Category Archives: A-Z Challenge 2023

A to Z 2023 Challenge Reflections

My mother in the garden

This is my tenth completed A to Z Challenge. This April I went through the alphabet using snippets about my family through the generations. I had all of my posts written before the challenge started.

I also did National Poetry Writing Month, so I wrote a poem a day. They were quick poems, which I posted on my Ruff Draft poetry blog.

I mostly read the same blogs everyday, trying a few new ones as we went on. I found the directory to be be very frustrating as many of the links took me to places where the person had not done the A to Z Challenge beyond signing up. I did find several new ones. Blogs I followed were:

Atherton’s Magic Vapour
Anne’s Family History
Backsies Is What There Is Not
Black & White
The Curry Apple Orchard
The Dreamgirl Writes
Family history across the seas
Hot Dogs and Marmalade
Jemima Pett
The Multicolored Diary
My Ordinary Moments
The Pensive
Pepper Route
Sascha Darlington’s Microcosm Explored
Stories I Found in the Closet
Tell Me Another
Women’s Legacy Project

I did visit more blogs and some got lost during the month if I didn’t remember to add them to my list. As I do my Reflections tour, I hope to refind them!

You can find an index to my April posts here A to Z Challenge 2023

Thank you to everyone who makes the challenge work and to everyone who read my posts and to those who commented. I tried to visit back and comment all of you back. And to my husband Jim who proof reads my posts. Although I do sometimes change up afterwards, so he’s not to blame if some errors creep in!

I’m already thinking about A to Z for 2024. I even have a previously unused Z!

#AtoZChallenge 2023 Reflections


This is my tenth A to Z Challenge. My first was in 2013, but I missed 2021. This April I am going through the alphabet using snippets about my family through the generations.

Winslow Shreve with daughter Anna about 1962

My uncle Winslow Shreve was Canadian. He pronounced the letter “Z” zed instead of zee. My sister Pearl and I found it interesting. And it gave me a new “Z” word!

Winslow was a pharmacist. He was married to my father’s sister, Anna who was also a pharmacist. At one point, when we were small, he also had a gas station. I remember while my mother was getting gas and chatting, Pearl and I climbed up on the big piles of snow that had been removed from the area. My mother pointed out that we were knocking the snow back down and to stop.

One summer I worked in the pharmacy with Winslow at North Detroit General Hospital. It was 1965 and my duties included delivering medications around the hospital and (my favorite) making salves by mixing the ingredients he gave me.

Years later, whenever I drove to Detroit from Idlewild, I would go by and talk to Winslow and Anna. They always had good family stories about the old days, their wedding, extended family, growing old.

Winslow died in 2010 from lung cancer after we had moved to Atlanta. I remember at Christmas time before he died, he and my aunt called and we talked for a short while. That memory still makes me tear up.

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter Z

Y – A YEAR for Tulani – 1996

This is my tenth A to Z Challenge. My first was in 2013, but I missed 2021. This April I am going through the alphabet using snippets about my family through the generations.

My daughter Tulani homeschooled for her middle and high school years. At that time the Baldwin Schools allowed homeschoolers to participate in sports and some other school activities. This is an article she wrote for our family newsletter Ruff Draft about her senior year.

Tulani’s Year

by Tulani Williams
From The Ruff Draft – Spring/Summer 1996 page 10

Tulani in Houston, TX

This is my senior year in high school, and I can say that this year I did it all. I played varsity basketball, volunteered at the veterinarian’s clinic, was a cheerleader for boys basketball, took a trip to Houston, am running track for the fourth straight year and I even attended the Prom!

In the fall, I was on the varsity basketball team. I played shooting guard. Although I am not much for shooting or dribbling. This was my first time ever playing organized basketball and at first it was a little confusing. All the new plays and all the baskeball jargon, but I caught on. We had a rough season. Lots of girls quit and by the last game there were only six of us. The referees were a constant problem. Wherever we went, they seemed to be against us, even on our home court. We lost a lot of games that we should have won, but at the end of the season we picked up our game and played like we knew we could. We blew out a team that had beat us by more than twenty points the last time around. We even made it to the second round of the playoffs. This is something that a girls team from Baldwin, hasn’t done in awhile. But then the referees got to us and we lost the second round. I enjoyed myself this season and I’m glad that I had a chance to play.

