Blog challenge

October Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day One

October Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day One

I’ll call it ‘Third Time Lucky’, for want of a better philosophy, but the Ultimate Blog Challenge is back. I made a weak attempt in January, then slightly better in July, and have signed up again for October. I’ve dusted off my iPad and sharpened up my keyboard, so let’s go! 

Why Am I Doing This?

I learned so much from the first two challenges that I couldn’t resist coming back for Round Three. I saw the difference the challenges made to my writing, and I know I can learn a lot more. 

And one of the great things about the Ultimate Blog Challenge is the people you meet on the journey. Accepting the challenge is a lot more than simply posting a blog each day – it’s about reading other people’s blogs. When someone makes a comment on one of my blogs, I immediately feel connected to the reader.   Leaving a comment for another blogger makes a connection with them. And it makes a difference. We don’t sit and write each day to have nobody read our writing, no matter how humble it might be. Seeing a comment at the bottom of a blog, validates the time and effort of writing it. It makes it all worthwhile. 

So, what is the Ultimate Blog Challenge?

The challenge lies in being able to address a set topic, within a specific time-frame. Since there are only twenty-four hours in a day, that’s all you get, from the time you get the topic of the day, until the next one arrives in your inbox. 

For someone like me, the ticking clock is my biggest motivator. Without the time-frame I’d spend way too long writing each blog. Writing within the confines of a day ensures I get a hurry-on. And that in turn makes sure I use less words instead of more. 

One of the things I’ve noticed about my writing is that I’m getting much more contained in my ‘wordiness’. 

“So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.”

N.H. Kleinbaum, Dead Poets Society

When recycling isn’t a good thing!

Recycling waste is great for the environment. Recycling blogs isn’t good for the challenge. Each blog has to be new content. Perhaps a new spin on an old theme would work, but re-posting something that has already been posted doesn’t fit within the Blog Challenge guidelines.

Here’s to writing one blog a day for the month of October!

May we all succeed and arrive at the end of the October Ultimate Blog Challenge with thirty-one blogs, done and dusted.

This is my first blog for the month.

Enjoy!

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Writing, 8 comments
July Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day Five – Growing Old Disgracefully

July Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day Five – Growing Old Disgracefully

Day Five – and I’m still on track – well, sort of. I didn’t post last night, which was technically Day Five for me, because I spent the day and night trying to fix the Comments and Subscribe buttons on my website. I’m still not sure they are working as they should be, but I learned a lot in the process. It’s all part of my ‘Growing Old Disgracefully’ story. And that, very conveniently, leads into the topic for today:

Teach something!

I spent more than thirty years of my adult life, teaching. Planning my career was the only long-term planning I have ever done, and luckily it turned out well. I knew from when I was five years old that I wanted to be a teacher, and even though I took the scenic route to get there, I got there in the end. See ‘Blog Challenge – Day Three’ for the low-down on how ‘unplanned’ my life has been.

I’m used to teaching children, not adults, although I have shared some skills along the way with the teachers I worked with. I have always valued learning, and because of that philosophy, I have valued teaching – you can’t have one, without the other.  Our attitude towards learning, shapes our lives as we get older. And that is where I am heading, because this is what I am going to teach you today.

How To Grow Old Disgracefully

Let me start with the traditional view of an aging person. How many of our grandmothers sat on the front porch, knitting needles in hand, watching the world go by? Or were in the kitchen, whipping up another batch of scones? And where was Grandpa? Well, he was either on the golf-course playing a social round of golf, or down at the creek, waiting for the fish to bite. Okay – that’s a bit of an overstated view, but you need to see the comparison I’m about to make.

Sure, you’ll still find some older people, knitting and fishing, and that’s a good thing. They lived through the Depression and really tough times and they deserve to put their feet up now and take life a lot easier. But a new breed of retiree is emerging. We, the Baby Boomers, or Boomers, as we are sometimes called, are hurtling full-on into retirement, if we aren’t already there. And we are different! Our world, from the mid-forties to the mid-sixties was very different from that of our parents and grandparents. By the time we came into the world, the Second World War was just about over, and the stringent rationing of goods and services was about to end.

Life, for us, started well.

Education played a more prominent role, simply because it could. My father was forced into employment, rather than waste time on Secondary Education; he had eight hungry siblings to help provide for. I, on the other hand, finished my full quota of Secondary Education, and a lot of years at University as well. My future options were a lot better than those my father faced at the same age.

And speaking of ‘eight-hungry siblings’, have you ever wondered why families back then had so many children? For those of us lucky enough to be born into the era of contraception, spare a thought for those who went before us. That’s all I’ll say on that matter; the rest is up to you to figure out.

