What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

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

28 March 2017

Teaser Tuesday #49

One last Teaser Tuesday before the A to Z Challenge begins and then I'll figure out something to do with my book day after April is through. I like the idea of a slow meander through the works of Pratchett, so maybe I'll stick with that.

Source: Goodreads.
In the Unlikely Event, Judy Blume

She stuck a fork into the underside of her arm to see if the numbness was in her mind or in her body.

When Steve read about Kathy in the paper, when he read she was coming home to see a boy she'd met over the holdiays, a boy she really liked, he got into bed and stayed there for four days.








Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, once upon a time hosted by MizB from Should Be Reading (and now I just can't tell if it has a host at all. But why stop?). Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers

27 March 2017

Brainwork

Just to be clear: slow and steady does not win any races. Slow and unsteady wins even fewer ones. Unfortunately, slow and unsteady is the best I can do most days.

I passed this Friday night, thought,
"Did I really just see that?" and
went back to look at it. It's one of
the local bike parking posts at the
end of someone's driveway, for
reasons passing understanding.
There are worse places to put these
posts, but not many.
On the other hand, since I haven't shortened my long runs in between my two halfs (yes, that's the correct spelling), I'm doing a lot of out-and-backs that give me a chance to choose a different street every week and find out what's within easy bike distance of my house.

I did one of those Friday night, for two reasons: 1) I didn't want to spend too much of my visit to Indiana running and shorten up what was a short enough weekend with Grandma, and 2) Friday was my most stressful workday so far at my new job (still love it, but it was a bit of a day) and I thought a long run would shake off the stress so I could go into Saturday morning with a fresh perspective on the universe. Which worked, if only because I woke up Saturday all creaky from running so late in the day. Fortunately, I started my trip to Indiana off with a walk to the bus stop, so I de-creaked a bit.

A lot of the reasons I came back to running 10 years ago still exist--holding my family medical history at bay for as long as I can, keeping my weight under some semblance of control (which is not really working that well, truth be told), and giving my brain a chance to clear out all the cobwebs so the world looks a bit better. Reason #3 is enough to keep at it even without the others.

Which is why I'll head out for five miles before I go to work tomorrow. Because I'm definitely easier to get along with after a run, even the slow and unsteady ones.

26 March 2017

Quietly Engaged

My word for 2017 is "creation," but I'm having a hard time applying that to Sunday mornings.

As I've noted before, any church I find in Cincinnati is going to be Red River Junior in my mind for a while, and there's no displacing such an amazing group of beloved brothers and sisters from their perch in my heart in such a short time. The church I've been attending is getting closer, though--I think it's safe to say I've found my people.

Probably not these on a Sunday
morning, either. Source:
Radu Fizesan on freeimages.com.
So what can I do, as the very new person, to bring creation with me when we gather on Sunday mornings? (I'm not gathering with them today, though, since I'm sitting 100 miles away.) Obviously I want to do my part to create and sustain a community, and for now that looks like desperately trying to remember everyone's names--I've fallen back on my old strategy of learning the women's names first, then figuring out who's married to whom (single people are actually easier to remember with this strategy--I'm not leaving y'all out!), and eventually I'll remember from one week to the next which bearded man is which. Seriously, that's a lot of beards in one place on a Sunday morning.

And despite all the exhortation that the worship time is corporate and participatory, there's a lot of sitting quietly on Sunday mornings--I did most of my sermon-time creating back when I was young enough to be kept occupied with crayons and paper. One reason I got in the habit of tweeting particularly resonant things that the minister says is to make sure I'm engaging my brain. I'm not sure that counts as creation, except that I'm adding to the noise of 21st-century life. Not the creation I was going for, but maybe right now that's the best I can do.

How do you make your Sundays an act of creation?

25 March 2017

Tick Tock

I'm in Indiana this weekend visiting my grandma. (Our usual hilarity is likely to ensue, if you're among her many Twitter fans.) Why? Because not only do I enjoy her company, but also because it makes her happy, and the time left to make her happy is short.

