Growing Old Gracefully

When the class with the above title was announced at our church and the teacher is everybody’s favorite older woman, Shirley, I signed up. I’ve never been a particularly graceful person, so I thought, hey, maybe I can do this aging thing gracefully. You know, finish well, not trip over the finish line, stick the landing.

My youngest grandson after achieving new heights. Looks like he stuck the landing.

Not that I feel old, I typically don’t. That is probably aided by the fact that my mom, who is 91, lives with us, so I am the youngest person in the house. She has demonstrated aging gracefully and has also let me in on some of the challenges of aging. This class combined with my mom’s fine example would be beneficial.

Last Wednesday, for the first of the three sessions, Shirley covered, or I should say taught us about, our aging bodies. (The next two sessions will cover spirit and soul, as we are made up of three parts.) I am a woman in her sixties, so I am painfully (no pun intended, I just can’t help myself) aware that there is something of a decaying nature going on. That is verified in 2 Corinthians 4:16 – “though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”

Eyesight starts going south around age 40. Some of my joints let me know when the weather is changing. And worst of all Alexa (our Echo) has begun to get confused by my commands to her. I have wondered if I’m slurring my words, but I’m also working on the theory that our Alexa is getting old, too. Perhaps Amazon wants me to upgrade her and they built that into her system. But I digress. People were designed to age, but we are also charged with stewarding the body that God has given us. In other words, we aren’t supposed to aid the deterioration that’s going on in our bodies, we are supposed to care for and strengthen them.

I don’t know about you, but I need reminders to do the things which I am supposed to do. The Bible does repeat itself a lot. I think that is because we tend to forget or become distracted. God knows that’s how we operate, so I’m thankful for the repetition.

Three days before that first class, I started feeling a twinge of pain on the lower lid of my left eye. The twinge became a pang. The pang became a pain. By the Wednesday meeting I had a sty the size of Rhode Island. And it was an angry sty – the kind that could scare small children, but I went to the meeting anyway. There would be no small children to frighten at that meeting.

By Thursday I had officially named the sty Rhode Eyeland. I figured if my entire body represented the 48 contiguous states, then my left eye was probably that size. When I saw the ophthalmologist on Friday, he said it was the largest he had seen in quite some time and added that it was “a dandy.” I told him I figured I’d go big or go home. Of course, when you have a sty the size of Rhode Island, you tend to want to stay home.

Dena (my daughter) and I caught up with each other on the phone on Friday afternoon. I had already sent her a picture of my eye when it was at its worst because she’s into gross things like that. In case you know Dena, you will understand why I made her give me her most excellent promise not to share that picture with anyone. To the best of my knowledge, she’s been true to her word.

She is also an encourager. She told me she was proud of me for going to, what she calls, the aging class.

Two things come to mind here:

  1. It’s kind of weird but okay I guess that she tells me she’s proud of me. I thought that was my job to be proud of her and her brothers, and I am, but whatever…
  2. I didn’t really care for the name Aging Class, but again, whatever…

I told her that one of the great things about being older is that you can go out looking like I did and it’s okay (except for frightening small children). Also, if I were to go anywhere with Rhode Eyeland, the aging class was the place to go. We don’t tend to major on that kind of thing. We have much bigger fish to fry than an eye with a sty.

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I had to include a picture of a sty for you. This one’s not nearly as messy as the one on my eye, which is doing much better with drops from the doctor. Photo Credit: freepik.com

Martha Stewart and Me

I enjoy both Southern Living and Martha Stewart Living magazines – that is when I actually sit down to read them. I was so proud of myself for taking the time to read my October magazines, looking for a recipe or household idea I could make my own. I was almost finished Southern Living when the mailman delivered my November magazines. This makes me a little crazy. How can time fly by so quickly that it’s time to read about November? Shoot, there were still 12 days left in October!

I set the new issues aside and committed to finishing up October before November 1 (my idea of goal setting). I even tried a new recipe from Southern Living. Here’s a picture of it. It’s beefy squash and pasta (or something like that). It had collard greens in it – that should have been a clue. Anyway, I cooked it and it looked just like the picture in the magazine.

