Sometimes in order to reconnect, you have to disconnect

A few weeks ago, all of a sudden, I just decided that I needed to take a social media break. I wanted to think about my use of social media and what I was truly getting from it. Also, what was I giving up in return. I wanted time to think about the relationships I had formed with others in the different social networks I use.

The time away from all the social network platforms, in all honesty, was great (thank you all for your text messages of care and concern). I was able to channel my energy on other activities and thoughts. Also, anyone that needed to get a hold of me was still able to reach out using email, text, or a phone call.

The time apart from the different social networks also truly allowed me to determine what I want to do moving forward. The reality is that some social networks no longer serve a purpose for me and I am completely fine letting them go. But for some reason my relationship with Twitter is just such a love/hate relationship that I find myself struggling with how to move forward. I think that for now I am going to focus more on blogging. Please consider this the “I am taking a social media break” formal announcement.

Dense Breast Tissue and Mammograms

Do you know what kind of breast tissue you have?

Until two days ago I had not idea the kind of breast tissue that I have. Until two days ago I didn’t know that women can have fatty breast tissue or dense breast tissue.

As you may or may not know, I turned 40 this year. You also may or may not know that I had a hysterectomy last year. After the hysterectomy, I had a check up with my OB/GYN and he reminded me that because I was turning 40 I should start having my yearly mammogram. So late this summer, I went ahead and schedule my first mammogram.

Woman in pink with a breast cancer ribbon.
Photo by Angiola Harry on Unsplash

One of the most frustrating parts of this experience is that the process lacks an “educational” component that would allow me to truly learn about the health of my breast, the mammogram process, and health screening for breast cancer. So this is what happened:

  • I visited the doctor’s office and had my first mammogram. The experience simply involved having the 3D scan of my breast with the mammogram machine (I am sure there is a proper name for the machine).
  • I got a call from the doctor‘s office 5 days later letting me know I needed to schedule a follow up mammogram at the hospital in the breast cancer center (scary!).
  • I when to the follow up mammogram. I met the technician who told me that she would have to take additional 3D imagines for both of my breast. I had to ask why. Her response: “the doctor’s office notice something in both of your breast”.
  • After the follow up mammogram, I was put in a waiting area and told that it is possible I would have to have an ultrasound of my breast.
  • After a few minutes an ultrasound technician took me to a room where she quietly performed the ultrasound of both of my breast. After completing the ultrasound she told me to wait there while she shared the imagines with the radiologist.
  • After what seemed like forever, she returned and told me that what they were seen in my breast scans and ultrasound images were lymph nodes in one breast and “dense breast tissue” on the other. She simple said: “ But are fine. The radiologist didn’t fine anything abnormal.”

Perhaps for the technicians, radiologist, and other health care personal assume that all of the language that they used was familiar to me or I understood all the consequences of what was happening. But I actually ended up doing a lot of googling throughout the process, the terms, and the research. I came across all sorts of different resources. One major finding amongst the sources I read and listened to is that women with “dense breast tissue” are more likely to have undiagnosed breast cancer: https://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/dense_breasts

Two takeaways from this experience that I hope help others that read this post:

  • I felt that there was a lack education during the process. I wish someone has sat with me an explain the process, the terms, and potential outcome in more detail. I will be talking to my OB/GYN in more detail about this. But, it also means you have to do your own research too. So, seek education from a professional but also spend time looking a reputable sources to better understand women’s health.
  • If you are 40 years and older get a mammogram every year. If several mammograms are inconclusive, request an ultrasounds of your breast. I found the TEDx Talk below to very helpful (I know not all TEDx Talks are helpful, but this one truly aligned with research from reputable sources).

