I had a major battle on Amazon about a book I said was racist. A lot of people said “No, it isn’t. The author is an avowed Boston liberal.” I’m sure he said he was and he probably believes it’s true, but he wrote like a racist. Every time he mentioned someone of color, he referred to his or her color.


Tears never ran down their cheeks. The tears ran down their black cheeks. The didn’t have hands. They had brown hands or black hands. Not once were the Natives of the region — somewhere in or around Guiana, I think — ever mentioned without in indicating their race. Their name might be forgotten, but never their race.

That is racism. Call it whatever you like. It is what it is.

Passive? Probably insofar as those who feel that way rarely attend racist rallies or carry fascist flags. But these are the friends who would never visit us when we lived in a Black neighborhood because they were sure they would be mugged or shot by our neighbors — most of whom were police officers, one of whom was a guard at a city prison, and two of whom were Sheriffs.

We had less crime there than we had while living on Beacon Hill. Far less. No one broke into our house or vandalized our cars. No one stole our cars (both of which were stolen while we lived on Beacon Hill) or tried to swipe things from our deliverers. Racism isn’t only the white-hooded, marching and shouting kind. It’s an attitude. A belief that says that dark-skinned people are more violent, predatory, and criminal. Different in bad ways. Dangerous. Gun-toting. The kind of “passive ‘I’m really a liberal’ ” racism that’s so easy to pretend doesn’t exist.

Without significant attitudinal changes, it will never go away.


Racism runs deep in this country. North, south, east and west and without regard for ethnicity or political agenda. You’ll find it in your household, your neighborhood, your church. Your “liberal friends” who won’t go anywhere that isn’t known as a “white” neighborhood. These are the people who prevent non-white people from being promoted at work, from getting scholarships, from getting into management positions.

The ones who are constantly complaining about “equal opportunity” ruining their work are because dark-skinned people are stealing their jobs. The same morons who never consider they don’t get promoted because they don’t work hard enough and aren’t very good, either. The same people who bitch that “political correctness” is keeping them from calling people “n#gg#rs.” Who would use that word — with or without political correctness as a measure?

Red lights in Roxbury

These folks are cops and judges. Office managers. Parole officers. Social workers. Teachers. They are your drinking buddies, the barkeeper, and the kids your kids play with. The first step to making this problem begin to go away is to figure out where you stand on this matter. Are you a racist? A nice, quiet, suburban racist? Are you? Think about it. There has never been a better time to take a good hard look at who you are and where you really stand.

Get back to me on it.


Who knew that  2020 would be a wretched excuse for a year? The climate is collapsing. Half of the U.S. is burning down, another quarter is flooded … and we up here in the northeast are 10 inches low on rain. That is a lot of missing rain. Considering that we all live on wells — there is no “city water” here — we are at the point of fearing lest our wells dry up. Meanwhile, all over the world there is a slow-moving but lethal pandemic. It’s not speedy as the 1918-1919 flu epidemic was. It’s probably not going to kill half a million people, but it’s doing pretty well. Europe is beginning to see a resurgence. The rebound that everyone expected seems to be inching up on us. The U.S. has exceeded 200,000 dead as of today, which is the first day of the Autumnal Equinox. We aren’t into our “second wave” because no one is sure we’ve entirely gotten past our first wave.

The economy is in tatters pretty much everywhere and there has been an international rise of nationalism. Trump is the worst, but Boris Johnson isn’t far behind. Why is it that when the world is at its most fragile, the autocrats and dictators seem to crawl out of every corner. And for even more obscure reason, we (and I don’t mean me or you, but “we” in a far more general sense) seem to accept this as normal. Maybe not initially, but ultimately we get tired of fighting the battle to be free.

Are we free? When was the last time you felt a real sense of freedom? I’m 73 and I’ve been buried under financial, emotional, legal, and child-rearing issues for my entire life. I have cooked every night and am still mostly cooking. I’m worn thin. Yet between my feelings of loss for the world that used to be normal and my very real sense of despair that we are losing the wilds and even our weather, I have weird periods of optimism. Garry says he has this feeling he never loses that ‘something wonderful is going to happen.’ He doesn’t know what it will be, but something.

