A TREE GROWS IN UXBRIDGE – Marilyn Armstrong

THE CHRISTMAS TREE FOR 2019

A small tree with tiny lights is the flower of MY day! I have to do a little rearranging of the lights, but it’s such a pretty little tree. I keep it – intact – in my spare “office” room, covered in plastic from year to year.

When the season comes around, I unwrap it — carefully — and carry it into the living room. This year, we have a CD player where the tree usually goes, so I had to do a little planning. I didn’t realize how heavy that player was, so when I picked it up to move it, me and it headed for the floor and I was trying to not drop it. I can’t afford to replace it.

I finally got it onto the semi-circular brick front of the fireplace.

Phew. After I nudged it into place, I realized I can’t use the remote because now it’s below the level of the coffee table. I have to stand and walk over and point the remote down. But it works.

Harry Belefonte’s Greatest Hits was in the machine, so the moment I plugged it in, he began to sing.  I love his voice. It’s like velvet.

I grabbed the kitchen scissors and went into my office. Very carefully, I cut the bag off the tree. I looked it over. Pretty good. The lights had sagged a little, but otherwise, it looked as good as it ever did.

I had already put down a Christmas cover and it was perfect. It’s a hand-made patchwork quilt I bought years ago in Pennsylvania. It’s long and narrow and I never really knew what to do with it. Now, for Christmas, it has a home under our tree.  I’ll take better pictures of it later.

Ever since I gave Garry my Leica, I’m having trouble using the new small camera. It has a much slower lens. I’m trying to get used to it. It’s fine in brighter light, but an f3.3 lens is slow indoors. A bit disappointing so far, but it’ll be good outside which is mostly where I take pictures.

SO, HOW ABOUT NEW YEAR’S EVE? – Rich Paschall

The Jackpot Question, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

By now you are expected to have a good response. So what is it? What are you doing? Certainly, your friends have been asking and you must have something interesting to say. Unless you are under 18 or over 80, you do not get a pass on this one. So, what’s it going to be? Party? Dinner and dancing? Will you be outside watching fireworks or in where it is warm? If you are in Florida or Arizona, I guess you could be outside watching fireworks where it is warm.

Happy New Year!

Since there seem to be so many different things to do, the question might actually be more or less logical. Restaurants, bars, and hotel ballrooms all have some sort of package deal. There are shows and concerts of every type. Whether you are in a big city or a small town, plans for the celebration abound.

For some strange reason, everyone is expected to have a plan.

One year, when downtown Chicago still had a glut of movie theaters, I was on a double date at a late showing of a movie that finished up just before midnight. I do remember which movie, but not the date. We had just enough time to empty out into the intersection of State Street (that great street) and Randolph where Chicago used to conduct a poor man’s version of the final countdown. Since it was quite cold and we were not loaded with anti-freeze, we stayed for the countdown and ran off for warmer places. It was an experience I do not need again. If I watch the ball drop in Times Square, it will be on television from another locale.

Since then I have ventured to house parties, bar parties, restaurants, and shows, but I am not sure any of these supposed grand events were particularly memorable. They certainly did not ring out like many of the grand events we see in the movies. If you missed all of them, then I will suggest that you put “movies with new year’s eve scenes” in your internet search so you can find a lot of them. Maybe you will get some cool ideas.

Since the death of one year and the dawn of another seem to evoke feelings of nostalgia, then you may know that “When Harry Met Sally” contains one of the most memorable and nostalgic New Year’s scenes of all. Indeed it is the climax of the “will he or won’t he?” scenario. It has all led up to one fateful New Year’s Eve moment.  The typical New Year’s Eve hoopla only adds to the drama of the moment.  (SPOILER ALERT). I love making dramatic “spoiler” pronouncements, and here is that great scene from one of our favorite movies.

The director of the movie needed no special music as “Auld Lang Syne” made the perfect background song. And what does this sentimental tune actually mean? We don’t know, something about goodbye and hello. It doesn’t matter, our sentimental feeling just associates with it and that is all that counts. So will you have a sentimental moment?

