WHERE ARE MY 4,089 FOLLOWERS?

Yesterday, I glanced at my statistics and realized I’d reached a new level. According to WordPress, I now have 4,089 4,111 followers.

That’s a lot of followers. You’d figure I’d get at least 1,000 hits a day, right? And certainly, with 1000 more followers than I had a few months ago, I must be getting a lot more hits. It just stands to reason, doesn’t it?

Not.

I have no idea who — or what — is following me.

I am convinced most of my followers are non-human. I have a couple of dozen real people in the mix. These are  my regulars who read my stuff, comment and have become virtual friends. They look at my photographs. They remember stories I’ve written in the past.

That accounts for a couple of dozen people There are a few dozen others who drop by regularly, but not daily, as the spirit moves them. What’s with the other 3,500 followers?

Image: Mashable.com

Image: Mashable.com

Where are you? You don’t write, you don’t call. Not a comment or a “Like.” What’s a blogger to do but wonder if you are real? I bet you are software spammers and cyber-bots. Unless there more than three thousand people who — for no known reason — clicked “Follow” on my site, then lost interest and never came back.

I’m by no means alone in wondering “where have all the followers gone.” It’s the deepest, darkest mystery of blogging, these elusive followers from whom one never hears. Do I really have thousands of lurkers, none of whom have ever clicked on a post?

Anyway, although I’m (technically) more popular than ever, the number of hits per day is slightly lower than it was a couple of thousand followers ago.

If you’re out there, drop me a line. Click “Like.” Make a comment.

Or not.

WHY YOU HAVEN’T BEEN FRESHLY PRESSED (MAYBE)

freshly-pressed-circle3x3I got Freshly Pressed last January. Since then, I’ve put some time into figuring out why I didn’t get it earlier — and why I finally got it after all. And why I’m unlikely to get it again.

1. Freshly Pressed is not an award for general excellence. It’s not an award for your blog. It is an individual award for a specific post. The posts that win are almost always in response to a Weekly Challenge — and happen to grab the attention of one or more editors.

2. You can write superb content every day, year after year. But if you don’t respond to the weekly challenges and/or don’t write something that makes an editor’s brain go jingle-jangle, you will never be Freshly Pressed. Think of it this way: WordPress supports millions of bloggers. The editors can’t scan them all. The challenges give them a manageable number of posts to consider. If you don’t participate, you are unlikely to get noticed. It really isn’t personal.

3. What the editors think is special will probably not be what you consider your best work. I’m embarrassed at the post that got me Freshly Pressed. It isn’t — in my opinion — my finest work, nor is it representative of my writing in general. I don’t even like it. That’s why I haven’t linked it to my Freshly Pressed badge. Many other awardees feel the same way. What inspires an editor versus what inspires you can be very different.

4. Alternate theories: You don’t write as well as you think you do. You use a lot of texting abbreviations (WTF, LOL, IMHO etc.) instead of real words. You don’t understand grammar, don’t use the spell-checker, and don’t punctuate sentences. You write to a very narrow audience and your high school classmates are probably the only people who know what you are talking about. Sometimes, the problem is you, but no one wants to hurt your feelings by telling you.


Before I got Freshly Pressed, I had no idea why a blogger did or didn’t win. It has taken me all the time between getting the nod and now to figure it out.

Why I Doubt I’ll Get It Again

These days, I rarely like the weekly writing challenges, so I usually don’t participate. I check them out, but if the prompt leaves me underwhelmed or uninspired, I don’t do it.

It’s Nice To Be Recognized, But It Doesn’t Change Anything

I got my badge and rather than making me feel rewarded for my best work, I realized it was totally random. My best work is never going to be recognized because it isn’t written in response to the weekly challenge. It won’t make some editors brain go BING!

If You Really, Really Want To Be Freshly Pressed

For those of you who wonder how come you write so much and so well — yet never get the editors to notice you, this is the answer. Stop writing what you feel like writing and start writing what they want to read. It’s also possible that your style is just not what they’re looking for. It isn’t a judgment of your writing and again — it isn’t personal. Consider that William Faulkner and Thomas Wolfe would probably not have made an editor’s brain tingle. Blogging is what it is and has its own parameters.

