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.

Deliver the goods — December 9, 2020

Deliver the goods

A couple weeks ago, I was in my house, working remotely and minding my own business, when I noticed a car pull up beside my mailbox. It wasn’t the mail person or a car that was familiar to me, so I paid attention.

A few days prior, I had put out some “trash” that solid waste hadn’t picked up. When the driver of the mystery car exited the vehicle, I hoped he planned to turn my trash into his treasure because that would have kept me from having to figure out what to do with it.

Instead, he pulled a box from his car, strolled up my driveway, and deposited the box on my porch.

I said to myself, “Self, what the expletive?”

Granted, I had placed an order for my mom, but I’m not used to packages being delivered in random automobiles. Thus, I consulted my sisters and nieces. The conversation went “something” like this.

“Guys, a man in a (color redacted) car that looked like an old school Monte Carlo just dropped off a package on my porch. Does that seem right?”

“What’s a Monte Carlo?” asked a niece

“It was a car,” said I.

“Would they still be on the road?” asked a sister. “I don’t think they’ve made them in decades.”

“I said it looked like a Monte Carlo.”

“Do you mean Monte Carlo like the city in Europe?” asked a niece.

“Yeah, like where Princess Grace lived,” said a sister.

“Who is Princess Grace?” asked a niece.

“What kind of nonsense is this?! Princess Grace was a legend!” wailed I. “I’m going to disown you heatherns, but first, will someone please answer my question about people in random cars delivering packages.”

“Oh, that’s normal,” answered a niece. “You never know what kind of car or who will deliver your packages.”

Huh. Although I have been fortunate to work from home since March, I haven’t noticed a difference in delivery services because it’s not like I frequently utilize their services. Indeed, since March, I can count on one hand the times I’ve had packages too large to fit inside my mailbox delivered. And I’d still have at least two fingers remaining.

’Tis the season to place orders, however, and the man in a (color redacted) car that looks like an old school Monte Carlo has made a couple additional trips to my porch.

Unfortunately, the trash remains beside the mailbox because I still haven’t figured out what to do with it.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Worth the wait — December 2, 2020

Worth the wait

When I was a wee lass growing up on the Goff Estate, we decorated our Christmas tree with store-bought baubles as well as ornaments made by my mom and older siblings. Unfortunately, most of these hand-crafted ornaments fell victim to the 1984 flood that also ruined the greatest Christmas present ever aka the Barbie Dreamhouse.

My mom would occasionally mention the ornaments, saying she would love to find kits so that she could replace her lost ornaments. The loss of one ornament in particular bothered me the most. According to my memory, the ornament featured figures frolicking on a snowy scene set against a three-sided mirror.

We had no way of knowing in 1984 that an invention called the Internets would change our lives or that in 1995 an Iranian-American would create a website, eBay, that would allow people to buy used stuff from strangers.

I made my first eBay purchase in 2001. So, I’m guessing it was around that time that I started searching for the ornaments. I didn’t search every day or even every week or every month. But every now and then, working from my scattered memory, I’d look for those ornaments, especially the one featuring a snowy scene set against a three-sided mirror.

And for 19 years, I had no luck.

Until this September.

Of course, when I saw the price of the ornament featuring what I realized was a snowy scene set against three separate square mirrors, my first instinct was to close the browser. But you don’t walk away after 19, no make that 36, years. I sent a picture of the ornament to my sisters and when they confirmed that my memory was correct, I placed the order.

When the package arrived, I took it to my mom’s and we opened it together. The eBay seller had advised that the glue would be dried, so I had already purchased a tube of craft glue.

It quickly became apparent that we would also need to replace those oft-mentioned mirrors. Indeed, it was actually cheaper for me to order 100 square mirrors than to buy a can of spray paint to repair the other mirrors. By the way, the mirrors came packaged like small sleeves of crackers. As I figured they’d be tossed into a Ziploc bag and then thrown into an envelope, that came as a surprise.

