REALLY, MY MOTHER – Marilyn Armstrong

My mother was not a “regular” mom. This confused me a lot while I was growing up. Other mothers made cookies, kissed boo-boos. Hung out with other mothers in the summertime. Swapped recipes. Watched soap operas.

My mother didn’t bake anything, much less cookies. She was a terrible cook because she hated cooking. She was an unenthusiastic housekeeper and the whole huggy-kissy mothering thing eluded her.

She didn’t watch soap operas, loved the Marx Brothers and MGM musicals. She never graduated high school, but read voraciously and constantly. Especially about science and space. She was fascinated by quarks, black holes, and antimatter.

She never kissed a boo-boo; I don’t remember her kissing me at all. She wasn’t that kind of mom. She talked to me about everything and more important, she listened to me.

Mom-May1944

She had no interest in gossip, recipes, or cute stories about anyone’s kids. She wanted to talk about politics or the space program and which nations were so hopeless they needed a complete redo, from scorched earth up (she had a list). I think if she were still alive, she’d probably add this country to her list.

She enjoyed talking to me. I’m not sure if she talked to anyone else about being a young woman when FDR became president. How, when the NRA (National Recovery Act) was passed, there was a spontaneous parade in New York that lasted 24 hours. Ticker tape, and all.

How the government had surplus crops during the worst years of the depression, and government agents took the extra food, dumped it in vacant lots and put poison on it so no one could eat it. Even though people were starving.

I thought she was just paranoid, but I have since learned that it happened, just the way she said it did. For all I know, it’s happening right now.

She didn’t trust the government, was sure they were spying on us. Positive that  J. Edgar Hoover was out to get us and he had a long list — and we were on it. Turned out, she was on target about most of it.

Mom1973-3She was in favor of equal rights for everyone, everywhere. Pro-abortion, in favor of birth control, gay marriage, putting wheat germ in everything (yuk) and holistic medicine before anyone knew what that meant.

She wanted all religion out of the schools and government.

She was in favor of the death penalty. She felt there were people who should be taken out and shot. No long terms in prison (too expensive). No years of appeals. One well-placed bullet in the brain and justice would be served.

That was my mom.

She gave me Knut Hamsen to read and a grand piano for my 14th birthday. As well as appropriate anatomical books about sex. She figured I needed accurate information so I could make informed decisions.

She hummed most of the time, sang the rest of the time. She got the words wrong all the time.

She read me poetry when I was very small and treated me like an adult. She was a grimly determined atheist and would debunk any hint of religious belief should I be foolish enough to express it. I always felt she had a personal spite on God for failing her and the people she loved.

She was the most cynical person I’ve ever known. It seems I am following in her footsteps.

So here I am. Older than my mother was when she left this earth. I think my mother would like this version of me. She always liked me, probably more than I liked myself.

FINEST DAY OF THE WEEK, DEPENDING ON HOW YOU LOOK AT IT – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Finest

Duke did not steal it. I blamed him, although he was noticeably unruffled by being blamed since he does not consider stealing small plastic objects he can chew as something shameful. It’s just delightfully crunchy. Pill bottles (empty), DVD covers, other miscellaneous containers — and two pairs of kitchen scissors plus Garry’s red mouse. I knew it was him. It had fang marks. Garry may chew, but he has no fangs, at least that I know about.


We had errands to run today. It’s May 2nd or (depending on the day) late winter. I put on my sweat pants, turtleneck sweater, wool socks, shoes, and my peacoat. I should have also worn a hat because — yes — it was raining.

How unusual.

Garry asked if I was ready to go, so I closed my computer, grabbed my little camera and tucked it into my bag and off we went. We had to sign papers at the insurance company, mail some stuff to the Town of Uxbridge (to prove we still live here), and go grocery shopping.

All of which we did. When we got home and I unpacked the groceries and put everything where it belonged, I called Owen to tell him to pick up his mail — and by then it was past the dog’s dinner time and a little past ours, too, I took out my computer and turned it on. I had a few bills to pay. Nothing big, which is why I had to pay them. It’s the little ones I forget.

But I couldn’t do anything because my mouse had vanished. Both Garry and I stared at The Duke who appeared to wonder what the problem was. He has previously stolen two pairs of kitchen scissors and had eaten Garry’s mouse. So who wouldn’t assume he’d also eaten mine? Any dog owner would have assumed the same thing, right?