The Early Sixties!

They say if you remember the sixties, you weren’t really there. I’ll let you figure that out on your own as well. And just for the record – I remember the sixties well – and I was there. The position of young people in the sixties was so far removed from young people two decades ealier, that it is difficult to discuss them in the same article. They were worlds apart!

From our privileged beginnings, the recently, and about to be retirees of today, have a very different view of the world.

The Impacts on the Boomers

  • The end of rationing – which coincided with the end of the Second World War. Food and essential items started flowing freely again. My mother scrounged coupons to buy her wedding dress – I went into a store and bought mine with very little thought about the cost.
  • Education beyond Primary School (Elementary school) became the norm, not the exception.
  • Tertiary Education was affordable – no longer just for the privileged elite.
  • Development of the contraceptive pill –  gave families choices on how many children to have, and when to have them (I’m not taking a stand on this, I’m simply stating the facts).
  • Television – introduced to Australia in the late 1950’s – became more sophisticated and brought the world to our living rooms.
  • Vietnam War – Australia’s involvement impacted us in the Sixties and again, in our sixties. Our Vietnam Veterans are owed a debt of gratitude for their commitment then, and need our understanding now. I won’t add to this, but anyone who knows a Vietnam Veteran, knows the impact this war had, and continues to have on them.
  • Beatles and all things Rock and Roll! The music of the sixties belted out across neighbourhoods, loud and proud! It changed the way we danced, dressed, and looked.
  • Mods and Rockers – found their way into our existence in the mid-sixties. Crazy times!
  • Happy Days – featuring Henry (The Fonz) Winkler, and Ron (Richie Cunningham) Howard, showed us the cool way to breeze through our teenage years – hanging out in diners, driving groovy cars, and drinking soda’s, and milkshakes. Oh, and dancing in the diner, despite the ‘No Dancing Allowed’ sign. Perhaps this was the start of our irreverent view of authority.

SKI Club

For us Baby Boomers, the times were a-changing, and dictated much of what we do now. In our parents time, there was an emphasis on leaving our children a reasonable inheritance. Their motto was ‘work hard, save hard’. I am very grateful to my parents for all they did, but I would have loved for them to have spent the money they worked so hard for, on enjoying their retired lives more.

And that is where the Boomers differ. I love the Bumper Sticker proudly displayed on the back of many motor-homes I see, “SKI – Spending Kids Inheritance’. This new breed of retirees are known affectionately as ‘The Grey Nomads’. They’ve got it right!

Travel and learning are what Growing Old Disgracefully is all about. Our more affluent formative years have given us a different view of the world than our parents had at retirement age. We’ve had it easier than our parents did, worked hard and raised successful children who are financially stable. I’m sure they understand that it’s now time for us to get out and see the world!

Shanghai

Since retiring two years ago, one of the most memorable trips I’ve taken was to China. And there were three ninety-year olds with us; they kept up without any problems at all.

Flying into Seattle, one cold December night.

Now it is time to party!

Our roads are dotted with motor homes and caravans being driven by Boomers, seeking new adventures in this vast country of ours. Airports around the country, and around the world, are full of white-haired travellers going to, or coming from, distant destinations. And they are all smiling!

As for learning?, and this is the best part, we are still at it!. How many of the Bloggers on the July Ultimate Blog Challenge are over sixty years of age? I know I am. Let’s face it, if we’re retired, we have more time; if we’re retired, we’ve got more to say (think ‘Grey Nomads’ and ‘World travellers’); if we’re retired, we want to learn – and have the time to do it.

Fast Fiction Podcast Channel

A friend of mine is in her seventies and has been teaching me about Podcasting. She has written a lot of books over the years and is now turning them into Podcasts. Without even trying to promote it, her Podcast Channels have over two-thousand subscribers, in a very short time. This is not a traditional view of what a seventy-plus year old would be doing in her retirement years.

Growing Old Disgracefully, is alive and well!

In fact, I recently spent a day with this friend, and a friend of hers, for a day of learning and sharing. We had our technology of choice (mine is my iPad Pro) and we shared tips and tricks for podcasting and website creation and maintenance. It didn’t seem odd, until I stopped for a coffee on my way home late that night and the young Barista asked me how my day had been. As I told her of the day’s events, I noticed a look of bewilderment on her face. Here I am in my late sixties, relaying my journey with podcasting and my website, to a young person of today; only then did I have an awareness of how far from the expected norm we have ventured. I finished with “uh-huh, I guess we should have been knitting or basket-weaving, but I don’t think any of us know how to do that”.

