TOO COLD FOR SEPTEMBER – Marilyn Armstrong

The forecasts have been promising weather in the low 80s tomorrow, so I’m refusing to turn on my boiler today … especially since I haven’t gotten a tank fill since I think May, but it might have been April. We aren’t out of fuel, but we don’t have much and until Wednesday, I don’t dare buy anything. We are in the hole we have every month during the week when I have to pay the mortgage.

If we are careful, we’ll be fine until the next social security check arrives. Meanwhile, our anniversary is tomorrow. We wanted to go out to dinner. Feeling as we do, that’s not a good idea anyway. I think we’ll wait until it will feel better. Right now, everything I eat makes me feel a little bit sick.

In fact, my granddaughter is having a birthday party today and we were invited, but with the way we feel, a pig roast does not sound alluring. To be fair a pig roast never sounds alluring. I like pigs. They are smarter than most animals including a lot of politicians.

I’m not a vegan or even a vegetarian. I sort of tried vegetarian. Then I had to go on a heavy round of iron pills and they really don’t agree with me. I don’t seem to absorb iron well. As my body craves it, red meat is where to find it.

Sunset through clouds

I feel guilty eating meat and ironically, it’s not to save the planet (though that would be a great sidebar) but because I like animals. I hate raising them so we can slice them up for lunch meat. For completely illogical reasons, I don’t have the same warm and cuddly feeling about fish. I also don’t worry about whether or not vegetables are unhappy when we cook them. We do have to eat something. If we exclude everything, I don’t think we’ll fare well.

We were created as omnivores and while I have had many a Vegan pal give me a heartfelt lecture on the benefits of the diet, all the Vegans I know are too thin and pale. They don’t look healthy to me.

So I stay on a basically well-rounded diet and it seems to work out okay, guilt and all. Besides, guilt is my primary emotion.

Meanwhile, it’s cold. Garry says it’s a little warmer outside, but it’s gray and dark and it looks like rain is on the way. What a shock. That never happens around here.

I wonder how heavy the rain will be this time.

SHARING MY VERY DAMP WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World 9-3-19

From Melanie: Wow. September. Where did the summer go?  I’m not at all sure…anyway.  This week finds us with some more questions, but this week they’re all ‘deep’ ones requiring a little thought. Enjoy!”

I know where MY summer went and I hope I can forget it ASAP.

Spring was long, nasty, cold, and full of hard-driving rainstorms with lots of wind. We didn’t get a real winter. No real snow at all, so we got our first blizzard (the only blizzard, actually) around my birthday in early March.

Finally, it started to warm up, but mostly, it rained. And rained. The wind howled and sometimes it was raining so hard and for so long the house sounded like a loud faucet was running somewhere. Now that Garry can hear, he was amazed at how loud rain can be. It reminded me why I didn’t spend the extra money on a steel roof … and why I wish I had — at the same time.

Raiin on the window

A steel roof is forever, or at least as close to forever as any roof can get. It’s also noisy. Rain, sleet, hale … it’s like a million little beasties racing madly around your roof. Not to mention that they cost at least four times what a standard asphalt roof costs. But they never leak and they don’t grow lichens or other greenery, either. Win some, lose some. You take your best guess and hope it works out.

As soon as it warmed up, we grew a million daylilies and that was great, but we’d get one day of sun or at least gray skies followed by three days of howling winds and torrential rain. It was mud city. You couldn’t even mow your lawn because it was sodden.

That was followed — finally — in August, with lovely, cool dry weather. And Eastern Equine Encephalitis mosquitoes and all the nice autumn fairs got canceled because the killer mosquitoes were out.

Aw, c’mon! Really?

This was approximately when I realized something was wrong on the south-west side of the house. All that rain, you know? The climate change that hasn’t arrived seems to indeed have arrived. At least here it has.

Now, we need to strip off the vinyl, remove the mush that’s underneath it, and replace the wall, or at least most of the lower level with a new wall. Get rid of the rotting door and replace it with a window (we never use the door anyway) and get a carpenter to repair the wooden doors to the shop.

Rainy morning squirrel shaking rain off his coat

I’m wishing we’d had time to powerwash the house because it’s green with mold. Did you know vinyl can grow green mold? It’s not lethal or poisonous. It actually looks like green pollen that got stuck. It just isn’t attractive.

It made me realize for all the years we’ve been paying insurance on our houses — since 1965 — they have yet to actually pay for any damage to any house in any state. Talk about being taken over by corporations. You know all those advertisements about how insurance companies are protecting you? They aren’t.

