HAPPY 80TH BIRTHDAY, JEFF – Marilyn Armstrong

I married Jeff in 1965. I was 18, he was 26. I was still finishing my B.A. Both Jeff and I needed to get out of our parent’s homes and make a life. It was a  classic “jailbreak” marriage and for a long time, it worked well.

But time marched on and I wanted to move on. He wanted everything to stay the same — and so we parted. I went to Israel and he stayed where he was.

Graphic Jeff, Studio A

When I was sad, Jeffrey used to sing to me. This is the song he sang.

For one birthday, I bought him a wind-up snow globe. It played “You Are My Sunshine” and had a big green frog on a lily pad in the water. When you wound it, it played that song. He kept the globe as long as he lived, which was not nearly long enough.

Happy birthday, Jeff. You would have been 80 years old today and I wish you were alive so I could tease you about your age.

You should still be here.

TECHNOLOGY: FINDING THE BALANCE – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question 6: Technology: Plus or Not?

As the owner and user of a lot of medical technology, I can say for 100% that without it, I’d be dead. Actually, I probably wouldn’t have made it out of childhood. I’d have died from ear infections, lung infections, throat and sinus and who knows what else. Or polio or any of the other diseases from which vaccinations saved us.

Technology at work

But then, there is plastic. Bags, bottles, straws. and all the pollution we pour into our oceans, air, and water. All the large mammals we’ve slaughtered until most of them are gone … or soon will be.

Fracking? Seriously? Driving a shaft deep into the heart of the earth? What could possibly go wrong with that?

Pacemaker

I’m not enough of a hypocrite to pretend that all advancement through technology is bad, but we need to find a balance. Some way in which humans can make healthy progress that doesn’t destroy the world we live in. If we destroy our planet, no amount of “technology” or “improvement” will make our lives better. If we ruin our own habitat, we will be like all the other vanishing species. Gone.

Sometimes, that’s what I think we ought to be. A vanishing species. If we can’t do good, we might as well be gone.

WAY-STONES, MILESTONES: WAY-STONE #writephoto – Marilyn Armstrong

Thursday photo prompt: Way-stone #writephoto


When we first moved to Uxbridge, the woman who sold us our house drove us around and the first thing she brought us to see was the Uxbridge Way-Stone. Erected and etched in the early 1600s, it was part of the marking made along Native trails, many of which later became New England’s roads. Milestones are our way-stones and they were common — still are, if you know where to find them — on the quiet paths.

Way-stone in the woods

Mostly, they point the way and distance to Boston. Some are no longer readable. Not as old as this way-stone, but old enough to have had their etchings wash away, then disappear into the stone.

We don’t have the length of history chronicling the centuries of North America that you will find in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, but this doesn’t mean no one was here. This wasn’t an empty land waiting for “energetic” Europeans to show up and make it whatever it is today.

No later than 1767

Lacking official written “history,” it simply means no one wrote books and saved them and whatever cities existed, they were not built from stone.

There’s a strong possibility that far earlier than the officially earliest known “cities” — Jericho circa 10,000 years, give or take a few millennia — there were other cities.  Maybe Atlantis? Probably built from wood or mud or from disposable materials that were movable.

Not built from an enduring substance, Jericho managed to survive, although it was built from mud. There was just enough stone included to form and shape to the ancient structures.

Jericho exists. It’s not big, but it is a city. Okay, maybe more of a large village. It’s also the only place in the area you can get blood oranges before the rest of the crop comes in. The first time I ate a blood orange I wasn’t sure it was an orange. Orange on the outside, it was blood-red on most of the insides. Otherwise, they taste just like other oranges.

Jericho today

Why does Jericho continue to exist? Because it is built on an oasis. In the very dry region that is the Middle East, if you are up on the mile-high hill of Jerusalem, you can see Jericho. It’s the green patch in the desert. Jericho lives on because it has water. I suspect in this country, tribes moved with the weather in the dry areas of the country but built more solidly where there was water.

I wonder what the history of America would be if Native Americans had written it rather than their European conquerors? I’m sure the story would be more interesting, rich with symbols and location which were well-known then, but have since vanished.

Just a thought. Native Americans lived for many thousands of years on this continent. The water remained clean. They left behind a world as beautiful as the one into which they were born. No piles of rubble, no ruins. They lived well and gently with the land. Not necessarily in peace, but without destroying their mother.

Europeans arrived and five-hundred years later, there’s considerable likelihood that we have effectively destroyed the earth.

Who were the savages?

A MILESTONE OF DESPAIR – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP #29: A MILESTONE OF DESPAIR

Fandango – Nightmare

It’s the one month anniversary of having WordPress abandon us for whatever future they think they see on their far horizons. I’m sure, whatever their milestone may be, it involves hitting all of us for more money. Because as far as I can tell, it’s always about money. Always and forever.

