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.”

CARRYING ON – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Carrying On


I am a nurturer. Not necessarily by DNA, but because that was the task assigned to me when I was young and it has hung on there for a lifetime. It is, as they say, “woman’s work.”

I have always been taking care of someone. Child, adult, cats, dogs, everyone. Cooking and shopping. Making sure it all got taken care of … somehow. These days, as my ability to do a lot of things I used to do without even thinking about it become increasingly limited, I wonder what will happen if I can’t?

There’s no point in worrying about it. Life will bring what it brings, for good or ill. Everyone will get sorted out. Those who never thought they could do “that” will discover, after all, they can do a lot of things they didn’t think they could manage.

My mother was a reluctant nurturer. She had so many projects going on at the same time. Painting, sculpting, sewing, knitting, rug hooking. That was what she wanted to do. She never learned to cook, but she did it anyway … which encouraged her children to learn to cook early and often.

I’m sure a woman who could do all those artistic things could have learned to be at least a passable cook, but for some reason, the kitchen was where she drew the line. I grew up in that changing period when women were expected to do everything. We won the freedom to have a full-time career and raise the kids while making sure the marriage hung together.

Mostly, it failed. Almost all we “superwomen” of the sixties wound up divorced. It turns out, we weren’t super. No one can do it all. Something had to give. Typically, the marriage went first, but eventually, other things, too. For many, careers went down the tubes. Other women just ran for their lives or simply disappeared.

It didn’t seem like such a heavy load in the beginning. When you are young and have tons of energy, you bounce from the job to the kitchen with a supermarket in between, balancing childcare and work and a social life. But it grinds you down, even if you don’t notice the process. It’s like a potato being slowly peeled until one day, there’s no more potato.

Your partner doesn’t understand because it never seemed like a big deal. That’s what all the wives did. You were doing what you were supposed to do. Carrying on. Taking care of everyone. Knowing where the mittens were last seen, making sure the cupboards were full, know when who was supposed to be where and when.

Time has played havoc with much of that. These days, I can’t remember anything unless I write it down — and I have to first remember to write it down. Then I have to remember to look at the calendar because writing it down was just step one. Getting it done — the harder part — was steps two through however many more steps were required.

I don’t know if young women today see themselves as nurturers the way my generation did. Despite the grueling nature of the process, we were proud of our ability to balance everything and somehow, make it work. I don’t think they see their lives like that and that’s for the best.

It didn’t work out well for us and trying to recreate a reality that didn’t work before doesn’t seem likely to be any better now. The time has really come for an equal partnership where both members of a couple pull together. Willingly. And fairly.

The thing about women’s liberation is that it wasn’t freeing. It wasn’t liberating. What we won was the freedom to do everything and be good at it. Better at it than anyone else. Because being as good as the man next to you wasn’t good enough for a woman to make it.

We had to be better.

WHO DECIDED THAT? – Rich Paschall

The House Rules, by Rich Paschall

A place for everything and everything in its place.  Perhaps you have heard this old proverb or words of advice.  It was often handed out as instructions for life, usually by parents, methinks.  In the 18th century, it may have been a popular topic of preachers and local leaders.  That was an era when you were also told that cleanliness was “next to godliness.”  

The idea of cleanliness may have come out of a 1778 sermon by John Wesley.  If cleanliness will get me next to God, I am all for it.  If I have to be orderly too, this will take a good deal of work.  I wish to be neat, clean and orderly, but I am still looking for a large chunk of time to work on that.  I have been looking for that for years, in fact.

I thought of “house rules” recently while eating at the kitchen table with my young South American roommate.  Yes, he is back for more Culture Shock, but that is another story for another time.  We were feasting on one of his favorite items, chicken wings, and he was putting the bones on a small saucer.

In my head, I could hear my mother scold him, “That’s not for chicken wings, that’s for coffee cups.”  At that, she would have grabbed the saucer and replaced it with a small plate of about the same size.  “What’s the difference?” I wonder now.  Either way, we are going to wash the small plate when we are done.  If you come for coffee at my house, you will never know if that saucer once held spilled coffee (or covfefe) or chicken wing bones, as long as it is clean.

