WHICH ONE OF ME IS ME? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #5

Behind the words for this prompt is a blurry, but genuine picture of a rare Pileated Woodpecker, the “you better believe it” Woody Woodpecker. I have seen this guy a few times and they are rare, but we have one living in our woods. He doesn’t come to the feeder. I’ve seen him working on a nearby tree and this time, I saw him fly past the deck and deep into the woods. I have a 900-mm lens on this camera, but that Woodpecker was WAY back in the woods and there were a million twigs and branches in front of him. So this is as good a picture as I could get. It’s pretty blurry, but at least I can say with some surety that I’m not delusional. We really have a gorgeous Pileated Woodpecker living in our backyard. If ONLY I could focus on him!

Another sort of view of our Pileated Woodpecker.

Is there anyone who is the same all the time? I know I was different at work than at home. Different at home than when out with friends. Different writing than not writing. Different talking to strangers than chatting with family.

Garry had two almost opposing personalities for work and non-work. He was aggressively outgoing in his professional life. He had to be because that was what the work required. Personally, he was quiet and sometimes shy, though over the years the two parts have fused and become more alike.

We all have more than one face, whether we realize it or not. I think writers notice it more than non-writers. One of the great joys of writing for me is having the opportunity to clean up reality. Not scour it smooth, but get rid of the dust on the edges and smooth out the lumps in the middle. I figure we all tidy up reality as we write.

This isn’t a diary. I see no reason to expose everything going on in my sometimes very wacko brain.

The writing “me” is a more thoughtful “me.” In real life, I’m crabbier and more tired. Writing is painless; reality isn’t. Real me is in a lot of pain most of the time and could use a good night’s sleep. On the other hand, real and writing me has a great sense of humor. Even when I believe I’m dying, the idea is too hilarious to ignore. I almost tore my newly reworked heart out because I couldn’t stop laughing. Did you know it really hurts to laugh after major surgery?

Besides, I can’t be dead. Who’d write my blog?

I work at not talking about what’s bothering me. No one likes a whiner. I don’t even like me when I whine, so I certainly don’t want to put it all into print.

Sadly, the pain is probably the thing I spend the most time cleaning up. I wish cleaning it up as a writer would make it go away for real.

What might be the most interesting change since I began blogging 7 years ago (without the foggiest idea of what I wanted to do — or why) is how much clearer I am in my writing goals. I know what I’m writing. I know what effect it will have. I even know when what I am planning to say is going to piss a lot of people off.

Sometimes, I just need to piss people off. It’s part of the wacko thing.

NOT INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK, OR TWITTER – Marilyn Armstrong

I used to look at the posts that came to me. There was stuff to read. Thoughtful pieces full of ideas, humor. Whimsical material. Ideas to ponder. Often heartfelt pieces about personal tragedies, working through issues, finding answers to important questions.

I didn’t read everything. I never could get all of it in a day, but at least everything I read had meaning. Even if it was about a travel day or examining ancient rocks. Mountain climbing, dog-walking, memories — there was a heart in it and a bit of soul.

All I see these days — with some obvious exceptions are lists of supposedly personal (but not really) questions, riddles, games, and really bad short poems.

When I say “I don’t like poetry,” that’s not really true. I love poetry. I love good poetry. I love poems filled with emotion and humanity — or humor. Not just rhyming for the sake of making the final lines match. I used to read poetry. Amazingly, I even bought books of poetry and memorized it.

About the writing. Maybe it’s me, but with the aforementioned exceptions — people who have been writing for a while and know the difference between flipping off a “meme” or a comment and a post worth investing time into — where have they gone?

They’ve left, is what has happened. They got tired and went away. Between the crazy software and price rises … and now, one MORE price rise … and the resulting loss of quality … why bother?

Some people began writing but gave up in favor of puns, puzzles, and games. None of which are particularly inspiring for readers. They may be fascinating to those who write them, but for me? How many times do I need to find out all about the same person I read about yesterday? How many times does the same person need to answer supposedly “intimate questions, the answers to which are not intimate, but essentially identical to the previous?

Questions and answers are fun sometimes — but that’s not a post. It’s not for thinking. It’s not even worth getting to the bottom of the page before abandoning the piece. I have stopped adding a “Like” to the bottom of these pages because I don’t like them. I should stop saying I do.

