JUST PICK ONE

HER: “We always watch the stuff you want to watch. How come we never watch my movies?”

HIM: “That’s not fair. I try to find things I think you’ll like.The other night I recorded ‘The Wind and the Lion.'”

HER: “You like that one too. You always have.”

HIM: “That’s besides the point.”

HER: “No it isn’t. There a pile of DVDs I’ve bought during the past year. Most of them, I bought for you and most of them, have at least been opened. None of mine have even had the cellophane removed. We never watch anything you don’t like.”

HIM: “Well, let’s make tonight different. {pause} You’re still sulking. I can tell by your face.”

HER: “You don’t mean it. As soon as one of those movies goes on, you’re going to start to make faces, or fall asleep. Instantly. You only do that to prove how boring my taste is.”

monty python British comedy movies

HIM: “I promise, I’ll watch. If I really hate it, I’ll tell you.”

HER: {Long Pause} “Okay, but you better mean it. Or …”

HIM: “Just pick a movie.”

HER: {Unwrapping} “It’s ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail.’ I don’t want to hear how you ‘don’t get’ British humor.”

HIM: “Do they have closed captions? Comedy is hard when you don’t get the words.”

HER: “Lemme see. Well, they have Full Script, English, French, Spanish, German, and Hard of Hearing.”

HIM: “Let’s try ‘Hard of Hearing.’ ”

HER: “It’s probably a goof.”

HIM: “I’m curious.”

HER: “Okay.”

Movie comes on. Someone is shouting loudly over the film. Cute.

HIM: “Okay. English, please.”


That’s how one of the major problems of the world — or our little corner of it — was solved, at least for this particular Saturday night. I guess it depends on ones definition of “divisive issue currently in the news.” A good time with much laughing was had by all. We even watched the accompanying “extra material.” It goes to show you, right? Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

A HOUSE DIVIDED: THE DAILY PROMPT

BROTHERS

A Photo a Week Challenge: Siblings

Garry Armstrong and Anton Armstrong ... September 2013

Garry Armstrong and Anton Armstrong … September 2013

This is my favorite photograph of Garry and his baby brother Anton.

Anton Armstrong is a well-known and highly respected conductor, a celebrity in his own right. In this picture, he was a guest at Garry’s induction into the Massachusetts Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

It was a big deal for Garry, made bigger because Anton was there.

I LOST IT

“I thought we’d never come back from that one.”

I said it calmly, though I felt rather dizzy and disoriented. That was the fifth time in a row I’d ridden Coney Island’s Cyclone. My granddaughter insisted Granny was the only one she would ride with. Flattering, but my age was catching up with me. If my orthopedist could see me now, he’d have me committed. Clearly I was demented.

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As the morning had progressed and the heat rose, the ride got wilder and crazier. It slung us through the curves, dips, and dives with ever-increasing intensity. That last time, when I got off, my knees were shaking. Actually, my whole body was shaking. I felt like a sailor back from a long time at sea.

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On the Cyclone – 3 generations riding an old wooden coaster

“Once more Gramma?”  she said, eyes imploring.

I took a deep breath. And then, I said the words I never thought I’d hear coming from my mouth. “Maybe later. Grandma’s had enough for now.”


Daily Prompt: Use it or lose it, including the line: “I thought we’d never come back from that one.”

M…O…T…H…E…R … SADNESS

Marilyn Armstrong:

Motherhood is forever. I laughed a lot when I read this, but it also resonates. I think it will feel very familiar to any mother who has raised kids.

Originally posted on Stuff my dog taught me:

sad momRemember that Mormon ad from a million years ago… A little kid is happy because he got A’s on his report card and all his joy gets sucked away by the voice of a parent, getting mad at him for some minor thing he has done wrong. Sometimes (most of the time), I feel like that little boy.

Our house is a very busy place. Everyone is juggling some combination of work, school, and social commitments (except my youngest who is only 10 and Buster the Schnauzer who is… well… a schnauzer). Emotions run high. And here I stand, rooted like a bull’s eye in the center of the madness, throwing out statements that are bound to infuriate the masses. Wild, crazy things like:

  • “put on your mittens” (in my defense, it is -14 C)
  • “wrap the cheese before you put it back in the…

View original 325 more words

DEOXYRIBONUCLEIC ACID

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid exists in pretty much every living organism. It is the stuff of chromosomes and carries genetic information. Our DNA is a map of who we are and will be, representing the fundamental and unique characteristics of someone or something.

DNA molecules are a schematic of who you were, are, and will be. All of you, and me, and everyone else. Even some viruses.

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DNA is programming we inherit not only from parents, but from their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents back to the mists of time.

One of the coolest things about DNA is that it doesn’t all “turn on” at birth. Which is how come we don’t look the same throughout our lives. Different genes “kick in” at different ages, so we look like mom as toddlers. Are a dead ringer for dad in our teens. Show a remarkable resemblance to grandma when we hit forty. It isn’t an illusion. It means various pieces of our programming are turning on while others are turning off.

