Still Sitting On The Fence? Come Join Us On The Grassy Verge for the A to Z April Blogging Challenge #atozchallenge

From your perch on the fence, you’ve seen the A to Z Challenge banners pop up around the place. You’re thinking that WordPress is looking smart, spruced up as its is with all the banner colour around and you sense a stirring excitement amongst your fellow bloggers. Your creative juices are starting to flow – the Challenge is about to begin.

blogging and fenceYou then start to seriously consider taking part and the executive committee inside your head starts its questioning. Can I handle a blog a day? Is this too big a time committment? What happens if I miss a post? Is my writing up to scratch? Will I know what to do?

Let me help you to address the concerns of the executive committee.

 

 

Dear Committee Members,

Thank you for under taking your usual comprehensive risk analysis on the proposed activity.

Your concerns have been noted and can be mitigated as follows:

  • X may not blog every day, but X knows that X has several posts in them. Sometimes X gets the urge to post more than once a day because X reads or experiences something that triggers the words. There are plenty of people who undertake the Challenge without a plan and blog off the cuff.
  • Alternatively, X may choose a theme for his/her blog posts which will give his/her alphabetical creations a bit more structure. Doing the research for the posts will an enjoyable and educating process.
  • There is always an opportunity for X to programme his/her work to post on a given day and time, so that X does not have to write every day. This is particularly useful if X knows he/she has a another commitment during April.
  • If X misses a day or two or three, X can make up the missing posts during the Challenge. There are plenty of bloggers who post multiple posts to catch up.
  • The posts don’t need to be particularly long. Whilst it’s up to X to choose the length, a rule of thumb is that the optimal length for a Challenge is between 250 and 750 words. It’s quality that matters, not quantity.
  • Every participant brings something individual to the Challenge. X’s writing and ideas are unique.
  • The concept behind the Challenge is simple, blog and comment. X is undertaking these activities already with much aplomb.

This is a unique opportunity for X to grow as a blogger.

Rest assured that the Committee’s work is appreciated, however April will be the optimal time for the Committee to take a much needed vacation.

Alphabet blocks

Still note sure?

Take a look at some of these WordPress blogs taking part in this year’s Challenge:

Daily (W)rite – Damyanti is a Challenge co-host and will be showcasing Indie books and authors

Circles Under Streetlights – first Challenge and writing about all things bookish, writing and fictiony

Sound of One Hand Typing – an A to Z chronicle of White Sox baseball players. Batter Up!

Tropical Territory – the theme of this blog is pictures from Australia’s Northern Territory, particularly the Top End. Can’t wait to see what this blogger comes up with.

Peter Denton – Writer – Peter writes flash fiction, scripts and short stories

A Common Sea – returning for a second round after last year’s Challenge

Bob’s Wife – who will be sharing little illustrations of the Islands of the Philippines … from vignettes of beautiful scenery to images of the Filipino way of life

Mental Indigestion – blogging about imaginary friends

Irreverent Feminist – a feminism theme

The Speeding Turtle Gets Fit – a new blog from a new blogger. If you do nothing else, check out the fantastic banner photo on this blog!

And there’s a whole lot more WordPress blogs taking part, not to mention a bunch of Blogger blogs. Total participants now number more than 1,200.

That fence starting to feel slightly uncomfortable?

Hop on down and join us. 1 April is just around the corner.

Join up by clicking the here.

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It as easy as …..the quick brown fox jumping over a lazy dog post!

Raising The Curtain On My 100th Post

Today I feel like a real milestonemason.

Ok, that’s probably not a word, but it sounds good and seems to fit the occasion.

The tagline for this blog reads “Life At the Crossroads”. Little did I know when I penned that tagline, that today my blog would be very much at the crossroads. For today is where my 100th post meets the first anniversary of this blog.

Image courtesy of freedigital photos.net

Image courtesy of freedigital photos.net

Balloons celebration

 

 

Hard to believe that a year ago I pressed that daunting blue “publish” button for the very first time.

Over the past year,  I have:

Raised The Curtain on the journey through mid-life

Raised The Curtain on creativity which had long laid dormant

Raised The Curtain on raising sons and parenting teenagers survival tactics

Raised The Curtain on what it means to be Australian and live in Australia

Raised The Curtain on my introspective musings occasionally spouting some wisdom

Raised The Curtain on the humorous aspects of life

Raised The Curtain on aspects of life bordering on the ridiculous

Raised The Curtain on my writing skills

all through the vehicle of this blog.

