Back to school — September 21, 2022

Back to school

When I saw commercials for the first season of Abbott Elementary, a comedy on ABC, I chuckled. I didn’t, however, consider watching the show. After all, it’s on a network. With the exception of the CSI reboot, which I only watched for Gil Grissom, I haven’t tuned into a network show in eons.

But last week, three things reminded me of Abbott Elementary’s existence: I saw commercials for its upcoming second season; I heard that the show won some Emmys; and my streaming service emailed me, suggesting that I check out the show.

So, I watched an episode with low expectations. After all, it’s on a network. How good could it be?

Pretty expletive good.

Told in a mockumentary style and set in a fictional Philadelphia elementary school – hence the title – the show follows Janine Teagues, a young, idealistic second grade teacher, as she navigates the harsh realities of the classroom. No matter how many setbacks she encounters, Janine keeps trying, even when she gets electrocuted.

Janine strives to be as good as Barbara, a veteran teacher who has command of her classroom and who possesses a presence that inspires respect. Other characters include Jacob, a history teacher who is as idealistic and awkward as Janine; Melissa, a teacher who wears lots of animal prints; Gregory, a substitute teacher who has a crush on Janine; Mr. Johnson, the eccentric custodian; and Ava, the unprincipled principal.

Ava deserves a separate paragraph because she’s my favorite character. She’s terrible and I mean that in the best possible way. She makes fun of the other characters to their faces. She’s selfish, self-absorbed, and shallow. She’s horrible at her job. She knows nothing about the students or education. She passes her days by making personal videos and wasting school funds on ridiculous projects. Gregory justifiably despises her because he knows he should be the principal and because Ava constantly harasses him. But when she shows up on screen, I go ahead and start laughing because I know she’s going to deliver. This is due, in part, to the writing, but mostly to the actress. She is just so funny.

Of course, the entire cast is funny. I enjoy them separately or in pairs, but I prefer scenes that feature most of the ensemble. My favorite scene of the first season was the one when Gregory admits he doesn’t like a particular food that is enjoyed by most Americans. The look of shock on the other characters faces made me laugh and laugh. What’s more, as a picky eater who has been poked fun of her entire life for her food preferences, I felt Gregory’s pain when he finally makes the admission.

Abbott Elementary’s second season begins Wednesday, Sept. 21 on ABC. I hope the show doesn’t suffer a sophomore slump. Maybe it’s because of Janine’s optimism and the general goodness of the characters (well, except for Ava), but the show seems so wholesome. And not in a way that makes you want to vomit. Instead, in a way that makes you smile.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

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Two timing — September 14, 2022

Two timing

Years ago, when I started riding a borrowed stationary bike for exercise, I struggled to get through a workout. I counted down the minutes because I was bored out of my mind. Listening to music and/or watching TV didn’t relieve the boredom.

So, I studied on the matter and decided to try reading whilst riding. It worked. Later, when I started walking inside my house – and eventually on a treadmill – I continued the practice.

It seemed so ingenious that I wondered why I hadn’t started reading whilst exercising years earlier. After all, I’m able to perform two worthwhile and self-helpful activities at once. Talk about a win-win.

But then I reminded myself that for years I walked outside with my late dog, the lovely and talented Mia Frances Goff. Reading whilst walking outdoors sounds dangerous. By the way, now that I’m used to reading whilst walking, I feel like I’m slacking if I walk outdoors. I feel like I should also be performing a secondary activity like folding laundry or changing a lightbulb.

Although reading whilst walking has enhanced my workouts, reading print books whilst walking offers challenges. Firstly, I must hold the book because it won’t fit on the treadmill. Secondly, I must turn the pages. Thirdly, as my hands become sweaty, I must deal with moistened pages. This ordeal represents one reason I’ve become a fan of ebooks in my advanced age. With one swipe I can turn a page on my device, which rests comfortably on the treadmill.

Other than the minor inconvenience caused by print books, I have identified only one problem with reading whilst exercising. On some days, I realize I just cannot walk for exercise. There’s no way I can raise one leg onto the treadmill, which offers a more demanding workout, or even put one foot in front of the other to walk inside the house. It’s too much to ask. It cannot be done.

Occasionally, this is due to mental exhaustion or a migraine. That’s understandable. But I’ve also come to realize that from time to time, it’s because I dread to read one more word of whatever book I’m reading.

