What are we talking about today?

Some of my days have themes. Drop by one of these days if your favourite topic is here. The rest of the days could be running, crafts, theatre, random things I thought on the bus, or nothing. Bit of a mixed bag, really.

Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation (think walking, bikes, buses--I like to mix it up).
Friday: Green living. Sometimes green-ish. I do what I can.

If it seems sad around here, that's because I'm recently widowed and sometimes sadness pours out of me whether I like it or not. There's always a chance I'll be happier tomorrow.

10 February 2016

Be Spectacular!

The Austin Marathon is this weekend! And other spring races are also gearing up for the still-cool-enough-to-run-in-but-not-freezing-any-longer weeks ahead. (Yay! Gosh, running is awesome.) Of course, not everyone is a runner, so here's a quick and easy guide if you're planning to be a spectator at Austin or any other race in the near future.

Basically what every race I've ever
spectated for (or run in) looks like.
Source: Margan Zajdowicz on
freeimages.com.
1. Never, ever say "Almost there!"
It doesn't matter how objectively true you think this is. There are few things more irritating for a runner than for a spectator to say "almost there." As I said in church on Sunday while making the marathon announcement (the course goes directly by our building, so some planning ahead is required), if you say "almost there" during a race, you may be almost killed by an angry runner. Just don't.

2. Do say encouraging things, though.
"Lookin' good!" "Keep it up!" "You're awesome!" "You got this!" These are all great. Clapping and/or and noisemakers are also great if you get tired of shouting.

3. Signs are fun!
One of my favourites is "Worst Parade Ever," but don't stop there. Lots of creative and fun ideas are available on the internet. Find one, break out the markers, and have a good time!

4. It's cool to hand stuff out.
Things I've seen handed out at races: mints, Jolly Ranchers, tissues, water/gatorade/beer at impromptu aid stations, and (my all-time favourite) orange slices. This Sunday, I'll be in front of Red River Church, giant bowl of orange slices at the ready.

5. High-fives are awesome.
Just be prepared to have sore hands after fiving hundreds of runners.

6. Runners love you!
Seriously, spectators are awesome, and the best races are usually the ones with the best crowd support. Even if runners look tired/angry/half-dead and don't visibly respond to your encouragement, please know that we love you and appreciate you taking hours out of your day to cheer on strangers. Spectators are the best.

09 February 2016

T is for Thirteen

Time to dig in and finally finish my A to Z Challenge posts from... 2014, I think. I was swimming along just fine with the challenge that April, got all the way up to Q, and then didn't get my R post written. Or S. Or any of the others, because it was the end of my grad school semester and I just said "forget it."

I have no idea if I'll do A to Z this year. I didn't in 2015, but this year I have no grad school to get in the way, so that's something. Perhaps it's time for a theatre-themed A to Z.

Anyway! 2014 was all about my favourite books, so my favourite T book is...

Image source: Goodreads.
Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher

Why this book? Because of all the emphasis it places on the consequences of one's actions. Because it puts Hannah's tormentors into the light of day and forces them to face their mistakes. One little thing after another piled up on Hannah, until one day it was more than she could take, but before she left she articulated what was going on inside her.

Why is this book problematic? Many Goodreads reviewers point out that it glamorizes suicide--because Hannah left behind her reasons for taking her own life, she immortalizes herself. The book doesn't deal with the grieving process. It doesn't show how Clay moves on. We don't get a glimpse of 10 or 20 years later and whether any of her classmates have more than occasional flashes of regret for the girl they once tormented. We get the raw emotion, but--that fades. People heal. And over time, Hannah will remain dead even while the others go on living, but we don't see that in this book.

Part of me thinks this is a book that should be on school reading lists. However, as someone who was scarred by a school reading list, another part of me wants to put up warning signs. If the teacher and students aren't ready and able to have the discussion about the problems in this book, about what happens after the last page is turned, then it doesn't need to be required reading. I recommend this one to young friends, but more accurately I recommend it to their parents, so they can all talk about it together. This is a book that merits as much discussion about what's not in it as it does about what's in it.