With the excessive amount of mirrors in hand, Mom and I set to work on the ornament. We don’t share the same work style or speed, but we managed to complete the task without engaging in too many squabbles and without stabbing each other. I think the fumes from the glue helped keep us somewhat mellow.

ornamentOur efforts were so successful — and we have so many, many mirrors — that we’re planning to purchase additional materials and make more ornaments. As for our first creation, it has a prominent spot on her Christmas tree, surrounded by store-bought baubles and other hand-crafted ornaments.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

With gratitude — November 25, 2020

With gratitude

Usually, at this time of year, I pen a post comprising a list of people, places and things for which I am thankful. For various and sundry reasons that shall remain secret, I’m not feeling that particular post this year.

Instead, I’m choosing the following days from a social media 30 days of gratitude challenge as prompts for this-here Thanksgiving post:

  • My guilty pleasure. I’m not sure why this is included on the list. For starters, if doing something makes you feel guilty, you shouldn’t be doing it. But people apply the guilty pleasure tag to, among other things, silly TV shows or trashy books. I’ll make it simple — you shouldn’t feel guilty for enjoying those pastimes. You can express your gratitude to me for absolving you of this guilt.
  • Something positive about my body. A few years ago, whilst in a hotel gym, I decided to start lifting weights. Do not misunderstand. I am in no danger of becoming a competitive weightlifter. I started small and have not advanced to large dumbbells. But I continue to lift my weights and, at my advanced age, I’ve developed muscles. A year ago, I impressed an older gentleman in the Superstore by easily hefting a flat of water. The other day, I shocked my family by using my upper and lower body weight to snap a board. Make no mistake. These feats might not have impressed you. But I am not in competition with you, just as you are not in competition with me. You can express your gratitude to me for helping you develop a positive body image.
  • A compliment that made me feel good. A couple friends are going through, well, what’s worse than a rough patch? A rough garden? A rough forest? They can’t seem to catch a good break, so I told another friend that I wished there was something I could do for them. He said I was probably doing more than I thought. He added that I had helped him through a recent rough patch simply by being there. I don’t share this so you’ll view me as an awesome friend. (Which I obviously am.) Instead, it’s a reminder that sometimes, people just need to know someone is on their team and there to listen. You can express your gratitude to me for reminding you that you’re also doing more than you think.

Well, that’s about all the prompting I can handle for one day. Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Something special — November 18, 2020

Something special

Next week marks a holiday we look forward to all year — Black Friday.

Although I’ve taken part in the actual Black Friday shopping tradition — but not Thanksgiving shopping  — for years, due to COVID, this year I plan to sleep in. But there’s one tradition I’ve already participated in — looking at Black Friday ads.

Looking at ads represents my favorite aspect of Black Friday. During normal years, I start searching for them online around Halloween. As soon as one drops, I send messages, which contain multiple exclamation points, announcing this momentous event to friends and family.

I follow up days later, asking if they’ve checked out the ad, only to be disappointed when they tell me they have no interest in perusing an auto parts ad. Well, neither do I, but it’s a Black Friday ad! They’re special!

In fact, last year I pored over the Cabela’s ad like I was going to be tested on the contents later. Do we even have a Cabela’s? I have no idea because I’ve never been inside one of the stores, yet I can say with confidence that I’m not a Cabela’s kind of gal. But it was a Black Friday ad! They’re special!

My interest in Black Friday ads is similar to my love of catalogs, which I have previously mentioned in this-here space. Although I prefer physical copies of ads, I can make do with online versions, especially in the age of Corona. But in normal years, I study the online versions for weeks. Then, a couple days before Black Friday, I practically run to the mailbox to retrieve this venerable publication so that I can review the circulars in living color until they literally fall apart.

Of course, this year, I’ve been all sorts of confused by the dates of the stores’ sales because some stores started their sales weeks ago. Not that the actual sales are the point because its not like I’m in the market for a big ticket item like an Atari.

Instead, the ads serve as a stress reliever for me. I can mindlessly flip through pages whilst mixing it up occasionally by recoiling in horror at ugly and/or expensive merchandise.

As in years past, I’ve shared the ads’ existence with friends and family. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to care. They’ve ignored my messages and responded to my verbal communications by saying, “So? We’re not going shopping.”

But they’re Black Friday ads! They’re special!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Out and about — November 4, 2020

Out and about

If you heard a noise at approximately 1:40 p.m. Sunday that sounded like a banshee, it wasn’t spirits hung over from Halloween. It was my reaction when the electricity went out.

