Sunday, February 26, 2012

The countdown to 'The Games' begins tonight

After tonight -- Oscar night, also known as my Super Bowl -- a new countdown will begin ...

I thrive off of silly enthusiasm. There's nothing I love more in life than living and breathing a new infatuation, usually fleeting, that nonsensically reels me in and rules my little world for a period of time. There was "Karate Kid," when I was a wee child. There was New Kids on the Block in my adolescence. In high school, it was "Dawson's Creek."

And then I started to grow up, and these little fads became few and far between. It made me sad thinking I was officially a boring adult whose thoughts would only be consumed with money and bills and work and boringboringboringboring.

Then came "The Hunger Games," a trilogy about a world where 12 impoverished districts must put forth a girl and a boy between the ages of 12 and 18 each year to fight to the death for the amusement of the Capitol. For one glorious week, I lived and breathed Katniss Everdeen and her boy with the bread. I talked about it with everyone I knew. I begged my friends and family to read the books. I stayed up well into the night finishing each one (and I haven't seen 2 a.m. since my early 20s). I printed out "Hunger Games" Valentines. I LOVED this trilogy.

Finishing the books broke my heart a little. It's so hard to let an infatuation end, wondering again if you'll find something else that will make you feel those things again.

Which is why I have been absolutely giddy every time I see previews for "The Hunger Games" movie. A series of films will stretch out over several years, and will allow this crush to go on for a bit longer.

The new countdown that begins tonight, post-Oscars, leads to March 23, the opening of "The Games," where I plan to totally Geek out and wear a mockingjay somewhere on my person. I've also debated about whether I will give the District 12 salute to the screen when the credits roll. That might be a little too much Geek even for me. But we'll see.

If you haven't read the series, PLEASE DO. Ignore all those ridiculous "Twilight" and "Harry Potter" comparisons that people will make when it comes to Y/A. The trilogy is nothing like either, and it is very much for adults as well as kids.

Go! Now!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Amanda's picks for best Oscar gowns of all (her) time

The red carpet ... for me, even though it makes me out to be all girly and such ... it's just a huge part of the Oscars experience. I literally watch hours of red carpet coverage on E! before the big show. We're talkin' early coverage, like when the nobodies are told to show up to allow for the more dramatic entrances during the last few minutes before the show.

I love seeing the gowns my favorites will wear. Kate Winslet never disappoints. She's the one I always look for first. Lately, Viola Davis has really upped her game, so I'll be watching for her as well.

But my top 5 Oscar gowns of all time (or at least during the years I've been watching) were donned by neither of these lovely ladies. In fact, only one of them in the bunch (No. 5) is on my list of favorite actresses. Still, each managed to pull off a stunning moment on the red carpet.

Here they are, folks!
Top row: No. 1, Penelope Cruz, No. 2, Anne Hathaway, No. 3, Keira Knightley
Bottom row: No. 4, Halle Berry, No. 5, Cate Blanchett

Saturday, February 18, 2012

That's all, folks. Couch to 5K is off.

Last night I was nervous, but excited about attempting to run again after 9 days out due to knee injury. So I went online and bought a pair of Nike Duel Fusions I had my eye on. Black and pink. Very sassy. Might catch people's eye as I blow past them like a rocket on the track!

This morning the knees felt good. I did what Runner's World advised, and I didn't attempt a return until I felt absolutely no pain in my knees. Runner's Knee, as they call it, can become a chronic condition if you push before you're ready.

I strapped on my knee brace, put on my runner's under things (heehee), slapped on my watch with the timer, and I put orthopedics in my shoes for added support. Felt like a suit of armor or something, all for a few spins around a track.

But I still had that uneasy feeling in my tummy. It was that feeling of dread I had every morning I was headed to the Y last year to meet my personal trainer. I knew she was going to put me through the ringer, and she always did. Today's nerves were about whether my knees would hold up to jumping back into week 2 of the couch-to-5K program.