With a flashlight, we examined the underside of all the furniture (dirt, all that dirt), the dog crate (where we had previously found both pairs of scissors and Garry’s mouse). Nothing.

The Duke

And then, looked at my end table where I keep the computer, my big external drive and about a dozen chargers for miscellaneous camera batteries. My little camera was sitting there, in its case.

But. I put my camera in my bag, lest there be a picture to take. IF my little camera was on the end table — what did I put in my bag?

Suddenly, I knew. It was my mouse.

Totally humiliated, I extracted my mouse, mumbled about getting REALLY old and moved on with life.

Out of the whole week — and it was one hell of a week — this was my finest day. It was perfect.  This was possibly the finest hour of my finest day. I had both of us crawling around the floor looking for the mouse that I’d put in my bag because I thought it was my camera. It looks nothing like my camera. It’s not in a case, for one thing. It weighs a few ounces while the camera is almost a pound.

Camera and mouse

My body did something completely different than my brain was perceiving. This worries me. How many other things am I doing that I don’t know I’m doing? Until they call me and tell me I didn’t pay the bill, I really don’t know.

You can’t make this stuff up. Even if you try. (And why would you try?)

My doctor says I am not sinking into dementia. I know because I asked him. I believe he replied by saying, “Not a chance!” As if I had was hoping for a cure from life and he was giving me the bad news with which I would have to cope.

The dog really did not do it. I done it. Myself.

Sorry, Duke. You did eat Garry’s mouse. You left DNA with the fang marks.

IMMORTALITY AND AGING – Marilyn Armstrong

I am not sure I ever believed I was immortal, most likely because I didn’t think about it. Until sometime during college, when my various courses forced me to ponder the nature of life and death. College was the peak time for existential mental muck-raking. Being young makes these subjects philosophical.

Was this the result of too many hallucinogenic drugs? No. It was the lectures and classes. It was the books. Too many books.

College can’t hurt you if all you do is hang out on the quad or wander around looking for a bridge game where they need a fourth. I actually went to class.

I took courses like  “The Philosophy of Religion” and “Phenomenology.”

I always had a steady list of existential books I needed to read for classes, in English and French. Sartre, Camus, Lawrence Durrell, et al.

It was deep stuff and is the literature I won’t read today.

That this hyper-intellectual phase of my life coincided nicely with my first actual near-death experience was pure chance. It cured me of pondering the meaning of life and death and aimed me more in the direction of staying alive.

Nothing is more aggravating than college students pondering the philosophical meaning of death who suddenly make a realization.

“Hey, I could really DIE.”

It takes the fun and philosophy out of the experience and adds a hard edge of fear. I’m pretty sure we all thought we were smart and had a solid grip on the life and death stuff.

I was so wrong.

As I got older, I knew people who died. There was nothing philosophical about it. A couple of suicidal friends. Aging family members. The odd car skidding down the edge of a mountain.

Now that I’m a senior citizen, I know I’m very mortal. One of these days, it will be a certainty.

I’ll get back to you on that.

SHARING MY WORLD IN THE RAINIEST APRIL SINCE 1872 – Marilyn Armstrong

SHARE YOUR WORLD 4-29-19

If you could interview anyone from your life living or dead, but not a celebrity, who would it be and why?

My Aunt Kate. She was the one who had lived in the old country and had memories of the trip from Poland to New York. By the time I realized I needed to ask her questions, she was in her 80s and had forgotten a lot of the things I wanted to know. I’m so sorry I waited so long.

As a child, did you have a nickname?  Did you carry that with you throughout life or was it only in childhood that you used it?

I’ve never had a nickname. I always wanted one, but it never happened.

Give us three words that describe you:

Aging, a bit broken but alive, and still engaged with life.

Sneaking into a second movie at the theater (if you go to a movie house)?  Is that wrong or just harmless ‘fun’?

When I was a kid, if the movie wasn’t crowded, you could stay for as many showings as you could sit for. Most of the movies in those golden olden days were two movies and one or two cartoons. That was usually more than enough for me, but there were others who could spend a whole day and just watch over and over.

I got tired of sitting for that long. Back then, you got a lot of “freebies.” If you rode the Cyclone and wanted to ride again as long as there was no line you could keep riding. It wasn’t theft. There was a generosity of spirit that we seem to have lost over the years.

