Monday, July 31, 2017

Eating Fake News

Who knows what's in this thing.
Since conventional wisdom says you are what you eat, I'm a big label-reader when buying foods, insisting on the purest of ingredients and ones I can pronounce. So I was somewhat surprised to see, as I sat munching on my lightly salted, gluten free, whole grain Quaker Oats rice cake containing only whole grain brown rice and salt, the words "Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering."

WTF? Promptly spitting out the offending food, now turned to mush, because God forbid a million times someone had messed with it and I would somehow become genetically altered myself, or whatever it is people worry will happen to them if they eat GMO products, I immediately called the number on the package inviting questions and comments. I mean, who wouldn't?

After a recorded welcome and a brief interlude during which I heard about some other Quaker Foods I might like, a real live human said his name was Chris and that he wanted to help me in any way possible. I jumped in with my concern, and he explained that in their hurry to comply with a law passed in Vermont that required such labeling for some of the other products they make, it was just easier to use the same words on my rice cakes, even though they did not contain anything that had been genetically engineered.

"So you're saying it was easier to print misinformation on the package?"  I asked, wanting to be absolutely sure I had understood him.

"Yes, it was easier, you know, in their rush to comply. But next time they print new packages, they'll probably take that off. I mean, I'm guessing they will."

The 2014 Vermont law that required such labeling was quietly overturned by President Obama in August of 2016. It happened with little fanfare since by then Donald Trump was running for president and nothing else mattered. So because I don't even live in Vermont, and my particular rice cakes don't contain any of the soybeans, corn, canola oil or sugar beets they're talking about in that law that is no longer in effect anyway, I can only conclude that food labels are pointless and in some instances possibly more fake news.

Meaning you might be what you eat. But then again, you might not be.

Life Is Hard

Ice cream cones are messy when you're four.
Yesterday my husband and I spent the afternoon with friends visiting from North Carolina. A young couple and their four-year-old son, they had come to Maine for a family reunion and made some time to see us. We lunched at a lobster shack, visited a lighthouse, looked for shells on a beach and ended the day licking ice cream cones. All the while I was distracted by the child, delighted by his beauty and innocence and surprised by his incredible depth and perception. (This is a child who said to his mother a few weeks ago, "If I say the word why one more time I'm going to freak myself out!")

He reminded me of my own son at that age. He too was beautiful and smart, prone to wry observations and memorable quotes about life. He insisted on growing up and is now on the brink of his thirtieth birthday, and while he has turned into a fabulous adult, wise and interesting and funny, still I miss his four-year-old version every day.

This morning I read about the son of Nashville's mayor, Megan Barry, who died of a drug overdose this past weekend at age twenty-two. Like my son, he was an only child. News stories show pictures of him with his mother when he was a happy little boy, both of them smiling broadly. And now this.

It's all so precarious. Yes, like the t-shirts say, life is good. But not always.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Crime & Marriage

Despite living in bucolic Maine where residents boast they don't even have keys to their houses, I sleep better at night with my doors locked. It's an old habit I developed years ago living in Washington, D.C., where, according to, "the violent crime rate is one of the highest in the nation, across communities of all sizes, both large and small. Violent offenses tracked included rape, murder and non-negligent manslaughter, armed robbery, and aggravated assault, including assault with a deadly weapon." Knowing all that then, I barely slept a wink on the nights my husband was away.

Life is so much more relaxed here in Maine, where crime is minimal. Still, being an incorrigible nervous wreck due to several unfortunate and scarring incidents during childhood, I go the extra mile and spend perhaps fifteen or twenty seconds locking the doors at bedtime. It's really quite simple --  just a twist of the wrist and I'm off to dreamland. 

This nightly habit of mine bugs the hell out of my husband. Still, he lets me do it, although he does not participate in the activity himself. When I go to bed before him, it's not unusual to wake up the following morning with several of the exterior doors (there are five including the garage) unlocked, and on more than one occasion, ajar. Yes, you read that right, ajar, as in anyone could just walk right in and kill us in our beds, rob us blind, or simply fix themselves a snack and be on their way. 

Naturally I have concluded that I am far safer when my husband is out of town than when he is at home. I believe this to be a sad, unspoken fact of many marriages.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Hope for the Future

"Bouquet of Flowers Showing Just the Tops"
If you are a regular reader of this blog, pat yourself on the back. (I know I do.) For you are a rare bird, a pioneer of sorts, willing to forge ahead into unknown territory, day after day.

My blog got zero new "likes" this week. Ditto last week, and the week before that, and the week before that, and the week before that.... you get the picture. I also sold no paintings, although I started a new one that I am quite excited about. But nobody else seems to be, and even the people who like them don't like them enough to actually pay for them, happily accepting them as gifts. (My brother-in-law, a millionaire, has at least seven of my paintings hanging in his home, but never paid me a dime.)

I'm not complaining, just sharing. Anyway, I will continue writing and painting and taking pictures and maybe someday, long after I'm dead and gone, somebody somewhere will stumble upon one of my unpublished novels or unsung short stories or a painted table or photograph or painting of mine and find it thrilling. That is my sincere hope.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Fear of Flying

Naturally apprehensive and skeptical as to how a giant pile of metal could possibly get off the ground in the first place and then stay aloft, my flying days got off to a peculiarly bad start years ago, and since then, despite countless trips across the country and across the Atlantic, I've never lost the feeling that at any moment the winged contraption I was in would take a dive and I would plummet to certain death. Alcohol does not help, although a couple of Lorazepam on the way to the airport will smooth things out nicely.

