THE CANAL FLOWS PAST US – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Friday: CANAL

We live in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor which is sort of like a national park but without the funding. That’s the Blackstone Valley for you. Incredible historic areas which are unique to this continent.

Little bridge and locks over a tiny canal

Mills and a river with many canals and locks that rolls along for miles by the river. Sometimes, the river and the canal are one unit. When the water gets rough, the two parts divide into two portions, one having locks to allow barges to deal with waterfalls and white water, the other just the river. Uxbridge has one of the larger sections of a free-flowing canal.

Canal and Blackstone River where they separate and become two streams.

In Worcester, they actually buried the canal under its streets. Worcester is an ugly little city that is always trying to dress up like a real city and never succeeds. Maybe because of its history of putrefaction, factories, river pollution, sewage pollution and some of the ugliest architecture I’ve ever seen anywhere.

Along the diagonal of the canal

Perhaps NOT burying the canal and polluting the river might have made them a more attractive location. We tried to buy a really lovely house up there, but no bank would finance it. It wasn’t that the house wasn’t a beauty. It was glorious and for us, cheap. But the banks wouldn’t finance anything up there. They said: “Buy somewhere else.”

And that is how we wound up in The Valley. By the river and the canal.

Steps to the canal

You cannot live in this valley and be further than a quarter of a mile from the river, a tributary, a stream, pond, or a canal. We have more parks than grocery stores and banks combined. We have herons, swans, ducks, geese, and about a million (or more) snapping tortoises in the river. Also, trout and baby trout.

The canal in summer

Finally, fishing is allowed in many places and sometimes, even swimming. Personally, I’m not swimming anywhere near where those snapping tortoises are hanging. I value my toes.

And the river and bridge in winter

This is a beautiful place to live. A little light in the culture department, but if nature does it for you, this is a great place to live.

And in the autumn …

And we do have the country’s first free public library in the middle of town. Just so you know, we used to be a bit snazzier!

Blackstone Canal

SPORTS: NOT NECESSARILY THE HEALTHIEST ACTIVITY – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Sunday–Gridiron

Unlike baseball, which I enjoy regardless of who is playing, though I admit I prefer seeing our team play when they let us, we aren’t going to discuss how MLB has made it nearly impossible to see one’s home-team without buying a mega cable package or owning season tickets to the sport. That’s another issue which gets a separate cover.

Today is Super Bowl day when the winners of the National and American leagues in football play each other for unbelievably expensive rings and the option of being the talking heads for who knows how many products on television. At least we can still see football on the regular network and not have to pay hundreds of dollars extra to watch our own teams play.

Although most non-football-addicted American think that football is like it used to be 20 years ago, it isn’t. Excessive roughness is a call made constantly on the field. The giant pile-ups of huge guys to destroy the quarter or running back are illegal now. It isn’t like it used to be which I think is very much for the good of the game.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

If you have been not watching football because the last time you saw it was the Disney cartoon starring Goofy, you have missed a lot of the changes that have come to the game. It’s still a rough game because sports are rough. All sports are rough, even the ones that don’t look particularly rough.

Take, for example, baseball. Do you know what pitching hundreds of balls over the course of 160 season game does to an arm? Or even the sliding and running … or that crouching the catcher does … do to a human body?

How about horseback riding? Do you know how many jockeys end their lives in wheelchairs? And how many are killed from falls that no helmet will fix?

Sports are hard on humans. All sports are hard on humans. Even sitting at a computer all day long is rough on parts of your body.

So if your reason for not watching football is that it’s too rough for a mortal humanoid, consider warfare and many of the “easy” sports we all are required to learn in school. Volleyball (tore my ankle up on that one), running (how many knees needed rebuilding after that?), shot-putting, pole vaulting, tennis (does your elbow still work?) … all of which take a serious toll on the person playing it.

English style riding and jumping

I know that we all think it’s healthy that our kids get up and go out in the world enjoy physical activity because that’s healthy, right?  Healthy activity comes at a price. Knees and backs are destroyed and many are never repaired.

Some folks are stronger than others and can withstand the battering better than others. Some can simply take more abuse, but others can take a lot less and don’t know it until it’s too late.

Like me, for example. I fell off a few horses. I didn’t even fall very hard, but I fell right on my butt. Or more to the point, I feel on the base of my spine. After a while — not a long while, either — I couldn’t walk properly anymore. I didn’t stop riding, even after the surgery which should have stopped me.

How about downhill skiers? And hockey and figure skaters?

There IS no sport that does not take a serious and potentially life-threatening toll on the body performing it.

Players have multiple surgeries on shoulders and elbows and spines and knees and get clobbered badly enough to end their life with sports-induced Alzheimer’s disease.

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – JANUARY 13: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots throws during the first quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Los Angeles -Chargers at Gillette -Stadium on January 13, 2019, in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Don’t be fooled by thinking if something “looks easy” that it is easy. Ballerinas destroy their feet while male dancers crush their spines. The life of a professional dancer is shorter than that of an NFL player. And that’s not even sports. That’s ART.

