2014 in Review and My Hopes for 2015

New Year’s Eve 2014 is here. It’s the time to reflect on the past year and make resolutions for the next. For years, I’ve been working on accepting myself exactly the way I am and living each day in the moment, free of regrets from the past and worries about the future. This kind of thinking has led to great changes in my life, and I intend to further develop myself one day at a time.

What a year it’s been! There’s been a wide spectrum of emotions and experiences. Lots of pain and lots of growth occurred this past year. I got divorced after 14 years of marriage. It was hard. It was painful. It was complicated. There was a loss of a fairy tale and a loss of my family structure. I lost fifty percent of my time with my kids. We sold our big, beautiful house (that we moved to Texas for) and moved into rentals, a house for me and an apartment for him. While everything looked great from the outside, my ex and I had some serious personal problems that ultimately we were not able to resolve. We agreed to put the children first and to co-parent in peace. We agreed not to drag each other through the mud and to keep our personal business between us. While I lost half the time with my kids, he gained the other fifty percent of the time, and the kids are adjusting to their new lives well. They enjoy the one on one time they get with him now. And I think that while they might prefer we still be together, they see that life can be peaceful and happy even with the changes. It was a painful experience, but I’ve been brave and have learned a lot from it about being true to myself and taking care of myself. In the new year, I intend to continue using the time to myself for self-care. When I don’t have the kids, I sleep, do yoga, go to the gym, play guitar, do math etc. I use the time to take care of myself and continue growing in all my interests and hobbies. I miss the children terribly, but I know they are in good hands, and I am thankful their father wants to be an active part of their lives.

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For years, I’ve wanted to take college math classes because nobody ever made me take them when I was in school. I didn’t know I liked math until I became a teacher and started specializing in teaching math. So, this year I took advantage of the opportunity since I had time (being a stay home mom) and finally took Trigonometry and Calculus 1. I got an A in Trigonometry, so my professor let me skip Pre-Calculus. I spent the spring semester taking Trig and the fall semester taking Calculus 1. I struggled with Calculus and went from a C to an F to a B overall. I learned so much about what it feels like to struggle as a student and thankfully found an excellent tutor who supported my struggles and helped to make everything make sense. At one point, I considered dropping the class, but I’m not a quitter so I stuck with it. I learned first-hand that hard works pays off and I was thrilled to finish successfully and check that class off my bucket list! In the next year, my goal is to get back to teaching full-time. I would really like to teach high school math this time. I have my master’s degree in education. I’m certified to teach all subjects 4-8 and math 8-12, and although my eight years of classroom experience was in middle school, I’ve been tutoring high school students since 2001. I’ve been working as a substitute teacher this fall and have really enjoyed subbing in the high schools. I prefer the older students and the more advanced math curricula. I quit my job to be a stay home mom years ago, and it’s difficult to get back into a full-time position, but this will be my main goal for 2015.

I took an amazing trip to Aruba for a yoga retreat, another bucket list item. Click here to read about my amazing week with yoga girl Rachel Brathen in paradise. I’ve also been participating in a 365 day handstand challenge and intend to finish it in 2015. I am on handstand number 259!

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My yoga retreat group

 

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My kids are continuing to grow and thrive, and I absolutely love being their mom. I’m cherishing every stage of their lives even though it’s tough sometimes knowing that I don’t have little kids anymore. Those days are over, but they are growing into amazing older children and my oldest is officially an adult now, 21 years old and graduating from college this year. She’s majoring in Business Marketing and Management and plans to move back to the Dallas area to work after graduation. Her laugh is infectious; her sense of humor is hilarious. She’s an avid dog lover and has been helping me take care of my dogs some this year. In fact, she might be taking my Boston Terrier back to school with her for a few months this spring. She’s been working part-time at a hair salon and getting good grades. I’m so proud of her! In 2015, I look forward to attending her graduation, her 22nd birthday in May, and seeing how her adult life unfolds when she moves back to Dallas and starts working.

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My middle child is now 14, a high school freshman on the drill team at school and a competitive company dancer at a local dance studio. Watching her dance is one of my favorite things to do. She specializes in contemporary dance, and sometimes it’s so beautiful it brings me to tears with pride. We spent a week in Panama City Beach, FL in June for national competition, and it was a really fun vacation together. She just got her braces off and has a brand new smile. She is an excellent student and is well liked by her friends. I’m learning to give her more space to be a teenager and love it when she has her friends over to our house. In 2015, I look forward to another season of dance competitions and conventions, a week in Florida for national competition, and her 15th birthday in April.

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My youngest child, my son, is now ten years old and a vibrant, intelligent fourth grader who loves science and thrives on challenge. He loves reading books and playing games and doing all kinds of sporty things with me like bike riding, rock climbing at the gym, swimming, roller skating, and playing games of horse. I love his sense of adventure and getting out to be active with him. We have a great time. He is also really loving and gives lots of hugs and kisses, one of my favorite things about him. He is a deep thinker and asks all kinds of questions about life, nature, and the universe. I know he is destined for great things in the future and in 2015, I look forward to watching him play baseball, spending a week in Florida together, and his birthday in November.

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This year, I had the kids for Thanksgiving, my ex had them for the first week of Christmas, and I have them for the second week of Christmas vacation. In 2015, I look forward to having them for spring break and then for the first week of Christmas vacation. I am super proud of all three of them and want the best for them in the upcoming year with good health and lots of happiness.

