Sunday, March 31, 2019

LIKE IT OR NOT, WE'RE ALWAYS BEING WATCHED





I’ve recently become hooked on a reality TV show called, See No Evil, where murders are solved by tracking down evidence captured on home and business surveillance- cameras. Believe me, criminals have just about zero chance of getting away with anything nowadays because cameras are watching their every move.

A lot of the suspects on the show make the mistake of using their victim’s credit card about five minutes after committing the crime. Almost immediately, detectives descend upon the store (usually Wal-Mart, for some reason) and demand access to the store’s surveillance system.

Not only can the store’s cameras zero in on the suspect, they even can read what his sales receipt says and how many buttons are on the shirt he’s wearing.

Just the thought of my own visits to Wal-Mart being immortalized on video makes me uncomfortable. How many times have I scratched a body part or adjusted a bra strap while shopping in the store? And what about the overhead cameras capturing a panoramic view of my head, with all of its gray roots? It’s enough to make me want to switch to shopping solely online.

On the positive side, I think all of today’s state-of-the-art surveillance systems will deter shoplifters, especially if they know their actions are being observed from about 150 different camera angles. Gone are the days when thieves could stuff items into their underwear and walk out of the store without getting caught. Now, technology not only instantly can detect an underwear stuffer (often referred to as “the one-cheek sneak”) from about a mile away, it even can read the brand-name on the shoplifter’s boxers or granny panties.

But even if a crime is committed in the middle in the woods, the suspect still isn’t safe from detection. I remember reading an article a few years ago that made me think twice about ever dashing outside in my nightgown and curlers again to empty the trash.

It said that technology was so advanced (even back then), a satellite a gazillion miles away could zoom in on any object with such accuracy, it actually could photograph a wart on the tip of someone’s nose.

Needless to say, the thought of a satellite zooming in on anything on my body while I was outdoors was not a comforting thought. I felt even more uncomfortable when I thought about how many embarrassing things I’d done while outside.

I’m pretty sure the government has a huge video-file on me entitled, “The Biggest Klutz in New Hampshire.”

For example, back at my former address, a thin strip of land separated my house from the neighbor’s. One day, as I was mowing that strip (with an old-fashioned, manual push-mower), I backed up sideways and tripped over a stump. I couldn’t catch my balance, stumbled backwards and landed with my legs up in the air in (and I am totally serious here) my neighbor’s rowboat! Despite the fact I bruised a certain part of my anatomy that I knew would make sitting down very uncomfortable for a few days, I started to giggle.

“Thank goodness no one was around to see this!” I said out loud, thinking how dumb I must have looked with my feet sticking up out of a rowboat.

But now, I’m almost certain I WAS seen – by some scientific satellite-spying guys who were zooming in on me at the precise moment I took the flop, and they all probably nearly busted a gut laughing.

The other day, I was telling one of my male friends that it’s frustrating whenever I walk my dogs in the woods because I have to cut my walks short, thanks to my uncooperative bladder.

“The older I get, the more often my bladder decides it wants to be emptied,” I muttered.

He shrugged and said, “So why cut your walks short? Just go pee behind a tree in the woods.”

Leave it to a male to make a statement like that. Men just don’t seem to realize that anatomically, women were not created in a way that makes “going” behind a tree a simple matter, the way it is for them. We women have to contort into muscle-cramp-inducing positions that defy gravity as we battle to keep our balance…and still, we inevitably end up with soggy shoes.

“No way!” I said to him. “You want me to go behind a tree and have satellites zoom in on me because they think they’ve discovered a huge new moon? Thanks, but I’d rather have my bladder burst!”

The poor man had no idea what I was talking about.

Before, whenever I took hikes in the woods, I always worried about hunters dressed in camouflage secretly watching me as they blended in with the foliage only a few feet away, so I made sure not to scratch, pick or adjust anything on my body during hunting season. However, when the season ended, I always felt as if I could relax a bit. Now, I’ll never be able to relax, not while knowing that a satellite could be capturing a close-up of me the very second my dog spots a squirrel and drags me face-first into a tree.

