Posted in Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Photography, Southern California, Spirituality, Tourism, Travel

Free Admission Friday: Personal Challenge, Day 19 (10.5.12)

On the first Friday of the month, the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena offers free admission during the hours of 6-9 pm.  I haven’t been to the Norton Simon since I took a museum class at USC in 1998.  This was my first experience with the free Friday admission.  Even though this wasn’t my first trip to the museum, it has been so long that it felt like my first trip.  I do remember the Monet gardens and a few of the art pieces (by Renoir, Manet and Degas)but I don’t remember the theater or downstairs area for new exhibits.

So I started the exhibit with my grandfather’s rule for exploring new places–stick to the right.  And to my right resides the Asian Art exhibit.  This was Buddha heaven.  I walked through looking at every piece and reading the story of each.  I made my way downstairs to the main portion of the Asian Art Exhibit.  There was also a new exhibit on Still Life (no photographs allowed in this area).  But I was more interested in the Asian Art and all the Hindu and Buddhist artifacts on display.  I could go back to this exhibit over and over again.  Like I said before, it is Buddha heaven.

Afterwards, I went upstairs and stopped off at the Garden Cafe.  I ordered the Veggie Panini (I was sold when I saw it had Butternut Squash in it).  It was a pricey meal but very tasty.

While sitting in the Garden, enjoying my meal, I had the opportunity to people watch.  I’m not sure if it was because of “Free Friday” but I was in shock by the behavior of some of the patrons.  I saw a woman in pajama bottoms and a t-shirt sitting at a table while her young kids ran around the gardens, climbing on the statues and throwing things at the ducks in the pond.  I was actually surprised by how many toddlers were at the museum.  I can understand taking elementary aged children to a museum for an appreciation of art and culture, but infants and toddlers?  If I were a parent, I would not want to take my toddler to a museum filled with priceless artifacts.  And why wasn’t anyone saying anything when these children were climbing on the statues?  I got a phone call from my California sister and was asked to go outside yet some of these children were running, screaming through the museum.  I guess I will have to go back on another day to see if this is just something that happens on “Free Fridays.”

When I finished my meal and people watching session, I returned to the museum and headed off into the art collection areas where works by the old masters reside.  You can see works by Van Gogh, Manet, Renoir, Degas and Picasso.

It is said that art is subjective and the meanings are up for interpretation by the observer.  Well, if the observer is anything like me, you see the “dirty” interpretation of the art work.  I was surprised, at times, to read on the plaque besides the pieces that I was often right.

Another thing that I like to do when walking through looking at art, I like to come up with my own captions.  I’m sure if someone were observing me, seeing me giggle to myself, they would think I was crazy.  I heard people talking about the brush strokes, the lighting, the techniques, etc while I was thinking, “It looks like the angel wants to suckle her breast.”  I am an art teacher and I should be talking about the techniques, lighting, brush strokes, texture, composition, etc.  But I was here alone, on a Friday night.  I wasn’t in teacher mode.  I was being myself–my goofy, dirty-minded self and I was having fun.  And I didn’t say what I was thinking out loud.  I would stand in front of the paintings, think of a funny caption in my mind, smile and move onto the next.  On the outside, I played the part of a thoughtful art observer while in my mind, I was a 12-year-old mentally giggling at all the dirty, provocative art.

Overall, I would go back to the Norton Simon Museum.  The Asian Art exhibit alone might even convince me to get a membership.  But I think I do need to return during regular hours to see how the patrons differ to those who arrive on the Free Fridays.

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Posted in Astrology, Life, Spirituality, Universe

Time To Find Your Path

Tomorrow’s Full Moon is the Pathfinding Horse Moon.  With the moon in Sagittarius, it is a time to choose a new path or direction to take in our life’s journey.

