New Year

ANOTHER MISERABLE YEAR

Let’s talk about funny. Like who makes us laugh. Do happy people make us laugh? Are comedians people whose lives are running smoothly, easily?

No way!

Funny people have problems. The funniest people are often depressed. Yet somehow, they can see a sparkle amidst the darkness.

Laughter is not so much a celebration of good times as a shield against despair. Humor is borne of irony, the realization that life is not merely imperfect, but frequently dreadful. So we turn our disasters into laughter because the alternative is endless weeping and wailing.

mistakesdemotivator
Another demotivational poster from one of my favorite sites, Despair.com.

The first time my world crashed and burned, I walked away from a dead marriage, gave everything to my ex and moved to another country. The joke was on me. I promptly married a guy so much worse I get dizzy thinking about it 30 years later. When that fell apart — though it lasted longer than it should have because I wouldn’t admit what a horrible mistake I’d made — I staggered — bloody, dazed and penniless back to the US.

When I finally stopped feeling like I’d gone through a wood chipper, I married Garry which I should done in the first place, except he hadn’t asked. Minor detail.

All that seemingly pointless pain and suffering was not for nothing. Stories of hideous mistakes and horrendous outcomes are the stuff of terrific after-dinner conversation. A few drinks can transform them into hilarity. Misery fuels humor. It’s a fact. Calamities, crises and disasters are high comedy.

Funny movies are not about people having fun. They’re about people in trouble, with everything going wrong, lives in ruins. The difference between a comedy and a tragedy is the ending. Tragedies usually end with a pile of corpses; comedies (usually) don’t. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of timing and style.

Funny stories weren’t funny when they happened. Now they’re funny. After I was told I had cancer in not one, but both breasts (they were having a two-for-one special at the Dana-Farber), I had them removed and replaced by silicon implants, but stopped short of adding fake nipples. Previous surgeries having left me with no naval, I now present myself as a space alien. You don’t believe me? It’s true.

I have a tee-shirt that say “Yes, they are FAKE. My real ones tried to kill me.” It’s a killer at parties and is high point of my cancer experience.

Fake breasts

When life goes to hell in the proverbial handbasket, folks who were sort of friends eye you with suspicion. Is bad luck contagious?. But there’s also a light whiff of satisfaction. They wouldn’t be rude enough to say so, but they’re overjoyed it happened to you, not them. Sorry about your life, really (furtive, smug smirk).

If you are a writer, out of the wreckage will come a book or at least a great post for your blog. See? It wasn’t for nothing!

Our personal traumas are collateral damage in a Darwinian battle of the fittest to survive. No one gets through life unscathed. Mindful of whatever tragedy lurks just over your personal horizon, why not prepare some clever repartee? You can give it a test drive at the next get together with your more successful pals. It will give you something to look forward to. And, as a bonus, you will really appreciate the irony when your friends’ lives go to pieces later on. You’ll be able to give them great advice on how to survive their personal Apocalypse! Cool!

So no matter how horrible things are right now, don’t worry. You will stop bleeding and screaming. Eventually. Black depression will ebb. You won’t always feel you can’t breathe. That crushing weight on your chest will be replaced by a permanent sense of panic and mild hysteria you will call “normal.”

Start laughing right this minute.  No tears allowed. Tragedy is hilarious. Heaven may be droll, but Hell?  Everyone is yukking it up down there.  Remember, it’s the first month of a new year. A fresh slate.  Anything could — and probably will — happen.

SERENDIPITY’S 2013 YEAR IN REVIEW – FROM WORDPRESS

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. It always amuses me that my most popular post — for two years in a row — was that article on the 2012-2013 première episode of Criminal Minds. But my analysis shows that though they don’t get viral numbers, other pieces have done well — and have had a surprisingly long shelf life, with people searching them out and reading them long after initial publication. It’s been a fun 22 months with Serendipity. Now, with Rich Paschall aboard and maybe about to have a little more written input from our own Garry Armstrong, we’ll be even better in 2014.

Hope you’ve having a great New Year … and keep having it for years to come.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 78,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 3 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

 

DAILY PROMPT: BRAND NEW ME, STARTING TOMORROW!

Tomorrow is the first day of a brand new year. Tomorrow you get to become anyone in the world that you wish. Who are you? You can choose to be anyone, alive today or someone gone long ago. If you decide to stay “you” share your rationale.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us METAMORPHOSIS.