I know there must be some collard green fans out there, but why is a mystery to me. Controversial cooking tip: avoid cooking them with ground beef.

The butternut squash was the star of the show. The greens were the horrible ending, which lingered through the night. Bitter endings are the worst. I threw the recipe away so I wouldn’t make that mistake again. It was a glorified hamburger helper.

But this post is more about Martha Stewart’s fine publication. I don’t relate to it as easily as I do Southern Living. SL has a down-home feel. Martha Stewart Living has an uppity, uptown feel, even though her uptown is her home in the Hamptons or her home in Maine or her other home in Maine. Still, I know there is much to be learned from Martha, and honestly, I do admire her.

But I can only go so far with her.

I live by my calendar. I keep one on the wall and one on my phone, which literally keeps me going in the right direction. Page 2 of Martha’s magazine gives us her calendar. Its subtitle is “Gentle reminders, helpful tips, and important dates.”

There are few similarities. Of course, I live in Orlando and she lives in one of the above three locations, so yeah. I get it. Plus, she’s Martha Stewart.

Thing(s) we have in common: Get flu shot.

Things we don’t have in common:

  • Pick apples and make cider
  • Move tropical plants indoors (She should have a Florida home, too. That would eliminate this chore.)
  • Have horses reshoed.
  • Prepare chicken coops for winter.
  • Today Show appearance.
  • Swap out summer linens for winter bedding (again, a Florida home is needed)
  • Speak at Horticultural Society of NY’s fall luncheon
  • QVC appearance – This is a close one. I made an appearance at CVS this month.
  • Take drone photos of fall foliage. This is my favorite.

This is a sampling of her month. Next month she has an entire day dedicated to checking and refilling the bird feeders. They must be some kind of humongous feeders. I have to refill mine every other day.

In contrast, my month had:

  • Art show meeting
  • 3 appointments for my mom
  • Furniture repairman
  • Grandsons’ football games
  • 3 church small group meetings
  • Writers group meeting
  • A weekend trip to Maine not to see Martha Stewart, though we took photos of the fall foliage (not with a drone)
  • 3 luncheons (I wasn’t receiving awards or the speaker)
  • 3 special birthdays – Happy Birthday to my son, Joe; my son-in-law Derek; and my grandson, Oliver, is turning one!

I think I like my calendar better. In fact, I know I do. But, thank you, Martha, for pointing out the need to be organized and balance work, friends, and commitments. Now that I have my November magazines and I realize that the holidays are upon us, I’ll need all the encouragement I can get. I’ll use her calendar for comic relief and to remind me to deep clean the oven on November 19 and polish the silver on November 20. (Thought I’d end this post with that little joke!)

Whatcha doing?

That’s my question of the day: What are you doing?

There are many ways to answer. Sometimes a short answer is easy – cleaning, working, etc. We can also be painfully honest with all the details, which most people really don’t want to hear, or go the other extreme and say – nothing.

Sometimes nothing is exactly what we need to do, but how do you do it? And, how do you do it well?

Maybe nothing could really mean that you’re …

recharging

resting

meditating

praying

thinking

slowing yourself down

All of these things are essential. When was the last time you took the time to do nothing? It can be very beneficial. I don’t want to brag or anything, but I’m getting better and better at doing nothing. I may start teaching classes on it.

What are you doing when you say you’re doing nothing?

 

A Couple of Things Jumped Out at Me this Week

A couple of things jumped out at me this week, they were both frogs. You may remember that I hate them. They seem to know it, too.

Frog #1 – It happened while taking the garbage out in the middle of the day. This is a time that should be frog-free. I am not on the lookout for these slimy green menaces when the sun is high in the sky. That’s my time to look for snakes sunbathing or passing through the grass with only their heads in view. You have to be vigilant down here in the Sunshine State.

Then it happened. I was almost back in the safe, frog-free zone that is my home. As I opened the door, my right foot ready to cross the threshold, something jumped on my left foot. I, in return, jumped, and was grateful that I didn’t fall; but something didn’t feel right afterward. The realization that I must have pulled a muscle made me hate frogs even more. Those aggravating amphibians! On the other hand, I was encouraged because a pulled muscle meant that I do indeed still have muscles. Of course, being the non-athlete that I am, I didn’t know for sure what I did. All I knew was my leg hurt and I thought a frog was attacking me. (Later Bob would give the diagnosis of a pulled hamstring. I felt like an athlete!)