My virgin flight at the age of twenty-two was the start of my lack of confidence in the allegedly friendly skies. Of course, the fact that I was reared by two people who had never been higher than their fifth-floor walk-up in Brooklyn didn’t help.

Both my parents were of the “If God Had Intended Us To Fly He Would Have Given Us Wings” school of thought, my father more ferocious in this belief than my mother. He was the guru, she merely one of his willing disciples. Dad was very up-to-date on the death toll for any year from plane crashes, and was a veritable walking book of statistics on the probability of survival relating to where you sat in the aircraft, sort of a precursor to Google on the subject. Whenever a major air disaster occurred, he seemed as happy as a news commentator with a hot story. Gloating, he would say, “See that, what did I tell you? Am I right or am I right?”

On the eve of my first flight, a forty-five-minute hop from New York to Washington to visit a college friend, my parents invited me over to dinner for their version of the Last Supper. One would have thought I was having major surgery the following day from the way they behaved.
       “One question: Why are you doing this to us?” my father asked, his lower lip quivering.
       “I only have the weekend, and I don’t want to spend half of it getting there. Besides, I want to fly, we are not living in the Dark Ages anymore, at least I’m not. You are aware that normal people fly every day, are you not? They say it’s safer than driving.”
       “If your mother’s driving, maybe, but all I know is when my car runs out of gas, I don’t fall into the Atlantic Ocean.”
       “Jesus, Dad, airplanes do not run out of gas! Anyway, I’m flying to Washington, there’s no ocean to fall into.”
       “That’s even worse. At least if you fall into the water you could swim, you might possibly survive. But you hit land and bang, that’s it! You’re finished.”
       “Mother, please make him stop.” I turned to her, the voice of authority in almost all disputes.
       “You've been a wonderful daughter,” she said, blowing her nose into a wadded-up ball of lipstick-stained tissues.  “I just don’t understand what’s wrong with the train all of a sudden?” Overcome with sobs, she left the room.

After promising to call them the minute I arrived, I left thinking my parents were really pathetic. I mean really, how could anyone not have faith in the New York-to-DC Eastern Shuttle? After all, it was practically invented to ferry important politicians back and forth, it had to be safe!
Looking back, I could see all the red flags that I missed at the time. A leading indicator was the condition of the stewardesses; one was at least fifteen pounds overweight and the other had a very unflattering hairdo. Obviously, both of them were expendable employees. And the airplane was less than half full, which meant that all the passengers who were sensitive to bad omens had bolted before take-off. 

We had been airborne for about fifteen minutes when I noticed that the elderly German couple sitting next to me were gripping hands and praying in their native tongue. I also noticed that we seemed to be going down rather dramatically, but hey, it was my first time, who knew what it was supposed to feel like? But then the captain announced, fairly shouting, “Ladies and gentlemen, we just received report of a bomb on the plane! We are making an emergency landing. Please deplane by sliding down the inflated rubber chute and run away as fast as possible!” 

As the chubby stewardess began sobbing uncontrollably, the captain’s voice continued with the cryptic instructions: “Remove your shoes and eyeglasses and place them under your seat.” With that announcement all Hell broke loose, it was just like those grade-B airplane disaster movies. I think I even saw Leslie Nielsen and Shelley Winters elbowing people in the aisle. Despite all the screaming, pushing and shoving I survived, and with the distinction of being the last person off the plane.

Unfortunately, I was one of maybe two people who actually did as the captain requested and so slid down the rubber emergency chute minus my shoes and glasses. Being incredibly myopic, I saw little of Washington that particular weekend. I also never saw those shoes again, or those glasses or my luggage.

FYI: The plane did not explode.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Modern Inconveniences

I love thinking about what would happen if whatever it is that makes cell phones work just stopped being there. As you can see I slept through physics class, or whatever class it was that would help me understand how cell towers send things through the air and suddenly The Beach Boys are singing on my iPhone. Anyway, while I appreciate this particular modern convenience most of the time, the rest of the time I hate it and want to toss it into the ocean with all the other phones.

For starters, the old-fashioned landline phones offered a foolproof excuse for so many unpleasant things: "Sorry, I'd love to attend your (PICK ONE: baby shower/retirement party/pot luck picnic) but I have to be at home then as I am expecting an important call from my (PICK ONE: doctor/lawyer/child away at summer camp), so I'll have to pass.

Another thing I miss is the fairly commonplace adventure of getting lost on your way to somewhere you've never been. Now it's impossible, what with that damn invisible lady saying, "In 40 yards turn left. In 20 yards turn left. Turn left." There's no more spontaneity! Gone are the days when you might stumble upon a great little diner where the guy behind the counter draws you a map to where you're going on the back of the menu, and they have great pie too.

Obviously, conversation with strangers is a thing of the past. I certainly am guilty of this, pulling out my phone whenever I'm stuck alone somewhere, like in a doctor's waiting room or at the airport or in a restaurant, instead of talking to someone sitting nearby.

The very worst thing about cell phones is that there are no more arguments about anything. Someone, usually my husband, or my son if he's there too, always whips out their phone and Googles the answer and that's that.

Monday, July 24, 2017

My Husband's Birthday

Today is my husband's birthday and he's not happy about it because he's turning sixty. This pisses me off since Mitch is eleven years my junior, so do the math. How am I supposed to feel with him groaning about entering his 60s when I already have one whole foot in the 70s? Of course, my complaining about his complaining pisses him off, since he says he is never permitted to rue getting older because I always pull out the "I'm So Much Older" card. Thankfully, this is the only issue where our age difference rears its ugly head.

