WHAT YEAR IS IT? – Marilyn Armstrong

It will probably take me until sometime in March before I know what year to schedule my posts. So far, each post for 2020 has been posted for 2019. After that, I have to find it because I don’t remember where it might be. The short cut mean I have to remember its title. No, I do NOT remember the titles of mine or anyone else’s posts. If I’m lucky, I remember one word that’s unique I can search for. I also don’t remember anyone’s names, faces, or directions. I can usually recognize buildings, if they have a sign in front telling me what they are.

My kind of calendar

I have been lost my entire life. My mother never understood when I said I was late and had gotten lost, usually someplace less than a mile from home, I wasn’t making up a story. I really was lost. I get lost in large houses, too and in buildings where all the hallways look the same. It’s humiliating. I’ve gotten lost on my way to the same doctor I’ve been visiting for 10 years because it snowed and everything looked different. I don’t recognize people if they aren’t wearing their usual clothing or they got a haircut or removed a beard.

Old year, new year

And this whole “change of year” stuff? I’m going to be writing the wrong date for months. By the time I get it together with the calendar, it’ll be just about time to flip to the next one. I also forget to change the month and year when I’m reblogging.

How pathetic is this? Pretty bad!

THE YEAR IS NOT NEW…I MEAN THE YEAR IN REVIEW – By TOM CURLEY

It’s that time of the year again. At the end of the year. In more normal times, the time of the year we look back, reflect and get shit-faced drunk on the last day hoping the next one will be better. For the last few years, we changed that to looking back in dread of the current year and looking forward with sheer terror to the next.

One tradition that hasn’t changed is the “Year-End Review.” All the media does it.  I know, I used to have to put the damn video packages together for many, many years.

I HATE YEAR-END REVIEWS.

So, in what has now become a year-end tradition, I give you “The Only Year End Review You Need.”

It’s short, to the point and has no pictures. Not because it doesn’t need them. It does. I’m just too lazy to look any up and I’m really into a video game that I want to get back to. I’d do this later but it’s the end of the year and I’m running out of time.

Curse the March of Time!

Here it is.

JANUARY:  Oh God, it still sucks.

FEBRUARY: It still sucks. And it’s really cold. And what the fuck is a “Polar Vortex?”

MARCH: Well, there’s always the Mueller Report.

APRIL: The Mueller Report is out!!

MAY: We waited two years for that???

JUNE: It just keeps getting worse.

AUGUST: Well, at least it’s warm. The warmest month in history. Great.

SEPTEMBER: They might impeach him!

OCTOBER:  Who was I kidding?

NOVEMBER: Holy Shit, they actually might impeach him!

DECEMBER: Holy Fuck! They impeached him! Yes! Wait, oh yeah, the Senate. Damn, this year sucked.

But there is hope. Next year is 2020. An election year. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s just hope it’s not an oncoming train.

IN SEARCH OF PEACE ON EARTH – Rich Paschall

The Same Auld Lang Syne, by Rich Paschall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINALLY, THE LONG SHADOWY DAYS OF 2017 DRAW TO AN END

This year has felt like two years, at least on a national and political level. Frankly exhausting. If this were a person’s life, I would be counseling them to try to put a lot less drama in their lives. This much angst isn’t good for anyone, much less a country.

But aside from the painful political mess, it has been a pretty good year. No one got sick and despite everything, the house is still standing. We are significantly poorer, but that is the way our cookie crumbled. I can hope the next will be better, but I’m not holding my breath.

We’re going to eat meatloaf, our best “comfort food” and maybe I’ll go wild and also make mashed potatoes. Double whammy in the comfort food department! We’ll watch the big shiny ball come down in Times Square, kiss each other and load a movie into the DVD player.

May you all have a wonderful evening, whether you’re partying or dressing in PJs and snuggling up. If you live up north, snuggling sound pretty good to me! It’s a cold winter’s night!

