(*) At least those I can remember!

Statistics don’t tell the whole story. I’ve been looking through the stats on my various posts to see what they tell me about the “best” posts of 2015. Statistics reveal which posts got the most hits … but that’s all. It doesn’t take into account how the author felt about it.

Because I publish about 1000 posts per blogging year — including re-blogs, photographs, and four authors — it is difficult to remember what I posted this year. I have to rely on statistics to give me a list of the popular posts for 2015. I’m leaving out any post I already mentioned in the “all time top ten.”

These are my favorites of those that made the top hundred most popular — using views as the sorting tool … and then my opinion as the final criteria. Click on a title to open the original post.


WHAT EMPOWERS YOU? From July 2014, this post apparently resonated with a lot of people and is still accumulating hits. It’s one of those posts that fell out of my fingers into the keyboard. On rereading it, it’s not bad. Perhaps I haven’t given it its due.


MARILYN’S FAVORITE YEAR – 1969 Originally published in September 2014, it is still getting hits. Some posts apparently are “evergreen.” Not popular when first published, but has gathered momentum during the weeks and months that have followed. I’m glad, because it is one of my personal favorites.

NormanRockwell Little Rock

NON-WHITE AMERICA IN NORMAN ROCKWELL’S PAINTINGS – HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT,  JANE ALLEN PETRICK – This is a review of a lovely book that got almost no attention the first two times I published it. Yet this third time, it garnered hundred of views and several reblogs. I hope it convinced a few people to buy the book.

I’m not shy about republishing pieces that I feel were overlooked or under-appreciated.


HE SAID YES was published in January 2015. It’s a piece of the very long story of Garry and my courtship. Edited for a G-rated audience and to keep the main characters out of jail. The truer story is longer … a book, not a post. Maybe I’ll write it. I’ll think about it. I’m not sure just how much personal information I’m feeling public about.


BROWN RECLUSE SPIDERS DON’T LIVE HERE! So after Garry got bitten by one or two brown recluse spiders — who don’t live here even though everyone except the experts agree that they most certainly do live here — this is a piece of the story of the great spider bite debacle of 2015.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM! – GARRY ARMSTRONG Garry’s affectionate memories of his mom, on her birthday this past July, 2015.


PASS THE ALUMINUM FOIL (DIRECTIONS INCLUDED) A humorous anecdote of one of the more amusing wackos I’ve met over the years. A little astrology and directions to make your very own aluminum foil hat.

Banks Ernie Plaque 142_NBL_0LET’S PLAY TWO: REMEMBERING ERNIE BANKS – GARRY ARMSTRONG Just what it sounds like. In Memorium for a baseball great.


DON’T COVET YOUR NEIGHBOR’S ASS I couldn’t remember the ten commandments. Doesn’t everyone know them? But Garry couldn’t remember them either, though we more or less pieced them together — two minds being slightly better than one. But then, what was the correct order? I’m still not sure.


GENERATION GAP – GROWING UP BOOMER Communication between generations. Maybe not the impossible dream? Is there hope?



Tell how you are feeling today in the form of a weather report. (For example, partly cloudy, sunny with a chance for showers, etc.)


Gray skies beginning to clear in late afternoon. Bright sunshine a definite possibility for the remainder of the week!

What is most memorable about your high school years?

Swimming. My school had an Olympic sized pool and every year, we got a questionnaire asking us if we could swim. I always said “no.” And always got assigned to swimming instead of gym.


I loved swimming and the teacher would look at me and say “you again?” Then she’d send me to the deep end so I wouldn’t get in the way of the beginners who were still trying to figure out how to float.

Have you ever owned a rock, pet rock, or gem that is not jewelry?

I have a little bowl of rocks on my headboard (which is also a bookcase).


It has some rose quartz, turquoise, obsidian, granite, some seashells. I also have a little book that tells me what the various vibrations of the stones are. I like having them there. They are very friendly.

But I also really love Navajo jewelry. AND we will be in Arizona next week. Oh boy.

Complete this sentence: I like watching… comedies. 

I will watch almost anything that makes me laugh, though I’m not fond of physical comedy or anything where someone is humiliated. I like wit, word play, cleverness. I love parody and spoofs.


