SHINING AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

I just read a really interesting post on Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo called: SHINEIn her final paragraphs she said:


Don’t we all wish to be loved and accepted for who we are in our entirety? Yet we hide the good, even from ourselves, behind a socially acceptable modesty while brandishing our flaws and frailties as if they alone define who we are. They do not. We define who we are. As much by how we choose to see ourselves as by anything else. If we see ourselves whole, perhaps others may too. They cannot until we do, as we project outward only a fragment of who we are. The saying ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ comes to mind. Maybe if we love our whole selves we can love others wholly too.

We are told that the very physical fabric of everything we know, including our own bodies, is made of the matter from which the stars were formed. Our physical forms exist because somewhere, aeons ago, a star died. If that is so, why should we not simply shine?


I realize the answer is really simple. We don’t shine because we need to work. We have to have a resume. We need to be “people-people.” No one wants to hire someone who shines. They want to hire people who fit in, people who won’t jolt the company “culture.”

I never figured out what company culture was, actually. Most of the places who exalted their company culture have long since gone bankrupt. Usually what company culture really meant is “we don’t want to work any harder than we absolutely have to.” These are places where mentioning deadlines were enough to get you out the door.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

They hired many more people than they needed to do the work because the people they hired couldn’t really do the work. More to the point, they didn’t do the work. They intentionally worked so slowly I found it hard to believe anyone could write that slowly. They thought THREE PAGES A DAY of technical material was plenty. I used to write between 20 and 50 and on a really good day, I could write half the book. Sure I’d have to go back and edit, add graphics, double check information, and test the document against the product.

But I got the work done. I got the basic draft put together quickly which left me time for serious rewrites and corrections once I’d Beta-tested the product.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I worked at Intel for a year. It was a good job. Good pay. Also, not far from home and I didn’t have to drive into Boston. I had to work a 10  hour day every day, but I only had about 45 minutes of work to do. I was so bored I thought it would kill me. Ten hours of sitting in front of a computer — with NOTHING to do.

Shine? I could barely keep my eyes open.

And then, I got sick, stopped working, and got old. I don’t have a resume anymore. I’m not working for anyone who pays me, so I don’t have to lie to anyone, fake anything, pretend anything I don’t feel. With all the physical problems I have, I can’t begin to tell you how deeply I enjoy being me all the time. I’m not sure how the rest of the world feels about it, but I’m happy.


Shining is best done by the rich and the retired. Shining is not an option for most of us who have to show up to work and smile.

NowI CAN shine.

AMBITION AND THE LACK THEREOF – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Ambition

I was never ambitious enough for the current world. I worked hard and well, but I never sought to be a boss. Every time the idea popped into my brain, that little niggling idea that “bosses get paid better” (which isn’t necessarily true in every profession, by the way), I shuddered.

Really BIG bosses get paid very well. CEOs of major corporations, for example. But most of the places for which I worked were little, tiny companies. The bosses got paid better than the workers, but generally, the company was built on the owners’ own money and enterprise with maybe a little investment from elsewhere. They didn’t get rich and they worked terribly hard. They earned their money.

Once, for six months — which was as long as I could stand it — I was the manager for a group of writers at a small (and ultimately bankrupt) corporation. The frustration of telling other writers what to do and not being able to do it myself drove me nuts.

Truth? I valued my personal life more than my work, except where they intersected. I didn’t like management and didn’t want to be anyone’s boss. Most bosses aren’t good at it anyway. The really good ones spend all their time solving other people’s problems.

So I worked. I got paid pretty well but never made that jump to the next level. My ambition pushed me to do the best work I could, but not to make the most money I could.

In today’s world, that’s called “being a loser.”

Is it?

REAL REPORTERS – Garry Armstrong

Word Prompt: Credibility

It’s never been a one-man show.

I logged more than 40-years in TV and radio news,  including 31 years at one Boston TV Station.  I’m always flattered when people say they remember me and my work. The body of work is considerable. Usually 3 or 4 daily newscasts, 5 to 6 days a week,  48 or so weeks a year times 40.  That’s a lot of news, good, bad and ugly.

A reporter,  the face in front of the camera,  gets the credit for everything. The images of life, death and the furies of Mother Nature.  Wars and Peace. Happiness and sorrow. You see the reporter, center screen with a name graphic, proof that he or she saw everything in the visuals that tell the story.

