MY BRIEF CAREER IN ANIMAL CONTROL

I live in a small town. Just under 13,000 people call Uxbridge home. The village, or as we say around here, “downtown,” has a classic brick town hall, circa 1879, an elegant old library, and several other historic buildings.

1893 Thayer Library Photo: Garry Armstrong

1893 Thayer Library Photo: Garry Armstrong

Our closest neighboring town, Millville, makes Uxbridge look like Metropolis.

Their town hall is a unit in an old condo building. The center of town is a sub shop. There’s no sign to indicate you are in Millville, so it’s easy to miss. When you get there, it will be closed anyway. The following notice is posted on Millville’s website:

Due to budget constraints, effective immediately the Town Clerk’s office will only be open on Mondays from 9am-1pm and Wednesday evenings from 6pm-8pm for public assistance.  If you cannot be at the Municipal Center during these scheduled hours, please call the Town Clerk’s Office to schedule an appointment.

There are approximately 3100 people living in Millville, spread out thinly.

Downtown Millville.

Perhaps 7 years ago — I don’t remember exactly — the town of Millville decided they needed a Deputy Animal Control Officer. I don’t remember how I heard about the job. It may have been a tip from our local animal control officer who knew I liked animals and needed part-time work.

This was about as part-time as a job could be. The pay was $1200 per year, payable semi-annually. Before taxes.

Millville already had a Senior Animal Control Officer who was theoretically in charge, but passionately fond of golf. I suspect he also had a full-time job elsewhere too. So, in exchange for $600 every 6 months, I would have the official title of Deputy Animal Control Officer and would be on call 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

I’m basically an optimist. I figured Millville is tiny. How many calls could there be? I took the job. I was sworn in, just like in the movies, hand on the Bible. I promised to protect and serve.

A mere couple of hours later, I got my first call. A homeowner had found an almost dead skunk by their trash bin and wanted it taken away. Since it was my first call — and a weekend — my “senior officer” thought maybe he should come along, show me the ropes as it were. Luckily, the skunk did the right thing and went from nearly dead to absolutely dead while I was trying to figure out what I was supposed to do. I was informed by my erstwhile boss that the skunk had probably been rabid and I should not touch it. If the skunk had not died on his own, I would have been obliged to shoot it.

Me: “Shoot it?”

Boss: “Yes, shoot it. With the rifle.”

Me: “Rifle? What rifle?”

Boss: “Oh, didn’t I mention that? We have a couple of rifles in the office. When an animal is behaving suspiciously, you have to shoot it.”

Me: “Behaving suspiciously?”

Boss: “You know, approaching people rather than running away. Acting weird. Most of the animals you’ll get calls about are rabid. There’s a lotta rabies around here so you don’t want to get close. Just shoot’em.”

Rabies. Shoot the animals. $100 a month. I was getting that creepy feeling I get when I think maybe I’ve signed up for something, the implications of which I had failed to fully grasp.

After we bagged the skunk — literally, using gloves and shovels provided by the town of Millville — to send to the Worcester county animal medical examiner, I promised to go to city hall as soon as they reopened to discuss guns and the other equipment I would need, like shovels, leather gloves, heavy-duty plastic trash bags (the non-human version of body bags), tags for the medical examiner. Forms to fill out. Oh, and where to put the corpses. Turns out, you can’t just stack them up in city hall.

My boss was unconcerned I’d never handled a weapon other than a Red Ryder Daisy BB rifle. I’d never shot anything currently or previously alive. I was puzzled about what I was supposed to do if I got a call, actually needed a rifle, but it was locked up at city hall which was pretty much always closed. Would the offending animal make an appointment for a more convenient time? Or wait for me to call someone, get them to unlock the gun cabinet, then hang around while I drove over to get it, then drove back to shoot him? Are the rabid animals of Millville that cooperative? Was I supposed to keep the big hunting rifle in my house in case I needed it? The rabies thing had me spooked, too.

When I was finally able to get to city hall, I demanded a rabies vaccination. No way was I going to handle rabid animals without a vaccination. They pointed out rabies vaccinations are expensive and I was only the deputy. They suggested I pay for it myself.

Me: “How much will it cost?”

Clerk: “Around $450.”

Me: “That’s four and a half months pay.”

Clerk: “Well, we don’t normally pay for it.”

Me: “I’m not doing this unless I’m vaccinated.”

It turned out that the animal medical examiner could provide me with the appropriate vaccination, so Garry — who had begun to look alarmed – drove me to the doctor. While the doctor prepared the inoculation, we got a rundown of exactly how common rabies is in our neck of the woods. “Why,” he said, “Just the previous week they found a deer with rabies. Chipmunks, skunk, fox, coyotes, squirrels, deer … even possums get rabies.” The only exceptions are rabbits who are naturally immune. Go figure.

The following day, I got another call. A really big snapping turtle had wandered into the road and was blocking traffic. It didn’t sound too threatening, so armed with my shoulder-high heavy leather gauntlets (no rifle), I drove to the site and met the snapping turtle from Hell.

A common snapping turtle.

