NO CRYING IN THE NEST – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Nest

A woman, younger than me, has no children and asks: “What is ’empty nest syndrome?’ What does it mean?”

I gave it a bit of thought. After all, my nest is empty except for two terriers and the handsome husband.

The empty nest is one in which the children have grown up and moved out. They have independent lives. These newly made adults have left the family nest and assumed the mantle of adult responsibility.  Isn’t that what we wanted all along?

Swan family all lined up

My mother’s life did not revolve around me, though I kept her pretty busy for a long time. She was a dutiful mother insofar as she did the right stuff. She fed us, though this was her least shining achievement. She clothed us … and to this day I wish I’d better appreciated the clothing she made for me. I was just too young, awkward, and afraid someone might notice I was dressed “differently” from the other kids. Big mistake.

The whole family!

She talked to me about adult things in an adult way. She gave me tons of books and if I look around, I probably still own more than half of them. These weren’t the books my friends and schoolmates read. They were grown-up literature. Sometimes, I had to ask her what it meant because if anything, she overestimated my understanding of the larger world. When I was ready to go, she was proud of me for taking the leap.

It freed her to paint and sculpt and travel. To read, go to the theater, spend time with her sisters. Not cook and clean all the time. Make her own clothing instead of mine. She was glad my brother and I were independent and built lives.

I doubt she suffered from any kind of empty nest issues.

Nor did I. Of course, my son and his family kept coming back. For years, I yearned for an empty nest. Having finally achieved it, do I miss the patter of little feet? Or, for that matter, the thunder of big ones?

Flocks of Goldfinch

I miss the thunder more. Is there something wrong with enjoying the company of adult children more than little kids? I really enjoy having real conversations with grownups who look like me. Even if we disagree, I’m delighted they have opinions. That they are part of a bigger world and standing on their own feet.

Maybe the difference is that so many women seem to prefer babies to adults. They don’t want independent children who don’t need them. Some parents urgently need to be needed.

Children need nurturing, but they don’t need it all the time and they definitely don’t need it for their entire lives. After some point, their drive for separateness should overwhelm the need for nurturing. The drive to be independent should become dominant. I have always thought it’s our obligation as parents to help our kids achieve adulthood because we won’t be here forever. They will need to go on without us.

An empty nest is when you don’t need to do a load of laundry every day. Where the sink isn’t always full. You can park your car where you want it.

Photo: Ben Taylor

Extra rooms revert to your use, even if you use them as closets for all the stuff you collected. If you have a life of your own, interests of your own. There’s no such thing as an empty nest. It’s a time when your kids have achieved maturity. It’s when the work you did to raise them right pays off.

Adult children are great. If you still need to nurture, get pets. Adopt dogs and cats and ferrets and parrots. They will always need you.

If you do it right, your kids will always love you, but not always need you.

A CARDINAL – RADIANT IN THE WOODS WITH SNOW ON THE WAY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Radiant

I looked out upon my deck … and it was interesting. Not one, but two squirrels, each hanging in one of the feeders with a Cardinal in the woods, presumably waiting for those big four-footed fluffies to let go of the feeders. Once the squirrels dig in, they stay dug until they are finished.

So I took as many pictures as I could of the rather distant Cardinal, another of the Cardinal and a squirrel, and the remaining shots all about the two squirrels.

For the purpose of radiant, I don’t think you’ll get any better than this Cardinal on a small branch in the woods.

Cardinal in the woods
Another Cardinal back in the woods

DON’T YOU HATE WHEN THAT HAPPENS? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Rebuke

On a day with little to be done, I got up to discover that during the night, some dog (I’m looking at YOU Bonnie!) peed all around the legs of the dining room table. I would put the gate up to keep the dogs out, but I already know that the Duke just knocks the gates down and if that doesn’t work, he jumps them. But these plastic baby gates that have worked for many dogs over many years and are useless now. The Duke has discovered they are lightweight and easily pushed down.

Any of our dogs could have pushed them over but none of them did. Just The Duke. He’s special.

