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.

31 August 2016

A Flame that Never Dies

Last one, y'all. It really is. (See what it's like being on the front row here, and many of my favourite things about the show here.) But before I lay this to rest, here's a little thing I did after seeing Les Misérables:

(That was supposed to be "as awkward," but I was in a post-show, met-people-I-usually-only-admire-from-afar, walking-three-feet-off-the-ground fog, and also was headed for Shake Shack, so I didn't proofread very carefully before tweeting.)

Here's how it all went down. Chadwick and I saw Les Misérables on stage twice, once on either side of the 25th anniversary re-orchestrating & other changes to the show (i.e., we saw it once with the turntable, once without). That first viewing was when I realised how great of a character Enjolras is, and how I'd been wasting way too much of my fan-ness on Marius when there were Barricade Boys to be excited about. And just for sake of comparison to how he's staged now: Grantaire in that first show we saw was more or less just comic relief, and I mainly remember him because he sat at a table drinking all through the battle scene, didn't bother fighting, and was finally shot mid-drink.

Fast forward to the most recent national tour--I was excited to see it again on stage, and Chadwick had already sworn that he was not going to Les Mis ever again. This was going to be our last time seeing it together, he insisted. And of course it was, but for the worst possible reason.

Who's my favourite Enjolras? This one. ❤️
From that time I convinced him we should cosplay my OTP,
Enjolras+Eponine. That's a tiny red flag he's holding.
We were both blown away, me by how different Grantaire was from what we'd seen before, and Chadwick by a phenomenal Enjolras. On the way home, all he wanted to talk about was how amazing Enjolras was--my usual thing, just not this day--and I kept trying to break in with "but did you see when Grantaire...?" Never, ever, in all our theatregoing years, did Chadwick ever want to talk about an actor all the way home as much as he did that day.

Last summer, after I saw Les Mis on Broadway and met Jason Forbach at stage door and got his autograph but was really more excited to meet the next person in line, my favourite Grantaire, I went back home and finally read the playbill days later with a little more care, and nearly fell over.

Jason Forbach was Chadwick's favourite Enjolras, and he was standing there right in front of me, and I didn't know it because I didn't bother reading the playbill in the theatre.

So I waited a year to finally get to tell Mr. Forbach how much my non-Les-Mis-loving husband loved his Enjolras, and how Chadwick's final time seeing Les Mis was made much more spectacular as a result, and how much I cherish that. By some miracle, I got it all out without getting even a little bit teary. And for all I had a long list of reasons for wanting to see Les Misérables again on Broadway before it closed, this was a big one--I wanted to thank Mr. Forbach in person.

So, that was the first one, and fortunately I had a few minutes to collect all the emotions again before John Owen-Jones came round. Chadwick was a huge JOJ fan, even more so than me--he may be the one celebrity that Chadwick tweeted to with any kind of regularity (he even got an answer from time to time, making me a bit jealous). So what I had to tell Mr. Owen-Jones, after explaining that my deceased husband was a big fan, was "Somewhere in the afterlife, he is sick with jealousy right now that I'm here and he's not." And we both laughed--no tears required.

Chadwick would have enjoyed seeing Les Misérables on Broadway, if I had been able to convince him to let go of the "never again" and go have fun with me. He probably would have been hoping to meet Adam Monley, the actor playing his own favourite character (the Bishop of Digne), at stage door. But since we couldn't share this, I could at least a little bit see and hear and speak for him. And I imagine that as I heard the people sing, he could hear the distant drums.

Post title is from the finale of Les Mis; the line is, "For the wretched of the earth, there is a flame that never dies. Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise."

30 August 2016

Teaser Tuesday #45

My reading this month... erm... yeah. Not so much, which is bumming me out. So! This one is a bit of an unusual Teaser Tuesday, since it's a photo book and I can't share the usual teaser sentences.

New York Then and Now, Marcia Reiss and Evan Joseph

This was my Strand Bookstore purchase on my most recent New York visit. They didn't have the Much Ado About Nothing that I was hoping to get, so I decided to get something New York-y instead.

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

29 August 2016

No Doubt in Our Hearts

I have about five pics
of this phrase as a
result of (unsuccessfully)
trying to get a pic of
John Owen-Jones
on the marquee. FINE.
Les Misérables post #2! (Here's #1, aka "things you can see/hear from the front row.") I was in full-on hey-look-there-goes-my-adrenaline-without-me mode even more so than usual when I arrived at the Imperial Theatre, especially since I'd just gotten tweets back from some of the cast in response to my queries about whether they would be doing stage door that night. It's kind of amazing I was even able to walk in a straightish line.

The first usher I met inside looked at my ticket, sighed with happiness, and said, "That is a very good seat." It's a good sign when the ushers are happy just seeing where you'll be sitting. All the folks sitting around me were grinning as much as I was, because we were IN THE FRONT ROW AT LES MISÉRABLES, Y'ALL.

There have been a bunch of cast changes since the last time I saw the show, and all of the principal cast members apart from Marius were ones I hadn't seen before. They've also tweaked a few things here and there in the staging, and some of the actors have changed up how they deliver some lines. So it was kind of like seeing old friends who'd redecorated the living room since I last visited.

