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Friday, April 30, 2010

Zzyzx

       Zzyzx?  Some of you may be thinking I'm making this up.  There's no such thing as "zzyzx".  But as anyone who has driven I-15 from Los Angeles to Las Vegas will attest, there is indeed a Zzyzx Road exit.  Zzyzx Road is a four and half mile road that goes to Zzyzx, California which is not really a town but a place.

       Originally Zzyzx was a sort of health spa and tourist attraction founded in 1944 at a natural spring in the Mojave Desert.  In 1974 the land was reclaimed by the United States government.  Since 1976 Zzyzx and its surrounding land has been managed by California State University as a Desert Studies Center.

         Probably few people ever go to Zzyzx, though many see the exit sign for the oddly named road.  It is probably most notable to Vegas bound travelers as the signaling of the last hundred miles of the trip.  It is past the half-way point as the road wearied journeyers eagerly anticipate arrival in "Sin City"-- the city that never sleeps.  Arrival at Zzyzx meets you're getting closer.

          For us A to Z Challengers, our Zzyzx--the letter Z--means we've arrived at our destination.  We've hit the jackpot.   The bells are ringing, the lights are flashing!  We won.   We made it to the end and now we can relax and enjoy ourselves.  We can look back fondly at the road we've travelled and remember the ups and downs of the highway.  The long desert stretches.  And all of the other travelers heading in our direction, us waving at them and them waving at us as we sometimes overtook them and they sometimes sped past us. And now we have arrived in Vegas and our Vegas is Zzyzx.

         Now it's time for the party to begin. It's like a Vegas convention.  We will all convene for our May 3rd Blogging From A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post.  Remember that many of the posts will start appearing on what is Sunday for those in the United States.  As you post your May 3rd blog entry don't forget to add your link to the Linky Tool on the Tossing It Out page and then, if I understand this correctly, you can also add that same Linky to your own page.  This will be new for me as I've never dealt with these Linkies.  I've been learning a lot in April.    Welcome to Zzyzx!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

You Are Y

        On March 27th I decided to make a challenge for myself to blog from A to Z during the 26 non-Sundays of April.  If it had been left at that I suppose I would have engaged myself in an interesting little endeavor and that some of my readers would have dropped in on occasion with comments and that would have been that. No big deal.  But then I challenged you to join me and many of you did.

        Alone it would have blogging as usual on Tossing It Out, but having you join me turned Blogging from A to Z into something better.  You are why the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge was a success. There is no real debate in this statement.  Thursday is usually Debate Day at Tossing It Out and I would typically have a question up for discussion.  Today I am going to pose some questions, but they are not questions of debate.  You can answer some or all of them in the comment section or you can answer these questions in your A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post on Monday May 3rd.

  • What attracted you to the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge?
  • Did you feel intimidated by the Challenge?
  • Did you ever feel like quitting?  What kept you going?
  • What do you think was your biggest contribution to the Challenge?
  • In finishing this challenge, will you be more apt to try other blogging or writing challenges (e.g.--NaNoWriMo)?
  • Do you feel you did your best in the Challenge?   What could you have done better?
  • What did you learn from the Challenge?
  • Will you be blogging any more now than you used to?

          These are some of the questions that you might want to ask yourself on your May 3rd post.  Of course you can certainly take any approach that you would like.  After all, the May 3rd A to Z Challenge Reflections Post is about YOU.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

X Files

          I cannot imagine that I'll be the only one to choose The X Files as the topic for the letter X -- it seems like a natural.    Except I don't think I ever watched more than one or two episodes of the show and I don't really remember them.  I also went to see the first X Files movie (there were two weren't there?)--not because of I was a fan, but because a friend told me I should see the movie and now I don't remember why and I don't really remember the movie.  All I know is that for a while The X Files was a very popular show.

         Instead of the show or the movie I am posting about a collection of music inspired by The X Files on an album called "Songs in the Key of X".   This album was released in 1996, but I did not discover it until 2009 and I was quite surprised by how good it was.  In fact I was so impressed that I posted the following review on Amazon:

One star less would have made it a 5 star album, July 18, 2009

By Arlee Bird
This review is from: Songs In The Key Of X: Music From And Inspired By The X-Files (Audio CD)


This album seemed like the risen dead for me. I found it among some of my son's old CD's that he left with me. Since most of his albums were obnoxious rap albums I had discarded in yard sales I had thought that this one was more of the same, especially with the explicit lyric label. But then I looked at it the other day and realized what it was and it has been on my CD player ever since. The negative here is "Star me Kitten" by William S. Burrough & R.E.M. with it's unnecessary use of the f*** word -- the track is somewhat interesting until it reaches the repeated obscenity, then that's when it lost one star for me and probably a lot of sales when it was first released. Otherwise, some really good stuff here. Meat Puppets does it for me. There is a lovely song by Sheryl Crow. Great tunes by Filter, Frank Black, Foo Fighters, and Nick Cave. And the rest of the album shines for the most part. I am not too enthralled by the Rob Zombie/Alice Cooper collaboration--it doesn't seem to fit in with the other songs too well, but I can deal with that. Bottom line: I love this album. Now if I could only get rid that stupid "Star" song this would be a 5 star review. But what the heck, I'm probably going to wear this CD out.

           Having gone back and listened to the album again since posting the above review, I would be almost tempted to nudge it closer to five stars.  It is a fine album.   The CD is now out of print and probably not easily found new.  I hope my copy holds up.

            Speaking of albums that we enjoy, we are going have a conglomerate blog post on Monday May 17th concerning your fifteen favorite albums.  If you like music, I hope you will join up with us.  Just think of your fifteen favorite albums and tell us about them.  Pictures of the album covers are nice, but not necessary.  Give us the album details--artist, type of music, date of release, and any other information--and then tell us what makes the album so good in your opinion.  Can't think of fifteen?  That's okay--your top three or your top ten will work if that's what you want to do.  It's your creative entry in the Fifteen Fantasy Island Favorites.  A Linky will be posted on this blog on May 15th and it will have the "Blog Hop" feature that will allow you to post the same Linky on your site as well.  Hope you'll join us!

            And don't forget that next Monday will be the May 3rd A to Z Challenge Reflections Post.  The Linky Tool will be open at 12:01 AM May 2nd for you to post your Reflection.  Everyone is welcome to post whether you participated in A to Z or not-- we want to know what everyone thinks.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What's Next?

May 3rd A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post

        As the A to Z Challenge winds down I'm sure that many of us are thinking about WHAT'S NEXT?   The most immediate thing on my mind, and I hope on yours as well, is the May 3rd A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post.  I think most of you are aware of this, but if anyone has missed what this is then I will once again explain.  On Monday May 3rd we are hoping to have anyone who would like to join us, challenge participant or not, to post their thoughts about the A to Z Challenge.  Just tell the rest of us how you felt about it:   How it helped you or hindered you, what you liked or didn't like, your favorite posts or blogs--anything the you would like to say about this challenge and if you would like to do it again some time in the future.

