What are we talking about today?

I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

01 January 2021

Hello, 2021 (please wipe your feet)

I thought it would be a good idea to bring in the new year by getting my digital life in order, or at least making a start at it. Now, an entire workday's time later, I'm taking a break from relentless unsubscribing.

Most years, there are two predictable sets of posts throughout the blogosphere to welcome the new calendar: the resolution posts, and the I-don't-make-resolutions posts. Both kinds are endearing in their own way, I suppose, but this year I would welcome them both as a harbinger of less-interesting times. Alas, our times remain interesting, and are likely to be so for some time to come.

I searched "goal" on free images, and got this. 1) They're not wrong; and 2) this is exactly the kind of metaphor I was looking for and didn't even know it. Photo by Julie Elliott-Abshire from FreeImages.

As for me, I am toying with a few goals for the year, but am in no hurry to get them set. (I'm waiting on results from a COVID test, anyway, so there's a chance I have some unexpected non-working days next week to think it over.) I'll probably land on doing monthly goals, which benefit from having a shorter time frame as a built-in anti-procrastination guard. I also like Gretchen Rubin's "21 for 21" idea, and have tossed that one into the hopper to see what comes out.

I've taken the odd moment over the last couple weeks to think over some things I used to do but don't now, and the reasons why I stopped. Two big life events seem to be the main culprits, and yet not the obvious one: when I went back to university in 2010, and when I dragged myself across 1000+ miles to start a new life in Cincinnati in 2016. Of course, 2020 itself bears some of the blame, since in the past few months it's been pretty easy to justify not doing anything extra. Some of the things I've lost along the way:

  • Watching basketball games on TV. I used to love watching basketball. This one got lost when I went to UT.
  • Watching NCIS and its many spinoffs. Ditto on losing this one to higher education.
  • Training well for half marathons. This one would be easy to blame on going to UT, and that is part of the reason, but the bigger problem lies in me jumping into a marathon too soon and never being able to find the spark since. And that's been a loooooong time. Don't get me wrong, I've continued to run half marathons at least once a year from 2008 up until 2020 shut everything down, but I haven't put in that same level of effort and intention, which I used to enjoy, in about a decade. I'm not sure I know how to fix this one.
  • Reading a lot. This one fizzled after I moved to Cincinnati, and the fizzling was compounded by 2020. Doomscrolling is way too convenient (and while the term is new, for me as for many, the practice is not).
  • Writing a lot. Another Cincinnati casualty, for some reason.

Is this a starting point for 2021 goals? Perhaps. I'm unlikely to return to watching a lot of TV, my fondness for Timothy McGee notwithstanding, but I can watch one or two Pacers games a week, methinks. Or perhaps it's time to acknowledge that I accidentally had that personality change that I always joke about having not had.

Whatever your choice for 2021--lots of resolutions, one or two goals, just hanging on tight to see what comes next--I wish you all the best for a year that goes your way more often than not. Indeed, I think that's the best we can all hope for.

31 December 2020

Good-bye, 2020 (don't let the door hit you)

I may have let an entire year go by since my last post, but I didn't want 2020 to go racing out the door altogether without shoving in at least a few words. Someone asked me earlier today, "How are you celebrating the new year?" and I said, "By going to bed on time and getting up when it's 2021. Oh, and probably by putting something on my blog about it being my anniversary. People love my widow content."

So, widow content is what you get.

A drawing of two hands toasting with champagne. Title reads, "Cheers to good health and life 2021."
I went to Canva looking for a nice New Year image, and this one seemed as likely as any. I thought the one that was a warning to be on the lookout for suspicious activity was too on the nose for 2020's last day.
It starts every year with Chadwick's birthday on October 4. I get a carrot cake or two to share at work, I post something cutesy on Facebook about how all October 4 calories are on Chadwick, and then the day ends and the earth continues to turn. And while I try not to let it spill on those around me, it's true that as the nights get longer, my days get darker. The holidays whirl by complete with what would have been, tomorrow, our 19th anniversary.

It's only a few weeks more until the *other* anniversary comes round, and while the seasons have changed and the literal hours of darkness are already shorter than they were earlier in December, my mental darkness will continue to grow. It's a cycle that's set in that I can't seem to shake--not that I've tried that hard, not that I want to shake it. Apart from the occasional inquiry from friends and acquaintances, the only person this darkness affects is me. And I'm fine with it, for now.

