An Observation: Levels of Southern Winter Precipitation

Please take a moment to review these standard units of measurement for winter precipitation in the South with your family before submitting reports to neighbors, relatives, and friends. Expert advice for each situation is listed.

Snowing:

  • 1 to 15 snow flurries per hour
  • Temperatures hovering around 32-33 degrees
  • Call your local television station. Things just got serious.

Snowing Hard:

  • 50-100 snowflakes per hour
  • Sticks to grass for a maximum duration of thirty seconds
  • Take no less than twenty photos and one video for Instagram. Demand that local schools close early.

Blizzard:

  • A dusting/up to one inch of accumulation
  • Bigger snowflakes, but still able to be individually counted with reasonable ease
  • Stay home. Your off-road, heavy-duty, four-wheel-drive pickup truck is useless.

Whiteout/Apocalypse:

  • Accumulation in excess of one inch
  • Snowflakes too numerous to count
  • Call Northern relatives for survival advice, if your phone still works.

Sleeting:

  • 1 to 15 ice pellets per hour
  • Sound against windows resembles bacon frying in small skillet
  • Put glass outside to collect ice. Sonic will be closed soon.

Heavy Sleet:

  • Melted residue on car windshield (see also: cold water)
  • Sound against windows interferes with normal conversation
  • Advise your family that it could be worse. It could be freezing rain.

Freezing Rain:

  • Shiny glaze on all elevated objects
  • Power outages, broken tree limbs, all brick-and-mortar establishments closed
  • Give up and set yourself on fire for warmth—you’re in this one for the long haul.

A Technological Throwback: Typewriter Time

Back in the fall, I ordered a copy of the Tom Hanks book Uncommon Type: Some Stories. The book is a collection of short stories that all have a common thread…each one features a typewriter in some form or fashion.

I’ve always liked typewriters, even if I was a little frightened of some of their mechanics when I was a kid. (I think I was afraid that if I put my fingers near the ribbon, someone would accidentally hit a key and leave a permanent letter on my hand. That probably helps to explain why I’ve never gotten a tattoo.) At my high school, the typing classroom was filled with electric typewriters. I can still hear the clicking…

I usually end up with some kind of new gadget each summer. This summer, my “new” technological acquisition is a manual Remington typewriter.

It’s just my type.

This is a Remington Quiet-Riter with a case. A very HEAVY case, I might add. I suppose you could call it an analog laptop.

Now, for all you kids out there, a typewriter is a machine that you use to type words directly on a sheet of paper. If you make a mistake–depending on the model–you are stuck with it. Autocorrect has no say in whatever crazy mistake you–yes, you–make.

phone fails GIF
…and you can’t blame autocorrect. It’s all on you.

So, if you’re going to use one of these things, you might want to do a thorough review of your and you’re and which word is applicable at the appropriate time.

With that being said, it’s amazing how much I had to re-learn in order to use a manual typewriter. For starters, I thought my typing skills were pretty good. And they are…as long as I have a backspace button. (I’m the fastest draw around on that backspace button, but it does little good when you’ll just be typing gibberish since you can’t erase what you’ve already butchered. Correction fluid is your friend.) Also, the apostrophe was not where I expected it to be, and I’ve discovered that I have to type much slower. If I don’t, the keys have a tendency to get a little tongue-tied.

Will it replace my computer? Not in this day and age, but I am using it to try my hand at creating unique greeting cards. If I use it for too long, though, I might re-develop some old habits that would need to be corrected when I return to the computer…

typewriter GIF
DING!

I’m sure I’ll be using the typewriter sparingly, but it does show me just how far we’ve progressed technologically in a relatively short period of time. And, much like the stories in the Tom Hanks book, it brings back images of a simpler time where we were much more connected…despite our current level of perceived connectivity.

A Message of Thanks: Teacher Appreciation Week

I was raised by a teacher.

I watched my mom pour every ounce of what energy she had left after taking care of her two sarcastic, trumpet-playing, too-close-in-age-to-do-anything-but-fight-like-cats-and-dogs kids into grading papers, writing lesson plans, and pulling extra duty in concession stands until the day she retired. I knew she worked hard, but it’s hard to completely understand any job until you’ve done it yourself.

I have been a teacher for over seven years now. Once you actually take on that role, you instantly develop a deeper appreciation for those who walked down that path before you.

You also develop a deep appreciation for those teachers who had you as a student.

See that kid? Yep, that’s me. This was when I knew everything…until I grew up and realized how much I still had to learn.

