PLEASE DON’T LET THE CHIMNEY FALL ON YOUR HEAD – Marilyn Armstrong

Life is killing all of us, but it seems to be killing some of us faster than others. Maybe it just seems that way.

Mystery bricks are falling

Right now, my house is killing me. When we moved in here, we put up a new roof. We put up vinyl siding. We put in French drains. We removed the old rotting back sliding doors and put in French doors. We replaced all the toilets and sinks. We painted almost every room, though it took another ten years to get around to the floors. We never got to that kitchen restoration or repaving the driveway. Both are still on my agenda (ha, right, sure).

Meanwhile, we are doing what we can. We installed the new roof in 2000 — 18 years ago. It is in reasonably good shape.

Mayflowers – in May!

And of course, there’s the heating unit. It  was installed 12 years before we moved in. Add another 18 years we’ve lived here and suddenly, you’re looking at a moderately well-maintained 30-year-old boiler.

The front door is in round three as of last summer and just got its first layer of paint on the inside yesterday. It was my mother’s day present along with Owen putting together my new Oreck vacuum cleaner which, though they promised me it was better than the old one, apparently is exactly the same. Isn’t there some kind of bad joke about women who get vacuum cleaners for mother’s day?

The new – identical to old – Oreck vacuum cleaner. Turns out, I’ve got a spare in the attic I can use for extra parts.

Have I mentioned that advertisers lie? It is almost exactly the same machine with a bigger motor and a fancier handle, but the main difference is that it says “Commercial” on the box.

We replaced the steps to the deck right before I got to where going up that many steps was no longer an option. We put in a stair lift, but it needs some kind of fixing. It works, but only sometimes.

The el cheapo flooring with which we replaced the ratty old rugs is beginning to peel and the house needs painting … which is not happening anytime soon.

Ever, actually.

A few days ago, bricks from the chimney landed on the front stoop which I commented was “not a good thing.” We don’t own one of those old charming houses with 12-foot ceilings and tall windows. This is a 1970s bread box of a house that is getting old and tired. It’s not a bad place to live, mind you … but charming? Not so much.

When they say “They don’t build’em like they used to” they are NOT referring to this house.  They build houses today exactly like this, only worse. Regardless, all houses need repair and maintenance which costs money. Unless you are luckier than most seniors and have money.

We had a bit, for a while but it paid for the restored septic system and the well. Last week, we had to add a replacement window and a substantial piece of the house’s front wall. There are lots of other damp spots on the house. Turns out, vinyl siding is not a cure-all for your house. It looks good, but it doesn’t mean the walls underneath aren’t damp or crumbling. It is, as the pest control guy said, “cosmetic.”

See the round white thing in the sidewalk? That’s the well-head.

We are on round three (or is it four?) of the hot water heater. It’s an expensive one because it runs through the boiler and keeps the boiler working all year round. If it didn’t do that, our heating system would croak.

I live in holy dread of having to replace the heating system. We are way beyond wood. No one able to chop it and haul it into the house not to mention that buying wood is not cheap.

They were new just one year ago … time flies!

I also need new glasses. Wouldn’t you think weaker glasses would cost less than stronger ones? I’m here to tell you it isn’t true. Although larger size clothing always costs more, petite clothing never costs less. So it also goes with glasses.

Politically, the country is revolting and three are too many stupid people living in it. They are busily trying to take away the few things that are keeping us alive.

I’m curious about what they think they will do with the vast majority of aging baby boomers if they take away Medicare, Medicaid, low-cost senior housing, food stamps, et al. We’ll have entire cities full of grumpy, pissed off sickly boomers mugging you. Not for your wallet but because they are in a really lousy mood and they don’t like your face.

I’m not sure what is going to finally kill us. It might be keeping the house, trying to get up the stairs, a stroke, heart attack, cancer. Who knows? We’re all going to go sometime. Most of us would prefer to do it in a heated house with dogs, WiFi and a modern television. And computers, too.