It’s a false premise.  It’s impractical. The reporter couldn’t possibly be in all the places seen in the story that has you riveted to the screen.

We’re called “talent” in business lexicon.  That should be a dead giveaway. We’re the human, face connection, to all those images on your screen.

The real reporters are the people behind the cameras.  The men and women who frequently put their lives on the line to bring you the pictures, the video seared into your sense memory.

I’m proud of all the awards I’ve received over the years. I’d be a liar if I said the hardware didn’t mean anything to me. They are reminders of the stories covered across four decades – on the local, state, national and international stages.  The awards have my name clearly etched, front and center. But I can see all the faces of those responsible for bringing the stories to life.

In the 60’s,  I was a green rookie, assigned to the national and international news,  landscapes that ranged from Vietnam, civilian dissent against the war, Civil Rights marches and violent opposition,  assassinations of national leaders,  a historic walk on the moon and a music-culture changer called Woodstock. I was a 20-something, agape at all these events I was covering for Network News.  It truly was baptism under fire.  I survived because of veterans whose careers began with the birth of radio and television news,  The great depression and World War Two.

The 20 something was handed the keys to the news kingdom.  Right place, right time. I may have often been driving the big car but those veterans always rode shotgun,  guiding me through some very difficult mazes of network news closed-door battles with the Pentagon,  the DOD and the White House.  I had a grizzled news manager who always counseled me, “Just tell the truth…make sure you’ve corroborated 2 or 3 times at least.

Don’t let the Pols or Generals faze you…make sure the stories are short, punchy…dump the adjectives”.

All that was behind me when I landed in Boston in 1970. If I thought I knew it all, I was dead wrong.  Boston was just edging its way into a golden era of TV Journalism.  The technology was rapidly changing and changing the way things were done.  TV news was still viewed with skepticism and contempt by many old-school journalists who believed the word was stronger than the picture.

Boston is a highly regarded news market. It can be tricky for a newcomer not versed in the proper pronunciation of towns and cities or the political landmines in seemingly benevolent Norman Rockwell like settings.

I was thrust into local celebrity by being a general assignment reporter covering blue-plate special stories of murders, fires, prison riots,  sexual predators, bad weather, and quirky politics.

I quickly learned to lean on the experience of the people shooting the stories.  They knew the players, the back stories,  the dos and the don’ts.

A news director (one of nearly 3 dozen I survived) told me to keep the camera crews under my thumb.  He said they were just ‘picture takers’, ‘lumpers’ and ‘complainers’.  That news director was history before I figured out how wrong he was.

Those picture takers really were reporters who saw everything around them. They knew when someone was just using his “face time” to dance around the truth and delay legal consequences. They warned me about the “frauds” and “fakers,” political and community leaders who could clean your pockets while shaking your hand.

I am especially thankful for the photojournalists who covered “the mean streets.”   They’re the ones I always saw at 3 o’clock in the morning at a devastating fire,  a triple homicide or drive-by shooting.  They always knew more than the eye-witnesses or law enforcement people just catching the case. I apologize to those whose names are omitted.  It’s impossible to do justice to all of you who were there for me and other reporters over all those years.

Boston is a unique TV news market because the competition is benevolent.  Everyone wants to be FIRST with the story, especially with the advent of electronic newsgathering.  Everything is “Now”.  It happens and,  in a few minutes,  you’re expected to be “live with breaking news”.  Truth and facts often become victims in the quest to be fast and first.

Reporters feel the pressure.  They often feel their jobs are on the line if they are not first.  The folks behind the cameras become a calming force.  They’ve observed the scene, the people, possible evidence.  Often, cameramen and women can figure out the story while fielding frantic and demanding calls from newsrooms.  Over the years,  I’ve leaned on camera and tech crews, not only from my station but also competitors.

I’ve been slipped pieces of paper with key information during live shots and looked like the best damn reporter in town.  In truth,  I was saved by a competing cameraman who saw me struggling and threw the lifeline.

I’ve been praised for memorable “standups” — those on-camera appearances where we look you in the eye and deliver riveting reports. The truth is those words often came from the people behind the camera.  Their words, repeated with sincere conviction by me.