I can remember telling my husband about the satellite article and how Big Brother truly always was watching us, no matter where we were – indoors or outdoors. At first, he laughed, but later, he appeared to be deep in thought.

“I’d hate to think of all the embarrassing things I could have been photographed doing,” he finally said. “I mean, how many times have I slipped and fallen off the porch?”

“The front one or the back one?” I asked.

I guess we’ll all just have to learn to live with the fact there no longer is any privacy in this world. But I can assure you right now that I’ll never sign up for that new TV-service you can control with your voice. The advertisement says you just tell your TV what you want to watch and it instantly will change the station to a program that fits your verbal request – no more pushing buttons on a remote control.

Well, I figure if the system can hear me saying which programs I want, it also can hear me doing everything else in the house...sort of like having a built-in eavesdropper.

My kind of luck, one humid summer night, I’d be yelling at my dogs as they chased each other around the house, “Dogs! It’s too hot!” and the TV would switch to the Food Network channel...where a chef is preparing two hot-dogs. 



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Monday, March 25, 2019

I'M READY TO PLANT MY PLANTAR FASCIITIS





When I woke up the other morning and first set my left foot down on the floor, a pain shot up through my heel that made me yelp like one of my dogs.  I hobbled into the bathroom and with each step, “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!” involuntarily escaped from my lips.

I had no idea what was going on. I mean, I was fine when I went to bed, so what had happened while I slept, especially to an area as remote as my heel? I was pretty sure I hadn’t gone for a heel-jarring jog while I was asleep.

“Shake it off,” I said to myself as the day progressed. And so, big brave (make that stubborn) soul that I am, I decided I still was going to take my daily three-mile walk.

By the end of the second mile, I was in so much pain, I was ready to hitch a ride the rest of the way back home, even if the driver was wearing an orange prison-jumpsuit. Every step felt as if iron spikes were being rammed up into my foot. And even worse, my Achilles tendon decided to empathize with its buddy, my heel, and match it pain for pain. By the time I got home, I was hopping on the good foot because I couldn’t put any weight on the painful one.

For the next three days, getting out of bed in the morning was absolute torture because that’s when the pain was the worst.  It made no sense to me because I figured that any body part that had just experienced eight hours of rest should feel better, not worse. It got to the point where I was late for everything because I was too chicken to take that first excruciating step every morning.

Well, as it turned out, I was diagnosed with something about a third of the population has had (or probably will have) the pleasure of suffering from at some point – plantar fasciitis – which is a fancy term for an inflammation of the wide, flat connective-tissue that runs the length of the foot.

If there’s one thing I’ve now learned about plantar fasciitis it’s that the condition has more suggested treatments than just about any other ailment in the history of ailments. For example, I talked to my friend, a pharmacist, who also just happens to be blessed with chronic heel/fascia pain.

“It’s a really common ailment,“ he said, “especially in the 50-plus age bracket.”

“So tell me how to get rid of it,” I said. “Like by tomorrow.”

First, he told me to roll my foot over a tennis ball – or a frozen water bottle. Then he suggested that every morning, I take a towel or a scarf, loop it under my toes and then pull back on it to stretch my foot before trying to walk on it.

“The reason why plantar fasciitis gets worse while you sleep,” he explained, “is because the ligament contracts when it’s not used, so the longer you sleep, the tighter it gets. Therefore, before you even attempt to get out of bed, stretch your foot and calf by gently  pulling back on your toes, as if you’re trying to make them touch your shin, to help ease the tightness.”

He also said that many people fear the pain so much, they don’t want to put any weight on their heel, so they walk on their tiptoes, which makes the problem even worse.

“Don’t ever wear high heels,” he said, “or do anything that will constantly lift the heels. You want to make your heels go down to loosen the fascia, not up.” 

He suggested I stand on a low curbstone or a thick board and then lower my heels to the ground for a “proper” stretch.  He also said I should walk only on soft, never hard, surfaces.

“But my floors are all hardwood and my daily walks are on asphalt,” I said.

He sighed and slowly shook his head. “No, that won’t do. That will just make it worse.”

“You’re saying I should walk in the grass, then? And get attacked by ticks and...snakes?”

