CHANGES — Marilyn Armstrong

As we have been repairing the house, I’ve also been rearranging the house. Three crates of dolls have moved into storage. The organ is gone. The big dining table has be folded up — it is a drop-leaf — into its smallest size and become where the plants live in the light of the east-facing window.

Finally finished front door

Photo: Garry Armstrong — Finished new wall

Owen brought over a small dining table today. It will, when open, seat six and if there are more people than that, it will be a sideboard and everyone can find a place to sit and eat. It’s hard to explain how very much I wanted someplace in this house where I could walk three steps without bumping into something.

The front woods

I’m waiting for my next large box to recommence boxing up the medium-sized dolls.

Autumn through the dining room French doors

So these two pictures: the first was shot on an SD chip I’d forgotten to remove from the camera. It waited for me. The other was taken today. Finally, a room that has floor space!

A quiet place to sit and maybe a place for a computer, too

New gutters, from the deck

Meanwhile, it would appear that we are now also under siege from raccoons. When all the birds and squirrels are tucked into bed for the night, the raccoons strike.

I really wanted to feed the birds, but it appears I’m feeding everything.

HERE’S YOUR HAT. WHAT’S YOUR HURRY? Marilyn Armstrong

I used to be the Entertainment Queen of my crowd. It was close to 40-years ago, but I was the hostess with the mostest.

I fed the hungry, housed the homeless, cheered up the downhearted. I rescued cats, dogs, and lost people. No living creature was ever turned away. It got crowded and if feeding the birds is expensive, imagine feeding 20 extra people every week. I think I was in the kitchen whenever I wasn’t at work.

Motley crowd on Coney Island boardwalk.

One day, I realized I didn’t want to do it anymore. I wanted some privacy. I didn’t want to clean up the mess or cook gigantic meals. I was tired of spending all my money on other people. The crowd that assembled nightly in my living room weren’t really friends. I had become a facility. A place to crash. Where there was always music, food, something to smoke and probably a good conversation and a sofa.

So I started locking my front door and asked people to call before showing up. About half the crowd never came back … and I never missed them. Others drifted off in the course of time. A few are still my friends today.

Where friends … and guests … are concerned, quality is not necessarily quantity. Actually, these days? Less is definitely more.


AND NOW, TIME FOR A CLASSIC JEWISH JOKE:

A very poor man goes to his Rabbi complaining his house is too small and he can’t stand it anymore. “What should I do?” he asks.

“Get a big dog,” advises the Rabbi.

Puzzled, the man buys a sheepdog and brings him home. The house is even more crowded, and the man returns to the Rabbi. “It’s worse,” he moans.

The Rabbi nods his understanding. “Get a goat. He can be friends with the dog. Oh, and get a cat too.”

Even more confused, the man does as instructed. The house is unbearable. He returns to the Rabbi. “Please, Rebbe, it’s horrible at home. The dog, the cat, the goat … and it smells really bad.”

“I think you need a lamb,” says the Rabbi. “And a calf.”

DogsSlayThe BeastieDutiful to the end, the man gets a lamb and brings it home. The noise alone is deafening. There’s hair everywhere and the place stinks. Finally, he goes back to the Rabbi, now desperate for relief.

“Rabbi, OY VAY, IT’S TERRIBLE. The animals go all over the house and they chase each other. We have no peace, no privacy.”

“Get rid of all those animals,” orders the Rabbi. The man heaves a sigh of relief and the next week returns to see the Rabbi.

“Rebbe, it’s wonderful! We have so much room. The house is clean. Life is wonderful!”


Today, as promised I began the process of crating dolls. As boxes come in, anything big enough becomes storage for dolls. Many of these are more than 50 years old. Some are older than me, but they are effectively like new. Most will end up at the Salvation Army. I hope little girls get to play with them and love them as I did.

But the process of letting go is not merely getting rid of things, but recognizing you no longer have control over what happens to those items. That may be the most painful part of the process.

THE GOOD AND BAD OF HELP AT HOME – Marilyn Armstrong

The good news? About half a ton of dust and dirt left the house today. Though I know it will return, it is nice to know that at least the living room is clean.

The bad news?

“Please,” I said, “Don’t disconnect anything. I don’t know how it was put together because I didn’t put it together.”

