A while ago, I had the flu and my ears were blocked. One day, Garry removed his hearing aids and kept turning up the television until we could both hear it. 

“That,” he said, “Is my world. That’s how much I can hear.”

I have never forgotten. Which is good because it’s all too easy to forget when it’s not your problem.

Many people don’t consider hearing loss a “real” disability. Is it because it’s invisible? I can’t walk much, can’t lift, ride a horse or bend. I am usually in some kind of pain ranging from “barely noticeable” to “wow that hurts.” None of which are visible to a naked eye. I once had a woman in the post office lash into me because I had a handicapped pass and she didn’t think I looked handicapped. Years later, I’m still angry. How dare she set herself up to judge?

People make assumptions all the time about Garry. They assume if they call to him and he doesn’t answer, he’s a snob. Rude. Ignoring them. If I’m with him I take them aside, explain Garry cannot hear them.

“You need to make sure he sees you and knows you are talking to him,” I tell them. I consider it part of my job as his wife. It’s rough being deaf in a hearing world. Parties are the worst. With so many people talking at once , it is impossible for him to hear one voice.

Mostly I can hear. Most things. Not as well as I did when I was younger. Background noise is more intrusive and annoying than before, but I hear well enough for most purposes. I depend on my hearing to catch nuances, to interpret underlying meanings of what people say.

Garry used to be able — with hearing aids — to do that too. It was important in courtrooms, while interviewing people and of course, in relationships. It’s not only what someone says, but how he or she says it. Body language, facial expressions … it’s all part of the communications package. But his hearing is worse now and much of this ability to catch the subtler part of speech has been lost.

The silence of the woods after a heavy snow

The profound silence of the woods after a heavy snow

When the hearing part goes, other senses have to compensate — but nothing quite fills the gap.

I am forever asking Garry if he heard “it.” Sometimes “it” is me. He often behaves as if he heard me though he didn’t — but he thinks he did. Sometimes, he didn’t hear exactly what I said. Or notice I was speaking at all. It takes him a while to process sound, to put words in order and make them mean something. It isn’t instant, the way it is for someone with normal hearing. He has to pause and wait for his brain to catch up. Sometimes, he puts the puzzle together wrong because he heard only pieces and what he missed was important.

There’s also the “what?” factor. How many times can anyone say “excuse me, can you repeat that” before he/she feels like an idiot?

Human speech is not the whole story. There is music, soft and loud. The funny noise coming from the car’s engine, the scratching of a dog locked in the closet. Birds singing. A cry for help from a distance.

Garry can’t hear any of that. He could, years ago. So he misses it. He doesn’t hear the beep of a truck backing up. Or the sound of the water in our pipes which means someone’s using the shower. The little grinding noise of a hard drive going bad. Or an alarm ringing. The hum of the refrigerator.

All the little noises are lost to Garry.

What does silence sound like? When you hear only the very loudest noises, but none of the soft, little sounds? The explosion, but not a murmur? To be in that silence — always — is a different world.

- – – – -

* Answer: Three.You can ask someone to repeat something 3 times. After that you are too embarrassed to try again. This is true for everyone, not just people with hearing problems. We all encounter accents we don’t get, mumblers, and people who speak too fast or too softly.


The new episode of Hawaii Five O we watched tonight is titled “Ho’oilina.”

As the story goes, it is the fourth anniversary of his father’s death. While Steve McGarrett is visiting his father’s grave, he meets a woman who helps him reopen the last unsolved case his father worked before his death.


The old Hawaii Five O wasn’t a great show, but guys really liked it. The new one is nominally better acted, but it could hardly be called “realistic.” Better than its predecessor. Pretty to watch. It is, after all, Hawaii. Garry enjoys it and I don’t mind.

This week, though, it totally blew me away because the woman Steve McGarret meets at his father’s grave is a tall, blond assistant district attorney. In the flashback memory of her father’s death, the same woman is a tan Hawaiian — perhaps Chinese? — girl.

That’s so amazing. Who knew DNA could produce such an extraordinary transformation? I mean … wow. Garry says it’s bad casting. I call it a miracle.


Out of Breath – We all seem to insist on how busy, busy, busy we constantly are. Let’s put things in perspective: tell us about the craziest, busiest, most hectic day you’ve had in the past decade.



The craziest, busiest, most hectic day I’ve had in the past decade? I can’t remember what I did yesterday, much less in the course of an entire 10-year period. I know recently we drove a lot, through mountains, past rivers and lakes and countryside so beautiful it filled up all my ooh and aah synapses and put me into a near coma of aesthetic appreciation.

Was that hectic? It felt hectic.

I’ve been in and out of hospitals, had more surgery than I can remember, which may be a good thing. Hectic? What’s hectic? The decades have all been riddled with crises. Financial, medical, personal. I don’t remember the sequence of a particular day, not even yesterday. Or this morning. It’s nearly one in the afternoon. I’m still answering email and trying to get this silly little post written.

