What are we talking about today?

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

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

17 September 2017

Last Day. First Day.

I knew this day was coming. I thought about it briefly the day I turned 39, but in the past few weeks this milestone has loomed up and thrown its shadow over my entire life. I didn't expect it to be this big of a deal, which was obviously my first mistake.

Today's the day I outlive Chadwick.

I'm a member of a couple widows' groups and we talk about everything imaginable, plus some things you're all better off not imagining, but how it feels to outlive a spouse is a thing there's probably not a word for. So I once again have no idea how I'm feeling, except for my overwhelming desire to just stay in bed. Forever.

Last night I went to an FC Cincinnati game, finally, but before I headed out I tried to pinpoint when I last went to a professional soccer match. I'm pretty sure it was when I lived in Scotland, and the longer I thought about it the more the absurdity of that realization dawned on me. Despite all that I've left undone and all that's still to come on my bucket list, the fact is that my 39 years have been pretty amazing, mostly by accident, and the best part of it all was the 13 I spent with my Chadwick. Who had 39 pretty amazing years himself.

Today's the last day I can say I spent one-third of my life with him. From now on, that percentage will shrink. Today is the last age (39 years, four months, 14 days) we will ever have in common. Tomorrow is the first day I shoot without a script. Maybe I still have time to write one great solo.

Maybe I still have time. Maybe there's more amazing to come. Maybe tomorrow I'll be able to pull myself out of bed one more time.

05 September 2017

What I Read: August

After I finished the blanket I'd been working on since April at the end of July, I suddenly felt like I had all this time for reading. Which I promptly filled with other things, because I'm still me in here and my brain is apt to wander off from time to time to see what's happening in the next room, so to speak.

However, August was at least better than the last few months have been, so that's something.

As always, all links and images are from Goodreads. Let's be friends and you can see all the things I've read. Books are in alphabetical order, not the order I read them in, because chronological is so 2016.


First-time reads:
Colonize This!: Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism, Daisy Hernandez & Bushra Rehman
Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World, Bob Goff
Nurse Matilda: The Collected Tales, Christianna Brand
Our Bodies, Our Bikes, Elly Blue & April Streeter


Re-reads:
Bikenomics: How Bicycling Can Save The Economy, Elly Blue


Books by women:
Colonize This!: Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism, Daisy Hernandez & Bushra Rehman
Nurse Matilda: The Collected Tales, Christianna Brand
Our Bodies, Our Bikes, Elly Blue & April Streeter


Goodreads challenge: 20 of 52 books in 2017


What are you reading?

04 September 2017

Final Third

Labor Day marks the end of summer for most of us (even though summer still has about three weeks to go), and these days, the beginning of the dreaded season of pumpkin spice in everything. I saw some pumpkin spice chocolate chip cookies in Kroger last week--why? Why??

Labor Day is also a nice breath for people in the academic to pause for a second after a few weeks back at the daily grind. While I'm very happy indeed that I'm no longer in that group, I've always appreciated friends who share how they take this time of year to refocus, set new goals, and otherwise gear up for the adventure ahead. And with the year two-thirds done, I agree it's a great time to think about what's left undone in 2017.

I had to go look to find out whether I'd even written down any goals for this year, if that tells you how much attention I've paid to them. But here are the two that pertain to running to focus on in this final third of the year:

1. Get my running in.
I looked at my log yesterday for grins to check out my history with running mileage. I have over 10 years of data in that log now. When I started keeping track in 2006 (which was before I started running, btw), I thought I'd probably fizzle out after a few months and it would just be another thing stuck in my files that I felt too guilty to look at again, ever.
Anyway, here's what it looks like:
  • 2007: 321
  • 2008: 625
  • 2009: 775
  • 2010: 407
  • 2011: 122
  • 2012: 269
  • 2013: 181
  • 2014: 257
  • 2015: 230
  • 2016: 355
  • 2017 (so far): 233
So I guess I'm hitting pretty near average? Ai yi yi, no wonder I've never been that good at running. Some people run almost as much in a month as I do some years--but then again, this is not an area of my life that I need to compare with other people. Instead, now's a great time to stick to the plan for the rest of the year (418 more miles, if I do them all) and see what kind of magic happens.

Near the river is fine, as long as I stay on the Ohio side.
Over that bridge there be dragons, although there's also
a (slightly) lower sales tax rate.
2. Go outside every day.
I'm not terrible at this one, even though I do have days that I never even open my door. Although yesterday I opened my door and it ended with me being stuck in Kentucky for four hours, so maybe I'll rethink this one a bit.

Just kidding, I'll still do it, but I'm wary of crossing any more rivers just in case I can't get back. Either way, I can't get my running in if I don't go outside. And when I do get my running in, that means I can stop going outside for the rest of the day, if I want! Win-win.

Do you use this time of year as a reset? What are you resetting?

30 August 2017

Exercise Caution

A few weeks ago, an outrageous, victim-blaming, simply awful supposed "PSA" appeared in Portland. The backlash against it was so swift and severe that agencies involved tripped over themselves in the scramble to get their names disassociated with it, and the video was soon taken down.

Many, many stills from it appeared on Twitter as advocates explained for what is surely the thousandth time why encouraging dangerous driving while blaming pedestrians for their own deaths is a terrible idea. For example, one of the personas created for a video was a woman who, when she gets the "Walk" signal at an intersection, immediately steps into the crosswalk.

There's another expression for that phenomenon: Working As Designed.

This light means something. I know, I know, we're all
surprised to hear that. Source: lou suSi on freeimages.com.
Seriously, that's what the signal is for. You get the light, you go. You know, like people do in cars? When the light turns green? Same idea. There's no excuse for ridiculing someone for using the traffic signals exactly as they were meant to be used. There are no buts about this. Red light = drivers stop behind the giant white line drawn on the road for that purpose. There should be no reason why a pedestrian can't enter the crosswalk immediately upon getting a signal.

But of course, as long as careless drivers are allowed to continue piloting fast and heavy machines around our streets, pedestrians will have to exercise a disproportionate amount of caution. This shouldn't be normalized into a PSA. This is a problem that cities need to be addressing, to find out why their pedestrians aren't safe and take steps to fix it.

By the way, this is exactly the reason why pedestrians cross midblock between intersections, or why we'll cross against the light if the street is empty. Drivers sitting at a red light are simply not to be trusted, especially right-turning drivers. At an intersection near my house, a right-turning driver never looking for pedestrians and nearly mowing someone down as a result happens dozens of times per day. Some of them never bother to stop for the red light as they try to coast through their turn. I wish the city would make that intersection "No Turn On Red," because it's a high pedestrian corridor (it's near bus stops, a Kroger, residences, schools, and a university) and the number of near-misses is scary-high.