BOSTON, MA – October 24: Boston Red Sox’s Andrew Benintendi catches a fly ball hit by Los Angeles Dodger’s Brian Dozier during the fifth inning of Game Two of Major League Baseball’s World Series at Fenway Park on October 24, 2018, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Christopher Evans)

Does any of this mean we should all stop doing anything risky? Of course not. But we should also be aware that when our kids complain that something is hurting them, to make sure that there’s no serious damage and to get that possible hurting checked by a doctor who actually knows the difference between bruising and serious damage.

I do not even know how many people are twisted into wrecks by middle age from sports they played when they were teenagers.

EFFORT OR DOING IT THE HARD WAY – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Saturday: EFFORT

As one of those people who has usually found an “easy” or at least “easier” way to do things, I’ve noticed as the year advanced, there are no more easy ways. The shortcuts don’t seem to work anymore and one is left with effort, or as I call it, doing it the hard way.

Let’s take cooking as an example. Back in the very long ago old days, I threw stuff together and it tasted pretty good, or so everyone said. I used a ton of prepared — cans and packaged — ingredients. That was just fine.

Maybe it’s the quality of prepared food that has degenerated. Or maybe my taste has become more discerning, but I use as little prepared stuff in my cooking as I can manage without getting weird about it. I cook food in the least amount of time I can and make sure to clean as I go to avoid leaving a mess behind, but I cook foods from scratch or very close to it.

I don’t, for example, peel my own tomatoes for sauces or grate the parmesan personally. but I use prepared marinades and breadcrumbs from jars and cans. I’m not a masochist, but I know how it should taste and something “kind of close” doesn’t work for me.

Then there’s reading. I can read very quickly. Not speed-reading, but fast reading. I always could … but eventually, I found that I wasn’t enjoying books when I read them that fast. One of my reasons for listening rather than reading was pacing. A book that is read out loud can’t be hurried. It’s a lot harder to skip a chapter and see what’s coming next. I didn’t know I’d become addicted to narrators and the charms of oral performance, but it’s funny how often you get more (or less) than you intended, isn’t it?

What brings this up? I’m now four books backed up in the review department. People — not just other bloggers, but actual authors — get in touch with me and ask me to review their books and unless it’s a close friend, I say yes. Close friends are a problem because what if I hate it? I can’t say that to someone I really like … so I try to never review a book for someone I really care for unless they are the kind of writer I know is going to give me a good book to read.

Writers are thin-skinned. I don’t care what you say on your blog. We are all thin-skinned about our art, whatever it may be. We put a lot of our souls into our work. We aren’t neutral and we tend to hold grudges. Don’t say you don’t. We all do. It’s hard to not get cranky when someone doesn’t like our book. Or painting. Or sculpture. Or dinner.

And the strangest part of all of this? I don’t remember how to do things any other way.

IT’S JUST A MATTER OF BALANCE – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Tuesday: Balance

I have trouble going downstairs. I have problems going up too, but the ones going down are more difficult to manage because they are a matter of balance. And because I am more likely to fall down the stairs than up.

I have fallen up, but I don’t go far. Down, on the other hand, can be an ugly event involving broken bones and bruises that don’t heal for weeks.

If you don’t think this is really narrow, try hauling a bag of groceries up past the lift chair!

The thing is, Garry is also unbalanced, leading me to the not unreasonable (but possibly entirely wrong) conclusion that whatever is bothering me is also bothering him. It’s the downside of relationships. We pass — back and forth –whatever one person has to the other and occasionally have completely pointless discussions of who gave what to who or if it was someone who dropped by.

I’m headachy and hoarse and have laryngitis I can’t get rid of. Not only does it make it hard for Garry to hear me, but laryngitis also makes it hard for me to talk at all. I try anyway, but it doesn’t get me very far.

The new tests reveal the iron deficiency I had in October has gotten worse. Dizziness, imbalance, and a headache are symptomatic of anemia … but are also symptomatic of everything else. Anemia symptoms include chronic tiredness (who isn’t chronically tired?) and insomnia (show me someone my age who sleeps well). It’s all vague symptoms, but at least tests indicate I do have something I should take care of. Anemia isn’t nothing, though I keep acting like it is. Because I don’t want to deal with it.

If I had veins, I wouldn’t mind. It turns out, veins have a variety of uses. Carrying blood from here to there is only one of them.

Garry is distinctly unbalanced. Wobbly. We can’t BOTH be anemic, can we?

Meanwhile, the hospital doesn’t want me in there if I am sick because the Hematology Unit is part of the Oncology Department. They don’t need sick people hanging out with people who already have cancer, a point to which I can relate.

Of course, we were at the lab yesterday. At least three people were coughing. That waiting room is tiny, so you can’t miss someone’s cough droplets. Oh goody.

