IF YOU DON’T READ, YOU PROBABLY CAN’T WRITE – Marilyn Armstrong

Blogging Insights # 34 – Reading


QUESTION

Do you think that reading is an important prerequisite for writing well? If so, what kind of reading material inspires or affects your writing?

I never took a writing course. .I never wanted to take a writing course. i was afraid it would damage my ability to write.

I learned to write by reading. By liking this, not liking that. By enjoying this book, not liking another. And, what is more, I had a certain facility with words that started when I was very young. It wasn’t something I learned. It was something I was.

That’s the thing about talent and gifts. They aren’t learned. Courses can help you write better. Improve your grammar, if you feel that better grammar is what your writing needs. It can certainly improve your punctuation, especially if you believe that your previous understanding or lack thereof of punctuation is the problem with  your writing.

I absolutely guarantee that neither of these things is your writing problem. You may not have yet found your “voice.” You might well not know what it is you want to write about. You may not have found the type of writing that suits you. I was sure I was going to be a great novelist. Nope.

I hit my stride in non-fiction. I could write news, features, information, directions, instructions. I am brilliant at explaining complicated things to people who need to understand complex information, but don’t have a technical background. But novels? No amount of grammar or punctuation would help me. I don’t have the ability to create people who live, who jump from the page and become real to a reader.

But that’s okay. Other people do it very well and I love to read.

The capacity to use words was a gift, a talent. In the course of reading everything — I really did read everything I could get my hands on — and trying different kinds of writing, I learned what I was good at. No one was more surprised than I was that technical writing became my forte since I had always considered myself non-technical. But that was before I met computers where I found my spot in the technical universe.

So where does reading come into it? Books are chock full of ideas. You might be amazed at how many great ideas come out of books that have nothing to do with the subject for which the idea is used. Ideas are sneaky little devils and reading fills you up with them.

If everybody read books, we wouldn’t be in half the messes we are in. Reading makes you smarter. Reading helps you find truth. Really. It does.

A STRAW AND A CAMEL – Marilyn Armstrong

I understand that Amazon is overloaded and slow delivery is routine and that’s okay. Most things I don’t need tomorrow or the next day. I don’t mind waiting a week and sometimes much more.

What gets me is that they deliver my stuff to other people’s houses. Our left-hand next door neighbor is one ornery, nasty old cuss. We used to listen to him shouting at his wife. She’s gone for at least a decade. I’m surprised she stayed as long as she did.

Not surprisingly, since Amazon has taken to dumping our packages on his walk, he has found it annoying. He refuses to return the packages. If we can’t figure out that he’s got them, he keeps them. Yes, it’s illegal and once we had to send the cops who explained the legalities and he decided maybe he should return the packages.

But, in all fairness, this is an ongoing issue. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told the package was delivered but it wasn’t … and it never appeared. It was delivered somewhere, but not here.

We have provided our phone number and very specific directions on how to get here. We put up a sign along the road so if you are trying to find the We have given Amazon specific instruction on how to get to this house and we have a big sign at the top of the driveway that has our house number on it. Four packages were supposed to be delivered today and all four of them went to the nasty old neighbor. And all four delivery slips said “packages given directly to residents.” No, they weren’t. Not to us, not to the neighbor. Not to anyone but us.

They promised me it would never happen again. I wasn’t my usual placid me because I can’t count how many times they have said this exact line to me and it hasn’t changed anything.

That they can’t get the address right is annoying. That they lie when they say they handed it to a resident is much more than annoying. I understand te drivers are under pressure, but they had other options including “delivery is delayed” if it is. But it wasn’t delayed. It was delivered to the wrong place.

I hate the lying. That they make it increasingly difficult to get in touch with anyone at Amazon to deal with problems is most annoying of all.

The whole point of ordering things is so they get delivered. To me. Not my neighbor who lives a quarter of a mile down the road. It wasn’t that the packages were delayed, lost, or still on the truck. They were delivered — just not to me. The guy lied, said he delivered them to a resident, and dumped them on our neighbor’s sidewalk. It isn’t okay. And if I have to find local places that sell what i want, then I’ll have to do it.

I hope the state lets some more store open soon because it gets increasingly difficult to buy anything except groceries.

