Today, after having postponed this appointment three times, I finally went for my annual checkup with the oncologist.


I like my oncologist. He’s a very pleasant, easy-going, friendly guy. Low key. Not an alarmist. Sensitive and sensible. But, in the end, he’s the one who will tell me if I have cancer. Again.

So, as much as I like the guy, I’m not eager to see him. Too much history.

I’ve been doing well. I’ve got more energy than I used to, probably because of all the heart surgery a couple of years ago and having a pump that actually is delivering oxygen to my body. I think my breast bone has finally knitted. I no longer hear it grinding when I move.

Fake breasts

My double round of breast cancer is now 5-1/2 years past. This makes me an official survivor. I have no symptoms, no lumps, no nothing. I have exactly the same chance of getting some (new) kind of cancer as anyone. Maybe a little higher because it runs in my family, but basically, I am (finally) regular folks.

If you think of “refresh” as that thing you do on your computer monitor to clear up garbage and update your open apps? Today was my “refresh.”

I’m clean. My panel of tests are spot on normal. The lab lady found a live vein on the first stab, too!

It doesn’t get better than this.


How fast time flies! It’s a day short of two weeks since we brought Gibbs home. Amazing how he has become part of the family.

72-Bonnie & Gibbs2-031716_01

He was a little scared when he first arrived; he’s not scared now. Suspicious of strangers (probably not because he’s a rescue, but because he’s a Scottie), he barks at everyone and everything. Otherwise, Gibbs is as close to fearless as any dog I’ve known. An incorrigible sock and slipper thief, he will happily snag the sandwich from your hand.

Gibbs discovers spring and sunshine

Gibbs discovers spring and sunshine

Brazen … and funny.

In the presence of roast chicken, watch your fingers. Gibbs thought one of mine was a bonus piece of white meat. Ouch! He has quite a pair of jaws on him. His excitement in the presence of dog biscuits is epic. He looks like he is going to explode. I am guessing his earlier life didn’t include a lot of treats.

He eats faster than any dog I’ve ever lived with. He inhales his meals. I’m assuming he’ll slow down. Eventually.


He is also smart. Very. Smart. A single-correction learner. Assuming he agrees with you on the subject. If he doesn’t agree, he will do as he pleases because like all true Scotties, he’s sure he knows better than us.

He has the energy level of a puppy. It’s difficult to believe he’s nine.

So far (fingers crossed), this is the smoothest integration of a new dog into our household ever.


Ode to Spring

“Spring has sprung,

The Grass has riz,

I wonder where the flowers is?

The little bird is on the wing,

But that’s absurd!

Because the wing is on the bird!”

A ditty by Unknown

It will be near 70 degrees tomorrow. That’s 21 in Celsius, by the way. Weather just doesn’t get nicer than this.

72-crocus 2015_01

This is it. We wait for it all year. We dream of it while we shovel tons of snow and wash the residue of salt from our car’s under-body.

Solomon's Seal

Solomon’s Seal

We yearn for it through mud season while mopping the mess off the floors. Will winter never end? Will spring never come?


Winter ended.

Spring came.

I wonder where the flowers is?



At the peak of my child-raising years, I lost my voice. I went hoarse and stayed hoarse for months.


When finally I realized it wasn’t a sinus problem or a lingering virus of some kind, I went to a throat specialist.

“You have children?” he asked.


“You yell at children?” He was Russian, so imagine his accent, please.


“You maybe fight with husband?” We would soon be divorced.

“Um, kind of.”

“No more yelling. You must not yell. Not at children. Not at husband.”

“Yelling? That’s the problem?”

“Yelling is problem,” he agreed. “You must whisper only. No yelling. For one year, also not talking. S-h-h-h. Like this,” he said, demonstrating a loud whisper.


I had a full-time job, a son, two step-children and a crumbling marriage … and I was supposed to whisper for a whole year? If I wanted my voice back, that was the only way.

It didn’t happen. I’m not sure I could ever have disciplined myself to whisper for a year at any time in my life, but definitely not then. As a result, my singing voice never came back. I lost it for good and all. I can speak normally, but I can’t sing. I also can’t yell. One yell and I’m hoarse for a month.