Some basic stuff, such as eye and skin color, are fixed. But — for example — hair may change both in texture, type, and color many times. Mine was dark as a baby, lighter as a young adult, grey in my forties, then white in my fifties. Now, it has begun to turn brown again — patchily, but definitely brown. It has been very curly, almost straight, and wavy. Thicker, thinner, silkier and rougher.

The changes are never finished. And not only signs of age. The shape of our eyes and skull. The set of our jaws. Whether or not we keep or lose our hair.

24 or 25 ... Owen was a toddler and this was Maine on a summer's day

Just when you think you know one thing … what you look like … suddenly, you don’t look like that anymore. You look in the mirror and it’s … Mom?

Spring forward 25 years. Who do I look like? For 20 years, I looked like a clone of my mother. Now, finally, I look like me. At least that’s who I resemble today. Who know what DNA is lurking in my chromosomes? What’s next? I’ll let you know when I know.

2014: IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I don’t do resolutions and I don’t make promises about the future. If nothing else has been learned, I know I can’t predict how life will go, cannot make pledges based on uncertain destiny.

That being said, this is the time of year for summing up before moving on. When I read the columns about all celebrities who’ve died in the past 12 months, there are always a few surprises. Some I thought were already dead. I do a mental countdown. How many remain from the golden age of movies? Not many.

I pat myself on the back. I’m here!

Boston road signs

I take encouragement from surviving legends. Exhibit A: Vin Scully, the Hall of Fame broadcaster who will begin his 66th year calling Dodger baseball games in 2015. I’m old enough to remember Scully calling games his first year, when the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn. One of the highlights of the past year was catching my favorite sportscaster doing Dodger games on the Baseball Network. He is a rarity now, a wordsmith amidst a contemporary gaggle of illiterate sports yakkers and screamers. Thanks, Vin, for making me smile during the long, depressing baseball season in Red Sox nation.

Does Sinatra’s “It Was A Very Good Year” apply to 2014? On first glance, I would think not. On second look maybe it does.

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The early part of the year should be titled “High Anxiety”.  Marilyn, who always had a heart murmur, discovered she had a much larger heart problem. Her ticker wasn’t ticking correctly. After several exams and consults, Marilyn was told she needed heart valve surgery. It was supposed to be simple, maybe a repair rather than a replacement.

It was very far from simple.

Five procedures later,  Marilyn had a new heart valve and a pacemaker — among other things. All of this was supposed to improve Marilyn’s quality of life. The jury is still out and probably depends on ones definition of “improved.”

I remind her — and she reminds me — and then herself — that at least she has a life, which is arguably an improvement over the likely alternative. The doctors keep changing the timetable on Marilyn’s recovery. Mostly they tell her she looks fine. I’m not sure Marilyn agrees.

My current home.

Fast forward a few months. As the Red Sox were slowly sinking into last place, we discovered we had a very big and far more real problem.

Water. The stuff of life. Agua. H20. Long story short, our well died! What to do? Marilyn checked how much it would cost to fix the well. She did some quick math. Then, she did some slower math. Then did the whole thing again.

We were dead in the water. Oops!

Lacking rich relatives to bail us out and being the people others usually came to for help, we looked in the mirror. Our reflections didn’t pony up any cash. Marilyn came up with an obvious, but painful, answer.

We would have to ask for help. It stuck in my craw. Humiliating. But there was no other option. We reached out, expecting nothing, hoping for a something. Dark days indeed.

Marilyn, as usual, took control , if you could call it control. She stayed on top of the contractors while fending off her own anxiety about the desperation of our situation. You can do without a lot of things, but not without water.

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And then … people responded. Friends we hadn’t heard from in years, people who we knew only as commentors on Serendipity. It was a shock … and for once, a pleasant and welcome shock.

Friends and strangers alike displayed an overwhelming generosity. We were able to have the contractors come and rebuild the well, a real life version of the finale of “It’s A Wonderful Life.” At the end of one of the longest crises in our history, we have water. Clean, cold, water. The siege is over and with a little luck, over forever.

I’m still stunned at the kindness and generosity of everyone who responded to our plight, a powerful reminder to be grateful during this holiday season … and every other season.

So, maybe Sinatra’s “It Was A Very Good Year” does, after all, apply to 2014.

Excellent things can arrive in very peculiar packages.

A CHRISTMAS SURPRISE: ORIGINAL FICTION

A family plus one holiday tale

by Richard Paschall

72-Christmas Eve_013Kyle was coming home for Christmas. He was bringing with him his college roommate. The boys met during freshmen year and became fast friends. Somehow they maneuvered the dorm manager into assigning them to be roommates for sophomore year. There was no one on earth Kyle would rather spend time with than Michael.

So, he was glad Michael agreed to come to dinner on Christmas Eve. This was in exchange for Kyle agreeing to go to Michael’s parents’ house on Christmas day for dinner. Michael was going to make a big announcement to his parents and of course Kyle had to be there.

Kyle’s father had slipped into a den on the east side of the house. All of the family noise was a bit more than his reserved nature could take. Kyle’s sister, Mary, who was 8 years younger than Kyle, was louder than usual, and no matter how many times grandma told Mary to “quiet down,” things didn’t get quieter.

