Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

2020: looking back, looking forward.

2020 began feeling like any other year…and then it went….well, you know how it went. You know how when you’re little and a day or a week feels like it takes forever? This year felt more like that to me.

There was also a lot of change, day to day, week to week. While I rarely left my neighborhood, there was so much physically going on in the country and the world. The pandemic and varying degrees of lockdown and protests and the election and….you know, you can probably read a more succinct summary of what happened that was considered newsworthy this year. Like here. And here. Here’s some of NPR’s global stories from 2020 that are not about the pandemic.

There were the weeks of transition for me where all my classes shifted online in March — both the one I was taking and the one I was doing supplemental instruction sessions for — and that was a lot to deal with all at once. And then experimenting with teaching Nia online…I still feel that I’m in the process of learning what works best as far as the technology goes.

There were moments where I wondered what I would have thought last January had someone told me how this year would unfold. Also, have you seen Julie Nolke’s YouTube shorts about talking to her past self about the pandemic? Four episodes total and worth watching. Start with the first episode here.

The true highlight of this year for us personally was getting our dog from a local dog rescue organization. He has brought joy and laughter (and walks outside!) to our lives at a time when we really needed it. He’s willful and zany and sweet and goofy…and totally the right dog for us.

See all the cuteness? He’s really great.

I tend to get annoyed by taglines about “How to make 2021 your year!” or other similar statements. Granted, I’ve never been much of a fan of resolutions or high doses of ultra-positive affirmations, particularly not in the past few years. And then looking at the silver linings of 2020…they are there, especially on an immediate personal level. But they are also there with a lot of miserable and awful stuff. I had quite a few moments of breaking down and grieving and being frustrated and feeling helpless this year. I miss my family. I miss New Mexico. I want…well, I want things to be different than they are. But I also expect that it will take a while for life to change to something resembling the normality of the past, and I don’t have an expectation for a timeline on that.

So I will end with this: I am grateful that my family and I are currently healthy. I am grateful to have work that I enjoy and tentative plans for the future. I am grateful for regular dance and monthly hikes. I am grateful for the companionship and love of my husband and our relationship; we are truly a team even when times aren’t easy. I hope this next year will have more highlights than this one, both personally and on a global level. My hope is to take one day at a time, to see as clearly as I can…and hope. I can’t always hope for the best, but I can hope for better.

So, goodbye 2020. Welcome, 2021! Happy New Year!

11/6 link roundup

Blog post on the U.S. and our current character as a nation.

From Anti-Racism Daily: On the history of the electoral college and the case for abolishing it.

From Today: 10 books that gave the recommenders hope.

From Salon: How to fix the country’s empathy problem.

From Vogue: How Stacey Abrams is turning the tide in Georgia

Published this summer and still relevant if baking reduces your stress level: 30 stress baking recipes that bloggers recommend.

From NPR: 5 ways to deal with stress while waiting for election results (also probably good things to do when stressed out in general)

From CNN: 50 ways to get through election week.

Link roundup 10/30: Please vote! 2020 edition

November 3, 2020 is Election Day in the U.S and it’s only a few short days away! For those of you who are eligible and haven’t voted yet, please vote! If you have already voted, thank you!

Not registered? These states offer same-day voter registration on election day.

Locate a polling place, where you can drop off your ballot, and more here.

Why vote? Here are 5 reasons why.

How to respond when someone says their vote doesn’t matter.

What will my ballot look like? Ballotpedia has a sample ballot look-up tool.

Take care of yourself: Conscious self-care during the election season. 10 self-care ideas. Make a post-election self-care plan.

Bits and Pieces: an update

I haven’t really been feeling the inclination to blog much. It’s also that sometimes I think and feel like there’s simultaneously so much to say, although perhaps less to update on a day-to-day basis. So this post is a gathering of things.

Where I was almost a year ago with my mom. This was our view from our hotel room in Springdale, Utah, just outside of Zion National Park. I would never have imagined then how much would change in a few short months, and I am so grateful that we had this time to spend together.

Near Sedona, Arizona, end of December 2019. Since 2015 we’ve (my spouse, my father, and I) spent a few days over the holidays here. As it looks like now, 2020 will be the first year in many years that we won’t go anywhere for the holidays.

Posting these photos brings joy, nostalgia, grief. So many feelings at once. These times were wonderful and I don’t know when I will see either of my parents, who both live in different states.

