BETTER FIREWALLS FOR A BETTER LIFE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Firewall

We’ve got firewalls all over the place. Our modem, our router, Chrome, Microsoft are all busy protecting us. Theoretically, our ISP protects us, too. I think their idea of protecting us is to have such a bad service no one can get through, not even us. My phone blips out a dozen times a day and the computers die with regularity. If other people weren’t having the same problem, I’d think it was us, but I know it’s them.

If you call them, they will deny everything. Lying is a national sport.

Our many firewalls are obviously insufficient to protect us from anything.

I need protection. From life, politics, and the vast stupidity that is closing in around me.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Downtown Uxbridge, late winter

I need to be protected from $1000 hikes in taxes when my town does absolutely nothing for us. We don’t have buses or taxis or trains. We pay to have our trash hauled. We have our own well and septic system. No one prunes the trees or even sprays for mosquitoes which, as it turns out, is fine because it would probably kill the birds while leaving the mosquitoes. They also didn’t spray for gypsy moth caterpillars.

Basically, we are on our own. Pay the taxes and figure out how to survive. The one time I called emergency services because we’d gotten frozen into our driveway and couldn’t get out, they told us that was a real pity, but they couldn’t help us. They said their trucks don’t have snow tires so they couldn’t help us. If we died in our house, that would be a real pity too. Oops. I wonder if they’d pay for the funeral?

Down our snowy road – Photo: Garry Armstrong

So what am I paying for? So the town can waste money on some other stupid project? A townwide soccer team for kindergartners? We can’t get them to expand the library (who needs a library after all?) … or repair the sidewalks. Or even add a minibus so older people can get in and out of town.

Take a walk along the river. It’s the best part of living here.

So far, the only “famous” person to emerge from this town is William Howard Taft which is pretty dismal. Though I hear his ranking as a Chief Supreme Court Judge was better than his record as President. It is unlikely to be worse. He was a hard tryer, but a big failure. Not a bad description of Uxbridge, come to think of it. Except I don’t think we try all that hard.

I want protection from gigantic rises in the cost of oil to heat our house. I want them to fix the roads so that the repairs last more than the first month of winter.

I want to be firewalled from reality.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I want some of that money we pay to underwrite the cost of my drugs. I want the town to plow my driveway and clear away the monstrous piles of autumn leaves and other trash that accumulates. I want someone to come by and clean up the trash people throw from their car windows onto our “front lawn,” which is actually a lot of trees that need to be cut down.

I want them to collect the trash and not make us pay for it! You know. Like they do in other towns.

I want them to give us a senior discount on our taxes like most other towns offer.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

If they are going to leave us to decay here amidst the forest, I think they should stop charging us more and more for the privilege of being unable to afford to live here. I could understand it if they actually gave us something for our money, but they don’t. Oh, but they built a firehouse.

So if the place burns down, they’ll be sure to drop by with hoses. At least, in theory. There are no fire pumps along our road, so they better also bring tanks. Do we even have tanker trucks?

Some mornings, life is just too much with me.

ABOUT THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE – BETTER LATE THAN NEVER – Marilyn Armstrong

Independence Day Quiz

1] July 4th 1776 is famous for what?

The official signing of the Declaration of Independence. It was completed on July 2nd and hand-distributed to the people at the convention. The 4th is when the printed version was finished and distributed to the colonies.

2] How many American colonies went to war with Great Britain in the War of Independence?

Thirteen. Our lucky number.

3] Where was the first shot fired in the American Revolution?

Either Lexington or Concord. Garry thinks it was Lexington. The actual battle was fought on a field between the two towns (they are very close together) and is recreated annually at dawn on April 19th (1775). That’s why we have a Massachusetts holiday called Patriot’s Day on or about the 19th of April. It’s a state, not a national holiday. That’s when we have the Boston Marathon. It’s a big deal, at least in Massachusetts.

I’ve been to the recreation of the battle a couple of times when Garry was covering the story.

4] Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?

Philadelphia. Independence Hall. Been there. Have pictures.

5] Which Founding Father did NOT sign the Declaration of Independence?