Crash. Wires everywhere. Television is on, the sound system is on. There’s no sound. Worse, my back is so bad today I can barely move. I’ve been doing too much lifting and hauling. The spine doesn’t like it. But Garry needs sound. Okay, I need sound too, but this is not a good day for me to be hauling, twisting, and lifting.

Although I did not connect the sound system, I’m pragmatic about putting things together. First, I found the plug that attaches the soundbar to the TV and also, incidentally, the electricity.

I plug it in, and the three little dots that mean “It’s ON!” light up. Sadly, there is still no sound. I find one plug hanging off the back of the TV and the second end is lit up in red. The one on the TV says “TV/Audio Out.” It lives in a square hole and it’s the only plug on the TV that shape. The rest are standard cable connections. Sometimes you have to count them. One hanging plug goes into the one the looks like as if it is the right size. I find the plug for the bass speaker and I realize that all the plugs are loose, so I stick them firmly in their holes. I find two connectors — cable connectors — and I’m pretty sure that at least one of them should be connected to the DVD player. Probably both of them: one for visual to the TV and the other to the electricity so it will play.

Do we need the DVD player right this moment? I figure we can get through the day without a DVD. Garry is holding the flashlight and is beginning to look a bit bored. I’m sincerely considering beating him with the DVD cables, but cables are expensive. If you damage them, you have to find the right cables which, since the DVD player isn’t new, can be difficult. Sometimes, impossible.

My back is killing me. So instead of standing up on my own — it took me ten minutes the last time — I have Garry hand me the soundbar. Since I have determined that there is no plug on the TV where that audio plug can fit, it has to fit in the soundbar.

Yay! I found where it goes. Now I have to figure out which way it fits. It looks square, but actually, two sides have little flanges and they need to fit into their slots.

Where things go and what lies behind

“Is the television on?” I ask Garry. He tells me the TV is on, but not the Roku. I point out that I need something on with sound or I won’t know if I’ve fixed it. He turns on the Major League TV channel. I plug the little square plug with the red light into the hole with the flanges and suddenly — there is SOUND!

I then walk around the room picking up fallen items (Robbie the Robot was down), plucked the dogs’ balls from everywhere and throw them into the crate where they will eventually find them. Remarkably, I manage to get up and I’m still clean.

That’s the good part. The back corner behind the TV is usually a huge mass of dust, old oak leaves, dog toys, and all the pens you’ve been missing.

The DVD is going to wait at least until Owen shows up and I just hand him the cables and let him figure it out.

I can’t let her anywhere near my computer because everything is connected in this area and if she knocks those cable around, my chair won’t lift, my external hard drive won’t work and probably both Garry and my computers will be down. It will be clean, but life will not commence until I make it all work.

I can make it all work (I set most of it up myself), but all that bending and twisting and lifting will make me crabby. I think I need to get some crime scene tape to keep her out of the electrical corners!

POP! NEW GUTTERS – Marilyn Armstrong

“POP!” Pop of Positivity Share
Theme: People doing the right thing
just like they promised!

Usually dealing with contractors is at it’s best, not too bad. This time, it went so easilyAtlantic Gutters were on my schedule for 2 pm. They showed up at 10:30 in the morning. Just as well we didn’t sleep late.

They went to work instantly without a moment wasted and in a few hours, they were finished. It cost $500 more than expected because there should have been fascia put on with the roof, but they weren’t there (we had really awful people doing our original work because we didn’t know anyone and we took someone’s recommendation.

New gutters from the deck

The guy turned out to be her brother-in-law and he’d never put up a roof or gutters before. It was a disaster for us, but he took the money and smiled all the way to the bank. We knew so little, it took us years to discover what a mess they had made.

Thus, for the past 19 years, gunk has been building under the edge of the roof. Without the fascia, we were going to need a roof soon. We just bought maybe 8 to 10 more years of roofing.

The company is Atlantic Gutters of New England and they are a large group, reasonable prices. Not the cheapest, but definitely not the most expensive. They are a big enough organization so that they are likely to still be in business in a few years. I sure hope so. They give a nice, long guarantee, but as I have learned, a guarantee is only good if the company stays in business.

Right now, I’m pretty happy. Even with the unexpected $500.