I gained my composure enough to look for the culprit to make sure he didn’t come in with me. He was nowhere to be seen. I did see a flower which had fallen off of my hibiscus on the pavement next to me. I have to assume that the frog disguised himself. No flower would cause me such pain.

Flower or frog?

Frog #2 – A few days later this guy was lying in wait while I was clearing the pool deck as we prepared for Hurricane Dorian. Bob was out-of-town. Frogs seem to sense when he’s not around. When you’re preparing for a hurricane, you have to clear anything around your house that could become a projectile. This includes a lot of stuff when you have an outdoor room. The things that hang on your outside walls do not look as attractive when they fly through the air and break windows. Everything is potentially hazardous. Anyway, I was doing my due diligence just in case the storm arrived.

Before Bob left, he removed the one thing that I didn’t want to tackle, the large space heater. Not only is it heavy, but I knew it was really dirty and gross plus potentially it could have a frog or two hiding under it. I should have had him grab the life jackets that we hang on a column for our youngest grandchildren, because that is where Frog #2 was sleeping. He didn’t appreciate me waking him up either because he scurried (too lazy to even hop) up the column right towards me. I let out one of my embarrassing screams, lurched backward and nearly fell into the pool myself. This action aggravated my aforementioned pulled hammie.

This was a Cuban frog, an invasive species that can be as big as your hand and has eaten most of our native little tree frogs. That makes them even more hated. You now understand just how dangerous frogs can be.

 

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Bob has assured me that a pulled hammie takes a while to heal and has advised me to avoid straining it further by staying away from any place where frogs might be hiding. I guess I’m going to Hawaii.

 

Oh, Alexa!

I have loved our Amazon echo since day one. It makes a great timer, weather forecaster, player of music, list keeper, game player, shopper, and so much more. It even has a random number generator, which I used to choose a winner for my CREATIVITY WEARS BOOTS book give-away; but more about that later.

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Pic credit: freerange stock

When Alexa came out with smart light bulbs, I didn’t see the need. I’ve seen a lot of changes in my life. I used to have to get up off the couch just to change the channel on the television. Can you imagine! There is no way I’d want to go back to that kind of inconvenience. I do not, though, mind getting up to turn off or on a light. A girl has to get her exercise!

Then Christmas came and our son, Joe, gave us smart light bulbs. It was a great idea. He is always trying to smarten us up.

Bob toyed with them and really enjoyed tormenting me by turning them on and off randomly or changing their color. (I am very easily distracted.) Soon, we encountered problems with their compatibility with our upgraded Wi-Fi, so we put them in the drawer.

Joe has found that these bulbs have added simplicity to their lifestyle, so when he visited this summer, he installed ours and they work fine. There is something about being young that makes technology putty in your hands. (Sorry, Bob.)

I really love having Alexa turn on the pool lights which Bob installed over our pool. Before this breakthrough, we had to go all the way outside to turn them on. That involved about 22 steps, which I will have to make up for elsewhere.

Our lights on the bar in the dining room are the problem. There are two of them which are aptly named Light 1 and Light 2. I leave Light 2 (I think) on all the time once the sun goes down. Light 1 is only used if we have company and I want to balance the lighting. That may not sound like a problem to you, but I can never seem to remember which light is which. At the end of the day you will find me standing an arms’ length from the lights asking Alexa to turn off the one that isn’t even on.

Last night I heard Bob cracking up laughing when he heard me telling Alexa to turn off Light 1. He has suggested that we rename them, but I am bound and determined to figure this thing out.

Meanwhile, Alexa is getting a little snarky with me.

Me: Alexa, turn off Light 1.

Alexa: Are you sure you mean Light 1? It isn’t even on.

Me: Just turn off all the lights.

Alexa: A few things share the name lights. Which one did you want?

Me: Light 1 and Light 2.

Alexa: Hum, there is no light named And.

Me: Light 1, Light 2.