Don’t yell. It’s very bad for your voice.



This week’s topic is alleys, driveways, parking lots, and dirt. I have new material for this and a lot of archival pictures that apply. So many, in fact, that I’m going to have to restrain my enthusiasm.

72-Road to Mountains-GAR-Sunday-011016_158

Arizona desert road – Garry Armstrong, photographer

Our driveway, looking down from the street

Our driveway, looking down from the street

Handicapped parking at the medical building

Handicapped parking at the medical building

Alley behind the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston

Alley behind the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston

Our path through the woods

Our path through the woods

Down by the sawmill

Down by the sawmill

cee's fun foto chall



1 Corinthians

11   When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12   For now we see as in a mirror darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I too am known.

I’m not usually big on quoting the bible, but sometimes — and this is one of those times — no place says it better.

72-BW-Light of the desert-MAR-Superstition-011316_311

I was an “old” child. When I was very young, I talked like a much older person. I read “adult person” literature and thought of myself as very mature. I wasn’t. I was intellectually precocious, but still a child. Who used big words and almost understood many adult things.


Almost. There are a whole lot of things that simply don’t make sense until you’ve lived a life. Reading about life isn’t living it. A child, no matter how smart, is never more mature than his or her years and experience. That’s perspective.

Perspective isn’t static. At 10, you see things through 10-year-old eyes. As years and decades roll on, you see the same things differently, sometimes extremely so. Perhaps you really do see through a glass darkly. Or you should. If decades of living don’t change your perspective, something is wrong — with you or the life you’ve lived. We are supposed to change. The only things that don’t change are dead.

I hear people my age or even younger saying “Well, that’s the way I am. I’m not going to change.”

Yeats' Grave

There’s a terrible finality in that statement. A sad finality, like a eulogy for “self.”

Someday, I’ll be too old or sick for change. The end comes to everyone. But until then, I hope my perspective keeps changing. I hope I revise my opinions often and contradict myself frequently.




As much as we reveal in our blogging, we also intentionally conceal a lot. I’m sure it’s not just me. I prefer to not expose the rusting underbody of our lives to the world at large.

Marilyn and Garry by Bette Stevens

Marilyn and Garry by Bette Stevens

I do not blog about every tiff I have with my husband or anyone else. I don’t go into the sordid details of every passing  virus, sniffle, or stomach ache. Or the gory details of our lack-of-financial life.

garry laughing

Why not? Because it’s no one’s business but ours — and also, because it’s not very interesting. Whining is boring. My own included.

I know people who are in constant crisis mode and post all of it on Facebook. They present themselves as the most unlucky people on Earth because everything always happens to them.

A pipe breaks? “OMG we’re doomed!”

Flu strikes? “Why am I afflicted by the gods? Why is the universe punishing me?”

A lost cell phone? “The sky is falling, the sky is falling.”


The other day, it struck me that we (and probably you, too) have as many of these bumps in your road of life as anyone else. Maybe more. We just don’t document each and every one … unless they make a good story. It’s always worth the virtual ink if I can make someone laugh.

Garry silly with dogs 30

Part of the pleasure of blogging is we get to present ourselves and our lives in a positive way. Unless you blog for sympathy and some people do. In our virtual world, we can be our best, most entertaining selves. If this presentation conceals our pain and misery and gives others a skewed idea of us? Who says “full disclosure” is what blogging is about?

Marilyn by Garry

Writing about all the grimy and grim details of day-to-day life is like posting ugly selfies. Why in the world would anyone want to do that?

I’d rather make you laugh. I’d rather make me laugh, too. And maybe, just sometimes, maybe (along the way) I make a point or two worth thinking about.



Geometrical shapes and angles are literally everywhere. The way the horizon lines up with the sky and how the ocean’s shore angles in towards the beach … as well as every building against the sky … all geometric.

And nature provides some surprising geometry. A flower, each petal set in a round center … and the formation of cactus thorns in neat rows and swirls. Geometry.



I’ve frequently been asked why I include — or, more to the point, why I don’t remove — the power lines in my pictures. Because the wires are the lines that impose an order on the pictures. Moreover, they are part of the landscape. Reality can be jarring, but sometimes jarring is exactly what takes a pictures from ordinary to exceptional.