By the time you're this old, birthdays are a bit of a pain in the ass. What do you get the man who has everything, except for the motorcycle he keeps asking for year after year? I got him a book. He can read it safely in bed, without a helmet, and there is no danger it will turn him into a vegetable on life support. Besides, he also got a gift from our cat.

Lurch stayed out last night, a rare occurrence. We tried to get him in but finally gave up and went to bed, hoping he would survive the wildlife we imagine to be prowling about the nearby woods. This morning he darted inside the second I showed up, and I understood why he'd been out all night. Obviously he'd been shopping for Mitch's present, and there it was: a dead mouse laid out ceremoniously on the deck. That Lurch is so thoughtful! (Last year he got him a bird.)

There's more. I'm also baking a cherry-glazed, graham cracker-crusted, sour cream-topped, New York-style cheesecake, Mitch's favorite dessert. (That does not happen in a minute, believe me.) The only tricky part will be getting the candles to stand up in the sour cream long enough to light them all.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

FILM REVIEW: War for the Planet of the Apes

Human girl on back of ape named Maurice. Huh?
As a fan of all previous ape movies, starting with every version of my favorite film of all time, King Kong, and including Mighty Joe Young and the first two in this series, I have become something of an expert in the genre. So I feel quite confident in saying that this particular ape movie sucks out loud. Somehow it got wildly positive reviews from respected film critics and Woody Harrelson to star. And as a fan of Woody Harrelson, I can say, again with confidence, that he also sucks out loud in his role as Marlon Brando playing Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.

Here's the movie: Apes and humans are at war. Humans want to kill all apes. So naturally apes want to kill humans. But deep down, apes are kind. They have big hearts. They adopt human girl they find cowering in shack after they killed her daddy. Now she all alone. Humans all bad and sadistic, except girl. She nice.

Head ape is Caesar, played by human actor Andy Cerkis with apologies to Jesus Christ. Caesar is good leader. Captured by bad humans, he is strung up on a cross, in case you missed the Christ angle. Some apes speak English, only can't say articles so talk like this. Or else just grunt and breathe heavy, with subtitles. Caesar has best friend, ape name Maurice. Excuse me -- an orangutan named Maurice? 

Unless you are waiting out a rainstorm or hiding from the police, War for the Planet of the Apes is a total waste of time. The one bright spot is the incredibly beautiful scenery; otherwise it has no redeeming qualities. It's a real dog. Woof. I kept wanting to leave, but stayed out of a perverse need to see if it got worse. It did, so I was glad I stayed.

Leaving the theater, Mitch turned to me and said, a note of exasperation in his voice, "I guess from now on I'll have to take a larger role in deciding what movies we see."

Heaven on Earth

That old saw, "Money can't buy happiness," is so wrong! I'm guessing it was invented to make people without money feel better about their poverty. But I just found out for sure that money actually does buy happiness, and probably the more money, the more happiness.

Most Saturdays my husband and I hang around the house doing yard work, or else go for a hike somewhere we've hiked a dozen times already, or maybe take a drive to someplace pretty. It's nice, and certainly much better than being in surgery or homeless somewhere, I readily admit. But yesterday we spent the day with friends on their beautiful sailboat, and besides it being alternately thrilling and exciting and peaceful and exhilarating, the experience was also quite eye-opening.

For example, the wind took us far out into the Casco Bay and we saw places we never even knew existed. We were treated to spectacular vistas worthy of a European vacation. We also soon understood that many, many people with expendable income own sailboats -- and power boats and even yachts -- and spend their weekends cavorting in glorious nature, dropping anchor on private islands where they might have built a beautiful vacation home, or in secluded coves unreachable except by boat. Everyone we passed waved and smiled enthusiastically and seemed quite happy to be alive. In fact, much happier than the people we see in the garden shop when we go for extra mulch. They never wave or smile. But I bet they would if they had a sailboat.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Summertime Blues

 As far as I can tell, the only good thing about summer is that it is followed by fall, that most glorious of all seasons. (Ironic, isn't it?)

Tell me again, what's so great about summer? Is it the bugs? The sweating? The sunburn? The bad hair? The itching? The not being able to sleep? The drone of the air conditioners? The slamming of the screen doors? The constant, deafening, brain-numbing sound of all the lawn mowers and weed whackers? Could it be the moths? Yes, I know I already said bugs but moths deserve their own sentence, there are simply so many of them everywhere.

Just two months to go.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Latest Plague

Something fun to think about is what would happen if all the cell phones stopped working, for reasons I cannot even postulate since I know nothing about how they work in the first place. But what I do know is that all of Western culture is in the grips of a terrible epidemic -- call it Morbus Cellphonicus -- that is destroying any possibility of nurturing interpersonal communication and leaving its hapless victims with poor posture, neck aches and, certainly among the older generation, arthritic fingers. It seems to gain strength daily, with willing victims lining up at all 498 Apple stores across 22 countries, eager to purchase the leading conduit of the disease.

Put another way, we're hooked on cell phones and they are ruining life for everyone. It's the new Plague, only minus the scurrying rats.

One of the most common symptoms is the act of  texting, which isn't even talking when you at least can hear the voice of a loved one, or even just another human. No, it's confined to writing messages in a kind of dumbed-down shorthand, precluding all feelings of warmth and most intelligence, sometimes with dire results. For example, 25% of all car accidents in the US per year are caused by cell phone texting while driving. That translates into 330,000 accidents leading to severe injuries and in some cases, death, because someone wanted to say "😈😮🙏😎💔 lol" to someone else, often to someone they have never even met in person, and they just couldn't wait until the next red light. 

