#7 Finish My Masters

Shout it from the rooftops! Hurrah! I have officially finished my Masters degree! I, April Mitchell-Nading, now have a masters in Liberal Studies! It took me almost six years, but Idid it! Granted, I wasn’t taking classes the entire six years (I even took off all of last year simply because I needed a break from research papers and textbooks and an occasional wacko professor), and I only took one class at a time (hey, I work full time and have children and teach/practice yoga), but just about every single class required a ridiculous amount of time reading and writing and more reading and more writing than I thought possible, and there was no way I could double up on classes.

Some classes had a list of requirements that I thought I would never be able to finish. I mean, really, we’re going to read eight books, have two tests, write a book report (that’s not one of the eight books mentioned above), present the book report to the class, and write a paper “approaching 30 pages?” That was in the first class I took (I remember it well) and it almost scared me away from signing up for other classes. My fellow students (who were farther along on the program) assured me the other classes weren’t as bad and they were right. Let me say, though, that the infamous first class which covered Darwin and evolution was actually quite fabulous. I learned a lot and it changed the way I think about evolution. The bad part was in the workload. Prior to that class, I’m pretty sure I’d never written more than 10 pages, and now I was expected to “approach 30 pages?”

But I did it. And after that, I wrote 20 page papers and 25 page papers and I read and read and read and read. I read during my lunch and after work. I read on weekends and holidays. And I even figured out that if I lie down in the very back of the van where I can’t see out the windows, I can read while riding in a vehicle. (Normally reading in a car makes me extremely nauseous.) I also know now that I can do anything if I set my mind to it. Even when it seems overwhelming and too difficult to complete, if I decide I’m going to do it, I will. I may get nervous and stressed out before and during a test, and start doubting that I can write enough pages to meet my deadline, but I’ll make it. It won’t kill me. But doing it sure has made me stronger and more confident in my abilities.

This was probably the biggest, most difficult and most meaningful item on my list. Even if I don’t finish anything else on my list (which I will — though it might stretch into my 51st year), I can now check off the big one: I have my masters!!!! Now who’s going to buy me a drink?

47. Monitor Grades More Often

Last Wednesday, we went to see Alice In Chains. They rocked! And I LOVE the lead singer. Kind of reminds me of a smaller version of Lenny Kravitz — he has that certain something that makes him a teensy bit sexy and very appealing to watch. But I digress. It doesn’t seem like Alice In Chains would have anything to do with monitoring grades, but Brody didn’t get to go with us — because of his grades.

I feel like this whole grade thing has been one of my failings as a mother. I’ve just always assumed that because I made good grades and my oldest son Tyler made good grades, that the twins would just make good grades. And they did until the last couple of years. I didn’t have to harp on them all the time about doing homework or completing projects. Everyone did what they were supposed to do and I didn’t spend much time worrying about it. And then the incompletes and failing grades started rolling in.

What the heck? How can it not bother them to get a D or or an F? How is it OK with them to simply not turn in an important project? This is very puzzling to me. As I’m working on my masters (#7), they see me studying for tests and writing lengthy papers so they know it takes work and discipline to get good grades at school. But for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to matter to them if they get good grades or not. I tried a reward system where they’d receive $10 for every A, $5 for every B, nothing for C’s, minus $5 for a D and minus $10 for F’s. That should be motivating! Ha. They actually owed me money.

But I realized they weren’t really feeling any pain from their bad grades. They were still coming and going and doing pretty much what they wanted; I was the only one feeling the pain or disappointment. So in March, when we found out about Alice in Chains performing in Evansville, I bought tickets for the four of us and announced that if they had D’s or F’s, they would not be accompanying us to the concert. And I told them they couldn’t go to the prom either. It was the start of a new grading period and they had two months to turn things around so I wasn’t being unrealistic in my expectations.

