Layers of airplanes stacked from floor to ceiling at the Tuskegee Airmen exhibit
More layers of flying machines at the Tuskegee Airmen exhibit hall
This old flying machines shows its own layers! See the on-board trunk for carrying stuff. Here is the origin of the word “trunk”which we use in modern American cars to describe the “boot” that holds all our “stuff”

SCHOLARSHIP EVENT SEPTEMBER 9, 2017 – Photography by Marilyn and Garry Armstrong

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017


Share Your World – September 18, 2017

Complete this sentence: I want to learn more about …

How the menus work in my cameras. Every time I think I’ve nailed it, I discover yet another sub-menu to a sub-menu with a list of options that means absolutely nothing to me. Does anyone really use all these options? The explanations are meaningless, too. I’m always afraid I’m going to accidentally change something and the camera will never work again!

I swear they add these options just so they can raise the price of the camera because they’ve given you “extra options”!

On a vacation what you would require in any place that you sleep?

A really comfortable bed. If the bed is sufficiently comfortable, I might never leave.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Camera equipment and dog toys. It keeps humans and furry folks happy.

Today we got four new squeaky toys which are, coincidentally, identical to their other, grungier toys. They were overjoyed. Thrilled. All three of them bounded around the house squeaking their toys until, finally, everything stopped squeaking. But for that two hours, they were the happiest dogs in the world.

My favorite!


Even a new camera doesn’t make me quite that happy.

What inspired you this past week? Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination.

My cardiologist inspired me to find someone who teaches Tai Chi. I need to get the body moving, even if slowly.

It turns out, someone in Northbridge gives classes. The price is right, too. I am coaxing Garry to come along. The stretching won’t hurt either of us and maybe we’ll meet other crotchety seniors with whom we can hang.


My daughter, Sarah, came out of the womb as her own person. Her independent spirit revealed itself before the age of two and a half. Psychologists I’ve talked to say this is unusual. But does it mean that this aspect of personality is inborn?

Here is an example of what I mean. When Sarah was less than two, she got confused because another little boy had the same name as her brother, David. I told her that the other David was Jan’s (the Mom’s) David, like your brother David is mine and you are mine. She was sitting on my lap. She pulled away from me and emphatically stated “NO! I MINE!”

Sarah at 18 months

That apparently shows an advanced level of separation as a distinct individual from the mother. This usually happens much later in a child’s development.

Another example involved bedtime. At eighteen months, my older son had always needed me to stay with him till he fell asleep. So that’s what I did with Sarah at that age. I stood by her crib and sang to her and told her stories. One night, after I had been with her for a few minutes, Sarah said “You can go now Mommy. I want to go to sleep!” I was surprised but thrilled that she could assert herself and tell me what she wanted. And that she could go to sleep on her own. She was always a self-soother. David never was.

A similar incident occurred with her Dad when Sarah was a little over two years old. Her father was tickling her while she played with his watch. She hated being tickled and asked her dad to stop. He kept tickling. She asked him to stop more emphatically. He didn’t. So she hit him in the face with the watch. Her father was stunned. He asked her why she had hit Daddy and hurt him.

Her answer – “I told you to stop”. Wow! That was a “Make my day” moment!

Sarah at two

Her father never tickled her again. He also treated her with much more respect from that day on. Sarah instinctively knew how to set limits and to protect herself and her space. I wish I had that moxie, even as an adult.

My son had a very different temperament. When I would tell my five-year old son that he had upset me by doing something I didn’t like, his response was usually “I’m sorry Mommy! I won’t do it anymore.” Perfect response from a mother’s perspective. When I said the same thing to my five-year old Sarah, her response was “I’m sorry you’re upset. But you’ll just have to deal with it.” Not exactly a mother’s dream child.

So is this deep sense of self genetic? Are we born either with a sense of boundaries or not? That seems to be the case with my kids. I’ve watched these personality differences continue into adulthood. David has always been more like me and Sarah has always been more like her father in this regard.

After having my own children and watching them develop over time, I now believe that nature may have an edge over nurture when it comes to certain basic characteristics and personality traits. I’m sure there are examples of nurture being the dominant force, but in my experience, I vote for nature over nurture on the basics of who were are.


