TIME OFF AND RETIREMENT – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt: Time Off

Periodically, we go to retirement parties. Well, not so much now because most of our similar-age friends are already retired. For a long time, it was all retirement parties all the time. Except for the funerals, usually held for people who didn’t make it to retirement.

At some point during the party, someone — usually the wife of or the actual retiree — would say: “Now I (or we) will have plenty of time to visit and hang out.”

This causes the rest of us who are already retired, to laugh hysterically. I’m not sure how or why it works this way, but it always works this way. One day, you are working 40 or 50 hours a week. The next week, you are retired and vaguely worried about what you are going to do.

A month later, you are wondering how you found time to work because you barely have time to get anything done. The more retired you are, the busier you become. Bloggers blame blogging. Artists blame their art. Grandparents blame babysitting. People with money complain they seem to always be packing or unpacking, though I find it difficult to sympathize with those who simply can’t stop vacationing.

Please don’t complain how hard it is to manage your summer-house in the mountains and your extra house in New Mexico. Or at least only do it with friends who also have spare houses.

If you aren’t blogging or on a permanent vacation, you are probably writing, painting, teaching, volunteering, or discovering half the children you thought had moved out are now moving  back– with or without the rest of their family.

Dogs and cats multiply. Houses need repair pretty much all the time and as soon as you finish one task, another — like magic — appears.

Time off?

What’s that?

What happened to all the time you were going to have to visit friends and just hang out? The only thing which changes is you can finally get enough sleep. Among my husband and his sleep-deprived colleagues, sleep is the number one activity on their life chart. They are serious sleepers. This is apparently what happens when you’ve been sleep-deprived for 50 or 60 years. You can’t seem to catch up.

Many of us discover while we used to be casual about cleaning, we now seem to feel a more persistent need to keep the house clean. And doing that is harder than it was. I used to be able to do a pretty good clean-up of a 9-room house in about four hours, as long as Credence Clearwater Revival was playing in the background. Now, I can’t even reach half the things that need cleaning. I’ve grown much shorter during the past 10 years.

The one thing you can count on is that you will not have lots of leftover time. It’s like the magic closet which, no matter how much you remove from it, remains full.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Life is permanently full unless you are uninterested in anything. Most of us have always had hobbies and other activities we have wanted to spend more time doing but we were busy earning a living or raising kids. Now, as retirees, we slide into our “hobbies” with the same gusto we had professionally. Except we don’t get paid.

Oh well. You can’t have everything, right?

HOW CAN YOU GET SPRING FEVER IF SPRING HAS NOT SPRUNG? – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt: Spring Fever

I don’t have even a hint of spring fever unless you count a deep yearning to see a flower bloom and have the temperature rise regularly about 60 degrees. But spring isn’t much of a season in New England and every year, we hope we’ll get a “real” spring … and we don’t. It’s something about winds and ocean and rivers and rocks.

Birds not of a feather

Living in New York, which is just 240 miles south of here, we got a real spring. By this time of year, we had magnolias and crab apple blossoms and the daffodils were up and the grass was green. You wouldn’t think a mere 4 or 5-hour drive could make such a difference in climate, but it does.

Two Goldfinch

The closest vision to spring I’ve had is watching the birds change from their winter colors to their breeding colors. The dull greenish-yellow Goldfinch are brilliant yellow and even the brightest birds of winter are brighter now. Otherwise, though, we have some green shoots coming up from the ground, but other than a few crocuses, that’s pretty much it. No leaves, no flowers. No green grass.

A pair of Goldfinch – Two boys this time

We do, however, have ticks. And ants. They know it’s spring, even if the rest of New England still thinks it might yet return to winter. I think we are past that, however. It isn’t warm, but the really deep cold is gone. Now, it’s just muddy and chilly. And, I need to remind myself, by a few weeks from now, summer will show up overnight.

Our spring is usually one afternoon in early May. The next day, it’s 85 degrees. Flowers are blooming like mad and all the trees are in full leaf. Sometimes, this rollover into summer happens in a few hours. We go grocery shopping and by the time we are on our way home, everything is blooming.