I'm glad the video was taken down. I hope the producers, funders, etc. have learned something. And perhaps the next PSA should be about what those big lines on the ground are for.

29 August 2017

An Enigma

I'm not a person who writes in books.

I've tried to be, certainly. I think it's a great idea in theory. In practice, I can't quite get the hang of it. If the pen bleeds through the page I get annoyed, but notes in pencil are all smeared and faded when I come back to them later. Then there's the notes themselves. What if I change my mind about how I feel about a passage?* Won't 50-year-old Su be held captive to the thoughts 35-year-old Su wrote in the margin? And if so, if I commit this thought to ink alongside the passage that spawned it, am I also committing to never grow beyond this moment?

(I ask, as I continue typing on the blog I've had for coming up on 11 years. I guess my brain is okay with my thoughts being preserved in pixels.)

Chadwick wrote in his books. Not that he owned many, but he managed to squeeze a lot of notes into a small space. Yesterday, I picked up his Greek New Testament, the one he opened when he wanted to spend time diving deeper into the text, the one he took to church to facilitate his processing of the sermon. I read his notes on the endpapers and can easily identify the passage in question for some of them. Others, not so much. And there's this:


I think this might have been an encouragement from a teacher. It might have been something we talked about once. It could have been a TV show that was on while he was studying, for all I know. He didn't leave behind a key to decipher it with. But maybe he left it there for me to find later.

Lily, in Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, comments on her brother Langston's habit of leaving marginalia in all the books in the house:
Sometimes it's annoying that I can never open a book in our home and not find some part of it that Langston has annotated. I'd like to figure out what I think about the words myself without having to see Langston's handwritten comments...; on the other hand, sometimes it's interesting to find his notes and to read them back and try to decipher why that particular passage intrigued or inspired him.
When I think about it that way, the thought of leaving my own marginalia behind, even if the only one who ever sees it is Future Su, is appealing. (Chadwick pursued a writing style that might be best described as enigmatic; that is to say, I'm unlikely to access his thoughts by reading his notes.) What might my future self find in the pages of Les Misérables or Lord of the Rings?

Wait, no. That's too much of a leap to begin with. I'd better start smaller and work my way up... does anyone have a spare copy of The Poky Little Puppy?

*Related, but not enough to link to above: Check out this 2012 New Yorker article about marginalia.

28 August 2017

Meanwhile

Last week, by some miracle, I managed to get out and run two days in a row! And I was like, "Hey, body, remember when we used to do this all the time? Maybe we can do it some more!" and my body said, "I hate you and can always devise weird pains you can't even imagine yet to stop you from doing something so stupid."

So. We're a work in progress.

Nothing says "running" like a picture
of my feet standing still, yeah?
Meanwhile, I'm looking for a spring half marathon. I'm planning to be in Austin for my 40th birthday--yay!-- but that means both the Flying Pig (Cincinnati) and the Indy Mini (Indianapolis) are out, because I'll be 1200 miles away that weekend. Bummer. The Hoosier Half in Bloomington in April is an early favourite, if they get their act together sometime soon and update the registration page.

Meanwhile meanwhile, in the excitement of the Hotter'N Hell Hundred this weekend (Texas had its biggest bicycle event of the year in the hot-and-dry northern part of the state at the same time that the southeastern side was being washed away by a hurricane. Everyone I know is safe, but it was a long and anxious weekend all the same), I started searching training plans for a lengthy bicycle ride--namely, the Ride Across Indiana. I'm pretty sure one has to be not entirely in possession of all one's faculties to even consider doing such a thing, but that happens to be my exact description, so it's totally fine.

Oddly enough, the distance (160 miles in one day) and the completely different approach to training than I've ever done before (you know, wheels instead of feet) isn't what's giving me pause about this. I've been going back and forth about it for weeks now, because I've always been strictly a utilitarian cyclist, and when anyone's asked me if I train for these massive bike events, I've always said, "No. That's what running is for." To make this change feels like I'm giving up a fundamental part of my identity. On the other hand, I'll be 40 next summer, and isn't that what 40 is for?

So I wrote a plan down and will see about adding some intentional riding miles to my intentional running miles in the next few weeks. This may be a thing. We'll see.

Are you trying anything new with the final third of 2017?

27 August 2017

Hard to Handle

There's a cute little saying that does the rounds of churchy folks like myself, and it's some variation of "God will never give you more than you can handle." I believe the origin of this idea comes from 1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to [humans]. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (ESV)

It's a great verse, for all that it's used to browbeat people who are trying their hardest to make changes in their lives. (Let's try not to do that.) It reminds us that God is present in all things and that he knows us well enough to know where our limits are. Pretty great, right?

Storms both literal and figurative will come. And there's no
way to be ready for all of them, and some of them will
knock even the most prepared among to the ground and
try to crush us before we can get up again.
Source: QR9iudjz0 on freeimages.com.
But when it becomes "God won't give you more than you can handle," we have a problem, because our modern life is non-stop more than anyone can handle. Obviously, I stop well short of believing that everything we've inflicted on ourselves and one another comes from God. I don't think he dictated the pace of modern life or the 24-hour news cycle or FOMO, nor the sometimes destructive ways we've devised to pull ourselves out of those things when it all gets to be too much. But I do think that saying to someone who is struggling just to keep her head above water, "God will never give you more than you can handle," is not good for anyone's mental health. Maybe God doesn't, but that doesn't mean your boss or your child's school or a natural disaster won't.

One of my core beliefs, as a person who follows Jesus, is God knew what he was doing when he gave us a community of fellow believers. That we should call on each other for help and strength and moral support when times are rough is absolutely right. So let's do each other a favor, and approach these moments as a time to offer help instead of platitudes. Because an ill-timed word is just going to add to the damage, and none of us want to do that.

24 August 2017

The Longest Wait

A few months ago, I finally took the plunge I've been thinking about doing for far too many years and sponsored a child through Compassion International. When you sign up to sponsor a kid, you can sort by age, gender, country, and probably a few other things, so I did the only thing I could think of: I sorted by length of wait and clicked on the kid who'd been waiting for a sponsor the longest.

First letter from Juan Diego.
And then when I went to the next page to finalize my transaction, the clever-clever web folks at Compassion had one final question for me: did I want to multiply my efforts and sponsor another kid from the same area? Of course I did, et voilà, I'm now the delighted sponsor of two little boys, Nelson and Juan Diego, from the same town. I don't know if they know each other yet. I hope they will get to be friends along the way as they're growing up together. They're both very young, so I'm going to be sponsoring them for a long time indeed. It's gonna be great.

First letter from Nelson.
Since I went for "longest wait," it was just by accident that I got Spanish-speaking children who I can write to in their native language, kinda. I hope I'm at least saving the Compassion translators a bit of time and energy. My sponsor packets arrived on my birthday, which was the coolest birthday gift I've received in years.

