Hare pollution — April 13, 2022

Hare pollution

As Clairee says in Steel Magnolias, “It’s almost time for the East-er Bunny.”

If you are familiar with my thoughts and feelings on mimes and clowns, then you probably will not be surprised to learn that the Easter Bunny also creeps me the expletive out.

When I say – or, rather, write this – obviously I don’t mean the real Easter Bunny creeps me out. I’m sure he or she is a wonderful rabbit. Indeed, the Easter Bunny devotes so much time and attention collecting and delivering toys and candies to the good – and no doubt bad – little girls and boys worldwide that he or she has to subcontract much of the pre-holiday work to others.

In fact, one of my nieces played the role of a generic Easter Bunny many years ago at a local organization. She donned a white costume, complete with oversized bunny ears, and posed in photos with children. And, yes, in case you’re wondering, even though I knew my lovely and in no way creepy niece wore that costume, I was nonetheless creeped out.

Think about it. That gosh-darn bunny never blinks. That’s weird.

Something I cannot wrap my mind around is visits to these generic (and creepy) Easter Bunnies so parents can snap photos of them with children. Children who are in some cases screaming their little lungs out because they’re horrified by the giant pastel-frocked rabbit in their presence.

My aforementioned and in no way creepy niece recently took her younglings – my great-niece and great nephew (emphasis on great) – to have their picture taken with a generic Easter Bunny. The children looked traumatized in the resulting photo.

I could relate. Just looking at the photo traumatized me.

Let’s discuss this rationally. The Easter Bunny who visits with children is human-sized and stands on two feet. Perhaps real bunnies do occasionally stand on two feet. I have, however, never seen this occur in the wild. And by wild, I mean my back yard, the side of the road, or the Goff Estate. So, if I, a woman of advancing age, have never seen it, chances are children haven’t experienced this phenomenon. (I have also never seen a human-sized rabbit in the wild and I hope I never see one. That would be more traumatizing than spying a generic Easter Bunny in a store.)

Anyway, if a standing, human-sized rabbit isn’t enough to make kids think their world has turned upside down, it gets worse. The bunny has an enormous head and – I repeat – never blinks those lifeless eyes.

Happy Easter!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Flamingo (on the) road — April 6, 2022

Flamingo (on the) road

Last week, my bestie shared a story about a flamingo named Pink Floyd who has been on the run for almost 17 years.

Now that I have your attention, let me clarify a point. By “on the run,” I don’t mean that Pink Floyd has been running from the law. Well, at least I don’t think the flamingo is wanted by the law.

Here’s what I do know. According to a CNN story, on a stormy 4th of July in 2005, two flamingoes “went rogue” and flew away from Kansas’ Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita. The birds had been brought there from their native Tanzania, Africa, in 2003, along with 38 other flamingoes.

On July 2, 2005, when zookeepers went to clip the flock’s feathers, a process that’s described in the story as “completely painless” and similar to a human getting a haircut, Pink Floyd and others made a run for it. Or would that be a fly for it?

All but two of the birds returned to the zoo. Those two hung out in a grassy marsh until the aforementioned storm hit on Independence Day. Then, one flew north (it was later spotted in Minnesota) and the other, Pink Floyd, headed to Texas.

Pink Floyd, who was known as No. 492 in confinement, is obviously a rebel. He and No. 347, the flamingo who headed north, apparently did not want their wings clipped or, in other words, their hair cut. Perhaps they’re hippies at heart. Or hobos. Or both.

The Texas Parks & Wildlife bestowed the nickname Pink Floyd to the bird formerly know as No. 492. Its yellow name band is no longer visible so they’re making an assumption that they pink flamingo they’ve spotted for several consecutive springs is Pink Floyd. It’s an educated assumption. After all, flamingoes aren’t native to North America, so there aren’t exactly a lot of flamingoes hanging out on one leg in Texas.