IN SEARCH OF PEACE ON EARTH

The Same Auld Lang Syne, by Rich Paschall

Another year has begun and we can see it is indeed the same as days gone by.  The old days are not forgotten as old conflicts rage on and new ones have arisen.  If old acquaintances happen to be forgotten as one year passes into another, old hatred, old disputes, old border wars, old and new religious battles carry on as if they will forever be remembered.  Are these disagreements worth the killing of men, women and children standing on the other side?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video: “It had to be said. Warning, Explicit Language”

 

PORTRAIT OF A HAPPY NCIS FAN

In case you haven’t doped this one out, Garry is a passionate fan of NCIS. In the course of events, he has his acquired an NCIS cap, rain jacket, carry bag, tee shirts in various configurations. And a zip-up sweatshirt with a hood. I too have a sweatshirt and a tee-shirt, but mine is the Abby forensics sweatshirt with a hood and embroidered skull. Which suits me.

Although I enjoy watching the show — okay, I love the show — I am not quite as wholly committed as Garry. As Christmas started rolling into town this year, I asked Garry, as I do every year, what he would like for Christmas.

“An NCIS sweatshirt,” he said. “But not the hoodie. A regular crew neck sweatshirt.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As it turns out, there is no such thing, at least not a good one from the CBS store. There are fake ones, but the reviews speak poorly of their quality and their tendency to shrink grotesquely in the wash. Carefully watching the show, I realize that Gibbs himself wears a hoodie. I pointed this out to Garry who still does not want a hoodie. He does not like all that stuff around his neck.

So with the clock ticking down, I ordered the 16-month official NCIS calendar.

I feared Garry might not like it, but I worried for nothing. He likes it. Today, he actually requested I take his picture with the calendar so he can post it on Facebook. He is past serious fan and has moved into fanatic.

Note for fellow fans: There’s a strong rumor that Cote de Pablo (Ziva David) will be back! Soon!

Recently, Garry has developed a passion for Star Trek: Next Generation. Given his propensity for full commitment to the fan experience, I expect him to start learning Klingon in weeks to come. I am eternally grateful to Netflix for having the entire series available. Seven full seasons to watch and we are just finishing the first!

Happy New Year, friends and fellow fans!

MORE THAN SKIN

New Skin – If you could spend the next year as someone radically different from the current “you” — a member of a different species, someone from a different gender or generation, etc. — who would you choose to be?


winter sun January hadley

I can’t imagine wanting to be anyone (or anything) but me. Perhaps in a dream, I’d be a horse or an eagle. Or a dolphin. But that’s dream stuff, not living.

When I was a teenager, in those hyper hormonal years of Hell, I wanted to anyone but me — though even then, I never wanted to be anything other than human. I grew out of that pretty quickly and by the time I got into my 20s, was already fond of myself. At least the brainy part.

I’ve always had issues with my body. Ill health has stalked me from early on. By the time I was in my late 20s, I used to laugh, tell people that, with the help of modern medicine, I’m living proof the unfit can survive.

So here I am, alive and still complaining. I’m sure someone elsewhere has even more after-market replacement parts than me, but I don’t know him/her/them. I’m sure I’ll never be an unidentified Jane Doe on Ducky’s autopsy table because I carry 4 cards with serial numbers identifying various implanted pieces — pacemaker, two breast implants, and a heart valve. The piece of plastic fibula in my right leg predates serial numbers and two pieces were put in, but subsequently removed when they didn’t work.

So here’s the thing. I don’t want to be someone or something else. Not for a year or a day. What I want is to be is me. An all-original, functional version. With no arthritis or heart problems. Without cancer or bursitis.  Supple young skin, and silky, thick hair in a blanket down my back. I would like the perfect complexion my friends so envied and which I never appreciated until it was gone. I’d like my teeth and stomach too, please.

