IT IS NOT OVER – Marilyn Armstrong

It’s the crowding that makes these epidemics appear more often now than they did in the past. The (it wasn’t) Spanish flu built its power in the trenches of World War One.  Since then, the world’s population has exploded. We are a crowded planet. I sometimes wonder if these plagues aren’t Earth’s objection to our abuse. After 50 million people died from the flu, the world was different than it had been before. How could it not be? An entire generation of men was gone. And by the time they reappeared, there was another war to fight.

There were a lot more people on the planet until the Black Plague killed off a lot more than half of them. After the plague receded, the world was a new place. Society was different.

I’m pretty sure that most people think that after this siege, things will go back to “the way things were.” Whatever that means. How were things and why would we want to go back to them?

I don’t think when the pandemic recedes we will be living in the same world. The world is going to change. I don’t know how and I don’t know if I’ll be around to see much of it, but it won’t be the same. It never is. Our “leaders” will try to make it be however they see the past, but it won’t work. It will be a new world.

Do you think American’s will still object to universal medical care? Or will everybody just return to their jobs … if they still have jobs? If the companies they worked for still exist and if the industry is alive.


Bad customer and technical support is the new good. You only think it’s bad. The problem is your attitude. Or so they’d have you think.


All the big technology companies are working hard to save a few bucks. Competition is fierce. Every penny counts. Since executives won’t accept lower pay nor will stockholders accept lower returns, it’s customers who fill the cost-cutting gap.

Death cust serv
In the race to be the cheapest, tech companies stopped including chargers with devices. No manuals. No system software. No reinstallation software. Short power cords that don’t go from an outlet to a desktop. No connector for printers, speakers or whatever. Everything you need to finish setting up costs extra.

Customer service was the first thing to go. They hired people who don’t know anything, don’t understand or speak English. For all I know, they don’t understand or speak Spanish either. They aren’t trained, don’t know the products. And since manufacturers no longer include documentation, you don’t have the option of taking care of it yourself.

No company — not cameras, computers or software — includes documentation. I became obsolete years ago when the industry decided no one reads the manuals. So they fired the tech writers, put some generated information in an online PDF. They figured customer service techs would handle the fallout. But they don’t. Many of us would be happy to fix minor glitches but have no alternative to spending our time on the phone, frustrated and angry.


You can’t say they didn’t have a plan. Corporation had a really terrible plan. It was such a bad plan that everyone adopted it. Of course, these days any plan is a big deal being as we live in a nation that hasn’t had a viable plan for anything in more than three years. And now, we have a plague. How cool is that?Customer Service waiting It’s not a Microsoft issue or a Dell thing. It’s not a plan that anyone can claim as their own. It’s a cross-industry problem, affecting virtually every tech corporation in this country.

Bad has become the official new good. Really and truly good is remarkable and so rare.


In every industry, business, service — service support stinks. It doesn’t matter where you go. You’ll get the same lousy service. It’s the great leveler.


Sometimes, you get lucky. The guy or gal you connect with knows the product and you think “Wow, that wasn’t bad! Maybe it’s improving.” The next time, it’s the same old, same old. Mostly you spend hours online listening to the worst music ever written and every once in awhile they point out how important you are and the next time anyone can take your call, they will.

Okay then. I think it’s possible I’m still on hold.

ME AND MY TRACTOR – Marilyn Armstrong

You may have noticed the old tractor in the middle of our garden. When we were trying to sell the house years ago, a couple of potential buyers commented that they’d have to have it towed away.

I put a mental black mark next to their names because I love that tractor. If you don’t appreciate the tractor, you won’t like my house (they didn’t)


It’s a rusty 1928 Fordson. It was common farm equipment in its day. I loved it the moment I saw it, sitting on a lawn up the road a piece. I wanted it. I knew it didn’t run and never would, but for me, it was the perfect garden accessory.

Some people put flamingos in their garden (yes, I have a flamingo too). Deer. Ducks. Squirrels. I have some of them buried in weeds and flowers and I can only find the flamingo who is at least taller than the flowers and weeds. Around Halloween, anything goes and for Christmas — well — we’ve all seen the lengths to which some people will go.