Robert Livingston — who was one of the authors — felt it was too early to declare independence and didn’t sign.

“Founding fathers” isn’t a real “thing.” The people who signed the Declaration of Independence were the heads (governors and senators or just really rich guys) who controlled the colonies rebelling against George III –and were important members of their houses of Congress or otherwise elected officials.

There were other people who were significant in the founding the country though many were not important until AFTER the war was over, like Hamilton who was essentially a kid when the declaration was signed. So many who did not sign it hadn’t achieved the status they got after the Revolution. Also, some were very young when the Declaration was signed. They were founding fathers too, but a bit young to be signing anything.

Not everyone who was later very important to the country was a member of the group who wrote and released the document. And yes, Benjamin Franklin definitely DID sign. He was the Ambassador (one of them) to England and France, so he was there. And he signed. He was also very important in convincing the southern contingent to sign the Declaration AND the Constitution — and sadly, one of the people who helped keep this a slave-owning country. I understand why he did it, but it was the Devil’s bargain and we have paid heavily for it.

Many of the people who DID sign the Declaration of Independence were not founding fathers, but they were important to the states they represented. Probably anyone who signed the Constitution was a founding father, but that was in September 1787 — eleven years later and a very different thing.

The founding of this country wasn’t an event. It was a process. As I said, “founding fathers” isn’t an official thing. There’s no list of who they were because essentially everyone who was important in creating the government for the first few dozen years was a founding father.

Signers of the Declaration of Independence:

      • John Adams
      • Samuel Adams (John’s cousin and later the guy who made beer — really, no kidding and his family still make beer and ale)
      • Josiah Bartlett
      • Carter Braxton
      • Charles Carroll
      • Samuel Chase
      • Abraham Clark
      • George Clymer
      • William Ellery
      • William Floyd
      • Benjamin Franklin
      • Elbridge Gerry
      • Button Gwinnett
      • John Hancock
      • Lyman Hall
      • Benjamin Harrison (grandfather of the Benjamin Harrison who became a U.S. President).
      • John Hart
      • Joseph Hewes
      • Thomas Heyward, Jr.
      • William Hooper
      • Stephen Hopkins
      • Francis Hopkinson
      • Samuel Huntington
      • Thomas Jefferson
      • Francis Lightfoot Lee
      • Richard Henry Lee
      • Francis Lewis
      • Philip Livingston
      • Thomas Lynch, Jr.
      • Thomas McKean
      • Arthur Middleton
      • Lewis Morris
      • Robert Morris
      • John Morton
      • Thomas Nelson, Jr.
      • William Paca
      • John Penn
      • Robert Treat Paine
      • George Read
      • Caesar Rodney
      • George Ross
      • Benjamin Rush
      • Edward Rutledge
      • Roger Sherman
      • James Smith
      • Richard Stockton
      • Thomas Stone
      • George Taylor
      • Charles Thomson (Secretary, attested to Hancock’s signature)
      • Matthew Thornton
      • George Walton
      • William Whipple
      • William Williams
      • James Wilson
      • John Witherspoon
      • Oliver Wolcott
      • George Wythe

There were TWO signings.

The first, before it was printed and distributed took place on July 2, 1776. Everyone signed the official and PRINTED version (July 4, 1776). This is a well-argued point of historical order. Most people feel anyone who signed the final printed version is “official.”

6] When did July 4 become a federal holiday?

In 1870 it became a national holiday. However, unofficially, it was celebrated from the beginning, especially in New England.

7] Name of the film starring Bill Pullman, Will Smith & Jeff Goldblum

Independence Day, but it had nothing to do with Independence. I always wondered how Goldblum’s computer worked after running full on for more than a week without ever being recharged. I want THAT battery.

8] Which president was born on July 4?

Calvin Coolidge.

9] But which presidents died on July 4th?

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died simultaneously on July 4,  1826. Ironic, because they were enemies and hadn’t spoken to each other for many years. I think they had reestablished a written relationship toward the end of their lives. Weird, but true. Monroe died on the 4th in 1831.

