GOOD, BAD, AND UGLY – Marilyn Armstrong

There are a lot of marriages that stay together and I have no idea why. It’s obvious that the two people don’t love one another. Sometimes, they appear to actually hate each other.

If you get one of them alone, they will give you the usual reason why they are staying together:

      • Children
      • We can’t afford to get a divorce (too poor or too rich)
      • He/she is wacko (and sometimes, he/she really is)
      • We run a business together
      • Religion
      • Drug abuse, gambling, alcoholism or any addiction
      • Fear by one party of the other; abuse is a lot more common than most people realize.

No matter how many ways you point out that there are solutions, they aren’t listening. Sometimes, something happens and one day, the relationship snaps.

The kids grow up. They decide money is less important than they thought and they can run the business, even unmarried. They do some minor religious switching and suddenly divorce is fine.

I always worry most about abused spouses because sometimes, when they snap, a partner dies. They may deserve it, but the killer doesn’t deserve what’s in store for him or her.

It’s not an easy choice, especially when there’s a good chance that if they try to leave, someone else is going to die — the kids or a wife, husband or any combination of the above.

Despite feeling strongly that people living in really bad marriages should do something about it, I grew up as a child in such a marriage. I understand.

I know how ugly the outcome of these divorces can be, especially for children. No how bad your parents are, the alternative can be worse. With all of the studies and statistics on how dreadful foster care is, we have yet to come up with a better solution. When you are a kid, you often feel you have a choice: live with the devil you know or get thrown into life with devils you don’t know who could be worse.

What baffles me more are people who basically have good marriages, but the first time something goes wrong, they are filing papers. I agree, for example, sex outside (monogamous) marriage is uncool.  I’ve heard conversations where everyone agrees that if such a terrible thing should happen in their relationship, all bets are off. It’s the divorce court. No conversation, no forgiveness, no discussion.

Why not?

Given the looseness of pre-marital relationships in this century, is there some reason to assume that this is going to entirely change because you stood up in a church or a registry office and vowed: “Till death do you part”?

Marriage isn’t a vow. It’s a process. It’s not dating. You don’t just hook-up until it stops being fun, then go to your next hook-up.  It’s when things get a little rough that the real marriage begins.

Half the time, the partner would never even know anything happened if the spouse didn’t have some sort of bizarre need to “confess.” I’ve always wondered what the point of that confession is supposed to be. Is it going to improve the marriage? Of course not. I’m sure it’s intended to do exactly what it does: break the relationship up.

You need to be honest? If you needed to be that honest, why did you do it in the first place? Since you’ve already strayed, live with it. Find a priest and confess. Find a shrink and confess. Find a complete stranger on a bus and confess. But leave your mate out of it and move on.

Also, a genuinely committed couple who have built a life should be able to cope with reality and maybe with a degree of dishonesty, too. Life in the real world is not life on television or Hollywood.

I’ve seen couples divorce because one of them was sure he/she could do better. A few do. Most don’t.

It’s not about the wedding or even the honeymoon. It’s working through issues, changing your behavior. Helping your partner change his behavior. It’s helping a partner get sober or quit gambling. It’s sticking with them if they fail. And them sticking with you when life isn’t going well.

Loving them when their hair falls out and they aren’t nearly as cool and dashing as they were 30 years ago … but you still think they are.

You don’t know what kind of relationship you have without the lumps, bumps, twisted ankles, and heart attacks. Without consoling them for lost jobs, broken backs, and twisted feet.

That’s when you know you have something that means more than pretty cakes and chapel bells.

UNWINDING AND DISENGAGING – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt: Unwinding

I was intending to unwind when we went down to see Tom and Ellin, but it turned out to be a more about technical recording information than relaxation. I like computers more than most people, but I really wanted to get away from them … just for a day or two.

Ironwood in the desert

Truthfully, I’m beat. I think I have never needed a vacation more than I do now. It’s not going to happen, but I can yearn.