Today I learned that the prices of houses in this area have gone up by nearly 20% since last year. Why? Because people want to get out of the city, get out of the crowded suburbs. Get out of there little plots of lawn and garage and move to someplace where there’s room between them and their neighbors. In other words, here. It turns out that living in the boonies, which no one wanted 20 years ago is now what everyone wants. Houses just like this one are selling like well, hotcakes. I’ve always wondered where hotcakes are selling so well, but that is a question I’ll never get answered.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Our house in winter

The problem is I don’t want to leave the neighborhood. For all the problems of living in a small town with too little business and far too few facilities, I love the wildness of it. I love fresh corn and the friendly cows and goats and horses. What I really want is the same house I live in, but flat. Without stairs. I’m not sure that this is a viable option, but not having those stairs to haul myself up — and Garry’s getting to the “hauling” stage himself — would make life so much easier for both of us. And I don’t want to lose my woods and my birds and my squirrels. Even though there are many repairs this house needs, it is still saleable now that we’ve installed a new boiler. The other things it needs are basically small, but that was a biggie.

The house today


So for all the terrible things that happen, some little piece of good happens too. It’s not a big thing. Not something ‘wonderful,’ but not bad either. It’s nice to be in the black (not racist, just bookkeeping) for a change. I’m not sure what we will do. My best guess is that we will stay here because we don’t want to leave the area and maybe getting a better chair lift would solve the problem. The idea of moving is terrifying anyway. I remember when we moved here thinking they will have to bury me here because I’m never moving again.

I guess we’ll see if that turns out for be true.


The old loveseat was 14 years old. It seemed we bought it more recently than that. But if I think about it, I’d realize how much has happened during these years. Garry and I have grown old on the old loveseat. It had collapsed on both ends, so we were both sitting at a weird angle. Not helping our backs any. I never thought, when I ordered it, we’d be in such a financial pickle but it needed replacing.

This morning, just as I was brushing my teeth, I heard that “beep beep beep” of a truck backing down the driveway. There they were. First step was to remove the old loveseat which had at least an entire dog’s worth of hair under it. Surprisingly, not much else except a few pens and Duke’s yellow squeaky tennis ball. I had the broom and pan ready, with the hand vac and the big vac off to one side. We must have cleaned relatively recently because 14 years of dirt would have been much worse. Probably when I had the house cleaned a few times in the past year and I know while looking for missing object, we moved the sofa.

So here I am, sitting on the new loveseat that looks exactly like the old loveseat except for its color which is brown rather than red. Although we’ve only had it a few hours, there are patches of white Duke-hair on it. That’s just part of the experience, I suppose. Soon it will have bits of food, human and dog. Crumbs. Bits of chips. Little sticky places where some jelly fell or a muffin. New — until it grows old.

We grew old on its predecessor and we will grow older on the new one.


Every night, I fill up my cup, grab my bag of medications, give the Duke his nighttime treats, and hike the hallway to the bedroom at the other end of the house. After arriving, I put the bag where it belongs. Adjust the bed. Garry watches with headphones while I read or listen to an audiobook. I fire up my Blue-tooth speaker. I never remember to do everything that needs doing before bed. I almost always forget to turn off the fans in the living room. I sit on the edge of the bed trying to remember what I should have done but didn’t. “Ah,” I think. “Fans.” I hike to the living room. Turn off the fans. Assure Duke that he already got his treats and no, he’s not getting more. Then I feel guilty about it.

Back down the hall. Brush teeth. Sit on the edge of the bed. Oh, right. I have to refill the antihistamine bottle. It’s empty. Back to the kitchen where the huge bottle is stored. I ramble back to the bedroom. I have the nagging feeling I’ve forgotten something else. Oh, right. I didn’t close the kitchen door. It’s a dutch door and we leave the top of it open during the day to catch the breeze. Tonight, it’s supposed to rain so I should close it. Back up the hall to the kitchen. Close the door. Back to bedroom.