Bedtime scrolling through Facebook has replaced marital sex in many couples, leading to separation and divorce. Children and parents no longer speak to one anther with their mouths, instead texting even within the same household to say that "dinner's ready" or "time to go." Hugging is simply out of the question, replaced by 💋. Millions of husbands and wives afflicted with Morbus Cellphonicus quickly become addicted to their cell phones, unable to put them down, turn them off, or eventually live without them. "In the last few months, I must have seen thirty couples and families in which technology addiction was contributing to the psychological problems within the family system, " says Jay P. Granat, Ph.D., Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

Even worse, unprotected children who get hooked early get the sickest, with little hope for a cure. According to Dr. Granat, "A colleague of mine who is a guidance counselor in a middle school notes that when the teachers confiscate a cell phone, students show up in the guidance office and ask if they can visit their phones and hold their phones for just a few minutes."

So, as I said at the outset, think about what would happen if all the cell phones stopped working. (See, it is fun.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Some Old People Are Older Than Others

There are old ladies, who, by accident of birth and the failure to die, have reached a certain age but still think, look and act like normal people. And then there's that other kind of old lady, who collects doilies and takes castor oil and is totally off her rocker. I belong to the first group, thank God. This morning I had a run-in with one of the other kind.

For my one-year checkup after hip surgery, I knew an X-ray would be required to ensure the installed hardware hadn't moved. I wore a dress especially for the occasion, knowing for a fact that any metal on my clothing, like a zipper on a pair of jeans, meant I'd have to change into a pair of dorky paper shorts. So there I was, in a lightweight summer frock with no metal on me, ready to go.

The old lady whose job it is to assess one's readiness for an X-ray looked me over and decided I'd need to change into the paper shorts. I demurred, pointing out that I had no metal on me. She insisted, repeating that I had to put the shorts on underneath my dress. I replied that this was clearly nonsense, since an X-ray machine could see through my dress just as easily as through the shorts. She then lowered her voice to a whisper and explained that I needed to wear the shorts "so that nobody can see your undies."

Stunned, I asked, "Who would see my undies, and who cares?"

"The technician might see if your dress rides up," she replied, shoving the shorts at me. "I'm sure you wouldn't want that." Actually, what I wanted was to roll those damn paper shorts into a tight ball and shove it down her throat.  Instead I took the shorts and followed the old lady to a dressing room, where she instructed me to put them on. Sighing heavily, I did. It was just easier.

Once I got into the X-ray room I asked the young female technician if I needed to wear the shorts. She hooted, saying of course not, then added, "That's just Ethel -- she's so afraid someone will see something they shouldn't."

Now that's an old lady. I hope I'm never one of those.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Open Letter to the Fluid People

Dear They and Them,

Let me say right up front that I do not care what your gender is. I also do not care what genitals you have, or if you shave your face or get your period or pee standing up or sitting down, and certainly I literally could not care less what pronouns you prefer. Those things impact me not one bit so please don't tell me. But I do have one question: Why is it such a big deal to you that everyone else knows you like girls and not boys or boys and not girls, or that you have on pink lace panties underneath those heavyweight Duluth denim overalls? Or that maybe you don't like sex at all and are thus not in the game, a.k.a. non-gender or non-binary or genderqueer or just looking? Could you please just shut up about all that already and pay attention to the much bigger picture?

Are you aware that the world is in chaos and that our president doesn't really know what he's doing, which could take our country in a dangerous direction? Have you heard about Kim Jong-un? Did you read that yesterday in Arizona a flash flood killed at least nine vacationers, including an entire family, who were innocently playing in a swimming hole, sweeping them away in a torrent of mud and rocks without a moment's notice? And that babies are born every day missing half their brains or already dying of cancer on day one of their lives? That people are hungry, hopeless and homeless? But still you fret that somebody referred to you as "he" when you want to be called "they," and that's got you angry and feeling "unseen."

Read a book, go for a run, work in a soup kitchen, take a good look in the mirror, get some therapy. Do anything else. Just stop talking about it already.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Tummy Tucking Through the Years

Ha ha ha ha ha! Excuse me, but I am cracking up. I just saw an ad online for a new kind of fabulous underwear called New You Slimming Underwear, shown in this helpful video. As you can plainly see, a woman with a flabby tummy simply pulls on this miracle body suit (only $21.99), and suddenly her tummy is gone!

Oh how fabulous, you can wear it under a form-fitting dress and nobody will know you're actually a porker. It's the latest thing! Only it isn't. I wore one of those back in high school when it was called a girdle and it cost a whole lot less.

And that's why they're called "the good old days."

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Film Review: THE BIG SICK

The cast, with a stuffed giraffe.
 There are a few things you should know before seeing The Big Sick, an endearing and understated comedy that manages to be lighthearted and heavy-handed at the same time:

1. What starts out as a romantic comedy suddenly morphs into a lump-in-the-throat tearjerker, so if you hate that kind of thing, don't go.
2. The title isn't kidding -- somebody gets really sick, coming down with a horrible disease you might immediately worry that you also have. (I Googled it the minute I got home.)
3. It's a true story about a charming Muslim stand-up comic, played convincingly by charming Muslim stand-up comic Kumail Nanjiani, who is not a terrorist and who will make you fall in love with all Muslims, and that's the best thing about it.
4. In supporting roles as a married couple, two old pros -- Holly Hunter and Ray Romano -- show everyone else in the cast how it's done. They are a total hoot to watch.