Since I enjoy being around and working with animals, I am considering a career in veterinarian medicine. I had the opportunity to observe at the clinic where I take my dogs. The staff at the clinic was more than happy to have me hanging around. My first day I witnessed a spaying. The operation was preformed on a dog. She was a small white toy poodle. She was frail enough when she was fully alert and trying to bounce off the table. After she had been sedated and laid out on the table, she looked near, if not completely, dead. The doctor started the surgery, telling me that if at any point I felt uncomfortable I should leave. I assured him that I was fine. Well, it turned out that the combination of smells, the little dog laid out spread eagle on the operating table and the whole idea of cutting into a living animal and taking out her insides, was a little too much for me. I felt faint and quickly moved away from the operating room.

After that first incident I got used to the whole process. The smells no longer made me nauseous and I even had the opportunity to help with some of the operations. I didn’t get to do any of the cutting or anything as major as that, but I did get to hand the doctor the suture material and other tools. Having this experience was very good for me. If I do decide to major in Veterinarian Medicine, I will already have an idea of what I will be working towards doing.

During the winter I was on the boys basketball cheer leading team. I was, as several of my friends told me, the worse cheerleader Baldwin had seen in awhile. I’m sure that had something to do with the fact that I didn’t really care about what I was doing. I never really took the time and effort to perfect all the cheers. And it was impossible for me to look at cheering as a sport, like some of my teammates did. Because to me it just wasn’t.

The first two weeks in April, I had a chance to go down to Houston, Texas. I visited my grandfather Jaramogi, and my sister Ayanna. I stayed with Ayanna. While I was there I went to class with her. She is attending Texas Southern University. Her health professor was a real idiot. He told the class that it was just as good to drink six cups of pop a day as it was to drink eight cups of water. Or, he said, if you had a gallstone, perhaps it was better to just drink beer! Her English professor was sort of a ditz, she treated the class as though they didn’t know anything at all, but it wasn’t really their fault…after all, most of them were black. Her math professor was good. She explained things well and I understood what she was saying.

While I was there, I also went to a movie with my grandfather. I don’t remember what it was we were supposed to go see, but we saw Fargo. It was sort of a sick, psychopath, murder, comedy thing. We all agreed it was the worst movie we had seen in awhile.

All in all, I had a great visit. It was hot, but they all told me to come back in June, and the tree’s were all out. Houston seemed like a nice enough place, aside from the horrible smog on overcast days. It was very nice to see my grandfather and sister.

Tulani’s prom photo

Then, I went to the prom. Up until the day of the prom I really had no plans to go. Then at four thirty (prom started at eight) a female friend called me and asked if I would go with her because she really wanted to go and her date had backed out at the last minute. She really wanted to go, but didn’t want to go by herself. I told her that if she could find me a dress I liked then I would probably go. She called me back and had two dresses she’d found. She assured me that if I didn’t like them, she would find more. One was an awful bright red thing. It was short with two odd ruffles and a tight bodice with spaghetti straps. The other was a nice dress, it was the one I wore. It came down to about the top of my knees. It was black and white with a white ruffle. Prom itself was quite boring. Mostly people just came and took pictures of each other and sat around trying to look glamorous. My friend and I both decided as we drove home that we had just wasted quite a bit of time and we agreed one thing for sure, we wouldn’t be going back next year!

Tulani running track

Now I am running. This year the girls team is very small. There are six of us total, but only one of us is really there to run. That would be me! The rest of them are there because they have a boyfriend on the team or there is a guy they like on the team and they want to keep an eye on him. So on the rare occasion that they do come to practice, they usually sit around on the field and discuss their problems. Needless to say I am concentrating on my personal events this year – the 100 and 200 meter dashes. I am supposed to be on the 400 relay, but I refuse to run with girls who refuse to practice. We have already had two meets and I am undefeated in my personal events. The girls relay came in second at one meet and first at another. I ran anchor (last) in both meets. Our next meet is a big one and hopefully the weather will cooperate and it won’t be canceled. This year I am hopefully going to be competing in the state meet. There is a good chance that I will be all conference and first in our regional meet. I am spending a lot of time working on my starts and trying to cut down on my time in the 100. My personal best is 12.3 seconds. If it would get down just a little warmer and the wind would die down, I should be able to run at least a 12.0 flat.

