I love my husband and he loves me. (Music up full.) Do I think he is the only man in the entire world to whom I could have been happily wed?


Do I think that for everyone, there’s just one person who is the morning and evening star? And if you don’t meet him/her, your life will be forever loveless?


25th Anniversary Portrait

25th Anniversary Portrait

Do I think that movies and literature are full of this kind of nonsense? Do I think a lot of teenagers believe it because it is the stuff of poetry and romance novels?


I believe in love. I am happy with my man and my marriage. I also believe that if we march into our lives assuming there is but one human being anywhere on earth who could ever be “right” for us, we are off on a narrow and precarious path. Perhaps taking a slightly broader view of our future would be better.

Just saying.


I’m afraid of falling down and breaking a hip. I’m afraid the battery in my pacemaker will run out of juice and my heart will stop beating.

I’m afraid of airport security with big machines who won’t pay attention and will kill me. But failing? I think I’ve done all the failing I’m going to do this lifetime.


I count on younger generations to handle all additional failures. I’ve exceeded my personal failure quota. I am, however, seriously involved in hanging on through the next commercial cluster of life to see what happens next. I would like to do that while remaining comfortably housed, roofed, and fed. I intend to do my utmost to keep my better half healthy too, while maintaining the handful of relationships that matter to me.

I’m not afraid of failing them, just of losing them. Attrition gets personal after a certain point in life.

I have four implanted replacement parts in this not-all-that-old body. Each one has its own serial number. I stand in absolutely no danger of ever being a “Jane Doe” on some medical examiner’s slab. I figure the parts that can fail, have already failed. The next failure will be my official sign off.

Marilyn with shawl

You are free to worry about failing in love, marriage, job performance, parenting, or any other goal-driven activity to which you are committed. You may be deeply involved in making your next novel a best-seller, quaking with fear that this success or lack thereof will define you.

I’m here to tell you that no matter what happens, your failure — or success — won’t, didn’t, doesn’t define you. Unless you want it to.

You aren’t your achievements, your failures, your fears, your disasters. You aren’t even those nasty messes you leave behind. Or your illnesses and/or disabilities. You are something else. Someone else. You have a soul.

With a variety of replaceable parts.


Once upon a time, in a far away land, The Boss assigned me a secretary. Not part of a pool, but a whole person. With a master’s degree from Mt. Holyoke. Pretty daunting, me with my little B.A. from Hofstra. So I said to The Boss:

“What is she supposed to do?”

“You write, she does the typing.”

He apparently thought I wrote in longhand. On paper.

I learned to touch type when I was 10 and hadn’t written anything longer than a grocery list by hand since then. Now, I had a secretary who was supposed to type for me? I was supposed to write longhand? I can barely hand write a list and decipher it later. I can’t think without a keyboard. Regardless, I had a secretary.

She was American, like me. Thin. Tall. Blonde. (Unlike me!) Very nervous. Twitchy.


We discovered a shared passion for horses and went riding together. She rode a lot better than me. She had her own helmet, crop, jacket … the whole regalia. I had jeans and a pair of battered boots. I’d never worn a helmet.

About the same time, I had a less heartwarming revelation. I discovered my secretary was a dedicated nose picker — and she ate it. She was fast and sneaky, but when you spend every working day with someone in close quarters, it would have been impossible to not notice her long, nervous finger up her nose.

I’m sure everyone probably picks their nose sometimes, but this was different. She couldn’t stop. She admitted she’d damaged the lining of her nose from constant attacks with her fingernails.

Our offices were on the fourth floor of a warehouse. No elevator, so you got plenty of exercise. The boss was an orthodox Jew from Belgium. Other than Judaism, he believed in feeding his employees and giving everyone lots of vacation time. It was a good job. He was one of the kindest, most decent men  I ever knew, much less worked for.