It always takes me a few days to admit I no longer want to spend time with certain fictional characters or to continue inhabiting the nonfictional world I’ve entered. But when this realization finally dawns on me, I download another book and don my walking shoes.

Until I develop mental exhaustion, a migraine, or an aversion to whatever book I’m reading.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Body of water — September 7, 2022

Body of water

When my two besties and I met for a recent girls’ weekend, the conversation eventually turned to old-school water beds. After all, what else do women of an advanced age discuss?

The three of us agreed that we could not understand why anyone would have wanted one of those beds. Of course, I didn’t always feel that way.

Indeed, when I was a wee lass growing up on the Goff Estate, one of my older cousins had a waterbed. I thought it was the most wonderful thing in the world. My cousin was nice enough to allow her annoying younger cousins to amuse ourselves by floating on the bed. And float we did, because if one of us so much as breathed, the bed sloshed underneath us.

Although I have no memory of doing so, I would bet you the change I found in the dollar store parking lot that I begged my parents for a waterbed.

So, yeah, I can see why a small child might enjoy the novelty of a waterbed. Or why a much older person might enjoy a waterbed for reasons I’ll leave to your imagination.

But when it comes to waterbeds, it’s the sleeping that gives me pause. I guess it worked out if you and/or your partner met Mr. Sandman as soon as your head(s) hit(s) the pillow(s). But the first time someone moved, you’d feel like you were Rose from the Titanic drifting on that door.

I’m developing motion sickness just thinking about it.

Even if I could get past that – spoiler alert: I couldn’t – those beds were huge and they legit contained dozens and dozens of gallons of water. From my limited research, I learned that owners had to run water hoses into their bedrooms to fill the mattresses with water. That sounds like a lot of work and an accident waiting to happen.

Even if I could get past that – spoiler alert: I couldn’t – I would have lived in a constant state of apprehension that the waterbed would have sprung a leak. Making the bed or changing the sheets would have terrified me. What’s more, think of ordinary items that could have nicked your water mattress, resulting in your entire house being flooded and you incurring thousands of dollars in damages: knives, tweezers, wire clothes hangers, the edge of a book, the teeth of a comb, a jagged toenail.

And I haven’t even mentioned pet claws and teeth. If you had an old-school waterbed, danger lurked everywhere.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A wild goose chase — August 31, 2022

A wild goose chase

Here in Eastern Kentucky, just as in other parts of the galaxy, we have our own colloquialisms. We also have particular definitions for words and phrases. For example, instead of “I don’t mind to” we say “I don’t care to” when asked to perform a task. I didn’t realize that one caused mass confusion until I was well into adulthood. Several folks who weren’t from around here told me they couldn’t understand why so many people were refusing their requests for help with a cheerful “I don’t care to.”

Now, at my advanced age, I’ve learned of another definition that appears to be unique to this area.

This started with my bestie sending me a message, telling me she needed to ask me about “goosing” and that she would do so in person. Intrigued, I added it to our list of people, places, and things to discuss during our road trip. When she made a detour to pick me up on our journey to visit our other bestie, I asked, “What’s this about goosing?”

At that point, she asked me to define goosing.

I said it meant tickling.

She cursed.

My bestie, who is not from Eastern Kentucky, and her husband, who is from Eastern Kentucky, came to the area a few weeks ago for a funeral. During the funeral, the preacher shared an anecdote about how the deceased was once goosed at work.

This story confused my bestie. Indeed, on the way home, she asked her husband why the preacher had told a story about a man having his rear end grabbed. In addition, she wondered why the congregation had laughed and laughed at such a story.

This led to a spirited debate between said bestie and her husband over the meaning of goosing. He maintained it means tickling. She maintained it means grabbing someone by his or her behind. To prove her point, she consulted online dictionaries. The dictionaries backed up her claim. Her husband responded by telling her to ask me. After all, he reasoned that tickling must be the Eastern Kentucky definition of goosing.

That’s why my bestie cursed. Her husband was right.

When my bestie and I arrived at our destination, we asked our other bestie, who is also not from Eastern Kentucky, for her definition of goosing. She said it means grabbing someone by the expletive. She also demonstrated with a hand motion, just so there would be no misunderstanding. After our girls’ weekend ended and she returned to work in her mid-Atlantic state, she conducted an informal survey of her coworkers. All of them defined goosing as grabbing someone by the rear end.