So, I blog and I'm a Compassion sponsor--does this make me a Compassion Blogger? Haha, no, although I'm thinking about joining that group, so stay tuned. It's not like I don't have enough words to do that--I can probably scrounge some up.

If Compassion International isn't for you--and I do recognize quite readily that joining forces with a Christian organization is not for everyone--please find some good work that you can support. Maybe it's your local food pantry. Maybe it's an advocacy group advancing a cause that's close to your heart. Maybe it's disaster relief, or education, or leaving a bag of groceries on the doorstep of a struggling family in your neighborhood. Whatever is the best way for you to make this planet a better place, find it and do it. Don't wait too long. Make today the day.

Let's leave the world better than we found it.

23 August 2017

Hazards

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has access to, and shares, vital data about safety on U.S. roads. They're spot on with things like speeding or distracted driving, although it should be said that they tend to come out not-swinging about those things and their recommendations can sound more like gentle suggestions which drivers are free to ignore. Still, the recommendations exist.

So it's frustrating to people who engage in active transportation that the same NHTSA (people who deal with them a lot pronounce it "nit-sa") does come out strongly in one area: victim-blaming people who aren't in cars. This week, it's kids riding their bikes to school, and how the "best" protection they have is wearing a helmet and obeying traffic laws. To be clear: kids should absolutely be doing those things, and parents should be modeling and teaching that behaviour.

To be clearer: both are as far as they can be from the best protection kids on bikes could have. See, for example, the hierarchy of hazard controls when it comes to active transportation:

Source: Don Kostelec on Twitter.
It's not like NHTSA doesn't have access to this data. If advocates have it, then certainly the U.S. Department of Transportation has it. The problem is what they do with it, which often is not a freaking thing.

It's bad enough that kids are bound to fall down sometimes while learning to ride a bike. (Those are exactly the kinds of falls helmets are designed for. Keep those little heads protected!) It's a lot worse that our transportation organizations are so unwilling to do anything to support those kids, and their families, and their entire communities, when the act of riding bikes to school is a simple solution to a wide range of issues.

I hope, although I'm not holding my breath, that NHTSA will eventually listen to the advocates who keep pressing them to do better things with their data than browbeat people who are already doing their part to make traffic less painful for all.

22 August 2017

Slow Learners

There's an episode of Boy Meets World in which they parody themselves and poke fun at some of the show's many idiosyncrasies, and which includes one of my favourite lines of the entire series, when the Cory-Matthews-like character asks, "How can I learn so much every week and still be so stupid?"

Source.
 Y'all, Dr. John Watson is the Cory Matthews of 19th-century popular literature.

Source: Goodreads.
I'm nearly finished reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes, years after my only exposure to the written works being the occasional short story in school (whoever was responsible for my 12 years of literature textbooks really loved "The Red-Headed League"). It's been my bus and treadmill read since around March, so it's been slow going, but it's delightful to recognize some of the stories I've seen in other adaptations.

And then there's Dr. Watson. Seriously, John. I don't know if Conan Doyle liked Watson being dimwitted, or if John is filling a particular literary role that he can't be moved from, or if it's just reflective of the writing conventions of the time that John never learns a freaking thing over the course of many years of friendship with Sherlock. The one that finally had me shouting, "Come on, you idiot!" at my iPad was "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax," when Sherlock sends John an offbeat telegram asking for a description of someone's ear, which John dismisses as a joke. John, listen, buddy. How have you known and worked with Sherlock this many years and still don't get that the weirder the question is, the more critical it is to the case? The more so considering that you once had a case that was all about ears, both attached and not. Dude. Use that head for something more than a hat rack, as my mother would say.

So I'm glad that the delightful Martin Freeman's John Watson on Sherlock does have some brains in his head and manages some learning and growth across the scant episodes we have to make do with. However (and with books this old, the "however" is inevitable), please be aware that Mr. Conan Doyle's works reflect some unfortunate attitudes of their time and place; that is to say, the racism, classism, and sexism are strong with this one. At times it's unreadably strong and I was knocked right out of the world of the story because of these uglier elements. If you're going to read this book, please know that before you go in.

And one more thing before I go: this Kindle version has formatting problems, punctuation problems, spelling problems that I'm almost certain were not in the originals, and no visuals in places where there should be visuals. (It reads "GRAPHIC" in those spots instead.) At least one Amazon reviewer says there are also missing paragraphs, which explains some weird shifts in the text if that's truly the case. So while the price is right (free), it's not without some issues, so proceed with fair warning.

21 August 2017

Conscious Choices

I took my own words to heart last week and decided that if I'm going to call it quits with running, that it has to be a conscious decision. Otherwise, I have to make the decision to lace up and head out every day. But either way, I wasn't going to let inertia decide for me.

Surprise, surprise-- I love running and am not ready to put it behind me yet. I signed up for the local Turkey Trot and renewed my subscription to Runner's World all in the same day.

That was the easy part. The hard part is still suiting up, stepping out my door, and putting in the miles, which I haven't completely forgotten how to do. Fortunately, not a lot of miles are required to train for a 10K. It's not like I signed up for a marathon and therefore signed hours of my week away for the next four months. But I've survived worse things than having to get up the first time my alarm goes off. I can do this.

We only get so many of these, after
all. Source: Benjamin Earwicker
on freeimages.com.
One of the benefits of running is that its lessons spill over into other areas of life. The realization that I was once again slipping into living my life by default, instead of taking hold with both hands of the time and abilities I have and stretching them in every possible way, has jolted me enough to take a look at other areas of my life. My social media use definitely bears more looking at--I've already backed away from Facebook about as much as I can, because that's not a pleasant space any longer, but I can still get lost in Pinterest for hours. My to-do list of art/craft projects is longer than my ta-done! list, again, with supplies kicking around waiting for "someday" to arrive. Community opportunities that would require me to occasionally leave my house and go do things keep coming my way.

I hear there's an eclipse to watch, with appropriate care, today.

Whichever of these things I choose to do, or not do, I want to at least engage my brain long enough to make a choice. I want to be present in my own life, and not on autopilot.

What choices are you making today?

20 August 2017

Change Comes in Pieces

I wrote this post in 2012 for the alumni site of Adventures in Missions (AIM), the short-term missions program for young adults that I participated in straight out of high school. AIM gave me incredible experiences and lifelong friends. Alas, the alumni site did not give me a storage place for my words. This piece came up in my Facebook memories a few days ago, but when I clicked through to re-read, I got an error message and then remembered that the alumni site is no more. 

Since I don't want a perfectly good 700 words to go to waste, I'm reposting it with a few tweaks but no updates that bring us to present day. So here's a bit of time travelling back to Austin during London 2012.

