21 Day Yoga Girl Challenge Day 13: Be Fearless #yogagirlchallenge

Today I started a calculus class at the age of 46 because I want to take it!

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Calculus is typically a college freshman class, but nobody ever made me take it in college. These days many kids take it as high school seniors since they have the opportunity to excel one or two years in math.

Click here to read about my love affair with math.

I didn’t want to pursue a math related field when I was in college so I didn’t really care about it back then. When I became a teacher in 1998 I fell in love with math and realized I was good at it. Ever since then, I’ve specialized in math and have been tutoring math privately since 2001. I am certified to teach all subjects 4-8 and math 8-12, but once kids finish Algebra 2, I usually have to refer them out.

I quit my teaching job in 2004 to be a stay home mom and have wanted to take calculus since about 2007. When I decided to do it, I found out that first I had to take college algebra, trigonometry, and precalculus. So I took college algebra in 2007 and just finished trigonometry this spring 2014. There was a long break I’m between due to personal stuff. Since I got an a in Trigonometry and my algebra is so strong, my professor let me skip precalculus.

So here I am, being fearless and taking a class out of desire that most people would rather have a root canal than complete. I’m not scared. I am going to do my best. If it’s super hard I will work super hard. I’m not scared. It can only help not hurt.

21 Day Yoga Girl challenge Day 4: Random Act of Kindness #yogagirlchallenge

For my random act of kindness, I raised another $100 for Cassidy Taber’s educational fund. Cassidy’s mom, Suzanne Shelton, and I grew up together going to both middle and high schools together. Tragically and unexpectedly, she died the night the Cassidy graduated from high school (she was put on life support for a few days and passed away June 26, 2014, but Suzanne as we knew her was gone). This picture was taken earlier that day.

After Suzanne died, I set up an educational fund on http://www.gofundme.com to help with all the costs that lie ahead in Cassidy’s adult life. In just over one month, people have donated almost $11,000, and the fund it still growing!  I know Cassidy would rather have her mom, but I wanted to do something to help her and to let her know that many people care and want to do something positive.  Cassidy starts at Longwood College in Virginia this fall, and her fund will remain open.

  Click here if you want to make a donation!  Any amount large or small is appreciated!IMG_4409.JPG

I am super grateful I got to see Suzanne in January 2014 and in November 2013 when I was home in Virginia visiting. We had drinks and food and lots of laughter. She was really happy with her life at that time. She told me about her daughter, Cassidy, and that she was a senior in high school. Things were going well in her life. She was a proud mom and an excellent friend. I am smiling in her memory.
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Since I saw “Random Acts of Kindness” on the challenge three times, I’ve had it on my mind and have been looking for little ways to reach out to people. So far, I gave a homeless and hungry man some food, and I also took the time to encourage and high-five a guy next to me in yoga class the other day. He was a big, strong guy with tattoos all over. He looked like the kind of guy who could push a big truck around with no problem. But he had a little trouble doing yoga. It was the second time I’ve been next to him in class, and I’ve seen him struggling and resting in child pose when things get hard. I gave him a high-five and said good job today, way to work hard, keep at it! He looked at me with surprise like are you talking to me? He was a little hesitant and not very talkative, but he did high-five me. I hope he felt good knowing his efforts show. Yoga is hard, but the great thing about it is that you can start from wherever you are and modify it however you need to. It heals and transforms lives, so I think it’s great when I see people who are new to it and working hard at it.

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

21 Day Yoga Girl Challenge Day 2: Meditate #yogagirlchallenge

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Elements of Meditation:
1. Closed eyes
2. Nostril breathing
3. Observation of bodily sensations
4. Letting go of thoughts

I first learned about meditation when I took a Buddhism class in college in 1988. We met for group meditation and tea in addition to classes. It was a little awkward and uncomfortable at first. It was hard to sit still with my eyes shut without feeling self-conscious.

Since then, I’ve mainly meditated during yoga classes. I also try to incorporate it into my life by doing lying down meditation before bed and taking advantage of the peace and quiet in the sauna and steam room at the gym to find some meditative moments.

