I don’t do awards, not because I think there’s anything wrong with them, but simply because I’ve been blogging a long time. I’ve done a lot of awards.

When we first start blogging, awards are a pat on the back that someone “out there” has noticed us. In those early months when a hot post got five or six views, we needed all the pats we could get. It kept us going, kept us thinking, writing, and believing. If we just hung on, our blog was going to “be something.”

MYSTERY BLOGGER AWARD: What is it? “Its an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging and they do it with so much love and passion.” Created by Okoto Enigma.

Most of us had no idea what that something might be. I’m still working on it and whenever I think I’ve “got it,” I realize within the following 24 hours, no — I really don’t.

This award was given to me by:


I will never “get it” because I think it isn’t “gettable.” We blog for whatever drives us and that changes with the times, our age, the seasons of our soul. Art or photography, music, writing — or everything. What we blog about changes as we change. And I am always changing. I don’t even agree with me, much less the rest of the world.

This month, the weather seems to be my hot (read very cold) topic. When winter finally blows itself out, I’ll probably be back to deploring the fascist government we’ve (hopefully accidentally) deployed.

Nominations for this award — which I’m sort of doing because I really like the lady who bestowed it — is supposed to go to ten or twenty other bloggers. This is not going to happen because all of the people with whom I am in contact are really busy, so I will offer this to anyone I follow. You can rightfully assume — without any fear of correction — that if I follow you, I really like your blog.

Probably,I also really like you! Even if I don’t comment all the time, that is simply because I sometimes feel silly trying to create a comment when I don’t really have anything to say except “Nice!” or “Lovely” and so I click “like”letting the blogger know I was there. “Like” is my calling card.

Any of you are welcome to join in if you like. Or not. Feel free to plunge or pass. I’m good either way.

These are the questions I’ve been asked:


1.   Your favorite Season of the whole year and why.

Autumn. Absolutely. The best weather, the most wonderful colors. I could live in a 12 month autumn — if it were offered and it hasn’t been.

On the street where we live.
October canal and river

2.   What’s the most mystical or magical thing you ever experienced?

Doing a Tarot card reading and seeing my subject’s death. It was not a happy experience.

3.   Do you enjoy a lot of company or are you happiest when in solitude?

These days, solitude. Funny how solitude creeps up on you. Time is a strange and wondrous thing. The funniest part of it is that we find we are happy in places and times we never imagined we could be happy. Go figure.

4.   Would you do something dishonest if there were no witnesses?

Define dishonest. If I were starving, I’d steal food. If we were freezing, I’d grab some wood. Would I take that pretty thing because I happen to like pretty things? Probably not. I have enough pretty things. When I was a kid, we used to steal small things that had no real value to prove we could, but we were children. We learned better with time.

5.   What is one destination you’d like to visit before you die?

New Zealand. Or Paris. Maybe Greece or Rome. Or maybe, we’ll just stay home. Home is fine.

Is there anything about me you don’t already know? That I can’t sew, but I can cook. That I have a really severe case of spinal arthritis and a few years ago, my heart got repaired — and surprisingly, it works quite well. I also lost both breasts to two different kinds of cancer. We call that a two-for-one-sale around here.

I don’t know if I have a favorite blog. I might, but I can’t necessarily remember what it is. There are more than 7,200 blogs on this site and I’m pretty sure I wrote at least half of them. My definition of “favorite” shifts too.

What was my favorite five years ago probably wouldn’t be now. Feel free to cruise. Maybe you’ll find something you like and it’s entirely possible it won’t be one of mine. Other people also write and some of what they write is better than mine.

I have a few posts that have received a lot of views. They aren’t my favorites but for reasons I do not understand, they remains extremely popular. If you’ve been blogging awhile, you understand what I mean. If not, you will. A post that wasn’t a big deal gets a ton of exposure and the things you think are really great … not so much.

Finally, here are a few questions I’d like to ask you:

1. Why did you begin blogging? What got you started? What keeps you doing it?

2.  What — if anything — do you hope to gain from blogging? If you think you are going to get rich, I might not stop laughing until sometime next week.

3. What do you do in the blog world that makes you feel the most proud?

4. What makes you follow a blog?

5. Do you regard the people you meet online as real (not-virtual) friends?


The first time I accessed Facebook was early 2011, a year before the 2012 Presidential election went into a full-tilt boogie. I had never been on a social media site though I’d heard of MySpace. My impression was it was where 12-year-olds went to pretend they were 16. (I was right.)

Initially, was surprised by Facebook. It was easy to use. I could connect with almost anyone. Anywhere. That warm fuzzy feeling evaporated faster than morning mist on the river. Facebook was very soon the most angry place on earth.