Afterglow

The best part of winning is having the badge to display on your site. It’s like getting into an exclusive country club, then realizing you don’t play tennis, don’t like the food and have little use for the other members. You can brag about membership, but you don’t really want to go there and hang out.

FIVE DAYS OF BLOGGING – PROMPTS TO CHALLENGE YOU

There is a trend here on WordPress to give titles and themes to each day of the week, thus heralding the nature of that day’s post. I’m a big fan of challenges and prompts because well, they prompt and challenge me. I thought “Gee, Marilyn, why not dip your oar in those waters.”

Here are five great themes for you. Or should I call them challenges? Prompts? Challenging prompts? All to help you, my good friends, get through your blogging week without ever encountering a moment of writer’s block.

Calendar_0

Mawkish Monday – I dedicate Monday to overly sentimental remembrances of the past, especially childhood and former marriage partners. Omit anything bad that happened. Everyone, everything was perfect. It never rained on your summer picnic. Your parents were fantastic. Your relationships were stress free. You were always amazing.

Because we’ve all had that kind of life, right?

Tantrum Tuesday – Rant day! Whatever you are pissed off about, let’er rip! Don’t hold back. How do you really feel?

Whiny Wednesday – Today I encourage you to rake up all the self-pitying bullshit you suppress the rest of the week. If you suffer from baseless feelings of entitlement and believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that life has cheated you, this is your day.

Complain how everyone else gets the good stuff while you get the dregs. Full details of any appalling thing that’s happened to you are welcome.  Let me wallow in your misery because I don’t have nearly enough angst of my own.

Thankful Thursday – Praise the Lord! Forget what you said on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Today you praise God (or whoever, whatever) for the wonderfulness of your life, friends, family, marriage, job, shrink, unemployment benefits and social security checks. And food stamps. You can get back to sniveling next week. Today, you are full of joie de vive and want everyone to be jealous of your extraordinary life.

Freak-out Friday – Whatever your mental illness, this is the day to discuss how crazy you are. The bizarre shit you do that you would never tell your closest friend, but given the anonymity of the Internet, you can tell everyone in the electronic universe everything and it won’t come back to haunt you. You can be as weird as you want. I will understand.

After the bragging you did yesterday about your terrific life — you made me feel like crap, but that’s what you had in mind, right? — today you can tell me what a load of garbage it was. Because really, you’re a sociopath, narcissist and maybe a serial killer.

Whatever secrets you’ve been hiding, this is your day to let it all hang out.


I’ll leave weekends unstructured because frankly, I’m exhausted from the last five days. Aren’t you?

IT’S YOUR FAULT. YES, YOU!

Sleepy Time - More and more of us go to bed too late because of sleep procrastination. What are the nighttime rituals that keep you up before finally dozing off?


I blame you, WordPress. Until I started blogging, I’d go to bed, read a bit, then clutch my pillow and be off to dreamland for a few restless, miserable hours. Now, I have to check (and recheck) my blog. See how today’s offerings look on three differently formatted devices (tablet, Kindle, small computer). Find the typos. There are always typos because I am The Typo Queen and no one can put more typos in a small post than I can. If typos could be made an Olympic event, I would have a gold medal — but I digress. What was I talking about?

Oh. Sleep. The whole “bedtime procrastination” thing. I don’t think we could be classified as a bedtime procrastinators because we have no schedule. As retirees, we rarely need to get up at a particular time. Unless there’s something on the calendar. The only other thing remotely time-sensitive is trying to shop for groceries on Tuesday when the supermarket gives its senior discount.

75-Parked-46

Personally, I think they should give us a discount every day. Tuesday is a mess of scooters, walkers, and bewildered people trying to remember why they are in the bread aisle and if they are lost or truly need bread. And where’s the list? They can’t find their money at checkout and are frequently confused as to where they left the car. Since we aren’t that far behind them, mentally speaking, we wait patiently as they work their way through the equation of life. Soon that could be us. I’m willing to bet this is unrelated to the hour at which they went to bed.

