Back after a long absence (blamed entirely on the pandemic!)

This is my first post since February, so hello! The details behind my long absence don’t really matter, because, really,  haven’t we all been dealing with the same troubles for months now?

But basically, long story short: I teach college, and as soon as the coronavirus started to be a thing (ugly, accursed thing; we collectively spit on you!), my teaching and administrative responsibilities exploded. It has been grueling and nonstop since then. But finally . . . a breather. I just finished teaching my summer class and I start up again in two weeks with a pre-academic year program and then will ease back into the fall term, at which point I hope that somehow things will be slightly more under control. We’re changing from Blackboard to Canvas, and I think faculty are also due to get new computers, which is always a little disruptive. But I’ve now learned how to use Microsoft Teams and Vidgrid and have become familiar with many other new skills and platforms that I wasn’t good at when this whole online teaching thing began. So at least I feel fairly well prepared to handle my classes this fall.

And before I go any further, I should also add how grateful I am to be employed. Truly, with so many people’s livelihoods shattered by this virus and its fallout, I am very aware of how fortunate I am to have a stable job. (Currently, at least. As we’ve seen far too often in the past several months, things can fall apart completely overnight.)

Plus, so far no one in my family or immediate circle of friends has contracted COVID-19. (*superstitiously knocks on wood*)

So here I am again, back to my blog. Without ceremony and practically without explanation. Mostly because once my MS Teams meetings were over today, I went through my email and stumbled across something I ordinarily (pre-COVID-19) would have wanted to share on my blog. This has happened to me often over the past several months. I’ve even taken photos that I intended to share. But I never felt I could justify the half hour of time it would take away from work to write a blog post. And you know how once you’re away from something you feel like you can’t resume it without some sort of explanation? After radio silence for weeks, then months, it felt too awkward popping in here to post a photo as if only a few days had gone by.

Anyway . . .

Today I just found this really cool website, thanks to a daily email I subscribe to, “The Download” from MIT Technology Review. The site is called “WindowSwap.” And it’s nothing more than a series of windows. That is, from the website you can click to open someone else’s window on the world. Literally. Your screen will show the view from someone’s else’s window. I’ve just looked down on an alley in Shanghai, a sunny backyard garden in Germany, a plant-filled balcony/porch strip with two dogs in India, a rainy day in NYC, a cat overlooking a sun-drenched cityscape in Qatar, an enclosed patio with a waterfall in Singapore, a sunset over dusky hillsides in San Francisco, and sloping, green pastures amid mountains in Switzerland.

Don’t like the view? No worries. There’s bound to be something more appealing just a click or two away. How generous people have been to open up this little part of their homes and outside world to us.

You even have the option to share your own window.

The webiste is window-swap.com.

Give it a try!  Here’s screenshot of the view from a window in Switzerland.

WindowSwap is a really perfect momentary distraction—often with the ambient sounds of traffic or breezes and birdsong, and sometimes the sounds of children playing, if the windows are open. Sort of like looking out your own window to experience a brief respite, except you have the added novelty of seeing an entirely different world outside, allowing you to (re)gain perspective in an entirely new way.

For example, after clicking through several windows today, I realized what a tremendous difference flowers made in my feelings toward a view. And once I realized that, I found myself mentally remaking all the unappealing views I encountered to see how they might be redeemed if only some pots of flowers were added to the windowsill or porches or walls. Those imaginary splashes of color completely turned things around. Funny, I’ve always been somewhat indifferent to flowers, like they’re a nice extra but not particularly worthy of attention when money and time are tight.

I’m rethinking that now.

Especially now, when we need uplifting more than ever.

And maybe my best parting words today would be these: Thank you to all the bloggers who kept on posting during the past few months. Some days when my news and social media feeds were bursting with negativity, just opening my WordPress app and seeing you continue to show up every day with your food blogs and art blogs and music blogs and history blogs and your poetry and diaries of ordinary life—all of that normality gave me the positive boost I needed to suck it up and get on with my own daily tasks.

