photography BY BOB MIELKE

Garry was very gentle. He barely touched my shoulder. I was sleeping lightly … because I knew we had to get up early this morning.

Already dressed in black, Bonnie is ready to go.

A dawn encounter with a clogged toilet had seen to the light sleep, but also, we have a funeral to attend. A neighbor to see off into the next stop in the cycle … and we needed coffee first.

And had to give the dogs a little love before we go racing out of the house.

For once, it’s not a long journey. Just down the street. Don’t need a GPS or map. Show up looking reasonably put together. Merely a left out of the driveway, and keep going until we cross the rickety bridge into Rhode Island. Then look for the stone church on the right side with the white steeple.

Photo: Bob Mielke - Kaity dressed as ... ? Happy Bird Day!

My real morning encounter is Garry. Gently letting me know it’s time to get myself out of the warm huddle of blankets and dreams and hit the floor.

Garry and Bonnie "have a moment" while the turkey cooks

72-Kitchen-DoggiesGarry does this well. He is a very soft waker-upper. No loud noises, no rousing choruses of anything. So I do not leap from the bed and try to tear his throat out. Because I love him, though early in the morning, I generally do not love anyone until after coffee.

72-Bishop Trimmed

Not him, not the dogs, not those endless telephone solicitors who seem to believe against all evidence to the contrary that they can actually sell me something before I’ve had my coffee.

Chef Owen, master of turkey

Chef Owen, master of turkey

Hello world. It’s black Friday, the day of the ultimate sales …and I’m done with my Christmas shopping. Except for the wrapping and some tree decorations. We’ve navigated Thanksgiving and the flow of life is rushing us to Christmas.

If we both keep body surfing the wave, I think we’ll make it. Time is rushing towards us and we merely have to stand still while it engulfs us.



This time of year, it’s hard to remember to take pictures of anything except foliage. New England in October is all about foliage. It’s a bit late this year and it just beginning to really get fully engaged in this thing we call Autumn. Still, stuff happens and the other day, there was a blackout at Hannaford.


We were there. Waiting in the pharmacy section for our annual flu shots … when the lights went out. The manager didn’t like me taking pictures. He pulled the old “it’s against our policy” but that’s nonsense. I’ve taken hundreds … maybe thousands … of pictures in the store and no one cared and I’m pretty sure there’s no such policy.


I took a few more pictures.

Inside the store, people were resigned to having to find something other than their credit cards to pay for groceries.


Garry and I had to wait for the power to come back because you just can’t do anything in the pharmacy without computers.

This is 2015. That’s just the way it rolls.



What do you do to make a living or during the day if you are retired. If you are a student what are you studying?


I’m a lounge lizard. Okay, not a lounge lizard because (a) I don’t lounge and (b) my dry skin isn’t that bad. Yet.

As a retiree, many choices are available to me, as long as they don’t cost money. I take pictures. I write this blog. I listen to audiobooks and occasionally, read a regular book. I read other peoples’ blogs and make comments, to the degree that I have time to do that.


In the company of my better half, I watch reruns of favorite movies and TV shows. I do commentary, he ignores me.

We watch documentaries; I correct the history.

We play with the dogs. We clean while fully realizing the futility of it. We shop for groceries and chat with people at the local supermarket.


I spend an inordinate amount of time on the phone with customer disservice personnel. I “lend” (grant-in-aid) money to my granddaughter. It’s an occupational hazard.

I try to keep ahead of the dirt and I fail. I try to keep on top of the money. I fail at that too. I laugh whenever there’s anything remotely funny and Garry and I count clichés as we watch TV.

That’s life in the slow lane.

Have you ever participated in a distance walking, swimming, running, or biking event? Tell your story.

No. But Garry photographed one this summer. Does that count?


What is usually your first thought when you wake up?

How much do I hurt? Can I move?

Complete this sentence: Look out behind you, it’s a …

zombie. Or a bill collector. Probably a right-wing Republican zombie bill collector.


If you own pets, buying a vacuum cleaner is a big deal. Regular non-pet owning people go to a store and buy a vacuum. Any reasonably good machine will do the job and last for years.


For those of us who have more than one furry friend, buying a vacuum cleaner is a major life event.

In this house, pet hair is not a sidebar: it is, as David Frye says, a condiment. During high shedding season, the house looks like someone slashed open a cushion and spread the stuffing around. Vacuuming and sweeping is a daily task. Failing to vacuum for a couple of days might make the house a candidate for condemnation.

When our Australian Shepherd is blowing his coat, no amount of vacuuming is enough. Everything is covered in fur. I always swore I would never own a dog with so much fur, but promises are made to be broken.


If you happen to own a heavy coated dog or cat (or several), you are always looking for a better vacuum cleaner. It’s a mission. Thus a purchase is an event requiring consultation, discussion and complex negotiations.

What are the parameters? Mostly, that baby has to suck. I want a machine that will pull the wall-to-all off the floor, suck the cushions off the sofa and eat the draperies.

Bonnie morning

It has to be easy to clean because pet hair really clogs the works.

Last, but far from least, there’s the price tag. If I don’t keep clearing it, no vacuum will survive. Small, light machines are a waste of money. Cheap gets expensive when you have to replace it twice in three years.

After burning out two vacuum cleaners in a year, we got a Hoover Commercial Portapower Vacuum Cleaner.

