You don’t have to be Stephen Merrit to know that summer is coming to a close, so it’s about time for us to tell you about five things that helped us survive summer. Here at ProfHacker, we have a tradition of sometimes sharing a few of our favorite things in a collaboratively-authored post. (Check out our 2014, 2011, and 2010 Things That Helped Us Survive Summer posts, too.)
- Solar Charger: at the eLearning Africa conference, someone gifted me with a solar charger. It needs to be charged in direct sunlight, which would work great if I spent most of my summer on the beach… but you can also charge it via USB from a regular power outlet - and it really helps on those days I am on the road and my phone battery gets low. Err it’s also got multilevel torch light, and it helps when my kid asks me to read one more book at bedtime after I’d turned the lights off (lazy, I know).
- Lemon water: I discovered lemon water by coincidence (though my mom says she told me about it a while ago). I had been trying to lose weight, which involved drinking only water and skimmed milk (I’m not a hot tea/coffee drinker, though those are zero calories and allowed, sugar-free of course). I got bored of water, so one day I just squeezed a lemon on my bottle of water and I loved it (as did my 5 year-old who doesn’t have a sweet tooth and loves lemonade). I later found out it is a great drink with many health benefits, including helping with weight loss.
- Bornimago magnets: so I got these magnet toys originally for a workshop I was giving (for a collaboration activity) and then I took one home for my kid (and they can literally keep her busy for hours, on par or even better than Legos and Play-Doh because of the mysterious magnet factor - plus we adults find them fun, too!). I also took a couple of sets for my office and sometimes in an informal meeting I’ll take them out and we’ll play around with them to keep our hands busy while we talk. I’m also planning on using them for activities in my class - so, one toy, multiple benefits to multiple audiences, and ways to keep hands busy while minds are working. Mike Caulfield told me these toys or similar were banned from the US a while ago because kids swallowed them or something (of course they have a minimum age written on the box, but people don’t always follow those guidelines)… but I’m sure you’ll find something similar that has magnets and can be used for construction.
- Writing poetry: there’s no way around it - it’s been a horrible summer in terms of world news of terrorism, killings and just all around tragedy. It’s easy to just wallow in pain or to exhaust and frustrate ourselves with thinking of our helplessness about what the world is coming to, all the while trying to comfort people we know who are close to each event and trying to just get on with our lives. As an academic who writes a lot, I could not find the words to write something intellectual about all these complex emotions… and then one day I wrote a poem, and I realized that sometimes, academic expression isn’t the answer. Sometimes poetry is. This one’s called “I’m Not Angry at You”.
- Virtually Connecting at #DigPed events. It’s my story. I can’t travel often, and I get FOMO for all the events I miss and the people I don’t meet. So even though I was lucky enough this year to have a big event locally (Digital Pedagogy Lab Cairo) and travel for one day to Rome, I survived missing all the summer DigPedLab events via Virtually Connecting to them (this summer they were at UPEI and UMW and included great conversations with the likes of Audrey Watters, Tressie McMillan-Cottom, Cathy Davidson and even some hybrid workshops).
- A good data plan. I did some traveling this summer, and wifi wasn’t always available. As a result, there was one week that I spent a lot of time with my computer and/or tablet tethered to my phone, trying to get things done. Fortunately, my carrier offers a generous data plan for a reasonable fee, and allows me to bank data I don’t use for up for a full year. That’s good, because I went through well over a month’s data in just that one week.
- Time to read for leisure. I don’t get (or perhaps I should be more honest and say that I don’t take) enough time for leisure reading during the academic year, but I’ve enjoyed it this summer. I re-read all seven Harry Potter novels in preparation for the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I also saw a lot of Rowling’s nice little touches that I’d missed my first time through the series. On a colleague’s recommendation, I’m currently making my way through the Percy Jackson series. It’s fun.
- Kindle Family Library. Amazon makes it possible to link two accounts and up to four child profiles that can share content. It’s a great way to gain access to a wider variety of reading material, and unlike Apple (ahem!), Amazon understands that two adult account holders might well prefer to each pay for their own purchases, rather than have one person have to pay for everything. (Bear in mind, though, that each adult does have access to the other’s payment information.) A bonus is that this works with digital library books, too. If you borrow a Kindle book from your local library, it will show up on the other adult’s Kindle as well. (Unless you choose not to share it. You can choose to share or not share each individual book.)
- A running belt. I like to have my phone with me when I run, both in case of emergency and to listen to podcasts or music. I had an armband for my phone, but it didn’t work well. When I left it loose enough to be comfortable, it kept sliding down my arm. When I fastened it tight enough that it didn’t slip, I ended up with nasty chafing. I’ve found that using a belt to carry my phone works much better. I ended up choosing a FlipBelt; SPIbelt also seems to be quite popular.
- Bluetooth sport headphones. For a while I used a set of wired headphones for running, but I found the cord a real annoyance. I finally invested in a decent set of bluetooth headphones, and — especially when combined with the running belt — they’ve made my runs much more comfortable. I’m using a set of Jaybird X2s that I found on a fantastic sale, but there are lots of good options out there.