- – -

Note: THIS IS IRONY. THIS IS TONGUE IN CHEEK. WARNING! TAKE WITH GRAINS OF SALT!

Tomorrow I won’t have arthritis in my spine and bursitis in my hips. My mitral valve will be young and sprightly. The cardiomyopathy will be a memory. My hair will be thick and healthy, my skin smooth and wrinkle free. Yes, it will be a new me. No more poverty, no more pain, no more bills we can’t pay.

Hosanna! It will be a fabulous day, a day of days and an unfettered future.

Hallelujah, bring on the trumpets!! Yay me!!

Me by Cherrie

Thanking my readers in a tangible way: The Reader Appreciation Award

ReaderAppreciationAward2

As the first month of this new year crawls to a close, I am grateful to be given a brand new and very special award: The Reader Appreciation Award from Sharla at catnipoflife. Sharla and I exchange scoops, family news, compliments and regrets that we don’t live close enough to visit in person pretty much every day. She has become more than “another blogger.”

She is a friend, the real deal and my world is better because she is in it. I think the world is better for everyone because she is in it and if you have never visited her site, please do. Poetry, quotes … thoughts, feelings and reminders of why being alive is worth the trouble. That’s not facetious: sometimes I need a reminder!

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There are a few rules for this award, fewer than for most. As the name implies, this goes to other bloggers who have taken the time to comment and sometimes, contribute to your blog … those readers and followers who have moved from the anonymous category into virtual friends. Some live so far away I know we’ll never meet, yet we depend on each other and we care.

What you can’t do:

1) You can’t award it to anyone who has already gotten it during the same year. So if you got it in 2012, you can’t get it until again until 2013. It can be difficult to determine who has which awards since many bloggers get awards but don’t display the badges, at least not obviously. I’ll just take my best guess.

2) The award can’t be given back to the person from whom you receive it. This is a problem because Sharla is always on the top of my recipient list and she is giving me the award. Drat.

As to whom you should give the award, this one is quite specific. The Reader’s Appreciation Award is given to the top 6 blogger/commentors on your site. This is a little complicated for me personally. Of the top six, two are my husband. No, I only have one husband, but my site recognizes him as two people depending on whether he is writing from his desk or laptop.

Garry_72_02

Consider yourself awarded!

It would seem odd to give him a blogging award since, although he is an enthusiastic commenter, he isn’t a blogger but he is my biggest and bestest fan. So instead, to Garry who is always rooting for me, I appreciate you a whole lot.

Sharla herself would be getting this award, but she’s the one giving it to me so again — thank you!

The envelope please:

After due diligence, the award goes to:

Gabrielle at My Heathen Heart

jcalberta at A Celebration Of Western Movies … Pardner !

Bob Mielke at Northwest Photographer

Tyson Carter at Head In A Vice

Sally at My Beautiful Things

Emily Guido at “The Light Bearer Series”

This list is in no particular order and there are people with whom I have a lot of interaction that are not on the list because I can’t include everyone, though I would if I could. Because I appreciate my readers more than any of you can know. You are the people in my world who make doing this, writing, posting, sticking with it every day, worth it. You are the folks who let me know that I’m being heard, being understood. You guys “get” me; that’s something special.

I want to extend my warmest appreciation to all my visitors, followers and readers. Although I have listed only six names (my top six commenters after excluding my husband (times two) and Sharla for reasons previously noted :-) so if your name is absent it isn’t because I don’t appreciate you. Moreover, this award is about thanking readers.

It’s meant to be given away … so if you have supporters to whom you would like to express your gratitude, feel free to grab the badge and pass it on! This is about saying thanks to the wonderful people who support our efforts and enrich our lives. In the end, it is about the joy we get from giving something back to those who “feed” us!

As always, I add the proviso that awards are supposed to make us feel good, happy. We all know that fulfilling the “requirements” of most awards is time-consuming and sometimes, close to impossible. Please do not feel obliged to press yourself beyond your comfort zone. Whatever you do in response to this award, have fun, feel appreciated and don’t stress. This isn’t supposed to make your life harder!

 

Surviving: It beats the hell out of the alternative

postaday 2013 - long

In 2010, I discovered I had cancer in both breasts. Two tumors, unrelated to each other. Just twice lucky. They removed the tumors and the associated breasts, gave me very attractive fake replacements — much perkier than the old ones in an artificial implant sort of way. I actually have a little ID card for my breasts, like they have their own personae. Maybe they do. Thus, a little more than two years after the siege began, I’m almost me again. Almost but not quite.