So many of the people who used to write strong pieces have left and I don’t blame them. What’s the point in writing meaningful material if all that’s left for you to read are nonsensical puzzles and a dazzling array of Q & A?

This isn’t blogging. It’s gaming and after a couple of weeks, it’s also boring. The lack of thought and ideas is mind-numbing.

I put a lot of time into my writing and photography. I’m not the world’s best writer or photographer, but I work at it. I write, rewrite, edit. Republish when new facts are available. Even when a post isn’t as good as I’d like it to be, it’s never “tossed” off. I do the best I can and hope that I manage to connect, even a little bit. However it comes out, it comes from the heart. I’ve put time into making sure that it says something.

And a merry whatever you celebrate to one and all.

As WordPress gradually destroys itself, I’m sure I’ll go down with it. I’m losing the will to push on. The more I read of the “new stuff,” the less I feel compelled to keep writing. It’s not that I don’t get read. It’s that there is so little worth reading for me.

I keep hoping that someone will realize puzzles and Q and A is not interesting. It has no center, no concept.

This is not a rant. More like a moan. I feel so sad about this and I’ve been thinking about it for a while.

Yesterday, I went looking for something worth reblogging because if someone else has written it, there’s no need for me to try and do the same thing. Let the original author speak for him or herself. I discovered I’d already read, commented on, and plucked out the best of it. And it was surprisingly little.

Blogging isn’t only about “self-expression.” It’s also supposed to have some value of its own. You know, legs to stand on. If the stuff you are churning out has no value, why are you bothering?

THE TALKATIVE TAG THINGIE – Marilyn Armstrong

This is all Fandango’s fault.

To be “tagged” for being talkative is pretty funny. I’m not nearly as talkative now as I was when much younger. When younger, I could talk the hind legs off a donkey. The only person I couldn’t out-talk me was my son, who could out-talk me in both Hebrew AND English, often spoken in a bizarre mixture that only he and his American and English-born kid-friends understood.

So blog-wise, who’s been talking lately?



Turns out that other than me, which really isn’t talking because I’m just responding to comments, Leslie chats the most with my husband close behind. Sadje hits a tight fourth, with Covert Novelist, Mrs. Angloswiss and Taswegian not far behind. These stats go up and down from week to week depending on who is having a good week and who isn’t.

I’m not having a great week, but I feel absolutely required to answer all comments. I’ve been answering all comments since I started blogging and I’m so hooked into it, I don’t know how not to answer … unless I’m too sick to do it or just not home.

It’s way early for me to be writing. The gutter cleaners were here early and I had to collect the hysterical dogs. Believe it or not, people are afraid of these guys. They are all total wusses, too. The barking is just their way of letting the world know that SOMETHING IMPORTANT IS GOING ON AND I NEED TO LET THE WORLD KNOW. They do this in the loudest sounds they can create and for Garry with his newborn ears, this is a terrible sound.

So at 8 in the morning, I’m herding the canines into the house and as soon as I get one in, another one runs out. I finally threatened them with not getting a SINGLE COOKIE FOR THE REST OF THE DAY. I don’t know if they got the words, but they caught the severity of the threat — and in they came.

Then there were ladders and crunchy scraping noises in the gutters and me wondering if they ever did find the spigot because frankly, I can rarely find it. The one behind the house froze and burst a few years ago and Owen hasn’t quite gotten to repairing it. One of these days.

The guys left without leaving a bill, which never happens, so I called the office and he assured me that they’d send one via email on Monday, which is fine because tomorrow is the first of the month and we actually get some money. Although rapidly depleted by the endless bills, at least it arrives.

I’m pretty sure this chickadee could talk., but he can’t type so he doesn’t comment.

My husband is the biggest chatterer. I wish he’d save up the chattering and write something, but he loves the back and forth chatters on WordPress. It’s his favorite part of the experience. Writing for him is too much like work. He hates deadlines. He lived his entire adult life with deadlines diving at him from the sky and earth below. I cannot send him this “talkative tag” because he’d just look blankly at me and then ask me what he was supposed to do with it.

But as for the rest of the list:

1  –  Let’s cross out Sadje because she’s already done it.

2  – SWO8, aka Leslie Martel — if you feel like chatting a bit? I know it’s not the sort of thing you normally publish, but if you feel inclined, here’s an opportunity to do something else. Just in case.

