Reflecting Imperfectly: Looking back on the #atozchallenge 2014

A-to-Z_Reflection_[2014]

Another year and another Challenge over. There is no doubt, that the A to Z April Blogging Challenge remains my favorite. I think it’s because of the structure, the camaraderie and the rest stops during the month. I needed them this year with the pre-Easter week working, blogging and academic assignment crunch.

April generates an incredible blogging energy with two thousand participants all plugging away to take the journey from A to Z. I find it really uplifting and motivating. Often times I had the seeds of an idea for my post on the morning of the letter, which would germinate throughout my working day, ready to flower in the evenings when I wrote my posts. I tried starting writing my posts before April but it didn’t feel the same, without that participant energy. By choosing my theme for the Challenge, I felt my posts had to bear some of my personal experience and thoughts, in short, show my authentic self. As there are days when I am plagued by doubts about my own self development and I didn’t want to bury that. So the posts worked better in real time. That was a whole lot tougher than I anticipated, even having winged some of the Challenge posts last year.

This year’s Challenge was the toughest so far. For all of that, I now have a good body of self development posts to add to my portfolio and felt I reached out to more than a few bloggers who could identify with the issues I was discussing. In a lot of ways we are not so different from each other and knowing that we all have doubts and go through periods of questioning is comforting.

As always, I met some fantastic bloggers along the way this year and became reacquainted with other bloggers I met two years ago during my first Challenge. There is some incredibly creative talent out there not to mention passion and focus. The support I received from some of my fellow Challenge bloggers in retweeting and sharing content was incredible. I have also added valued members to my blogging community and I look forward to continuing to add to their communities also.

Thank you to all of you who read, liked, commented, shared and supported. It makes a real difference to the Challenge experience and enhances it beyond measure.

A final thank you to the Challenge co-hosts and all of the Challenge assistants. Another fantastic job by Arlee Bird and the whole team, with this year seeing the introduction of the #AtoZChat on Twitter – a great way to get to know Challenge participants ahead of time.

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The C of Living Imperfectly: Choice and Career #atozchallenge

Talk as little of yourself as possible or of any science or business in which you have acquired fame Martine’s Handbook to Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness, Arthur Martine, Dick & Fitzgerald Publishers, 1866.

C Challenge LetterA couple of years ago, I went to see John Farnham in concert. For those who are unfamiliar with Mr Farnham’s work, he is an Australian legend singer whose biggest hit was a song called You’re the Voice from an album by the name of Whispering Jack. This particular concert tour was a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the release of the 1986 album. He sang the whole album track by track in order. As John (who has a wonderful sense of humour which comes through in the concert banter between songs) explained he had the idea of undertaking this concert tour in his kitchen one night and that unfortunately, he didn’t really think it through. For you see, his biggest song was track number 2 on the album which meant it was sung early on in the show.

I feel the same way about the letter C and the concept of perfection as applied to career. This is a real big one for me. And it has come earlier in the Challenge than I would have liked. So much for building to a crescendo.

For this post, I have no real wisdom to share other than my own experience.

Career has always been a big issue in our family. Being the child of immigrant parents it was drummed into me form an early age that education was a priority and that I should pursue a profession. My parents had sacrificed a lot in delivering to me a world of opportunity in this land called Australia. I just had to do my bit.

And I did. And it was good for about the first 20 years. My identity and much of my energy were firmly tied to my career. The one other thing I really wanted to be outside of career woman was a parent and thankfully, the Universe blessed me to have that experience twice.

But one day, I woke and it was good no more. Every job has its ups and downs, stresses and strains, wins and losses. Mine was no different. Every other time though the feeling of malaise lasted a matter of days or weeks. This time was different. This was a lingering, confusing doubt that had me thinking “what if” and what really was on the other side of that office divide. I remember leaving every office at lunch time and breathing some real air and watching people having a life and feeling very disconnected.

For the next seven months I tried everything to push through the feelings as I had always done in the past. And with every passing day, I sank perfect careerdeeper and deeper into despair and confusion. Tasks that had been easy and second nature seemed insurmountable and I had lost my will to learn. My thoughts swirled round and round in my head in ever-increasing circles, the answer was there somewhere but it was just beyond reach.

It was dumb I suppose, but the thought of changing careers was impossible. Based on the remuneration and status I had achieved, by earning and being anything less I felt I was letting both myself and my family down. How could I possibly justify such a radical change given the sacrifices my parents had made, given how much I had invested in my career? How could I justify having to spend money on being retrained and reskilled whilst not bringing in an income and how could I justify being so selfish? How could I do any of it at my age?

The perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect daughter and the perfect income earner all were at stake.

So I quit. I quit so I could think and strategize and I firmly believed that when I walked out the door, I never wanted to work again. Everything that I held certain was  up for grabs. It literally felt like I had walked off a cliff and had no idea whether the landing would be painful. I had never, ever just walked away from anything before.

During my time away from work, I explored that non-office life and provided for my family in a non-monetary way. I walked and thought and thought and walked and came to the realisation that priorities can and do change in life and that it was quite acceptable to change track to give effect to this new world order. That was my light bulb moment, career perfection blown away by the wind that was enveloping me on the cliff tops which formed my favourite walking path.

I had been stuck in a prison of my own making and at last I found the key.

What then transpired was that I went back into the workforce in a similar, but not the same area. What I lost in income, I gained tenfold in motivation, focus and learning.

Career perfection or career satisfaction, the choice was always mine to make and I didn’t even know it.

In the words of John Farnham, from You’re the Voice”

We have the chance to turn the pages over
We can write what we want to write
We gotta make ends meet, before we get much older

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.

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

I is for the Indispensible Internet (#atozchallenge)

image from flikr -
chrisinplymouth photostream

What would the blogging world be without the Internet? Being new to this world, I am constantly amazed by the opportunities that blogging and the internet open up. The potential to reach thousands of people with a simple hit of the publish key is full of possibility.

Getting a blog site up and running has been one exciting learning curve. So many options, so many things to consider.   So much still to explore.  I am relishing the challenge of establishing  a community and building a following.

Sharing this space with professional and published writers is a heady experience – there is much talent out there.  I am honing my craft, producing pieces of work and putting my creative talents out there.

The social side to blogging – becoming involved in fellow bloggers’ lives and getting to know them through their posts – is wonderfully engaging.  My WordPress world has become an indispensible part of the day, whether I am posting or reading.

This the Internet:

Indispensible Networking Tool Essential to Releasing New and Entertaining Topics

And I am now a blogger!