STORM STORIES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

There are many interesting storm stories in my family history, starting with my Mom as a young woman. Sometime in the mid-1940s, before she married my dad, my mom and her friend Ethie were staying at my father’s summer house in the woods in Easton, Connecticut. There was a terrible storm raging outside, complete with brilliant lightning and crashing thunder.

Mom before she married my father

To wile away the time, they listened to the radio. That night, the radio drama piece that was on was a scary story about a woman alone in the woods on a stormy night. In the play, there was a sudden knock on the door. Cue the ominous music. In real life, there was a sudden knock on the Connecticut door, accompanied by an eerie silence. Then there was another knock.

Mom and Ethie nearly jumped out of their skins! They weren’t expecting anyone so they were terrified. They ran into the kitchen and each grabbed a heavy pot to use as a weapon, if necessary. They bravely approached the door. Ethie stayed behind the door and my mother opened it, pot brandished.

There stood a drenched man – Ethie’s boyfriend! He was worried about Mom and Ethie being alone in a secluded house so he decided to check in on them. Instead of the warm welcome he anticipated, he almost got his head bashed in with a pot!

Ethie with me as a baby

The earliest storm I remember happened when I was about six or seven years old. Again, we were in the Easton house and there was a hurricane that caused the power to go out. I don’t remember much except that I thought this was a great adventure. I loved watching my parents improvise to keep us warm, fed and entertained.

My dad lit a fire, which he rarely did. Our fireplace was mainly there for decorative purposes and often had flower pots or decorative objects in it instead of wood. That night it got to be a real fireplace with a real fire. That in itself was a treat for me. Then Dad proceeded to cook salami on a stick over the fire. It’s the only time in my entire life that I remember seeing my father cook. And I’ve never heard of anyone choosing to cook salami over an open fire. But it made a delicious sandwich!

Dad and me when I was around five

In my teen years, another hurricane knocked out the power in Easton and this crisis went on for days. My mother arranged with the local butcher to store her frozen meat in his freezer so it wouldn’t go bad. We had filled the bathtubs with water so we were able to flush the toilets.

Me at around fourteen or fifteen

When the tub water ran out, my mother got a clever idea. We could drive down to the pool (which was at the bottom of the hill that the house stood on) and bring pool water up to the house. So we took our biggest, cast iron pots with handles, and filled them at the pool. The problem was that the ride back to the house was on a bumpy, dirt road. We tried to drive slowly and carefully, but by the time we got back to the house, most of the water had sloshed onto the floor of the car.

Not an efficient solution.

Our pool

As we were trying to figure out how many trips we would have to make to solve our toilet flushing problem, the power miraculously came back on! We often laughed about this creative but flawed McGyver moment!

Another memorable storm story happened when I was a teenager. My mother and I were driving from our apartment in New York City to our house in Easton in a raging blizzard. The snow and the wind created total whiteout conditions. We couldn’t see two feet in front of us. We literally had to get out of the car to figure out where the road was and which way it went.

This was how bad the visibility was!

I had anxiety issues so this could have been a terrifying, stressful experience. But my mother was an upbeat, positive person with a wicked sense of humor.

She turned this situation into a silly game. I remember laughing hysterically as we blindly inched our way up the highway. Somehow Mom made it feel like an episode of “I Love Lucy.”

From then on, I tried to model my crisis behavior on my mother’s. I always try to find humor in muddling through. When given a choice between laughing and crying – always go for the laugh!

Mom when I was seventeen or eighteen

One more interesting storm experience involves Tom and my boat. When hurricanes directly hit our marina, the marina staff have to take the boats out of the water, to protect them. They put them in the parking lot, on stilts, like they do to store the boats over the winter. This happened in advance of Hurricane Sandy, in 2012. Amazingly, the small staff managed to get over 130 boats out of the water in about 36 hours.

