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.

21 July 2016

Uniformity

A few weeks ago, I posted a quote on Facebook from the book Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on The Decision Not To Have Kids, which led to a lively conversation about why people can't just mind their own business on this and other hot-button life choices.

And then my wise friend Keely weighed in:
There is safety in the same...when you or your life is the same as mine you validate my life choices and therefore you are perceived as safe or good. When you are different you are unsafe. So we turn those who are different than us into "others" as we seek to validate ourselves.
Preach, sister.

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept that sometimes
I'm going to be a right-side-up bird, the courage to
sometimes be an upside-down one, and the wisdom
to keep singing no matter what way I'm facing.
Image source.
I ran across a similar sentiment while reading The More of Less: "Nobody feels embarrassed for just being normal. It's when we deviate from the norm that we might become embarrassed." And so we self-police, whether or not it's the right thing for ourselves, and maybe that's why it's so easy to see someone else as an "other" to be shamed or avoided--after all, I'm putting in the work to be normal; why can't you?

How sad--and yet how everyday. It's pretty obvious from the nightly news, or even from the average Facebook news feed (if you haven't already turned that into a self-affirming echo chamber, that is; I'm trying not to, but wow, is it hard to keep reading stuff that makes me want to Gibbs-slap my nearest and dearest), how easy it is to get locked into our own ingroups and actively ridicule and avoid anything different.

We've all heard the story about the monkeys in the cage with the bananas out of reach, right? How they got sprayed with water a couple of times in the attempt to reach the bananas, and subsequently wouldn't let any other monkeys try to climb up to get the bananas? Y'all, that's no way to live.

I know; it's hard. It's scary. It's easier to just concentrate my time and energy on people who are already like me instead of putting in the harder work of understanding and accepting that other people don't all have to do what I do to be worth my time and consideration.

As we continue through this season of our world gone mad, it's never been more important to see other people, and see them as people, despite our differences and disagreements. Now is not the time to dig in deeper to our ingroups. Now is the time to open up to others, to listen, to accept that maybe our realities aren't the only ones out there. Now is the time to reject the uniform and embrace the differences. We can do this.

20 July 2016

One Who Can Drive

Today in My Life is Basically Just a Venue for Musical Theatre References to Happen, I want to talk a little bit about cars and my beloved Next to Normal.

This Next to Normal post is not
about Aaron Tveit's character. I
just like to post pics of him. Source.
In case you've still not looked it up (spoilers! But really, this musical has been available in a whole bunch of venues since 2009. If you're still going to call this a spoiler, go to YouTube, for goodness' sakes): Next to Normal deals with the effects of Diana's mental illness on herself and her family.

Because we've built such a car-centric society, because driving in most places is the norm, because not driving is seen as different or wrong or downright harmful, this musical can twice cite Diana's non-driving as a particularly irritating side effect of her illness. Dan, her husband, goes so far as to say, "I loved a wife so alive, but now I believe I would settle for one who can drive." Geez, dude.

I usually hear colloquially that 30% of Americans don't drive (although pinning that number down has been problematic), for reasons of age, ability, or desire. That's a lot of people to leave out of our transportation system. Insisting that everyone has to either drive or stay home isolates not only people like Next to Normal's Diana, but also our ever-growing population of senior citizens, and folks who have other, more pressing uses for money that may have been spent on car ownership.

We can do better. We should do better than to just accept that some folks are being left out of participation in society because of the way we've built our transportation system. Diana may be fictional, but her mobility issues are very real.

19 July 2016

Teaser Tuesday #43

Source: Goodreads
The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606, James Shapiro

The perception of Macbeth as a play defined by the supernatural--behind Middleton's early revisions and reinforced by the actors' myth of a curse--has shaped much of the play's modern stage history as well.

In his unrelenting assault on those who dared criticize the government's overreaction he unwittingly gives voice, otherwise lost, to what was being murmured at the time.




Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books And A Beat.


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

12 July 2016

Teaser Tuesday #42

Source: Goodreads.
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, Anne Fadiman

Had I not narrowly averted the punctuational catastrophe, they would have all cried, in chorus, "There's a superfluous apostrophe!"

