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#AtoZChallenge Reflections

April is now over so that means the end of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.  This year is the fourth year that I’ve participated and each year I have found it to be a challenge to post every day for a month.  Last year I also participated in the challenge with my other blog Next Phase In Fitness & Life. Oh my goodness, I was busy! Posting every day for 30 days on two blogs was almost an impossible task. April 2017 really was a nightmare. I was so relieved to make it to the end

This year, the theme that I chose was The Story Of Me. Due to my interest in family history and genealogy, I felt this theme was appropriate. Many family historians write a book about their family and/or a memoir about themselves. I have done neither. The Story of Me was to be a snapshot of my life.

I soon found that this was a difficult theme for me. Writing posts every day, and reflecting daily, on events that have occurred in my life, was both exhausting and stressful. As I started to write  each post, memories from my past, that I hadn’t thought of in years,  came flooding back to me. Usually, I don’t spend time dwelling on things that have happened in my life, but there was much dwelling done during April.

I should also say, that many happy childhood and teenage memories came back to me. Before writing these posts, I didn’t think that I could remember much at all from my childhood. These memories were a huge positive to me and I’m pleased that they are now recorded.

I also was very quickly over myself! I didn’t feel right about focusing on me every day, in every post. This is something that I don’t usually do and I felt that I was being very self indulgent.  I very quickly tired of writing about myself as the main topic of discussion. To me it seemed relentless and I was very much aware that it probably felt relentless to the readers also. Writing about myself in such a personal way,  also made me feel very vulnerable. I try to always be authentic, but vulnerability is not one of my strong points.

One thing that I did realise in writing the posts, was how important the word Acceptance has become to me. As I wrote about events in my life, I realised, that without thinking about it, I had accepted that things beyond my control had happened in my life. Realising this gave me a huge sense of freedom, that I no longer have to carry these things around with me. They definitely do not define me. I am who I am because of them, and I can now accept that.

I found the trickiest letters to write about were S, U and Q. When I couldn’t think of a word to go with a letter, I would go out walking and think about something else.  Every time, without fail, a word would just pop into my mind. I do plan to use this strategy in problem solving more often in the future.

Even though A to Z is a huge challenge, I do love it. I’m already starting to think about my theme for next year. Note to self: Choose a theme that brings you joy. That is my advice to me for 2019.

One of the things I love most about the challenge is visiting other blogs during April.  The genealogy blogs are a favourite, however, I love finding blogs on very obscure topics that I would never have imagined anyone would think to blog about. This is a highlight of the challenge for me.

During the challenge, other bloggers have commented on my posts and I wish to give huge thanks to those who did so. It really is great to get feedback, and to know that your posts are being read. Big thanks to all who left comments and showed your support. It’s very overwhelming and always unexpected.

Even though the challenge is now over, I am still checking some of the other blogs. Listed below are some of my favourites so far.

Anne’s Family History
Sizzling Towards 60
Cresting The Hill
Improve your Life, Improve your Mind.
Profound Journey
Genealogy: Beyond the BMD

These blogs are just a few of the many fabulous blogs that I read during the A to Z Challenge. I am still catching up with visiting participants and will share other blogs of interest in future posts.

2018 #AtoZchallenge participation badge


#AtoZChallenge Z is for Zzzzs.

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is an annual challenge put out to bloggers to publish a post from A-Z every day in April, except for Sundays. April 1 is A, and so on throughout the month. The theme I have chosen for 2018 is The Story Of Me


Z is for Zzzs. Or lack of them! For years I haven’t slept very well and I still don’t sleep well. Occasionally, I have just an odd night where I get 5 or 6 hours sleep, but usually it’s much much less. I think my body has become accustomed to just a few hours, as I don’t seem to get too tired, and seem to be able to operate on just a few hours of sleep these days.

In trying to solve the mystery of my lack of sleep, I’ve done quite a bit of research on the reasons for not being able to fall asleep and have experimented with my findings. But it doesn’t matter what I try, nothing seems to solve the problem.

This sleeplessness has been going on for about two years now.  I’ve tried everything that the experts suggest but have now decided to accept that it’s just the way I am. I don’t seem to need much sleep.

These days I’m happy to read in the middle of the night. But there are times that I’m so tired that I can’t read. But I still can’t fall asleep. You would expect that reading would make me tired after a while. But it doesn’t seem make any difference at all. I’m also an early riser. I prefer to be in the gym early, before the day gets started. Thankfully, the lack of sleep doesn’t seem to stop me from having an early start.

Other than medical conditions, the main causes for lack of sleep or insomnia are:
Concern about responsibilities
Being Overstimulated

The reading and research that I’ve done on the subject  have shown that there are ways to avoid insomnia.

