Keeping Up Appearances

Ladies, we all know that the pressures of society are a considerable weight to bear. Day after day, we get advertisements and marketing ploys shoved in our faces demanding that we look younger, thinner, more done-up than can ever be achieved naturally. If you don’t look good enough, someone is bound to tell you. But careful! If you look too good, it’s bound to be used against you. A zero-sum game played by wannabe winners.

And fellas, you’re not entirely immune either. The media constantly portrays what a “real” man should look like, what he should do, what beverages he should drink (hint: they say it’s beer and only beer). Society maintains that all men should have the washboard abs or swooping hair. They say all men should wear fine suits or rugged jeans – no in-between.

It’s exhausting, isn’t it? Yet we find ourselves falling for these traps, not just in how we judge ourselves but how we perceive others. Ugh, human nature… it sucks.

Here’s the worst part of it all – at the very end, the last stop on the train, the final exit off the road of life, there’s still pressure from society. You would think that we get some reprieve in our last moments above ground. You would think that our own funerals, the celebrations and memorials of our lives, would be the place where societal norms would be laid to rest for a brief moment (see what I did there?).

Nope.

We can’t let our guard down for a minute; death be damned. We need to keep up appearances. We have to make sure we look peaceful and angelic and gorgeous for our grieving loved ones to admire. Otherwise, we are exposed to the dreaded commentary of those in attendance, while we are powerless to change anything.

I can’t be the only one. I’m sure you’ve heard this narrative at funerals too.

“Oh, doesn’t her makeup look lovely!”

“Look what a good job they did on her hair!”

“My, what wonders they did with his face.”

Umm, excuse me… what?

What’s worse, there’s a flip side to that coin.

“Ooh, you can barely recognize him. How terrible.”

“She would have never done her makeup that heavily, this simply doesn’t do her justice.”

“Oh dear, she would have never been caught dead in that dress…”

Honestly, people! Can we not show a little respect by holding thoughts in our mind instead of speaking them out loud? It is possible to do, you know. No, really, it is.

We all grieve in our own unique ways, but this kind of grieving can be done on your own time. The funeral service is not the time to discuss the shade of lipstick chosen or the volume of their hair. They can’t even defend the choices themselves, for Pete’s sake.

Sure, the positive comments are often made to comfort the grieving family and bring some kind words to the fore. And I get it; it’s hard to know exactly what to say to the family or even to the others in attendance. Funeral homes don’t exactly spark the best conversations. But check your “thought filters” before you leave the house, so you don’t end up saying something to make things more morbid than they already are.

I seriously want to know, though: just how good are people supposed to look at their own funerals? Why is there a standard? Have we asked ourselves why we care so much about people’s appearance while their eternal soul is laid to rest? It seems there would be more pressing matters to consider. If ever there was a time in someone’s life, this definitely seems like the time to not be worried about hair, clothing, or overall appearance.

Alas, societal pressure is destined to weigh heavy on our shoulders – right up to the bitter end.

Looks are Deceiving

Beautiful Shaylee, fairy princess of the field, caught up in a reverie.

Hmmm… what are the odds of my survival should I opt to destroy my human servant while she sleeps tonight? She IS very good about buying my favorite food and sharing the canned tuna. But then again, I could always just get another stupid human to do my bidding. Decisions, Decisions…

 

Kitchen Mishaps

I blame my mother. I’ve written before about this truly amazing yet possibly deceptive chef I have for a mother. Trying desperately to duplicate her mouth-watering recipes is what surely brought the demon spawn down (or is that up?) into my humble abode. It’s okay though, he’s not so bad as far as demons go, and the cats seem to like him. I can’t quite catch what they’re saying, since they’ve been commiserating quietly in the corner since he poofed in (seemingly quite confused at this turn of events, I might add), but from the looks of it, he might be a long-lost relative.

And while I haven’t yet caught Mom out in her kitchen-y lies, I will. Oh, you can be sure, I will. Eventually.

 

 

Hacked… Like a Hairball

I don’t want to incriminate myself, but as someone of the feline persuasion, I can’t help but brag that this human is only here by the grace of… well, me. She doesn’t realize it yet, but she was thiisss close to, ahem, you know. But if she weren’t here, who would open the cans of tuna I so dearly love for snack time? Damn it all to hell. I tell you what though… as soon as I figure out the can opener, this servant is history. Hisssstory, I tell you!