Neat dishes

That particular saucer was from a set of china my mother had for special occasions.  By the way, it was from England, not China.  Anyway, as God is my witness, I do not recall EVER eating off that set until she was gone and I was left with it and a lot of knickknacks I don’t need.  When we were younger, she had another nice set for dinner.  We also had plastic plates or TV dinners in aluminum trays.

As for the knickknacks, two might belong on top of the large stereo, another two in the dining room and one on the dresser.  Random shelves were usually populated with random knickknacks.  If one was out-of-place, there could be hell to pay, as the saying goes.  My mother and my grandmother knew exactly where these items must stand. 

There could be no variations.  It was as if the locations were handed down by God and no other place would do.  Worse yet, if something broke, we would hear about it for at least a year, maybe longer, depending on its worth and sentimental value.

Utensils

I hated to touch these things, particularly in my grandmother’s apartment.  She was a stern old woman who rarely smiled, and she could let you know her displeasure at something being out-of-place with a mean look and a few terse words.  My mother could hand out the same look, but we were lucky if we only got a few words as well.  Silence was not her style.

“Why are those bells in that order?  That is not the correct order! Fix it.”

My humble reply might be, “But I thought that was the order.  I put them right back in place.”  No pleading innocent would change the fact that something was amiss.

Roomie has asked me a number of times if he could put things in a closet.  Apparently, my clutter of coffee table books and table games looks out-of-place to him (not to me) and I should not have this stuff lying around.  I usually give in to these requests because I made the rule where it belongs and it is not important enough to me that it stays there.  My books on baseball, theater, and The Doors (look them up, millennials) have been banished to darker places.

I do not do the dishes often as roomie thinks he is better at it. When they are dry, I might ask why he did not put everything away.  His usual answer is that he does not know where everything belongs.  I tell him to put it somewhere, I will find it or ask if I need it.  Would that work at your house?

You probably have several drawers in the kitchen. Is each designated for certain items? We have one for silverware, one for other kitchen gadgets and larger items (rolling-pin to chase roomie around the house like a cartoon), and one “junk drawer.” Everyone has one of these.  It is for the items not designated for somewhere else. This could be batteries, a tape measure, random tools, a flashlight, scissors, tape, matches, etc. Junk drawer items should be in the junk drawer!

It would be possible to go on about the house rules, particularly the strict ones from my mother or grandmother, but you get the point by now, or you are a hopeless case like I am.  I could not understand why my grandmother would have a certain doily to go under a lamp, and another to go under a Hummel.  (OK, go look up doily and Hummel. We’ll wait).  These doilies were not interchangeable.

Unlike the previous generations, I can not stress out about silly house rules that I made up in the first place.  With the return of roomie, even if for a brief period, there is no reason not to alter my life so we both feel comfortable.  Everything may have a place in our home, but that place can be changed tomorrow and that is OK with me.

See also: “CULTURE SHOCK, Travelling to America”

NOVEMBER DOGS

That time of year has come again by which I mean the period when I don’t go out a lot to shoot. Right now, there isn’t much to shoot. The trees are almost naked and whatever leaves remain on them, are not especially interesting. The dogs think this is a great time to catch up on their sleep.

Garry is on the computer, writing something. All’s quiet throughout the house. All we’ve got on today’s agenda is a trip to the doctor for Garry’s shoulder and a trip to the pharmacy for dog drugs.

I love filling prescriptions labeled “Bonnie” Armstrong (she gets eye drops) … or “Duke” Armstrong. Some people might suspect Garry is the Duke. He has an emotional relationship with “Duke” Wayne. Okay, not necessarily mutual but at least they had one, good, long chat, right?

But the pictures? Around the house. Maybe around the grocery store. No broad landscape vistas for now. When the snow falls, maybe then. So hard to know what will happen. But for now and for the month to come until we turn the year, it’s local, personal. Interior for the most part. It’s that time of year again.

