Monday, May 6, 2013

Reflections and Rants about the A-Z Challenge

My A to Z challenge posts are dedicated to GM, who once upon a time asked me to write an article on Hawaiian culture. My head said yes, and my heart said no. For various reasons, I didn’t do it, and it was a big “shoulda coulda woulda” in my life.

When I first decided to participate in the A to Z challenge, I was going to write about anything connected to life on Maui, but this old ghost surfaced from the past, slithered into my writing and took possession. It’s not the right format and is many years later, but life is like that.

Some rants during the A-Z challenge:

1. My theme of Hawaiian cultural symbols, fact vs. fantasy, cliché vs. reality was a bit like a corset, squishing everything into a very tight-fitted theme. I discarded two entire posts because they didn’t fit the theme as well as other topics.

2. Comments – I had a tough time keeping up with comments and still have some comments and blog hopping to follow up on. The difficulty with comments was compounded by Disqus, a plug-in to moderate comments. Some people didn’t see Disqus on their device or computer, but saw the blogger default commenting instead. So I had several comments lurking in the blogger comments section, and discovered them days later. Also, some people had difficulties with Disqus in general. I thought about removing it, but was afraid to open up another can of worms. Ironically, I originally installed disqus because Wordpress bloggers had a difficult time commenting on the default blogger platform!

Some people never saw this Disqus comments screen.

3. Time – Keeping up with the posts played havoc with my life especially in the third week. I managed to do some posts ahead of time for the first week, was keeping pace in the second week, and getting snowballed in the third week.

@damyantig on twitter had strongly suggested to write and schedule all posts ahead of time, so that April could be only for commenting, but I couldn’t write fast enough. My husband has since requested that I talk with him first before agreeing to any major blogging endeavor.  He was very supportive though, once he knew why I was living in the computer cave and he joked about my “square eyes” from the square computer screen. His great idea was to get ahead on my bread-and-butter job, then take a day off work to write as many posts as I could. This turned out to be a lifesaver. Other parts of my life fell by the wayside – the garden… hmmm, what garden?… the moving of the chicken coop… squawk squawk… I did still manage to participate in a few local events, usually with running out of the house with my hair all mussed up. There were an insane number of good festivals on Maui duringApril.   

4. Twitter – I’m still new to twitter and wanted to keep up with my twitter feed. That turned out to be pretty time-consuming and distracting as well, but also really exciting and fun. I’m really grateful to the following tweeps who did not participate in the challenge, but were very supportive: @teraeuro, @zen4zoey, and @yojudidoll. I also had some very strange conversations on twitter towards the end. 

 While this very strange "fried shave ice" twitter stream has nothing to do with the A to Z Challenge, I doubt I would have had this conversation without having participated in the challenge, which did increase my twitter followers by about 120 tweeps. On the other hand, I am also following about 120 more tweeps too. Go figure!
Part II of my very strange fried shave ice twitter conversation.

5. Keeping it short. I am the worst offender, although not the only one! I had longer posts and accepted the trade off of longer posts and fewer comments.  On the other hand, if I had had more comments, as delightful as they were, I would have felt really bad for not being more responsive.

Some great things I learned doing this challenge:

1. Inspiration from other bloggers. From Jennifer Poppy’s use of pinterest embedded images, I was able to incorporate some photos and still give credit to the original source. I also checked in with a couple of local photographers about using their images via pinterest, and they were supportive.

2. Using Wikipedia creative commons images, flickr creative commons images, and finding other sources of creative commons images. While I do have a lot of my own photos stashed away, often I couldn’t find one that really spoke a “thousand words.” So I relied heavily on outside sources.

3. Just asking people I know for information. I prodded two people about the fiber used in “grass skirts” and plumbed @swianecki for information on the native yellow hibiscus. The internet is great, but so is asking people who might know… you never know what you’ll find out. Even roaming on Facebook turned out helpful for research.

