Change, Life, Rambles

Creatures of Habit

It’s 6:15 AM. I’m usually the last to get out of bed. It’s a known fact in this family and even the dogs know it. Mornings are not my time. I like to ease into my day. Maybe it is the chaos of the move or just the songbirds welcoming the morning light that have me awake today. I knew better than to just lay there. It would be so easy to slip back into slumber, even if it wasn’t actually sleep. I told my husband I was going to shake things up a bit this morning. I’m getting up and I’m taking the dogs out. This is a big deal and one of those moments where we will look back and say, “do you remember that morning when…”. Well, the dogs are shocked. I didn’t do it like daddy. I took Ella and Pachelbel first. Sawyer and Rachmaninov joined. They don’t need a lift down the stairs. I then went back for Benny and Mozart. Mozey was still asleep, oblivious to the whining of his best friend. There are some benefits to being deaf. Mozey has a pretty strong sleep game.

Now that we’re outside and everyone has done their business they are all staring at me like, Daddy feeds us now. Well, I’m enjoying my coffee go smell stuff.

So here we are. Me typing away on my iPad, wondering if this is even going to post when I finish and the dogs just waiting to go back in.

Sometimes it’s good to get out of our comfort zone and try something we don’t normally do. The sounds of the birds and fresh air with my coffee is nice. I love being outside. It inspired me to write, which I haven’t done in some time. I’m easing into my day a different way. No promises that it will become a thing, but I don’t hate it.

In 2020 we all were forced out of our comfort zone, then we developed a routine a new normal- however weird it was. As 2021 threatens to get back to something resembling our previous normal there are a lot of conversations surrounding what we’ve become comfortable with. It’s going to require compromise from both sides of the work from home vs. back to the office groups. We’ve found that we can be effective regardless of where we work. Some of us are comfortable at home, some of us need the interaction of the office. To be effective as a team we have to be flexible, step out of our personal comfort zone and meet the others halfway. It is not going to be one or the other, it can be both and we can appreciate the benefits of what is out of our personal comfort zone.

Even creatures of habit need to shake things up. While the dogs are still waiting to go back inside they are now all relaxing at my feet listening to the birds. Well, Mozey isn’t listening to anything, but he did find a cool bug that has his attention.

Rambles

A Year Ago Today

A year ago we were walking around with our face uncovered. A year ago we were working in the office. A year ago we thought we would work from home for a couple of weeks and everything would go back to normal. A year ago we shook hands or gave a hug. A year ago I didn’t Instacart every grocery order or even remember my Door Dash password.

A year. It seems like so long ago. I haven’t worked at the office in a year. I haven’t been on a plane. I haven’t gathered with co-workers in person.

I haven’t missed going into the office and can honestly say I’m accomplishing more in my personal life than ever before. My commute time is now my workout/walk time. We have a camping trip or two scheduled for every month. We’re spending more time on our outdoor activities. My dogs are spoiled beyond imagination. Two are covid pups and have never known a life of going to their kennel each morning to nap while we go to work.

My husband will not be going back to the office until at least 2022, and even then he will not have to go in all the time. I will be on a similar schedule after receiving the vaccine. It will be good to have in-person interaction again. I’m not going to give up Instacart or Door Dash. It’s been a wonderful weekly time saver.

The big questions: Why did it take a pandemic to get people to wash their hands?

Family, Life, Rambles

Weekend Fun

So how was your weekend? Our guest room and bath are getting a fresh look. We are the weirdos who find home improvement projects to be fun. There’s always something that needs attention.

Next month we will tackle the upstairs bath. The next, our bedroom. One project a month is the goal. Floors in the bedrooms will come at some point and kitchen cabinets are in the agenda before year’s end. I do believe both of us are putting off trim painting for as long as possible.

Family, Life, Motivation, Rambles

Aspiring to be

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:

When I grow up I want to be like…

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.

Friday is for
Friday is for, Rambles

Friday is for…

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:

  • Funny
  • Funky
  • Friendly
  • Family
  • Food finds
  • Whatever

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.

Creamy Chicken Soup topped with corn chips and quesadillas on the side.

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.

Life, Quotes, Rambles, Today I will

In with Both Feet

It's easier to resist at the beginning than at the end. - Leonardo da Vinci

#Truth

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.

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.