Vintage Tech

Have you ever known someone–heck, are you someone–who walks into a room and immediately wonders why he or she went there?  I’m not that way often, but if I had a nickel for every cup of coffee I’ve left sitting on the kitchen counter when I go to school, I could just buy a cup for both of us.  I’m forgetful. Sometimes.

Getting back to walking out the door, when I leave in the morning to go to school (and I will again, someday), I have a little chant that I say to myself: “Watch, wallet, keys, badge, phone, memory stick, whistle, love of a good woman…yep, I’ve got it all.”  As I say it, I’m patting various pockets, checking things off as I feel them.

Here’s the thing, though: I don’t even carry all of those anymore.  I don’t need a whistle since, as a STEM coach, I don’t have a class to bring in from the playground.  Nor do I need my memory stick (USB drive), because, well, the cloud. My files are floating around somewhere, but not in my pocket.

Why, since I’m not at school today, did this come to my mind earlier this morning?  

Well, I’ve actually started doing some of the cleaning that I told myself I was going to do over this unplanned break, and I came across a piece of what is now vintage technology.  You know, over 10 years old. 

It’s an old “E-Book.”  Back when I was working on my master’s degree, I needed a laptop but couldn’t afford one.  E-books, computers that kept files in the cloud, were just coming out and were affordable. I didn’t like it because it didn’t have a hard drive for file storage, but it served its purpose well.

Fast forward ten years, and now all of my files are in the cloud (with the exception of the thousands of pictures living on my desktop still).  This old thing might be worth having!

The battery is charging, and I think I remember the password.  

Do I need it?  Of course not, but I’d better not get rid of it because I might some day!

Just kidding.  It’s a factory reset away from being recycled.

 

I Am Not a Cat

“I am a cat.”

“I am not a rat.”

“The little fat cat sat on the fat rat.”

The fact that we can use language, especially written language, is a miracle.  Period.

The poet Howard Nemerov, in his “September, the First Day of School,” described written language–“the alphabet, the integers”– as 

Three dozen bits and pieces of a stuff

So arbitrary, so peremptory,

That worlds invisible and visible

Bow down before it…  

I’ve always loved that description, just as I love the poem.

This morning I watched as my oldest granddaughter, the subject of many of my writings, labored through some of the phrases I’d printed on a paper for her to read. She’s juuusst about got her letters and sounds down (that pesky b-d reversal, and for some reason h and k are giving her fits this week), and we’re working on sight words and consonant-vowel-consonant words.

But she’s doing it.  She’s reading. She, like countless others before her, is learning to make meaning out of those squiggles covering a piece of paper.

She’s doing it.

 

Metaphors

Honestly, I prefer metaphors when they don’t apply to me.  Really.  

I’m a person with more than a few hobbies.  I’m interested in just about everything, and over the years have dabbled (or more than dabbled) in everything from my fairly constant woodworking to my current pottery attempts. 

I’ve tried painting with a number of media, I’ve done a number of things with textiles, and I’ve even earned a bit of spending money making macrame plant hangers in the 70s.  

Those are back now, maybe I should look into them again.

Hiking, camping, canoeing and kayaking are all things I enjoy doing, and I love teaching about the outdoors, so I’ve accumulated a library and collection of paraphernalia for that effort. 

Teaching is a hobby unto itself, in addition to being a full time job.

All these things, and more, have left me with a lot of stuff.  

Gardening and yard work.  I’m not going to say I love it, but I do enjoy it.  Today has been a beautiful day here in north Alabama, and I’ve been outside for most of it, doing yard work.  

Mostly, pruning: removing excess growth for the good of the larger plant or space.

That’s gotten me thinking.

Ouch.  This is going to hurt.

 

Thinking About Thinking

This morning, I’ve been thinking.  

That, in turn, has taken me to thinking about thinking.  Thinking about thinking doesn’t have anything to do with what I was thinking about, but it did make me chuckle.  

Are you following this?

In a group of teachers, when one says, “thinking about thinking,” most folks automatically bring the word “metacognition” to the forefront of their, well, thinking.  We’re teachers. It’s what we do.

Me, though, in addition to thinking about metacognition, I think about the Disney cartoon/movie Beauty and the Beast.  Have you seen it?  Lately? You’ve possibly got time on your hands–check it out again, it’s a good one.

Anyway, there’s this scene where the shallow, overbearing, narcissistic antagonist Gaston is in a singing conversation with his sidekick LeFou:

(Gaston sung)

LeFou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking

[LeFou]

A dangerous pastime—

[Gaston]

I know…

Really, it’s a classic line, and it’s worth checking out.

Like I said, though, it doesn’t have anything to do with what I was thinking about.  

I’ve been thinking about what I–and most of my readers–are doing right now.

