About Me Archives - Eva Varga

May 30, 20131

Mangos are a fruit, low in calories with excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber, and a low glycemic index.  Not to mention their sweetness.  My husband says they taste as good as candy and I have to agree.  I have loved mangos for as long as I can remember.  They are my favorite fruit.  Years ago, however, I discovered that if I sliced the familiar checkerboard pattern and then brought it to my mouth to enjoy, the following day, I would break out in painful hives all around my lips – typical symptoms of mango allergy.  I was teaching at the time and this itchy rash was very embarrassing.

mango seed

Mango Allergy?  Say it isn’t so!!

I came to learn that though mangos are delicious and a favorite fruit to many, they are also a source of adverse and potentially harmful allergic reactions.  A mango allergy is a rare food allergy. Mangoes come from the same plant family as poison oak. A mango allergy develops from a substance called urushiol, which is found in the mango’s sap and can also be found in poison ivy.

The guilty chemical is urusiol, present in the rind of the mango. Urusiol is in the form of an oleoresin (a mixture of the oils in the mango skin mix with the alkyl based resin). The most common reactions range from numbness and swelling of the lips, to a mild irritation, to a bumpy itchy rash between the fingers and on the ear lobes. It can progress to the classical skin rash and itching that is seen in exposure to poison Oak and poison Ivy.

mango seedsDiscovering my mango allergy years ago, I changed the way I prepared mangos.  I was careful to wash to the skin and to slice the fruit off the skin before consumption.  I have also been careful to always use a fork and not to suck on the large seed.  For years, these precautions have been successful.  But no longer.

A few weeks ago, upon our return from Utah actually, we bought a flat of mangos at Costco.  I prepared them as per usual and enjoyed them in a variety of dishes as well as freshly cut.  A few days after we had eaten our last mango, I awoke to discover my eyes were swollen and I had a bumpy itchy rash between my fingers.  As this was a new reaction for me, I didn’t at first attribute it to the mango.

Delayed hypersensitivity?

Today, however, I awoke to a mildly swollen eye and my left hand itchy around my wedding band.  I had eaten a small serving of mango on Monday and can logically presume it must have been the mango.  Generally, an allergic reaction begins once a person comes in contact with the skin of a mango either by hand or mouth.  However, I have  now learned a version called delayed hypersensitivity can occur where the reaction appears 48 or 72 hours after exposure.

I’m bummed to discover I must now abstain from eating mango.  I would be willing to put up with a swollen eye and itchy fingers to taste this forbidden fruit.  However, the concern is that over time I would have increased sensitivity and the reaction could be more severe.  What is interesting to me, however, is I have never – in all my years of plodding through the forests of Oregon and California – had a reaction to poison Oak or poison Ivy.  I’ve even naively handled the leaves of poison Oak .. though I now know how to correctly identify both.

April 12, 20133

I follow the National Science Teachers Association on Facebook and Twitter.  As a result, I have been seeing many posts this past week regarding the convention that is taking place in San Antonio this weekend.  I haven’t attended an NSTA convention in many years – I believe the last one was in 2002, a few months prior to the birth of my daughter.  As I read the tweets, I recalled how much I thoroughly enjoy conferences.  I thereby pulled out my journal and read a few entries (before I began blogging, I kept a hand-written journal).  Here is one I would like to share:

21 March 2001 
I have just attended my first National NSTA Convention (after attending a few smaller, regional and or state conventions).  It will certainly not be my last.  I  had a spectacular time and it has been even more special because Patrick was able to attend with me.   
The first day, like the other conventions I have attended, is a little overwhelming (trying to get organized, finding the location of the talks I am interested in, navigating the exhibit hall, etc).  Buzz Aldrin was the keynote speaker.  We had to wait in line for nearly two hours to enter the lecture hall (tickets were not distributed, it was first come, first served).
Just after we arrived, I realized that I had forgotten my copy of his book Men From Earth in our hotel room.  I was distraught as I had desired him to sign it.  Patrick, to my delight, was willing to ride back to retrieve it – a 1-hour bus ride – one way!  This meant he would miss Buzz’ address.  Patrick you are an angel!  Thank you for being there for me & coming to my rescue!
After Buzz’ address, I waited another hour for the book signing – needless to say, he wasn’t too happy to sign an old book.  He was there to push his newest title.  He signed my copy but was noticeably grumpy about it.  I heard later that he refused to sign a NASA lithograph a man had cherished since he was a little boy. 
The line waiting at the convention was very common.  I learned there were approx. 20,000 people in attendance.  Incredible! 
Thursday night, we attended a dinner in my honor at Cafe de France.  It was superb!  I ordered Greek Salad, Venison Steak with steamed veggies and potatoes, and Amaretto Cake.  Regrettably, I don’t recall all the details the server used to describe each dish.  Next time, I will be sure to write it down or request a keepsake menu.  [ I really do this now! I have quite a collection of menus. 🙂 ]
The award coordinator for the CIBA Foundation, Lois Amend, was very classy.  It was a memorable occasion just meeting her.  I felt so comfortable in her presence – she was very humble and down-to-earth.  
On Friday, I did get a change to go to a couple of sessions and see many of the exhibits.  Surprisingly, even though there were four 160 page catalogs describing the activities (short courses, sessions, workshops, tours, and special events) there were few that were actually of interest to me.  Those I did desire to attend frequently conflicted with one another.  Disappointing yet I don’t believe that I’ll spend as much time in line at future conventions.  I spent another 2 hours Friday afternoon waiting to have Bill Nye sign a book – in retrospect, had I known he was going to address the Council for Elementary Science International (CESI) luncheon on Saturday – I would’ve waited.
I also participated in the NASA NEW Share-a-Thon on Saturday whereby past participants of the NEW workshops shared with prospective applicants activities and projects we had learned ourselves.  I was very nervous.  I had brought two activities to share:  film canister rockets (which turned out to be a familiar favorite for many) and Geometry of Moon Phases – a hit!  There were so many attendees, I ran out of handouts!  It felt really good to share my ideas with others.  Even other NEW alumni enjoyed the moon activity.  Wendall Mohling (NSTA Coordinator for NASA) and Christina Gorski were very appreciative of our participation and gave us small thank you gifts (NEW lapel pin, a patch, and a coffee mug).  Very Cool!
The highlight of the trip was above all the CESI luncheon on Saturday.  The council members were so genuinely excited to meet me.  I could not believe how special they believed me to be.  The CESI/CIBA award, I learned, is their highest honor.  When Patrick and I arrived, we were quickly ushered in (despite the huge line of people who had purchased tickets).  After we were shown our seats at a reserved table near the podium, I was quickly introduced to Barbara Morgan, the luncheon speaker and next teacher in space.  She was as excited to meet me as I was to meet her.  Everyone was giving me hugs and shaking my hand.  It was a little overwhelming.  When I looked over the luncheon agenda, I discovered that Bill Nye was also being presented an award.  My name was on the same agenda as his!! Wow! I am still in awe.  There were nearly 400 people at the luncheon including Connie & Bonnie (fellow JPL NEW alumni) … it was great to see them. 
When Barbara Morgan gave her address, she said, “Isn’t it wonderful to have bright, young people like Eva Varga teaching?”  I was so honored.  People I didn’t know were taking my picture as I was presented my award. As the luncheon came to a close, others came to shake my hand and congratulate me.  A retired woman even gave me the microscope she won during the raffle, “You’ll need this more than I, dear.  Besides, I don’t really want to pack it home.”  How delightful! 🙂
A few people even recognized me in the exhibit hall and came up to express their good wishes.  “Eva, you are such an inspiration.  Congratulations on your award.  You certainly deserve it.”  I never would have guessed the scale to which this award would be recognized.  I have truly been blessed.  The benefits will continue as the new relationships I’ve developed promise to open doors for me in the future.
In the word of Bill Nye, “Science teachers, like Eva Varga, are what keep the PB and J in teaching .. Passion, Beauty, & Joy.”

I share this with my readers in the hope that you will be inspired yourself to pursue your passions.  I have come to realize I miss this part of my life – the professional me.  I am thereby taking strides to bring her back.  Look forward to great things to come as I share my experiences and skills more regularly.

Have any of you attended conventions?  Perhaps a homeschool convention or blogging conference?  Perhaps you have attended conferences focused on specific interests or hobbies like stamp collecting, knitting, or jewelry.  I’d love to hear about your experience.

June 8, 2012

For much of April and May (perhaps even longer),  I was struggling with burnout.  I am tempted to say even mild depression, yet I didn’t ever consult a physician and I certainly do not want to minimize the struggle of those who do.  I just was not myself.

I was not inspired to blog.  I was barely teaching any formal lessons.  So much of what I had enjoyed in the past – running, swimming, teaching, blogging – was lost to me.  I couldn’t find the desire to do the things I desperately wanted to do.  Rather than get up early as I generally would two years ago, I would sleep in and wake only when the sun’s rays shining through the blinds in my bedroom forced me out of bed.  In comparison to my ‘old self‘, I was lazy.