       Now I am not a very technological sort, but hopefully I've correctly installed a McLinky in my Side bar that also has a Blog Hop feature.  From the way I understand this, if you will be participating in the May 3rd Mega Post then enter your information onto the list, which will open Sunday May 2nd, and if you would like you can add the same McLinky so it will appear on your blog with the same information.  Theoretically all participants should be able to hop from one blog to the next to see what is being said in the Mega Post.  If I don't have this right then please let me know.  Those of you with McLinky Blog Hop experience may want to check what I've done and let me know if I got it right or need to fix it.  You should be able to add your name to the list until May 5th to account for any stragglers.  I'm looking forward to learning some new things about blogging and hearing some fun stories on Monday May 3rd.

And After the Mega Post?

         What's next for me?   It's back to what I was trying to do before this Challenge suddenly flew into my life.  I plan to continue to post daily on my regular schedule at least until September 20th, which will be my first blog anniversary, after which I will have to reassess whether or not I want to keep up a daily schedule.  I want to at least be able to brag say that I blogged everyday for one full year.

          I will try my best to continue visiting the blogs I follow and commenting on them.  As you are well aware this is a daunting and time consuming effort that can interfere with other projects, but I do want to maintain my contacts with all of you.  Of course, I will always try to acknowledge those who comment on my posts first, so I hope you will try to stay with me as well.

         Then I have my father's autobiography that I was supposed to compile back in January.  This is a project that became delayed when I "lost" the manuscript.  I finally found it again at the beginning of March and began scanning pages.  I still have a way to go on that project.  I'm also behind on completing my 2009 NaNo novel, A Desert Place, which I'm really hoping to have wrapped up by the end of June. I'm sure I could find more to do, but that should keep me pretty busy I'd say.

        How about you?  What are your plans now that you will not have the challenge to take up your blogging time?  

How About Another SMALL Project for May?

         Before the A to Z Challenge even came into my mind, I was working on another collaborative effort with my blog buddy Stephen T. McCarthy.  Stephen had proposed a comparative blog study of our fifteen favorite music albums-- not just a list, but an in depth examination of the fifteen albums that we would want with us on a desert island and why.  Stephen and I, as well as many of his regular readers, enjoy music and we enjoy hearing about what other people like because it broadens our knowledge of music.  This was the plan that Stephen came up with back in March and I have been working on my list since then.

        We have had such a good time blogging with all of you A to Z'ers that we've decided to extend an invitation for all of you and anyone else who likes this idea to join us in the blogfest, FIFTEEN FANTASY ISLAND FAVORITES,  on Monday May 17th.  We would like to limit the list to fifteen but if you can't think of that many then 12, 10, or whatever number you can think of will work just fine.  It will be your blog post so you can certainly do whatever you like, but if you would like to have a guide like we will be using you can refer to Stephen's Best Album Cover Post .   It would help that for each album you post a photo of the album's cover, the album's title, artist, and date of release, followed by a brief paragraph explaining WHY you have chosen it and maybe a short description of the type of music it contains.  As far as genres are concerned, everything's acceptable: Classical, Country, Rock, Jazz, Blues, Movie & Broadway Theater Soundtracks, "Greatest Hits" and "Best Of" compilations, you name it.

        Presentation can be in any format.  You can be as creative as you care to be.  Turn your list into poetry or a short story if you like.  Make it an autobiographical account of how this music has influenced your life.  Create a video of yourself talking about it or put together a photo or art montage that tells us about your list.  It all comes down to one day's post and you can make it as simple or complex as you like.

        We want to learn about some music we might have missed.  I already know that there are a lot of music fans in the A to Z Challenge because many of you have done posts about music already.  Now let's focus on getting to know one another better by the music we like and what that music means to us.  Are you with us?  I hope so and I hope we can get a lot more folks to join us on this one since the time commitment is nothing like Blogging From A to Z.

        If you would like to post on the May 17th FIFTEEN FANTASY ISLAND FAVORITES you can leave a comment below.  Later you can add your name to the McLinky that I will put up after May 7th (if I got that McLinky thing right).  We hope you will all join us and spread the word!
 
Monday, May 17th Fifteen Fantasy Island Favorites   A McBirddogg Production

Monday, April 26, 2010

Blog Boggled: Vacuous Verbosity

          Do you ever feel like your blogging is just talking to be talking?   You're saying something,  but you're taking too long to say it and using too many words to express what you're saying.  For many of us blogging is a highly conversational unstructured form of writing--stream of consciousness with minimal editing.

         I don't know that there is too much wrong with that style as long as it flows in a comprehensible manner and has a relevant point to make.  Even in non-blog writing a certain amount of rambling and repetition can be a good thing.  I often hear the recommendation to keep one's writing succinct and precise.  I do agree to some extent, but then again part of creative writing involves creating images and painting word pictures.  Unless we're writing an instruction manual or something else that is very specific, I like a little bit of verbosity to draw out the reading experience and fatten the descriptive process--if it's done well and with originality.

         Advertising copy, business correspondence, trade articles, instructions,  and other similar types of writing demand terse exactness.  Most blogs are not trying to achieve this.  In most cases I am looking for personality in a blog post.  I want to establish a connection with the blog author and be able to converse in the comment section.  A dry condescending tone or an overly erudite approach is off-putting to me.  What comment can one leave to the person who already knows everything including that they are smarter than you are?  Unless the information I derived is so valuable that I dance away giddily with new found knowledge, I am more inclined to want to leave a sarcastic wisecrack or some other strange retort, which is to be differentiated from my normal weird retorts.

         I can only hope that my writing is usually construed to be entertaining or interesting and not overly verbose or vacuous.  And if anyone ever feels that I am being vacuously verbose I don't mind if they tell me so and tell me why they think that is the case.  And this doesn't even begin to explore some of the rather long comments some of you may sometimes get from me at times.  Blah, blah, blah.

          How about you?  Do you feel that sometimes you ramble too much in your blog posts?  If so, how do you keep your verbosity in check (or do you)?  When a blog post is long, what keeps you reading all the way through and what makes you quietly sneak out before the show is over?  Would you be bothered if someone were to critique one of your blog posts?  Do long comments bother you?

How about helping to reach some magic numbers?

In this last week of A to Z, we can help some follow bloggers reach some milestone numbers.  I'm sure you know how it feels, right?   If you wouldn't mind, visit a few of these blogs and become a follower.    Here are a few blogs that (as of this writing) need just a few more followers to help them reach some magic numbers:

Beaded Bear's Nonsense and Complete Waste of Time  One more till she hits 100.

