$12 Watermelons and the Forlorn Refrigerator

Ain’t that just kind of sad?

So. Grocery shopping is not high on my hit parade. When we moved here in 1986, I discovered to my delight a small grocery store, Mack’s Market, less than one mile from my home. It wasn’t a large store, but it carried all the staples. If I forgot my checkbook, they let me charge stuff. If they saw me hunting for something, they’d ask what I was looking for. For years they stocked Chinese hot mustard just for me. If I had milk in the basket the clerk would tell the carryout guy to put it back because, “you man was just in here and he got milk, bread and cereal.”Their prices were lower than Kroger’s which really isn’t that big of a feat and when they were higher, I gladly paid it because I’d rather support the business owned by the guy down the road than the soulless, corporation that tries to spy on me.

I manage to do most of my shopping online, but no one is offering groceries delivered to me yet.

Because I hate grocery shopping so much and because Mack’s was so close, I got into the habit of doing my grocery shopping daily which I discovered I liked. I mean really, how can you know on Saturday what you want to eat on Tuesday?But then Walmart opened. It was the death knell. Slowly, things degenerated to the point where I wouldn’t buy it unless it was in a can or a box (continued problems with coolers, freezers and produce quality.) Then stock started disappearing. Then the prices started rising to rival the grocery section in the Exxon.

I was doing my shopping elsewhere once a month or so and using Mack’s for pasta emergencies and dog food runs. Much to my chagrin, the “elsewhere” was often Walmart. I am infused with self-loathing every time I walk into the Evil Empire, but it’s closer and cheaper than Kroger.

Sure enough, Mack’s has gone out of business. I didn’t have the heart to go in and say goodbye. Besides, their last day in business was Saturday and I’d been powerless for 5 days by then, my nerves were as fragile as the mantle on the deluxe lantern I’d just bought and I could easily envision sobbing uncontrollably on the shoulder of my favorite cashier. I just wasn’t in the mood to be a spectacle.

To add insult to injury, the derecho wiped out my freezer and refrigerator which in my case was even more catastrophic than is usual for the situation. Because I have not had air conditioning for years, I’ve taken to storing flour, sugar, rice, etc. etc. in the refrigerator. HMO’Keefe cleaned out the refrigerator. I’m not sure what his reasoning was, but except for the two bottles of champagne and my B12, he threw everything out – rice, unopened bottles, Bisquick, birdseed, etc. etc. Other than a smattering a canned goods and a fairly well-stocked spice cabinet, the vittles are gone

The size of a Super Walmart, but mostly all food.

I was planning a major hunting and gathering expedition for this evening after work. I hate Kroger. It’s too big. I don’t need 47 choices of mustard and a rest area to grab some Starbucks. (If it wasn’t Starbucks, I might find that rest area appealing.) There’s a smaller local chain next door, but the last time I was in there, I found they didn’t carry a lot of the stuff I buy. I’m very brand loyal with some things. It’s been years, I suppose I should go check them out. There’s a spiffy place in Milton that I rather like, but it’s 6 miles past the house (and another 6 miles back) and after work, well, that ain’t gonna happen. There are some places in Huntington, but the frozen and chilled stuff is going to melt before I get it home.So, I went to the Kroger. I discovered a half a watermelon was $12, but only $4 if I used my rewards card.

$12 for HALF of one.

I hate these stupid reward cards. Years ago, I was in the Kroger and ran across some pricing equally stupid and didn’t have my card with me. They told me I could just punch in my phone number, but we must not have registered our card as the number wouldn’t work. So I punched in my friend’s number. We figure we have confused the pudding out of their marketing department. Sudden switching of dog food brands, no Cheez-Its, but ice cream, the cheap boxed wine one day, the premium the next. I rather like messing with them.In any event, there I am in the Kroger. I stop and think. I need everything.

