Exams – revision too little, too late?

With two weeks to go before four exams in one day, I’ve started revision, or rather, as I’ve discovered, I’ve started to actually engage with the horticulture course I enrolled on last September.

At that point, in September, the teacher told us that the course required at least 8 hours of self-study per week, additional to the one face-to-face day in the classroom.  If only I’d paid attention and done more than the one day of classroom attendance. 

Why haven’t I properly engaged with it till now?  I ask myself.  Thinking on this question suggests three answers.  None of them are the right or only answer.  They’ve each had a part to play in my being where I am now. 

First – the teacher’s delivery style has a lot to do with student engagement or lack of engagement.  My first career was as a teacher and I ended up teaching people to be teachers.  I learned that teacher enthusiasm for the topic is not enough, the teacher has use strategies and techniques to help the students participate in that enthusiasm. 

Four weeks into the course, I was asked by the teacher if I would stay behind as he wanted to ‘have a word’ with me. He’d noticed (rightly) that I fell asleep in the class.  So not only was I not doing the self-study, my ‘attendance’ was patchy at best.

I know why I fell asleep – his teaching was entirely one-way, there was no group work, no invited interaction from classmates, no activities or approaches that invited maintaining alert participation.   I suggested he could make it more interactive, but he bristled a bit at that.  However, after the ‘words’ I sent him a note:

‘Apologies once again for nodding off in the class.  I’ve been doing a fair bit of research on this and find it is a very common experience of students – across the world and all ages. 

There is less on why this is, but this piece is interesting, it says:  

‘The data shows that student attention level takes a dive, approximately 10 minutes into a lesson.  This is a natural occurrence (and I believe the reason YouTube videos were initially limited to <9 minutes), but can be dealt with by a good instructor.  The problem is most instructors (particularly at the university level) know next to nothing about the learning process and instructional theory. ‘

And so is this which has the following specific recommendations for teachers:  ‘… introduce variation every ten minutes, such as engaging the students by asking a question, or changing the delivery style. With enough stimulation, variety and motivation, we can usually overcome a certain level of sleepiness.’

And there are many strategies for the student to try – which I will have a go at next week.’

The teacher’s response to my email was ‘that’s very interesting’. 

I told various people about my falling asleep in class.  It turns out that they could all tell a similar story and each had strategies for keeping themselves awake.  I tried a good range –  chewing gum, mints, pinching the inside of my wrist, coffee (a flask of), drinking water, asking lots of questions, water spritzing my face, standing up/going to toilet, arm exercising with my resistance band (surreptitiously).  

My strategies worked to keep me awake even though he didn’t change his teaching style.  However, at half term he announced that we were getting a new teacher. This new guy turns out to be much more engaging in his delivery and I’m alert and involved the whole day without needing ‘stay awake’ activities.   But I still didn’t start the 8 hours per week of self-study.

My second reason is for not engaging earlier is that I hadn’t made the self-study a priority, in the way I did with previous study courses.  My A levels, degree programmes, and some professional training that have involved terminal exams, I’ve made central to my routine, I had a clear purpose in wanting to pass the exams.  In this case, I’m taking a course out of interest. 

I did have a clear purpose when I began – of running a balcony gardening business – but that has been derailed.  Thus, I have not woven the study into my day-to-day routine.  Although I’d start each day with the intention of working through a past exam paper or course unit, I didn’t because I chose to use the time on other things.  The tips and techniques in the various books I’ve read, in recent years, on prioritising e.g.  Getting things done,  Super Structured, 4000 weeks. … I’ve ignored.

The third reason for non-engagement is a feeling almost of paralysis. I feel I’ve lost the ability and skills I had years ago to be a student.  

The last real exam I did was in 1996 when I decided I would support my daughter who was having difficulties with her GCSE Maths.  I enrolled in a maths evening class and we used to compare homework and commiserate with our difficulties with the topic.   I remember walking into the exam hall, a bag of nerves, to find I had arrived with a half-litre of water spilled in the bottom of my bag (I hadn’t screwed the water bottle top on tightly enough), and without my calculator.  The invigilator’s look was indecipherable!  But my daughter and I both scraped a pass.   

The previous exam to that had been in 1970 – my undergraduate exams.  For those, months in advance, I had a comprehensive revision schedule that I followed to the letter.  I carried flashcards in my bag so any spare moment I could be revising, I had bullet point notes pinned up around the house and immersed myself in the topics. 