In the last 24 hours, I’ve watched 14 different sports. Right now, I’m flipping between three channels on my TV and two live feeds on my computer, and I have TV Guide, NBC Olympics, and London 2012 windows also open so I won’t miss anything. You might say I’m a fan.

My earliest Olympic memory is of fellow (eventually) Longhorn Mary-Lou Retton in ’84, but it wasn’t until ’88 that I understood that these mysterious Olympics were something special. And like everybody else, I couldn’t have been more into ’92. The Dream Team. The Unified Team. Kristi Yamaguchi and Viktor Petrenko. Dan and Dave. Janet Evans. Kim Zmeskal. It was an amazing year.

And then it got better, I thought—the IOC separated the Winter and Summer Games into different years, so we had an oh-so-short wait before the next Winter Games. I was delighted at first, but the closing ceremonies had more of a sense of finality than usual, because there were no forthcoming Summer Games. A two-year gap didn’t seem so short any longer.

In some ways, the Olympics are better than ever because each set of Games gets its own year, without the world’s attention being divided between the two. But the price for making both versions more special was that The Olympics as a whole have lost some of their mystery. The rarity and sense of occasion is diminished when the Olympic rings never vanish from Coke cans and McDonald’s wrappers. A little bit of the excitement and anticipation is lost, because it’s always an Olympic year.

But why should my post-AIM life make me think of the Olympics? In many ways, my time in Scotland was no different from anyone else’s field time: I learned. I grew. My personal horizons broadened. More importantly, my spiritual life expanded as the bounds I had placed on what God could do were dissolved again and again. But my heart broke into pieces.

There’s a gorgeous story about Dr. David Livingston, one of the pioneers of western missionaries to Africa. His compatriots in Scotland wanted to give his body a proper burial in the country of his birth, but the African people he had devoted his life to were not wild about the idea. Their ultimate solution was to send Dr. Livingston’s body back, but keep his heart. Why? “His heart belongs in Africa,” they said.

Yes. This. Exactly.
As short-term missionaries, we left our hearts behind when we came home. But I’ve found that two years of my life wasn’t sufficient for Glasgow to have all of my heart. There’s a piece of my heart at Spring Mill Bible Camp, my teenage safe haven. Bits of my heart live in Denver City, where I spent so much time as an AIM student and assistant, and at South Plains Church of Christ, where Chadwick and I were members for 8 years. Slivers of me sit at South Plains College and the University of Texas. You’ll find pieces of my heart with Chadwick at our little apartment on the edge of Austin and at workplaces like BikeTexas and the Wound Care Center. Even more bits of my heart are scattered across the planet right now, attached to people I love who have touched my life and left me as a better person. A better follower of Jesus. Better able to love the next person I meet.

Maybe that’s why, even as a mere observer, I feel such an affinity with the Olympic Games: not just because of the passion and dedication of the athletes, not just because of the excitement and joy and emotion of giving one’s whole self to a single moment. It’s because despite the storms, through some horribly wrong days and because of wonderfully right ones, and in contact with many hearts and minds, the Games change, and grow, and keep striving to be better.

Don’t be afraid of scattering your heart. Don’t shy away from leaving pieces of yourself behind. It hurts when your heart breaks, but that pain is not worth comparing to the glory that awaits us at the time when we will again be made whole.

19 August 2017

Cold Light

I deleted a tweet that I regretted yesterday.

If you come visit me, I will take
you to admire this. I will probably
not take you to OTR, because it's
a pricey place to hang out.
The New York Times ran an article this week about things to do in Cincinnati, which has been doing the rounds of all the local Twitter accounts. The article includes many local things I love, namely Red Bikes, the Purple People Bridge, the Roebling Bridge, and Cincinnati Shakespeare, so I wanted to share it. However, it also refers to Over the Rhine (OTR) as "the gentrifying district" with no other comment except to enthuse about all the fun things one can do there.

Factually, that's true. Not only is OTR gentrifying with lots of new (expensive) stuff popping up all the time, but if you keep walking north, you can practically see the line where the money runs out. I haven't been here for most of this process, but goodness knows I was in Austin long enough to see how many folks, usually people of color, had to push back against being priced out by developers from the neighborhoods where their families had lived for generations. A community with its own social cohesion and culture being scattered to the four winds by the "drive 'til you qualify" mentality is not exactly worth celebrating, no matter how many hip bars spring up where children used to play.

Last month, the Austin Statesman ran an online advertisement blatantly glorifying gentrification, which was pulled and replaced with an apology after the social media uproar engulfed them. I don't know if anyone in Cincinnati has made similar complaints about this NYT article. Maybe because they're not a local paper, maybe those who would complain have better things to do than reprimand every touristy column that gushes about OTR, maybe I just haven't seen them yet. I don't know. I tweeted the article with a comment that though the recs were solid, there was no need to be so happy about gentrification.

And then about 18 hours later I realized what a stupid thing that was to say and took it down. If praising--or even just being totes cool with--gentrification is a bad idea, then it doesn't matter how good the recommendations are. I don't know what OTR was like 10 years ago, but I do know that real people used to live and work and play there and now they don't. Outsiders may not have wanted to spend time there, and some bad things probably happened there. You know what? That's true of almost everywhere.

I don't have a solution to this web of issues. But if my way of entering the world is with words, then I have a responsibility to be careful with them, even in a casual tweet about a city I'm growing to love. And sometimes, as now, my responsibility is to shut up and listen to people who know more about this than I do, people who've been hurt and displaced and disconnected by an influx of "cool" into what used to be their home.

One might ask, "what took you so long?" and one would be correct. It takes me way too long, always, to remember that there are other people whose experience of the world has been dramatically different from my own.

18 August 2017

#Project333: Not Exactly An Update

Halfway through the Project 333 challenge, I have to admit: this project is not for me.

Not because I'm having a hard time with it, but rather because it's not like my closet could be made a lot simpler. I still pull what I'm wearing for the day from the front of my closet and put clean clothes in at the back. I just don't have enough clothes for this challenge to make a difference in my life. In fact, when the other Susan asked me a week or so ago how the project was going, I had to think for a second to even remember what she was talking about. (The other Susan is also the one who said I covered my blanket in hostility, by the way, and I remembered a bit late that I've already mentioned her around here a lot so there's no reason not to give her credit for her funny lines and general cleverness.)

So it's going pretty well, I guess.

This is on my mind because I recently listened to a few episodes of The Minimalists podcast. Small wardrobe aside, I don't consider myself a minimalist, although I think their underlying principle of only keeping things (including activities, goals, etc.) that add value to your life is a good one. I do think it's hilarious that they frequently get bitter comments about not getting rid of anything important from their lives, which naturally they answer with some variation on, "Of course we kept the things that are important--that's the point!" Some folks, it seems, confuse minimalism with asceticism, which is certainly not the same thing.

