I was different; I still am

“I was motivated to be different in part because I was different.” –Donna Brazile

I have always marched to my own drummer. You see, I notice trends and movements in the culture. I always have. As a kid, whenever I complained about conditions, or things that were going on, my “betters” (you know, teachers, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles) invariably asked me what I was going to do about it.  I thought it was a good question then and now.

Superstition Mountain

Don’t misunderstand me, sometimes I did not have a plan that would fix the situation, nor did I create one. Sometimes I discovered I was just griping for the heck of it. When I realized that, it brought me up short. I quit complaining so much. Today I plan to try to make it through the whole day without a complaint. I don’t mean that I will deny my feelings. I mean that I will hold myself accountable. You see, if I am not willing to commit my time, talent, and/or treasure to try to fix the situation, what is the point of complaining?

The week is zooming along. I have a plan. I will survive and I will sail over the choppy waters. The Lord is the wind beneath my wings, and He holds me aloft. March to my own drummer? Yes, I do. I don’t envy the “in crowd”. I fully realize that I don’t necessarily “fit in” with one particular crowd.

It does surprise me, though when I discover certain things. I don’t know if this happens to you, but here is the surprising thing for me. I tend to assume that I am accepted and loved. No, I am not trying to say I think everyone loves and accepts me. But I do tend to assume that there is a certain level of love and caring between me and let’s say a circle of friends, or between me and extended family members.Don’t we all do that> After all, that is perhaps why it feels like such a shock when you discover that you were never “one of them” in the first place. You think to yourself “really”? It feels so heartbreaking.



Now logically, of course you won’t be loved by everyone. That’s not what I am talking about. But these types of “discoveries” stop you in your tracks and wonder what personal flaws in you caused the rejection. Which brings me back to the beginning. If I recognize that I am “different” then why am I surprised by the rejection (that was apparently there all along but since I am different I never picked up on the rejection until I was ‘hit over the head’)?

I have an answer for that. Since I don’t tend to judge or reject, it never crossed my mind that they would. I have spent a lifetime believing, really believing, that everyone I know has the same good qualities that I have (but in higher doses), plus other good qualities that I do not possess, and pretty much no discernible bad qualities.

I do not see their rejection of me as a character flaw of theirs. i assume it is a character flaw of mine. It makes me doubt myself a bit and it feels as though I may be on thin ice around others. It makes me wonder whether rather than being warmly welcomed (which is my impression), some are actually hoping that I leave. But I realize that this is just a goofy overreaction on my more.

These doubts then commit me, all the more, to a live of love and patience. I cannot lash out (although I am tempted to). Generally I tend to “believe anyway” and double up the efforts to love. I figure that perhaps the rejectors will come around. That has often been the pattern in my life.

It does not appear that will happen in this particular situation. I have prayed for a year and a half for peace and healing, and to forgive. I am making my peace with it. That may be as far as it can go. My high need for closure is fighting that aspect of it.

So there it is. I am still a perennial optimist, but I realize that no matter how faith-filled and optimistic I am, if you are going to have to be in a deluge, it is a good idea to have a great big umbrella, a raincoat, and a lovely pair of galoshes.

I am here to say that God, and my dearest friends, and the treasured family members who always have my back are my umbrella, raincoat, galoshes, cup of coffee, quilt, and warm fire. You readers know the kind of people I am talking about. I am talking about the ones who just plain love you. They don’t roll their eyes when you talk, or use demeaning language. They include you, they accept you, and they don’t use you. They make life…amazing. Those people truly bless our lives.

Isn’t it a marvelous miracle when our lives have precious moments with people like that? Any day or hour spent with people like that makes life SPECIAL, SAFE, and oh so lovely.

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Believing during bends in the road

Does your life always stay on an even keel with nothing unexpected? Can you multitask and stay caught up with everything all at the same time? These, of course, are merely rhetorical questions. Twists and turns in our road become our own breathtaking scenery if we remember to believe anyway. Keep believing, even if the signs say detour or road closed.

Those who read my blog are well aware that I cannot multitask when I have a platter overflowing with work. I have been sporadic at best in writing my posts. This year I have increased my tutoring load and working hours by about 25%. As a result, everything else in my life is completely behind. My students are a few weeks away from final exams and then there will be more time.

But you see, the words in my heart still need an outlet. Unfortunately, when I am working so much, I do not take the time to ponder what is in my heart and pull the words from my heart, soul, and mind out of me and onto paper! After a long period of time, my heart, soul, and mind feel downright constipated! For a long time, all that was in my heart was some sorrow from some very unexpected heartbreak. It weighed me down, and altered how I felt about myself. I didn’t like it, but I couldn’t change a thing about it. It added to the typical “workload clutter”. It still leaves me in an altered state, and keeps me on unsteady feet at times. It goes dormant, but rears its head again when life puts me in the paths of the source of the sorrow.

I was praying about that just the other day. I realized once again that taking the time each day to write will reduce my mental clutter and help me focus. So as I stagger through the final weeks of the school year, I hope to write each day. As I said when I began my blog, even if no one reads it or likes it, it brings beauty to my own life to simply create.

