OPTIONAL SUNDAY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Optional

After getting up a dozen times this morning to try and convince Bonnie to stop barking — which only something crunchy will accomplish, it would seem — I began to wish I was deaf, too.

Normally when I get up in the morning, I take out something to defrost for dinner but I decided today is optional. I’m not doing squat. I am tired. I’m frustrated. I don’t want to cook dinner, put away laundry, or clean anything.

I’m sure by tomorrow, I’ll manage to get past this, but right now, I am feeling as un-housewifely as I ever have. Am I the last woman of my age who cooks dinner — a hot dinner — every night unless I’m hospitalized? Do other people get a day off sometimes?

Is any woman married to a man who actually recognizes that dirt is not something to be ignored because you-know-who will take care of it, but actually cleans it? Just wondering.

So today in Optional Sunday. I will do as little as I can. I might even go TWO days and option Monday, too. I think I’ll call it “Marilyn’s Weekend.”

VARIETY IS MY SPICE FOR LIFE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Variety

I like going to the same places over and over again, but I also like adding new places to which I’ve never been.

I like white and dark humans and all the shades in-between. I respect every religion unless they are trying to kill me, and after 50 or so years, I even forgive that. After growing up with my father, I’m not afraid of anyone. Surviving him tore the fear away.

The furniture in my house goes beyond eclectic into fully random. Oddly, it works. It’s an interesting house. You never know what you will find.

The colors are mostly muted so they don’t offend anyone and anyway, no one ever comes over so if it doesn’t bother us, who else would it bother? The dogs are colorblind.

Bonnie and living room

I will order the same thing in the same restaurant for years until one day, I decide to try something different. Sometimes, that becomes my new favorite. Sometimes, I realize why I didn’t try it before.

On the other hand, I’m very careful about changing services and utilities. Like electricity or veterinarians or doctors because however bad they are,  the “new kid in town” can often turn out to be a lot worse than you imagined possible.

Atop the shelves in the living room.

I shop at little old Hannaford not because it’s the biggest or best grocery in town, but because I’m comfortable there. And it’s at least a mile closer to home than any other grocery.

I haven’t found a new hairdresser since the guy, then the woman to whom I went to for a total of 30 years retired. The new ones never seem to give me what I want. So mostly, I don’t cut my hair. When I do, I am as often as not the one doing the cutting.

Bonnie and sofa with too many cushions

There has been a lot of variety in my schooling, my work (I changed jobs often) and this is my third marriage — which has lasted at least a decade longer than the other two combined. When you get it right, stick with it.

This morning we actually had a conversation about trying to make the sofa more comfortable for the dogs. We don’t sit on it. It’s the dogs’ bed and on those rare occasions when we have company, we vacuum it, put on a clean cover and it’s fine for guests.

But there are a lot of cushions on it. I pointed out that we don’t really have to worry about the cushions because we don’t sit on the sofa and have never used any of the cushions. They are there because the dogs enjoy knocking them off and Garry enjoys dropping a pile of cushions on top of any dog that’s sleeping soundly. It’s our version of barking while they sleep.

We’ll just keep the cushions and occasionally, wash the covers to get the dog hair off.

Variety is fun but so is continuity. I think we all need a balance of both to have a life that runs reasonably smoothly.

TRIBUTE TO THE DETERMINED SQUIRREL – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Tribute

When I went to buy my bird feeders, some feeders were listed as “squirrel-proof.”

After I read the reviews, it proved what I pretty much knew: No feeder is squirrel-proof. What the feeder I bought said was that though squirrels would get to it, the feeder was sturdy enough to still be a feeder after the squirrel finished eating.

Squirrels really eat. They get up on the feeder, usually the flat feeder. It’s easier for them being nothing but a large, flat hanging piece of wood with a screen on the bottom.  Today, though, it was full of frozen sleet and I don’t think any of the critters could get into it. I was up early because I had to call UMass Hospital and that’s always a lot more effort than it ought to be.

I called once and clearly whoever I was talking to didn’t know anything, so … I called again. After which, I called my current cardiologist. I got the piece of paper my cardiologist sent. But it was a release to give the hospital access to all the material they already had.

I called back and I said, “How am I supposed to fill this form out, especially because I already transferred all my medical information to you folks more than two years ago?”

I finally got transferred to the administrator of the cardiologist group and it all got straightened out in about two minutes. All I needed was to talk to someone who actually knew what was going on.

She told me not to worry, that the cardiologists all had access to pacemaker checking equipment and it wasn’t in a separate lab (as had been true both at Beth Israel and with my previous cardiologist), but was in the doctor’s office. I could decide if I to do my regular pacemaker checkups in person or via telephone.