I’ve lived up this way for more than 30 years and I’ve never gotten used to the suddenness of the seasons. Autumn was like that too, until recently with climate changing. It would be summer and the next day, it looked like every tree had been lit from within.

For the past few years, we’ve barely had any autumn at all. I’m used to missing spring, but fall has always been my favorite season, especially in New England … and having it disappear is very sad.

Maybe it will come back this year.

A WORLD IN PASSPORTS – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt – Passport

The first time I needed a passport was when I was going to live in Israel. It was such a busy period, I don’t actually remember it. I remember having the passport, but I don’t remember the process or getting it or getting pictures taken, or anything else. I must have done all of it or I could not have gone to Israel, but it’s a complete blank.

I do remember the next passport, though because by then I was living in Israel and I had to get a passport at the American Consulate in Jerusalem.

I was also, by then, an Israeli citizen, so around the same time — I had to get an Israeli passport. Remarkably, the only thing I remember about getting my passport at the American consulate was that the guard was a Marine in full dress uniform. I was very impressed. He was like one of the guards at Kensington Palace — as still as a statue.

As for getting my Israeli passport, I remember that I knew my “number” by heart. Everyone knew their number. These days, I can barely remember my own phone number.

That was the same passport I used when Garry and I honeymooned in Ireland and the same one I used when I went abroad to work in Israel. I had to use my Israeli passport and it had the wrong name on it, so I had to use my American passport too, to prove I was me and will still be me.

The next time I had to get a new passport was when we were living here. I hadn’t even realized my passport had gone past due, but that was when suddenly, you needed a passport to go to Canada and we were going up to Jackman, Maine which is right on the Canadian border and thought we might want to wander into Canada.

Jackman, Maine

That used to be no big deal. You didn’t even need a passport. Just a driver’s license, a wave and off you’d go. Now you needed a passport and there was a line of cars. And prices were really high and there wasn’t any sense of “hospitality” for which Canadians are supposedly famous. Maybe it’s because we were obviously tourists.

Or maybe it’s because our friends were obviously Natives to whom not all Canadians are friendly.

NOBODY PROMISED LIFE WOULD BE FAIR – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt – Fairness

No one promised me that life would be fair. Quite the opposite. My mother was a total cynic. Born in 1910, her earliest memories were of living through World War I which she always referred to as “The Great War,” and then living through World War II, which was simply “The Holocaust.”

She didn’t believe in God because how could any God allow such atrocities to occur to his people. She didn’t trust government because even when they sometimes did honorable things, behind locked doors they made dishonorable deals. She was convinced that they intentionally failed to blow up the Nazi concentration camp crematorium and gas chambers because they were good old rich white men and were happy that Hitler was getting rid of those annoying Jews.

She remembered how in the middle of the depression when there was more food than could be sold because people were desperately poor, the government put surplus food in empty lots and poured poison on it so no one could eat it. I heard this was a rumor, but she said it was true. She had seen it.

She knew that the U.S. had refused to let Jews desperate to escape from Germany enter the United States and many of them had died in ships that sank in the Atlantic, in view of the Statue of Liberty. She remembered the jailing of Japanese American citizens during the war and the destruction of Native Americans.

She despised the Catholic church because, she said, they were a bunch of pedophiles, something that proved true eventually.

Lady Justice – Old Bailey, London

She wanted me to get a nose job so I wouldn’t look “so Jewish.” She never trusted the government, always expected it to turn on us. I think she always had a bag packed in case she had to run.

So I never thought the world would be fair. But I also didn’t think it would be this ugly. I thought if we tried really hard we could make it better. That we could fix some of the broken pieces. That I could fix some of the broken pieces myself.

I was wrong but I tried.

Maybe someday we will succeed. May my granddaughter’s children — should she have any — will make things better.

No one told me to expect life would be fair. I always knew rich people would get the best “stuff” and the rest of us would get whatever was left over. It never crossed my mind that we were all genuinely “equal.”

We are all equal. Just some of us are more equal than others.