Keep in mind that there is water everywhere in the valley. Not only the Blackstone, but all its tributaries, feeder creeks, lakes, brooks, ponds, pools, and swamps. Snapping turtles are called common for good reason. They live just about everywhere you find water. Undoubtedly, the big snapper had wandered into the road, lost his bearings. Someone needed to grab the turtle and carry him back on the river side of the road. That someone was me.

This turtle was not in the water, not docile. His beak was sharp. His neck was extremely flexible. Not my kind of nature pal.

So there I was, by the side of the road, trying to figure out how I could grab him. He was approximately 30 pounds of pissed turtle. He seemed pretty agile to me. He could move. Okay, maybe he’d lose a footrace to a rabbit, but he could trundle along at a nice pace. And he had that snaky neck and was determined to bite me.

Meanwhile, an entire construction crew, these big brawny guys who supposedly repairing the bridge, were watching. They didn’t seem eager to help. In fact, they were the ones who called in the first place.

I eventually herded him across the road. I looked at those jaws, looked at my leather gloves, did a quick mental calculation as to strength of gloves versus power of turtle’s jaws, decided the gloves weren’t all that sturdy.

Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

Have you ever tried herding a turtle? Of course not. You can’t herd a turtle, but I did. I don’t know exactly how I got him across the road. I know there was a big shovel involved, but otherwise, it’s a blur. The next thing I remember doing after getting the turtle over to the river side of the road, was calling the clerk and resigning.

The turtle was enough for me. I figured if I didn’t get out quick, they’d have me hunting rabid coyotes with a large gun and I’d shoot my foot off.

They tried to bill me for the rabies shot. We settled for not paying me. I think I got the better part of the deal.

CHARGE! – Marilyn Armstrong

To keep the world running, I have to charge things that recharge and keep a stack of AAA and AA rechargeable batteries ready to go.

75-PowerNIK-CR-70

My world — the entire world and now, my heart too — runs on batteries. Mostly rechargeable batteries, except for my pacemaker which needs new batteries every 4 or 5 years (I think) and I do hope the batteries are very high quality.

Add 3 laptops, 2 Kindles, a couple of tablets, cellphones, 5 (6?) cameras, voice recorders, mouses (mice have fur and make squeaky noises, mouses attach to your computer), a wireless keyboard, a GPS, various clocks, flashlights, who-knows-how-many remote controls, electric razors, tooth cleaning machines, and a mind-numbing array of miscellaneous devices I can’t remember off-hand.

I have never lived in a house that had enough electrical outlets for things like lamps and televisions, much less a way to accommodate these chargers. So, I own power strips.

They are everywhere, snaking around corners, between dressers, behind the sofa, on each side of the bed and of course near each computer. They are also hiding in a lot of places you might never think to look. Throughout the house, in every room, power strips keep chargers charging and electrical devices functioning. From high-end hubs with surge protection to whatever was on sale at Walmart that day, every one is full or nearly so.

75-Wires-57

Most power strips are designed by people who don’t use them. I have reached this conclusion based on the design that presumes you will never have anything larger than a lamp plug that needs a socket. Not even a vacuum cleaner cord fits properly, much less a power supply.

Typically, power strips don’t leave room to fit more than 2 or 3 chargers in a strip designed for half a dozen plugs. There’s no allowance for odd-shaped power supplies that will use half a strip.

 

75-GearNIK-CR-72

I don’t understand why chargers have to be so inconveniently shaped, or why they can never make a 3-pronged plug that will fit into an outlet without a fight. Why do most chargers require that you insert them at the end of the strip. No one ever seems to consider that there are only two “ends” and only one without a cord in the way. There’s some kind of Murphy’s Law that say if you are going to need two wall outlets, both devices will need to be on top or on the bottom.

I have 2 electrical sockets in the bathroom and 2 devices that require electricity. Only one can fit. The other socket is always unusable. The one charger blocks both outlets. Always.

The first day we moved into this house, two events occurred that have since defined our lives in the Blackstone Valley. The toilets backed up and the power went out. The toilets backed up because the crooks who sold us this house parked their van on the septic system’s outflow pipe and crushed it. The power went out for the usual reason: heavy rain, high wind, and lightning. Getting to know my neighbors meant figuring out how to find an electrician and plumber before I’d unpacked.

I don’t notice how dependent we are on batteries until I’m packing for a vacation. Half a carry-on is allocated to chargers … just for things we use while we travel: laptops, accessories, a pair of Kindles, his and her cell phones, mouses, portable speakers and more. I used to pack this stuff carefully. Now I just shove the chargers and wires in a bag and untangle as needed.

High tension wire, golden maple leaves framed by an azure sky.

If you think our civilization can survive anything, ponder this. All our stuff depends on batteries and electricity. Without electricity and batteries, life as we know it would end in about a week or two, at least in cities. It might go on a little longer in rural areas. After that?

Life will be a jungle in where every man, woman, and child will fight to the death for a working AA battery.

 

ALL THE ANSWERS YOU’LL EVER NEED

We spend too much time trying to figure out what life means. Why bad stuff happens. Whether or not a malevolent deity has it in for us. It’s normal to wonder if the reason you are sick, broke or miserable is the result of something you did or failed to do. To accept the total randomness of events is rough.