The curtain over the stage before the show starts. 
A few highlights (not nearly all of them, because OMG this show):

John Owen-Jones (Jean Valjean): I knew he was going to be amazing, having seen him on my TV often enough, but it's always extra-special to see someone in person after having been a fan from a distance.

Hayden Tee (Javert): I have a Twitter friend who's worked with him in Australia and speaks of him quite highly, so I had serious expectations going in. Y'all, I may have a new favourite Javert. First time I've ever listened to "Stars" without wanting the actor to hurry it up a bit.

Alison Luff (Fantine): I gotta say, they do get through the Fantines at Les Mis. But when they're all this spectacular, well, who's complaining? Her "I Dreamed a Dream" is gorgeous, of course, but watching her downward spiral during "Lovely Ladies" was what tore me apart. Hearts lying on the floor in pieces just shouldn't be allowed that early in any show.

Rachel Izen (Madame Thénardier): I loathe the Thénardiers. A lot. Every time I see the show or read the book, I hate the Thénardiers a bit more, comic relief or not. However! Rachel Izen is absolutely perfect, and so delightful to watch, so I was totally giggling through my hate. A confusing combination of emotions, to be sure, but that's basically my life now anyway.

Mark Uhre (Enjolras): Every time I see a new-to-me person as Enjolras, I think, "This one. This one is the best." Enjolras is my favourite Les Mis character, and that's unlikely to change anytime soon, and certainly not as long as such talented gents keep playing him. Loved, loved, loved Mr. Uhre's "Do You Hear the People Sing?" (I follow him on Instagram, and you should too, because his illustrations are fantastic.)

The Entire Freaking Ensemble: This visit to Les Misérables was all about the ensemble for me, because most of my favourite folks in the show are in the ensemble rather than the principal cast, so that's who I was really watching. Y'all, I tried counting their costume changes. I tried counting how many different characters a couple of them played. Could not do it. I don't know how long it is from the start of the show to the Paris scenes--an hour, maybe?--but for that entire early part of the show, ensemble members are onstage for about two minutes, leave, change clothes in about 30 seconds, come back on stage for another two minutes, rinse and repeat. It's a huge cast, but it seems even huger when the wings practically have revolving doors installed. No wonder they're all always so tired once the show is over.

And speaking of some of my favourites:

The playbill before these lovely
people signed it. Stage door pics
did not come out well at all, alas,
so those photos are buried
in a folder labeled "bitter regret."
Beth Kirkpatrick: I've now seen her twice, because she was on the 25th anniversary tour that came through Austin, but of course my seats in Austin are so far from the stage that the actors may as well not have faces. It would be more fair to say that I'm a Twitter fan of Ms. Kirkpatrick, but since I do follow her, she was one of the few ladies in the ensemble who I recognized on sight. And she's fantastic. Can't wait to see her in whatever she does next.

Joe Spieldenner: I did a ton of gushing about his Grantaire last week and basically every other time I've mentioned Grantaire in the past year, but I would be remiss not to say that his Major Domo is fantastically hilarious and I wish he had more than about five minutes on stage. Major Domo also hates the Thénardiers, which here in Su-Land is just a bonus. I've now seen Mr. Spieldenner as Major Domo three times and didn't even realise it the first two times. Front row FTW!

Jason Forbach: I was totally counting how many times he came on stage carrying a torch in the first 30 minutes. I would tell you, except that I eventually lost count and had to let it go. Maybe there's a different torch for every costume. Anyway, his Factory Foreman is so excellent that he fills me with a deep loathing. It's slightly terrifying that someone who is otherwise so engaging on stage incites these feelings of rage and murder so early in the show.

Joshua Morgan: Another person I'm technically a Twitter fan of, but he had me giggling through the whole show. He plays Joly, for whom I have a considerable soft spot in my heart (thank you, fanfiction!), but Mr. Morgan is also one of the ones I was watching in awe as he went from one character to the next at what is surely superhuman speed. Unbelievable, and yet totally believable every time he came on stage.

Two trips to NYC, three attempts to
get a decent pic of these billboards
in Times Square. I'm REALLY not so
great with the picture-taking.
"One Day More": Why on earth they can't sing this song more than once I'll never understand. One thing I love about this song is that it's great for listening to, but about 24601% better when you see it performed. It wasn't my favourite Les Mis song until the first time I saw the whole show live, and I'm not exaggerating when I say my mouth was hanging open the entire time (this was back in the days of the turntable, which I admit I miss a lot when this song comes up). When the lights went up for intermission that first time, I turned to Chadwick and asked, "Did you see that?? It was incredible!" and he of course said something like, "Yeah, honey, I was sitting right here." It just gets better every time I see it, although I'd swear it also gets shorter every time. Love, love, love.

Okay, okay, I'll stop! For today. But one more thing before I go: I really want to see a genderbent Les Mis someday just so I have more gushing to do about the women in the cast, who are harder to remember since they mostly don't have character names. That's the thing I really dislike about this show.

Post title is one of Enjolras' lines, just before "Do You Hear the People Sing?" begins. Because Enjolras.