 

Games and Thangs

As we continue to wallow in the joys of sheltering-in-place, many are turning to board games and the like to keep boredom at bay. Board games are a fantastic, usually low-tech solution to keeping us on our toes while having a little fun. Which got me thinking about board games past and present and in the end, I decided I had some thoughts to add to my previous Game Night. So here we are… lucky you.

Chemistry sets nowadays are cool, there’s no two ways about it. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a kid around who wouldn’t be stoked to receive a chemistry set for their birthday or as another holiday surprise. Even if it wasn’t their cup of tea, a rainy day a few months down the road would inevitably end up with the child popping open the box and seeing what crazy experiments await them. Even to this day, chemistry sets are a very unique gift. There is even one that you can purchase a subscription for, where you receive a package every month that comes with a variety of different experiments. It’s marketed to kids, but if I had the money, I’d totally be down for getting one for myself!

But if we’re talking phenomenal ways to maybe lose an eye… or a layer of skin, let’s discuss the chemistry sets that were around when I was a kid. Those were awesome, hands down.  Looking back, we just didn’t realize it at the time. No safety standards, protective eyewear, or warning labels in sight. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some plutonium, lithium, or uranium in there. But hey, you’re 10, No problem!  Here you go, just do your best to not set the house on fire or blow up the neighborhood please!

While on the topic of chemistry sets, I also remember an edible chemistry lab. My kids at one time or another have had this set. Probably not of their own devices, but as gifts. I believe it was called something like Dr. Dreadful’s lab. It was set up like the other, more traditional science experiment stations, but instead gave kids the means to mix weird fizzy green-color drinks and other gooey confections, that were 100% edible. Needless to say, speaking as an adult, the ingredients were incredibly disgusting, and if I remember correctly, the kids weren’t all that impressed either.

Now, Battleship was a game my brother and I played often. I’m not saying he cheated, but he did win an inordinate amount of times. We… I mean, he, cause it was his game and don’t you forget it, had the original game that came with two separate gaming stations that stored all of the respective pieces when they were closed. No computer to keep score, no electronics to add to the thrill, just us, the honor system (ha!), and our own special effects. I understand that the electronic version calls out, “You Sank My Battleship!” and it’s all fun and games.  All I had was my brother yelling: “I sank your battleship! Again! AGAIN! That’s the five hundredth time in a row now! Battleship… SUNK!” Oh yeah. Fun and games.

While both of my kids were living at home, we loved to play the card game UNO, and it was always a blast. We had (still have, in fact) the version that includes a machine that spits out a random number of cards – or none at all – when it’s your turn to push the button. It added to the heat of the game. I mean, you’d think you were just about to win and wham! Now you suddenly have 50 cards in your hand.

Like with most of our games, we never really played UNO by the rules, but instead we adopted our own series of house rules that we’d use.  Although technically you’re supposed to keep score over several sets of play, our style would be playing a hand and that was a game. Whoever went out first was the winner. It made it more exciting and fun, and boy did we have fun. There’s a running joke in our house about my son winning a game in under a minute via skips, reverses, draw fours, and the like, that he laid down on my daughter and me, but mostly me. That’s why I refuse to sit beside him when we play the game, but it’s tough because there’s only the three of us.  I sure do miss those days.

Games like Monopoly, checkers, hearts, rummy and others, were always a staple for game night growing up before smart phones took over. Even back when video game consoles first hit their stride, there was still a healthy mix of board gamers and video gamers. Hell, I remember when Dungeons and Dragons came out…  yes, I’m that old.  It combined the familiar board game platform with the rich backstories reminiscent of video games to attract a new audience. D & D came out like gangbusters and just like that, a whole new genre of board games was born.  It’s garnered renewed interest in recent years, and I can understand why.  It’s a thinking person’s board game and those who believe it’s just for “nerds,” have obviously never played. Sure, nerds just happen to be better at it, but you shouldn’t be underestimating nerds in the first place. So there.

I’d be curious to hear about what kinds of games you remember playing as a kid, or which ones you still play today. Maybe with your kids or grandkids. Or hell, maybe just for fun. Spill the beans!  (Ha! See what I did there? Cause, Don’t Spill the Beans is a game too. But I turned it around as a way to get you to tell me what games you play… get it?  Oh, never mind.)