Next fall I will be going to Central Michigan University.

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter Y

X – XMAS Memory – 1975

This is my tenth A to Z Challenge. My first was in 2013, but I missed 2021. This April I am going through the alphabet using snippets about my family through the generations. In a few cases I took an old post and updated it with new information.

Kristin and Jim

Christmas Trip From Mississippi to St. Louis – 1975

We moved to Simpson County, Mississippi in November of 1975.  Jim was in charge of the Emergency Land Fund’s Model farm.  Our daughter Jilo was 5 and Ife was 2.5.  I was 29 and six months pregnant with our third daughter Ayanna. Jim was just about to turn 31.  This was before we had goats, chickens or rabbits.  The greenhouses weren’t in production.  I remember several of the farmers Jim worked with gave him gifts of money for Christmas.  It didn’t amount to more than $30 total but it paid for all the gas we used.

We decided to drive up to share the holidays with Jim’s family in Rock Hill, MO.  They lived at #1 Inglewood Court, right outside of St. Louis. 17 year old Micheal, 15 year old Monette and 12 year old Debbie were living at home.

We made the 8 hour trip in the little gray Volkswagen bug that came with the job. We took food to eat on the way, left early and drove straight through.  I don’t remember anything specific about driving up. As I recall we got to St. Louis before dark.  Jim’s parents gave us their bedroom.  They were always so nice about that.  Jim and the kids and I shared the pushed together twin beds.  There weren’t presents for us but Jim’s mother looked around and came up with some. I don’t remember what she gave Jilo and Ife but she gave me two copper vases and Jim two glass paperweights. I don’t remember what we took as gifts.

Three of Jim’s brothers – Micheal, Chester, Harold. St. Louis 1975

I remember going to see Jim’s brother, Harold at one of his jobs.  He had several, just like his father always did. We also stopped by his studio where he made plaster knick knacks.  Or was it cement bird baths?  Or both?  There was a Salvation Army or Goodwill store nearby and we stopped and I got some shirts for the kids and a dress that Ife wanted.  Mostly we stayed around the house and visited.We stayed until New Years Eve and left in the evening.  There is never enough food or time to prepare it for the return trip. We stopped at Howard Johnson’s somewhere on the way home and I remember getting fried oysters. It was cold and dark and clear. There were stars. And there are always trucks. We listened to the radio and talked and maybe sang some.  The kids eventually fell asleep in the backseat and we welcomed the New Year driving through the night.

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter X

W – Flyin’ WEST

This is my tenth A to Z Challenge. My first was in 2013, but I missed 2021. This April I am going through the alphabet using snippets about my family through the generations.

Pearl Cleage is my sister and I remember seeing this play when it was first produced in Atlanta. I believe I tried to warn the actors at one point to beware the villian. Of course they ignored me, but he got his come-up-ins. Below is part of an interview with Pearl by Arts Atl talking about how she was visited by Miss Leah while driving and came to write Flyin’ West. You can read the full interview at the link.

ArtsATL: In the program notes for the 20th-anniversary production of “Flyin’ West,” you write that the origin of the play was hearing the voice of the character “Miss Leah” speak to you. Could you talk about that moment?

Pearl Cleage: Well, I’d never really had that kind of experience before. I’m not a mystical kind of writer where I go someplace and the voices of my characters speak to me. I was driving down the freeway, and I heard a woman’s voice talking and it sounded like she was sitting in the back seat of my car. She was talking about having had 10 children in slavery, and they were all sold away. She was talking so clearly that I actually turned around to see if someone had gotten into my car while it was parked. And of course there was no one there. I was trying to write down what she said and drive on the freeway, which was not a good idea. I got off the freeway at Piedmont and International Boulevard and pulled into a little parking lot and just wrote down what I remembered she had said, and it made its way into the play almost exactly as I’d heard it.

It was amazing to me, because I’d never had that experience before and because I had not had an interest in these settlements or that part of American history. I had known something about the settlements but hadn’t really been trying to dig into that part of history. But I was like, “I’m enough of a mystic to know a sign when I see one.”