How do we do this?  Well, you look at where you are and where you really want to be then you have to decide how to get there.  Simple, right?  I’m a Libra so I would have to say this is pure torture.  Trying to make a decision on which path I should take is an extremely difficult task for a Libra.  I will use my trusty Pros and Cons lists.  I will think of all the different possible outcomes for each decision.  I will ask my friends and family for advice.  I will go see a psychic or ask my own Goddess or Angel cards.  Then I will pray for a sign from the Universe, guiding me toward the right path.  Then I will finally make a decision.  But once I make that decision, I will constantly wonder if I made the right choice.  But once again, I am a Libra.

Ironically, I am in a weird place where I do feel like I have to make a lot of life choices about my future.  So today, I turned to someone I know and trust, Hot Dog.  I had just told him about my accident a few days ago so he was anxious to see me and get me whatever I needed.  He picked up dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant and arrived at my house, ready to take care of my needs.  What I really needed was someone to talk to and he was ready to listen.  We went for a walk in my neighborhood (mainly to walk off the carnitas) and talked about what was bothering me.  Like any close, good guy friend would do, he poked fun at some of the decisions I made and actions I took.  But mostly he was in agreement with me that I needed to change things in my life.

I know where I want to be I just have no clue how to get there.  I need to let go of the past once and for all.  My past is holding me back.  So I guess whatever direction I wind up choosing, I need to make sure that it is in the opposite direction of my past with the future I want directly in front of me.

Now, if you are like me and you have a hard time making decisions, Kristen Madden from Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook suggests:

“To explore your path and any new directions you might take, you will need a pendulum (a ring on a string will do), and your life-adventure map.  Create your map by drawing a large circle on a piece of paper.  divide the circle into a pie graph, with one section representing your current path.  Into the other sections, place your potential paths, hopes and dreams.  Take your pendulum and ask what paths are most aligned to financial, academic, spiritual, or emotional success, then let the pendulum help find your direction.”

Now if the pendulums, tarot cards and psychic guidance methods freak you out, you can always ask the Magic 8 ball.  I have a fortune telling Yoda doll that I often ask for guidance (yeah, I’m a Star Wars geek) when my Magic 8 ball seems to be having issues (when it tells you “Future Unclear.  Ask Again Later.”)

Good Luck!

Posted in Family, Life, Spirituality, Universe

Eaton Canyon Baptism

Yesterday, my mom arrived in Cali for a week visit.  We decided that since the weather was so nice today, we would go for a hike.  This was my mom’s first “mountain” hike.  So we paired up with my California sister and her mom and headed off to Eaton Canyon.  We decided to do the hike up to the waterfall (along with tons of other people).  Since it rained yesterday, the water levels were up, making for an interesting trek.

It started off fairly easy but on our second pass over the stream, my mom lost her footing on one of the rocks we were using as a bridge and she fell into the ankle-deep water.  I tried to catch her but wound up landing right beside her in the water.  My California sister started laughing at us and said “you have now been baptised by the Eaton Canyon waters.”  Little did we know how this simple comical moment would turn into a cosmic (or karmic) joke.

As we continued to hike up the canyon, my mom told stories of my childhood and all of my many quirks–one being how much trouble I would get into with the nuns who ran my catechism classes.  We talked and talked as my California sister and her Mom still used the rock bridges to forge the stream–while my mother and I opted to just walk through the water (our feet and pants were soaked already).  I continuously made jokes about how the waters “cleansed my soul”–if only I knew what was coming.

So we made our way up to the waterfall, took pictures and started our trek back.  At some point, I wound up being the leader of our little hiking group.  We came to a point where there was a rather large traffic jam of people trying to get across the stream.  I just made my way through the water with my mom close behind.  I was looking down into the stream, trying to avoid some of the deeper pockets of water so I wasn’t aware of what I was about to bump into once I reached the other side of the stream.  I was just about to step onto the shore when I looked up and immediately froze, causing my mom to bump into my back.  Right in front of me, standing upon a rock above, I gazed upon two Nuns.  Hiking nuns dressed in full habit garb, carrying a walking stick in one hand and a rosary in another.  I am sure that my face turned sheet white.

