The Z to A of A to Z

This month I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, drawing from my “Grab Bag of Delectable and Occasionally Edifying Interwebby Wonderments.”

To celebrate the long anticipated and much yearned for arrival of the letter Z, I hereby declare the Blogging from A to Z Challenge to be my interwebby wonderment of the day. And what makes this challenge so darned special? I’m so glad you asked. Allow me to present my Z to A list on that very topic:

  • Z is for catching Zees now that the challenge is over. I’m Canadian, and we say Zed, but catching zeds isn’t an expression anywhere, so…forgive me, fellow Canadians, and all you other zedders.
  • Y is for You, dear bloggy friends. As I said yesterday, it’s all about you.
  • X is for astonishingly difficult letters. We love you X, but wow, you sure made us dig deep.
  • W is for Writing, writing, writing, and still more writing. This is how we hone our skills and develop fluidity and (we hope) find our blogging groove.
  • V is for Very glad to have signed up and Very glad to be saying hello to Z.
  • U is for Understanding and supporting those who had to drop out along the way. Sometimes life just doesn’t cooperate, and that’s all there is to it. 
  • T is for Thinking our thinky thoughts and sharing them with others. We all have something important (or amusing, or whacky, or fascinating) to say, and the challenge gives us a forum for doing so.
  • S is for Supporting one another, leaving encouraging comments when a fellow blogger starts to flag, letting our bloggy friends know that their unique voice has touched us.
  • R is for Reading. And reading. And reading some more. Twenty-six days of dashing to blog after blog to immerse ourselves in the funny, the sad, the uplifting, the scary, informing, the inspiring.
  • Q is for Quotations, and Quizzes, and Quirkiness–three of my favourite things that manifested themselves in abundance during the challenge.
  • P is for Planning ahead. Ahaha!! If only. I had a very few posts roughly planned out in advance (by which I mean I’d decided on the topic and maybe had one link to accompany it). Composing a new post (almost) every evening left me less time for commenting, which meant less time for getting to know people, which meant missing out on the very point of the challenge. Note to self: don’t do that again.
  • O is for Oh, shoot me now, because we all had those moments, right?
  • N is for the Nerve-wracking panic resulting from not doing P and having to wrestle ideas out of an obstinate brain.
  • M is for Memories of fabulous people and their fabulous posts.
  • L is for Laughter, whether it be the laughter elicited by amusing posts, or the hysterical laughter that bubbles up as we struggle with our beleaguered brains on the 24th day of the challenge to come up with an “X” post that won’t completely humiliate us. (Of course, those of you who planned ahead will be laughing at the rest of us at this point.)
  • K is for Knowing a whole lot more about a whole whack of subjects than I did on April 1. That’s a big A+ for all you knowledge enablers.
  • J is for leaving holier-than-thou Judgement at the doorstep and overlooking the typos and grammatical waywardness of posts composed at two in the morning, and refraining from engaging in political, religious, or any other kind of argumentativeness for the duration of the challenge.
  • I is for Insomnia, or, as I like to call it, who needs sleep anyway?
  • H is for Hello to new friends and Hugs to old friends for putting up with your A-toZ-ing buddies through this hectic month. Oh, who am I kidding? Hugs to all of you!!
  • G is for Gratitude–for your friendship, whether you were part of the challenge or not; for a challenge that’s kept me me on my toes, entertained and inspired throughout the month; for all those who visited and commented; for all those who visited and read, even if they didn’t comment; and for reaching Z with sanity (more or less) intact. t
  • F is for Fun! Come on, now, this was fun, wasn’t it? Much easier to say that as we reach Z than it was when we hit K, but fun nevertheless.
  • E is for the Encouragement that kept us going.
  • D is for :
  • C is for Community, which takes us back to this being all about wonderful, welcoming, supportive you.
  • B is for Bloggy marathons that sap every ounce of our endurance but make us all kinds of happy when we reach the finish line.
  • A is for Acceptance, Appreciation, Admiration, Affection, Attachment, Amusement, and all those other fine A-nouns inspired by spending April in your bloggy company. Oh, and let’s not forget the awesome-sauciness of each and every one of you.