As great as it is when I get to visit with those who knew and loved Chadwick well, it's lovely to daily be surrounded by people who never knew Chadwick. People whose only connection to him is me. It's a gift to have so many friends and coworkers who welcome the stories of a very odd duck who took things as they came and made my life brighter by being in it. And so, if my 2021 starts off dim because I'm still missing the brightest star that ever shone onto my path... so be it.

It's probably best that such a bright soul didn't have to see 2020, anyway.

Happy new year, friends! As Colonel Potter says, may she be a damn sight better than the old one.

02 December 2019

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Giving Tuesday

Tomorrow's the day: you'll get emails all day long from every charity you've ever donated to or signed up for emails from, probably including a few that you forgot you ever connected to. (Unsubscribe if you want, but please think twice before reporting them for spam. Just because you don't remember signing up doesn't mean you didn't, nor is being tired of the email blasts a good reason to overreact. Nonprofit orgs are a lot more likely to be hurt by an email spam report than a nationwide chain store is, so please don't.) (Unless the org you're reporting for spam has done other terrible things, in which case: report away.)

I love Giving Tuesday. Love it. Ever since the first one back in 2012, it's one of my favorite days of the year. It's a day that I look forward to and strive to extract every drop of joy from. Obviously, this is related to me working for three nonprofits--it's fun to do our outreach on the day, connect with donors on social media, get donations that we can put to immediate good use--there's nothing not to love about this day from the point of view of a communications person at a nonprofit. Even the work leading up to it is fun work (although I will say I'm exhausted from the past few weeks and dancing on the very edge of burnout, so it's possible I went a bit overboard this year).

I also enjoy seeing what other orgs are doing for Giving Tuesday. Every sigh of "Oh, I wish I'd thought of that!" is an opportunity to learn from others. The nonprofit sector is huge, lots of groups are doing the hard work of making the world a better place, and to take a stroll through the Giving Tuesday hashtag on any network is to be inspired.

And for all that, it's also great for me as a person who donates to nonprofit organizations. I start the day with a dollar amount and usually one or two charities in mind, then I wait to see what happens. Who has a compelling ask? What group have I never heard of that suddenly gets shared into my Instagram feed? Who's been in the back of my mind, but so far back that they were all but forgotten, who might spring into the forefront of my brain today? I love finding new-to-me groups to donate to on Giving Tuesday, and every year, I've gotten to the end of the money I'd planned to donate that day and thought, "Maybe just one more." It's my personal biggest giving day of the year. and it's a delightful way to discover other nonprofits.

Maybe you don't feel the same way about Giving Tuesday. Frankly, it's hard to imagine anyone who's not in the nonprofit sector having this same level of passion for a day of giving, although I'm sure such folks exist. Maybe you like to give in other ways, or maybe the spark just hasn't caught yet for you. Maybe you're cranky about your inbox filling to the brim after you've only just emptied out all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday blasts.

But maybe you're ready to wake up tomorrow looking for ways to make the world a better place, and if so, I invite you to join me on the Giving Tuesday hashtag on the social network of your choice. Tweet me and tell me about what org you've found that I shouldn't overlook before the clock strikes midnight on Wednesday!

Thanks for stopping by Cheekyness! I hope this blog can be a calm/fun/bright space in your day. If you like what you see here, find me on Twitter for more random nonsense, or follow me on Instagram to see what a terrible photographer I am. If you have thoughts, too, share them in the comment box below, but please note that I ignore and remove spammers, jerks, and trolls without remorse.

18 November 2019

NaNoWriMo Survival

Dear readers,

I am not dead! Okay, see you after NaNoWriMo.

I kid! I have a few more words than that for you.

See those people hard at work? Do that.
Normally, I would credit the photo creator, but I pulled this from
my blog archives and today's other NaNoWriMo survival
tip is "Don't look up anything that's not life or death."
I'll correct this oversight when NaNo is over.
Yes, I've been gone for a very long time, and that long absence is because the internet sucks. (By "sucks" I don't mean mine is slower than usual; I mean people are awful. If you think I mean you, then you should really spend some time with that thought.) However, it's clearly not going to get any better with me avoiding it, so here I am with a few words for those of us in the throes of NaNoWriMo.

