Touch of gray — June 2, 2021

Touch of gray

Before you read this and get the wrong idea, let me make one thing clear. Unless you have a disability that prevents you from doing so, you should always push your shopping cart to a corral after you have loaded your groceries and sundries into your car.

I don’t want to hear any yapping about how the store employees get paid to retrieve the carts from the parking lot. You know what? They don’t get paid to keep stray carts from banging into unsuspecting cars and causing damage. They don’t get paid to immediately sprint from the store every time some expletive leaves a cart in an otherwise empty parking spot.

Just be a decent human being and push the cart to the corral.

Now I’m going to step down from my soap box and stroll into a gray area because I don’t know what shopping cart etiquette dictates about returning the cart into the store. Allow me to explain.

I’ve been placing online orders with the Supercenter for the past few months. Back in the day, however, the sisters, nieces, and I used to engage in girls’ days trips to the store. Once the shopping was complete, I would pull up to the store and we would fill the trunk with groceries and sundries. Then I would push the shopping cart to the side of the store, and one sister and one niece would lose their minds.

They argued that I was as bad as the expletives who left carts in the parking lots. I countered that I had pushed the cart away from cars and literally so close to the store that customers entering said store would have a fresh cart waiting for them. This explanation never placated Sister nor Niece, so even when they were not around, I made sure I returned the cart into the confines of the store. It’s as if I could feel their eyes watching me.

Shopping cart etiquette entered my mind again last week when, on a trip to the Food City, I parked on the side of the store. For those of you unfamiliar with this area, it’s not in the store’s regular parking lot. No corrals reside out there in the hinterlands, which is so far away that I feel sure you could make an Olympic sport out of running from the lot to the store.

I don’t always park in that lot when I visit the store. What’s more, I usually purchase only a bag or two of groceries at the City, so I don’t have to worry about whether I’m going to disappoint Sister and Niece if I decide to leave the cart on the side of the store. Of course, I’m proud to say that on the rare occasion that I have bought more than a couple bags of groceries and have parked on the side, I’ve pushed the cart all the way back into the confines of the store.

Yes, I have not been an expletive…until last week.

Here’s what happened. I found a five-for sale item. And just as I finished putting the groceries – no sundries were purchased — into my car, the rain started falling. I scrambled into my car and decided to listen to Waylon Jennings as I waited for the rain to slacken, but it only rained harder. Then I noticed that another cart was already on the sidewalk.

So, you know what Sister and Niece? An employee would have had to come out there and retrieve that cart anyway. So quit looking at me like that! It’s a gray area!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Kicked the buckets — January 20, 2021

Kicked the buckets

You know how sometimes you’ll make a discovery or a decision and you’ll wonder why you didn’t make this life-changing move earlier in your life? That happened to me recently when I decided to remove buckets from my refrigerator freezer.

As you might have expected, this started with Christmas presents I purchased for my mom. Since I never know what to buy her, I give her, in part, frozen food for Christmas. Between the time I purchase said food and the time I present her with the presents, which I do not wrap, I store the food in my freezer.

In normal times, that’s never been a problem. But in 2020, I hoarded additional meats, vegetables, and other assorted frozen foods of my own, so I didn’t have as much space in the freezer. So, I removed the bucket – at least that’s what I call it – attached to the ice machine. After all, I have never used the ice machine and am unsure if it even works.

Although I removed the ice machine’s bucket, I still needed space. Thus, I removed the bigger bucket located at the bottom of the freezer. Honestly, it’s been a pain in my expletive for years. If you so much as whisper in its direction, it becomes dislodged and then rocks back and forth on the attached rails (at least that’s what I call them). It then takes hours to properly align the bucket on the rails.

Anyway, after I removed the frozen food aka presents, I made a move to return the buckets to their homes in the freezer. But when I opened the door to do so, I said to myself, “Self, look how uncluttered this freezer looks without those bulky buckets.”