This is my life!  I can’t even make this kind of stuff up.  My heart started pounding and I immediately averted my eyes from the women I often referred to as “Sister Mary Holy Water.”  I suddenly turned into the young girl who would always get disapproving looks from the nuns for asking too many questions.  I ran up the shore and up the trail as fast as I could.  I could hear my mom and California sister laughing somewhere behind me.  I just started booking it as fast as I could.  But in my haste, with my eyes on the ground, I managed to miss four more nuns headed in my direction.  Four nuns that I literally ran right into, causing my California sister to burst out in a fit of laughter.  I had no escape this time.  I just stood there, frozen, with my back against the mountain.  I only remember seeing a flash of black and white followed by a parade of wooden rosaries.  I had an instant flashback to my days of sitting in a corner saying a bunch of “Hail Mary” and “Our Father” prayers as I made my way around my own communion rosary.  I stood there as my California sister walked past me, still laughing, saying “this never happens to anyone else but you.”

Her mother agreed.  They have been hiking Eaton Canyon all their lives and never have they seen hiking nuns.  And not just any hiking nuns, hiking nuns in full habit and dress.  This was my first time hiking up to the waterfall, I was joking about being baptised and then I run into six nuns.  Seriously?

It’s like the time I was joking about the Mormons when driving into Salt Lake City and then my truck broke down in the middle of the Salt Flats, leaving me stranded for five hours.  I had no choice but to return to Salt Lake City and actually stay there, delaying my trip to Reno by a day.  You think I would have learned my lesson back then.

The Universe has this way of playing Cosmic jokes on me.  Someone up there was having a mighty good laugh at me today.  Nice April Fool’s Day prank on me, Universe.  I know my California sister enjoyed it immensely.

Posted in Life, Relationships, Spirituality, TV

Show Compassion for All

In response to last night’s GLEE episode, I feel that as a high school teacher I need to say something.  At first, I was shocked at where the storyline was going and then I was feeling a sense of Deja Vu when the “Adults” (why aren’t there more teachers in their high school?) were talking about how to react around the students and how nervous everyone is about “copycat” syndrome that often occurs after a student attempts suicide.  I sat through a very similar session just two weeks ago when a student killed himself at the high school where my best friend teaches.  Everyone in our school district is still dealing with what happened.  A young sophomore was picked on, pushed around and teased to the point where he felt the need to take his own life.  I personally never knew the boy but many of my students and friends did.  But what I do know is that he wasn’t even at the point where he could really live his life when he decided to end it.  No one should be made to feel like death is the only solution.

Bullying is a serious problem.  I have heard people from my generation talk about how they don’t remember Bullying being such an issue when we were in school.  The thing is that back then, we didn’t have the Internet.  If something happened, you didn’t usually hear about it.  Now, your cousins in Canada will know if someone at your school is gay or short or fat or a nerd or whatever, all thanks to the Information Hellway we call the Internet.  We didn’t have Facebook, Formspring, Tumblr, Twitter and the like.  We didn’t have cellphones that could text or go on the Internet instantly.  Rumors spread like wildfire these days and it is terrifying.  And the majority of the rumors are not even true.  It is the high-speed version of the Telephone game.  Information travels at light speed.  I knew about the student’s suicide before my friend, a teacher at that school, knew what was going on.  I had kids in my classroom crying 10 minutes after it happened.

And yes, as teachers we make the students put away their cellphones and stay off the social networks while they are in school but they are smarter than we are when it comes to high-tech sneakiness.  We used to try to figure out how to sneak out of our houses at night.  These kids know how to take notes and text without a teacher having any idea.  So if someone in class farts, the whole school knows about it within a matter of minutes.  We can try all we want but as a society everyone is addicted to their “Smartphones” and the kids today don’t know a world without them.  It is a battle we will never win.

I do love how realistically GLEE portrayed the instantaneous rumor spreading.  He came home and checked his Facebook to see what they were saying.  (Though if it were at my school, he would have checked his iPhone when he left the locker room).  It is sad but true.  The majority of kids see their friends teasing someone so they join in to be a part of the crowd.  So before you know it, hundreds, maybe even thousands of kids are participating in cyberbullying.  Many may not even know the person they are attacking.  So how do we make it stop?