  • Make sure the bedroom is quiet and without light
  • Try to go to bed at the same time every night to set your body clock
  • Turn off all screens and devices at least an hour before bed
  • Avoid exercise or any stimulating activity just before bedtime
  • Avoid napping during the day
  • Try not to drink liquids just before bed, causing you to wake during the night
  • Avoid alcohol just before bed time
  • Try not to have the evening meal close to bedtime
  • No caffeine in the evening

The above hints are recommendations for a good night sleep on many websites. They sound sensible. But I have to say that I have tried all of these, and they seem to make no difference at all to my sleeping pattern.

I am aware that I could go to a sleep centre for a sleep assessment, but I’m not that concerned at the moment. Just now, the lack of sleep isn’t causing any problems for me, so I’m happy to put up with it and hope that in the future the sleepless state might pass.

Do you suffer from sleeplessness? Or have you suffered from it and have found a solution? I’d love to hear how you solved the problem?


Thank you for reading my A-Z posts in the Blogging A-Z Challenge. I hope you’ve enjoyed my theme of ‘The Story of Me’. Please come back and visit again.


#AtoZChallenge Y is for Young

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is an annual challenge put out to bloggers to publish a post from A-Z every day in April, except for Sundays. April 1 is A, and so on throughout the month. The theme I have chosen for 2018 is The Story Of Me

Y is for the Young Me. I know I’ve talked about memories in previous posts, but they’ve mostly been about young childhood memories. Today I’ve been thinking of my memories of growing up as I went from primary school to being a teenager. And a painful teenager I was! I was not at all comfortable in my own skin, and didn’t enjoy my teenage years one bit.

I was much more comfortable when I was in late primary school, spending my weekends on my bike with the boys. There was an area near the river where we could jump our bikes over the hilly bits. In our childish way, we called this area the upsy downs. I loved this and was in my element here. We had never heard of BMX in those days. We just loved jumping our bikes and having fun.

We would ride our bike, or walk to school every day right up until the end of secondary school. And I mean every day. It didn’t matter if it was raining, off we would go, wearing a coat. I really don’t remember complaining about that. It was just what we did. It was very rare that we would be taken to school or picked up in the car.

My introduction to being a teenager is a very clear memory to me. For my 13th birthday, along with a couple of girlfriends, we went to the movies on a Saturday night. I’m fairly sure this was the first time I was allowed to go to the movies at night. Previous to this, we would go to the Saturday matinee. My birthday is at the end of January and it always seemed to be so so hot, which is why we chose to go to the movies. It was the only place in town with air conditioning. We certainly didn’t have it at home in those days. The movie we saw was South Pacific. I remember we sang those songs for days after.

When I left school and started to work, I was allowed to go to the local dances which were very tame, compared to a night out at a night club. But it was a few years later that night clubs came to Shepparton. There were also the Young Farmers Balls. As Shepparton is in a rural area, each locality would have it’s own ball. They were great nights and a new glamorous ball gown would be made for each ball. Of course, the girls all had their eyes on the very eligible and handsome young farmers who were there in large numbers. I suspect that was the attraction.

Please visit again to see my story unfold. 


#AtoZChallenge X is for Xtra Special Travel Moments

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is an annual challenge put out to bloggers to publish a post from A-Z every day in April, except for Sundays. April 1 is A, and so on throughout the month. The theme I have chosen for 2018 is The Story Of Me

X is for Extra Special Travel Moments and Events. In my past life, when I was married, I was fortunate to do quite a bit of overseas travel. I was a slow starter, however, as my first overseas trip was in 1996, when I was 42. By then the children had grown up and I went alone to visit my penfriend, Kate, in Santa Fe New Mexico. It was only a few months after my son died and Kate invited me over for a little time out.

Santa Fe was a huge eye opener for me. I hadn’t been expecting most of the buildings to be adobe style so I’ll never forget the amazing site from the plane as we came in to land. I spent about three weeks in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We did many day trips including a trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the State Fair.

Santa Fe New Mexico Usa Building House Sty

I’ve also been fortunate to have been to Canada three times, each time to Vancouver, travelling around British Columbia and Alberta. I’ve been twice in summer and once in winter, at Christmas time. There are many highlights of Canada that are unforgettable.

We went on the Rocky Mountaineer train trip on both summer trips. I’m sure, had it been operating in winter we would have gone a third time. It’s an amazing experience which I would recommend to anyone who is going to Canada. An added bonus is that the staff make you feel like you are royalty. It’s a very scenic and luxurious experience.

Banff Train Station Depot Train Engine Rai

The Rocky Mountaineer rail trip ended in the fairy tale town of Banff, situated in Banff National Park. I spent almost everyday bushwalking and looking out for bears in the woods.

