‘Challenging Times’

If I hear the phrase ‘challenging times’ one more time, I will scream.  Every commercial, every email, every everything uses that phrase.  But let me tell you, these are more than just challenging times.  These times are transformative.

I started this blog during the darkest days of my life.  I vowed that I would write funny things and tell stories that would make people laugh.  At the very least, I would offer something positive for my readers.  That’s tough these days because here we are, experiencing ‘challenging times.’  I really had to think about this.  How am I supposed to put a positive spin on something as deadly and life-altering as this virus can be?  Yet, in no apparent order, I see a few bright spots:

People are being nicer to each other.  For years I’ve said that the only way humans would ever stop killing each other would be to have a common enemy.  I used to joke that when aliens arrived to conquer us, we will rise as one. We have a common enemy now, that’s for sure.  On a smaller scale, people are showing kind gestures, both great and small.  There’s more more motivation to help each other and more appreciation and recognition for the people who do.

We are more cognizant of unsung heroes.  There are a lot of people out there who contribute to our wellbeing.  There aren’t enough superlatives in the world to describe the dedication and and humanity of these remarkable beings. EMTs, trash collectors, doctors, janitors, police, cashiers, shelf-stockers, cooks, nurses, fire fighters, scientists, mail carriers, toll-takers, pharmacists, and every last person who works in a hospital…this is a very abbreviated list of the people who are putting their lives in danger so that we will have a better chance of keeping ours.

Science and data are getting the respect they deserve.  If you ever told me that the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases would be a rock star in my eyes, those eyes would have rolled.  Dr. Anthony Fauci, and his unyielding dedication to science while being thrust into the political arena, is saving us.  Tens of thousands of us, if not more.  If the politicians stop listening to the doctors and scientists, we will be well and truly….in ‘challenging times.’

We aren’t taking as much for granted.   Kids miss school.  Those are three words I never thought I’d type in that particular order.  Who would have guessed?  Where someone might have groused about their job a few months ago, now they are very thankful if they still have it.  The things we thought would always be there have slipped away for many people.  Loss is everywhere and those things we do have are appreciated that much more.

Corporations are stepping up.  I got an email from my auto insurance carrier.  After assuring me that they are here for me during these ‘challenging times,’ they actually announced that they will be taking 15% off my bill for the next two months because we won’t be driving as much.  Grocers and other essential businesses are giving their employees what amounts to combat pay.  GM is making ventilators, streaming services are offering free content, oodles of companies are contributing to COVID-19 causes…and my insurance company is giving me 15% off!  Sorry, I had to repeat that last bit as a reality check because it still doesn’t seem possible.

Families are closer.  This can be a two-edged sword, but I would bet that most families are very happy to be stuck with each other at home.  I’m sure there are rough spots.  There have been times over the past few weeks where I have wanted to kill Bill, but then I think about the fact that there is something out there that could do exactly that.  My murderous inclinations are quickly squelched and I end up giving him a hug instead.

Personal health is taking on more importance.  Hopefully, each of us will try to improve our health overall.  The words ‘underlying conditions’ put fear in the hearts of many these days, and rightfully so.  This virus is culling the weakest among us.  Let’s be strong!

Healthcare, insurance, and prescriptions are getting a lot of scrutiny.  We, in the US, have a long way to go before we have a healthcare system that works.  The conversation around these issues started long before the virus hit, but now it is gaining momentum.  There’s a lot of work to be done.

Relationships are being rekindled.  I’ve heard from friends recently whom I haven’t spoken to in ages.  An event of this magnitude has a tendency to make us think about those we love, and have loved.

We are being more adaptive.  We are finding ways to accomplish things even if we can’t be there in person.  Working from home is just one way in which we do that.  Churches are holding virtual services.  Netflix has a feature that lets people watch a movie together even if they are on separate continents.  You can listen to your favorite singer perform from their living room.  The list of ways we have come together while apart is endless.