As a teacher, I try to be someone the kids feel they can come to if they are having a problem.  Last year, I had a student come out of the closet to me and tell me about how they were being teased.  They were suicidal.  I followed procedure and instantly got them help.  I went to my administrator, the counselor and the school psychologist.  We all rallied around them to let them know that we all cared.  I found out about the Trevor Project.  They have experts that students can talk to and give the appropriate support.  We made sure that they knew they didn’t have to suffer in silence.  There are people out there that care and would be there for support.  There are people out there who would never judge them.

These kids need to know that life gets so much better after high school.  High School is full of drama and stress.  Everyone is in everyone else’s business.  They need to start thinking past themselves.  They have to learn what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes.  I always tell them, “treat others the way you would want to be treated.”  It’s sad that I have to remind them “how would you feel if someone was saying that to you” “or how would you feel if someone posted that about you.”

Teenagers are not zombies.  It is possible to get them away from the computers and away from their cellphones.  It is possible to get them to talk and to open up.  It is possible to teach them to have compassion for all.  But we, as adults, have to set an example.

We need to stop going after the gays in “the name of God.”  I don’t know what Bible they read but I remember Jesus saying he was dying for all our sins–not just the straight people.  Jesus said to love everyone and forgive everyone–right?  If Jesus, or God, was telling me to hate someone for any reason, then that isn’t someone I want to believe in.  We are all human beings and we should show compassion and respect to all other human beings.

I watched this great documentary by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, entitled Compassion in Emptiness.  It is on NetFlix streaming and I recommend it to everyone.  In this film, His Holiness is giving a talk about Compassion.  He says that we need to stop looking at things from a complicated level.  We need to go back to basics where we are all just human beings.  When we start talking about race, religion, and sexual orientation, we are looking at the secondary level where things are too complicated.  Complications lead to strife.  So in order for us to achieve peace and happiness, we need to stick to the basic level of understanding, “we are all human beings.”  We need to show compassion to all human beings, even if we disagree with their life choices.

And we need to stop making politicians speak for us.  All politicians lie.  Trust me, I was in Public Relations.  They all have an agenda.  All they care about is winning and getting your vote.  They will say whatever you want to hear.  You can’t trust them.  Power is corrupt, ergo those with power are corrupt.  So why do we let them do what they do?  We seem to forget that they are supposed to be working for us.  And what kind of example are they setting for our youth with their campaign ads that are designed to “destroy” their competition.  The kids are taught at an early age to look up to our Senators, Governors, and Commander In Chief.  But when you turn on the TV, you see them bullying each other in ads and in debates.  What are we teaching our children?

There are many in this world who view the United States as a Bully.  If you are one of those people, I apologize.  I am an American but I am not a Bully.  I am a human being.  I am a teacher who goes to work every day because I know I have the chance to make a difference in the lives of my students.  I teach photography but my kids often say my class is “the real world” class.  I try to go above and beyond the simple practices of how to work a camera.  I don’t do it for the money–believe me, there is no money in teaching (which is why I have two other jobs on the side).  I do it for the kid who came to me for help instead of committing suicide.  It is about helping your fellow human being.

I once heard a woman give a speech about how we have two purposes in life.  One is to be a Student, learning all of life’s lessons.  The Second is to be a Teacher, teaching what we have learned.  I took it literally.

My story and the GLEE story had a happy ending–the kids survived.  But unfortunately it doesn’t always turn out that way.  It is sad that it often takes the loss of a young life to bring society to an awakening.  We need to open our eyes and see what is going on around us, see what our kids are seeing.  Start that conversation.  Stop saying “oh, it is just teenage angst.”  If you see a kid in pain, give them a hug.  Ask them what is wrong and LISTEN.  You have to become aware of the truth in order to make a difference.