What hurricanes can do to a marina

The crazy thing was that in the storm, the water flooded the parking lot and came all the way up to the bottom of the boats. Any more flooding and the boats would have started to float around the parking lot, crashing into one another. That would have been a major disaster. One sailboat from a nearby mooring also ended up in our parking lot, marooned when the water receded. It was a bizarre situation.

In 2011, we had lost power in the house twice, for a week each time. That’s when we decided to get a generator. It took forever to get it installed and it was operational just a week before Hurricane Sandy hit the next year.

Since then, our storm stories have been boring – the power goes out and then ten seconds later, it comes back on again. We often still lose phone lines and internet service, so it can still be an inconvenience. But nothing to write home about – or write a blog about!

This is our precious generator!

A GOOD DAY FOR WOODPECKERS – Marilyn Armstrong

I really wasn’t going to take any pictures. For one thing, I didn’t feel particularly well and I really have a LOT of pictures. Thousands I think during the past three months.

So I was in the kitchen trying to make a sandwich. I wandered to the window and I looked out — and there was a red-headed ladderback woodpecker landing on the feeder, a cardinal in the flat feeder and before I finished picking up my camera, two more woodpeckers, both landing on the feeder in addition to a variety of other smaller birds.

I’ve never gotten a picture of a male and female downy (or hairy) woodpecker on the feeder at the same time while yet a third woodpecker was on the other feeder and a cardinal too.

Isn’t this a gorgeous bird?

I couldn’t take pictures fast enough. I also have managed to process a lot of them. Many didn’t need much processing. Other than a little straightening or cropping, the pictures all looked fine right out of the camera.

Another beauty!

So I did a little cropping, signing, and now, time to put some of them up for looking at. I hardly know where to begin, so I think I’ll start with the ladderback red-headed fella and tomorrow I’ll get serious about the two woodpeckers … or something like that.

Can you see the snow falling in the pictures? Because it’s snowing out there and it’s very cold.

WINTER SOLSTICE – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Friday: SOLSTICE

Why did it have to be raining? Why was today the day that every bone in my body hurts and some things which are arguably not bones, hurt too? The birds are outside rain and all.

They don’t expect a warm, dry house … and there’s a feeder to raid. I suppose, when you are a bird, a decent meal is about as good as it gets.

I know this means the season is turning again and days will get longer and ultimately, it will warm up. But not for a while. We have three long winter months to navigate and we’ve barely begun yet.

And meanwhile, at Stonehenge …

The bears have not gone into hibernation. Not cold enough yet? Too many trash cans to raid?

The sky is a leaden pale gray as the heavy rain falls. The dogs want nothing to do with outside. Snow is fun and everything else is okay too, but rain? No, thank you. Pass the biscuits. The sofa is home for now.

Winter Solstice – Sunrise – 2016

I have a doctor appointment. My right arm has taken to hurting a lot and won’t let me sleep. Nothing makes it any better. I think it may actually be a sign that my chest is beginning to heal, but why does it have to hurt so much?

It could be snowing. That would probably be worse, or at least, more complicated. We still have no one to plow the driveway and it’s a long, long road to the “real” road.

Winter has finally come, I suppose. I should be happier about it. I’m trying hard to find that happy place.

AUTUMN COMES TO NEW ENGLAND – #WRITEPHOTO – Marilyn Armstrong

Autumn Comes to New England – #writephoto

It is the end of September. Normally, we would be wrapped in the bright leaf colors for which New England is justly famous. Not so far.

We were at Manchaug a few days ago and everything was green.  We always look for the first color of the year along the water, but aside from some berries and a few yellow leaves, it was still deep summer green.

The dam at Manchaug was full this year. Lots of rain this spring and summer.

It seems to make the colors bright and show up sooner than anywhere else.

But it was green along the river on Tuesday. Today is Friday and it has been pouring for the past couple of days. Good news? The temperature is down and you can see bits and pieces of the season on its way.

Bad news? If it doesn’t stop raining soon, the leaves will turn yellow, then brown, then fall off the trees. Rain is just not the best thing for autumn colors.