Now the horticulture exams are in two weeks and I am in panic revision mode.  I know I haven’t picked up enough through just reading the texts, skimming horticulture magazines, and sitting in class, to get through the exams. 

I’m now writing flashcards, papering the walls with bullet point model answers, writing answers to past paper questions, reciting definitions, learning the mnemonics that I’m told will help and following the spaced repetition learning technique.  Only getting the results will reveal whether this very late action will be enough to pass.  

What are your exam memories and tips?  Let me know.

Image: The Exam Room

Digital takeover

The novel, ‘The Every’, by Dave Eggers is long, but compelling.  It was perfect to listen to as I did various domestic chores.  I finished it yesterday.  A reviewer says of it ‘Kudos to Dave Eggers. In this follow-up to the admirable, big-tech, dystopian thriller The Circle (which you needn’t have read to enjoy the current book), he again squares up to the new enemies of everything untamed and brilliant in humankind. If you meant to read Shoshana Zuboff’s important and demanding The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, but were too worn down by surveillance capitalism’s intrusions to get round to it, The Every tackles the same concerns from a shared perspective of humanist outrage, in the form of a gulpable fictive entertainment.’

I have read The Circle, and I haven’t got round to reading Zuboff’s book – though it’s been on my ‘read’ list since its 2019 publication.   It’s non-fiction,  discussing the way ‘tech companies want to control every aspect of what we do, for profit.’ 

Both The Circle and The Every, heightened my alarm and discomfort at the increasing grip of digital intrusion on my life.   Sadly, the ‘intrusive’ aspect comes hand-in-hand with the increasing necessity to recognise (accept?) this digital takeover as an integral accessory to day-to-day functioning.  

Last week, thanks to The Every, I decided to notice how many of my day-to-day interactions are mediated by digital technologies. It’s a lot.  Some I think are helpful, some are infuriating and all are tracking my every swipe, key tap, contactless transaction, and walk along the city streets. The digital takeover covers five aspects of my life:

Formal and informal (group and individual) interactions.  These divide into two categories: first, video conferencing platforms.  On these, I had several business and social group meetings using one of either Teams, Zoom, Google Meet, Zencastr, WhatsApp video.  The advantage of these is people can interact from any location.  I’ve been able to rejoin my Washington DC book club, though I live in the UK.  The disadvantages for me are the loss of the ability to really see the other people. The subtleties of face-to-face interactions are gone, instead, we have animated passport photo-like rectangles of the head and shoulders of colleagues and friends.

Second, social media channels.  There’s an almost overwhelming number of interactions coming in via WhatsApp, Signal, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media.   The upside of this is the speed of the interaction, I message family members and get an instant reply, the downside of this is the constant feeling I have of having to keep an eye on multiple channels and respond instantly.  

Human activities replaced with digital activity.   I’m increasingly having ‘conversations’ with chat bots or similar – my bank, various retailers, the utility companies, the doctor’s surgery and so on.  Sometimes this works well enough and other times I just long for a human interaction. (Voice but without going through a whole ‘press 1 for this and 2 for that’ rigmarole that sometimes causes me to just hang up).    This week I read about a ‘quirky robot therapist’ which seems to be a mental health version of e-consult, used by my doctor.  I haven’t tried it but am curious. 

Last week, I went into a fast-food place which announced ‘we’ve had an upgrade’. Not to my way of thinking. I preferred the pre-upgrade when I picked up what I wanted from a display cabinet and took it to the till.  Now I have to order from a screen and can’t see the real item till it’s paid for and handed over. 

My local library has become self-service.  Users enter by swiping their library card.  This is good in some ways, but not if I have a query, and not for the many librarians who have lost their jobs.  

Things that were once untracked are now tracked or trackable.  And this is not just parcels and letters, it is behaviours, interactions, activities, items, people’s location, keystrokes, and patterns e.g. of exercise, sleep, eating.  There are some advantages to the trackability of things. It’s handy to see where a letter I’ve sent or a packet I am expecting is on its journey.  And last week a friend of mine had her expensive blue-tooth earbuds stolen from the gym.  She was able to track them to a specific location (house number and street), but couldn’t then summon the nerve to go there and ask for the return of them.  

