It’s a beautiful view from the home office today!
It’s a Blog Hop so Linky Link below or comment and I will be around to visit this evening. Happy Hump day everyone!
In an attempt to not break my workday writing streak I headed over to Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop Inspiration Button. After several uninspiring, or I don’t know you like that, clicks I was inspired by the following prompt:
Let’s get something straight. I’m not growin’ up and you can’t make me. I hold dear my Ravenclaw coffee mug, coloring books and super amazing twisty Crayola coloring pencils, and my silly accents I use while making dinner and jamming to 90’s hip-hop. By jamming I do mean dancing in my kitchen while wearing dachshund printed PJs and fuzzy socks. #dontjudge
There are also many in my life who have inspired me to be the best me I can be. However, weird and sometimes immature that may be. Hey, I hope they are proud.
#1 My Grandmother
#2 My Aunt Merita
#3 My Great Aunt Hazel
Despite being terribly sick, my Gran raised me from two years old until she died in 1997. Off and on I spent time with various family members when Gran was in the hospital or recovering from being in the hospital. She was declared dead once, and we were told she was brain dead another time. She wasn’t ready for such a final diagnosis and managed to push on. Because of her health, her time spent directly entertaining me involved reading, drawing, coloring, word search, or other word games like Scrabble or Boggle. I learned to entertain myself by playing outside, climbing the fruit trees, picking blackberries, kicking a ball around, or building with legos. Not those lego kits either. I had to use my imagination to come up with what to build. My favorite was designing lego houses. I wanted to be an architect or a veterinarian. Gran never discouraged me. Our games gave me a love of words and creativity. When I discovered music she would listen to me practice for hours. Never complaining. At the beginning that had to be terribly difficult. By the time I was in high school I was pretty good, but a trumpet is loud and had to be difficult to listen to hours on end. She knew music was my ticket to college. Living on her fixed income, there was little money for extras. I did not go without needs and she did her best to make sure I got some things I wanted. Others helped with some of those too. She instilled her love of art, reading, and her “do what you have to do” spirit.
My Aunt Merita is my go-to for all things advice. I know she helped Gran when things were tight. I remember staying with her regularly. I grew up as her 5th child. When I discovered the level of math and advanced science necessary for architecture or veterinary medicine, I realized my goals needed to be revised. Social Science and teaching became my area of interest. As a teacher who began her career later in life Merita was able to guide and advise. She stepped in as a grandmother to my children, an advisor when I needed to find my way, and a friend when I needed an ear. She is a strong independent woman who battled cancer and won. Given only a few months to live and asked by doctors if they could study her case, she emphatically proclaimed she was not ready to give up yet and sought treatment. That was ten years ago. While we are separated by distance these days, she is only a phone call or text away. In a sense, we share a mother. It is because of Gran that Merita and I have similar views on getting done what has to be done and pushing ourselves.
Lastly, my Great Aunt Hazel. She would come by regularly to chat, sometimes bringing fresh vegetables. She loved Gran’s cooking so it was usually at lunch and the vegetables would be part of it. Aunt Hazel was loud, vibrant, and lived her life the way she wanted. After her husband died she ran their coal mining business and kept it successful. Talk about a woman in a man’s world. I can remember staying with her once and she took me for a 4 wheeler ride around her property. It was terrifying and exhilarating. She was in her 70s and loved the adventure. By her 90s she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She had such an amazing attitude about it. Very much an “it is what it is” mindset. Once, at a family gathering (decoration if you are familiar with the Southern tradition) Aunt Hazel was riding her scooter along the dirt walking paths and weaving in and out. She was having a joyful time, happy for anyone to tell her all about her grandkids…even if she had just heard about each. Aunt Hazel was willing to help Gran anytime it was needed, and she didn’t have to be asked. She recognized the need and filled it. She was vibrant and didn’t let anyone tell her what she couldn’t do or how she should do it. She also did what made her happy.
These three summaries of amazing women are extremely condensed versions. Gran, Merita, and Aunt Hazel are my best examples of tenacity, strength, and joyful living. Each rose above their circumstances in life. Each faced adversity and pushed on anyway. Each modeled the tenets of continuous improvement, be your best self, and help others when you can.
I want to be like them. I want to be me, not what others think I should be. I want to be driven, creative, and strong in the face of adversity. I want to be happy where I am and help bring happiness to others. I want to offer words of wisdom when it is needed. I want to be able to ride a 4 wheeler in my 70s and a scooter in my 90s.