Two floors below us was a chocolate factory. They made all kinds dark chocolate-covered citrus fruits (my favorite was grapefruit). If you were Kosher, you could eat them with meat or dairy. And oh my, they were so good. Around two in the afternoon, they fired up the chocolate vats and the smell would start drifting upward. I sent my secretary to get me chocolate. I didn’t know what else to do with her and watching her ream out her nose was getting to me. By mid afternoon, I not only needed chocolate. I needed a break.

She was such a nice woman. Smart. Well-educated. She objected to being sent on errands. I sighed. I didn’t really have much else for her to do. The nose-picking was wearing me down. I found myself trying to not look at her lest I catch her digging with a finger up to a second knuckle. One day I was sure she’d hit brain matter.


Finally, she refused to get me chocolate and I had no work for her. Moreover, she was unable to keep her fingers where they belonged. I went to the boss. I said I felt my secretary needed to move on, perhaps to someone else in the company who needed her services more than I. He looked at me.

“What is the real problem?”

“It’s embarrassing.”

“Tell me.”

“She picks her nose. And eats it.”

I thought he was going to toss his cookies on the desk. That was the end of the story. In reality, not only did I not need a secretary, no one did. It was a computer development company. We all worked on keyboards. So her departure was inevitable. I just sped it up by a few weeks.

I didn’t mention the picking thing, but she knew. She also had to know she was underemployed. I’ve been in that position. You know when you’re redundant. No one will pay you indefinitely when they don’t need your services … unless your mom or dad owns the company and even that doesn’t come with a guarantee.

Still, if it hadn’t been for the nose picking and her refusal to get me chocolate, she’d have had a bit more time.


Unless you count drinking coffee and checking email as a ritual, I don’t really have any. I do, however, have practices. Stuff I do, stuff I believe or at least pretend to believe.

As time has galloped by, I’ve renounced stuff. I didn’t really need it anyhow. I gave up worrying. I gave up working. I gave up the lottery, although I occasionally still buy a ticket — just in case.

pumpkin patch with steeple

I gave up wanting a new car or expecting old friends to call. Some of them don’t remember me. Some don’t remember themselves I’ve stopped hoping Hollywood will make movies I like, even though they sometimes release a good one.

I’ve stopped trying to like new music and most television shows. I’ve ceased trying to figure out what’s going on with the Red Sox.

Some stuff gave me up.

When anyone asks me how or why I have given up whatever it was, I tell them it was for religious reasons. Almost no one has the temerity to ask what I mean by that. But so you know, I will herein reveal my secret.

UU Church 44

I don’t mean anything. It’s nothing more than a way to end a conversation. No one wants to offend me by asking for the details of my religious beliefs. Who knows? They might turn out to be embarrassing or bizarre. Thus my all-purpose answer to everyone is “religious principles,” or “my spiritual adviser told me to do it.”

Given recent news events, you can but imagine what enormous power these words hold. They will make a conversation vanish without telling someone to shut up. It works on everyone except those who really know me. They will raise one or more eyebrows, and fall over laughing.

If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

For religious reasons.


We’ve been on a roll these past few days, the “angst mojo” temporarily set aside.


Now, we’re home, after spending a couple of wonderful days in Connecticut with old friends, sharing memories that date back to college and the 60’s when we and our world were young.

Ellin and Tom are special folks. Ellin gets top billing because she’s so quiet and often taken for granted.


She is the hostess — no matter what else she is coping with in her family life. She’s the woman you thought only existed in the movies or those old TV shows where everything is seemingly perfect.


Ellin is multi-talented. Superb cook, budding author, wife and mom. She’s humble about all her achievements. Amazing when she is surrounded by two guys with 80 plus years combined in radio and TV news. Guys who are often nonstop with their stories about the BIZ. Ellin and Marilyn have a special bond in that respect.

Gracious, I think, is the best word to describe Ellin. Like us, she and Tom always have furry kids around who brighten their lives. It’s nice to visit and come back with fur on our clothing. Makes it seem just like home.

Tom is the kid  who never grew up. We’ve known him since JFK was in the oval office. He is recently retired after 40 years as a highly respected director and audio expert with CBS News.