I’m less keen on the tracking of my buying patterns by retailers who then make ‘recommendations’ based on my purchases.  And  I don’t like the online stores that ask me to create an account before I can make a purchase.  The ‘continue as guest’ is the one I always go for, and if they don’t offer the option I try and find another outlet.   That said, I do have online accounts with multiple organisations.  I don’t know if their software interacts with each other’s but I’m fairly certain it will at some point, if it doesn’t already.

Over the last couple of years I’ve carried physical money less and less. I pay for things using my contactless debit card (not by waving my phone, though).  I’m thinking that physical money is well on the way out. I am surprised in a face-to-face place if it says ‘cash only’ and in that instance, last week, had to go and look for an ATM to withdraw some.

Info feeds. The tidal waves of info that crash around me all the time, I find unnerving.  It’s almost impossible to sift through ‘news’ feeds, social feeds, business feeds, on and on and make any critical and informed judgements.   The fact that I get so much is my own fault – I’ve chosen to get them.  This review of my digitalisation has made me decide to cut down on them. I’m spending too much time on them. I’ll just get a few, and not through a news and info aggregator.  I want to choose my own.

Beyond the feeds, there are the websites I interact with daily and the searches that I do in the course of my day.  It’s a lot of time I’m active online as part of my work and study. 

Spending the week being conscious of what was going digital in my life led me to realise I could not function off the grid and I wonder whether I would want to anyway.  I need, and enjoy, the convenience of some aspects of digitalisation.  What I am alarmed by is the fact that hand-in-hand with this goes the tracking,  the surveillance capitalism aspects, the ceding of choices and controls, the diminution of critical and reflective thinking, and the reliance on the technologies actually working.

How much of your life is being touched by the digital takeover?  What’s your view of it?  Let me know.

Old People’s Cupboards

‘We don’t want our cupboards to be like old people’s cupboards,’ declared a friend of mine, the other day.   I instantly visualised what she meant as I and my brother had, at the end of each of my parents’ lives, got to grips with their cupboards.  They were both pack rats extraordinaire, their cupboards stuffed with ancient and, to our eyes, many useless things. 

My friend and her partner are in their late 60s and thinking about their end of lives.  They’re in a kind of preparing-for-it way that will give their children least practical difficulty in managing their (the parents) eventual end.

They’ve taken several steps like getting Power of Attorney, writing wills, leaving medical instructions, sorting out finances, and so on.   These are the kind of things covered by standard ‘end of life planning’ checklists available from Age UK, Marie Curie, and others. 

However, these checklists don’t cover cupboards, shelves, and other storage spaces!  Maybe that’s an omission and they should, because when someone dies there is the practical question of ‘How do I deal with their stuff’.  The question also arises if you are helping an older person downsize from the place they’ve lived in for years to a smaller place or care home.  Older people may have a lot of stuff, accumulated over years, and it may be in lots of different places – house, car, garage, storage unit, caravan … Take a look at George Carlin’s spiel on ‘Stuff’ and you’ll get the idea on what you might be dealing with.

Focusing on cupboards, there are lots of them, even in a small place with what seems like little storage – bathroom cupboards, kitchen cupboards, bedroom wardrobes, airing cupboards, understairs cupboards, living room cupboards …

If my mother and father are anything to go by, encouraging someone else to clear their cupboards and get rid of stuff, in my experience, leads to resistance.   Or maybe I just don’t frame the encouragement in the right way.    

It was from my helping them clear cupboards that I noticed the five types of things that people have in their cupboards:

First things that may come in useful someday – stashes of silver foil, bits of string, elastic bands, miscellaneous screws, buttons, paper bags, and such like.

Second, things that have sentimental currency – a lucky charm, a birthday card from someone special (I still have the card my dad sent me on my tenth birthday which was 60 years ago), the outfit worn to some significant event. 

Third, more perishable things that are half finished – tins of dried up shoe polish, a jar of bay leaves past the sell by date, the medication for a long cured ailment. 

Fourth, things that have been useful but have been superseded by an updated version – a reel to reel tape recorder, a Sinclair ZX 81 computer, a heavy rubber torch with batteries (seal perished on this one).

Fifth, things which are useful and usable and you buy more of ‘just in case’ you run out at the critical moment.  We were amused to discover my father’s supply of a large stash of brandy – several boxes of 12 bottles each – in the boot of his car.   And his ‘two of everything’ mentality – I guess in case he lost the one in use. 

