Wash day

Recently, my mom reminisced about wash days of yore. I don’t know how that topic wound its way into our conversation, but I can share this semi-verbatim account of her monologue.

“People talk about how hard wash day is now,” she began, “well, I had to walk up the hill, get the water, and carry it down the hill in buckets. Then, I had to do the washing in a wringer washer and hang it out on the line to dry.”

Firstly, let me say that she makes an excellent point. If washing were more taxing than throwing some clothes and detergent into a machine and, later, throwing the clean clothes into another machine, then I would probably just wear dirty clothes.

Secondly, I studied on Mom’s monologue for days, asking myself, “Self, why did she have to go up the hill to fetch the pails of water?”

So, I asked her a semi-verbatim version of that question, to which she answered, “When me and your daddy set up housekeeping here, we didn’t have a well. We had to use the well that was on the hill.”

You might be wondering why there was a well on a hill but not one in the valley. As it turns out, a great-great-great uncle of mine (and so many others) had once lived on the hill across from our house. Hence, the well.

Anyway, Mom also explained that after she and the water made their way down the hill, she had to heat said water on a cook stove before finally getting around to washing.

By this point in her story, I was so tired thinking about all the work she had to do just to wash a few clothes that I was ready for a nap. I had other questions, though, so I soldiered on.

“What did you do in the winter?” I asked next.

“We had our own well by then.”

“So, you only had to retrieve the water from the hill for a few months?”

Although Mom agreed with my assessment of the situation, my smarty-pants sister said, “Did you hear that? Michelle’s like, ‘Oh, it wasn’t that bad.’”

If you’re reading this, smarty-pants sister, I have two words for you – shut up.

Of course, as Mom explained, even after they had their own well near the house, she still had to lug the water inside, heat it on the cook stove, etc. She maintained, however, that her experiences mean that in the event we lose indoor plumbing, she’ll be able to instruct us on how to manage wash day.

I already know what I’d do. I’d wear dirty clothes.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

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Sigh of relief

As I’ve mentioned before, I suffer from migraines. Last week, I experienced the worst one I’ve had in five years. It lingered for days, beginning with pain in my left shoulder and neck. Fortunately, the pain in my neck (and shoulder) abated around the time my migraine eased up.

And then it came back with an excruciating vengeance. Indeed, for a couple days, I couldn’t turn my head or neck to the left. And turning to the right didn’t feel so hot, either. When I laid my head on my pillow at night, pain shot from the base of my head and down the back of my neck. I applied so much of one of those smelly sprays that the scent made me sick to my stomach and made my cat army high. I also spent a lot of time with the heating pad on my neck and shoulder.

Still, I could get no relief. So, I called a doctor who advised me to take Epsom salt baths. When I told him I had taken oodles of the baths last year yet had not experienced positive results, he asked if I had any magnesium oil. His question reminded me of the time I stopped by the courthouse to renew my driver’s license and the clerk asked if I had my birth certificate. As it turns out, I don’t carry my birth certificate with me and I don’t stock magnesium oil, either.

Well, at least I didn’t. But after the doctor advised me to stop what I was doing and obtain magnesium oil posthaste, I acquired some.

As I noted in the Epsom salts post, studies have linked magnesium to migraine relief. And whilst the magnesium in the salts didn’t give me relief, it appears that the magnesium oil has eased my pain. Every day I’ve noticed a better range of motion in my neck and shoulder. It’s been so beneficial that I’ve started applying the oil to the right side of my neck and shoulder as well. Somehow, the oil has helped me to locate pressure points in my muscles. Pressure points that I’ve massaged.

Anyway, I’m not at the point where I’m ready to describe magnesium oil as a miracle cure. But I am at the point where I’m ready to share my experience with others.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Among the wildflowers

On the morning of Jan. 6, I said goodbye to my dog, the lovely and talented Mia Frances Goff. She was approximately 14 years old and had battled various infections for the last few months of her life.

miaI knew I made the right decision, but it was still hard to let her go. For nearly 13 years, she patiently listened to my rants about the outside world, brought dead rats to the back door, and allowed the cat army to use her as a pillow. She rarely barked and only acted aggressively when dogs charged at us during walks. She wanted in return only food, treats, occasional car rides, and attention. And to send me judgmental looks whenever I did something stupid like straddle the window ledge and a wobbly stack of cinder blocks.

When the time came, I realized I hadn’t considered what to do with Mia’s ashes. Fortunately, one of the employees at the vet’s office mentioned he knew a lady who had planted a tree with her dog’s ashes.