This year, I ended a friendship with someone I thought was my best friend in town. She betrayed me, backstabbed me, lied to me, then called me ugly names when I confronted her. All I can control is me, so I ended it, and I’m really glad she is out of my life now as I can see it was really a one-way friendship for years. She is not really worth any more time or space on my blog, so I will move forward to the good news: I gained a new best friend in town this year. She’s another dance mom who has kids close in age to my youngest two kids, and she lives nearby. She’s been a great friend to me this year, someone who has a huge heart and does anything to help other people. She’s been there for me whenever I’ve needed a friend, and I truly enjoy her company! She’s funny, caring, and has a genuine personality. We’ve had lots of great times together this year. I look forward to many more good times in 2015 and hope to continue to develop my other girl-friendships with get togethers and outings.

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I fell in love again this year with a man from Virginia whom I’ve known since we were twelve. His dad caught us kissing when we were in middle school, and after that we were always dating other people but hung out together as friends all the time. He was in a near fatal accident in high school, and we lost touch after he switched to another school and then I graduated and left for college. The girl who was driving the car that night died, and I’ve always been so thankful that he survived. He has always been a precious life in my opinion. We reconnected at a funeral for a friend in 2007 and have been in touch ever since. He went to Aruba with me, and we’ve been traveling back and forth visiting each other in Virginia and Texas as often as we can. It’s been amazing to find love with someone with whom I also have a deep friendship and a long history. I’m super grateful the timing is right for us to be a couple and have enjoyed every single moment we’ve spent together so far. In 2015, I look forward to his February visit to Texas (to celebrate our birthdays – we were born nine days apart) and hope we can visit each other many, many more times also. Since we are in a long distance relationship, and we both have children to raise, people often ask us how we are going to work things out so we can be in the same place. I don’t know the answer to that question yet, and I’m not going to worry about it either. It’s working for both of us right now, and I trust that things will unfold exactly the way they should. I would rather have him in my life to talk and text with every day and see periodically than not at all. So, I am grateful, humble, and hopeful for the future.

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I intend to spend 2015 really enjoying every day to its fullest, loving people in my life, and taking good care of myself. When negative things happen, I will look for the positive lessons, and I will accept challenges as opportunities to grow. I will continue to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for the many blessings in my life and face each day with courage, an open mind, and a positive attitude.

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Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

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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.

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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!

Yoga Retreat in Aruba with Yoga Girl Rachel Brathen

Susanne’s World has been under construction for the past nine months or so. My life turned upside down within the past year as I’ve been turning upside down, literally, advancing my yoga practice by doing handstands. The more work I did on myself, the more I realized I wasn’t truly happy. Today I am grateful I had the courage and the strength to recognize that and make the changes that needed to be made. I got divorced, sold and moved out of my house, and started crossing things off my bucket list. I spent last week in Aruba doing a yoga retreat with Yoga Girl Rachel Brathen, connecting with a beautiful new place on the earth, deepening my yoga practice and truly spending every day exactly how I wanted to. I have a new love in my life (an old friend since seventh grade) and couldn’t be happier. He joined me on the yoga retreat, and we had an amazing time together!

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arrival day

I was starstruck when I first saw Rachel and Dennis. She is an internet celebrity, someone who inspires me daily with her pictures, videos, and words. Seeing her in person at the welcome dinner was amazing. I was giddy, hugging her saying, “I love you!” She was so cool and down to earth with a friendly smile. She shares highlights and lowlights from her life on social media, so it was like meeting someone I already knew a little about. We talked a little about her wedding and honeymoon as well as the recent passing of one of her dogs. Out on the beach, there were baby sea turtles in protected areas hatching and making their way to the sea. I wasn’t lucky enough to see one of them, but some other people in our group did and posted videos and pictures. We had a lovely dinner and met new friends, enjoyed the sunset and starry night sky.

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with Rachel and Dennis

This is a typical view from the beach chairs in front of Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa, where we stayed. We did our daily handstand in front of our spot that day.  Instead of beach umbrellas, there were beach tiki huts, and the kind staff at the resort set up the chairs and brought drinks.   Eagle Beach is the widest beach on the island of Aruba, and our resort didn’t have any kids activities, so it was peaceful and serene.   There was a relatively long walk on the white sands until you hit the turquoise waters due to the wideness of the beach.  The sand was white and didn’t get too hot.  The color of the water was something I’ve never seen before.  Bright turquoise is the best description I can muster.  There were gentle waves and plenty of room to swim and float around.  A line of buoys contained the swimming area.  I swam out there and back a few times. The water got too deep to stand right away so it was fun to take a little swim.

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handstands on the beach

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typical view from my beach chair

We had two Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) yoga lessons on Palm Beach near the high rise hotels. It was the more touristy and more crowded part of the island, but the water was still amazing! It was waist deep and calm. We used special boards made for doing yoga (Boga boards). They were wide and rounded on the ends and had a sticky yoga mat on the top. Doing yoga on the water is especially challenging because the stability of the floor is no longer there. You must release control to your surroundings and adjust accordingly. It works all the small muscles of your core and other places in your body in ways you normally don’t use them. The warrior series was the hardest of all the poses we did. Once one person fell, it was like a domino effect because the boards were so close together. Everybody fell in the water at some point or another, and I loved the metaphor with real life. When you have difficulty and fall down, laugh, smile, fall, and get back on the board.  The other life skill it helps develop is focusing on the moment.  If you let your mind wander and lose your focus, it’s pretty easy to fall off the board, so it really required being in the present moment.