Those few times when life has gone well and things have seemed fair and evenhanded, it has been a huge surprise. It would be nice if there were more surprises to come, but I’m not holding my breath.

IS THIS A BLOG OR A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT? – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt: Flu Shot

Flu shot as a prompt? Don’t take this the wrong way because I am very much in favor of flu shots, but it sounds like a public service announcement. Still, I don’t mind being a public service announcer.

Since we started getting flu shots every year, we haven’t gotten the flu. Not once. It doesn’t mean I don’t get sick with other stuff, but not the flu.

Don’t forget your flu shot …

Actually, I tell everyone to get the flu shot because the flu is not your everyday cold. It’s a big deal that even if you are young and healthy, will keep you out of work for a couple of weeks and has a knack for becoming the gateway for pneumonia and other breathing problems. And it really makes you feel like holy hell.

So I’m all for it.

We get flu shots every September and with the except of one year when there was another flu going around — yes, they are human and don’t always get it 100% right, but they do pretty well.

Now, all we need are people who don’t believe the anti-vaxxers more than they believe in science and doctors and we are home free!

DO YOU COLOR? Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt: Adult Coloring

I know it’s all the rage. I bought some for my DIL for Christmas because I know she enjoys coloring.

I don’t.

I didn’t like coloring when I was a child. I preferred drawing and painting and these days, photography with doodling along page edges. I am a chronic doodler, but I don’t like anything with lines.

I hate lines. I hate definitions of where each color should go. I never liked coloring in OR out of the lines, so I don’t like it now, either. Sometimes, when I wonder what Garry and I share as a couple, I realize we hate being told what to do. We resent instructions, rules, and definitions.

Which doesn’t mean I don’t follow directions using tools or technology. I know where (so to speak) to draw that particular line. Garry doesn’t always. He will fight with me over everything.

He wants to do it his way.

I don’t mind him doing it his way unless it will (a) burn down the house or set the chimney on fire; (b) destroy dinner; (c) cause injury to something or someone (including himself).

Otherwise, I let him battle it out until eventually, he asks for help. At which point, I try to explain there are things where you can do as you please, but not everything.  Some stuff, usually involving electricity or technology and associated parts, you have no choice but to do the right way or it won’t work. Not even if you burn incense or pray to the gods of technology.

It’s why he’s no kind of mechanic and for the most part, neither am I.

But, just in case it’s your thing, I’ve included three photographs you can print and color. Birds, for people who find coloring relaxing.

As for me, there is reading, taking pictures, watching movies — and ultimately, sleeping!

PIZZA WITH PINEAPPLE AND CRISIS ACTORS – Marilyn Armstrong

WEEKLY Word Prompt: Question


The answer to most serious questions is another question. Serious things don’t have simple answers. For example, “Does this pizza require a longer time to cook or will it dry up?” There are no quick answers to any questions pertaining to pizza.

Pineapple pizza
Credit: Getty

Let’s discuss pineapple. Whose idea was it to put fruit on a pizza and why does anyone actually order it? I can understand anchovies, even though no one can force me to eat one. Salty is okay on pizza, but FRUIT? Seriously?

And then, there are politics. How can you look at yourself in the mirror when you are caging children … for any reason? How can you face a kid who survived a mass school shooting, tell him or her that “it didn’t happen” and “he/she is a ‘crisis actor'”?

What’s a crisis actor?  How do you recruit them? Do you advertise in a special “Help Wanted” section of some undercover actor’s journal?



HELP WANTED – CRISIS ACTORS FOR FAKE SLAUGHTER

Are you the kind of actor who plays dead really well? Can you stay very still while buckets of blood pour out of you? If you are under 18, white, and ready to play dead, we want you. Resume required. Non-union.



You’d need a second advertisement, too. For families. Grieving parents, friends, and teachers.



HELP WANTED – GRIEVING FAMILY FOR MURDERED KIDS

Can you cry on cue? If you can convey deep sorry and heartbreak on camera, we need you to play the devastated parents of crisis actors for mock, mass school shooting. Standard rates apply. Send headshots, color only. Ability to cry with real tears mandatory. Non-union.



So many questions, so little time!