This February in Arkansas has been quite sweaty. The trees have been confused enough to go ahead and bring out their spring wardrobes.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I hate mosquitoes. I’ve been concerned, because if the daffodils and whatnot were already making their appearances in MID-FEBRUARY, exactly how big are the vicious, blood-sucking monster mosquitoes going to be this summer?
Or…is it a non-issue? Let’s say the upward trend in daytime highs continues and the temperature decides to average out at a toasty 350 degrees this August. Mosquitoes (and human beings) probably can’t survive at oven-room-temperature. (It’s good for that cake I’ve been meaning to make, though.) We could ask our friends on Venus for advice since they stay a tad warmer than that, but–wait, we have no friends on Venus. It’s uninhabitable thanks to a few factors…temperature being but one of them.
So…would someone please turn on the air conditioning?
I woke up today to typical February temperatures, but it was a bit odd feeling that chilly and looking out the window at the blooms. I get the impression that I’m going to be knitting blankets for the tulip trees soon. Because, as we all know, some of the worst winter storms can still occur in Arkansas in March. I don’t want that to be the case, but the past several years have taught us a few lessons.
I’m not quite sure what to make of this alternative winter. I just hope the mosquitoes aren’t the size of pickup trucks by June.
When you pause to think about technological advances and inventions, I’d venture to guess that you’re likely to picture the most complex, intricate, electronically-based products on the market, right?
Doesn’t anyone feel a little bit sorry for simple inventions and innovations that don’t receive the credit they are due these days? I’m talking about the little things that you use and take for granted that someone had to think of and develop before you were allowed the convenience of their use.
Let’s start with…
Lint Rollers. You mean, it’s okay to put the tape on the outside of the roll? And it’ll pick up unwanted lint off of your clothing? Sign me up for one of those!
2. The Gel Mask. These are great for headaches…and interplanetary travel fashion, should we get around to that technological leap anytime soon. It’s also a great conversation starter for…anyone fluent in creating awkward situations.
3. Fire. (Okay, so this one wasn’t so much an invention as it was a discovery. Still, we can trace lots of stuff that we didn’t have at one time back to fire. You’ve all seen fire, so I shouldn’t have to provide a picture. Moving forward…)
4. Coffee. Again, another discovery. Probably the most important discovery in my life today. I owe many productive mornings to coffee. Of course, I also owe many sleepless nights to coffee consumed too late in the evening, but its overall contributions cannot be ignored. (Perhaps I should have written more about the coffee maker than coffee itself, since coffee actually was a discovery and the process by which we are able to brew and consume coffee is more likely to be considered an invention although I did say I was only going to discuss simple inventions even though I ventured into discoveries and this is quite possibly the longest run-on sentence I’ve written since the third grade. And I owe it all to coffee. Oh, wait. The label says it’s decaf. I guess I just need to edit my sentences better in the future.)
This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it’s a start, right?
I’ve heard of plenty of people who claim to live with no regrets, but I’m not sure I completely believe them. Not only that, but I’ve been thinking (a.k.a. confusing myself) about a bigger question when it comes to regret:
Which do you regret more? The things you didn’t do…or the things you did?
Decorative wall art pieces are full of inspirational quotes about taking chances because living with the regret of not doing something can eat away at your soul (or something like that).
However, how often do you see bathroom wall art telling you about the other side of that sentiment? (One would think the bathroom is a logical place to regret something you did do…like ordering tainted meat for dinner. Too much information? Sorry. I regret sharing that thought with you now. See? I regret something I just did. But I digress…)
It really is an interesting question (particularly for someone as meticulously observant as myself).
Now, I’m not talking about the really big decisions like moving to another continent or dropping everything to become a professional boxer (or something like that). I’m talking about the everyday decisions we make that usually aren’t the decisions the wall artists are writing about.
I say that we need to examine the basic stuff you regret actually doing almost immediately…even when your gut says, “Take a chance!”
Say, how about a list?
Simple Things That People Usually Regret Once They Have Already Done Them:
New Haircuts/Hairstyles. EVERYONE has at least one regrettable decision they’ve made about a haircut or style. Mine was a perm. I was sixteen. My hairdresser tried to stop me, but I was being stubborn. It wouldn’t be the first or last time I made a questionable hair decision.
2. Fashion Choices. You only thought whatever was “in style” looked good at the time because, by golly, a magazine told you it was “in style.”
3. Playing With A Small Animal With Sharp Teeth. Just go ahead and add this to your list of stuff you will regret immediately if you do it. I have no photographic evidence of this one, but I was five, the hamster bit my finger, I wasn’t supposed to be playing with him in the first place, and I tried to doctor the wound without telling anyone. (Mercurochrome was bright red. I didn’t do a very good job of hiding that little problem.)
