The “What Ifs” of Life, by Rich Paschall

Certainly you have seen some of the various questions surrounding you being stranded on a desert island?  If you were stranded, who would you like to be with?  What 5 things would you take along?  What 5 things that you have now could you do without?  What one album would you take?  What electronic device would you need?  This assumes you would not run out of batteries I guess.


These, and questions like them, present interesting challenges to a person that they may not consider otherwise.  Who is the most important person in your life?  Is that the one you want by your side?  Perhaps you would rather have someone with survival skills.  Perhaps you would not want the other to be stranded too.  Perhaps you would rather be alone.

What 5 things would you take along?  This really calls for creative thinking.  You may consider clothes, but do you need more than you are wearing?  You might consider your music, but would that come ahead of other basic needs.  Perhaps you are one that considers music a basic need.  I know some of those types of people.

Birdie Beach

Would you think of camping supplies?  If you are not already a camper or outdoors person, would any of that mean anything to you.  I guess you could be clever and say you need a lifetime supply of canned goods, but then don’t forget the can opener.  Or something to start a fire.  I have heard all my life that you can start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, but I have never seen anyone actually do it.  Can you?  If so, you may be on my stranded island list.


Would you consider tools to build a shelter?  Just exactly how handy are you and what kind of tools would be suited to your skills?  I guess an ax could serve many useful purposes.  Did you have it on your list?  Did you add a hammer?  You may not need it if you have an ax?  A knife? A pick?  A power drill?  Oops, no power.

Let’s say you had an electric device whose battery was solar-powered or recharged.  What then would you take along?  I think you will not get the internet, although some day you may get that from just about anywhere.  What will you do on your island in the meantime?

Sunrise Strider

If you could take just one album, what would it be?  This is a hard one for me.  When I get an album I like, I can play it over and over, but I do get tired of it eventually and put it on a shelf.  I guess I would pick someone’s greatest hits album, but whose?

Let’s forget about the desert island for a moment and bring you back home.  What if you had just one day to live?  What would you do?  Who would you see?  What would you say?

The “one day to live” scenario is thrown out there on social media and elsewhere about as often as the desert island scenarios.  It is even more challenging as people think of all the things they were going to do, but never got around to it.  The long trips are out.  The classes to learn some skill are out.

So we may be left with planning a last meal.  Are we making this feast or heading to a favorite restaurant?  Perhaps it is neither, as we go to someplace we have never tried before.  I hear there is a new French restaurant in town.  Maybe I want to go there.


Are there people to whom you absolutely must say something?  Do you need to say good-bye to someone?  Do you need to tell someone you love him or her?  Do you need to apologize for something that happened in the past?  With a limited amount of time, which people are on the list for final conversations?

The 24 hour time frame automatically eliminates a lot of possibilities.  Would you watch a movie, go to a show, see a play?  Those all seem like such a poor use of precious hours to me.

Would you go to an expensive concert if you had tickets, or would the expense no longer matter?  Perhaps you should give them away and do something else.  Would you watch television, You Tube videos, surf the internet?  I guess those practices would begin seem like quite the waste when “the days (or hours) dwindle down to a precious few.”


What is we lived our lives like only a few things were really important?  What if we lived our lives like there was only a day left, even if there were 25 thousand days left?  Wouldn’t it be richer and more meaningful?

There is nothing wrong with looking down the road, but too many of us are not living for today.  That is why those stranded island and one day to live scenarios are so scary.  They immediately call to mind all the things we missed out on in life and can not go back to fix.


When you are left on an island or reach the final day, make sure you did what you wanted and needed to do.  That you respected everyone.  That you told people you loved them, so you don’t leave with regrets.

Be sure that you mended fences in case there is no time later to do it.  If you do this, the one day to live challenges on social media might not be so scary.  By the way, if you are stranded on a desert island, it helps to have a volleyball named Wilson.


I’m afraid of falling down and breaking a hip. I’m afraid the battery in my pacemaker will run out of juice and my heart will stop beating.

I’m afraid of airport security with big machines who won’t pay attention and will kill me. But failing? I think I’ve done all the failing I’m going to do this lifetime.


I count on younger generations to handle all additional failures. I’ve exceeded my personal failure quota. I am, however, seriously involved in hanging on through the next commercial cluster of life to see what happens next. I would like to do that while remaining comfortably housed, roofed, and fed. I intend to do my utmost to keep my better half healthy too, while maintaining the handful of relationships that matter to me.

I’m not afraid of failing them, just of losing them. Attrition gets personal after a certain point in life.

I have four implanted replacement parts in this not-all-that-old body. Each one has its own serial number. I stand in absolutely no danger of ever being a “Jane Doe” on some medical examiner’s slab. I figure the parts that can fail, have already failed. The next failure will be my official sign off.