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Rachel teaching SUP yoga class #1

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beautiful ocean

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excited to try SUP yoga for the first time

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SUP yoga class #1 in Palm Beach, Aruba

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headstands on the Boga boards

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Our group to an exciting hike on the north shore of Aruba to a natural pool.  It was located in the Arikok National Park, a large undeveloped area with a desert landscape, rocky trails to hike, bike, ride horses and four wheel drive vehicles.   There were beautiful ocotillo and other kinds of cactii, wild goats, and a varied terrain much different than the beachy areas.   Along the hike, we stopped to play at a beach where the waves are forced between rocky outcroppings.  Rachel said we had about ten minutes to play, so I jumped right in!   Unlike the waters in Eagle and Palm Beaches, these waters were rough. The waves were big, and I enjoyed body surfing in the crashing water.  The water took my hair tie and one of my earrings; I threw the other earring into the ocean as an offering.  I was exhilerated and felt that I could have stayed there longer to play!

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The natural pool had rocky outcroppings, and the water from the waves crashed over and formed the pool.  It was so cool.  There was another smaller pool up a little higher than this one. It felt like a hot tub.  Saw lots of little crabs camoflauged on some vegetation growing on the rocks.  I brought my goggles and dived under the water to see many tropical fish teeming in the waters. You can see a wind farm in the distance.    I climbed up and sat to watch the ocean for a bit, contemplating its vastness and its incredible power.  The sun was shining, and the wind was blowing.  What an amazing place and an amazing moment!

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My man taking it all in..

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sunset in Aruba

That night, we had a restorative yin yoga session.  This was the magical view as I walked into class.  Everybody was tired from an active day.  Yin yoga is calming and relaxing.  We hold poses for longer (up to five or six minutes) deepening the stretch to the connective tissues.  In contrast to vinyasa flow where movements are tied to each breath and we generate heat in the body, a yin practice is cooling and still.  The hardest pose we did (for me) was frog pose, and we held it for a while.  Rachel talked about how we hold of lot of tension in our hips and frog pose helps to release it.  We did heart openers after that to release whatever emotional tension arised.  It’s a soft practice that feels like a whole other place when it’s over.  Holding hands with my man during savasana made the experience even more magical.

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Yin Yoga class

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handstand technique help from Rachel

Rachel taught us a lot about yoga including workshops on handstands, headstands, forearm stands, arm balances, and paid special attention to teaching us proper technique and alignment for chatarunga to upward facing dog to downward facing dog.  There were two yin yoga sessions, and the rest of them were intense and challenging. Dennis taught a class too, and it was the hardest class I’ve done in a long time!  We worked hard on our core strength as it’s a fundamental for many advanced skills.  I was thrilled to get some personal attention from her and am working on the pointers she gave me.  For example, when we have hands down on the ground they should be firmly planted with the most pressure on the thumb knuckle and first two finger knuckles.  When we get tired, we tend to shift weight to the outsides of our hands causing the thumbs to curl instead of remain intact on the mat.  I never  noticed I did that before. She said it’s a common mistake. It’s something I really pay attention to now.  I also learned alot about how to do chatarunga and upward facing dog properly.  I didn’t know to shift forwards a bit from plank so when you drop into chatarunga your elbows can stay above the wrists and make a ninety degree angle.  Then, shifting backwards before going into upward facing dog allows the shoulders to stay above the wrists.  I think I’ve been doing those two poses slightly wrong all along.   I tried a forearm stand for the first time ever.  It was not solid at all, so I think I will follow Rachel’s advice to continue strengthening and preparing for the pose by practicing dolphin (downward facing dog on the forearms)  more often.  The arm balance workshop was my favorite because I’ve been wondering how to get into those poses for a while now, and Rachel gave us clear instructions and demonstrations.  Now they make sense to me, and I can work them into my practice more often.  I got a footprint sized bruise on my upper arm from working so hard in class!  I was able to try all the arm balances she taught us but still have a lot of work to do.

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bruise from arm balance workshop

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handstand workshop with partner work

Below are three links to videos from the handstand workshop.



 

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Rachel and Ringo teaching class

 

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Rachel and Ringo

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handstands at the go kart track

We met a lovely couple from Norway and enjoyed many good times eating, drinking, and laughing during our retreat.  They had an awesome idea to go to the go kart track for racing.  It’s something I probably wouldn’t have thought of doing, but I am so glad we went!  My man won the race, lapping me three times, as he is a seasoned motorcycle racer.  I didn’t mind coming in last place as I know racing is not my forte, but it sure was fun to do.  Despite the hot sun and the sweaty helmet, I was smiling and laughing my way around the track.  After we were done we thought it was a good spot for a handstand picture.

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go karting with our new friends from Norway

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al fresco dining at Machebo Beach Resort & Spa, Aruba

We took advantage of the all-inclusive meal option at the resort and enjoyed al fresco dining every day. Breakfast and dinner were at this restaurant by the pool, and lunches were at the cafe in the forefront of the picture. The views and the service were outstanding. Birds and iguanas joined us for breakfast every day, and the moon and stars twinkled over head during poolside dinners at night. The staff at the resort were incredibly warm and friendly. It’s a smaller, two story, hotel and I really enjoyed the personal attention we got during our stay. I have lots of food allergies, and I was impressed by their ability to accomodate my needs. In addition there were healthy fruit and vegetable based smoothies available every morning. Yum! We went out to dinner with the group once, visiting Rachel and Dennis’s favorite restaurant in town called Yemanja. It was a wood fired grill featuring delicious seafood, steaks, and vegetarian/vegan food. I got a superfood salad packed with greens, veggies, berries, and seeds and a ribeye steak with scallops on top.

