Where Does One Go After Z?


In April, I participated in my first A to Z blog challenge. I wrote 26 posts based on the letters of the alphabet, blogging every day but Sunday. The organizers have asked us to reflect on the experience. It was good, it was exhausting, and it took time away from my other writing, but I’m glad I did it.
Having an assignment and knowing somebody will read it gives great comfort to this old newspaper reporter who spent years cranking out stories on deadline with little question about what to write next, only worries about getting to the end of the list. Of course, with the blog challenge, I could quit any time. It was tempting. April, like every month so far this year, was fraught with challenges, including plumbing issues, the Easter music marathon, and being sicker than I’ve been in years. But I didn’t quit. Most of the time, I had written two or three posts in advance and just had to post them, but even when I got to Z with nothing written and was miserably sick, I got up and blogged.
Having to write something that fit the letter of the day sent me in directions I would not have thought of on my own. Weed whacker? Dog ears? Milk-Bones? It led me to what I think is some good writing. The challenge also brought me some new online friends. We are now following each other’s blogs and cheering each other on.
It was fascinating to see how other bloggers used the same letters. So many great ideas. One blogged about cheeses, a different kind for every letter. Another blogged about movies. Yet another wrote a short story every day. Some posted pictures, others travelogues. The challenge is over now, but I urge you to do some blog-hopping from the A to Z siteand see how many ways those 26 letters can be used.
If you look to the right side of the screen, you’ll see links to my A to Z posts here at Unleashed in Oregon. On Wednesdays, I posted at Childless by Marriage and on Fridays, I took my traveling blog show to Writer Aid. If you missed any posts, they will remain archived indefinitely. And if you’re a writer looking for inspiration, try going through the alphabet.
Have fun. Annie and I are going to take a nap.
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Y is for . . . Yellow

The A to Z blog challenge is almost done. I’ll be finishing tomorrow at Childless by Marriage. I have also been doing a poem-a-day challenge. Today I am combining the two with this poem about the Scotch Broom that grows wild where Annie and I take our walks. It is considered an invasive plant that should be removed, almost as ubiquitous on the Oregon coast as the wild berries that sprout up everywhere. But I like them. Here’s my poem.

Yellow

Never mind its reputation
for allergy-causing pollen
or its tendency to ravage
every patch of ground it finds
or its upended broom shape
or the way its seed pods rattle
as the wind blows them open,
scattering plants from road to ravine.

Ignore the talk at City Hall
of forming a vigilante group
to tear the unruly intruders out,
guests that no one invited,
that scatter their golden dust like laughter
and wear flowers so gaudy and bright
against the dark widow sky
that they melt the clouds and make it rain.

Stand in fields of Scotch Broom,
bury your face in yellow
and dance, dance as if you are on the sun.

*****
There’s one more day left in the A to Z blog challenge. My posts have been spread among my three blogs, Unleashed in Oregon, Childless by Marriage, and Writer Aid. See the schedule below, and visit Childless by Marriage tomorrow to find out what Z stands for.

A Newsletter–A is for Annie
B Childless by Marriage–B is for Baby
C Unleashed in Oregon–C is for Crate
D Writer Aid–D is for Deadline
E Unleashed in Oregon–E is for Ear
F Unleashed in Oregon–F is for Fur
G Unleashed in Oregon–G is for Gunk
H Childless by Marriage–H is for Harley
I Unleashed in Oregon–I is for I-5
J Writer Aid–J is for Job
K Unleashed in Oregon–Key is for Keys
L Unleashed in Oregon–L is for Lick
M Unleashed in Oregon–M is for Milk-Bone
N Childless by Marriage–No is for No, I Don’t Know Children’s Songs
O Unleashed in Oregon–O is for Oregon
P Writer Aid–P is for Prompts
Q Unleashed in Oregon–Q is for Question
R Unleashed in Oregon–R is for Rhodies
S Unleashed in Oregon–S is for Shoes Full of Sand
T Childless by Marriage–T is for Talk About Childlessness
U Unleashed in Oregon–U is for Unleashed in Oregon
V Writer Aid–V is for Virus
W Unleashed in Oregon–W is for Weed-Whacker
X Unleashed in Oregon–X is for Xerox
Y Unleashed in Oregon
Z Childless by Marriage

U stands for unleashed–or is it unhinged?


