Parenthetically speaking — March 3, 2021

Parenthetically speaking

It’s March!

Keep reading for more late breaking news from Captain Obvious such as grass is (generally) green, the sky is (sometimes) blue, and an artichoke is a vegetable (with a heart).

Seriously, I decided to inform you that March has blown into our lives because I needed a reminder. In spite of my advanced age, every year around, let’s say, Feb. 22, a similar scenario takes place. Someone – this someone can be me – will mention that a professional or personal deadline is looming in March. After reviewing the calendar, I will then exclaim, “Oh, my God! March is literally next week!”

This happens every expletive year. It’s not like I forget that February has only 28 or (occasionally) 29 days. Indeed, I find February’s length (generally) beneficial. Since it’s exactly four weeks long, it’s easy to count off and know what date certain events will occur in March. For example, I’m writing this on Feb. 28. Without consulting a calendar, I know that March 28 will also take place on a Sunday.

So, what’s the issue?

The heck if I know.

You would think that two or three days wouldn’t make much of a difference, but you would be wrong. On the other hand, on April 29, I don’t (usually) exclaim, “The day after tomorrow is May!”

So, why is February/March different?

Could it be tied to the season? Perhaps we (and by we, I mean me) are still in an extended post-holiday mode and not thinking clearly. It’s like we (me) just finished celebrating with Baby New Year and all of a sudden, we (me) realize it’s almost time to break out the green attire and hang out with St. Patrick.

Or could it have something to do with the weather? Perhaps we (again, I mean me) are covered in coats and blankets and worrying about the electric bill and ice storms, so we allow pesky little things like the month of the year to slip our shivering minds. Having never lived in Australia, I can only speculate as to whether March sneaks up on folks who live in a fiery February.

Or could it be none of the above? Perhaps I really do make similar exclamations about April and August, but they don’t make as much of an impact because by that point in the year I’m tired. Heck, I probably make similar exclamations dern-near every week of the year as in, “Oh, my, God! The day after tomorrow is Thursday!”

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

With a little help from my friends — February 17, 2021

With a little help from my friends

Well, I experienced another typical week – I accidentally bought six tubes of toothpaste, I accidentally tore up a kitchen sink strainer, and I sorta accidentally forced my mom and sister to share a six-piece chicken McNuggets.

Oh, and I also survived round one of Icepocalypse ’21.

By the time you read this-here column, we should be in the final throes of round two of Icepocalypse ’21. We’ll see if I survive that without succumbing to madness, hypothermia, and/or hunger.

As long-time readers might suspect, I’m a tad concerned about a potential ice storm-themed power outage. I’ve detailed, in what some readers might describe as excruciating detail, my struggles with short-term outages. As I’ve said before, I was not meant for a “Little House on the Prairie” existence.

I have, however, planned for a potential outage. I have uploaded music so that I won’t be driven to madness by silence. In regard to an alternate heating source, I plan to dress in layers, ply multiple blankets atop me, and lie under those blankets for hours upon hours in the darkness, wondering how my life choices led me to such miserable moments in time. Then, as soon as the roads clear, I will throw off the blankets and drive until I find electricity.

As for sustenance, I have purchased enough chips and candy to get me through a few days.

Yes, I realize chips and candy aren’t exactly loaded with vitamins, but what else am I supposed to do? I’m something of an orchid and, thus, I have certain dietary needs. Chief among those is a need for warm food.

Whenever I share my power outage food plans with people, they always suggest I make sandwiches. Uh, no. I’ve never been a sandwich type of gal. Indeed, I don’t even own sliced bread.

Sure, I’ve been known to eat a cold ham sandwich in my day. But I prefer a ham sandwich that includes cheese and I’d prefer for the entire enterprise to be served on a toasted and/or heated sub bun, which I’m fairly sure can’t occur during an outage.

A couple times a year, I also get a hankering for a grilled cheese sandwich, but you guessed it. That also can’t occur during an outage.

So, if I’m going to be miserable, I might as well make it a little more tolerable with help from my old friends – Chip and Candy.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Missing out — February 10, 2021

Missing out

Last Saturday, I accidentally left my phone at the house when I went to run errands. Luckily, I remembered my mask and my shopping list.

