CONSTRUCTION! – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Construction Related

I really wanted pictures of road construction because it’s everywhere from early spring until well into the fall. But I never seem to have the pictures. I don’t know why. I think it’s the frustration of not being able to travel anywhere.

I wouldn’t mind the construction if it lasted more than half a season, but they do such a miserable job, it barely lasts out one season before they have to do the whole job over again.

Our tax money more or less at work!

Preparing poles is the hardest part of raising a tepee. And, of course, creating a piece of flat ground on which to stand it …
Teepee poles – made of oak and sassafras saplings
Building our “new” deck steps
More tepee construction
Building the new front door

MORE ABOUT THE WOODPECKERS – Marilyn Armstrong

The birds haven’t been very active today. It’s cold, so they fly in, grab a bite, and fly back to wherever they make their home. My son came over to refill their feeders because they ate a lot yesterday.

The big birds were out, especially the woodpeckers.

They are hefty eaters. It takes them a while to settle down, but once they get a good grip on the feeder, they just keep eating until they are finished. The rest of the birds mostly wait. Not all, but most.

A pair of woodpeckers

I had a pair — boy and girl — of Downy or Hairy Woodpeckers. I think they were Downy Woodpeckers, but both kinds of woodpecker look very much alike.

More woodpeckers!
Pair of peckers

It’s the beak length that’s the main difference and since they usually have it stuck inside the feeder, it’s not easy to figure out which is which. Whatever they are,  they are probably a mated pair.

The brightest bird of them all!
The Cardinal and the Tufted Titmouse on the flat feeder

I took a lot of pictures of these two because it was the first time I’ve had both on the feeder at the same time. I found it kind of thrilling.

Departing woodpecker (I think) and a nuthatch
And yesterday’s Ladderback with the bright red head

This proves I don’t have a very exciting life. I get really excited by birds and any other kind of wildlife.

MY BEST YEAR – 1969

1969 was the year I learned to fly. The world spun faster on its axis. Everything changed. We had the best music and the most fun we’d ever have again. It was before AIDS, too. Sex was fun — and the worst disease you could get was something a doctor could fix with a shot of antibiotics.

Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in July 1969. I watched it unfold. I was a new mother with a 2-month old baby boy. I wasn’t working yet and was finished with college. I was at home with the baby, not working, no studying. I had time to see the world unroll.

We were going to make the world a better place, end war. End bigotry, race prejudice, inequality. Turns out, it didn’t quite work out the way we planned, but our hearts were pure, even if we were also stoned.

Marilyn and the kid

It was a great time to get work, too because the world was opening up. You could still get an interview with a live person who might actually hire you. We had hope and we believed.

I saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. We saw it on CBS. It was obvious Walter Cronkite wanted to be up there too. Up there, with Neil and the rest of Apollo 11. He could barely control his excitement, almost in tears, his voice breaking with emotion.

The great Arthur C. Clarke was his guest for that historic broadcast. Neil Armstrong died last year. He had a good life. Unlike so many others who fell from grace, he remained an honorable man: a real American hero.

Apollo 11 – 1969

How I envied him his trip to the moon. Maybe the Mother Ship will come for us. If they could fix the old folks on Cocoon, maybe there’s room for Garry and me. Off to the stars? Sounds like a good deal. Earth, these days, is a total bummer.

On the moon, 1969

Woodstock was that summer. There were rumors flying about this amazing rock concert that was going to happen upstate. I had friends who had tickets and were going. I was busy with the baby and wished them well.

There were hippies giving out flowers in Haight-Ashbury, but I didn’t envy them. Because I was happy that year, probably happier than I’d ever been and in some ways, happier than at anytime since.

I was young, still healthy. I believed we would change the world, end war, make the world a better place. I still thought the world could be changed. All we had to do was love one another and join together to make it happen. Vietnam was in high gear, but we were sure it would end any day … and though we found out how terribly wrong we were, for a while we saw the future bright and full of hope.

I had a baby boy and I sang “Everything’s Fine Right Now” which I first heard sung by the Holy Modal Rounders at a local folk music club. They were the most stoned group of musicians I’d ever met, but the song was also a great lullaby. It made my baby boy laugh. 

