QUEST OR HIKE? – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Friday: HIKE

So this is all about setting out on a quest. I’ll accept that life is a quest, but going for a hike — even as a group — is just exercise. Unless it happens you have Sauron’s One Ring To Rule Them All in your duffel and you’re on your way to Mordor and Mt. Doom where you and your duffel — and The Ring –are planning to leap into the cracks of Doom.

Otherwise, you’re out for a day of good, healthy exercise. It’s not a quest. It might even be a journey, but not a quest. I don’t know anyone who has quested. Long trips to foreign shores? Yes.

Quest? Not really.

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Maybe my mother was on a quest. She was always looking for the best prices on some really fine Italian wool and while she was at it, tried to determine what was the best things to buy in which cities of which countries. Maybe, for her, it was a quest … but personally, I think it was a series of great vacations with a lot of shopping.

Call me crazy. Sue Vincent goes on quests. She has a purpose and she is an active seeker. But she’s the only one I can think of offhand who really quests.

From Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo

What happens when you come to the end of your quest? Because … every trip, journey, high, whatever you choose to call it will come to an end. You come to the top of the mountain, the end of the path. Even if you complete the final leg of your journey to enlightenment, at some point, it ends.

I hope you’ve got plan B set up.

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The ship comes into the harbor and ties up at the pier. The passengers depart, taking their gear with them. The hikers come home, put their feet up and start posting pictures on Instagram.

Even if you find ultimate enlightenment, life goes on.

SOLITUDE AND A STOMACH VIRUS – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Thursday – SOLITUDE / SOLITARY

I was going to write something thoughtful about solitude, being solitary while writing and editing and processing photography. Something thoughtful about being artsy and creative.

Except I have this stomach virus and it is making me miserable.

I could go to the doctor where he would tell me I have a stomach virus, but I already know that. I’ve ruled out medication changes because, it turns out, a lot of people have this and I drank from the fountain at the hospital the other day.

There’s no better, faster, or more efficient way of catching a stomach virus than drinking from the bubbler at any hospital. That’s why so many of them have been disconnected. The problem was I was really thirsty and there was no water machine with cups anywhere. I was ready to find a bathroom and stick my head under the faucet, but someone pointed me at the bubbler (that’s what we call them in New England) and I was so glad to get something wet into my mouth, I wasn’t worrying about viruses.

I should have. I had just explained to Garry that the reason they’ve disconnected most fountains is that they are the best way to pass on viruses. They recycle the water and the viruses with it. You can pick up all kinds of things at a fountain — especially at a hospital which you just know is full of sick people. I was just there for an eye checkup, but who know who hit that fountain before I got to it?

Stomach viruses are easy to pick up and equally easy to pass along. Somehow, I have yet to pass this to Garry, which is nothing short of a miracle, but that’s probably because I’m refusing to cook. Just looking at the food is making me ill. Usually, we both get whatever the other one of us has. But this one is probably either water or food-borne, so maybe he’ll get lucky and miss it.

It coincided nicely with upcoming vacation plans. I think last night was the worst. All I wanted was to lie down and sip something with bubbles. Lacking ginger ale, I settled for coke.

It helped.

I didn’t want anything to eat, but Garry more or less forced me to eat something since I hadn’t eaten anything in 24 hours. Even bland food makes me sick. And I have a headache I can’t shake and I’m exhausted.

Today I’m just super cranky, the kind of person no one wants to be around including me. The only people not avoiding me are the dogs and they seem to be immune to people’s moods. Sweet old things.

I grumpily washed the kitchen floor this morning and grumpily straightened the bed and crabbily got dressed. I even snarled at the shower, which I have not forgiven for helping me fall down the other day. We did buy a bigger bathmat so I can reach the towel without having to step on the damp floor with my wet feet — which is what made me fall before.

I haven’t defrosted anything for dinner because there’s nothing in there I want to eat. I  may send Garry back to MacDonald’s. I can’t bring myself to defrost anything because I’ll put it on my plate and then I won’t eat it. The dogs are always willing to help me with unfinished food, but they are hefty enough without additional help.

I’m always surprised, even a little shocked, at how bad something minor like this makes me feel. It’s not lethal and not going to kill me. It’s not even bad enough to see the doctor or need antibiotics. I just feel like I want to yell at anyone who is near me. Washing the floor was good. It did not care that I was grousing at it the entire time. Why can’t it stay clean? Why does it keep needing to be washed?

I really need this to go away and I also need Garry to not catch it!

It’s going around. I discovered this morning if you type “what’s going around” into Google, it’ll tell you. Who needs a doctor when we have Google?

Solitude and solitary is my best bet. The less I interact with humans, the better for everyone. For one thing, they won’t catch this from me and I would be happier knowing I’m not passing it around. Also, I won’t snarl at them for no reason. I want someone to take care of me. Just … don’t talk to me when you do it. Bring me what I need (take your best guess). And be really quiet. Tiptoe.

This is bound to go away soon. I know I must be better than I was yesterday because I’m sitting up. I managed to get out of bed. That’s something, right?