Virtual medical appointments through TeleHealth.  Through necessity, bringing this technology online widespread will change how medicine is practiced going forward.  Now that my technophobic psychologist has learned how to do remote sessions, I will never have to drive an hour to see him ever again.  It must have been a Herculean task for him to learn how to do it.  After all, he gave up his flip phone only a couple of months ago.  No lie.  If he can adapt to the new virtual world, there is hope for all of us.

Customs will change.  There is no question that life as we have known it is gone forever.  Just as airports changed policies after 911, hopefully we will adapt in ways that will promote good health.  Handshakes will probably go by the wayside.  Masks will be more prevalent.  We will be more cognizant of personal space.  We will keep a month’s worth of toilet paper on hand.  That last one is particularly important!

On a grander scale, one other thing has become clear.  When we curtail our activities, pollution is reduced dramatically.  Isn’t it ironic that as many are struggling for their last breath, Mother Nature is taking her first breath of fresh air in many, many years.

 

 

 

Maladjusted Mondays, #20

NOT Linda.

Greetings! I’m Jan C. Johnson. I’ve been away from Linda’s blog for ages and I’m happy to be back! Thanks for joining the fun here on Maladjusted Mondays. Linda heroically offered to host this collection of scathing exposés in which I rat out my uncooperative appliances. I originally published these posts on my blog, Joywriting: Everybody Has a Story, where I do occasionally write about something besides my appliances. You can visit me there any time by clicking here.

The following post first appeared on my blog March 31, 2020…

Processing… Processing

You know you have an appliance problem when you have to plaster them with notes to yourself. Case in point…

Spring-latchy thingsWhen I cook at home, I’m prone to shred fingers along with carrots. My sliced potatoes are like snowflakes: no two slices alike. Clearly, I needed a food processor. Thanks to the recommendation of my favorite food blogger, Beauty Beyond Bones, I gained the confidence to choose one: a 14-cup model from Cuisinart.

In due time I got the goods and opened the box to free the various components from their Styrofoam straitjackets. It seemed awfully complicated. Each part featured a lot of metal springy-latchy-looking things. Clear plastic tunnels kept the latches out of my reach.

Just as well. I was sort of afraid to touch them anyway.

I turned to the instruction book.

It offered page after page of instructions and safety warnings, including how to use the assembled processor, how to clean the assembled processor, and lots of things NOT to do with the assembled processor.

That would’ve been great… if only there were some hint about how to actually assemble the processor.

The picture on the cover* shows the assembled appliance from the front. You can’t tell a thing about how the parts fit together, let alone how to latch them without breaking something.

I went to their website. Surely they’d have helpful demos, right?

Nope.

Barely visible rod

Okay, never mind. How hard can it be?

I fitted the lid onto the bowl okay, then inserted the pusher into the large food tube.  I didn’t notice  at the time, but a metal rod runs downward along one side. I unknowingly positioned that side toward the center of the lid rather than sticking out over its edge.

Looks good. Let’s try shredding some carrots.

inserts 4-inch carrot lengths into small center food tube; poises pusher above them; pushes “on” button

Nothing. Yes, it was plugged in. I checked. Twice.

Great. I have a food processor that won’t process.

One more time, let’s look at the manual.

Uhhh… where is the manual?

Honestly, it was right there, and then I couldn’t find it. I have never seen it since.

With a few unflattering remarks, I turned back to the “assembled” processor and used the trial-and-error method. As it turns out, the food pusher, the kingpin of the whole operation, was facing the wrong way. The rod on the side has to stick out over the edge of the lid. If you push it down (and you have to use some serious muscle), it forces its way into the latch tunnel on the bowl. This somehow positions all the latchy things in a way that signals the processor it’s “Safe To Turn On.”

The resulting spring-loaded array of parts looks like a medieval mouse trap and feels as if it could sproinggg apart with no warning.

BUT, five seconds after this discovery? I had a cup or so of shredded carrots.

I still can’t bear to leave the food pusher’s metal rod wedged into the latch tunnel. I mean, I can just feeeel the springs wearing out from holding their tension all the time. So I store the thing with the pusher sitting backwards. And knowing how forgetful I can be, I now have a Post-It note stuck on the pusher:

So, yeah, I’m letting this one appliance give me orders. I can only hope that doesn’t snowball into yet another mutiny.

