A to Z blog summary

What a process! 26 blog entries. Each one starting with a different letter of the alphabet. Starting with airplane and ending with zero.

I learned a lot of information through the research part of the entries. I also determined that I like the creative writing part better than the research part. That’s why on some of the entries, I took the information I found researching and created a story to illustrate it. Like right now, I’m writing this off of the top of my head and it seems to just want to flow right out of me. I love my creative flow, when it is working for me.

Here is a listing of all twenty-six of the blog subjects for 2015.

Airplane, Baseball, Cotton Candy, Dog, Elephant, Fishing, Gladiolus, Hula Hoop, Igloo, Jumping Jacks, Krispy Kremes, Lilacs, Mystery, Nightingale, Overture, Pecan Pie, Quonset Hut, Road Runner, Seattle, Transistor Radio, Unicorn, Volleyball, Walnut Grove, Xanadu, Yo-Yo, and Zero.

The journey through the month was fun. I hoped to finish it all in May, but I think having it done on June 3rd isn’t bad for doing that and so many other things that kept me busy in my day-to-day life. Working a non writing full-time career, Sam and I running from one baseball game to another as we manage both Max and Mitch being on both a school ball team and a summer travelling team. It is what life should be about though. Full of fun experiences and memories. We’re having a great time with all of it.

I enjoyed this challenge. It really got the blood flowing in my mind and kept things hopping on my blog. Just like working on a writing project, this gave me something to write about everyday and get the creative juices going. With the subjects being different from what I may normally write about, it did bring  some new followers to my blog. For those of you that joined the journey, welcome and I hope you enjoy the ride.

My favorite blog posts in this A to Z Blog session were Lilacs because it reminded me of my Mom. It also started my thread about Lila and Sally which was continued in Unicorn. Walnut Grove gave me the background to one of my favorite shows growing up, Little House on the Prairie.

Hula Hoop is going to turn into a feature that I’m going to write about EclecticHoops my friend Jennifer Jensen’s company. She sells and makes custom hula hoops in California.

There was a lot of work put into this project. I was able to get it all done with a little time here and a little time there. It helped me to prioritize my writing in my day-to-day life. A lot of the writing took place during lunch breaks at work and at many different baseball fields. Thanks to my smart phone, I was able to put the posts together on the run.

Other project status updates – I have a few readers doing a read through on my manuscript called The Hard Way. Looking to have the feedback on it in July and then get it ready to publish in an e-book format sometime this fall.

And, A Matter of Words is the name of the book that my short story will be published in this fall. It will be in a book with 20-25 other short stories. I will be sure to put information on the blog about when it is published and how you can get a copy.

What is next for the blog? Maybe another short story developed in stages? Maybe some updates on the next novel project? We’ll just have to see how the creative flow moves me.

Z is for Zero

Here’s the last letter of the A to Z blogging challenge for 2015. I started with an airplane and wound up with a word that is a symbol of no quantity and is also an important airplane that flew during World War II.

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Sumerians were the first people to develop a counting system. They used spaces to show the absence of a number as early as four thousand years ago. The first recorded use of a zero like symbol dates back to around the third century B.C. in ancient Babylon.

The spaces made it kind of hard to really know what the number was supposed to be. The zero became the placeholder to replace those spaces. It would become the way to tell the number 10 from the number 100.

Then zero became a concept meaning the absence of any quantity. Zero is a numerical digit that plays a central role in mathematics. It functions as a place holder between the negative and positive numbers on a number line and allows us to perform complicated calculus equations. It’s also an essential part of the binary  code for computers.

Not only does zero play a key role in mathematics, it is also a nickname for an aircraft that was used in World War II. It was a long-range fighter operated by the Japanese Navy from 1940-1945. Named the zero fighter because it entered service for the Imperial Navy in the Imperial year 2600 (1940) and they named it after the last digit of that year. Dr. Jiro Horikoshi was the chief designer of this and many other Japanese fighters.

It was considered one of the most capable carrier based fighters in the world. As a dog fighter in battle, it achieved a legendary kill ratio of 12:1. The Japanese Naval pilots were seen as the best and most experienced naval aviators in the world in late 1941, at the time when Pearl Harbor took place.

