A FINE DAY FOR EMBRACING by Marilyn Armstrong


Not an embracing sort of day for me, although I have to admit to a powerful passion for Excedrin, the only over-the-counter pain reliever that really works on migraine, backache, and a zillion other problems. If I weren’t so sensitive about the aspirin, it would be my drug of choice. It’s actually stronger than Demerol and with fewer side-effects, if you don’t count the massive ulcers that forced the twice removal of my stomach.

Otherwise, it would be my drug of choice.

It’s a gorgeous day in the valley. The sun is out, the humidity is down, the temperature is reasonable and in an hour or so, when I can actually walk upright, the world will be golden and full of joy.

These evil nights are hard for me. I don’t “not sleep” because of insomnia, though I sometimes fail to sleep because I’m in the middle of listening to a book. I just can’t stop reading. Books have always been my downfall.

It’s the broken nights. The every two or three hours of waking up with throbbing pain in a hip or the lower back or some other part of me. There is a limit to the number of drugs I can take — or am willing to take. In the first place, if you take drugs — any kind — all the time, they don’t work as well and if you keep at it, they stop working entirely. Our bodies aren’t designed as giant receptacles for drugs, so you have to know when you’ve reached whatever your personal maximum is and just simply stop. No matter how much you hurt.

Aspirin or any combination that includes NSAIDs will cause ulcers. That also means Ibuprofen whether it’s Motrin, Advil or a generic version.

Demerol works if you don’t take it often. It’s not strong to begin with, so its potency is limited. Moderately and carefully at best and I’m allergic to all the rest of the opioids — assuming I would consider them, though I admit there are some nights when anything seems like a good idea.

Tylenol doesn’t work very well AND it is lethal to your kidneys and liver, so if you take enough to make a significant difference, you are close to over the top on how much you are allowed before it does anything positive for you. I am fond of my kidneys and liver. I’d like to hang on to them. I’ve had plenty of replacement parts and they are not on my list.

The end of all of this is that I wake up tired because I haven’t gotten more than three hours of sleep at a time. Then there’s the phone that rings in the morning. Either it’s a doctor’s office (again) … or it’s a single ring that gets cut off by NomoRobo.com (I love that service!) … but just enough noise to wake me up again. Sometimes, I wonder if going to sleep at all is worth the effort.

And then, there is how much I really need a new mattress.

Embrace the world. I would really like to. But first, I need to be able to stand up and it would be a great joy if standing up were not accompanied by a lot of pain at the same time.

And I love people who keep telling me that exercise is going to help.

It isn’t going to help because the calcification in the spine is so deeply ingrained in there, nothing will make it better. Not anymore. Ten years ago, it helped. Even five years ago, it helped.

I tried to think about Richard Duke of Gloucester and his twisted spine. He led an army — to defeat, I grant you, but he tried his best. Of course, he was dead at 35. I wonder how he would have dealt with it at in old age. Well, hardly anyone reached old age back then. Pretty much no one lived to survive massive arthritis.

Except for Eleanor of Aquitaine. Woman power! It’s a miracle.


Flowers of the Day and Probably for the Summer

Every summer, I hang two pots on the deck. I used to hand two fuchsias and some begonias in the corners, but for the past few years, no one is growing fuchsia, so it has been some form of begonia.

This year, it’s on trailing geranium and a lovely pink begonia. I miss the fuchsia and don’t understand why no one is growing them. Someone said they went out of style.

Went out of style? How does something that beautiful “go out of style”? And the fuchsia were very popular with the hummingbirds. I hope they will like these flowers half as well.

One geranium

It was a cool but pleasant day, so while Garry was out — little did I know he was busy taking pictures too. I took a some macros of the hanging pots on the deck and got a few of the lilacs. It’s hard to get the lilacs. They are way high up off the ground. It’s easier for me to shoot them from the deck with a really long lens.

I guess we’ll have to do some work on the lilacs to make them come back a bit lower to the ground!