Alexa: What would you like me to do with Light 1, Light 2?

Me: Sobbing hysterically.

Alexa: Perhaps I should turn off all lights that are on or you could walk over and turn them off yourself.

Me: Bob, I’ll be a few minutes. I have to vacuum up some broken light bulbs.

*****

The winner of Robert Alexander Swanson’s new book, CREATIVITY WEARS BOOTS, is Doug Bonnette. I will make arrangements to get your book to you right away. Thank you to everyone who shared, commented, and began to follow my blog. You can order your own copy of CREATIVITY WEARS BOOTS by clicking here.

 

 

 

Taken!

I am sure you remember the riveting account of our new garbage can that I told you about in April (The Great Garbage Can Controversy). I shared from the heart about that can and even revealed some marital differences which Bob and I had over it. Does anyone else share such intimate details of their life with you?

Anyway, with that in mind, you can imagine the dismay that was mine when I went to the curb to add garbage to that cherished receptacle and found it missing last week. Seriously, is nothing sacred?

I called Bob at work to see if he was playing some kind of weird hide-and-seek game with me. I half expected to find clues hidden around the house as to its whereabouts; but he assured me that wasn’t the case. Someone stole our 45-gallon beauty.

We have had family in town for the last 3.5 weeks, so it was literally all cans on deck. We were taking garbage out two or three times a day. The paper products alone would fill a can in a day. Seriously, we had up to 20 people here daily. I had a spread sheet to help me remember who was coming and going and which nights we were cooking. It was intense scheduling.

The guest of honor was our 9-month-old grandson from Michigan, who was here for two weeks with his parents and brother. It was his presence that brought in the masses as nobody except for me had met him yet. He was very popular!

He also produced a lot of wet and otherwise soiled diapers. I don’t know what our deranged thief was thinking, but I have to believe that if they were looking for gold nuggets, those weren’t the kind of nuggets they found.

I drove the neighborhood looking for our can. I had a picture of it to help ID it. Alas, I did find one can at the curb that looked like ours, but the garbage inside didn’t smell like wet diapers so I left it alone. (Yes, I stopped and checked it out.)

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photo credit: dreamstime.com

My theory is that some kid stole it and brought it home as a prank. I theorize that he or she also took several others. I can picture their mom asking where did all these garbage cans come from and saying to return them. Alas, it would be impossible to remember where they all came from. Yep, that’s my theory. So now I’m looking for a house with 10 or 20 cans lined up along the side yard and a frustrated mom who answers the door. That is way more entertaining than someone going through our garbage to get “the dirt” on us.

 

 

Jobs I’ve Had, The Early Years – The Loud, The Scary, and The Embarrassing

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photo courtesy of Wikipedia

My first real job did not involve singing in front of people. But it had some of the same features. I worked at a Roy Rogers Restaurant. If you’re not familiar with the chain, it’s like an Arby’s except western style. They had great roast beef sandwiches and their Double R Bar sandwich was amazing. At least I thought it was when I was 16.

I don’t know how they make their employees dress now, but in the 70s I was dressed as a cowgirl. Cute enough uniform, but when you add the other requirements of the chain, it became downright embarrassing.

I ran the register and when someone came up to order, I’d have to say, “Howdy partner, can I take your order please?”

If that wasn’t bad enough, when they’d leave, I was forced to say, “Happy trails.”

I always thought of Roy Rogers as a sweet, caring cowboy. I guess this practice revealed his dark side. He would never have put Trigger through such humiliation.

Friends would come into the restaurant just to hear me say those words. That’s how you know who your real friends are – they’ll go out of their way just to mock you! I didn’t mind too much. At least there was no horse manure to clean up. That job didn’t last long.

I discovered I could make more money babysitting, so that’s what I did until I graduated from high school. Then I worked at various secretarial jobs including one on Andrews Air Force Base. At some point in this story, Bob and I got married and a year later moved to Florida where I worked for the Social Security Administration as a data review technician until I had my first child.

