy on this lazy Saturday. Ah, the perks of having a couple thousand posts at one’s disposal.

Harvey Millican: Raising Your Kids Without Lowering Your IQ

I have been fascinated of late with a show on the History Channel called Ancient Aliens.  The premise of this program is that space aliens apparently came to earth in the past and helped to build the great empires of the world.

I do not believe it was intended to be taken seriously.  By anyone.

That being said, I feel the need to categorize this show among the other History shows I have come to love.  There are certain shows that I will ALWAYS stop and watch when scanning the dial.  These include Modern Marvels, Hooked: Illegal Drugs and How they Got that Way, Rumrunners, Moonshiners, and Bootleggers, How the States Got Their Shapes, and In the Kitchen with Tsar Nicholas II.  I’m starting to think that this will be one of them.  Allow me to break it down for you.

The episode begins with…

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The Fix Is In

Today I embarked on a new chapter in my fitness quest.

Today I began a program called 21 Day Fix.  Actually the one I began is called 21 Day Fix EXTREME!  Ooh.

Let me tell you about it.

There are two parts to this baby.  The first is the diet.  I’ve dabbled with changing my diet before.  I’ve done Atkins and such in the past.  In fact I have heard it said that fixing your diet – that is, sticking to a healthy diet – is 80% of getting jacked.  I heard that from my “trainer” who’s name now appears in quotes as he insists he’s not actually a trainer and may in fact be lying to me in an effort to keep me from making progress and thus seeing results to rival his.  All of that is a lie, of course.  I said it to get a rise out of him, you know, for laughs.

mustang parc gym

Yep, it’s another “fitness” blog.

I’ve heard the old “eat smaller meals more frequently” maxim.  What I ate today, though, totally takes the cake for eating like a king.  At the end of the day I had yet to consume a large amount of my daily intake and was already full.  This is all based on one’s height, weight, activity level, goals, etc.  At one point I had to take a bunch of body measurements for the tracking app I’m using.  I had a bit of fun discovering that my calves are two inches bigger than my arms.  My wife’s response to that was “Well, you’ve got big calves,” not “Don’t worry, your arms are big enough for me and that’s all that counts and I love you more than any man who’s ever lived and take me now.”

Now for the exercise part of the equation…

A curious note in the app said simply “Plyo-max Extreme”.  This appears to be a reference to plyometrics, a pseudoscience, the premise of which is that if you jump around a lot you’ll be “fit”.  “Can’t be too hard,” I thought.  I’ve been running up to five miles a days, doing crazy tabata workouts.  I’ll probably not even break a sweat.”

The woman came on the screen.  Her name is Autumn.  I feel it’s important you know that.  I think when parents give their kids out-there names it messes with their psyche and turns them crazy.  Autumn lived up to my expectations.  The thing is she didn’t hit me full-on crazy like I was expecting.  She eased into it.

The setting was a large gym with a stairwell on the side presumably leading nowhere.  That’s not a metaphor at all.  In the background were prominently displayed packages of “Shakeology”, the powdered supplement that is the core of the whole program.  That’s not a pyramid scheme at all.  Speaking of pyramids, immediately behind Autumn were nine people.  Looking at their physiques, lithe movement patterns, and attire I surmised that they were the children of Solid Gold dancers.  And then there was Cat.  Cat didn’t look like she belonged.  Cat looked as normal as you or I.  Cat appeared to be right as rain.  Cat didn’t seem to give a shit that she was there.  Why, Cat, why?  What is your deal?

I didn’t have time to ponder that.  Autumn and the Pod People all began “warming up” in sync with each other.  Not Cat.  She clapped her hands once, looked at the camera and mouthed “Bitches.  I piss on all of you.”  Autumn intoned her instructions like the pope leading the Salve Regina at the end of a Vatican mass.

“We’re Getting Pum-umped!”

On the wall behind her was a chalkboard that read “You can do anything!”  Lies.  Autumn, as if she was reading my mind cut in “You can do anything!  Now let’s do this!”  And we were off.  First up was something called plyo-jumps followed by something called plyo-sumo-jump lunges.  Moments later I was about to collapse.  But I could do it.  I think.  And then Autumn said something that made me feel both sad, and confused at the same time.  “Guys,” she barked at the people behind her, “if you don’t have the flexibility to do this right, just follow Cat’s lead.”

Ahhhh!  That’s what Cat’s there for.  And that explains why she doesn’t really seem to care what’s going on.  While everyone else was literally jumping into the air, both feet together, and slapping their knees, Miss Cat was simply raising her heels an inch or two off the ground, smiling, and returning to start.  She was the comic relief in Autumn’s mind, brought in to contrast fit from undesirable.  Basically, she’s the Quazimodo of this film.

Set by set, movement by movement, Autumn shamed me (and her minions on set) into greater fits of sweat and pain.  Not Cat.  We did reverse lunges.  Cat took a step and winked at the camera.  We did burpees with a push up.  Cat got on all fours, raised her right arm, and meowed.  Autumn would chime in with some ridiculousness toward one of the dancers “Tony! If you can’t do the movements right, just do what Cat’s doing,” or “Philippine! If you don’t have the balls to get those quads up in the air while engaging your core, just do what Cat’s doing.”  Meanwhile by the final set Cat was in a leather recliner eating Yodels and watching TV.  I think she was watching a Richard Simmons workout VHS.

Cat looked happy.  Cat is very smart.  If you want to be jacked do what Autumn tells you to do and like it.  If you want anything of value, just do what Cat’s doing.