75-DecSnowHP-17

My mother died of metastasized breast cancer. My brother died of pancreatic cancer about 5 years ago, having never gotten as old as I am now. This is not a reassuring family history.

All chronic illnesses make you paranoid. The thing that’s so insidious about cancer is its absence of symptoms. The possibility that it’s growing somewhere in your body and you won’t know it’s there until it’s too late to do anything about it is about as scary as disease gets. Nor is it a baseless fear. I had no idea I had cancer, much less in both breasts, until it was diagnosed twice during a two-week period. One diagnosis of cancer is hard to handle. A second diagnoses a week later is like getting whacked over the head with a bat. It leaves you stunned, scrambling to find someplace to stand where the earth isn’t falling out from under you.

I don’t think most of us are afraid of dying per se. We are afraid of the journey we will have taken to get there. We’re afraid of pain, suffering, the humiliation of dependence and gradual loss of control of our own bodies. After having one or more close encounters with the dark angel, no one is eager to feel the brush of those wings again.

We are called survivors, which means that we aren’t dead yet. The term is meaningless. Put into perspective, we are all survivors. Anyone could be felled by a heart attack or run over by an out-of-control beer truck tomorrow. The end of the road is identical for all living creatures; it’s only a matter of when it will be and what cause will be assigned. Everyone is in the same boat. If you’ve been very sick, you are more aware of your mortality than those who who’ve been blessed with uneventful health, but no one gets a free pass. The odds of death are 100% for everyone.

Recovering from serious illness is a bumpy road. Each of us has a particular “thing” we find especially bothersome. For me, it’s dealing with well-wishers who ask “How are you?” If they wanted an answer, it might not be so aggravating, but they don’t want to hear about my health or my feelings about my health — which are often as much an issue as anything else. They are simply being polite. So, I give them what they want. I smile brightly and say “Just fine thank you.”

December Sunrise

I have no idea how I am. All I know — and all I can possibly know — is that for the time being, I am here. To the best of my knowledge, nothing is growing anywhere it’s not supposed to be.  Two years after a double mastectomy, I cannot be considered cancer-free … and really, if you’ve had cancer, you are in remission and that’s as good as it gets. So the answer for those of us who have had cancer, heart attacks and other potentially lethal and chronic ailments is “So far, so good.”

That is not what folks want to hear. People want you to be positive and upbeat. You cannot suffer physical or mental discomfort. Why not? Because if you aren’t fine, maybe they aren’t either. They have a bizarre and annoying need for you to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed no matter how you actually feel.

As I enter this New Year, I’m glad to be alive. With a little bit of luck, I’ll continue to remain that way. God willing and assuming life stays more or less on an even keel, I’ll be here in the cyber world, writing my little stories, taking pretty pictures of waterfalls and sunrises and you’ll still come and visit me from time to time.

Welcome to survivorship. It’s imperfect, but it beats the hell out the alternative.

Happy New Year! Bye bye 2012 … Welcome 2013!

2013 is finally here and I, for one, bid a less than fond farewell to 2012!

Here are the First Night fireworks from Boston to bring in the 2013 with a bang!!

May your year be peaceful, healthy, happy, and uneventful!

Serendipity’s 2012 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 38,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 9 Film Festivals.

In 2012, there were 762 new posts, not bad for the first year! 2033 pictures were uploaded, probably 90% of which are original photographs by the author. The rest are illustrations from various sources.

The busiest day of the year was November 9th with 1,049 views. The most popular post that day was Presidential Election: “Sad and Tragic Day for Our Nation.” 

Click here to see the complete report.

I only started blogging in February of 2012 … and I didn’t really start posting regularly until May.

I do a lot of reblogging, either via direct reblog or using ScoopIt. That accounts for the high number of posts. I suspect about 70% of the 762 posts were mine. The others were reblogs or scoops. I have gotten good responses to posts I wrote requiring research and serious thought, but my most popular post was something I tossed off in less than five minutes while watching television. Go figure.

Popularity is fickle. It’s dangerously addictive and like most addictions isn’t entirely healthy. There’s a tendency to start to write for numbers … and that’s not what I want to do. So I have to be careful not to let success go to my head, to keep myself on my own course. It’s nice to be popular, but it’s even better when something I write makes someone think in a new way, changes someone’s mind, or give a reader pause to think.

