GRATEFUL PILGRIMS – SHARING OUR WORLD

Share Your World – 2014 Week 39

Did you ever get lost?

Did I ever get lost? When am I not lost? I have no sense of direction. Ask anyone. You could put a paper bag over my head in my living room, twirl me around twice, take the bag off and I would be lost.

Autumn through the window

Traveling? I can read a map – my saving grace. Of course we have a GPS but as often as not, it sends us to the wrong place. Boston is hopeless for a GPS. Everything is so close together, half the time the GPS thinks we are driving up the Charles River and not Storrow Drive. It loses its signal in the tunnels. Many street names in Boston are duplicated in several locations and the GPS always sends us to the wrong part of town.

In more rural areas, our GPS sends us via weird back roads to bridges that washed out years ago, by roads that are closed. Permanently. And obviously have been closed for a long time. If it sends us outbound via a logical, fast, efficient route, it reroutes us coming home, whimsically sending us down strange, twisting paths until we are forced to double back to a main road.

Nowadays, I print directions from Google or Mapquest before I go anywhere, with or without the GPS. If I or Garry doesn’t know how to get there from memory, I have a backup plan. Sadly, more than half the time, the printed directions are wrong too. What to do?

Back to paper maps and atlases. Because at least they don’t lie. Well, not usually.

Who was your best friend in elementary school?

Carol was my best friend, but I do not think I was her best friend. I know I was an important influence on her, at least intellectually, introducing her to music and books, and that took her all the way to a Ph.D.  But she had a lot of friends, while I had her. I was not one of the pretty girls, not part of the “in crowd,” nor one of the cool kids.

By the end of high school, I didn’t care. When I was a little kid, though, it hurt.

Since the new television season has started in the US, list three favorite TV shows.

NCIS, Blue Bloods for both of us.

Garry: The Good Wife.

Marilyn: Legends.

But Madame Secretary, Gotham, Scorpion are all good … and The Black List is back. I’m optimistic about this season. I think this will be a good year. About time!

If you were a mouse in your house in the evening, what would you see your family doing?

Watching television. Playing with the dogs. Snacking. Laughing and making comments about the scripts and characters on the screen. Maybe I’ll be writing at the same time. Or editing. Or maybe Garry will check for email. Nothing really exciting, I’m afraid.

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

I would be remiss if I didn’t say how incredibly grateful both Garry and me are for all the help we have been given by so many people. Good friends, old friends, people we haven’t seen in more than 30 years … people we have never met and only know from the Internet — as well as completely strangers have sent us gifts that will allow us to fix our well.

We have an agreement with the well guy. He will get to us as soon as he can. There are a lot of dry wells right now and since we have — at this point — a little water which we supplement with jugs of bought water, we can gut it out for a couple of weeks. We just have to continue being very careful to use as little water as possible.

It has not rained at all. But — there’s a reasonably good chance of rain tomorrow and maybe next week too.

robby and bouquet

Thank you — everyone — for your kindness, your support, your prayers and wishes. It restores much of my lost faith in humanity. When our backs were solidly against the wall, you came through. I will never forget your kindness. Not as long as I live.

IT WAS A MIGHTY RIVER – GARRY ARMSTRONG

The Mumford is normally a powerful little river. It’s the largest of the Blackstone’s tributaries.  The Mumford’s wrath has more than once been felt as it overflowed its banks and turned the town into a lake.

Mumford Dam - May 2014

Mumford Dam – May 2014

Mighty no more. The Mumford is barely a stream. Until the dam in Uxbridge, where the river crosses Route 16, the river looks more or less normal.

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That’s because the dam contains the water, allowing only a small spillway and a tiny overflow to pass the dam and flow into the Mumford. Immediately in front of the dam, there are a few inches of water – enough to sustain a few small fish that can feed at least one blue heron.

Mumford River - September 2014

Mumford River – September 2014

Just across the overpass formed by Route 16, probably no more than 200 feet from the dam, the river becomes a series of shiny, reflective puddles. Not a river at all. Unable to sustain fish or other water-based life. No turtles. No ducks, geese, or swans.