It’s challenging to have spent so much of the time over many months within the same four walls; so much changes, and so much stays the same. Perhaps that is true for non-pandemic times as well, but now the contrast, or lack thereof, is clearer or harsher.

End of February, 2020, Lake Mead, to celebrate my birthday. My memories of this outing are even more sweet — and bittersweet — because it was so close to the time of the lockdown and where everything changed. I was aware of the pandemic, it was there, but it didn’t seem quite real, not yet.

And there were highlights even then: the hummingbird broods nesting on our porch (two broods; a total of four birds fledged) in April/May and July. The picture above is from May and these two were about to fledge.

Like many people during these quarantine times, I baked bread. It generally tastes better than it looks, so I don’t think I have any pictures on hand. I did that almost weekly for a while. Like many things, the novelty wore off.

While we’re more used to having a pet member of the family now, his novelty hasn’t worn off. This is our dog. We adopted from a local rescue in late July. He’s a four-year-old Shiba Inu. Among other things, Shibas are known for their independence (read: willfulness and self-containment, sometimes almost to a catlike extent), as well as their fox-like appearance. They are the smallest of the Japanese snow dogs, the largest of which is an Akita.

He deserves at least one full post devoted to him alone. He’s a bright spark in our lives. He has given us many reasons to go outside, find delight in play, and live in the moment. He’s a wonderful addition to our quirky household.

Also, our dog absolutely loves hiking, which has given us more motivation to go ourselves. We love hiking, but often don’t make time for it, so it’s great to have him to give us that extra push to go. Hiking and being out in nature has been such a great way to get away and take a break.

Pictures from two of our hikes:

I think I’ll end this update here for now. Perhaps I’ll post more soon.

Link roundup 8/14

So I’ve been continuing to gather links…and then I don’t post them. Which means that a lot of what I have may be outdated. So I’m going to post a few things here today and resolve to post it before I leave the room and/or get caught up in other things.

A book I’ve recently read and would recommend: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Premise: Two half sisters in Ghana with no knowledge of each other; one is sold into slavery while the other is not. This is their story and the story of their descendants.

Six ways to help save the post office that take less than two minutes.

Write postcards to help encourage people to vote! You can sign up with MomsRising (who will provide postcards and sample content). Postcards to Voters is also looking for volunteers to write postcards.

From Vice: Talking to friends about whether to hang out during the pandemic.

Want to add a little surprise in your life and something to look forward to receiving? Check out these reviews of 20 Best Subscription Boxes under $15.

From Politico: 55 things you need to know about Kamala Harris (her life, history, accomplishments).

Thoughts, reflections, update.

In terms of being and staying at home due to COVID-19, I have to say it’s a great time to an introvert. While I do miss doing things in person, namely my supplemental instruction sessions and my anatomy & physiology class, being alone or just hanging out with my spouse feels good and natural to me. I have far fewer times of just needing space and downtime because, well, I have a lot.

That being said, I do miss seeing friends and family, too. I am sad that I didn’t get to see my longest-term friend (who lives across town) before all this. I disappointed that I didn’t get to go to Albuquerque for spring break (which is now!) to see my dad and friends. And so it goes. I see some video calls in my future.

As far as sensory processing issues go, as always, it’s mixed. On one hand, there’s less external stimulation. Life is generally quieter, there are fewer places to go, etc. On the other hand, all the change and upending of my routines has been challenging for my nervous system. This was especially true in the week where everything changed from in-person to online, where I couldn’t anticipate what would change next from day to day and I often felt overwhelmed and overstimulated. Days often feel long, like several days are packed into one; and at the same time, it’s amazing to me to realize it’s been three weeks since my classes went remote (it feels like both a short and long time). Now that I’m on spring break, I’m letting down somewhat, too, which has led to more exhaustion and emotional release.

Here’s a great article on how emergency remote learning is not the same as planned online learning. The current switch to remote learning takes classes that were in-person to virtual and was incredibly abrupt. I, for example, am taking a biology class with a lab. While the professors are doing the best they can, the lab especially translates less well to an online format because it completely changes the hands-on element. I’m now watching videos of a professor pointing out structures on anatomical models and projecting histology slides. He’s doing a great job and making it as entertaining as possible, and it’s really not the same at all. Plus, some of the more experimental parts of lab have to be taken out altogether because his time to film these demonstrations is limited and it’s much different to watch an experiment than actually perform it. Still, I’m glad to still be getting to learn as much of the material as I can.