Like you, I’ve put a good bit of thought into how come my life keeps falling apart. I know I’m not perfect, but come on! It’s not like I ripped off everyone’s retirement money or slaughtered thousands of people because I think they are ethnically inferior. Whatever I’ve done wrong, it’s pretty small potatoes in the scheme of things.

I was pondering this stuff when I was a teenager, which is why I studied it in college and kept exploring it through the decades since. One day, I woke up and realized I knew the Truth. All had been revealed.

copper-sun

I Don’t Know Anything. Neither Do You.

Suddenly random happenstance is as meaningful as anything else. What a relief to realize I don’t need an explanation. Stuff happens. I spent years — decades — thinking in circles, but now I am perfectly content displaying my lack of knowledge for all the world to see (and admire).

Just like when I was 12. I’ve been considering founding a church. I could enlist a lot of followers. My church  would require no beliefs. It would need no contributions of time or money. It wouldn’t even require that you show up, unless you happened to feel like it. There would be no rules to follow, no standards to live up to. No angry deity to get pissed off if you behave badly. It would ideally suit the modern lifestyle, don’t you think?

Faith and Proof

Faith is not proof. Faith is opinion in fancy clothing.

You can believe what you want, but you can’t know any more than I do. You take the same leap of faith believing in God or declaring yourself an atheist. Both positions require you take as absolute something for which you have no proof and for which you can never have proof.

If believing in a loving God makes your world feel rational, that’s good. It could be true. If it turns out you’re right, you’ll have backed a winner. If believing there is no God, and science is the path to Truth, go with that. Regardless, you’re  making a faith-based choice because there’s no proof God exists or doesn’t exist.

As for me, I don’t know. Really. I don’t know and what makes me smarter than you is I know I don’t know.

Tempus Fugit is a frog.

Tempus Fugit is a frog.

Accepting that one knows nothing is a big step, so the next issue to tackle is how can you can cash in on your new understanding. What’s the point in knowing the meaning of life unless you can awe people with your brilliance?

No one will be dazzled unless you know the right words. Terminology is important.

Big words (4 or more syllables) when used in an appropriate setting, can showcase your education and intelligence. People will make little cooing sounds indicating their admiration.

Employing big words enhances your likelihood of getting a management position.

You can write important books.Have a blog like me. Big words can take you a long way if you are skilled at deploying them.

Note: Make sure you know how to pronounce them. Mispronouncing big words will cause unexpected laughter … not good unless you are aiming for a stand-up comedy career.

Epistemology

Let’s start with epistemology. This is an excellent catch-all word you can drop into any conversation. Most people will have no idea what you are talking about but will be too embarrassed to admit it. On the off-chance you encounter someone who actually recognizes the word, you can use this handy-dandy definition from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the philosopher’s convenient source for everything:

Defined narrowly, epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits? 

I bet you still have no idea what it means. The awesome truth is that epistemology doesn’t mean anything because it means everything. Anything that means everything means nothing. Equally, when something claims to do everything, it has no actual use. This applies to people, concepts, and appliances. In practical terms, everything and nothing are identical. (Remember infinite sets from college math? It’s like that.)

Phenomenology

On to phenomenology. When I was studying religion in college, phenomenology was a way to prove the existence of God. Phenomenologically speaking, all human experience is proof of God. Except the same reasoning can prove there is no God. This is the joy of phenomenology.

Phenomenology can help you prove all things are one thing, all things are God. You are God. I am God. I am a warm cup of tea and you are a daffodil. If this doesn’t clarify it for you, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers further elucidation:

Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object.

In other words, you can use any and all human experience, your experience and anyone else’s, to prove whatever you want. Phenomenology is fundamental to all belief systems: religion, politics, and Fox News. Lots of people believe in religion, politics and Fox News, so maybe they will believe in you too.

Becoming a Fount of Wisdom

You can now explain anything. Everything. You can prove things based on something a couple of friends said years ago while under the influence of powerful hallucinogenic drugs. Although others may fault your logic, in the world of academics, everyone disbelieves everyone else unless they are citing them as a source, so you might as well stick your oar in the water.

96-BadMoonRising-25

There are people who will attack you using faith. Faith is based on itself making it hard to dispute. Not to worry. The only one who is ever fully convinced by faith is the one who holds it. Nor does it really matter how many people believe or disbelieve it.

Having more believers or followers doesn’t transform faith into fact.

If it did, we could achieve some really nifty things. Like, say we all believe in magic and therefore, it exists. Cool.

Thanks for reading. I hope I’ve clarified everything. If not, feel free to have your people call my people. We’ll talk.

Status

RAIN AND A CORNER TURNED

I’ve turned some kind of corner, physically. Pain level dropped a lot and suddenly. As the evening wears on, I wear out, as if all the pains of the day collect and concentrate in my chest and shoulders. I do the best I can. It’s better. Definitely.

75-RainyMorning-003

I wanted to go out today. Take a camera, maybe the little point and shoot because it’s so easy, but the rain came. I should have known. The weather yesterday was weird … very warm with a powerful wind, yet sunny. During the night, the wind died away and the rain came and this morning, it’s all drip, drip, dripping … the slow saturating rain of April.

