Sunday, March 13, 2016

High Shoals Falls and McGalliard Falls

Buster and I went to South Mountain Park in Connelly Springs, NC to visit High Shoals Falls. We made a brief stop at McGalliard Falls in Valdese, NC. We then headed home, stopping along the way at Circus Hall of Cream in Hickory, NC for dinner.

South Mountain Park
We drove all the way through the park to the main (and last) parking area on the left that leads to several trails. 
Overlook from the parking lot. So beautiful

We took the scenic (and easy) Hemlock Nature trail. There were lots of learning stations along the trail where you could read about plants, fish, animal tracks, etc. The Hemlock Nature Trail is .3 mi and leads directly into the High Shoals Fall Loop (2.7 mi total). This trail is marked strenuous, but for the most part is fairly easy until you get across the long narrow bridge over the creek. Once over the bridge it's nothing but stairs, some natural rocks and some wooden, but all steep. We got to the viewing deck at the top right as my hams/quads started burning like crazy. You can take more stairs up to the top of the waterfall and loop back around, but we didn't do that. We went back the way we came, which was much easier than going up!
Biggest cut tree we'd ever seen
High Shoals Falls
High Shoals Falls

One of the many cascades along the way to the main falls

McGalliard Falls
These falls are located at McGalliard Falls Park, but for some reason when you google McGalliard Falls it shows a map of the Valdese Rec Center. If I hadn't had my Kevin Adams book I wouldn't have found my way to these falls. I can't find an exact street number but they are located on Falls Rd in Valdese, NC. "Falls, 1100, 1162 Falls Rd, Valdese, NC 28690, United States" shows you the park in Google Maps.
I walked to the left then behind the picnic shelter to an overlook of the falls and mill. 
View from the overlook
 Then you have to go the opposite way along the trails, over the creek, and down behind the mill to get to the base of the falls. It was a nice pit stop and great place to have a picnic.
McGalliard Falls

Circus Hall of Cream
Weird name, but good food. This local restaurant is drive-thru or walk-up only. There is only outdoor seating, but it was a beautiful, breezy day and Buster can't go inside anyway. The bathrooms are around the back and Buster had to go in with me because I couldn't leave him in the hot car. 

Buster's first time in a public restroom.

I got their footlong combo with fries and a soft serve vanilla shake. (Buster had dry dog food I brought with us. He was disappointed.) Great food and I would go there again if I were in Hickory! Their hours are M-F 10-9p. Sat 10-4p. Closed Sundays.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Do Go Chasing Waterfalls

Buster and I love hiking to waterfalls. We are so lucky to live in a state with 1000+ waterfalls. 
Highly recommend this book for planning waterfall hikes. A new edition will be available Summer 2016.

Fall Creek Falls
The roads to this waterfall in Mayodan had me crossing in and out of NC and Virginia. There's not a parking lot or well-defined trail to this little gem. I parked on the side of the road and hoped nobody would tow my car. This link has a lot of great info about getting to the Falls. 
Fall Creek Falls. At the top of the falls on the bottom R
Lower Cascades (Hanging Rock Park)
This is my favorite waterfall we've been to so far. Hope you like stairs because there's about 40 flights of em! The waterfall flows into a shallow pool and then there's a much less impressive cascade. So you could wade in the pool out to the rocks like that couple on the right.

Lower Cascades

Hope you like stairs!

We also visited the other waterfalls in the Park: Upper Cascades, Window Falls. They're less impressive.
Hiking to the peak of Hanging Rock is worth it. It's a moderately difficult trail, uphill all the way there.
It started raining when we got to the top. We took shelter under the trees popping out of the rock.
Tory's Falls/Den
This is a short hike with a lot of history. Torys hid out here during the Revolutionary War. The waterfall was not impressive. It might be worth seeing in the winter after a lot of rain/snow. I've seen other photographs of the falls that are more impressive, but I don't know how they got to that vantage point. We were on top of a cliff at the end of the trail.
See the waterfalls? No? Because it was more of a trickle.
We enjoyed the cave though. I don't know how several men lived in that tiny cave, though. 
Tory's Den
To enjoy Tory's Falls you should go after a big rainfall. Other hikers have seen a much more impressive fall. The last three photos on this page are from Tory's Falls/Den.

Stone Mountain State Park
Stone Mountain Falls are usually crowded. There's also a lot of stairs, but benches along the way to rest.
I enjoyed Widows Creek Falls a lot more. Less crowded and prettier. No hike at all. Just park and walk.
Stone Mountain Falls on L, Widows Creek Falls top R, Yadkin River bottom R

Monday, February 8, 2016

My New Job

In a previous blog post I discussed getting my PTA license and preparing for job interviews with (Excellent site!)
Check this site out!
 I talked about the "Magic Question" to always ask on an interview: "Thinking back to people who have been in this position previously, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great?"

So here's my story about how I got a job.