There were some inherent flaws in the design of the Zero, but some of those weaknesses were overcome by the ability of the pilots flying them. The aircraft was made very lightweight, because the Japanese industry could only build 800 horsepower engines. It made the plane very maneuverable and easy to fly. It was made for low altitude flying, but above 15000 feet, the controls were less responsive. Because it was so lightweight, it couldn’t carry very heavy ammunition nor could it take very many enemy hits. It also saw having armor plating, parachutes, and self sealing gas tanks as being non-essential extra weight, so the airplane wasn’t equipped with them.

I realize this is a Japanese aircraft and that they were on the other side in the war, but it is very interesting how and why they were made so lightweight and maneuverable. That along with the abilities of the pilots who flew them made these airplanes a worthy opponent of the Allied forces.

So, the zero played both an important role in mathematics and in World War II. The fact that the word zero was the name for a placeholder and what an airplane was nicknamed shows what a contrast a double meaning of one word can have.

Y is for Yo-Yo

Another double letter score! This one is kind of borderline for a double letter score since the word is actually hyphenated. I wanted to get one more in before the A to Z challenge was over.

The word yo-yo was derived from the Philippine Ilokano language. Basically, it’s a toy with a spool shaped axis connected to two disks with a string connected to it.

First made popular in the 1920s, the toy itself was created in ancient Greece many years before that. The day-to-day toys that the kids actually played with were made out of wood or metal. There were special ones made out of terra-cotta and decorated with mythological characters. These were offered to the gods when children came of age.

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Pedro Flores opened the Yo-Yo Manufacturing Company in Santa Barbara, California in 1928. His business started with a dozen hand-made toys. It became much bigger than it started out as, growing to 600 employees and 300,000 units made daily.

A year later in 1929, Donald F. Duncan purchased the company, rights and assets and transferred it all into a new company called Duncan Toy Company in 1932. In that same year, yo-yo first became a registered trademark.

With a decline in sales after WWII, Duncan launched a comeback in 1962 through TV ads. Those efforts kept the company going for the next six years, but due to financial issues, Duncan sold his company to Flambeau, Inc in 1968. Ironically, this was the company that had made Duncan’s plastic model yo-yos since 1955. They continue to own the company to this day.

I had a Duncan brand one with a  jewel on either side of a black wheel. I remember trying to learn how to do it. I spent a lot of time letting the yo-yo go down to the end of the string and not being able to wind it back up. That’s called looping. But once I learned how to do it, I couldn’t stop playing with it. I did get to the point of putting it into a sleeper, which is sending it towards the floor and letting it spin. I don’t think I ever really learned how to do the walking the dog trick, but remember spending quite a bit of time trying!

Mastering yo-yo tricks seems to be a pretty popular thing to do. The World Yo-Yo contest is held in Orlando, Florida every year and there’s an International competition as well. So, there are people out there than can do some pretty amazing things with that toy that most of us only tried to play with as kids.

X is for Xanadu

This was a movie that came out during my teen years. Released on August 8, 1980, it is an American romantic musical fantasy film. The script is considered speculative fiction, which is not a highly regarded genre. It takes fiction and adds a bit of fantasy to it. So, the story line can be a little far-fetched as compared to reality.

The plot was inspired by a 1947 movie called Down to Earth. Starring Rita Hayworth, the story is about a Greek Goddess, Terpscichore. She was one of the nine muses and goddess of dance and chorus. She comes down from the heavens and lands a part in a musical which mocks Greek mythology. She’s able to get the producer to make some changes to the show which helped to make it a flop.

Xanadu is about some of the same Greek muses who come down from the heavens to inspire men to achieve. They help the character, Sonny Malone to build a huge disco roller rink. Inspired by the muses to pursue his dream.

The movie was not a financial success and earned mixed to negative reviews. This movie was one of the ones that inspired the creation of the Golden Raspberry award to memorialize the worst films of the year. Xanadu was nominated, but it didn’t receive it.

I’m trying to remember if I saw the movie or not. I listened to Olivia Newton John and I liked her music. I think I heard a lot of songs from the movie, but didn’t see it. It was a PG rating and I know my parents didn’t let me see rated R movies until I was 17.

A rated R movie back then was nothing like what you would see in a rated R movie now. With the increased sex, violence, and harsh language that are seen as almost a normal part of life now, rated R movies would almost be rated X in the 80s. Back then, a little nudity and a little swearing is about as far as it went. And that was seen as risky.