Going along with this challenge and my experience at the yoga retreat in Aruba last week, I am working on keeping my morning yoga habit and ending it with seated meditation. It’s a peaceful, calming way to start the day.

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Buddha sat under a bodhi tree until he reached enlightenment.

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To do seated meditation, cross the legs and put the hands on the knees. Hands can be in an upward position for receiving or in a downward position for grounding. Or the hands can make a mudra or shape of some kind. Quiet the mind. Let go of thoughts without judgement. Bring attention to the breath. Inhale and exhale deeply and slowly. Repeat a mantra, count breaths, or think of nothing like still water. As thoughts enter the mind, let them go like ripples in the water until the water is still again. Or let thoughts go like clouds drifting across the sky. No judgements, just acknowledgement and detachment. Stay silent and still for a few minutes to start then increase over time.

There are many benefits of meditation. It calms the nervous system and helps develop a sense of inner peace. It helps balance our active lives and allows us to be present in the moment, not in the past, not worry about what’s happening next, fully present in the moment. Meditation connects us to the energy in the universe and allows us to open up chakras, energy centers, in our bodies.

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Thinking about not thinking is a paradoxical practice that leads to a healthy, happy , calm, zen mindset. Meditation helps us find our center and be grounded. It’s a useful exercise every day and prepares us to handle stress in our lives.

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Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

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Perot museum: Animals Inside Out

Check out these pictures from the Animals: Inside Out exhibit at the Perot Museum in Dallas, Texas.  It’s a special exhibit with various animals including humans after going through a process called ‘plastination.’  Bodies are preserved and turned into plastic, making it possible to see anatomy of living things like never before.  It was a fascinating experience to see the complex body systems that make up the diversity of life!20131028-141439.jpg

Above is a picture of an octupus.  Below is the reflection of its underside.20131028-141516.jpg

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Close-up of the eye of a giant squid. Beautiful, I think!20131028-143200.jpg

Two giant squids with tentacles entwined.20131028-143218.jpg

A Mako shark, the fastest in the world.  A student volunteer said they can swim up to 88 miles an hour (that we know of).  What a fun volunteer job, working at a nature and science museum.20131028-143308.jpgA

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This is a camel, and its neck and head have been sliced into three sections to show different levels of its anatomy.  It was quite large. I’ve never seen a camel in real life before.20131028-143702.jpg

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This is the blood vessel network in a dog!  How did they do that?  It’s obviously dyed red for effect.20131028-143749.jpg

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I stopped and looked at the human leg for a long time, as well as the entire human body.  I’ve seen human anatomy in books, but that’s it.  My legs are frequently sore, stiff, and painful after seven surgeries on the right and one on the left. So, I found it fascinating to look at the musculature and try to ascertain which ones I feel aching from time to time.  20131030-130738.jpg

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20131028-143638.jpgThis was amazing, a cat’s nervous system!  How did they take it out of its body intact like that?  I assume our nervous systems look similar.  Mind completely blown!

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

30 Day Photo Challenge: Day 30 Love

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Love is spending a long weekend with my college daughter and then having to say goodbye. Twenty is such an in-between age. Clearly mature and grown up enough to live independently and go to college, yet too young to fully take control of life and all its responsibilities and demands. We are all getting used to her first summer living away from home. For us, it means twelve months this year of only two kids at home. For her, it means working to pay rent in addition to taking summer classes. I spent several days with her, doing the things that mothers do, going grocery shopping, helping take care of errands and scheduling appointments etc. We had long talks about school, work, and friendships. It made me feel needed as a mother, and I hope it helped her feel less all alone in a big world and that her family is here to support her all the time. It was hard to say goodbye, but it was a heartwarming feeling knowing my presence made a difference. I’m also super proud of her and her hard work and happy to see her growing into an independent woman.