Maybe I should think about this in bigger pieces, like decades? Anyone who asks this question obviously hasn’t lived many decades. I’m sure having fewer decades to remember might make the whole memory thing more … memorable. By the time you’ve survived seven or eight decades, you would never ask this question. You would know your friends feel lucky to get to the end of a sentence without have to pause to remember what word comes next.

I can tell you — I think — which period in my life was the most hectic. It started in 1963 and slowed down … when was that? Wait for it. I’m thinking. Okay, got it. It hasn’t slowed down. But it would be okay with me if it did.

Life is, as the beaver said, just one dam thing after another.

beaver mafia



Cover Art – Weekly Photo Challenge

Guest host Pete Rosos invites you to imagine the cover of a favorite book, music album, or magazine.

I don’t have to look far for this since I actually did write a book. I wrote it, designed the interior layout and the cover. The cover, spine, and back required multiple iterations, but eventually I think it came out pretty well.


teepee book back

You can, if you like, actually buy the book which is available through Amazon both as a paperback and for Kindle. Some people think it’s great and I deeply appreciate their kindness.

It’s hard for me to appreciate it quite the way others do because all I see is where I should have written that part differently. And it reminds me how much I and my world have changed since I wrote it, which is sometimes a bit strange, as if I am channeling a different version of myself.

I’ve learned a lot about using Photoshop since I put this together. But I can’t replace these covers. The teepee no longer stands. Last year, after 6 years through all seasons, her poles were rotted and the canvas moldy. A bobcat had taken up residence there. She needed to be put to rest.

I miss my teepee.

THE 12-FOOT TEEPEE by Marilyn Armstrong – Available for Kindle and as a paperback.


Cee’s Black & White Challenge: Toys for kids or adults

The difference between adult toys and tools is getting a bit blurry. Are my Kindles toys or tools? My computers? The big screen TV?

I recently picked up an original Robbie the Robot. I don’t know who the target audience was, but I’m sure the people buying Robbie today are grown ups, at least physically. I can’t vouch for their mental age.

robby the robot in black and white

This old doll belongs to a friend of mine. She inherited it from her Norwegian grandmother and time had done very ill by it. The face was gone and one leg rotted away. The dress was ragged and all the paint on her was blackened. I gave her a wig, repainted her.

I recreated her face and repaired her dress. I could not replace her bad leg, but I took it off cleanly and sealed her body so she will not rot more. I’m sorry I didn’t take “before” pictures, but this “after” shot gives you an idea of how well the restoration went. She lives in Maine with her proud mommy.


Ten years ago, it was the 100th anniversary of the original Teddy Bear. I bought one and gave him his own chair. He became a she-Teddy, or maybe just a bit dandified — because I found this feathered hat and it fit. He/she/it has worn it ever since.


Allow me to introduce Toni. She was produced by Ideal in the 1950s. She was the second doll to come into my life, on my 6th birthday. She was — is — all about her hair. She came with a little box of miniature rollers and a permanent wave kit, aptly named “Toni Permanent Wave.” The setting lotion (you mixed it yourself), was just sugar and water. It didn’t do anything except make her hair sticky, but for as long as she lasted under the assault of small girls with combs, brushes, and the 1950s version of styling gel, she was glorious.

I got this Toni — an original from 1954 — in urgent need of TLC. I replaced her wig, got her a new dress, underwear, shoes and socks. Did a little touch-up on her face paint, then re-strung her. She is as good as new and just as lovely.

I used a “toy lens” effect for Toni’s portrait. I’m considering getting an actual toy lens for my camera. The effects are fun and unpredictable, but the lenses are inexpensive and great when I’m feeling playful.


My granddaughter loved the dolls and stuffies when she was a kid, but the teenage years brought new requirements. As soon as she was old enough, she began saving her birthday and Christmas money. When she had enough, she bought her own toy. And ATV. They get bigger. Toys get bigger, too.

Kaity with ATV

Kaity wanted wheels. Too young for a driver’s license, this ATV was her first “ride.”


Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge: 2014 #17


Since the beginning of October, we’ve been on the road. From Uxbridge to Jackman, Maine. Jackman to Skowhegan and back again. Jackman to Peacham, Vermont. Peacham back to Uxbridge.


A short pause. Take a breath. Uxbridge to Hadley. Back to Uxbridge. Two nights ago, in my best friends’ guest room, I woke in the middle of the night and didn’t know where I was. Definitely time to go home!


We’ve only been home a few hours and I’m a weird kind of tired. Not only achy, but confused. So much mail and stuff was waiting here. I’m years behind in email, blog reading, book reviewing, photo processing.

The house looks neglected. The well is not yet fixed, though Dave told me today that he will get to it next week, for sure. If it stops raining. Hard to do all of this in the rain and right now, the drought is ending in a bang, not a whimper.


So which way? Don’t ask! I’m so confused!

Jackman road autumn