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Teletype Machine – Photo credit: quora.com

That job was more like an editing job. I examined all the forms and made sure they were filled out correctly and then I would sit at a teletype machine and input the data. It was a loud room. As I typed, yellow punched tape would roll out of the machine. At the end of the day, I’d call the main office in Baltimore and send the tapes through. I quit just as computers were being brought in to replace those noisy machines. It’s a wonder I didn’t lose my hearing.

Image result for fuller brush company free images

Photo Credit: americacomesalive.com

After two children had come along, I decided it would be nice if I could work from home and make a little extra cash. Somehow or another, I heard about Fuller Brush and became a door-to-door salesperson. I had a territory and on Saturdays Bob would stay with the kids and I would go knocking on strangers’ doors.

This was a little off-putting at times, but I sold a lot of brooms, brushes, and degreaser. I discovered that at times an unanswered door could be better than an answered one, because those opened doors could present opportunities that didn’t involve selling Fuller brushes.

The opened door of a small house which looked like it could use a lot of TLC was one such opportunity. Two small children answered the door. They must have been 3 or 4 years old. They opened the door and just stood there. I asked if their mommy was home. They nodded. I could see into the house. It was dark for a Saturday morning. All the shades were drawn but I could make out a figure of a person way on the other side of the house. It was as if she was sitting at the end of a long, dark tunnel with just a hint of light behind her.

She barely made a sound but I could see her raise her hand from the chair and beckon me to come in. I froze for a minute. It was like something out of a movie. Finally, she uttered the words, “Can you help me?”

This was way before cell phone days so I was on my own to stay or go. I’m not sure why, except it must have been the peace of God coming over me, but I entered the house. I gingerly walked over to her and she whispered that she was having trouble breathing. She could barely move and wanted to go to the hospital but couldn’t afford an ambulance and her husband could not be reached at work.

I used her phone to call my husband. I filled him in, loaded her kids and her into the car and took off for my house for Bob to watch the kids.  At the hospital they were concerned that she may have had a heart attack, but she was given a diagnosis of pleurisy.

Through this difficult day, she and I discovered that we were both Christians. Long story short, we spent several hours together at the hospital. By the end of the day she and her kids were back in their home with her husband.

How about you? When you think back on the jobs you’ve had, have you had any unusual encounters with people? Feel free to share in the comments.

 

This is Post #27 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.

A Letter of Apology to My Adult Children

Time to write a letter

Over the last few weeks, I have heard a few rumblings from my kids about my current rate of blog postings. I explained, in case they missed it, that I am doing a challenge. Here are some of the comments, which have fueled me to write a letter to my kids.

“Mom, once a week was fine. I am happy to read your WEEKLY blog posts. Weekly. Around Day 6, I knew I was in trouble. How long will this thing go on?”

“You’re killing me!”

“My in-basket is overflowing.”

“You’re thinking about blogging about (fill in the blank). I can see it in your eyes.”

“You’re obsessed.”

Alright, that last one was my husband, but you get the point. So, here goes:

 

Dear Kids,

I know this past month has been difficult for you. How challenging it must be for you when every day there is something to read that your mother wrote. Your mother – the one who loved you before you were born. The one who carried you for nine long months, six of which involved a lot of puking. The one who helped you with your homework and drove you all over town. The one who watches your children so you can go out with your spouse. Sigh.

I am sorry for the pain and suffering which this Ultimate Blog Challenge has caused you and I want you to know that I understand. You want to support me, yet you feel overwhelmed.

There is also the matter of the monthly test about my blog content which I require you to take. I know there’s a lot of pressure to do well, so for this month, and this month only, I will make your test multiple choice instead of essay. I will also give you an extra week to turn it in to me for your grade.

Happy Reading!

Love,

Mom

 

And, to my regular readers who have been with me for a while, thanks for sticking with me. I appreciate you.

 

This is Post #23 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.

There are Nine Sides to Every Story

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Enneagram – Photo Credit: 1001freedownloads.com

I was on Facebook the other day and my friend, Chris, asked for comments about the Disney Parks based on enneagram. There were 56 comments, including mine which was: “What is an enneagram?”

There were quite a few responses to that, too, making me feel a little like a dinosaur, but then I remembered that I was older than everyone who answered and decided I didn’t care. I did want to know what everyone was so excited about though, so I looked it up.