Mel Brooks and the Zucker Brothers. And the Marx Brothers, “Night at the Opera” is a favorite.


Not one single state filed anything suggesting secession.

Why? First, because no state government was stupid enough to lose the benefits they get from the central government. Secession is illegal. The Civil War decided the issue and there’s no going back. All of those petitions were put together by groups of discontented sore losers who didn’t understand in the United States, an election decides the issue.

We don’t govern by petition. We protect your right to petition (thank you, First Amendment), but that only means we don’t throw you in jail for doing it, not that your petition has force of law.

The U.S. does not govern by opinion. No matter how often or how loudly you tell the world about your dissatisfaction on the Internet, on social media sites, or anything else, it’s the ballot box where we collect and count votes. We have a constitution. We have laws. We vote. We count votes. The winner is decided, the loser takes his marbles and goes home.

A petition by the losers of an election does not trump the right of the people of the United States to freely elect their representatives. That you have the right to petition doesn’t mean your petition is going to change anything. Its existence is a testament to how free a country this is. Most other places, you’d be jailed or shot.


The reason that not a single state government has petitioned for secession is because no one running a state is as stupid as these petitioners. They know they can’t go it on their own and aren’t going to try. Not to mention that a state trying to secede is considered to be in rebellion, for which there are serious penalties. As for the argument that we seceded from England, we were never part of England. We were a colony, a far different legal position than that held by a state.

Battle of Lexington and Concord revolution

We did not secede from England. We rebelled against English rule. We are heroes because we won, but had we lost, it would have been ugly. It would have been treason.

Rebellion is a serious matter and the price of losing is dreadful. Rebels are hanged or shot, pretty much universally, so anyone who thinks they ought to rebel needs to be prepared to die.

AN HISTORICAL NOTE: The American colonists’ first choice was not to break away from England. We wanted the rights of full British citizenship and full representation in Parliament. In other words, far from preferring rebellion, we wanted inclusion. We wanted our status as a colony upgraded to the British equivalent of statehood … something that our American secessionist wannabes already have … and are too ignorant to value.

No one is going to secede. Maybe after the alien invasion, things will change. Until then, secession is a non-issue.

congress in session

For the blood-thirsty idiots who think a civil war is a good idea:

The Civil War cost more than 620,000 American lives, above and below the Mason-Dixon line. Death doesn’t care what color uniform you wear or what color skin you have. Dead is dead. The war between the states caused more American deaths than all other wars this nation has fought combined. ALL of them combined. I don’t know the actual percentage of the population that perished in that hideous conflict, the gory legacy of which we are still dealing with 150 years later, but it was a very substantial percentage. Anyone who suggests that doing that again is a good idea is a criminal.

I don’t care what you believe. No one who values human life, believes in God, or has any kind of conscience or moral compass would suggest we take up arms and start slaughtering each other.

The Peacemakers.

If we are unable to live together, we will not survive as a nation. How can anyone claim to care about this country and then suggest we destroy it because they don’t like the President? Does this sound like patriotism?

There are too many people who have yet to grasp the concept that in a contest, there are always winners and losers. You, over there, with the sign and the sour face. You lost. Deal with it.

Respect the constitution. Work within our excellent system of laws. If you don’t respect our government enough to honor its fundamental principles, you really should go live somewhere else, if you can find anywhere else that will have your sorry asses.

Does it surprise anyone that the “leaders” of this bogus “movement” to secede are largely from the same states that produced the glorious Civil War? You think race might have something to do with it?

The number of signatories, assuming that they could be verified as real people, does not come close to a majority of citizens of any state — nor even enough people to elect someone to congress. It’s a bunch of malcontents trying to get media attention. In other words, sore losers.


Marilyn and I follow lots of those TV procedural crime shows. We anticipate all the cliché lines.

“Stay in the car”

“He was turning his life around.”

“Everyone loved him.”

“No one was supposed to get hurt!”


We usually figure out who the “vics” and “perps” are before the coppers and lawyers find the answer, often before the credits finish rolling. Now, fiction has turned to cold, hard reality in our home. We are the victims. Not the mob, not the cabal, not even some local mokes looking for an easy score.