The camera folks also correct information that we, seasoned reporters,  are sure is true.  I was often interrupted with,  “Garry, I don’t want to tell you what to say.  You always know what you’re doing…”   The bulb in my brain flashes — “Listen, know-it-all breath”.

So,  this is a thank you to Richie, Andy, Nat, Jack, Premack, Warren, Eddie,  Susan, Leslie, Noot,  Messrs. Richard Chase, “Fast Al”,  Stan The Man and all the other REAL — behind the camera reporters.

These were the journalists who enabled me to have such a long and satisfying career. Thank you!

WORK AND LIFE BALANCE: THE RIGHT TO DISCONNECT – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I have been interested in the balance between work life and personal life since the days of my first husband’s 60 plus hour work weeks at his New York City law firm. Working so much wreaked havoc with our home life and left me, effectively, a single parent most of the time.

The issue has been magnified with the advent of the 24/7 access to work via the internet. Employers can expect their employees to be available at all hours on all days. But there is some soul searching in the corporate world over how to reasonably limit employee’s accessibility and responsibility to the office.

To manage work stress, some companies provide massages, yoga classes, nap venues, and other wellness services during the workday. This is clearly not enough. There is a horror story out of Japan where a 31-year-old worker logged 159 hours of overtime in one month and worked herself to death.

France is concerned about workers becoming more and more connected to work, online, outside of the office and outside of office hours. France also seems to be taking the lead in legislating to correct the balance between work and life. The French believe that if you limit the amount of overwork, you also limit the amount of burnout and in the process, increase productivity on the job.

France takes the forward-looking position that it is beneficial for people to have downtime away from work. The French believe that workers have the right to draw a line when employers demands interfere with evenings or weekends at home and even vacation time.

So France passed a new provision in the Labor Law that requires companies with over 50 employees, to negotiate new rules to limit work and keep it from spilling into days off and after work hours. Labor consultants have suggested that one way to limit after-hours work is to avoid the ‘reply all’ function on group emails. That way, only one person, not everyone, has to read and respond to each email.

Another suggestion to achieve better work/life balance is to set a time limit for work communications. Some firms have designated the hours from 9 PM to 7 AM or 7 PM to 7 AM as off-limits to employers.

This makes sense to me and is easy to enforce.

In Germany, in 2013, The Labor Ministry ordered its supervisors not to contact employees outside of office hours. In 2011, Volkswagen shut off their BlackBerry servers at the end of the workday.

In Britain, they are studying the use of commuting time for work by employees with long train rides twice a day. They are looking to include commuting time as hours worked since employees are still accessible to employers online on their way to and from work.

Several other European countries are proposing changes in work rules that take long commutes into account. A European Tribunal last year decided a court case that could change how work hours are calculated across the continent. It ruled that in Norway, some employees can count their commutes as work time. The ruling acknowledged that as long as you are at the disposal of your employer, you are technically at work.

Recently, France’s highest court ordered a British company to pay an employee $70,000 after the company required employees to have their phones on at all times. They were expected to answer questions from clients and subordinates at any time, day or night.

The right to disconnect is becoming a battle cry for workers all over the world. We have to learn to balance the new technologies with human values and reasonable lifestyle choices. Permanent access doesn’t mean people should have to work all the time.

It will be interesting to see how these issues get resolved in the years to come.

REAL REPORTERS: BEHIND THE CAMERA JOURNALISTS – Garry Armstrong

It’s never been a one-man show.

I’ve logged over 40-years in TV and radio news,  including 31 years at one Boston TV Station.  I’m always flattered when people say they remember me and my work. The body of work is considerable. Usually 3 or 4 daily newscasts, 5 to 6 days a week,  48 or so weeks a year times 40.  That’s a lot of news, good, bad and ugly.

A reporter,  the face in front of the camera,  gets the credit for everything. The images of life, death and the furies of Mother Nature.  Wars and Peace. Happiness and sorrow. You see the reporter, center screen with a name graphic, proof that he or she saw everything in the visuals that tell the story.

It’s a false premise.  It’s impractical. The reporter couldn’t possibly be in all the places seen in the story that has you riveted to the screen.

We’re called “talent” in business lexicon.  That should be a dead giveaway. We’re the human, face connection, to all those images on your screen.

The real reporters are the people behind the cameras.  The men and women who frequently put their lives on the line to bring you the pictures, the video seared into your sense memory.