10] Name of the film starring Bill Pullman, Liam Hemsworth & Jeff Goldblum

Independence Day 2 or whatever they named it. I did not see the movie, not even on TV.

11] Which monarch reigned over the colonists at the time of the American Revolution?

George III

12] Who said, “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me Liberty or give me death!”

Supposedly Patrick Henry in a speech he gave in the Virginia House of Burgesses. He didn’t sign the Declaration either and he isn’t a founding father, but he did make great speeches.

13] Which is the largest signature on the Declaration of Independence?

John Hancock. He was also the richest signer of the Declaration, so maybe that’s why he signed it so big.

14] Who was appointed as the commander in chief of the British army in America in April 1776?

Howe, I think. I forget his first name. He was not the last or only one. There were a bunch of them.

15] “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”? is found on which document?

Declaration of Independence. But they didn’t mean anyone who wasn’t white. Some people meant it (the northerners), but the rest of them didn’t.


And how, you ask, did I actually know this stuff off the top of my head (no, I didn’t look it up except for the second Independence Day movie which I’ve never seen)?

Glad you asked. I judged the history category of the Audie Awards for a couple of years. One year, I swear I listened to a thousand pages of American history, mostly about the revolution and the Constitutional Convention. I hadn’t done much reading in that area of history, but I sure did catch up!

Also, note that George Washington was not a “founding father” because he wasn’t part of the group who wrote the Declaration. He WAS part of the group who wrote the constitution. He gained a lot of points for winning the Revolution.

A GAY FIRST LADY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

A comment made by presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg, caught my attention. He said that statistically speaking, the odds are that we have already had a gay president in America. Several presidents were unmarried, but in past times gay men often married and had children because they did not have the option of living an openly gay lifestyle.

While this was on my mind, I came across an article about a first lady who turned out to be a lesbian. Grover Cleveland took office in 1885 – a 50-year-old bachelor who apparently had fathered a child out of wedlock (this fact nearly derailed his campaign). The protocol called for him to appoint his sister, Rose, as First Lady. She was considered a ‘respectable’ single woman who was well educated, a former teacher at a woman’s seminary and the author of ‘serious’ books. She served as First Lady for a little over a year and then was relieved of her duties when her brother married his 21-year-old ward, Frances Folsom Cleveland.

Rose returned to the family estate in upstate New York and a few years later, when Rose was 43, she met Evangeline Simpson on the wealthy ‘social circuit’ in Florida. Evangeline was 33 and had inherited a fortune from her late husband who was almost 50 years older than she was!

The love letters that document their 30-year relationship, begin in April of 1890. Ironically, at that time there was no word in the English language to describe a romantic/sexual relationship between two women. The word ‘lesbian’ was only applied to the Greek poet, Sappho. The field of sexology only came into being in the 1890’s so the terminology would not exist for many more years.

Rose Cleveland

The concept of ‘romantic friendship’ was popular among women of the day but the relationships were often emotional and intellectual but not sexual. However, that gave cover for wealthy white women of the day and allowed them to have open relationships, often even living and traveling together.

The letters between Rose and Evangeline were discovered in 1969 when a cache of Evangeline’s family papers was donated to the Minnesota Historical Society. When the love letters, some quite explicit, were discovered, a memo was sent out suggesting that they are kept from the public. The ban wasn’t lifted until 1978, following numerous complaints. The full collection of Rose’s letters were finally published in a book called ‘Precious and Adored: The love letters of Rose Cleveland and Evangeline Simpson Whipple, 1890-1918.

Rose on right, Evangeline on left

Rose and Evangeline’s relationship spanned 30 years but had its ups and down. Initially, they enjoyed extended visits to each other’s estates and they traveled together in Europe and the Middle East. They didn’t try to hide their relationship and Rose even wrote to Evangeline’s mother about her love for Evangeline. It seemed to have been accepted – but I wonder how many people of the day understood that there was a sexual component to the relationship.

In 1896, after six years with Rose, Evangeline shocked everyone when she announced that she was marrying a popular Episcopal preacher from Minnesota who was 34 years her senior. She didn’t need to marry him for financial reasons and her diary indicates that she was sincerely fond of him. But why she chose marriage over her relationship with Rose is a mystery.

