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.

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?


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.


My Love Affair with Math

I started preschool when I was two years old then skipped kindergarten starting first grade at five years old. I don’t remember much of that early learning, but I do remember puzzles and playing music. My mom is a musician, and she started me on violin (Suzuki method) at the age of three. I grew up knowing how to read music on the violin, and I think that might have been an important step in my brain’s development that led to my understanding of math and science (thanks mom). Music is all math and science.


I do remember doing math in the early elementary years, and it was always easy. I had good number sense. The first few years of elementary school were a breeze, and the only thing I got in trouble for was singing or humming in class. I understood place value and basic computation. I learned multiplication and division with no problem. After third grade, my mom decided I should repeat third grade so I could be with my age group, and I did fourth grade work. I scored in the genius category on IQ tests and took GT classes through elementary and middle school. Again, I don’t remember much about those years, or particularly liking math at that time, but I do remember it being easy. My mom called me a walking telephone book because I could always remember phone numbers with ease (the same is true for today except that with iPhones I do admit I don’t know everyone’s phone numbers like the old days in the 1970s-80s). But I’ve always had a good memory for numbers and patterns.

Looking back at my high school transcript (Class of 1986 Go Lancers!) I can see why my guidance counselor advised me to pursue a major in French and then return to the Washington, DC area to work at the state department as a translator. I took four years of French and got two B+s and two As. Only three years of math were required back then, so I only did the bare minimum. I got a B in Algebra 1 (ninth grade), a B in Geometry (tenth grade), and a C in Algebra 2/Trigonometry (eleventh grade). Everything got confusing once we got to logarithms. I don’t remember having hatred or dislike toward math, but I don’t remember particularly liking it either. My m.o. back then was to do ok academically and still have a social life and a love life. I did gymnastics and cheerleading and played soccer. I talked a lot in class and was a social butterfly even back then. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I took my counselor’s advice and started my freshman year at Hollins College as a French major. Nobody made me take a math class that year. I did take computer science and programming, which is mathematical, but there was no other math requirement that year. My sophomore year, I did an exchange program at Washington & Lee University. There, I switched my major to Philosophy & Religion. I took a music appreciation class, but again, no math class. I took my junior year off and worked for Greenpeace USA in DC then completed a Spring Semester in the Rockies with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). After that, I transferred to Prescott College and changed my major again to Environmental Studies. I minored in Outdoor Education and Liberal Arts. I passed the math proficiency test there and didn’t have to take any math classes (the proficiency test is equivalent to college algebra).


I graduated from Marymount University with my master’s degree in education (M.Ed. PreK-8) and became a teacher. My first position was sixth grade, all subjects in Reno, Nevada. Sixth grade deals with a lot of fractions and decimals, yet many of the students were below grade level and still working on memorizing multiplication and division tables. That is when I first started to take an interest in math education. It was a challenge to teach sixth grade skills when kids lacked knowledge they should know from previous years.  I moved to Virginia and worked as a sixth grade teacher in Fairfax County teaching math, science, and health in a Gifted/Talented Center. G/T Centers are 24/7 G/T all subjects grades 3-6. Highly gifted kids learn third and fourth grade math in third grade, fifth grade math in fourth grade, sixth grade math in fifth grade, and seventh and eighth grade math in sixth grade. That’s when I found my niche. I taught seventh and eighth grade math compacted into one year to highly gifted sixth graders, preparing some of them for Algebra 1 in seventh grade. Most of the kids progressed to Honors Math 7 and then to Algebra 1 in eighth grade. FCPS has several different math tracks, and they do a great job of offering enrichment and advancement in mathematics to those are are able. While that is a small percentage of the general population, it is an excellent way to let those students who excel in math to move ahead and take college math in high school. It was fast paced and challenging. I received professional development to prepare me and assist me, and I fell in love with math! Being an adult in a math classroom was a completely different experience than being a child in a math classroom. With my background in science, it all made sense and I was able to make more connections to the real world. Because of my background as a gifted learner, I was a good combination with the gifted kids. In addition to the fast paced curriculum, the kids did enrichment projects like City of Lights (scale models of DC buildings wired to light with bulbs and batteries) and Mathematician Expedition (a research paper on a mathematician of choice). We developed an understanding of the essentials in math, but we also discovered deeper conceptual understanding of mathematics in general.