Some of Grandma's collection that
I inherited. This particular set is
best enjoyed from a distance, it
turns out. Now I'm wondering what
they get up to when I'm not looking.
I have a medium-sized collection of angel figurines of various types. Angels as a collection item were chosen for me by my grandmother because she wanted to give me gifts appropriate for her churchgoing granddaughter but, not being of a religious turn herself, had no clear idea of how to proceed. After a few false starts with some obviously Catholic gifts that were a bit puzzling to young Protestant Su, she finally settled on angels... and so did everyone else, so that people are still buying me angel gifts for relevant holidays. And my aunties pressed Grandma's own angel figurines on me after she passed, on the grounds that no one else wanted them.

But whether that collection is adding value to my life is hard to quantify. Certainly, anyone who wanted to snaffle them would have a fight on their hands. Most days I don't notice them, but when I do--when I do, they're silent reminders of a time that is gone and a person I can never have back. And there's no putting a value on that. So for now, I'm happy with my non-minimal life.

What do you think about minimalism--interesting idea, ideal goal, not for you? Something else?

17 August 2017

A Tale of Two Blankets

I brought home an incredible souvenir from my last trip to Indiana.

My grandma told me the story of this blanket, which I somehow had never heard: when my great-grandmother passed away in 1997, she left behind rather a large stash of leftover yarn. My grandma gave it to her sister-in-law (Grandpa's sister, that is, not one of her brothers' wives), as a thank-you gift for housing them in their many comings and goings through my great-grandma's illness, I guess, and also because Grandpa's sisters were prodigious producers of things made of yarn and Grandma thought one of them could put the yarn to good use. (This is a skill none of them bothered teaching me, by the way. I had to learn it from a non-relative.)

One of them did. Great-Aunt Estelle set to work and knitted this massive blanket in something like a couple weeks and gave it to Grandma on their next trip through. She's had it in the house ever since, and when she told me this story, I asked, "May I have it when you're done with it?"

Apparently she's done with it. This pic doesn't do it justice,
nor does any other pic I've taken of it, so you'll have to come
visit me if you want to know what it looks like in person.
So that's blanket #1, now safely ensconced in my house where it shall remain for a very long time indeed.

Blanket #2 has been the subject of much bitter complaint, and a little bit of triumph, for several months here in Su-Land. I've been reliably assured that in the course of making this blanket, I covered in in so much hostility that it was hard for the folks who saw it the most often to really appreciate it. You gotta love a blanket that has a backstory like that.

I posted the finished product on Facebook and someone said,
"That looks just like a temperature blanket!" Yes, very
much like, indeed.
Blanket winner! At least four people
bid on it (I'm not 100% sure because I
refused to look), but she was
determined that it was going home
with her. And so it did.
This was my first attempt at a temperature blanket (using data from 2016 in Cincinnati), and my first knitting project that was any bigger than a scarf. You'll understand why I've returned to another scarf as my project du jour, although I've promised blankets to ever so many people if they'll just buy the yarn for me to use.

In the course of its making, this blanket visited at least three peoples' houses, the Circle Center Mall, a bar, a Megabus, church, Shakespeare in the Park, was carried through a flooded neighborhood park during a downpour, zoomed along in one of Sharlie's panniers, and was basically my constant companion those last couple weeks. Its ultimate destiny was as a prize in a silent auction for work.

I hope Great-Grandma and Great-Aunt Estelle and the rest of my knitting aunties feel that the family legacy of making things is safe on my needles. Although I suppose they would prefer that I carry on their hobby with the help of fewer swear words and less hostility.

Even in the afterlife, one can't have everything.

16 August 2017

Inconvenience

A car being used as a weapon is nothing new to active transportation advocates. We all have stories of drivers intentionally endangering our lives, and have read folks on the internet, many times over, call for us all to be run over. Something about driving brings out the absolute worst in so many people.

We saw the worst on Saturday. But it was hardly the first time.

Active transportation advocates, and people on the side of the Constitution, raised an outcry early this year when North Dakota introduced a bill that would have shielded drivers from prosecution if they hit protesters with their cars. Fortunately, sense prevailed in ND and the legislation was defeated. At least five other state legislators have tried it, with similar results. I hope the graphic, real-time video we've all seen, and the tragic result, stand as a lesson to those who would (unwittingly, one hopes) embolden and encourage anyone to think this behavior is okay.

(By the way, drivers who unintentionally strike humans with cars already have tons of protections under the law. Driving toward a crowd of humans, even very slowly in the hopes that they'll move out of your way, is not exercising "due care." That's the opposite of care.)

Are protests inconvenient and disruptive? Of course they are--that's the point! Might someone blocking the road make drivers have to wait? Yes, that's certainly possible. But we have processes in place for that, which of course take some time to carry out. However, even protesters with whom one disagrees have, at least in theory, the right to the same due process under law as everyone else does. (Many protests, of course, are over the very reality that due process under law is not as equal as it ought to be.)

"But if they're standing in the road, they deserve what happens to them!" No no no no no no no NO. That's not how this works. Protesters who act in civil disobedience understand that they'll be arrested and charged. People who drive cars understand that sometimes things happen that block traffic, also including:
  • Road construction
  • Natural disasters
  • Street-closure events
  • Bad weather
  • Infrastructure failures
  • Public officials making terrible choices
  • Thousands of people each driving home alone at the same time
  • And of course, car crashes.
If every one of these things causes your blood to boil and your chill to be lost, then maybe for the sake of your own mental health you should reconsider your transportation.

We don't have to look far to find stories of people during the Civil Rights Movement who would say they were in favor of civil rights for all but would also ask why lunch counters had to be blocked to get there. Protests are not convenient. It's the price we pay for living in a democracy. Why would anyone want the alternative?

My friends, if you're on the side of vehicular violence, if you feel that driving through a crowd of protesters is a quicker and easier way to get to "justice" than allowing due process of law to work its course, if you'd prefer that people with whom you disagree not be allowed the same rights of speech and assembly as everyone else, then we have come to a parting of the ways. By the way, in case anyone has forgotten: 1) Incitement to violence is not protected speech; and 2) Freedom of speech does not preclude others from forming their own opinion about, and desire for association with, the speaker by the nature of his/her speech.

I would not want anyone with these attitudes thinking they have my tacit agreement by association.

15 August 2017

What I Read: July

For the sake of accuracy, perhaps I should rename this series, "Not Reading a Freaking Thing." One of these days I'll do a craft post so I can share what I've been doing instead of reading.

As always, all links and images are from Goodreads. Let's be friends and you can see all the things I've read.


