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Mike Nelson the Great and I returned a few weeks ago from a delightful seven days on the left coast, more specifically, northern California. The plan had been to flit across the sea to England and spend our last-hurrah-before-baby trip touring London, Oxford, Bath, and Edinburgh, but the day before we were supposed to leave, we woke up to the news that a little volcano was pouring ash into the skies above western Europe. So that ended that. We regrouped, though, and headed in the opposite direction a few days later, to San Francisco and surrounding areas. Here’s what I learned.

  1. So what if your church is across the street from a psychic’s shop? Where else would you suggest they put it?
  2. The average median income for a family in Sausalito, California is $123,000. Median. That means the middle.
  3. My husband has a wicked good eye for photography.
  4. Sometimes you don’t know that your hotel is on the edge of the seedy side of town until a local tells you. Just walk in the opposite direction. Problem solved.
  5. The inspiration for the default desktop on Windows computers comes, very clearly, from the landscape surrounding Silicon Valley.
  6. Some of God’s handiwork can literally take your breath away.
  7. Seriously. Breathless.
  8. You can’t be afraid of bed and breakfasts.
  9. I need to grow this shrub at my house. Fifteen points to the first person to identify it.
  10. Alcatraz Island is a creepy place even in the daytime. You’d have to be half out of your mind to go at night. But we did anyway.
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Mike and I went out with some friends last weekend to Swallow at the Hollow, a tasty dinner and fun venue despite the unfortunate moniker. Three country/folky songwriters were performing that night and we stayed for the show. As a result, I’m developing a theory about lyrics, mostly pop and pop country: If the song begins with the word “I,” I’m probably not going to like it (take, for example, most American Idol singles). These lyrics seem easy. A little bit cookie-cutter.

As a corollary, Mike Nelson offered the suggestion that if the song mentions a car by name (mostly Chevy and Ford), it’s not looking good for that one, either. See almost every country song ever.

While I might anticipate backlash from songwriter friends (how many songs have I written, again?), almost all their songs are lyrically strong, with every word pored over and deliberate. I appreciate that about them.

Mike’s granddaddy Jud turns 98 this coming weekend, and my great-aunt Pearl will be 99 this October. Both of them are remarkably sharp in the mind to be as near 100 as they are, and Mike and I have both spent several hours listening to their stories. Granddaddy Jud’s tale about the first time he shoed a horse is worth hearing over and over (which is handy when you’re a Nelson and you hear the same stories a lot). Aunt Pearl’s memory of December 7, 1941 can bring tears to my eyes.

It may be time-consuming to visit your older relatives. You may have to yell at them to be heard (heaven knows Mike and I have done our share). You may hear the same story a few different times. But when they’re gone, you’ll be so very, very glad you did.

I turned over 200,000 miles in my 1995 Nissan Maxima this week. I take a small amount of pride in that.

Be that as it may, and even though I love being an unofficial member of the Junky Car Club, I’m looking forward to getting a car that doesn’t pretend it’s not going to start each morning.

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At the risk of sounding high on the horse, I was a pretty smart kid. I was in “enrichment” classes in elementary school and almost always took a higher-level math class than other kids in my grade. As you can imagine, I also got made fun of a lot.

In high school, Ms. Bachelor, my counselor, told me I had a lot of potential. I got that a lot. In college, I started to believe it. But after I graduated from college, I stopped hearing it. Now that I’m thirty, I can’t remember the last time I heard it.

That’s because it’s time I started fulfilling my potential. You have it when you’re eighteen. Not when you’re thirty. By the time you’re thirty, you’d better be living up to your potential. If you’re thirty and still think you have a lot of potential, you’re a has-been.

I have a hard time choosing my favorite season … there are only four, so one will inevitably feel left out were I to begin assigning superlatives. Fall is the most fun, I think, overrun with excitement and anticipation, but then spring is just so beautiful and carefree and you get to start wearing linen again. Summer is definitely nice, with Sunday afternoons by the pool and trips to the beach, but I really love winter, too, because you just never know when you might wake up to snow.

statichand1But there are downsides. Significant ones. Two things that make me nutty in winter: dry skin and being shocked by everything. Honest to goodness, the zippers on the pillows on my sofa shock the living daylights out of me, which is to say nothing of the screw in the light switch plate. I’m looking forward to getting humidity back.

… And the Christmas season is over, just like that. I forgot about my Christmas tree header on the blog here and am hoping that doesn’t count as having decorations up past New Year’s. My grandmother might roll over in her grave.

There’s something sad to me about Christmas decorations left up too long. It’s like hanging on to the past. Time to move on, move up, and keep going.

These photos of the Christmas lights in Gatlinburg symbolize that idea to me. They were done by Jeremy Cowart, a super-talented photographer who has done some work for Catalyst.

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This family was on the Today Show last week and, while I admire their frugality, I was left wondering why their story is news. The big gig idebtfreefamilys that they have five kids and no debt and live debt free on very little. It’s impressive that they live on $44K each year, but I feel like most of us could if we really tried. When you work hard to find good deals – I mean really, really, really good deals – you can get a lot of stuff for very little money.

If I don’t write every day, I get out of the habit and have to force myself to get started again.

If I didn’t work out every day that I possibly could, I wouldn’t work out at all. Going to the gym every time I can means it’s not the end of the world when I can’t go one or two days.

If I said I’d floss my teeth three times a week, it would never, ever happen. I floss every day to remind myself to do it the next day.

Whatever the habit you need to form, start doing it every day. Whether you want to or not, whether you have time or not, do it every single day.

There’s a series of commercials on right now for a brand of beer which markets itself with the phrase, “Drinkability.”

Really?

You’re trying to convince me to buy your beer and the best argument you can come up with is that it’s drinkable? Meaning it’s wet and its shape conforms to that of the container it’s placed in? That’s the best you can do?

It reminds me of the fast food company whose slogan is, “You gotta eat.” Meaning that you can’t survive without some caloric intake, and we can provide that caloric intake, so you may as well buy our product.

How moving.