Although I vowed to never become one of those people, the truth is that I’ve grown accustomed to my phone. Indeed, I initially panicked when I realized I had left it charging. What if an emergency occurred? What if I happened upon an accident? I was going to be shopping for my mom and sister as well as for myself. What if they remembered an item they had forgotten to add to their list? How would they get this news of epic proportions to me?

Thus, I considered heading back to the house to retrieve the phone. But I had made plans to meet a masked personage in a parking lot to make a quick exchange – mind your own business – and I didn’t have the time to spare.

After the exchange, I made my way into the store and, well, I’m happy to report that I survived without a phone.

Sure, searching for one-minute oats, which was included on my mom and sister’s list, can only be described as perplexing. Although I combed over every shelf in the oats section, I did not find any that were timed. I did, however, find two-and-a-half-minute Cream of Wheat.

Anyway, I settled on a container of quick oats and I’m still unsure if I made the wise choice. I guess having a phone would have helped make that task a little easier, as I could have called them for advice.

Also, before I left the house, I sent messages to my sisters and niece, asking what they wanted for dessert (pronounced as zert at the Goff Estate). Again, since I didn’t have the phone with me, I couldn’t receive their responses. So, whilst at the store, I decided I would have to create another mouth-watering zert from ingredients I had on hand. (And that’s exactly what I did, whipping up a batch of my award-worthy chocolate chip cookies.)

Otherwise, only one glitch occurred. My sisters, nieces, and I play a scavenger hunt, of sorts. Basically, when we spot our find whilst out and about, we share the news with the others. Sometimes, we even include photographic evidence. (Relax, we don’t do so whilst driving.)

Well, I spotted a find, but since I didn’t have my phone, I couldn’t take a photo or even share the news semi-immediately.

Forget the timed oats.

Forget the zert.

It was then that I most missed my phone.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A case of the sads — February 3, 2021

A case of the sads

You know how some people proclaim the end of daylight saving time to be the worst day of the year?

Yeah, I’m not that person. Except for a meltdown I experienced as a wee lass one year when time either sprang forward or fell back, I’ve never really cared that much about the beginning and/or end of daylight saving time. (Well, that’s not entirely true. I don’t enjoy losing an hour’s worth of sleep when it begins in the spring.)

Anyway, the way I see it, we have the same amount of daylight in one 24-hour period no matter what time it is, so what’s with all the complaining?

I’m also not one of those people who proclaims the onset of winter to be the worst time of the year. After all, I enjoy cold weather and snow.

But you know what I consider to be the worst time of the year? Now, also known as the end of football season.

Of course, one NFL game remains to be played, but seeing as how He Who Shall Not Be Named will be playing in said game, football season ended for me last Sunday night. Since then, the world has seemed a little darker and a little sadder.

I’m not the only person in pain. A fellow football fan told me the end of football season upends her Sunday afternoon schedule. With a catch in her voice, she pleaded, “I nap during some of those games.”

See, the struggle is real. I’ve found myself reaching for the remote to turn the TV to a game or to the sports channels so I could listen to humans talk about a game, only to stop myself with a reminder that it no longer matters. It’s over.

Sure, a huge trade occurred this past weekend, but we have to wait seven agonizingly long months to see how the trade plays out on the field.

What are we supposed to do during those seven months? Not nap on Sundays?

Oh, you might be asking yourself, “Self, why did she have a meltdown when time changed?”

Who knows? I was a sensitive lass. Indeed, from what I’ve been told, the time change meltdown didn’t come close to approaching the meltdown I experienced whilst watching a movie called “A Girl Named Sooner.”

Or the one I had last week when my team lost to He Who Shall Not Be Named’s team.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Picture this — January 27, 2021

Picture this

Before Christmas, my family asked what I had included in my letter to Santa. I answered that I had told Santa I’m a simple woman who wants nothing more than for her loved ones to be happy and healthy.

After they picked their eyes up from where they had rolled onto the floor, my family members said, “For reals, what do you want?”

I told them that other than a laptop, I couldn’t think of anything I needed.

And that’s when it started. Apparently, during visits to my house, certain family members had been compiling mental lists of items they felt needed replacing. Picture frames held the top spot on that list.

I had to admit that one picture frame had seen better days. Although I had used copious amounts of scotch tape in an attempt to keep it together, one side would not stay attached to the frame.

“Okay,” said I. “I’ll put a picture frame on my list.”

