Reflections on my A to Z Experience

Well, I survived the A to Z Challenge.  I’d seen blog posts with that notation months ago and thought, “What is this?”  So I looked into it.  “That would be fun!” I thought.  Then I signed up.

(Stay with me, here.  I’ll get to the point)

I came up with a theme (after someone mentioned a ‘reveal’ and I thought ‘Hmmmm…  A theme…  How cool!’  And I read what people said, both the ‘guides’ and the ‘participants’ about not doing it at the last moment, understanding that you will be swamped, and minimizing the impact of the commitment.

Now, right before the start of A to Z a couple things happened.  I committed to publish a book the end of May.  I committed to revise its sequel (on the timeline, previously published)  for release May 15.  I was in the middle of a huge project at work – I nearly dropped out. But, darn it!, I’d promised.  If not anyone else (face it, I don’t get a lot of traffic), I’d promised myself.  It meant a lot to me to be able to finish.

So what worked well: the camaraderie.  The knowledgeable participants.  The guidance we received from ‘the team’.

What didn’t work well (for me): replying to comments.  I was too darned busy.  I was overcommitted and I was Tired.   I could not keep up my end of the bargain.  I will be going back through my posts and responding to comments and visiting the various blogs.  I hope the list will still be up.  There was so much to see. 

A lot of thought went into making things fun and easy. I did pay attention to the leaders’ comments, and I ran into some blogs that I just loved.  Lots of them.  Of the top of my head, a woman who goes thrift shopping – fun!  The artist who crochets flowers, someone in the UK who is into genealogy.  The dragon lair (well…I knew of that one before, and enjoyed when I was able to stick my head in).  People I knew and followed were lots of fun to watch.

The bottom line is that A to Z was well run and a lot of effort went into making it enjoyable to participate in and to visit.  What I will do differently next year (yeah, I’m signing up) is:

1.  don’t overcommit.  This was a singular occurrence, and I’ll make jolly sure it doesn’t happen again.

2.  do as much in advance as I can, so that I can…

3.  actively participate in visits and comments.


5.  Chill out.

6.  Smile.  It was fun while it lasted and it is great in retrospect.

Zulu – the Final Song

(A to Z is done today.  I enjoyed participating.  Next year I won’t have so much going on (I hope) and will be able to visit the other blogs more.  I’ll be doing that over the next week or so – there was so much to see and enjoy, and I want to do that.  Thank you to all who visited and to those who commented.  I will be returning the courtesy.)

I started this month with one of my very favorite songs, Africa by Toto.  Africa has always struck a chord with me – magnificent, huge, varied and beautiful.  From the Ashanti empire to Egypt, from the savannahs to the desert – there is something splendid wherever you look.

Years ago I watched a movie, Zulu, that told of the battle of Rorke’s Drift during the Anglo-Zulu wars.  A fort staffed by Welsh and English soldiers fought a large Zulu army over the course of several days.  At the end, as the English troops were waiting to be overrun and butchered, having sung Men of Harlech (another great song with a wonderful history), the Zulus rose above the circling hills, sang, as they had before the fighting … and turned and walked off.

It was a magnificent moment, a generous tribute from one group of fighting men to another.

Then, of course, the debate began.  “Never happened!”  “Hah!  they had somewhere else to go and didn’t have time to butcher the others!”  “What a daydream!” 

Well, I write historical fiction, which means that I have had to research a lot of historical facts.  Over and over again I have found instances of generosity, heroism, kindness and courage.  We are, after all, dealing with humans.  There are creeps – and there are heroes.  I choose to watch the heroes.

Here is the song.  Ah…  Africa…

Y = Dogs and Cats

Everyone needs a good laugh on a Monday morning.  I have been posting songs that meant a lot to me, that made me think, and one or two that made me chuckle.  Today’s offering was written and composed by a man who was responsible for most of the truly clever lyrics found in songs from the thirties through the sixties. 

Deft turns of phrase, sly humor were the hallmarks of Cole Porter’s work.  I wanted to use Begin the Beguine, or a couple others, but they were ruled out this past month.

