guest post! | elisheva on “the trials, tribulations and joys of working from home”

My friend Elisheva has been a long-time guest blogger on my blog(s), because she is awesome. After I announced my new employers (disclosure update, yo), she offered to provide some tips on working from home (which she has much experience in, although has gone back to the office-outside-her-home world [and even got to go on a work field trip the other day]).  Thanks, Elisheva!! (And thanks for the excitement!)

———-

Congratulations to my buddy Kerri on not one, but TWO new jobs!  Yay yay yay!  Hurray!  This is exciting cuz, (a) money, and (b) connections and resume building and (c) getting paid to do things you are passionate about!  (I’m only a little bit jealous…)

 
And now to get on with what this post is actually supposed to be about.
 
I’d welcome you to the world of working from home… but I’m not there anymore.  I do have a bunch of experience in that though.  Unlike me, you will not be your own boss (freelancing sucks!), but many aspects will be the same.  Meaning the not going to the office every day part.  The working from home part.  Yeah, that.
 
One of the biggies when working from home is finding balance.  There are awesome things and there are sucky things.  Sometimes things can be awesome and sucky at the same time.  Observe.
 
1) You can work in your PJs or even naked if you want to. (Woohoo!)  But you can also go for days at a time without ever getting dressed or leaving your house.  (Boo.)
 
2) You have flexible hours and can schedule meetings/appointments/hangouts during the day. (Nice!)  But you can also find yourself working your tushy off evenings and nights to meet deadlines when you’d rather be doing other things. (Damn.)
 
3) You can burp and fart and pick your nose and never brush your hair and no one will know or care.  (Whoa, really?)  But you might lose some or all of your social skills by the time you leave your cave and interact with humanity again. (Bummer.)  Back in my translating days, I sometimes went to translator meetings and was shocked to see how socially awkward some of the long-time translators were.
 
4) You don’t have your boss watching you and breathing down your neck all day. (Freedom!!)  But that means that you are responsible for budgeting your time and making sure things get done. (Uhhh… kay…)
 
5) If you have a pet or a child or a never-ending pile of laundry that needs your attention throughout the day, you can be there. (Convenient 🙂 )  But those things can actually distract you and keep you from getting your work done. (I knew there was a catch.)
 
The following things are also added to the list for freelancers:
 
6) You are your own boss and call all the shots. (Power!) But you also have to take care of all of the bureocracy, taxes, advertising, billing and contact with clients by yourself.  You are the company.  (Sucks.)
 
7) You will have months where you have lots of work and make a lot of money. (Score!)  But you will also have months where you are almost desperate for work. (Ugh.)
 
So basically, if you’re still reading, you should have gathered that depending on how you swing it, working from home could either rock or stink, depending on how you swing it.  You’ll likely experience both.
 
And now, finally, here are some tried and true tips from your buddy Elishevathe Former Translator.  These might not work for everyone, but they worked for me.
 
1) Structure is important.  Even though I could have easily slept in, I woke up at 7 every day and started working by 8.  I tried my best to work standard work hours so that I would be busy at the same time as normal people and free at the same time as normal people.
 
2) Give yourself work space.  Get out of your bedroom if you can.  Working in your room will make you sleepy during the day since you associate it with sleeping and you might have a hard time sleeping at night because you associate it with work.  I worked best while sitting on a chair at the table in the living room.  It kept me from getting distracted or drifting off and it made me feel more professional.  Even better is finding a workspace outside of your home like a library, cafe, or workhub.  Getting dressed and leaving the house will also help you feel more professional.
 
3) Give yourself reasons to be social. Going to work provides people with face-to-face social interaction.  When working from home, it’s important to find reasons to get dressed and leave your house.  Go out with friends, go to cultural events, join a class and/or volunteer for a cause you believe in.  It’s important to keep those social skills in good working order, both for your mental health and in preparation for the day when you no longer work from home.
 
4) Learn about your legal rights.  Just because you work from home and the people you work with never see you doesn’t mean that they can take advantage of you.  Make sure you are getting paid on time and that you are getting treated fairly.  You also are working for one organization in another province and one organization in the US.  I have no idea what the legal or tax ramifications of this would be.  It would be wise to find this out.
 
5) Stand up for yourself at home.  Because I worked for myself and made my own schedule, people in my life tended to occasionally forget that I actually had a full time job and would ask me for favors such as babysitting or picking up things for them in the middle of the day.  Sometimes I would oblige if I could swing it, and sometimes I had to remind them that I actually did have a job and while I could work any time, I really prefered to work normal people hours.  So while they worked at an office and I worked at home, I was working just like they were and deserved not to be bothered.
 