3  –  Covert Novelist — I find it interesting that it shows me as not following you because I definitely do and have for quite a long time, but I think it’s something about the .org versus .com areas of WordPress. You’ve got a .org site and I know you don’t show up in my list of manageable follower sites. Still, I bet you could find something to say! You’ve got a pretty good chat style, right?

4  –  Ah, Mrs. Angloswiss. You are my longest running correspondent and I feel like we are pals. If you didn’t live on the other side of the ocean and up a mountain no less, we could share breakfast toast and jam — and something hot. Please, feel free to write pretty much anything. I’m always ready to listen, until around 2 in the morning when I pass out cold for at least four or five hours.

5  –  And last, but absolutely NOT least, Taswegian. Aside from all other comments, I have learned a ton of stuff about how things are getting done — or more to the point, NOT getting done way down under. I was really surprised to discover it actually snows there. I thought it only snowed at the very bottom of the world (as in Antarctica) or on MY house.  Please feel invited to compose something for this (or not).

I consider ALL tag-along things as optional, so no one needs to feel pressured. Please do what you want to do and not one bit more.

That pretty much does it. I’ve got the doctor this afternoon. I hope something comes out of it other than more discussion to be continued. I’m beginning to think that while anemia may be the disease, lack of sleep may be what is really doing me in.

SOME NOT-SO-BAD NEWS, THE LOCAL EDITION – Marilyn Armstrong

Sometimes complaining helps. All the people who complained that they can’t use the new format have been offered the option of retaining (forever, apparently) the “classic format.” I was up at the Forum and there were tens of thousands of complaints, mostly from long-term bloggers.

The thing is, there IS a Classic Editor plug-in, but you can’t use it unless you are a Business Plan user — which is a $25/month hit for retirees. Most of us really can’t afford much more than we already have.

I certainly can’t do it. Forget about the minor detail that I don’t have a business nor have I any plans for one. WordPress is going whole-hog for getting a lot more money. I guess they figure Google, Amazon, and Facebook are rolling in the big bucks, so why shouldn’t WordPress be rolling in it too?

WordPress is not hard up for money. They are earning more than enough, but in today’s world, there’s no such thing as enough money.

Greed is good.

Remember when “good” meant doing something kind and generous for someone else? Now “good” means getting it all for yourself and keeping it while making sure no one else gets any.

It’s an international trend. Not, I think, a healthy one.

But — just this once, WordPress is willing to offer anyone who asks for it (you have to go to the forum and complain officially, but they may make this available for everyone soon) the option to dump Gutenberg and keep the classic. They admitted there’s a strong possibility that even business users may not want such a complicated formatting app, so probably they will keep the classic format intact and let only those who prefer Gutenberg use it. The Forum shows an incredible number of complaints and I suspect I wasn’t the only one who said either I can use an application that makes sense in the context of what I really do, or I will finally give up.

They heard me.

So now, if I genuinely need an application this complicated, I will wait until it is properly tested and then do my own testing. See if it works for me. I’ve got a lot of stuff packed into this site.

WordPress’s search engine hasn’t been sturdy enough to deal with the thousands of photographs, images and 8,400 posts in the “old” format and the new one is worse.

Anyway, if you have somehow gotten yourself into the Gutenberg loop and you don’t like it, you can get out of it. For once — for the first and probably only time — WordPress heard us. I didn’t think it was possible.

I am deeply grateful.

AN AWFUL TERRIBLE HORRIBLE DAY AT WORDPRESS – Marilyn Armstrong

I went to take a look at the brand spanking new format for WordPress.


WARNING: If you do that, you will NOT be able to go back to your old format. I think what they have done is eliminate all the old versions of the editor we used, so you can use the new one, or hope they don’t delete the old ones entirely and leave you with this mess.

Which is what I think is really going to happen. 


Now, there are things about the “new new new new editor” that may — eventually, when they get the bugs fixed — be useful. But right now? You can’t even get a set of standard editing functions across the top of your page. 

They also (apparently, unless it’s a bug) have a limited number of categories — AND they no longer offer you the option of picking up an old post so you can rewrite it.

I’ve got nearly 8,000 posts, so yes, I go back and rewrite material. After you’ve been doing this for a long time, why not?

In this new format, I opened categories and it dies after the letter “C.” What happened to “D” through “Z”? You can’t even find the missing pieces by typing the category name in the search list. Nothing comes up. This will effectively lose thousands of posts and pictures.

