Survive and advance

A couple years ago I started keeping a weekly blessings jar. As you might expect, that means that very week I wrote down a blessing on a scrap of paper in my serial killer handwriting. Then, I placed said blessing in a popcorn tin decorated with puppies wearing Santa hats.

While most people might include life’s bigger blessings, it’s a given that I appreciate having a place to call home and people who love me. So, I choose to focus on the smaller things. For example, according to my blessings tin, in 2018, I read a lot (week 10), treated myself to a Blizzard on my birthday (week 29), and benefited from the wonders of liquid Mucinex (week 47).

Upon reviewing my blessings for 2017, I realized that salads made several appearances in the tin. So, during 2018, I made a concerted effort to track the other important aspects of my exciting life.

Proving that old habits are hard to break, however, in 2018 I recorded the enjoyment of no less than four delicious salads. (Not in the same week, though.) What’s more, in no fewer than five weeks I felt the need to mention that my head hadn’t hurt all that much. That leads me to wonder how much my head hurt during the other 47 weeks of the year.

What’s more, apparently the first few weeks of 2018 were fraught with dangerous situations and health scares as I shared that I had survived a ride home from work (week three) as well as the flu (week six). Those months weren’t all bad, though. After misbehaving for a couple months, my garage door miraculously started working (week two) and the Eagles won/the Patriots lost the Super Bowl (week five).

Also sprinkled among the blessings were several play dates with my great-niece and great-nephew, holiday celebrations, lunch with a dear friend, and a surprise visit from my bestie.

There were also two weeks missing from the blessings tin. Despite studying on the matter a great deal, I have not solved the mystery of the missing weeks. Even if my head did hurt all that much … even if I didn’t read a lot … even if I sampled no scrumptious salads, I obviously survived weeks 33 and 46. That sounds like a couple blessings to me.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Advertisements

Problem (re)solved

I don’t make resolutions. Indeed, I view resolutions the same way Master Yoda viewed trying. In other words, I believe there’s no need to resolve to do something. You either do it or you do not.

There are plenty of things, however, that I should either start doing or do better. For example, take dusting. I abhor dusting. People don’t believe me when I tell them that I dust only a few times a year. But it’s true.

It’s also true that I’ll do dern-near anything to avoid dusting. Just today, I cleaned the bathroom – including the toilet – to delay dusting. Then, whilst in the midst of dusting, I so tired of the chore that I decided to clean out my cupboard.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Self, doesn’t her cat army leave the house a tad dusty? How can she live like that?”

You can tell yourself that the answer to the first question is yes. As for the second question, I can get by, more or less, with running a rag over the furniture instead of applying polish.

That’s not so easy to do in the cats’ room, however, because of the kitty litter. Specifically, that is, because of the kitty litter dust that settles on everything in the cats’ room.

Of course, there’s not a lot in that room. After all, they’re cats. They don’t require much furniture. But what is in there usually boasts a layer of white dust so thick that the cats could make snow angels in it.

Now, I guess I could resolve to dust more often. But I’m not in the habit of intentionally lying. And that’s what I would be doing because I know myself well enough to know that dusting more often is not something that awaits me in 2019.

So, does that mean I plan to let the cat army continue residing in a cloudy room?

Nope.

I had the brilliant idea to drape old sheets over the furniture. That’s right. The cats’ room currently looks like they’ve shut it down for the season whilst they’re vacationing at the shore.

Anyway, when an adequate amount of dust settles onto the sheets, I’ll throw them into the washer. Problem solved.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Short and sweet

A couple weeks before Christmas, I set about to whip up some holiday goodies. I started by making a batch of peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies. They tasted delicious, and I should know because I sampled oodles of them.

Next, I made Christmas Chex Party Mix. I’d been hankering to do so for years. Every holiday season – after hearing my nieces rave about Chex Mix for the entire expletive year – I’d share my plans to stir together Chex Mix, only for them to inform me they don’t like Chex.

This year, though, I decided to make Chex Mix, whether they wanted it or not. I’m glad I did, because it tasted delicious and I’ve received rave reviews. By the way, making the mix wasn’t a difficult task. You wouldn’t know that from a commercial that used to air on the TV. It featured a grown woman reminiscing about holidays of yore when her mom toiled in the kitchen to make Chex Mix for her family. From the way she carried on, one would think the chore took several days to complete and left her mom so exhausted she passed out on the floor.

That was not the case for me. Indeed, it was so quick and easy to complete that I then made a half batch of shortbread cookies. I know what you’re thinking. Multiplying and/or dividing a recipe is fraught with danger because it involves math. But math didn’t cause a problem.

Instead, shortening caused a problem.

Specifically, old shortening caused a problem.

I rarely use shortening in recipes, so I wasn’t surprised that the shortening in my cupboards was older than my 17-month-old great-nephew. I was, however, surprised by the smell that filled my nostrils and my kitchen when I removed the lid to the shortening.

