THE BETTER WAY?

I spend lots of time trying to figure out a better way to keep doing what I am doing. I want  time off. Play a few video games. Hang loose. Part of the problem is the intensity of these past few months of politics. The nightmare of finding myself living in a world that goes against everything I imagined my world could be. But also, I’m tired. Mentally and physically. It’s not just my brain that needs time off. My body wants one, too.

I love writing and photography. I don’t have this site because someone shoved a gun in my back. Writing for me is more than fun. It’s how I express myself to a wider world. It’s healthier for me to write than brood and obsess. Healthier for me, healthier for the people around me.

Pictures — a whole other story — are wonderful — and they eat time. Taking the pictures, then spending hours editing graphics is all visual. Mental yoga. Colors. Textures. Not unlike a video game, it’s mind-fully mindless — and there’s a lot of it. Garry and I together often shoot three or four hundred pictures in a couple of hours on a sunny afternoon. Following a shoot, there are many hours of processing to come. It takes time.

How I can fit all this stuff into my life? I don’t want to give up anything, but I’m getting pounded by time. There are only so many hours in a day. Last night, for the first time in years, I had a “work anxiety” dream. I was supposed to be covering a story in (I think) Ireland. I had the address and a car. I remember saying “No problem, I’ve got this covered.”

Except I never got to the story. I found myself driving on the wrong side of the road with traffic coming towards me. I couldn’t see an exit and wasn’t sure how I got there. Ah, the perils of wrong-side-of-the-road driving for an American! Later, with the help of a friendly stranger, I made my way back to the hotel where I was staying, but couldn’t find stairs. Finally, I did, but everyone was furious with me with not covering the story — and apparently, failing to call home. Which, if I had a cell phone, I might have done. The dream omitted cell phones.

I have always said the fate of nations would be greatly changed if, in the past, everyone had a cell phone.

I woke up realizing I had to find a better way to do my life. What I really want is more time. At least 28 hours per day. That would fix everything. Unfortunately, I don’t have a way to slow time. If I did, I would also have a machine to save the world and make me a billionaire. Lacking the “Time-Slow-Craftmatic” device, I will have to stop trying to read everyone else’s posts daily.

This is the latest version of an old problem — trying to do everything. This always involves people YELLING AT ME to slow down. I get it. I do. I’m solid with the idea. It’s the implementation that is so baffling.

Meanwhile, If I’m not at your site everyday, forgive me. I’m not forgetting you, just trying to find my way to retirement. Because retirement is beginning to feel too much like work — without a check.

If you are building that machine? I’d like to Beta test it for you.

KEEP THE THOUGHT

A good idea is like a dream.  Perhaps it is a dream, in waking form.  It comes misty and bright. Beautiful, floating in your mind. Catch it  before it flies away because it will fade to a mostly forgotten memory in minutes. No matter how certain you are that you won’t forget it, I bet you will.

You don’t need to fully develop every concept as it flashes across your consciousness. But, if you think it is worth turning into any kind of authoring, write it down. Where you write it doesn’t matter, as long as you remember where. Your phone, a piece of paper, the white board in the kitchen, a couple of lines in a post on your dashboard. The important part, is to do it quickly. Put at least a sentence or two somewhere and try to make sure it is something which will help you remember what you saw.

Ideas, flashes and thoughts are ephemeral. Reality will steal them, so catch those ideas. Those ideas you are absolutely sure you couldn’t possibly forget will be gone before you turn around twice. Catch them before they get away!

SHARING THE WORLD – APRIL MOVING ALONG NICELY

I am delighted to report that nothing is going on. Soon we’ll have flowers and shortly thereafter, trees. Then, caterpillars. Maybe they won’t be as bad this time, but it’s hard to know. We will put in the air conditioners shortly. It’s getting warm. This is the least eventful period I can remember in a long time. I love it!

Share Your World – April 17, 2017


When writing by hand do you prefer to use a pencil or pen?

I do everything on the keyboard. I have pens because sometimes, I have to sign something. Probably there’s a pencil somewhere in the house, but I have no idea where that might be. But we have almost everything here, so I’m sure we have one of them, too.

Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I wrote out more words than I needed for grocery list or birthday card. But I do sign things. There’s always something that needs a signature.

Would you rather be an amazing dancer or an amazing singer?

Amazing indeed if, at my age, I were suddenly to become a great dancer or singer. The amazing would be that it happened. At all.

I used to have a pleasant voice, but damaged my vocal chords many years ago. I wouldn’t  mind being able to sing a little, but amazing? I don’t think so. And, to be fair, that was never on one of my “lists” of things I wanted to do or be. I did want to be a great pianist and I tried. Didn’t quite make it, but I tried hard.

Not since my post-toddler days have I yearned to be a dancer. That dream ended before it got started. Too much like work!

If you were on a debate team, what subject would you relish debating?

Once upon a time, I could have written a list of thing I would like to debate. Once upon a time, long, long ago. Because I think I have completed all the arguments about anything that mattered. I’ve battled for health care, women’s rights, equality, tolerance … and against war. During the 1960s, we all got together and tried to change the world. I’m pretty sure that what we really accomplished was making blue denim jeans and sport shoes really hot clothing. Otherwise, the world is as appallingly terrible as ever, except worse.

So I’m not debating with anyone about anything. I’ll sign petitions, call my congressperson, and post articles that I think will help those who have a mind for facts. Otherwise? If you are happy about the state of the world? Go away. Do not annoy me with your stupidity.

What are you a “natural” at doing?

Writing about things that happen and are true, but little or no aptitude for fiction. And certain kinds of photography.

I could always write. I don’t remember a time in this life when I couldn’t say it better on paper–  or these days, a monitor.

As for photography, I have a good eye for landscapes and casual portraits. Other things, not so much … but I keep trying and I am getting better at some of them. I don’t work terribly hard at photography. These days, I don’t work terribly hard. On anything.

OVER AND OUT

A short story by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


It was not like Billy’s dad to just walk into his room. At 17 years old he really expected his parents to knock first. He quickly closed out of his chat and turned around to see what his father wanted.

“What’s up, dad?” Billy began.

“Son, I think there is something you should tell me.” Billy’s father paused and waited for a response. Billy was clueless. He could not think of a thing he should say, so there was this long awkward silence as the two of them shot puzzled looks at one another.

Billy’s father had noticed over the last two month’s the nature of his son’s friendship with a handsome young classmate named Josh. They went everywhere together. They studied together and they spent hours on the phone together. Going to the movies on a Saturday night was just like the dates Billy’s dad had with his wife when they were teenagers. Billy would spend a lot of time getting ready. He picked out his best date-night type clothes and he absolutely lit up when Josh appeared at the door. Dad felt he could not be mistaken.

empty chairs

“No, dad, I can’t think of anything,” Billy finally said in his best “I’m innocent” voice.

“Are you gay?” his father shot back. All of a sudden something heavy fell on Billy’s chest. It must have been the weight of reality hitting him. He was unprepared.

“Yes dad,” Billy responded as boldly as he could after the truth was already out there anyway.

“And this Josh fellow, is he your boyfriend?” Billy did not want to out Josh to his father but he figured that he somehow knew so he gave up that truth too.

“Yes, dad.” Once again they stared at one another until Billy could finally throw that weight off himself and speak up.

“So, it’s OK then?” Billy asked. His dad did not want to say “yes” because it was not alright with him, but he did not want to say “no” because he recalled how difficult teenage love could be and just figured that gay teenage love was even harder. After a few moments deep in thought, Billy’s dad had a course of action in mind.

“Son, I want you to tell your mother this week. Am I clear about that?”

“No dad, please,” the boy replied in horror. “Can’t you tell her?” If his dad was not all “open-arms” about this he could not imagine his mother’s reaction. She was far more right of center than dad.

“Billy, if you think you are old enough to be making out with another boy, you are certainly old enough to man-up and tell your mother exactly who you are.” At that, Billy’s dad left the room and quietly closed the door on the way out.

For the rest of the week, Billy was a nervous wreck. Every time he saw his mother he could feel a knot in his stomach. His father started shooting him angry glances for failing to tell his story. Billy did tell two people though, Josh and his sister, Mary. The latter was a tactical error, to be sure.