On one of the winter trips, we arrived in Banff, late on Christmas Eve,as the snow was falling. Coming from Australia, this was a magical experience. We stayed that time at the iconic Banff Springs Hotel part of the luxurious Fairmont Hotel Group. This was a huge  extravagance, but we decided that it would be worth it, so skimped a little on other hotels during our travels, to be able to afford it. Again, the only word I can think of for Banff in winter is ‘magical’. At night there was ice skating with Santa and in the evening the young ones could sit by the fireside for story time with Santa. We also went on a sleigh ride through the snow with Santa. It was like living in a fairy tale for those few days. My only wish was that my children were still young and there with us.

Hotel, Alberta, Banff, Canada, Travel



I’m a hopeless skier, so we went snowshoeing at Banff in the winter. After I finally got the hang of it, I loved it, and did it most days we were there.


I can’t mention overseas travel highlights without a mention of San Francisco. I’ve been there three times and each time was fabulous. San Francisco is such a great tourist city with so much to do and see.  Last time we went, we walked and walked and just loved it again.

San Francisco, Market Street, California

When I turned 50, I went to London for six weeks, to stay with my daughter who lived there for about 3 years. In that six weeks, while Lisa was working, I walked, what seemed like every inch of London, seeing all the tourist sights and more. We did side trips on the weekends. We went to Switzerland and Paris just for the weekend. And took the train to Wales to cycle around the countryside of South Wales for about 5 days. As a keen cyclist this was a huge highlight. During my stay, I went to Edinburgh in Scotland, alone for a few days, to be a tourist and also to catch up with family from my family history, who I hadn’t met.

All of the experiences mentioned above are huge highlights that I will never forget.  This is just the tip of the iceberg as I could go on forever. I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to travel the world. It forms part of The Story Of Me.

Please visit again to see my story unfold. 


#AtoZChallenge W is for Wales

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is an annual challenge put out to bloggers to publish a post from A-Z every day in April, except for Sundays. April 1 is A, and so on throughout the month. The theme I have chosen for 2018 is The Story Of Me

Flag of Wales

W is for Wales. My  ancestry on my father’s maternal side is Welsh.   My great great grandparents John Taylor and Martha Lloyd were both born in the city of Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, Wales.  The Welsh translation of Haverfordwest is hwlffordd

On 25 August 1839, John and Martha were married in the parish of St. Thomas, Haverfordwest. John was 23 at the time of his marriage and Martha was 24. At the time of marriage, John  was employed by Sealyhams Estate, in the nearby parish of St. Dogwells. Martha was employed as a servant at Hermon’s Hill, a very large house in the parish of St. Thomas. Almost two years after their marriage, in June 1841, the couple with their two small children emigrated to Australia, and went on to have 10 more children. My great grandfather is William, their third son, and first child born in Australia.

Haverfordwest is a very modern city today.  But it is still known as a market town, and has been for centuries.  About 15 years ago my daughter and I rode our bikes around Wales for a week. Being very hilly and with unseasonably heavy rain fall, it was a difficult ride at times. But it was very beautiful. I loved riding along the country lanes and past the farmers milking their cows in old dairies that were almost on the road. It was seemed to me to be very much like stepping back in time.

We rode into Haverfordwest in rain that was probably the heaviest I have ever seen. I remember being freezing cold and drenched to the skin. We stayed at a very old pub, and I remember us hanging our clothes in front of the heaters hoping they would dry for the next day. I have never forgotten dinner at the pub that night. I’m not sure if that is because it was so good or because I was so hungry. My meal was haddock, a fish that I’d never eaten. When I think of Wales, I think of that meal.

The Welsh male choir were rehearsing that night. I could have listened to them for hours. Also, I couldn’t help noticing that most of the members of the choir had a very similar look to my father which I thought was a nice reminder of his heritage.


As I’ve been researching my family history over the years, I often see old newspaper articles featuring Haverfordwest. As a dog lover, the article below particularly took my attention.

from: The World’s News, Sydney, NSW, Saturday 22 September, 1906, page 17
A Population of Dogs

Probably the doggiest town in Great Britain is Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. It is an old world town and is absolutely dependent upon agriculture and the breeding of dogs for it’s income. There are many men in the town who live wholly, and make a good living, by breeding, buying and selling dogs.
Although the population is only 6000.  Yet 6000 dog licenses are issued annually, and there are also a large number of exemptions. Almost daily there are more dogs than people in the public streets, though valuable animals are never allowed to run loose.
Tramps and itinerant hawkers do not find Haverfordwest attractive, and unknown postmen often complain of torn clothes and bites, and occasionally letters are delivered in a very erratic fashion.
Rural postmen invariably carry stout cudgels, cyclists and motorists must slow down or risk broken necks, and compensation claims which would spell bankruptcy are continual.
Dustmen bind brushes always necessary, for overturned and scattered dustbins and dog fights in the public streets are common occurrences.
Haverfordwest dog breeders are known for their working terriers, show terriers, pointers, setters and spaniels, which are bred, reared, and traded daily for big sums through the fanciers’ journals, and go everywhere.