Without getting too sentimental, I will say that I have taken a chance on at least one thing I do not regret and I’m glad I’m working on it…photography. I also don’t regret this shameless plug for my Etsy photography shop.
I get it–everyone has something major in their life that they feel they need to do in order to avoid regret for not taking the chance later. But, you have to admit, you’ve probably made plenty of small decisions that leave you with small pieces of regret.
As long as they’re funny enough to laugh at later, maybe it isn’t such a bad idea to take the chance.
(By the way, I don’t regret writing this. Not yet, anyway. I don’t think. Maybe. Possibly. Potentially.)
I recently heard a statistic that approximately one-third of gifts given during the holidays are eventually returned.
Now, I know times are changing. And I know that people often give receipts with their gifts in the event that something is the wrong size or if you needed something different.
However, the idea of returning a gift goes against everything I was taught about Christmas etiquette as a child.
I remember one lesson in particular. (And I’m going to keep things generic here.) I had received a gift just before Christmas (we’ll call it Gift A) that could only be used by another gift (henceforth known as Gift B) that I did not have and did not know–at the time–that I would be receiving for Christmas. So, I did what any eight-year-old would do…I blurted it out.
“But…I don’t have a Gift B! I can’t play Gift A without a Gift B!”
I found myself being picked up very quickly and taken from the room very quickly for a not-so-quick lecture about accepting the gift you are given–graciously–and remembering that it’s the thought that counts. It’s not all about “me, me, ME!”
You wouldn’t return a hand-crafted, construction-paper-and-macaroni card from a five-year-old, would you? (If you said “yes,” I urge you to put the sarcasm on hold for five minutes and think about how you felt when you made a paper clip necklace for a treasured adult in your life when you were a kid and they never wore it because it didn’t match their sweater…but I digress…)
Yes, it might be a cliche, but the thought really does count. The best gifts I receive each year are usually the simplest ones. Handwritten letters and cards are awesome! Even a rock can be a great gift if the person who gave it was being thoughtful (and they weren’t throwing it directly at your face).
Furthermore, the gift you receive from giving is probably the greatest of all. I love to watch other people open the gifts I give them because of the thought I’ve put into each one for each person.
So, before you go asking for a receipt to return that gift you just received that you didn’t need before you got it anyway, think about the person and the thoughts behind it.
When I graduated college, I had to be difficult and graduate about a week before Christmas. (I actually managed to make that happen twice. My apologies to my family for the inconvenience. For the purposes of this story, however, I’ll be referring to my first holiday season graduation. It’s the one where I thought I knew everything, for future reference.)
My last experience with playing in the college pep band was a very memorable one. I remember lots of stuff, so I have to distinguish from different levels or memorability. This one qualifies as “Very Memorable” on a scale from “Memorable” to “I-Desperately-Wish-I-Could-Forget.”
As I took my place in the stands one final time and looked out across the basketball arena, I decided to live for that moment and enjoy the rest of the crazy ride. I didn’t know that by the end of the night I would have conducted the band in which I was playing…and made an utter fool of myself on the basketball court in the presence of a few thousand witnesses.
Let’s start with the high point of the afternoon, shall we?
The student conductor knew it was my last game–indeed, I believe I was the only December graduate in the group that semester–and she called me down to the front to conduct a simple tune. I grinned from ear to ear the entire time.
But…you didn’t come here to read a story about the stuff that went well. No, no. Everyone wants to read about the stuff that went wrong.
I’m not, nor have I ever been, anything other than petite. In college, I was extra petite. The so-called “Freshman Fifteen” had been more like five for me, and my arms have never exactly looked like anything other than sticks.
But, being as stubborn as I am to prove that I can do anything anyone else can do, I jumped at the chance when someone from the event staff at the ballgame found out it was my last game and asked me to volunteer to throw out free t-shirts to the crowd from the basketball court.
So, I followed the bubbly young lady down to the sidelines as she handed me a gray t-shirt tied into a knot.
“Okay, your job is to pump up the crowd and when they start waving their arms like crazy, throw this t-shirt. Oh, and throw it as far as you can.”
“No problem!” I said, looking at the shirt in my hands and thinking that I was going to send the thing sailing. After all, it had a big knot in it, so I was going to have no trouble launching it to the cheap seats.
When the buzzer sounded, I followed the other volunteers down to the court, grinning like crazy and yelling like a fool while waving the knotted t-shirt over my head. I spotted a gentleman about ten rows up who seemed really interested in winning a t-shirt for the child who was with him. I looked around. All of the other volunteers had thrown theirs already while I was still trying to make a decision.
“Hey! Over here!” yelled the man in the crowd.
With all the strength I could muster, I pulled my arm back into my best major-league windup.
And I threw the shirt.
As hard as I could.
And then the knot broke free.