He does not think me a lovable helpmeet when I wander past his computer screen and find my fingers, as if animated by an inner gremlin, inserting a second r in embarass.





Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books And A Beat.


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

11 July 2016

Come Hear the Music Play

I am so far behind on sharing the shows I've loved the last few months. This is what happens when I spend time on silly things like "getting a job" or "watching Serena and Andy take Wimbledon by storm". So, a quick recap on all of them:

Motown the Musical

One thing I've done right this past year in my theatre-seeing is going to shows without knowing for sure what they're about. This one only kinda falls into that category, since the title is somewhat self-explanatory. The music was incredible (no kidding!), and Allison Semmes as Diana Ross is positively show-stopping. During the bit when she comes into the audience and picks some folks to sing with, she chose an elderly gent who announced, "I love you!"

One other funny moment: the characters were discussing what to call their special label, and someone in the audience helpfully shouted, "Motown!" Such a great show, and my last one in Austin.

My attempted selfie
with the chandelier. 
Phantom of the Opera

This show came to Indianapolis the same week I did, and as is my wont, I rounded up my entire family to go see it on Mother's Day. My father hated it, my mother loved it, my grandma was confused the whole time, and I don't know what everyone else thought. I had high hopes after weeks of stalking following the actors on Twitter, and was not disappointed. In addition to the cast being fantastic on stage, they were also a delight at stage door afterwards. This is my most-signed playbill to date, and totally worth standing in the unseasonable cold for.




My mother's playbill on the left, mine on the right.
Our favourite person at stage door was Quinto Ott-- even
my brother remembered him when I read some of his
tweets aloud at dinner a few days later.

Twelfth Night

A friend of mine is part of Hoosier Shakes, and since I live oh-so-close now, I made the quick drive up north to see Twelfth Night in Marion. First--the actors did the pre-show entertainment and the intermission entertainment. They never stopped going the whole time, and still had enough energy afterwards to chat. What a great group of super-friendly, energetic people.

Also, the entire audience laughed so hard at this that I'm still not sure what happened in this scene. In fact, I'm still kind of amazed I didn't fall off my chair laughing:
Photo blatantly swiped from the Hoosier Shakes
Facebook page
. And I really, really hope this isn't
the photo Networked Blogs pulls for my post later.

Cabaret

This was my next-to-last Austin show, and I've saved it until the end here because I had so many feelings about it. First of all, the only thing I've known about this show my entire life was the song "Cabaret," so I've always thought it was a happy show. Oops.

Through most of Act I, I kept thinking, "Maybe this show doesn't have a plot," only for the plot to arrive, quite heavily, right before intermission. According to Wikipedia, 1920s Berlin really was the be-who-you-are party spot depicted in the musical right before the Nazis rose to power. Watching the characters' fear grow in Act II was heart-wrenching and horrifying, as was Fräulein Schneider's telling Cliff that he was free to leave any time, while the Germans were stuck in Germany to live with whatever came next. Timeless message, much?

Needless to say, I didn't walk out of this one uplifted and happy. It weighed on me for days while I tried to process what I'd seen. Months later, I'm still processing.
Things I tweet after I see thought-provoking musicals.
Post title is a line from Cabaret.
What's next? Well, after months of dithering, I'm headed back to NYC to see Les Misérables one more time before it closes. Much like the last time I went to New York, I chose a second show based on one actor who's in it--the actor in question this time is Josh Grisetti, who is joining the cast of Something Rotten next week, just in time for me to see him in it. Yep, I'm pretty excited. Yes, I know I'm incredibly lucky. I wish you could all come with me.

10 July 2016

Time to Listen

There are times when the best thing to do is stop talking and listen. 

If you're white in America, and you just can't imagine that being nonwhite in America may carry with it a different set of experiences than your own, maybe right now is time to be quiet and listen.

My Facebook feed is filled with the usual "But if people would just..." and "If ____ would have (or not have) done _____, then..." Please, please stop. 