“Well, you could go over to the high-school’s rubber track and walk on that,” he said.

I had visions of being stared at by dozens of students looking out of the school’s windows as they joked about the “old lady” hobbling around on their track. Either that, or they’d think I was a new student....who’d been kept back about 50 times.

“You have flat feet?” my pharmacist friend asked me.

I nodded. “They are SO flat, when I leave bare footprints in the mud, they look like two bricks. There are no curves to them at all.”

“Then you need custom-made orthotics, not the inexpensive over-the-counter ones.”

“I wear custom-made $300 orthotics every day,” I said. “So that’s why I’m surprised I ended up with this pain.”

“How about your shoes?” he asked. “They have to be good and solid, too.”

“I have very supportive shoes – also expensive.”

“Well then, be sure to leave them and your orthotics on at ALL times,” he said. “Never wear flip-flops, slippers or go barefoot.”

“Even in the shower?” I asked, picturing myself naked and clomping around in laced-up shoes.

After several more suggestions, including deep massage, gel-pads, acupuncture and Ibuprofen, I finally said to him, “If I do all of these things, will the pain finally go away so I can get back to normal again?”

“Nah.” He shook his head. “You’re probably stuck with it for life.”

Needless to say, that wasn’t the answer I’d been hoping for.

So when I got home, I posted my problem on Facebook and asked people who had experienced plantar fasciitis to let me know what had (or hadn’t ) worked for them.

The good news was that many who responded said the pain did eventually go away and, as long as they kept up the stretching exercises and/or wore thick, cushioning foot pads, it didn’t come back.

The bad news is, I’m still receiving suggestions, and some of them are pretty weird - like slicing an onion in half and rubbing it over my heel, or massaging my feet with Vicks Vapo-Rub and covering them with woolen socks before going to bed.

I’m not about to dismiss any suggestions, however, because if I get desperate enough, I just might try every one of them – including one that involved squishing my feet in fresh cow-manure.

That is, if I can find a cooperative cow.


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Monday, March 18, 2019

BRING ON THE FURRY CAMPERS!




Nothing is scarier than receiving a note in your mailbox informing you that a registered letter from the town was attempted to be delivered to you but no one was home to sign for it...on a Saturday.

That meant I had to sit and wonder all weekend what the town wanted.

Believe me, a million possibilities ran through my mind – everything from my house being taken by eminent domain so the town could build a public swimming pool on my land (my constantly soggy basement would make a great starting point) – to someone filing a complaint against me for breaking some obscure ordinance, like not feeding squirrels on Sundays.

As it turned out, the letter dealt with something I never would have anticipated...the woman who owns the property directly behind mine is seeking a variance so she can open a dog-boarding facility and a canine camp.

Canine camp? I immediately envisioned a bunch of dogs sleeping out in “pup” tents and sitting around a bonfire, toasting marshmallows.

I also pictured my own two dogs peering through the fence, watching the other dogs and barking and whining because they’d want to join them, kind of like little kids who beg their parents to send them to summer camp because all of their friends are going.

Curious, I went to the zoning-board meeting, mainly because I wanted to know how many canines the woman was planning to have at her camp. Three? Thirty?  The equivalent of a doggy Woodstock?

As it turned out, the zoning board was short by two members that night, so they, before the woman’s variance even could be discussed, asked her if she minded having only three members present to vote on it, or if she wanted to postpone the meeting for another two weeks until a full board would be there. She opted to postpone the meeting until March 27.

One of my neighbors and I, muttering about how we’d wasted a perfectly good evening driving into town for nothing, walked out to the parking lot together...and spotted the woman standing by her car. We practically sprinted over to her.

“I’ll be more than happy to answer any of your questions or concerns,” she said when we told her we'd been hoping to get some information about her proposed kennel and camp.

The first thing I asked was how many dogs she planned to board. 

She said “only” about 15, but it could go as high as 20 if she had a bunch of small, Chihuahua-sized dogs sign up...because they wouldn’t take up as much space.

My neighbor, however, didn’t mince words. He told the woman that no one in the neighborhood was in favor of her dog-boarding facility and the equivalent of a lynch mob probably would show up to protest at the next meeting.