Fantasy aside, I’ll hang on to me, grateful to be alive. It’s New Year’s Day, 2015. A beautiful, bright, sunshiny day in the heart of winter. I ever-so-slightly over-baked the blueberry pie, but the prime rib will be perfect.

I will do my best to make this an excellent year.

2014 – INTERESTING TIMES

It was an interesting year, in the sense of that apocryphal Chinese proverb, “May you live in interesting times.”

May you live in interesting times” is actually an English expression which pretends to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. Despite its having become so common in English as to be known as “the Chinese curse”, the saying has no actual Chinese source. At least none anyone has ever found. The nearest related Chinese expression is “太平” (níng wéi tàipíng quǎn, mò zuò luànshì rén) which suggests it’s “better to live as a dog in an era of peace than as a man in times of war.”

Winter December Sunrise

Last year was the definition of an interesting time. From its beginning, waiting for my heart surgeon’s schedule to free up so he could fix me — and I needed a good deal of repair — to the long-running (tickets still available) show titled “Marilyn’s Recovery,” to the melodrama of our well going dry. Also known as “Jack and Jill went up the hill, but came down with an empty bucket.” From the miracle of friends to the rescue to the subsequent resurrection of the well. Never a dull moment.

There were long weeks of glorious autumn as we traveled through a glorious New England. Two great concerts. Friends from the past, new friends from afar. Good friends we laughed with and the lost friends for whom we mourn.

I posted nearly 1000 times, passed 200,000 views. Took an uncountable number of photographs. Bought another computer. New Kindles all around. Bonnie’s teeth took on a new shine.

72-FebSunrise_10

Today, the calendar has flipped. It is 2015. Like the opening on a thousand sleazy movies, I’m living in an un-imagined future.

I remember being a kid and learning about how Haley’s Comet would be coming around the year I turned 39. I couldn’t imagine being as old as that. Nor could I ever have imagined I would see the comet on my 39th birthday from a rock in the Judean Desert, just outside Jerusalem.

I certainly never imagined 2015. The big movie of my young adult years was 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). That year came and went 14 years ago. 1984, Aldous Huxley’s dystopian future, has come shockingly close to reality yet life trudges on. At some point, I got kind of old. Which surprises me less than realizing my friends are old, too. How did that happen?

The Beatles sang about “When I’m 64” and I’ll turn 68 in a couple of months. Gee. Life is a lot stranger than any fiction I might have written.

ANOTHER MISERABLE YEAR

Let’s talk about funny. Like who makes us laugh. Do happy people make us laugh? Are comedians people whose lives are running smoothly, easily?

No way!

Funny people have problems. The funniest people are often depressed. Yet somehow, they can see a sparkle amidst the darkness.

Laughter is not so much a celebration of good times as a shield against despair. Humor is borne of irony, the realization that life is not merely imperfect, but frequently dreadful. So we turn our disasters into laughter because the alternative is endless weeping and wailing.

mistakesdemotivator
Another demotivational poster from one of my favorite sites, Despair.com.

The first time my world crashed and burned, I walked away from a dead marriage, gave everything to my ex and moved to another country. The joke was on me. I promptly married a guy so much worse I get dizzy thinking about it 30 years later. When that fell apart — though it lasted longer than it should have because I wouldn’t admit what a horrible mistake I’d made — I staggered — bloody, dazed and penniless back to the US.

When I finally stopped feeling like I’d gone through a wood chipper, I married Garry which I should done in the first place, except he hadn’t asked. Minor detail.

All that seemingly pointless pain and suffering was not for nothing. Stories of hideous mistakes and horrendous outcomes are the stuff of terrific after-dinner conversation. A few drinks can transform them into hilarity. Misery fuels humor. It’s a fact. Calamities, crises and disasters are high comedy.

Funny movies are not about people having fun. They’re about people in trouble, with everything going wrong, lives in ruins. The difference between a comedy and a tragedy is the ending. Tragedies usually end with a pile of corpses; comedies (usually) don’t. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of timing and style.