But also, these days, it’s also about meanness, cruelty and casual viciousness. As a nation, we are developing a kind of comfort with meanness and ugliness.

Jon Stewart said it well on Colbert’s show. Drumptf doesn’t merely do something harsh because he thinks it is necessary. He feels obliged to add an extra level of brutality to each thing.

He can’t say he disagrees with the press. He has to point out that they are also stupid and lazy. He can’t say he didn’t “have sex” with that woman. He also needs to mention that she’s too ugly for sex with a stud like him.

Everything he does is coated is that kind of nasty, mean-spirited ugliness and it has my head spinning. I can’t seem to wrap my brain around the beauty of the flowers when all I can see is that compared to DJT, Benito Mussolini was a real gentleman. Adolf Hitler had charm.

Drumptf has no charm. There is nothing cutesy about him. He’s not only unfunny, he’s cruel and most cruel to those who have the least ability to fight back.

He could have created an immigration package with which I’d no doubt have disagreed, but this wasn’t a political move. This was intended to show “how bad” we are and it certainly succeeded. To preventing desperate people from attempting to gain asylum here, he added to it kidnapping and imprisonment for babies, toddlers, and pre-school children. He can’t do something for some bizarre version of “the good of the country.” He also feels obliged to add a personal level of evil to the policy so it does not merely impinge on our political psyche but on our ability to believe we live in a decent society.

Michael Moore was on the show too.

He asked: “How often do you read the news and cry?” I don’t cry. I despair and have nightmares. I feel as if I’ve been overcome by a kind of mental illness. I’ve walked into a “fun house” full of hideous twisted mirrors and all I can see it an ugly, distorted version of something that used to be me or my fellows, but is now foul and twisted.

It’s not even anger. I’ve run out of anger. My current state is more like being a permanently abused child wondering if there’s any hope of rescue before I am beaten to death.

Like the cherry on the sundae, Drumptf is also a minority president. He was not elected by the majority of American citizens. Now that the not-so-Supreme Court has formally decided racial gerrymandering is legal — along with sending five-year-olds to court without a lawyer — one has to wonder with the likelihood of Russia messing with our elections (again) and gerrymandering if there’s any chance we will have an honest election.

I know this much.

All the people who didn’t bother to vote at all or who felt voting for a useless third-party candidate didn’t matter? You screwed us.

You know who you are.

If you do it again, Drumptf or one of his non-biological sycophants will be running this country when your great-grandchildren are praying for asylum in Canada.

Milestone? Really? For me, it feels more like a month of nausea and despair. Maybe it’s just me. Then again, maybe it’s not.

SIX YEARS AND A MILLION MILES TO GO

According to WordPress, I started this blog on February 4, 2012. That’s not entirely accurate. I picked the name and signed up with WordPress on that date, but all I did was write a couple of paragraphs that basically said “I have no idea what I’m doing or why I’m doing it.” It took until the following June for me to blog more than once a month and it was August by the time I got into the swing of things, so to speak.

At least I sort of know why and what I’m doing this these days. Put most simply, I always wanted to run a newspaper and this is as close as I am going to get. I don’t even need to sell advertising to keep the paper running. Also, I think there’s a chance Serendipity can make a difference. Even if it’s a little, tiny difference … it’s something.

International Serendipity

Besides … I’m retired. What else should I be doing with my time?

Writing is my thing. I starting writing as soon as I could form letters and clutch a pencil. I don’t seem likely to run out of words anytime soon.

With joy in my heart, I have corralled others into my scheme. It has made this site infinitely better. We all have something worthwhile to say, but each of us says it in our own voice. Garry couldn’t escape my clutches and was doomed from the start. Rich was a great writer who deserved a bigger audience. Ellin thought it sounded interesting and she had stories to tell. After which I pointed out to Tom that he would feel much better about life if he would write too. So he did.

Wasn’t I lucky? All these smart, funny people contributing, so instead of this site beginning to fade from time and tedium, it feels like we’re just getting started.

I never imagined that Serendipity would become an enterprise, but I’m delighted that it has. If I had not been able to come up with such fantastic support, you’d be bored to death with me by now. Or maybe I’d be bored to death with me. Maybe both.

The Years of Serendipity

So in the course of 6 years, we’ve got almost 644,00 views and together we’ve written more than 7,000 posts. I have no idea how many photographs we’ve got. I’m afraid to find out.


14,800 followers, but I only hear from a couple of dozen of you. Will the rest of you please wave your hands in the air?


Thanks. I needed that.