One night when they all happened to be at the dinner table at once, a rare occurrence for two busy parents and two teenagers, Mary could not hold her brother’s secret any longer.  “So, little Billy, did you tell mom yet that you’ve been kissing boys?”

Billy’s mom immediately looked like she had seen the ghost of her dear departed mother glaring at her. “Robert, did you know about this?” Billy’s mom shouted across the room at her husband. He did not respond but she could tell after twenty-three years of marriage what the response would be. “How dare you!” she screamed at either Billy or her husband, neither was quite sure, and then she stormed out of the room.

Over the next few weeks Billy parents argued often about why the boy was gay. Each thought the other had a hand in it, but only mom was mortified and angry beyond reason.

“If you had been a stronger father,” she took to telling him almost daily, “This would not have happened.”

To which he frequently responded, “I tried to discipline the boy but every time I did he would run to you and get off the hook. I would say you are the reason he’s a mamma’s boy.” From there it only got worse.

After one particularly stormy session, Billy’s mom finally declared she was through. “I want a divorce.  We can not continue these fights in front of the children.” Robert agreed and went to their room. A stunned Billy, eavesdropping in the next room, began to cry.

Robert called his brother and asked to stay a few days. He packed a bag and prepared to leave when Billy ran into his room. “No dad, please don’t leave. I am sorry, it’s all my fault.  I’ll change, I promise. I won’t be gay any more. Please.” Billy buckled at the knees and went down to the floor. His dad helped him up and sat him on the edge of the bed.

“Look son, my marriage was over years ago. It took something like this to point that out.  You can not change this anymore than I can change who you are.” At that he reached over to hug the boy. He planted a kiss on his forehead, got up, grabbed his bag and walked out the door.

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?

ONE FOR THE TEAM – INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

This isn’t new, but it is my favorite because it was the single time I won. In the world of women versus the rest of the working world, a true win is a rarity. This was mine.


In the mid 1980s in Israel, I worked at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot with the team developing DB1, the first relational database. Those familiar with databases and their history should go “Ooh, aah.” Feel free to be awed.

I am not a developer. I’m a computer-savvy writer, but I worked extensively on Quix, the first real-English query language and documented DB-1. I was eventually put in charge of creating promotional materials to sell the project to IBM. They bought it and from this, DB2 and every other relational database ultimately emerged. Cool, right?

Technical writing was a new thing in the early 1980s. It didn’t have a proper professional name, which made me a pioneer, of sorts.

The president of the group was named Micah. He was the “money guy.” He knew less about computers than me, but wielded serious clout as his money was paying our salaries, rent, and keeping the lights on. Probably the definition of clout.

As the day approached when the team from IBM was due, it was time for me to present the materials I had created with Ruth, a graphic artist who had been my art director at the newspaper I’d managed the previous year.

Ruth was amazing with an airbrush. I’ve never seen better work.

The presentation materials were as perfect as Ruth and I could make them. I had labored over the text. She had done a brilliant job creating graphics that illustrated the product, its unique capabilities and benefits. It came time for the pre-IBM all-hands-on-deck meeting.

Micah didn’t like me. His dislike wasn’t based on anything I did or even my disputable personality. He didn’t like women in the workplace. I was undeniably female. As was Ruth. Strike one, strike two.

At the meeting, he looked at our materials and announced “We need better material. I’ve heard there’s a real hot-shot in Jerusalem. I’ve seen his work. It’s fantastic. We should hire him.” And he stared at me and sneered. Onto the table he tossed booklets as well as other promotional and presentation materials for a product being developed in Haifa at the Technion. I looked at the stuff.

“That’s my work, ” I said. “I wrote it.”

“No it isn’t,” he said firmly. “I’ve heard it was created by the best technical writer in the country.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “Me.”

He was not done with humiliating himself. He insisted a phone be brought to the table and he called his friend Moshe in Jerusalem. I’d worked for Moshe, quitting because although I liked the man, he couldn’t keep his hands to himself. It was another one of those things I didn’t need in my life right then.

Moshe gave Micah the name of The Hot Shot. It was me.

“Oh,” said Micah.