“And if your request for a variance passes and your dogs make a lot of noise,” he warned her, “we’ll call the cops.”

Her eyes widened in disbelief. “You’re concerned about the noise? I never even thought about that as a reason why people would disapprove!”

She had to be kidding. I felt like telling her that if she wasn’t familiar with just how noisy dogs could get, I’d lend her my two for a day.

“You know that farm next to you?” my neighbor asked her. “Well, they used to have a donkey there that brayed all the time. It drove us crazy it was so loud – and I live way over on the hill!  We kept calling the police to complain about it.”

“You could hear it way up there?” she asked him.

“Yeah, the sound really carries in that area,” he said.

“So you want to punish ME because of a loud donkey?” she asked, frowning.

My neighbor rolled his eyes. 

The woman then asked me where I lived. I told her I was up on the hill directly behind her property.

“Oh, I’m sure you won’t be able to hear anything up there,” she said. Before I could comment, however, she added, “But I can hear your dogs now and then, you know.”

It was my turn to roll my eyes. I said, “Well, if you can hear my two, then I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to hear your 15!”

She then informed us she’d already built the kennel, along with an acre of hiking trails for the dogs – and that she was doing this all on her own, with no help from anyone. She even gave us her business card – already neatly printed with the info about the canine camp.

Talk about being overly confident that the board will vote in her favor...

“I don’t understand what the problem is anyway,” she said. “The whole area is zoned as open-space and farmland, so why do I need a variance to board dogs?”

“Because dogs aren’t farm animals,” my neighbor said.

“And because you’re opening a business, not planting corn,” I pointed out.

She just stared blankly at us.

I still haven’t figured out if the woman actually was as clueless about everything as she led us to believe she was, or if she just was toying with us.

At any rate, I’ll find out on the 27th if I’m going to be sharing my space with a bunch of furry campers in the near future.

That is, if one of the zoning-board members doesn’t end up suffering from a sudden attack of appendicitis the night before the meeting.

And if the variance does pass, maybe it won’t be so bad after all. I mean, at least I’ll have a place practically on my back doorstep where I can send my dogs if I want some time all to myself now and then.

Trouble is, once my two troublemakers get there, I’m pretty sure my neighbors will be speed-dialing the cops.

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Monday, March 11, 2019

PLAYING WITH CHEAP BARBIE JUST WASN'T ENOUGH FOR ME




Dolls always have fascinated me.  When I was young, I never could have enough of them. To me, they were like real babies, so I refused to part with even the old worn-out and decapitated ones. 

Any time my mother tried to sneak one of my ratty old babies out to the trash, I knew it in an instant and would whine until she brought it back.  The neighbors probably wondered why my poor mother was outside fishing in our trash barrels so often.

I’ll never forget the time my dad decided to test his new Argus 35mm camera by taking a “portrait” shot of me one night while my mom was out shopping.  He didn’t comb my hair or wash my face, and to make matters worse, I refused to let go of Betty, one of my dolls that was so old and cruddy looking, you’d think she’d been attacked by a pack of rats...in the city dump.

My mother never forgave my father for taking that photo. She said that anyone who saw it would be tempted to donate money to our family.

Now that I’m an adult, I must admit I still love dolls…especially Barbie dolls.  In fact, over the years, I have amassed a huge collection of them.  This is the reason why the d├ęcor in one of the bedrooms is called, “Barbie, Then and Now.”  There are rows of Barbie dolls, still in their original boxes, standing three-high on the bureaus, the nightstand, the desk, the wardrobe and the bookcase.

When my mother stayed in that room one night, she complained that she couldn’t sleep with all of those beady little eyes staring at her. 

The problem with collecting Barbie dolls is that in order for them to be worth anything in the future, I can’t play with them or change their clothes. I can’t comb their hair or braid it into a bunch of knots. I can’t even break the seal on the boxes they come in.  Basically, all I can do is admire them from afar.

For this reason, my husband never could grasp the reason why I thought collecting Barbies was so much fun.  One night, for example, I showed him a gorgeous coat I’d bought for Barbie.

“Which one of your 5,000 Barbies is that for?” he asked.