Writer Person  She's only asking for 2 for her to reach 15, but I bet we could get her to 20.

All in the Mind of a Belbin   Can we get her up to 20 as well?

Glen's Blog Spot   4 more will bring him to 10.

Life in my Shoes  This young student only has 11 right now.  Can you make it 15 or even 20?

Juan Velez Photography  This busy college student is stuck at 7 right now.  Can we get it to at least 10 or more?

Dream Weaver  I was having problems getting Debra's URL in the blog roll so she's been down in the supporters section so some of you may be missing her wonderful posts.  Let's try to get her followers up to 40 or even 50.

This Journey Called Life  Tori just needs a few more to hit 30.  And she's been so good at commenting.

Rags by Sock Monkey  Ginny would be at 25 if she got 3 more followers.  How about it?

Blabbin' Grammy   Ruby will have 50 with just 6 more.  If you haven't been reading her blog you have been missing some real fun.

This is just a handful that I've run across, and I think most of you would also like to have a few more followers.  If you do, follow these and ask them to follow you back-- you should be able to add 10 to your list by doing so.  If you have a special goal that you'd like to reach by the end of the A to Z Challenge, leave it in the comments of this post and we'll see what can happen.   And don't miss my post tomorrow about "What's Next?".

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Resisting Temptation ( part 2)

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
1 John 2:15-17 (NIV)

      I have been trying to be careful about using the word "love" in my everyday conversation.  This is one of those instances where our language fails us at times, or at least does not really convey the exact meaning of what we are trying to say.  If I say that I love chocolate, people will understand the inference of my statement-- I really enjoy eating chocolate.  "Love" is one of those words that we casually toss around because we have attached so many inferences to the word that the word has become diluted.  There are many different types of love and love comes in many shades.  Perhaps we should come up with other words to describe the degree of the love of which we speak.

       Our true love should not be of this world, but focused on an eternity spent in the presence of God, our Father, the Creator of all things.  This love of which I speak is in some ways so big, so complex, that it is beyond our understanding.  This love is the absolute adoration and the total reverence to the Living God.  We become closer to understanding this love through prayer, studying God's Word, and meditation.  God loves us and we are to love Him with all that we have within us.

       We are in this world so we go along with it with the understanding that this is just a temporary state of things.  This world will all pass away and nothing that we owned or accomplished will matter any more.  Only our relationship with God will matter. We should care about our families and love others because God has commanded this.  But when we love others more than we love God or when the things of this world become our obsession, then our love for God becomes diluted and we are diverted from loving him.  An inappropriate love for the things of this world will cause us to lose sight of the only true love that matters and then we become weakened and susceptible to temptation.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:8-11 (NIV)

         We are all tempted.  Followers of Christ must resist that temptation because the devil wants to fall into his traps.  All followers are tempted and must encourage one another and provide support.  This is why being a part of a body of believers is important.  It is not the structured religion that matters, but the support that the body of believers can give to its members.  It is important to find a body that believes in Bible teachings, to serve in that body, and be nutured.  Your brothers and sisters in Christ will help keep you accountable, and the Holy Spirit will strengthen you to resist temptation.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

         You are not the only one experiencing the temptations you may be facing.  Humans have been facing similar temptations for centuries and you are in the company of many others now.  There is strength in numbers and that is why being a part of a body of like minded individuals can be so important.  Whether it be a support group or just having a mature accountability partner, it is good to have someone to help you resist your temptations.  Prayer is also vital.  If you are battling with temptation, then become a prayer warrior so you can win the fight with God on your side.  Satan can defeat you if you let him, but Satan cannot defeat God.  With God on your side you are invincible.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119:11 (NIV)

        If you know the specific temptations that weaken you, then find some specific Bible verses that address those temptations and how to overcome them.  Memorize those verses and hide them in your heart as your secret weapon.  When temptation confronts you, take out the sword of God's word and cut that temptation down.  You have the resources to empower yourself against sin.   God provides everything you need--it's up to you to use it.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Usual and the Unusual

            It's Saturday again--the last Saturday of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.  Soon we will be back to our usual blogging.  Or will we?  Some of you have indicated that this Challenge has changed the way you plan to blog in the future, while others have hinted that they will start focusing on other writing endeavors more seriously.  Whatever the case, if you have become inspired to do more of what you are passionate about then this challenge has been a good thing for you. 

          As usual, each Saturday I look at the week gone by and the week to come.  The unusual departure of this past week is something that has become usual for this blog during this month of April--I have focused much attention to the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge and tried to give recognition and encouragement to our fellow participants. 

         Last Sunday, April 18th was International Juggler's Day and I put up a special post in honor of that.   During the past week we talked about some of the blogs that focus on Poetry.  We also had a preview of the upcoming May 3rd A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post and heard some Quotes of what some folks have said about the Challenge so far.  On Wednesday I offered some thoughts about Reputation and the following day there was a debate question concerning Savings and Investment .  Finally, yesterday I offered another attempt at flash fiction titled "Time".

        The usual thing for me to do now would be to lay out my topics for the upcoming week.  This week I will keep all of this under wraps for you to discover on each day.  I'm sure many of us are thinking about how to approach some of the more unusual letters at the end of the alphabet.  It seems appropriate to end the challenge with a bit of a challenge.  I will disclose my topic for Tuesday which is scheduled as "W" Day.  My topic for W will be What's Next?  I hope you will check this post as I will have some further words about the May 3rd A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post and also something that will be happening one day in May that some of you may enjoy.  Be there this coming Tuesday April 27th for this important announcement.

Now for some more unusual items:

Happy Birthday!

 Today is Karen Walker's   birthday.  Karen has the blog author karen walker...following the whispers
Many of you probably know Karen already.  She has been following the progress of the A to Z Challenge and has given me much support with her comments and may have done the same for some of you.  Whether or not you know her, why don't you pop over to her site and wish her a happy 61st Birthday--and I don't guess she'll mind me telling her age because after all I would have never known if she hadn't been putting all over her blog herself. If you've never been to Karen's blog, well, here's another new one for you to discover and enjoy.

And now from ever popular party girl Yvonne Lewis of Welcome to My World of Poetry

In case you missed it, here is her version of new lyrics for Queen's "We Are The Champions" which appeared on her Q post about Queen.   Everybody join in: 

We are the Challengers my friend,
And we'll keep on blogging 'til the end,
We are Arlee's Challengers
The A to Z Challengers
We won't give up and lose
Because we are the Challengers.

Courtesy of Yvonne at Welcome to My World of Poetry.


