A to Z Challenge Reflections 2020

I hadn’t originally planned on participating in the A to Z challenge this year. I hadn’t really been blogging at all since midsummer and when the school years started I was working 60 to 70 hours a week at a movie theater and as a substitute teacher. And even though I had a week off school for Spring break our family had a number of activities planned for that week. Planning 26 entries for mu blog was probably the furthest thing from my mind.

Then in quick succession my spring break was lengthened to two weeks, the movie theater temporarily closed , and all the spring break activities we had planned were postponed or cancelled all due to pandemic concerns. Sometimes during those 2 weeks came a stay at home order and all of a sudden I had time on my hands.

During those weeks I did a lot of relaxing and even amid all the anxiety really enjoyed my family and my new found free time. I rediscovered reading blogs for pleasure and while I pondered whether I might be able to find work to replace my “nonessential” jobs, I decided not to look until March 30th, which would have been the Monday I was supposed to come back from Spring Break. It was at that point I decided to sign up for the A to Z challenge.

My theme for last years challenge was the movie music of the Sherman Brothers. It was a bit of a complex process as I would have a video of the song, the lyrics from the song and my reflections or remembrance from the movie. It was complex but each post had a very predictable pattern. I also had prepared many of the submissions in advance of April 1st. By choice or necessity that was all different this year.

I chose a topic Capitals and put my own Random twist on it. I chose New York’s capital Albany as my A entry and wrote about a visit to Baseball’s Hall of fame a few years back. The Hall of Fame is in Cooperstown, not Albany. While my son and I did stay in Albany for a few days on the trip the articles main focus was not Albany.

Most every entry was like that. Quito is the capital of Ecuador. The missionaries Jim and Elisabeth Elliot were married in Quito, I’ll write about them. It was much less about capitals and more about free association derived from Capitals. I tried as much as I could to tell about myself and so you might not know anymore about Pierre, South Dakota than you did before, but hopefully you know a little more about me.

Going back to my sudden inclusion into the ranks of the unemployed for a moment, I actually viewed it as a bit of a sabbatical. I had set a date of March 30th to start looking for work, I expected that this could take quite a bit of time. The truth now was that on the 30th, I heard about a job, applied for that job, was interviewed and hired for that job in about a 6 hour period.

I thought the job would be restocking a grocery store on the over night shift 2 or 3 times a week. Which would give me plenty of time for my family, volunteer activities and the challenge. It turned out the job was 5 to 6 times a week giving me less time than I thought I would have had. Also changing my sleep patterns really did a bit of a number on my whole creative process and also got in the way of deadlines. On three different times I had to catch up on my posts after missing the natural deadline of the calendar.

Generally one of my favorite parts of the a to z challenge is how it involves me in the blog-o-sphere. I love reading and interacting with other peoples blogs. This year I did far less of that than I hoped to. Now that I am no longer obligated to post every day, I hope to catch up on some of that reading and commenting.

I will start by spending some time to look at some reflection posts. If you are interested in checking these out, click here. I am already looking forward to next years challenge. I have an idea that will be very time intensive and will take months of preparation. I thought of it last year, but by December , I knew there would be no way to implement it this year. This is what is known in the entermation (a synonym I just created for infotainment) field as a tease.

I’ll end this piece with a bit of an announcement. 11 years ago I began my blogging journey with a blog called Home School Dad. I did over 700 posts there from 2009 to 2012 another 100 from 2013 to 2016 and its essentially laid dormant for the last 3+ years. I recently decided to bring this blog out of mothballs. I will still be posting here as well, but I imagine that HSD will again become my flagship. I spent a few hours this evening adjusting the format. If you check it out by clicking here, you will always see a link to my most recent Random Acts of Roller entry, which of course will be this entry. Thanks for everyone stopping by from the challenge. I hope achieving a new normal after the challenge and in this crazy covid situation is fun and fulfilling.

The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite book is in the Chronicles of Narnia series is I often reply whatever book of the series I’m reading at that time, unless of course I’m reading the last battle.