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iguanas by the pool

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Rachel and Dennis

Our group took a sailing and snorkeling trip on a party catamaran from Palm Beach. What a fun activity! I don’t drink liquor except for (good) tequila, so it wasn’t a drinking day for me but for everybody else it was. We sailed up the shore and then stopped to snorkle first at a place right off the beach, not too deep. I snorkeled to the thore then right then left and back to the boat. It was amazing! I think I saw a baraccuda. I swam back toward the shore and then noticed the boat was raising the ladder. I guess I didn’t hear them blow the horn, so I swam back to the boat knowing they wouldn’t leave without me and rejoined the group. Others stayed on the boat to play on the water slide and jump off the side.

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sailing and snorkeling trip

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loving the view

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loving the view

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all smiles swith Dennis on the catamaran

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happy people

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the view off the back of the boat

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Rachel and some of the ladies in our group

We sailed some more and then stopped to snorkle in sixty foot deep waters. There were different kinds of fish in that deeper water, and I thought it was interesting there were layers of different schools of fish in the waters. Some of them stayed low while others were higher up. I dived down a few times as far as I could (holding my ears so the pressure didn’t hurt) and then floated for a few seconds in awe as I was surrounded by schools of bright and beautiful fish. How cool to be in their world just for a few seconds. I ventured out a litte farther and then lost sight of any fish, so I came back toward the boat more this time.

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our group after sailing/snorkeling trip

Here we all are, happy and high on life after the fun outing.

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our group after the sail/snorkel trip

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On the second day of SUP yoga, I wasn’t feeling too well. I was a little seasick after not having enough sleep and having a little too much fun the night before. To make things more challenging, I also got the orange board…the board that whoever is last and needs a board uses. The orange board is narrower and pointier than the other blue Boga boards. I took a “I’m a rock star. I can do this.” attitude and did my best. It sure was harder than the blue board I used during the first class!

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planking on the Boga board

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downward facing dog with hip opener

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IMG_4499.JPGSUP yoga class #2 in Palm Beach, Aruba

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heart/chest opener

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side plank

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finding balance

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chair pose

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had so many laughs with our Norweigan friends

We made new friends with people from all over the world. In addition to meeting other americans (Texas, Virginia, California, Washington, Arkansas, North Carolina, Colorado, New Jersey), we met people from Norway, Sweden, Canada, Brazil,and Aruba. Our new friends from Sweden even brought their teenage daughter along.

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new friend from Sweden

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until next time

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thank you Rachel!

Since I wasn’t feeling well after SUP yoga class #2, I had to say goodbye to Rachel there on the beach. The whole group was walking down to a beach bar to continue the fun, and my flight was early the next morning. I thanked her for everything she taught me that week and for inspiring me. I couldn’t stop hugging her, just one more! My heart was full of love and gratitude. Just for fun, I asked if we could take the moment to get a handstand picture together. It was my last chance until who knows when. She happily obliged and went upside down waiting patiently for me to try and try again to join her long enough for a picture. She was so patient, hanging out in a beautiful handstand encouraging me saying, “you got it Susanne.” She right, I got it. Thank you Rachel!

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in the presence of greatness

 

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sunrise at the airport – departure day

This is a pictue of the sunrise at the airport when I was leaving. No filter, no hi definition enhancement. Just pure Aruba bliss. I am so grateful for my time there and can’t wait until the next time I can visit. Will have to stay for two weeks next time!

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

 

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I love DC

You can take Susanne out of Virginia, but you can’t take Virginia out of Susanne.  I do love traveling, discovering different areas, but it’s nice to go home sometimes too.  Time and time again, I’ve left for various reasons and returned to the DC area for various reasons.

Grew up in northern Virginia from 1972-1986.

Lived in Roanoke and Lexington my first two years of college, 1986-1988. Lived in Virginia Beach summer 1987.  Worked for Greenpeace in DC summer and fall 1988.

Moved to Wyoming to complete Spring Semester in the Rockies (WY, CO, UT) 1989.  Click here to read about it.

Moved away to Colorado in 1989 (Boulder, Telluride, Durango).  Click here to read more about life in beautiful places.

Finished college in Prescott, Arizona 1993.

Moved back to Virginia with my oldest daughter and went through a divorce 1994.

Worked for Greenpeace in DC 1994-1996.

Got my master’s degree 1998.

Moved away to Nevada 1998-2001. Taught sixth grade.  Remarried 1999. Had another daughter 2000 and son 2004.

Moved back 2001-2004 so my husband could attend law school while I taught sixth grade gifted/talented.  Click here to read more about that.

Moved away to Texas in 2006, visited Virginia in 2008 for a high school anniversary reunion, for a short weekend wedding this summer, and again last week to help my mom through a single mastectomy.

Cancer brought me home this time.  It changes everything and puts everything into perspective.  Cancer runs in my family.  My father had kidney cancer and then liver cancer. He died from bleeding complications during surgery.  It was a surprise to all of us because we knew about the previous kidney cancer but did not know that it had spread to his liver.  Knowing my mom was facing it alone, I did what I could to help.