The Y is crazy on a Saturday. The parking lot, alone, is an epic battle. And then I got into the track and there was some event going on in the gym below, so it was loud and distracting. Not to mention the various walkers and runners on the track. These were the first couple of elements to begin building the dam of frustration.

The actual running built the rest of it. Pain. Both knees. And after just over a week, I took a hit to the stamina. Three minutes of running was hard for both of those reasons. After 10 minutes, I was done. So was my left knee, already swollen inside the brace.

And as if the running gods hadn't had enough of a laugh at my expense already, as I climbed onto the elliptical feeling defeated and powerless, "Born to Run" came on the mp3 player. I kid you not. I never thought I'd have the urge to turn that song off, but today, Bruce, you had to go.

So I was the idiot near tears in the Life Center today deciding that I'm quitting Couch to 5K for now. Maybe I'll try again this summer, just so I don't feel like I completely wasted a ton of money on all that running crap I thought I would need. Or maybe one sad little mile is my running-legacy. (As you can tell, I'm feeling pretty sorry for myself. This isn't pretty.)

Thanks for your encouragement, anyway. Now off to ruin the rest of a perfectly good Saturday by staying inside grading a ton of papers and essays. Best weekend ever.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Is Tweten's run on 'Idol' almost over?

So far, the rumors surrounding North Mankato's Shelby Tweten on "American Idol" have all checked out.
Before the show even started widespread rumors swirled that Shelby had auditioned in Colorado and that she did well enough that she likely would be featured during the audition rounds at the beginning of the season. Check!
Then there were rumors that a leaked list of the top 42 contestants was floating around the Internet and included Shelby's name. Check!
So I'm definitely paying attention to this last rumor I have gotten wind of, which is that last night's advancement in which Shelby did indeed make it into the top 42 after performing "Great Balls of Fire" with her group ... well, folks, it might be her last.

Rumor has it that Tweters didn't make it into the top 24, when the top 12 boys and the top 12 girls are selected and the show begins airing live for viewer votes. Those cuts are scheduled to be made next week, I believe, so it's possible Wednesday or Thursday's episode might be her last.

That's not to take away from her great success already. Making it into the top 42 on a national singing competition is an unbelievable feat. And hopefully it has inspired her to keep singing professionally. She's definitely got the pipes!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hopefully Billy Crystal won't ruin the Oscars

The biggest night in Hollywood is just 9 days away! Oh my! ... But my excitement is tempered by the fact that I will endure two-plus hours of Billy Crystal. I'm not sure they could have chosen someone more out of touch with the public tone and discourse.

How do you even describe his humor? It's observational, which I like. But maybe it's his delivery. It's old-fashioned. Passe. He does "bits."

I don't blame the Oscar folks for freaking out after last year's disaster when they hired James Franco and Anne Hathaway to co-host to reel in the "younger viewers." Franco decided to phone it in, causing Hathaway to overcompensate, and between the two of them, they became the worst Oscar hosts in the 83 years of the show. But they've really over-corrected here by dialing the show back 25 years by inviting someone so out of the public eye to host.

Who would have been good? Ellen. Ellen definitely is both beloved and strikes the right comedic tone for our time. One website suggested Ryan Reynolds and Sandy Bullock cohost. Both are hilarious and have great chemistry. I'd be all for that. Ryan Gosling would be my personal choice. I mean, the absolute TRAVESTY of him being shut out of best acting nominations this year for "Drive," "Crazy, Stupid Love" or "The Ides of March" ... what does a guy have to do to get some Oscar love? Three great movies? Three great performances? In one year? Are you kidding me? The Academy could make it up to me by asking Gosling to host ... in his boxer-briefs ... or something.

Hopefully Crystal won't embarrass himself. He'll definitely sing, which he seems to enjoy doing. (Jeez.) And he'll do "bits," incorporating himself into the best picture nominees. (Ho-hum.) But maybe in an effort to keep the show at two hours, they won't let him try to milk too much limelight time out of this. It'll probably be his last, after all, until he's old enough to start collecting those life-time achievement awards.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Went rogue and I'm warming the bench

I debated about whether or not to post about my knee(s). I mentioned in my last post about couch-to-5K that my knees had been sore after my runs, so I was going to pull back a bit and really stick with the program as its laid out and intended.