Although the one who went north has only been seen once, I like to think it’s lying low and traveling the country. You might be saying to yourself, “Self, she’s delusional. If that-there flamingo was still alive, someone would have reported it by now.”

How do we know it hasn’t been reported?

I guess I need to remind you that a couple years ago folks in Tennessee reported seeing a tiger, which turned out to be a bobcat. And that I mistook a crane for a pelican.

Somebody somewhere could have spied that flamingo and mistook it for an ostrich or a swan or a stork. For all we know, that flamingo could be flying around, delivering babies.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Coffee break — March 30, 2022

Coffee break

I don’t drink coffee.

Most people react to this statement with disbelief. They stare at me with widened eyes and open mouths before peppering me with such questions as “Why not?” and “What’s wrong with you?”

There’s not enough bandwidth or time to properly answer that last question. As for coffee, unlike my aversion to peanut butter – another admission that folks struggle to understand – I don’t have anything against coffee. In fact, I enjoyed a cup a day for 20 years or so.

If memory serves, I started drinking coffee around age 11. By Goff Estate standards, that defined me as a late bloomer. I grew up in a family of coffee addicts who still drink the stuff all day. They’ve drunk it for so long that they’re immune to its caffeinated effects. Indeed, my mom and oldest sister have fallen asleep whilst drinking coffee.

At any time of the day, you’re likely to hear my mom, my sisters, or my nieces ask, “Whose turn is it to make a pot?” They go through coffee pots like they’re paper plates. Once, when Mother’s coffee pot started misbehaving, I said, “You’ve only had it for little more than a year and a half. Oh, wait, I guess that’s the life expectancy for a coffee pot around here.”

Of course, a single cup of instant coffee is not out of the question, either. Some people don’t care for what my late father referred to as boiled coffee. During my coffee-drinking days, I couldn’t tell the difference between instant and what he called percolated coffee. It all tasted the same to me.

Even back then, though, I wasn’t interested in anything like espresso or zucchini spiced mocha latte. And I’ll never grasp the concept of iced coffee. At the Goff Estate, iced coffee means you’ve talked so much that your previously-warm coffee needs “hottened up.”

Anyway, in adulthood, I finally sought help for my migraines. During a consultation with my doctor, he advised me to rid my life of caffeine. I complied, curbing my intake of chocolate, switching to caffeine free soda (that didn’t last), and quitting coffee.

If this change in lifestyle resulted in night tremors or hallucinations, I don’t remember them. Nor did I look at a cup of coffee with regret and longing.

Fast forward a decade or so later. Whilst making shortbread cookies one Christmas, my taste buds recalled that I had savored coffee with those cookies. Suddenly, I decided that one cup wouldn’t hurt. I poured some coffee and nibbled on a cookie as I waited on it to cool. As soon as I was sure it would not burn my tongue, I put the cup to my mouth, experienced my first sip of coffee in years and immediately said, “Yuck.”

It tasted terribly bitter and dern-near ruined the cookie. It also reminded me that when it comes to coffee, I’m not missing a thing.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The struggle is no longer real — March 23, 2022

The struggle is no longer real

For years I have shared my struggles in this here space. My struggles, that is, with prepping potatoes for mashing, baking, and/or cooking.

As you might recall, I cannot peel potatoes – or anything for that matter – with a knife. Please don’t tell me I could if I practiced. I’ve, in the words of my late father, peeled away too many potatoes in my day practicing.

Anyway, years ago, I purchased a Rotato, a potato-peeling gadget that changed my life. It was a messy gadget, though, and hard to clean. Thankfully, I ran across a vegetable peeler in a store.

Ahh. Talk about a life changer.

I now have four peelers. Why do I have four? Well, you never know when you’ll get the urge to peel something and the other three peelers might be dirty.

Although the peelers solved one problem, they didn’t solve another one. That is, when preparing mashed potatoes, I still need to dice said potatoes.

Here’s the biggest issue for me when it comes to dicing potatoes: I would really prefer if the diced particles of potato were uniform in size.

