A numbers game

Although I’ve been on Goodreads for years, I haven’t taken full advantage of its features. Oh, I’ve read plenty of reviews and followed my share of discussions, but other than ranking books on a scale of one to five stars, I haven’t offered my opinions of them.

I do, however, enthusiastically add books I’ve read to my bookshelf and update the progress of the book I’m currently reading. In fact, if you heard sounds one evening a couple weeks ago that prompted you to ask yourself, “Self, are banshees native to this area? Should I be worried?” rest assured that you have nothing to worry about. I experienced something akin to a meltdown when a glitch in the system momentarily prevented me from updating the percentage read on a book.

I have no idea why I’m so concerned with updating my progress. It’s not like my Goodreads friends are sitting around waiting for my updates. It’s not like they’re saying, “Hmm. She’s been on 17 percent for 25 hours. And she calls herself a reader.”

Of course, if they are judging me, then I can only imagine how many sidelong glances they’ve directed toward the read section of my bookshelf because it contains only 302 books.

You might deem that a respectable number of books to have read during a lifetime. And I might agree with you were it not for the fact that, according to my Goodreads challenges, I read 117 books during the previous five years. That means, if my bookshelf can be believed, I read only 182 books prior to that timeframe.

I know that’s untrue. Heck, I could read that many books in less than eight years. (Yes, I figured that out using math.) But I can’t remember the titles of all the books I read in my youth or even last year. Just this weekend, however, I remembered a book I read in college that I had henceforth forgotten existed. You can rest assured that it will be added to my virtual bookshelf. Yet, until I build that time machine, I’ll never recall all those Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie books I finished.

Anyway, just as with my progress, I’m a tad invested (okay, obsessed) with updating my bookshelf. For some people, an accurate bookshelf might give them the opportunity to look back on the books they read and remember where they were (physically, mentally, professionally) when they read said books.

That’s not the case for me. I’m just there for the numbers.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

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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.

Sigh of relief

As I’ve mentioned before, I suffer from migraines. Last week, I experienced the worst one I’ve had in five years. It lingered for days, beginning with pain in my left shoulder and neck. Fortunately, the pain in my neck (and shoulder) abated around the time my migraine eased up.

And then it came back with an excruciating vengeance. Indeed, for a couple days, I couldn’t turn my head or neck to the left. And turning to the right didn’t feel so hot, either. When I laid my head on my pillow at night, pain shot from the base of my head and down the back of my neck. I applied so much of one of those smelly sprays that the scent made me sick to my stomach and made my cat army high. I also spent a lot of time with the heating pad on my neck and shoulder.

Still, I could get no relief. So, I called a doctor who advised me to take Epsom salt baths. When I told him I had taken oodles of the baths last year yet had not experienced positive results, he asked if I had any magnesium oil. His question reminded me of the time I stopped by the courthouse to renew my driver’s license and the clerk asked if I had my birth certificate. As it turns out, I don’t carry my birth certificate with me and I don’t stock magnesium oil, either.

Well, at least I didn’t. But after the doctor advised me to stop what I was doing and obtain magnesium oil posthaste, I acquired some.

As I noted in the Epsom salts post, studies have linked magnesium to migraine relief. And whilst the magnesium in the salts didn’t give me relief, it appears that the magnesium oil has eased my pain. Every day I’ve noticed a better range of motion in my neck and shoulder. It’s been so beneficial that I’ve started applying the oil to the right side of my neck and shoulder as well. Somehow, the oil has helped me to locate pressure points in my muscles. Pressure points that I’ve massaged.

Anyway, I’m not at the point where I’m ready to describe magnesium oil as a miracle cure. But I am at the point where I’m ready to share my experience with others.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Among the wildflowers

On the morning of Jan. 6, I said goodbye to my dog, the lovely and talented Mia Frances Goff. She was approximately 14 years old and had battled various infections for the last few months of her life.

miaI knew I made the right decision, but it was still hard to let her go. For nearly 13 years, she patiently listened to my rants about the outside world, brought dead rats to the back door, and allowed the cat army to use her as a pillow. She rarely barked and only acted aggressively when dogs charged at us during walks. She wanted in return only food, treats, occasional car rides, and attention. And to send me judgmental looks whenever I did something stupid like straddle the window ledge and a wobbly stack of cinder blocks.

