It’s a gray, rainy day, more like November than January. It has been raining slowly but steadily since the middle of the night and there are no more than a few remnants of snow remaining on the ground. We need sunshine and I’m just the person to provide some!

Rays of the autumn sun

Rays of the autumn sun

Bright autumn flowers

Bright autumn flowers

December Sunrise

December sunrise


Dawn over the Atlantic

Chinese lily

Sunny lily


Sun after snow


Solitude at sunrise

Sun streaks by Crown and Eagle central canal

Sun streaks by Crown and Eagle central canal

The sun, just above the horizon in April. My woods.

The sun, just above the horizon in April. My woods.

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


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!


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.


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!


If the moccasins pinch, wear them

I just read another post on the power of positive thinking. I was glad to hear again how I can conquer pain and make my problems go away by believing they will.  Does God really reserve his blessing for those with a positive attitude?


I don’t think there’s a malevolent deity or evil destiny stalking me or anyone else. Life just is. It’s not omens and portents: it’s stuff that happens.

Positive thinking is not bad.  It’s just that positive thinkers have a way of forgetting how suffering people don’t necessarily want a pep talk. They want to be in less, preferably no, pain. They want love, comfort and sympathy. My suggestion? Listen to them, find out what they want and do your best to give it to them. Your positivity may cure your problems and you are welcome to use it to make yourself feel better. Just don’t impose it on me or anyone else. Don’t force people to smile when they want to cry so you can feel okay.

I’ve got more than a few physical problems that are difficult to manage. There are bad days. I want to avoid dragging others down, but I have given up trying to make everyone else feel better by internalizing everything.

It’s unfair to tell people to relax, be happy, smile and that will make everything fine. It’s not true. Internalizing pain and sadness increases stress and makes problems worse. Don’t stop believing, but quit imposing. If you can make your own pain go away by force of will, good for you. In the meantime, remember: only you are you. The rest of us are different. A single solution, attitude or way of thinking does not fit everyone.

It is said you cannot know anyone until you’ve walked in their moccasins. Be careful: those moccasins can pinch something fierce.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

When I was in college studying drama, one of the assignments was to perform a poem … something long and epic. Most of my fellow students felt a need to showcase their dramatic skill by performing “How do I love thee” or one of the many Elizabethan sonnets. They did so using a variety of accents that would have caused old Will Shakespeare to run screaming from the room.

I have always felt that 19-year-olds should avoid excess dramaturgy. They look silly. Or maybe they were merely bad actors. None of them have been seen on stage or screen since. For that matter, neither have I but I never  dreamt of a life under the spotlights. I was studying drama because it was an easy major, letting me mark time until I figured out what I really wanted to do.

Ever marching to a different drummer and as an aficionado of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, my performance piece was The Walrus and the Carpenter. To this day, I can still recite the whole thing (more of less) from memory. Jabberwocky, too. I’m that good.

So happy birthday Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson:  January 27, 1832 – January 14, 1898), master of literary nonsense and political satire. I’m a few days late, but I fell down a rabbit hole and lost track of time.

The Walrus and The Carpenter

Lewis Carroll

(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright–
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done–
“It’s very rude of him,” she said,
“To come and spoil the fun!”

Walrus and carpenter
The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead–
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
“If this were only cleared away,”
They said, “it would be grand!”

“If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
“That they could get it clear?”
“I doubt it,” said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

“O Oysters, come and walk with us!”
The Walrus did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head–
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat–
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more–
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

“But wait a bit,” the Oysters cried,
“Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!”
“No hurry!” said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

“A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
“Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed–
Now if you’re ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.”

“But not on us!” the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
“After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!”
“The night is fine,” the Walrus said.
“Do you admire the view?
“It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf–
I’ve had to ask you twice!”

“It seems a shame,” the Walrus said,
“To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“The butter’s spread too thick!”

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

Gazing through from the other side with a British accent

It’s 5 hours later in London than in New England. I was reminded of this today because a few minutes after 4 in the afternoon, I got almost 400 hits from England on a blog I wrote Last September.