But when I got to the gym on Saturday, two days after I'd run my first mile, I couldn't even make it around the track once. I was hobbling along in terrible pain in both knees, on the inside under the knee cap. The pain was worst in my left leg, though.

Then on Sunday, I ran to beat my mom into the movie theater (or she wouldn't have let me buy the tickets), and I further injured it.

So I haven't run since Thursday, and I've been really depressed about it. I spoke with a coworker who started running last year, and he apparently had the same injury, and it kept him out of the program for two weeks. It's a pretty common injury among first-time runners.

I didn't want to post about this because I don't want to discourage others from trying the program. I still think it's great. But I decided maybe I should mention that I learned the hard way why the program is laid out like it is, with slow progressions made over time, and that it's not a good idea to go rogue and run extra just to see if you can. It's not just about stamina. It's about your body acclimating to a high-impact activity.

So, anyway, I'll be warming the bench if you need me. : ( At least for a while.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sophia Grace and Rosie risin' to the top

I just can't get enough of Sophia Grace and Rosie, the 8 and 5-year-old British girls made famous by "Ellen," YouTube, frilly pink tutus and Nicki Minaj songs that they sing.

If you missed last week's "Ellen" featuring Sophia Grace's rap, you have to see this. At first she covers a rap song by Keri Hilson, and to be honest, the poor thing is pretty off key. But about halfway through she launches into a rap about her and Rosie that is about the cutest damn thing I've ever seen, and actually pretty good too. Embedded below for your viewing pleasure. Also, the girls have their own YouTube channel now, where you can catch up on all the back videos if you haven't seen the girls before.

Also, Ellen sent them to the Grammys to be her red-carpet correspondents. The segment featuring their coverage is on Tuesday's "Ellen."

I had to also post this video of when they covered the red carpet for "Ellen" at the American Music Awards. When they meet Katy Perry, it always makes me laugh, no matter how many times I watch it. (Which is a lot.)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I ran a mile, and I liked it

What nobody ever tells you when you're considering a couch-to-5K program is how FAST your body adapts to running. It's not their fault. They can't get a word in edgewise when newbie runners are coughing and wheezing and complaining about how badly their frickin' lungs burn and how stupid it was to attempt to run in the first place.

Since I started running less than two weeks ago, about a dozen people I've talked to about this -- some of whom are in very good shape -- have said almost the exact same thing: "I just don't like to run." They do other things, like yoga or speed walking or team sports. I used to say that exact same thing. There are so many other exercises and machines you can use. So why do something you hate?

I've really been trying NOT to become one of those people who say, "But, seriously, if you just try it -- if you just get through that first week or two of misery -- you'll love it. It'll be like a drug." But it's so hard! When you find something you enjoy, you want EVERYONE to do it, too.

I had a pretty huge breakthrough on day 8 or 9 of the couch-to-5K program this week. I ran a mile. It was the first mile I had ever ran in my life. And it felt amazing. This week consisted of running two minutes, walking one minute, and repeating that pattern 10 times. But at the end of each session, I did this thing where I thought, "Just run for as long as you can without stopping. Just to see how long you can go." The first day it was five minutes without stopping. The second it was 8 minutes, 20 seconds. And the third, I went for it, and I ran a mile. Now, granted, it was the slowest mile in the history of running-miles: 13 minutes, 03 seconds. But we are talking about someone who, just eight days prior, had not run in 15 years. In just eight days my body adjusted that much. It's pretty incredible to think about that, to think about what we are capable of.

I hate this expression, but it so very much applies here that I have to say it: If I can do it, anyone can do it. So, please, do it! It'll make you feel so good about yourself!

I plan to run the Girls on the Run 5k on April 28. That will give me plenty of time to prepare. My only big roadblock now is my knee pain. I've been advised by friends to stick with the program and stop running those extra minutes after each session because my knees get so stiff and achy a few hours after running that it's worrying me a little bit. Maybe if I dial it back, and just stick to what I'm supposed to do, it won't be so bad. It's a bit frustrating, though, because when your lungs and heart are totally into running, you really wish the rest of your body would cooperate.