Never underestimate how lethally angry a senior can get. Or how dangerous. We’ve got nothing left to lose except what remains of our crumbling chimneys, so we might as well enjoy clubbing people who think they are immune to “the bad stuff” in life.

OUR CANINE FAMILY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I haven’t written about our dogs in a while. That’s unusual for me because they are such a big part of our lives.

Our two rescue dogs are my constant companions, or nearly constant. More often than not, wherever I am, they are too. But, they each have favorite spots around the house that they like to go to hang out on their own. So sometimes Tom and I will realize that we humans are the only living beings in the room. When that happens, we usually get up and go looking for our furry pals. I’m embarrassed to admit that we often try to cajole them to come back and hang out with us again.

Lexi

Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. I like that independent streak in our pets. Especially with Lexi, our eight year old. She is generally too attached and dependent on me and has separation issues. She is usually my shadow so I’m thrilled when she goes into another room on her own. It has taken years to get her to this point.

Remy

Our two-year old, Remy, is much more independent. But she is such a lover and a cuddler! She is one of the happiest dogs I’ve ever known. She greets us each morning with sheer joy! She is so thrilled to see us again after a long night. It almost feels like she is excited and grateful to see that we’re still here and so is she. I believe that most rescue dogs have a deep sense of gratitude for being rescued. And also a great appreciation for being part of a family. I see that clearly in Remy, who was eight months old when we got her.

Remy playing cards with one of our friends

Remy exudes doggie charisma. Everyone loves her instantly. People sense her sweetness and take to her like bees to honey. She sits next to our friends and cuddles with them. She paws them gently to get them to pet her. She rests her head on their arm or thigh. She sniffs and occasionally licks their faces and hands. She just charms the pants off of everyone she meets.

Sometimes I feel bad for Lexi. She is a shyer and more obviously neurotic dog. So people don’t realize right away how special she is. But once she warms up to you, she is truly awesome. She is very interactive with people. And she is the most verbally communicative dog I’ve ever had. She ‘talks’ – not just barks. She has a wide vocabulary of distinctive sounds and she responds verbally when you talk to her. It’s delightful to have ‘conversations’ with her.

Lexi, like Remy, as also very affectionate. She elicits attention from people with her paws and her voice. She drapes herself over people she’s comfortable with. Sometimes Remy is sitting next to me so there’s no room for Lexi at my side. But that doesn’t stop Lexi! If she wants to cuddle with me, she’ll just climb over Remy and onto my lap. Or she will climb onto the sofa cushion BEHIND me and wrap herself around my neck. Very creative cuddling!

Remy’s favored modes of verbalization are whining as well as barking. I’ve never had a whiner before. Apparently it’s a breed trait of the Red Boned Coon Hound, which seems to be part of Remy’s DNA. (She also looks similar to dogs of that breed and shares their unique and beautiful color).

Her whining can get really high-pitched and shrill, not her best feature. We’re much happier when she just barks at us. But to get Tom to play with her, she whines. She starts softly and then escalates into shrieks if Tom dares to ignore her. This tactic usually works to motivate Tom to get up and take the dogs into the backyard. Or to run around the house with both dogs frantically chasing him and barking with glee.

Both dogs are still skittish, as are many rescue dogs. They startle at sudden noises or movements. They bark frantically when people come into the house and it takes them a while to calm down. Even when we come home after being out for a while, they greet us with frenzied squealing and barking and crazed jumping and running around. They’re a bit over the top, but we enjoy our enthusiastic greetings whenever we walk into the house. It’s a family ritual.

Our dogs sleep in bed with us. All our dogs have. Like most dogs, Lexi and Remy have nighttime rituals they follow religiously. When we first go to bed, Remy lies between Tom and me and cuddles with both of us, in turn. Lexi curls up against my legs or feet. Then at some point towards morning, the dogs switch places. Lexi ends up cuddling with me and Remy takes up her place at my feet or up against Tom.

Sometimes when we get up to go to the bathroom during the night, we get back to find little or no room for us on the bed. We have to push and prod the dogs to get them to move over and create a viable, albeit small, space for us.