Our neighbors, our fellow Americans, our fellow human beings are crying out for us to listen and believe them when they talk about what it's like to be a POC in America. Let's do that, please? 

Here are a couple good places to start: a piece from a white adoptive mother of African-American children, and another one from an African-American former police officer. Take a few minutes to listen. Please.

(If you feel like you need to unfriend/unfollow me for asking you to listen, go ahead. No need for comment. Just go.)

07 July 2016

Who Said It?

This is one of those things that absolutely happened before the internet, but now that we can all send poorly researched information to one another at the speed of tweets, I see it a lot more often. And it makes me very stabby.

What is it? Poor attribution.

I'm not talking about poorly cited (or nonexistent) sources, although seriously, please don't share posts with that nonsense in it. No, this is about taking a quote from a book (or movie, or whatever--I'm talking fiction here) and attributing that quote to the author who wrote it, rather than the character who said it.

I know, I know, it's an easily justified practice, and at times when you need a quote in a hurry but can't remember the character, the author may be close enough. Except that doing so is imprecise at best and misleading at worst.

Why? Because the author who wrote the good guy also wrote the villain. Because dialogue is for moving a story. Because it's fiction. And because without a definitive word from the author, pulling a random quote from her book and presenting it as her quote may not be reflective of what she really believes or thinks.

Here's my least favourite example (and it shows up on Twitter approximately 516876 times per day):
Source.
What's wrong with it? Gimli is the one who said it, in the midst of an argument with Elrond about whether or not the Fellowship should be bound by pledges to stay with Frodo until the bitter end. And Elrond says:

Source.
Another incorrectly attributed quote, but strangely enough, this one tends to show up on Twitter a lot less often. Whatever you think Tolkien was driving at in this passage, surely we can all agree that Elrond is intended to be the wiser character? And perhaps that, since his word prevails over Gimli's objections, this is a better reflection of Tolkien's true thoughts on the subject? At the very least, that attributing both quotes to him with no further explanation makes Tolkien sound a bit confused?

We have Google now. Please, please, please use it when you're quoting something and you can't remember who said it. And (gently) encourage others to follow suit. To kick us off, I made a small adjustment to the quote we started with:

Want to make one? I use quozio.com.

06 July 2016

That Would Be Enough

I follow YA author Shannon Hale on Twitter (and you should, too; she's fantastic), and in the midst of a discussion about the relationship between writers and readers yesterday, she asked, "What does craft matter if you have nothing to say?" What, indeed.

I bought Lin-Manuel Miranda's book Hamilton: The Revolution a few weeks ago. Hamilton's is a story I think we've all agreed at this point was well worth telling, and of course Lin-Manuel crafts this something to say so well that getting a ticket to see it costs approximately one firstborn. (I saw a brilliant sign in BookPeople below Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton: "Tickets available for this version!") In a musical filled with heart-wrenching moments, The One for me is Eliza's "I live another 50 years. It's not enough," in "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story." My reaction hasn't changed from the first time I heard it-- I still think, "Fifty years? Are you kidding me? Fifty years?" The thought of living 50 years without Chadwick is unthinkable.

I do love this. There are a bunch of these stickers
scattered around Austin, but this particular one is
at an intersection near my last house in ATX.
But maybe that's why Eliza got so much done, because as she says, she didn't "waste time on tears." She didn't sit around feeling sorry for herself. Of course she didn't know at the outset how much time she would have, which I suppose helps with the whole not-wasting-time thing. And in the end, it's because she got things done that her story is so compelling, and her work is why both Hamiltons' story is still being told.

While thinking about this, I ran across Samuel Beckett's Texts for Nothing, which includes this gem:
There's my life, why not, it is one, if you like, if you must, I don't say no, this evening. There has to be one, it seems, once there is speech, no need of a story, a story is not compulsory, just a life, that's the mistake I made, one of the mistakes, to have wanted a story for myself, whereas life alone is enough. (emphasis mine)
Do I want to live a great story that has something to say? Of course I do. Do I enjoy telling my husband's story? Very much so. But I also want to live like my life is enough. Listening to birds while reading by a little creek in a clump of trees does not a great story make. But it's not a terrible addition to a life. Nor is chocolate, or sharing a joke with my niece, or having a cup of tea with a friend, or spending a few minutes of my day catching up with people on Twitter who I care about and who make me smile, even if we never meet face to face. I'd hate to be so consumed with "YOLO" or "Go big or go home" that I forget it's these little day-to-day things that make life worth living.