“Oh, you’re so funny,” my loved ones said as they went through my picture frames, one by one, making little strikes on a piece of paper for each frame they felt needed replacing. When I tried to protest, they shushed me.

So, when we gathered after Christmas to open presents, I wasn’t surprised that I received five fancy new picture frames. I was surprised that, when I finally got around to displaying the frames last week – don’t judge my procrastination! I’ve been busy not completing other items on my to-do list! – I realized my family had been right. Multiple frames were held together – and I use those words loosely – by tape.

In some instances, I had also taped the photos to the frames and then wrapped additional tape around the back of the frames to, again, hold the whole thing together. I had wondered how my loved ones had been able to spot the flaws in the frames. Upon closer inspection, I wondered how the frames had not disintegrated whenever anyone picked them up or even walked by them.

Still, tossing the damaged frames into the trash represented a bittersweet moment. While I don’t remember the day I purchased the frames, I do remember the happiness I felt when I saw the price tags.

“Wow,” I recall saying to self, “these gold- and silver-plated beauties are only a dollar each.”

In retrospect, maybe that’s why copious amounts of tape were required to keep the sides attached to the frames.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Come on down — January 13, 2021

Come on down

Well, 2021 is off to a terrible start, but one good thing has occurred this year. I’ve learned that Pluto TV now has a channel devoted to the 1980’s Bob Barker era of The Price Is Right.

You might have some questions, including what the expletive is Pluto TV and how do I access it?

I researched the Internets to find a good description of Pluto TV, but I found the explanations sorely lacking. Here’s the best that I can do. If you can access the likes of Netflix and Hulu, then you can add Pluto to your buffet of platforms. It’s free, offers live TV-ish, and has oodles of channels. Don’t ask me how to add it or you’ll end up in Denmark. Instead, ask a loved one or a neighbor or that pesky feller who keeps offering to upgrade your car warranty.

Anyway, Pluto added TPIR on Dec. 1, but I didn’t learn of its existence until Jan. 1, which means I missed the holiday marathon. (Fun fact, as a wee lass, I thought the TPIR anagram stood for trip. I also thought announcer Johnny Olson was saying cars came equipped with California ignition instead of emission. Yes, even as a child, I was a candidate for a think tank.)

Many of the episodes haven’t been seen since they aired back in the ’80s and, during my down time, I do my best to make sure I watch as many as possible. It reminds me of when my family first got the MTV. My siblings and I tried to watch the channel around-the-clock, as if we expected it to disappear if we turned off the TV.

That’s me and TPIR on Pluto. There are so many aspects of the ‘80s episodes I had forgotten. These include the train, a few of the retired games, and the fact that women didn’t wear much clothing back in the day. I also wince at some of the remarks Bob Barker makes to the female contestants and models, who were known as Barker’s Beauties.

But I’ll give the man his due. He brought energy and pizazz to every single episode and never acted like he was too good or too cool for the show. Other game show hosts act(ed) like they’d been lobotomized, but not Barker (or the recently departed Alex Trebek). Barker maintained a repartee with the contestants and the studio audience that was fun to experience.

Another fun fact: whilst watching my first Pluto episode, I wondered in what year it was set. So, I studied the skimpy clothing, the hairstyles, and the TPIR merchandise and decided on 1982. Then, I watched the credits to see if I was right.

I was.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me because the showcase showdown is starting.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The best of the bless — January 6, 2021

The best of the bless

For the past several years, I’ve been writing a blessing on a scrap of paper each week, placing said blessing in a popcorn tin, and then reviewing the year’s blessings at the beginning of the following year.

I’m going to give it to you straight – I dreaded reviewing 2020’s blessings. I figured the year would be filled with variations of “survived another week without contracting the corona.”

Surprisingly, there was nary a mention of COVID-19 amongst the blessings. Indeed, the year started strong with four blessings in week one – we made my great-nephew laugh until he snorted; I watched The Mandalorian and Schitt’s Creek; and the New England Patriots lost in the playoffs.

Actually, the NFL made multiple appearances in my blessings tin. I counted the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl win as the week four blessing, which raised my eyebrows because I had already located a week four blessing in the tin. Oh, well. I had obviously made a mistake and written week four on the scrap of paper when I should have written five.