My third position was in a middle school in Texas. I taught seventh grade, sixth grade Pre-AP, and sixth grade math. It was my first position at a middle school teaching only math. It was an excellent opportunity to focus solely on math education and to use new technology in math instruction. I co-sponsored the Math & Chess Club and worked with kids at a wide spectrum of skill levels. It helped me sharpen my focus on the middle school math years. The middle school years are an essential link in preparing students for high school math. The concepts go from concrete to abstract as students explore the use of variables and use multistep complex problem solving. Kids become fluent in fractions, decimals, percents, and integers. They explore proportionality and use formulas to solve geometric problems. They use basic number sense and calculation skills to solve more abstract problems.

I started tutoring math privately in 2001 and am focusing solely on tutoring now, both in person and via skype. I see math everywhere now. One-on-one tutoring allows me to individualize to meet each student’s needs. We start where the student is and we take it one step at a time from Pre Algebra through Algebra 2. Since I discovered as a teacher that I like math and understand math, my goal in life is to help others learn and like math, especially girls. It’s a heavily male dominated workforce, and girls are typically stereotyped not to like math. I am confident and enthusiastic and hope to share my love of math with my students. I hope to inspire them to feel confident in their skills and to pursue a college education, in whatever field they choose. They will need strong foundation in math no matter what job they do as adults.


My undergraduate degree was in science, and now I have specialized in math. I play chess and guitar. I do puzzles and listen to classical music. I expose my kids to math on a regular basis and point out everywhere I see math. They get tired of hearing me say ‘math is everywhere’, or ‘that’s math’, or ‘that’s science’, but it really is true. Math is everywhere and it’s involved in every job that every kid will do when they grow up. As an adult looking back on my own education, I wish the math requirements were then what they are today. I wish I or someone else noticed that I liked math and was good at it and that I had taken math classes in college. Now I love algebra and geometry. I picked up where I left off with logarithms. In 2007, I went back to school and took College Algebra at a local community college in Texas. I’m currently taking Trigonometry on www.khanacademy.org and want to take PreCalculus and Calculus when I am ready. With a husband and kids and a house to run, it’s not as easy now as it would have been to take those classes in college. But, it’s never to late to learn. I read somewhere to be happy, do what you love. I love math. So, I’m going to keep doing it!

Life in Beautiful Places

     I fell in love with the ocean when I was a child. We took trips to Virginia Beach and Ocean City (Maryland) in the summers, and I was the kid you couldn’t get out of the water.  I swam like a fish in the pool in the summers and was on the dive team briefly at my neighborhood pool.  I’ve always felt at home in the water, and as I grew older, I gravitated to the beach.  My friends and I rented beach houses for vacation in high school, and the summer after my freshman year in college (1987) I lived at Virginia Beach and made a living waiting tables and being a ‘beach wench’ who rented chairs and umbrellas on the oceanfront.  It was a fun lifestyle, but it didn’t seem sustainable or the way I wanted to live as an adult, so in the fall I returned to my sophomore year of college back in southwestern Virginia.  It was during those first two years of college that I started rock climbing (in Virginia and W. Virginia) and became close with two friends who completed NOLS semesters.  I wasn’t satisfied with the path I was taking in school, so I took my junior year off to explore new horizons.  I started working with Greenpeace in DC and then went to Wyoming to start my NOLS course