The t-shirt unfurled, waving through the climate-controlled breeze in a manner that would have made an American flag jealous.
(I could swear I watched this part in slow-motion.)
I saw it sailing majestically through the air, doing its awe-inspiring dance as it fluttered towards the stands…
…falling gracefully to the floor a whole three feet in front of me.
The man in the crowd started laughing hysterically.
I shook my head, pouting as I reached for the shirt and half-heartedly tossed it towards the first row.
I received my degree for Christmas that year, but, evidently, there were still a few things I needed to work on. Inner strength counts for a lot, but upper body strength had suddenly moved much higher on the list.
I love to dance. Whether I’m any good at it or not–and I’m probably not–I’m going to get down with my bad self on the dance floor when the opportunity arises. (Honestly, the whole world is a dance floor as far as I’m concerned. The music might even exist only in my head. If that’s wrong, I don’t wanna be right.)
Shoes are part of the equation. If the shoes aren’t comfortable, I usually end up kicking them off and dealing with the hazards of being barefoot rather than enduring ill-fitting footwear.
I learned a lesson once about taking the time to make careful decisions about footwear. I’ll preface the story by saying I was in college, I was in a hurry, and I made a snap decision in the process.
(Much quicker than that snap decision.)
To make a long story shorter, I wanted a pair of shoes to go with a new skirt. I was out of town for the weekend and trying to get back home by a certain time. I started running out of time, but, by golly, I really wanted a new pair of shoes. So, I went into a shoe store and noticed a really cute pair of open-toe-something-or-others (I don’t know fashion too well…I just know what I like).
I picked up one of the shoes in the box–a left shoe. No problem, I thought, and I slipped off my left shoe to try on the new left shoe. Instead of taking out the other shoe to try it on, I figured that if the left foot fit, the other one would be fine. I made a quick hobble up and down the aisle wearing the new shoe on my left foot and my old shoe on the right one.
Fits just fine, I thought. I put my other shoe back on, threw the new one back in its box, and rushed to check out. Two shoes in the box, an exchange of money, and I was back in my car headed home.
A few hours later, I wanted to try on the entire ensemble I had purchased. I reached in the box to put on my new shoes. The left shoe was the one I picked up first.
Then, I picked up another left shoe.
That’s when I finally started thinking.
Hold on a second. I’m holding two left shoes and I don’t have any more shoes in the box. I’m not a math major, but something doesn’t add up here…
My next thought was pure vanity.
How stupid am I going to look going back to the store to exchange two left shoes? What are they gonna do? Give me two rights to make up for the wrongs while they’re laughing?
I’d bought the shoes in a chain store, so I took my two left feet and my receipt to the customer service desk at my hometown location.
Yes, they looked at me like I was crazy.
The bigger problem was that those shoes were out of stock locally, which left me with the option of getting my money back…or being stubborn and trying to make both left shoes fit.
I’m an American. So, according to popular culture, I also consume mass quantities of bacon.
Do I like bacon? Yes, I do like bacon. I have my preference on how it’s cooked, though.
I like my bacon crispy. Crunchy, even. Something I can eat from the palm of my hand without worrying about cleanup.
I don’t, however, like my hair cooked in the same manner.
I found out this morning that a few little quirks my hair dryer had been showing off lately weren’t just little cutesy personality issues.
And it almost came at the expense of my safety.
First, it stopped midway through my daily drying. It had done the same thing a few times in the past, but it always revved back up to do its job. And since I’m a cheapskate, I wasn’t about to go buying a new hair dryer just because this one decided to stop working approximately 33.3333333% of the time.
As it started back up again, I turned my head upside down to add a little volume. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw what I thought was a bug.
Gee, I thought. This is the wrong time of year for lightning bugs.
I kept going, but then I saw a few more “lightning bugs” and realized that the stinkin’ hair dryer was throwing sparks. A couple of flashes of light and one teeny, tiny, toasty little spot on the back of my scalp later, it whimpered and gave off its last breath.
The smell was really interesting. (By the way, my scalp is fine. I just had one little spot that felt like, well, I had been popped with hot bacon grease.)
So, it was time to add an unplanned item to my “List O’ Things To Buy Today.”
You’re probably thinking, “It’s just a hair dryer. No big deal.”
Well, I have a few considerations to…consider.
First of all, I have really, really thick hair. Every hair dresser I’ve even been to has said the same thing.
“You have really thick hair.”
(That’s a lie. One of them said, “Your hair holds water really well.” I didn’t quite know if it was a statement, a compliment, or a sly plan by a doomsday prepper eyeing a plot on my scalp for water storage in the event of a disaster.)
So, whatever hair drying device I purchase has to have some serious power.
After a little bit of searching this morning after my regular grocery run, I think I found it.
