SHARING MY WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your Merry World 12-10-18

What’s the worst topping you could put on popcorn?   (credit to Teresa for this one)

Anything other than salt and maybe butter. But I can’t eat it anymore. Too slivery for aging gums.

In what country did Silent Night originate?

I was sure it was Germany, but am now told Austria. Go figure, right?


WARNING! The following question is NOT meant to start a fuss.  It’s merely a good discussion question in my opinion.  Most everyone knows where I stand on this. If you feel like arguing about it, please give it a pass.) We’re all adults and sensible ones at that.  We can be mature about such things, right?


How would you react if there was irrefutable proof that God doesn’t exist? How about if there was irrefutable proof that God does exist?

I wouldn’t believe it regardless. You can’t prove (or un-prove) faith. It’s an opinion, yay or nay. Unless God personally drops by and shows me his a photo ID, it’s faith.

What is the scariest non-banned item you could take on to a plane?

I haven’t the slightest idea. I’m not even sure what IS banned and I have no intention of traveling by plane.

Which version of the holiday celebration do you and your family enjoy?  By this I mean do you follow Jewish traditions with Hanukkah; Christian celebrations with Christmas and (for those over the pond) Boxing Day; or some other festivities that I’ve overlooked?   Please do share with everyone!  I truly feel that this sort of question lets us know a little more about our fellow bloggers without getting too personal (i.e. revealing too much of private lives, which some folks prefer to keep private.)

We just have a little tree. We watch old holiday movies. Garry loves Christmas Eve church, but it always gets held right at dinner time, so we never get there. Which is a pity, because regardless of religion, I love Christmas Carols and know a ton of them. I learned them for Glee Club in elementary school. That was before we weren’t allowed to learn anything with religious content. I didn’t even know the songs were Christian. I just thought they were pretty.

Actually, thinking about it, I know more religious music than most people because, as a music major, I spent years learning Gregorian chant and other early Western music. I’m sure I had my mother very worried.

If you study music, an awful lot of it is religious. Western music started as chanting and “grew up” in churches. When you study music, it’s a long time before you emerge from religious music to “modern” music … and a lot of our modern music is based on old church music too.

I don’t think anyone should be forced to follow anyone else’s religion, but I also think trying to remove all traces of religion from the world is silly. You can’t do it. Religion and religious thought are woven into the way we think. It’s organic. Nor do I think there’s any reason why you can’t believe in god or gods — and yet be a scientist or mathematician. I have never understood why one thing negates the other.

Not all of the things we believe are Judaic or Christian, either. There’s a lot of much older stuff woven into modern thought. There are many reminders of more ancient religions which are part of “modern” thinking.

Sorry for going on so long. This was what I studied in school. It began with music but moved into religious philosophy. I wrote papers about it. I still dream about it.

The near decade I spent in Israel was no coincidence. Despite what I may have said, my travels had nothing to do with how many times I read “Exodus” (the novel by Leon Uris, not the second book of the Torah).

I needed to be there. Because I needed to understand. Things.

SOMETHING ALWAYS HAPPENS – Marilyn Armstrong

When Garry came into the bedroom, I was staring at the radio. Garry takes his hearing aids off at night, so we have bedtime conversations at high volume. Shouting, really.

“Why are you staring at the radio?”

“I’m trying to figure out if it’s on. Oh, it just started to make noise. It’s on.”

“But why are you staring at it?”

“I thought if I stared at it for a while, it would start to play. Or not. One way or the other, I would find out what the red light means.”

“What red light, and why are you staring at it? How will staring at it help?”

“That’s how I figure things out. It didn’t come with instructions.”

Pause. “Have you taken any drugs?”

“No. See, there’s the red light. I didn’t if know the red light means the CD player is on or off. I had to wait to see if it started playing. I was pretty sure a blinking red light means pause, but I wasn’t sure what a steady red light means. I waited when there was no light. Nothing happened. So I tried it the other way. Now it’s making noise. Therefore, the red light means it’s on. It’s slow getting started.”

I wasn’t trying to be funny, but Garry started to laugh and couldn’t stop. “That’s the sort of thing I would do,” he said,

“Well, how else would I know what the red light means?”

He laughed some more.

Garry thinks I know a lot of stuff I don’t really know, especially about technical issues. I push buttons. If staring (and waiting) doesn’t fix what’s broken, I push another button. Or push the same button again. Or hold the button for a couple of seconds and see if it does something different.

While I’m waiting, I watch. Intently. Maybe I’ll get a message. Isn’t this how everyone fixes stuff? I used to look things up in the manual, but since no one supplies a manual anymore, it’s more art than science.

My husband finds this hilarious.

I spend a lot of time staring at computers, waiting for something — anything — to happen. Hoping an idea will occur to me or for the system to reboot. To see if a blue screen will recur, or the diagnostic will tell me there’s no problem, even though I’m sure there is.