- Although I had seen dog walking belts in catalogs for years, I always had assumed they would be awkward to use. But when my spouse injured her shoulder this summer, we bought this Outward Hound hands-free belt and now we both use it every day. The belt has two D-rings, to which I attached a couple of carabiners so we could easily hook our our usual Mendota slip leads on and off. It also has three zippered pockets, one with a water bottle pouch, so you can easily carry bags, treats, keys, etc. Best of all: walking with the belt not only feels better for your body, but it feels friendlier in terms of the connection it creates between you and your dogs. And it’s great to have your hands free, if like us you’ve been looking for Pokémon while out with your pack.
- This Yoobouking sling bag comes in delicious colors and is a perfect size for when you need to bring more than will fit in your pockets (or dog belt) but not enough for larger backpack.
- Anker PowerCore mini spare batteries keep our phones juiced up while we’re out Poké-walking. This summer I decided to also get the Anker QuickCharge wall charger for USB devices, and it’s now the only charger I’m regularly using.
- I got to try out my new Ogio Circuit backpack on several trips this summer, and it passed the test with flying colors. Comfortable, with good pockets, a padded laptop sleeve, and a loop that lets it hook onto rolling luggage. It fits under the seat on most US airplanes. Plus, it’ll let me carry my huge Literary Theory textbook to and from campus this fall without wrenching my shoulder.
- Especially during the summer months, I am constantly needing to clean my glasses. All of them -- sunglasses, regular glasses, the old pair I wear to run in, etc. These Magicfiber cleaning cloths are fantastic: inexpensive, strong, and they clean without streaks. Excellent for cleaning your phone, too!
- Fun. I wrote about fun already for ProfHacker, and I’m happy to say that I had fun building bots and a poetry generator related to my research, going to the beach, going to the pool, being a swim mom.
- Rediscovering what I love to do. So, I got to be a swim mom, which reminded me how much I love swimming. Well, ok, I don’t love swimming as much anymore (I have to get wet and smell like chlorine and GOD was swimming always this boring?), but I still love the culture of swimming. I loved working at the meets all summer. I can still calm a nervous kid down before a race, and nothing makes me happier than seeing a child’s face light up when they get a best time. Now I’m going back to coaching. I also found my voice again for writing. I wrote a lot (this could have easily gone under fun) about a lot of different things (look, a personal blog that talks about more than just academia!) which was liberating and wonderful. And finally (shameless self-promotion!) I had the opportunity to revisit my (very old now) research as I fixed my manuscript, which is now a book, reminding me that, yeah, this is why I went to grad school, and why I continue to be in academia.
Yoga. I didn’t practice as regularly as I wanted to, but I have a couple of go-to videos that I could rely on when I need to come back to the mat, recenter myself, and just take a break for 30-40 minutes. Which I often needed.
Transition times. I hate routines, even though I completely understand why they are necessary, especially with kids. What there often isn’t time for is time to transition between spaces and activities, which I think is the hardest part for me. This summer was particularly difficult: I would rush the kids to day camp and go straight to work, then rushing to pick them up so as to not be fined for picking them up late. I have a short commute, so no time to shift gears at all. So what I did this summer was to institute a 30min “quiet reading time” for my kids after they got home. It gave them a chance to decompress for the over-stimulation of day camp, and for me to decompress from my day at work. I was able to get dinner ready in peace, as well as shift into “mom” mode. It helped immensely.
- Getting help. I wrote more extensively about this elsewhere, but I got through this summer because I was able to get help. I don’t think any of this other stuff would have even been possible otherwise.
- I run. A lot. Which hasn’t been easy this summer due to the usual challenges of South Carolina heat and humidity. One of the things that has become absolutely essential for me is electrolyte replacement. Without it, I get terrible headaches and generally feel queasy for the rest of the day. Nuun electrolyte replacement tablets have become my go-to. They’re not too sweet, and they’re lower in calories and carbs than most of the other options out there. The only downside is that they use artificial sweeteners, which I’ve been trying to move away from, but earlier this year, they announced that they’re now using Stevia, which is at least plant-based. My favorite flavor is Fruit Punch, but they’re all pretty good.
- A good water bottle is also an essential. My bottle of choice when on the run is the Isomeric Pocket Water Bottle from Ultraspire. It holds 20 oz. It’s dishwasher-safe, and it fits easily into my hand without my having to clutch it all the way. The pocket fits my iPhone and a gel, or several gels without the phone.
- If you’re a long time reader, you know that I like to make my own pizza. My quest for the perfect pie continues, so I’ve been experimenting with a couple recipes from Ken Forkish’s The Elements of Pizza cookbook.
- Summer Reading: Some of my favorites from the last few months include Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad; Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, The Fireman by Joe Hill, Stephen King’s The End of Watch (the whole Bill Hodges trilogy is worth reading: Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers) and lastly, I made my way through Justin Cronin’s Passage Trilogy (I had read The Passage when it first came out, but revisited it before continuing on to the sequels.
- What could be more summer than the Beach Boys? I’ve been listening to The Very Best of the Beach Boys: Sounds of Summer a lot lately.
What helped you survive summer? Let us know in the comments!