The sun is a big flaunter. Never embarrassed to show off its colors, early morning or light by night.
The Superstitions

The last time we had a real vacation was January 2016 for almost two weeks in Arizona. Otherwise, it has been a day or two with friends and that’s good too, but I need time to unwind. When we used to go down to the Vineyard on vacation it took me a whole week to relax and another two to almost forget what I used to do for a living.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Giving the lack of money not floating around here, I’m not counting on ever getting another vacation. I think maybe that part of our lives is done. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

Physically, getting around has become pretty difficult, so unless we had a lot more than “just enough to get around,” there’s not much for me to do. We’d need a driver and someone to help us haul luggage.

Although a week along the seashore or in the mountains might be really lovely. Even near the sea or almost in the mountains.

THE NIGHTMARE JOBS OF YOUTH – Marilyn Armstrong

I complain about getting old, but occasionally, I remember being young wasn’t exactly perfect, either. Mostly, it was work. Men were one problem (especially the men AT work), but work itself and some of the monsters who ran the companies for which I worked … well … they were a special breed. I hear it’s worse now. 

I find that hard to believe. How much worse can it be? Between the sleazy offers of sex behind the office door and the micromanagement, not to mention the realization that the harder you worked, the more work you’d be given to do — and realizing that as a woman, you’d probably never get a raise or even a high five — how bad can it get?


As a retiree, I had more than 40 years of work full-time work. Of the 40 years of work, 30 of them involved working for bad-tempered, sleazy, mean-spirited bosses.

Were they born that way or did they grow into their positions?

There was the job for which I was paid exceptionally well. I was being paid to do absolutely nothing. I was assigned to sit all day in front of a computer and look busy. I was not allowed to fall asleep or read a book. I could not play a game or write a personal letter.

I had to sit there and stare at the screen. Worse, I had to “work” overtime. A standard 8-hour day was not enough. I had to continue the farce for 9 or 10 hours. Because the contract agency that put me in the job had to prove we were “necessary” by forcing us to do overtime … or an extra hour or two of doing nothing.

I am told there are people who crave such jobs. For me, it was torture. I couldn’t wait to move on.

There was the job where I was paid top dollar, had a gorgeous office. And nobody cared what I did. They only hired me because one big contract needed a manual. My job was to write it.

No one read it. Not only didn’t they read it, they also didn’t edit it or check to make sure it was accurate. I could have filled it with nursery rhymes or doodles. All they wanted to know was “Is it big and heavy?” and “Does it look impressive?” People wonder why manuals aren’t as good as they should be!

Working under a micro-manager is a special experience, especially for a writer. I had a few of them.

These are the bosses who stand behind you. You can hear them breathe, feel their hot air breath on your neck. Yuk. They watch with eagle-eyes to make sure you are doing Your Job and Nothing But Your Job. For me, that means I can’t do my job.

I’m a writer. I can’t write with someone watching over my shoulder. The micro-managers also stands by the door in the morning hoping to bag any worker who has the temerity to show up a millisecond late. I was once called on the carpet — really tore me a new one — for being three minutes late.

The good part? When I made a serious mistake and forgot to insert a full-page color advertisement in the middle of the magazine — just omitted it entirely which no doubt cost the company serious money — it wasn’t any worse than the dressing down than I’d gotten for being three minutes late. It’s like when you yell at your kids or dogs all the time and you realize, they aren’t listening.

If you yell at your employees for everything, after a while, they become numb and nothing you do or say has any effect. To quote Teddy Roosevelt, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” That works better, though it didn’t get him re-elected.

I had a truly stupid job at college. Briefly. The work was easy. I was the receptionist. Some annoying women came in and asked me my name. I told her. She said, “I don’t like that name. Do you mind if I call you Jane?”

I looked at her, “Yes, I mind. My name is Marilyn. Mrs. Armstrong to you.” I got fired. I didn’t mind. It was a horrible job anyhow.

This is not the time or place to discuss the wonderful jobs, the terrific bosses, or the great work I’ve had the honor to do. The awful jobs — mostly — didn’t last long. The good ones (mostly) made up for the bad ones.