And if the reader can't do that, then that's a pretty good reason to leave it on the shelf.

What's your favourite "T" book?

08 February 2016

No Reason We Can't Do Both

The church I attend, which I love very much, has morning prayer time on Mondays. Now, once upon a time in Lubbock, I was the crazy-crazy person hosting early-morning prayer time, so it has seemed reasonable to me for months that I should be willing to get up and attend a morning prayer group. Last week, I finally did it.

You know what? It was great. I well remember why I enjoyed those weekly morning gatherings so much. And while I know that prayer time may not be everyone's cup of tea, I do encourage everyone I know to set aside time to gather with friends and process their week in whatever way seems best.

Anyway. So in the course of last Monday, our pastor quoted Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "Aurora Leigh":
 Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more from the first similitude.
He asked if I were familiar with the quote, presumably because I'm well known for being a bookworm and quoter of many things, and I said, "I'm not familiar with it, but now I'm wondering why we can't do both."

Not a burning bush.
Source: Joonas Lampinen
on freeimages.com
.
My irreverence got a laugh, but as I went on my way that morning I continued thinking-- can I do both? Can I see God in everything but still enjoy what's in front of me? I mean, if I see a burning bush, then I know God is calling me to something big, and I'd better get some supplies. Hey, look, there are blackberries right here! Cool.

But my natural cheekiness aside, I think Ms. Browning was correct. It's hard to see the spectacular when we're looking at the mundane. It's too easy to get so distracted by the shiny thing directly in front of me that I miss the amazing thing happening just a little farther away, if only I would look up to see it. Sometimes it's a struggle to look up. (I tried to find the scene from Cars where freeway traffic is driving right past a magnificent view without even seeing it, with no luck. So--that scene.)

Look up. What do you see?

06 February 2016

You Can't Just Walk Out of a Drive-In

Aaron. Tveit. Aaron Tveit on my TV. Aaron Tveit singing, dancing, and bad-boying on my television. Yes, please. (Although I do agree with at least one review I read that said Aaron Tveit is not that believable as a bad boy. He looked guilty for most of the show.)

Seriously, Grease Live was gorgeous and fun and a total delight. Having a live audience was a brilliant move. The cast was phenomenal. I hope someone at NBC was watching, taking notes, and resolving to do all subsequent musicals better.

That hair is really defying gravity. (Yes, this is approximately
the 2198th time I've made that joke.)
Source: Fox Facebook page.
Having the drag race on the stage was kind of dopey, though. They tried a bit too hard there to do the movie. Like the other three live musicals in recent past, this show was an amalgamation of the stage show and the movie (although the internet audience still doesn't seem to get there is musical life beyond the movie screen). I giggled a lot that they made the words to "Greased Lightnin'" more family-friendly but left in the scene in the backseat.

Also, if you missed Lin-Manuel Miranda's live tweets, wow, did you ever miss out.

05 February 2016

Marking Time

I have three 2016 calendars in my house, and I can only suppose the only reason I don't have four calendars is because no one has shown up at my door to hand me a fourth one.

My favourite of my 2016
calendars. This month is
Charing Cross in Glasgow.
I've been there.
I am a fan of calendars, if for no other reason than it's a cheap and easy way to get nice artwork/photography in my home. A new picture every month--how great is that?

But what do I do with it once the year is over? Well, in years past if I liked the calendar enough, I took it apart and kept the pictures. Unfortunately, if you're planning on being on the planet for more than a couple of years this gets problematic in a hurry--even if I swap them out once a month as the manufacturers (sort of) intended, there are only so many picture frames that one household can support.

Recycling is an obvious answer, although the slick pages of a calendar make it harder than your average paper to recycle. Turning it into confetti for your New Year party is probably a reasonable choice. Kids' art projects? Repurpose into book covers? Just keep reusing it and embrace that you're always on the wrong day?

