BLOGGING – IT’S A NEW YET SOMEHOW OLD WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

I’M NEW. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

It’s interesting, looking at an earlier post and realizing how many “givens” have changed since you wrote it. It was just a few years ago. But oh my, how times have changed.

Maybe I’m just getting a bit beat up from having hung around the blog world too long … or maybe it’s the endless pressure of political reality that is making me crazy and mentally exhausted. Maybe it’s everything.

I think it’s harder to blog now than it was. We used to be able to have fun –without feeling the responsibilities of the world. Funny, light, and airy have become harder to find. Some elements of humor have gone out the window. It’s not that I wanted them to go away, but it has been hard to let go of the awful developments going on around us.

That being said, I can’t talk about the “issues” all the time. I can’t even think about them all the time. In that direction lies madness.

Everyone knows that there are dangerous developments in the world, but we can’t think about them every minute of every day. The world is undergoing a bad turn. We are atop that evil pile. I often wonder if I’m still living in the same country. Is this America?

And it’s international too. Is this my world or have slipped into a parallel reality?

Nonetheless, the basic rules still apply — with a few caveats. WordPress is no longer providing any kind of support to bloggers. No prompts, no awards, no nothing. They ply you with endless advertisements to join up with their “business plan” even if you don’t have a business. They pay no attention to what we ask for. Instead, they give us what they feel like giving us … IF they feel like giving us anything. And they do not believe in beta testing their software.

Don’t count on WordPress to give you a hand. They won’t. Do count on fellow bloggers to give you a hand because we will if we can.

So:

    • Do what you love. If it’s writing, write. Photography? Take pictures. Excuses are boring. A lot of people spend more time explaining why they can’t write or take a sharp picture than actually writing or focusing the camera.
    • Don’t whine. We all have problems. (Remind me I said this.) If you are going to whine, try to be funny too.
    • We are all entitled to a good online rant. Just not every day.
    • Funny is good.
    • Keep posts short or at least as concise as you can — given the subject. Some things need more words than others, but when you’re running over a thousand words, put the post away and read it again later or better yet, the next day. I bet you’ll find at least 500 (or more )words you can cut.
    • Don’t post blurry, bad pictures. Learn to look at your work and appraise it as if it were someone else’s.
    • Work on improving your craft(s). Write better. Take better pictures.
    • Proofread! If, like me, you’re a terrible proofreader, use whatever free proofing device you can find. I’m using the free version of Grammarly. I hate to admit it, but it has helped.
    • Follow your gut. If your gut isn’t telling you anything, try your brain and imagination. If that’s not working, read a book.
    • STICK WITH IT. You don’t build a following in a week or two.
    • PERSEVERE! You need to post regularly and often. If you don’t post regularly and often, your readers will wander away.
    • Many followers will wander no matter what you do. They have their own lives and their own reasons. It isn’t about you. Every two or three years, with some important exceptions, you’ll find you have a new group of followers.
    • You never know who is reading you. Many folks read, but many fewer comment. Most won’t even drop a “like.” I’ve been shocked at who reads my blog.
    • Don’t let other people’s stats make you envious. If you stick with it, you’ll get there too. 
    • Check your facts if you are writing anything that contains facts. It’s called credibility. You need it no matter what your government is doing.

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL – Marilyn Armstrong

There is a lot of social media discussion about kids having no manners. Offspring who display a lack of civility towards adults in general and their own families in particular. I hear a lot of squawking from families how “they didn’t learn this from us!” which I find amusing. They learned it somewhere, so I’m guessing home is exactly where they learned it.

The way you treat your children, each other and the rest of the world is going to be exactly how your offspring will treat you.

When we were younger and on predictable schedules, our extended family had nightly (or nearly so) family meals. As we’ve all gotten older, I stopped wanting to cook for a crowd every night and figured there was no reason I should.

This doesn’t exclude communal family occasions, but it shifts the responsibility for making it happen from me to them. I figure that’s fair. In all the old movies, Granny is eager to spend every blessed moment of her life cooking for the crowd who she eagerly welcomes any time of the day or night. I suspect that was the Hollywood version because most of us have other stuff we’d like to do. Blogging. Reading. Writing. Painting. Sculpting. Gardening. Even watching television!

As a youngster, it was almost shocking to imagine grandparents having a life of their own. I assumed older people would naturally want to move in with the kids. It never crossed my mind that I was going to ever be one of those older people.

