Back in the Saddle…and My Back-to-School Techno-Rant

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Spiders webs are everywhere…the porch, my brain, and my office.

I haven’t written a blog post since June when I was still on narcotics after hip-replacement surgery.  Surgery is not the reason for the blog famine.  There are oodles of topics that have been crashing around in my feeble little brain.  No…the real reason I haven’t written is because of my Ipad.  I am going to blame Wi-Fi.

It’s like this: I spent the summer recuperating and thoroughly enjoying my bed and my screened in porch with Ipad in hand. Facebook, emails, Dopplar radar–it was great.  What was not so great was losing a lengthy blog post that I drafted on the tablet.  Who knows what I did or didn’t do, but it was gone.  This baby-boomer brain needs to sit at a real computer and type on a real keyboard.  But the computer was not on the delightful screened porch and my agility at climbing stairs, while getting better, is still not my forte.

But now it is back-to-school time.  Back to textbooks and lessons plans and, yes, the real computer.  In my classroom, our IT guy examined my set-up and told me that I could not have the desktop, the laptop AND the school-purchased Ipad.  Since we are heading toward teaching by tablet, either the laptop or the desktop had to go.  This presented a dilemma that my screened porch soothed brain was ill-equipped to handle.  I use the laptop for teaching applications: the Smartboard, internet, showing films, etc.  The desktop is where I access email, enter grades, and create documents.  The fact that they sit practically side my side in my work corner does not make one of them redundant.  Ah, but now that I can check grades and  email on the Ipad, the IT guy tells me that one of the devices is redundant.  I choose the brand-new desktop over the antiquated laptop and immediately find my computer freezing up with too many open applications.

Speaking of redundant, do I dare mention the smartphone?  Having washed my previous phone in a wish-I-could-blame-it-on-narcotics act of stupidity on the day my daughter decided to have her baby, I upgraded to an Iphone.  It had to be an Iphone because I have an Ipad and there’s no way my brain can handle both Apple and Android.  But now I get email alerts on a gazillion different devices and if I read mail on one device it doesn’t note that on another device and so all my devices are constantly telling me I have 173 unread emails.  Plus, the new devices required me to get Gmail and Icloud accounts so I now have four different email user names and passwords to forget.  And I get really confused as to when to use which.

Maybe someone is reading this and thinking, “This woman is a techno-idiot.”  Yes, I am.  The world was a simpler…if slower…place with land-lines and snail-mail.  It  was also cheaper.  But that’s another topic.

Not ready to call it a summer

This is it.  Back-to-school week for teachers.  And I’m not ready.

My back-to-school car maintenance got me a back-to-school back-pack! It only cost me $$$$.

Oh, I’m “ready.”  I’ve gone to Office Depot for a boatload of supplies. I’ve paid Toyota a significant amount of money for scheduled maintenance on my car.  I have the weeksheets typed up for my first week of lessons.  I even practiced using my alarm clock on Saturday.  (I had an early–9 a.m.–appointment for a pedicure.  At least my toes are ready for school.)

But I’m not ready.  Besides the fact that I’m currently on a 1 -9 a.m sleep cycle and that waking up to the alarm at 5:30 a.m. is going to kill me, there is still stuff I wanna do.  I still have beeswax to play with. I have more things to order from random suppliers to make more lip balm.  I haven’t learned how to make candles.  I haven’t found seeds to plant in my fall garden.  The little “fill-your-own-teabags” that I bought online…well, they aren’t filled.  I haven’t ordered cute little jars to put my bath salts in.

I know, I know, these are not critical.  The world will not end because the parsley is not planted.  It’s just that once school starts, nothing will get done except school.  This is why certain teachers I know (and Linda H, you are not the only one!) address their Christmas cards in July.

I bought a tee-shirt in June when I toured the Celestial Seasonings tea factory in Boulder, Colorado.  Underneath a picture of the SleepyTime bear is the quote: “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”  What a lovely Zen-like thought.  It kind of even works as a calmness motivator–in summer.  It’s pretty laughable during the school year, though, when Mother Nature calls and you have three minutes to push past pokey teenagers in the hallway to get to the  restroom–and back.