Telephone? You can do it by REGULAR and not a special smartphone. Just a regular telephone connected on WiFi.

I knew it was possible, but I figured it required some special equipment I didn’t have — or at least, an application I would need to install. But apparently, any telephone will do the job. Isn’t that amazing?

And when she finished explaining this — which really made me feel a whole lot better — she gave me HER DIRECT TELEPHONE NUMBER.

I said: “I’ve had the hardest time trying to get in touch with people at UMass.”

“We have far too many phone numbers,” she agreed. “But this one will get you directly to me. I work 6am to 1pm, so if you call in the afternoon, leave a message and I promise to get right back to you!”

Music to my ears. Truly, after the fiasco with AT&T (they actually sent me ” come back, we have deals!” last night proving they really don’t get it at all), to have someone give me a number I can call so I can talk to someone who  knows what’s going on and can give me an answer.


Gloria in excelsis Deo.

Please choose your favorite Deo or whichever individual, creation, or thing to whom (or which) you joyfully offer heartfelt gratitude. In my life, this varies dramatically depending on everything.


Anyway, that’s why I was up early and that’s how, having finished talking to the Cardiology Administrator (bless you, my dear) I wandered into the kitchen. I had brewed coffee and toasted an English muffin — and the window to the porch was easily visible from the kitchen and dining room.

There, wrapped around the hanging feeder, was a hungry squirrel. Eating. Not easily because getting seeds through the screen works better with a beak than a jaw … but he was doing it.

The squirrel looked at me. I looked at the squirrel. He went back to eating black sunflower seeds which all the larger birds from woodpeckers to doves love — and that includes squirrels.

I picked up my camera and took pictures and he moved around to make sure I had photographed his “good” side. I’m not sure he has a bad side. He hung in every possible position from which a big squirrel can hang from a feeder. He did, I noticed, have a nasty gash in the back of his neck, as if a hawk had tried to grab him. It was scabbed over, but it must have really hurt. I was glad he got a meal at my deck today.

Eventually, I got pictures from every angle and I wanted coffee. The toaster had popped. I wanted my muffin while it was hot.

So this is a tribute, a paeon to the determination of our creatures of the woods. Despite our destruction of so much of their habitat, they find a way to survive. Some of us put out some food for them because we think it’s the least we owe them. We can’t save it all, but at least we can make sure they get the occasional decent meal.

Here’s to the determination of squirrels who can always find a way to get a meal out of any bird feeder. Here’s to squirrels who escape from the hawk and to hawks who hunt the squirrels. Because that’s the way it works in the wild.

UXBRIDGE ON THE RITZ! – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Ritzy

Amidst the Sturm-und-Drang of life in our dinky little town, we suffer from what most forgotten towns suffer from.

We have nothing going for us.

Uxbridge has no work or hope of meaningful employment. There are no malls with big stores that hire people for living wages. No budget, sidewalks (except mid-town, which is one street (Main Street, of course). There are no streetlights, though we do have one traffic light. No public transportation. Not buses, trains, or trolleys or even a taxi. Someone said there’s an Uber driver somewhere, but I’ve never seen him or her.

On the street where we live.

There is no bookstore (we had one, but it went out of business). No greenhouses or nurseries. No places to buy clothing unless you count the Salvation Army (often the most fashionable offerings in the area). No quaint coffee shops (but lots of donuts).

It’s a mosaic because we don’t have any murals. But it’s an old one and it’s all about shearing and marketing wool.

We have some restaurants serving among the worst food you can imagine. We’ve got one really good (and ridiculously expensive) sushi joint we can no longer afford. We used to go there when it opened and prices were normal, but people discovered it and up went the prices — and they opened two more restaurants in other towns, too. There is one other Asian eating place — just over the Rhode Island border — which has sushi as well as pretty good and almost affordable Thai and Vietnamese food. It’s only a mile and a bit from home, so when we go out — rarely — that’s where we go.

Otherwise, the ‘American’ restaurants think garlic and black pepper are too spicy. It’s all brown gravy and white bread bland. We have a couple of Chinese restaurants that change owners regularly. New chefs start off with decent food, discover no one EATS decent food and promptly delete all spices from all foods.

I love Chinese food and fortunately, I know how to cook it, else I would be forced to drive fifty miles to someplace that recognizes the difference between Hunan, Mandarin, and Cantonese, et al.

Take a walk along the river

Our other local “restaurants” are pretty good at making burgers, fries, and serving cold beer. Mostly, beer.