28 August 2016

What Not to Wear

Hello there, yes, it's the rare Sunday Cheeky post about church-y things. If that's not your thing, I will not be offended if you skip this one. (Be warned-- tomorrow is more Les Misérables. You may like today better.)

The churchy blogosphere has kindly spilled thousands of pixels telling us all* what's appropriate attire† when we go to church on Sunday morning. I'm not going to link to them all, or indeed any of them, because how exhausting is that? I wasn't planning to add my voice to the cacophony, either, until a chance conversation with my grandmother reminded me that even my nearest and dearest can get a bit caught up in the minutia of life, and since I have this space for words, here goes.

Somebody took a picture of my feet
walking to church! Source: sanja
 gjenero on freeimages.com.
So here's a little story. I've worn jeans and t-shirts to church basically since the day I moved out of my parents' house and was no longer subject to their rules.** Sometimes I wear a skirt. Often I wear a nice shirt with my jeans instead of a t-shirt. In the summer, I usually wear shorts, because I get to church via bike/bus/my own feet and it's hot outside. 

Many, many years ago, I decided one week to dress up a little bit nicer than usual for church and wore a dress. That very Sunday, we had visitors sitting near us wearing t-shirts and shorts, and fortunately my husband's attire kept them from being the only ones in our vicinity dressed like that. The next week, I wore a dress again, and once again visitors (not the same ones) wearing more casual clothes sat nearby. When we got home that afternoon, I said to Chadwick, "Never again," and he agreed that twice in a row was as good a sign as we were going to get that we who feel comfortable dressing down should do it, if only for the sake of others who might be uncomfortable otherwise.

Now, I've heard the sermons and the lectures and the "but you shoulds" about why dressing up for church is giving our best to God, to which I say: baloney. If the best I have to offer God is a dress instead of a clean pair of shorts when I go visit him on Sunday morning, then my Christian walk is a sad story indeed. There's a lot more to me and my relationship with God than what I put on my body (or, indeed, than just Sunday mornings).

Do I have a problem with people who choose to dress up for church? Of course not. My grandmother, for instance, is from a generation that would never think of even wearing slacks to church, never mind jeans or shorts. It's never bothered me, nor do I plan to let it start. 

Here's my personal bottom line: wear what makes you feel comfortable worshipping God with your church family. If you need to dress up to feel like you're properly approaching Jesus, on you go. If you need to wear a t-shirt so you can concentrate on why you're there instead of what you're wearing, please do that. If you're so focused on what other people are wearing that you just can't pay attention to anything happening in the church service, take yourself out to the hall, put yourself in time out, and spend some time refocusing your thoughts on why you're in the building. If you're an adult and you're that distracted, your own thoughts are the problem, not what everyone else is doing. YOU are in charge of your mind. No, seriously. You are. 

Let's remember what our gathering together is about, y'all.


†basically neck-high, floor-length, shapeless sacks that are as unattractive as possible‡

‡unless you're a married woman, because your husband needs you to be attractive for him in public so he can brag about his hot wife§

§no, not that attractive, you're making other men lust; don't you have any respect for your husband at all? (I wish I were making these up. As it is, I'm not even exaggerating.)

**A reminder for the potentially confused, from a dear friend who is also a parent: Rebellion would have been refusing to follow the rules when I lived at home, not making my own once I was out. Keep that in mind if you have a kid who's just moved out and is forging his or her own identity right now.

26 August 2016

Travelling While Green

No, not *that* kind of travelling while green. Source.
I've done way more travelling in the last few weeks that I've done in years, and you'd think someone as dedicated to reducing and reusing as me would have great tips for travelling earth-friendly, yes?

Erm, no.

I got nothing. Well, not quite. I have lots of horror for how much trash I produced just from eating on the go in the last month. In New York there are at least recycle bins at regular intervals along the street, so it's not quite as bad as it could have been, but it's still bad. Between fast food and grab-and-go sandwiches, I feel like I've turned into a trash comet lately.

In hindsight, I'm not even sure what I would do differently. Perhaps some research to find compostable grab-and-go containers with bins on site (as they do at Whole Foods) ahead of time. Less fast food and more dine-in options, perhaps. At least this weekend in Cincinnati I took advantage of the nearby Kroger and the kitchen in my hotel room, which I haven't done anywhere else. Or maybe, the best thing I could have done was try a bit harder to find recycling bins instead of just chucking everything.

Then there's that minor detail that getting on an airplane is about the least earth-friendly thing I've done in recent weeks.

Why bother thinking through this? Because nobody is perfect. Because maybe this is an opportunity. Maybe travelling is a time to remember why I do this all the rest of the time--because that is a lot of rubbish for one person to produce in a short space of time. And maybe reflecting on a recent trip will generate ideas for next time.

What I won't do is throw up my hands and say, "Who cares, it's a vacation!" That probably works for some folks, but it's not an approach for me. What works for me is to open my eyes a bit wider and see what other options are out there.

Because I have been changed for good.