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

30 Day Photo Challenge: Day 14 Joy

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My son (8) took his first guitar lesson today, and just look at the smile on his face. This is a candid shot I took during his lesson. He has been so excited to start taking lessons, and his mind is open to a whole new world of learning. I’m looking forward to his weekly lessons and the future when he and I can play guitar together. Music education is so important and helps kids be more successful in school, especially in math and science. It helps with understanding patterns and fractions, as well as many other math and science related skills.

If you are interested in guitar lessons (for yourself or your kids) check out my teacher’s website. He has a large video library and can also teach over Skype. Here is his website:

http://www.mikesguitarlessons.com

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

30 Day Photo Challenge: Day 5 Nature

Canna Lily

Canna Lily

“Mathematics is the language of nature.” ~Galileo

This is a picture of a canna lily leaf in my backyard.  They are hearty plants and are easy to grow. In fact they multiply over the years so you can dig up the bulbs, separate them, and replant them elsewhere in the garden.  This beautiful spiral caught my eye as well as the striking patterns and colors on the broad, green leaves.  Fibonacci spirals are found in many places in nature. Think seashells and the spiral shape of the galaxy.  Fibonacci spirals are formed following the Fibonacci sequence, where each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers.  Fibonacci numbers like 3, 5, 8 can be seen in flower petals, tree branches, and spirals found on pineapples, pine cones and other natural phenomena.  Have you ever noticed that before?  It’s super cool.  Math is everywhere!

Check out some of these examples:

Disk florets of yellow chamomile (Anthemis tin...

Disk florets of yellow chamomile (Anthemis tinctoria) with spirals indicating the arrangement drawn in. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Aloe polyphylla

Aloe polyphylla (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Fibonacci Spiral generated with the f...

English: Fibonacci Spiral generated with the free software GeoGebra (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A tiling with squares whose sides are successi...

A tiling with squares whose sides are successive Fibonacci numbers in length (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

 

 

Sororities Suck

I don’t often slam people or things, but today I’m going to. Sororities suck.

I’ve never been in one and have never understood it, but now I know for sure that they suck. I never went to a school that had sororities, but I did spend one year on exchange at Washington and Lee University (the first year they took women) and got a taste of fraternity life. Partying there for two years (both freshman year when I went to a neighboring womens’ school and sophomore year while there on exchange), fraternities seemed like nothing other than a way to separate boys into houses. There were southern boys from Texas in one fraternity. Hippies in another. I hung out at the house with the surfer type beach dudes. It was all about partying and fun.

My oldest daughter wanted to rush a sorority last year when she started college here in Texas. I told her I’d support her in it even though I didn’t understand it and it was an extra expense for us. During orientation, we attended a session introducing the Greek system and telling the girls what to expect when they started rushing. When it was question and answer time, I was the mom who raised her hand to ask exactly what are they looking for when they accept new members. Honestly, I was trying to understand. The answer I got was totally strange, something like, “Well if we absolutely can’t stand to talk to the girl, she won’t be accepted.” Nothing concrete. No real information like they are looking for girls with academic strengths or a strong volunteer record or even possessing specific talents. I left the meeting with a sick feeling in my stomach and told my daughter it sounded like nothing more than a popularity contest. I didn’t understand why she wanted to join a sorority, but she did, so we supported her. She rushed and was accepted into ZTA (Zeta Tau Alpha).

Zeta Tau Alpha

Zeta Tau Alpha (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At first I thought it was a good thing. She was busy with all the structured activities, and they participated in philanthropic activities. She had an immediate identity and group friends. All sororities have a color and a theme, and her world was filled with teal and silver, crowns and strawberries. Why? I have no idea. But whatever, it made her happy so there you go. It made me happy that she was happy. We paid all the extra fees and bought her all of the things they told her to buy including specific color dresses, shoes and clothes to wear to special events. We paid over a hundred dollars so she could make a paddle for her ‘big’ sister (what the heck do they do with a hundred-dollar paddle?). She had to decorate coolers for her dates for parties. She was happy though, so we went with it and just paid for everything. We liked that they had a minimum grade point average and study halls built into their codes. While her grades weren’t stellar, she was keeping up with everything and proud that she was a ZTA. Last year, her freshman year, I was working full-time and had my fifth knee surgery, so I was never able to visit her for family weekend or ZTA mom’s weekend.