Garry shows up, having done whatever it is he does for however long he does it in the bathroom. Forty-five minutes later, I’ve got a headache. I’m not sleepy and everything hurts. Why are my medications not working? There’s nothing more I can take. Panic is setting in. That is when I realize all the pills are still in the cup. What with all the hiking up and down the hall, I never took them. It probably explains why they aren’t working.

I laugh. Continued laughing. Garry took off his headphones long enough for me to explain why I’m laughing. I got to the punchline, he looked at me and said: “You didn’t take them, right? Yup, that’s classic.” He smiled. Nodded. Put the headphones back in place.

As our memory — collectively and individually — gets less dependable, we have substituted routines and calendars. I take one of my medications only once a week, so I have a calendar reminder. All appointments are on that calendar, Garry’s and mine, because otherwise, we will forget. No maybe. Forgetting has become normal. If we do everything the same way at the same time every day, we’re much less likely to forget. Still, it can be pretty funny.

Yesterday, we were watching a show that included a dog. Garry assumes I know every dog breed at a glance. He’s right. I know the breeds, but these days, I may not remember its name. I will usually remember the group — guarding, herding, hunting, hound, terrier, non-sporting (“other”), toy. If I can remember that, I can go to the AKC site, find the group, scroll the list and find the dog. But they’ve changed the AKC website, so it’s not as easy as it used to be. I wish they’d stop fixing stuff that isn’t broken.

I knew the dog that Garry was asking about was the same as the dog Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) had on his show. The dog’s name was Eddy. I remembered that. No problem. The breed name was on the edge of my brain, but not coming into focus. I gave up and Googled it. (Search: “Breed of dog on Frasier TV show.”) Except I couldn’t remember the name of the TV show, either. So I first had to find the name of the show. (Search: “long-running comedy on TV about psychiatrist.”)

Up popped Frasier. Phew. I could have also found it by looking up that other long-running comedy, “Cheers,” in which Frasier first showed up as a character, but I couldn’t remember its name either. One of these days, I’m going to have to Google my own name. I hope I find it.



He hiked up the driveway, initially to bring down the trash can and pick up the mail, but he took a camera. It was a lovely day. There have been some lovely days, but very few last an entire day. Usually, the “good” day lasts part of the morning with sunshine and warmth leaving shortly after lunch. Then comes the afternoon with darkened skies and a lost sun.

The front woods and a lot of broken trees
Note wires. Note trees. Note likely disaster.

The broken branch lying over an electric line has been that way for a week, but apparently, they don’t have time to fix it because it hasn’t broken the line yet. It will. It sill take down the whole neighborhood. Nonetheless, it hasn’t done it yet. It would take them ten minutes to fix it now and it will we a catastrophe soon enough, but they can’t afford the ten minutes. I suppose I can call a third time.

They have records of my first two calls, but no one has bothered to even check on it. Owen has a pole saw, but it’s not long enough to reach the branch, so it will have to be a National Grid truck.

Rhododendrons have taken over for the roses,.
The road with hints of leaves to come
You can see that our Japanese Maple is in full leaf. It’s the first to grow leaves and the last to lose them.
I know there were flowers here, but I’m not sure what they were. I think there may be daffodils trying to bloom.

Called National Grid for the third time. They’ll get right on it. Major storm predicted for tomorrow night. I think we should get the candles ready.

FORTY POINTS OF LIGHT – Marilyn Armstrong

40 things for Friday, Week Four

A thank you to Melanie.

I needed someone to remind me to stop sniveling and see what isn’t so bad. Forty is an awful lot, but I don’t have that much to do, so I’ll throw my towel in the ring. Most of these are going to sound silly considering death tolls and being locked in the house for months at a time, but this is life in a strange time. Snicker away. This is life in the Valley, April 11, 2020.

P.S. I may never go anywhere ever again. I might eventually change my mind, but right now, that’s how I feel about it.

