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?

A Few Thoughts: Writing Humor

Humor is a funny beast.

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…

“Be funny.”

Umm…uhh…

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…)

funny cat GIF

  1. 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…
  2. 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.
  3. Compare the incomparable.
ron burgundy what GIF
I said, “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.

And, finally…

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.

Happy Writing!

A Cup O’ Kindness: Looking Ahead

Well, we’ve made it to that time of year in which you’re supposed to reflect on the past twelve months while simultaneously setting yourself up for failure over the next twelve.

(That’s not too negative, is it?)

If I stop to consider personal history, the first few weeks of the new year are usually marked by bitterly cold weather, some kind of sniffles, and at least one major disappointment. So, yeah…I suppose it seems a bit negative when you tend to start out a year that way.

However, what if–just follow me for a minute here–instead of viewing the upcoming year as a huge chunk of disaster waiting to happen, we just lived it day by day?

Think about it.

Yeah, I suppose this is what planning out a whole year can look like if you try to think about it all at once.

I’m not saying no one should set goals or plan ahead…far from it. In fact, I’m the last person on earth who would suggest that not developing some kind of game plan is a good thing.

confused math GIF by CBC
I’m a planner. But…math? Really?

I just know I won’t wake up tomorrow feeling as though some kind of magical change will take place simply because I have to start remembering to write “2018” on all of my documents.

So, I’d like to approach January 1, 2018 as…Monday.

tired andy griffith GIF by TV Land Classic
Okay, so maybe treating it like a regular Monday is a bad idea. I don’t have to work on New Year’s Day, so perhaps I’ll relax a bit.

I think you get the idea. If I look back at 2017 as a whole, making a generalization about the entire year isn’t going to be accurate. If I pick out specific dates, times, locations, situations…I can get very accurate.

I think I’ll follow the 2018 road day by day…with a map handy (for guidance, of course).

And what is on that map?

Be authentic. Be genuine. Be sincere.

Read. Write. Take photos.

Work. Work. Sleep (occasionally).

Plan another trip. I drove myself across a big chunk of real estate this year, and there’s still more to see.

And knit something…to get through the bitter cold.

Happy New Ye…umm, Happy Monday, everyone!

A Work In Progress: Ten Thousand Hours

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.

I tried multitasking, but it wasn’t working for me.

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.

This was just a test run. I was still a couple of years away from my first lesson.

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!

Say, I just happen to be selling this print in my Etsy shop! (Shameless plug? You bet. Marketing is also a work in progress, you know.) https://www.etsy.com/listing/557312440/landscape-photography-color-photography?ref=shop_home_feat_4

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.

Tired Gif GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

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…

A Nuisance: Inconsequential Information

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about getting a pet. However, I always stop short of actually bringing one home when I start thinking about all that you have to deal with, like picking up after a small animal takes a trip to the “bathroom” or keeping their food dish fully stocked at all times. (Well, okay…it’s not a matter of simply keeping the dish full. Have you known a cat to be fully satisfied with their food dish? They won’t eat any of it unless each piece is completely fresh, touching the side of the bowl at a specific angle, and heated to the exact preferred temperature, which changes from day to day. And dogs? They’re more like faulty vacuum cleaners, picking up bits here and slinging pieces there and…where was I?)

Keeping up with the spam comments on a blog is kind of like staying one step ahead of a small animal.

You! Go away! (Meme from animal-animal-animal.blogspot.com)
At least he asked politely. (Meme from a Google search that ended up at animal-animal-animal.blogspot.com. Catchy name.)

Every time I mention the word “spam” in this post, I’m probably attracting another spam comment that I’ll just have to sift through and delete. Therefore, I’m going to replace that word with something else. Let’s see…how about…Inconsequential Information!

Some of my favorite Inconsequential Information comments include variations on the following:

  1. “I really like your layout/design.” Hate to break it to you, Inconsequential Information-er, but this is a template. It’s pretty much a dead giveaway that your information is inconsequential. (If anyone really does have some advice on blog decor that might help me out a bit, just let me know in a real message.)
  2. “Eeaarrnn mmoonneeyy wwrriittiinngg ffrroomm hhoommee.” Yeah…umm, that one speaks for itself.
  3. “Your website has the potential to go viral you just need a boost I can get you 500 followers…” I don’t think “viral” is a phenomenon you can force. And I like to make my own friends. But thank you for that Inconsequential Information.
  4. “I’ve hat read togetherness with partial enthusiasm work the run bench looking guesses you happy the afterthought.” Yes, some of my Inconsequential Information has been this easy to read. It’s like throwing darts at a dictionary. Delete.