For some gentlemen, the coming of New Year’s is met with all the anxiety of asking someone to the high school prom. You know you are supposed to do something. You know it is supposed to be really good. You know it is going to cost you money, which you are not supposed to care about. You also know, just like the high school prom, you might get shot down when you ask the “jackpot question.” Unless you want to get teased by family and friends, you may just have to ask the question anyway.

Ooh, but in case I stand one little chance
Here comes the jackpot question in advance:
What are you doing New Year’s
New Year’s Eve?

Did you ask yet? What was the answer? If you haven’t asked, what are you waiting for?

Seth MacFarlane is the creator of Family Guy, American Dad!, The Cleveland Show and stars in “The Orville.”

SHARING THE WORLD, THANKSGIVING EDITION – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your Thankful World


Are you an Early to bed, early-to-rise person, a night owl, and daytime sleeper-dozer, or an ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’ person?   

Age has made me reconsider the idea of sleep. I need to get some or I just can’t function.

Now, if only I could give up on reading at night … I go to bed early enough, but then, there’s that book.

What are some misconceptions about your hobby, should you have a hobby?

People think I’m a lot better a photographer than I am. I do take pretty pictures, but I don’t process them nearly as well as others do. I’m not even in the same class.

No matter what anyone tells you, a good eye does not overcome quality issues.

A penguin walks through the door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?    

He has come bearing cruise tickets. He is our lottery vacation Penguin.

Aliens have landed. Do they come in peace?

I doubt it. They landed? They have an agenda. Maybe it’s benign, but until I know what they want, I’m being really careful.

I play with robots! Especially Robbie.

Really really careful.

What are you really, incredibly thankful for this week?

Garry’s ears are good and my son is doing Thanksgiving. Hallelujah!

 

HAPPY NATIONAL ASSHOLE AWARENESS DAY!

There has never been a dearth of assholes in our world, but I think recent years has raised them to a level of importance they never previously enjoyed.

The assholes are everywhere! Obviously, we know who the biggest asshole of them all is, but please don’t forget the rest of the crowd.


No need to name America’s biggest asshole. We all know him.

I have to thank my husband and his friends for bringing this important holiday to my attention. I had long felt that the morons, jerks, and assholes in our lives were not getting the recognition they deserve.

Often ignored and disrespected, this is a special day, dedicated to them all. The assholes we love, the ones we meet on the street. The ones we worked with and for. And most especially, for those we elected to run the nations of our world. If you voted for the asshole, please feel free to add yourself to the list.


To all assholes everywhere, this is for you.

Obviously, we have one overwhelming asshole, but he has gotten more than enough recognition. I think we should try to remember our local and less-international assholes. Not world leaders, yet somehow, they manage to get under your skin. They are the people you really don’t want to invite to your next party, but sometimes, you just don’t have a choice.

We worked for them and with them. We’ve lived with them. We are related to them.

This is your day, assholes. Enjoy!

JEWISH AT CHRISTMAS – ELLIN CURLEY

Being Jewish during the Christmas season is like being a kid with your nose pressed up against the window of a candy store while all the other kids are inside eating candy. No matter how hard Jewish parents try to jazz up Hanukkah, eight candles can’t hold a candle to the sex appeal of corporate, commercial Christmas in America.

Every year, for two months (or more), everything you see and hear glamorizes the season of joy and giving. It’s all lights and glitter. Since Jesus was Jewish too, maybe we could come up with a holiday celebrating his Bar Mitzvah? Even Bar Mitzvahs are tame and dowdy compared to the hype and excess of Christmas.

Cowboy and Menorah

But then I married a gentile! I could finally — legitimately — participate in Christmas!

The first thing my daughter and I did — a week after my wedding, as soon and as the Thanksgiving dishes were put away — was buy a gigantic, live tree. Then we hit every Christmas tree store in the county. We bought enough ornaments to decorate the tree in Rockefeller Center! We made sure to buy several Dreidels, Jewish stars, and Chai ornaments to remind our tree it was also Jewish.