This isn’t a friendly town. People fraternize with the people who attend their church and seem to regard anyone else as potentially hostile.


Of course we didn’t know that when we moved here. We knew that it was a very white town, that Garry was likely to be the first (only) person of color, and I might well be the first (only?) Jew. In fact, apparently well-intentioned people said stuff like “Gee, I’ve never known a Jewish person before” and honestly didn’t see anything wrong with this. Meanwhile, Garry got stares. No way to know if they were staring because they’d seen him on TV or because he’s brown. Both?


Our situation was made even more complicated by our neighbor, Ned. A big guy. Rode a Harley. I love Harleys, but there are Harleys and then, there are Harleys. This one was chopped and really loud. When Ned started his bike, the vibration alone could knock me out of bed.

Ned was massive. Tattooed. He hung with a bunch of skin-head friends. They had raucous parties with lots of beer. We didn’t expect to be invited, nor did these seem to be our kind of party.

picture of snow all white

Ned flew a Confederate flag over his house. Prominently. We learned he’d always done this. It was part of some family roots thing tying him to his original home state of Georgia. Me? I think it’s time the south moved on. The war ended a more than a century ago. Time to get over it. But I’m from New York so I probably don’t understand.

Our neighbor’s house was the only one in the Valley flying a confederate flag and we were the only mixed-race couple in town. Ironic, to say the least. And we were a poster couple for hate groups.

black jockey racist statue

Garry is pragmatic and tough. His mild-mannered demeanor belies his Marine Corps interior (semper fi, and note I did not say “former Marine” because there’s no such thing as a former Marine). Moreover, he couldn’t have survived 40-years as a reporter without being tough.

One fine summer’s day, music screaming from Ned’s boombox, Garry looked at me and murmured those fighting words: “This is ridiculous!”

He marched down the driveway, through the woods that join our two houses, to Ned’s front door. Garry knocked. Loudly. When Ned finally answered, Garry said: “Hi. I’m your neighbor. Garry Armstrong. Do we have a problem?”

Shortly the flag disappeared along with a noxious black jockey statue. Turned out, Ned was a plumber. He fixed our bathroom pipes. The whole skinhead thing dissolved in the face of a brown-skinned guy who did news on Boston TV. Seemed it was less important who Ned was than who Ned, with a little encouragement, was willing to become.


Eventually Ned got into drugs. Or something. We were never sure what. His wife left. His life fell apart. One day, he vanished. Fortunately, he returned our extension ladder before going.

I miss Ned. No one fixed pipes like Ned and we really need some plumbing work. He always gave us a huge discount.

He turned out to be a funny guy and a pretty good neighbor. Who’d have thunk it?


Rashmi Kashyap of Soul and Spirit has not been heard from since last December. I know her husband (who is in the army in India) was being transferred (again) and that the terrible flooding in the region affected many people, although her family had come through it intact as of last contact.


Her email was, but it does not seem to be working. It’s possible that wherever they, they don’t have connections available.

I have been worried about her and her family for a while, but they are on the other side of the world and I have no way to even try to find them. If anyone has local contacts in India, could you try to track her down and make sure she’s okay? Three months is a long time for silence to continue.

If you know anything, hear anything … please let me know? I’m not the only one who is concerned.




I have a few interesting pictures for this week’s entry. It rained most of the week and The Cold That Never Ends left me with very little energy to venture out.


Pretty yet dead tulips

Afternoon sunlight on canvas camera bag

Afternoon sunlight on canvas camera bag


There are always pictures to take.

As the season advances, the light is changing, bringing the first direct light to the front of the house since last summer.




I was 11 years old when I got my first dog, a dachshund named Schnitzel. He was my only sibling, human or canine. We grew up together and he was totally my dog.

ellin curley dachshund

My parents weren’t really “dog people” so they didn’t love him the way I did. Schnitzel and I were a team. He always knew when I was upset and was there for me. He lived to be 15, so I was 26 when he died. I left home at 22 to go to law school and then got married.

I never came back. I abandoned my buddy in his old age and to this day I feel guilty about it. At least I was with him at the end.