Anyway, that’s all I can think of for now.  Looking forward to hearing great things about these new opportunities, Kerri!  All the best and good luck 🙂

guest post! – a matter of parallel badgers

Following my asthma diagnosis, the world of chronic disease took on a new dimension–not only was I living it, but I was now able to resonate with others who were living it too. I’ve found through these interactions that it is only in part that the same diagnosis creates friendships–however, I also have found many, many friendships with others living with a variety of chronic diseases.

Bob is one of those friends, and he is also not the Roomba (my grandma has a Roomba named Bob. Bob fully understands this reference even if nobody else does). He’s always quick with some wit, humour and support, and is one of the many people I was blessed to encounter who is a member of the Diabetes Online Community. We’ve had many discussions about the parallels between different chronic diseases, specifically asthma and type 2 diabetes–I’m happy to have him sharing his thoughts today!

—–

My name is Bob. I have a blog (www.tminustwo.net) in which I share stories and perspectives from my life with Type 2 diabetes.

It’s been many months since Kerri first invited me to exchange guest posts. I started a draft at that time, but it’s just been kind of cooking on the back (WAY back) of my mental stove. There’s just been something I wanted to say, but I haven’t know quite what it was or just how to say it. (This is not completely unusual for me. I recently published a post that had been in the hopper for over two years.)

Kerri and I have often discussed the parallels between life with diabetes and life with asthma. Recently on Facebook, Kerri made a comment to me on one of those parallels. I offhandedly replied, “Yeah…if there’s a badger clamped onto your butt, it doesn’t make a huge amount of difference what species of badger it is.”

Ah-ha! THAT, my friends, is what I’ve wanted to say. No matter what kind of chronic disease a person has, it’s an enormous pain in the butt. And while chronic diseases have important differences in the nature of the impact on the folks dealing with them and what managing the condition involves, there are also many things that seem to be very common among those living with these conditions.

For the five years since my diagnosis, I have been an active participant in one online diabetes forum or another. In that time, I have read the stories of many people touched by the various kinds of diabetes. I’ve also, from time to time, heard or read the stories of people with other conditions. And, as Kerri says, there are many parallels.

See if you’ve found yourself saying something like the following:

  • “Because I look normal, people don’t realize that sometimes I’m really sick.”
  • “I work hard to take care of myself, but there are still bad days. It’s so frustrating!”
  • “People say the stupidest things to me about my condition. Sometimes they act like they know more about managing my condition than I do. Even though they usually mean well, it’s annoying and hurtful.”
  • “Dealing with this day after day, year after year, is so wearying and so dispiriting.”
  • “Everybody wants to tell me about their relative that had my condition, and it’s usually someone whose outcomes were really bad.”
  • “My sister-in-law is always sending me articles about ‘cures’ for my condition that are totally whacko, and my neighbor in this marketing scheme is convinced that all I need to do is buy her products!”
  • “Even some of my family members just don’t understand what this is like. Either they don’t get that I’m sick at all or they treat me like I can’t do anything.”

Any of that sound familiar? If you or someone you love has a chronic condition, I’m guessing that some of it does.

For many people living with a chronic condition, participating in social media with those who “get it” can be very helpful. People with diabetes find that the diffuse and informal entity known as the Diabetes Online Community provides a way to exchange information (“Where do I wear my insulin pump with my wedding dress?”) and viewpoints (“I really disagree with this article!”). More importantly, though, it gives PWDs (People With Diabetes) the opportunity to interact with other people who really “get it” and to receive the powerful reassurance that they are not alone.

I don’t know to what extent people with asthma have created similar resources, though I understand that online communities are being formed by people with many different conditions.

To me, this is a wonderful thing and well worth doing. After all, we need all the help we can get – we have badgers clamped onto our butts.

breanna’s asthma story: give and take

A couple months ago, I connected with Breanna through the Asthma Society of Canada’s Team Asthma Facebook page. Breanna has severe asthma, and is looking into bronchial thermoplasty as a potential treatment option–today, she’s sharing a bit of her asthma story here for asthma awareness month. Thanks Breanna!

—–

breanna1.jpg

I am a 28 year old female and was diagnosed with mild asthma at the age of 19, to be honest never really thought much of it. I carried an inhaler when I remembered and used it as needed. In November of 2009 suddenly my asthma became severe. I realized that I had taken it for granted, started a controller inhaler and singulair. Unfortunately things didn’t improve and I started seeing specialist. I am currently on my third specialist, first one being an internalist and the last two being respirologists.