Writing during “Stay at Home” Orders

How much fun was it to write manuscripts during “Stay at Home” orders without childcare? Well if you have not experience this during the last year and half of the COVID-19 pandemic then consider yourself lucky! It is not fun at all. I wrote the following in a reflection I was putting together on what April 2020 was like:


Upon our return to the U.S. we were faced with the news that, due to the pandemic, our childcare center had closed indefinitely. My partner and I had to adjust to working from home while providing childcare for our 4-year-old son. I had to quickly realize that some of the projects that I was hoping to start before the end of my sabbatical were going to be delayed or canceled. The projects that I was planning to complete were going to require a massive amount of focus and dedication. In order to accomplish all our work requirements, my partner and I had to divide our days into three “shifts.” The morning shift (8 am to 1 pm) in which I worked and he would care for our son. The afternoon shift (1 pm – 6 pm) in which my partner worked and I would provide care for our son. The evening shift (6 pm until midnight) in which were are exhausted but aimed to spend time together as a family.”


In April 2020 during a three week period during my “morning shift” I wrote a manuscript for a special issue that was published in the Educational Technology Research and Development (ETR&D) journal. The realization that I was going to have less than the estimated amount of time to write this paper stressed me so much. But I had to channel that stress into getting the work done. During the process of writing the proposal I had gathered and read most of the literature and had put together an outline. Having this things done was a lifesaver! During the three weeks of writing I had to buckle down and eloquently put the literature and my ideas into a document.

I should give a little bit of context: I initially thought I was going to have a month of full-time work hours during a term in which I was on sabbatical. But because of the lack of childcare (due to COVID-19) I actually had three weeks with 4-hours per day (during week days) to write the paper. I do not know how fast others are at writing papers but gosh I am such a tortoise. To make it more interesting, this was a solo-authored publication.

Kind of funny, I can write without problem in a busy cafe with all sorts of background noise. I pretty much wrote all of my dissertation in a Panera a few blocks from my apartment when I lived in Norfolk, VA. But it was so hard to write this paper from home while having my family members’ voices in the background. I remember putting on my headphones and close the door and still every now and then I would still hear their voices and conversations in the background.

I think that been really passionate about the topic I was writing about made a huge difference on how I approached this writing project, despite the hardship endured in the process. I am grateful for Reviewer # 1 and the editors of the special issue for such wonderful and detailed feedback. I truly helped me improve the paper during the R&R submit process. The manuscript was published “online first” this January 2021 and is titled: Current initiatives, barriers, and opportunities for networked learning in Latin America .

This was the first of many experiences like this. Our son stayed home for 6 months while we worked from home without childcare. And, even after he went back to the childcare center, there were other instances in which he has stayed home and we had to maneuver the same dynamics of still completing our work. Having the deadline of special issue submission did add more pressure in this specific instance (shared in this post)! It made it hard for me commit to any special issue submissions for almost a year (hence why I missed out on so many opportunities to submit for COVID-19 related special issues in 2020, sadly)!

Happy Monday everyone!

Hello World!

As usual I have once again neglected my blog.

I really have not felt inspired to write in my blog. Since my last post on June 8th, I was busy teaching my summer course (which ended at end of June) and June was also an intense month with writing projects. It seems like everything was due in June.

Then I decided that July would be a month of recovery. Recovery meant spending as much time as possible outdoors. Working from home means I sometimes neglect to spend time outside during the work week. By July, I really needed to make time for the great outdoors, getting vitamin D, and fresh air. I needed it both physically and mentally.

August was a month of change. So much change. I really need to dedicate an entire blog post to describe it all. So, let’s put a pin on it for now.

So in order to hold myself accountable, I am going to write that over the next few months I will share more on my blog about some of the hobbies in the great outdoors that I have enjoyed lately, some of the changes in my life (and the life of those around me), and updates on some projects.

This post sounds so vague but it gives my some direction to make an effort to reconnect with my blog.


One of the few relaxing things that I did manage to do in June was to spend a weekend alone while my partner and son went camping. It had been 16 months since I had been apart from them overnight and felt super weird. I did used some of that weekend to do some writing (which I hardly ever do on the weekends) but more importantly I made sure to spend plenty of time relaxing. One of the relaxing experience that I had that weekend was pottery painting. It was seriously so calming, relaxing, and such fun experience. I spend nearly 4 hours painting. I should do it more often. Use the slider below to see some before and after pictures of my “work of art”. I am not Picasso but I think did pretty good!