25 August 2016

The Music of Angels, the Light of the Sun

Y'all, in the final week of July I went to the theatre three times in 24 hours. Here's a little #protip: That is a terrible, terrible idea. In this era of bingewatching everything on Netflix, it may not sound so bad, but theatre done well is emotionally exhausting for the audience. It's happening right in front of you, it's raw, it's extraordinary, it carries you away with it, and may well leave you in pieces. Paying someone to do that to you three times in one day sounds fun (and it was!), but eventually your mind and heart will present the bill.

So if you're going to do it, make sure it's worth it. With a combination of Something Rotten, Fiddler on the Roof, and Les Misérables, it was so worth it I'd happily do it again and again, despite the hours I spent crying in a public library a few days later. Because when it comes to screwing with one's emotions, no one is a slower learner than I am.

The curtain over the stage after the show. (Before the show, it's the same
background but minus the title and plus Victor Hugo's name in
the lower right-hand corner.)
I've written about Les Mis so many times you'd think I'd left myself with nothing to say. Hahaha! No, this is going to be at least three blog posts before I'm done. I'm kind of in love with this current cast (thank you, Twitter!), so when I went to get the ticket and saw there was one lonely seat on the front row still available, I put in my credit card number so fast my keyboard started smoking.

Y'all. I can never not sit on the front row ever again. I am ruined for life. First of all, I made so much eye contact with the actors (possibly because I was wearing my big scary grin the whole time and they were just checking to see if that was really a human down there) and I got an extra jolt of happiness every time it was an actor who I recognized--which, due to my stalking intense research, is most of them. Pretty sure Will Ray is the one I made eye contact with most. He's at the front of the stage a lot.

Basically this is exactly how it looked from my seat. Not all of them are
the same folks I saw; this is a pic from early in the revival. I was a bit
distracted during this scene trying to identify who among them I recognized.
Secondly, and even more fun: the actors talk to each other, in character, throughout the show but in the barricade scenes especially, but unless you're very close to the stage you can't hear them since their mics are off. Naturally, local drunkard and part-time comic relief Grantaire (Joe Spieldenner) says some of the funniest stuff, and I told him at stage door that he had me laughing so hard at such inappropriate moments. I've forgotten most of them (I waited way too long to blog about this!) and may have heard them wrong to begin with, so this is one of those times I really hope they don't all have Google alerts on their names.

The company of Les Misérables.
Enjolras (Mark Uhre): "Don't like the wine go to your brains!"
Grantaire: "It's going to my stomach."
Feuilly (Jason Forbach): *to Grantaire* "I told you so."

Enjolras: "We need a sign, to rally the people... ."
Grantaire: "Why don't we just make some signs?"

During "Drink With Me," Joly (Joshua Morgan) cozies up a bit with the woman next to him on the bench during his line "Here's to pretty girls who went to our beds." She shoves him to get him away (unfortunately, I don't recognize most of the women in costume, so I don't know who she was), which knocks him into I think Devin Ilaw, who nearly falls off the bench. She says to him, "Are you okay? (to Joly) Not you. Nobody cares about you. (to the other guy) Are you okay?" I was laughing so hard at this exchange that I missed Grantaire's first "Drink With Me" line, but all the good stuff comes after the first line anyway.

For those of us who enjoy sadness: When Enjolras realizes their situation is hopeless and says "Let the women and fathers of children go from here!" Grantaire tells Gavroche to go and they argue about it before Gavroche pretends to leave, only to come right back once Grantaire's back is turned and be killed before the battle even begins. I can't even describe how heartbreaking that scene is, as Grantaire takes Gavroche's body from the barricade, screams in agony, and then lays Gavroche down so he can go die beside Enjolras. I didn't take my eyes off Grantaire for the entire scene. (Not that that's anything new. I'm quite a fan, in case you hadn't guessed.)

And finally, "Valjean's Confession." Marius' (Chris McCarrell) facial expressions are fantastic through this song-- he starts off looking very "uh-oh, I'm in trouble," then kind of relaxes as he realizes that he's in the clear, and then the moment when it dawns on him what Valjean is saying shows so clearly on his face. It's perfect. Better than Eddie Redmayne.

What I tried to see but didn't: When Fantine bites Bambatabois' face. A previous Fantine described biting into a capsule of red stuff & spitting it onto his face in an interview once. I was on the front row and watching for it and still didn't see it. They cover it really well.

What I saw happen but still didn't believe my eyes: During "Bring Him Home," everyone finds a place to sleep. Apparently the nooks and crannies on the barricade are huge, because hardly any actors were actually visible onstage, only for them to come tumbling out from all directions when dawn breaks and Enjolras starts speaking again.

What I saw but pretended not to notice: Two of the barricade boys breathing when they were dead. Can't blame them for having trouble keeping it hidden--they're racing around the stage fighting for the whole scene leading up to them laying there dead, and it has to be nearly impossible to keep your breaths small enough to not be seen, especially for the guys who are sprawled right there on the barricade in full view of the audience. One of them was trying so hard to control his breathing that I started to worry that he was going to pass out, but the barricade rolled off the stage and carried away the dead guys before that could happen. (You know who didn't show any signs of breathing? Enjolras. Maybe he practices holding his breath for long stretches of time.)