Remy sleeping with Tom

In the morning, when the dogs sense we’re getting ready to get up, they pounce on us. Lots of licks and nuzzles. They climb all over Tom and lick him until he finally gets out of bed. What a great wake up call. We start the day with a big dose of love and enthusiasm! Lots of joyful wiggles and wags!

We get out of bed smiling and laughing – which says a lot. We DO NOT like getting out of bed in the mornings!

Dogs playing

We don’t have grandchildren, so maybe that’s a factor in our obsession with our dogs. But, whatever the reason, we love our human/canine family. They fill our days with laughter and love. They provide entertainment and affection. They make us happy. And we can’t imagine living any other way!

THE DOGS OF MAY – Marilyn Armstrong

I was drying my hair in the bathroom and heard a noise out back that sounded remarkably like a dog messing around in “stuff.” I looked out the window — and there was Duke. In the backyard. Where he should not be able to go because the front yard is fully fenced.

So obviously, he’s jumping one of the areas of the fence but we have no idea where he’s doing the jump. The thing is, he doesn’t go anywhere. He just hangs around the property, which is okay. Except we have a lot of critters around here and he could take off and chase one. I’d rather that not happen.

Gibbs

Coyotes and Fishers (they look like mink). Squirrels, rabbits, mice, rats, gophers, skunk … and a huge selection of flying creatures. Not to mention the occasional wildcat and deer.

Bonnie

Before we can keep him IN the yard, we first have to figure out how he is getting out of it.

Duke

At least — unlike the terriers — he doesn’t head for parts unknown. He just hangs around the house. That’s something, right?

Good night, Sweet Duke

MACRO DUKE – Marilyn Armstrong

Ever taken pictures of your pets with a macro lens? Me neither.

But today I was sitting by the computer about to take the SD card out of the camera and stick it in the reader, when I realized Duke was nose-to-nose with me.

He likes that. He particularly likes sticking his wet nose in my ear and sniffing loudly.

So instead of taking out the chip, I leaned back and took a bunch of doggy macros. Even using a macro lens, we were a wee bit too close for comfort, but it was fun. I’m sure Duke enjoyed it. I think he likes having his picture taken.

Duke smiling

MONEY CHURNING

One of the financial meanings of “churning” is to stir up money so that it looks like you are making money, but actually, you aren’t.

All you are really doing is “stirring the waters” and making it look like there’s a lot of business to lure prospective victims, er, I mean investors. You can do this in real estate by flipping houses without really making a profit — or even losing money. And it’s very easy to do with stocks and bonds and buying and selling often, to no particular effect. The point is to look like there’s business in progress which to most people, presumes that money is being made.

Beware of churning, by the way. It is a frequently used “tool” by dishonest brokers.

Right now, on a personal level, it means I have to come up with money I don’t have to do a bunch of things I have no choice about. Routing out the bugs and mice. Fixing at least as much of the dry rot, collapsed window, and finishing the bathroom. Tearing down the old outdoor shower we haven’t used in more than a decade. Tearing down the rotting old shed that’s probably full of carpenter ants — and who knows what else.

From a homeowner’s point of view, this really isn’t huge, but from a retired person’s point of view, it’s a lot.

I knew the ants would be back today because it’s warm. It will be (maybe) in the 60s — even 70s — today. The pest control people called to warn us about tomorrow. We have to get the dogs out of the house — us too — for four hours and no matter what Garry said, we can’t keep us and three lunatic dogs in the car for four hours. We would be gibbering idiots before the days end.

Our regular groomer had no room. Slammed. It’s spring and everyone is getting their dogs cleaned up. Our old groomer went out of business. The dog day care folks have a waiting list months — years? — long.

I called the vet. Gibbs need his annual checkup anyway, but I also need to warehouse the dogs for half a day tomorrow. They said  fine but please bring in Gibbs today because he needs his checkup and probably his other (not rabies) vaccines … and we need to talk about ticks (I loathe ticks).  So we have to take Gibbs to the vet this afternoon. Tomorrow we’ll board them. They have never been boarded, but they actually like the vet — so do we — so I’m not anticipating any issues.