But if you're not a WriMo, one more thing before you go: I have lots of blogging plans for 2020. And some things for the rest of 2019. Make sure you have me bookmarked.

So! NaNoWriMo friends, we are in the messy middle. This is the trenchiest that NaNo gets. Initial enthusiasm may have waned, you may be a bit behind, and there are still two weeks to go, or maybe your plot has fizzled and the big twist turned out to be more of a crinkle.

Friend, you got this. Butt in chair, fingers on keys, and write down everything you can think of. Jump to a fresh page and write some backstory. Skip to that scene that you've been building up to but haven't yet figured out how to connect the dots to. Transcribe the conversations you overhear in the office. Do what it takes to get some words on the page, because your brain won't kick in with ideas if you're too paralyzed to get the fingers moving.

Having said that, here are a few more survival tips:
  1. Convenience foods are your friends. Pre-cut fruits and veggies are a godsend. For you or for your family; they'll be fine.
  2. Don't host Thanksgiving at your house. (It may be too late for this one for some of you.) If you do, tell your guests to expect dust, because NaNo. If they don't get that, they should not get any of your pumpkin pie.
  3. Minutes matter. In line at the store? Waiting at the school pickup? Ten minutes between meetings? Pull out your phone and get some words down.
  4. BACK. UP. EVERYTHING. Twice!
  5. If social media isn't helping, it's hurting. Turn off Facebook and Instagram for a couple weeks. Everybody will be cool with it.
  6. And finally... keep moving. If you're awake (and please do be getting a reasonable amount of sleep!), you're doing something. That's the way to make it to 50K before November 30.
That's all I've got! I have to get back to writing now, so let me know your best NaNoWriMo survival strategy. I will happily put them all to good use.

03 March 2019

Ashes to Ashes

For some reason, my pre-Lent posts have been wildly popular the last couple years. I'm not certain why that is, but in case you've dropped by under the impression that I know things, I want to state as strongly as possible: I am not an expert. My Lenten experiences have no basis in any particular branch of Christianity, in part because in my early years of observing Lent I had to keep it a secret from my extremely Evangelical family. They would have flipped their collective lids.

At the Cathedral Church of St John
the Divine
 in New York.
One of the most beautiful
buildings I've ever been in in my life.
So Middle School Su had to cobble together her own path through this time of year, and now that I have nearly 30 years' experience of Cafeteria Lent, folks trying it for the first time tend to ask me questions. So this post is an FAQ of what previously non-observing friends and acquaintances usually want to know ahead of Ash Wednesday.

1. Are you judging me for not doing Lent?
No. I don't have the interest or mental energy for keeping that close of tabs on your life. You do you and I'll do the same.

2. Do you have any Lenten resources to recommend?
I do not, but if there's a particular area of your faith that you'd like to explore more, that's a good starting place. Your local library probably has a decent religion & spirituality section.

3. Should I announce my fast on Facebook?
People are a little weird about this one, which is probably why I've heard a lot of strange reasons in favor of blowing a virtual trumpet on Shrove Tuesday. Here's what I got:
  • Before you decide, please read Matthew 6:16-18 and carefully consider your motivation for announcing your fast.
  • If you're asking me as someone who's done this many times and has some experience of the value of people knowing my fast vs not: no, you shouldn't.
  • If you're asking because you're hoping that announcing your fast will start faith-producing conversations: you have wildly misjudged the medium if you expect a productive conversation on Facebook. Still, if you'd like to forge ahead and have an exceptionally open-minded audience, go ahead and try it. Best of luck.
  • If you're asking because you're looking for some accountability: I'd suggest you find an offline human, or if it must be online, that you approach someone you trust via private message.
  • If you're asking because giving up Facebook is your fast and you want to let everyone know where you're going: I'd only do it if your absence will upset someone. A social media fast is a good exercise in humility, because you'll realize upon your return just how well that world keeps on spinning without you. (I say this from astonished experience.) If you absolutely need to let someone know you're going, this is probably best done via private message rather than a public announcement.
  • If you're asking for spiritual guidance, I refer you again to Matthew 6:16-18.
4. Do I have to go meatless on Fridays?
Are you participating in Lent as part of your faith tradition, and does that faith tradition ask you to go meatless? If so, in order to fully participate with your community: yes. If you're creating your own community or going it alone, then you have a bit more leeway to decide which elements, if any, of the traditional fast you're going to adopt. 