I’m proud of all the awards I’ve received over the years. I’d be a liar if I said the hardware didn’t mean anything to me. They are reminders of the stories covered across four decades – on the local, state, national and international stages.  The awards have my name clearly etched, front and center. But I can see all the faces of those responsible for bringing the stories to life.

In the 60’s,  I was a green rookie, assigned to the national and international news,  landscapes that ranged from Vietnam, civilian dissent against the war, Civil Rights marches and violent opposition,  assassinations of national leaders,  a historic walk on the moon and a music-culture changer called Woodstock. I was a 20-something, agape at all these events I was covering for Network News.  It truly was baptism under fire.  I survived because of veterans whose careers began with the birth of radio and television news,  The great depression and World War Two.

The 20 something was handed the keys to the news kingdom.  Right place, right time. I may have often been driving the big car but those veterans always rode shotgun,  guiding me through some very difficult mazes of network news closed-door battles with the Pentagon,  the DOD and the White House.  I had a grizzled news manager who always counseled me, “Just tell the truth…make sure you’ve corroborated 2 or 3 times at least.

Don’t let the Pols or Generals faze you…make sure the stories are short, punchy…dump the adjectives”.

All that was behind me when I landed in Boston in 1970. If I thought I knew it all, I was dead wrong.  Boston was just edging its way into a golden era of TV Journalism.  The technology was rapidly changing and changing the way things were done.  TV news was still viewed with skepticism and contempt by many old-school journalists who believed the word was stronger than the picture.

Boston is a highly regarded news market. It can be tricky for a newcomer not versed in the proper pronunciation of towns and cities or the political landmines in seemingly benevolent Norman Rockwell like settings.

I was thrust into local celebrity by being a general assignment reporter covering blue-plate special stories of murders, fires, prison riots,  sexual predators, bad weather, and quirky politics.

I quickly learned to lean on the experience of the people shooting the stories.  They knew the players, the back stories,  the dos and the don’ts.

A news director (one of nearly 3 dozen I survived) told me to keep the camera crews under my thumb.  He said they were just ‘picture takers’, ‘lumpers’ and ‘complainers’.  That news director was history before I figured out how wrong he was.

Those picture takers really were reporters who saw everything around them. They knew when someone was just using his “face time” to dance around the truth and delay legal consequences. They warned me about the “frauds” and “fakers,” political and community leaders who could clean your pockets while shaking your hand.

I am especially thankful for the photojournalists who covered “the mean streets.”   They’re the ones I always saw at 3 o’clock in the morning at a devastating fire,  a triple homicide or drive-by shooting.  They always knew more than the eye-witnesses or law enforcement people just catching the case. I apologize to those whose names are omitted.  It’s impossible to do justice to all of you who were there for me and other reporters over all those years.

Boston is a unique TV news market because the competition is benevolent.  Everyone wants to be FIRST with the story, especially with the advent of electronic newsgathering.  Everything is “Now”.  It happens and,  in a few minutes,  you’re expected to be “live with breaking news”.  Truth and facts often become victims in the quest to be fast and first.

Reporters feel the pressure.  They often feel their jobs are on the line if they are not first.  The folks behind the cameras become a calming force.  They’ve observed the scene, the people, possible evidence.  Often, cameramen and women can figure out the story while fielding frantic and demanding calls from newsrooms.  Over the years,  I’ve leaned on camera and tech crews, not only from my station but also competitors.

I’ve been slipped pieces of paper with key information during live shots and looked like the best damn reporter in town.  In truth,  I was saved by a competing cameraman who saw me struggling and threw the lifeline.

I’ve been praised for memorable “standups” — those on-camera appearances where we look you in the eye and deliver riveting reports. The truth is those words often came from the people behind the camera.  Their words, repeated with sincere conviction by me.

The camera folks also correct information that we, seasoned reporters,  are sure is true.  I was often interrupted with,  “Garry, I don’t want to tell you what to say.  You always know what you’re doing…”   The bulb in my brain flashes — “Listen, know-it-all breath”.

So,  this is a thank you to Richie, Andy, Nat, Jack, Premack, Warren, Eddie,  Susan, Leslie, Noot,  Messrs. Richard Chase, “Fast Al”,  Stan The Man and all the other REAL — behind the camera reporters.

These were the journalists who enabled me to have such a long and satisfying career. Thank you!