This year, I did fly out for mom’s weekend. The sorority house was impressive, and I was happy to participate in the activities. I wrote about it here. I had no idea what was about to happen next.

Then, she told me the lady in charge didn’t like her and she wasn’t allowed to rush any of the incoming freshman in the fall. It was troubling to hear about personal politics, but I’m aware that kind of thing goes on all the time unfortunately. I suggested she talk with the lady, find out what her concerns are, and then do whatever she could to fix the problem. Not being there on a day-to-day basis, I had no idea why my daughter wasn’t liked and wasn’t allowed to participate in rushing (even though she went to school early for rush and I still bought her everything she needed to participate in rush). Her grades this year weren’t stellar, but they were still above the minimum GPA.

Then the hammer dropped. She got financially expelled. Why? Because we had fraud on our debit card, and the bank shut it down and gave me a new one. It was the same debit card that we used to pay for her sorority’s account. They automatically withdrew money all the time to pay for dues and this and that. Apparently, my daughter had it set up so it emailed just her, not us, in the case of any problems. So, I never realized they needed a new card number or I would have gladly supplied them with the new one. She didn’t check her emails regularly and after two months of non-payment, they expelled her. Keep in mind this happened about two weeks after I was out there for mom’s weekend. When I talked to the lady in charge, she said that we shouldn’t have been allowed to participate in mom’s weekend. But we were. They allowed her to pick up her T-shirts, and we fully participated in all the events. Nobody told us there was a financial problem. I thought everything was fine.

She was very upset when she found out she got financially expelled, and I called the lady in charge and she said if we paid the bill, my daughter could reapply. So we did. We paid the bills immediately, and she went through the steps of reapplying to the national organization. We waited and waited, and then nationals wrote her back and told her that they denied her application because there was no support in the local chapter for her to be reinstated. I called the national office and spoke with the financial person, and she told me everything was fine on the national level. We paid her bill, and she was cleared through the national office. However, the local chapter voted not to reinstate her, but she didn’t know why. So, my husband called the lady in charge of the local chapter (the same lady I spoke to earlier), and she told him she had no idea what was going on. She told him there was no local vote and that she knew of no reason why my daughter would be rejected on a local level. She said she would look into it, talk to my daughter, and try to work things out to help her get back in.

She lied. Instead of doing what she said, she called my daughter down to the house and sat her down outlining reasons why they didn’t let her back in. Her grades weren’t very good (true but still above the minimum and never any disciplinary action taken), that her social media was a problem (again, never any disciplinary action taken), that they sent her to judicial before (which they didn’t) and that she didn’t participate enough (again, she was not allowed to rush and the lady in charge forced her to sit out). As far as I can understand, each and every reason they gave her was bogus. If they wanted her out for those reasons, why did they never state that? Why was she expelled for financial reasons and then kept out for other reasons? I will tell you why. Politics. Mean people. That’s why.

I lost my teaching job the same way. Completely blindsided with bogus reasons. No disciplinary action. No former notice. No help. Just lies and personal dislike. And when people don’t like you and don’t want you around, it’s not worth fighting to stay. It’s an ugly beast that you can’t beat with logic and reason and truth. It’s a tough lesson to learn.

Life is so unfair that way sometimes, but unfortunately that’s just the way it is. It’s left a very bitter taste in our mouths, and it shows how sly and conniving people are. It’s sad to me that an adult woman would use personal politics against a college aged kid. It’s sad to me that she would be dishonest to both me and my husband when we tried to get information about what was going on and how to help. I’m calling her out on her lies and manipulation of the situation.

Shame on you lady! How can you sleep at night?

All I have to say is I was right. Sororities are stupid. They are nothing more than popularity contests and an organized way to party.