My husband suggested I might want to join a 12-step program for ornament addicts, but even he had to admit, the result was spectacular. Our sun room is round, with windows on three sides. At night, when the tree was lit, it reflected sparkling colored lights for 180 degrees. It was fairyland.

We kept the tree up until March that first year.

After several years of holiday decorating orgies, the novelty began to wear thin. The effort required to transform the house into (and out of) a winter wonderland felt unreasonable. Unnecessary.

christmas wrapping paper

I began to feel pressured and overwhelmed, like most of my Gentile friends. I decided to go back to my Jewish roots and leave the Christmas responsibilities to my Methodist husband. We now have a small, fake tree that comes up from the basement every year, fully decorated, for 6 weeks of daylight in the kitchen.

Ironically, Hanukkah, in its present incarnation, was also created by Madison Avenue to give Jewish kids their own schtick around Christmas, and to give Jewish adults something to spend money on during the “holiday” season.

These days, I happily light my Hanukkah candles and give, mostly small, gifts to my immediate family. I enjoy the festivities and fun of Christmas, but I’m at peace now with the simple, beautiful “Festival of Lights”.

Now that I’ve experienced how the other 90% live, I no longer covet my Christian neighbors’ holiday.

IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS

This entire year has gone so fast, it’s truly a blur. I remember being a kid and years lasted a very long time. The interval between Kindergarten and high school was an eternity.

I remember being 13 and realizing in just three years, the World’s Fair would be in New York. I’d be old enough to visit on my own. On a date, maybe. Which I did. Me and my friend Alex. He wasn’t a serious date, just a college pal. We went exploring, discovering the thrill of Belgian waffles and the world’s fastest carousel from France. Alex was Swiss. He used to tell me about all things European, which was very exciting when I was 16 and couldn’t imagine that in 13 more years, I would be living overseas.

I recall looking at a calendar. Realizing Haley’s Comet would be “in town” on my 39th birthday … and thinking “Wow, I’ll be really OLD by then.” It came. I saw. I wrote an article about it which was the only thing I wrote that was published in the Jerusalem Post.

Time seems to go faster with each passing year. I don’t know why it seems that way. It is as if childhood lasts most of a lifetime, then the rest of your life takes two more years.

And now, it’s December 2017 and I’m 70, turning 71 in just a few months. Phew. I would like 2018 to go just a wee bit slower, if that is okay with whatever eternal clock is managing time.

BICENTENNIAL FIREWORKS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I was lucky enough to have a truly remarkable and unique experience. It happened on July 4, 1976. It was part of the huge Bicentennial celebration in New York City in honor of the 200th Birthday of the Declaration Of Independence. There were festivities all over the city for a whole week.

There was a parade of old-fashioned Tall Ships from all over that majestically sailed up the Hudson River. I only saw that on TV but it was an incredible sight. (I did get to see a few individual ships in the harbor as we drove into the city, but not the full parade).

One of the Tall Ship-s sailing on the Hudson River with the World Trade Center in the background

The pièce de résistance of the celebration week was the fireworks display that was set to go off from the Statue of Liberty on the night of July 4.

At the time, my husband, Larry, worked at a law firm in New York City. The law firm scheduled a big office party on the night of the 4th of July. They booked the restaurant at the top of World Trade Center One, Windows On The World. The restaurant was on the 107th floor and had an unobstructed view of the Statue of Liberty, which was just a short distance out in the harbor.

When the time came for the fireworks, we all gathered around the floor to ceiling windows facing the Statue of Liberty. I’m short, so I was funneled to the very front of the crowd. There was absolutely nothing between me and the view outside.

Bicentennial Fireworks with World Trade Center

The fireworks display was, appropriately extraordinary. It was so close I felt I could reach out and touch the bursts of light directly in front of me. It had an eerie quality because I was 107 floors up in the air. So the fireworks were not only nearby and coming right at me, they were coming right at me at eye level. They weren’t coming from above, as they usually are. They seemed to be aimed right at me. I even flinched at first, fearing that the window would be hit by stray sparks.

Fireworks in color, with World Trade Center in background

Once I relaxed, I sat back and enjoyed a truly awe-inspiring show. I’ve always loved fireworks. Unfortunately, no display since then could even come close to rivaling that night.

