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.



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?


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: 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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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.


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.


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!


A Name for Yourself

Some writers’ names have becomes adjectives: Kafkaesque, marxist, Orwellian, sadistic. If your name (or nickname, or blog name) were to become an adjective, what would it mean?

Lucky me. Smart me. Far-seeing me. Pat, pat on my back, back!

When I picked my blog name, it already meant something, which is “to find something for which one is not looking.” A serendipitous discovery is pretty much a happy accident.

ser·en·dip·i·tyˌ noun
The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. “A fortunate stroke of serendipity”. Synonyms: (happy) chance, (happy) accident, fluke.

I suppose you could talk about my pithy, ironic commentary as Marilyn-isms, but there are more than enough existing words to describe pithiness, irony and wit without making up a new one.

Let’s just stick with serendipity. It’s a good word, a happy word. When chance takes you someplace pleasant and surprising, if you unexpectedly happen upon something that tickles your fancy, think of me.

Serendipity strikes again!


Share Your World – 2014 Week 20

Thank you Cee for letting me participate and coming up with cool questions :-)

If you could go back and visit any time period, what time would you travel to and why?

Probably the Victorian period, late 1800s through early 1900s. As long as I get to be one of the rich people because the poor during that period were probably worse off than they were at any other time in history.


I’m tempted to say the Middle Ages (14th century), but the disease and lack of sanitation is off-putting, though the era is fascinating.

If you could have three wishes granted for you alone, what would they be? This is a time for you to dream and have fun.

1. Be healthy and pain-free, able to move freely and walk more than a few yards. I miss having a body that works like it should. I would wish this for everyone, if I could.

2. Winning the big lottery so I could pay all of our debts, be able to help my friends and live without worrying about how we’ll get through the next month (or week or day).

The Blacklist3. Finding a place to live with good weather. Without a brutal winter or a stifling hot summer. Maybe the Caribbean? If I’ve already won the lottery, we could visit and have visitors all the time, even though we are further away.

Wanting something to quench your thirst, what would you drink?

Coke, fruit juice, whatever. This is not so important to me as it was once upon a time.

If you watch TV what are your favorite three television shows?

NCIS, Blue Bloods and The Black List.



A Form of Flattery - Write a post about any topic you want, but in the style of an author or a blogger you admire.

It’s hard to get up a real head of enthusiasm on a day when you doubt the post will ever actually show up on The Master Post. WordPress, please bring back regular vanilla ping-backs. The technology is tried and true. It’s been working for more than 20 years and clearly, whatever you are doing has, as my granddaughter says, “issues.”


Mr. CoffeeWrite in someone else’s style? To be honest, most of us don’t have styles all that distinctive. I certainly don’t or if I do, I’d appreciate someone explaining to me exactly what that might be. I write the way I talk, but with a lot more typos. I hope my speech typos are undetectable. I’d hate to think everyone actually sees my words flying through the air, misspelled and mispronounced. Egads.

So … just in case the WordPress people get the Daily Prompt back on line and connect us all up to form the much-touted “family” — I think I speak for many of us — and if I don’t, I definitely speak for myself — when I say “Which ‘other bloggers’ style? Who has such a distinctive presentation that I could flatteringly imitate it? Maybe I am suffering a caffeine deficiency that I need to quickly remedy?

I suppose I could get ambitious and pretend I’m William Faulkner or maybe Edgar Allen Poe … but it’s Sunday. Sleepy peaceful quiet Sunday. I will get myself another cup of coffee. Yes, I think so. Uh huh.

And, for my finale, I’ll stick with my style (whatever it may be). May your day be peaceful and include sunshine and lots of coffee.



THEY FIXED THE LINKS TO THE DAILY PROMPT. Apparently complaining works a lot better than assuming they will take care of business without prodding. Lesson learned. Make noise. Complain. Be the squeaky wheel!