Just the kind of watering the flowers need. They suck it up and grow tall and strong. There will be a burst of color now. Not today, not while the water is falling from the sky …. but tomorrow, maybe or the day after. Whenever the sun next makes an appearance.

I dreamt last night the cancer is back and quietly eating me. Three nights in a row, I’ve dreamed the same dream and it frightens me. It could be true. I don’t know. I had a chest x-ray and it was clear … and just the other day … so how bad can it be, right?

It’s so gray out there. So damp. The dogs hate this weather. Snow they will play in and any other weather, no matter how cold … but not this steady rain. There will be no photo expedition today. I shall wait.

Life’s on hold. Everything is waiting for me to be ready for it, ready to live again. I’m sure when the sunshine returns it will cast off so much of the haunting sadness I feel. I believe, I do believe.

SHARING MY WORLD, 2014 WEEK 15

Cee’s Photography - Share Your World – 2014 Week 15

For your blog do you basically use Windows or Mac, laptop, desktop, pad, or phone?

Garry in his office

Windows – 2 Win 7 laptops and a desktop plus a Win 8 tablet – but I really hate Windows 8. Unless Microsoft makes some significant changes, when it comes time for the next-gen of computers, I will have to go in another direction. Given my huge investment in Windows-based software, the idea makes me a little queasy.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Pretty much exactly where I am. In a house in the country with dogs. Writing and taking pictures. The only other thing I wanted to be was The Lone Ranger and that didn’t work out.

Did you grow up in a small or big town? Did you like it?

96-Holliswood1954

I grew up in New York, which is a huge city, but my neighborhood was more like a semi-rural village. I think most cities are like that. You don’t live in The City, you live in your neighborhood. We had woods and trees, donkeys and chickens and geese roaming about. Even a riding stable around the corner. It wasn’t very NY city-ish, but it was walking distance to the subway, the magical tube to the wonders of the big city. For a kid, especially a teenage, it was as close to a perfect location as you might hope for. Country living in the greatest of all cities? Not much to complain about there.

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

100? 110? Older than dirt.

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

NestInTreeHollow-300-72Surviving each week is a triumph.

This morning, there was a warbler singing so loudly on our deck I thought it was someone’s cell phone (how ironic!) and that too was something for which to be grateful.

Birds like nesting on our porch. Nice, but then they get all antsy about us going out there and we can’t use the deck until all the baby birds have grown up and flown away.

I’M SHARING MY WORLD – BUT ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO COME?

CEE’S Share Your World – 2014 Week 14

If you had to describe your day as a traffic sign, what would it be?

Expect-Delays-sign

Is your hair short (total neck and ear showing), medium (covering ears and neck), long (below shoulders), extra long (at least halfway down your back) or bald?

Long, but falling out. Not far to go to achieve balding. It has something to do with anesthesia, surgery and stuff. It’s happened before. Maybe it’ll grow back. Meanwhile, I need a cute cap. I look good in caps.

When you are with your friends, do your interactions include much touching—for example, hugging, kissing, rough housing, rubbing backs? Would you like to have more of this? (Note: the answers may vary depending on where you live on this wonderful planet.)

Everyone is afraid to touch me right now. I’m afraid to touch myself. I think I’ll get over this eventually.

What do you feel is the most enjoyable way to spend $100?

Books (audio or Kindle) or something cool for the camera.

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

I made it through another one! It’s 2 weeks out of surgery and I’m almost human. Almost. Getting closer! I hope by the end of next week, I will be able to laugh without pain and sneeze without fear!

BUT I AM LOVED … AREN’T I?

When Will I Be Loved?

When did being loved and being famous become synonymous? This is a first for me. I feel very loved, but I’m not now, nor have I ever been famous. So I’m not sure what this is supposed to be about.

Photo: Debbie Stone

Photo: Debbie Stone

Love? Got that. Amazing friends, many of whom I know only from the WWWorld who have come through for me in a time of great need with caring and support. Old friends with whom I had lost touch, showing back up in my life at a time when any sane acquaintance would run for the hills.

Did I ever yearn for fame? Briefly, when I was writing my book. But I never wanted to be a movie star, politician, stage actress or anyone with a “public face.” Hoped my book would “catch” and make me a few bucks if not famous. Got lots of satisfaction, minus the fame and money and that turned out to be pretty good.

So when will I be loved? I am loved.

When will I be famous? Maybe never … and maybe I don’t care. I’m surprisingly happy with who I am on a spiritual level. My body needs some serious renovation, though.

Let me know when body swaps became possible. I’ll sign on for that one. Although to be fair, it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting this old carcass.

The Party: Taking Pictures When There’s Nothing to Shoot – Marilyn Armstrong

Sometimes, there’s really not much to shoot.

Here’s the story. There I am at a party. I’ve brought my camera, because hey, why not? I’ve been taking pictures of people doing what people do at parties. Talking. Eating. Sometimes laughing. A few loners. People talking in pairs, in groups. And I’m trying to find a new way to do something at which I’m not particularly good while finding a way of making pictures that are inherently dull, not so dull.