5. Did you know it doesn't really add up to 40 days?
Yes. Sundays don't count as part of the 40 days because Christians celebrate Jesus' resurrection on those days, and that celebration supersedes the mourning/fasting of Lent. 

6. Does it matter what I give up?
Yes, it matters, but maybe not in the way you're asking. (And it's okay if you haven't decided yet.) Some things to consider:
  • What are you trying to learn from Lent? What areas of your life need growth? Think about that and let that shape your fast. Also keep in mind that your fast, if it's helping you learn/grow, may not be something you want to stop at Easter. You can absolutely use these six weeks as a starting point for something more permanent.
  • Some folks are under the impression that people only give up sins that they should have already been trying to remove from their lives. Now, if Lent helps you do that, I'm not about to tell you not to. Six weeks of focused intent may be you push you need to finally deal with that thing. However, it doesn't have to be that, and for many participants it's not.
  • You may feel like giving up chocolate or TV or something small is silly. But if you're a first-timer or you choose something small that will be a genuine challenge, there's no reason to feel less than because you gave up coffee. Growth can come from small things, too.
  • Consider how you will keep yourself in check when your chosen fast starts really tugging on your brain. If you give up coffee and the trade-off is that you're unbearable to your coworkers for six weeks, maybe you're not quite displaying the love of Jesus in the way you'd intended. Have a plan for refocusing yourself when needed.
  • It's not so much what you're giving up; it's what you replace it with. So before you say, "Got it!" take some time to consider what you're adding to your life during Lent. 
7. What if I don't start on Ash Wednesday or fizzle out by the end?
It happens. That's why the Israelites prayed, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (That's Lamentations 3:22-23.) Make a new beginning as often as you need to.

8. What else do I need to know?
Get in there and do it, and be open to what changes in you. If you have a community to do this with, by all means, embrace that community whole-heartedly and do this together. God has placed you in a community for good reason, and fasting together as a shared experience can multiply your joys and divide your struggles. Do not neglect your community this Lent. Embrace them.

You still have a couple days to get ready, but try not to wait until 11:50 Tuesday night.

03 February 2019

Past vs Present

Austin has a new library. It's fantastic.
I'm in Austin this week, visiting my sister and seeing some of the beloved people and places that have helped make me who I am. It's an ongoing joke/truism in Austin that things around here change in a hurry, and not always for a better in the eyes of the locals. And while you don't have to leave for a couple years to see it--just waiting around one's own neighborhood for a few months will do--coming back to visit every six months is a fast way to muddle all the mental maps I used to have.

New pedestrian plaza on UT campus
Capital Metro, for instance. A bus system I once knew as well as the inside of my own apartment. I knew that major changes were coming--there were signs up at every bus stop when I was last here in May, plus I keep up with the Twitter chatter around transportation in Austin. But last night Denise and I were driving home from "my" HEB (which has also been rearranged, by the way) and talking about buses that are rerouted and stops that we used to use that are now gone altogether. I had no sooner said aloud, "I need to look at the CapMetro map and see what's changed," than I saw a sign for the upcoming Austin Marathon, indicating that the route is going through East Austin, a place it never went in the years I was running, volunteering, or spectating. So I added, "And I guess I need to look at the marathon map, too."
 
Places adapt and change. Kids grow up. People move away. Businesses close up shop and others open, buildings are torn down and new ones spring up. This is true everywhere, not just Austin--I've seen it happen plenty in the short time I've been in Cincinnati. And while I have my own reasons for clinging desperately to a time that is gone, the truth is that I know full well those days are never coming back again. My first Austin bus route is gone forever, the local supermarket can't serve customers who don't exist, and I'll never go back to one of my former apartments, open the door, and find Chadwick on the other side waiting for me to come home. The world is moving on and I've already gone with it, whether I like it or not.