Note: I break my own rules all the time. So the most important rule — the ring to rule them all, so to speak — is do your “thing” whatever it may be. Have fun. The rest will follow.

Or not, but regardless, at least you’ll have a good time.

As far as I can tell, there are a few things I’ve found that work well. They aren’t really rules, just tips. You are more than welcome to ignore me.

  • Keep posts short (500 words or less)
  • Make it funny if you can
  • Pretty pictures get lots of hits
  • Post often.


It’s often said that “Less is more.” In a post, fewer words is good.

Fewer posts is not so good. If you give people more to look at and read, they’ll look and read more. On the other hand, beware of posting so much you become a spammer minus the agenda.

So. Take good photographs. Write stuff to which people can relate. If people identify with you, they become friends and supporters. Be entertaining, even when your material is serious. You might make a real difference. It happens and it is deeply satisfying when it does.

And it helps to have a bit of luck!

Note 2: The picture of the swan has nothing to do with the post. I just wanted to use the photograph.



Just Another Day

Our days are organized around numerous small actions we repeat over and over. What’s your favorite daily ritual?

After yesterday’s debacle with the Daily Prompt, I’m unenthusiastic about today’s. It is just another day … and one of my little rituals is checking the Daily Prompt to see if it sparks a thought upon which to write a little something. And this is very much a part of my daily ritual.

Now, because WordPress has not seen fit to so much as explain or apologize for yesterday’s disaster, I’m wondering if it’s worth the time and effort to participate? If we can’t even count on a ping-back link to the original post, the entire point of such “community” challenges is gone. There is no more community.

I think when WordPress addresses what happened and explains that they fixed it and it won’t happen again, I’ll feel better. Maybe. Until such time, participation will not be a given and I’ll be a bit scarce around here.

When I screw up, I take responsibility. Perhaps this is a lesson WordPress needs to learn.


It’s going to be “one of those days” for little old Serendipity. Today I pass the 150,000 hit mark and I’m not at all sure what that proves, if anything. I missed the day when my blog followers (not counting followers through other channels) topped 3000 … I think I was busy being sliced and diced. Something like that.


It’s also my son’s 45th birthday. Aside from any other sentiment … how did I get old enough to have a middle-aged son? I remember one day I was sitting with my mom and she looked at me … got this weird look on her face … and said: “You’re going grey!”

“Yes,” I admitted. “I’ve been going grey for quite a while.”

“But,” she said, “You’re my daughter.” She looked sort of stunned and I didn’t understand, but I do now. I have a giant son. Tall and big, going grey and bald and looking so much like his father sometimes it catches me unawares and spins my brain around like clothing in a dry cycle.

It’s also the day the leaves are finally going to pop. I can see it from my window. Green fuzziness atop the maples. Spring is finally — about a month and a half late — springing forth. I think it may be too late for a lot of the flowers, but maybe not. I hope not. We don’t get a big spring around here, but however brief, it is the showiest time for flowering trees and spring blooms.

Apple Blossoms

I’m in favor of all seasons. When I was living in Israel, more than anything else, I missed seasons. Autumn especially, but also the rhythm the seasons make. When you grow up in a 4-season world, you body synchronizes itself to the seasons and it make the passage of time orderly. It feels right.

So, here we are, still on Serendipity. Garry and I need to get out today with a couple of cameras. I’m not up to anything strenuous, but we both need an airing, me especially. We are in the grip of cabin fever and only a trip into the world will help.

Thanks to everyone who has passed this way for making this such a fun place to hang out … and to everyone who has become a friend and supporter through some very rough times. I couldn’t have made it through without your help!

And happy birthday, son! The torch is definite in the hands of your generation now.


Time for me to confess a few things.

I’m having a hard time. My body and I are at war … and the body is winning. All my systems are out of whack. My gut is in full rebellion. I can’t sleep more than a few hours a night no matter what meds I take.