The Application
I had set up to email me of any new relevant job postings local to me. I got an email on Friday about a SNF (skilled nursing facility) near me hiring. I applied Saturday night at 9:05pm. I included a resume and cover letter I was very proud of. At 9:27pm I had a reply from the COO of the company asking to schedule a phone interview. I couldn't believe the fast response but I set up the phone interview for the next day, Sunday afternoon. He called and described the job and told me the Rehab Director would text/call me to schedule an in-person interview. She texted shortly after and scheduled my interview for the next afternoon.

The Interview
I was very nervous because of how horrible my interview in January had gone. The night before I typed of 4 pages worth of answers to possible questions she might ask me. It was an unseasonably warm day (70 degrees) so I couldn't wear my awesome blazer. 
I walked in the building and noticed it didn't smell and was a very bright, pleasant place. The Rehab Director talked a little bit about the job and then asked me if I had any questions. I was a little taken aback because usually the interviewee's questions are for the end. I had written down 4 questions to ask her, so I decided to go ahead with them. My questions were to get a sense of the atmosphere of the facility, how they set me up to be successful, and the rehab director's management style. I was impressed with her answers and thought it would be a great place for my first job. When I asked her the magic question (see above), her response was "Questions. Someone who asks questions." Which was an answer I liked because I'm an inquisitive person. She told me I was the first person to come to an interview with a list of questions. She said most people were too nervous. But an interview should be a two-way street. You're judging their fit for you as much as they are judging your fit for them. I liked their plans to help me ease into the new job after graduation. I liked the PT I'd be working with at the beginning.
The Rehab Director asked me two questions, neither of which were on my typed up answers: Tell me about your contact with PTs at clinicals. How do you feel about going for you first job after graduation?
I asked when the rehab director would be making a decision about the job. She told me there were 2 interviews the next day and a decision would be made in 2 days.

The Aftermath
I ran a few errands after the interview and as I was pulling into my neighborhood about 45 minutes later I got a call. The COO had said he wanted to touch base with my after the interview and I recognized his number. He said he heard the interview went well and I told him I thought it did, too. He said the rehab director had just called him, told him how impressed she was with me and they wanted to offer me the position. I couldn't believe it. I accepted, negotiated pay (you should always negotiate! The worst they can say is no.) and celebrated that evening with dinner with my parents!

The Conclusion
Always ask questions in an interview. I asked some challenging questions that required thought and gave me an idea of who the Rehab Director was. I liked what she had to say, so when I accepted the job, I knew I'd be working with/for good people.

Now actually starting the job is the really hard part. I'm very nervous, but that's another blog post!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Sign Language (ASL)

I've got my PTA license but no job, so I'm staying busy by learning American Sign Language. I've always been fascinated by it, it's one of my New Years Resolutions, and I thought it would be beneficial to my career if I could treat deaf patients.

How to Get Started
The first thing I did was study how to learn a second language. I spent a lot of time on The guy on there learns new languages in 3 months by completely immersing himself. He actually lived in different countries, but for those of us who don't have that option it means finding yourself classes and a language partner or private tutor. (More about that later)

How Much Do I Have To Know
Considering you probably know about 20,000 words in your native language, it can feel overwhelming trying to learn a new language. From what I've found,3000 words account for about 95% of the words used in everyday conversations and writing. That's not quite so bad.

Where to Start
Start with 100 of the most common words in the language and try to have a conversation with them. FluentIn3Months would say have a conversation the first day you start learning a new language, but I'm not in a race to learn and I don't have those resources.

Where to Learn
I found a site that has 300 common ASL signs with animations. I decided to focus on learning these first as they'd allow me to have a small talk conversation about family, work, and school. (I learned a few other words like speak and dog that weren't on that list.)
Go to your local library to check out all their DVD& book resources on the language to compare.
There is an ASL personal enrichment class (not for credit) at my local community college, but it doesn't start until March. 
There are free sign language classes at a church with a deaf ministry near me. I am waiting for them to post their spring dates and I'll be joining that.
There are classes at the deaf resources center near me as well.
YouTube is a great resources as well.
In summary check out your: libraries, community colleges, churches, internet, and resource centers for the community that speaks your chosen language. If there are no options, then I would purchase DVDs, books and for spoken languages: CDs and podcasts.

How Can I Practice
iTalki is a great resource. You set up a profile and indicate your native language and what language you want to learn. Then you can connect with professional instructors, informal tutors or language exchange partners (they want to learn your native language and you want to learn theirs, so you learn from each other). Language exchange partners are free; it's just a matter of finding someone willing. Professional instructors and informal tutoring cost money, but the most I've seen is $13/hr. I've seen as low as $5/hr for a native speaker of Tamil.

iTalki Experience
I had my first ASL private lesson today. For ASL, we have to use Skype but spoken languages can get away without the video part. I was a little nervous because webcams make me uncomfortable and I'd never really used one before. But my teacher was a professional interpreter and answered all my questions about grammar and proper signs. She taught me new words and I tried very hard to keep up with her signing and understand her. I think I'm decent with signing the words I know, but I need a LOT of practice with the other side of the conversation, figuring out what the other person is signing.