But I guess I've got more than two months to get the knees on board, too.

Today, I shall run four minutes, walk one minute, and repeat six times. And I promise not to run an extra mile afterward. : )))) Of all the promises I never thought I'd have to make ... haha.

Friday, February 10, 2012

And the winner of the Katotainment rebrand is ...

Don't worry, you're in the right place. This is the former Katotainment blog, where I wrote about all the same things I plan to write about now. But I switched jobs at the paper, focusing now on writing about K-college education. So writing an entertainment blog for The Free Press didn't jive very well. The solution? A new name and a rebranding. Hence, the lovely new background of spring-like greens and blues that you see before you.

You'll also notice the new name, above. I wasn't clever enough to come up with something on my own, so I opened it up to my readers and promised a $10 coffee card to the guy or gal who came up with the best new name that encompassed my impulsive personality. The name had to include a variety of interests, from fitness to local entertainment, and it had to represent my personality, which is sort of bubbly and crazy and weird and all over the place.

As you can see, Ryan Gehrke, the manager of Blockbuster Video, by the way, came up with the winning name. My last name is Dyslin, hence the "Dys," and "disjointed" pretty much sums up the rest. So you put it all together, and you've got one hell of a blog title.

So, Mr. Gehrke, you are the winner of $10 in free coffee, as well as the incredible bragging rights of having rebranded Katotainment. Well done, sir. Well done.

So thanks, everyone, for reading Katotainment the past couple of years, and I hope you'll all stick with me through many more years of "Dys-jointed" blogging.

Monday, February 6, 2012

West's Shelby Tweten back on 'Idol' this week

It's Hollywood Week on "American Idol"! North Mankato's own Shelby Tweten, 17, was featured on the Fox show a couple of weeks ago when her audition resulted in a golden ticket to Hollywood. So there's a good chance Ms. Tweten will get some air time this week, especially considering her personal story about her depression and bipolar disorder resulted in numerous national news outlets reporting on her audition.

During the first part of Hollywood week, group performances take place and sweeping cuts are made. Sometimes whole groups go home. Sometimes the judges send contestants home just for forgetting the words to a song, or for not standing out against their more talented group members. So Tweten will definitely be up against a challenge.

Hollywood Week episodes are not live, so in all likelihood, the Twetens already know if Shelby has progressed to the semifinals. Perhaps even further than that. Again, some blogs and fan sites are reporting a list of the top 42 contestants, and Shelby's name is on it. If it's true, that is. No official confirmation has been made.

Anyway, be sure to tune in! The schedule is below. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, read the story here.

"American Idol" schedule:

Wed, Feb 8: 7:00 PM, Hollywood Round, Part 1

Thu, Feb 9: 7:00 PM, Hollywood Round, Part 2

Wed, Feb 15: 7:00 PM, Hollywood Round, Part 3

Thu, Feb 16: 7:00 PM, Performance Challenge

Wed, Feb. 22: 7:00 PM, FINAL JUDGMENT, PART 1

Thu, Feb. 23: 7:00 PM, FINAL JUDGMENT, PART 2

Wed, Feb. 28: 7:00 PM, Semifinalists perform, part 1

Thu, Feb. 29: 7:00 PM, Semifinalists perform, part 2

Wed, March 1: Finalists Announced and Judges' wild card picks revealed

Sunday, February 5, 2012

There is only one Marilyn Monroe

My screensaver on my Smart phone is a black and white photo of Marilyn Monroe in a bikini about to go down a slide into a pool. I have several other framed pictures of her in a spare bedroom upstairs. I love the look of women in the late 1950s and 1960s, overall. To me, there's never been a period in history when women were more sexy and beautiful. But Marilyn Monroe was the most beautiful of all. I admire her in the way that everyone else during her time seemed to: as an object of extraordinary beauty. Nothing more.