I also asked a handful of my Eastern Kentucky coworkers. Every one of them said it means tickling.

How did goosing obtain another definition in this region?

I don’t care to find out.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Stand up for chips — August 24, 2022

Stand up for chips

I’m something of a potato chip junkie. I try not to buy chips because I will legit empty a bag almost as fast as I bring it into the house. A bag doesn’t even make it to the pantry. It sits on the counter, waiting for me.

As with other foods, I’m picky when it comes to chips. Unless it’s an emergency, I won’t eat baked chips, which are usually packaged in matte bags. As the joke goes, the shinier the bag, the better the chips taste. On an unrelated note, I once accidentally sampled a lime chip. I do not recommend lime chips.

Although I like barbeque Lay’s chips, I prefer plain Lay’s or original Snyder chips. By the way, at the Goff Estate, we call Lay’s “glazed” chips because that’s how my youngest niece referred to them when she was a wee lass. I use the term Lay’s to comprise the national as well as the store brand. I will eat either, but I have found the store brand to be greasier.

Also, once upon a time, I couldn’t remember the name of the Snyder brand and called them the German chips. After all, it has Snyder of Berlin stamped right there on the bag. My mom was the only person in the family who knew what I was talking about. I later learned that the Berlin in question is in Pennsylvania and not Europe.

When it comes to Doritos, I will only eat the nacho cheese flavored tortilla chips aka the ones in the red bag. No blue bag Doritos for me. My only fault with Doritos is the dust they leave on my hands.

Now that we have those important details squared away, you might not be surprised to learn that I only eat original Pringles or as we call them at the Estate “stand-up chips.” Dozens of years ago, whilst suffering from an excruciating migraine, I heard my late great father come home from a trip to the store and tell my mom that, in addition to the items on her list, he had bought some stand-up chips. In spite of the stabbing pain in my head, I laughed. It made sense. The chips, I mean potato snacks, do come in a tubular container that stands up.

Anyway, recently whilst grabbing some stand-up chips, I noticed the slogan “bursting with flavor” printed on the side of the container.

I love plain Pringles. I could win a plain Pringles-eating contest. Those tubular containers do not last long around me. I’m sure the slogan is printed on the sides of the brand’s dozens of flavors. But believe me when I say it’s not needed to describe the original “flavor.”

Indeed, that’s one of the reasons I’m such a fan.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

At the end of the day — August 17, 2022

At the end of the day

August is my least favorite month.

Until a few weeks ago, I’m not sure I had shared this opinion with anyone. But during a meeting, a friend/coworker expressed her antipathy for the month, and I said something like, “OMG! I hate August, too!”

Then, she and I proceeded to discuss why we abhor August. Granted, we didn’t get further than the oppressive heat, but even if that’s the only reason to hold a grudge against August, it’s enough. After all, when you’re already sweating before breakfast, you have just cause. Indeed, one recent August day, I perspired whilst sitting under a ceiling fan and with the air conditioning running. No thank you, August.

Regardless, I have other reasons to give the month side eye. During my formative years, I was forced to return to school every year during August. As I was not a fan of school, I guess this time of the year will always trigger unpleasant feelings and memories as well as the smell of paint. Why? Because the school rooms received fresh coats of paint during the summer. I’m getting a migraine just thinking about it.

After hearing from my friend/coworker, I wondered if others shared our negative views of August. I researched the matter and found a 2021 YouGov survey that asked respondents to select their favorite and least favorite months. According to their poll, August ranked as the third least favorite month, coming in behind only January and February.

Not every month can be October, which was selected as the favorite month, but I was surprised by August’s ranking. After all, it’s part of summer and I thought everyone but me loved summer.

Thus, I conducted more research and learned that, beyond the heat, people dislike August because of what it represents – the end. It’s the end of summer (splashing in the pool, grilling outdoors, working in the yard or garden), the end of freedom (going back to school), the end of longer days, etc. Endings usually give people a case of the sads, so maybe I’m not the only one triggered by unpleasant feelings and memories this time of year.

Of course, as I told my friend/coworker, August isn’t all bad. When the month’s oppressive heat and depressive endings give me a bad case of the sads, I remind myself that August means the NFL season can’t be far behind.