As I said, I’m leading my supplemental instruction (SI) sessions online. Here’s some more information about supplemental instruction in case you’re curious. As an SI leader, I sit in on a class I’ve taken before (and done well in) and then create activities based on the material. This semester, I’m doing Anatomy & Physiology I; last semester I did Introduction to Life Sciences. I’m more of a peer support activity leader than a tutor; I ask far more questions than I answer. It’s much, much different to conduct sessions online. In person, I’m able to respond to students’ nonverbal cues or see when they’ve completed an activity. Online, I have no such ability to do that. On the live conference platform, there’s still the ability for students to draw out processes and mark on the presentation, but it’s not the same as handing a student a marker and having them draw or write something on the board. On the plus side, I’ve getting to learn new software and have regular meetings with other SI leaders and coordinators, and that’s been nice.

Some things I am grateful for:

  • That I completed a dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) program and have a wonderful therapist. I have an arsenal of coping skills that come in handy when working with fear, anxiety, or lack of acceptance. Acceptance is often a challenge for me, but practicing it now comes in handy. I can think things like: “I don’t want things to be like this,” and there’s not much else to do about it (unless I want to expend a bunch of energy) except accept what’s happening.
  • That I have a wonderful spouse that I adore and I’m incredibly compatible with and that we enjoy both spending time together and doing our separate activities quietly around each other. I’m especially grateful that he’s working from home now.
  • Getting to see music concerts online for free or inexpensively! Some have been on Facebook; others have been on another platform. The Shut In & Sing festival has a great assortment of folk and Americana singer-songwriters and groups. Many of these musicians don’t come and perform in Las Vegas, so it’s been wonderful to see and hear them. Also, here’s a link to NPR’s running list (that’s regularly updated!) to online music shows of many genres.
  • Doing more Nia. As a Nia teacher, I get NiaTV as part of my annual membership package, but it’s now doing 30 days free for anyone if you want to get a sampling of Nia while you’re stuck at home. It has full-hour active workouts as well as shorter ones and some Moving to Heal routines that are either standing or in a chair. I find doing Nia incredibly calming and invigorating at the same time. For me, Nia is as much a tool (or perhaps more so) to regulate my nervous system as it is to stay physically active. Doing Nia daily during this time has definitely helped soothe my anxiety. I’ve also been taking a few virtual classes with Nia teachers around the country, and that’s been a great way to both dance and feel connected.
  • The hummingbird that is currently nesting on the plant hook on our porch. I don’t know if it’s the same bird as last year (I’d have to know her specific markings for that). It’s nice to have this visitor, this sweet reminder of spring. The nest has been there since we moved in nearly two years ago, so she mainly made a few additions and changes and settled right in.

So things for me right now are mixed. Definitely some highlights and some upheaval as well. I don’t really expect anything different, though; life as I (and we) know it has been upended. I’m doing my best to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, and take each moment as it comes.

Link roundup: at-home ideas and activities.

I’ve been compiling a list of links people have shared on social media, and some I found on my own. Here are some ideas on some things to do and how to cope if you’re stuck at home due to the spread of COVID-19.

If you have more ideas, resources, links, please feel free to share in the comments!

Stuck at home? Need a break from the news? Have a theatrical or artistic experience!

Virtual museum tours. Links for virtual tours for 12 museums around the world.

Coloring! Download free coloring books from museums.

Cutting-edge streaming videos of performances (theater, dance, etc.) from On the Boards is free from now through the end of April. Use code ARTATHOME20.

30 days free of listening to over 600 orchestral concerts from the Berliner Philharmoniker.

The Metropolitan Opera is offering free streaming of past performances starting on March 16.

Activities for kids:

A Google Docs spreadsheet full of ideas and links.

Scholastic now has a website offering free courses and activities to help kids learn at home while they’re out of school.

Some options for working out at home:

Down Dog (app): Free until April 1st. Began as a yoga app and now also has apps for barre, HIIT, and 7-minute workouts.

NiaTV: Free for 30 days. Holistic dance fitness routines, healing movement sessions, quick workouts, and more.

Mental health, coping, and self-care

How to deal with your coronavirus anxiety.

From On Being: A listening care package for uncertain times.