It was the year of the Miracle Mets. I watched as they took New York all the way to the top. A World Series win. 1969. What a year. I rocked my son to sleep and discovered Oktoberfest beer. New York went crazy for the Mets. It should have been the Dodgers, but they’d abandoned us for the west coast.

I wore patchwork bell-bottom jeans and rose-tinted spectacles. I had long fringes on my sleeves and a baby on my hip.

Music was wonderful. How young we were! We could do anything, or so we thought.

We were going to end THE war and right every wrong. As we found the peak, we would almost immediately drop back into a dark valley. For a year, though, one great year, the stars aligned and everything was as it should be.

Decades passed. Being young was a long time ago. We use lots of drugs, but they control our blood pressure, not our state of consciousness. They are no fun at all.

I worry about Social Security and Medicare and I know I’m not going to fix what’s wrong with the world. I’ve lived a lifetime. My granddaughter is the age I was then.

I’ve remarried, lived in another country, owned houses, moved from the city to the country, and partied with a President … but 1969 remains my year.

SO WHAT IS LYING, REALLY? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #12

This week’s provocative question deals with exaggerations, embellishments, and lies.


“How do you feel about people who always seem to exaggerate when relating a story? Do you equate embellishment with lying? As a blogger, when, if ever, is stretching the truth, other than when writing fiction, permissible?”

I think this is a question that has no bearing on writers because you are trying to draw a sharp line between “hard data” and “fiction.”

There is no such line. A myth is a story stretched out and exaggerated. Unless you are writing instruction — like a manual or the results of a scientific study — there’s no line nor ought there be one. Many “fictional books” are essentially true, but to make the story more readable, timelines are compressed and multiple characters are combined into one character.

Fact or fiction? Or maybe fictionalized fact or fact-based fiction?

That’s not lying.

That’s writing. That’s telling a story. That’s creativity. That’s what we are all about. It’s what we do. That’s why there’s no clear line between a “docu-drama” and “realistic fiction.” Why story-telling is an art and not a science.

I’ve written manuals and scientific studies. I did it for money. Those documents are fact-based and of necessity must be, but everything else is a story.

Blogging is what I do for fun. You are welcome to call it whatever you want, as long as I get to write in whatever form I choose. Once you start to define creativity, you effectively make it NOT fun anymore.

By the way … If you have a friend who exaggerates stories in which you were involved? You are welcome to interrupt him or her and add your piece of the adventure. Nobody ever said you have to sit passively by and just listen.

We have a president who lies. He says things are true that are not true and these things are supposedly based on facts. THAT is lying.  But then again, I’m not the one standing in front of the American people promising to make it great again because I don’t know when it stopped being great.

THE NEW IBERIA BLUES, BOOK 22 – DAVE ROBICHEAUX – James Lee Burke

The New Iberia Blues:
Dave Robicheaux Series, Book 22

By: James Lee Burke

Narrated by: Will Patton

Series: Dave Robicheaux, Book 22
Length: 15 hrs and 3 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 01-08-19
Language: English
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio


James Lee Burke never fails me.

Every book he writes is rich, sensual, and powerful. The writing, the feel of the place and mood of the times. Of course, Dave Robicheaux and Clete are my favorites, but I have loved every book I’ve read by James Lee Burke, in and outside of the “Robicheaux” series.

I didn’t think they could get better, but this was better.

Why? Because the characters aren’t the same “kids” they were. They have aged, grown, and changed. They aren’t the same “guns blazing” Dave and Clete.

Life has been hard for both of them. Dave has lost three wives, one to Lupus and two to violence, but he’s not full of hate or looking for retribution. He’s an adult, a genuine grownup.

Both men have moved on with the understanding that life isn’t and won’t ever be exactly what they want. They aren’t expecting perfection, yet they are still involved, caring, concerned for each other and the world in which they live. They are entirely alive and deeply involved.

If you like James Lee Burke’s writing, there’s nothing not to love in this book.