If that's not enough glorious detail about Les Misérables for you, don't worry; I have more ready for next week.

Post title is a line from the song "In My Life." Not my favourite song in Les Mis, but a good descriptor for the show as a whole.

24 August 2016

Sounds Strange, No?

I should probably get my New-York-related posting done before an entire month goes by since I've been there, yes? My plan for Wednesday in New York was to see all the free things I could cram in before heading to Les Miserables in the evening, but on a whim, I skipped down to the theatre district as soon as I was awake to see if there were any rush tickets available for the Fiddler on the Roof matinee.

Billboard outside the theatre. All the hype & good reviews
of this show are not exaggerating. It really is that good.
There were. And my goodness, if you want a single rush ticket on Broadway (unless you're hoping to see Hamilton, of course) you may end up as the luckiest person on the planet: I got a seat in the third row orchestra on the house-left side. Holy. Freaking. Cow. I texted my mother right after I left the box office to say, "If I'm reading this ticket right, I just got an incredible seat." And I did. I still can't believe my good luck.

Anyway, if you aren't familiar with the plot of Fiddler, do yourself a favor and visit a local high school show. It's a story that's 100 years old but that resonates through the ages, and is no less applicable today than it was when it was written. See it. Take your kids to see it. Bring your neighbors. Talk about how important the message is.

And so this beautiful and critical story is currently on Broadway eight times a week until December 31, and it's gorgeous and incredible and is indeed laden with happiness and tears. As much as I would like to gush about every actor in the cast, I'll try to keep it to just a few, so that you stick with me:

Pre-show. Yep, that's how close
I was to the stage. Yep, it starts
off empty & sets fly in and out.
And incidentally, so does the
Fiddler himself.
Danny Burstein (Tevya): You'd swear he was born to play Tevya. This is a particularly demanding role (or so it seems to me as an audience member), as Tevya is barely offstage for the entire three hours, but the energy and life that Mr. Burstein brings to Tevya is spectacular. Unfortunately for matinee-goers, on two-show days he takes a nap between shows (or so the security officer at the door told us), so I didn't get to meet him at stage door.

Jessica Hecht (Golde): So, I've seen her before. So have you. She was Susan on Friends. Did I notice this during the show? I did not, because as Golde she absolutely shines and there's no way the audience can imagine her as anyone else. When she staggered on stage to tell Tevya that Chava had eloped, I couldn't even see what was happening on stage because of all the tears. Had Golde passed out right there, I wouldn't have been surprised--that's how broken she looked.

Melanie Moore (Chava): Chava has been my favourite Fiddler character since the first time I saw the show at age 10. (She's basically everybody's favourite, right?) Ms. Moore is absolute perfection as Chava. Every line, every look, every moment she was on stage-- perfect. I was so happy to get to tell her so at stage door. (Also, I'm still kind of amazed that I even recognized her at stage door, because she looks completely different in character than she does in person. Theatre is magical.)

Ben Rappaport (Perchik): Perchik is my favourite of the boys who wander in to win the hearts of Tevya's daughters. In his first scene, I thought, "Why is Perchik so angry?" But it didn't take a lot of stage time for me to realise that Mr. Rappaport's emotional levels were consistently perfect for a character with so much going on under the surface. In his final scene, when Hodel agrees to marry Perchik, his oh-so-deadpan "I am very happy, Hodel," had the audience giggling, but it was absolutely brilliant and just the right touch.

Alix Korey (Yente): "Of course, right." Who doesn't love Yente?

Adam Kantor (Motel): Gets a special mention because Motel is kind of goofy and awkward for his first couple of scenes onstage, only to go through a tremendous amount of growth in that first act, and then--here's the important part--sustain grownup-Motel for the rest of the show when it would be easy to slip back into the lovelorn guy with no self-confidence that so delights the audience at the beginning. Adam Kantor does it beautifully.

Okay, okay, I'm stopping! No stage door pics for this show, because my phone's battery was on its last legs at that point, but the cast were all wonderful at stage door and I was delighted to give the signed playbill to my mother--it's been her favourite show her whole life. In fact, I'm hoping to take her to NYC in a couple months' time to see the show before it closes. And if you possibly can make it to New York before December 31, I urge you to do the same.

19 August 2016

Overstuffed Drawers

There are two things I hate about clothes: 1) When one of my favourite things wears out, and 2) Having too many to know what to do with.

As far as the first one goes, well, nothing lasts forever. I mend (in defiance of Brave New World), I treat stains carefully, I line dry to keep the tumble dryer from wreaking its havoc. In the end, if I really like it, I might add it to a quilt or a pillow, or dust rags for the not-quite-as-well-loved items.

I have this thing for turning Chadwick's clothes
into soft furnishings, it seems.
One of my favourite Chadwick stories happened in our first year of marriage, when he had a t-shirt that he had loved almost to death, and for the sake of his own modesty I asked him to make it an at-home-only shirt. Of course he forgot and wore it to class one day. Sigh... so one weekend I took that shirt and an equally problematic pair of shorts and made them into throw pillows. He was so delighted, he told all his friends (and IIRC, they all agreed that that shirt was well past its usefulness as a body covering).