Everyone is pissed off about something, frequently for no logical reason. So much of the stuff on it is based on opinions which are based on rumor and some kind of bizarre obsession — nonsense or just plain scary.

Facts? We don’t need no stinking facts! This is Facebook! MY opinion is as good as anyone else’s (no, it isn’t). It seemed as if everyone was posting angry diatribes. From the left, right, middle and far ends of the universe, everyone had something to shout about. Whoa, I thought to myself. This could get ugly (I was right … it did).

Then I discovered games. I connected with kids (now grandparents) with whom I went to grade school or college. People I wanted to reconnect with. Then, with people I had hoped to never to hear from. The good, the bad and the wholly unattractive, all in one basket. Whoopee.

I began backing away as fast as I could. The games were cool, or some of them were. But the percentage of enraged people, illiterates, the mentally unbalanced, the lunatic fringe — all posting whatever was on their minds (perhaps “minds” is too strong a word) was too much for me. The temperature on Facebook was permanently in the red zone.

I continued to play games, which is why so many friends are those with whom I connected because we were playing the same game. The remaining 5% are real live people, some of whom I actually know. Personally. Among these, some prefer communicating via Facebook rather than email, telephone, or in person. To each his/her/their own. Who am I to judge? (Okay, I think it’s weird, but I try not to judge.) (I don’t succeed.)

In the beginning, I got upset when Facebook made blatantly exploitive changes to their site. Then I remembered: I don’t have to go there. I don’t need to post there. If Facebook vanished tomorrow, my world would not crumble.

By then, I’d found WordPress and begun blogging. The more into blogging I got, the less reason I had to visit Facebook … unless I was in the mood for a game. And of course, there is the convenience of using Facebook to publicize my blog. I may not like it, but lots of others do.

The thing is, you can’t completely avoid Facebook. Whether or not you post on it, so many places do — builders and electricians and plumbers and all of that kind of stuff — if you are going to find a local worker, that’s where you’ll end up looking. And that’s where you’ll get recommendations, too.

Facebook is the elephant in the room, the itch you can’t scratch.

The elephant in my (living) room

Moreover, a surprising (to me) number of authors and artists choose Facebook in preference to having their own website. Is it because Facebook offers wide open access and effortless connectivity? It is less demanding than a website. Since almost everyone already has Facebook access, so no one has to forge a new alliance.

Maybe that’s it.

For me, the open access of Facebook is a reason to avoid it. I want a modicum of control over who does what on my site. Others feel differently. Or as Mom used to say: “For everyone, there’s someone.” In this case, something.

Facebook is the something many people choose. It will never be my first choice, but freedom is one of my core values.  And, it’s the American way — or used to be. In the old days. When we lived in the real America.


Several years before the pedophile priest scandal destroyed Cardinal Law’s career, Garry was friends with him. Not close pals, but better than mere acquaintances. Garry thought I would enjoy Bishop Cardinal Law’s company, so when the opportunity came up, he did a very Garry thing.

He was working weekends for several decades, so whatever stuff happened on Sunday, Garry was on it. This Sunday, the old catholic cathedral near our condo in Roxbury, was going to host Cardinal Bishop Bernard Law. It was a big deal for the neighborhood’s shrinking Catholic population.


For a Prince of the Church to say Mass anywhere  in Boston is an event, even if you aren’t Catholic. We lived one block from the lovely old cathedral. The neighborhood was buzzing.

The cathedral was a grand dame amongst local churches. You could see her former grandeur, though she was currently in desperate need of restoration and repairs to just about everything. Roxbury was almost entirely Black and the Catholic population was small. It had previously been a Jewish neighborhood, red-lined by greedy real estate brigands. We were among the first two or three middle class mixed-race couples to move back to Roxbury. We hoped we’d be the start of positive move for the neighborhood, including how it would be reported by media and perceived by Bostonians — and that turned out to be true, though it took some years for the area to finally turn around.

To be fair, we had chosen it less out of altruism and more because it was a great location — and we could afford it. Convenient to everything with lots of green space, lovely neighbors, and compared to almost any other place in Boston, more or less within our budget. “Affordable” in Boston — any neighborhood, no matter how “bad” — is really expensive. For the price of a condo in one of Boston’s most problematic areas, you could buy a big house with land out past Metrowest. In fact, that’s what we eventually did.

But I digress.

Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, Roxbury was not crime central. You could leave your car unlocked on the street and no one would touch it. I know because my neighbor tried desperately to have his cars stolen, going so far as to leave the keys in the ignition for weeks. Not a chance. People watched out for each other in Roxbury. I never had better neighbors, or felt safer.