YOUR PACKAGE IS ON THE WAY

Delivery messages typically show up in my email and are as often as not, followed by retractions. “Sorry, it’ll be a little late,” or “Weather issues have delayed …” and my favorite, “Your package has gone walkabout and may never be seen again … we’ll let you know if we find it. ”

About half the time, I get a message telling me “It’s here!” Which would be great if I had any idea where it might be. The message usually says they’ve left it on the porch (NOT) on the front steps (too many dogs) … Where it actually is? Ah. That is the rub.

We’ve found packages in late spring that have spent the entire winter buried in a drift. We’ve found items flung into the woods and gnawed by squirrels. Tossed under the stairs of the deck. Dropped in the middle of the driveway, after which they were apparently rolled over by the same truck that delivered them.

The creativity of express delivery is never-ending. I think when the guys get together for a post delivery day beer, they laugh hysterically as they plan all the ways they can make packages disappear and then swear they were delivered to your front porch (NOT).

We really don’t have a front porch.

Or maybe they it’s on the back porch, except we don’t have a back porch either. Unless you count the deck. Which is a long flight of stairs upward. Why would anyone voluntarily put something up there?

Mostly, they plunk them down by the garage, which is where we actually do want them. We’ve even supplied a table on which to put them and if it’s the regular UPS guy, he will normally put them where they belong. The FedEx guy is too weird. He throws packages from the truck  into the woods, to the great amusement of the wildcats and skunk. Or delivers them to the wrong houses from which we may get them back … or maybe not. To be fair, we also get other people’s packages.

If they belong nearby, we take them over. But many of these packages are for people who live half a continent away. How they wind up in Uxbridge is something a greater mind than mine will have to contemplate. We call the delivery people, tell them to come get the packages. They never show up. I wouldn’t mind except is always sometimes completely useless … like shoes for people with odd size feet.

So let’s hear it for express. Don’t forget:  Christmas is coming!

I CAN FIX THAT FOR YOU

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People used to help me do all the setup and wiring stuff of life, but things have changed. Today, they call me. It’s not like I’m particularly good at it. I’m not. About the best you can say of me is that I’m logical . I can dope how to plug A into B and B into C. Usually, it only fits together one way. If you stare at the plug awhile, you will have an AHA moment.

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I guess it’s that Garry is less capable at this stuff than I am. He looks at something mechanical and his brain freezes. Like, say, a vacuum cleaner. I look at it and I figure there’s got to be an “on/off” switch. There has to be one of those step-on-it release thingies so the upright will let you vacuum under things. And there’s got to be a release button on the canister so you can empty the dirt. The problem isn’t whether or not these buttons, pedals, et al are there. The only question is “where”? Garry says just one thing: “HELP!”

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Anyway, last night I finally got the extension cords I had ordered. Amazon has a new delivery service. Their own. Not UPS and not FedEx and not even the pretty lame USPS. Nope, it’s AmazonLogistics, or AMZL. I had ordered these from Amazon because I didn’t feel like hauling ass to the mall or Walmart. I figured with Prime, I’d have them in a couple of days.

It took a week. First they sent them to Wisconsin. I got an emailed apology that they had been sent to the wrong city. Then they wandered around the midwest for a while, showed up somewhere in Texas. Got another apology. Eventually, the night before last, I got a note saying they had been delivered. To my back porch.

We have a back porch. A deck. It’s a steep stairway nobody will climb in anything but full light, and never ever if the steps are icy or even wet. Except for one FedEx guy who not only brings the package to the back door (which is on the deck), but knocks and hands me the package to make sure I got it. The man is a saint, but I digress.

It was 1AM. It was pelting rain. I suppose I should have checked earlier, but usually, I get an email to tell me something has arrived. But that’s from UPS, FedEx, or USPS. Amazon doesn’t do that. You have to look at the order to see if it was delivered. I didn’t want the electrical cords out in the rain, so I put on my robe and slippers and went to the back door. No package.