Posted in Astrology, Life, Photography, Relationships, Spirituality, Universe

The Lion Moon

The Lion Moon poking through the clouds in the Altadena, CA night sky.

Tonight, February 7, 2012, the Full Moon is in Leo.  If you look it up on the internet, you can find all kinds of different meanings for the “Lion Moon.”

To the Native Americans, the February Full Moon, no matter which constellation it appears to inhabit, is considered to be the “Snow Moon.”  They believe that the heaviest snow fall occurs in February.  Based on my childhood in Michigan, I would have to agree.  I remember having blizzards occur practically every year during our “winter break” in February.  Ironically, here in California, we had a rain storm, our version of winter weather.

According to shirleymaclaine.com, “The Full Moon in Leo, also the Moon opposite the Sun at 4:54 PM, often called the Snow Moon, is about self versus others in the scheme of your life and what you want the most. Strong challenge can be brought to a head with the core reasoning being what you want in relation to another’s desires. This ray can cause you to want to jump ship and run off to an island of fun and frolic rather than having to stay anywhere there is rigidity or confinement.”

This would go with what others say, that the Lion Moon is a time when your rational thinking tends to contradict your gut instincts.  They will battle it out and the stronger of the two will prevail.  The stronger one will most likely turn out to be a decision where you break free from your past or current path and start a new one.  You will be encouraged to take steps toward this new path to renew and excite your spirit.  You are ready to let go and move on.

Some say this is a time for love and creativity.  The Sun is in Aquarius and reflecting onto the Moon in Leo, creating loving feelings to stimulate the heart and mind.  It is a time of altruistic love, to help others and then you in return will receive love.  It is a time to celebrate and  party.  If you are in a relationship, this is the time to have fun and enjoy each other’s company.  If your relationship is strained, now is the time to rekindle the old flame.  And if you are single, like me, then this is the time to set your intention to finding your Mr. or Mrs. Right.

If you are a Buddhist, the February Full Moon has numerous causes for Celebration.  “Magha Puja (February full moon Day) is the festival that commemorates the occasion when 1250 enlightened personal disciples of the Buddha came spontaneously to the Bamboo grove on the full moon of Magha (our February).  The Buddha predicted his death and recited a summary of his teachings and a code of discipline which all monks are expected to recite every fortnight.  The day is observed with meditation, chanting and listening to sermons.”

It is also “Parinirvana (February full moon Day), a festival where people remember the death of Buddha. When he was 81 years old, the Buddha knew that the time had come for him to die. He lay down and died peacefully.  In the temples the lights are lowered. People chant and meditate in the dimmed light. The lights are made bright again. The lights are a symbol. They show that the light of Buddha’s teachings continues to shine in the world.”

And in Tibet, it is Losar (February Full Moon Day), celebrating the Tibetan New Year.  The celebration begins at the full moon in February and lasts for 15 days.

But tonight, when you look up at the night sky, just know that no matter what you believe, we are all one, united by the illumination of the same Full Moon.

Happy New Year, Tibet!

Posted in Life, Spirituality, Universe

Happy Friday The 13th!

Happy Friday the 13th!  I have never understood why this day freaks people out.  So I thought I would check it out on the Internet.  Ironically, this year, we will have 3 Friday the 13ths . . . exactly 13 weeks apart . . .in a Leap Year . . . in the year 2012.  The doomsday people must be having a field day.

Personally, for me (a woman whose favorite holiday is Halloween), I love Friday the 13th.  My friends and I used to go out to haunted places on a Friday the 13th.  But for me, I love Fridays–end of the week.  And 13 is a lucky number for me.  Actually, all of my lucky numbers are odd–but I’m not “normal.”

So when I set out to find out the origins of Friday the 13th, I was none too surprised to find out that no one really knows but they think the origins of this “unlucky” day are tied to Christian beliefs.  Big surprise there.