Funny stories weren’t funny when they happened. Now they’re funny. After I was told I had cancer in not one, but both breasts (they were having a two-for-one special at the Dana-Farber), I had them removed and replaced by silicon implants, but stopped short of adding fake nipples. Previous surgeries having left me with no naval, I now present myself as a space alien. You don’t believe me? It’s true.

I have a tee-shirt that say “Yes, they are FAKE. My real ones tried to kill me.” It’s a killer at parties and is high point of my cancer experience.

Fake breasts

When life goes to hell in the proverbial handbasket, folks who were sort of friends eye you with suspicion. Is bad luck contagious?. But there’s also a light whiff of satisfaction. They wouldn’t be rude enough to say so, but they’re overjoyed it happened to you, not them. Sorry about your life, really (furtive, smug smirk).

If you are a writer, out of the wreckage will come a book or at least a great post for your blog. See? It wasn’t for nothing!

Our personal traumas are collateral damage in a Darwinian battle of the fittest to survive. No one gets through life unscathed. Mindful of whatever tragedy lurks just over your personal horizon, why not prepare some clever repartee? You can give it a test drive at the next get together with your more successful pals. It will give you something to look forward to. And, as a bonus, you will really appreciate the irony when your friends’ lives go to pieces later on. You’ll be able to give them great advice on how to survive their personal Apocalypse! Cool!

So no matter how horrible things are right now, don’t worry. You will stop bleeding and screaming. Eventually. Black depression will ebb. You won’t always feel you can’t breathe. That crushing weight on your chest will be replaced by a permanent sense of panic and mild hysteria you will call “normal.”

Start laughing right this minute.  No tears allowed. Tragedy is hilarious. Heaven may be droll, but Hell?  Everyone is yukking it up down there.  Remember, it’s the first month of a new year. A fresh slate.  Anything could — and probably will — happen.

SERENDIPITY’S 2013 YEAR IN REVIEW – FROM WORDPRESS

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. It always amuses me that my most popular post — for two years in a row — was that article on the 2012-2013 première episode of Criminal Minds. But my analysis shows that though they don’t get viral numbers, other pieces have done well — and have had a surprisingly long shelf life, with people searching them out and reading them long after initial publication. It’s been a fun 22 months with Serendipity. Now, with Rich Paschall aboard and maybe about to have a little more written input from our own Garry Armstrong, we’ll be even better in 2014.

Hope you’ve having a great New Year … and keep having it for years to come.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 78,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 3 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

 

DAILY PROMPT: BRAND NEW ME, STARTING TOMORROW!

Tomorrow is the first day of a brand new year. Tomorrow you get to become anyone in the world that you wish. Who are you? You can choose to be anyone, alive today or someone gone long ago. If you decide to stay “you” share your rationale.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us METAMORPHOSIS.

– – –

Note: THIS IS IRONY. THIS IS TONGUE IN CHEEK. WARNING! TAKE WITH GRAINS OF SALT!

Tomorrow I won’t have arthritis in my spine and bursitis in my hips. My mitral valve will be young and sprightly. The cardiomyopathy will be a memory. My hair will be thick and healthy, my skin smooth and wrinkle free. Yes, it will be a new me. No more poverty, no more pain, no more bills we can’t pay.

Hosanna! It will be a fabulous day, a day of days and an unfettered future.

Hallelujah, bring on the trumpets!! Yay me!!

Me by Cherrie

Thanking my readers in a tangible way: The Reader Appreciation Award

ReaderAppreciationAward2

As the first month of this new year crawls to a close, I am grateful to be given a brand new and very special award: The Reader Appreciation Award from Sharla at catnipoflife. Sharla and I exchange scoops, family news, compliments and regrets that we don’t live close enough to visit in person pretty much every day. She has become more than “another blogger.”