I also noticed that old people’s cupboards (i.e. my parents’) were a mass of unsorted, random items, tossed in higgledy-piggledy.   There was no clear organisation of like objects e.g. socks or toiletries. There were no cupboard organisers to help either. 

I’m rather hard on all of this disorganised hoarding, accumulating and pack-ratting.  My ideal (unachievable) is to be able to live with a bowl and a spoon and nothing more than a small suitcase of stuff.  I have a monthly ritual of discarding 9 items.  It’s a ritual that started a few years ago with a feng shui challenge of discarding 27 items for 9 days, which I found alarmingly easy and taught me how much I’d accumulated.   I then adapted it to the nine items per month I do now. Although I still haven’t ditched the birthday card mentioned earlier, but that may come as over the last few years I’ve discarded a lot, and it’s getting harder to keep on doing it, but I’m still managing.

I’ve been helped by Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Habit of Tidying,  which I know annoys a lot of people.  But I’ve adopted several of her tips – I like the sock one.   And I’m constantly telling myself ‘don’t put it down put it away’, as I hate spending ages looking for something I know is somewhere in the house.

My mother thought all this was dotty and couldn’t see why I was obsessed with tidying and getting rid of stuff.    Now I think about it, I’ve realised three things:

First, her attitude was understandable.  She came from an era – the 1920s depression – and an early life of extreme poverty when anything might have a value and could ‘come in useful’.  That almost scavenger or re-use mindset is not to be scoffed at.  We’re all getting closer to it again – I just read an article about the huge growth in the reselling of second-hand clothing, and look at the advent of apps link Olio, Freecycle, and Vinted.

Second, although she, and my father, had what could be called ‘old people’s cupboards’ (as they were both over 80), actually the label doesn’t really work.  It is not only old people who have disorganised, cluttered, untidy cupboards, full of stuff they could easily discard without discomfort.  People of any age can have them.  

Third, you can’t encourage people out of the habit of ‘old people’s cupboards’.  Whatever their age – they have to make the choice to de-clutter and organise.   What looked like useless stuff to me, might hold a precious memory for my mother.  I’m learning to suspend judgement on another person’s hold/discard choices. (This frequently comes into play when I think my grandchild’s toy is long outgrown and ripe to be passed on and they don”t).

Although I want to have the minimum of stuff for my children to dispose of when I die, they might miss out on the type of conversations that my brother and I had such fun with as we sorted through our parents’ stuff.  We found things like the embroidered tray cloth used in our first family home (I think I’d embroidered it in my school needlework class), the letters we’d sent during our travelling teens, and my mother’s jumbo bag full of single gloves.

Do you think ‘old people’s cupboards’ are something to avoid?  Do you think ‘old people’s cupboards’ are specifically different from younger people’s cupboards?  Let me know.   

My (daily) road trip

WordPress’s #Bloganuary activity, is sending a daily suggestion on blog topics.  I was taken by the question, ‘What road trip would you love to take?’ as the topic they sent the other day.

What is a ‘road trip’?  There’s a Trip Advisor forum discussion on what it is which is fun to read.  Generally, people think it’s a fairly leisurely journey to a specific destination, where you’re not traveling as fast as possible but taking in sights, sounds and experiences along the way. 

Typically, films involving ‘road trips’ imply that the journeys are long – all the way across the US, or from Lands End to John O’Groats, but the Trip Advisor discussion members don’t go along with that.  In answer to the question ‘how long it a road trip?’, the favoured type of reply is ‘how long is a piece of string?’ That’s my idea of a good answer.  You’ll see why in a moment.

The blog post ‘The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Planning a Road Trip’, subtitled ‘Everything you need to plan, prep and enjoy an adventure along highways and byways’,  lists 7 actions to take to ensure a good road trip.

That’s a perfect set for me to follow, as pretty much each day I am taking the road trip I love to take.  I walk from my house to my grandchildren’s school, pick them up there, and we go back to my house.   It’s about 1.25 km each way.  Here’s how the 7 points work for us.

