The good old days — August 10, 2022

The good old days

Last week NBC announced that it’s moving Days of Our Lives to the streaming service Peacock, ending the soap opera’s 57-year run on broadcast television. Days will switch to Peacock starting Sept. 12.

I have not faithfully watched Days in dozens of years, but my mom and oldest sister offer occasional updates on the goings on in Salem, the town in which the soap is set. So, I still have a general idea of what’s happening with characters like John and Marlena and families such as the Hortons and Bradys.

As I’ve mentioned previously, some of my first memories are of watching Days and other soaps. Whilst other kids learned certain life lessons from Mr. Rogers and Big Bird, I learned entirely different lessons from Stefano.

If Stefano helped me see the world for how it is, the woman he dubbed Queen of the Night, Dr. Marlena Evans, helped me develop self-awareness. Even as a kid, I appreciated how Marlena, a psychiatrist, would tilt her head and ask her patients (or friends and family members), “How did that make you feel?”

I wanted, no I needed, a Marlena in my life, someone to pop up when I was stressed or after I had experienced a slight and ask how the situation had made me feel. Then, I had an epiphany and realized I could ask myself how that – whatever that was – had made me feel. A therapist once congratulated me on my self-awareness and on being able to look at things from other people’s perspectives. We have Doc to thank for that.

Speaking of Doc, I will always consider the man who gave Marlena that nickname, Original Recipe Roman, one of my all-time favorite soap characters. That is why I loathed John Black for the longest time. He was an interloper. Sure, it wasn’t his fault. He thought he was Roman because of Stefano’s machinations … I’m not getting into all of that. There’s not enough time or space. I’ll just say that a few years ago when I was still tuning into the show every now and then, I finally warmed to John’s character and his portrayer’s, well, let’s call it acting. He really is a gift, and I was a dumb expletive for not accepting that gift sooner.

I don’t watch Days now so I’m not going to follow the show to Peacock. But I would embrace the opportunity to re-watch classic episodes of the show. I could finally make amends to John Black.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A devastating week for my region — August 3, 2022

A devastating week for my region

When friends, family members, and coworkers introduce me to people, they oftentimes mention that I write a newspaper column. These new people frequently respond by tilting their heads or raising their eyebrows, as if they assume I attempt to establish political discourse or sway public opinion with my words. To disabuse them of these notions, I quickly explain that my columns are instead meant to entertain readers with nonsensical slice-of-life musings.

For the most part, I don’t focus on serious issues in this-here space. Instead, I want readers to know they can come here for a chuckle or two, usually at my expense.

But I don’t feel like chuckling this week.

I suffer from insomnia, so I heard the heavy rains Wednesday night into Thursday morning. By the way, it didn’t help the insomnia. But I finally drifted into sleep and when I woke Thursday morning and checked my messages, I learned flooding had occurred near my niece’s house. Fortunately, she and her family had been spared.

As I would soon learn, so many others weren’t as fortunate.

The photos and videos coming out of counties such as Knott, Letcher, and Breathitt here in Eastern Kentucky left me shaken. When a friend told me he believed this would surpass the destruction of the 1977 flood, I initially doubted him. Despite the evidence, I was in denial.

Then I heard the death count and that they couldn’t get an accurate tally on the number of missing people. They expected the death count to rise. As of this writing, it has and is.

Due to these sobering facts and the horrific images that continued to come from neighboring counties, it didn’t take long for me to snap out of my denial.

Since then, I’ve vacillated between anger, sadness, and gratitude.

Anger because that’s my default emotion and because of looting. Anyone who goes into a flooded home or business with the intention of stealing deserves to contract a bacterial infection.

Sadness doesn’t need an explanation.

Gratitude because of the outpouring of help. From meals to water to cleaning supplies, there has been no shortage of donations.

People have also offered of themselves. On Thursday, I saw a photo of a 17-year-old girl in Whitesburg. The girl sat on the top of a house with her dog. After the family’s home flooded, she placed her dog in a carrier that would float and swam to that housetop. She and the dog remained there, on top of that house, for hours until they were rescued by a kayaker.

As I sat down to compose this column, a friend sent me a video titled Chloe’s Story, which showed the rescue of Chloe and her dog. My friend wrote that it was good to see that story come full circle.

At least that’s what I think she wrote. It was hard to read with watery eyes.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Character assassination — July 27, 2022

Character assassination

When a coworker learned my fancy stand mixer was not red, he did not try to hide his disappointment. I understand the feeling. I was disappointed in myself for choosing basic black. To my defense, I had coveted a cobalt blue mixer, but when it came time to make the purchase, the store ran a sale and offered only two colors – silver and black.