More to come.

Mother’s Day Musings

First, I’d like to wish a very happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.

I’d also like to wish a very happy day to all the mutha’s out there.  And you know who you are.

Lots of thoughts going through my mind tonight.  I promise it has nothing to do with the Valium I just took.  I think I pulled a muscle in my back but more on that later.

On the training front I have stopped running.  I haven’t given up.  No, I’m too committed to have done that.  I talked to the man I’ve been calling “trainer” for a while now.  He insists he’s just a friend who offers advice when asked.  I must have lucked out because I don’t know too many people who have a friend who’s not only jacked to the hilt but also has the knowledge as to how I can get that way too.  Is he sometimes impatient with my barrage of questions?  Sure.  But that’s to be expected.  He never asked to be my trainer.  Have I dragged him into the middle of my obsession to not only look better but also get in great shape?  Yep.  But what did he expect?  You can’t walk around exuding perfection and not expect your opportunistic friends to seize the moment.

So he recommended a change-up of the training plan for me.  Beginning tomorrow I will be following (along with my wife) something called “21 Day Fix”.  It’s a radical diet shift for me designed to boost metabolism.  It follows along with a workout regimen.  I was intending to jump into the Insanity workout program but my wife pointed out to me that we’ll be leaving on a huge road trip in three weeks.  This other program should do the trick though.  I’ll admit after about 9 months, I’m actually going to miss running.  I had just hit my slow-ass stride, too.  But it was hard as anything.  It was hard to do it and it was harder to admit I wasn’t very good at it.  But I was finally just about able to enjoy it.  We shall see how this goes.  I can always go back to running.

In other news, the end of the school year is coming!  Just a few short weeks and I am ready to catch my breath and relax for a bit.  This year that means I’ll be sleeping soundly for about 20 extra minutes because on my first day off we embark on that road trip I mentioned above.  I can’t discuss much of it at the moment but check back and all will be revealed.

So I think that Valium is kicking in and I’m about reasddsy to crashh.  Have a grasst day and remembjer that Harvy lobedsd you aooo much bithfes and I lovvre lifes and evythgin and pupplied dogsd ans Jesuj.  ZzzzzźZZZ  Z Z Z ZZZ Z Z Z Z Z Zz z z zZ Z

Why Did They Have To Do That?

I was having a relatively good day.

OK, that’s a lie.  I woke up at 5:30 because I had to be to work early for a faculty meeting.  Any teacher reading this knows that’s a fate worse than death.  It’s always the same.  An hour of sitting in an uncomfortable theater (for a guy with a fused spine), crossing your legs back and forth, listening to speaker after speaker drone on and on about things that could have been put in an email and ignored.

And for this I get the privilege of waking up 30 minutes earlier.  Thank you, most munificent God.

At the end of most faculty meetings at my school a veteran teacher stands up — it’s always the same woman each month as long as I’ve been here — and presents the Faculty of the Month Award.

teacher sign

World class, all right…

At this point I am firmly tuned out, scrolling through my Twitter feed looking for videos of kittens climbing out of cardboard boxes and bursting into flames.  I find the cuteness to be calming and the incineration bizarre.

Imagine my shock when, after five years of teaching at this place and witnessing dozens of my colleagues receive this award (many of whom have taught here fewer years than I); to hear my name called.

What in the world?

Surely they had that wrong.  Clearly they haven’t figured out my game yet.  I come here to collect a check.

A friend (fellow teacher and previous award recipient) who also happens to be my trainer was sitting behind me and reached forward to pat me on the back.  I sat there motionless, absolutely embarrassed, to hear testimonials from three fellow teachers about some guy they think is wonderful.

Listening to the things they had to say I wondered who they were talking about.  Apparently I love my students, am always smiling, and have a popular Twitter feed.  I’ll grant them the Twitter feed.  I’m pretty good at that.

But why me?  Why today?

I instantly felt like crap that I was thinking these things instead of just being thankful to be recognized.  I’ll admit, I’m a terrible human being.  I should just be grateful and move on.  And I am grateful.  I just can’t figure it out.  I never wanted to teach.  In fact there are times when I wonder why God called me to this career.  I hate how demeaning the pay is (not at this school, just for teachers in general) and the constant feeling that maybe this is all I can do with my life.  That probably stems from my dad.  He always repeated the old “maxim” that those who can’t doteach.  I love my job and I do love my students.  So why do I feel this way?

Or maybe I was really wondering what took them so long to see it?  And of course then I began to feel like a real jerk, pondering about an award I was not owed.

Is this how one is supposed to feel when your colleagues recognize you?  I honestly don’t know since it’s never happened before.

What I do know is that just the day before the student council had awarded me a little trinket.  It was a plastic red apple on a base that read “Harvey: Best Dressed Teacher”.  And I know that that award meant the world to me because it came from my students, the people I actually work with every day.

And I suppose it’s truly nice to be recognized once in a while by adults.  I tried explaining to my wife how big a deal this award is.  It’s kind of how the school says “thank you, good job”.  We don’t get bonuses as teachers; there are no pay raises for good work, just a cost of living adjustment.  This is how they tell you you’re doing a good job.  I don’t think she bought it.

Here’s what I know.  I am most appreciative to whomever wrote those testimonials about me.  I was truly shocked.  And because it says I’m a good teacher I have to be a good teacher.  That means, put the award aside and get back to teaching.

See you first period.