I know this is not something everyone can, or is willing, to do. No worries! The good news about green living is that there is room for a lot of things that work. Being a sewing person, I mostly can only thing of uses for old clothes that require a needle and thread, but people more imaginative than I can probably list a few more.

Which brings us to the second, and probably a lot more common, problem: What to do with the clothes spilling out of every available crevice of the house? A t-shirt quilt is not the solution to everything, unless you just really need a lot of blankets. Thrift stores are an obvious answer, although as a green solution it merely kicks the can down the road a bit, because then the thrift store has to get rid of any unsold clothes. (Some of them have really good solutions for this that don't involve the word "landfill." Ask before donating if the end use matters to you!)

In most places that I've lived, I've ended up amassing a group of friends who willingly swap clothes back and forth between us, which has been a great solution for me. My other solution is to refuse: say no to the free t-shirts that come flowing my way at every event I go to. Unless it's a shirt that's so great it knocks my socks off (and dangit, races have gotten a lot better at this), I leave it on the table.

Because especially for many of us in the U.S., the best solution to crammed closets is probably not to cram anything else into them.

What do you do about clothes?

18 August 2016

789,840 Minutes

Why do we mark time as we do? What's special about a month? Who decided we need a cake once every 525,600 minutes? How did 18 months become the milestone that it feels like, to me, today?

The reality of grief that we all know is that there are no gates to pass through, no finish line, not even clear lines with which to measure progress. It's recursive, it's forever, and it sometimes attacks right when you thought you were having a good day. It's a spiral in the middle of an Escher painting, so that when viewed one way it seems like you're going up, until you look back and find out you were really going down.

What to do with 18 months, with this non-milestone? My answer was going to be "nothing," and then I heard of With This Ring. After thinking over donating our rings, and when would be a good time for that, I finally settled on today: 18 months since Chadwick passed, 789,840 minutes of life without him (it's a leap year), and with the bonus that I've had a lot of time to consider and re-consider since I first started thinking about it.

The website says sweet things about life-changing generosity, but I already have all the life change I can possibly handle for one decade. We were planning to upgrade our rings anyway, and were still searching for the perfect ones to replace what we had. I put his ring on a necklace and wore it to his funeral while wearing my own, then put both of them away and haven't looked at them since. It's time, and if the little trinkets that two broke 20-somethings managed to get their hands on can provide someone else with clean water, I'm not about to withhold them. It's exactly what Chadwick would have wanted.

The rings are packaged and waiting. I'm taking them to the post office as soon as it opens this morning. You're all the first to know.

And with or without this ring, I will carry on through all the milestones waiting in the next 788,400 minutes. 

17 August 2016

You Can't Get There from Here

Much to the chagrin of nearly everyone who's related to me, I am a confirmed city gal. I grew up in a small town and will carry it in my heart forever, but the woman I am now needs a city if she wants to go on being who she is. (And she does. How did I start this paragraph in the first person and end up in the third? Settle down, brain.)

This summer has been nice to re-acquaint myself with the place I grew up, spend some time with assorted relatives, and enjoy some of the benefits of funemployment (like long bike rides at 2 PM on a weekday). But the thing I hate about being here has grown increasingly heavy to me, so that I have to either get out or be crushed:

Life here requires owning a car.

Not even an e-assist can make this
place better without a matching
designated bike lane to anywhere.
I appreciate the car as a tool. That's why I've been a member of carsharing services like car2go and Zipcar. But much like the high-powered carpet cleaner we rented to clean my grandmother's house a couple weeks ago, it's not a tool that I should be required to have at hand all the time. AAA has put the average annual cost of car ownership in the U.S. as over $8,000 for many years now, and quite frankly, I have other uses for that kind of cash. I'm not the only one.

There is neither public transit nor a decent bike route between here and Indianapolis. If I want to go to the theatre, or get on an intercity bus, or even visit a bookstore, I have to get my hands on a car. Even closer to home, if I want to go get something out of my storage unit that doesn't easily fit into my bicycle pannier, I end up begging for a lift for the two miles across town--this was a problem just last week when I needed to make a quick dash to my storage before heading out of town, and my mother had grandma's car. My queendom for a cargo bike!

(Those same cargo bikes can be used for hauling kids, by the way, and frequently are in places that have sensible bicycle policies. Don't even start about me only being able to live car-free because I'm not a parent. It's not necessarily true.)

This is a song I have sung many times, and will continue to sing until the U.S. finally catches on that people need options. Public transportation, carsharing, bikesharing (or just a local cargo bike rental), decent bicycle infrastructure--these can all put a dent in the burden of car ownership for people, in small towns and large.

And until that happens, people like me will continue rejecting the otherwise perfectly acceptable places where they grew up to find a better fit for our lifestyles.

16 August 2016

In My Mailbox #13

Technically, this will be in someone else's mailbox, because I bought it as a gift. Whatevs.

Wreck This Journal, Keri Smith

I love these journals. For the uninitiated, they're meant to be torn up, beat up, and otherwise wrecked--the pages say things like "Rub this page on a dirty surface" or "Freeze this page" or "Make this page into a paper airplane." A precious journal to be closely guarded, this is not.