The morning when Cardinal Law was due to visit, Garry called.

“I was telling Bernie (Cardinal Law) that you used to live in Israel and are really interested in religion and stuff.”

“Uh huh.”

“So he’ll be dropping by for a visit.”


“I think he’s on the front steps. Yup, there he is. Gotta run. Love you. Have a great day.”

BING BONG said the doorbell.

I looked at me. At least I was dressed. The house was almost acceptable. Thanks for all the warning, Gar, I thought. Showtime! And in swept His Grace, His Eminence, wearing his red skull-cap and clothed in a long, black wool cloak. Impressive.

Big Guy stretched. Our Somali cat — the best cat in the world and certainly the smartest, sweetest, and gentlest — was our meeter greeter.

Big Guy
Big Guy

I offered the Cardinal the best seat in the house, the blue velvet wing chair by the bay window. Big Guy promptly joined him. We chatted for almost an hour. Israel, the church, whether there was any hope St. Mary’s would get funds to repair and upgrade before it was too late.

The neighborhood. A bit of church politics. Although Bernard Cardinal Law was ultimately (rightfully and so sadly) blamed for the long-standing policy of the Church in hiding the misdeeds of child-molesting clerics, this was years before that story came to light. The man I met was wonderfully intelligent, friendly, witty, and a pleasure to spend time around. Which was probably why Garry was so fond of him and considered him a friend.

When it was time for the Cardinal to depart, he stood up. Big Guy left his cozy spot on the warm lap of the region’s reigning Catholic cleric. And that was when I saw the Cardinal was coated in cat hair.

Exactly what does one say in this odd circumstance?

“Wait a minute, your Eminence. Let me get the pet hair sticky roller and see if I can get some of that hair off your long black cape?” I was pretty sure the cloak needed more oomph than a lint roller anyway. It was going to need some serious dry-cleaning.

I took the less valorous road and shut up. Wincing with foreknowledge, we parted company. As he and his retinue swept out my door, I pondered how life’s journey takes strange side roads, unexpected twists, and turns. This was one.

“Meow?” questioned Big Guy. Clearly he liked the Cardinal and it had been mutual. I believe Big Guy came away from the experience with some special, secret understanding of Truth. I, on the other hand, felt obliged to call my husband and warn him that Cardinal Law was dressed in more than he realized.

“Oops,” said Garry, master of understatement.

“Yup,” said I, equally downplaying the difficulties that would arise from the incident. I had wrangled with Big Guy’s fur. I knew how bad it would be.

Some weeks later, when Garry, in the course of work, again encountered the good Cardinal, he called my husband to the side for a private word. The other reporters were stunned! What scoop was Garry Armstrong getting? Rumors ran rampant. Armstrong was getting the goods and they were out in the cold. Mumble, mumble, grouse, complain, grr.

“Armstrong,” murmured the Cardinal.

“Yes sir?”

“You owe me. That was one gigantic dry cleaning bill!”

“Yes sir, Your Eminence,” Garry agreed. “Been there myself.”

“I bet you have!” said Bernard Cardinal Law. And the two men shook hands.

When the other reporters gathered round and wanted to know what private, inside information Garry had, he just smiled.

“I’ll never tell,” he said. “Never.”

But now … YOU know. The truth has been revealed.


I know people with extremely unsuccessful blogs that are always asking me to look at their blogs and tell them what’s wrong. I tell them that they have a very focused blog — which is what “they” tell you at Blogging Central.

Find a focus! Stick with it! NOT.

I don’t know why they say that. Especially if The World — or more to the point, your audience — is not responding. What’s the point in an uncompromising fixation on a losing format? If no one is following you, are you leading?

The snow of last evening

No matter how you slice and dice it, there is a necessary compromise between blogging for yourself and writing to attract readership. There’s no point to blogging if no one likes your work.

I’m also deeply suspicious of people who announce they don’t care whether or not anyone visits their site. If that were really true, why bother to blog? Keep a diary and save a lot of effort. Much of the joy of blogging is being part of a community, of forming relationships. If no one but you cares, it’s like spinning your wheels and going nowhere — without the added benefit of toning your muscles.

If you are rigidly uncompromising, you are probably doomed. In life, on your blog, in your relationships. A comfortable survival always requires compromise.

I try not to get blinded by my own enthusiasm. To remain mindful that  because I love it doesn’t mean others do. When I post obscure material, I know it’s probably not going to find a big audience.

Ultimately, there’s no logical explanation why one post hits big and another crashes and burns. I have run the same posts multiple times and gotten different results with each. The post hasn’t changed, but luck and timing do. Luck and timing are the wild cards when you’re a blogger.