Don't stop trying to live your best story. But you don't have to chase your life as a Broadway musical, either. Be you, and be enough.

Post title is a song title in the first act as well as a repeated theme of Eliza's in Hamilton.

05 July 2016

Reading Challenge Update: June

Here's what happened in my reading challenges in June. Finally making some progress!

Since I completed my goal level for the I Love Libraries Challenge (young adult-24 books), I'm moving myself up a notch the adult level, which is 36 books.

I will probably also bump up my level for the Read it Again, Sam Challenge, but I'm holding out on that until my books and I are happily reunited. My library is currently sitting in storage.

And finally, I intended to raise my goal for the Women Challenge, but I'm already at the highest level available.

Links (and image sources) are to Goodreads, where all my reviews are written.


I Love Libraries Challenge (25/36 books so far)
She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana, Haven Kimmel
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, Cary Elwes
Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps, Kelly Williams Brown
The Complete Book of Les Misérables, Edward Behr
Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature, Meredith Maran (ed)
Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography, Neil Patrick Harris
Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City, Pierre Christin, Olivier Balez (visual art)
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander
Writing Is My Drink: A Writer's Story of Finding Her Voice (and a Guide to How You Can Too), Theo Pauline Nestor
Are You My Mother?, Alison Bechdel
Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on The Decision Not To Have Kids, Meghan Daum (ed)
Who Could That Be at This Hour?, Lemony Snicket
The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking, Oliver Burkeman

Read It Again, Sam (3/4 books so far)
The Bikeable Church: A Bicyclist's Guide to Church Planting, Sean Benesh
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, Cary Elwes (Yes, I read it twice this month. That's how much I liked it.)

Woman Challenge (18/20 books so far)
Backpacked: A Reluctant Trip Across Central America, Catherine Ryan Howard
She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana, Haven Kimmel
It's Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too), Nora McInerny Purmort
You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), Felicia Day
Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps, Kelly Williams Brown
I Want It Now! a Memoir of Life on the Set of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Julie Dawn Cole
Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature, Meredith Maran (ed)
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander
Writing Is My Drink: A Writer's Story of Finding Her Voice (and a Guide to How You Can Too), Theo Pauline Nestor
Are You My Mother?, Alison Bechdel
Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on The Decision Not To Have Kids, Meghan Daum (ed)

Mount TBR Challenge (5/20 books so far)
Backpacked: A Reluctant Trip Across Central America, Catherine Ryan Howard
I Want It Now! a Memoir of Life on the Set of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Julie Dawn Cole

Goodreads Challenge (33/100 books so far)
Backpacked: A Reluctant Trip Across Central America, Catherine Ryan Howard (this one was technically May, but I forgot about it in last month's update)
She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana, Haven Kimmel
It's Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too), Nora McInerny Purmort
You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), Felicia Day
Hamilton: The Revolution, Lin-Manuel Miranda
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, Cary Elwes
Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps, Kelly Williams Brown
The Complete Book of Les Misérables, Edward Behr
I Want It Now! a Memoir of Life on the Set of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Julie Dawn Cole
Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature, Meredith Maran (ed)
Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography, Neil Patrick Harris
Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City, Pierre Christin, Olivier Balez (visual art)
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander
Writing Is My Drink: A Writer's Story of Finding Her Voice (and a Guide to How You Can Too), Theo Pauline Nestor
Are You My Mother?, Alison Bechdel
Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on The Decision Not To Have Kids, Meghan Daum (ed)
Who Could That Be at This Hour?, Lemony Snicket
The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking, Oliver Burkeman

04 July 2016

Being Alone

I remember the time I found out how much I like being alone.