It’s been a roller coaster year with a lot of craziness, tragedy, violence, controversy and acrimony. I’ve won awards, gotten hate mail, fan mail, and a lot more attention that I probably deserve. It’s been exciting, but stressful too. I think I could go for a much more peaceful year to come.

Have a great New Year everyone!!

Out of action

Usually, I’m aiming for a catchy title, but I have to tell you this is not a catchy title. I really am out of action.

I have a bad back. It’s been a mess since I was a kid falling off one horse too many. It was rebuilt in 1967 — a fusion and laminectomy using saws and chisels — because  that was long before micro surgical techniques.

I'm a four and a half. Apparently that means I'm disable. I sure feel disabled right now.

I’m a four and a half. Apparently that means I’m disabled. I sure feel disabled right now.

I’ve had a lot of problems with my back over the years and the fusion, which was bone paste made from a piece of my hip, began to disintegrate about 25 years ago, to be replaced by a massive invasion and a virtual sheathing of arthritic calcification. That’s not altogether bad. Without the arthritis, I’d literally fall apart.

A couple of weeks ago, after months of bursitis in my hips making it more and more painful and difficult for me to do much of anything, I went to the neurologist in Boston. I had a couple of cortisone shots in my hips that overnight made my it possible for me to walk again. I was thrilled.

A few days later, what had been a nagging pain in my back morphed from something I could ignore, to something that demanded I deal with it. Immediately. For the last couple of days, I’ve spent all my time trying to find anything that would make it stop hurting.

Today, I gave up, took the heating pad and my agonized spine and went to bed where I’ve been all day and will probably return in an hour or two. The way it’s feeling right now, I might be back in bed sooner than that.

I’m quite literally out of action. In the 45 years since my spinal surgery, with all the problems I’ve had, I’ve never been laid out like this. I’ve been in a lot of pain, yes, but somehow, I’ve managed to gut it out. This time, I just can’t. If you don’t hear from me, that’s why.

I know I am far from the only one with back problems, but somehow I thought what with all the rest stuff I’ve gone through, all the medical crises, the uncountable numbers of surgeries, that somehow I was going to manage to miss this particular one. Apparently not. Please accept my apologies. I’ll write when I can sit up long enough without screaming in pain and I mean that literally.

Assuming doctors are back from vacation after New Year‘s, I will seek medical assistance. I’m assured that cortisone in my spine might actually help. I’m pretty desperate and right now, a needle or two in my spine sounds like a great idea.

The Backstretch – Life in the Slow Lane

It’s the backstretch of the year. My endless project will be over, good or ill, at the end of the month. So will Christmas. As for the insanity with which I live, that, I fear, will accompany me into the glad New Year and quite possibly to the end of time, or at least … MY time.

I thought retirement might be dull. I thought it would be … maybe … slower-paced than working was. I was certainly convinced I would have much more time to do stuff, all kinds of stuff, that I didn’t get to do when I was working. Hah!

Queen's Christmas tree at Windsor Castle 1848,...

Queen’s Christmas tree at Windsor Castle 1848.

A year ago last August, I was at a retirement party for a friend. Early retirement, I should add. In a rare act of sanity, he hit 60, his pension vested, and he said “Lemme outta here!!!!” and due to actually having at some point done some financial planning, plus a bit of good luck, he could. And did.

So I said, this being a very good friend of many long years standing (and sitting, and falling over, laughing, eating, and whatevering), let’s see if we can fit some time to actually visit a bit more often.

He said, and this is a quote: “Now that I’m retiring, I’ll have plenty of time.” He didn’t know yet, but he sure found out fast enough.

I didn’t stop laughing for days. He hasn’t had a moment to breathe since he quit working. Neither he nor I can figure out how he managed to fit a fulltime job into his life.

Retirement Ceremony

Retirement Ceremony (Photo credit: born1945)

Retirement … a misnomer if ever I heard one … is like jumping into a pool of still water. For a brief few moment, you will see the rings spreading out from where your body went under. Then, the surface will again flatten out into a mirror of smoothness. Life, the waters thereof, have taken you in.

Beneath that silken surface is a roiling mass of tasks, catastrophes, obligations, incomplete projects and Lord only knows what else … much of which has been waiting for your arrival for many long years. As you slide under the surface, hands begin to grab at you, voices come in every direction. Your parents need your help. Your children, grandchildren, the house, the cars, volunteer projects all bang you over the head.