I liked that idea. A couple days earlier, I had dropped Mia off at the vet’s for observation and IVs. When I returned to my car that day, the first song that played was Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers.” What’s more, I still had that free packet of wildflower seeds I had ordered from General Mills. I decided at the vet’s that I would carve out the area in front of my porch and grow a garden of wildflowers in honor of Mia.

With help from my family, that’s what I did. The packet didn’t contain many seeds, though, so I bought another one during a trip to Lowe’s.

Then, I waited for the flowers to burst forth from the earth, watering the garden on the rare occasion we went a few days without rain.

I waited weeks before I spied green emerging from the ground. But I couldn’t be sure if the green things were flowers or grass or weeds. One day, my sister said to me, “You’re growing something. I’m just not sure what it is.”

We weren’t sure because the green things had no buds. Still, they continued to grow and grow and even attracted the attention of a hungry bunny. Then, an actual weed – there was no mistaking it – showed up in the garden.

I was so upset by the appearance of that weed that I pulled it up and then moved on to those life-sized flowers or whatever the heck they were. As I did so, I ranted, “Why did you think you could grow flowers? You’ve killed two cacti and an African violet. You should invite the bunny and his friends over to feast on this greenery. At least they could get some good from this so-called garden.”

flowersAnd that’s when I saw them – tiny white flowers in the midst of all that greenery.

I stopped vandalizing the green things and enjoyed the splendor of those tiny white flowers. As I crouched in the middle of the garden, I imagined Mia’s reaction to my overreaction. I could see her pretending to mind her own business whilst stealing glances at me. And I could hear Tom Petty singing, “You belong somewhere close to me.”

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

For the record

Recently, I saw merchandise at the Supercenter the likes of which I haven’t seen in a store in more years that I care to admit.

No, I’m not talking about cherry cake mix and frosting. (Actually, I found and bought that a few months ago and, unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as good as I remembered.) I am, instead, referring to vinyl albums.

When I stumbled across albums amongst the fitness trackers, smart phones, and smart TVs, for a moment I thought I had discovered a time machine. Oh, I’ve been aware of the revival of vinyl for a while. In fact, some of my friends collect vinyl while others invest in it because they like the sound.

Apparently, they are not alone. According to Nielsen Music, more than 14 million vinyl units were purchased in 2017, marking the 12th consecutive year that vinyl had experienced a sales growth. The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Abbey Road” were the two top selling vinyl albums last year. Prince’s “Purple Rain” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” also ranked in the top 10.

This resurgence, however, is not just due to nostalgia. Millennials represent a key vinyl demographic.

Although seeing the album versions of “Thriller” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” made me smile, I was not tempted to so much as check out the prices. For starters, I don’t have a record player.

What’s more, why would I buy something I already have? Of course, I’m not actually in possession of “Born in the U.S.A.,” but I’ve had “Thriller” since Jackson’s death. I didn’t have a record player then, either, so I’m not sure why I insisted on digging it out of my parents’ closet just so I could put it in a closet at my house. (If you think I could sell the albums for big bucks, think again. My research indicates that used versions of these albums could yield enough for me to fill up my car with gas and maybe, just maybe, have enough left over for a Wendy’s berry burst salad.)

Anyway, I haven’t listened to the albums in more years than I care to admit. This is due to, firstly, greatest hits compilations on CD and, secondly, digital music. Indeed, I listened to the entire “Born in the U.S.A.” album just the other day on a computer. And I didn’t have to walk across the room to change sides or worry about the music skipping because of scratches.

Don’t get me wrong. I miss the hiss of vinyl and the appeal of album cover art. Yet, in an age where people (not me, though), own devices that turn on lights and lock doors at the sound of a voice, I don’t understand why oodles of folks are returning to something that’s, at best, inconvenient. What’s next, the return of 8-tracks?

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Not clowning around

We’re in the midst of International Clown Week.

Although I’m not surprised that clowns have a week devoted to them, I am surprised they are still a thing. Actually, I’m surprised they were ever a thing.

Indeed, scores of folks are terrified of clowns. There’s even a word – coulrophobia – for people with an intense phobia of them. Many people credit (maybe that’s not the right word) Stephen King’s “It,” which features a demonic clown who terrorizes children, and the movie “Poltergeist,” which features a child’s clown doll who comes to life and attacks said child, with introducing anti-clown fervor. Yet my research shows that clowns have been dark and/or scary for centuries.

They’ve probably also been irritating for centuries. Clowns rank just a notch above mimes on the ability-to-annoy-me meter. I don’t understand why mimes can’t just spit out whatever they’re feeling and why clowns hide behind makeup and those outrageous wigs. Besides, if you have to rely on multiple props, then maybe your antics aren’t as funny as you think they are.