Retirement is the payback for professional suffering. I love retirement. It’s the bestest job of all.

AUGUST: DOG AND OTHER DAYS – Marilyn Armstrong

August 2012 through 2019

A little photographic journey around the northeastern end of the American continent.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Rockport, Massachusetts at sunrise

I didn’t have a single fire pump for Cee’s challenge, so I went back through seven years of August. From Glocester to Rockport, from Connecticut to Maine … these are the hot, humid, hazy days of late summer in New England.

PLUGS, CABLES, AND WIRES – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Plug

Plugs and wires, wires and plugs. I remember when I was working at Intel and they were inventing wireless while telling us how we wouldn’t need those plugs and wires anymore.

They forgot about electricity.

We don’t need a wire to tell the printer to print (though the wired ones worked better), but everything that uses power has to be plugged in. If not the device, then its battery needs charging. One way or the other, power is the final part of the system.

There may be one fewer plug, but we are by no means wireless. Until we find a way of delivering electricity without a plug going into an outlet — which isn’t going to happen because the electric companies need to know how much to overcharge us — there will be wires, cables, plugs, and strips of outlets.

Many wires. Many cables. Many plugs. And never enough.

THE HUMAN-CANINE COVENANT IS MORE THAN COOKIES – Marilyn Armstrong

I read an article a while back which announced with solemnity and more than a few pie charts, that dogs — our dogs, your dogs, pet dogs — don’t like being hugged. Not merely do they not like being hugged and display measurable levels of stress when hugged, but they really totally hate being kissed and nuzzled.

The article suggests a pat on the head … and a treat … would be much more appreciated. But, not by Garry or me.

Garry, Bonnie, and Gibbs – A moment of zen

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I know they don’t like being hugged. It’s obvious. They stiffen and put their ears back when we hug them. They also don’t like it when I grab their tail and refuse to let go.

That’s what all the growling and head butting are about. You can almost hear them sigh, wondering when you’ll be through with this nonsense and get on to the important stuff, namely distributing cookies.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Duke and Gibbs

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I told Garry about the study. He said: “Tough. They’ll just have to cope. Because I like it.” My thoughts exactly.

Our dogs are disrespectful. Messy. Flagrantly disobedient. They are masters and mistresses of selective hearing. Do I believe for a single moment when we tell them to go out and they stand there, in front of the doggy door, ignoring us, it’s because they don’t understand what we want from them, or cannot hear us?

What does Duke dream about?

I’m supposed to think if I stand in the doorway calling them, that they can’t hear me? Or don’t know I want them to come in? Of course, they hear me. They know. They’re just playing us.

From the other side of the yard, they can hear the click when we remove the cover of the biscuit container. Their hearing is fine. It’s a power play.

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Since they persist in disrespecting us, they will have to deal with our periodic compulsion to give them hugs, nuzzling, and the occasional (“Yuck! Stop that stupid human!”) kiss on their big black noses. Personally, I think it’s a small price to pay for unlimited sofa lounging, high-quality treats, and silly humans getting down on the floor to play. Not to mention the toys and the balls and those expensive trips to the vet.

We put up with them? They will have to put up with us, too. That’s our deal.

It’s the Human-Canine Covenant. We’ve got their paw prints on file.

SHARE MY WORLD ASSUMING WORD PRESS DOESN’T CRUMBLE – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World – 8-20-19

QUESTIONS:   

What would be your solution to the overpopulation of the earth?  Earth has finite resources and humanity seems to be breeding themselves to extinction.   Some countries have tried restricting the number of children a couple or a person can have, with little success.  So what other viable options are there for reducing the number of people? 

Let me start out by pointing out that I don’t have answers. I mostly have fears.

Although overpopulation is a major part of our problems of surviving on Earth — especially in places like China and India where over-population has been an issue for centuries — the even bigger problem is over-building and mindless destruction of our natural environment. Water and earth pollution, as well as the poisons we use to “protect” our vegetables and other plants.

