Learning & Life

Life

Two weeks too long

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?

Yes.

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.

Empowerment, Life, Rambles

Camping Lessons: Just the Facts Please

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.

Original

Original

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.

Life, Rambles

Is this what I signed up for?

My husband and I spend a good bit of time reading, thinking, discussing, debating, and really enjoying a good conversation. We will take an idea or plan and dissect it, analyzing pros, cons, and potential benefits or harm.  It’s good interaction and it’s really great for our life choices.  Nothing goes without careful consideration. One thing I learned early in teaching is that there are two sides to everything and it is extremely important to be able to see both perspectives. Recognizing that there are two or more perspectives does not mean you have to embrace them all.  You can still have your opinion and beliefs.  Understanding other perspectives exist and why is important for moving forward and finding common ground.  This thought path seems rather important in today’s social climate. I’m not going down that rabbit hole here. Over the last six months, we have looked around in confusion and disbelief. Did the Earth finally decide it’s had enough of our abuse? Did society in the future figure out time travel, screw something up, and now they are doing a terrible job of trying to fix it?  Did someone who never saw Jumanji open the game and now they can’t figure their way out?  Is this some really bad group project where we will be receiving a collective grade? I feel like hindsight is 2020 has a whole new meaning. Is this really what we signed up for?

I take a lot of life lessons and anecdotes from our children and pets.  We have so many of each, there’s always something to pull from.  This is Tiki and she’s currently teaching me to appreciate little moments. She is our almost 17 years old red dapple dachshund. At one point and time, she was red. She has one brown eye and one blue eye. It’s more ice blue now but it was bright blue at one time.  She is the most stubborn, independent, and manipulative dog I have ever met. We swear she understands most of what we are saying and she has a very distinct Tiki smile…or smirk. It just depends.

Tiki has been with me since she was 12 weeks old. She has been the epitome of doggy health with no typical dachshund back issues or gross teeth. She defiantly took the stairs without assistance, jumped on the couch and down, and sought to escape at every opportunity. Tiki loves people and wants to see the world. She also doesn’t want us too far away so her plans of escape never made sense.

Tiki is also in heart failure. About six weeks ago she went from great health to I don’t think we will be bringing her home from the emergency vet.

She had a syncopal episode, which looks like a seizure. She stopped breathing and lost control of her body. We were able to get her out of it, but she sounded like her chest cavity was filled with fluid. When we got her to the emergency vet, everything seemed normal. They even said her tests are normal and the rattling I heard and felt must have been the odd sounds that a heart murmur can make. They were sending her home to be monitored and I was not OK with it.  When bringing her to us, she had another episode. The doctor got to see first hand what our morning was like, and hear the rattling and crackling of my little Tiki. Her condition went from non-remarkable to extremely poor. She had to stay the night. Her O2 levels were in the 80s. She was struggling. If she made it through the night, we might have hope of a little more time with her. I called to check on her several times. With every update, the nurses said how awesome she was. Tiki loves people and she loves attention. She also loved their special food. Dachshunds are notorious bottomless pits when it comes to food.

We were able to bring Tiki home the next day. She had been weaned off oxygen and breathing room air with no issues. We now have several medications to give and have to monitor her respiratory rate for any adverse changes.  I am constantly observing her to make sure any sign of distress is caught. Her medicine makes potty breaks much more important as it is pulling the fluid from her heart and lungs. Every noise, every cough, I am on edge. For the first couple of weeks, I was up every hour or more at night to check her breathing after a perceived cough. It was probably just a Tiki snort. She can snore like a grown man.  I hear them all though. I take her out at 1:00 or 2:30 AM every night. Sometimes more if she indicates she needs to go. How do I know?  I wake every time she stirs.

Is this what I signed up for?

I believe many would have taken her prognosis and said goodbye that first weekend. We took a chance that she could make it through the night and now we take each day as a bonus.  Tiki is eating, drinking, playing, and being her super cool Tiki self.  She has had one other syncopal event and some not so great feeling days. Mostly she’s doing well.  I didn’t sign up for heart failure or being a convalescence home for dogs.  It seems all of ours now have some issues, but that’s a post for a different day.  I signed up for Tiki and what that looks like has changed as she aged. I will continue the privilege of taking care of her until she decides her time is up. When she begins to show signs of that, I will respect that. Until then…I will count her respiratory rate. I will medicate her on a regular schedule. I will wake up in the middle of the night and take her outside. I will, within reason, give in to her demands for a treat and laugh at her playing when she thinks no one is looking.

Things change. Where you are may not be what you signed up for. You can still make it work for you.  Someone gave me really good advice years ago when I responded to how are you with, “I’m doing OK, under the circumstances.”  They told me I could probably do better if I got out from under the circumstances.  Sometimes we can’t change the circumstances, but we can change our perspective.

