IT’S A MASTERPIECE! – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Masterpiece

They gasped at its originality. The family matron was bowled over by its original design and creative conceptual images. Even the family teenagers were completely awestruck by its astonishing combination of colors and textures.

They took pictures of it and sent them all over the internet.

The artist was unimpressed. She kept sucking on her dummy and gurgling for more fingerpaints. Her genius would not be fully discovered until at least kindergarten.

THE CHANGING SEASONS – AUGUST 2019 – Marilyn Armstrong

The Changing Seasons, August 2019

It’s official. This has been the hottest and wettest summer more than a hundred years. The hottest days and hottest nights. Until it cooled off a week ago — and we went critical on E.E.E. (Eastern Equine Encephalitis) mosquitoes, so now that the weather is decent, we can’t go out anyway.

Not a great summer.

Meanwhile, one side of our house is rotting. It’s the south side. Somehow, during one or more of the storms that we’ve had, water got in under the siding and turned the underpinnings to muck and mold. We have to find a way to fix it. It is unlikely the insurance company will do anything. As the adjuster pointed out, they don’t actually fix anything unless your house burns down.

They don’t do it for you. It’s to protect your mortgage holder.

So, we haven’t been outside much. We did take some pictures, but mostly, we have stayed inside. My current entire mentality is trying to figure out how to come up with a few thousand dollars to fix the wall. It’s ironic, really. I was just reading about somebody who spent more than a million dollars to redesign his garden and I was thinking “There really isn’t any justice, is there.” I commented to the adjuster we would be better off burning the place down.

He agreed.

Photos are by Garry and Marilyn Armstrong.

When we were young, we took each other in if someone got into trouble. We just did it. Of course, we had parents who could help us if we really got desperate. Now, we are the parents. Hell, we’re the grandparents.

There’s nowhere to go. Our kids don’t have houses, our parents have passed on. C’est la vie, eh?

About The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.

If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

    • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
    • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
    • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

    • Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
    • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
    • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

If you do a ping-back to Su-Leslie’s post, she can update it with links to all of yours.


Garry was saying he was taping an old movie, “A Letter to Three Wives.” He thought the whole concept of writing letters was kaput. No one writes letters anymore. We may dash off a note on a card, but a whole letter?

“When,” I asked Garry, “Was the last time you wrote a real letter.”

“When I wrote to you, in Israel?”

“Yup,” I said. “And the letters I wrote to you from Israel were the last personal letters I ever wrote.”

“Funny about that,” he said.

“Sure is,” I answered.

That was 1987.


We’ve lived in this house for just under 20 years.

When we moved in, we put up all new vinyl siding, tore off the old roof and put up a new one. We installed fencing around the property. We got rid of the beaten up sliding doors that went from the dining room to deck with French doors, replaced the front door (the first time). In total, it was about $30,000 worth of work. Then there were appliances like washer, drying, refrigerator, stove. And of course, the water heater popped. Eight years later (that’s about the longest a water heater lasts), it popped again and we replaced it again. We had to replace the water heater again this year, too.

The newly refinished deck — which is also why there are no birds. It was time to take in the feeders until the fall. I miss my birds!

As for the water pump in the well (it’s almost 500 feet underground), the lightning loves it. It’s the combination of iron and water — a magnet for electric. We replaced the output for the septic system and all the pipes that ran to it because the people who had lived here rolled over them with a truck and crushed them.

French doors in the dining room
New front door!

We added a sump and a pump and French drains so the basement would stop flooding. We had to rebuild the well because it was old and it needed it. We replaced most of the pipes in the house and redid the electricity twice (two new circuit boards, if you please).

This year, we replaced the bathroom which urgently needed it and all the plumbing from the upper floor to the basement (time turns copper piping into rust). We replaced the front door (again) and added a chair lift.

As much of the room as I could fit into the picture!

The chimney still needs repointing and the west wall of the house has been beaten by storm-after-storm since the end of the winter. This summer has been both the wettest and hottest on record.

Remember climate changes? Guess what? It’s not “on the way.” It’s here.