Will Patton is a superb narrator (and a pretty good actor too, by the way). He may even be better than the original narrator who was himself, brilliant. What Patton has going for him is clarity of speech which enables him to use a reasonable southern accent, but clearly enough for we northerners to easily understand.

My only regret is that I read the book too fast.

I should have slowed down and made the story last longer. Maybe I’ll read it again.

Maybe I’ll read the last TWO again.


Note: This review is for the Audible.com version, but reading James Lee Burke as a regular book is just fine and in fact until quite late in the series, I read all his books in hardcover. I have all of the first books in hardcover, first edition. I know it’s sentimental, but I can’t help myself. I still love the smell and feel of a new hardcover book!

WHY SERENDIPITY? – Marilyn Armstrong

For seven years, Serendipity was the “official” name of this blog. One day WordPress decided the money I paid wasn’t enough to protect the title of my blog and we disappeared. Vanished.

To emerge back into the light, I had to come up with a “more unique name” so readers could find us. In between, some kid — one of WordPress’s “happiness engineers” explained that the problem was really that I am irrelevant. People — the general public — no longer (overnight) likes anything I write.

He really pissed me off and I’m still holding a grudge. I actually asked him what award-winning work he was currently writing. He explained he hoped someday to write something pretty good but hadn’t gotten there yet. I asked him if he’d ever written anything at all and he said, “not yet, but he was planning to.”

I wanted to reach through the computer, grab him by the throat, and throttle him. Luckily, I can’t do that … but someday.

A year later, we are very much back as “Serendipity – Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth” which is really the name of the post plus the “subtitle” in one title and you can find all 8,729 posts by using at least half of this annoyingly long title — or the name of whoever posted it the piece.

A few years ago, a few more people started writing for the blog and now, we are five. Garry and Tom write when they feel like it, Ellin and Rich write at least one piece a week and I do whatever remains and these days, a lot of them are pictures of birds.

Rich Paschall – in France

Rich Paschall has been writing, always on Sunday, but sometimes other days. Now that he is retiring, I expect to hear more from him. He has also been an incredible help to me when I’ve been out sick for long periods of time, especially when I was in for, then recovering from, a massive amount of heart surgery.

I don’t know if this site would have survived without his assistance and I will always be deeply grateful for his caring and concern, even though we’ve never personally met. I keep hoping one of these days, we will meet!

Tom Curley in performance

Friends Ellin and Tom Curley — well, we’ve been friends a long time. Tom, and Garry and I all worked at the same college radio station and Ellin is the wife Tom always needed but didn’t know until they met. I love happy marriages!

Ellin Curley

Tom writes when his personal lightning hits while Ellin is a loyal, regular writer and is beginning to get the hang of photography as another way of writing the story.

All of us have a lot to say.

Garry talks about his life as a TV news reporter and all the people he met along the way. Tom talks about his life and views as a TV director, producer, and engineer.

Not to mention his post TV life doing Audio theater in which Ellin is his partner.Garry Armstrong

Everyone has a LOT to say about the political world, mostly not very good stuff, but that’s the way it is these days.

“Serendipity is defined as the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” – Dictionary Definition.

Basically, life is all serendipity. I started this site 6-1/2 (seven years in February!) years ago and have garnered closing on 800,000 views from almost every country on the planet.

And still, I see a frightful lack of intelligent life on Earth.

Stupidity is exploding at an unsustainable rate. I thought we had reached epic levels of stupid, but there’s just no stopping it.

Marilyn Armstrong

Watching Jim Jeffries last night “interviewing” the Q people who also appear to be “flat world” believers … and believe Hillary Clinton kills babies for their blood. All of which beliefs are based on zero evidence. None of these bizarre “humans” think “proof” or “evidence” is important. Stupidity reigneth.

When you witness that sort of thing, not only do you get a splitting headache, but you realize seeking intelligent life on Earth may be a futile effort. To seek, yet never find.

There is no intelligent life on Earth. We are like Arthur’s knights seeking a Grail that never got to Britain and possibly never existed. Yet we seek it.

Serendipity? Well, there are two reasons for it as this blog’s title.