Pottery Painting

Your Goals

Unless you are independently wealthy or a master manipulator, you will have to work hard and make sacrifies to achieve your goals. I know to most people this may sound like a pretty obvious statement, but for some reason I get the impression that there are some who think that success just happens overnight. Trust me when I tell you I have made plenty of sacrifices to achieve pretty much everything that I have been able to accomplish including becoming a mother, purchasing materialistics things, and my professional accolades.

Right after I completed my undergraduate degree, I went on to do my master and doctoral degree. I studies non-stop for from my associates degree to my undergraduate to my master and then to my doctoral degree. Yes, I was a professional student for 12 consecutive years of my adult life. This does not include the two previous years of undergraduate studies that I did while I live in Panama (after graduating high school). By the time, I started my masters program, most of my friends (in Canada, the Unites States and Panama) were buying cars, buying houses, getting married, having kids, going on fancy vacations, and affording a lifestyle that I could not live because I was on a graduate student stipend.

But, I had a goal in mind. I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Therefore, I just stayed focus.

Why do I share this? I share this because I see graduate students comparing their journey with the journey of others. Trust me when I tell you that those who made it to the end (who earned their degree) also made sacrifices. You may not see how they worked hard or the sacrifices they made, but as someone who has been there I can honestly tell you it was not easy for them either.

It is also here where I would like to re-share a prior post I wrote called “Failure.” Here is a quote from that post:

“In academic circles, it gets really competitive. Heck, in life people get really competitive. We start looking at what others are doing and assuming that everyone is “doing things,” “going places,” and basically just “living the dream.” But the reality is that we are all working towards our goals and we all have moments of failures. That is just life.”

I would like to modify the last sentence of that quote and say: But the reality is that we are all working towards our goals and we all have moments of failure, sacrifices, and hard work. Stay focus on your goals and what you want to achieve.

By the way, sometimes I need this reminder too.

“We should all be feminists” Yup. I totally agree.

I put together a list of feminism related books that I want to read and I am very slowly starting to read them. One of the books that arrived this week and was in my list is “We Should all be feminists.” It is a book but honestly you can read it in 40 minutes. I feel like I am going to put it right next to my bed and just re-read it whenever I feel I need some words of wisdom. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the authors of We Should all be Feminists, said it all so well! It felt as if she could read my thoughts.

I laughed out loud when she discussed the views that others have of feminist women: angry, hate men, who refuse to shave their legs, don’t like to wear make up, and refuse to wear high heels. I wonder if people still have these views of feminist? I bet it is very different in different regions of the world, countries, and even within countries.

Anyways, there are three specific quotes from the book that made me nod my head and say “Yes!“:

“What struck me, with her and with many other females American friends I have, is how invested they are in being ‘liked.’ How they have been raised to believe that their being liked is very important and that this “likeable” trait is a specific thing. And this specific thing does not include showing anger or being aggressive or disagreeing too loudly.”

I have countless example of this in academia. God forbid your disagree too loudly! lol I will just leave it at that.

“We teach boys to be afraid of fears, or weakness, or vulnerability. We teach them to mask their true selves, because they have to be, in Nigerian-speak, a hard man.”

As a mother, this is an important message. How are we raising our sons? Feminism is not about a bunch of women trying to change the world, it is really about women and men working together. The way we raise our sons today, will have an impact on the type of men they are tomorrow.

“I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femininity. And I want to be respected in all my femaleness. Because I deserve to be. I like politics and history and am happiest when having a good argument about ideas. I am girly. I am a happy girly. I like high heels and trying on lipsticks.”

It is truly disappointing when people think that you cannot be girly and be an academic. Wearing make up, red lipstick, and wearing a dress? It probably means you are not smart enough. I have actually heard women in academia say that the more they behave like a man, the more accepted they are in academic settings. Sad! I love embracing my femininity and I plan to continue doing just that.

There is a lot more that I can quote, but I just want to leave it there for now. I am moving on to read Audre Lorde “Sister Outsider” and I really need to finish “I am judging you” by Luvvie Ajayi (this is not a book about feminism, but about keeping it real).