Every visit seemed to bring on new medication, new tests and frustrations. I went from going to emergency every 2 weeks to once a month and currently about every 6 weeks I have landed in emergency. I have been intubated, triedc-pap and many medications. Currently I am awaiting an appointment in Hamilton to see about possible bronchial thermoplasty. I have very atypical asthma, I cough continually and do not wheeze, however all tests point to asthma.

Asthma has taken so much from me, I am currently on disability from my job, it has taken some of my friends, some of the sports I played and activities I loved such as camping. However asthma has given me so much, I found out who will support me through all the frustrations and doctors appointment. It has also given me a new appreciation for those who strugglewith chronic illness.

I have made new friends and a new support system. As I am not working I am able to help friends out when I am feeling well and also slowly exercise to try to build up my lung tolerance. I am also able to take some university courses through distance education.

Asthma is a difficult disease it takes and gives and not many people understand the severity of the disease. On World Asthma Day I hope people take a chance to learn and educate themselves about the severity of the disease. It is even important to learn about triggers, I react strongly to scents, chemicals, smoke and weather changes. If you see me covering my mouth and hurrying away from where I am, please look at the amount of scent you are wearing.

Asthma is now a part of who I am but it does not rule my life.

–Breanna Harms

rona’s asthma story: persistent asthma lessons on world asthma day 2013

May is Asthma Awareness Month, and World Asthma Day is this coming Tuesday. This month, I am hoping to CHANGE as many perspectives on asthma as possible . . . by SHARING as many perspectives on asthma as possible!  I am blessed to have many people in my world sharing in the asthma journey with me, who are also willing to contribute their own stories over the coming month.

I am excited to introduce you to my friend Rona, an occupational therapist living in Chicago. Among the very first of my “online friends” I met offline, I was lucky to be able to meet her for dinner back in August 2011 during a whirlwind trip through the Windy City. Rona is such a sweet and compassionate person, and I am lucky to be able to share part of her story of HOPE today.  Thanks, Rona!

—–

301853_10150767023455375_50588_n.jpg

I was diagnosed with severe persistent asthma in August of 2007 at the age of 52.  After a lifetime of seasonal environmental allergies, bronchitis, and pneumonia, my lungs never really were very happy.  I lived in three different areas of the United States, but ended up coming back to Midwest America for many reasons.  As it turned out, my lungs absolutely rejoiced here in Chicago, a large industrial city.  Living far from the industrial side of the city, the air is relatively clean here.

I went through all of the stages of anyone else with any chronic illness.  Denial that this could actually be happening to me progressing to truly accepting that I do.  I embrace the fact that it is part of me, but it does not define me.

If you should meet me, you might notice the effects of prednisone on my form, but other than that, you don’t see asthma.  Back in 2007, you may have.  This visual change, this lack of shortness of breath, is what has enabled me to move on with life.  Without saying, my less than loved rescue inhaler is an external hard drive for my lungs.  Always plugged into my pocket.

Armed with many drugs consumed and breathed daily, I still suffer with exacerbations every 2-4 months, depending on unintended exposures to my numerous triggers.  Still, those in-between moments are wonderful.  I never could have believed that I could have a full life and have severe asthma.  As I danced at both of my daughters’ weddings this last Fall, this is testament to my lungs playing a minor role in my life.  I write this to thank the doctors that nursed me back to health, regulated my recovery and always encouraged me to follow their multi-lined detailed “asthma action plans”.  I owe them my life, to be sure.

With this said, I know not all of us have the same quality of life. There are many worse and many better than I, however one thing is for certain:  Life goes on and each breath is hope for yet another one.  Let all of us take a moment to look forward and hope for a better tomorrow for the very young and the very old all suffering from asthma worldwide.

I’d like to take this opportunity to add my two cents as someone who has experienced asthma.  I, and so many others, know its impact on family, career, community, and the world.  It is time to continue to do more than limit exposure to the triggers.  What else can we do?  Looking to the researchers and the funders of this research to lead the way to the answers.  There are just too many suffering from this.  We need to look at education of both those bearing the burden and those in our communities who don’t understand, to take them and walk with them until they do.

Finally, I thank you “asthma” for joining me in my walk down my own path of life.  It’s been interesting, hasn’t it?  Although you took my furry pets, my dust-ridden stuffed animals, my spontaneity and many of my life’s choices, you have taught me persistence, and for that, I respect you.  Now leave me alone, will ya?  <3

an interview with bryan penfound (@pencentre): twitter in the classroom.

