An Unconventional Bucket List: Twelve Items

Bucket List CatMost people have a bucket list consisting of typical, grandiose wishes…skydiving, climbing a really big mountain, flossing at least once a year.

I’ve never been one to completely follow a crowd, so I’m sharing my unconventional bucket list with you.

List Of Things To Do Before…You Know, THAT Happens

(I’m hoping I have a good 80-90 more years to work through this list. I never said I was good at math, but that should give me plenty of time…and the world record for being really old…)

1. Order a No. 3.5 at Wendy’s just to see what you end up with.

2. Name a dog “Flea Market.”

3. Run twelve hair dryers at once.

4. Take an emergency electrical repair class immediately after completion of Item No. 3.

5. Pass out business cards with nothing except a stick figure on the front.

6. Eat Jell-O with chopsticks.

7. Leash-train a bird.

8. Put a stamp on an email.

9. Ask a loan officer for thirty-seven cents.

10. Ride a tandem bicycle alone.

11. Invent Formula 410.

12. Spearhead a successful campaign to restore proper use of possessive pronouns and apostrophes.

So…anything else?

A View: All This Nature

The Natural State really lives up to its name. We have no shortage of stunning views and opportunities for immersion in the outdoors. I recently had the chance to take a brief evening trip up to a place I’ve enjoyed many times over the years.

Petit Jean Mountain is a highly unique geographic feature of the Arkansas landscape. My little car had a few Casey Junior “I-Think-I-Can” moments as it chugged its way up the twisting road (even though I wasn’t pulling several cars full of elephants…it’s a steep highway and the horses under the hood probably would have been terribly winded trying to hike it, much less approach the speed limit…but I digress…).

She'll be coming 'round the mountain...together, now!
She’ll be coming ’round the mountain…all together, now!

I’m always impressed with the views from atop Petit Jean. Even a cloudy or hazy or BLAZING HOT day is worth the trip. (For the record, it was a hazy, BLAZING HOT day.) I’ll admit, while I knew I was unprepared to do any serious hiking, I was also unprepared just to simply walk around in the heat. It was a last-minute decision to actually make the little road trip, and I ran off without my water bottle. By the time I made it to the lodge, I parked and went directly towards the vending machines. As luck would have it, the machine spent a lot of time spinning its wheels only to tell me that everything was sold out. Fortunately, it refunded my paper money–in the form of quarters and nickels–and I went into the lodge to buy a bottle of ice cold water with change (my apologies to the clerk).

If I hadn't been so thirsty, I might not have stuck around too long to capture this photo. Thank you, Arkansas humidity!
If I hadn’t been so thirsty, I might not have stuck around the lodge long enough to capture this photo. Thank you, Arkansas humidity!

Of course, with it being the summer tourist season, I wasn’t the only person sightseeing–far from it. When I reached the overlook, a few other cars pulled into the parking lot, including a family of awestruck adults and two very bored small children. I can only assume that the kids were suffering from acute electronics withdrawal…a common syndrome these days.

Lost Phone Meme
This is just an assumption…but the struggle is real.

The parents were gazing down across the breathtaking landscape, taking in the view. The kids were less than impressed.

The conversation cracked me up.

Kid No. 1: “Why did Petit Jean wanna come all the way up here?”

Mom: Silence…snaps photo of river.

Kid No. 2: “Moooooom! Why did Petit Jean want to come all the way up here?”

Mom: “I don’t know. Maybe she liked it here.”

Kid No. 1: “What are we doing all the way up here?”

Dad: “We’re looking at all this nature.”

I suppressed my laughter, spent a few more minutes looking at “all this nature,” and rolled back down the mountain, becoming a mere speck on the landscape to the spectators on top of Petit Jean.

(A boring little speck, I’m sure…)

A Summer’s Tale: Pest Control

I know that many people are worried about mosquitoes this summer, and rightfully so. They are disease-ridden, foul-mouthed, vile little critters.

Dirty Needle Mosquito

To compound the situation, 2016 in Arkansas could be classified (so far) as “The Year It Rained.”

(Author’s Note: I’m not trying to make light of the serious problems we have going on involving mosquitoes. However, that doesn’t mean that mosquitoes are any less of the annoying nuisances that they have been in the past, and this is the part of their personalities on which I will be focusing in this here blog post.)

You can find mosquitoes all over Arkansas, but insofar as I can tell, none are as vicious as the ones who reside in the Delta.

