Stay in your lane

Usually, I avoid discussing controversial topics in this blog. Indeed, I like to think of this as a safe place where my readers can retreat for a laugh or two. Usually at my expense.

mcdonald'sBut with a controversy of epic proportions threatening to divide the country, I can no longer remain silent. I’m speaking, obviously, of McDonald’s double drive-thru.

When the first double drive-thru came to town, I went on record proclaiming my appreciation for it. My opinion has not changed. Vociferous double drive-thru critics, however, argue that it doesn’t speed up the fast food delivery process. They may be right, but I’m not addressing that issue. I’m concentrating on the question of which lane to choose.

For those of you unfamiliar with a double drive-thru, it’s exactly as it sounds. There are two lanes, each with its own intercom. After placing their orders, customers merge from the two lanes into one that takes them to the pay-here and pick-up-your-order windows. In spite of some confusion over who merges first into the single lane and the violence that has broken out at locations throughout the country, it’s actually a simple process.

Or so I thought. But I’ve recently learned that, for some people, the problem begins at the beginning. In fact, there are those among us who believe that all customers should stay in the lane closest to the restaurant until they’ve pretty much reached the intercoms. Only then, they maintain, should a car move into the second lane.

One of my friends accuses people who bypass the first lane and zip into the second lane as lane skippers. A friend of a friend takes photos of these alleged lane skippers. Another friend flips off alleged lane skippers.

I guess there’s a chance she’s flipped me off because I always choose the shortest lane. Actually, I don’t know why anybody would waste time lingering in the longer lane when another, I repeat, shorter lane beckons them.

What’s more, there’s literally a sign at the drive-thru that gives us permission to do so. That’s right. I take the “any lane, any time” declaration as an invitation to choose any lane I want, any time I want. If I was supposed to wait impatiently in the long line, the sign would advise me to “remain in this long line until you either starve to death or reach the intercoms.”

But it doesn’t say that. So, as long as the “any lane, any time” sign remains, I’ll keep following directions – and risk getting flipped off.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Murder at Moonshiner Days now available

dfw-mg-mamd-cover-3d-nologo.jpg“Murder at Moonshiner Days,” the fourth book in my Maggie Morgan cozy mystery series, is now available at amazon.

On the eve of the annual Moonshiner Days festival, first-grade teacher Jennifer Wagner is found with a meat thermometer sticking out of her neck. A year later, police in her small Kentucky town are no closer to solving her murder. As the town prepares to welcome thousands of guests to another Moonshiner Days, reporter and amateur sleuth Maggie Morgan begins to wonder if Jennifer’s killer has ties to the festival. With the sounds of backfiring jalopies and bluegrass music filling the air, Maggie pokes around Jennifer’s life, exposing deep, dark secrets. Just as she inches closer to solving the challenging case, another crime is committed, a murder suspect ends up in jail, and Maggie is forced to deal with a personal crisis.

Making do with what you have

One recent warm day, my adorable great niece allowed her hand-me-down Barbie dolls to skinny dip in a cooler. (For what it’s worth, my niece also never dresses her baby dolls. Not even when they go to the doctor or to church.)

I smiled when I saw a photo of the naked dolls surrounded by water, ice, and the leftover refreshments my nephew-in-law had packed to work. My niece’s resourcefulness reminded me of how my Barbies and I had made do without a swimming pool.

Before I go further, I need to explain that I did not pine for a Barbie swimming pool. I had a Barbie Dreamhouse, aka the best Christmas present ever, and that’s all I wanted. But there’s no denying that Barbie dolls need to cool off. Even thinking about carrying around all that hair during a sweltering summer makes me sweat.

So, when my Barbies required a break from the humidity, I took them for a swim in a mud puddle. And not just any mud puddle, but the one created by the massive tires on the school bus. (For what it’s worth, my adorable niece calls mud puddles “muddy puddles.”)

Careful not to let the dolls’ hair touch the water – once you wet a Barbie’s hair, you might as well shave her head – I let them splash around in the water until their clothes and plastic skin became stained by the brown water comprising the makeshift pool. Then, I shook off the water and placed the dolls on the ground to sun.

Later, I washed away the grime and dressed them in clean clothes, accessorizing with matching earrings. And by earrings, I mean stick pins because my Barbies didn’t have store-bought jewelry. Although, technically, the pins were bought in a store, so I guess that’s not true.

I had to be careful when putting pins, aka earrings, in Barbie’s ears. Indeed, I had to insert them at an angle or the pins would protrude the other side of her head. Not only would this hurt her, but the pins would also pierce my fingers every time my hand accidentally grazed her head.