But while ‘You’ sung by the Carpenters, or ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ by James Taylor, ‘Yellow Submarine’ by the Beatles or – what I was going to chose – Year of the Cat by Al Stewart were strong runners, I present instead…


The Yale Fight Song by (then) undergraduate Cole Porter: 

Bulldog!  Bulldog!
Bow, wow, wow
Eli Yale
Bulldog!  Bulldog!
Bow, wow, wow
Our team can never fail

When the sons of Eli
Break through the line
That is the sign we hail
Bulldog!  Bulldog!
Bow, wow, wow
Eli Yale!

 …and here is a splendid recreation of the moment when Mr. Porter presented the song (from ‘Night and Day’)


If you’ve had enough jolliness, I present my real top choice:

Graphics by Yours Truly.  The cat’s name is Frida…

The Year of the Cat:


On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime
She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolour in the rain
Don’t bother asking for explanations
She’ll just tell you that she came
In the year of the cat.

She doesn’t give you time for questions
As she locks up your arm in hers
And you follow ’till your sense of which direction
Completely disappears
By the blue tiled walls near the market stalls
There’s a hidden door she leads you to
These days, she says, I feel my life
Just like a river running through
The year of the cat

She looks at you so cooly
And her eyes shine like the moon in the sea
She comes in incense and patchouli
So you take her, to find what’s waiting inside
The year of the cat.

Well morning comes and you’re still with her
And the bus and the tourists are gone
And you’ve thrown away the choice and lost your ticket
So you have to stay on
But the drum-beat strains of the night remain
In the rhythm of the new-born day
You know sometime you’re bound to leave her
But for now you’re going to stay
In the year of the cat.

X = eXecerable Uh, I mean XANADU!

I personally believe that this is the movie that brought movie musicals into such disrepute that they went away for a while.  


Gene Kelly made an appearance, which I am sure he bitterly regretted with every fiber of his being, though at an advanced age, wearing roller skates, Mr. Kelly still out-danced every other buskin-wearer who stumbled across the stage. 

But the finale really was a hum-dinger. 
Would you have thought that the Ancient Greek Muses were a pack of fluffy-haired disco babes?  On roller skates?  With neon auras?  Wearing knee-length bloomers under their dresses?

Me neither.

(I imagine them at the walls of Troy.  Uh…  No.)

Click at your own peril….

W – Water from Another Time…

John McCutcheon is a folk singer and player of all sorts of instruments including the hammer dulcimer.  I ran into this song of his on a cassette a friend gave me half a lifetime ago.  I write historical fiction, so the connections between one generation and the next have always fascinated and touched me.  This song is very special to me.

The lyrics and the words say it all.  Pity there isn’t a video there I like, so this beautiful photo of water will have to do.  A favorite of mine.  Listen to it. 

New mown hay on a July morn
Grandkids running through the knee-high corn
Sunburned nose and a scabbed-up knee
From the rope at the white oak tree

Just another summer’s day on Grandpa’s farm
With Grandma’s bucket hanging off my arm
You know, the old pump’s rusty but it works fine
Primed with water from another time

Chorus: It don’t take much, but you gotta have some
The old ways help the new ways come
Just leave a little extra for the next in line
They’re gonna need a little water from another time

Tattered quilt on the goose down bed
“Every stitch tells a story”, my Grandma said
Her mama’s nightgown, her Grandpa’s pants
And the dress she wore to her high school dance

Now wrapped at night in those patchwork scenes
I waltz with Grandma in my dreams
My arms, my heart, my life entwined
With water from another time


Newborn cry in the morning air
The past and the future are wedded there
In this wellspring of my sons and daughters
The bone and blood of living water

And, though Grandpa’s hands have gone to dust,
Like Grandma’s pump; reduced to rust,
Their stories quench my soul and mind
Like water from another time 

(c) 1985 John McCutcheon/Appalsongs (ASCAP)

V…….Vivaldi’s Rain

I’m doing things a little differently today.  If you click on the photo below, which is Chloe Agnew (one of the singers of the group Celtic Women) you will hear today’s song, ‘Vivaldi’s Rain’, which is written in Italian.
There is something about Italian words.  Written, they look rather  odd (sayeth she who speaketh a Germanic tongue) but speak or, better, sing them and you have poetry.

Signore guidami
E dimmi cosa fare
Ho visto l’amore della mia vita

E lui ha visto me.

Sono confusa, lo confonde
Gli voglio dire che l’amo
E spero dirà lo stesso.
Sono passate due settimane
La vita scorre veloce
Il mio cuore batte forte
Signore guidami e dammi pace. 

