IN SEARCH OF PEACE ON EARTH – Rich Paschall

The Same Auld Lang Syne, by Rich Paschall

Another year has begun and we can see it is indeed the same as days gone by.  If “old acquaintance be forgot” as one year passes into another, old hatred, old disputes, old border wars, old and new religious battles carry on as if they will forever be remembered. Are these disagreements worth the killing of men, women and children standing on the other side?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
and never brought to mind? 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
and auld lang syne?

In our neighborhood, just as in many around the world, we conclude our year wishing “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”  It is on our greeting cards and in our songs.  It appears in Christmas stories and is heard from pulpits and lecterns around the world. The invocations I used to read on Christmas Day, to those assembled at noon mass at a nearby church, included a call for world leaders to truly seek world peace.  For this intention, I would say to the congregation, “We pray to the Lord.”  They responded to my prayer by rote, since we have the same response to all our intentions, “Lord hear our prayer.”

The Lord may hear our prayer but I think He surely means for us to work at resolving the conflicts that plague the world.  I am not convinced many really heard the intention or remembered it by the time they hit the pavement an hour later.  Do we want a new beginning or will things continue in the same direction?  Our history for this sort of thing suggests the answer.

Sometimes our world leaders do indeed seem to be making strides for peace, but these strides often suffer reversals when conflicts begin anew as they predictably do.  While Presidents, prime ministers and even royalty call for peace, how many are actually plotting retaliations and wars behind the scenes?  In fact, we would all think our leaders were careless and irresponsible if they were not prepared to take up old battles at a moments notice, or begin new ones if need be.

Even the current Pope, revered for his concerns for the poor, has condemned violent groups and urged the world not to be indifferent to the suffering they have caused.  If we are not to be indifferent, than what are we to do?  Is it a call for those facing conflict to continue the fight?  Is it a call for outsiders to join in?

There are no easy answers to what is left of ISIS, the Taliban, the war lords and terrorist groups. If there had been, I wish we would have employed them by now.  How about closer to home?  What of the racial profiling, police brutality, gun violence and large prison populations?  What of the street gangs and drug cartels?  What of organized crime and the violence they are willing to commit?  How many marches in the street will it take to rid us of the same old acquaintances we know through these oft-repeated scenes?  Will marches alone bring peace to our homeland?

The sad truth of starting each year with a call for peace on earth is we end each year needing to renew the call again.  Perhaps it would be best if old acquaintances could be forgotten, so we could start with a new and clean slate. There are, however, those who can not let go of the hate.  They perpetuate the cultural divide.  They do not wish to give up the fight or extend a hand across the border or the battlefield.  Is this what we were taught?  Did we say “Peace on Earth” when we really meant “Don’t let our enemies get any peace?”  What messages are we really sending when we learn that the greeting card verses are more fiction than fact?

“Should old acquaintance be forgot and never be brought to mind?” Perhaps. And perhaps we need to start believing in the simple verses of seasonal songs and bring peace on earth. The answers to our problems are actually there in many of those simple holiday songs.  They have always been there.  It is contained in a four letter word we are afraid to use, especially when it comes to those we perceive as our enemies. Do you know that word?  Love, as in Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself. They know on the streets we can not continue to live with the past wrongs, some streets anyway.

Auld Lang Syne, or “old long since” is a Scottish poem by Robert Burns.  It was subsequently set to traditional folk music.  The modern question for us is, “Will we ever ‘take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne’?”

And there’s a hand my trusty friend! 
And give me a hand o’ thine! 
And we’ll take a right good-will draught, 
for auld lang syne.

THERE’S NO REVENGE THAT BEATS GETTING RICH – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Revenge

Revenge is giving you cousin’s kids an ant farm for Christmas. Or maybe one of those big drums that will beat automatically when you turn a handle. Or, for any teenager, a small chainsaw and when someone objects, point out that we all need to learn to handle tools. Just a little chainsaw.

Or, as the old lady said to the congregation, there’s always outliving the bitches.

I don’t think about revenge. That would make me insane. I work on survival. That only make me a little less insane.

SHARING MY WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your Merry World 12-10-18

What’s the worst topping you could put on popcorn?   (credit to Teresa for this one)

Anything other than salt and maybe butter. But I can’t eat it anymore. Too slivery for aging gums.

In what country did Silent Night originate?

