The Christmas Chronicles — December 19, 2018

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.

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More power to me — December 12, 2018

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 — December 4, 2018

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 — November 27, 2018

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.

A little squirrelly — November 20, 2018

A little squirrelly

As my family and I prepared the Thanksgiving menu, my mom reminisced about Thanksgivings of yore. Specifically, she recalled the holidays gone by when we gathered around the table to feast on the Thanksgiving squirrel.

While you take a moment to digest that information, I should let you know that by “we,” I mean the rest of the family, because I wasn’t born when these epicurean banquets were held.

Anyway, Mother said that back in the day, she and Daddy couldn’t afford a luxury like turkey. So, they ate chicken or squirrel at Thanksgiving. The chicken would have most likely been born, lived, and died on the property or in the vicinity. Or it could have come from a store, from where it would have been purchased whole. It would have later been cut up into various body parts because they couldn’t afford individual poultry parts, either.

The squirrel, on the other hand, would have come from the nearby hills. After its death, it would have spent some time on an oversized safety pin Daddy used to transport his game.

In addition to chicken or squirrel, Mother said the meal would have included potatoes, beans, and other vegetables and probably some sort of bread. They would have finished the meal by enjoying homemade pie for dessert.

Mother said she might have made dressing on the chicken, but she never served stuffing on a squirrel. Having never stuffed dressing inside a turkey or a squirrel, I can only speculate as to which task would have proven more problematic.

Since she seemed content with the chicken and squirrel, I asked why they switched to turkey for Thanksgiving. She attributed it to following a fad and noted, “We fell into a rut.”

“We didn’t grow up eating turkey,” she reiterated. “I never had a turkey until, golly, I don’t know when I first ate turkey.”

Reconsidering, she added, “Growing up, the only time I remember anybody eating a turkey was when my grandma made one. They killed it and hung it on the clothesline.”

I’ll let you figure out for yourself why they hung the deceased turkey on the clothesline.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

It’s better than (some) delivery — November 13, 2018

It’s better than (some) delivery

Last week brought exciting new experiences for me – I visited Atlanta, I rode through a gated trailer park, and I bought a DiGiorno pizza.

And as I look back on the week, I keep asking myself the same question – why did it take me so long to buy a DiGiorno?

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve dined on oodles of frozen pizzas in my time. Back in the day, I took Totino’s pepperoni pizzas for lunch, dividing the pizza in half to provide lunch for two days.

Through the years, I occasionally upgraded to the frozen pizzas that resemble the kind you order at restaurants. DiGiorno seemed a bit pricey, though, so I settled for lesser known brands. These pizza-eating experiences, however, always left me feeling less than sated. Although I tried several brands, none of them had much of a taste. Well, except for the aftertaste.

But last weekend I found myself in a precarious position. Yes, it was BYOF Saturday at the my mom’s. So, as I walked through the aisles at the Dollar General, looking for something to eat, my eyes spied a DiGiorno rising crust pizza in the frozen food section.

The cost – more than five bucks – seemed exorbitant, but the rumbling in my tummy overruled my thriftiness, so I bought the pizza.

When I arrived at Mom’s, I put the pizza in the oven, leaving it there until the cheese was on the dark side of golden and the crust was a medium brown. Once it cooled a bit, I cut a slice and took a small bite.

It tasted delicious.

I’m not a foodie, so don’t expect me to describe the sauce and cheese with flavor-filled adjectives. Instead, I’ll repeat – it was delicious. The company’s marketing plan boasts that their pizzas could be mistaken for delivery. That is not a ploy. It is the truth. Indeed, the DiGiorno I consumed was better than some pizza I’ve had from certain restaurants.

I shared the yummy goodness with my sister and still had enough left over for Sunday and Monday. But I ate entirely too much for lunch Monday, so I opted for a light dinner that evening. Then, I went to Atlanta. So, by the time I resumed dining at home, the pizza was six days old.

Although I frequently consume food well past expiration dates, I thought long and hard about eating six-day-old pepperoni pizza. I turned to my sister for advice, asking if the pizza would still be good. When she said no, I followed up by inquiring if the no meant “it won’t taste right” or “it will kill you.”