First, there is a lovely chocolate shop in Manhattan named “Serendipity.” They serve iced chocolate that is to die for. When I was a teener, it was the place to be, the coolest place in the big city. It continues to exist and I’m betting it’s still the place to be, especially if you live in New York, are young, and looking for life.

A flyaway woodpecker!

The other reason is more obvious. Life is serendipity. You go looking for one thing, you find something else. While you are “settling for that other thing,” you discover you like it more than whatever you were looking for. A lot of my writing is entirely serendipitous. I start writing and something falls out of my hands into the keyboard and sometimes, it’s pretty good.

We are born.

We have no idea who we are or what we will be.

We may never know who we are or what we will be.

We make choices, which may or may not work out, but regardless they are temporary. Because everything changes. We live many different lives and few of them are planned.

Life isn’t something you plan.
It just is.

A GOOD DAY FOR WOODPECKERS – Marilyn Armstrong

I really wasn’t going to take any pictures. For one thing, I didn’t feel particularly well and I really have a LOT of pictures. Thousands I think during the past three months.

So I was in the kitchen trying to make a sandwich. I wandered to the window and I looked out — and there was a red-headed ladderback woodpecker landing on the feeder, a cardinal in the flat feeder and before I finished picking up my camera, two more woodpeckers, both landing on the feeder in addition to a variety of other smaller birds.

I’ve never gotten a picture of a male and female downy (or hairy) woodpecker on the feeder at the same time while yet a third woodpecker was on the other feeder and a cardinal too.

Isn’t this a gorgeous bird?

I couldn’t take pictures fast enough. I also have managed to process a lot of them. Many didn’t need much processing. Other than a little straightening or cropping, the pictures all looked fine right out of the camera.

Another beauty!

So I did a little cropping, signing, and now, time to put some of them up for looking at. I hardly know where to begin, so I think I’ll start with the ladderback red-headed fella and tomorrow I’ll get serious about the two woodpeckers … or something like that.

Can you see the snow falling in the pictures? Because it’s snowing out there and it’s very cold.

NEWER MOMS AND POPS – Marilyn Armstrong

Garry came back from the deli with news. Lance and Betsy have sold the place and are retiring. Someone else is taking over.

Quaker Deli and its friendly and generous owners were among the very first people to welcome us to the valley more than 18 years ago. Until we got our feet under us and began to know our way around, it was a required stop in our daily rounds. They make great sandwiches and sell quality cold cuts. And they always know how we like it sliced.

72-Deli-032015_72

But time has had its way with them, as it does with us all. It’s what happens nowadays to almost all “mom and pop” shops. In this case, it’s not a lack of business. It’s simple tiredness. The kids don’t want the business. Mom and pop don’t want to spend all their remaining years on their feet. So, they sell.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if only whoever takes over the place would keep it as what it is … a place to pick up a few necessities without going into town. Where you can buy a great lunch, made for you. Buy a lottery ticket or whatever. Most of the new owners of these shops are immigrant families. They see a small business as a ticket to the Dream of America.

72-BW-Deli-032015_70

They don’t mind the long hours and hard work. But they don’t necessarily maintain the place in any way that resembles how it was. They go more heavily into higher volume, bigger profit items — like lottery tickets and cigarettes. They stop selling food and making sandwiches. This has happened to every little deli or mini grocery sold since we’ve lived in the Blackstone Valley. If it happens here, we will have to go into town for everything. The last convenience store will be gone.

I have heard over and over again that mom and pop stores are disappearing because we don’t support them, but that’s not necessarily true. It may be true sometimes, in some places. In this case, Lance and Betsey have plenty of business, maybe more than they can comfortably handle. All the truckers stop there to buy lunch. It’s the only place at this end of town where you can get an emergency supply of eggs or half-and-half.

The problem is that — not unreasonably — their kids have different dreams. They don’t want to run the family deli. They want a job where they can sit at a desk and go home without worrying about the business.

96-CountryStoreHP-3

Small business are nonstop work. Buying, selling, bookkeeping. Ordering supplies. Tracking sales and figuring out what you should buy in greater or less quantity … or just stop selling entirely. The shop may be closed, but there’s always work to be done. I’m sorry to see them leaving and we will miss them very much. But I understand. I couldn’t do it.