Small and agile, it has done surprisingly well. The review that sold me said: “This little commercial vacuum cleaner is one of the best buys out there. I can clean up Great Pyrenees hair with ease and empty out the bag and start over again without clogging up the vacuum like other machines I have killed with dog hair.”

So far, so good. Against all odds, it is still working. Now, does anyone have a recommendation for an upright? Something that will really suck, please.


Marilyn Armstrong:

Today is the day I reblog this hilarious and oh-so-true post! Happy laughter to you-all on this gray Tuesday morning.

Originally posted on Stuff my dog taught me:

images-6I have been actively searching for twine since September 1, 1983. I remember the date because it was written on the top of the rental agreement for my first flat – a three bedroom with high ceilings and inadequate heating that I shared with a couple of roommates. In honour of my newfound independence, my uber-practical father presented me with a black plastic toolkit filled with home-dweller essentials, including a roll of twine.

The twine went missing almost immediately. No one fessed up to using it… it simply disappeared. I replaced it. It disappeared again. Thus began the never-ending cycle. My father was right about the practicality of the items in the toolbox. 23 years later, I still have it, and still use most of the items inside. But the item that is most ‘handy’ is the twine, which can never be found in the toolbox… or in the gadget…

View original 532 more words


Garry got his “Microsoft is ready for your download to Windows 10” notification. It came in yesterday — less than 24 hours after we got the upgrade flag. This must be a record for speedy responses from Microsoft.

I haven’t gotten mine. I haven’t checked the two desk tops. I’m not sure I want to “upgrade.” I fervently wish I could call Microsoft and talk to a person. Ask a few questions.

Microsoft has no customer service, at least not for folks like me. Maybe for big corporate customers who own thousands of licenses. Perhaps then you get the magic phone number that routes you to a live person who answers questions.

Not me, though. I still don’t know if upgrading to Windows 10 will work on this computer. Or will make Garry’s laptop work better — or not at all. I’ve heard from people who had great experiences and those who had serious problems. I’ve heard of disasters with the new OS.

I’d just like to talk to someone, know someone has my back. Our computers are critical. Central. Our connection to the world. Upgrading an operating system is not a small thing.

This got me thinking about the whole “customer-provider” relationship. Here are some thoughts. (They don’t apply to Microsoft because they are far too lofty to bother with customer service. They don’t deal with humans.)


Every voice mail system starts out saying “Our options have recently changed.” Your options have not recently changed. “Recently” is no more than three months. After that, it’s not recent. Change your message already!

If I know the number I need, let me press it. Don’t make me sit there while you explain in stultifying detail every permutation of your voice mail system.

Accept this as axiomatic. Everyone is familiar with voice mail. It’s not new technology. We know to listen until we hear the option we need. I am not stupid. My time is valuable. Don’t waste it.


Whatever your organization does, make sure the first choice in your list is the thing most customers want. Probably not your address, business hours, website address, or the opportunity to hear about your new services — or take a survey.


If you are a personal service provider — doctor, dentist, veterinarian, massage therapist, hired assassin — scheduling should be on top. At least half your calls will be people who need to make, change, or cancel (or some combination) an appointment. Don’t send us to a sub menu with more options. Answer the damned phone.

If you are a utility — cell service, telephone company, ISP, power company, water — why do think most people call? Because your service isn’t working. No power, no water, no cell service, no dial tone. No WiFi. No cable. Do not tell us to use the website. If we could get to the website, we would not be calling you.


Whoever picks up the call must be able to reply to this: “Is this a general outage or is it me?”

  1. If the former: When do you expect service to be restored?
  2. If the latter, transfer the caller to tech support. Don’t ask us to make another call.


Option 2 must be Technical Support. Something isn’t working or not working as it ought. Have a human being answer the phone. Even if it involves waiting, don’t make your already upset, angry customer wade through another set of prompts. Take responsibility. Be a person.


Option 3? The bill. Which we already paid, can’t pay, shouldn’t have to pay, is actually someone else’s. If you put us into another voice mail system, it will might us angry enough to dump you for another provider.

We do not want to leave a message for someone to ignore and never call back. We want to straighten out what we hope is a simple misunderstanding. If you send us to more voice mail or an answering machine — and you don’t return the call immediately — expect to never get your money, or lose our business. I have dropped providers many times and will do it again.

If you annoy me, I will hold a grudge. I am a paying customer. Act like you want my business.



I hear so many companies complaining how bad business is. Never do I hear them wonder if their own action (or inaction) might have something to do with it. Maybe the problem is how badly you treat your customers.

Consider this. Blowing off customers does not endear you to us. If we can, we will go elsewhere. At the first opportunity, we will drop you so fast you won’t have a chance to say “Hey wait, I’ve got a deal for you.”

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine (finally) got FIOS as an alternative to ComCast. FIOS was (a bit) more expensive and had a smaller offering. She changed services anyway. She said: “I hate ComCast so much, I’d happily pay more to anyone just to be rid of them.”

I feel that way about our cable provider, Charter Communications. They think they are invulnerable because we have no choice, but WiFi based services are coming of age. There are more choices today … and more coming soon. It’s a matter of time. The ill-will you are amassing today will ultimately bury you as it has buried providers before you. The good-will of your customer is your primary asset. 

It’s a cautionary tale for corporations who think they “own” the market and the customers.


Talk to us. Be nice . Make us feel valued. Calm us down rather than throwing gasoline on the fire. If you are in a service industry, provide service. That is why we pay you.