Hopefully, we won’t be stuck behind them as we exit the parking lot. They drive so slowly. If we had a manual transmission, we’d never make it out of first. They have to compete with the other slow, bad drivers who are decades younger. The younger folks can’t drive because they are too busy. Texting, talking on the phone, adjusting radios, yelling at kids (husband, dogs, themselves) while swerving all over the road.

It’s a nightmare out there and it has nothing to do with getting enough sleep, although it is possible that some of the slowest drivers are taking a nap, don’t realize they are at the wheel of a car and supposed to be moving.

Have I forgotten anything? Where’s my list?

Image

HOME IS AS CLOSE AS WIFI AND THE NEAREST CELL TOWER

An Ounce of Home - You’re embarking on a yearlong round-the-world adventure, and can take only one small object with you to remind you of home. What do you bring along for the trip?


This reminds me of when I emigrated to Israel at the end of 1978. I brought as close as I could to an entire world in three trunks. Real trunks. You know, the big hard-sided ones that were, at one time, standard luggage for trains and aboard ship.

I quickly discovered you can’t bring home with you, even if you bring a lot of stuff from it. Because home isn’t your stuff. It isn’t your house. Not even your loved ones. It’s all of that and something more, something indefinable that makes you know you are in that safe harbor called “Home.”

Irish Signs

These days, since I won’t go anywhere without at least one laptop and all my cameras, there’s not much need for a specific memento. I have thousands of photographs of home, friends, the region in all seasons on every computer and I could just as easily access this blog and find anything else I might miss. Short of actually being home, with WiFi and computers … we are never far from home. Any of us.

Grand Canyon

It is probably the single most significant social change technology has wrought over the past 20 years. I don’t always like it. I don’t always want to be connected or safe. A little whiff of potential danger is like spice in your food. It’s a big part of the fun of traveling. Getting away from everything and anyone. Being on your own. Taking a break from friends and family used to give me a chance to miss them and therefore, appreciate them.

But we are so connected these days. No matter where we go, we are never completely “away.” In fact, we are no farther than the nearest cell phone tower or WiFi connection. How can you miss someone who texts or calls you 25 times a day? Why would you miss a home you have photographed top to bottom and carry with you everywhere?

It takes much of the adventure out of travel, don’t you think?

A SMART USE OF TIME: CYBER FRIENDS ACROSS THE WORLD

What do you have time for?

Unlike my fictional character Harold (Soup and Sandwich), who I have brought by for a few visits, I’m not particularly well-organized. I wish my apartment could be as neat and clean as the one I attribute to the Commander of Clean, Director of Dishes and Lord of the Laundry. Instead I am King of Clutter. No matter how hard I fight, I am losing the battle against my possessions.

Even so, I try to effectively allocate my time. Certain times should be assigned to particular activities. Work and commuting take a big chunk of life. While I ride back and forth in my General Motors car which has miraculously escaped recall, I think about ways to fill the other hours including the topics I should let loose on Word Press. What adventure, or misadventure Harold should have next.

Entry to the College

When I sat down at the computer to coördinate all the thoughts running around in my head, I got a message on Skype.

“U there?”

It was a guy I’d never met in person, but had talked to often.

He lives in the middle east. I’d met him on the language learning site, Livemocha, when it was also a social site. Its members helped others learn the language they already knew by correcting exercises and chatting in text and voice.

During the past two years, we’ve become friends. Our talks have covered a wide range of topics. If you think you have it tough, talk with someone who lives where the power goes off each day at 6 am and stays off until 2 pm. Obviously, there is not enough power to go around in his homeland.

The differences of our personal circumstances is offset by the similarities of our ideas and concerns. We both can see futures we would like to have. It seems that when you have a computer and some power, no matter how fleeting, you can dream as big as cyberspace itself.

So instead of spending my Saturday evening creating great thoughts for this site, I spent more than two hours helping my friend study for his English competency exam. He sent me pages of text to read and questions to ask. He sent audio passages to go with the text. He reported to me in his timed responses what the text and audio where telling us. We moved past grammar, on to reading comprehension, then conversation. He has a week until his exam. That week contains his hopes of moving on as a language student.