As you might imagine, that preference means it takes me dozens of minutes to prep potatoes for mashing.

Thankfully, somehow I came into possession of a gadget that legit chops and dices vegetables.

Unfortunately, it was not a life changer. Sure, the diced particles of potato appeared, more or less, to be uniform. But it took just as long to dice them via the gadget as it did with a knife. What’s more, the gadget was messy and hard to clean.

Thus, I resumed dicing potatoes with a knife.

Woe was me.

Then, one day a few weeks ago, I wasn’t feeling my best. So, of course, I turned to my comfort food – mashed potatoes. I didn’t feel up to dicing or even peeling. I had purchased smallish potatoes, so I dumped them into the pan, peelings and all, and poured water on them. (I am not a fan of potato peelings or, as my late father referred to them, potato jackets, either. But like I said, I wasn’t feeling well.)

You know what? The potatoes cooked up, as we say at the Goff Estate, and they were a breeze to mash. What a learning experience. From then on, I haven’t bothered with dicing. After peeling potatoes, I’ve cut them into pieces about the size of the aforementioned smallish potatoes, dumped them into the pan, and poured water over them.

The potatoes have continued to cook up and I have continued to add butter and heavy cream (a tip I learned from my bestie) to create scrumptious mashed potatoes.

There have been no lumps. No issues. No drama. No struggles.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Let’s regroup — March 16, 2022

Let’s regroup

Last week, sister number two told us that her daughter, who happens to be my niece, has been working with younglings at the school on regrouping. Well, that delighted sister number one and me. We thought it was wonderful that teachers and aides are helping the students reset their thoughts and feelings when they experience a setback.

Indeed, as an adult of an advanced age, I know that sometimes when I hit the proverbial bump in the road professionally or personally, I take a breath and regroup. Younglings need to do the same as well.

Wait. What? That’s not what regrouping means vis-à-vis elementary school?

Oh, it appears regrouping is another term for new math.

That’s cool, too.

Indeed, as an adult of an advanced age, I have passing knowledge of this new-ish regrouping math and it makes sense to me. From my limited understanding, the name regrouping comes from the process of making groups of 10 when adding or subtracting numbers that are at least two digits.

The reason it makes sense to me is because that’s how I performed addition as a wee lass.

Yes, dear readers, I was ahead of my time.

Now, maybe my kind of regrouping wasn’t technically correct, but it sort of worked for me. Here’s how I did a math problem. Let’s say it was 23+44. I saw it as 20+40 (10s)=60 and then 3+4=7; 60+7=67.

I’m not sure if that’s how they teach regrouping, but that’s how I taught it to myself.

I’m also not sure if that’s how I performed subtraction, but that’s also the general idea of how I did multiplication.

Wait. What’s that? How did I do long division? I didn’t.

Thankfully, somewhere along the way, I discovered a little gadget called a calculator, but I still math the old-fashioned way when I must. You might want to sit down for this, but I can also do fractions and percentages. In fact, I can do them much better than I can do long division, which I repeat, I do not do.

As calculators became more available, teachers cautioned us not to become dependent on them because … reasons. Seriously, were aliens going to confiscate all the calculators and take them back to their home galaxy? I know teachers wanted us to be able to math without help from a machine, but calculators were right there. They still are.

Teachers also scolded us for counting with our fingers because … reasons. This one never made sense to me. Were all of us going to lose our fingers in accidents? What’s the harm in letting a kid honestly arrive at the answer anyway he or she can?

Anyway, a few months ago, my great-niece (emphasis on great), gave me a math worksheet to complete. (I got a perfect score without using a calculator!) As she graded my work, I saw that she was counting on her fingers. I learned that younglings today are allowed to do so.

That’s progress, people!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The West Side Story continues — March 9, 2022

The West Side Story continues

As you grow older, your tastes change. For example, I don’t eat as much candy as I did in the past. Of course, my recent purchases at the dollar store might dispute this claim. But all those bags of candy were not for me! Besides, Easter comes only once a year!