My husband and I eat together, mostly in front of the television because the tray tables are cozier than the big dining room. If we are celebrating an “eating” holiday — Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, a birthday, whatever — the dining table makes sense. These days, mostly it holds my cameras. So I can take pictures of squirrels hogging the bird feeders.

Despite no longer dining together, we are reasonably nice anyway. We have our disagreements, but “please”, “thank you”, “excuse me” and similar expressions are normal parts of regular conversation. Our ability to get along isn’t linked to eating together. If it were, we’d be in trouble. Not having family dinners has not turned us into barbarians nor did having them make us civilized.

I keep reading posts deploring the loss of family dinners. It’s apparently the sign of the end of society. It is the equivalent of the end of human civilization itself. I don’t agree. Society’s disintegration is a lot more complicated than that.

All over social media, you hear the same story. The younger generation has no manners! Hot flash! The older generation is astonishingly rude too. You only need to take a look at our president and his cronies to get a solid sense of just how bad our manners have “officially” become. As far as I can see, out in the big wide world, parents talk to each other and their children without as much as a pretense of civility.

They order kids around or ignore them except to complain or punish them. They threaten them and shout at them until they are hoarse. The kids don’t hear them. The shouting combined with toothless threats becomes background noise.

This is true with kids and pets. If you always yell at the dog, the dog will ignore you too.

Then there are all the posts promoting spanking as the ultimate solution. Spanking teaches only one lesson. The biggest and strongest always wins. What could possibly go wrong with that?

Eventually, all offspring rebel. It’s normal, natural, inevitable, and healthy. They should rebel. Kids need to break away and build their own lives. If their entire upbringing consisted of being alternately yelled at, nagged, bullied and threatened, interspersed with an occasional hug, they aren’t going to come back. They’re just gone. Mom and Dad figured a bit of hugging and an occasional “I love you” would make it all better. It didn’t. It was much too little and a lot too late.

You don’t have to love everything the younger generation does, but it doesn’t hurt to know something about them and what their lives are like. It is a very different place than the one in which we grew up. We had silly drills to hide under our desks in case of a nuclear attack. We didn’t have to worry about real people with automatic guns coming in and mowing us down in our classrooms.

Kids learn by experience. They treat others as they have been treated. You can’t expect respect from kids who have never experienced respect, nor require good manners from youngsters whose parents wouldn’t know manners from a tree stump. Moreover, your children won’t try to understand you when you haven’t tried to understand them.

If you think you don’t need no stinkin’ manners when you talk to your children, husband, friends, and strangers, your children probably agree. Why should they be nicer than you are?

Raising kids is the ultimate example of “you get what you pay for.” Or less.

LONG DISTANCE LIFE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I used to have a vibrant and full social life with lots of lunch dates with women and dinners with couples. There were trips to museums and shows with friends, dinner parties at people’s homes, meetings with fellow volunteers and ‘play dates’ with our children.

This sounds normal, but it assumes that your friends actually live near you. That was the case when I was younger – not so much anymore. Now I’m removed from most of my friends – separated by geography. My closest friend moved from the next town to Virginia many years ago. Another close friend moved to Florida. Two other couples moved to LA and Portland, Oregon, respectively.

Several good friends live in New York City which is driveable, but very inconvenient. We often spend over two hours in the car one way and have to pay $30 or more to park our car when we get there. Two other friends live in Massachusetts, a two and a half hour drive, which is not taken often.

Other nearby friends have drifted away over the years, like the parents of my kids’ friends who were apparently only convenience or proximity friends. Add to this the fact that my wonderful daughter has lived in LA for almost ten years!

The upshot of all this is that my connection with the people I love is more electronic these days than face to face. I have had to adjust to a life of texts and emails and the occasional phone call. I actually make ‘dates’ with one friend to have a long phone conversation every few weeks to stay caught up and to just chat.

My daughter and I have long phone conversations about everything but she hates the phone so this doesn’t happen as often as I would like. I love talking on the phone so staying in touch by phone satisfies my desire for connection.

It seems that my everyday contact is more and more through texts and emails, which are good for some things but not for others. It’s great to be able to share a cute photo of my dogs or show off the new lamp, or dress I just bought. My daughter has sent me selfies from the dressing room of a store to help her pick which outfit to buy. That is great. So is sending quick news flashes about insignificant happenings.