Our discussion of the color of my mixer led to us reminisce about the most colorful kitchens of all time. Yes, I’m talking about the burnt orange, avocado green, and harvest yellow appliances and gadgets that populated the kitchens of our childhoods.

Indeed, when folks of a certain age joke about rotary phones, phone booths, video stores, and other dinosaurs that younglings will never experience, we should add colors to the list.

I’ve written before about how people express shock, which verges on outrage, upon learning the walls in my home are blue, yellow, orange, and deep red. Apparently, we’re supposed to live in neutral-hued homes whilst we wait for someone to burst in like the Kool-Aid man with an offer to buy our houses. Ours walls must be beige, white, or perhaps gray because neither we nor the Kool-Aid man will possess the ability to paint the walls a neutral color if and/or when he does make an offer.

These thoughts wormed into my mind when someone on a social media site I frequent posted that he misses the colorful rooms and houses of yore. According to someone else who commented, the proliferation of home renovation/flipping shows led to the popularity of neutral-hued walls and houses. Because, again, once a wall is painted, it is simply impossible to paint over that bold color. Impossible.

By the way, I have only watched those shows against my will. When doing so, I usually can’t figure out what’s wrong with the houses they decide to renovate. They look fine to me. That’s really all you need to know about me and home renovation. Well, one more thing. The first time I heard the term “flipping,” I legit thought they were going to turn the house upside down. The lady who tried to describe it to me probably thought I was touched in the head.

Anyway, the posters on that social media site I frequent shared images of flamboyant rooms of yore. One bedroom boasted matching rose and French blue wallpaper, carpet, and bedspread. A living room featured yellow wallpaper with a design that might have been created whilst the artist was under the influence of a hallucinogen. As you can imagine, those rooms exuded character.

Not as much character as a kitchen with an avocado green fridge, though.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Take my advice — July 20, 2022

Take my advice

As another birthday approaches, I think it’s time for me to once again share some of the life-changing wisdom I’ve accumulated with age.

  • For the most part, I prefer generic brands. (This does not include cleaning supplies and trash bags. Parenthetical advice: It’s best to spend that extra money when it comes to trash bags. Trust me and the mess I had to clean up.) But I buy generic oatmeal, condiments, pasta, etc. When it comes to other foodstuff, such as my beloved Boyardee, I insist on buying brands. This brand-name splurging includes toaster pastries aka Pop-Tarts. Much as with the trash bags, I learned this lesson the hard way. A few years ago, I bought a box of store brand toaster pastries. I popped one of the cherry pastries into the toaster oven, allowed it to brown, took one bite, and recoiled in horror. Cardboard tastes better. And I should know. I feasted on cardboard as a child.
  • On the subject of food … Always check your order whilst you’re still in the drive-thru. Once whilst a passenger in a car, I told the driver of my intention to go through the bag to ensure our order was accurate and complete. Said driver legit yelled at me, “Do you expect me to sit here in line while you look through the bag?” Well, yeah. Trust me, dear readers, I know from where I speak. On the few occasions when I haven’t followed my own advice, I’ve arrived home to find that my chicken sammich did not also contain bacon or that my bag did not even contain a chicken sammich. These experiences gave me the sads.
  • On the subject of restaurants … If you’re ordering a drink at a place that offers free refills, always go with the smallest size. That way, you can keep filling up that cup on the restaurant’s dime. Just the other day, my heart filled with happiness as a young man stood at the other drink machine and sipped and filled and sipped and filled. Just as did I. And people say these younglings have no gumption.
  • On the subject of drinks … Back in the day, I usually ordered water at restaurants. After all, water is almost always free and I’m cheap. But I’ve accidentally developed a debilitating addiction to fountain drinks in my advanced age. Don’t be like me. Don’t accidentally develop a debilitating addition to foundation drinks. Stick to free water. But if you’re in the area and you enjoy Dr Pepper, which my adorable great-niece and great-nephew shorten to Pepper, I recommend ordering Taco Bell’s Dr Pepper. Be forewarned: It will change your life.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Canned goods — July 13, 2022

Canned goods

It’s safe to say I’m not a foodie. If you’re unaware of the term, our friends at Wikipedia define a foodie, in part, as “a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food.”