If you had a time machine would you go back to the past or forward into the future?  Why?

Goldfinches all lined up for chow time!

I’d like to take a quick look at medieval Europe, but I don’t think I’d want to stay very long. I like hot showers and flush toilets … and not getting the plague.

What were you thankful for during April?

Birds and squirrels. It has been such a gray and wet month, the bright birds and crazy squirrels kept me interested and alive.

And a few brilliant daffodils.

A SATURDAY AFTERNOON FOR YOURSELF – Rich Paschall

Home Alone, by Rich Paschall

So, it is Saturday afternoon.  You don’t have to go shopping.  There is no dry cleaning to pick up.  There are no appointments to keep.  Friends or relatives are not expecting you at a shower, baseball game, wedding, or bowling tournament.  Aunt Ethel is not waiting for you to meet her at Starbucks so she can fill your ears with the latest gossip.  It is just you and the afternoon.  What will you do?

72-Q7-Test-LR_2

The desktop, laptop or tablet may be calling your name.  There is always the temptation to check your email, check your facebook, check your Instagram.  You may be lured by Tumblr and Pinterest.  You may have to send out a tweet. You may wish to watch your favorite You Tubers.  I always think I will just watch the latest from Steve Grand, Alexander Rybak, Eric Saade or Worth It (Buzz Feed video).

Perhaps you just want to check shopping sites.  You can check ebay or Amazon for something you always wanted.  Maybe you need a movie, or a book or even a CD.  Searching the sites is fun and soon you are looking at items you never dreamed your had an interest in, but there you are, looking at book titles and movie titles.  Perhaps you are reading the reviews. “This book looks good,” you may think to yourself.  “Should I order it? Should I get the audible book and just listen?  They have instant download!”

You may have the strength and intestinal fortitude to resist the siren call of the internet.  There will be no World Wide Web for you while there is actual free time to be had.  Nope, you will look for something old-fashioned, something useful, something of another era.  Television?

72-Home-071015_27

What is on the television that you could possibly want to see when you have the day to yourself?  Of course, there are a lot of channels if you have cable or satellite service.  You can indulge in sports.  You can watch a variety of movies.  You can see concerts or comedy for pure entertainment.  News channels would love for you to drop in as they spin the stories depending on their particular point of view.

You could always watch a movie.  If one of your many channels does not have a feature film to your liking, perhaps you can pop in a dvd.  I think you should make popcorn first.  Do you have the microwave popcorn, or perhaps a stove top kind?  I have an air popper and can make a big batch in a hurry.  It even melts butter in a separate tray, if you like.  What could be more appealing?  Popcorn, a movie, and you!

If the feature film of your choosing does not meet your expectation, perhaps it is time for a good book.  Imagine a Saturday afternoon with no distractions and a good book?  What could be better?  If you have not read If Only Again by David Farrell or The 12 Foot Teepee by Marilyn Armstrong, than let me make a blatant plug.  You need to read something entertaining, educational and important.

Of course, you could curl up with John Adams, the historical story by David McCullough.  I have been meaning to read it, but the task seems daunting.  I am more inclined toward Winston, Marilyn or Anthony Perkins’ bio.

72-dustmop_02I would like to think that if I am home alone on a Saturday with nothing special to do that I would get a bottle of my favorite French white wine, properly chilled, and read a good book as I sipped this wonderful drink.  Maybe latter in the day, I would put in a favorite movie, like Casablanca or the Wizard of Oz.  It would be a totally relaxing day, with nothing urgent or pressing to demand my time.

In reality, I probably could not do anything relaxing.  No matter how free I was, routine chores would steal my attention.  I would do the laundry, sweep the floors and do the dishes.  I would take out garbage, recycle the paper, cans and bottles,  I would sow grass seed, plant flowers, and clean up the surrounding areas. The linens and towels would need to be washed as well as the floor, the windows and the mirrors.

On the rare occasion that my mother was home alone on a Saturday (I did not count when I was under high school age),  she would clean, do laundry, and listen to Mario Lanza, Johnny Mathis or Andy Williams, depending on her mood.  I might listen to Andy Williams, but more likely Barbra Streisand or The Association.  If I need something modern, Maroon 5, Steve Grand or One Republic will do.