According to several articles I’ve read, water fountains rarely contain viruses. But the problem is, the water in hospitals is suspect in the first place. A lot of public water isn’t very good and is of dubious quality, so if you don’t trust the water coming from your tap, you probably aren’t going to trust a fountain, either.

Our water comes from our own well and it is very clean, very cold, and the only thing it suffers from is an excess of iron which turns my white hair kind of yellow and leaves hard to remove rings on toilets. It’s probably good for us since iron is iron, whether you take it in a pill or drink it in your water. But the quality of most tap water in many parts of the world — this country too — is more than a little dubious. I’m sure folks in Flint and for that matter, in downtown Uxbridge, would attest to that.

STRAINS? NO BIG DEAL, RIGHT? – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Tuesday: STRAIN

“Oh,” said the doctor on television. “It’s just a strain. Nothing to worry about.”

I always laugh, without much mirth when I hear that and you hear it often. If a bone isn’t broken, if a head hasn’t been bashed in and no one had a heart attack or a brain aneurysm, it’s “No big deal.”

It’s official. The doctor on television said so and we all nod like good little viewers.

Strains, sprains, and pulls are harder to heal than breaks. Bones usually heal, but cartilage, tendons, ligaments, muscles may heal and then again,  maybe not. All those stretchy pieces are in places that can’t be conveniently set. Ribs. Chest walls. Joints. Knees, hips, backs, groins. Ankles, feet, hands. Spines.

You can’t wrap these human parts in plaster or whatever they are using these days because the parts to which they are attached have to move. You break a small bone in your foot — common among hikers, skaters, skiers, runners — and while you can put a boot on the foot or a brace on the knee, you can’t lock it in place. It has to move because there are attached things that need to move.

We are all connected with strings

Your chest needs to move because you need air. When I was just out of the hospital, I asked how long it would take my sternum to heal.

“Three months,” they said.

Five months later I asked, “Really, how long before my chest heals?”

“Six months,” they assured me.

Five years later, it has not healed. The truth is, you can’t make it heal. There’s no magical medical voodoo that will make anything heal. Bones usually heal — but not always. Those stretchy bits are even less cooperative.

Anatomy. Knee Joint Cross Section Showing the major pieces which make the knee joint. I had the meniscus removed years ago. That was nothing. A bandaid!

When I tore all the ligaments and tendons on my left knee — just about 50 years ago — they wrapped me in plaster from thigh to ankle. I was young and everything healed except the anterior Crucis ligament — which has remained torn. Only surgery will fix it and the surgery doesn’t always work. It was considered a 50-50 bet when I was in my 20s and I turned down the option.

Maybe they’ve improved how they do it now, but since they can’t make my chest heal, I’m betting it’s the same story now. They just work with different equipment. They won’t fix the stretched ligaments in my right shoulder. Healing is slow at my age. So I don’t get repaired. I am told I have to be more careful.

Exactly how careful can I be beyond how careful I already am? All it takes is a shoe catching on a rug, a damp spot on the floor, a dog underfoot, or getting tangled in my own feet. Garry fell trying to put on his pants and all I did was hit a slightly damp patch on the linoleum floor. We weren’t trying to climb mountains or run the marathon.

Design of the shoulder (Garry had this surgery)

Strains may not kill you, but they sure can limit you. It took me years to remember to not fully extend my right arm or it would dislocate and more years to remember to put my feet down carefully so my knee wouldn’t slide out from under me. One error, one little fall, and you are back where you were. It is extremely frustrating, not to mention painful. But really, the pain is less of a problem than the aggravation. There nothing you can do but let that piece of you rest until it decides to feel better.

I often believe we haven’t been strung together with sturdy enough materials. I know I could use a major restringing!

INGENUITY: PLANNING A TRIP WITH THREE DOGS – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Thursday – INGENUITY

We have been blessed with the opportunity to take a real vacation — relatively locally but in a rich and wonderful part of the country.

I have always loved Pennsylvania, especially this area — the foothills of the Poconos.  It would be a real joy to get to know these people personally, too. Online is lovely … but person-to-person can’t is the best.

Garry and I really need a time out. It has been more than three years since the last time we were away for more than a day or two.

The problem is dogs.

We have three. That we have three makes little difference because really, the problem is our two Scottish Terriers, both of whom are now 13 and beginning to show their years. They are small, so they don’t age as fast as bigger dogs, but Bonnie’s eyesight is diminishing and Gibbs is getting a bit deaf. He used to come running for treats as soon as he heard the lid lifted from the treat box. Now, he falls into a sleep so deep it takes several loud calls for him to first wake up and then to realize he’s being called and why.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Duke and Gibbs

Gibbs isn’t the problem. Neither is wacko Duke. Yelling a little louder is not a big deal and Duke has calmed down to a point where while he’s a bit too crazy to take visiting, he’s good around the house. And he’s clean. He has never made a mess in the house from the day we got him.

Bonnie and Gibbs are a different story. Because both of them were trained to go out whenever they wanted to via the doggy door, they don’t tell you when they need to go out. They simply go. They don’t give us any indication of what they want. They are self-trained — which is fine in this house but not so fine in other people’s houses.