  1. The dogs almost never bark all night although Bonnie almost succeeded by doing a continuous 4-hour Barkathon. Human madness nearly overwhelmed us, but she was just fine. I doubt she knows what she is barking at. If she is barking at anything in particular and not just hoping we’ll get up and give her company.
    At least she barks inside the house and she is happy. Dementia is working well for her. Who knows? It might work well for me.
  2. I think we might (I hope) have almost enough toilet paper to get through the siege.
  3. Our only grocery store will deliver medications to the curb. But not groceries. I guess we should be grateful for anything and to be fair, I think they are working as hard as they can. It’s the Valley. Low population. It’s mostly high schoolers and they aren’t always entirely focused. And, there aren’t a lot of bodies to enlist. Small towns can’t easily find hundreds of spare people. Still, pick-up OR delivery of groceries would really improve the quality of life.  It would be nice if they had some food to buy. Basics. Eggs. Chicken. Tomatoes. I hear they are throwing a lot of food away because there aren’t enough delivery trucks to get it where it needs to go. Not enough immigrants means crops are rotting in the field. Americans aren’t pickers.
  4. My house is gradually getting cleaner. Curtains in the dining room and living room have been washed, dried, and rehung. The French doors in the dining room have the same type of curtains as the living room but were bought as curtains.
    The living room consists of three long silk saris, in three different colors, all together on the rack. They need to be washed gently, in cold water and dried at room temperature or hung to dry. They came out beautiful and I remember how clever I felt using saris draped over the prongs from the previous drapes. It’s the picture window, the only place where nice curtains matter. The French doors have a long piece of floral silk around them, but it isn’t a sari.
  5. My house is interesting.
  6. Garry collects old photographs and paintings and photographs. We also have several excellent oil paintings (once upon a time, we had incomes), watercolors, prints, ancient Chinese porcelains, some old Japanese porcelain, and hand-painted Native American pottery. Also, Hindu religious art.
  7. Owen collects chiming clocks. We have probably 20 in the house — it might be more.
    Wall chiming clock, living room

    Since these are weight-driven or windups, they are never entirely accurate and around eleven and noon, the start ringing all over the house, but never at the same time. And anyway, they don’t ring at the same rate or even play the same chimes. During those hours, our house sounds like a cathedral.

  8. Owen also collects old Victrolas. You know, you wind them up and play an old, fragile 78 RPM recordings. We have a big mahogany tabletop Victrola. It’s lovely. He has a few spare ones which I think he’s going to sell.
  9. Garry and I have a lot of cameras but aren’t using them much.
  10. Owen is growing (legal) pot. We had four good starters, but we lost one. Now there are three. But more are coming tomorrow. We only have room for a total of five until it’s warm enough to put them outside.
  11. We bought a “Magical Butter” machine.  All the fun of making edibles with half the work and it comes out perfect every time.
    Try homemade gingerbread with three or four 1/8 (something like that) the amount you get from mini muffin tin instead of the butter or other oil you were planning to use. Have a good time.
  12. I bought a 12-inch glowing globe of the Earth. I use it as a soft light for when we’re watching TV.When I have nothing else to do, I rotate it and see all the strange and wonderful places in the world.
  13. I’m spending too much money. It’s the tedium of doing nothing.  I apologize. But everything was on sale
  14. If you buy a Magical Butter machine, use the coupon. We get a refund.
  15. You can take the drudgery out of the preparation. You can also have other butter mixes using garlic, rosemary, or whatever suits you.
  16. About every three or four days, I get 1020 photographs from the wall camera on the deck. They keep me very busy. Just deleting the pictures takes hours.
  17. We are supposed to get richer via the U.S. Treasury. Has anyone received anything from the government? The $1200 check, or unemployment, or a small business loan … or for that matter managed to make an arrangement for rents or mortgage? If you have, tell me your secret. Scads of people want to know.
  18. We have many brightly colored and entertaining birds.
  19. We’ve got plenty of squirrels, flying and leaping varieties.
  20. Raccoons. Three at a time sometimes seems to be too many.
  21. Two dogs. See #1.
  22. Our wi-fi works most of the time.
  23. Today is a sunny day, It’s about time.
  24. Garry and I ate the last of the gingerbread. Garry decided he didn’t need to shave. What a smartie!
  25. The dogs never put their toys away even though we discuss the matter daily.
  26. I hardly have to cook. Owen cooks. I am deeply grateful.
  27. I can see the fat red buds of the Maple tree outside the picture window. They are early.
  28. The birds are fully dressed for the mating ritual. The Goldfinches are bright yellow. The House Finches are deep red. We have an enormous red-bellied woodpecker who scares the squirrel.
  29. I keep my news watching down to a few minutes on television. The rest of the stuff I get on comedy shows or from other blogs. Limiting the amount of input has improved my ability to cope.
  30. The new buds on the Orchids are getting nice and plump.
  31. We are not going to run out of coffee anytime soon. I just got 3 new bags and 3 new cans of it.
  32. We still remember how to laugh. Gingerbread helps.
  33. The Forsythias are blooming.
  34. We have more doves this year than last.
  35. I couldn’t afford the fancy expensive birdfeed. It was $12 for 20 lbs. in March. It’s $37 for 10 pounds now and delivery isn’t until late May or June. The creatures are not pleased.
  36. I’m going to go wash my hair. It’s not a point of light. My hair needs washing. I don’t know if I’m going to make it to 40. I’m wearing out.
  37. My hair is clean.
  38. The price of fuel oil went down. Also gasoline, but we aren’t driving so it doesn’t matter much.
  39. Easter Sunday and Passover Weekend: The western religious world is going berserk. I’m enjoying the fuss. Half the people ranting about not going to church didn’t go to church before, but now that they can’t, they are enraged. It would be funny if it weren’t ridiculous.
  40. I bought an Intelligent hat from ShopGarrisonKeillor. Click the link if you want one. It says something to which I can relate.