My hair (and scalp) are in good shape now, thank you. Maybe I’ll see if I can revive the old hair dryer for the sole purpose cooking crispy, flame-kissed bacon.
Fall is (slightly) in the air, and with it comes shorter days, cooler nights, pumpkin spice oxygen, and Halloween.
I was thinking about some of my old Halloween costumes a few days ago, and I realized that out of all the areas in my life in which I strive for perfection, I’ve been sadly lacking in creativity in this department.
Nearly every Halloween costume I wore between the ages of 8 and 12 looked remarkably like witch costumes. They were common, repetitive, and definitely within the format of “frightening” in the spirit of the holiday. (If you factor in this year’s creepy clown craze, my peppy little clown costume at the age of 7 might fit the “frightening” category; alas, it was still a rather common choice at the time, thus reinforcing my lack of creativity.)
I dressed up a couple of times in high school and college, but I can’t think of anything I did that I would classify as overtly “creative.”
In fact, I have only two costumes that I believe would qualify as being creative enough worth mentioning.
The first was on my return trip through college. I had been invited to a party, so I did what any self-respecting, late-twenty-something on a major budget would do…dug through the closet and got resourceful. When I discovered that I own as much plaid as a kilt factory, a 1970s anchorwoman was born.
The other was just a few years ago. I had decided to put together a costume based around my love of puns. Since everyone loves a superhero, The Pun-isher was the result.
I really would like to try harder this year. I have a few ideas, but the only spare “time” I have around the house is…this.
Perhaps I should carve out some time…just not from the wood furniture.
Best of luck to all of you out there who are putting together your Halloween costumes.
*By the way, in case you’re still trying to find all of the puns in the Pun-isher costume–a shoe fly, the bee’s knees, an Arkan-saw (from a set of toy tools), green with envy (green tape labeled with the letters NV), a belly button, cold shoulder, chip on the shoulder, an ear of corn, and, although you can’t see it, the cape says “Cape Canaveral.” The tool belt also contained a toy hammer labeled “TIME.”
My friends will often stop me mid-conversation and ask, “Gee, Meticulously Observant Observer. Where do you get your inspiration?”
Then I wake up and realize that I’m dreaming. (Possibly daydreaming…although I don’t know when I would have the time for that. The fact that most people call me by my real name is a dead giveaway that I’m making up this entire conversation.)
If anyone did ask me that question, though, I’d have to say that most of my inspiration can be gathered from my favorite set of right-handed ink pens.
Although they aren’t marketed as such, they still serve a right-handed function when I pick them up. Hence, they are my favorite right-handed ink pens.
“But, how can a pen possibly provide you with inspiration?”
Well, since you (most likely didn’t) ask, I’ll just say that it’s a whole lot easier for me to pick up my favorite right-handed ink pen and write something when I have an idea than it is to wait for my computer to get going.
“But…the pen really didn’t provide any inspiration then, did it? It was just…there.”
True. I suppose I’m much more likely to turn an idea into an inspired idea when I have my favorite set of right-handed ink pens with me, though. Otherwise, the idea might just float away, gone forever.
“You’re confusing me. Can we talk about something else?
O…kay. Did I mention that I won more ribbons at the fair this year for photography?
“Oh, that’s nice. So…where do you get your inspiration for the photos?”
A preview of an Arkansas fall. A vivid blue sky, brilliant sunshine, birds singing.
Such a beautiful day in such sharp contrast to the horrors that began to unfold many miles from here.
The story of someone who was as physically far-removed from the event as I was is hardly remarkable, although the country had millions such stories to share that day. I was another distant witness among millions of Americans who became connected that day by a common, surreal thread.
As a country, we had been attacked on our own soil.
The details have been documented thoroughly over the past fifteen years. It was a very heavily documented event as it was happening.
And while we must keep the details of that day in our memories, the emotions of living through that time are what today’s average teenagers will not know.
I was twenty years old on that day and loving everything about being twenty years old, beginning to look ahead to life beyond college.
Then, every sense of what I thought life was going to look like began to unravel. Rumors were rampant during that day and in the following weeks. While no one can ever predict the future, September 11, 2001 was not following any rational routine. We can look back and piece together the timelines, but living the uncertainties that day was, in a word, frightening.
What kind of world were we going to have on September 12? The 13th? A year later? You cannot begin to envision these things when nothing makes sense.
I remember a somber heaviness on what had started out as a stunningly beautiful late summer day. Even if the birds were still singing, I didn’t hear them. I remember rehearsing with the band later that week and finishing the “Star-Spangled Banner” as two fire trucks raced past our field, sirens blaring, with their huge American flags waving in the air as they sped down the street. No one said a word.
I remember starting to see planes back in the skies, and the first small steps forward in our new reality.
Fifteen years later, it’s still hard to believe it happened. But, we must pause today to remember and to honor those who were lost on that horrific day.