I am waiting for a message.

I must be doing something right. Beethoven is playing on the CD player/radio. And most of the time, the computers work.

A TIME TO BLOOM AND A TIME TO FADE – FLOWER OF THE DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

A Time to Bloom and a Time to Fade – FOTD – 12/12/2018

I thought, when I watered the cactus yesterday, the blooms would vanish quickly. And indeed, two flowers dropped — but two new ones opened up. So it lives on and maybe, if I am very lucky, it will make it through the holidays.

Still fully blooming!
Bigger and more beautiful.

CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE: CANDID PEOPLE PICTURES – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Catching People Unaware

I don’t take a lot of snapshots of people. I take a lot of animal snapshots and this year, I took a lot of shots of our town being happy as the Christmas parade was about to start. That was different for me. I think, on the average, I like animals better than people.

Ben, the friend – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

About birds and feeders. I put up the bird feeder because every winter, I’ve watched the cold little birds shivering in the bushes, nothing to eat, fluffing their little feathers to fend off the cold which my coat, sweatshirt, gloves, and muffler can’t fully prevent.

Garry and colleagues – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong

It makes me feel guilty and sad. We have so damaged their native habitat, this year I said “I have to help them. I can’t just watch them shiver and die from cold and starvation.” Being told to let “nature take her course” is a ridiculous statement after humans have done everything possible to make nature take OUR course, without regard for any other living creatures. whose lives we were dislocating or destroying.

Moving the cows – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong

Now, I feed the birds and the squirrels and I am finding an enormous satisfaction in it. I watch them. I don’t always take pictures. Sometimes, I just watch them. I listen for them, too. Today I heard a loud “twee, twee, twee.” That means there is a Cardinal nearby. I didn’t see him, but I’m betting the other birds knew exactly where he was.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong
Woman at work – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

The little birds really are surprisingly protective of the feeders … something I didn’t anticipate.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

I suppose they feel threatened by the larger birds, though they shouldn’t. They eat different parts of the foods, too. They need to share it so everyone is healthy. It will serve them well.

WHAT DID YOU DO LAST NIGHT? – Marilyn Armstrong

The heat went out. Again. Third or fourth time since the temperature started its plunge past zero. This was going to be the coldest night of the year to date so of course, the boiler went out. I called the company — and the guy who fixes stuff was supposed to call back and let me know when he would get here.

He didn’t.

Sometime around eight, I realized it wasn’t chilly. It was cold. I looked at the thermostat and it read 59 degrees. The heat was set at 67. Bit of a drop, there. I went downstairs and it was even colder.

Today, toasty warm!

I pressed the red button on the front of the boiler and it whooshed into that delicious little roar we love to hear in the winter. Then it got a lot quieter as the flame went out. After which, the chilly silence of a non-working boiler.

Two weeks ago, we had them here to fix the identical problem. I had delicately suggested that the “new” igniter might not be working but maybe no one heard me and anyway, why would a new igniter not work? It was new, right?

In the middle of July, the service fellow was here and tuned up the boiler. He replaced the igniter, which was reasonable. The heating system is not a child bride anymore. It needs regular servicing. But since that replacement, it doesn’t work. Sometimes, it stops. Normally, I press that red button (it’s really the only thing I know how to do on a boiler) and it restarts.

It’s okay, at least for a while. Other times, it just stops and won’t restart. We’ve got almost 3/4 of a tank of fuel, so that’s not the problem.

By now, it was 9:30. We’ve been working with this same company since we moved to the valley, 19 years ago. The contract includes 24-hour service because it gets very cold here and no one can survive long without a heating system. They always get back to us in a few minutes, at least to tell us when to expect the fixer. This time, the phone did not ring.

By 10:45, I was getting worried and cold. The dogs didn’t care. Let’s hear it for fur coats! I got really ON that phone call. They seemed a bit at a loss and they said they really WERE trying to get hold of the guy.

“Have you lost him?” I asked. Can you lose your service guy? He’s a pretty big guy.

Maybe the truck broke down. Maybe the cell phone battery punked out. Maybe there’d been an accident. These are dependable people and this was most unlike their usual way of operating.

Finally, I got a call back from the woman who owns the place (she just inherited it from her father)  and she said: “He fell asleep. Didn’t hear the phone. I told him to not explain, just get in the truck and GO.”

Last night? Cold toes, but warm quilts!

It took almost an hour an a half. Where does he live? Not in the valley. You’d have to travel the length of the valley two or three times to need that much time, so he must live north or even further into the empty lands than us.

At 11:45, I called again. Mainly, what I didn’t want was to be sitting and shivering by the telephone waiting for someone who would never arrive. It turned out, he was on our street and in less than five minutes, full of apologies, there he was. I told him I didn’t care what happened. All that mattered was that he was here. He’d made it, praise be.

