Trio No. 3 – Today you can write about anything, in whatever genre or form, but your post must mention a dark night, your fridge, and tears (of joy or sadness; your call).

It was a dark and stormy night when the power went out. I knew the first windstorm would knock down the line. Why can’t Mass Electric take care of business before it becomes an emergency.

Stormy Skies - By Marilyn Armstrong

I stood with my head leaning on the refrigerator. The big, metal box was silent. Not a hum or a vibration came from his hulking presence. No little happy tune this night. The only sounds I could hear were the howls of the first winter storm of the year.

storm coming

There was nothing I could do but continue to stand there. Lurking, occasionally emitting a soft, gurgling moan. Poor refrigerator. There he stands, messy — covered with magnets, the messages and events of a household on his metal hull while he waits, as do we all, for the power to return. Waiting and worrying. How long would this outage last? If I call the power company, they would lie to me or tell me they “were working one it” and they would “let me know” when it was fixed. Don’t they think I would notice when the power turns on?: Like when all the lights come back? Not to mention the computers, the heat, and the water pump?

I, with tears of sadness and frustration trailing down my cheeks, knowing all my food is in that fridge … and the electric company is holding it for ransom.

Was my silent fridge crying too? Only the shadow knows and he’s not talking.

february snow 05

Interior Design: Pornography for the Heavily Mortgaged

Originally posted on Stuff my dog taught me:

designer living roomThis week, I finally made it to my semi-annual appointment for a dental cleaning (Can it still be called “semi annual” when you end up cancelling three times and are therefore seven months late for a once-every-six-months event?).  I love my dental cleanings because there is no risk of the dreaded needle and because I can count on about half an hour of waiting room time.  As a working mother, this is like a mini-holiday – child-free, husband-free, client-free, and surrounded by magazines.  So lovely!

In keeping with my mini-holiday fantasy, I refused to read anything that included health and fitness advice, tips on cooking/cleaning/organizing the home, or pictures of skinny, young models sporting clothing I cannot afford.  This left me with a stack of home decorating magazines, or as I like to call them, “pornography for the heavily mortgaged”.

Inside the glossy covers, every room was freshly painted, perfectly lit, and usually sans people (

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Cee’s Share Your World – 2014

You’re given $500,000 dollars tax-free (any currency), what do you spend it on?

Pay off ALL our debts.

We need a new house. Maybe build one on the land we already own, but have it properly graded so that it doesn’t flood. Clear enough trees so we get the sunlight and it’s not always dark inside.


Build it without steps! Make it friendly to those of us who have trouble navigating. I’d like to get a scooter for when I need to get around in malls or parks, but something that can handle bumpy terrains so I can go where pictures lure me. I can walk, but my hiking days are done.


I would like a vacation house in the mountains. Maybe in Colorado or New Mexico, but here in Maine is nice too, though it’s rather a bit cold. There is something restful about mountains. The air is so sweet, sharp, crisp. Everything is clean and uncrowded.

Time has — to a large degree — run slower in high altitudes than at sea level. That’s the way mountain people want it. It’s the way I want it too. I want my cable TV and WiFi, but the slower pace, the less charged atmosphere is soothing. I don’t even mind the cold so much, as long as I can cuddle up to a fire and watch the snow swirl around me, not have to shovel it!

What’s the finest education?

Whatever education you want to get is the finest education. For me? I’ve enough formal education. One degree will suffice for this lifetime. I’ve learned most things I know for which I have any use, by reading and living. Everyone should get enough education to work and support themselves and maybe others, but beyond that? Only if you want something special.

What kind of art is your favorite? Why?

I love music, literature, painting, photography, lithography, sculpture, and graphic arts .Did I miss anything?

Is there something that you memorized long ago and still remember?

Some poems, bits of Shakespeare, words to some songs. Nothing terribly meaningful.

What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m grateful we got through last week … and for the generosity and kindness of friends. Including many friends I never knew I had. I’m looking forward to a peace week in these mountains, visiting with friends Garry and I haven’t seen in nearly 50 years … and coming home to a repaired well!


Monday, the well went dry. Bummer. Scary bummer. Mother Nature saying “The joke’s on YOU!”

While I’m saying “Hey … but … wait a minute … Can’t I fix that with software? “

Going home

So after I stop running around in circles and weeping hysterically — bet you’re glad you missed it — and with the help of a whole lot of people (it takes a village), we gather money to fix the well. Because we have been assured by both well contractors who work in our area that our well can be fixed. And they have the know-how and equipment to do it.