Me and my Uterus: It was Complicated

This post is not about COVID-19, life during the pandemic, or self-isolation. This post is not about online learning, emergency remote teaching, or Zoom. I could say this post is about wellness and care. But it is not about wellness and care as an academic or with your students. If you are looking to read about any of those topics, sorry to disappoint. This post is about me and my complicated relationship with my uterus. It is a about wellness and care as a woman; which eventually led me to the difficult decision of having hysterectomy at 39 years old (I did get to keep my ovaries, Yay!). 

Flower Uterus by Catharina Suleiman
Catharina Suleiman [www.catharinasuleiman.com]

Before I start, I want to acknowledge and recognize that despite my circurstances there are other womem who make this difficult decision much earlier in life or make this decision knowing that they will not get to experience a pregnancy or motherhood. To those women: I see you <much love>.

I first heard the word “fibroids” in the year 2009. I was laying in bed one night and I noticed a significant lump in my lower abdomen. I was very scared so the next day I visited the student health center at Old Dominion University (which I was attending as an international student in her first year as a doctoral student).

The nurse practicioner at the health center referred me to an off-campus clinic where an ultrasound would be performed. After the ultrasound, I was told that I had multiple fibroids. The nurse and the technician told me that these fibroids were non-canceours tumors that adhered to my uterus and that depending on how fast they grew they could be an issue or a non-issue for my health. At that time, I had a very limited health care coverage and I did not have any symptons related to the fibroids so I figured I did not need to go for further treatment.

Fast forward three-years later, the fibroids had grown so much that I looked as if I was three-months pregnant, lived with constant back pain, could barely hold my pee (sorry! TMI), and had absolutely terrible anemia. I remember the face of disbelieve when my doctor saw the lab results of my blood work, she looked at me and asked: don’t you feel tired? do you feel lighheaded and nauseous all the time? I remember telling her that I was a doctoral student and I thought that it was just all part of the doctoral journey and that it was normal for all graduate students to feel that tired. Well, it turns out it was not normal at all!

Despite a few hiccups (finding the best doctor to perform the surgery), the summer of 2012 I had a robotic myomectomy. I remember that after the surgery the doctor mentioned that he had removed 5 lemon-sized fibroids. He did mentioned to me that future fibroids were possible and that I would have to “monitor” my uterus. But honestly, at that moment, I was so happy and the months after the surgery I felt really good. I felt energetic. I was hoping that I could put a life with fibroids and my complicated relationship with my uterus behind me. 

Unfortunately, my complicated relationship with my uterus continued as I tried to get pregnant and experience a miscarriage, which let to a D&C. During my second pregnancy, it was not my uterus that was complicated; instead, for a change it was my “incompetent” cervix.  

I feel over the last few years, I have been monitoring new fibroids that have grown in my uterus and it let me the decision to have a hysterectomy. I am tired of feeling tired. I am tired of feeling discomfort and bloating. I am tired of feeling weak for absolutely no reason. Also, the number of fibroids every year since my last pregnancy has continue to double.

I am writing this post while I am still healing from the surgery. As I wrote in a tweet, having the surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic was not easy, it was a lonely and emotional journey as family members were not allowed in the hospital. The weeks before the surgery, I was very anxious. I did not know what to expect. But, I have to say “thank you” to all the nurses and doctors, at the hospital. They took good care of me and I appreciate that. The physical recovery so far has been pretty smooth. Emotionally, I know in my heart that I was not planning to have more children but it feels so drastic (I don’t even know if that is the best word) to know that the possibility of experiencing another pregnancy is completely gone. But, I do feel happy with my decision.

This post is becoming relatively lenghty, but I just want to end and say thank you to everyone for their words of love, support, kindness, and get well wishes via text, private message, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I was struggling with whether I should share what I was going through publicly (I have not in the past with my misscarriage and complicated pregnancy), and it has made me feel better to feel supported by others. So much gratitude!