Though he has never, to my recollection, asked how I found him, my cousin Dean is in a math class with an interesting twist.  It has a hashtag, thus making tweeting through class permissible.

I may not really know my multiplication tables, or remember anything about trigonometry, or be able to correctly execute the order of operations reliably. But I know that in-class tweeting is something that I quite dig, as evidenced by my own Twitter feed.

Bryan Penfound is the instructor who brought math and Twitter together at my university (and the other night posted about what it would look like if a person fell into a volcano).  I may not like math, but in the last week or so engaging with Bryan on Twitter has been super fun.  He agreed to share some thoughts on using Twitter in higher education here today, and with that, I will let him introduce himself!

—–

Bryan ziplining.
Hi Bryan! How are you?
I am excellent. Just played a decent round of DDR so I’m focused and ready to go! What about your day so far?
Fantastic! I’m doing well, thanks! Care to tell us a bit about yourself?
Aside from being an avid gamer, I enjoy teaching mathematics now and then. I currently teach for the math department at the University of Winnipeg, and for the International College of Manitoba. When it comes to my background in mathematics, I received my B.Sc. from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, and my M.Sc. from the University of Manitoba. I have been teaching at the instructor level for about 4 years.Aside from my first and second true loves (Yes, I am taken – sorry readers! Although I will let you decide if mathematics comes first or second! :P), I have an interest in insects, yoga, chocolate-covered anything, puppies and Starbucks. I dislike drivers who don’t know how to merge properly, that feeling of sand drying to your skin after swimming, mosquito bites, people who don’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re” and waiting in line.
Okay, the Starbucks and the differentiation between you’re/your have it sealed why we click! Back to the beginning, what got you engaged in Twitter, and what were your first thoughts?
Well, I never really used Twitter that much at first. I just used it to follow my idols, like Justin Bieber. But then getting all of their updates was a little annoying, and I felt that I could never have as many fan-girls as them on Twitter, so I stopped using for a quite some time. Then when I bought my smartphone last fall, the Twitter app got me back in business.
It seems like many people have a first aversion to Twitter following sign up–I know I had one!  I’m happy you got back on board.  What sparked your choice to integrate Twitter into your classes?
I have been searching for the right social media to use for class updates for some time. A couple of years ago I used a Facebook page to keep my students updated, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. If I had been teaching multiple courses this would have meant multiple pages for multiple courses.As I was designing my course website over the winter break, I realized there was a Twitter widget to display tweets, and I was sold. It snowballed from there to include a live twitter feed projected during class time as well.
Very cool! How do you feel it works?
By far, Twitter is the best social media I have ever used for keeping my class updated with course announcements. Many students either had Twitter, or signed up for Twitter once they realized they were able to tweet during class. Having a running hashtag #math2106 and #math1102 (check ’em out) is both easy and effective. Perhaps I should take a few lines to explain the premise of Twitter for those who don’t know. Users, once registered, will have access to a main page. In this main page you can view all the tweets from anybody you are following. So if my students follow me, their class updates come to their main page and are easily viewed. Another neat aspect of Twitter is that conversations can also include “hashtags” (#) which effectively sew a bunch of tweets together that contain the same hashtag. By clicking a hashtag, one can view all the previous tweets containing that hashtag. For instance, if you search the #math2106 hashtag, you will see tweets from my Intermediate Calculus class.One of the best parts of the whole set-up is that students don’t need a Twitter account to keep updated in my course. Students can click the hashtag related to their course and they are sent to that page with all of the tweets containing the hashtag – and this page includes all of my updates! So students can choose to check out the updates at any time they wish.
I feel like the constant real-time aspect of Twitter really helps with engagement, but also in the fact that you can go back over certain information at a later point–I would love tweeted reminders about things, since I have the tendency to throw reminders amongst my notes . . . possibly never to be seen again!
 