Tall pines from the deck.

The host, a retired photographer and videographer, hates parties and was hiding. I was pretty sure he wouldn’t appear until his wife rousted him from wherever he was holed up.

This is a group dominated by professional media people, some retired, many still working. So there were a lot of cameras, mostly Canon, a few Nikons. I’m the only one with one of those funny little cameras, having brought my Olympus PEN E-P3 and a spare battery while leaving the rest of my gear home.

The man with the Canon.

In this crowd, pictures are not taken on telephones or tablet computers. It’s not that kind of crowd. This is not a group in which anyone suffers from techno-envy. We all have equipment. Lots of it, our own and stuff that belongs to the television stations for which most of the guests work. Oddly, no one is doing video. Too much like work.

A hallway.

I didn’t actually know more than a handful of the people at the party except in the most general way. I know the host, the hostess, a few other people here and there. Pretty much everyone is a former colleague of my husband or related to the birthday boy.

One way or the other, I’m not sure I could get most of the names straight. Even if everyone was wearing a name tag it wouldn’t help much. The problem is partly because I didn’t know most of the guests. It’s also that I am terrible with names and faces. I’m nominally better with faces, but hopeless with names.

Still life with cheese remnants.

You can tell me your name and within a breath, I’ll say, “I’m sorry, what’s your name again?” and if it happens more than twice, I’ll be too embarrassed to ask again, so I’ll smile and nod. Life can be a bitch. Parties are worse.

So it’s me and my camera. It’s an event and besides, what else am I going to do?

This is not a really exciting experience for me. About an hour into the event, my boredom exceeded my tolerance, so I set myself a challenge. Find something to shoot in a lovely, but architecturally ordinary, suburban house.

In the corner.

In the end, the choice was simple: play “Word Mole” on my telephone or find something to shoot. I went with photography, although I’m a world-class “Word Mole” player.

Reflections in a high window.

Here are the results. “Seek and thou shalt find” should be the motto of all photographers. I looked. I didn’t just look around, I also looked up and down. I looked in corners, I peered through banisters. I tried natural light and flash, wound up using both.

Kitchen talk.

Motto of the story? There’s always a picture somewhere. Somehow. You have to look for it, sometimes very hard, but it’s there.

 

Send in the clowns … Marilyn Armstrong

America, land of the brave and the free. Photo by Turtsman.

My father was not a wise man, but a smart one who knew how to make money. He was a lifelong Democrat, small businessman and other things I would prefer not to delve into right now. A big part of his salesman’s repertoire were one liners and jokes. This was a favorite of mine.

It isn’t what you don’t know that will get you. It’s what you DO know that’s wrong.

Albert Friedman
Self-Made American (1917 – 2010)

How true it is, and also, how sad. So many people knowing with complete certainty so much that is so wrong. For them, the motto will forever be thus:

Don’t confuse me with facts! My mind is made up.

So, I guess if you want to maintain your bona fides as a Real American, you should continue to watch ONLY Fox News. It will help to reinforce your unfounded opinions by presenting pseudo facts and speculation in lieu of real information and you, dumbass, will believe every word of it. Rupert Murdoch is laughing at you all the way to his offshore accounts.

Don’t read anything that contains facts unless they comply with your preconceptions. In fact, it might be best to avoid reading entirely. Make a flag of your ignorance and close-mindedness; wave it proudly. Tell the world you know nothing and don’t want to learn nothin’ neither.

Finally, proclaim that you are the prototypical American, unlike the rest of us snobbish book-reading socialist anti-Christian liberal Nazis who don’t agree with you. Don’t be concerned that you don’t know what prototypical means. I didn’t expect you to understand. Too many syllables.

After that, you can wonder why the world is losing respect for the United States. Maybe it has something to do with “true Americans” like you with your passion for ignorance, bigotry, hatred, and stupidity.

You vote against your own best interests because you vote not for people who will help you, but for those who share your hates. Anyone can have you by preying on what you hate. You hate so many things that you are easily had. You are America’s fools and losers, the people about whom H.L Mencken spoke when he said:

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

H. L. Mencken
US editor (1880 – 1956)

WHY CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS?

Daily Prompt: Why Can’t We Be Friends?

- – - – -

We can’t be friends because you won’t like me. Really. Count on it.

Marilyn as photographer

Even if I like you, more than likely won’t return the feeling. I talk too much. My tongue is sharp. If you say dumb things, I will snort derisively. I will not take you seriously if you don’t know any history and don’t read books.

If you take photographs with trash cans in the background, I will not admire them, even if the subject is your most beloved grandchild. She/he would look better — guaranteed — without the trash cans. Unless you are making some kind of artistic statement about grandchildren and trash and I sincerely hope you are not.

I am not everyone’s cuppa tea. Sometimes, I’m not even my own cuppa tea. Actually, I’m not all that fond of tea, except for green tea ordered with Japanese food.

This probably makes me a bad person. Screw it.

Coffee anyone?