Finally, not totally unusual, but what I usually reserve for Saturdays when the occasion arises:
Creepy Query Girl has bestowed upon me an 'Awesomeness Award' 

As has been my custom during this Challenge, I bestow this upon any of the fine participants who would like to accept in the name of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.  Feel free to add this to your award collection.  My thanks to Creepy Query Girl.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Time

             The Old Man awoke earlier than normal.  He had to go into the living room to look at the only clock in his house.  The clock was an inexpensive plastic clock that ran on two double A batteries and it hung on a wall next to a calendar.   He saw that it was nearly nine a.m., which was about two hours earlier than he normally would have been out of bed.   Usually it didn't matter what time the Old Man woke up.  Time didn't really matter anymore.

            Today, however, he needed to be ready.  It was his 80th birthday.  Family members were going to be coming over at noon to celebrate the Old Man's 80th birthday.  He was happy.  He was excited.  There was going to be a party for him.  He ate a simple breakfast of toast with butter, a cup of black instant coffee, and a banana.  He then went to take a shower and get dressed.

           His oldest daughter arrived before the others so she could get things ready for the party.  She usually came at least once or twice a week to help clean the house, take her father to shop or run errands, and spend time with him talking.  He would see his other children, grandchildren, and great-children at other times throughout the year, but not too often.  Each visit was a happy occasion that came and went.

           As noon approached, family members began to arrive. Hugs and warm greetings were passed among them.  They brought folding chairs and tables, balloons and decorations, and an array of foods and drinks.  Soon the living room was filled with tables and chairs and with people carrying plates piled high with food.  The room was awash in busy chatter and happy laughter, people eating and children engaged in play.  A whirl of sound and activity swirled about the delighted Old Man. 

            After everyone had finished eating, the assemblage broke into cells of conversation with individuals drifting from one group to another catching up on news.  Some clustered attentively around the Old Man as he talked about days gone by and other memories.  Much of his past life now seemed to him like stories he had read in a book long ago.   Children scrambled about the room and into other rooms while a few adolescents sat by bored on the couch as though waiting to make an escape.  Talk, serious and silly, was swapped as the passel shoshed about the room like a bowl of people soup carried on a tray.

            Then after a rousing version of "Happy Birthday" and  the eating of cake and ice cream, family members scurried about cleaning the kitchen and straightening the house.  Men left with tables and chairs and empty casserole dishes.  Gradually the attendees began leaving with sad good-byes, hugs, kisses, and handshakes.  The oldest daughter kissed her father good-bye and told him that she would stop by the following day.   The Old Man watched through the window as the last family members climbed into their cars and left.  And then they were all gone and the Old Man was alone.

           It was not yet 7 PM, but the Old Man felt tired, yet not sleepy.  He would probably not go to bed for several hours.  It didn't really matter what time he went to bed.  He didn't have to wake up at any particular time.  He didn't have to go to work or be anywhere special.  Time didn't mean anything to him now.  Time wasn't that important.

         The sun sat sullenly on the horizon as it waited to make its departure. As the stark shadows enveloped the room, the Old Man turned on a lamp.  He walked over to the calendar on the wall and carefully marked an X on this day that was about to end-- his birthday.  There were 365 days until his 81st birthday.


         This is a short story I wrote for the letter T.  Perhaps I'll go back eventually and polish it up since I wrote it pretty quickly.  Any thoughts about this story? 

          Time for the A to Z Challenge is winding down--only one more week to go.  And most of you have hung in there.  There are a few more difficult letters coming up but I have no doubt that you can finish with a flourish.  Savor and enjoy these last few days as you make them your very best.  Be thinking about what you want to say in your May 3rd post.  Perhaps there was a certain special post that another blogger did that you want to recognize.  Or maybe you want to feature some of your own work that you were proud of.   You might even have quotes of comments you received from other bloggers.

          The May 3rd Mega Post is your time to tell about your experience with the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge on your own blog site.  I know that this student of blog science, as well as many other bloggers, want to know what you learned from this experience.   Try to be creative and as informative as you can.  What you do is up to you and I for one am anxious to see it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Savings and Investment

         Have you ever seen one of those fancy RVs with the bumper sticker that reads:  I'm spending my children's inheritance?  Most of us probably do not have the Rockefeller kind of wealth to leave to our heirs and we probably haven't lived on an inheritance that anyone left to us.  You and I for the most part have worked hard to sometimes barely get by or at least live pretty comfortable lives.  From a young age we have heard the admonishments to save and invest our money--save for college, save for marriage, save for retirement.  These are certainly good bits of advice, but to what extent should we make sacrifices in the now to save for the uncertain future?   Here is today's question for consideration:

          Is taking advantage of present opportunities more important than saving for an unknown future?

             Saving and investing took a hit in recent years as many with 401Ks and other retirement and investment accounts saw their values plummet.  Many retired senior citizens found themselves having to return to the work force because they no longer had the funds they had counted on to keep them in their accustomed life styles.  Others on the cusp of retirement were forced to remain in the work force to compensate for lost savings. Some even suffered health problems arising from stress or even committed suicide. The financial crisis that has been sweeping the world has had a devastating effect on the savings that people had put away.

             Perhaps our values have been misplaced.  Perhaps our children don't really have to have the education from the more expensive college or we don't really need to have more house than we can realistically afford.  Most of us would probably agree that going into excessive debt is not a sound financial plan, but could it be that setting savings goals that do not conform with our present budget might be equally ludicrous--especially when we look at the uncertainty of conditions in our world.

          I'm not advocating hiding money in a mattress or just frivolously frittering away our finances.  I'm suggesting judicial spending with some allowance for fun, fancies, and philanthropy.  Don't deprive yourselves of enjoying life now because you have to save for a future that may or may not exist.  Aren't we somewhat presumptuous to be counting on having something we don't have yet?  Sure saving for something may allow you to have something in the future that you don't have now, but then again it might not.  The only thing we ever know that we have for sure is the present, and the future is really a big maybe or maybe not.

         Sure, it's a good thing to have some savings set aside for our retirement in our current societal form.  Many years ago people often didn't live as long as they do now and families often lived together and took care of the older members.  Our thinking about families has changed to a great extent.  We rely more on government care through the programs like medicare and social security.  The alienation of familial interdependence has been supplanted by government care and the private resources of how much one has saved.   Is our modern society sacrificing something very important?

          The Bible teaches us not to worry about money and needs, and not to store up treasures on earth but to lay up treasures in Heaven.  Now whether or not you accept Christian beliefs, if you really dwell upon this concept you might see the practicality of it.  Number one--worry will make you sick, sad, and uncomfortable.  You should do what you need to do to take care of yourself and do your best to take care of others. The second point is what I have been saying--treasures here on earth are temporal and subject to loss.  If we disregard the religious aspect of the statement, we can see that intangible treasures could also be memories, traditions, and relationships.   My suggestion is that one be realistic with the money and possessions that one has, but don't depend totally upon them to the exclusion of enjoying life. 