In an effort to keep busy, continue learning, and challenge myself I decided to dedicate several months to learning my camera. I signed up for a Coursera specialization and worked to learn various aspects of photography and manual mode. By the end, I was confident shooting in manual, although not always successful. It was worth the time and effort to improve the shots I take and develop a fun, although expensive, hobby. (Donations for new lenses will always be graciously accepted!) Nature is my preferred subject. I was also able to practice with our kids, as well as their friends. Completing this specialization and receiving constructive feedback and encouragement from my peers is both validating and extremely satisfying. There were elements that challenged me tremendously. (I’ll be honest, it’s mostly the math of it. Math makes me want to cry.) Other elements will help me in my instructional design and development. More importantly, I accomplished something I set out to do and developed a new hobby. Below is my Capstone Statement for Canon of Nature and Me and the images I submitted. A canon is a statement, collection, or criterion of related works. It is also my brand of camera, so a little play on words.
It would be easy to shrink within and give in to the frustration of 2020. Nature has been my inspiration to stay positive and stay healthy. It has been my retreat. My photography inspires me to explore new areas, as well as explore the same areas through a different lens…sometimes literally. Colors change throughout the year. Light reflects differently each day, and at different times of the day. The view changes and the camera keeps me from taking it for granted. In this series, I am exploring the world around me. What is growing in my own backyard, my neighborhood, my favorite parks, and nature preserves? Getting outdoors keeps me motivated and I seek to capture that motivation with my lens and share it with you the viewer.
I started taking pictures regularly a few years ago. My philosophy was point, shoot, and hope for the best. My strategy was volume. Thousands of pictures for a small number of useable images. This learning series and Capstone Project has encouraged me to adjust settings, eventually shoot in mostly manual, and delve into editing RAW images. I have successfully become intentional about framing, exposure, and seeking to capture inspired moments instead of seeing something cool and hoping for the best as I take shot after shot.
As cities grow our neighborhoods expand. New building projects are implemented for houses, apartments, storage facilities, another gas station or car wash on the corner. Finding a relaxing natural space can be difficult in larger cities. Greenways offer an escape to nature. Nature preserves offer some protection to nature and the environment. As with our changing cityscapes, natural landscapes change as well. I seek to document the natural places I enjoy, frame the landscape, and capture the inspiring moments for both historical documentation and change over time.
In my 2021 attempt to write more I have jumped back into the blog world. Each evening I venture into the blogosphere and visit others. I participate in blog hops to explore and find inspiration for writing topics. It’s interesting, it’s fun, and it is a wonderful break from the stressful social media world. A few daily writing hops I like are Wordless Wednesday, Thankful Thursday, and a recent find the Writing Workshop. There are several for Friday, and I would like to leave Fridays open for any topic. Not that any day isn’t open to any topic. One post a day is a stretch goal for me. So for Friday, it’s for:
This Friday, Friday is for food.
We enjoy cooking together. It’s a time to get something done and discuss the day, or just be silly together. Sometimes we turn on the “device that shall not be named” and watch Hot in Cleveland while food prep. Sometimes we ask “the device” to play soothing music in the background while we prepare the meal. Sometimes it’s a funky-funny festivity of chaos complete with the funniest 90’s hip-hop hits. If I’ve been completed disconnected I ask for news highlights. In the winter we like comfort food and soup is at the top of our list.
As I look out my window and watch the cold rainfall that is threatening to become snow I think about what soup I would like to make this weekend. My current favorite is a creamy taco soup. It has a little spice and is rich enough to really warm you up. I found the recipe on allrecipes.com and tweaked it to fit our tastes. While we prefer to go as unprocessed as possible, with some soups I cheat and use condensed soup. If you would like lower calories and sodium, make your own mushroom cream sauce instead of using canned cream of mushrooms soup. You can also chopped your own tomatoes and chiles.
This soup doesn’t take long if you boil your chicken and shred it. It can be done an hour before dinner, or slow cook all day. As with most soups, longer or save until the next day is better. We prefer the slow cook method because it means no chicken to thaw. When we get up we throw in a frozen chicken breast or two with a little water and slow cook until lunch. At lunch break, we shred the chicken if it is ready, and throw in other ingredients- minus the cheese, and drop the heat to warm. The Neufchatel cheese is left until the very end just before serving. The soup spends the remainder of the day marinating. When it is soon time for dinner stir in the cheese. It will need about another 20 minutes to absorb flavor. I add the cheese just before making quesadillas. That’s just enough time for it to blend well. Beans and corn make a great addition to this recipe if you need more substance and oomph to your meal.
100% our favorite soup meal. It is a creamy variation of our chicken fajita soup. It’s the creaminess that takes it to the next level of yum.
This is an image I took on my last day of teaching. I taught the day, packed my stuff, and walked away from an 18-year career that I loved. The school was wonderful. Administration was supportive. I had a great group of students.