The post is about the première episode of this season of the CBS series “Criminal Minds.” For those of you who have never watched the show, it is based on the FBI‘s Behavioral Analysis Unit based in Quantico, Virginia.

I wrote the original post on September 26, 2012, which was when the première episode for this season of “Criminal Minds” aired in the United States. For some reason, that post hit the top of Google’s search engine and has stayed there ever since.

The series supposedly portrays the FBI’s best and brightest. The words “gazing through from the other side” were left at a crime scene and in the show, the team can’t find any reference to those words anywhere in the virtual universe. Of course the first thing I did after they said they couldn’t find it was type the words into Google and hit “Enter.” Up came the song, the lyrics, the group … and it took me perhaps 10 seconds.

Apparently the same thing happened today in England when the show aired for the first time. Everyone watched the show, heard the line, grabbed their tablet or laptop, Googled the phrase … and found me.


I realize it’s TV, not the real FBI, but surely even the fake FBI can do a simple Google search. My granddaughter was doing Google searches before she finished first grade, so it is hard to believe a television show would portray federal agents as less computer savvy than a 6-year-old.

It had been an unremarkable day, even a bit slow. I usually get most of my hits in the evening, so when I looked at my site in mid afternoon and saw I had around 140 hits, it seemed normal.

A screenshot of the BAU Team on the jet.

When I went back to look at my site a bit after 4 in the afternoon, I had gotten almost 600 hits, the vast majority from Great Britain for that same post about “Criminal Minds.” I may not be the sharpest tack in the tool box, but I deduced today was the British première of the show. I was so sure I didn’t even bother to check until an hour ago when I Googled “criminal minds UK première” and it came up as 28 January 2013 at 9pm — 4pm my time.

That little post, written between commercial breaks, has been my all-time most popular post. It isn’t my best work. It isn’t even close to my best. I’ve posted hundreds of better pieces, but none ever got such a big response. It makes me think about why I’m blogging. I want to be read, but it would be nice to be recognized for work of which I’m proud. Regardless, my most popular stuff is never my best. Sometimes, it isn’t even mine — it’s a reblog. That hurts.

When I get responses to posts on which I worked hard, it makes me happy. Responses from people who “get me” are gratifying. The only thing that could make it better would be money. Feel free to send cash or checks. I’m sorry, but I don’t accept credit cards.

Redshirts, by John Scalzi: A Book Review

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas | [John Scalzi]The story within a story (or play within a play), where fictional characters interact with people in the real world is not new or unique. Shakespeare used it and as Scalzi himself bears witness, there have been a lot of movies, plays, books, and so on that have used one or another variations on this theme. I don’t have a problem with that. In fact, I enjoyed his willingness to explore a classic form and was curious to see where he would go with it. I also appreciated his acknowledging the other authors and script writers who have used some version of it.

The first portion of the story was fun. The characters gradually realize they are part of a  TV series. This isn’t a spoiler; the book’s title refers to the red-shirted characters on Star Trek who were always killed before the first commercial break. In Redshirts, after discovering they are characters in cable sci fi series, the characters slide into the real world. Even though it was obvious from the beginning what was happening, it didn’t matter because what the author was doing was less important than how he did it. John Scalzi has a unique and quirky perspective that make his books interesting and highly entertaining. At least for the first half of the book, Redshirts was no exception.

Then the codas began. The codas are rather like alternate endings, but also like an extra piece of story, tangentially related to the main storyline. It’s an interesting idea that didn’t really work. At least, it didn’t work for me.

The first coda explores the mind of a writer in the throes of writer’s block and was mildly interesting. Not exactly gripping, but not bad. When the first coda drew to a close and the second began, I realized I was restless and finding it difficult to stay focused. The final coda felt like a postscript and held little interest. Worse, the book felt like a writing exercise. Interesting in a technical way if you happen to be a writer, I nonetheless found myself muttering “Okay already, I got it. You made your point.”

I listened through to the end, though I kept drifting and had to remind myself to pay attention as the book plodded to its conclusion.