Other Voices:

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  13. Make Friends? | wisskko’s blog
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  15. Adult Friends | Lori’s Life and Other Stuff
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  17. The Art and Science of Unmaking Friends
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Getting There Is Not Always Enough … Marilyn Armstrong

We didn’t get to ride this one.

Yesterday, we went to Busch Gardens. We did nothing, got wet, walked too much, came back exhausted, soggy and poorer. We seem to have absolutely impeccable timing for getting places at exactly the wrong time!

We didn’t get to ride this either.

We planned carefully and sensibly. We figured that if we went late in the day, it would be cooler and probably less crowded too. Logical right? I mean, the park‘s open until 10 at night, so getting there at 3:30 should leave us more than ample time to whatever we wanted and ride whatever we wanted.

After we finally got through the long walk to the park from the very closest parking lot, we decided to take the train ride that loops around the park. It would give us something of an orientation, an overview.

After that we were nearly slavering with anticipation, we headed down the long road to Apollo’s Chariot, the first of the 6 big, bigger and biggest, baddest roller coasters we intended to ride.

We were at the front of the line on the platform, ready to board the ride. Which is when the announcement came that the ride was closing due to weather issues.

Not this one either.

Weather. Mainly, lightning. Not to mention wind and rain. So we stood around a bit, milled around in confusion, then eventually headed back the long road to the rest of the park.

With great anticipation, we waited for a weather update. We were in a code orange, which is bad, but the next announcement was “Code Red,” which was much worse and actually closed everything, except shops.

Shortly thereafter, the sky opened up and a sheet of water fell out. We stood under an awning speculating — along with everyone else — whether or not there was any chance the park would reopen.

Also, didn’t ride this one.

It did not reopen.

We hauled ass back to Guest Relations, where they were very gracious about the whole thing and seemed genuinely sorry that we come from so far away, didn’t get to do anything except eat a pretzel and get soaked. They refunded half the money because our friends had to leave today and we took rain checks and will make another stab at it tomorrow. We would have gone today, but the weather report doesn’t look promising and I couldn’t deal with the same scenario two days running.

The best experience of the day? The electric scooter that you can rent and drive around the park. I loved it! It was way zippier than I thought it would be and fun, too. Unfortunately, by the time I got it, I was already over-tired and when we finally got back to the hotel, having stopped at the grocery store in between and then cooking dinner … we had barely enough strength to climb into bed and pass out.

Today, the humidity is 99% and thunder storms are likely in the afternoon, so we  are going to go tomorrow morning when hopefully, it won’t be raining because that really IS our last chance.

Talk about disappointing! Nice that Garry and I get another shot at it, but I so wanted to go with my friend too … but … well … it didn’t happen and if there’s one thing you cannot count on, it’s usually the weather.

They’ve left now and it’s very quiet and feels kind of empty. I’m trying not to be a bit down-hearted, but it’s difficult.

Tomorrow is another day, I hope.

Status

WAKE UP SLEEPY HEAD

Today marks a week back from the hospital. I’m not sure what I expected, but I’m pretty sure this wasn’t it. So much didn’t go the way I expected. A friend said it was like taking your car in for an oil change only to discover you need a new tranny. I needed a new tranny, timing chain, rear axle and electrical system.

How could I have failed to notice that the central system of my body wasn’t working? How did I miss that? I was short of breath, true. I had been gradually limiting my activities. I stopped driving. I passed on activities that involved more than very minimal walking … skipping stuff that required I go up and down my own stairs. Gradually, I chipped away at life until my “outside appearances” were few and far between.

I was tired. Not sleepy-tired. Weary. I attributed each lifestyle change to something. Asthma. Bursitis in my hips, arthritis in my back. Blow-back from cancer a couple of years ago. And, of course, the all-time best bucket explanation for anything and everything — getting older.

When I was first informed that my EKG showed “issues,” though the doctors didn’t seem to feel I needed to know exactly what the issues were (did they know?) — when finally all the cards were laid out, I felt blindsided. I had been keeping track of my heart, getting an evaluation and EKG every year. Suddenly, from “no problem” to “big problem”? Heart problems don’t usually just pop up out of the blue. I still don’t know and probably never will if this was a case of misdiagnosis or some weird medical event that went unnoticed amidst the myriad other health crises which have punctuated my last decade and a bit.

Do I blame my doctors? To a degree. For failing to promptly and clearly inform me of what was happening and for giving me terrible, medically unsound advice. If I had followed it, I’d be dead.

Expect-Delays-sign

What I expected

Cardiomyectomy (shaving down the overgrown muscle in the left ventricle that was stopping the flow of blood through the aortic valve, causing the mitral valve to work double-time. There was hope the mitral valve would self-repair if the aortic valve was unblocked. Surely, at most, the mitral valve would need repair, not replacement. (Ha!)

What I got

A cardiac catheterization, a totally disgusting, intrusive horrible test that requires you be awake — the absolutely last thing you want to be. Not like you get a choice.

The next day, the aforementioned cardiomyectomy, a bypass and a mitral valve replacement made from bovine tissue (thank you Bossy, wherever you may be).

Three-for-one. Woo hoo!!

