Lifeskill: Learning To Use Lulls

I feel like I have been hurtling through 2018. Several personal and business trips kept me on the road more than usual, and then I have been playing catch up when I am back in the office. But, there is some light on the horizon. Just a couple more events that are going to be lots of fun and then a week of vacation to cap off the month.

But even in the midst of all the busy-ness including heading into the overlap between the spring and summer semesters of my online course, I woke up to a lull today. I certainly had a to do list but nothing on it was pressing. I answered a few emails, did two phone meetings in the morning, and then decided everything else could wait until tomorrow or over the weekend. I needed some breathing space and took advantage of a nice day to dig in the garden, moving a few hostas and sweet william and doing some general cleanup.

I call this a lifeskill–the ability to know when to work and when, even though it is a Thursday afternoon, you can put aside work for a bit of a break. I think it’s one that is hard to learn in a classroom or regular job. Working from home as part of the gig economy means tuning into the natural ebb and flow of work rather than following an established number of hours each day, otherwise known as seat time.

You can create a daily routine that matches your preferences for when and where to work. From there, you may find a weekly routine (established events or activities) or identify a yearly pattern (ie, busy in the fall teaching a course with less work in the summer). Why is this important? Because if you don’t identify these moments of “lull,” you will just keep working. At some point, nothing on the to do list is on fire or a live frog or any other kind of emergency so you can put it aside for a few hours or a day. A mental health day or mini-vacation. Even the most passionate person needs time to be away from the work, maybe pursuing some other passion or finding space for relaxation.

Today I enjoyed a lull, and I’ll be better for it tomorrow.

Connecting With Nature

At the recent CoSN conference, I attended a spotlight session presented by Dr. Milton Chen that focused on outdoor, experiential learning opportunities, mostly through the national parks. Sadly, Dr. Chen had, along with many others, resigned from the National Park Service education advisory board after being ignored in their efforts to engage with the new administration.

But, he remained passionate about the possibilities of outdoor education and describe Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard program. The farm-to-table approach to gardening means that kids learn to both grow AND cook their own food.

I firmly believe that raising even a small amount of your own food is good for the soul: some leaf lettuce, herbs, spring onions, and radishes are all easy crops to grow in a pot in a sunny warm place. There is a simple joy to adding a bit of fresh rosemary or chives to your potatoes or salting and crunching into a freshly pulled radish (better yet, dip it in melted butter).

But, connecting to nature can be as simple as keeping a bird feeder. While we have lots of birds who stick around all year here in south central Virginia, we also have migrants.

In Flight

My favorites are the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. April 1 is the traditional day for me to put up my first hummingbird feeder. We had our first siting today, April 4. It was a male–it usually is–and I added our siting to the hummingbird database. It took just a moment or two to submit and I was able to see my entry immediately and see that we were very much on the northern edge of reporting.

These kinds of migration tracking projects have been around for almost as long as the Internet. While they are certainly wonderful ways to have students experience collaboration and scientific discovery, they are also moments for students to connect with the natural world, to stop for a moment and wonder at the joy that is a hummingbird.

Finding Community Through Books

One of the points I made during my talk with librarians was how books help create community, both face to face and online. When I moved to my current home, I tried to get involved in the town but a crazy work schedule kept me from really finding a place.

Now, my schedule is better, but I need an easy way to connect: no committee meetings or event planning. I found it at my local library. A real life book group that meets once a month. Finding time to read is no problem as I average about 75 books a year. We’ve read a few books I already owned and a few I probably would not have read. The latter were often pleasant surprises as I was sure they were the kinds of books I didn’t like.

My virtual community is, as I have written before, LibraryThing. It was started in August 2005 and I had an account by October 13, 2005. I was looking for the same thing the developer was: a way to catalog my books and reading. Now, almost 13 years later, LibraryThing has become my community as well. I belong to one group–75 Books a Year–where we share our reading and love for books even as we challenge each other to reach an annual milestone. As I have become increasingly frustrated with Facebook, I am finding myself spending more time on LT. As I told the librarians, Facebook seems to be about what divides us. LT is about what unites us.

Sometimes we can get lost in the crowd of social media where number of followers and posts and how many people you reached is more important than the quality of the connection. Moving to a smaller, more focused online community has helped me think more about quality.

 

Almost But Not Quite

Woman on BikeI set a goal to create a postcard every day of March, focusing especially on using resources from the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). It was a great way to explore the resources before doing a session that included talking about DPLA. But…I did the talk last week and that was that. Four days at the end of March without postcards. The holiday weekend had arrived, and I wanted a digital break. I played with my paper cutter and started moving irises in the front garden. I baked a coffee cake and cooked one of our hams in the crock pot for Easter. I played Minecraft.

A CLMOOC Postcard Remix was the impetus for my personal challenge, and I’ve heard from at least one CLMOOCer that she received the postcard I sent. It is fun to make those kinds of analog connections with people. And having an online tool to print and mail the cards was cool. I can almost get rid of my color printer.

I’m not too upset that I didn’t get the last four done. I accomplished my mission to learn more about DPLA. And I did most of the work using free tools, especially the Preview tool that is part of my OS. Check out all the postcards here.

What’s Next?

There are always challenges that support creativity. This month, the CLMOOC is participating in Illomo, a daily drawing challenge. Camp NanoWriMo has been emailing me about their April session. I am interested in a daily writing practice but don’t really want to write a novel.

In fact, part of the goal of the postcards was to create a habit. But, I didn’t really establish a daily habit in terms of time…I made postcards early in the morning and late at night. I did a couple catch up posts with several postcards. But, creating postcards was part of my life for most of the month of March.

So, how did I do it? I put it on the list each day, even when I was traveling. (Actually, it was a little easier to do it on the road because hotel rooms come with few chores or distractions.) But *how* did I do it: some days, the postcard started with an idea; other days it started with an image. But the main idea was that I started with an intention so I opened the laptop and created a postcard. The topics came from the landscape around me: women’s history month, pi day, baseball.

So, can I do the same with writing? The postcards felt like they were low pressure: an image with some text could happen pretty quickly, something more interactive like the author map, took a little longer. Writing means more somehow, particularly if it is going to be published on the blog: drafting, editing, linking.

I am already a day behind as I write this on April 2. But, I am committed to writing over the course of the next month.