When I go back to visit, it feels like home. The city, the suburbs, the culture and history are all a part of who I’ve become. Landing and taking off over the monuments and seeing Washington, DC by air reminds me of so many parts of my past there. It’s where I grew up, and it’s still intertwined with my life in Texas. Back home in Texas where I am comfortable with my family and it’s another beautiful sunny day, I appreciate both places for what they offer and know that Virginia/DC will always be my home. Texas is my second home, a place where we can spread out and my kids can grow up and call home. This is where I’m growing roots after transplanting from the east coast.

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This is a picture of the house where I grew up in Northern Virginia. My mom bought it and we moved in during 1972. She is still there today. There used to be a big pine tree in front of the left side of the house. I used to climb it as a child and sit high up in the branches, sticky with sap, looking over the neighborhood at roof tops and trees. Those moments were times I would steal away, sit back, and observe life around me. I remember doing roundoff-backhandsprings all over the front and back yards and wonder today how I did it when I see how sloped the front yard was. There were birthdays, homecomings, proms, Halloweens and Christmases in this house. Years upon years of memories, both good and bad reside here. What a trip to go back as an adult and re-experience it from another perspective.

This is truly the “house that built me.”

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This is where I went to take a walk while my mom saw her lawyer to get her will in place. It’s a familiar park near my house where I used to go all the time when I lived there. It was a heavy day emotionally, writing her advanced medical directive and discussing her wishes just in case anything went wrong in surgery. I lost my dad to complications from his surgery for liver cancer and didn’t know he was having surgery or that he had liver cancer, so this experience with my mom was the exact opposite. I did get to contemplate in advance what would happen if she didn’t come out of surgery ok.

Driving into Lake Accotink Park in Virginia, the road meanders through a secluded forest in the middle of suburbia. Tall trees line the road, and the speed limit slows to a pace where it’s impossible not to appreciate the surroundings. During any season, this is a beautiful drive into a pretty piece of nature where you’d least expect it. It’s a man-made reservoir, but it is a beautiful lake with trails around it. It’s a perfect park for picnics, bike rides, runs along the trail, boating, and parties at the facilities. As a kid, I used to ride my bike all around the park and had fun rope-swinging into the muddy water with friends. I loved getting out in nature. As an adult, I ran the dirt trail around the lake and rode single track mountain bike trails off the beaten path.  One of my favorite mountain biking memories is from riding single track at Accotink in the rain.  The trail was really muddy, and I got soaking wet but it was a fantastic time!

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I took a long walk and did some yoga in a secluded flat spot by the lake. Afterwards, I laid down on a bench for a while to let the sun’s rays caress my skin while my body relaxed. Lying in the sun is one of my favorite things to do; plus vitamin d is good for us (the sun is the only natural source of vitamin d).  The fall air was crisp, and the sun was warm, warmer than I expected and warmer that day than the rest of the week. I opened my eyes, looked up and saw this beautiful view of a tree with spectacular fall colors. The striking orange against the clear blue sky reflected a calm yet vibrant spirit within. I truly loved taking in my surroundings at that moment. Pale tree trunks reflected the loveliness of the place with initials inscribed surrounded in hearts with arrows. It was obviously a place where many others sat to enjoy the moment.

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In the final moments before my flight back to Texas, this was my view outside the airplane window. It was a beautiful morning at the end of a special week. My mom survived breast cancer surgery and was in good hands with friends, family, and a home health nurse. I was able to support her through a difficult experience. We mended fences and forgave each other for the past, and I focused on a zen mindset of being calm.

Dream Board 2013

Dream Board 2013

I also got a chance to reconnect with old friends and family members I haven’t seen in years. I appreciated my time there despite the circumstances. I felt reconnected with the place I’ve left so many times.

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US Capitol Building as we began our ascent out of Reagan National Airport.

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Washington Monument, Tidal Basin, and Jefferson Memorial

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Washington Monument, National Mall, and US Capitol Building

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Lincoln Memorial

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

25 Things About Me

I’m flashing back today, looking back over some of the old notes I wrote on Facebook before I started blogging.  Found this list of 25 things about me and got a kick out of re-reading it and thought I would share with updates where necessary.

1.  Like my friend Eve who tagged me in this note, I have a genius IQ, but I knew it when I was a kid and resented the pressure to be an overachiever.
2.  I like beans….and I make a yummy bean salad.  Whatever I cook if I can throw in some beans I will. (Update-I no longer eat beans!  I’ve been following a mostly paleo diet since August (no grains, no dairy, no beans/legumes, no refined salt, sugars, or oils). 
3. I like to cook, and I am obsessed with eating healthy food like lean meats, lots of fruits and veggies, and whole grains. (Update-no more whole grains!  Was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity (click here to read the entry I wrote about it) in May and have been off most grains (except a little rice since August).
4.  I always wanted to be a wife and mother and never really knew what career to pursue when I was growing up.  Click here to read why.
5.  Because of #4, I went to three colleges, took two years off (one to work for GP and do a NOLS semester (click here to read about it) and the other to work as a cook and live in Telluride, CO), and changed my major twice (#1 French #2 Philosphy/Religion #3 Environmental Studies)….didn’t graduate until I was 25.

Telluride, CO from a gondola.

Telluride, CO from a gondola. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

6.  My first ‘career’ was an environmental activist for Greenpeace in Washington DC.

Washington DC

Washington DC (Photo credit: eGuide Travel)

7.  I got my master’s degree in Education and became a teacher after my GP job got moved to Amsterdam;  I was a single mom so I didn’t want to go.
8.  When I was a teacher, I discovered a passion for math, and now that I am a stay home mom I love tutoring math because I can help students learn to love math.  Click here to read about my love affair with math.