With my Barbies attired for an exciting night on the town, they hopped in their cars. And by cars I mean my coloring books, which I pulled around the room, because I didn’t have a Barbie car.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Take your medicine

The board game Loaded Questions tests how well players know one another by asking such questions as “What’s the best part of being sick?”

When that question came up during a rousing game of Loaded Questions, I gave the obvious answer – getting to take cough syrup. Of course, from the way my family reacted, you would have thought I had admitted to Robotripping. For the record, I do not get high off cough syrup. I enjoy taking it because I like the taste. (For what it’s worth, I also like the taste of generic, liquid Mucinex.)

Anyway, the best cough syrup cannot be bought in stores or prescribed by physicians. It can, however, be made at home with only three ingredients – whiskey, lemon juice, and honey. Although some folks refer to this potion as a hot toddy, my family and I simply call it whiskeylemonjuiceandhoney. Yes, that’s one word with no commas, spaces, or pauses.

When I was growing up, whiskeylemonjuiceandhoney played an important medicinal role in our household. At the first sound of a cough from one of his children, my dad would stop at “the top of the hill,” aka the friendly bootlegger, for one of the medication’s main ingredients. Then, my mom would mix up a batch. Those of us lucky enough to have contracted a cough would line up for a tablespoon of the smooth, sweet syrup that spread its warm healing powers from the top of our infected heads to the bottom of our aching toes.

I loved it. I loved it so much that when I got older, I self-medicated. At least I did until I could no longer find the jar in the cabinet. It seems like some people in my family didn’t want me to get better. I’m not saying this lack of access to a needed medication contributed to my paleness, but I’m not saying it didn’t. I guess we’ll never know.

Nevertheless, until recently, I had never made whiskeylemonjuiceandhoney. But with one of my sisters suffering from strep, bronchitis, a viral infection, and who knows what else, I intervened. I don’t want to sound like a braggart, but my first attempt was a success. I know this because I licked the spoon and held the measuring cup above my head, letting the excess elixir drip into my mouth.

Now that I’m in possession of our family recipe – equal parts whiskey, lemon juice, and honey – I’ve decided to make some cough syrup for my own use. In hindsight, I can’t believe I haven’t done so before. Think of all those nagging coughs it could have cured. Think of all those times it could have been the best part of being sick.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

April fools

Near the end of February, a live stream of a pregnant giraffe caught the Internet’s collective attention. Since then, dern-near everyone on the planet has been watching April, the pregnant giraffe, hang out in her stall at the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, N.Y. Apparently, they’ve been waiting for April, who’s been pregnant forever, to finally birth a baby giraffe.

Through a combination of determination and lack of interest, I managed to ignore the dozens of references to April that popped up in my news feed. At least I did until a certain meme caught my eye.

This particular meme accused April of faking her pregnancy.

Oh, now she had my attention.

I was raised on soap operas. I still can’t resist soapy goodness, so my mind immediately recalled the lessons I learned from the pregnancy-faking characters who populated my favorite soaps.

I imagined April fooling everyone by wearing a well-placed pillow under her clothes. All the other lady giraffes would say to her, “You’re so lucky to only be gaining weight in your stomach. When I was pregnant, I gained weight all over. My face was so swollen it looked like I had just lost a UFC fight and my butt was so big I was mistaken for an elephant.”

Even April’s man, Oliver, would be none the wiser. One can only assume that he, like all the clueless male soap characters who came before him, would never ask to feel the baby kick, to accompany the mother of his child to the gender-reveal ultrasound, or to request some loving.

Of course, April, like all the pillow-wearing female soap characters who came before her, would eventually need to produce a calf. Obviously, she would have to find a young giraffe who had fallen in love with the bad boy of the savannah only to end up with a broken heart and a baby in her belly. With nowhere to forge for food, she would accept April’s generous offer to adopt her baby. Sure, she would wonder why she had to spend her 13-to-15-month pregnancy hidden in April’s attic, but April would reassure her that the peace, quiet, and low ceilings were good for the baby.

It all made sense to me. But just to be sure, I did minimal research on April, the pregnant giraffe. It turns out that the zookeepers are now saying she might be past due. Uh-huh. Any fan of afternoon soaps has heard that one before.

What’s more, Oliver is allowed only minimal contact with April, allegedly, to prevent him from fighting her or stealing her food. But I think we all know the real reason April is avoiding Oliver.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

One word: Plastics

From time to time, we all board the struggle bus. In fact, for some of us, it’s dern-near impossible to parallel park, make gravy, or strike a match.

But the other day, as I engaged in a battle of wills with one of my longtime nemesis, I said to myself, “Self, surely you’re not the only idiot who struggles to open a plastic bag.”