One fancier’s kennel sold recently by auction, realised £200 but £250 is not an extravagant price for a single doge, while £60, £70 and £80 are almost common. The quaint old town, with it’s mixed Welsh, English and Flemish population, is almost the hub of the dogs’ universe.

So it’s obvious that they love their dogs in Haverfordwest. As I have Welsh DNA, could this be where my love of dogs comes from? I would very much like to think so.

Please visit again to see my story unfold. 



Please visit again to see my story unfold. 


*marriage certificate WMXZ085869 25 August 1839, Parish of St. Thomas, Haverfordwest

#AtoZChallenge V is for Vacation

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is an annual challenge put out to bloggers to publish a post from A-Z every day in April, except for Sundays. April 1 is A, and so on throughout the month. The theme I have chosen for 2018 is The Story Of Me

V is for Vacation. An unforgettable childhood vacation at the beach. Each year in October, we would make what was in those days, a very  long drive to Rosebud, where we would stay for a whole week. Us kids loved those holidays at the beach.

We would often stay in a house that backed right on to the beach. They were different times then and we were allowed to go for a walk on the beach by ourselves,as long as we only went to the jetty and back.

Probably due to our excitement, there was one time that my sister and I walked right past that jetty without realising it. Before long, we were worried, we couldn’t find the jetty and walking back, we couldn’t find the entry to our house.

I would have been about 6 and my sister about 4 years old.  Before too long we both started to cry. Some people having a picnic called us over and asked what was the matter.

When we finally managed, between sobs, to say that we were lost,they asked us if we would know the house from the road. I knew that I would and told them so. The man then told us to get in his car and he would drive us down the Main Street and we would find the house.

Meantime my parents were of course, very worried when we didn’t get back. Dad searched the beach but couldn’t find us. He decided we must have accidentally taken the wrong pathway to the house and ended up on the main road.

So, he drove down the main road, expecting to find us walking along the footpath. Can you imagine his horror, when he sees us in a car going the other way and driven by a strange man!

Dad did a U-turn and chased the man down thinking he’d caught a child abductor in action. I can’t remember the conversation between Dad and the man, but it was quickly sorted out and we headed home to Mum.

This story was talked about and laughed about many many times over the years. Every time I think of Rosebud this memory comes back to me.

Please visit again to see my story unfold. 


#AtoZChallenge U is for Unhappy vs Happy

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is an annual challenge put out to bloggers to publish a post from A-Z every day in April, except for Sundays. April 1 is A, and so on throughout the month. The theme I have chosen for 2018 is The Story Of Me

U is for Unhappy. Or Happy? You choose. My philosphy in life is that you have a choice. You can choose to be happy. Or you can choose to be unhappy.  If you choose not to be happy then you have to face the negative consequences that brings. I know that sometimes we face dreadful things in our lives, that make the choice to be happy very difficult. And it’s not always possible to choose to be happy. But I think that if we strive to choose happy over unhappy, then we will generally be a happier person. For me, choosing to be happy most of the time makes it easier for me to accept the things that make sad. That’s not to say that I’m never sad. I certainly do have my sad moments, as most people do. But knowing I have that choice does help me to move on from the upset quite quickly.

I can only go by my own experience in this, and I do understand that for some, making this choice is extremely difficult. But after years of angst over one thing and another, I decided that I would prefer to choose to be happy. Happiness can open up new possibilities. Happiness  is much more bearable than unhappiness.  I find choosing to be happy is beneficial for my health. When I’m feeling sad, I don’t want to exercise. I usually just want to curl up in a ball and hide away from the world. Fortunately, these feelings don’t get on top of me very often.

On the occasions that I’ve chosen to be unhappy, my mood deflates, I start to think negative thoughts and generally I don’t feel well at all. These days, I can usually shake myself out of it fairly quickly, by giving myself a talking to and choosing happiness instead. When I do this, I notice, that my mood lifts immediately. I have more energy. I sleep better and I feel much, much better than I felt when I was unhappy.

I realise that our happiness is also determined by our genetics, our environment and our upbringing.  If you would like to read more about this, then I would suggest the research in The Science of Happiness as  a good place to start. There is no science at all in this blog post. I must stress that it is just my opinion.

I really think life is about choices. Not only in relation to happiness, but also for many other challenges life throws at us. It’s my opinion that we can choose which emotion to go with. I don’t say it’s easy in the moment of conflict or upset to choose to be happy. There are times when it’s impossible to do that in the moment. In those times, I try to just recognise my upset for what it is, be with it for a while. And all being well, then when the feeling passes, I’m usually able to choose to be happy again.

*The above comments are not advice, they are just my experiences on how I manage upsets. This may not work for many and I don’t suggest that it does. This is just my approach which forms part of  The Story Of Me,

Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin

"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." Cicero

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