Let me preface this by saying that I love my friends in the Ozarks. However, the next time one of my friends in the Ozarks complains about the two mosquitoes that gave them one bite last summer, I want to show them a picture of a Velociraptor and explain to them that the creature in the photo only represents a tenth of the ferocity of the evil, blood-sucking, soul-stealing Delta monsters that bring thirty-five hundred of their friends to carry you somewhere over the rainbow on any day that ends in “y” between the months of May and October.

Whew.

On second thought, I could just invite them over for a few days so that they can get the full experience.

I’ve seen the mosquitoes in the hills, and I’m not even sure they qualify as mosquitoes. In fact, they just look to me like slightly bigger gnats.

I feel that I’m qualified to make this distinction since I have lived in both the Ozarks and the Delta. Face it–your citronella candles are useless here.

Try this. You'll get used to the popping sound.
Try this. It looks just like a tennis racquet, but you’ll get used to the popping sound. What could possibly go wrong?

I’m trying to decide what kind of habits I should adopt this year to minimize my contact with the bugs. I’ve come up with three possibilities.

1. Dress in “beekeeper chic.” (See also radiation suit.)

2. Keep the fans, air conditioning, and vacuum running constantly. The combination should make it difficult for a mosquito to find a landing site.

And…the most practical option…

3. Do the best I can and hope it’ll turn out okay.

I think I’ll go lather up with my favorite summertime perfume: Eau de Off.

A Definition: Essential Oils

Essential oils are awfully popular these days, don’t you think?

My question is twofold: If they’re so essential, then how have I managed to make it all this time without them? And what is an essential oil?

I suppose one answer to the first question is that I’m a lady but I’m not exactly girly. I like wearing dresses and skirts, but I don’t care for spending all of my spare time shopping for them. I didn’t get my first pedicure until I was 31 years old and I was reluctant to ever get another one after I left about half of the skin on my right heel on a nail technician’s cheese (foot) grater.

I’m also the skinniest person you’ll ever meet who subsists on a steady diet of pizza and hamburgers. I have a multivitamin in my medicine cabinet, so I assumed I was covered in the “essentials” department. (From A to Zinc.) Therefore, a health-nut or fashionista-type trend probably would go unnoticed in my world until it was about to go out of style.

I figured it was time to bring Webster into the equation for some good ol’ definitions.

Noah Webster
There he is. Found him. Noah Webster. The dictionary guy.

The definition of an essential oil (from what I could find on the internets) is an oil that that smells like the plant it comes from. The “essence” is the characteristic fragrance of the plant from whence it came.

I’m not satisfied with that, though. Being a words person (and self-proclaimed Meticulously Observant Observer), I decided to break down the nomenclature (ooh, a big word–thanks, Noah Webster) and determine exactly what an essential oil is. I’ve taken what I have deemed as the most appropriate definition¬†for each word (where multiple examples are provided) and listed them below:

essential (adj.): extremely important and necessary

oil (n.): a thick, black liquid that comes from the ground and that is used in making various products (such as gasoline)

Well, then. According to these definitions, the most essential oil in my life appears to be motor oil. It gets me to and fro each day…in an indirect manner, but, still…it’s much more essential to my day-to-day routine than smelling like a botanical garden.

You have to admit, they are nice...
Okay, you do have to admit that they’re nice…

Not that smelling like a botanical garden is a bad thing. Quite the contrary–I really like the idea. I just don’t think it’s as “essential” as the word suggests it is.

A Painting Party: No Numbers Required

Painting parties have recently gained popularity, and I’ve gladly surrendered to the trend. You say someone with no painting skills whatsoever can create art on a canvas without the use of numbers? Sign me up!

Granted, I was a gifted finger painting artist in my toddler years. I could write my name beautifully into brightly-colored paint on a large sheet of butcher paper. (I guess I’ve always been a “words” person.) However, once we graduated to watercolors and paintbrushes in kindergarten, I failed to paint anything that even the most sympathetic abstract artist could recognize.

Are they happy little birds? It would be a major letdown if those birds aren't happy.
Are they happy little birds? Because it would be a major letdown if those birds aren’t happy.

I take that back. I did once paint a watercolor picture of an Ag Cat to settle a backyard basketball game tie. (Yeah, kid rules make no sense. Painting to settle a basketball game? The other kid asked me to do it because he didn’t think I knew what an Ag Cat was. Well, one of the upsides of being a news junkie from birth is that I was always awake early enough to watch the farm reports. I used all the yellow paint and I won the “game.”)

I now have two paintings from two trips to painting parties. And they closely resemble the model paintings, I’m proud to say. I just listened carefully and followed their step-by-step instructions.