Less would have been more. The basic idea was good — cute and clever. In its audiobook version, it was helped along by a skilled narrator. But there wasn’t enough plot to go the distance, like a movie that runs out of script 20 minutes before it runs out of film. The story was too thin to support its length. The first half could easily have stood on its own as a novella.

By the end, I had lost track of the characters and plot. Too many endings, characters appearing and disappearing with blinding speed. A score card might have helped but ultimately, I didn’t care.

I’ve read worse books … but John Scalzi has written much better.

My Loyal Pal

Wherever I go and whatever I do, Nan comes with me. To the kitchen, to the bathroom, to my office. All day, every day, she stays right by my feet. When I get up to go into the kitchen, she comes with me, so close to my feet that I sometimes have difficulty avoiding falling over her and landing in a tangle of  fur, feet, fingers and toes.

My Protector

My Protector

When Nan first came here last September, it seemed she had no interest in anything but cadging snacks, but since then she has attached to me as no dog ever has. If I would let her sleep with me, she would, but we have a “no dogs in the bed” rule. Bad backs and a selfish need to keep one place in the house dog-hair free (more or less) … but otherwise, from the moment I get out of bed in the morning until I haul my butt off to bed late at night, Nan is within an arm’s length.

She laughs at me!

She laughs at me!

Nan is a beautiful, champion Norwich Terrier. She is 10 years old, going on 11. Until she came to live with us, she had spent her whole life with one family. I didn’t know how well she’d fit in here but she needed a home. Our dogs are as easy-going as any dogs anywhere, and we have owned Norwich and other terriers before … so this was probably her best chance of finding a comfortable place to live out her years … and I hope there are many more to come.

Her Royal Highness

Her Royal Highness

There’s a bit of friction between the two terriers — typical for dogs with a feisty temperament — mostly because they are possessive.  As time has gone one, they get on better. As I watch, they are sleeping together in heap between Garry and I on the love seat. Nan is tight next to my feet, Bonnie, our Scottish Terrier, has her head on Garry’s leg (which is probably asleep).

Perfect pal

Perfect pal

Once our furry pals are settled in, we hate to move and disturb them. Finally, when we just have to get up or we have completely lost sensation in our feet, we apologize profusely for bothering them. I hope they understand.

Where is the pellet with the poison?

This must be one of the funniest sequences ever put on film. From “The Court Jester,”  where’s the pellet with the poison and which is the brew that is true? I challenge you to remember which is which. I’ve been watching this for years and I still can’t repeat the sequence without tripping over my tongue.


Life along the way

I spent the day doing a task all photographers must face. It’s no fun, but there’s no avoiding it. Sooner or later, the time comes to weed through the pictures, to take stock and get organized. It was time to do more than simply store the pictures. I looked through almost every file, years of digital photographs. The artistic stuff, the family photographs, the vacation pictures and holidays. Time to discard the bad ones I should have dumped in the first place. I converted all the RAW and TIFF  files to JPGs because I admitted to myself I am unlikely to need them. I’m not going to be making  lots of prints … and even if I were, the printer wants high quality JPGs, not TIFF or RAW. Time to let them go.


Photo: Debbie Stone

It was a complicated decision, one of many realities I’ve had to face. Not as hard as most life decisions, but tricky in its own small way.

For the last dozen years, much of life has involved recognizing and accepting limits, then figuring out how to work around them. There are physical limits, financial limits. I can’t afford things I don’t really need, though I sometimes splurge on something I want very much, like a lens for the camera or a bigger external hard drive. There are always choices to make and priorities to set.

Now, it’s facing one more fact of life: no more wall space. No room for anything, not for my  photographs or anything else. The walls are full of things I love. My photos are on display, but there are also paintings, some by friends, others bought at galleries in days when we had spare dollars to spend on non-necessities. Photos of Garry taken during his working years … with politicians and presidents.