This is mostly due to how greatly I esteem the first 6 books in the series and only marginally due to my opinions of the final installment of C.S. Lewis’s beloved heptalogy. Since this is a review of the aforementioned final installment my opinions will surface soon enough, but first some background may be helpful.

I first became familiar with Narnia while in High school while attending a youth group called Campus Life. Speakers at events would read or tell stories from the books. At some point in the summer of 1980 I purchased my first set of the chronicles and I instantly fell in love with this series and subsequently all of Lewis’s work. This set which I bought back in the Carter administration, went every where with me: college, Russia, South Carolina, and back to Illinois when I returned home to court Amy. This was even the set I used to read to our children (initially in the womb) and the same set my children read themselves. Some of those books are now no longer in existence as while I devour books figuratively, my children seem to devour them literally.

In all that time I generally managed to reread each book every year. This year I decided that I would double down and read each book twice. First I would read the books in the order they were published and secondly I would read them in the order they happen in Narnian history, As my 100 days of summer reading began I was midway through The Last Battle, the final book in the order they were published. On this past Saturday I finished it,

The Last Battle is the last book in the series in either way of ordering them. As I have mentioned it is my least favorite. I’m not exactly sure why this is the case. Many people consider it their most favorite and in my multiple readings of it I have been open minded about improving it’s place in my estimation of it. This has just not happened.

The last battle is the story of the ending of Narnia and in a sense like Jill Pole, a character introduced in the Silver Chair. I hoped Narnia would never come to an end. In that way I may have prejudiced my self to a story chronicling it’s end. There are also parts of the book that if I read theologically I would find myself disagreeing with. However I’m not sure if that’s exactly why I find the book wanting. In fact I’m not even sure if I find the book wanting or it just pales in comparison to the other 6. Because like I said I don’t hate or even dislike The Last Battle, I just don’t regard it the same as I do the other 6.

That being said, I tried as much as possible in this reading to approach The Last Battle with fresh eyes. The past few years I even skipped reading it in my annual Narnia fest, so it would be less familiar to me when I did revisit it.

This approach did work to an extent, and I think I enjoyed the book this time around more than I had in past attempts. There certainly aspects and nuances that I gleaned more from than I had previously. One such aspect I rediscovered was the integral roles Jill and Eustace have in this story. I remember them being in it, but they had an earlier and more prolonged involvement than I had remembered. I thought their part was reduced to the final chapters of the book like the other Friends of Narnia. However much like the Pevinise children in Prince Caspian, Jill and Eustace are called to Narnia for a to provide help in the midst of an already developed narrative and then are very central as the narrative comes to a conclusion.

One aspect I’ve always enjoyed about this book is the role of the dwarves in this book Especially near the end of the book when they are at a feast and all they see is dirt. I have had many such experiences when I have not been able to see the joyous things set before me because they have been obscured by my negative thinking.

I really enjoyed The Last Battle this time around, while it’s still not the best of the Narnia bunch, it still ends the Narnian story in a credible fashion.

If I’m to write a review for all the books I read this summer they will probably need to be shorter , so far I’m on pace to read 26 books this summer and only complete 5 reviews.

Last 5 Posts

As much as I enjoy blogging, I sometimes really enjoy what I call meta-blogging which is blogging about blogging, or as I titled it some years ago blah, blah, blogging.

This blog began when I compiled a few of my previous blogger blogs here at WordPress. These blogs were YBD: Your Basic Dave, Crazy Uncle Dave’s Sports Blog, Dave Out Loud and Writers Write, Readers Read, Rollers Roll. The plan was to post everything under one roof.

During the month of April I was A to Z challenge intensive. In the past few weeks I have been spraying to all fields and hope to continue you to do so.. From time to time, like now for instance, I will step back into the recent past and meta-blog about my last 5 posts. So here they are from least to most recent

A to Z Reflection Post.