Why would I give up my Saturday evening for this? Why would I spend hours reading passages and questions out loud to this young man? He is a nice person and I have enjoyed our talks, but I’ve never met him, maybe never will.  And I really wanted to do something else.  My mind was set on a particular activity, and it was not English grammar.

Yet, he is a friend. He reaches across cyberspace to ask me to lend a hand. Nice to know I can contribute to someone’s education. Education is the most valuable thing we can ever have. Even if you win the lottery tomorrow, your knowledge will remain your most precious possession.

If my friend benefited at all from the few intense English sessions we had recently, I think I got the better of the deal. He showed me what life is like in a culture different from mine. I am patient as he goes through his exercises. He is patient with me as I ask questions about his life. Some of my questions are no doubt naïve, but I’ve learned so much by asking them.

If he’s successful and becomes a language student, I hope we get to meet. He has taught me an enormous amount by asking me to read aloud and pose questions from an English textbook.

So, how did you spend your Saturday evening?

BLAH BLAH BLAH

Verbal Ticks – Is there a word or a phrase you use (or overuse) all the time, and are seemingly unable to get rid of? If not, what’s the one that drives you crazy when others use it?


Were “very” banished from the language as well as “that” and “which,” my writing would be more elegant. Much of my editorial efforts are spent removing the aforementioned words after inserting them in nearly every sentence.

THE WACKOS ARE COMING, THE WACKOS ARE COMING

I’ve been exploring the Internet longer than most people … basically since it became accessible to “regular” folks. Those were the days when you had to buy special software — Netscape — to get on the net. Protocols were more rigid and frankly, once you got on, there wasn’t all that much to do.

The most useful thing about the Internet was being able to work remotely from home via modem. I had a very fast modem — 2400 BPS! Imagine that. No high speed connections yet, so logging on was a project and not always successful. While your modem and computer square-danced in another room, you could prepare dinner, eat it and wash the dishes … by which time maybe you’d be connected. Maybe not.

Now, of course, connecting is fast, generally easy and everyone does it all the time on every kind of device from computers, tablets, and telephones to DVD players, and cameras. WiFi rules.

Technology has come a very long way in a remarkably short time … but people have not. The same crazy people who were out there 25 or 30 years ago are still out there. Now though, they’ve brought their wacko friends to the party. All the original nutters are with us still – along with their buddies. Men and women of all ages from nations around the globe, all out there promoting a lot of weird shit. I’d call it something else, but frankly, I don’t have a better name for it.

unabomber-sketchCyberspace is home to a rich cross-section of whack jobs. Most are probably harmless cranks. But. There are some scary people out there too. Conspiracy theorists who believe Aliens, the CIA, FBI, NSA, President Obama, the Democratic Party or Fox News are controlling our government and it is our duty to overthrow them. Kill them. Nuke them. Get a big gun, find a nice high building, and start shooting. Or build bombs and blow them up. We have more than enough wannabe unabombers looking for their 15 minutes.

For reasons I cannot fathom, a percentage of these people are my followers. WordPress lets you spam commenters, but we have no choice about who follows us. The sneakiest of the crazies become followers so they can access your site. They scare the crap out of me.

Just because they are “out in cyberspace” doesn’t mean they can’t find me and drop by for an up-close and personal visit. It is why I am so determined to control who has access to my site and why I am ultra careful about strangers “advertising” on Serendipity. I had one yesterday. I gave him the benefit of a doubt, though I had that itchy feeling I was making a mistake.

unabomberHe came back to lecture me on how I was a fraud. Not a true believer in the media-CIA conspiracy to control us and strip us of our freedom. Especially the right to be armed to the teeth and kill bad guys (bad guy = anyone with whom he doesn’t agree).

He explained I was obviously determined to remain ignorant of The Truth — of which he was In Possession — and which he would very much like to share with the world. Truth like “What Really Happened on 9/11,” and how ALL THE MEDIA IN THE WORLD is controlled by the CIA.

Alrighty. I should have trusted my gut the first time I encountered this loony. He’s been trying to get on Serendipity for a while and each time, I’ve deleted his comments. Until yesterday when I gave him a brief pass.