Most importantly, I have also:

Raised The Curtain to my emotions. To those whose blogs I follow, I say thank you for allowing me a glimpse into your world. Thank you for making me laugh, for making me cry, for making me feel connected and for making me think and marvel at your amazing talents. It’s been a great year of discovery.

Raised The Curtain on some wonderful blogging friendships. No matter that thousands of miles may physically separate us, it seems like you’re just next door.  The following bloggers deserve special thanks for making this past year of blogging a fun and inspiring affair:

Lisa at Life With The Top Down                        Sisyphus at Glass & Paper

Chris at Word Play                                               DAF at dearanonymousfriend

Lynne at Free Penny Press                                 Elyse at Fifty Four And a Half

Tess at How the Cookie Crumbles                    John at The Sound of One Hand Typing

Jen at Ramblings From A Mum                       Carrie at The Write Transition

Elkement at The Theory And Practice of Trying to Combine Just Anything

Gaupowitz at Guapola                                        Arlee at Tossing It Out

BTG at Musings of An Old Fart                       Jen at News of The Times

All quality blogs from quality bloggers.

And thank you to ALL of my followers and those who have dropped a like or a comment or two here at Curtaindom. Your little bit of cyberlove is much appreciated.

Great motivation for another year of pulling at ropes and letting in more light.

Not sure where the crossroads will lead, but I am grateful that the blogging community is here to share the journey.

200 posts by the second anniversary? Who knows?

But here’s to  Raising the Curtain just a little higher one post at a time.

Lifting the curtain

WordPress v Blogger: Is There Room For Hatred In The Equation?

In what has been an interesting week in Blogdom, I happened upon a blog post by my A-Z April Blogging Challenge mentor, Arlee Bird. With the attention catching title of  Why I Hate WordPress, and having been posted on a blog run through the Blogger platform I was curious to see not only what Arlee had to say, but also how his readers would respond.

You can read the full article here

In all fairness to Arlee, apart from the shocking title, the post represented a fairly balanced viewpoint on the difficulties of inter-platform commenting. The reality is that crossing the great divide and commenting on a Blogger blog using a WordPress ID is not as streamlined, efficient or as easy as commenting on another blog within the WordPress platform. I liken inter-platform commenting to starting a new job. In a new job, you have to learn what your colleagues all already know and take for granted –  the real procedures for getting stuff done, where it is safe to put your personal belongings, where the restrooms and the lunch rooms are etc. These are the basics that once learned and mastered grease the wheels and facilitate job performance.

Commenting WordPress to WordPress is easy. No need to type in your ID or email address, no worrying about HTML to create a live link to your blog or loading a photo. It is all done for you and as an added bonus you get notified by the friendly WordPress system when someone responds to your comment. Cross the great divide to Blogger and you have to supply your own grease.

WordPress Logo 中文: WordPress Logo

Image representing Blogger as depicted in Crun...

When I started this blog, I had little expectation other than to use it as a vehicle for learning. After a couple of posts, I discovered that content was the monarchy (you can argue whether King or Queen and there is plenty of literature out there on that issue if you are keen to explore it), but like all palaces it is the servants that keep the place running. In the context of blogging, the main servants are Networking, Promotion, SEO, Analytics, HTML and CSS. I don’t profess to be a master of these, I am but a keen student at the start of what is a very long path. So it was with this in mind, I explored the benefits and drawbacks of each blogging platform before I decided to stick my claim in a small piece of WordPress blogging real estate.

At the time I had a friend who was pushing heavily for Blogger and we in fact ran a joint blog on the Blogger platform for the 2012 A to Z April Blogging Challenge. That blog is dormant now, but you can check it out here if you feel the urge. The concept behind it was to show the difference in viewpoints of a generation X blogger and a generation Y blogger to the same issues.

I have therefore blogged on both platforms.

What tipped me to WordPress for my personal blog was two things: appearance and potential.  To me WordPress blogs looked like they had more “gravitas”. They looked more professional and had more plug ins and features. This then tied into the potential point. The literature I read at the time indicated that to enable monetization of a blog, the only serious platform contender was WordPress.org and to move a blog started on the Blogger platform to the WordPress. org platform was fraught. The move from WordPress.com to WordPress. org was more streamlined and enabled continuation of an established following through various plugins.

