In keeping with the overall general tone of this blog, excessively wordy wordiness, and the effort to stave off boredom, I hereby have an announcement to make.
Oh, what was it? Eh, I guess it wasn’t really important. Simply writing a blog post with the constraints on my time nowadays really is an announcement. However, I suppose I could delve a bit into the history of the exclamation point to justify the headline.
For example, did you know that the exclamation point didn’t have its own key on a lot of older typewriters? Interesting. I guess that shows the level of emotional restraint we were expected to show in our written announcements back in the day. I mean, if you wanted to type an exclamation point, apparently you had to type a period, hit the backspace button, and add an apostrophe above the period. (Voila…a homemade exclamation point.) Whatever brought forth that level of emotional response simply had to be worth the extra effort it took to type such a character.
But, now that I have your attention…you weren’t expecting that, were you?
I was genuinely curious to see how many people actually read the past the sensationalized headlines they are presented with every day on the internets. If I had chosen a different title for this blog post, what might you have expected? (Yeah, I’m sure you really wanted a lesson in the history of punctuation, but I couldn’t type out that headline and not give you what you thought you were going to read.) If I hadn’t included such a pretty (ugly) picture, would it have been worth your time?
Relax, I’m not giving you a grade on your level of interest in what I have to say. I’m just curious. Thoughts?
Of course, I learned about 3.141592somethingorother in school. Being the mathematical non-genius that I am, I have had very little to do with pi outside of my academic career. My dad loved to ask me about what I was learning in school during those years, so I kept at least one equation using pi in the back of my mind all the time.
Father Dearest: What’s the formula for the area of a circle?
Me: Umm…I’m pretty sure it’s pi-r-squared.
Father Dearest: No. Pie aren’t square. Pie are round. (Grin.)
(You can see where I get my senseless of humor.)
I didn’t think too much about the connection between the two until a student brought me a gift a few years back on March 14. You know, 3/14.
It wasn’t until recently, though, that I really stopped to consider something.
Do they call it “pie” because pies are round, thus making the use of pi more relevant? Or am I overthinking this as usual?
The etymology is quite interesting. Upon performing a little informal research, I found that the word “pie,” while it referred to meat or fish enclosed in pastry, could also be associated somehow with the magpie and its nesting habits of collecting miscellaneous objects and that’s when I started to trail off in my research and wound up watching YouTube videos of pie recipes because I never learned much beyond figuring out the area of a circle using the formula that my dad would later use as a way to make me groan about his deliberate grammatical mistake the way all teenagers do when an adult tries to tell a joke and…you know, I’m always more excited for Fri Day than Pi Day, but that’s beside the point.
I’m just gonna go get myself a pizza pie. With pepperoni. More round objects…on top of a round object. Sheesh, why don’t they just call it pi-peroni? (Overthinking…I know…)
That’s the point I was trying to make to one of my classes recently. When you teach music, one of the most challenging parts is getting kids to realize that practicing on your own is what moves you forward as a musician. Time, effort, and patience are virtues.
I’ve been knitting for a while. I cringe when I think of the first scarf I finished and gave away as a gift, because it was evidence of my lack of experience and skill at the time. I kept working at it, though, and–as long as whatever I’m knitting is supposed to be a square or rectangle–it looks pretty good.
Crochet, on the other hand, continued to confuse me for some reason. Every time I would try to learn, I ended up with really colorful knots to throw in the trash.
“Oh, but crochet is so much easier than knitting!”
Yeah, that was never exactly what I wanted to hear while I was tying yarn into the kinds of knots that would confuse an Eagle Scout. I couldn’t get the hang of it. So, I put it away for a while and decided that maybe crochet wasn’t for me.
Well, not too long ago, I opened my big mouth and told one of my classes that I was going to prove that you can learn anything you want to if you’ll just make up your mind to do it.
And then I heard myself say…
“By the end of this year, I’m going to crochet a scarf.”
I asked myself some questions that afternoon.
Why did I say that?
Umm…you wanted to prove a point. Now you just have to–you know, prove it. Don’t worry. Setting that little deadline will help. Maybe.
Why is knitting so much easier for me than crochet if crochet is supposed to be easier?
My best answer for that one?
I like doing things the hard way.
(I’m stubborn. We’ve established that.)
