A TEMPORARY FINISH LINE – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP-Sunday-FINISH

I have to take a break. Not a one day break. I need like three or four days of almost no work that requires using my right arm. I have a bad tendon in the shoulder, not to mention a massive number of repetitive motion issues — and it hurts a lot. There isn’t much to be done about it because everything is also encased in arthritis, but it is making my life a serious misery.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I spend most of the night trying to find a comfortable position with a variety of cushions, pillows, bed angulation. Nothing helps. It hurts less when I’m up and about, and more when I’m lying down. The weight of my arm pulls it out of the socket and all hell breaks loose. Also, lying on my back puts my unhealed chest off-center. It crunches each time I draw a breath which is both uncomfortable and sometimes, surprisingly painful. I need to work all this stuff out.

The lack of sleep alone is getting me.

It doesn’t mean nothing will get posted. I have an intentional backlog of posts that require little more than checking for correct dates and spelling, then posting. But I have got to let this arm have some rest. That means no lifting heavy stuff — pots and dishes and buckets for floor washing.  And vacuum cleaners.

If I deal with this now, I might actually get my arm back. If I don’t, it will be in permanent pain which I am not enjoying at all.

So I’m finishing my standard posting for the time being and trying to give my arm some time of low stress. This is also going to require that Garry figure out how to cook enough to keep us alive. I’m tired of hearing how he can’t do it.

He can do it. He just doesn’t WANT to do it.

I am also going to have to find a way to shave some money out of the budget and get someone to come in — maybe once a month — to do the heavy stuff. Floor washing and vacuuming and dusting. The house is basically pretty neat and reasonably well-kept, but we are too old to spend even a day doing the heavy work. If we are too old now, we are not getting younger. Time has had its way.

This isn’t goodbye. It’s a temporary withdrawal in the name of keeping my right arm functional. Being a righty, that’s not a real option, either. I need that arm. I’ll probably put some pictures up. I know I shouldn’t be hoisting a heavy camera, but it’s spring. What can I do but take pictures?

Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the golden years. Maybe a few brass ones and a hint of copper?

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY: A MOTHER’S WALTZ – Leslie Martel and Marilyn Armstrong

Mother’s Day – Sunday, May 12, 2019


FROM swo8 (Leslie Martel): Today is Mother’s Day. To commemorate this day, we have created a photographic montage of families together. It includes eight generations of my family and three of Marilyn and Garry Armstrong’s families.

The song is bittersweet because to be a mother, is indeed bittersweet. Our children bring us our greatest joys and our greatest sorrows. The couple in the video are my great-grandparents.

My great-grandmother died in childbirth, leaving 3 babies and a husband. When my great-grandfather remarried the children were sent off to their aunt to be raised.

The aunt is the lady sitting by the fireplace. The first photo of children is of my grandmother and her twin sisters. My grandmother being the oldest would have missed her mother the most. In spite of her early losses she became an extraordinary person and had a huge influence on me and my thinking.

To be a mother has got to be one of the most difficult endeavors to undertake in one’s life. We are given this helpless creature for a short period of time to nourish, educate and inspire before they disappear into the ether of adulthood.

As a tribute to mother’s everywhere we dedicate this song, “Mother’s Waltz” by swo8 Blues Jazz and Marilyn Armstrong. 


FROM Serendipity (Marilyn & Garry Armstrong): The melody of A Mother’s Waltz echoes in my mind. I feel as if it is something I remember hearing my mother sing a long time ago, but of course, it is new from swo8 Blues Jazz

The pictures of my family include my mother, me, much younger and my son as a toddler. Pictures of Garry’s family include his mother and father’s wedding, Garry’s dad back from WWII with little Garry on his knee. Garry’s mom as a young woman.

The pictures are family heirlooms that evoke strong and sometimes conflicted feelings.

Music by swo8, with pictures from Leslie Martel (swo8) and Marilyn Armstrong (from both my family and from Garry’s family).