When the time came, I realized I hadn’t considered what to do with Mia’s ashes. Fortunately, one of the employees at the vet’s office mentioned he knew a lady who had planted a tree with her dog’s ashes.

I liked that idea. A couple days earlier, I had dropped Mia off at the vet’s for observation and IVs. When I returned to my car that day, the first song that played was Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers.” What’s more, I still had that free packet of wildflower seeds I had ordered from General Mills. I decided at the vet’s that I would carve out the area in front of my porch and grow a garden of wildflowers in honor of Mia.

With help from my family, that’s what I did. The packet didn’t contain many seeds, though, so I bought another one during a trip to Lowe’s.

Then, I waited for the flowers to burst forth from the earth, watering the garden on the rare occasion we went a few days without rain.

I waited weeks before I spied green emerging from the ground. But I couldn’t be sure if the green things were flowers or grass or weeds. One day, my sister said to me, “You’re growing something. I’m just not sure what it is.”

We weren’t sure because the green things had no buds. Still, they continued to grow and grow and even attracted the attention of a hungry bunny. Then, an actual weed – there was no mistaking it – showed up in the garden.

I was so upset by the appearance of that weed that I pulled it up and then moved on to those life-sized flowers or whatever the heck they were. As I did so, I ranted, “Why did you think you could grow flowers? You’ve killed two cacti and an African violet. You should invite the bunny and his friends over to feast on this greenery. At least they could get some good from this so-called garden.”

flowersAnd that’s when I saw them – tiny white flowers in the midst of all that greenery.

I stopped vandalizing the green things and enjoyed the splendor of those tiny white flowers. As I crouched in the middle of the garden, I imagined Mia’s reaction to my overreaction. I could see her pretending to mind her own business whilst stealing glances at me. And I could hear Tom Petty singing, “You belong somewhere close to me.”

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

For the record

Recently, I saw merchandise at the Supercenter the likes of which I haven’t seen in a store in more years that I care to admit.

No, I’m not talking about cherry cake mix and frosting. (Actually, I found and bought that a few months ago and, unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as good as I remembered.) I am, instead, referring to vinyl albums.

When I stumbled across albums amongst the fitness trackers, smart phones, and smart TVs, for a moment I thought I had discovered a time machine. Oh, I’ve been aware of the revival of vinyl for a while. In fact, some of my friends collect vinyl while others invest in it because they like the sound.

Apparently, they are not alone. According to Nielsen Music, more than 14 million vinyl units were purchased in 2017, marking the 12th consecutive year that vinyl had experienced a sales growth. The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Abbey Road” were the two top selling vinyl albums last year. Prince’s “Purple Rain” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” also ranked in the top 10.

This resurgence, however, is not just due to nostalgia. Millennials represent a key vinyl demographic.

Although seeing the album versions of “Thriller” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” made me smile, I was not tempted to so much as check out the prices. For starters, I don’t have a record player.

What’s more, why would I buy something I already have? Of course, I’m not actually in possession of “Born in the U.S.A.,” but I’ve had “Thriller” since Jackson’s death. I didn’t have a record player then, either, so I’m not sure why I insisted on digging it out of my parents’ closet just so I could put it in a closet at my house. (If you think I could sell the albums for big bucks, think again. My research indicates that used versions of these albums could yield enough for me to fill up my car with gas and maybe, just maybe, have enough left over for a Wendy’s berry burst salad.)

Anyway, I haven’t listened to the albums in more years than I care to admit. This is due to, firstly, greatest hits compilations on CD and, secondly, digital music. Indeed, I listened to the entire “Born in the U.S.A.” album just the other day on a computer. And I didn’t have to walk across the room to change sides or worry about the music skipping because of scratches.

Don’t get me wrong. I miss the hiss of vinyl and the appeal of album cover art. Yet, in an age where people (not me, though), own devices that turn on lights and lock doors at the sound of a voice, I don’t understand why oodles of folks are returning to something that’s, at best, inconvenient. What’s next, the return of 8-tracks?