It’s a lie. The only thing they are protecting is the value of the property owned by the mortgage company. I can’t even calculate how many years we’ve paid home insurance and it never crossed my mind that they don’t cover anything except a tree falling on the house (unless they decide you should have taken down the tree in which case it’s your fault anyway), and fire. They might cover home invasion, but I’m not sure.

I’m still thinking about the post I will write about this, how we are forced — absolutely required — to pay for home insurance or we can’t get a mortgage. Why don’t we read all the little tiny print on the policy? Because we have to have insurance, so no matter what it says, we will sign it.

It’s just like accepting the terms of your operating system for your PC or Mac. Sign or don’t use your computer. There is no option to argue about the terms, so you sign. Nobody reads them.

The most common lie everyone everywhere tells is that they read and understand the terms of that contract. NO ONE reads it and if we did understand it, what difference would it make? We can’t NOT sign it.

And now, on to the questions.

QUESTIONS:

When you’re 90 years old, what do you suppose will matter most to you?

Breathing.

What’s the best way to spend a rainy afternoon?

Brooding on how we used to sometimes have sunshine and playing bridge on the computer.

What is one thing you don’t understand about yourself?

How I lived long enough to see the world change into this bizarre, hate-filled mess.

When was the last time you tried something to look ‘cool’ (hip), but it ended in utter embarrassment?  Details?

About a year ago, my granddaughter dyed my hair to get the yellow out of it. It wasn’t utter embarrassment. It actually looked pretty good.

We have a lot of iron in our well water and it turns everything pink or yellow — Including my white hair. I bought some more of the same dye. I hope I don’t make a total mess of the project.

A.B. NORMAL – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Abnormal

What is normal? It there such a thing? Does anyone lead a “normal life”?

This has been a week when it feels like I should not have gotten out of bed. Or, for that matter, gained consciousness. Every time a hint of consciousness appeared, I should have taken something that would put me back in a chemical coma.

Between the news about Bonnie and discovering one wall of my house is about to fall off (and there is no money with which to fix it) and the critical invasion of lethal Eastern Equine Encephalitis Mosquitoes — it has not been a good week. It hasn’t even been a bad week. It has been an atrocious, abnormal, messed up, disgusting, horror of a week.

Wolf spiders vary greatly in size. The smallest may measure only 3 millimeters in body length, while most lycosids are larger, reaching up to 30 millimeters. Many species live in burrows in the ground, and most are nocturnal. Most lycosids are brown, gray, black, pale orange, or cream. They often have stripes or speckles. The head region of the cephalothorax usually narrows. The legs, particularly the first two pairs, are often spiny to help the spiders hold their prey. And this is exactly what it looked like.

A coma seems my best possible choice. Or a long leap off a very tall bridge. My primary problem with long leaps off tall bridges is that I might not die. I might just get broken into many pieces and have to live with that, which probably would make things worse — although I figure at that point the powers-that-be might consider that we need to have a place to live. Or, who knows? Maybe they will just drop me by the side of the road and drive away.

Who needs all these “old people” cluttering up our world?

It’s all about climate change. The climate change we don’t have has been battering this house with endlessly pouring rain and raging wind storms. Apparently on at least one side of the house (the short side) has had the vinyl siding so ripped apart that not only is the wood beneath it soaked, but the actual vinyl is soaked. The door which the vinyl surrounds is black with mold from the endless wetness and for reasons that I cannot fathom, hordes of yellow jackets seem to be trying to make a nest on our deck.

There is nothing ON our deck. We removed everything when we repainted it. The only remaining things there are broken pieces of branches from the trees and one of the most enormous wolf spiders I’ve ever seen.

Mind you, I knew they lived in the woods, but this one wanted to climb in through our screen and I finally pulled out the really poisonous spider stuff and sprayed him to death. The first couple of time he sat on the screen and leered at me, I just knocked him off to (I assume) the deck below. The fourth time, I decided it was war.

I killed him. Through the screen. With spider poison spray. So his carcass — his rather enormous carcass — is stuck between the boards on the deck and between the huge dead spider and the hundreds of yellow jackets, I’m staying home.

And still trying to figure out how we can repair the house — it really looks like we should completely redo the vinyl siding and the gutters which have been battered by falling tree limbs so they don’t do anything useful.

But we have no more money. Any money we had has gone to fixing the well, replacing doors, replacing half the front of the house and putting in a new window. The deck is falling off the house.

I’ve been running through my possible ways “out” of this life, not because I expect to see heaven, but because this life just isn’t working out for me. People say that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but these don’t seem particularly temporary. The house really needs work and we can’t do it. I’ve been trying every way I know and just winding up in enough debt to wonder if either Garry OR I will live to see the end of it.