We’re taking our words, our ideas, our celebrations, and our fears, and we’re sharing them with the world.  (Here, of course, we call them slices.)

That’s pretty cool, and that’s really, really new. The last 15 years of my life have been shared, but the first 40 or so weren’t.  

I’ve been thinking about how, through blogs, yes, but more commonly through social media, so much positivity is being spread around the world.

Unfortunately, negativity is too, but that’s the side of the coin I don’t want to dwell on right now.

To the writers participating here in this writing project, I say, “Thank you!”  

 

Note: to my readers who aren’t aware, I’m participating in a 31-day writing challenge hosted by twowritingteachers.org.  It’s awesome. Check it out.

 

Nana is Home

As is the case with most of America’s children, my granddaughters are home from school for the time being.

I’ve written before about the pleasure of being a temporary kindergarten teacher for a class of two.  I see them most days (the situation still lets us feel comfortable with that–we’re taking a lot of precautions), but my wife is normally at work.  She’s a tax preparer, and, well, ‘tis the season.

Update: It was.  Now she’s at home as well.

I call her Lisa, but my granddaughters call her “Nana.”  It’s a common occurrence for the girls to get to our house, and before they even get to me they’re asking, “Grandpa, where’s Nana?”  

I’ve gotten used to it, and it’s okay.

Today, as I’m sitting here writing this, my wife is in the kitchen with the girls.  They’re practicing handwriting with a tablet app, and I love the sound. They’re giving her play-by-play of what they’re doing, their voices in a sing-song more often than not.  The app’s music is playing softly, the girls’ banter is constant, and Nana’s unceasing interaction fills my heart with happiness.  

The world is upside down right now, but for these minutes I’m able to set that aside.  

I’m grateful, more than I can express.

 

PB and J Memories

It’s funny how memories come back at the strangest of times.

I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I really do.  

I normally make them on some sort of wheat bread, one those large, soft loaves you buy from the store.  I love homemade bread when I can get it, and sometimes–as a treat–I’ll go with sourdough.  

This afternoon for lunch, I ate a few leftovers (mostly vegetables), then decided I needed a sandwich as well.

Two slices of bread, a healthy slathering of peanut butter (crunchy…it’s almost always crunchy) on one piece of bread, and a significant dollop of strawberry jelly smeared on the other: that’s a good sandwich.  I picked up the knife to slice it in two, and a memory hit me.

Well over 40 summers ago during my early teenage years, I was involved in some sort of activity that had me out of the house during the day.  I don’t remember what it was, nor do I remember the circumstances in which my mom packed my lunch one of those days. Honestly, I don’t think she always packed my lunch, but that one particular day she did.

For whatever reason, a friend of hers was over at the house that morning, and she was in the kitchen with my mom.

It’s funny how the details are blurred.  Be assured, though, if I can’t remember them exactly, I’ll embellish them the best that I can.

Anyway, she–the friend–asked me if I wanted my sandwich cut in half.

I don’t think “snarky” was a word back then, but apparently my response to her question struck her a certain way.

“Of course I want it cut,” I must have said.  Or something along those lines. I don’t believe I was rude, but I think I already mentioned I was a teenager.

Some hours later, my ravenous teenage self opened a Tupperware container to find my peanut butter sandwich cut in half.  Those halves were cut in half, those cut again, and probably another few times after that.

My sandwich was cubed, at best.

I survived that day, and I enjoyed my sandwich this day.  Not nearly as much as the memory, though.

 

Books

Books.

Um, I might have a problem (I say to the choir).

Just the other day, I wrote a slice about blowing the dust off a book that I needed to help my granddaughter with her reading.  Wow, was I glad I had that book.

That said, I still might have a problem.

I have bookshelves in nearly every room of the house, and I still have…well, I still have stacks.  Not large stacks, but what I call working stacks.  You know: I’m working with these, or these are what I’m currently reading.

The problem, you see, is that I don’t have room on the shelves should I not want to have working stacks in my house.

I looked in my shop this morning, and I have the wood I need to make more shelves.  

Whew.

 

I Wonder What Will Happen Next

I don’t have a place where I write.  Sometimes it’s at a desk, sometimes the couch, and sometimes I’ll just speak into my phone while I’m walking and clean things up later when I get to a computer.  

This week, for whatever reason, I’ve been doing most of my writing sitting at my kitchen table. My kitchen table is, well, in my kitchen, and it sits in front of a large bay window overlooking my back yard.  

It’s been interesting, looking out over these past few days, to see the same thing, and then again, to see something totally different each time I sit down.  The butterfly bush is always there, but yesterday there was a wren, methodically walking the branches looking for insects too small for me to see.

The oak tree is there, but sometimes the squirrel is and sometimes it’s not.  My dog is pretty good at letting me know when I can see it.  