Big squooshy hugs for all of you–unless you’re not the huggy type, in which case, meaningful looks and buddy punches on the arm for you. See you in May!

You! It’s all about you!

This month I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, drawing from my “Grab Bag of Delectable and Occasionally Edifying Interwebby Wonderments.”

Today, dear bloggy friends, it’s all about YOU.

For those of you doing the A to Z Challenge, here we are, closing in on the finish line, one letter to go before bidding insanity goodbye for one more year. (Unless, of course, you participate in National Novel Writing Month, in which case, best not think about that right now.)

For those of you not participating in the challenge, you’ll be heaving a sigh of relief as your Twitter and Facebook streams return to challenge-free normal, and your online friends stop angstifying about whether they’re going to crash and burn before the letter Z shows its welcome face.

Before we get to Z, though, I wanted to take a minute to thank each and every one of you for being the wonderful, warm, generous, talented souls that you are. It’s been a joy (albeit an exhausting one) to visit your blogs, read your comments, treasure your encouragement and enjoy your virtual company.

To thank you for your astonishing you-ness, I wanted to make you a cake as tall as the Tokyo Skytree, but then I realized a whole bunch of you probably have gluten issues or lactose intolerance, so instead I made this you this Wordle. It doesn’t taste as good as chocolate, but it’s every bit as sincere.

For you:

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 8.00.25 PM

Grateful, grumpy, and girls having fun

This month I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, drawing from my “Grab Bag of Delectable and Occasionally Edifying Interwebby Wonderments.”

Sometimes life can really, really suck. Sometimes we want to grab life by the lapels of its shabby-chic jacket and give it a prolonged and fierce shaking. (As an aside, I’m pretty sure life wears a faded blue velvet jacket, a bit threadbare around the elbows, perhaps, but managing to make it work thanks to bright gold buttons and fine gold brocade work around the cuffs. But, um. Perhaps that’s just me.)

Anyhow, as I was saying, sometimes we want to sit life down and give it a good talking to. We want to browbeat it into telling us why we’re on the poop end of its stick and when it’s going to throw a little happy our way, because goodness knows we’re good people, and we’re as deserving of that happy as the next hapless soul.

I don’t have those days very often, but when I do, when I find myself woe-ing it up because everything feels half gibbled and nothing feels like it’s going to change, sometimes–if I can catch myself–I realize that I’m the one who needs the shake. (And I don’t even own a smoking jacket, not even a shabby-chic blue velvet one, although it would be totally awesome if I did.)

One of the things that really helps hoist me out of my rut of self-pity and crankiness is finding my gratitude. Nothing new, right? Nothing revelatory. But it’s so easy to get stuck in the mess and muck of our day to day lives, to become so entrenched in unhappiness that we don’t take the time to tally up the things that make us glad to be alive, that make our bleakest days more bearable, that put our lives’ ickier moments into a more manageable perspective.

There’s rarely a point in my life where things are so desperate and dire that I can find nothing that makes me grateful. It might be small: yay! hot buttered toast for breakfast, how fabulous is that??? It might be huge: my beautiful, smart, wonderful, witty daughter made it out of her fraught teen years into happy, healthy, productive adulthood. It might be silly: okay, I can’t really top the silliness of being grateful for hot buttered toast, can I, but you get my drift.

The point is, I do believe that the regular practice of gratitude can be life changing. I also know that I don’t practice gratitude anywhere near often enough. But that is going to change. Daily gratitudes, here I come.

And the thing about being mindfully grateful is that it’s easy. I’m dedicating one of my rapidly growing collection of unused notebooks to the task, but if you’re thinking, oh no,  picking up a pen and jotting things down on paper seems like far more effort than my gratitude can weather, you’re in luck. You don’t have to write anything down. You can utter your gratitudes aloud, whisper them to the wind, shout them from the rooftops.