The camera loved in her in a way that, to me, it has never loved another. Her beauty is other worldly. And that special something, that spark, I've never seen that in another woman. The biographies and interviews with those who knew her say that it was manufactured. Marilyn Monroe was a clever creation of sexy poses, fluid movements and a delicate whisper of a voice. But that doesn't matter. What she created was art. Her beauty, her persona -- it worked and continues to work to woo and enchant all of us.

All of this poses quite a challenge for an actress attempting to portray her. Portraying a character who herself was a character is difficult enough. Portraying one so extraordinarily enigmatic, that's nearly impossible. Which is why it wasn't Michelle Williams' fault she fell so flat in "My Week With Marilyn." Flat doesn't even seem to describe it. False maybe gets closer. Marilyn Monroe swallowed the meek and ordinary Williams the way she swallowed the lives of every man she ever loved. A great performance by a leading actress is one where the actress herself disappears. She becomes the role. There was only one moment in "My Week With Marilyn" where I didn't feel Williams' straining to portray a woman far beyond her own ability to charm, enchant, intrigue and excite. She was laying on a couch talking with Colin Clark about the many men she's loved and wondering why they've all gone wrong. She says, "They always seem right at the start." I remember thinking if Williams could only be this effortless throughout the whole film, her performance could be brilliant. Unfortunately, it was a fleeting moment.

If you plan to see the film to get a peek at who Marilyn was behind the scenes, you'll be disappointed. The movie is based on a memoir written by Colin Clark about a week spent with Marilyn during the filming of "The Prince and the Showgirl," but it barely scratches the surface of being any sort of character study of Marilyn. That's probably best. Williams couldn't have pulled it off. Rather, it's a sweet little film about the power a beautiful woman can have over a man. One man after another is so taken by Marilyn's stunning beauty that it seems to be life changing, and just as quickly, she turns her gaze to another.

Williams was my early pick for best actress, judging just be previews. But I have to throw my support fully behind Viola Davis now. "The Help" wasn't a great film, but Davis was great in it.

I'm overdue on a more in-depth Oscar post. It's coming soon. And be sure to check out the Feb. 24 Currents section for my official picks before the big show.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Making amends with my lungs

My lungs and I haven't always been friends. I haven't been very kind to them, you see. Until the age of 10, they grew up in a home with a smoker. So while other children's lungs were developing into healthy organs that look like thick, juicy cuts of ribeye steak, mine probably resembled dirty, shriveled yams. And to add insult to injury, it was just four years after leaving a home with a smoker that I took my own first puff behind the Bowl Mor Lanes and Lounge in Fairmont. Being an "invincible teenager" and all, I smoked for a solid couple of years in high school and then dabbled again when I turned 21 and discovered how very well ciggies pair up with beers and liquors of all colors and flavors.

Of course, then a few more years past. By the time I hit 25, feelings of "invincibility" turned to fears of dying tomorrow, and I was horrified thinking about what I'd done to my poor, helpless lungs, which, at that point, probably resembled burned and blackened baked potatoes.

Recently, though, I'm happy to report that I've made amends. This past year, through tons of exercise, I've been pumping a lot of healthy oxygen to my little buddies, and they've really come along nicely. They've perked up, seem happier. I'd venture to say we're friends again.

But then we hit a little roadblock this past week. I went crazy and decided I was going to train for a 5K. Never ran in my life, but I thought I'd give it a go. My lungs were angry. Too much exertion. They burned. Bad. Cried out in anger, a feeling reminiscent of that first drag behind the Bowl Mor. Honestly, I was ready to quit the running program, especially after I hurt my hip from not having the right shoes. I was feeling quite defeated, like my body was working against me.

As I was writing the blog entry that outlined this very situation, I got a text from Jackie, my personal trainer from last year. It was out of the blue. She and I don't text that often. And it said how happy she was that I was training for a 5K, and that she would love to train with me and run with me when I'm ready.