But that left me with a new decision to make – what to do with the buckets. Throwing them out was never an option. In fact, last year I replaced my aged mop bucket. No, I did not win the lottery. But the mop bucket had grown stained and, frankly, no matter how much disinfectant I used, I couldn’t rid it of that mop bucket smell.

When I replaced it, I did not toss it in the trash. I tossed it in the garage, where it remains atop an old trash can. I considered relegating the freezer buckets to a new home in the garage, but ultimately decided to place them atop the cabinets in the laundry section of my home. After all, one never knows when one might need a bucket or three.

But not in a freezer. They’re not needed in there.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Say cheese — August 12, 2020

Say cheese

I enjoyed another action-packed week. Indeed, I ate Cheetos and weedeated. (Or is it weedate?)

Regardless, prior to last week, I had not eaten a Cheeto since I was 16 years old. As I am a tad older than 16, let’s just say that was a few years ago.

Although I’m not blessed with an award-worthy memory, I can recall snippets of that day. Specifically, I can recall stopping by my homeroom at lunch and sharing a bag of Cheetos with friends.

And I definitely remember waking up the next morning with a debilitating headache and making Cheetos-flavored sick in the bathroom.

The funny thing about making sick, well, at least for me, is that I tend to avoid food after it has taken a round trip through my upper digestive system. Those of you who are a certain age will probably remember those TV dinners that were packaged in aluminum containers and featured cubed carrots, among other “food.” I quit eating those when I was 8 years old. It is no coincidence that I consumed my last old-school TV dinner the same night I experience my first migraine.

So, why did I tempt fate and eat Cheetos?

As I’ve mentioned before, I splurge on lunch size packs of chips. Since it’s dern-near impossible to find the large bag of plain Lay’s that includes the aforementioned lunch size packs, I’ve turned to the variety packs for my chip fix. (What do you expect me to do? Waste the accompanying bags of Cheetos?)

Still, it was with much trepidation that I sampled a Cheeto for the first time in a few years. I shan’t have worried. It was delicious. So much so that I ate several Cheetos.

It the Cheetos hadn’t supplied me with enough excitement, I decided to weedeat. I had dern-near finished when the weedeater ran out of string. If this had happened early in the chore, I would have put away the weedeater and returned to the yard at a later time. (What’s that? You’re wondering why I didn’t simply change the string? Oh, it’s cute that you think I possess the skills to change weedeater string, but I depend on the kindness of others when the apparatus requires new string.)

Anyway, as it were, all that remained to be weedeated – or is it weedate? — was one smallish-sized patch. I immediately decided to retrieve my garden shears and finish the job. But then I remembered that I lent the shears to my sister. I was, however, in possession of my hedge trimmers.

So, I retrieved the power tool, plugged it into the outlet, crouched in the yard, and cut that grass. It got the job done, too. I would have celebrated by cracking open a bag of Cheetos. But those bags of deliciously-messy chips were long gone.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

One’s daily bread — July 29, 2020

One’s daily bread

Last week, on the anniversary of my birth, I found my favorite ice cream at the store. That might not seem like a big deal to you, but heretofore, I had been unable to find that flavor in my grocer’s freezer. Or, for that matter, in anyone’s freezer.

What’s more, it’s the only ice cream – with the exception of an occasional Oreo Blizzard – that I enjoy. So, you can imagine the unbridled joy I felt as I selected two containers – one for each hand – whilst humming the birthday song to myself.

Since my taste buds had been in the mood for ham subs, I also picked up the ingredients – ham, store brand provolone cheese, and steak buns – so that I could prepare a week’s worth of them. When I arrived home, I put away the groceries, sampled the ice cream – it tasted sinfully delicious – and went on with my life.

The following day, I retrieved the ingredients and set about assembling a ham sub. When I opened the six pack of steak buns, I gasped – the bag contained only five sets of buns!

Who had absconded with the missing bread?

As I made the sub, I considered the most logical answers to the question. Obviously, I put myself at the top of the list of suspects. But when I noted that the packs of ham and cheese remained opened, I ruled out myself as the culprit. Even I don’t like bread well enough to eat two plain buns.

