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.

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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.

WHAT’S UP DOC? ILLEGITIMI NON CARBORUNDUM!

RENEWING THE PROMISE TO FIND INTELLIGENT LIFE ON EARTH … AND A THANK YOU TO ALL OUR FRIENDS
A Glimpse into 2017: You and Your Site in the New Year (Part II)

First and foremost, despite all of WordPress’s improvements which make it so much more difficult to manage this blog and keep putting out quality material, I intend to give it my best shot. As will my co-conspirators who I thank from the bottom of my heart for their contributions, love, and support.

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A huge thank you to Ellin Curley who has completed a full year of blogging and never missed a deadline! In any business, that’s a pretty big deal. Her witty, cultured, and humorous observations on the human and doggish condition have vastly improved the quality of Monday morning for me and many others!

Contemplating the years

Contemplating the years

To Rich Paschall who has not only never missed a day, but always been there to pitch in when I’ve been away, on a vacation or rather more frequently — in the hospital. Thank you, Rich. From the bottom of my heart, I have never regretted inviting you to become a part of this … whatever we are. I only wish you lived nearby so we could slurp coffee and plan projects! More than three years during which time you have written fiction, travelogues, and deeply moving LGBT stories — documentary and fictional. Your writing has made a difference in lives all over the world. You have had an impact on the community and woken up a more than a few people who might otherwise never have paid attention to a reality in which they don’t personally live. Several of Rich’s pieces are among the most-views posts published on this site.

Rich, you are a treasure!

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Garry, who is as I type this writing a piece … you are always my star on Serendipity. Your stories of the people you’ve met, the things you’ve seen, as well as your wonderfully warped sense of humor and great eye for a picture are of incalculable value to me, personally and to this site. I couldn’t do it without you. I wouldn’t even want to try.

And Tom. You haven’t written much, but each thing you have contributed has shown brightly. You make people laugh and you tell the truth in a way that people can both understand and enjoy. That’s a rare gift. Now, how about a little more output in the year to come? I know you’ve got stories. Between you and Garry, you’ve got an encyclopedia of stories. How about the time you met Timothy Leary? Huh? Now that buying pot in Massachusetts is legal — but selling it is not (huh?) …

I couldn’t have better friends or a better team. It’s a rough world out there and this is, for all of us, the one place where we can say how we really feel … and at least so far, no one can stop us from expressing ourselves. Let’s keep the world smiling, thinking, and remember to check the facts. Let’s have the best reality-based-with-wild-flights of fancy weblog in the world! We’re almost at half a million views as I write this. Lets get there and keep going. Yay team. Yay each of us.

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But the biggest thank you goes to my followers, readers, and friends. They say that friends you meet and get to know on the Internet are not “real,” but a lot of you are very real to me. You have encouraged me when I’m down, told me I’m great when I feel anything but, sent me little gifts that made me feel incredibly special. I don’t know that I deserve your love and support but you have — all of you (and you know who you are, or I certainly hope you do!) from the farthest east, to the mountains of Switzerland, to the glades and glens of Shropshire, Cornwall, and the mysterious standing stones in England … you have taken me to places I had only dreamed of.

I’ve seen the sun rise over the Jura mountains and in the Arizona desert.We got there in person —  you can’t top that!

I’ve seen the wilds of Australia and Tasmania. Learned how much our Canadian neighbors are just like us … but different, too. We’ve shared our kids, our dogs, our fears for our country’s futures. Our concerns for the climate and the natural world.

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We’ve talked about our life, loves, and many happy hours about our cats and dogs and horses. I’ve learned about growing up in places that to me are as mythical as Oz or Valhalla … and met people who have traveled and lived all over the world. And all of you have helped me feel as if finally, I fit in somewhere. I belong to this world, this strange and marvelous world of blogging we share.


ILLEGITIMI NON CARBORUNDUM


Let’s all take a bow and stride forward bravely into the new year.  Go team SERENDIPITY!

SWAG-WEAR FOR ALL

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Just as self-publishing has redefined authorship for many people, so has the “design-your-own” clothing business changed what we wear. Specialty shirts for teams, schools, and organizations have long been an industry, but in recent years “swag wear” has become ubiquitous. It’s everywhere. There’s slogan clothing for anything you can think of. And a whole bunch of stuff you would never have thought of.

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You can find a commemorative shirt for movies, authors (living and dead), as well as every book and concert tour … not to mention TV shows and their individual characters, historical, alive, or fictional — and any combination of the aforementioned.

I don’t remember exactly when tee-shirts with clever sayings became the clothing of choice for everybody, but if I had to take a guess, I’d say about 30 years ago.

Marilyn and Garry by Bette Stevens

Marilyn and Garry by Bette Stevens

That’s the first time I remember buying a tee-shirt that had people stopping me on the street so they could read it. It gave humorous definitions of world religions as they relate to the word “shit.” The only problem was it took a while to get through all the words, so I had to stand there and wait for people to finish reading.

Since then, the world has burst into a blooming bouquet of slogans and logos on all kinds of clothing, though not yet (but never say “never”) on business suits. It will happen. Just please, not yet.

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Somewhere along the line there came into my world “CustomInk” who can make anything you want in the way of a tee-shirt, sweatshirt, mug, mousepad, pen, calendar, or poster. You name it, they can put your design on it.

Use a photograph, drawing, or use the company’s design tools to create something that says “me” or “you.”  I’ve done both. I’ve designed special shirts as Christmas and birthday presents … and of course for Serendipity because … well … why not? Of all the enterprises in which I’ve participated throughout my life, this one is the most “me.”

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There are hundreds, probably thousands of places doing custom design and printing. CustomInk happens to be the one with which I have worked. Despite sticker shock, I’ve never been disappointed with the quality of the product. I tend to reward companies that do good work by continuing to give them my work … however little it may amount to in the overall scheme of things.