It’s such a strange time in which we are living. I started writing the year Obama was running for the second time. I though that was a rough, tough political time. Little did I know what was lurking in our future.

The craziness of what’s going on in the world has changed the way we all write. I know there are a lot of people who feel they can’t must never write about politics. The thing is, I don’t feel you can not write about politics any more than you can avoid mentioning ecology and climate change, economy and education. All the life and death issues facing us … how can we pretend they don’t exist?

This is the stuff of our daily lives . We don’t have to write about it all the time and we don’t need to be deadly serious, either … but I don’t think we can simply act like it’s not there. Or maybe I just think we shouldn’t do that.

Regardless, I’m a writer and what I see as reality tends to intrude on my head space.

In the end, for me, reality simply is. What goes on — everywhere — is my virtual house. I can’t ignore it. I don’t want to beat it to death or make it the only thing I talk about … but I won’t pretend it’s not there — nor will I run from possible controversy. I think it’s too important to ignore, more so because it is so troubling.

Maybe that’s my self-appointed job — to look at the world and talk about it. If we can all do it with humor and commonsense, even better.

Six years. 7,030 posts. 643,800 views and a million miles to go …

HALF A MILLION – A LOT OF VIEWS

We have a small pond in our woods. It’s way far back and though I can see it from two windows in the house, I have never been there. There’s no path. Getting there would mean climbing boulders and crossing rough terrain. At least half the year, I can’t even see it. In the summer, the trees hide it. In winter, it’s buried under snow. As summer ends, it becomes so dry, there’s little to see. Right now, though, for this brief period after a lot of rain and before leaves come out, I can see it clearly, bright behind the trees.

It rained like crazy yesterday, so this morning, my little pond was shining in the sun. I could easily see it, so I tried to get some pictures. They aren’t good pictures. Even with a my longest lens, there are so many trees and branches and weeds in the way, the lens had a hard time focusing. But I know it’s there. Sometimes, it sort of disappears, but it pops up again.

During the five years of doing this daily, I’ve seen my numbers rise and fall. Sometimes dramatically. I have learned to not let statistics drive my writing. I am tenacious. Stubborn. Determined. If I think a post is good — mine or anyone else’s — I’ll keep putting it out there until it gets its due. Like that little pond. I may have to wait for rain, but it always rains. Eventually.


This has been a very rainy year.

I’ve been watching Serendipity’s numbers climb. Despite hearing repeatedly how “blogging is dying,” I’ve seen our statistics rise by at least 50% since last summer. I’m sure having so much help in writing makes a big difference as do the various points of view. We have more voices. More interesting ideas to think about. More dogs, too.

I always wonder what makes some sites “popular,” while others go off with a bang and then fade away. Sometimes, it’s because the blogger loses interest, gets busy with work or whatever else. Other times, there’s a sense of mental exhaustion. Good ideas popping when the blog began fade and there’s nothing new. It isn’t easy to write day after day.

I spent my life writing professionally, so I’m accustomed to writing. It isn’t exactly automatic, but I don’t suffer from writer’s block. Almost any idea can be a post. Before blogging, my best writing was done writing letters. When blogging arrived, I instantly realized I’d found my thing: blogging is letter writing with an audience.

On Serendipity, we don’t write the same way. We each have a personal style. I don’t always agree with everything, but that’s the point of not being the only writer. If I wanted it all to sound like me, I’d write it myself.

I like writing. I’ve always liked it, since the first time I picked up a pencil. Now that I blog, people read what I write. Before that, I wrote, but I no one read it. I’ve heard people say it doesn’t matter if anyone reads what they write, but I don’t buy it. Writing is meant to be read. That’s the point. If no one reads it, why bother?

Being a good writer and a pretty good photographer improves the blogging process. Varied content matters too. There’s so much available online. It is a busy, electronic world. You need to be entertaining. Five writers are a huge plus. No two people write the same Even when we write about the same thing, we each have our own way of doing it.

The pictures are pretty and our dogs are cute. Posts are funny — or at the least, humorous. On the whole, we don’t rant. Much. Okay, there’s an occasional rant, but it isn’t a daily event. Also, though we all have issues, we try not to dump it all on the blog. Everyone’s got their own bag of rocks to work through; you probably don’t need ours.

From the start of Serendipity, I got plenty of advice from WordPress. They assured me I needed a theme. I needed to have a direction because no one would want to read just anything. Personally, I’m a big reader of just anything. There are a few things I avoid. If it’s gory, I usually move on. Mostly I’m willing to try anything you throw at me.  I figured I can’t be the only one who feels like that.

So I rejected their advice, though I did wonder if I was making a mistake. Ultimately, I figured if the posts are well written well and the  pictures are pretty, a few people are bound to drop by for a look.