Overall it was a good experience and I will be using that teacher again. She was very patient with me. Right now I think once a week private Skype sessions is affordable and reasonable. Hopefully those church classes will be available soon, too, so I can have extra practice. Tomorrow I'll be near the central library, so I'm stopping in to get some books and DVDs.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Advanced Obedience Week 5 & 6

Ongoing series of posts about what to expect in a Petsmart Advanced Obedience Class:
Week 1 & 2
Week 3 & 4

For weeks 5 & 6 we continued to work on long distance stays. I was able to put Buster in a down-stay at the back of Petsmart, walk to the front door, around the edge of the store and all the way back to him. People passed him while he was waiting on me, there were plenty of distractions, but he stayed put.

We worked on heeling with distractions, including next to another dog, with people squeaking toys, bending down to talk to him, and doing wild motions like jumping up and down. And he continued to heel every time.

We worked on "heel up". He is sitting in front of me I say "heel up" and he walks around my right side, comes from behind me to sit politely to my left so we can heel. 

We didn't have a graduation ceremony since Buster and the other dog had already taken this class before, but I did ask for a diploma.

I taught him to make his eyes green in pictures. Smart dog.

 We will be taking the Therapy Dog class at Petsmart in the next few weeks. Very excited.

Licenses & Job Search Tips

I took my boards to get licensed by the state to practice physical therapy on January 13. It was the hardest test ever (NCPTE). There are 4 hours, 200 questions and 4 sections (50 questions each section). You may review any question in your current section, but once you submit and move on to the next section of 50 questions, you can not go back to a previous section. 50 questions total are un-scored practice questions to determine whether they should be included in future tests. You don't know which 50, though, and on the really hard ones I kept thinking "I hope this one doesn't count!".

I felt like the dumbest person ever after I left that test. I immediately went to school to pick up my diploma and stopped by my department to tell my professors how dumb I am. Every graduate of the program for 10 years has passed the boards on the first try and I said "Not this year! I failed." But they told me what I was feeling is normal and that they were confident I passed. I was not.

I'd also like to mention the PEAT (Practice Examination Assessment Tool) offered by the FSBPT (The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy) for $100. It comes with a practice test and a retired exam (the questions were onced used on the real exam). 99% of PTs who pass the retired exam pass their actual boards. 96% of PTAs who pass the retired exam pass their actual boards. There were 4 questions on my actual boards that I recognized from the retired PEAT I took, but overall I felt the PEAT was way too easy compared to the real thing. (You can read the entire article about how well the PEAT predicts success here.

I used the PTA Exam Study Book by Scott Giles because our professor required we buy it. Comes with 3 online practice exams that give you score reports to break down your strengths and weaknesses. This book is not as comprehensive as I would like. There were things asked on the PEAT and the real Boards that were not covered in this book. 

I lived in agony from Jan 13 until January 21 when we got our results. I watched countless movies to distract me. I would get so anxious at night when I was trying to sleep my heart would race and my chest hurt from feeling like my heart was going to burst. I'd get so nervous I felt weak in the knees and like I was going to pass out. I think I cried once. I went over in my head how I would react when I saw that "Fail" on my scores and how ashamed I would be.

I woke up on January 21 to 8 text messages telling me scores were up. So the first place I went was to Verify a Therapist at the ncptboard website and my name wasn't up there. Can't even describe what I felt when I thought I had failed. Luckily I went to the fsbpt website and saw I passed. Took a while for me to stop shaking from thinking I failed but I soon moved on to jumping up and down and screaming with joy when my name finally showed up on the ncptboard site and I knew it was official.

 I am now a Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant in the state of North Carolina! 

I also spent that agonizing week pouring over and highly recommend it to anyone searching for a job or dealing with work-related issues. I completely rewrote my cover letter based on that blog's advice and am very proud of it.
Amazing Site!

There are two rules from this site I'm definitely going to implement:
  1. The Magic Question to blow away an interviewer: "Thinking back to people who have been in this position previously, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great?"
  2. Your cover letter should address what you can offer the company. Why should they want you? At this point, they don't care about what YOU want. It also should not repeat what's in your resume. It should provide information about the applicant that will never be available from a resume — personal traits and work habits. How to write a cover letter

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

First Impressions

I had my first interview for a physical therapist assistant job. I had no idea what to expect but it turned out to be the most challenging interview I'd ever been on. The questions really caught me off guard and I had no time to consider how I might be coming off personality/body language wise. I did dress for success, though. 

Got a great outfit at Maurices.

This jacket in black

The questions he asked were so hard. I hadn't prepared anything because I had no idea what to expect:
Tell me about a good idea you had that you saw through from start to finish.
Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a coworker that ended badly.
How do you keep up with the latest developments in physical therapy?
Tell me about a time you had to learn something quickly.

Before I go on my next interview, I'll prepare some better answers. 

Update: I did not get the job.