Okay, so maybe the best way I can say that–to boost my self-esteem–is to say that I like a challenge. If everyone can crochet, well, by golly, I’ll take it a step further and knit instead. However, I’ve created a hole in my own argument here, because crochet apparently is a challenge for me, so now I guess I have no choice but to learn it. Darn. (Darn. Darning. Something else I need to learn. My socks have holes, too.)
Well, no going back now, so I got started with crochet…again.
Is this perfect? No, not yet. But, if I keep working at it, I’m sure it’ll be some kind of scarf by May…when it’ll be a thousand degrees outside and no one in their right mind will need a scarf…but I digress.
However, I’m making my point.
If I can learn how to do this thing that frustrated me to no end by taking a little extra time to slow down the process, taking the advice in the videos and the articles, and practicing over and over and over…then perhaps learning other stuff is possible, too.
I’d stay to explain more, but I need to get back to work on this lovely orange scarf that I said I’d finish.
Apparently, word has gotten out about the lady living in the neighborhood who doesn’t have a cat but really, really loves cats.
I came home yesterday to TWO cats near my front door. After I parked my car, one of them scampered away from me like a typical skittish feline. He didn’t go far, and my guess is that he wanted a front row seat to listen to the other cat…who would shortly establish himself as the grouchy, whiny old man of the neighborhood.
All I wanted to do was pet at least one of the cats. That’s all. I love listening to a sweet little kitten purr for as long as I possibly can…well, before the eye-swelling allergens kick in.
You see, I’ve had lots of cats in my life. I had one of them for fifteen years. He was quite handsome and he knew it, going through life relying on his looks instead of developing his personality. (He was lazy and he didn’t play. Not even with catnip. What kind of cat doesn’t play? He just sort of sat around with a permanent expression on his face that said, “Look at me. I’m beautiful. Now, feed me and leave me alone so that I can clean my paws for three hours and grace the end of the sofa with my stunning good looks.”)
However, it was during my college years that I developed a severe allergy to cats, and he lived out his retirement years in my mother’s garage.
Anyway, I approached the yellow tabby standing near my doorstep, trying out my best “here-kitty-kitty” voice and making cutesy little noises that people always make when they want to be friends with a small animal.
This cat didn’t want any friends. This cat pranced over and parked himself under my parked car and HOWLED. I tried to coax him out, but he wasn’t having it. He was treating me like I had invaded his space.
All I wanted to do was PET THE CAT. Oh, and perhaps offer to FEED THE CAT. How ungrateful could one cat be?
Finally, after listening to what sounded like the equivalent of a dying moose (seriously, I was just TRYING TO PET THE CAT), I decided enough was enough. It was time to shoo him away. I needed to get back in the car and I didn’t want to run over the little guy. I couldn’t reach him (and I didn’t feel like trying to reach that far, thus spending my evening cleaning up cat scratch wounds), so I gingerly took my umbrella and eased it under the car, slowly reaching towards him as a gesture of “okay, game’s over.” I figured the mere sight of it would startle him out of his hiding place.
Nope, he wasn’t budging. He was a ROCK. A rock that batted back, hissing and fighting with the end of my umbrella as it sat lifelessly in front of him.
For a second it seemed a little bit like trying to catch a cat……..fish.
The other one, meanwhile, was sitting a few feet away, staring at me like, “Whaddya expect me to do?”
He went home shortly thereafter, leaving me with the lone holdout.
Speaking of fish, if they’d been paying attention, those cats might have picked up on the scent of tuna fish. Cats love stinky food, after all. I eat LOTS of tuna fish. (I need to stop saying that. “Tuna fish” is overly redundantly redundant. Tuna is fish. I can’t remember the last time I told someone I was going to eat a salmon fish. Anyway…) I practically hoard tuna. I take it with me to work nearly every day. I was more than willing to share my tuna and/or go out and buy more stinky cat food for the little guy, but…man. He just wouldn’t shut up. OR move.
He finally sauntered out of his hiding spot and went home so that I could leave.
I’ve decided I’m not approaching that one again (should he make his way back to my doorstep)…and it might also be time to invest in stockpiling more vegetables around here. (Why are they so terrified of cucumbers?)
I’m a strong advocate for specificity. (Wow, that word is a mouthful. Spesss-if-issss-ity. Did I even use it correctly? I hope so. Good thing I don’t have a lisp.)
I learned the phrase “be more specific” from years of watching my favorite game show. I mean, you can’t just respond to a clue about British royalty without telling Alex Trebek the king’s name and number, after all. (Do you know how many Georges and Edwards ruled back in the day? Neither do I, but I’ll bet it was a lot.)