All of this is rather technical as well as hypothetical and at this stage I have no intention to monetize my blog. However, I do believe in maximizing my options.

Returning to Arlee’s original “hate” post, what surprised me about the comments on it was the sheer negativity that was expressed about WordPress from the predominantly Blogger commentators, most of who had never run a WordPress blog.  My search amongst the comments for some objective criteria as to why Blogger was a better blogging platform proved elusive. All that I learned was that comfort is a powerful motivator and clearly, the choice of blogging platform participation is an emotive issue.  Of course, when you try something new, it is not going feel as familiar as the old and of course you may initially have a negative perception of your experience. But should this colour your whole view on the inferiority of a blogging platform? Personally, as a reader and a commentator I don’t find the long running scripts on Blogger or Google + comfortable, but I will tolerate them for the sake of expanding my world.

Finally, as a blogger you are not compelled to cross any divide. You can be effective and have a fulfilling blogging experience simply by sticking to blogs on your own platform. Bloggers, of course blog for a host of different reasons and if your main reason is to socialize then there is probably no need to attempt the divide crossing. It’s your choice but if you choose this path, then do so knowing that there is a whole world of blogs and blogging that you are consciously saying no to.

My questions to my fellow WordPress bloggers are:

  1. Have you ever crossed the great Blogger/WordPress divide to comment on Blogger blogs?
  2. What has been your experience with cross-platform commenting?
  3. Is there a way that you have found that may make it easier to comment on Blogger blogs?
  4. Would you follow a blog on a different platform?

I’d love to hear your comments on the Blogger v WordPress issue.

I’ve Been Given The Bird And I’m Thrilled #atozchallenge

As preparation and excitement was mounting for the start of the A to Z April Blogging Challenge, a call from the Challenge co-hosts went out for a team of minions to assist with the behind the scenes verification of signed up blogs. The enticement offered by the co-hosts to sign up for minionship was a special A to Z volunteer badge and the offer of a few blog linkages.

The minute I saw the call, I knew I had to sign up. The enticements offered are fine, but to me the real enticement was the opoortunity to work with some amazing and experienced bloggers. So, having braved the great WordPress/Blogger divide, I put my Gravatar up for the cause. It was up to each co-host to choose how many and who they wanted on their volunteer teams, so the volunteer teams were up for grabs.

I am thrilled to announce, I GOT THE BIRD!!!!!!!

ARLEE_~1

What this actually means is that I, together with four other bloggers, are now official Arlee Bird ambassadors for the A to Z April Blogging Challenge. Over the coming weeks we will be checking blogs that have signed up for the Challenge to ensure the links work and that they are legitimate blogs, not just purely promotional vehicles. We will also be checking that they have not overdosed on the use of profanity or if they have they are appropriately marked as adult content. Moreover, we will be spreading A to Z Challenge goodwill to signed up blogs. I’m looking forward to the task of sprinkling some A to Z Challenge love.

To set the scene for the coming weeks, I thought I’d tell you a bit more about The Bird and my fellow Birdassadors (as I have termed them).

The Bird

The Bird, whose blogging name is Arlee Bird, conceived and is the mastermind behind the A to Z Challenge. Arlee resides in sunny California and runs three personal blogs as well as contributing to the A to Z April Blogging Challenge Blog. Arlee’s three blogs are:

Tossing It Out – this is Arlee’s main blog and in his own words covers the field from economics to entertainment. It is a blog rich in postal variety and includes posts on business promotion, US politics, poetry and the human condition. A veritable potpourri from someone who clearly is well read, finds the world an interesting place and conveys that interest with enthusiasm and well written prose.

Wrote by Rote – is a blog about written memoirs, or more specifically provides thoughts and tips on producing a memoir. You can find information on music and video to feed into your memoir, life stages and the elements that go into a good memoir.

A Faraway View – is a blog about dreams of the nighttime variety. It contains posts about the different types of dreams and their aftermath. Arlee’s nocturnal life must be as exciting as his waking hours to produce a whole blog dedicated to the topic. For someone like me who doesn’t remember their dreams often, it makes for interesting reading.

I belive that Arlee will be entering at least two, if not all three, of the blogs into the Challenge. It is no wonder that the lead up to and the Challenge month of April is a busy time for Arlee. Good luck with the Challenge, Arlee and thank you for believing in me as a Birdassador. My aim will be to pay the goodwill you showed me through my first Challenge, last year, forward to other bloggers. For a newbie blogger your guidance and interest made a big difference to the Challenge experience.