One heron, waiting for a fish

One heron, waiting for a fish

The drought to which no one is paying attention, which is being ignored by TV stations and newspapers alike, is taking a terrible toll on wildlife. If it doesn’t start to rain soon and steadily, it’s going to take a similar toll on people, especially those of us who get our water from private wells.

Mumford River, just down from the dam

Mumford River, just down from the dam

We all share the same aquifer. Not just in the Blackstone Valley. All over the state and across state lines into Connecticut and Rhode Island. The aquifer, a series of interconnected waterways that run through the base rock of New England, doesn’t know about state lines.

72-Heron-GA_025

Your well, my well, the wells belonging to my neighbors up and down our street and wherever the aquifer runs … they are all connected. Your well may be on your property, but the water belongs to all of us. Your water use affects me as surely as does the lack of rain.

Pretty reflections in the shallow puddles of the Mumford

Pretty reflections in the shallow puddles of the Mumford

Even if you are on “city water,” where do you think your water comes from? We are the watershed.

The water source is here. If we are drying up, so are you. Whether you know it or not.


As many of you may know, our well recently went dry. It was a chaotic moment for us. We did not have the money to renovate our well. I had no bright ideas. We had one option. I didn’t like it but we didn’t have a choice. We had to ask for financial help. It probably was the most depressing moment of my adult life.

I was surprised by the response. I am still shaking my head in wonderment at the generosity of friends and strangers. We’ve received enough money to schedule the renovation of our well.

Thank you doesn’t seem adequate to convey our gratitude.

Thank you!

THANK YOU, I THINK

It can be difficult to tell compliments from insults. You’d think it would be easy and obvious, but it isn’t.

As a child, my mother comforted me with her classic line. Somewhere in my head, I can still hear her. A lonely (probably weird) child, as a teenager, it took me a long time to find my social self.

But Mom could always reassure me in her own special way: “There’s someone for everyone,” she told me. “Even you.”

1970

1970

And then there was the clothing my mother made for me. It was gorgeous, fashionable and of far better quality than the other little girls wore. The Mean Girls (those girls have been around forever and live everywhere) just said “Eww! Where did you get that ugly dress?” It wasn’t ugly. They were ugly.

Nicer, kinder people (adults mostly) would say, “Your mother must have made that for you. It’s so … interesting.”

As a young woman, I put on a lot of weight. Before I eventually got rid of that hundred and fifty pounds, there were some great lines from “friends” who knew just the right words to make me feel good:

“You dress really well for a fat girl.”

“I don’t think of you as fat. You’re just Marilyn.”

Later on, no longer fat, but still me, compliments have streamed in nonstop:

“I thought you were a nun. Don’t you own anything that isn’t black?”

My all time favorite, from the woman who never managed to get my first husband to the altar (though had he lived longer, she might have worn him down — she just needed another decade or two) … and who couldn’t figure out the source of my continuing popularity with men.

“I’m very, very nice to them. I make them feel special and loved,” I said. There was more to it, but this was all I was willing to share.

“I do that too,” she whined. (No, she didn’t.) “But,” she continued, getting more nasal by the minute, “How come they marry you?”

And finally, after I published my book.

“It was much better than I expected.”

What were you expecting?

WHY, THANK YOU? Daily Prompt

 

BONNIE IS BACK!!

BONNIE IS BACK.

It was a long day for us, but Bonnie is fine. She had, I gather, a lovely day full of biscuits and romping with her new pal, a Boston Terrier. Garry and I are finally breathing!! Yay.

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Thanks to everyone who kept an eye out. She was apparently picked up by a motorist on Rt. 98 and taken home to Douglas where she had a fine mini vacation. Many thanks to the Uxbridge and Douglas Police, both of whom helped make sure she found her way back to us.

And especially thanks to Joyce, Uxbridge’s intrepid Animal Control officer for her support and assistance.

A MEGA THANK YOU TO MY GOOD FRIENDS

field-of-flowers-award2

FIELD OF FLOWERS AWARD

The creative and marvelous Cee Neuner has graced me with not one, but three awards, none of which I’ve gotten before.

First, I want to thank Cee at Cee’s Photography She is not only a wonderfully creative photographer, she’s a truly supportive friend. She puts a lot of effort into supporting the work of others. Always willing to share the credit and help us find our own fans and followers. She creates prompts that are fun, low stress and aim at getting lots of people involved. It’s been a real joy getting to know her.