The new Serendipity shirt!

I was surprised — and still am — at all of you who have dropped by. Even more rewarded by how many of you have become friends. You are the biggest and happiest surprise of all. We may not be able to hop on an airplane to hang out for coffee, but we are friends.


From Ellin: CONGRATULATIONS MARILYN!

You started your blog five years ago, by yourself, from nothing. You now have accumulated a half million views! You have a crew of talented and devoted contributors to help you with content. You have faithful and enthusiastic regular readers. And you’re winning over new people every day. Your hard work has paid off and you deserve all the success you’ve achieved!

Thank you for including Tom and me in the Serendipity family. Here’s to the next 500,000 views!


For anyone who hasn’t noticed, there are “author pages” for everyone as well as a contact page under the graphic. So if you want to leave messages, please feel free!

Thanks to all my authors — and all our friends.

I know I’m small potatoes compared to many other sites. I know bloggers who have millions of hits and tens of thousands of followers.  For me, this is fine. Moreover, it’s fun. I get to write whatever I want, when I want … or not. No one tells me what to say or in how many words in which to say it. If you have spent a lifetime writing as a business, you have no idea how special this is.

Thank you for finding Serendipity interesting enough to visit when there is so much else going on in the world. What are my chances of making it to a million? You think?

FIVE YEARS OF SERENDIPITY

Today is Serendipity’s fifth birthday. Very few blogs survive this long. I’m amazed to find myself in such rarefied company!

Since February 2012 when I decided to give this blogging thing a shot, to an eclectic site featuring five intelligent, creative, smart — and often funny — writers creating relevant, unique content, it’s been quite a trip. We’ve got friends around the world in places I’ve only dreamed about and probably will never be able to visit in person, but I go there regularly in spirit.

serendipity-five-years

Through Serendipity, I’ve traveled to every continent and I hope the journey never ends. There’s so much world out there.

It’s really hopping on the Internet these days and we are closing rapidly on half a million views. I’m personally astounded at this turn of events and all I can say, is wow, thanks everyone! And it’s not because of one or two viral posts but rather a compendium of many posts, by me, but  now by Rich, Garry, Ellin, and Tom, too.

Online friends are real. I feel like I know you and share your lives and I hope you feel the same about me. I miss you when I don’t hear from you, worry when you are sick. Always wish you were my real-life neighbor so we could sit and schmooze and eat too many cookies.

A blog is a living thing. It thrives because of you. You read. You comment — and you inspire me. We engage each other. Exchange ideas, news. We teach each other all kinds of stuff. We enrich each others’ lives. We make each other laugh and cry. In time of trouble, you make me feel better. Because out there, in that great big world, we are friends.

I didn’t think I’d still be here — writing or even breathing — in 2017. I certainly didn’t expect this bizarre world in which we are currently living. But, if there’s a bright side to this mess. Life may be horrifying, frightening, weird, and surreal, but it’s not boring. There’s always something to write about. Maybe you shouldn’t think about that too hard. Maybe I shouldn’t, either. In fact, forget I even said it.

From all of us, to all of you, I’m very glad we inhabit the same planet and are connected to each other. I love you guys.

THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE – THE MUSIC AND LYRICS (AND A LITTLE HISTORY)

sounds-of-silence-album-cover

I would be surprised if almost everyone in my age grew — boomers — who grew up in the U.S. didn’t immediately hear this song in their head when they saw this prompt.

“The Sounds of Silence” was published in 1964 and became a generational anthem. What it means or doesn’t mean is immaterial compared to the way the lyrics and the music felt to us. It spoke to our loneliness, our fears of the future, our hopes that we could change the world coupled with angst about personal powerlessness.


The Sound Of Silence (3:08) MIDI
P. Simon, 1964


Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turn my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never shared
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

“Fools,” said I, “you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sound of silence


In 1964 I was a sophomore in college. Seventeen years old. Afraid of everything, afraid of nothing. In love, in fear, in hope. About to launch my personal ship of state. I had already left my parents home and was living on my own, making a million mistakes almost by the hour.

I bought this album and played it until the grooves wore out.

The version I’ve included on here is not the original recorded version. It’s the “reunion” of Simon & Garfunkel many years later. Not a lesser version, just a little bit different. The song still resonates … but maybe it says something different to me today than it did all those years ago.

SILENCE | THE DAILY POST

ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY – WITH CHRYSANTHEMUMS

I forget birthdays and other occasions. Not just other people’s birthdays. I have been known to miss my own and only realize a few days later that it had passed. Oops. Usually, I remember our anniversary. Last year was our 25th and it being one of those milestone years, we were both aware of it.

Unlike this year.