The Birdassadors

Arlee’s love of the eclectic has extended to his choice of Birdassadors. My four cohorts are:

Alana who blogs at Writercize. This is the place for writers! The blog is centered around word play and writing tips and exercises to capture the imagination and help with writer’s block. Alana has recently added opinion posts as well as insight on the growing pains and highlights associated with a burgeoning writing career to her blog mix.

Jaimie who blogs at Living In The Light. This blog is about Jaimie’s relationship with her husband and with Christianity. It contains some soulful reflections and important messages. Not forgetting the earthly necessities, it also contains posts about cooking and recipes.

Red Sonja: She Devil with a Sword, a compilation of blog writers who blog at a site of the same name. Wikipedia tells me that:

Red Sonja, the She-Devil with a Sword, is a fictional character, a high fantasy sword and sorcery heroine created by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith, and loosely based on Red Sonya of Rogatino in Robert E. Howard‘s 1934 short story “The Shadow of the Vulture“. She first appeared in the Marvel Comics book Conan the Barbarian #23 (February 1973).
Red Sonja has become the archetypical example of the fantasy figure of a fierce and stunningly beautiful female barbarian who typically wears armor resembling a bikini or lingerie. She was ranked first in Comics Buyer’s Guide‘s “100 Sexiest Women in Comics” list.

The site appears to be a compilation of Red Sonja “appearances” either in comic, artistic form or in real life. If you’re into fantasy, sword play and female barbarians it seems the place for you!

Yvonne Lewis who blogs at Yvonne’s Poetry Corner. Yvonne engages in versal rhyme in each post and as a bit of a rhyming aficionado myself, I respect Yvonne’s talent immensely. You can even catch a glimpse of a picture of Yvonne and Arlee on the front page of site.

Yvonne I’m glad we’re on the team
Both with the ability to rhyme, it may seem
The next few weeks are bound to be fun
As we give the A-Z Challenge list a run

As you can see, we are a mixed bunch and will no doubt each bring our own unique perspective to the role of the Birdassador.

The next few weeks are therefore slated to be busy on the blogging front. I have no doubt that the experience will be extremely worthwhile, I will learn a lot on the way through and meet some great bloggers. I am hoping to introduce you to some great blogging finds in the lead up to the Challenge.

In the meantime is that a cry of BIIIIIRDMAAAAAN, I hear?

Biiirdmaaaan!! (said with deep resonance)

Birdmaaaan!! (said with deep resonance)

Do you remember watching Birdman and the Glaxy Trio cartoon as kid? Who is your favourite cartoon hero or heroine?

Postscript: For those of you still thinking about the Challenge, sign up today, you won’t regret it. You can sign up here.

New to Blogging? 10 Reasons to Participate in the A to Z April Blogging Challenge

A very belated happy new year to all of my blog readers, even though it’s almost February!

Where has the time gone since my last post on Christmas Day?

It’s been a wonderful Summer here and I have been enjoying the warm weather and the change of pace. I am mindful of my countrymen to the north who have faced extreme weather conditions in the form of flooding and severe storms. For the uninitiated Summer tends to bring with it extremes to Australian weather and this year has been no different with heat waves, fire and flood. And that’s just in a two week period!

Otherwise, I have been checking in and reading your blogs and making the very occasional comment. The idea for January though was to keep away from writing and just be. And I was and now it’s over.

I’m also now officially excited as I’ve just signed on for the 2013 A to Z April Blogging Challenge. This is where the blogging journey began for me last year and so I have a real soft spot for this challenge. It was the impetus for starting my blog and it gave me a great introduction to the blogging world.

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The Challenge involves creating 26 posts in April, one for every letter of the alphabet. Each day has a designated letter and on that day you post a blog relating to that letter. The subject matter is entirely up to you. You then visit 5 other blogs participating in the Challenge and comment on their blogs – you can visit more if you want. Last year there were over 1,000 blogs participating!