He’s trying to find some work. I just want to leave all the details to anyone who wants them and slide into oblivion. NOT because I think oblivion would be nicer, but because I’m not going to try to live on the street. As a simple start, I’d last about three minutes and they wouldn’t be nice minutes and the other because frankly, I’ve had enough.

Every time I think I’ve found some solution that MIGHT work, I discover that there’s oh so much more that needs to be done.

I’ve looked for solutions, but there don’t seem to be any solutions. It may look like a solution but it’s really just another trap. A tar pit. Maybe we should go back to the caves, but I’m pretty sure it would be full of big spiders too.

RICH PASCHALL, GARRY AND MARILYN BY THE BLACKSTONE CANAL – Marilyn Armstrong

It didn’t happen if you don’t take any pictures. Well, that’s not exactly true, but as a photographer, that’s how I feel about many events. Which doesn’t mean I always take pictures. Much of the time, I don’t feel like taking pictures. I just want to enjoy the event and not be the photographer.

Smiling, Rich and Garry by the Canal at River Bend
Rich and Garry by the canal at River Bend

This wasn’t one of those days. We had hoped to go out yesterday, but it rained all day. This morning, we woke up to a bright blue sky and we said “Okay, this is it. Let’s do it. So while I packed up my camera, made sure Garry had a live battery, figured out which lenses I was taking and off we went to the canal.

And halfway there, it started to rain. Plop. Plop. Plop.

“Maybe it’ll stop,” I said. There were still patches of blue in the sky so it could clear.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Marilyn and Rich along the Canal

By the time we got to the canal, it was pouring. It briefly slowed down, so we started to get out of the car. The pause changed instantly into a downpour. The rain gods were still with us. We turned around and started to head to dinner, but made a brief stop at the Crown & Eagle, which is a restored cotton mill which has been repurposed into a senior living facility. It’s a particularly beautiful location with the river behind the building and its own canal full of water lilies in front.

The sun came out.

The stone bridge in the rain

We turned around and went back to the canal. By then, it had started to drizzle, but it wasn’t pouring. Rich and I decided to take a chance and get out. I was wearing open-toed sandals — not the best footwear for a muddy rainy day by the river. And while my camera is water-resistant, none of the lenses I had brought were water resistant. I picked the 50mm prime because at least it didn’t have any electronics in it.

The footbridge
Photo: Garry Armstrong – Blackstone River

We took some pictures … and finally, Garry decided to come and shoot some too. He was worried about getting his hearing gear wet … a not unreasonable concern. That’s really expensive equipment that we absolutely can’t afford to replace. But he couldn’t resist the opportunity.

We had about 10 minutes before it started to rain again and if you look, you can see the rain falling in the river. We headed back to the car as quickly as we could with all the gear on the muddy, gritty path which apparently had been really messed up by the constant heavy rains we’ve been having for months.

Then, we really did go to dinner, which was great and I had tempura. Yum!

Rich on his own
The Blackstone Canal

Of course, as we finished dinner, the sun was shining, the sky was bright blue. These are the longest days of the year and I wished we could go back and take just a few more pictures.

But it was getting late. The dogs needed feeding. Moreover, if I was going to post these pictures, I had to download and process at least a few of them. So here they are. All that rain has made everything bloom like mad. It really does look like a rain forest!

THE LONG DELAY ENDS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Delay

For the last six years … maybe a bit longer … Rich Paschall has been working with us on Serendipity. We never met but we lived in hope. This weekend, he is here.

It only took six years … and his flight out of Chicago was 131 minutes delayed. I know because that’s what it said on the Spirit Airlines arrivals information. A long delay and made even longer by airport delays. I have to assume it was weather-related. There are storms everywhere across North America and it was raining here, too.

Aren’t we glad that climate change is a Chinese piece of fake news? Who knows what it would be like were it true!

I don’t have any pictures because he is still sleeping … wearing off Chicago time. Garry has a luncheon and is doing his long prep time in the shower and I’m trying to drink this coffee and I think I’m going to go make a new pot. This stuff is not great. I think it got stale.

I can’t believe it’s another gray, damp day. Will the rain gods ever leave town? Maybe it will brighten up later? We can surely hope!

Rich has filled in for me when I was sick … which has been far too often. He has always been here, even though he has been there. A welcome guest and a good friend. Who says online friends aren’t the “real deal”?

So Rich is finally here and remarkably, he is exactly like the person I expected. Sometimes, things are indeed what you expect. In a good way.

THE DAILY BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

The squirrels and I are quarreling. I am a believer that the hungry should be allowed to eat and I quite like our squirrels. I can actually recognize them, usually by the size and coloration of their tails.