Even though the film didn’t do so well at the time, the soundtrack hit double platinum status and there’s a cult following for the film. It’s appreciated for the goofy fun musical about achieving your dreams that it is.

W is for Walnut Grove

Do you know where Walnut Grove, Minnesota is? It’s in the southwestern part of the state. And, it is a real city! Sam and I drove through it a couple of years ago on our way to visit the Pipestone National Monument. It is still a small town with a population according to the 2010 census was 871.

Walnut Grove was developed after the end of the civil war when citizens were seeking new beginnings and were coming from the eastern parts of the country to settle. The city was named for the grove of black walnut trees located near the original town site. It was also known as Walnut Station. The first postmaster, Lafayette Bedal, built a shanty near the Chicago and North Western Railway right-of-way and called it Walnut Station in 1872.

The town was also known as a place where a young girl, Laura Ingalls (Wilder), before she became a well-known author, moved with her family in 1874. Her book, On the Banks of Plum Creek, talks about the move from Kansas to Walnut Grove. When the city was incorporated in 1879, her father Charles Ingalls was listed as the justice of the peace.

After some tough times, Charles moved his family several times to make ends meet. The family finally settled in De Smet, SD, where Charles and Caroline would live out their lives with their oldest daughter Mary, who had lost her eyesight due to Scarlet Fever, which they have recently concluded was really viral meningoencephalitis . Her book, The Long Winter, talks about the winter of 1880-1881, the second one that the family spent in De Smet and one of the worst ones in South Dakota history.

Laura Ingalls met her husband Almanzo Wilder here and they were married on August 25, 1885. They gave birth to Rose in 1886. She was their only child to survive to adulthood. They also had a son in 1889 who died two weeks later before he was even named.

The Wilders also had their share of tough times and did a lot of moving around like her family had done to make ends meet and to deal with Almanzo’s  health issues caused by diphtheria. They wound up settling in Mansfield, MO at a place they called Rocky Ridge Farm in 1894. In the custom-made farmhouse that Almanzo designed is where the Little House on Prairie book series was written. Her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane talked Laura into writing the books about her life journey and Rose became the editor. A museum is there now, which was created by Rose in her family’s honor.

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I grew up watching the television series, Little House on the Prairie, and I followed the story line of the characters. I also read all of her books. The television show, which was ultimately based on her book series, makes it seem like the Ingalls family lived in Walnut Grove for a long time. In reality, they only lived there a few years (1874-1879). They also lived in Wisconsin, Iowa and even South Dakota.

It was very interesting for me to read some information about the real Laura Ingalls Wilder and her life story. I think that the television series did a pretty good job, but I can see where some of the facts were changed to make the series work for television.

 

V is for Volleyball

When I think about volleyball, I think of being up at a cabin. Having two teams of random family members on either side of the net with the ball on a volley back and forth. Lots of laughter and just having fun.

The game was originally created by William G Morgan at a YMCA  in Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1895. It was first called Mintonette and was created for older folks who were looking for something athletic, but not as rough as basketball to play. The way I see the game played now, I’d think the players have become very athletic and sometimes things can get pretty rough out there.

The game is played by two teams of six players on a court inside, on grass or sand outside. It premiered in the 1924 Olympics in Paris as a demonstration sport and then was officially added to the program for the 1964 Olympics in Toyko.

One team will serve the ball to the other. They can hit it up to three times on one side before hitting it back over to the other team. Typically the first person will bump the ball, the second one will set it up for the third person to spike it over the net. Once they get it back over the net, a volley starts. The teams will go back and forth in this fashion until the ball hits the floor on one side. That’s how points are scored.

A couple of interesting facts:

  • It’s the second most popular sport world-wide after soccer.
  • Longest game in history was played in Kingston, North Carolina. It took seventy-five hours and thirty minutes.
  • Did you know that there’s an International Volleyball Hall of Fame in Holyoke?

There are many memorable game moments in all levels of volleyball. Game winning spikes, long hard fought games with tie breakers to win a medal, and the underdog team beating the favorite. But a memory that came to mind for me while I was writing this blog entry was from the movie, “Castaway” with Tom Hanks.  For those of you that haven’t seen the movie, he gets stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash. The plane was carrying some FedEx packages that were to be delivered the next day to their destinations. One of these was a Wilson volleyball. Hanks draws a face on it and turns it into a friend to keep him company. And he named it Wilson.