So, if you are contemplating starting a blog, have only recently started a blog or have an established blog, here are 10 reasons why YOU should sign up for the Challenge this year:

  1. It’s just plain, good fun.
  2. It’s a great way to get your creative juices flowing.
  3. It will teach you about the craft of blogging and you will see your blog posts develop as the Challenge continues.
  4. It’s a great way to meet fellow bloggers, both on WordPress and Blogger. The Challenge is supported by its own blog site, a Facebook Page, Google + page and Twitter account. Go meet some people, ask questions!
  5. You will learn a great deal about blogging technique, community, presentation, online interaction and promotion.
  6. It’s a fantastic way to tap into a ready made audience.
  7. It’s a great way to experiment with your blog in a situation where you have the potential to receive some knowledgable and valuable feedback.
  8. You will certainly lose your inhibitions about blogging by the letter E!
  9. You have the opportunity to talk to some extremely experienced bloggers who are willing to share tips and tricks. The hosts are generous with their time and ideas and are very receptive.
  10. It’s only February and you have oodles of time to prepare.
  11. I know I said 10, but here’s a bonus reason – because 10 just isn’t enough. You will have a great sense of achievement and satisfaction when it’s done and will have likely picked up at least a dozen new followers along the way.

I hope you come and join me in the Challenge come April. If you decide to, please add a link to your blog in the comment section below, so I can visit you throughout the Challenge. Also, if you have any questions about my experience from last year, I am happy to answer them.

Join up and experience all the emotions from Anticipation to Zealous. You’ll be glad you did.

Anticipation

A Wonderful Blogging Reason for the Upcoming Season

Please check out this wonderful initiative by a fellow blogger, Rule of Stupid. Christmas Day can be hard for those who are seperated or distanced from friends and family. The blogging community is a caring community and Christmas Day is the perfect choice to spread some blog love and make new connections.

If you can contribute an hour or two and wish to swing by the blog and join the chat over virtual egg nog and christmas pudding, then please do so. You never know which angel might be sitting at that Christmas table.

The blog address for the event is companyforchristmas.wordpress.com.

christmas snoopy

My Liebster is Locked and Loaded and Yes, I’ll Be Happy To See You

Sometime before the lovely Lisa became an Oscar winning balloon handler and clown stalker, Lisa lobbed the Liebster Award over this way. Lisa blogs at Life With The Top Down and is always imploring her readers to Enjoy The Ride. As a long time reader of Lisa’s blog, I can safely say I enjoy being a passenger to her ride immensely. If you are looking for a humour filled, reflective blog and are not afraid to take your top down, then go no futher than Lisa’s blog, you won’t look back.

A big thank you, Lisa for this wonderful award. I am humbled that an Oscar winner with such a wide blog following would consider me worthy. The great thing about blogging is that it is bigger than the confines of geographic boundaries. Although we bloggers may be spread out far and wide, this does not prevent us from connecting with kindred spirits.

Now on to the rules of the Award which are:

    • Link back to the blogger who gave you this award
    • Post the award to your blog
    • Post 11 things about yourself.
    • Answer the questions asked of you, plus create 11 new questions for your nominees to answer
    • Nominate 11 people you think deserve the award and link them to your post.
    • Go to their pages and tell them they have been chosen

Because I’ve always been something of a maverick, I ‘m going to fulfill my duties in two parts.

Firstly, 11 things about me:

    • I’m a boundary pusher – both my own and other people’s.
    • I take great joy in being instrumental in having someone else push their own boundary, particularly if it is a boundary that has limited them in some way.
    • I am a dog lover but dislike cats. My favorite dog is a beagle.
    • I love having my feet tickled, it’s super relaxing. However, I’m not fond of having any other body parts tickled.
    • Talking to teenagers is neat and I enjoy having them around, even when they are in locust plague mode and eat me out of house and home.
    • I’m not fussed about who I learn from. Young or old, everyone can teach me something or offer an alterative perspective to mine.
    • I dislike judgemental people and gossip. I am far more interested in ideas, concepts and projects.
    • I get a huge kick out of helping others and seeing them achieve their dreams. If they consult me along the way, they have a friend and champion for life.
    • I have friends from various sources, the more eclectic and diverse the group, the better.
    • I admire people who are self-aware and confident and who have the balls to call me out.
    • I believe that life is too short to hold grudges. Love, peace and let’s move on.

Secondly, answering the questions Lisa asked:

1. What is your favorite song of all time?

Has to be Hey Jude by the Beatles.

2. Boxers, briefs, boy shorts, granny panties, thong or the universal choice of Commando?

Boy shorts but without the boy in them.