Today, though I began to see — through the rain — the start of colors and even the occasional scarlet maple tree shining through the green. And finally, I saw a tree. Just one tree, mostly yellow with some red. I took pictures.

Considering how grim much of life has been, one bright tree made all the difference.

2018 – ANOTHER SEPTEMBER SONG – Garry Armstrong

I’ ve asked old acquaintance, Walter Houston, once again, to lead us with his melancholy vocal of “September Song” to set the mood.

September is a bittersweet month for many of us. For the young, it’s the end of summer,  goodbye to the idyllic warm days of endless fun and those first romantic days and nights recorded on songs whose lyrics you now struggle to remember.

It’s adieu to summer camp. I have positive memories of Silver Bay and Camp Wilbur Herrlich,  Kodak memories of Lutheran Summer Camps in the woods of upstate New York.  Roasting hot dogs, marshmallows and chugging “bug juice” around twilight campfires.

Barbecue in the yard

In the far recesses of my brain,  we’re again singing  “We are climbing Jacob’s Ladder,” “Beautiful Savior” (Mom’s favorite hymn) and “Abide With Me.” Some of the mid-teen voices are cracking as we try to go to higher notes.  Boys and girls sneak quick looks at each other, cementing romances that will be “forever.”

September fields

Pastor Herb Gibney, who was a central figure in my life from age 13 to age 48  (He was the lead minister at our wedding in 1990), would regale us with “colorful” stories we were not supposed to tell our parents.  All the hushed laughter in our tents overnight as we watched fireflies light the sky and we swapped stories that had little truth. We always wanted to be the last one to fall asleep.

September also is the pivotal month in sports.  Our baseball teams are in their final drive for a pennant, postseason berths and, if lucky,  a trip to the World Series.  There’s a lot of nail-biting, prayers to the big baseball guy in the sky and sleepless nights as our team struggles.

September by the Blackstone

It’s the beginning of football on all levels — from the NFL down to Junior High School and local PeeWee Leagues.  Here in New England,  we wonder if the ageless Tom Brady can pull off his magic and lead the Patriots to one more Superbowl.  Tom is a 40 something quarterback this year and the Patriots don’t look very super after their first two games.  Yes, I know it’s just September and early for professional football.

September is a big month for weather.

Hurricane season, in particular. Florence is still wreaking havoc with Atlantic coastal cities and there’s no end in sight right now.   We’re happy to be above Flo’s path of destruction.  We just had heavy rain which doesn’t sit well with our furry children.

The 9th month is the beginning for political hopefuls who hope to win in the midterm elections.  We’re hoping all those upset with the status quo, embrace a candidate’s campaign and participate in a BIGLY effort come election day — as in, get out and VOTE.

We’re also about to be inundated with the new season of TV shows. From what we’ve seen in previews,  don’t hold your breath unless you’re watching Candace Bergen as “Murphy Brown” returns to television.

I also noticed the Hallmark Channel is beginning its run of Christmas themed romantic dramas.  I’ll pass.

Walter Houston is wrapping up his encore of “September Song”.

Thank you, Kind Sir.   Same time, next year…

THE TENACIOUS WEEKEND – Marilyn Armstrong

 Holding Fast – Tenacious 
Weekend

Weekends used to speed faster than the mosquito you’re trying to smack. When I was working, there were a few things you knew about them.

1 – You weren’t going to get half the things done you had planned because there weren’t enough hours to fit them into one weekend;
2 – You knew how much you hated your job by how whether you hated it on Friday night or didn’t hate it until Sunday;
3 – Why didn’t people make weekdays an hour and a quarter longer so you could have a three-day weekend?

A three-day weekend was enough time to sleep for one day, do stuff that needed doing on another, and have some fun on the third. That one extra day of not-working was a big deal.

Spring
April canal and river

Towards the end of my working years, much of it was spent working electronically from home, so the pressure to somehow get “everything” done on the weekend was greatly reduced and of course now, retired, I find weekends annoying because offices are closed and I can’t deal with “stuff.” I have to remember to do them on Monday — or Tuesday in case I forget on Monday.