It’s an inside job and the perps are our DOGS!


They’ll smile, offer constant affection and cheer us up when we aren’t feeling good. But it’s part of their sting.

Food is the motive. Their “jackets” are full of priors. Most are misdemeanors but now they’ve moved up the chain to felony. Bonnie, our beloved Scottie, is the boss. She leads the furry gang in snatches, intimidation, assault (head butting), larceny and perjury.


We’ve tried to turn their lives around with extra Christmas goodies, more fun battles on the love seat and long chats to emphasize our affection.

But Bonnie and her accomplices are food-driven. Nothing we do can stop this furry reign of terror. We don’t want to profile Bonnie because she is black, and we are afraid of possible lawsuits. Perhaps the IA people can check out her background.


Bonnie, clearly driven to revenge, is hell-bent on retribution because … we’ve put her on a diet. Bonnie is relentless in stealing Marilyn’s food. She stalks Marilyn and refuses to back down when confronted. The other dogs make sure Bonnie’s six is protected.

We’ve tried so hard to show them the path to a good life but their crimes are senseless.

Generosity… That was our first mistake.


This is the TOP TEN for four (all) blogging years. Ten out of more than 4000 posts. Do these represent the best of my writing or my favorite pieces? No. These are the statistical winners. The people have spoken!

NOTE: * I omitted reblogs and “about” pages for Serendipity’s authors. The “about” pages are far and away the biggest “hit” producers.

top-10 LOGOSo, other than having been written by me or some other officially designated author for this site, what are my criteria? Quality? Relevance?

Nah. Just hits. How many people came by to take a look. I don’t even know if they actually read it or just came and clicked “like.”

  1. The FBI can’t do a simple Google search? July 23, 2013 – With a 10,149 hits for the original piece and probably another 5,000 for subsequent reruns, this minor piece about the 2013 season opener for “Criminal Minds” has retained an enthusiastic following. I have no idea why. Really. I don’t.
  2. DON’T DRINK THE KOOL AID – THE JONESTOWN MASSACRE – I have revised this piece several time and republished it annually. The total hits on this story of hell on earth has topped 9,000. One of the truly horrific episodes of American history.
  3. WHERE DO THE SWANS GO? It’s mostly pictures of the swans and my mental meandering about swans surviving the terrible winters. For all those who wondered, many swans and other water fowl don’t survive. They die of starvation and cold. Just under 2,000 hits on this one.
  4. GAZING THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDE: HOLLYWOOD & MORAL CHARACTER – A followup post to the FBI post that’s number 1. Just short of 2,000 hits on this one. I guess “Criminal Minds” has a lot of fans.
  5. ANGEL COMES OUT by Rich Paschall – A fine post that got 1800 hits its first day and which continued to be read many times since.
  6. FLYPAPER (2011): A PLEASANT SURPRISE – Published several times, this is a review of a movie that almost no one went to see. It opened on only two screens for a couple of days and earned just over $1100 in its “onscreen” run. But Garry and I liked it. So I reviewed it. More than 1,200 views, probably more but I’ve been deleting earlier versions of the same piece so their statistics vanish with them.
  7. WHAT EMPOWERS YOU? – Originally in response to a WordPress Daily Prompt. Not a bad little piece of spontaneous writing. Apparently it resonated with quite a few people. 1051 views that I can find (earlier versions were deleted).
  8. How many states were trying to secede after the 2012 election? – November 2012. Everyone was on about all the American states that were trying to secede from the U.S. Real answer? None. 1,000 hits and still dribbling in after all these years.
  9. REMEMBERING DAD ON HIS 100th BIRTHDAY by Garry Armstrong was a nostalgic and loving tribute to Garry’s dad. 940 hits, give or take a couple of dozen.
  10. MEET FELIX CASTOR, EXORCIST BY MIKE CAREY — A review of the Felix Castor series by the elusive Mike Carey. Felix Castor is an exorcist with a conscience at a time when ghosts, demons, and zombies are becoming part of the human population’s mainstream. It is beautifully written, containing some of the most elegant language I’ve ever read. The 5-book series deserves more readers. If only Mike Carey, whoever he really is, would write one more. 700 hits.