Still, I persevered, mixing together the ingredients, including the aged shortening. When mixed together, the cookie dough looked like it was supposed to, so I sampled it.

It tasted like failure.

As regular readers should know, I’m on the cheap side. I abhor waste. But there’s no way I was going to serve cookies that tasted like lard smells. That would have ruined my reputation as a baker of some acclaim. So, I dumped the dough, as well as the old shortening, and started over. Consulting the Internets, I found the ratio for replacing shortening with butter, did more math, and made the dough.

With my nerves frayed, I sampled the second batch of dough and it tasted fine. Of course, the butter rendered the dough more difficult to roll, but I was up to the task. I worried, though, even after tasting the delicious cookies. I said to myself, “Self, what if it’s like muscle memory? What if your taste buds only remember how the cookies should taste? What if this batch also tastes like failure?”

Nonetheless, I shared the cookies with families and friends. The next day, I received a message from a friend advising that the shortbread cookies didn’t have the right taste or texture.

My heart sank, but I quickly recovered and formulated a plan. I would track down every cookie that remained and erase the memory of said cookies from the unfortunate folks who had endured eating them.

But then I read the rest of the message. She was joking. She went on to give the cookies five out of five stars.

Shew.

I learned three important lessons from that batch of cookies – don’t use old shortening, always consider using butter, and math can be tasty.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The Christmas Chronicles

Last weekend I watched the new holiday movie, “The Christmas Chronicles,” on the Netflix. The flick follows the exploits of a brother and sister who accidentally cause Santa’s sleigh to crash on Christmas Eve.

While Kurt Russell, who plays Santa, makes the movie worthwhile, it is not without flaw. For starters, the title doesn’t evoke feelings of heartwarming, holiday fare. In fact, when I heard that Russell was attached to something called “The Christmas Chronicles,” I figured he was narrating a documentary that chronicled the holiday through the centuries.

What’s more, the elves are downright scary and annoying. They’re a combination of the demonic Chucky doll and the irritating Ewoks with a dash of Smeagol added to the mix.

Anyway, after the sleigh crashes, Santa and the younglings head to a crowded restaurant looking for help. You read that right. The restaurant is crowded – on Christmas Eve.

As Santa goes from table to table, calling skeptical diners by name and mentioning gifts from their childhoods, I’m sure the filmmakers were trying to make a point about how we lose our belief in the magic of Christmas as we age.

But I couldn’t stop wondering why these families weren’t home, opening presents and shoving homemade goodies into their mouths. Of course, I’m sure some of the characters don’t celebrate the holiday due to religious and/or cultural reasons. Could that be true of all of them, though? I don’t think so.

Then again, I’m always surprised to learn that, unlike my immediate and extended family, not everyone starts their Christmas baking early in December for their various pre-holiday spreads. One year, I asked a former coworker of her plans for Christmas Eve. She told me that, as they do every year, she and her husband planned to spend a quiet evening at home. I also learned they don’t do much for Christmas Day, either. Another former coworker complained to me that her husband’s family did nothing for Christmas.

To be clear, the aforementioned folks do not shy away from Christmas due to religious and/or cultural reasons. They’re not orphans. They have loved ones. So, it took all my resolve not to tell the first coworker she could spend a quiet evening at home on the eve of Christmas Eve and ask the second coworker if I could share some recipes with her husband’s family.

Back to the movie. A couple times in “The Christmas Chronicles,” Santa produces vintage presents from the characters’ childhoods in an effort to prove he’s who he says he is. At least one of the characters doesn’t seem to care. Once again, I was shocked. If Santa were to ask me for help, I’d tell him to produce a fully-stocked 1980’s-era Barbie Dreamhouse and I’d drive him anywhere he wanted to go. But those creepy elves would have to find their own ride.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

More power to me

Everyone experiences those moments of clarity when they realize a hard truth. That happened to me Saturday evening. As we gathered in my mom’s living room to watch TV, I realized my sister was not amongst us. Panicking, I hollered, “Get in here! The weather is on!”

And at that moment, I said to my family, “Gosh, we’re boring.”

Indeed, from the time we learned last week that Winter Storm Diego could be heading our way, bringing with him two feet of snow or maybe just two inches or maybe two-tenths of ice or maybe nothing, we talked of little else.

To be fair, though, I’m sure we were not in the minority. Sure, I also talked to plenty of people who informed me they weren’t going to spend time worrying about something they couldn’t control. But if you, my dear readers, know nothing else about me, by this point you should know that I worry about lots of things I can’t control.

Not that I’m worried much about the actual winter storm. I have enough sense to stay off the icy roads. In case of an emergency, I reckon I’ll have other things to worry about. As of right this cold second, as snow (or is that sleet?) lightly falls, I’m more worried about losing electricity.

For longtime readers of these ramblings, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, as recently as Saturday, someone did express surprise to learn that I don’t hold up well without electricity powering my HVAC system, TV, refrigerator, and microwave. (See, I don’t ask for much.)