Please, sir, make the boiler work!

Shit happens. People oversleep, get lost, lose the phones, drink too much. I don’t care what happened. I’m just glad when they arrive.

I told him my personal theory that the newly replaced igniter was the problem. “I don’t know anything about boilers except where to push the red button, but I know when I fix the computer and everything stops working, I have to do it again because something went wrong. I’m betting the igniter is bad. Until it got replaced, we didn’t have a problem. Mid-July, someone replaced it and nothing has worked right since .”

The igniter was bad. He replaced it. Heat arose. Sometimes, parts arrive already broken, direct from the factory. It has happened with cars, with the house, with the computers. It just happens. It’s not supposed to happen, but it does.

This was another “I don’t care” moments for me. How the igniter went bad? Not my problem. All I want it that the new one works and I don’t discover I need a new heating system. Heaven forfend from such a grim possibility!

Three goldfinches. Lunchtime!

Then, after he hung around another half hour to make sure it was going to continue to work, he packed up and went home. I had already hauled a second down comforter upstairs because I was pretty sure we would need extra insulation this evening.

The dogs still didn’t care.

Today, the house is all toasty. Oh, blessed be the service people who fix our broken homes, even if they do sleep through the phone call for the first three hours.

LAUGHTER IS THE LAST BEST CURE – Marilyn Armstrong

Everything and everybody changes, but recently a couple of people I’ve known for a long time have changed suddenly and dramatically. Overnight, they became dry and humorless.

It appears they had a humorectomy. While they slept, their sense of humor was removed. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but it’s deeply disturbing. Have they been replaced by pods, like the  “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”?

I could not survive if I did not see how ridiculous my life is. If the absurdity of it didn’t make me laugh, I would do nothing but cry and bewail my state.

Laughter heals me. It’s better than sex. Better than yoga, meditation, medication, or street drugs.

It’s free, unrestricted by laws, available to anyone who is not yet dead and is acceptable behavior under almost all religious systems.

Many friends are going through rough times. Their problems vary, but the results are the same. Stress, anguish, fear, worry, insomnia. You worry, try to keep it together until you’re ready to explode.

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What can you do? When the light at the end of the tunnel really is the headlight of an oncoming train, I say: “Buckle up and let your hair blow in the wind. It’s going to be a hell of a ride.”

Laughing at the craziness, insanity, ludicrousness, the utter absurdity of my life — and the demented world in which I live it — is my first line of defense against despair. Take away laughter, strip away my sense of humor, and I’m a goner.

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I laugh any time I find a reason. At anything that strikes me as funny, which isn’t always appreciated by other people. I even laugh when I’m alone (weird, right?). It reminds me why it’s worth staying alive.

My friends make me laugh. I make them laugh. When our lives are in tatters and everything around us is collapsing, we laugh. Then, we take a deep breath, and laugh some more. The more awful the situation, the more dreadful and intractable the problems, the funnier it is. We are not laughing at tragedy … we are laughing at life.

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The difference between tragedy and comedy is how you look at it. Laughter is the antidote for everything. Try it. It’s a cure.

ADVENT FOR CHRISTMAS – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Photo Challenge – Advent

I came to Christmas late. Born of Jewish and atheist parents, we had no celebration at all. Oh, how I envied the boisterous enthusiasm of my Christian friends! The tree. The gifts. The decorations. The family gatherings. It looked like a perfect world to me.

Waiting for Santa at the north end of the Commons – Photo Marilyn Armstrong

When I married a non-Jew (you couldn’t call him Christian because he never showed any interest in Christianity or attended a church except for a wedding or baptism … or any other religious establishment, either.

He believed himself a Druid and was planning to return as a tree. I hope he is at one with my forest. He would enjoy the birds.

Uxbridge Commons at Christmas
Boston Commons at Christmas
Uxbridge Commons – December night

The great thing was Christmas. His family, lacking any noticeable relationship to any religion, was extremely enthusiastic about Christmas.

They were the biggest wrappers and tree decorators anywhere. I could jump into the event with a vengeance without feeling that I’d leapt into another religion since there didn’t appear to be any religion involved.

The Episcopal Church on the Commons, Uxbridge
Santa at the Boston Pops

There were Carols to be sung, though, which was as close to religion as we ever got. When Owen was born, we got even more enthusiastic about the holiday. There was little he could want that he did not get. He was an only child and we had a lot of friends, many of whom were Jewish and thus delighted to find an object for holiday giving.

I wish I had pictures of the wrapping from days of old, but I don’t. All I can say is that some were art.  These days, just getting something wrapped at all is a big deal. Oh, how times do change, don’t they?

I used to wrap packages for the dogs, but they never got a grip on unwrapping. They were baffled by the packages, whining while we unwrapped and passed out the goodies. Now we just give them the goodies and they seem happy without the wrapping paper.

Perhaps they are wiser than we are.