This is the “all-time” list. I’ve made a 2015 list too which will be published New Year’s Eve when no one will be reading blogs.

I omitted, as I said I would, reblogged posts. I also left out my “Freshly Pressed” post which I don’t like. This is “the people’s choice” list. I’m not sure whether or not any of these would be on a list of my personal favorites.

I’m also not sure what my personal favorites really are.


Election - 2016_election_banner_1


Garry and I had watched about 7 minutes of the final (?) Republican pre-nomination debate. We found ourselves engulfed … overwhelmed … by a sense of impending doom. Is it just us?

“Are these really the best and brightest the G.O.P. … the party of Lincoln … can proffer to the American people? This is it? As good as it gets?”

“And Trump … is he merely the worlds biggest asshole or is just playing a cruel game with us. Surely he can’t be that vain or that stupid,” added Garry.

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” Robert Hanlon said that, I pointed out.

Garry nodded. I nodded back. There was no point in discussing it. We’d just get morose and depressed. Politics. Bah. Humbug.




And we know what week 52 means. That’s right. This year is ending. This week. The last week of this year. The final oddball photographs of 2015. Wow. Where did the time go? Really hard to remember.

Way up by the ceiling, Beethoven's name is engraved. A tribute to the composer from the architect. I can't see it except through my very long lens. Most people don't know it's there at all.

Way up by the ceiling, Beethoven’s name is engraved. A tribute to the composer from the architect. I can’t see it except through my very long lens. Most people don’t know it’s there at all.

Pipes for a very large organ!

Pipes for a very large organ!

Stage lights at the Boston Sympony

Stage lights at the Boston Symphony

And finally, a word from our sponsors …



Being a lawyer used to be a source of pride
But years of cruel jokes have made us want to hide.
We feel we have to go to a shrink, or confession
Cause we’re in what was once a respected profession.
This reputation causes stress and is so unfair
But to comics, lawyer jokes are a breath of fresh air.
So I want to help you understand us a bit more
And see that “lawyer” is not a synonym for “whore”.


I’ll bypass the rigors of getting into law school
And start with First Year, which is traumatic, as a rule.
Our teachers beat us down to remodel our brain
And make us “think like a lawyer”, — or make us insane.
We must learn to debate both sides with equal skill.
Our job’s to advocate for the one who pays the bill!
The fact is, in every case, someone must be
Stuck defending greed, malice, or venality.

We graduate and go to work, on bottom once more
(Law school didn’t teach us any real world legal chore).
Our early years in practice can be quite hair-raising;
It’s like joining a frat and enduring a hazing.
When we get to leave our office we’re shocked to find
In the non-legal world we’re maliciously maligned!
After all our hard work we are seen to share the blame
WIth clients who act without decency or shame.
So you see why we’re hurt when we’re called “shark” or worse;
We’re not amoral hypocrites, sleazy or perverse.
It’s distressing to be thought of as demons from hell;
When we just do, an often unsavory, job well.

Our system’s adversarial, that’s how it’s designed.
It can’t be judgemental – remember, justice is blind!
The theory – truth will win when opposing parties fight;
The legal battle will unveil what is fair and right.
So when you’re in trouble or find yourself being sued,
I hope at least then, you’ll change your attitude.
When you pick up the phone and cry for legal aid,


Be grateful your lawyer believes that, if we’re paid,
No matter what, we must ardently argue your case
Though we don’t like you at all and think that you’re base.
We may find you obnoxious and selfish and yet,
Believe you deserve the best defence you can get.
Though we think you’re wrong and want the other side to win,
And feel that representing you is close to a sin,

We’ll put our morals aside and do a good job
Whether you’ve been screwed by, or in fact, run the mob.
You’d better hope we don’t get on our moral high horse
When we have to represent you in your divorce.
Also pray we aren’t sorely tempted to do
What we believe in – instead of defending you!


The Daily Prompt would like my thoughts on aging. 

First Senior Moment

The first senior moment …

If I have to give an opinion, other than “Wow, it sucks,” I think it should stop. Now. This minute. Alternatively, It could have waited another decade or three before rearing it’s wrinkled old head.


Thoughts on aging. What kind of question is that to ask me on the Sunday morning after Christmas? What a downer.