Plan our route:  Outbound from my house I have to decide whether to go straight to the school, or via any errands on the way – supermarket, post office, or library are the usual choices.  There’s a mobile library on the route on Fridays which I often use.   Then depending on pick up time, I have to decide which school entrance to use – front, back or side.  The gates are locked in school hours, and opened depending on which age-group of children are being collected.  If I get the gate wrong and arrived at the locked one, I have to hurtle round to the next gate.

The way back offers several options:

  • via construction site – the children love chatting to the traffic marshals there.  They (traffic marshalls) have taught the children thumbs up, fist bumps and how to salute
  • via swings
  • via good pedestrian crossing (longer) or take your chance in heavy traffic (shorter).  I’ve written to the council several times on the possibility of a pedestrian signal on the quicker route with no joy so far
  • via a road with wall that’s good to walk along
  • via a road with interesting parked motorbikes
  • via a road which takes you up to the chip shop

So lots of choice on the way back – which mean the way back is less planned and more 3-way negotiation in the moment.

Book ahead:  this isn’t such a big deal on my road trip most days, but sometimes involves going on a play date, or a friend’s party, or the dentist – this sort of thing has to be factored in, and means flying what’s app messages between me and mission control (their mum).   Sometimes we know in advance, the days when I can’t meet them, or their mum can’t take them, and our book-ahead with each other system creaks.  More frantic what’s apps to sort things out.

Prep your vehicle:  This is critical, one child needs a buggy (where is it?) with weather-ready accessories – cosy toes, raincover, sunshade … The other child needs a bike (where is it).  Bikes and buggy can be in one of two cars, in their house, in my house, or at the school bike/buggy park  Get it wrong and the trip flounders badly.  The buggy child is very heavy to carry, and the bike child is furious if there is no bike.

Keep snacks at the ready:  This is even more critical!  Snacks must be available the instant a child is met.  I have one in each pocket and reserves in my bag.  There are favourite snack and rejected ones – not always predictable as what was favoured one week is rejected the next.  Water too is essential.  There’s also the minefield of what is a suitable snack if a proper meal is on the horizon.  It seems that parents and grandparents have differing views on this.  The snack choices involve multiple delicate negotiation – perhaps as complex as trade deals?

Beyond snacks there’s other stuff to have at the ready – wet wipes, first aid kit, Swiss army knife – you’d be surprised how often the mini scissors are used on the daily road trip.

Plan en route entertainment:  This is not difficult – advance planning is not necessary.  The whole return route is entertaining:  slugs, spiders, snails,ants and other insects to carefully inspect, different vehicles to spot, air traffic of various types to ponder possible destinations of, different types of birds to identify ditto dogs/cats, various novelties that appear on the route to muse on e.g.  a random fridge suddenly appearing kerbside,  garden statuary to enjoy – one garden with the pig statue is much favoured.  Workers are also entertaining street surveyors, shop window cleaners, car transporter unloaders, digger drivers, bin emptiers.  We often stop and chat to them.  

Take care of yourself:  My daily road trip is a complete ‘take care of myself’ workout.  It involves anticipation – which is a known mental health boost. In my case anticipating what these small, curious people tell me about their day?  It involves joy – another health benefit, I get a thrill of pleasure as they spot me arriving and rush to join me clutching their pictures, and their news.  It involves a physical workout – nothing like the almost daily 10 minute run to get to the pick up on time, when I’ve left it my house too late to walk there in a leisurely way.   It involves mindfulness techniques – well researched as beneficial, for example, we can spend 20 minutes minutely examining the path of a worm across the pavement or a snail eating a blackberry (see image).

 … And the environment:  We each have a litter pick-up stick and some days I bring them, and on the way home we pick up the litter.  It’s a great manual dexterity exercise for the children (and me) and also a good to learn that littering is unacceptable.  They are fierce about ‘naughty dog-owners’ who don’t pick up their dog’s poo.  (We don’t pick up the poo with the litter pick-up stick).

How would you answer the question ‘What road trip would you love to take?’ Let me know.

Running:  leaving my comfort zone

The last time I left my comfort zone was this morning at 05:30.   Actually, that’s not quite true.  My alarm went off at 05:30 as usual.  And as usual, I wondered whether I had the will and motivation to act on its implied command to get out of bed and start the day.  My bed is my comfort zone.   I have great difficulty leaving it.   And yet, I do leave it pretty much every day.  When I don’t it’s because I have some ailment.  