Being vague leaves lots of room for misinterpretation. There are times, however, when being too specific can cause problems. (Like, for instance, my predisposition to being too specific with observations. Side effects can include mental anguish and brain implosions.)
However, I still believe it’s better to be overly and accurately specific. Never underestimate someone’s ability to misinterpret vague requests.
Do you like a good BLT? I know I do, but I’m not crazy about mayonnaise. In fact, I’m not crazy about putting much of anything extra on my burgers, sandwiches, or BLTs, and I’m always met with skepticism by the person on the other side of the restaurant window when I request NO mustard or NO ketchup. (I like what I like, so I’ve learned to deal with it.)
So, when I tried to order a BLT without mayonnaise once at a fast food restaurant, I expected questions, but I wasn’t really in the mood to deal with them. I was in a hurry, so instead of being accurately specific, I ordered with brevity and simplicity in mind.
I used the word “plain.”
Server: Can I take your order?
Me: Yes, I’d like a plain BLT, please.
Server: One PLAIN BLT? Plain?
Me: Yes, please.
Server: O…kay. That’ll be right out.
Well, they did indeed leave off the mayonnaise…and the L, and the T. It was a good bacon sandwich, although it was…missing a few other key components.
I learned a little something that day about being accurately specific. The sandwich was okay, but it needed a little TLC…or, more specifically, L and T.
Well, Birthdaypaloozextravaganzmageddon 2018 has come and gone. I celebrated my perpetual 29th birthday by working (like most of us do, I suppose, unless the anniversary of your existence falls on a weekend).
If you’ll recall, I also have to share my birthday with a teeny little holiday (read all about it here in case you’ve forgotten). But, enough about Valentine’s Day.
I suppose I had a pretty good birthday this year. However, older doesn’t always equate to wiser. For example, I decided I was going to treat myself to some cupcakes. After about six of them, I “decided” to treat myself to a new pair of larger pants. (I forgot that once you celebrate your 29th birthday a few times, your metabolism starts to slow down…a lot. I’m now an avid collector of food marathon pants.)
Beyond that, though, my other birthday gift to myself was something I have needed for a while: a new computer. So, what do I need to do now? Transfer everything over to the new one.
That should be easy, right?
I was visiting with a friend recently who was telling me all about building a new computer. I was smiling and nodding, pretending to understand everything (anything) about computers. I mean, I was excited the first time I figured out how to change my font to Comic Sans.
But, transferring everything over to a new computer? You might as well ask me to be the lead rocket surgeon on the SpaceX project. I know they can do a file transfer thingy (that’s highly technological terminology) for me at the store where I purchased the computer, but I already spent enough money on the computer itself, so I’d like to try to figure it out myself.
Stubborn? Sure. (Again, this is the part where older doesn’t necessarily equate to wiser.) Is it possible for me to do this?
If someone says they’re giving away a free book, I don’t care if it’s about the history of activated charcoal…I’ll read it.
The only reason I like winter is that it’s mildly socially acceptable to burrow into my blanket cocoon and read the day away.
When my stack of unread books gets down to around ten (like…right now), though, I start to panic.
What happens if I run out of books? I don’t think I can handle it if the only reading material in the house is a set of stereo instructions. Or bills. I never feel like reading bills. Ten? That’s all I have left? How late is the bookstore open? Oxygen…I need oxygen…
I don’t know if someone would truly consider bibliophilia a problem, though. I mean, it’s easy to shop for a bibliophile, and reading is generally accepted as a good thing. And, I intend on publishing a book of my own in the not-so-distant future, so I’d like to introduce it to other bibliophiles someday in the hopes that they read it, recommend it to others, and continue to hoard books until I write the next one to add to their stash.
There’s nothing like having a real book in your hands. You don’t have to worry about the batteries, you aren’t disturbing anyone by holding one, and they have the added benefit of making you look intelligent.
Granted, paper cuts can sometimes be an issue, and books are usually the heaviest boxes to transport when you have to relocate. However, I wouldn’t trade my book collection for anything.
Ten left. Yeah…I should probably get to the bookstore now in case of a shortage or a blizzard or boredom or something.
Where are my fellow bibliophiles? How many unread books are on your shelf right now? And could I borrow a few (dozen)? Pleeeeeease?