These are memories in music for all mothers.

THE JOY OF COOKING SHOWS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

The less I cook, the more I watch cooking shows on TV. I particularly love baking shows and I haven’t baked in years. But I’m obviously not watching these shows to improve my cooking skills or to learn new techniques or even to collect new recipes. I think for me, it’s more of an outlet.

I did once replay a Bobby Flay show a few times so I could write down his recipe for baked meatballs. We still use this as our go-to meatball recipe and it comes out great every time. But that was the exception, not the rule.

Bobby Flay

Since menopause, I’ve had to watch my weight (I fortunately never had to before).

I gain easily so I had to pay attention to what and how much I ate. Then over a year ago, I had to start taking Prednisone and I slowly gained ten pounds over the course of 15 months. This is a common side effect of Prednisone. Most people gain a lot more than I did, but I was actively ‘dieting’ to keep the weight gain down to a minimum.

This is particularly frustrating because I love food – I love to eat and I love to cook. I once created a whole line of baked goods for a business that never took off. I’ve put together several of my own cookbooks and I used to constantly look for new recipes to add to them.

One of my own recipe collections

I tried to cook something ‘interesting’ every night when my husband was still working and I came up with creative ways to use leftovers. Recently my husband was warned he was about to become pre-diabetic. He had to lose weight, cut down on sugar and alcohol to prevent it from happening.

He lost 30-pounds and is now as obsessed with maintaining his weight as I am. So no more rich sauces and cheesy dishes for us!

Recipes I adapted or created for my defunct English Dessert business

We got an air fryer (which I highly recommend) so we can still have French Fries and crispy chicken wings without any fat. But most nights we eat plain grilled meat, a baked potato, and vegetables.

Tom does the grilling and I occasionally roast something in the oven or cook an actual vegetable recipe, as opposed to plain, boiled or steamed veggies.

Air Fryer

But my love of food and creative cooking has not diminished. So I get my foodie fix by watching TV. My favorite shows these days are The Great British Baking Show, The Best Baker in America, Masterchef, and Masterchef Junior and Top Chef. I find that these shows have the best cooks and bakers and the nicest contestants.

The level of skill and knowledge is very high, as is the spirit of camaraderie as well as competition. The plating and decorating is usually impeccable and creative. Also, the shows have the classiest hosts and judges and the best production values.

Best Baker in America winner last season

I’m still amazed that an eight or nine-year-old can bake a macaroon or an éclair without a recipe, in one hour, even if they’ve never made one before. The amount of baseline skill and knowledge this implies is mind-boggling. The complex and imaginative dishes the food show contestants come up within an hour or less blows me away. I can’t seem to create dishes in anything in less than an hour and my dishes are far from sophisticated, mouth-watering of beautiful to look at.

Masterchef Junior contestants

These cooking competitions are at a level way above mine. I couldn’t even begin to copy any of their recipes. Tom and I have always longed to learn how to plate elegantly, but we’ve never gone beyond making a vegetable puree and serving it under each piece of protein, a common practice on cooking shows.

The decorations on TV seem to require lots of planning and extra ingredients and we never seem to get around to even trying. I wouldn’t know where to start making those colorful ‘drops’ that appear on so many artistic plates. And who keeps fresh parsley around just to use as a garnish? I buy it if I need it for a specific dish and it only lasts a day or so in the fridge before it wilts and becomes useless.

I love watching skilled people, even amateurs, do their magic in the kitchen. I love hearing the judges’ critiques, which teach me what the dishes are supposed to look and taste like.

While I’m not going to try to duplicate what I see, I am a more educated restaurant goer and a more attentive home cook. That, along with the hours of enjoyment I get watching my cooking shows, is enough.