3. Would you break the law to save a loved one?

I’m going to plead the 5th on this one (although we don’t have amendments to our constitution). If I told you the answer to this question, I would have to shoot you.

4. Would you go back to being a teenager, without the wisdom you have now?

No way. The wisdom and confidence I have now has been a hard earned prize.

5. What are you most grateful for?

Lots of things, but I would have to say my family and my health.

6. Are you a beach or mountain kind of person?

Definitely beach, I’m a warm weather, water frolicking kind of girl.

7. Reveal one of your guilty pleasures?

Corn chips at midnight, although not when I’m in bed!

8. Are you a dark, milk or white chocolate lover?

Milk and especially with nuts.

9. If you could give a newborn child one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t let anyone destroy or negatively affect your self-esteem, know and embrace who you are.

10. What is your best childhood memory?

Going to Disneyland with my dad when I was 12.

11. Do you act your age or your show size?

I try not to act my age. I have got some zaniness to catch up on!!!

Thirdly, 11 blogs to which to pass the award

This is where I thought I would try something a little different.

It was not so long ago that I first dipped by toe in the blogging waters, nervously tapping out my first post. I watched in wide-eyed wonder at the following and awards amassed by seasoned bloggers and felt very out of my depth. At the time, I would have welcomed any advice, feedback or attention.

It is now eight months later and I am well on my way to making one hundred posts. I have met some great people and since received advice from some experienced bloggers. It’s time to pay the blog love forward and to give a helping hand to some new blogs and new bloggers.

So, I am looking for 11 blogs that I don’t currently follow and which are preferably less than 4 months old to hand the award to.

I’d love to hear from you if you are a new blogger or have a new blog. Please come over and say hi and post a link to your blog so we can all check it out. Even if you are not a new blogger, but wish to promote someone else’s blog or even your own, I invite you to post a link to the blog here.

I’ll also be scouring WordPress for exciting new blogs and will post the questions the winners will need to answer and the names of the winners before Christmas.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Let’s connect and build some blogging bridges!

A Halloween Hello

I’ve been slightly neglectful of my blog of late so I thought I’d pop in with a Halloween hello.

Halloween is not big in this country, but it has gathered momentum in the last decade or so as the world shrinks. As I was walking home last night there were more than a few witches, fairies and ghouls clutching plastic orange pumpkin buckets roaming the streets accompanied by their parents. By the end of the night they would be full of treats and their parents would have to resort to all sorts of tricks to get them into bed. We had our lolly bowl at the ready and stocked up on all manner of sugary treats.

As part of the Halloween festivities Mashable ran a Twitter contest inviting Twits to write a spooky story in 140 characters or less. Here are a couple of my attempts:

Leaves rustle. Cobwebs shake and a chill descends. Haunting sounds from a harpsichord float in the sphere. Ghostly voices come ever closer.

The hand broke through the dark earth covered in filth and worms. It’s talons clawing, gouging and inching towards its prey. Throat, closure, darkness.

photo from flikr – barsen’s photostream

Also this attempt from a friend:

Plums, preserved, floating in their dark liquid, barely discernible, reminiscent of infant skulls. Or perhaps, it’s the other way around.

If you want to give this a try, post your 140 character spooky micro story here so we can all see it. This is actually quite a lot of fun and gets you thinking about shedding excess.

And to wrap up this post, I want to wish all of those suffering a Sandy hangover a speedy recovery. My thoughts are with you. Also anyone starting NaNoWriMo, good luck. No doubt the blogging world will be a little quieter during November.

Finally I have to apologise for pulling out of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. I really wanted to give it the best go and felt after a few posts I was blogging for blogging sake and not producing my best work. The time to blog is when you feel the words and concepts bubble through and burst forth. I sort of felt I was riding through writing contractions. I have lived and learned.

The Gift Of A Journey: Windows in the Clouds by Stephen Byrne

How do you react when people tell you meaningful stories about their lives? Particularly those lives that are very different to your own? Do you listen with impatience or do you listen with intent? I cherish the moments when people let me enter their private worlds, when they give me a glimpse of the threads that have contributed to the fabric of their current being. To me, this sort of story is a gift.

Let me tell you about one such gift. The gift is the story of Stephen Byrne or as I know him, Steve. Now I don’t know about you, but I am not acquainted with too many pilots who can write nor too many authors who can fly – a rather intriguing combination of itself. But what makes this story a little bit more unique is that Steve also happens to be a paraplegic.