Next, I turned to the cat army. At least one member of the army is known to lick plastic. Perhaps, she became too excited and licked and/or bit a hole in the bag and then treated the rest of the army to some fresh bread. But there were no holes in the plastic bag, so I told the army they were free to go back to sleep.

Then, I mulled over the possibility that a worker in the bread factory had gotten distracted – maybe by the thoughts of ice cream – and had accidentally shorted the bag of bread.

That didn’t seem realistic, so I decided on the only rationalexplanation. A person who wanted only one sub went into the store, opened the bag, and removed one set of buns. Perhaps a pack of ham and cheese is also missing a few slices. I’m just glad I didn’t purchase those hypothetical packs. As it was, I had enough ham, cheese, and buns to enjoy five subs.

At this point, you might be asking yourself, “Self, did she contact the store about the missing bread? I’ll bet they would have refunded her 49 cents for those lost buns.”

I’ll admit, for a moment, I contemplated calling the store. But then I enjoyed a spoonful of sinfully delicious ice cream and all was forgiven.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A mask gathering — April 15, 2020

A mask gathering

In case you haven’t heard, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends we wear face coverings when we go to the store for sundries and supplies. Of course, we shouldn’t be wearing hospital-grade personal protective equipment (PPE). Indeed, if you have any PPE, might I suggest you donate it to a hospital or a long-term health care facility.

There are oodles of tutorials that demonstrate how to make cloth masks. I needed to run to the grocery for provisions, so I watched a tutorial that a friend shared. It’s fairly basic and involves putting elastic hair ties on each end on a strip of cloth (e.g. a handkerchief or bandanna), fitting one end of the cloth into the other, and then placing the mask around your face and the hair ties over your ears.

After retrieving a lovely blue scarf from my bureau, I attempted to make a mask. I wouldn’t describe my effort as an abject failure, but it certainly fell short of success. No matter how many times I tried, I couldn’t fit one end into the other, so I wrapped the scarf around the lower half of my face and tied it to my hair with an elastic hair band.

These days, no trip to the grocery store is complete without a pair of gloves or, in a pinch, a pair of old socks slipped over your hands. I know that some people advise not to wear gloves because of cross-contamination. That is, if you grab a bag of chips and then a pack of candy, you’re contaminating the candy with the chips’ germs. But wouldn’t your bare hands contaminate them as well?

Regardless, I’ve been wearing gloves for more than a month. And during my three most recent trips to the store(s), I’ve worn the plastic gloves I used a few weeks ago to color my hair. After each use, I’ve washed the gloves. I’m not an infectious disease expert, however, so please do not adopt my practices as your own.

92505799_684244409007070_168426468202774528_nSo, with half my head covered by a makeshift mask and my hands covered with hair-coloring gloves, I went shopping. I’m happy to report that most of my fellow shoppers were also donning masks. Of course, I was the only one who looked like she was fixing to rob a stagecoach.

What’s more, since my mask wasn’t firmly attached to my head, it kept trying to slide down my face. So, I kept pushing the mask up my face, no doubt contaminating the outside of said mask with various germs the gloves had picked up in the store. Fortunately, the mask never succeeded in sliding off my face. Unfortunately, a hole materialized in the gloves just as I finished shopping.

No worries, though. I’m sure I’ll need to color my hair again soon.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Tulip fever — April 8, 2020

Tulip fever

For the most part, I’ve never been the type of gal who cultivates flowers. Sure, I bought a few hanging baskets the first spring I lived in my house, but that experience confirmed what I had always suspected about flowers – that you expend time, money and energy toward something that lives for only a few weeks.

92282445_217515545999820_4288322135484530688_nWhat’s more, unless the flowers reside outside a window, you can’t enjoy their beauty. So, for that reason and others, I decided it was easier to enjoy my neighbors’ flowers than to go to the trouble of planting my own. (Yes, this philosophy also applies to exterior Christmas decorations.)

But after my dog, the lovely and talented Mia Frances Goff, died, I decided to plant a wildflower garden in her memory. The garden, which also honored the lovely and talented Tom Petty, grew in front of my porch and was visible from my living room window.