I suppose it’s time to sit back and see what kind of Inconsequential Information appears next.

A Few Thoughts: Space, Time, and Writer’s Block

I guess I’m the new kid on the writer’s block.

Typically, I’m not at a loss for written words. However, right now, I can’t seem to find them.

Let me clarify…I can find words–don’t get me wrong–but I can’t find the ones I’d like to use. (I know how to use a dictionary. And a thesaurus. It’s just not working for me. Maybe it’s time to resort to alphabet soup…)

As a self-proclaimed Meticulously Observant Observer, the very thought of putting this very thought in writing brings forth a few questions. For starters, is writing about writer’s block the literary equivalent of some kind of mathematical space and time paradox? The kind that can destroy the universe, according to “Back To The Future” theory?

Or, is it like…

Okay, yeah, I am NOT COOL with this!
Okay, yeah, I am NOT COOL with this! (Meme courtesy of the internets–this one’s been floating around for a while and if anyone can identify the original source, I’d like to give them credit…although after dividing by zero they might not be able to accept that credit…)

Let’s not go there, shall we?

But…if a writer writes about having problems with writing, does it automatically open up some kind of wormhole or unleash bad karma or exponentially increase the likelihood of writing a run-on sentence? (Oops.) Will the planets collide or something? Help me out here, science people!

I need to consult my science expert.
No, I need a real science expert. (Another meme courtesy of a Google search and a classic SNL skit.)

I really don’t want to jinx myself. In fact, I’m feeling a bit nervous about hitting the “PUBLISH” button, but I really need to find some new material! I thought that perhaps bringing this issue out into the open might help generate some new ideas.

Either that, or an entire city block was just swallowed by a massive sinkhole.

I’m just gonna step away from the computer now. (I was never here…you didn’t see me…)

An Observation: The Write Stuff

I’m sure any handwriting analyst would have a field day if they looked through my journals.

Have you ever taken the time to really look at your own handwriting? I look through old college notebooks and I’m stunned at how sloppy it’s become over the years.

What it really boils down to, though, is that I currently have two main styles of handwriting:

  1. The “I Have Plenty of Time To Write Because This Isn’t Too Important” style, and…
  2. The “I Have The Best Idea I’ve Ever Had In My Life And My Writing Can’t Keep Up With My Brain” style.

Behold…Sample No. 1.

Neat, orderly, legible. Just like my writing all the way up through college.
Neat, orderly, legible. Just like my writing all the way up through college.

While it’s not as neat as my handwriting would have been when I was, say, 14 years old, it’s still dramatically better than the stuff I usually write down most of the time these days.

And that brings me to Sample No. 2.

Starting...to...trail...off...
Starting…to…trail…off…

This one just screams, “Ohmygosh! I just saw someone holding a sign by the side of the road and what if they were part of a traveling band and this would make a great story idea so I’d better write it down before it slips my mind and what if they also didn’t own a pet–just a plastic cactus–as one of their little personality quirks but they actually fed and watered it and dsifouwnoiuwn…”

However, I have recently begun wandering into some new handwriting territory. There’s the “Quirky Thought But I Still Have To Write It On Whatever Scrap Of Paper Is Within Reach” style…

Sloppy, written on a scrap of old wrapping paper, and definitely wandering into absurd territory...
Sloppy, sideways, written on a scrap of old wrapping paper, and definitely wandering into quirky territory. (Is square root beer a thing? Someone needs to let me know. Whether it is or not, the idea materialized and I guess I just had to write it down.)

And the “Yeah, I’m Done” style…for the days when writer’s block strikes.

Hey, at least I wrote something.
Hey, at least I wrote something.

If my handwriting starts to morph into Morse code, it might be time to start recording my thoughts.

An Observation: Inspiration

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.

I love this brand. It works particularly well in my right hand.
I love this brand. It works particularly well in my right hand.

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?

If you don't like the beach, we might not be able to be friends.
This one won first place! It’s for sale in my Etsy shop. www.etsy.com/shop/MeticulousObserver
Second place in black and white still life.
Second place in black and white still life. The sandals were just waiting there.

“Oh, that’s nice. So…where do you get your inspiration for the photos?”

I have this great right-handed camera…

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.