Sow There! Dehydrated brain axioms, Aug. 6, 2020

Here today, dry tomorrow. (Heather Hacking — Contributed)

August 7, 2020 

Weeks have blended into one another and I’ve done what some of us have done – let my brain turn to mush. We all have our routines and in another life these included getting ready for work and leaving the house. In seclusion, I’ve packed on some new habits.

I check the stock market most mornings. You see, I had time on my hands in mid-March, stocks took a slump and I figured the pandemic would only last a few months. I bought Disney stock at $97 a share on my new online trading account. As I watched my five shares move up and down I had faith that people would soon be lined up to see America’s most famous mouse, wearing $40 Disney brand hats.

Now I watch the stock market to see what I woulda, coulda and am glad I did not buy.

During this downtime, I formed the habit of logging each food item I ingest via the MyFitnessPal app. This habit certainly eats up time.

When you’re in a pandemic, you find ways to fill each day. Before it became blistering hot, I walked three miles a day, watched the PBS NewsHour and ordered things on Amazon. I also made fruitless phone calls, sometimes for hours, trying to find out why I have not yet received any funds from unemployment.

Sadly, I am also obsessed with Coronavirus statistics, adding numbers to an excel spreadsheet that tracks grim facts about the world.

And now, my focus needs to shift to teaching fifth grade.

The problem is, I need to stop doing all of these things that have become my mind-numbing new routine.

When I sit down to focus on work, it’s as if some of my brain axioms have dried up like the tomatoes in my dehydrator. I need to plan for my classroom, but somehow my mind thinks I should be logging my calories or checking my fictional stock portfolio.

If I’m having trouble, I can only imagine what sort of brain axiom retraining my students will require after five months of home isolation. Likely, their habits have included video games. Their hands may now be formed in new configurations that make it difficult to grip a No. 2 pencil.

Time doesn’t stop

In the meantime, my classroom looks beautiful. My district is in another county and the plan is to have students in masks, at a safe distance, listening to a teacher who is muffled behind fabric. I have moved seven houseplants to their new home in my new classroom. When I worked with the international program at Chico State last year, the participants gave me hostess gifts from their countries. The top of one bookshelf has become my “international corner.”

My classroom was stocked with an amazing number of books. However, I lugged in my own collection. When I loaded up every bookshelf I could find, I realized I needed to put some books back in my storage shed.

If all goes well, my students will be in the classroom at least long enough to remember school is a wonderful place. No one knows the future of the pandemic, and I may very well end up teaching online. I’d prefer that my students meet me in person if we end up continuing our friendships via pixels on a computer screen.

Garden gifts

As mentioned last week, I grow a lot of tomatoes but don’t eat them. This time of year, my food dehydrator might be heard into the wee hours, whirling hot air on the front porch. My house is small, and even one appliance spewing heat can raise the temperature from unbearably hot to incredibly unbearably hot. I run the extension cord out the front door and set a timer for 17 hours.

Dried tomatoes are easier to give as gifts than regular tomatoes. Most people I know currently have mounds of just-picked tomatoes on their kitchen counters.

When I taught third grade, the children loved dehydrated tomatoes only slightly less than those high-fructose corn syrup “fruit snacks.” When we had popcorn parties, I added a bowl of dried fruit near the popcorn, and the treats all made it into children’s mouths, and onto the floor.

So far, I have harvested and dried one overflowing bowl of home-grown tomatoes. The trick is to stop dehydrating when they’re still pliable when warm, otherwise you’ll have dried tomato chips, which children also love. I store dried tomatoes between layers of waxed paper in my great grandmother’s glass cookie jar. To keep them fresh, I add those little packets of silica, which I saved from packaged foods.

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