Remembering that night is bittersweet. While it was a euphoric experience for me, it’s sad to realize that no one will ever again get that great view from the long gone tower at the World Trade Center. I’m sure the views at the new buildings on the World Trade Center site are magnificent. But for those of us who lived through 9/11, it will never be the same.

UP THE CHRISTMAS TREE

This year, finally, I added lights to our tiny tree. I wanted them before, but they were always too expensive. This year, I bought 6 sets of tiny LED lights for about $4. I wrapped them around the tree … and now, the tree is just right. It needed some lights. I have only used 4 so far … two remaining in case the others punk out.

We put the two nutcrackers on top of the wood stove. If Duke got hold of one, it would be wood shards in minutes.

The blue lights are still up over the big window in the living room, same as last year and for the past 10 years. I will add the gifts when I wrap them. But with Duke, the Toothsome, I think I’ll put them out last, maybe on Christmas Eve.

How deliciously simple. The simplicity is a big improvement on my holiday spirits. When it’s too much like work, a lot of the fun disappears for me.

Merry Whatever-You-Celebrate! Even if you don’t celebrate any specific holiday? Enjoy the season. Be bright and cheerful and enjoy the bright nights and lights and happy greetings. After the holidays are over, it’s only winter.

It’s one of my goals in life to prove that it’s possible to have a lovely Christmas tree that is NOT 9-feet-tall, real, or weighing half a ton. I know the argument that “fake trees” are a hazard because they are plastic. I would believe that — except for a few details:

  1. No one buys a “fake tree” for a single year’s use. Each of mine has lasted five years or longer.
  2. They are much too expensive to buy annually and many of us leave the tree fully or partly decorated, then store it in a basement or attic for the following year. You cannot do that with a live tree.
  3. The ability of manufacturers to make a tree look very real has come a long, long way from when we were kids. A lot of people like to touch my tree to be sure if it’s real or not because it looks entirely real.

Given all this, buying a non-real tree is no more expensive or unfair to the environment than buying any other decorative object for your home. Nothing lasts forever. I’ve had to throw away burnt out ovens and lamps and carpets and who knows what else.

This little, fake, 4-foot tree has been with us — as of this year — for four years. I paid less than $30 including shipping. No, I didn’t get it on Amazon. These are specialized items and I wanted one that looked as much like a tree as possible … without the dry, falling needles and branches and the godawful mess a real tree makes. The falling needles alone can take a full year to finally get clear and I’m pretty sure I’ve still got some needles hiding in the wood and bricks from our only two trees “real” trees, 17 and 18 years ago.

Also note: we live on a street with a Christmas tree farm just up the road. We did the whole thing with the hayride and picking the tree and tying it to the car and then … figuring out where to put it because that was when we have five people living here and space was at a premium.

I do not believe that a dead, dry, real tree in some way screams “Birth of Our Lord” — well your lord, not mine but you get the idea — any more than no tree or a fake tree. The tree has nothing to do with religion. It predates modern religion by probably a thousand years and is more reminiscent of the ancient Norse and Celts than Christianity.

Decorate however it suits you. Do whatever makes you happy and enjoy it. It is a festive time of year and I think we need some festivities during this darkest part of our trip around the sun. At least when it is full dark by four o’clock, I can light up the tree. That helps. Truly, it does.

HAPPY NATIONAL ASSHOLE AWARENESS DAY!

Although there has never been a dearth of assholes in our world, I think this year has a special importance. Assholes are everywhere! I’m having a lot of trouble figuring out which asshole is the ultimately biggest asshole … but … wait … I think maybe I’ve got it. I don’t want to overly influence the election, so I will leave it to you, my friends, to make this critical decision.


Who is America’s biggest asshole?

I have to thank my husband and his friends for bringing this important holiday to my attention. I had long felt that the morons, jerks, and assholes in our lives were not getting the recognition they deserve.

Often ignored and disrespected, this is a special day, dedicated to them all. The assholes we love, the ones we meet on the street. The ones we worked with and for. And most especially, for those we elected to run our country.