The fundamental combination of ingredients we use to increase nutrients in the soil — nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium — although they are essential to healthy plant growth, fertilizer needs to be used in moderation based on the rain for the region. More rain means the soil gets “washed.” In arid regions, such”fertilizers” are poison.

Weed poisons — Monsanto seems to make a lot of them — not only poison our water, but also kill the birds. A few years ago, we had robins nesting on our porch and all over the woods until one neighbor decided to use Monsanto weed poison.

The robins fell over dead in their nests. Baby robins were never born.

Dry lake at Manchaug

It was horrible and really depressing. Although a few robins have returned, they are relatively rare now instead of (as they used to be) the most common summertime bird.

Dried out Mumford River in Uxbridge

Nitrogen, a major part of fertilizer, is only viable in areas that get plenty of rain. Without the rain, the nitrogen builds up in the soil, sinks down and poisons the aquifer. It happened in Israel while I lived there. I worked at the part of the university which monitored the condition of the country’s air and water. Israel is a dry country with a climate much like Arizona. Our people went from one Kibbutz to the next Kibbutz warning all of them that continuing to use nitrogen-based fertilizer would poison the aquifer by 1985.

We were wrong.

It poisoned the aquifer in 1982. Now, there is no aquifer in the country. All the water comes in tankers from Turkey or from the Sea of Galilee (called “The Galil – pronounced “Ga-leel”). In an arid climate, rainy and dry years are normal events. One always prayers for normal rain, but droughts are part of the climate pattern and can last for years.

This is why part of the annual prayer cycle includes the autumnal prayers for rain. On a good year, there will be rain clouds by late October or early November. On a bad year, you may see very little rain at all and not until December. Considering that spring starts in January, that doesn’t leave much time for rain.

Empty dam at Manchaug

A few years ago, The Galil was more than 13 meters lower than normal and I don’t know how it’s doing now. I understand they have added desalinization plants that are helping, but the population of the country has more than doubled (tripled?) since I left in 1987.

FYI, a meter is one yard plus 3 inches, so 13 meters is just under 120 feet below normal. Boats that sank during the time of Jesus were showing up because the water was so low.

We don’t merely overpopulate the world. We misuse it. The combination is lethal, at least for mammals, of which we are one. Between our enthusiasm for killing anything we think looks good stuffed and hanging on a wall and the natural destruction that farming and housing cause … the rate of destruction of large mammals is insane and with our current idiotic president, getting worse day-by-day.

There really isn’t a lot of time left to fix the climate to make this world livable for the next generations. We aren’t waiting for climate change. It has arrived. And when you live in cities like New York and Boston which actually lie below sea level, a rise in sea levels won’t take long to swamp our shorelines. East and west coast cities are in imminent danger and the flooding in the midwest is catastrophic.

Whatever we SHOULD be doing to fix our climate? We aren’t doing it.

What’s invisible but you wish people could see?

Roaring Dam: Photo: Garry Armstrong – Behind the dam is a mountain of poisonous soil from the factories and mills that used the Blackstone to dump their pollution over the years. They can’t take down the dams because it would release the poisoned soil.

The poisons in the soil, air, and water.

What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?

I think life is ridiculous, our government is idiotic, and an awful lot of our population is incredibly stupid. There’s no way I could pick out one part of that as the MOST ridiculous.

What are the unwritten rules of where you work? If you don’t work (retired or unemployed) what are the unwritten rules you live your life by?

Dogs eat first.

How do you feel about putting pineapple on pizza?

Pineapple is delicious on ham and I love fresh pineapple. It doesn’t belong on pizza. But other countries put even worse stuff on pizza like peas and corn. El yucko.

Toilet paper, over or under?

Over. Even the patent for the toilet paper roll shows it over, not under. The only reason for putting it underneath is that you have kittens who think unrolling the entire roll is tons of fun.

What’s the best type of cheese?

Remains of the feast
Cheese!

I’m torn between blue/Roquefort, strong cheddar, hard parmesan, and romano. But really, I just like cheese! Almost all cheese except whatever that yellow mushy stuff they call “American” cheese is. Whatever you call it, it ain’t cheese.