Fred with Annie (tan) and her brother Chico a few years ago on the deck

U stands for unleashed, as in Unleashed in Oregon. Sometimes “unhinged” might be a better assessment. Last Monday, for example.

Exhausted from my Easter festivities, I was ready for a long, deep sleep, but no. At 2:38 a.m., Annie started barking, and she was still barking off and on five hours later. She seemed to have found a critter trapped under the deck. Whatever it was scratched her face during the night. Or else she scratched it on the lattice along the base of the deck. The intruder couldn’t be very big. I had seen a rat sneak in and out a couple times at twilight, but Annie hadn’t seemed to notice. We occasionally had squirrels. I suppose a cat or small raccoon could have gotten in there if it was determined enough. Whatever it was, Annie was still barking, and I was still awake when it was time to get up.

Sleep-deprived or not, I had a busy day that included a business meeting and providing music for a funeral, but first I crawled around on the wet grass in my bathrobe trying to see what was under the deck. I saw nothing except a muddy spot where Annie had tried to dig her way in. I thought about shooting some water through there, setting a trap, or calling the exterminators. What I wanted to do was ignore it, but if Annie was going to keep barking, I’d never get any sleep and the neighbor would eventually select a rifle from his vast collection and take care of both Annie and whatever she was barking at. Somehow, like our recent adventures with plumbing and yard work, we would handle it. Once I inspected the deck, Annie seemed satisfied for the moment and went to sleep. Now the rain has returned, and Annie is staying in her warm bed during the night. Me too. But the invader is probably still around.

When Fred and I moved to Oregon in 1996, we unleashed ourselves from our families, our home, our jobs, and everything that was familiar. Looking back, it strikes me that we were like dogs who smelled something good way up the road, chased after it and found ourselves in an unfamiliar place with no way to get back. So we started new lives here. It was indeed very good, although we missed the old lives sometimes.
Now that Fred is gone (three years ago yesterday), I am even more unleashed. No husband. No newspaper job. In theory, I’m free to go wherever I want, just like the dog when she slips out the gate and runs into the woods. But also like the dog, I don’t want to wander too far from home. I want my Milk-Bones (see M is for Milk-Bones) and my iced tea. Of course some of my family thinks I’m just unhinged.
This blog is about my adventures with Annie in our post-Silicon Valley lives. We are unleashed and running free in Oregon. Metaphorically speaking. They’ve got leash laws up here, just like most places, and my dog is too much of a wackadoodle to unhook just anywhere.
U stands for a whole lots of “un” words. Unlikely, unbelievable, unwanted, unplugged, underdog and so many more. It also stands for ugly, ubiquitous, utopia, and umbrella, something we don’t use here because it would just blow inside out. And it stands for Under the Deck, where something lives.
U is for Unleashed in Oregon, where I plan to keep blogging long after the A to Z Challenge ends next Wednesday. My alphabetical posts are distributed among my various blogs. Here is the schedule:

 
A Newsletter–A is for Annie
B Childless by Marriage–B is for Baby
C Unleashed in Oregon–C is for Crate
D Writer Aid–D is for Deadline
E Unleashed in Oregon–E is for Ear
F Unleashed in Oregon–F is for Fur
G Unleashed in Oregon–G is for Gunk
H Childless by Marriage–H is for Harley
I Unleashed in Oregon–I is for I-5
J Writer Aid–J is for Job
K Unleashed in Oregon–Key is for Keys
L Unleashed in Oregon–L is for Lick
M Unleashed in Oregon–M is for Milk-Bone
N Childless by Marriage–No is for No, I Don’t Know Children’s Songs
O Unleashed in Oregon–O is for Oregon Everything
P Writer Aid–P is for Prompts
Q Unleashed in Oregon–Q is for Question
R Unleashed in Oregon–R is for Rhodies
S Unleashed in Oregon–S is for Shoes Full of Sand
T Childless by Marriage–T is for Talk
U Unleashed in Oregon
V Writer Aid
W Unleashed in Oregon
X Unleashed in Oregon
Y Unleashed in Oregon
Z Childless by Marriage