The last year and a half have had different sorts of challenges and heartaches. I am still working through those. But the past is only prologue to the present and future. It is not the Berlin Wall. As a matter of fact, my Shepherd guides me still, and today may He continue to guide me in the garden of His heart.

May your gardens be lush, and may the rains fall gently upon you today.


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Why do we require students to take history/social studies?

Why do I have to take history and social studies?

Why do I have to take history/social studies? That is a mantra that many of my students repeat, over and over. Of course, I tell them that those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it. I tell them that I am counting on them to become an educated person, so that they know the context of things, and the warning signs. With all that has been happening around the world in the past few weeks, months, and years, that historical context has become even more important.

There is a video circulating around FaceBook that really drives that point home. Save this post on your computer so that as you make your way through world history courses, you can use the video to help you visualize what happened over time. It is all connected. It all has implications. Never forget that. You see, by knowing how we have traveled through time as a human race, we begin to understand that decisions, events, and actions are not as random as we think. Knowing the connections and potential outcomes can help to make us more mindful. Mindfulness can bring true progress.

Take a look at the video. As we journey through the continuing developments in Russia, Syria, and more, stay aware and mindful!


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Path to successful learning

As you know, I am a tutor. I am already hounding my students to review, review, review. But this method can help all of us improve learning.

When should you start preparing for finals? Map to success

Final exams are still many weeks away. Students are immersed in the day-to-day routine of homework, quizzes, tests, projects, and papers. Yet, they should also be thinking about final exams. Why is that, you may ask? Here is the reason. If your usual modus operandi is to cram for a test, and then never look at that material again until you are cramming for finals, you are missing a GOLDEN opportunity. You see, in addition to doing your regular homework, there is something more that truly successful students do. What is that? They REVIEW. They review every day. Here is an example. Let’s say that in your English class, you have a vocabulary book. Every week you have a test on 25-35 words. You need to know the definition, part(s) of speech, synonyms, antonyms, and how to properly use it in a sentence. So you spend a couple of hours during the week cramming those definitions into your head. You create flashcards to help you remember them. Then you take the quiz. The next week the process resumes with a new list of words. At the end of the semester, you have a cumulative final on let’s say 18 weeks of vocabulary words. If we assume 30 words a week, that is 540 words. If you spend 30 minutes a day (and I really mean 7 days a week) reviewing words all semester long, there will be no last minute relearning. Studies have shown that regular review boosts retention.

You should really be reviewing every subject every day. This improves retention, learning, and improves your overall learning ability. Don’t just cram it for the test. Your brain can handle so much more than just a cram and dump methodology. The more you review, the more you will improve your review skills. You will find that you can eventually review as you walk down the hall at school, as you sit on the school bus, or any other place. You see, your brain needs hooks and methods to help it retain the information. Organize your material into bullet lists, time lines, or any other way that helps you retrieve the information. You can do this. Getting ready for final exams SHOULD be a walk in the park, if you begin reviewing NOW. Review cumulatively. Review from the beginning of the semester forward. If you haven’t started reviewing yet, start today. Get it all back in your head. You can DO this. You can BEAT your competition. Most of your classmates will NEVER try this method. Make your own luck
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Have you had a stressful week?

Is your list of things to do longer than your day on a regular basis? I have to say that in my family, that has been the case for a number of weeks. But this week, that abated. Some of my students are on spring break this week, so my load was lighter. I got caught up on some other things this week, and made some lovely meals. I got a lot of things organized. That always makes me feel good. I have a low tolerance for complete chaos in my home. My prayer time took on a new sort of tempo and lovely depth.

Today, a colleague posted a quote about stress that I really like. You know, God calls us to cast our burdens upon Him. He wants us unencumbered and He wants our hearts to fly to Him. As this weekend envelops me, I plan to relax in His love. I hope that your hearts are lifted this weekend, and that you see hope coming full speed at you and around you. I leave you with the quote that my colleague posted.

Stress Picture

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He lifted me up

“I was like a stone lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came, and in His mercy lifted me up, and verily raised me aloft and placed me on the top of the wall.”  St. Patrick


At the most unexpected times, God lifts me up. He knows when I am stuck, even when I cannot verbalize my feelings and thoughts. He waits patiently. When I am frustrated, He sends His calming peace. When I am worn out, He restores me. When life shatters me and leaves me broken, He mends me. He mends me in His time, not mine. He builds new bridges around those broken paths. He does not try to convince me the broken paths are not really broken. He shines His light on new paths. New paths always await us. Just look for them.


Pretty soon, He sets me on the high places. Fear and brokenness cannot truly overtake us. Yes, those heartbreaking times in our lives take their toll. They do. There is no denying it. But guess what? Jesus gives us strength to ride on past it. We can hop on our bicycles, determinedly pedal straight uphill into a headwind.

Go the distance. Celebrate your efforts.

Go the distance. Celebrate your efforts.

The struggle may seem impossible. How long can you hang onto the heartache and brokenness when you are faced with new challenges?  Of course! The new challenges refocus us. If we are suddenly busier than we have been in ages, perhaps the challenge of handling that new load will fill our thoughts for awhile. There are new threads of hope and challenge. When the SON-light hits those threads ~ oh how they glow and glimmer! What will you and the Shepherd do for your life’s tapestry today and this week?

