AT LEAST IT’S NOT SNOWING – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Photo Challenge: Jack Frost


Every conversation about the weather — which has been rainy and windy all the time since last March — ends with someone saying “Well, at least it’s not snowing.”

When we moved here, our very first winter, it snowed all the time. We were charmed by the beauty. Everyone shoveled and we bought a really huge snow blower.

Duke and Bonnie!

By the second year, we were less charmed, the snow blower was huge and heavy. The snow never stopped falling. Driving down our road was like driving through a tunnel. The height of the snow on both sides of the road was well over 6-feet.

We also discovered why no one cements their mailbox in place.

The deck

If you cement it in the ground when the snow plow knocks it down, you need a whole new mailbox. If it’s just stuck in the dirt, you stand it back up and push the earth back around the post, and voilà. Also, it pays to get a rubber mailbox. They survive longer and keep your mail dry.

Mailboxes across the snowy woods.  Photo: Garry Armstrong

So you talk lovingly of Jack Frost and I think “Who’s gonna plow us out THIS year?” It’s never the same guy twice and half the time it’s some kid who takes out a garden or half the backyard. We’ll get through it, but it’s always a hassle.

Photo: Garry Armstrong –Winter in New England

I have thousands — literally thousands and maybe tens of thousands of more than 100,000 photographs — of snow. Blizzards. We get a lot of snow. I mean really — a lot of snow. I get depressed thinking about it.

The Renegade – We are counting on you!

We are the kind of people who need a 4X4. For some people, it’s a style. For us, it’s how we get out of the driveway in the winter. Without one, you get stuck until spring.

LOSING THE SNOOZE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Snooze


I think I got maybe two hours of sleep last night. I have a few annoying ailments and three dogs who usually bark only at delivery people, my son, and any other dog.

Our neighbors have a couple of big dogs. In the past, they had a matched pair of mastiffs, but time marched on. Now they have a couple of boxers.

When The Duke barks an alarm like that in the middle of the night, I have to get up and see what — if anything — is happening. I’m pretty sure the neighbors aren’t walking their dogs. I doubt anyone is delivering. Not even Amazon.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I get up, limp to the living room. It turns out, they want a cookie. And some play time. They get the cookie, but I’m not feeling playful. I just want some sleep. Having been awakened, usually after just falling asleep, I go to the bathroom, brush my teeth again, and climb into my cozy bed.

That’s when I notice I itch. My undiagnosed eczema — or is it dermatitis? No one knows. It’s a wildly itchy rash with no known cause and I’ve been getting it off and on since I was in my twenties. You’d think, after 50 years of itching, I’d have a handle on it.

I don’t. I can deal with pain better than itching. I have chemical goop, over the counter chemical goop, natural goop, aloe growing in its own pot. Powder with something anti-itch in it. Everything works sometimes, nothing works all the time. During the day, I get involved in other things and it doesn’t bother me as much, but at night? Trying to snooze into dreamland? Hah.

And then there’s my back which only lets me sleep on it. I am, by nature, a right-side sleeper, but I can’t sleep on my side anymore. When I get a rotating combination of pain and itching … and the dogs bark too? A whole night passes and the big snooze eludes me.

Anything could happen!

I think I get most of my sleep during the day when I’m trying to clear out my email. Yesterday, I got almost 300 emails. One hundred and twenty-seven of them showed up in a batch and the rest kept dribbling in until finally, I deleted anything that wasn’t marked “payment due” and was more than 24 hours old.

Sleep? Great idea! Maybe I’ll get some tonight.

COMPLIMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS UNBIDDEN – Marilyn Armstrong

I read a post by The English Professor at LargeShe was writing about kindness and love and the simple things you can do to make the world a better place to live. If you have a chance, read her piece. You probably already agree, but she says it so very well and with so much class.

Mated for life

I got to thinking that my version of that is to offer compliments (unasked for) to people who I expect are rarely offered a compliment.

Ducks on a golden pond

I tell people they look great and they do. Maybe not for a 20-year old, but for them, they look fantastic. I tell them when they seem to have lost weight. I got a bullseye last week when it turned out she really had lost 50 pounds. I tell them they have a beautiful smile.