From the American Psychological Association: both general mental health tips and resources for mental health providers.

Friday link roundup 10/18

So I had an hour a few nights ago where I couldn’t sleep, and I ended up gathering a few links. And now I’ve gathered a few more. I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to keep up with this on a regular basis again, but I hope to do it at least more regularly. No promises, but I do miss posting these roundups.

What do you have planned this weekend? Have you set aside some time without plans? What happened to the weekend? This post reflects on how weekends are often overscheduled and leave little room for leisure.

Simone Biles has now become the most decorated gymnast in world championship history.

On a 103-year-old winning gold in both the 100-meter and 50-meter dash at this year’s Senior Olympics.

Getting Help for My Mental Health was Hard. Staying Better Was Harder. On how mental health recovery can be an ongoing and long-term process.

An article from Scientific American on the research that stipulates that the fight-or-flight response may be in our bones.

An article from Essence which asks Why Are Black Women In The U.S. More Likely To Die During Or After Childbirth?

A gay couple from Argentina adopted a baby with HIV that had been rejected by numerous families. Now, several years later, the virus is no longer detectable in her blood.

Hummingbirds!

Sometime early in April, I was sitting outside on our porch, talking to my mom on the phone. I noticed a hummingbird hovering nearby, and then she darted away. And then it happened again. And then I saw what she was hovering near and decided that I should continue my phone call inside. She was hovering near her nest, anxious to protect her eggs.

Ever since we moved in last year, there has been a small nest on a plant hook on our porch. We assumed that it was a wasp’s nest or something we should avoid. But, no. It was, in fact, a hummingbird nest, one that has now been reused this year. (Also: really glad it wasn’t a wasp’s nest!)

Hummingbird on nest, April 2019

We started calling this mother-to-be hummingbird our “little friend.” She grew to be more used to us, or at least startled less when had to come outside. Our laundry room is off our porch, so we couldn’t avoid the area entirely.

In about mid-April, I saw her perched on the edge of the nest, feeding her chicks in the nest. While I couldn’t see her chicks at that point, I took her sticking her beak into the nest as a sign that they had hatched!

And then there was a period where we didn’t see her or the chicks and I wondered if something had happened. But it turns out that once hummingbird chicks can regulate their body temperature, the mother spends less time at the nest and mainly comes back to feed them.

And then, one day in early May, I saw two small beaks poking out of the nest!

Baby hummingbird beaks!

After that point, we saw them more often – first their beaks, then their heads, and then their whole bodies. One was slightly larger than the other one.

Eventually they became big enough so that they mainly sat together on the top of the nest, sometimes facing opposite directions and sometimes facing the same way. My husband made the comment that it might be boring to be a baby bird: it seems to involve a lot of waiting for food, growing, and grooming.

A closer look with a better camera (photo taken by my husband).

My husband took this picture several days before they fledged (left the nest). Two weeks ago, I noticed that one of them seemed more restless, fluffing up her wings. She even hovered above the nest for a few seconds before coming to rest back on the nest. That evening, as I was doing laundry, I turned to look at both of them on the nest and, to my surprise and amazement, she flew off!

The other one, the one who was smaller, stayed in the nest for another day and a half. She was gone by that Saturday morning when I looked out.

It was truly delightful to be able to see hummingbirds so close-up. It was definitely an honor to watch these little ones come into being.

Link roundup 5/18

Watching the finale of Game of Thrones with a group this Sunday? Here are a few ideas (somewhat silly, although mostly clever) for some foods to make for a viewing party.

Talking openly about a topic that is often hidden away: A group of eighth grade girls entered their podcast called Sssh! Periods into NPR’s first Student Podcast challenge and won the grand prize for the middle school category.

About a woman who is working to change and expand the conversation around parenting children with autism.

Much of the western United States is currently experiencing lower than normal temperatures. This article from weather.com explains why. (It was around 70 degrees in Vegas today. It would normally be around 90 degrees Fahrenheit this time of year).

Meanwhile, it was 86 degrees near the Arctic Ocean last weekend.

Increasing the visibility of women in science: A group of female scientists created a database to showcase their work. Over 9,000 women joined them.

From Vox: From the latest abortion ban bills to current statistics on abortion, abortion in America explained in ten facts.

According to ABC News, several of the states passing abortion bans have some of the lowest rates of women in power.

What you can do to help women in states with extreme abortion bans.