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. I also volunteer with a Milwaukee homeless sanctuary, Repairers of the Breach, as chair of the Communications and Fund Development Committee.
This entry was posted in Creativity, Higher education, Life, Nature, Technology, Travel, Writing, blogging and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Back after a long absence (blamed entirely on the pandemic!)

  1. mworfolk says:

    Glad to see you back and to know you and your loved ones are okay! May you all stay healthy and safe.

    I love Window Swap! It’s wonderful. There’s a really great one from Singapore of someone’s patio. It’s so soothing.

    The spring semester was a hairy one (we transitioned to emergency remote teaching abruptly, like you) and I cannot imagine having to then teach a summer semester right afterward. Yikes!

    We will be doing remote teaching again in the fall semester so I’m slowly creating my online courses. I’m trying not to feel too panicked but it feels like the clock is going very quickly!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you are also doing well and hanging in there! Good luck with your course planning. I am taking two weeks off to get the rest of my life in order before plunging back in. Will think of you when I do get around to it again. It’s good to know we’re not alone❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  2. MELewis says:

    What a fascinating glimpse into other people’s lives! Not sure how it works, whether it’s live (presumably not) or a pre-recorded snippet. I can imagine it growing into a whole art form, with all the craziness that might entail. But I have an over-active imagination! Glad you are re-surfacing with your health and sanity intact! Stay well. 🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Welcome back!! I’ve missed your wonderful pictures and excellent insights!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sally Cissna says:

    Glad to see your post. And glad to know you and yours are doing OK during this awful time. I do not envy you in a total revamp to on-line. Will MSOE be online only in the fall? Hard to believe they would sacrifice the labs. So enjoy a couple week well-deserved break.
    Looking forward to checking out this new site.
    Peace, Sally

    Liked by 1 person

    • The official plan is to have hybrid classes this fall for labs. Mine will be entirely online. But in an interesting twist, the City of Milwaukee says NO schools or universities can open until the city enters Phase 5 (or 4? Can’t remember) of its reopening plan. This just came to light late last week. So who knows? The bars are already open, though. Apparently they are safer than classrooms😂

      Like

  5. Rose says:

    I had wondered what happened to you during the 2 mos stay at home. So glad to hear from you and to know you & your family are okay. You have an important job. It’s harder on the elementary students going virtual then to the phasing stage. I worry about the children with special educational needs who need the extra help for catching up to where they need to be. Thanks for sharing the window view. The photo didn’t work for me so I think I need to click on the underlined link. As a traveler it’s hard to watch travel shows. At first it was a great escape when I thought I’d like to visit that country and reality set in that I’m grounded. Someday I hope. Just thankful for my past travels.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought of you and your annual Jamaican yoga trip. Were you able to go this year? Or did COVID ruin it.

      Like

      • Rose says:

        LOL You must be thinking of someone else. I’ve only been to Jamaica once and it wasn’t for Yoga.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I must be way, way off then. I have this picture in my mind of you meeting up with girlfriends every year someplace warm for a week of yoga on the beach. Who on earth have I been thinking of instead??? This is so funny, too, because for years I’ve envied your idyllic island yoga vacations that you apparently never took!😂

          Like

          • Rose says:

            That’s too funny. Maybe subconsciously you’ve been wanting to escape to a remote island for yoga on the beach. I hope you find out who the yoga on the beach person is.

            Liked by 1 person

          • That subconscious desire theory sounds about right! I’ll let you know if/when I eventually find this mystery beach yoga person👍😄

            Like

  6. Rose says:

    Wow! Just viewed some of the window scenes…some amusing… artist’s table in Qatar…looks like my messy creative drawing board area, lol. Amsterdam LOL we were busy viewing the art museums..Van Gogh, Reijks, Rembrandt’s house & square plus canal boat ride. That’s how I remember the atmosphere in Scotland. Amazing how a view can bring back memories.
    Stay Safe.

    Liked by 1 person

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