What are we talking about today?

I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week, but this is the a basic idea of what you can expect to read about when.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

23 March 2017

Inflamed

The fire alarm went off in my apartment building in the wee hours this morning. (Okay, it was 5:40, so not exactly "wee," but still--today's not a running day so I was looking forward to sleeping for at least another hour.) Now, living on the ground floor facing the sidewalk, I had the luxury of pausing for a second to put on more clothes and real shoes, since it was 25° outside, and stopping to pick up my phone and wallet--had my door been blocked in those two minutes, I could have gone out the window.

That was totally unnecessary, since the fire was small enough that the fire department had it taken care of and let us back in the building within ten minutes. But in that interim, there was a bit of chatter amongst the neighbors about how long it took us all to wake up when the alarm went off (consensus: faster than our nightmare scenarios, but still not as fast as we were all comfortable with), as well as looking around and wondering if some folks had slept through the whole thing, since there fewer people slowly freezing outside than there are units in the building. So that was a bit of a fright to start our day.

This did not happen this morning. I saw not so much as
a single flame. Thank goodness!
Source: Rick Cowan on freeimages.com.
Once at summer camp we did that stupid "what would you grab if there were a fire" exercise, because I think the asker was trying to tease out our most prized possessions. (Why not just ask that?) I only remember it because I pointed out what a terrible exercise it was to casually chat about endangering our lives in case of fire when we'd been taught since birth to get out fast and leave everything behind. When the man leading the class pressed me for an answer anyway (because I was refusing to play), I said I'd grab my handbag and my Bible: the reason being that my IDs, keys to my parents' cars, and my calendar/phone directory all lived in my handbag, all of which seemed to my teenage mind practical things to have on hand in case of disaster. And at the time I was using a beautiful gift Bible I had received, you know, as a gift, and as a bonus those two things lived next to each other on my nightstand. So why not pick up both?

He laughed out loud, said I was clearly living in two worlds, and that he was definitely going to use me as a sermon illustration. I told him I didn't see what was so funny, pointing out that I would need IDs, phone numbers, and probably car keys in the immediate aftermath of a fire. Clearly, given what I stuffed my coat pockets with on my way out the door this morning, middle-aged Su agrees with teenage Su on this point. I don't remember the rest of the class, because I was so angry at being forced to answer a question I was uncomfortable with and then being ridiculed for it. (I imagine he was also annoyed at his little game being thwarted by someone taking him so literally.) 

So this was a long way round to say two things: 

1) Make sure you and your family have basics on hand for grabbing on the way out the door, down to the storm cellar, etc., in case of emergency. Shoes, phone, keys, wallet--all things that you need to know exactly where they are when seconds count. This might be a good time to think about creating a family launch pad.

2) Words matter. That class could have begun with a thought-provoking exercise that sparked a discussion about what mattered in our lives; what kinds of things we were devoting our time, energy, and thoughts to; or the kinds of values we were all developing that we would be carrying into our adult lives--if only the teacher had taken the time and mental energy himself to craft questions that would lead to those things. It was a good lesson for me, though, about the responsibility inherent in choosing to write or speak for an audience. A little bit of care and thought can go a long way toward a message being one of encouragement instead of destruction, or being useful instead of flip. Who doesn't wish they could take words back from time to time? And while no one is going to think before they speak 100% of the time, I know I could stand to try it a little more often. Maybe you can, too.

So. What got you out of bed this morning?

21 March 2017

Pratchettesque

The speaker in church on Sunday brought out a quote that was so close to a Terry Pratchett thing that I was in the act of tweeting my delight when he told us that it wasn't his quote and that it came from someone else (who was not Terry Pratchett). I stayed delighted but didn't tell Twitter. I tell stories like this so you'll all keep in mind that there are certain attendant hazards to being my friend, to wit: I may quote you on my blog or Twitter feed at any moment, possibly without context. (In fact, this isn't limited to friends. Basically being within earshot will do it.)

Anyway. Teaser Tuesdays no longer seem to be a thing, so I'm looking for other ideas for my Bookish Tuesdays, and since I handed one of my Pratchett books to a coworker with all my best wishes for a happy read just a couple days ago, I may as well stick with a winner.

This is the cover on my version.
Source: Goodreads.
Soul Music was not my first Pratchett book, although I have incorrectly identified it as such from time to time. It was, however, the last book I bought before leaving Glasgow, with the idea I would read it on the plane. Which I did not do.