And finally, there’s that ineffable issue of quality. If you are a very good writer and a brilliant photographer, you will find an audience. No matter what you write about or what you photograph. If you are not very good, no amount of excellent advice will save you from going nowhere. I never know what to say to young bloggers who think writing a post in mobile phone abbreviations will appeal to a bigger audience — accompanied by blurry pictures.

No matter what you do, it helps to be very good at it. 

It’s a balancing act. I write about what interests me and occasionally, make those little shifts to help other people enjoy it too. Mostly, it works reasonably well … and best of all, I get to be me and love what I do.


As much as we reveal in our blogging, we conceal at least the same amount and maybe more. I’m sure it’s not just me. Why do we do it?

Despite electronic media, I like privacy. The rusty underbelly of my life is not for public viewing. What is wrong and right my life isn’t stable. It’s mobile. It flows. The world is up or down,  forever in flux.

If I write about it, whatever it was becomes fixed. Suddenly, it’s a “thing.” Even when the moment has long since moved on, you are still fielding feedback from your original post. I have learned — the hard way — that you should really not say anything you don’t want to be dealing with three years from now. The Internet is forever, even if your troubles are not.

What is wrong or right depends on myriad minor details. It is rarely worth writing about the little problems unless the event holds some kind of universality. As an example, anything involving customer service and the perils of dealing with it, is global. No one gets out of life alive — or without getting disconnected by customer service. Most other stuff tends to be forgotten as soon as you get over that bump. If you write about it, it becomes permanent. You have etched it in virtual stone.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

My other reason for not bothering to write about the little complaining stuff is because it’s not interesting. The tedious remembering of those icky, gritty details is boring to read and equally boring to write. Whining is dull. Mine and yours. Dull as dirt. Despite this, at least half the Internet is filled with people complaining about stupid stuff they won’t remember in 24 hours. For a fair number of people, complaining is the only thing they do.

There are people who show up on my timeline about whom I can’t remember ever reading anything which was not a complaint. They live tragic lives. Ask them. They will tell you in intimate detail — they are the most unlucky people on Earth. Because everything always happens to them.

A pipe breaks? “OMG we’re doomed!”

Flu strikes? “Why am I afflicted by the gods? Why is the universe punishing me?”

A lost cell phone? “The sky is falling, the sky is falling.”

Their cars never run. Their jobs never last. The go from one job to another and the same stuff happens at each one, yet they never wonder if maybe they might be doing something wrong. Their relationships are doomed from the start because that’s what they expect.

The other day, it struck me that all of us have a more or less equal number of bumps in our road of life as anyone else, but not all of us view each as a calamity. Unless it makes a good story.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Much of the pleasure of blogging is getting to present ourselves and our world in a positive way. Unless you blog for sympathy — and some people do — blogging lets you show off some of the nice stuff in your life. In my virtual world, I can be better than I really am. I can be more fun.

Who said “full disclosure” is what blogging is about? Not me. Writing about the grimy details of life is like posting ugly selfies. Why would anyone want to do that? I’d rather make you laugh.

I’d rather make me laugh.


This year, I’m resolving to update my blog from the WordPress mobile app. My phone is always nearby, which allows me to blog from wherever I am, and there’s something about the smaller screen that seems to take the pressure off for me. I can whip up a post draft on the spot or publish a photo immediately.” — Sarah Blackstock

This explains the low quality of so many posts I try to read … and give up on before I finish the first paragraph. It’s the complete absence of thought and a sense that this is merely a text made public — a sure-fire way to not have well-thought-out stories or ideas. Or high quality photographs. Or high quality anything. It guarantees that people lured in by promises they can do it all on their mobile phone will be in and gone in less than a quarter of a year. A few weeks, a long silence, and then the posts linger forever in virtual space and no one goes there anymore.

I have long known this is what WordPress has been pushing. I guess they have not noticed the kids who start out on their phones come, send a few messages and when they don’t get followers, they quit. Those of us who write seriously and pursue photography as something other than snapshots … are ignored by their “happiness engineers” because we don’t need to be happy.

Too bad. With nearly 6,000 posts “in the can” and I don’t even know how many photographs, I am reminded how WordPress doesn’t care about me. They are expending all their efforts to lure aboard people who are not serious and will never be worth reading. They made a decision long ago to ignore “these boring people” who’ve been blogging for years, have substantial followings, and care about what they say and to whom they say it.

Every once in a while, I wonder how come someone in their administration or planning departments might at least consider the possibility that they are missing the point, but I have noticed that WordPress — like every big corporation — will stick to foolish decisions, even when they fail. Bad decisions inevitably get pushed ever harder because no corporate manager will admit to being wrong. Even when the ship is sinking.