I was sure it was Germany, but am now told Austria. Go figure, right?


WARNING! The following question is NOT meant to start a fuss.  It’s merely a good discussion question in my opinion.  Most everyone knows where I stand on this. If you feel like arguing about it, please give it a pass.) We’re all adults and sensible ones at that.  We can be mature about such things, right?


How would you react if there was irrefutable proof that God doesn’t exist? How about if there was irrefutable proof that God does exist?

I wouldn’t believe it regardless. You can’t prove (or un-prove) faith. It’s an opinion, yay or nay. Unless God personally drops by and shows me his a photo ID, it’s faith.

What is the scariest non-banned item you could take on to a plane?

I haven’t the slightest idea. I’m not even sure what IS banned and I have no intention of traveling by plane.

Which version of the holiday celebration do you and your family enjoy?  By this I mean do you follow Jewish traditions with Hanukkah; Christian celebrations with Christmas and (for those over the pond) Boxing Day; or some other festivities that I’ve overlooked?   Please do share with everyone!  I truly feel that this sort of question lets us know a little more about our fellow bloggers without getting too personal (i.e. revealing too much of private lives, which some folks prefer to keep private.)

We just have a little tree. We watch old holiday movies. Garry loves Christmas Eve church, but it always gets held right at dinner time, so we never get there. Which is a pity, because regardless of religion, I love Christmas Carols and know a ton of them. I learned them for Glee Club in elementary school. That was before we weren’t allowed to learn anything with religious content. I didn’t even know the songs were Christian. I just thought they were pretty.

Actually, thinking about it, I know more religious music than most people because, as a music major, I spent years learning Gregorian chant and other early Western music. I’m sure I had my mother very worried.

If you study music, an awful lot of it is religious. Western music started as chanting and “grew up” in churches. When you study music, it’s a long time before you emerge from religious music to “modern” music … and a lot of our modern music is based on old church music too.

I don’t think anyone should be forced to follow anyone else’s religion, but I also think trying to remove all traces of religion from the world is silly. You can’t do it. Religion and religious thought are woven into the way we think. It’s organic. Nor do I think there’s any reason why you can’t believe in god or gods — and yet be a scientist or mathematician. I have never understood why one thing negates the other.

Not all of the things we believe are Judaic or Christian, either. There’s a lot of much older stuff woven into modern thought. There are many reminders of more ancient religions which are part of “modern” thinking.

Sorry for going on so long. This was what I studied in school. It began with music but moved into religious philosophy. I wrote papers about it. I still dream about it.

The near decade I spent in Israel was no coincidence. Despite what I may have said, my travels had nothing to do with how many times I read “Exodus” (the novel by Leon Uris, not the second book of the Torah).

I needed to be there. Because I needed to understand. Things.

NOW THE DAYS ARE SHORT – Rich Paschall

BUT NOW THE DAYS ARE SHORT, RICH PASCHALL

Photo: Garry Armstrong

When I was seventeen, it was a very good year…

When I turned seventeen, I had finished my Junior year in high school and was looking forward to the Senior year at a new school.  It was a bit scary, I admit.  No one wants to leave his mates behind and start again, but that was my fate, not my choice.

At least the new school was in the neighborhood, and I already knew a few students who were going there.  Although we did not admit at the time, the final year of high school put many new thoughts into our heads.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

You may think sex or sexual orientation, but those thoughts had already arrived years earlier.  All the passing of a few years meant was that these thoughts and curiosities intensified.  As you might imagine, a few of the boys and girls were a little more advanced than the others.  I think that stands out to you a little more at seventeen.

The new school brought new friends, new interests and new teachers.  There were subjects and activities the other school lacked.  The final high school year also proved to be, as I suspect it did for many of my friends, one of the best years of my life.  Some of those friends and those memories stayed with me over the decades.  I had no idea then that it would be the “best of times.”

When I was twenty-one, it was a very good year…

Four years later, brought a similar situation.  It was time to move on to Senior year of university and hopefully finish my degree on time (I didn’t).  It did not hold the lasting thrills of 17, but it did seem in a certain way to represent the transition to adulthood.  In reality, I was no more adult than at 20 or twenty-two.  It was just a symbolic thing.

The “coming of age” also allows you to drink legally, but that did not mean too much. I was days, weeks or months older than the friends I hung around with so it is not like we all headed off to some bar.  Still, the year seemed to hold a certain energy that young adulthood will give you if you let it.