A glass-fronted desk full of memories

He’s a thief but otherwise, a clean boy. Bonnie, on the other hand, doesn’t like going outside unless someone forces the issue … and even Gibbs occasionally feels a masculine need to lift a leg. Despite all that, this is the first time any dog has done anything in the dining room.

Dining table with French doors

This made me very cranky. I was looking forward to several hours of lurking over the computer, sipping coffee, and contemplating the nothingness of modern life, brooding on politics, and generally readying myself for a day of nothing in particular. Instead, I had to clean the dining room which is difficult to clean because it’s crowded with stuff. Mostly, it’s crowded with a huge table and a non-working organ. The table is used to keep my cameras ready for the shooting birds.

As a matter of fact, the reason I was in the dining room at all was that there was a nice, fat Cardinal waiting to drop by for a feed and instead, I was mopping the floor and realizing that there were cobwebs on absolutely EVERYTHING — and several of the oak chairs were splitting along seam lines and needed to be glued and clamped.

When this stuff happens, I always feel like life is simply falling apart around me. It isn’t really. The dining room rarely is used for its original purpose. Maybe twice a year we have a sit-down dinner. The room is largely pretty clean, except for dust. But it had been a while since it was cleaned and the dust had done a good deal of gathering.

Meanwhile, at least two chairs were splitting for no reason except, I assume, the glue gave out. I bought those oak chairs about 32 years ago before we were married. It really doesn’t seem that long ago. I was getting my first place and was working in a furniture store. Instead of a percentage of what I sold, I got furniture. Oak. All oak, mostly made by the Amish and until now, it has lasted. Somehow, I thought it would last forever.

Nothing lasts forever.

Vines in the dining room against the French doors

Meanwhile, the Cardinal finished eating and moved on. Just as well. My arm is telling me to “PUT THE CAMERA DOWN.” How can I be so smart and be such a slow learner?

I was snippy. Garry took this as a rebuke, a kind of blame for the mess.

I wasn’t mad at Garry. I was just mad because I didn’t want to start the day moving all the furniture and clearing the table. My back already hurt and the idea of floor washing before I had my coffee was distinctly unappealing.

Don’t you hate when that happens? Something you really don’t want to deal with comes up and there’s no one to blame, so you snipe at whoever happens to be in the room. It was really the dogs’ fault, but there’s not much use in sniping at them. They really don’t care and probably don’t remember whatever they did that they should not have done.

My memory is like that these days. Fifteen seconds and everything is just gone. Poof. But for the dogs, their whole lives are like that. That’s why they need constant repetition to learn things … although we have had some very smart dogs who learned on one or two lessons. Duke is like that. If he does something he’s not supposed to do, it isn’t because he doesn’t know better. He knows. He just doesn’t care.

Now Garry is doing his ritual morning cleansing in the bathroom. Yesterday’s cleansing resulted in today’s post. He said I should remember that he does much of his thinking in there. I don’t really see why he can’t think somewhere else, thus freeing up the bathroom for me, but it’s his … meditation (?) room.

And now, the sun has come up. It’s a very cold day outside. I know because I could hear the radiators rattling this morning. We keep the house at around 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) — cool, not warm. If it gets colder, that’s what sweaters and sweatshirts are for. I prefer a cool house to a warm one anyway. I grew up in a chilly house and it feels normal.

But I have to apologize to Garry when he gets out of the bathroom … any time now. Because I was irritable and he hadn’t done anything wrong. I just didn’t want to do all that work before I’d had my first sip of coffee.

Don’t you hate when that — ALL of that — happens?

I thought you would.

DRIFTING ALONG WITH THE GOOD GUYS – Marilyn Armstrong

DRIFTING ALONG

I am retired which is, by definition, at least a little bit adrift. This is a good thing and the real reason we retire. After a life of deadlines and commuting, some drifting seems like a pretty good idea. So here I am. Just drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweed … with memories of those great cowboy movies of childhood.

Hi Roy! Hi Trigger! Hey, Bullet! Hope y’all are doing well. I miss you. All of you. You were the good guys. We trusted you. Where are you now, when we need you?