When did I volunteer for that? you ask … but you won’t remember. Don’t bother trying. “You’re making that up,” you mumble, convinced that everyone has lost their minds, that you have slipped down a rabbit hole or through wormhole into an alternate universe. No, just retirement. It’s like that.

You don’t have spare time. You don’t have any time. You’re lucky if you have the time to get a little nap now and then.

Analyze the word and it will make more sense. Re (to repeat); tire (exhaustion and lack of sleep); ment (whatever). You are becoming tired again. Just when you thought you were going to have all that free time, leisure, naps in the warm summer afternoons … hah!

Getting old is definitely not for the faint of heart.

No news isn’t good news. It’s just no news.

My husband was a newsman for his whole career, more than forty years. Through him I learned that a busy news day is generally a good thing if news is your business, though the news is rarely good for anything but higher ratings.

Now I find myself in a sort of newsy business and I realize the true meaning of a “slow news day.” I’m beginning to recognize that there is such a thing as a slow news week, maybe month. Not that nothing is going on. It’s  just that nothing is going on that anyone is going to find particularly interesting or entertaining.

I don’t cover, as Garry did, breaking news stories, but I like writing about current issues and events. Big events that impact everyone include me. The presidential election — such a vicious, contentious, nasty election — with so much at stake during my first few months of blogging let me grab a piece of the momentum of events. I had the opportunity to weigh in on  “hot topics” that put me on the blogging map faster than I really deserved. It was interesting and there was so much to write about. Controversy and big news improves readership.

And then … one day …

The election was over. It took a few weeks for the winners to stop gloating and the losers to stop pouting, but most of them seem to have gotten the message and have gone off to lick their wounds or celebrate in private. So newswise, it got really quiet in a big hurry. The weather is back to being the biggest part of the news … and of course, football. A bit of snow … ooh …. pictures to take, something to talk about. Trades in the baseball off-season … can the Sox pull themselves out of the septic tank into which they fell by the end of last season?

We had barely finished counting the votes before Thanksgiving was upon us. Now the rest of the holiday season is bearing down on us like a freight train with failing brakes. instead of solving the problems of the world, we are back to dealing with family politics, wrapping paper and sticky tape, celebrations and money, guest lists and travel plans. Instead of frothing at the mouth over national politics, we are banging our heads against our empty bank accounts.

The national economic calamity we were told to expect, that  dreaded “fiscal cliff”  vanished as a paralyzing wave of commonsense swept over congress. Our democratic process did it again: the people spoke, the defeated far right GOP agenda having been soundly rejected by the electorate created a wondrous atmosphere of coöperation and compromise. Barely a week ago our nation was about to fall off the mountaintop. Not only the U.S. economy, but the economy of the entire world was going to be swept  away and we would be reduced to a stone age barter economy, trading beads for chickens. Yet now, oddly enough, the cliff is not a cliff; disaster is not looming.

Go home Chicken Little. The sky is not, after all, falling.

Chicken Little (2005 film)

So there’s no news. No fresh disasters or huge controversies. A few sleazy scandals, but nothing anyone will remember a week from now. The donut hole in my Medicare prescription coverage is much the same as last year; I still don’t know how I’m going to both eat and get my meds, but I’m not surprised.  I’ve still got a mortgage that exceeds the value of the house and as I have done for years past and I guess will do forever, wonder how we are can survive on a fixed income while prices keep rising.

Ho hum. Same old, same old. I have no idea how we are going to manage but we will, somehow. Or not. Besides, 2012 has a month remaining. Maybe the Mayans were right and I don’t have anything to worry about because we aren’t going to be around to greet the New Year. Is the end of days New Year’s Eve?

No news. Just the everyday struggles of a tired population hoping things will get better and wondering what will become of us.

In a strange way it made my entry into blogging easier because we were in the middle of a violent acrimonious political upheaval, massive destructive storms, and all that distracting, fascinating stuff. It was such momentous, monstrous news that everyone got to forget for a while that for most of us, nothing changed.

We have the same problems we had before. We were unemployed before, we are still unemployed. Our health was poor and hasn’t improved. Our bills are bigger than our budgets and no one is giving us any money to pay them. And it’s Christmas, time to figure out how to make it festive but somehow cost-free.

A new year is going to start, Mayans aside. And we are back to the very unthrilling business of, to quote Tom Lehrer, “sliding down that razor blade of life.”