I guess I can never escape the chores.  As long as there is something that needs to be done, I guess I want to do it.  The mail has an insidious way of piling up during the week, maybe I should tackle that.  I don’t know.  What will you do with your Saturday?  Share your thoughts in the comments.  That’s another thing to do on Saturday.  Read the comments.

A PRIME DAY IN SPRING – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Prime

It was an absolutely PRIME day!

Not only did it start out sunny, but it stayed sunny. All day today. It was warm without being hot and the flowers began to bloom. There was almost no humidity.

The birds were singing. The winds were warm and a bit blowy.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to be even nicer. Sunny and warm, without the wind. It should be the most prime of prime days for all of spring and if I can find a little time between errands, it could be the best day to take springlike pictures.

A day for Goldfinch

And all I have to do, is get to the doctor to pick up a script, have the oil in the car changed (I don’t know where the time has gone!), go grocery shopping, put the new mailbox up, and go into starvation mode for the tests they are (finally) running on Thursday. These should prove, once and for all, whether or not I have brains in my head. Or maybe it’s just some old hard drive that got stuck there.

Oh and I really should back up the month of March before it becomes May.

House Finch and Cowbird

Thursday should hopefully be the last day I am spending at the hospital unless they find something I don’t want them to find. It’s why I hate testing. It’s not merely the time, inconvenience and the bill that always shows up eventually. It’s that I don’t want them to discover something unfortunate. So if all goes well, I should be able to stop visiting specialists and maybe save enough to get a pair of eyeglasses.

And pay the man who is going to fix the chimney. And buy a storm door for the house before winter shows up again.

The Mourning Dove has returned

We were at the doctor today, too — for Garry. Meanwhile, I’m trying to find a good injector of cortisone to see if I can get my hips and back to hurt less. It’s getting hard to get around. In 10 years, I’ll be unable to move at all and that is not a pleasant thought so I have to see if I can get arthritis to at least, slow down.

Another pretty red House Finch

So again, if I’m missing, it’s not lack of love. It’s just that the days are not long enough. It’s half past midnight and I’m writing tomorrow morning’s post because I know I won’t be able to do it at the usual time. These are the days when I begin to wonder if maybe there’s another way to deal with this.

Hundreds of unread emails and posts and news and photos to process … and I already know I’m not going to be able to do it.

Not what I had in mind, but at least, for two days, the sun is shining and look! The birds stayed and let me take their pictures!

SHARING MY WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

SHARE YOUR WORLD


QUESTIONS:

Guns?  Are you pro or con?  Explain your point of view.

I am so anti-gun I don’t even know where to start. I don’t object (in theory, anyway) to hunting as long as the animal isn’t about to go extinct. There are plenty of deer and probably enough venison for all who want some.

But people? All the kids who’ve been slaughtered? People in church? People just listening to a concert? It’s not okay in any way at all and please do NOT tell me that guns don’t kill people. No gun by itself kills anything, but put it in the hands of a killer and then, they kill. And without a high-powered military-style weapon, these murderers simply could not do the amount of damage they do.

Have gun will travelI don’t want to hear about “prayers” and “thoughts.” I want laws that keep the nut cases away from powerful military-style weapons. And yes, I WOULD take away their guns, those racist losers who think murdering people in churches, concerts, or schools is the cool thing to do. I would take away their guns and their freedom for the rest of their lives.

How would your country change if everyone, regardless of age, could vote?

I’m assuming we’re talking about lowering the voting age to 16 (or something like that). Obviously, infants can’t vote.
I have no proof for any of this, but my best guess is we’d see a big change in gun laws because many, if not most, young people favor sane and sensible gun control laws.

Voting

I think you’d see a big jump in the minimum wage. Kids are often the people trying to live on that pitiful money. I’m pretty sure young people would do something to fix the cost of student loans and tuition at state universities. The rest? I don’t know but I live in hope.

What’s your cure for hiccups?

Breathing into a paper bag. If that doesn’t do it, drinking water and swallowing without inhaling first.

What’s the coldest you’ve ever been?

Those mornings when I  had to stand at the top of the driveway waiting with Kaity for her school bus.

In January, it was often below zero and there was wind, too. And the bus was almost always late. Man, that was SO cold!

If you would like, share a story, a photo or some thoughts on you may be thankful for this week!

I’m still here. Still breathing. Still writing and taking pictures. The world has not improved, but mine hasn’t gotten worse. These days, when things don’t get worse, that’s the same as better used to be!