What makes one person laugh might not necessarily make anyone else laugh. And sometimes, no one laughs. Sometimes, everyone laughs at something you simply can’t believe anyone would find humorous.
There are two words in the English language that, when used in combination, terrify me. That moment when a friend looks me directly in the eyes (yes, I have two of them) and says, simply…
So, I started to think (which is usually another scary moment). How in the world do you begin to come up with funny stuff? I sat down and compiled a list of things that work for me. (Ahem…things that work for me occasionally at best…I’m writing this as if I’m some kind of expert…I know that all three of my faithful blog readers are eagerly awaiting this sage advice…if you don’t think any of my writing is funny, then you are free to ignore everything…okay, I’ll get on with it here…)
Carry a notebook. Or a journal. Or a notepad. Or plain old paper. Oh, and you might need a pen or a pencil, unless you plan to open up a paper cut and scrawl your ideas in blood (don’t do it). If you’d rather use your phone or tablet, it’s up to you…it’s a purely personal preference. However, I find that ideas stick with me longer when I have to take the time to physically write them down on something that doesn’t have the potential to run out of battery power. And, why should you carry something to write with at all times? Well…
Think of something ordinary you see or hear. Now…are you sure that’s all there is to it? Just make the quick observation, jot it down, and see if anything comes of it. I’m a words person. I like to observe potential with words. For instance, just the other day, I started thinking about what it really means to be a free thinker. I wrote down those two words–free thinker. When I realized no one was paying me for my thoughts, I had my answer.
Compare the incomparable.
Yes, you read that correctly. Think about seemingly unrelated senses, like comparing sight and smell. A few days ago, I had to throw something away that had overstayed its welcome. When someone asked me why, I responded, “Because the smell was getting pretty graphic.” Laugh, haha, never thought of it that way, etc.
4. Run it by your friends. If they like it, great! If they don’t, go make new friends. Unless you find out that you’re the weird one, and then you might want to sit with that thought for a while…
Remember, these are just ideas. I never said they were good ideas, but they are ideas. Perhaps “ideas” should have been Numero Uno on my list, but I don’t really feel like going back to change it now. So, you can just take your pen and paper and write in “ideas” at the top of the list.
I’ve tried. I’ve given this winter thing a few decades to show me its redeeming qualities, and I just don’t like it.
Maybe some of it has to do with where I live. In Arkansas, “hot” and “humid” go together like peanut butter and jelly. “Cold” and “icy” aren’t typical words in the local vernacular. However, I live in the northeastern part of the state, where we can generally expect a little more winter than our friends in L.A. (That’s “Lower Arkansas,” for the uninitiated.)
“Oh, but I’d rather be cold than hot. You can always put on more layers.”
Every time I hear that argument, I want to scream.
Most of the time, when I add layers, I end up sweating while at least one of my extremities is still numb.
I will admit that the first day the weatherman mentions the word “snow,” I get a little bit excited. (That’s “SNOW.” NOT “flurries.” When I hear the word “flurries,” I get about as excited as I do when he says the word “sprinkles.” You only need to mention “sprinkles” if you’re bringing me a cake. Otherwise, it’s insignificant to my outdoor plans.)
In Arkansas, though, it’s the reaction of the masses that gets amusing. See, I was always taught that you’d want non-perishable items around the kitchen if you were facing a disaster of epic proportions (see also: 12 whole hours of being snowed in…with “snowed in” defined as .025 inches of slush). When the disaster is looming, though, it’s the bread and milk aisles that are wiped clean before everyone settles in to hold down the fort. Because you know you’re not going anywhere for at least three or four days. Because snow is slick.
“Y’all just don’t know how to drive on that stuff.”
True. But…most of the time we don’t get actual “snow.” We almost always get some kind of mix, usually starting out with a glaze of freezing rain. Sometimes, it’s exclusively freezing rain, which is a total mess. If we get a layer of snow on top, at least it’s prettier to look at while we’re sitting inside waiting for the power to come back on.
(I’ll admit…it’s good for a laugh sometimes. Our friends to the north definitely have a sense of humor about it.)
And, on occasion, when we’re not iced or snowed in, you can find a few little gems here and there.
Most of the time, though, we look at bare branches and gray skies for a couple of months.
So, if I had to rank my favorite seasons in order, it would probably look like this:
1. Spring, Summer, Fall
Sorry, winter. You had your chance. Be sure to pick up all of your icicles when you leave.