Despite a handful of decent laughs and an earnest script packed with wise observations and lots of tender moments, this film won't be winning any awards. Still, it's a pleasant enough diversion that most people will enjoy. As my husband said about it afterwards, "I liked it, for a chick-flick."

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Stuck in a Russian Rut

Anderson Cooper holding court on the set of his nightly show "Anderson Cooper 360" (in case you forgot.)

The members of the liberal media suck out loud, and often on their very own nightly news shows. Leading the pack is Anderson Cooper, the handsome, rich, sartorially splendiferous gay boy who rules CNN with his smug self-confidence and designer suits. (Can you tell I dislike him?) Night after night he assembles his panel of "experts" to gab and gossip under the guise of reportage. For so long now the topic under discussion has been President Trump's ties to Russia, or Trump's colluding with Vladimir Putin, or Donald Trump Jr. secretly meeting with some Russians, or Melania Trump seen lunching at The Russian Tea Room. You get the picture -- Anderson is stuck in a Russian rut.

Meanwhile, other things have actually happened in the world! Like just last week, a 48-year old, 12-year veteran of the NYPD was shot in the head while sitting in her squad car, murdered execution style by a 34-year-old prison parolee who regularly posted anti-cop rants on Facebook. But was there rioting in the streets of the Bronx, scene of the murder? Not even a whisper. Did anyone set cars on fire like they do when a law-breaking person of color is killed by a cop just doing his job? No. Did the rabid dogs of Black Lives Matter matter speak out in protest? Not a peep. See, the slain cop was a Dominican so her life didn't really matter, except to her three children and her ailing mother who she cared for.

The funeral for the slain officer, Miosotis Familia, was held last week in Manhattan and attended by 4,000 mourners. That astonishing fact alone should have made Anderson and his bobbleheads sit up and take notice, and maybe even forego one night of bloviating about the imaginary Russian takeover of the White House and instead focus on the growing dangers facing our police.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Who You Callin' Fit?

Ernestine Shepherd, an 80-year-old champion weightlifter, is in great shape.

News Flash! Donald Trump allegedly told the wife of the president of France, "You know, you're in such great shape....beautiful." So what? How does his observation hurt anything or anyone? Yet the liberal media bottom feeders over at CNN and MSNBC, led by Anderson Cooper and Rachel Madcow (not a typo), were bursting aneurysms about that statement last night on their gossipy talk shows that masquerade as reporting the news.

If President Trump had said, "Wow, you're sort of a dog!" or maybe, "How did you let yourself go so badly?" I could understand the outcry. Or how about, "I would do you in a heartbeat," which was actually said to me by my husband's boss at a company dinner. (Okay, he was drunk, but still, that's tacky.) Listen, if someone tells me I'm in great shape I'll happily take the compliment, even if he's just a dumb politician.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

One Season to Go

I got hooked on a TV show almost one year ago, back when I was recovering from surgery and hanging out on the living room sofa. Tired of reading important books on important subjects and sick of being mindful and meditative, eventually I opted to pass the time watching a completely ridiculous but distracting bad drama that takes place in a hospital setting. Soon enough I recovered from my surgery and was able to rejoin the world, not knowing that I had become addicted. The regular world, with its regular people, was suddenly boring beyond words. I missed my friends on Grey's Anatomy. And in today's crazy world, where binge-watching a TV show is considered to be a worthwhile endeavor, I went back there, over and over. Now I prefer it to real life.

It's not like I don't know the show is ridiculous. The plots are outrageous; obviously the writers have access to some serious drugs. The episodes all go something like this:

She likes him and he likes her too, but then she starts to remind him of his former lover who died in a plane crash/boat sinking/plague in a foreign country and ends the affair abruptly. Ironically, after they break up they are trapped together under a burning bus that is about to explode. But before it does, she is forced to amputate his leg in order for him to escape. Afterward they marry, but it doesn't last. 

A woman undergoes a C-section in a mammoth sinkhole with no anesthesia or even an aspirin, performed by her 11-year-old  daughter who is receiving instructions via cell phone from a doctor who is miles away. The cell service is spotty and eventually the call is lost. The patient screams but does not pass out and the baby is delivered but has serious issues, requiring an immediate heart-lung transplant. Fortunately, an ambulance arrives in time. 

Everyone involved is extremely attractive and they all have sex with each other at work and nobody gets in trouble for it. Also, nobody gets the clap or herpes. Nobody is ever seen inside a supermarket. They eat badly in the hospital cafeteria but are still thin. There is no housework; you never see a bed being made, although once someone did a load of laundry. Many of the characters have children who are rarely seen or heard from. Nobody talks about their kids. In between all this, there are gory surgeries. People live or die, accompanied by an edgy soundtrack of the most esoteric popular music.

Still, I watch. Happily it's almost over--only one season to go. Then what?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

How I Would Kill Myself

Relax, I'm not going to. But if I were, I would definitely eat myself to death.

I often criticize myself mercilessly for not doing enough. Not being enough, not selling my paintings or getting my books and stories published, for not making any money from my considerable talents, or for not doing enough to help the poor and indigent and homeless, and not wanting to host an exchange student or adopt an abused dog, or any number of things, but most of all for my lack of will power. But today I realized something incredible: I have will power, and tons of it!

What prompted this tirade was an innocent print ad I just saw for potato chips. Potato chips with a hint of lime. I want one. No, I want a whole bag of them. A large bag, and some sort of dip to go with it. But I never eat those things, I never even look at those things. I don't go down that aisle in the supermarket. I turn my head when I drive past Dairy Queens and all the rest of those places. But if I were going to die, or if I planned on dying, I would do it by eating massive quantities of the following until my blood pressure would surely take me out.