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter W

V – VICTORIA Interviews

This is my tenth A to Z Challenge. My first was in 2013, but I missed 2021. This April I am going through the alphabet using snippets about my family through the generations.

This article is taken from my Grandmother, Fannie Turner Graham’s scrap book. It was printed in the Detroit Tribune on November 24, 1945. Victoria’s parents, James and Margaret McCall, were the owners and operators of the Tribune. My grandmother wrote the date and my mother wrote the identifying information. James McCall and my grandmother, Fannie Turner Graham were first cousins. Their mother’s were Eliza’s daughters.

The Detroit Tribune Nov. 24, 1945. Transcription below. My mother wrote on the right. My grandmother on the right.

In Detroit, Saturday, November 17, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, widow of the late president, held a press conference in her suite at the Hotel Book-Cadillac, before she spoke to an audience of more than one thousand $5-a-plate guests who attended a luncheon sponsored at the hotel by the Michigan Citizens’ committee. Mrs. Roosevelt is shown conferring with Victoria McCall Thomas, of the Detroit Tribune staff, who asked the former First Lady several pertinent questions relating to the nation’s race problem, all of which Mrs. Roosevelt answered in her customary democratic manner. She declined, however, to comment upon Detroit’s recent mayoralty election, in which numerous race-baiting tactics were used, on the grounds that as an outsider she was not sufficiently informed on local situations to express an opinion; but Mrs. Roosevelt did state that she was very pleased with New York’s city election, since the man she had backed is now mayor. Mrs. Roosevelt had just come from the dedication of Roosevelt college in Chicago, named in honor of her husband, which she lauded for the liberal democratic principles upon which it was founded.

1940 Census – James and Margaret McCall and Family
An “At Home” In Honor of Chicago Visitors

Detroit Free Press 20 May 2007, Sun  •  Page 27
#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter V


This is my tenth A to Z Challenge. My first was in 2013, but I missed 2021. This April I am going through the alphabet using snippets about my family through the generations.

Pearl with an eggnog mustache, my mother, me posing with our goblets of eggnog about 1963.
eggnog recipe
.Detroit Free Press, 18 Dec 1977, Sun  •  Page 73 I can’t believe we used all that sugar!

This was the eggnog we drank during the Christmas/New Year holidays. I got the recipe from my mother. When I found it in the Newspaper, it is dated 1977. We were drinking it during the 1960s. I looked in my mother’s Women’s Home Companion Cookbook and found …

This recipe is what we must be drinking in these photos! There was no whisky or cognac brandy added.

Women’s Home Companion Cook Book page 95
My mother and me playing Stratego and drinking eggnog.
#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter U


This is my tenth A to Z Challenge. My first was in 2013, but I missed 2021. This April I am going through the alphabet using snippets about my family through the generations.

Transcribed from the sermon “On the Origins of Christianity”, December 8, 1967, by my father Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr. You can listen to this excerpt below.

Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr. about 1950 Springfield, MA

I can remember Christianity never meant a whole lot to me when I was a child. I went to ordinary Negro churches where not too much was being said and not much of anything was being done. My experience with black Christian churches in my childhood was a very disillusioning experience. I wondered why anybody wasted time Sunday after Sunday going into the building and sitting there listening to utter nonsense that had no relationship at all to the lives of the people who were sitting there. It seemed there had to be some tremendous traditional hold upon people to make them continue to go in.

The church I went to was a Presbyterian church here in the city and they had a series of preachers, as I can understand, it was not too prosperous a church at that time, and I can’t remember a one, not a one out of a whole series, a whole childhood that ever had anything to say on a Sunday morning that would make black people come in and listen, that had any message for the world in which they lived. That had anything to do with the problems that they faced. And yet it’s important that we realize that we tend to accept this kind of thing, this is the church. We don’t expect, really, as black people, we don’t expect the church to say anything. We don’t really expect the church to mean anything. We don’t really expect the church to be anything. When we come into church, we expect to get the warm feeling of tradition. Maybe it calls to mind a church down home some place where we used to be young and have friends. It calls it to mind and this gives us a sort of a warm glow which bathes the innocuousness of the minister and the off-beat of the choir into something that we think is pleasant, but it has very little to do with what we are actually getting in the church. It’s some ancient memory that we bring to the experience of worshiping Christ in church today.