I have our anniversary marked in our shared Google calendar so that I get a notification a day in advance. So when an email showed up saying “Happy Anniversary Marilyn & Garry,” I said “Oh.”


happy-anniversary-september-deck-09132016_019


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I knew yesterday was the fourteenth thus making today the fifteenth. I knew our anniversary is the fifteenth of September … yet somehow, I didn’t connect the dots. The pieces of information lived in my brain, separately. Until I saw the email.

“Garry,” I said. “It’s our anniversary tomorrow.”

He got that look that husbands get when they figure they have just made some terrible mistake, a combination of guilt and fear.

“I only realized it now because it popped up in my email,” I said. “I put it in our calendar. You would have seen it when you turned on your computer.”

“I thought I’d really blown it.”

“Well, you weren’t alone. We both blew it.”

“I remembered last year,” he pointed out.

“I know.” I thought awhile. “We don’t have any money, but we could go out for dinner if we put it on a credit card. If you’d like.” I was thinking how glad I was that I had bought him his gift a while ago and being me, already given it to him. I’m such a child about gifts. I can’t wait. I have to give them immediately.

So today is our anniversary. Yay. Another year. We are both hitting milestone birthdays in the spring, so I doubt we’ll forget them.

With a little luck, the chrysanthemums will bloom tomorrow. I’m pretty sure they, at least, will remember the day.

FLOWER OF THE DAY – CHRYSANTHEMUM

ENDURANCE: STILL BLOGGING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

If you blog long enough, the numbers add up. I’m surprised so many people take the time to visit Serendipity. I’m equally surprised I’m still posting pretty much every day. Especially because after four years, I haven’t yet figured out what this blog is about.

I have a lot of problems figuring out what things are about. It’s one of the problems I had with my book. When asked to briefly describe it, I was stopped in my tracks. I can’t really answer that, even 9 years later. Maybe because, like this blog, it isn’t about one thing. It’s about a lot of things not necessarily connected in any discernible way.

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Even that is no longer true. I am still the primary writer on this site, but I am not the only one. Rich has been with Serendipity for more than three years and Garry’s been writing intermittently for more than two years.

Ellin’s been on board for six months and Tom for five months. I love that we have so many voices. It takes some pressure off me, but more importantly, it adds diversity and freshness to a site I felt was getting stale. I was getting tired of me, so I had to figure I wasn’t the only one.


I looked at the stats and could see 400,000 coming. On the horizon.

I remember when I first looked at stats — I had only just realized there were stats to look at — and discovered I had 5,000 views!

That was a gigantic number at the time. I had never imagined that many people would ever visit my site and I’m still a bit astounded at how many people have visited over the past four and a half years. And, when I breached 100,000, then 200,000 … and eventually 300,000 … I knew that if I just kept going, that there would be more milestones.

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Endurance is a huge part of blogging. A determination to not let it go. The belief that somehow, I can make a difference. That Serendipity makes a difference. Maybe we won’t change the world, but we can tweak it a little. We can poke the demon. It won’t stop the demon, but it might make him change direction. A little bit.

There seem to be a lot of demons lately. Depending on the day, the hour, the mood I’m in, and a bunch of other stuff that I can’t quite pin down, I’m appalled, shocked, frightened … and positive that I’ve fallen through a rift in the fabric of reality and I’m actually living on some alternate version of Earth. Or I’m in a coma and this is a terrible hallucination from which I will eventually awaken. It’s going to be a long, painful political year.

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So — about the future: I’m planning to stick around. As long as Serendipity has an audience, it’s worth the time and effort. Knowing that you guys out there are willing to take time out of your complicated lives to drop by and visit, I’ll try to be here for you.

I might take a day off. Maybe. One or two, here and there. It might happen, but I will return.

NUMBERS FOR A NEW YEAR

It’s the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016. There’s something timely and almost overly appropriate in that today my total all-time views — or hits as I like to call them — passed 350,000.

That’s so many views I can’t imagine counting that high. It would take way too long.

350,000 Serendipity

More meaningful to me is the number of posts on Serendipity which now exceeds 4,200. Even assuming that many of the posts were short, it’s still a lot. Even including a couple of hundred reblogs, and a few hundred pieces written by Rich, Garry, and Ellin.

I have definitely learned a lot from blogging. I’ve made more friends than I imagined possible in places that were previously just exotic names on maps. My writing has gotten leaner, tighter. More crisp, more focused. I still can’t proofread and I will forever see what I meant to write and not what’s actually on the page.

I’ve also learned that there’s a direct correlation between how much I post and how many people come to visit. New material generates traffic. Be that as it may, the closest thing I can make to a New Year’s resolution is that I can’t keep up this pace. I’ve already slowed a lot from last year. You can expect to see fewer posts from me, but hopefully good ones. Maybe more pictures, less text … or just fewer posts altogether. I’m not yet sure how it’ll work out.