A GREAT DAY FOR THE LILIES – Marilyn Armstrong

FOTD – July 6 – Daylily


Today was as close to a perfect summer day as you could hope for. It was warm, dry, breezy, and sunny. Not terribly hot and not at all humid. Owen decided to put up the shed that has been waiting for a dry spell and in the process, moved my swing into the middle of the backyard. It’s a big improvement.We have an Amish community down the road and they sell outdoor furniture. I bought this from them close to 20 years ago. it’s still in fine shape and where it is now, it might actually get used.

Duke likes to sniff the plants

While I was taking pictures of the shed going up, I realized we still have a lot of daylilies, so I took pictures of them too. While I was at it, I took pictures of  the rapidly growing hemp, the fuchsia (which fell from its hook and now sits on a small table) … and the Duke who just likes hanging out on the deck.

The wild daylily garden

No squirrels for the Duke

We’ve been putting black sunflower seeds down on the grass below the deck, so the squirrels are having a fine old time munching them down on the lawn instead of trying to get them out of the feeders. It’s probably a lot more comfortable for them and pouring seed over the side of the deck to the ground isn’t nearly as much work as filling feeders. But pictures are hard to take when the squirrels are down there and the Duke doesn’t get to sniff all around the deck in the hope that there will be a live one.

The fuchsia has survived a lot of damage this year, but still blooming!

There will never be a live one waiting for the Duke. They just hop on a branch and depart, leaving a sad dog who had hoped for a big squirrel day.

SPIDER PLANTS IN THE BIG WINDOW – Marilyn Armstrong

FOTD – July 5 – SPIDER PLANTS


My son’s spider plants are blooming and he wanted me to see if I could take pictures of them. But it was a little tricky. The light was coming from the back and I could get close because two big recliners are in the way. I got some nice pictures, but the flowers are there, but hard to see.

Spider Plant – The first

Spider plant – the second

Spider plant – the third

Spider plant – the fourth

WHERE’S MY STUFF? – Marilyn Armstrong and Rich Paschall

I know this isn’t the sexiest subject on the Internet, but this morning, I had to explain to my furniture store from whom — at the beginning of June — we ordered a new loveseat. The one we sit in — ALL the time — is 15 years old and has more or less collapsed. Considering that we are home pretty much all the time, we need something to support our backs — and sturdy enough to not be done in by the Duke’s sharp, pointy feet.

They have no idea when I’ll get my sofa. I’m not in a hurry anyway, so it was more a matter of information than urgency. Rich Paschall has explained this to me and to you (if you read the posts), I explained it to her. She hadn’t understood it either and said she was grateful because customers get restless and don’t seem to understand why the world isn’t working like it used to.

Tracks are the road

Most people think the delays are (or were) because so many people are (were, will be) sick, but that was where it began. From then on, it is far more complicated and it is not repaired. Most places aren’t entirely sure how to repair it. Until it is finally fixed, it might be quite a long time  before we see the improvements, even if every airline and freight mover works as hard as they can to get it working. Old ideas need to be replaced, in some cases with older ideas we abandoned or changed to entirely new ways of doing things.

We won’t have an economy if we can’t move our goods. Forget about overseas shipping. Even shipping in this country — which is a very big country with many airports and uncounted numbers of roads — has a lot of moving to do.Living in New England, we are completely dependent on getting fruits and vegetables from California, Florida, and Mexico from November through April and often longer. By early summer, I’m drooling over the idea of a fresh orange.

Spanning the river

Weather matters. Road conditions are critical.  That’s why public works — resurfacing, rebuilding roads and bridges — is a very big deal. It’s not just whether or not you get to work on time.

It’s also whether or not you have work to get to.

We need trains that run in addition to trucks, but we’ve never bothered to repair the tracks, so throughout the country, many direct routes are unusable. We have the trains, but the tracks are old and have not been maintained.

So, while wondering how come we don’t have our new recliner, we should ponder where it’s coming from and how it will somehow get from it’s point of manufacture to the shop in Uxbridge (where we bought it) and ultimately, to our living room.

A big truck and a low bridge

So for all of you waiting for a shipment, I’m posting a list of three of Rich’s well-written, clearly explained posts about the shipping. How it is broken and how it is being resurrected — to the degree that it can be resurrected.

I’m sure most of you don’t read these pieces because they aren’t sexy or exciting, They won’t make you laugh, but it’s information you nee, whether you are running a business or dependent on those who do. Shipping affects everybody, from grocery stores to flower growers, and people who just want a new fridge.