It’s a cautionary tale. We want to be fair, kind, give the other guys’ opinions airtime. We are open-minded, reasonable people. Problem is, they are not. They are dangerous and often psychotic. You don’t want them on your site or anywhere in your world.

Watch out. Err on the side of caution. They can find you if they try and some of them will.

I have this on good authority. That voice in my head … you know, my secret contact in the CIA  … he told me.

Status

ETIQUETTE ACCORDING TO SERENDIPITY

Time, once again, to review Serendipity’s version of etiquette:

  1. I have extremely limited tolerance for bullshit. When you make a statement of fact, you’d better have something more than your opinion with which to back it up.
  2. Trolls are out of here and I mean instantly, without reprieve. If you want to start trouble, you’re on the wrong blog.
  3. No personal attacks. On anyone. Period. None. Not the President, not me, not anyone who writes or comments here. If that’s your “thing,” find another place.
  4. Publicize your blog elsewhere. This space belongs to Serendipity. Anyone interested in visiting your site can do so by clicking your blog address next to your comment. If you don’t include an address because you prefer to remain anonymous, that’s your problem. Stand up and be counted or shut up about it.
  5. If you aggravate me, you’ll be gone. It IS personal. This is my happy place. If it stops being fun and you are responsible for making the fun go away, I will make you go away.

Age has privileges. We oldies have passed the point of tolerating fools. What’s more, I have earned the right to run Serendipity according to my rules.

There are folks who comment regularly, who read this blog and whose stuff I, in turn, read. They can get away with a lot because they are friends and I trust them. Cutting slack for friends is my choice. But don’t pop in here out of nowhere and act like I owe you a hearing. I don’t.

HOW’S MY AUNT LOTTERY THESE DAYS?

Gone with the Windfall

You just inherited $1,000,000 from an aunt you didn’t even know existed. What’s the first thing you buy (or otherwise use the money for)?


The last and by last, I mean final, time I inherited a little bit of money was when my father died. How long ago was that? Three years? Something like that.

It was definitely the best timing of our unfortunate father-daughter relationship. We were sinking like a stone (financially) . The septic system had packed up, one of the cars had died and life had gotten a bit grim here on the Kachingerosa.

After the executors finally came forth with money (almost two years), we had the septic system fixed so we wouldn’t have to abandon the house — no septic, no living quarters. It turns out in this neck of the woods, indoor plumbing isn’t a choice.

lotto

And we’ve been paying off things ever since. It wasn’t a million dollars, though. Not even in the same neighborhood but enough to save us from living in the car — which wasn’t paid off either.

These days, what with all the senior members of my family having passed on, it’s hard to imagine a remaining aunt, much less one with enough money to leave me a million. I think it would have to be Aunt Lottery.

I don’t care where it comes from, but I sure could use a nice little influx of cash. Fix up the house. Install a chair lift. Modernize the kitchen. Get the dogs their annual hair “dos” and take them to the doggie dentist. Acquire a car that will make it out of the driveway in the winter … and fix the driveway so it can be cleared come snow.

Upgrade the heating system. Get new air-conditioners. Repair the chimneys.

Never mind. We’ll manage. But hey there, Aunt Lottery! Can you hear me? If I buy a ticket, would you maybe consider choosing me as the winner?

NOT PINK PLEASE

Breathing Room

An extra room has magically been added to your home overnight. The catch: if you add more than three items to it, it disappears. How do you use it?


Three things isn’t enough unless you don’t count lighting. If you don’t counting lighting and other accessories, well … now I can start building a usable room.

A huge desk (the one I already own will do nicely, thanks). A big bookcase with drawers at the bottom. A couple of comfortable chairs. Then bring on the computers, monitors, gadgets, widgets, lights, printers, scanners. Oh, wait. That’s my office. Never mind.

My office by window light

Can someone just repaint it? It’s Peptol Bismol pink — I have NO idea what I was thinking at the time — but I’d appreciate a new rug and anything other than pink on the walls.

Thanks.

TAR PITS OF THE PAST

The endless recitation of woes on some blogs I used to enjoy are giving me a headache. It’s not lack of sympathy. More like emotional exhaustion. So many people seem to be stuck in the tar pit of youthful misery — bad childhoods, miserable ex-marriages or other horrible relationships.