Saying nice things to people who don’t often hear them is the only gift i have to offer. I usually don’t know whether it was appreciated, but I know an unexpected compliment makes me feel good. Sometimes a bit embarrassed too, but what’s a little embarrassment between friends?

Red finch!

On the other hand, I am very wary of offering suggestions to anyone. I have a friend who takes pretty good pictures on her cell phone. She has come a long way, but can’t seem to remember to hold it level. Every picture is just a wee bit crooked. My pictures are crooked too, even with the leveler built into my camera. But I have Photoshop so I can straighten them later.

She doesn’t use any software. What it does mean is if the photo starts crooked, it will slant for all eternity. But she’s sharp. So I finally suggested she try and pay attention to holding the phone level when she shoots. I bet she will, too, because she is one of those “tell her once and she gets it” learners.

I’m pretty sure I complimented at least one follower into getting a better camera and she’s become an amazing photographer. Sometimes, a compliment, a well-meant suggestion can make a huge difference.

The most important part is to offer a compliment or suggestion without an expectation of payback and realize if you get rejected, drop it. The best thing is when you make someone feel better or improve their work or get them started in a different direction … and maybe they don’t even realize you’re the one who did it. When that happens, remember to never mention it. If you bring it up, you’ll ruin it.

Be happy. And shut up.

TRAVEL ANXIETY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’m getting ready to leave on a weekend trip. I am not a relaxed traveler. I have never been able to throw a few things into a bag at the last minute and head for the door. I’m more of a planner. And a worrier. Starting a week before I leave.

In my defense, I have to make sure that all the clothes my husband and I want to take are clean. I also travel with a mini medicine chest and I have to make sure nothing in there has expired. I haven’t traveled in a long time, so this time, almost everything had expired which required a trip to the pharmacy.

See why I have to plan ahead? Way ahead?

Members of our group performing

This trip is not just an ordinary pleasure trip. This trip requires another level of planning and obsessing. We are traveling with our audio theater group (Voicescapesaudiotheater.com) to perform a 90-minute show on Sunday at Youngstown University in Youngstown, Ohio.

Eight of us are traveling together so the trip will also be a fun social experience for all of us. It’s the first time we’re traveling a long distance to the venue. It will also be the largest audience we’ve ever had. It’s a big deal for us!

Because we are going to perform, my usually laid back, easy going husband is joining me in my packing panic. He has to bring all kinds of equipment for our performance. So he’s packing a whole suitcase full of wires and chargers and connectors, two computers, two telephone handsets for sound effects as well as his own scripts and headphones.

Some of Tom’s equipment

In addition, I had to fit six carpet samples squares and two square pieces of foam into my suitcase. Why? The actors need these to buffer the sound on their music stands when they turn the pages on their scripts. Amazingly, I had just enough room.

Carpet samples in my suitcase

Now we’ve got everything packed except for a few last minute items. We go online to check in and get our boarding passes. Tom gets his boarding pass but for some reason, I can’t get one. The computer says I have to get my boarding pass in person at the airport. That’s annoying. We call Delta and the representative on the phone can’t figure it out either. He gets a message that says that I have to check in tomorrow due to government regulations! No idea what that means. Very strange. I hope this won’t be a hassle at check-in. Another thing to worry about!

Traffic is terrible going from our house in Connecticut to La Guardia airport in Long Island, New York. Especially on a Friday. So we’re leaving extra early so we don’t have to bite our nails if we hit traffic en route. At least that’s the plan. Another way to try to minimize anxiety.

Once we get to the airport on time, I get my boarding pass without incident and we check in our bag, then I can relax and have fun. I can start to enjoy my friends. And look for a Cinnabon or an Aunt Annie’s Pretzels, my guilty treats when I fly!

So, here’s hoping for a routine flight, an eventful, exciting trip, and a successful performance!

BRIDGES: A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Bridges


We don’t have any big bridges near us, but we do have bridges.

Footbridges.

River bridges on every road.

Railroad bridges.

Highway overpasses.

The railroad bridge, downtown Uxbridge
Highway bridge
Little bridge over the Mumford
Stone bridge over the river and canal in Autumn
Photo: Garry Armstrong – Footbridge at River Bend
Little footbridge over tiny canal alongside the Mumford
Footbridge at River Bend