Yet getting out of bed is not easy, I’m reminded of the essay my mother used to enjoy, written by Rose Macaulay.  It’s in her book Personal Pleasures.  The essay is in 2 parts:  Part 1 Bed, Getting Into It, and Part 2 Bed, Not Getting Out of It.   In part 2 she advises, ‘Going to bed is a nocturnal pleasure; but not getting out of it is a journal one, to be enjoyed with all the innocent ardours and relish of the day.  Slug then in sloth, and languish in delights, while the day breaks and shadows flee away.’

Mostly I allow myself a maximum of 10 minutes sloth and then force myself out of bed.  Immediately, I put on my running kit.  I put out my kit before I go to bed. It’s a repeated tip from places like Runner’s World – to put out your kit the night before and then get out of bed and put it on.    I don’t sleep in my running kit, which is what one runner suggests.

I am a morning runner.  I run as soon as I get up, almost every day.  I’m definitely not in any comfort zone as I leave the house on a dark, cold, winter morning, kitted out with flashing armbands and a high viz ‘wind stopper’.   Summer is better but there’s still that hesitation of ‘do I really want to run?’

I am not a lifelong runner.  I took it up when I was 43.   

My husband died suddenly in August – just after my 43rd birthday.   In October, that year – looking for something, other than what I was feeling – I saw a flyer on the local library’s noticeboard.  ‘Social running for women’, offered by a local running club.   With a great deal of telling myself it would be ok and I could always leave, I showed up as a total beginner and was welcomed by the group.

Over a few months I found a) I loved running, a complete surprise as I’d never run before  b) I was good at it – though that took a bit longer that the first few months. 

Now, nearly 30 years later, I’m still enjoying running, I’m still learning from running and I’m still good at it – my age graded result hovers around 83% – which more or less satisfies my competitive spirit, though I still aspire to getting to 85+%.

Once I’ve got out of the house for my daily morning run, I enter a different comfort zone.  My running comfort zone is a 6 km run at a comfortable pace, on a familiar route. I enjoy being outside moving through the air, feeling the wind, noticing small changes on the routes I run.   As I get going, I know that I do want to run:  it’s an energy boost. It’s a reflective time to think about the day ahead. It gives me a feeling of have done something before the day really begins, and I look forward to coffee and breakfast as I near home. 

On these comfort zone runs, I make the, usually unconscious, choice of doing what I think of as either an external or an internal run.   The external run is when I pay attention to the environment and notice what’s going on – trees coming into leaf, a flash of parakeets (London), some wildflowers in the pavement cracks, litter bins attacked by crows, etc.   The internal run is when I don’t pay attention to any of that sort of thing, because I’m mulling over a problem, working out how to do something, thinking about what the day might hold – all introspection and running the route on auto-pilot. 

But often I leave that type of comfort-zone run, for the discomfort zone of running training programmes.   Because I enter a lot of races, running seems to involve much getting out of my comfort zone – track training, race training over extended periods, and then the race itself.   I plan what races I am interested in for the coming year (all cancelled during 2020 and many in 2021!)  and follow a running training programme that will improve my time, help me get fitter, and build my strength and stamina. 

Even when I feel prepared, when I’m at the start with my running number pinned to my vest, I feel high anxiety.  It’s always nerve-wracking, though I’ve done it hundreds of times.  

People often ask me why I run, and am I thinking of giving up. (They don’t say ‘at your age’, but this is what I think they are sometimes getting at).  What is it that makes me continue to leave my comfort zone? 

There are so many recorded benefits of being outdoors and I feel them.  The days I don’t run I feel grouchy.  I find it an ongoing learning experience:  about running physiology – in my case, for older runners, about the technology available to support runners (not available when I started), about the wonderful and diverse community of runners – my local Park Run is a Saturday delight,  about my capacity to push myself, and about getting older and having to accept slower times than I’ve managed in the past.  

Walking is an ok substitute but not as good.  But when it’s raining (often this past December, unfortunately) I reluctantly walk instead.  I’ve learned to accept the fact that I no longer want to run in a downpour.  (Being dry is another of my comfort zones).   That works up to a point.  I’ve instituted a personal rule – if it’s not raining as I leave the house, I’ll run, even if rain is threatened.  Sometimes I get wet and sometimes the rain holds off. 

When and why do you leave your comfort zone?  Let me know.