We do well if no one is sick or if we don’t go any place where sick people hang out. Like the grocery store. Doctors’ offices. Hospitals. Laboratories. All the places you go for health assessment are perfect for picking up something new and exciting.

pinterest.com

I know it’s out of style, but the old days of doctors coming to see sick people probably made sense in terms of keeping the spread of illness down — unless you happened to be the doctor, in which case I have to assume you were always sick with something. So maybe you were the one spreading disease.

Who knows? It’s a mystery, for sure.

So to go — or not to go — to tomorrow’s appointment. I promised the office manager I would call early in the morning and let her know. Neither of us knows whether or not I am actually sick (like with a bacterial or viral ailment) or I’m suffering from a thing for which I need to go see that particular doctor.

It could be a chronic stomach thing which Garry and I have been passing to and fro — or — we each have something completely different and unrelated. Or we are just old and need to spend more time watching television.

No way to know.

New Scissors

You’ll be happy to know that the new pair of scissors — $30 cheaper than the missing ones — have been delivered. The heavy snow they promised for today has turned out to be another day of leaden gray skies and low temperatures with just enough dampness to make your bones ache.

The birds are busy at the feeder, though today it’s all Juncos, Nuthatches, and Chickadees. Nothing exotic. I need to order some of the cheap food again and mix it with more expensive food. A lot of the little birds actually seem to prefer the cheap food which is mostly smaller seeds. Right now, it’s almost entirely big black sunflower seeds that only the bigger birds can eat — woodpeckers, cardinals — and the nuthatches who will eat anything.

Ladderback with Redhead Woodpecker – First photos I’ve gotten of this bird!

I have certainly learned a whole lot about bird feeding patterns. And that only Chickadees leap from the feeder with their wings closed in full diving mode. I laugh hysterically every time I see them fling themselves off a branch or the feeder. I swear the practice seeing how far they can free fall before they need to use their wings.

This, I believe, is what we call “Bird Fun” and does not require strapping on a parachute. It makes me really want to be a bird except for the whole shivering in the outside cold thing.

QUEST: HOW TO HAVE A SHUTDOWN WITHOUT SHUTTING DOWN? Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Wednesday – QUEST

The government has recalled all the airline repair and inspection — and engineering — guys to work. It’s too dangerous, they said, to not have them working. The government is also calling back the TSA guys because it’s dangerous to not have them, either, and closed airports are not helping anyone.

And finally, yesterday, the IRS recalled more than half its workers. Haven’t you heard? It’s tax time … and if we don’t have tax people working, there won’t be any money coming in which definitely wouldn’t make anyone happy, at least not in the government.

How long before they recall the food inspectors? And everyone else?

Bit by bit, group by group, they will recall all of the ousted (outed?) workers. I’m pretty sure the Trump will eventually realize that he cannot serve foreign dignitaries McDonald’s, either. He doesn’t care, but other people will.

We aren’t going to end the government shutdown. We will have a permanent shutdown during which everyone works. This will continue to be a government shutdown — even though nothing is shut.

Protesters rally in Federal Plaza against the partial government shutdown, Thursday afternoon, Jan. 10, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Life, such as it is, can proceed more or less normally. This will make Trump feel like his two-year-old behavior is “doing something” while his moronic base can feel he is keeping his word.


NOTE: How can Trump be considered as “keeping his word” when he has never kept his word? About anything?


I’m sure this will be considered a “win” for everyone. People will work, the government will govern, Trump will believe his tantrum is accomplishing something …. and we can march forward to the next election.

You think?

LUMBER? Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Monday: LUMBER

Every now and again, a word comes up in one of these prompts that leaves me with nothing to say.

Lumber. We’ve got some in the basement. We’ll need more when we fix whatever needs fixing. We have our own lumber yard in Uxbridge — one of the few things we’ve got going for us in this tiny town.

Woodpile
A huge log destined for lumber
Waiting by the cutting mill to be turned into lumber

But I have nothing to say about it except if you need it, the lumberyard is very good at supplying it. It starts out as trees and eventually, you can nail it to something else and make a thing.

Imagine that!

WELCOME TO MY HUMBLE HOME – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP FRIDAY: HOSPITALITY

You are welcome. All of you. Everyone. People and dogs and birds and squirrels and cats and puppies. Hell, bring the coyotes and a few raccoons.

Home

No one ever comes to this house except my son and granddaughter. No one. In the almost 30 years we’ve been married, once my brother passed away, not a single family member has come to visit. It’s weird. Our friend Ben had the same problem. It took him 30 years to get his sisters to visit … and when they did, it was total chaos.

Be careful what you wish for.

So, no one comes here. Maybe it’s the dogs? They are hairy and they bark. Maybe it’s the barking. They are loud. And hairy.

So consider this an official invitation. We have plenty of room including a guest room with a brand new queen-size bed and a dining room and everything. And the dogs usually stop barking after a while. It’s just their way of saying “HI Y’ALL!” Loudly.

As for the hair, think of it as a condiment. It goes with everything.