In case you’re wondering, at that moment I was referring to those plastic bags supermarkets provide for the transportation of fruit and veggies. Oh, there have been times when I’ve won a skirmish with my foe. I’ve then confidently strode to the apples and oranges, dropping them into the open bag with the aplomb of a basketball player who has just dropped a buzzer-beating three into the basket.

Usually, though, the bag wins. Indeed, I have difficulty differentiating the top of the bag from the bottom. What’s more, the plastic clings to my hands. I attribute the latter problem to the static electricity surging through my body.

In case you’re wondering, it also takes me minutes to open a trash bag and I never use Saran Wrap. Never. I tried when I was younger and more adventurous, but the result was always the same. Instead of covering my food, the plastic wrapped around my hand before I formed it into a ball and tossed it in the trash.

Plastic bags (and wrap) aren’t the only things that own me. I also cannot fold a fitted sheet. If you’re saying to yourself, “Self, that’s not so bad. No one can fold a fitted sheet,” then you need to peek inside my mother’s linen cabinet. There, you will find fitted sheets folded so perfectly that you’d swear they had just come out of the package.

Mother tried to impart her sheet-folding perfection to me. I remember her telling me to punch the corners together. I do that. Then, I continue punching until the sheet resembles a pile of used towels discarded on the bathroom floor.

In addition to plastic and sheets, I also have difficulty with those online tests that make you prove you’re not a robot. When I encounter one that’s populated by numbers and letters, I squint and ask myself, “Self, is that an uppercase B or an 8? And is that next letter a lowercase c or an e?”

It always takes multiple attempts before I’m allowed to download the artwork or order the free pack of flowers. So, imagine my happiness when some websites switched to images instead of numbers and letters.

And then imagine my frustration when I repeatedly failed to select the photos featuring road signs. After a recent poor showing, I’ve decided websites are probably programmed to allow admission after a certain number of tries. After all, the programmers most likely realize it wouldn’t take a robot several attempts to click on the pictures of lawn chairs.

I’ll bet a robot can also open a plastic bag, use Saran Wrap, and fold a fitted sheet.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

More or less

Last week, I ran across a story that detailed a list of 10 foods that could help raise or lower the risk of dying from heart disease, stroke and/or Type 2 diabetes.

Whilst scanning the contents of said article, my eyes settled on one word – bacon. For one brief shining moment, I considered the potential ramifications of a world where bacon ruled as a healthy food.

Then, I actually read the entire story and realized that bacon is on the stuff-you-should-eat-less-of list. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, bacon and other processed meats were linked to eight percent of the aforementioned health conditions.

So, I guess it good that I’ve cut back on my intake of bacon. Of course, in the past few years, I wasn’t eating that much bacon. That was not always the case. In fact, there was a time when I feasted on a pack of bacon every week. For reals. I’d fry half the pack one evening for dinner and the other half the next evening. My taste for bacon was so well known that when I recently ran into a work-related acquaintance I made during that period of my life, he pointed at me and said one word – bacon.

I can’t remember what prompted me to drastically reduce my bacon intake, but I cut back to perhaps one or two packs a year. Oh, I enjoyed the occasional plate of bacon at my mom’s or in the cafeteria, and every now and then I treated myself to a bacon and egg biscuit. But that was nothing compared to what I had been eating.

Still, there’s always room for improvement. As the end of 2016 approached, I informed my sister that I was giving up bacon and red meat. (You might ask yourself, “Self, isn’t bacon red meat?” I might answer by asking, “Is it?”)

Anyway, my sister, a woman not known for her silences, responded with silence.

“Do you think that’s a bad idea?” asked I.

“No, I just think that you eat so little bacon and red meat that you won’t even miss it.”

She had a point. I’ll splurge on a roast beef sandwich every few months and I have been known to dip the cafeteria’s roast beef in my mashed potatoes, but it’s not like I eat a pack of red meat (or bacon) every week.

I had been consuming nachos too frequently, though, so I made the decision to give them up. I also decided to end my long-term relationship with fries.

When I shared the latter decision with others, my audience gasped in surprise. After all, I am something of a cheese fries connoisseur. And you know what makes cheese fries better? Bacon.

Thus far, though, I’ve been true to my word. I have not had a fry in three months. During that time, I’ve had approximately six slices of bacon, two slices of ham, two slices of roast beef, two hot dogs and one pork chop. What’s more, I’ve walked past the nacho bar without giving it a third look.

Lest you think I’m a health food freak, I continue to satisfy my sweet tooth and I do not go near seafood, which is included on the stuff-you-should-eat-more-of list.

In case you’re interested, the other good foods are nuts, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and polyunsaturated fats. In addition to red meat and processed meat, sugary drinks and salt comprise the bad food list.

Until perusing the list, I had no idea salt was a food. But the list supports my position that bacon is not red meat, so I guess I’ll support their position that salt is food.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.