Dansk: Dedikeret til matematik

Dansk: Dedikeret til matematik (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

9.  I love to sleep and will sleep until noon if nobody wakes me up.  I also love being pampered like getting massages.
10.  I met my husband, Joe, at the gym when he was working there and going to school and I was his 12:30 appointment for personal training.  We started running together and the rest is history.  Even though he is a lawyer now, we still go to the gym every weekend and love exercising together.

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11.  I am lactose intolerant (like most Asian Americans).
12.  I am an extrovert and love to get together with friends, pot-luck style, with good food, drinks and conversation.
13. When I go out, my drink of choice is gin and tonic (Bombay Sapphire) and my favorite shots are Jaegermeister and Tequila. (Update-no more gin or jaegermeister due to food allergies.  The only liquor I drink is Patron silver tequila).
14.  I drink wine (chardonnay) when I’m cooking and with dinner.
15. I am kind of a control freak and always am trying to avert danger and/or accidents, especially with my kids. Like we don’t let them play outside in the front yard without an adult and don’t even get me started on how hard it is to have a 15 yr. old who is about to date and drive etc. (Update-since I wrote this post, I wrote nineteen episodes of fiction. I realized this theme came up in my fiction writing. Click here to read my fiction episodes).
16.  I like heights and exposure, hence my affinity for climbing trees as a kid, my love for rock climbing and high mountains where the earth meets the sky.  When I stand on a cliff or overlook I get the urge to fly like a bird, but of course I don’t have wings so maybe I should take up hang gliding or something?

climbing

Split Rock, WY 1989

17.  On the flip side, I am claustrophobic and I would really hate to go scuba diving or caving or anything like that.
18.  I am a big flirt, always have been, in fact I won ‘biggest flirt’ in 8th grade with Bill Schraa who ironically was also voted ‘best couple’ with his girlfriend.
19.  When I go shopping I am all about the sales and hardly ever will pay retail price.
20.  I manage all the money in our household and am good about paying our bills on time or early.
21. I correct people when they use bad grammar (I know that is annoying, but I can’t help it).
22.  When I am going through a hard time, I make music mixes full of songs that reflect whatever it is that’s going on.  Before CD‘s I made mixed tapes.
23.  I always try to complement people and tell them what I like about them (something I learned as a teacher when conferencing with parents).  There is always something nice you can say, no matter who it is.
24.  I spend alot of time on the computer.
25.  I give my kids ‘mommy homework’ if they don’t have any from school and make them do reading, writing, and math all summer (for about an hour a day, it’s not so bad) to keep them challenged.  Click here to read about summer learning.

30 Day Photo Challenge: Day 28 Something Old

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Oh boy, it’s a little embarrassing to share this picture, but the prompt called for something old. I was out of town that day. And I was surrounded by new things in my daughter’s nice apartment across the street from her college campus. All day I looked for something old to take a picture of and came up short. So, since I had this picture on my phone, I decided it fit ok. This is my eighth grade yearbook picture taken during the 1981-1982 school year. As you can see the feathered back hair was popular then, and I was also right in the middle of three years of braces. That was a fun year of my life, but its also the year I started getting into trouble and hanging out with the wrong crowd. Glad I made it through those rough adolescent years!

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

30 Day Photo Challenge: Day 8 Flower

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I took this picture of a hydrangea in my friend’s front yard in Maryland. We only had a short time to visit a couple of people during the day on Saturday before the wedding on Saturday night.  We were visiting with a friend of my husband’s from law school, and he gave us a tour of his yard.  I’ve always loved hydrangeas even though I’ve never tried to grow them in my garden at home.  I believe they are annuals, meaning they will die in the winter but come back in the spring.  And the color of the blooms depends on the pH level of the soil.  After seeing his hearty gardens in the shady area by his front door full of hydrangeas, irises, and lilies, I am motivated to plant some in my backyard.

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

31 Day Music Challenge: Day 7 A Song that Reminds You of a Certain Event

The Reivers

The Reivers

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVnuciENp2g

“Araby” by The Reivers reminds me of the time I saw them live at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC in late 1986 or early 1987.   The 9:30 Club was my weekend hangout, a fun club with live music and multiple bars. The drinking age was 18 back then.  The stage was in the corner, and that main room was filled with people standing up, no seating.  The camera person sat in a perch above the crowd.  They were Zetigeist then and have since changed their name to The Reivers.   I went downstairs and got to meet the band and made friends with the drummer, Garrett Williams.   He was sweaty, and I gave him an extra shirt. I’m not lying. That’s how we met. They are from Austin, Texas, and now I live near Dallas, Texas.  I saw Garrett not too long ago on a trip to Austin.  It was awesome to see him after so many years!  After some time apart, The Reivers are back together and put out another CD called Second Story.   If you haven’t checked them out yet, download the album Translate Slowly.  Let me know how you like it. It was part of the soundtrack of my youth!

garrettWith Garrett in Austin, TX 2012

Here is a video of them playing Electra at the 9:30 Club:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fdiv02bFHi4

See the whole music challenge list at DeBie Hive.