RDP Saturday: GOURMAND

WHAT WE DON’T UNDERSTAND – Rich Paschall

Our Country’s Mysteries, by Rich Paschall

There are a lot of things in life we do not understand. The concept of Infinity is one of them. We know space does not just end, but how can it go on forever? When considering space, black holes are another mystery. How can there be these areas of nothingness in the universe? If we fly our spaceship into one, will the “gravitational acceleration” pull us through the space/time continuum into another universe? I guess that is a question for Star Trek fans.

Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Egypt, the spheres of Costa Rica, the stone heads of Easter Island and various other ancient structures have remained a mystery despite extensive study. All we have are theories on how and why they came to be. I visited Stonehenge and the placement of these giants stones was certainly a mystery to me.

Stonehenge

Quantum computing is a mystery to me and many others, but of course some people, including world leaders, understand it while others do not.

“The noise (from windmills) causes cancer.”     
– Donald Trump

What many of us in the country do not understand is how so many people can follow a leader who has made over 10,000 false statements or flat-out lies to the general public? This is not an opinion, but rather documented fact. News outlets have checked statements and offered proof on these. You Tube videos show Trump contradicting himself or lying to the public and yet his fan base continues to follow despite the obvious lies.

Says troops recently received “one of the biggest pay raises” ever, and that it was the first pay increase in “more than 10 years. 
In fact he claimed it was more than 10 per cent. It was 2.6 per cent. Troops received pay raises every year for the last 3 decades.

It is a mystery to us how so many can follow a leader who insults our allies while praising dictators with a history of violence towards political opponents. Trump counts Kim Jung Un as a friend. This “friend”kills his opponents, starves his people and continues his missile and nuclear programs. Despite recent missile firings, Trump continues to believe in this despot.

“I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him.” – Donald Trump May 4, 2019

Trump has met with Vladimir Putin five times and had an hour and a half phone call with him on May 3, 2019. What did they talk about? A few general statements were released but the content of these meetings and conversation are a mystery.

US President Donald Trump (L) and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands before attending a joint press conference after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. – The US and Russian leaders opened an historic summit in Helsinki, with Donald Trump promising an “extraordinary relationship” and Vladimir Putin saying it was high time to thrash out disputes around the world. (Photo by Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP) (Photo credit should read YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)

“The fact that Trump didn’t want the State Department or members of the White House team to know what he was talking with Putin about suggests it was not about advancing our country’s national interest but something more problematic.”  – Andrew S. Weiss, Russia adviser to President Bill Clinton

There is the mystery of why Trump’s fan base continues their allegiance while he shows little or no allegiance to our allies. He has repeatedly insulted our friends, and showed virtually no regard for the opinions of others. This “speak your mind and insult your friends” approach is apparently popular with the right-wing of the Trump base for some perplexing reason.

It is also truly baffling that many can follow a leader of the nation who seems to have little knowledge of the nation he purportedly leads. Time and again Trump has either misstated the facts or shows no interest in them. He may be the first president with such little knowledge of the nation.

The United States entered into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949 to secure the defense and security of member countries against outside threats. A main concern was the action of the Soviet Union on the borders of some western European friends following World War II. In order to deter future armed conflict this multi-nation agreement was signed. It would be important for our leader to know about this. It is a major point in history books. For some bewildering reason, Trump does not know it.

He could read about it on the Department of State website under Office of the Historian. It gives a nice background on many events. He can not read “Milestones in the History of U.S. Foreign Relations” on the website. It was “retired” since his term in office began. The devotion of followers after this continued ignorance of US history and US agreements is mystifying.

We could go on about virtually every aspect of 45’s tenure. His trade war hurts farmers and others. His pulling out of the world-wide climate agreement harms the planet. His relaxing of pollution standards endangers our citizens. His appointment of millionaires and billionaires to government posts for which they know little or nothing harms our democracy. His hate speech at rallies encourages violence in the country. His appointment of extreme right-wing judges at all levels harms the cause of Justice. His tax breaks for the rich has created massive debt for our government. The threat to offset a little of this debt by cutting back on Social Security and Medicare is troublesome to the elderly and disabled. His jokes about shooting immigrants are dangerous. Despite these things, for some inexplicable reason, throngs of followers still cheer him on.