I was--you know what, I'm not even going to share how old I was. Let's just say it was earlier than our society would find acceptable for children to be left home alone these days. But it was the 90s, I knew where the fire extinguishers and the first aid kit were, and could feed myself, so on spring break that year my parents decreed that I could stay home by myself. I never turned on the TV that week--I spent all that delicious sibling- and parent-free time writing. It's still in the top 10 best weeks of my life.

This looks kind of nice, actually.
Source: suphamongkhon arwatchanakarn
on freeimages.com.
Not long before Chadwick & I got married, I happened to have a few more days of solitude when all my roommates (and my fiancee) went home for Thanksgiving weekend. At the time, I thought, this may be the last time I have a weekend alone for the rest of my life. I expected to have a house full of kids and pets before too many more years had gone by. That future never materialized, of course, and here I am looking forward to getting my own apartment for the first time in my life. (First the job, then an apartment. Soon, please, universe!)

In my current life anthem, Next to Normal, Dan concludes the song "I've Been" by saying he could never be alone. But of course (spoiler alert!), by the end of the musical, he is alone, and the final song is the beginning of his journey to coping with his new reality. And my journey has begun, too, even during this interim time; I've grabbed books like Kate Bolick's Spinster (even though I'm not) to see how other people have walked the path of being alone. She does fascinating research on the women she calls her "awakeners," but it's this bit from her own life that has me captivated:
I could be alone again.
And then, after the sadness had passed, I saw that I'd crossed into an entirely new country.
I wasn't alone again. My life was teeming with people.
It was with regret that I left behind my people in Austin, and I haven't started gathering my people again. I'm sure that's why the mere thought of facing the world by himself was so scary for Dan halfway through Next to Normal: he didn't have his people yet, or rather, he didn't know his people were already gathering, the people who he would interact with in the final minutes of the show.

I don't expect this time of transition to be the best thing ever or to chalk up a whole bunch of top-10 weeks right away. But that's okay. After all, the final line of Next to Normal is, "There will be light!"

02 July 2016

Paying it Forward

Sometimes, my grandmother and I have odd conversations about modern conveniences-- like tumble dryers, for instance. I'm more of a clothesline kind of gal, at least during the summer, while grandma has had enough of clotheslines in her lifetime and will not dream of hanging up her clothes when she has a perfectly good dryer to do the job.

My grandmother's sadly neglected clothesline. I don't
even know if she still has clothespins.
She's coming around to my composting all the kitchen scraps. She's very confused about me using a bicycle when there's a (seven-passenger, for goodness' sakes, to move just me) van in the garage I have access to.

I did say to her one day, "But you've earned this stuff!" And I do believe she has--she was born during the Great Depression, and lived the first 50 or so years of her life well within the mantra I try to live by now: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." So when it comes to her twilight years, I'd argue she's earned the right to do whatever she wants--and she is, truth be told, still living very lightly upon the planet.

There's a goofy little bit of apocrypha that wanders the internet, and I shall not repeat it in full here because it annoys me, but it begins with a young person suggesting that perhaps if older folks had cared more about the environment we wouldn't be in the mess we are now. The older person responds with a list of all the earth-friendly things she did when she was young, thus absolving herself of all responsibility for any current earth-unfriendly-ness. That's all well and good.

My issue is that these skills weren't passed down, and while the generation that lived through the Depression could justifiably embrace things to make their lives easier, as a society we lost sight of a non-disposable lifestyle. I laugh when I see friends within 10 years of my own age passing along this little fable like it applies to us. We're making our way back there, with the rise of durable reusables and the positive peer pressure to take your own bags to the store or walk for short trips. Or the resurgence in at-home canning and clothesmaking. A downturn in the economy also gives an (unfortunate) boost to practices that happen to be earth-friendly as well as budget-friendly.

But still, I'm not there yet. My life will never be as light on the earth as my grandparents', partly due to my love for occasionally hopping onto airplanes to see other places. And so I'm not as willing as my grandma is to use a machine when I could use my body. After all, she's earned it. I have not.

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