However, I’m not naive enough to believe that I can call myself a painter. I’m just good at following directions. Heaven forbid I’m asked to paint an actual model or a portrait by memory.

I never got the hang of portraits.
I don’t think I’ll ever get the hang of painting portraits.

I may not be a real painter, but I’m sure I’ll go to more painting parties because they’re fun. After all, Bob Ross didn’t call it “The Joy of Painting” for nothing.

A Book Review: Webster’s Thesaurus

The mark of an excellent (marvelous, fine, wonderful, superior) publication (book, manual, treatise) has a great deal to do with the compelling anecdote (story, tale) contained within its covers.

With that in mind, I’m not thoroughly (entirely, totally, completely) certain (sure, assured) why or how “Webster’s Thesaurus” has attained (achieved, acquired, reached) the level of popularity–in terms of sales–that it has.

Here’s a fair warning to anyone looking for a quick (swift, speedy, brisk) read–it’s a tedious, burdensome task with no clear plot line or structure (framework, arrangement). While you will likely notice (observe, perceive, recognize) an immediate expansion (broadening, inflation) of your vocabulary, your social circle might dwindle (wane, decrease, diminish) under the increasingly frustrating weight of trying to decipher (determine, translate) your most basic conversational language.

I'm afraid to look for another word for "thesaurus." I fear that the universe would implode.
I’m still afraid to look for another word for “thesaurus.” I fear that the universe would implode.

And…I still haven’t figured out how it ends. “Zoom” seems an like odd last word for a book (see also publication).

Final review…wait for the movie.

A Brief Thought: Wordsmithery

I like words.

Aww, a girl and her dictionary.
Aww, how cute. A girl and her dictionary.

Let me rephrase that…I like MOST words.

I’ve come up with a very short list of words that I like and dislike for various reasons.

*Disclaimer: As always, the views I write are just my opinion and should not be taken as the gospel. This post is intended for entertainment purposes…nothing more, nothing less. Void where prohibited. No refunds after 30 days. Play ball.

Words I Can Do Without:

1) Diminutive. Why should a word to describe something small be so large? Suggested alternatives: teeny, tiny, little. See also “petite.”

2) Tort. I took one whole business law class in college. I read a lot of John Grisham. I have no problem with the word itself, per se, but I’d rather see it with “-illa” attached to the end. That sounds good. Suggested alternatives: tortilla. (Nothing so right can possibly be a wrong.)

3) Fabulous. I’m blaming, oh, say, the turn of the millennium for this one. It appeared in so many different television shows at the time that I’ve lost count. It’s somewhat…aloof, perhaps? (This is, of course, assuming that words have personalities.) Suggested alternatives: wonderful, terrific.

Words I Can Live With:

1) Petite. It’s such a perky little word, don’t you think? As a petite person, I approve.

2) Amazing. Although this one does tend to conjure up images of childhood magic shows, it’s a handy adjective to keep in your arsenal.

3) Pleasant. Speaks for itself. Reminds me of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Aww.

Yes, I like words. I guess I even like the ones I don’t.

An Observation: Selling Yards

Each season brings its own set of expectations.

In the fall, at least every other house on your street is required to proudly display the flag of their favorite college football team.

In the early days of winter, you expect to have at least one neighbor that will go completely overboard with Christmas decorations a full two months before December 25.

Yeah, what they said.
Yeah, what they said.

In the springtime, everyone puts their yards on sale. Sometimes, they even sell their garages…or rummage. (Wait a sec…perhaps I’m misinterpreting the nature of the sales.)

From the "Poor Choice of Words" Department...
They’re selling WHAT?!? (From the “Poor Choice of Words” Department…)

Okay, so no one is actually selling their yard…they just put all of their old stuff on display in their yard and hope someone will come take it off their hands.

And we all know that you can mark and label prices all you want, but someone–usually a retiree who wakes up at five a.m. on a Saturday for the express purpose of practicing their haggling skills–will talk you into selling that glass goldfish figurine you bought in 1987 at a 90 percent discount off your asking price of seventy-five cents.

Due to an interesting set of circumstances, I spent roughly one-fourth of my thirtieth year of existence living at my mother’s house. (Relax. I had a “real” job, but I needed a place to live temporarily. No “living-in-my-mother’s-basement” cliches here. She’s never even had a basement anyway.)

As the springtime came, I was preparing to move out of town into my own place again, so we decided to have a yard sale. We dug through closets and piled up old clothes and knick-knacks and advertised an early Saturday morning clearance blowout.