Thanks for reading,

Jan

* Photo is NOT from the cover of the instruction book, as said book went AWOL somewhere along the line.

jj

Carry On, Carry On

I’ve always wanted to make this blog a fun place to visit.  Over the last few weeks there have been fewer things to laugh about.   I used to have personal stories that were amusing, but at the moment they are far and few between.  Even Walter seems lethargic.  Even so, we need to smile when we can.

When I saw this, I burst out laughing.  Gallows humor, I suppose.  I guess I’m not the only one laughing since it’s been viewed over 5 million times on Facebook.  Still, I had to post it, if only for the two of you who haven’t see it, yet.

Stay well, my friends.  And please get in touch if anyone would like me to lend an ear or a shoulder.  I have two of each to share.

 

Please Check In…I Worry!

I know I haven’t been here much of late, but I do want to check in with my friends to see wow everyone is doing.  This horrible virus is shutting everything down here, and I would bet it’s the same for most people.

We are dong fine here.  Stocked up and ready if we are told to stay in our houses.  I’ve heard some cities in the US have already done that.

I would feel sooo much better if I heard from my WordPress friends to know things are ok.  Just put a short comment below to put my mind at ease.

I’m keeping Walter at home because we can’t find a mask in his size!

Thanks, Walter…

A couple of weeks ago it occurred to me that our entertainment set-up needed some upgrading.   I was tired of having a dumb TV.  Smart TVs are all the rage.  The more Ks you have, the better.  It was time to take the plunge and replace our 32″ 1080p with something 4K.  Something wicked smart that would stream movies and do my dishes.

Since I wanted needed a new Roku, it made sense to get a Roku TV.  Perfect.  I ordered a humongous 43″er.  Go ahead and laugh.  It was replacing a 32″ model and 43″ seems pretty darned enormous!  I then figured it would be nice to have a sound bar to go with it.  I found this really cool Polk sound bar that truly sounds amazing.  It even had a remote where you can not only change the bass but also enhance voice mode and night mode and all  sorts of other modes.  Notice I said it HAD a remote.

You guessed it.  I bought the bar, and by the very next morning, Walter had eaten the remote.  He hadn’t digested it, but it was in smithereens and I could tell he only stopped chewing once he bit into a battery.  That must have tasted yummy, but he deserved it!  Eating that remote was not cool.  And that’s not all…

Walter also chewed up the remote from the old TV.  Great…that meant no mode-changing on the sound bar, and the old TV couldn’t be used because I couldn’t change the input on it.  Know why?  Because when we got the new TV, I changed all of the satellite remotes to the new TV code.  So now we have a poor old remote-less TV.  Thanks, Walter.

I shamed Walter for an entire day by just showing him those old lifeless remotes.  He knew he was in trouble and he hid in an unheated back room.  Every time he tried to come back in the kitchen, I would just touch the shell of the old remote and he’s slink off again.  At least he knew what he had done was bad and he would never do it again.  He had been punished good and proper.  It’s amazing how much a withering look will affect that dog.  That’s not to say that I didn’t yell.  I yelled plenty.

You might think the story ends here, but no.  I was able to find a new TV remote for less than ten bucks…yay!  It should be here any day now.  I was also able to find a new sound bar remote for 40 bucks.  I’ll still say “yay” but with a little less enthusiasm.  Still, for fifty dollars total, all would be right with the world.  Oh but it’s never that easy.  Not with Walter around.

The new sound bar remote arrived yesterday.  It was pristine and worked perfectly.  Notice I said it WAS pristine.  I came home this afternoon after a short jaunt into town and what should I find?  The $40 sound bar replacement remote chewed to pieces.  I won’t repeat what I said.  Actually, I will repeat it.  What I was thinking was very bad, but what I said was simple.  I looked at Walter and just said “OUT!!”  I pointed my finger toward the door and looked at him sternly.  Head down and tail between his legs, he looked over his shoulder abjectly as he slinked out of the room.