To make matters worse, the kids and I just couldn’t see eye-to-eye. Sitting down to do lessons was a daily battle.  I was not into it and they knew it.  This further aggravated the situation.

My mom came down in mid-May to spend the week with us … to see #1s first play … to see the kids compete in a swim meet (#2’s first) … and to celebrate our birthdays.  The kids and I were very excited to spend quality time with her.  We planned a few outings and Grandma tagged along to some of our routine activities (Mandarin, swim team, & music lessons).  Though it wasn’t planned, her presence turned out to be a major blessing.  She stepped in a few times to reprimand #2 and made a few suggestions to me on how I might change my own approach.

After she returned home – I spent some time reevaluating things.  I knew in my heart that homeschooling was the right choice for us.  That was never in question.  What I discovered though was that I was still approaching it as I would if I were in a formal classroom.  I thought I needed to plan activities to engage them that would also demonstrate their mastery of the subject matter – lapbooks, interactive maps, elaborate projects, etc.

My kiddos were never very excited to do these and balked whenever I would ask them to do so.   One day, I asked them to simply write out what they knew about the Revolutionary War (our current focus in history).  I was amazed at how much they recalled … just from reading aloud Story of the World, watching Liberty’s Kids, and talking.  It suddenly became clear to me that a lapbook (or other tangible) was not critical to their success.  I discovered that we are much more “Unschoolers” than I anticipated.

I also came to realize that I missed blogging.  I do not have many followers and for a while, I was bummed to see the accolades and recognition that some of the other homeschool bloggers were receiving.  Pinterest didn’t help.  I fell into the trap of comparing myself to others.  Judging myself against all that others were doing.  To be honest, I was jealous and I let this interfere with why I started blogging and homeschooling in the first place.

A homeschool blogger friend recently posted a link on Facebook to a blog post by another homeschool blogger, why blogging matters, and it really hit home.  Blogging or writing helps me to process things. If I can write about it, I’ve learned it. If I can write about it, I can let it go. It is my creative outlet of expression. Writing also motivates me – knowing that what I am doing,  even what I am struggling with may help someone else.

These past few days, I have been aggressively playing a little catchup.  Composing blog posts to celebrate our successes and to share our adventures.  It is a fun way to reflect and relive these moments.  I am rediscovering me.

January 26, 2012
I attended Lane Community College after high school, earning an Associates of Arts Oregon Transfer Degree (thereby satisfying all undergrad requirements at a four-year university).  While there, one of the many required courses I took was Writing 121.  My professor turned out to be not only a great teacher … but also a life-long friend.  
I loved his teaching style and through him, I was introduced to a genre of literature to which I had not been previously exposed.  I thereby took another course he taught .. Black American Literature.  Later, when I took another writing course (taught by someone else, sadly), I was inspired to write an anecdote about him:
“Good afternoon,” were the only words he said as he walked into the room, removed his leather hat, and took his place behind the podium. His strong, husky voice enraptured the class and held the attention of us all.  The room was small, seating maybe twenty-five students.  The desks were tightly arranged in a semi-circle around the podium and the man who would soon become an inspiration to me.

He preached the power of words and advised us to be skeptical of the things we had always taken fro granted and to question that which we are taught.  He would proudly tell us stories of his childhood and of the many adventures he had experienced in his life.  He could make us laugh and then within a moment, stare in shock and surprise.  

He challenged conventional Western society, dared each of us to open doors to new worlds. I began to indulge in the literature of African American writers.  Seeing society through their eyes changed me … I became more aware.  

The more I got to know him, the more I realized that he wasn’t as intimidating as I had initially  expected.  It was clear to me that he was a man to be taken seriously and one who could teach me a lot about myself, life, and the world around me.  He has become a great friend and one I will cherish always.  

His wisdom and courage to fight ignorance continues to burn through me.  My hope is that I too, will become an inspiration to young minds.  To challenge them to experience life from new perspectives.”

After I transferred to Oregon State, I would drive down to visit him on occasion during his office hours.  He continued to be a mentor and confidant.  As the years progressed, our exchanges dwindled to the annual Christmas card until eventually we lost contact.  I would think of him often – wishing I could reach out and reconnect.  My mom shared with me that she had read of his retirement.  I didn’t know how to find him.   

