DON’T LET THEM NEAR A COMPUTER

Today, ignoring everything going on in the world, the Daily Prompt is “Five a Day -You’ve being exiled to a private island, and your captors will only supply you with five foods. What do you pick?

It’s a pretty dull prompt. Unlikely to inspire anyone. Trivial. Not funny. Dull, flat, and forlorn. So, instead, I’m going to tell you a true story. The names have been not been changed to protect the guilty.

Just before Christmas this past year, I treated myself to a long-deferred gift: a premium theme. It is/was not WordPress’s most expensive theme. At $49, it was on the low-end, but it was the first one I liked enough to consider buying.

It wasn’t cutesy. Blogly is tidy, squared off. Black on white text, with a choice of background colors. Flexible layout. Many post styles (which, it turned out, never worked).

A left-hand sidebar for widgets. Pictures feel cramped when hedged in by a right-hand sidebar.

Looks good, doesn't it? Caveat emptor!!

Looks good, doesn’t it? Caveat emptor!!

The more I looked at it, the better I liked it. I gave it several test runs. Finally, I bought it. I figured, hey, I’m a blogger. I can have a nice theme. It’s a one-time purchase I can use forever.

It turned out that forever was not long. In January, WordPress decided including an “Edit” link in the “My Sites” drop-down menu would ruin their design. This made no sense. Regardless of any other consideration, the ability to conveniently edit your blog is critical for all of us.

It was particularly important to me, because Blogly, unlike most themes, had no built-in “edit” link. Without its own link — and after removing the Edit function of the drop-down menu — making even a simple correction became nearly impossible. I was not the only one who got upset. A lot of furious bloggers later, WordPress restored the edit function to the “My Sites” menu.

But — they weren’t through messing with me. They decided to “fix” Blogly because, they explained, it should have its own internal edit link. All themes should have an edit link. So the talented development team (they keep telling me how great they are) put an edit link in Blogly. Not where it belongs, in individual posts, but only when you are looking at posts in “home” and scrolling. So if you had an individual post open to read it, there was still no edit link. I consoled myself that at least they’d restored the link on the drop-down.

Thing is, half the things it says it does don't work. But you won't know that until you already own it. There's only so much you can test in their trial mode.

Thing is, half the things it says it does don’t work. But you won’t know that until you already own it. There’s only so much you can test in their trial mode.

Then they did something else to Blogly. I don’t know what they did, or any idea why , but suddenly, when you clicked a comment, you went to the comment. The rest of the post — the rest of the site — became inaccessible.

You could not scroll up past the start of comments. Getting home was daunting. Complaints from readers poured in. I checked the function in Safari. IE. Chrome. I checked on my laptop, desktop, Kindle and iPad. I had the same problems across all platforms and browsers.

Blogly was dead. I could not re-size graphics. Text got weird. I was never sure what margins I would get — or what size titles would be. So many issues. A couple of nights ago, when all my text got pushed to the far right into an ugly narrow column with pictures glued together in a solid lump, I gave up.

I was pissed. The next time the annoying “How can we help you” box popped up, I asked for my money back. Barring that, I suggested they let me select a different theme that actually worked.

They said it was too late to get my money back -- you only have 30 
days to change your mind.

I pointed out that I hadn’t changed my mind. They had trashed my theme. They broke it and they owed me. They called in the infamous “Happiness engineering” development team. They were sure it would be a simple fix. Not.

Today I got my money back. Apparently it was not simple.

The good news? They did the right thing. Somewhere, somehow, someone in WordPress stopped spouting the party line and acted like a professional.

The bad news? How could this mess happen? And why are they still offering the theme for sale?

It was not always like this. Those of us who have been blogging on WordPress for more than a few months remember when it was a happy place with support, encouragement, and sometimes, inspiration.

They’ve taken all the good stuff away and left us with warmed over prompts and what has got to be the most incompetent crew of developers and customer disservice people anywhere. They are worse than my cable company and I don’t say that lightly.

