WE MADE IT – Marilyn Armstrong

The first thought I had this morning was “The phone is ringing. Answer the phone.”

Getting to the phone from bed is a stretch and a twist. I could make it easier if I moved my Disney “Someday my Prince will come” lamp. But this would also make it more difficult to turn the lamp on and off. Since I use my lamp more often than I answer my phone, the phone stays put.

Regardless, answering a ringing phone from a dead sleep is one of my more acrobatic moves. Most times, when it rings early in the day, it is either a telemarketer or a doctor’s office reminding me about an appointment. This time, it was a friend from whom I was glad to hear.

“Hey, Rob!” I said. You’ve got to love Caller ID.

“I’m alive,” he said. He sounded great. Considering he had just had two heart valves replaced during the previous week, that’s not such a small thing. I was amazed, delighted and impressed he sounded so perky and clear-headed.

Rob goes way back into the early teenage years of my life. We met at the college radio station. He was 13. I was 17. I felt very superior since I was obviously four years more mature than he was.

He always had a baby face, full of freckles. He still does, though the hair has become mixed with gray. Our lives have continued to intersect throughout the decades. When he was 14, he got cancer. He was treated. Went into remission. Decided to skip college because he figured he was going to die young.


He taught himself computer programming and morphed into a software developer. He learned to fly. Bought a small plane. I got to fly it too, even though it was a pretend flight as “co-pilot.”

It was fun, scary, and made me realize I love to fly. As a passenger. No piloting for me, unless I can grow my own wings.

He went to live in Brussels. I went to live in Jerusalem. Both of us came back and got married. My first husband — with whom we were all friends because he ran the college radio station where we met died following a mismanaged mitral valve replacement. I was married to Garry by then, having met Garry at that same radio station.

No exaggeration. Everything started there.

First dawn of spring 2017

So you can see why everyone in our crowd is more than normally nervous about heart valve replacements, even though Jeff’s death was at least partly his fault though I think more the result of an arrogant doctor who failed to take fundamental precautions during post-operative care.

Hearing from Rob was heartening. He had two valves replaced, the mitral and the aortic. He had previously, some years back, had a coronary bypass, so he was a little cranky this surgery. He takes exceptionally good care of himself — and his wife, Mira, would personally fight back death with her bare hands. I wouldn’t mess with her.

We had talked several times about surgeons, hospitals, mechanical versus tissue valves. I explained why I preferred tissue. No blood thinners and with all the other medical issues I’ve got, who needs to deal with potential bleeding issues too? Rob is not exactly free of other medical problems, either. He’s got his original cancer lurking. He will never run out of things to worry about.

Nonetheless, he sounded terrific. Alert. Alive. He had made it. If you live around here and you need serious heart surgery, I highly recommend Beth Israel. They are terrific. If there’s such a thing as a great hospital experience, you will have it there. I don’t say this lightly, having been resident in pretty much every one of Boston’s highly-regarded facilities.

It was deeply reassuring to not lose another friend. Given how small our “herd” has become, we try to grow closer. Because now, we really know time isn’t forever.

We are a strange herd of oddballs — musicians, writers, artists, mathematicians and more. Long may we live.


I am retired which is, by definition, adrift. This is a good thing and the real reason we retire. After a life of deadlines and commuting, some drifting seems like a good idea. So here I am. Just drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweed … with memories of those great cowboy movies of childhood.

Hi Roy! Hi Trigger! Hey, Bullet! Hope y’all are doing well. I miss you. All of you. You were the good guys. We trusted you. Where are you now, when we need you?

Meanwhile, I’ll just be drifting. Considering one thing and another, I might also be asleep.


The Changing Seasons, September 2019

It’s the last day of September. In New England, that’s Autumn. It’s sort of Autumn out there, but not a lot. It may get better, but a lot has to do with rain and if it gets very warm again.

It’s been very up and down. Moreover, climate change has made our erratic weather even more erratic than it was before, so it’s very hard to figure out what happening. Or will happen.

The trees are mostly green with large patches of bright yellow and in a few places, some red and orange. But the color is very slow in coming and if the rain starts before the color shows up, fall will wash away with the rain. As it did last year and the year before.