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I limped downstairs and checked the front door. Nope.

Went down another flight of stairs to the bottom floor. Checked the two side doors. Nope. Nada. Nothing.

I limped back up the stairs, got back into bed and called Amazon. She said “sometimes the delivery people say they delivered it, but they haven’t.” I said looking for a package that ISN’T THERE in the middle of the night IN THE RAIN is uncool. I know why they mark things delivered when they haven’t been, but I’m too old to be running around in the rain to find a package that isn’t there. Eventually, I got compensated (appeased) and drifted grumpily into sleep.

Last night, I realized I should use those cords. Garry had been unable to use his heating pad for more than a week. The cable box and Roku in the bedroom were strung together with a huge, heavy-duty surge protector that was overkill in the extreme. It was safe, but weird.

I dug through the stuff stored between the dressers (extra bedding and pillows in zip bags) to find the outlets. Moved the lamp plug. Added the new extension with the multi-plug and connected Garry’s beloved heating pad. By then, Garry was done with his nightly ablutions and was offering to help. I let him hold things while I did things easier done with two hands.

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Detached the cable box and the Roku. Carefully unplugged and removed the huge, heavy surge protector. Replaced it with a standard extension cord (note to self, should buy shorter extensions for future use). Managed to NOT knock over every single thing on the dresser (only half of them). Booted up TV, cable box, etc. Lights came on. All was well.

Garry was happy. I had brought back the power. And I’m thinking “I just added an extension and replaced another” … but one person’s simple act is another’s miracle.

When I wondered when (and why) I became the woman who fixes stuff? When did people stop helping me and instead begin asking for my help?  I should be glad. If I had to call someone for everything that needs doing, I’d spend my life waiting.

I’m not old enough for that. Yet.

MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RANCH …

A gray day in Uxbridge, Massachusetts. It’s cold, damp, sunless. Nothing to do. Not even something to bark at. The humans are drinking coffee and doing stuff on their computers. Nothin’ to do in this burgh.

Bonnie watches and waits.
Bonnie watches and waits.

Every now and again, Gibbs — our very special agent — goes out to patrol the yard. Barks a few times to make sure his presence is known. Bonnie watches from the window. Since Gibbs moved in, she sees no reason to go on patrol. That’s clearly his job. But in the evening, when the barks fill the air from far and wide, Bonnie is out there, communicating on the doggish network. Getting the news of the day, passing along any juicy gossip she may have. She expects Gibbs to come too. She gives him a short bark, and he leaps to his feet. When Bonnie says “jump,” Gibbs doesn’t even ask “how high.” He just jumps.

Bonnie agrees with Johnny Rocco: "I'll never have enough!"
Bonnie agrees with Johnny Rocco: “I’ll never have enough!”

We think of a day like this as peaceful. I guess for the dawgz, it’s boring. No squirrels to chase, though now that I’ve repaired Squeaky Squirrel and he is back in action, mauling him is always an option. I had to do some serious stitching with super strong button thread. I also un-stuffed his tail and removed the second squeaker from it to make eviscerating squirrel less tempting. So far, so good. Squirrel is still in the game.

Garry cradles a newly sutured squirrel, but fears for his future.
Garry cradles a newly sutured squirrel, but fears for his future.

Missing an ear and oddly misshapen where I was forced to suture sections of him to other sections that were never meant to be sewn together. I look like that under my clothing too. When they had to put me back together, they had the same problem, so they stitched whatever they had to whatever else they had.

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My abdomen looks as if I was mauled by a wild animal. I tell them I was taken by a lion while we were on safari in Botswana. Why not? It’s a lot much more entertaining than the truth and a lot simpler to explain. When they ask for details, I tell them “It all happened so fast. Once he had me in his jaws, it was just a blur.” That usually ends the conversation.

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So it’s quiet on the home front. We are all inside. There’s coffee to drink, sandwich makings, and a decent steak for dinner.

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A little bit boring, but only if you are a dog. For the humans, days like this are the best part of life.

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