When I was thirty-five, it was a very good year…

I had finally earned my Masters Degree.

It was not about career advancement.  It was about reaching a goal I had set years earlier.  I sometimes studied for the Comprehensive exams with a woman in her 70’s.  She was pretty much doing the same thing, reaching for a past dream.

I could tell her of the courses I had and of books I read, and she pushed me to study things I was certain would never be on the Masters’ exam again.  She was right about the exam questions and perhaps the reason we both marched up to receive our diplomas on the same day.

It felt like I had hit my stride at 35, although I can not really point to other reasons why.  If you have good friends, good times, and a reason for doing things, all seems right with the world.

Well, almost all seemed right.  I did not find the one right person to share my very good years.  Honestly, I can not say I looked all that hard.  I guess I was having too good of a time.

But now the days are short, I’m in the autumn of the year…

One thing that you become acutely aware of as you get older is that the days are short.  They don’t seem to last as long as the days of youth, you don’t seem to get as much done and you certainly don’t feel thirty-five.  You realize, no matter how desperately you try to suppress the thought, that the days are indeed numbered.

Even if you are optimistically believing that there are, let’s say, thirty-five years left, you know none will be like the year you were thirty-five.

With any luck at all, some will still be very good years.

If your life is like a fine wine, there will be many years which are a fine vintage.  Wine aficionados will refer to this as a “very good year.”  I hope to still have them.  None are 17 or 21 or 35, nor will they be again.  With any luck at all, however, I will be able to drink in the rest and enjoy them as if I were sitting in a vineyard in France with one of my best friends while we recall our great adventures together.

And I think of my life as vintage wine
From fine old kegs,
From the brim to the dregs,
It poured sweet and clear.
It was a very good year.

Although many had recorded this song, it won the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Male, in 1966 for Frank Sinatra.

It Was A Very Good Year, by Ervin Drake, 1961, lyrics © SONGWRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA OBO LINDABET MUSIC INC

GOODBYE AND GOOD LUCK – Rich Paschall

Thanks for your service, Rich Paschall

He had been in the business for almost 40 years.  The last twenty-seven of those with the same company.  He liked his job and thought he was good at it.  In just a few more years he would retire.  Everything seemed to be on track.

When Carl started in his career, orders were processed with typewriters.  Carbon paper was used when multiple copies were required.  Details of international orders were sent overseas by telex machine.  Everything was done manually and file cabinets were stuffed with files of all the orders and shipments.

Carl made it through all the changes.  At first, he thought an electronic typewriter with memory was just about the coolest thing.  Fax machines took the place of telex machines and worldwide communication was getting easier.  As the decades went on, technology and communications advanced faster and faster, but Carl kept right up with everything.  You could never say that Carl was behind the times.

Despite the efficiency of his work life, the same could not be said of Carl’s personal life until recent years.  Only as retirement thoughts started weighing on his mind did Carl pay attention to his accounts.  For the last few years, he contributed to the 401K plan.  He even took out some small CDs for better interest return, since savings and checking accounts returned him only pennies per month, literally.

Then came the problems of advancing age.  Bifocals were no longer good enough to do his job.  He was recommended to get trifocals but opted for a second pair of glasses — just to see the computer.  His hands were stiff and sore and he needed medication for that.

Nerve pain in the feet demanded a drug as did high cholesterol.  His blood tests never satisfied his doctor and even when he felt well, there were many pills to take.  With all these issues, Carl still carried on in grand fashion and handled his job like a pro.

When Carl got a new boss, they seemed to get along well.  She appeared to appreciate his experience and they often had nice little chats.  When Carl asked if he could come in late so he could have his annual physical, his boss seemed disappointed.  He assured her he would make up the time during the week and she finally voiced approval.

The doctor’s visit showed the usual issues, but also “abnormal cells in undetermined significance.”  Carl was referred to a specialist and he had to ask for another morning off.  The boss looked quite perturbed when she said: “OK if you must.” Unfortunately for Carl, he did, in fact, feel he must see the doctor.

The specialist was a handsome young man with a sunny disposition.  He indicated all the dire situations that may be happening with such a cute smile, Carl still felt at ease.  His examination and subsequent biopsy lead to “dysplasia but cells are undetermined.”  Carl was recommended to a surgeon.

