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.

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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.

Total recall

On several occasions, my co-workers have complimented me on my good memory. They’ve praised me for conjuring up the names of people, places, and things seemingly on demand.

But this ability has nothing to do with a good memory and everything to do with good notes. Indeed, I don’t have a good memory at all. I can meet someone on Friday and re-introduce myself on Monday as if we were strangers. On most weeks, I’ve forgotten the topic of my column less than 72 hours after I’ve written it.

Sometimes, however, my memory amazes me.

That’s what happened a couple weekends ago at my mom’s. As we discussed the practice of renting out the first floor of your house, my oldest sister expressed confusion. Needing a way to help her understand, I said, “Remember the show, ‘Too Close for Comfort?’ It’s like that.”

That cleared up the matter for her, but our mom and other sister didn’t remember the show, which ran from 1980-87 and starred Ted Knight, of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” fame, as a cartoonist. He and his wife – and, later, their young son – live in their house’s second floor while their grown daughters live on the first floor.

As we tried to jog their memories, my oldest sister said, “Ted Baxter and Georgia Engel were in it.”

“No,” I corrected her, “Ted Baxter was Ted Knight’s character on ‘Mary Tyler Moore,’ and Georgia Engel played his wife on that show.”

“So who was his wife on ‘Too Close for Comfort’?” she asked.

“Nancy Dussault,” I answered.

This dialogue had not triggered any memory of the show for Mom and my other sister, so I added, “They had two daughters. The one with dark hair was Jackie and the blonde was –”

That’s where my memory failed. I could not remember the blonde daughter’s name. I could remember her friend Monroe, who was played by Jim J. Bullock. I could remember that her real-life name was Lydia, but her character’s name was not forthcoming.

Although my family started talking about something else, my thoughts remained on the blonde daughter. Finally, several minutes later, I shouted, “Sara.”

When my startled family turned their curious eyes on me, I said, “Sara. The blonde daughter’s name was Sara.”

Having already moved on and having not cared much anyway, they expressed no interest.

Although I was pleased that the name came to me relatively quickly and, thus, prevented me from consulting the Internets for an answer, I don’t know how I’ve remembered so much about a TV show I have not watched in more than 30 years. What’s more, it was never a favorite of mine. I watched it only because it was on during a time when we had to make do with five channels.

I also recall having one of my baby teeth pulled during an episode of the show and coveting the bowl of candy bars that Jackie and Sara kept in their apartment.

Wonder how much more I would remember if I had kept notes?

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Throw in the dish towel

dish towel

Photo courtesy SWX. Photography

When I was a wee lass, my mom used store-bought dish towels as well as those she referred to as feed sack dish towels. At the time, and for years to come, I never studied much on the origin of those plain white dish towels with the red edging. Indeed, if I thought of the matter at all, I probably decided there was no way those woven, hard plastic bags that contained the horse and hogs’ food rendered cloth dish towels.

Decades later, after I started keeping a house of my own, my mom gave me a few feed sack dish towels. As is my way, I used them until they contained holes and were coming apart. In spite of the fact that I could read through them, I would have continued using them had my mom not spied one during a visit to my house.

When I told her I didn’t want to relegate them to the rag bin, my mom offered to make more for me. I’m all for receiving free, useful stuff, so I said, “Sure.”

The second set of homemade dish towels were comprised of plain white ones as well as some that feature a light green and red floral pattern. Even though I’ve used them oodles of times, I didn’t try to connect the dots between my pretty dish towels and a feed sack. That is, I didn’t until this past weekend. For some reason I cannot explain, when I pulled one of the dish towels from the cabinet, I said to myself, “Self, did this dish towel really come from one of those woven, hard plastic bags that contained the horse and hogs’ food? If so, how did Mom turn it into cloth? Is she a magician?”

That evening, I asked my mom for the dish towels’ origin story. She once again told me they came from feed sacks. When I expressed confusion, my sister noted that Mom wasn’t referring to the aforementioned woven, hard plastic bags. As it turns out, back in the day, feed sacks were made of cotton. What’s more, in addition to making dish towels, my mom’s mom crafted dresses for her daughters from feed sacks.

As is my way, I needed to learn more about these feed sacks. I turned to the Internets where, in no time, I discovered that animal feed as well as pantry items like flour and sugar were sold in cotton sacks. Homemakers across the country figured out that the cotton could double as fabric. Once the feed companies learned of this phenomenon, they began printing patterns on their feed sacks.

Alas, the companies started using less-expensive paper bags in the 1950s, which put an end to the days of feed sacks doubling as high fashion. Fortunately, my mommaw amassed such a supply of feed sacks that her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are enjoying the benefits of feed sack dish towels more than half a century later.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.