Steve’s story is documented in his autobiography, Windows In The Clouds, recently published by Zeus Publications.

Much like Steve’s life, the book comprises two distinct parts. The first part chronicles Steve’s early life and childhood years, the tree felling accident that changed his life in 1985 and its aftermath. The second part is more travel guide and through his story and the story of others, Steve documents his first solo overseas travel experience to the United States of America, a trip lasting seven weeks and taking in twenty-two States and a flying experience with Challenge Air.

Overseas readers will find the first part of the book particularly interesting because it contains many glimpses into small town, rural Australian life. Steve grew up and lived a lot of his life in the Southern NSW town of Cootamundra, which some of you may know as the birthplace of our most famous cricketer, Sir Donald Bradman. It is the story of a young child with dreams of living and working on the land, of clinging to the hope of one day owning his own farm and of putting a less than stellar family life behind him only to have those dreams snatched away through paraplegia. It is also the story of a young man struggling to come to terms with an irrevocable life change and of eventually refashioning his dreams and taking grasp of them.

What makes this book a pleasure to read is the depth of the writing. The main reason for its depth is that the author has quite a remarkable level of self-awareness. The fact that it comes from the male of the species is even more astonishing! Take this paragraph as an example:

I could just not cope with what had happened to me and I had turned into someone I didn’t like. Although I had survived a tree falling on me….I felt like a complete and utter failure. I looked around my farm and could find no real happiness. I had bought this block of land in the very real hope that it would help me to come to terms with what happened. Although I felt at times that I was in paradise here deep in the Australian bush, what was going on in my head was extremely dark.[reproduced with the kind permission of Stephen Byrne]

I admit that I have only known Steve since his accident and in some ways I think that puts me at a distinct advantage. For I am not distracted by mourning what WAS, but rather I focus on celebrating what IS. And what IS, is a remarkable life, a published author and a talented pilot, most worthy of celebrating.

For this blog piece, I asked Steve what made him write this book, to which he replied:

I wrote my book for a number of reasons. I suppose I had always wanted to write something about my life and what had happened to me, particularly my early life. The older I get, the more I realise just how much my early life has shaped the balance. I don’t want to keep going back into the past but unless I can deal with that it will always keep getting in the way of what I am doing now. I have also written what I have because I hope that my story may help others. It took me so long to really come to terms with what had happened to me and just how much it has affected my personality. The wheelchair only exacerbated all that was still lying under the surface. When I first tried to write my story fifteen years ago I gave up on it because I didn’t want to portray such a negative story. Over the intervening years things have changed in so many ways and there have been some real positives in there. I guess I have been able to, and I hope I have, outweigh the negatives with the positives.

To be able to put other people’s lives into my book I think brings some sort of balance to it all. I didn’t want to just talk about myself. Being able to tell other people’s stories takes the focus away from me a bit. Being able to also add a travel story adds to the mix.”

Whilst I have seen the story being described as “a story about overcoming spinal cord injury”, I don’t believe that this is an accurate description. Firstly, in my view, spinal cord injury cannot be overcome – its affects can be mitigated, sure, but the injury itself cannot be overcome as the spinal cord cannot repair itself. Secondly, to bill this book merely as the usual story of disabled inspiration sells it short, which is confirmed by Steve’s own words above. If you are inspired after reading the book – great – but you should read it for the depth of the writing, for the lessons which can be applied to your own life and for gaining an insight into a life different to your own.

As for the second part of the book, as a reader you feel like you are travelling for the first time, experiencing the thrill of mastering a new environment, of overcoming doubts and discovering just about anything is possible. There is a real sense of wonder that permeates though it, together with some wonderfully humorous anecdotes. Watch out for the Kansas City incident, it’s a real pearler!

Steve with a couple of mutual friends of ours, Tony and Randy (RIP)

I know more than a few writers read my blog so I finally asked Steve about the publishing experience. Steve had this to say:

“Being able to get someone to think that this was worth publishing was a big step. I had thought about self publishing but didn’t want to go down that road because having someone else publish my book was an affirmation that it was something worth doing.”

The book was certainly worth doing and is certainly worth reading. It is the gift of a journey.

You can purchase the book through Amazon here and visit Steve’s website, Parapilots, here.

What’s the most interesting biography or autobiography that you have read? Would you ever contemplate writing your own life story?