You probably already know, but in case you don’t, it’s a personality test that uses a nine-sided figure in a particular system of analysis to represent the spectrum of possible personality types. In other words, “Mwa, mwa, mwa, mwa, mwa.” That cleared it up.

Then I thought to myself, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

That thought was quickly followed by my remembering that I am doing a 30-day blog challenge, so I looked for a free test and hoped for a blog post.

The answers to so many of the questions sounded like both would equally apply to me or neither would apply. I felt like I was getting my eyes examined – does this look clearer? – how about this? I thought I’d go out of my mind. I found myself wanting to get off that crazy train, but I played along for your sake, dear reader.

I would like to tell you exactly what the results of the test were. I’d like to tell you that it opened up my mind to the kind of person that I am. I’d also like to tell you that I should have gone with my first instinct.

I haven’t really cared what classification I am personality-wise for a few decades. It’s one of the benefits of getting older. These kinds of tests have been around since before the internet, but now it’s so easy to take one and account for your actions by your type. For me, taking it was annoying. I’ll tell you why. In my answer there may be a hint for you enneagrammers as to what motivates, or inspires, or drives me to be the way that I am.

The perfectionist in me couldn’t handle it when both answers equally applied and I was still forced to choose only one. We’re talking about degrees of difference that were so small even my eye doctor would struggle.

So, I‘ve decided that I’ll be content with myself and my unconscious patterns. I’ll also try to enjoy the fact that we can be friends even if I don’t know what number I am with all its wind and wings. My results revealed three numbers that were identical. At that revelation, I yelled at my computer, turned it off, and took a nap.

It’s great that we don’t look at life through the same lens. That way we can tease each other, I mean learn from each other.

 

This is Post #13 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.

Whole 30 for Writing – Where you want to gain not lose

Every day is Blogging Day in April

I’ve been asked if I take the weekend off from blogging. In light of the current challenge, which I have dubbed the only Whole 30 (crazed writing, not crazed weight loss) I will ever do, I understand the question.

My kids will get particular enjoyment out of the question as they know I’ll take a day off with great ease. The real question is – take a day off from what? But I’ll cover that in future posts.

I know writing is what we’re focusing on here, but it’s only part of the – what’s that math thingy I’m trying to think of, oh yeah – equation. (Again, I’ll check in with my engineer later to make sure of this.)

I was geared up for this blogging challenge. I had several drafts in the works and ideas were flowing, which I greatly believe was God giving me the green light on this. Half of my April will involve having family in from out-of-town, so sneaking away to write may become a challenge, especially when my grandchildren from North Carolina arrive, but I’m also confident that where grandchildren are, blogging ideas flow.

Days 1 – 7 were relatively easy. Finding something like LEGO Jesus was the kind of thing that primes my writer’s pump. But my MO has been to finalize the day before I post. Yesterday was Sunday and I discovered I should have used Saturday better. After church Bob and I went to an usher’s meeting/game afternoon. Again, if you ask me to play a game, my writing will not even enter my mind. We were the last to leave, too, putting us home at 5:30, just in time for Bob to fix dinner.

I’m on a crazy diet right now, so if Bob doesn’t cook, he doesn’t eat anything interesting. He does this out of love for me and support for my weight loss endeavor. Thankfully, he likes to cook.

By the time dinner was over and I did the last of the dishes, I realized that due to circumstances, I hadn’t had any time with Bob for the last two days, so I took the night off from blogging. I even resisted using my devices except for a facetime with our granddaughter, Layna, who turned 7 on the 7th and was pretty pumped about her golden birthday.

Because I am driven to perfection regarding this Whole 30, it was surprising and delightful to me when I realized that I was okay with a quiet night with my husband instead of leaving him to himself while I wrote. And then this morning, our blog-meister Paul asked about taking a day off, so now you know the rest of my story. Sometimes you just have to let it go. When I return to my normal schedule of a once-a-week post, I won’t typically write on Sunday. But I have no hard and fast rules. If inspiration hits me, I’ll pull away and at least jot down a few notes, night or day.

I hope you had a restful Sunday and thanks for reading, especially during my Whole 30!

 

This is Post #8 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.