I was delighted when Ellin offered to write some pieces for Serendipity. Good friend, passionate animal advocate, gourmet cook … a women who has done a lot of living and has made the best lemonade out of life’s lemons.


by Ellin Curley

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of time travel. I’m particularly fond of the fantasy of going back in time, knowing what you know now, and changing some pivotal moment in your past. I used to wish fervently for this fantasy to become a reality so I could undo some of my Top 10 “mistakes” and bad judgement calls. Many of those involved my first husband – like deciding to marry him and deciding — multiple times — to stay with him when reason told me I should leave.


I’m a logical person. The problem with this fantasy is I would have to accept the drastic changes in my personal time line which would inevitably flow from new and improved life choices.

The biggest and most obvious change is obvious: if I didn’t marry my ex, I wouldn’t have my children. I can’t imagine life without them, so, scratch that option.

If I leave him after I have my kids, life still changes so dramatically the odds of my ever meeting my current husband are virtually nil. I’m not prepared to give him up. He’s the best piece of luck I ever had, the best decision I ever made.

What this adds up to? I seem to have reached a point in my life I never thought I would achieve: at peace. Knowing all the crap I went through led me to where I am now. Made me into who I am.

My husband and I often talk about how, without the angst in our past, we wouldn’t have appreciated each other when we did meet. We’re pretty sure we wouldn’t have gotten along nearly as well without having had to pass through the sturm-und-drang of our first marriages.

It turns out I don’t really wish my past would go away. Not anymore. I wouldn’t have minded it being a bit easier, leaving fewer scars. Even so, I’m content with where I am and who I’ve become. Whatever the price I paid, it was worth it.


I’ve been a little out of touch. A good old friend from Arizona is visiting for a couple of days. We haven’t seen each other in person for eight or nine years.


We’ve had a lot of laughter. A lot of catching up to do. And of course, I had to do the 10 cent tour.


Needed to do a bit of traipsing around the valley. A peak at the Blackstone River, visit a dam or two, see a bit of the canal.

Never enough time, too much to say.


We fight. Not about anything important. Never about important stuff. We agree on everything that matters. We have stupid arguments. Who does more housework. Or doesn’t do enough. Or doesn’t appreciate how much the other one does. Who left the bedroom door open so the dogs could get in the trash. How come someone can’t remember where the big serving spoons go or learn the difference between a pasta server and a soup ladle.


You’d think after more than fifty years of being friends, lovers, companions and even occasionally co-workers, we’d have doped out no one ever wins, not when the combatants are totally   committed to having the last word.


Maybe yelling at each other is the closest thing we have to a contact sport. We used to go riding (on horses) together, but we can’t do it anymore. We wander around taking pictures, but I don’t believe it qualifies as a sport. Nor does hanging around doctors’ waiting rooms, our other shared activity.

Or surfing Netflix.


It’s November. Already. The year passed at warp speed.

On Starship Armstrong, no one has the bridge. We just blast through space and hope we don’t bang into an asteroid.


Marilyn Armstrong:

I laugh each time I read this. If you’ve never had a teenager in your life, maybe you won’t get it. But if you’ve raised kids and maybe grandkids … or even lived with them … I can guarantee at least one good giggle.

Originally posted on Stuff my dog taught me:


  1. Dress too old
  2. Dress too young
  3. Dress in anything that resembles what they are currently wearing

Solution: jeans, black t-shirts and mid-length, unadorned cardigans in earth tones. Jeans should be a simple cut but brand name (DO NOT buy jeans in a grocery store… nothing to do with your teen…just don’t)

  1. Sing
  2. Dance

It doesn’t matter if you had a top 40 hit when you were in your 20s or danced professionally. Trust me… I am confident that Paul McCartney’s children/grandchildren roll their eyes from the back of the limo when he tries to hum along with the radio. 

  1. Tell “When I was your age…” stories

You were NEVER their age. Period. This is core teen belief #1. To accept any other reality is to acknowledge that they might someday drive a minivan, have conversations about taxes, and get excited about watching DVRed episodes of Coronation Street on a…

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When I was a small child, I wanted only one thing which in my life I never got. A happy family. More specifically, an entirely different father.


I wanted one who loved me. Who would be kind, gentle, and caring. Of whom I could be proud and unafraid.

Sadly, that’s not one of those “dreams that came true.” I never stopped yearning. Sometimes, I tried to convince myself he really was that father … but he always proved me wrong.

Eventually, I moved on. And life was just fine.


I love my husband and he loves me. (Music up full.) Do I think he is the only man in the entire world to whom I could have been happily wed?


Do I think that for everyone, there’s just one person who is the morning and evening star? And if you don’t meet him/her, your life will be forever loveless?


25th Anniversary Portrait

25th Anniversary Portrait

Do I think that movies and literature are full of this kind of nonsense? Do I think a lot of teenagers believe it because it is the stuff of poetry and romance novels?


I believe in love. I am happy with my man and my marriage. I also believe that if we march into our lives assuming there is but one human being anywhere on earth who could ever be “right” for us, we are off on a narrow and precarious path. Perhaps taking a slightly broader view of our future would be better.

Just saying.


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.