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

Shattered Dreams

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“I was weeping because Richard Parker left me so unceremoniously.  It broke my heart.” ~ Life of Pi

Every two years, our high school runs a program called Shattered Dreams. Today is the day again. I’ve been seeing the signs around town giving notice there will be a mock accident scene this morning. I attended the program in 2011 when my oldest daughter (19) was a senior at the high school. Here is a link to some information about Shattered Dreams.

http://www.coppellisd.com/site/Default.aspx?PageID=939

Juniors, seniors, and parents assemble in the gym to begin the program. The student media center KCBY made a movie depicting high school seniors going to prom and partying, and it ends with a car crash. Then students, faculty, and parents quietly walked outside to the parking lot where a mock accident scene was enacted, crashed cars and all. EMS arrived on the scene, sirens blaring, and a helicopter landed in the parking lot. It was all very dramatic, as if it were a real accident scene. Onlookers watch while bodies are extracted from the cars. Survivors act out the scene; it’s projected on loud speakers. Some of the kid didn’t survive. They were covered in white sheets and later taken away in hearses. The others were taken from the scene via the helicopter and the ambulances.

It’s a hard-hitting simulation aimed at scaring kids out of drinking and driving during prom season. While the Shattered Dreams program lasted a few hours in the morning, other students were removed from class throughout the day in fifteen minute intervals by the grim reaper and pronounced dead. They painted their faces white, put on black t-shirts and returned to class and remained silent all day, in class and in the hallways. They serve a visual reminder of ‘what if’ that person suddenly wasn’t there anymore because of an accident. There were fake obituaries, written by pre-selected students’ parents hanging in the hallways. and read out loud. It’s like giving the students a chance to think ahead to what it would be like if suddenly a chair in class goes empty because of a student death. It’s a way to show the kids how serious the consequences are and how much those people would be missed by their loved ones and the community.  Here is a link to a slide show:

http://www.scntx.com/articles/2009/04/22/coppell_gazette/news/50.txt

Unfortunately, this town has seen its fair share of teenage deaths, and while they haven’t all been attributed to drinking and driving, there is an epidemic of tragedy here that warrants all the effort that goes into Shattered Dreams. I have utmost respect for EMS officers who respond to the scenes of emergencies and do everything they can to save people. In just six years since we’ve lived here, our town has lost many young people:

Veronica Sheer died sixteen days after she was hit by a car crossing the street. She was fourteen years old. Now there is a fence there to keep high schoolers from crossing the street there after school. 2006 http://www.mydeathspace.com/article/2006/10/27/Veronica_Sheer_(14)_died_sixteen_days_after_being_struck_by_a_car_while_attempting_to_cross_the_street

Carter Jackson died when he was eighteen years old, and his little sister was friends with my oldest daughter at the time. I took her to the funeral during our first school year here. It was heartbreaking seeing all the pictures from his life and to see his lifeless body in the coffin wearing a Hollister jacket. It didn’t seem right that someone so young was already gone. 2007

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=17795354

carter

Travis Masters died instantly when his car went under an 18 wheeler. He was a nineteen year old college freshman. 2008

http://www.scntx.com/articles/2008/05/13/obits/masters0507.txt
http://www.star-telegram.com/2008/04/25/604344/man-dies-in-crash-on-texas-121.html

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Cristina Coker was found hanging from the swing set at an elementary school. She was an eighteen year-old college freshman and died within a few hours of Travis. 2008

http://www.coppellgazette.com/articles/2008/05/03/coppell_gazette/news/01.txt

cristina

Adam Hartwick drowned when he lost control of his truck and flipped upside down in a backyard pool. He was just nineteen years old and one of my good friends. Out of all these local tragedies, he is the one person I knew and was close with. We met after I took College Algebra at the local community college in 2007. He texted me the night before his accident, and I never answered him. It was so hard to believe when I heard the news about what happened the next day. It all went by so fast, I’m still trying to get used to the idea that he is gone forever. He would be 24 now, finished with college and moving on with a career and perhaps a family. Adam was good friends with Travis and grieved his loss just a few months before his own unexpected and untimely death. He also knew Carter and was at his funeral a year earlier. He went to the Shattered Dreams program when he was in high school. Little did he know just a few years later, EMS would arrive on his accident scene, unable to save his life. 2008

http://www.mydeathspace.com/article/2008/11/20/Adam_Hartwick_(19)_drowned_when_his_truck_flipped_into_a_swimming_pool

http://www.scntx.com/articles/2008/09/10/coppell_gazette/news/48.txt

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Ryan Sullivan was 22 when he died/ His little sister is friends with my oldest daughter. 2009

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/dallasmorningnews/obituary.aspx?n=ryan-sullivan&pid=133287315#fbLoggedOut

Justin Henry died when he was nineteen years old. I met him once with a mutual friend. 2010 http://coppell.tributes.com/our_obituaries/Justin-Lee-Henry-89594969

justin

Corrine Peters died when her mother, our mayor, shot her (before she killed herself). She was nineteen, about to be a college freshman and was on the high school drill team with my oldest daughter. 2010

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/coppell/headlines/20100715-friends-say-corinne-peters-never-had-a-frown-on-her-face.ece
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/07/14/texas-mayor-teen-daughter-shot-dead-home/

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Taylor Storch died after a tragic skiing accident on spring break. She was just thirteen years old. Today, I got a “Taylor Blue” manicure to support organ donation. 2010

http://www.taylorsgift.org
http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Teen-Dies-During-Ski-Trip-87961662.html