No one has stopped making stuff … but getting it? That’s a whole other story.

1. THE GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAIN DISRUPTION – RICH PASCHALL

2. SENDING AND RECEIVING STUFF – RICH PASCHALL

3. BRING ON THE FRUITS AND VEGGIES – RICH PASCHALL

Considering that I had to explain this to my furniture company this morning what’s going on in the shipping industry, I’m pretty sure we all need to understand how complicated this process is. We’ve come to depend on getting everything as soon as we want it, whether it’s coming from China, England, or Australia.

Stuck in traffic on the way to Connecticut

The freight and shipping lines are broken. Like the damaged train tracks all over the U.S,, our supply lines are badly damaged. Restoring them to something like what we used to have won’t be instant. It will take time, cost big money, and require rethinking the process.

It’s a great opportunity for local farms, carpenters, builders … anyone whose business is close to its customers to do a major “reboot.” For everyone else, it’s the giant migraine of migraines. Be patient … or order locally, even if it costs more — assuming there IS a local manufacturer. When we moved all our manufacturing to Asia, a lot of things we all need went far away. I don’t think we make kitchen or laundry appliances anywhere in this country. When you aren’t buying it from a Chinese factory, it will cost more and try to remember even if it has an American brand name on it, that doesn’t mean it was made here or even on this continent.

On the other hand, it might be worth more, too. And you might get it during this lifetime.

CATALPA TREES IN BLOOM – Marilyn Armstrong

FOTD – July 3 – CATALPA BLOOMS


In addition to the flowers, we have a lot of Catalpa trees. They are supposedly hard to grow, but we didn’t grow them. They just grow around our property, almost like weeds. I think they are beautiful, but they do tend to pop up in the middle of the garden. All of a sudden, a Catalpa tree is growing in the middle of the tiger lilies.

I took a few pictures. I had to take these pictures from quite a distance away because these are pretty tall trees. They don’t bloom until they are quite big.

Full tree Catalpa

Catalpa flowers

More Catalpa in bloom

 

THE LAST OF THIS YEAR’S ORCHIDS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOTD – July 2 – THE LAST OF THE ORCHIDS


They are alive, but barely. They have been blooming for five months. That’s the longest blooming flowers I’ve ever known and it’s like having another friend going away. Two more buds … and then they will rest. And yes, this is another picture where I forgot to turn off the grow light.

Orchid

YOU KNOW THE WORLD HAS CHANGED WHEN … By Marilyn Armstrong

Almost all the changes we see in our world are news related. Changes in our health care. Changes to our Social Security, our professional relationships, our ability to get or keep a job. Changes in our weather, oceans, air, and drinking water. Somehow, all of these are connected to political issues, political positioning, elected and yet-to -be-elected officials, our history … and of course, what our future may hold.


From “THE VERGE”:

Olympus has announced plans to get out of the camera business entirely, selling off its imaging division to an investment fund. Japan Industrial Partners, the company that bought the VAIO computer business from Sony, has signed a memorandum of understanding that will see Olympus spin out the division and transfer all of its shares.

The imaging division is a small part of Olympus’ business, which is now largely focused on providing medical equipment such as endoscopes. CEO Yasuo Takeuchi hinted to reporters last year that the camera division wasn’t off-limits for a sale, although the company later downplayed those remarks.

The company that bought VAIO now wants Zuiko and OM-D.

Olympus says it “implemented measures to cope with the extremely severe digital camera market, due to, amongst others, rapid market shrink caused by the evolution of smartphones,” but has concluded that its efforts weren’t enough. As it did with VAIO, JIP plans to streamline the business and will continue to develop products using Olympus brands such as OM-D and Zuiko.


For those of us who love cameras and have Olympus cameras and lenses, this is a major change in our world. Maybe the “new company” won’t downgrade the quality of the cameras. But probably they will. To 90% of us, it’s no big deal, but it is a very big deal to those of us that use and depend  on these cameras. This potential sell-off and merger has been in the wind for at least a year. I hoped it wouldn’t happen, but the world economic collapse probably made it inevitable.

The Olympus has been around since the 1930s and It became my favorite camera in the 1960s when it was the lightest of the full-size SLRs and had great lenses.