I have many, MANY teachers and mentors whose lessons have stayed with me well beyond the classroom door. They could see the best in me…usually during the times that I couldn’t see it in myself. On my first day of kindergarten, I was so excited about getting to go to school like the “big kids” did. I was ready to learn about big words, big numbers, and big ideas. My teachers were incredible, incredible people who fueled my enthusiasm for learning in a big way.

“Thank you” will never be enough. I could say “thank you” a million times and it still wouldn’t be enough. However, I hope you will accept my thanks and know how much you were and still are valued.

Oh, and for the record…

I promise that I didn’t mean to paint part of the floor red working on a class project. I didn’t mean to bump my head on the bars at recess trying to do my best Mary Lou Retton dismount. And…I’m sorry I made a last-minute visit to a restroom while I was on a high school field trip about 180 miles from home. I left that restroom thinking I’d been left behind because NO ONE was in the lobby of the hotel…turns out the chaperones were going crazy trying to find me and the entire bus full of kids was parked in plain sight. (Yeah. Sorry. Again…I have to say it…THANK YOU!)

An Announcement: Exclamation Point!

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.

Surprise! What could it be?!? (Besides an experiment gone wrong with the iPad Photo Booth…)

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.

shooting star GIF

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?

A Work In Progress: Learning To Crochet

Practice makes perfect, right?

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.

drawing blog GIF
Umm…is my scarf supposed to look like this?

“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.”

Gasp.

scared dog GIF
Wait a second…what did I just say? Great. Can’t back out now.

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.

Nope. That technique didn’t work. (I don’t think that is a technique, technically speaking.) This really is a ridiculous way to pass the t…
…wait a sec…this actually looks like something!

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.

An Observation: Catnip-It-In-The-Bud

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.

My old cat. Gorgeous…purred a lot…didn’t do much else.

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?” 

Lazy Cat GIF
I appreciated his support. No…really, cat. Just go on and sit there and do nothing. Thanks.

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?)

A Piece of Advice: Be Accurately Specific

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.)

alex trebek GIF
Specifics make Alex happy.

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.)

This is NOT a hair dryer. This is a BAG. The hair dryer is in the bag, yes, but it’s a BAG. The bag should be labeled “BAG.” Oh, you say I need a vacation? I saw this IN A HOTEL. (Okay, okay…I’ll stop thinking now.)

However, I still believe it’s better to be overly and accurately specific. Never underestimate someone’s ability to misinterpret vague requests.

For example…

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.)

space GIF
Looks good, but I’d like mine without mayonnaise.

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.

confused laura dern GIF

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.

Be more specific.

An Observation: Older Or Wiser?

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).

Thrilled to be 29…again…

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.

That sums it up.

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?

Confused Confusion GIF
Umm…where’s the “transfer” button?

Sure.

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.

happy the office GIF
Nerd victory.

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?

Perhaps…by my next 29th birthday.

An Observation: Nice Ice

I believe I’ve made my feelings about winter very apparent.

In case you missed it, here’s a summary:

I HATE WINTER!

winter GIF
I’m pretty sure that guy does, too.

With that being said, you have to look for the silver lining in all situations. Occasionally, our trees quite literally have that silver lining.

No one in northern Arkansas will ever forget the Great Freezing Rain Power Outage Ice Storm of Misery (2009 Edition). Not only were the trees, power lines, elevated surfaces, inanimate objects, cars, grass, leaves, houses, (yeah, you get the picture) and lawn furniture coated with a thick, shiny sheet of ice, the frozen precipitation caused infrastructure chaos that left many, many people without power for several weeks.

Luckily, Winter 2018 hasn’t shown off in that manner…yet. (Let’s hope it doesn’t. Do you hear that, Winter 2018? That’s not a challenge. Just don’t do it.) However, the silver lining has been quite attractive for photographers like myself. (Well, to the extent that photographers like me can stand to be out in the cold long enough to capture the images.)

Pretty scenery…I was able to stop my teeth from chattering long enough to hold the camera still.

I call this phenomenon “Nice Ice.” It’s the kind of ice that doesn’t stick around long enough to do any actual damage. It stays off the roads and only accumulates enough in the trees to produce good photography.

The only problem was the wind. I had to find the light and take the photos quickly before the branches moved, and, more importantly, before my fingers froze solid.

“Nice Ice” is rare around here, but it can make winter slightly more tolerable by providing something to look at other than bare branches and gray.

Oh…and photography.

Lots of photography.

Sometimes, they even throw in a nice sunset for you.

Here’s one.
Here’s another one.

Nice.

An Obsession: Bibliophilia

My name is Sara, and I’m a bibliophile.

I go to record stores and leave with books.

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.

Someone definitely “red” these books.

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.

rihanna shrug GIF

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?