I looked for him through Facebook .. and to my delight, found his son .. who helped to reconnect us.  To my surprise and chagrin, he lives not far from me – so we made plans to drive down this past weekend.

It was such a delight to see him and his wife again. They gave us a tour of the city … shared with us stories of their children and grandchildren.  They took us out to lunch whereby I was able to personally thank his son for his role in helping me to connect again.  It was indeed a wonderful day.  Sadly, though, I was so engaged in conversation, I didn’t think to take pictures of us together despite having a camera available.  I’m still kicking myself for that … however, I’ll never forget the image of the two of them standing in their driveway with their arms around one another as we drove away that evening.

June 29, 20104
What’s your sanctuary?
Your place?
Your thing?
Even when you can’t leave the home behind what do you do at home with a houseful of children to find some time for you?
Finding time for myself has always been a teeter totter for me.  When the kiddos were younger … it was actually easier for me.  I could pack a few snacks, a book and a toy or two, plop them into the jogging stroller, lace up my trainers and head out for a run.  We were comfortable running together in this way for 8-10 miles!  Frequently, they would even nap while I pounded the pavement.  It was perfect!

As they grew, it became more and more difficult for me to push 100+ pounds.  They also grew increasingly less content.  Finding time to run alone became a struggle.  I thereby began to look forward to the time they could accompany me on their bikes.  

This isn’t really possible when they are still using training wheels – too slow.  Buddy just recently found success in riding without training wheels.  I am now looking forward to running again throughout the summer.

Additional moments to myself that I cherish:

Morning: In the mornings, DH wakes me when he departs for work usually by 5:45 a.m.  I often make him breakfast then I get my coffee and head to the computer. My kiddos generally sleep until 7 so I have an hour or so to blog (my online journal) and reflect. This is also the time in which I prep lessons and prepare for the day.

Exercise: I feel so recharged & healthy taking care of my physical self.  I swear I feel more energetic and youthful on days in which I’ve been able to exercise.  I swim three days a week and hope to resume running three days a week as well. Presently, the runs have been intermittent and irregular.  I vow to change that.

Quiet Hour: Many of my friends (both homeschoolers and non) do this … 30 minutes to an hour of quiet time in the middle of the day.  Time to settle down.  Quiet our thoughts.  Our bodies.  Recharge.  We need to do this.  I think this would really help Buddy focus and have fewer conflicts.  We are ‘on the go’ so frequently, however, this will be difficult.

Hobbies: I love blogging. I love to write, to network, to read. I take photos and enjoy creating digital scrapbook pages. I love to read … novels, books about teaching and running. I use my love of technology (digital scrapbooking) and blogging to head-up the yearbook for Central Oregon Homeschoolers.  This year, I will also be a part of a small team of administrators for our new homeschool community website (forums, blog, calendar, etc.)

When I read, it is usually when everyone else is in bed.  I love cuddling up with a good book and being transported to another time … another place.  As a part of my passion for reading, I participate in a woman’s book club and we meet once a month to discuss the book (of course) and to just be together as women.  It is a great outlet for me and an opportunity to connect.

December 19, 20082

I recently discovered a post by a friend about great teachers and was inspired to write a similar post. I have had many wonderful teachers in my life. Without a doubt this is certainly a reason why I entered the field of education myself. Though many have touched my life at varying points, outside of my parents and family members, the three that follow have had more influence on who I became as an adult than any other.

Paul MacDonald – Junior high track coach, high school basketball coach, and math tutor. Though initially my coach – Paul became so much more. He will forever be a dear friend. I miss him terribly and frequently wake up crying thinking of him. I never had the opportunity to tell him how much his friendship meant to me. He believed in me when even I did not. He encouraged me to pursue a dream (running) that I did not even realize until many years later. I run for him.

Bill Powell
– My English professor at Lane Community College. An amazing man that taught me to question everything and not take things for granted. Through him, I became more aware of other cultures as well as my own … of how society can persuade individuals to act, sometimes contrary to their own moral compass.  I also know that my love of good literature is due to his influence.  I’ve discovered many authors and been exposed to genres I would not otherwise have without his influence.

Minnie Gnos – My mentor teacher during my final trimester. Besides teaching me classroom skills beyond anything I ever dreamed, she has taught me about believing in oneself when others doubt you. She also taught me to stand up for myself and fight the system. To not allow the system to change who I am as an individual. Though I am no longer in a classroom – I came out of the teacher education program with my true self intact.

Thank you for everything you have done for me. Without your guidance and your passion, I would not be the person I am today.