Now, that wonderful girl coached me through quite a few moments when I felt like I wasn't up to the physical challenge that lied before me. She told me I could, and so I did. Whatever it was. When that text came at exactly that moment when I needed it most, I swear to you it was like a sign. It was like she knew. It was truly incredible.

That very night I went out and I bought women's Nike running shoes (at Plato's Closet for only $18!!), women's sports under things (heehee), and a waterproof watch with a stopwatch function. And the very next morning, I went back to the gym, up to the track, and I tried again.

And you know what? I did it. I ran 60 seconds, and I walked two minutes, repeating the pattern 10 times. And my lungs were completely on board. No burning. And then I went down to the life center and did 20 minutes on the bike, just for that added fitness bonus and to prove to myself that not only can I train to be a runner, but I can train and then some.

But my biggest sense of accomplishment came this morning. Today I ran 90 seconds, walked 90 seconds, and repeated the pattern 10 times. Only my last bout of running, I ran two minutes without even realizing I'd gone over. To those who haven't ran before, two minutes sounds like nothing. But seriously, try it. Running is HARD. It's hard! So I felt in-cred-ible. And then once again, I went down to the Life Center and did 20 minutes on the elliptical.

I feel good today. I can do this, I think! Woo hoo!

Help! Rename my blog. I'm not clever enough.

It's time to rename this blog, or at least that's what everyone keeps telling me. "Amanda, you are no longer the entertainment writer at The Free Press, so you keeping your blog as "Katotainment" is the crime equivalent of clubbing baby seals." So, so true.

I have no idea what to call it, though. The history of my posts indicates a couple of things: 1. I tend to post on whatever I'm thinking at that very moment. So, impulsive blogging. 2. I tend to post extensively on whatever is at the forefront of my thoughts during a given period of time. So, last year: losing chunks of weight. When "Project Runway" is on, I blog about that. (Except for "All Stars," because I think it stinks and the title is 100 percent misleading.) During Awards Season, I blog about movies. When there's something intriguing/interesting in Mankato's entertainment scene, I blog about that.

I think the takeaway here is that this blog is personality based. It doesn't reflect my job at The Free Press, and that's OK. The newspaper industry is changing, and whereas reporters were once expected to be 100 percent objective and diplomatic and tended to be neutral, overall, now we are expected to brand ourselves, to show you who we are as people and connect with you on a human level. Some are for, some are against. For me, it makes it easier because I tend to be myself, whether that's good or bad, wherever I tend to be and whomever I tend to be with.

So, with all of this in mind, maybe y'all can help me out. I need a blog title that sort of encompasses a personality-based blog about random thoughts, fitness, TV (lots of TV), movies, Mankato and such. If any of you come up with a super good one, I'll award you a $10 coffee card and, of course, bragging rights (ha! I'm sure that's the hugest incentive ever, right?) Plus, I'll blog about you and your incredibly clever blog title.

Email me at or call me at 344-6388. Thanks!!!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Frustration mounts, and I have that icky quitter feeling

My left leg is perched on my ottoman at home, and I have the worst pinch in my left hip than I've ever felt. When I walk, it feels more like a crunch.

For the first 15 minutes of day four of my couch to 5k today, I WAS SO HAPPY. My lungs have been the issue this week. They burn so bad that I feel like I can't get enough air. But today, they didn't burn at all. It was more my legs that felt heavy. Maybe they've felt heavy all week and I haven't noticed because of all the burning in my lungs. ... But anyway, I was about 10 yards into my fourth running segment when I felt some sort of twist in my hip. It was immediate, and I could barely walk.

I hobbled out into the hallway and stretched it for a bit. But frustration set in pretty much immediately. I know it's because of my shoes. I haven't had money to invest in running shoes. And that just made me madder because I kept thinking about all these pieces of advice-command hybrids from runners that not only added up in dollars, but also pains-in-the-tuckus.

