7

A to Z Challenge Reflections Post 2017

During this year’s challenge I was pleased to revisit some blogs I had found (or whose owners had found me) in previous A to Zs.

I also became aware of some new (to me) participants.

My list may not be complete, but I am adding some notes about each of the links I provide below in the hope that visitors to my blog will find some like-minded bloggers to visit and perhaps follow.

The A to Z Challenge’s founder Arlee Bird blogged about time at http://tossingitout.blogspot.com/

http://mailadventures.blogspot.co.uk/ This is a blog about all things connected with postcards, snail mail and stamps. http://mailadventures.blogspot.co.uk/p/links.html lists many more similar sites.

https://bobscotney.blogspot.co.uk/ Houses some real some not. (Bob is a blogger I began to follow last year). He also blogs about postage stamps each week.

https://sratteberry.wordpress.com/ Shawna completed the A to Z Challenge with aplomb. Her blog was new to me this year.

http://heartofareadywriter.blogspot.co.uk/ Linda blogged about hymns this time. I have been following her blog since a previous challenge.

https://lynnelives.wordpress.com/ Lynne joined the challenge late this year, but caught up and posted photos of her garden. (One advantage of a list-free challenge.)

http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/ Hilary is a veteran blogger. This year she looked at rare breeds of animals and used her imagination for the difficult letters. (Unicorn anyone?)

http://mainelywrite.blogspot.co.uk/ Donna found personalised registration plates and wrote verses- a fun challenge.

http://curiousasacathy.com/ Cathy sketched her way from A to Z.

http://sagecoveredhills.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/aprils-z-challenge-reveal.html Heavenly bodies (i.e. stars)

http://laurelgarver.blogspot.co.uk/ This is the blog of an author. I nearly missed her comment as it landed in spam. She issued a writing prompt each day.

https://wordwacker.wordpress.com/ Haiku word puzzles

https://lunanoctis.wordpress.com/  Natalie found me; she blogged about Musical groups.

https://marthareynoldswrites.com/ A blogger I discovered the first time I did the A to Z. Martha blogged about musicals.

https://seezooeyrun.wordpress.com/ Unlike me Gail is a Mormon. I first encountered her blog, when she A to Z’d about family history, something Mormons are experts at.

https://fortyandfantastique.wordpress.com/a-to-z-april-challenge/ a blogger I admire, this year blogging about the streets of Paris.

https://evelyneholingue.com/ Evelyne chose a French theme again this year – authors.

https://mymorningcupofcoffee.blogspot.co.uk/ Debby blogged about life in the 60s.

https://psaltermark.com/ Mark blogged about the Hebrew Bible.  In some ways his posts and mine complemented each other. There was only one letter for which we chose the same word. That day I had two words! I have been following Mark on Twitter for a while, but our posts were written completely independently.

https://theartisticchristian.wordpress.com/ John has completed the A to Z challenge previously.

I’d also like to thank the following people for their encouragement through the challenge:

Arlee Bird, http://tossingitout.blogspot.com/, Susanne Matthews https://mhsusannematthews.wordpress.com/, Rosemary http://charliebritten.wordpress.com/, Susan http://colormewriting.blogspot.co.uk/ (A to Z on parenting young adults), Captain Jill https://captjillsjourneys.wordpress.com/ (Travel), John Holton, who set up a place for WordPress bloggers to link their posts and did his A to Z on https://thesoundofonehandtyping.wordpress.com/, Donna a book blogger from A to Z http://www.girl-who-reads.com/, Lydia https://lydiahowe.com/ a writer and enthusiastic A to Zer, Beth https://bethlapinsatozblog.wordpress.com/ ,A.J. Sefton Author https://www.ajsefton.com/, Mandy http://blog.youreverydaytraveler.com/, Kaddu http://www.mysteriouskaddu.com/ Liam who posted Photos for the challenge https://othemts.wordpress.com/, Katy trail creations (lovely quilts) https://slfinnell1965.wordpress.com/, Marna https://authormarnareed.wordpress.com/ blogging about mythology in her second A to Z, Cathy http://curiousasacathy.com/ and others, who liked my posts without leaving a comment. Also a supportive follower on Twitter and Mark for numerous retweets.

Without a sign-up list I shared my posts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, the A to Z challenge page and associated Facebook page and the A to Z page on WordPress. Google+ was the least effective. It is impossible to tell where exactly on Facebook clicks to my blog originated.