First-time reads:
Shakespeare's London on 5 Groats a Day, Richard Tames


Re-reads:
Unseen Academicals, Terry Pratchett
No Impact Man, Colin Beavan


Books by women:
Aaaargh.


Goodreads challenge: 15 of 52 books in 2017


What are you reading?

14 August 2017

Maybe

Running without a goal in mind, except a vague remembrance of the health benefits and the feeling that I should continue doing this thing, is not working out that well for me. I'm going in fits and starts and having to pep-talk myself into heading out the door at all. ("Two miles! Two miles are great! Come on, I can totally do two miles if I just get out of bed!")

These shoes aren't doing me any
good without feet in them.
So I've been toying with the idea that maybe it's time to write "The End" on the "Running" chapter of my life, to let it go altogether and focus on any of my 78 other hobbies instead. Maybe this part of brain that's hanging on needs to finally acknowledge what the rest of my body has been telling it--that we're done doing this. Or maybe, because I don't know if that last thing is really true, maybe it's that without my biggest cheerleader beside me, the relevant neurons can't conjure up the motivation to keep moving any longer. It's more work and less fun without him.

Of course, there's also the fairly obvious solution of signing up for a race and seeing what happens. Once upon a time I could go out and run for the sake of running, but it could be that that is the chapter that is really behind me (more than 10 years behind me, in fact), and far from lacking the will to keep going, I've instead been trying to get back into a groove that was filled in long ago. If that's the case, then really my only problem here is a temporary wrong turn. I can fix wrong turns--I do it on an almost-daily basis, what with my keen sense of misdirection and inability to use a digital map.

A previous Turkey Trot shirt,
as outlined on Chadwick's
t-shirt quilt
. Maybe my
favourite thing about the
whole blanket.
Which is it going to be? No idea. The thought of never running again fills me with despair, so that's probably not it. But I could easily keep putting off the decision and de facto stop running without ever having made a conscious choice. I want that less than anything--if this is indeed to be a parting of the ways, then I'd like to be present for that decision.

On the other hand, I did get an email this week about early registration being open for the Turkey Trot. An easy, non-threatening, go-as-slow-as-I-want event that barely requires training at all. Is that enough to get the neurons firing?

Maybe today is the day I'll find out.

13 August 2017

Being Seen

A few weeks ago, during a Sunday morning sermon about the Samaritan woman at the well, I commented on Twitter that I'd once started a fight in a Bible class over this passage. Some folks asked to hear more, so here it is.

I'm going to call her Edna, which is not even close to her real name. Edna, God bless her, was an elderly woman of boundless, sometimes misdirected, energy; strong opinions and a stronger need to express them at all times (a trait she and I share, it seems); and the remarkable ability to cause annoyance in even the most saintly of her fellow churchgoers. Usually, when she spoke, people would nod and then change the subject so as not to get swept up into an unwanted conversation. (Which is a real shame, by the way, and something I absolutely regret having participated in.)

Enter me, at home on a visit, age 22. Fresh off a couple years of short-term mission work that had been preceded by a year at Bible school. Either out of kindness or a misunderstanding of the amount of Bible knowledge one is able to pick up in three short years, the Bible class teacher that day had sought me out before class to encourage to feel free to jump in to the discussion and share my thoughts.

Do you know what happens when you Google "Jacob's
Well"? You get a bunch of pics of the swimmin hole
in Wimberley, Texas
. This pic is just a well. Source:
Dora Lupeanu on freeimages.com.
So here comes the simple question, "Why did Jesus have to go through Samaria in the first place?" Edna says, "He was afraid of the Pharisees and went through Samaria so they wouldn't follow him there." (The Jews of the time did not go through Samaria as a general rule--they were definitely not friends.)

Did I even stop to think before words came flying out of my mouth? I did not, and said something like, "Jesus was afraid of the Pharisees? Where did you get that idea?" Edna insisted that of course Jesus was afraid, because he had to be afraid sometimes, but I wasn't having any and told her that was ridiculous--surely the guy who argued with Pharisees in the temple every day, the guy who had turned and walked away from the mob who tried to throw him off the cliff, the guy who knew what his ultimate destiny would be--that guy did not go hide in Samaria because he was scared.

Meanwhile, my dad is sitting next to me grinning very much like a Cheshire cat--I'm pretty sure this was the moment for him when all that time & effort put into keeping me alive until adulthood suddenly bore fruit--and the Bible class teacher changed the subject. (He and his family are wonderful people, by the way, and I'm far from being the only young person he encouraged to find their feet with Biblical things by speaking up in his class. It's still a highlight of any visit home for me to spend a few minutes chatting with him.)

Edna spent the rest of the class writing me a long note about why I was wrong. Neither of us changed the other's mind that day, and indeed I still firmly believe that Jesus went through Samaria because here were people, and especially this wounded woman, who needed to hear his message of hope. He wasn't acting out of fear, but rather was doing exactly what he came here to do. I would just say so much more kindly now, if Edna were still on this earth to hear me say it.

And perhaps that's the real thing I learned that day and am still desperately trying to apply to my own life. This journey that we're on is full of twists and turns and sometimes the road leads to unexpected people and places. Perhaps the best gift we have for our fellow humans is to take a moment to hear one another's stories, to offer a moment of hope and kindness, to look one another in the eyes and say, "I see you. You are real. You matter."

Which is exactly what Jesus did for the woman at the well. And although I didn't know it at the time, it's exactly what Edna and the others in the room that day were doing for me.

02 August 2017

8 Years, 4 Cities, 9000 Miles

Facebook was kind enough to tell me that yesterday was my 8th anniversary... with my bicycle. Yes, Sharlie (short for Charlotte; she's named after Charlotte Brontë) entered my life on August 1, 2009, and we've been BFFs ever since. This is my first proper bike of my entire life--up until that day, I'd only owned department store specials. Not really the best thing for someone who rides as much as I do, which is probably why I've never owned any other bike as long as Sharlie.

She's a lot less shiny now. Also, it looks like it was rainy
in Lubbock on the day she came home, so clearly she's a
good-luck charm.
Mind you, she objects to my characterization of the relationship (yes, my bicycle has a Twitter account):

Chadwick and I went to two different bike shops before I finally settled on Sharlie being the one. (He was pushing me toward the equivalent Trek model. I held firm on wanting a Giant.) I asked the gent in the shop to air up her tires so I could ride her home, mostly because there was no way we were fitting her in our tiny car, but also because I couldn't wait another minute for our first ride together. Also, Chadwick was convinced that hopping on Sharlie would magically make me faster and he wanted to see just how quick the ride home would be. She has some magical qualities, to be sure, but that hasn't been one of them so far. (He thought that it was, though. That day and every day after.)