Don’t they want to move on? Apparently not. The quagmire of despair has become a comfortable place, so they set up a desk, computer and a light — and there they stay. Some of these bloggers continue exploring the depths of their suffering for hundreds — thousands? — of posts. Many are closing in on Social Security yet are still suffering from childhood trauma. So much for time casting a rosy haze over the past.

There ought to be a legal cutoff date at which point you are required to close the book on whatever hideous experiences life dealt you, to come to grips with your rotten childhood and awful former relationships. Or at least be required to find another subject about which to write.

we are not our mistakes

Maybe it’s because they’ve found an audience for posts about suffering and it’s an effective blogging formula? Can they actually still be trapped in the quagmire of painful memory — 20, 30 or 40 years later?

I know lots of people who were abused as children. Even more who had abusive relationships as adults. So many people, it seems more folks than not grew up in dysfunctional families.

And who hasn’t had a terrible relationship or three?

I plead guilty on all charges, your honor.

It was my first husband (before you ask, he died) who gave me a Gibbs slap and got me moving in another direction. Of course, this was before my second marriage, the one in which I managed to step in front of the same bullet I’d previously dodged. NOTE TO SELF: No one is ever too old to act like a moron.

Jeffrey didn’t have a storybook childhood either (who did?), so he had his own issues to resolve. One day, when I was going on about my father (aka, the evil bastard) he said: “You know, you’ve told me these stories before. Several times. Maybe it’s time to move on.”

You have to want to move on. It took time and work, but I’m glad I did it. There have been plenty of new traumas and I doubt I’d have survived if I hadn’t cleared the decks. Nowadays, I’m overloaded. I cannot bear to read another angst-laden tale of abuse, and emotional trauma. I’m aware how awful it can be (is, was).

Been there. Survived that. I support all efforts to free oneself from the lingering effects of the past – but I’ve got a few problems and plenty of personal angst. I’d rather make you laugh than cry.

There’s enough misery to go around without me adding more. For all of us, maybe it’s time to stop defining ourselves as the worst things we experienced. We are not what others did to us. We aren’t our mistakes. As much as we have suffered, we’ve also found fun, joy, friends, love.

We’ve got good memories and positive experiences, though it can seem as if painful memories hold the balance of power. That’s because we empower misery and dismiss happier times.

Misery is like a piano falling on your head; happiness just creeps up on you. The result? Long after the people who hurt us have disappeared from our lives, they are still beating us up. Why? Is there anything to be gained?

Let’s celebrate the good times. Who couldn’t use a few good laughs?

NOT QUITE A SAINT

A True Saint

In 300 years, if you were to be named the patron saint of X, what would you like X to be? Places, activities, objects — all are fair game.


 

indian corn kitchen windowPatroness of survival maybe? Nah. There are a lot of survivors. I’m not so special.

No sainthood here. Nope, not me.

I might make a good cautionary tale. Not very sexy, but that’s as good as it’ll get if you choose to include me in the mix.

Everything else I do or care about? It seems to me there are far more — and better — candidates for patrons and patronesses.

Even amongst the shining lights of art, sports and technology, I cannot think of anyone who strikes me as a suitable candidate for sainthood, canonization, or deification. Not in the Christian or any other pantheon.

We are merely folks.

There’s no doubt in my mind — and I’ve rarely been so completely sure of anything – I’m no saint. No candidate for anything except being me. I am however, exceptionally good at being Marilyn. Nor have I aspired to anything higher.

Challenge of Smiles

Marilyn Armstrong:

Spreading some cheer seems like a good idea.

Originally posted on From One Crazy Life To Another:

Oh.my.goodness. I have a crazy idea! I want to hold a challenge, and I’ll reblog all the posts who respond. I want you guys to re blog this and get the word around. Why not right?

My challenge: I want to hear positive things! I want you to write about the negative things in life that you have overcome, and what they have made you into today! Re blog this, and comment underneath this post with the link to your entry post. I will start re blogging in a few days, or whenever I have a few of them piled up.