Medellin, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

A mile high in the Andes mountains of Colombia, located in the Aburrá Valley, lies the city of Medellin. It is somewhere between the size of Los Angeles and Chicago. Some of its neighborhoods are built up the sides of the mountain, but the city center is mostly flat.

Nevertheless, bring a good pair of walking shoes to make you tour around town.  Traffic in downtown Medellin can be something close to gridlock in midday.  The large number of buses and taxis will not help you get around quickly.

Medellin downtown

Medellin downtown

My trip was somewhat of a lark. A longtime internet friend encouraged me to come visit. Although we talked often on Google Hangout and Skype and chatted on Facebook Messenger, we had never actually met.  After seeing all the Facebook pictures of friends and relatives, it was as if we were old friends.

The weather there was just about perfect, so I decided to use my few remaining vacation days and hop a plane south.

I was not eager to transit another country, I decided to take American Airlines from Chicago to Miami and then fly directly to Medellin. It would have been cheaper to connect in Panama City, but lacking Spanish, it seemed a better choice to connect in an American city. Besides, the Miami connecting times were shorter.

Columbia’s international airport is in Rionegro, 45 minutes from Medellin. It’s at a higher altitude than Medellin and offers amazing views of the tropical region. Although the airport is the second largest in Colombia, it was closer in size to Sarasota, Florida, though much busier. The airport is modern and efficient. Much easier to get through customs than Miami — a story for another time.

My friend was waiting for me as I came out of customs.  From this point on in the trip, it’s a good idea to have someone local with you, even if you speak Spanish, which I don’t.  Most signs are entirely in Spanish … which by itself can be a problem for tourists.

I had exchanged currency at the airport in Miami — never a good thing. Rates of exchanges at airports are the worst. Even ATM rates would have been better, but then you have fees, so I suppose it’s a toss-up.  I did not see currency exchanges in the city, but there were some large banks in downtown Medellin that might have been able to make the exchange at a better rate.

You definitely need cash. Most stores and restaurants take only cash, even when you see a MasterCard sticker on the door. The only place you’ll likely use plastic is at an ATM.

There are plenty of taxis and buses at the airport, so transportation to the city should be no problem. My friend took us to the taxi line. The first one was for a shared cab to a designated spot in the city. He chose this for economy

We shared the ride with a couple and a single person. A three-way split is very economical.  In fact, it was cheaper than from O’Hare airport to downtown Chicago — and O’Hare is actually in Chicago proper.

Road to the airport

Road to the airport

The ride down the mountain in the dark was an adventure. The road into the airport is wide and well-lit, but shortly you are on a winding two lane highway. In the mountains. At night.

The driver knows the road well, but racing down was quite a thrill.  We would get tossed from side to side like a roller coaster ride.  When we arrived in town and dropped off the others, my friend negotiated a rate to his apartment.

At night we visited a neighborhood filled with outdoor cafes and sports bars. A large central square was crowded. You could buy beverages at nearby stores. The square and two streets along it formed an “L” and was like Bourbon Street in New Orleans — one big open air party.

The downtown shopping area the next day was crowded.  We went by Metro and returned by taxi. The wide walkways on many streets could accommodate outdoors stands and carts where a variety of goods were available. Tropical fruit drinks (non alcoholic) were everywhere  — a good thing when you’re doing serious shopping.

Downtown shopping

Downtown shopping

Many stores featured products from the US. We saw one store supposedly selling “USA brand” clothes.  My friend said to me, “all originals,” with a wink and a laugh. I decided after a while that I could figure out which places sold authentic goods and high-end merchandise because they had armed security guards at the door. It did not appear the police walking the streets were armed, although I didn’t study them.

Medellin is known as the “City of Eternal Spring” because of it temperate climate.  The average annual temperature is 72 degrees Fahrenheit.  Most days are in the 80’s all year-long, but since they are in the mountains, it cools off to low 60’s at night.

Upper 50’s would be a cold night.  Few places had air conditioning. Restaurants and bars are open air and the climate is perfect for living outdoors. Cool enough for comfortable nighttime sleeping, too. The days were in the upper 80’s, and the cooler nights did not require jackets. Pretty good compared to December in Chicago.