We've ridden over 9000 miles together, and barring any dangerous/careless/just plain dumb drivers taking either of us out, we plan to carry on for another 9000.

She likes Cincinnati so far, although we both agree that
the bike parking around here leaves a great deal to be desired.

05 July 2017

Feet's Desire

My first experience with the idea of desire lines was when I was in high school and the relevant authorities finally decided that it was time to build a sidewalk over the drainage ditch between the library and the school. In the local news article announcing the construction, the gent in charge said they chose the siting based on the worn spots in the grass. Good choice.

When presented with a space like this, I absolutely
will walk straight through the middle rather than around.
When you walk everywhere, following desire lines is
as much a matter of conservation of energy as it is
convenience. Source: sugoru.com.
Of course, since then in my professional life as an active transportation advocate, I've heard about desire lines many times, most notably at the 2014 Texas Trails and Active Transportation Conference, where Mikael Colville-Andersen spoke quite a bit about his work researching desire lines. Basically, if you've ever seen a straight line worn across a grassy area by people who'd rather not take the long way round via the officially designated route (i.e., the sidewalk), you've looked at a desire line. Wise municipalities keep an eye on desire lines and keep them in mind when it comes time for updating infrastructure. Senseless municipalities do things like putting up fences and otherwise trying to further inconvenience citizens who have rejected inconvenient design.

Of course, as has often been pointed out, sometimes the users are wrong. And sometimes so many desire lines pop up that it would be silly to officially legitimize all of them. Cities have to strike a balance--neither chasing after every desire line nor categorically ignoring them all is the correct answer.

One of the most interesting conclusions from Mr. Colville-Anderson's research is that when adequate and safe infrastructure is provided for people who ride bikes, then the actions that people on bikes take to keep ourselves alive and safely moving from point A to point B on infrastructure not designed for us--actions drivers frequently resent and complain loudly about, all while doing nothing to make people on bikes safer--those actions go away when infrastructure is adequate. When each road user had sufficient space and room to breathe without having to carve our own desire lines, positive interactions from all is the result.

I ran across a great statement in the book Shakespeare's London On 5 Groats a Day: "In England, roads are not made--they happen, whenever a sufficient number of people and horses tread out a track to wherever they wish to go." Many of these original desire lines across not only England, but also Europe, and indeed across the parts of the US where most roads predate automobiles, have been codified into the road system now. Desire lines are a life hack spread across entire cities, showing the real ways humans interact with their environment.

04 July 2017

What I Read: June

Maybe I've forgotten how to read. Or more to the point, maybe I've forgotten how to finish what I'm reading, being as I have eight books on my currently-reading shelf. (And a fine of unusual size waiting to be paid at the library, because every time I go out of town I forget to check my library due dates.)

I've noticed over the past few weeks some books that are missing off my shelves--two of them are ones in which I have contributor credit, and I'd really like to remember what I've done with them. One is a book that Chadwick had for a class, and there's a good chance he sold it long ago and I've not seen it for 10 years, but that didn't stop me for looking for it after something I heard reminded me of it last week. And I have an unaccounted-for gap on a shelf that has me wracking my brain trying to remember who I've loaned books to lately. And again, it's possible that gap has been there since I put my books on the shelves in the first place, and I already forgot. Who knows?

As always, all links and images are from Goodreads. Let's be friends and you can see all the things I've read.


First-time reads:
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood


Re-reads:
Theodora and the Chalet School, Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
Trials for the Chalet School, Elinor M. Brent-Dyer


Books by women:
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
Theodora and the Chalet School, Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
Trials for the Chalet School, Elinor M. Brent-Dyer


Goodreads challenge: 14 of 52 books in 2017


What are you reading?

03 July 2017

The Beat Goes On

After last week's weeping and gnashing of teeth over my run-less state, I got a few miles in. It was predictably unpleasant, as runs usually are after a break, but the good news is that this week will be better. Plus I have lots of motivation this week to get up and get it done-- Wimbledon starts in just a couple hours. Best two weeks of the year, coming right up!

Both my runs this week were without music, which I do from time to time. Having music is great, especially when I match my pace to the beat without realizing it, or when I need to switch off the thoughts in my head and it's there as a convenient subject change. Most of the time, though, it's just background and I'm not really hearing it.

July 4, 2009. Coming into the home
stretch, so I'm either listening to
"Wonderwall" or "Scotland the Brave."
I'm not sure if it makes me feel
better or worse about myself to look at
pics from when I was faster and skinnier
and happier. Either way, I set a 10-mile
PR that day that still stands.
Source: WTRC.
I found this out early on, that music can be a beat or a pleasant background sound without me giving it any serious concentration. There was a time that I tried listening to the Bible while running. You know what it feels like to run to the dulcet tones of Exodus? It feels like 40 years in the wilderness. But I didn't do any better with other audio books, either, so it's not entirely Moses' fault. Then a coworker told me that she prays while running, which would be great except it turns out my brain cells that are responsible for praying are the same ones responsible for keeping my feet going in a straight line on the sidewalk.

I wish I were joking about that. There has to be some kind of short-circuit happening up there. Surely not everyone has this problem--I mean, I know my coworker didn't. Is this a binary thing, like you can either do it successfully or you veer off the path, with no in between?

Anyway, to avoid laying down and dying in despair or dying from inadvertently running out into traffic, I decided it was best if I just let my brain work through whatever it needed to, and some background music was there on standby if needed. I've gotten through some amazing thoughts while running. I've written entire chapters of whatever novel I'm working on, only to promptly forget them when I get home (but usually the general idea remains). I've had whole arguments with people I'm feeling angsty towards so that I come home ready to let the angst go. I think of really kind things I want to be sure to say to friends, most of which are also immediately forgotten. (I've pondered the merits of taking along a dictaphone for these kinds of moments.) And what's really cool is when I'm deep in thought, thinking I'm not hearing the song that's playing, only to pass that spot a couple days later and think of the song. My brain is grabbing hold of something, after all.

I know when I go without running all those thoughts have no good outlet, but I don't really have a way to measure just how much benefit I'm getting from having that time to let my mind run wild. I just know that it's critical to keep my mind--and therefore myself--on an even keel. No matter what's happening in the background.

What keeps you balanced?

02 July 2017

Choosing This Task

Source: Goodreads..
This past week, the Bible study group I'm part of read a chapter from Uninvited about Hannah, Samuel's mother. (As in, 1st & 2nd Samuel. That Samuel.)

Here's the thing about Hannah, and also about many of the women in the Bible with whom I feel a particular affinity: she was infertile for quite a long time. Generally speaking, if we're told that a woman in the Bible has a closed womb, it's usually so we can see how God works to bring fertility where there was none. So Hannah's story has a different ending than mine does. But that doesn't prevent me from feeling this affinity, all the same, and especially for one particular reason-- her husband had another wife (Peninnah), who was quite fertile, and the Biblical account tells us that the other wife went out of her way to make Hannah miserable in her childless state.