But that’s not all, no-sirree. After another few days, when my heart refused to beat on its own (stubborn to the last), it was back to surgery for a pacemaker. Now everything in my world runs on batteries, including me. Sure hope those batteries keep going and going and going.

Waking up – Let the games commence!

Round one: They tried arousing me, but I woke up fighting, struggling. Apparently tried to deck the recovery nurse. I do not remember this, but I have no reason to doubt it. Under the circumstances I’m sure I wanted to deck someone. They put me back under for another 24 hours. They were protecting me and/or the nurse.

“Tough customer,” they said.

Round two: I heard Katy, my new recovery nurse calling me.

“Marilyn, wake up. You’ve had your heart surgery.”

“NO,” I said. Liar liar pants on fire. They were saying it was Friday, but I knew it was only Thursday. What’s more, I was in the middle of a word game and the letter “U” was missing. I could not wake up until I found it.

“Marilyn, you have to wake up.”

“NO I DON’T,” I said.

“Would you like to see your husband? Your friend?”

“NO.”

“You have to wake up. It’s time to wake up.”

“NO.”

Ultimately, I realized the letter “U” was a permanent loss and they were just going to keep annoying me until I stopped saying NO. So I opened my eyes. Instantly knew why I hadn’t wanted to wake up.

Question: How much pain can you be in and still live?

Answer: A lot.

Thus I reentered the world. Screaming in anger, pain, outrage and helplessness. I’m still screaming. Silently.

MARILYN IN RECOVERY: LAZY SATURDAY

This is Marilyn’s 6th full day back home after complex heart valve surgery at Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital. We’re both tired. Marilyn for multiple reasons, me just for fatigue. So, this is a short update. It’s a day for watching silly movies that don’t tax our minds. So far, we’ve seen “Hot Shots! Part Deux” and “Airplane!” The stack of waiting movies includes  “Galaxy Quest,” “Crazy People,” “The Court Jester” and a deluxe set of Mel Brooks comedies.

Marilyn is moving around more on her own. Slowly but without assistance. We received a truly nice gift from an old friend. One of those elongated bathroom seat risers with removable arms. It enables Marilyn to take care of business without help. That’s a big boost for privacy and self-accomplishment. If you’ve been there, you know it’s no small thing.

No visiting nurse or physical therapist visits today. Marilyn is in one of her bright red nightgowns. I’m wearing my “Dog Father” casual bottoms and dog-eared top. The furry kids are taking their afternoon siestas. Dinner is still to be discussed. I’m hoping to keep it simple. That’s my speed.

Marilyn wants to write a blog. She tried valiantly this morning. The brain is working but not her arms or fingers. Matter of fact, Marilyn’s mind is like that of HEDley Lamaar — ‘a raging torrent of brilliant ideas’. She’ll try her next blog when more body parts are in sync.

My usual baseball passion is slightly dormant right now for obvious reasons. I didn’t read the pre-season predictions or watch the Red Sox home opener. Sheer heresy in any other year. It’s a long season. Here’s hoping the team is doing well when Marilyn and I can give them more attention.

Surely, you understand our priorities here. And don’t call me Shirley!!

 

 

MARILYN’S FRIDAY: I’M SHOCKED!

Usually I’d wait til later in the day to write an update post since Marilyn’s return home Monday from complex heart valve surgery. But some funny and encouraging things have happened this morning. I figured I’d best write as coffee is slowly clearing the cobwebs in my mind.

Where to begin? Latest news at the top, right? Okay, Marilyn is waiting for the visiting nurse to arrive for today’s session. Visit number two. We’re properly attired, Marilyn in a clean nightgown and me in my “Dogfather” lounge pants and top.

Diane, Marilyn’s nurse has just arrived. Her first visit. We’ve greeted each other. I continue writing as Diane checks and examines Marilyn

Marilyn was able to put on her nightgown WITHOUT assistance, using her arms and with minimal pain. FIRST time since she came home. Give the lady a hug, kiss and round of applause after Diane leaves.

My Claude Rains moment came a little earlier this morning. I was relaxing on the love seat, sipping coffee and waiting for my brains to show some life. Nan, our Norwich Terrier, was lying at my feet watching Marilyn. Nan is Marilyn’s dog. Her faithful companion. She follows Marilyn wherever she goes. I’m normally ignored. I used to be a household name for more than 31 years as a Boston TV news reporter. I used to be somebody.

Well, Marilyn had to answer nature’s call. She got up by herself from the love seat. Another first this week. No, don’t stop the presses. Not yet. Marilyn walked slowly away and into the bathroom. Normally, Nan would be right behind her. Marilyn’s faithful companion usually follows her Mom right into the bathroom, pushing open the door and moving right up to where business is being conducted. Frequently, Nan grunts like a pig, signaling the other dogs Mom is in the bathroom. They scamper down the hallway and gaze from the bathroom door. Nan sends out sideline reports about Marilyn’s efforts. Wide, wide world of sports!

Not today. Nan didn’t budge as Marilyn left the living room. She stayed at my feet, grunting with satisfaction. Okay, now the “Louie Renault” moment. Marilyn called from the bathroom but Nan never moved. I was shocked! Absolutely shocked!