Marilyn with shawl

You are free to worry about failing in love, marriage, job performance, parenting, or any other goal-driven activity to which you are committed. You may be deeply involved in making your next novel a best-seller, quaking with fear that this success or lack thereof will define you.

I’m here to tell you that no matter what happens, your failure — or success — won’t, didn’t, doesn’t define you. Unless you want it to.

You aren’t your achievements, your failures, your fears, your disasters. You aren’t even those nasty messes you leave behind. Or your illnesses and/or disabilities. You are something else. Someone else. You have a soul.

With a variety of replaceable parts.



What do you do to make a living or during the day if you are retired. If you are a student what are you studying?


I’m a lounge lizard. Okay, not a lounge lizard because (a) I don’t lounge and (b) my dry skin isn’t that bad. Yet.

As a retiree, many choices are available to me, as long as they don’t cost money. I take pictures. I write this blog. I listen to audiobooks and occasionally, read a regular book. I read other peoples’ blogs and make comments, to the degree that I have time to do that.


In the company of my better half, I watch reruns of favorite movies and TV shows. I do commentary, he ignores me.

We watch documentaries; I correct the history.

We play with the dogs. We clean while fully realizing the futility of it. We shop for groceries and chat with people at the local supermarket.


I spend an inordinate amount of time on the phone with customer disservice personnel. I “lend” (grant-in-aid) money to my granddaughter. It’s an occupational hazard.

I try to keep ahead of the dirt and I fail. I try to keep on top of the money. I fail at that too. I laugh whenever there’s anything remotely funny and Garry and I count clichés as we watch TV.

That’s life in the slow lane.

Have you ever participated in a distance walking, swimming, running, or biking event? Tell your story.

No. But Garry photographed one this summer. Does that count?


What is usually your first thought when you wake up?

How much do I hurt? Can I move?

Complete this sentence: Look out behind you, it’s a …

zombie. Or a bill collector. Probably a right-wing Republican zombie bill collector.


Nothing really gets away. Everything I didn’t get at one point in life became part of my life in another way, some other time.

Autumn road to home

The choice I made to not go to Boston University in 1965 nonetheless had me living and working Boston twenty years later. Still here and not leaving anytime soon. The man who got away didn’t go far and has been my husband for 25 years.

Dirk Gently, in Douglas Adams’ “The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul” says “I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be.” Douglas Adams had a point.

When life seems to be leading you along random paths, don’t be surprised to discover you’ve circled back and are just where you need to be.


It was a rerun of an NCIS episode from a couple of years ago. The victim had given her life to protect others.

“She didn’t have to do it,” McGee pointed out.

“No,” said Gibbs. “She had a choice. That’s what makes her a hero.”

My cousin is my oldest friend, though we don’t see each other much any more. We communicate via the Internet, not in person.

“You’ve always been braver than me,” she said.

The context was a picture of me and Garry riding the Cyclone at Coney Island. There’s a camera at the first drop. Hard to resist buying a picture of oneself and others screaming as you go down the nearly vertical first drop on an 84-year old wooden coaster.

But brave? It wasn’t as if I’d volunteered to rescue someone from danger. I paid my money and got the best adrenaline rush money can buy. Not brave. Not heroic.


Some people have called me brave because I’ve survived. As it happens, I would have been just as happy to skip all that and lead a pleasant, uneventful life. For excitement, there’s the Cyclone. I could have lived with that.

I’ve managed to slouch into senior citizenship alive but I don’t deserve a medal. You don’t get medals for surviving or shouldn’t. Saving ones own life (and occasionally as collateral anti-damage, other people’s too) is instinct, not valor.

Staying alive is hard-wired into our DNA. Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it.

My definition of bravery or valor is the same as Gibbs’. You have to make a willing choice. There has to be a choice! Taking risks for the fun of it, to make a killing in the stock market, or because your only other option is death isn’t courage.

If it’s fun, it’s entertainment. I love roller coasters. I probably would have liked sky diving had my back not been so bad. A personal passion or hobby involving doing dangerous stuff is not brave. Maybe it’s not even intelligent.

Taking a risk for profit? Shrewd, not brave.

Saving your own life? Finding a way by hook or crook to keep a roof over your head and food on your table? That’s instinct.

I’ve never done anything I define as courageous. I’ve done exciting stuff, entertaining and fascinating stuff. Some of these adventures proved disastrous. Others worked out okay. I’ve occasionally been selfless in helping others when I could. But I never voluntarily put myself in harm’s way to save someone else.