I’ve been trying to avoid awards. I have so many. It seems there must be other people who need attention and the “lift” an award brings … but saying no makes me feel like an ingrate so I’m doing this … a mega thank you, long overdue.

But after this, no more, okay? It’s an embarrassment of riches and there are so many young, relatively new blogs out there where some attention and an award would make them feel that they are finally appreciated and noticed!

inner peace award

INNER PEACE AWARD

The three awards from Cee are THE FIELD OF FLOWERS AWARD, THE INNER PEACE AWARD, and THE LIGHTHOUSE AWARD. Each suggests I name a bunch of other blogs to honor, but everyone I connect with is full up with awards. So you are welcome to choose to come and accept an award, responding on whatever level makes you feel comfortable.

I more than understand if you just don’t want to deal with it. Our lives do get busy and full. It can seem less of an award and more an exercise in playing creative “tag you’re it”! Let’s not make it stressful!

About Me, First Go Round

LIGHTHOUSE AWARD

LIGHTHOUSE AWARD

I’m a writer, first and foremost since it was my profession for my entire working life, now my joyous avocation too

A photographer second– but not far behind. I’ve been a serious amateur photographer since I got my first camera the year I turned 22. I think I’m finally getting good enough to feel I’ve made progress

I have a ton of medical problems. I am going in for some big deal heart surgery at the beginning of March. I will be in hospital for about a week and get (oh joy) to spend my birthday (again, third time) in hospital — but hopefully, not the ICU. I don’t think I’m going to die. I do firmly believe I’m going to really hate this — but who likes major surgery, right?

With a teensy bit of luck, will be back annoying everyone in short order.

I started blogging for no particular reason but, to paraphrase something everyone says, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” I’m conscientiously unstructured, unfocused and free-wheeling.

I never want blogging to feel like work. I want to be able to surprise myself and everyone else with variety, wild mood swings, and abrupt changes of subject.  I’m happy that my two co writers – Rich Paschall of Sunday Night Blog and my kick-ass husband, Garry Armstrong — are as free-wheeling as am I. They will be carrying on here to the best of their ability while I’m down for the count.

Regardless — if you want predictability, to know what’s coming? There are lots of blogs that fill specific niches. This is not one of them.

More Honors (I am truly humbled!)

DRAGON LOYALTY AWARD

DRAGON LOYALTY AWARD

From the fabulous Alienorajt, I am honored with the Dragon Loyalty Award. I think I may have really earned this one. I am nothing if not faithful to other bloggers whose sites I admire and who I feel spread “The Good Stuff” around.

There are so many nasty, miserable sods out there … then … there’s Alienora! Thank you my good friend!

Alienora is a writer. She writes bawdy, honest posts. Sometimes fiction, often funny, almost always deeply touching. A woman of integrity, with great heart, please visit her.

Stuff About Me – You really want MORE?

I’m supposed to come up with 7 more things. Okay, if you insist:

  1. Born and raised in New York city.
  2. Married first time at 18. Bore my son at 22.
  3. My grandchild was born in 1996 and when she isn’t making trouble, she’s the light of my life. Okay, even when she is making trouble.
  4. Writer since forever.
  5. Photographer since a few years shy of forever.
  6. Collect old hard plastic and antique dolls as well as ancient Chinese pottery.
  7. I’m a hard-core reader. Take away everything else, but leave my books. And a few tunes.

Four More? Yes, more!

FOUR AWARDS!

FOUR AWARDS!

From my good and loyal friend, Sharla Shults at The Catnip of Life and Awakenings, comes this collection of awards. Like me, Sharla accepts and offers, but doesn’t feel obliged to make anyone do a lot of work. Getting an award is supposed to be fun! From Sharla, it always is!

Sharla writes about life, love, this country and those we honor. She writes poetry, short fiction, and just …. rather like me … about stuff she find interesting and fun. Music, holidays and the great people who are part of our history.

Visit her. She’ll charm and delight you :-)

Versatile Blogger that’s me!

versatileblogger11Almost forgot and I do apologize. I’ve been collecting all these awards in a file, always planning to do something about them and never quite getting around to it. But here’s the final award — one I’ve gotten previously a couple of times but which seems more appropriate than most.