It doesn’t have to be this way. They have taken a good thing and are destroying it, piece by piece. Bad choices, a determination to create a platform for a market that doesn’t exist. Despite their firm belief that the future of blogging is on small devices, it’s not true. People may view blogs on small devices, but no one writes or creates them that way. All of us use a computer. With a keyboard, mouse, or other pointing device.

The success of WordPress depends on having bloggers who attract readers. That means content creators. Writers, photographers, artists. Chefs, craftspeople. All if whom need professional tools to do their thing — and that thing is never going to be done on a phone or tablet.

We are their customers. We generate revenue for WordPress in exchange for a platform. At which WordPress keeps chipping, making it harder and harder to do what we do. Making it easier to view blogs on cell phones while taking away critical tools bloggers need to produce content is stupid. Short-sighted. It will eventually bring down the house.

So I say, send them all to their favorite desert island. Give them just five foods to eat forever. Most important, don’t let them near a computer.

PRIDE GOETH BEFORE THE FALL

me with debbie's camera

People give me more credit than I deserve. It’s the blogging. They see me as the person I portray. They don’t see me in a bad mood. They don’t have to deal with me when I’m not much fun to be around. All of us put our best foot forward, even if we don’t mean to do it. It’s normal and that’s part of the fun of blogging.

We get to put on our virtual party clothes and present ourselves the way we want to be. Which is fine. As long as you don’t believe your own publicity.

So last night, I was thinking (always a bad sign). I was thinking about yesterday’s prompt … about talking about what you know best that other people don’t know (or don’t know as well as you do). And I thought this terribly quotable thought:

I KNOW A LOT ABOUT A LITTLE. A LITTLE ABOUT A LOT.

AND SOMETHING ABOUT ALMOST EVERYTHING.

You know what that means? Really? It means … (wait for it) … I’m a terrific “Trivial Pursuits” competitor.

Pride is one of the seven deadliest sins for good reason. It can get you into serious trouble. It’s not (pardon the pun) something to be proud of.


THE DAILY POST: PROUD

RETIREMENT IS SERIOUS BUSINESS

I stopped working more than five years ago. I was too sick to keep going and I was old enough so the market for my services was drying up.

I started getting disability almost 2 years after I was physically unable to work. It turned out my monthly disability check was less than a week’s pay as a working person. I tried intermittently for several years to find part-time work that might bring in a bit of money. So life wouldn’t be so difficult.

Nothing lasted long. More to the point, I didn’t last long. I hurt. I was exhausted. I worked more slowly than I did in the past. Finally, I gave up. I was 61.

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Garry had stopped working too. There were a lots of adjustments to make. On the psychological side, we had to learn to be retired. The world is different when you don’t have a job to define your weeks and days. I had worked at home a lot over the years, so it was not as abrupt a shift for me as it was for Garry. Eventually we slipped comfortably into not-working.

The financial part was — continues to be — challenging. The mortgage had to be lowered or we’d lose the house. Somehow, we got it done. Both of us had no health insurance for more than a year. Me for more than two, during which interval, I nearly died. Because no one would repair me without insurance. Eventually, I lucked into a doctor and a hospital who cared more for my life than my lack of insurance. I’m alive to write this only because of them.

We kept cutting back and cutting back. Last spring, our outgo and income became equal. Exactly. Assuming nothing outside programmed expenses ever occurs, we have the same amount of money as month. Which is absurd. Life is full of expensive surprises. Cars break. Pipes leak. Wells go dry. Appliances wear out. Dogs get sick. Meanwhile, fixed incomes have less and less buying power as inflation eats away at them.

I got sick. A lot. Big time. One nearly dying event was apparently not enough for me. I had to repeat it a couple more times, to make sure I got it right. Then there was breast cancer. Two cancers, one for each breast. I thought, having got through that, I’d earned a reprieve. Sadly, life doesn’t work that way. Life doesn’t let you “pay it forward.”

This year, it was my heart. Five surgeries later, I’m back. Blogging my remodeled, rebuilt heart out.