He’s still active, producing and directing cracker jack (does anyone say that anymore?) radio drama. Tom and Ellin actually are an impressive acting, writing and jack-of-all-trades team in radio drama that deserves a wider audience. Their work is far superior to the stuff being offered by network suits.


A day on Tom and Ellin’s boat is just what the doctor ordered for Marilyn and me. It’s a perfect day. Sunny, warm and with just a slight breeze. Surprise! Ellin has a lunch spread ready before we can settle in.

It allows me to fantasize as I survey other boats. Maybe we’ll see Bogey on Santana, Travis McGee and The Busted Flush, Slate Shannon with Bold Venture or maybe Grant and Hepburn on  True Love. Who knows what can happen as you dream?

My reverie is interrupted as Tom shares some more stories that have all of us roaring with laughter. In between we compare family drama that have us nodding at each other.


Then it’s back to more silliness and laughter. These are the best of times.

All photography by Garry Armstrong or Marilyn Armstrong with the Pentax Q7.


Marilyn Armstrong:

I just couldn’t stop laughing when I read this. And right now, I need a laugh. Maybe so do you. Enjoy!

Originally posted on The happy Quitter!:

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I am happily  married to 98% of the time. I love my  husband dearly, he is my best friend and the nail to my coffin :-). However, there are days, when I want to whack him the frying pan and I assume he feels the same way. There are days, when we seem to talk two different languages. It took  me 30+ years of marriage, but I finally found the answer:

View original 1,016 more words


“Americans. They think everybody is snowflake. Only one snowflake. Only one you. But in Korea we think like snowball. Everybody snowball.” Yun-ji packed an imaginary snowball in her hands, then lifted it, palms up, as if offering Billie a present. “You see? Snowball.”

Both of them looked at Yun-ji’s hands holding nothing.

“Snowball,” Yun-ji repeated, then looked at Billie, at her unhappy mouth, at her face that looked like it had been bleached, and she pictured that soldier sitting in the tank, listening to head phones, maybe reading a Rolling Stone magazine, then the call coming in over the radio, the hurried attempts to think of an excuse, some reason why he didn’t see two fourteen-year-old girls walking down a deserted country road in South Korea.

“Never mind,” Yun-ji said and dropped her hands.


There are a lot of levels to this book. It’s a book about cultures and differences, but it’s also a book about the similarities that underlay human societies. In the end, our humanity trumps our differences and enables us to reach out to those who seem at first unreachable.

It’s about women and men, their relationships, their failure to communicate. The endless misunderstandings arising from these failed efforts — or failed lack of effort. It’s also about the assumptions we make based on appearance and how terribly wrong are the deductions we make based on what we think we see. And how we use bad information to make our choices.  And finally, the pain that results from choices — even when the choices are the best available.

The story takes place in South Korea. Billie, a young American woman, is in the country to teach English to grade school children. She has come there with her friend, lover and partner and shortly realizes she is pregnant. It’s as wrong a time in her life to have a baby as there possibly could be and probably the worst possible place she could be — far away from her home and isolated by distance and culture. The story is told in the first person by Billie as well as two other first person narrators, both south Korean.  Yun-ji is a young woman approximately the same age as Billie who also becomes pregnant and a man named Moon who is divorced and suffering through a painful separation from his son.

All the characters deal with problems springing from damaged relationships and miscommunication, misunderstanding, problems with parenting, pregnancy and abortion. Despite cultural differences, in the end the pain is very personal — and remarkable similar — for each.  There are no simple, happy answers.

It’s well-written and held my interest from start to finish. Whether or not the book will resonate for you may depend on your age and stage in life’s journey. For me,  it was a trip back in time to the bad old days before Roe Vs. Wade made abortion a viable choice. Of course, one of the issues made very clear in the book is that the legality of abortion doesn’t make it less of a gut-wrenching, life-altering decision. Anyone who thinks abortion is the easy way out should read this. Whatever else it is, it’s not easy.

It’s a good book. Strongly written, presenting highly controversial issues in a deeply human context.

The Korean Word for Butterfly is available in paper back and Kindle.