2020 is not what I signed up for, but we’re making it work. We’re both working from home and had to adapt our workspaces to accommodate and stay focused. We get to take walks and have lunch together as often as we like. Our dogs are thrilled with the arrangement. I don’t have to go to an office every day and stress about leaving Tiki alone for several hours.  I’ve taken to learning how to really use my camera and improve my photography. We’ve saved time and money avoiding the work commute. Our trips to the store are intentional and quick. This means less impulse buying. We try to focus on the positive and stay engaged in the world around us as much as possible. Work interactions have had to change. Our personal time has become simplified. It’s not what we signed up for, but circumstances in perspective it’s OK.

 

Rambles

Keep Your Focus

Keep your focus and leave room for more.
Canon EOS 6D Mark II
1/100 sec. f/2.8 50mm ISO 2500

 

 

 

Empowerment, Life, Motivation, Rambles, Self Improvement, Self Reflection

Sometimes You Need a Personal Reboot

Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. Step away. Stop thinking about it. Do something else…or even do nothing.

Recharge.

Reboot.

We walked away from the chaos for the weekend and had an amazing personal reboot while camping at Table Rock State Park in South Carolina. It was a new place for us, and new camping experience as it was our first with a camper. (For the record, I am not so sure tent camping isn’t easier. However, I will say the camper amenities are rather nice to have.)

For some, camping is not a relaxing experience. For us, it works. It’s therapeutic. The outdoor air is refreshing, nature all around, and if you’re in the right spot the views can be amazing. The entire camping experience is about meeting basic needs and enjoying time away. There is no pressing work, professional nor home, to be done. It’s not true to say there are no distractions. There are, but the distractions while camping are different.

In order to have a hot meal, there have to be good coals to cook on. Start a fire. Tend the fire. Assemble the meal. Monitor until cooked. Clean up so no unwanted foragers are attracted to your site while you sleep. Repeat.

It’s basic and it’s freeing. There’s no thought of work. We periodically check in with home to make sure all is well. Otherwise, we take care of our camping needs, hike, and enjoy the great outdoors. There’s a good bit of time spent doing nothing. My favorite time is after dinner, staring at the fire, listening to the sounds of the night, and reading my current book…or just staring at the flames. This camping trip we took two of the dogs for a hike, came back to the campsite, and took an exceptional nap. Why when there was so much nature to see?!?!? Because we could.

We took the time for a personal reboot.

Burnout is real and keeping balance requires a dedicated effort. Sometimes you have to disconnect and walk away. Not only is it OK, but it should also be encouraged.

When this pandemic experience began no one knew what to expect. In my household, we believed work would slow and worried about what that might mean. Instead, the workload increased. We became very busy and had to make a dedicated effort to maintain downtime and connect with each other.

According to a recent LinkedIn article from Bloomberg many are using busyness as a coping mechanism.

Not healthy.

Recharging has to be intentional. Taking the time will actually increase your productivity.

You can’t be innovative if you’re not creative, and you can’t be creative if you’re stressed, exhausted, distracted, or sleep-deprived.

You know that feeling when you see your phone battery reach the point of the blinking red light with 15% or less battery remaining? You know when that happens it is time to plug in and recharge. That small percentage will not last long so you act. Most of us have a sense of urgency about not letting our phones reach that stage. Have that same sense of urgency for yourself.

Resting allows you to achieve your goals and prevent burnout. Take some time to do something you enjoy. Take some time to do nothing. It’s OK.

Rambles

Joyful Noises

A few weeks ago a colleague started sharing her piano playing with the team. I created a video of it and shared in my last post. She has shared a few times since then and even takes requests. I asked for a couple of pieces that I really enjoy and had hopes of a collaboration. She came through remarkably! Below is the result. It is my first attempt at a virtual duet.

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by Johann Sebastian Bach, performed by Margo Gilmore on piano, and myself, Christy McKinney on trumpet.

Life, Rambles

Hidden Talents and Finding the Positive

It’s been weeks since I’ve seen the office. Meetings are held using Teams. We work from the comfort or chaos of our homes. I don’t mind working from home. I actually love it. Working from home allows us to take a little time before the workday to enjoy coffee on the patio. I like to take a morning walk before starting the day. Time to start, we retreat to our work spaces and do what needs to be done, occasionally peeking in to see how the other is doing. We meet for lunch, sit outside and chat or take a walk. First to finish gets to decide dinner. We may have to rethink this strategy as no one likes to be that decision maker. The evening is spent taking care of things that need to be done and spending time playing a game, reading, or in most cases trying to figure out what one of the dogs is now chewing on. No time is spent commuting to and from work. That leaves more time do things we want and need to do. We wave at our neighbors when out. Really, it is almost relaxing.

