Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Today is the day I start writing again, officially (whoever is taking note). You know why? There's only 3 weeks until I leave for Thailand!! I'd love to stay current on the blog and have it be something that my loved ones find interesting and helpful.

Today started out like many Christmases. I woke up to the brothers jumping around and whispering that Santa had come and left x amount of presents under the stockings. It's probably Eli's last year to believe in Santa so this year was a big one! We all worked pretty hard to keep up the secret. This year marked my last stocking year, I presume. [Also the last year of dental and vision care/insurance on mom and dad's dime, etc.] This year was different because we celebrated in the comfort of our own home. Usually we celebrate at Grandma Curry's house in Oklahoma (miss you, Grandma). To celebrate the new tradition and new gifts, however, I made a Google+ "Event" for the Hill Family Christmas. My dad and sister and I all uploaded photos to the event as it was happening with our new smart devices which was incredibly spiffy and fun. I can imagine the events feature to be quite useful in the future! Who actually gets pictures they take posted or sent to you in a decent amount of time the "old" way? And let's face it... our favorite pics are often the ones that include us and those pictures are trapped in everyone else's cameras. We'll see how this Google+ thing continues to pan out. I have definitely seen a recent augmentation as people leave facebook.

Speaking of cameras and technology in general, this was one of the best Christmases I can remember for many reasons. Not only did my mom make the most fantastic dinner and did we get to play Spades (I lost) and sit in our PJs for the whole day, but mom did an amazing job--as usual-- in picking the perfect gifts. Here's my list, in case anyone is interested:

  • Nexus 7 case and screen protector
  • 500G External HD (super portable-- for Thailand)
  • Charging block for my electronics (super portable-- perfect for plane rides and Bangkok excursions)
  • Headlamp flashlight (I borrowed mom's all summer-- they're the best)
  • ....and best of all.... my new Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7! She's quite a beauty: 
I asked mom for a nicer camera for Thailand so I would have an easier time taking pictures that weren't as blurry when I twitched, that were better in low light, that had fun filters, and that boasted a faster shutter speed. This camera does all of that and more. I don't want to sound like a commercial, but I highly suggest this camera for anyone that wants to learn more about the fancy camera stuff, take amazing pics for a point-and-shoot, and yet be able to use many of the simpler settings and features for good pictures straight out of the box (see Christmas tree picture above). A very important feature to me is that I can strap the camera around my neck/shoulder. I have already used it so much more because of it! The only problem is not wanting to take it off for things I shouldn't wear it near (washing dishes, i.e.). I already know that this will be the perfect travel companion in Thailand and when I return. Thanks mom :)

I would love to come up with a system for posts like +Aaron Gillespie 's Column, but I'm just not there yet. What do you do when you love travel, technology, music education, music therapy, crafts, etc? There's not a great set-up that comes to mind. For now, I'll probably post like a diary. Having said that, I can end when I feel like it, even if things aren't entirely wrapped up. 

'Twas a great Christmas and I am so excited/anxious for the future. 


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Present, Past, Future

The Present

First Day as a Student Teacher
Life has been good-- almost too good. Everything that was set in place months ago is now in action. Recently, I started student teaching in a rural school district near Topeka, KS where I teach 13 classes a day. I mostly teach vocal music but some would label the experience as "general music". I have just finished my fourth week and have another 8 to go in my first placement before I move on to older kids (which I'm not sure I want to do at this point). I absolutely love the student teaching so far. My cooperating teacher is great, the kids inspire me, I feel like I am decent at what I am doing, and going to school/work every day is just as easy or easier than it was to attend my favorite classes at KU where all I had to do was sit and listen. Most of the blogs in the near future will probably have much to do with this experience.

 I loved college but I can't say I miss it as much as I thought I would. My experiences with going back on campus mostly involve laughing at freshmen and greek life, wishing I had spent more time in the downtown areas of Lawrence with more people, missing the food, and feeling super old. I'm not old-- that's the crazy thing! And I am technically still a student but I certainly don't feel as though I fit in with the culture on campus or even in my own  beloved Murphy Hall. Life is just ticking on... whether I am ready for it or not. I assume that's why I have a sudden urge to blog more. Both arriving at college and leaving college seem to have been the most interesting stages of personal development and require the most introspection. More on that to come in further posts.

The Past (This Summer)

The AWESOME equipment they let me use for my program this summer.
I graduated college! That was pretty sweet. Quite surreal to walk across the stage and look at all of my classmates that I watched grow from freshman to some pretty quality future music teachers and therapists. Needless to say, there were quite a few emotions and even more pictures taken. I had the honor of speaking for my class in the School of Music Convocation which was definitely one of my proudest moments that I can remember. I wasn't even really nervous I was so excited. Is that really an event of the past now?