I went through and deleted all the one I used very rarely. That got me all the way to “D.” When I eventually found my way back to the “classic editor,” all the deletes were not made.


NOTHING IN THAT SOFTWARE IS WORKING. NO ONE BETA TESTED IT. NO ONE.


I don’t object to change. I object to untested changes and buggy software. I pay to use WordPress.  I object to being forced to do stuff the way they decree. If this is such a great interface (it might be POTENTIALLY, but it definitely isn’t there yet), then people will use it. You don’t have to club us over the head.

Also, they are no longer offering help to anyone but business users … so they’ve forced me to use this very buggy interface and there’s no one to talk to. Maybe this will finally push me over the edge.

You know that whole thing about this being a free country? Well … this kind reminds me that anyone who doesn’t follow orders is not free. What is wrong with having more than one interface? How does it hurt anyone?


A thing that happens as we age is we lose contact with pop culture. We retire. We don’t feel impelled to learn to do it differently unless there’s a really good reason to do it. Unless you’re paying me to do it your way, try not to get too bent out of shape if I prefer to do it my way. It may be different, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

We are happy with the way we do things. They are comfortable and trust me, retirement and comfortable go together like guitar and bass. It starts early, as early as ones 30s when you realize you don’t like the music. By your 40s, you don’t care who knows it and by fifty, you drop any pretense of caring any of “the latest things.”

It doesn’t mean that nothing new makes the cut, but I’ve been a writer my whole life and any product that requires me to access multiple pages to accomplish the same task that previously could be done on a single page is NOT an improvement. This is poorly designed software.

That’s right: it’s BAD SOFTWARE. 
That’s not how the pros do it, kids. 
was one of them.


I’ve been reading about this upcoming new interface for a while. I really had my fingers crossed that just this once, WordPress would have the grace to fully test it and make sure it worked. It is not an UPGRADE if it’s harder to use than the old one — especially if the task is identical.

Drop down lists for everything? Dumping most of my categories? Completely changing how media is handled without so much as an introduction? Discovering that we no longer have access to help?


So, they did it again, but this is the worst yet. I’m wondering if it’s worth it. WordPress doesn’t want writers and photographers. They want business accounts.

I’m not a business. I am not selling anything. I’m trying to just enjoy life. 

This isn’t going to be fun. It’s going to be a major league headache. They’ve been cutting down on what they offer “premium” users for years and at this point, nothing seems to be what they are offering. Platform, templates, and good luck. What they are clearly saying is simple.


WORDPRESS DOES NOT CARE ABOUT USERS. 


You know how Sears is going out of business? Well … guess what? I’m pretty sure driving away all the people who do creative stuff which brings in new people is not going to help WordPress get richer (they are already making plenty of money) than they already are. But not to worry.

There’s always bankruptcy. 

WHAT MAKES A GOOD POST? HOW ABOUT A HAPPY POSTER? – Marilyn Armstrong

I break my own rules all the time. So the most important rule — the ring to rule them all, so to speak — is to do your own “thing,” whatever it may be.

I have to put this note in here. Not everyone who likes writing is a good writer. Sad, but true. If you have a gift, you will get better. The more you write, the better you will get — IF you are tough enough as an editor to recognize when your writing isn’t up to par and willing to rewrite what needs rewriting.

I’ve become a much better writer — at least for the purposes of blogging — than I was at the beginning. My writing is more crisp, sharper, leaner. The good news is the better you get, the less editing you need. But if you aren’t talented, you may not be able to get the response you hope for.

Some people are totally into pictures and writing is mainly captioning — a different story. But at some point, if writing is what you want to do, you need to assess if you have “it” or not.

Our polling area

Here are a few things that work for me and pretty much work for most people. These aren’t rules, merely tips. You are more than welcome to ignore me. I often ignore myself. For me, the point of blogging is getting to do what I enjoy and “views” be damned.

– Keep posts short

–  Make it funny when you can

–  If we can’t make them laugh, make them cry

–  Good (or interesting) pictures get more hits than mediocre writing

–   Post often. Let me clarify: Not everyone reads all your posts. In fact, I’m betting that most people read one or two. Some only come for photography, others for writing. I try to present a variety. Also, some periods are inherently busier than others. When there’s more news, there is more to talk about.

I do not mean every time you have a thought run through your head, it’s time to write another post. For that, we have Facebook and Twitter.