Almost.

We don’t mind our new routine. As introverts, it really hasn’t been that disruptive. We mind that it is required. To cope, we seek the positives of each day.

One of the positives from yesterday was a co-worker sharing a recording of her lunch time relaxation routine. She, apparently, is an exceptional pianist. I took advantage of her shared recording and used it as the music bed for a photo video of my favorite place, Dauphin Island. I’ll share it below.

While we are working from home, and collaborating virtually with colleagues, it is an opportunity to get to know each other better. Interactions must become deliberate, not just because we happen to run into each other getting coffee. It’s an opportunity to develop working relationships. Many are starved for connections and conversation. Take five minutes before getting into the content of the meeting to just chat. It will probably make the entire meeting go better. Who knows? There may be more hidden talents and common interests.

Life, Rambles

Neighbors, Projects, and Bears, OH MY!

We are approximately two weeks into our required stay-at-home period.  For us introverts, social distancing was a seamless transition. I know others are struggling with the change and I feel for them.

We go for walks every day and enjoy time together indoors and out.  I walk in the morning, then again at lunch. After the workday is done I take a walk with my husband. We debrief the day and verbalize our evening plan. We each choose one thing responsible to do, one thing fun to do, and one thing to do together.  That way a required task is complete, we have decompression time apart, and we take time together.  So far it’s working. 

Board games have become a goto for the household.  We were laughing the other day about how entertainment has gone strict old school.  Yes, we could binge-watch favorite (or at least tolerable) shows.  There is some of that, but it’s human interaction we crave. Board games and card games are fun, exercise the mind, and stimulate conversation.  Two adults had a giggly game of Snakes and Ladders the other night. I personally love Scrabble and Boggle. Card games like Would You Rather… and What Do You Meme? always result in laughter. Coming up soon Jenga and Monopoly.  There is some hesitation with Monopoly. It’s a long game and tensions can get high.  We’ll manage. Time together and keeping our minds off the Quarantine 2020 is the goal.

This weekend my “fun thing to do” was to spend time with my camera and create a neighborhood video.  Each day on our walks I have enjoyed seeing neighbors out. The neighborhood has an ongoing bear hunt for children and the young at heart.  Many homes have bears in their windows and the goal is to find as many as you can.  It’s something cute and entertains us as we walk the neighborhood. I can honestly say, our yards have never looked so good. There are so many home projects and people spending time with their decorative outdoor spaces.  I’ve enjoyed it and took a few moments to capture it.

It’s important to find the positive in all the sad uncertainty of the time.

Life, Rambles, Self Improvement, Self Reflection

Perspectives on a Beautiful Day

 

Sitting on the sun porch enjoying coffee, fresh air, and the sounds of nature.  It’s another beautiful day in quarantine. We are staying busy with house projects. My closet has been redone. The second office has been moved to our bedroom so a returning offspring can have her own space. Pictures long ago purchased are now hanging attractively in their perfect spot. New plants are in the ground, old plants have new pots.

It’s important to me that our living space be peaceful, comfortable, and somewhere we don’t mind being for the next six weeks. A clean space is a peaceful space. Clutter heightens stress. The last thing we need right now is more stress. Being the introverts we are, transitioning to the requirements of stay at home has been rather smooth.  I feel for my extroverted friends and co-workers. I know it is more difficult for them.  There are ways to cope and everyone has to find the path for themselves.

During our pandemic “stay at home” period we are employing a few techniques to get through each day and make the best of it.