So unrefined is my interest in food that, as a reminder, I didn’t learn egg rolls are egg free until earlier this year. No, except for goat cheese and pairings, I don’t have refined tastes in food. As a friend has noted, my food preferences haven’t evolved since childhood. One could make the argument that goat cheese and parings is a grown-up version of a childhood snack.

Indeed, as a wee lass growing up on the Goff Estate, I made meals out of cheese and crackers, potted meat and crackers, Vienna sausages and crackers, milk and crackers, and, my favorite, balls of bread. I haven’t enjoyed potted meat and Vie-ennie, which is how we pronounce it at the Estate, in dozens of decades, but there’s one canned food of my childhood to which I have returned – Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs.

I actually hadn’t had Boyardee in dozens of decades, either, until I developed a hankering for it a few years ago. My renewed interest in Boyardee disgusted my sisters. (They have no room to judge. You should see some of the “food” they eat.) They’re not the only ones. When a coworker saw me stuffing my face with the sketti and meatballs, she informed me it wasn’t food. It was Styrofoam.

Then it’s delicious Styrofoam.

Admittedly, I have to watch my intake of Boyardee. For starters, tomato-based products do not agree with me. Besides, when it comes to Boyardee, I have learned you can have too much of a good thing.

With the exception of roast beef, tacos, and an occasional burger from a certain fast food franchise, I’m not a fan of beef. But the meatballs in Boyardee are scrumptious. The friend/coworker who broke the news to me that egg rolls do not contain eggs is one of the few Boyardee fans in my circle. She, however, said she has concerns about eating meat that sits on the shelf of a grocery store for years.

Maybe that’s why I like it. Maybe I would like more beef dishes if they sat on the shelf of a grocery store for years.

If memory serves, there were but four meatballs in a can of Boyardee sketti when I was a wee lass. Now there are six. Just as when I was a kid, I save those yummy meatballs so I can savor them.

As a child, I also ate and enjoyed Boyardee ravioli. It’s still being produced. I’ve seen it on the shelves, but I haven’t bought a can.

Yet.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A sticky bun situation — July 6, 2022

A sticky bun situation

Prior to my annual Fourth of July Jubilee, my guests and I compile a list of stuff they need to bring to the event. You might be saying to yourself, “Self, what kind of hostess tells her guests what to bring?”

This kind of hostess.

Besides, we also compile a list of food they want to eat as well as soft drinks they want to drink. Then, I go to the store(s) and purchase said stuff.

For example, this year I bought four kinds of chips. For another example, until this year I’ve been serving steak. I also serve shrimp. Just in case my great-nephew (emphasis on great) decided not to eat – it’s always touch and go – I bought a box of banana popsicles, aka his favorite food, so he wouldn’t go hungry.

So, I can be forgiven if I ask them to bring, for other examples, coffee and onions. (By the way, I also don’t eat ketchup, buy I hoard ketchup packets from restaurants so my guests can slather the condiment on their burgers and dogs.)

Anyway, as we studied the list, my youngest niece asked about buns. You know, for hot dogs and hamburgers. I glared at her and explained that I had already purchased both kinds of buns. When my oldest sister – not her mom – came into the room, I shared the list with her. After perusing the list, she asked about the buns.

What’s with these people and buns!

They think I can be trusted to buy hot dog wieners and hamburger patties but trusting me to buy buns is just too much.

On the subject of buns … whilst in the bun aisle, I once again asked myself a question that has plagued people for decades. No. It’s not if a hot dog is a sandwich. I care not about that. It’s why are there 10 wieners in a pack but only eight hot dog buns in a pack? Shouldn’t those two things match?

I looked to the Internets for an answer and here’s what I found. According to the National Hot Dog Sausage Council (NHDSC), “Sandwich rolls, or hot dog buns, most often come eight to the pack because the buns are baked in clusters of four in pans designed to hold eight rolls.”

If they’re not going to change the pans, then why don’t they start selling wieners in packs of eight, you might ask. Because a standard hot dog wiener weighs 1.6 ounces. I’m not a mathematician, but even I can multiply 1.6 ounces by 10 and get 16 ounces aka one pound. Selling stuff by a pound makes sense.

Regardless, there might be an end to this bun-wiener mismatched pack national nightmare. Heinz has started the Heinz Hot Dog Pact to bring hot dog companies and bun companies together to agree on one number to rule them all. Wonder Bread has already started producing hot dog buns in packs of 10.

