THE BIRTHDAY GIRL – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I write a lot of pieces about celebrities I’ve met in my professional life. They are fun to remember and share. Sometimes it feels like name dropping or playing a broken record if the story is written too frequently. Friends and acquaintances assure me there’s an audience for these stories and I should continue to share the memories.

Today’s piece is about the most important person in my life.  We’ve been friends for more than half a century.  We’ve been married for 28 years.  We share some of the most bizarre stories you’re likely to hear.

By the Mumford – Photo: Garry Armstrong

You know her well.  My Wife, Marilyn.  She is, among other things, the SERENDIPITY lady. Today is Marilyn’s birthday. I hope many of Marilyn’s SERENDIPITY friends, mates and fellow bloggers are celebrating her day.  She has opened windows on the world for countless people around the world with her pieces.

Marilyn writes voraciously, about all things great and small. Marilyn is passionate about our world and those who live on our planet. I sometimes fear that Marilyn’s passion for making things right will make her head explode.  She’s always been that way since we first met as college kids and were bent on changing the world.  That world, the 60’s and all its turbulence, needed change. Decades later, I’m not sure if we’ve left any imprints on our journey through life. The one constant in our lives is Marilyn’s determination to “out” the idiots, pretenders and felons of all persuasion who strive to pollute our quality of life.

It’s a tall order. Perhaps a mission impossible. But Marilyn is driven to make our collective lives better.  Her sword is the pen, her computer keyboard. I watch her work relentlessly, every day, morning through night, her face focused on subject matter of yet another blog.  Marilyn never seems to tire even when her body is sending obvious signals to slow down.  I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut. Marilyn doesn’t suffer fools. Yes, she’s been my rock for all these years.  Go figure.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Marilyn always makes sure that the birthdays of family and friends are remembered, celebrated in some way. Not the easy “Hallmark” way that takes little effort or imagination.  Marilyn is always thoughtful.  It’s a quality that I’ve found very unique in my professional and personal life.

Our celebration of Marilyn’s birthday pales in comparison with how mine is recognized.  Hopefully, we’ll go out for dinner and Marilyn won’t have to cook yet another dinner.  Her birthday card hasn’t arrived.  Thanks very much, U.S. Postal Service.  No, I haven’t forgotten! I know Marilyn is disappointed.  We DID have a visit from her son Owen and his friend, Dave, who have been the bright lights on Marilyn’s day. They brought a basket of Shrimp, realizing we don’t eat cake or sweets in our golden years.  I think their visit lifted Marilyn’s spirits. I’m grateful.

I’m beyond grateful to have Marilyn in my life. I leave a lot to be desired as the spouse who is admired by the public which only knows his media image. Marilyn has worked hard to make our marriage succeed when I’ve been engulfed in my own selfish pursuits.

I think we were lucky to find each other again after having gone down different roads for many years.

I can easily say the 28 years of marriage have been the best years of my life.

Happy Birthday, Mi Amor.

What Happens In One Lifetime?

This seemed particularly appropriate for this birthday.
At age 71 — what happened? How many hours for how many different activities?  I think I’ve had fewer baths and far more Netflix!


In a lifetime, you will produce enough saliva to fill anywhere between 180 to 360 bathtubs, cry 1745 times, and make 146,801,613 steps. This video from AsapSCIENCE takes a dive into things most of us will accomplish during our trips around the Sun. It’s pretty amazing.

Video via – AsapSCIENCE
Further Readings And References:WHOLWW, and The Telegraph

THE ACCUMULATION OF STUFF – RICH PASCHALL

Reducing Clutter, by Rich Paschall


When my grandfather retired and my grandparents moved back to Tennessee from Chicago where they had lived for close to twenty years, they gave away many items they felt they no longer needed.  Chief among them was a snow blower.  “What if it snows, grandpa?” I asked.  He explained that in the unlikely event of snow, it would melt off in a day or two.  There was no need for something they may never use again.

When he asked if I would like anything, I said I would take his nightstand if the plan was to leave it behind.  It was an inexpensive little piece with a small door on the front to hold just a few items inside.  It had a homemade quality and symbolized my grandfather to me.  I was probably in early teens.  I still have it today.  The item could be 100 years old by now.

Their home in small town Tennessee was remarkably uncluttered.  They had just what they needed for the next twenty years of their lives.  The house was always, neat, clean and orderly and I truly believe that it added to the relaxed and comfortable existence they enjoyed for many years.  They never seemed to lack for anything when I would visit.  I envy that simple existence now.

When my father retired and moved to Florida with his second wife (not my mom), he too left behind things he could not imagine using again.  He had decided to give away his winter outerwear and offered me a nice coat and other items.  “What if it gets cold, or you come back to visit in winter, dad?” He pointed out that it never gets that cold in Florida and while he may be back to visit, it would never be in winter.

Aside from taking this winter offering, I desired nothing else.  I had his World War II medals and discharge paper.  There was nothing else I wanted.  I have since passed the World War II memorabilia to my older brother.  He has children and may be able to pass them on.  By the way, I kept a Good Conduct medal for my “good conduct.”  Dad had more than one and I decided not to award my brother with several of these.

Mom was a collector of stuff.  I sometimes wondered if this was the result of growing up poor in the Depression.  Was the accumulation of items, no matter how little the value, important to someone who had nothing growing up?  Were many of us from the Baby Boomer generation collectors because we saw that our parents were?

