LIVING A CALAMITOUS LIFE

Discounting failed marriages and bad investments, both of which count as major disasters, most of life’s problems are little things. Dinners burnt. Stuff you meant to pick up at the grocery, but forgot. Appointments missed. Fender benders, dents, dings, and forgotten oil changes. Tires that got old too fast. Appliances that stop working before you finish paying for them. Computer viruses and bad software.

problem solving dogs

Little things can accumulate into bigger things. If you forget enough appointments with your dentist, you lose the tooth. When you burn the holiday dinner, those accusing eyes at the dinner table can make you feel like the turkey at the feast. The Titanic was not sunk by a big hole in the hull. It was thousands of popped rivets that turned her into a sieve. And down went the big ship to the briny deep.

Speaking of the small stuff and a life of perpetual crisis, I have an acquaintance — an almost friend — for whom everything is the end of the world. Life is one huge calamity. She’s a Facebook kind of gal, so no matter what happens, she’s telling the world the sky is falling. On her. It’s personal. If it’s snowing, it’s to punish her. Ditto if it’s raining. (She’s the person who complains it’s raining in the middle of a drought.)

I thought about it one day after reading one of her posts. Her usual collection of followers were commenting on how she is the unluckiest woman on earth.

Is she? A few minutes of pondering made me realize I have as many bumps in my road of life as she does. On a bad year, probably more. Mostly, unless it’s serious enough to sink the ship of state, I fix the problem as best I can and move on.

panic button

So much of “disaster” is perspective, response, and perception. We choose how to deal with the stuff we encounter. I expect the airline to lose our luggage (or some piece of it), but I also count on them to find it again. It’s an inconvenience, not the end of the world. I try not to let it define our travels.

If every problem is a cataclysm, we are the boy who cried wolf. Our friends and family stop listening so when a really bad thing happens … no one is there.

Disaster – The Daily Post

MID-LIFE CRISIS, THE SEQUEL – ELLIN CURLEY

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Too much has been written about the angst of aging
And the war against it we’ve recently been waging.
Baby Boomers have made it a major obsession
And a cause for situational depression.
We need to improve the P.R. on getting old,
Increase the positive things about it we’re told,
Help change our youth-oriented system of belief
To understand, our later years can be a relief.

There are many stereotypes and caricatures
That each “senior” hears and silently endures.
But we can turn this to our advantage if we’re smart
And get a free pass if we just “play the part”.
People think getting crotchety is par for the course
So we can be brutally blunt with no remorse.
Being polite and P.C. is hard and frustrating
And saying what we really think is liberating.
Perhaps there is a problem with our “editing chip”
But its fun to open up our mouths and “let her rip!”

It’s easy to joke about memory malfunction
And even laugh at ourselves, with no compunction.
But when we regularly “misplace” our purse and keys,
We’re convinced we have an incurable disease.
But the flip side of this annoying new trait
Is we can use it to get out of things that we hate.
“I forgot” can become our go to, all-purpose phrase
Its success, in most cases, will truly amaze.
“I forgot the: date, time, request”, (fill in the blank)
And “You’re sure you told me?” you can take to the bank.

“I forgot to write it down! Did you need it today?”
Gets sympathy and keeps recriminations at bay.

But after working so long, our retirement years
Can trigger all kinds of anxieties and fears.
The specter of assisted living can be scary
And there are clearly reasons to be a bit wary.
But think – we have our life’s dream in many ways
To live like we did in our college/frat days;
Imagine, to help weather this emotional storm,
That we’re returning to something like a college dorm.
In both we can socialize with those on our floor
But if “busy” we can leave a tie, or sock on our door.
There are programs and classes we can cut or attend,
There is staff (like R.A’s) on whom we can depend.
We get meals, so we don’t have to shop, plan or cook;
Also drugs, though not as good as the ones we once took.

It’s hard to stop being an overachiever
And transition from caregiver to care receiver.
But, again, we can see it as cashing in life’s chits
And focus on the obvious benefits.
The “shoulds” and “have to’s” don’t control us any more
We are less weighted down doing things we abhor.
Our kids worry when they can’t reach us on the phone
And won’t let us spend too much time home alone.
Though you know they’re afraid we’ll be dead on the floor,
Feel the love! The mortality issues – just ignore.
You can get used to all this service and attention,
Not see it as annoying, morbid intervention.