The barn and corral and our car, tucked in the corner. happy weather watching.

The farm road. Follow it if you want to see the horses.

We have taken some nice pictures, so even if we aren’t getting that golden red fall feeling, it certainly is lovely outside.

I’d hate to lose a whole season, especially Autumn.

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 this post, Su-Leslie can update her post with links to all of your posts.


Although by the calendar and by our understanding of seasons, it is supposed to be autumn, it isn’t particularly autumnal. It isn’t as bad as last year when we had nothing at all at the end of September, but it certainly isn’t the kind of glorious color we typically get in New England.

Enjoy it while you can.

The problem is climate change. Normally, summer — especially the end of summer — is dry. By the end of August, a lot of leaves turn yellow. Aspen turns bright yellow before August is over. The maple trees by the end of September are turning red.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

There was some moderately bright colors along the river. There’s some color at the Mumford Dam in town, but it is a bit pale. I haven’t given up on the season yet, though the next week is supposed to be heavy rain and the temperatures are going back up. To get things back on something like a natural track, we need cold nights — preferably below freezing — with cool, dry days. With or without sun, it doesn’t matter.

Sunset by the stone fence

Rain and temperature matter a lot. So does wind. A serious wind and rain event will strip the trees in a matter of hours. We’ve had some late summer hurricanes which eliminated all the leaves.

Pick your favorite

Early snow also kills the leaves. We’ve had snow as early as the beginning of September. It makes an ugly mess. Because the leaves are still on the trees, branches and sometimes big trees break under the weight of wet and icy snow.

Photo-Garry Armstrong

I don’t think we’re getting early snow! They just said we might get a hard frost on Friday after an 80 degree (70 Celsius) daytime temperature.

So I’m hoping for better, but I recognize the first major loss to our very local climate might be Autumn. I wouldn’t mind losing spring, which is really just a lot of slushy snow, melting ice, and sucking mud.


Earlier this week Rory asked a question that I found so interesting, I thought I’d share it.  Another question, similar to this one was asked in August.

If confronted with a violent crime against a single individual in progress (severe beating, rape, assault) do you try to do something about it (phone authorities or confront the criminal, stop the crime) or do you figure it’s none of your business and walk or drive on by?  Worse (to me) would you record the crime for social media use without doing anything else? 

I can’t imagine NOT getting involved. I know I’m not exactly at the peak of my physical powers, but a well-placed rock or whack on the head can at minimally cause enough distraction to get cops on the scene. And there’s always trying to knock someone over with your car.

But I would have to do something. I would never live it down.

Okay now we got the heavy stuff out of the way, let’s get to some less stressful questions.

If someone asked to be your apprentice and learn all that you know, what would you teach them?

I’ve been a writing teacher. You can’t teach someone to write. You can teach someone to write better. You can teach them ways to make their sentences less awkward and easier to understand. To clarify writing. To explain the point of putting “who, what, where, why, and when” at the beginning of a post rather than buried within it.

In the end, if you have a talent for writing, you will find a way to write. I can help, but the ability needs to be there. And you need more than mere talent. You need the will and tenacity to stick with it even when it isn’t going well and in the current market, it can be a long time between writing something brilliant and getting it published and in a market where people will see it and read it.

William Strunk Jr. was a professor of English at Cornell University and, together with E.B. White, author of The Elements of Style (1918).

Talent, time, tenacity — plus a reasonable idea of the kind of writing you would like to do. Fiction? Poetry? News? Technical documents? Most people, especially young ones, think it’s all about fiction, but as far as writing for a living goes, most of the ways you earn a living as a writer will be in some kind of non-fiction.

First, think of a product. What would be the absolute worst brand name for one of those products?

I’m blank on this. Maybe I’ll think of something later, but right now? It’s a completely empty space. It’s been that kind of day.

What ridiculous and untrue, yet slightly plausible, theories can you come up with for the cause of common ailments like headaches or cavities?

Cavities are caused by very tiny pixies who climb into your mouth while you sleep and drill holes in your mouth. They have larger cousins who hide your underwear.