My favourite thing about this book is the introduction of Susan Sto Helit, also known as Susan Death, who is a fabulous character, not only because we share a name. (Although she has a lengthy not-quite-rant about what a dud of a name "Susan" is that basically ensured my eternal loyalty.)

While I'm the subject, I'll put my list of favourite Discworld characters out there, even if it gets me some flack (although after considerable research on Goodreads, I'm pretty sure most Pratchett fans are in relative agreement about a few of these):
1. Sam Vimes
2. Lord Vetinari
3. Susan Sto Helit
4. Death
5. Ponder Stibbons & Mustrum Ridcully (yes, together)
6. Adora Belle Dearheart
7. Cheery Littlebottom
8. Carrot
9. Fred & Nobby (also together)
10. I could go on, but this will get silly in a hurry. 
This book also has one particularly incredible passage about why Death can't save everyone, or indeed anyone, including his own daughter and son-in-law (Susan's parents). And though Death does lighten up a bit before the end of the book, his wisdom remains:
You could say to the universe, this is not fair. And the universe would say: Oh, isn't it? Sorry.
You could save people. You could get there in the nick of time. And something could snap its fingers and say, no, it has to be this way. 
Incidentally, Chadwick also enjoyed Soul Music, and was known to quote it from time to time, which is more than I can say for most of the books I forced him to live with.

Discworld is a series, but you can jump in at any point and not require any back story to know what's going on--they all do pretty well on their own. Happy reading.

20 March 2017

#AtoZChallenge 2017: Theme Reveal Day

Normally, I share my A to Z Challenge theme on March 31, but this year the planners designated a reveal day. Which is, of course, today. So, here we go.

The A to Z Challenge kicks off on Saturday, April 1, by which time I have high hopes that spring will have arrived here in southwest Ohio. What better way to get to know my new city in my favourite season of the year than making it the theme of this year's Cheekyness A to Z Challenge?

So! Every day in April (except Sundays), I'll find something Cincy to share that begins with that day's letter. With luck, I'll have some fun and learn something along the way. With even more luck, the whole citizenry of Cincinnati won't suddenly discover my blog and come round asking why I didn't blog about ________ on __ day, because it's obviously a great local whatever. My personal discovery of Cincinnati is probably not going to hit the same highlights that hometown folks would. On the other hand, how boring would the world be if we all talked about the exact same things?

Let's do this.

19 March 2017

Righteous Anger

My poor coworkers had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they decided to be nice to me. But when I'm surrounded by people this amazing on a daily basis, it's hard not to tap into our great conversations when it's time to write a blog post. (That is to say, more coworker-inspired posts are coming. If y'all are reading this: ye be warned.)

It's nice to know, in these moments,
that God still has your back.
Source.
I don't remember how the conversation started, but my coworker told the story of a priest telling her, "Just go kick God in the shins and you'll feel better." The idea that it's okay to be mad at God is not a new one, of course (should you doubt that, try reading the Psalms), but it's not one I heard until I was an adult, when I had finally figured it out on my own and no longer needed that affirmation. This is information that would have been helpful at ages 12-19. (It's helpful now as well, of course. But it would have been good to know then.)

I don't know if it's the faith tradition I grew up in (although I have my suspicions); I don't know if it was the era, with former rebel Baby Boomers trying to get their Gen X teenagers to do the opposite of what they had done as teens and instead trust what authority figures had to say; I don't know if I happened to be living among people who had never been given this permission themselves. Regardless, the message I received as a young person was that God knew what he was doing, and any thoughts to the contrary were not only futile, but also a sin, and possibly blasphemous. And then they wondered why so many of my generation went running from the church once we hit college, when the more remarkable result was how many of us stuck around to see how this thing turned out.

Real talk. He's still there even in the kicking and
screaming moments. (I have no particular insight
on the hot dog.) Source.
Of course it's okay to be angry at God. Of course it's okay to tell him so. Of course he knows that we can't see the big picture on this side of eternity. Maria Trapp expressed it so beautifully in The Sound of Music: "It will be very interesting one day to follow the pattern of our life as it is spread out like a tapestry. As long as we live here we only see the reverse side of the weaving, and very often the pattern, with its threads running wildly, doesn't seem to make sense." (Yes, I find many uses for that book. It's packed full of wisdom and truth.)

