This time of the year people are supposed to let grudges go. Get into the holiday spirit. Forgive and forget, isn’t that what we’re told?

Every time I experience how amazing it feels to forgive, I’m always left wondering why it’s so hard for us to do when it feels so good? To be fair, maybe this isn’t hard for everyone, but I find the hardest person to forgive is myself. Though through practice I discovered that even this was possible.

Some years ago I took a four-week art therapy workshop at Callanish on “Loving Kindness and Forgiveness” and experienced the sensation of forgiveness. Each session started with a check-in where we shared what was going on with us that week. This was followed by a guided meditation-relaxation session focused on loving kindness with forgiveness added in. After meditating, we went into the art room where we were free to choose any available materials to create whatever we wanted.

One particular session, it seemed as though everyone’s energy was synchronized in a peaceful, calm way. The session started with some heartbreaking news of a recurrence from one of the participants. Something about her story touched me deeply leaving me open to forgive everyone, but especially myself. For big things. And small things. A heaviness I had gotten used to carrying was replaced by giddiness, followed by a wave of tranquility and calm.

It happened seamlessly in a single instant during the meditation. I forgave myself and released bad feelings I had about a lot of things. Resentments, anger, hurt… all dissipated to be replaced by something nicer and space. That day in the art room, I can still recall the synthesis of our respective creativity. One woman’s knitting needles clacked together rhythmically. To my right I could hear the sound of shears cutting through fabric as one woman created a string of flags to spell out the word, “gentle.” It was her own personal reminder to be that way with herself more often. The scratchy swiping of my brushes against the wooden boxes I was painting added to the mix. 

I’m big on forgiving, but I don’t always like to forget. This doesn’t mean I hold grudges, but it does mean I try to remember the lessons learned. And try to forgive as often as possible. It feels good.

Running stream at Wulaia Bay.

Keyboard Shortcuts: Hidden Time Saver

A couple of years ago I accidentally discovered an underutilized time-saving technique, using keyboard shortcuts. It was something I hadn’t really thought about so I decided to learn more at a “lunch and learn” offered by my client at the time.

It was really eye opening! Every time we move from the keyboard to the mouse, we’re expending more time and energy than we need to. Learning keyboard shortcuts is a great way to make your movements really efficient, plus you can avoid some hand/finger strain from all that mouse clicking!

Since I know that habits are hard to change, even when they’re being replaced by better, faster ones, I decided to approach this one in small chunks. Here’s how I started:

  1. Go through a list of shortcuts, or observe one action you do with your mouse that interrupts your flow on the keyboard.
  2. Pick 1 – 5 keyboard shortcuts that you think would be useful.
  3. Write them on a sticky note.
  4. Place the sticky note where you will see it when you’re working on your computer (e.g., your monitor).
  5. Be mindful and try to incorporate them into your routine. Make an effort to consult your sticky note when you’re working to help remember the new actions.
  6. If you forget, be gentle on yourself. Changing habits takes time!
  7. Once you have mastered the ones you selected, pick a few more and start over.

Here are a few I use often for PC or Mac:

  • Tab = to move to another cell or field (e.g., when filling out forms)
  • Shift + Tab = to move back to a previous cell or field (opposite direction of the action above)
  • Control + C = to copy something (on a Mac use Command + C)
  • Control + V = to paste something (on a Mac use Command + V)
  • Control + X = to cut something (on a Mac use Command + X)
  • Control + Z = to undo something (on a Mac use Command + Z) – this is a big favorite!
  • Shift + left, or right, arrow key = to highlight one character of text to the right or left
  • Shift + command + left, or right, arrow key = to highlight a whole line of text (on a Mac)
  • Shift + command + up, or down, arrow key = to highlight text above/below (on a Mac)
  • Alt + Tab = to shift between open applications (on a Mac use Command + Tab)

Click below for more:

Keyboard Shortcuts in Windows (10, 8.1,7)

Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

Getting Unstuck and Finishing Tasks

Sometimes I really wonder why it takes me so long to get certain things done. I’ve noticed that home repairs fall into this category. I know that part of the challenge is even a small repair, or change, requires effort, exacerbated by not having the right equipment or tools to get the job done. Most of the repairs require more than one person and must be done during “business” hours because of noise by-laws.

But if I had to be honest with myself, these are just excuses I make so I don’t feel so guilty and silly about procrastinating on doing things that I know will make my home better.

A couple of weeks ago I decided I was going to put up the counter lights I had purchased over 2 years ago (!) from IKEA. I refused to face another long, dark winter without proper lighting in my kitchen. One evening after dinner, I assembled all the necessary pieces and tools. The project didn’t require a hammer or drill, so it could be done after hours. I convinced my partner to help  and we did it.

Total installation time: 1 hour

Total project time: 2 years, 1 month, and 1 hour

End result: I love it! I’m so happy to have proper lighting in my kitchen. I instantly forgave myself for waiting 2+ years to install it.

A friend of mine once told me that she often gets stuck on a task or project because she doesn’t know something and this causes delays or even a complete stop. With the counter lights, the big delay for me was figuring out how to attach the transformer to the cabinets without a drill. Although even when my brother devised a drill-free, easy solution, it still took me another 6 months to get motivated.

Some tips for getting unstuck:

  • Pick one project.
  • Write down all the tasks that need to get done.
  • Put them in a logical order.
  • Break the larger tasks down into smaller, more manageable ones.
  • Aim to get one of these smaller tasks done every week (or month!).
  • Release the bad feelings and guilt about yourself, as these may only de-motivate you further.

You may not be moving fast, but you’ll still be moving forward.

Next on the task list, putting up my new livingroom curtains.