I can listen to audiobooks but I can’t seem to focus  on text. I’m having a lot of trouble reading your posts because I can’t stay focused on anything longer than a couple of hundred words. I’m best  in the morning. As the day goes on and my various body parts begin to crash, my attention span diminishes with each passing hour.

I look okay, but I’m not. Not yet. I’ll get there, but it’ll take time.

So I apologize to all of you. I can’t keep up. I can’t read all your beautiful posts though I want to. I’ll do more as soon as I can. Right now, just keeping up with comments is a stretch. More will come. Later.


Why do you blog?

A friend asked me why I blog. Which is the same as asking me why I write and take pictures. I felt like asking her why she breathes because writing and shooting is like breathing to me, but instead, I asked her why she plays golf.

self 4-27-2914 marilyn

She is a fine sportswoman and can’t imagine living a life in which she can’t play or compete. That’s as much who she is as her face.

I write because I have a head full of words. I take pictures because I see them wherever I go. These things are as much part of me as my face or my feet. I can no sooner not write as not breathe.

Go figure.


I’ve gained a slew of new followers recently. If I can, I check out all the my followers. I go look at their websites, if there is one … or even a profile. It’s because I’m trying to get a handle on who’s who, figure out what made them click the “Follow” button.

Sometimes it’s easy. It’s a fellow photographer or writer. Maybe we’ve had a passing encounter via his or her website. Or they have an interest in what I write about, are my generation, love the same movies or share a passion for history. Or the same taste in books.

Quite a few are probably spammers hoping to gain entry to my site. I can block them from commenting, but I can’t block them from following. Anyone can follow whoever they want. I wish it were otherwise.


A bunch of them are from countries whose language I don’t speak, often whose alphabet I can’t read. I think some of them are photographers and come for the pictures, but I can’t always tell for sure.

And then there are the baby bloggers. Not merely new to blogging, but … well … children. Teenagers as young as 12 or 13 years old. Girls who aspire to a career in fashion (why in the world do they follow me? I’m the most unfashionable person I know!) and some who want to be writers or photographers. Many who aren’t sure what they want, but have discovered blogging. They follow me, hoping I’ll follow in return and help them build a following of their own. I get that.

If blogging had been an option when I was that age, I’d have been doing it. For a creative kid, blogging is a godsend. So much better than a diary, which was my best option.

It’s hard to get a blog off the ground. There are weeks, months — even years — before it begins to come together. So when these kids ask me if I’ll follow them or imply as much, I’ll at least give their site a read, a “like,” a comment and maybe some encouragement. I’m already following more blogs than I have time to read. I’m loathe to add more, though now and then I do add one anyway.

Some of these baby bloggers are surprisingly good. Their observations are astute and sensitive, their photographs show a fine eye for composition. Others — not so much. Some need to learn the rudiments of composition and basics like focusing, cropping. Many more need to learn the difference between writing and texting.

young shooter

For all you youngsters who want to be writers, I would like to offer you some unsolicited advice:

  • Use real words, not internet abbreviations or hacker slang
  • Check your spelling
  • Write sentences and paragraphs
  • Leave some white space on the page. All text and graphics makes me claustrophobic
  • Punctuation is not optional. Discover how exciting commas and periods can be
  • Do not end every sentence with one or more exclamation points!!! Really, just don’t!!! If you do that all the time, it makes you sound hysterical!!!
  • Use emoticons sparingly :-)
  • Contractions require apostrophes. It’s don’t, not dont, can’t, not cant.

If you want adults to read your posts — anyone older than your texting pals — you will have to write in a way older folks can understand. It’s not just the words you use.

It’s also subject matter. I’m mildly interested in what’s going on with your generation,  but makeup and gossip don’t hold much appeal for me. If you are going to write about things that only interest your high school friends, your only followers will be the kids who attend your school. Maybe that’s enough for you. But if you want a wider audience, find topics that interest a broader audience.

Most importantly, make sure that you write in a real language, not text-speak. Please.