Paying The Blog Love FAward

I bet you thought there was a typo in my blog heading. No typo dear blog readers but a new blogging term:

FAward – the act of passing on valued blog awards distributed by talented and worthy bloggers to other talented and worthy bloggers.

I have to confess that I feel a bit sheepish accepting these awards as I haven’t been blogging much lately. It’s not for want of desire, just that “stuff” gets in the way and the creative process is always the first to suffer. Isn’t it amazing how our thoughts determine through which pair of glasses we are going to view the world on any given day? Currently, I have my serious glasses on and I am using them to try to locate my humorous pair. Thankfully, I can still shoot out the odd quip or two in comment time, but to sustain an 800 word humorous post is proving a little harder.

Whilst I love the serious wisdom posts and thinking and writing about the bigger philosophical questions in life, I think I like myself better when I’m funny.  I envy those who know the flavour of what they are going to consistantly deliver through their blog on any given day. Me, I’m still hopelessly conflicted, although it is a nice conflict to have.

But, onto business!

A big

THANK YOU

to the following talented and worthy bloggers who have seen fit to bestow upon me the following blog awards:

Bohemianspiritedmom awarded me the Lovely Blog Award. Bohemianspiritedmom blogs at the blog of the same name and is a kindred spirit in the teen parenting journey. Her blog is amusing and full of joie de vivre and a delight to read.

Magnolia Beginnings who blogs at the blog of the same name awarded me the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Magnolia’s blog conveys a journey, one of discovery and fulfilling your dreams. It is courageous and wise just like its author and also serves as an inspiration to me. Leave your regrets at the door to this blog and hop aboard to share Magnolia’s journey.

My MidLife Mayhem who blogs at My Midlife Mayhem awarded me the Beautiful Blogger Award. Midlife Mayhem’s blog is about the journey through the ages of 35 to 50 and the reprogramming required as we make the adjustment from physical strength to mental beauty. Feeling the solidarity with my fellow Beautiful Blogger. I am floored that Midlife Mayhem chose to include me in a list of recipients for this award which included the Bloggess!

There are certain rules to accepting these awards, including outlining a number of facts about myself. Here are seven titillating facts about me that you never really wanted to know:

  1. I think peanut butter is the bomb – especially this new whipped stuff. Light as air and doesn’t stick to the roof of your mouth!
  2. I don’t like cold weather and have a heater grate pattern permanently imprinted on my butt during winter.
  3. I have a really small family. There is a trend of only children throughout my family tree which I was mad keen to break with my own brood. Luckily God blessed me with two wonderful boys.
  4. I’m a tomboy at heart and am totally lost with eyeshadow and foundation. I can manage a daily smear of lipstick and a couple of brushes of blusher, but as for the rest, it’s either nothing or total drag queen.
  5. My motto is when all else fails rely on humour and be sure to make your own everyday. It’s a good day when you have made at least one person laugh.
  6. I have been to all States of Australia except for Tasmania. Tasmania is naturally beautiful and cold and one day maybe…
  7. Wunderlust is my weakness and I always want to go to new places and experience new things beyond my front fence. I can’t help but think the world awaits and I need to capitalise on its beauty before something really prevents me from doing so.

And now for the good stuff, paying these awards FAward. I am aware that some of these blogs may be non award blogs and in those cases please just take this as my way of thanking you for allowing me to enter your world a little every day and for touching me with your words:

Human in Recovery – thanks Kina for sharing your journey

Free Penny Press – Lynne’s pot pourri of interesting projects, concepts and musings

Fifty Four and A Half – if I could just bottle Elyse’s spunk, wit and energy!

The Bucket – GOF’s blog containing humour, poetry and snipets of rural Australian life

Musings of and Old Fart – the blog of a scholar and a gentleman (btg5885) with a clever wit and a big heart

Waiting for the Karma Truck – Mimi’s beautiful blog which is wise, funny, kind and giving and makes me think and smile at the same time

Magsx2’s blog – Mags is a fellow Aussie and blogs about well…. anything!

Buckwheatrisk – Zoe’s courageous and raw blog about dealing with the aftermath of child abuse. My admiration for Zoe in writing about this publicly is immense.

All of these blogs are awarded all three awards. If you take the time to visit some or all of these, you will not be disappointed.

OK now time for the post award speech nosh up. Salute!

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net