What’s more, few months ago, a colleague mentioned to me that she had spent dern-near the entire weekend without electricity. When I extended my condolences, she said, “It wasn’t that bad. It was like camping.”

Gasping, I told her that I’m not into torturing myself. Thus, I have never been camping and I never will willingly go.

That seemed to surprise her, which caused me to wonder what I had said or done to make her think I would enjoy camping. Seriously. I consider a boil water advisory to be roughing it.

Anyway, that brings me to today. I rose early so that I could complete my chores and finish these-here ramblings in case the juice went off. Of course, I have no plans for what to do if I do lose power. Well, except for quickly descending into madness.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The gift you keep on giving

Tis the season of peace on earth, goodwill toward men, and warm and fuzzy holiday car commercials that make me so angry I could snap a candy cane. And not just a regular candy cane, either, but one of those that weigh a couple pounds and could cause a concussion if wielded the right way.

You’ve seen the commercials. A man, or a woman, rushes outside on Christmas morning to find a shiny new automobile wrapped in a bow and parked on a snow-lined driveway. There are variations on this theme including one where a husband upstages the two-for-one fitness trackers his wife purchases by buying two trucks.

That’s right. Because one truck wouldn’t have put them in enough debt.

You might be asking yourself, “Self, what could she possibly have against their fictional joy? After all, these people, who don’t even exist, have nothing to do with her.”

Well, once the commercials started airing on the TV inside my house, they became my business. So, it’s my business to comment on how ridiculous they are.

For starters, I’m fairly certain that if a spouse purchases a big-ticket item like a car – or two trucks – without the other spouse’s knowledge or permission, the second spouse has immediate cause for divorce. For example, if a wife runs into a judge at the dollar store and mentions that her husband plopped down approximately 20 grand on a new vehicle for Christmas without consulting her, I believe the judge has the authority to grant the wife an immediate divorce, right there in the household cleaning supplies aisle.

What’s more, I’ve also spent a considerable amount of time obsessing over who pays for these vehicles. Indeed, I’ve concerned myself with the matter since the first Lexus December to Remember commercials started airing nearly 20 years ago. From the way I see it, there are only two scenarios. In the first one, a spouse robs a bank or goes into heavy debt to purchase the vehicle outright, thereby establishing cause for divorce. (See above.)

In the second scenario, the spouse provides a down payment. And you know what that means? Spouse two is on the hook for five or six years of monthly payments, not to mention the skyrocketing insurance premiums.

Maybe I’m the only person in the universe who struggles to comprehend how this works. But it has always been my belief that the recipient does not pay for the gift. If the recipient does pay, then it’s no longer a gift. It’s a bill. Or, in this case, car payments.

Now that I’ve offered this explanation, you might have a better understanding of why these commercials trigger me. And why it’s not safe to leave candy canes in my presence.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Cuddle up

It seems like every day we’re inundated with anti-feline propaganda. Sometimes this propaganda comes in the form of earth-shattering news alleging that cat poop is dangerous or that cats kill birds. Other times, it’s simply so-called friends and family members alleging that cats aren’t smart and that they can’t be trusted because they’re sneaky.

Lately, it also seems like my social media feed has been filled with folks talking a new kind of expletive about cats. Specifically, they’re alleging cats don’t like to cuddle.

I don’t want to pass judgment, especially on humans and felines I don’t know personally, but there’s no other way to say this. If your cat doesn’t want to cuddle with you, then there’s something wrong with you and/or your cat.

Indeed, I can barely compose this-here post because a snuggle-seeking cat will not leave me alone. At this very moment, she’s buried her head in the crook of my left arm. In case you’re wondering, that makes typing a tad difficult. I shan’t complain, though. After all, she’s so content that you can probably hear her purring.

Besides, I’m lucky that only one cat presently seeks my attention. At any given moment, three cats could be jockeying for position on my person. I’ve learned that I can fool them by hiding my hands. But if they so much as spot me scratching my head, they’ll wrap themselves around my finger.

That’s why I don’t understand humans who complain that their cats won’t cuddle. Sure, I’ll concede that if you try to force a cat to cuddle on human terms, you’ll probably lose a pint of blood and perhaps a couple digits. It’s best to let them make the first move.

Of course, you can take steps to hasten the hugs. For starters, if you lie down, the cats will come scurrying to snuggle beside you. They’ll cuddle so close that you won’t be able to move. In fact, you might lose feeling in every part of your body. Well, every part except for your bladder.

But if you don’t have time for a nap, there’s one simple thing you can do to entice your cat to leap on your lap – pick up something. It doesn’t have to be anything heavy or large. I’ve found that something as small as an emery board or a bottle of nail polish will do the trick. If you’re not into doing your nails, however, focusing your attention on literally anything – a book, a remote control, a phone, a cup, a toothpick, a piece of lint – will instantly make your cat feel like cuddling.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.