Mom had a few old plastic tarps that we used to set out our merchandise. Whatever we didn’t sell, we would simply fold up into the tarps, drag them off the front lawn, and store them in the garage for another attempt on another day. She didn’t think she had enough tarps, so–unbeknownst to me–she went out and bought a box of large plastic drop cloths…just in case. We used some of our yard sale items to weigh down the corners of the tarps because the wind was blowing just enough to cause problems.

One of our makeshift paperweights was the box of drop cloths.

(Pay attention. That little detail is important to the story later.)

We lived a little bit off the beaten path, but it was a nice, quiet subdivision nonetheless, so we didn’t think attracting potential buyers would be too difficult. Besides, yard sale people in rural Arkansas can sniff out a bargaining opportunity from at least fifty miles away.

As the morning started, traffic was slow, to say the least. A household much closer to the main highway had also chosen that particular morning to sell their wares, diverting some of our expected customers. Still, we did see a few people, but no one was particularly interested in my old paperback of Rudyard Kipling’s “Captains Courageous” or the answering machine I used in college.

Hey, collector's item there. Those folks missed out.
Collector’s item here. Those folks missed out. (Photo courtesy of www.wisegeek.com)

During the incredible lull that was our morning, Mom went into the house to take care of something, leaving me to handle all potential negotiations. I was beginning to think we should give up and just start giving our stuff away door-to-door when an older gentleman pulled up to the house and stopped his car. He wore a plaid shirt and blue jeans that were being held up by bright red suspenders–the most interesting (translation: only) suspenders I had seen all day. I figured he was worth some colorful conversation even if he didn’t buy anything.

I figured wrong.

He barely said a word. He poked around our collection of desk lamps and baskets and VHS tapes and looked as though he was ready to head back to the car when he saw something that caught his attention.

“Ma’am?” he asked me.

“Yes, sir!” I said, eager to finally have something off my hands.

“How much you want for that box of plastic right there? Don’t see no tag.”

I saw the box of plastic drop cloths sitting on the edge of one of the tarps.

I don’t remember putting these out here, I thought.

“Oh, those. I…didn’t get to ask Mom about that one. Umm…”

“I’ll give fifty cents for ’em.”

I made a very quick executive decision in the name of starting some kind of selling momentum.

“Sold!” I said, smiling as he dropped the two quarters into my hand.

In retrospect, I think I heard him chuckle as he went to his car.

Meanwhile, Mom was making her way back out to the yard.

“Mom! I sold something!” I told her.

“Oh, good! What’d you get rid of?”

“That box of plastic drop cloths.”

Pause.

“I bought those last night. In case we needed more.”

I looked at the sad little pair of quarters in my hand, then held them up in front of my face and looked at Mom.

We both burst into hysterics.

“You mean to tell me that the only thing we’ve sold all morning was something that wasn’t for sale?!?¬† I paid at least three times that much for those things!” she said, laughing.

(Oh, yeah. I’m a genius.)

The afternoon improved somewhat; in true “Field Of Dreams” fashion, if you build it, they will come. More people made their way down our road, and although word had not gotten out about our extreme discount on brand new plastic drop cloths, other patrons bought a few more of our items to make the sale worthwhile. One lady left with my old Furby, a move I compare to the old man taking Gizmo the Mogwai away from the Peltzers at the end of the movie “Gremlins.”

Don't feed him after midnight? It's ALWAYS after midnight!
That dude came with more instructions than he was worth. (Don’t feed him after midnight? It’s ALWAYS after midnight!)

I haven’t hosted a yard sale since then. I probably would accidentally sell the yard…

A Dream: Vague Specifics

Dreams can be incredibly strange. Since I don’t have Sigmund Freud around to help me analyze a few of them, I guess I’m on my own.

As a child, I had a recurring dream about a monster that lived in the television set. It only seemed to appear when the set was turned off. I think my brother tried to humor me by agreeing that he had a similar dream…although he could have just been messing with my head, trying to make me believe that everyone had that dream.

poltergeist-tv
We were children of the 80s…not that it might have had anything to do with my recurring nightmares. (Nothing to see here. Moving forward…)

As an adult, I don’t have any specific recurring nightmares, although I usually have central thematic material to work with.

The biggest one?

I’m running terribly late for something and no matter what I do, I never quite make it where I’m supposed to be. Oddly, I’m never late for anything in the “awake” world.

In college, the dream usually jolted me out of my evening slumber during finals week. I would wake up–heart pounding–and check the clock obsessively. They usually ended with me desperately trying to run to an exam I couldn’t find because I had trouble interpreting the finals grid the university sent out about a week before testing.