The Boomers

The Boomers have lived through amazing advancements in technology and products and services that have had a life-long effect on us. It is only natural to think that our retirement years are not going to be the same as those of our parents.

My seventy-two year old cousin is in the final stage of his solo-motorbike ride across Australia. Sleeping in a tent under the stars, meeting other (grey) nomads along the way, and gathering enough content for a mini-series on Aging Disgracefully (if only he would produce it!). Look on a map of  the Nullarbor Plain, to get an idea of how gruelling the trip would be, especially solo, and especially on a motorbike. Russel is an inspiration to us all. Whenever I find myself faltering on the brink of traditional versus disgracefull aging, I think of my cousin. And then I plough through whatever it was that was holding me back.

Preaching To The Converted

I look around me in the village I live in, and I see the older, more traditional retirees, and the emerging Boomer retiree population. Well actually, you don’t see the Boomers much, just the empty spot where their motor home is usually parked, and the empty chair on the front porch. They are out there, and they are doing it! Trekking around in a caravan, flying to a distant destination, on another cruise; recording voices for the next Podcast; attending a WordPress Meetup or WordCamp; or sharing strategies for video-editing. They are debunking the myths of what older people ‘should’ be doing. And I love it!

We are Growing Old Disgracefully!

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 1 comment
July Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day Three

July Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day Three

I know where I have been, but do I know where I am going? If the rest of my life is anything like the days already past, then the answer is ‘No! I have no idea where I’m going’. Day Three of the July Ultimate Blog Challenge is about where my blog is heading. This has nothing to do with being philosophical, and everything to do with the topic of the day.

I have lived my life on a whim – not a plan

Impulsive? Yes. Forward planning? No. The only thing I consciously planned in my life was my career. I knew what I wanted to do, and I did it, albeit a little later than I could, or should have. But, in the great scheme of things, it all happened in a timely manner.

In the words of John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.  And that sums up my life – in reverse. “Life is what happened to me while I was busy avoiding plans”. Not consciously, of course, but as a consequence of my drifting nature. Like a butterfly, I flitted from one thing to the next. If someone was going somewhere, I tagged along. Since I didn’t have any plans of my own, it was easy to attach myself to the plans of someone else.

I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I had made plans? If I equate making plans with stability, then I’d still be in my home-town, surrounded by the people I grew up with. I wouldn’t have lived interstate or across the world. And I wouldn’t have twenty-thousand photos and two-hundred videos on my iPad! Each photo takes me back to another time and place. I remember the day and the time, but more importantly, I remember the feeling of standing in front of the Taj Mahal, or meeting the fabulous staff at the RedWing Cafe in Seattle.

From Stanley Park in Vancouver to the Taj Mahal in India

Lack of planning took me from my hometown on the Hawkesbury River, to iconic landmarks across the world. Walks through Stanley Park on a Sunday afternoon; standing in front of the Taj Mahal; posing for a selfie in Shanghai; sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco; standing next to the Statue of Liberty. I lived on Penang Island Malaysia and in North America. None of the moves were part of any long-term planning on my part. They just happened.

 

Shanghai

Even my retirement, two years ago, just happened. While not having any set-in-concrete plans about when I would hang up the chalk for the last time, I thought it would be years from now – there were certainly no immediate plans. And then, I decided one day that the time had come. As usual, I just did it. I went from working long, long hours – to nothing. No transition, no slowing down, just an abrupt end. And in true butterfly style, I marked the occasion with a spur of the moment, two-week cruise to Singapore. Would you have expected anything less?

The End of the Road

My only concession to forward-planning was to buy a unit to retire in. At some time prior to my official retirement, I looked back on my nomadic lifestyle, and had a fleeting need for stability. In that moment of normality, I wanted to move one more time – and stay there. No more packing and unpacking. I would find a place for everything, and everything would be in its place. Well, maybe that was wishful thinking, but I’m sure you know what I mean. I wanted to set up a home and be happy to be home.

 

 

And that’s where I was when the reality of retirement hit me. This is it! No more early mornings and late nights; Or Mondays, or staff meetings. No more looking out on Thursday mornings to see if I could see the weekend coming over the horizon. Every day was now a weekend.

Suddenly I was faced with the void, the emptiness, the ‘what will I do now?’.  The website I had played around with a few years earlier, suddenly emerged as a life-line. Learning had always been a big part of my life, and getting my website up and running would take a lot of learning. I started going to WordPress WordCamps and Meetups to learn more. It was a slow process. I thought I had kept up with technology over my long teaching career, but this was a whole new ball game.

So what do you do with a website?

You blog!