Mean People Suck

Mean People Suck (Photo credit: Steven-L-Johnson)

 

Playing Guitar

I took my first guitar lesson in eighth grade. That year, I learned how to play several popular songs like Stairway to Heaven, I Love Rock n Roll, Leroy Brown, and If. I played on and off through the years and got my first electric guitar at forty years of age. ln college, I took another beginner guitar class and recorded Driver 8 (REM) and Uncle John’s Band (Grateful Dead) as projects. Although I could play the chords pretty well, I’ve just been learning more about soloing and music theory over the past couple of years that I’ve been taking private lessons.

Electric Guitar

Electric Guitar (Photo credit: DaveOnFlickr)

 

 

 

Guitar 2

Guitar 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Once a week, my teacher comes over to my house to give me a lesson. He also gives lessons over Skype and has a website with an extensive library of video lessons. I’m learning some easier songs as well as some difficult theory and solos. We’ve been having fun using the app called JamUp to slow down the music and play along with it. I don’t practice every single day like I want to, but I do make some time to play during the weeks and at least the weekly lesson holds me accountable. This Friday, we will be recording me playing “You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC. Here is his website for future reference:

www.mikesguitarlessons.com

You Shook Me All Night Long

You Shook Me All Night Long (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For now, you can enjoy these songs I’ve previously recorded:

I’m not that confident with my soloing or improvising yet, but I’ve recorded a few songs on the acoustic guitar and posted them to my YouTube channel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HCfcZoRgT4&list=UUVRzQa075-_RL8XgP1J8Igg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0t1iVv_cbw&list=UUVRzQa075-_RL8XgP1J8Igg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQUio6cwN6E&list=UUVRzQa075-_RL8XgP1J8Igg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USkwnR9pGQE&list=UUVRzQa075-_RL8XgP1J8Igg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmQ-wMpUWzA&list=UUVRzQa075-_RL8XgP1J8Igg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CBYgLWSSSA&list=UUVRzQa075-_RL8XgP1J8Igg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=738jD2WDCXI&list=UUVRzQa075-_RL8XgP1J8Igg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIrMYihShFY&list=UUVRzQa075-_RL8XgP1J8Igg

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

Pearls on a String: One year later.

One year ago today, I quit my teaching job. Why? I wrote about in this entry: Pearls on a String. Since then, I’ve been adding pearls to my string of wisdom and experience. I’m a numbers person, and I can’t help but remember the day that my life changed unexpectedly, March 9, 2012, the Friday before Spring Break.

Today, my oldest daughter (19) is on spring break from college and enjoying her first vacation (Destin, FL) without her family and just with her friends. My two school aged kids (12 and 8) started their spring break yesterday too. My stepson (20) is an infantryman in the U.S. Army stationed in New York.

English: Beach in Destin, FL

English: Beach in Destin, FL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last month, I renewed my Texas teaching license (Generalist 4-8), and last week, I passed the licensure test for Math 8-12. I tutor privately at home and on Skype and am a full-time mother.

Math Dances

Math Dances (Photo credit: Dylan231)

 

A year ago, my daughter (12) was coming home alone after school until about 6:30 when I picked up my son (8) from after-school care. There was no after-school care for her; sixth grade is the fist year of middle school here in Texas. Now, I am available for both of them after school, and I’m able to provide transportation for her to take dance classes sixteen hours a week. She’s grown tremendously in all aspects over the past year. She’s keeping up her grades at school, and she’s grown by leaps and bounds in her dance skills (pun intended). My son is also thriving at school and in his sports: taekwondo and baseball. My stepson (20) was able to visit us last March, and we saw him at Christmas. I was able to visit my oldest daughter (19) for ZTA mom’s weekend last month.

I’m able to set my tutoring schedule around our family schedule and am able to spend time pursuing other interests like guitar lessons and blogging. My husband made partner at his law firm in the past year. At first, I was devastated, but I can honestly say I am truly grateful for the opportunity that fell in my lap. I miss the kids, but I still get to work with wonderful students. And most importantly, I’m able to put my family first.

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