Two geranium

The weather was so bad this winter, I almost gave up photography, but Garry went out there and took tons of them. He came in frozen solid, but he had pictures.

Pink begonias

After the March storms, he put the camera down and seemed to have no interest in shooting anything. I think he was tired. He made up for it today.

More pink begonias

We both did, actually. Between the two of us, this was a solid 300 shot day, most of them from Garry. But these are mine. It’s definitely macro time!

Deck flowers 2018

I don’t put up so many flowers these days. It’s hard for me to lift the watering can up over my head, so two pots generally suffice. But if someone would please grow some fuchsia, I’d make the sacrifice!


Garry went out to find me fuchsia, but the fuchsia guy is gone. No one has seen him and the shop is closed. Enterprising spirit that he is, he found me a glorious basket of pink begonias. I need one more basket for the patio, but that one is glorious.

Variegated Geranium

Today I bought a second hanging pot, a variegated geranium — purple and white. Supposedly it’ll cope with living in less than full sunlight. I hope so. Usually, geraniums really prefer a lot of sun, which I do not have.

Hanging Begonia

I love the little patches that look like roses


More miniature roses

Hanging geraniums

A hard shade of pink to capture

Flowers of my day – Pink Begonia and Variegated Geranium


As a photographer, white, of all the colors gives me the hardest time. So of course, I spend a lot of time and effort trying to get good pictures of white things.

Flowers, much of the time. But other things too. Pottery. Clouds. Steeples of churches in New England. The foam on water and boats in the harbor. And of course — snow. Lots of snow.

I haven’t gotten it quite right yet, but I’m getting there.


There’s a place in town that sells flowers. Flats of pansies, Vinca, miniature roses, zinnia and other annuals. When I was still planting, before I ran out of room and my spine ran out of flexibility, I bought a lot of stuff there.

violet petunias

It remains a wonderful place to buy flowers. They dead-head everything and never let it dry out. Their plants are always healthy and bug free. Inconveniently — but typical of small businesses in town — they only take cash and checks.

Purple striped petunias

Fortunately (and rarely!) we had enough cash because it turned out, the checkbook was back home and not in my bag as I thought it was. It was good to be back. It’s been more than a year. I needed a flower fix.

White begonia

They sell hanging pots. Fuchsia is my favorite, but if you want some, you have to get there the same day the fuchsia arrives. Otherwise, it’s sold out. The fuchsia came and went in a single Saturday last month. Before I was ready, it was already too late. So we won’t have them on the deck this year.

purple petunias

Last year I had two magnificent fuchsia plus a scarlet begonia to die for. This year (so far) I have my two hanging pots: a white begonia and a purple and white striped begonia. I’ll probably get one more standing pot and that will be enough.

Whenever I look out through the french doors in the dining room or the dutch door (international doorways?) in the kitchen, I see my flowers. Summertime is short in the valley, but it can be beautiful.

Garden on the Deck

(c) 2013 - Marilyn Armstrong

Each year I’ve lived in this house — except for one — I’ve put flowers out on the deck, hanging fuchsia and bright begonias.

The hummingbirds love fuchsia. If you are quiet and patient, you can sit, sip you coffee or lemonade. You can watch the hummingbirds busily drinking from the fuchsia and the red or violet begonias too. Last year, I missed getting some fuchsia.

(c) 2013 - Marilyn Armstrong

Several local nurseries have closed and the few that remain only grow a limited number of fuchsia. They take up so much room in the greenhouse, you see, they can only grow a few dozen.

(c) 2013 - Marilyn Armstrong

I knew today was the day they would put the fuchsia out for sale.There were 40 at the start of the day. By the time I got there at a little past noon, there were 6 left. I bought two. I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer!

(c) 2013 - Marilyn Armstrong

Only one year, the year after I had my bilateral mastectomy, did I put no flowers out. It was less a sign of how sick my body was than how depressed I was emotionally.

(c) 2013 - Marilyn Armstrong

This year I vowed, we’d have our garden on the deck.

I kept my word. This year, we have flowers.