When I was a kid growing up in church, I was told over and over again that Israelite women who couldn't have children were generally regarded as having displeased God in some way. Y'all, there are plenty of 21st-century Christians who obviously still believe this, and moreover, have appointed themselves as the deliverers of this dismal news to any childless women in their vicinity. I know y'all have heard this song and dance from me before, but that won't keep me from saying it once more for those in the back: do not be Peninnah. Do. Not. And there are a whole list of reasons why not, but the only one that's really needed is this: it is none of your business to police the childless folks around you. If you can't be around them and at the same time keep quiet about what they should be doing to increase their fertility or how they'll change their minds and it'll be too late or any other dopey thing that people say, then do them a favor and stop being around them. Harsh? Yes. But so is that behaviour, and there's no excuse for it. Just don't.

So I shared some of this experience with the group on Monday night, and they now know all of the interesting things there are to know about me (infertile, widowed, car-free--that's pretty much it), but my reason for sharing was this: Ms. TerKeurst wraps up the chapter with two sentences I wish I'd had in my arsenal for years. "She gets the assignment she was made to carry. I'm freed up for other better-suited assignments tailor-made for me." YES. This. This is what I've tried to hard to express for many years but could never find the words for.

This place is growing on me, so whatever God has in
store next, I hope it's at least in Cincinnati.
I don't know what assignment God has for me. It must be a doozy, if it requires no children and no husband. I don't even know where to start looking, except to be listening and watching and open to things that may come my way. And maybe today, the assignment that's tailor-made for me is to remind folks, again, that their words and attitudes matter. Following Jesus is a choice, it's one that has to be made daily, and it carries weight to choose to bear his name. And since I've chosen to carry the love of Jesus into my interactions with others, I cannot--I cannot--use my words to needlessly beat others down. My assignment is to lift them up and point to the One who always got it right where we get it wrong.

God knows I fail at this a thousand times per day. Maybe you do, too. Maybe we can go forward together, all doing the best we can at the tasks we were made to carry.

01 July 2017

Making "For Now" Longer

I'm not sure where this story begins.

It ends with a pair of pillows that I restuffed earlier this week because they were sad and droopy. I've had them tucked away awaiting restuffing and a bit of mending for a while, but fixing a couple pillows has never been a top priority.

Last week I picked up new shirts for work at a thrift store (an action that is not super-compatible with my Project 333 Challenge, by the way) and was exploring the craft section when I saw a practically brand-new bag of fiberfill. "I can use that!" my brain shouted, so the bag came home with me and has now been emptied into my two pillows. Because sometimes the spark needed to finally do something lands in the right place at the right time.

Back where they belong. Slightly wonky, because of the
resewing process. But "slightly wonky" is very like
my Chadwick, so no worries there.
You see, I've had these pillows since the first year I was married, and Chadwick loved them and used them for so much lounging on the couch that the inadequate bit of stuffing I had managed to scrounge up on our painfully limited budget back then was soon flattened. We didn't get rid of them, though, because they had sentimental value and anyway, all they needed was a bit of fiberfill, and surely we wouldn't be living on a craft-free budget forever, and as with so many things that are relegated to the back burner the pillows stayed there for years, kicking around in our bedroom but never seen in public.

Chadwick loved the pillows so much because he had loved them in their previous life as his favourite t-shirt and shorts, and one day he came home to find a pair of pillows sitting on the couch that looked suspiciously like some things that used to be in his closet. (I gave him fair warning first, but he didn't take me seriously because he thought I didn't know how to make clothes into pillows. He was mistaken.) I thought he might be a bit sad, but instead he was delighted--he'd only been hanging on to that shirt and shorts because he was reluctant to throw them away and now he didn't have to. And there was much rejoicing in Chez Wilcox.

Because they had needed to be thrown out, quite desperately. You know the current trend for bare shoulder tops? That's more or less what the shirt had turned into, because it had so many holes, and I fully expected that one day Chadwick would put it on and the collar would stay round his neck while the rest of it just kept on going until it hit the floor. He had agreed not to wear it in public, at least, but then he kept forgetting because it was still in his closet and available. The shorts had much the same problem. I had mended those more than once just in the few short months we had been married, but they had reached the point that they were more patch than original in a fairly vital place.

He had been a bit wary, for my first birthday of our marriage, of buying me the sewing machine that I'd asked for--partly because it was way not in our budget, and partly because he didn't want to be the husband who bought his wife an appliance as a gift. But I insisted that I couldn't look after our belongings properly if we were relying on my patience and mental fortitude for hand sewing, so off to Sears we went and bought the machine I'm still using 15 years later. Once he realized its usefulness for keeping his clothes in circulation much longer than he could have done it himself, he agreed that it was probably the best birthday gift he'd ever given anyone.

Chadwick in the shirt before it began disintegrating. Based
on the boxes on the countertop behind us, I'm guessing this
was probably the first week we were married. That was
such a crappy apartment, but it was ours.
Also, dang, we looked good!
He was crazy-proud of the fact that his wife could sew. The first time I mended his clothes, he sat back in shock and watched me fix rips he had thought were unrepairable, only to put whatever it was back on and see he didn't have to throw it out after all. He was still in college at the time, and rumor has it that he was like a little kid at show and tell when he wore newly-mended clothes to class. I'm pretty sure this is why married students at Christian universities have a reputation for being slightly off-balance, y'all. They brag about things like living on a tight budget with the help of a needle and thread.

So the pillows are back on my sofa where they belong, and I can still feel Chadwick's delight hovering around them. The fabric is at least 20 years old and won't last forever, but thanks to a chance find at a thrift store and a faithful sewing machine, I at least have them for now.

30 June 2017

Clean & Dirty

What with the ongoing good news about pesticides (spoiler: not actually good news), I thought this week would be a good time to revisit the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen, which are fruits and vegetables the Environmental Working Group has identified as the most likely and least likely to still be hanging on to pesticides, respectively. Alas, the Dirty Dozen are also known here in Su-Land as "these are a few of my favourite things."

Most of us on a budget can't afford to buy organic, I know. I get it. I can't, either. But information helps when it's decision time at the supermarket and the apples and the mangoes are both on sale this week. Generally speaking, if you have enough wiggle room in your budget to get one or two things that are organic, go for the dirty dozen, and save the conventionally grown choices for the clean fifteen. Another great choice, as always and if you can manage it, is to go to your local farmer's market, where you can talk to and purchase from the folks who grow and sell the fruit and veg.

So! The Dirty Dozen:
Image source.

And the Clean Fifteen:
Image source.

Happy shopping, if possible.