As I have noted before in this-here space, I was not meant for pioneer living. Indeed, I consider enduring two minutes without WiFi to be roughing it.

Besides, I’ve had a stressful few days, weeks, months, and years, so I had planned to relax by watching football and enjoying homemade pizza. With my chores completed and football on the TV, I was fixing to prepare the pizza when the juice fizzled.

Hence, my ear-splitting shrieks.

I couldn’t do anything about football, but I could rectify the pizza situation. So, I put on clothes meant for public consumption and fought with the garage door. As anyone with a garage door knows — by the way, I lived in my house for years before learning this — if you need to access the door during an electrical outage, you have to pull the garage door rope so that you can open the door manually.

Anyway, I have more trouble pulling the rope than does anyone in the galaxy. Thankfully, it took only six minutes for me to accomplish a task that takes most mortals six seconds to complete.

Then, I drove to the Dollar General to call my mom, check to see if anyone had reported the outage, and order a pizza. From the number of cars in the parking lot, dozens of my neighbors had also driven to the store for service. Perhaps they were also ordering pizza.

I then drove to the pizza joint. After picking up the pizza, I ate in my car whilst checking football scores and obsessively updating the power company’s outage map.

You might be asking yourself, “Self, did she have to eat in her car? In a parking lot? On a Sunday afternoon? Was that her only option? To be mistaken for a stalker or a potential kidnapper? Didn’t she have anywhere else to go?”

Oh, I had other options, but when there’s an electrical outage, I’m not fit for human consumption. I can go from Karen Carpenter in “Top of the World” to Johnny Cash in “Hurt” in the amount of time it takes for the power to blink. So, yeah, when that happens, it’s best if I keep my irritable self away from humans.

After creeping people out in parking lots for an hour and a half, I was happy to see that the outage map finally showed that the numbers had decreased so I headed home. Lights greeted me in the neighborhood and I turned on football as soon as I entered my house.

I had to fight with the garage door again because — believe it or not — I have even more trouble putting the rope back where it’s supposed to be than I have pulling in down. Mercifully, the task didn’t take too long and I ended up having a relaxing Sunday and enjoying good pizza and good football.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

On the hunt — October 21, 2020

On the hunt

Last week, a bobcat caused quite a stir when he strolled into a local Dollar General store.

No, that is not the start of a joke. 

Although I don’t know all the details, I do know that a rather distressed-looking bobcat was captured in a local DG. In the photos, which were posted on social media by a sheriff’s department, the bobcat bared his teeth, widened his eyes, and appeared to be snarling. The poor little feller was probably upset because the authorities apprehended him before he could finish his shopping.

Anyway, I am unsure if this is the same bobcat who was recently spotted (and somehow mistaken for a tiger) in Knoxville, Tenn. Regardless, can you imagine being in the DG, rounding the health and beauty aid aisle and encountering a bobcat as he’s deciding among a dozen or so brands of deodorant? 

Granted, it wouldn’t be as scary as running into a tiger, which like I mentioned in the previous post, is not the same as a bobcat. Seriously, other than the fact that they’re both felines, they look nothing alike. That’s like confusing me for Dolly Parton because we’re both human females.

Regardless, if you did encounter the bobcat at the DG, you could be forgiven if you initially assumed him to be an aggressive service animal and/or a personal shopper. 

As much as I heart cats — big and small — I’d say the bobcat’s fellow shoppers learned mighty fast that he wasn’t a big ole housecat. In fact, when the wild cat was spotted, someone contacted the authorities and the bobcat was eventually released on his own recognizance.

Nonetheless, I still have all sorts of questions. For example, how did the bobcat gain entry into the store? I’m a big DG fan, but unfortunately, I have not been to every location. But I do know that the DG located two minutes from my house has push/pull doors. So, did the bobcat stand on his hind legs and pull open the door?

Of course, if the bobcat’s favorite DG has automatic doors, then you can ignore the previous question. As for other questions…Why was the bobcat in the store? Was he lost? Was he stalking prey? Had he heard that DG had stocked shelves with select Christmas merchandise including popcorn tins?

Or had he heard that a certain human female with a cat army also loves the DG? Could he have been looking for me?