This journal is intended for "anyone who's ever had trouble starting, keeping, or finishing a journal or sketchbook," but I don't know that many people who can't use this kind of creativity boost/permission to tear things up/stress relief in their lives. Which is why I've given tons of them as gifts. One of these days I'll keep one for myself.

What's in your mailbox this week?

09 August 2016

Teaser Tuesday #44

Source: Goodreads.
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Gregory Maguire

Madame Morrible, for all her upper-class diction and fabulous wardrobe, seemed just a tad--oh--dangerous.

"A life without words," Elphie said, looking in her coffee and not drinking it.

Unrelated: I am finally going to see Wicked in three weeks! I mentioned to my sister-in-law that we'll be up in the balcony and might not see the actors' faces clearly, and she answered, "I'll see them just fine when you drag me to the stage door afterwards." Indeed, she will.

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

08 August 2016

When There Is No Hand to Hold

Lately I've been revisiting my list of "Do Not Listen" songs that I've built during this new life as a widow--songs that made getting through the day harder than necessary, so I put them aside until I was ready to listen to them again. In this process, some songs (like this one) have magically gone from "can't get past the first line" to "can't get through the day without this." Others are back on the shelf. The process has been fun for hearing a lot of music with new ears, with a brain and heart shaped by my journey to a new normal, to a somewhat changed identity.

Source: Jeffrey Spehar on
And so it was with those new ears that I heard a line from the It Shoulda Been You cast album: "If I deny part of myself, I risk the rest of me." Strong words for a life that's still trying to remember what "the rest of me" looks like.

Who am I (presuming the answer is not 24601) now? What do I like? What do I love? Most days I have no idea. Most days I'm pretty numb about a lot of things I used to care about. I often say that I haven't had a personality transplant, but 18 months later, I'm not even sure that goofy little joke is true. Maybe I do have a new personality. Have I lost enough of myself to risk the rest of me? Do I even remember what the rest of me is?

I didn't expect this road to be short. But I think I'd thought I'd be farther along it now.

Post title is from the song "Revolutionary," linked above.

05 August 2016

Managing Stuff; or, Why I Won't Keep That Thing You Gave Me Forever

While we were packing up our Austin house to move, my sister asked, "Do you mind if I get rid of [thing I can't even remember now]?" Naturally, I said, "No. Why would I mind?" She said, "You're the one who gave it to me."


Family and friends, let me give you blanket permission, henceforth and forever, amen: You need not feel obligated to keep anything I've given you. Once it passed from me to you, it became yours to do with what you wish. Stick it in a garage sale, eBay, thrift store bag, a shelf in your garage--whatever makes you happy. It's yours, and if you can't use it, then by all means pass it on to someone who can.

Trying to keep my living space from
turning into this. Source:
  joana franca on freeimages.com.
However. (You knew this was coming, right?) I reserve the right to also not keep things forever. If that thing you gave me has come to the end of use that I can get out of it (because I'm moving, or my tastes have changed, or it turned out that my life wasn't as enhanced as I thought it would be by the presence of whatever), then away it goes. I'll try to find it a good home, but that good home may well be the Goodwill.

A few weeks ago, my grandmother was doing some furniture changes in her house that resulted in her giving away some drawer sets and a bed. She was positive that everyone she knew would be clamoring to have them. I was equally positive that everyone she knew already had their own furniture and didn't want hers. Guess who was right?

While we were navigating these surprisingly rocky waters, I ran across an article aimed at Baby Boomers about why your kids don't want your downsized stuff. And while this sort of advice has been doing the rounds for a few years, it's always amazing how many "ungrateful kids" comments that come up. It may well be lack of gratitude for a few, but it's more likely to be lack of space, or different tastes in furniture, or a completely different lifestyle. I'd love to have copies of my grandmother's photo albums when she's done with them. Her four-piece bedroom suite? Not so much. Now, if this were furniture handmade by my great-grandfather, or something... but it's not.

It's not economical and and it's not green and it's not even that healthy to hang onto things you don't want, need, or use out of a sense of obligation or guilt. Say a blessing over it, take a picture if that helps, and let it go. (Put it in storage if you must, but beware--items in storage tend to stay in storage. Rip off the band-aid if you can instead of throwing more money at it.)

So if you come to my house and don't see the thing you gave me for May Day six years ago, it doesn't mean I don't love you. It means I love our friendship too much to resent you every time I trip over that (beautiful, of course) thing. And I extend the same grace to you.

04 August 2016

Something Rotten--Not as Terrible as it Sounds

I've probably mentioned a few times that it's for good reason I'm not a theatre critic, yes? Since I have this tendency to love every show more than anyone should, and a strong aversion to writing down anything that I didn't like? Especially if it's an actor I've already seen and liked who's obviously in the wrong part or having a bad night--I just can't bring myself to say so in public.

So, not a critic. And it's a good thing, because I have nothing but wonderful things to say about Something Rotten, currently in its second year on Broadway and now touring the U.S. (Which means, wonder of wonders, that I get to see it again when it comes to Cincinnati in a few months' time! RESULT.)