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

My true colors

With a few exceptions, I prefer clothing that comprises the dark side of the color spectrum. Sure, I recently bought a red blouse, but for the most part, I’m a black, medium to dark blue, and gray type of gal.

Although I generally stick to this theme when covering myself, I don’t have a color scheme when it comes to covering the walls of my house. Indeed, my walls range in color from dark red to yellow to orange and to green.

I didn’t think my color choices were unusual until I heard a coworker note, with surprise in her voice, that every room in the home of one of her friend’s was a different color. “Oh,” I said, “that sounds like my house.”

Then, a couple years later, when a friend visited me, she told me that the experts on the home and garden shows would take one look at my bathroom and ridicule the green walls.

Then there was the time another visitor advised that my walls should be white or beige to increase the house’s re-sell value. Actually, for a few years, two rooms of my house were painted white and beige. For the life of me, I can’t remember why I selected such boring colors.

Anyway, I’m sharing this now because I’m planning to have the green bathroom as well as the orange bathroom and the orange bedroom painted. Although the seafoam green has served me well, I’ve never liked the orange, which looks like sherbet. Since I don’t like sherbet, I can’t for the life of me remember why I selected that shade.

After much deliberation – and by much, I mean that the deliberation lasted approximately eight months – I’ve chosen to go with a light blue for those rooms. I finally narrowed it to two hues, pale flowers and a new day, ultimately going with pale flowers because I preferred that name.

When I mentioned to a friend that I had initially considered something in the teal family, only to change my mind once I saw somebody’s freshly-painted blueish-gray wall, she said, “That’s right. Your walls are all sorts of crazy colors.”

She gets me and I get her, so I knew she wasn’t being rude about the matter. So I didn’t remind her that they are my walls. Not the walls of a hypothetical future owner. Not the walls of the home and garden folks. They’re mine. So when I’m considering a color to cover them, I ask myself, “Self, what do you want to look at every day? And, as a secondary factor, what are the names of your top paint samples?”

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Throw in the dish towel

dish towel

Photo courtesy SWX. Photography

When I was a wee lass, my mom used store-bought dish towels as well as those she referred to as feed sack dish towels. At the time, and for years to come, I never studied much on the origin of those plain white dish towels with the red edging. Indeed, if I thought of the matter at all, I probably decided there was no way those woven, hard plastic bags that contained the horse and hogs’ food rendered cloth dish towels.

Decades later, after I started keeping a house of my own, my mom gave me a few feed sack dish towels. As is my way, I used them until they contained holes and were coming apart. In spite of the fact that I could read through them, I would have continued using them had my mom not spied one during a visit to my house.

When I told her I didn’t want to relegate them to the rag bin, my mom offered to make more for me. I’m all for receiving free, useful stuff, so I said, “Sure.”

The second set of homemade dish towels were comprised of plain white ones as well as some that feature a light green and red floral pattern. Even though I’ve used them oodles of times, I didn’t try to connect the dots between my pretty dish towels and a feed sack. That is, I didn’t until this past weekend. For some reason I cannot explain, when I pulled one of the dish towels from the cabinet, I said to myself, “Self, did this dish towel really come from one of those woven, hard plastic bags that contained the horse and hogs’ food? If so, how did Mom turn it into cloth? Is she a magician?”

That evening, I asked my mom for the dish towels’ origin story. She once again told me they came from feed sacks. When I expressed confusion, my sister noted that Mom wasn’t referring to the aforementioned woven, hard plastic bags. As it turns out, back in the day, feed sacks were made of cotton. What’s more, in addition to making dish towels, my mom’s mom crafted dresses for her daughters from feed sacks.

As is my way, I needed to learn more about these feed sacks. I turned to the Internets where, in no time, I discovered that animal feed as well as pantry items like flour and sugar were sold in cotton sacks. Homemakers across the country figured out that the cotton could double as fabric. Once the feed companies learned of this phenomenon, they began printing patterns on their feed sacks.

Alas, the companies started using less-expensive paper bags in the 1950s, which put an end to the days of feed sacks doubling as high fashion. Fortunately, my mommaw amassed such a supply of feed sacks that her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are enjoying the benefits of feed sack dish towels more than half a century later.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.