I look around. They’re awfully busy for 6:30 pm on a Tuesday when it dawns on me that everyone needs everything. I take a gander at the $12 watermelon. I try to find a bag of onions. I get sidetracked trying to figure out exactly where locally the “local’ tomatoes came from. I nearly have a breakdown in the foreign foods aisle.

I am defeated before I begin.

Shamelessly stolen from thepunch.com.au — artist’s name is Mark Knight

I decided I can’t do this. I’m just going to shop daily for awhile until we’re restocked. A nice salad from the salad bar and a rotisserie chicken for dinner sound appealing. There are no receptacles whatsoever to put the salad in. I wait in line at the deli for 20 minutes to obtain a plastic container. I head for cereal. I find bread 6 aisles down. I troop the equivalent of a half-marathon to the dairy aisle and grab milk, butter and yogurt. I backtrack 8 aisles to get lunch meat and salad dressing.I would have sat in the rest area, but, damn-it-all, it’s Starbucks and I don’t want anyone I know seeing me at a Starbucks.

I stand in line. I use my Kroger card. I bought dinner for this evening, some lunch stuff for Boston Boy, 10 containers of yogurt and some odds and ends and, voila!, through the magic of my Kroger card it only cost $99.16. My receipt said I saved $22.19. (No. I did not buy the $12 half-watermelon.)

I cannot afford to save that much money.

With dinner leftovers and the avocados I didn’t know we had, it looks better.

I arrived home to find milk in there. Nobody at the Kroger told me my man bought milk and nobody offered to carry my groceries out though they did ask about my wrist brace.So now, I have cheese slices, ham, turkey, butter, 10 containers of yogurt, two bottles of Champagne, a vial of B12, two bottles of salad dressing, two quarts of milk and a loaf of bread in the refrigerator. There’s also a quart of milk in the freezer, because I try to keep a small amount of milk in the freezer for the occasional bovine breast milk emergency.

It’s a big refrigerator. It looks forlorn. Or maybe not. Maybe it looks hopeful. Is it a beginning or an end? It looks like if I rearranged the words a bit, it could be the opening of a short story.

The Mailbox, Derecho, Dumpster and Beetle

I can read by this sucker!

July 7th (or maybe July 8th, it could be after midnight)

I’m sitting outside in the heat and neglect ravished garden writing this with pen and paper. It’s a night to make 72F past midnight feel like watermelon on ice.

The last time I blogged, I was trying to make my mailman happy. I may have succeeded. But here we are again, trying to make the mailman happy. HMOKeefe and the mailbox had a lover’s quarrel. He wielded a U-Haul and the mailbox stood silent, but not firm. After sprawling on the ground for several days in the debris of unwanted catalogs and carpet cleaning advertisements, the monster mailbox was tossed into the rental dumpster.

Exhausted, but victorious. The post, that is.

Boston Boy spent most of the day installing a new mailbox using some New England method that bears no resemblance to how anybody I know has ever installed a mailbox. It’s not going well. I say, “Um, you’re trying to pound that thing into bedrock,” and he says, “I did this in Massachusetts” and then I don’t say, “What part of any of this reminds you of Massachusetts?” But it’s been 3 weeks without a mailbox and another day or 300 doesn’t matter. I’m not the mail junkie.  The new post is sprawled in the driveway, exhausted but victorious against insertion into bedrock.

Oh, yes, rental dumpster. It’s been exciting times around the old barn and, really, if you’ve never rented a dumpster, do so. Before things got worse, I had a lot of fun running around like June Cleaver on crack de-junking the house.

I am too damn old for all the excitement of the past several months.

In no particular order, I offer up the following as a sort of “What I did on my summer vacation” essay.

1. The Derecho.

2. Three downed trees.

3. 6 nights and 5 days (and counting) of no power

First floor of the house. For upstairs, add 10 degrees.