Social Distancing – Appalachia Style

With the COVID-19 pandemic steadily growing, many states, my own included, have initiated a stay-at-home order.  The introvert that I am, this hasn’t been too hard for me, with the exception of eating out and library runs. While not minding the lack of social interaction, I do miss food that isn’t cooked by me, and I miss my frequent trips to the local library. What can I say, I love being surrounded by books.  Oh, and being temporarily furloughed (I’m nonessential… who knew?) is also an issue, but to curb my ever-increasing anxiety, I’m ignoring that problem, you know, as one does.

As most of you may know from past entries, my parents were born and raised in the mountains of West Virginia as were their parents before them. Great-Grandma Mooney of Vinegar Valentines fame – among other stories and her husband were also Appalachian born and bred. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here or not while discussing my family, but my mother’s father died in the coal mines when my grandmother was very pregnant with my mom… so she and the kids (my mom and her brother) lived with Grandma Mooney in her house in the ‘holler’. For those of you who aren’t from the south, a holler is a small valley between mountains. Some people would say it’s a hollow, but they would be wrong. There was only one way in and one way out of the holler, and traversing that road was, well, let’s just say that it wasn’t for the faint of heart.  Now you know what all those country songs are talking about. You’re welcome.

I can’t help but think that they would do better at this sheltering-in-place gig than the rest of us.  I mean, they were nothing if not self-sufficient. Grocery store runs? Nonexistent. Mostly because grocery stores themselves were nonexistent. I was talking to my mother the other day about this very thing and she said that once a month, this one gentleman (the son of a preacher man… hmmm, sounds like a song, if you ask me) would come around to all the houses in their mountain community, which in and of itself was a trek, because it’s not like these were neighborhoods, these folks were spread out – which takes me to the point of social distancing. Since you had to walk a mile or more to see a neighbor, social distancing wasn’t an issue, but I digress.  This one gentleman would come around once a month and take your order for items like flour, corn meal, sugar, powdered milk, maybe cereal (puffed wheat) and a pound of bologna if you were lucky. A couple of weeks later, he’d bring the items to you.  Where he got them is a mystery, but got them, he did. The flour and cornmeal were always bought in bulk – 50-pound sacks, because everyone made bread, biscuits, and/or cornbread every day. When the stash was gone, it was gone. Then you’d have to wait until the next time he came around. If you wanted eggs or milk, but didn’t have chickens or a cow, you traded or bartered with a neighbor. In most cases, you could simply just ask nicely, and you’d find yourself heading home with a quart of milk and a couple of eggs. If you’ve even glanced at the news the past few days, you’d see that today’s masses are hoarding toilet paper, bread, Excedrin, and frozen vegetables. We’re a narcissistic society born of selfishness and greed. But back in the day, people shared what they had, at least in the hills where my parents grew up.

Throughout my mother’s childhood, my family raised chickens, pigs, and what my mother calls a vegetable garden, but was actually more like a mini-farm. Along with burying certain harvested vegetables like potatoes and cabbage (I found out recently from my mother, that this was a thing, and not only that, it worked perfectly to preserve these provisions), my grandmother canned vegetables, fruit, and homemade soup to put up in the root cellar. In addition to canning fruit of all kinds, she dried apples too, since that kept well.  She did this all summer long to ensure they had food through the fall and winter when the growing season was long over.  Since they didn’t live on veggies alone, my grandmother also put up canned beef, homemade sausage, and salted-down bacon… it was their only source of meat in the winter.

Quarantine?  Hell, it would just be like December for them, only warmer.

 

Breaking News… of a Sort

Labor Day, generally speaking, isn’t usually equated with a day of peace… it’s just not the theme for the holiday. But, still, miracles happen, and one such miracle happened in Maryland today. In fact, it’s a day that will go down in history.

Let it be known, that on Labor Day 2019, after a long-standing feud of 10 odd years, hostilities came to a halt, as peace talks, successful at last, brought about a temporary truce between two bitter foes. Weary from battle, these faithful warriors laid down their arms… umm, teeth… and sheathed their claws to meet, on common ground, for a well-deserved nap.

Will this newfound (dare we even say it!?) friendship last once these lifelong enemies have awoken? Or is this truce truly temporary? No-one in either camp is willing to end their slumber prematurely, so the future is uncertain.

For now, let’s simply revel in the unexpected tranquility and contentment reigning over the realm.

Tomorrow, as they say, is another day.