My stress level had gone through the roof one semester. I was working long hours on a research project. One Sunday afternoon, I drifted off with a pile of books within my reach. (Although this little anecdote isn’t about a dream, it does demonstrate how your mind can play tricks on you.) I woke up and panicked when the clock said it was 2:30. In my mental fog, I thought I had slept straight through that afternoon and the next one, missing my class altogether.

(Oh, it gets better.)

I freaked out even further when I realized that I hadn’t pulled a Rip Van Winkle…but that sleeping until 2:30 a.m. was within the realm of possibility. So why was the sun out at 2:30 a.m.? Yep, only a few parts of my brain had woken up, and not in any kind of sequential order. Once I realized it was 2:30 p.m. on the same afternoon in which I had fallen asleep, I calmed down and kept sifting through the books.

(I got a 4.0 that semester. I think it was worth it.)

Last night’s dream, however, takes the cake on “weird.” The central theme remained the same: I’m running late for something and I won’t make it on time no matter how hard I try.

This time, it was a concert.

Oh, and I was trying to find the performance venue on a continent upon which I’ve never set foot. (I figured this one out by my “dream-style” logic reasoning skills.)

Oh, and I was trying to chase down one of the performers who was supposed to stay right by my side for some reason.

I knew I was in a race against the clock. I was on a train but I had no idea how I ended up on the train. All I knew was that it was supposed to take me where I needed to go. It was dark outside, but I could make out the outlines of trees against the moonlight. They were types of trees I’d never seen in person, so that was my “dream-style” reasoning clue that I was in foreign territory.

Now, when you know you’re running terribly late for something, the last thing you need to do is stop for a leisurely lunch. In my “dream-style” mode of thinking, however, I did just that. I found myself in a nice little cafe. My companion hadn’t materialized yet, so I was alone…but then I noticed the celebrity couple seated at the table behind me.

I have no idea why these two were anywhere in the same ZIP and/or area code of my mind, but when you see The Crocodile Hunter and his wife eating lunch six feet away, you get a little curious. (Especially considering one pretty big detail that would negate the possibility of this little outing ever occurring in 2016.) Never mind that I was running late…I had to say hello and gush a little bit about how wonderful their daughter was on “Dancing With The Stars” and whatnot. (I really think they just wanted to be left alone, because they said they wanted to be left alone. I should have known that, even with this being a dream and all.)

It was only then that I realized just how late I was running and that I had to be somewhere…I just didn’t know where. I ended up back on the train again, but it was daylight. Somehow, I ended up off the train shortly thereafter, and I was on foot running through muddy fields and gravel parking lots while trying to keep up with the companion that had finally materialized.

I woke up when I found myself trapped in a small room in a nuclear power plant. I guess my companion made it to the concert. (Way to go.) I’m curious as to how it went. And what we were supposed to be playing. And–oh, yeah–where it actually was.

Why can a dream leave you with such specific details as a slightly tense conversation with a departed wildlife expert but NOT let you know where you were supposed to be going by a certain unspecified time? I mean, I couldn’t really find anything about any of these scenarios in my ten-dollar dream dictionary, so it must be an unsolvable mystery for the ages. The only part of it that makes any sense is “concert,” because I just finished with one last week.

If I ever have that dream again about running late for finals, though, I may have to see if I can get Dr. Freud to materialize.

A Penny For My Thoughts: Dollars Are Worth More

If I had a dollar for every penny I have, I could buy an awful lot of gumballs.

Oh, darn. Looks like this one only takes quarters. (Image found and used from igumballs.com.)
Oh, darn. Looks like this one only takes quarters. (Image from igumballs.com.)

Of course, I could also take the money I would have spent exacerbating my temporomandibular joint issues and sink it into a nice vacation spot on a remote tropical island.

Not quite THAT remote.
Not quite THAT remote.

They say a dollar isn’t worth much these days. It’s true. It’s probably worth a lot more now than it will be in another decade or so, though. Today’s dollars are tomorrow’s cents.

That’s why I think it’s way past time to update the expression “a penny for your thoughts.” (I really should properly phrase this well-known idiom in the form of a question, but I’m not on Jeopardy! yet, so I think I can get away with making it more of a declaration.)

Given historical inflation rates and current trends, I think my thoughts are worth at least a buck…maybe two, but only if they’re good ones.

Yes, I’m proposing a raise in the minimum wage on thoughts. A penny is about as minimum as it gets, folks.

Anyone else out there have any thoughts on the subject?

Wait.

Stop.

Maybe I shouldn’t ask that question. I’m not prepared to pay for those thoughts. Not even at their current rate.

Never mind.