The problem is, there seem to be a great many of them and we seem to be the only open buffet in the region … or maybe we just serve a better quality of seeds.

Every morning, when I first get up I open the shades and look at the feeders. There are always two squirrels wrapped around the hanging feeder and nestled happily inside the flat feeder. I leave them be. They are free to chow down until I get up for the day … about 4 or 5 hours later.

A crowd of cowbirds
More Cowbirds!
Very handsome Cowbird!

But that’s it. After 11 in the morning, when I’m having my coffee, I open my back door and tell them it’s time to get off the feeder and find food in the forest. They don’t even move. Apparently, I am no longer a threatening presence. Finally, after I talk to them for a while and they refuse to move, I open the door and walk towards the feeders and then they slowly detach and climb down the railing to the deck.

Goldfinch in the rain
Rain does not bother him
There were other Goldfinches on the other side of the feeder too

I can see them lurking just below the fence, so I go out again, look them in the eye and say: “I SEE you. You’ve had your time in the feeders. Now you have to let the birds eat too.”

I go back to the house and they are back on the feeders. I repeat the performance, only this time, I stand on the deck. Each time they peak over the edge of the deck I tell them: “I said it was time to go. Now, beat it buster.”

Sharing the feeder – Lady Cardinal and Downy Woodpecker

Each time one of them leaves, a dozen birds hit the feeder because they’ve been waiting in the trees. They aren’t afraid of me anymore. They seem to know I’m talking to the squirrels.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

How they know this, I have no idea, but they don’t skedaddle. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to go and physically remove the squirrels one of these mornings. I really don’t mind them eating, but they can’t eat all the food I put out and that’s what they are doing. I can’t afford twenty pounds of seeds a week.

Carolina Wren

It’s like when you go for breakfast with a friend and you get to chatting. No one minds because it’s early, but as lunchtime rolls around, the waiters start giving you the eye. There are no more refills for your coffee.

He’s back!

I don’t think my squirrels have been eating out recently. They don’t have good restaurant manners.

OILING DOWN THE ANGRY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Oil on the water

Oil is supposed to settle down rapidly boiling water.

It doesn’t.

The water keeps boiling at the same level only there’s oil on it. Patches of oil. In my house, oil is olive (usually) but out in the Real World, ocean water glistens with oil meant to run trucks, cars, and heat homes. A good thing insofar as it was warm a few days ago, so I turned down the thermostat … and now, it’s cold.

Not bitterly, miserably dead-winter cold. No, it’s wet and gets into your bones. It feels a lot colder than it is.

Garry and I have been trying to figure out if we are suffering from the pollen (it’s high) and it’s from trees. We’ve got trees). That or one of us made unintentional contact with a sick person.

Garry pointed out to me since I had (recently) pointed the same thing to him (recently), that it doesn’t matter if it’s a cold or allergies. You feel equally crappy regardless.


NOTE: Anyone who says “Oh, it’s JUST allergies,” has never had allergies. An allergy is a cold that only ends when the snow falls. If you get sick and feel better three days later, you were sick. If you feel like crap but are still feeling awful three months later when the trees are turning, it was an allergy.


It’s probably the best part of winter that unless I actually get sick, which I do very rarely now (I think I had everything when I was younger and am now resistant to everything), I stop sneezing until spring comes again. In case no one noticed, it IS (technically) spring. I know this because during the two sunny days this month, I took pictures of our bunch of daffodils.

Since we are apparently allergic to everything and we live in pollen central, we suffer. Even the dogs suffer. Our dogs have sneezing fits. To be fair, our pollen is so bad that sometimes — about a week from now is my best guess, assuming it stops raining by then — the air looks like it’s snowing, except the snow is green. Everything turns green. The car is covered in green pollen.

Goldfinch flock – Sneezing?

Do the birds sneeze? That could really ruin the hawks hunting time. And if the little birds sneeze, it could make it hard for them to hide in the branches. But if ALL of them sneeze …

“The wood would resound with the sound of sneezing …”

I have sneezing fits. Sometimes I just keep sneezing for so long I forget when I started. It makes Garry’s hearing implements go crazy, so eventually, he has to cover his ears. If I get loud enough, he has to leave the room. I am a hearty sneezer.

Back to the oil. If oil theoretically makes boiling water settle down (I think it just pollutes it), maybe we should pour oil on each other. We could then be sick and slimy simultaneously. The dogs would love it and would lick every inch of us.

Yummy olive oil! We could stick salad to our arms and legs and be really green. I could wear a tomato hat and Garry could arm himself with huge cucumbers.

I think I’m losing it.

All I want are THREE SUNNY DAYS so I can clean out the garden. Is that too much to ask?