In other news since last postings, I had one of the most amazing jobs this summer. I worked as the Music Program Instructor at a rec therapy camp in Indiana. Not only was Indiana and the people in it interesting and totally refreshing after four years of college in Kansas, but the job was easily one of the most rewarding and educational things I have ever done. I spent half my time developing programs and facilitating the most fun and varied musical experiences I could dream of and the other half of the time hanging out with kids-- whether just by playing with them or providing care-giving in the cabin. Having said that, it was one of the hardest jobs ever-- I was a nurse, a counselor, a musician, and program instructor, a therapist/teacher, etc. Each week brought a new population of campers, new musical experiences and challenges, and new learning about myself and my strengths and weaknesses. If I could do it all over again.. I definitely would. But I would do it closer to home if at ALL possible. I missed the people in Kansas terribly and felt like I was leaving those I love most at a pretty crucial time. This hit home when I landed in Kansas and had to move into a new place in Topeka with my sister the same weekend that I arrived. I have adapted, however, and have managed to see everyone I love as much as I feel that I can and have tried to make the best of the situation since. The new house is honestly great! More later.

Photo courtesy of Camp Riley on Facebook

The Future

I will be leaving for Thailand to do a 6-month clinical internship to finish up my music therapy degree--as long as everything pans out with my professor/supervisor. I am guessing the whole experience will be like Indiana x1000 and almost nothing like my current student teaching experience. Things I hope to gain thus far: flexibility, a knowledge of what I want to spend the rest of my life doing, speaking/advocacy experience, cultural experience and understanding, research experience, and stories to last a lifetime.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Technology Corner 2

This post is for my colleagues who are about to student teach, intern, or actually procure a job in their respective fields. Or just anyone who is interested in protecting their reputation having freedom to share their mind with whatever groups they associate a particular thought with. The answer is simple:

Use Google+, not Facebook or Twitter. 

There is a time and place for Facebook as there are definitely far more users on Facebook and the service runs like a well-oiled machine (except for all of the recent changes that make many users uncomfortable--ex: "timeline"). Here is the problem with Facebook, my friends. Everyone sees everything you do! And frankly, we usually don't care about most of what our friends have to post unless it pertains to us or is particularly hilarious. Another problem I have with Facebook of late is that the "home" page that used to be full of witty status updates is now full of "funny" pictures, cat memes, petty complaints, party pictures, etc.

Here is what I love about Google+ and why I think it is ideal for the upcoming wave of professionals:

  1. Circles on Google+ allow you to choose who sees which of your posts. For example, I have circles such as "Family", "Public", "Music Therapy", "KU Friends", etc. You can even search for people/companies associated with a certain topic to add more to your circles and become part of a larger network. This is a key to cleaning up your social networking so you can have a separate professional and personal life, which has been difficult in the past since so many businesses have Facebook pages or easy search access. 
  2. Google+ is synced with all other Google products--all of which are free. My Google+ notifications pop up while I am checking my calendar or Gmail and I can chat on any of these services with my friends in my circles, my Picasa pictures show up in Google+ (which are automatically uploaded from my Android device) and I can choose to share them or not, my profile is the same on all of my Google services, etc. There is something to be said about the simplicity and organization of the entire Google system and if you already use one of their services, you may as well use them all. 
  3. Google+ is a wonderful, free alternative to many services-- all in one place
    • Hangout is basically Skype without something you have to download onto your computer or log into seperately. The other day, my roommate started a Google+ Hangout with me and I was able to be present at a meeting that I would not have been able to be present at otherwise. You can also hangout with entire circles. 
    • Google Chat is the same as any other chat service but you can also chat/text to phones, video chat in the same space, and use the service like a free phone (hands free). 
    • You can #hashtag just like Twitter and see what things are trending. 
    • You can play a ton of games such as Angry Birds--much like Facebook offers-- without sketchy notifications to your friends.
  4. My only complaint, literally, is the weird white space on the side (which Google will probably fix soon and is probably space for Google Chat). Another complaint I hear from friends is that their friends are not on Google+. Listen, friends, you may not have a ton of friends on Google+ yet, but once you do it is a glorious thing. Tell all your friends or share this post! 

Comments Welcome!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Visual Aids

One of my favorite things about my future career(s) is making visual aids. I can't believe I am so lucky that I get to make music for my job and my hobby AND use my arts and crafts knowledge! For music therapy, we are constantly making visual representations of music symbol substitutes (i.e. colors for different chords), movements, word choices, file folder applications/games for children, etc. For music education--especially general-- we are constantly finding new ways to represent music concepts in fun, engaging ways that make sense to a variety of learners. For those that teach private lessons, we find ways to challenge our students with flashcards, time tests, velcro rhythm boards, and lesson schedules. I go though a ridiculous amount of office supplies (especially laminating paper) but love having extra tools to help my students/clients learn <3

Technology Corner 1

Ever get frustrated with your internet browser? Finding folders for bookmarks? Waiting for commercials? Here are some awesome tools I have found recently that I can’t do without:

Google Chrome Web Store (first link when you open Chrome):

1. AdBlock Plus (Beta): this prevents YouTube, Hulu, Pandora, etc. from playing those annoying videos before your videos or music! No catch.

2. Pocket: with a click of an icon in your upper-righthand browser, you can save links to sites you are visiting without necessarily finding bookmark folders for them so you can view them later or organize them by topic. Pocket allows you to view them later on your tablet/phone without the internet.

3. Lyric extension for Google Chrome— virus-free alternative to lyric sites. Note: You should use Google Music Beta first and this service will be awesome!

Recycled Crafts

A Great Life...

A great life is not one that we experience but one that we create.