I don't know. But a good start is probably not having three calendars per year.

Do you have a green solution to old calendars?

04 February 2016

Pancake Day

There are lots of things I remember.

Source: Anna Moderska
on freeimages.com.
On February 17, Shrove Tuesday, Chadwick and I spent the evening at Red River Church's Pancake Dinner. He wasn't feeling well, because the blood clot that was hours away from killing him was already making its way through his body and causing symptoms we thought were from an asthma attack. But despite not feeling well, he came out to the pancake dinner because people he cared about were gathering. He felt better as the evening went on. We split some ice cream and talked about a TV show he had been watching before I went to bed.

There are other things I forget.

I forget that other people were also there that night. I forget that the same people who Chadwick left the house that evening to see also saw him. I forget that I'm not the only one for whom the pancake dinner and Chadwick's passing are inextricably linked.

Fortunately, other people are okay with me forgetting. They're in a place to remind me. Shrove Tuesday is about to come around again, the Pancake Dinner is scheduled at church again (not only are pancakes on Shrove Tuesday a tradition, but it's also a fundraiser for our missions). I had already mentioned to the church Planner of Cool Events (not her actual title) that even though I'd RSVP'd to the event, I wasn't sure I was really going to go. And it seems that I was not the only one who'd thought about it, because last Sunday several people stopped to ask me if I was okay with the pancake dinner going on again. Which is not only super-kind, but makes me think they all believe I have much more influence on the universe than I really do.

I'm okay with it. I'll probably stop by to say hello. It's possible my composure will last about three nanoseconds and it will be time to head home. The upside is that since Easter moves around, so does Shrove Tuesday, so it's not the exact same week. Pretty close, though. But I hope I don't have to leave. I hope I can keep myself together enough to stay. Because other people are also grieving the loss of a friend, other people will also be thinking of Chadwick that night, and those other people have been here at every turn for the last year. However sad I might be at the Pancake Dinner, it will feel right to spend the evening with dear friends.

I can remember that.

03 February 2016

Carrying Capacity

While I was in college, I tended to use my bicycle as a mobile library. This was pretty rough on my panniers, since I ignored the suggested weight limits and just packed stuff in as long as there was space. As a result, I tore through two sets in four years.

Rather than get a new set right away when the second one came apart (mid-ride, alas--that was quite a day), I pulled out an old crate that I've had since I was about 15. My tastes in colour schemes have changed just a bit in the intervening years:

Yep, I'm dressed as Elphaba. It was Halloween.
I was not dressed as Fiona, despite many people who guessed her first. Eeep.
But in recent weeks, the crate has started cracking a bit and the bungees were getting frayed, so it was time for a new solution, especially since I don't carry massive grad school books everywhere I go any longer.

I was looking for something that was easy to get on and off, preferably carry-able. I settled on this one (a pair of this one, that is) from Green Guru that's made of recycled banners, which is a nice bonus here in Su-Land.

And as another nice bonus: they fold flat against the bike when not in use, so I can leave them on the bus, even the three-slot racks where the bikes are super close together.

What's also great about these, as opposed to the crate, is that having the crate was affecting the way I was sitting, which changed how my muscles and everything else operated. No prizes for guessing how bad of an idea that is if you don't want worn-out quads. There's nothing wrong with using a crate and bungees, of course, but I do recommend that anyone going down that road take a bit more time than I did to consider its affect on your body and adjust as necessary.

Being able to carry things is a big part to being a transportation cyclist. It's easy enough to just wear a backpack, but putting it on the bike makes the trip a lot more pleasant, and having something that properly hooks onto the bike will work a lot better than trying to hold things or hang bags off the handlebars (please don't do that!) while riding. The best solution, as ever, is the one that works best for you. Just keep in mind that the weight limits on panniers are a thing.

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