I went looking in my files for a story — which I didn’t find. Maybe it’s on one of my backup drives. I’ll have to look. Meanwhile, I found this unfinished bit. I wrote it in 2006. Life is much better now. It is interesting seeing how far we have come in a decade and how, despite my pessimism and a lot of setbacks … we’re still here. These days, instead of dunning us for money, the banks want to give us more credit cards and keep raising our credit limits.

The message is SPEND, SPEND! My answer is NO, NO! But thanks for thinking of us. Please send cash, not credit.


My first call this morning was from Discover card, to which entity I owe some thousands of dollars. You can always tell it’s a creditor. Their calls have a special hollow sound. Probably caused by their always using a speaker or microphone.

“Good morning. May I speak with Marilyn Armstrong.”

“Speaking.” Sigh. Here we go again.

“I was wondering if you were intending to make a payment this month.”

“No. I have no money. My unemployment has run out. I have an income of zero.”

“Well, have you considered returning to work?”

I paused for a long moment, pondering the hundreds of resumes I’ve sent, the dozens of phone calls, the days and weeks searching employment websites.

“Actually,” I said, “I have decided I don’t feel like working. You see, ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be poor. Not merely a little short of money. Oh no. I wanted to be so poor that I can only shop at the Salvation Army on half price days. I want to be awakened in the early hours of my weekend by creditors dunning me for money. I want to make choices, like ‘do I eat or do I buy medication? Do I keep the telephone or pay the electric bill?’ You know, miss … what was your name? I didn’t catch it …”

“Tracy …” she replied.

“Well Tracy, even when things were going really well, I was always yearning for the day when I wouldn’t be able to go to the doctor because I have no medical insurance.  So I plotted and schemed until I found a company that was sure to go bankrupt while I worked there owing me three or four months back salary … oh and I also arranged for my husband to be abruptly jobless and for economy to tank… and voilà! I got what I wanted.” And I clicked off.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I’m sure my wit was lost on her, but at least recounting it to Garry made him smile. Everyone keeps telling us that it’s going to get better because it has to. Call me a skeptic. I bet that’s what they told the homeless families as the sheriff evicted them.

Being poor in America is considered a sin. If you are poor, people assume you are also lazy, stupid, and uneducated … unless they are liberals, in which case they assume that you come from a deprived background where your mother was a prostitute and your father is doing twenty-five to life.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

People like us, who were very good earners and lived a decent facsimile of the American Dream — until it turned into the American Nightmare — scare the pants off other people. Our ill-fortune might be contagious. What happened to us could happen to them. They could face ruin because the economy faltered, they got sick, worked for a company that went bankrupt, or were declared obsolete or too expensive  … or worst of all, they got old and were pushed out the door.

People can’t afford to be sympathetic. This is too close. Too many of us are living a paycheck away from financial disaster. In our dreams, we see the glittering eyes of the predators (oops, I meant creditors) watching us from the shadows. So we circle the wagons. Throw another log on the fire and huddle against the dark.

At this point, we’ve gone past that. No wagons remaining to circle and we’re out of firewood.

I have more of a sense of humor about this some days than others.



We are in better shape than we were. Not rolling in the big bucks, but mostly managing to get through the month. Meanwhile, though, too many other people have joined the “we’re poor” party. Which explains that’s why there are so many angry, hostile, hateful people around.

Someone told them they could have a new car or two, a house, and a job that pays a living wage. All they had to do was “the right stuff” to have The Good Life. It didn’t happen that way.

If the good life fails, it must be someone’s fault. It must be Those People. Black people. Hispanic people. Islāmic people. They stole the dream.

Someone stole the dream, right? It can’t be you were working in a business which became obsolete. Or you were under-educated and couldn’t keep up with the how the workforce has changed. Or maybe you just had really bad luck, a thing that can randomly happen to pretty much anybody — with no one at fault.

I know our problems weren’t because of Those People. Other struggling people are not our enemy.  

The rich guy with orange hair is not your friend and he isn’t going to make your world a better place. Maybe he’ll help you hate better, but that’s not going to improve the quality of your life. Maybe you’ve figured it out by now. I hope so.