More than 2000 other bloggers have signed up for the challenge. For more information, visit a-to-zchallenge.com You might find some great new blogs to follow. I know I will. Visit Writer Aid tomorrow to find out what V stands for.

Q is for . . . Question

I have a question. Why do we need the letter Q?

Q is quirky, which is a polite way of saying it’s crazy and doesn’t make any sense. Look at it. It’s an O with a tail. It can’t travel alone, always has to have a “U” after it. And it makes the same sound as a K or a hard C, so it’s redundant. You have to look hard to find Q in the dictionary between P and R. It doesn’t even take up a whole page in the white pages of my phone book, and it isn’t there at all in the yellow pages. P goes straight to R.

We could say Q is “quaint,” which might be a snarky way of saying it’s old and out of date, like my Windows XP computer which was being stripped and its contents loaded into a new computer as I wrote this on my laptop. Querulous is how I feel about that. But the dying of my old computer left me in a quandary and forced me to go to Staples for a new one.

Q is quizzical, meaning it makes us raise our eyebrows and say, “Huh?”

Q sits way off on the upper left edge of my QWERTY keyboard because everybody knows you don’t need it very much, unlike D or I, which are right under my fingers. 

Q makes a body want to quit this alphabet challenge because what can I write about Q? I did come up with some words: quail, beautiful birds which I have seen wandering around my woods; quilting, which a lot of Oregon coast ladies are crazy about; quiet, which it is up here in my trees when the ocean isn’t smacking the sand in a hissy fit; quill like folks used to write with and dogs sometimes run into trouble with when they get friendly with porcupines; quote, which would require me to find somebody else’s words to quote; quarter, one-fourth of something or the coin I have stuck in my Wells Fargo stage coach bank that I can’t get open; and query, which is a pitch letter I could write about in my Writer Aid blog, but this isn’t Writer Aid day (Fridays). I keep coming back to my question:

What’s up with the letter Q?

Answers greatly appreciated.

I’m participating in this month’s A to Z blogging challenge, and Q is for Question. My alphabetical posts are distributed among my various blogs. Here is the schedule:
 
A Newsletter–A is for Annie
B Childless by Marriage–B is for Baby
C Unleashed in Oregon–C is for Crate
D Writer Aid–D is for Deadline
E Unleashed in Oregon–E is for Ear
F Unleashed in Oregon–F is for Fur
G Unleashed in Oregon–G is for Gunk
H Childless by Marriage–H is for Harley
I Unleashed in Oregon–I is for I-5
J Writer Aid–J is for Job
K Unleashed in Oregon–Key is for Keys
L Unleashed in Oregon–L is for Lick
M Unleashed in Oregon–M is for Milk-Bone
N Childless by Marriage–N is for No, I Don’t Know Any Children’s Songs
O Unleashed in Oregon–O is for Oregon Everything
P Writer Aid–P is for prompts
Q Unleashed in Oregon
R Unleashed in Oregon
S Unleashed in Oregon
T Childless by Marriage
U Unleashed in Oregon
V Writer Aid
W Unleashed in Oregon
X Unleashed in Oregon
Y Unleashed in Oregon
Z Childless by Marriage

More than 2000 other bloggers have signed up for the challenge. For more information, visit a-to-zchallenge.com You might find some great new blogs to follow. I know I will. Come back Monday to find out what R stands for.

O is for . . . Oregon everything!