She refused to clarify her answer and I ultimately decided against eating that last slice of pizza. Yes, by my calculations, I threw away approximately 90 cents worth of pizza. But I didn’t want my first experience with DiGiorno to end with a case of food poisoning.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Costume drama — October 28, 2018

Costume drama

With my animosity toward Halloween well-documented, it should come as no surprise that I’ve never had a Halloween costume. And, no, I do not consider the old pair of nylons I wore over my head during my only trick-or-treating excursion a costume.

That foolishness occurred when I was young and stupid and thought walking all over the holler to get candy I was too picky to eat sounded like a splendid idea. Of course, in subsequent years, I’ve had opportunities to dress up for Halloween parties or take part in costume contests at school or work. Indeed, such an opportunity presented itself this year. I politely declined the invitation because, well, I hate Halloween and I will not waste money on an outfit I can wear only once a year.

To be clear, what others do with their money is their business. It’s nothing to me if they want to plunk down their hard-earned dough to while away a few hours dressed as a naughty nurse or demented doctor.

But such luxuries are not for me.

Then again, I have no idea how much adult costumes cost. For all I know, you might be able to purchase a catchy costume for next to nothing. That would still be too much for me, though. After all, I paid only a buck-ten for a new pair of pants back in the summer. So, no matter how little I gave for a costume, I’d keep thinking about how I could have better spent that money.

Besides, I can wear those pants all year. After Halloween, I could wear a Darth Vader helmet only two or three times before arousing the suspicions of associates at the Supercenter and finding myself subject to a shakedown at the store’s exit.

At this point, you might be thinking to yourself, “Self, what’s the difference between a Halloween costume and Christmas sweaters and sweatshirts? You can’t wear them all year, either, so why isn’t she up on her high horse about that?”

Those are fair questions. But whilst also seasonal, you could get by with wearing a sweater emblazoned with rambunctious reindeer from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. I would not, however, suggest wearing such an ensemble to a Fourth of July cookout.

And I’m aware that some folks use a little imagination and a few well-placed props to transform everyday attire into dazzling Halloween costumes. The idea of using my imagination exhausts me, so I’ll slip into my buck-ten pants and rifle through my great-niece’s Halloween bucket for candy I’m still too picky to eat.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The color purple — October 21, 2018

The color purple

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that more and more people are using purple in their Halloween decorations and that more or more younglings are carrying plastic purple pumpkins whilst trick and/or treating. I’ve always associated purple with Easter or royalty, so this trend was a headscratcher. I’ve studied on it quite a bit and asked around, but nobody seems to care, much less have an answer.

Thankfully, I remembered I have access to a handy invention called the Internets, so I consulted the Google.

According to my research, purple represents a witch and her brew. Once I thought about it, Halloweenwise, the color usually accompanies a witch. Indeed, just the other day I saw a front door decorated with a witch flying against a purple background.

So, that’s that, right?

No.

Although I had my answer, I was not ready to conclude my investigation. Instead, I recalled all those porches, fences, and houses adorned with green lights and asked myself, “Self, what’s up with green vis-à-vis Halloween? Are folks confusing the event with Christmas or is there more to it?”

Spoiler alert: There’s more to it.

Green, as it turns out, symbolizes monsters and goblins.

Again, that makes sense. Frankenstein’s monster and the Wicked Witch of the West have green skin and the left field wall at Fenway Park is literally called the Green Monster.

I felt so much wiser, yet I also felt there was more knowledge to acquire in regards to Halloween colors. I was not wrong. Red has become connected with Halloween because it’s the color of blood while white is chosen to signify ghosts, mummies, skeletons, moonlight, and other ghastly sights.

If you count orange and black, aka the traditional Halloween colors, the holiday now claims six hues. I’m not here to hate on Halloween, but what is it going to capitalize on next? Burnt sienna?