Or, unsurprisingly, there’s an app for that. There are probably quite a few, actually, but I was too lazy astonishingly busy to go check them all . You could start with one of these, though: Gratitude Journal (iTunes) or Attitudes of Gratitude (Android).

Of course, we all know that accessing our gratitude is difficult when we’re in the throes of why is the universe so MEAN TO ME???  Sometimes, in order to get to our gratitude we have to calm our inner grump. Might I suggest getting the crankiness out of your system by fooling around for a while with The Grumpy Cat Meme Generator

Or, failing that, go pay Cyndi Lauper a visit over on YouTube and listen to her belt out Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. Sure fire cure for grumpiness.

Note: I’m being flippant in this post, but I want to acknowledge that sometimes the curve balls life throws at us are so vicious and devastating that finding gratitude for anything is utterly beyond us. If you’re going through such a time, I wish you the strength to hold on and make it through to the other side of the pain.

Of milestones and gratitude

Way back at the end of March when I was dithering about whether or not to sign up for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, two someones (and, yes, I’m looking at you, Chris James and Jo-Anne Teal) suggested ever so politely that perhaps it would be a good idea to stop being such an asshat and to concentrate instead on wrapping up the first draft of my novel. Well, okay, the asshat part was entirely a matter of (mis-)interpretation, but the message was clear.

I have to admit that my first reaction was a bit of a knee-jerky “Wait a second, mister. Who says I can’t do both?” That lasted for approximately two seconds, and at the end of the two seconds I was mightily glad  I hadn’t embarrassed myself by voicing (so to speak) the question, because the answer was obvious: “No, clearly you cannot do both, you dizzy goombah, or you would have done so last April, or the April before, or at any given time over the last decade when you were futzing about doing everything possible under the sun instead of finishing your freaking novel.”

After pushing my petulance to the curb with a mighty, muscle-stripping heave, I began to have a long, hard think about all the things I’ve allowed to get in the way of my writing. I realized that all those many (many!) things could be reduced to just one thing: me. Me and my remarkable avoidance capabilities. (And those capabilities really are magnificent. If I could bottle them and force the entire planetary population to imbibe, every imaginable activity on earth would grind to a whimpering halt within a fortnight.)

My novel wasn’t languishing unfinished because the plot had become an unresolvable quagmire of triteness and unreadability, or because my characters were riding roughshod over their carefully crafted scripts, or because I couldn’t find the perfect way to describe the sound of rain thwacking against a dumpster. My novel was languishing because I wasn’t writing it.

Obvious, right? Honestly, sometimes I could smack myself into oblivion.

So, yes. That’s where I’ve been for the last bunch of weeks. Writing. Shunning the interwebs, except for the odd bit of research and to pin the occasional staircase on Pinterest (because that’s therapy and I deserve it, so there). I’m not going to lie to you and say I’ve been writing the whole time. I have a full time job that frequently punts my gnawed and useless brain straight from my roll-y office chair onto my comfy coma-inducing couch at the end of the day, and being gifted with special talents in the skiving department, I’ve often found myself lured from the task at hand by a host of other distractions (none of which, sadly, involved housework). But I refused to allow myself to dive back into the quicksand of social media. No blogging, no tweeting, no Facebooking, no reading of blogs, tweets or Facebook. The (almost) all or nothing approach.

And this Sunday I finished the first draft of my first full-length novel. I ripped the last scene out of my reluctant brain, word by bloody word, and at 2:38 p.m. I typed the magic words “The End.” It felt astonishingly good. Oh, yeah, it did.

I do realize that the first draft is commonly referred to as “the vomit draft,” and mine would definitely mesh with that description. Great whacks of extensive editing loom on the horizon. But, hey. It’s going to be so much easier to edit something that actually exists.

So, thank you, Chris, and thank you, Jo Anne, for seconding Chris’s advice. If you hadn’t shoved a stick through my spokes, “the end” would still be miles out of reach.

And, also? Yay!!!! First draft down! Only eleventy drafts to go! Tastes so sweet, I tell you.