OUT-OF-FASHION – Marilyn Armstrong

FUCHSIA – OUT-OF-FASHION?

When I discovered my favorite hanging flowers are officially “out of fashion” — meaning I can’t buy any, at least not in Uxbridge, I got depressed. I never imagined flowers could go out-of-fashion. It’s bad enough that I’m obsolete, but fuchsia? My glorious pink and purple flowers that I love … and which grow perfectly on our rather shady deck?

Isn’t it lovely?

So imagine this morning’s delight when I realized that somehow, without much thought or attention, I’d grown orchids. I’d seen the shoots, but I didn’t see any buds. Watered lightly, left them to the light and sent them my best hope for a rapid blossoming.

One of them is blooming and there are many more buds waiting. I think only one stalk will flower, but I could be wrong.

I’d like to say that while these are some of the most beautiful flowers to look at, they are amazing tricky to photograph. They are so translucent you don’t get the flower colors as much as you get the glow of the sunlight through them. And that is not a sunny window.

I will happily accept all congratulations, even though to be fair, I didn’t do anything except water them when they got really dry. Sometimes, that’s all you really need to do.

I sure hope that these don’t go out of fashion. Between my obsolete self, my crumbling home, and variously disabled body … well — out-of-fashion is possibly the kindest way to put it.

RETROSPECTIVE: AFTERTHOUGHT AND FOND FAREWELL – Marilyn Armstrong

RETROSPECTIVE: afterthought & farewell


Do you remember when we competed to get the “Freshly Pressed” award? When there was a weekly prompt that they actually read and supposedly “judged” for quality and uniqueness?

Remember when one day, it vanished? We didn’t even get a marketing letter about that one. It vanished and never returned and Freshly Pressed went with it.

Can you recall when we got little prizes and bonuses for however many views we got … or the number of “likes” or “follows”? That was when blogging was what the platform was about. Almost every author I followed had an active blog on Word Press.

Gradually, all of that has dribbled away. With dissolving the last of it including the Daily Prompt which has got to be the most effortless prompt in creation (and is probably done by a generating app in someone’s laptop), they’ve taken a platform famed for its connectivity and unique friendliness and dropped to see if they can make two billion next year on top of the billion they got this year.

The Years of Serendipity

I know everyone says that “WordPress is free,” but how many of you do NOT pay a fee to upgrade your site? Most of us pay. It’s not the $49.99 a month they want for their business site, but most of us don’t have that kind of money and what’s more, we aren’t businesses. Authors, artists. Thoughtful people with ideas to share. Painters with art. Musicians.

Religious people and atheists share a platform and manage to communicate with each other in a world where this kind of communication is almost unheard of.

I would like to think that somehow, WordPress will still be the same place it used to be, but I doubt it. In every other blogging site where they have wrenched the soul out of it in the name of somehow making a lot more money, the results have been catastrophic. Most of those sites are gone — entirely. The rest have become something so different no one recognizes them. Remember when Reddit was the “hot spot” to get your work recognized? They changed it and now, it’s no kind of hot spot. No one cares if their material is there. It doesn’t matter.

Now, it’s all about monetizing your site. Monetizing? I am retired. I don’t sell anything. When I was selling things, I had a commercial site on a commercial marketing platform. I paid my way along with all the other business sites. In 2008, when our economy crashed, I ended that business. It was not a good business for those financial times.

I missed the extra money, but I was done with business. Meanwhile, I had been blogging a little here and there. GeoCities (remember when Yahoo did something?) and Storyline (I think that was the name — they sold themselves to Facebook which promptly dissolved them; they are gone). There some others until I hooked onto WordPress and found a home.

The blogging platform that is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

There were good years — 2012 through 2014 — and then they started urging us to make money. They would help us. Which was interesting because before that, it was illegal to try to make money on your site. We were bloggers, not businesses. Our goal was to talk about art and books and ideas. To be thoughtful, intelligent, creative.