We need a firm estimate — real numbers. Not the vague estimate one typically gets from a contractor. A commitment to do the work before the ground freezes. Contractors are a lot like Mother Nature. You can’t control a contractor. They show up when they show up, work when they work. If you annoy them, they might not work and you don’t want that. If you haven’t seen The Money Pit, see it. It’s a hilarious movie, in a rueful way. Good for a guffaw mixed with memories of other jobs, other contractors. Waiting for them to show up, hoping they will show up. Feeling you should have a party if they do show up.

There is nothing more humbling than being in thrall to a contractor. You can’t do the work yourself. You need him and are committed. If he doesn’t get the work done when he says he will, for the price he has promised, you are so screwed.


In the middle of this sturm und drang, I had to go to the cardiologist. And the pacemaker lab. The pacemaker lab both fascinates and creeps me out. They mess around with my heart. Literally, tuning me up. Tuning me up? She does a read-out and tells me my heart has had no “incidents.” There’s a complete electronic record of everything my heart has — or has not — done since my last visit. She decides to skip a beat. Weird feeling. Then she speeds up my heart and skips two beats. If my heart is beating faster, missing a couple of beats won’t bother me so much, she says. Not really.


“I’m going to turn down your pacemaker to 55. I’m going to turn it down to 50 from midnight to 8 am. So it might make you sleepy. A little sleepy. Not a lot. You might not even notice.” I’m in favor in anything that has a prayer of helping me sleep.

“Okay. That’s pretty much my natural — or was my natural — heart rate. I mean, before all of the surgery and the pacemaker and everything.”

“That’s the point. Try to integrate the pacemaker with your natural heart rhythm. Uses less battery power.”

Battery power. “What happens if the battery dies?”

“It won’t.”

“How do you know?”

“Because it’s telling me it has 12.5 years of life left in it. Actually, you don’t have to worry about the battery. It’s the wires.”

“The wires?”

“Yes, the wires that run from the pacemaker to the parts of your heart. They could come loose.”

“Then my heart stops beating.”

“Not necessarily.”

“What does that mean?”

“Well, it’s not quite that simple. There’s more to it than that. There are back-ups and fail safes and anyway, by the time you need a new battery, who knows what the technology will be?”


I actually find that comforting. I am one sick puppy. She gives me a souvenir pacemaker after I explain I’m a blogger and I like taking pictures of this stuff. It’s not exactly the same as my pacemaker, but it’s close. And there are no wires. But mine has wires and I can feel them through my skin. I can feel the wires, the little screws to which the wires are attached. All of it. I have no muscle or breast tissue there because I had a double mastectomy a couple of years before all this heart surgery … and I’m not a very big woman. But time to move on down the hall to the doctor himself.

“How are you?” asks my doctor.

“Fine,” I answer, skipping over the catastrophes of the past week. “Terrific.” I’m lying but, it’s easier that way.

Chit chatting, getting prescriptions. He tells me I need more exercise. I can’t argue with this. I do need more exercise, though I doubt it’ll happen. I’m anti-motivated toward exercise. It hurts. But I’m not going to tell him that. He wishes me a happy New Year. It’s Rosh HaShannah. Tonight.

Happy 5775. That is a lot of years.

And now, I’ve chased down the contractor. Firmed up a price. I was scared when the well went dry, but I think I was even more terrified waiting for that number from the well guys.

And winter is coming.


Share Your World – 2014 Week 38

If you could be a tree or plant, what would you be?

aloe veraI think I’d like to be something useful. Maybe aloe vera. Good for skin, burns, hair. A very useful plant and it smells good too.

If you could have a servant come to your house every day for one hour, what would you have them do?

Cook dinner!

kitchen condiments

If you could have an endless supply of any food, what would you get?

Salmon, probably. It’s my favorite fish. I’d honestly prefer shrimp, but my cholesterol wouldn’t hear of it.


What was one of your first moneymaking jobs (other than babysitting or newspaper delivery)?

I washed poodles. By the time I was done with that job, I never wanted to bathe another animal of any kind. But I have. I have scrubbed many, many dogs, cats and other critters over many decades. But I never use poodle shampoo or paint their nails some weird color.


It didn’t rain overnight, which would have been nice because at the bottom of everything is a drought that has yet to be acknowledged by Massachusetts. Probably won’t be until we follow California and are completely out of water.