Lord only knows what this is going to cost, but at this point I give up. Whatever it is I will deal with it. Somehow. Not like there’s a choice.

Speaking of ticks, last year and the year before, I used the Soresto collars which were great. But when we got Duke, he thinks that collars are fun toys and he just pulled them off both Bonnie and Gibbs. It was the end of the season, so it wasn’t a big deal — but those collars are expensive. At $60 a whack, that’s a pretty pricey chew toy — and it won’t keep the ticks away if Duke removes them. So we have to have a chat about tick, flea and mosquito repellent. I’m feeling dizzy with all the stuff going on at the same time.

Just this side of gibbering am I. It’s lovely we are escaping for the weekend! We need a few days to regain sanity. And a sense of balance!

Meanwhile, I spent $75 yesterday to discover Garry’s computer is broken and I can’t afford to fix it. I have no idea what today and tomorrow’s trip to the vet will cost, but it will be what it will be. Sometimes, there’s just no way to negotiate your way out of the stuff going on.

On the up side, stuff is getting done. I don’t know how, but it’s happening. I found a collar that fits Bonnie. She had a beautiful new one with a matching leash, too, but Duke pulled it off her and we never found it again. He thinks it is hilarious to haul her around by the collar. I think it is less hilarious because you would not believe what they charge for dog collars today. I swear they didn’t used to cost this much money.

I scrubbed the floor with Fabuloso (that floor cleaning stuff works very well). Then I redid the whole kitchen a second time with vinegar and water. Sprinkled Comet across the doorway. Killed any bugs I could find. Went downstairs and realized that the few mice we thought we had have exploded into a frenzy of mice — sort of like you saw in old black and white cartoons where the mice are chasing the farmer and his wife around the table while one of them wields a weapon? I never really understood those cartoons until today.

Welcome spring. Glad you are bringing life to our home. Personally, I was hoping for flowers, but instead we have ants, mice, and dry rot. Be careful what you wish for. Be VERY specific when you make those wishes!

The red buds are the buds for the maple leaves … which you won’t see until the beginning or middle of May. But they are ready.

I’m going to give up on comments, writing, and reading today. There’s just so much else I need to do, I can’t fit it all in. So — again — I apologize, but I’m a trifle overwhelmed and then we’ll be away until Tuesday while Owen minds the pups.

At least the house is clean!

MUD MAKES ME FEEL GROUNDED

SHARING MY WORLD – MARCH 19, 201


What is your earliest memory? 

Getting lifted up very early in the morning by my mother. It was pre-words, but I have that image, but just that one image.

Which way does the toilet paper roll go? Over or under?

In front. Of course. Even the guy who invented it thought it belonged on top. The ONLY reason to put it the other way is to keep your cats from unrolling the whole thing. Then, it become permissible, but ONLY then.

What makes you feel grounded? 

Mud. Nothing like a boot or shoe covered in New England’s special black gooey mud to make me feel deeply grounded. Do I like feeling grounded? No, I do not. I prefer to feel airy. Springy. Light and fluffy! Mud, begone!

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week? Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination.

This picture of the Duke grinning his way into the heaps and piles of snow. What a face!

Happy Duke and Bonnie!

ODDBALLS AND STRANGENESS – GARRY & MARILYN ARMSTRONG

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: March 18, 2018

Snowy selfie – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Oddballs. I have been taking a lot of strange pictures in the house. The outside has been difficult to negotiates. Garry, though, has been out there, frozen fingers and all. Kudos to him!

Although a lot of snow has melted, especially on areas that get a lot of sun, there’s still plenty around elsewhere.

Two happy dogs! Photo: Garry Armstrong

The woods is full of snow and along the road, there are huge piles of it created by the plows.

Recycling only please! Photo Garry Armstrong
Gibbs fully enjoying snowstorm

It’s a good time to follow Gibbs’ lead: enjoy the sofa. Have another cup of coffee!

Warm inside, snow outside