Total procrastination time: 6 months and counting

Final step: Finding a helper and time during “business” hours to install

First Days in Iceland

In October, my family and I spent almost two weeks traveling around Iceland with Overseas Adventure Travels. I arrived in Reykjavík at 5am and spent my first hours drinking coffee in the airport while waiting for everyone to arrive. Even at the airport, everything seemed extra expensive. I bought a coffee and a juice for about $21CAD!

Finally, everyone arrived and we headed to the hotel, ate breakfast and got ready for sightseeing. Our first stop was the Reykjavík Art Museum, conveniently located across the street from our hotel. The museum was closed, as were many things during our stay because the tourist season was over, but we enjoyed statues by Ásmundarsafn Sveinsson on the grounds surrounding the museum.

Woman Churning Butter by Sveinsson

After the museum, we went to the Reykjavík Botanical Gardens. Even though summer was over, we still enjoyed the greenery, the ponds with water fowl, and a replica of an Icelandic turf house, a type of home that used to be built. And then we headed to Laugardalslaug, a public swimming pool.

Perfect landing!

While researching the trip, I discovered that Icelanders love swimming. My kind of people! I was excited to learn that every place we stayed in had a local public pool nearby. I went swimming five times during the trip in four different cities. When we arrived at the Laugardalslaug, I was surprised to learn that the pools are outside, but the water was warm thanks to the geothermal heating. Another surprise was the number of hot tubs at the pools, each with its own specific temperature. The hot tubs are the cultural centre of the town; it’s where you hear all the good gossip.

Refreshed from the swim, we headed back to the hotel for dinner and then rested up for sightseeing the following day. The next morning we headed to an innovative business center that specializes in producing cod in a sustainable way. They’ve created methods and techniques to use 100% of the cod in a variety of different products.

Sustainable Cod Production with zero waste, except for the packaging used for the cod products

After the business center, we visited the National Museum of Iceland. Then we walked around the downtown area enjoying the sights. We went to the tourist center near a manmade pond. One thing that really impressed me was the height of the buildings. Everything in Toronto is growing vertical, so I really enjoyed seeing large expanses of the sky unimpeded by condos.

Reykjavik near the tourist center

Memories For You or Just Another Invasion of Privacy

Last night a new notification appeared on my iPad that a new photo something was ready for me. Curious, I unlocked my iPad and investigated.

I scrolled through the newly noticed area of my Photos app in horror. The “For You” area features Memories, essentially slide show movies that have been created by the app. I don’t keep many photos on my iPad, but if I did, I’m sure there would have been dozens more.

It was easy to see that many memories had been created by assembling a collection of photos based on the date they were taken. This is how the older version of Photos (iPhotos) used to create Events.

These Memories are of my recent trip to Iceland.

But then there were other albums based purely on facial recognition of me and other people!

The notification had been for a new memory called “Portraits of… Photos from 2014 – 2018” and featured photos of me! Clearly this one was created from the app using some kind of facial recognition software. Intrigued, we pressed “play” and watched my image flash before our eyes, to music.

After watching it, we explored the options offered to adjust the length (short, medium, long) ranging from about 15 seconds to slightly over 2 minutes. We also changed the background music by choosing from a range of options including: dreamy, sentimental, gentle, chill, happy, uplifting, epic, club, and extreme.

Some of the other non-dated memories included one called “Best of the Year 2018,” and one featuring a friend of mine that I went on vacation with in 2016. Most of the 2016 vacation photos have been removed from my iPad, but a handful still remain. Oddly, the “Best of the Year 2018” didn’t feature many of my favorited photos but did include some bad ones and an internet download.

Before blogging this post, I looked at the “For You” Memories again in the light of day. I realized that you can add/delete photos and make other edits to the font, text, music, etc.

My partner thought it was cool and I thought it was creepy. I don’t like the idea of an app perusing through my photos and making “memories” for me, even if I can adjust them later (read more here). And I have mixed feelings about the improved accuracy of facial recognition software. It’s useful and invasive, at the same time.

How do you feel about apps creating your memories?

Automating Email Replies

Over the past few months I’ve noticed some changes in my Gmail. The two changes are Smart Reply, where Gmail provides three canned responses, and Smart Compose, where Gmail suggests text to complete your sentences. One goal of both changes is to reduce the number of key strokes, and ultimately the amount of time, required to respond to emails.

They also both use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning to make predictions and refine the selections over time based on your usage patterns. Essentially, Gmail scans emails to try and predict what the most common responses are based on the content of the message and by analyzing responses from your email and others. Here’s a blog posting from Google about using Smart Reply.

I rarely use Smart Reply, though I do notice how it has been adjusting based on my patterns. For example, over the weekend I was confirming the attendance of a player for a rehearsal. She replied that yes, she was coming to the rehearsal. Below are the three Smart Replies. The “yay” definitely seems like something I would write, especially to this particular recipient, including the exclamation points.

Here are three Smart Replies offered for an invitation that I received, which are more generic. Regarding the last response, I would rarely use this one. It’s not my style and I’m sure if I utilized Smart Reply, Gmail would figure that out and remove it as an option over time.

The other option, Smart Compose, provides suggestions of what to type, again based on AI and machine learning. As I’m typing, Smart Compose predicts what I might want to write by offering text. If I like it, then I press Tab to use the text and move on to the next sentence. Smart Compose will also auto-adjust as you keep typing so the suggestions will change as you continue to write.

For example, a friend of mine is sick so I was sending him an email to see how he was doing. Smart Compose is the gray text in gray.

Although these two features are time savers, I do have to wonder who will be training who in the future. Will I pick the best Smart Reply because it’s the best one for me, or will I pick it because it’s convenient and the one I see the most often?