With all of this tragedy, pain and sadness in the world lately, why not fill up some of the dark void with positivity. I’m starting a new movement of my own! #freefrompain

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MY BRILLIANT CAREER

Futures Past

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

How close or far are you from that vision?


I wanted to be a writer … although I wanted to be a cowboy first. By the time I was old enough to sort out fantasy from plans, cowboy had morphed into “I think I’ll take riding lessons.” Writer was a goal.

My first professional job was writing copy for a local radio station. In short order, I started writing print advertisements for an ad agency on Long Island. Then, the big break — a job at Doubleday where I wrote promotions for the books sold through their 13 clubs.

I was the editor for two of them — Romance Library and Garden Guild. All we writers were called editors. Real editors were also called editors. Fortunately, we knew what we were supposed to be doing. I had pseudonyms for each of my clubs plus pictures of some model who was supposed to be me.

Then, I was off to Israel . At first, I free-lanced for the Tourism Ministry. Fun times! I drove all over the country and wrote about beaches, interviewed people and took pictures. Have camera, will travel. Shortly, I realized I was losing money. The gasoline cost more than I was paid per job. I had to find something more lucrative.

I became Senior English-Language Editor for the Environmental Health Laboratory of the University of Jerusalem (a mouthful, more so in Hebrew). I took scientific studies written by Ph.D.’s whose native language was not English and prepped (rewrote) them for publication in the U.S. and England. It was a government job, so I could have stayed there forever and they would have been glad to have me. It was as secure a job as anyone could hope for, but paid poorly. That’s the trade-off. Job security won’t earn the big bucks. It’s pretty hard in Israel to get big bucks for anything, but the private sector pays close to a living wage. Sort of.

12-foot+teepee

Briefly I was Managing Editor of a weekly English-language features newspaper. I started writing an astrology column. When the paper ran out of money, I got “promoted.” I never had more fun at a job than when I ran the paper. I interviewed cabinet ministers and victims of crime. I wrote using a bunch of nom des plumes. We didn’t want it to look as if I was the only writer on staff, though I was. A cooking column, astrology column, the front page feature plus sidebars and a second feature. I even created the crossword.

Lack of money caught up with us and we closed. Without advertising revenue, the publisher couldn’t keep us going.

That’s when I became a technical writer. As I browsed through want ads, I noticed there were listings for tech writers. I didn’t know what tech writers did but I said: “If tech writers are what they want, I are one!” Via judicious resume editing, I nailed a pretty good job.

Back to tech writing. I tech wrote myself through 9 years in Israel, then back to the States doing the same for another 20 until some blockhead decided manuals for software and hardware were unnecessary since “no one reads them anyhow.”

The economy fell apart. By the mid 2000s, dot coms had gone bust. Venture capitol dried up. And I was ill. Eventually work was out of the question. Today I’m retired. Just as well because the whole health thing hasn’t gone well. But old writers never stop writing. They just change venues.

First, I wrote a book, The 12-Foot Teepee, after which I discovered blogging. Today, with co-authors Garry Armstrong (aka The Husband) and Rich Paschall, I write for me — and you. Blogging is fun. Connecting with people all over the world makes me feel I’m part of the world, not gathering dust in storage.

I never got a statuette or a major award. In my business, the award was called “a paycheck.” That’s the only part of working I still miss.

BRING IT ON …

Trick Questions

A Pulitzer-winning reporter is writing an in-depth piece – about you. What are the three questions you really hope she doesn’t ask you?


This must be the interview which celebrates my having won the Blogging Pulitzer, right? No? Has there been a mass shooting in town — and I’m the shooter? The Blackstone has angrily overflowed and washed my house away?

Garry Clean Harbors-SMALL

The aliens have landed and are shacking up in the guest room? The aliens tried to land, but couldn’t find a suitable spot to set down, the driveway being full of cars?

The President is visiting us because he’s run out of foreign countries with which the U.S. is, was or will be at war?

Really — I’m past the age where I have anything left to hide. What could anyone ask about which I haven’t already written and published in a post?

So bring it on. We are media savvy in this household. Ain’t nothin’ you can ask that we can’t answer!