Mom collected everything from coffee cups to shot glasses, refrigerator magnets to picture frames, swizzle sticks from hotels and restaurants, to match books from the same.  There were figurines and candle holders, tea services not to be used, special occasion kitchen ware that may never have seen the special occasion.  There were “knickknacks” of all sorts, or what her mother would have simply called “dust catchers.”  To me, most of these items did not have enough value to have to dust them every weekend.

After mom had reached her 80’s and could not care for all the stuff, or even recall all the stuff she had, I moved her to an apartment in the same building so we could watch over her a little more closely.  That lasted less than a year and she was in a hospital, then a nursing home.  I moved to the larger apartment to hold on to the “stuff” in case she recovered well enough to come home.  She lived almost 6 years at the home and I not only had a lifetime of my own stuff, I then inherited a mountain of stuff I would never have considered owning.  Worse yet, many of the dust collectors I owned were some of the same items I grew up looking at.  I can not explain how I did not want these things.  For whatever reason, I could not get rid of much of it in the years that followed.

In the past year, however, I decided it was time to start to eliminate many of these things.  I had shelves and cabinets overflowing with items that I would never use and in some cases never wanted.  What if I have to move?  I do not want to have to take a lot of these things.  What if I die?  Someone will just toss out most of it anyway.  Is this “stuff” adding anything to my life?  This really is the key question.  If I was not going to use it and it did not hold some great personal value, it was time to go.

It is hard to do an assessment of items that have been in your house for decades.  You may falsely conclude that they have a sentimental value when all they really enjoy is longevity.  Consider cleaning up and not leaving it to others.  I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your kids, or grandkids, do not want your stuff.  Yes, they may desire an item or two, but for the most part your stuff will end up being donated or tossed out, so you might as well do it yourself.  Consider how much of your parents or grandparents stuff you wanted?  I am not talking about family photos, I am talking about “stuff.”

Last year I tossed out a lot of stuff.  I did not want them and could not imagine anyone paying 25 cents for them, so they finally hit the trash. I gave a lot of stuff away to various charities, depending on the type of item.  I also listed things on eBay if I thought they had a value.  I sell about a half-dozen items a month.  At this pace I could sell stuff for the next 25 years and still have a lot of things.  When I retire, I will likely increase my eBay offerings or my donations to resale shops, probably both. If anyone wants stuff, I will be happy to oblige.

THE WHITE HURRICANE: 03-11-1888

Today is my birthday.

It’s also the anniversary of the biggest, baddest blizzard to ever hit the east coast of the United States. The early part of March is frequently stormy. Blizzards are common, though usually the snow melts quickly in the spring.

Woods in winter

I appear to have been destined for snowy climes. This is not only the story of a storm, but a cautionary tale to never forget winter isn’t over until the daffodils are in bloom. You can never overestimate how dangerous weather in this region can be, especially in the spring when wind patterns become unstable.

I was born in Brooklyn, New York on March 11. There had been a blizzard a few days before, but apparently it wasn’t a problem because I was safely born in Brooklyn Women’s Hospital. Nonetheless, throughout my childhood, no one in my family ever forgot to mention the blizzard that had hit right before I was born — they called me “the blizzard baby — and everyone still talked about my birthday storm from 1888.

Home in winter

Early March is a fine time for big snowstorms in the northeast. March 11, 1888 brought the biggest winter storm to ever hit the region. Known locally as the Brooklyn Blizzard of 1888 and up and down the east coast as the Great White Hurricane, it is my birthday blizzard, a foretaste of Marilyn to come. Or something like that.

Downtown crossing right after the 1978 blizzard

It was the worst blizzard to ever hit New York city and broke records from Virginia to Maine. It remains one of the worst — and most famous — storms in United States history. Accumulations of 40 to 50 inches were recorded. It’s hard to picture how much snow that is unless you’ve been through a few really big snowstorms. The deepest snow from one storm in my life so far was 28 inches. That’s only a bit more than half the amount of the 1888 blizzard. Despite all the changes and improvements to technology and infrastructure, that volume of snow would still paralyze us today. It’s more snow than any infrastructure can handle.

Did I mention snow is heavy? 50 inches on a standard roof will cause it to cave in. It would crush us.

It wasn’t merely a snow storm. The super storm included sub-zero temperatures and gale force winds. It was one of those occasions when people get put in their place, forcibly reminded of how strong Mother Nature is.

The storm blanketed areas of  New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. It carried with it sustained winds of more than 45 miles per hour. It produced drifts in excess of 50 feet. My house, at its peak, is about 40 feet, so so we are talking about drifts as high as a three-story building.

All forms of transportation were stopped. Roads and railroads were unusable. People were trapped in their houses for up to a week.

The Great White Hurricane paralyzed the U.S. East Coast from the Chesapeake Bay to Maine. The storm extended all the way up into the Atlantic provinces of Canada. The telegraph went down, leaving  major cities including Montreal, New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Boston without communication for days to weeks. Because of the storm, New York began putting its telegraph and telephone wiring underground to protect it from future disasters.

The seas and coastlines were not spared. In total, from the Virginia coast to New England, more than 200 ships were grounded or wrecked and more than 100 seamen died.

130 years later, no winter storm has yet topped the big one of 1888.

BIG TIME – BLACK & WHITE LARGE SUBJECTS

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Large Subjects


Large is relative. Compared to an ant, a dog is a giant … even a chihuahua. However, I did not shoot any ants and my large subjects are buildings. Alas, no elephants or giraffe and not a whale in sight.

A really big tree trunk

One of the larger buildings on Beacon Hill

Downtown where the “bigness” is more a matter of grouping than individual size