After my dad's mother passed away two years ago, one of my cousins wrote a beautiful Facebook post about being out of time--our mutual grandmother was her last living grandparent--and how precious hours and minutes become when there aren't that many left. This was one broken heart beautifully expressing what we were all feeling but hadn't yet articulated--time was up, and all we are left with are the memories we collected over a lifetime. It's not enough. It never is. (This happened back before the arrival of the Hamilton album and "running out of time" becoming a meme in its own right.) 

Source.
Of course we know in our heads that we're all running out of time, always, with our nearest and dearest as well as ourselves. We're not guaranteed any more time, no matter how much we try to stave off those thoughts with good intentions and grand plans to do better next time. And honestly, why would anyone truly want to live each minute like it could be the last one? I'm not sure how our human brains would hold up under that kind of stress. (Not to mention that no laundry or dishes would ever get washed again.) At the end of Thornton Wilder's Our Town, having seen how short and precious life is, Emily says, "Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you!" Mr. Wilder's insight burns with the intensity of a Bond villain's laser on the thing we're trying so hard not to think about--life is precious and fleeting, and it's too much to grasp in one go.

Now I'm the one with only one remaining grandparent. I still have some time, as quickly as it may be running out. It's not enough--it will never be enough--but it's all we have. When our last minute together arrives, I choose to be left with memories of the times I made grandma happy instead of empty regret. 

What are you running out of time for? 

24 March 2017

Slow Movers

Given that I was awakened yesterday by the fire alarm in my building, you'd think I'd steer clear of posts about hot appliances, but nope.

Summer is coming (a bit slower for some of us than others, but coming nonetheless), and no one wants to heat up their whole house by turning on the oven when it's blazing hot outside. On the other hand, not that many folks want to eat sandwiches and salads for four months, either. Enter my favourite kitchen appliance: the slow cooker. (Is this technically a green living post? I've heard slow cookers don't use much electricity, so I'm calling it green.)

I have two slow cookers, because of course I do, and this
one is invaluable when I make beans or rice, usually
both at the same time. However, I don't leave this one on
 while I'm out, since food cooks faster in the smaller crocks.
Let's get the hard part out of the way first: in no article that I found did any fire department anywhere in the U.S. agree that it's okay to leave your slow cooker on when you're out of the house. That just makes sense--it's their job, and they're not going to go around telling people to leave appliances running all day. On the other hand, plenty of people do it every day without burning their houses down (I use mine at least once a week, for instance), so think it over before proceeding.


Make sure your slow cooker setup is ready to go:

1. It needs to go on a heatproof surface. Check this by filling it half full with water and turning it on for a couple hours while you're there to watch it. If the counter under your cooker is hot, then maybe that's not the best place for it. You can also try placing the cooker on a baking sheet or a trivet.

2. It needs personal space. You'll notice this when you do the heat test--most heat comes off the sides. Keep it away from walls, your fridge, other things on the counter, etc.

3. "Low" is the setting you want. If you're leaving it cooking all day, only use recipes that call for 8-10 hours of cooking on low.

4. Don't use your granny's old slow cooker. Family heirlooms are wonderful things, but old slow cookers are best used for decorative purposes. If the slow cooker doesn't have a removable insert, treat it the same way you would an elderly space heater--leave it unplugged and get a new one.

5. Small children, pets, and slow cookers do not mix. Make sure the cord doesn't dangle over the edge of the counter--that's just basic safety, anyway--and that the entire setup is out of reach of kids. If your cat is a counter jumper, consider whether it's possible kitty could take the whole thing crashing down with her.

6. Err on the side of caution. If leaving a slow cooker on with no one in the house makes you nervous, then don't use one. It's not the only way to cook things, after all, and there's no point in spending your days worried.

If your cooker is good to go and the idea of coming home to dinner already cooked appeals to you, then it's time to start cooking. Pinterest is your friend for finding slow-cooker-friendly recipes (I have an entire board for just that), but any recipe site you use should have a wealth of choices just waiting for you.

What's your favourite thing to put in a slow cooker?

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.

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