Hey, whatever gets me through the month.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The good old days — August 10, 2022

The good old days

Last week NBC announced that it’s moving Days of Our Lives to the streaming service Peacock, ending the soap opera’s 57-year run on broadcast television. Days will switch to Peacock starting Sept. 12.

I have not faithfully watched Days in dozens of years, but my mom and oldest sister offer occasional updates on the goings on in Salem, the town in which the soap is set. So, I still have a general idea of what’s happening with characters like John and Marlena and families such as the Hortons and Bradys.

As I’ve mentioned previously, some of my first memories are of watching Days and other soaps. Whilst other kids learned certain life lessons from Mr. Rogers and Big Bird, I learned entirely different lessons from Stefano.

If Stefano helped me see the world for how it is, the woman he dubbed Queen of the Night, Dr. Marlena Evans, helped me develop self-awareness. Even as a kid, I appreciated how Marlena, a psychiatrist, would tilt her head and ask her patients (or friends and family members), “How did that make you feel?”

I wanted, no I needed, a Marlena in my life, someone to pop up when I was stressed or after I had experienced a slight and ask how the situation had made me feel. Then, I had an epiphany and realized I could ask myself how that – whatever that was – had made me feel. A therapist once congratulated me on my self-awareness and on being able to look at things from other people’s perspectives. We have Doc to thank for that.

Speaking of Doc, I will always consider the man who gave Marlena that nickname, Original Recipe Roman, one of my all-time favorite soap characters. That is why I loathed John Black for the longest time. He was an interloper. Sure, it wasn’t his fault. He thought he was Roman because of Stefano’s machinations … I’m not getting into all of that. There’s not enough time or space. I’ll just say that a few years ago when I was still tuning into the show every now and then, I finally warmed to John’s character and his portrayer’s, well, let’s call it acting. He really is a gift, and I was a dumb expletive for not accepting that gift sooner.

I don’t watch Days now so I’m not going to follow the show to Peacock. But I would embrace the opportunity to re-watch classic episodes of the show. I could finally make amends to John Black.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A devastating week for my region — August 3, 2022

A devastating week for my region

When friends, family members, and coworkers introduce me to people, they oftentimes mention that I write a newspaper column. These new people frequently respond by tilting their heads or raising their eyebrows, as if they assume I attempt to establish political discourse or sway public opinion with my words. To disabuse them of these notions, I quickly explain that my columns are instead meant to entertain readers with nonsensical slice-of-life musings.

For the most part, I don’t focus on serious issues in this-here space. Instead, I want readers to know they can come here for a chuckle or two, usually at my expense.

But I don’t feel like chuckling this week.

I suffer from insomnia, so I heard the heavy rains Wednesday night into Thursday morning. By the way, it didn’t help the insomnia. But I finally drifted into sleep and when I woke Thursday morning and checked my messages, I learned flooding had occurred near my niece’s house. Fortunately, she and her family had been spared.

As I would soon learn, so many others weren’t as fortunate.

The photos and videos coming out of counties such as Knott, Letcher, and Breathitt here in Eastern Kentucky left me shaken. When a friend told me he believed this would surpass the destruction of the 1977 flood, I initially doubted him. Despite the evidence, I was in denial.

Then I heard the death count and that they couldn’t get an accurate tally on the number of missing people. They expected the death count to rise. As of this writing, it has and is.

Due to these sobering facts and the horrific images that continued to come from neighboring counties, it didn’t take long for me to snap out of my denial.

Since then, I’ve vacillated between anger, sadness, and gratitude.

Anger because that’s my default emotion and because of looting. Anyone who goes into a flooded home or business with the intention of stealing deserves to contract a bacterial infection.

Sadness doesn’t need an explanation.

Gratitude because of the outpouring of help. From meals to water to cleaning supplies, there has been no shortage of donations.

People have also offered of themselves. On Thursday, I saw a photo of a 17-year-old girl in Whitesburg. The girl sat on the top of a house with her dog. After the family’s home flooded, she placed her dog in a carrier that would float and swam to that housetop. She and the dog remained there, on top of that house, for hours until they were rescued by a kayaker.

As I sat down to compose this column, a friend sent me a video titled Chloe’s Story, which showed the rescue of Chloe and her dog. My friend wrote that it was good to see that story come full circle.