Wise potato chips
Lay's potato chips
Rice Krispie treats
peanut butter & jelly sandwiches
egg salad sandwiches
any sandwich
Honey Nut Cheerios with whole milk and raisins
coffee ice cream with chocolate sprinkles and whipped cream
matzoh with butter
Drake's coffee cake
Italian bread
Do you eat any of those things? Well I don't -- okay so I have but not enough -- and I want some. No, not some, I want a lot. What's got me on this rant is that I started a diet today called the No Flour, Sugar Diet and so far I've been really good, but all I can think about is flour and sugar. I hope it passes.

Why Hillary Lost

Julie Christie today. Are the Russians responsible for this?
I'm pretty relieved to learn that the mess we're in these  days is not my fault, it's those damn Russians. They made me hate Hillary Clinton, and for all I know she doesn't even have cankles; that could just be a plot to make her look bad. (If so, it worked.)

Not that I wrote in John Kasich on my ballot last November because of Clinton's cankles -- no, not at all. I have a long list of reasons why Hillary sickens me, starting back in 1979 when I met her in D.C. at a meeting at the Children's Defense Fund. I was there as a graphic design consultant, and she was the wife of the Governor of Arkansas, and there were many, many other important people at that meeting but to Hillary it was all, "Me me, me!" or rather, "Her, her, her!" Plus she wore one of those stupid headbands and I hated those, always have. They're pointless, unless they're holding your brains in or your head will roll off without it, and also they give you a headache, or at least they gave me one. (I tried them a few times, so I know.)

Anyway, Hillary did plenty of things along the way to enlarge my disdain of her, and since all of you know what they are since nobody likes her, not even the Democrats who say they like her (which is why she lost twice, let's remember), I won't enumerate them here. But still, it's sort of a relief to know that I didn't put Trump in the White House, the Russians did and my hands are totally clean.

Actually, I've never even met a Russian, although I remember quite clearly weeping, possibly sobbing, during Doctor Zhivago, but that might have been because Julie Christie was so beautiful and I was jealous. But now all these years later she is no longer beautiful, which makes me even sadder because if she's turned into an old hag, how bad will I look at her age? (Ha, at least someone is older than me!)

So you see, this shows you how much I care that the Russians gave the president's son dirt on Hillary Clinton and he was all ears. I'm pretty sure that despite whatever they told Don Jr., Hillary lost the election on her own merits. Or is it demerits?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Finding (Just a Little) Joy

With the world in turmoil, it's the little things that can still give joy. Just a minute ago I was quite excited to see my digital clock showing 7:11, and realizing that today is 7-11! So it was 7:11 on 7-11-17. Even ignoring the fact that there is a store called 7-11, which adds to the whole serendipitous nature of the thing, it's still pretty fabulous. This sort of thing always makes me happy, albeit only for sixty seconds. Still, the situation comes around often enough if you pay attention, and each time it's a thrill, especially when you see 11:11! (I love that one.)

Watching late afternoon shadows on the wall can compensate for a host of unpleasantness.
Another little thing that gives me great joy is the teeny, tiny frog that lives among my potted plants. Whenever I water the plants I never know where he'll be, but then there he is! As soon as I show up he stops breathing and holds perfectly still until I leave. Obviously he's heard about people eating frog's legs and making them into soups, etc. I try to calm him down by explaining this is not France and we don't do that here, hoping he'll come out and jump around and play, but to no avail. Still, I like knowing he's in there.

My advice is to turn off the TV news, toss out the daily paper and start paying attention to your immediate surroundings as a way to combat the stresses of daily life that are responsible for 43,000 suicides in America each year, or one every 12 minutes. Looking for little froggies is a much better use of your time than reading about whether or not any Trump ever met a Russian.

Monday, July 10, 2017

You Don't Wanna Know

You better believe it.
A close friend of mine who recently lost her son shared some of the things people said in an attempt to comfort her. One word that popped up was "condolences," which were offered repeatedly. Both of us wondered just what condolences are and how they help with grief. Answer: they are nothing, and don't help a whit. Likewise, saying "sorry for your loss" is pitifully ineffective and borderline insulting, sort of like dumping a cup of water onto a forest fire and thinking you made a difference.

My own son, nearing 30, would likely tell you I was a decent mother, maybe even a good mother or, depending on his mood, a great mother. But press him on the subject and he'll cave and say I screwed up big-time in one particular area: Death. When he was just a toddler he asked me about it, and I foolishly did not lie and say any of the following:
1. Only very old people die.
2. Mommy and Daddy will never die.
3. You won't ever die. 

I wish I had said those things. Instead, believing that ignorance at any age is never good, I told him the truth, sugar-coating it as much as possible to make it palatable to three-year-old ears. Still, if you asked him today he would say, "I'm messed up because when I was little my mother said she could die at any minute, and so could I."

Death is a tough subject, but it shouldn't be and it needn't be. Avoiding the reality of our own eventual demise, and that of our loved ones, serves no purpose; it only magnifies the pain we experience when it happens to mammoth proportions. Instead of squandering every leisure moment pleasuring ourselves in meaningless pursuits, how about spending some quality time pondering our mortality and how we'll handle death when it finally comes?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

My Favorite Job

Each Sunday I drag our two huge trash bins, one at a time, from inside the garage, down the driveway and out to the street for Monday morning pickup. One is for garbage and the other, larger still, is for recyclables. Then on  Monday morning I drag them back, empty. Our driveway, covered with pebbles, is long enough to park four cars. Getting the bins out can be a tricky task under some conditions, but it's my job; always has been and always will be.