And yet – the saying: “Youth is wasted on the young” is true
And we can also see, from our new point of view,
That retirement could better be savored and enjoyed
With the bodies and minds we had when young and employed!
But whatever crap we deal with, in our hearts we know
It beats being adrift on an Arctic ice floe!

REVEAL TO CONCEAL

REVEAL TO CONCEAL

As much as we reveal in our blogging, we also intentionally conceal a lot. I’m sure it’s not just me. I prefer to not expose the rusting underbody of our lives to the world at large.

Marilyn and Garry by Bette Stevens

Marilyn and Garry by Bette Stevens

I do not blog about every tiff I have with my husband or anyone else. I don’t go into the sordid details of every passing  virus, sniffle, or stomach ache. Or the gory details of our lack-of-financial life.

garry laughing

Why not? Because it’s no one’s business but ours — and also, because it’s not very interesting. Whining is boring. My own included.

I know people who are in constant crisis mode and post all of it on Facebook. They present themselves as 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.”

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The other day, it struck me that we (and probably you, too) have as many of these bumps in your road of life as anyone else. Maybe more. We just don’t document each and every one … unless they make a good story. It’s always worth the virtual ink if I can make someone laugh.

Garry silly with dogs 30

Part of the pleasure of blogging is we get to present ourselves and our lives in a positive way. Unless you blog for sympathy and some people do. In our virtual world, we can be our best, most entertaining selves. If this presentation conceals our pain and misery and gives others a skewed idea of us? Who says “full disclosure” is what blogging is about?

Marilyn by Garry

Writing about all the grimy and grim details of day-to-day life is like posting ugly selfies. Why in the world would anyone want to do that?

I’d rather make you laugh. I’d rather make me laugh, too. And maybe, just sometimes, maybe (along the way) I make a point or two worth thinking about.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Would You Change Your Name? by Rich Paschall

When I finally come around to writing a short story for SERENDIPITY, I usually get stalled at the beginning when I need to decide on character names. It seems to me that the name is important and certain names will convey certain feelings to the reader.  So, I try to choose carefully.

I liked Harold for an older character because I don’t know any younger people named Harold.  Although the most famous literary character of this century so far is named Harry, I never thought of Harry Potter as a “Harold.” But he probably is.

I inadvertently used Harold twice. I wrote a story titled Alone and actually filmed it a year later, calling the only character Harold.  This did not stop me from forgetting about it and naming another older character Harold in a series of stories that started with Soup and Sandwich. Some names just seem to lend themselves to young and old, rich or poor. A lot of that is surely based on personal experience and naming trends over the years. Names go in and out of favor for newborns.

The characters of the stories are newborns to me. Most of my characters arrive full-grown, I look for age appropriate names.  For example, Richie might be alright for a boy, but a grownup would probably prefer Rich or Richard. A few folks who know me from childhood still call me Richie. I get all three versions of my name these days. I can’t escape the variations.

what's in a name

If a story has a local flavor, I try to use names that could not be mistaken for anyone I know.  Trying to think of names that don’t belong to friends or relatives can be challenging … and leave me looking up names on the Internet.

If you named a child, did you use a book of baby names?  Did you look up names on the Internet? Did you make lists of names,  then negotiate the final choice with others? Fortunately, I only have to debate with myself about my characters’ names. Right or wrong, I’ve no one to blame or congratulate but myself.

Aside from Harold, I don’t think I’ve duplicated a name, but I’ve got so many stories out there, I’m can’t say for sure. I know I’ll always have favorites tucked in the back of my mind.


In my neighborhood, there’s a family in which the father is Edgar. His son is also Edgar. Another son is Eduardo.

In this household, no one is called Ed. The younger Edgar is Eddy. The others are called by their full names. Parents get to set rules on that — at least in the home — but there’s no telling how kids will change your name once you start school. You could get a nickname that sticks. That might be good. Or not.