My nomadic, butterfly past will provide an endless supply of content, and those twenty-thousand photos will find a home. Planning still isn’t a part of my vocabulary, but if I look back at how my life has turned out, I’m not worried. The butterfly approach has served me well and I trust will continue to do so. Technology changes constantly. As I flit from one thing to another, learning as I go, my website and blog will evolve. I would like to think my lack of planning will give me the flexibility to change as often as the technology that I am dabbling in.

I’m excited about where my website and blog could end up. Who knows, they might be destined for great things that haven’t been invented yet.

Day Three of the July Ultimate Blog Challenge has challenged my thinking, but not my lifestyle. The butterfly approach is alive and well and will carry my blog forward, ultimately reaching its final resting place when there is nowhere else for it to go.

Only then will I know where it is heading.

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 0 comments
July Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day 2

July Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day 2

The Ultimate Blog Challenge is in full swing and I’m loving it! It is only Day 2 and already I’ve fixed a major problem on my website – a problem that I didn’t even know existed. I was wondering why I wasn’t getting any feedback on my Blogs prior to the Blog Challenge. If you want to get comments, you have to have a Comments button that is easy to use. And that’s what makes the Challenge so valuable; fellow-bloggers tried to leave comments on my blog. For some, it was easy – they had a WordPress (WP) account and could sign in and leave a comment. But for those who didn’t have a WP account, and didn’t want one, the process was flawed. Because of the valuable feedback, I was able to fix the problem.

Why Would Anyone Want to do the Ultimate Blog Challenge!?

For me, it was an easy decision. I love a challenge, and I wanted to flex my creative muscles. Writing a blog about a given topic is a good way to test my creative mettle. When I write about topics of interest, I already have the information I need, based on an experience, place or memory. I only have to gather the photos, and write about them. The text grows, and before long, I have published another blog.

When I’m given a topic and have to conform to it, my thinking and creative muscles are stretched. I liken it to the effect of physical activity on the body – the more we stretch – the more agile and flexible we become. The effect of stretching the mind is the same; thinking out of our thought comfort-zones provides the mental workout we need to extend our learning. The Ultimate Blog Challenge provides the opportunity to gain intensified learning, and I’m excited about the possible outcomes from engaging in the challenge for July.

Day 2 Challenge

Rather than a formal topic, Day 2 is about letting people know why we do what we do. For some people, it’s all about a product or service that fills their niche or market. My blog-existence is a lot more personal.  There is no product or service – I just blog.

When I retired from teaching a little over two years ago, I needed something to fill the void. While teaching, I loved learning – from my students; from their parents; from my colleagues; from the people I networked with; from presenters at conferences. It was all about learning, and it was where I was happiest. That all slipped away from the day of retirement, and I was left wondering what a future without learning would look like. So, learning had to be a central point in my post-career life, and I had to figure out what I was passionate about, apart from teaching.

If you love what you do, it isn’t work!

Initially, I thought my learning journey would be all about websites, but I quickly discovered that writing was going to feature heavily in my web-presence. You can’t just have an empty website. Yes, you can have a page full of photos, but unless you are a very accomplished photographer, and I’m not, you need to explain the photos you post. And in explaining my travel photos – I wrote!

Writing creatively didn’t come easy. Years of report writing had taken their toll and my creative instincts had been held hostage in the process. At first it was a struggle, but I pushed on, regardless. At some point there was a cross over, from the hard-core, no-nonsense – just give me the facts – writing, to the creative – let’s have a bit of fun – writing. The more I wrote, the more my creative reflexes limbered up, until I was able to put together some half-decent travel tales. You could say I fell into my niche, the place where I’m happiest, rather than landing there through any conscious intent.

The Training Ground

When my creative muscles are up to it, I’m going to write a book. Like everything else in my life, I know it will just evolve. But the key element right now, is completing the Ultimate Blog Challenge in July. Practicing writing from a given topic is stretching my mental reflexes in preparation for conjuring up bigger ideas, on a much larger scale. Day 2 of the July Ultimate Blog Challenge is one of the stepping stones on the path to my ultimate destination.

Have I found my niche?

I hope so! Maybe I’ll have a definite answer at the end of July, so be sure to ask me.

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 0 comments
July Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day One

July Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day One

This might not be a good start to the July Ultimate Blog Challenge! Am I doomed before I even start? I spent ages writing a blog post to prepare the few faithful followers of my blogs for what was about to happen. I announced that I was embarking on the challenge, explained how it had come about, and launched into a lengthy dialogue about the website for my blog. And just for good measure, I posted the blog on my website yesterday, which was the 30th June, in my neck of the universal woods. The topic for Day One is out now, and I’m doomed.