To all assholes everywhere, this is for you.

DAYS OF INDEPENDENCE

Today is America’s Independence Day. Nothing screams liberty like blowing stuff up, so there will be a lot of fireworks everywhere. Sometimes, we can see them from the back porch depending on which town is blowing up what on which evening. We don’t have fireworks anymore. We ran out of money, but we celebrate anyway.

The holiday is America’s birthday party and celebrates the presentation of the Declaration of Independence, our formal statement to King George and Great Britain that we no longer were willing to retain our status as colonies.

Declaration-of-Independence-signing

There’s more than a little confusion about which event happened when regarding the Declaration of Independence, so here’s an historical timeline. Not everyone agrees on this exact timeline, but it’s close for most purposes.

JULY 2, 1776: John Adams, a leader for independence, gets the delegates to the first Continental Congress to unanimously ratify the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson wrote the draft document because in a rare moment of general consensus, the delegates agreed that Jefferson was the best writer.

JULY 4, 1776: The Declaration of Independence is signed. July 4th becomes the U.S.’s official independence day, although John Adams argued it should be July 2nd, the day the document was ratified rather than the 4th on which it was signed. But that was Adams — arguing about everything.

JULY 4, 1776 through August 2, 1776: Following its signing on July 4th, the Continental Congress announced the Declaration of Independence. It is distributed and read across the colonies. The process of reading the Declaration — getting the official word out — took about a month.

By August, a more attractive document displaying all the delegates’ signatures had been produced. In any case, whether or not the colonists had read or heard the document officially read, everyone knew about it. The “official word” took a month to distribute, but men on horseback going from town to town told their friends and family and the word was quickly spread. People talked in pubs and over the pasture fence, as they do today. But without Twitter or cell phones.

JANUARY 1777: The first printed versions of the Declaration of Independence are distributed to the general public. The colonies are fully engaged in rebellion against England.


Jefferson’s original draft, with changes by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, as well as Jefferson’s notes of the changes made by Congress, can be viewed at the Library of Congress.

declaration_independence

You can see the most famous version of the Declaration, the hand-written signed document, at the National Archives in Washington DC.

BRING BACK NATIONAL BROTHERHOOD WEEK

Way back in the dark ages, the third week in February (an otherwise dreary and neglected month) was designated National Brotherhood Week. As designated special weeks go, it was never a big hit with the general public. In the 1980s, it disappeared completely. Probably because it failed to sell greeting cards. Which is, I believe, the point of this kind of created event.

brotherhoodweek-624x446

The National Conference for Christians and Jews (NCCJ) came up with the idea of National Brotherhood Week in 1934. Given the current political climate, maybe we can agree more brotherhood year round would be an improvement. Sadly, we no longer have even that one, measly week.

February is now Black History Month which seems to mean movie channels run films featuring non-white stars, unless you watch PBS or the History Channel. There you might see a documentary or two. A man who took it seriously — back in the ever older days — as he took all politics seriously, was Tom Lehrer. He taught math at Hahvid (Harvard, if you aren’t from around here). He didn’t write many songs. Till his dying day (which hasn’t occurred — he’s alive and living in California), he thought of himself as a math teacher who wrote silly songs — not as an entertainer.

Despite this unfair self-assessment, I’ve always felt Tom got this celebration dead to rights. Ya’ think?

Check him out on YouTube. He only wrote about 50 songs and most of them are posted in some video or other. Me? I’ve got the CDs.

Remember CDs?

BONUS!


Given recent interactions with North Korea, I thought I’d add these two extra little ditties. They seem so … appropriate.

HAPPY ODDBALL BIRTHDAY!

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: May 7, 2017


Today being my son’s 48th birthday — and me clearly wondering how I got old enough to have a son who can sign up for AARP — today’s oddballs are the kind of pictures we all have tons of. Birthday pictures! Don’t we all have drawers full of these shots? Of the babies and toddlers. Of the little kids blowing out the candles, and the big kids getting a special something.

This is my son, getting his special present for this year. Happy birthday, Owen.

 

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.