Gibbs

We have been trying to find some ingenious way to get Bonnie’s eyes properly taken care of while we are away. Owen will always make sure they are fed, spend at least an hour or so with them to keep them for getting too lonesome … and manage to squeeze two visits a day into their lives (and do Bonnie’s eyes while he is there). This is quite a trick considering he works a lot of hours.

We had been thinking about just taking Bonnie with us. That way, we’d know her eyes were getting the care they need. But if we take her with us, she will have me or Garry up by dawn. She requires an early morning cookie and a trip outside. Then she’ll have me up a couple of hours later again.

She is nearly blind, we would have to keep her on a lead — which she does NOT like because unlike home, she can’t feel her way around the house. In her mind, she has never lived anywhere else. From 9 weeks to thirteen years is a complete life for a dog. She knows every inch of the house, where all the furniture is, even where the step stool she uses to get up on the sofa stands.

In another house, she would need to find everything for the first time. Since she has always felt that leashes were something for Other Dogs, she is unlikely to take kindly to being led around.

First I figured we would take her with us. Now I’m rethinking it. If we are going to get any rest and relaxation, taking her will make that impossible.

Not taking her is also worrisome.

I’ve been trying to figure out some ingenious way of making this work for her and us. I’m coming up empty.

Taking her with us will guarantee her eyes are tended to properly and frequently, but it will enormously limit our freedom. Talk about a rock and a hard place. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t

The only place we could board her — assuming we could afford to do that at all — would be the veterinarian because her eyes need care. Owen will do the best he can, but he does work a full week and there’s only so much we can expect from him.

So here’s where I ask for ideas. No “dog walking” service in Uxbridge and Kaity is finally attending college — a commuter school — so she already has her hands full.

If Bonnie’s eyes were only cleaned and lubricated twice a day instead of three times a day for a week, would that be catastrophic? I know none of the dogs like when we are away, but much as I love them. sometimes we need to be elsewhere and this is one of those times.

Thoughts? Suggestions? I’m not sure there is a right answer, but if anyone has a creative thought, I’m listening!

LACKING FINESSE – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Tuesday – FINESSE

It must be my age. I no longer have any finesse at all. I sometimes get what I want, but it’s more bludgeon than finesse. I seem to have lost my charm especially in dealing with people who tell me “We have to charge $8 to send you a 15 ml bottle of eyedrops for your dog.”

“No,” I said. “You don’t HAVE to charge me $8.00. You have decided to charge me $8. The cost is actually $3 and the plastic bag is another $1. So you’re making a big profit on the shipping. Even if you add another dollar for handling.”

“You could use our auto-delivery service. Then delivery is just $3.”

“Right, but these are eye drops. Liquid. You can’t calculate quite that precisely for a liquid.”

“That’s true,” she admitted. “Auto-delivery isn’t a good choice for  liquids.”

I got her down to $5, which is what it was the last time (mid-May) for the delivery. No matter what she said, there is — not UPS, USPS, or FedEx — NO delivery service who charges that much money to deliver a product so light you might miss it being in the envelope at all.

So where did my finesse go? Down the drain along with the salary I earned.

Pet adoption agencies are always trying to convince you to adopt senior dogs. Gibbs was 9 when we adopted him and at 13, he is beginning to show his years. Going a bit deaf these days. He is less energetic and more inclined to prolonged naps. So when agencies urge older people to adopt older dogs, are they offering to help pick up the costs that older pets will inevitably generate as they age?

You bet they aren’t. No senior discounts for senior dogs or senior people. I’ve lost patience with price gouging. A good finesse used to be a winning strategy, but I’ve never known it to work with any kind of customer service. They don’t respond to wit, humor, or irony. Hit them hard where it hurts and maybe — if you are lucky — you’ll get something back.

If you can convince the company that lowering shipping costs — which are now more than double the cost of real shipping — go for it. Whatever gets the price down.

THE LAST DICTATOR – WHEN CHARLIE CHAPLIN TOOK A STAND – Marilyn Armstrong

The Final Speech from The Great Dictator

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone – if possible – Jew, Gentile – black man – white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness – not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world, there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost …

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men – cries out for universal brotherhood – for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world – millions of despairing men, women, and little children – victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

To those who can hear me, I say – do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

Soldiers! don’t give yourselves to brutes – men who despise you – enslave you – who regiment your lives – tell you what to do – what to think and what to feel! Who drill you – diet you – treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!

In the 17th Chapter of St. Luke it is written: “The Kingdom of God is within man.” Not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you!

You, the people have the power – the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

Then – in the name of democracy – let us use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world – a decent world that will give men a chance to work – that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will!

Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfill that promise! Let us fight to free the world – to do away with national barriers – to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! in the name of democracy, let us all unite!

Final speech from The Great Dictator Copyright © Roy Export S.A.S. All rights reserved.


The Great Dictator was Chaplin’s first film with dialogue. Chaplin plays both a little Jewish barber, living in the ghetto, and Hynkel, the dictator ruler of Tomainia. In his autobiography, Chaplin quotes himself as having said: “One doesn’t have to be a Jew to be anti-Nazi. All one has to be is a normal decent human being.”

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