4. Heat index between 105 and 115

5. The pied-à-terre abandoned (hence the Uhaul).

6. Mushrooms growing on my carpet.

7. New subfloor

8. Termites, carpenter ants, squirrels and a possum, all in the house, and all evicted.

9. Rotten bookcases.

Where are my bookcases?

10. 105 linear feet of homeless books PLUS HMO’Keefe’s.

11. Moldy drywall.

12. Packed the entire first floor of the barn.

13. New HVAC.

14. Chose new flooring, paint, and more paint.

15. Sanded drywall.

16. Acquired my first extension ladder.

17. New solid bottom (doesn’t that sound sort of risqué?) dishwasher to protect the as-of-yet-uninstalled new flooring.

Ah, there they are. Those aren’t bookcases, they’re trash.

18. Burl the Handyman Extraordinaire retired. Found Shorty, the Whirling Dervish Handyman.

19. Sheer, unceasing, unspeakable chaos at work.

20. Flunked the mammogram. Passed on the 3rd try.

21. More indignities of old age.

22. Even more.

23. Still yet more.

24. Filled the dumpster (and then some).

Building a new subfloor, fa la la.

25. This is only a partial list. I’m leaving out 26 through 147, but each and every one of them hold promise of a good story when I get to the point where I can laugh.I got a wee bit drunk last night. It was my only hope for sleep. I’ll never sleep tonight. It is, literally, 94F in the bedroom and the entire first floor is a construction zone. The only furniture available for human bodies are the wooden kitchen chairs. The idea of wine as a sleep aid is revolting and I’ve been mainlining water so I’ll pee every 30 seconds all night. Might as well just sit here.

AH DAMN. I JUST SWALLOWED A BEETLE.

After the Derecho slammer jammed West Virginia, 85% of the state lost power last Friday, including me. I woke Saturday morning to air conditioned comfort much to my astonishment. That astonishment grew as I learned about the Derecho, the state of emergency, the suffering that hurricane force winds during temps in excess of 100 can provoke. For those of you as ignorant of this weather phenomenon as I was, a Derecho is either Spanish or Sioux for Straight Arrow (different sources different origins). It’s a hurricane force wind that arrives with no warning and travels a great distance in a very short period of time wreaking havoc. This one started in the upper Midwest and didn’t stop until it knocked D.C off the grid. In 10 hours.

I routinely lose power. If a cloud somewhere sneezes, my power goes out. How did I get lucky? I don’t know. But I lost power in the second storm on Tuesday and here I sit, swallowing water and beetles.

Third degree mosquito bites fer shur, dude.

Boston Boy is resolved to sleep out here tonight. If he succeeds, we’ll be at the E.R. tomorrow tending to potential Lyme Disease and 3rd degree mosquito bites.

The IPhone is keeping me sane. I switch between Facebook, the APCO website and email. One thing led to another and I found Charlene on Facebook today. By the time she accepted my friend request, the battery was dead. So the phone is on the car charger and I’m losing the battle against the bugs. The nifty new lantern which was the last non-electric source of light available for purchase in the state of West Virginia is attracting June bugs who subsequently explode like tiny, wet fireworks when they get too close to the flame. (Yes, it’s gruesome, but there are that many fewer for me to swallow.

It’s a dandy lantern – 1500 lumens with an electronic ignition. If it just had wi-fi, I’d be all set.

I need a strait-jacket.

Besides every hotel being full to bursting with tree trimmers, power workers and the heat-tortured citizenry, we’re not in a hotel tonight for fiscally prudent reasons. Nor were we last night, but we were Thursday night because otherwise I was going to end up in either prison or the psych ward. But the, “Gee! Let’s put in new flooring” torture and massacre of every penny and more in the budget has the checkbook keening loudly, although not loud enough to drown out the neighbors’ three, yes three, generators. I hate the sound. Hate it. It sounds like a stampeding herd of semi-trucks. I just know the neighbors are over there wearing sweaters and surfing the Internet while sipping something frothy with lots of ice.

[Connie looks forlornly at the 2” of dirty water in the bottom of the cooler.]