Despite being just on the edge of out of money, we nonetheless managed to get through each thing that had to be done. We consolidated our biggest credit cards which had been used to pay for these fixes. I was counting on at least one year of breathing easier. I was pretty sure the chimney would survive until spring unless a tree falls on it … and THAT is one of the things insurance covers.

I did not count on having one wall of the house turn into mush and mold. It was the wind-driven rain, falling trees, and branches. The gutters are so bent from being whacked by falling branches they no longer do anything useful.

This year, we ran out of money. It took 20 years, but the house got older and we got older. And then there was getting rid of the invasion of the field mice and the ants. Living in the woods is a mixed bag.

What’s astonishing is how your home insurance never covers ANYTHING. Except when lightning hit the pole in front of the house (that was a really LOUD noise!) and knocked out two computers and a router. Insurance paid for that. Otherwise, they have collected some very big money from us for a long time and never paid anything to us.

I think they owe us because it isn’t wear-and-tear. It’s storm, wind, and crashing tree limbs. But, we don’t get to make that decision. It’s entirely up to them. When lightning hit the well, they said it wasn’t part of the house so we had to pay for it. How could it not be part of the house? But, that’s what they said. They agreed it was lightning, but not their problem. OUR problem. As usual.

Apparently, the only way your well is covered is if it happens to be inside your house and wells are NOT inside anyone’s house.

We are out of money. We had a nest egg. It got eaten. Houses always need work. No matter how much you do — and we’ve done more than I’ve bothered to list — there’s always more. The windows were good when we got here, but they are old now. We replaced the horrible old rugs with fake wood floors, but it wasn’t installed well and it needs to be redone using better materials and a much better installer.


Now, there are changes in the climate.  These will eventually affect everyone. Do you think insurance companies are going to cover climate change damage?

Would you like to put down a few bets on that one?

Insurance companies are not in business to cover you no matter what the advertisements say on television. They are in business to make money by NOT paying you while proving whatever happened, it’s your problem.

Basically, they cover three things: lightning that damages things IN your house (like having it burn down), falling trees, and fire. Everything else is “wear and tear.” With climate change beating up everyone’s house, there’s going to be a lot of damage — and it won’t be their job to fix it because they don’t fix. They collect.

House in summer

So maybe you understand when I say homelessness is not on my agenda, I’m too old and too sick. We are both too old and if we are unlucky enough to not get the Republicans out of office, it’s going to get worse. Remember:  Social Security and Medicare are insurance too — and if they decide to stop payments, we will all be in very deep shit.


FOWC with Fandango — Churlish

I couldn’t have picked a better word for this morning if I had searched the dictionary myself.

I should start by saying that Garry has been a customer of Commerce Insurance, now renamed MAPFRE since he moved to Massachusetts in 1970. Admittedly, part of the reason was that there weren’t a lot of companies servicing Massachusetts in 1970 and for private vehicles (Garry was a renter, not a homeowner), Commerce pretty much owned the market.

They are not even close to the cheapest insurers on the market. In fact, they are a couple of hundred dollars more expensive than most of the other companies, but over the years through lots of car bang-ups, they’ve been fair with us and even when, for reasons I still don’t understand they doubled their rates this year, we stayed with them. We have a long-standing record with them and I always think — usually to my detriment — that loyalty should be rewarded. I am usually wrong. I still anticipate when you’ve hung in there with a company for 49 years, they should at least treat you with civility and respect.

When I reported the problem, I was assured I’d be seeing an adjuster by Friday. I assumed it was a done deal.

Indeed I got an email and a telephone call from the agency assuring me the complaint had been received and properly filed and would be dealt with ASAP. I had a complaint number. An adjuster would be calling shortly to make the appointment for Friday.

I’m not sure why this stuff always seems to happen on a holiday weekend. It’s Murphy’s Law. This is not merely any old holiday weekend, but it is followed by an extremely busy week including more checkups with my heart specialist, Garry’s eye doctor/surgeon (his cataract surgery might need a bit of updating). Plus, a meeting with his friend who he is hoping will help him find a spot in the voice-over business.