Diane’s just wrapped up her visit with Marilyn. They’re laughing. Marilyn’s blood pressure and heart rate look pretty okay. Here’s hoping the rest of this Friday is good.

HEIGHT OF TOILET SEATS AND OTHER EPIPHANIES

I’m writing for Marilyn today. Not ghosting just writing what she’s thinking. It’ll be awhile before Marilyn can actually do what she does best. Write wonderful blogs that touch many hearts and lives.  It’s the beginning of  her third full day at home. Marilyn’s return from nearly two weeks and five heart surgeries at Beth Israel Hospital is full of surprises, revelations and epiphanies. Not the C.B. DeMille grand scale things. Just very ordinary stuff we take for granted.

Take toilet seats, for instance. When you’re taking care of business do you ever notice how high or low your throne is? Most don’t. The biggest controversy is whether the guy remembers to put the seat back down. Well, listen up, Pilgrim!! A discovery preferably forgotten came when Marilyn was home alone. Nature called and Marilyn answered.

Sitting down on her throne, unlike comedy, was easy. Getting up, like live television, was hard and full of unpleasant surprises. The seat was lower than Marilyn realized. Gravity only takes you DOWN, she now recounts with a wry smile. Arising from her throne required a monumental effort. Marilyn says it was like having no legs. She kept trying, losing track of the number of efforts. Marilyn finally rocked back and forth, maybe a little Ray Charles movement, and after many dizzying efforts, she staggered to her feet. It literally took her breath away!!

Why was Marilyn left to her own devices? Mea culpa! I’d run a few errands. Marilyn asked me to do them as quickly as possible. As usual, I listened but didn’t follow her request even if I had the best of intentions. Good intentions don’t count when a person is left unattended in fragile condition.

Then there’s coffee. Any idea what nearly two weeks of hospital coffee will do to your palate? I had a sip while visiting Marilyn and my tongue rebelled. One of the first things Marilyn noticed upon her return home was the sound and smell of coffee dripping in the morning. Her first cup of real coffee elicited sighs and smiles.

Another delight for Marilyn was a shower. A REAL shower in her own bathroom. Using her own soaps and, with a little help, washing her hair. More sighs and smiles mixed with some groans as Marilyn gently cleaned the sensitive post surgery areas of her body. Wrapped in her own comfortable robe, Marilyn felt refreshed until another surge of pain jolted her reverie. Each day is a mix of small bursts of energy and longer periods pain coping that’s part of her recovery from the heart surgery that was so much more complex than originally thought.

Finally, there’s sleeping. We have one of those super-deluxe beds that lowers and raises your head and feet. It also vibrates, helping with some aches. That’s the good part. Marilyn aches from head to toe, in varying degrees 24 hours a day, even when in bed. Getting in bed is a chore. Finding the right position is another. Placing a heating pad over her bad right shoulder (muscle torn sometime during the hospital stay) is still another job. Getting quality sleep is a dream. A major problem occurs when nature calls during the middle of the night. Marilyn needs help getting out of bed and into the bathroom. I’m her faithful companion. But, as many of you know, I’m very hard of hearing. I take my hearing aids off before going to bed. Normal procedure.

However, when Marilyn needs my help at three o’clock in the morning, she either has to yell at me or hit me. I prefer the yell. It’s very, very frustrating for Marilyn. Consequently, both of us sleep fitfully. Marilyn because of the pain which never really subsides. Me because I hope I hear the nocturnal call for assistance. This would make for a bad Lifetime movie. But we’d gladly take the money.

Yesterday, Marilyn had her first visits from a visiting nurse and a physical therapist. We have a game plan. Better times are ahead, they promise. We can hardly wait!!

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE COSTUME, ISN’T IT?

Despite my passion for masked heroes, I always preferred Superman to Batman. There were a couple of reasons. Superman was genuinely super. Invulnerable. And moreover, HE COULD FLY!

Never underestimate a guy who can fly at supersonic speeds. A boyfriend like that could prove most useful on a day-to-day basis. I mean really. Hey, Supe, can you give me a hand moving to that new apartment ?

Me Not Super

Hey, Supe … the roof leaks … could you take a look at it? And that big boulder in the backyard is ruining my plans for the new garage. You think you might relocate it for me? And if you have some extra time, maybe you could build a foundation for the garage while you are at it? It will just take a couple of minutes …

Marilyn again

So, I’m a Superman kind of gal.

Above and beyond those delightful and useful powers, I loved that no one recognizes him when he wears his glasses. As a long-time eyeglass wearer, I tried it myself.

“Garry,” I say to get his attention. I then whip my glasses off, stare meaningfully into his eyes and ask “Who am I?”

He laughs. So I do it again, but he just laughs harder. I persist and try this on friends, relatives and near total strangers, but alas, no one thinks I’m Wonderwoman or Supergirl.

Do you think I need a costume? Is my white hair too much of a give-away?

If I get myself a costume — a really good costume with a cape and everything — do you think maybe I could fly? Because that’s what it’s all about. Flying. And becoming invulnerable. That would be good too.