Thursday, September 26, 2013

Warming Up to Cool Tech

The last few weeks have been a little weird for me in terms of identity. Is that what school is supposed to do for you?

On the one hand, in my little homeschool I am teaching U.S. History and American Literature. I've coordinated the literature selections to coincide with the history timeline as much as possible and so we are studying frontier life and reading Willa Cather's, My Antonia. We also just finished watching the 2001 public television production of "Frontier House."

If you've been reading my blog for any time now, you'll know that I have long been a proponent of simple living. There have been periods in my life when I wondered if I was born in the right time. Thankfully, I've studied enough history to know that while there are some parts of our past that truly do romance me, those really are just parts of the past. Modern medicine and dentistry are enough to keep me thankful for the here and now. Still, it wasn't that long ago that watching something like "Frontier House"would have left me a little wistful and pondering and itching to maybe give up a few trappings of our modern life.

On the other hand, I am not only teacher this year, but student as well in a Library Information Technology program. Lest you think studying to be a library professional doesn't sound as though it lives on the cutting edge of our high-tech world, I give you Exhibit A:

The Hunt Library at NC State



For a long time I have been kind of a minimalist when it comes to tech and gadgetry. But no more. No, I'm not rushing out to buy the latest iPhone; I simply can't afford the contract. But here's the deal: even if I don't want to use all the latest tech toys, plenty of people do and libraries are often the place where a lot of people learn how to use them. And of course, it's not just gadgets. Its aggregate feeds, organizing via personal information systems, and multiple levels of communication and networking. It's been a little daunting. The internet is a tidal wave of information. Librarians and other library support staff play a role in facilitating the acquisition of credible information as well as education and understanding of how to organize and use it.

I'm only at the very beginning of my program; there is a great deal more to learn and having been home for the years that I have has simply meant that I haven't needed to pay as much attention to some of the things that others may use every day.

But that's okay. I'm enjoying what I'm finding and incorporating into my life. It's kind of odd really. I mean, it was only 8 weeks ago that I wrote THIS post where I waxed poetic about my new paper planner. My planner that, sad to say, has now taken a back seat to my Google calendar (even though I still think it's pretty!). It really does have a great deal to do with communication. Now I do my lesson plans online and share them with my girls. They don't need to write down assignments, as they just check their own calendars on their iPods. I don't need to write out a weekly e-mail to the family that collaborates once-a-week with us on history and lit. Since they both have Google accounts too, I just "invite" them to my "event" and they can see all the details of our class on their calendars too. I've given Maia the task of putting in her work schedule on her calendar. It shows up on mine, so I don't have to ask her for her new work schedule every other week and I can figure out needed transportation.

The one thing I REALLY like is the task list on Google. I know this is ancient news to so many of you, but I really do love not having to hunt for a scrap of paper. And speaking of notes...

Have you discovered Springpad?


I've only recently started using it, but I am enjoying it so far. It has some Pintrest qualities to it, but I don't really use it like that. It's a collection of "notebooks" that you can label and then fill with notes and checklists, but also all kinds of other things that are "clipped" - really just like pinning - into your notebook to have at your fingertips whenever you like. The notebooks are really like a great big filing system that helps you organize all your online favorites in a visual way. I've got the app on my Kindle Fire, so it's handy for my shopping lists. Also, I can share my notebooks with people too, so I'm sharing my shopping lists with my daughters, so that when we're at the grocery store, we can "divide and conquer" - me with my Kindle and the girls with their iPods.

I've got a notebook for my school stuff - links regarding library science: blogs, journals, associations - and a notebook with job information for when the time comes.

It's taken a bit of time and adjusting using my new tools, but I do believe they'll be saving me time in the long run. And speaking of time, I've got some homework that needs doing, so I've got to run. Say hi if you have a minute. Do you use Springpad? What are your favorite tech tools for keeping organized?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Catching and Freshening Up



Ten DAYS since my last post! My new college class and the new homeschooling year has picked me up by the scruff of the neck and has shaken me and my world around a bit! I am determined to try to keep pace here and post throughout this, my Maia's last homeschool year, but I'll admit to being a bit overrun by the deluge of activity these days. The schedule I designed for myself is helping and remains pretty much in tact, but more on that in a moment.

Yesterday, I was startled to realize that today was going to be September 13, which meant not only was our dear kitty, Charlotte, going to turn 10 and therefore be permitted to indulge in an entire can of wet cat food for the day (as opposed to her having to share with the two other kitties), but that my 40 Days of Fitness Reboot: Arms had come to an end! And so, I quickly called the girls and had them help me to record the results.






The happy results seem to be that I've lost about 1/2 inch around my arms. So that's gratifying. I'm planning to attempt to continue to keep the yoga/calisthenics routine in the mix as much as possible as part of my regular workout. That was the idea all along. I like the progress I've made, not just in what I've lost around my arms, but in the strength that I've gained from all of the "Down Dogs" I've held and the push-ups I've done over the last 40 days. My goal at present is to get through ONE complete repetition of this workout that I mentioned at the beginning of my 40 days:




Those planks are the killer. Those and the bridges. I can do the one minute bridge, but I haven't even attempted the two-minute. The farther down the workout I get, the more I have to turn the planks into "Down Dogs." My goal is to not have to do that. And then, do you see that last little line on the poster above the URL? It's says "Repeat 2X" At the moment I laugh and whimper a bit when I see that line, but I will be so impressed with me if I ever get to do that! I have gone past the one-time through, but that is only because I modify some of the exercises like I mentioned: not holding the entire bridge or plank. It's nice to have a goal to focus on and even if I can't do it all yet anyway, it's getting the job done, so I can't complain!