Photo: Debbie Stone

Photo: Debbie Stone

He has awards and plaques and I have shadow-boxes filled with antique Chinese porcelain, Navajo pots, fetishes and figurines and Murano glass. Together we have a lifetime of vacation mementos and one small carved black peat cat bought in Ireland on our honeymoon. All the paintings, photos and things we bought on the Vineyard during a decade or more of summers. They need space. There’s no room, so I won’t be making lots of prints. I have dozens of paintings and photographs that were gifts from artist friends that I can’t afford to frame and if I could, I’d have no place to hang them.

I dumped hundreds of gigabytes of  RAW and TIFF files. While I was organizing, I consolidated files of similar things. I have dozens of New England autumns, thousands of pictures of dogs, kids, dogs and kids, friends and their kids and dogs.


This task sounds a lot more interesting than it actually is. In fact, it makes watching paint dry seem thrilling, but it needed to be done. And while I was sorting, reformatting and organizing, back on Serendipity, I quietly slipped over the 44,000 hit mark. I’ll celebrate at 45,000 I guess, or maybe I’ll wait for 50,000. The numbers have been moving so quickly.

Awards … another Liebster, more followers  — and I realize I have posted every day for more than six months. 868 posts as of tonight. Time has flown by. From thinking I’d put up an occasional post about something or other, maybe show some photographs … to recognizing that this blog has become important to me. It’s no longer a little hobby; it has become a focus.

I stopped bringing home a regular salary more than ten years ago when I became ill. I tried, intermittently, to work, but I couldn’t. Eventually, it became clear my career was over. My pride took a hit, but I don’t really miss work. I miss the paycheck, but work? Nope.

I settled down to not working and it required a bit of adjustment.  I’ve never been bored. For a while I was too sick to be bored, but I’ve always filled time by reading. It’s my fallback position. Somewhere in there I wrote a book. That consumed a couple of years and after that, for a few years I ran an online antique and collectibles business, which is where many of my antiques and other stuff originated. It was surprisingly successful, but the economy fell apart. The type of stuff I sold was based on people having spare money for things that are just beautiful, not necessarily useful. With the handwriting bright on the wall, I closed up shop.

Han pot

Han pot

If you aren’t going to school or working at a job, time tends to lose its shape. Blogging has given it a bit more form. It’s writing, which is as much who I am as what I do. As I move through my world, I look at the things I do and whatever is happening around me as stuff I can write about. When I hold a camera, I see the world in frames and perspective, I see colors and angles, light and shadow. When I think about it as a writer, I hear everything described in my mind, narrated.

Often, by the time I sit down to write, it’s almost written. It’s not always that easy, but sometimes it is. Sometimes words fall out of my fingers and it’s all just there, complete, waiting to put together.

Life has a rhythm, a pulse, a flow. From morning coffee to afternoon chores, to the evening when I write, watch a movie or some television, then write some more. Often, as now, I do both at the same time, something my husband finds baffling. If I think about it I suppose I’d find it baffling too, but I can do two things at a time. Usually. Depending on what the two things are.

The Mumford

If you’re waiting for me to get to the point, you’re out of luck. No point. Just a long ramble … rather like life.

In books, nothing happens without a reason. In literature, there are no coincidences, no accidental meetings. But life is full of things happening for no discernible reason. We can attribute meaning … religious meaning, omens, portents, whatever. But really, things just are what they are. We go from infancy to childhood then on into adulthood. We create goals and we push to achieve them, but the goals are not “real thing.” They are what we put in place to give our lives form, shape and direction, to make us feel purposeful.


It’s harder when you are older and in what I like to think of as your post-career because the kinds of aims and goals we had before don’t work and we have to find new directions. Most of us do. The classic image that young people have of old people sitting around doing nothing and just fading into the twilight is based on misconception and stereotyping. They are in a hurry to grow up, to get on to whatever it is they perceive as the next stage of life. They can’t understand what life is like when your primary goal is to enjoy your time, not dash through everything as fast as possible.

They’ll find out.

It’s a Wonderful Life

This is MY favorite Christmas movie. Love that “movie within a movie” alternate history thing. Enough like time travel to tickle my brain in all the right places and enough sentimentality to need at least a couple of kleenex.


Head In A Vice

Wonderful Life poster

An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.

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