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!
Malcolm Gladwell is widely attributed to popularizing the so-called “10,000 Hour Rule.” (I’m a very big fan of his work; if you have the chance to read any of his books, I highly recommend them. He based the “10,000 Hour Rule” on a study by Anders Ericsson.) For those who are not familiar with the concept, the general idea is that mastery in any one particular field or discipline requires at least 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice.”
Of course, this “rule” is up for debate, as are many theories in the social sciences. Still, if I took it as an absolute rule, then it could get interesting for someone like me.
Why, you ask?
Well, as a self-proclaimed Meticulously Observant Observer, that title carries with it a (ridiculously impossible to fulfill) degree of perfectionism. Not only that, but I’m interested in lots of different subjects and activities. I don’t like doing anything halfway. I want to do things right.
I’m no math surgeon, but according to my (probably inaccurate) calculations, you obviously can’t achieve those hours in one year…unless you really can add hours to the day and you spend absolutely every waking hour devoted to one discipline. Not particularly practical.
Annnnnddddd…I’ve identified at least four disciplines that I pursue regularly outside of work.
If I want to be really serious about four of my specific pursuits, I figure I should start the mathematical breakdown with the disciplines I’ve been involved with the longest: writing and music.
Let’s start with writing.
According to my parents, I was able to read at the age of eighteen months. Writing followed soon thereafter. It was ugly, but it was writing. So, in factoring in my age and the number of hours I spent in classrooms throughout my formal education, I should probably be in good shape on that one.
However, was it all “deliberate practice?” Probably not. Passing notes to my classmates isn’t likely to fit the bill. Hitting every key on the typewriter just to see what it would look like on paper…nope. Besides, all writers know their work is never completely mastered, so this one is likely to be a lifelong pursuit without any kind of designated time frame.
So, moving on…
Let’s add music to the mix. I started playing the piano when I was five years old.
Once again, if I factor in my age, I should be well on my way. Not so fast, though. I didn’t just learn the piano, you see. I’ve spent some decades on the trumpet as well. And I had to learn other band instruments to a level of proficiency required to teach them in my current profession. Remembering that music is always a work in progress…yup, there’s another lifelong pursuit to add to the writing.
But wait…there’s more!
Photography. I started to get serious about photography about eight years ago. That would make it one of my later pursuits. Since I work, eat, sleep, write, and work on music as well…we’re starting to rack up some serious hours here.
Oh, and let’s not forget knitting. I really enjoy knitting. Another of my newer activities.
That makes four. Four disciplines, forty-thousand hours.
Assuming that I live at least as long as the average lifespan for an American woman, once I’ve totaled up all of these hours (carrying the one, multiplying by x, and accounting for sleep, laundry, work, channel surfing, reading, eating, proper grooming, staring into space, socializing, being placed on hold with the cable company, family obligations, waiting at the DMV, sitting at stoplights, travel, home maintenance, airport delays, the occasional illness, and other unforeseen circumstances), I think I can expect to be an expert on all four of these disciplines approximately thirty minutes after my funeral service is completed.
What are some disciplines you would like to master, and how long would you think you’ve been working on them? Do you think that any of this kind of work is ever done? I think there’s always room for improvement, but that could just be my perfectionism speaking. In any event, I should probably be working on something…