First off, except for Good Friday, Christians saw Friday as a day of “misfortune”–the 6th day of the week.  Eve offered Adam the apple in the garden of Eden on a Friday.  The Crucifixion, the Great Flood, and the confusion at the Tower of Babel also happened on a Friday.  In literature, we can find references to Friday being a day of “mischance” going all the way back to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales written in the 14th century.  By the 17th century, the idea of Friday being the “unluckiest day” was weaving its way throughout the majority of Western Literature.  So then it became a common superstition that you should never undertake any kind of venture or endeavor on a Friday.  Some even go as far in thought as avoiding ordinary tasks like writing letters, conducting business or seeking medical treatment on a friday because it is bad luck.  In my world, we Thank God It’s Friday and we have a countdown to this glorious day.

Now as for the number 13 (my luckiest number), once again, the origins of the superstition are obscure but many sources link it once again to Christianity and the meal of all meals . . . The Last Supper.  It is said that Judas was the thirteenth guest to sit at the table for The Last Supper, right before he betrayed Jesus which lead to the Crucifixion and then his suicide.  And because of Judas, they say you should never have more than 12 guests at a table.  If thirteen people sit down for a meal together, within a year, one will die.  I wonder if anyone ever experimented with this idea?

So again, why thirteen?  In Numerology, twelve is a holy number, the number of completeness–the twelve Apostles, the twelve months in a year, twelve hours of the clock, twelve gods at Olympus, twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve descendants of Muhammad and my personal favorite, the twelve years of school.  So since twelve is complete and perfect, then thirteen was considered irregular, odd and a transgression from completeness.  So because it is irregular and incomplete, it must be eliminated, right?  Only a dozen, no more.  That last donut can’t fit in the box, it must be separated from the rest, the odd man out.

So now I understand why I love Friday the 13th so much.  The world is telling you not to do anything on a Friday because something bad will happen–I like that excuse.  And thirteen is an irregular, odd number.  I like it.  It is very Avant-Garde in my humble opinion.  We shouldn’t fear this day, we should embrace it and enjoy it for being unique.  So Happy Friday the 13th!  Get your Superstition On!

Posted in Life

My Bucket List

Over the last few months, my family has lost several of its members. With so many passings, it makes you take a good hard look at your own life. You start to face your own mortality and think about what you have done and all the things that you still hope to do. So I thought I would start to make my own “Bucket List” of the things I hope to do before I kick the proverbial bucket.

 MY BUCKET LIST

1. Learn to speak fluent Italian (not just the cuss words and curses)

2. Go to Italy to meet my family

3. Go to England

4. Go to Transylvania

5. Go to Tibet

6. Meet the Dalai Lama (My Yoda)

7. Ride an Elephant in Africa (or India)

8. Visit my friend Neroli in New Zealand

9. Travel through Australia

10. Go to Prince Edward Island to see the real Green Gables

11. Read all of the true “Classic” novels

12. Write a book

13. Get a book published

14. Visit a Buddhist Monastery

15. Meet Shirley Maclaine (or at the very least, read all of her books)

16. Meet Johnny Depp

17. Have the Father-Daughter dance with my Dad (I will marry myself if I have to)

18. Fall in love with someone who will actually love me back

19. Adopt a Starvin’ Marvin (or any kid who just needs a good home)

20. Travel to all 50 States (Almost done with this one)

21. Find a job where I can actually have a life

22. Find a man who will actually stick around

23. Own a home (house or Condo)

24. Help find a cure for Endometriosis (by being a research study subject or an advocate)

25. Make a difference in the lives of others

26. Pay off all my debt

27. Backpack through Europe

28. See a play on Broadway

29. Go to Egypt (when it is safe)

30. Go on a Spritual quest of Epic proportions and write a book about it (“Just Eat, forget the praying and loving”)

31. Act in a movie, TV show or Play again

32. Travel to all the National Parks in the US

33. Make a Documentary or Movie with my friends

34. Explore more ghost towns

35. Go ghost hunting with Ghost Hunters

OK, this is harder than I thought. I guess I will just have to keep adding to this over time. But this is a good start.

**First posted 06/28/11