And that’s it for a while. My thinking is worn out. I need a long nap before I need to think again.

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.


The panic buying spurred by the Coronavirus has highlighted the products that Americans feel are most essential to their wellbeing. Apparently toilet paper leads the pack since most stores initially reported that they were completely out of toilet paper.

Toilet paper hoarding has become a national joke, with people buying carts full of the stuff in anticipation of long periods of ‘sheltering in place.’

I was surprised to discover that toilet paper has only been around since 1857, which means that humans spent centuries and centuries without this basic item of civilized life. So what did people do before this life-changing invention? Sailors used the frayed end of a rope dipped in saltwater. The Romans used a sponge on the end of a stick. Rural areas used corn cobs hung in outhouses.

Stones and moss were also used as were all kinds of printed paper, which were put to double use. People wiped indiscriminately with everything from newspapers and catalogs to almanacs and literature and even government proclamations.

Then around 1857, Joseph C. Gayetty invented the first commercial toilet paper called “Gayettey’s Medicated Paper.” It was made of hemp, had the inventor’s name watermarked on each sheet and claimed that its four medications combined with the paper pulp prevented and cured hemorrhoids. It was clearly a luxury item only for the rich because it sold for $30 in today’s money for 1000 sheets.

Gayettey’s product was sold only in sheets, as were the other brands that popped up, but it continued to be sold into the 1920s. It wasn’t until 1890 that Irvin and Clarence Scott of Philadelphia’s Scott Paper Company revolutionized the world of toilet paper by selling it on rolls. If you look at the original patent, you can see that the roll was designed to be placed with the sheets coming OVER the roll, NOT UNDER!

Original patent showing OVER was the intended way to position each roll

A later patent tried to address the problem of finding the ‘end’ sheet if it’s not hanging down. It was not successful, nor were the others that subsequently tried to tackle that pressing issue. Later improvements on the toilet paper roll addressed the problem of waste – too many sheets unraveled with each use. In 1891 a patent was granted for a roll of toilet paper with perforations to separate sheets so that only one sheet of paper came off the roll at a time.

Another welcome improvement in quality came in the early 1900s when a company boasted of its super-refined, “splinter-free” toilet paper. Ouch! Before this time, minute wood pulp splinters were a common residue from the papermaking process. By 1943, toilet paper was advertised as “soft and oh so gentle” for the first time!

Toilet paper has also been used as a political tool and numerous American politicians have appeared on rolls, including George Bush and Donald Trump. Prior to World War II, some British toilet paper was made with pictures of Adolph Hitler and other Nazi leaders printed on the sheets. One such roll from the 1930s was recently found in a barn in England. It was thin, war issue paper and was only twenty sheets, but it showed Hitler giving the Nazi salute. It sold for $240!