Let me go back a step. One of the major rules of the Blog Challenge is that you have to post a new blog ‘on the day’, not submit a link to something you posted earlier.

Why is this such a major catastrophe? I have been waiting anxiously all day, the first day of July here in Australia, for the Blog Challenge to begin. Because of the time difference between Northern and Southern Hemispheres, the Challenge only officially started a few hours ago.

Can you guess what the challenge for today is?

Tell your readers about the July Ultimate Blog Challenge and why you are doing it!

I’ve already done that! I posted it yesterday! That means I can’t post it again as the first blog of the challenge.

Disaster! Chaos! Heck!!!

Wait a minute. This is a challenge, right? And a challenge isn’t meant to be easy. Hmmm; that puts it into perspective.


I can do this. I have already told everyone about the Challenge, so now all I have to do is post these humble thoughts about how challenging the challenge is. Simple!

Okay, I’ve got this. This is my post for Day One of the July Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Oh, and another rule is that I can’t do the automatic post to my Facebook page, like I usually do, so you’ll need to check back on my page each day to find the post. Or, you could subscribe to my posts on the form below, then you will get an email to tell you when I’ve posted a new challenge. Either way will work.

Enjoy!

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 10 comments
Blog Challenge Day 7 – What Day Are We Up To?

Blog Challenge Day 7 – What Day Are We Up To?

What Day Are We Up To?

Faster than a Shanghai Bullet Train

The Blog Challenge started out well but somehow, lately, deadlines are rushing past me faster than the Bullet Train leaving Shanghai Station. The question ‘What day are we up to?’ seems to be creeping into my thoughts more often than I care to acknowledge. The new year has just begun, so why is it in such a hurry to be over?

Where Did That Year Go?

Given the prospect of another year slipping by, I figured it might be time to make some definite plans; set some goals; find some direction. I’m guessing it’s what most people call ‘New Year’s Resolutions’, except, I don’t do them. I used to – sort of, but the goals would usually end up as fleeting thoughts that passed through my mind on their way to the dark place that thoughts disappear to. I don’t know where that place is because I’ve never successfully retrieved anything significant from there. All those goal-oriented thoughts hung around just long enough to leave a faint, whimsical memory before slipping silently into the void. All that was left was an occasional “Oh yeah, I kind of remember thinking I would do that – that was how long ago? Surely not!”.

This year I’m going to try a radical new approach and actually write the ideas down. There’s no guarantee that this will work any better than not writing them, but it’s worth a try.

The problem with writing the ideas down is a lot like writing a shopping list.

The Shopping List

The finer points of the shopping list include the following:

  • take stock of the pantry
  • scan the refrigerator for essential items, or lack thereof
  • transcribe the absent items onto a very long piece of paper, herein referred to as ‘the list’
  • drive to the store
  • spend five minutes circling the car park looking for an empty space not too far from the door
  • spend another five minutes test-driving trolleys (shopping carts) to find one with all four wheels in alignment
  • wheel the trolley to the top of the first aisle ready to start shopping
  • put your hand into your pocket to retrieve the list
  • open your wallet in the hope that the list is in there
  • search every conceivable place that an elusive list could have found its way into
  • suddenly picture the list sitting on the kitchen table, right where you wrote the very last item
  • debate whether to drive all the way home to get the list
  • decide to ‘wing it’ and shop without the list; how hard could that be – you only wrote the list an hour or so ago
  • wonder why you have a lot more items at the checkout than you remember writing on the list
  • drive home
  • wonder why you have an abundance of items that weren’t on the list and none of the urgent items that you are completely out of
  • vow to never waste time writing a list again

The Carpark

The shopping list method doesn’t work!

Which brings me right back to the radical idea of writing down the earth shattering ideas that are going to magically transform 2018 into the most productive year of my life. Since the list idea clearly isn’t an option, what next?

How or where will I write my ideas that will ensure they won’t disappear into that elusive place for homeless thoughts?

No Idea!

I haven’t quite figured that part out yet but I’m working on it.

One of the bright flashes of inspiration that lit up my otherwise dormant mind earlier today, was to incorporate the ideas into my blog. Since my website is relatively safe and secure, there isn’t too much risk of the great literary masterpieces slipping over the edge of reality into cyberspace, never to be seen again. And since the Blog Challenge is all about getting me into the habit of writing daily more frequently, the blog-full of goals should jump out and remind me to actually do something about them – hopefully.

So now that I have the ‘where to write them’ sorted out, I just have to work on the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ to write. And that is best left for another day.

Watch This Space!

 

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 3 comments