Now it’s important, I think, that we realize this. I know during my childhood Christianity had very little meaning. My mother talked about it all the time. Obviously for her it had meaning and obviously it was painful that for me it had no meaning. For most of her children it had no meaning. And she couldn’t see that the church we were going to had anything to do with it. We were supposed to believe. Now that had nothing to do with the church, just you were supposed to believe. Everybody’s supposed to believe. It’s the only way you get to Heaven.

I remember the first time I began to have any conviction that the church could in any way be meaningful, was when one evening I just happened to stumble into the Plymouth Congregational Church when the Rev. Horace White was preaching. And he was the first minister I had ever heard who made the slightest effort to make sense. I was amazed to sit in a congregation and hear a minister who was trying to say something. He didn’t always succeed, but he was always trying to say something. And for him Christianity had to have some relationship with the world. And so, I listened to him. And I said Christianity really isn’t as empty and meaningless as people everywhere would lead children to think. It is possible for an individual to take the Bible and try and apply it to the world. To try and see in the Bible a revelation, an epiphany to see God revealed in the Bible. It’s possible. And I only came to believe it because I saw a man trying to do it. Now he fell far short of understanding how the Bible really relates to the lives of Black people because he was at the beginning of a long process. I mean, much has happened since he tried to preach sense to a black congregation. And we’ve gone through a lot of experiences since then. We are different now than we were ten, fifteen years ago, twenty years ago when he was trying to preach sense basing it upon the revelation of God through Jesus Christ. But I think back now how many things he didn’t understand, that I didn’t understand. I decided at Plymouth church to enter the ministry and I went to a seminary. 


You can hear the whole sermon and see his sermon notes in this post – On The Origins of Christianity.

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter S


This is my tenth A to Z Challenge. My first was in 2013, but I missed 2021. This April I am going through the alphabet using snippets about my family through the generations.

Michigan Chronicle, February 8, 1947. Front page

“Hugh, Gladys and Anna Cleage of Scotten took their share of places in the annual city ice skating meet which was held at Belle Isle last Sunday afternoon.  Anna won first place and a gold medal in the Senior girls’ novice; Gladys, third in the same event and  a gold medal.  Hugh competed in the men’s 220 and two-mile events.”

Years later, my aunt Anna told me that the story was wrong. She actually came in third and Gladys won the race.  She remembered taking an early lead in the race but soon falling behind as Gladys easily over took her.  One reason might have been that Anna kept looking over her shoulder to see Gladys smiling as she gained on her. They learned to skate at the  Northwestern High School skating rink, which was a few blocks from their home on Scotten Avenue. Years later, my sister and I also learned to skate there.

The Michigan Chronicle, February 8, 1947

After being asked how two gold medals were given, I looked for more news articles that would set the record straight. Unfortunately, I found none. I can only suppose that the Chronicle got it wrong and only 1st place winner, Gladys Cleage got a gold medal. Third place winner Anna Cleage should have received a bronze metal.

I did find two articles, one tells that there was a meet. The other mentions a Northwestern High School student who won an earlier national meet.

Detroit Free Press, Sun, Feb 02, 1947 · Page 1
The Detroit Tribune, Sat, Feb 01, 1947 · Page 10

John James, Junior, of Northwestern High School, became the first Negro ever to win a championship in a North American or nation meet when he won the Intermediate two-mile event in the DETROIT NEWS sponsored North American Meet at Belle Isle on Sunday. James, a 16-year-old Northwestern Junior, is also a bike racer of local repute.

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter S


This is my tenth A to Z Challenge. My first was in 2013, but I missed 2021. This April I am going through the alphabet using snippets about my family through the generations.

Qigong on the beach. Jim leads, me in the blue jacket and our daughter Jilo.

In 2015 our family celebrated the New Year on Jekyll Island. Above three of us are doing qigong on the beach. I was overjoyed to find a new “Q”. These days my husband and I do 15 minutes of qigong before bed. Keeping it moving.

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter Q