Ai Weiwei's "Forever Bicycles" is here on a long-term
loan
. For that matter, it may be gone; I haven't been
round to look yet. It's new since I lived here and will also
be moving away again.
On the other hand, the Austin Half Marathon course has reverted to the one I ran for the first time and loved back in 2009, and while I'm not going to be here in two weeks' time to experience race day in
person, there's nothing to stop me from running some of those miles this week. Not for the sake of reliving the past, but rather to get all the joy I can out of the present.

And I hope that's what you're doing this week, too.

30 January 2019

How to Get to Carnegie Hall (kinda)

Friends, let's talk writing. Specifically, your writing.

If you have a pen this fancy, on you go! If not, any
writing utensil will do. Doesn't matter.
Pick it up and start writing.
Source: AndrĂ© Bergonzzi on freeimages.com.
I see you trying. I see you struggling with the thoughts and feelings that are inside you that, if you could only find the right words, might reassure or inspire or help or in any way make a mark on someone who needed to hear from you today. I see you, and you aren't alone.

Maybe you want to reflect on a milestone in your life. Maybe you have lots of great things to say, but the tools you'd like to use to say them are rusty, dusty, or blunt from neglect. Maybe 2019 is the year you finally want to put into words how flowers newly blooming, or summertime, or the start of a new school year, or Christmas or New Year make you feel--you want to share this piece of your heart, but every time you try, you hope for a ting! and instead get a thunk.

The good news is: you can do this. The less good news is: you're going to have to work at it.

Don't go! This shouldn't be a surprise to you. After all, it's widely accepted that anything worth getting is going to cost you some sweat equity, and that anything that comes without a cost is likely to be valued less. And if you don't have time or energy for this right now, that's okay! Maybe this isn't your season for improving this skill. Let it go for now, concentrate on what you need to be concentrating on, and you'll come back to this one in due course.

This movie is filled with great quotes
about writing. And if you don't watch the
last 30 minutes, it even has a happy ending!
Source: Pinterest.
Still with me? Great. Now, I'm not going to give you a list of Top Ten Things Real Writers Do. Why not? Because it is the 21st century and we have search engines, my friends. If that's what you're after, better people than me can help you out. No, we're going to talk about the thing that will help you get more comfortable with expressing yourself in writing: practice, practice, practice.

Yep, if by the end of May you want to be able to share with confidence and fluency what your child's eighth grade graduation means to you, now's the time to be working on your voice. Start right now--get a pen, or open up a word doc, or create an account on Blogger, if that's how you roll. Start writing. Use 100 words to tell yourself your favorite thing about winter. You don't have to post it on Facebook, or make your spouse read it, or even show anyone at all. Just do it. Tomorrow, write another 100 words, this time about the blanket on your bed. Your preferred mug. The feeling of getting up a few minutes early, when everyone else is still asleep. 100 words not enough? Try for 250. And when you've no idea at all what you can write about today, here's a list of nonfiction writing prompts to get you started.

I personally don't plan to woo any
women, but the sentiment holds
regardless: if you want your message
to be received, laziness will not get
you there. (And for anyone looking to
woo me: listen to Mr. Keating.)
Source: Pinterest.
Don't try to be "good." Don't try to be "smart." At the beginning, don't try to make a beautiful point or even any point at all. Just practice getting words out. After a while, when you're ready, it's time to take an extra moment to consider what word you really mean in the middle of your sentence about your grandmother's antique clock. Was it old, or was it ancient? Was the ticking loud, or stentorian? Did it smell strong, or of mothballs and furniture polish? But don't be fancy just to be fancy. Use the right words to say what you mean.

Don't be afraid and don't get discouraged. Take heart from this tidbit I used to tell folks when I worked at UT's writing center: no one is born a good writer, just like no one is born walking and talking. They are skills, and they can all be learned. Even this one.

A few minutes every day, bit by bit, and you start to know what feels right when you write it down. What sounds like you. How to get as close as possible to transmitting the picture in your brain into your readers' brains as well. And maybe that's when you set up shop and get your own blog going, or a daily thought on Facebook, and start letting other people in to what you're thinking of. Or maybe you realize you like having all these words all to yourself.

And then, come the next significant date you wish to commemorate with a lovely Facebook post designed to touch hearts and minds, you'll be ready.

Post title is a reference to the well-known joke. If you've never heard it, that is a real bummer.