This award comes from Great Blue Herons, a beautiful photo blog with pictures that make me drool and wonder how come I never get the wild things to stay put and pose for me! You will not, I promise, regret visiting her sight. It’s an inspiration!

I’m (Sort of) (In A Way) Passing Out Batons!

YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO A DAMN THING. i JUST LOVE YOUR BLOG!

YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO A DAMN THING. I LOVE YOUR BLOG!

Everyone to whom I would give awards has already given me awards and mostly, I’ve returned the favor. It has begun to feel a lot like a chain letter. So many of you have honored me, it’s truly humbling. I give to all of you a most heartfelt thank you. ALL of you, the people I follow, those about whom I comment … I hear your voices loud and clear. You have supported me, been there for me for two years and you know who you are.

This is my gift to you, originally from Sharla. It’s the award that says it all, the one you can proudly display without worrying about paying anything forward or back. Come and get it! If you are reading this, you’ve earned it!!

Come take an award. Pick one you don’t have. Take them all :-)

YOU ALL DESERVE THE HONOR and I’m proud to know you!

BYE BYE 2013 – THANKS TO ALL MY FRIENDS!

As we approach the final days of 2013, I looked at the numbers for 2012 and 2013. It’s hardly a fair comparison. I only started blogging in February of 2012 and didn’t get serious about it until late summer. Moreover, November of 2012 was an amazing month for bloggers. Between Hurricane Sandy and the presidential election, the Internet was firing on all cylinders. Almost everyone was involved to some degree. I got my highest ever numbers that month. I’ll probably never get higher numbers, unless we have another set of overlapping events that rivets national attention on the media.

Overall, this has been a good year. Not a vast number of visitors each day, but faithful followers who really read, look and share. I know there are more out there who read the emails and don’t visit my home planet and others who use the Reader and thus don’t register in the statistics (why is that? Anyone know?) … but regardless, I’m satisfied. As Mercutio said “Tis enough. T’will serve.”

STATS 2012-2013

December isn’t finished yet, but it will be no better than the low-end of average. The holidays were slow on balance, at least for me. I wrote less too as I got busy with other things.  I’m beginning to cut down on the number of items I post each day. Not only can I not keep up that pace, but I was beginning to feel like a spammer. Time to ease back on the throttle.

I got 77,000+ hits this year and long since passed 100,000 total hits. When that happened, my internal pressure dropped. I had made my point, at least to myself. I had an audience. When I passed 1000 followers — and the number keeps growing to my amazement — I felt I’d arrived pretty much where I wanted to be. I have readers, people who regularly visit and like my work.

I’m better, too. Practice and all that, my photography and writing have improved. Writing is tighter, crisper, more to the point. And shorter, which makes it less daunting to write and read. I have a couple of co-editors — Rich Paschall and my husband Garry — to help carry this site forward and give it some variety and texture. Ideas and stories from someone who isn’t me. I’m hoping to find one more steady contributor, but I can take my time. To quote Michael Valentine Smith, “Waiting is.”

I never did have a specific point to make. I didn’t start blogging for some special reason or in support of a particular cause or viewpoint. I don’t think I could stick to one thing and do it every day. I’d get bored. I can’t even decorate a room in one consistent style. I once thought to satisfy my eclectic artistic sense, I would need a huge house or castle. I’d have to decorate each room in a different motif. Then it would be like The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. You could walk through the house and each room would represent an historical period with appropriate furnishings, architecture, art and artifacts. Wouldn’t that be awesome? It’s a nice thought, yes?

When I get down to reality, not merely do I not have that kind of money, but who would clean that museum? The dusting alone would require a small army. Nope. Just have to keep life smaller.

Thank you all for coming to read my stuff, look at my pictures. Your comments, feedback, votes of confidence have meant the world to me. You fuel me with ideas and it’s often in responding to your comments I know what I want to say. Without you, it would be a dull and disconnected life.

ARE YOU SURE? REALLY? 100,000 HITS? ME? WOW … THANKS GUYS!

100,000 HITS

A few hours ago while we were stuck in traffic on Route 95, I hit two major milestones: 600 followers and 100,000 hits. On the same day — entirely coincidentally. I wrote this post a couple of days ago . I knew the 100,000 would happen this week. (The 600 followers was a total surprise.)

