WHY OH WHY? – Marilyn Armstrong

Why oh why …

How come I never notice my glass is empty until after I’ve gone and gotten my medications and settled down in front of the television?

Why don’t I realize I have to go to the bathroom until after I settle into the sofa with the dogs? For that matter, how come you don’t notice you have to go until you’ve just passed the last rest stop for the next 40 miles?

Why doesn’t the GPS work in the middle of town or in mall parking lots where you really need it most?

Why don’t I realize I forgot something I want to take on vacation until we are just far enough away from home to make it really inconvenient to go back and get it?

Why don’t I remember why I’m standing in the kitchen?

Slaving in the kitchen?

How come the dogs need to sing the hallelujah chorus on the only morning all week I am sleeping well in the morning?

Why can I only think of a good witticism the day after the party?

Why don’t I check to make sure I have enough eggs before I mix the rest of the cake batter? Why didn’t my granddaughter mention she’d used all the eggs? And most of the milk? And the sugar?

Why doesn’t anyone but me ever wash the measuring spoons?

Why do you find that thing you were looking for after you’ve replaced it? Why does everyone’s back go out at the same time? Why are all the bills due on the first of the month when money comes in — variously?

Life is full of questions without answers. So many questions, so little time …



Last night, Bonnie the Beloved Scottish Terrier of myth and legend, did not feel well. She was shivering and could not seem to find a comfortable position. When we gave her a careful looking over, she was all puffed up, like a blowfish about to pop. I had known for a few days that she was a bit constipated, something I thought might be related to the leftover New Year’s Eve rosemary roast potatoes. It might have been the potatoes — or for that matter, the rosemary — but Bonnie was an unhappy pup. Which made us unhappy dog parents.


These things never happen during veterinary business hours. I had no way to know if it was a genuine (potentially deadly) blockage or bloat (though bloat is uncommon in small dogs) … or just a normal backup during her digestive rush hour. After considerable soul-searching, we decided better safe than sorry and packed her off to the Doggy ER, about 20 miles away through some of the most labyrinthine and unlit roads in the commonwealth.

Night vision isn’t one of the things that improves with age. There aren’t many things that do improve with age, but vision in general is definitely not one of them and night vision in particular. I don’t like driving at all anymore and Garry is only slightly happier about it. But he will do it because he is Garry and he does what he has to do. It’s a thing.

Floating flakes

This was a job for the GPS. However, the GPS is a Garmin, made in Germany, and it is not at it’s best in rural areas where its internal maps seem to believe roads exist in places where they are not. But these illusory roads are on a map, somewhere, and Garmin will send us there. This can be funny, but at night, with a sick dog in the car and limited visibility, not so funny.

It was snowing very lightly. Big, soft flakes floating slowly and gently to the ground. Not enough to make the road disappear. Not heavy enough to be of much concern, but not a big help in navigation, either. We did eventually find the hospital. Find the ER. Get Bonnie in. And then, we waited. Like a human ER, the most serious cases go first, and Bonnie seemed stable and in fact, was apparently a really big hit with the doctors, who popped out periodically to tell us she was doing fine and what a charming girl!

Floating clouds
Floating clouds

Yes, indeed. By the end of the waiting, it was nearly two in morning. Bonnie was beginning to look downright chipper. She had been given some doggy Sennacot, an x-ray, a gentle probing, and some basic blood work because her liver is a bit big. They also found that at some point, she was shot. With a bee-bee, clearly visible under her skin. Not infected or anything. Just … there. No idea who shot her or when, but I suspect the nasty neighbors.

When we came out, finally, it had snowed a little. Mostly, it had snowed over the hospital parking lot because there was no snow anywhere else. When we finally crawled out of be this morning, it had snowed here too. Less than an inch. Nothing worth shoveling or plowing, especially in view of a prediction more snow tonight into tomorrow. Thus far, the big ones have been up in the hills, or down on the coast, giving us the “miss.” I do not expect this pattern will last, but I can hope.

These are pictures I took this morning as the flakes were floating down. Pretty. I wish I could appreciate the beauty without dreading the shoveling and plowing and slipping and sliding.