Among many other reasons, this is why we need immigrants. They will happily do the jobs we can’t or won’t do. Think about that the next time you begin to rail against newcomers to our shores.

Do you want that job? Could you do it? Would you?

IT’S JUST A MATTER OF BALANCE – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Tuesday: Balance

I have trouble going downstairs. I have problems going up too, but the ones going down are more difficult to manage because they are a matter of balance. And because I am more likely to fall down the stairs than up.

I have fallen up, but I don’t go far. Down, on the other hand, can be an ugly event involving broken bones and bruises that don’t heal for weeks.

If you don’t think this is really narrow, try hauling a bag of groceries up past the lift chair!

The thing is, Garry is also unbalanced, leading me to the not unreasonable (but possibly entirely wrong) conclusion that whatever is bothering me is also bothering him. It’s the downside of relationships. We pass — back and forth –whatever one person has to the other and occasionally have completely pointless discussions of who gave what to who or if it was someone who dropped by.

I’m headachy and hoarse and have laryngitis I can’t get rid of. Not only does it make it hard for Garry to hear me, but laryngitis also makes it hard for me to talk at all. I try anyway, but it doesn’t get me very far.

The new tests reveal the iron deficiency I had in October has gotten worse. Dizziness, imbalance, and a headache are symptomatic of anemia … but are also symptomatic of everything else. Anemia symptoms include chronic tiredness (who isn’t chronically tired?) and insomnia (show me someone my age who sleeps well). It’s all vague symptoms, but at least tests indicate I do have something I should take care of. Anemia isn’t nothing, though I keep acting like it is. Because I don’t want to deal with it.

If I had veins, I wouldn’t mind. It turns out, veins have a variety of uses. Carrying blood from here to there is only one of them.

Garry is distinctly unbalanced. Wobbly. We can’t BOTH be anemic, can we?

Meanwhile, the hospital doesn’t want me in there if I am sick because the Hematology Unit is part of the Oncology Department. They don’t need sick people hanging out with people who already have cancer, a point to which I can relate.

Of course, we were at the lab yesterday. At least three people were coughing. That waiting room is tiny, so you can’t miss someone’s cough droplets. Oh goody.

We do well if no one is sick or if we don’t go any place where sick people hang out. Like the grocery store. Doctors’ offices. Hospitals. Laboratories. All the places you go for health assessment are perfect for picking up something new and exciting.

pinterest.com

I know it’s out of style, but the old days of doctors coming to see sick people probably made sense in terms of keeping the spread of illness down — unless you happened to be the doctor, in which case I have to assume you were always sick with something. So maybe you were the one spreading disease.

Who knows? It’s a mystery, for sure.

So to go — or not to go — to tomorrow’s appointment. I promised the office manager I would call early in the morning and let her know. Neither of us knows whether or not I am actually sick (like with a bacterial or viral ailment) or I’m suffering from a thing for which I need to go see that particular doctor.

It could be a chronic stomach thing which Garry and I have been passing to and fro — or — we each have something completely different and unrelated. Or we are just old and need to spend more time watching television.

No way to know.

New Scissors

You’ll be happy to know that the new pair of scissors — $30 cheaper than the missing ones — have been delivered. The heavy snow they promised for today has turned out to be another day of leaden gray skies and low temperatures with just enough dampness to make your bones ache.

The birds are busy at the feeder, though today it’s all Juncos, Nuthatches, and Chickadees. Nothing exotic. I need to order some of the cheap food again and mix it with more expensive food. A lot of the little birds actually seem to prefer the cheap food which is mostly smaller seeds. Right now, it’s almost entirely big black sunflower seeds that only the bigger birds can eat — woodpeckers, cardinals — and the nuthatches who will eat anything.

Ladderback with Redhead Woodpecker – First photos I’ve gotten of this bird!

I have certainly learned a whole lot about bird feeding patterns. And that only Chickadees leap from the feeder with their wings closed in full diving mode. I laugh hysterically every time I see them fling themselves off a branch or the feeder. I swear the practice seeing how far they can free fall before they need to use their wings.