Perhaps Heinz can start a pact to get my family to trust me to buy those buns.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Heard it in a movie — June 29, 2022

Heard it in a movie

I’m not into supernatural and/or paranormal stuff, so I don’t watch Stranger Things, a Netflix series set in the 1980s that features supernatural and paranormal stuff. Yeah, I’ve been told I would dig all the ’80s pop culture references and homages as well as Winona Ryder, who appears in the show. But this is a case of risk – supernatural/paranormal – versus reward – the ’80s and Winona. Reward doesn’t stand a chance.

Apparently in this season, its fourth, Stranger Things uses Kate Bush’s 1985 song, Running Up That Hill. After being featured in the show, the song became a hit again, nearly 40 years after its original release. Although I’m happy for Kate Bush, I harbor an irrational hatred of that song, which only solidified my stance against watching Stranger Things.

The renewed attention to Running Up That Hill reminded me of songs I had never paid attention to until hearing them in movies, proving that the combination of song in scene can be just as important as words or costumes or actors or etc. in scene. With that in mind, here is an incomplete list of songs I discovered in movies. (The movies are in parathesis.)

  • Maybe I’m Amazed (An Unmarried Woman): I have a confession. Whilst I’m a fan of The Beatles, I’m not a fan of Paul McCartney’s band, Wings. Thus, Wings’ Maybe I’m Amazed was just another song for me until I watched 1978’s An Unmarried Woman and saw Jill Clayburgh and her movie daughter sit at a piano and belt out the song. Now when I hear Maybe I’m Amazed, I think of that scene, which shows the close relationship between mother and daughter in a flick about Clayburgh, a married woman (at the beginning of the movie) who learns her husband has been unfaithful.
  • Misunderstanding (Mona Lisa): This song, by the group Genesis, was so off my radar that I thought it was called Understanding. I can’t remember exactly when Misunderstanding is played in Mona Lisa, a 1986 British crime drama, but it undoubtedly left its mark because I sought out the song afterward. I still do.
  • I Got a Name (Django Unchained): Jim Croce’s 1973 tune, which had never before made an impression on me, was a perfect choice for this 2012 movie. I loved the scene where it’s played: Django and the dentist ride horses over snowy landscapes as mountains loom in the distance. But I hated the rest of the movie so much that I swore off the director’s subsequent work. I did not develop an irrational hatred for the Croce song, though. On the contrary, I developed a fondness for it.
  • Levon (The Ice Storm): When I was fact checking myself, I saw that Croce’s I Got a Name was also on The Ice Storm’s 1997 soundtrack. (I told you it didn’t make an impression before Django.) Until The Ice Storm, to the best of my knowledge, I had never heard Sir Elton John’s 1971 song, Levon. I became consumed with it afterward. Written by Sir Elton’s longtime collaborator, Bernie Taupin, the song’s lyrics have been the subject of much speculation. Taupin told Rolling Stone he didn’t know what he intended as the meaning and that the lyrics were just lines that were interesting. The lyrics, including “Jesus blows up balloons all day, Sits on the porch swing watching them fly” certainly caught my interest.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Outside the box — June 22, 2022

Outside the box

According to James Bond creator Ian Fleming: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”

Well, dear readers, when it comes to boxes of tampered hair dye, I am up to twice.

For those of you who don’t know, I found my first gray hair when I was but 21. As I advanced toward 30, the gray had sprouted atop my head like weeds, and I had taken to trying to stop their advance.

As I have shared before, those attempts to dye my hair had mixed results. I did a passable job, but the bigger problem was all the dye dripping from the walls and sink. It looked like beavers had fought to the death inside the bathroom and on my face.

I eventually started paying professionals to do the job. But then a global pandemic put an end to that and I resumed coloring my hair. At first, I also resumed making a mess of things. But I improved, if not perfected, my technique.

Of course, I’ll probably grow tired of dying my hair every few weeks. When that happens, I plan to invest in wigs. After all, maintaining colored hair is my one vanity. I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in years last week. She said, “Who the expletive cares?” about my hair color. I care.

Hence, my working plan for wigs. When I share this plan, it is usually met with disbelief or derision. My bestie supports me, though. In fact, she has encouraged me to buy multiple wigs and give them names and personalities, à la Moira in Schitt’s Creek. My great niece (emphasis on great) also seems nonplussed by my plan. She has encouraged me to wear wigs outside my house and my real hair inside. I’ll admit that I hadn’t thought that far ahead.

Anyway, a year or so ago when I got ready for one of my frequent dye jobs, I was the one in for a shock when I realized the box of dye had been tampered with. Indeed, someone had sliced the seal and removed the crème, activator, and conditioner. All that remained were the instructions and the plastic gloves.