  1. Refocus.  We are not stuck at home. We are staying at home to stay healthy and keep our family and friends healthy.  This is an opportunity to tackle those home projects we’ve been putting off because there is never enough time. New plants are in the back bed. Weeds are disappearing. Bushes and trees are getting trimmed at a more appropriate time of the season.  Pictures are hung. All of our “stuff” drawers are organized.
  2. Maintain. The laundry is caught up. There are no dishes in the sink. Dusting is done. Cars are clean with oil changed and everything checked.
  3. Partake of the sun in moderation. Sunlight is good for us. It is refreshing and helps keep us healthy. Vitamin D helps our immune system, the absorption of calcium, and REDUCES DEPRESSION.  That last part is really important during this time of uncertainty and increased stress at the changes we have to navigate.
  4. Read. Meditate. Be quiet. RELAX. My favorite spot is sitting on this screened patio listening to the birds.  Fresh air. The sounds of nature. Ella curled at my side. Mozart chewing on my toes. OK, maybe not that last part. I do have to prop my feet in order not to have Mr. Chewy attacking my toes.  If I have everything picked up he can’t destroy anything and it is still rather relaxing out here. Take the time to be still.  Working from home isn’t ideal, nor is staying at home.  Don’t feel guilty for being quiet and doing nothing for a few minutes every day.  It’s a great recharge.
  5. Go for a walk. As long as we aren’t interacting in close proximity, it’s a great way to get moving and maybe say hi to a neighbor.
  6. Enjoy the pets.  We are going to have several very depressed dogs when everyone goes back to work.
  7. Play a game. Put the phone away. Turn off the TV. Play a game. It’s fun, keeps our mind active, and is a great way to interact with the family without device distraction.
  8. Don’t obsess. Keeping aware of the world around us is important. Obsessing over the latest is not healthy.
  9. Use delivery services when possible. There are a couple of ways to look at this and not everyone is going to agree. I can respect that. Our take:  We are both able to keep working during the stay at home requirement. Not everyone is so lucky. Using Instacart, Door Dash, and other delivery services help others whose regular jobs are not currently paying them.   If you are able to use delivery services, tip well.  These wonderful people willing to ease the burden for the rest of us are trying to make a little extra, but they are also putting their health and family at risk.
  10. Establish a routine. It makes life easier and less stressful.

Hang in there. Stay healthy. Stay active.

 

Live life. Give joy. Be at peace…while social distancing and staying at home.

Education, Learning and Development, Technology

Teacher Tools

Happy Quarantine!

 

While I am targeting this post to the many teachers who are figuring out how to reach their students through virtual classes, it is good information for anyone working virtually with others. There are a number of free applications and programs. There are even more subscription services.  For today, here is a list of things to check out.  This list was provided to me by a program coordinator at UNCC (The University of North Carolina at Charlotte). My favorites are in color.

 

PowerPoint:  Yes, I know. We have all experienced torture by PowerPoint.  Do not underestimate the power of PowerPoint!  It is a VERY simple tool to do so many things. You can create presentations of course, simple and fast infographics, and other things you may not have tried.  Sometimes I need an infographic to be animated in my video. Rather than build it in my video program, I create the graphic in PPT, add some animation, then save as an MP4!  It cuts the time in half.  

ScreenCast-o-Matic: Present your instruction and add yourself in the picture so students feel a little more connected.  

Animoto: Turns your photos and video clips into professional video slideshows in minutes.  (Animoto.com)

Flipgrid: Students record short videos and can reply to each other’s videos. Educators are 100% in control with video moderation and access controls. (Flipgrid.com)

HP Reveal (Used to be Aurasma):  Video; take document and record a video- record a video over text. (Hpreveal.com)

Infogram: Helps with creating infographics (Infogram.com)

Kahoot:  Kahoot! A free game-based learning platform that makes it fun to learn – any subject, in any language, on any device, for all ages! (Kahoot.com)

Lucid Chart App that is available in a browser; great for charts to put in presentations or share. Sometimes you just need a good chart. (Lucidchart.com)

Lumen PDF: Allows you to work with PDF documents, sign and edit. 

Pixton: Create comics and storyboards (Pixton.com)

Pixtochart: Creating infographics

Post it Plus: Capture Post-It notes on a wall or flipchart with your smartphone, then edit and reorganize your notes in the app.

Takes the momentum from your collaboration sessions and keeps it rolling. Simply capture your notes, organize and then share with everyone. It’s that easy. When you’re finished with an arrangement, you tap to either share the board via text, email, social media or other apps you use like Dropbox or Evernote, or you can export the board to PDF, PowerPoint, Excel, .zip, or the Post-It Plus app’s own file type.

Powtoons: I love this one!  Use their free account – takes 5 minutes, can’t change characters, but very user friendly; create animated videos; combine characters, music, graphics; they will do voice-overs.

Sway: Microsoft and it’s free. A simple web-page style. Great to create and share interactive reports, presentations, stories.  Excellent for building an assignment and including all resources in one place. While I do not like the limited customization, I found it excellent to use for research type assignments. I used Sway to outline instructions, requirements, share related content and videos, and add questions on the research material- all on the same project page.  If you have used Discovery Education’s assignment builder it is similar in look and feel.  

Google Classroom and Google’s suite of products. It is much more user friendly than Microsoft and allows you to interact with those collaborating in a document or presentation.

 

Good luck teachers. I know it is difficult. I know you are being asked to do more with less. What else is new? Just remember a few things:  You can do it!  You are not going to break it. If it fails, you tried and that is a great lesson to teach too!  Hang in there. Stay healthy. Wash your hands.

 

Live life. Give joy. Be at peace…while social distancing.