What I will whine about a bit is that I really am noticing, now that I am "officially" in my mid-forties, having turned 45 last Saturday (The picture at the top of the post is the gift my girls bought me from Simply Vintage for my birthday! I had long admired it at the shop and it was such a sweet surprise that they got it for me!), that my metabolism really is slowing a bit. I'm noticing that the workouts that have kept me in the shape I am comfortable being in for so many years are not as effective as they once were. I can see that I'm going to need to work harder... or at least differently -  to stay in the shape I hope to be in for a long time. I know that I'm going to need to add both different types of exercise as well as some speed intervals to my running. The "different types" has already come in the form of the added yoga and calisthenics. When we rejoin the community center come November for another 6 months, I'll be able to add more cross-training on the different machines, perhaps swimming, and/or a class. It's something to think about, but it's frustrating to think that I may need to add a bit more to the schedule when I'm just trying to keep up as it is. 

In regards to that schedule, I am noticing that trying to squeeze in a morning workout is just NOT working for me. I've done it, but I don't like cutting into my morning quiet time. I am better off if I can ease into my day rather than jump into it. Afternoons work better for me, so I'm going to need to take a look at that. I need my mornings for musing and preparing for the day, for reflecting on the days just past and on the days and season to come.


Today I took a little bit of time to begin freshening things up a bit around the house. I am currently up to my elbows in tomatoes, which is a blessed, but time-consuming thing, as I am pretty determined to cut and freeze as many as possible for the winter. Canning is a better choice, as you won't lose anything if the power goes out, but I just have no time for that this year. 



But, as the late summer sun is casting new angles about the kitchen and the temperatures have us reaching for cardigans and socks in the mornings, I've begun rummaging in the fall decor box, and have felt the urge to get things a bit spruced up before windows are shut tight once more. I moved some pictures around, hanging that new picture in place of another and moving the other to a new place... which meant moving what was there to a new place in perfect If You Give a Mouse a Cookie fashion. I've cleaned some glass and have more to do as well. Tomorrow should provide a bit of time to do that.


While I'm learning about the world of libraries and adjusting to the reality of my own need to let go of some of my own, as I told my sister the other day, "pseudo-Luddite fantasies," if I am, indeed going to be pursuing a career in Library Information technology, I am thankful for the more slower-paced facets I maintain in my own life. Knitting remains a touchstone for me amidst new schedules, new ideas, new learning interfaces, new concepts and new people. I've been gifted some birthday spending money for new yarn and though I will be casting on a new project soon, I am grateful and soothed by the familiar rhythm of the needles. I'll be sure to share that with all of you soon. 

Forgive my rambling nature today, please. I guess that's what happens when it's been 10 days since we've chatted. Have yourselves a lovely weekend and we'll talk again soon!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Yarn Along: September 3, 2013

The page to September has been flipped and the days of summer reading, of this...


are clearly beyond me now.

It's another day to play along with the Yarn Along at Ginny's, Small Things blog. Let's see what's happening this week!


Now we all have moved on to our respective studies: my girls doing their high school work and I beginning my studies in Library Information Technology. Even the books have an autumnal palette to them, don't you think?



I am teaching the girls American Literature this year in our home school and we're getting our feet wet in the genre with Mark Twain's, Tom Sawyer

Why is it that I have such trouble remembering so many of the books I read in middle and high school? I do know that, unfortunately I, like many of my classmates, discovered Cliffs Notes early. Despite my desire to read through and enjoy the pieces selected for us, the farther into the book and into the school year I got and therefore, the greater my other class assignments increased, the more I leaned on the Cliffs Notes to answer the ubiquitous comprehension questions that nearly wrung my passion for reading literature dry. Rediscovering the classics - and approaching the teaching of them in a different, hopefully more engaging way - has been one of the many blessings for me of homeschooling my children.

Sadly, the one book I'm reading for pleasure, Rosamunde Pilcher's, September, has stalled. I am over halfway through the book and the only plot I can discern is simply that there is going to be a party in September and people who haven't seen each other for a long time are going to be there. The only conflict there appears to be (and everyone who reads fiction should be aware of the five elements of fiction) is that someone who left home a long time ago and has turned down all previous invitations to come back for a visit is planning on going to the party. Isn't that thrilling? Oh, the intrigue.

The lush descriptions of setting that Pilcher obviously adores (she seems to be an interior decorator of the mind) which charmed me so at the beginning of the novel are beginning to annoy me. Every time someone walks or even peeks into a new room, there are paragraphs to wade through before any seemingly valuable information is given that might move the story along. Perhaps I should have taken a clue from the many Goodreads reviews that talked about this book as, "cozy," and "inviting." Looking back, I see that these are wonderful adjectives for any good room in a house, but they do not necessarily a good story make! Those reviews lured me in though and I took the bait without really seeing what anyone thought of the story itself, I suppose. Perhaps it was my own hankering for the turning of seasons that's gotten me into trouble here. Have any of you readers read this book? Can anyone urge me on to its conclusion? Can I look forward to anything of substance happening in this richly described setting?? I hope someone will do just that or I may be having to shelve this one. My pleasure reading time is sorely limited now and I simply must have some semblance of a plot to make the investment!

Finally, while my colorwork hat has stalled as well due to limited amount of time to do concentrated knitting, my "auto-pilot" knitting socks are moving along nicely. I'll have scads of this yarn left over when all is said and done too, so I'll have to think of something else to use it for or find someone to gift it to.

I'm looking forward spending a bit of time looking at what others are reading too in this week's Yarn Along. Are you indulging in any new fiction? Do you have particular goals for the fall season? Me, I'm all about text books right now. Ah, delicious text books. Aren't you jealous? :)


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