It’s a calming thought, but I lean more towards Ecclesiastes 3:1–“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

I’ve spent the summer doing one thing at a time.  (Sometimes not even that much.)  Now it is time to re-enter the world of constant multi-tasking.  And I don’t want to.  I want to continue to do one thing at a time.  Is it possible to boycott multi-tasking?  Is it possible to make a stand for focus in an ADD society?  What would happen if I not only said, “I can’t do three things at once!” but I actually didn’t try to?

Every year teachers get asked to do more and more in the same amount of time.  I think I reached my saturation point last year.  So I begin this year wondering, is it possible to not hurry and get everything accomplished?  I don’t know.  I’m curious to try.  And when I fail, well, that’s what the bath salts are for.

Gouttières and Dutch boys’ suits

Lemon verbena by a goutière

This is transition week.  Next Monday teachers report back to work.  This is the week I’m torn by what to do.  Do I sit and relax?  Do I frantically finish summer projects?  Do I “set my face toward Jerusalem” and dig into school work?  All of the above?  None of the above?  (None of the above involves emotional paralysis from the inability to choose.)

So far I’ve been combining tasks.  All summer I’ve been soaking up books.  The past couple of weeks I’ve been priming my brain for the classroom by soaking them up in French.  I’ve finished two novels and am currently working through Suite Française.  I had read it in English a few years ago.  It affirms me to be able to just pick it up and enjoy it in French.

Last night I had a linguistic “ah-hah” while reading.  In the book, a cat had exited a bedroom and was walking along the gouttière.  Being a good lazy reader (don’t pull out a dictionary unless you really, really have to), it wasn’t hard to figure out that a gouttière was a gutter.  And if you know that a goutte is a drop, then it’s even easier.  Hah!  Who needs a dictionary for that?  But just because I’m now curious and want to prove myself right, I look it up.  Voilà!  The English word dates to the 13th century, coming by way of Anglo-Norman which came from the Old French goute which got started way, way back with the Latin gutta which, interestingly enough, is how they pronounce it today in New England.  (Part of my back to school transition involves thinking of my colleagues, especially my buddy from Maine who is mad at me because I am being relocated into his spacious classroom and he is being put into my closet of a room.)

This morning we awoke to gouttières whooshing with rainwater.  We drove down to Towson, our arrival at daughter and son-in-law’s house coinciding with a deluge.   One of their goutières, experiencing a leaf cloggage, spilled rivers of water out front, flooding the front walk.  I should have just removed my sandals, but I deluded myself into thinking that my umbrella would keep me dry.  We all pondered the weather.  What to do?  Enjoy a cup of tea or brave the rain?  Sit it front of Doppler radar all day?  Is it worth going out in to go to the library–with a baby?  Will I be able to plant my fall seeds?

Enough blue to make a Dutch boy's suit

We did have a cup of tea.  On my way home the rain had stopped, the sun was trying to shine, and there was enough blue to make a Dutch boy’s suit.  Back in the day, my grandmother Noona didn’t need Doppler radar to make her plans.  She always said that the weather would clear if there was enough blue to make a Dutch boy’s suit.  Admittedly, that’s a little vague.  How much blue do you need to make this suit?  And how big is the Dutch boy?  Is he, to use another Noona-ism, “the size of a minute”?  That boy wouldn’t need a very big suit.  But that’s the charm of it.  If you are sure you have enough blue, then the weather is surely clearing.

There is definitely enough blue.  I can now safely harvest some lemon verbena without floating through the yard.   Then I’ll make the lemon verbena sherbet that my mouth has been watering for and I will savor some while I continue with Suite Française.  Planting seeds can wait ’til tomorrow, along with a trip out to purchase school supplies.

Lemon Verbena Yogurt Sherbet

I found this recipe, from Jerry Traunfeld, at www.herbcompanion.com.  It is amazingly delicious.  And easy!

2 cups lemon verbena leaves

2 cups whole-milk yogurt

1 and 1/2 cups sugar

1 and 1/2 cups lemon juice

1 and 1/2 cups water

Purée lemon verbena, sugar, and water in blender on high speed.  Whisk together yogurt and lemon juice in a mixing bowl.  Strain lemon verbena mixture into the yogurt mixture through a sieve.  Whisk until smooth.  Process in ice cream maker until slushy.  Transfer to storage container and freeze until scoopably firm.