Meanwhile, with all the dams closed, the swamps drying out, the riverbeds mud with the occasional puddle — there is still some water. Not as much as we need, but some. New England is not usually an arid zone. Droughts are less common than flooding. Which is probably why we aren’t as good as we need to be at water management.


Most people, unless their well has gone dry — and there are plenty of us — are paying little attention to the dry streams and rivers, the receding waters on Whitin’s Pond. The disappearance of the water fowl because their environment is disappearing along with their food supply.

Yesterday, our well went dry. Overnight, because we turned off everything that uses water, taps, toilets, everything, a little bit of water has returned to the well. Not much and the quality of the water is closer to mud than something you might be able to drink.

We are still on bottled water for cooking and drinking. No laundry. No showers. Not yet. The well guy was here about an hour ago and will get back to us with a real world estimate. I think our front garden will have to be dug out so the trucks can get to the wellhead. At this point, that’s not one of my big worries. The garden’s a mess anyhow.

Our autumn woods

We don’t have the option of “city water.” There is no city water in this area. The well guy believes the well is repairable. We are counting on it because drilling a new one is crazy expensive. Especially on our land which is particularly rocky and uneven.

There are just two choices: drilling a new well or hydro-fracking.

SO. Hydro-fracking it will be. In case you missed it before, although the name is kind of scary, the process isn’t. It involves injecting water under high pressure into the bedrock foundation around a well to flush out particles and rock fragments from existing bedrock fissures or fractures. These are the channels in the bedrock that form the aquifer. Hydro-fracking clears out and sometimes can increase the size of existing fractures.

99% of the time, this will bring the well back up to snuff. If the well was ever good — and our well was fine and healthy until recently — it should be “like new.” There are a few other things that need to be done, what in the well biz is known as “servicing.”

I don’t know why I should be surprised. Everything else in the world needs servicing, so why not the well, right? Right.


I cannot express how very grateful I am to those of you have sent gifts to us. I can now arrange to get the work done … and best of all, get it done before the ground freezes. The idea of heading into the bitter winter weather without a dependable water source is the stuff of nightmares.

This has been so traumatic to Garry’s pride — and mine — that I think I’m finally past being embarrassed. I have moved on to deeply grateful, recognizing that perhaps after all, some of the good we do in this life comes back to us when we most need it. Asking for help was hard, but you — our friends and supporters — have truly revived my belief that there is still good in the world. I was, I admit, beginning to wonder.


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I’ve been saying — loudly and frequently — that we are having a drought. This is the dryest summer I can remember. As a photographer, I’ve spent a lot of time around dams and other waterways. All of the dams are locked down and many of the riverbeds and ponds are dry.

Today, our well went dry.

We don’t have the option of “city water.” There is no city water in this area. We had the well guy here and he said our well is empty. We did have a stuck flap on a toilet and that’s probably what ran the well out … but the well had to already be very low for that to empty the entire well.

If the well doesn’t refill, if it has gone dry, there are just two choices: drill a new well or hydro-fracking.

Our well is very deep, about 475 feet. We don’t have enough money — or credit — to drill a new well on the property. The price tag for that starts at around $5,000 and goes up from there. That’s more money than we have in savings or credit combined. What’s left? For about half of everything we have in the world, or about $3,000 (that’s the bottom line it will probably cost more), we can hydro-fracture our well.

Hydro-fracking is a process of injecting water under high pressure into the bedrock foundation around a well to flush out fine particles and rock fragments from existing bedrock fractures, or increase the size of existing fractures. 99% of the time, this results in an increased flow of water into the well.


Well fracturing can also be used — and this is our situation — on older wells that have lost their recovery rates over time, usually because of mineralization (iron deposits — we have an iron deposit issue here we have always known about) and incrustation (silt and sediment) of rock fractures.

One way or another, it doesn’t sound like we are going to get out of this with what is left to us intact. I am so unhappy and frightened. I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m sure everyone will be very sympathetic. Our problem is financial and unless we can come up with enough money to fix the well, we will be homeless. Soon. This is not an “eventually” kind of problem. You cannot live long without water. Maybe a week, tops.

I am terrified. We are in trouble and there is nowhere to turn.

On the suggestion of some friends, I’m going to try and raise some money. To say how painful this is to my pride is impossible to explain. If I could see any other choice, I’d take it.


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