The most I could be accused of is doing the right thing when it wasn’t easy. I don’t think you get medals for that, either.

Anyway, that’s what I think.

SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015 #18 — CHAI — 8-12-2015


Chai - 18 - Life

This is the 18th Serendipity Photo Prompt.

Eighteen in Hebrew is “Chai,” which means life. Every ending contains the seed of a beginning. 

Today is our little dog Nan’s date with destiny. We’ve been looking for a way out of this. Trying to find any excuse to make it unnecessary. Make it not true.

Nan Xmas

Life and death are imperatives. No matter how we parse it, Nan has run out her string. She can’t hear, barely sees, can’t manage the stairs. She has little sense of smell and often isn’t sure who we are — or for that matter, who she is.

All of which accounts for my dour mood.


Simultaneously, Amber, the mini-dachshund, has breast cancer. She isn’t well, isn’t happy, won’t eat. I suspect her final days are approaching too.

dogs with bishop and gar

One is hard. Two are very hard.


The only good side of all of this is that finally, the family is acting like a family and pulling together. Setting blame aside, now it’s time to do what needs to be done for the good of the creatures we love.


It has been a good week for pictures. Garry and I took a lot of pictures in town recently. At the dam, on the Commons.


The commons is that big green lawn in the middle of most New England towns. Boston’s got a huge one, Uxbridge has a rather small one.

The Commons

The Commons

Originally, these green spaces were called commons because they were a common area where everyone could graze sheep.


Yes, all you cowboys. Sheep. Because sheep give wool and wool becomes warm clothing, sweaters, stockings, coats. Even big Pilgrim hats.


Winter in the northeast is a cruel mistress. We need all that wood to make the warm clothing that keeps us from freezing. We thank our friends, the sheep, for their donations. And let them graze on the Commons.

You can write anything about anything, as long as you link a picture to the story. You can link several pictures and more than one story. This is a free writing challenge. Have fun.



We’re going through a difficult period, mostly because of the dogs. Dogs getting old and sick. Having to deal with stuff we don’t want to deal with.

Everything has hit at the same time. All the family drama and three out of four dogs ill or aging. That’s a lot. Garry and I are by turns, depressed, distressed, and exhausted. Not feeling much like partying.

kitchen in hadley

Everything has a cost. Nothing is simple.

Our son gave us a new television, which was great because the one we had was getting on in years. It still works fine, but it’s an older technology. Difficult to find equipment that will work with it. We were going to have to trade up, like it or not. Getting a new television was good thing, a positive thing about which to be glad. Right?

The new one is significantly sharper, almost like 3-D. But (there’s always a but), the old one had pretty good speakers.  The new one has speakers that wouldn’t be good enough for a laptop, much less a television. Not only could Garry not hear it, I couldn’t hear it either. If I turned it up loud enough, it over-modulated, buzzed, and emitted a high-pitched whistle that gave me an instant headache.


I had to get some kind of sound system. Without money to invest in a premium system, I found a sound bar on Amazon. Tonight, we have television sound again. Following three days using headphones all the time, what a relief! I feel like we’ve overcome at least one crisis.

I know it sounds trivial. It is trivial. Just $100 on a credit card. Voila. Problem solved. It was one more thing on top of all the other things. Somehow, it seemed a bigger deal than it ought.

That’s the thing with trivial problems when they show up together with serious ones. When you’ve got enough stress, anything that happens feels like a big deal. Feels like more than the nothing it really is. Small things feel much more important than they are, get more attention than they deserve.


I got a new lens for my Olympus. A great little f1.8 25 mm lens. Came with a lens hood. But I couldn’t put the lens hood on because there was no thread on the front of the lens. So I called Adorama, from whom I bought the lens. I told them there was no damned thread, so I couldn’t use the hood.

It took them a week to get back to me. There is, they explained (it took them a week to track down this information) a decorative ring on the lens. Remove it and the hood screws on.

They couldn’t include a slip of paper with the lens to tell me there was a decorative ring covering the thread on the front of the lens? The whole “we don’t need no stinking instructions” attitude by the tech industry is pissing me off. Just one more aggravation on top of other aggravations.

Finally, here’s the ultimate stupid problem.

There’s a fly in the house. A regular house fly. Every time he flies past my face, I feel a ground swell of rage, that this stupid fly won’t go away. How long does a fly live? This fly has so far been buzzing around for three days. Isn’t that too long? Just saying.

fuchsia macro june 2015

The dogs. The family drama. Every little hassle that should be nothing is exaggerated because we’re already stressed.

Soon, it will pass. It always passes. My mother’s favorite saying was “This too shall pass” and truly, everything will settle down. All will be well.

In the meantime, forgive me. I’m cranky.