“None of them,” I said. “I can’t undress any of my dolls. They won’t be worth anything if I do.”

“Then why on earth did you buy the coat?”

“Because it’s a collectible!”

He gave me a look that clearly told me he thought I needed a long vacation in a non-Barbie environment.

“But what fun is collecting stuff if you can’t even touch it?” he asked. “Knowing you, I’ll bet it’s just killing you that you can’t dress those dolls in wild clothes or give them beehive hairdos!”

He had a point. There had been many times when I’d been tempted to throw caution to the wind and listen to the devilish little voice in my head that was telling me, “To heck with the fact that she’s an original Bob Mackie designer
Barbie that could be worth $500!  Tear open the box and see if she’s wearing stockings or panties underneath that fancy sequined gown of hers!”

So a few years ago, I set out to buy the cheapest Barbie doll I could find. She turned out to be only about $5 at a discount store.  Then I bought a bunch of clothes for her—though they weren’t “official” Barbie clothes.  They said, “Fits any 11.5-inch doll,” on the package and cost only a dollar each.  At least I knew I wouldn’t feel guilty playing with those.

Thus began my twice-weekly ritual of dressing Cheap Barbie in different outfits, styling her hair and then setting her out on display in assorted poses on the shelf in my home-office.

For Easter, she wore a yellow dress, a matching flowered hat and her hair in a long braid. On Memorial Day, she wore red, white and blue and pigtails.  And for prom season, I dressed her in a puffy gold gown with silver threads running through it, a silver tiara, necklace and sparkly high-heels.

After a while, one Cheap Barbie just wasn’t enough for me. I wanted Barbie to have friends – a group of ladies to party with. So eventually, I ended up buying three more. Then I looked for more elaborate clothes for them on Ebay – used outfits, so I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about being the one who’d committed the offense of opening their original packages.

Pretty soon, I was spending more on my Cheap Barbies than I was on buying collectors’ Barbies. After all, if it rained, my Cheap Barbies needed boots. If it was hot, they needed swimsuits. If it was cold, they needed jackets, woolen pants and fur hats.

I ended up with two suitcases full of clothes and accessories for my Cheap Barbies.

And then it happened.  I lost all  interest in them. The four Cheap Barbies were left wearing their summer “go to their friend’s wedding” attire from 2017. And now, I'm ashamed to admit, they are covered in dust.



I had the feeling that the reason why I lost interest was because I really wanted a taste of the forbidden fruit – I wanted to play with an expensive,  collectible Barbie doll and totally destroy her future value by ripping open the precious and all-important factory-sealed box and freeing her from its confines.

And that’s exactly what I did.

So my $500 Bob Mackie doll currently is worth only about $25. Her fashionable upswept hairstyle now is just a limp ponytail. Her lavish, sequined gown is missing sequins. And I can’t find one of her designer high-heels.

But, I have to confess, it was worth every second of the sacrifice.


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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

I DISCOVERED PROOF THAT I'VE ALWAYS BEEN ADDICTED TO SWEETS




The only entertaining thing about spring cleaning is that I tend to find things that have been lying around in boxes, drawers or closets, forgotten for years.

Last week, I came across a yellowed, dog-eared stack of notebook paper that smelled like mildew and featured a fairy tale I’d written back when I was about 13 or 14. I still can remember the day I wrote it. I’d just returned from my annual dental checkup …and the dentist had found 11 cavities. Had I just been given the death sentence, I couldn’t have felt more miserable. My parents weren't very pleased, either, considering that my teeth were going to cost them the equivalent of their dream vacation to Las Vegas.

Still, being the sweets fanatic I’d always been (and still am), I wasn’t about to give up my daily ration of candy for anyone...not even for my evil dentist and all of his sadistic torture devices. Not even for my parents and their desire to see Liberace in concert.

So I sat down and created a story about the ideal place where I, and possibly every other kid my age, would love to live.  Here it is...(with a few corrections to the grammar and punctuation)...


THE PRINCESS OF CANDYZONIA

Once upon a time in a kingdom called Candyzonia, there lived a young princess named Caramel Almond Nougat Doublemint York (Princess C.A.N.D.Y. for short).