It falls short, however, when complex things are going on in your life or when there’s an emotional issue that requires more than a few lines to explain. Sometimes you just need a reassuring voice in your ear. On the other hand, sometimes a few lines of moral support from a distant friend can be very meaningful and helpful. Not quite a hug, but not all that bad.

My intimate conversations are mostly done by phone now. I have a few close friends nearby but they are not retired yet and have very busy lives. So finding time to sit and talk isn’t always easy, even when we live down the road.

I’ve gotten used to this situation and can feel satisfied after a good phone talk in lieu of an in-person interaction. I don’t love Face time or Skype. I don’t feel seeing a small, usually distorted photo of my friend on a small screen, really adds anything to the conversation.

My son has also moved one and a half hours away so we talk on the phone every day and text a lot – mostly jokes and memes and quick updates. I still feel very close to him, which may be easier because I get to see him every few weeks.

These in-person visits add to the relationship because they give us time to just hang out together. I’ve realized how important that is. I’m closer to my boat friends because we spend lots of time sitting on each other’s boats, talking laughing, drinking or just reading together. It’s this unstructured time I miss most when I have to rely on my cell phone for personal contact.

My future holds more texts, emails and ‘phone dates’ and less in-person contact as more friends retire and move away. I’ve coped so far, so I guess I’ll just get to love my phone more as my main contact with the outside world.

WORDS ARE WEAPONS – Marilyn Armstrong

 


“Sticks and stones can break my bones,
but names can never hurt me.”


It’s an old childhood chant, a miserably inadequate defense against bullies and bigots when one is small and powerless. It was oft-repeated, not only by us, the little victims but by parents, teachers and other wise counselors. It was supposed to comfort us.

It didn’t because we all knew it was untrue.

Names can and do hurt. The hurt caused by a cruel name goes deeper than any mere cut or bruise to the body. Psyches heal, but slowly. Sometimes they never heal.

Horrible words. Can you still tell me — with a straight face — that names can’t hurt? Will you give me all your arguments that “political correctness” is stupid? That anything which makes it illegal or socially unacceptable to spew hate is too restrictive of free speech? Really? Your free speech? It’s not my free speech. I don’t talk that way and I don’t hang around anyone who does.

Do you actually believe it? Or did you read it as part of some rant on Facebook?

Of course, names hurt. They’re intended to hurt. Such words, hateful words have no other purpose but to cause pain. These words carry with them the ugliness of generations of haters.

It has been argued by otherwise respected bloggers that if a member of a minority (in your opinion) does you wrong, you have every right to strike back any way you can.

I disagree. Racial and ethnic name-calling epithets are never justified. By anything. Is it the word or its intent that hurts so much? I think both. Words have power.


“The pen is mightier than the sword.”


But wait a minute. I thought words could never hurt me? It’s a lie. Yes, words can hurt you, hurt me, hurt any of us.

Words bring with them the weight of history. A hated word carries the ugliness of everyone who has spoken it. Each time these words fly into the air, their potency is renewed and reinforced.

It’s time to stop forgiving bigots. We have to stop letting them off the hook. Those hate-filled monologues by drugged and drunken celebrities were not slips of the tongue. They were not the result of drugs or drink.

In vino veritas! Also written as in “uino ueritas,” is a Latin phrase that means “in wine lies the truth.” It suggests a person under the influence of alcohol (and in modern terms, also drugs) is more likely to speak his or her hidden thoughts and desires. (West German, Talmudic comment)

You could fill me with all the drugs and booze in the world and you’d never hear that from me. Because it’s not in me to say it. I don’t have a hidden pocket of hate waiting for drugs or booze to unlock it. But many do. And now, they seem to have been given permission to shout it to the world.



We are currently watching a Netflix production called “Five Came Back” about five internationally famous directors who went into World War II and created an amazing set of films. John Ford, William Wyler, John Capra, John Huston, and George Stevens created the war. Not a Hollywood war. The real war.

I look at it and I see tens of thousands of Germans shouting “Heil Hitler.” Trump may have his adherents, but they haven’t grown in number. They are not taking over our world. There are no brown shirts beating up minorities. They may want to, but most Americans draw that line. Whatever they believe, they do not believe it’s okay to form groups of bullies and beat down the rest of the population. It’s an important distinction.