           From the standpoint of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge, what we have been doing is time consuming, but I have seen it as a sort of investment.  At the outset, some bloggers stated that they would like to do it but they didn't have the time.  I suppose any of us could have made this excuse.  My question would be why do you blog?  What is the purpose of blogging?  For many of us we are trying to establish a "platform" as they say.  I was already blogging every day so the A to Z Challenge did not really take up that much extra time in the mere act of posting articles.  Commenting did.  It was an investment to me, but how about you?   Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section of this post or if you wish this might be part of what you would like to talk about in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Reputation

            Do you think about your reputation?  We may have "a reputation" on many different levels.  There is the reputation based on morals and integrity.  Related to this is reputation based on behavior and dependability.  Some of us may have a reputation of being the life of the party while others may have a reputation of being shy and withdrawn.  Our reputation may vary from one circle to the next based on demeanor, ability, or even appearance.  Sometimes reputation can make us or break us.

           When I was a teenager I recall how my parents would often remind my sister to be careful not to ruin her reputation.  I don't really recall ever receiving this admonishment myself.  Young men were given a certain amount of crazy space because they were guys, but girls who engaged in certain behaviors were at risk of gaining a bad reputation.  It was important not to be "that kind of a girl".

           Later, as we moved on from school to the world of work and careers, we would begin developing our professional reputations.  We might have a reputation for always being late or being sloppy in our work, or we might have a reputation for being the go-to person to get a job done or a person who would go far in the world.  Some of us cultivated and guarded our reputations, while others didn't care.

           In the first century B.C, Publilius Syrus made the observation, "A good reputation is more valuable than money."  This has been the case throughout the centuries and even to this day to a great extent it does remain true in most circles.  However there has been a disturbing trend for certain people to capitalize on their bad reputations.  The romantic notoriety of certain criminals in the past has not been uncommon, but the wrong was recognized as these individuals met their ill-fated consequences.  The recent decades have given rise to a class of thuggery and misbehavior in entertainment personalities, sports figures, and politicians.  This type of behavior which in the past might have been the downfall of a public figure is now often treated with a wink and a lame excuse and at times even as expected behavior, while these figures reap a generous living based on the acceptance of their bad behavior.

          Then there are those whom we expect to have higher standards who are caught in their indiscretions and yet come out unscathed after their time in the limelight going through treatment and public apologies.  Some of them exit the ordeal with reputations sullied and end up paying for their improper behavior with unpleasant consequences.  This is how it rightfully should be: Bad reputations should face negative consequences while good reputations should be rewarded.  Unfortunately this is not always the case.

          What kind of reputation do you try to cultivate for yourself?   What steps do you take to shape your public image?   Do you impress the importance of reputation on your children?  If you are a writer, do you consider the reputation of your characters and, if so, how do you show this reputation?

           In blogging you have probably run across many types of other bloggers to whom you have attached a certain blogger reputation.   What are some of the qualities that you would associate with a bad blog reputation?   A good blog reputation?   In the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge you have probably come upon many bloggers who have a very good reputation as far as you are concerned.  In your May 3rd post you might want to give special recognition to some of the bloggers whom you held in high esteem and tell us why they had a good reputation in your eyes.

         I hope you visit Tossing It Out everyday, but I hope you will make a special point of stopping by next Tuesday April 27th when my topic for the letter W is What's Next.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Q is for Quotes : What People Have Said About the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge

           Since April 1st nearly 100 bloggers from 8 countries have been participating in the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.  During this month these hardy bloggers have been posting on topics themed on the letters of the alphabet from A to Z six days a week.  The participating bloggers have posted on a whole range of different topics in their individually unique styles.  We have amazed others and sometimes even ourselves with our creativity, persistence, and resilience. 

        We are now on the downside of this challenge as we near the end on April 30.  When all is finished we will have posted nearly 2000 blog posts to all our sites.  Some of these participants are veteran bloggers while some are new to the world of blogging.  On April 30th most of them will be able to walk away with a sense of satisfaction in completing a significant blogging feat.  On the following Monday May 3 we hope that all of our fellow bloggers will join us as we celebrate this feat.  I will tell you more about May 3rd, but first here are some quotes of what some of the participants have said about the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge so far:



Wow... this has been an interesting and wonderful week! I can't believe we have already accomplished one weeks worth of blogging to the A to Z challenge.I want to thank Arlee @Tossing it Out for hosting the A to Z challenge... it has been such an excellent experience meeting new people and reading so many incredible blogs!   Lee- I'm so glad you started this challenge, I am meeting so many wonderful new people... It's discouraging to write and not know who your audience are... you have a gift of networking! Amazing!
This Journey Called Life  Tori Cooper

I don't know if the participants are doing a good job or not (though I do think they are), but you did a Grandastically, Great job by starting this challenge. Never before have I come across so many such diverse blogs with their own unique take on things.  THANK YOU!!!~ Rayna     coffee rings everywhere

Arlee - like I've said on numerous occasions, this challenge has been so much fun, albeit challenging at times. :) The challenge for me is to put more thought into my posts as I'm very much a quick poster and don't usually do a lot of research about or put a lot into what I'm going to blog about for that day. I'm working on changing that and trying to be more deliberate about what I write. So thank you. I'm a lifelong learner and have been taught so much through this endeavor. Thank you everyone! Lisa at Bombastic Bandicoot


I am so glad you started this challenge. I needed something to get me back into writing again and I'm loving the opportunity to get to know some amazing writers and bloggers.   Melody Green at Melody's Musings

Thanks Arlee. I have been having fun doing the blog challenge -- I am increasing my writing which is the point. Thanks for hosting it. Kathleen at Kath Ink


Okay- okay....Truth be known- yes! I want someone to read my blog! But the good news is- after almost two years and five or six followers, I finally reached the double digits because of this challenge.    Rae at Porch Ponderings by Rae



I am so pleased that I decided to join in also, it can be quite the mental challenge when we can't always just talk about whatever we want to talk about!
I love your little bios on the different participants too, please keep doing this periodically. It really is tough to catch them all, but I'm doing my best!
I am clueless as to how it is exactly that we are now halfway through this A to Z challenge! Does anyone else have a clue how this has happened? I swear we just got started. I don't want it to end...I think we should just start right over again after we get to the letter Z!
Trudy at Third Times a Charm

.....you should definitely try the challenge it's fun but also gets you mind going.  All In The Mind of a Belbin by Belbin 9.