When I took them out this afternoon I encountered a neighbor who was cheerily photographing the lovely gardens in full bloom along our street. "That's quite a chore you've got," she said, sounding sympathetic and looking more than a little horrified. "Can't you get your husband to do that?" I shrugged and replied that I didn't mind, adding, "It's one of the ways I know I'm still alive." She laughed, not understanding that I was completely serious.

I love taking out the garbage. In fact, it's high on my short list of favorite things to do, for a couple of reasons. First, it's a cliche-buster, since the man of the house is supposed to take out the garbage and the nagging wife is supposed to remind him since he's busy watching football and forgot. But the better reason is that it's actual, down-to-earth work that needs to be done, sometimes requiring strength when the bins are filled with heavy items, and other times, like in winter, incredible agility. Come rain, sleet, snow and all the rest of that postman thing, I remain undaunted and get it done, dreading the day when I can't.

This has happened rarely, but it's happened. A year ago I had hip replacement surgery and missed the trip back with the empty cans, since my surgery was on a Monday and I had to be at the hospital before the trash was picked up. The next week I missed the whole thing, needing a walker and not quite recovered enough to even leave the house. I was bereft, since I considered taking out the garbage an indicator of my overall health and well-being. By the next week I was back at it, deaf to my husband's pleas that I wasn't ready and to let him do it. But I managed, leaning on the full trash bins on the way out and my cane on the way back. I did this twice, one for each bin, and by the time I was finished I could have used a stiff drink. (Sadly that was not permitted since I was on blood thinners, but anyway, at least I knew I was on the mend.)

Over the last eight years, taking out the garbage has become a physical test of will. These Maine winters are certainly challenging, with deep snow and black ice blanketing the driveway for months. Still, I pull on my boots, crampons, parka, hat, gloves and scarf and get out there and just do it! Accomplishing this in a raging blizzard or severe nor'easter is literally the only thing I do that reminds me of how hard ordinary life used to be, and still is for so many people. It's a good feeling.

Friday, July 7, 2017

2 E-Z Steps to a Skinnier U

One of my favorite pastimes is keeping an eye on the new diets that come out, each with a set of complicated rules and regulations about how to lose weight. This is silly since if any of them worked there would be only that one and no new ones, and there would be no more obesity epidemic. Alas, that has not happened and so the books keep on coming. I just read about a new diet plan that costs $1,000 to join. (Wow, that's a whole lot of Oreos!) What you get is a daily video from an attractive coach yelling stridently about how to keep your mouth shut, which is apparently what it takes to stay focused on your goal. Their food plan, called Bright Line Eating, is based on four rules, the so-called "bright lines" of the program:
 No Sugar
No Flour
Three Meals A Day (no snacking)
Weigh and Measure All Foods

There's a snazzy website and lots of quizzes to take to see if you are addicted to eating or if you are ready to lose weight, like you need a quiz to answer those questions. The head honcho of the program is a "Doctor" so right away you know she is an expert on many things. She also says she once had a weight problem but now it's gone because she knocked it out of the park with her simple four-step plan. Well guess what: I have a two-step plan and it's really easy to follow. No weighing or measuring, and you can eat all day if you follow my rules. I call it 2 E-Z Steps to a Skinnier U, and it's a cinch. There are just two rules:
 Don't Eat Bad Food 
 Don't Eat Too Much Good Food

To get you started, below is my handy list of Bad Foods to eliminate from your diet immediately! (Keep it on your fridge if it's big enough.) If a food is not on the list that means you can eat it, but not too much. The experts here at 2 E-Z Steps, none of whom are doctors (actually it's just me), have developed an easy mantra to help you remember the rules: "The less food I eat, the more weight I will lose." Just repeat this 1,000 times each day, especially at birthday parties, office retirement parties, weddings, holiday dinners, and all celebrations involving vast amounts of calorie-laden foods, which is to say all celebrations, or even just a simple dinner party or evening out with friends.

Ring Dings
Devil Dogs
all soft cheeses
pecan pie
all pies
French fries
potato chips
sour cream dips
ice cream
movie theater popcorn
movie theater candy
all cakes
candied yams
corn on the cob
M & Ms
Swedish Fish
mashed potatoes
fried dough
fried seafood
fried chicken
chewing gum
candy bars
cotton candy
Girl Scout cookies
funnel cake
all cookies
whipped cream
sweetened cereals
cinnamon buns
Auntie Anne's pretzels
candied apples
corn dogs
fried onion rings
all puddings
 Campbell's Soups 
French toast
Ritz crackers
all crackers
home fries
blooming onions
batter-fried anything
frozen pizzas
frozen dinners
Tater Tots
sweetened soda
sweetened applesauce
Starbucks Frappucinos
fast-food cheeseburgers
Chinese take-out
restaurant Indian food
macaroni & cheese
peanut butter
store-bought fruit juice 
Planter's dry-roasted peanuts
fettucini Alfredo
creamed soups

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Take the No-Complaints Challenge

It's amazing how little there is to say once we decide to stop complaining. For me, complaining is the building block of my very existence and the essence of my conversation. (Not that I'm complaining.) Whether this stems from early childhood traumas (I was kidnapped at the age of four) or from events later in life (given LSD without prior consent, raised Kosher but forced to eat bacon periodically), it's a habit that is deeply ingrained, certainly in myself but also in every other person I have ever met. (I have never met Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama so that likely explains it.)