Ti chiedo cosa dire, come dirlo
Mostrami come dire che l’amo
Mostrami come dire che mi ama
Sto pregando che dica di amarmi
I can almost understand Spanish , if I see it written.  Italian is not so easy.  So I ‘washed’ the lyrics through Google Translate.  It was less than satisfactory, so I made adjustments.
O Lord grant me guidance
And tell me what to do
I beheld the love of my life
And he looked upon me. 
I am so confused, confounded
I long to tell him that I love him
And I yearn to have him say those words to me. 
A fortnight has passed
Life is passing so swiftly
My heart is pounding
O Lord guide me and give me peace. 
How I wonder what to say – how to say it…
Show me the way to tell him that I love him
Show me how to say ‘I love you’
I am praying he will say that he loves me
Vivaldi’s tunes always make me smile.  The words (for this, at least) can be problematic.


I have been enjoying sharing songs that have meant something to me, whether howling in laughter or in disbelief.  A few letters have been problematic (not sure what’s in the works for X but I’ll come up with something), but overall it’s been fun.

I did plan in advance, for the most part, though I departed from the planning when something struck me as a better choice..

I had a couple set for U, this one among them.  I nearly used a tune by Richard Rodgers (of ‘and Hammerstein’ fame) that he originally wrote for Victory at Sea.  It was called ‘Under the Southern Cross’, and he reused the tune later as a tango in a musical.  The problem was that I learned that I was one of many people who got the title wrong.  it’s ‘Beneath the Southern Cross’.  Ah, well.  Under the Boardwalk was an obvious one except (dare I say it?) as one who lived in the Hawaiian Islands and experienced the beautiful Pacific beaches, my opinion of the beaches anywhere near ‘the Boardwalk’ is, shall I say, rather unenthusiastic.

This left the song that was the winner from the first anyhow.  I’d have used it no matter what started with ‘U’.  There was no contest.

Smooth as silk, smoky-voiced, those smiling eyes…

Who else but the great Nat King Cole?

When this duet came out through the magic of audio processing, I was charmed, delighted, and even a little misty-eyed.  And I am even happier to have found this YouTube video of a performance Natalie did using footage of her father.


How can you beat it?  It’s Unforgettable…

Unforgettable, that’s what you are
Unforgettable though near or far
Like a song of love that clings to me
How the thought of you does things to me
Never before has someone been more 
Unforgettable in every way
And forever more, that’s how you’ll stay
That’s why, darling, it’s incredible
That someone so unforgettable
Thinks that I am unforgettable too 
Unforgettable in every way
And forever more, that’s how you’ll stay
That’s why, darling, it’s incredible
That someone so unforgettable
Thinks that I am unforgettable too
Unforgettable lyrics © BOURNE CO.
-words and music by Irving Gordon


T for Third Rock from the Sun – and Time To Say Goodbye

A friend suggested I listen to this song from Joe Diffie (see yesterday’s post) and I promised I would.  I did. 

I couldn’t stop laughing.  Everything is intertwined, the original cause has an amazing effect, and you end up howling. 

Do watch to the video I posted here.

The lyrics are at the bottom of the post if you’re  curious.


…Or  you can skip down to something beautiful.
The composer of this piece writes pop music for classically trained voices.  This one was composed for Andrea Bocelli, who sang it in a duet with Sarah Brightman. 

I like the voices (it needs an alto,  though) but I really love the instrumental version.  For me, writing a story about a man dealing with the loss of his son, letting go and moving ahead, it seemed to crystallize my feelings of his hesitation, remembering, falling in love and moving on.
Well…  The book is coming out in a couple of weeks.  I’m not touting it here.
But enjoy the music and ignore the album cover that provides the only image in the video.