One family just up the road from here has a crèche, a wishing well, several gnomes and a lighthouse almost large enough to use as a real lighthouse, except it is made of hollow and rather cheesy plastic. I believe they also have several types of small animals tucked between other statuary and geegaws. It’s a very busy garden and half the size of ours. Only careful landscaping has allowed them to fit quite so much bric-à-brac in such a small space.

This stuff’s not cheap. If you’ve ever gone and priced garden statuary, a nicely done piece — cement not plastic — can cost you as much as remodeling your kitchen. Well, almost as much. Okay, about half the price.

The tractor wasn’t cheap either. It was (is) a real tractor, not some phony doodad. Someone farmed using that piece of machinery. It was, in its day, a serious investment. So I don’t understand why someone would think a fake lighthouse looks cool while yearning for a bigger bogus wishing well, but find our antique tractor odd. Maybe they’d like it better if we’d bought it at Walmart?

tractor with daffodils

Garry bought it for me as a tenth-anniversary gift. Now that is a husband who gets his wife. He knew to whom he is married.

Nineteen years later, I love my tractor more than ever. It has stood the test of time. In another 9-1/2 years, it will have its hundredth birthday. In its second life, we have planted around it and vines have grown over it. It is as much a part of the garden as the earth on which it stands.

Love me, love my tractor.

BLACK PLAGUE POETRY – Marilyn Armstrong

Do you ever wonder where your nursery rhymes came from? This one, known as “Ring Around the Rosie,” was a poetic description of dying from Plague.

“Ring around the Rosie.
Pocket full of poesy.
Ashes, Ashes, we all fall down.”

The king has sent his daughter
To fetch a pail of water
A tissue, a tissue
We all fall down

The robin on the steeple
Is singing to the people
A tissue, a tissue
We all fall down

The wedding bells are ringing
The boys and girls are singing
A tissue, a tissue
We all fall down.

I notice that a lot of people are writing poems. Maybe they will be the nursery rhymes of the future.


Even though my life is pretty much unchanged, it doesn’t feel the same as it used to. The world feels threatening and hostile. Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, there is very little helpfulness or cooperation around here. No one delivers, prices have gone up on everything except gasoline, and they still don’t have toilet paper or tissues. No one has offered any help at all.

Maybe it’s because we are so rural. We don’t have “neighbors” in the usual sense. They are a considerable distance away. We have no public transportation, so you can’t go anywhere if you don’t drive. Garry isn’t feeling well and I don’t know whether to start panicking now or wait until he feels worse.

The world is going to change. I don’t know exactly how and I don’t know if I will be around long enough to find out, either.

Don’t you love advertisements from Cadillac about “How we’ve been through hard times before”? These are people who don’t know what a hard time is and probably never will. Their idea of a hard time is what most of us call an inconvenience.

Share Your World 03-30-2020


Pancakes, waffles or French Toast as your breakfast favorite? 

Regular toast, preferably cinnamon with cream cheese.

Do you think a person’s name influences the person they become?

Unless you’re a boy named Sue, not really.

Would things get better or worse if humans focused on what was going well rather than what’s going wrong?

That is one of my least favorite cliches. You can do something else rather than focusing on what’s wrong, assuming what’s wrong isn’t you being evicted from your home or fired from your job … or dying of a disease. I can wrap myself in photography or books, but often when things aren’t going well, it is extremely difficult (mostly impossible) to focus on other parts of your life that appear to be going better. This is probably because “things going bad” feels like a piano falling four stories on your head, but things going well feels kind of normal.

Right now, nothing is going particularly well. Whatever was wrong before had stayed wrong while a whole lot more stuff has gotten much wronger.

Is math(s) something that humans created or something we discovered? Is looking at reality mathematically an accurate representation of how things work?

Some people think in numbers. I am not one of them. But people who think in numbers often wonder why we need words. I think they are the descendants of those who came in flying saucers.

As for gratitude?

We have enough toilet paper until hopefully it gets restocked in the grocery.


I picked up the only coin I have larger than a penny. I used to have coins in my wallet. These days, I never have anything except a few odd pennies. Why is that? It isn’t even that I pay entirely by plastic. I actually do most of my grocery shopping with cash, so there ought to be coins. Quarters, dimes, nickels.

All I found was one single nickel, dated 1978.

That was the year I got a divorce, grabbed my kid, and moved us both to Israel.