Bonnie is just fine, thank you. And they gave us six months to pay off the bill.


Two summer ago, we drove into Gettysburg on a return trip from Williamsburg. It was late afternoon, so we asked Richard, our faithful GPS, to take us to the nearest motel. We followed his directions since we were in a town we’d never visited. Finally, Richard announced “You have reached your destination!”

old cemetary in uxbridge

Indeed we had, though not the one we had it mind for that night’s repose. As far as the eye could see, Richard had brought us to what must have been Gettysburg’s largest non-war related cemetery. It seemed to stretch for miles. Who knew our GPS had a sense of humor? We didn’t stop laughing until we finally found the motel.


I’m a great traveler. I don’t like airports and hauling luggage, but I love everything else. It’s like a book I’ve just begun to read. Anything can happen and the surprises are what makes it fun.


I habitually engage strangers in conversation. So does Garry. He does it because 40 years working as a reporter makes it natural for him to talk to people he’s just met. Me, because strangers are only strangers until you get to know them. After that, they may be odd, but they aren’t strangers.

I will talk to strangers on a grocery line, on the ferry, or in a waiting lounge. Not so much on a train or plane, though. Too much noise to make conversation comfortable.


Otherwise, I love meeting people — weird and otherwise. If you ask the right questions, they will tell you about their town, their family, their jobs. How they feel about the government, music, art and if you are lucky, will offer you useful information about great places to eat and visit.

Afternoon walk - Tombstone

I love learning about local sights, customs, legends. I don’t care if no one speaks real English. As long as they don’t point a gun at me or physically assault me, I’m up for any kind of conversation. Especially if it might lead me to a good photograph.

Gettysburg Lane

You never learn anything about a new place if you only talk to the companions you’ve brought with you. If you don’t want to meet new people, to have encounters with those who are different from you, why travel?


Share Your World – 2014 Week 39

Did you ever get lost?

Did I ever get lost? When am I not lost? I have no sense of direction. Ask anyone. You could put a paper bag over my head in my living room, twirl me around twice, take the bag off and I would be lost.

Autumn through the window

Traveling? I can read a map — my saving grace. Of course we have a GPS but as often as not, it sends us to the wrong place. Boston is hopeless for a GPS. Everything is so close together, half the time the GPS thinks we are driving up the Charles River and not Storrow Drive. It loses its signal in the tunnels. Many street names in Boston are duplicated in several locations and the GPS always sends us to the wrong part of town.

In more rural areas, our GPS sends us via weird back roads to bridges that washed out years ago, by roads that are closed. Permanently. And obviously have been closed for a long time. If it sends us outbound via a logical, fast, efficient route, it reroutes us coming home, whimsically sending us down strange, twisting paths until we are forced to double back to a main road.

Nowadays, I print directions from Google or Mapquest before I go anywhere, with or without the GPS. If I or Garry doesn’t know how to get there from memory, I have a backup plan. Sadly, more than half the time, the printed directions are wrong too. What to do?

Back to paper maps and atlases. Because at least they don’t lie. Well, not usually.

Who was your best friend in elementary school?

Carol was my best friend, but I do not think I was her best friend. I know I was an important influence on her, at least intellectually, introducing her to music and books, and that took her all the way to a Ph.D.  But she had a lot of friends, while I had her. I was not one of the pretty girls, not part of the “in crowd,” nor one of the cool kids.

By the end of high school, I didn’t care. When I was a little kid, though, it hurt.

Since the new television season has started in the US, list three favorite TV shows.

NCIS, Blue Bloods for both of us.

Garry: The Good Wife.

Marilyn: Legends.

But Madame Secretary, Gotham, Scorpion are all good … and The Black List is back. I’m optimistic about this season. I think this will be a good year. About time!

If you were a mouse in your house in the evening, what would you see your family doing?

Watching television. Playing with the dogs. Snacking. Laughing and making comments about the scripts and characters on the screen. Maybe I’ll be writing at the same time. Or editing. Or maybe Garry will check for email. Nothing really exciting, I’m afraid.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I would be remiss if I didn’t say how incredibly grateful both Garry and me are for all the help we have been given by so many people. Good friends, old friends, people we haven’t seen in more than 30 years … people we have never met and only know from the Internet — as well as completely strangers have sent us gifts that will allow us to fix our well.