If your knowledge of Medellin comes from news stories from 1993 or earlier, forget it.  They have worked hard to live down the past and transform the city into a welcoming place.

If he comes up in conversation, locals will tell you that Pablo Escobar does not live there anymore (died in 1993), just as Chicagoans sometimes have to say that Al Capone does not live here anymore (he died in 1947).

The people are friendly, food is good, climate is great, and the scenery is beautiful. The trip was too short and I wouldn’t mind another visit. Especially in the winter.

Visit the Medellin photo gallery at Sunday Night Blog here.



I’ve come a long way since I wrote the first version of this. It’s like time travel. I see who I was “back then” versus who I am now.

Life is change … and change is the single constant. Change is neither good nor bad, but as we age, it tends to be difficult.


I broke my back when I was a kid. I was reconstructed when I was 19. For the next 35 years, I refused to pay any attention to my spine. I was not going to be disabled.

“Mind over matter,” I declared. It turns out, mind over matter only takes you so far. I had been to more than a few doctors, all of whom said I needed a new spinal fusion, the old one having disintegrated.

The solution made no sense because after the new, upgraded surgery, I’d be in more pain than I already am. My spine would be immobilized. How was that going to be an improvement?

I believe in miracles, but I don’t bank on them. If you can count on them, they aren’t miracles, right? In lieu of prayer, I took my case to a top spine specialist.

Boston road signs

He said I did not need surgery. “Ignore my colleagues’ scare tactics,” he said. “Your back got you through this far. It’ll take you the rest of the way. Pain control, gentle exercise, and recognize your limits. Don’t do anything stupid.” Like fall off a horse? Lift heavy packages?


Faith can help get you through times of trouble, but faith in what? Yourself? Friends? Family? It need not be a deity, though I often think it would be ever so nice to believe that an all-powerful deity was watching out for me. Otherwise, faith in something helps. I need to at least believe there’s a future worth living. That’s a big part of getting through life.

Sunshine after a week of rain ...

Faith is a tool, not a band-aid. You don’t apply it like a salve to heal all ills. You still have to take care of yourself and your business. Faith won’t make you young, stop your joints from aching, pay your mortgage, or make you immortal. It can offer you a context in which to see yourself and your problems, make you realize things could be a lot worse and you do have something for which to feel grateful. No small thing.


I believe there is something, but I have no idea what. I don’t believe we have individual guardian angels looking out for us. It would be nice, but I don’t believe it. Yet, I will not commit to nothingness.

One way or the other, to suggest I have answers would be absurd. I’ll let others duke it out on details. I shall stay unaffiliated.

Meanwhile, whoever or whatever has helped me get this far, I’d very much appreciate it if that force would stay with me.


Post by Marilyn Armstrong

Photographs (except 2) by Kaiti Kraus (aka The Granddaughter)


It’s one in the morning and you’re exhausted. You ate so much at dinner you are uncomfortably aware of how full your tummy is.

Full of great food you rarely eat. Despite this, you can’t seem to settle down.

  1. It must be Christmas because you are so full you can hardly breathe, yet you want another piece of peach pie.
  2. You’re in bed. Warm. Finally got your feet up … but you need to go and look at least one of your gifts. It will still be there in the morning, but you need to look right now.
  3. You are wondering if you should have kept more leftovers so you wouldn’t have to cook again until New Year’s.


Even though there’s no more room in the refrigerator.  Or anything in which to store more of anything.


It really must be Christmas … because you’re too tired to move, but you really want to …


Not so long ago, I bought a bunch of Beatles albums and one by John Prine. The day before yesterday, just in time for Christmas, I got this email:


And when I opened my Kindle last night, what to my wondering eyes should appear but three Beatles albums and the John Prine, ready for my listening pleasure. I didn’t even know I was entitled to the download. Golly.

So I decided to put them on this computer, too. I downloaded the Amazon App for music.

Amazon Music App

Quick as a wink, I created play lists … and realized I have thousands of album cuts and single songs in my library that I don’t remember acquiring. Obviously, I did. In my sleep maybe?

Merry Christmas to me! There are days … many days … when I really love Amazon.