Anyway, when I was much younger, I decreed that I didn’t enjoy movie musicals. Oh, the folly of youth.

This silly, sweeping pronouncement included the 1961 classic, West Side Story. Indeed, I remember disappointing a friend when I announced, with smugness dripping from my voice, that I didn’t care for the movie and all those annoying song and dance routines.

A few years later, I viewed the movie again and, that time, I recognized the film’s brilliance, especially those song and dance routines. To this day, I might start singing “America,” “Jet Song,” “Maria,” or “A Boy Like That” at random moments. I might even add a little dance to the routine if I’m in a good mood.

For those of you unfamiliar with the film, it’s an adaptation of the Broadway musical, which was inspired by Romeo and Juliet. It tells the tale of two rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, against the backdrop of the interracial love story of Tony and Maria.

West Side Story is one of my oldest sister’s favorite films, so when Steven Spielberg’s remake was released last year, she said she wanted to see it. Alas, she didn’t make it to the theatre.

The film did make it to my streaming service last week and I invited my sister to a private viewing at my home. We watched the movie this weekend.

When it comes to classic cinema, I’m a traditionalist who generally avoids remakes. After all, why mess with near or absolute perfection? If not for my sister, I’m not sure I would have watched the 2021 version of West Side Story. But I did so with an open mind.

And you know what? It was great.

In some ways, I enjoyed it more than I did the original.

I was happy to see Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Anita in the 1961 version, as Valentina. (Moreno also serves as an executive producer.) Spielberg’s version is faithful to the original stage version and it’s just so vibrant and colorful – even when the colors are drab.

Musicals are usually uplifting. (At least most of my favorite musicals – Grease, Meet Me in St. Louis, and Singin’ in the Rain – have uplifting endings. A fourth film on that list – All That Jazz – is not exactly a laugh fest.)

Although West Side Story contains dark overtones, the aforementioned song and dance routines and vibrant colors can fool you. During one song and dance number, I told my sister that real life would be better if folks broke out into song and started dancing and everyone joined in. Wouldn’t that be grand!

She gave me side eye. After all, she knew what was coming. Like I mentioned earlier, the story is based on Romeo and Juliet. Ergo, almost everyone dies.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Scenario planning — March 2, 2022

Scenario planning

Last week, I had a doctor’s appointment at the medical center. (No worries. I’m fine.) As I’m a heavy water drinker, I used the facilities during my visit. Whilst in the facilities, a poster caught my eyes.

I had never seen this type of poster. Indeed, I’m used to posters at healthcare facilities advising me on the benefits of drinking water or exercising or washing my hands.

This poster advised against sticking your hands in the toilet.

The poster certainly achieved one of its goals. It grabbed my attention.

Of course, as I had no plans to stick my hands in the toilet, I can’t say it achieved its ultimate goal of preventing me from doing so.

Anyway, the poster further advised patients and/or visitors to contact someone at the medical center in the event the toilet became clogged. (By the way, I can only surmise that-there restroom is not the only one that contains such a poster.)

I’ve happened upon a few clogged public toilets in my time. I have to say I’ve never been tempted to unclog them on my own. When this unfortunate event occurs, I unleash a stream of expletives and vacate the premises as quickly as possible.

Since that poster is on that-there wall, I can only surmise that at least one visitor to at least one medical center restroom has attempted to unclog a toilet … with the visitor’s hands.

I believe in helping people when we can, but this would not fall under the heading of when we can. Or helping.

Nevertheless, I have something of an imagination. In fact, I have been accused – with good reason – of using that imagination to create “scenarios.” So, I’ve created a couple scenarios to explain why a person would attempt to unclog a public toilet.

Here’s one. Perhaps the attempted unclogger was a secret agent or an embezzler or an adulterer who was trying to destroy a paper trail. No one would think to check the medical center’s waste system for state secrets, bank records, or text messages. (Why would the unclogger have printed copies of these documents? Don’t question my scenarios.)