What I tweeted after I bought my ticket. They're
even better on stage than they are on Twitter,
  which is saying something.
After I bought a Les Miserables ticket last month, I knew I'd want to see at least one other show in New York, so after staring at the current list of Broadway shows for about 20 minutes I finally went with a show that has an actor I already knew I liked (Josh Grisetti). Y'all, even if it is hard to go wrong on Broadway, I have the BEST luck when it comes to choosing Broadway shows.

From the song "Will Power."
Source: Something Rotten Facebook.
The Shakespeare jokes were magnificent. The songs were brilliant. The gentle mocking of popular musicals--and musicals themselves as an art form--was fabulous. The cast was obviously having so much fun. I doubt that I heard half the jokes because I was laughing so hard from the previous one. I did hear the joke about the price of drinks in the theatre, which was doubly funny because I had just sent a horrified tweet to my sister about the cost of a cocktail right before the show started. (I didn't get one. There's no amount of adult beverage that could dull the pain of handing over that much cash.)

And the best bit... there's a long buildup to a Les Mis joke, which the audience of course knows is coming, that just gets funnier and funnier leading up to the two-part punchline. I was already giggling knowing what was coming, and when the first half of the punchline came out I couldn't hold back the enormous "HA!" that burst out of me. Then the second half hit and I laughed so hard I had tears running down my face (along with the rest of the audience).

I got two stage door selfies at this show,
 but the other one is....well, rotten.
I'm not great at holding a phone and pushing
a button one-handed. Anyway, this is Aleks Pevec, who
was on as Shakespeare the night I saw the show.
My face was hurting at the end from so much grinning and laughing. I'm not exaggerating when I say I've never laughed so hard in a theatre. If Something Rotten comes to you on tour, don't miss it. Even musical haters can have fun at this one.

02 August 2016

Reading Challenges Update: July

Here's what happened with my reading challenges in July. I'll probably bump up the "I Love Libraries" challenge goal again, but I'm holding off on that until I land in the city that I plan to stay in for a while. (Fingers crossed that happens in the next couple of weeks.) "Read it Again, Sam" and "Mount TBR Challenge" are likewise in a holding pattern until my books and I are back in the same space. And I've completed the highest level available of the Women Challenge!

As for the Goodreads Challenge-- by my count, I have 43. They say I have 44. I'm going with their number, but wondering where I lost a book somewhere.

Links are to and images are from Goodreads, where all my reviews are written.

I Love Libraries Challenge (35/36 books so far)
Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves, E. Kristin Anderson (ed.) & Miranda Kenneally (ed.)
Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own, Kate Bolick
The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir, Vivian Gornick
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, Jeanne Birdsall
Yes Please, Amy Poehler
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, Jenny Lawson
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, Anne Fadiman
Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters, Mallory Ortberg
The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own, Joshua Becker
Inside Out Girl, Tish Cohen

Read It Again, Sam (3/4 books so far)

Woman Challenge CHALLENGE COMPLETED (20 books)
Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves, E. Kristin Anderson (ed.) & Miranda Kenneally (ed.)
Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own, Kate Bolick
The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir, Vivian Gornick
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, Jeanne Birdsall
Yes Please, Amy Poehler
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, Jenny Lawson
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, Anne Fadiman
Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters, Mallory Ortberg
Inside Out Girl, Tish Cohen

Mount TBR Challenge (6/20 books so far)
Inside Out Girl, Tish Cohen

Goodreads Challenge (44/100 books so far)
Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves, E. Kristin Anderson (ed.) & Miranda Kenneally (ed.)
Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own, Kate Bolick
The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir, Vivian Gornick
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, Jeanne Birdsall
Yes Please, Amy Poehler
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, Jenny Lawson
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, Anne Fadiman
Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters, Mallory Ortberg
The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own, Joshua Becker
Inside Out Girl, Tish Cohen

What are you reading this month?

01 August 2016

Tomorrow Comes

This post was supposed to happen a week ago. I got a bit behind. So! We're just going to pretend that I have a TARDIS handy and go ahead with my planned posts like a whole bunch of cool things didn't happen to me last week. Okay? Great.

July 25, 2015 was an amazing day, and far and away my best day of 2015. My dream of 20+ years, to see Les Misérables on Broadway, finally came true--in the company of my best friend, in the middle of an amazing weekend, and only hours after I first laid eyes on the Museum of Modern Art. (We fit in some other fun stuff, too.)

Just one of the many wonders of MoMA.
I'll spare you my usual raving about Les Mis (for now). That day, when the ensemble strode onto the stage for "At the End of the Day," I wondered, "Do they know how awesome this is? Do they know the effect they're having on the audience? Do they know how badly some of us watching needed to be here today, to see this?" 

I've read enough of the casts' interviews to know that it's as emotional a show for the performers as it is for the audience. I know they do get how much this show affects its viewers and that they take that seriously. I love that about this cast. 

I hate that this beautiful show is closing, which is why I went racing to NYC to see it again. But I will never forget that one shining day in the middle of 2015, when some amazingly talented performers stood on a Broadway stage to remind me that even the darkest night will end. Some days are still dark, but I'm starting to see a sunrise around the edges.