Are we going to face prices like that for Charmin in the near future? If it had pictures of Donald Trump on it, it might be worth it.

The toilet paper of my childhood came in colors and colorful patterns


Crocuses and the Headstone for old Winston, the guinea pig

Garry wasn’t feeling up to grocery hauling today so I went. No problem keeping my distance. The store wasn’t crowded. there was no pasta, no bread, no paper goods of any kind. They did have freshly baked Italian bread and four loaves of cinnamon raisin bread (Garry’s favorite), so I bought them all.

Purple Crocus

The butter I usually buy was gone, so I bought the other kind. And cream cheese. No frozen potatoes so we bought actual potatoes and there were two nice-sized corned beef, both of which I bought. This is the only time of year I can afford a corned beef. It was a great dinner. I forgot to buy a cabbage, but we survived with onions and potatoes.

White Crocuses

No chicken except wings. Not sure why there isn’t any, but I still have chicken left in the freezer so we’re okay. We bought more food than we usually do because we were pretty much out of food. Hopefully, we have enough food for a week. Maybe by the next time we need to buy food, there will be more things available to buy.

Meanwhile, our freezers are nicely packed and if we don’t run out of toilet paper, all will be well.

Sleep well, Winston

I took the pictures of the crocus on the way out and the tombstone for old Winston, the Guinea Pig. There are a lot of shoots in the garden. We need to scrape the dead leaves out. It’s on the calendar.

VICTORIAN HOUSES – Marilyn Armstrong

We all think we’d like to live in one of those mansions. I know several people who bought one and tried to restore it. They acquired them with the best of intentions. They saw in their minds glorious images of perfectly finished wood paneling and ceiling beams with miniature gargoyles and carved balustrades in the hallways.

Gleaming wood floors and a kitchen big enough to run a restaurant with a dining room to match.

Despite those dreams, everyone ultimately gave up. The reality was too expensive. Every piece of every part that needed repair was too expensive and many parts had to be bought from places that collect parts of fallen down buildings and sell them to would-be restorers. It was just too much house and in due time, they moved on.

One couple actually finished the job. The house was magnificent. Then, they went bankrupt.

These are wonderful homes. Big rooms with plenty of light from windows much taller than me. High, airy ceilings, hand carvings, and stunning hand-carved wood interior decorations. But with those beautiful parts came rooves that were incredibly expensive to repair and early 1900s wiring never designed for modern appliances. Plus primitive plumbing that needed to be completely redone.

Those gigantic rooms and 12-foot ceilings made the homes much more expensive to heat than a “normal” house. Everything that made the house beautiful also made it a problem for a modern homeowner. Most particularly,  the sheer size and lack of insulation in these houses as well as the lack of modern infrastructure.

Beacon Hill mansion

These homes were designed to house large families with lots of children and probably two or three generations from babies to great granddad. And maybe the odd aunt or cousin, too.

Did I mention that they don’t have closets? What they considered a closet, we would call a “tie rack.” Because most people had a set of fancy clothing, an outfit for Sunday church-going, and work clothing. They didn’t need the amount of storage we’re used to.

Classic Victorian “Painted Lady”

In the real world, as we get older we realize we don’t need a 3-story house with 8 bedrooms and only one bathroom. We’d be fine with a single-story house, two bedrooms with one and a half baths. And hefty closets.

Luxury? How about a small fireplace and a fenced yard for the dogs?

In my middle years, I yearned for large and open. With tall windows. Oh, those windows!

For a brief time, I owned a one-fifth of a Victorian. It was a one-bedroom flat on the first floor of a much bigger house. By the time I bought it, the house had been broken up into five apartments — four in the main house and an even bigger one on what would have been the attic level. My piece was not huge by square footage, but it felt bigger than it was

It was elegant with twelve-foot ceilings and polished elm flooring. It cost me almost a thousand dollars to have simple cotton curtains made for the windows. Not fancy drapes, mind you. Just enough to cover those 7-foot windows.