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Keifer Smith died of mysterious causes, found in a decorative pond in his apartment complex. My oldest daughter knew him from high school. He was eighteen years old. 2011

http://www.tylerpaper.com/article/20110715/NEWS08/110719839

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Jacob Logan died from cliff diving at Possum Kingdom Lake. It took three days to find his body. He was a seventeen year-old football star. My oldest daughter knew him through the high school. I saw a boy at the middle school yesterday wearing Jacob’s shirt. It’s blue and it says “the hybrid, the legend, the guardian angel.” 2012
http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/coppell/headlines/20121018-body-of-coppell-football-star-jacob-logan-recovered-from-possum-kingdom-lake.ec

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Jonah Blackwell shot himself just a few days after Jacob’s accident in a local park. He was also a high school senior. 2012 http://www.pegasusnews.com/news/2012/oct/18/coppell-teen-shot-death-park-carrollton-jonah/
http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/dallas/Two-deaths-in-three-days-devastate-Coppell-HS-174663651.html

jonah

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I’d like to take a moment to remember all these young people whose lives were tragically cut short. Unfortunate accidents and events shattered their dreams in an instant. May they rest in peace forever. And may the future be bright for those still lucky enough to have their lives.

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“In the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go,

but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.” ~ Life of Pi

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

Self Care Sunday: Being Selfless, Baths, Stretching, Music, and Being Late

It’s Monday, but I missed Self-Care Sunday yesterday. Sorry. That’s the being late part of today’s post. My Sunday was over-filled, and I didn’t get a post written before midnight. I needed sleep. Sleep is an excellent self-care strategy. Being late isn’t always an ideal option, but in this case I needed sleep more than my readers needed to hear from me. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway. Did anyone notice that I didn’t post yesterday? I didn’t post on Saturday either, and although ideally I would like to post daily, it doesn’t work out that way with everything else I have going on, mainly family time on the weekends. But the time with my family goes is so rare, precious, and fleeting. I know since my oldest daughter is already in college and not living at home anymore. My middle daughter who is turning thirteen in a few weeks will be following in her footsteps before I know it, and my eight year old son not long after that. Being present when they are home is important, so being late is ok sometimes.I was busy all day because, well first of all I slept late. Then I forgot I told my daughter I’d take her to Ft. Worth to see a dance competition. She wasn’t competing, but her studio was, so we went to support all her dance friends. I’d already made plans to meet my husband and son at the gym to try to swim laps in the pool since we weren’t able to on Saturday due to lightning. I hurt my knee last week and haven’t been able to get much exercise this week, and I hate that! So anyway, I was planning on doing my self-care thing at the pool, hot tub, sauna, and steam room but instead I spent the rest of the day and evening in Ft. Worth with my daughter. I felt like I gave up what I wanted to do for what she wanted to do, but I decided to put her first. Sometimes being selfless is healthy because it helps to humble ourselves and do things to meet other people’s needs. I absolutely loved watching all the talented dancers on stage, and it was fun for Zoe to see her friends and for me to see their moms. We went to Pei Wei to eat together. Girl time is always fun, and doing mother-daughter activities is healthy for our relationship.

When I got home, I took a long, relaxing bath. It helps my muscles relax, and it helps decrease eczema.  Especially during these colder months, my skin gets so dry and rashy, and my allergist recommended frequent baths and moisturizer.  I also stretched for a while after I got out of the bath to work out some of the kinks in my muscles and joints.  Nothing crazy, just some forward bends, slight back bends, and side to side stretches after some seated leg stretches alternating bending my left and right leg to open up the lower back and hips.  I have to stretch at least a little every day or else I get super stiff!

Music is also good for the soul.  I listen to music all the time. Especially after a long day, I love to soak in the bath tub and push shuffle on my iPhone and listen to whatever songs come up.   I’m in love with Justin Timberlake’s new songs, Suit and Tie, and Mirrors.  Here is a link to the video for Mirrors and an article describing the song:

http://www.policymic.com/articles/30896/justin-timberlake-mirrors-music-video-worth-the-8-minute-length

He recently performed both songs on Saturday Night Live.  It’s his first album in seven years. I’ve been a fan of his since the beginning when he was the lead singer of the boy band, N *Sync.  Over the years, it’s been fun to watch him grow up into an adult as he embarked on both an acting career and a solo singing artist.  My husband and I also love going to see live concerts.  We got to see Justin Timberlake last time he was here in Dallas (touring with Timbaland).

Justin timberlake wiki

Justin timberlake wiki (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And last week, we got to see Maroon 5 for the first time. It was an excellent concert.  While they clearly feature Adam Levine, the lead singer, the rest of the band is also quite talented.  My husband said after the show they should have called it the Adam Levine Band because clearly he is the face of the band and most of the performance was focused on him.  I’ve only seen him on television before, from the waist up. I love the shirtless pictures of him and all his tatoos. And although I could tell from his upper body pictures that he is a thin guy, I never noticed before how skinny his legs are (he is also a little bow-legged).  I was also really surprised he kept his shirt on the entire concert because he took off his shirt during the monologue of SNL, and he is quite popular for how he looks sans shirt.  But his voice was amazing, his effort was over 100%, and he along with the rest of the band entertained the crowd for hours with their popular songs.  I was also inspired by his guitar solos.  I think music is a really positive way to improve how you feel any day, especially when there is the opportunity to see it performed live.

maroon5 maroon52adamlevineadamlevine2adamlevine3

Look at those skinny legs!

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!