Every day next week is booked and supposedly, we are going on vacation shortly thereafter — the vacation that got deferred earlier in the summer. I haven’t even begun to deal with Owen and dogs yet because until this mess with the house is sorted out, I can’t go anywhere.

Thus when the adjuster did not call yesterday as expected, the last thing I did last before going to sleep was write down the number of our insurance agent as well as the claim number so I could call first thing in the morning. There are events you can cancel — but then, there are events you really can’t and shouldn’t cancel and next week is full of the latter.

I called my agent and then, reading the emails I got from MAPFRE insurance, I called the agency itself. My claim agent (who is not the adjuster — just the person who handles the paperwork) was out until Tuesday. Long weekend. It’s the last time the kids won’t be in school full-time. I used to do the same thing, so I wasn’t surprised.

I really needed to see the adjuster today. I moved Garry’s doctor appointment to next Tuesday because I thought I needed emotional and mental backup today. That appointment officially made next week 100% fully appointed.

The adjuster finally called me and yelled at me for 10 minutes for apparently having the gall to call him TWICE inside a few minutes. Twice! He shouted how he had more important places to be than dealing with my little problem (it’s good to know they are concerned for my welfare). I pointed out in my best dulcet tones (no yelling) that all I had asked him to do was call me. He said he hadn’t heard about the appointment until Wednesday night and I said, “Today is Friday and all I asked for was a phone call.”

He finally agreed to see us later, around two. I said I don’t move fast, so please wait. It takes me a while to get to the door. He didn’t seem to understand what I meant but finally said he’d call and tell me when he was on the way. I said “thank you” and hung up. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been talked to that rudely by anyone with whom I was doing business. I didn’t think business people talked to clients like that. I know when I was in business, I’d have been fired for yelling at any client. Even if I had a good reason — and he didn’t have one.

I thought about it awhile, called MY agent, explained that I just been thoroughly dressed down by the adjuster who apparently didn’t think my job was important enough to give me a phone call and make an appointment.

I’m worried about the mold, too because Garry and I haven’t been feeling well and I wonder if the mold has something to do with it. I know we just saw it, but it has probably been growing underneath the damaged vinyl for weeks. Months?

Churlish hardly begins to describe this morning. I don’t even understand why. Has he been watching too much Trump on the news? Maybe he had a fight with someone else and I just happened to be the person on the phone.

Overall, not a great week. I’m trying to feel better, but I don’t think I’m succeeding. I’m working on it, though.

I’M A MAN – THE SONG – Rich Paschall

Who Sang It Better, by Rich Paschall

The British rock band The Spencer Davis Group was formed in 1963 and had various success in the mid 1960s. One of their biggest hits was “I’m A Man” written by singer-songwriter and keyboardist for the band, Steve Winwood, and their record producer, Jimmy Miller. The song was released in 1967 and made the top ten in both the U.K. and U.S.

Spencer Davis Group

Winwood is on lead vocals and drives the Hammond organ with a strong beat. It was the last big hit for the group. Winwood and his older brother Muff (Mervyn, actually) left the band shortly after to pursue other interests. Steve formed the band Traffic and Muff joined the record industry as a talent scout and artistic developer.

The band The Chicago Transit Authority, later just “Chicago,” covered the song 50 years ago on their first album we know as CTA. It was not released as a single and found little success in the early going. It was, however, a band favorite in concert.

The Chicago Transit Authority

When Chicago started to earn success and singles were hitting the charts, “I’m A Man” came out as the B-Side to “Questions 67 and 68.” Radio stations were playing both sides of the record. The song even did as well in the U.K. as the original.

Today, Chicago continues to play the song in concert. It is an extended version with a long break in the middle for the percussionists to show off their talents as the other band members literally take a break.

The version below is with the incomparable Terry Kath on guitar and lead vocals for the first verse. The entire Tanglewood 1970 concert from which this cut is taken is available on YouTube — for free.

You might be able to guess my vote for best if you have been following us here.

ALL M- Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Letters M or N

Marilyn – Photo: Garry Armstrong
Miss Mendon

Cee's Black-White