Virginia Beach at sunset

     Before the course, I had never even camped outdoors.    The next 95 days, we skiied and snowcamped in Wyoming, backpacked and hiked in remote canyons in Canyondlands National Park, Utah, whitewater rafted and kayaked in Colorado, rock-climbed and horsepacked in Wyoming.  After the course, I couldn’t stand being back in a city (DC), so I packed up my car and moved to Boulder, CO for the summer and worked for Greenpeace there.  I left in the fall and pursued a college education at an alternative school in Arizona with experiential learning.  Prescott College’s motto was “The Southwest is our Classroom.”  My education took me to many remote places.  All new students go through a ‘wilderness orientation’ hiking and backpacking for a few weeks in the Arizona forests and canyons.  I spent block classes skiing in Yellowstone National Park, kayaking around Isla Espiritu Santo (in Baja), and backpacking in the alpine tundra of Colorado.  During other block classes, I conducted a Mexican Spotted Owl Habitat Survey and a Bald Eagle Watch for the National Forest Service.  Situated in the high desert of Arizona, there was ample opportunity for day hikes, mountain bike rides, and day climbing trips.  It was incredible.  In college, I fell in love with mountains.  I also fell in love with wolves and wilderness.  I had dreams of pursuing a career in ecosystem management or wildlife rehabilitation. 

Granite Mountain, Prescott, AZ

Granite Dells, Prescott, AZ

     I was offically a student at Prescott College from 1989-1993, but I also took a year off in the middle (1990-1991) to live in Telluride, Colorado.  It was an experience like nothing I’ve had before and probably will never have again.  Telluride is a small town located at almost 9000 feet elevation nestled in the majestic San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado.  The town is surrounded on three sides by almost 14,000 foot peaks, covered by snow for most of the year.  I worked at a bakery as a breakfast and lunch cook, and I lived outdoors like many other young people there at the time.  I was single with no kids, so it worked out fine.  I had a VW bus with a mini-kitchen inside and the top popped up for sleeping (when it was warm enough). Otherwise, I slept on the bed in the back of the bus and when I awoke in the wee hours of the morning being cold, I’d head into the bakery and quickly warmed up with hot tea and baked goods.  I worked through lunch time then had the rest of the day to hike, bike, and enjoy the scenery.  I spent my second summer there living in a tipi with my boyfriend and our five, yes five, dogs (wolf hybrids) up on a gorgeous mesa in the midst of aspen groves.  It was during my time there that I started wondering how in the world people could afford to live in such beautiful places.  There was a culture of people living outdoors there (called ‘woodsies’).  Working in a tourist town like that, the locals like me didn’t make enough money to afford to pay rent much less buy a house there.  The only people I knew who had houses had them because of family money.  They were kind enough to host pot-luck dinners and to let friends use their showers etc.  Otherwise, I showered at the town park at the public showers or at the gym where I was a member.  For that one school year, it was ok.  I loved being in such a beautiful place and was inspired daily by the beauty and magnificence of the mountains.  Words can’t describe being above treeline in Colorado.  However, I got bored and wanted to finish my education.  I also didn’t want to live outdoors for another winter, so I returned to Prescott College and graduated in 1993. I missed having a house, a hot shower, a real kitchen and bed.  From that point on, I made it my goal to work toward having the stability and comforts of home, but since that time I’ve also felt conflicted because it seems to make enough money to have a stable life and a nice home, it doesn’t always work out with living in a beautiful place.

Telluride, CO

Main Street in Telluride, CO  I worked at the end of this street on the left at Gregor’s Bakery and Cafe

     My first child, Sierra, was born just one week before I graduated in 1993.  Her dad still had another year of school to finish, so we stayed in Prescott until he graduated and moved to Durango, CO to start our lives as a family.  He had a job as a river guide, but it didn’t last.  I hit rock bottom and was forced to take any job I could get to make some money.  I worked at a movie theater and then as a waitress.  There were no professional jobs in my field (environmental studies) and since I had developed a case of chronic back pain, being an outdoor educator was no longer in the cards for me.  Our marriage quickly dissolved, and I moved back to my mom’s house in Virginia and spent the next four years living in her basement, working for Greenpeace again in DC and then getting my master’s degree in education.  Still feeling claustrophobic living in the suburbs and working in the city, I moved again, this time to Reno, Nevada to chase a boy and be near the Sierra Nevada mounatins and Lake Tahoe.  Chasing a boy is never a good idea, as was evidenced by our quickly dissolving relationship, but I did meet my husband there  at a gym in Reno.  I worked as a teacher and made just enough money to support me and Sierra and live in an apartment.  We left Nevada in 2001 so Joe could go to law school in DC. 
     I spent my 20s adventuring and exploring, and when I got back to Virginia and got back in touch with some of my high school friends and went to the ten year reunion in 1996, I will admit I didn’t like the story I had to tell, and I felt jealous of my friends who had spent their 20s in school and working and had nice houses to show for it.  They might have felt jealous that I had all those amazing experiences, but at the end of the day, they had nice houses and comfortable lives, and I was still struggling in that department.  So, my priorities shifted somewhat then.  I wanted nothing more than to get married again, have more kids, and to secure a stable life in a nice home. 