This being springtime in north Alabama, sometimes the sky is a beautiful blue, and sometimes it’s like it is today: a uniform light shade of grey stretching from horizon to horizon.  

Today’s surprise was a northern cardinal. He was a stocky male, his plumage an impossibly bright orangish-red.  He hit a branch on the bush hard, and instantly looked around to be sure of his surroundings.  

Apparently feeling secure, he turned his gaze toward the center of the bush.  While the previous day’s wren felt the need to walk the branches, today’s cardinal simply scanned them.  Separated by a pane of glass that reflected the brighter outdoors, I was invisible to him as he sat just four or five feet from me, his dark eyes gazing out from above his stocky beak.

He landed, he scanned, and then he was gone.

I think I’ll get another cup of coffee and settle in, waiting to see what happens next.

 

Too Good to Pass Up

I surprised myself twice this morning.  Before 9:00 in the morning, if you can believe that.  Gosh, who knows what the rest of the day will bring?

I started the morning having coffee with my wife before she headed off to work, then finished a second cup during a call to my parents up in Ohio.  

I remember the days of “x number of cents per minute” calling, but thank goodness that’s in the past.  Now we just pick up the phone and call. Or Facetime. I love technology when it works, and I’m happy to say it works pretty often.  That’s cool.

Where was I?  Oh, surprising myself.

I hung up with my folks, and decided that…here comes the first surprise…I needed to take a walk.  Seriously.

I’m one of those people who (ahem) doesn’t have time to exercise regularly.  I need to do this. That project over there is calling me. Let me do this first.  What’s the weather look like? Blah, blah, blah.  

I also struggle with the need to get myself in shape before I go to the gym, but that’s another story.  

Anyway, I pulled on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt (it’s a wonderful 68 degrees here in north Alabama this morning), tied my shoes, and headed out.

There was a light mist in the air, but nothing serious, and the sky didn’t look threatening.  As it turned out, I got home just fine. Getting soaked wasn’t the second surprise.

No, that came as I rounded the last corner while headed for home.  

Now, here in my community, we collect garbage two ways.  The first is weekly, and it involves a garbage can from one’s house and a truck from the landfill.  Pretty standard stuff. The second, though, is what my family calls, “Big Garbage.”  

People put stuff on the curb, and a small caravan comes by once a month to collect it.  The “stuff” might be tree trimmings, old furniture, broken small appliances, or bagged yard waste.  There are a few restrictions, but not many. The caravan involves a truck with a scooper (okay, I don’t know what it’s called; it’s one of those claw things) followed by another truck or two that actually transports the junk.

Needless to say (yet he says it anyway), sometimes people throw away some pretty cool stuff.

Back to my walk. I was nearly home, rounding the last curve, when I saw it: A Croquet Set.  Right there by the side of the road! Clearly it had seen little use, but also clear was the fact that it hadn’t been stored well.  There were only two mallets with the set, but all four balls were there. The wickets were still shiny white, but some were badly bent in strange ways.  The stand thingy was broken, but it’s not part of the game so that’s not too bad.

I wanted it.  I needed it.  

I could picture the scene.  My wife and I, probably with our granddaughters, would be playing a game of croquet on the lawn.  My daughters and their husbands would be sitting nearby on the patio, sipping tea as they waited their turn for a pass through the wickets.  The birds would be chirping, the breeze would be blowing, and the evening sun would be filtered through the trees, throwing a dappled pattern of light and shade across the grass.

I wanted it.  I needed it.

And I left it.  Sometimes–just sometimes–I really do surprise myself.

 

I Might Need This Some Day

Fully realizing I might be the only one who’s like this, I have a confession to make: Sometimes I buy professional books that I don’t really need at the time.

I can help it, but I usually don’t want to.  I’ve spent most of my career as a third-grade teacher, but perusing my library reveals all sorts of material for both early childhood and upper-grade teachers.

Ha!  Over the last few days, though, that stuff has come in handy!

Because of self-quarantining, I’m spending a lot of time with my granddaughters, both of them emergent pre-readers.  One is in kindergarten, the other pre-K. Not exactly my typical students, but hey–my certificate says I’m supposed to know how to work with them.

I hear kindergarten teachers everywhere rolling their eyes and saying, “Riiiiight.” 

After a few days of stumbling through some okay lessons, I remembered that I have a professional library just waiting for a time like this!  This morning I blew off the dust, did just a bit of digging, and lessons from years ago when I was in college came rolling back. Hey, I can do this.  Maybe not with more than two kids at a time, but I can do this.

How do I know?  Because this afternoon before she left, my oldest granddaughter said, “Grandpa, you’re a pretty good teacher!”

Yeah.  I melted.