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The gene pool — October 14, 2020

The gene pool

You’ve probably seen the advertisements for those DNA testing kits. Heck, maybe you’ve purchased one to learn more about your ancestry. As for me, I know my rights. So the only way somebody is getting my DNA is with a court order.

Not that I have any crimes — frigid or otherwise — to hide. Moreover, DNA submitted to those ancestry companies has been utilized to solve crimes — frigid or otherwise — so there’s always the chance that your fifth cousin thrice removed’s interest in genealogy will land you in the slammer.

Anyway, I’m fascinated by the aforementioned advertisements. They usually feature someone who shares a tidbit about an inspirational ancestor. In a somber voice, he or she also shares a photo with a child and tells said child that their great-great-great-great-grandmother found the cure for a long-forgotten and eradicated disease in her kitchen laboratory whilst simultaneously rearing 14 children and selling soap door-to-door. Soap that she also made in her kitchen laboratory.

Or maybe he or she somberly tells said child that their great-great-great-great-grandfather left the old country during a blizzard whilst literally battling the Abominable Snowman. Once settling into the new country, he opened a brewery that revolutionized peach-flavored beer before leaving behind that empire to become a concert cellist.

I’ve wondered if anyone’s ancestors ever led simple lives. If anybody’s  genealogy research turns up clerks or painters who went to work, came home, and read by candlelight until bedtime. Just once, I’d like to hear someone say he and/or she found their ancestors and there wasn’t an interesting person in the lot.

I’ve also wondered what role these photos and stories play. Surely these kits don’t provide artistic renderings and narratives based on genetic results. So, if the customers already have them, then these are really two separate issues.

Regardless, I’ve never been that interested in genealogy. My brother has researched our roots, however, and we’re somehow linked to Lady Godiva, the 11th Century noblewoman who allegedly rode naked through the streets to protest oppressive taxation.

As for more recent ancestors, I’d like to know what prompted the ones who settled in the States to leave the old country and, perhaps later, Virginia. It was probably something simple. They had probably run out of space and opportunity and had heard that both awaited them in the west. But maybe it was something more exciting. Maybe they were escaping a crime, frigid or otherwise.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A wronged woman — October 7, 2020

A wronged woman

When it comes to the subject of how COVID has changed our lives, except for working remotely, mine hasn’t changed all that much.

As I’ve I mentioned before in this-here space, I have taken part in the Walmart grocery pickup a couple times. I am not going to get into it at this particular time because I don’t have to tell you everything about my life, but I did not use that service last week when I needed sundries and supplies.

Instead, I chose to go to the store. It’s worth noting that this was only the fourth or so time that I have been inside the store since March.

Anyway, on maybe my second visit to the store during the pandemic, I briefly stepped away from the checkout line to retrieve another item. And when I returned, I saw that another shopper had cut in front of me in line.

As I stood there, seething, I considered my options. Option one was to confront her. I said to myself, “Self, do you want to get into a fistfight?” Self answered, “Sure. Why not? What else do you have to do today? Go home and dust?”

But then I said to myself, “Self, what if she has the COVID?”

So, I decided not to get into a fistfight that day. But I’m not the type of person who can just stand behind someone who has stolen her place in line.

I’m also not the type of person who can just saunter into another line.

So, I decided to use self checkout.

If you are a family member or a close friend of mine and are reading this, I want to give you a few moments to compose yourself. Other dear readers and I will discuss another topic. For example, this summer, I, well, not my physical self, extended the fence in my backyard. For the first time since I’ve lived here, I can see the leaves that have fallen from the hill and onto that part of the yard. It is lovely.

Okay, I think we’ve given my family and close friends enough time. They probably have some questions because no doubt they remember all those times I vowed that I would NOT use the self checkouts. Well, that was in a world before the coronavirus. That was before I deliberated over every public breath I took.

That’s not enough for you? You want me to say the words? Here goes. I was wrong. 

It gets better for you because I’ve actually used self checkout twice.

Of course, the first time I had to ask a Walmart associate for help no fewer than five times. The second time, I asked for help with some lettuce I had gotten for my mom. The associate attempted to show me how to enter produce, but I did not pay a bit of attention. Thus, the next time I buy produce, I reckon an associate will have to enter the price for me.

What’s that? Yes, I plan to use the service again because it is awesome.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.