It was a big year. A mighty year. I was giving up a really great job (the best one I ever had), a lot of close friends. I was moving with my 9-year-old son to a country where I knew no one and didn’t speak the language. I would stay there for almost ten years and then, I’d turn my life over (again) and move back to America.

I would come home for the rest of my life. And here I am in the middle of a pandemic. Of all my future predictions, this was NOT on the list.

I see my life in chapters. Childhood years from which I escaped via college and in the middle of that, married a man who was kind to me and was absolutely nothing like my father. It turned out that there’s a reason why early marriages often fail. You are young. He is young. You both change, but not necessarily in the same way. You don’t agree with each other anymore. We always liked each other, but between 18 and 30, I grew up. He was exactly the same as he was when we met and proud of it. When I said I wanted a divorce, he pointed out that he had not changed.

“I know,” I said. “And that is the problem.”

So I went to a place I’d always wanted to go.

My home in Baka, Jerusalem

At the end of January 1978, my son and I arrived at Lod airport. Neither of us had ever been to Israel. Owen knew absolutely nothing of the place. I had read a great deal about it … history, legends, guidebooks, and novels. We had no friends or family in the country, nor were we familiar with the language or customs.

Despite this, we would make it our home and both of us would grow to love it.

And the nickel reminded me of all of it.


I’ve had an anxiety disorder for as long as I can remember. As a child, I would worry about everything and was afraid of almost everything. My mother, a trained child psychologist, tried to give me a form of cognitive therapy by pointing out to me every time I was ‘awfullizing’ or ‘what iffing.’ She tried to make me realize that my anxieties were irrational and always told me “Don’t bleed until you’re cut!” It actually helped me and by my teen years, I had managed to control the worst and most paralyzing aspects of my daily anxieties, for the most part.

Prozac was the first commonly used anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication to burst onto the market in 1989. I was 40 and my psyche and my life changed dramatically as my anxiety and depression miraculously receded into the background. I still have flare-ups of anxiety and some ongoing anxiety issues, but they usually don’t keep me from being a basically upbeat, positive and relaxed person.

However, I would have thought that the Coronavirus crisis would have triggered my anxieties and thrown them into overdrive. I should have been in the first wave of panic buyers and I should have a closet full of toilet paper, paper towels and pasta. But I don’t. When the first stories came out early on about possible food shortages, a friend convinced me to order 40 cans of Progresso soup. I felt silly afterward and regretted that I had let my anxieties overtake me, but now I’m glad I have several cartons of canned goods in the basement – just in case.

Toilet paper aisles in most stores in New York and CT

Since then, I’ve been relatively calm in the face of the horrific health crisis that is getting worse day by day – and I am only 50 miles from the epicenter in NYC. At 70, I’m also in the higher risk population but I still go out once a week to shop and once a week to get mail at the post office. But that’s it for my forays into the potential virus-infected world.

I’m being careful and ‘sheltering in place’. Surprisingly, I’m not kept up at night by visions of worst-case scenarios swirling around uncontrollably in my head.

I’ve wondered why I’m not more anxiety-riddled than I am and I think the answer is that I’m only consumed with anxiety that reflects my irrational fears. I’m actually pretty good at dealing with real-world crises. I’m better dealing with a scary reality than with my inner demons.

My method of coping is staying up to date with what’s going on and acting accordingly to protect myself and my husband. I’ve read studies that show that people who read and listen to Coronavirus news regularly tend to be more agitated than those who don’t check the news as much. I find that the more I know, the safer I feel. Knowledge is power. So I’m keeping track of cases in my immediate area so when that number goes up dramatically, I can reassess my strategy and maybe place orders for pick up at the supermarket and get my prescriptions delivered by mail.

I believe that I’m doing what’s needed to limit my exposure so I feel relatively safe. I’m healthy and rarely get colds or flu so chances are good if I get it, it will be mild. I’m not consumed with worry that my husband or I will get seriously ill – or that I’ll run out of toilet paper before the stores can restock. Just in case, we also have a bidet!

If one of us gets sick, I’ll deal with it as best I can. I won’t bleed until I’m cut.

So, despite my propensity for anxiety, I seem to be dealing pretty well, psychologically speaking, with this very real, worldwide pandemic.