Evangeline with her new husband

After the marriage, Rose and Evangeline continued to correspond but the tone of their letters changed dramatically. No more intimacies and pet names or professions of love. Evangeline’s husband died five years later, in 1901 and the letters between the two women changed character again. The two resumed staying at each other’s homes for extended periods until 1910 when Evangeline’s brother became seriously ill in Italy. Evangeline and Rose rushed to his side and finally lived together in a small Tuscan town.

In Tuscany in 1918, at the age of 72, Rose died after contracting the Spanish flu. Evangeline lived for twelve more years but wrote of Rose’s death that “The light has gone out for me. The loss of this noble and great soul is a blow that I shall not recover from.”

Photo of Rose with Evangeline on right and book cover on left

In today’s climate, Rose and Evangeline would probably have moved in together when they first fell in love and would have shared a peaceful, happy and uninterrupted 30-years together. At least they never felt shame or ostracism or persecution for their love – which probably would have been the case if they had been men. It’s nice to know that women had an acceptable social ‘cover’ for lesbian relationships, even in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Thankfully people don’t need to disguise or hide their love anymore, no matter what the sex or race of their chosen partner.

AND THE BEAT GOES ON – Marilyn Armstrong

Falls and canceled medication and rain delays notwithstanding, there’s progress in fixing up the old place. Not as much as I would like, but definitely better and more (with a little luck!) is on the way.

Owen did a first powerwash and finally, on the 4th of July, it was the third day of no rain, so he painted (waterproof with a heavy stain) the deck.

Powerwashed deck
Wet, but clean deck!

We used basically the same color which was used on it when it was built. It’s called “redwood” and it really does look like redwood. I know this because the house in which I grew up was clad in actual redwood and it was really this color.

Of course, these days, you can’t buy redwood but that was the 1950s and we weren’t aware of how much damage was being done casually by people who simply didn’t know any better.

This deck was not made of redwood. Pressed and treated hardwood would be my best guess and all things considered, it has stood up to the years reasonably well. It has also begun to come loose from the house and the northeast piece is a noticeable few inches sunk below the rest of the deck. This needs to be fixed and Owen is planning to fix it using 2X4 beams and a jack to hoist it up to the right level. With a beam under it, it should stay put for another 20 years, give or take. If we could afford it, a new deck would be nice. We can’t afford it and besides that, the deck is in surprisingly good condition for its years.

Owen wants to give it another coat. We have ordered it from Amazon because it simply isn’t available locally. I would have happily bought it from Koopman’s, but they don’t carry it. Neither does Home Depot, though they carry other products by the same manufacturer.

So Amazon it was and if it gets here by Wednesday, we will have a second coat and hopefully enough to spray the stairs and the fence too. I’m not sure the deck needs another coat, but I think the fence and stairs need at least one coat.

Deck with the new color on it. It was much redder and has sunk nicely into the wood.

Maybe we have found someone who can repair our back door, too. The problem is I really don’t want to replace the back door. It’s a Dutch door that opens on top. You can’t buy them anymore and this is a good oak door that isn’t rotting. It just needs some loving care. I suspect we’ll have to replace the screen door, but we’ll see.

Also, a bit of progress on finding help with the house. The problem is money. Our taxes went up by almost $80 a month and our heating went up by $75 a month. Prices keep going up and our income does not go up.

But we need help with the house. We aren’t getting younger or stronger and now my knee is really sore. AND we have company coming. At least a light cleaning is in order, like it or not.

Looking at the pictures of Garry and me from six years ago, I was struck by how much we’ve changed over these past six years. It was before my heart surgery and Garry’s hearing surgery. It’s not a matter of wrinkles. It’s wear and tear. Hard to explain what I mean, but the pictures say it all.

Meanwhile, one of my no longer available medications has been replaced by something that actually works better, but the other medication hasn’t been replaced because it was a holiday weekend. Hopefully, I’ll get in touch with the doctor tomorrow and we can make this work. In the meantime, I’ve been asleep a lot of the time.

That’s what happens when you take medication away from a narcoleptic!