I suspect. 2020 hasn’t been a good year for people buying camera equipment. Hobbyists have decided their iPhone is good enough. It is, for snapshots. It’s not a real camera for those of us who have been owning and loving these real cameras since the 1950s and 1960s. It marks the official end of the era when cameras were something special. The less competition there is, the less real innovation will happen.

I’m sure there will always be a few cameras around, but the market has been getting smaller for a long time. The point & shoot market died a couple of years ago, but good cameras continued, even though fewer people were buying them.

Now, for the Olympus and probably others who are in line to be bought out by financial companies that don’t care about the products, the quality will go down and prices will go up. Because that’s how these things always seem to work. Then, one day, when too few photographers are buying cameras and the quality has disintegrated and the prices are well above the value of the camera … they will disappear and the art with it. I hope I don’t live to see that day.

Although you never know. Sometimes, things revive — like vinyl records.

I hope the cameras I own will last a very long time. This problem has been a long time coming. It’s right up there with people who can’t believe anyone needs anything bigger than an iPad — or a hard drive. Yes, I have an  iPhone. The camera takes great snapshots, but it doesn’t do what my Olympuses do, not even close.

I hope the art doesn’t die with the loss of the machinery.

THE CHANGING SEASONS – JUNE 2020 – Marilyn Armstrong

THE CHANGING SEASONS – JUNE 2020 – AND SO MUCH MORE …


What a strange and haunted year we have had. We are living in a world we never imagined except perhaps as a science fiction novel of the dystopian future. We don’t go anywhere, although today we went to the vet to say goodbye to Bonnie … and the grocery to say hello to food.

It’s almost a weird kind of relief that we finally let her go. This has been looming for close to a year. I remember last summer refusing to take even a short vacation because I felt she needed care and no one else had the time to give it to her. I haven’t absorbed it yet, but the Duke is grieving. Lots of sighing and moaning. When they walked her away up the ramp he started to cry and we cried with him.

Good bye Bonnie. Your were the best little girl ever and we will always miss you.



From Su Leslie:

About The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.

If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them.

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

If you do a ping-back to this post, I can update it with links to all of yours.

ASK FOR RAIN, GET RAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

We needed rain. The river was low and I had to assume so was our aquifer — which means our well was also low. Not low enough to affect us yet because we have a 475 foot deep well. That’s about three times deeper than most people have. It must have cost a fortune to dig it, but it means we have more water in it than most people.

So on Saturday, it rained. We had about 2 or 3 hours of heavy rain and yesterday, most of the day was sunny. But around 3 in the afternoon, the sun disappeared and by dinner time, it was as dark as midnight. We could hear the thunder rolling almost continuously in the background. We were watching the news and the lights were flickering, so Owen came upstairs and we lit candles in each room because it looked like we were going to lose power any time.

Then there was the hail, so heavy is started coming in through the dog’s door.

Our back porch garden was flattened. They don’t look broken, but they are seriously bent and will need staking to prop them up. There was a lot worse in this storm, but fortunately for us, the storm turned sharply eastward and moved off to the coast and the Islands.

That’s what you get when you ask for rain, You get rain. Then you get hail. Then you get wind and torrential rain with so much lightening it looks like the clouds are lit from behind.

Well, I asked for rain. We got rain and a few other things, too.

THERE WAS A FIRE AT THE HEART AND IT WILL BURN FOREVER – Marilyn Armstrong

Sioux teepee

Sioux teepee

My teepee had a firepit. I lined it with fireplace tiles, then added a surround of old red brick. It was a big pit for a small teepee, but logs come in a lot of different shapes and it was easier to leave extra space to accommodate the bigger and odder-shaped pieces than try to figure out how to fit them into a smaller pit.

96-FirepitHeaderHP-012

It gets very cold in winter in New England. In the deepest part of the winter, with the temperature well below freezing and several feet of snow on the ground, I liked going out to my teepee to spend a few hours by a fire. It was the most peaceful, private place in the world, one of the few places I felt really relaxed and at peace.

96-FirepitHP-009

I learned to build a fire very fast. In fact, I got so I could get that fire going in less than a minute. Of course, that’s not counting however much time it took to bring in the logs and stack the fire properly so it would catch and burn properly.

96-FirepitHP-013

A teepee fire needs to be bright and hot so the smoke will go straight up the smoke hole. In essence, a teepee is a chimney with room for other stuff. If you build the pit and the fire correctly, there is very little smoke and a lot of heat.