Education and classroom instruction has seen many changes over the years. The expectations, administrative tasks, and teaching challenges were becoming too much for my stress management. It was time for a change.
I left the classroom and stepped into a learning and development role. Over these three years, the role has changed and grown, and I have been able to shape it into a job that incorporates technology and creativity, as well as instruction. I really love what I do and have a manager who guides me in my weakest areas and allows me to use my strengths. I’m thankful that my husband helped me figure out the skill set transfer. I am thankful for a manager who was willing to take a chance on a teacher, even when others weren’t as certain. I’m thankful for a company that has let me be a part of their learning program and have input.
Happy Thursday. I’m looking forward to reading all of your Thankful Thursday posts this evening. Comment or Linky Link below and I’ll stop by!
Live life. Give joy. Be at peace.
2020 was less than easy. It took real effort to find happiness in common things. I didn’t mind working from home. I certainly didn’t mind social distancing. As an extreme introvert, it was nice to have my preferred life become socially acceptable. The mask was a little tough at first, especially when hot. Over time, no big. It is just another item of clothing. I knew that it was going to require an effort to stay active and not sink into the frustration of the election, Covid-19, and the changes we faced. I need goals and am very task-driven. So I set one and decided to learn how to use my digital camera and shoot in manual mode. I took a specialization through Coursera (which I just finished, yay me!) and took pictures as often as possible. As much as possible I ate lunch with my husband and took walks morning, afternoon, and evening as weather permitted. We adjusted. There were a few scares with the kids being exposed. They are all working outside the home and being as careful as possible. By the end of the year, only one was actually living at home. (Fly little birdies! I’m so proud of you!) Some friends and family were not so lucky and suffered from the virus, and some succumbed to the complications. 2020 was certainly not all rainbows and butterflies. We had to make the best of it, and I’m proud to say we did.
If you have 6 minutes to spare, check out our year in review video linked below.
Live life. Give joy. Be at peace.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is get started. It requires motivation, initiative, and sometimes optimism. Honestly, this should probably be my daily mantra and reminder. Get up. Start your day. Do not snooze that alarm. It is much easier to resist getting started in the morning.
I’ve also resisted getting started writing more.
Last year I decided my goal would be to learn my camera and use it for more than just point and shoot. I was successful. I now shoot in manual mode most of the time and I am editing RAW images. Still learning, still taking pictures, and continuing that process. Actually, 2020 was the perfect time for that goal. Photography is a great activity for social distancing and trying to stay active. This year, I have chosen a different activity and one that is not very active. I want to write more and improve my writing. I’ll still embrace my stream of consciousness preference, and I want to broaden my abilities. Years ago I wrote almost daily. I communicated with others across the world in a virtual space. I miss that. It was beneficial to read the perspective of others and be exposed to new ideas, new books, new places. So, for 2021, I’m going to get back to that. I want to improve communication, write more, and keep moving.
With this post, I’m refusing to resist. I’m getting started. One of my favorite authors is American historian James McPherson. I had the pleasure of interviewing him for a grad paper. What stuck the most was his comment that the hardest part of any book was to start writing. It stuck because I have such respect and admiration for his work. How could he struggle to get started? Because he’s human and sometimes that’s what we do.
Here I am, getting started and jumping in with both feet.
It’s been two weeks. That’s two weeks too long. Two weeks since we said goodbye to Tiki. Seventeen years she was with me. Stubborn. Strong. Independent. Happy. Charming. Inquisitive. Tiki was an amazing dog. She loved to explore and loved to meet new people. She was fierce and friendly. The matriarch and silent leader she ran the pack. Each new puppy she mothered and trained. Everyone perfected her terrible wrestling technique, roll over and kick with your back feet. Try to take her toy and you might lose a finger, or your snout if you’re Mozey. Life and cuddles were 100% on her terms. I have never seen a dog so capable of burrowing and perfectly tucking herself in for bed. Napping queen, it was the secret to her longevity. Play hard, nap harder. It’s been two weeks and I have been unable to pay her a proper tribute. Browsing her pictures has been therapeutic. I can think of her and smile, but the loss is felt so deep. In the last several months I have been focused on her care and making sure she was comfortable, looking for any sign that she was tired and ready to call it quits. I didn’t want her to suffer. It wasn’t until her last 24 hours that she showed any sign of being tired and ready to say that’s it, I’m done with this. It was one of the most difficult decisions, but we held her close and made her feel safe as we said goodbye.
Back in July I posted: Is this what I signed up for?
When I brought Tiki home and made her part of our family it is exactly what I signed up for. No regrets. 17 years of furry, foot licking, charm. (Her’s not mine.) I am so glad we had the bonus days. It really helped come to terms with the inevitable goodbye. Take a few minutes and check out Tiki through the years. She was awesome.