.
What a challenge it's a great ride. Met many new friends and amazing blogs! I am honored and humbled to have met such fine and talented people. I've almost doubled my "followers" during this challenge.        Debra Harris-Johnson  Dream Weaver

Thanks Arlee for hosting this blogfest. Not only am I learning to be more disciplined in my blogging, but I've discovered some great blogs to follow. Wonderful idea. ---Raquel Byrnes

I am really enjoying this challenge. It is really getting me to stretch my imagination. Thanks for this. It's really the kick in the pants I needed to get my blogging back on track. 
Marjorie from Everything Emerald

This is me, trying to catch up on some of the commenting I've been lacking. Thanks so much for sponsoring this. I can't believe I've yet to miss a day and I've been learning so much about myself, other bloggers and developing a voice.So thanks again!           Rebecca T. at Sonshine Thoughts

Taking this challenge was like joining an elite club of fun friends! Awesome!  Rae Frazier at Porch Ponderings by Rae

Through this challenge I feel like my family has slowly begun to expand. And I love it! There's a warming up period, as in real life when you meet people, but I can feel the friendships beginning to blossom, just like the beautiful flowers. Spring has sprung in our hearts!! :) 
  Lisa at Bombastic Bandicoot

Love it. The A-Z challenge is challenging me to think about my beliefs, my journey in this world (today's post), and has brought great joy to each day.   Linda at Whit's End

Thanks so much for all you're doing to make this challenge the awesome experience that is! Having a lot of fun and meeting some great new bloggers! :)   Beth at  Beth: A Work in Progress


Thanks for encouraging all of us to continue! I am enjoying reading blogs I might not have found, if it weren't for your challenge!    Ellie at Ella's Edge


.....after this A to Z is over with i'm going to begin writing again. you've only seen the tip of the iceburg
Bud Ezekial H at B-E-ing Transformed



My take-away from A-Z challenge is the wonderful new friends that I can count on for wisdom, humor, and the variety of topics we talk over. This has been such a fun month.   Linda at Whit's End

God bless you Ruby, I am so glad I have found you through this challenge...you are just an absolute peach my dear!   Trudy at Third Time's A Charm

The number of people following my blog has doubled since we began this challenge - in fact, there was a huge spike the week before. I've learned so much from blogging, too.  It's taught me consistency, especially participating in the A-Z Challenge. I've had to think through each post and tried to maintain some semblance of order - and quality.       Alex J. Cavanaugh  

I have thoroughly enjoyed this challenge and made many new friends in the process! Learning something new every day!  Beth at A Work In Progress

I, like you can't believe we;re half way through A to Z, It has been an excellent challenge and have loved every moment.   Yvonne at Welcome to My World of Poetry

I appreciate the challenge it has been loads of fun. I have "met" some folks I would probably would have never met. 
Gregg at Gospel Driven Disciples


I wanted to thank you for starting the A-Z Challenge. .....It has been a lot of fun and I'm really enjoying it so much. I've met a lot of wonderful people too!    God bless, Jane at Kierah Jane Reilly

I'm a person who loved the idea of learning something new every day, and running and reading these blogs have given me so much information and new learning experiences. Doing the A-Z challenge too has been a learning experience, since I now need to keep an idea concise and interesting despite the limitations of it. The number of followers basically equals the number of people who consider your thoughts and opinions worthy of reading and publicly support you. It's a great feeling when you get that one extra follower to a blog (thank you to everyone doing this challenge who has followed me blog as a result!). It's a great sense of achievement            Jamie Gibbs at  Mithril Wisdom

Although I'm a late "Challenger" I've enjoyed the mental challenge. Can't wait for the mega on Monday May 3.   Carol  from  Grandma's on the Go

This challenge has definitely changed a lot of things about the way I blog. Marjorie at Everything Emerald

         Throughout this challenge we received support and encouragement from many in the blogging community who did not actively participate in posting A to Z, but were there for us nevertheless.

Quotes from supporters:

To Box O' Whine
You are indeed doing quite well.  Your grit and determination to hang on is wonderful. I congratulate you.
Joseph Pulikotil  of  Man on the Move

Great challenge. Wasn't brave enough to join in but I have enjoyed it. 
  Ann at Inkpots and Quills

You really started something big, Lee!  
  L. Diane Wolfe Spunk On A Stick

hehe i love that you're keeping up with this challenge! what a great idea -- and i learn something new every time!!     Tahereh  commenting on Writings, Musings, and Other Such Nonsense


What an interesting challenge "arlee" - you have certainly spurred on a fair number of folks! AWESOME! :)
In My Humble Opinion      Paula Slade



A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post

          After the last A to Z post has been entered on Friday April 30th, we will take an opportunity to reflect upon this challenge.  On Monday May 3rd, on their own respective blog sites, participants will be talking about their own personal experiences with the challenge.  They will tell us how it helped their writing, how it increased their followers, and how it affected their comments.  We will hear about some of the special new friendships that came about as the result of the challenge.  Participants will be relating how much of a challenge it was and how they dealt with it--everything and anything that they encountered from the start of the challenge all the way to April 30th.

          I invite all participants to tell us your story so we can learn from your experiences and possibly gain some new insights about blogging, writing, and networking.    This is an opportunity for us to educate each other and to be educated.  Also, if you were not a participant in the challenge, but were following the action, even if you joined in late, I'd like to hear your observations and opinions about what was done in this challenge.  Whether what you have to say is negative or positive it is all valid and we'd like to hear your voice.  I invite all bloggers to join us on May 3rd for the A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post.  I will be posting some final details about this Post on Tuesday April 27th so join me there and please keep checking out all of our posts until the end of April.   There are still some great posts left.


Thanks for getting us in touch with each other. It's been wonderful. And yes, I'll definitely be participating on May 3rd. 
  The Alliterative Allomorph

Monday, April 19, 2010

Blog Boggled: Prodigious Poetry

         Have you written any poetry?  What has inspired you to write poetry in the past?   What inspires you now?  Some of us may write poetry to express our innermost feelings.  Or we may come up with some verse in order to say something special to a loved one.  Some of us may have to feel really inspired to dredge up some doggerel lines of verse while others seem to be naturally inspired writers who speak the language of poetry.  We have had the opportunity to experience the fine craft of some bloggers who have spoken that language of poetry while versifying from A to Z.

       Some of you who have been following Tossing It Out may recall having seen some of my own attempts at poetry.  I began writing poetry as a child and wrote a great deal during my years at the University of Tennessee where I majored in English.  I took a few poetry classes to hone my skills,   I even think that some of my poetry was not half bad.  Often the verse came in the form of songs, while other times it was free verse.  I have even left poetic comments on some of the poetry blogs.  I'm not a stranger to poetry by any means.

       During the course of the challenge we have seen fine writers like Stephen T McCarthy reach back to pull out old poems for our enjoyment.  He was somewhat self-deprecating about some of those products of his youth, though I and many others agreed that it was some fine work.  And if you didn't see his post from Saturday I am sad to announce that Stephen has dropped out of the challenge.  Drop by his blog and give him your love and appreciation for the contribution that he has made to date.  I'm still hoping he will at least post a few more of his A to Z entries.  Stephen had indicated that the poetry he presented was from a time of youth when he had a different outlook and philosophy on his life.  I would say the same is true for myself and for many of you as well.