I don’t have the best memory, but I’m not one to forget a slight. Since that betrayal, I have always checked the boxes of hair dye before I make a purchase. Last week, armed with a coupon, I checked two boxes of hair dye.

The seal on one of the boxes had been broken. Obviously, I did not purchase that box of dye.

If I happen across a third box of tampered hair dye, then it will definitely be enemy action.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Boon or burst — June 8, 2022

Boon or burst

When I was a wee lass growing up on the Goff Estate, I enjoyed attending baby and/or household showers with my mom and sisters. My absolute favorite aspect of the events was the games. I particularly enjoyed any game that made the adults look foolish.

They played one game where they tried to put as many balloons as possible into a clothes basket. They weren’t allowed to use their hands. Instead, they had to use a yard stick to bat the balloons toward the basket. I can’t remember all the rules, but I do remember my mom serving as host for a few showers. When that happened, we got to bring the balloons home.

And you know what that meant.

Balloon tennis!

I’ll level with you – I can’t recall if we kept score or if we established rules to balloon tennis. Basically, my cousin and I used fly swatters and yard sticks to lob balloons at each other. We played in the living room. No, silly readers, there wasn’t a net. It’s not like we had an extra one lying around the Estate.

Balloon tennis provided dozens of minutes of fun and I thought of it recently as my great-niece and great-nephew (emphasis on great) played ball in the house. As the ball zipped past my head, barely missing lamps and electronics in the process, I said to myself, “Self, perhaps balloons would be less dangerous.”

With that in mind, I bought a bag of balloons for the children. For what it’s worth, balloons are inexpensive. You can buy a bag for a buck.

With the first selection, my great-niece picked a pink balloon. My nephew-in-law blew up the balloon, which my great-nephew pronounces boon, and I taught the children the intricacies of balloon tennis. By intricacies, I mean I showed them how to tap a boon with a fly swatter.

My great-niece enjoyed the game, but became more interested in learning how to blow up balloons. Yes, it didn’t take long for the pink boon to burst. You should have seen my great-nephew’s sad little face when that first boon popped. I thought he would burst into tears.

Luckily for him, Antie Cookie had a whole bag of boons in her purse. With the second selection, he choose green, his favorite color, and we returned to the game. And he returned to giggling with delight.

Yes, balloon tennis was a hit. A couple more boons burst, a couple more selections were made, and my great-nephew eventually threw down the fly swatter and started tapping the boon with his chocolate-covered hands and kicking it with his feet.

But like I said, there are no established rules with balloon tennis.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Be careful what you wish for — June 1, 2022

Be careful what you wish for

I have clear memories of longing for à la carte TV offerings. Indeed, I can remember saying on multiple occasions back in the day that I wanted the satellite or cable service to provide à la carte menus.

By the way, Merriam Webster defines à la carte as “according to a menu or list that prices items separately.”

You might be saying to yourself, “Self, who doesn’t know that?”

Well, I didn’t know the meaning until I was a grown adult and established in my career. One day, when I invited a friend to lunch at a cafeteria, she asked, “Is it à la carte?”

You live and you learn. You also start sprinkling conversation with new phrases you’ve learned. Hence, my yearning for à la carte TV.

Back to that. I sort of got what I wanted. I cut the satellite and cable cords and added a streaming service. By doing so, I saved dozens of dollars and rid my life of channels I never watched. I told myself I’d occasionally add and drop streaming channels, aka apps, for something like five bucks a month and have access to oodles of content.

I didn’t do that. Primarily because I’m cheap. Whenever someone suggested I watch a series, I’d perform a search. If said series wasn’t on my streaming service or one to which I had access, I’d hesitate. Then the suggesting someone would screech, “It’s only five dollars!”

Only?

That’s just one channel/app, though. Each one you add is roughly five bucks. Captain Obvious popping in to let you know those five bucks add up.

But it’s more than the money. All those years ago, when I longed for à la carte, I saw a future where all these channels were already on my TV, and I simply clicked on what I wanted to watch. I did not realize I would need to create accounts with passwords and payment information.

I also did not see a future where creating an account and password would be the proverbial straw that broke my proverbial back. I don’t just have to want to watch something before I’ll go to the trouble of creating an account. I need to watch it.

So, yes, I did add another app a few months ago. I should also share that it was on sale, that the series that drew me in was merely meh, and that another account user and I have found oodles of other stuff to watch on this app.

Otherwise, as of this writing, I’m even hesitating to add a free trial for another app.

It requires the creation of an account and password.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.