I had hoped to write the reflection post 3 to 5 days after the A to Z challenge came to an end, This didn’t drop until the 19th of the month due to busyness, procrastination and mostly trying to do too much with it, I like to have a lot of segments to my blogs one of the segments I call ten things, kind of an homage to David Letterman;s top 10 lists. Once I decided to make the reflections post 10 things I boxed myself in the corner a little. Overall, I liked how it turned out, but if I had to do it over, I would have produced it quicker and shorter.

The Battle for Our National Soul

From time to time I hope to share links to other peoples blogs here. That is what the category OPB stands for. I wanted to get my 2nd post out in the middle of May after dragging my heels on the a to z reflection post. So familiarizing folks with the political observations of a former pastor of mine seemed a good way to go..

One thing I would do differently on this one would be to edit it better. In my 2 paragraphs I mistyped professor, missionary, and evangelical and only just now did I catch it and correct it.

Bill Buckner

Bill Buckner is a former major league baseball player best known for a fielding gaffe that cost the 1985 Boston Red Sox the World Series. He passed away last month. I wanted to pay tribute to him without mentioning the World Series incident. I was pretty satisfied with the attempt although reading it over I think I would put less statistics in it if I was writing it again.

A to Z Road Trip May 2019

The approach to these monthly A to Z posts is not be to caught unawares. During the course of the month I stop by the A to Z road trip spread sheet on multiple occasions go to a blog read and react to the post and then put all the information for that post including my comment on the post I am creating. At the beginning of the next month I publish that post and it has the feel of a blog carnival. The stress doesn’t get to me as I do it in segments. As I write this it’s just the third of June but I have already visited two a to z road trip blogs and wrote about them. When I finish today’s post I may go visit a third.

Summer Reading

Each year I plan to read quite a bit during the summer and I generally succeed in doing so. Each year I also plan to write mini reviews of each book I finish during the summer, I don’t far so well in completing that task. This year I felt If I posted about it, it would give me a little accountability on the writing part of the task.

I did struggle, as I often do with the ending to this post. After multiple stabs at the ending, I finally just decided to end with questions. I wasn’t totally satisfied with that ending either, but I did get a comment answering the questions, so I’m feeling a little better about it.

So those are my last 5 posts. 3 posts that I am currently thinking about or working on are : An open letter to Governor Pritzger (The governor of Illinois). 2 Lies and a Truth, and A Summer Fun Video. There will certainly be other posts than that including some book reviews.

Summer Reading 2019

In my mind, there are 100 days this summer. A lot of people consider Summer the time between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend. I lean that way myself. I also am a numbers guy and in some ways a round numbers guy. And you have to admit one hundred is a pretty round number. So Each year around this time I pronounce a 100 day period near the Memorial Day Weekend and the Labor Day Weekend as my Summer Reading time.

This year it began on Sunday May 25th and will end on September 2nd. During that time I like to spend quite a bit of time reading. My goal is to finish 20 books in 100 days. I also hope to post small reviews of each book that I finish. At the end of the Summer Reading Season, I will add a page to the top pf this blog with all the books I read.

I tend to read multiple books at a time and when May 25th rolled around I was in the process of reading 3 books.. SInce then I have started 2 others. These are in no particular order

The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis, which is a book I own

My Final Word, by Charles Colson, which is a book I just purchased.

Rejoice, Karen Kingsbury,, which I borrowed from the library and reading on my IPAD both courtesy of the Hoopla App.

Abortion by R.C. Sproul, I borrowed this book through inter library loan and will be returning before I can get it finished so I will probably borrow it again later this summer

Restoring All Things, Warren Cole Smith & John Stonestreet,I just purchased this book yesterday and plan to read it to my wife this summer.

I generally don’t purchase a lot of books. I own many books that I have not read yet and several more that I like to reread. I borrow lots of books from libraries.

After 7 days with zero books completed I am not on target to finish any books this summer, let alone 20. However, I just need to finish 2 of the books above in the next 3 days and 3 in the next 8 days to be on track for the Summer. That is definitely a perk of having so many books in progress a t one time.

Do you read a lot during the summer? Do you read more than one book at a time? What are you reading now?