Reno, NV

     Joe provided all that for me.  He excelled in law school and got a big firm job when he graduated.  I was finally able to be a stay home mom with our son Thomas when he was born in 2004.  We had a townhouse in the DC suburbs but were bursting at the seams with five people living in 1800 square feet.  That when we decided to move to Texas so we could afford a big, single family home.  His law firm was a Texas based firm, so he was able to transfer and since then he’s moved to a smaller, medium sized Texas based firm.  We were able to buy twice the house (3500 square feet) for less than what we sold the townhouse for.  I stayed home with Thomas for six years, and I finally feel stable and secure.  But, like the saying goes, money doesn’t buy happiness.  I still feel like something is missing, and when I go on vacation I feel like a whole different person.  I think what is missing is the feeling I get from being in a beautiful place.  Dallas, Texas is not really known for being a beautiful place.  It’s flat, and there is no ocean anywhere nearby.  There are lakes, but I don’t like swimming with snakes and other grody critters that live in muddy brown water.  The closest thing I get to communing with nature is seeing the beautiful sunsets and appreciating the pretty (man made) pond down the street from our house and riding my bike on the (paved) path that follows the creek across our town.  In those moments, I feel some of the same emotions I’ve had in the past with the wind going through my hair and the hot sun on my skin.  The trees are pretty, and the skies are pretty.  The schools are good and our house is nice.  Joe’s job is good.  However, it shows me that as far as my experience goes, it’s awfully tough to have both-a good job/nice house, and the opportunity to live in a beautiful place. 

typical view of a neighborhood pond in Texas

     Because of all my aches and pains and (16) surgeries, I’m not longer a hiker, climber, skiier, horsepacker, whitewater anything-er, or mountain biker.  All those things were checked off the list of things I can do because of physical reasons as well as economic reasons.  Living in a beautiful town usually means living in a tourist town.  Jobs are mostly service related and they are seasonal.  I have a family now and have worked hard to provide basics like food, shelter, clothing, health insurance, cars, car insurance, and of course all the extras that kids want/need in their lives.  I can still swim, though, and so our visits to the ocean are the highlight of my year.  I swim in the pool at the gym year round, but there is an entirely different feeling that comes with being near the ocean.  After a 13 hour drive to get here (Destin, FL), I’m amazed at the transformation that takes place inside my head as soon as I step foot on the beach.  The colors are amazing (white sands, clear turqoise waters, and powder blue sky).  The breeze blowing off the beach takes me to another place.  It’s salty and sandy, and being in the ocean and looking at the horizon where the sea meets the sky humbles me and reminds me how small I am and how big the earth is.  It reminds me of my place in space, and my spirit feels renewed.  But it only lasts seven days…hence this blog post. 

Perspective:  Use it or Lose it!

     People live here. There are houses and schools and stores. People do get to live in beautiful places.  I just don’t understand how to make both things possible in my life.  It seems like I’ve had to choose one or the other-living in a beautiful place or having a nice home for my kids.  I chose the latter and continue to choose the latter, but that wild woman inside me sure misses feeling close to nature and the passion and exhilaration it stirs inside.  I am thankful that at least I am able to reconnect with this beautiful place even though it’s just once a year.  Maybe I will be lucky enough to retire near the ocean and be that salty old lady who lives to be 100 and still goes to the beach.  It seems like the best way to live-having provided a nice life for your kids yet staying inspired, at peace, and in awe of the natural world.