She walks into Smokey’s one hip at a time
Like a broken field runner, slipping through the line
He likes the way she looks so he calls the little wife
Says, don’t wait up for me, I’ll be working late tonight 
Wife hangs up the phone bursts into tears
Calls her sister up and cries get over here  

Sister tells her boyfriend be back in a while
Boyfriend wants a beer, the store is just a mile
He leaves the motor running, he’ll only be a minute
His car drives away with teenagers in it 
The driver tells his buddies got one life to live
They scream into the night, let’s get it over with  

Cause and effect, chain of events
All of the chaos makes perfect sense
When you’re spinning ’round, things come undone
Welcome to Earth, third rock from the sun 

The kid guns the gas, car starts to swerve
Heads for the semi truck jumps the curb
Truck hits the big boy in the Shoney’s parking lot
It flies through the air takes out the bank clock
Clock strikes a light pole transformer sparks
Lines go down, the town goes dark 

Waitress calls the cops says, she saw it all
Swears a giant alien has landed at the mall
Cops ring up the Mayor, say there’s panic in the streets
We hate to wake you up but we can’t find the chief 
Mayor says, use your head if he ain’t in his car
He’s hiding from his wife down at Smokey’s bar  

Cause and effect, chain of events
All of the chaos makes perfect sense
When you’re spinning ’round, things come undone
Welcome to Earth, third rock from the sun 

Songwriter(s): Tony Martin
Copyright: Sony/Atv Tree Publishing


S for Ships That Don’t Come In

Nautical Signal Flag: S = Sierra

I was driving to work one day quite a few years ago.  I was not happy.  Bad things were afoot, and they came to fruition a year or so later, with a lot of nastiness.  I had the radio on, and a song came on.  Someone going into a bar and talking with an old man about how difficult life was.  The voice was pleasant, the words good enough – until I heard a verse:  
Just when I’d hit bottom That old man raised his glass
And said at least we had our chances, There’s those who never have
So here’s to all the soldiers Who have ever died in vain
The insane locked up in themselves The homeless down on Main
To those who stand on empty shores And spit against the wind
And those who wait forever For ships that don’t come in

What? I thought.  What IS this song?

I listened as it went through to its ending.  Naturally, the DJ did not announce it (never happens with songs I really want to know about).  I got in to work, fired up my computer and did a google search.  I found the song and read the words, and it was as though the writer was talking to me. 

Yes, things were difficult and disheartening.  I was not happy where I was, I didn’t know where I was going and looking back at my path to where I was, I saw a good many stupid mistakes and gun-jumping.  But still, I was not badly off, I had my dreams, I had friends, and I had reasons to be thankful, and people to keep in my thoughts and prayers.  Those who are waiting forever for ships that don’t come in. 

The song was performed by Joe Diffie.  Tomorrow’s offering is another of his.  I wonder if you can guess which one it is…  Be prepared to laugh! 

Ships that don’t come in

I could tell he’d had a tough life By the way he sat and stared
And me, I’d come to push and shove So I pulled up a chair
We talked of roads untraveled We talked of love untrue
Of strings that come unraveled We were kings and kindred fools

And just when I’d hit bottom That old man raised his glass
And said at least we had our chances There’s those who never have
So here’s to all the soldiers Who have ever died in vain
The insane locked up in themselves The homeless down on Main 

To those who stand on empty shores And spit against the wind
And those who wait forever For ships that don’t come in
He said it’s only life’s illusions That bring us to this bar
To pick up these old crutches And compare each other’s scars 

‘Cause the things we’re calling heartache Hell, they’re hardly worth our time
We bitch about a dollar When there’s those without a dime
And as he ordered one last round He said I guess we can’t complain
God made life a gamble And we’re still in the game 

So here’s to all the soldiers Who have ever died in vain

The insane locked up in themselves The homeless down on Main
To those who stand on empty shores And spit against the wind
And those who wait forever For ships that don’t come in

And those who wait forever
For ships that don’t come in


Songwriter(s): Dave Gibson
Copyright: Sony/Atv Tree Publishing

Sunday Thoughts

Daffodil Hill in Litchfield, Connecticut

At last, some time to catch my breath.  I have been out of things with this A to Z challenge – too many things came together at once and it was all I could do for the past week to get my posts out. 

Now I can go back, visit other blogs, enjoy things – there is so much variety – one woman I follow has crocheted flowers (here’s her blog: )  Really creative – and I may end up making a bouquet of crocheted flowers to display.

It is early spring, the weeping willow sapling is leafing out (the first green haze of willows is one of my ‘markers’ for the advent of spring), the sky is blue – and my feet are freezing.  Just because it is spring, I don’t have to give up on having a nice fire in my wood-burning stove.

…and there’s a nice, hot cuppa waiting.

Ah…  Sundays…!  I hope yours are good!