Again, Carl asked for a morning off.  The stares of the boss led Carl to say he would make up his time the same week and he would not ask for any more time off in the coming months.  He was greeted with a long and painful silence.  “Fine,” the boss stated with an air of exasperation.

The following day was a Wednesday and Carl worked hard all day under the glares of his much younger boss.  Whenever Carl looked around, she seemed to be nearby staring at him.  Needless to say, it was a rather uncomfortable day.  Normally, Carl had pleasant days and nice little chats with coworkers.  He never got close to any of them or saw them socially.  One young man loved having random little conversations with Carl about anything every day, but he was the only friend if you could call him that.  Carl was just at work to do his job.

At the end of that day, just past 5 pm, the facilities manager, the superior to Carl’s boss, invited Carl down to her office for a chat.  When he got there his boss was already seated and staring at the floor.  The facilities manager began.

“Carl, you know we think you have been doing excellent work for us for many years but…” Then there was a long pause while the manager looked for the words.  “Well, business has fallen off some.  The stronger dollar means weaker business. We are well behind budget for the year and we must eliminate a position.  I am sorry, but we have to let you go.”

Carl was dumbfounded.  He planned to work another two or three years and retire.  He was not ready for this.  His boss continued to look at the floor when the manager spoke up again.  She explained about the last paycheck, vacation pay, Cobra insurance, unemployment.  She said she would write a nice letter of recommendation.  She closed by saying she was sorry, it was not personal, it was just economics.  She thanked him for his years of service.  His boss continued to stare at the floor.

pills and wine
pills and wine

He returned to his desk, took a few personal items while his bossed hovered nearby and he was then prepared to leave.  That’s when she came over and asked for his badge and ID and walked away.  “What was that?” a longtime female coworker asked.  “I was fired,” he replied.  The coworker started to cry.  Carl quietly said goodbye, looked around for his young friend, who was already gone, and he left.

After a few days of reviewing jobs online and making a few calls, Carl saw it would be difficult at his age and salary range to find a new position.  That night, he lined up all of his prescriptions on the kitchen table, including the container of powerful painkillers for his hand pain.  Next, he got a bottle of one of his favorite wines, appropriately chilled.  He opened the wine, poured himself a glass and sat down at the kitchen table.  There he looked over the table and contemplated his future.

FORMERLY, I USED TO BE SOMEONE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Former


In a former life, I wrote professionally.

In a former life, I lived in another country.

In a former life, I was a child, a mother, a single woman, a foreigner, a friend, a lover.

Glass-fronted desk full of memories

I have had four different last names, but only one of them matters.

Formerly, I was young and now, I am not. Roll on life.

In all my former lives I was part of the self I am now. In the future, all my formers will find a place on the shelf in whatever life I live.

CHRISTOPHER HADEN-GUEST, 5TH BARON HADEN-GUEST – Marilyn Armstrong

CHRISTOPHER GUEST – (born February 5, 1948) – usually just known as Christopher Guest, is a British-American screenwriter, composer, musician, director, actor, and comedian who holds dual British and American citizenship.

So there we are, Garry and I, watching “A Few Good Menand Garry looks at me and asks, “Is that Christopher Guest?” And I didn’t know the answer because he’s one of those guys who looks very different, depending on his costume, whether or not he is wearing a beard, if it’s a comedy, musical, or a drama.

Christopher Guest

Or maybe he’s just the guy linking arms with Jamie Lee Curtis.

Christopher Haden-Guest, 5th Baron Haden-Guest is the son of an important Labour Politician in England. His father got the baronage, but Christopher inherited it.

These days, he’s both British and American and I love him most of all for two of my favorite movies: “Best In Show” and “A Mighty Wind.” He has a group of actors who he uses for many of his movies. He is goofy and funny. He loves folk music and dogs, so what could possibly be wrong?

So I knew everyone else is writing about company coming or going or expected, but I just wanted to let you know that having looked up Christopher Guest, I thought he was really interesting and no, I didn’t know he was married to Jamie Lee Curtis. Or that he used to be in the House of Lords.

He is one year and one month younger than me. I’m sure that must mean something, but I have no idea what.

If you want to read about a real “guest” guest, check our one of my favorite older posts:

OUT OF THE TIME WARP: FAMILY MEMBERS YOU NEVER MET