Four days and three nights away. Bliss. While at Huntington Beach we were not completely disconnected if we didn’t want to be. When you are camping it is very easy to step away from social media. There are so many other things to hold your attention and focus your energy. Stepping away was exactly what we did and it was rejuvenating. I find the current news and social media exhausting. The comment sections, even worse. Lately, I have spent my spare time taking pictures and editing what I take. I’m learning to use a new camera and striving to do more than simply point and shoot. It has been a journey of learning and patience. As I edited the images from our beach camping adventure I played with several effects tools in one of the programs I use. My husband commented on how easy it was to manipulate the image into something it was not. It really is, and I wasn’t even using the more powerful Photoshop. With just a few clicks in GRFX Studio I had completely manipulated the image. I took elements of truth and enhanced them with complete fiction. That’s kind of the way social media has been working and people fall for it because they don’t bother to question and they don’t bother to fact-check. Manipulated images, fake memes, and fake anecdotes circulate all over the Internet. So many never bother to question it because many times, they trust the source.
It all starts with a story…
It seems like we’ve been in a weather pattern for the last few weeks- beautiful days and afternoon thunderstorms. Some have even been quite severe. One day we took some time to walk on the beach with Mozart. I have to say, it is now one of my favorite beaches! Huntington Beach has an amazingly wide beach. Shells were washed up at the shoreline, and tons of starfish. If we saw one alive, we tried to give it a fighting chance and threw it back in the water. Mozey thought it was great fun to run at the water’s edge. There must have been a school of fish because off in the distance we saw multiple groups of dolphins. They would surface and jump. I was able to catch them on camera just as the storm blew in. Amazing lightning shot!
I like to go camping. I like to walk on the beach. I enjoy photographing our experiences. The dolphins were abundant. Catching a lightning shot would be exciting. This wasn’t it. Here’s the original.
Everything in the story was true except for the storm and lightning. That part was poorly added in the post-edit. It was somewhat plausible and the photo would probably get a decent number of likes from people who didn’t look for the editing.
An announcement that I have seen circulating, and makes its social media rounds each year, is that on August (choose your date) there will appear to be two moons as Mars will be its closest! Don’t miss it! Well, I didn’t…
I’m happy to report that Tiki is still hanging in there. We are maintaining and her heart medications are keeping her relatively stable. I’m still up if she stirs at night but we have found a rhythm that works. If we stagger when her last water pill dosage is given and I stay up until just after midnight for her last potty break we can make it through the night without difficulty. It’s made for some good sky views and last night did not disappoint. Mars has been moving closer to the moon so for Tiki’s midnight potty run, I decided to set up the camera. It did not disappoint. Mars was shining bright!
That would be a no. Tiki is doing well. We thought we would lose her back in May, but she has reached her 17th birthday. We celebrate our bonus time with my stubborn old girl. I do wake up every time she stirs. I do take her out around midnight in hopes that I will get at least 5 or 6 straight hours of sleep. Mars and the Moon really did look cool last night and I wish I had taken my camera. However, not this cool. The original picture was the side view from our campsite at Huntington Beach. You can see it here.
I love a good sky and on my bucket list is seeing the Auroras. I won’t spin a tale for either of these, but it wouldn’t be difficult. If there is a solar outburst you can see the Northern Lights in the Deep South. It’s rare. In the event that it happens again, I assure you my camera will be on record.
Manipulating images and spinning a tale is super easy, even when you aren’t that great at it. Studies show that a large percentage of the population can’t tell the difference. Even more probably could, but they don’t bother to question it. They trust the source. Sometimes it’s like a bad game of rumor. The message has been passed from a trusted source to a trusted source so many times that it doesn’t even resemble the original story, or it may be as simple as the original storyteller was genuinely mistaken and not trying to create a good lie. What is the saying? Every good fairytale is rooted in some element of plausible truth?
Fact-Checking doesn’t take long. It’s OK to question information. A few things to start:
– Consider the source
– Is it satire?
– If it seems a little over the top, it probably is. Investigate.
– Read beyond the headline. The headline is the bait and sometimes the story isn’t nearly as sensational.
– Check the author. Are they even real? Have they won the awards their bio says? You can find out in just a few clicks of your keyboard.
– What’s the support? Does the documentation actually support the claim being made? Go to the source and find out!
– Check the date! Some false stories aren’t completely wrong, just not current news.
– What about bias? What’s the agenda?
– Check the fact-checkers: FactCheck.org, Snopes.com, the Washington Post Fact Checker and PolitiFact.com. F
– Do other sites report the same thing? Read various news sources and put the real story together.