A Tale of 2 M’s

I was cleaning out my car earlier this week when I came across a business card. It was a business card I acquired during a seasonal job I had been working at Amazon. My job title at Amazon was a sortation specialist. It was a perfect 21st century job in that respect, where the job title and the job duties are mutually exclusive. What I mostly did at that job was the job of a puller, The title puller, in this case, is partially descriptive of the task I was performing, Packages ready to be delivered to customers would be unloaded from a truck and then either immediately or after further sorting placed on a conveyor built. My job was to “pull” these packages off the belt and place them on racks where other sortations specialist in this case “stowers” would place them in conveyances where they would then be ultimately delivered to the consumer. On some nights, I would work other roles, but the majority of my 3+ months with Amazon, I was a puller.

Just in case, you don’t think I’m aware of it, I haven’t really got to the point of my story that talks about the business card in my car. There was somewheres between 20 – 50 people on my shift doing or overseeing similar tasks as mine. As a team we were a very efficient bunch, often scoring in the top 10 of all the similar units in Amazon. My direct boss told me that I worked with a sense of urgency. I wore that compliment like a badge.

During our breaks and lunches most of us sat in the break room, playing games provided by management, interfacing on our smart phone, eating, talking with or co workers or some nights taking a power nap. I often sat with an man whose name begins with M, so I’ll refer to him as M1 for the rest of my tale ( you can tell by my title, this is a tale of 2 M’s). M1 was an older man who often worked as a puller alongside or across with me. In fact whatever our role was for the evening we were quite often working together. It was natural then, that we would also take our breaks and lunches together. M1 owned his own tax business and we would often speak of this as this was his busy season. Like many of those on our shift, sortation specializing was his 2nd job

Oh, I see where you’re going with this, I can hear you saying. It’s M1’s card that you found in your car. No my dear reader, it was not. It was actually M2’s card that I found. I wasn’t quite there yet, but since you are in such a rush for me to move on, I guess I shall.

One day on lunch, I stopped off to talk with my boss about my performance. It may have been that very evening that he made the works with a sense of urgency comment. When I got to M1 and my table a young man was sitting across from M1 talking his ear off. This man who we will call M2, because the name on his business card also starts with M, also frequently worked alongside me. There were also times that M2 worked with a sense of urgency, but these times were limited to his breaks and lunches. On these occasions he would talk with his co-workers about his job as a financial planner. On the occasion I am referring to he was trying to network with M1 regarding partnering with him with his tax prep clients. On another occasion he found out that I had 3 teenagers and he made sure that he gave me his card entitled “college consultant” later that shift.

I certainly don’t begrudge M2 from utilizing his breaks and lunches to propel his business. If I had witnessed M2 working with that degree of urgency while we were “on the clock” his card may have made it’s way into my wallet rather than falling in between the seats of my car. But alas this is where the two M’s were most different. Like me M1 wasn’t the most suited for the kind of work Amazon was employing us for. However, also like me M1 and I attempted to give our best effort every minute of every evening we worked there. M2 was more like some of the other employees who only worked hard when the job required it. This was actually most of the time. But there were minutes each night that could add up to hours each week, where it was possible to blend in and let others do the work. The last 10 to 15 minutes or more of a shift where folks like M2 would congregate together while folks like M1 and myself found work to do. I never saw M2 take any extra initiative to assist his co-workers beyond the parameters of his duties. M1 like myself would often step into assist before management asked us to do so.

M1 never tried to solicit me to get his business as a tax preparer. But if I ever needed a tax preparer, I would seek him out with confidence. If I ever met up with someone who needs tax assistance and lives or works near one of his 2 offices, I would recommend him gladly. I also do not need assistance at present with a college consultant. However if I did, M2 would not be who I reached out to. He may be an excellent financial planner, but in my mind, I would just expect him to work to a certain level and no more. You see in determining who I will partner with, I hold people to a certain standard, the same standard I hold myself to.

This is a great challenge to us everytime we put ourselves in public we must ask ourselves what kind of M do people see?