If there are several kids named John in your class, classmates —  even a teacher — may decide you’re Jack, Johnnie, Jay … or something else. A room with multiple Johns, Michaels, or Susans will likely trigger a round of renaming.

Did you get stuck with a nickname? Do you like it? Hate it? Don’t much care either way?

I had a cousin named George whose father was also George, so they called him Ricky. For years, I thought that was his name. No idea how they chose this name, but it stuck with him his entire life. When relatives on that side of the family called me Ricky, it drove my mother crazy. She’d point out Ricky is not my name.

Aunt Mary is called Joan. It’s her middle name. Some said they did not want to call her by her mother’s name, but no one I know called my grandmother Mary.  Her sister called her Mae. There are Roberts who became Bob or Bobby, including my father.

I know a few people who hate their name.  Some are downright upset at their parents about it. If you were named Moon Unit or Dweezil, disliking your name might not seem unreasonable. Yet, Frank Zappa’s kids stuck with those names.

The Zappa family got away with giving their kids what could optimistically be considered “unique” names. Celebrities get a pass on lots of stuff. I doubt an ordinary kid would survive such names. Most parents want to make their children feel their names are special, but sensible parents don’t want their kid’s name to make them a target.

Destiny Hope Cyrus decided she liked Miley better. She changed her name — which was already her nickname.

As for my own, I’m neutral about it. I neither love nor hate my name. It’s okay. All of its variations are fine with me, including Rick or Ricky, despite my mother and I am also okay with RJ (Richard John).

But. I hated Dick. Few dare call me that, but one friend does. He’s the only one who gets away with it. I remember all too well the years of President “Tricky Dick” Nixon. I wanted no association with that name.

Do you like your name? Would you prefer a nickname?  Did you always like your name or did you accept it over time?

If you could change your name now, to what would you change it?  Feel free to share your new name in the comments?  I might choose Ming the Merciless, Emperor of the Universe.  That had a certain ring to it when I was small, though it would be hard to fit on a business card.

THE GREEN MONSTER

ENVY? NAH.

Jealousy or envy, the big green monster. Unless you live in Boston, in which case it’s a big, green, left-field wall. Just saying.

I’m not much given to envy. With the following exceptions:

  1. People who live near ancient ruins. I want to dig!
  2. People who grew up with horses. I want your childhood.
  3. Anyone who has a house with no stairs. I’ll swap you.

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So, I’m pretty much good to go. I’ve got problems, but so does everyone else. Life hasn’t been easy, but it has also been incredibly interesting. Rich with experiences. I’ve got a great marriage, a few terrific friends, dogs, a home, a good little car, lots of books, and a huge, high-definition television. And we live reasonably near Fenway Park.

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If someone would like to round out my life by donating a largish sum of cash, I’d give you a big hug and a thank you. Beats out what you’ll get from donating the same amount to a some politician’s PAC, doesn’t it?

Otherwise, I’m good. So is life.

BABY YOU’RE THE BEST

When I married Garry, it was my third marriage, his first. It wasn’t because he hadn’t had relationships. More than enough of them. Just never married any of them.

43, on our honeymoon. At Loch Gill, Isle of Innisfree.

43, on our honeymoon. At Loch Gill, Isle of Innisfree.

So, there we were. Me at 43 and he at 48 years old. Really getting married. Wow. We had a not-so-small advantage in that we had been friends and lovers for more than 25 years, but married? I never thought he would marry anyone.

Scene: Epiphany Lutheran Church, Garry’s home church in Hempstead, New York. His brother was singing as were two of my friends. A bagpiper was there to pipe the guests in, open the ceremonies, and pipe us on our way.

Garry In Cong

Twenty-five — almost 26 — years later. We old dogs have learned a whole lot of new tricks. Garry — the fussy bachelor — has turned into a great husband and a pal. He shops, launders, and lots more. All the things I can’t manage, he takes care of.

But more than any tasks or work he may do, he has become my rock. As my health declined … I’d have thought I’d bottomed out, but apparently not … he was, is there. Always.

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How do you say thanks for that?

You’re my better half, so much better than I ever dared hope. Baby, you’re the best.