Of course O is for Oregon. But it’s more than that. Driving along the roads in this state, one is likely to see big green, yellow, orange or black letter O’s on the windows and bumpers of passing cars. You may even see flags bearing the letter O, but these O’s don’t just stand for Oregon. Oh no. You see, we don’t have a pro football team in this state, so people are crazy about our college teams, specifically the University of Oregon Ducks–green and yellow–and Oregon State University’s Beavers–orange and black. All it takes is the one letter to show their loyalty. Fans put it on their cars, their clothes, their foreheads and chests, anywhere, just one big O. Of course folks in Oregon forget that there are other states with names that start with the letter O. Oklahoma and Ohio for example, have state universities, too. But here, O stands for Oregon.

I went to San Jose State, so I don’t care who wins the football games, but I like the black and orange colors better, so if I were going to buy a sweatshirt . . . No, I don’t dare. Once, while I was walking Annie on the Bayfront, a drunk staggered by and said, “Hey, an orange dog. Yay, Beavers.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him Annie is tan, not orange, and neither one of us is into sports.

O. Around here, everything starts with the letter O. It’s alphabet soup with too many O’s. For example:
OCCC–Oregon Coast Community College (as opposed to CCC–Central Coast Chorale)
OCA–Oregon Coast Aquarium
OCCA–Oregon Coast Council for the Arts
OCP–Oregon Catholic Press
OMTA–Oregon Music Teachers Association
OPB–Oregon Public Broadcasting
ODFW–Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

O–kay. You get the idea. There are more, but I’m drawing a blank. Help me out if you can think of other O abbreviations. 

I’m participating in this month’s A to Z blogging challenge. O stands for Oregon and just about everything in it. It could also stand for ocean, ode, origami, old, or ordinary, which Oregon is not. My alphabetical posts are distributed among my various blogs. Here is the schedule:
 
A Newsletter–A is for Annie
B Childless by Marriage–B is for Baby
C Unleashed in Oregon–C is for Crate
D Writer Aid–D is for Deadline
E Unleashed in Oregon–E is for Ear
F Unleashed in Oregon–F is for Fur
G Unleashed in Oregon–G is for Gunk
H Childless by Marriage–H is for Harley
I Unleashed in Oregon–I is for I-5
J Writer Aid–J is for Job
K Unleashed in Oregon–Key is for Keys
L Unleashed in Oregon–L is for Lick
M Unleashed in Oregon–M is for Milk-Bone
N Childless by Marriage–No is for No, I Don’t Know Children’s Songs
O Unleashed in Oregon
P Writer Aid
Q Unleashed in Oregon
R Unleashed in Oregon
S Unleashed in Oregon
T Childless by Marriage
U Unleashed in Oregon
V Writer Aid
W Unleashed in Oregon
X Unleashed in Oregon
Y Unleashed in Oregon
Z Childless by Marriage

More than 2000 other bloggers have signed up for the challenge. For more information, visit a-to-zchallenge.com You might find some great new blogs to follow. I know I will. Visit Writer Aid tomorrow to find out what P stands for.

E is for …. Ear!

As you might guess from the photo, this post in our alphabetical journey from A to Z is about my dog Annie’s ears. Big, aren’t they? Also prone to infection in this damp climate. But those ears can really hear. Even when she appears to be sleeping while I’m cooking dinner, her ears are cocked, ready for the least sign that there’s something for her to eat. If she hears me gasp and say, “Oh no!” it means I dropped something. Annie to the rescue, hoping it’s meat or cheese and not carrots or cauliflower. She’ll nibble at those and leave the remnants all over the carpet, but a little chicken or cheddar instantly disappears.

As I age and my ears age with me, I appreciate how well Annie can hear. She can be sound asleep in my lap, but if a dog barks a  half mile away, she’s up and out the door to bark back. Often on our walks, she’ll stop and look and I’ll say, “There’s nothing there.” But a minute later, I’ll see a car or some other people walking or a dog. A few times we’ve seen deer or horses, and once, without Annie, I saw a bear, but I have learned that if the dog suddenly freezes or tugs me in the opposite direction, there’s something there. After all, dogs can detect a much wider range of sound than humans. Their ears have 18 different muscles and move in far more directions than ours can. They are able to hear sounds up to four times as far away.