96-FirepitHP-010

Once the fire was going, the teepee, which had a lining to help insulate it, got very warm. I often had to open the door and sit half in and half out because it was so warm inside. And no, despite crackling and sparks, the teepee doesn’t catch on fire. It looks like it will, but it doesn’t, though I wouldn’t leave a fire unattended. Then again, I won’t leave any fire unattended.

A fire in a teepee on a snowy night is magic and it keeps the fire burning.

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio
Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe
Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, “The King and I” and “The Catcher in the Rye”
Eisenhower, vaccine, England’s got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye
💢
We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it 

💢

Joseph Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc
Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dacron
Dien Bien Phu falls, “Rock Around the Clock”
Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn’s got a winning team
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland
Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Khrushchev
Princess Grace, “Peyton Place”, trouble in the Suez

💢

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

💢

Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, “Bridge on the River Kwai”
Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California baseball
Starkweather, homicide, children of thalidomide
Buddy Holly, “Ben Hur”, space monkey, Mafia
Hula hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go
U2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, “Psycho,” Belgians in the Congo

💢

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

💢

Hemingway, Eichmann, “Stranger in a Strange Land”
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion
“Lawrence of Arabia”, British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson
Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British politician sex
JFK, blown away, what else do I have to say 

💢

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it 

💢
Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock
Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline
Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan
“Wheel of Fortune”, Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, crack, Bernie Goetz
Hypodermics on the shores, China’s under martial law
Rock and roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore 

💢

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on 

💢

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it
We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire 

💢

No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it …

Songwriters: Billy Joel
We Didn’t Start the Fire lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

DUSK AS DAY ENDS – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Dusk


People have often asked what the difference is betweeen sunrise and sunset, between dawn and dusk. Really, in practical terms, the difference is which part of the sky is involved. East is sunrise, west is sunset. But they feel different. For whatever reason, I always know which are which, maybe because i remember when the pictures were taken. These are all dusk or sunsets, taken in Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and New York.

SO MANY FLOWERS ARE GONE – Marilyn Armstrong

When I started writing Serendipity eight years ago, I was enthusiastic and full of energy. Undisciplined. All over the place. Writing too much, leaping from subject to subject. Angry one day, mellow the next. Ranting about the wrongs of the world and how we needed to fix everything. I think I knew more when I was younger. I even ranted about philosophy. Imagine that.

Almost the end of this run of orchids

And then I just dropped everything and took pictures of birds and flowers and rivers and autumn leaves..

I was so passionate I probably contradicted myself a dozen time a week, but who was counting?

A hideous election that completely altered my world view — and massive heart surgery — and now, I am living in my nightmare world. I expect awful things and to no ones surprise, that’s what we get. Because somehow, through the perfect storm of politics, we elected the worst possible president and now we are living under his tweets.

The last of the orchids … except for 2 more buds

I remember 2012, when I was full-bore into the election and all the positive change I expected to see. The election ended. Gridlock began. The air went out of my bubble. Life got grim and rather ugly. I got sick. I didn’t want to get down in the trenches and duke it out with people with whom I disagreed. I didn’t feel like bothering to call out the crazies for being crazy. I wanted to hear music. Not new music. Old music.

As we head into elections in 2020, we need to be a whole lot smarter. Less passionate, more intelligent. Anyone who still thinks voting has nothing to do with them is beyond help. Let’s find people we can help. Let’s give up on all those people who live in a state of blind hate. They aren’t going to change and we will never convince them of anything. More than half the people I hear from are irrational, stupid, and fascist. We aren’t going to bring them to our side. They don’t have a side. They simply hate.

How do you talk to people who are completely irrational? Who don’t care whether what they believe is true or not? People who think their personal feelings are more important than truth? Any truth?

Meanwhile, there’s music.John Prine is one of our lost flowers.

The current future looks rather bleak. I want it to get better, but it’s hard to see past the mess we are in.

I want to move back to the United States. I’m pretty sure — this ain’t it. Are you hearing Phil Ochs singing “I ain’t marching anymore …” Are you wondering where have all the flowers gone?

This last one was originally sung by THIS group in a tiny coffee house run by my first husband, right near my college. It’s how I got to know the man. The Incredible String Band were … well … incredible.