Since I’ve never understood the comedic appeal of unicycles, seltzer water, and horns, clowns have always gotten on my nerves. And the only thing worse than a clown is clown art. In fact, I find artwork of clowns to be creepier than the actual thing. Granted, I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, so I’m not sure what moves an artist to pick up a brush. But even if I could draw, I doubt my muse would wear clown shoes and a big red nose.

According to research I alluded to earlier, even young children who have probably never seen a clown-centered horror film are terrified of them. Experts say this makes sense because kids possess an innate ability to detect when something is off, which supports my theory that clowns are inherently off. Anyway, this is true even when children can’t define exactly what is wrong.

So, that begs a few questions: If scores of people consider clowns scary and/or annoying, then how the heck did they ever gain popularity? Have kids always been scared of them? Or is this a newfangled fear that’s a result of kids picking up on adults’ trepidation? And if this unease is not newfangled, then why have we been tormenting kids at circuses and birthday parties for decades?

Wouldn’t putting them in timeout be more efficient?

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A world of good

Although I’m known as a fan of sport, soccer barely makes my top 10 sports to watch. For starters, I don’t understand the rules. Oh, I get the gist – the players endeavor to kick the ball into the net. Otherwise, it looks to me like a bunch of people running around a field.

Once whilst watching a match with my beloved niece, I asked her what the announcer meant when he said a player had been offsides. When she explained that the player had gone over the line, I stared at the TV, squinting to find the line. “It’s not a line drawn on the field,” she said, exasperated at my ignorance.

Another one of my issues with the sport is the lack of scoring. It’s not unusual for soccer matches to end in scoreless ties (or in soccer parlance, nil-nil). Whilst I acknowledge that football games can also end in ties, I also acknowledge my belief that players should stay out there until somebody wins.

What’s more, there’s a lot of what’s known as diving in men’s soccer. In other words, players tend to fall to the ground and flop around like death is imminent if another player so much as looks at them. They remain writhing on the field as precious game minutes expire. But as soon as the referee calls a penalty – or refuses to recognize their histrionics – they hop up and virtually skip across the field. By the way, this phenomenon doesn’t occur nearly as often in women’s soccer, but it is on the rise in the NBA.

Despite all of the above, I have a touch of low-grade World Cup fever. I check the scores and standings and keep up with matches when I can. Of course, I haven’t failed to notice that when I’m in the same room as a televised match, either performing light housekeeping, writing, or concentrating all my attention on the match, no one scores. But let me step out of the room for a bio break or to check on my cat army, and the ball will find its way into the net, unleashing pandemonium among the fans.

Indeed, fan enthusiasm is the aspect I most enjoy about the World Cup. It’s as if every match reaches the level of the NCAA championship game multiplied by they Super Bowl. In a world that can be so dark and depressing, the passion soccer fans demonstrate for their sport makes my heart smile.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

My true colors

With a few exceptions, I prefer clothing that comprises the dark side of the color spectrum. Sure, I recently bought a red blouse, but for the most part, I’m a black, medium to dark blue, and gray type of gal.

Although I generally stick to this theme when covering myself, I don’t have a color scheme when it comes to covering the walls of my house. Indeed, my walls range in color from dark red to yellow to orange and to green.

I didn’t think my color choices were unusual until I heard a coworker note, with surprise in her voice, that every room in the home of one of her friend’s was a different color. “Oh,” I said, “that sounds like my house.”

Then, a couple years later, when a friend visited me, she told me that the experts on the home and garden shows would take one look at my bathroom and ridicule the green walls.

Then there was the time another visitor advised that my walls should be white or beige to increase the house’s re-sell value. Actually, for a few years, two rooms of my house were painted white and beige. For the life of me, I can’t remember why I selected such boring colors.

Anyway, I’m sharing this now because I’m planning to have the green bathroom as well as the orange bathroom and the orange bedroom painted. Although the seafoam green has served me well, I’ve never liked the orange, which looks like sherbet. Since I don’t like sherbet, I can’t for the life of me remember why I selected that shade.

After much deliberation – and by much, I mean that the deliberation lasted approximately eight months – I’ve chosen to go with a light blue for those rooms. I finally narrowed it to two hues, pale flowers and a new day, ultimately going with pale flowers because I preferred that name.

When I mentioned to a friend that I had initially considered something in the teal family, only to change my mind once I saw somebody’s freshly-painted blueish-gray wall, she said, “That’s right. Your walls are all sorts of crazy colors.”

She gets me and I get her, so I knew she wasn’t being rude about the matter. So I didn’t remind her that they are my walls. Not the walls of a hypothetical future owner. Not the walls of the home and garden folks. They’re mine. So when I’m considering a color to cover them, I ask myself, “Self, what do you want to look at every day? And, as a secondary factor, what are the names of your top paint samples?”

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.