My apartment was on the first floor and was not in the country. You had to have window coverings. I lived there for less than a year and then Garry and I got married. The apartment only had one small bathroom with no room for another. Garry and I can share many things, but NOT one bathroom.

NO closets. Well, in theory, the bedroom had a shallow closet good for hanging a bathrobe, a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt.  Real Victorian houses in their time never stored much. Whatever they own was on display. The rooms were huge, but there was no room to move in them. They were unbelievably cluttered with lamps, vases, statuary, knick-knacks, pottery wildlife and often, many dogs. You had to be a ballet dancer to not knock over the breakables — and it was ALL breakable.

Pre-plastic, everything was fragile although often surprisingly ugly.

Victorian, but a farmhouse along the river

We tried to buy the other (empty) apartment across the hall, but the condo association got confused by the concept. I don’t know why because combining two condos is not such an unusual thing and wasn’t even 30 years ago, but they got all fluttery about it. We gave up and moved elsewhere. I rented it out for a couple of years, then I went bankrupt.

No one wanted the apartment. At that particular time, this area was unsaleable and had gone far downhill. The GE plant had left with its jobs and the drug dealers had moved in. The bank canceled the mortgage and but I kept the place. I gave it to my son who lived in it with his wife and my granddaughter until finally, he passed it along to an ailing friend who completely remodeled it. It’s gorgeous and looks just the way I’d have done it if I’d had the money.

Many of these glorious “painted ladies” have been broken into pieces for condos. It’s probably the only way to maintain them. At least that keeps them as one building because otherwise, they end up falling down to make room for more sensible housing.

These are houses to dream about and for which we yearn. If you are wealthy, you can fix them up and live there, but you need some pretty big money to make them livable and it takes years to bring them up to reasonably modern living standards. Not only hundreds of thousands of dollars but a lot of patience. It helps if you don’t have to live in them while they’re being remodeled — if you want to come out of your reconstruction sane.

Not a Victorian, a big farmhouse

At this point, I can’t imagine dealing with so much room. I can barely take care of this house which is less than half the size of one of those Victorians — not counting their basement and attic sections. For most of us, Victorian homes exist to admire. Otherwise, they are the highest maintenance houses ever built with far too many stairways and an awful lot of glass.

When my rare moments of yearning come to me, I watch “Meet Me In St. Louis.” That makes me feel better and I can sing along, too.


You’re probably shocked to know that there is another opinion other than mine which might be worth hearing. It turns out, I’m imperfect. I hate to admit it, but there it is. Life marches on but one must consider the alternative should life fail to march on.


My thermostat no longer works. It started when I finally reached menopause but didn’t end there. Although my husband is a man and therefore not subject to the full Monte of mind and body altering experiences this special Time of Life engenders, he seems to have a broken thermostat too. It’s just another of the many fascinating things that happen as we age. Neither of us is sure if it’s hot, cold — or us.

“Is it hot or is it me?”

“It’s hot.”

“Oh, good. I’ll turn on the fan.”

The other version:

“Is it hot or is it me?”

“It’s not hot. It’s a bit chilly.”

“Maybe it’s hot and you are chilly.”

“Possibly, but you asked. All I can tell you is what I feel.”

“I’m turning on the fan.”

“I’m putting on a sweatshirt.”

You can see how important it is to get a second opinion.


“What did he say?”

“What did who say?”

“The guy, the one with the hat.”

“The guy on the left?”

“No, he’s not there anymore. The one who had the gun. Before.”

“They all have guns.”

“Oh, never mind.”

Aside from these minor details, I know everything. Okay, nearly everything. Ask my husband. He will say, “She knows everything.” And that is an official second opinion.


Now that it has snowed, the mud that had almost become solid has turned back into gummy mud. With the best will in the world, this house will never be entirely clean. Too many dogs. Too many trees. Too many people. Dog hair, dust, and dead oak leaves — the triple D of home ownership.

Live in the country — both inside and out!

On their way
Always, the trees
Home again, from the road

There is more snow coming tomorrow unless it’s rain or unless instead of getting cold, it gets warm … or unless the winds change and everything blows northward. But something’s going to happen, whatever it may be!