After the attempted unclogger ripped the paper to shreds and flushed the shreds down the toilet, the paper suddenly gurgled back to life. He or she couldn’t risk letting the wrong eyes see those papers.

Hence, the poster.

Here’s another one. Perhaps attempted unclogger was an embarrassed parent who was trying to retrieve a kid’s favorite stuffed animal after said kid dropped the toy in the toilet at the wrong time. When you have a kid screaming in your ear about Uni the Unicorn drowning, you don’t have many options.

Hence, the poster.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The word of the day — February 23, 2022

The word of the day

A couple months ago, rows of gray, green, and yellow boxes started showing up on my social media feeds. I said to myself, “Self, what the expletive?”

An inquisitive person, I researched the matter and learned it was a game called Wordle. At first, I wasn’t interested. After all, I don’t play games because games require me to download apps, and with a few exceptions, I avoid apps. But once I found out the game would not require me to download an app, I decided to give it a try.

Two months later, I’m still giving Wordle a try every day.

For those of you who don’t play, Wordle is like hangman or that old game show Lingo. You get one five-letter word a day. (Everybody gets the same word.) You get six guesses. If you guess a letter in the correct place, the letter turns green. If it’s in the word but out of place, it turns yellow. If a letter is not in the word, it’s gray.

Let’s be honest. We’re always fussing with one another about something. I like that Wordle brings people together. I don’t post my scores online because I play on a device that’s not connected to my accounts.

But I enjoy following other people’s Wordle journeys, even if I don’t always comment on them. I do not share my starting word, though. In fact, I guard it like it’s a trademark. Why? No good reason. I will tell you that I frequently use the same second word, too. (Which I will also not share.) Oftentimes, however, I start guessing on the second word. It depends on how the gray, green, and yellow boxes shake out in the first word.

Speaking of shake, that was the word one day last week. It caused much consternation. I know what you’re thinking. How could a common word like shake cause trouble? Because S_A_E could be skate, stare, shape, slate, scare, state…I could go on.

It depends on your remaining letters, but sometimes it comes down to a lucky guess. Other Wordle players might not want to admit that luck plays a big part in the game, but it does.

Not being a dumb expletive plays a part, too. As of this writing, I’ve failed to guess the word once – ultra. Words starting with vowels as well as those with repeating letters confound me because I frequently forget that words can start with vowels or contain repeating letters.

That’s why I laugh and laugh when some folks – they know who they are – tell me they don’t play Wordle because they’re concerned it will make them feel stupid.

To be fair, some Wordle words are not common. I’m looking at you swill and tacit. Others, such as those and could are quite familiar. Yes, those and could have been Wordle words since I started playing.

I don’t really care how many guesses it takes to guess the word as long as I don’t tap out. I’ve only gotten the word on the second try once. The word was cynic. Yes, I had one green letter and another yellow one after the first word, but if there’s one word I’m going to get on the second try, it’s cynic.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

You never know — February 16, 2022

You never know

Last week I shared my thoughts on the first few days of the Olympics. But guess what, dear readers? There’s been an entire week of the Games since I penned those thoughts. You know what that means.