I just finished ordering a replacement for the replacement sound bar remote.  Another $40.  Nothing is safe around here.  Apparently, that goes double for remotes.  Thanks, Walter…

Switch It Up

Today I set up my Nintendo Switch.  You know…the video-gamey thing I bought to encourage me to exercise?  Let me just make this clear at the outset.  I hate exercise. Let me rephrase that. I hate what is normally considered exercise. Crunches, push ups, walking toward no apparent destination…ugh.  Walking toward no apparent destination is for chumps.  Yes, my darling husband, I’m looking at you.  And don’t get me started about running.* 

So I set the thing up anticipating all of this fun exercise I’d get by dancing.  Yup, they have dancing video games.  I started that thing up, and I really danced!  To one song.  After that one song, I had to set up my account and all of that other fun stuff.  Of course, I really had to try that Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle game and…well, you know the rest.  

I do have to admit, though. I’m rather proud of myself.  After all, I figure I danced  competitively this afternoon.  Yeah it was only one song but if I’m trying to beat my own score, that’s competitive, right?  But what I’m really looking forward to is that $80 video game that makes you do all sorts of exercises in order to level up.  If it costs that much, it has to be fun.  Yeah baby, you just watch me level up in that game while I’m getting all of that exercise!  I’m going to be so fit, you won’t even recognize me.  I shall rule the world!  At least the world where Mario and the Rabbids reside.

 

*You knew there had to be a footnote after all of that exercise-dissing, right?  Let me be clear.  Geez that sounds like it comes from a political debate, but still…  Let me be clear.  I am all for exercise of all types that other people enjoy….as long as they are the ones enjoying it.  Truly though, I think I’ll also enjoy some of the more pedestrian exercises once I’ve lost some more weight.  Except for running.  Running is off the table.  But until I yearn for typical types of exercise, I shall dance.  And if I feel the need to visit Mario and the Rabbids,  I can always do it while I’m pedaling along on a stationary bike, right?  Note to self: “Buy a stationary bike.”

**Featured image is from Nintendo.  Hopefully, they won’t sue me when they see all of the publicity they’re getting here.  ;P

 

 

 

‘shrooms

I was reading the New York Post recently and saw an article about the therapeutic value of mushrooms.  I wasn’t actually reading the paper itself, of course, because who does that any more?  Actually, my husband does, but he’s a tech-roglodyte and he deserves to have newsprint ink all over his hands.  Before I retired, I was part of the ‘paper biz.’  I should be shot for maligning the product that paid my mortgage, but c’mon!  Humongous sheets of ink-smeared pages with offset images making politicians look even more ridiculous than they truly are.  The last time I looked at a real paper, I saw a pic of Trump above the fold and the ink didn’t line up.  The yellow ink was so out of kilter it made him look like he had a halo.  ‘Nuff said.

I’m not going down the hell-hole of American politics.  Nope, not gonna do it!  I’m here to talk about mushrooms.  I love mushrooms.  Cooked mushrooms, that is.  The raw ones exist only to be cooked.  I’ve never understood the compulsion some cooks have for putting raw mushrooms in a salad…or anything else, for that matter!  Just because I get a little worked up about raw mushrooms, and their ill-advised placement in salads, doesn’t mean that you have to share my views.  But I’m right.  You know in your heart that I’m right.  Enough of my mushroom rant, I promise I’ll leave the subject of raw mushrooms behind.  But if you get me started on baby corn, there will be no turning back.

Let’s get back to mushrooms.  I’m rather interested in the latest research claiming that mushrooms are more than just pizza toppings and and bits that swim in pasta sauce.  The highly-touted fungi have been used for centuries to remedy scores of illnesses, and I was astounded when I saw how many ailments can be alleviated by eating mushrooms.  Here are a few:

 

Feeling a little on edge?  Reishi can make chill you out, man.  It helps with depression and anxiety, too.  