I didn’t say anything. I didn’t have to. The deadpan faces around the table were elegant examples of people trying not to laugh, though a few of them needed some tuning up in the “women working” department, too. However, Micah wasn’t a guy you laughed at, not if you wanted to keep your job.


It was a moment of triumph so sweet and rare, nothing else in my working life came close. I won that for The Team, for professional women everywhere. Eat it, Micah.

TELLING YOUR STORY – RICH PASCHALL

Finding Your Own Voice, Rich Paschall – SUNDAY NIGHT BLOG


What is the best way to relate something?  When do you communicate well?  What is it that gets your point across?  When does your voice stand out in a sea of voices?  How can you be heard?  I like to think that I can write about anything, but the truth is some stories and essays are more widely received than others.  Why is that?  When you tell a story or try to make a point, when are you at your most effective?

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Certainly those with debating skills know how to line up evidence, organize their material, give weight and structure to their arguments and drive their points home.  For some that comes rather naturally.  They can readily see how point one leads to point two and on to point three.  They can see what supports each point along the way.  They understand when something needs extra support.  If they have a particularly effective quote, they know whether to play that card up front, or hold it back for a rebuttal in such a way that it is not “extra topical” but right on point.

For others this skill is acquired through study of argumentation as well as study of opponents.  If I say “this,” what is the likely response?  Will it be more effective to address this audience in a bold, out-spoken manner, or a soft and persuasive one?  Does my voice sound sincere?  Combative? Rude? Respectful?  When am I at my best?  When are people listening?

What if it is not an argument at all, but a simple point that is to be made?  When are you at your most interesting?  How do you capture the imagination of your listeners or readers?  There is not much point to advancing an argument if no one is listening, or reading, as the case may be.  What do you need at the open to get people’s attention?  Whether you are speaking to an audience or writing your point for Word Press, a good opening line is essential.  What is it though?  How do you find it?

Perhaps you wish to tell a short story.  Certainly there is a great oral tradition of story telling.  The earliest written stories were likely those that were passed along from generation to generation verbally.  If you sat down to write Beowulf out for a newly literate segment of the population, how would you begin?  Is the same opening effective on paper as it was sitting in the mead hall with your friends, having a glass of whatever (really, what was that stuff?), listening to a tale and wondering if that was Grendel or the Rolling Stones making noise outside?  How can you make yours words stand out?

By now, you have noticed that I have thrown out a lot of questions. I suppose you might think that this is the part where I start answering them.  OK, wait for it … Sorry, I don’t have the answers. I really don’t.  What’s effective for you, may not be effective for me and what is effective for me …

You get the idea. Different people are successful in different ways. That’s because we are unique.  St. Paul would have told you in his unique letter writing style that each has his own gift. It is up to us to find that gift, that voice, if you will, and use it to be your most effective voice.

In looking back over recent weeks on Sunday Night Blog and Serendipity, I wanted to find the most read, liked and commented upon pieces.  What voice is heard?  I notice there was much interest in the personal stories.  Last fall Marilyn encouraged me to write about my trip to England and I posted several pieces.  Much to my surprise, they continue to be found and read.  I am sure it is not so much the personal story, but the adventure of it.  Don’t we all love to look at articles on travel and the pictures they contain?  Short stories and social commentary find varying success, and everyone has a comment or story about politics lately.

Recently we posted the importance of telling YOUR STORY.  It is not something you have to publish on Word Press or facebook or any other social media site.  We may be interested in your personal antics, but you may not be prepared to tell them.  Should you tell them at all?  If you are not a writer here, should you not pass on your stories of ancestry to your family anyway? What do you remember that this generation may want to know?  What about the next generation?  Can you find the words to tell them?

Whether you are writing a blog or telling a story at a family gathering, you will find your voice and it will be a good one. It may take a long time, years in fact, but don’t stop telling your story.  Some day you may be the best storyteller at Aunt Martha’s Christmas party and every gathering will bring friends and relatives to your side to hear your voice.  Or you may some day be the best writer in the blogosphere, and I will be reading you faithfully.  By the way, if you have answers to any of the questions above, please leave them in the comments below.  I really want to know them myself.