People who talk hatred never do it by accident. It isn’t because of their environment, upbringing, or environment. It’s a choice they made. They know exactly what they are saying and why they are saying it.

It isn’t a joke. It isn’t funny. And most importantly, it isn’t okay.

Excuses are not enough. Phony repentance is not enough

Don’t give bigots and haters another chance.

IT NEVER ENDS – Marilyn Armstrong

Bird pictures are included for sanity reasons.
We need some. Birds are good for that.

Yesterday, after spending my entire day trying to make a breakthrough on WordPress — and feeling that maybe I had made a tiny dent — I realized that Amazon had sent me my package with the wrong stuff in it. It was almost the final straw, not counting that the software people have removed the spell-checker from the post writer.

The singing Carolina Wren

This must be one of their improvements, like when they removed the “edit” function from all posts once they were posted. When asked why they did that, they said why would anyone need it?

They restored it when about a million of us told them they had their heads up their asses and to please PUT THE EDIT BUTTON BACK. Some of us like to fix errors and even (gads!) rewrite awkward sentences or fix typos.

Downy Woodpecker

Do any of these people actually write a blog or post anything? Do they have any beta testers? Do they have any Omega testers or Alpha testers — or anyone who tests anything before they shove it down to us? They also seem to have removed the help button again. I guess too many of us used it and now they have to (gasp) fix stuff.

Or maybe not.

It’s hard to believe that anyone at WordPress gives a rat’s ass about their “customers.” No one has ever made me feel valued.

It’s a woodpecker, but I can’t see enough of him to know which one.

I’ve had it for the day. If you haven’t heard from me yet, I’ll try to get to you today, but we have a long funeral in Boston on Wednesday and I don’t think I’ll have time or energy to do much, after that, there’s Thursday. If I’m still mentally capable.

Is this a test? Do we get an “A” if we pass? A gold star? Something? Anything?

THE SUNSHINE BLOGGER AWARD: KUDOS TO MARTHA KENNEDY – Marilyn Armstrong

Sunshine Blogger Award

I don’t do awards. Except occasionally, I find the questions intriguing and decide to throw my hat in the ring. Except I’m not nominating anyone because so many people I know really dislike getting nominated, I’m just not going to stick my foot into the trap again. I still have scars from the last attempt.

Martha wrote some really good questions that are worth answering, so that’s what I’m doing. Anyone interested should definitely go to Martha’s post, copy the original questions, and take it away!

Here are YOUR questions

1. What made you decide to write a blog on WordPress?

What made me decide to write a blog was that I’d been following a couple on WordPress and I had to sign up with them just to have a conversation. Of course, this automatically gave me a blogging space. I didn’t really think very hard about blogging because I had never wanted to do it … but I had some space. And I had a few thousand photographs that no one ever saw because they were on my hard drives and would never get printed.

I didn’t actually think about the writing part of the exercise at all. I just figured I’d post pretty pictures. Technically, I started in February of 2012, but really, I didn’t write or post anything until May and that was one single post. The next month, I posted maybe half a dozen times.

Then something happened. I realized blogging was exactly like writing letters and I used to be one of the world’s great letter writers. Between editing material about air pollution, the spread of Hepatitis B in Israel, and reusing water for crops and raising carp, I wrote letters. Mostly I wrote to Garry who had a full drawer of my letters when I got back from Israel.

I should have saved them, but when we were moving, I dumped everything we didn’t absolutely need. I later regretted it but gone is gone.

So I started writing letters on my blog. Various subjects. Political. Funny. An occasional book or movie review. Opinions on this and that and sometimes, bits of fiction. And I posted pictures with the stories, so I sort of got to do both things, which was good. My best hobby combined with what was left of my profession.

Why WordPress?

I had already landed there. I had signed up when I started following other bloggers and it was free, so why not? I didn’t get serious about it for a few months, but it was an explosive time on the web. It was right in the middle of Obama’s second run for office and everything online was hopping and crazy. There also weren’t nearly as many bloggers then as there are now. I picked up a lot of followers pretty quickly.

After a while, Garry started writing pieces when he felt like it. And Rich started contributing and eventually, Tom and Ellin pitched in.

As it turns out, WordPress is pretty much the only game in town right now. Blogger (Google) has just as many problems and lacks the easy communications you get with WordPress. I originally thought I’d go find another place to do this again, but I have realized that I don’t want to do it again. Once was interesting and fun. Another would be work.