So, it seems I’ve blogged again.

Find contentment in creating chaos.

It’s now Sunday evening, about 10 p.m. I’ve had power since shortly before 2 p.m. Of course, another storm arrived shortly thereafter which is wreaking havoc. Thus far, the power is on having only flickered once or twice. I have the AC cranked. I’m going to get this house freezing so if we lose power, and I expect to, we’ll have some spare cool air. However, the heat has broken. It’s a good 30 degrees cooler outside than it was this time last night. I expect to sleep well tonight. Last night I prowled Walmart after writing the above. Heat-induced insomnia is a terrible thing. I did manage a few hours of restless half-awake-half-asleep-all-miserable time in the bed. I did persuade HMO’Keefe to sleep indoors last night so no hospital adventures for us today.

Sleep well, y’all. And try to find contentment in chaos.

Returning to the world with grace and style.

Oh sure, I suppose it could be colder and the morning commute worse, etc. etc., but I might have handled it with more grace if draped in fur knowing TrueLove SuperStud was watching.

I left my office for vacation on Dec. 21st. Today was my first day back. After nearly two weeks off, I could still use some more time. That I stayed up last night until nearly 2 a.m. fighting with the damn sewing machine didn’t help me transition this morning.

He was an (externally) gorgeous man.

I used to think it a sign of a great vacation to return to work more tired than when I left. Sometimes, I still feel that way. The truth is, this time, I am not more tired. Two weeks off did me (and my abode) a world of good, but like hitting the snooze alarm and muttering, “Ten more minutes, “ I wanted a couple more days.

And I certainly didn’t want 16F and a dusting snow that turned to ice on the windshield.

While “on vacation,” I kept the house a balmy 72F, sometimes a tropical 75F, round-the-clock. Aberrant behavior, you betcha. I loathe paying Appalachian Power one cent more than I have too. But, hey! I was on vacation.

After the indignities of the day (filling the gas tank, finding myself too large to button the stylish down coat that matched my stylish high-heeled boots which also felt too small, and walking into small, but muchly unwelcome problems at the office), I returned to a home holding, per the thermostat, at 55F. The thermostat’s been cranking since then and it may achieve a room temp of 70 or so before I crawl into bed, but since my last act on the way up the stairs will be turn it down to 58F or so, tomorrow morning will be unpleasant.

Eventually, I’ll acclimate to this, my normal winter regime. And, really, I shouldn’t complain. Unlike last year, winter pretty much arrived when it was supposed to. Theoretically, it could all be over but the shouting in 10-12 weeks. But the truth is, I left the house today wearing stylish boots and returned home wearing my office slipper booties because they were warmer and more comfortable. I also parked at a meter instead of in the lot I pay to park in. The meter was a half-block closer to the door.

I’m going to need a few more days to handle Old Man Winter with grace and style.

Well, yeah, it's not this bad.

Still, the cold is paralyzing me. I’ve been so productive around the house the past few weeks and I’ve loved catching up on projects, starting some new ones, planning some others and enjoying the improvements. The last thing I need is to spend the next 12 weeks burrowed on the couch shivering my my-time away.

Art and Gwen’s first W. Va. Snow

Without ceremony, Art and Gwen were snatched from the ground in Massachusetts where they’d been deeply rooted for a number of winters, and tossed into a moving van on June 1st.  To mitigate the trauma, they were casually, but sincerely, promised milder winters which would make the most of their pinkness.

They didn’t ask any questions.  Shock and awe, probably.  Had they asked, I might have explained that a typical lower Ohio Valley winter is shades of gray. Snow, generally infrequent, is a big deal if it tops out 3-4″.  Their lithe legs may once again be buried in snow measured in feet, but it’s not likely.

I suppose it’s possible that Art and Gwen are snow lovers, but I’m guessing not.  When I went out to take their portrait, I swear I heard, “Hot damn! She was right!”