It has been a worthwhile challenge. Whether I shall find the time, inspiration and energy to take part again next year remains to be seen. An list of my A to Z posts is on a page.

I intend to link this post to the A to Z Reflections posts on Monday 8th May.

Reflections of debris caught on a fence

Reflections of debris caught on a fence

My usual mixture of posts will resume on a weekly basis, beginning with What I read in April next Thursday.  I’d like to thank my non-A to Z-ing followers for their patience during April.

If you like my photo, why not visit Sue’s words and pictures?

2

Dealing with shyness

When I was a child (before some post-40 bloggers were born) there was an attitude left over from earlier times that children should be heard and not seen and only speak when they were spoken to.  For a quiet child it was easier to stare out of the window, lost in thought than to join in with conversation.  In company, for example a family meal at which another family was present, I could not get a word in edgeways.  I just listened – and sometimes remembered.

I was shy.  To go an errand was an ordeal.  In those days it involved going to the shop and waiting in a queue, before asking for the items required.  Going with a message to a neighbour was no better.  Shy people are not likely to knock hard on doors and few people had doorbells then.  Whether an interruption was welcome or not was something I considered, while waiting for a reply.  If the door wasn’t opened quickly, how long did I need to wait before trying to make more noise with the door-knocker?

There were times, when my shyness did not really show.  One teacher in particular used to ask one of the best readers to stand at the front and read to the class from a book, of which we each had been lent a copy.  My turn came round very frequently and I enjoyed doing this.  Looking back, I probably read accurately, but without a great deal of expression – it was definitely not a dramatic interpretation.  I can’t remember which books we read.

If I really wanted to do something, which needed the permission of an adult, I used to talk to Mum about it first as a way of plucking up the courage to do it.  An example was the time I realised that I could play the recorder (having been taught by a member of my family) well enough to join the group of older children playing in the morning assembly.  I needed to ask the music teacher.  One day I left the line of children and stood by her side as she played a march on the piano for us to leave the hall.  She indicated that I might speak and gave me permission to join the group.  No-one seemed to notice that I was slightly behind my classmates arriving back in the classroom, so plucking up courage had been a positive experience.

There were ways in which I did not really change for a long time.  I was always happiest with one other person, rather than in a larger group.  To speak my own words to a group of people was nerve-wracking.  The persistence necessary to complete what I was trying to say with more than one person to interrupt (and put me off) was perhaps a reason I have always found it easier to write than to speak.

I can remember the first telephone being installed at home.  Sometimes I was told to phone someone – perhaps the person, who taught me to play the recorder or a family friend, who had kindly remembered my birthday.  I was worried I wouldn’t know what to say if they asked me questions.  Using the phone was problematic if more than one person might answer it.  A form of words was required to deal with this eventuality.  There are good ones and worse ones.  For example, “Is so-and-so there, please?” might result in the answer “Yes!” or “No!”  If the former, there would be an anxious pause while the person came to the phone.  Otherwise, an explanation and request for a good time to phone might be needed.  Embarrassingly, the phone was in the living/dining room so that anyone in the family might be listening and preparing helpful comments about where I had gone wrong!  Nowadays, I prefer to ask whether I may speak to a person.  Sometimes I even say who I am.  I am also fairly good at recognising voices, when I answer the phone, although my brothers-in-law sound rather alike.

The first time I phoned a new friend from my secondary school her mother answered.  I asked to speak to the daughter.  However, I must have sounded a bit like a niece, who phoned from time to time.  The mother, whom I had not met, began a long conversation with me, which I found it hard to extricate myself from.  Everyone has to learn these sorts of social skills, but it is more difficult for an introvert faced with a very talkative adult on the other end of the phone!

I used to talk to Mum a lot as she liked to know what had been going on at school.  She always seemed outgoing, never at a loss for words and has been a good friend to many people during her long life.  Dad was very quiet, with a soft voice.

A teacher pushed me into taking two examinations with the English Speaking Board.  The idea was that it would improve examinees’ confidence and ability in situations in adult life, where it would be necessary to speak in public.  (I have told this story before.) The first time I entered I prepared a speech about my hobby of collecting, growing and propagating cacti and succulents.  I took a container with some growing in it as a visual aid.  Reading a prepared passage from a book and answering questions from the audience of other entrants and the examiner also featured.