“Impact Learning” Podcast Episode

A few weeks ago, I was invited to join Dr. Maria Xenidou as a guest in the podcast that she hosts called “Impact Learning.” I truly enjoyed our conversation. We covered so many different topics. We talked about my educational and professional background. Life as a faculty member and eventually transitions to discussing topics related to instructional design and technology (online learning, research methods, motivation, and others). If you have an hour to spare above is the podcast player and below are the notes from the episode.

EPISODE NOTES

Production team:
Host : Maria Xenidou
Producer: Julie-Roxane Krikorian
Introduction Voice: David Bourne

Contact us:
impactlearningpodcast(at)gmail.com

Music credits:
Like Lee performed by The Mini Vandals
Transition sounds: Swamp Walks performed by Jingle Punks

Where to find more about Enilda Romera-Hall:
LinkedIn
Her page on the University of Tampa website
The masters she teaches in Instructional Design and Technology
Personal Website
The different courses she teaches
Her publications

Mentioned in this episode:
Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá
Centennial College
Emporia State University
Programs in Instructional Design & Technology at Old Dominion University
University of Tampa
Dr. Jozenia Colorado-Resa 
Dr. Ginger Watson
Dr. Thomas Reeves

Listen to this episode and explore:
Enilda’s interest in various topics at a bilingual school in Panama City (3:03)
Moving to Canada and studying computer programming (7:56)
Getting a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (9:54)
Why she chose to study Instructional Design for her Masters (10:32)
Enilda’s decision to pursue a PhD in Education and the impact of her mentors during this time (12:46)
How she combines teaching, mentoring and researching in her current role as Associate Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator at Tampa University (16:50)
Enilda’s thoughts on the biggest advancements in Instructional Design since she started working in the field (20:34)
Improving Instructional Design: learning how to apply the research findings to the practical field (23:18)
Enilda’s book: a collaborative project designed to bring theory to practice (25:49)
The trends that Enilda sees in the future of instructional design and technology (30:09)
Enilda’s work in online social communities (32:01)
How to use social media to advance higher education and career development (33:16)
How COVID has affected the digital learning experience (38:08)
What demotivates students in an online course (41:32)
How to make synchronous meetings attractive to students through active learning experiences and games (45:12)
How Enilda builds the courses she teaches (47:49)
Sharing her work openly to help others learn from it (50:22)
What keeps Enilda up at night or what she thinks of first thing in the morning (54:14)
What Enilda wants to leave her mark on during her lifetime (54:58)
How her 4-year-old son has influenced her creativity during the pandemic (57:24)

#COVID19 briefs via Instagram

I arrived in Panama at the end of February, a week before the first COVID-19 case in the country was announced by government officials. Of course, COVID-19 had been an issue in many other countries so there was plenty of news coverage in the Panamanian news outlets and different media outlets on the Internet. However, after the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Panama the Ministry of Health became the main source of information and updates regarding the government’s response.

The social media accounts, and in particular, the Instagram account (@minsapma) for the Ministry of Health provided all the necessary information related to new cases, new policies, and public health campaign. The updates would include press conferences, twice a day, that were shared via Instagram live.

Probably one of my favorite elements of the use of Instagram to keep a country inform were the public health educational campaign. I am an instructional design faculty and teach multimedia design so I was impressed with the infographics and visual representation of the content shared (example of Instagram post below). Of course, I was also impressed with the rapid response that was taken to try to contain the spread of the virus. New measures were taken quickly. In a three-week period Panama went from business as usual to a country under a major lockdown (that is still in place today). 

I want to acknowledge that I appreciate the efforts made by the Panamanian Ministry of Health to use these medium to keep the citizens inform and educated. I know that other traditional outlets are been used to disseminate the message to Panamanian citizens such as the radio and television; however, this is great because I know that there are folks who spend more time on social media than watching TV or listening to the radio.

The Acknowledgement

With the intent to hold on to every bit of positivity during this bizarre days in which we are all dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, I share with you: the acknowledgement.

I am in the final stages of getting all materials to the publisher for the “Research Methods in Learning Design and Technology” book. These materials include the front matter documents. I figured what better way to start blogging about this edited volume than to share the acknowledgement and to recognize those who in one way or another had an impact on this work.