The unusual thing about the kingdom of Candyzonia was that the people who lived behind its great walls ate nothing but candy for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For breakfast, they ate big bowls of jelly beans instead of cereal. For lunch, they feasted on candy bars instead of salad or sandwiches. And for dinner, when most kids in other parts of the world were eating mashed potatoes, chicken and peas, the kids in Candyzonia were dining on fudge, marshmallow Peeps and M&Ms.

Growing up, Princess Candy hadn’t minded eating only candy for every meal. In fact, she thought she had to be the luckiest girl on earth. There was no disgusting liver or broccoli to choke down, no threats from her mother, Queen Milk Duds, to eat all of her Brussels sprouts or she’d have no dessert. Life was just one big dessert every day in Candyzonia.

But then one day, Princess Candy was invited by her father, King Raisinets, to accompany him on a journey to another kingdom called Healthytopia, many miles away.

Healthytopia was a shocking place for Princess Candy to see. All of the women there were thin with smooth skin, pink cheeks and pure white teeth. They drank juices squeezed from fruits and ate greens that sprouted from the ground. The men were muscular with flat stomachs and liked to lift things a lot, even when there seemed to be no reason to lift them.

Upon her return, Princess Candy stared at her reflection in the looking-glass for a long time that night. Her face was as round as a plate, her skin was dotted with blemishes, and her teeth were full of holes. And her figure! Suddenly she realized why her father affectionately had nicknamed her “Princess Tootsie Rolls.” She did not look anything like the girls her age in Healthytopia…and this disturbed her.

“Father,” she said to the king, “do you think I am pretty?”

“Of course I do!” King Raisnets flashed a toothless smile at her and moved to slip his pudgy arm around her shoulder. “You are the loveliest young woman in the land. And one day soon, you will marry a prince who is as handsome as you are pretty.”

“You mean a prince who looks like the men in Healthytopia?” she asked.

“No, silly girl, one who looks like me!”

A month later, Princess Candy ran away to Healthytopia. There, she learned the ways of its people. She ate salads, apples and fresh fish. She worked hard toiling in the gardens and orchards. She made frequent visits to the village dentist, who miraculously filled the holes in her teeth and gave her a brilliant white smile. Her skin cleared and her cheeks glowed. Her figure slimmed and the rolls around her midriff disappeared. Soon, she looked just like all of the other lovely young women in Healthytopia.

“I am going to return to my kingdom now and teach my people how to live as your people live,” Princess Candy announced to the Healthytopians one day. “I shall miss all of you deeply, but I shall never forget you.”

When she arrived back in Candyzonia, Princess Candy was not recognized by anyone there, not even her own parents.

“What on earth have they done to you?” King Raisinets asked. “You look terrible! Were you held captive? Did they starve you? I shall go there and have all of them beheaded!”

“No, Father,” the princess said. “I have been learning the ways of the Healthytopians. And I intend to teach them to the people of our kingdom.”

“There is no time to discuss such nonsense right now,” the king said. “There is a prince here who eagerly has been awaiting your return. His intent is to make you his bride.”

Before Princess Candy could comment, a tall, dark-haired young man with deep brown eyes and brown velvet clothing entered the room. He approached her, made a sweeping bow, then took her hand into his and placed a kiss on the back of it.

The first thing Princess Candy noticed about the prince was his scent. It was absolutely heavenly. In fact, it made her instantly attracted to him.

“Allow me to introduce myself,” the prince said. “I am Prince Hershey. I wish for you to become my wife and return to Pennsylvania with me where together, we shall rule my kingdom and feast on mountains of fresh, delicious chocolate every day.”

Princess Candy accepted his proposal so fast, she surprised even herself.

“To heck with the ways of the Healthytopians!” she shouted as she and the prince headed off into the sunset on the back of his white stallion. “Let them graze like cows! Long live chocolate!”

And she and Prince Hershey lived very plumply, toothlessly and happily ever after.

THE END


And now, if you will excuse me, all of this spring cleaning has made me hungry – and there is a bag of Hershey’s kisses with my name on it, sitting on my kitchen counter.

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