Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Unplugged

I was cleaning out an old pocketbook and found the old Nokia flip-phone that preceded my Blackberry.  My 9 year old exclaimed, "That phone is so old. It must be 10 years old".  No, not really,  it's probably only 4 years old.  But, it did get me thinking about how technology has become a central part of my life.  I am not sure, however, how comfortable I am with it invading every little crevasse of my home, thoughts, and being.

In the past few years, we've been fortunate to be able to add nifty technology items to our household.   The iPod Nanos weren't a big deal as the only fun feature is a camera/video camera that we didn't really use.  At the time, we didn't own a Mac so therefore didn't get all the available convenience out of them anyways.  We also got a GPS for the car, affectionately named Jinger, who usually gets me from point A to point B relatively unscathed.

Then, came the iPhone (me) and the iTouch's (kids); talk about being uber-connected.  Between the iPhone and the computers we own (4 in total, including 1 workhorse desktop and 3 laptops in various states of usage), I am always talking to someone, reading or writing email (easier on a iPhone than Blackberry, but imperfect thanks to the insane "auto-correct" feature it has), or looking at a screen.

In some ways,  the technology is good; it allows me to multi-task.  Taking a walk or hike while listening to my iPod is fine.  I don't think it takes away from the experience, but I also shut the music off sometimes, especially in the mornings, to enjoy the sounds of the Pond, or the Fells.

In contrast, having my iPhone in my hand checking emails while waiting at the pharmacy for a prescription, at a school while waiting for a meeting to start, looking at documents and other pertinent information on the screen, or even while I am home and involved in a project has started to grate on my nerves.  I want to be connected, but I also remember the days before laptops and cellphones (not that long ago, and I managed just fine.)   Working from home, specifically in a home without a dedicated home office, requires a certain discipline of keeping 'work time' focused on only work.  The screens are okay; that is until I have to buckle down and read a long, detailed assessment or an IEP, taking notes (in my case, handwritten on the first go by), or write a strategic case management plan (again always by hand first).

Having the printer and fax going, a computer humming, and the "not-ok-in-a-real-office" luxury of a Yankee Candle burning, all seem to work.  Interestingly, I've learned that doing work on my laptop doesn't work when at home.  I am at least twice as productive when I use the desktop and am sitting in an office chair, in front of a wall usually covered in sticky notes about kids and cases. It's something which makes the work seem more "real".

Then, there is the opposite end of the spectrum.  I am home, alone or with occupied kids, and the laptop becomes too tempting, screen open.  How many millions of hours have been wasted on Facebook when I could have been reading a book?  I have never played games on the computer, but I also have never really enjoyed board or card games, period.

In the past few days, I've made a concerted effort to shut down at a certain time and not open the laptop again until I am showered and dressed in the morning.  I've stopped myself from checking my email on my phone, despite it being in close reach while on my nightstand.

I have slept better and I feel a bit liberated.  Gone is the inability to read a book cover-to-cover, which developed over the past few years. (This is saying A LOT as I have always loved to read).    I now know I wasn't distracted by anything internally (hello ADD and the Ritalin I now take along with 90% of the population), but rather the distractability also had a lot to do with the fact I was always looking at a screen and that the screen was always available.  Why read words on a page when you can see a vibrant screen?  I don't want a Kindle or a Nook and will never buy one.  I like the feeling of holding a book.

Much like the bowl of candy you *really* want more of and you tell your kids to hide where you can't find it because it is too damn tempting, I should entrust my laptop to one of my more responsible kids for the same purpose.  In addition, it's too easy to write something you'll regret on the internet or in an email.  Computers offer "instant gratification",  a place where even patient people do dumb things.  Note: I don't think I have ever had much patience.  Dealing with tantrums and autism has taught me some.

This post isn't about living an unplugged lifestyle.  I'd be bored and don't think the granola-crunchy thing is for me.  (I went hiking/real camping overnight in the woods, once, with a friend:  I hated it.)   As an autism mom, my life is pretty isolating at times, so the internet has the ability to keep me connected to those I love; call it a "virtual village", if you will.  Truthfully, without the support on-line, I'd be a puddle on the floor, having cried myself into it after dealing with a tantrum or anxiety marathon.  I can't even count the number of friends I've made beginning on-line, or the clients who have found me there.

Self-control is not a bad quality.  For a variety of reasons this past year, I haven't been able to get out and have much of a life.  Okay, that's a whole other post, but I haven't done a lot of walking sans the places within 5 miles from home; the old standy-bys.  This week's forecast doesn't include rain; a hike or walk in an old favorite like Lynn Woods, Cutler Park, or somewhere up Route 2 is definitely in order.  I can't lock the phone in the car in case I get lost, injured and need help without which I'd die, you know, all the excuses... I can, however, shut off the internet,  listen to some music, and enjoy the brisk fresh air.

Of course, I'll blog afterwards about how great it was being unplugged.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sarah's words


Sarah’s Story: Who I most admire
January 13, 2012, written by Sarah Johanna C.- Grade 4

“Chirp, chirp, chirp”, the birds sang.  “What a lovely day”, I thought, as I walked around Horn Pond with my mom.  My mom said,  “I love spending time with you.”  “Me too”, I replied.

My mom’s job is very important.  She is a special education advocate.  This means she helps kids gets special services from their schools.  I admire her because she will work for free sometimes.  She works for free so people with not much money can still have special services for their kid or kids.

After my mom’s done with her work, she is very generous to me and my siblings, Julia, Andrew, and Emily.  She brings us to concerts, gets us pets, buys us toys and books, and helps us with projects.   She is also generous with her time and helps anyone who needs it.  If I told you everything she did that was generous I would end up writing up writing a book that is 300,000 pages long.  I have about 900,000 million memories of her being generous and nice.

She’s also very caring.  She gives my siblings and I plenty of food and a nice, big house, nice clothes, and so on. She makes me feel better when I am hurt.  She loves me a lot and that’s why she is very caring.

If I wanted to, I could write a book about my mom.  Now you know all about how caring and generous she is and how much I admire my mom.  My mom is great.  That’s why I chose her to write this story about.

The End