Baily rose to the occasion. He actually started studying and turning in his assignments. He turned his D’s and F’s into A’s and B’s and was able to attend the prom and the concert. Brody, however, seemed unphased. He didn’t care about the prom and when I looked at his grades I was dismayed to see that he rarely turned in assignments. Still, part of me hated to make him stay home while the rest of us attended the concert. And then I realized if I didn’t stand by my threat, I could never really threaten them again with any type of punishment for grades and have them take me seriously. (And it wouldn’t have been fair to Baily who actually did the work to achieve the reward.)

So we went to see Alice in Chains without Brody. And I think it bothered him. And I’m glad. And I think it was good for both of them to see that we stuck by our threat. He has to start taking this seriously whether he thinks it’s important or not. This fall, they’ll be seniors and every grade is going to matter. I may not understand why good grades aren’t important to him, but now that I know they’re not, it’s up to me to set the boundaries and expectations and make them important to him– even if he only does it to keep privileges. I’m not really a failure as a mother, but I will be if I just ignore this issue and pretend like this whole grade thing isn’t happening. Senior year is going to be different. I’ve already started on a list of expectations that includes rewards and punishments. I’m not just going to monitor grades, I’m going to make sure that they change them.

39. Attend Yoga Teacher Training in Costa Rica

I did it! I completed the Level Two teacher training with Jimmy Barkan in Costa Rica! My friend/travel buddy/fellow yoga instructor Kathy and I left Evansville Regional Airport on April 13 and returned exhausted but certified on April 20. Kathy and I completed our 200 Level Training together in 2006 so it seemed only appropriate that we should advance to the next level with each other. (Plus we travel well together and neither one of us are excessively neat so we don’t get on each other’s nerves in small hotel rooms.)

Our accomodations were nice, but primitive — no phone, no TV, no air conditioning, no ceiling fan. The only place for internet was in the restaurant or the hotel lobby. We spent the first few minutes after arriving in our room looking for a thermostat. How do you not have air conditioning in a country that’s close to the equator? Thank goodness the evenings were cool so we weren’t lying in our beds sweating all night. However, we did have to sleep with the windows open to keep the air moving and in the mornings we were awakened by roosters crowing, dogs barking, LOTS of birds chirping and loud trucks driving up the mountain in the wrong gear. But it was beautiful! Gorgeous flowers and plants and shrubs. Almost every time I walked a path I passed someone working on the landscaping.

I was worried I’d be homesick but we were so incredibly busy every day, there wasn’t time for missing anyone. The whole week was exhausting. We took marathon showers and ate our meals like we had a gun to our heads. Our first day we took three showers and we took two every day after that. We had meditation at 6:40, hot yoga at 7:00, then a shower, breakfast, free time until clinic at 11:00, then lunch, clinic at 2:30, hot yoga at 4;15, then another shower followed by dinner and then bed. (I never, by the way, missed having a television. I probably would have been too tired to lift the remote.) We left our yoga clothes on while showering because we didn’t have the luxury of a washing machine or the time to wash things out in the sink. If the sun was out, our clothes would dry fairly quickly on our balcony rail. If not, the ridiculous humidity levels would keep them damp until the next time we had sunshine.

 Every day in clinic, we had “round robins” where we sat in a big circle with a person in the middle demonstrating poses while each person in the circle took turns calling out the next step in the Level Two sequence. It was quite nerve racking actually, mentally keeping track of what came next in case your name was called and then hoping like heck your mind wouldn’t let you down. During one of our round robin sessions a woman froze when Jimmy called her name and couldn’t come up with the pose even when he tried to help her. She never did recover and had tears streaming down her face the rest of the clinic.

I don’t think I can adequately explain why it was so much pressure. Maybe it had to do with the fact that we were all instructors and you felt like you should know your stuff in front of everyone. Maybe it was because it was a new sequence for most of us and we were having a crash course that we absolutely had to learn in order to receive our certification. Maybe it was simply the fear of failing. I paid a lot of money to fly to Costa Rica and a lot of money for the training and a lot of money for lodging. Did I really want to come back without that certification saying I was qualified to teach the Barkan Method Level Two? Absolutely not!