That’s not the only NFL-related mistake I made. Later, in week 38, I listed the NFL’s season start as a blessing. Then, I listed it again in week 39. Apparently, I really needed some football in my life.

While reviewing scraps of paper, I also saw the words “scripts and shots.” As I scribble the blessings on the backs of envelopes or shopping lists, I supposed I was looking at a note to self. But, no, the words were under a week 36 header. Then I remembered. Boy, did I remember.

There was also the week my blessing consisted of “nuggets and mashed potatoes; yep, that’s it” and another one that comprised “nine hours of sleep.” I’m unsure if I received nine hours of sleep the night before I recorded the blessing or nine hours of sleep the entire week.

And there was the week my sisters, niece, and I traveled to Ashland to take in the Winter Wonderland of Lights. Due to the corona, we masked up as we took in the dazzling display. It was a chilly night and my glasses kept fogging up. At times, I couldn’t see anything, so I literally bent at the waist and felt around in front of me so as not to walk into a tree or a person.

When we weren’t around humans, I removed my mask so that I could actually look at the lights. (Yes, you read that right.) At one point, we had to walk across a bridge that spanned a pond. I didn’t want to fall into cold water. What I really wanted was for my loved ones to lead me over the bridge, but they had forsaken me. When I removed my mask to look for them (again, you read that right), I saw a woman pull her son to her chest. I can only assume she assumed I was intoxicated, and she didn’t want her child near a lunatic who was under the influence.

I also saw my loved ones. All three were doubled over, but not because they were lost in the dark. It’s because they were laughing out loud at me. They had assumed I was having a seizure and they found the spectacle hilarious.

Still, that was the best thing to happen to me that week.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Soap gets in your mind — December 30, 2020

Soap gets in your mind

During normal times, I take down my tree and the other holiday decorations the day after Christmas. As of this writing, however, my family has not celebrated Christmas. What’s more, I’ve enjoyed taking in the tree against the backdrop of the snow that continues to blanket my yard. So, for now, the decorations shall remain within my view and not hidden in a closet.

Anyway, my decision to wait a few days to un-decorate has led my mind to one obvious location – soap operas.

Although I no longer watch soaps, I, like most people who were raised right, grew up watching stories, as they were known to some. Thus, every year at the holidays, I was flabbergasted by how the characters waited until Christmas Eve to decorate their trees. (I was also flabbergasted by how they wrapped presents. They wrapped the top of the box and the bottom, but not the entire present together. So, this meant that characters simply lifted the tops of the boxes to reveal their gifts. It seemed like a waste of dramatic effect to me.)

Back to the subject at hand – procrastinating until Christmas Eve to trim the tree. If you were/are a Days of Our Lives’ viewer, you might be saying to yourself, “Self, once they gather together on Christmas Eve, the Hortons decorate the tree with ornaments bearing their names. It’s a tradition. What’s she got against traditions?”

Nothing. And while I might be persuaded to grant you the Hortons’ tradition, what about all the other families on Days and the other soaps? Trust me, at one point I tried them all, so I can safely say that the lot of them wait until Christmas Eve. I know they’re busy having affairs and plotting revenge and world domination, but you’d think at least one or two of them could squeeze in a few hours to decorate a tree. Or, I don’t know, have a servant complete the task.

Because decorating takes time. One of the reasons I do it around Thanksgiving is because I’m not expending all that effort to create a masterpiece that will disappear in two days.

Speaking of masterpieces…once my mind settled on soaps, it also started thinking about how the genre’s villains tend to have giant portraits of themselves in their homes. I’m not sure if they commission these portraits or if they’re gifts from minions or family members who don’t know what else to give a super villain for birthdays and Christmas.

I do know that there’s a present adjacent to my mom’s tree – it can’t fit underneath – that could be a portrait. Although I usually avoid mirrors and likenesses of myself, I won’t be disappointed if a loved one has commissioned a giant portrait of me. I’ll keep you posted.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

No time like the present — December 23, 2020

No time like the present

This is the first post I’ve penned on an actual computer since July.

Allow me to explain.

On a sultry summer Sunday evening, I was putting the finishing touches on a post when my aged laptop quit working. I figured the ole girl needed a break and would be up and running at suboptimal speed within hours.

That didn’t happen. Indeed, she wasn’t up and running at any speed days later.