The other day, I received an invitation from a well-known, quite prestigious website to become a contributing editor. This would require I write two posts a month, minimum. Really, they’d like at least one a week or more.

Serendipity is a personal blog. I write about my life, memories, experiences, thoughts. Occasionally, I put up an issue-oriented piece. The other site is more about issues and news. More impersonal, less anecdotal. A lot of politics. Government. Current events.

The point — for me — of taking on this other writing role would be to have a forum where I could post about different stuff, the stuff I avoid on Serendipity. The thing is, I’m not sure I want another forum. Or need one. Even though I’m flattered. It’s so hard to say “no” when the compliments are flying thick and fast.

Nonetheless, I take retirement seriously. I don’t work, don’t search for work. If I get a nibble (because my résumé is out there and headhunters find it), I have (finally) learned to say “no thank you.” My survival is predicated on not working. Not having deadlines. Keeping my anxiety level low. If I take it easy — low-key, low stress — I can have a pretty pleasant life. No money to spend, but otherwise nice enough. Do I want more responsibility? Can I handle it? I thought I had decided “yes,” but I find myself wavering.

These days, I take retirement seriously. As seriously as I ever took any job at which I worked for pay. It takes dedication to do retirement properly.

DEAR READER

Audience of One – Picture the one person in the world you really wish were reading your blog. Write her or him a letter.

selfie me with camera

Dear Reader,

I should have written sooner. You have been following me since I started this whole blogging thing, when Serendipity was new and I wasn’t sure it would fly. Didn’t know what I was doing. You helped me define myself as a writer. Nearly three years now and more than 3,000 posts later, all those old posts are floating around cyberspace. It must be getting crowded!

I’m really talking to you. That’s right. You, in the Lazy Boy, with the cup of coffee. You should drink it before it gets cold. (I should take my own advice.)

Take a sip. I’ll wait. No hurry. I cancelled my doctor’s appointment today. I can’t really afford the copay right now. With the “good” car in the shop and the repairs not yet paid for, money is painfully tight. A bit frightening if I think about it. The best I can do is postpone anything that costs money until (hopefully) the coffers refill, at least a bit.

It’s good my husband likes pizza so much. It’s amazing how happy the man is eating a cheap frozen pizza. I try to fancy it up, adding mushrooms, sometimes some bacon or whatever other bits of stuff we happen to have in the house. But it’s still pizza. The king of junk food. It goes very well with football.

You are the one I write for. A lot of old friends are gone, either to that great beyond or moved too far away to ever see them. It’s sad, but you help fill that empty place.

72-At-Home_020

I’m glad you exist. I’m grateful you like me well enough to spend some of your day with me. Maybe I follow you. I can’t follow everyone because there aren’t enough hours in my life to read that much and also write, but I try.

I don’t always comment. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy your post, just that I’m not feeling witty … or everyone else in the world has already said whatever anyone could possibly say. If I can, I will always send a like. So you know I’ve dropped by.

I hope I can be as much a part of your world as you are of mine. You are terribly important to me. I don’t say how much I appreciate you nearly often enough. You brighten my day when I’m feeling poorly. You make me feel appreciated when I think I’ve been forgotten.

I wish we could meet. Get together to laugh and drink coffee or tea. Eat a few crumpets or donuts. Maybe someday we’ll have a giant convention. I’ll be there, with all my bells on.

Meanwhile, thanks for everything. For caring, sharing, being there. For liking me. For being part of my world and letting me into yours.

Lots of love and a great big fuzzy hug,

Marilyn at Serendipity.

A BIT OF INSPIRATION

Marilyn Armstrong:

This has been a big week for awards. Maybe it’s something in the air, or maybe it’s just the flipping of the calendar. This one, from Sue Vincent — who, like me, doesn’t accept awards. So from one award non-accepter to another, thanks Sue. I’m honored and I’m touched.

Originally posted on Daily Echo:

 Benjamin Prewitt Art by Benjamin Prewitt

No, I know I don’t usually accept blogging awards these days. But it is a holiday… which means it is a time for not doing usual things. It is also the start of a new year, which makes it a perfect time to look at some of the things that have inspired me over the last one… and share the work of just a few of the people who write on WordPress.