DREAM AND REAL – Marilyn Armstrong

Juxtapose

In my dreams – now rapidly fading as dreams do when you wake – is that I was so exhausted I could not continue. I didn’t know why I was so exhausted, only that I could barely raise my head from the pillow. I knew I had to quit the job that I had and I wasn’t entirely clear what job I was working

It turned out I was working for the military, searching out information on obscure (unknown?) bases in distant places … and I was not allowed to tell anyone what I was doing because I was supposedly doing something else. I had gotten my old friend Dorothy to join me and she had been working on some other base in some other part of the world, but had finally had enough and quit.

I wanted to quit too, but I felt I had to stay because it was secret and military and somehow, important, though I wasn’t sure why it was important. Or to whom.

Juxtapose reality: Life has been exhausting. I do what I must and then I do what I should and just when I think I’ve done everything I need to do, it’s the next day and I have to do most of it again and I know it will never end.

Moral of the story? I need to cut back on what I think are the requirements of life. But I’m not sure what they are anymore. I’m no longer sure where the necessities are versus the things I really want to do. For whatever reason, they have become so entangled that I just try to do everything. Because I know that no one else will do them.

Having dug my computer out of hacker land, I’m changing the router – which I can ill-afford to do – but I feel pretty exposed and I need to feel more protected in a world gone mad with crazy people who are out to get me.

Why is anyone trying to get me? Or us? We have so little, why us? We know there is no answer to that question, or at least, no answer that will make us understand. The ugliness of the world is the real truth of it.

A group who had little feel they owe nothing to anyone but themselves. They probably laugh at us when they imagine how many poor people have been made even poorer through their efforts.

The right way to sleep

A cold shiver runs down my back when I realize that there are so many evil people in this world and my trusting them has not gained respect but simply made me a target.

If my dreams are telling me anything, it’s that there is too much on my plate. Too much of it feels desperately important and frightening. Oppressive. Somehow, I have to find a way to lower the pressure. I don’t know how.

I wish I had a list of ways to get it done. Something. This is no way for me to be living, not at this time in my life.

AWESOMELY AUTHENTIC – Marilyn Armstrong

At a certain point in life — some people call it old and the rest of us call it “wow, I’m still alive!” — you become authentic. You are really real. Naturally awesome. Totally chilled. You are you

From that point on, you lose the choice of wearing a false face. The faces you needed while you worked, while you “faced your public” — if what you did involved facing “the public.” Garry could no more be a reporter now than I could put on my Working Face or for that matter, remember the millions of details I used to keep in my head.

If I had been the natural authentic “me” at work, I’d never have made it through a job long enough to collect the first paycheck.

Especially those of us who worked in a strictly corporate world, the last thing we could be was authentic — unless we were born in a tailored suit and always talked like a TV-series lawyer.

I suppose what most people mean when they say we are authentic is that we are “natural.” No façade. No game face. We aren’t pretending for the camera or the boss. We are being ourselves for good or ill. Mostly, I think it’s good. Purely opinion, however.

Professional work rarely suggests we be “us.” We are whatever we need to be to “make the grade” professionally. Those of us that never manage to find the right façade generally don’t “make it” to the upper echelons of the work we do.

I was good at The Face for about three months. My first three months at any job, I was perfect. It was exhausting. I even attended meetings! The worse job I ever had was as management when I had to hold the meetings. There was no one I could call to point out I was too busy to make it.

After those three carefully guarded months, I relaxed. Bit by bit. Otherwise, I couldn’t do my job. I became more insistent that others do what they should so I could manage my part of the task. If my first three months didn’t impress them, I was doomed. That was the most “not me” I had to offer.

I was not a good corporate player. The bigger and more formal the organization, the less well I fit into it. I wanted to fit in, mainly because I wanted the better salary and benefits, but mostly, that wasn’t enough.

I was impressed at how Garry had two different personalities for home and work.  His professional game face was not the one he brought home at night. The only truly consistent feature was his temper. If you got him really mad enough, well … you got what you paid for.

Garry gets his first look at the actual award.

These days, as we age, we are about as real, natural and authentic as humans can get. If by now we aren’t real, we never will be. The best part of aging is becoming yourself all the time.

It doesn’t mean you have to be rude, crude, or mean. Just that you don’t have to pretend any more. What a relief!