The little white house with the big red tree

Three years ago, Massachusetts passed a bill allowing pot shops in the state. They have been wrangling over taxes and shmaxes and what about stoned drivers and is it moral? Meanwhile, the citizens have been getting downright irritable that we still didn’t have any way to buy any.

Between the “medical marijuana” bill we passed, we seem to have also said, “Aw, nuts, bring on the ‘just for fun’ dope, too.” We all own more land than we need around here. Mostly, the soil is too stony and rooty to grow normal crops. It’s truck farming. Cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries in June, and squash forever  … and a few places grow corn … and of course, dairy cows.

Plus lots and lots of apples. Orchards everywhere. We really do grow amazingly good apples and anything we don’t eat, the horses are happy to finish off for us. Did I mention horses? We grow big horses. Clydesdale and Percherons, each horse the size of a 10-ton truck, but gentle as a kitten. Just don’t step on my paw, please.

About three months ago, finally we opened our first two pot shops. one somewhere in a sleazy part of Boston and someplace not far from the crossing into Cape Cod — near Plymouth I think, but I could be wrong.

During the first two months, these two TINY little shops brought in more than 2-1/2 million dollars — each.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Suddenly, all the people who doubted pot was something we ought to have here in Massachusetts began to sing folk songs, buy bongs, and whistle a happy tune because — hey, that’s REAL MONEY. No kidding. Money in huge quantities. The only reason there wasn’t more money coming in was the shops kept running out of dope.

The Canal and river

No problem. Spring is coming.

Anyone with a piece of empty land is going into the hemp-growing business — or renting their land to someone who’ll do the growing and pay them to use the property.

Last night, on the local news, they announced the next two locations for the new pot shops. One will be in Pittsfield, the town in the Berkshires where no one wants to live, and … are you ready? Really ready?

UXBRIDGE.

No shit. There it was. On the map on the big television. Dead center of south-central Massachusetts and hyper-convenient to our neighboring border states of Connecticut and Rhode Island — where they don’t (yet) have “enjoy the munchies” dope.

UXBRIDGE.

I’m sure everyone was sitting and looking at the screen and saying “Where the hell is Uxbridge?” Nobody knows where we live. No one ever bothers to visit us because “Where the hell is Uxbridge?”

Well. Now we are someplace. You will come here to buy marijuana.

We’ll have a permanent traffic jam in front of Hannaford’s and every doughnut shop will be overrun by stoned people looking for stuff to eat. Dear lord! There will be no parking because who needed parking?

Our one lane, each direction Main Street will be full of expensive cars and stoned people who have hiked in from Boston and the Cape. We are actually only an hour and a bit from Cape Cod, but no one knows that … yet. Soon, they will know.

They will build coffee shops and bake pies. Someone will open a bakery. Stores will sell widgets no one needs that cost too much money. Maybe the price of our house will finally rise in value. Is it possible our taxes will drop?

Nah. Taxes never drop.

But more people might move in. We might get a trolley or a bus or a train stop. It could happen. And they could fix the sidewalks and put in some streetlights!

Uxbridge Commons

I’m dreaming of a stoned Christmas, unlike any I’ve ever known.

There was a time in my life when I dreamed of legal pot and at least I’ve lived to see that happen. And who’d have thought in UXBRIDGE?

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” She chortled in her joy.

Talk about ritzy.

RITZY has come to UXBRIDGE!

WHEN THE END COMES, WE’RE READY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Construct

This is a rerun, but I laugh every time I run it. This is THE construction we need to survive the end of the world — which I think is about to pop up any day now. This piece of real estate could solve all our problems. No zombies gonna make it into this “residence.”

WELCOME TO THE LAST SAFE PLACE ON EARTH!


The above-ground home is 2,000 square feet. But if you use the keypad entry to the basement, you’ll find 2,300 more square feet that were a former launch control center. It has been converted — with dining and entertainment space and two bedroom suites — complete with marble bathrooms. It has 10-foot tall ceilings, simulated daylight — and what we all need in our post-apocalyptic home — an open floor plan.

Another view of the house.
Aerial shot of the property.
Views from the property.
Your own personal runway.
Great media room!

Basement entrance. Good solid construction.
Inside the basement house. it’s a whole new world!
Comfy bathroom.
Stairway to the silo.
Tunnel to the silo. This could use a little work. Maybe some paneling?

Inside the missile silo is a 9-story structure, currently empty. Consider it would be perfect for underground condos. Bring your friends on board and recycle that air!

It used to be selling for a mere $1.7 million. If it hasn’t sold by now, maybe we could make a deal?