  • Whilst penning the aforementioned thoughts, in which I wrote that I didn’t care for alpine skiing, I was literally watching alpine skiing. It gets better. I stayed up past midnight-thirty watching the sport…that I had stated in print I find boring. But I also find it strangely captivating. The athletes speed down mountains at 60 to 70 miles per hour. (Fun fact: Until my young friend pointed it out, I didn’t realize the graphic in the corner of the screen that legit features numbers and the letters MPH indicates the speed at which the skiers race.) Although the athletes look like they’re out of control, they know what they’re doing and I’m sure the poles serve some sort of purpose. Even if I’m not sure what it is or how the skiers maintain control. I know one thing, though. I wouldn’t even make it out of the gate.
  • I found a U.S. men’s curling match on the TV over the weekend. Recalling how much emotion I invested in the U.S. gold medal winning team (Shuster) in 2018, I told myself history would not repeat itself during this Olympiad. I lied. Twenty-four hours later, I have caught parts of two other men’s matches and one women’s match. As of this writing, I am concerned about both U.S. teams prospects for the Games. On an unrelated note, their uniforms are too busy for my liking.
  • This isn’t about the Games, per se, but NBC plays the same commercials over and over. They’re advertising movies and series that will soon make their debuts. For what it’s worth, I am not being paid to promote these shows. (Oh, how I wish I were.) But the dramatic reboot of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air looks pretty good. I did not watch the original. I also did not watch that Tiger King nonsense, but they’ve made a movie about it, and the actress playing Carole Baskin sounds just like her. As I do not have Peacock, I will not be watching either of these programs. I am excited about The Thing About Pam, which dramatizes the 2011 murder of Betsy Faria and Betsy’s infamous “friend,” Pam Hupp. If you’re a regular viewer of Dateline, you know the thing about Pam. By the way, I’ll swear on a stack of photos of Viggo Mortensen that from the first Faria-based episode of Dateline, I knew Pam’s story did not add up. Too bad the authorities in Missouri didn’t do the math. Perhaps they could have saved one man’s freedom and another’s life.
  • Back to the Games. In separate conversations with my mom, my bestie, and my young friend, we’ve discussed the danger that looms over the winter Olympics. As my young friend says, when it comes to the Winter Games, it’s all about blades and speed, both of which can kill you. Think about it. The snowboarders jump, what, 50 feet in the air? But even when they fall, they seemingly hop up like they’re made of rubber. But under the category of you just never know: According to the medical examiner’s report, actor/comedian Bob Saget died after accidentally falling and hitting his head in a hotel room.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The Olympics now and then — February 9, 2022

The Olympics now and then

The winter Olympics started last week. As of this writing, I haven’t been able to devote much time and attention to the Games. With that said, I do have thoughts on the Olympics, which I will now share.

  • It seems like every time I tune into Olympics coverage, one of the networks is showing a women’s hockey game or the luge. And it seems like the voices of the female commentators commenting on the two disparate sports sound an awful lot alike. I said to myself, “Self, it can’t be the same woman. What are the chances that one person is that informed about hockey and the luge, and that the sports’ schedules allow her to call all these events?” Spoiler alert: It’s not the same woman. I can’t decide if the two ladies have vocal fry or if they’re just bored, but their voices annoy me.
  • Speaking of the luge…I’m not much of a fan of it or the bobsled or the skeleton. Or of alpine skiing. Make no mistake about it, I will watch the expletive out of all these sports during the Olympics. And I have mad respect for the athletes who spend decades training for these dangerous sports. I realize they’re competing at something like a million miles an hour and risking life and limb every time they squeeze into sleds or slip into skis. But watching the events is kinda boring. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow they’re going. It all looks the same to me. The luge/bobsled/skeleton would interest me more if they raced against one another. That’s why, when it comes to skiing, I prefer cross-country events like the ski and shoot aka the biathlon.
  • Whilst discussing the Games with a young friend at work, said young friend admitted she had only recently learned of the 2002 figure skating judging scandal in which the French judge alleges she was pressured to award points to the Russian pairs figure skating team. I congratulated her on educating herself on world history and told her the scandal consumed me back in the day. The Russians were awarded gold and the Canadian pair, who gave a flawless performance, the silver medal. After an investigation revealed shenanigans in the judging, the International Olympic Committee awarded a second set of gold medals to the Canadians. Separate Netflix and Peacock documentaries document the scandal. Anyway, when my young friend referenced the Canadians’ costumes, I asked, “Gray?” I cannot remember people, places, and things from my actual life circa 2002, but I can remember what color costumes the Canadians wore. I told you the scandal consumed me.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.