She is a friend, the real deal and my world is better because she is in it. I think the world is better for everyone because she is in it and if you have never visited her site, please do. Poetry, quotes … thoughts, feelings and reminders of why being alive is worth the trouble. That’s not facetious: sometimes I need a reminder!

************************************************

There are a few rules for this award, fewer than for most. As the name implies, this goes to other bloggers who have taken the time to comment and sometimes, contribute to your blog … those readers and followers who have moved from the anonymous category into virtual friends. Some live so far away I know we’ll never meet, yet we depend on each other and we care.

What you can’t do:

1) You can’t award it to anyone who has already gotten it during the same year. So if you got it in 2012, you can’t get it until again until 2013. It can be difficult to determine who has which awards since many bloggers get awards but don’t display the badges, at least not obviously. I’ll just take my best guess.

2) The award can’t be given back to the person from whom you receive it. This is a problem because Sharla is always on the top of my recipient list and she is giving me the award. Drat.

As to whom you should give the award, this one is quite specific. The Reader’s Appreciation Award is given to the top 6 blogger/commentors on your site. This is a little complicated for me personally. Of the top six, two are my husband. No, I only have one husband, but my site recognizes him as two people depending on whether he is writing from his desk or laptop.

Garry_72_02

Consider yourself awarded!

It would seem odd to give him a blogging award since, although he is an enthusiastic commenter, he isn’t a blogger but he is my biggest and bestest fan. So instead, to Garry who is always rooting for me, I appreciate you a whole lot.

Sharla herself would be getting this award, but she’s the one giving it to me so again — thank you!

The envelope please:

After due diligence, the award goes to:

Gabrielle at My Heathen Heart

jcalberta at A Celebration Of Western Movies … Pardner !

Bob Mielke at Northwest Photographer

Tyson Carter at Head In A Vice

Sally at My Beautiful Things

Emily Guido at “The Light Bearer Series”

This list is in no particular order and there are people with whom I have a lot of interaction that are not on the list because I can’t include everyone, though I would if I could. Because I appreciate my readers more than any of you can know. You are the people in my world who make doing this, writing, posting, sticking with it every day, worth it. You are the folks who let me know that I’m being heard, being understood. You guys “get” me; that’s something special.

I want to extend my warmest appreciation to all my visitors, followers and readers. Although I have listed only six names (my top six commenters after excluding my husband (times two) and Sharla for reasons previously noted 🙂 so if your name is absent it isn’t because I don’t appreciate you. Moreover, this award is about thanking readers.

It’s meant to be given away … so if you have supporters to whom you would like to express your gratitude, feel free to grab the badge and pass it on! This is about saying thanks to the wonderful people who support our efforts and enrich our lives. In the end, it is about the joy we get from giving something back to those who “feed” us!

As always, I add the proviso that awards are supposed to make us feel good, happy. We all know that fulfilling the “requirements” of most awards is time-consuming and sometimes, close to impossible. Please do not feel obliged to press yourself beyond your comfort zone. Whatever you do in response to this award, have fun, feel appreciated and don’t stress. This isn’t supposed to make your life harder!

 

Surviving: It beats the hell out of the alternative

postaday 2013 - long

In 2010, I discovered I had cancer in both breasts. Two tumors, unrelated to each other. Just twice lucky. They removed the tumors and the associated breasts, gave me very attractive fake replacements — much perkier than the old ones in an artificial implant sort of way. I actually have a little ID card for my breasts, like they have their own personae. Maybe they do. Thus, a little more than two years after the siege began, I’m almost me again. Almost but not quite.

75-DecSnowHP-17

My mother died of metastasized breast cancer. My brother died of pancreatic cancer about 5 years ago, having never gotten as old as I am now. This is not a reassuring family history.

