A to Z Reflections, 2017 #atozchallenge

This is the 7th year I’ve participated in A to Z.

survivor-atoz [2017] v1Over the years, I’ve gotten better about planning ahead. Not great, but better.

One person said that she wrote all her posts in February. February! I admire people with those kinds of organizational skills.

When I was in college, if I wrote a paper ahead of time, I’d spend time editing and changing and editing until the deadline. Then I’d get a lower grade than if I just did it at the last minute.

Honest.

I wrote most of my posts a week at a time, though not all of them. Some I did on the day of.

But I’m proud of myself, because every post went live on the correct date. I’m not sure that I’ve ever gotten a perfect score before.

 

As always, it’s fun to read other people’s blogs. Here are a few of my favorites:

Janet’s Smiles

A Texan’s View of Upstate New York

Pen in Her Hand

Life and Faith in Caneyhead

Megan Moran (romance author)

The Cyborg Mom

Zombie Flamingos

This year, I had many fewer visitors than in previous years with the old format. Though that may have been partly my fault because it wasn’t until after the challenge was over that I learned there was a Facebook page. I’m not sure how I missed that info, but I did. I was just posting on the actual Blogging A to Z webpage daily.

When I took the A to Z Challenge survey, I realized that I missed a lot of things I could be doing. Like, I didn’t use #atozchallenge in my titles. Because I didn’t know I was supposed to. There’s a lot of things I could be doing to get the word out about my blog.

Sometimes I feel like I’m doing great at this whole internet thing, and other times I realize how much I have to learn. (Did I just show my age there?… *sigh*)

I could say I should be better at this because it’s year 7. But I’d rather just say that I’m learning and improving every year. And as long as I’m headed in the right direction, that’s what matters, right?

 

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Z is for Zen Pencils

imagesWhen I was a kid, I was scornful of people who read comics.  Actually, I was scornful of lots of things.  Some might have called me a bit of a snob.  I prefer to acknowledge that I was a bit of a brat.

A few years ago, I friend got me interested in webcomics.  There are a few I read regularly, and they tell quite a good story.  Truthfully, I’ve always envied people who can draw, so to be able to tell a good story and draw is quite an accomplishment.

Anyway.

I love quotes.  I have a notebook full of them, where I write my favorites.  I have others printed and pinned up on my wall, and still others made into posters and framed.

Zen Pencils is a webcomic, where Gavin Aung Than takes quotes and turns them into comics.  He’s done a variety of them, and has also published two books.  His interpretation of some of the quotes has deepened my understanding of them, and also made me work harder to come up with my own interpretation.

I got to meet him at a book signing a few months back, and he’s a very nice guy.  He quit a job he didn’t like to work full time doing his comic.

While many of the quotes he’s illustrated speak to me, his story has also influenced me.  He worked hard, and kept working.  But ultimately, he made the leap, quit his job, and was able to do what he loves.  I find that combination of hard work and fearlessness to be inspirational.

I love to write, and think I’m a pretty good writer, but there are days when I’m tempted to delete everything I’ve ever written (not quite as dramatic as burning it, but these are the days of the computer).  And then I remember that it’s not the most talented people who succeed, but the ones who keep trying and aren’t afraid to work for success.

That’s a fitting end this month of blogging, don’t you think?

“So maybe what you’re doing right now isn’t ideally where you’d like to be, but perhaps it’s just practice for your dream job in the future. It’s funny how things work out sometimes.”

-Gavin Aung Than

Y is for Y (Why) People Die By Suicide

Unknown-10The end of the alphabet is always tough.  I could only find one book starting with a “Y” that I’d actually read, and it didn’t affect me in any way.

This book was one of the many on my “W” list, and when it occurred to me that I could get creative and use it, I was thrilled.  This is a book that I feel very passionately that more people should read.

Why People Die by Suicide, by Thomas Joiner, is a book that was recommended to me when I started my job as a crisis therapist.  It opened my eyes to so many of the reasons that people attempt suicide.

There are a lot of myths about suicide.  We saw that after the death of Robin Williams.  People had opinions.  Many people expressed that he was selfish or cowardly.  It’s easier to believe that, I suppose.

The truth is that when people die by suicide, they often feel that they’re doing a good thing for their friends and family.  They honestly feel that others will be better off without them.

Suicide touches the lives of many people, and I think it’s important to talk about it, de-stigmatize it.  Talking about it gives us all power.  Plus, as I learned while working crisis, you never know when talking to someone frankly about what they’re dealing with can help them to make a less permanent decision.

Suicide is a permanent reaction to a temporary problem.

This is an accessible book for anyone who’s interested in learning more about this topic.  The clinical psychologist who wrote it started asking the question after someone in his family died from suicide.  The information is tied into research, but there are also anecdotes and

This book helped me gain a better understanding of this topic, but it also helped me be more empathetic.  It’s hard for most people to understand what goes through the mind of someone who chooses to die, which is what makes books like this one so important.