We made it though. We taught our sequence in our exam without mishap and received our diplomas during graduation ceremonies that were held Friday night. I know it’s after the fact, but now that it’s over I think these challenges are good for us. I think it’s facing these challenges and overcoming them that makes us stronger, keeps our minds alive and helps keep us young. So what if I stammered a couple of times when Jimmy called my name during the round robin. I recovered and I learned the poses and I feel good that I rose to the challenge and can now add this certification to my list of accomplishments.

13. Learn More Sanskrit/Poorna Salabhasana-Full Locust

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. Somehow the holidays caught up with me and even though I still worked on several things on my 50 List (#34 Make a soup, #47 Monitor grades, #5 Facetime with Tyler’s family, #7 Finish my masters-I started a class!, #42 &43 watch movie classics –Breakfast at Tiffanies and An Affair to Remember, and of course #13 Learning More Sanskrit) I didn’t blog about any of them.

So now I’m getting back on the wagon. I may even blog a few times this weekend. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s learn more about Poorna Salabhasana or Full Locust.

Full Locust is part of the floor series and has always been a difficult pose for me. It sounds so easy: Start off lying on your stomach, reach your arms out like airplane wings, and then lift yourself off the floor like you’re flying. Easy right? Ha! According to Bikram, Poorna Salabhasana is the hardest posture to improve. But he says, “No matter who you are, if you just struggle, you will get 110% benefit.”

And the benefits are many: Helps with poor posture; relieves and prevents lower back pain; helps relieve lumbago, arthritis, rheumatism; helps to massage abdominal organs, aiding with digestive problems; helps regulate and prevent menstrual problems; releases and breaks through fear, concern and overwhelming responsibility.

I especially like that last benefit, “Releases and breaks through fear, concern and overwhelming responsibility.” How does that happen? I’ve never felt scared about doing the pose; I just feel like it’s hard to do. Perhaps, like in so many difficult yoga poses, full locust takes such effort and concentration that you move past fears and concerns and let the pose overtake you. There is that moment when you’ve lifted as high as you can and you’re looking toward the ceiling and you make one more attempt to get fingertips, toes and head at the same height that you really do forget about everything else. And then there’s the enjoyment experienced from the sweet “release.” You stop lifting, stop flying, stop stretching and lie on your mat with your arms down by your sides relishing the moment of completion. Ahhhh! Wonderful yoga!

1. Make a Better Effort at Putting Other People First/48. Write in my Journal

I have a new appreciation for the Salvation Army bell ringers. On Monday, I spent an hour ringing the bell at the Salvation Army kettle in front of Hobby Lobby. This was something our sales department at WEVV decided to do for the community over the holidays and we each took turns ringing the bell and calling out Christmas greetings to those who donated. I started my shift with great enthusiasm, ready to sing an occasional carole while encouraging everyone to give generously. I rang the bell until my arm started to hurt (could I have developed carpal tunnel?) and was dismayed to see that only five minutes had passed on my watch! Yikes. I still had 55 minutes on my shift and my three-inch heels were already starting to hurt.

So I made a game of greeting everyone with a cheerful “Hello!” or “Merry Christmas” as they passed. Even the ones who weren’t donating and were trying to avoid eye contact. I complimented people’s shoes and told them if I liked their jacket or scarf and I listened politeley when people felt the need to explain why they weren’t donating. “I have given and given,” one woman said to me as she passed by the kettle empty-handed. Does the kettle make people feel guilty? Did she feel like even though she’d given and given that she still hadn’t given enough? Or did it make her feel irritated that she’d given and given and here was another bell ringer interrupting her shopping — yet again– trying to get more money?

Nobody knows what we do for charity at Christmas or any other time of the year unless we decide to publicize it. Nobody else knows what we can really afford to do when it comes time to give. We have to make our own decisions and then know in our hearts and minds that we’ve done what we can do. We don’t owe anyone an explanation and we don’t need to begrudgingly dig into our pockets for change when we pass by people collecting for charity.