When I started blogging, I wasn’t sure why. A year and a half later, I still couldn’t tell you why. I still don’t know. The simplest explanation is the truest: I enjoy it. I love writing and having people read it. Having an audience is a huge gift. Writers really need readers. Anyone who says they write for themselves is lying … to themselves, if not everyone else. Fortunately, readers need writers. Together we have a wonderful synergy.

I mustn’t forget photography. I’ve been taking pictures almost as long as I’ve been writing. Posting my favorites — not to mention Garry’s photos and other members of the family — really beats out slide shows after dinner or emailing them to people who may or may not even open the attachment. Finally, I get feedback. Somebody out there likes me!

I’m not as good a photographer as many of you. Some of you who follow me — I can’t figure out why. I’m flattered, of course, but you are so much better than me. Despite all the years this has been my hobby, I’m still a babe in the woods with Photoshop. I never seem to get the beautiful “finish” the rest of you get. Part of it is equipment. Lenses to be more exact. I don’t have the great glass I would like. I wish I could throw money at it, but not now. I live in hope of miracles.

Where does hope live? Where is the place we live when life’s not treating us well? When things are going wrong and if you stop and think about it, your brain turns to jelly and you can’t form a coherent thought? When the magnitude of the problems in your life exceed your capacity to process?

Me? I read, write and make pictures. I read your posts, look at your pictures. Sometimes I comment, often I read, look, smile and leave a “like” behind, kind of a calling card to say “Hey, I was here!” I wish I could spend more time on your sites but I run out of time. This blogging thing … it really chews up the hours and days.

I started small. I posted something once in a while and then didn’t post anything for a while, then started putting a few things up now and then. Then … oh, I don’t know. I just got into it. There was no epiphany, no revelation. One day, I just felt I should write, post a picture. The next day, I felt that way again, so I did and then more than once a day.

It was the presidential election that sucked me into the maelström with a vengeance. Talk about lively. The Internet wasn’t merely buzzing. It was screaming. People who normally wouldn’t get involved were out there, giving their opinions on every public forum. The cyber world was wild and I got a share of the action. I doubt I’ll ever post numbers as high as I did in October and November 2012. Crazy numbers, crazy time.

It’s easy to blog when there’s huge controversy everywhere, gigantic hurricanes washing away the right coast of the U.S. It’s harder now. There is always a horrible political thing going on but I find myself writing about my smaller world. Sometimes, it’s about how my little world intersects with the great big world. That’s when politics become deeply personal.

The road, as J.R.R. Tolkien says, goes on and on … back to the point where it began.

And so it does. There’s no starting point, no inherent end. I write, I take pictures and will do that as long as I can. Eventually, after the New Year, I’ll have to stop. For a while. Hopefully not too long a while, but I know it will happen. I hope you folks will remember me and come back to visit now and then.

Meanwhile, it’s been a Hell of a ride. I remember when I got my first 5,000 hits and thought “Wow! 5,000! Never thought this would happen!” and the numbers kept marching upward. A couple of months ago, it became obvious I would cross over the 100,000 mark — a biggie. So … what next?

I never had a plan for my site. 100,000 hits was never a goal. I never told myself if I get “this many followers” or “that many hits,” I will know I’m successful. I consider myself successful because running this site gives me so much pleasure and I don’t want to stop. There are popular blogs that baffle me (why?) and wonderful blogs that fall by the wayside. You can take you best guess at figuring out (1) what constitutes success and (2) why it comes to some, but not others equally or more deserving. Some of is luck, stumbling onto a topic that catches peoples’ attention. And getting noticed by people who help promote you. And I suspect much of it is persistence — posting interesting material often so everyone knows they can always find new stuff on your site.

I never had a goal. I still don’t. I love writing and photography. I enjoy meeting people from all over the world. Learning how their lives are the same and different from mine. Chatting through comments. Getting new ideas. It is the stuff you guys say, in comments and on your own sites, that triggers what I write. You feed my imagination, inspire my muse. And challenge me to be better.

Thanks. Everyone. Really thank you. Truly you are the wind beneath my wings.