As I mentioned, Annie’s ears are prone to infections. Apparently it’s a common thing with Labs and other dogs with flop-over ears. We have made several trips to the vet to have the ears swabbed out and medicine poured in while three people struggle to hold the dog. I have finally learned how to wash her ears and watch them for signs of infection. If they start looking red and raw, I start putting medicine in. If I do it just before her walk, Annie will almost stand still for her treatment. Sometimes when her ears are red, it has nothing to do with infection. Did you know dogs’ ears turn red when they get excited? It’s like blushing, I guess.

E could stand for elephants or excitement or elevators, but this time, E stands for ears.

A Newsletter–A is for Annie
B Childless by Marriage–B is for Baby
C Unleashed in Oregon–C is for Crate
D Writer Aid–D is for Deadline
E Unleashed in Oregon
F Unleashed in Oregon
G Unleashed in Oregon
H Childless by Marriage
I Unleashed in Oregon
J Writer Aid
K Unleashed in Oregon
L Unleashed in Oregon
M Unleashed in Oregon
N Childless by Marriage
O Unleashed in Oregon
P Writer Aid
Q Unleashed in Oregon
R Unleashed in Oregon
S Unleashed in Oregon
T Childless by Marriage
U Unleashed in Oregon
W Writer Aid
X Unleashed in Oregon
Y Unleashed in Oregon
Z Unleashed in Oregon

More than 1300 other bloggers have signed up for the challenge. Check out the list at kmdlifeisgood.blogspot.com/p/under-construction.html. You might find some great new blogs to follow. I know I will. Come back to Unleashed in Oregon on Monday to find out what F stands for.

Focus! Running on Overload, as Usual


My life is like a kaleidoscope, full of different images that come out different every time I look. What I need is a telescope that focuses on just one thing.

You see, I have this problem. I keep signing up for stuff and starting new projects, then find myself so overwhelmed by all that I have to do that I can’t do anything but play Spider Solitaire or read posts about the latest episode of “The Bachelor.” Or, I spend all my time getting organized and don’t have time left to do anything. But look at all these nifty folders with their neat little labels.
This morning I’m longing for one great thing to focus on, and I don’t know what that is. Part of this is post-novel depression. My new novel is finished as far as I can go for the moment. Now I’m in the marketing phase, which consists of a lot of sending things out and waiting for responses.
I’ve got a million other things to do. Okay, not a million, but I’ll bet I could come up with a hundred. The list of writing projects is endless, I’m teaching at the CatholicWriters Conference and the Northwest Poets’ Concord in the near future, I have countless songs I want to learn or get better at, I’ve got work to do for my music minister job, I have friends and relatives I should call, yoga I should do, more books than I could read if I live to 150, errands I should run, and the house needs lots of TLC. Now I’m the new acting president of Writers on the Edge, which is looking very much like another job. It’s wonderful. I’m happy about it, but it’s time-consuming. Plus Annie always wants to snuggle, eat, or go for a walk.Generally I finish everything that needs doing, but the non-essentials get put on indefinite hold. For example, I haven’t washed last night’s dishes yet. I was busy watching the Academy Awards and folding laundry. And responding to emails during the commercials.
Anyway, my most recent agreement was signing up for the A to Z blog challenge. Oh yes, I did. It happens in April. (Isn’t that the month I’m doing the Poem a Day challenge?) The bloggers who sign up agree to publish a post inspired by a letter of the alphabet every day except Sunday. We will also visit each other’s blogs, comment, share, and add them to our blogrolls.
Okay. I have four blogs of my own: this one, Childless by Marriage, Writer Aid, and Sue Lick’s Newsletter. I could just share among myself. 
I know, I know. I already see a therapist. Besides, I know I’m not the only one addicted to staying busy.  Do you say yes too much for your own good? Please share in the comments and make me feel better.
I thought I’d warm up for the A-to-Z challenge by starting with numbers. Today’s number is one. One task down, 99 to go.