This, I believe, is what we call “Bird Fun” and does not require strapping on a parachute. It makes me really want to be a bird except for the whole shivering in the outside cold thing.

ON THE TREE OF LIFE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Tree

On the tree of life, I am but a twig. A twig with a powerful desire to go back to bed and stay there until I feel better. I’m beginning to wonder what feeling better feels like. Would I recognize it if I bumped into it?

I am apparently becoming increasingly anemic. Maybe that’s the problem. To bee or not to bee, it’s a buzzing question.

Massive Subterranean Biosphere That’s Hiding In The Earth’s Crust – REBLOG – Seriously?

Need another weird thing in which to believe? Try this one. It’s completely hidden, but apparently, it exists. So when the weird things emerge, you know where they come from. No kidding.

Not full of pseudo-humans, but microorganisms that are … well … different.

ScienceSwitch

A mysterious new ecosystem which is being called the ‘subterranean galapagos’ is almost twice the size of earth’s oceans. No one has never seen anything like it.

Via – Seeker

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THE SCISSORS ARE GONE – Marilyn Armstrong

Two nights ago, the kitchen scissors disappeared.

I hadn’t used them and Garry is certain he put them where they belonged, which is in the kitchen scissors slot in the wood block where we keep all the knives. He is absolutely positive that he put them there.

I’m never absolutely sure I did or didn’t do anything. As often as not, it’s what I meant to do, but somewhere along the line, I got distracted. I had the item in my hand, but something happened and I went somewhere else — like maybe the bedroom or the bathroom — and I just put the item down. Somewhere. I have no idea where.

But at least I have the sense to never swear I know where I put whatever it was because so many times, it never got there. It went somewhere, but not where it was supposed to go. Garry’s sense of total certainty aggravates me. Because the scissors aren’t there.

They also aren’t anywhere else in the house and we’ve done a pretty thorough search of the premises including bedroom, offices, bathrooms, basement, bedroom — AND the freezer and refrigerator. Don’t laugh. I’ve found all kinds of things in the freezer.

Not just Garry looking, either. This is both of us looking. The thing is, these are kitchen shears and the were expensive. They don’t travel far and in the years we’ve had them (like three years, I think) they’ve never wandered outside the kitchen. I have box cutters that I use for unpacking stuff from Amazon. I actually have three box cutters: two in the kitchen and a third in the basement.

Note the scissors in the front slot. These are now missing.

We will continue looking for the scissors, but wherever they are, they shouldn’t be there. I can’t in all honesty blame this one on the dogs. They don’t have the digits to make the scissors work and anyway, that’s what fangs are for.

The spare scissors from the bedroom now occupy the scissors slot.

It could be those pixies again, but they tend to lift shiny things like jewelry. Earrings. Necklaces. I’m sure they are the ones that put my favorite necklace in the sock drawer of Garry’s dresser because I would never put it there nor would Garry.

I could be sleep-walking again. I have done some very odd things while sound asleep … but even so, what could I possibly have done with them, asleep or not?

At our age, it’s never a good idea to say you are 100% sure you did something because the truth is, maybe we didn’t. I usually blame the pixies or the dogs, depending on whether it’s glittery (pixies) or plastic (dogs) or paper (also dogs).

Assuming sleep-walking wasn’t involved.

The man who absolutely positively put the scissors back in their slot.

I’ll let you know should we ever find the scissors.

On another subject, I’m not feeling well and I’ve got doctors appointments on two different days and I have to get blood tests, too.

I’ll try to fit in writing and picture-taking, but I have a headache so bad my eyeballs hurt. I’ll do the best I can to provide new material, but honestly, I’m feeling not-so-great and it’s hard to be my charming self when my eyeballs hurt.

I was sufficiently sick that Garry opened a cookbook — VOLUNTARILY — and figured out how to cook swordfish with rice (he already knew how to use the rice cooker). It came out perfectly and tasted excellent. I needed a meal. I hadn’t eaten in 24 hours and I was hungrier than I thought.

I ate it. It was good!

The scissors are still missing. I ordered a much less expensive pair. The other ones might yet reappear in some strange place. Maybe the dogs DID do it.