That being said, I am now personally planning to drop in spare change whenever I pass by a kettle. I almost always have coins in my console or in the bottom of my purse. It might take me an extra minute to pick it up off the floor or to unzip my billfold and then put the money in the kettle, but those extra dimes, nickels, and quarters add up, and they make a difference for a worthwhile charity trying to help those less fortunate. The kettles and bell ringers are truly a part of Christmas and serve as a symbol of the holiday spirit. Would it seem like Christmas without them?

Click here to read more about the Red Kettle History and how the Salvation Army kettles raise money to help millions of people across the United States every year.

17. Create a Family Christmas Card/16. Take More Pictures and do Something with Them

Hurrah! I did it! I made a Christmas card using family photos! This may not sound like a big deal to most, but for someone who’s not proficient with technology (see #28), this was quite a feat. I’ve wanted to do this for the past few years but because I was taking a class in the fall, I always blamed lack of time for not making a Christmas card. This year, I didn’t take a fall class to allow me more time for holiday activities, and since I added the Christmas card to my 50 List, the pressure was on!

I actually started on this project several weeks ago going to various websites, scanning the Christmas cards available, and then looking for pictures on my camera that would be appropriate for a card. (I had originally thought we’d have our pictures taken professionally but that became impossible due to schedules, etc. Plus, I had been taking more pictures — #16– and I felt confident I’d be able to use what I already had.)

My first issue was getting the darn pictures to load. We have a few computers in our house but apparently none of them (this one included) are set up for loading photos and then putting them into a Christmas card. And even though I want to blame it entirely on the computers, there’s a certain amount of operator error here also. I could find a card I liked, and then I’d get stuck. How do I pick the pictures I want? How do I crop them and move them? What if I want the text to look different?  This was becoming very frustrating to me and I was contemplating removing it from my list. It’s my list right? I can change it if I want.

But I didn’t want to change this. I really wanted to make a Christmas card with family pictures. So yesterday, I grabbed the camera’s memory stick and headed to the Newburgh CVS photolab. 20 minutes later, I left with our Christmas card! Now let me just say that I did get stuck several times during the process, but Mike, the photo lab technician, cheerfully came to my assistance helping me move photos, crop and re-size my text. HUGE shout-out to Mike! And I don’t mean for this to be a commercial for CVS, but when they didn’t have enough envelopes for my card, the manager actually told me he was going to buy more and for me to please come back later to pick them up. AND, they gave me a very generous discount for my inconvenience. Inconvenience? They saved my project. This was something I really wanted to accomplish and they helped me do it. I smiled happily all the way home.

13. Learn More Sanskrit – Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Paschimotthanasana

Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Paschimotthanasana — what a mouthful! Commonly known as Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose, DBP is a favorite among yoga students. That’s because DBP is considered a bit of a cool down between some pretty intense poses and since it lowers the heart rate, it seems almost like a resting pose. But don’t let it fool you; DBP has some amazing benefits. According to Bikram’s book, this pose cures and prevents sciatica by stretching and strengthening the sciatic enrves and tendons of the legs. It helps the functioning of most of the internal abdominal organs, especially the small and large intestine, and improves the muscle tone and flexibility of the pelvis, ankles and hip joints and of the last five vertebrae of the spine.

Yogawiz.com raves about this pose. Here are some of the positives they list: A stiff body becomes very flexible by doing this asana. It helps in improving your basic movements. There is fresh supply of blood to the brain which helps it to stimulate the brain for better functioning. The posture helps in toning your abdominal organs which helps to create a flexible body. A flexible body helps you do this posture in a much better manner. If done properly the benefits you reap will remain with you life long. It is very important that you keep your legs straight while doing this asana. The inhaling and exhaling at the right time also creates a favorable impact on your body. It is very good for clearing your mind to get you out of depression. Many of the ailments related to stomach can be bid adieu. It helps in relieving constipation, indigestion and acidity. It compresses the pancreas which helps in maintaining your diabetes level. The asana helps in reverting your age as your face glows by doing this asana.

Age reversing, improved flexibility and an improved digestive system — this isn’t your ordinary cool-down pose. Practice DBP with a fresh perspective and your body (and your mind) will thank you.

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