And anyway… I couldn’t refuse Seumas and his cheeky Glaswegian twinkle….

If your blog is on the list and you accept awards, the guidelines are below. If you don’t accept awards… and you don’t have to… then take the nomination simply as a token of my appreciation.

Picking just a few is a near impossible task given the sheer scope of those to choose from! Especially as Seumas has already nabbed one or two…

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THE MORE THE MERRIER ……GOT A NEW AWARD!

Marilyn Armstrong:

Although I no longer accept awards, I felt I needed to say thank you in some way for this lovely honor. I really do appreciate the gesture and I am sincerely grateful that you chose me :-)

Originally posted on soul n spirit:

index1Better late than never……Before its too late let me take this opportunity to thank my friend and fellow blogger Saya…D..Poet fornominating me forSisterhood of the world Award.  Since I was off blogging for a week and couldn’t get time to do the needful therefore today I am here to show my gratitude to her. It is always good to get acknowledged for your work and when it comes from your friends it is worth all the more.

Here are the questions she asked:-

Name a moment till now which has brought on tears of sadness or gratitude or happiness etc.

ME: When my elder son was born….I was the happiest soul having tears of joy in my eyes. 

Have you felt an incomplete feeling as to what you are doing is not enough? If yes, what did you do?

ME: I pray whenever feel incomplete. God…

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IF ONLY

For Posterity - My blog just went viral. My assignment? Write the post I’d like new readers to see and by which I’d like them to remember me. Write that post right now.


75-Books and stuffNK-1

Talk about a tall order. Golly gee whiz. You mean … like … right now, here, no prep, no thought. Write the post of posts, the one by which the blogging (and maybe literary) world will remember me. I’m not trying to be argumentative, but that’s like telling me to sit down and produce a best-selling book. Now, this minute.

Writing doesn’t work that way … and even if it did, I don’t work that way. Writing is a process. Idea or concept, followed by roughing out a draft. Wait a while, then come back, have another go at the draft. Maybe get someone else to read it.

Click publish. Will it be a hit? It’s a crap shoot. You may love it and think it’s the best piece I’ve ever written, but maybe no one else will like it. Or maybe I’ll think it’s mediocre, but you think it’s fantastic. Maybe I’ll read it tomorrow and the whole thing will give me a monumental headache. I’ll realize it’s a total piece of shit and delete it, too embarrassed to even keep it on file.

Art to order. Brilliance on demand.

Tombstones

If only.

If only I could decide to write that best-seller, just sit down and do it. After which a publisher would agree, then promote, market, and publicize it. But of course, I’m still stuck on the “writing it” piece of the equation. Like today, now, this minute, I’m supposed to write the one post I’d like new readers to see and by which posterity will remember me. Just like that.

Does anyone know what, if anything, posterity will choose to remember? Because I sure don’t know. I’m not sure anyone will remember me at all, for any reason.

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What I know is each post I write is the best I can write on that day, in that moment. Maybe it will be a great little post. Maybe it will be popular and viewed by many people. Maybe no one will notice it at all and it will disappear. Probably, I won’t remember it either.

I’ll continue to do my best. And that will have to suffice.

2014 IN REVIEW

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. Note that Serendipity has not missed a day of blogging this entire year. WordPress ran the statistics on the 29th of December, so it appears two days short — but it’s not, really.

It’s been an insanely busy year. I want to give a big thank you to Garry and Rich who carried this blog without me for several months when I was too sick to do it myself.

Rich organized months of posts working from my archives. Garry posted daily updates while I was in the hospital and for several weeks after I came home — even though he was worried, exhausted, and driving back and forth to the hospital — 70 miles each way — every day.

The success of this blog is not mine alone.

Rich Paschall’s ANGEL COMES OUT and DON’T DRINK THE KOOL AID – THE JONESTOWN MASSACRE were the two big posts in 2014. Congratulations, Rich!

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 110,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.