At least that’s what I think she wrote. It was hard to read with watery eyes.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Character assassination — July 27, 2022

Character assassination

When a coworker learned my fancy stand mixer was not red, he did not try to hide his disappointment. I understand the feeling. I was disappointed in myself for choosing basic black. To my defense, I had coveted a cobalt blue mixer, but when it came time to make the purchase, the store ran a sale and offered only two colors – silver and black.

Our discussion of the color of my mixer led to us reminisce about the most colorful kitchens of all time. Yes, I’m talking about the burnt orange, avocado green, and harvest yellow appliances and gadgets that populated the kitchens of our childhoods.

Indeed, when folks of a certain age joke about rotary phones, phone booths, video stores, and other dinosaurs that younglings will never experience, we should add colors to the list.

I’ve written before about how people express shock, which verges on outrage, upon learning the walls in my home are blue, yellow, orange, and deep red. Apparently, we’re supposed to live in neutral-hued homes whilst we wait for someone to burst in like the Kool-Aid man with an offer to buy our houses. Ours walls must be beige, white, or perhaps gray because neither we nor the Kool-Aid man will possess the ability to paint the walls a neutral color if and/or when he does make an offer.

These thoughts wormed into my mind when someone on a social media site I frequent posted that he misses the colorful rooms and houses of yore. According to someone else who commented, the proliferation of home renovation/flipping shows led to the popularity of neutral-hued walls and houses. Because, again, once a wall is painted, it is simply impossible to paint over that bold color. Impossible.

By the way, I have only watched those shows against my will. When doing so, I usually can’t figure out what’s wrong with the houses they decide to renovate. They look fine to me. That’s really all you need to know about me and home renovation. Well, one more thing. The first time I heard the term “flipping,” I legit thought they were going to turn the house upside down. The lady who tried to describe it to me probably thought I was touched in the head.

Anyway, the posters on that social media site I frequent shared images of flamboyant rooms of yore. One bedroom boasted matching rose and French blue wallpaper, carpet, and bedspread. A living room featured yellow wallpaper with a design that might have been created whilst the artist was under the influence of a hallucinogen. As you can imagine, those rooms exuded character.

Not as much character as a kitchen with an avocado green fridge, though.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Take my advice — July 20, 2022

Take my advice

As another birthday approaches, I think it’s time for me to once again share some of the life-changing wisdom I’ve accumulated with age.

  • For the most part, I prefer generic brands. (This does not include cleaning supplies and trash bags. Parenthetical advice: It’s best to spend that extra money when it comes to trash bags. Trust me and the mess I had to clean up.) But I buy generic oatmeal, condiments, pasta, etc. When it comes to other foodstuff, such as my beloved Boyardee, I insist on buying brands. This brand-name splurging includes toaster pastries aka Pop-Tarts. Much as with the trash bags, I learned this lesson the hard way. A few years ago, I bought a box of store brand toaster pastries. I popped one of the cherry pastries into the toaster oven, allowed it to brown, took one bite, and recoiled in horror. Cardboard tastes better. And I should know. I feasted on cardboard as a child.
  • On the subject of food … Always check your order whilst you’re still in the drive-thru. Once whilst a passenger in a car, I told the driver of my intention to go through the bag to ensure our order was accurate and complete. Said driver legit yelled at me, “Do you expect me to sit here in line while you look through the bag?” Well, yeah. Trust me, dear readers, I know from where I speak. On the few occasions when I haven’t followed my own advice, I’ve arrived home to find that my chicken sammich did not also contain bacon or that my bag did not even contain a chicken sammich. These experiences gave me the sads.
  • On the subject of restaurants … If you’re ordering a drink at a place that offers free refills, always go with the smallest size. That way, you can keep filling up that cup on the restaurant’s dime. Just the other day, my heart filled with happiness as a young man stood at the other drink machine and sipped and filled and sipped and filled. Just as did I. And people say these younglings have no gumption.
  • On the subject of drinks … Back in the day, I usually ordered water at restaurants. After all, water is almost always free and I’m cheap. But I’ve accidentally developed a debilitating addiction to fountain drinks in my advanced age. Don’t be like me. Don’t accidentally develop a debilitating addition to foundation drinks. Stick to free water. But if you’re in the area and you enjoy Dr Pepper, which my adorable great-niece and great-nephew shorten to Pepper, I recommend ordering Taco Bell’s Dr Pepper. Be forewarned: It will change your life.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.