BulgingButtons

Not bad for a fat girl


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What Do You Say At a Time Like This?

I’ve felt tongue-tied recently. At least online. I want to write, but I’m not exactly sure what to write about. Naturally there are the BIG things. Things like justice, equity, access to healthcare, governmental responsibility, constituent responsibility, the role of media, the role of the courts, the issue of personal responsibility, the issue of public health.

I’ve stayed away from the BIG topics because I feel like a blog isn’t the right place for me to share my thoughts about them. It’s too one-sided. There are my words, then your interpretation of what I mean, then maybe a comment from you and a reply from me and that’s about it. There’s so much room for ambiguity and misunderstanding. There’s so much margin for error. I prefer to discuss these topics in a more two-sided way, with give and take from both parties. We don’t learn from one another by making proclamations, then closing our eyes, ears, and hearts.

So if not the BIG things, then what? There are plenty of things rattling around in my brain, but they seem so trivial at a time like this. In light of the pandemic raging and the U.S. Capitol being overrun, does anyone really want to read about my seemingly never-ending quest for just the right hand cream? Maybe. After all, I’m not the only one washing my hands excessively this winter.

Or maybe you want to hear about my brownie fail? I’ve made this recipe dozens of times, if not more. These brownies are the best. They ALWAYS turn out. Except the other day they didn’t. The closest I can figure is that I either set the oven for the wrong temperature (maybe 325 instead of 375?) or I set the timer for the wrong amount of time (13 minutes instead of 23?). I was distracted. I had more important things on my mind (more about that in a minute), and I rushed. Sure, they looked a little strange when I pulled them out of the oven, but they weren’t jiggly or anything. And no, I didn’t test them, because why would I? After all, I’ve made them dozens of times, if not more, and I was distracted. They’re still pretty tasty, but they are definitely underdone. Like, way underdone. They hold together, but really, they’re not exactly cooked. Oops.

And why was I distracted? Well, because if was just about kickoff time, and my football team is in the playoffs. Yes, the Buffalo Bills are showing up and it’s glorious. This football season has been a welcome distraction from the BIG things. The team has done so well, and they’ve been so much fun to watch. It’s been a long time since the Bills have gone this far, and it’s a ton of fun. Thank you, Buffalo Bills.

Then there are a bunch of “other” things. Things like the stolen credit card number (that my credit card company caught, thank goodness), the glitchy connection to my online students, and the thousands of spam messages to this blog. There’s the job hunt my son has been enduring, and not seeing much of him due to this stupid pandemic. There’s the mountain of work I need to do in order to complete the requirements to be considered for National Board Certification (for teachers), as well as the professional observation I need to schedule. There’s the concern about going out into the community that has kept me from the dentist and the hair salon, making me feel somewhat like a cave-woman. There’s the worry that I feel for my friends and loved ones, as the list of people I know who’ve been diagnosed with this horrible disease grows. There’s the anxiety of watching the news, but the feeling that I have to keep informed. There’s the wrath that my colleagues and I face from some members of the public, in our community and beyond, because our schools are functioning in an online only capacity for the time being. There’s a lot. And here we are, right back to the BIG things. They’re impossible to ignore.

It seems to me that it’s the big things that frame our lives, but it’s the small things that make them worth living. I’ll set up my observation, and continue the quest for the perfect hand cream. I’ll keep working my way through my National Board materials. I’ll keep looking for work-arounds when our Google meet goes wonky. I won’t give up on that brownie recipe, and I won’t give up on my football team. In the middle of all this crazy, you can still hear me shouting, “Go Bills!”


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Technical Difficulties

It’s no secret that the online world has exploded as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. We’re doing so much more via the internet than ever before. In the time since shifting from in person fourth grade to online fourth grade, I’ve had to use no fewer than 30 different programs, websites, and apps to do my job. Some of these I’ve navigated for years, like the online gradebook and attendance system our district uses. Some of them are new to me, since going virtual, like the Ladibug software that allows my document camera to play nicely with my laptop, only sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s what trips me up.

I can handle seeing my kids through a screen. I can figure out ways to connect to them and to teach them the things I’m tasked with teaching. I can talk with them, laugh with them, and encourage them. I can do all these things when the technology I’m using works.

For some mysterious reason, the technology hasn’t been working well recently, at least not from my home. This is not just baffling, but it’s terribly concerning. First, the confusion part. You see, in March, when we starting distance learning, everything more or less worked. I set up my Google classroom, opened up my Google meets, and shared documents through my Google drive. It worked. Then we started a new school year, online. Everything still worked. Then, during our Fall Break, my name was finally called to trade in my old laptop for a new one. Fine. After Fall Break I was still doing virtual teaching, but I was teaching from my classroom (because I required to). Still no major problems, until things changed and I tried to teach from home. UGH.

At my home, my Google classroom sometimes loads with no problem, and other times it decides that it would just rather not. Sometimes my Google meets run smoothly, and other times they freeze repeatedly, kick me out multiple times, and then decide to just not work at all. It’s impossible to teach that way.

I know there’s nothing wrong with my wifi. I’m not the only one who uses it, and my live-in tech guru has assured me that our internet is fine. The only change is in the laptop. It just doesn’t want to let me teach from my home. I’ve called for help and the patient IT person worked with me to try a few different things. They didn’t fix the problem. The worst part about the situation is that ten minutes before class starts everything looks fine, but twenty minutes later I’m no longer able to deliver my lesson to my students.

I’ve hastily packed up my things midmorning and driven into school on more than one occasion so that I can teach, but this pandemic is getting worse, and I don’t want to leave my home if I don’t have to. I have the option of teaching from home, at least for the next couple of weeks, and I would like to use that option. With my current tech situation, though, I’m worried I won’t be able to.

I need a solution, and right now there’s nobody to talk to about fixing this. Maybe I’ll be able to get some help on Monday, but I’m a little skeptical. Nobody else seems to be having any trouble connecting (and staying connected) with their new computers. Why is mine the exception? Goes to show you, newer isn’t always better. I just want my old laptop back, so I can teach.


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The Saddest Day of the Year?

Having just wrapped up Christmas, my sweetheart announced that December 26th is the saddest day of the year. His reasoning is that there’s all the pre-Christmas buildup, then Christmas Eve, then Christmas Day. After that? Nothing. At least not in the United States. It’s kind of a letdown if you look at it that way, so I choose to see it in a different light.

To me, December 26th is the day that all sorts of pressure is lifted. Didn’t get the cards mailed? Doesn’t matter now. Didn’t make a gingerbread house? Doesn’t matter now. Didn’t get all the decorations put out? Doesn’t matter now. Didn’t catch your favorite Christmas movie? Doesn’t matter now. Maybe next year. December 26th is when you can take a step back, evaluate all the things that you enjoyed about your Christmas celebration, and start to relax. Of course it’s easy for me to say that, since December 26th falls smack in the middle of my winter break.

If you’re very fortunate, on December 26th there may be new bikes to ride, new lego sets to build, new gadgets to set up, new books to read, or new clothes to wear. The decorations are all still there, the sweets and treats are still around, and you probably have enough leftovers to make cooking unnecessary. December 26th is a day to take a walk around the neighborhood, take a deep breath, and enjoy what’s left of the holiday season, without all the pressure of the actual holiday itself. December 26th isn’t sad, it’s not sad at all.