I’m not suggesting that me and those like me should be the only focus of the organization … but ought we not be included? Respected? Not treated like the least important part of the WordPress group?

Ought not the editing and photography functions be useful to people who write in complete sentences? A text editor with a find/replace function like every other text editor in the known universe, for example? Proper spacing between paragraphs? Fonts that use points, not “small-medium-large-huge” as if we are buying cheap, unisex clothing?

I’m still using the old, old, old interface because the new one is awkward and poorly designed. Maybe that’s because it’s designed for a telephone — and I use a computer. I’ve been working on word processing tools since they were invented, applauding with each advance in the art. WordPress does not advance. They go backwards, stripping out the stuff that might be useful and leaving us with glitches and a baffling inability to recognize what writers and artists need.

Dashing off something on your phone sets up blogging as a kind of advanced texting. A diary of your life? Is that what blogging is? At the risk of asking a dumb question, unless you are a brilliant writer (on your phone?), who cares? Are you writing it for yourself so you can remember every place you’ve been and every cup of coffee you drank? It doesn’t encourage thought, intelligence, or craft.

I suppose I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing as long as they don’t make it any harder than they have. Call me crazy, but I believe in thinking before doing a brain dump through my phone.


These are not necessarily my favorite posts, though a few are. These are posts that got a lot of hits — and are not reblogs. I also — with one exception — didn’t include photo-only posts. It was too much like comparing pineapples to raspberries.

DESCENDING FROM THE GOLDEN HORDE – B+ AND ME – MARILYN ARMSTRONG  – Hanging around since 2013, suddenly, in 2017, it took off. No idea why.

THE 7-DAY BLACK & WHITE CHALLENGE- DAY 7 – I haven’t included any other photo blogs, but this one took me by surprise. It is the most popular single picture I’ve ever posted.

NATIONAL ASSHOLE AWARENESS DAY – A multi-year winner because everyone knows a few assholes. I didn’t write this. I created a better insignia and cleaned it up, but I have no idea who really wrote it. It’s one of those things that goes around.

WHERE DO THE SWANS GO? – MARILYN ARMSTRONG – I wrote this in May 2012. Apparently a lot of people wonder where the swans go. The answer is, nowhere. They shiver and sometimes, freeze.

DON’T DRINK THE KOOL-AID – THE JONESTOWN MASSACRE –  MARILYN ARMSTRONG Written in 2012, rewritten each year since, usually on the anniversary of the event (November 18). it’s still worth a read. This is one of the few posts I’ve written which maybe deserves the attention. If I added the numbers for all its versions of publication, this one is probably the most popular post of all time for Serendipity.

INHERIT THE WIND AND THE SCOPES TRIAL – MARILYN ARMSTRONG – I wrote this in 2012. No one paid any attention to it. THIS year, because our political landscape has so altered, it got suddenly popular. It’s not about my writing. It is about Spencer Tracey’s amazing performance with a script largely based on the actual Scopes Trial. If you have never seen the movie — the original with Spencer Tracey — see it. It occurred more than 100 years ago and it might as well be right now.





PORN POWER – TOM CURLEY How pornography has pushed technology.



BASEBALL: INTERVIEW WITH LYNN NOVICK – SEPTEMBER 1998 – I wrote it in 1998 and it was published in a very short-lived magazine on Martha’s Vineyard. I was digging through my old stories from before blogging and thought, “Hey, that was pretty good. Why don’t I publish it?” So I did.






MEDICARE TO SENIORS: WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE?- MARILYN ARMSTRONG – You’d think this would be very old news by now, wouldn’t you? This is the third year this post has been in the top 25. It shouldn’t be evergreen, but it is.






I picked 25 posts. Some of the posts were a redo of others, so I picked one of several. Posts are not listed by their statistics. All were all popular. A few posts that don’t show here were re-blogs that did extremely well, but since none of us wrote them, they aren’t included. Also, photo posts — with one exception — are not listed. They are a different class and deserve their own place.

A lot of posts had very similar numbers, just three or four views separating them. To me, that meant they were all popular. I could easily have included another 25, but I got tired of cutting and pasting and it’s New Year’s Eve.

A big hand for Serendipity’s whole crew! We broke all our records this year. It’s the best year to date as we enter year number six. We are up by almost 60,000 views from 2016 and more than 150 views per day. The credit belongs us all — and you. Everyone who comes to read and comment, the folks who give me great ideas about what to write. Ideas that make me think and grow.

You are my friends. I listen to you, share your words, read your work. Truly, all of you have made my life so much better!