Retirement, after a few years during which you keep time like you used to, starts to be all of a piece. Every day is like every other day. The only reason I have an inkling of which day of the week is passing is that I schedule posts in advance. Also, when I’m planning out bill payments, I need the calendar. And, I need to remember the beginning of the month because that’s when I give the dogs their heartworm medicine.

I check the calendar to see when we have doctors appointments.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – July
August

All of this makes me think about time, calendars, weekdays, weekends. Other than appointments that occur on a specified schedule, do the weekends matter? Are they relevant? Do I care whether it is the ninth of the months or the eleventh? Other than calculating the arrival of our Social Security checks, how does calendar time affect my reality?

Effectively, time barely matters. The seasons’ matter, but I have a better sense of the seasons from being outside and feeling the weather than via the calendar. Summer is longer, winter is long and the in-between seasons — the good time — are much shorter.

September
October

Time slows in winter and the weeks go slowly when you can’t go out much. Winter lasts a long time in New England, especially when the snow begins early and the cold of winter lasts until late.  Birthdays become increasingly less critical as you get older. Not only less critical but sometimes rather unpleasant.

I don’t want to turn 72 in March. I’m pretty sure Garry doesn’t want to become 77 in April and I’m equally sure my son doesn’t yearn to be 50 in May.

First blizzard – January

Meanwhile, today is Sunday. I don’t remember what I did yesterday. I literally don’t remember anything. It came, it went. The weather is cool this weekend, but it will warm up later in the week — and there’s a possible hurricane wandering around the south Atlantic which might have something to do with us, but we aren’t sure.

March

I know it’s the weekend because Colbert and Trevor aren’t on, but football has come again. The Red Sox lost yesterday at home against the Astros. Not good.

So basically, Sunday is a day. On Monday, it will rain.

IT’S SUMMERTIME! #WRITEPHOTO – Marilyn Armstrong

Thursday photo prompt: Summer #writephoto


Summer in England

The Jamies were an American singing group
Single Released in 1958
Chart: Peaked at No.26 on The Billboard Hot 100 in 1958

There’s a long, interesting history of “Summertime” and its historic relationship to Fenway Park and the Boston Red Sox. It is possibly the oldest tradition in American baseball! I remember when the song was popular on the radio and singing it with my friends. For some reason, this is one song that always makes me feel like a gentle breeze is blowing and I can smell the freshly mown grass.

Sherm Feller, who wrote “Summertime, Summertime,” was an old pal of Garry’s as well as the public address announcer at Fenway Park for many years. He was known for playing the song regularly over the speakers at the park.

Read all about Sherm Feller and his song …

72-Fenway-Sox_14

Summertime, Summertime Lyrics


It’s summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime summertime …

Well shut them books and throw em away
Say goodbye to dull school days
So come on and change your ways
It’s summertime …Well no more studying history
And no more reading geography
And no more dull geometry
Because it’s summertime.

It’s time to head straight for them hills
It’s time to live and have some thrills
Come along and have a ball
A regular free-for-all.

Well are you comin’ or are you ain’t
You slow-pokes are my one complaint
Hurry up before I faint
It’s summertime.

Well I’m so happy that I could flip
Oh how I’d love to take a trip
I’m sorry teacher but zip your lip
Because it’s summertime.

It’s time to head straight for them hills
It’s time to live and have some thrills
Come along and have a ball
A regular free for all.

Well we’ll go swimmin’ every day
No time to work just time to play
If your folks complain just say,
It’s summertime.

And every night we’ll have a dance
Cause what’s a vacation without romance
Oh man this jive has me in a trance
Because it’s summertime.

It’s time to head straight for them hills
It’s time to live and have some thrills
Come along and have a ball
A regular free for all
It’s summertime.

It’s summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime! It’s summertime!