We have an agreement with the well guy. He will get to us as soon as he can. There are a lot of dry wells right now and since we have — at this point — a little water which we supplement with jugs of bought water, we can gut it out for a couple of weeks. We just have to continue being very careful to use as little water as possible.

It has not rained at all. But — there’s a reasonably good chance of rain tomorrow and maybe next week too.

robby and bouquet

Thank you — everyone — for your kindness, your support, your prayers and wishes. It restores much of my lost faith in humanity. When our backs were solidly against the wall, you came through. I will never forget your kindness. Not as long as I live.


Wrong Turns – When was the last time you got lost? Was it an enjoyable experience, or a stressful one? Tell us all about it.

It was late in the day when we rolled into Gettysburg. Tired, ready for a shower and a meal, we asked Richard our faithful GPS to take us to the nearest motel. We followed his directions carefully.

main street Gettysburg

It was our first visit to the area. Road-weary, we were too exhausted to deal with getting lost and we were (are) often lost. Diligently, we followed Richard’s directions.

After a few turns and one long straightaway, Richard announced in his loud, clear voice: “You have reached your destination!” Indeed we had, though it was not the one we had it mind.

As far as we could see lay miles of tombstones. Richard had brought us to our ultimate destination, what must have been Gettysburg’s largest modern cemetery. It stretched for miles.

Who knew our GPS had a sense of humor? We didn’t stop laughing until we finally found the EconoLodge.


We were approaching Gettysburg. Tired and hungry, it was a long haul from Williamsburg to Uxbridge. Not a trip to make in one day. We needed to stop for at least one, maybe two nights. We had to pick a stopover; Gettysburg was on the route. And I wanted to see it anyhow. Being such a tourist town, it was bound to have lots of places to stay.

Gettysburg buggy

I never worry that we won’t find a place to stay. I know it’s possible, but in all the years of traveling, in and out of the U.S., there has always been a place to stay. It might not be exactly what we had it mind. Sometimes it turns out awful, more often, a happy surprise. That’s why I like tourist traps. They’re ready for visitors. Lots of them. Plenty of motels, restaurants and the only color they care about is green.


It was late afternoon as we rolled into town.  We asked Richard, our faithful GPS, to take us to the nearest motel. We followed his directions carefully since it was our first visit.

Finally, Richard announced in his loud, clear voice: “You have reached your destination!”

Indeed we had, although not the one we had it mind.

As far as we could see lay miles of tombstones. Richard had brought us to our ultimate destination, in this case what must have been Gettysburg’s largest modern cemetery. It seemed to stretch for miles. Who knew a GPS could have a sense of humor? We didn’t stop laughing until we finally found an EconoLodge.

Lost in Rhode Island

I used to commute from our house in Uxbridge, Massachusetts over 100 miles to Pfizer in Groton, Connecticut. In a desperate and hopeless attempt to find a shorter route, I experimented with various combinations of back roads. There was no truly direct route and it was such a long drive, I didn’t think I had much to lose.


I have been lost for most of my life. I’ve been lost all over the United States, England, Wales, Ireland and Israel. GPS technology was relatively new and while some people had them, most didn’t. Including me. I had an atlas, but whatever road I was on never seemed to be on the map.

One evening, at the end of my long drive home from work, I got lost in Rhode Island.

I wasn’t a just little bit lost. I was completely turned around, totally confused. It was dark; I was low on gasoline. I didn’t recognize anything; it all looked the same.  Eventually I realized everything not only looked the same, it was the same. I was driving in circles.

Rhode Island Road

I called home. At least my cell phone worked. It didn’t help. Since I didn’t know where I was, I couldn’t tell anyone how to find me. I was much too embarrassed to call 911.

I drove around for what seemed forever hoping to find a familiar road or see some kind of landmark by which I could orient myself. Eventually — tired, hungry and humiliated — I found my way home. I had been no more than a few miles from my house. The following day, I bought my first GPS.

There’s a moral in this story, but I have no idea what it is.