The threat of Christmas carols by Mary and Uncle Roy was enough to drive dad into the den. There, he immediately made haste to the bar where a glass of sherry seemed to be in order. Dad only drank a sherry on special occasions and this certainly was one of them.

It was dark now and the neighbors across the street had turned on their Christmas lights. Almost everyone on the block had a nice display so the street was well-lit. Kyle’s dad was drawn to the window to see the lights, look at the gentle snow flurries and enjoy a moment of peace. As he stood there sipping his sherry and waiting for Kyle to appear, he finally spotted his only son walking quickly down the street with another young man right behind. As they got to the walkway that led up to the house they stopped to exchange a few words. Then a sight took dad’s wondering eyes totally by surprise. Kyle kissed the other boy. It was not a short kiss, but long and passionate which they both seemed to enjoy.

Soon Kyle rang the doorbell just to announce their arrival before he put his key in the lock and opened the door. Off the entrance way on the left was a door to the den. Kyle’s father was standing in the doorway just staring at the two. Kyle’s mom came through a big archway on the right that led to the living room. Mary was close behind and eager to see her brother and his friend. Uncle Roy and grandma did not vacate their seats. They knew the rest would join them soon.

First Kyle walked over to his father and said, “Dad this is my room-mate, Michael.” The roommate held out his hand and the father shook it. “I am pleased to meet you, sir. Kyle says such wonderful things about the family.” Kyle’s dad just sort of nodded at that, while studying this stranger in his home. The silence was out of character for the head of the household and a bit of a surprise to everyone except Michael, and that is only because Michael did not know him.

Then Kyle introduced Michael to his mother and his “little brat sister” Mary. Michael held out his hand to each in turn but the little brat held out her hand instead as if he was supposed to take it and kiss it, so he did and she squealed and ran from the room. At that Kyle’s mom offered to introduce Michael to the others. Kyle’s father then announced to all, “We will join you in a moment.”

With a more serious tone, father said, “Kyle, would you step in here for a moment, please?” This was not a question but rather a command of the type Kyle knew was not good. As the father retreated into the room Kyle followed. Before turning around dad said, “Close the door.”

Kyle only took a few short steps in before his father turned around. He looked at him as if he had never seen him before. It was the strangest look Kyle had ever seen from his father. “Kyle, is there something you should be telling me?” the “official business” dad said in an odd businesslike tone. Kyle figured it was some sort of trick question but knew he should answer it anyway.

“No, dad. I don’t think so.” This clearly was the wrong answer. His dad did not say a thing but his body language spoke volumes and Kyle became as nervous as a first grader who has been caught stealing Oreos from the kitchen. Now the master of the den, the commander of the car keys and the payer of his tuition walked slowly to the window, looked around the outside and turned to Kyle.

“You know, son, that there is a great view of the neighborhood from this window. You can see all of the beautiful Christmas displays across the street. You can see a nice Christmas snow flurry. You can see everyone walking down the sidewalk and turning up the walkway toward the house.” At that Kyle’s father fixed his sights squarely on Kyle and said, “So now is there anything you should tell me?”

Kyle stood motionless as his dad threw a stare at him that went right through and hit the door behind. It took Kyle almost an entire minute before he realized what his father had seen from the window of the den. All the while, that whole long minute of time, Kyle’s father stood there waiting.

Kyle wanted to begin “I’m sorry dad…,” but nothing came out of his mouth. He was so nervous and so afraid of his father’s reaction that he could say nothing. It is not that he wanted to be silent, he just couldn’t speak. Fear of saying the wrong thing paralyzed his tongue for the moment. Finally Kyle’s father just nodded that same nod he gave Michael when he was introduced, walked around Kyle, opened the door and walked across the foyer to the living room.

Kyle was knocked off his spot when his mother’s voice came floating into the room. “Kyle, don’t be rude. Come join your guest.” Kyle shuffled across the hall and searched around the room for Michael. He did not look at anyone else as his eyes avoided everyone but Michael. At that moment, with a room full of family, he had no way of telling his mate that he needed a hug and he thought he might need to cry. After a little small talk by grandma and Uncle Roy, Kyle’s mom asked them all to go to the dining room. Christmas Eve dinner was ready.

“Michael, you sit right there next to Kyle and Kyle will sit next to me. I have this end of the table and Kyle’s father will carve things up at that end of the table. Uncle Roy will be there next to you and grandma and Mary will be on the other side.” At that the little brat sister ran around the table and dropped herself on the chair opposite Kyle. She looked at him with a smirk as if she knew his little secret and was going to blurt it out if he did not stop calling her a brat.

Everyone sat in silence until Kyle’s mother looked down the length of the table and said to her husband. “Sweetheart, will you say grace for us?” There was a long, awkward pause before he said, “No. Tonight Kyle will lead the prayer.” At that instant Kyle prayed that something, anything that made sense would come out of his mouth. All eyes were on him as he began, “Bless us, oh Lord…” The words that fell out of Kyle’s mouth were for blessing and thanksgiving, but in his heart he was praying for acceptance. That became the only gift he truly wanted for Christmas this year.