2. You’re writing a blog post and you find it taking on a direction of its own. Do you assume control or do you follow it?

Most of my pieces take on a life of their own and I follow faithfully. I’m often surprised where my posts end up, too. Sometimes, all I have is one good line and the rest just falls into place.

It’s getting the typos out that really kills me. I’m such an awful proofreader.

3. What are your goals as the writer of a blog? What do you hope for?

I really never had any goals. I write anyway, whether I have a blog or I’m just writing. I have always written, even when I had no one to read it. I might as well blog because at least a few people do read it. Also, it has really improved my writing.

Having no goals to begin with, I have none now. I like to write and I love the friends I’ve made online. They matter to me more than I imagined possible.

4. Describe the best day you’ve had in the past twelve months.

Yesterday when the birds stayed put and I got some great shots. The best day before that was the day we went to the movies.

A flock of Goldfinches
Cowbird and House Finch

Before that, the day they installed the new shower.

Looks pretty good!

I think every day I wake up still breathing is a GREAT day.

5. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why? What experiences would you hope for?

I’d like to go to England and see Sue Vincent and the great, ancient stones. I’d like to go to Switzerland and have tea with Pat and Australia and New Zealand and Utah and drive through the Rocky Mountains.

I don’t think we are really going anywhere except down to the river, but Paris would also be very lovely. Because it is Paris.

6. What was the worst road trip of your life? What happened?

Any trip I took with my parents as a child. They were ALL nightmares.

7. How much time do you put into your blog? Do you write every day?

I write every day. Even when I have decided NOT to write, I can’t help myself. That seems to be what I do.

8. Do you write to a daily prompt? Why or why not?

Sometimes if I can think of something to go with them. But I often have my own ideas of what I want to write and when I do, I don’t bother with a prompt.

I do use a lot of photo prompts. They help me find uses for many of my archived pictures.

9. What’s your favorite post? Why? Please share. 

https://teepee12.com/2019/01/31/my-best-year-1969/

Titled: MY BEST YEAR -1969

I think I’ve rewritten is half a dozen times at least and I’m sure I will again. It brings back happy days when everyone was young.

10. Is there a book, film or person (or animal) that inspired you and changed your life? What or who was it? How did it have such a profound effect on you?

Angelique by Anne Golan.

11. What advice do you have for someone who has just started writing a blog? What rewards has it given you that might inspire someone else?

If you enjoy it and if you are having fun, don’t give up. Everyone starts slowly. A blog needs time to find its place in the online world.

I really don’t have any questions to add. There have been so many question-asking blogs this year, I feel like I’m questioned and answered out. I do apologize. I think since Martha put so much thought into HER questions, you should definitely use hers!

NO CONSPIRACIES IN THIS HOUSE – Marilyn Armstrong

After many years of not watching “The X Files,” Garry and I ran out of stuff to watch. So … we decided to try watching X Files.

Now, maybe a dozen episodes in, I have some thoughts on conspiracies and secrets.

x-files poster


Has anyone ever confided a secret to you? And you realized at that exact moment, it ceased being a secret.

Have you ever told someone something you wished you hadn’t said? Or realized that what you said should have stayed in your head and never crossed your lips?

Sincerely wished you hadn’t said anything then asked them to please, please, never repeat it? And you absolutely knew everyone was going to know about it before lunch?

top secret 2

So how did the whole “secret” thing work out for you?

Now. Imagine a secret so secret that the entire military-industrial complex including all the important politicians of the world — the basic whos-who of world power — had to keep THIS secret or the world might end.

What secret?

That aliens are here and have always been here? That we are hiding spaceships in dark caverns in the desert and mountains? That every individual in touch with this secret — and you have to figure there were a lot of them, even counting them one at a time — was mandated to retain the secret for their entire lives and never tell anyone.

Figure that’s going to work? Whatever the secret was supposed to be, it would be in every newspaper and on every television station — not to mention every social medium — before lunch. Before morning break.

It would be a multi-part television serial by the weekend … and these days … forgotten by Christmas.

That’s my point.

Not that aliens might be here — now or in the past — but that a secret of such magnitude could or would be kept for a single day, much less for decades. This could not, would not, will not ever happen in this world.

Certainly not anywhere with Internet.

Which is pretty much everywhere.