I know I need more time off the computer. Among many other issues, my wrists and shoulders are warning me of dire consequences if I don’t move around more. That won’t happen unless I set limits and stick to them. Which is very difficult because I like writing more than pretty much anything else.

Fewer posts will have the side benefit of giving me more time to read the stuff you guys write. Or play video games and read books.

Every time I cross one of these “milestones,” I realize I don’t know what it means. Other than I have stuck with this blogging thing. Even when I have been sick. On vacation. Feeling uninspired. Otherwise, I don’t know if it means anything. Maybe you should be telling me what it means.

You’re the hitters and I am the hittee. You know why you keep coming to visit. Thank you! You have hugely enriched my life in more ways than I can say.

Happy New Year to everyone. We are off to Arizona on Monday, so pickings here will be leaner than usual … but I won’t be missing entirely.

And with a little luck, there will be some photographs to remember!

4014 POSTS … WITH PICTURES

I just noticed I’ve published 4014 posts. Here, on Serendipity. I must have passed 4,000 posts last week. I didn’t notice. I was busy.

Chrysantemum

Chrysanthemum

Time slips by. Years slip by, but the last couple of months have been dizzying.

Fallen leaves on the deck

I will continue to be way too busy during the few couple months. I have been posting less … and there will be even fewer posts coming up.

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I’ve got my big project that eats hours of my time … and I am dreading the holidays. I haven’t shopped and don’t have time to even think about shopping, much less creative blogging.

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I wish I could magic a few more hours in my day, but hard as I try, the spell eludes me. There isn’t enough time in my life to get it all done. In the name of not turning what should be fun into stress, I hereby say: I will do my best. I will do what I can, when I can.

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If it doesn’t get done, oh well. If anyone knows that spell and would please send it to me?

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I thought retirement meant I was going to have a lot of time on my hands. What happened?

SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015-8 – A FACE IN THE CROWD

SERENDIPITY PHOTO STORY PROMPT

WEDNESDAY – 2015 #8

Welcome, again, to Frisbee Wednesday. I don’t have two posts in me this morning, so I have linked to the Daily Prompt for no reason, except to let my friends know I’m here. If this confuses you, I’m sort of sorry, but not really.

Today we celebrate the sound of a wren singing and a sliver of sunshine I saw briefly this morning. I didn’t realize it was Wednesday, honest to whatever until I saw Evil Squirrel’s post. “Self,” I said to myself, “I have to do something about this.” And here I am, in the middle of our late spring mini-winter, doing something.

So that you can, on this hopefully improving day, write something about a picture. Or think about doing it. My picture, your picture, someone else’s picture.

My picture for this week …

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Please try to add your own ping back (links). If you aren’t sure how to do it, put your link in a comment. That works too.

I didn’t honestly think I’d do it this week, but no matter where I am, I feel the call … especially since the weather has been miserable, cold, rainy, and in the tall mountains of Vermont, there was sleet. In June.

Please link back to this post so other people can find you. And me. My effort for this week follows.


 A FACE IN THE CROWD

I haven’t talked about my granddaughter’s high school graduation. First and foremost, let me say this about that. It happened. She graduated. Not merely did she graduate, she graduated on the Honor Role. She got into the college of her choice. Has a scholarship to cover tuition and books. Found a great job with training, decent pay, employment to coördinate with classes. Well, bust my buttons, who’d have thunk it?

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After all the angst and drama of Kaity’s personal high school reality show, the kid got it done. No one is more thrilled than I, except perhaps her over-indulgent grandfather, aka Garry “The Legend” Armstrong.

That’s the good part. The rest …

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After a month of May during which no rain fell, graduation day dawned dark, cold, and rainy. With a hint of foreboding. The family — me, Garry, Owen (dad), and Sandy (mom) — gathered in the parking lot of the new high school. It was too early, so I suggested brunch. We adjourned to the breakfast joint in town and ordered the usual. Bacon. Eggs. Home fries. Toast. Coffee.

It took a long time to get the food. Every other parent and grandparent was also fortifying him or herself for the upcoming event.

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Scheduled to start at one, the festivities started at one. Without being able to use the great outdoors, the graduates, appropriately gowned and capped, marched around the gymnasium. They were smiling, giving little waves to the occasionally whooping audience.

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We are not, as a family, whoopers. We managed some enthusiastic applause when we weren’t taking pictures. You knew we’d be taking pictures, right?

Garry had coerced a friend who is a videographer to shoot too, so it was an effort worthy of Cecil B. DeMille. We were all ready for our closeups.

