When I was a little girl, I remember, every teacher asked the same first question when a new school year began:
"What did you do over summer vacation?"
We sat in circles. We shared. We discussed. We wrote short essays.
I am a teacher by trade. But I no longer have summer vacations more than a week long. Summer means taking continuing education classes, preparing new courses, doing research, tackling at least one home project and accomplishing one major personal goal.
Please do not laugh:
This summer, I learned to type without looking.
It may be impossible to believe, but I have written a B.A. thesis, an M.A. thesis, a doctoral thesis (which was more than 800 pages in the first draft), a thesis for ordination as a rabbi, countless papers and much more.
I have written an unpublished novel, 800 or so personal columns and lots of articles on a range of subjects I no longer remember.
I did all that staring at my keyboard and typing at a furious rate. I did this for more than 30 years.
At the beginning of the summer, I complained to my doctor about the pain in my neck and shoulders.
"Barbara," he said mildly, "if you could learn to type, you would experience significant relief from this pain."
"Mom," my son, Erik, said, "you can do this."
"Honey," my husband, Ralf said, "we can learn, even at our age...."
My university students enjoy teasing me regularly about all the things I don't know about modern culture, including tweeting and blogging.
I decided to catch up to the world. I would learn to type!
I found a website that could help me learn to look at my screen and not at my keyboard. I started typing patterns, then small words, then sentences. The latter were totally inane.
Friends noticed that my emails had become short, clipped and businesslike. I called offended correspondents in exhaustion to explain that I was really trying, but could they please have patience with the fact that I was taking an hour to write two clear sentences?
The good news is that I did, in the end, join the 20th century and learn to type. I can proudly announce that writing this column did not take two hours.
I got so excited about my new skills that I decided to join the 21st century. I even began blogging on the internet. I have been told that tweeting is next, but surely one must draw a line somewhere.
So, what did you do on your summer vacation?