The first exam resulted in a pass at a particular level.  Subsequent entries were for the next grade.  The following year I really did not want to take the exam, which required more preparation and another ordeal.  I couldn’t think of a subject to talk about.  In the end I opted for holidays, but didn’t prepare properly and failed the exam.  It would have been better not to have entered!  On the whole I was not a rebellious teenager, but I did rebel against learning how to project my voice.  It was only in 2013 that I decided it was about time I did something about this!

Nowadays people do not regard me as shy.  In fact I habitually talk to strangers on railway stations and trains.  At coffee mornings, I circulate and talk to a variety of people rather than sitting in one seat and only talking to those nearby.  If there are people I have not met before, I try to speak to them.  I have met some really interesting visitors to this village.  A retired Cambridge academic and his wife and the parents of a lady, who used to sing in a choir with me, spring to mind among others.

My shyness reduced slowly over time.  I was a Brownie, then a Girl Guide and a member of a youth group.  These all involved mixing with people.  Aged sixteen I spent four weeks in France conversing almost exclusively in French, although my accent was very English due to self-consciousness about practising pronunciation.

I left home at eighteen for student life about two hundred miles away.  At the interview for a female hall of residence, I was shown round with another young lady.  We were both shy and did not make conversation with each other and not much with the person showing us around.  First year students had to share a study/bedroom.  On arrival at the beginning of term we found that we were near neighbours, but not in the same room.  Some more outgoing girls had been placed with someone they met at their interview.

At university I became involved in the Christian Union and found that I was able to converse with people from all over the world, possibly because I had developed good listening skills through being quiet.

By the end of the time I was a student I had gained a reputation for being able to talk to anyone!  I regarded it as a compliment.

Sometimes I talk too much!  I hope I am seen as a friendly person.  If you are shy, try thinking about the people around you and what they might like to talk about.  It only takes one person to “break the ice”; it could be the quietest person in the room.

This was written in response to a writing prompt from post40bloggers.

6

Mind what you say!

I have decided to write about language in the sense of “bad language”.  My definition of bad language includes swearing and rude words and using the name of God inappropriately.

Some recent real life and on-line incidents have made me look again at my attitude to this issue.

At school our French teacher explained that a certain phrase in French was not as strong as its literal translation into English.  Even at the time, I silently queried her logic.  It is true that the French seemed to accept the phrase as a normal part of their vocabulary.  This was a cultural difference.  Sad to say the literal translation into English raises few eyebrows nowadays!  It is even a text-speak abbreviation.

In my view it is still taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Anne of Green Gables is a classic children’s book.  In fact it is the first of a series.  Although it is many years since I read it, I have never forgotten the account of Anne using a swear word.  For her it meant that she lost her peace (with God).

I have sworn on occasion, but I do not do so habitually and always regret it afterwards.

Some of my friends and acquaintances on and offline habitually use words I was forbidden to use as a child, because of their derivations.  This leaves me in a quandary.  I can only assume that these people are unaware of the underlying meaning or they would not use these words.  A song, which was popular years ago, includes one such phrase.  It was explained to me by my Dad as meaning, “God, blind me”.  He forbade its use saying that God was likely to answer such a prayer. (I won’t go into the theology of that here!)

Another word which I find unacceptable is derived from “God’s Truth”.

Rather than tackle individuals about these issues, I have written this post.  There is no way I can recommend a piece of online writing which includes this sort of language (which may not even be classed as swearing), no matter how much I agree with everything else that is said.

A writing friend does not allow people to use the name of Jesus lightly.  She politely reminds strangers that they’ll have to meet Him one day.  I admire her courage.

The Bible teaches about the use of language.  Jesus talked about swearing oaths in Matthew 5:33-37.

James (thought to be a brother of Jesus) wrote about the tongue in his letter. James3:1-12

After writing this I found myself laughing at an anecdote which included a swear word.  Partly it was because the anecdote was good news about someone’s improved health, but the word in question was very expressive of the frustration and good humour of the person being quoted.

In some groups of people swearing may reduce stress, but in other situations it can be offensive and should be avoided.

In my opinion young people should be taught standards of speech as well as behaviour.  Those of us, who are professing the faith, should set an example in our daily lives, but be slow to condemn others, who may have different backgrounds.

If this post has provoked you to comment, please note that this is my space and I reserve the right to edit or delete comments as I think fit.