Cordyceps can help with energy and athletic performance.   I’ve never heard about this one before, but if I ever decide to run a marathon, I’ll find some!  As if…

Have high blood pressure?  Cholesterol through the roof?  Perhaps you have a wonky heart?  Eat some some shitake.  I don’t have any of these issues but I still eat shitake mushrooms because they are soo yummy…cooked, of course.  No wonky heart for me!  My heart is totally un-wonked.  “Eat shitake”  There has to be a joke in there somewhere.

Do you have high blood pressure?  Gobble up some Turkey Tail.  Thank goodness I don’t have high blood pressure because gobbling turkey tail just sounds wrong.  Unless it’s Thanksgiving, of course.  If so, then all bets are off.

Having issues affecting memory, cognition, and concentration?  If you think of it, have some Lion’s Mane.  I’m going to put my order in right away because…I’m not quite sure I remember why.  What was I saying again?

I couldn’t make these names up if I tried!  I mean, really!  I can’t see myself saying:  “I’ll just have some Lion’s Mane with a side of Turkey Tail, please.”  Then there are Puffballs, Wood Ear, and the highly sought after Truffle…they sound like props in a Harry Potter movie, don’t they?  Maybe J. K. Rowling was doing some recreational ‘shrooms when she wrote her imaginative books.  That would explain a lot.

Make sure you talk to your doctor before you take any mushroom that is not common in the culinary world…raw or cooked.  Be very careful about mentioning the Angel of Death because your next stop might be a facility that will keep you for 72 hours, whether you want it to or not.  And I really don’t want you to take the Destroying Angel because she will…well…destroy you.  We can’t have that!  I need all the followers I can get.

 

 

Pie Domination!

Just a quick note to follow up on my pie predicament in my previous post.   To recap, I was trying to lose 25 pounds by yesterday morning.  This is the end of the 16-week program I joined to lose weight and work my way toward a healthier me.  Did I think about the fact that this program would end a few days after Thanksgiving?  I did not.  I am pleased to tell you that I reached my goal weight three days ago!  I attribute this achievement to my painful restriction of pie at Thanksgiving dinner.  I did it!  Oh yes, I have achieved pie domination!  I am now a The Dominatrix of Pie.

Thanksgiving dinner was fabulous.  It was prepared by a professional chef!  It’s good to have someone in the family with such expertise.  Or bad…if you are trying to lose weight.  It was hard, but I kept to my word and had no seconds.  There were only four pies this year, so that was a bit of a break.  I gave in to temptation and allowed myself a single bite of each.  The pie-makers were happy to see me hovering over their respective pies, and I felt good limiting myself.  “Good” might be going too far, “strong” might be a better word.  Those pies were not going to stop me from achieving my goals.  No siree!  I showed them that I could just have a taste and walk away.  What do you think about that, pie!?

The idea of a post Thanksgiving day weigh-in wasn’t my idea of a good time.  I was a bit fearful as I approached the scale of judgment…how bad would it be?  It wasn’t bad!  I didn’t gain an ounce.  I guess that’s what happens when you bring 3 bottles of wine to a family dinner and don’t drink a drop.  My sister-in-law informed me that the two left-over bottles would be opened for Christmas dinner.  I don’t intend to drink it then, either.  I have goals, damn it!

So, pie isn’t the only thing being dominated.  Wine is on notice, too!  I’m guessing that last bottle of wine won’t be consumed until New Year’s Eve.  Since that is the date of my next colonoscopy, I think I might need a glass of wine that night.   I’ll just think of it as fruit juice.  Hey, it has grapes in it…don’t judge me!  The USDA says you need a minimum of 2 servings of fruit per day.  Who am I to question the USDA?  My scale might not be happy, but at least my wine consumption will be government approved!  

 

I cannot stress the importance of the support and motivation I received from my friends at Weigh To Be Healthy   We started that group when I was midway through this goal of mine and it helped me tremendously as I was nearing the end and questioning whether or not I’d make it.  I can’t imagine a more supportive group of people.  Feel free to join us if you like, and we’ll support you, too!