What kind of reactions have you had from your students about having to use Twitter for math class? :]
I knew it was going to be an interesting semester when the first tweet I got on the projector was “Should we get #math1102 trending?” Thank you to Ian G. for that one. My upper-year students were even more excited than the first-years – believe it or not! I did have some skeptical faces at the beginning of the semester, but with me portraying a positive attitude and with some help from a handful of tweeters in my classes, it has become a success. It has really opened the door for much more collaboration and discussion in math class, which is a subject that is usually not viewed in this way.
Proof to the power of positivity . . . in everything! I wondered the same thing myself when I heard your classes were on Twitter–how it would spark discussion/collaboration in a math class, as opposed to something arts-related which is typically fairly opinion-driven. So, to me, that’s totally an unexpected bonus of Twitter integration.
What is the most unexpected thing you’ve found when integrating social media and education?
Honestly, everything so far has been unexpected! I never expected to have an experience like the one I am having this term. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of using Twitter is the classroom display. Being able to tweet during class might make teachers believe that Twitter is a distraction. Let me be the first to say that it is an excellent distraction! Disclaimer: once you get your students started, they will not be afraid to speak their mind! They will let you know if the last example you gave was too difficult, or if it needs some more explanation. Too many tweets might mean the material is too easy, or way over their heads. Whatever the case, you, as a teacher, now have invaluable insight into the minds of your students.Of course, a live Twitter feed during class can lead to distracting comments. The odd student will find a great opportunity to make an hilarious comment. But it is never often enough to distract from the overall pace of the lecture. Personally, since I have long lectures, I tend to point out the witty comments so that the whole class can laugh and take a short mental break. Having one or two of these per lecture is nice and keeps everyone more focused. Also, I find it helps me build a stronger relationship with my class – if they see me engaging their tweets and being easy-going about it, they are more likely to feel comfortable approaching me if they are having any concerns in the course.
I think the hilarious comment avenue is just typical for discussion in any forum–I cannot tell you, especially in kinesiology, how many of these happen in my classes! I feel like a kin class with a hashtag would be pure madness, but I’d still love to see it happen.  Any advice to instructors looking to get started integrating social media, like Twitter, into their classes?
Start slowly. It is very easy to get excited about trying new methods of instruction, and jumping in head-first will wear you out quickly! Find one new item that you would like to try in a future class, and do some research. It took me several weeks to get used to the various symbols and ways to tweet. After that, it took me about a month to think about the best way to implement the social media. It is not enough just to use the media, there must be an underlying purpose too!
Do you engage in any higher education Twitter chats/hashtags or have any resources to recommend?
I don’t regularly get involved in higher education hashtags, although I do follow some of the educational Youtubers – Destin from Smarter Everyday, James Grime from Numberphile, Michael from Vsauce and ViHart to name a few. One of my twitter highlights this term was getting a retweet from Destin about his “decoy” spider from the Amazon (really cool if you like bugs – I own a tarantula, her name is Charlotte).
One resource that I am trying out this term is called TopHat Monocle. It is an alternative to the iClicker system, where students use their smartphone, tablet or laptop in class to submit answers to questions the instructor poses. I use the feedback I get from my students to spark classroom discussion about certain topics. It also lets the students see how they compare with the rest of the class. It definitely comes highly recommended from me.
I love that you have a tarantula named Charlotte! Can she come for coffee with us? (Would Starbucks think that is weird?). Also the name TopHat Monocle cracks me up every time I see it on your feed (I cannot recall if he wears a monocle, but it reminds me of the Monopoly man for some reason).
On the topic of random, since we seem to have veered over here unexpectedly thanks to that spider-segway . . . Thoughts on that random girl who always engages on your class’s hashtag? 😉 [“She doesn’t even go here!”]
I think it is awesome that you “tweet-bomb” my class! Sometimes all it takes is one person to get the Twitter feed going, and you definitely have a knack for that! Sadly, it also lead to the most embarrassing moment of the term so far when I had to admit that I forgot the Mean Girls quote “She doesn’t even go here!” and my students had to explain it to me…
It is amazing how many Mean Girls references happen in University classes [we had one in my Physical Activity Promotion and Adherence class last year!]. Truly an epic movie :). Off topic . . . but completely on the topic of Twitter, what’s your favourite Motion City Soundtrack song?
Definitely “Happy Anniversary” from their newest album Go. It’s pretty dark and peppy – exactly what I love in a song. It is about a couple, and from the point of view of one member of that couple who is dying and trying to say all the things he/she wants to say before going. It is also a bit ironic, since it probably isn’t a happy anniversary for the other person who has to deal with the death of their loved one… Definitely get the tissues.
Will have to check it out–I’m sure I’ll cry all over it :].  Dark and peppy is how I roll too.
Any final thoughts?
Just wanted to say thank you again for a cool opportunity to discuss social media and education! Anyone who is interested in more information from me, or who is interested in giving me some feedback/pointers can find me on Twitter: @pencentre I’m always ready to tweet.

—–

Thanks, Bryan!  Have I ever told you how rad your username is? I had a ton of fun with this . . . and look forward to continued Twitter-shenannigans with you in the near-future!