Understanding, love, compassion are all things the world could use a little more of.

 

W is for When Rabbit Howls

Unknown-9So, before I get into the meat of this post, you should probably know that I actually do know that W comes BEFORE X.  I’m not really sure how or why I posted X yesterday.  My only excuse is that I’m on a trip visiting family, and I was distracted.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.  🙂

I first read When Rabbit Howls when I was a teenager.  I was extremely interested in dissociative identity disorder ever since I’d watched the movie Sybil (and later read the book).

When Rabbit Howls is an autobiography about Truddi Chase, telling the story of how she discovered she had survived a traumatic childhood and split into 92 personalities to handle it.

This book wasn’t the first I’d read on child abuse or mental health, but it stuck with me more than any of the others.  Maybe because it was written from the point of view of the personalities.  It was intensely personal, and made me want to learn more.

This story made me realize that all of us have more than one truth.  I was already starting to believe that truth was somewhat subjective, and this book pushed me further along that path.  It got me interested in all the amazing things the brain can do, including creating 92 people to protect one person.

If you’re looking for a riveting autobiography, I’d recommend this one.  But be warned; the author was abused as a child and she discusses it.  Because of that, it’s not a book for everyone.

What’s your favorite book about mental health?

“I cherished her individuality, that spark of independence no child should lose to life’s restrictions and parameters.”
― Truddi Chase

X is for Crossover books

IMG_5580I don’t have a specific book for “X.”  I tried, but I got nothin’.

So instead of a specific book, I’m going to talk about crossover books.

When I was a kid, people either read kid books (which included young adult) or grown up books.  Then, along came Harry Potter, which everyone read.  After Harry Potter was Twilight, and suddenly the barrier on YA was blasted wide open.  Now it’s a legit genre for adults, and everyone is reading it.

I’ve never stopped reading young adult books and even some middle grade books.  If they’re well-written, I don’t see any problem with my enjoying them.

I’ve had people ask me why I was reading a particular book, “Isn’t that a kids’ book?” and my answer is always, “Because I like it.”

Since everyone started reading young adult books (or admitting they do), it does mean I have more people with whom I can discuss these books.

I think that genre is becoming less important with books than having them be interesting with characters people can connect to.  They also must have at least a little magic.

Many of the books I’ve written about during this challenge are books that I loved as a kid and still love as an adult.  Special mention of several other books that I won’t be talking about during this challenge, but have also managed to stick with me: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, Watership Down by Richard Adams, Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter, anything by LJ Smith, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Are there any books from childhood/ teenage years that you still read?

V is for V for Vendetta

Unknown-1I saw the movie, V for Vendetta when it first came out, and it’s one of those rare movies that I loved.  I loved the wordplay, the philosophy, and the idea that one man could create so much change.  I also loved how Evey changes so much over the course of the movie.  When the end credits rolled and I saw it was based on a book, I hurried to Amazon to buy it.

Imagine my dismay when I found out that it wasn’t a book, but a graphic novel.  A comic book.

I didn’t read comic books as a kid.  Partly because there weren’t enough words in them, so they moved too slowly for me.  Partly because I was a snob and thought they were somewhat too childish for me.

I couldn’t resist V for Vendetta though, and I learned that, as with so many other things, my pre-judgement was wrong.

It’s true that graphic novels tend to have fewer words and rely more heavily on visual storytelling, but it’s just a different way to tell a story.  It’s not better or worse than novels; they are their own medium.

The movie and the graphic novel are different, but this is one of the few times that doesn’t bother me.  They are both quite good versions of the same story.

I think I’m finally to the point where I don’t say that I won’t read something.  I know that I don’t know what something’s going to be like until I try it.

U is for Ugly Duckling

Unknown-8I’m a big fan of fairy tales. I’ve heard about them from my grandmother, and then as I got older, I bought and devoured anthologies full of Hans Christian Andersen and Grimm’s Fairy tales.

The Ugly Duckling, by Hans Christian Andersen, is one of the earliest stories I remember hearing about bullying. Of course, most people who think of the story will tell you that it’s about an ugly duck who becomes a swan, and how beauty can blossom.

But when I read this story, it made me realize that others will bully anyone who is different. Ugly is just one thing.

When I was little, I was bullied by a bunch of different kids. I was called names that seem laughable to me now. Sometimes I thought that meant there was something wrong with me, but eventually, after I realized that people will pick on anyone who’s different, I decided to embrace my differentness.

By the time I got to high school, most people didn’t bother to pick on me anymore. And if they did, I turned it into a joke or insulted their lame insults. I pretended that nothing bothered me, and sometimes I even believed it.

The point of the story in the end is that the ugly duckling is really a swan, and really quite pretty. But the more important part is that the ugly duckling has become pretty because he’s among swans, among the others who are like him.

I too, eventually found my swans.

“The whole world is a series of miracles, but we’re so used to them we call them ordinary things.”

― Hans Christian Andersen