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The gym was hot, airless, and smelled like sweaty parents. Initial enthusiasm faded quickly as endless, dull speeches, heavily laden with every cliché ever used at such an event, commenced. And commenced. And commenced. Local pols and students with apparently no time restrictions droned on, interspersed with a band which tried hard to end at the same time — ultimately succeeding in at least that. My mother believed if they ended together, they were not a complete failure.

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The singers … well … it’s hard to justify them. Bad doesn’t cover it. An American Idol judge would have felt obliged to physically eject them from the stage. With extreme prejudice.

After they (mercifully) ended, the audience sat in stunned silence, grateful for a respite. All too soon, the principal arose from her chair to begin the longest, dullest, most amateurish speech in the history of high school graduations.

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It wasn’t merely too long. Her abilities as a public speaker were profoundly lacking. Maybe she’d written the speech the night before and not read it through, counting on her talents (NOT) as a thespian to carry the day. She should have skipped it entirely. It was a bad speech given by an inept speaker to an uninterested and slightly hostile audience.

She stumbled, back-pedaled, tried (obviously desperately) to find something to say about each graduate, even when she clearly didn’t know the kid. At all.

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The audience was slumping, murmuring. My back was spasming. Garry was limping. Graduates were talking lethargically amongst themselves about what they would do later … if they were ever finished with this … ceremony.

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By the time it was over, the wind outside had picked up, the temperature had dropped into the low forties. Party plans were abandoned due to exhaustion. It was almost four pm. It was pouring, but at least the speakers, screechy singers, and off-key instruments were — at long last — silent.

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We were allowed to creep out of the bleachers and go home. We had survived. Don’t we at least deserve a tee-shirt?

We survived Graduation 2015. On to college!

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY SERENDIPITY — A QUARTER OF MILLION VIEWS

I wrote when I hit 200,000. Then vowed I’d wait until I hit 250,000 before I’d write again. I got here faster than I expected. During the past few months, Serendipity had lots of traffic, even during holiday periods which are typically slower.

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Meanwhile, my third blogging anniversary was February 4th. Oops. Missed it. I guess I’ll have to wish myself a belated anniversary. I’m nothing if not fair. I forget everything and everyone equally.

3 YEARS OF BLOGGING

THREE YEARS!

It would have been delightfully symmetrical if I’d hit a quarter of a million on Serendipity’s third anniversary. I came close, just 16 days later. It’s hard to predict precisely.

Views come in bunches. The first year was slow starting, yet I finished my first year with numbers I wouldn’t duplicate for two more years. The whole second year was about steady growth. Not many big days, but few bad ones, either.

During this third year, I doubled the average daily views. The end of 2014 was a roller coaster. Big days then slow days. Bursts of views, then nothing. Followed by another big day.

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250,000 feels like a lot of views. I know there are lots bigger blogs, for whom 6,200 followers is no big deal. Where a quarter of a million hits is a drop in the bucket. Considering that I expected nothing, I’m amazed I got here. I started blogging knowing nothing except that I could do it. I learned along the way using the best tutor in the world: trial and error.

Each time I think I’ve worked out “the formula,” I discover I haven’t. I’m pretty sure there is no formula, at least none which works for everyone. The best part of blogging is its lack of structure, the freedom to be whatever (whoever) you want. To keep redefining yourself without answering to anyone.

A note about followers: Until about a couple of weeks ago, follower totals included WordPress blog followers, plus Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. In January I had almost 8,000 followers. At some unknown recent moment, WordPress stopped including all but blog followers.

I don’t mind the new formula. This is how it should have been from the outset. It is, however, a bit jarring to see ones followers count drop like a rock for no apparent reason. A warning would have been nice.

My years in blogging

My years in blogging

I’ve written more than 3,200 posts. So many, I can’t remember most of them. Or find them in the archives. I’ve posted I-have-no-idea-how-many pictures. I keep waiting for my blog to collapse under the weight of all those posts and pix. So far, so good. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Serendipity blew up tomorrow. If I disappear, remember me kindly. I’ll always be out there, somewhere.

I’ve had a difficult year. For me, this journey has not been about popularity. More about perseverance. About writing even if I’m sick and can’t find my muse. No one is more surprised — and pleased — than I am to have survived and done pretty well.

I’ve been blogging long enough to know each post won’t be a winner. It doesn’t mean I should quit. Writing is important to me in ways I can’t explain. If I stopped blogging, I don’t know what I would do with my days. Blogging is communication, networking, self-expression, and a focus … all wrapped up in a pretty bundle. And I don’t have a boss (YES).

I know — because I’ve done it — it’s worth hanging on. Numbers go up and down, but when you stick with it through the valleys, eventually, you get to the peak.