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The power of math can be exponential


When I was in elementary school, my parents made sure that I learned. They knew that all of my subjects were important, certainly. But I have special memories of discussing literature and history over the dinner table. They made sure that I really LEARNED my math. I had some terrific teachers in all of those subjects.

Somewhere along the line, though, I developed a special appreciation for math. As a result, I majored in business in college. It is certainly not a leap, since business is full of math. For the past 5 years, I have been a professional tutor, and have loved it. Although I tutor MANY subjects, the one that is in the most demand is math. I have a special love for tutoring pre-algebra and algebra. I practically skip through my day on the days I will be teaching math. I make it a special goal to help my students not only understand math, but perhaps to even fall in love with it.

It used to be that I would comb book sale tables at the library and garage sales for novels. But these days, I scour them for math textbooks. I am on the lookout for innovative explanations and examples that will help my students. I am quite enamored with Khan academy, as he explains so many things so well. I always let my families know about his resource.  It is a terrific site to visit. You don’t have to be a student ~ he has tutorials on all kinds of things. Here is the site ~ go ahead, take a look. I will wait. https://www.khanacademy.org/about.

Many of my competitors think that I am crazy to tell them about a free resource. MY goal is to turn my students into independent learners, so that they can soar like eagles at some point. Through my tutoring, and multiple resources, they can learn every day, even when they are not in a session with me.

To those students who ask the typical question “Why do I have to learn this? When will I EVER have to use it in REAL life?” I smile and tell them a story.

When I took Algebra 2/Trigonometry in high school, I had a fabulous math teacher. His name (really and truly) was Mr. John Wayne. He was the tennis coach, and he was a great math teacher. One day I was particularly frustrated. I raised my hand and  asked him those very questions. He just smiled at me. He tossed his chalk up and down, catching it every time. Then he said, “some day, years from now, you will be using algebra in ways you cannot even begin to imagine today. When you do, I hope you will think of me”. Believe me, I do think of him. After all, I walk in his magnificent footsteps when I tutor math. I raise my eyes to the heavens, and I say, “thanks.  I LOVE algebra, and I completely understand why you taught it”.

I tell my students that learning is SO important. It IS worthwhile. I loved this article that I have included at the end of this post.


First person: Math has power over all else

First Person is a weekly forum for personal musings and reflections from readers.

By Kevin Levine
Friday January 10, 2014 9:03 PM

For as  long as I can remember, I’ve liked numbers.

I like math.

That puts me in a powerful minority.

People who understand and embrace math wield the most powerful weapon ever made.

Let’s dispense with the obvious reasons that math is powerful.

The most effective (destructive) weapons rely on physics, or the science of equations, and chemistry. (Try making a stable mixture of chemicals without math.)

Some of the constructive uses are equally powerful: Medicines, medical equipment, roller coasters, air travel and cellular technology all rely on math.

Yet the true power of math comes from the ignorance and fear of it.

One of my earliest memories of math’s potency stems from this: “Four out of 5 dentists recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum.”

Anyone of a certain age knows the saying from a Trident gum commercial.

I remember thinking as a child that Trident gum must be good for me.

That’s power.

Before long, I started asking questions: Which doctors? Why didn’t the fifth doctor recommend sugarless gum? How many doctor s were asked?

A few years later: Do these dentists work for Trident? Why would dentists recommend gum at all?

How often is a statistic presented as fact, in a vacuum, without supporting documentation or an understanding of the source of the statistic?

A statistic is used as a club to hammer home a message. When one doesn’t understand all that went into generating the statistic, its power becomes immense — a blunt instrument that relies on the general population’s dislike, and ignorance, of math.

How about math as an economic weapon?

Isn’t it wonderful that tuna fish (or peanut butter or jelly) hasn’t gone up in price in years?

Thank math.

The tuna can contained 8 ounces, then 6 ounces, then 5 ounces.

Incremental changes in volume go unnoticed because the price remains constant.

Consumers think: “Wow, tuna prices are stable.”

The tuna company thinks: “Wow, consumers are ignorant.”

Politicians love math, too.

They cherry-pick one statistic from an obscure report commissioned by an obscure group whose agenda might not be to the betterment of humanity.

Politicians use math to convince us that everything would be OK if we just cut fraud and abuse in the welfare system.

They use math to confirm that the American education system is failing.

They use math to justify increased spending in their districts while bemoaning the spending everywhere else.

Politicians thrive on the public’s fear and ignorance of math.

The only way to weaken math’s destructive capabilities is to embrace math.

Instead of telling our children we weren’t good in math, we should tell them that math is the secret to power — that it will make them creative, competitive, powerful, less prone to scams and more valuable in the workplace.

We should tell our children to respectfully question authority, especially when numbers are used as weapons.

Mastering math, our children should learn, is akin to mastering the most powerful weapon on Earth.

Kevin Levine, 48, of Bexley teaches sixth-grade math at Karrer Middle School in Dublin.

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