Since the subject in this week’s “Discover” challenge is essentially “clothing that defines us,” what could possible define us more than unique clothing we design and create?

I should also point out what I kick I get out of designing stuff. I’ve always enjoyed design, whether it was illustrations for a technical guide, a book cover … or a tee-shirt. There’s a special satisfaction in designing apparel. It’s not high fashion, but it’s my fashion. These days, you don’t have to wait for someone else to come up with your perfect fashion statement.

You can make your own statement. Using your own words and pictures.

WordPress DISCOVER | OUTER LAYERS

BLOGGERS AT PLAY

Garry and Marilyn finally — after three or four reschedulings — finally made it to Connecticut to visit Tom and Ellin Curley. Yes, these are real live friends who we have known a very long time. So long that Tom can remember the first house I lived in when Owen was still a rug-rat.

Tom has all his hair. In our world, that’s noteworthy!

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Tom and Ellin live in a lovely home in the woods with a stream in the back yard. And a boat called Serenity docked on the Housatonic River in Stratford, Connecticut. Pretty nice boat. Pretty big river. The boat’s transmission is currently MIA, having blown itself up some time back — not while we were aboard,  but it’s a great story, in case Tom (hint, hint) feels like writing about it.

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We spent last Thursday hanging out on the boat. It turns out, boats are a great place to hang out, even when they are tied up at the dock. Since Tom has a dinghy with an outboard in good working order, we could still motor up the river, even if the bigger boat is not currently able to do more than float.

Tom took me on a ride, while Garry and Ellin chose to hang with Serenity.

The Serenity is named (by Tom) after the brilliant Joss Whedon sci fi/western series “Firefly” that ran on Fox. “Firefly” lives on Netflix. There’s also a movie, aptly titled “Serenity.” Ellen liked the concept of Serenity which seemed (still seems) a perfect name for a boat. If you can’t find serenity on a boat, you’re hopeless. Many years ago, I had a (very small) sailboat and enjoyed some of my  most serene afternoons sailing her in the salt marshes off the coast of Long Island. But I digress.

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I had brought with me the newest in Serendipity swag-wear — the latest version of our tee-shirt. It’s hard to find gifts for people who don’t need anything. Garry and I don’t need anything either, at least not anything anyone can afford to get for us … so after I designed the tee-shirt, it occurred to me I actually could give them each a tee-shirt since both of them blog.

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Tom and Ellin were exceeding gracious by dressing in matching tee-shirts, something Tom had sworn he would never do — not ever under any circumstances because (in his opinion) it’s the final sign of senility. But I said I wanted pictures. I had a camera and a photo-hungry blog.

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It was a great little mini vacation. Thank you, friends, again for a really love time. And the weather was perfect too. Not too hot, not too cool. Absolutely perfect.

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Garry and I together shot more than 300 pictures, so you’ll see more pictures as I come up with excuses to post them. In the photo galleries, the first set are mine, the second are Garry’s. There are many more! Some days are just incredibly photogenic.

AND SO, THE BIG NUMBER DRIFTED PAST …

I wrote about almost hitting 400,000 on the 9th of June, 11 days ago. Endurance, I called it. Still blogging after all these years. Yesterday, the number was 400,792, but it has changed  hand and I don’t know what it is now. It’s a moving target.

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I had an unstable professional life. I worked almost exclusively for startup companies. Venture capital funded and typically, very small operations doing leading edge work. I fit into that kind of place and the people who worked there. It should there be no surprise that bankruptcy was often the final chapter of my jobs. In any case, single product companies don’t keep a technical writer on staff forever. No matter how much the job is supposed to be “permanent,” after the documentation is complete … it’s time to move on.

Blogging has been great for me, the best gig ever. It has outlasted all but one of my jobs and has been more fun (and more satisfying) than any of them. It has given me new friends, made me a better writer and photographer … and given me epic amounts of pure satisfaction.

Nothing lasts forever, but I’m giving it my best shot.

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.

LOVE/HATE CHALLENGE

It has been over a month since WIL threw this challenge my way so it is time to stop procrastinating and give you my top ten lists.

“Ok, so here are the instructions:

List 10 things I love and 10 things I hate – then nominate 10 fellow bloggers to do the same.”

Love:
1. My friends (some more than others)
2. France (Alsace particularly)
3. Chicago Sports teams
4. Deep dish pizza
5. French wine (white mostly)
6. Micro brew (312, Leinenkugel Summer Shandy, others)
7. Travel (I wish I could do more)
8. Music
9. Adventure movies
10. Chicago, the band

Hate:
1. New York sports teams (a requirement to live in Chicago)
2. Green Bay Packers (another Chicago requirement)
3. Cilantro (a little goes a long way)
4. Cumin
5. Guns and Roses
6. Haters
7. Internet memes (a great source of misinformation)
8. Starbucks (pushing local coffee and tea shops out-of-the-way)
9. Religious fanatics (hating in the name of God is particularly sinful)
10. Squid

OK, let’s see who answers back.  It would just be wrong if I did not start the list of nominations with Marilyn.  I nominate:

1. SERENDIPITY
2. SERENDIPITY (This one’s for Garry)
3. MikesFilmTalk
4. Taps and Ratamacues
5. Creeped.
6. wandering story teller
7. That’s Gay.
8. swo8
9. Wheelchair Traveller
10. JamesRadcliffe.com

The hardest part of this challenge was chasing down the urls for the nominees.  I have a few others in mind, but their blogs do not seem to lend themselves to a challenge since they are all photography, all poetry or all politics.  This seems to fits us eclectic types.  So what do you love/hate?