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Toilet paper math — October 14, 2018

Toilet paper math

There a mistake in my post, “Power of the pillow.” I wrote that my great-niece and great-nephew had a Mickey and Minnie Mouse comfort pillow. It’s actually a Peppa Pig pillow. I regret this error and apologize to Mickey, Minnie, Peppa, and anyone else inconvenienced and/or offended by the mistake.

In other news, I bought a four-roll pack of toilet paper for 75 cents.

Believe it or not, my purchase had little to do with my well-documented cheapness. This saga actually began in September when I left my shopping list at home and had to rely on my memory during my monthly trip to the Supercenter.

Toilet paper was among the items I forgot to buy. When I eventually ran out, I borrowed a roll, thinking it would do until my October trip to the Supercenter. I dern-near made it. Unfortunately, I used my last sheet early last week, four days before my planned shopping spree.

I guess I could have borrowed another roll. But it’s been my experience that if you borrow more than one roll, your lender expects repayment.

That’s how I ended up in the Super Dollar’s TP aisle.

My inability to do toilet paper math is almost as well documented as my thriftiness. I don’t understand how 12 equals 24 in the TP world or if six rolls of ultra strong is a better deal than eight rolls of strong. At my advanced age, I’ll probably never figure it out.

What’s more, I was carrying only a few dollars, and I needed milk and wanted strawberries. I can do regular math, so I knew that if I bought my regular brand of TP, I wouldn’t have enough money for milk and strawberries.

Luckily, my eyes settled on the aforementioned 75 cent pack of toilet paper. Although I pride myself on my relationship with generic brands, I wasn’t familiar with this TP. But I really wanted the strawberries, so I didn’t have much of a choice.

A 75 cent pack of toilet paper is pretty much what you would expect it to be. It’s so thin that, if I so desired, I could read through it, so I have to use more than usual. It’s soft, though, so there’s that.

In fact, my biggest complaint is that, in spite of the thinness, I need a chainsaw to tear off the sheets. You know what’s so strange about that? The TP features perforations. If the perforations aren’t going to aid in the tearing of sheets, they should get rid of them. If they did so, they could pass along the savings to their customers by charging less than 70 cents for the TP. Even I can do that toilet paper math.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The power of the pillow — October 7, 2018

The power of the pillow

I think it’s safe to say that everyone has at least one comfort food. You know, that food you turn to when you have a bad case of the Mondays or when it’s rained for a week. Mine is mashed potatoes. I’ve cried many a virtual tear into heaping servings of warm mashed potatoes.

If the popularity of scented oils and candles are any indication, then folks have comfort odors as well. While I enjoy the smell of baked goods wafting through the house, I’m not sure I have a comfort odor. But I can report that my great-niece has one. Indeed, she enjoys smelling her pillow.

Make that her smelly pillow, which is what she calls it. In fact, she does not like for the pink pillow, which features Mickey and Minnie Mouse, to be washed. I’ve heard tell that she throws a fit when my niece wrests the pillow from her tiny grasp and tosses it into the washer. After all, what good is a smelly pillow if it’s clean?

My great-niece sleeps on the pillow at night, resting her little head on the Minnie side. Thus, she prefers to bury her nose into that side of the pillow. What’s more, sometimes when she’s playing, she’ll spring up and race to her room, announcing, “I’m going to smell my pillow.”

She loves visiting us and she’s been known to throw a fit when it’s time to leave. (Can you blame her?) To calm her on some occasions, her parents have explained that she can smell her pillow when she goes home. As you might expect, this psychology works.

Although I’m aware of the power scents have on our memories and emotions, I’ve wondered what she gets from sniffing a pillow that reeks of a sweaty child. To be more specific, that reeks of her sweaty head. I have no answer, but I can now report that her brother is also a fan of the pillow.

It appears, however, that he simply enjoys lying on the pillow. But he’s only 14 months old, so how do we know that for sure? How do we know that he wallows on it not because it’s comfy, but because it’s comforting? Could he prefer the pillow because it smells like his sister? Or is there something about this pillow that reassures the kids?

If so, then I might need to get me one of those comfort pillows. It would be less fattening than mashed potatoes.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.