Life is going to suck sometimes. Please, by all means, let God know how you feel about the sucky things. Rant and rave and even swear a bit if you need to. "He's a big God; he can take it," may be trite and slightly goofy, but it's still true. And please teach your children and everyone you know that this is okay, too. Bad things happen to people who are taught it's never okay to be angry. Give your nearest and dearest the tools they need to carry on without checking out through a world that's just going be outright wrong at times.

And trust that the God who holds all things in his hands is not going to be horrified if you get angry from time to time.

18 March 2017

Again and Again and Again and Again

I had my Pandora set to one of my Irish stations at work yesterday and was singing along, as I do, when this song came up. I had to take a break because it came at the end of a long succession of sad songs--the bit about leaving a wife or sweetheart behind gets me every time. But that's okay, because crying at my desk is totally a thing I do now, even if it frightens the coworkers.

"Green Fields of France" is sad from beginning to end, not the least because its message of the never-ending nature of war. Willie McBride's death didn't help every generation since, no matter how badly he may have hoped it would:
But here in this graveyard that's still no man's land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man
And a whole generation were butchered and damned

And I can't help but wonder oh Willy McBride
Do all those who lie here know why they died
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause
Did you really believe that this war would end wars
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing and dying it was all done in vain
Oh Willy McBride it all happened again
And again, and again, and again, and again
I learned this song from The High Kings, most likely on PBS, since that's where I tend to see The High Kings, but plenty of Irish bands sing it.



Related to my other interests: Someone's done a Les Misérables version of this song. Yes, please. Also, if you like The High Kings, see an entire show here (I believe this is the one that's usually on PBS).

16 March 2017

Calculating

I did algebra this week. Voluntarily. And the world hasn't come to an end, which admittedly is a bit of a surprise.

I do jokingly live in that dichotomy between words and numbers, the one that says you don't get to be good at both; you have to choose one. And I suppose that since I can't add or subtract with any real success that I have chosen one. But I also live in a world where I hang out with numbers every day and still have time to read a terrible opening sentence on a public-facing document to my coworker so we can both make fun of whoever wrote it. (The sentence, with some details changed, was "Acme Initiative for Quality Assurance is a quality assurance program." These must be proud members of the Tautology Club.)

All that to say, mathematics was not my favourite school subject, and if I could have hidden under my desk every day rather than look at numbers I would have. But that changed when I went to college and was determined to graduate with a 4.0 if it killed me. I did hours of algebra homework that first semester, and it worked, well enough that 12 years later I can not only still do it, but also explain it (kinda--I'm not a teacher by any stretch) to someone else. 

This is my kind of motivational poster. Direct, but
snarky. Source.
Motivation is a funny thing in the way that it comes and goes and sometimes comes again. I managed to get through 13 years of school barely learning to do basic arithmetic, a failing that still haunts me at the worst possible moments, and yet I learned to embrace numbers as an adult. All the things that nobody wants to do-- get out of bed in the morning, wash dishes, do laundry, pay bills, etc.--we still manage to get them done. And we even do things that aren't immediately necessary to sustain life, like checking up on friends when we're exhausted ourselves, or calling our elected officials, or exercising when the couch is so much nicer.

What is it that keeps humans going when we'd rather not? What's this script within us that kicks in sometimes and other times takes the day off and leaves us on our own? Is it survival? Because if the survival of the species is reliant on me having to add without the aid of a calculator, we're all screwed.

What's motivating you this week?

15 March 2017

Above Average

Somewhere around 90 percent of drivers consider themselves to be better drivers than the average driver. At least, until they honestly compare their own driving behaviours to expert guidelines, when suddenly their self-assessment gets closer to reality. Think about that one for a minute.

I have a crazy idea--how about let's all prove that we're above-average drivers, not by doing dangerous things to demonstrate how completely in control we are, but instead by being above-average drivers. Put the phone down. Leave a reasonable amount of following distance. Observe the speed limit. Pay attention to what's happening a few car lengths up the road. Don't forget to notice sidewalks and bicycle paths, too. Put the dang phone down.

See how cute and friendly this car is?
Let's all be like that.
Let's see if we can all out-courtesy, out-safety, out-friendly, and out-law-abide every other driver on the road. Being above average drivers might put a dent in those 40K road deaths per year.

(If you're itching to tell me about the time you saw a bicyclist or pedestrian do something you thought wasn't right, save it. When drivers all get their acts together and stop running red lights, speeding, rolling through stop lights, double-parking, etc., then you can tell me about that bike you saw that one time.)

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