AT THE HEART OF THE MATTER

Re-springing Your Step – Tell us about the last experience you had that left you feeling fresh, energized, and rejuvenated. What was it that had such a positive effect on you?


It was just about a year ago when I discovered the heart murmur I’d had since early childhood was not just noise. It was a badly damaged mitral valve, and the aortic valve was in trouble, too. The heart muscle, trying to compensate for the inefficient mitral valve, had grown huge, trying to push blood through the ventricle. The muscle was so oversized, it was blocking the valve. I wasn’t getting oxygen.

72-pacemaker_2I was having trouble breathing. I was pale, weak. And I didn’t think much of it. Heart problems don’t manifest dramatically. They creep up on you. You are tired. You do less. You avoid stairs, limit activity.

I believed my heart was the one organ I didn’t need to worry about. I ascribed all my symptoms to other conditions. Asthma. After-effects of cancer. Arthritis. Bursitis. Other stuff.

When one has many overlapping medical conditions, it’s easy to assume whatever is going on, is probably one of them. It will pass, I told myself.

The local “doctor” colluded with me in pretending everything was hunky dory. I’d been getting an EKG every year. Every year, they told me “you’re FINE.” I took it at face value, a gift horse. I wasn’t about to examine its teeth.

My supposed cardiologist showed no interest and even less alarm, at my situation. He didn’t have time to see me personally. Dr. Brownstein — a very busy man I was assured and my so-called cardiologist of record — never actually saw me. He sent me to his young nurse practitioner to pass along messages, omitting to mention the cardio myopathy in the left ventricle. At that point, no one suspected I also needed a bypass for a clogged artery. No one ran any tests.

Dr Brownstein when I finally saw him — 6 months after it was determined my mitral valve was failing —  said I should wait until my heart completely failed, then deal with it. He said — this is a quote — “You can manage with a bad valve for years.” Big happy smile. The asshole.

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I was coming out of my self-induced fugue state. I went online and searched for surgeons specializing in minimally invasive repair of mitral valves. I knew, from reading about it, that the best course was always to repair ones own “original equipment.” Not always possible, but always worth trying. If it didn’t work, the surgeon would use a replacement valve — fashioned from the tissue of a pig or cow — or a mechanical valve.

I didn’t want a mechanical valve because they require a lifetime of blood thinners. Also, my first husband died of complications following implantation of a mechanical mitral valve. Bad history.

I found a doctor. An excellent cardiac surgeon. He ran tests, including an expanded EKG. It showed the mitral valve to be in very poor shape, but he though there was a slight chance he could save it. As for the aortic valve and the big muscle blocking it, he’d carve that out. He was sure he could save the aortic valve.

Heart surgeons cover emergencies and Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston is a premier cardiac facility, so patients come from everywhere. I was rescheduled four times before my number came up. Finally, I was in the hospital. More tests. Intrusive nasty tests. They didn’t give me nearly enough drugs. There are things I’d rather not remember.

Finally, D-Day. They opened me up. It was evident the tests hadn’t told the whole story. The mitral valve was not working at all and there was almost no blood passing through the aortic valve, either. How I was managing to survive was an interesting question. And I needed a bypass. And some other stuff.

The surgery lasted almost 8 hours and they kept me in a medical coma for 48 hours afterwards. If you think you can’t feel pain when you are in a medically induced coma, you’re wrong. You can feel pain just fine. You just can’t do anything about it. I was hurting. But it was a very fine hospital and at no point did I feel anything but safe and protected. These people had me. Never was there a moment when I felt in danger, even if I was. After determining my heart would not beat on its own, I had one final surgery to implant the pacemaker.

I got home at the beginning of April. I was a physical and emotional mess. Over the weeks and months, I sorted it out. Pain eased off slowly. The the 6-month mark passed and my breast bone was not healed. Now, at almost a year …. it’s close. It doesn’t grind as much.

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More important, the spring is coming back. It’s a tiny spring. I’ve had cortisone shots in my hips and walk better. My back is the same. It can’t get better, but applications of heat and gentle exercise might keep it from getting worse.  I’m beginning to feel like someone I know.

So, what put the spring back in my step? Heart surgery and lots of it. A mitral valve replacement. Cardiomyectomy and aortic valve repair. Cardiac bypass. A pacemaker. Two big shots of cortisone in my hips and a year of healing.

Everything isn’t perfect. I’ve got so many replacement parts, it’s funny. Two breast implants, a pacemaker, something else in there that works with the pacemaker, and of course, a replacement mitral valve. And each piece has a serial number. I carry a wallet full of cards with all the serial numbers.

That’s what brought a semblance of spring to my step. Not quite like the spring of youth, but I can walk, climb a few stairs. That’s something. That’s a lot of something.