After they were finished … and I should add that they cleaned up every single item they used. When they were done, it was exactly as it had been before they began. Which means that we have several tons of leaves to blow into the woods. I always laugh when people suggest we need humus (no, not the delicious combination of chickpeas and tahini (with lemon, olive oil, garlic, and maybe a hint of chopped onion) but the rich soil you find on the floor of the forest.

We have a lot of humus. Enough for half a million gardens. Maybe more. So when they left and I had handed them my previously empty credit card because I really needed those gutters, I went out to the back porch to sweep up the pile of leaves and birdseed. Surprisingly, there were no seeds on the railing. Between the return of the Mourning Doves and the determined little chipmunk, every last seed got eaten.

We refilled the feeders — again. We filled them yesterday, too. We also let the Duke wander around the deck and bark himself sick. This does not scare the birds. They trust their wings. It freaked out the squirrels and the birds get a whole hour to eat before the squirrels were back.

After a while, the birds got tired of watching me push leaves off the deck and started hitting the feeders with energy, totally ignoring me and the Duke. They probably didn’t even appreciate the new gutters.

BLACK & WHITE – HALLWAYS, CORRIDORS, AND NARROW PATHS – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge:
Indoor Walkways, Hallways, Elevators

I’ve been thinking a lot about hallways and corridors recently since I’ve been wondering if I should start saving up for some version of a motorized wheelchair.

Medicare will give you one only if you are going to use it IN the house, not outside, but I don’t need one in the house. I need one outside, in the mall (for those rare times I go to one) … and moreover, I need one that could travel “off-road” on grass and gravel surfaces because that’s where I take pictures. If it only travels on smooth surfaces, it won’t get me anywhere I need to go.

It’s actually two hallways — up (with stairlift) and down (stairs only) — and only 39 inches wide!

All the books and DVDs make the hall rather narrow

If the thing will only run on flat, smooth floors, what would I do with it? We don’t live in a flat, smooth-surfaced world and the hallways in this house are far too narrow to navigate in any kind of chair. They are often difficult to navigate on foot and we are used to turning sideways when we are carrying packages — even small packages.

Narrow entryway

Almost too narrow to get the groceries up — the stairlift gets in the way!

Between Garry, me, and the pups, we knock a lot of stuff off shelves and tabletops. It makes one think seriously about what do you do when you can’t walk, but you can’t get up and down the stairs with a wheelchair either. Does that mean you have to move to “one of those homes”? Shiver.

NOTE:  Garry says we should hook up the dogs and make them work for a living. I pointed out we’d need more dogs. More dogs? MORE dogs?

ANOTHER DAY DOWN THE TUBES – Marilyn Armstrong

It wasn’t a bad day. More, it was a day when you don’t stop moving and when it’s over, you wonder if you accomplished anything.  There were so many stops and starts and lots of running up and downstairs.

I never made it to comments. I haven’t opened any emails. I did take quite a few pictures but haven’t had time to process them.  The rain is just starting. It may not hit us as hard here —  not the rain, anyway — but definitely very high winds. With the trees still full of leaves, that means blowing branches and breaking trees.

The animals must know what’s coming. Everything was in a feeding frenzy.

Photo” Garry Armstrong

Our nor’easters are essentially “local hurricanes.” Storms come in from the ocean and start to spin. They don’t move. So if it’s rain, there’s flooding. In the winter, we’ve gotten as much as three or four feet of snow before it finally breaks up.

With the contractor working, there was a strong sense of pressure to get finished before the weather moved in.

Then, there were phone calls. I’m checking out other medical insurance. I should have made the calls earlier in the week, but I had to make them today.

Meanwhile, it’s the world series but I think they are going to cancel the American League Pennant because of the weather. A glitch in Garry’s baseball channel went on for hours and entailed a prolonged wait on hold for tech support. To learn, as I suspected, they were having problems. The baseball channel has a lot of problems, but if you want to watch baseball, gotta have it.

I needed to fix Garry’s broken email too — which wasn’t difficult but took a long time. Warning! Delete old emails! If you don’t, eventually your email server stops serving and goes on strike.