The wildflower garden didn’t turn out to be as magnificent as I had hoped. In fact, a guest remarked that my flower garden resembled a marijuana patch. So, I pulled up the weeds, which left a rectangle of dirt enclosed by decorative edging.

Indeed, if it hadn’t been for the trouble I’d gone through to obtain those decorative edges, I might have grown a garden of dirt. But I remembered the broken nails, bloody knuckles and dozen of trips from the car to the rectangle to transport said edges, and I said to myself, “Self, you’ve always admired the beauty of tulips.”

So, I bought tulips and received tremendous help planting them last fall. Due to our mild winter, I spied the bulbs pushing green leaves through the dirt in late February. Every day, I inspected the garden and noted slight additions. By mid-March, the rectangle was resplendent in yellow, light purple and dark purple tulips.

There’s no other way to put this – I became obsessed with the tulips and momentarily considered planting them throughout my yards. I snapped photos of the tulips from various angles and at various times of the day. I took photos of the tulips in the shade, in the late evening, in the full glory of the sun. I took photos of individual tulips and groups of tulips representing all three stunning colors. I shared so many photos with friends and family and on social media that I probably caused people to say to themselves, “Self, if I see one more expletive picture of those expletive tulips…”

But I knew my time with the tulips was finite and, alas, it is with great regret that I report the tulips are wilting.

Although this expected development has given me a case of the sads, I’m already studying on ways to improve next year’s harvest. I plan to buy more soil as well as additional bulbs to replace the few that didn’t yield this spring. And I have a phone full of photos to remind me of the beauty of this year’s tulips as well as the compliment from a visitor who assumed the near flawless flowers were fake.

Take it from me, that’s much better than hearing that your flowers look like weed(s).

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Slip sliding away — January 14, 2020

Slip sliding away

According to the saying, we’re never too old to learn. Last Tuesday morning’s quick-moving snow reinforced that notion to me.

Of course, my trip to work began innocently enough. Sure, the street in front of my house was covered with snow, but it was slushy-ish and I drove slowly. And, yeah, the hill leading out of my neighborhood was a tad treacherous, but I put the car in low gear and survived.

We – my sister and I – didn’t encounter any other trouble until we turned onto a road that literally has mountain in its name. When we made the turn onto said mountain, a burst of humongous snowflakes fell from the sky. But I maneuvered the curvy and suddenly snowy road. And after I descended the mountain, I figured the worst was literally behind us.

I guess I momentarily forgot that my sister works on a hill.

When we arrived at said hill, the burst of humongous snowflakes had not let up. And although I could see that a layer of white covered the hill, I didn’t think it would be that bad.

I was wrong.

We made it midway up the hill, but when I turned into the parking lot, the car decided it would go no farther. It would not go forward. It would not go backward. It would, however, slide sideways down the slick hill.

So, with my car, to use one of my family’s favorite words, sidegoggled on the hill, I assessed the situation and politely suggested that my sister vacate the vehicle. Acknowledging that I lacked the skill set to turn the car around, I put it in park. From my assessment, I decided the car could remain on the hill until the snow melted or someone reported me to the authorities. Then, I exited the car and started directing traffic.

Not that there was much traffic. Luckily for me, though, a Good Samaritan stopped and offered to move the car. I took him up on his offer and he got into the car. And then, to use one of my mom’s favorite expressions, he turned that car around faster than a cat can lick its behind. (Writer’s note: She uses a word other than behind.)

Anyway, I expressed my gratitude, hopped into the car, and eased it down the snowy hill. Later that day, my sister and I collaborated to contact two of the Good Samaritan’s relatives and I shared details of my near-death experience with anyone who so much as made eye contact with me.

According to a saying I just made up, you can learn something from dern-near every experience. I learned oodles Tuesday morning. Most notably, I learned that Good Samaritans still exist.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A numbers game — January 23, 2019

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.

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.

Sigh of relief — September 2, 2018

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.