Most ordinary people enjoy complaining and do it all the time, to just about anyone who will listen. In fact, complaining is so popular that an entire profession is devoted to it; all the shrinks and counselors and coaches and therapists of every stripe make quite a good living off of sitting quietly and listening to the complaints of complete strangers.

Here's a challenge: Try to go one day without complaining and see what happens. I've never done it but I bet something good would come of it. I'm thinking of trying it today, so before I start I'd like to unload a few complaints here to help me not complain later:

1. I hate these damn bugs! I have so many itches and bites all over my body I can't decide where to scratch first, or which cream to use, I have so many of them, but of course none of them actually work for longer than five minutes.

2. It's another hot day here in Maine! I thought Maine is supposed to be cool in summer! I hate summer, why do you think I live in this Godforsaken place? It's not fair.

3. I am scheduled to work out today with a new trainer but my arm hurts and I don't know why! Will it get worse from a workout? Oh great, that's just what I need.....

4. There is not one decent movie playing at any of the local theaters! In fact, they are all playing the same movies! That is just dumb! Why don't they all offer different choices?

Okay, that's it.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Small Town Joy

With some time out for good behavior in Salt Lake City, my husband and I lived in Washington, D.C., for 30 years. Our son is one of those rare D.C. natives, born just blocks from the White House. Our nation's capitol is truly a beautiful city if you don't look too closely, full of verdant parks and flowers and fountains and striking monuments. But getting some of the basics things done, like annual car registration and inspections, driver's license renewals and passports, and anything remotely involving any branch of the federal government, took the patience of a saint and possibly a couple of Valium. Eight years ago life intervened and a family emergency required a move to Maine. We were happy to leave.

I was reminded of D.C. last night when I sat watching our local 4th of July fireworks display. After enjoying a wonderful free musical concert put on by the town fathers and paid for by L. L. Bean, the throngs of attendees picked up their chairs and blankets and relocated a quarter of a mile away for an unimpeded view of the fireworks. They were fabulous, as are most fireworks if you like that sort of thing, and the whole experience was so easy. After the final embers died out, our party walked a few short blocks to our car and drove the three miles home, visions of fireworks still dancing in our heads.

Back in D.C., that same experience -- watching huge, colorful explosions in the sky accompanied by noise, light, smoke and floating materials -- required about six hours of diligence. We had to leave our home early and drive downtown in bumper-to-bumper traffic, search for parking and ultimately find a questionable spot in a borderline tow-away zone perhaps a mile away from the proceedings, then schlep our stuff to the clogged National Mall and, passing through security, squeeze ourselves in among the people who had spent the whole day there so they could avoid our grim experience, hoping all the while that our car would still be there at the end of the festivities. (One time it wasn't, but that's another story far too painful to dredge up here.)

Okay, so there's not much theater and only one museum to speak of.  Still, living in a small town has its perks, and tonight was surely one of them.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Personal Fat Shaming

A new brouhaha over fat shaming has erupted on social media, involving viral videos and multiple tweetings and Facebook posts, all the while making the fat-shamee quite famous for being fat and proud. It seems a "plus-sized" model got on a plane and the guy sitting next to her was not happy about her being his seatmate and started texting about her considerable girth to a friend of his. The large woman noticed he was doing it and actually leaned over and read his texts, which I think is invasion of privacy and way worse than being critical of the obese. Anyway, it's all over now and the texter has been duly outed as being a despicable Cro-Magnon and she is victorious in her celebration of obesity as a God-given right.

But here's what I want to know: Is it still okay to fat shame yourself? Because I do it all the time. Like about the pair of black jeans in my closet that I can't wear because they won't zip up. Or the way I look naked when I get in the shower. Or when I get on the scale and I have gained weight instead of lost weight, then I call myself names and shake my head in disgust. Is that still allowed, or do I actually have to enjoy being overweight? Just wondering, because I really want to do the right thing.

Don't Tell Instagram

Computers think they are so smart. Many people worry they are becoming smarter than humans and that one day they will rule the world. But if you ask me, computers aren't so smart; in fact, many of them are really stupid and apparently mine is one of those. Case in point: It just sent me a message saying I have started following myself on Instagram.

Besides being silly, that is patently untrue. I am not following myself on Instagram because I already have seen all the pictures I've taken. And to prove I have the upper hand and that my computer is a half-wit, shown below is a picture I took yesterday at a restaurant in New Hampshire that Instagram doesn't even know about.

Salt and Pepper Shakers

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Foolproof Weight Loss Tips

Obesity is all around us. New diet books keep showing up but they all say the same tired things that never work, at least not for you because you only do them for like a week, if that long. Forget them. Just do these three things:

1. Consider carrots, celery, radishes, cucumbers, cauliflower, blueberries, bell peppers and cherry tomatoes as forbidden foods. Bearing in mind they are REALLY BAD FOR YOU and you shouldn't be eating them, hide them in the back of the fridge and eat them with abandon when you are hungry and nobody else is around to see. (This makes them much more delicious and irresistible.)

2. Think about dying unexpectedly, before you lose the weight you swear you'll lose starting tomorrow. Everyone will see you in all your fatness but you'll be dead and unable to hide it in loose clothing, unless you leave strict instructions behind. Besides, everyone looks fatter lying down.

3. Imagine how much better she feels than you do. (See photo) 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Man: An Endangered Species

If men start looking like this, Man shall become extinct. Write to your Congressmen and beg them to intervene, in the interest of future generations.

The Higher You Bid, the More It's Worth

Alligator handbag with gold finish by Cartier: $27,000 People value strange things. Especially rich people. For example, a woman's ...