PASS ME THE MEGAPHONE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Megaphone

This was one of those days. If I’d had a megaphone, I could have just sat in the middle of my bed and shouted into it. That’s what I wanted to do.

WordPress just fixed us again. Using a function that doesn’t work that’s supposed to “powerfully find any post you’ve ever posted” by hovering your cursor over the title of your post which will then let you “copy” the post so you can “rewrite” or repost it.

The only thing that’s wrong is that it doesn’t work. The old version didn’t work well either, but the new one is much worse.

I had to call an insurance company and say I can’t afford insurance. Call AT&T and tell them they are a bunch of lying bastards. Call Bank of America and tell them they don’t have to cancel my debit card because I found it. Except they never canceled it and never ordered a new one.

I feel so PROTECTED.

We’ve got ants. In February. The yard has ticks. We haven’t had any snow. Like … none … really. We got to leave the windows open though, so at least the air was fresh.

A megaphone.

If I yell loud enough, would everyone hear me? Would it be loud enough to make the dirt under the half-ton of our bed bounce around down there? We’re never going to get it clean.

We can’t move the bed. I think if we got all the people we know together, we still couldn’t move the bed.

I’m tired of arguing with people. Explaining that I can’t do that because we don’t have the money. Explaining that it sounds like the vacation from heaven, but it doesn’t matter because we still don’t have the money and given that we live on a fixed income, we will never have the money.

Never is a funny word. We are never supposed to say never because there’s always a way. But sometimes, there is no way. There’s no answer. There’s no solution. No amount of searching for answers will change the answer because the answer is never.

Not ever in this lifetime will this situation change. That’s a fierce piece of knowledge to face.

ECLECTICISM IN A DIVIDED WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Eclectic

Garry suggested it’s because we’ve become almost accustomed to their winning — or nearly winning — and thus we’ve become “ho-hum” about it. I don’t think so. I’m pleased the Patriots won. I’m glad they are champions again and I feel sorry for the little ones who have grown up with the Pats and the Sox winning more often than not and discovering that we aren’t going to win all the time forever.

But I could get excited. It was a nice thing for New England. I was pleased to be on the winning side — just not jumping up and down with enthusiasm.

Neither of us was and we both noticed our lack of energy. It was a bit odd. I also know parade day (tomorrow) will be good weather, but nothing really rang that “thrilling” bell.

Like other people, I’m a bit disappointed that our messy politics has gotten mixed with sports, but team owners (all teams, all sports) have held views which are different from my own. Politics has a way of seeping into everything, including sports and art.

At the risk of giving a civics lesson, this IS a pluralistic country. We are not a melting pot where we require everyone to dissolve and become the same as everyone else.

Like it or not, someone we otherwise respect is likely to favor the other side. Do we lock them out because they are not us? Is that where we are going?

Our differences are currently extreme, but I believe they won’t stay that way forever. Our current state of ill-grace doesn’t mean all other humans are unworthy and we should never listen to them. That’s a bad way to run a country and a terrible way to run America.

Robert Kraft is a decent guy. I’ve met him. Garry got to know him pretty well when he was working. That’s the thing about Garry: he had to work with both parties over the years. He liked some better than others, but his job wasn’t to pick and choose the ones he approved of and only work for them. He loathes Donald Trump and his sycophants, but he doesn’t necessarily hate all Republicans because they are on the red team.

Kraft is a Republican. This used to be normal. It was not a reason to hate someone. Robert Kraft raised personal objections to Trump’s attitudes towards sports and other actions of the president — and note that the Patriots did NOT go to the White House. Actually, none of the teams except the one that got mountains of el cheapo hamburgers went. They are probably still suffering from massive acid reflux. Yuck.

Did the prez not think they could afford their own hamburgers? Or did he fail to understand there exist other, better restaurants that could have delivered a nice dinner for the team? And even though MacDonald’s burgers are his favorite food, they might not be everyone else’s favorites?


The point is, we have a pluralistic nation which I fondly hope is going to remain so.

If we lock every door to anyone who disagrees with us politically, we will never find a way to be one nation. I’m no fancier of the GOP, but I understand pluralism is the nature of this land. If we lose that, we have lost ourselves.

So I’m trying with all my might to keep the windows and doors open. If a fresh idea blows in the wind, I might want to waft with it. I hope my brain is able to accept the possibility that something I haven’t yet thought of might turn out to be a good idea.

Let’s not hate so much that we forget other people also think and sometimes, they think a good thought. It’s the only hope we’ve got as a country. It’s the only hope the world has to not become a preview of the next world war.

We cannot afford to lose pluralism as our center.