I considered sending her in for repairs, but an IT expert/friend of a friend advised that it would be more cost effective for me to replace her.

As I appreciate the words “cost effective,” I did a quick search, saw that my preferred company had laptops on sale and planned to order one the next day.

The sale ended before I could place the order, because of course it did.

With no plans to pay full price, I decided to wait for the next sale. But what to do in the interim? How could I pen a post for my dear readers without a computer?

Well, for a few weeks, I used what amounted to a loaner. But I felt like I was taking advantage of the lender. So, then I started penning these-here posts on my iPad.

If you’ve never written anything on a pad or a tablet, imagine sending a 400-plus word text on your phone. Every week. For months. But that represents the lengths I’ll go to for my dear readers.

Who knows how long I would have made these sacrifices if not for my mom and a Black Friday sale.

Of course, at first, I did not react well to my mom’s generous offer to buy me a laptop for Christmas. I think I asked rhetorically, “Do you know how much laptops cost?”

To which she retorted, “No, because you won’t tell me.”

Our heated exchange might have also included her telling me she would spend her money however she expletive well felt like spending it.

Anyway, I consulted my preferred company’s Black Friday sales page, retrieved my abacus, and deduced that, at the sale price, she wouldn’t be dropping an obscene amount of money on me. After all, it’s not like I had my eye on a model that would allow me to play video games or launch rockets. So, I told her I would give her permission to buy me a laptop. She might have rolled her eyes.

No, it’s not yet Christmas. Yes, I am already using the laptop.

This has caused a minor controversy between us. My mom is concerned because I won’t have a gift to open from her. But I opened the box when it came to my house, so that counts, right? Besides, if she wrapped the laptop, that would constitute wasting wrapping paper and tape, which is not cost effective.

Happy Holidays!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Made the moist of it — December 16, 2020

Made the moist of it

fruitcakeAlthough I’m not a fan of fruitcake, except for an occasional nibble of the crust, when my sister asked me a couple years ago if I’d like to make one, I said, “Yeah.” Then, last year, when she asked if I wanted to make one soaked in booze, I said, “Expletive yeah.”

So, last year, we soaked the candied fruit in brandy before preparing the cake and then, after the cake had been baked, we brushed it with more brandy. (We also made the cake a little water bed so it could benefit from even more moisture as it baked.)

All that liquid must have worked because the cake was characterized as “moist” by its adoring fans. This year, we purchased more booze and once again soaked the candied fruit in brandy. By the way, it’s been my experience that you meet some of the nicest and best looking people at liquor stores.

Anyway, if my memory is correct, last year we allowed the candied fruit to ferment overnight. This year, they soaked for several days and nights. You might want to file that tidbit away for later.

The day finally arrived and we gathered in my kitchen and prepared the cake, once again making a little water bed in the pan. With the cake safely baking in the oven, my sister left. As she made her leave, she told me to call if I needed her. I rolled my eyes until they fell out my head. After all, what kind of idiot needs help removing a cake from the oven?

It takes approximately 17 hours for a fruitcake to thoroughly bake. I walked on the treadmill, took a shower, and read War and Peace whilst it baked. (One of those is a fib.) When the skewer I inserted into the cake came out clean, I removed the cake. See, any idiot can remove a cake from the oven.

After letting it sit and settle for a bit, I attempted to transfer the cake from the pan and to a plate.

Note the use of the word “attempted.”

As soon as I touched it, it started to crumble and come apart.

I grabbed the phone, called my sister, and said, “I need you.”

Seconds later, my sister and niece arrived, announcing they had used the car’s emergency flashers. After she washed her hands for 40 seconds, my sister and I attempted to move the cake.

It seems we had made a fruitcake so moist and soaked with booze that it was stuck to the pan and the wax paper. (Yes, smarty pants, we had used generous amounts of cooking spray.) Despite our repeated efforts, the cake would hardly move and when it did move, it was like watching the ground during an earthquake.

Finally, my niece said, “Why don’t you cut it into pieces and then move it?”

My sister and I, who had been bickering over how long we had soaked the candied fruit last year, looked at each other and said, “Why don’t we do that?”

So, I grabbed a meat cleaver and we did just that.

Oh, I’ve nibbled on the fruitcake’s crust and, at the sake of bragging, it’s quite tasty. And moist. And boozy.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.