 –  If someone else has written it better than you, reblog theirs and ALWAYS give credit to the original source and writer. Never ever take credit for someone else’s writing.

One crumpled maple leaf

It’s often said that “Less is more.” In a post, fewer words are good — or more to the point, keep the writing lean — but not fewer ideas. And sometimes, the subject requires you have to write longer. If you need the words, use them.

A pretty picture is always worth a few looks.

Fewer posts are not so good. If you give people more to look at and read, they’ll visit more often. On the other hand, beware of posting so much you become a spammer. I have a “number of fingers on one hand” for the maximum number of posts I’ll put up in a day (sometimes something comes up I didn’t expect, but I don’t want to fill up everyone’s inbox).

There are a couple of other things worth mentioning. Please don’t put a lot of white text on a black background. White on dark is hard to read for everyone but particularly difficult for older people.

Dark backgrounds are beautiful for photography, but not for text. Depending on whether you will be using mostly photographs as opposed to words, you are better off going with white or nearly white.

Please, nothing vivid. No hot pink or lime green. No orange, turquoise, or royal blue. It’s blinding. People will avoid your blog just because it exceeds their “ugliness” quotient for that day — no matter how well you write. Not to mention how non-neutral color will clash with photographs.

Template Issues

If you are posting mostly photographs, you need a format wide enough to see the pictures. If you need a magnifying glass, rethink your layout. A good photograph needs room to breathe. Moreover, your lovely work won’t look lovely if you cramp in into a tiny space.

Early autumn at Manchaug

Also, know that all WordPress templates will fit in any format: phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop.

Font size is an issue. If it’s smaller than 10 points, I can’t read it. If it’s smaller than 8 points no one can read it. Generally, sans-serif typefaces (like Arial or Helvetica) appear bigger than serif types (Times Roman et al). If you don’t know the difference between typefaces, use Google and look them up. This is important to readers.

Don’t overload your page with gimmicks and gadgets and badges. Two columns are plenty. Three is merely distracting. If it gets busy enough, your traffic will diminish and I will be one of those who will vanish.

White space is very important online. You need spaces between paragraphs, indents on either side. Do not clump everything together. It’s unattractive and sometimes, dizzying. When you are into page design, less IS more. Your page should be no more than 60% text and graphics and the rest should be white space. Again, less is more, so if you don’t understand formatting issues, do some reading. And look at other people’s blogs. This is one of the times when imitation is a fine kind of flattery!

Presentation matters more online than in a book.

Do the best you can, but don’t kill yourself. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth the effort. We aren’t making a pile of money doing this, so if you aren’t enjoying the process, figure out a way to make it more fun … or consider other options.

Use photographs. Write stuff to which people can relate. If people identify with you, they become friends and supporters. Be entertaining, even when your material is serious.

You can make a difference sometimes. When it happens, it is deeply satisfying.

It helps to have a bit of luck!


NOTE: These pictures are here because they are pretty. They have nothing to do with the post. They are included to keep your eyes from getting bored with just text. I’m actually phobic about all text all the time.

SERENDIPITY IN MATURITY – WHAT’S NEXT? – Marilyn Armstrong

WHAT’S NEXT?


I had been having the same depressing dream for a while. I’d wake up, fall back to sleep and there that stupid dream was. Again. When I opened my eyes, finally realizing I wasn’t going to close them again, I thought: “Forget about fixing the universe. I should just fix me.”

I have really loved this blog. I’ve loved being able to write whatever I want without a boss looking over my shoulder. Now, I’m wondering why I feel like I’ve blocked myself off into a corner, why nothing feels quite “right.”

It used to be if you wrote a good piece, people read it. Now, I’ve got lots of people stopping by and “liking” stuff, but I have a distinct impression folks don’t really read anything.

Meanwhile, I have a huge base of “followers” — and I never hear from 99% of them. Who ARE those people? They can’t all be Russian hackers, can they?

I don’t want to get rid of Serendipity. I’ve put years of effort into it and it matters. To me, anyway. I realize it’s no big deal in the great scheme of things, but it’s meant a lot to me. I want it to go on, but I don’t want it to rule my life.

Where is that middle ground we are always talking about?

I enjoy writing. I like communicating. These days, I’m not sure I’m doing either. Is anyone hearing anyone anymore?

How do you feel? Do you feel your better pieces get attention or does it seem that posts fly by and no one hears you?