Now … what will it be? If we aren’t bloggers – thoughtful and creative – then this is another Ruby Lane where businesses line up on a platform and everyone sells whatever they’ve got. I’m not a business. I’m not going to be a business. If I wrote another book, I could publicize it, but that’s not a “business” and anyway, writers don’t have a lot of spare change.

So this is a retrospective to what this platform was and I wish would remain. It is a sad farewell to something which is about to start its long slide to nothing special.

Should WordPress — against all odds — create a business audience out of 12-million bloggers (something no other organization has yet done), it won’t be “our” WordPress, just be another business platform.

Worse, it’s doomed to failure because this isn’t that audience. I keep saying it. The first and possibly ONLY rule of marketing is “KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.”

WordPress doesn’t get that.

And then, there is WordPress

I am linked to many of you as followers and vice versa. If you get my emails indicating I’ve posted, we will stay in touch. There are a lot of people trying to figure out a more direct way to keep in touch. I’m on top of that.

In the meantime it turns out money is what matters, forever and through all eternity. Ah-men.

BROKEN? ALSO, DISCONNECTED – Marilyn Armstrong

Broken

I got up this morning in a pretty good mood. Bright sun, not humid. Looks like a nice day as spring heads into summer. Put up the coffee, gave the dogs treats. My son came over to install the new router and that’s when things started to go downhill.

The new one is exactly the same but bigger.

I hate new routers. It means everything which connects to WiFi is going to need a new password and a full restart. The phone started ringing … and that was when I realized we still have one, single hard-wired WiFi item in the house — my husband’s caption phone. I couldn’t get it to hook up and it turned out that this was because I had not yet fully installed the router itself.

To make this just a little more difficult, Garry’s phone is at the back of the house in his office. The router is in the middle room which used to be my office. And my computer is in the living room where I mostly live. I needed my computer. I needed information off the bottom of the previous router and I needed the serial number from the new router. It’s easily a dozen numbers long and probably 6-point type. Does anyone try to read those numbers?

I unplugged my computer and kept moving me and it from room to room.

Of course, this is the week that I had to reinstall everything on my computer and that meant I have new passwords and I don’t remember any of them. Although I used to have a NetGear account, I’ve apparently changed email addresses since then, so I had to register as if it were the first time.

I did that. Then I had to reinstall Garry’s caption phone and of course, it had a whole set of new software on it (we don’t reinstall it often, so inevitably when we do this, there’s always new software). Yet, I got all this done and somewhere in here, I vacuumed the floors, too.

I still hadn’t gotten a cup of coffee — was cruel and unusual punishment. I needed coffee!

The doctor’s scheduler called and lucky for me, that was exactly when Garry emerged from the bathroom. I set up his dates for pre-op and the surgery. Plus the first follow-up post surgery — and realized, I also had to arrange for him to get a meningitis shot. Which, it turned out, I have to get at the pharmacy, but not our usual pharmacy because the vaccine for people over 55 is different than the one for everyone else and requires a nurse practitioner. Which means CVS. Which I couldn’t speak to because they only have recorded messages. No humans.

I tried to call the hospital, but kept getting disconnected. By now, I’m breathing slowly and deeply because this is stuff I simply must get done, no matter how aggravating. It’s important. In the case of the vaccine, also expensive!

For reasons best known to our government, vaccinations (except flu) are NOT covered by medical insurance. Don’t ask. I don’t have an answer. A lot of our medical care is senseless and this is one of the more irksome items.

Garry wants a list of grocery to get and I feel brainless. I can’t give him an answer because my head is swimming with vaccinations and appointments and computers and I really, really need coffee.

It’s two in the afternoon. I still haven’t cleaned Bonnie’s eyes and I have no idea where I’m getting $150 for Garry’s vaccination. Some credit card, I assume. Lord knows how I’ll pay for it. I also have to change the post surgical checkup because it’s on the only day Owen can’t drive us there.

If I drink some coffee, I’m sure this will all work out. I’m sure of it. No, really. I’m sure.

It’s all about the coffee.