What We Now Understand

In high school and college history classes, we often wondered how a despotic leader like Mussolini or Hitler could have so many devoted followers. They divided their people against one another. They blamed others for their problems. They preached violence against certain religions and ethnic groups. They advocated nationalism above other concerns. They made their followers, no matter how far down the social or economic ladder, follow them in almost blind devotion.

First, you get elected.

How could this be? What hold did these leaders have over their people? Did they actually believe the hate speech they were hearing? These questions presented a mystery our history books could not answer. Recent political events and the following of 45 by so many have given some insight into this mystery.

Sources:
President Trump has made more than 10,000 false or misleading claims,” washingtonpost.com April 29. 2019.
Trump wrong on size and timing of military pay increases,” politifact.com, December 27, 2018.
North Korea ‘test fires short-range missiles’,” bbc.com May 4, 2019.
Trump and Putin Have Met Five Times. What Was Said Is a Mystery.“nytimes.com, January 15, 2019.
How an Isolated Trump Insulted Allies and Dismissed the World at UN,” Bloomberg.com September 26, 2018.
All Pants on Fire! statements involving Donald Trump,” politifact.com frequently updated
Trump may really not know how NATO works,” washingtonpost.com, March 24, 2017.
The President’s ‘Jokes’ About Shooting Migrants Are No Laughing Matter,” nymag.com/intelligencer, May 9, 2019.

 

 

SPRING AND CACTUS FLOWERS – Marilyn Armstrong

Fresh forest leaves, a Chickadee, and cactus flowers – 05/12/19

Usually, I limit these posts to actual flowers, but it was such a glorious, lovely, warm, bright day and all the new leaves in the woods look like flowers. Even the birds look like flowers.

A flyaway Chickadee

We intended to go take pictures, but we wound up cleaning the house, which badly needed it. I had to clear the dead leaves off the deck and also clear off at least some of the millions of seeds. Then there was vacuuming and floor washing and sofa cover changing, and the vacuum cleaner bag exploded.

You know. A lovely weekend day at home.

I also have a little bird story.

Very red cactus flower

Yesterday I was in the bathroom about to do something I felt was somewhat urgent, but I made the mistake of looking out the window. “Holy Moly!” I cried. There was a Pileated Woodpecker on the flat-feeder. That’s the really big woodpecker who looks just like  Woody Woodpecker. He has a hammer-shaped head with a huge, heavy beak.  He’s a big guy, too. About as big as a medium-sized hawk.

My azalea

That beak that can break through a chunk of live oak in search of a bug and they have no objection to whacking some other bird over the head if he or she gets in the way.

So the Pileated Woodpecker who I have seen before, but never gotten a picture of him, was right there. There were also about a dozen Brown-headed Cowbirds lined up on the railing, waiting for him to leave. One Cowbird (they aren’t afraid of anything, probably because following herds of buffalo had its own perils) jumped up on the feeder and without a second thought, Mr. Pileated Woodpeckeder bonked him on the head.

Cowbird returned to the railing. Brave, but not stupid.

A crowd of cowbirds

I ran to the dining room, grabbed my camera, turned it on. And, of course, the woodpecker was gone. Vamoose.

Meanwhile, the cowbirds were jumping onto the feeder. I guess they felt they’d waited long enough.

Baby leaves

Me? I sighed, turned off the camera and went back to the bathroom. I’m getting used the disappearing act. So is Garry. He can’t understand how they completely vanish in literally the blink of an eye. But they do. Kind of amazing in a frustrating way.

Baby oak leaves and a very blue sky

So today, I took pictures. Mostly of plants and trees because they do not disappear. They sit still, roots firmly in the ground or in their pots. They let me take their pictures and do not fly away while I turn on the camera.