American Pie

In Thanksgivings past I have thoroughly enjoyed whatever food was put before me…often with seconds for the particularly choice bits.  Ok, they are ALL particularly choice bits, and that’s the problem.  Without thinking, I made a very ill-timed decision and I am now facing the consequences.  I joined a ‘lose weight and get healthy’ program and I set my goal to lose 25 pounds in 16 weeks.  The catch is that my 16 weeks are up on Sunday and I haven’t quite met my goal, yet.  My freaking goal is due three days after Thanksgiving!!!  You will just have to imagine me doing facepalms repeatedly…and with great force.

This year I vowed I would be more restrained.  No seconds!   No seconds, and no wine.  I’m going to eat and drink responsibly.  Yup, it’s going to be a sober, seconds-less Thanksgiving.  It sure is!  But I still have to deal with pies.  So many pies…

We are a pie-loving family.  Every year at least three people show up with multiple pies.  It’s always a pie-palooza.  Now it’s one thing if a couple of people bring a pie, but when there are a half dozen pies on the counter, there’s a problem.  Then the whole ‘eating responsibly’ idea becomes less of a reality and more of a quickly-forgotten oath.  Plus, you can’t have one and not another, otherwise feelings get hurt.  That would make for a very unthankful Thanksgiving, and we can’t have that.

How do you say no when a family member is handing you a piece of pie they lovingly created for you?  There they are, just waiting for that “mmmmm” sound made only after one has had an extraordinary piece of pie.  If they don’t get that sound, their entire pie-making endeavor was for naught, and Thanksgiving has been utterly ruined.  We can’t have that, but what to do?

I’ve been pondering this problem and this past week I have been working on plausible excuses for not eating six pieces of pie after Thanksgiving dinner.  I will probably have to use the excuse I come up with a number of times so it has to be universally appropriate and consistent…and it has to be true.  I won’t lie.  These rules have proven to make this pie-avoiding goal difficult.  The following are works in progress:

“Oooh, that pie looks wonderful but don’t get too close!  I have a tickle in my throat (true) and I don’t want you to catch my cold!”

“I’ve been trying to cut back on sweets (true), but it looks so good…let me have just a sliver”  This might work but there is an inherent problem here. It’s almost impossible for me to have “just a sliver” and not want to consume more.  I am a woman who has ‘slivered’ a cheesecake to death.  There will be no successful slivering of six pies, so this one is out.

“Oh my goodness!  So and so was just asking who made this gorgeous pie!” This always leads to the pie-maker heading in the direction of the potential pie-appreciator and thus getting me off the hook.  The only snag here is that I can only use this when someone actually does ask who made the pie, otherwise it’s a lie. Lucky for me, everyone in the family is always asking who made what pie, so this one is a contender.  Did I mention that we are a pie-loving family?

I could get up and move around with a drink in my hand.  It’s hard to eat pie while standing and drinking.  But to make this plausible, it would entail talking with someone who is also standing.  The real concern here is that the odds are high that the only people standing would be pie-makers…who want me to eat their pie.  That would defeat the purpose.  I should probably rule this one out.

I could tell them that I’m sharing with Bill, and because he doesn’t indulge in sweets (true!)  we’ll only have small pieces.  If I had one bite of each, that might work!  I would be able to tell everyone exactly what I liked about their pie.  Mmmmmm  I wouldn’t have the ‘slivering’ problem because there would be another bite coming.  And I would come away eating only the equivalent of a single piece of pie because after I eat my one bite of each, I can move away from the table and what’s left on the plate will be Bill’s problem.  Even that is more pie than I probably should eat, but we all have to make sacrifices for those we love.  Yummy, yummy sacrifices.  This idea might be the winner!  Maybe I could make it a new tradition.  After all, Christmas is right around the corner.

Oh, and if you don’t live in America, just disregard this whole thing.  You can be thankful that you aren’t in the middle of our current political maelstrom. Although, if you are from the UK, your situation isn’t too rosy either.  Even though you aren’t celebrating Thanksgiving, you should have a piece of pie.  It’ll make you feel better.  I’m more than willing to share.