        Probably everyone of you has received a comment from the wonderful Yvonne from Welcome to my World of Poetry.  This prolific poetess blogs verse after entertaining verse.  She has made us laugh and cry, remember pasts near forgotten, and opened up her own life to us.  She is a favorite of many of us, and many of us will continue to read her poetry after this challenge has ended just like I was reading it before the challenge had started.  Yvonne does not dabble, she speaks the language of Poetry.

          Leo is another poetry pro.  His Symphony is a delightful mix of poetic styles.  His verse is like music and his words work magic.  He writes so many different forms of poetry, some that I had never seen until I saw his work.  Whether you are a serious student of poetic form or one who just appreciates beautiful writing, this is a blog that may amaze you, inspire you, or just settle you into peaceful appreciation of the beauty that language can be.

        Yamini Meduri is a student from India who delivers lovely poetry in her blog, The Land of Dreams..!! She writes poetry from her heart to yours.  Her lyrical language conjures meaningful concepts and evokes winsome memories.  Ever faithful to the challenge, she has given us some wonderful works of poetry.

      Another student from India goes by the name "a dreamy gal".  She writes words of whimsy and odes of observation.  One who can turn a phrase nicely, she writes some dreamy poetry in her blog called The Meeting Place (former Woven Words).

        These are few of the actual poetry blogs participating in the challenge.  If I have missed any please let us know in the comments.  Also, I know I have seen poetry appearing on many of your blogs.  Were you one of those poets?  Do you plan any poetry for future posts?  Let us know in the comments if you are a blogger poet. 

And now I would like to present a bit of poetry of my own:

A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post

As we blog toward the end of the alphabet,
Our Challenge is almost through.
So much has been gained in the things we have learned
That there's something I ask of you.

Please give your thoughts about what you went through
As you blogged each day from A to Z.
Anecdotes, memories, and what you observed
As your blogging progressed from I to we.

We met the challenge, you and I, you see,
And we'll reflect upon this, you may have heard,
On each of our blogs challenge reflections we'll give
In the A to Z Mega Post on May 3rd.

For more information see my overview post.

Please let your blog friends who are not in the A to Z challenge to see my post tomorrow Tuesday 4/20 as I recognize the great effort that all of you have put into the challenge and announce the A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post.  We want to make sure that we have as many readers to our blogs on May 3rd and we will need to start spreading the word now.   I have something special planned for the letter Q so please make sure you are there to check this post.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

International Juggler's Day - always April 18th

Today is a day to celebrate jugglers.  I am not only a juggler of words and phrases, but also a juggler in general.  I am the younger guy in the following photographs of my family's juggling act, The Juggling Jacksons.

And a more recent photo of me just juggling.

Happy International Juggler's Day 2010

Resisting Temptation

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4 (NIV)

           When training to prepare for war, soldiers will practice under conditions much like those they will face in battle.  The training itself can be very dangerous and is a tortuous ordeal.  Soldiers will practice nearly any conceivable situation so that they will be ready when they come face to face with the real life combat.  The same goes for firefighters, police, astronauts, or anyone else who is facing life and death in their occupation.

           We all are tested in our lives.  Sometimes the testing comes in the form of hypothetical what if conversations with others.  Other times we may recognize choices that we see before us or others that require wise moral judgment.  Our training may come in the form of what we read or the entertainment choices we make.  We may have questions and others may question us.  The Christian walk consists of challenges to our faithfulness everyday.  Just like a person may train at the gym to build stronger bodies, a Christian should always be in training to build up a stronger faith.  The trials we face may be perilous and stressful, but each time we overcome one we are strengthened to resist the really big temptations that we may  face later.  We must always press onward to become better equipped in our faith.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12 (NIV)

          A military hero has gone through the training and testing necessary to go successfully into battle.  The soldier who becomes a hero has persevered to attain his rank and when he has proven his bravery under fire he may receive accolades and medals.  An athlete in training will endure much physical stress, but they may be later rewarded if they win the contest in which they enter. When we endure our training as Christians and have stood firm against trials, tests, and temptations God will reward us for our efforts which demonstrate our love for Him.

When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.   Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
James 1:13-15 (NIV)

             God does not tempt us, but he has given us free will.  We are each given a choice how to live and what decisions we want to make in our lives.  God has laid out the rules for righteous living and it is up to us to play by these rules.  Often we want to make our own special rules based on what we want or how we feel.   These are the rules created by our evil or misguided desire.  We should not fall into this trap because the consequences are very bad--the consequence is death.   Doing wrong is sin and the wages of sin is death.

           Let's look at it another way.  Traffic laws have been enacted in order to create a safe environment for driving and to keep order on the roads.  If everyone decided to just drive according to what they felt was right for them and to suit their wishes there would be chaos on the roads, accidents would be more frequent, and people would die.  We have enforcement in the form of police and if we do not follow the laws we may get a ticket or even have our privilege to drive taken away from us.  The rules have been made for a good reason and most of us resist the temptation to break them because we don't want to face unpleasant consequences.

          One might try to argue against the laws set forth by God, but if one really studies these laws the logic is there and the logic is complete.  The laws are based on good reasoning.  One's own selfish desires may try to exempt them from some of these laws, but it doesn't really work that way.  Think and reason thoroughly and you will see.  But don't think too hard, because there is no really good reason to do so.  Your selfish ambitions may deceive you into the enticements of your own desire, but this will come to no good end.  Trusting in yourself will not ultimately save you, but trusting in God will.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Overview

         My topic for the letter O is "overview" which is appropriate for Saturday because that's what I do each Saturday on TOSSING IT OUT.   On this blog on Saturdays I look at where I've been in the previous week and where I am expecting to go in the week to come.  It's kind of a nice approach because it gives readers a chance to go back to look at something they've missed and lets them know if there is something they might like to remember to look at in the upcoming week.  This approach also allows for a somewhat easy post that requires a little less thought--after all it is the weekend.

        In nearly all of my posts for April I have tried to tie in some relationship to the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.  I am trying to make sure that every blog gets a mention in these posts just in case any readers have not yet made it to one of the participant's blog.  I hope that every one of you have paid at least one visit to a fellow participant, left a comment, and perhaps even became a follower.  In theory, every blogger in the challenge should have gained 30 to 70 new followers if this procedure were done in the way I have described.  I encourage all of you to try this in the coming week--see what happens.