4. The value of being kind on twitter. Retweeting links for other A-Z challenge participants was often reciprocated and created a general feeling of camaraderie.

5. The more links and pics you have, the longer it takes to futz around with each blog post. 

I was also awarded the Liebster Award, um, I think twice, um three times. It’s exciting to get an award from a fellow blogger, and I will write a follow up post or posts sometime, but am wondering if that means I get to give the Liebster Award to 33 other bloggers? Mahalo to Ruby Wilbur, Rinelle Grey and Vicki Paulus for the nominations. 

It takes a global village to make the A-Z challenge happen.
I’d like to thank the following bloggers who were very supportive and left lots of comments or retweeted often:

Also, Arlee Bird was thoughtful to include me in the Quick Let's Do Something Now! A-Z post, which really did increase my Google Friend Connections. I’d been wondering about whether to remove GFC completely. @AprilA2Z was also very kind on twitter.

Honestly, I'm still catching up on comments and blog hopping, but my life is winding back down to normal.

As an aside, when my husband and I had the first real chat about this crazy blogging thing I was doing in April, he shook his head at my theme. I was explaining that I wanted to pick stereotypical Hawaiian images, and talk about what people associate with them.

“Like what?” he asked.

“Grass skirts, or hula or…”

“Sex.” he said.


“Sex. Grass skirts. They’re seductive. People think about sex.”

“Well, what about surfing?”



“Yeah, surfer boys are sex symbols.”

“Ok, what if I had written about taxes?”

“Yeah, sex.” He nods firmly.

“What?” I ask again. I’m stuck on this one syllable word.

“Sex. See, taxes are about paying money on earnings, getting money is about being able to take care of one’s needs and have status, to be more sexually desirable.”

“Ok… great, so you’re saying my entire Hawaiian theme was about sex.”


“Thanks honey.”

“No problem. Glad I cleared that up for you.”


  1. Hi, found you through the reflections list :) What a lovely theme for the A-Z!
    Suzanne @ Suzannes Tribe

  2. Thank you for including me on your list! I enjoyed reading your posts about Hawaii, and it made me wish all over again that I had been old enough to remember things when my family lived there. Hopefully one day I'll get to visit again.

    I had Disqus for a while on my blog because it's supposed to be so great for stopping spam and connecting commentors, but I had the same problems you mentioned and eventually ditched it. I hope you're able to get it to work for you.

  3. I agree -- all the comments and going to other blogs was overwhelming. By the time I got to the end, I was having trouble keeping up. But you made it all the way to the end. Congratulations!

  4. Just lovely Courtney thank you! And funny ha ha! re the conversation with your husband! Mine also had comments to make about my square eyes ... but it was fun in retrospect!

    Scott's Soul Stuff

  5. Congratulations of finishing, you should be proud. I would have had no idea there were some struggles behind the scenes. You couldn't tell from the posts. Keeping up with commenting was tough. For what it's worth I never had issues with commenting on your posts. Thanks for the nice mention. I'll be checking in.

  6. I thought you used a great theme that was eye-opening for many of us who don't know Hawaii. You covered a lot of ground in this post, so let me just say thank you for that and for being a part of the 2013 A to Z. Hope you'll be back!


    An A to Z Co-Host

    Tossing It Out

  7. Thanks for the mention. I really liked your theme and never once thought about sex. Let's face it, with the A to Z there really isn't time anyway. I am also still trying to get to others and spent the last two weeks doing extensive dental work so I am way, way behind. I learned so much from you and feel like I can enter a conversation about Maui and say something useful or at least have a better understanding.

  8. Courtney, mahalo for the shout out. :-) The dialog between you and your hubs reminds me of the kind between me and mine. Best kind to have. Don't concern yourself about the length of posts. Short or long, the posts seem to know what they want to be. Until later.

  9. Arlee, I am finally getting to reply back. I'm slowly catching up on comments. Thank you so much for commenting and sharing.

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