Me: I don't own a watch and I need to track my running minutes. Does anyone I know, like in life -- anyone at all -- own a watch or a stopwatch they aren't using?
Everyone in the world: No. You have to go buy a watch. You should get a stopwatch that you can program and alert you to when you need to start running again. They're the best kinds of watches for runners.
Me: I have blisters. How do you run with blisters?
Runners: You need sweat-wicking socks if you want to be a runner. You need moleskin to put on your blisters.
Me: Mole-what? ... Maybe I should lose the rest of my weight first. I'm bouncing all over the place when I run. Gives a whole new meaning to booty-shake.
Runners: You need Spanx or quality spandex shorts. That's what I use, as well as a sports bra. You have to buy quality under-things if you want to be a runner.
Me: My toes are hurting a little. These shoes are too small.
Runners: Those shoes won't do anyway. You need good quality shoes. You need to spend an enormous amount of money on shoes. Do you want to run? Then you have to spend money on shoes. Shoes are everything. Buy shoes.

So, basically, I need new gear from head to toe, and unless I plan on doing laundry every day, I need several sets of "good quality under-things." And since running is the most important thing in the universe, I guess I'd better get on it right now.

Gah! I'm going to take a step back here and just think this out. I need my hip to feel better anyway before I can try again, so I'm going to just think about whether the ginormous hassle of running is even worth it. I lost 74 pounds without running AT ALL. So there are other ways to be healthy, right?

But I know myself, and I know backing down from a challenge this early will make me feel really bad.

I don't know. I just don't know.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Finally flipping the bird at Mr. Jones

We'll call him Mr. Jones (so I won't get sued). I heard tell of him from my dad and my dad's siblings. They all had him for gym class when they were in middle school. My dad was a naughty kid. So he'd had an altercation or two with Mr. Jones, which I couldn't even imagine. When nobody in my sixth-grade gym class was doing anything to piss him off, he still looked so severe. Never smiled. Stood shoulders back, arms crossed. Tight blue shorts made of unidentifiable fabric, most likely produced in the '70s or '80s. White leg hair from mid-thigh to ankle. White arm hair, thicker than what seemed normal to a 12-year-old. White head hair (what was left of it). No trace of a smile or even smile lines that might indicate he actually did show his teeth once in a while at home. Plenty of frown lines, though. So the idea of anger in those eyes directed right at my dad, inches from his face, made me keep as quiet as a Sunday morning in January.

I had just moved to Fairmont from K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in the U.P. of Michigan. I had no friends, and it was my first year of middle school. So the last thing I needed was another reason to feel out of place and behind my fellow classmates. First-period gym class with Mr. Jones was that extra reason. It was a few months after my parents' divorce. I had put on weight. I was out of shape. I'd never run before, except for short bursts the way kids do. And here stood this cold statue of a man barking at me and my classmates in military style to run eight laps or 10 laps or however many he felt like that day.

I was always near the back of the pack. It wasn't unusual for me to get lapped by the fastest boy in the class. But still I remember how grateful I was that two or three girls were actually slower, somehow, than I was so that I wouldn't be dead last.

Every time I past Mr. Jones during each lap, a bit of anxiety would creep in. Sometimes he'd shout things. "Pick it up! Pick it up!" And when one of my tactics on long runs was to put tissues on the stage at the edge of the gym and pretend to have a cold, he was onto me in a heartbeat. "Carry that Kleenex with you, Dyslin! Don't stop!"

Until now, this is the only experience I ever had running. And every single time I have circled the track at the Y this week, having begun my couch to 5K, I have imagined Mr. Jones standing there, arms crossed, watching every unsteady stride. The funny thing is, though, the negative connotation I have with the actual act of running has started to go away. I wonder if it's because I'm choosing to be there, and I feel like it's for an actual purpose. When you're 12, there seems to be no reason at all to be asked to run half a mile in front of your peers, wearing hideous red shorts and doing everything you can to hide your pit stains. It just seems like a really mean social experiment, and you start to imagine ways to make Mr. Jones disappear without anyone tracing the crime back to you.

Hopefully, when I'm ready to move this running campaign outside and hit the streets, the old man won't be in my thoughts at all. Or maybe if he is, I'll just flip him the hand gesture that my dad was brave enough to do when he was just a kid.