All chronic illnesses make you paranoid. The thing that’s so insidious about cancer is its absence of symptoms. The possibility that it’s growing somewhere in your body and you won’t know it’s there until it’s too late to do anything about it is about as scary as disease gets. Nor is it a baseless fear. I had no idea I had cancer, much less in both breasts, until it was diagnosed twice during a two-week period. One diagnosis of cancer is hard to handle. A second diagnoses a week later is like getting whacked over the head with a bat. It leaves you stunned, scrambling to find someplace to stand where the earth isn’t falling out from under you.

I don’t think most of us are afraid of dying per se. We are afraid of the journey we will have taken to get there. We’re afraid of pain, suffering, the humiliation of dependence and gradual loss of control of our own bodies. After having one or more close encounters with the dark angel, no one is eager to feel the brush of those wings again.

We are called survivors, which means that we aren’t dead yet. The term is meaningless. Put into perspective, we are all survivors. Anyone could be felled by a heart attack or run over by an out-of-control beer truck tomorrow. The end of the road is identical for all living creatures; it’s only a matter of when it will be and what cause will be assigned. Everyone is in the same boat. If you’ve been very sick, you are more aware of your mortality than those who who’ve been blessed with uneventful health, but no one gets a free pass. The odds of death are 100% for everyone.

Recovering from serious illness is a bumpy road. Each of us has a particular “thing” we find especially bothersome. For me, it’s dealing with well-wishers who ask “How are you?” If they wanted an answer, it might not be so aggravating, but they don’t want to hear about my health or my feelings about my health — which are often as much an issue as anything else. They are simply being polite. So, I give them what they want. I smile brightly and say “Just fine thank you.”

December Sunrise

I have no idea how I am. All I know — and all I can possibly know — is that for the time being, I am here. To the best of my knowledge, nothing is growing anywhere it’s not supposed to be.  Two years after a double mastectomy, I cannot be considered cancer-free … and really, if you’ve had cancer, you are in remission and that’s as good as it gets. So the answer for those of us who have had cancer, heart attacks and other potentially lethal and chronic ailments is “So far, so good.”

That is not what folks want to hear. People want you to be positive and upbeat. You cannot suffer physical or mental discomfort. Why not? Because if you aren’t fine, maybe they aren’t either. They have a bizarre and annoying need for you to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed no matter how you actually feel.

As I enter this New Year, I’m glad to be alive. With a little bit of luck, I’ll continue to remain that way. God willing and assuming life stays more or less on an even keel, I’ll be here in the cyber world, writing my little stories, taking pretty pictures of waterfalls and sunrises and you’ll still come and visit me from time to time.

Welcome to survivorship. It’s imperfect, but it beats the hell out the alternative.

Serendipity’s 2012 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 38,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 9 Film Festivals.

In 2012, there were 762 new posts, not bad for the first year! 2033 pictures were uploaded, probably 90% of which are original photographs by the author. The rest are illustrations from various sources.

The busiest day of the year was November 9th with 1,049 views. The most popular post that day was Presidential Election: “Sad and Tragic Day for Our Nation.” 

Click here to see the complete report.

I only started blogging in February of 2012 … and I didn’t really start posting regularly until May.

I do a lot of reblogging, either via direct reblog or using ScoopIt. That accounts for the high number of posts. I suspect about 70% of the 762 posts were mine. The others were reblogs or scoops. I have gotten good responses to posts I wrote requiring research and serious thought, but my most popular post was something I tossed off in less than five minutes while watching television. Go figure.

Popularity is fickle. It’s dangerously addictive and like most addictions isn’t entirely healthy. There’s a tendency to start to write for numbers … and that’s not what I want to do. So I have to be careful not to let success go to my head, to keep myself on my own course. It’s nice to be popular, but it’s even better when something I write makes someone think in a new way, changes someone’s mind, or give a reader pause to think.

It’s been a roller coaster year with a lot of craziness, tragedy, violence, controversy and acrimony. I’ve won awards, gotten hate mail, fan mail, and a lot more attention that I probably deserve. It’s been exciting, but stressful too. I think I could go for a much more peaceful year to come.

Have a great New Year everyone!!