The Christmas season is a time of high expectations for most kids. They eagerly absorb the magic of the holiday and hold out hope that their wildest gift dreams will come true. Most of us can think of an extra-special Christmas present that awaited us underneath the tree on at least one occasion. I remember the feeling of seeing a brand new bicycle when I was six years old and thinking it had to be a dream.
Some wishes, though, seemed destined to remain a distant dream. Take, for example, the pony phase.
Virtually every little girl on earth goes through the pony phase.
“Mom, can I have a pony?”
“When do I get old enough for a pony?”
“You know what we need? A pony!”
And virtually every little girl on earth hears the standard responses.
“We don’t have room for a pony.”
“Ponies are expensive and they’re a lot of work.”
“You’re not old enough for a pony.”
During my pony phase, I heard them all. That wasn’t going to stop me from asking for one for Christmas, though. I knew I’d keep hearing the same answers, but a girl can dream, right?
So, I took my appeal to a higher power. I wrote a letter to the big guy himself.
Yes, I wrote a letter to the head honcho…the wish-granter…the red-suited miracle worker himself. The MAN.
I can’t be completely certain about this, but I don’t think my letter ever made it to the North Pole. And why would I think this? Well, because I still heard the standard pony responses from my parents and I just knew Santa wouldn’t ignore my request. After all, Santa Claus makes the magic happen, right? I mean, I was a believer! Santa was the MAN! I dutifully left out milk and cookies for him each and every year, and I continued to defend his very existence every time someone tried to make the schoolyard argument that he wasn’t…you know, real.
Well, the years began to go by faster and faster and I had a lot of great gift requests fulfilled (many by Mr. Claus himself, of course). However, my pony had still never materialized. In the end, I accepted it and decided it was probably a good thing. After all, that pony never would have fit in my dorm room in college or in any of the places I’ve lived since then.
A couple of years back, I started thinking about the gift that got away and realized that I still hadn’t heard from the big guy about it. (I still suspected a “clerical error,” and by “clerical error” I mean that a certain parent or two pulled a Ralphie-and-Mrs.-Shields-Style-What-I-Want-For-Christmas conspiracy.)
So, I revisited my thoughts of Christmas past…just because.
I had a little chuckle over it and went about my regularly-scheduled holiday season, which was chaotic, as usual. I went through that season and the next, and here we are in good ol’ 2017.
I’m a band director, and I’ve grown accustomed to spending many holidays with the band at Christmas parades. 2017 has been no exception.
Our first Christmas parade of the season turned out to be quite interesting.
We discovered that our position in the parade lineup was much farther back than we had ever been–next to last entry, as a matter of fact! This meant that we would be waiting (on the coldest day of the year) for a very long time. However, this also meant that we were directly in front of the holiday stars themselves…
Santa and Mrs. Claus.
I noticed their float down the block while I was attempting to keep my toes thawed. Very festive, very Christmas-y. About fifteen minutes before we marched off, their float pulled in behind us. After a minute or two, I heard it.
I looked up, and Mrs. Claus was motioning to me.
(How do you like that? Mrs. Claus wanted to visit with me!)
We chatted for a few minutes (being old frien…umm, new acquaintances and all), and I was just about to return to my post when I brought up an old subject.
I told Mrs. Claus about my unfulfilled wish.
“Say, I asked for a pony sometime in the eighties and it never quite got to me.” Smile, wink.
Mrs. Claus just laughed, and we waved at one another and headed back to our places. Merry Christmas, nice seeing you, et cetera.
About two weeks later, I was in my classroom wrapping up some loose ends before the holiday break…when my phone rang.
“Ms. Garland, you have a package down here when you have the chance to come by.”
“Oh, okay,” I replied.
I haven’t ordered anything lately. Hmmm.
It was a Christmas gift. In a very large bag.
A card was attached. To protect the identity…err, conceal the handwriting, I’ll type out portions of the beautifully handwritten card:
When I spoke to you…my heart was broken that I had somehow missed your request some years ago…I went back to my archives (you should know that I keep every letter from every child!) and I couldn’t seem to find yours…I hope this fulfilled, late request brings some happiness to this year’s Christmas season!
Love, Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus
I opened the bag.
My own pony.
Naturally, we’re making up for lots of lost time.
Christmas wishes can and do come true, even if they’re sometimes a few decades late. Merry Christmas!