         In the previous week my topics were Judicious Juggling, an examination of balance in one's life; Knoxville, Tennessee--a sort of a travel promo memoir of a lovely city;  and the Undergraduate Library at the University of Tennessee, which was a companion piece and continuation of the Knoxville story.  There was also my weekly debate topic which this week appropriately looked at the mathematics of blogging.  I think the prevailing opinion was that accruing followers is important but not the primary purpose in blogging.  Then yesterday I offered a well-received bit of flash fiction called NothingI really appreciate all of the encouraging comments I received on that one and if you didn't read it yet I would like your opinion as well.

          This week we'll be covering the letters P through U as we wend our way toward the final week of the challenge.   I plan to be covering the topics of Poetry, Reputation, Savings and Investment, and Time.   And don't think I forgot Q.  I have a very special post scheduled for Q-Day Tuesday.  It will be a coming attractions promo piece of our May 3rd Blog Event.  I am hoping that we will have Challenge-wide participation for May 3rd and I hope to have many readers for what we all have to say.

           To fill in any who may not yet be aware of what I am talking about, on Monday May 3rd I am asking all participants of the Blogging From A to Z Challenge to join me in posting your reflections about this Challenge.  Tell us how it affected you and your blog.   How did you come up with ideas?  How did you find motivation?  How will it change the way you blog?    Also, you might want to explore what the challenge did for your writing or the way you interact with other bloggers.  What we would want to capture is the spirit, the experience, and the impact of Blogging From A to Z upon each of us individually as bloggers and collectively as a blog community.  Your posts can be informative, educational, inspirational, or entertaining--you decide, it's your experience.

           Already I've received commitments from many in the challenge, so I hope the rest of you will join us to make May 3rd a memorable day in blogging.   To join in you don't even have to be a Challenge participant.  If you were following or supporting us we'd like to hear what you have to say on this day as well.

          Please spread the word about checking the Tossing It Out post on Tuesday April 20 for the preview of the May 3rd A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post.  I encourage you to mention it in comments to blogs you regularly visit (without being obnoxious about it of course) and by all means mention it on your sites.   I would like to see every blogger that we can possibly reach to be at our blogs on May 3rd to recognize the achievement we have made in meeting the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.

         You are all winners in this challenge and May 3rd will be your day to shine!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Nothing

          As a recent graduate armed with a business degree I felt on top of the world when I was swooped into the corporate arms of a major international company.  Capitalizing on my research on efficiency and organization, the company immediately sent me to a low performing branch office in a location that I found to be quite desirable.  I was given free reign in changing the way things were run there and everybody at the location would have to answer to my directives.  Upward mobility within the corporate ranks was practically handed over to me on a silver platter.  Nothing could stop me now.

         It didn't take long for me to assess that space at this location was being poorly utilized.  In the first few days that I was there I studied the entire floor that our offices occupied.  In one hallway where there were a number of private offices and supply rooms, I saw a closed door. The door did not have any sign on it like the other doors.

          I asked the location manager, "What's in this room?"

         "Nothing," he shrugged.

          "Nothing?"  What he was saying made no sense. "What do you mean nothing?"

          With a blank expression he said, "There's nothing in there."

           Feeling somewhat annoyed, I put my hand to the doorknob and started to open it.

          "Don't go in there."

           I turned to him, feeling a rising sense of exasperation.  "Why?"

           "There's nothing in there."   Unwavering, he looked at me.

             I opened the door and gazed about a sizeable room that was totally empty.  I could not believe what I was seeing.  Thousands of dollars in unused real estate space.  There was no furniture.  There was nothing.  I stepped inside and immediately an icy chill swept over me. After a few steps into the room I began to feel nauseous.   A confusion combined with fear clouded my brain and a feeling welled inside of me like an undefinable sad longing. Feeling disoriented, I stumbled out into the hallway.  All energy was drained from me.  I felt sick, weak, and chilled.

            Without emotion the manager asked, "Are you okay?'

            As we made our way back to my desk I replied, "Yes, I'm fine.  It's nothing.  I just need to sit down for a moment."

           Sitting with my head bowed and eyes closed I heard the manager's voice, distant, expressionless, "Maybe you should take the rest of the day off."

             I did not understand what had come over me.  I decided that going home to rest might not be a bad idea.  It was shortly before three in the afternoon when I laid down on my bed and fell asleep.  I dreamed of darkness in an empty place.  When I awoke the clock read eleven but it was still light outside.  I realized that I had been sleeping for about twenty hours straight.  I felt weak and hungry.  I had nothing in my stomach. But nothing sounded good to me.
       
           Knowing that I had to eat something, I had a cup of chicken broth and saltine crackers and hot tea. Slowly I ate, gradually feeling a little better.  Nothing in particular seemed to be bothering me except a deep sense of ennui.   I wanted to do nothing.    Gradually regaining my strength I spent the afternoon with the television on watching nothing in particular.   That night I slept an empty dreamless sleep.

            I felt better when I awoke, a little weak perhaps, but ready to go back to work.  Nothing seemed to be wrong with me.  I needed to be at work.  Nothing was said to me by anyone as I entered the office.  I sat quietly at my desk throughout the day and was left alone.  Engrossed in a planning program on my computer, I eventually noticed that everyone else had gone home for the day. How had I not noticed that the other workers had left?   Had I fallen asleep?   A custodian entered the office and began vacuuming.

           Arising from my desk, I went to the hallway and stared at the door to the empty room.  I was drawn to the door.  It was as though a void was sucking me in.  My feet began moving me in the direction of the door and then I stood before it, reaching for the doorknob.

           Suddenly startled,  I saw the custodian standing next to me.  He quietly was watching me, saying nothing.

           "What's in there?"  I demanded.

            "Nothing.  Nothing's in there."

 I guess that's a bit of flash fiction.  I don't recall having written a story that short before.  I wouldn't say that this came to me in a dream, though it may have.  I woke up yesterday morning at 4:50 compelled to write this story for N day.  Hope you enjoyed it.  Any critiques are welcomed--adulattions always make me feel good, but solid constructive criticism helps me grow.

N also stands for Notable as in the following bloggers:

Carol's Corner -- Carol Fleisher has really been putting up a fine array of posts for the A to Z Challenge.

GaFlygirls's FLYJournal -- April C writes about many topics and has a real love of family.

http://carol-weishampel.blogspot.com/-- Author Carol Weishampel just joined us.  She has some important messages to deliver.

Morning by Morning -- Independent mom Stacey blogs about her everyday journey through life and lot's of helpful tips to make life easier.

My Life With Photographs -- Blogging from Fairbanks, Alaska Lorena Sims is a lover of music and the arts.


Try to get by and visit these blogs, say hello, and become a follower if you haven't done so already.

Don't forget to join us on Monday May 3 as we each give our individual reflections on the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.   We want to hear want everyone has to say because everyone has their own story to tell.