I didn’t get another dog until my kids were 5 and 10 years old. We got a Golden retriever mix rescue dog who was one of the most beautiful dogs I’ve ever known, inside and out. He was one of those once-in-a-lifetime dogs –- incredibly smart, uncannily sensitive, and intuitive. He was mellow, but bright and alert. And fun to be with.

Ellin Curley Sam dogs-2

Everyone loved him. The year I lived in New York City, I had to leave extra time when I walked him because people always came up to me to ask about him and pet him. But Sam belonged to the whole family. We each had a special, close relationship with him. That was his super power.

I still think about him all the time and miss him terribly, but he wasn’t my dog.

Ellin Curley Sam dog

Just 6 years ago I got another dog who connected to me in that special, intimate way. Her name is Lexie. Part Rhodesian Ridgeback, part Pomeranian, entirely gorgeous. She has a beautiful caramel face with hazel eyes and what looks like a permanent smile.

But she’s a rescue — incredibly anxious, skittish, and neurotic. She is on anxiety medication. Calmer now, but she is still frequently and easily spooked. Because of her anxiety, Lexie is not great at first meeting with new people. Not everyone “gets” her the way I do, which makes me feel more protective of her. Maybe that’s part of why I relate to her so well. I also have anxiety issues, but we are both cuddlers and we seem to calm each other.


Lexie follows me around and wants to do whatever I’m doing, even when that’s just sitting and reading or watching TV. She is wonderful with my husband and he adores her too, but our other dog, Lucky follows him around and is more HIS dog.

72-Ellin_02 lucky and lexie

My kids left home years ago, so it’s just me and Tom – and our two “shadows”. We each have our own special companion in addition to each other. Which is how it should be.

On “Grey’s Anatomy”, Meredith Grey refers to her BFF/soul mate as “My person”. Lexie is my canine “person” in my empty nest middle age years just as Schnitzel was while I was growing up.


The correct training of your two-legs… ‘specially visiting two-legses…is critical to their well-being. I thought I’d share my ten favourite tips for the establishment of proper pack behaviour… 1. Use advanced surveillance techniques. Never let them arrive unexpectedly. This gives you a unfair unique advantage. You, of course, will know long before your two-legs that […]

via Notes from a small dog – 10 tips for training your two-legs — Daily Echo


Before I put a finger on the keyboard, I admit this is probably heresy, at least to some people. On this day of days, one simply doesn’t make fun of religious movies.

But I do.

Last night, Marilyn and I had our traditional viewing of “The Ten Commandments.” Cecil B was, again, going for life-altering moments. But really, he gave us much-needed laughter. It isn’t a movie that has stood up well to the years. Time tested it — and found it wanting.


Today’s lineup of movies on our favorite cable station includes almost all of the familiar biblical movies. Few stand the test of time. Some are really well intended like George Stevens’, “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. But the man who gave us classics like “Shane”, “A Place In The Sun” and “Giant”, wound up with a ponderous and static film in “The Greatest Story”. It’s biggest sin? Boring.

As I write, we are watching Mel Brooks’, “History of the World-Part One” which is the perfect antidote to historical films that have become parodies or that were really never good. We probably have a greater appreciation of history because of Mel’s equal opportunity insults rather than the cardboard epics which play fast and loose with facts.

Mel Brooks last supper

I must admit I love watching gladiator movies. It’s a guy thing like war films.  I also enjoy seeing semi clad (or even less clad) young women engaging us in erotic dances before evil monarchs who are not playing with a full deck. But we’re not talking about great cinema here.

Charlton “call me Chuck” Heston was really honest when he talked about playing Moses. He told me it was a good gig. Working with Cecil B. DeMille (for a second time) was nice for his résumé. It actually gave him a boost for a religious film he really wanted to do.

“Ben Hur” is one of the best religious films out of Hollywood. It stands the test of time because of William Wyler’s fine direction. And, yes, the chariot race alone is still worth the price of admission.


This is obviously subjective stuff. If you love Cecil B’s heavy-handed narration of his version of the Old Testament, so let it be written. So let it be done,

We’re back with Mel. Now, it’s the French Revolution and those generously endowed girls are displaying their charms. It’s good to be the king!