U is for Unicorn

A unicorn is legendary mythical animal that looks like a horse with a single horn coming out of its head. As a young girl, I was intrigued by the uniqueness of the unicorn. They seemed very mythical to me because I couldn’t go to the zoo to see them.

Rainbows were also a big thing when I was growing up. I remember having a three-quarter sleeve shirt with red sleeves with a rainbow on it. Where there is a picture of a unicorn, there seems to be rainbow somewhere in the picture too.

Time to get creative again. Story time!

Sally went for another walk in the garden. When she got over by the lilacs, she saw Lila appear.

“Hi Lila.”
“Hi Sally. Did you come to see me again?”
“I was hoping to see you again. I was looking for someone to play with today.”
“Well, let’s go to the Land of the Lilacs and see what’s going on.”

They went back through the gate and to the secret door in the garden wall. Lila waved her hands again and the secret door opened.

“Let’s go for a walk down to the creek,” Lila suggested, “there are pretty flowers there and we can wade in the water. It isn’t very deep and the water runs pretty slow this time of year.”
“O.k.” Sally replied.

They started out down a path that ran between two rows of lilac hedges. The sun was shining bright and Sally saw the reflection of some water off of the green grass.

“Look at the rainbow Sally!” Lila exclaimed.

Sally looked up where Lila was pointing and saw the most vibrant colors across the sky.

“You came at the right time,” Lila said, “it just stopped raining about ten minutes ago.”
“It’s so beautiful,” Sally replied.
“Yes, and the leprechaun will tell you that there’s a pot of gold at the end of them. I tried to go find one once.”
“Did you find any gold?” Sally asked.
“No, but I did see a unicorn.”
“What’s a unicorn?”
“It’s an animal a little bigger than a horse. It has a horn that sticks out of his head. They live in the woods by the creek. We may be able to see one when we get there.”

Once they got out of the hedges, the path started to run between prairie grasses and wild flowers. Sally felt the warmth of the prairie and it was very comforting. She saw a bunch of trees up ahead.

“Is that the forest?” Sally asked.
“Yes. And the creek isn’t too far into the trees. Come on, let’s run!”

The girls starting running down the path, giggling all of the way. When they arrived at the trees, Sally could hear the water running over the rocks in the creek.

“I thought you said the water wasn’t running very fast,” Sally said, “I can hear it running over the rocks.”
“That’s from the waterfall. By the time the water gets down here, it’s moving pretty slow.”

They followed the path as it wound through the trees. They saw a deer with her fawn and some squirrels running around on the ground and finally up a tree. When the girls arrived at the bank of the creek, Sally looked to her left and to her right.

“You were right, Lila, the water is moving slower here. But, I don’t see the waterfall,” she said.
“It’s that way,” Lila said and pointed to the left, “it is a ways down there. Do you want to cross the creek and see if we can find the unicorns?”
“Sure,” Sally replied.

The girls took their shoes and socks off.

“Oh no, Lila!” Sally exclaimed, “your robe is going to get wet.”
“It’s o.k. Sally, it dries quickly.”

They started making their way across the creek. There were a couple of places where the water went up to their knees.

“The water is kind of cold,” Sally said, “but it does feel good.”

They climbed up onto the bank on the other side. They sat down on the grass and put their shoes and socks back on.

“Let’s go this way,” Lila pointed to the left as she got up, “the unicorns are usually closer to the waterfall.”

The girls walked together down a path that ran parallel to the creek. The sound of the waterfall became louder and louder as they got closer to it.

As they rounded the bend, the girls heard some rustling coming from some of the bushes in front of them. All of a sudden, out came a big white horse and two little horses. Sally noticed that all three of them had a single horn coming from their heads.

“Are those the unicorns?” Sally asked.
“Be still Sally,” Lila said, “otherwise we’ll scare them.”

They both sat on the grass as still as they could be. The mother unicorn was showing the two babies how to eat the grass.

“Must be very young,” Lila said, “I was just here last month and the mama unicorn was still pretty fat. So the babies weren’t born yet.”
“Why was she fat before and not fat now?” Sally asked.

Sally sat up in her bed and shook her head. She didn’t know what Lila was talking about. Her Aunt Jennifer and Uncle Chad just had a baby that was delivered by the stork, her Mom had told her that. And she would know.