The contractor did a GREAT job on the house. He’s still here. It is a real improvement. No more rot and no more of that sloppy, moldy old door … and the front door is finally insulated and nicely finished. It needs a new painting, but I think maybe it’s too late.


New Surroundings — our contractor — managed to do a good job without bankrupting me in the process. He did a really good job. All neat and sealed against the weather. And we sure have weather incoming. 


Tomorrow, we have to take the car in because somehow, one of the two latches that keep the hood in place broke off. No accident or anything. It’s just gone. It’s not a big deal driving a few miles into town, but a longer trip could cause serious damage.

Meanwhile, since both Garry and I have doctor appointments next week at UMass, their automated equipment calls every day for each appointment. They are such long calls, too. I feel a powerful need to go edit their electronic phone calls.

None of this sounds like a big deal and it wasn’t a big deal, but It was busy and fragmented. This is the only thing I’ve written today and I need to process at least a few pictures. Frozen pizza for dinner because I’m off my meds for a few days to give the rest of me a break. Today is the day I realized what a difference they make.

With the washing of the dishes, the official day is done. I feel like the day never fully started. I knew this month was going to get weird. On my agenda for tomorrow is explaining to the doctor that Garry’s has run out of hydrochlorothiazide because The Duke ate the container. Duke doesn’t (fortunately!) eat the pills. Just the plastic container. And any wood he can wrap his jaws around.

I have a lot of natural antiqued wood furniture. Duke is not the first wood chewer in the household. Only the most enthusiastic.

The Wood-Eating Duke

MY WORLD GOES ROUND AND ROUND – Marilyn Armstrong

I was about to give up. Contractors have a weird way of vanishing just when you think you’ve got a deal. You have the money in hand. The house awaits some long-awaited repairs. Which is when your contractor slips into the mists of time and disappears. What happened?

But not this time — or at least I don’t think this time. We have a date. I have the money. If we don’t get typhoon-level rain for all next week, we’ll have a fixed side of the house and a repaired (and hopefully freshly painted) front door.

The deck Dutch door won’t make this year’s repair list. We’ve run out of time. The weather is turning, so that job will have to wait until our next not-winter. I would say spring, but spring is usually winter, but wetter. So the next time after the regular winter when we have weather in which a carpenter can work … like maybe May or June, the Dutch door gets fixed. Along with the rot around it.

I am thrilled. No, really. I know there are too many other things going on about which I seem unable to do much. So I send $5 to Elizabeth Warren and fill my bird feeders which somehow doesn’t seem nearly enough, but it’s what I’ve got to offer and I figure it beats nothing by a little something.

Oh, and I switched to all wind-powered electricity. Yes, I know it costs more, but I figure it’ll be maybe $5 a month … well, with Owen coming back and all his stuff, probably more but he’ll pay his way, so it should be fine.

Meanwhile, Garry is feeling better and Bonnie seems to be barking less. She now seems to require a biscuit from both of us. We have to both appear and bribe her and then she goes back to sleep. Don’t ask me. I don’t get it either.

I’m just really happy the house is getting 2/3 fixed. We didn’t really have the money for the Dutch door anyway, but I was going to try to “make a deal.”

Something I read today — I think an article in the Washington Post — the author said that by Friday, she can’t remember what happened on Monday unless she goes back and reads her notes. That’s just how I feel. By Friday, this world has whizzed around its axis about 48 times. I sometimes forget the morning news before lunch.

But at least I am getting a couple of major items cared for. So in case the world survives, I’ll have a great front door and won’t have that rotten side door anymore.


This song was written by  Tom Paxton, but I can’t find a copy of him doing the singing. This singer’s okay and he plays the guitar well. So he will have to do!

In case you may be wondering why, despite the fact that the door that opens onto the deck is not getting replaces, it’s because I simply love that door. I love being able to open the top and have the air blow through the screen in the door. It turns out that Dutch doors are well-loved and wildly expensive. I could probably make a fair bit selling it, but I just love that door.

Scrabbling Junco feet!

Today we had two rather hungry looking squirrels, our usual chipmunk who is beginning to become a teenage chipmunk … and a lot of woodpeckers. I wonder why the woodpeckers are so fond of our feeders? We have a woods full of trees and a fair number of them are old and hollow, so there ought to be plenty for them to eat … but maybe we serve a better meal?